Regarding Literary Magazines

I’ve been trying to get work published in literary and speculative fiction magazines for the last 4 years. I imagine that it takes longer than 4 years for the average non-established author to finally “break through” and actually see his or her work in print. There’s a lot we writers need to get right before we finally see any kind of positive results. There’s much we need to take into consideration, like if our writing is even good enough to be published in the first place. (Then again, plenty of self-publishers skip that step–and no, I’m not singling out any specific authors; nor does this statement apply to all self-publishers either.)

Then, we need to invest lots of time into researching literary magazines and genres. This is the point I’m at now. I’ve figured out what genres I typically write within, and have singled out a wish list of literary magazines where I want to see my work. Many writers and authors post their literary magazine wish lists. It’s an interesting exercise, especially if you use the post to set a goal for yourself. Also, it’s helpful to other writers looking for magazines that are within their markets, and free publicity for literary magazines too.

I’ve already submitted 1-4 entries to a few of these magazines (and they were, unfortunately, not accepted). But the standard email always says to keep trying, so I try not to let the rejection get me down (it does sometimes, though). Still, I will continue to try to get published by these magazines until the acquisitions editor writes me his/herself and tells me to “knock it the hell off.” (I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess.)

My Literary/Speculative fiction Magazine Wish List

Camera Obscura
Paris Review (NOTE: not accepting work from unestablished authors. . .I am actually saving this one for later, because they will probably tell me to “knock it the hell off.”)
Midwestern Gothic
Bat City Review
River Styx
Fourteen Hills
Tin House
Glimmer Train
Ninth Letter
Bellevue Literary Review
Drunken Boat
Granta (for translations)
Black Wire Literary Magazine
Cease, Cows
Roadside Fiction (travel fiction)
Blackheart Magazine
Redhead magazine
Museum of Things I want to Forget
After Hours
Tephra Magazine (I’m unsure what is going on with this one, actually. . .the editor never got back to me about my story and it’s long past the date the debut issue was supposed to come out, and nothing has yet.)
Contemporary Literary Review
Literary Yard (for literary criticism)
The Gap-toothed Madness
Per Contra
Carte Blanche (lit. fic. or translations)
Matador Network (Travel writing)
Boulevard
Wet Ink (website link is not working. . .still, that doesn’t change that I’ve enjoyed this magazine’s publications in the past.)
The Sun
The Missouri Review

Literary Orphans
Penny Dreadful
Fictionvale
Swamp Biscuits and Tea
Ideomancer
Black Static
Strange Horizons
The Dragon and the Wolf
Cafe Irreal
Do Not Look at the Sun (on hiatus? I’m not sure what is going on at this one either. . .but their past issues are online still and a worth a read)
Margin  (Not sure if still in print)
Lore
Black Treacle
Crossed Genres
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Lovecraft ezine
Fiction (Fiction inc.)
AGNI
Arcadia
Birkensnake
Blue Mesa Review
Bluestem (Karamu)
Caketrain
Pank Magazine
Tiny Hardcore Press (books)
The Colored Lens
Conjunctions
A Capella Zoo
Bourbon Penn
The Dragon and the Wolf (haven’t heard back from the editor yet, regarding whether or not submissions are still open. . .it’s another start-up literary magazine)
Carousel

Many of these literary magazines can be found via their names either on google, Facebook, or Twitter. Before you try to submit to them, I would suggest putting some time in reading previous issues. Likewise, if you’re just looking for some good summer reading material, all of these publications feature interesting fiction, art, and poetry. I wouldn’t be attempting to get my work in these publications if I didn’t enjoy what they publish.

 

 

 

 

 

Some Bad Cthulhurotica that I called Cursed by the Sea

I’ve exhausted every possible media outlet with queries about whether they would want to publish this. I’ve gotten a pretty loud-and-clear “no” from everyone. . .they at least don’t want it in its current form. But I am very happy with the way that it is and I do not want to change it. So I must accept that it doesn’t fit with anyone else’s current projects. That doesn’t mean that nobody should be allowed to see it. So I’m going to publish it here. I was going for cheesy, but well-written and subtly sexual erotica along with a Lovecraftian feel. (Now, this definitely is not porn. . .since I prefer to leave things to the imagination for the reader.) Also, I wanted to write a story about Dagon. Without further ado, here is some crazy that came from my mind.

*

I thought he was mad to love me. I had survived an ordeal that should have killed me, or so they said. My mind refused to recall what had brought me to Butler Hospital, an asylum for the mad. He, Dr. Warwick, was determined to “restore me to my wits”, though his methods often suggested he needed to be restored to his. Perhaps, I only thought he was mad because he loved me and believed I could be well again. I did not want to remember the accident, which killed my parents and left me in a rickety, rotting boat somewhere near Newport shrieking about some kind of sea monster. Dr. Warwick wanted me to relive all that though, because it was a part of his particular method.

From the boat that washed ashore, they took me to Providence, near to where my closest living relatives still dwelled. My relatives did not want me. I was trouble they said–bad luck–so I was confined to Butler at the expense of the state. The assistant physician for the ward where I now called home, Dr. Lance Warwick, was a young, respected healer of the mind. His eyes were the clearest sea foam color and his body muscular from sport. He was even a spiffy dresser too. He told me of his friends at the Gentleman’s club he frequented and it sounded like he was quite popular and respected in his social life too. He used to speak to me in a twang about his family, who had moved to Providence from the South. He latched onto me within the first few weeks of my arrival.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, darlin’,” I remember him saying to me the first time he took my clammy hands into his large, warm paws, “You’re just a cancelled stamp. You’re too shy and fearful for your own good.”

