Two short items for last night, the first being that the contract for the science fiction humor anthology A ROBOT, A CYBORG, AND A MARTIAN WALK INTO A SPACE BAR (see September 26, et al.) has been received and has gone back into the email early this  morning.  In time for breakfast, as it were, my part of it being a story concerning the loves of a robotic toaster, often with not so fortunate results, and titled “Toast.”  The anthology itself, however, has been running late and is hoped to be out in late December or, more likely, early next year.

Then in a spate of interesting articles seeming to come out as Halloween nears, here’s a link to one by Lauren Davis, courtesy of Terry West via the Horror Writers Association page on Facebook, “No, Bram Stoker Did Not Model Dracula on Vlad the Impaler,” giving the lowdown on how the notion it might have happened came about, and how even its greatest proponents ultimately were led by the evidence to disbelieve their own theory.  But also within the article itself are other links to interesting sidebars, such as what happens when a police portrait artist tries to recreate the old Count from the description in DRACULA when Jonathan Harker first meets him (look for the twentieth century haircut — these portraits are apparently assembled from standard templates :-) ).

For more, press here.

Widows, [curator Harold] Koda points out, were “a destabilizing force in pre–World War I society, because they’re sexually knowing, and they’re out on the market.”

Saturday was the day of my writers group’s monthly meeting in which my story up for critique was a spinoff from my “Casket Girls,” published in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION last April (cf. April 17, 10, et al.).  The heroine, as it were, is a young-looking New Orleanian named “Lo,” recently widowed — because the women of her persuasion don’t age or die (or, more properly speaking, may have done so already), while their husbands do and eventually will (at which point the women may find an excuse to return to France, only to be “replaced” by a younger cousin or niecjaysMourningClothese or alleged daughter who had been sent overseas as a young girl for her education, and has now returned).  So, speaking of widows. . . .

Well, by pure coincidence, courtesy of Scott M. Goriscak via The Horror Society on Facebook, here is a piece on a just-opened exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, “The Met’s New Exhibit, ‘Death Becomes Her,’ will Thrill Your Inner Goth” by Véronique Hyland.  And, yes, while there is a gothy element to all this, the fashions, accessories, customs, and expectations are real for the period from 1815 to 1915, including the note I’ve quoted above, more on which can be found here.

Looking at the styles on display, the crossover with contemporary goth and gothic Lolita style was obvious.  When asked about the continuing appeal of this style of dress, Koda became pensive.  “I have a personal theory.  I think we’re a generation where death is at such a remove, not for all of us, but the young people who embrace it, there’s a kind of ability to fantasize about what death means.”

So that’s for the inner goth, but while on the subject of fashion, what of the “outer goth” as well?  For a humorous and interesting treatment of (more-or-less) here-and-now goth “types” by Megan Balanck, press here.

Then one curious addition, re. my previous post, that while I may have no offering this year in the Horror Writers Association “Halloween Haunts” page itself, my presence is not entirely missing.  Well, maybe I’ve commented on some of the other entries there too, but if you were to go to the main HWA blog site and look to the left, in the column with headings like “HWA News,” then scroll down just a bit, you will find a button for my video interview conducted in Portland at last May’s World Horror Convention (see also, July 24).  This is the one that says I’m a sculptor, though really I’m not — in the interview itself I was actually talking about two characters in THE TEARS OF ISIS.  But see for yourself by pressing here.

We may recall meeting Mercy Brown, the last of the recorded American Vampires, on these pages only last month on September 23.  But as Halloween slowly approaches, as trees turn the color of blood and fire, as the wind blows chill and nights turn dank, can it be surprising if other vampires crowd into the light of a wan moon as well?

