“Not for the faint of heart…Each word and phrase has been structured in such a way that the reader will experience an intense depth of emotion and feelings.” —EGuide Magazine
“…varied themes, approaches, and poetic structures create a diverse series of horror inspections. Under Her Skin is unparalleled in scope, creativity, and literary strength.” —Midwest Book Review
A showcase of poetry from some of the darkest and most lyrical voices of women in horror.
Under Her Skin features the best in never-before-published dark verse and lyrical prose from the voices of Women in Horror. Centered on the innate relationship between body horror and the female experience, this collection features work from Bram-Stoker Award® winning and nominated authors, as well as dozens of poems from women (cis and trans) and non-binary femmes.
Edited by Lindy Ryan and Toni Miller, Under Her Skin celebrates women in horror from cover to cover. In addition to poems contributed by seventy poets, the collection also features a foreword penned by Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Grand Master and recipient of the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Linda D. Addison; interior illustrations by Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association Grand Master and recipient of the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award Marge Simon; and cover art by noted horror artist Lynne Hansen.
OUR LADY’S BIRD by Carina Bissett
A good girl wears white gloves, pristine, unblemished hands folded, head bowed, lips pressed tight, pink heat hidden, sealed, trapped
in bleached cotton that covers, smothers knuckles bruised, nails chewed, cuticles torn, blood spotting, weeping, a testament to wickedness within.
You can read the rest of this piece as well as featured poems by Lee Murray and Amy Lowenstern in the article “UNDER HER SKIN: COVER AND POETRY REVEAL” at SciFiNow or in your own copy of this amazing collection of dark poetry.
After a some time away from poetry while working on a novel-length book, my return to the genre came with a new appreciation of the form. I start my mornings with poetry. If I’m not writing poems, I’m reading them. One of my goals last year was to work on a poetry collection featuring fairy tales and myth. And I’m pleased that I’ve made progress on that front. Several of my new pieces found homes, and poems I’ve been working on for years finally took form. In the end, I published five poems in 2021, and I have two more forthcoming.
Most recently, my collaborative poem “Ars Poisana” was published in Enchanted Conversation. I co-wrote this piece with Andrea Blythe several years ago. (Check out Blythe’s award-winning chapbook Twelve, a short series of linked poems based on the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” You’ll be glad you did.) Before working with her, I had never written a poem (or anything else) with another person. I wondered if it was even possible. But as we layered line over line and took turns making sweeping passes on the text, this poem took a shape and voice of its own. I’d never experienced anything like it, but I was hooked. I love the idea of poets collaborating on projects, and it’s something I hope to do again. In fact, I have the glimmer of an idea for a collection taking shape. Stay tuned!
A girl has heard the stories, fair maidens who knew better,
but slipped into the witch’s garden despite the warnings.
The witches have stories too, stories about good girls
who plucked petals from blooming plants
to eat the secrets and plant the seeds in black soil and red hearts.
“Ars Poisana” by Carina Bissett and Andrea Blythe, Enchanted Conversation, December 2021
Around the same time I started work on “Ars Poisana,” I wrote the first draft of “Bright Tapestry.” I was enamored with tapetum lucidum (Latin for bright tapestry), the reflective surface on the top part of some animals’ retinas. If only human predators could be as easily identified. I reworked this poem numerous times over the years but could never get it just right. Finally, on the day of the deadline for the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. VIII, I sat down and spent six hours reworking and refining until I had a poem that was worthy of submission. I’m happy to say that the publication of “Bright Tapestry” marks my third appearance in the annual HWA Poetry Showcase.
The solitary woman stalks alleys,
a time traveler spinning dark
matter, the cosmic web.
She searches for eyeshine,
animal bridegrooms disguised
as bluebeards, princes, and wolves.
“Bright Tapestry” by Carina Bissett, HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. VIII, edited by Stephanie Wytovich, November 2021
In October, my poem “The Tower” was part of ARCANA —an innovative project based in Munich, Germany. Each participating writer was given the task of composing a piece of flash or a poem based on based on a specific card in the Major Arcana. You can read more about the inspiration and process of this piece HERE.
I’m hopeful for an even more productive year for poetry in 2022. And I’m off to a good start. My poems “My Body, My Book” and “Our Lady’s Bird” will be included in the forthcoming anthology Under Her Skin: A Women in Horror Poetry Showcase, edited by Lindy Ryan and Toni Miller at Black Spot Books. It’s available for pre-order and is scheduled to be released on April 5, 2022.
“Not for the faint of heart…Each word and phrase has been structured in such a way that the reader will experience an intense depth of emotion and feelings.”
Reviews are starting to come in, and the praise is glowing.