I often could not believe he doted so on me. He was such a successful, respected man. I believed, in my lunacy, that we would one day marry and he would save me from the wretched existence of an 18-year-old mad and cursed orphan. It did not come to be though, due to what occurred in the summer of 1922. At that time, I was still haunted by memories of the shipwreck that claimed my parents’ lives. We had been returning on a voyage from London where we were visiting my great aunts. They say it was a storm that wrecked the ship, but I knew it was the curse that followed me that did us in.

Ever since my arrival at Butler, I could not shake off the feeling that someone other than the many visible eyes of the Butler staff was watching me. No, it was a non-human, invisible presence that looked after me. I often noticed an overwhelming stench of dead fish rotting in the sun. Peculiarly, the smell reminded me of floating in the lifeboat the crew had forced me into, along with a small group of other young gals. Before this moment, I saw my parents for the very last time as they prepared to drown and the four of us—confused and terrified young socialites–were lowered into the aggressive waves, clueless whether or not our parents would follow us. This memory was very fuzzy in my mind though. The moments afterward were the only moments I could remember clearly of the day that has since defined my fate.

I recall it was a star-filled evening, the wind chilling me to the bone. I was delirious with thirst and hunger and could barely keep my eyes open. I slipped in and out of consciousness. I was painfully alone because the girls who had been shoved into the lifeboat with me had suddenly and inexplicably vanished into the water during a series of rough waves. It was sheer luck I was able to grasp with one hand the tethering hook at the bow. With the other hand, I felt around in the dark at the splintering wood of the starboard until I found purchase. I held on and squeezed the rough edge of the boat and the rusted tether hook until my soft palms bled.

I was not washed away by the storm that still crashed upon us either, which is why I was convinced it was some other force that destroyed the ship. I heard every few minutes or so a queer wet, gurgle not aggressive in nature, but more like a guttural purr or a whisper. The sound chilled me nonetheless. I eventually must have slipped into a deep slumber, because when I next awoke I was on shore surrounded by the coast guard. My vision was double, my mouth dry and my mind hazy. A man in uniform asked me many questions that I could not answer.

Ever since that day I washed onto shore, I dreamed every night of the eerie calmness of the waves, paired with my absolute solitude, and I awoke screaming. The strange sound persisted as an echo in my head in the dream. However, I had heard nothing like it before or since then. I eventually convinced myself that I had made it up. Still, I thought it best not to tell Dr. Warwick about this memory. He knew something was wrong and I was hiding things from him though, and after several attempts, he finally had the truth out of me.

“Kat, why will you not let me help you?” he pleaded with me. In response, I would clench my teeth shut against each other, eyes also clamped shut so that I would not see the pain in his eyes.

There was something else much more important I could not remember. I knew it had everything to do with the peculiarities of my life since the accident. It was also the reason why I should not have told my doting doctor anything about sitting alone in that lifeboat. He thought he had all the answers. If I told him, he would want me to face my fears of course. He would also be thrilled for an excuse to make an excursion to the sea. I was convinced his methods would put us both in danger.

I finally spilled the beans in July of ’22, a year and three months after my arrival. Truly, I did not want to. He frightened me though with threats to move me to another ward for sicker cases. A poor orphan like me was lucky to have a place in the second ward. The nurses trying to inspire me to behave with off-handed comments about orphans not being treated so well in the lower wards may have also had an influence.

“You will never leave here if I send you down there,” Dr. Warwick had told me, “but perhaps that is what I want.” He would add with a wink. He was joking of course and trying to lighten the mood, because he could tell how upset this familiar conversation always made me. Still, I sometimes questioned my dreams and wondered if perhaps his plans to keep me with him were just as he had shared; he would only make sure that I never left the asylum.

“Well, I never want to leave you,” I replied, and cuddled close to him.

“The lower wards are a nightmare, my dear,” he said, “and I’m afraid that I can’t protect you from the horrible things there since you shall have a different physician if you leave Ward Two.” He wrapped a strong arm around me and planted a kiss on my forehead.
“I’ll try to find time to visit you if you really must insist upon not getting better and we are forced to recommend you to Ward Two.”
He had me behind the eight ball, so I told him everything. Dr. Warwick meditated on my words that evening, or at least he said that he would after hearing my frenzied confession. He came to me the next morning at breakfast just like always. On this morning, he had a new treatment plan for me. We would go back out to the cruel sea, this time on his father’s leisure yacht. As an enthusiastic sportsman, he welcomed any chance to connect his work with his leisure activities.

“A yacht is larger than a lifeboat, Kat,” Dr. Warwick explained, “and much safer and comfortable. I guarantee we shall have a lovely time. We’ll pack a lunch and make a day of it.” He prattled on about teaching me to fish and stopping off at a sandy isle for a swim and some sun. I could not listen because I was trying desperately to think of a way to avoid the trip. He intended for it to take place a week after that upcoming Sunday. The date was coming up soon and in that short amount of time, it was difficult to think of a way out. Before I knew it, the calendar said it was Friday and I still had not come up with anything.

