Monday, December 3, 2018

#045 Backstory of the Poem "Sungmyo for Our Dead Father-in-Law" by Ian Haight

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

***This is the forty-fifth  in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

#45 Backstory of the Poem
by Ian Haight

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?  To be fair to the process of “Sungmyo,” I have to start at the very beginning, which was the decision to take poetry and writing seriously, and to that end I enrolled in Goddard College’s MFA program. I was reading a lot of different material at the time, trying to understand all the incredible possibilities there are in poetry and how those possibilities are realized. I had been reading the poetry of Gary Snyder, and as a reader, had been experiencing a love-hate relationship with him. On the one hand, his poems felt technically and thematically simplistic compared to what I thought poetry should be; on the other, when I closed the last page of his book, The Back Country, I had a jolt, which I have never experienced with any other poet. The jolt was feeling like I had lived his life—or a life. I realized the power of Snyder’s poetry for me wasn’t in any single poem, but the tonal evocation of a united collection. For the record, after reading many of Snyder’s books and more fully appreciating his range, precedent, and lineage in poetry—which I think goes back to Wordsworth (below, left), at least—I believe he is one of the truly great American poets of the 20th Century.

I was thinking about how Snyder made a collection live, which for me came down to the question of how he made a poem invoke life. There was nothing necessarily extraordinary about the incidents Snyder was writing about. The topics felt common and everyday (walking in a forest, walking in a city, working on a house, attending a meeting), but the attention to detail and the reflective perspective in that detail is what created a point of view that I as a reader could engage with. Ok, so if I admired this approach to writing so much, what if anything could I use in my own writing?
At the time of all this poetry exploration I was living in Pusan, Korea, and I was and still am married to a Korean woman. Traditionally in Korea, males of a family are supposed to visit the graves of their deceased parents or grandparents during Chusok, which is a kind of Korean Thanksgiving. My wife’s parents had no sons—only daughters, five daughters—and so this custom fell to the husbands of the daughters. My mother-in-law was still alive but my father-in-law had died soon after my wife was born, so there was a need to go to his grave and perform a ceremony. Because I was American I had no hometown in Korea to visit during Chusok. It fell to me and one of my elder brothers-in-law to carry out the ceremony. (Right: Ian and wife in Pusan, Korea in 2004.  Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
We lived at the base of a very small hill-enclosed valley, and my father-in-law’s tomb was near the top of the valley. I felt like this ceremony, in the spirit of Snyder, might be a piece of life worth writing about. The process of the poem is straightforward: I wrote about going to the gravesite, conducting the ceremony, and a noteworthy incident on the way back. (Left:  Ian's father-in-law's burial mound with three daughters and one nephew present.  Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only)

In terms of craft I breath-broke the lines to make them reflective of life. Looking at the initial draft of the poem I am surprised by how much it resembles the final draft, even though I went through more than twenty versions. Expansion of details and the title were the chief revision issues. I particularly struggled with the title because I couldn’t figure out how to succinctly inform a non-Korean reader regarding the what and the why of the poem. (Right: Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail.   At the time of the poem’s writing, we lived in one of a collection of four-unit condos. My family was a bit young then. My two sons had been born but they were both under the age of eight, so although our three-bedroom unit was small by the American standards I was familiar with (about 1,200 square feet), it was livable for our family size. Because I was doing graduate work half of one of the rooms was my own. There was space for a bookcase or two of books and my computer desk—that was it. I did all of my writing on the computer. The walls of the room, like all the walls of all the units, were concrete, but papered with some standard flower print on a white background. The floors had a plastic surface, which emulated a shade of wood. The sliding wood-framed windows were barred, large and opaque, but opened to a view of the forested hill. I could hear birds; I was happy for that. (Right: Ian Haight family photo - wife is pregnant with their daughter.  Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
What month and year did you start writing this poem?  Looking at the file dates that are still intact, I had to have written the first draft around September-October 2002. Chusok is annually held in September. (Left: Ian in October of 2002.  Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)  I may have drafts with markings on them, but if I do they are in storage, so I will attach the earliest draft of the poem and the most recent draft for comparison.