“Dead serious in its horror, yet delightful and inviting in its design and conceit, Shadow Atlas is a rare, beguiling treat, a collective fantasy with teeth, vision, and grounded in urgent, ancient truths.” – BookLife Reviews (BookLife section of Publishers Weekly)
“Think The DaVinci Code or Indiana Jones, but with more literary force, as it comments on mortals, immortals, and the intersection of worlds which holds them.” – Midwest Book Reviews
“A host of sublime writers and settings create an entertainingly macabre collection.”– Kirkus Reviews
Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered the book. That initial response makes a HUGE difference. I hope you will continue to share the anthology far and wide. And for those of you who’ve read it and loved it, we’d be grateful if you’d leave a review. Thank you in advance!
The other editors (Hillary Dodge and Joshua Viola) and I recently had the honor of selecting six entries to submit as Hex Publishers‘ official nominations for the The Pushcart Prize. We decided to nominate three stories and three poems. It was extremely difficult narrowing down our nominations, but we feel confident with our final decision:
“There is an old saying that wisdom sits in places. Open an atlas across the Americas, and you will soon discover this knowledge hidden in fragments of shared memory marked on maps. The ancient peoples knew which areas to avoid, which spirits to appease. Later, invasive superstitions from far-flung countries seeded into the landscape. In order to survive, newcomers learned the cautionary tales and secret lore linked to the terrain. But not all paid heed to superstitions. These are their stories, each tale a new entry in the field guide to dark landscapes.”
You can find more about Shadow Atlas and purchase links at Hex Publishers.
It’s the time of year when the BEST OF anthologies start to roll out, and writers everywhere eagerly look forward to discovering if their stories caught the attention of the readers compiling these collections. Ellen Datlow has been editing anthologies for the last four decades, and is one of the most influential editors working in the horror genre today. My poem “Swimming with the Shark Boys” made Datlow’s long list in 2016. And last year, my story “Buring Bright” (Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, February 2019) was mentioned in the introduction of The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 12.
On November 16, Datlow releases her thirteenth foray in producing The Best Horror of the Year. And this year, TWO of my stories received shout-outs in the introduction!
The first mention is for my Snow White fairy tale retelling “Rotten” that was published in Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes Murdock Yardley (Crystal Lake Publishing, March 2020).
This gorgeous anthology also made it as a finalistfor Superior Achievement in an Anthology at the 2021 Bram Stoker Awards.
Not bad for a story that was rejected 19 times before finding a home
I’m excited to share my work with ARCANA —an innovative project based in Munich, Germany. Each participating writer was given the task of composing a piece of flash or a poem based on based on a specific card in the Major Arcana. When I opened that invitation, I found that I’d been assigned The Tower— the one card in the deck that fills me with acute dread.
From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to move away from the more literal interpretations, so I took the symbolism of the card and mashed it up with the prevalent motif of women in towers found in fairy tales and myth. (On a side note, check out Gregory Hergert‘s visual interpretation of The Tower in the Art catalog. He works in the genre of Urban Surrealism. I was especially intrigued by the differences in the ways we approached our individual interpretations.) You can view the complete works (ART 2021 & STORY 2021) at ARCANA.
As I worked on the concept for this poem, I followed the leads to early interpretations. In some decks, it was called La Foudre (Lightning); in others, it wasn’t included at all. I was especially intrigued by the link to the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). This biblical link then then led me to the card’s connections to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and the Harrowing of Hell.
Right: The Tower of Babel. Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563. Below: Minchiate card deck (Florence, 1860-1890): trump XV – La Casa del Diavolo; Playing Card (CH 18165941); The Harrowing of Hell, depicted in the Petites Heures de Jean de Berry, 14th-century illuminated manuscript commissioned by John, Duke of Berry.
In the end, I fixated on that image of Eve being expelled from The Tower, which reminded me of the story of St. Barbara, who I’ve discussed at length during my Storied Imaginarium module on Rapunzel. In short, Barbara was guarded by her father, who kept her locked in a tower. She refused to marry, and her father eventually condemned her to death by beheading. However, after he did the deed, he was struck by lightning. How perfect is that?
At this point, I knew I wanted to write about Maidens in Towers. (For an excellent review of the subject of this popular trope, check out the essay The Maiden in the Tower by Terri Windling at Myth and Moor.) The result was the poem “The Tower.” I hope you enjoy it.
Right: Saint Barbara, by Jan van Eyck (c. 1437)
ABOUT THE PROJECT: One card from the Major Arcana is drawn randomly and given to the participant. How the artist or writer responds to their, will be revealed this October 20, 2021 at 3 pm (CET) This year’s show will be presented completely online. —Hazel Ang
ARCANA is the result of caffeine injected conversations between writer, Steve Toase, and curator Hazel Ang. Conversations about the occult, ceremonial magicians, and eccentric filmmakers inspired Toase and Ang to start an invitational project based around the cards in hopes of presenting an international community of like-minded artists to the Munich arts scene.
