Archive for September, 2014

At last it can be read!  “A Bucket of Lo Mein” (cf. September 22) is now up on HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE along with a selection of other stories and features.  Even without my flash fiction piece as an appetizer, however, the site is one worth dipping into — scroll down below (September 24, 22) for references and links to two other features at least I found interesting over the past few days.  But eBucket-of-Lo-Meinspecially check out “A Bucket of Lo Mein,” a flavorful tale of (shall one say) uncanny Chinese cooking and why bicycle delivery persons should always watch the road to avoid spills. To see for yourself, you need only press here.

And once you are finished, for an overview of HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE, including more stories, articles, reviews, and a featured interview this week of horror writer Lucy Taylor, look for the “You are here” line just above “A Bucket of Lo Mein” and press where it says “Home.”

Then, speaking of horror, YEAR’S END:  14  TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR with my lead story “Appointment in Time” is one of a number of horror and mystery titles on special sale at the Untreed Reads Publishing site for the month of October.  But let Editor Jay Hartman tell you himself.

“In October, we’ll be discounting everything in the Horror and Mystery sections 25% through October 31st.  This is part of our annual Halloween celebration on the site.  This sale has already begun.

“ONLY titles currently appearing in those sections will be discounted.”

To find out more, check out the Untreed Reads Store by pressing here, then look for direct links on the left side for Mystery, Horror, and Paperback titles included.  And remember these special pre-Halloween prices are available only at the Untreed Reads site, including (to quote again) the following:

“On October 31st we will have a one-day Trick-or-Treat promotion.  These are full-length titles that we will lower to $0.99 for one day only.

“We will also be doing “Treat of the Week.”  This is a title that is deeply discounted for one week only and is featured on our homepage.  . . .   The Treat Weeks are as follows:

“October 5th -11th
“October 12th – 18th
“October 19th – 25th
“October 16th – November 1st

“Paperbacks will continue to be 25% off, and buyers can continue to get the ebook edition free with the purchase of the paperback.

“There will be another special promotion the week of the 12th through 18th as Untreed Reads participates in San Francisco Litquake 2014.”

Again, to find out more, check out the Untreed Reads Store by pressing here, or if (as I hope) you’re especially interested in YEAR’S END (an anthology of New Year’s Eve horror, remember, including my “Appointment in Time”), you can go to it directly by pressing here.

As for concerns, drivers have also noted that the lanes where buses park to pick up and drop off passengers are too narrow for easy access from the street.
And while the traffic signal at Smith Avenue and Walnut Street will turn red when buses exit the center, traffic is still congested from vehicles stopped for the stoplight at Walnut and Third streets.
[One driver’s] concern focuses on the facility’s public restrooms.
“We have a lot of people — who knows what they’ll do in there,” he said. “It’s one of those things we’ll have to wait and see.  Hopefully, they take care of it and don’t abuse it.”

(from “Bus riders impressed with Bloomington Transit’s new center,” by Lauren Slavin, Bloomington Herald-Times, Tuesday August 19 2014)
hybrid-bus-300x225
The building at Third and Walnut streets is much more user friendly to those who use the local bus system than the structure at Fourth and Washington it’s replacing.  It has an air conditioned lobby, public restrooms, WiFi, indoor and outdoor seating, and lockers and racks for bicycles.  It’s modern in every sense of the word.
While that all sounds nice, the friendliness of the place could be a double-edged sword.  It’s a public amenity and city government owes it to the public that it remains clean, safe and well cared for.  All over the country, there are bus stations — transit centers if you will — that are none of the above.

(from Tuesday, August 19, 2014, The Herald-Times, editorial)

Fast forward a month and a half to the present, and time for the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic (cf. May 25, et al. — due to Labor Day Weekend’s Spoken Word Stage on August 30-31, there was no Last Sundays reading for August).  Yes, I had written a poem about the newspaper items cited above, spiced by 1970s nostalgia when, hippie-bashing having become passé, a wave of homophobia had swept over the local university community with sometimes hilarious results.  I hadn’t intended to read it though, it being in the class of what I call “The Devil Made Me Do It” writings — and anyway possibly being offensive.  I had prepared instead a suite of four short poems about, among related subjects, the perils of blind dates when vampires are involved.  But at the library earlier that afternoon I had, on impulse, printed out a copy along with the background articles quoted above — well, just in case. . . .

