(Her cousin, however, may have celebrated a little too much)


Ah, the writing life. We may recall a headline around a month and a half back: ­Nightmare Abbey/Great Man Reprint First Sale for 2023 (cf. January 30). The story, “The Great Man,” a reprint first published in THE STRAND MAGAZINE, Spring-Summer 1999. And now accepted by Editor/Publisher Tom English for the third issue of NIGHTMARE ABBEY.

But it’s never just that, the publishing game — acceptance today, magazine or book in hand next Tuesday. Tomorrow. Whenever. It has its own rhythm, this writing life does: acceptance, agreement, editing, proofreading. . . .

And so, another step advanced today. Late yesterday evening the contract arrived, dated for today, Monday, March 13, for the literary work entitled: “The Great Man.” These things work their own ways, mine for this a trip to the public library and their equipment — more than I have at home — to download, print, physically sign the contract, FAX the result to my own email, then attach and send that back to the sender. Another day in the Writing Life.

Then to look ahead, a new day will bring an edited copy, a round of proofreading . . . eventually the completed magazine, for all of which keep posted here.

It came late this morning, under the tagline A Hero of a Different Stripe contributor copy. The message: Here’s the USPS tracking number for your contributor copy of A HERO OF A DIFFERENT STRIPE: [tracking number redacted, but it said that “it,” whatever it is, would come today]

Thank you again for contributing to the LTUE Benefit Anthologies!*

Say, WHAT!

So a little detective work on my part — these mysteries aren’t as rare as one might think — and the tale led to a another “mystery” of sorts, but one published by me, a year and a half old entry here for October 6 2021 (yes, 2021, books sometimes take unexpected time to be actually published), under the headline Mystery Acceptance: Contract Signed, Scanned, and Sent Back.

The email came earlier this afternoon, but with one deviation from how these things usually go. It was an acceptance, but what it was an acceptance for was to remain a secret.

Thus: We would like to use your submitted story _____ in the _____ anthology. The contract is attached to this message. Please read through it carefully and let us know if you have any questions or concerns. If you do not have any questions, please sign it, scan the full document, and send it back ASAP.

Please do not publicly announce any specifics regarding this yet. . . .

And that was that. Hearing nothing else, I more or less assumed at some point the project was cancelled — these things happen too. But, by golly, a check with Amazon revealed it has indeed now been published, on February 16 2023, by Hemelein Publications, Joe Monson and Jaleta Clegg, editors. The Amazon blurb: Not Your Standard Hero

We all know what heroes are like, right? Brilliant smiles, superpowers, above average beauty, love to pose for the cameras and bask in the limelight? The heroes found here are not your standard hero. Here you’ll find shapeshifting (but ditzy) detectives, considerate sidekicks, avid romance readers, lunar garbage collectors, and more!

In other words, the unsung heroes, the unappreciated sometimes but who do the real work. With my story in it (a reprint originally published in NIGHT LIGHTS by Geminid Press, cf. April 1 2016, et al., as well as SPACE OPERA LIBRETTOS, Digital Science Fiction, February 28 2020): “The Needle-Heat Gun,” the comic tale of a sidekick, yes, but not only just unsung, but also the one who, at every step, pulls the “official” hero’s fat from the fire.

And who also has his own tastes in music (while as for the book and this morning’s message, yes, as of 6:00 p.m. it has arrived!).


*LTUE stands for the Life, The Universe, & Everything Symposium, an annual conference in Provo UT aimed at authors and artists new to the SF/Fantasy field.

It seemed like a relatively small, but attentive crowd at this afternoon’s Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose” at Morgenstern’s Books (see February 5, et al.), despite a high-powered lineup of featured readers. But then it was also a sunny and not-too-chilly afternoon starting a week forecast to get colder, so that may have provided a competing draw.

Of the featured, first up was poet, story, and essay writer John Irvin Cardwell, with multiple books as well as a career as (among other things) a policy advocate and member of numerous private boards and public commissions, with two stories: the first, “Misery,” exposing the plight of the urban homeless, followed by “Hanging Out with Frank,” a memoir of times spent with one-time Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon when he’d led the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus, as illustrative of the meaning of friendship. Then he was followed by multi-published short fiction mystery writer, as well as Edgar and Derringer Award nominee and Bill Crider Prize, et al., winner, Joseph S. Walker, with a just released piece in the current ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, “Moving Day.”

After the break, the “Open Mic” portion was also small, with Walker drafted in as third of three readers with another brief story, “Kindling Delight,” following usually final place MC Joan Hawkins, with me — also unusually — leading off with “The Mermaid Vampiress” (who, as we found out, does not wear a seashell bra). Also of the mermaid, taking a lead from my “Casket Suite” of five related-tale readings on successive months at the Guild’s “First Wednesday Spoken Word” (cf. March 2, below), this was the first of a three month series to be continued in April and May.

