Two items today, to look for in the near future:  The first is courtesy of Steph P. Bianchini’s blog THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, reminding us that the Cassini space probe will be sending its last signals to Earth just eight days from now.  Or from, as it were, the horse’s mouth, “on September 15, with its fuel tank now almost empty, the probe will make its final dive straight into Saturn, heading for the gas giant’s surface.”  And so, via THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, this sendoff:  “Cassini’s 13 Years of Stunning Saturn Science — In Pictures,” by Alexandra Witze on NATURE.COM.  To read (and see), press here.

For the second, we hark back a couple of months to an email from artist, poet, and sometime blog commentator Marge Simon:  Would you have a couple of vamp poems previously published that you could let Kathy Ptacek use for the HWA October newsletter?  If you’ve got an illo to go with it, great.  Maybe something we did for VAMPS?  The reference is to my poetry collection, VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), hopefully to be coming out in a second edition but for info on which, for now, click on its picture in the center column, and so I sent Kathy three favorite poems plus two of Marge’s illustrations.

So then a few days ago came the reply:  thanks, james! I appreciate you sending these to me!  and that’s great that marge sent the artwork for them!  this is going to be a fun issue, I think!  heh!  The issue in question will be the October Horror Writers Association NEWSLETTER with an extra flourish to celebrate the coming Halloween.  And the poems (with initial publication information):  “Night Child,” TOMORROW SF, Feb. 1998; “La Méduse,” ASYLUMS AND LABYRINTHS (Rain Mountain Press, 1997), with a note that it also serves as sort of a foreword to my THE TEARS OF ISIS (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013); and “Bon Appétit,” GOTHIC.NET, Aug. 2002).

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This is just a quick note that my story “Flightless Rats,” of the vampiress Aimée’s difficulties with dating in Nineteenth Century New Orleans, is now available in FANTASIA DIVINITY MAGAZINE (see July 16, 7).  This is a somewhat bare-bones version which can be read on their website here, with a more completely formatted version in both print and e-formats to be available in the near future.  More to be reported here when it is known.

“Flightless Rats” was originally published electronically in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG on Jan 12 2015 and in print in MOCHA’S DARK BREW (Mocha Memoirs Press, Jul 2016).

Labor Day, the “official” ending of the summer season, no wearing of white till the next Memorial Day, the beginning of work through fall and winter, and . . . what’s that about a connection between Edgar Allan Poe and Winnie the Pooh?  For that last, welcome to the first interview for Fall 2018, courtesy of THE TATTOOED BOOK GEEK (cf. August 20), coming to us from across the Atlantic.  The answers to questions which sometimes boil down to “I don’t know either” — and some where I do!  The origins of ideas?  Writers of influence?  What can a reader do (other than buying his or her books, of course) to best help an author?

And what of connections not just between Poe and Pooh, but art and death?  Revealed perhaps in a peek at the Stoker(R)-nominated THE TEARS OF ISIS.  And “mosaic” novels?  The hint’s in a note and a blurb for my latest book, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  Again to find out, some things possibly already known, other things all new, one need but click on the books’ own pictures in the center column, and also for British blogger Drew Weldon’s THE TATTOOED BOOK GEEK interview, press here.

While Saturday started off a bit cool and clouded for my taste, the sun had established itself by a little past noon and Sunday followed sunny and warm too, a beautiful weekend for this year’s Bloomington 4th Street Festival of Arts & Crafts and, with it, the Bloomington Writers Guild’s Spoken Word Stage (cf. below, August 30).  Along with a number of poets both days, Saturday also brought Bloomington High School South’s Poetry Out Loud (getting the new generation on our side), children’s theater with the Merry Mac Players, FRANKENSTEIN as presented by the Fig Tree Fellowship Radio Players, and poetry “band” Shakespeare’s Monkey.  Then Sunday introduced more prose fiction readers, including Joan Hawkins and Shayne Laughter who we’ve met before (cf., e.g., various First Sundays Prose readings, for which in a way today’s Spoken Word session was a substitute), and . . . somewhat late in the day at 3:30 p.m., me.  In my case, I read three excerpts from TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, the back cover blurb and the introduction to Section II — by way of a sort of introduction — followed by the Section II story-chapter “The Last Dance.”  This was the same as the reading I presented last July at NASFiC in Puerto Rico (see July 13) and it seemed to go over well to an audience that started out on the small side, but grew as I continued, a good sign as these things go.  Next month, also, I’ll probably read the same first two parts but a slightly shorter story-chapter for October’s First Sunday.

Then speaking of TOMBS, Saturday’s email brought an “eligibility check” from the Horror Writers Association for works submitted to the Bram Stoker Award(R) Jury.  This consisted of questions concerning publication date, length and content, and prior publication (if any) of parts of the contents, all of which I was able to answer in the affirmative and send right back.  While this will be checked by the Jury people, with an official “acceptance” probably not for two weeks, one possibly ambiguous thing has been decided.  Although TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH is a novel-in-stories, akin to Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES or Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB, under the technicalities of the Stoker rules, it will be voted on in the Fiction Collection category.