The Saturday before our scheduled outing, I had awoken in an ornery mood. I had been cooped up in Butler Hospital for too long. An excursion would have been welcomed if not for the ominous feeling I had about the setting. I still had no plan, but I was determined to stop him and save us both. It was frustrating knowing that I could do nothing to help us and he would not hear my pleas. For that reason, I was in a terribly disruptive mood that day and I did not care if my mood happened to offend anyone.

My day of unruly behavior began with my refusal to leave the bed when the morning nurse came to wake us. I wanted to be alone in my dream world. In my waking hours, I had to face the fact that my love would unknowingly get us both chilled off and I would not be able to convince him otherwise since I could not even remember what exactly was waiting out there to chill us off in the first place. It was easy enough to pull the thin covers over my head and drift back to sleep, dreaming that I was in Dr. Warwick’s bed instead of an asylum. I was feeling more exhausted than usual and I wondered if I was growing ill. Perhaps, I thought dreamily, the trip could be cancelled for reason of illness.

Just as I found myself in that rickety lifeboat, drenched in the stench of rotting fish, I felt myself violently shaken and believed it to be the waves or some sort of bizarre, invisible monster, since I was still trapped in my dreams. The water and the splintering wood dissolved around me and I was wrapped in warm, scratchy blankets on my stiff bed, the rotten stench replaced by the bitter odor of hospital antiseptic combined with halitosis. I opened my eyes, regretting it, and looked into the face of the morning nurse. I knew her well. She was a frizzy-haired, red-headed old woman named Eliza with arms like ham-hocks. She had been shaking me, I noticed, her claws digging into my shoulders, not some creature or the sea. Even though we stared one another in the eye and she was well aware I was awake, she gave me a few more rough shakes.

“You think you have special privileges because you’re the doctor’s favorite? Do ya, daisy?” Nurse Eliza asked me. Suddenly, I feared offending her and my defiant mood quickly left me high and dry.

“No ma’am,” I replied, rubbing grit from my eyes, “I feel ill.”

She raised a thin, red eyebrow. “We’ll see about that,” she said. She removed a dirty thermometer from the front pocket of her smock and stuck it in my mouth. I nearly gagged at the thought of how many unkempt mouths the thermometer had entered. I waited a minute and then she took her thermometer back.

Nurse Eliza studied the dirty stick and gazed down at me in superiority. “98.5,” she said. I tried to lie back down, annoyed that she didn’t believe I felt ill. It was abnormal for me to feel this tired.

“My head feels as though it shall burst,” I said. I closed my eyes. She took my shoulders in her plump hands again.

“No one sleeps in when there’s mending to do,” she said. She lifted me out of my bed and threw me feet-first onto the floor. The bottoms of my feet slapping the cold tiles shocked me awake.

She ushered me along behind the other women to the baths. It wasn’t my day for a bath, but Nurse Eliza had determined I needed one, to bring me back to my good “senses”. Due to my acting out, I was last in line and by the time it was my turn, the water had gone cold. I had to sit shivering while two even rougher nurses scrubbed me with scratchy rags. In a strange turn of events, I surely would catch sickness from being forced to endure freezing water on such a cold morning.

Afterward, It was off to breakfast and a morning of mending curtains and bed sheets. I hated sewing and mending. I was never good at such tasks. Still, I had been sitting most every day quietly in front of the sewing machine, obediently running curtains through and peddling while others complained until goons came and took them away to solitary confinement. Before I had become an orphan, I had been such a spoiled creature. I wondered why I suddenly became so compliant and humble after a year in this place. The best explanation for my attitude change would be the bully nurses, but even at home a lashing or a missed meal never phased me. I continued to do exactly as I wanted. The reasoning for my rebellious behavior on that day was simply that I was long overdue for one of my characteristic tantrums. After the bath, I was no longer thinking about my dangerous excursion with Dr. Warwick.

I would not stay put in my seat and if I was supposed to mend curtains or sheets, the task was completely reliant upon my being in the mood to stay in my seat. Everything was bothering me, especially being expected to work all day, every day in order to stay here, but they would not even let me out if I wanted to leave. Even though I had Dr. Warwick to dote on me, I was never crazy enough to believe he would marry a girl confined to the asylum. I began to pace the length of the room instead of collecting my work from Nurse Eliza.

“Kat, sit down right now,” Nurse Eliza scolded me. I felt I had every right to pace about the room like a mad woman, especially if no one would listen to me because they thought of me as such. I ignored her calls to get back to my mending and continued my rounds about the day room. Eventually, I tired of walking, being unexplainably fatigued and all, and my energy quickly ran its course. I found myself kneeling in the corner of the room, not sure why I was there but it was a better spot than in front of the sewing machine.

“Let her talk to God,” an elderly patient named Bettie said. I overheard her and was not sure who she was talking about at first, and then I looked around. I saw my hands clamped before me and realized that I was looking down at them, my eyes closed as if in prayer. I had also gotten the attention of the other gals in the ward. I smiled a bit to myself, perplexed that I was so out of touch with my body on that day. Perhaps I truly was going mad.

