Thursday, August 29, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 4
Edited by Anthony Servante

Let’s discuss the premise before looking at the words. It is an axiom in academic writing that poetry must speak for itself. A writer cannot interpret meaning for the reader, giving insight to his own words as if the words required his presence to clarify the work’s intents. The poem must stand up to the scrutiny of the reader alone. With this axiom in mind, we proceed to our poetry for today; we have works by Lori R. Lopez, A.D. Blacet, Jennifer Litt, Lawrence Hammond, & a special appearance by Alma E. Cervantes.

The poems for today’s column are for a one-time use and the authors retain full ownership.

We begin with Lori R. Lopez.

Lori R. Lopez


Lori R. Lopez is the author of CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, AN ILL WIND BLOWS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, THE FAIRY FLY, POETIC REFLECTIONS: KEEP THE HEART OF A CHILD and more. She is a resident of Southern California who has been an avid horror fan since she was born or thereabouts. A writer of prose and poetry, she pens a semi-monthly column called "Poetic Reflections" that contains dark verse and humor. She is also an artist who does her own book covers and illustrations. Although she enjoys a variety of genres, Horror is Lori's favorite and she takes delight in chilling your blood as well as your bones. Better dress warm.

You can find her stories and verse online and through bookstores. They have appeared in anthologies such as MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE, MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON’T, DARLINGS OF DECAY, I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES, SOUP OF SOULS, THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED, and SCARE PACKAGE: 14 TALES OF TERROR. Fifteen of Lori’s poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY.


A scrap of Evil once flaked off
And floated on a wicked wind
To touch a woman giving birth
She clenched her babe to stay within
The particle resumed its flight
As the mother's final breath expired
Its subsequential resting place
Would be a Norseman's funeral pyre
He rose up out of flaming death
To brandish sword and wreak despair
An orange corona framed his skull
Which reeked of ire and burning hair
The grim iota thencely sought
A queen to reign for just a speck
She sent her army off to meet
A cruel demise for that stray fleck
It drifted then upon a horsey
Who bucked a cowboy's head clean off
Devoured the clowns and rodeo fans
And anyone who had to cough
The smidge of Evil wafted over
To land upon a hummingbird
That pecked the eyes of passersby
It thought to be absurd
The grain would fly onto a sister
Whose habit was to feed the needy
The nun poured poison on the food
Declaring hunger greedy!
That element had flitted next
To a sorcerer whose destiny
To wave his arms, conduct the stars
Aligned them alphabetically
This repercussed in untold ways
And could have left Earth in the dark
A cold and barren hunk of rock
Bereft of heat, forlornly stark
But the quantum flotsam came to rest
On an evildoer's takeout meal
Two wrongs added up into a force
That Energy, Space and Time could feel
The stars rearranged to their proper place
Disrupting the chip off Evil's curse
Though the fact remains that a tiny change
Could upset the balance of the universe!

truth lies
Without peace
The world is a target range
A stifled breath
A bleak sky with the hollow threat of thunder
Ominous and empty without rain
Thinking back to the sound
The pure rhythm, soothing and honest
Therein lies truth
Without trust there is no peace
Without truth there can be no trust
In the past is planted the future
And born the present
Perhaps without conception
Or love
A thoughtless transaction
The progression of time
Invisible at the present
Yet so evident in the future
Gentle, exquisite, then destructive
Heartbreaking in the end
An unbroken flow like water
Spills from a mountain
We are swept along with the current
Head over heels
Learning to swim after we learn to walk
To stay afloat in the rush
Of life's moments
Where truth lies
In a closed mind
Like an unread book
But trust flourishes in the open
Like raising a sash
To smell and feel the rain.


“quantum” is a story in verse form, an “homage” (intended?) to Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queen. “Spenser only completed half of The Faerie Queene he planned. In a letter to Sir John Walter Raleigh, he explained the purpose and structure of the poem. It is an allegory, a story whose characters & events nearly all have a specific/symbolic meaning. The poem's setting is a mythical "Faerie land," ruled by the Faerie Queene” (Wiki). As such, Lori incorporates a medieval-like era where “a cowboy” can exist (perhaps because of “evil’s influence). For Spencer, his land was a metaphor for England; for Lori, it is Earth caught between good and evil, an allusion, most likely, to the rise of the Anit-Christ, but set in a “fairy tale” land. As the threat of the “evil” grows relevant to the reader, the allegory shifts tone, and we now have a warning of biblical proportions:

“Two wrongs added up into a force
That Energy, Space and Time could feel
The stars rearranged to their proper place
Disrupting the chip off Evil's curse
Though the fact remains that a tiny change 
Could upset the balance of the universe!“

Whereas Spencer sought only to treat his fairy-land and characters as political allegory, Lori has a bigger theme in mind. First, she sets up the reader to follow a blank verse version of an olden tale, but then she shifts tone to shades of Armageddon. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this were a biblical allegory. If I didn’t know better.

