Based on a true story.
opening pimpers and whores
how to kill quietly
and mop up
bloody wooden floors
how to hide body parts
behind my cabinets and drawers
Clipping the strippers
Clipping the strippers of their spinal cord wires
Their stunned paralysis inspires
laughing at lap dancers when they’re tied to chairs
listening to harlots when they make their final prayers
watching while they clutch their throats for air
Avenger’s happy in the dark
Avenger’s come to take away your mark,
I am the Avenger
Peter Gabriel’s song, “Intruder,” is one of the creepiest “crime poems” I’ve ever heard set to music, so I wrote the dark homage above as my contribution to “30 Days of the 5-2″ — a special guest blogging marathon, with a new poem or article posted each day of April — in celebration of National Poetry Month.
I’ve contributed to the 5-2 several times in the past, including a poem and online reading of it (“This is How I Murdered the Librarian”) and last year’s extensive NaPoWriMo celebration of Angel Zapata’s excellent work in an extensive essay (“Outlaws at the Treffpunkt”). The 5-2 is an awesome journal and I hope you’ll check them out regularly, and support their ebooks (editor Gerald So will contribute the income to Academy of American Poets this month).
I’ve long admired the “Oblique Strategies” — an infamous deck of creativity cards invented by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt that has a cult following among artists and musicians. It is one part thinking game, one part fortune cookie. They made it as a way to spur them into thinking differently about their current projects, by drawing random lateral thinking triggers from the deck (like “destroy the most important thing” or “give the game away”).
But I’ve always wondered: What would they look like if Eno had been in a Death Metal band instead of Roxy Music? Or if Schmidt were more of an HR Giger?
So, borrowing a page from my book of prompts, Instigation, I rewrote the Oblique Strategies my own way — turning it to the dark side. And I made a web app out of it to “think outside the coffin,” called Diabolique Strategies: Random Provocations into the Dark Side.
Diabolique Strategies is a creative thinking engine. It doesn’t give you ideas, scenarios or story-starters, so much as it bends your approach to any given topic in an offbeat direction. Some call this lateral thinking. I call it BENT thinking. Think of the prompts as redirection cues — turning your thoughts toward the underside of your imagination…the place where surprise lurks and originality dwells. Go to http://diaboliquestrategies.com and crack open your evil fortune cookie whenever you like. There’s over 200 sick little strategies lurking inside and I keep adding more when inspiration strikes.
Please pass news along and share this brand new site with all the strange and creative personalities in your life.
(HINT: Load Diabolique Strategies in your phone or tablet and add it to your home screen as an app.)
Last weekend, I attended the 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (aka AWP14) at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The AWP website boasts that with over 12,000 attendees and 650 exhibits it is “now the largest literary conference in North America” — and it certainly was the largest I’ve been to in my life, with a shopping-mall sized number of tables (featuring colleges, writing programs, presses and publishers) at the bookfair and plenty of superhuman writers as guests (Sherman Alexie and Ursula LeGuin gave readings, for example).
Seton Hill University had a table for our MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction, and at any given time you could probably find me hanging out there with fellow teachers and alums like Heidi Ruby Miller, Jason Jack Miller, Nicole Peeler, Lana Ayers, Danielle Hinesly, Christopher Paul Carey or Tasha Kreger. I also spent a great deal of time hanging out with my old friend, the poet Bryan Dietrich, just a few tables down from us, and swinging a row over to chat it up with the crew at Minor Arcana Press, who not only were there to promote a new book (Drawn to Marvel) that I’m a part of, but who gave awesome tarot card readings to passers-by. (I drew the 8 of Cups, aka, The Elopement of Knowledge, from the Celtic Wisdom Deck, which Anne Bean interpreted as signifying that I was at a point in my life where I had more knowledge to share than I realized, and would only realize it by sharing it freely).
When I wasn’t at the table, I was surfing the bookfair, and seeking out old friends and making some new ones. It was great to chat with Todd Davis, Gerry LaFemmina, Bill Ransom, Sam Weller and too many others to count. At one point, I bumped into the bizarros at Eraserhead Press, where I finally met Cameron Pierce, and then grabbed publisher Rose O’Keefe so we could go on the hunt for my former mentor (and Raw Dog Screaming Press colleague) Lance Olsen…he was there, but I never managed to find him. After that, I haunted many a publisher in seeking out a non-fiction book on a particular topic, and could not find one, so I basically pitched the idea for the book at various presses and may end up writing it myself someday (which is why I’m speaking opaquely about the subject matter). While there were many college presses and stuffy journals at the AWP (nothing wrong with those — seriously), there were a few literary rebels that really spoke to me, like Eraserhead, Minor Arcana Press, Fiction Collective 2, and University of Hell. But one awesome press I discovered that was new to me was Black Ocean, who publishes an array of very dark material (mostly poetry or prose poetry) by international authors, in fabulously designed formats, and as I sampled from their books I was BLOWN AWAY by the literary horror writing I found. I was so surprised by my own ignorance about this press that I felt I must know them better, so I surreptitiously bought every single title they had on display like a crazy person. That resulted in a funny photo which leads the gallery below. I enjoyed meeting Janaka Stucky from the press, and I guess I’m now a Black Oceanographer proper.
