George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron ByronIn 1985, a British Romantic Period Literature class changed my life. The poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats wakened in me a passion for writing. I determined to somehow make a career of it—and somehow feed my children.

Since then I’ve worked exclusively in publishing, first for game companies, now in education. I also continue to write, study, and promote poetry. It’s my opinion that poetry used to belong to the people, until academics stole it. It’s high time to steal it back from them.

State of the Smithy

Lester : October 14, 2016 10:36 am : Announcements, Commentary, Fiction, Game Design, Poetry, Popcorn Press

“Blacksmith at Work” photo by Derek Key, CC by 2.0

A year ago, I had an audacious plan: Finish translating Aquelarre, write a sonnet weekly for The Pastime Machine, release a monthly 6-page D6xD6 RPG expansion, publish another poet or author monthly, launch a D13 RPG Kickstarter this fall, manage an annual Halloween anthology, attend a half-dozen conventions, and possibly publish a dice game and a couple of Monster Con card game expansions.

Today, I’m staring at a bucketload of unfinished business. My Aquelarre translation is overdue. I’m behind on The Pastime Machine. The monthly D6xD6 schedule is on hold after just two releases early in the year. I have a stack of unpublished poetry books and novels (including one posthumous title by an old friend). My D13 RPG project is delayed indefinitely (with a half-dozen illos already paid for). I’m barely able to leave my house. And the dice and card plans are in limbo (also with some art finished). While this year’s annual Halloween anthology, Lupine Lunes, is still a go (with family help), that project is much lower key than in the past.

So what happened?

You may know that I’ve have a neurological condition for a decade—a diagnosis of “more-than-migraine/less-than-seizure”—and over the past two years I’ve suffered some related prescription side effects. Add in new family responsibilities—including a daughter’s foot amputation—and I’m fairly overwhelmed.

As a generally upbeat, hopeful guy, I kept planning for the future, expecting things would sort out eventually.

I still believe they will, but the sorting out is taking longer than I had hoped. And part of that is facing the idea that I just can’t keep up the pace. I’m at diminished capacity. It’s sobering, but I can’t keep expecting to “recover.” This may be my new reality.

I love my work. Translating Aquelarre has been the opportunity of a lifetime, but I’ve been talking with Stewart Wieck (the publisher) about getting help. On the side, I’ll continue drafting a sonnet a week for The Pastime Machine. And with family help, we’ll finish Lupine Lunes. I can’t even think about the rest right now.

But one last thing: I apologize to everyone who was counting on me for more. That weighs on me. I’ve done my best, and my best wasn’t good enough. I’m truly sorry.



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Halloween 2106: Lupine Lunes

Lester : September 27, 2016 2:43 pm : Announcements, Fiction, Poetry, Popcorn Press

Lupine Lunes KS bannerIt’s that time of the year again—Halloween season! And for the eighth year in a row, Popcorn Press is holding an open call for horror poetry and short fiction. This year we’re featuring werewolves and lune format—but we welcome nearly any horror subject and form.

If you’re new to our “Popcorn Horror” event, it started back in 2007, during my second term as WFOP president.

Not having time to prep a Halloween party, I was struck by the idea of celebrating by publishing an anthology in one short month: start taking submissions on Oct. 1, and have an ebook delivered by Oct. 31, with files to press for a print book that same day. It was a crazy amount of work—on top of a day job and the WFOP presidency—but it was also a joy, and all sorts of people took part, even those who don’t normally think of themselves as writers or poets. There’s something about Halloween that inspires people to wear an identity they wouldn’t try the rest of the year.

On a related note, for years now I’ve been of the opinion that about 100 years ago, academia stole poetry from the general populace (and maybe creative writing in general). This annual Halloween project is one small way of stealing it back.

So, mark your calendars for Oct. 1, and get ready to submit something of your own! Or help make the project a success by pre-ordering copies so we can pay our authors. You’ll find all the details on our Lupine Lunes Kickstarter page.

Thanks, Happy Halloween (and clap for the wolfman).

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Why a Novel in Sonnets (and how you can help)

Lester : August 19, 2016 9:00 pm : Announcements, Fiction, Poetry, Popcorn Press

Bucket - Aaron Strout
“Shall I compare thee to a metal pail?” (“Bucket” photo by Aaron Strout, CC by 2.0)
I have a bucket list. It isn’t like most: I’ve already gone many places, seen wondrous things, met amazing people, found my true love, raised a family with her, owned a motorcycle, rode it through the Rockies, held multiple occupations (factories, nursing, military, game design, education), presidented the WI Fellowship of Poets, won some game-design and poetry awards, and so on.

My bucket list is to write a handful of novels that have been hanging fire while I did those other things.

Now, one great way to master novel writing is to write copies of what masterful novelists have written. Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) typed out passages of Hemingway for practice. Jack London hand wrote copies of Kipling. Robert Louis Stephenson and Benjamin Franklin copied authors they admired.

I’m trying something different: In my first novel, I’ve been applying poetry skills to write chapters as sonnets, and aggregating those slowly but surely into an overarching plot. The result is The Pastime Machine, an irreverent mashup of Dante and Wells. It’s roughly half done at the time of this post.

After completing this first novel, I’ll tackle the next ones in prose. Before I die, I hope to finish at least Van Helsing’s Confession (an iconoclastic take on Dracula), L’Académie des Arcanes (an adventure story of modern-day magical police, based on the D6xD6 setting), and Suzie-Q Suzuki (which may well end up as a series). I’m sure other titles will come.

In our social-media world, many artists, musicians, filmmakers, and even game designers are supported in their work by a community of patrons. To fund my own creative dreams, I’ve set up a page at Patreon.com.

So, if you’re a friend, or a fan; if I’ve touched your life in some positive way in the past; please consider pledging $1/mo. at Patreon.com/LesterSmith to help make these things a reality. I promise to do my level best to make the rewards well worth your while. Thank you.

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