That is, the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Third Sunday Write” session’s prompts via Facebook (cf. October 24, et al.) came Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving this month. And, holidays being busy times, I didn’t get to it until today, Friday.

Still that’s pretty fast for me — as well, a challenge posted on the 23rd being only three days after Sunday, the 20th, not bad at all for the creative exercise session in general.

Anyhow — cut to the chase — I selected the third of the four choices offered, to write on the theme of “What does the sunlight catch?” What I wrote is this:

The sunlight casts mostly in the shallows, the open ocean depths leading too quickly to an opaqueness. The square of the distance, something like that, or maybe the cube — it adds up swiftly. But even whales come up to breathe, and over their bulk a new kind of shallowness, light reflecting from white, leathery bellies when they do their somersaults. Still, whales tend toward bigness, and with that great weight, and while sunlight draws water up, even whole oceans through evaporation, it’s not all at once.

Lighter loads are more favored.

The sun likes puns also, and not just the rhyme. Lighter loads; sunlight — get it? But it can be argued whales rise to the surface through their own power, it’s not just some fluke. (“Aha,” the sun murmurs.) And sea serpents too, krakens as well, for what would be the point in being a monster if no one can see you? And anyway sunlight does not favor monsters, better to let them lurk in their own shadows. No, sunlight, when angling, has its own agenda.

Its preference: Sunfish.

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The shelters are filled with unwanted pets. Perhaps one became yours.

Saith the Amazon blurb: NIGHTMARE ABBEY 2 features a dozen terror tales by today’s greatest horror writers:

Steve Duffy, Helen Grant, David Surface, Theodore Sturgeon, Gregory L. Norris, James Dorr, John Llewellyn Probert, Gary Fry, Matt Cowan and others.

Tons of photos and illustrations by World Fantasy Award-winner Allen Koszowski; and a look at Boris Karloff’s Thriller by screenwriter and film historian Gary Gerani, and much more.

Chilling, thrilling, perhaps even terrifying tales calculated to give you sleepless nights!

Which Editor/Publisher Tom English fleshes out (ahem!) in the email that led me to the above: . . . reprinting Theodore Sturgeon’s “IT” along with an intro discussing the story’s influence on The Swamp Thing and other characters. Other special features include a look at Boris Karloff’s 1960s horror anthology show Thriller; plus Dreams and Nightmares in Horror Fiction; and the classic story that became a spooky Night Gallery episode! And even much more.

This book is definitely not a turkey, but it IS stuffed with good things.

The book is, as noted, the second outing of NIGHTMARE ABBEY (see October 14, July 27, May 21), this year’s “weird tales” companion to English’s dark-tinged science fiction BLACK INFINITY, which we’ve met before (cf. October 8, et many al.). And my part in it, “The Calm,” originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS (Marietta Publishing, 1999), a story of the Taconic Mountains in upstate New York, and an unmapped village come upon by a mixed British and Colonial patrol at the time of the French and Indian War.

If the first issue is any example, NIGHTMARE ABBEY 2 should be well worth having, and now can be ordered (coincidentally, one assumes) on Thanksgiving, by pressing here.

A very quick “The Writing Life” update. With similar swiftness, Editors Josh Strand and Matt Masucci have sent the contract for MONSTROM: A CHARITY ANTHOLOGY, including my story “I’m Dreaming Of A. . . .” (see November 13). So, as of this afternoon, I’ve signed the agreement and sent it back.

As noted, it is a charity anthology for relief for victims of Hurricane Ian, with stories revolving around monstrous storms. Thus mine, originally published as a stand-alone chapbook in 2011 by Untreed Reads, is a snowy description of a Christmas season, decidedly NOT filled with peace and/or joy. And a warning for Santa (well, not so much in the story itself, but you know. . .) to be very careful with weather predictions in making his flight plan.

Or more for a wish for an early spring, but myself, I’m hoping that MONSTORM will be out in time for Christmas.

