Mr Rogers, Sir Thomas Malory, and my Lady Elaine Fairchilde Head-canon.

The Knights of the Round Table were considered the paragons of a certain kind of chivalric virtue throughout the Arthurian legends. While martial prowess was a key component in their reputation, and an important qualification to join the august company, the knights were also supposed to follow a moral code and to conduct themselves in a manner befitting their status as members of King Arthur’s court. Failure to abide by the knights code would bring shame, expulsion, or even death. The greatest of the knights, Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristam, etc are praised just as often for their gallantry, for the chivalry, and for their refusal to unfairly take advantage of others even when doing so would benefit themselves, as they are for their victories in battles or tournaments.

Fred Rogers is considered a paragon of modern virtue. Throughout his life, he championed kindness, understanding, and education in a way few other have. He is nearly universally revered among Americans of a certain generation, and even after his death, he is often quoted, memed, or cited by those who promote the values he has come to represent.

Beyond their status as role models, however, there seems little that connects Sir Lancelot with Mr Rogers beyond the quasi-medieval setting of the Neighborhood of Make-Beleive…or so I thought.

Recently, I’ve been re-reading Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, which is considered by many to be the authoritative text about the Arthurian legends. Currently, I’m in the middle of the 11th book, which tells the tale of Sir Lancelot. The first 3 chapters of that book tell of how, through deceit and and magic, Dame Brisen fools Lancelot into sleeping with Lady Elaine, King Pelles’ daughter, in order to fulfill the prophecy that the child Lancelot would beget of Elaine would be Sir Galahad, the knight destined to find the Sangreal.

I was not thinking of Mr. Rogers when I read this, even when the phrase “Lady Elaine” appeared, until I came across this passage from chapter 3:

Le Morte de Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, Book 11, Chapter 3, page 615, Modern Library edition.

The close mention of “lady Elaine” and the phrase “fair child” recalled the character Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the proprietor of the Museum Go Round, and general thorn in the side of King Friday the 13th from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Did Mr. Rogers have this passage in mind when he named the character? Apparently not. According to the official Mr. Rogers website, Lady Elaine was named after Rogers’ adopted sister, Laney. Still, from now on, in my mind then two will always be connected.

In my own head canon, Lady Elaine, dubbed Fairchilde on account of her famous role in the Arthur Story moves to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to try and start a new life. Her ill-treatment at the hands of her father, King Pelles, has caused he to mistrust all kings, and her role as a pawn of a patriarchal prophecy has caused her to rebel and actively develop her strong, independent, contrarian personality. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of how my weird mind works. For more silliness of this nature, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

News and Notes: “Genesis, Jiggered” to be published in Ahoy! Comics (November 24th); Appearance on Flying Ketchup Radio

My short story, “Genesis Jiggered,” a satyrical retelling of the biblical creation story, which posits the creator was drunk, will be published by Ahoy! comics in Black’s Myth, issue 5 on November 24th.

Get it at your local comics shop, or wherever comics are sold.

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Comic Book School mentioned my story in a recent episode of it’s Tuesday night YouTube show.

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And speaking of the CBS YouTube show and Ahoy!, I also interviewed Stuart Moore and Mark Russell about the process of creating their stories in the latest issue of Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Death.

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I also recently appeared on Flying Ketchup Press’ Ketchup•Pedia radio. I read two pieces on the program, a sonnet which I wrote upon finding my first grey hair, and a flash fiction story which was published in the Comic Book School Panel 1 anthology.

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My poem “snow ghosts” will be published in The Bard’s Annual 2021 from Local Gems Press on Dec 5th.

I will be reading at Bard’s Day the annual release event on Long Island. Tickets to the reading and links to buy the book can be found here.

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Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

A Story In Honor of Neil Gaiman’s Birthday

It’s Neil Gaiman’s birthday today. Gaiman is my favorite living writer, and has been hugely influential on my writing life.

