Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview Sessions: Selene Skye Deme

The name on her books is Victoria Selene Skye Deme. When I decided to do an interview series, she was automatically the first choice. Selene wears many hats: author, poet, fitness guru, single mother, and teacher among others. I’m proud to refer to her by an additional label: friend.
Selene’s surreal, sharp, potent poetics have filled several collected volumes. She is a word weaver, spinning language into her unique style, an unforgettable voice that haunts the pages and takes the reader into places both dark and magnificent. Take this excerpt from her recently released book, Unfairy Tales From Underland:

Chimera Of Calliope~
Dispositions of my multiplicity
dew drop words
comparable to tar
compose poetry in the corners of my gaze
devouring gloom
until I phosphoresce
Radiance becomes crystalline in my pores
magenta and alabaster berry drops
painting roses on my choking vines
no sword could rend asunder
for they are the ribbons
that hold my paper skin in place
and the thorns
are the crown
that keep my nightmares
from flooding the world

I could sing the praises of Selene’s wonders until my voice grows hoarse, but I was fortunate enough to get her to answer a few questions for me instead. So without further ado, here is the interview:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I honestly can’t classify myself as a “writer”.  A writer has focus and discipline, a set of parameters for a story, a poem, they enter into the content with a set of well defined ideas.
I have no idea how a piece of writing will center and conclude. Anything can kick start a flow of words, an image, a scent, a sound, and then it takes me where it wants to go. These things I write, write me, I’m just a conduit for the subconscious, the global subconscious ness.  The difference in the last four years is that I’ve mindfully learned to edit these writings. To make them coherent, and center them with an articulate significance.
My father always said I was born creating stories. So I guess whatever it is I do with words I’ve been doing since I could hold a pen and compose a thought.

Your way with words is quite unique. How would you describe your style of writing?

Part of the unusual distribution of metaphors and organization of illustrative content is a byproduct of being trilingual.  I think in three different languages, sometimes simultaneously, which produces the atypical format of my poetic and prose compilations.
I’m also a synesthete, which means my senses tend to crosswire. In simpler terms, there are times I taste music, and hear colors, and see concepts.  My brain is constantly active, but not in an intrusive way, in more of a melodious and kind way.

Is the mingling of your history with your art a conscious effort, or something that just comes naturally?

It inserts itself of its own accord, because I am my history. The concept of future/past/present is always blending together in my world.  There’s no separation of what happened twenty years ago and what will happen twenty years from now.
I was brought up in such a strong culture, where traditions were emphasized through daily life, that it is me.  I wear my history close to the surface.

Continuing on that line of thought: your poetry is quite personal, including many painful experiences of abuse in your past. Do you ever feel that you give too much of yourself to others through your writing?

No.  I have a separation between the abuse and myself. Some call it disassociation. I call it surviving.  There’s a theory in psychological texts that describes how children fragment and rebuild themselves after traumatic incidences. In essence fortifying their emotional/psychological structures by resurfacing and reinventing themselves each time. Some will argue this is unhealthy for the psyche. Boxing things into an eternally building maze. Who knows, they may be right. But it works for me. I never talk about the past in a direct way.  It’s there, bundled up inside a thousand poems and stories.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Sometimes, I still write free hand.  I have a quill and liquid ink, parchment.  Some of my most intimate pieces were written in ink. It soothes me.

Describe for us your path to publishing. What advice can you give for those considering entering the business?

The most basic advice is, don’t be in a rush. That was my mistake when I entered into a contract with a publishing house we will keep unidentified because all I have to say about them after seven years is that they are a scam.  Be smart, read the contract from beginning to end, question everything, negotiate, be your own editor. Ask for feedback.
The best move I made was self-publishing my eighth book.  The entire playing ground changes when you become your own publisher/editor/promoter.  Because it’s completely in your hands, you are more motivated to pay very close attention to the finest details to produce the best product you can for your audience.

It there a certain time that you write, or do you stick to a writing schedule?