So what that means in the here and now:  If you’re a HWA member and have read TOMBS, and have a hankering to recommend it for a Stoker, please do it for “Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.”  But even if you’re not a HWA member, while/if the spirit moves please also consider reviewing it for Amazon and Barnes & Noble (both of which are offering wildly discounted prices on TOMBS, by the way, while they last), as well as on Goodreads.

What is it with lists?  I’ve had too many lately, probably, but this is a major one to round out the month with.  From the GEHENNA POST, “43 Underrated Films from the Darker Side of Cinema You’ve Probably Never Seen,” with plot descriptions from IMDb plus links to Amazon (though, of the latter, mostly Blu-ray ones, but peons like me can click from there to mere DVD).  To quote from the site:  In this list, you will find 43 films that we felt are lacking in recognition and that deserve more appreciation and acknowledgement.  These films are in no particular order.  There are a few foreign language films, but we are planning an entirely different list for them (so don’t be disappointed at the lack of representation just yet!), seeing as there are so many great pieces out there from across the world.

Appetite whetted?  I will say there are some I haven’t seen myself, including the one pictured here, LAST SHIFT.  Also, while mostly horror, a fair number of them are science fiction — or mostly science fiction.  But to see for yourself, press here.

“Now in its 7th year, the Spoken Word Stage at the 4th Street Arts Festival is one of the largest literary performance events in the Midwest, featuring storytelling, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, live radio theatre, and other unique collaborations,” the announcement tells us (see also, below, August 9 and 7).  As in years past, I will have a slot too, billed as “horror fiction” from 3:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, September 3rd.  The event itself, arts fair, music, local displays, and the Bloomington Writers Guild-sponsored “Poetry on Demand” booth and Spoken Word Stage, spans the Labor Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday September 2 and 3, arrayed along 4th Street in Bloomington, Indiana.  Or more to the point for the Spoken Word Stage, just off 4th on Dunn Street.

Here is the schedule, as of today, noting again that I’ll be on Sunday with excerpts from my novel-in-stories, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, from 3:30 to 4.  And if you like it, I’ll be up again with an excerpt from a different section the following month, in a featured spot at the Writers Guild’s First Sunday Prose Reading, on which more later.

SATURDAY Sep 2
10:30 Shana Ritter (poetry)
11:00 5 Women Poets (poetry)
11:30 Merry MAC Players (theatre)
12:00 Merry MAC cont’d
12:30 Butch D’Ambrisio (sonnets)
1:00 Alex Hollett (poetry)
1:30 Abegunde (poetry)
2:00 Matt Hart (poetry)
2:30 Wil Gibson
3:00 PrideSlam Showcase (poetry)
3:30 Bloomington High School South Poetry Out Loud (poetry)
4:00 Fig Tree Fellowship Radio Players (audio theatre)
4:30 Fig Tree cont’d
5:00 Steve Henn (poetry)
5:30 Shakespeare’s Monkey (poetry band)

SUNDAY Sep 3
10:00 Tony Brewer (poetry)
10:30 Eric Rensberger (poetry)
11:00 Joan Hawkins (fiction)
11:30 New Leaf New Life volunteers (poetry and fiction)
12:00 Adam Henze (poetry)
12:30 Shayne Laughter (fiction)
1:00 Jack Ramey (poetry)
1:30 Jasper Wirtshafter (poetry)
2:00 Wil Gibson
2:30 Arbutus Cunningham (storytelling)
3:00 Cricket’s Bone Caravan (audio theatre)
3:30 James Dorr (horror fiction)
4:00 Lisa Kwong (poetry/personal essay)
4:30 Bloomington Storytellers Guild (storytelling)

In other news, today brought proof sheets for “Flightless Rats” from FANTASIA DIVINITY (cf. July 7, et al.) which, with one correction noted, went back this afternoon.  To be published in the September issue, “Flightless Rats” is the tale of New Orleanian “Casket Girl” Aimée a-prowl for a new husband, but how some prospects may not make the grade.  It is a reprint, originally published in T. GENE DAVIS’S SPECULATIVE BLOG, January 12 2015, and has also appeared in the flash fiction anthology MOCHA’S DARK BREW: 10 TALES OF HORROR (Mocha Memoirs Press, 2016).

Yes, I know, this is actually being posted in the wee hours of Tardy Tuesday.  That’s how it goes sometimes — and it was initially posted by Lindsey Goddard on DIRTY LITTLE HORROR several days before, under the deceptively modest title of “Horror Humor.”  But I think it’s worth looking at any time one is in need of a dark laugh, photos, mostly, but artfully captioned, a sample of which appears to right.  For the rest press here.