What I enjoy most about “truth lies”, Lori’s second entry for today, is its play on words with typical poetic images playing against type. First, let’s consider the title: it is two words, either two nouns or a noun and a verb. As two nouns, truth and falsehood are placed side by side for contrast, for oxymoronic effect; as a noun and a verb, the subject is either at rest, allowing falsehoods to flourish, or speaking falsehoods. This conundrum opens the imagery to follow: “a bleak sky” portends thunder, but does not deliver (truth lies, get it?) and is empty of rain, another lie told by the ominous heavens (note that clouds are never mentioned; the word “bleak” has its work cut out for it). The segue into figurative terms (peace, honest, future, past, present) leads to a birth without conception (the noun-noun meaning, the contradictory clash); here the metaphor becomes subtle. If truth lies, then there can be birth without conception. Note the proximity of “unbroken flow of water” (water breaking prior to birth), spilling from the mountain (the pregnancy mound) and “head over heels” (the inverted birth of the baby who is removed from womb heels over head), which continues the contradictions and reaches the Noun-Verb meaning of the title “Where truth lies in a closed mind” (a mind not open to the possibility of miracles because they are impossible). But once we accept the miracle of life, we then feel the “rain” that was absent at the beginning of the poem. Men are always a bit queasy about births, beautiful though they may be, and “truth lies” captures the literal spirit of new life while showing us its contrary figurative force. John Keats said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Lori says it pretty good herself.

We turn to A.D. Blacet.

Andrew D. Blacet


Andrew D. Blacet lives with his family in San Jose, California, where he is now gainfully employed in the Health Care field, having managed to survive the major shakeouts of economic boom-and-bust that have so far defined the new century in America. In his spare time Andrew continues to produce a substantial output of poetry and stories of the surreal, the strange and the grotesque, and is currently working on a novel of ecological horror. Over the years he has worked patiently to refine his skills and find his voice among the echoes of a fractured and increasingly divided and irrational world. He is apt to believe skepticism is a virtue, and pessimism a positive driving force. Don’t ask him about unicorns.


A.D. Blacet

The sky rained perpetually –
Dust and meteors and wasting rays
And what little ice there was
Cringed on the shores of emptied seas;
Moon pressed her belly to a wine glass,
Somersaulted to singing wolves, dancing bats
And a man in a padded cell.
Moon resurfaced in blue-eyed daylight
But Sun ignored her;
Moon grimaced, made a show of teeth.
Sun yawned in the east.
Moon found a thinning of clouds and beamed
Bright as the canvas behind watercolor
And Sun painted over the sky.
Moon pressed her belly against the glass
And cried.

A.D. Blacet

He followed his bliss to a ditch
At the edge of a blighted cornfield
Where the only sound was slow dying;
A lone cicada flickered in and out
Of insect prayer and suffering
For the sky was a glass jar
Over everything, trapping life.
The air panted and pawed the withered rows;
Fibrous leaves trembled nerveless terrors;
The air stuck its tongue down the throat
Of something dead, licked the insides out
And shared its morsel in the mouth
Of the man outside, looking in,
Searching the cornstalks,
The decapitated sunflowers,
The brown skeletons in rags,
Impaled and crucified;
A small bird or a lizard hopped lightly on a leaf.
A fallen stalk cracked like rotted bamboo.
There was something else in there –
A doe or a child, he did not distinguish –
It swayed in the stipple, a tender shoot
Risen from the funeral mound,
A pulse in the blackened corn
The creature slunk away
From the ditch and its current occupant
And the man followed his bliss.


“The Moon Became Her” uses the literary device, personification to pull the reader into its surreal world, like something out of a Tex Avery or Max Fleischer cartoon from the 1930s or 40s. Ice cringes, the moon has a belly, grimaces and shows its teeth, ultimately crying, the sun ignores and yawns. In the toons, the intent was to meld an unreal world with a real one; Tex had his characters chasing each other till they actually run off the screen and into the audience; Max mixed himself into a Betty Boop reel where he draws Betty till she becomes real. Blacet is not selling humor to his readers; his surrealism has a creepy edge with “the man in the padded cell” sitting in the middle of the poem. This is not metaphor or anthropomorphism; it is a man in the middle of a sun and a moon acting human. With his use of surrealism, Blacet traverses the worlds of the inner life of a “crazy” man with the poetic life of personified spheres. It is a fun conceit on the surface, but it creeps up on the reader when you realize the sun and the moon have got a thing going on, which is probably representative of the reality that drove our padded friend insane. The poem is at once playful and scary. Well done.

“The Occupant of the Ditch” uses traditional poetic devices to attract the reader at a subconscious level. On the surface, there is a poem telling a symbolic tale, while underneath the words, we find assonance, consonance, alliteration, and internal rhyme schemes working subliminally on the reader. This is a lost art in today’s poetry, where images alone construct the major themes. Let’s take a look at a few examples of surface/subliminal pairings. Blacet uses assonance in the first line: “He followed his bliss to a ditch.” On the surface, the narrative tells of someone who sought pleasure and found pain; subliminally, the short “i” sound echoes in “his”, “bliss”, and “ditch”. It is an echo that is inescapable to the reader’s ear: ih-ih-ih. Bliss and “blighted” are alliteratively aligned, and “cornfield” adds another “ih” sound, carrying the reader along with a poetic rhythm matching the fallen person story. “Only” and “slow” match the long vowel sound of “oh”, while “dying” echoes the long vowel sound of “ii” first heard in “blighted”. There is a consistency to this pattern, matching the traditional metaphors and his clever use of personification (as seen in his earlier poem). Consider this verse:

The air stuck its tongue down the throat
Of something dead, licked the insides out
And shared its morsel in the mouth
Of the man outside, looking in,
Searching the cornstalks,
The decapitated sunflowers,
The brown skeletons in rags,
Impaled and crucified;

Follow the subliminal use of poetry: tongue, throat (alliteration), something, licked, insides (assonance), out, mouth, outside, sunflowers, brown (assonance), morsel, mouth (alliteration) something, searching (consonance). It’s beautifully constructed. Blacet plays with the words as much as he plays with the conceits and images. His metaphors elicit grotesqueness in commonalities (decapitated sunflowers). This is the work of a poet just finding his poetic legs. I look forward to more works by A.D Blacet.

We now turn to Jennifer Litt.

Jennifer Litt


Jennifer Litt teaches writing at Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, and is the sole proprietor of Jennifer Litt Writing Services ( Jennifer’s poetry has appeared in several anthologies and journals, including Jet Fuel Review, Lake Affect, LUMINA, Mixed Fruit, and nycBigCityLit. She lives with her cat Phantom on a quiet, tree-lined boulevard in the heart of Rochester.


Astral Projections

Dandelion seeds cling to the sun porch screen,
float across my retina after unlacquered sleep.
Beside my futon, bent spines of The Teachings of
Don Juan and Be Here Now, paperbacks for
hippies from the sixties and seventies.

I’m back in your pad above the garage,
silvery exposed Fiberglas, a psychedelic
backdrop for Stratocaster, Martin, fuzz box pedal
décor. While the turntable spins Ripple, I discard
my clothes beside your mattress on the floor,
lie nude, low lit by moon stream and stars, waiting.

I cling to nothing, so I will have nothing to defend.
After February’s ice storm, a hard sun
refracts prisms through the wind chimes of trees.
We are tripping and swear we can see through
our hands. A palm reader discovered my broken
love line, before I recognized my restlessness with
intimacy. In March I betray you with a friend,
but you’ve already seen through me.

Why didn’t I pick the path of heart?
It’s best to erase all personal history.

My Father Prepaid the Neptune Society

for his cremation and a green burial at sea.
He battles the current in his lungs,
a product of his failing pump.
In 1943, his destroyer moved past ports
where Italian divers attached mines
to the hulls of ships on moonless nights.
Torpedoes heading toward them veered,
surfaced as a pod of dolphins. My father
thanked the sea gods. It felt like a reprieve.
His pleural cavern floods with a fiery debris,
which he drains through a tunneled
catheter several times a week.
Oh, Portunus, turn your dolphin toward this port,
come to this sailor’s aid, and relieve him of distress.
Provide him with safe harbor, for what I believe is this—
my father is turning into some type of fish.
After his journey through the fire,
he’ll burn into a moray eel, move into a coral reef.


“Astral Projection” is a personal account of betrayal behind the décor of poetry. Immediately the reader should note the internal rhymes and assonance (the long “e” sound: seeds, screen, sleep, with echoes throughout the first stanza. It is part memory and part reverie, a happy time, but with foreboding words (“I cling to nothing, so I will have nothing to defend”). Our narrator is not totally invested emotionally, though she lies nude, invested physically. The following line is pure poetry; yes, this is the language of the poet: “A palm reader discovered my broken love line…” What started as a cute observation of two lovers high on LSD or mushrooms (“We are tripping and swear we can see through our hands”) becomes a metaphor for guilt, for he sees through her; he knows he has been betrayed. There is some regret, but it is too little, too late. Litt captures a moment of perfect romance and corrupts it with betrayal, symbolized by the transparency of a feigned “intimacy”. This may or not be Litt herself in the work, but that is unimportant. What is important is that it is now us.

“My Father Prepaid the Neptune Society” presents water as life and fire as death, and where both meet, both are extinguished, water evaporates, fire snuffed. The “Neptune Society” performs burials at sea by cremation. The narrator in the poem describes the “Father’s” own dying body as a vessel of the sea (“current”) and transitions to a memory of the sea when the paternal parent battled during World War II on the sea just as he now battles with the failing of his own body. He survived torpedoes, only to bear the burden of a life with a catheter (an ironic “reprieve” by the sea). The narrator pleas with the god of the sea to rescue her father and with the cremation (the symbol of “fire” here) allow her father to become one with the sea, “some kind of fish”, perhaps a “moray eel”. Litt has taken another personal moment and has transformed it into the language of poetry. She invests much of herself in her works, but there is much going on here in her writing, for the reader, by use of her poetry, identifies with her, and experiences a detached empathy, or a subjective correlative. And for this day and age, it is nice to see the objective correlative modernized by such personal poetry.

We now turn to Lawrence Hammond.