No schedules, no discipline, no forethought. I can’t function like that. In everyday life I live completely in the moment. That’s how I write. Whatever triggers a piece about to be, I give myself to it then and there.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Read, of course. I’ve been a reader all my life. And I love horses, so riding is close. But most of all I love my kids and my grandson. My happiest moments happen in their company, so I spend as much time with them as they let me. I’m very, very lucky to have been given these two girls as my daughters by whatever fates decide those things. They have taught me as much as I’ve taught them. They are treasures.

What does your family think of your writing?

At this point in time, my relatives across the sea display each book on their mantles. My sweet mother, who used to write poems as a young girl, is so proud. My eldest, Una, writes also, and she has her own unique voice. As for the teenager, she’s a teenager, so clothes and a social life take precedence over reading my writings which she thinks are weird, which just makes me smile. Although, when it’s to her benefit, she is not shy about announcing how her mother has eight published books and a hardcore fan following.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing?

That people can relate even to the most obscure or sharpest of things in my writings. It taught me that I’m not unique or all that freaky, which was a lesson I needed to learn both to knock down my ego a few notches and, ironically, to also refurbish my sense of self worth. 

You’ve published several volumes of collected works. Do you have a favorite?

I do love UnFairy Tales, but The SurrealStalks And Times Of A Gutter Girl, showcases the richest and most eclectic of my poems and stories. It still irks me to no end that the publisher I was with at the time did me completely dirty on the horribly bland cover which does not draw the eye or an audience. It’s my lowest selling book. Which bothers me. Because the insides are pretty amazing.

I can attest to that, because I own a copy. Let’s talk about the state of poetry today. As you know, there is an abundance of mediocre to just awful poetry proudly displayed on writing sites and churned out by vanity and self-publishers. Do you feel as though poetry is a lost art? How can a serious poet stand out from the masses of amateur writers?

I have to clarify how I personally define poetry before I can answer that. Poetry is the honest and raw skinning of a human soul, the instinctive plugging into the connective subconscious Tapestry that connects everything to everything else throughout the universe. That is poetry. It’s personal myth. Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, Ginsberg, Kerouc, are poetry.  This is not a lost art, though it is a severely underappreciated art, because what this form reveals is the inside of the mirror, not the reflection, but the tides of the human being underneath.  Today’s society is either too distracted, too dumbed down, or terrified of facing and examining the honest textures of existence, life, purpose, meaning, etc.  Poetry delves into all those areas, and more. It also has no parameters, true poetry has no borders. In a world where humans have been conditioned to think within the box, stepping outside of it engenders fear, but most have forgotten how to step past guidelines, and are to comfortable in their monotonous drone world to even entertain the thought. That’s sad. That’s how myths die. Poets keep the myth alive.
As for how one can stand out from the crowd in the art of poetry, don’t worry, the internet and social networking sites has opened up a beautiful, connected world.  Don’t seek your readers, be you, create your art around you, be honest, practice full disclosure through your writing, and your audience will find you.

Let’s talk about your photographic artwork that you’ve delved into recently. What kind of tools are you using for your surreal portraits?

Corel Draw and Photoshop are my primary tools. But I also skip over to online editors such as PizZap, PicMonkey and BeFunky for specific layering tools available only on those specific sites.
I have a expansive visual interior world, but I don’t have the artistic skill with brushes and pencils I would like to have been able to translate these images beyond minimum two dimensional frames. Digital Art has opened the world to my brain and my imagination. I can literally translate the image behind my eyes onto the screen through these programs.  It’s crazy amazing watching what’s inside taking shape in front of your eyes. It’s addictive.

Tell us what you think about your own writing. What does it mean to you personally?

"When I was a young girl, writing was escape. When I was a teenager, writing was purging. As I grew into a woman I began to understand the power of words, and that's when I started writing with respect for the art that in and of itself creates human reality."
I posted this as my status on FB not too long ago, which answers your question better than anything else I could add.

Let’s talk about the future. What projects are you currently working on? When will we get a novel from Selene?

