Dead Fish

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I’m still working on Beowulf: The Midgard Horrors. I should have something fun and deeply engaging for next Saturday’s post. In the mean time, here’s an abstract poem dealing with the nature of vampiric sensibility. I broke from my traditional poetry style and penned this one free style. It’s time to get your flash on!

Dead fish

Dividing thunder in two
My heart
Peels the layers of the cloud,
Fish dead

Filling red cups full,
Dark ambrosia
Drunk by eager lips
Drained down his throat

Severs tonsils bled dry,
Bold sacs of
Pus and mucus dripping
Over cast

Sickness sickens every cell,
Gone
From the trapdoor flooding me
Cold.

Well, better
When the birds pluck my tongue
To feed their
Chicks caught taught in nesting

Mothers angered
By the willow tree,
I stand, I stand
A fallen soldier

Peeling layers off my soul
My heart
Dividing thunder in two
Dead fish

James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is out now from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC in both Kindle and special edition paperback. James designed and illustrated the cover and interior art for his debut novel at SSP, where he works as an in house illustrator. He also has a short story featured in their latest release, Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. James has recently won three Prose Challenges at http://www.theprose.com. His poems, “More Gravy,” “The Raven Redux,” and “Nativity Nuance” all took first place. His poem, “The Dinner Fly,” will be published in “Weirdbook Magazine” #35. He continues to write prolifically, supporting anyone who wishes to place their hammering fingers to the keyboard anvil, becoming a polished wordsmith in the process.

Find James Matthew Byers at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MattByers40
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Mattbyers40/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JamesMatthewByers
Wordpress: http://jamesmatthewbyers.wordpress.com
Prose: https://theprose.com/JamesMByers

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2017 – A New Year and Better Year!

I haven’t posted here in a long time. Work gets in the way of my writing sometimes. While the Oil & Gas industry has been hit with hard times, I’ve been as busy as a one armed paperhanger (to quote Annie Wilkes). As a drafter I’ve been working plenty, even gotten some overtime now and again. Then my son graduated college in December, which brought the parents for a visit. I hadn’t seen them in over years so it was a good visit! And of course Christmas and New Years were hectic as always. The holidays are over now so I’ve been trying to back into more writing.

December saw the publication of my first full length novel, “Salvation.” It’s a zombie post apoc based on a Collectable Card Game called Survive by Helheim Game Studios. It’s doing okay but not as well as I’d hoped. It’s $5 for the ebook and $14.99 for the paperback and free to read on Kindle Unlimited. The link is here:

https://www.amazon.com/Salvation-Survive-Book-Veronica-Smith-ebook/dp/B01N6IBUF7

January I tried something new. I self-published a short story, “Last One in the Chamber for You, My Love,” and it is not a love story. It’s on a whole other level of different. Right now it’s only $.0.99 for the book and free to read on Kindle Unlimited. You can find it here:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-One-Chamber-You-Love-ebook/dp/B01N6TGX2G

I’ve had six short stories accepted into anthologies since October that should be coming out soon. And I was just invited to submit a story into another anthology coming out this Spring. With the other two stories that were accepted earlier last year, I’m looking at eight new stories being published this year in either anthologies or magazines.

You can read my short stories that are already in published anthologies here:

https://www.amazon.com/author/veronicasmith

And in the UK!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Veronica-Smith/e/B014JCZQT4

I still have two more out for submissions so I’ll see how those go.

So what’s ahead for me for the rest of 2017?

I’m planning to get a vendor spot at a con with a couple other local writers (hoping there are spots available after they offer them to last year’s vendors first) at Trader’s Village in Houston in April.

I’ve been thinking of two or three different books and not sure which one to start first.

I already have the idea down and some summarization for “A Random Shooting: Chalk Outline II” but I’ve been highly encouraged by a friend to expand my short story, “The Treehouse,” into a novel. That story was my first Young Adult zombie story published in “Bite Sized Offerings.” That had to be kid friendly so it was harder in some ways than writing anything else I’ve done. I still have my own zombie book that I started before I did Salvation and it’s still sitting at 13K words. I’m just wondering if the zombie world is oversaturated already. Sure I have an original idea to the start of the zombie apocalypse but after that? I’m letting that one stew a bit.

I still plan to continue to write short stories to submit to anthologies and magazines. I still enjoy writing shorts a lot; they are pretty fun. I still have four that have no homes and I’ve been puttering around with the idea of publishing a collection of my stories. Again, I have to think on that.