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us?   There’s only one line that got cut. In the fifth stanza, line 3: “and red berries” (Right, Korean berries) was deleted because I felt like it was too much detail and made the poem clunk. To me it felt like a detail that was not entirely necessary in comparison with what was rhythmically gained by losing it. The first line lost the phrase “Yellow fin” to describe the kind of fish for the same reason, and because it wasn’t authentically true. People laid out all sorts of different fish.
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   That we are all capable of entering and being received by different cultures and communities no matter what we look like or what skills we may/may not possess. It doesn’t always happen but it can happen to anybody and everybody regardless of identity. This gives me hope for humanity. Maybe also that there’s a lot of love in this world. It’s not always easy to see and it might be different from what I am used to experiencing but that does not mean the love is not there. (Ian Haight's father in law is wearing the necktie.  Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and  why?    

The ending, for sure. To see that pheasant rise and then to place it in context of the poem…I got what that meant when it happened but I didn’t really feel it until I re-read it in the finished poem. It’s spiritual—and very Korean. I love that I can  deeply feel what that moment means even though I am an  American white male. I also love that Korean people understand and respect my authentic experience.

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?  Quarterly West and Barrow Street both published it in 2003. I think Quarterly West accepted it first and when I notified Barrow Street they said they were going to publish it anyway, regardless. The publications came out pretty quick after that so there wasn’t much more to be said to either journal. Funny how that worked—I wish I experienced poetry publishing that way more frequently.

Contact info?
All my contact information can be found here:
Anything you would like to add? 
Thank you again for inviting me to participate in this.  It was fun to look back and revisit not only the poem, but where I was at as a writer and the life I was living at the time.

Sungmyo for Our Dead Father-in-Law

By the doors of houses,
fish heads on newspapers
with oranges
and deep-fried sweet potatoes
for the street gods. 

The outhouses smell
like farm fields.

We light a cigarette,
smoke some;
lay it on dried grass
at the base
of his burial mound

pour makali into a cup,
drink some,
put it in front of the smoke

lay four paper plates, white
with holly leaves
from Christmas

place oranges
rice cakes—
some made with sticky corn syrup,
others sweetened with ginger,
squid strips
and bananas
on the plates

stand in a row
we bow like Buddhists
three times

eat and drink

ask about the names of trees,
talk about how the jays
gathered and croaked
in old villages
when someone who didn’t live there
would come

or how the children
followed GI’s
Ajashi, gum please!

Notice how the cigarette is smoked,
and remember how the old man
finished thirty a day

how he got a children’s book
in English,
though no one could read it,
and wrote his daughters’ names
in Chinese
on the first page.

At the bottom of the hill
the copper-colored body
of a green-headed pheasant
flaps to the heights
of white pines,
trailing its long
brush-stroked tail feathers
two feet behind the breast.

Ian Haight’s book, Celadon, won the 2016 Unicorn Press First Book Prize for poetry and was published in the fall of 2017. He is the editor of Zen Questions and Answers from Korea, and with T'ae-young Ho, he is the co-translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ and Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim—finalist for ALTA’s Stryk Prize.   Other awards include Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Translation, and grants from the Daesan Foundation, the Korea Literary Translation Institute, and the Baroboin Buddhist Foundation. (Left:  Ian with his youngest son Brennan in Pusan in 2003. Copyright permission granted by Ian Haight for this CRC Blog Post Only) 


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

Sunday, December 2, 2018

#5 INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION: Jessica Mathews's "Death Adjacent"

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

**Jessica Mathew’s  Death Adjacent is the fifth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

The CRC Blog welcomes submissions from published and unpublished fiction genre writers for INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION.  Contact CRC Blog via email at or personal Facebook messaging at https://www.

Name of fiction work?  Death Adjacent.  

