Pipe Dreams

Any other writers out there with dream projects building up in their minds but no confidence to actually write them, or are you normal?

I have one such project. It’s been eating me up inside for a while. I daydream about it all the time.

Everyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with Tudor history and literature. They also know I love ghost stories. It’s been my desire the last few months to write a ghost story wherein Henry VIII is being haunted by his ex-wives. I even have the opening scene mapped out: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are dancing in yellow, rejoicing that Katherine of Aragon has finally died, when Henry VIII feels like a cold hand has reached inside his chest and squeezed his heart. I even wrote a poem about it!

Ring around the banquet hall
in yellow silk a’twirl,
raise your hands, give up the call:
hurrah, the Queen is dead!

Yellow Silk by Cassandra Armstrong

When it comes to actually writing it, though? I freeze like a deer caught in headlights. I’m not at all confident in my ability to do it justice. Or in my ability to finish it if I do begin it.

Once, just once, I’d like my brain to operate as a normal brain, so I can Get Shit Done.

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October Art and Writing Challenge Wrap-Up

Though I didn’t share many of the haiku I wrote in October to WordPress, I still want to talk about the challenge, why I chose to do it, and what I got from it–the good and the bad.

I was stumbling around on Twitter and came across this post by Holly. On a whim, I decided to give it a try. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to 1) force myself to write and 2) practice my digital art skills. And it was a prompt list all about autumn and Halloween, two of my favorite things.

Why did I choose to write all haiku? Because I find haiku to be rather easy to write, and I’m good at them. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of time writing long poems as it was my intention to finish a 31-day challenge in only 15 days. Because I’m extra af sometimes.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the challenge. And I like most of the poems I wrote for it, with notable favorites being Death and Witches. There were a few I felt were not my best work, especially towards the end of the challenge, but I’m proud nonetheless. I did finish the challenge, after all. It’s not very often I get to say that.

Endeavoring to write 31 poems in 15 days did what it was supposed to: it forced me to write. Multiple times per day, in fact. Which is somehow both a positive and negative thing. I definitely started feeling some burnout towards the end of the challenge. The last few poems felt like pulling teeth. I started to hate what I was writing and didn’t want to do it anymore. But I was determined to finish the challenge, so I made it easier on myself the only way I could: I stopped drawing illustrations for each poem and used stock photos to complement each piece. That helped a lot, and I was able to finish on a high note.

For the last poem, I chose to break away from the haiku format. It is, of course, titled Halloween. Enjoy!

Read the rest of the poems here or on my Instagram.

Beware:
when the nights grow chillier
and a red moon turns clouds into rivers of blood —
Hallowe’en is here.

Look:
the pumpkins put on smiles,
jagged teeth gnashing fire into pulp —
Hallowe’en is here.

Watch:
the witches take their vengeance to the sky
phoenixes risen from the ashes of their abusers —
Hallowe’en is here.

Listen:
to the breaths of ghosts on the wind,
the long-lost souls doomed to roam earth —
Hallowe’en is here.

Duck!
The bats in the belfry have awoken,
a black cloud that blots out the moon —
Hallowe’en is here.

Scream:
the doorbell is a too-normal sound
among all these phenomena.
Hallowe’en is here.

Smile:
at the painted faces of the children
dressed as ghouls and ghosts and gross things.
Hallowe’en is here.

Sink:
into warm blankets, autumn treats at hand,
and wait for the next round of haunts.
Hallowe’en is here.

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Macbeth Doth Come: A Poem

I press my hand to
black fur soft as
a newborn’s blanket.
I can feel his heart beating
beneath my fingertips,
and though he looks lifeless,
his chest rises and falls
as he inhales,
exhales.

Though there is pain in his eyes,
and though he is confused
and frightened,
I also see love and trust
shining in those green depths,
and I’m stricken by the breadth
of love
I feel for this four-legged angel.

Through the tears, I smile
and remember the first day I saw him,
so small and scared and lost.
And I have to laugh
because I never stood a chance;
I didn’t choose him,
he chose me.
I was his before I could ask
“Can we keep him?”

I was 17 years old when I came home from a walk with my friend and my mom told me she had found an orphaned, feral kitten in the garden. He was the cutest little thing, and so hungry and scared. We caught him and brought him inside — and that was it. He became mine. My angel. My Macbeth. ♥

Years ago now, Macbeth came down with a terrible urinary tract infection. He had crystals in his urine and was close to death. The vet was able to save him, though, and to this day, I can’t thank her enough for it. I wrote this poem in honor of that.

Today Macbeth is 14 years old and still my baby. He’s the best cat I’ve ever had and I love him to pieces.

If you like my writing, please consider donating to me at the link below. All proceeds will go towards furthering my career as a writer.

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Witches: A Haiku

gather my witches:
the women who burned at stake
for the sins of men

gather my witches
save them from the salt marshes
let their bones breathe free

gather, my witches,
let us ride out and show them
fire cannot break us

gather, my witches,
we are the phoenix, and they,
are nothing but ash

Find more autumn and Halloween-themed haiku on my Medium page. And if you like what you’ve read, please consider leaving a tip. All donations will be used for reading fees to poetry and lit magazines.

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Death: A Haiku

when I think of death
I don’t imagine Heaven,
pearly gates open wind

when I think of death
I see only a void, and
hear only silence

when I think of death
I wish I could believe God
waits with open arms

I am not a religious person but sometimes I wish I was. I think it can be a comfort to people in hard times.

Find more autumn and Halloween-themed haiku on my Medium page. And if you like what you’ve read, please consider leaving a tip. All donations will be used for reading fees to poetry and lit magazines.

