Thursday, December 31, 2015

rearview mirror 2015

I hadn't planned on a recap post for the year, but why not?

My year was, thankfully, status quo. I continue my employment where I have been and marked 12 years with the company. Not bad for starting on a temp 3 month contract. :) My kids are growing, learning and making me smile.

On the valley side of the peaks & valleys - the 1st anniversary of my father's death and the 1st anniversary of the death of my wife's best friend came at the end of the year. There were a few tears but life moves on. Also, we sold the house I grew up in. That was emotional, too.

I read a lot this year and that felt good. I think I reached 35 books if you count a few collected graphic novel trades. Outside of that list, I read many single comic issues and short stories (which I did not track.)

Writing was a fair year. For me it was good but I need to kickstart out of my glacial pace. I technically sold three stories, but only one appeared in print this year. Another should be showing up online next year. Another depends on if the project goes forward. (I keep nudging the editor.) And, I have one in a slush pile that I had hoped to hear about by year end, but they are delayed a month, at least - so I won't know either way until early 2016.

I have a huge list of story ideas. I am not sure how many will come to fruition in 2016 but I will be whittling away the list. I really hope to write some longer pieces, so I know I probably won't execute on all of the ideas in 2016.

It was a great year for connecting with writers and online friends. I attended NECON and spread out more since 2014, meeting and chatting with lots of writers, editors, fans. Thanks to my locality to Christopher Golden and James A. Moore, I got to attend book launches and a writers coffeehouse, too. And there was NecronomiCON-Providence, where I got to meet fellow Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft fans (and editors, and writers.)

As usual, I am abysmally behind on t.v. series and movies, but I did get through the first two seasons of VIKINGS, stayed with DOCTOR WHO and enjoyed SUPERGIRL.

Happy New Year 2016!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

recent read; The Clock of Dreams & Spawn of the Winds (Titus Crow omnibus, volume 2)

Whereas Lumley's hero Titus Crow features in what I would classify as horror short stories, when Lumley brought Crow into novels, the tone shifted quickly from horror to pulp adventure fantasy with occult touches. That trend continues strongly in this volume.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Lumley uses more of the Derleth Mythos model than Lovecraft's. In this Mythos, Cthulhu is "evil," not just ambivalent. And opposing the Old Ones are "good" Elder Gods.

The Clock of Dreams takes place largely in the "Dreamland" realms. The first half of the novel features Crow's longtime friend, deMarigny, as the protagonist. Crow comes into play later, after deMarigny rescues him. Utilizing the grandfather clock that can fly anywhere in time & space (and between dimensions,) Crow & deMarigny battle Cthulhu entities across the Dreamlands in various feats of derring do, capture and rescue.

Spawn of the Winds is an unexpected entry in this volume - Crow isn't in this novel at all. Not even a cameo or a mention. I did notice on Lumley's webpage that he classifies the omnibuses as "Mythos" not "Titus Crow." Only one character from the previous Crow novels is here, a professor from Miskatonic.

Anyway, it still a fairly rousing adventure tale. This time around, Ithaqua, the Walker of the Winds, steals an airplane & its crew and deposits them on the alien, arctic waste world, Borea. What follows has a strong "lost world" vibe of lost races, intermingled races and skirmishes and building battles, stakes & tension.

So, if you're looking for horror, you need to look elsewhere. But it you want to read some fantasy action pulp adventure, then The Clock of Dreams and Spawn of the Winds fit the bill.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

recent reads; Skaar


I got both of these in collected trade paperback, on the cheap, at sales. I'm glad I didn't spend much. I guess I'm just not the target audience for this.

I was hoping for a sword-&-planet vibe. What I got was lots of planet heaving and lava flowing. Lots of people trying to kill Skaar. Lots of resurrected characters from PLANET HULK. Some mystic "old power" of the planet. Come to think of it, wasn't the planet destroyed at the end of PLANET HULK? Well, I might be misremembering, or they retconned the planetary destruction into local destruction.

Confusing facets of various players & races. Silver Surfer shows up, then we're on Earth with the Fantastic Four, Hulk and other crossovering. Not what I was looking for.

(There is a crossover with Ka-zar and the Savage Land but I don't think I'll bother - unless maybe if I get it cheap like the others.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

recent read; The Wolf Sea

The Wolf Sea by Robert Low

The Oathsworn are at it again.

Orm has inherited the mantle of jarl of the Oathsworn, and has promised them treasure. Unfortunately, the treasure is the silver hoard of Attila, which Orm touched and lost in the previous novel. He has also lost his runesword, etched with instructions how to re-find the treasure. Actually, the sword is not lost, it has been stolen.

Pursuit of the sword takes the Oathsworn from Constantinople to Jerusalem, with various intrigues and adventures as the Vikings ply their mercenary trade marching through the seas of grasslands and deserts.

It was more of the same in a good way. The story plot and subplots keep it fresh from its predecessor. The Viking world view stays strong, "young" Orm struggles with his wyrd of leading the Oathsworn. History drips from the page, illuminating what a tumultuous fractured world the old Middle East was prior to the Crusades.

Lots of goodness here for historical fiction fans, action fans, and Viking fans.