And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? Lots of names! Some of them were: The Night with No Moon, Their Romeo and Juliet Complex, Saving Shadows from the Night. There may have been others but these are the ones that are off the top of my head.

Fiction genre?  Ex sciencefiction, short story,  novella, romance, drama, plays, crime etc.  And how many pages long? Adult Paranormal fiction, around 200 pages

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date? Self-published through Amazon Createspace which is now called KDP. Published May of 2018 though the official release book birthday is June 2018.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I began writing this in 2008 and completed it in 2017.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? I was in grad school at the time so I did a lot of writing in classrooms and libraries up until graduation in 2011. I kept writing whenever, wherever until early 2017 when I decided to change the storyline completely. I mostly wrote the new story (that I ended up publishing) in cafes with members of my writing group. I don't have a picture. We frequented Khaldi's, Barnes and Noble, and Bread Co. (Above Right: Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I always made sure to write where food was readily available so I didn't have to break my writing stride to get food. I listen to music when I'm writing. Depending on what I'm writing, I may listen to a mopey break-up playlist or a playlist of revenge songs. Music has a way of capturing your soul and inspiring you in a way nothing else can. If I wasn't listening to music, I was talking to my writing cohorts for the day or people watching. Writing is 99% doing things that aren't writing and 1% writing. I vary between using pen and paper and using my laptop to write. I'm somewhere in between being a pantser and a plotter. I normally use pen and paper to write my outlines and ideas and the laptop to write words in a work in progress. Since I have a full-time job (I do insurance billing at a hospital) not as a writer, I only write at night after work and on weekends. If I have a day off, I will write during the day but normally I only write after work.

What is the summary of your fiction work?   When you can't die, what do you live for?  Right after the goddess of the moon regains consciousness in the middle of her autopsy, her murderer greets her in the form of a demon and tries to kill her again. Fighting for her life, Selene is flooded with memories from a past she would rather forget.
When Selene remembers she is the daughter of Cleopatra and the twin sister of Alexander the Great, she also remembers her family secrets and tragedies. Selene discovers she has been cursed with a second soul. When she realizes that it’s her brother who cursed her, Selene starts using spells from the Book of the Dead to set the parts of her past she remembers right. Will her faulty memories cause more harm than good?
 One thing is certain: If Selene doesn’t set things straight before her mother unleashes the powers of the Underworld to enslave humanity, Selene may never die again.

Please include excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.  My excerpt is the first chapter of the novel:

