Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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.

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).

Received last night, from FANTASIA DIVINITY Editor Madeline L. Stout:  I really enjoyed this story.  I love the twist.  For inclusion in this particular anthology however, it doesn’t really fit.  . . .  Although it doesn’t fit what we are looking for in the anthology, I would like to publish this in our September issue.  Please let me know if that would be something you are interested in.  And so, yes, I emailed back that I would be interested — the money’s not much, but the story, “Flightless Rats,” originally published in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG on January 12 2015 (see November 30, 26 2014) and starring New Orleanian vampiress Aimée (cf. April 17 2014, et al.), is a reprint and publication is publication, so why not?  Details to be revealed as they become known.

So this is being written on a hotel computer in San Juan Puerto Rico where I arrived MASFiC2017safely yesterday afternoon, checking into NASFiC and attending Opening Ceremonies that night.  More details on the convention will probably wait (except maybe for snippets, like this) to come most likely after I’m back home.  But one note — ah, those tropical weather patterns! — Opening Ceremonies plus a following “Ice Cream Social” over, who would get caught in a sudden, brief rainstorm?  Me, that’s who, who am writing this at the end of a similar rain event Friday morning and must rush back to the convention hotel now.

Again, more to come later.

And so in the late afternoon hours of Monday, I returned to the Computer Cave to find 2017’s first mid-year royalty check in my mailbox.*  Yep, stories still selling — in this case with sales enough to provide, say, a bag of chips to go with a burger not yet earned.  But others should come in the next few

“Cutting the Check”

days for the just-completed first half of the year, so who knows?  In any event we will most likely have to wait till next week before the check can go to the bank to start collecting interest, since the banks will be closed Tuesday, though for reasons having nothing to do with my mammoth financial windfall, but rather because tomorrow is Independence Day.  Happy Fourth of July!

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*As is customary I am not saying exactly how much or who from, in that way to avoid embarrassment all around.

By the time the first three reviews appeared, I was in the middle of TOMBS.  Later, re-read them and frankly can do no better, as they all appreciated this excellent novel-in-story format.  So begins the fourth review on Amazon just up today, by Margaret B. Boston, on TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  Fortunately, she adds that she will try, continuing on with her own much-appreciated assessment.  She also gives it five stars out of five, as do the other three reviews as well.  To see for yourself (and, perhaps, to buy?) press here.*

Then one other note, as NASFIC approaches the first long-range weather reports for San Juan have been posted.  Highs in the eighties — warm, but not sweltering — and most days with clouds but only Thursday listed as threatening afternoon rain (and that still just a 30 percent chance).  And best of all, no hurricanes in sight.  So, so far so good (though another site warns I’d do well to bring mosquito repellent).
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*To keep myself absolutely honest, not all reviews everywhere have been five-star.  There is one on Goodreads that’s kind of crummy, though all that may mean is not everybody’s tastes are the same (and if you want to see it, no fool I, you’ll have to look up the site for yourself 😉 ).

Most of these are just room assignments, received yesterday in an hour-by-hour schedule of all panels and readings for NorthAmeriCon’17, a.k.a. this year’s NASFiC (see post just below).  One however is a bit more notable in that I seem to have been removed (or probably more accurately someone else added in my place, since I still have four panels plus my reading) from “Writing Diverse Characters of Impact” on Saturday morning.  Not to worry, I still have my reading and “World Building” panel that afternoon, so I’ll still be busy, as well as two panels Friday and one Sunday morning.  But with two exceptions not in the rooms we’d thought they’d be in, so herewith the new schedule of my doings, at least as of this posting:

Friday – 10 a.m. – Bahia 1 – Genre Blending
Friday – 4 p.m. – Bahia 1 – The Critical Eye (moderating)
Saturday – 2:30 p.m. – Sol Boardroom – Reading from TOMBS
Saturday – 3 p.m. – San Cristobal – World Building as More than Background
Sunday – 10 a.m. – Bahia 1 – Zombies Over Time and Space

Then Sunday afternoon look for me in Old San Juan where, weather permitting, I hope to be exploring Morro Castle and Fort San Cristobal.

We have to stop meeting this way, or, for the past announcement of both items below, cf. June 11.  How’s that for coincidence?  The first is that Tammy Coxen, in Programming at NASFiC, sent me two schedule changes for my panels next month, July 6 – 9.  As of now, the new official schedule is:

Friday – 10 a.m. – San Geronimo – Genre Blending
Friday – 4 p.m. – San Geronimo – The Critical Eye (moderating)
Saturday – 11 a.m. – San Cristobal – Writing Diverse Characters of Impact
Saturday – 2:30 p.m. – Sol Boardroom – Reading from TOMBS
Saturday – 3 p.m. – San Cristobal – World Building as More than Background
Sunday – 10 a.m. – San Geronimo – Zombies Over Time and Space

Two items are changed, the first my reading, originally scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in Bahia 1 (this one in particular is a relief for me, since it gives me extra time Thursday night if my plane should be late) and now on Saturday in the Sol Boardroom at 2:30, convenient for strolling into after a leisurely lunch, and the second “Zombies Over Time and Space” to be one hour earlier Sunday morning and nudged to the room next door, from 11 a.m in San Cristobal to 10:00 a.m. in San Geronimo.

Then the second announcement is from Cin Ferguson of Scary Dairy Press (for background on which see June 11 again, et al.), that their eco-horror anthology MOTHER’S REVENGE:  AN ANTHOLOGY OF GLOBAL PROPORTIONS is now available in Kindle as well as print form, with hopefully an audio edition to come out this fall.  To quote from their website, [f]rom living garbage to earth witches and cities that come to life to destroy mankind, there is something for everyone between the front and back cover.  One of the best outcomes from the sale of this anthology is our commitment to donate 10% of our earnings to earth-saving organizations such as Water is Live, Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club and the Clean Air Task Force.  We are so pleased to be a part of what can help make the earth a better place, and thrilled to bring you in as a participant in this goal when you make a purchase.

