Monday, December 8, 2014

From the Vaults: Hans & Gretel

By Alexandra Seidel

Hans had the distinct feeling that this Christmas would be special. He couldn’t exactly say why this was so, perhaps because the gingerbread house tasted especially good this year. He looked over to his sister Gretel who was just heating up the oven.

“You have this brooding look on your face again, haven’t you?” she asked without turning to look at him. Her golden hair caught the twinkle of the fire and for a moment it shone almost red.

“So what if I do?” Hans retorted.

“Come now, Hänsel. Why don’t you walk it off? The woods are big and chances are that you will find us something delectable to eat. I mean, It’s Christmas tomorrow and apart from the gingerbread and those skinny rabbits I snared… well, I just think it would be nice to have a decent meal on Christmas, don’t you?”

Hänsel. Nobody ever called him that these days except his sister.

Gretel turned her head to him and fixed him with a bottle green stare. Hans sighed. She was certainly right. It had been so many years since old grandmother Hexe went into the oven. And it had been Christmas then too, and a previously unparalleled feast, if a little tough. Yes, whenever Hans thought of grandmother Hexe, he would remember how tough she was to deal with the two of them on her own. It hadn’t really been a surprise that her time in the oven hadn’t changed that.

“I think you’re right,” Hans said, staring back at his sister with eyes just as green as hers.

She tilted her head and smirked. “You want me to make some bread crumbs for you, brother?”

This made both of them laugh, loud and clear, like cawing ravens over a fresh corpse.

“No, I know my way,” Hans said finally.

He left Gretel to deal with the oven and set off for the woods. The snowfall this year had been heavy and soon his legs vanished into the white up to his shins. He walked around aimlessly for a while and let his thoughts drift. His breath misted in front of his eyes and the cold bit his face. After a good hour of walking he saw something red brushing the corner of his vision. He turned his head and there it was again. A flash of red bobbing up and down through the snow dunes close to the common path, the path the more cautious folk used when venturing into the woods. Hans moved to check it out. As he stepped onto the snow-laden path, he recognized Little Red Riding Hood who had virtually no chance to move through the snow but hopping about. She was carrying her wicker basket with strong wine and fresh cake in it.

“Hey kid,” Hans greeted the girl, raising one gloved hand as he did so. “Out to visit your granny?”

“Yes sir,” replied the little girl in red. The snow was covering her to the waist. Two big blue eyes looked at him intently. “Are you by any chance the wolf?”

“No kid. Why you askin’?”

“Oh, well, we were just playing dress-up, you see, and I’m afraid the wolf took one of my glass slippers…but anyway. If you aren’t the wolf, I’ll just head straight to granny’s place. She always waits for her wine, you know. And maybe I’ll meet the wolf on the way.”

“You do that kid. But if you wanna take some advice, you shouldn’t play dress-up with wolves.”

“Why not, sir?”

Hans sighed. “It’s the hair. You’ll never get it out of the clothes again, let alone the smell.”

Riding Hood nodded and was off in her bobbing gait. Hans shook his head. Young people! Had he ever been like this?

Hans soon left the common path as he had no reason to be cautious. So close to Christmas, a horde of weird folk was around. There was this one person, a midget actually, who danced around a fire stark naked, singing: ‘Wie gut, dass niemand weiss, dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiss!’ And only around the next oak Hans saw a girl in her nightgown, calling at the stars to fall down on her as golden coins (it did seem a useful ability, but in Hans’s mind, hypothermia was a clear drawback). There were more midgets, seven actually, carrying a glass coffin with a dead person in it. Hans contemplated asking them if they would sell him the body but thought better of it. There was no way of knowing how long she had been dead and such things could easily cause diarrhea.

Hans saw a couple of hobbits quarreling over a golden ring, but they seemed to be entirely in the wrong place. He ran into at least two witches, and both tried to sell him poisoned fruit. Being raised by a witch in a gingerbread house himself though, he didn’t fall for it for a second. The strangest encounter of the day was perhaps the frog whom he almost stepped on in the high snow. He heard the croaking when his foot was already coming down and managed to change the direction of his step only by almost falling over. The frog looked rather like a toad, also very much like he was freezing to death. What a stupid frog, Hans thought, to be croaking around in the woods this time of year.