“Back to your mending, Bettie,” Nurse Eliza said in such a cruel voice. It angered me further that she would dare speak to this woman who only stood up for me. Suddenly, I felt as though I were filled to the brim with rage.

I spotted a yellow vase I had always hated because of its flat, disgusting color that always made me think of urine. It occupied a permanent spot in the corner of the parlor on the side where the row of sewing machines on old desks lined the paneled walls. The vase sat on an off-white and crusty doily on a chipped wooden table. I stood up and meandered toward it, thinking to myself that if I must face my death the next day then the vase would face its death on this day. I had always hated it, this symbol of my servitude to the sewing machine and the holey ward sheets that I found myself staring at every single day. I promised myself almost daily that on my last day in the ward, I would smash the lopsided, ugly thing.

“Well today would be my last day, wouldn’t it,” I thought to myself. I picked the vase up as if examining it and threw it against the wall closest to me. The ruckus of the vase shattering must have surprised everyone as much as it surprised me, even though I knew I would do it. My daydreams never included the near-deafening crash of the ceramic against the wall. I found myself laughing joyously, my current plight temporarily forgotten. It was simply amusing to me how loud the crash had been.

“Katherine!” I heard Nurse Eliza yell.

I turned, a smile plastered stupidly on my face. “Yes?”

She was frowning and her cheeks and forehead had become as red as her hair. I immediately regretted everything. Perhaps I truly was mad and deserved anything I got. Eliza took me in-hand and hauled me roughly in the direction I had seen so many disturbed souls taken and from hence had never returned. I realized in horror that I may have condemned myself to a fate worse than dying on the sea with Dr. Warwick.

“This is it,” I thought. I was going to a lower ward where I would rot forever and never see my beloved doctor again. My eyes filled with tears and I apologized frantically.

“I’m sorry, Miss Eliza,” I said. I realized I sounded quite frantic. “I am just very nervous about going out with Dr. Warwick tomorrow.”

“Oh there will be no picnic on the beach with your doting doctor,” she replied. She continued to drag me, uttering not a word further until we reached the end of the ward, which was distinguishable by its locked iron gate. A group of male attendants in their white suits congregated there. She bowled me toward them, and two pairs of muscular arms caught me before I hit the floor. As I gazed upward at the goons holding me, I wondered dumbly if I would have shattered into a million pieces like the vase if I had hit the floor.

“We got a troublemaker. Shattering ceramics all around the ward. First warning,” Eliza informed them, “Doc’s favorite.” She added that last part with an ominous wink. I watched the two men holding me exchange crooked looks. Both were older and looked as though they’d rather be sailing.

“We’ll take good care of her,” one of the men said. He had wavy, thinning blond hair and a long scar jutting from the corner of his lip and across his left cheek. The other man was of African descent and a bit younger than the other attendants were. His hair was shaved close to his skull and his cheeks clean-shaven. He must have been new, for I had never noticed him until then. I heard the heavy screech and clank of the iron gates opening and the clip of Nurse Eliza’s heel on the linoleum as she returned to the ward.

The two men dragged me through door after door around sharp corners, as if we were venturing through a labyrinth. My ears filled with the shrieks of the hopeless, lost souls in the lower wards as we passed through. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see them gathered around the chain-link fences that kept them inside their designated wards. They were filthy and ragged and leered at us with empty eyes. Some shouted and shook the fence. The attendants did not pause nor did they seem to take notice.

After passing the most desolate ward, terrifying in its quietness and sudden lack of patients standing at the gate, we descended stairs. My feet dragged against the stone, slowing the attendants down. They stopped and picked me up so that they carried me between them as if I had won a rugby match and not a stay in solitary confinement. I could not imagine what awaited me at the bottom of the stairs. I worried I would be left to languish in the bottom floor of the hospital forever.

We arrived at a door and the man with the scar held me as the quiet African searched through keys on a rusty, ancient ring. He gingerly unlocked the door and kicked it open with the toe of his right boot. The hinges on the door let out screeches of protest. They carried me in and dropped me on a rodent-chewed bed in a mildewing, window-less cell. They stretched out my arms and legs and secured them in tight, leather bands in each corner of the bed.

“Please, let me go back and I’ll be good,” I said, “Take me back and tell them my punishment is done.” My attempt to get out of such punishment was futile though. The man with the scar merely laughed and the African pretended not to hear my pleas as they continued their task. However, he did seem pained-looking, as though I was getting to him. I turned to him and repeated my pleas. But he shook his head and rushed quickly away. The man with the scar pushed me down and held me there, while another attendant I had not noticed before came and secured my ankles and wrists in scratchy, leather cuffs.

The only source of light was the flickering bulb hanging in the corridor and as soon as they had left me to rot, I was immersed in complete darkness. I lost track of time lying there listening to a distant faucet drip repeatedly and the hum of the machinery, which ran the asylum’s electricity. Perhaps I was only there for a few hours, but to me it felt as though decades were passing. I must have drifted into a deep sleep, wherein I lost track of time.

“Darling, you’ve gotten yourself into one hell of a predicament,” Dr. Warwick said from somewhere far away. I was dreaming the water droplets had formed a sea around me and I was drifting in that lonely boat, until I thought I heard him. Startled, my eyes fluttered open. I squinted into the sudden dim light falling on me and saw his body framed in the doorway. He came out of the shadows so that I could see him without having to strain my neck so much. I had lost most of the feeling in my limbs and didn’t realize until he was sitting on the edge of the bed over me that my neck and back ached terribly.

