Monday, December 31, 2012

Review of Dinosaur Heart by Noel Sloboda

Dinosaur Heart by Noel Sloboda was the runner-up in the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the dwarf (very short) category.  (The winner was my own poem, Lilith, which I leave for others to review).  Be prepared to be transported to the late Jurassic when you read this one.  My blood still feels a little cold in the wake of reading it...

Review of Calculated by Cathy Bryant

Calculated by Cathy Bryant was the runner-up in the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the short form category.  The Muse of Poet Geeks must have smiled upon Ms. Bryant when she wrote this one.  Lewis Carroll would have loved it, with all of its clever plays upon words and double entendres.  Norton Juster would also appreciate the poem's clever, silly-yet-profound, sci-fi romantic song.  Brava!

Review of Cold by Damien Cowger

Cold by Damien Cowger was the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the short form category.  Taken literally, the poem is about a man who plucks the moon from the sky to impress his girlfriend, heedless of the cosmic damage it causes, when all the while, the girl just wanted a little warmth.  Taken figuratively, the poem is about how clueless men are, I suppose.  Either way, there is a nice moral lesson:  you can't buy love.  I like that the poem works in at least two ways.

Review of Rocketman Pantoum by Jade Sylvan


Rocketman Pantoum by Jade Sylvan tied for runner-up in the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the long form category.  First of all, for the benefit of those who do not know what a pantoum is (I had to look it up), according to Poets.org: 

The modern pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.

Obviously, composing a proper pantoum is a daunting undertaking, and Ms. Sylvan deserves kudos for tackling the form alone.  She deserves further kudos for doing so with such skill and finesse.  I particularly enjoyed her clever use of homophones.

The story within the poem sings of what it might be like when our sun finally dies and the remnant of humanity is left to travel through space in search of another sun and another planet.  Instead of dwelling on the apocalyptic, Ms. Sylvan chooses to explore the human element of this pending disaster--a refreshing approach to the subject matter.

Review of The Music Is Always On by Bryant O'Hara

The Music Is Always On by Bryant O'Hara tied for runner-up in the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the long form category.  The piece is structured as a prose-poem with a refrain, and so is unique in that regard, at least to this reviewer.  The theme seems to be a tribute to or perhaps a lament for the modern generation whose constant use of technology results in their ears being constantly flooded with noise or music.  The poet weaves an elaborate, creative metaphor.

Review of The Fugitive by Darrell Lindsey

The Fugitive by Darrell Lindsey was the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the long form and non-member categories.  Mr. Lindsey has an easy, lyrical style that transports the reader into a universe filled with beautiful art, celestial objects, and heavenly beings.  As I read, I felt like I was watching an artist brushing paint onto a canvas rather than a poet putting ink onto paper.

Review of At the Entering of the New Year by Thomas Hardy

At the Entering of the New Year by Thomas Hardy (b. 1840) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 31, 2012.  This rhyming poem is in two parts:  Part I:  Old Style, and Part II:  New Style.  In Part I, the poet sings of welcoming the new year with warmth, laughter, song, and made-up words (allemands and poussettings, both of which stumped my on-line dictionaries).  In Part II, the poem takes on a melancholy tone, one of begging the new year not to come since the past year was so bad and the new will not be better.  If you are an optimist, read Part I last.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of Close Encounters by Andy Duncan

Close Encounters by Andy Duncan is the featured novelette in the September/October 2012 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  "An elderly, folksy farmer who experienced a close encounter in 1956, experiences a close encounter of a different sort when, in 1977, a persistent reporter shows up at his farm and hounds him with questions about his past."

It was nice, refreshing even, to read a good, old-fashioned alien contact story that was not all dark and apocalyptic.  The POV character is likable, his reminiscences poignant, his optimism infectious.  Through him, Mr. Duncan reminds us that there is an important emotional response to an encounter with alien life that cannot be measured with gravimeters and geiger counters.  I smiled as I read and was sad when the tale was finished.

Review of The Passing of the Year by Robert Service

The Passing of the Year by Robert Service (b. 1874) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 30, 2012.  It is a simple, rhyming poem about the sense of loss as the old year passes with hints of the sense of hope as the new year comes.  Old school auld lang syne.  Light up your pipe and sit by the fire when you read this one.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review of Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Most of the famous poem Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes (b. 1809) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 29, 2012.  Of course, it is a beautiful, moving poem by one of the beloved "Fireside Poets."

