Friday, December 13, 2019

Not Far From Roswell, Kindle edition available

Edited by Kelly A. Harmon & Vonnie Winslow Crist

My latest published story, "Heirloom," is available now in the Pole To Pole Publishing anthology, NOT FAR FROM ROSWELL. (Kindle available now, print to follow soon)

Despite the friendly cow, this is part of the Dark Stories Series. They wanted dark and I delivered. I have not read the other tales, but I suspect the tone of the anthology is dark fantasy & horror. You've been warned...

Friday, December 6, 2019

recent read; The Cunning Man


If you are a fan of occult detective/dark fantasy/folk magic stories along the lines of Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer, David Drake’s Old Nathan, and Brian Keene’s Levi Stoltzfus, there is a new novel you need to read; Dave Butler & Aaron Michael Ritchey’s THE CUNNING MAN.

Hiram Woolley easily joins the ranks of such heroes.

Let's look at the tease;
It’s the depths of the Depression, and a mining town in Utah is shut down. Something has awakened underground, and now a monster roams the tunnels. Along comes Hiram Woolley ... a man with mystical abilities derived from the commonsense application of Scot-Irish folk wisdom and German Braucher magic. ... Behind the played-out farms and failed businesses are demons, curses, sorcerers, and unatoned wrongs. Bags of groceries and carpentry won’t be enough this time.The job will take a man who has known sorrow. A man who has known war. A man of wisdom. A man of magic. The job will take a Cunning Man.
This is a fantastic premise which Butler & Ritchey deliver on. The characters are three-dimensional. The setting pops off the page. Hiram's inner conflicts are as well-drawn as his outer conflicts. There are tense, thrilling scenes as good as any horror suspense you'll read. 

THE CUNNING MAN should be on your reading list—near the top.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

recent read; LIGHTNING WEARS A RED CAPE


Bringing something new to the superhero genre isn't always easy. Making superheroes pop off the page in prose is a tall order, too. And then, if an author wants to bring a proper measure of reality to their superhero story without taking a "tear it all down, this could never happen in real life" deconstruction attitude, that writer needs a deft touch.

Errick Nunnally can do all that. His new novel, LIGHTNING WEARS A RED CAPE, proves he can.

From the city to the statehouse, a quartet of super-powered criminals are pushing the power of their gangs' influence as far and as high as it will go. At the street level, altruistic heroes--super-powered and merely human--find themselves pulled into the widening conflict. 

Nunnally's love of comics and superheroes comes through. His superheroes show roots and have their own angles. Atlas, the super-cop. Thunder, the Puerto Rican Amazonian Wonder Woman and her speedster sidekick, Lightning. Shade--the space war veteran who just wants to live in peace and help his community thrive--like a skewed reflection of Green Lantern John Stewart.

And Shango, the unstoppable wildcard, an African god of thunder.

Other heroes in the shadows, discovering new abilities, waiting for their time to shine.

Nunnally keeps the reader engaged throughout. The action scenes flow. The downbeats push the plot along exactly as they should. When novel rockets into the climax, the action does not let up.

I recommend you read this excellent book. It's an important genre novel--it opens windows on the minority experience woven flawlessly into the narrative. Something Errick Nunnally does extremely well.

LIGHTING deserves a sequel, and I can't wait to read that, too!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Back to the Valley of Gold


TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD

Publicity still. (the movie is in color.)
I've been revisiting the late 1950s through 1960s TARZAN movies with my son. Yesterday we watched TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD. (which I've touched on before)

It's a crazy mix of modern world Tarzan, James Bond pastiche, Tarzan pastiche. On the 007 side, the main baddie is pure Bond villain. Tarzan first appears in a suit, fighting assassins in Mexico City. The jazzy soundtrack. For Tarzan moments, we see Tarzan suiting 'down' to the loincloth and requesting a knife and a length of rope. His use of the animals (leopard as tracker, chimpanzee as scout, lion as his army) has echoes of original Tarzan novels (Beasts of Tarzan, Tarzan the Untamed.)

The sum of the parts never really adds up. The story's scope & vision far exceed its budget. The climax drags on too long.

But it's a favorite. Maybe because Mike Henry is a physical cast perfect for Tarzan--and Nancy Kovack is quite fetching. Or maybe I just enjoy the audacity of what they were trying to pull off.

I think it's a fun way to spend a ninety-minute weekend matinee.

