Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rock the VOTE: If You Please

I have been voting for a couple years now in the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll and this is the first year that I have been nominated.

And though you may be quite tired of hearing about it, I sure wouldn't mind some clicking,and email confirmation thereafter/voting in support of my Space Eldritchness.
My story is in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy short story category and a couple of my friends are in the horror category, also the antho is in the

To vote for "Gods in Darkness" go Here and for anthologies you can vote for Space Eldritch here,
AND to vote for my friends,
Bruce Durham and his tale "Colony" from Rogues in Hell or D.J. Butler's "Arise Thou Niarlat From Thy Rest" also from Space Eldritch go here since both are in the short horror category.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypto 2012: No Excuses

I didn't get worked up back in the third grade when I heard on the news that some cult said the world was going to end. I heard they went up into the hills to await Jesus and came down the next day pretty disappointed.

I didn't worry about Y2K, and I wasn't too upset about some other hullabaloo between now and then either. When my HD TV died last night and then my keyboard connection to my computer fizzled - then I panicked.

As much as I credit myself as a barbarian capable of enduring all things, I enjoy my technology, I enjoy my entertainment perks and writing tools. Sure I have loads of books and oil lamps too if I need them, but when I have deadlines I want to be able to write.

Luckily my sister in law had a keyboard I could plug into the USB port and here I am. Did I then write since the ability was restored?

No. Copped out and fell asleep until after midnight and the lack of Mayan apocalypse.

Sometimes a miracle makes us lazy.

We look up at God and say "Oh, I took care of it myself, thanks anyway."

Maybe that's when the apocalypse really comes because you cheat yourself.

I have got to get more disciplined. I thought I was going to lose Internet for a week or so last week, and it didn't happen, did I work more? No.

Now, I'll probably lose Internet for a week or so right before Christmas - IF I don't get a lot of writing done that week (Christmas be damned) I deserve a flogging.

Happy Baktun 14 everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dark Tales of Lost Civilzations

Few anthologies make me kick myself for not being a part of them as much as this one. I have yet to read all of the tales contained here, but have no doubt that Eric Guignard has some serious winners. Joe Lansdale for one, and my friend Aaron J. French for another, Rebirth in Dreams his tale of mind altering transcendence gave me a smile and knowing he is from the mystic city of Tucson (great used bookstores there) I have to wonder how much of this trip of a tale may be true???

Here's to hoping Eric does a sequel.

From the back cover ~
Darkness exists everywhere, and in no place greater than those where spirits and curses still reside. Tread not lightly on ancient lands that have been discovered by this collection of intrepid authors.
In DARK TALES OF LOST CIVILIZATIONS, you will unearth an anthology of twenty-five previously unpublished horror and speculative fiction stories, relating to aspects of civilizations that are crumbling, forgotten, rediscovered, or perhaps merely spoken about in great and fearful whispers.
What is it that lures explorers to distant lands where none have returned? Where is Genghis Khan buried? What happened to Atlantis? Who will displace mankind on Earth? What laments have the Witches of Oz? Answers to these mysteries and other tales are presented within this critically acclaimed anthology by the enclosed authors.

Introduction by Eric J.Guignard
Angel of Destruction by Cynthia D. Witherspoon
The Door Beyond the Water by David Tallerman
To Run a Stick Through a Fish by Mark Lee Pearson
Quivira by Jackson Kuhl 

Directions by Michael G. Cornelius
Quetzalcoatl's Conquistador by Jamie Lackey
Königreich der Sorge (Kingdom of Sorrow) by C. Deskin Rink
Gestures of Faith by Fadzlishah Johanabas
Bare Bones by Curtis James McConnell
British Guiana, 1853 by Folly Blaine
The Nightmare Orchestra by Chelsea Armstrong 

The Funeral Procession by Jay R. Thurston
Requiem by Jason Andrew
Gilgamesh and the by Mountain by Bruce L. Priddy
Buried Treasure by Rob Rosen
The Small, Black God by Caw Miller 

In Eden by Cherstin Holtzman
We Are Not the Favored Children by Matthew Borgard
Rebirth in Dreams by A.J. French
Whale of a Time by Gitte Christensen
Sins of our Fathers by Wendra Chambers
The Talisman of Hatra by Andrew S. Williams
Sumeria to the Stars by Jonathan Vos Post
The Tall Grass by Joe R. Lansdale

The Island Trovar by JC Hemphill

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Space Eldritch Yet Beckons...

SPACE ELDRITCH the Lovecraftian Sci-Fi anthology I'm in with 7 other wondrous writers (and a helluva foreword by Larry Correia) was recently released in print. I'll be grabbing some personal copies soon because I love having a tactile book for one thing and because its awesome for a second.

Thirdly, we also received a favorable mention over at Black Gate not a review quite yet, the editor John O'Neil just barely got a copy, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Retrospecticus 2012

I may or may not be offline for the next little while we'll see, so IF that be the case, I thought I'd post this while I could. A bit of a look-back.

For my favorites of things...