“This is no place for you,” he continued. He stroked the hair from my forehead and I realized he had come to me in his loose-fitting sport pants and a blazer over an old undershirt. I opened my mouth to reply and he leaned over me and did something he had never done before. He placed his hot, wet lips on mine and kissed me tenderly. It was what I wanted that moment more than anything else in the world. It was exactly what I wanted ever since meeting him. I melted into his arms as he wrapped them around me. I tried to raise my arms to wrap around him, but the restraints halted me and I remembered where I was.

“Then again,” he said, a wicked sparkle in his eye, “I like that you can’t wiggle away from me.”

“When do I ever run from you,” I asked, wondering if I had been giving him all the wrong signals.

He put a finger on my lips and shushed me. I stared up at him as he undid the buttons down my flannel ward uniform with clinical precision. The lace was frayed on my chemise from the harsh laundry soap used in the ward. My suspender girdle and bloomers were stained from the dyes of other clothes being mixed with them in the wash and my stockings had runs in them. I felt ashamed of my shabby rags. He didn’t seem to notice. He tore the suspender belt from my midriff, making sure to unhook the garters from the stockings they held in place. He wrenched my chemise up, revealing my breasts, hardened from the cold, and pulled my bloomers down as low as the restraints would allow.

My most intimate parts were on display beneath him. A proper, sane woman would have been mortified. Perhaps this was another indication of my madness. The thought of being helpless and on display beneath the doctor for him to treat accordingly made me shake with want. He seemed to know it too. As I lay there, Dr. Warwick’s lips caressing my areolas and his hot crotch grinding into mine, I truly believed that we would be married one day and I would be free and happy. Suddenly, there was a crash and some crass voices coming down the corridor. Dr. Warwick glanced up, his curls in disarray.

“We must get out of here,” he whispered. My eyes fluttered open and I realized that I had really not been awake. My flannel ward gown was still on and Dr. Warwick was dressed in one of his nice suits. Of course it had not been real; I was cursed.

He removed the restraints from my limbs and quickly helped me to my feet. He pushed me along the corridor as I stumbled and tried to regain the use of my legs until we came to the very end gate. He took the key ring from his hip, perhaps the same one as the attendants had used, and unlocked the gate, still holding me by the arm. We were in the back drive, where the patients were dropped off in secret. Beneath the quickly setting sun, I could still see the red bricks of the vast building.

We made haste toward a boiler and he guided me into the passenger’s seat. He hurried around the front to the driver’s seat. He pulled a newer key from his blazer pocket and started the engine. The boiler exploded to life and we were speeding along on our way, the wind in our hair. My aching limbs searched around until I found a pair of goggles to wear like the fashionable women who rode around in boilers in magazines wore. He took us around to the main gate and away from Butler Hospital. It was my first time riding in a boiler ever. My father had been contemplating buying one before we left for London. That would never happen. I had daydreamed in my canopy bed at home about riding around in such a boiler—a red one instead of the black one Dr. Warwick owned. If the circumstances were different, I would be quite excited, but I was too wary to enjoy it. I was not sure what to expect and afraid to ask him where we were headed. I needed to know though.

“Where are you taking me,” I yelled over the roar of the engine.

“Where you need to go,” he replied. Under the bright stars and the golden moon, we broke through the forest into the open, and the outline of the ships in the harbor became visible; I had my answer. We continued onward.

“We can’t,” I said. I didn’t think he heard me over the engine. We came to a halt on a sandy beach. The boiler quit roaring and I was struck with how silent it was all of a sudden. He casually stepped onto the sand and came around to my side, where he opened the door for me. I refused to move. I knew exactly why we were there.

“Now Kat, everything will be just peachy,” he said, offering me his hand.

“Take us back,” I said, tears in my eyes. I had such a dreadful feeling about everything. I just knew things were about to go all wrong.
Dr. Warwick tore me from my seat and removed the goggles from my face. He set them on the dashboard before and slammed the door shut. He took long, determined strides toward the water, dragging me against him. He ignored my sobs in his ear. That rotting fish odor was back in the air again and I had a feeling someone or something observed our every move. I knew that whatever presence I felt watching us was what I dreaded most about being near the sea.

I spotted a paddle boat sitting in the sand near enough to the water that it wouldn’t be taxing to get it in the waves, but also far enough that high tide wouldn’t carry the little thing off. It became apparent to me that Dr. Warwick had had this evening planned for a while, as if he knew I would try to get out of going on his yacht. He placed me in the boat and pushed me toward the water. I knew I should have run and forced him to chase me, but I was in shock and frozen in place where he had set me. Maybe I would have gotten us away from the horror that was to come. I screamed when we hit the water and he was still standing in the waves. The air was so thick with the stench of death and rot that I could not breathe without tasting the foul odor. I dropped my head into the waves and vomited what little was in my stomach as he climbed into the boat and took up the oars.

Dr. Warwick paddled silently, ignoring my sobs and warnings to turn back to the shore. I asked him at one point if the air was not nauseating to him either.