One high point of the conference happened the first night I arrive, which I attended bleary-eyed and exhausted from all the travel (I’d left at 3am to get to Seattle!): the “Superheroes of Poetry” reading, where very good poets all read their speculative genre work at the Jack Straw Center (a really special place that has a special audio training program for poets!). It was fantastic getting to meet and see in action Bryan Dietrich, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Sally Rosen Kindred, Jason McCall, Lesley Wheeler, host Lana Ayers, and Evan J. Peterson (who gets a special shout-out for rocking some horror poetry from his book, The Midnight Channel, an homage to the ‘final girls’ from splatter films). You can witness a video recording of the whole event on youtube.
On the final evening of the conference, Minor Arcana Press hosted a reading/signing for the anthology, Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books (which also includes Dietrich, SHU’s Albert Wendland and some high profile folks like Sherman Alexie and Lucille Clifton, just to name a few). This was an “offsite reading” at a local gamers’ parlor called “Ray Gun Lounge” where about 12 contributors — too many to list — read their poetry. This was one of the highlights for me, not only because of the camaraderie but because of the fun location (I got to stand near a larger-than-life Dalek). It was recorded on video, so I expect you can see it on YouTube soon.
I brought new “Instigation” postcards to the AWP and handed them out to many writers. These include prompts on the back that could be mailed back to me to post on the Mastication Publications site. A few have already come in, so be sure to visit the “Greetings from Hell” routinely to see what people send in!
I could go on and on, but maybe it’s time to let some photos speak for themselves…
I’ve finally gotten around to adding an Anthology page to the bibliography here on gorelets.com, and though it’s still rudimentary I plan to update it with links and images and more. In the mean time, I wanted to share a few updates about recent anthology appearances, in case you missed the news from the latest issue of The Goreletter.
One of the books coming out this month is Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books from Minor Arcana Press. I’m really excited to be in this one, as it features a number of really impressive poets to write about a topic you rarely, if ever see given the literary treatment. It’s one of a kind, featuring Bryan D. Dietrich, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Evan J. Peterson, and many others. I’ve got three poems in it, including “Sister Superman,” which I shared at a number of readings last year, and plan to read at the Sneak Preview event at the AWP Conference in Seattle at the end of February.
The anthology, Horror Library Vol. 5, is currently listed on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology! Pick up this wide-ranging sampler of original horror by new visionaries and veteran voices in the genre, to see why it’s being celebrated. I’m proud of my zombie story, “Pillars of Light,” in its pages. Contributors you might recognize include Bentley Little, Jeff Strand, Ray Garton, Kristin Dearborn, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Anne Michaud, and many others.
You can watch the new Anthology page as it develops, to learn of others that have come out over the past few years, and a few expected to come out shortly, including an unique non-fiction book for horror authors who want to take the next step in their careers, called Horror 101.
KINDLE COUNTDOWN | Feb 10th-15th | PLAY DEAD
One Week Discount on Play Dead for Amazon Kindle
Act fast and get the PLAY DEAD ebook cheap from Feb 10th-15th
PLAY DEAD publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press is running a “Kindle Countdown” special offer next week! Kicking off on Monday, February 10th, you can get the Amazon Kindle version of my second novel for just .99 cents. It will go up a dollar a day afterward, until returning to its regular price on the 15th. So don’t hesitate! Not only will you get a great deal if you act quick, your purchase will help make the book more visible on amazon.com for little awhile. So share the word and let your depraved friends know all about it, before the clock ticks down.
You can find kindle versions for many of my books through my Amazon Profile.
Praise for Play Dead ….
“Unreservedly, utterly nasty…and man, does Mike Arnzen make it a work of art — we have got meticulously handcrafted ghastliness here. And no mistake. Arnzen is in the company of writers like Poppy Z, Brite, Clive Barker, and Stephen King, to name just three. Well done….Play Dead commands an extraordinary palette of horror.” — NY Review of SF
“Las Vegas is as diseased a city as there is, and Mike Arnzen knows this as well as anyone. In Play Dead, he distills its essence down to a uniquely brutal game and brings together as fascinatingly repellent a bunch of losers ever to make a grab for the corroded brass ring. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Jesus, let’s hope so.” — Brian Hodge, author of Deathgrip and Wild Horses
“A masterpiece of eloquent depravity.” — JA Konrath, author of Bloody Mary
The original hard-to-find hardcover edition is long sold out but the novel is also available in paperback.
