The marvelously named Snallygaster is first:  Dating back before the Declaration of Independence, snallygasters were rumored to have terrorized the surrounding hills of Washington, D.C. and Frederick County, Maryland.  German settlers in the 1730s first described the Schneller Geist (“quick spirit”) as a metal-beaked, half-bird, half-reptile that soared through the air and swooped down without a sound to capture its prey.  When it did utter a noise, the snallygaster let out a blood-curdling screech.  Seven-pointed stars were painted on barns to ward off the creature, though sightings continued into the 1900s.  The Smithsonian Institution once offered a reward for the Snallygaster and President Roosevelt is rumored to have delayed an African safari to hunt the beast on American soil.

The heck of it is, it’s native born so walls or better border enforcement won’t keep it away (current Presidents take note).  But there are six more listed in today’s email offering from THE-LINE-UP.COM, “7 Creepy Folklore Creatures from Around the World” by Stephanie Almazan.  For instance the original “Night Mare,” from Northern Europe, doing its best to disturb one’s sleep or, if that doesn’t work, going out to the stable and riding the horses until they’re exhausted.  Or China’s famous (at least if you watch certain Hong Kong movies) Jiang Shi, or hopping vampires.

And south of the border there’s Argentina’s own will-o’-the-wisp, a.k.a. La Luz Mala, or if one should visit the Dominican Republic . . . well, beware of wild women who wear their feet backward, more on whom along with the ones described above, plus one or two others, can be discovered by pressing here.

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A thought provoking dark fantasy anthology where Love follows Death, and where that’s not always a bad thing.

Twenty Two fabulous inspired short stories, from a fresh line-up of authors, ensure that there will be something for everyone, and with many being on the macabre side of things, this anthology makes the perfect counter-programming read for those who want something a little different come Valentines Day.

The wheels grind slowly, but they keep grinding, this a small notice from an anthology called DISCORDANT LOVE BEYOND DEATH, from Beyond Death Publishing, and a call to look over text for a Kickstarter campaign to begin soon which, hopefully, will add a bit more to author payments.  And so there is skin in the game for us all.  The blurb above pretty well describes the theme, with my story in it originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, about a lighthouse and a ghost lightkeeper titled “The Sending”* (see April 30, which also includes a table of contents).

So Thursday evening I sent back two small corrections for my bio copy, another small part of the life of the writer.  If all goes well, according to Editor/Publisher Dickon Springate, they’re aiming for a Valentine’s Day 2020 release.  But look for the Kickstarter much, much sooner with prizes spanning both books and keepsakes, like T-shirts and coffee mugs, to be announced on these pages when live.

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*”The Sending” has also been reprinted in my first collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, for which one can click on its picture in the center column.

Strange are the tales told of the Internet.  Of stories presumed rejected that weren’t; of acceptances disguised as things they might not be.  A magical, mystical place it is, of shadows and mysteries.  And here is one such strange telling now.

Let us go first to June 13 2018, and a call for submissions from Old Sins, “a (very) small publishing cooperative.”  Let’s write about conspiracies that have been debunked thoroughly but do so through the lens of Alternate History, where they have actually happened.  Let’s write about the second shooter, chemtrails, the Illuminati, Lizard People, Greys, the Loch Ness Monster, Pope Joan, Templars worshipping Satan, and so many other rumored conspiracies throughout history as if they were real.  So okay, let’s do.  As it happened I had such a tale already, of UFOs on the road to Roswell or, at least, an odd wounded humanoid creature who may have come from a UFO, originally published in BOOK OF DARK WISDOM in Summer 2005, called “The Country Doctor.”*

So off it went, until on October 25 an email came from Editor Joseph Cadotte asking about some possible small editorial changes, and allowing that he had liked the story and was sending it along to his partner.  Okay, so not an acceptance quite, but I sent a reply addressing the suggested changes (most of them having to do with italicization) and so time went on.  But then a new email came on January 27 this year with the subject title “Pending acceptance to FAKE NEWS,” stating in part:  We have a preliminary layout, and, if you are included in this message, you are on it.   So that’s positive mostly, sort of, yes?  Maybe a clearer confirmation (that is, not just “pending”) would be coming soon.

Which brings us to Wednesday afternoon, yesterday, not quite six months later, repeating the January 27 message, and with the same heading, but with an explanation above of how things are being delayed.  The wheels grind slowly, but grind they still do, and concluding:  I will try to send you a contract soonish.

So I’m going to call this an acceptance now of “The Country Doctor” for FAKE NEWS (or a similar title), and if perhaps still not 100 percent sure, we’ll find out together.

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*”The Country Doctor” has also been reprinted in the anthology AMERICA THE HORRIFIC (Bards and Sages, 2011), for which one can see below, October 29, 19 2011, et al.

