Archive for September, 2016

It’s a contest put on by Grey Matter Press, publishers of SPLATTERLANDS and others (cf. September 11 2015, et al.), to select a small number of flash fiction pieces to play with the big boys (“five disturbing visions from five diverse authors that include Josh Malerman, John F.D. Taff, Erik T. Johnson, J. Daniel Stone, and Joe Schwartz”) in a new anthology I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.  The prizes include publication, a copy, and a modest gift card and entries must be published in advance for the judges and others — readers who can vote for their favorites too.  The stories vampiress_by_laravilya-d4r2gwfmust be inspired by the “bloody” title, be 500-700 words in length, and, the month almost over, thought I “why not?”

So think of it as a pre-Halloween lagniappe, free stories for all!  Mine is about, natch, sweet lesbian vampire love (so why not?) in a 698-word bare bones version of a longer tale originally published in MON COEUR MORT (Post Mortem Press, July 2011*), “A Cup Full of Tears.”  But here’s the thing, for “A Cup Full of Tears” to be published in the anthology too, it must be voted on by those who read it.  A jury of sorts will look at these too, but when the smoke clears, by noon I believe on Halloween Day (the voting itself ends at 12:01 a.m. October 26), it is those with the most votes that get to move on.  Voting consists of clicking a button to the right that follows each story, and leaving a comment — hopefully positive.  Also, up until October 21, you can enter your own mini-story as well if you desire.

So to vote — or just read — one must press here.  You will see the rules, the details of the contest, but then you must scroll down.  Down and down, passing stories and comments, until you reach the sixth (6th) story.  My name will be above it in blue, then the title in all caps, “A CUP FULL OF TEARS.”  And should the spirit so move, the vote button is at its bottom right, labeled “Reply.”

(Or if, by now, even the idea of elections has you down, just read and enjoy.)

*See also July 28, 14, June 17 2011, below.

In a slightly belated announcement  (I just got the news yesterday myself), EVERYWHERE STORIES, VOLUME II (cf. September 18, 6, et al.) was officially published Monday this week, September 26.  This means it can be ordered on Amazon, B&L, etc., as well as directly from publieverywhere-stories-vol-iisher Press 53, this last by pressing here.  Edited by Clifford Gerstang, and not necessarily genre bound, the book contains tales set in various countries the world over, no two repeated.  Mine for instance, originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE (also in my collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE), is “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” set in Mali, a horrorish crime tale of family relations gone bad in the Sahara Desert.

For those in the Washington DC/Virginia/North Carolina area, several signings for EVERYWHERE STORIES have been planned, for updates on which one can check out their Facebook page here.  Also for a bit more information, an article on the launch appeared in the AUGUSTA (Virginia) FREE PRESS, and can be found here.

Jesus Franco’s VAMPYROS LESBOS is yet another horror film that doesn’t quite qualify as scary. More erotica than anything else, the film follows a vixen vampiress that, as the title would suggest, targets female victims. While a lesbian vampire is certainly a creative, albeit odd, character choice, that doesn’t mean that the idea should result in the film.

Unfortunately for us, it did.  And as you could probably guess, scares are in short supply while the sexualization of women is at the forefront of the entire film.  Of course, there are many that would disagree — in many circles, this film is considered brilliant, even one of Franco’s best works.  However, no matter the opinion on the film’s success, vampyroslesboscoverit’s very clear that sexuality is valued over the its “scary” qualities.

We may recall VAMPYROS LESBOS from last month’s post on “Sweet Lesbian Vampire Love” (August 14).  And so it is, um, covered again as #7 in Victoria Robertson’s “10 Trashy Horror Movies With More Skin then Scares” on SCREENRANT.COM, as pointed out in today’s e-mailbox by Scott M. Godiscak via Facebook and THE HORROR SOCIETY.  The list is not to condemn the sexy, at least not per se, but to lament the lack of actual horror when pushed too far aside by skin and/or blood.  The point is well enough taken (VAMPYROS LESBOS for example is actually a retelling of DRACULA from a more CARMILLA-like point of view, but is washed in sun — literally — rather than shadows) although, in some cases, we might still make room for guilty pleasures.  And as Robertson points out herself, for at least a few of these there are contradictory opinions.  Number 1 on her list, starring Robert Englund, is, for instance, filled with sly references to existentialism, albeit perhaps more superficial than profound.  Or are they?

More profound are ten different movies, courtesy of Robert Dunbar via Gerald Houarner on Facebook’s LITERARY DARKNESS, as brought to us by Rebekah McKendry in “10 Terrifying Science Fiction Films You May Have Missed” via BLUMHOUSE.COM.  Some of these are a bit obscure, the list itself sometimes suggesting sources, and I have to confess I’ve only seen four myself (although of the guilty pleasures above, I’ve only seen three as far as I know, but in this case it may be that some are overly forgettable).  Still some should be worth searching for, for a start on which one may press here — while for guilty pleasures press here.

