Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Let us recall our friends “Crow and Rat,” the lowest of the low, thieves and rascals of the New City as limned in, in this case, the British anthology HUMANAGERIE (see October 28, 3, et al.).  Born in the world of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  But they have been up to other capers as well, behind our backs as it were, notably (they being good at sneaking into places where they might be thought to be not wanted) “The Icarus Contest.”  This was a call for stories concerning the Icarus myth, Daedalus and the Labyrinth and Crete and all that, a serious one run by MYTHRAEUM (recently renamed MYTHIC BEAST) and not one where riffraff would be expected — except that, like Icarus, Crow was said to be able to fly, and that for a few moments Rat actually did!  So why not try?
The word came back late Saturday evening from contest curator Leslie Marrick, and, no, they didn’t win.  But they did receive an Honorable Mention!  How about that?  And with it came an offer that their tale be retold on the pages (or pixels) of MYTHIC BEAST, which — with a request that HUMANAGERIE be credited as the first to take them in — I accepted this afternoon.

The writing life, a day of routine that goes with the game.  Two brief items this time (well, the second is rather long, actually), the first from 18th Wall Productions reaching back six months into the past, to a story, “Bottles,” and its acceptance for a 1950s-themed anthology, SOCKHOPS AND SEANCES (cf. May 1).  The story itself is a reprint originally published in CROSSINGS (Double Dragon, 2004) and also available in my collection THE TEARS OF ISIS, having to do with a young Puerto Rican woman and the Cold War as experienced in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and today the contract arrived — with edits promised to follow soon — and has as of this writing been, with a slight annotation, signed and readied for mailing back to Editor Nicole Petit tomorrow.

Then second an email from Bryce Raffle of Grimmer & Grimmer Books, publishers of DEADSTEAM with my story “The Re-Possessed” (see September 15, 4, 3, et al.), originally published in CEMETERY RIOTS (Elysium Press, 2016), which now has garnered a clutch of reviews.  None of these actually mention my name, but what the heck it’s a good anthology, and so just this once (“I would encourage you all to share the reviews, so fans know they’re buying something worth reading”) they are quoted herewith:

The first review here is from BookLife (A Publishers Weekly site); particular congrats goes to Ross Smeltzer, for his particularly high praise in this review.

Raffle brings together a fine selection of 17 “dreadpunk” (gaslamp horror and dark steampunk) stories in this gritty, enjoyable anthology.  The London Underground becomes a playground for the undead in Raffle’s suspenseful “Burke Street Station.”  A greedy lover gets her comeuppance in Jay Seate’s “The Velvet Ribbon.”  Rob Francis’s “B.A.R.B.” plays with the concept of devil worship, and the lengths a grieving man might go to revive his dying wife.  The pinnacle of the collection is Ross Smeltzer’s “The Hunger,” in which a man’s encounter with the undead in a forgotten cemetery lurches him toward Lovecraftian insanity.  Although Raffle includes several stories that hover around a similar idea or theme (there is a glut of vampire fiction in this anthology), the standout tales are those that break from conventional horror.  The nature of human frailty and propensity towards violence is underscored in all of the collected tales, making it more than just full of good scares.  Seasoned horror readers will appreciate this dark anthology.  (BookLife)

What a reading delight!!  This dreadpunk (steampunk horror) anthology is a perfect way to get in the Halloween mood.  These stories are reminiscent of classic penny dreadfuls and gothic horror.

I especially loved the tales where vampires were the focus.  Like Agony in Red by Jen Ponce and The Case of the Murderous Migraine by Karen J. Carlisle.  I haven’t read gothic vampire tales in a while and forgot how much I enjoy those tales.

Additionally, I absolutely was spooked by Harvesters by E. Seneca.  It reminded me strongly of The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey.  (Which I absolutely devoured those books).