In 2019, 14 artists and writers were invited to participate. The visual and literary interpretations were presented in the beautiful Orangerie in Munich, Germany. The show was beautiful and was written about by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and InMünchen Magazine.
In 2020 Arcana became an online event directed by Ang with editing help from writer, Diana Radovan. The number of artists and writers invited doubled; 22 writers, 22 artists.
With help from artist/writer Rysz Merey, and multi-talent Luvan, Arcana 2021 is presented online.
September and October are especially busy this year. In addition to wrapping up novel revisions and promoting the upcoming release of Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas, I will be talking about some of my favorite subjects on upcoming panels at WhimsyCon, MileHiCon, Fox Cities Book Festival, and Pikes Peak Writers.
My poem “Fairy Tale Prohibition” is out now at Alphanumeric. This piece examines cautionary themes in familiar fairy tales and the consequences that come from breaking the rules. This piece draws threads from more than a dozen fairy tales. Can you identify them all? In addition to Alphanumeric, this poem can be read in NonBinary Review Issue #25: Prohibition.
“Even when a prohibition in a fairy-story is guessed to be derived from some taboo once practised long ago, it has probably been preserved in the later stages of the tale’s history because of the great mythical significance of prohibition. Thou shalt not – or else thou shalt depart beggared into endless regret.”― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
In other poetry news, “Radiant” was nominated for Best of the Net! This piece is a tribute to the radium girls, female factory workers who were poisoned by radiation while painting watch dials (1917-1926). Several of these women joined forces to file a lawsuit. Their eventual win paved the way for labor rights in America and the institution of industrial safety standards. “Radiant” is included in NonBinary Review Issue # 24: Industrial Revolution.
This last weekend was a whirlwind of activities, panels, and readings. The pandemic has affected many things over the last 15 months, and StokerCon 2021 was one of those things. Through a truly massive effort on the part of co-chairs Brian W. Matthews and James Chambers, StokerCon shifted to a virtual platform in a matter of just a couple of months. It was an impressive feat.
During StokerCon, I was lucky enough to take part in three prerecorded panels: From Poetry to Fiction and Vice Versa, Reinventing the Classics, and HWA Chapters: What They Do and How to Start One. I also moderated the readings by two guests of honor: Lisa Morton and Seanan McGuire. And, before I knew it, the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation hit the schedule Saturday night. Normally, I enjoy the awards as a spectator there to cheer for the finalists. This time, it was a little different.
A couple of months back, I was notified that I was won the Silver Hammer Award alongside Brian W. Matthews. This is the first year there have been two recipients of this award since 1997 when it was given to Lawrence Watt-Evans and Robert Weinberg. With the truly massive amount work Brian dedicates to HWA (StokerCon co-chair in 2019 Grand Rapids, 2021 virtual, and 2022 Denver), he represents the epitome of dedication and devotion in his efforts to shine a light on the best horror has to offer. However, I have to admit that winning an award for my own volunteer efforts threw me for a loop. The entire experience of recording an acceptance speech and writing something for the souvenir anthology was somewhat surreal.
Every single minute I’ve spent volunteering for the HWA has been a minute well spent. It is rewarding work, and I find great joy in contributing to an organization dedicated to providing a safe and supportive space for members. I’m grateful to be a part of this creative and compassionate community.
The Silver Hammer Award is periodically given to “an HWA volunteer who has done a truly massive amount of work for the organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. It was instituted in 1996, and is decided by a vote of HWA’s Board of Trustees.” Since I won the HWA Scholarship in 2016, I’ve volunteered annually as a member of both Stoker and Scholarship juries. In 2020, I started work on the HWA Membership Committee and worked alongside Hillary Dodge to create the Colorado Springs Chapter of HWA. I also helped with StokerCon 2021 as the Sponsorship Coordinator. The work in itself has always been rewarding, and I look forward to many more years of service in supporting this organization that has given me so much.
One of my favorite parts of the virtual conference was that I was able to see everyone’s panels and all of the author readings. So often during a physical conference, I’m forced to pick and choose. For my own reading, I shared “Twice in the Telling,” a mashup of the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters” and the fairy tale “The Water Nixie.” I was lucky enough to have this story included in the anthology Upon a Twice Time, which is now available from Air and Nothingness Press. Best of all, I was able to see comments from attendees who stopped by to listen to my reading.