Or, actually, I was perusing the Horror Writers Association’s “Halloween Haunts” blog, one they present with a post every day from HWA members during the month of October (for which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I may not have an entry myself this year, but I was there in 2013 with a review of the Québecoise film DRACULA:  ENTRE L’AMOUR ET LA MORTE on October 13, for which one may press here), and which on this October 15 had a piece by writer Michael J. McCann on “The Enduring Popularity of Vampires” — and

Musidora in LES VAMPIRES, a fictional vampire from 1915

Musidora in LES VAMPIRES, a fictional vampire from 1915

for which, one may press here.  But the thing is, while these blog spots are necessarily short, Michael included links as well to two articles by Abigail Tucker in SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, the first on “real-life” vampires and the second, which goes into some depth, on what was believed to be vampirism in 19th century New England.

So for those who wish, herewith an introduction to “Meet the Real-Life Vampires of New England and Abroad” by pressing here, and for those who would like a further chat with our American cousins of the blood-drinking persuasion, for “The Great New England Vampire Panic” press here.

Then of course Mercy Brown gets her turn in the darkness in the latter piece, but one can also check the one I cited in September by pressing here, while for the whole sequence of HWA “Halloween Haunts” entries for 2014 (though most of these more into recollections of Halloweens past than monsters per se.) one need but press here.

Okay, this is one of my vices:  I like movies that have to do with art.  Also with musicians — composers.  I even play some music myself, as tenor and leader of a (mostly — we field a harp as well and sometimes a violin) recorder consort that plays (mostly) Renaissance dance music.  I go to art shows that feature Matisse and listen to jazz inspired by his work (see July 26, April 27, below) — but also read the captions he wrote describing its origins and meanings.  I do some cartooning and sketching myself and, in the past, did some illustration as well as writing.  I go to movies about making movies, like JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (see June 22).  I haunt the film room at sf/horror conventions, in part just to see what’s new, but I also attend panels on movies and illustration and music as well as on writing and I do these things because I’m on a quest.

My quest is this:  I want to find out, to get an idea, through all these approaches to it — of what art is.  Because if I can figure that out, maybe, in my writing, I can do art myself.

So this was the catalog description for Friday night’s IU Cinema showing of 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (this one they themselves consider important enough for a three-day showing — Friday was night one), and you can bet I went.  Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave.  With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit.

It did not disappoint.

(Fun Fact, courtesy of Wikipedia:  After his secondary schooling, Cave studied painting (Fine Art) at the Caulfield Institute of Technology (now Monash University, Caulfield Ca20000_days_on_Earthmpus) in 1976, but dropped out in 1977 to pursue music.   Cave revealed in a 2013 interview:

(“I really wanted to be a painter — the lifestyle, what I considered a painter to be, I found really attractive when I was young.  The solitary aspect of it.  But I failed at arts school, so that was that  . . .  I’m glad I’m not a painter now.”

(As it happens, as an undergraduate I did set design for my college’s little theater, but also had notions of becoming a painter, even taking some evening classes at the Boston Museum School — cf., incidentally, the title story for THE TEARS OF ISIS for some scenes inspired by those olden, olden days.)

Yes, this is relevant, because the idea is that I shouldn’t just passively watch movies like this, but should strive for them to affect me.  What might it tell me that I’m doing right?  (I took notes as best I could in the dark:  Early on, Cave says of songwriting, “the point is counterpoint.  You put two disparate images side by side and see what sparks fly.”  My idea as well, and one I must remember — in a number of years, for instance, I’ve written an “annual Christmas story” to use the holiday with its expected associated feelings as a counterpoint to evoke some new horror.)  He speaks of using his wife, his friends, his memories, his life as a cannibal might, ingesting all to evoke inspiration.  And so, not entirely unexpectedly, he starts with small things, snippets, vignettes, to put together (I especially followed the parts of the song “Push the Sky Away”) until the film ends with concert footage.

So, yes, he says things that afterward might sound a little too pat, but in context sound right.  Perhaps some things might seem a little pretentious — wonderful images of monsters, dragons, regarding “truth.”  “Have I honored the ghosts of the past enough?”  The film recalls the transformative experience of concerts by Nina Simone and Jerry Lee Lewis, of art transforming the artist as well as those who experience it.  “[To] forget who you are, become somebody else.  . . .  You turn it on, you turn it off.  Then one day you can’t.  You’ve become the thing you’ve dreamed.”