It is unclear why the editor chose to omit the stirring first line:

"Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!"

The first line really sets the ironic, sarcastic, bitter tone of the whole poem of 3 stanzas of 8 lines each (not 7-8-8).  I am baffled by the omission.

According to www.eldritchpress.org (which has the entire poem), Dr. Holmes wrote Old Ironsides in 1830 when it was proposed that the famous wooden sailing ship be decommissioned and scrapped.  It appears that his poem changed history, for the USS Constitution aka "Old Ironsides" was instead lovingly preserved and remains to this day the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy.

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Poem: The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a prose poem of 108 lines (just over two pages single spaced) about a mangrove tree from space that destroys the earth.  Several hours of research into mangrove trees went into it.  I had originally intended the piece to be a short story but after writing it felt that it sang better in verse.

Review of In Tenebris by Ford Madox Ford

In Tenebris by Ford Madox Ford (b. 1873) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 28, 2012.  It is a short, rhyming poem about the yearning for light and spring at this time of year.  I enjoyed its straight forward message and musical rhymes.

Editor's Note:  "Tenebris" means "darkness" in Latin (I had to look it up).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review of My Secret by Christina Rossetti

My Secret by Christina Rossetti (b. 1830) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 27, 2012.  Those who enjoy rhyming poems will appreciate this one for that reason alone.  There are rhymes within as well as at the ends of lines.  They are as relentless as the mocking poet's voice--a poet who has a secret that the reader is dying to know...

Review of "The Miracle on Tau Prime" by Alex Shvartsman

"The Miracle on Tau Prime" by Alex Shvartsman was posted in Daily Science Fiction on December 27, 2012.  "A pair of Roman Catholic priests are sent to Tau Prime to confirm a miracle when an insectoid alien begins writing holy scripture that it could not possibly know."

Mr. Shvartsman touches on some thought-provoking material in his short story.  Assuming that sentient aliens exist, were they created by the One God?  Do they have souls?  Can they be saved?  Assuming that the answers to all of the above are in the affirmative, what are the implications for humans?  Are there other holy scriptures?  And finally, if the evidence that the One God was just as involved with the creation of sentient aliens as He was with humans was put before the leaders of human religion, what would they do with it?  Embrace it?  Deny it?

I am going to remember this story for a long time--something I rarely say in a review.  7 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review of The Poplar by Richard Aldington

The Poplar by Richard Aldington (b. 1892) was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 26, 2012.  The bio states that Mr. Aldington was an Imagist best known for his WWI inspired poetry.  The Poplar, then, is clearly a departure, having more of a magical, pastoral, romantic, and lyrical feel.  One wonders if Mr. Aldington was influenced by Ovid's Metamophoses when he wrote it...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Three New Poems

In my continued fascination with short Japanese forms, I composed the following today:

Speculative Dwarves:  a fantasy tanka that plays on the double meaning of dwarves as short poems and dwarves as mythical humanoids.

Burning Ambition:  a scifaiku that compares ambition to a comet.

The Thunder Lizards:  a fantasy/sci-fi tanka that may explain the cross-cultural phenomenon of dragons.

Review of Peace on Earth by William Carlos Williams

Peace on Earth by William Carlos Williams was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 25, 2012.  It is a rhyming poem with a refrain that repeats certain lines, perhaps in accordance with a standard poetic form.  I enjoyed the playful use of constellations throughout.  Its title implies a Christmas theme, but I do not believe that it is meant to be a holiday poem.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Six "Lost" Poems

I found six poems of mine that I had posted on a poetry critiquing site in 2011 and had otherwise been forgotten.

Impounded Puppy:  a 6-word mainstream poem about the plight of impounded puppies.

Silently Mock Me:  a mainstream, traditional 5-7-5 haiku about the frustration involved with attempting to break into the writing industry.

The Pie:  a mainstream, traditional 5-7-5 haiku about parts, the whole, and the folly of it all...

Supernova:  a 6-word speculative poem about the will to survive in the face of disaster.

Scares Even Zombies:  a 5-7-5 horror-ku comparing the rise of technology to the rise of the living dead. 

Rudolph:  a 5-7-5 horror-ku commenting on the commercialization of Christmas.