The featured readers were Thomas Tokarski, “a Bloomington poet and environmental/social activist who writes to fend off despair and cynicism,” and Ciara Miller, “a native of Chicago, [who] is a poetry MFA candidate and an African American/African Diaspora Studies MFA candidate at Indiana University.”  Both readings, and especially Ciara’s, oozed power and social discontent, rising at times to the level of anger — but always stopping just short.  Both stimulating and exciting readings!

Sometime during the readings the thought came to me, why not?  Or was the Devil whispering again in my ear?  Anyhow, the poem now seemed relevant to the spirit of the session, and so (and as a lagniappe for you, who read this account — so be warned, be warned!) when my time came I started by quoting some of what I’ve cited above, and then continued “with a tip of the hat to Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano, from the movie DOCTOR STRANGELOVE” with the poem below.

The audience loved it.

PREVERSIONS

“Sure, the new city terminal’s fine,”
the bus driver said,
“but what I don’t like is they got public restrooms.
I mean, like they’re clean enough now,
while they’re new,
but what happens six months, eight months down the road
after the word’s got out?
Drug users shooting up, that kind of stuff too —
everyone knows that —
but what’s worse is when all them sexual preverts
start doing their thing in the public toilets.
You know, their preversions, you know the kind I mean
you can’t get the smell out when they’re finished
either —
you bring in your janitors with mops and buckets,
they do their best, sure, but how can they keep ahead?
Great waves of body fluids gushing beneath the doors,
flooding the waiting room — bring in the cops too,
but what can they do?
They make some arrests, but its preverts I’m saying,
doing their sex preversions wherever they find a spot
for it,
maybe jail cells too — just ain’t no stopping ’em —
you hose down with Lysol but that makes no difference,
’cause what I’m saying is this,
if you’re gonna have public restrooms
it’s just an excuse for ’em, as if they needed one.     
Just ask me, I know,
like back in the old days,
back when there wasn’t even talk about public toilets
I can’t tell you how many of ’em I caught
just doing their preverted things on the bus.”  

Another short trip in the wayback machine:  how many recall A ROBOT, A CYBORG, AND A MARTIAN WALK INTO A SPACE BAR. . . . (cf. May 28, 26)?  To quote from Publisher Nomadic Delirium Press, “[a]s you might be able to guess, or at least we hope you can guess, this is an anthology of comedic science fiction.  So, if you think you can tickle our funny bone with your SF story, we want to see it. . .  We will also consider fantasy humor, but we would prefer SF.”  Originally the book was scheduled to come into being just after Halloween, on November 1.  Well, you know how these things go, try to get even three Earthlings together for an appointment at a given time.

So in this case another book ahead of it on the publisher’s schedule suffered an unexpected delay and, again from the horse’s mouth, “we thought we’d post an update here.  . . .  We’re hoping to release this collection in December, but the reality is that it will probably be January.  Everything is still on course, and we still want to use all the stories that we’ve already accepted.

“For authors who have stories appearing in the collection, you can expect contracts in late November or early December.”

Such is the life of the publisher, the writer, and also sometimes the reader.  My story in this one is titled “Toast” and, perhaps ironically, is about breakfast (well, possibly one or two other things too).  So maybe in  time for a post-New Year’s brunch. . . ?

HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE is turning out to be a treasure trove of cool stuff.  So here’s another one to share and, while the vampire article Monday may have seemed more basic, this one’s a review of a cutting edge film.  But first a short trip in the wayback machine cdf9a17e36930d844cafb67ce57d44b4_largeto this summer’s NASFiC (a.k.a. Detcon1) in Detroit, noting my “having missed the Masquerade (hey, they ought to have pictures of it in LOCUS), opting instead for that night’s ‘Film Festival — Horror Shorts #4,’ which included a premiere of ‘The Tell Tale Heart,’ the first of three stories in TALES OF POE directed by Bart Mastronardi and set to premiere as a whole in Hollywood next month” (see July 23).  Thus it came that TALES OF POE had its Hollywood world premiere as promised on August 20, and guess who happened to be in attendance, HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE managing editor/reviewer Terry M. West!