Many of these stories I would love to have more fleshed out with a full novel or another short story.  This unique blend of horror and steampunk is exactly what I needed to upstart my spooky Halloween season.  Even if you don’t know about steampunk, I recommend this if you are a lover of classic horror stories and gothic literature.  (Clockwork Bookdragon)

DeadSteam:  A Chilling Collection of Dreadpunk Tales of the Dark and Supernatural is a great book for a newbie to dreadpunk like me.  Filled with stories that excite and tantalize the mind, I was on the edge of my seat for many of these short stories.  A great book to light some candles to, turn on the fire place and read in the chilly coldness this winter season. (Kay, Goodreads)

This is a delightful collection of seventeen dreadpunk horror stories, think Penny Dreadfuls.  I have never heard of dreadpunk but I have to say I have fallen in love with these stories.  They include several stories full of vampires, zombies, witches and so much more.  There is a story or two that will delight anyone that enjoys the horrors of the world.

I know I missed Halloween and this book would have been perfect.  But I still got the chance to dance in its pages amount the death, blood, and gore that make all things horror.  I loved the short stories, they gave a perfect taste of the author’s work.  There are more than a couple author’s that I will be looking into their other books.  But then again the down side to short stories is that I would just love to immerse myself in these worlds and find myself over with the trip quickly.

This is a wonderful collection of dreadpunk stories that I recommend checking out.  I will be keeping my eyes out for more in this genre.  (J Bronder Book Reviews) 

AbeBooks has announced today a post-Halloween sale through the end of November.  To quote the source:  Save up to 50% on books, art & collectibles from select sellers.  Click through to find a great selection of items discounted until November 30th.  Also, on their site:  AbeBooks is an online marketplace that connects you with professional sellers selling new, used, rare and out-of-print books, art and collectibles.  Each month, select sellers offer their items for sale on our site at huge discounts, making it easy to buy cheap books, art and collectibles online.  Whether you’re a crime fiction fanatic, a science fiction fiend or a collector of art, you’ll discover thousands of books and other items in our seller sale – all for a bargain.  We may remember (cf. September 25, 20, et al.) that my mosaic novel TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH has been one of the sale books in the past with some astounding bargains offered on both new and used paperback copies.  These are continued in this new sale and may be seen by pressing here.

Also, if you should obtain a copy of TOMBS — or have one already and enjoyed it — please consider sending a review to Amazon, Goodreads, and similar sites.  Only a sentence or two would do, but reviews can help us authors immensely (and that includes other books by other authors as well 🙂 ).

Today saw the return of the Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf. August 5, et al.) at Bloomington’s downtown Thomas Gallery, having been pre-empted in September by the Fourth Street Arts Festival and Spoken Word Stage (see September 1) and in October by Frankenfest (see September 30).  The featured readers were Amy L. Cornell, an active participant with Woman Writing for a Change and on the board of the Writing for a Change Foundation and a past community columnist for the Bloomington Herald-Times, reading a flash fiction tale about a Presidential request for poetry, followed by a series of “relatively short poems” including a narrative of the re-invention of libraries and three retold fairy tales; Lisa Clay Shanahan, author of MURDER BY THE BOOK and MURDER MASTERPIECE in her Boston Publishing House Mystery Series and MFA candidate in creative writing in the Sewanee School of Letters, with a short talk about inspiration followed by the opening scene of a new novel, THE BROKEN CIRCLE; and me with my recently published dark romance “Crow and Rat,” out last month in the British anthology HUMANAGERIE (cf. October 21, 3, et al.).  This was followed after the snack break by a relatively short session with four walk-on readers, including both poetry and short prose.

The way the IU Cinema docent explained it, in Mexico November 1 is for remembering departed children, November 2 for all the dead.  Not being Hispanic, I’d learned that the 1st is All Saints Day, the 2nd All Souls, but if one assumes that children die innocent these map together.  The occasion Thursday night, as I write this, was a special Dia de Meurtos (so it’s really a three-day plural “day,” also taking in October 31, All Hallows Eve) showing of the film COCO. Or, quoting the IU Cinema blurb:  Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures, COCO is a vibrant tale of family, fun and adventure, as an aspiring young musician named Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) embarks on an extraordinary journey to the magical land of his ancestors.  There, the charming trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) becomes an unexpected friend who helps Miguel uncover the mysteries behind his family’s stories and traditions. Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, and Edward James Olmos round-out the cast.  The film won Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, “Remember Me.”  The screening is part of IU Arts and Humanities Council’s First Thursday celebration of Day of the Dead.  And, yes, the events of the film take place on Dia de Muertos.