And music too. Opening March’s multi-co-sponsored (cf. February 1, et al.) Bloomington Writers Guild’s “First Wednesday Spoken Word” at the downtown Backspace Gallery, singer/guitarist/songwriter Nathan Dillon presented groupings of songs under a general theme of “collaboration” — songs, that is, that he and one of a number of other local songwriters created together — interspersed with descriptions of methods of collaboration and idea creation for songs in general.

Then came first featured reader, poet and live sound effects artist Tony Brewer with longer works, including from two of his published books, PITY FOR SALE and HOT TYPE COLD READ, bracketing a flurry of shorter poems from “Poetry on Demand” tables at various events. Then, following, came multi-award winning and current Indiana Poet Laureate Matthew Graham with poems from his most recent book, THE GEOGRAPHY OF HOME, as well as “a couple of new ones,” ranging in subject from early school “Dick and Jane” reading texts, things (as from his father) that combine to define us, New Orleans and music, and, ending, new poems from various parts of Indiana as part of his being appointed Poet Laureate.

Then intermission, snacks, and seven (of fifteen in person, but with the session also being livestreamed, an unknown number “attending” from home) “open mic” readers, including me just past the middle with Aimée and the Casket Girls — speaking of New Orleans! — in “A Surfeit of Poe,” the second of the five-part “Casket Suite” which began last month, and in which we also meet the poetic Yvonne, the jokester Claudette, and the always glamourous Lo.

Lots of numbers, 4 and 3 Monday, now 2 and another 3. But if course different contexts. So for today’s, let us take the wayback machine to summer last year, with the publishing of two poems by me — “Don’t Always Believe Everything You Read” and “The Vampiress’ Soliloquy” — in local Bloomington magazine THE RYDER (see July 12, June 13 2022, et al.).

It seems that THE RYDER is at it again.

It actually started in late December when, answering an e-call by the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Tony Brewer, I sent three poems for a planned 2023 THE RYDER Poetry issue for the coming spring, “Existential Vamp,” “Let’s All Go to the Movies,” and “Last, Shoemaker Stick To.” That is to say, to cover philosophy, nostalgia, and Olde Maxims (or, maybe, logic-based mayhem), respectively. Until finally, today, the decision arrived: Hi, James, thanks again for submitting. I would like to include all three poems in the issue — they are short enough together I think we can make it work, although I may need to drop one for space. So. . . three poems or two?

Well a sale’s a sale (although this one is for glory, not money, but it is a local publication), but I do greatly hope all three get printed. Unlike last year’s two poems on “familiar” monsters (a zombie for the first, a vampire for second), these three poems are purposely widely divergent — which in itself defines a pattern — whereas with two the selection, whichever chosen, would seem (and in this case in fact would be) just random. That is, if asked myself, I would have no means to make a choice — but as Tony notes they are purposely on the short side too. So hopefully there won’t be any problem.

In any event we should find out together, at least those of us local, in just a few months. As the email concludes, [t]he issue should be on the street by the end of April. There will be a showcase reading of poets in the Ryder poetry issue on Wed May 3 at 6 pm at Backspace Gallery on the square. Let me know if you can make that. Thanks again.

It was that time again, or technically exactly one week later, for the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Facebook featured “Third Sunday Write” (see January 25, December 19, et al.). So today, one day more, comes my response to the second of four prompts offered, but one a bit unusual too as it’s really a melding of “inspiration” with part of a story already written.

But one that came to mind for a reason, as will be explained at the very end.

  1. A favorite meal — all the details.

(This is cheating, actually, in that the following passage is already written. It’s from a currently unpublished story called “Good Taste,” about a ghoul — a creature that feeds on corpses — who’s been struck by lightning and, his brain thus scrambled, has gained the sensibilities of a gourmet. His name is Jethro.)

(from “Good Taste”) . . . never before had he differentiated between smells of rot as he did now. His ghoul nostrils quivering. Focusing, that is, on separate stenches.

This one an Italian, before he became deceased. See — smell the garlic tang, subtle yet present. While this one, so high-spiced, must have been Hispanic.

This one perhaps English, a bland, boiled aroma. This one a lady, the perfume still on her, mingling its sweetness with that of decay. This one a. . . .

Jethro was thrilled! His appetite grown huge to match his new senses, he did not know where to start. Finding a grave-rag to use as a bib, he bit first into French meat — he knew it by residues left of red Bordeaux it must have had with its meals. That is, when it still lived.