Plugged Into The Alloy Forest is my next book of poetry and short stories. I’m also working on a collaboration with my daughter, Una, yet untitled. And then there is Pan’s Unpuzzled Puzzle Girl, the novel thing, which is sooo hard for me to write, because I can’t think or create in a level manner. I think in pieces. Puzzle pieces fly all around, and I write them individually. Putting them together into a whole picture is a nightmare for someone like me. It may never be completed because of that. I get bored and distracted and irate, and walk away from it constantly.

How can readers find you, and where can they purchase your work?
I’m predominantly on my Author page on Facebook and my Weebly site these days.
My books can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes&Noble in paperback, and the new one, UnFairy Tales From UnderLand can also be purchased on Kindle through Amazon. Signed copies are available directly from me. All one needs to do is email me on my Facebook Author page for information.

Is there anything special that you’d like to say to your readers?

Always. I want them to know how grateful I am for their steadfast and unwavering support throughout the many years. How much they give me through their feedback, presence, and friendship, how their words and insights into my writings have revealed more about me to myself than I was able to see so closely linked to the works, and how it has helped me mature as a writer. Constructive feedback permitted me shed my often times overblown sense of self and taught me that in order to grow not just as a human being but whatever art that human being undertakes, criticism is not an affront but care shown on part of the critic who wants you to evolve and achieve your personal best.
My audience, my readers are a hardcore group, who tirelessly promote my writings.  They are the ones to whom I owe loyalty, not just for their faith in me but also for their own selfless revelations about themselves and how parts of them connect to my stories, my poems.
That connection is crucial between the performer and audience if both are to benefit and grow from what they give and get from each other. It is the most intimate and gorgeous forms of symbiosis.

It is indeed. Thank your for your time and in depth answers.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Direction... Sort Of

The main problem with having a blog is finding things that you want to blog about. After all, if one is to contribute article after article, it should be on a subject he's passionate about, or else the blog will dwindle and die as this blog has time and again. Only to have me step onto the scene with creative paddles in hand to shock some life back into it with another blog post.

Since I'm personally dull and uninteresting, I had to find something else to blog about besides myself and my creative projects. Seeing as how I'm firmly vested in the independent publishing industry, I figured I should devote my blog time to shedding light on independent artists. You know, that way the two people who follow this blog will be better exposed to what's going on with indie writers, artists, photographers, musicians, etc. So with a new focus I've dubbed this blog The Indie Underground and will feature articles and interviews, reviews and news that relate to the indie industry.

I think that it's important that independent artists support one another as we are the only ones who can build our brand to success. Although the great majority of that work falls on our shoulders alone, it's always great to receive and extend a helping hand in the way of exposure and support. I've never been the type to feel bad about another person's success, and to know that in a small way that I did something to aid a person to that success would mean a lot.

I can't promise a daily blog, but I'll try to post at least twice a week if not more. This should be fun, and hopefully I'll be at least able to connect better with my indie artists out there.

And yes -I did state on Facebook months ago that I'd start an interview series. It's taken a while, but this is me making good on that promise. The new direction kicks off on Monday with an interview of surrealist, poet, and author Selene Skye Deme. Be there.

You don't want to miss this, do you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's In A Name (To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym)

A recent FB post by a friend of mine made me think of the reason why I go by the name of Bard Constantine. Well, for my writing anyway. I have yet to run into anyone who looks at me and screams "Hey, that's Bard Constantine!" I suppose I'll have to prepare myself for that moment, because it will no doubt be a surreal experience. Getting screamed at, I mean.

I certainly didn't start off writing as Bard. When I was writing my overly long, exhaustively difficult fantasy epic that debuted my journey into novel writing, I used the name Lewis Knight, which is two of the three names that my mom gave me. The first I won't divulge because it's irrelevant to the discussion, plus I don't want to give up everything. I barely know you, after all ;)

So Lewis Knight is pretty cool, right? I mean, it would look good stamped on a book cover, and has a pretty nice ring when you say it a few times -go ahead and try it, you'll see. So why pass up on that for a name that sounds like it was made up by a goth/emo high school kid who writes bad poetry? One word, actually.