It turns out that my town library and the consortium it belongs to do not have the next volumes in the series. I see yet more book purchases in my future. I need to continue following the Oathsworn.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

recent read; Tales From The Otherverse

Tales From The Otherverse edited by James Reasoner

Other times, other places, other stories than the ones we know...These are the Tales From the Otherverse, where anything is possible and things never work out quite the way you'd expect. Some of today's top talents in popular fiction turn their hands to tales of alternate history. Featuring new stories by bestselling, award-winning authors Bill Crider, Lou Antonelli, Scott A. Cupp, Robert E. Vardeman, James Reasoner, and more. Explore the Otherverse and see what might have been!=====

James Reasoner has assembled a set of alternate history tales not limited to any era or place. That gives this anthology a lot of variety. A few of these have unexpected twists, so I don't want to give away too much in the synopses. But here's what you get;

“The Battle of the Bands” by Scott A. Cupp
The heyday of 1960s rock...- or is it 1860s rock? Custer and his boys against a band of Native American musicians in a battle of the bands - with strange echoes of otherworlds and death.

“Port Radium” by Lou Antonelli
What if Douglas MacArthur had been a German general during WWII?

“Mrs. Lincoln’s Dinner Party” by Cheryl Pierson
Mary Todd Lincoln takes matters into her own hands, inviting Jefferson Davis's wife and other members of the Confederacy to a dinner party in Washington D.C., to broker peace. But different guests have different motivations.

“The Assassination of President Broussard” by Keith West
An alternate tale of the South, where Woodrow Wilson shunted to the vice presidency by the election of Robert F. Broussard. Bonus points for weaving in a reality where the American hippo meat market happened. In fact, the hippo meat issue is the inciting incident of the tale, as they start to rival the steer beef market. The feud between Duquesne and Burnham (enemies in the Boer War, now both working together) is also pivotal to this unique story.

“Books Burning Brightly in the Night” by Robert E. Vardeman
Air pirates and zeppelins populate this derring-do tale of an FBI agent going against his bosses and going with his hunches to foil a gang of air pirates.

“A Wisp of Memory” by John Hegenberger
A private detective is hired by Rod Serling and finds himself in his own Twilight Zone-esque situation.

“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Bill Crider
Another music tale, in which Buddy Holly lived and Waylon Jennings died on that fateful plane crash. An anniversary concert ten years after gives Elvis a shot at a comeback.

“The Great Steamer Riot of 1936” by Scott Dennis Parker
Great story about a swing jazz band with a trumpeter who is a little too perfect. Steam androids and insular intolerance clash. The Depression is more an era for "diesel punk" than "steam punk," so this one was a poignant surprise.

“The Alexandria County Library Book Sale” by Richard Prosch
 A fun story of Greek culture and the library of Alexandria lasting into the modern age.

“The Hero of Deadwood” by James Reasoner
What if Bill Hickok road into the Presidency on the back of his fame? And is history as malleable as it might seem, or does it self-correct regardless of the players?

Tales From The Otherverse is an engaging read of alternate histories. The stories are short, so no need to bog down in large novels or novel series to get your alternate history fix.

Monday, December 7, 2015

recent read; Perchance To Dream

Perchance to Dream (Selected Stories) by Charles Beaumont

Beaumont wrote many episodes of The Twilight Zone, in some cases adapting his own earlier published short stories. Sadly, he died of a premature aging disease (Alzheimer's? - it's not really clear.) Like Bradbury - (who appears here via a recycled posthumous forward) - Beaumont was a machine who turned out story after story with original flare and sometimes wry twists.

His collections had gone out of print. Fortunately, in October, Penguin Classics released a new, solid collection of Beaumont's short stories. The book appears thin, yet it contains 23 stories. Beaumont was prolific. He knew how to strip and present a story at its bare essentials. Only a few of these stories are lengthy.

I won't analyze every story but they're all very enjoyable. Some of my favorites in this set were "Perchance To Dream," a tale of dreams within dreams that became a Twilight Zone episode, "You Can't Have Them All," a humorous story about a man determined to bed every woman who appeals to his personal taste in women, "The Howling Man," a story of the Devil (another tale later adapted to The Twilight Zone,) and "Place Of Meeting," which concerns certain survivors of nuclear war destruction.

Beaumont's talents outside of the weird and supernatural come through near the end of the collection with "A Death in The Country," about a desperate, washed-up race car driver and what he will do to stay in the game. And "The Music of the Yellow Brass" is a straight up story about a young, down-on-his-luck matador. It's a story that would seamlessly fit into Borderland Noir.

If you like the 1960s era golden age of genre-mixing-bending writers of weird like Bradbury, Matheson, et al, and you are not familiar with Beaumont, you definitely need to read this collection. I am very glad I did.

Friday, December 4, 2015

recent read; The Whale Road

The Whale Road by Robert Low

I took my son to the town library two weeks ago. He borrowed a DVD, and he suggested I should get a book. Despite having overflowing bookcases and Kindle at home, I agreed. I was pleasantly surprised to find The Whale Road sitting on the shelf. It had been on my reading list since it came out, and I haven't yet bought a copy in any medium, so I borrowed it.

Glad I did. Wish I hadn't waited. I want more.

Orm Ruriksson, young Bear Slayer, joins the Oathsworn mercenary band of Vikings, led by Einar the Black. They are on the hunt for the fabled silver hoard of Attila the Hun. Orm's wyrd is tied to Einar, and the Oathsworn, and Hild, a witchy woman who claims to know the treasure's hiding place. Others have also gotten word of the woman and the treasure. Chase and intrigue follow. Bloody combat, narrow escapes, untrustworthy men add up to rousing adventure.

Over the course of the novel, Orm grows from a young man to a seasoned veteran of the Oathsworn.

While the novel is historical fiction, not fantasy, there is enough magic and supernatural in the Norse worldview that you can say this tale involves magical realism. The consistency of the medieval Viking worldview is a strong point of the novel. It raises it above a mere treasure hunt with Vikings.