And the parts, as with “Push the Sky Away,” start to come together.  But the thing is, for me, have I not experienced these things as well — or at least shadows of them?  As a musician, part of my joy has been in putting concerts together, working last summer with the dance mistress, as leader of a group of pickup musicians at a Society for Creative Anachronism coronation, on a playlist for that evening’s ball.  She suggests “taking a chance” by using a sort of novelty number to start the opening set, which I like very much, suggesting myself that then we can start the set after the break with the more expected processional opening — something that turns out to serve us well when unexpected events require us to play the first set only, earlier than the dancing had been originally scheduled, and having to get it started fast (“Announce that the first dance will be ____,” I suggest to the dance mistress.  “It’s noisy and fun and people may come.”  It worked!).

But also, and I’ve said this enough in virtually every interview I’ve done in the past year — and even one or two convention panels — the fun of editing THE TEARS OF ISIS myself, unlike my earlier prose collections, not just picking stories but picking them to fit into a broad theme, and then the order within that theme, one story flowing into another, sometimes echoing back tropes from several stories before, knitting all together with, at the end, the title story about a sculptress circling back to the poem about sculpting that started the book off.

Thus it’s about me — but also the things I may not do so well.  In playing dance music, people dance, but do people react vicariously when they read my stories?  Do their minds sing when they see my poems — do they hear the sound of them?  Perhaps one can’t know, but perhaps I should keep these questions in mind (of course other stories and poems may be meant to be more intellectual, to evoke ideas or just to be clever — but then do I keep these distinctions in mind?).  The film speaks of editing and collaboration, of seeing art changed by the input of others.  Do I think of poems as they might be set to music by others (this actually has happened to me with two early poems, but through no real action of my own), or fiction in terms of how it might be transformed to film?

Back to the catalog description:  VARIETY MAGAZINE calls [20,000DAYS ON EARTH] “Simply astounding, razor sharp, and dynamic,” and Andrew O’Hehir of SALON said the film is “an unclassifiable and frequently spectacular documentary.”  I might add myself, it’s also humbling.  I recommend it.

We writers gotta support one another, yes?  So just for a quick note, kudos to Paula D. Ashe who in a blog entry on October 11 cites having three stories . . . well let’s let her say it in her own words.  But the thing is, she mentions a few of her fellow writers as well, including moi. . . .

“Anyway, I’m having a good writing year so far. I’m hesitant to say that because despite my humanism I can’t help but feel a little superstitious about the creation, reception, and publication of my work.  I don’t want to jinx anything.  However, three of my stories were published in JWK FICTION BEST OF HORROR 2013; ‘Because You Watched’, ‘Bereft’, and ‘The Mother of All Monsters’.  It’s a huge honor to be recognized in any ‘best of’ collection, but particularly this one since many of the writers included are personal friends and favorite writers; Chantal Noordeloos, Lily Childs, James Ward Kirk, KZ Morano, Roger Cowin, and James S. Dorr.”

For the record, my ghost in the guesthouse is “The Sidewalk,” published last year as a reprint in GRAVE ROBBERS (see below August 14 and 6, June 24) and originally appearing in TERMINAL FRIGHT in Fall 1996, while more on JWK’s BEST OF HORROR, including the stories we all have there, can be found here.  And to see Paula’s blog entry in its entirety, including a HALLOWEEN BONUS portrait of Vincent Price, be sure to press here.