To say the weekend was important to me would be an understatement. Even though we were not able to be together at a physical conference, I was happy that I had the opportunity to see and speak with friends-old and new-at the virtual conference. The entire experience has been an amazing one, and I’ve learned a little more about myself along the way.
I’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now, and I decided that May 1st was the perfect day to formally announce it. After all, May Day is the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. I happen to like the liminal space measured in halfway points. And although May Day has a connection to the alignment of the stars, it is also deeply rooted in agriculture and the earth. It turns out both the stars and the land link to cartography, which provides the underlying connections in the upcoming anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas.
This project is the brainchild of myself and my fellow editors Hillary Dodge and Josh Viola. The cover art was created by the award-winning artist Aaron Lovett, who will also be completing original interior art for the individual stories as well. Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas is scheduled to be published in October 2021 by Hex Publishers. And yes, there will be an open call for authors and poets interested in submitting. (More about that later.)
From the very beginning, we decided that this was not going to be a conventional anthology. We were steadfast in reserving spots for an open submission call. We knew we wanted a strong representation of dark poetry alongside short fiction. And we were determined to have a table of contents dominated by women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized and underrepresented voices.
When sending out invitations for Shadow Atlas, we were able to bring together authors and poets from various subgenres existing under the umbrella of speculative fiction to create a unique discourse examining the American continents through a multi-faceted lens. It’s truly been a remarkable experience to see the ways this diversity adds to the exploration of these lands and all they encompass. Interspersed throughout the anthology, nonfiction “field notes” bring in additional narratives focused on location-based cryptids, haunted sightings, lost cities, mysterious forces, and the layered textuality of peoples past and present.
The open call will be held from June 21 to June 27, 2021. Anything sent BEFORE or AFTER these dates will be deleted unread. If you want to get a jump start on your submission, here is a bit about the theme:
Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas will be a collection of dark tales intrinsically rooted in the places from which they’ve sprung. We seek haunting and folkloric tales where setting is character and landscape is an essential part of the story. We want stories that draw from the wellspring of cultural destinations and local folklore in their shaping – most especially, stories that are tied to a specific and concrete location. This can include places that never existed, or those with connections created by the author, but they must take place in South America. Original tales, mash-ups, and new takes on known folkloric elements/cryptids/legends are all welcome.
There is an old saying that wisdom sits in places. Open an atlas across the Americas, and you will soon discover this knowledge hidden in fragments of shared memory marked on maps. The ancient peoples knew which areas to avoid, which spirits to appease. Later, invasive superstitions from far-flung countries seeded into the landscape. In order to survive, newcomers learned the cautionary tales and secret lore linked to the terrain. But not all paid heed to superstitions. These are their stories, each tale a new entry in the field guide to dark landscapes. From folk to urban horror, tell us about the places that leave their mark on the human psyche, those that resonate deep inside and leave something behind in return.
Shadow Atlas Submissions
We are seeking short stories exclusively set in South America.
We are seeking poetry set in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America.
Payment: $250 for short fiction; $25 for poetry Rights: Exclusive rights for 18 months after publication Length: 2500 to 3000 words for short fiction; up to 35 lines for poetry Submission Period: June 21 to June 27, 2021 Expected Release Date: October 2021 No reprints, multiple or simultaneous subs
Use classic Shunn formatting. Send as an attachment in doc or docx. In the subject line, put “Shadow Atlas,” the name of your story or poem, and author name. Example: Shadow Atlas – Story/Poem Title – Author Name.
As a fan of fairy tales and myth, I’m always on the lookout for new takes on old narratives. Last year, specialty publisher Air & Nothingness Press captured my attention with a lovely book filled with fairy tale mash-ups that had been retold in a variety of genres. I was hooked.
I backed the Kickstarter for the first anthology Upon a Once Time and delighted in the variety of stories and genres. In fact, I loved it so much that I included it in my top reads of 2020. (You can read my review at Vernacular Books.)
And then I heard whispers about a second volume in the works, and I knew I had to take a stab at my own fairy tale mash-up.
I’ve been thinking about retelling the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters,” so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to twist this particular tale in a different direction. My retelling incorporated “The Water Nixie” along with a few nods to some of my favorite folklore. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.
Luckily, publisher and editor Todd Sanders liked it as well. I’m proud to announce that “Twice in the Telling” has joined the line-up of what is proving to be yet another successful anthology.
The support for these beautiful books continues to be strong. In fact, the Kickstarter for Upon a Twice Time funded in the first day! Six days into the fundraiser, and this second volume has reached its stretch goals. Isn’t that marvelous?
The support of small publishers is more important now than ever, and I can’t wait to see what happens as new stretch goals are added. Have you reserved your copy yet?