That's right. Back at the beginning, I was in foul spirits after my debut novel was rightfully rejected by publishers and agents, and I slunk into a dark corner and wrote some pretty awful poetry for a while. Darkness and depression, boo hoo type of stuff. I dubbed myself the romantic title Bard of Darkness, and penned poems of romantic depression like the Phantom of the Opera, only without the scars. Or the skills. The only thing that saved me was that occasionally a halfway decent poem would emerge, which proves that if you keep throwing mud on a white wall, eventually someone will walk by and call it a work of art.

To think: people actually pay to see what your kid will do for free.

Well, despite the outpouring of admiration and applause by online friends who meant well but should have just told me that I sucked, I came to the realization that my poetry needed to improve. I had emerged from my depressive stupor and blinked uncertainly at the light of realization. I needed something to write about. I needed to develop my craft. And my answer came in the form of vampires. This was about the time that the Twilight phenomenon exploded, dragging vampire lore into the land of sparkly skin and blank-eyed stares. While I never read or even was tempted to read the novels, I was amused by the vehemence of the Twilight haters, who seethed online about how poorly written the books were, and how vampires would never blah blah blah. My thought was: how many of said haters could create a bestselling national craze? It's easy to criticize another person's success, much harder to duplicate. If you think something sucks, then do it better. Do your own take and one-up on whatever it is that has your undies in a knot. I mused on how I could do at writing a YA vampire novel. What would my take be? Which got me thinking: if something like a vampire existed, what it really be like? We're talking about a being who has lived across ages, seen things... that you people wouldn't believe, right? (The link has nothing to do with vampires, just the best quote in film history. Thank me later.)


Someone had to explore that. And so I created a character. Haunted and lonely, reclusive and enigmatic. I would write from his perspective, bring to life his story, his viewpoint, his emotions and feelings from the things he'd witnessed over ages of time. He needed a name. And so I gave him one.

Bard Constantine.

The Bard was a nod to my depressive prologue as the Bard of Darkness. Constantine had a nice Gothic ring to it. And so my journey under a new name began. I chose an avatar that suited the persona and name of my character perfectly: Vincent Valentine from the Final Fantasy video games. For a while no one knew who Bard Constantine was. I was free to write my material with complete anonymity, and spun out tales of darkness and haunted loneliness.

With a name like Bard Constantine, you should automatically be made into a Final Fantasy character ;)

I quickly expanded my perspective to simply that of an immortal, free of the confines of vampiric lore. I quickly built a collection of poems under the theme of immortal consciousness, those stories, times, and people that live on forever through the written and spoken word, those that live within us through memory. I had been reborn as a writer of poetry, and that fire quickly spread to my novel writing. And it led to my volume of poetic works, Immortal Musings.

This poetry is actually good. No, really.

Being Bard Constantine had aided me in understanding the craft of writing and the exploration of character building and development. So I was understandably hesitant to let go of the name once I stepped back into novel writing. But I went back and forth for a while until I came to the day that I would make the fateful decision that would alter my creative life forever. And yet again one word can explain why.


Google, that ever handy, ever so necessary revealer of online searches. I have the habit of looking myself up online to see what kind of digital presence I'm building. A search under Lewis Knight exposed very little. Everything wrapped up in less than a page. A search under Bard Constantine was much more revealing. Page after page of info. I didn't realize at the time the importance of a name that no one else has. It basically meant a free run online without any interference from anything else. I was free to brand myself, create an online presence that Lewis Knight could never match. Right now a Google search of Bard Constantine will lead to over ten pages of material that relates only to me. Even an image search will provide four full pages of images related to me. Online presence is a major plus in today's digital marketing and promotion. And so I decided to become Bard Constantine permanently. Ultimately, will it prove to be the right choice?