Review of The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

The Oxen by Thomas Hardy was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 24, 2012.  From a strictly structural standpoint, this Christmas-themed poem is a bit doggerel, the meter is all over the place, and the rhymes are either simple or forced.  Add to this a preachy message and somber ending, and, in my opinion, we have a poem of questionable quality here.  This is the first poem by Mr. Hardy that I have read, but if it is representative of his poetry, I would suggest that he would be better remembered as a novelist.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review of The Mahogany Tree by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Mahogany Tree by William Makepeace Thackeray was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 23, 2012.  According to the editor's notes, the poet is best known as a novelist--the author of Vanity Fair.  His poem is Dickensian--like something Old Mr. Fezziwig would sing, or possibly a wassailing song--perfect for the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Five More New Poems

In my never ending search for paying poetry markets, I came across one yesterday new to me called Scifaikuest, an e-zine dedicated to short form Japanese poetry but with a sci-fi or horror twist (http://samsdotpublishing.com/scifaikuest/cover.htm).  It only pays a dollar or two per poem, but the rate per word is actually at the professional level.  The magazine publishes the following forms:

- Haiku but with a sci-fi or horror theme, also called "scifaiku"

- Senryu:  "a haiku-like poem of a humorous or satirical nature dealing with human matters," which again, for this market, must have a sci-fi or horror theme

- Tanka:  like a haiku, but with a fourth and fifth line each 7 syllables in length (5-7-5-5-7-7)

I composed five new poems with Scifaikuest in mind:

Hydrocarbon snow:  a scifaiku about Saturn's moon Titan.

A Living Protein:  my first ever tanka, its subject is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).

Pointing and Laughing:  my first ever senryu, it speaks to the irony that people sometimes laugh when they are feeling insecure or frightened.

Particle or Wave:  a re-working of my free-form poem, Photon, into the haiku form.  I think I may like it better as haiku.

Coagulation:  A 3-word, 5-7-5 scifaiku that describes the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.  As a lover of minimalist poetry, I am particularly proud of this one.  I started by writing down all of the 5 and 7 syllable words I could think of.  After a while, I started to see a pattern in the words, and a poem emerged.

Review of Love's Labour's Lost, Act V, Scene 2 [Winter] by William Shakespeare

Love's Labour's Lost, Act V, Scene 2 [Winter] by William Shakespeare was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 22, 2012.  With snow finally on the ground in Kansas, and my fireplace finally seeing some action of late, it was nice to read this little snippet about the winter season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review of Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 21, 2012.  It's Robert Frost, so it goes without saying that it is a good poem, and, as the editor points out in the notes, it is apropos for the Mayan "doomsday."

Review of "Death Before Dishonor" by Shannon Leight

"Death Before Dishonor" by Shannon Leight was posted in Daily Science Fiction on December 21, 2012.  "A slave attempts to escape with his brother from a chain gang aided by a member of the chain gang who is mysteriously prescient."  

Ms. Leight chose to tell her tale in the form of a long letter from the POV character to his sister.  The epistolary form is difficult to master and often unsuccessful, but Ms. Leight handles this device with skill.  The world she creates is full of rich languages, culture, and characters--hinted at rather than fully developed so that the reader fills in the gaps with his/her imagination.  Again, the author takes a chance here and succeeds.

The story drew me in from the beginning and kept me reading with its relentless mood of fear mixed with hope.  The only muddle I found was with the title not exactly meshing with the message of the story or with its closing.  6 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of For N & K by Gina Myers

For N & K by Gina Myers was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 20, 2012.  I have a difficult time calling what Ms. Myers wrote a poem.  It reads more like prose--but perhaps that is the poet's intent.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review of Glass Corona by Brian Henry

Glass Corona by Brian Henry was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 19, 2012.  The poem has an intricate and clever rhyme-scheme.  However, as to what the poem might mean, I must confess that I am baffled.  I invite comments that would serve to clarify.