It was almost dusk when he spotted them in a clearing. He knew instantly that Gretel would like them. He was sure that he did. One was a fawn and the other a rabbit. The rabbit did seem pretty much as skinny as the ones Gretel had already snared, but the fawn looked fat enough to make up for that.
Hans stepped into the clearing and cleared his throat. “Excuse me?”

The fawn turned towards him. “Yes?” it said with huge eyes. “How can we help you?” and after a moment, “You are not a hunter, are you? Because if you are, we won’t help you at all.”

Hans smiled. This was almost too easy. At least grandmother Hexe had put up a fight.

“No, I’m not a hunter. My name is Hans. Who are you two?”

The fawn bowed slightly and the rabbit’s ears dropped a fraction. “I’m Bambi and this is Thumper.”

“Well, nice to meet you Bambi and Thumper. And I really am in need of your help.”

“Oh, what is it?” the rabbit asked excitedly.

“Well, my poor sister is not very well. She is so very feverish and I fear this might be her last Christmas. Now, a few years ago, our parents died in an, ah, unfortunate accident. Please, will you two not pretend to be them? My dear sister is too far gone already, she will just be happy to be with our parents again and she won’t notice the difference, I’m sure.” After a pause he did what he hoped was close to the look of a hungry, abandoned and rain-soaked kitten and added, “please.”

Bambi had tears in his eyes already, and the rabbit seemed sympathetic enough too. “We’ll help you, of course we’ll help you,” said Bambi.

“Yeah, right! Show us the way, Hans, and quick!” added the rabbit.

And that was what Hans did. When things needed doing he had never been one much for dallying. And Gretel was waiting with a cozy, hot, but as of yet empty oven. Gretel didn’t like being kept waiting.

They reached the gingerbread house in good time. Gretel had lit only few lights, likely as not expecting him to use some ruse or other and preparing for the most common one. She was a fabulous actress when it came down to it, she was, his sister.

“We’re here,” said Hans.

“Oh, what a nice house,” Bambi said to Thumper as Hans led them inside.

As expected, Gretel was lying under a thick blanket, close to the oven. This would be child’s play, Hans thought.

And it was. The whole thing went down like this; Bambi and Thumper moved to stand beside Gretel’s bed. Hans took care that the oven was to their backs, and while Gretel was doing a fabulous death act, Hans opened the oven. When he winked at his sister, she jumped up from beneath her covers, lithe as a panther in a moonless night, and shoved both the rabbit and the fawn over to the oven. Hans didn’t look it, but all the gingerbread had made him quite strong and he had no trouble gripping the fawn by the neck and the rabbit by the ears and tossing them into the oven one after the other. Gretel stood there for a moment, smiling. The hot, hot fire washed over her hair and for a moment it looked red, just like her eyes which twinkled with the fire’s glow. Hans thought that he probably looked much the same. It was Gretel who slammed the oven shut.

“Well, Hänsel,” she said in a husky voice, “haven’t you found us just the feast! This will be a Christmas to remember.”
Before he could answer, somebody knocked on the door.

Gretel looked annoyed. “Who is it?” she shouted.

“It is me, grandmamma,” came a badly disguised voice from the outside, “your dear Little Red Riding Hood. I come to bring you…” but Gretel was already at the door, golden hair flying around her head like a shroud.

“Look, you punk! Wrong house! This is the gingerbread house. Gingerbread! Are you too dumb to tell! The almonds on the roof should be a dead giveaway. Riding Hood’s granny lives that way,” she pointed over to the hunter’s abode, “not here. Now get lost and stop bothering us! It’s Christmas after all, the most beautiful time of the year and nobody here wants to be bothered with the likes of you, going from door to door looking for food. And don’t leave that silly glass slipper on our doorstep!”

“But it’s cold and…” the wolf said in the tiniest voice with his tail between his legs.

“Grow some fur!” and Gretel slammed the door in his snout.

From the window, Hans saw the wolf slouching off into the hunter’s direction. It made him smile. Gretel adjusted the coals in the oven to make sure the tender meat wouldn’t get burned. Indeed, Hans thought, to himself, a special Christmas which would see quite a change to their… ah… gingerbread diet.