Speaking of Halloween, another sale has been announced beginning now through October 31 — except this one’s a birthday sale as well.  A year ago (more or less) Grey Matter Psplatterlands2_smallress unveiled its splatterpunk revival anthology SPLATTERLANDS, not to mention (ahem!) with my original story “The Artist” in it (cf. November 22 and 13, October 22 2013, et many al. — How many?  Try putting “Splatterlands” in the search box at upper right).  Editor Anthony  Rivera explains:

“Grey Matter Press is celebrating a birthday.  A very, very BRASH, BLASPHEMOUS and BLOODY birthday.  SPLATTERLANDS is one year old!  (And already talking! )

”To honor the arrival of this little red-splattered bundle on our doorstep one year ago, the Grey Matter Press anthology of extreme horror with a point is ON SALE FOR $1.99, joining the Amazon Kindle Halloween Sale thru 10/31/14.  SPLATTERLANDS: REAWAKENING THE SPLATTERPUNK REVOLUTION includes disturbing short stories by Ray Garton, Michael Laimo, Gregory Norris, James Dorr, J Michael Major, A.a. Garrison, Christine Morgan, Chad Stroup, Allen Griffin, Michele Garber, Eric Del Carlo, Jack Maddox and Paul Collrin.  With equally disturbing illustrations by Luke Spooner and Carrion House.”

Tempted?  Press here.

In a bit of news for the weekend, Damnation Books and I agreed not to renew the contract for my chapbook novelette THE GARDEN.  This is in part to free rights for me to pursue the possibility of releasing an “author’s cut” edition with the story substantially as it had been originally written, prior to editing for the Damnation edition.  The changes would include more emphasis on the “gothic” elements of the tale and a little more concentration on character via the principals’ conversations with each other.  This is more a back burner project for me (the timing is simply because this is the year the contract’s five-year term ran out) but, should there be progress, details will be reported here.

The cover of THE GARDEN is still displayed in the center column with the permission of cover artist Marge Simon whose rights to the illustration have also been returned, but with the link now changed to take one to Amazon where some print copies are still available.  (European readers might also note that, at least when I checked a day or two ago, there is one copy located in the UK being offered by Barnes & Noble.)  For Amazon just click the book’s picture or else press here, while the Barnes & Noble page can be reached by pressing here.

I might also mention, though, that the “how-to” book TELLING TALES OF TERROR, for which I wrote the introduction, continues to be published by Damnation Books in both print and electronic editions.  Subtitled ESSAYS ON WRITING HORROR & DARK FICTION, with contributions by authors Kim Richards, Paula Johanson, Bob Nailor, Ivy Reisner, Mitchel Whitington, Carol Hightshoe, Cinsearae Santiago, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Kathryn Meyer Griffith, Lisa Morton, Sephera Giron, and Jason Gehlert, it’s aimed perhaps more at those who already have some acquaintance with the basics and are looking to refine their art, although still being simple enough for fledglings.  A final section includes advice from current publishers as well.

For more information on TELLING TALES OF TERROR or possible purchase (and yes, I do get a royalty for my part in it) one can press here.

There ain’t no stopping the Halloween spirit!  Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing has announced its own pre-Halloween sale beginning today.  Through the end of the mo9780988748842_p0_v2_s260x420nth, a 31 percent discount will be in effect for all PMMP titles.  The discount code:  HALLOWEEN31.

May I semi-humbly note that this includes my own 2013 Bram Stoker Award® nominated fiction collection THE TEARS OF ISIS, information and ordering for which can be found here.  Also included is SO IT GOES, a tribute anthology for Kurt Vonnegut with my story in it, “Dead Girls, Dying Girls,” about a young lady with big ambitions . . . and bears . . . and for which press here.  Or for general browsing, one can reach the PMMP Store by pressing here.

Just remember for nearly a third of the price off from now through October 31, enter HALLOWEEN31 in the “Apply Coupon” box when checking out.  Happy reading!

First mentioned below on September 30, they’re now being billed as “Oct-Ogre Specials” from Untreed Reads Publishing, twenty-five percent off discounts on horror, mystery, and paperback titles which now include my stand-alone, short Christmas-ImDreamingOfAgone-wrong story, I’M DREAMING OF A. . . . Of what, you ask? Well, you can find out while the sale lasts, all the way up through Halloween, for just 38 cents — scarcely more than the third part of a dollar — by pressing here.