It’s coming closer. . . ! Yes. LOLcraft, the compendium of Cthulhu and company . . . lite! The humorous side of eldritch horror.

So? You’ve read it here before (see October 27, 6, August 27, et al.). Or at least some announcements. This is the anthology from Dragons Roost Press, as brought to us edited by Michael Cieslak, and it’s getting nearer. Hide the children and pets!

Or at least, via today’s email hoard, we have a cover — at least in rough form. And you’re seeing it here! And also a tentative list of contents, or from as it were the horse’s mouth (still, as of last notice, attached to the horse): We have 36 short stories which range in length from 290 words to 5,300. They cover a wide variety of subjects and sub-genres. Yes, all of them are humorous and all have a Mythos element, but some are more serious than others. Some are wacky while others are action packed. We also have a number of epistolary shorts (something we absolutely love — keep that in mind for our next open submission). 

Where mine falls in this spectrum of less or more serious, wacky or action packed, I know not, though in length it’s most likely toward the lower middle (2200 words?). Titled “The Reading,” the story concerns the horrors of presenting poetry, live, to an audience (cf. also, e.g., October 30), and is a reprint, originally published in 2013 in UNIVERSE HORRIBILIS by Third Flatiron Publishing. It’s number 6 in the table of contents.

Well hopefully not quite. Nevertheless, Saturday morning brought the season’s first snowfall here, a not too deep dusting, enough to shovel but nor really an annoyance. At least so say I, who it being the weekend stayed home anyway, other than shoveling a little bit of it enjoying the white, peaceful calmness outside through the window.

The story, however, “I’m Dreaming Of A. . . .,” first released by Untreed Reads Publishing in December 2011 as a stand-alone chapbook, is about a far, far, more serious snowfall, its title reflecting the Bing Crosby croon longing for a “White Christmas.” But not the way I wrote it. And the acceptance to be in MONSTORM, a collection of weather-themed horror stories [quoting the guidelines] edited by Josh Strand and Matt Matsucci and published by Madness Heart Press. Storms are elemental forces — at once oddly beautiful and devastatingly destructive, and as such serve as prime fodder for dark, fantastical fiction. We’re looking for anything scary you can think of about weather — a rain-summoning charm gone wrong, a mad scientist with a weather-control device, angry gods of thunder and hail. Give us unnatural rains — of acid, of eyeballs, of lava. Give us wind that tears flesh from bone. . . . Well, you get the idea. And moreover, it would be for charity: All money earned from sales of the ebook or print editions of the anthology will go directly to All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, Florida.

So, long story short, the word came today, Sunday: We’re pleased to inform you that “I’m Dreaming Of A…” has been accepted for publication in the MONSTORM Hurricane Ian Charity Anthology. We feel that your story is a great fit, and we’re happy to have you aboard.

Contracts will be sent out soon.

Publication, according to the guidelines above, is hoped for for December — so perhaps out in time for Christmas giving. In any event it sounds like a winner, and for a good cause.

From the Worldsmyths.com website: Days come, and days go. Time is a snake eating its own tail, and all things have their end. Explore the contradictions of life and time in this speculative fiction anthology featuring upcoming authors. Find love in unexpected places or test the limits of your sense of duty. Follow a witch as she seeks to discover her purpose, and watch as a man faces the hungry wolves of winter – and his own mortality. The book, SEASONS UNCEASING (cf. July 20), proceeding apace, with comments/corrections on line edits due in just under a week.

So mine went back today.

The call had been for [f]antasy/science fiction stories, following the theme of “seasons.” (Seasons, weather, cyclical nature, ending, returning, regularity interrupted, growing things, dying things, planet sized impact, local microsystems, — Stories featuring the classic four seasons, or an entirely new season you’ve created for your world.) Word range was for 2,000 to 8,000 words with reprints accepted, open to anywhere in the world, as long as stories are written in the English language. With my entry, then, originally published in the Summer 2002 FANTASTIC, “The Master of Time,” the tale of a special clock on a magical world that, unlike common clocks, does not measure time, but creates it.

