Archive for July, 2017

Thus was the call:  Welcome to Digital Science Fiction.  We are excited to announce our first open call for reprint short stories in the science fiction genre.  These stories will be published as stand-alone short stories and as part of an anthology of ten short stories under the Digital Science Fiction imprint, by the publisher, Digital Fiction Publishing Corp.  The announcement went on to specify that stories needed to be from 3500 to 7500 words long, “have appeared in professional or semi-professional books, magazines, collections, or anthologies,” and not be available for free on the internet.  And for which one would be paid, well, a bit, but reprints are reprints and money is money.  And so, why not?

As it happened, in fact, I had a 7000ish-word story published in the “Space Opera” section of NIGHT LIGHTS by Geminid Press in 2016 (see April 1 2016, et al.), a bit tongue-in-cheekish, having fun with the genre, you know, and ready to trot.  And so why not indeed?  Off it went just nine days ago and today the word came back from Michael Wills of Digital Fiction:  Thank you for sending us ‘The Needle-Heat Gun’.  We think it is a great fit and would like to publish it.  We will be in touch shortly with a formal contract and details for your review.

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July seems to be the month for sending a thing to one place, seeing it come back accepted by another.  One example, “Flightless Rats” (see July 7), the tale of an innocent vampire maid and a bounder’s attempt on her virtue in 19th century New Orleans.  For today, the call had been in April.  It took some time, but the time has come:  we’re putting together an anthology of  poetry and flash fiction about spirits, ghosts, seances, Ouija boards, famous hauntings, not-so-famous hauntings, possessions, and anything else relating to supernatural bumps in the night (or day, we aren’t fussy).  And there it was.  Reprints being okay, I responded with the 300-word saga of a young lady with an interest in witches, but, if these weren’t available, other bump-in-the-nightly creatures would do, and lessons she learned in a house she was told was haunted.  Originally published in GOTHIC BLUE BOOK IV:  THE FOLKLORE EDITION (Burial Day Books, 2014), the title was “School Nights.”
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Today the word came back from Managing Editor Kate Garrett, not for the anthology, WHITE NOISE & OUIJA BOARDS, but for the publisher’s seasonal magazine THREE DROPS FROM A CAULDRON.  I really enjoyed this story, and though it isn’t quite right for the ghosts anthology, I wondered if it would be okay for me to publish it in the Samhain 2017 edition?  I like spookier, horror-tinged work for that one, and would love to include your story.  The Samhain special will be published online and in print on 13th October.  (And it isn’t technically open for submissions until 21st August, but I really like this.)
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So I emailed back, “Yes.”

From C IS FOR CTHULHU to Clive Barker’s THE THIEF OF ALWAYS?  Indeed, there are books for the younger set, first readings for our tots of terror (while me, I was raised on THE STORY ABOUT PING, “[t]he tale of a little duck alone on the Yangtze River”).  And so for today, courtesy of DIRGEMAG.COM, hark to “10 Beginner’s Horror Books for Your Little Darkling” by Marni Molina.  Or to let her explain, . . . you can’t seem to shake this tiny human relying on you to not only love them and feed them and keep them safe, but to educate them, teach them right from wrong, and expose them to art and culture.  While it’s clearly our responsibility as breeders to raise our little darklings right, I believe it is our right as humans to enjoy the process.  One of the best ways I’ve found to connect with and delight my little monster while finding genuine joy in the process is to consume stories together.

To share for yourself, you and your moppets of madness need but press here.  But Ms. Molina does add this caution:

In preparing these suggestions for you, I tried to stick with a few basic guidelines.

1. No scarring the kids!  The goal is to spark their love of storytelling in the horror genre.
2. No scarring the adults!  The goal is to enjoy these stories with your spawnlings.
3. No obvious answers!  I kept my focus on lesser known titles, when I could.
4. No Halloween veneers over mainstream children’s lit standbys!  I endeavored to single out titles that are wholly dark-themed, horror-lite, or horror.

Enjoy, enjoy!