[UPDATE: While this special deal has now expired, you can still get Play Dead in paperback or ebook formats for a really reasonable price at amazon.com]
In 2014, I am planning to return to recording and to produce my first audiobook for Mastication Publications. So in early December, I started getting set up… and I stumbled upon an old recording of my short story, “Limber” hidden in the old master tapes for my 2007 CD from Raw Dog Screaming Press, Audiovile. I’d completely forgotten I’d even recorded it! As I listened, the only reason I could guess that I abandoned it was that it didn’t quite “fit” into Audiovile…but now I like the “Pink Floyd” styled guitar that backed the vocals, and the storytelling still stands up nicely. So over the holidays I added some percussion to the track, remixed and remastered the recording, and decided to post it online for the New Year.
“Limber” is one of one hundred stories from my collection, 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2007) — a popular collection of flash horror fiction which still remains in print. You can also still order Audiovile from Raw Dog Screaming Press, CD Baby, or even download it on sites like iTunes. Consider Limber your online “bonus track.” It sounds pretty cool on headphones, so download and enjoy!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Above you have The Resolution — selected as the “Best Storyline” in the writing contest featured in the latest issue of The Goreletter. Kudos to my “co-authors”: Gary Blankenship, Mike Brendan, AK Drees, Brian J. Harrold, Dale Herring & Terrie Leigh Relf, along with Matt Duvall and Steph Ellis, all of whom made this a lot of fun.
This story started with the opening sentence, offered online as an Instigation “prompt” for a New Year’s Eve writing contest … and authors “replied” to it using tweets and AuthorBee functions to build a narrative that went in many different directions. Arnzen selected the “best storyline” from the contributed tweets using AuthorBee’s “remix” functionality, and both Michael Arnzen and AuthorBee awarded selected participants with prizes.
Here are the winners:
“Best Individual Contributions” prizes go to:
Mike Brendan, Terrie Leigh Relf and Gary Blankenship.
They are each winning a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate, kindly sponsored by AuthorBee. I have chosen Gary Blankenship to also win a free signed copy of my book, Play Dead, for top post, because he not only took the story down a very weird direction but also because he invented the phrase “blood caramel.”
“Best Storyline”: Writers who contributed to the “best storyline” above receive a free copy of Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side and were entered along with all participants into a random draw for one of three signed Fridge of the Damned magnetic horror poetry kits. The winners of these are… Dale Herring, Gary Blankenship and Steph Ellis.
Thanks to everyone for playing along, and to AuthorBee for sponsoring this fun contest!
10. Playing “CSI: Dreamhouse” with your (or your sister’s) Barbie dolls.
9. Telling Mommy she’s “pretty” to her face and then adding the words “poor at parenting” as you walk out of the room.
8. Presuming that when you’re “grounded” you’re free to play with electrical outlets to your heart’s content.
7. Texting while driving your Big Wheel on the freeway.
6. Skipping biology class so you can experiment directly on animals at the pet store without supervision.
5. Actually punching Hawaiians to get your hands on their branded juice box.
4. Festooning your bedroom with ropes of snot rather than blowing your nose on the hankie you got last year for Christmas.
3. Writing your book report in thick black marker covering every page of the book you were supposed to “report on” with the words “HATE, HATE, HATE IT!”
2. Going commando when shopping for scout uniforms.
1. Sacrificing a goat instead of blowing out birthday candles.
Try saying “asphyxiation” five times fast. You will know what it means from experience. But if you survive, read on…
You probably know the term refers to “choking to death” and that it is the fancy pants medical name for strangulation. But did you know the term derives from the Greek, meaning a- (“without”) + sphyxis (a “heartbeat”)?
If you thought it had something to do with the Egyptian term “sphinx” (which I think means “without + a nose), then you were wrong. (To “asphynxiate” actually means to turn into a giant cat with wings and tell riddles till your enormous human face erodes away.)
There are many circumstances that can induce asphyxia, all of which are characterized by the inability to acquire sufficient oxygen through breathing for a long, long — gasp! — LONG period of time. These circumstances can include but are not limited to: the constriction or obstruction of airways, such as from asthma, laryngospasm, or eating an excessive amount of cotton candy; from being in environments where oxygen is not readily accessible, such as underwater, in outer space, or when your head is dunked into — and held down — in a vat of boiling acid; environments where sufficiently oxygenated air is present, but cannot be adequately breathed because of air contamination, such as inhaling excessive smoke in a burning building, being trapped in an evil villain’s stinkbug chamber, or passing out in the men’s room in a truck stop on I-15. Asphyxia can cause coma or death or auto-erotic pleasure followed by death followed by embarrassment to your family who wishes they could choke you all over again.
To asphyxiate will fix nothing, especially not your ass.