So add a self-doubting “apprentice Clockkeeper,” back from a visit to her mother’s family, who finds herself suddenly smitten when she meets a dashing stranger, a handsome young man who returns her feelings. Or does he _really_? That can’t be good . . . or . . . maybe it’s just a part of growing. And eventually the time will come as well when she’ll have to replace the current Master Clockkeeper. But will she be ready?

One way to find out: SEASONS UNCEASING is now accepting preorders for an early 2023 publication. More information can be found here.

While nearly a week after Halloween proper, I’d been invited to be one of the featured readers at the Bloomington Writers Guild’s November “First Sunday Prose and Open Mic” (cf. October 2) at Morgenstern Books. Also, with Joan Hawkins absent due to a conflicting obligation, Guild founding member Patsy Rahn served as substitute MC for a fairly crowded session — although, as we share space with the bookstore’s coffee shop, hard to judge exactly how many came just for us.

Be that as it may, they were well entertained, with the first scheduled reader Marian University (Indianapolis) adjunct professor of English, Dan Grossman, offering poetry and poetic prose from his book (with the first word partially mumbled due to possible listening children), MINDFUCKING ROUNDABOUTS OF CARMEL, INDIANA, inspired in part by his daughter, part by experiences as an at-one-time Uber driver, on roundabouts, black holes, alternate universes and fates, and . . . Indianapolis. Then, following, I pointed out (due to one of Dan’s just-read “alternate fates”) that the title of the book I would read from, THE TEARS OF ISIS, had nothing to do with terrorists or terrorism, but rather to the goddess Isis in her “weeping” aspect, and read the hybrid short-short “The Birdcatchers” with its following poem — also, I’d pointed out, one of the poems I’d read the week before at “Last Sunday Poetry” (see October 30) — along with the longer, far-future set/dying Earth tale “River Red.”

Then came the break, followed by four “open mic” volunteers, and one more thing concerning THE TEARS OF ISIS. As a featured reader this time, I’d contacted Morgenstern Books in advance about bringing copies for possible autographs. Not too surprisingly, fans didn’t exactly line up after (these sessions do end, too, at about time for thinking of supper), but the store will be adding copies to sell on their Local Authors shelf (look for the sign that says “Keep It Local”), and possibly later copies of my novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, as well.

(Happy Halloween)

Well, the last “Last Sunday Poetry Reading and Open Mic” for this year (cf. September 25, et al.), November and December deferring for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday doings, but also the last to be at the Monroe County Convention Center, with 2023’s January revival scheduled for a new location, Morgenstern Books, and in an afternoon time slot. One problem, in fact, with the present series has been its 11 a.m. to 12:30 schedule (the Center normally being closed Sunday afternoons) which, for a number of Bloomington Writers Guild members, has not been the most convenient.

Nevertheless, despite a chillyish rainy morning adding its own deterrent, nine people attended, with even a tenth arriving in time for the after-break opening to the floor. The featured poets were Indiana University Astronomy Professor Emeritus — with more than 100 refereed scientific publications to add to poetry and short fiction appearances in DISTURBED DIGEST, FROSTFIRE WORLDS, ILLUMEN, WEIRDBOOK, SPACE AND TIME, et al. — Richard Durisen with a reading ending with an especially moving depiction of a doomed mouse, caught in a trap, the problem of its disposal morphing into a reflection on death in general. And me. While, first in the lineup, I read a selection of poems from my first combined (fiction and poetry) collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, beginning with “The White Worm” on the death of Edgar Allan Poe’s wife, Virginia, by tuberculosis.

Following the usual break for snacks (Halloween mini-cupcakes and candy) and conversation, an encouraging six or seven more poets shared their own work for the “open mic” session, which was by the main a bit less death-centric, but for the most part still captured an appropriate feeling of seasonal melancholy.

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