In Saturday’s mail, but no, it wasn’t concerned with TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH which, after all, was only published at the beginning of last month.  No, this was a 6-month-plus check for stories in two Elder Signs anthologies, DARK HORIZONS and STREET MAGICK (see March 16; November 27, 4 2016, et al.), that came out in October and November last year, respectively.  The stories in these were both reprints, “Dark of the Moon” in DARK HORIZONS, of lunar exploration and . . . monsters originally published in THE CHILDREN OF CTHULHU (Del Rey, 2002), and STREET MAGICK’s “Bottles,” from CROSSINGS (Double Dragon, 2004)*, of Cold War paranoia and vampires.  And best of all, even though anthologies rarely bring in BIG bucks (the royalty having to be divided among, say, twenty or so different authors, plus editors, et al.), the check for these books is for a respectable two-figure sum.

So no need in this case to keep things anonymous — both books, in fact, were on the shelves briefly in Barnes & Noble’s brick and mortar stores (though not, alas, TOMBS, though I understand it was considered) — as has been the case for most royalties periodically received, in order to avoid embarrassment all around.  Indeed the amount here, put into edible terms, would easily have been enough for a decent dinner for two back in the days when I was courting the woman who was to become my ex-wife.  (Though perhaps it wouldn’t go quite that far now.)  That is, to cover both nourishment and love, which is not a bad deal at all.

 

*And also reprinted in THE TEARS OF ISIS.

Today?  Yesterday?  The start of the month?  These types of changes sneak up on one, but this afternoon’s traipse of the internet has revealed that TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH can now be obtained in both Kindle and Nook for electronic readers.  The cost on Amazon is $8.99 as can be discovered (and should one wish, ordered) here while its Nook equivalent can be found for only $8.49 on B&N’s site here (though you then have to press the “See All Formats & Editions” button).  Of other statistics, TOMBS is listed by Amazon in both formats as having been published on June 1, though as we know that was actually the print version only.  Also, one may have noticed the new Nook version comes in at fifty cents less than Amazon’s Kindle, convenient for electronic bargain seekers, but while B&N charges the full list price of $14.95 for its print edition, Amazon cuts that by a whacking two cents to come to a mere $14.93.  (Needless to say, the days of pre-order and later-in-June deep discounts are past, but several reviewers on both the sites seem to indicate the book’s worth its full price.)

Yes, I am of course one of them, but one must scroll down and down past the other five, to just before the ending blurb for the ZIPPERED FLESH series plus PLAGUE OF SHADOWS.  Not surprisingly, the books featured for all six of us writers include ones by Smart Rhino Publications, including the upcoming ZIPPERED FLESH 3 (cf. June 19, et al.), in my case also covering the two “assassins” anthologies, UNCOMMON ASSASSINS and INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS.  But there are others too.  Also for all six of us there are interviews featured on Editor/Publisher Weldon Burge’s blog, BULLETS AND BUTTERFLIES (see, for me, also January 18).

All told, these are storytellers worth looking into, I think, with information on all of them — including . . . moiavailable here.

A lovely, not-too-hot Sunday afternoon brings two quick notes of the “The Writer’s Life” variety.  The first was a contract from Madeline L. Stout of FANTASIA DIVINITY MAGAZINE for reprinting “Flightless Rats” (cf. July 7), starring New Orleanian Casket Girl Aimée on the prowl for a husband, signed and sent back.  Then earlier this p.m. it was time for the annual Bloomington Writers Guild picnic and open reading (see July 24 2016, et al.), starring fried chicken and many sides, in which I read a cautionary poem not of Aimée but those of her kind, titled “Evening.”  Also announced, beginning with the first Sunday next month and “First Sunday Prose Readings,” a new fall cycle of Writers Guild activities will have begun.