Another month, another last Sunday, which brought today the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading and Open Mic,” presented in conjunction with the Bloomington and Monroe County Convention Center (cf. August 28, et al.).  The opening reading this time was by Jordan Zandi, a Boston University MFA, who read from his recent Kathryn A. Morton Prize winning collection, SOLARIUM, then ended with one or two new poems slated for his next publishing project.  He was followed by Indianapolis born and bred, and lately Bloomington resident Jason Ammerman, a lively and experienced reader and also co-founder of the Indiana poetry troupe The Reservoir Dogwoods, with his most recent collection, BATTLE SCARRED, published by Chatter House Press in 2012.  He also has a forthcoming collection, WAYLON JENNINGS NEVER SLEPT HERE.

When “Open Mic” time came there were nine readers signed up, a larger than normal group, of which I came last with three recent and as yet unpublished poems.  The first of these, “Some Assembly Required,” was a three-line not-really-haiku about the travails of an undertaker, following the night of the full moon, collecting body parts left by the local werewolves for proper burial.  This was followed by bambitwo longer poems, the first of which, “Escalations,” references a very short movie I saw years ago, BAMBI MEETS GODZILLA, describing how after the movie the Japanese monster, washing festering deer body parts off his foot in Tokyo Bay, inadvertently starts a worldwide athletes foot epidemic; the second, involving a prompt to write an uplifting poem (I explained to the audience I generally don’t do uplifting) is called simply “Uplifting,” and describes a woman wearing a wide-brimmed, but overly tight-fitting hat who is caught in a wind storm and blown to the moon.  (This last one also included vampires.)

Loosely inspired by La Sorcière, Jules Michelet’s 1862 history of witchcraft and the occult, BELLADONNA OF SADNESS tells the story of a young woman who makes a pact with the devil to exact revenge after being raped and driven from her home.  This brief synopsis, however, does no justice to the visual spectacle of the film, which proceeds as a series of still images flashing onscreen.  Spectacular watercolor paintings by Kuni Fukai belladonnaofsadnessmarry the art nouveau artifice of artists like Aubrey Beardsley to ’60s psychedelia; the film’s North American distributor, Cinelicious Pics, describes it as “equal parts J.R.R. Tolkien and gorgeous, explicit Gustav Klimt-influenced eroticism.”  So states Amazon’s blurb for not the movie, but for a companion book with, among other things, pages and pages of stills.  And make no mistake, the visual art of this film is exotic and stunningly beautiful.  And also erotic — although animated, this is not for children.  It is for the most part a series of stills with relatively confined motion, not to mention a dollop of Freudian symbolism where sometimes not entirely expected (and thus at times, at last night’s Indiana University Cinema midnight screening, also provoking giggles).  And, oh yes, while based on a book by a French author, with very French subject matter, BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a Japanese movie.

To quote Amazon once more, this time from its page for the movie itself:  One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci with J.R.R. Tolkien influences.  . . .  [P]roduced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his longtime collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (ASTRO BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION), BELLADONNA unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together.  A young woman, Jeanne (voiced by Aiko Nagayama) is belladonna2assaulted by the local lord on her wedding night.  To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself (voiced by Tatsuya Nakadai, from Akira Kurosawa’s RAN) who appears as a sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.   But the book it is from is not a novel, but a treatise on witchcraft in the Middle Ages by highly nationalistic French historian Michelet (1795-1874) whose works include a multi-volume, impassioned account of the French Revolution.  This, in its way also, informs the movie.

And, as said above, the film is infused with eroticism, more terrifying, however, than sexy, especially in the earlier sequences.  As for the Tolkein, I think it can be overstated, but is it horror?  Yes, in its own way — where’s a good exorcist when you need one (in this case, wherever, it’s too little too late)?  Yet also domestic drama gone bad, the sad married life of Jean and Jeanne, medieval French peasants, which brings the rise of Jeanne to much more, and not necessarily for evil either.  And a paean to feminism as well, as a number of other reviewers have seen it.

In any event a beautiful film and one worth viewing.

Let us be careful of the “whens” of arrival, it is after all a time travel book.  And so it was Wednesday after I’d returned home from the library, at just about 6 p.m. as I recall (Eastern Daylight Time), beaming up at me out of the mailbox was a silver padded-wrapped package.  Could it be? I wondered.  It looked about book-sized and, sure singularirregenough, eased out of its wrappings the cover revealed the long-awaited GrayWhisper Graphics Productions anthology SINGULAR IRREGULARITY (cf. July 9, June 6, et al.)

Not to be confused with IT’S ABOUT TIME (see two posts below, September 20, et al.), SINGULAR IRREGULARITY is the other time-centric book.  The one that explains in its blurb:  It’s only time travel.  What could go wrong?  Let us show you!  Adding to that, [w]hat you hold in your hands is a singular opportunity to witness paradox at its worst!  When it comes to time, all things are relative, including the elasticity of causality.  Writers from all over the world have come together to bring you a wide array of tales from witty and whimsical to dark and dire, exploring the age-old axiom:  when you tick-off time, sooner or later, he’s going to quantum your physics.