So now we know what the other two stories are, for one thing:  “The Cask” (based on “A Cask of Amontillado”) and “Dreams” (a put-together sequence of various Poe themes).  For another, I can say from just seeing the first part that the film as a whole is on my list to be on the lookout for.  Might one hope for a Midwest premiere at the Indiana University Cinema?  Or, at least, perhaps a screening at next year’s Diabolique Film Festival?

Maybe not, but one can find the picture reviewed — including a trailer — at HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE by pressing here.

For readers who punched the button in yesterday’s post for the HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE piece by Donna Marie West on “The Historical Vampire,” a bit more on the critters, or at least on those believed to be vampires right here in the United States.  I addedburne-jones-le-vampire_edit a comment which one can find there, but the gist of it was a reference to the article’s statement, “If bitten you could break the spell by burning the vampire’s heart and consuming it.”  That reminded me that that’s exactly what was done in the case of Mercy Brown, the last American vampire — hers was one of a flurry of cases of suspected vampirism in Connecticut and Rhode Island toward the end of the 19th century and has also been said to have been in part the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.  Then for more I offered a link to one account about Mercy Brown which can also be found here.

“We DO pay for flash fiction,” the guidelines read.  “Halloween theme gives you an edge, but we will consider all forms of horror.  Keep it to a PG-13 level, as we do expect a mixed audience.  Pays five cents per word to 500 words.  No reprints, please.  We will respond to every submission as quickly as we can, but expect 2-4 weeks.”

And so it happened I had a story, if not of Halloween per se, at least Halloween-like, at a little bit over 500 words, but it could use tightening.  I did what was needed and then sent it out — and a week and a day later the email came from Managing Editor Terry M. West:  “Yes, I would like to run this one on September 30.”

The publication is called HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE and the story in question, “A Bucket of Lo Mein,” the saga of a restaurant bicycle delivery person who works for a man who is not Chinese, but looks a little like Bela Lugosi.  In full disclosure, this is actually the second story I’d sent to HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE, the first, about chocolate, having been deemed perhaps a bit too much toward the bizarre.  Might I have, instead, something on more of a classic trope?

But of course, I thought — and also about food!  So for the result, keep an eye out for HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE in just another week and a day, “a place,” according to the web site, “that celebrates Halloween and the horror genre 365 days a year.  Our goal is to satisfy the casual fan as well as the diehard enthusiast with exclusive content for all things Halloween and horror:  fiction, movies, reviews, interviews and we also offer cool Halloween and horror-themed merchandise all year long.”

And so for a sort of lagniappe — I say “sort of” because this time it’s not my own work I’m offering — I ran across some interesting facts on “The Historical Vampire” in the current issue.  If interested in seeing more, one need but press here.

To quote from the program book:  “Chip returns home to find his mother brutally murdered and a sessile space alien living in her house rent free.  A somewhat xenophobic and bureaucratic government agency called Science Team is brought in to eliminate the extraterrestrial threat.  Drama ensues.  People die. Inner and extraterrestrial demons are engaged.  Men in pink suits use cool-looking technology.  Events culminate in a destructive orgy of violence as people’s minds are literally blown out of their heads.”  One of the film’s introducers called it “hopefully the most bizarre film you’ve seen all year.”  I don’t know science-teamwhether I necessarily agree with the latter (I see an awful lot of films), but feature-length SCIENCE TEAM (2014), in a block with short films DEARLY DEPARTED (a fiancée won’t let a little thing like her intended’s death get in the way of the honeymoon), FRANKY AND THE ANT (a hit man’s ethic that centers on loyalty), and UNCANNY VALLEY (an animated look at a robot’s attempts to win his human Mistess Celina’s love), all of these films from the USA, did offer an interesting end to the 2014 Diabolique Film Festival.  While hard to describe, SCIENCE TEAM might be considered retro science fiction/horror with a deliberate attempt “to make it like an ’80s horror comedy” (Director Drew Bolduc interview in FANGORIA, June 27).

