Posts Tagged ‘Strange Mistresses’

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.

*”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).


This just in from Editor Cliff Gerstang, that EVERYWHERE STORIES:  SHORT FICTION FROM A SMALL PLANET, VOLUME II (cf. November 27, September 29, et al.) can now be obtained in a Kindle edition.  One need but press here.  But for those new to this blog (or perhaps short of memory), let us now take a trip on the Wayback Machine to July 25 2016everywhere-stories-vol-ii, quoting from publisher Press 53:  With a theme of “It’s a Mysterious World,” this exciting addition to the EVERYWHERE STORIES series, edited by award-winning author Clifford Garstang, takes readers on a journey around the globe:  to a wrestling match in Turkey, to a mysterious eye doctor in Guatelmala, to a homeless man wandering the streets of Chicago, to a religious school in Samoa, to a drowning in Mexico, to a fortune-telling monk in Korea, to a miraculous hotel in Egypt, and to more stories in countries on every continent.

Yes, that EVERYWHERE STORIES, VOLUME II, originally published in good ol’ print in the days of yore on September 26.  So these things take time, sometimes.  My tale in this one is “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” of crime and family life gone sour in the Sahara Desert, originally told in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, November 1991, and also reprinted in my collection STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (for more information, click its pic in the center column).  Or for the print version of EVERYWHERE STORIES, VOL II, us dead tree buffs can still press here.

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.

Another week, another weekend, the writing life goes on.  This weekend brought my writing group’s monthly meeting (my story critiqued, a short-short “steampunk romance” that got a better reception there than from editors so far) and, actually received Friday, a full galley proof of EVERYWHERE STORIES, VOLUME 2 (cf. May 10, et al.), with my one-time ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE story everywhere1“The Wellmaster’s Daughter” number three in the contents lineup.

Her tale originally published in November 1991, and also reprinted in STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (for details on which, one can press its picture in the center column) and Smart Rhino Publications’s 2012 UNCOMMON ASSASSINS, etc., the daughter in question displays poor judgment in making friends, something that can have dangerous overtones if one’s home is in the Sahara Desert.  But part of the subtext of EVERYWHERE STORIES is itself danger, according to Editor Clifford Garstang, along with more than just a touch of the mysterious, with story locations spread over twenty different nations, covering at least five continents.

And so, Sunday night, in the wee, wee late hours, my “okay” of my parts of the text went back, well ahead of a July 10 deadline.  The book is still on schedule for an October or possibly earlier release, and therefore should be out from Press 53, LLC, well in time (for those who might, *ahem*, contemplate giving gifts) for a worldwide Halloween celebration.

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.).

It also brought sunshine and low-to-mid nineties heat — summer had come at last! — with the only rain Sunday, literally, just a few drops.  And that came just after my reading had ended.

Could that have been a message?

Well, probably not, but mine was the only presentation listed as a reading of horror.  This was on the Spoken Word Stage presented by the Writers Guild at Bloomington (cf. July 26, May 31, et al.) with partial support by the Bloomington Arts Commission, as part of Saturday and Sunday’s annual local 4th Street Arts Festival.  This is something the Writers Guild has participated in for the past five years, including an information table, a “Poetry on Demand” station (with donation jar) where member-poets create poems for the public with final drafts done on manual typewriters (and, no, given the subject matter of so much of my work, this is one I don’t participate in), and the aforementioned Spoken Word Stage with work read by local and semi-local poets and prose writers in half-hour sessions.

The sessions I got to I thought were fun, with poets perhaps outnumbering the essayists and fiction writers more this year than in years before, but in general giving a good idea of the range of writers and work produced locally.  Mine was the one session actually labeled by genre, as “horror fiction,” which might have kept the hypothetical crowds at bay, though it was more likely that I had the next-to-last Sunday, 4 p.m. slot (that is, when people were starting to call it a day, stopping by perhaps to rest their feet, we being one of the few venues there with a sunshade and chairs, rising again on realization of what they were hearing and scurrying all the faster to their cars — would that we writers actually had that kind of power!) and, in any event, some people did show up and stayed for the stories.