There is nothing like hearing a scary story over the crackling of a burning campfire.  Some of the most memorial stories we’ve heard were when we were young, gathered around the warming glow with other kids.  To this day, though you may not necessarily recall the words, but I’m sure you remember the feeling.  The unnerving chills as the sense of dread slowly begins to overwhelm, yet you’re captivated and eager for more.  The stories in this collection are crafted by talented writers to tap into that feeling.   (Amazon blurb)

So has come the word from Jesse Dedman of DEADMAN’S TOME that CAMPFIRE TALES, in two separate volumes, is up for pre-order on Amazon, awaiting official publication on August 1.  So what’s the deal there?  Well, we may remember long, long ago (see June 5 2016, et al.) that a story of mine, “In the Octopus’s Garden,” was slated to publish in CREEPY CAMPFIRE STORIES, except (cf. April 1 this year) CREEPY CAMPFIRE STORIES was to be no more.  But then (April 21) the campfire spark was rekindled, with DEADMAN’S TOME sponsoring a new CAMPFIRE TALES which, with this new announcement, is almost upon us.

“In the Octopus’s Garden” itself has been around the block more than once, originally published in 69 FLAVORS OF PARANOIA in March-April 1999, not to mention being lead story in my Stoker nominated (ah, now!) collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.  And elsewhere I’m sure too — that’s octopuses for you!  But the point is, it’s once more slithering up from the depths to be in the new CAMPFIRE TALES, Volume 1, for more info on which one need but press here.  (Or for volume 2 info, press instead here, or to run a quick check on THE TEARS OF ISIS just click on its picture in the center column.)

It’s just a short post, but cruising the interwebs what should I find but, on SCREENJUNKIES.COM, “5 Best French Vampire Movies”?  In ways it’s a strangely limited list, all five films being made in the late 1960s/1970s and four of them being (including his first, in 1968) by Jean Rollin, for more on whom – in an amazing coincidence – see June 12, below.  But if you like your vamps to exude a dreamy erotica in mildly surrealistic settings, whether or not they’re the absolute best, in four out of five one could do a lot worse.  So with no guarantees*, and today is Bastille Day, for one apparently anonymous film critic’s selections press here.

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*Note that the one non-Rollin entry, Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, was co-produced by the French film company Gaument (and does have some French actors, notably Isabelle Adjani as Lucy Harker), but that may be pushing things a little.

It wasn’t to be a big convention, even by NASFiC standards – I was told there were 400-some paid attendees, but actual crowds seemed considerably less.  But I hadn’t gone for a big convention necessarily, though part of it was the new novel-in-stories, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, and a chance to show copies of it to fans in the hope word might spread.  In fact the convention could sort of be considered cozy, though part of the reason I really went was for the adventure.  The North American Science Fiction Convention, held for us home folks in years when the World SF Convention is going to be overseas, was itself overseas for 2017 — if only a little.  Farther than Cuba, though, or Haiti, in San Juan Puerto Rico.

So, yes, that’s still the United States, no problems with passports, but a lot of people speak Spanish too (which I myself don’t), and some don’t speak much English.  The money’s the same, which is helpful too, though some foods tended to be more salty, and others sweeter than I would prefer.

But in the hotel things were more familiar, including an unfortunately sparse con suite (most missed: morning coffee, heated things being forbidden, the staff explained, for “liability reasons”).  So, okay, make that a pioneer adventure.  Nor was there an autograph session, but there were a small number of readings scheduled, of which one was mine!  And there were panels, for the most part well attended.

My Part of the Show

I had two panels Friday, the first on “Genre Blending” which, in my introduction, allowed me to point out TOMBS as an example, keyworded by Amazon as Horror and Dystopic Science Fiction and on this blog as Science Fantasy and Dark Romance.  Discussion included the reason for genres — originally to know which shelf to go to in the library or bookstore — and whether “literary” fictioneers look down on us (but with one advantage of ghettoization, we have our own festivals such as NASFiC, and another as I pointed out of coming to know a small number of writers well enough to allow

San Cristobal

a sort of apprentice system).  But for the future with more and more book sales via the internet the old shelf labels are being replaced by keywords, allowing cross genres for readers to narrow their searches farther.  Then following that, “The Critical Eye” (with me moderating) included discussions of writers’ groups and mutual critiques prior to publication, editors’ comments and suggestions and why and how to sometimes decline these, and finally post publication reviews, even if not all necessarily “five star” — and why fans do authors a real favor by writing reviews, even if only one or two lines, and sending them to Amazon, et al.

