There is a peculiar allure of insidious characters — and especially assassins, hit men, and their ilk.  Perhaps we find their uncomplicated moral codes and brutal efficiency appealing.  These characters care little about ethics — and perhaps that alone, that freedom from guilt, is exactly why we love them.  Perhaps, deep down, we wish we could be like them.  And perhaps, by reading stories with such characters, we can vicariously experience that thrill.  With this fascination with evil characters in mind, Smart Rhino Publications decided to publish this anthology, INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS, a sequel to UNCOMMON ASSASSINS.  The book contains 24 stories by some of the best horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy authors writing today — including Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, Billie Sue Mosiman, Lisa Mannetti, L.L. Soares, James Dorr, Shaun Meeks, and 17 others!  In these stories, you will meet some truly insidious characters — characters you may find yourself applauding when you know you shouldn’t.  Enjoy!

Thus Amazon’s blurb for INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS which, via Weldon Burge and THE SMART RHINO PUBLICATIONS MISCHIEF-MAKING SYNDICATE on Facebook and a quick scroll down to April 16, I discovered is on sale in paperback format on Amazon.  And by sale I mean really, really on sale, for $5.37 as of today with a list price cited at $18.95.  (And that’s going down — the Facebook note said it was $5.65.)  How long this will last I do not know, but to snap up a good deal I’d press here right now.  My cog in the kill-a-thon is a tale set in pre-Euro Crete, which is to say originally published in TOMORROW SF in March 1997*, “The Labyrinth” (cf. November 28 2018; January 23, 2 2015, et al.) for more on which — well, for scarcely over five dollars (granting that shipping and tax may add to that) perhaps one should just buy it and see for oneself.
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*Also reprinted in my collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES, in 2001, the year Greece itself adopted the Euro.

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“All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures” (St. Francis of Assisi)

Publication of a book is made up of a lot of little acts, along with the larger technicalities like getting it written or, in an anthology or collection, getting the individual stories gathered and put into final order.  As an example, this evening saw my sending an up-to-date biographical note, with media links if they should be needed, to Nicole Petit of 18th Wall Publications for the 1950s-themed anthology SOCKHOPS AND SEANCES (cf. November 11, May 1 2018).  Thus a small detail of “the writing life,” but one that will see the anthology one step closer to publication in the hopefully not-distant future.  My part in this potpourri, incidentally, is titled “Bottles,” a tale originally published in CROSSINGS (Double Dragon, 2004) and also available in my collection THE TEARS OF ISIS, having to do with a young Puerto Rican woman during the Cold War in 1958 Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This one’s been predicted often enough, actually, that it seems more like a joke than news — and as for the news part it’s really not actually being planned . . . yet.  But the power of advertising is great and, as a background detail when, say, those romantic sexbots of the previous post gaze out of their window to see the moon, well light pollution could also be a factor and who’s to say smog won’t obscure it all?  As for the joke part, this did come to my attention courtesy of Michael Parisi on Facebook’s FANTASY/SCIENCE/FICTION NEWS AND HUMOR site.  The article itself, by Anthony Cuthbertson on WWW.INDEPENDENT.CO.UK, is titled “Pepsi Considers Space Billboards to Project Logo Across Night Sky Using Satellites” and can be seen by pressing here.

But then as the article itself states:  It is not the first time extra terrestrial advertising has been proposed, with one Japanese startup aiming to place billboards on the surface of the moon by 2020.  Tokyo-based Ispace raised $90 million in 2017 to kickstart what it calls the “lunar economy”, which involves – at least in part – setting up small advertising hoards on the moon that can be viewed from Earth.

Well, some of us writers and other artists are introspective or introverted, maybe not always socialized to the highest degree, but let us not think only of ourselves.  Or perhaps not at all about ourselves, but of all humanity in a possibly frighteningly near future.  As Bernard Marr has it on LINKEDIN.COM:  While some might not protest smart sex toys and what adults choose to do behind closed doors, there’s a bit more controversy and consideration when contemplating if humanoid anatomically correct sexbots are good or bad for society.  That doesn’t stop nearly half of Americans from believing that having sex with robots will be a common practice within 50 years.  Bots such as Realbotix’s Harmony and Synthea Amatus’s Samantha are quite realistic and are adaptable because one robot can assume several different characters and personalities.  They can talk, show expression and respond to touch and pleasure in a similar way humans do.  Since they are learning machines, sexbots are also very attentive to their partner as they listen to learn and become better in conversation.

The article is “How Robots, IoT And Artificial Intelligence Are Changing How Humans Have Sex” and may portend a future trend that will need to be dealt with, at least as background, in our own fiction.  Smart sex toys, sex bots, virtual reality porn, to reference three sub-heads in Marr’s report, but what of government regulations?  There has been at least some discussion in Congress.  Or simply regulation in general — or possibly threats.  Japan may be a leader in humanoid anatomically correct robots, but also is a nation where the birth rate is declining.  Links in Barr’s article lead to a number of interesting side topics, both pro and con — all of which may be checked out (you know you want to!) by pressing here.

The third Sunday this April is Easter Sunday so the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Third Sunday Write” (see March 17, et al.) had to be scheduled a week early this time.  And while the warm-up exercises could be a bit prosey — a list of things known and that one might like to know, answers to the question “What feeds you?” (which could be poetic), and a descriptive rendering of a favorite place, the final event took on a more poetic flavor.  Poems from three poetry books were read with instructions to note down lines or phrases that seemed to particularly stand out; then write your work incorporating some of these phrases.  Mine, a poem called “Magma,” discussed energy in its various forms, potential, kinetic, but also mental — in imagination — and will it matter?  The ending, another “borrowed” line:  “The gods are never caught.”