My story begins and ends in the same place, though I’m none too happy about it. Just once when I die I’d like to stay dead. Thoughts of my afterlife left my body making room for the new breaths I needed to take to kick start my consciousness and vital organs again. My eyes popped open on the third exhale.
Damn. Where was I this time?
Ice pressed against my spine, a combination of the stainless steel table I laid on and a sub-zero room temperature suffocating the paper-thin sheet that pretended to cover me. I drifted in and out of consciousness only semi-aware of what was happening to my body. I spent my conscious moments willing my limbs to move rather unsuccessfully. The intermingling smells of decay and military-grade disinfectant felt like fire being forced down my throat. My eyes burned from the causticity making them water until they were wide with horror at the sick realization of what was happening to me. Tears screamed down my cheeks in two white hot lines marring my complexion. A figure, still a shadow to my blurry eyes, didn’t notice my tears or my pain at waking up alive yet again. It moved above me, going about its business, not caring that I existed below.
Since the first time I died I’ve only existed in the below, the in between of life and death. These were the kind of shadows the living stay out of if they want to continue living, the same shadows the things that hate the light avoid because they know I exist there. And that I am hunting them.
My body was still paralyzed and my pulse no longer barely palpable. My heartbeat was getting stronger. Blood rushed to my ears in an attempt to deafen me. My anxiety rose in my chest to help my heartbeat undo all of the work I had just done in an effort to leave this place.
The shadow was so close I heard its heart pulsating to the rhythms of the job it was rendering. Cologne and sweat were strong enough to catch in my throat. A familiar faint red tinge slowly creeped up my neck towards my face.
I was naked. Shit. Took me long enough to figure that out. This was the slowest I had ever come back from a death. However I died must have been bad if it was taking this long for me to come back. A whiff of cologne brought me back to being naked. Why was I naked? Where was I? What was this guy doing to me?
Being naked is so unmistakable you would know it even if you were dead. It’s also embarrassing as hell. Especially if you’re a carb-loving woman of traditional Italian descent like me. It’s the one thing I don’t do even when I’m alone. When your body is nothing but a freak show of lumpy body parts and thin white cellulite lines racing thick pink scars all over the surface of your skin, you don’t jump at the opportunity to show people what’s under your clothes. There aren’t many people jumping at the chance to take a peek either. Who was this guy and what did he want from me? When I could move again there would be hell to pay for sure.
            My eyes cleared. I no longer had the cataract of death clouding my sight. Or my judgment.
A man in scrubs and too many layers of plastic protective gear lurched over me like Dr. Frankenstein on a good night, knife in one surgically gloved hand, muttering to himself (probably about which body part he needed to take from me to complete his arson-phobic monster). A gloved hand, resolute in its obligation to its master, brushed my right shoulder. I could feel the warmth emanating from the man’s body through the sheer layer of latex that kept our skin from touching. Through the warmth, I sensed this man was cold, calculating even, when it came to performing his duty.
He pinned me down, pressing my back further against the stainless steel table using little force or effort. He didn’t have to exert much power or energy in my direction. I wasn’t going anywhere and he knew it. He expected me to comply because no one had resisted him before. I didn’t complain. I couldn’t. I couldn’t cry out, scream or run. I didn’t panic until I felt the blade he held slice open my skin with vigor and precision. Three swift strokes wielded by a deft hand
This was his job and he was good at it. Judging by his thinning gray hair and the wrinkles around his dead eyes, this had been his job for twenty some-odd years before I graced his table. It would probably be his job for another twenty some-odd years after me if his overweight body didn’t give out first.
I finally realized what was happening. Give me a break, people! This was my first autopsy.
The medical examiner had done this so many times before he didn’t even have to look at me to know where to cut. Or maybe dead people didn’t normally complain if his lines weren’t exactly even.
Great, more scars to add to my growing collection.
            Usually, when I die, I wake up in whatever dark hole I had just spent the night sending a demon slinking back to. This was the first time I’d woken up in a morgue being treated like a proper dead person. This was also the first time I couldn’t remember how I died.
That old adage about there being a first time for everything was really sticking in my craw here. For those of you who aren’t southerners like I am, what I mean to say is that I was getting really pissed off. Don’t worry, being a little pissed off and a little hungry all the time was my normal temperature. If you ever meet me in person you’d figure that out pretty quick.
Now that I was properly motivated by anger, I had to get up and take care of some business. No longer able to play the part of the corpse in this sick charade, I willed my limbs to move. My body was healing rapidly and just returning to normal. The Y incision the doctor had so carefully made to open my chest became a crude V shape. The medical examiner’s face switched from bored rote memory to utter shock when he saw my lackluster performance as a stiff.