And so, I opened with “The Calm” (cf. below, October 5 2014, et al.) from my early collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, a Lovecraftian tale set in northern New York at the time of the French and Indian War, originally published in NEW MYTHOS LEGENDS (Marietta Publishing, 1999).  This ran perhaps a little longer than I had rehearsed, though it might also be that we started a couple of minutes late, but not to worry.  For my closing story I had pre-selected two, both from THE TEARS OF ISIS, anticipating perhaps a time problem (things running a couple of minutes late at events like this is not exactly unprecedented) and so chose the shorter, “Bones, Bones, the Musical Fruit” (cf. March 29, January 26 2014, et al.),  originally published in BONE BALLET (Iguana Publications, 2005) and concerning the problems endured by artists who craft musical instruments from human bones.

It all seemed to go over well enough.

“With a new foreword by Dr Dale Townsend, this is a chilling selection of brand new stories, and essential ghostly shorts from the infamous pens of Charles Dickens, Henry James, Wilkie Collins, Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Algernon Blackwood, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hope Hodgson (The Gateway of the Monster), M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Oscar Wilde (The Canterville Ghost), and other phantasmagoric authors. . .  This powerful new book is a dazzling collection of the most gripping tales, vividly told.”  So says UK art and music and art calendar, as well as illustrated Gothic and fantasy book publisher, Flame Tree Publishing’s blog, but that’s not all.  From a shortened version received in middish-May, concerning perhaps those “other phantasmagoric authors,” came the call, but with a deadline of May 25:   1104.0“We need new, or recent short stories.  We do not require exclusivity.  You retain copyright.  We don’t mind if the story has been published online or in magazines before.  As long as you have the right to license your story for an anthology, then we’re happy to read it.”

Such is the exciting life of a writer.  “Stories between 2000 and 4000 words are the perfect pitch.  Anything outside this range will be considered, but will be disadvantaged,” the call went on, and with a SFWA-defined pro pay rate to boot.  But less than a week to decide and submit!

So submit I did, with a 4000-word tale originally published in Charlie Grant and Wendy Webb’s GOTHIC GHOSTS (Tor Books, 1997; also reprinted in 2001 in my first prose collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE), “Victorians,” a psychological examination of memories repressed and Queen Anne mansions.  And Thursday the word came back, but with this proviso, that “[w]e ask for your confidentiality on this matter for the next two days because we have to disappoint many other authors this time.  We wanted to inform you first though.”  But now the two days is up, and more, so at last it can be told:  “Victorians” has been accepted for the above-described deluxe anthology (“. . . covers will be embossed, gold foiled and printed on silver, a sumptuous offer in a crowded marketplace.  The current print run is set at a minimum of 3000 copies”), CHILLING GHOST SHORT STORIES.

Thus Friday the contract was signed, with an invoice, and both put into the mail to England, with publication set if all goes well for August 15.

Well, the blog’s formal name is RAMEAU’S NEPHEW, for (I believe) the 18th Century French writer and critic Denis Diderot’s philosophical satire Le Neveu de Rameau ou La Satire Seconde.  Be that as it may, a few days ago it included a review of the BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY JOURNAL #12 (see below, December 9) including, as one scrolls down, this about my story “Flute and Harp.”

“Playing together, they syncopated, their melodies weaving.  Trading crescendoes.

“…not exactly the duelling banjos in ‘Deliverance’ or the clinching love between fist-tapping warriors amid this journal’s earlier fiction, but more a feminine symbiosis of ‘augmenting rhythms’ within music and gentle love’s passion.  This is a major work of some sumptuous substance that I enjoyed, combining previous Dunsanyan elements and, inter alia, the honest-to-goodness tunnelling of culverts reminding me of similar in The Allotment and Nielsens’s version of Wonderland, all from the point of view of a ratcatcher in this tractably believable fantasy world, where ghouls and tombs are the effectively gruesome backdrop to the two women’s love and sacrifice, and, yes, the music of words themselves as well as the conjured music that I believe I can actually hear within what the words describe.”

I might note the “fantasy world” is that of the Tombs, of which I’ve written a number of stories (ah, now comes the plug) including three that appear in THE TEARS OF ISIS.  (Also one can be found in STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE and three in DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET, among various other publications, for more on which one can click on their pictures in the center column).  And more immediately, the “nemonymous” nephew’s review can be read in its entirety by pressing here.