Favorite Fiction of the Year: RED COUNTRY, by Joe Abercrombie
Love this western-flavored take on fantasy by one of my favorite authors and the return (albeit name unspoken of Logen 'The Bloody-Nine' Fingers'.

Favorite Historical Non-Fiction of the Year:  The Bloody White Baron, by James Palmer

Fascinating historical all the way around, even if I felt like the author wanted to demonize the Baron, who I feel was a ambitious driven man of his time and place, in another realm, he could have been a Howardian hero!

 Favorite Other Non-Fiction of the Year: Turning Pro, by Steven Pressfield

I could not leave this one out. Absolutely a must for kicking yourself into gear.

 Favorite Graphic Novel of the Year: Conan,Throne of Aquilonia, by Roy Thomas and Mike Hawthorne

I enjoyed this, but will admit that 2012 did not have strong competition (that I read) this year. Here's to hoping 2013 has more comics that move me - very high hopes for Hellboy in Hell.

Favorite New Indie Fiction Series: Rock Band Fights Evil, by D.J. Butler

I love the esoteric concept merging rock music, demons, and all manner of myth come to life in the modern era. With an eclectic cast of characters this is quite the series for pulp fans to sink their teeth into!

Favorite Television Series: Game of Thrones

Favorite Movie of the Year: Hmmmmm....
Like Graphic novels I didn't think this was a terribly strong year but with a few exceptions, I didn't see  lot of great indies like I did last year so I have to go with some of the bigger blockbusters = I liked The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises and I have not seen it yet but I expect The Hobbit to be right up there with them.

Favorite Music (released this Year): SKYWORLD, by Two Steps From Hell

I'd be remiss to not include a sample, the first track All Is Hell That Ends Hell, I have loved writing to this epic instrumental stuff.

For myself, I am very pleased to have almost twice as many publications this year as last, not quite but I can't help publishers being delayed - I have the terribly ridiculous goal to attempt a double again for next year - though I don't plan on trying to double that number for 2014 - everything within reason.

Still I am well pleased. 2 Sword & Sorcery Magazine tales 99 Deaths of the Monkey God and Hel Awaits

2 Weird Western Porter Rockwell tales - Tangle Crowned Devil in Unnatural Tales of the Jackalope and Garden of Legion in Wandering Weeds

2 Horror/Sci-Fi tales The Dig in IN SITU and Gods in Darkness in SPACE ELDRITCH - which of course that's the big one for the year, we made it to Amazon's #2 spot in Space Opera, #10 in Horror for the kindle and we actually were the #1 bestselling book on Smashwords in November! And we have been discussing the idea that we will continue that Eldritch collection in the next year - perhaps Steampunk?

And 2 more tales - A Good Home for the Spoon, a bizarre Hemingway werewolf pastiche in Dark Eclipse magazine, and a third Lovecraftian/Porter Rockwell tale Rolling in the Deep is supposed to be released any day now.

More tales were accepted for publication and await 2013, and I can finally discuss a secret project from earlier this year because he has already mentioned it on his weekly radio show. I am assisting Douglas Dietrich with his book The Reality of the Red Undead: The Untold Story of the Supernatural Soviets, fascinating stuff that. It will likely have an early 2013 release.

My self-published projects for my Lost Realms Press have regrettably been delayed but are moving forward, in all likelihood there will be a barrage in the New Year, I'll space them out but it will still make me look like a writing machine.
All the more to make writing my career and grant me the ability to only do that and kiss the day-job farewell.

All the best to you my readers and friends. I'll be back online as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lighting the Torch for a Friend: Preston Remembered

I was saddened to find that a friend had passed away Monday in his sleep, he was only 43. Preston McConkie was outspoken, grumpy and honest. I can think of several times I tried to keep the peace on some facebook posts where he would enjoy commenting something rather inflammatory, in any case I consider him a great friend who helped me quite a lot with my writing even if I didn't know it was him for years.

Randomly chatting on facebook, I found out he was one of the original two slush editors for Zarahemla Books - and he was the unnamed editor one who first gave me some good encouragement despite a rejection. I treasured his comments that Heroes of the Fallen was the best Book of Mormon fiction he had ever read and quite Arthurian.

More recently he helped edit the forthcoming The Mad Song and helped give me some other editing tips on other projects. 

I have read several of his short stories and realizing that this short piece was on his blog earlier this year, I decided to share it here.

It was published in the May 2012 issue of eFiction, and getting to know Preston better I found that while it was labeled fiction for the magazine, it was indeed a true experience of his regarding the first Gulf War.

