Monthly Archives: July 2014

Interview with Mary Jensen, author of Chiaroscuro

Mary headshot

You are the author of a new book of poetry, Chiaroscuro. Can you tell us a little about the book?Chiaroscuropromo

Chiaroscuro is a poetry book about the contrast and balance between light and dark. Poems range from internal conflict to worldwide war to creatures of myth, but all follow the themes of finding havens of light in dark days, persisting despite the odds.

What was your experience of putting the collection together? How difficult/not did you find the organizing?

The collection slowly came together over eight years. Back in 2008, I took a course at the Muse Online Writers Conference called “How to Turn Your Poetry Into a Saleable Chapbook.” I had a lot of poems in my portfolio and wanted to create a cohesive collection.

I looked over my poems, and sorted them into themes. I found a lot of them were on the darker side: death, pain, abuse. It hadn’t really dawned on me until then how much I use poetry to deal with the darkness.

With encouragement, I went ahead with the dark theme. Chose my title, Chiaroscuro. My initial tag line was: Exploring the darkness, bringing the monsters of death and abuse into the light.

That first time, I printed off all the poems that matched that theme. I sat on the floor and shifted poems around until it felt right. Wasn’t much reasoning for any of it other than gut.

The process became much easier once I got Scrivener. In that program, you can drag individual items in the sidebar to reorder them, and view them as individual items or as the whole collection. I also tagged everything with more specific themes – fantasy, war, relationships, doubt, death. With that visual I was able to first group by theme, then shift them around to best tell a story.

The collection starts out darker, with a world falling apart. Then slowly becomes more focused – nature, people, self. As we approach the end, it shifts more into the light. One poem that never changed location in all my revisions was the end poem: “Ash and Water.” That last line, “And I turn from death to embrace life” really summarizes the entire book.

Are any of the poems written specifically for the book?

What was initially planned as a 25 poem chapbook, later expanded to a book length collection to enter into a local writing competition. Most of the additional poems were older ones which I revisited and revised, but I did write new ones with the theme in mind. Most notably: “Dark Days,” “Danse Macabre,” and “Ghost of Childhood”.

How did you decide which poems to include and which ones to leave out?

These are themes I find myself revisiting often in my poetry, so I didn’t have to search hard to find enough to fill a book. There were a few poems that I wrote later and added to fill it out more.

I chose most of my poems for their ability to tell a story. Those felt like they had more impact than ones that simply asked questions or explored a topic.

Another big help was my poetry group, The Poetic Muselings. They helped me identify my stronger poems.

What’s your favorite poem from the book? Would you mind sharing it with us?

Ooh, this is a tough question. Three really come to mind for different reasons.

“The Sun Sets” is really the center of the collection. It’s one I wrote back in high school, the oldest of my poems to make it in the book.

“Concrete Forest” is more a mixture of the dark theme and the other topic I write a lot about: fantasy. It’s about a fairy in today’s modern world.

The third poem is much shorter than both of those, and is the one I will share with you. I love the sound of this one, and never tire of reading it aloud.

The Ocean

Beauty in endless motion,
the ocean,
she takes as oft as she gives.
A cherished ship meets its doom
in her womb,
and still, the sailors forgive.

You did a lot of research before you decided where to submit your collection. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I did searches on Duotrope and Writers Digest, making a list of all the poetry book publishers I could find. I made a chart in Excel and went through each website to get stats on book length, theme preferences, payment, format. I made a list of what I most wanted in a publisher:

clear information

print options

listed response time

ease of submitting (email)

I know self-publishing is an option, especially for poetry, but I’d prefer to go through a publisher for the formatting, marketing, cover book, all those things that intimidate me. It’s a process I’d rather not go through alone.

SynergEbooks was one of my top choices, but their submissions were closed when I began submitting. When their submission window opened again, I still hadn’t gotten a publisher so I sent them my query and sample poems, and they loved it. Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to aim for your top picks. You can’t hit a target you don’t shoot for.

You write fantasy as well as poetry. Do you have a preference?

They satisfy me in different ways. A great thing about poetry is that I can write one in a single day. The feeling of finishing a project is very gratifying. Poetry also focuses more on the moment, and allows me to play with language. Fantasy delights me in other ways: I can create new worlds, explore magic systems, and really delve into a story in a way that poetry cannot.

How do you balance your writing time between fiction and poetry?