And don’t forget, the New Years Eve anthology YEAR’S END: 14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR is on sale too, with my lead-off story “Appointment in Time.” Appointment for WHAT, you ask? The way to the answer to that one lies here.

I had originally considered “The First Hundred Years,” a pre-Romero zombie tale based on a Jamaican legend and originally published in my second prose collection, DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET.  But, as I thought further, I asked myself if a tropical setting would really be best for a story specifically read in October to help build a mood for the StrangeMissDRegionsupcoming Halloween season.  Instead, thought I, how about New York state in the Taconic Mountains, perhaps in Colonial times, in a town that’s not found on any maps and with — dare one suggest it — perhaps a Lovecraftian atmosphere to it?  And thus the story I finally chose for this month’s “First Sundays Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf August 14, 3, et al.) was “The Calm,” originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS in 1999 and later reprinted in my first prose collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE.

First Sundays Prose is a monthly feature sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and host venue Boxcar Books and includes three featured readers for about fifteen minutes each, followed by a chance for audience members to read.  In fact this was the second time I was a featured reader, the first being at the second “First Sundays” ever in February last year (cf. February 4 2013) where I read THE TEARS OF ISIS’s “River Red” (first published in the 2009 Canadian anthology ESCAPE CLAUSE).  This month the other readers were Michael Manis, a visiting lecturer at Indiana University where he teaches creative writing and composition, with excerpts from a novel he’s currently working on set in 1870s Kansas, and Bloomington poet, prose writer, Writers Guild founding member, and chairperson emerita Patsy Rahn who read a scene from what will be a radio drama series based on the legend of Psyche and Eros.

More on the Writers Guild, including upcoming scheduled activities, can be found here.

Once upon a time (well, about a year ago less a couple of weeks — see October 25 2013; also this year May 5 and January 7) I sent some poems to Popcorn Press’s CTHULHU HAIKU II, AND MORE MYTHOS MADNESS, and five were accepted and subsequently published early this year.  None of these were actually haiku, but Popcorn Press is generous with its definitions as long as the work is short, including accepting flash fiction at up to 1000 words.  Of mine, one, “Bad Vacation,” was a shadorma, a six-line form somewhat like a lune and a haiku smushed together (cf. August 5 2013), while the others were free verse, “Slow-Motion,” “It Must Have Been That New Fish Food,” “The Vampiress Dreams of an Evening in Innsmouth” (my personal favorite!), and “With the Economy What It Is, Maybe We’ll Take Any Job We Can Get.”

Meanwhile life goes on, new books get published (right now they’ve been reading for a second HALLOWEEN HAIKU volume, for more information on which press here; for the original volume see November 2 2011).  But you can’t keep a Mythos monster down forever either.  Thus in today’s email came the notice with permission request to use my poems for a limited audio edition of CTHULHU HAIKU II.  As Popcorn Press’s Diane Severson Mori put it:  “Last year about this time you had some of your work publishecthulhu-haiju-ii-coverd in Lester Smith’s antho CTHULHU HAIKU II.  As part of the effort to drum up more support for the Kickstarter I offered to do an audiobook version if the amount reached a certain level.  It did and so I really should do the audiobook.  However, due to many extenuating circumstances I haven’t done it yet. Mostly, though, it’s because Lester didn’t get permission from all contributors right away. You are one of the contributors that he never heard from. So, it’s my turn to contact you.  I bet it just got lost in the shuffle!”  [note from me:  it apparently did, which unfortunately sometimes isn’t all that hard with email these days]

She went on to explain that it would be produced under a Creative Commons license and distributed only to the contributors and the backers of the Kickstarter.  Also that it would not be sold commercially, although some individual re-distribution might be permitted under CC rules.  I emailed back that I thought it would be fine and she had my permission to record my poems (there was an option for me to do a recording myself, but I declined — “Caveman of Computing” and all that, you know), so we shall see what the future will bring.

In the meantime, however, should any be interested in reading CTHULHU HAIKU II now in the original print or Kindle edition, more information can be had by pressing here.

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