Thank you Preston for your friendship, til we meet again...
Dream Cred
By Preston McConkie
2153 words

           I used to think it was a big deal to wake up screaming or swinging. That’s what the Vietnam vets did. It was a new version of the red badge of courage. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen to me, and when it did start it was two years after those 38 days from the Jan. 14 outbreak to the Feb. 25 invasion, then the six days of combat and the other two days falling back out of Iraq through Kuwait and at last to King Fahd Air Base and Al-Khobar.
          Two years went by and then, one day, a roommate touched me when I was asleep and I came awake gasping and panicked and hit my head on the wall.
          It pleased me a little at the time because you can’t choose how to wake up, and this gave me street cred as a real combat vet, and not like what I thought of myself as: someone who’d been there but hadn’t really seen it, hadn’t really done it.
          I didn’t regret never having to use my rifle to kill someone I could see fall and bleed. And helping hand up an 8-inch projo while someone else rammed it and another guy pulled the lanyard and sent it 20 miles downrange -- well, that was just like practice.
          The disappointment was not seeing the bodies. I never saw a wounded guy, never saw a corpse. Never even saw a blood stain. At first that just frustrated me. Later I decided God must have shielded my eyes, because everydamnbody around me saw the guts and the gore as we drove past. We’d driven down a highway of death, trucks still on fire with fresh bullet holes, only minutes after the M-1s and Bradleys had swept through and machine gunned and cannoned everything to junk. We’d bivouacked in the middle of bunkers and foxholes and I’d fallen asleep in my ammo truck while three terrified Iraqis huddled in a foxhole just 20 feet away, but I didn’t see them cuz I wasn’t on guard duty and too tired and dumb to be afraid, so I slept while the guys on duty cleared the holes and took the prisoners.
          And then on our last position forward we were in a wasteland of overturned cargo trucks and abandoned earth movers and spent a couple of days burning stacks of Romanian AK-47s still in their oiled-paper wrappings and burying mortar shells and even burning a stack full of rifle ammo and RPG rockets that went off with great hisses and left arcing smoke trails but didn’t arm themselves and never exploded.
Only one night, the last night before we reached Kuwait, our convoy stopped in darkness while the officers plotted the route with those ancient, massive, $35,000-apiece GPS readers, and the light wind carried the smell of rotting flesh. Shapes in the dark, if I remember, looked like berms pushed up by bulldozers, and somewhere out there were earthworks full of dead men. But I never got closer than smelling them.
So all in all, that wasn’t much to get worked up about. I saw smoke, I heard explosions, I saw a few prisoners get taken and turned loose after we fed them and realized we couldn’t keep them. I saw bedouins come bobbing their heads up to the battery perimeter, empty water cans in hand, motioning at the water trailer behind the old Korean War-leftover deuce-and-a-half truck, and the first time I held my rifle at port arms because I was on guard duty and I shook my head, but the battery commander came over and said, “C’mon, McConkie, let ‘im in.” And I returned the bow with heel-of-hand-on-forehead and the benediction of “Salaam!” while the smiling Arab scuttled to the trailer and filled his can.
          I remember the engineers from the 82nd Airborne driving around in armored vehicles and setting charges in bunkers I didn’t know were there and setting off ground-shaking blasts that sent gray mushroom clouds swirling up, and not knowing til later they’d been blowing caches of cycloserin nerve agent while we stood or laid around breathing the air, our protective masks tucked in their hip pouches.
So in the years afterward I sometimes thought the mystery cocktail of C4 smoke and nerve agent might be responsible for the shakes and the muscle-grinding and the feeling of doom that squeezed me til I’d bite my knuckles or burn myself or cut myself for relief/ But that wouldn’t give me nightmares full of dying men.
Even so, two years later the nightmares started. And I started waking up gasping or shouting. On my wedding night ten years later, I kicked my wife when she snuggled against me.
          I felt like a fraud. I’d done nothing to earn this kind of dysfunction. I hadn’t seen anything. I hadn’t killed anyone. The only blood I’d spilt on a foreign shore was from a slip while illegally sharpening an M1 bayonet.
I’d stood in one artillery firefight when the Republican Guards’ 2nd Division tubes almost got our range, and for about a minute their South African 155s started raining shells nearby. But their observers were dead and our choppers were out and maybe our radar trackers got their range too, and the guys on the bitch boxes called new coordinates and our 8-inchers shifted tubes so many mils quadrant and deflection and our next rounds pounded them to silent junk that we went out the next day and gathered up as trophies, so that we came back to Saudi Arabia dragging two Gerald Bull 155mm’s and a Russian 122mm
But there was no glory because the only Purple Heart handed out in the 2nd Battalion 18th Field Artillery Regiment went to a cannoneer who fell off a howitzer and broke his collarbone, which made the award a fraud. And the bronze stars were handed out “for meritorious service” but not for valor, to every officer in a Humvee and above lieutenant and every first sergeant and the sergeant major and the battalion commander and the XO and each of their drivers. But there was never a single damned brave thing done except that the battalion blundered across the line of infantry and armor on Feb. 28, 1991, because we’d suddenly and unexpectedly come across an enemy that hadn’t run away yet.
And because we were there, we got the call of “Fire mission!” and the farthest right howitzer fired a blind shot and the flying forward observers saw where it landed and shot a laser range-finder at the impact and calculated an azimuth and called it back to the boys in the old M113 command track, and they ran their slide rulers because computers back then were too slow for combat.
And while every gunner lined his sites up against the gun on his right, the privates with the commo wire were running lines to the fire direction track and hooking them up to the bitch boxes, and FDC called over “Fire mission, shell HE, fuse quick,” then read off the six-number deflection and then the quadrant. And the ammo carrier had broke down a day or two earlier and been left behind with its crew still on it and my HEMMT truck was backed up to the gun and I stood on a 12-ton stack of projos and powders and hooked the spider cables to the nose plugs in the projos so the crane could lift them down six at a time. And Charlie Battery on our left got off the first shot and then we were just a few seconds behind, and then FDC called an adjustment and the next rounds went out and the bitch box called, “Fire for effect.”
And while the red-bag powders were shooting fire out the muzzles and making the dust jump off the ground, and the sun was dipping down and the dark falling fast, the Abrams tanks behind us started shooting at nobody-knew-what except that tanks only fired line of site, so it was it had to be close, or closer than us gun bunnies in the King of Battle were supposed to be. And while the glass was crazing in our windshields and the door windows were blowing clear out of their frames because we were shooting bigger powder than we’d ever fired in practice, BANG! … BANG! … BANG! … there came that sound we’d never heard except far away, but that sounds nothing like a round going out the tube. Incoming fire.
There was no scream of a shell rolling in, and maybe that’s only what you hear when it’s about to land on top of you. But CRUMP. CRUMP. CRUMPCRUMP. And louder than it sounds in a word like CRUMP, but that’s the sound it makes.
And then I knew I was in a real fight and, standing on top of the ammo, I was on top of the world too, certain I couldn’t be touched, and I wasn’t a bit afraid because it was impossible to die just then.
And when it was over I set up my cot and went to sleep, and when the howizter went off a few times in the night I woke up for a second or two and went back to sleep because it was my first time on a cot in four days.
But that’s not trauma. That’s adventure.
So when I gasped and shot up in bed that first time when a roommate nudged me, I felt like a fraud. Like I’d wanted to be a real veteran and I’d envied the real men who’d fought in a real war. And when I kicked backward at my wife when she snuggled up to spoon I was ashamed because I wasn’t only a fraud, I was a bad fraud, cuz who ever heard of a wussy move like that? And when I got on my knees out of her sight below the bed and prayed silently that I would never do it again oh pleaseplaseplease don’t let me ever do that again, I felt lower than a snail belly cuz as a fake veteran I hadn’t even done a good job of faking my terror cuz I hadn’t shouted properly or done anything to dignify a wussy move like jerking my ankle backward. And I was only glad that I’d botched the act and hadn’t really hurt her.
The ringing tinnitus and low fidelity in my ears were the only genuine, but invisible, marks I could confidently blame on battle. Big deal.

