Archive for February, 2016

The pay wasn’t much, but it could be prestigious, possibly extending circulation outside of genre boundaries.  In any event, the call was inciting:

EVERYWHERE STORIES:  SHORT FICTION FROM A SMALL PLANET (Edited by Clifford Garstang, published by Press 53 in Fall 2014) is an anthology of short fiction (short stories of any length, short shorts, and flash) set around the globe, including the United States.  Volume I consisted of 20 stories by 20 authors set in 20 countries. 

Volume II will consist of around 20 fictions, with no more than one story set in any one country.  Included stories will be a mix of previously published and new work. . . .

Other terms followed, including a loose theme-by-default, “it’s a dangerous world,” and a list of nations already taken.  The mundane, the exotic, the ends of the Earth, the just around the corner.  And therewith a challenge that could be kind of fun.  What setting could I find so out of the way that no other author might claim it before me?

How about the middle of the Sahara Desert?

So out stepped a story set in Mali a century or so back, “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” of shifting sands and caravan routes and illicit slaving, originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in November 1991.*  Late yesterday the word came back for a pleasant cap to a slightly longer-than-usual February.  “Thank you for sending us ‘The Wellmaster’s Daughter.’  We love it and would like to include it in the anthology.  We’ll be in touch soon with more details.”

*For those who might wish for a sneak peek,”The Wellmaster’s Daughter” is included in my 2001 collection STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE.  It also appears in Smart Rhino Publications’ 2012 anthology UNCOMMON ASSASSINS (cf. February 7 2014, September 27 2012, et al.).

Three short items to round out the weekend.  First, Untreed Reads Publishing has announced that they’re celebrating six years of doing business (and, indeed, my first publication with them, VANITAS, a steampunk/mystery originally published by ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in January 1996, came out as a stand-alone chapbook in August 2011 during their first year) by having a 30 percent off sale on all Untreed Reads-published ebooks during the month of March.  In addition to VANITAS, they’ve since brought out my Christmas horror short story I’M DREAMING OF A. . . ., and my dystopian near-future science fiction novelette PEDS, all of which should be covered by the discount.

If interested, pressing the picture in the center column of any of these three titles will bring a description/ordering page which also includes the New Years Eve anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR, featuring my lead story “Appointment in Time.”  From there, one can also click to the Untreed Reads general catalog for other authors and titles, etc.  Sale prices should start Tuesday, March 1, with the 30 percent discount being applied to orders during the checkout process.

On a less happy note, this being the last Sunday of February I would normally plan to post a note on the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic,” this month with guest readers JT Howard, “a fiction writer, translator and occasional poet currently working to complete an MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University,” and Bloomington resident and recent IU graduate Harlan Kelly, who is also a founder and current host of the Bloomington Poetry Slam.  However, I’ve been rather under the weather this past week and, even though it’s a lovely day outside, prudence (combined with Bloomington buses not running on Sunday) has caused me to stay home this weekend.

Finally, speaking of poetry,  late Saturday brought a proof sheet from David C. Kopaska-Merkel of DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES 102, officially dated for January 2016 although possibly now one should say the Spring Issue, which I okayed and sent back last night.  My poem in the potpourri is titled “Plus-Size” (cf. August 30), about an Ancient Egyptian mummy, large to begin with, that due to an excess of tana leaves just kept on growing.

Word came today from Julie Hedge of Bards and Sages Publishing that the final files for Volume 1 in the “Great Tomes” series, THE GREAT TOME OF FORGOTTEN RELICS AND ARTIFACTS (cf. February 3, January 7, et al.), have been completed and sent to the printer and various digital outlets.  In fact, it’s already available for pre-order at Amazon at $4.99 and should start appearing for GTVol1.3385958_stdpre-order at other sites within the next week.  At that point the print edition will undergo a final proofreading with everything on track for an announced March 31 release date, with a trade paperback price set at $15.99

As noted in the headline above, my entry into this eldritch ediface is a tale of candle magic and playing with fire called “The Candle Room.”  Of troll-shaped tapers and unearthly entities.  It is a reprint that first appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of TERMINAL FRIGHT and can also be found in THE TEARS OF ISIS.

For those who wish, for the Kindle page and pre-order information for THE GREAT TOME OF FORGOTTEN RELICS AND ARTIFACTS press here, with, again, other electronic versions and the print edition available over the next few weeks.