Oh yeah, I got on the Twitter bandwagon! (https://twitter.com/Vee_L_Smith). I’m not sure about everything on it. (I got added to a couple “lists” the other day. What the hell is a “list” on Twitter?) I think it’s pretty fast paced and I’m trying to keep up with it but there is so much on the feeds. I’m not sure which is busier – Facebook or Twitter.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, New Year, or whatever you celebrated!

Until next time!

Jacksonville State University

Greetings! It’s been an exciting week. I had the privilege and honor of speaking at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama. As an alumnus, it felt great to come back to where I received my undergraduate degree and my Master’s. A former English professor, Dr. Joanne Gates, invited me. I was able to speak to an audience of undergraduate and graduate students as well as members of the community. She had a reception for me afterwards. This was all in celebration of the release of Beowulf: The Midgard Epic. I wrote it while attending the university, and Dr. Gates played a critical role in its development. I was able to sell books, signing them in the process. The next day I was able to lecture her early British/ Irish Literature class. They had an assignment to compare my version of “Beowulf” with J. R. R. Tolkien’ recently published version. Considering he has always been one of my greatest influences, so this was quite an exciting experience. We spoke about Stitched Smile Publications and other authors there. We also got deep into myths and legends. I’m going to share some of the pictures with you. In the process of speaking, I received notification that I’m getting a table at the Alabama Poetry Society’s annual conference. It’s definitely been a great year so far!
James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is out now from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC in both Kindle and special edition paperback. James designed and illustrated the cover and interior art for his debut novel at SSP, where he works as an in house illustrator. He also has a short story featured in their latest release, Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. James has recently won three Prose Challenges at http://www.theprose.com. His poems, “More Gravy,” “The Raven Redux,” and “Nativity Nuance” all took first place. His poem, “The Dinner Fly,” will be published in “Weirdbook Magazine” #35. He continues to write prolifically, supporting anyone who wishes to place their hammering fingers to the keyboard anvil, becoming a polished wordsmith in the process.

Find James Matthew Byers at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MattByers40
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Mattbyers40/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JamesMatthewByers
Wordpress: http://jamesmatthewbyers.wordpress.com
Prose: https://theprose.com/JamesMByers

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Having Words with G. Marie Merante

Recently, Stitched Smile Publications put a multiple author anthology titled Unleashed: Monsters Vs Zombies. During the release party for this book, I met a lady who brimmed over with excitement. Having talked with her briefly during that party, I thought it might be time that you, Faithful Readers, get to meet her. Welcome G. Marie Merante to my world (and yours).

AJB: Tell me a little bit about you.

51oc1pr0byl-_ux250_GMM: I’ve lived in the same town all my life. Its very rural and if you blink, you miss the center of town. For the past 20 years, I’ve lived six minutes down the road from the house I grew up in, moving after I got married. I’ve been with my husband for 25 years, have three kids…well, men now-ages 31,19 and 18. And I might as well throw in my two dogs, three cats and my bird—an African Grey.

I work part time in an amazing bookstore, as well as have the day job, and of course the writing, which I’m always thinking about, or working on in between.

To add more about the me … besides writing, I study martial arts.

AJB: You’ve lived in the same town your entire life? I ask that like it is shocking, but I have mostly lived in the same town my entire life as well, only moving out of it for about a year.

GMM: Well … I moved here when I was seven, but since I have zero memory of anything before I was five, its basically all my life..lol

AJB: I shift gears a lot, so let’s talk about working in a bookstore. Do you enjoy it?

GMM: Its pretty amazing. The bookstore is iconic. Its well known in the world of Indie bookstores and it draws incredible authors. In the past I have met Neil Gaiman there, and this past year, Buzz Aldrin, Kate Hudson ( who I almost knocked over) and Lindsey Vonn. The list of authors is immense, so the store has amazing history and a great vibe, almost a Hogwarts feeling when you walk in. And to be around piles and piles of books, there is a weird coziness to it, a very peaceful feeling.

AJB: Oh wow. I would love to work in a small bookstore like that, one where I could get lost in the pages every chance I got.

GMM: Unfortunately, there is not much time to read while working, between helping customers, or shelving. I wish I could just absorb each book just by touching them.

AJB: That would be awesome, but then you would lose the experience of reading and feeling the characters and seeing their lives through their eyes.

GMM: Very true. I do most of my ‘reading’ on audio. Fortunately, my day job allows me to listen all day, so I’m constantly going from one book to another. I have about 260 books in my Audio library.

AJB: 260 audio books? Holy cow. I have to be honest here: I have only listened to two audio books in my entire life and they are both for my books.