He clutched his chest, smearing my blood on his white lab coat with his right hand. He was sweating so much his light blue dress shirt was soaked through, which was a feat in and of itself since the room we were in was only about fifty-five degrees below zero. I guess I was the freshest corpse he had ever seen. His face turned beet red (which I resented because I was the one who was naked in front of a stranger). He licked his lips and gasped for air.
My eyes followed his name tag swinging back and forth in front of my face, briefly hypnotizing me. Dr. Albert Morton, Southern Provincial Hospital. I was back in town? I vaguely remembered being in the city doing… something. Getting into trouble apparently. How did I get here? Why couldn’t I remember anything from last night? I usually remembered.
Was it even still last night or had I actually been dead for a lot longer than I thought? How long can someone be dead before they just couldn’t come back from it at all? Was this an alternate death reality? This sure as shit wasn’t heaven. It didn’t seem all that hellish either. I’d been through worse than freezing my tits off during an autopsy. Not remembering what happened to me was actually worse than surviving my first autopsy. Maybe I didn’t want my story to end with an autopsy after all. Especially if there was a chance I might survive it.
I came out of my reverie in time to watch the good doctor fall to the tiled floor. I heard his body crack as he landed on the cream-colored tiles. His limp body covered the drain stopping my blood from being washed away. I felt almost relieved by the fact that I couldn’t be thrown away so easily.
I have to admit I almost left him on the floor. I mean here I was struggling to live through my autopsy and this joker was the one who was havin’ a freakin’ heart attack! Just what I needed, me naked, bleeding and having to perform CPR on this guy so I wouldn’t feel like the shittiest person alive for letting him die. I probably shouldn’t have done CPR on the guy. I wasn’t too sure I was doing it right. I hadn’t been certified in years. I fell into it pretty easy though. I think it’s just like what people say about riding a bike. You never forget. I mean I’m pretty sure what I was doing to the medical examiner was CPR. Like I said though, it had been a while.
Of course, the medical examiner’s assistant had to walk in on the most awkward version of the tango known to man. My boobs were bouncing erratically as I pummeled the heavy-set man’s chest. The medical examiner’s assistant just stood there mouth gaping like he had never seen a corpse perform CPR. Well, I guess he hadn’t or I wouldn’t be the only undead unknown in town.
To my knowledge there was no one else that existed like me. It was sometimes a lonely feeling. I mean, would I outlive everyone I knew and loved? Or did I have a certain number of deaths like a cat? I didn’t know my exact number. I know in the past year I had died more than nine times so I was guessing I wasn’t infused with feline blood. 
“I’m Mitch. I’m your biggest fan. Asylum’s Assassin is my favorite comic book of all time.” The assistant stepped closer holding out his hand.
Oh, great, a fanboy. Just what I always wanted. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, kid.” I turned away from the assistant and back to the dying guy I was starting to get tired of trying to save. “Give me your lab coat.” I turned back to the assistant as an afterthought. Despite the exercise I was letting my body suffer through at the moment, my core body temperature was not increasing. I was still freezing and uncomfortable.
The assistant looked about twelve years old. He had a sweet half-cocked smile that showed off a dimple on one side. His blond hair was styled in a beach bum wave. There weren’t any beaches around here for hundreds of miles. The kid was out of place in a big way. My senses were starting to come back to me. Something wasn’t right here. Something about Mitch was so very off. I struggled to remember any of the training I had gone through after my first death.
I stopped doing CPR on the medical examiner. I hadn’t gotten a pulse yet and it had been too long. Even if I were able to revive him now he would have significant brain damage. I knew his death wasn’t entirely my fault. That didn’t change things. I was tired of losing humans on my watch. Demons I didn’t mind losing so much.
Mitch was no boy scout. Hell, Mitch wasn’t even human. Just the way I liked my men- evil and about to die. My training kicked back in. I registered the stench of Sulphur rolling off Mitch with enough abundance to make me gag. I caught the red glint in his irises before they went back to brown. I’m sure the real Mitch was a sweet kid. Now, his body was filled to the brim with demon spawn. Not for long.
“Mitch was it?” I stepped backward over the medical examiner’s corpse. There was a set of instruments he had used on me to perform my autopsy that would come in handy when this whole thing with my ‘biggest fan’ went sour in a big way.
“Don’t worry, Selene, I won’t tell anyone. No one will even know you were here.” Mitch dropped the cute act forming a smile on his face I knew contained some version of evil I couldn’t be bothered with right now.
I really didn’t have time for this shit. Did I mention I was still naked and still not close enough to the medical instruments to grab one?
“So you know how I got here? The last thing I remember, I was in the city dancing.” My eyes darted from Mitch to the autopsy table and back again. I was crouched low ready to sprint to the table. There was too much distance between me and the table and not enough between me and Mitch.