Lilith Podcast Now Available


The long awaited podcast of my poem, Lilith, is now available on StarShipSofa.com.  Lilith was the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Contest in the dwarf (very short) category.  The narrator, Diane Serverson, offers an excellent read.

http://www.starshipsofa.com/2012/12/19/starshipsofa-no-269-alec-nevala-lee-part-1/
For those not interested in listening to the entire broadcast, Lilith is read beginning at 01:25:17.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review of Letter Already Broadcast into Space by Jake Adam York

Letter Already Broadcast into Space by Jake Adam York was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 18, 2012.  It is a lament by earth that, in our caves of steel, the sun no longer shines nor has it the power it once had.  There are few places left on earth where earth and sun may touch without the disruption of something manmade.  A beautiful, moving poem.

Sadly, according to the biographical note, Mr. York "died suddenly and unexpectedly on December 16, 2012.  He is the author of three books of poetry."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review of Parochial Poetry by Ben Doller

Parochial Poetry by the Walt Whitman Award winning poet Ben Doller was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 17, 2012.  The poem appears to be an autobiographical, somewhat egotistical rant.  Readers who enjoy the poetry of Walt Whitman, as I do, will enjoy this one.

Review of "The Hades Hotline" by Alex Petri

"The Hades Hotline" by Alex Petri was posted in Daily Science Fiction on December 17, 2012.  "The mother and father of a missing daughter agonize over whether or not to end their suffering of holding out hope by calling the 'Hades Hotline' to find out if their daughter has 'checked in.'"  In view of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, this story is ill-timed, a fact which the editors of DSF admit and for which they apologize.  Apparently, it had been scheduled two months ago.  Obviously, the story has a mature theme and is not for the faint of heart.

Ms. Petri reveals in her notes that her story was inspired by a similar tale in Ovid's Metamorphoses, which I am coincidentally in the middle of re-reading.  (That alone earns her 5 to 6 rocket-dragons from me).  Through the story dialogue, she masterfully creates a mood that evokes feelings at once of quiet dread, hope, hopelessness, and sheer terror.  The push and pull of these emotions serve to drive the story forward.  She accentuates these feelings by setting the story in the kitchen of the home of the missing girl.  The kitchen, usually a place of warmth and family, is transformed into a mockery of all it once was.

Well-written but tough to read.  Again, not a story for the faint of heart.  7 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review of Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved, first published in 1987, is a novel by Toni Morrison, winner of the National Book Critics Award, Pulitzer Prize, and Nobel Prize in Literature (1983).  "An escaped negro slave is haunted by the spirit of her child whom she killed so that the child would never have to experience the degradation of human bondage--an experience the mother knew only too well."

Professor Morrison's novel resonated with me on a profound, personal level.  I am a recent descendent of slaves (my father and paternal grandparents).  When my father was alive, he told me a little bit about what it was like for him and his parents to be enslaved--the brutality, the injustice, the deprivation--but there was only so much he had the heart to put into words.  Not that he sugar-coated it--some of the stories he told me haunt me to this day--but the sheer, overwhelming sadness of the experience was difficult for him to describe and for me to comprehend.

My father's memories and the descriptions in Beloved are eerily similar on a basic level and lead me to conclude that there are certain things that are universal to the experience of slavery--both from the perspective of the enslaved and the slaver.  Beloved sings this mournful, universal song, and, having heard it, I feel more complete for it, as certain blank places in my understanding were filled in with its sad music.

Of course, Beloved can certainly be read as a story about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of impossible evil and cruelty and the ultimate triumph of that spirit over man's extreme inhumanity to man.  It is a story about the value of freedom, and that death--a kind of freedom--may be preferable to living without it.  But there is much more to Beloved than this if one delves deeper.

I would recommend Beloved to anyone interested in learning more about the abhorrent practice of slavery--and that should be just about everyone.  Slavery still exists in some parts of the world, and even to a shocking degree in the United States.  It is a profound evil--perhaps the worst kind--and one must understand what it is at a profound level in order to recognize it and root it out.

Review of This Living Hand by John Keats

This Living Hand by John Keats was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on December 16, 2012.  I think Keats' good friend P.B. Shelly might have influenced this one, given its juxtaposition of the sublime with the macabre.  Of course, the poem is awesome--it's Keats.  A shame he died for nothing of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five--I could have prevented that...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Poem: Knight's Last Roundelay

I came across the roundelay form quite by accident the other day when I was researching (unsuccessfully) the name of and rules for the form of a quite different kind of poem.  According to www.poetrymagnusopus.com,  the English roundelay, made popular by John Dryden (1631-1700), consists of 24 lines divided into 4 stanzas of 6 lines each, with an AB rhyme scheme throughout, and always ending with the same refrain.  Trochaic tetrameter (SuSuSuSu) is usually used (and I used it) with some lines catalectic (lacking one syllable at the end) for emphasis.  The first two lines of each successive stanza are the third and fourth lines of the previous one.  On the minus side, those are lots of rules!  On the plus side, once I had the refrain I wanted, the rest of the poem kind of wrote itself--with all those repeats, I only really had to come up with 12 out of the 24 lines.  The result was a nice fantasy ballad about an old, retired knight who is called upon for one last quest to save a town from a ravaging dragon.  Yes, The Hobbit must be on my mind...