Later I read a book, “On Combat,” and learned that “selective exclusion” is common in deadly fights. People would block the sounds of gunshots but hear the sound of empty brass hitting the ground. They’d edit out images that other people saw. It was a natural defense, the author said.
And finally it made sense, because it just wasn’t possible I’d been the only guy in Alpha Battery not to see a corpse or a torn-off limb in the road.
Accepting that these were the images in my dreams didn’t bring back any memories. But tI felt better, because if this kind of thing happened to cops and soldiers, maybe it’d happened to me, and maybe I wasn’t a wannabe.
At the same time I was learning to meditate my way out of a lifetime load of depressions and compulsions and resentments. As I learned to feel an emotion and stay with it and let it have its way and pass on, the dreams got more frequent and vivid. Later as I took morphine for an injury, they grew more colorful and intense and lasted longer.
And I stopped minding.
I don’t know why, but even now, most nights I go to sleep and dream of being with my high school friends, and we’re in a cafeteria and we’re all in uniform. And then we’re gathering weapons and defending ourselves and gradually every weapon malfunctions, and while I reload and replace and shoot the enemy keeps coming and it’s clear there’s no way through. And sometimes I’m shot and I feel real pain.
But even while it’s all happening, nowadays I don’t get too worked up. I’ve gotten so used to the dreams that even when they’re playing out, some part of my awareness knows they aren’t real. And when I’m awake I know the dreams are hints of real things I may never remember.
My dreams are my eccentric, erratic tutors and reminders. They’re always there and they have their odd ways, but I don’t mind them. Because now I know they’re supposed to be there, somehow.
And these days I don’t shout or gasp or strike out when someone wakes me up.
Of course, that doesn’t matter so much as I wish it did. I sleep alone these days. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wandering Weeds Bloghop

I meant to post this earlier today, but here goes...