51jmndlm9dl-_uy250_GMM: That’s a great way to do final edits on your own work. Reading out loud has never worked for me, so downloading your own pages to an audio file is always my last phase of edits before putting a book to bed and querying.

AJB: Well, I didn’t do the audio for them–I listened to the audio versions that were put out by my publisher and voiced by John Malone. He captured my writing wonderfully.

GMM: Ahh. That’s awesome!! Well … editing tip for you..lol

AJB: I’ll keep that in mind.

GMM: Oh … and THANK GOD for audio books … I would go crazy with my day job.

I go through 3-4 books a week, depending on their length. Harry Potter, thats taking a bit more than a week each.

AJB: 
I’m curious, who is the nicest celebrity you have met there?

GMM:  They’ve all been very nice, but Neil Gaiman was just amazing. Stardust is one of my favorite movies, and I told him that. He shook my hand and said most American’s have never even seen the movie. He signed my book and told me to DREAM. Which I do.

AJB: I have heard Gaiman is a truly nice person, which is something you always hope to hear about celebrities.

GMM: Its completely true. If you ever listen to any of the audio books that he narrates, what he sounds like on the audio is exactly his personality. The nicest guy ever.

AJB: That is awesome to hear.

Let’s shift gears again. You also mentioned you study martial arts.

GMM: Yes.

AJB: How did you come to that?

GMM: My husband was studying when we met, but then we got away from it. About five years ago, we decided to take classes with our two youngest boys who were still in middle school then (both are graduated from High School now.)

We believe in self defense, and I especially believe women should learn to defend themselves.

AJB: I’ve never taken martial arts. It is as much about discipline as it is self defense, right?

GMM: It is. In the school I go to that is instilled in the younger kids more. Respect. Listen to you parents, Do your homework. No testing for your next belt if your teachers don’t sign off agreeing the kids are well behaved and doing their work.

As adults, you should really have that down already … lol.

AJB: Maybe I should get my children into it.

GMM: Absolutely!! Its great for self esteem and its not at all about fighting. If you are at the right school, you are told to avoid confrontation, respect the art.

You learn to defend yourself, but with that comes responsibility. Ok … I sound like Spiderman now.

AJB: Hahahaha … Spiderman is okay in my book. But I hate his outfit from the earlier comics.

GMM: Spiderman has a very special place in my heart.

AJB: He does know how to weave a tangled web.

Let’s switch gears again and talk about writing.

GMM: Ok.

AJB: When did you get an inkling you may want to be a writer?

51xswnz8vl-_uy250_GMM: High school. English class. The teacher recommended I submit my creative writing projects to a high school literary magazine (Its been so long, I’ve forgotten the name of it). I wrote many short stories and poems. When I was about 23, I wrote my first book, a children’s book, and even typed it up on my typewriter. But it wasn’t until I was taking a college course in my thirties—a creative writing course—that the teacher told me I should be doing nothing else but writing children’s stories.

That was when I decided to write seriously

I wrote my first novel length book after that, then rewrote it about 10 times over 8 years.

I can’t even call it revising, they were total rewrites.

After I finally put that book to bed, did a bit of querying—maybe five queries and all rejections, I started another book. By this time, I had discovered Twitter, which was still pretty new at that point. There were agents and authors on there and I found out about Nanowrimo, so I decided it was the perfect time to start a new book. I wrote 30k of a vampire book before deciding I needed to do too much research to continue (Virgo … perfectionist). So I put that book aside, and started a new one—a dystopian and won Nano, writing 50k words in two weeks (don’t ask..I have zero idea how I pulled it off).

I finished the book in April, revisions and all. By September, I was querying the agents I had met on Twitter. A year later, I signed with the first agent I queried. But we didn’t go out to publishers for another seven months. By that time, dystopians were out. The book did not sell because the market was flooded.

I parted ways with her about a year and half later.

Since then, I’ve written two more books, one which I’ve been working on for four years and I’m querying for now. I also have  two fulls out at this time. The other I’m working on revisions again.

I also have about four new books on the burner … no idea which I’m going to write next.

AJB: The life and trials of a writer.

GMM: Yup. And two shorts, one with Stitched Smile Publications, and another that was picked up last April.

AJB: Let’s backtrack a little bit here. Tell me a little about that teacher who encouraged you to write in high school. Was he a cool teacher? Influential? Did you like him?