Now it has been revealed!  My story, “Flightless Rats,” has made the list of finalists for the Mocha Memoirs Press Women in Horror Month Flash Fiction contest.  Or, in the official wording:  The following stories have been chosen as the TOP TEN Flash Stories of 2016!  These stories (pending various technical stuffs) will be compiled into a micro-anthology for use by the press.  However, now we need YOUR VOTES to determine the winner of the GRAND PRIZE — $20 Amazon GC!  So use the form below to find your favorite (CLICK THE TAB FOR WiH Flash Fiction Contest 2016) and VOTE!!!!   “Flightless Rats” was originally published in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG for January 12 2015, and is one of several flash pieces I’ve been working on concerning the origin and further adventures of the “Casket Girls” of  New Orleanian urban legend (cf. February 18, et al.).

Following is the list of finalists which can be reached for voting by pressing here.  Also for those who want a reminder read-through of some or all tales, texts of the original twenty-plus entries can still be found by pressing here.

The Top Ten Flash Fiction Finalists!

Diabolique by Tracy Vincent
Flightless Rats by James Dorr
Pickman’s Model by Jason Ellis
Hell on Earth by Carrie Martin
The Damned by Melissa McArthur
Servant Girl Anihilator by Robert Perret
Staying by Myriah Strozykowsky
Hag by Marcia Wilson
What the Dollhouse Saw by Karen Bovenmeyer
Thin Ice by Marcia Colette

Well, on second look perhaps not so much a literal giant in length — the total story count, after all, is just twenty-one — but, Geminid Press’s just-announced NIGHT LIGHTS:  AN ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT FICTION (FIRST CONTACT, CONSPIRACY, AND SPACE OPERA) is, as the extended title suggests, a combining of what were initially planned as three separate books.  Such was the impression.  The pay offered was good, and paid in advance, for tales of 1000 to 7500 words and when I bit with a 7000-word original GeminidPressNightLightstongue-in-cheek space adventure, “The Needle-Heat Gun,” for their “space opera anthology, Title Pending” (the other two themes of Conspiracy and First Contact being covered by separate anthology calls) an acceptance came back, followed by a contract, in breathtakingly rapid time (cf. November 7, 6 2014).

Then, however, things slowed down.  Publication was being looked for in lateish 2015, but one knows how that goes.  Move up to Sunday though, yesterday evening, and, ever so quietly, the word was slipped in by Co-Publishers Paul and Phil Garver:  “Your short stories are finally out!  The anthology of short fiction has been published as a Kindle eBook, and the paperback will arrive next month.”  The message went on to discuss things like authors’ copies — thus far, Geminid Press is proving to be a nice outfit to work with! — and a note that, while the regular Kindle price for NIGHT LIGHTS is $4.99, “please note that it will be on sale for FREE on February 26-28.”  Presumably that will be for everybody (there wasn’t some special code, for instance, that authors might use just to get theirs for free) which can be a good way to get word out fast on what could be a classic science fiction anthology.  I would suggest for readers who take advantage of it and like what they get, that in return they thank Geminid Press by considering posting a review.

Below is a list of NIGHT LIGHTS stories and authors arranged by sections (I’m in the third), while if, appetite whetted, you’d like to order it, Amazon’s page can be found here.

Conspiracy Hour – Freak us out with the most awesome conspiracy and cover-up tales you dare to divulge.  Raise our suspicions and make us question reality!
•    Brian Leopold – Only a Matter of Time
•    Suanne Schafer – Suite for the Lady in Red
•    Dennis Mombauer – The Garbage Mandala
•    Nick Nafpliotis – Destructive Theories
•    Dean H. Wild – The Harvest Consortium
•    Jamie D. Wahls – Maestro

Take Me to Your Leader – An alien visitor to Earth speaks his first words, which are, essentially, “Take me to your leader.”
•    Russell Nichols – Tie Goes to the Runner
•    David Boop – Ragnarök-n-Roll – A Story of Pre-cod-nition
•    Daniel P. Douglas – Well, Haruki, Looks Like It’s Just You and Me, Kid
•    Chris Doty – The Windfall
•    Kurt Bachard – The Singular Martian Invasion
•    Robert Bagnall – Shooting the Messenger