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Black: A Haiku

black lacquer shimmers
I file my nails to deadly
points of gothic dread

I’ve mentioned a couple times I’m currently working on a series of haiku based on a list of autumn and Halloween-inspired art and writing prompts I found on Twitter. I’m a year and 25 days late to this challenge, but I’m hopeful I can finish it before the end of the month. With the holiday season fast approaching, I’ll be wanting to do focus on something else. Maybe even a winter and Christmas-themed series of haiku is in order.

If you’re interested in reading the other haiku in this series, please check out my Medium page.

The button at the bottom is of this post takes you to my shiny new Buy Me a Coffee page. Or, in my case, Buy Me a BOOK page. I’d greatly appreciate any tips, which will go towards reading fees for poetry and lit mags.

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Mountains Out of Molehills

there in the distance
hazy peak reaching for blue
my mountain to climb

journey forward and
up a jagged precipice
my fingers bloodied

determination
I will not be left to rot
upon this dark rock

this mountain, though of
my own creation, will not
be my final death

It’s been an odd handful of days for me. I’ve been laser-focused on writing, blogging, and trying to think of ways to further my success. It’s still my dream to someday be able to make a living off my writing. I’m not sure where this burst of motivation came from, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Over the past year or so, my confidence in my writing ability has grown tenfold. I used to be someone who hated everything I wrote and always struggled to share it with the world. I read my writing now and I don’t immediately cringe doing so. There have been a few pieces I’ve liked enough to want to submit them–and was successful doing so. Maybe this is a sign of maturity, or maybe my friend Katie Staten, with her constant support, has finally convinced me I’m not a terrible writer.

I wrote this connected series of haiku when I was in a really dark place. I was considering giving up writing for good. I thought I’d never accomplish anything with it. I knew, though, if I did, I’d be unhappy for the rest of my life. Hard as it may be, I love writing, and without the release it provides, I’d probably go insane. So I wrote this poem to remind myself that, though the going may be tough, the end of the journey is always worth it. So like the little engine that could, I just keep chugging along. I’ve got a long way to go yet but, right now, it feels doable.

If you’d like to read more of my poetry, stop by my Medium page. I’ve been working on a series of autumn and Halloween-inspired haiku that are, in my not-so-humble opinion, cute and a lot of fun. I hope to see you there!

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The Boneyard: A Short Story Teaser

Last year, it was my intent to enter a flash-fiction contest, but I could never quite get the story to fit into 1,000 words or less, so I tabled the project. Since it’s October, I figured it’s the perfect time to work on it again. Since I’m no longer constrained by such a restrictive word count, I’ve begun to expand it. I really like where it’s going to so far. I hope to finish it this month and afterwards, I’m going to look into submitting it to a lit mag.

Here are the first ~500 words of my horror short story, The Boneyard.

Please leave a like and a comment telling me if you like it, if you don’t, what works and what doesn’t, and any other thoughts you might have.

The house on 777 Darling Lane was anything but. Whoever had addressed it either knew nothing of its evil reputation or had a sick sense of irony.

Desta was banking on the latter.

She stood on the sidewalk, her face pressed to the wrought-iron gate, and gazed up at the house. It was a large, ugly thing. The red-brick, ivy-covered façade was almost black with decades of dirt and grime, and most of the windows had long been broken. To Desta, they were like eyes, lidless, lashless; the house was watching her too.

Desta scoffed. Nonsense. She was acting no better than the ghost-obsessed townspeople she derided.

She didn’t believe in ghosts, or that the house was alive, or that by standing so close, she was opening herself up to attack. She couldn’t deny, though, that it was a ghastly place, and she understood better why no one in town liked the house. If it was this terrible on the outside, what might it be like inside? Multiple attempts to demo it had been attempted, but the Council always refused the motion. Most people tried to ignore its existence, but it was hard when it skulked on the outskirts of town like a sleeping giant poised to crush them if awoken.

Desta had grown up hearing stories about all the terrible things that happened in and around it—she never heard anything about the family who owned it, though, and this was what interested her the most. No one could tell her who they were, where they had come from, when the house had been built, or if they were even alive. They hadn’t been seen in years, but every so often, a curtain would move in one of the remaining windows, or a light would flicker on and go out just as quickly.

The only thing anyone knew about the house was that the land it’d been built on had once been called The Boneyard.

It was this mystery Desta was so desperate to get to the bottom of: Who, if anybody, lived in the house? If someone did live there, why did they never come out? And because she couldn’t quell all superstitious curiosity, what was the mystery of “the boneyard?”

She pressed her front against the cold bars of the gate. If she was only a little smaller, she could slip through the bars and get closer, maybe even go inside. What wonderful and terrible things must be hiding behind its walls, and what secrets Desta might learn the truth of. The Council would be grateful to her for setting the record straight. The townspeople would hail her as a hero. Her classmates, always so quick to underestimate her, would be awed by her bravery.

She had to get inside.

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It’s Publication Day!

Finally, the day I’ve been waiting for. My Shakespearean sonnet A Day in the Life of Henry VIII has had its debut in Copperfield Review Quarterly and I couldn’t be prouder. Seeing my name in print for the first time, and in such an acclaimed literary publication, has me feeling a little teary. I hope this only means good things for my future as a poet.

Please consider supporting me and this great publication. You can purchase digital or print copies of the quarterly on Copperfield Review Quarterly’s website. There’s so much on offer in this edition! Read about handling resistance with Steven Pressfield; Ann Taylor is in the poet spotlight; and, of course, there are plenty of short stories and poems to enjoy.

Get your copy today!

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