[This story first appeared in Danse Macabre]

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Niteblade #30

It is not quite December yet, so it will be just a little longer before this issue of Niteblade is live, but all the same, I thought I'd give the poetry a little head start.

This issue comes with five poems and four poets. Some of the authors are not new to the zine.

[ETA 12/01: I have linked to all poems, but please note that the issue will only be partially available to visitors until we have reached this month's goal of $50 in sales and donations. Of course, for only $2.99 you can own a PDF copy of Niteblade and show your support for everyone involved in the making of the zine.]

Let me start with Abominable Snowman by Ada Hoffmann (we've published her work before, please check out the gorgeous The Mermaid at at Sea World). This one is a haiku (ETA 12/02: no, it is not intended as one, see the author's post here), and one that gets it just right, you will enjoy this wintry morsel.

(Perhaps of particular interest to potential submitters: Personally, I think haiku are hard to get exactly right, it's not enough to put words into the correct form after all. A haiku, especially because it is short, needs to be eloquent content-wise, that is there has to be an entire story behind just three lines. Actually, let me give you an example of how this can be done with even less, just six words to be precise.)

Vampyrics by John Philip Johnson is next. Yes, it's a vampire poem, but no, not your average vampire poem:

"You look so pretty

in that red woolen cap.

Our bundled arms

are touching."

What I like about Vampyrics is that it is very immersive and manages to touch you deeply in just three stanzas.

Poet Anne Carly Abad has two poems in this issue (she's also not new to Niteblade, check out The Bitter Gourd's Fate <-- a="" been="" has="" href="http://www.rhondaparrish.com/this-years-pushcart-nominations?fb_action_ids=10153042953525579&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_ref=pub-standard" incidentally="" poem="" this=""> nominated for the Pushcart Prize
, ETA 11/30), Nameday and Ghost Engine Updates an Ad for Angry Spirits.
Nameday begins by telling us that

"Woman wears many selves,"

and from there takes us along on its thoughtful path at the end of which the reader might want to question given circumstances and histories, possibly even the names we choose or don't choose but are carrying anyway.

Ghost Engine Updates an Ad for Angry Spirits should best be savored as a whole, just like Abominable Snowman. It is just one of the many examples of how versatile poetry can be, how versatile indeed language can be.

The last poem in the issue is The Art by notorious Niteblade poet Sandi Leibowitz (go read Awakened, Braiding, and Labyrinth of Sand). This poem starts out just a little bit like a dance:

"He leads, you follow,

[...]

your footsteps predicting

his stride’s rhyme."

And maybe it even ends like some balls do or some proms (but do remember, we publish horror too, not just fantasy).

I hope you'll check out Niteblade #30 once it's here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Devil Rhymes #4



A Riddle
By Alexandra Seidel

When I was going to chop chives
I met a man who had no wives;
(He had no wives but in his bag
he kept a rope and chlor'form rag.)

He said: "The first was much too boring,
and number two was always snoring."
His third was rather like a dragon
so he fed her something sweet to gag on;
and when she'd gagged and died--how poor!--
he threw her corpse right in the moor!

Now he is looking to remarry,
I guess he just ain't one to tarry.
Do you think he made it home alive,
that man who riled me
chopping chives?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Jacopo_Zucchi_-_Amor_and_Psyche.jpg


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mythic Delirium Anthology Cover Reveal

 Mythic_Delirium_paperback_cover_front
And what a cover it is indeed, thanks to Galen Dara!

This anthology contains poems and stories from Mythic Delirium's first year as an online publication, including my story Hexagon.

The anthology has already been reviewed at Publishers Weekly. It will be released in November, just in time for your Christmas shopping.

Mike Allen shares a little more about this beauty on the Mythic Delirium site, go check that out, and while you're there, don't forget to have a look at the current issue of the zine (my September favorite is here.)

Happy reading!

--

ETA 10/14: It's out now! Go here for details.

Monday, September 15, 2014

SUPERPOW!


I am very proud to tell you, Reader, a little bit about Superpow today. It's a neat little collection that packs a punch, thanks to all the Red Penny Papers alumni (including yours truly) who contributed and of course the fabulous editorial eye of KV Taylor. Naturally, Superpow follows the proud tradition of the pulp magazine, so if that is your thing (oh, Reader, but it will be after you read it!), mark the release on October 27 in your calendar. If you also like superpowers in your pulp fiction (mouthwatering, no?), take a red Sharpie and circle twice.