A very, very quick bit of news. “Flute and Harp,” accepted as a reprint by HELIOS QUARTERLY on June 3 (see below), has now been scheduled for Volume 6, Issue 2, for June 2021.  Yes, that’s two years from now, Volume 5 having already been filled due to a greater than expected response to this year’s call for submissions.  The story itself, originally published in WHISPERS AND SHADOWS (Prime Books, 2001) concerns a pair of musicians on a dying world who like each other very much, but also share a fear of ghouls.  The story itself is a favorite of mine and, if I may say so, should be worth the wait, but for those who might be more impatient it also appears in my novel-in-stories, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (Elder Signs Press, 2017), for more on which one may press its picture in the center column.

A girl walks home alone at night.  But this time Aimée was stopped by Death on the bad side of Rampart Street in the shadow of St. Louis Cemetery Number 1.

So starts the story, the first sentence a blatant steal from Ana Lily Amanpour’s debut full length film of the same name (cf. January 11, also January 15 2015).  The story’s title, “Death and the Vampire,” another in the series of tales of les filles à les caissettes or, as they say in New Orleans, the “Casket Girls” (see June 12 2019, et al.).  Then hark us back to October 31 2018 and the call from WEIRDBOOK:  No HARDCORE sex!  No Sexual violence!  No UNDERAGED SEX!!  I’m looking for original (no reprints) well-written (duuh, I guess that that’s fairly obvious) weird stories.  My tastes are broad and I’m looking for any of the following:  fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, ghost, horror, heroic fantasy, science fantasy or just plain odd.

Well, Aimée might raise an eyebrow at the “No violence” part, it being a part of the trade of a vampire, but maybe a little bit might be okay, so she took a chance and off she went last Halloween night, just meeting an October 31 deadline.  And that was that.  Her undeath continued.  But then today an answer arrived from WEIRDBOOK Editor Douglas Draa:  Dear James, my apologies for the awful delay.  I like this quite bit.  May I have it for WB# 44.  This will be a mid 2020 issue.

And that is that.  An email went back this afternoon to say Aimée is honored by the acceptance, for which look for more here as it becomes known.

Catching up, what a wonderful feeling when it’s story acceptances!  This came in after I’d written yesterday’s post (and that for a late Thursday night sale itself!), from Editor-in-Chief Patrick C. Harrison III:  Congratulations! We at Death’s Head Press have chosen to publish your short story, “Catskinner Sweet and the Twirling Teacups of Deadwood City,” in our anthology, BREAKING BIZARRO.  Please look over the attached contract (don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions) and email a signed copy back to us within the next few weeks.

The story, a reprint originally published in the March 2001 edition of NUKETOWN, to quote myself in my cover letter when I sent it in is written stylistically as a tall tale, yet is still an absurd story of the Olde West, and of how a failed alien invasion, an ace muleskinner who also could herd cats, a failed tree planting, and green-glowing mice turned a dying town into a city as up to date as St. Louis.  That and the invention of a better mouse trap and a warehouse full of dried navy beans, which all also combine to serve young love — although at worst with a mildly implied PG rating.  This one, also, is a bit longer than yesterday’s “Frogs’ Hair,” which actually is about five words shorter than my self-quoted description above.

And so today, Saturday, back went the contract, with more to be reported here as it becomes known.

By any other name. . .  On the contract the book is called BEER-BATTERED SHRIMP FOR COGNITIVE RUMINATIONS; on at least one set of guidelines, THE FAR EDGE OF NORMAL; on another BEER-BATTERED SHRIMP FOR THE SOUL.  The description:  What?  You were expecting it to be a NORMAL book filled with NORMAL stories?  Nope. Silliness and weirdness will abound.  All I ask is that submissions be happy and silly and hopeful.  Not dark or froggie1scary or disturbing.  Well, maybe a little disturbing.  And one more thing, that the cut-off for length was 125 words.  So, as it happened, I had such a story, “As Fine as Frogs’ Hair,” a tale of fairyland witches and magic.  And also beauticians.

So late last night, possibly while I was still at the movies (see post just below), came the reply from Editor/Publisher Jaleta Clegg:  I would like to publish “As Fine as Frogs’ Hair” in the collection.  Attached is a contract.  Please fill it out and send it back to me as a doc attachment.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.  And that is that.  “As Fine as Frogs’ Hair” was originally published in MISCELLANEA:  A TRANSDIMENSIONAL LIBRARY (Eggplant Literary Productions, November 14 2013) and is exactly 75 words long, but more to the point it is silly and weird.  And maybe only a little disturbing.

HIGH LIFE is not an easy film.  Here’s the way the Indiana University Cinema put it:  In Claire Denis’ highly anticipated science-fiction film, Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to deep space.  The crew — death-row inmates led by a doctor with sinister motives — has vanished.  As the mystery of what happened onboard the ship is unraveled, father and daughter must rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.  Contains mature content, including sexual violence.

For me, I enjoyed it, dark as it might be for science fiction, but then when have I been put off by “dark.”  However between non-linear time and a disjointed scene structure, I’d have to see it a few times more to really get a handle on it.  But as a film (to quote the docent as best I remember) “draw[ing] strong visceral and emotional reactions,” and one “to think about afterward,” it worked.