A heady flavor.

Then this one, dead longer, was blended as if a stew, juices and rotted flesh salmagundi-ized, served cold as if a sort of meat salad.

An appetizer.

Then this, whiskey-pickled, perhaps a transient —

He reveled. He gorged. Never before had he had such a banquet, that is not in quantity — cemeteries, in these latter days, often were flooded out. Ghouls lived for such moments. But in variety — Jethro had never known meals served in courses, as rich humans ate them. Some of their corpses, too, made Jethro’s banquet. Nor had he before cared, his taste and smell so focused on different flavors. On shadings of texture, the crunch of the new dead compared with the creamier, almost custard-like smoothness that came with more protracted aging. . .

(This came to mind now because, just Saturday, I received word that “Good Taste” has been short listed — a finalist as it were — for publication in an anthology tentatively called GHOULISH TALES. Will it make it? Who knows? But if so, perhaps not for a month or so though, it will be announced here.)

A quick note for a Friday. MONSTORM, as noted below (cf. February 12, et al.), is still on track for publication next Tuesday, February 28. And I now have a PDF, including a copy of the table of contents.


I’m still in number 4 position of stories proper (after, that is, the Foreword and Introduction) with “I’m Dreaming of a . . .,” originally published in 2011 as a chapbook by Untreed Reads, on Page 37. While for more information on MONSTORM, including instructions for early ordering, from (as it were) the horse’s mouth, one can press here. Or if into Amazon, here.

Things progress, if sometimes slowly. Saturday afternoon brought this word from Editor Josh Strand: I just wanted to shoot out a quick update to let you know we have an official announcement about when MONSTORM is coming out! According to John, the big cheese at Madness Heart Press, we can expect it to release on February 28. Thanks so much for your patience in this process. We are very excited about getting this book out into the real world.

The story in question is a Christmas tale, “I’m Dreaming Of A. . . .” (see January 8, December 21, et al.), originally published as a stand-alone chapbook in 2011 by Untreed Reads. But the time is not that important. What is, is that the anthology’s earnings are earmarked for charity, to go, as I understand, to the All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota FL. Or, as a truncated part of the blurb explains: This book contains 20 stories by seasoned genre veterans as well as fresh voices and represents the horror community’s response to hurricane Ian. There are stories about storms, the devastation they can cause, and what they reveal about the people who live through them, stories of tearing wind, driving rain, blizzards, hurricanes.

Or in the case of “I’m Dreaming Of A. . . ,” perhaps not a blizzard as such, but a very unusual snowfall just before Christmas. Which, notwithstanding the popular Bing Crosby song its title cites, is perhaps not so much a good thing this time.

To see for yourself, more information on MONSTORM — including instructions for early ordering — can be found here.

For February the Bloomington Writers Guild First Sunday Prose was on the first Sunday (cf. January 8; December 4 2022, et al.), at Morgenstern Books, with past IU Alumni Association and Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies publications/PR worker and author of mystery novel BLOOD TERMINAL, with a second in the editing stages, Carol Edge as first featured reader, with two memoirs of childhood/teen life in Birmingham Alabama in pre-integration days, one, “Whistling Dixie,” on events around her — including the assassination of President Kennedy — and the other, “Daddy’s Knife,” on more intimate relations with family and, especially, her father. She was followed by Literary Representative for the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington and Writers Guild coordinator for Last Sunday Poetry, as well as author and poet of numerous works including JOYCE & JUNG: THE “FOUR STAGES OF EROTICISM” IN A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN and poetry volumes ICARUS BURNING and ICARUS REDUX, among others, Hiromi Yoshida, reading a series of prose poems (including two, of two parts each, on the fairy tales “Bluebeard” and “The Goose Girl,” of which more in a moment), followed by a personal narrative originally published in THE BLOOMINGTONIAN in 2021.

Then came the break and, after, a group of five “Open Mic” readers with me at number four, followed by moderator Joan Hawkins ending the session. A bit nonplussed as we would be using a hand-held microphone this time instead of our usual one on a stand, but happening to have as well as my book, THE TEARS OF ISIS, that had the story I’d planned to read, a more juggle-able text in manuscript form of a different story, but also of an appropriate length, I made a last-moment substitution. And by sheer coincidence, given Hiromi’s fairytale-based poems, the story I now read was a jaundiced account of a hopeful, but vain young lady named Cinderella, titled “The Mouse Game,” in the voice of one of the mice temporarily transformed into horses to draw her heavy pumpkin-become-coach to the prince’s ball and her subsequent triumph.

But you may be sure, by the end, that the mice will have their own agenda.

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