Lawrence Hammond

Lawrence Hammond was the front man of the ground-breaking, dark and edgy San Francisco/Berkeley late-sixties band Mad River before he returned to his country and bluegrass roots. His "Coyote's Dream" album featured timeless tracks that inspired country legends the Judd's and others. After two decades of silence, his recently rediscovered lost album, "Presumed Lost" is now available from Shagrat records.


Eastern Light
By Mad River
Lyrics and Music by Lawrence Hammond

Where does the sun come from
Where does it go
Pretty mama
I think you must know
You come in the morning
You're gone at night
Pretty babe
I think you're the eastern light
What is this magic
you bring at night
child you leave
I feel so fine
There's nothing less
you could do for me
Babe you speak
like a summer tree

I'll wait for you
in the woods at dawn
watch you walk away
when the sun goes down
I ask you if
you want to spend the night
You say you wanna catch
The 8:30 flight
Listen to me baby
I want to marry you
No one, No one else
understands a thing I do
I'm hoping you
decide to stay
It's so hard
loving you this way

Stood on my doorstep
after you'd gone
Heart full of feather
and pieces of bone
Went to the river
hoping you'd come
Your eyes full of lightning
and your hair all undone
Oh, listen to me baby
I want to marry you
No one else
understands a thing I do
I'm hoping you
decide to stay
It's so hard
loving you this way
This way, This way.

Amphetamine Gazelle
By Mad River
Lyrics and Music by Lawrence Hammond

You kwow, iii, mmma, cuz i-i-i-im really strung out man you know man, cu-cu-uz, cuz man you know

You know the gravel stones, accepting all the light
Seems to have dripped, into a holy sweating scene
no place to be, just when you're just trying to
see the roach your feet have slipped
You know that you belong on roads so long
but then it must be wrong to feel the belly
of a horse above you but of course it loves you
so you just don't force the issue even though
you're riding underground and upside-down
and all alone, just wait a minute
I'm too stoned to understand or to catch on
to everything that's going on, YEAH

Why'd you put spiders on my mind
to build methedrine webs on my time
Ain't no spider dollars to pay them off
Girl I guess you know you're being robbed
Want to call the doctor but I don't have a dime

I just can't breathe babe can't you tell
your mind and mine don't meet their parallel
sit and pick the locust from your eye
with the ghost the curtains makes me cry
got me jumping like an amphetamine gazelle
I say I say

Help me from golden gates of hell
no madmen's here to break the spell
ever since you wiped out in my face
can't eat here sitting at my table place
Slippery is a-cooking up a mental gel
but I'm a gazelle
but I'm a gazelle
amphetamine gazelle.


Eastern Light represents the morning when the narrator’s lover arrives; she leaves at night. In a religious sense, (think Easter), this light is the resurrection of Christ, but within the poem, it is the mystery of a love that exists only during the daylight. The narrator becomes more and more isolated as his lover meets him in lonely places like the “woods at dawn”. She always is prompt to leave to catch the 8:30 p.m. flight. He imagines that one day she will stay and they will get married, but we sense his desperation and yearning as he is coming to realize that the “magic” she used to bring with her visits are adding up to tragedy. But still he doesn't let go and surrenders to his predicament, admitting, “It’s so hard loving you this way, this way.” Hammond captures the isolation of a one-sided love affair with the right combination of repetition and hope, even as the narrator faith wanes.

Amphetamine Gazelle is a poem about seeing life through the eyes of a drug addict. The imagery is not meant to be taken literally. It is neither a warning against drug abuse nor is it an invitation to a beautiful life of drug use. It is a straight-up look at a man who is high. The gibberish that opens the poem comes from the initial rush of an amphetamine buzz. He even admits, “I'm too stoned to understand or to catch on to everything that's going on, YEAH.” Then the hallucinations start: “Why'd you put spiders on my mind/to build methedrine webs on my time/Ain't no spider dollars to pay them off.” Note that the stanzas are all uneven, as if the narrator can’t make up his mind how to tell his experience, or tells it differently as the drug takes him up and down. Hammond here is describing the poetry of drugs, capturing the spirit of the intent without the realism of the experience. It’s a nice poem, but a poor deterrent.

Lastly, we turn to our special guest, Alma E. Cervantes.

Alma E. Cervantes


Poet, professor, film-maker, traveler, Alma E. Cervantes has written about and for the Latina in the universal Barrio. Her work, In Our Hands: An AIDS Story for All Latinas (1996), is a must read for every person of all races. Her poems also appear in Chicana Creativity and Criticism: New Frontiers in American Literature, edited by María Herrera-Sobek, Helena María Viramontes, which can be purchased by clicking here. In Our Hands is currently out of print. 


Piquetitos of Love                                             Little Stabbings of Love
By Alma E. Cervantes                                      by Alma E. Cervantes

Unos cuantos piquetitos                                    A few small stabbings
solo unas golpeaditas                                        merely a few beatings
y a veces unas gotitas                                        and sometimes a few drops
de sangre;                                                         of blood;                     
resultados de tanto ser querida.                         resulting from being so loved.

Lo hizo porque me ama,                                   He did it because he loves me,
he did it because he loves me…                        he did it because he loves me…

mientras bano su hijo                                        while I bathe his son
un golpe en la vagina,                                        an assault on the vagina,                                          
expression de valor?                                         expression of valor?
de poder?                                                         of power?