“Kat, I don’t know what on earth you are speaking of,” he replied, “I can smell nothing but the salt of the sea in the breeze.” He went on further, adding that it was such a glorious scent, and could not understand why it sickened me so. I tried to keep an eye on the shore but he was carrying us farther away from it until I could not see the boiler or the sandy bank at all. I grew wild suddenly with no view of land. He put the oars down and looked up at me, grinning. His smile usually calmed me, but not this time.

“After this evening is over you’ll see that you’ve been acting so silly,” he said. I watched him pull a small box from his pocket and briefly wondered what else besides the asylum keys and the auto keys he had in there. He took my hands and gently placed the box in them and I thought about what Nurse Eliza would do when I returned to the ward. I stared down at the velvety box and tricked myself into thinking that we would survive this evening, until I heard a splash in the water and I dragged my eyes back to the starboard.
Three hideous mold-colored tentacles erupted from the water followed by what looked like a squid the size of a grizzly bear with saber-tooth tiger fangs for teeth. I shrieked but it was too late for Dr. Warwick. Before he could turn his head, the creature yanked him from the boat and dragged him below the surface, soundlessly. I lost what was left of my mind, crawling around the boat looking on the water for any sign of him, calling his name.

After some time though, he and the monster never showed their faces again and I realized I must have been floating there for hours. The sun was already rising above me. I had to get back to shore. I glanced around the boat, feeling as though I had experienced this moment before. The cracks in the wood and the stench of the air called to mind those very scenes, which haunted my dreams ever since my arrival at Butler Hospital. The waves rocked harder, pushing me toward the shore. I was so drowsy and I realized that I was starving and thirsty. All I had eaten the day before was porridge and a bread roll at breakfast, and what little I did have in my stomach was lost to the sea. I shut my eyes, lying back against the old boat, wondering if I would die too.

As if answering my question, that curious gurgle which had echoed through my dreams so many nights filled my ears and my eyes popped open. I tried to think of what would happen next in the nightmare, but the dream always ended there. Perhaps, the nightmares that plagued me were not memories at all. Tearfully, I tried to recall the names of the great aunts I was supposedly visiting and the faces of the girls shoved in the lifeboats with me. My mind was blank though. Could it be that I had imagined those people? Or had I just forgotten? Were these visions a warning of what was to come? Or did I really experience the very same horror twice in my life?
I did not want to paddle back to the shore anymore. I wanted to sleep for centuries and dream of what could have been. Going back to the asylum would be more of a horror without Dr. Warwick to protect me than whatever plagued my mind. I looked down at the little box Dr. Warwick had given me. I could not accept this was the last piece of him I would ever have. I opened the box and inside it was a modest diamond on a gold band—the manacle that would have set me free from Butler and made all my dreams come true. The monster—having stolen my sanity and therefore my freedom—could not be content with just that. He had to take every little thing I possessed.

I heard the gurgle again. I turned to it, ready to give him the very last thing I still had. The monster’s terrible face hovered above the surface of the ocean and we stared one another in the eyes. I broke my gaze first, feeling ill again, and something in the corner of my eyesight caught my attention. Floating in the water in front of the monster was a crown woven from sea flowers and weeds. I thought my time had finally come.

I closed my eyes and waited for him to wrap his slimey tentacles around me and pull me under. I waited a long moment, then opened my eyes to see why I wasn’t being dragged into the sea yet. He was gone though and a series of strong waves were pushing me toward the shore. I could see tiny lights flickering in the distance. The fuzz had already figured out where they would find me. I knew I would be locked up forever. I knew they would not believe me when I cried that I did not kill him.

How could I kill him? He was supposed to save me. Worst of all, I knew that without his presence in the asylum, my life would effectively end as soon as I set foot back in that place. I was going to the lower wards, where they did not have much sympathy for mad orphans, nor were the doctors so doting. Because of my fatigue and my panic, how I returned to the asylum was also not clear in my mind. I remember dreaming that I sat in the lifeboat alone, trying to convince myself that all I had left was not gone forever, until I was awoken by an unfamiliar nurse.

I was not in my room at Butler that I shared with two other young women. I was in a dimly lit, shabby hall lined on each wall with beds. I sat up and peered into the faces of the girls nearest me. Their eyes were all hollow and lifeless, lips turned downward in a permanent frown. It was the first day of my stay in the lowest ward, the ward that had been so eerie in its complete and total silence and its hidden patients. In the coming years, I came to understand that no one bothered to show themselves at the gates to beg for mercy, because once one was sent to this ward, they had already lost all hope.

 

 

A Selfie Intervention

Okay, so I guess I didn’t really get an intervention for my selfie addiction back in my teen days. Although, I’ve gotten a talking-to from a couple friends when we were out in public and I was paying far too much attention to my camera. Still, I’ve overcome my selfie addiction. (It might also have something to do with the fact that I’ve been modeling since then. . .you get tired of the camera.) My friend asked me to write an article about selfies, and so I did. I’ve also included some of my infamous selfies from my gap year in Austria that got me in trouble with friends. You can read it if you want to.  Click here to read it. If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the selfie trend and why folks are so into it, I think my attitude toward selfies as a teen pretty much sums up others’ reasons to do this. I do give reasons as to why–at least–I did this.

I do have a twitter, and I see that selfies are a popular thing to post there. I’ve never really gotten into that on Twitter. I guess I don’t have as much to show off anymore regarding my face. (There are only so many faces I know how to make.)