So I liked it.  It is fun and had good music, though as a Disney movie it also had some flaws, such as taking a visual joke that’s funny (in this case, a skeleton falling apart, then putting itself back together), repeating it while it’s still a bit funny, and then repeating it four or five times more.  Also heaping on its villain, making things worse and worse, stamping out even a hint at redemption.  But there are also bits of really good writing, one of which mentioned by the docent was the inclusion of the traditional song “La Llorona” near the end.  This is a film at heart of sadness and almost too-late reconciliation.  Also when the twelve-year-old hero requires his ancestors’ blessing — and needs it fast! — his great grandmother’s spirit first offers it if he’ll remember always to love his family (I don’t remember the exact words, but something like that — previously she had refused it unless he gave up music), then quickly changes it to “no conditions.”  It took me a moment to let that sink in, but yes, like love, a blessing that isn’t unconditional is really no more than a business deal.  And third, as it ended, I understood why the title of the film had to be “Coco,” why it couldn’t be anything else.

Technically received lateish on Halloween, though I only opened the email this morning.  But back to the call earlier this spring:  The story must address the “Oath and Iron” theme in some way.  To us, oath and iron is a reference to fairies and the treacherous bargains they make.  We’re interested in both classic and new interpretations of fairies.  We’re interested in clever, dangerous, unpredictable creatures, bargains and promises that aren’t what they seem, and bright, brave characters rising to the challenge.  We expect a fairy, faery, fae, elf, pixie, kobold, nixie, dryad, brownie, or other creature of Faerie in the story, but the role this character plays is up to you (protagonist, antagonist, contagonist, innocent bystander, etc.).  The anthology, from Spring Song Press, was to be called OATH AND IRON and would reluctantly accept a few reprints.  Also noted in the guidelines, [w]e  prefer “clean” stories and strongly prefer noblebright stories.

So “noblebright” isn’t really all that much my thing, but there was one story, originally published in DARK REGIONS MAGAZINE for Winter 1998-99 as well as reprinted in my first collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE.  The tale was called “Nixies” and had to do with wicked water sprites who collected men’s souls, including that of a charcoal burner’s husband who wanted her man back.  Noblebright enough, perhaps?

Thus the reply came from Editor C. J. Brightley, a nice top-off for the end of October:   I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you with a decision — we had many great submissions to this anthology.  I enjoyed “Nixies” and am pleased to accept it for the OATH AND IRON anthology!  We will ask for a few edits, which I will pass along to you when we’re through the copy-editing phase.  You’ll have the opportunity to approve the edits before signing the contract.

Thanks for writing a wonderful story! 🙂

More to be reported here as it becomes known.

It’s a long, long list and there’s lots of poetry, but stories are there too, some of which I’ve read already from the proof copy.  The book:  HUMANAGERIE (cf. October 3, et al.), edited by Allen Ashley and Sarah Doyle and published in England by Eibonvale Press less than two weeks ago.  I’m looking forward to seeing a finished copy!  But in the meantime, I do have a table of contents now as well as a cover image that I can share.  My pup in the pack (ah, now), a story set in the world of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH titled “Crow and Rat,” number eleven on the contents list, about the lowest of the low in New City’s beggar society aspiring to something perhaps too high.

But let’s let the editors give us an introduction to the book itself:

Inspired by notions of the animalistic, HUMANAGERIE is a vivid exploration of the nebulous intersection of human and beast.  From cities to wilderness, buildings to burrows, and coastlines to fish-tanks, these thirty-two poems and thirteen short stories explore emergence and existence, survival and self-mythology, and the liminal hinterland between humanity and animality.  This is an anthology featuring both poetry and prose.