The Fritz Leiber novelization was recently re-released. It takes the story where it could have gone and adds a lot to it. Maybe not worth the current collectible hardcover price for casual fans but when it comes out in paperback or ebook, you might give it a read, if you're a pulp / action adventure fan.




Tuesday, October 22, 2019

NECON is moving!


I suppose most people already learned this exciting news via other mediums, but in case anyone out there only goes by my blog updates;

NECON, the NorthEastern Writers Conference, has a major change coming for NECON 40, in July 2020. After holding 39 NECONs in Rhode Island, the conference is moving to Salem, MA. This also allows them to move the cap from 200 attendees to 250.

You can read all about the hows & whys here;

NECON is moving to Salem!

What do I think?

I think it looks great!

Yes, my ride will be much shorter. Believe it or not, I'll kind of miss it. I liked getting away to Rhode Island annually. I will miss all the osprey sightings. But the new arrangements look amazing. I'm really glad there will be lots more common spaces to cluster and hang out. That was definitely a limitation of the old location.

Often during NECON at some point, people will take a break and head into Providence or other destinations, and that usually eats up a half-day. With downtown Salem so near, quick breaks can be taken to visit sites without taking a chunk out of the conference programming.

Speaking of the programming, if you didn't know, historically NECON spun out from World Fantasy Con. NECON's focus is usually the horror genre. In recent years, "horror" has been dropped from the official name (the 'H' was never included in the NECON abbreviation, anyway.) Lots of the guests write across genres. A handful or more of crime & thriller writers have been attending in recent years. The conference is more for speculative fiction now, though many of the panels are still horror oriented.

It will be a great time!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

recent read; SGT JANUS RETURNS by Jim Beard


I will try to avoid spoilers, but the big one can't be avoided. If you're reading SGT JANUS RETURNS, then you know Jim Beard killed off Roman Janus in the previous volume. (Or, more precisely, made him disappear with near certainty of death.)

Though Beard shifts to a single, Watson-esque, narrator for this book, if you're expecting a straight "Hurrah! He's back!" (a la THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES) in the opening pages, Beard wisely creates further mystery instead.

An amnesiac woman appears in a small village and solves a ghost problem. Thereafter, she whisks young Joshua Hargreaves into a life of adventurous "spirit breaking." As time passes, "Lady Janus" adopts more of Janus's habits and manners. Who is she? Is she possessed by Janus? Is she Janus reincarnated? Will we ever truly learn the nature and details of Roman Janus's disappearance?

These stories are much more tightly linked than the stories in the first volume. Beard builds a great sense of mystery and suspense as the stories stack on top of each other, creating further complications, rushing toward a thrilling conclusion.

With SGT JANUS RETURNS, Jim Beard has created the best kind of sequel. The book is its own story, with a familiar feel, but not falling to routine or re-treading the first volume.

Highly recommended for fans of pulp mystery and occult detectives. Just be sure to read SGT JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER first!

Monday, September 9, 2019

recent reads; Joseph Payne Brennan


Dover have reissued two hard-to-find horror collections by Joseph Payne Brennan. I'd been waiting to get a hold of THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT for a long time. Happy that NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM showed up, too.

These collections are a master class in writing short fiction. The stories contained in NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM are not flash fiction but with a few exceptions, they are short shorts. Brennan gets in, gets to the core of the tale, and gets out. The stories are lean and trim. The stories in THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT are slightly longer but still short overall.

Each volume is short. NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM is 106 pages. THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT is 124 pages.  (And they are printed in a decent sized font, too.)

My favorites were "The Willow Platform," "Canavan's Back Yard," and "The Mail for Juniper Hill."

If you are a horror or classic pulp horror fan, you owe it to yourself to add these to your collection and read them.

A few notes on these editions;

These are bare-boned editions. There are no introductions. Given that Stephen King wrote an introduction for the original THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT, and the fact that Brennan passed away in 1990, an introduction to the writer and his work would have been a value--especially for readers discovering him for the first time. (There is a Wikipedia page for Brennan, if you're curious.)

There is no information about the original appearances of the stories (where and when.) This might be the case with the original editions, I don't have them to compare. Not a deal breaker but I'm always curious about that.

Originally these collections appeared decades apart, so two stories overlapped. They have been cut from this edition of THE SHAPES OF MIDNIGHT but are included in NINE HORRORS AND A DREAM