Space Opera – Rock us with cool short stories that have laser beams, spaceships, heroes — both male and female — and far out faraway places.  No singing required.
•    Frances Pauli – User Error
•    Julian Drury – Noctis Mons
•    James Dorr – The Needle-Heat Gun
•    Rebecca A. Demarest – Pit Stop
•    Richard W. Black – Space Partners
•    J.B. Rockwell – Three Penny Raven
•    Michael McGlade – Fortune Awaits You on Mars
•    Milo James Fowler – Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Devious Powers of Persuasion
•    Tracy Canfield – Lift Up Your Cores, O Ye Ships

Yesterday, as noted, was S.C.I.F.I. writers critique group day at which my story on the griddle was my recent flash piece “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale,” as also noted in a different outing on February 7.  This introduced the blithely-humored Frenchwoman Claudette, recently come to New Orleans with the vampiress Aimée and the “casket girls” of New Orleanian urban legend.  (For more on the casket girls, incidentally, see just below, February 18, regarding a tale starring Aimée herself called “Flightless Rats,” including a link to allow you to read it yourself.)  The story was well received with one comment I especially liked, from one who added she had been a French Literature major, that even in less than 600-words Claudette’s character came off as unmistakably French.

Come we now one day later, and it’s come to my Sunday afternoon e-attention (sorry, couldn’t resist) that IT’S COME TO OUR ATTENTION, the Spring 2016 entry in Third Flatiron Publishing’s “Third Flatiron Anthologies” series, has just been published.  IT’S COME TO OUR ATTENTION from Third Flatiron Anthologies contains imaginative speculative fiction short stories about things that could be happening quietly, without a lot of fanfare, but which could still be extremely significant or make a big difference, to quote Amazon’s blurb.  Visit a landfill to hear some real trash talk.  Tag along with an alien agent here to save the earth from his hideout in the insane asylum.  Bust a conspiracy to change the climate via mind control.  Form an unhealthy attachment to your radio.  Go down to the basement even though we told you not to. Decide on the pros and cons of immortality.  Tell a librarian she would look beautiful without her glasses.  Find out what’s at the bottom of the wishing well (besides coins).  Indulge in a little illegal but highly satisfying genetic tinkering.  Acknowledge the debt we all owe to French culture.  

So, speaking of French. . . .

In any event, my story in this is called “Chocolat” (cf. January 25, et al.), about a Frenchman and, like “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale,” it’s told in about 500 words and has a lot to do with food.  To savor for oneself, one can find IT’S COME TO OUR ATTENTION on Smashwords by pressing here, or Amazon by pressing here.

There’s something about February.  Bitter cold just a week ago, today it’s in the low 60s (though, alas, not to last very long).  But it’s also a month for lists of films, it seems, and what should I run into whilst perusing my email, following this month’s “S.C.I.F.I.” (you don’t want to know what i81LWWH22szL._SY550_t stands for, honest) writers group meeting at the county library — two Valentines Day appropriate stories discussed, as it happens — but, yes, another one.  And this also one where I’ve seen most of the entries myself, “13 Greatest Art-House Horror Films” on DREAD CENTRAL, by Erin Hoyles, courtesy of Mike Olson who we’ve met before via Facebook’s ON THE EDGE CINEMA.  Standard disclaimer:  it’s one compiler’s opinion, I might have chosen some differently myself, and also some of these come up on the list of Visually Stunning Horror Movies, below, for February 9.  But I’ll stand behind them being worth seeing, at least those I’ve seen (WARNING to even the slightly squeamish, though, beware of MARTYRS).

To enjoy, check here.

February is Women in Horror Month, and we here at Mocha Memoirs Press love our ladies of horror!  In celebration of “Ghoul Power,” MMP is hosting a February Flash Fiction contest!  Flash fiction is quickly becoming popular on the eBook scene.  They’re super short pieces (usually less than 1000 words) that you can read on your phone, tablet, or eReader while you’re waiting your turn at the salon, stuck in traffic, or right before bed.  So here’s how it works:

The call went on to say stories had to be horror with a female point-of-view character, no more than 1000 words long, and in by a deadline of February 15.  Stories would then be posted on the Mocha Memoirs Press blog on the 17th, whereupon a panel of judges would choose the ten best, with voting for readers to choose from these to start next Tuesday, February 23.  There would be a prize for the MochaMemoirs_horrorthequebest, although not a big one, but nothing was said about sending in reprints (despite the fact that someone had asked in a “comments” section) so why not? I thought.  Authors “of all genders” could submit and the top ten tales would also be “featured in a promotional mini-anthology used to promote Mocha Memoirs Press.”