The Wandering Weeds anthology is having a bloghop today with these contributing authors


Here is the introductory snippet of my tale GARDEN OF LEGION

The McHenry wagon train, bound for California, persevered through prairie fires, buffalo stampedes, Indian attacks, and even a bout of embarrassing dysentery, but their greatest struggle was when that flower of the prairie, nineteen year old Fannie Burton, became possessed.
Some recollected the pretty little blonde dabbled with an ensorcelled Ouija board stolen from a New Orleans juju man. Her mother claimed the girl was bewitched by a Navajo skinwalker, and still others said she had taunted Satan himself late one night around the buffalo-chip campfire after refusing to say grace. Regardless of the sinister origin, something hideous held the girl in demonic thrall.
The once shy and reserved Fannie swiftly took a rough frontier situation from dreadful to dire and finally to disastrous. She ripped apart the Conestoga’s, devoured the pitiful food supplies, guzzled or smashed their water caskets and, astonishingly, ate a pair of oxen…alive! The company attempted to subdue the normally weak girl many times, but even a dozen of their most able-bodied men were overpowered by the maiden with a newly developed voice that was deep as the pit of Gehenna.
She, or It, or Them, seemed determined to force the desperate McHenry party to die in the wastes, reveling in their cries of desperation and misery. Each day they grew weaker and she, It, or Them grew stronger. All hope seemed lost in the blossoming desert of the American southwest. Tormented by a devil in a black dress, it seemed the party’s bones would soon bleach under a merciless sun.
Being good Christian folk, they prayed for deliverance and a man they later called the desert prophet materialized. He appeared to be of late middle-age, medium height and build, walking barefoot upon the scorching earth and, most important, he could exorcise little Fannie Burton of her demons.
Spying the holy man’s approach, the girl cried aloud and wallowed in the powdered dirt, frothing, vainly trying to hide in a baptism of cinnamon-like soil.
The entire wagon train listened in hushed amazement as the desert prophet communed with the throng of evil spirits inside Fannie. “You don’t belong here. You must leave. I command you in His name.”
“Suffer us to enter into another set of the living,” came the bottomless well of a voice from the convulsing waif. “Even, He,” it gnashed, “was so accommodating.”
“You may enter into whatever lives on the other side of that nearest mountain,” allowed the mysterious holy man.
A vile grin split the girl’s face as her body shook one last time. An almost imperceptible mist spouted from her frame and flew like a swarm of ravenous locusts to the far side of the mountain.
Her own true voice restored, Fannie spoke hoarsely, “Thank you stranger, but who’re you?”
“One of three who tarry,” he answered, drawing her up from the baptism of fine powdered earth. “The demons shall not trouble you again. Go your way in righteousness.”
Fannie ran to her waiting mother and father. As the rest of the McHenry caravan came out cheering from behind their wagons, a dust devil sprang up out of the dunes and the desert prophet vanished.
The McHenry party never caught his name, his tracks vanished into the shifting sands. Their problems were over, but two mountains away, the hell on earth was about to begin...

This weird western (One of my Porter Rockwell's) was a lot of fun and I'm glad it's finally out.
Print in Createspace store:

Friday, December 7, 2012

500 Posts!

Hard to believe. 500 posts does strike me as a some kind of landmark. I have been blogging for roughly three and a half years-ever since the day my contract was offered for Heroes of the Fallen

Wow, that doesn't seem that long ago, I remember the day well. I was painting a door when the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number-which usually means I don't answer, but I was inspired to pick up. It was William Gowen of WiDo and he said his greetings and extended that they were very interested in offering me a contract. I'm pretty sure I said, "Yeah sure, sounds good." and the conversation ended shortly thereafter.

I've read about a lot of other authors jumping up and down and shrieking with excitement at finally being published. I was pleased but I went back to painting that door, it hadn't really sunk in yet. I called and told my wife and she did enough shrieking for the both of us.

I decided that day that I better start a blog to have a place of my own on the web to operate out of and have people find me and post notices and such. I'm grateful for my regular readers and commenter's and all my blog followers etc.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mad Shadows: Book Review

Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, by Joe Bonadonna

Is a collection of six Sword & Sorcery/Gothic Noir novella's featuring Dorgo the Dowser, a sleuth and jack of all trades who utilizes the unlikely tool of a sorcerous dowsing rod to investigate crimes and mysteries-which usually get him into a heap of trouble to boot.

I could not help but feel the kinship to all the great old noir books and film as I read these. I could have been in the midst of a Hammet or Chandler tale with Dorgo relating a past event at the bar and then suddenly a vicious centaur or gold eating demon becomes involved-and it all makes sense. Bonadonna's world-building is excellent-here is an author I have no doubt has made the most of life experiences within his own fantasy realm.

I especially loved the asides of Dorgo narrating the back-story on other characters as well as Bonadonna's dialogue = magical and gritty. The sorcery encountered is unique and yet the world of Dorgo is realistic and strong on character giving this book the best of the pulps flavor.

Another defining thing I enjoyed about these tales (doing my best not release any spoilers)  is that Dorgo does not always have things go his way. True to the noir turnabouts and twists, situations radically shift and Dorgo isn't in control or even necessarily know what's going on (even if he thinks he does).

This is one that I'm pretty sure all my S&S pulp friends will enjoy.

I'm looking forward to the next Dorgo tale, The Book of Echoes  in the Artifacts & Relics anthology (that I'm also a part of) hopefully released earlier next year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Top of the World: 80 Years of CONAN

"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."