Busy, busy, busy.  On an otherwise nondescript Tuesday, the peak activity of which was to be a reading of the first week’s worth of “Poem-A-Day” poetry (see April 1), what should e-appear in my computer mailbox but a contract for a book to be called OMNIBUS:  MONK PUNK/SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN from Aaron French.  Now there’s something that needs to be known about contracts, at least for anthologies, and that’s that the name of the actual story it’s for is usually not included, but rather is represented by a blank line for the author to fill in.  And, perhaps because it’s been a busy year so far with THE TEARS OF ISIS related stuff (you know what I mean 😉 ) and all, I had no memory of having even sent, much less having had accepted a story for something called OMNIBUS etc. (though I did have a memory of an anthology to be called MONK PUNK a few years back, mainly that I had not submitted a story to it).  Mystery, mystery!  Research, however, uncovered that I had had a story in a different anthology, THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN, published in summer 2011 (cf. August 29 that year), and from there came the solution:  a combined reissue of these two anthologies is in the offing, from a new publisher, in which my THE SHADOW OF THE UNKNOWN story “The Festering,” itself a reprint originally published in the magazine BARE BONE, was to appear.

Who knew?  (Well, me now.)

So I signed that one and emailed it back at about the time another one came, this one from British Editor Theresa Derwin with the subject line “Zombie Anthology.”  It’s always nice to narrow these things down.  The cover letter, however, made reference to ZOMBIES GONE WILD and a relatively easy look-up revealed that the story in question was “The Dripping Nose that Wouldn’t Wipe” (cf. March 27 2012 — this story also a reprint, first published in the half-vampire/half-zombie anthology TOOTH DECAY), originally accepted for an  as yet untitled followup volume.  So that, too, was signed and sent back yesterday evening just in time for. . . .

A late Tuesday email from Editor Warren Lapine with a contract for “No Place to Hide” (yet another reprint, originally appearing in SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW) to be in his new FANTASTIC STORIES PRESENTS anthology.  This one is easy, the acceptance having come mere days ago (see March 31), but, weary from reading and signing things by now, I’m going to let it wait until later on Wednesday.

(And, just to be a completest, I also wrote and received emails Tuesday from Nicole Benz of Dark Regions Press, which could lead to updated, um, contracts for my collections STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE and DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET.)

So what do writers do when they’re not writing?  Well, this is one answer.

The word came first from Cynthia Ward:  “Editor Warren Lapine is seeking *reprint* SF/F/speculative fiction (1,000-10,000 words) for a couple of new print/electronic anthologies. . . .”  Then it continued in Warren’s words to the effect that he was starting a new webzine to be called FANTASTIC STORIES, but first would be “putting together a couple of anthologies in advance so there will be some product available when the first issue of the zine goes up.  I’m looking to licensee reprint rights to stories for both a print and e-pub anthology.  Each anthology will have about 800 pages of stories with a mix of classic and newer fiction. . . .”  Warren and I go back a long ways, to when I had a story in the first issue of what became ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, back when it was titled HARSH MISTRESS SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURES (funny story about that name, incidentally – remind me to tell it to you sometime), so of course I’d submit.  In fact the story I sent went back to that time frame, first published in the Summer 1991 SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW and one of my first professional sales, called “No Place to Hide.”  This was back when I was writing a lot of science fiction, though, presciently, with a bit of a nasty twist at the end (assuming, that is, that a tale about interstellar spaceship combat isn’t nasty enough in the first place).

So then, in less than two weeks, Warren replied, “I like it.  I’ll send a contract out next week.”  And that is that.  I don’t know the actual name of the anthology yet, but when I find out I’ll pass that on, as well as other information as it comes to me.  But as perhaps a preview of what kind of story Warren has liked, I mentioned above that I’d sold one to him for HARSH MISTRESS, published, as it happens, in Spring-Summer 1993.  This was a novelette called “Peds” which has since been reprinted by Untreed Reads as a stand-alone electronic chapbook.  And for more information about that, one can click on its picture in the center column.

Then speaking of pictures in the center column, if anyone has recently clicked the one for STRANGE MISTRESSES:  TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE, the link to publisher Dark Regions Press has indicated that it’s sold out.  In fact both it and its companion volume DARKER LOVES:  TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET are officially out of print, at least for the moment (I have been in contact with Dark Regions but also am open to bringing them back under a different publisher’s imprint), and so I’ve changed the link for STRANGE MISTRESSES to take readers to its Amazon page where both used and new copies are available.  In the case of DARKER LOVES, however, while it’s listed on Amazon too (and cheaper in some cases than from the publisher), some copies are still being sold by Dark Regions not only as a trade paperback, but also in a special, autographed, leather-bound and otherwise very nice collectors’ edition which, to my knowledge, is not available anywhere else.

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