Songs of Eretz Passes 5,000 Views

My Dear Followers/Viewers,

I am pleased to announce that Songs of Eretz just passed 5,000 views since its humble beginnings in April 2012 and is now averaging between fifty and one hundred views a day.  I wish to offer a heart-felt thanks to all of my followers/viewers.  Keep reading and keep those comments coming!

Very truly yours,

Steve
Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD
Editor

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review of "He Could Be Ambrose Bierce" by Shaenon Kelty Garrity

"He Could Be Ambrose Bierce" by Shaenon Kelty Garrity was posted in Daily Science Fiction on December 11, 2012.  A time travel agent becomes suspicious that her new neighbor is a refugee from another time period.

It is an amazing coincidence that "El Hombre vrs. (sic) the Zombie Queen" by Bryan Bullock was just reviewed in Songs of Eretz on December 10, 2012--only yesterday.  One of the main characters in Mr. Bullock's story, set in Mexico, is none other than Ambrose Bierce, who, according to his bio on wikipedia, was a well-known Civil War officer and prominent acerbic book critic who went to Mexico in 1913 and then was never seen again.  Just as if he were plucked from one time period and placed safely in another future one...

...which brings me to the premise of Ms. Garrity's story.  I found the idea that the famous, mysterious disappearances that have occurred over the years could be explained by time snatching.  It is at least as good an explanation as UFOs.  Original, entertaining, and thought-provoking.  6 rocket-dragons.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Poems: Blank Canvas Prepared, and Eggnog and Mulled Wine


Two more traditional, mainstream haiku...

Blank Canvas Prepared, a haiku about the fear involved with beginning a work of art.

Eggnog and Mulled Wine, a winter holiday haiku.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Poems: Fear and Panic, & Morning Star


Fear and Panic is a science fiction poem of 6 words that juxtaposes the satellites of Mars with the emotions that hover about the battlefield.

Morning Star is a science fiction poem of 5 words that plays upon the irony that Venus, so beautiful and in the heavens, is actually a hellish planet.

I enjoy the challenge of writing minimalist poetry where every word really has to count.  Superminis such as these are particularly challenging--remove even one word, and the structure falls apart and the poetry is lost.

New Poem: The Vanishing Trees of Kansas City

The Vanishing Trees of Kansas City is a mainstream poem of 12 lines divided into three stanzas that sings of the blight that is destroying the beautiful, old trees of Kansas City.  The combination of a harsh winter followed by a devastating drought, and the spread of wood-eating insects and tree-killing viruses have taken quite a toll.  Trees are expensive to replace and must be tended lovingly until they establish themselves and then must be periodically maintained thereafter.  In this economy, the resources simply are not there to replace the losses or even to maintain existing trees.  It is very sad.

New Poem: Narwhals

Narwhals is a 21-line speculative poem of 3 equal stanzas that sings of the extinction of the unicorns and their transformation into narwhals.  No doubt my re-reading of Ovid's Metamorphoses is influencing me...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Poem: Golem: A Triptych

Well, just after I was all struck with awe after reading a triptych for the first time in my life--Cognizance by Kurt MacPhearson, published in the October-December 2012 issue of Star*Line (see Review of Star*Line posted in Songs of Eretz December 1, 2012)--I went ahead and wrote one myself.  Golem:  A Triptych paints the picture of a sculptor who brings his sculpture to life, inspired by the treatment of the golem in my novel and short stories from the world of Eretz.  The form provided me with quite a challenge.  I thank the Muses for the modicum of success I was able to achieve.