GMM: He was my favorite teacher, the kind that brings out the creativity in you. The class was small, maybe 20-25 people, so he read and graded the stories right in front of the students. That was when he told me I should be doing nothing else but writing for a living. He told me he has not seen a student writing like mine in many years.

I was stunned. At that  point, it had been several years since I wrote anything.

He started me on my journey. Planted the seed. And today, the short I wrote that day is still in the works. I’m revamping it, possibly turning it in a full length novel. (When I was young, 7-10yrs old,  when we visited my Nana, I used to go on witch hunts in the woods with my cousins and a boy who was my Nana’s neighbor. The story is based on those hunts.)

AJB: I love teachers like that. I wish there were more of them. Isn’t it interesting how one person can set the course for someone else by having a belief in that person?

GMM: Absolutely. His words still wring in my ears anytime I doubt my self, which is often. He was amazing. He obviously had passion that ebbed over into his students.

AJB: Writers have a habit of losing belief in themselves. Sometimes we need a push and a memory can often serve as that push. I’m glad to hear you had a teacher who can push you now, all these years after his encouragement.

Now, let’s talk about the two short stories you currently have out.

GMM: Sure!

45b45f94c1fe8fa41859dbf0ecfa9a4eAJB: First let’s discuss the one with SSP. Crystal Blue Waters, am I correct?

GMM: You are correct.

AJB: Tell me about Crystal Blue Waters.

GMM: Violene is a vampire forced out of Miami by the zombie out break, and back to her birthplace, a remote island in the Caribbean, in order to survive, only the tropical waters are not as safe as she thought, and its up to her to save her island.

AJB: Having read this, I thought it was a neat concept I think readers will enjoy. I might be wrong here, but is this your first publication?

GMM: It is.

AJB: Well, let me congratulate you on your first publication and make a toast to many, many more in the future.

GMM: Thank you!! Its very exciting. I have my contract with SSP framed. Its in my bookcase.

AJB: 
You do? That is awesome. I am happy for you.

Marie, do you have a favorite genre to write in?

GMM: Not particularly, though I tend to write dark. The book I am querying now is a YA historical/magical realism. I am revising a dark YA contemporary romance. I have two zombie books slated. Another one that I think would be classified as Literary fiction. Its what ever comes to me.

AJB: Diversity is a good thing.

Earlier you said you have ideas for other books. Do you find it difficult to focus on one idea or to choose which idea to write on when you have multiple ones in your head?

GMM: Its horrific. When ideas come to me, I get like little snippets of movies that just appear. Then they are stuck in my head. I carry a pile of notebooks with me because I’m constantly jumping from one to the other, constantly writing notes. I’ve had a particularly hard time trying to figure out which new book to work on. I have a few chapters for two of them, plot notes for the others. I’ve decided to wait on those while I revise the YA contemporary romance. That story is most prominent in my mind right now.

AJB: Then I would go with the one that is at the forefront of your thoughts.

GMM: Exactly. I’m adding a secondary story line that is going to parallel the existing story, so its is new writing, not all revising. Which makes it a bit more satisfying.

AJB: Just a couple of more questions and I’ll let you go. You said you have another short story out. Can you tell me about it?

GMM: Sure. Its with Dead Silent Publishing out of the UK, that is also a production company, focused solely on zombies. My short is called All Dressed in White, which takes place about a year after the zombie outbreak. A bride who was scratched and wakes up the morning of her wedding realizes she only has hours to live before she turns. So its a countdown of her preparing for the wedding, because its the last thing she wants to do, and a countdown to her becoming a zombie.

AJB: 
Oh cool. That is something I think I would like to read.

GMM: Awesome! It has a twist at the end..

AJB: Okay, Marie, I just have one more question for you: where can readers find you?

GMM: G. Marie Merante on Facebook

G. Marie Merante on Twitter

G. Marie Merante’s Amazon Author Page

For story boards: Pinterest

I used to have a website, but took it down to make changes and well … I need to work on it.

AJB: Thank you for your time Marie, it has been nice talking with you.

GMM: Thank you so much!

AJB: You are welcome.

Check out G. Marie Merante in both Monsters Vs Zombies and Zombie Chunks and look for more from her in the future.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Good Monday Morning!

Just a friendly Monday greeting from your SSP CEO. January is coming to a close and I thought it’d be fun to introduce a little about what’s coming up this year! Are you guys as excited as we are?

This election has been a stressful one for a lot of people but one thing that can reduce stress is reading! Pick up a book and have some down time. Decompress from the madness. Give yourself a little “me time” and feed your mind.

First, lets welcome our new authors!  