El Doctor responde:                                          The Doctor responds:
“sola una golpeadita                                          “merely a little assault
senora, vuelve con                                            madam, return with
tu esposo.”                                                       your husband.”

The edge of your Love                                      The edge of your Love
against my throat                                               against my throat
slides from side to side;                                     slides from side to side;
a meticulous motioning                                      a meticulous motioning
of your ternuda.                                                of your tenderness.

Clenched fist yearning                                       Clenched fist yearning
my soft spoken lips,                                          my soft spoken lips,

broken arms that                                               broken arms that
refused to embrace,                                          refused to embrace,
bruised eyes                                                     bruised eyes
that searched                                                    that searched
an escape.                                                        an escape.

I pray and I plead                                             I pray and I plead
one day you will                                                one day you will
fall                                                                    fall
out of love                                                        out of love
for me.                                                             for me.

Until that day                                                    Until that day
here I am waiting                                              here I am waiting
for your                                                            for your

piquetitos,                                                         stabbings,
golpeaditas,                                                      beatings,
and the blood                                                   and the blood
that streams from                                              that streams from
the wounds of your loving.                                 the wounds of your loving.
                                                                       (Translated by Anthony Servante)


Alma E. Cervantes tells a story in poem form. Her narrator is a victim of spousal abuse. She has been stabbed, her throat cut, her body beaten. The Doctor (note the capitalization of Doctor, denoting a sarcastic view of a learned man) tells our poor narrator that the stabbings (often translated as “nips”) are not worth treating and sends her back to her husband. Love here is a cage, a prison where she is trapped; it is also obvious that this is a small town or village where the man is always right (What did you do to make him so angry?). Her only hope of escape is that her spouse will fall out of love with her; then, perhaps, she might move on. But that is not likely given the opening and closing of the poem, which serve as bars on her prison. The beatings and stabbings are part of the marriage. She has surrendered to the cage of her love, a common predicament for many Latina women who still follow the Machismo culture of Mexico.

Unos Cuantos Piquetitos by Frida Kahlo

For those who recognize the title of the poem, it is taken from a painting by Frida Kahlo, famed Mexican artist, who was married to Diego Rivera, the beater and stabber of the poem. I feel that I am staying with the rules of my axiom, to stay within the confines of the poem for meaning, since the title is Frida’s words. What Alma does with the words of the famed Latina artist is to universalize the spousal abuse of one woman to all women. There are no answers, no solutions here. We are meant to feel the suffocating claustrophobia of this matrimony. Once cornered by the poem, then one can reflect on the matter and open discussion for possible solutions. But one must first face the problem, and that’s what Alma E. Cervantes does: Put you right there, a few piquetitos at a time.

Thank you, readers and poets, for joining us here today. I welcome comments and submissions. Until next we meet, keep the ink to the paper and keep your eyes on the page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zombie Spotlight on Tonia Brown

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Undead gnomes! Sex! Violence! Sexy Violence!

Pack up your dice and character sheets and join us for the release of the goriest, goofiest, gnomeiest novel to ever hit your Kindle.Gnomaggeddon has all of the elements of a traditional fantasy with just enough filthy humor and bloody conquest to make you want to wash your hands when you're done reading it.

Malgaria is a land of wonder, beauty and enchantment, as well as loads and loads of undead gnomes. Thanks to a widespread plague that is turning not only the little folks of the land into undead monsters, but everyone they come in contact with, no race is safe and Malgaria needs a hero fast. With none in sight, Betty the elf and her team of adventuring miscreants are talked into taking the job. This ragtag crew struggles to find the cause of the plague only to uncover the truth about magic's biggest secret ... the unholy world of science!

Author Tonia Brown

Tonia Brown is an avid role player and dice chucker. She lives in the backwoods of North Carolina with her genius husband and an ever fluctuating number of cats. She likes fudgesicles and coffee, though not always together. When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut.

The use of irony is what makes Gnomageddon by Tonia Brown work as well as it does. Perhaps we should begin with a definition of irony, as I understand its use in the literature of satire and dark humor. For this we turn to Soren Kierkegaard. In his work, On the Concept of Irony, he asserts that irony is employed to gather the truth via a form of dialogue that weeds out falsehoods, or fallacies, until all that is left is the truth. In essence, this method in stories and plays is called Socratic Method or “dramatic irony”.  

Dramatic irony:

A plot device according to which (a) the spectators know more than the protagonist; (b) the character reacts in a way contrary to that which is appropriate or wise; (c) characters or situations are compared or contrasted for ironic effects, such as parody; or (d) there is a marked contrast between what the character understands about his acts and what the play demonstrates about them.

A disparity of awareness between actor and observer: when words and actions possess significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not; for example when a character says to another "I'll see you tomorrow!" when the audience (but not the character) knows that the character will die before morning. It is most often used when the author causes a character to speak or act erroneously, out of ignorance of some portion of the truth of which the audience is aware (Wiki). 