The Whale Road is in the vein of adventure historical fiction that rings with veracity of its characters. If you like Robert E. Howard's Cormac Mac Art, I'm sure you'd enjoy this, too.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Monday, November 23, 2015

recent read; Borderland Noir

Borderland Noir, edited by Craig McDonald

Borderland Noir is an engaging anthology of short stories, novel excerpts, and essays pondering the harder edges of life on the border of Mexico. Coyotes (human traffickers,) wasted lives, murder, the drug war, banditos and echoes of the Mexican Revolution, and all sordid stops in between are examined.

The short stories are all engaging and take different directions. There are many, many stories to be told under the umbrella of borderland noir. DEA, ICE, prison guards, sheriffs, broken-down hookers, hit men, washed-up lawyers, life on the other side of the river and more.

McDonald's excerpts from his novel, El Gavilan, provide a poignant view of the illegal immigrant's journey through desert, coyotes, mad men with jugs of water and untold hardships - all for a chance - just a chance - of something better in the United States.

Jim Cornelius's essay on the the rise and fall of Pancho Villa, "Pancho Villa—Fourth Horseman of the Mexican Apocalypse," might appear out-of-place at first. But, in fact, it is a fascinating read when paired with the closing essay, "Where God And The Devil Wheel Like Vultures" by Tom Russell. The roots of bandito worship start with Villa and the Revolution (or perhaps, earlier.) The bad guys are the good guys because - for all their killing - they also help entire communities when it is to their benefit. It is chilling to see the same behavior and acceptance of drug lords and their wars. Also chilling - both items, separated in content by 100 years, give or take - mention Americans on the border watching warfare and gunfights across the river.

If you think the fictional body counts are unbelievable, just wait until you read the real statistics.

History repeats.

Borderland Noir is an engaging read. It drags you over the border and steeps you in sweat, beer, fear, revenge, smoke, jalapeƱos and blood. It is an eye-opening noir anthology about life in the shady world of the border.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month

I've posted before about my maternal grandfather and his service during World War I. As usual for me, on this day to honor all veterans I find myself gravitating toward the root in Armistice Day of World War I.

Another World War I veteran in the family tree was Joe St. George. I don't know much about him, though there are a few family anecdotes. He was nicknamed "the Count," for one, because he led a wild life.

Recently when cleaning out the house after my father's death, we found a picture of Joe & his wife, along with the certificate for his French Verdun medal.

Joe & Nellie St. George, year unknown (probably 1940s)

And last week, I finally found and visited their grave.
Amazing stuff to discover after all this time.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

recent read; Weird Menace, Volume 1

Quick post on this one;

Scary houses, mad scientists, insane monstrosities, pummeling fists, stalwart heroes, blazing pistols & spunky dames. This anthology delivers on its premise all the way through. Fun throwback, really feels like you grabbed a pulp off the rack in 1935.

If you like that sort of thing, this is for you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Guerilla grave tending

It's been nearly a year since my father passed away. Damn but time flies.

The anniversary of his death, too near my birthday at the end of November usually means miserable cold weather. The weather between Autumn and Winter. Wet, cold and lacking both the cheer of snow or the beauty of Fall colored trees.

Rather than wait, I paid respects yesterday. It was cloudy but unseasonably warm, the day was open. Coincidence it came on All Souls Day/Day of the Dead/Samhain.

Turns out the spot looks lovely in Autumn. Next year I need to get down a little earlier, perhaps. Some of the trees had already dropped all their leaves, but there was still enough nice color to go around.

Lovely spot come Autumn.
Then I swung up to my great-grandfather's grave (same cemetery.) It is a shared plot with other past family members - great-grandmother, a grand uncle & a grand aunt. Unfortunately, their stone is a flat-in-the-ground style. Entropy had set in. Names were occluded by growth. (I need to come by more often. I probably will now that my father is buried there.)

Anyway - the humorous part comes here. I came unprepared for a grave cleaning. I had no gloves, and my pocket knife just wouldn't do the job. I could come back later, but I really wanted to do something then & there. I thought to myself, "Is there anything in the car I can use to take care of this now?"

Yeah. I keep an entrenching tool (collapsible spade) in the trunk for emergencies.

So, there I was, walking around the graves, with shovel in hand.

Glad no one called me out on it. Could have been awkward ;)

Sometime you bring roses. Sometimes you bring a shovel. Sometimes both.

I think I can generate a few short stories out of the experience. :)

(I'll get back in the Spring, bring a kit and do a proper job.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

recent read; Atomic-Age Cthulhu

The United States in the 1950s.

The middle class expanded, GIs earned college degrees, the suburbs sprawled. Rock’n’roll and television arrived, and Hollywood continued to entertain America. But underneath the idyllic facade, there were dangers. The Cold War, atomic annihilation, red communists infiltrating the West and war in Korea.

But what of Cthulhu and sundry Mythos gods? Did they sleep through the boom years? Or were they and their disciples and their enemies actively at work furthering their unfathomable objectives?

Some of these nineteen stories play with our history. Some offer alternate worlds where history is slightly different. The entire set of stories offer a wide range of tones, ideas and Mythos elements - some are humorous, others horrific, some have a spirit of adventure and others drip with paranoia. The humans, of course, are sometimes the worst monsters of all.

Atomic-Age Cthulhu is a very solid anthology that delivers on its premise. Highly recommended for a different slant on the Cthulhu Mythos.