* August Grappin
* Ashley Young
* Robert Teun
* Dan Naden
* Draven Ames

Welcome to the House of Stitched!

Coming in 2017! (in no particular order)

  • Hangover of the Apocalypse – Aurelio Rico Lopez III
  • Simply Put – AJ Brown
  • If We Had Voices – AJ Brown
  • The Unfleshed: Tale of the Autopsic Bride – Lisa Vasquez
  • Reaper – Briana Robertson
  • Bullets to Midnight – August Grappin
  • Monsters Vs. Zombies VOL 2 – Anthology
  • Low – Mike Duke
  • Parting Shot – Dan Naden
  • Humanities Hope – Pembroke Sinclair
  • Anatomy of Monsters – Anthology
  • Deadman’s Tales – Anthology (poetry and short stories)
  • Immolation – Samuel L Reese
  • Disease – MF Wahl
  • Scenes of Mild Peril – David Court
  • Tip of the Iceberg – Ash Hartwell
  • Stitched Smile Publications Birthday Anthology (VIP Edition)
  • The Infection – Justin Gowland
  • Lucas Pederson Collection
  • Mark Deloy Collection
  • Southern House – Mark Deloy
  • and a few more surprises!

We are so excited to bring you a year of amazing horror! We hope you’ll join us for the ride and we appreciate all the support you’ve given us. Without you, the reader, we would not have such an amazing lineup for 2017.

The Mirror

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While I’m sifting through the plot and direction of Beowulf: The Midgard Horrors, I appreciate your patience. Here’s a piece for reflection … #FlashFictionSaturday

The Mirror

The mirror hung upon the wall,
A symbol in a darkened hall.
The path on which the living stall;
A madness lurking came to call …

No person knew from whence it came,
Or who had placed its wicked frame
Upon the space, no more the same,
As evil soon became its name.

A woman of an elder sort
Refused to leave her haven’s port,
Her roof beholding horror’s sport;
The mirror and its queer retort.

Her house was once a cheery home
Where merriment agreed to roam
But days as those had come and gone
And sullen silence summed the tone.

The frightened neighbors couldn’t see
The house was plain as plain could be.
Of wood and brick and cobbled plea;
They harbored vile insanity.

The ones who heard the story told,
The residents whose aim to scold,
Examined, coming to behold …
But their reflections shivered, cold.

The woman tried to usher out
The ones who came in wearing doubts
Continuing to plague and clout
Her manor with their frightened shouts.

Intent to hide and to protect
The mirror’s power, so abject,
The woman held out in respect,
Despite of what it would reflect.

She never tried to move it, nor
Allowed those passing through her door
To touch it; only to explore
The image seen, and nothing more.

The more the mirror came to show,
The more she felt the evil grow
Until at last the falling snow
Reflected through the window’s glow.

And though the knowledge caused her pain,
The woman proved she would abstain
From letting go for freedom’s gain,
And left the mirror to remain.

The residents from the poor to rich
Decided she must be a witch.
The rumors dug a sordid ditch,
Encasing truth, a pass to pitch.

A rally and a feuding horde
Became what rumors could afford.
But they relinquished flame and sword
And opted faith within their Lord …

They called the vicar down the way,
A man of pride intent to fray
The woman, putting on display
Her sins, his means to make her pay.

He reached her home and entered in,
An exorcism to begin
For what he thought must dwell within.
He chided her and named her sin.

The woman shifted, white and chalked,
As down the hall the vicar walked.
He didn’t listen as she talked.
Instead, the mirror’s face he stalked.

At last she’d taken way too much …
She cried aloud, “You mustn’t touch!”
But egotism’s ardent crutch
Ignored her and he did as such …

Religiously in his romance
With tempting fate and circumstance
He held aloft his sudden chance
To catch his image in a glance.

Because his hands began to shake,
The mirror dropped, but didn’t break,
The vicar made a grave mistake
And slammed his foot in anger’s wake.

The mirror’s glass flung all around,
Releasing evil in a bound.
The vicar screamed a horrid sound
And dropped before her to the ground.

The woman, seeing pride repressed,
Observed the man who’d been obsessed.
The vicar madly there confessed:
“Be gone from me! I am possessed!”

He jumped and ran out in the night,
A soul depraved and full of fright.
His actions had been done in spite,
And wrong surpassed his view of right.

A burden lifted like a veil.
The story that she came to tell
Is known to all; to all quite well:
The way she seemed to conquer Hell …

Her home, in warmth, became endowed
And welcomed freedom from its shroud.
The darkness parted like a cloud
Allowing what was not allowed.