There are 22 in all, with my favorites numbers 5, 7 through 10, 12, 13, 16, 22, and of course the one pictured, number 1.  Which ones are yours?

Tidbits of Terror?  Who can resist them?  This is a quickie (quirky?) I just ran across on today’s cruise of the interwebs, “13 Horror Stories for Super-Short Attention Spans,” courtesy of THE-LINE-UP.COM.  Numbers 4 and 11 struck me as notably creepy.  And especially “just for fun,” number 12.

Read and enjoy here.

I say crummiest because the subtle observer may note the disk in the picture is white whereas the point of a solar eclipse is that the disk should be black.  Shadowed by the moon, remember?  But here’s a weird thing, a photo in today’s local paper, via the South Bend Tribune, via Eddyville Illinois also shows a white-disked sun at totality (section 1, page 5), though the picture was set to show an observer in the foreground, the sun itself just a background detail.  So for the picture here, let’s cut it some slack, it was taken by the infamous $4.95 on Ebay camera (including shipping, see February 5), one which’s settings are completely automatic, not controllable by human hands or minds — and hence likely to take its hints from the foreground — although acquitting itself reasonably well on pictures of Morro Castle, etc., in Puerto Rico last month as well as of the Goth Cat Triana for which it was bought.  Also a friend with presumably more sophisticated equipment (in the world of fine optical instruments you can’t go much below $4.95 on Ebay), taking pictures of the partial eclipse locally, complained they all came out with the crescent sun looking “fatter” than it actually was.

My theory is that the sun, even with the moon blocking it, is so bright that the unsophisticated camera, lacking screening or special adjustments, exaggerates the extent of the white (becomes “overloaded” in a sense), encroaching into the adjacent sky in the case of my friend, or filling in the handy black disk in the center when it came to mine.  And anyhow it still shows the corona, which in some ways is the interesting part, so maybe it’s not the crummiest picture this year after all.

Since the path of totality was not that far from where I live (what my friend saw at its peak was 95 percent, even if her pictures made it look less), I was able to go on a charter bus trip to an area just outside of Hopkinsville Kentucky.  For a few observations:  the eeriest part was a little before totality, when the sky began dimming but in an odd over-all way, not in the east first as one might see before sunset.  I didn’t see moving shadows on the ground (from mountains on the moon as the sun became entirely blocked), but another person who’d spread out a white sheet saw them there — present, he said, but extremely subtle.  One man had six huskies on the site who were well-behaved and extremely quiet even through totality, but just after the sun “came back” started barking, as if to say “never do that again.”  Also while we didn’t hear birds or insects go quiet, possibly because with so many people on the site, the wildlife was frightened to silence anyway, but just after the dogs we heard loud cicada-like insect sounds all around us for several seconds.  Also, while NASA observers were, I believe, in Hopkinsville proper, we did have some TV people on our site, plus others with picture-taking equipment of much more sophistication than mine (for which see the second picture here, taken a little bit before totality but with the overall dimming beginning to be seen — this was at 1:10 or so p.m. local time on what otherwise had been a bright sunny summer afternoon [totality began at 1:24 p.m. CDT and lasted two minutes and forty seconds]; the buses parked just beyond them, incidentally, are two of the charters from Indiana that I had come with).

I also had some delicious barbecue from a food truck parked in our area, the grounds of the Casey Jones Distillery, that on non-eclipse days produces several boutique corn whiskeys — including, for the occasion, a special Eclipse “Moonshine.”

And for the first picture, the possibly still-crummiest eclipse picture for the year, it does have one special thing going for it.  It’s the picture that’s (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) mine.

Exciting times!  Exactly a month ago, July 20, I submitted a reprint, “The Borrowed Man,” originally published in THE GIRL AT THE END OF THE WORLD, BOOK 1 (Fox Spirit Books, 2014 — cf. August 8 2014, et al.), to Digital Fiction Publishing for its upcoming DIGITAL HORROR FICTION anthology.  And so the reply received today from Editor/Publisher Michael Wills:  Thank you for sending us “The Borrowed Man”.  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.  And then also today, there came not just one, but two contracts to sign, the second for DIGITAL SCIENCE FICTION to republish “The Needle-Heat Gun,” originally in NIGHT LIGHTS (Geminid Press, 2016 — see July 29 this year, et al.), both of which went back this afternoon.  “The Borrowed Man,” I might also add, is set in the far-future universe which includes TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, although the story is not in the book itself.  But should you read it and like it, and have a yen to explore its world further, you can find more by clicking TOMBS’s picture at the top of the center column.

Then for yet more about TOMBS, THE TEARS OF ISIS, and writing in general, word came today that a new interview of me has been scheduled for Monday, September 4, by British blogger/reviewer Drew Weldon for his THE TATTOOED BOOK GEEK.  That’s the Labor Day holiday here in the States — plenty of time to read and enjoy it.  More on which when the time comes will be here.

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