December 2012 Self-Imposed Writing Challenge

Inspired by the National Novel Writing Month challenge, I am challenging myself to meet to following lofty goals in December 2012:

- Write a new bit of short fiction (or revise current works as appropriate) every day
- Update Songs of Eretz Blog daily
- Review posting by Daily Science Fiction every week day
- Complete a poem by poem review of the Oct-Dec issue of Star*Line by 12/31/12
- Complete a poem by poem review of the 2012 SFPA Contest winners by 12/31/12
- Total number of words, including blog, new work, and revision of old work:  50,000

Daily Word Counts
1: 500 blog, 2000 rev, 50 new
2: 70 blog, 200 new
3: 350 blog, 350 new
4: 110 blog, 300 new
5: 800 new, 130 blog
6: 70 blog, 1150 new
7: 470 blog
8: 1,150 blog
9: 220 blog, 210 new
10: 280 blog
11: 275 blog
12: 470 blog, 140 new
13: 370 blog, 390 new
14: 260 blog
15: 170 blog, 600 new
16: 445 blog
17: 480 blog, 180 new
18: 200 blog
19: 330 blog
20: 110 blog
21: 210 blog, 60 new
22: 300 blog, 30 new
23: 60 blog
24: 640 blog
25: 400 blog
26: 130 blog
27: 230 blog, 640 new
28: 180 blog
29: 150 blog
30: 190 blog, 1010 new
31: 790 blog
Total Blog:  10,710
Total New:  7,440
Grand Total:  18,150
New Short Stories:  2
New Poems:  16

Friday, November 30, 2012

National Novel Writing Month Retrospective

National Novel Writing Month 2012 has come to a close.  Typically, 85% of participants do not reach the lofty goal of writing 50,000 words or more of a novel during the November challenge.  I did not want to write another novel, but did accept the greater challenge of writing 50,000 words of short fiction.  I fell short.  Really short.  The final tally:  Word Grand Total = 27,014, New Stories = 4, New Poems = 6.  Included in the total were extensive revisions of several existing stories and the revision, at the request of an interested publisher, of the first 10,000 words of my novel.

Sadly, and significantly, on ten days of November I did no writing at all.  I'll forgive myself for taking Thanksgiving day and the day after off as well as the three Sundays I had to work at a busy urgent care center an hour's drive from my home, but that still leaves five days off with no good excuse.  A basic lack of discipline--no other reason can be offered.

The days I did write numbered twenty, and I averaged 1,350 words a day.  If I kept to that average on the five days off, I would have written 6,750 more words, at least one more short story, and probably one or two more poems.  Had I the discipline to write an average amount on the five other "excused" days, these numbers would double, and my grand word total would have topped 40,000!  Add my numerous and sometimes wordy blog posts into the mix, and I'm sure I would have exceeded my goal.

So, for the month of December--no excuses!  50,000 words is the goal.  I will count blog posts as well as short fiction.  An additional goal is not to miss a single day--no more goose eggs.  Challenge accepted...


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Poem: Ghazal of the Nazirim

After completing my review of Dwarf Stars 2012 which contains two "ghazals," Star Ghazal by Holly Jensen and The World's Scriptures by Gene Doty, that do not strictly follow the rules of the form, I decided to try my hand at writing one.  Ghazal of the Nazirim is the result of this self-imposed challenge.  Mine follows all the rules of the form--it really wasn't that difficult.  "Righteous and just" make my refrain--which is all I will say here until the poem is published--perhaps as a foreword to one of my Songs of Eretz novels...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My 2012 Dwarf Stars Top Three

The following are what I consider to be the top three poems in the Dwarf Stars 2012 anthology.  They will be nominated by me to the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) for a Dwarf Star award.  For reviews of these and all other poems in the anthology, please refer to my post of November 7, 2012 entitled "Review of Dwarf Stars 2012..."  For a list of my finalists, please refer to my post of November 24, 2012 entitled "My Top Ten..."

First Place:  TiME to Go by Elizabeth Barrette
Second Place:  Macroscopic Propagation by J. E. Stanley
Third Place:  Night Sky by Dietmar Tauchner

SFPA offers both print and .pdf anthologies for sale at http://www.sfpoetry.com/dwarfstars.html

My 2012 Dwarf Stars Top Ten

The following is a list in alphabetical order of the poems in the Dwarf Stars 2012 anthology that made my top ten (out of fifty-two) and are, therefore, finalists for my nomination for a Dwarf Star award.  For  reviews of these and all other poems in the anthology, please see my post of November 7, 2012 "Review of Dwarf Stars 2012..."