 

 

 

 

Eye-Catching Book Covers

I saw this article in my Twitter #Discover feed nestled between an article about some busy-body Americans who fear that the Austrian tradition of the Krampus (link to a video of the annual Krampuslauf in Graz, Austria in case you are unfamiliar with Austrian traditions) is going to corrupt the children–because. . .the Devil, that’s why–and some anecdotal tweets about the best books of 2013. Between all this chaos of moral uproar and best of lists, I found Flavorwire’s “Best Book Covers of 2013“, which made me wonder if this year was really not that great of a year for book covers. Or maybe I just disagree with them on what the criteria are for a good book cover. Although, I’m not going to outright say that because I directly linked to them and I think that they have a right to an opinion, just as anyone else does. Also, I haven’t seen all the book covers of 2013, so maybe I can’t really say that this year was just not a good year for book covers. (But I kind of said it anyway, so oh well.)

But Flavorwire’s article has inspired me to write my own list of good book covers–as in, the book covers that would make me actually pick up a book and read the plot description or the first page. So this–Nikki’s list of Good Book Covers through the Ages (classic reprints and alternate covers also included)–now exists.

1.) No Saints or Angels, by Ivan Klima (English edition)

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Why this is a good cover:

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the angle at which the photo of this already hauntingly beautiful angel was taken. It’s also a great representation of Czech culture, with a little bit of irony thrown in (with some help from the title). But Klima’s (I don’t have a Czech keyboard, so I apologize for the misplaced accent) books usually have some interesting cover images. I don’t know if it is because I just like the Czechs’ visual preferences, or if perhaps the theme of the book itself makes these kind of cover image choices an option.

Another good book cover belongs to Klima’s Waiting for the Dark Waiting for the Light:

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The nude woman with a fit body aside, I think the photograph offers not only a lovely setting (old fashioned windows thrown open and that broad sill), but also the photographer has made good lighting and coloring choices and the pose of the model evokes really strong emotions in the viewer, considering it is a book cover. The model seems deep in thought and as though she is waiting for something–like she’s tormented by something, but also perhaps that she is anxious and on the look-out for something or someone that she expects to come. If the cover photo/image itself can make me speculate about what is going on in it, then I’m going to pick up the book. I expect the book to be an explanation of what is going on in the cover, or the cover somehow relating to the theme(s) of the book.

2.)Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Looney Bin, by Norah Vincent

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I picked this book up to read because I was writing a research paper on the differences between the various options we have for people with mental illness in the United States (spoiler alert: the best options are financially out of reach for a majority of people with mental illness). After going about 5 years since I’ve read this book, I still recall loving the cover. Even if the subject of the book was not relevant to a project I was doing or I didn’t have to read it for whatever reason, I still would have picked this book up and read it from cover to cover. I guess I like this cover because it is relevant–again–to the content of the book. It isn’t just a colorful gimmick intended to catch a book store browser’s eyes. It gives a visual point-of-reference to the settings explored within the book.

3.) The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (Multiple editions)

2000 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition:

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2005 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition (I own this version):

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1971 Harper & Row Edition:

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While writing this, I’m recalling that I have a bit of a flare for the dramatics in my daily life, so of course these covers are going to be on my list. Why do these images visually appeal to me though? I guess the same could be observed about the lighting choices and the way that the 1971 edition photo was developed (I’m not a photographer and my friends who are well-versed in old-school photographic technique also only speak German. . .so I lack the proper terminology to describe this.) I guess I also like the choice of props and subjects represented within the photos. I like the distance expressed by the models in all the photos. It appears as though they seem to be hiding, or someplace distant that one must work hard to get to. Plath’s narration in the novel seems emotionally distant at times with a bit of insight thrown in every so often, but told in a way that you really must work and think over the words to get the full implication behind them (just my interpretation, feel free to disagree).

4.) A Great and Terrible Beauty and The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray

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After I had graduated high school, I started reading solely literary fiction and the classics that I did not read in high school (with some adult fantasy and horror thrown in for good measure). If it weren’t for the cover image of the first book in this series (A Great and Terrible Beauty) I wouldn’t have read it, because it’s teen fiction. But I am a huge fan of this series now, even after stumbling upon it when I no longer considered myself a YA reader. The reasons why this cover is good are pretty obvious. The attention to historical detail and the pretty laces and corset are visually appealing. I’m not sure how relevant this is to the underlying theme of the series, but it gives a somewhat shallow point of reference to a piece of the wardrobe worn by some girls and women of that time period.

5.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

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I suppose that without such a concept, such a book cover would never come into existence. But this is just a very unique cover image. I’m not sure how creative it is, but you can tell that an artist put a lot of work into it. It’s just gorgeous, creepy, and so explanatory at the same time.