A whole lot of things have contributed to my writing inspiration and drive, my own poetry expanding into prose, the sheer love of reading-especially myth and legend, a love of history and lost mysteries, Tolkien is absolutely huge, Hemingway and more as well, but I must give credit that the biggest factor that literally kicked me in the face and said I HAVE TO START WRITING - instead of just talking about it, was Robert E. Howard's creation CONAN, who turns 80 today since his first appearance in Weird Tales.

The first tale of Howard's I read was People of the Black Circle but I know The Phoenix on the Sword (the first Conan tale with the familiar opening above, was soon to follow) I devoured the tales and harassed used book shops to acquire all the beat-up old dog-eared copies I could find, usually the lamentable DeCamp series. This was before the Del-Rey releases. I hardly read anything else that summer, and soon enough  I read most of the rest of REH's catalog and then got to work on my own.

If I can someday engender that same fascination with a reader, the sheer excitement and thrill that I felt reading these stories, I will have truly succeeded. I can think of no other praise or reward so high as sharing that feeling with another person when it comes to writing.


“What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to My Lyrical Roots

I started writing poetry before I ever attempted a novel. In fact when I did get a novel idea, I was overwhelmed with how long it would take in comparison to the instant gratification a poem/song did
(I always thought of my poems as songs) and put off doing more than an outline for years.

I probably cranked out over 300-400 of the poems in the course of a handful of years. 17 to 21ish. Then I slowed down quite a bit and actually worked on stories thereafter.

No wonder my first editors said I was so lyrical. I took that as a high compliment.

Looking through my desk drawer now at some of them, I am surprised at how many are essentially love songs, and incredibly needy love songs at that. I briefly considered the idea of compiling them all and someday having a poetry book, but so many are so bad I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by releasing them.

Some few actually have good lines in the middle (but are surrounded by crap) and others aren't too shabby. When I looked at a sheet of popular song lyrics by some rock groups I love, (T. Rex, Led Zeppelin) I realized my lyrics weren't actually that bad, but it always helps to have great music backing you up. Various incarnations of my teenage rock bands probably only ever put music to about a fourth of my songs. I would share the better recordings here, but don't even know where to begin adding my old four track recording tapes to the computer. (yes, I had cutting edge equipment for poor boys back in 1991)

Here is one I don't mind sharing (likely from the later period when I was 21 or so and slowing down-but quality and some kind of esoteric depth had arguably gone up)


See these hands - they reach for you
See these ears - they listen to you
Feel this heart - it beats for you
And yet you leave me all alone
I should be like a sunstone
The sunstone stands and holds the temple
The sunstone blazes like its maker
The sunstone stands all alone

Hear my voice -It sings for you
See my eyes -They look to you
Feel this heart - It beats for you
And yet you leave me all alone
I should be like a sunstone
The sunstone stands and holds the temple
The sunstone blazes like its maker
The sunstone stands all alone

Now my eyes - I see through you
Now my voice - Don't sing for you
Now my heart - Doesn't beat at all
And now you are left all alone
I am like a sunstone
The sunstone stands and holds the temple
The sunstone blazes like its maker
The sunstone stands all alone
I am like a sunstone

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday ~ RED COUNTRY

"A choice between killing and dying ain't no choice at all."

Red Country, by Joe Abercrombie
is likely my favorite fantasy fiction read to come out of the Big publishers this year (Orbit) I still mean to read a few more from TOR and PYR, but this will be pretty tough to beat.
Anyone else I really liked (published this year) is almost certainly indie.

I don't like giving away spoilers, but there are a few caveats to Abercombies books. The three standalone novels, Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country could be read without having read the First Law Trilogy, but would be much better appreciated IF you have read them. A lot of back-story could be understood, but the true appreciation and context just won't be there.

They are rough, called Grim Dark by some, but I never felt like it was as nihilistic as others have claimed. Brutal perhaps, but in my mind no more so than Unforgiven and not even as terrible and gut wrenching as another favorite of mine =Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

In any case, Red Country is absolutely a western set within Abercrombies fantasy world. It works as any western should, minus the gunpowder. Every scene and confrontation on the plains or saloon easily felt like it belonged in that American tradition.
Living in the Inter-mountain west, I caught quite a few nuances showing Abercrombies research and attention to detail that I think could have easily been passed over by other storytellers, but for me - it fit. It showed how close and true he worked to make this a great western with realistic touches ~ you have to be realistic.

Without spoiling too much, anyone that has read the books knows that the character laying the biggest mark in Abercrombies universe is Logen, 'The Bloody Nine' Ninefingers, and we've been missing him and wondering what happened to him for the last couple books.

He is back-anyone with any sense will know it is him in the first couple pages, so that's no spoiler. But he has tried to put his past behind him and everyone knows him now as "Lamb" the coward.
But when his step son and daughter are kidnapped, there is gonna be hell to pay and the sleeping giant is awakened.

It was just a little slow going in the beginning (not unlike The Heroes) but once things started to happen-Did they ever.
So many scenes and chapters erupting in my head that I'd love to mention but just can't yet, so many that made me want to cheer and laugh. Abercrombie has a wonderful knack for setting things up that make you so sure on how they will turn out and then turning them on its ear and twisting it upside down. Highly, highly recommended.

