Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for May, 2012

Review of Tonia Brown’s “The Cold Beneath”

The Cold Beneath is a tale of doomed high adventure, written from the perspective of the last survivor of a journey, sharing what came to pass in his diary shortly before he plans on willingly embracing his own death at the hands of the tormented crew who traveled with him.

Philip Syntax is a British inventor who has relegated himself to the American south in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a form of self-imposed exile after an invention of his was credited to his former mentor.  Arriving at his estate with a proposal for a great journey is Gideon Lightbridge, a former U.S. Colonel and a great explorer who has need of Philip because he is using the very invention Philip had stolen from him years before-a pair clockwork legs that serve the amputee better than his original ones did.  Lightbridge wants Philip to maintain the legs in sub-zero temperatures because he plans being the first explorer to make it to the North Pole.  They will be traveling in a helium Airship called The Northern Fancy.

Philip regales the reader with the story of his journey, leading up to his ultimate fate at the hands of the crew who were possessed by a strange and nightmarish sickness in the Arctic Northern extremes.

The Cold Beneath is a very entertaining steam punk tale tinged with the flavor of a seaborne mystery.  While the crew guides the ship upon the air, it felt almost as if they were on the high seas, though the seas in this book are the frozen wastes of the far north.  This is a zombie tale, and much of the fun of this story lies in the creative usage of the undead here, which are blue tinged nightmares that are somewhat Frankenstein-ish in appearance and actions.  This is also classic Gothic type horror told in diary form.  It would be easy to imagine this story being turned into an old Hammer classic, with devious deeds and plenty of dark mysteries afoot throughout.   There is also romance in this story, though even that is intriguing and riddled with twists and turns.  The author blends all these different styles together flawlessly and makes them all fit together nicely.

Tonia Brown has created a terrific voice for her narrator that puts the reader in the story and made me appreciate every crisp detail as it is revealed.  Philip Syntax is a thoroughly realized character, as are the other members of the crew of The Northern Fancy who play a major part in this tale such as Lightbridge, Albert, the Chief Mechanic, and Geraldine Goode, a former flame of Philip’s and the doctor on board the air ship.

If there is any sort of failing with this tale, perhaps it lies within the diary format.  By nature, things are revealed in advance of a full description and the reader knows things, such as the ultimate fate of the crew from the very beginning.  Still, surprises abound and as with any good mystery, I found myself guessing at the answers that reveal themselves in a highly satisfactory way within the last few pages of the book.

The Cold Beneath is a great bet for anyone who enjoys Gothic horror, mysteries, steam punk, or intense zombie action.  The characters are colorful, the pace is excellent, and the undead are some of the creepiest I’ve seen in quite some time.

The Cold Beneath can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Beneath-steampunk-zombie-ebook/dp/B0086VRXY6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338389299&sr=1-4

Review of Dean Giles “Alien Apocalypse: Genesis”

Dean Giles has crafted what amounts to a serial production of an alien invasion, releasing it as short stories with two installations thus far, along with a brief prequel that is included with Alien Apocalypse: Genesis.  The story is about Leon, a father imprisoned for manslaughter after he kills his wife’s murderer, and Elliot, his son, who has to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm until his father’s four year sentence is complete.  Nearing the end of his term of imprisonment, Leon has to deal with a comet that is passing close to Earth’s atmosphere and the fact that an alien presence that has hitched a ride on the comet has invaded earth, devouring virtually everything in its path and wiping out everyone in his prison except for him and a couple of other people.  The first short story, Alien Apocalypse: The Storm, tells the tale of his efforts to find Elliot and figure out how they can escape the encroaching alien growth, which has the ability to transform itself into a wide array of genetic hybrids that are capable of tearing apart just about anything to get to the human flesh it craves.  Leon and Elliot discover that the only thing that seems able to stop the alien assault is oil, which keeps the alien growth at bay.  In this chapter of the saga, Leon and his son make their way to an oil refinery, which seems like the safest place given the alien’s weakness and might provide them with a weapon to fight back.  Upon arrival at the refinery, they discover other survivors who have taken over and have enslaved several other people.  Leon and Elliot work to free these prisoners but only manage to provide an escape for one of them, a woman who has lost her memory who they dub Isabella until she can tell them her real name.  The author also shares insights into the alien hive mind and how it thinks throughout the story, letting the reader know what its plans are for the human race.

Alien Apocalypse is an entertaining sci fi outing that, so far, has me intrigued.  I am interested in where things go from here, with genetic replicas being created of human beings that, when separated from the hive mind, seem to have desires and yearnings of their own that tend to contradict the ancient alien they came from.  I for one am very interested in seeing where this story leads and look forward to the next chapter.