Mitch followed my gaze and laughed. “My master brought you here. You’ve been known to cheat death. I was assigned to finish the job.” Mitch didn’t lunge at me like I thought he would. Instead, he went for the only thing in this room either one of us could use as a weapon.
He threw a scalpel at me. I stood to let it hit me in the shoulder. It hurt like a son of a bitch. At least I had a weapon now. My shoulder only bled a little before the wound closed up. I had a feeling this was going to be one of those wounds that hurts more during cold snaps than they do when you first come by them. Oh, well, I’ll just add it to my growing collection.
I twirled the scalpel in my right hand and shrugged. It was now or never. I charged demon Mitch dodging the rest of the medical equipment Mitch decided to throw.
“Jesus, Selene! Why is it every time I see you you’re either naked or killing someone?”
I was this close to stabbing Mitch in the eye with my scalpel when a familiar voice interrupted us causing us to both turn toward the sound. A portly man in a tan sheriff uniform ran his left hand through his thinning hair unable to smooth out the grimace that contorted his face. I shrugged in response and used my left hand to push Mitch’s cheek away from me. I figured Mitch would look fashion forward in a Columbian necktie. I readied my right hand tightening my grip on the scalpel.
“Give me a minute, Sheriff. Mitch and I have to conclude our business.” I turned back to Mitch.
He dodged my scalpel to the throat maneuver.
“Come on, man, my ride back to Vampireville is here.” I swiped the scalpel in Mitch’s general direction again. He was too fast for my just-back-from-the-dead reflexes. The scalpel cut the air in front of me and nothing else.
“Selene, you know how everyone hates when you call Asylum ‘Vampireville.’” I could hear the sheriff talking, I wasn’t looking in his direction. He was somewhere behind me probably fidgeting like a squirrel with a nut.
I was trying to focus on Mitch. The same Mitch who pretended to be a medical examiner’s assistant just to make sure I didn’t come back from the dead. The same Mitch that was a demon disguised as a human. The same Mitch whose disguise wasn’t even that good but I had let it slide because I had just woken up during my autopsy. I shouldn’t have let it slide. Now, I was going to slide this blade down Mitch’s throat.
“Come on, Selene, I heard you were better than this.” Mitch bobbed up and down on the balls of his feet, taunting me.
I hated it when the demon I was hunting had worse ADHD than me. I needed this kid to be still for five seconds so I could kill him. This death had been harder on me than any other I had experienced since the first time I died. I wasn’t bouncing back like I normally did. I wanted to know why. The more pressing matter was the demon blocking my view of Larry by stretching his arms as wide as they would go.
I didn’t need an easier target than the one in front of me. I vaulted toward Mitch letting the scalpel move where it willed. Mitch laughed and jumped out of the way. This super-speed shit was getting old. The scalpel sliced open part of Mitch’s shirt revealing part of a tattoo. A tattoo I had seen before.
I stopped cold as the memory of the last time I had seen that tattoo washed panic over my entire being. I couldn’t see the woman clearly. Her black hair stood out because her short hair was cut into a bob and was topped with a crown that looked like a striking snake. The woman’s face was blurry. I felt like I knew she would not be kind if she caught me staring at her. Like I had met her before and just couldn’t place her. On her right wrist, under several bangle bracelets, was the same tattoo Mitch had. I recognized the Eye of Horus from a history class I had taken once. This eye was not traditionally drawn. This eye was closed in open defiance of everything Horus stood for.
Somewhere in the distance I heard shouting and two loud noises that sounded like gunshots. I had pain in my abdomen that came on too fast to stop. I took a few gulping breaths as I looked up. Mitch was lying on the floor. Or rather, his clothes were lying on the floor shrouding a pile of charcoal colored ash. Sheriff Larry Baker was standing over the clothed ash pile holding his service revolver. Darn. I wanted to be the one to kill a demon today. The thought that someone should sweep up what was left of Mitch crossed my mind. I imagined Larry getting a broom and sweeping Mitch into a dust pan. I may have giggled at that point. I’m not sure. I was well on my way to dying again.
“Dammit, Selene!” Larry cursed loud enough to create an echo in the mostly empty room that deafened me.
I winced from the noise. “What happened?” I was totally yelling. Larry must have fired the gun at close range to me. I couldn’t tell if one of my eardrums had burst or not. The pain in my abdomen dictated all thoughts at the moment.
Larry caught me as I fell to the floor. “I’m sorry I shot you, Selene. One of the bullets that hit that demon must have been a through and through.”
Larry grabbed the sheet that had covered me earlier during my autopsy and covered me with it again. I could hear Larry swear. I smiled. Some of the made up cuss words he was saying now were things he taught me a few months ago when we were trapped in the back of a semi-truck headed south to be sold on the black market. We had a lot of fun killing folk that night.
My head was spinning. I had lost too much blood to keep my eyes open. Larry must have hit something vital. Some parts of the body take longer to regenerate than others. “Larry,” I grabbed the collar of his standard issue sheriff uniform and pulled his ear closer to my mouth. “I remembered,” I whispered before dying. Again.    