I so wish I could get my hands on the UK cover (above) these US covers are seriously lame, I wish a marketing rep could see that, all three of the US stand-alones have terrible covers, why is it so hard to just keep the brilliant UK ones? This US cover tells you nothing, shows nothing, and a basket-hilt rapier swung two-handed? Give me a break.

Abercrombie is a little slower on getting books out, The Heroes was released in February of last year, but I am so anticipating the next one already even if it will likely be 2014.

Unlike some of Abercrombies other books, this had a map-that only made me anticipate a wider travelogue than we  received, not a big deal except for the tantalization of what might occur where - I kept expecting something to go on in the rock formation (canyon lands) The Three Emperors, but nothing did, just my being map happy I guess.

Now I've got a hankering to watch some of my favorite westerns while finishing up my Thanksgiving pie and turkey.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I probably wouldn't indulge in turkey so much if they weren't so delicious. It's their own fault, theirs and pies.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wandering Weeds Rolls In

So I just discovered that the Wandering Weeds anthology is finally available here 

 "They roll in from unknown places, mysterious and unexplained. They take root, take over, spread to all corners and refuse to be eradicated. no one can say why they came, but there's no arguing that they're up to no good. These plants are out for blood, and getting rid of them will take a certain kind of hero - the best kind. Twenty-five tales of evil weeds to entertain, enthrall and change the way you look at the unwelcome invaders in your lawn."

My tale Garden of Legion is a weird western with the ever recurring Porter Rockwell. This one has a little bit of everything I love about the genre and I am rather proud of it.

I have posted the table of contents before, but being that this project was delayed so long I may as well do it again.
Wandering Weeds TOC in no particular order:

The Souls of the Wicked by Francis Pauli

They Call the Wind Mariah by Jaleta Clegg

The Tumbas by M. Pax

Weeds by James Hartley

Tumbleweed by Robert Borski

Cowchip Charlie by Charlene C. Harmon

The Colors of Blood by Kevin J. Childs

Tumblers by M. Baker

Desert Oracles by Katie M John

Feral Tumbleweeds by Monique Guilland

Fair Weather, with a Chance of Tumbleweeds by Andrea Tantillo

Legends of the Tumbleweeds by Duane Ackerson

Garden of Legion by David J. West

Sleeping Beauty by Louise James

Duncan Derring and the Lady Luck by Bryan Thomas

Beyond the Fence by Rebecca L. Brown

Thistle by Terry Alexander

Fun with Weed Eradication by Berin Stephens

I survived the sargasso sea by Eric J. Guignard

Crispy Fried Pickles at the Mad Scientist Café by Katherine Sanger

The Great Tragedy of the Illustrious Empire by Audrey Young

Oh, Dark Tumbleweed by Brian D. Mazur

I am sure I'll be updating this info soon. I'm actually kind of surprised that the print book is available before a kindle. Until then, watch out for any tumble weeds that seem to have a mind of their own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Read Just Lately

The Necronomicon, The Book of Dead Names, edited by George Hay

I reread books I enjoy all the time, whether for research or pleasure, this is a little of both. I am working on something for the Swords & Mythos anthology and decided on a Abdul Alhazerd story. Abdul Alhazerd supposedly wrote the Necronomicon, well Al Azif anyway.
In any case, when I first purchased this book, I was only loosely aware of H.P. Lovecraft and his Mythos at all, I relatively knew nothing.
So of course I start reading the Necronomicon late at night in my grandfathers basement, yes I was very creeped out.
But it started a weird tales fascination that has never gone away. Unfortunately it took some number of years before I realized that DeCamp, Hays, Wilson and other contributors were all having a laugh-while the Lovecraftian analysis is as spot on as anything, all the essays contained purporting to be the authentic truth of the Necronomicon are the literary equivalent of a Mockumentary, and I ate it up a good dozen years ago.
Still, its good for rereading and preparing my own fiction.

Conan: Throne of Aquilonia, by Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne, Dan Panosian

Continuing on with the year long run of Roy Thomas and Conan's journey down the Road of Kings, most of this collection takes place in Tarantia, capitol of Aquilonia - hence the title.
We get some interesting side characters, and some nice teases for things that Conan fans know is coning years into the future. I did like the catacombs sequence though it had a few weakness's, and I thought the dragon was dispatched a bit too easily/quickly, but overall it was a decent spot.
Afterward Conan journey's on to Argos and we are given a great set up for Queen of the Black Coast - too bad I already know that arc is seriously bungled and I think I'll be skipping it. For a 1*-5* slot, I'd rate this a strong 3*+.

IRONWOLF: Fires of the Revolution, by Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola

Thanks to Paul Macnamee for this copy.
I love Mignola's artwork, this had a futuristic steampunk thing going before steampunk was a household word. Granted this is by no means Mignola's best work, but it's still great, depth and shading all his wonderful hallmarks.
Chaykin's tale is interesting with flavors of the age of revolution mixed with somewhat current type drug and crime ridden conspiracies, yet it never really engaged me. I never found myself really drawn into the characters for good or bad, though not for lack of trying. There were a number of writerly tricks to get us interested but they didn't convince me. Good, but certainly not great. If I recall Paul, you said roughly the same thing, right?