Time will tell.

Robyne Renee Vickers is directly responsible for this waltz down memory lane. Any complaints of boredom or long-windedness can be directed to her. Or just check out her blog. Like most of the ones you'll come across, it's much better than mine.

Friday, August 10, 2012

We Got It Covered: Evolution of the Troubleshooter Book Cover

The cover of a novel has to be special. The image has to catch the eye, fire the imagination, impel the potential reader to pluck it off the shelf  -or in this modern world, click on it with their mouse. The font has to be readable and attractive. And it all has to look good in thumbnail size so that book browsers can see it online. Because that whole thing about not judging a book by its cover?

A lie.

I’m not an artist, photographer, or graphic designer. Creating a cover is something I’m not exactly creatively inclined toward. On my previous publishing efforts I simply browsed through stock photography to find a striking image and then let the tools available do the rest. With The Troubleshooter, my first full-length novel, I wanted something different. And so I went a more definitive direction.

I got lucky.

I knew the image I wanted. A film noir style detective cloaked in shadow and holding a gun. Easy to find, right? Well, yes. A Google image search or two produced a number of images that fit the criteria. Finding images online isn’t a difficult task, as you know. Tracking down the original photographer? A bit trickier.

But I clicked my calloused fingers until I found a few really great photographers. One of those happened to be Mark Krajnak of Jersey Style Photography. Unlike many of the other photographers, Mark was his own model. He created a Man In the Hat noir character and took outstanding photos of himself in detective mode. What stood out about Mark’s work was that his was the first photos that seemed perfect for the character of Mick Trubble, the protagonist of my story. Mick is a chain smoker, a heavy drinker, a rough and tumble type of mug who charms the dames, shoots the bad guys, and take life on with a world-weary dry wit. Looking at Mark, I knew I had my guy.

The next part is where the luck comes in. When approaching a complete stranger online, you never know what kind of response you’re going to get. Well, Mark is the nicest guy you can run across. We briefly discussed what I was looking for, and in no time at all Mark took one of his iconic images and serve up a mock cover for me to preview. It pretty much covered what I was looking for:

The only thing that needed to be altered was the font to make it readable in smaller formats, and perhaps a bit of touch up to create a look that suited the retro-futuristic style of the story. But again, I had no idea of how to do that. Good thing I had an Ace to throw.

I ran into Stefan on DeviantArt. Through his unique images I fell into the dieselpunk culture and the amazing work that he had just collected in his mind-blowing collection, Diesel City. I was truly impressed by his artistic design skills and had already discussed working with him on a story for his Silent Empire project that he had displayed on the site. When the Troubleshooter cover project came up, Stefan came to the rescue with his eye for design and noir expertise. What stands out even more was his patience with my amateurism. He put the project on his shoulders and when the work was finished I was absolutely blown away. Here was the image that I’d imagined: The Troubleshooter in all his shadowy glory. The image is clean and striking, the mood dark and fitting for the noir environment. I truly could not have asked for better people to work with. 

One writer, one photographer, one graphic design artist. Hailing from Birmingham Alabama, New Jersey, and France. All perfect strangers who just happened to meet by chance online. You can’t plan these types of collaborations. But I consider myself extremely fortunate to have done so.

So the Troubleshooter novel is published. The cover –finished. The men who met by chance now go their separate ways, right?


I was happy to find out that Stefan reached out to Mark on his own and the two of them have begun a creative relationship that has resulted in the recent images that the three of us have been posting to our readers and fans. And as for me, I have a lot more Mick Trubble in my head, waiting to shoot more trouble when the time comes. Who knows? Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship. We’ll let Mick Trubble have the last word, as he did at the very end of The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues

“It was funny, though –as I sipped and listened, I didn’t really feel like things had ended. More like had just got started.”

Amen, to that, Mick. And as for Mark and Stefan –a tip of the fedora to you gents. The world is a small place. Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to sit down in some hazy nightclub and tell war stories. Until then, we’ll always have New Haven…