(Perforce, this review is condensed. I wrote a much fuller review for periodical that will be coming in the near future. I will let you know when that becomes available.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Atomic Robo returns to print

Last year (or earlier this year?) Atomic Robo went the web comic route. Creators Brian Clevenger (writer) and Scott Wegna (artist) took Atomic Robo out of Red 5 Comics. They setup a web page backed with Patreon and using KickStarter to offer hardcover editions of previous collections. And, plans to offer future print collections on-demand.

Out of the blue, Clevenger & Wegna were contacted by IDW Publishing to keep Atomic Robo in print. IDW have been putting out the latest story arc (in parallel with the web comic,) and they have put out an omnibus of the first three volumes, Atomic Robo: The Everything Explodes Collection.

The second omnibus is already listed at Amazon, too, Atomic Robo: The Crystals Are Integral Collection.

Clevenger guested on a Comics Alternative podcast. It's long, but very insightful. I loved his observation that in a way, Atomic Robo is the Bugs Bunny of his universe. But Dr. Dinosaur is Cecil the Turtle - the only character who ever disrupted Bugs Bunny's winning streak.

Again, I can't recommend this comic enough. It's written for adults, but it is all ages appropriate and tons of fun for everyone.

The Real Science Adventures continue!

Monday, October 12, 2015

recent read; STRANGE TALES, Jan. 1932

Time for a retro review!

I've picked up a few Girasol pulp replicas in the past year. This Strange Tales Jan 1932 issue jumped out at me both for its cover and for the authors listed in the contents. It's October, so I decided to read the entire content rather than cherry pick this one.

"Dead Legs" by Edmond Hamilton
Thugs meet mad surgeon story. In this case, a crippled mob boss forces a brilliant doctor to graft new legs onto his body. The legs are those of the mob boss's murdered rival. The cursed legs try to get the mob boss killed. Entertaining but a bit of a stretch and certainly not classic.

"Wolves of Darkness" by Jack Williamson
Classic horror novella that turns the werewolf story on its ear. What starts out in the usual fashion - a lone man called to a remote destination where strange thing are afoot - soon changes tracks. For, not only do the wolves and people of this story seem preternatural, it is eventually revealed that strange alien life forces - not lyncathropy - are at work.

"The Moon-Dial" by Henry S. Whitehead
This one falls under light fantasy as a young man falls under the spell of the moon. He recalls past lives - all with a connection of scrying scenes under the light of the moon. Robert E. Howard fans might enjoy the passage from a Roman soldier's point-of-view, as they abandon Hadrian's Wall to the amassing Picts.

"The Black Laugh" by William J. Makin
Good horror story set in Boer Africa. A young man woos a woman who teases him into scaling a plateau. But the hapless lover cannot find his way back down. Madness ensues. I swear I've read this one before. I'll need to check some of my anthologies.

"The Shadow on the Sky" by August Derleth
A haunted house and a curse. A non-Lovecraftian story. Nothing wrong but nothing memorable, either.

"The Door To Saturn" by Clark Ashton Smith
A sword-&-sorcery entry involving a blasphemous sorcerer who flees through a portal to Saturn, and his arch rival who gets trapped there with him. Entertaining story and Smith has a great way of imparting cyclopean landscapes. It is a story on the light side, though. No clashing barbarians here.

"The Smell" by Francis Flagg
A ghost story where instead of the ghost being only seen or only heard by one person, a certain odor accompanies the spirit's presence. Again, serviceable albeit not overly memorable.

"The Door of Doom" by Hugh B. Cave
A ruined mansion, a strange Oriental servant, and four daring survivors of World War I who thrill themselves with occult challenges. This one went places I wasn't expecting. I assumed a weird/yellow menace story but it is, in fact, a tale of the supernatural. It reads like a series, yet some main characters die. So, it does a real good job of feinting the reader. This reader, anyway.

All in all,  a strong issue with justifiable classics. I'm glad I grabbed it.

(and who doesn't love all the old advertisements?)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

preview; Cassilda's Song

Seeing as how I am reading various short stories from various anthologies for the month of October, wrap-up lists will make for long gaps between posts.

I thought I'd take a post to enlighten you on an upcoming release.

Cassilda's Song, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

It contains all stories from female authors to give their spin on The King In Yellow motif.

Do I have a special "in" with Chaosium?


They were selling these at Necronomicon Providence. Now, I am glad I bought one, because they have yet to materialize anywhere else. (Which is why I'm not providing a link - I can't. Not now, anyway.)

At the Con, I was impressed with the Robert W. Chambers panel - particularly with Joe Pulver, who is very knowledgeable about Chambers - though there is little to know about the man. Most of his estate and effects were squandered by a wayward son after Chambers' death.

I've also listened to the Lovecraft eZine Talk Show, where Joe is also one of the regular panelists.

Pulver also spoke at length about The King In Yellow being its own entity, - its own 'mythos', if you will - and should not be considered a "meteor orbiting the Cthulhu Mythos." Basically, Derleth and then later Chaosium games rolled the King in Yellow into the Lovecraftian milieu. Like another well-known character of barbarian streak, the King in Yellow had a hard time uncoupling from the pastiches for a while.

Pulver specifically cited Karl Edward Wagner's story, "The River of Night's Dreaming" as one of the first "back to basics" which took only Chambers' original tales as the foundation to build upon.

I figured after that elucidating talk, I'd be all right grabbing an anthology Pulver edited.

I've read his intro and the first tale, and I'll be working more of the stories into my October reads. And I will get to the original four Chambers' King in Yellow stories (yes, there were only four!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

recent read; Masters of Darkness II

Masters of Darkness II edited by Dennis Etchison

I decided to get an early jump on my Halloween reading this year. I'd found this book used for a song a few months ago. The lineup in the table-of-contents sold me on it.