By The Sword, by Richard Cohen 

This was an in depth review of all things relating to the history of the sword, from gladiators to musketeers to samurai to fencers and beyond. Cohen speaks from experience as an award winning Olympic fencer himself and the book is full of valuable anecdotes relating to what is truly a warriors art. Highly recommended for those researching more about the use of the sword and the history of great swordsmen.

Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The header also reads, A Rogue Economist Explore the Hidden Side of Everything.
This was a fascinating book, dwelling on why people do the things they do and how crunching the numbers gives a bigger picture over what people might answer makes them do what they do.
It can be two very different things and they don't even realize.
I sense I can't express this very well in a quick book review, but this is highly recommended.
The insights to life are well worth your time. I will be looking for follow up books by the authors.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Have You Missed the Katon University Series?

I got a head start on these before they were released. My friend Andrea Pearson is launching several novellas she has titled The Katon University Series, (look at that name again)

This initial trio is the first year of the University stories and are all based loosely on older short stories by such as H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James but with a fresh teen approach and twist to reach a YA audience. Delightfully creepy but not gory, more atmosphere and suspense than anything. I actually like her ending for The Music of Anna Morse better than Lovecraft's finale for The Music of Erich Zann.

There will be three to six novellas for every year of college for the three students at Katon University: Anya, Austin, and Lizzie. After the novellas for each year are finished, Andrea will write a full-length novel, tying themes from the novellas together.

Britnell Manor

Austin receives a photograph in the mail and quickly discovers something about it isn’t quite right: every time he looks at it, there are changes.
And the changes aren’t good.

Loosely based off an MR James ghost story, Britnell Manor is a novelette in the Katon University First Year series.

Kindle, Nook, Smashwords

The Music of Anna Morse

When Anya, a talented cellist, goes to Ohio to sharpen her skills with wind magic, she has no idea her studies are about to collide with terrifying creatures and people from another dimension.
Based off one of HP Lovecraft’s popular stories.

Kindle, Nook, Smashwords


Whistle, and I'll Come

Lizzie doesn't know the old whistle she found in a deserted trapper's cabin is possessed. She blows on it, accidentally calling back the spirit of a dead goddess consumed by the desire to snare the person who called her.

When the goddess arrives in the form of a statue, the stillness of Lizzie's mountain retreat is destroyed. Based off a story by MR James.

Kindle, Nook (link coming soon), Smashwords

The stories can be read in any order, and I enjoyed all three. And I am digging the 'Eye' on the cover of Anna Morse that James Curwen did. Thanks for letting me be an advanced reader Andrea, I look forward to the next year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Good Home For the Spoon

My short story, A Good Home for the Spoon, is now available in issue #17 of Dark Eclipse and hey, I'm actually sharing a table of contents with Clark Ashton Smith, that's pretty cool, my first with one of the Great Old Ones = "Klarkash-Ton".

My tale has the dubious honor of being the only thing I have written thus far, where I deliberately try to sound like another author, in this case I wrote as if it were a snippet of Hemingway's experiences in 1920's Paris, and therefore a "lost" chapter of A Moveable Feast, one of my personal favorites.

His wife actually did lose a suitcase full of his writings on the train and the notebooks turned up again decades later, Hemingway then reworked them into what was to become in my arrogant opinion his posthumous opus A Moveable Feast.

While he steered clear of writing anything supernatural, I thought, what if there was something that could be written off later as an absinthe fueled experience, so I brought that into play to beg the question of what really happened when Papa got all bashed and cut up one night.

I also based the tiny silver spoon off my personal baby spoon that my mother recently gave me. This pic is close but not quite right.

Here is the table of contents...

Issue #17 of Dark Eclipse includes some great short stories including "Consummate Justice" (Gerry Griffiths), "Sink" (Bill Morrow), "A Good Home for the Spoon" (David J. West), "Beimini" (Ryan Neil Falcone), "Tangible Evil" (Kathy Busse and Kimberly Yerina) "Over Time" (Christine Proctor) "Dead Ends" (Richard J. O'Neill) and "The Beast of Averoigne" (a classic short story by Clark Ashton Smith). Columns and articles includes "The Chimerical Dark: Remodeling Hill House: From Book to Movie to Remake" (Sean Davis), "Book Review: Specter Spectacular: 13 Ghostly Tales" (reviewed by Rin Gardner), "Lovecraftian" (Manny Frishberg), "Books to Die For" (Nicholas Paschall), "Book Review: The Dark Man" (reviewed by Kurt Reichenbaugh) and "Bits of the Dead" (Jay Wilburn). And don't forget we have horror poetry in in each issue including poems by M. Sullivan, Dawn Napier and Hitcher.

And for the Nook - props to Keith for making me think