Employing dramatic irony, Tonia Brown removes layers of fiction within fiction. What we have here is a fantasy story of gnomes and a story of a zombie apocalypse, science vs. magic, and seriousness vs. parody. This is a popular concept in literature today called a mash-up, combining two diverse forms to create a new third form, in essence, the ironic drama. The structure of the story is serious, but the dialogue and names are non-serious. Even the illustrations by Denise Lhamon lend themselves to an ironic form, mimetic of the role-playing games which often employ such magical characters or avatars in fantasy settings.

The book title is a mash-up of gnome and Armageddon; it is called a “Horrible” Fantasy, a play on words, the narrator referring to the book as “bad” (the meaning of horrible) rather than the grammatically proper “horrific”, which means scary. So, right out of the starting gate, our narrator becomes questionable, much like the narrator in Greek comedies who often stepped out of character to comment on the play at hand, a device called parabasis (think Bob Hope when he addresses the movie audience about something happening during the movie). The names of the main characters are ribald, as in Chaucer’s stories or in Restoration Comedy (think Lady Wishfort—wish for it [sex]—from the play, “Way of the World” [1700] by William Congreve). My favorite from Gnome is “Thimblecock Dickerstock”; I don’t think I have to explain this one.

The quest revolves around the “Cave of Tits”, (as do most male quests), but Tonia makes the journey more literal (I don’t think I have to explain what a cave is symbolic for, right?). Half the fun is watching the characters keep a straight face during these proceedings or when using these outrageous names. That’s what makes this form of irony work so well: The jokes bounce off the straight-up story (think Airplane! [1980]); for that matter, Gnomageddon is the Airplane! of Zombie novels. And just as the parody movie mocked our fear of flying through puns, sight gags, non sequiturs, and litotes, Gnomageddon pokes fun at our fanaticism with role playing games, fantasy novels, and our love of zombie apocalypses using the same tools of irony.

Tonia Brown sent me a PM, “I hope Gnomaggedon didn't make you think too much. It was really just supposed to make ya laugh.” And laugh I did. But what I've written about is how it was funny, how the use of irony makes me chuckle and guffaw. Had Kierkegaard read the book, even he would have definitely slapped his knee raw. A mash-up of Epic proportions, Gnomaggedon is a must-read for fans of all genres, but zombie freaks and RPG geeks will love it all the more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Roger Hodgson in Concert, Costa Mesa, 8/11/13
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Breakfast in Orange County

The Roger Hodgson show at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, Orange County Fairgrounds, was a night of energy and momentum, but above all else it was the perfect ensemble piece. With Hodgson in the lead, every band member shone as a individual musician adding his talent to the magic of the music. Bryan Head on drums was in command of percussion on “Death and a Zoo”, from Roger’s Open the Door CD. Kevin Adamson on keyboards masterfully played piano during “Child of Vision”, an old Supertramp favorite, while Hodgson played back-up keyboards. David J. Carpenter on bass not only led the crowd on clap-alongs but joined in percussion and back-up vocals, most notable on “Lady” from Hodgson’s Supertramp library. But the star of the night was virtuoso instrumentalist Aaron Macdonald, who was team captain on virtually every song, bringing to life the nuances of the songs as played in the studio, from whistles, bells, bonks on the head, flute and fife, saxophone, you name it, he played it, all to great effect. When he was introduced by Roger to the crowd, he received a standing ovation and rightly so.

Left to right: David J. Carpenter (bass, backing vocals), Bryan Head (drums), Roger Hodgson (grand piano, keyboards, 12-string guitar, lead vocals), Aaron Macdonald (saxophones, keyboards, harmonica, melodica, backing vocals), and Kevin Adamson (keyboards, backing vocals).

The Amphitheater is an outdoor venue and has a strict curfew, as Hodgson warn us during the introduction, so he dived right into the music, opening with “Take the Long Way Home”, a Supertramp favorite to end the night; Roger used as a ‘welcome home’ to his Orange County fans and fans who had traveled from afar to be with an old, dear friend and his music. And the faithful who came got two solid hours of Roger Hodgson compositions, from his solo masterpieces to his Supertramp hit songs.

Costa Mesa

After the concert, your writer here went backstage to meet with our music host for the evening and to take a photo with him. I asked him about playing more solo material, songs like “For Every Man”, “Puppet Dance”, or “Had a Dream”, and he said that he works in more solo material each show. As much as I love the Supertramp music, there’s so many Hodgson songs out there that it’s a shame to leave them collecting dust. When we consider that “Death and a Zoo”, a solo work, received a standing ovation, we must consider that fans are dying to hear “new” Hodgson music, even if it’s from his solo work. But I speak as a fan that can’t get enough of the Roger Hodgson oeuvre.

The Legendary Roger Hodgson

As usual, it was night of magic with Hodgson waving the magic wand of a maestro. There were fans of all ages, shapes and sizes. There was one goal: to Breakfast in American with Roger Hodgson. And, of course, band members Aaron Macdonald (instrumentalist), Bryan Head (drums), Kevin Adamson (keyboards) and David J Carpenter (bass). Visit Roger at and join Roger on his Breakfast in America Tour (dates can be found on his website). 

The setlist is below for fans to compare to their concert’s list.
All songs solely written and composed by Roger Hodgson. 