It's a solid roster of horror stories. (follow the link to read the t-o-c.) They run the gamut from ghosts to monsters to human monsters. A couple weren't to my liking, but that is a matter of personal taste.

My personal favorites came at the end.

George R. R. Martin's "The Monkey Treatment" tale relates the tale of a hapless man committed to a dangerous diet. It is both humorous and horrific.

Richard McKenna's "Casey Agonistes" concerns veterans of the Yangtze Patrol. This story is set years later in the TB wing of a VA hospital. Death is coming for them but they make the most of it. There is a genuine feel of veteran camaraderie here, and it has poignant moments. (McKenna himself was a veteran of the Yangtze Patrol and he wrote The Sand Pebbles.)

I also like this anthology because each story has author notes, as well as the usual author publishing biographies. I enjoy reading "behind the scenes" notes for stories.

There are two other volumes. Honestly, I already have too many horror anthologies, so I'm not hopping on eBay just yet. But if I see either of the other two volumes in my used book store travels, you can bet I will be snatching them.

Monday, September 28, 2015

recent read; The Lost Level

The Lost Level by Brian Keene

I tore through this book this past weekend. It is that much fun!

Taking pages from various "lost world" stories, Keene rolls out his own take on the genre. With influences ranging from The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and up through the television series Land of the Lost and Lost, this story romps through dinosaurs, lizard men, killer robots, deadly vegetation and other dangers.

While the tropes are there (in a good way,) Keene also weaves in his own touches. There are some nice modern knuckle-down-and-do-it survivalist methodologies, which are often glossed over in such fiction. It adds veracity to the hero, Aaron Price. Keene's fiction is all connected and in this case, literally - there is a Labyrinth between worlds in time-space. Unfortunately, if travelers in the Labyrinth are not careful, they can wash up into the Lost Level - from which there is no return. Also making an appearance are the sinister Global Corporation, a shadowy conglomerate also present in some of Keene's other fiction.

The Lost Level is both homage and pastiche and makes no bones about it, wearing its influences proudly on its sleeve. It is pure Saturday matinee material in the best way. If you enjoy the lost world genre, you need this book!

Friday, September 25, 2015

recent read; Nectar of Heaven

Nectar of Heaven (Dumarest #24) by E. C. Tubb

I felt like a quick read of adventure that wouldn't tax my mind too much. Nectar of Heaven delivered. The saga of Earl Dumarest continues. This time around, Dumarest falls in with a partner, Hart Vardoon, as they try to extricate a drug-gem mother lode and make their fortunes. (In Dumarest's case, the fortune will be used to continue his quest to find the mythical planet, Earth.)  On the planet Sacaweena, war has been replaced by vicious economic maneuvering. Soon after securing his fortune, Dumarest finds himself trapped between the political players of the planet, and a representative of the Cyclan - his ancient enemies.

There are some good action sequences though overall the story is uneven. There are lots of plot setups and it takes a while before everything collides. Still though, Nectar of Heaven delivered on what I wanted.

Friday, September 11, 2015

recent read; The Blasted Lands

James A. Moore strikes again with The Blasted Lands. This sequel to The Seven Forges picks up directly where the previous novel left off.

The strength of this novel is its characters. They all feel real even though they populate a "grimdark" fantasy world. They exist in politics, in alliance forging, in war, in sorcery, in soul searching. We see all sides of the conflicts.

The plotting is no slouch, either. The players more through a swirl of intrigue and action. The tension ratchets up throughout the story right to the cliffhanger conclusion. The story is even larger and grander than its prequel.

I can't wait for City of Wonders!

(For an even more in-depth review that nails everything I like about this novel, I refer you to Keith West's review.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Songhoy Blues

I was flipping past the Glastonbury Music Festival 2015 on Palladia this weekend. I was captivated by a BBC off-stage performance by Songhoy Blues.

I don't understand the words, but I love the Afro-Blues-Rock groove of this song, "Soubour."

I started looking them up on YouTube for more songs. Boy, this one surprised me.

Music, beauty and absolute human atrocity. If you wonder why extremists of any stripe should make you nervous, look no further.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

comin' 'round again; Egil & Nix

I had forgotten that Angry Robots were acquired by another publisher. While some series held on with Angry Robot (e.g.; James A. Moore's Seven Forges) other books went to other publishers (e.g.; Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series.)

Another series that quietly floated off the iceberg was the excellent Egil & Nix sword-&-sorcery series by Paul S. Kemp. (disclaimer: I assume the second novel is excellent, it is still in my tbr pile.)

I was pleased to read this announcement this morning;

Also, if you dig into the table-of-contents, each book contains an excerpt (same one?) from A Conversation in Blood, the new, third entry in the series - due out next year.

Time to move A Discourse In Steel to the top of the tbr pile!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

recent read; Tin Men

...the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency, all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of a United States determined to keep peace among nations...

But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zones around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. ...Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable—until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter strike.

...anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology...comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped—their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk.

I'm not one for tech thrillers but I like to read outside my comfort zone once in a while. The more I heard Christopher Golden discussing this novel, the more it intrigued me.

Tin Men is a solid novel. It delivers on its setup. The near-future sci-fi tech is plausible as is the geopolitical hot mess of humanity across the globe. The characters feel real, diverse and have distinct personalities.

The plot threads of suspense are laid out lockstep. The story rushes to an exciting ending - no telling who will survive the upheaval and who won't.