This was the last of six two-hour blocks (generally one and a half hours of film followed by a half hour Q and A/break between blocks) that offered a wallow of short films for Saturday’s participants, starting with two more or less family friendly programs but growing progressively darker (or, in the final set, maybe bizarro) as the day progressed.  I had other obligations earliDIFF_AcademicSymposiumer, notably the September meeting of my writers group at 12:30 that afternoon, but I did make the final four blocks, from 4 p.m. to a bit after midnight, totaling 27 films in all ranging from 2 minutes long (SANTA, Greece, from the fourth block, subtitled “The Chilling”) to 80 minutes for the aforementioned SCIENCE TEAM.  Other highlights for me were, from the third block subtitled “The Disturbed,” LIVELY from Canada (a babysitter, an escaped killer, a precocious nine year old boy) which also won for Best Cinematography; from the fourth block, EVIL TWIN from Germany (an epic fight through space and time involves two sets of brothers), WATERBORNE from Australia (zombie kangaroos), and Best Makeup winner THE VISITANT (a mother defends her child from a demon — or does she?) from the USA; and from the fifth, “The Perverse,” EXTREME PINOCCHIO from France (a re-imagining of the tale involving a junkie dwarf and a sexual predator with a Geppetto fixation, also winner of Best Screenplay), and the Spanish TIMOTHY (another babysitter story, this involving the psychopathic host of a children’s TV show who visits still wearing his giant rabbit costume).

And there were many more of interest:  KVISTUR (Canada) and COUNTER PARTS (USA) in the third block; LA LLORONA (USA), THE CARRIAGE, OR, DRACULA & MY MOTHER (Canada, also Best Director), and ODD ONE OUT (Canada) in the fourth; SERVICE (USA), PITY (USA), and THE HEAT (Poland, winner of Best Short and Best Actor) in the fifth.  And more beyond that, with précis of all to be found here.

“Jonestown” was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by the Peoples Temple, an American religious organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana.  It became internationally notorious when on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital city.  The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.  (Wikipedia)

Ti West is a master of subtle horror, according to the introduction of the first of three of his films shown Friday night, with films that start quietly and let the suspense build.  Others in fact, judging from several reviews I’ve run across on Amazon, may feel that the suspense sometimes builds too slowly.  Be that as it may, the latest, chronologically,  of the three filmssacrament_left shown, THE SACRAMENT (2014), was a good introduction to the concept.  Based on 1978’s Jonestown Massacre in which a religious utopia gone bad ended up with shootings and an ultimate mass murder/suicide via cyanide-laced Kool Aid, THE SACRAMENT brings the tragedy into the present, as seen through the lens of entertainment journalism.

So, in effect, we “know” what will happen, at least in broad detail.  In this retelling, a news team accompanies a man to the tropical “Eden Parish” to document his reunion with his sister, a member of the cult run by a man called “the Father.”   Somewhat as in last night’s “Proxy,” the visit starts off on a positive note — but a few things seem just a little bit off.  And, as interviews (including one with the Father himself) and observations progress, the bad details build until they overpower the good.

The second film, THE INNKEEPERS (2011), following a skeleton crew of two hapless desk clerks at a hotel slated to close down in a few days, uses the same technique of starting offInnkeepers_right with things seemingly normal — although  “innkeepers” Claire and Luke are a bit goofy, determining to use ghost hunting techniques in a final effort to test the tradition that the  hotel is haunted — then slowly bringing anomalies in.  It is also the only one of the three to use humor well as a tension-breaker (my favorite, Clair’s faux pas that causes hotel guest “angry mother” to give up and return home with her son to her husband).  And by the end, in part through an effective, albeit in danger of becoming heavy handed use of music along with a handful of well-placed ghostly “jump” sequences, it has become truly terrifying.

In my opinion, THE INNKEEPERS is the most successful of the three — enough so that I’m considering getting it on DVD to be able to watch it few times more — in part, I think, because the main characters are genuinely likeable.  I felt I could invest myself in them, especially Claire, and really cared whether they came out okay.  During the Q and A, one person did point out that Claire’s going into the basement toward the end (just after being thoroughly frightened and wanting to leave the hotel altogether) seemed a bit forced, which West countered by noting it’s only after a series of hesitations and that there’s also an air of predestination by then, that things will play out regardless of efforts to try to prevent them.  Then one last note by me, watch for a final “manifestation” just before the film cuts to the credits.

The third and earliest film, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), was, in my opinion, the least successful, showing perhaps crudely the techniques that would be better perfected two years later.  This one concerns a college girl on a babysitting gig at a remotely located home — except that there isn’t any baby.  There is an old woman the student HouseDevil_leftshould be there for instead, and we know from the start there are intimations of satanic cults.  Also, early, we get the first anomalous happening, concerning a call made to a pay phone, and maybe half way through at most, another “bad thing” (concerning the student’s girl friend) that lets us know right then that things won’t end well.  Yet there is, again, the “building up” pattern, in this case with the babysitter exploring the house, but even though a few clues are uncovered, much of it seemed to me to be just aimless wandering.