So I’ve been published by them before (cf. January 18 2016, October 28 2013, et al.; also November 18, 7, 4 2015) and, anyway, that which promotes them also helps promote me, so why not indeed?  Off I sent a more or less 950-word story, “Flightless Rats,” originally published January 12 2015 in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG (see August 24, January 12 2015, et al.), concerning the vampiress Aimée of the “casket girls” and a date gone bad on a 19th century, gas-lit New Orleans summer night.

But worry not, she could cope.

Anyway the word came Wednesday that the initial stories are up for preview viewing, for which one may press here.  “We had over twenty submissions and each one is more bone-chilling than the last!”  And mine is there, one of the later ones, possibly handicapped as it is labeled “Reprint” at the top (most of the others not being so noted, a quick glance tells me, meaning either they’re all originals or some of the authors may be more candid than others).

So call it a lagniappe, a pretty good freebie which Mocha Memoirs would like you to peruse, adding that you should take note of your favorites as “the top 10 stories (chosen by our own ladies of Horror) will be up for voting next week.”

So let’s add a twenty-fifth title to those in the article cited below.  The 1996 movie THE GRAVE may not be that well known or popular a film (57 percent “like” on ROTTEN TOMATOES), but it’s one I like.  And that’s not even with vampires in it.  So call it a guilty pleasure then?  Be that as it may, it happens I reviewed it a bit more than two years ago right here, on December 13 2013.  And so, herewith:

. . . last night (after midnight so it was  the 13th too) I watched a film that only about five minutes in I realized I’d seen on TV before.  Many years before — but that I still remembered enough to be glad I’d now found at a library sale and could watch again.  THE GRAVE is a surprisingly well acted Southern Gothic, scary as graveneeded and peppered with dark humor.  And in that first five minutes, just the music accompanying the credits also reminded me of the Stephen King/John Mellencamp musical GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY (see October 11), reinforced in the opening scene in a prison cell, dark, with two people seen in silhouette, one speaking in a hoarse, raspy voice as a narrator-guide, complete with homey aphorisms here and again as the film played out, reminiscent of (and even sounding like) GHOST BROTHERS’ “Zydeco Cowboy.”

The premise, as others have said, may not be new — the somewhat chance joining of disparate people in a treasure hunt, in this case for a fortune left by the region’s richest man, that no one could find a trace of when he died.  So, getting a clue from one of their fellows, two prisoners escape from the state farm with one of the guards’ help and start the search, bringing in an ex-girlfriend, and a parolee now employed as a mortician, and friends of his, one a good ol’ boy as dumb as a post, and. . . .  Well, the common bond between them is greed, to which add no sense of honor among thieves, and you just know it’s not going to end well.  There’s even one small scene that reminded me of the first SAW movie, which, however,  THE GRAVE preceded by some eight years.

And yes, the treasure is found in a grave, or rather beneath one — and not the grave of the rich man himself — in a cemetery out in the swamp, remote and eerie, and excellently suited for double crosses.

THE GRAVE is available on VHS (though not on DVD that I could find) and, apparently sort of a minor cult classic, may cost a few dollars.  It’s worth the price.

Just now I did a check and it still seems to be on VHS only — and with asking prices in the $30 to $40 and up range.  It is available for download on Amazon though, which can be checked out here.  The film stars Craig Sheffer, Gabrielle Anwar, and Josh Charles and is directed by  Jonas Pate.

Here’s one of those lists, this one with some classics on it, “10 Great Southern Gothic Films” by Samuel Wigley a11825479d79a723965201eab3e4feda2s presented by BFI FILM FOREVER.  And it’s not just ten, as Wigley ends up with a list of fourteen more culled from suggestions from his readers.  Lots of Tennessee Williams here, not to mention James Dickey’s DELIVERANCE.  Finder’s credit goes to Matt Weber via Facebook’s ON THE EDGE CINEMA.

The picture, in fact, is from one of the “final fourteen,” a favorite of mine (though technically not really set in the South), THE REFLECTING SKIN, one that brings vampires into the mix.  But it does have the flavor — and you know me!  In any event, to see twenty-four sweaty, sun-beating-down suggestions to warm your winter-time viewing, one need but press here.

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