“Beyond,” that is, in the sense of “less than” or “lower.” But everything counts, yes?

You probably know the ground rules by now, that a story that appears in an anthology, for instance, will get only a fraction when a pittance is divided between twenty or more writers. And even single-author collections and novels, well . . . how soon it is a book may be forgotten when so many other glossy, exciting titles, shining in newness, come into the marketplace every day! Yet especially in a time of plague when imaginations may be held in check and wallets closed, is it not worth at least a minor “hurrah!” when one’s work continues to move at all?

Thus the first of winter/early spring royalties have just been reported with, as is my custom, both publisher and exact amounts left unrevealed to avoid a possible sense of bragging on either side. Or is that embarrassment? Suffice to say, though, that what is reported is, nevertheless, a positive number. It is not zero. Copies are still being bought and read, even if not so many — this for one that’s been out for the better part of a decade.

And that’s worth something.

Remember “The Worm in the Wood” and “The Westfarer” (cf. March 28 and February 5)? These were the poems initially published about a quarter of a century back, but with much earlier stylistic roots, to be published anew in a scholarly book. And so the writing life continues, this received today from author/compiler Dennis Wise: Here’s the text of your poems as currently laid out for the anthology, including headnote and footnotes. The only thing I need is your year of birth (for the headnote). . . . The text of the poems themselves should be fine, since I took them directly from the .rtf file you so helpfully sent me earlier.

The book itself is SPECULATIVE POETRY AND THE MODERN ALLITERATIVE REVIVAL, to come out from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and Rowman & Littlefield Publishers around mid-2022, with the two poems themselves originally published in STAR*LINE, May/June 2001, and DARK DESTINY: PROPRIETORS OF FATE (White Wolf, 1995), respectively. And so this evening I gave the poems, notes, et al. a final check and returned my okay along with the information requested — one more step taken on the road to print.

It’s that time again, the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Third Sunday Write” sessions (see March 24, et al.) for essays, poems, even short pseudo stories, with Facebooked COVID-19 responses rarely on that day exactly. In this case, however, I think I did come in on Monday, though busy, busy, I’ve not gotten around to offering it here until Wednesday.

So it goes.

But today’s (this week’s? month’s? Sunday’s-ish?) is also an actual story, sort of, about a young scholar’s struggles with mathematics — although with an inane sort of coda added. But it fits the prompt which was, from Coordinator Shana Ritter: Choose one of these terms from the Oxford Dictionary of Physics (yes I do keep it on my desk) and run with it *delay line *hypercharge *noncommutative geometry *polar molecule *supergravity.

And so, this month’s Third Sunday Lagniappe (and don’t forget the second, short paragraph at the end):

A BOY AND HIS BOOKS

Supergravity, yes! the boy thought, taking a moment off from his homework. That must be what they had on the planet Krypton, where Superman lived before he came to Earth, where he fools people now into thinking he’s Clark Kent just by putting on a pair of glasses. He’d always thought something was fishy about that — like maybe it was Fake News, that special news the President was always on about. Or was that the previous President? He didn’t follow politics that much — the boy, that is — but his problem was he was naive about math too, coming back to his homework. English, using big words, that was something else. He got a hypercharge out of that. But with his math assignments he didn’t understand the first thing his teacher was saying. It was so bad in fact, he’d even made up his own name for the class: Noncommunicative Geometry.

(Polar Molecules, of course, are the smallest elves in Santa’s workshop. How’s that for a delayed line?)

Actually the package was on the porch floor, beneath the mailbox. It wouldn’t have fit. And a large package it was (well, for a magazine anyway), two copies of a book-thick publication in a padded envelope at just over 225 pages each.

The magazine is the Summer edition of BLACK INFINITY (cf. March 22, 9, et al.) with my part of it taking up only four pages, starting second in the lineup (opening editorial excepted) on page 43. Some other stories, of course, are longer. The magazine’s theme is RENEGADE ROBOTS — given its size, it could almost be thought of an anthology on its own — with both old and new fiction including classics by authors like Robert Sheckley and Philip K. Dick. Plus two “Special Features” (one a reminiscence of “Robby the Robot”), Departments, and closing the issue an eight-page comic.