Animal Apology – Paul Stephenson
Beginnings – Elaine Ewart
Aquarium Dreams – Gary Budgen
Beetle – Sarah Westcott
Vixen – Cheryl Pearson
Augury – Tarquin Landseer
The Orbits of Gods – Holly Heisey
Polymorphous / Stages of Growth – Oliva Edwards
Pray – Scott Hughes
Seahorse – Tarquin Landseer
Crow and Rat – James Dorr
Phasianus Colchicus – Kerry Darbishire
And Then I Was a Sheep – Jonathan Edwards
Wade – Tonya Walter
Sanctuary – Lauren Mason
Sturnidae – Setareh Ebrahimi
Rut – Ian Steadman
When a magician – Kate Wise
Palavas-les-Flots – Paul Stephenson
Notes for the “Chronicles of the Land that has no Shape” – Frank Roger
Rough Music – Jayne Stanton
The Butterfly Factory – William Stephenson
Hibernation – Sandra Unerman
Jellyfish – Megan Pattie
Barred Owl – Kristin Camitta Zimet
Ouroboros – Douglas Thompson
The Great Eel of Jazz – Amanda Oosthuizen
University Library – Lindsay Reid
Vulpine – Tarquin Landseer
Sloth – Elaine White
Flock – David Hartley
Fishy Business – Diana Cant
Wojtek – Mary Livingstone
Susheela – Bindia Persaud
Fluke – Michael G. Casey
Buck and Doe – Jane Burn
A structure of perfect angles – Jane Lovell
Two Lost Souls – Tracey Emerson
Company to Keep at the Harvard Museum of Natural History – Jenny Grassl
Last night a deer – Kerry Darbishire
Miss Muffet Owns Her Inner Spider – Hannah Linden
Dewclaw – Ian Kappos
Female Skate – Sarah Westcott
Noctuary – Tarquin Landseer
Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation – Jason Gould

Should one have a yen to order a copy, publisher Eibonvale Press’s info page can be found here.

Potential reviewers, there’s plenty of time.  Although TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH has been out for a bit more than a year, that doesn’t mean reviews aren’t still sought and appreciated!  In fact, just this month, a new review by “Malkinius” has been posted on Amazon under the title “Very Dark, But in a Good Way.”  Dystopian, end of the world, gothic, romance, philosophical and just quirky enough in the setting and characters to keep you wanting more, to quote just a bit, including what I’d call a positive hint:  If he puts out more books I will be buying them.

Well [*ahem*] yes.  Should you be interested in buying TOMBS, or just for more information including the latest reviews, please press here.  And when/if you’ve read it if you should think it might be worth sharing, if only for a line or two, please consider reviewing it yourself on your blog (if relevant), Amazon, Goodreads, anywhere else — it would be a great help!  (And, well, should you have read/consider reading my 2013 collection THE TEARS OF ISIS, info on which can be found here, please consider reviewing it too.)

The word is out!  Grim fairy tales.  Dark magic wielders.  Threatening urban legends.  Crows.  A wishing ring.  An ensorcelled forest.  These stories and more bewitch and frighten in RE-ENCHANT.  Wander the dim-lit paths of enchantment conjured by 18 tales from an international roster of authors.  Featuring fiction from Nancy Springer, Darrell Schweitzer, Don Webb, Alma Alexander, James Dorr, Jude-Marie Green, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Gregory L. Norris, Kelly A. Harmon, April Steenburgh, Robert N. Stephenson, Christine Lucas, Kai Miro, E. E. King, Mattie Brahen, Ace Jordyn, Hans Christian Andersen, and W.R.S. Ralston.  RE-ENCHANT takes readers down twisted walkways to discover strange and magical places, people, and creatures.  This is the second of Pole to Pole Publishing’s all-reprint anthologies, for fantasy this time, with my story in it called “Dust,” a saga of witchery, Spanish ladies, and . . . spiders . . . originally published in my collection, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE (cf. July 8).  The first of these with my science fiction story “The Game” was RE-LAUNCH (see October 16, 11, et al.) which, just received, has been a pretty good read so far so I’m looking forward to this one too, for more information on which, or to order one can press here.

Let us remember “Crow and Rat,” two of the lowest of the low in the New City world of TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, and how they, while not in the novel itself, had found acceptance in the British anthology HUMANAGERIE (see August 31, 11, July 29).  Expected out in “late October,” the date has now been set more precisely.  According to Editor Allen Ashley:  As you may know, we will be launching HUMANAGERIE at FantasyCon 2018 in Chester (UK) on Friday 19 October 2018.  And wait, for our UK readers there’s more:  But as Londoners born and bred, we are also negotiating a London (UK) launch.  So, please save the date of the afternoon of Saturday 24th of November 2018 for the London launch of the HUMANAGERIE anthology.  More precise details to come, but for those who will be in Britain this month, and should you have a yen to attend, more on the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon 2018, Oct. 19-21, can be found here.

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