Saturday gave me another panel, “World Building as More than Background,” again offering an opportunity to present TOMBS as an example (“It starts by finding the rivers,” I answered to the moderator’s opening question – rivers move commerce, and commerce brings cities, and cities begin to define civilization).  Other questions:  If you like a world, do you expand the book into a series? Can you get mired in research, and how to get out of it (my answer there referenced my story “The Wellmaster’s Daughter” which I built from leftover research about deserts, and which became my first ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE sale*)?  What do you do if your world is so popular readers want to write fan fiction in it?  And, as an example of a “built” world, this was immediately preceded by my reading (in fact, I came into the panel a minute or two late) in which I followed the back cover blurb and section II part of the Ghoul Poet’s story in TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, for orientation of a sort, with the story-chapter of “The Last Dance” to a rather large audience as readings go at conventions I’ve been to.  In fact, it was almost as though there were a cadre of readings groupies, other readings that I dipped into drawing relatively large audiences too, for which kudos to NASFiC and/or I hope it’s the beginning of a trend.

Then Sunday morning brought “Zombies Over Time and Space,” a more relaxed free-wheeling affair with an audience that didn’t mind our straying into vampires for part of the session (I had pointed out that functionally post-Romero zombies are really vampires, just after solid food rather than liquid, and that he himself had said NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was meant in part as a homage to Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND).  Also touched on were Vodoun and Haitian zombies (the “zombies of folklore”), attempts at scientific explanation including various poisons (e.g. Wade Davis’s THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, the “zombies of science”), the Nineteenth Century New England vampire epidemic, and semi-salacious gossip involving Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelly, and other companions.

What I Wasn’t On

There were other panels, including one I had been assigned to at first but then removed from in later schedules, “Writing Diverse Characters of Impact” on Saturday morning, that I still attended.  Others included “Alternate Histories Outside the West,” “Imagining the Impossible” (this primarily about visual art, but of interest to me as having to do with creativity), and “How to Make Religions in Fantasy/SF Stories Real” (also in its own way relating to TOMBS).  In addition, the Opening Ceremonies Thursday night were followed by an “Ice Cream Social” (and as we know, cf. July 7, my being caught in a sudden rain on my way back to the hotel I was staying at), Friday night offered an Artists’ Reception, and Saturday brought an “Alien Abduction Masquerade Party” including food and a live slide show and reading performance of 1976’s “The Capture,” by Robert Aspirin with art by Phil Foglio, depicting an SF convention hijacked by aliens.

The Castillos

Weather for the most part was good, despite brief bouts of rain the first three days. Sunday it was supposed to be rainy in the afternoon, which was to be my free time for exploring the old

El Morro

part of the city and the “San Juan National Historic Site,” but Weather Channel forecasts aside it turned out to be sunny.  Lovely.  So this was the main “adventure” part, including a glance into the huge Cementerio Maria Magdelena de Pazzis outside the city wall to the north, the Cathedral of San Juan, the Plaza Colon (a very nice park, of which there are several, in this case with a statue of Columbus at the top of a pillar but up too high for my camera to reach to), and to the south a walk down the Paseo de la Princesa along San Juan Bay and entering the city through its original main gate.

But the main attractions were the two castillos, that of San Cristobal to the east, dating back to the Seventeenth Century, and a century before that El Morro guarding the bay on the western tip of the city, begun in 1539.  Both fortifications continued to be added onto over the centuries, El Morro ultimately having six separate levels (of which I explored five but skipped the “water battery” at the very bottom, my knees beginning to give out by then), including a lighthouse at the top built (I think) in the early Twentieth Century — and still in use.

And then, Monday morning, I chickened out on taking the city bus (I had come in on the bus, however, through – someone has to say it, yes? – picturesque narrow streets) and hailed a taxi to the airport.  Time to go home.  But, having changed my seat to the left of the airplane the evening before, I did have a brief final look through the window at a tiny Morro Castle to start the trip back to the mainland.
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*”The Wellmaster’s Daughter” can also be found in my collection STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (for which, click its picture in the center column).




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