My story in this is itself a reprint from some time back, “Scavenger,” originally published in FANTASTIC COLLECTIBLES for November 1994. It’s a noirish tale of a future city with its human population gone, but with various robots left behind, hoping to keep it — and themselves — as best they can against a time its original builders might return.

And there’s 221-plus pages more, more on which can be found, with ordering info as well if desired, by pressing here.

“Death and the Vampire” runs at about 1000 words and concerns a late night meeting on Rampart Street, in front of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, between Aimée and a tall, gaunt gentleman claiming to be Death. But if, as the saying goes, Death cannot be delayed, the issue he’s to be a guest star in apparently can.

Thus I wrote when the contract was signed with WEIRDBOOK (see August 18 2019, et al.), for a story originally planned to be published in mid-2020. But then a special issue intervened, and then . . . well it has been a rough year. Plus that publication times in general, as one is often reminded, are rarely described as brisk. However WEIRDBOOK is a respected publication that’s been around for a long, long time, however infrequently it might seem on occasion, and Aimée and les filles, also known as the “Casket Girls” of New Orleanian vampiric fame, are proud to be included in this upcoming issue.

So, to cases, Thursday afternoon the proof arrived and, just before supper, I sent it back noting that it looked perfect! While as for the issue as a whole, as Editor Doug Draa tells us, I can promise that there is something for every-one in this issue with thrills and chills for all! Including, I might add, starting on page 160 “Death and the Vampire,” third from last in the fiction column of what seems to be a well-filled magazine.

More to appear here as it becomes known.

So it’s not really “at the movies” as such, but rather the movie came to me — all the way from Paris. That is . . . sort of.

It’s something the local library seems to have been doing for just the last weekend or two, but a neat idea. With COVID we still can’t go out to the theater, but the library has movies it can lend, so why not offer a catalog of selected films to email out Fridays in such a way that recipients, attachment-like, can select ones for single viewings on the old home computer? Sort of like Youtube.

And so this evening as I perused the choices, one caught my eye, a mildly shortish at about an hour and ten minutes, French cartoon titled (English version) A CAT IN PARIS. Or, choosing the French version with English subtitles, UNE VIE DE CHAT which, yes, like some of the subtitles too is not exactly a literal match but still gets the job done. And much of the film is unspoken anyway (though with some interesting jazzy musical backgrounds here and there) in that there’s, well, a cat burglar in it.

That is to say, Dino the cat leads a double life, by day the pet of a troubled girl whose mother is a policewoman whose husband, also an officer, had been killed by a notorious gangster; by night the companion of Nico, the aforementioned burglar with, as it happens, a heart of gold. Or at least, like the cat, with a way with kids. But the gangster, meanwhile, has a major crime planned and one of his gang members happens to be the maid/babysitter of the policewoman/mom.

The film is not recommended for very young children as the coming together of elements leads to a very scary kidnapping, not to mention aerial journeys across Parisian roofs, clinging to would-be rescuer Nico’s back. But that’s part of the charm — for portraits of characters the hand-drawn art is fairly simple and even perhaps crude, but the nighttime rooftop backgrounds are hypnotically lovely, with sometime glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and (Quasimodo, stand aside!) a climactic fight atop Notre Dame. And, oh yes, the “Colossus of Nairobi,” the object of the gang leader’s desire, Godzilla-like walking through the streets of Paris . . . or does it, exactly?

In short, a lot of fun, not to mention being an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature. Or, swiping a quote from Rotten Tomatoes: A CAT IN PARIS depicts a stylish, imaginative world with a wonderful soundtrack and Hitchcockian overtones.

(Triana herself prefers meat bunnies to the chocolate ones)

Actually Amazon claims it’s been out in paper for some time, but now at least presumably with an up-to-date cover. The book, MURDER AND MACHINERY: TALES OF TECHNOLOGICAL TERROR AND MECHANICAL MADNESS (cf. March 21, January 26, et al.) to give its complete title, and today it’s officially out on Kindle as well.