It's a page turner!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading Plans

Generally, I almost never make reading plans. I grab whatever strikes my whimsy at the moment I am staring at the abyss of the printed word bookcases.

However, there are things coming down the pike and for once I'd like to be ahead of - or at least on - the curve.

First up, I need to read A Lonely & Curious Country because I want to read what everyone else contributed to the anthology along with me!

Between now and November I want/need to read James A. Moore's The Blasted Lands. The sequel, City of Wonders, is coming out in November.

Also coming out in November will be the comic of Joe Golem by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden - which puts the original prose novel, Joe Golem & The Drowning City on the short list.

I am seriously considering reading King in Yellow stories - both the Chambers originals and follow-on tales from other writers - as my October horror reads. Mostly because I have one or two story ideas in the milieu and I want to have a solid foundation when I get to work on them.

Longer term, I need to get back to Robert E. Howard re-reads to prepare for Howard Days 2016.

I also need to read some Joe Hill and Mark Morris and hopefully a bit of the other guests, too, before NECON 36 (2016.)

Everytime I think I'd like to stay home and read all day I remind myself that the day job pays for it all. I'll just keep plugging along, one book/story at a time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

NecronomiCon Providence 2015

On Saturday I attended NecronomiCon Providence for the day.

I headed out from home in the morning. Traffic was light and the drive only took an hour. The core event took place across three buildings downtown. With the light traffic, it was easy to follow the signs and I reached my destination without a problem.

The Rhode Island Convention Center housed the vendors' room, attached around the corner in the Omni Hotel, a couple of ballrooms were used for panels. A very short walk down the street brings you to the Biltmore Hotel, where other panels took place.

Rhode Island Convention Center
Biltmore Hotel

View from the 17th floor of the Biltmore
View from one of the Grand BallRoom windows, 17th floor, Biltmore
The Biltmore is a grand old hotel, opened in 1922. It's very wonderful, as you can see from the photos.

My first stop was Lois Gresh's reading/launch of her anthology Innsmouth Nightmares. Great lineup in that book, and some of the contributing writers were in attendance.

Right off the bat I was able to meet Sam Gafford and Matthew Carpenter, as they were both at the reading, too! (Sam is the publisher of Ulthar Press and Matthew was the editor of A Lonely & Curious Country.)
Secondhand Mythos
Next up, I dropped in on the Secondhand Mythos panel which discussed the iterations, peaks and valleys of quiet and resurgence of Lovecraftian/Mythos fiction. The panel consisted of Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, Paul Di Filippo, Robert Price & Cody Goodfellow. Yeah - very cool!

After those talks, I headed back to explore the vendors' room. Oh. Shiny, shiny books. Art, too. I spent too much money and could have spent way too much money.

Once I finally reached the Robert E. Howard Foundation table, I was done. They brought books. Why'd they have to bring books?

Of course, once I introduced myself to Mark Finn, Rusty Burke and Jeff Shanks, I was invited to have a seat and we spent time chatting, hawking REH wares, and getting folks interested in the Foundation. (If you're not a member, there is now a free membership level which will at least keep you informed of all things REH by email. Hint, hint.)

After a lunch break, I briefly stopped in on the Forbidden Knowledge discussion about the fictional tomes of the Mythos. Some interesting ideas there. Squirreling away for future story ideas.

Then I was back at the REH table socializing. Hey - getting to meet these guys in person after all this time online was grand. (I probably should have spent more time with my editor and publisher. Bad writer!) This really was the highlight of the day for me, though I certainly enjoyed the merchandise & panels and seeing other people I knew.

There was a great talk on Chambers and "The King in Yellow." I learned a lot there, too. I need to read Joe Pulver - he is one knowledgeable guy. He cited Karl Wagner's "River of Night's Dreaming" during the talk, which I was really pleased to hear.

Finally, I attended "Two-Gun Bob Rides Again!" presented by Jeff Shanks, Rusty Burke, Scott Connors, Mark Finn and darn-it-missed-his-name-and-not-listed-in-program(Rick Lai.) It was a solid panel. I think the audience enjoyed it. I suspect anyone with little knowledge of REH and his ties to Lovecraft and the Mythos learned a lot.
Two-Gun Bob Rides Again!
We were all encouraged by the turnout for the panel as well as the traffic at the table in the vendors' room.

I ended my day at the Union Station brewhouse with Jeff, Mark, Rusty, and two other guys - Rick and Scott. Food and beer were top-notch! So was the company, of course!

Then I headed home.

The loot!

I really enjoyed my day. The next NecronomiCon Providence will be held in 2017, they are on an every-other-year schedule. I will seriously consider attending for a longer spell, next time. So many people to visit with!

Monday, August 17, 2015

recent read; Wicked Tales

Wicked Tales

I still can't stop admiring the EC Comics style cover of this book. Fortunately, I can report that the book's contents more than measure up to the promise of the cover art.

I enjoyed all the stories. There is a lot of variety. Some personal favorites; "Bitemarks" by Paul McMahon - straight up horror featuring a house being consumed one giant bite at a time. "Keepsakes" by Rob Smales - you'll never see a garage sale the same way again. "The Pawnshop" by T. T. Zuma - a noir start twists into a Twilight-Zone-esque tale. Sam Gafford provides us a different point-of-view from a classic Lovecraft character in "My Brother's Keeper." And John Goodrich slips in a sword-&-sorcery tale of a Greenland Viking in "Odd Grimson, Called Half-Troll."

This a great, eclectic anthology of horror stories. The stories are strong and varied. It was a real pleasure to read. No horror fan should be without a copy!