There are two sides to every soul.
The mirror placed it in control
By making half of every whole
Of he or she whose life it stole …

The truth, too much for some to bear,
Diminished them with just a stare.
At last released into the air,
The daemon crept up slowly there.

The woman’s features, frail and thin,
Contorted with the monster’s grin.
And coming thus to dwell again,
The two of them embraced her sin.

No longer trapped behind the glass,
The woman’s warning came to pass.
And now the daemon would surpass
The others in the witch’s class …

“Beware this wisdom shining clearer.”
Prays the woman that you hear her.
“Darkness might be coming nearer
Next time you look in the mirror.”

James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is out now from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC in both Kindle and special edition paperback. James designed and illustrated the cover and interior art for his debut novel at SSP, where he works as an in house illustrator. He also has a short story featured in their upcoming release, Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. James has recently won two Prose Challenges at http://www.theprose.com. His poems, “More Gravy” and “The Raven Redux,” both took first place. He continues to write prolifically, supporting anyone who wishes to place their hammering fingers to the keyboard anvil, becoming a polished wordsmith in the process.

Find James Matthew Byers at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MattByers40
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Mattbyers40/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JamesMatthewByers
Wordpress: http://jamesmatthewbyers.wordpress.com
Prose: https://theprose.com/JamesMByers

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Stranger at the Table

He sits at a table, a steaming cup of coffee at his wrist, the newspaper flipped to the business section. It’s easy to imagine he’s checking the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, and he looks so serious, so fraught with concern, I almost call out to him. But then again, what do I know about stock exchanges?

I stand at the counter, mixing up a batch of pancake batter. I add some vanilla, not bothering to measure it out; I memorized the recipe years ago, and the motions are second-nature. As I pour the batter, I glance over at him, hoping the alluring scent will tempt him. But I know it won’t; it never does. It’s always a cup of coffee and the business section. No eggs. No sausage or bacon. Just coffee, and the paper for company.

His face is familiar—brown eyes nearly hidden beneath drawn brows, sharp cheekbones, and the very slightest of underbites. His fingers tap impatiently against the wood, waiting for the coffee to cool. After a moment, he raises the cup to his lips.

“Shit!” He mutters the curse, but I hear it, because I expect it. He always takes that first sip too soon and ends up with a scalded tongue. The corner of my mouth quirks, and I shake my head. He never learns.

I finish flipping pancakes and pop them on readied plates, then gather butter, jelly, and syrup. As I pass by and begin setting the breakfast plates down, I wait, hoping against hope he’ll acknowledge me. He just flips the next page of the newspaper and takes another sip from his cup.

I should leave him alone, I know, but I can’t help it—I break the silence.

“Anything interesting?”

He glances up, brows raised, surprised by my sudden presence. Then, with a shake of his head, his face clears, all emotion erased like chalk from a blackboard. He folds the paper and stands.

“Nope. Same old, same old.”

“Oh.” I nod, as if I understand what he means by that. The sound of footsteps clattering down the hall draws my attention. By the time I look back, he’s grabbed his keys and is headed for the door. Now—desperate—I do call out.

“Have a good day! I love you!”

He doesn’t respond and barely bothers to glance over his shoulder. Tears prick my eyes, and I swallow, trying to force my heart back into my chest. As our three children race into the kitchen and devour their food, I watch my husband of twenty years walk out the door.

 

~~Briana Robertson, Author, Stitched Smile Publications

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Briana Robertson is an emerging speculative fiction author, working primarily within the genres of horror and fantasy. Her love of authors such as Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling has developed her own need to put pen to paper. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and broadcast on online podcasts. Her debut novel is in the works, set to release in 2017. She currently lives in the Midwest, with her husband, three daughters, and their Maine Coon, Bagheera. Be sure to visit her website, as well as follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagramWordPress, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

Ode to a Mortuary Stench

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Ok- things have been insane. Sick kids, sick wife, sick self … I’ve also been super swamped with wonderful responsibilities in the fields of art and poetry. Beowulf: The Midgard Horrors is being worked on. I’m sorry this is late, but I wanted to share something on Flash Fiction Saturday. It’s brief and humorous. Until next week, happy writing!

Ode to a Mortuary Stench

Amusingly, the wizard watched on.

Passing underneath the cemetery, several
Comments were made, or complaints rather,
About the mortuary.

Some skeleton remarked on an inarticulate
Stench permeating the entire premises.

A slightly decaying carcass chimed in
With her own perception on the entire
Situation.