Or as Amazon puts it: Lock the doors and switch the power off at the mains!

Tales of deadly machinery have long fascinated us, from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic pendulum to the Terminator films.

Murder and Machinery pays homage to this tradition, offering you gripping tales following this theme but set in different times and places, from colonial America and London during the First World War to dystopian futures on this planet and beyond. Never before has an anthology brought tales of science fiction and suspense together in such a terrifying way, showcasing the nightmarish imagination of authors who know how to play on the reader’s fears and who share those fears of uncontrollable machines, or perhaps even more frightening, of fellow humans mastering technology for their own evil purposes. A word of advice before you start. By all means, settle down in your living room and let this anthology of technological terror and mechanical madness enthral you, but first, you might want to lock your doors and switch the power off at the mains. Best keep it low-tech tonight. Trust me. I hope you have candles?

My monkey wrench in the mechanism is a tale called “Vanitas,” originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, January 1996, as well as my 2001 collection STRANGE MISTRESSES (for more on which one may click on its picture in the center column), a steampunky conglomeration of circuses, churches, and sweet organ music set in 1850s New England. And horror too, of course — or at least crime.

Or for more information and/or ordering, its Amazon listing can be found here.

Sorry about that headline — but who could resist? That said, time marches on and one may recall that two poems of mine from about a fifth and a quarter century back had been tagged for reprinting (see February 5). Today the contract came from Editor Dennis Wilson Wise for “The Worm in the Wood” and “The Westfarer” to be included in SPECULATIVE POETRY AND THE MODERN ALLITERATIVE REVIVAL and, with one minor change (which I only discovered after already signing a first time — oops!) has been signed (and, yes, re-signed) and sent back this afternoon.

The poems themselves were originally published in STAR*LINE, May/June 2001, and DARK DESTINY: PROPRIETORS OF FATE (White Wolf, 1995), respectively, while their new home will be in a scholarly volume from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, co-published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, with a tentative publication date of July 2022.

So continues “Third Sunday Write” (cf. February 22, et al.), the Bloomington Writers Guild’s monthly prompt session, not always responded to exactly on time in these days of COVID-19-forced Facebook manifestation. But my two-days-late Tuesday (yesterday evening) response may be the first one posted. Or maybe that’s two.

The first topic for March, in honor of spring. (1) What is your favorite flower? Tell us why.

Thus my response: Ah, the orchid. Delicate, beautiful, devious. Cheating. You don’t think of orchid fronds, lushness of their leaves — only their flowers. Deceivers of bees. The scent’s not on your mind when you buy a corsage, but some orchids mimic that of female insects, duping males that way to carry their pollen. Themselves not living on photosynthesis as honest plants do, but some of them attaching on branches of trees, with meters-long roots dragging into the air, never reaching the ground. Gaining water from rain. Other nutrients from debris falling on their hosts’ bark. More species more ground-borne, wrapping around the roots of mature trees, leeching food that way. Their very seeds living on parasitism, latching onto receptive fungi to feed on their nutrients for germination.

The vampires of plantdom, alluring. Conniving. Their lives themselves stolen from other plants’ strength — but at least giving beauty back. Sophisticated, the Lady Carmillas. The Bela Lugosis, all suaveness and charm. In corsages, the symbols of high school dances, to teach us the disappointments of young love.

The vampires of plantdom, yes, but it occurred then that there is one flower even worse. That murders its victims, and not for need. So. . . .

(A second take)

But consider then the ugly vampire, the ones stoked by their meanness. Deceivers still, yes, but without the allure. The Max Schrecks, if one will, of a nightmare botanical NOSFERATU. The mistletoe, parasitic as well, but this one, left unchecked, not content merely to mooch off its host plant, but strangling its life away.

These worm themselves into our celebrations, hung from ceilings, a lure for young couples. Demanding a kiss. A Christmas pledge of one’s unending devotion.

We’ll see how long that lasts!

And that’s what I wrote.

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