When I was a young writer, I met Gaiman at a reading he was doing in support of #Sandman Endless Nights. He signed books after the reading, and we were allowed to have one other book signed in addition to the new Sandman volume. I chose to have him sign Stardust. As he was signing it, I told him that Stardust was the first book I read that resembled the book I wanted to write. He responded that he wrote it because he he wanted to read a book like that and no one else was writing it.

This interaction was probably the most inspiring conversation I had with a writer, and gave me confidence to pursue my writing more seriously at a time when I really needed it. I will always be grateful to Mr. Gaiman for this interaction, both for his message and for the kindness he showed me amidst the hours he spent signing for and interacting with his legions of fans.

There are many other ways Gaiman influenced me, including the way he brought me back to comics as an adult, the way he writes across mediums and genres, and the way he marries the humorous and the macabre, but it is this brief encounter for which I am most thankful.

Happy birthday, Neil Gaiman.

Publishing News: “The Widow’s Walk” featured on Love Letters to Poe Website and Podcast.

My gothic horror poem, The Widow’s Walk, now has its own page on Love Letters To Poe. Check it out here, along with an interview where I explain it’s backstory, influences, and my love of Romantic, metered verse in the style of Edgar Allan and Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

https://loveletterstopoe.com/the-widows-walk/

The poem is also featured on their podcast this week, on which I read the poem.

Check it out here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/love-letters-to-poe/id1532651148?i=1000530391322

I am so honored to be featured in the magazine, whose website features Poe’s complete works as well.

Publishing News: Galaxy 2 and Poetica 3

It’s release day for two anthologies in which I have work published.

Poetica 3 includes my poem “A Monster Lives Inside Of Me”. It’s a dark, speculative poem, kind of like Poe crossed with Terry Pratchett.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094CWJNR8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_imm_EGHVX5YQFS09768XK1QX

Galaxy 2 includes “The Wishing Well”, a fairytale horror micro fiction. It’s a story to which people react really strongly, in a positive way.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0949H4JDC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_imm_90REDJX319R3ZMQ4MFVD

Both anthologies are published by Clarendon House Publications.

Get your copies today.

A Baseball Sonnet For Opening Day

This year, opening day of the baseball season happens to fall on the first day of National Poetry Month. In honor of these two concurrent occasions, I present my poem, “Baseball Sonnet”.

Baseball Sonnet

That time of year thou mayst in fans behold
That malediction, fever of the spring
Surrounded by lingering snow and cold,
We dream of pennants and World Series rings.
With pride we root our noble heroes on
Eating hot dogs, peanuts, and crackerjacks
And all our worldly troubles fade, are gone
When that first pitch is thrown and bat doth crack
But Lo! When April fades to crueler months,
We reach the summer of our discontent
Like Mighty Casey in the Mudville ninth
With hearts bereft of joy and merriment
Yet hope springs eternal for one and all,
When that blue-clad umpire calls out, “Play Ball!”

Since I posted this poem last year as well (I hope to make it an annual tradition). Here are some links to some of my favorite baseball poems by other poets:

Casey at the Bat by Earnest Lawrence Thayer 

Baseball Canto by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Pitcher by Robert Francis

Baseballs Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams.

Also, be sure to check out my reading of baseball poetry, which will be my first in a series of reading for National Poetry Month, later today on my Instagram page.

Coffee With Skullgate

Check out my appearance on Coffee With Skullgate in which Skullgate editor in chief, Chris Van Dyke compares my writing to James Joyce. We also talk about genre, science fiction, comics, and the new Skullgate anthology, Under New Suns, which includes my short story “I am I.”.

Moonlight Sonnet

In honor of the rare occurrence of Halloween falling on a full moon, I present my poem, “Moonlight Sonnet,” which originally appeared in the Prompting The Moon Anthology.