And so it goes.  My tale in this tome is “The Master of Time,” third in the line-up, originally published in the Summer 2002 issue of FANTASTIC (also reprinted in DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET, for which see center column), a story of the power of time and a great clock that runs it, and how once upon an occasion it almost stopped.  For more on this, and twenty-five other . . . er . . .  timely stories, press here.

This is another of those periods where there seems to be something new happening every day.  And let us be thankful while it lasts!  For today it’s a notice from Julie Ann Dawson of Bards and Sages Publishing that the third volume in their GREAT TOMES series, THE GREAT TOME OF GreatTomeV3.125102232_stdFANTASTIC AND WONDROUS PLACES (see August 29, June 23, et al.) has been released.  Available both in print and Kindle, this one has my story “Ice Vermin,” originally published in EXTREMES 5 (Lone Wolf Publications, 2003; also reprinted in DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET for which one may press its picture in the center column), here reformatted into a new edition, describing the travails of an early 20th century Russian expedition into Siberia — and what they found there.  For more information and possible ordering one may press here.

But then, speaking of exploration, and once again through the sheer wonder of serendipity, have you yourself ever wanted to know what and where is the most remote place on Earth?  Courtesy of BIGTHINK.COM one may wonder no more, via “Solitude, Space Junk and Sea Monsters:  the Eeriness of Point Nemo,” by Frank Jacobs.  The question posed, in Jacobs’s words, is “What do sci fi pioneer Jules Verne, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and the Russian space programme have in common?”  The answer is a point in the South Pacific Ocean located at 48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W.

For more, press here.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.  The IT’S ABOUT TIME early ordering period, with early bird discount, is ending in just under two weeks according to MSR Publishing editor M. Scott Douglass.   You have seen the inside galleys.  They have been corrected and sent to the editors for final review.  That means we are approaching the deadline to shut off the Advance Sale Cvr_AboutTime_bookstore-200x300Discount price from the MSR Online Bookstore.  . . .   Advance Sales WILL expire October 3.

My story in this one is called “Curious Eyes,” about a time traveler, a chance encounter, and a good night in a Kansas City Bar.  It’s a not very heavy science fiction story, from a long time ago when I was writing a fair bit of SF, and actually published in a general fiction magazine, in the December 1988 THE FICTION PRIMER.  Nothing fancy, mind you, just plain folks, plain setting (well, maybe a little after-hours loneliness, cue in alto sax, a little brush work on the drum, but muted and sad-like, a rainy night outside — you know the scene), pleasant when it’s all over.  Yes, I’ve written a few stories like that.  Way back when-like. . . .

So think of “Curious Eyes” as a rarity,  one of a kind I don’t write too much nowadays, but yours to savor in IT’S ABOUT TIME, and one to be had at a discount to boot — but only for the swift.  For more information, pre-ordering press here.

Monday, a new week, but after a weekend that saw some action.  Saturday was my “SCIFI” Writers Group critique session, always fun for the socializing whether or not for the actual comments.  My meat for the griddle this time was a 500-word absurdist tale about something improper – at least unusual – found in the protagonist’s mailbox which, it seemed to me, survived quite well.  Though probably not “extreme” enough to call Bizarro, marketing could still be a challenge (actually it’s at a contest right now that unfortunately had its deadline the previous Thursday, that supplied the “prompt,” but it was fairly high level and I doubt my piece will have much of a chance).

Then, speaking of prompts, Sunday afternoon brought a Writers Guild workshop on writing on moderator-supplied subjects (see, e.g., July 17), this time that didn’t suggest to me any actual stories, but was still enjoyable as a set of exercises.  Thus I wrote personal mini-essays on “I ____” (in my case “I Steal . . .,” which was also the subject of the example we were shown first, and thus one I stole); “What’s in a Name?” (on the origins, or anything else, of the essayist’s personal handle); and an incident involving one of a group of ten friends one was to dredge from his or her past (“But I don’t have ten friends,” “Oh, but what about Facebook?”) on which I wrote of a long-past girlfriend whose name I omitted to protect the, well, maybe not quite innocent.

Bottom line on this:  maybe not entirely useful this time, but a break from routine and, again, socializing, so maybe I’ll do it again next month.

We have a quick a double header to announce for today, that not just one but two Elder Signs Press anthologies are now available for pre-order from Amazon:  DARK HORIZONS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF DARK SCIENCE FICTION (see just below) and STREET MAGICK: TALEstreet-magick2-194x300S OF URBAN FANTASY (with DARK HORIZONS, see also January 22, et al.).  Needless to say I have stories in both, the near-future set “Dark of the Moon” in the former and a late 1950s tale of vampires and Cold War paranoia in Cambridge Massachusetts, “Bottles,” in the latter.  Both have histories, “Bottles” also appearing in my own collection, THE TEARS OF ISIS, and now both will be available for new readers as well.

More on both these anthologies can be found on Amazon, DARK HORIZONS by pressing here and STREET MAGIC here, while for THE TEARS OF ISIS one can click on its picture in the center column, or check it out on Amazon here.

Also, yesterday’s street mail brought my copy of EVERYWHERE TALES, VOLUME 2 (cf. July 25, et al.), from Press 53, with my “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, an adventure of deserts and double crossings for more on which one can press here.

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