Anger began to fester amongst the worm-ridden
Bodies, boiling to a point of contention.
Voices grew louder and louder until at last
I silenced them.

“The smell, and further more the need for the
Smell”, I began, “stems almost entirely from and
For one reason only:”

Every eye, or hollow socket, turned upon my
Freshly blushed skin, full of formaldehyde.
The dead anxiously awaited the cathartic
Revelation I eagerly bestowed upon them.

“We’re corpses. Corpses rot and stink.”

Then the wizard waved his wand,
And we all fell limp.

James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is out now from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC. He also has a short story featured in their upcoming release, Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. Recently, three of his poems won Prose’s weekly challenge.

Find James Matthew Byers at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MattByers40
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Mattbyers40/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JamesMatthewByers
Wordpress: http://jamesmatthewbyers.wordpress.com
Prose: https://theprose.com/JamesMByers

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Song of the Banshees

The Bean Sidhe–or banshees–are fairies of Irish legend said to be the harbingers of death. It is said that each of the major ancient families of Ireland were blessed with a familial banshee, which would wail and keen when the death of a family member was imminent. When the “caoine”–or wail–of a banshee was heard, it struck terror in the hearts of mortals, for they knew that something terrible was due to happen any moment.

The banshee of the ancient O’Brien family was rumored to be named Eevul, and it was believed she held a position of authority amongst the other banshees; in times of great tragedy, it was said Eevul could summon the rest of the banshees to her side, where they would all keen together in a show of shared support and sorrow.

“The Caoine of Eevul” and “Song of the Banshees” are companion pieces I wrote regarding the banshees. I hope you enjoy.

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“The Caoine of Eevul”

“They have forgotten us, Eevul. We are nothing more than legend to them now.”

“Aye, I know. But they are still ours, and we have our duty.”

She turned then, arms outstretched, meeting the gazes of each woman in turn. “Sisters, long has it been since the great families of Ireland left our emerald shores and sailed away to that far off new world. But that does not change who they are. Or who we are.”

“But they will not hear us. They will not know.”

Eevul shook her head. “Some will hear. Some will know, and that will have to be enough. What’s coming–what the dawn will bring–it will touch each of our families. We are the Bean Sidhe of Ireland. We have no choice but to keen.”

She waited, letting her words hang in the cool, crisp air of the autumn night. One by one, her sisters nodded; their assent brought a sense of relief, but no joy. Her heart heavy, she turned and led them to their faerie hill.

Since the beginning of time, they’d stood here and sang. Back when the Tuatha Dé Danann ruled and the faeries ventured from their raths, free to dance along the wind. Always, this had been their place. It was still, and forever would it be.

Mist rose from the grass as the banshees crested the mound. Intertwining, it embraced them, welcoming them like long lost lovers. Eevul breathed deep, accepting the mantle of power as it settled on her shoulders. Her fate was not an easy one to bear; it was heavy, cumbersome and often, unwanted. But it was hers. Theirs. Tonight they would carry it together, worn with grief, yet led by duty.

Tall and proud, she stepped to the head of the circle, her sisters gathering around her. She raised her arms and lifted her face to the sky, crimson locks raining fire down her back, skin pale in the moonlight.

“Now is the time, sisters. Take my hands, as I take yours. Share my sorrow, as I share yours. Sing my song, as I sing yours. Will you do this?”

“I will.”

“Aye.”

“So shall it be.”

A chorus of consent surrounded her, the voices of her sisters raised up in acceptance. Warm fingers gripped hers, locking tightly. She held on, grateful. Their presence blanketed her in comfort, enveloping her and granting her the security necessary to do what this night demanded. She needed her sisters, for they were all she had left. It was true; the O’Brien’s had forgotten her, letting her fade into nothing but a myth.

If that only were so. But she could not forget.

When all had joined hands, when the circle was complete, they began. Standing upon their ancient hill, arms outstretched and raised in offering, their voices lifted in a wailing lament. The sound was shrill, yet harmonious, as the plethora of their voices blended into a single keen of mournful despair.

Power flowed, racing across the land and over the sea, carrying their song far and wide. The wind rose up, whipping through Eevul’s hair, her silver robe slapping against skin chilled by desolation. It mimicked their notes, shrieking through slumbering villages and across barren graveyards, where only the ghosts of the dead dared to walk.

Through it all, Eevul endured the shattering of her heart. Come the dawn, many would be lost. She could not save them. All she could do was hope, futile as it was, that perhaps, if the gods were willing, her people might somehow hear her. Twin tears streaked down her cheeks, but her voice did not falter. She couldn’t stop the sign of sadness, but she was too proud to fail.