Now, I have reason to be especially proud here, because Superpow is the first Red Penny Papers release that contains poetry, and being an editor's choice for first poet is pretty cool. I'll share some excerpts with you.

The first few lines are from Ice Child:

"Sometimes I ask the ice to tell me where to find them

and then I walk, however far,

just to steal a glimpse: red seal blood on the frozen water."


These are from Lightning Time and the Time of Thunder:

"when first the universe was hatched

was there another runner

that made it spin,

surfed its expanding waves?

And then:

if she exists, how can I find her?"

See you on Release Day!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Niteblade #29: Porcelain Doll


Issue 29 Porcelain Doll

It is September which means there is a new issue of Niteblade out there.

This one comes to you freshly glazed with darkening September light and an assortment of poems that look especially nice in that light.

The first one is Valediction for the Dungeon Master by Mark Jones. It caught my eye because it falls in the category of formal poetry. Also, if you are into pen and paper role playing games, this is so definitely for you; the combination made me feel compelled to accept it. Here's and excerpt:

"But you’re a perfect Romeo,
still sorting dice, although the others
left an hour ago,"

Next we have Porcelain Doll by J.A. Grier. This one was also the inspiration for the cover. It's a prose poem, something creepy coming toward you on tiny feet:

"She cannot find her doll. It upsets her. She does not remember moving here."

Then there is St. Winifred Medical Center, Abandoned by Joshua Gage. This is a good example of a short poem that packs a whole lot of punch. As it is so short, I'll not be spoiling the read for you here with an excerpt, but I will give you the reaction of a fellow Niteblader as posted by The Beloved Editor (aka Rhonda Parrish) on Fb:

"Jo, laying out issue #29 of Niteblade: Oh. That hospital poem? Oh my gawd! SO GOOD."

 And did I say darkening September light? Awakened by Sandi Leibowitz looks wonderful in that sort of light, casting a shadow well into October:

"I inhale the smoke of Samhain fires,
swallow their heat to make
a red heart beat"

The Gate of Horn by Megan Arkenberg is the last poem in this issue of dark things. I like it because of the subject matter and because it uses language in a way that I would love to see more of:

"I saw orchards where the golden apple trees
had grafted boughs of silver, and the juice was thick
and bitter as he licked it from my fingers."

 I hope you have the taste in your mouth now, but you do, don't you? You wanna go read the entire issue, you know you do. Remember to click that Donate button there on the right, because while you like to read good writing, what we like to do is pay our writers. Make sure we can.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A is for Apocalypse Blog Train





Hello lover of things ending, glad you could make it here today. If you are hopping on just now, perhaps you'd be interested in the previous stop, from where you could find your way back to the very beginning of this little train.

So, let's talk apocalypse. When Rhonda asked me if I wanted to contribute to this collection, I was quite happy to agree, but I was also a little unsure of what to write. Apocalyptic obviously, but I have never really been into writing about the apocalypse. Not that the premise is not a fascinating one and one that can be explored, just not my cup of coffee.

The idea of assigning every author a letter of the alphabet was interesting though. It meant one had to narrow things down somewhat, you couldn't just randomly start writing and see whether the world had ended at the end of your story or not. In other words, a challenge, and who can resist a good challenge?

My letter is G, and I ultimately had the title (which in this collection is always "LETTER stands for ____") before I had the story, but once I decided what I was going to explore, the rest just fell in place as well.

What does apocalypse mean? Do we all get to die or can the end of the world also be more personal, something like a secret that you cannot share with anybody else? Think about it, Reader. I don't know that there is one answer, and I don't think it matters, it's the question that won't stop raising its head.

Perhaps--if you feel like being incentivized--this little excerpt here might make you curious enough to read along the alphabet with all 26 of us:

"The Labyrinth swallowed me rattlesnake quick. I took a corner, and there it was, the city gone, replaced by a riddle of walls. The strangest thing was this: I realized I wasn't too keen on getting out."

If you are looking for more apocalyptic reading this post (where you can also find all venues from which the book is available) might be of interest to you. Also, our blog train is not quite there yet, and tomorrow it is headed to BD Wilson's blog.

Hope you can make it, see you there!