It is a good film, mind you, even if crude (more heavy handed, for instance, in its use of music), and it’s kind of neat the way an impending lunar eclipse is used as a motif (also bad pizza — and look for the two combined in a scene early on).  There’s not a speck of humor, on the other hand.  All in all I’d have to call it interesting — and well worth a viewing —  but not a keeper.

I can remember when, if one thought of Indiana, one thought of basketball and cornfields — and maybe the Indianapolis 500.  So now we’re the host, approximately seven blocks from my house, of the Diabolique International Film Festival over this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, “presented by DIABOLIQUE MAGAZINE, the fastest growing publication in the world dedicated to genre cinema.”  How far we have come!

To further quote from the program book:  “The festival began eight years ago as the Dark Carnival Film Festival.  Since 2007 it has presented over 250 films from more than a dozen countries, and hosted visiting filmmakers from around the world.  The festival has been recognized by MOVIEMAKER MAGAZINE as one of the ‘Top 25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee,’ and one of the ’13 Horror Film Festivals to Die For.’”

I just got home a few minutes after midnight, Friday morning, from the opening feature, PROXY.  It’s one that starts brutally with a pregnant woman attacked and beaten on her way home from a checkup.  She loses the baby, but later on makes a new friend in a grief support group — but then some things stProxy2013filmposterart not to add up.  And then the film takes a new direction, and then another. . . .  Deception upon deception — which is reality and which a fantasy?  As the director himself had said, it’s “a film that works best if you don’t know too much about it beforehand,” but I’ll give two hints.  It is, throughout, a film about psychological comings to terms with things.  And the title is what it is for a reason.

There was a question/answer session afterward with Director Zack Parker, originally himself from Indiana — with the movie also having been filmed primarily in Richmond, on the Ohio border (then adding to the Indiana connection, Parker admitted the boy, Peyton, in the film was deliberately named for one-time Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, a popular name locally at about the time the boy would have been born).  Other highlights:  that he had spent four or five years in Los Angeles, and even worked once with Roger Corman (cf. March 30, below), but it’s much cheaper to actually make one’s films away from LA; his methods for casting (a prospect’s attitude and whether he or she seems to “get” what the director’s trying to do with a film counts more than the audition); his creative method of thinking first about what kind of movie he wants to make, then coming up with a story to fit it; and the rather dark roles of the women in this picture as a breaking away from “typical” female parts.

Friday evening will bring three features by horror director Ti West, of which I will hope to watch all three (I have a pass that’s good for the whole weekend) but may only have stamina enough for two.  Then Saturday afternoon and night will be taken up by blocks of short films, of which I will hope to get to the later, more intensive screenings.  During the day, though, I also have a monthly meeting of my writers group.

For those interested, more on the Diabolique International Film Festival can be found here.

“Below are the titles that will be submitted to OverDrive for their various promotions in October.  All titles will be discounted 25% where allowed (some are $0.99 already, which is the lowest OverDrive will go).  The sale will be available to all libraries as well as most retailers who source through OverDrive.”  So began today’s email from Untreed Reads Publications editor Jay Hartmen.  And so, to the chase, a scroll down revealed that one of the titles is YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR, Untreed Reads’s 2012 New Eve anthology with (ahem) its leadoff story by me, “Appointment in Time.”

As for OverDrive, their website explains:  “OverDrive.com is designed to help you get digital eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and music quickly and easily.  You can search for a title, then immediately see if it’s available to borrow, for free, from your library.”  That is, from the library’s point of view, they’re a distribution service that libraries can buy ebooks, etc., from, whereas from the reader’s point of view it’s a service through which one can borrow these titles directly through the OverDrive site.  Moreover, they presumably highlight selected titles for seasonal or other occasional reasons — and, according to Untreed Reads’s list, YEAR’S END will be part of a “Halloween/Spooky Stories” October promotion.

For more on OverDrive, one can press here; while for information on Untreed Reads, including three other titles by me, PEDS, I’M DREAMING OF A. . ., and VANITAS, click on their pictures in the center column or (for a more general look) press here.




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