When I gaze up at its dark, inky gloom,
The sky reflects my sorrows back at me–
Like the vampire’s victim, I’m fit to swoon,
Surrendering to my melancholy.
The burdens, heavy, of my working day
Weigh down on me and hang like darkening clouds,
Which hide the bright orb’s stately face away
Obscured by night’s aphotic, murky shroud.
But with the glimmer of her tender light,
A sliver of hope in my heart doth grow–
Waxing gibbous, though not yet full tonight,
Beneath Selene’s benevolent, pale glow.
Like the werewolf by her light’s transformèd,
By moonlight, my self to me’s restorèd.

If you enjoyed this sonnet, and you’d like me to write one for you, check out The Great Command Meant anthology kickstarter (in which I have a comics story and an art piece). One of the rewards for supporting the campaign at a particular level entitles you to a sonnet about (almost) any subject of your choosing, written by me.

Me, reading the poem in this post.

Be sure to connect on facebooktwitter, and instagram, and check out the links page to read some of my published work.

Writing as Creative Play and The Remnants Anthology Release

I find it very sad that grown ups are not encouraged to play creatively. Most adults, following along with the conventions of contemporary society and do not engage in active, creative play. They rely on the creations of others to escape their dreary, every-day lives by watching television and movies, listening to music, reading books, and perhaps going to an art museum. Very few grownups, write, paint, compose, etc, Even when they do think creatively, it is often done in connection with their jobs, and therefore, they are creating for others—a boss, a company—rather than for themselves. In contrast, children are encouraged to play to draw, to make up stories and songs. Whether they consider themselves to be creative or not does not matter. Most children engage in creative play.

Many of the so-called-weird people who become successful in the arts encourage others to engage in creative activity as well. They claim, that there is a fulfillment one gets from doing art that is directly related to doing something creative for yourself. My favorite formulation of this idea is Kurt Vonnegut’s. Vonnegut, in a number of different places, encouraged his readers (and his listeners when he delivered his message as a speech) to engage in creative activities, even if what they end up producing is bad. One does not need, as Neil Gaiman exhorts his followers to do, make good art, rather, even making bad art is way of making “life bearable,” according to his view. “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake,” Vonnegut claims.

I wholeheartedly agree, and I believe that the reason for this positive effect is the connection between making art—good or bad—and the creative play in which most people engaged as children. I have often, when speaking of my own writing, compared it to a (slightly) more socially acceptable version of childhood play.

During a recent live reading and discussion about the Remnants anthology from Kyanite Publishing (which was just released today), I extended that metaphor a bit further to explain the different mediums in which I write and connect them to common ways that children play.

When I want to play alone (and as an introverted writer-type, this is the kind of play in which I engage the most), I write short stories or poetry. During this type of play, I am the only one affecting the outcome of the “game.” When I want to play with others, I make comics. In this type of play, I collaborate with others to create. I work with an artist, and sometimes a team comprised of separate pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers, to create the final piece. We each have input into the story, and we collaborate to affect the outcome.

The Remnants anthology offered me a new way to play. Remnants is a “shared-world” anthology. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, created by Stephen Coghlan. Each of the authors in the anthology had to write a story which took place within this same, shared, world. Because of my background in comic books, I usually explain a shared world like the Marvel or DC universe. Each comic (or movie if you prefer) must take place within the shared world, but each is also the unique creation of the artists who made it. A Denny O’Neil Batman story is different from an Alan Moore Batman story, but they are both, recognizably Batman stories and therefore must follow the parameters of that universe. You could say the same thing about Kenneth Branagh’s Thor movie compared to Taika Waititi’s.

Similarly, the stories in the Remnants anthology each reflect the styles and talents of the authors who wrote them, yet they all take place within Stephen’s world. Writing for this anthology presented certain restrictions in terms of what I was allowed to do in the story, but it was also freeing in a way as I could just concentrate on writing the story without having to do all the world building associated with writing this type of science fiction story.

To return to my metaphor, writing this story was like go over someone’s house and being allowed to play with their toys. In this case, Stephen built this incredible world, a for a little while, he allowed me—and the other writers whose stories are included in this anthology—to come and play with it. The result’s which you can read in the anthology, are truly remarkable in they way they differ in tone, style, and content while all being true to the shared world.