1. Take the Long Way Home
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

2. School
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

3. In Jeopardy
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

4. Lovers in the Wind
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

5. Hide in Your Shell
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

6. Sister Moonshine
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

7. Breakfast in America
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

8. Lady
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

9. Rosie Had Everything Planned
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

10. The Logical Song
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

11. Death And A Zoo
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

12. If Everyone Was Listening
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

13. Child of Vision
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

14. Lord Is It Mine
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

15. Dreamer
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

16. Fool's Overture
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

17. Give a Little Bit
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

18. It's Raining Again
(Composer Roger Hodgson)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Zombie Spotlight on David Moody.

HATER by David Moody
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Book Summary:
REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened 'Haters' by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim - or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day... only, the answers might be much different than what you expect....

In the tradition of H. G. Wells and Richard Matheson, Hater is one man’s story of his place in a world gone mad— a world infected with fear, violence, and HATE.

David Moody

Author Biography:
David Moody grew up on a diet of trashy horror and pulp science fiction. He worked as a bank manager before giving up the day job to write about the end of the world for a living. He has written a number of horror novels, including AUTUMN, which has been downloaded more than half a million times since publication in 2001 and spawned a series of sequels and a movie starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine. Film rights to HATER were snapped up by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) and Mark Johnson (producer of the Chronicles of Narnia films). Moody lives with his wife and a houseful of daughters and stepdaughters, which may explain his pre-occupation with Armageddon. His latest novel, TRUST, is currently available free online at Visit Moody at

Hey, Anthony, you may exclaim, Hater is not a zombie novel. Well, I disagree. In my article Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods Part One (, we learn that zombies were not always the George Romeo-esque walking dead; they were social aberrants (white zombies, for instance) based on Voodoo religions. As such, these creatures were grotesque reflections of civilized man—man as worker, societal business cog, a target for satirists (such as Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times) to refer to as mindless robots for the wealthy. The rich and the poor divided into the haves and have-nots. Thus, we can look to Romero’s zombies as he depicts them in Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, as consumers and workers who even in death maintain their place in a consumer-based capitalism. (In Dawn, the mall represents the core of consumerism, and in Day, the government tries to turn the zombies into productive parts of said capitalism).

Now let's see where Hater fits in this conglomeration.

The story begins with a business man who fixes on an old woman, who then attacks her, and then realizes that he is surrounded by thousands just like the woman he focused on. The man is one of us until he breaks the law; then he becomes one of them. Soon more of them mount more attacks and are killed themselves, arrested, or join others like themselves. Eventually, there are two groups, us and them; they want to annihilate us, and we them, for they are the haters, the outlaws, the social outcast—the white zombies.

In Moody’s words: Hater is “simply a story of a divided humanity - us versus them, with no prospect of reconciliation. Only one side will survive. I think that's a characteristic all zombie stories share.” But as Daffy Duck once said, “Pronoun trouble.” Just who is “us’ and who is “them”? Simply, it is the unknown factor. Take, for example, the idea of the government. Note this example: The government has raised taxes again; they are always doing that. Who is “they” in that last sentence? The government? No. Government is singular. Here is the correct version: The government has raised taxes again; it is always doing that. Here’s another: The school wants us to wear uniforms; they always change the rules. Correction: Not “they”, but “it”. School is singular. And it’s not just pronoun problems; we believe that there is a “they” out there messing with our lives. "They" can be anyone who we perceive as a threat or danger or annoyance. "They" are the muggers, the people who bully you, the corporations that siphon your paycheck. They fired me from my job. They kicked me out of the bar last night. They arrested me. What Moody has done is concretize the “they” and “us” into two real groups, because in the case of Hater, “they” are killing “us”. 

In this sense, they who control the infrastructure win. In Dawn, it was about who would control the mall (the law-abiders—the national guard; the outlaws—the bikers; or the undead—local shoppers in life?). In Hater, it is about who will survive to rebuild society.

One of the options for this division in humanity is that evolution is activated in the DNA of “them”, the haters. To the haters, it is “us” who are the haters, those who wish to kill them for whatever reason. Such hatred is innate in animals; it is a survival impulse. It protects this generation and guarantees the next generation. Kill now, ask questions later, for only the survivors will be around to ask anything. We, on the other hand, are systematically eliminating them: soldiers are rounding up citizens, and with the use of a “hater” detector, can identify them from us. We still maintain the machines and semblance of society, while they try to overthrow us by anarchic means.

Let’s discuss the storyline. There is a rise in violent assaults. People are randomly turning into “haters”, killing strangers and loved ones with equal viciousness. Danny McCoyne, the narrator and focus of the story, walks us through this anarchy. People stop going to work, looters take to the streets, and families hide out at home, barricading themselves into a “safe room”. The television goes from newsworthy to worthless as the unpredictability of the attacks render all facets of media unreliable. Danny shows the readers the breakdown of law and order and the rise in the number of haters as he risks going out to find food for his family and to rescue his father-in-law. These societal breakdowns are the parallels common to the zombie apocalypse. First we try to defeat the undead; then we merely try to survive them. Eventually, we turn on each other till we can’t distinguish blind zombie feeding frenzies from human greed and civil disintegration. (Think The Governor in The Walking Dead).