Not much will come of this one for me, probably, in terms of work that could lead to a story, but it was fun.  And the end, fun too, was to comment not so much on others’ readings of what they composed, but to also pick out lines and phrases that stood out — an exercise in imagination but also an appreciation of things that can spark it.

Let us recall March 28 and March 12 when we learned of the List, on Goodreads, of the 384 best dark fiction anthologies or, under its more formal title, LISTOPIA BEST HORROR ANTHOLOGIES.  As these are multi-author productions, did I, I wondered, have stories published in any of these?  The answer(s), yes:  three in the first 100 at slots 24, 50, and 97; then in the second 100 two more, one in a five-way tie for number 130 and a second at 155.  Details with links are in the posts for the dates above (that is, March 28 and 12) plus links through Goodreads to Amazon, et al. for any who might want to find out more.

But that leaves a full 184 yet to be accounted for, so herewith the third set, the 200s, of which I am represented in just one at. . . .  First, however, a quick digression, that with this many titles there will certainly be some ties, as indeed we found in the second 100 at number 130, the title UNCOMMON ASSASSINS with my “The Wellmaster’s Daughter” in it sharing the honors with four other books.  And so, in the third tier we find one entry, MISERIA’S CHORALE including “The Cherry Tree” by me, in a crowd at number 209 with fifty-seven fellow anthologies!  That is to say, 58 books in all.

Wow.

For more detail, “The Cherry Tree” is a Southern Gothic horror of sorts, with ghosts from the past and memories of the Civil War, and, if one is counting, MISERIA’S CHORAL is thirty books down in the pack at 209.  To see for oneself, one need only press here.

Psychological horror films are not only designed to terrify audiences, but also play with their minds.  Unlike other horror films, these scares don’t rely on jumps and gore alone.  Instead, they take audiences on a mind-trip that can be much scarier.  So if you’re looking to have your brain messed with, here are the best psychological horror films.  Thus Colin McCormick begins “The 10 Best Psychological Movies That Will Mess With Your Brain” on SCREENRANT.COM.  And not are all without monsters either as noted right off with IT FOLLOWS and, later, the 2014 Stoker(R) best screenplay winner THE BABADOOK (cf. for my review of the latter, January 23 2015).

So I’ve picked my favorite of these already, but other contenders include 2017’s GET OUT, as perhaps the most recent, as well as by-now-classics ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE SHINING.  And five more, yes, which to see for yourself you must press here.  The thing is that while there may be visceral horror as well, once in a while it’s nice to see something that’s aimed at one’s brain (and not just by zombies attempting to eat it!).

A funny thing happened at yesterday’s “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic,” co-sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and local tavern Bear’s Place (cf. March 3, et al.).  We ran out of time.  We had two featured readers, both of whom we’ve met before, Shayne Laughter with a story, “The Long Game,” from a collection in progress of tales about the Greek fertility goddess/Mistress of Hades Persephone plus an earlier story, “Her First Poem,” followed by PDVNCH with a dramatic poem in ten scenes, concerning a woman who rebels against being her true self, opting instead for the images society thrusts on her.  But afterwards, when it was open mike time, with a film showing scheduled after our readings at 5 p.m. sharp, and with seven walk-ons signed up, it was doubtful everyone could be fit in.  Result:  MC Joan Hawkins and I drank the Kool-Ade, as the saying goes, opting to postpone our presentations until May, with (result number two) the reduced list of five ending the program right on time.

Well, the story is actually called “The Bala Worm” and it’s fairly long as these things go, first published in BLACK DRAGON, WHITE DRAGON (Ricasso Press, 2008) as well as in my collection THE TEARS OF ISIS (cf. its picture in the center column for reviews and more).  And then the call came:  We are looking for short stories about any kind of creatures you want:  animals, insects, arachnids (all giant or otherwise), dinosaurs, aliens, monsters, cryptids, legends, mythical, mythological, whatever strikes your fancy.  We really want you to go outside of the usual box that we see in fiction.  Sure, you can have classic vampires or aliens, werewolves or unicorns, but the story needs to be new and fresh, something that hasn’t been thought of before or hasn’t been worked with a lot.  The story should fit in any of the the genres of fantasy, horror, mystery, and science-fiction.  And not only that, but [w]e are also looking for novelettes.  We will be picking ONE novelette as the final story for each genre anthology.  Your novelette should be something that really catches us, perhaps that touches our hearts, horrifies us in a new way, has a profound vision of technology or the future, or baffles us with a twist or shocking revelation.  I did say “The Bala Worm” was long, yes?

So it seemed a good match.  The publication from Tell-Tale Press was to be titled CREATURES and, while semi-pro, payment for novelettes (here defined as 7000 to 10,000 words long) would be double that for “regular” stories so, even if only one would be picked, why not?  Then yesterday afternoon the word came from Publisher/Editor Andrea Dawn, I read your story “The Bala Worm” and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The writing was strong and to the point.  It was interesting and I liked the mythological legend woven in there.  So I would like your permission to publish it in the CREATURES novelettes anthology.

So there it is.  Publication is tentatively set for May 23 on the Tell-Tale Press site — free, if I understand correctly, as individual story files — and as an anthology on Amazon Kindle with the possibility of a future print edition.  More to be reported here as details become known.

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