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? Selene is the main character. In the first chapter, she is waking up in the morgue during her autopsy. She knows she cannot die. However, she has never woken up in the morgue before. (Left:  Jessica Mathews.  Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? When telling a story, you are supposed to begin at the beginning. When writing a story, you can start anywhere as long as the story ends up with a beginning, middle and end when you are finished. 
This is an emotional excerpt for me because this is the first story where I wrote the beginning scene first. Since inception in 2008, the opening scene has never changed. It has gone through revisions and multiple drafts for sure, but the essence of the scene has not changed. 
It is my favorite part of the
entire book and the part I have the most history with. Originally, this book was something else entirely. I changed scene after scene multiple times. I changed the storyline multiple times. In every draft through the final draft, Selene (not her original first name ten years ago) has always woken up in the morgue. Only what she has done after waking up in the morgue and the story thereafter has changed.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. I deleted a scene with the morgue attendant helping Selene get home from the morgue for her best friend's wedding. I also deleted some information that this was the first time she had ever died and come back to life. It didn't work with the new story. I don't have a photo of my mark-ups since I do a "save as" draft every time I change something on a draft. On my computer, I have a file folder with the year. Inside each file folder, I have a file with the current title of the novel and the date I made the changes. I have hundreds of different drafts of Death Adjacent.  (Left: Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Other works you have published? I write adult paranormal fiction and children's picture books. Death Adjacent is adult paranormal fiction. I have two children's picture books out right now too. One is called Sparkle and the other is called The Old Man and the Pirate Princess (which is a series- the second book comes out April 2019). (Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Anything you would like to add?   Thank you for learning about my writing process! I know every author has a different process for writing and editing their works. If you are interested in learning about how to write and publish, please gather information about how other authors work but do what feels right for you. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt of Death Adjacent. I want to release the sequel (tentatively titled Afterlife) in fall 2019. As you know, the process of writing, editing and publishing is a long one but I am striving to reach that goal. (Left: copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)

Jessica Mathews has been telling stories since before she knew how to write. Jessica has always loves making up stories and entertaining others.  Her father would write down all of the stories she told him and together they would work on illustrations. He would read her the stories they made up together at bed time. (Right:  Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)
Now, Jessica likes to continue the tradition of making up stories for children by writing and self-publishing picture books. Her debut picture book, The Old Man and the Pirate Princess, was created for her niece, Saria, and her nephew, Royce, when they were born to help welcome them into this world. Born ten days apart these cousins now have a lasting legacy in the Old Man and Pirate Princess series.(Left: Copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)
Jessica hopes to be able to work with schools, libraries and after care programs to help children discover their love of reading, writing and creating. She wants her books to inspire others as much as her favorite books inspired her when she was growing up. Jessica wants to inspire others to follow their passions by showing them hers. Jessica writes adult paranormal fiction as well as children’s picture books. (Right: copyright permission granted by Jessica Mathews for this CRC Blog Post Only)


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