Sometimes I try to keep them in two separate boxes, a poet in one moment and a fiction writer in another. But they are both a part of me, and they definitely bleed into each other. I’ve written poems and songs for my novels, and I tell a lot of stories with my poetry.

That being said, most of the year I’m more a fiction writer than a poet. Poetry tends to come in waves. I can go a year without writing a poem, and then write forty in one month. It’s much more reliant on inspiration than my fiction.
You have a young son. How do you find the time to write?

Since I don’t have a day job, I try to get my writing done while my son is in school. Summer has always been a challenge. This year, I’ve scheduled an hour every day that is “alone time”.  He also earns two hours of solo video game time each day. That gives me three hours that I can use for myself – either recharging or writing.
What are you working on now?

I have a hard time focusing on just one project. I actually have five novels in progress. The two I’m (mostly) focusing on are:

The Minotaur Staff:  A (mostly) modern supernatural adventure, with time travel. A treasure hunter finds an artifact that summons a gladiator from ancient Atlantis.

Race to 100 Deaths: Traditional fantasy. Three elven diplomats are captured by a human baron that wants war. He forces them into a contest – a race to 100 deaths.

Where can readers find your book?

You can order Chiaroscuro directly off of ( It is also available for Kindle and Nook.

Where can readers find you on the web?






Group blog:


Any last words?

We are all unique. We each have a story to tell: through our blogs, poetry, fiction, film, art, or other mediums. We can all contribute to the world. When we stop contributing, we do the world a disservice.

I’d love to hear from you. I’m giving away a free PDF version of Chiaroscuro to one of the commenters, so don’t be shy.

Brad falls in love:

MFRW Authors Blog

The French have an expression for this – le coup de foudre. And that’s pretty much what happened to Brad, the main character from my novel Broken Bonds:

Brad sighed and rose. He’d completed what he’d said he’d come to do.

“It happens this way with us, at times.” Ardaval paused for a moment. “We’ll meet again.”

Brad turned to leave. He couldn’t ignore this connection, wish it away, any longer. Only Ardaval’s assurance kept him moving out the door.

Broken Bonds brokenbonds_200X300(1)

Sex with aliens? How about romance with aliens? A treason accusation? Brad Reynolds has his hands full. When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners — and theirs for him?


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What do I write?

I’ve been tagged by Joan Curtis a fellow MuseItUp author to participate in a blog hop, What three things do you write about/don’t write about.

1. Poetry.

I started out writing poetry. I’ve been writing silly verses for holidays and birthdays since I was a teen ager, as well as the usual angst-ridden outpourings, and scribbling the resultant masterpieces into notebooks which I stuck in the attic and forgot about.  I love to write Relocated 500x750(2)rhyme as well as free verse. I find the restrictions often free me to become more creative rather than less so. I never had any intention of writing fiction.

2. Writing for kids

I’ve written two sci fi books for young adults published by MuseItUp, as well as a chapter book that’s due out later this year. I started writing fiction around 2005 or so when I joined a writing forum that required its members to write both fiction and poetry. I started writing for children under the mistaken impression it was easier than writing for adults.

It’s not. It is, or can be, shorter, which was what concerned me at the time. I got hook and I’m still writing.

3. Sci fi and fantasy

My love affair with sci fi and fantasy goes way back. I’m a huge fan of the Alice in Wonderland books as well as James M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and I was already a die-hard Robert A. Heinlein fan when I choose the then-new Farmer in the Sky for my tenth birthday, now long past. Still, I only started writing my own in 2010 when I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month in order to overcome my phobia about world-building.

I wrote Relocated 

for 2010 Nano. You can read about my experiences here. Now I have three published sci fi novels and am finishing up a fourth.

What I don’t write

1. Horror

I am not a horror find. I find it, well, horrifying. I don’t enjoy reading it and I don’t want to write it. Not my thing. {shudder}.

2. Literary fiction

While I admire  writers of literary fiction, I lack the patience to both spend the effort reading it as well as writing it. I do love beautiful language, proper grammar, and elegant prose, but most literary fiction, for me, is too involved in admiring its polish and not enough in engaging the reader. Yes, I fail to appreciate most of it.

3.  Historical Fiction

I love reading historical fiction, but, sadly, I wasn’t paying attention in Social Studies and am in no way suited to write my own. It would require a huge investment of time spent in research, and, frankly, I’d rather spend my time writing.