I hope you consider purchasing a copy of Remnants, and reading my story, “The Forgotten,” (follow any of the hyperlinks throughout this post, including this one), and I really hope that if you endeavor to do something creative this week. Write a poem or story, draw a picture, write a song, even if you feel you’re doing it poorly, the benefits are immeasurable especially during these trying times.

Connect with me on facebooktwitter, and instagram for all my latest news and discussion.

Your Morning Commute, As Narrated By Charles Dickens

With many states, including the one in which I live, re-opening, I hear people talk about how eager they are to get back out of the house and back. I think they may have forgotten exactly what they are going back to So, here is a reminder: Your Morning Commute, as narrated by Charles Dickens.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, that is to say it must have been the best of times for someone, somewhere, in some blessed place which was far, far away from these subway stairs which descended from the street above to the platform below like Lucifer being cast out from heaven. So dark, so dismal, so foreboding were those stairs, that as the commuters descending them did not have to try very hard to imagine that the words printed on the sign did not advertise cut-rate insurance, but rather read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

The train was on time, in as much as it arrived at the same time as it usually did: 20 minutes late, but so downtrodden were the commuters, so used to the incompetence of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, they hardly complained beyond a customary, but largely perfunctory oath, which was muttered under their collective breaths.

The passengers pushed themselves into the train cars with the exact opposite effect of clowns pouring out of a small automobile, each attempting to squeeze into the tiny aperture at the same time. They pushed and pushed but to no effect, until suddenly, they managed to squeeze through in a manner that only spineless creatures, spineless enough to do the dreary jobs to which they were headed, could.

The train doors closed and opened and closed again, crushing those who refused to head the warnings to “stand clear” like any Great Expectations those commuters might have had  for this day, as they traveled from their bleak houses to their bleaker offices.

The train entered the tunnel, and a heavy pall of shadow fell over the car, casting its shadow not only across the dirty benches lit by fluorescent bulbs which flickered on and off intermittently, but also threw its shade over the soul.

There was a creeping smell in all the subway. It meandered through the car like an evil spirit, seeking a spot to linger, a host to possess, a smell that would cling to clothing long past lunchtime, hiding deep within the fibers and seeping out, inevitably, during an important business meeting. It made its way slowly through the air, in near-visible ripples, overlaying one another, a contaminating contagion infesting nostrils, which wrinkled involuntarily, and causing the less experienced commuters to gasp audibly, and even the veteran passengers to recoil to some degree.

As that train rumbled through those dark tunnels, a spell seemed to be cast over all the passengers by some unseen witch, a spell of routine and indifference as the gray minions of conformity assumed the role automatons, gears to be ground until their teeth lost all bite within the vast and unforgiving capitalist machine. And as the light dimmed from their eyes, and as the hope seeped from their souls, a singular state settled over each-and-every individual there, a state that could only be described as Monday:

Monday, it killed all joy and whatever happiness was still hanging on from the weekend; Monday, in the stacks of paperwork that awaited them on their desks; Monday, in the thousands of notifications already on their phones (could it only be Monday?); Monday, in the eyes of the poor, wretched creature handling a pan; Monday in the two coins they dropped into his cup like tribute to Charon on this transport ferrying them across the river into an Erberus where they would perform tasks more futile than Sisyphus or Tantalus; Monday in his ungrateful reply: “Please sir, can I have some more?”; Monday, in that car like first stop on the local train that comprised the work week; Monday, where even at the beginning, the garbled voice of the conductor told them to expect delays; Monday, seemingly as far from the hope of Friday as Lucifer in the 9th circle of Hell is from paradise; In short, Monday, which despite it’s proximity to Sunday was father from the weekend than any other day of the week.  

Such was the rat race, and as the train pulled into the station, the rodents scurried from their hole-in-the-wall apartments to their hole-in-the wall-offices, vermin in search of a measly, likely moldy, piece of cheese.

Be sure to connect on facebooktwitter, and instagram, and check out the links page to read some of my published work.