Beyond that as one Amazon reviewer put it, to say anything much about the plot, other than it begins with a spaceman’s talking with a baby, would risk multiple spoilers.  So here is a closing of other reviews from Wikipedia:  David Ehrlich of INDIEWIRE gave the film an A- grade, saying it owed more to SOLARIS than STAR WARS and describing it as “a pensive and profound study of human life on the brink of the apocalypse.”  Jessica Kiang of VARIETY called it “extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive”. Charles Bramesco of the GUARDIAN gave the film 5 stars out of 5, saying Denis had reconfigured the genre’s “familiar components to create a startlingly fresh engagement with the question of what it means to be human.”  Steve MacFarlane of SLANT MAGAZINE wrote:  “The film asks down-and-dirty questions about what really resides beneath thousands of years of human progress, a savage and haunting antidote to the high-minded idealism of movies like Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN.”

HIGH LIFE will be re-screened Friday (tonight) after which the Cinema will go dark for renovations during the summer, then resume (I believe) in late August.

A xenological invasion.  A creature in the pipes.  A monster in the dark.  A dragon.  And childhood toys that are more than they seem.

Five novelettes. Five stories that will force you to get in touch with our undeniable connection to the animal and insect worlds and the monster within . . . for are we really all that different from the monsters that we loathe?  Our deft and expert authors have won awards and had work in award-winning anthologies, and these stories showcase their gift for terrifying us but also in finding the humanity through our fear.  They are . . .

Gordon B. White
James Dorr
Mark Pantoja
Jon Gauthier
Peter Emmett Naughton

Thus the blurb fromTell-Tale Press’s Amazon listing for THE BLOOD TOMES VOLUME TWO, CREATURES, NOVELETTES EDITION of which my tale of a dragon quest in modern-day Wales, “The Bala Worm,” is a part (cf. May 23, 14, et al.).  And that is one mouthful of a title.  But the thing is, my author’s copy came yesterday evening from Editor/Publisher Andrea Dawn, was downloaded today and converted to PDF (which the local cave computer is more comfortable with), and from just glancing through it looks to be about 80 pages of really fun reading.  The individual stories, in fact, can be read for free*, for which press here, but there’s something nice about having them in ebook form together as well, which Kindle readers can get for only 99 cents by pressing here.  So, separately or in Kindle format, to quote one more line from the Amazon blurb:

We challenge you to read these stories, but only if you’re ready to explore the nightmarish creatures within us all.

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*”The Bala Worm,” incidentally, is a reprint, originally published in Ricasso Press’s BLACK DRAGON, WHITE DRAGON in 2008 and reprinted in my 2013 collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.

As the Indiana University Cinema docent put it, this “Caturday” afternoon feature was to “celebrate the joy of the internet cat video.”  Also noted, of what might be (sort of) the feature’s sponsor, “[o]ne of the internet’s most famous felines, Lil Bub, lives right here in Bloomington” (Lil Bub, however, would be unable to attend herself).  More formally put by the IU Cinema’s printed blurb:  CatVideoFest is a compilation reel of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic Internet powerhouses.  CatVideoFest is a joyous communal experience, only available in theaters, and is committed to raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from this event will directly support Lil BUB’s Big FUND for the ASPCA, which benefits special needs pets nationwide.

And so it was for a good cause too, CatVideoFest being an annual compilation (quoting the Fest’s own website) . . . raising awareness and money for cats in need around the world.  A percentage of the proceeds from each event go to local animal shelters and/or animal welfare organizations.  Thus the idea that local presenters can aim the funding to whatever they feel is the most pressing need.  The 70-minute-reel of cat videos is family-friendly and can be enjoyed by anyone.  The wide demographic appeal allows for it to be shown in virtually any type of setting — from museums to theaters to outdoor festivals and beyond.  This flexibility means there are almost no limits to where CatVideoFest can go!

Thus about an hour and a half of weekend afternoon fun (my favorite was the piece about the man who rescued a kitten on the highway, but when he got home could no longer find it in his car — it had to be there, but was also not there!  With the help of a mechanic it was ultimately retrieved from inside the automobile’s engine compartment, and thusly adopted is now named “Schrodinger”), and also a chance to be a do-gooder, which isn’t bad.  But also while doing a little research before the movie, I discovered (courtesy of Le Grande Cinema) that CatVideoFest is founded by filmmaker Will Braden, creator of YouTube sensation Henri, le Chat Noir, and curator of the popular Internet Cat Video Festival.

I know le chat Henri (see picture above, a mostly black cat much like Triana* but not quite that black), which is to say I’m acquainted with some of his own videos, one of which — the seventh, having to do with an incompetent cat-sitter while his real “caretakers” were on a vacation — was also a part of this year’s 2019 CatFest, and I recommend him to those who might not be.  One can find links in the footnotes in his Wikipedia entry or, for starters, Henri having retired from public life in 2018, one can find his final (eleventh), farewell video “Oh, revoir” by pressing here.

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*The Goth Cat Triana was also unable to attend, but received a petting (plus her supper) when I got home.  One wonders though, should they ever meet, how she, a Goth, would get along with the older, Sartrean existentialist Henri.

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