For what seemed an eternity, the harsh melody of the banshees sounded. In their beds, wrinkled men shivered and old crones shook. They heard. They knew.

Finally, the strength of her voice gave out; her song ended. One by one, the voices of her sisters died away until only an eerie silence remained. Goosebumps popped up along her flesh. She ignored them. Tossing her head, she again met the gaze of each of her sisters in turn.

“You have done well this night. I thank you. May each of you find peace in the coming storm.”

Nodding in return, they all dropped hands, laced fingers falling away, the circle shattered into pieces. With whispered murmurs, they turned and moved down the hill, fading away, swallowed up by the darkness.

Eevul watched them go. A dissonant peace settled over her, as it always did after a keen. There was nothing more she could do. Sending up a prayer that the gods be merciful, she closed her eyes and disappeared into nothing.

***

The sun rose on New York City early that morning. Lissa O’Brien woke, discomforted, the echoes of an unknown voice resounding in her head. A dream … She was sure she’d had a dream. But her mind was an empty page, offering her no hints. Why did she feel like something was wrong?

She sat up, groggy from sleep and rubbed her eyes. Glancing around, her gaze fell on a note next to her pillow. Her husband’s sloppy handwriting scrawled across the paper.

Hey honey, had to go into the office early this morning. Didn’t want to wake you. I’ll see you tonight. I love you.

A chill scuttled down Lissa’s spine as an unexplainable sense of dread settled over her. Her husband never went into work early. Why today? And why did she feel as though she’d never hold him in her arms again? It had to be that dream. Something about that dream …

She shook herself. She was being morbid. Silly. She just needed coffee. Swinging her legs from the bed, she rose and walked into the kitchen. Out of habit, she grabbed the remote and flipped the television on.

The scream that ripped through her lungs was one of shock and denial. Her legs collapsed beneath her. As she slipped from consciousness, her gaze passed over the wall calendar hanging above the television. The date seared itself along the back of her eyes.

September 11, 2001.

“Song of the Banshees”

There is a hill in emerald Ireland.

‘Tis an old faerie hill the old men say

and when the wind blows fierce off Ardmore Bay

the banshees appear and their voices blend.

Their long locks crimson, skin pale as the moon,

they stand on the hill, their strong arms spread wide

wailing and keening with sorrowful pride

warning the folk of an impending doom.

On a cold, autumn night, some years ago

the banshees’ shrill wails rose mournful and long

yet harshly harmonious was their song:

An omen to mark the coming sorrow.

On the next morn, three thousand miles away,

the two towers fell before our shocked gaze.

~~Briana Robertson, Author, Stitched Smile Publications

authorpic

Briana Robertson is an emerging speculative fiction author, working primarily within the genres of horror and fantasy. Her love of authors such as Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Patrick Rothfuss, and J.K. Rowling has developed her own need to put pen to paper. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, and broadcast on online podcasts. Her debut novel is in the works, set to release in 2017. She currently lives in the Midwest, with her husband, three daughters, and their Maine Coon, Bagheera. Be sure to visit her website, as well as follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagramWordPress, and Pinterest.

Vampyre: A Flash Fiction Saturday Short

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Greetings! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! I’m working on Beowulf: The Midgard Horrors right now. You can rest assured the tale will continue next Saturday, Grendel’s honor. For now, here’s an adventure off of my well worn path. I decided to give free style a try. In honor of the release of the fifth installment in the Underworld franchise, here’s a poem called “Vampyre.”

Vampyre

Dark drip drains
The marrow
From the bone
Within my soul

Feasting teeth
Gnaw harder,
Sinking in
Beneath the flesh

Ambitious
Equation
Reels on heels
As I return

Bled, bleed blood,
Vein punctured
Aorta,
Vena cava

Cadaver,
Alignment
Resurrects,
I am undead

Sky sun lie
As night moon
Hangs starry,
Hour witching

Arms up, rose
Legs are crossed
Death has failed
And line gets tossed

Two slot holes
Become my
Advent forth
To never die.
James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master’s in 2010. His epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, is out now from Stitched Smile Publications, LLC. He also has a short story featured in their upcoming release, Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies. Recently, three of his poems won Prose’s weekly challenge.

Find James Matthew Byers at:
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/MattByers40
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Mattbyers40/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JamesMatthewByers
Wordpress: http://jamesmatthewbyers.wordpress.com
Prose: https://theprose.com/JamesMByers

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