In case you're curious, Wicked Tales is the third volume of The Journal of New England Horror Writers. Epitaphs was volume 1, and Wicked Seasons was volume 2.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Blog Tour Stop #2; Discovering H.P. Lovecraft

Out promoting A LONELY & CURIOUS COUNTRY again. This time I post about how I discovered H.P. Lovecraft's stories, and how they hooked me. Swing over to Adventures Fantastic, if you are so inclined.


(Thanks, Keith!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

recent read; Blood For The Sun

Blood For The Sun by Errick A. Nunnally

Alexander Smith is a werewolf who is ancient enough (140 years old and counting) that he is afflicted by an Alzheimer's like memory loss. Working as a police consultant is a double-edged sword. The mental stimulation helps keep his mind from deteriorating, but sudden short term forgetfulness also puts him in harm's way more than once. Brought in on a case of child murder in the projects of Boston, he soon finds himself embroiled in a supernatural plot and winds his way through the supernatural underground of the city.

I like the reality and gravity of this story. As an urban fantasy, there is nothing sparkly or whimsical about the supernatural elements. The world is grounded in ours - both decent and dark. The Alzheimer's angle is very original and thoughtfully explored.

There is a lot to find in this book, it's rich on characters, settings, supernatural elements, murder mystery plot. And they are all well-balanced, no single one overwhelms the narrative.

I look forward to more stories from Errick.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Blog Tour

Hey, I'm on tour! Blog tour, that is. Promotional jaunt for A LONELY & CURIOUS COUNTRY.

I know - I've been promoting it a bit, but Ulthar Press is a small press and I want to help the book do well.

Thanks to Jim Cornelius for allowing me a guest spot at Frontier Partisans!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A LONELY & CURIOUS COUNTRY now available via Amazon


Ulthar Press can sure turn around a book when they mean to! :)

A LONELY & CURIOUS COUNTRY is available via Amazon already, and will be debuting at NecronomiCON in Providence, RI in a couple of weeks.

There should be a ebook version in the near future, too.

Very excited to be in this anthology and I'm looking forward to reading all the other stories!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

recent read; King of the Bastards

King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury.

Partial cover blurb;

King of the Bastards is wild adventure across seas, beaches, and mountains full of horrifying monstrosities, dark magic, and demonic entities.

Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble.

This is good ol' fashioned sword-&-sorcery with blood, guts and adventure.

Rogan, the 'retired' restless king of Albion is on an exploration & fishing voyage when he is beset by enemies and shipwrecked. The local natives trade his services as a warrior for their help returning him to his homeland. Recruited to dispatch a sorcerer and the sorcerer's dark god, Rogan fights far from home even as troubling news and visions show the former king that his son has been disposed from the throne back home in Albion.

Sure, Rogan is cut from the Conan cloth, but he is his own barbarian. He is more uncouth than Conan. He is a lot more ribald, and one wonders if Robert E. Howard had written in a later year, if he might not have had more sexual elements to his Conan stories like this.

This novel is short, just right for a sword-&-sorcery tale here. I got sucked in and read it in three days, which is not something I have done with a single novel in a long time.

There is plenty of room for more tales of Rogan. Although King of the Bastards is self-contained, there are plenty of threads to pick up in a direct sequel, for a start. I'd enjoy reading that story if Keene & Shrewsbury want to write it!

If you're a sword-&-sorcery fan and want to read something new, King of the Bastards will hit the spot nicely.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


(I imagine) Because they are feverishly attempting to turn around this anthology for NecronomiCON in August, no one has time to update the Ulthar Press web page.

But, yesterday on their Facebook page, they announced their upcoming Lovecraftian anthology, A LONELY AND CURIOUS COUNTRY.

I have a story in the anthology!

As explained on their submission page, the title comes from "The Dunwich Horror";

 “When a traveler in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country."

This is a general Lovecraftian anthology as opposed to something specific, like say, an Innsmouth anthology. I look forward to reading all the tales.

I'm very excited to be in some great company in this table-of-contents!

ANNOUNCING the contents for the upcoming Lovecraftian anthology, A LONELY AND CURIOUS COUNTRY:

The Dreamer of Nothingness Steven Prizeman
Paudie O'Brien and the Bogman Sean Farrell
Turn on, Tune in, Infiltrate, Disrupt Kenneth Heard
Down Through Black Abysses Peter Rawlik
Project Handbasket Rebecca Allred
Incense and Insensibilty Christine Morgan
Salt Water Bodies Susan Wong
Interrogation Damir Salkovic
Radical Division Jonathan Titchenal
Igawesdi Cliff Biggers
After Birth Sammons/Jenkins
Rehab Kevin Wetmore
Unsung Heroes Don Webb
The Litany of Yith Brett Davidson
The Third Oath of Dagon Robert Price
Down By the Highway Side Paul McNamee
In the Forest, with the Night Aaron French

Monday, July 20, 2015

NECON 35 (2015)

NECON 35 did not disappoint. This year my goal was to spread out, chat with more people, discuss writing craft along with the random topics that come up in conversation. (Last year I was a transient wallflower.)

The convention opened on Thursday afternoon. Thursday is usually a quiet half day, nothing really official happens except guests arriving and newbie orientation. I was fine with that. It would mean more time for conversation.

Things kicked off with a bang - I received a story acceptance email during dinner. (More on that once the contracts are signed and I'm at liberty to announce.) The food was delicious, too. The Lobster Pot cooks a mean lobster roll.