In conclusion, perhaps what makes a good book cover is ultimately subjective and not something that can be organized into a tight, marketing formula. Yes, colors definitely affect a person’s attitude toward a book. But, if the book deals with a somber or solemn plot/theme, perhaps yellow and red would not be appropriate for the book. Furthermore, what makes a good book cover completely depends upon the audience the author is writing for. Many of my selections were intended to appeal to a more solemn, less excitable audience. I don’t think it would be appropriate for The Bell Jar to have the same color scheme as any of the cover editions of Naked Lunch, for example, because both novels are written in completely different tones. Many of the book covers I see often do not reflect upon the actual tone of the book, and so this confusion created by a cover that doesn’t relate to the story or capture the tone of the narrator very well leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can think of some really great books that were written in a somber, slow tone, but featured colors that inspire excitement and anxiousness in the viewer (like my edition of Love in the Asylum, ordered online because I was interested in the theme and the story, featuring a very red cover). Also, many bibliophiles just gravitate toward visually stunning covers. To them (and to me), everything about the book (the writing within it, the cover, the inside of the jacket, and the font and layout of the pages) is a part of a work of art.

Kutná Hora and a Church Decorated with Human Bones

I’ve been devoting most of my blogging time in the last month to my new blog about Czech beer (http://ceskepivo.wordpress.com). In doing so, I find myself reminiscing about last year. I also realized, going through this blog, that I had said many months ago I would post photos from my visit to Kutná Hora but I never did.

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This is the first sight you see after walking past the train station in Sedlec. When you walk a little farther, you arrive at the Sedlec Ossuary, which is what goth and metalhead kids on Tumblr seem to be obsessed with. You see pictures of the inside of the ossuary quite often, it being decorated with the bones of people who were once buried, but were removed because with all the plagues, there was simply no room to bury the new dead. Many of the remains of the people who make up the decor of the church had died from the plague or from wars. But, very rarely do you get to see pictures from the modest graveyard around it. My roommate, Ilayda, and I walked around the cemetery, finding all sorts of unique tombstones, many having photos of the people who were buried there, as they were in their lives. Exploring a village’s cemetery in Central Europe is a very good way to learn about its inhabitants, both past and present.

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After we had explored the snow-buried cemetery, as more snow fell around us, we went into the church. We took our time on the stairs down so that we wouldn’t slip, paid our way in, and collected our laminated handouts in English that told about the history of the church.

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If you are ever in Prague to visit, I strongly suggest making the day trip to Kutná Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary for yourself, along with the rest of the city. It’s also a great village to find nice, Czech blown glass.

Experiments in the Kitchen: Lentil Paradiso Recipe

First of all, my blog isn’t exactly a recipe blog. But so much of Central European cooking I’ve learned is improvisation and experimenting. Every once in a while, I end up inventing recipes that taste way more awesome than I originally expect them to taste and I have to blog about it.

Tonight’s dinner was what I am calling lentil paradiso, because of the taste. Anyway, it is not every day that I finish four loads of laundry and also invent a killer new recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup lentils (washed and sorted–throw the bad ones out!)

4 cups water

Extra Virgin olive oil

1/2 of a yellow/Vidalia onion, chopped

1 and 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced

1 large green pepper, chopped

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1/2 tblsp. dried basil (or fresh basil if you have it)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Cook lentils, follow directions on bag.

2.) Brown onions and fresh thyme in extra virgin olive oil in skillet (10-15 minutes).

3.) Add tomatoes and green peppers, cook for another 5-7 minutes.

4.) When the lentils are finished cooking, drain the excess water with a strainer and add the lentils to the skillet. Add basil, salt, and pepper; and mix the lentils, vegetables and spices thoroughly.

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This was super-easy to make, until I cut myself chopping the green pepper. >:(

I Wish I could be Traveling right now

I can’t travel right now though. I’m supposed to be staying in St. Louis at least until the end of May 2014. Hopefully, there are no sudden issues with my graduating in the spring. I just need to finish up my BA in German with a minor in English and a professional writing certificate, then I can go on to either an internship abroad or teaching English in Europe. I’m working on a blog about Czech beer for my Special Topics in Writing: Writing in the Professional World course. I figured if I am qualified to talk about anything in Czech Republic, I am most qualified to talk about its beer, since beer is cheaper than water there. (Although, I probably drank far more coffee, cappuccino, and espresso during my year in Brno than I did beer. . .another beverage that I miss and makes me feel nostalgic about my time there.) So here I am, sitting around avoiding biology homework and feeling nostalgic for Czech beer and sights.

You can check out the beer blog here.

At least, I am working on my book again. I keep thinking that it would be easier to work on my book in Czech Republic because I require Czech sources for it, since it is partially set in Czech Republic, and partially set in Austria. But when I took over the first 30 typed Word pages to work on in Brno, I found myself preferring to focus on short stories instead. (And then during winter holiday break while I was in Norway visiting friends, all I wanted to do was work on the rewrite of my on-going fantasy project–the first draft of that, I wrote during my exchange year in Austria 2010-2011.) I am such a fickle writer. I’ve tried getting my priorities straight, but my mind doesn’t seem to want to do that. I rebel against myself. I tell myself that I must work on Mind Terrorist and my mind says, “No.” Or, I tell myself that I must work on biology homework and my mind says, “No. I want to work on Mind Terrorist.”

Maybe if a miracle occurs, by the next blog update on my main blog I will have my priorities straight. But that’s highly unlikely. My boyfriend is visiting during holiday break, and I envision that I won’t be able to get on here and update (because I’m working on the Czech beer blog for a class this semester and the last post for that will be in December, and I am also going to be translating two new interviews for my metal in translation blog). But my boyfriend will be visiting here around that time from Czech Republic. Well, he should be. . .