Adrift in the Spacecraft by Michael Arnzen
All Folk Have Legends of Her by David C. Kopaska-Merckel
Before Science Stepped in by Rod Usher
Closure by Greer Woodward
Macroscopic Propagation by J. E. Stanley
The More Space by Ann K. Schwader
Night Sky by Dietmar Tauchner
SETI by LeRoy Gorman
Snowflake Galaxies by G. O. Clark
TiME to Go by Elizabeth Barrette

SFPA offers both print and .pdf anthologies for sale at http://www.sfpoetry.com/dwarfstars.html

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review of "'You're Heads,' She Says. 'You're Tails.'" by M. Bennardo

"'You're Heads,' She Says. 'You're Tails.'" by M. Bennardo was posted in Daily Science Fiction on November 19, 2012.  A scientist serially clones a human, keeping one clone and discarding the other.  This is the second tale by M. Bennardo reviewed in Songs of Eretz, the first being the stinker, "Reversals," reviewed August 14, 2012.  Again, I find that Mr. Bennardo has a good idea for a story, but the delivery is lacking.  A slightly better effort than last time, however.  3 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

November is national novel writing month, the time of year when writers informally challenge each other to knock out at least 50,000 words or so.  I have decided to accept the challenge.  My goal is to write about 50,000 words of short fiction this month or roughly 2,000 words a day six days a week (every day but Thanksgiving and Sundays--I'm working at a busy urgent care center every Sunday this month except the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend).  I'll be periodically updating my progress (if any) below--so check back often and keep me honest and true!

1:  704 more words of a Terrier series story I've been wrestling with.
2:  1,243.  Completed a new Terrier series story and began a vampire story.
3:  957 more words for the vampire story.
4:  Sunday
5:  0
6:  482 more words for the vampire story.
7:  449 more words for what is turning into an erotic vampire story.
8:  2,436 words today, completing the draft of my erotic vampire story.
9:  175 words of the next Treatment series story.
10:  50
11:  Sunday:  100
12: 0
13: 0
14: 0
15: 0
16:  4,600-word re-write on The Last Nazirite novel for an interested publisher
17:  3,300-word re-write on "The Old Guard"
18:  Sunday
19:  900-word re-write on "One Moon"
20: 0
21: 0
22:  Thanksgiving 0
23: 0
24: 0
25: Completed the re-write for The Last Nazirite Warrior novel, 5,400 more words
26: 350 more words in Treatment story
27: 419 more words in Treatment story
28: Revised a 4,500-word short story, finished "The Price of Immortality" 50 words, 124-word poem
29: 250 words of poetry
30: 525 word new robot story
Word Grand Total = 27,014
Number of New Stories = 4
New Poems = 6

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review of The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake

The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake is one of the novellas featured in the October/November issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.  A scientist on an alternative earth makes an astronomic discovery of Galilean proportions.

Many spec fic stories fall into the category of humans discovering that they are the descendants of aliens, usually in a "twist" ending that is often all too predictable.  However, while Mr. Lake's story falls into this general category, he informs the reader up front about the "twist" and instead explores the impact that such a discovery might have on society as a whole and on individuals within it.  His interesting characters and institutions are inspired by the Spanish Inquisition, the Masons, and our pioneers of scientific discovery.  Also, there are Zeppelins.

I was forced to read the story in more than one sitting because of my schedule, but only with great reluctance.  When you pick up a copy of this issue of Asimov's, my advice is to skip right to the back of the magazine and read this one first.

Lilith is Published

My 10-line poem, Lilith, was published today, a bit ahead of schedule, on the website of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) http://www.sfpoetry.com/contests/12contest.html .  It won the 2012 SFPA Contest in the dwarf (very short) poem category.

I first learned of the mythology of Lilith several years ago from a rabbi who was giving a lecture on the hidden messages in the Book of Genesis.  According to the rabbi (and others), Lilith (a name having the same Hebrew root as "lila" meaning "night") was created by God to be Adam's wife separately from and as an equal to Adam.  Adam expected Lilith to submit to him (a kind way of saying that she would serve him sexually, probably in an "inferior" position), but she refused.  Incensed and probably humiliated, Adam cried out to God and asked for a new mate.  God obliged by creating Havah (Eve) out of Adam's rib (or ribcage).  Thus, Eve, Adam's second wife, Adam declared was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23).  Lilith was punished by God for her defiance by having to leave Eden and having one hundred of her children killed every day forever.