My story in this is called “Swarms,” or mutant insects gotta live too, originally published in CD ROM in Lone Wolf Publications’s 2001 anthology BLOODTYPE as well as in print in my DARKER LOVES collection (Dark Regions, 2007), and now can be perused in Kindle format via pressing here (though one will note the print version costs more, thus increasing the donation part of the good work too, for a link to which — is everyone still with me here? — see June 11).

I’ve been missing out on conventions of late, partly because of the StokerCon split from World Horror Convention (but still in the space of about a month, making it difficult to schedule both), partly for costs, but now with a new book, TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, just out I will be going to NASFiC next month.  This is the North American Science Fiction Convention, held in years when WorldCon will be overseas, and not a convention I’m entirely a stranger to having attended the one in Detroit in 2014 (cf. July 23 et al. that year).  This year’s will be in a possibly more exotic setting, San Juan Puerto Rico (well, yes, that’s a little bit “over sea” too, but it’s still in the US), Thursday through Sunday July 6-9, and late Saturday I received a list of panels I’m scheduled to be on.  So for those who’ll be there too, or are just interested, here’s the scoop:

Thursday – 7 p.m. – Bahia 1 – Reading from TOMBS
Friday – 10 a.m. – San Geronimo – Genre Blending
Friday – 4 p.m. – San Geronimo – The Critical Eye (moderating)
Saturday – 11 a.m. – San Cristobal – Writing Diverse Characters of Impact
Saturday – 3 p.m. – San Cristobal – World Building as More than Background
Sunday – 11 a.m. – San Cristobal – Zombies Over Time and Space

As it happens, most of these have a specific relevance to TOMBS — the idea for me is I hope to have a good time too, but technically I am to be there on business, to help put the word out.  TOMBS is a multi-genre work (Horror, Dystopian SF, Dark Romance); individual chapters include female and/or LGBTQ characters in prominent positions; world building suffuses the whole work.  (Though zombies, on the other hand, are only mentioned in passing in one of the story-chapters, and in a subsidiary role.)  Also, slightly related as of today all three reviews received thus far are up on Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, and two on Amazon, so it’s spreading.  If any out there are reviewers as well, and would be interested in a look yourself, please get in touch with me (a comment below with info on how to get back to you would work fine).  Or, if interested in getting to NASFiC yourself (I understand convention rates for hotel rooms end this weekend, but there are other hotels in the area too), for information press here.

Also received Saturday:  an email from Cin Ferguson of Scary Dairy Press that MOTHER’S REVENGE:  A DARK AND BIZARRE ANTHOLOGY OF GLOBAL PROPORTIONS, to give it its full title, has finally seen publication.  This was the “eco-anthology” originally planned to be out on Earth Day this year, April 22, but delayed (see April 24, 11, et al.).  My story in this is a reprint called “Swarms,” first published in Lone Wolf’s CD ROM anthology, BLOODTYPE, in 2001 as well as my 2007 print collection DARKER LOVES.  For information/ordering MOTHER’S REVENGE in paperback press here, with a Kindle edition also expected to be out in the next few days.

On a pleasant near-summer’s night, the Bloomington Writers Guild co-sponsored “Second Thursday Players Pub Spoken Word Series” (cf. May 12, et al.) started off comparatively noisily with a trumpet performance by local musician Kyle Quass, followed by two poets and one fiction writer.  The fiction was by Tom Bitters with a quiet romantic tale of himself, his wife, and a local benefit performance by John Mellencamp; with Nashville Indiana full-time poet Andrew Hubbard next with four or five self-described “cross[es] between character studies and short-short stories”; and, after a musical interlude by Kyle Quass again, a group of more conventional poems by local writer Antonia Matthew.  These were followed by seven open mike readers of which I was fourth — square in the middle — with a fairy tale variant originally published in RAPUNZEL’S DAUGHTERS (Pink Narcissus Press, 2011) called “The Glass Shoe,” or, translated to modern political terms, alternative facts meet Cinderella.

Sunday’s weather belied the predictions of afternoon storms which perhaps helped May’s Bloomington Writers Guild “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic,” in conjunction with the Monroe County Convention Center, garner fifteen participants who stayed the whole time.  The featured poets were native Hoosier and Americorps veteran Charles Culp, with poems on such things as diners (“the liquor store closes, the church closes, but the diner’s still open”) and the art available just by looking around one, among other topics, and Virginia native Breon Tyler, a visual artist with a degree in Painting and Printmaking, currently completing a masters here in African American and African Diaspora Studies, who started with a work by a poet from Sierra Leone as well as recent poems of her own  Then after a break, six non-scheduled poets read from the audience, of which I was sixth with three somewhat summer-themed poems (parties, vacations, poolside relaxation) from my VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) collection, “Through This Wicked, Winding Way,” “Why She Started Writing Poetry,” and “Moonlight Swimming.”  Last Sunday Poetry will resume August 27 following a a two-month summer hiatus.

Then a second item, simply for fun on a holiday weekend, or, I don’t usually cover politics here but. . . .  But satire does count as literature and this one is difficult to resist, a “claim” by satirical site THE ONION of having “Obtained Hundreds of Trump Documents” including, well, a number of topics from which one may choose after pressing here.  And for horror fans (thus bringing it under this blog’s purview, ahem) I especially recommend, under “Family,” Melania’s letters home to her mother, particularly the last concerning an apparition seen one night on the White House lawn of. . . . (but be sure to read her other letters first).




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