After dinner everyone gathered at various locales - the lobby, the bar, the new lounge room. The courtyard is the biggest evening destination, with "saugies" roasted, drinks consumed and conversation long into the night.

Last year, the conference center's pool was closed and we thought it was under construction. In fact, it was on its way out. It has been replaced with a large lounge space with plenty of seating. This was a great feature and the room was used for the Friday morning kaffeeklatsches. People used the room all weekend. In fact, it is so large Brian Keene used one area to record interviews for his Horror Show podcasts while other folks were in the room, too. So, be sure to listen to upcoming episodes.

One corner of that room became the morning rendezvous spot for some of us. Friday morning, I was one of the early risers. I looked up the local Dunkin Donuts and made a coffee & munchkin run, because the breakfast didn't start for another 2 hours. Great time just chatting with Charles Rutledge, Brian Keene, Jim Moore and others who came by.

The panels started after lunch and the nice thing about NECON is that they keep things simple and small. There is only one panel track. Nothing gets out of hand with over-scheduling. They were all great panels and worth the time.

I had a great Friday night dinner chatting with Errick Nunnally, Dan Foley and artist guest of honor, Duncan Eagleson.

Friday night there was the NECON toast and update. Funny, funny, funny wonderful time. After that - again to the courtyard for socializing late into the night. If you're not a social creature, NECON will make you one.

I had to leave Saturday afternoon, so I missed the evening roast. Considering just how darn funny the Friday night festivities had been, I can only imagine how hilarious that evening must have been.

I came home with too many books (both in my goodie bag and more that I bought.)

On a personal note that made me smile; ospreys took care of my raptor fix. Two had territorial squabbling over the very top of the nearest cell tower. This happened each morning. I enjoyed watching them for a few minutes each morning until they winged away.

Without actually having "writers' bootcamp" writing sessions or anything like that, somehow NECON still manages to be one hell of a writers' pep rally. I can't imagine anyone heading home not being excited about getting words on paper. I mean, excited and scared of Jim Moore ;) who has certain methods of persuasion.

Though I came home early, I did stay two evenings this time rather than a day trip. I hope to stay the entire length of the convention next year. It is a great, great time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Recreating my youth, one digital file at a time

I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but my first superhero comic was an issue of Captain America. I remember it well because we had dropped my father off for a business trip and we bought the comic at the airport newsstand. I read it in the car on the way home - and that is how I became car-sick the first time.

I never got swept up in comics as a kid. I didn't quite get hooked, and my parents didn't exactly encourage nor discourage comics reading. I know my Dad didn't think much of comics.

Flipping through stacks at the comic shop this weekend, I came across a Spider-man (actually, a MARVEL TEAM-UP) that I also owned. So, I bought it. Then I recalled I also had an Iron Man issue. Yes, just three issues. I remember reading the Captain America over & over. I don't remember the other two as well, but they are the same year. I wonder if we had actually bought a 3-pack at the airport. Or maybe I had the Captain America and then shortly after tried a 2-pack. I don't recall.

I let them go many years ago.

Anyway, after that little memory tweak this weekend, I looked up the digital versions and lucky for me, they're all available at Comixology. I already had the Captain America, I grabbed the Marvel Team-up just because, and I added the Iron Man to my digital collection.

Looking forward to re-reading these two.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Howard Days 2015 panels

As a public service, I am posting a thread from the REH Forums that contain videos of panels from Howard Days this year.

Great stuff, and I've only watched 2 so far.

Friday, June 26, 2015

TIN MEN marching

Believe it or not, this is not a review. On Tuesday, Christopher Golden's latest novel, TIN MEN, a scifi military thriller set in the near future, was released.

Chris setup a launch event split over two nights. I attended last night's event at the Haverhill Public Library in Massachusetts. To make it fun and informal, Chris brought co-guests. John McIlveen, Toni Kelner and James A. Moore.

Chris read a small excerpt, and the panel held court on writing questions and stories. It was pleasant and fun.

There were plenty of other writers in the audience, too. Chatted with other NECONers and even spent some time talking with director Izzy Lee about an upcoming short film she did with a Innsmouth flair. (It will be part of an international anthology movie called Danse Macabre.)

In addition to buying TIN MEN, they held a robot trivia contest and I came away with extra loot. Extra special as all three of these books were on my wishlist. I love the cartoony take on pulp cover art on Wicked Tales. If you look close enough, you'll see that it is H. P. Lovecraft's gravestone. (really, that is what it looks like, the artist did his homework.)

Great night out!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

recent read; Virgin Zombie

Virgin Zombie by Charles R. Rutledge

Armand Brule, aka 'Houngan', is a meth cook on the run from a murder charge in Chicago. When he turns up in the small town of Wellman Georgia, Chicago homicide Lieutenant Jacqueline 'Jack' Daniels is dispatched to apprehend him.

Jack ends up teamed with Wade Griffin, a mercenary turned private investigator. Their search will bring them into conflict with a biker gang and something far more sinister. For Houngan is another name for a voodoo priest and Brule may be cooking up something worse than crystal meth. And then there's the dead guy with a hatchet.

This story is a fast-paced crime/mystery with plenty of action. I enjoyed it. I have read previous Griffin & Price novels, but I have not read Jack Daniels stories. That in no way limited my enjoyment. Reading Griffin in action – and bumping into some other characters of Wellman, GA – was like a quick, satisfying visit with old friends.

If you're a fan of either Jack Daniels or Griffin & Price, I would give it a read. Or try it anyway, even if you aren't familiar with either series. It is a solid story that stands on its own. Charles writes good, fun stuff!