The myth of Lilith has haunted me from the day that I learned it and raised many questions in my mind.  Who are/were Lilith's children?  How could she be/have been so prolific?  What became of Lilith afterwards?  And, most importantly, who wronged whom in the lover's quarrel between her and Adam?

As followers of my yet-to-be published work set in my fantasy world of Eretz know, Lilith is the antagonist behind the antagonist in that world, the Queen of Demons--the very personification of evil, chaos, and destruction.  She hates all of Creation with a venom.  The poem, however, depicts Lilith in a different light--gives her a somewhat sympathetic backstory if you will--hopefully making the ultimate villain a little bit of an anti-hero.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lilith Wins Poetry Contest

I am thrilled to report that my fantasy/horror poem, Lilith, has been chosen as the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest in the very short (dwarf) poem category.  Publication should take place in November 2012 on the SFPA website sfpoetry.com and later on the podcast StarShipSofa.com.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review of "Phone Booth" by Holli Mintzer

"Phone Booth" by Holli Mintzer was posted in Daily Science Fiction on October 19, 2012.  In a world filled with caped superheroes, a man and a woman fall in love.  In her notes, the author reveals that she wanted to write a superhero story for adults that was not hypersexed.  She achieved her goal, I think, but I am not sure it was a worthy one.  Well written and paced, but works better as a romance than a spec fic story.  The surprise twist was predictable, but the MC's reaction to it was not.  6 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review of "The New Kid Is No Angel" by James Valvis

"The New Kid Is No Angel" by James Valvis was posted in Daily Science Fiction on October 17, 2012.  Two boys argue over the relative value of possessing various superpowers.  This very short piece has a twist ending that, I admit, got me.  The author hinted at a deeper meaning to his story in his notes but did not reveal it, nor could I see one, and for that reason I rate it at 6 rather than 7 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Review of "The Chosen One" by Huston Lowell

"The Chosen One" by Huston Lowell was posted in Daily Science Fiction on October 16, 2012.  Two medical doctors, assigned to find "the chosen one," observe a little boy at play and debate whether or not the boy is the one they seek.  Mr. Lowell gives a thoughtful accounting of what can happen when science and religion collide.  Well-paced and well-written.  7 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review of the Poetry in the October/November 2012 Issue of Asimov's Science Fiction

The following poems were published in the October/November 2012 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction:  Three Sumerian Mummies by Peter Simons, Ghosts by Geoffrey A. Landis, The Season by Ken Poyner, and Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (or Something Like That) by Lola Haskins.  I will review each poem one by one.

Since this is, I believe, the first time I have reviewed poetry in Songs of Eretz, and perhaps even the first time I have reviewed poetry in my life, a few words by way of introduction are in order.  I fancy myself to be a poet of some modest talent.  Over the years, I have written several poems that were successful in that they were variously:  recognized by a contest or other authority as being good, used for a eulogy by the family members of the deceased, cherished as a tribute by a group or club considered most unlikely to appreciate poetry, and successfully used to woo women who otherwise would have been out of my league.

I strongly believe in what has been called "poetic license" and thus tend to be very easy on poets and poetry--so a bad poetry review from me will be rare and therefore should be considered, no kidding, to be a bad review indeed.  For a list of the poetry that I have submitted for publication, please see my blog entry so entitled for the current month.

Mr. Simons' six-line poem is clever double entendre.  A quick read for a quick smile.

Mr. Landis' six-line, twenty-three-word poem evokes the cosmic forces of nature and makes a clever analogy between them and the supernatural.  A lot of poem, a lot of message in just twenty-three words!

Mr. Poyner's fifty-three-line poem evokes images of an entertaining B horror film and asks a thought provoking question at the end.  I love poems that end with a question, forcing me to think about what the poet's message might be.

Ms. Haskins' twenty-one-line poem is a delightful play on words, humorous as well as thought provoking.  The structure of this poem could be used to create an entertaining parlor game.

So, overall, I'd say Asimov's is four for four in the poetry department this time.