But David Moody is not interested in the undead here in Hater (he will be later in his Autumn series); what he seeks here for the reader is to witness a new origin of a species. First, level the infrastructure, then, let the strongest survive, and finally, allow the survivors to rebuild the infrastructure in the old or new way, depending on who wins, us or them. As such, Moody’s zombie is not unlike the X-Men, the next evolutionary link to the future; even as society rejects these new mutant men, the mutants unite to survive, some to overthrow the inferior men, others to live alongside these men who would destroy them. “They” in essence could be called X-Haters, if one were so inclined.

Moody has written a story rich in the paranoia of man’s fears of being replaced. We worry about outer space creatures wiping out man, fear the zombie apocalypse shifting the population to undead over living, and wonder if that new neighbor might take over our community. Hater taps into these fears and forces us to consider: Are we them or are they us? One could easily point to McCarthyism, the Red Scare of the 1950s, to compare Hater, but that would be too easy. Moody is going for something a bit more subtle. There never was a Communist threat in the US of A in the 50s. It was just paranoia. "They" were the imaginary communists trying to overthrow us. With Hater, the threat is real, and the moment will come when YOU realize you are either one of them or us, and have been all along. It's this realization that makes Hater both terrifying and compelling.  
Too Late to Call Texas by Trent Zelazny
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Book summary
If only he hadn't found the hat. Or the dead guy. Or the steamer trunk. Or the rag doll. If only he hadn't found any of these things, everything might have been okay. But he had found them. All of them.

Now Carson Halliday is on the run, trying his damnedest to keep one step ahead of a dangerous gang of outlaws and mad men. A run leading him from town to town in the dry wasteland of the southern New Mexico desert, over dark hills and dangerous plains, through shantytowns and city streets, and, most frightening of all, into the mysterious depths of the human heart.

Trent Zelazny

Author Biography
Trent Zelazny is the Nightmare Award-winning author of To Sleep Gently, Destination Unknown, Fractal Despondency, Shadowboxer, The Day the Leash Gave Way and Other Stories, A Crack in Melancholy Time, Butterfly Potion, and his latest, Too Late to Call Texas. He is also an international playwright, as well as the editor of the anthologies Mirages: Tales From Authors of the Macabre, and Dames, Booze, Guns & Gumshoes.

He was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has lived in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Florida. He currently resides back in Santa Fe.

Existentialism. How’s that for a big word?! Wiki defines it as “a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.” Crime Noir, in the hands of Trent Zelazny, is purely existential. Big questions are asked and, sadly, answered, even if the answer is no answer at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

It all begins with a hat by the road with indications that its wearer was shot in the head. For no particular reason, our hero Carson Halliday follows the trail of the hat to dangerous encounters and strange locations. Let's take a look at his name. Halliday inplies "Holiday" or holy day, but this is a misperception, as the name means "[that he can] feel and sense much that one does not fully understand, and can be deeply influenced through the thoughts of others without realizing just how he is being affected." Also, the name implies that "You attract success and money, but will either be very wealthy or very poor because your good judgment fails at times." Thus, Carson can be construed as a malleable man with poor judgment. True so far. 

With this tragic flaw, Carson undertakes a journey based on poor decisions and though he may not be aware of it (as the reader often suspects) his decisions are tainted by others whom he encounters along the way. The only meaning for him at this point of his journey is to reach an old friend in Texas where he might unload the drugs he found with the money at the end of the trail of the hat. What little there was of his world begins to unravel. Everyone he meets on this journey adds a piece to the puzzle of his existential path, ultimately leading to the answer to life itself.

Carson encounters Dana, our requisite femme fetale, when he has barely survived an attack by unknown assailants. She summarizes this journey he is on with a line of questioning that Carson is pulled into more by curiosity than philosophy. She asks him if he believes in God and Fate. Just as his curiosity about the hat put him on his journey, Dana questions whether or not she is on a similar journey, which is a “fated” life leading to a pre-determined death. Carson answers her that whether or not there is a God, our journey is inevitable, and that Fate is greater than God. Little does he realize that he has just sealed his own fate with these words.

Which brings us to Albert Camus. Death by suicide is an existential belief expounded by Camus; that is, if life is meaningless, death too is meaningless. Zelazny has fated Carson with a journey that is drenched in meaninglessness but which seems to have a point (thus the ironic title of the book). As readers we, too, are drenched in death as we follow Carson’s exploits (and those of his wife Brittany). This is a spider-web of predetermined demises and gunplay. The journey leads to a meeting with the spider, even as Carson helps the spider build the web: Suicide by life, per se.

This is cold-hearted Crime Noir. The words on the book’s cover “Not everything happens for a reason” are not to be ignored. This is existential territory in the hands of a master web-builder, Trent Zelazny. For those of you expecting a traditional tale of Noir, prepare to be bitch-slapped by the ending. There’s no avoiding it. We are all doomed to the Fate awaiting both character and reader. Carson picked up the hat; we picked up the novel. At his best, Trent Zelazny is Albert Camus meets Raymond Chandler. And Too Late to Call Texas is Trent at his finest.