Alien Apocalypse: Genesis can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Apocalypse-Genesis-ebook/dp/B007EG96WQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338336404&sr=1-1

Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: The Beginning”

Mad Swine: The Beginning is a first person zombie apocalypse tale that takes place during the initial days of infection and the downfall of civilization.  It begins in the city of Chicago and the moves out into the suburbs where the main character, a University Administrator and former military man, takes charge of the people in his neighborhood to defend against both the infected and the living.  The zombies in this tale are actually not the living dead, but more accurately infected/still living, though the author essentially turns them into zombies by applying the same rule as you have with undead: you can shoot them repeatedly, but unless you get them in the head, they won’t go down.  There is an interesting slant in that they still sleep, which makes for some interesting situations when the characters come across a few snoozing undead.

The story moves at a fast clip, with very little build up before the introduction of panic and mayhem enters the main character’s life after he has reported to work one morning.  The infected are fast movers, so the infection, which seems to come out of nowhere, spreads like wildfire and makes the first few chapters an adrenaline soaked nightmare for Matt, our main character.  It doesn’t take long for the reality of this uprising to hit home with personal loss which carries over for him as he manages to make it back home to the suburbs.  He discovers that several communities have banded together to protect one another from the “crazies”, as Matt has dubbed them, and given his military background he is called upon to take the lead in his own gated community.  Matt comes prepared, with a veritable arsenal and a brother who lives with him who also has military experience.  Together they take charge and plan for the well being and safety of their people.  Mad Swine: The Beginning takes place within the first few days after the apocalypse.  It reads fast and easy and while much of the zombie action takes place prior to Matt’s transition to suburban leader from urban refugee, the focus on human confrontations is a priority from then on.  I enjoyed some of the confrontations that offer up hints as to what is to be expected in the next book of the saga, including the clashes between the different neighborhoods and how they are forced to deal with one another.

Overall, this was a fun, entertaining zombie read.  It doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table with the zombies or the setting, but the main character is solidly developed and his story made for an interesting ride.  While the book cuts off abruptly, the closing chapters set the stage for some potentially interesting developments in the second book of this saga.

I do my best to point out any concerns I have with each story I read and as is the case with every book, there were things I took exception to with Mad Swine.  My main concern here has to do with what I would dub the chaos and the calm.  By the chaos, I mean that the infection happens so quickly and spreads with such vigor that the world falls apart entirely around Matt in what seems like minutes.  Things are such a blur at first that there is virtually no appearance by either the police or military in this story.  The city falls to pieces almost immediately and the crazies rule the streets within hours.  And by the calm, I mean how dramatically different it is within the suburban conclaves where Matt and most of the other characters in this book live.  Everyone there seems to be on the same page, willing to fall in line with the new regime that Matt creates without questioning it or anything for that matter.  Certainly, there is conflict between different neighborhoods, but it is limited and (at least in this book) fairly civil, all things considered.  The transition from the chaos of the first part of the book to the calm of the latter portion is abrupt and would have made more sense had the chaos Matt sees in the city bled over into the ‘burbs a bit more.  While Matt, would seem like a natural choice as a leader for his neighborhood with his military experience and rather excessive arsenal, the fact that everyone within his gated community goes along with that decision without question or any who appears to be reluctant about such an idea seemed a stretch to me.

Despite this concern that I had with the story, it remains a solid, action filled apocalyptic saga with interesting characters and a storyline that has me intrigued and curious about what happens next.  I look forward to checking out the next book in the series when it becomes available.

Mad Swine: The Beginning can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Beginning-Steven-Pajak/dp/1618680013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338266426&sr=1-1

Review of Mandy DeGeit’s “She Makes Me Smile”

She Makes Me Smile has gotten a lot of press based on what a particular publisher did under the guise of editing this work, which originally appeared in an anthology.  I won’t get into details of this here, because there are plenty of explanations out there, including one from the author included with this story.  Suffice it to say, I am happy that the author has had the chance to reveal her story to the public without the adornments installed by others who sought to change her work into something completely different.

She Makes Me Smile is a story told in first person about two people, one of which is bound and gagged and sitting on a couch while the other puzzles over why they have done this horrible act to their one and only friend.  There is confusion on their part, though emotions in general are something they don’t really experience…at least not until the urge to tie up their friend and do even worse things to them occurs.  That is where the title of the story comes in to play.

This is a simple story, unencumbered by complex details.  While the past of the character who narrates is touched upon, no depth of detail yields explanation as to why they’ve crossed the line.  And while their victim is definitely female, we don’t know if the main character is a man or a woman, so it is also impossible for us to interpret things based on perceived gender roles.  The simple elements of this story make it work, and made me curious.  We readers tend to want to fill in the blanks on a tale-anything an author leaves out.  Mandy DeGeit has given us a very sparsely drawn on canvas here, which allowed the dark avenues of my own mind to fill in all the gaps.  Simple, sparse, and yet effectively disturbing.

You can find She Makes Me Smile here: http://www.amazon.com/She-Makes-Me-Smile-ebook/dp/B0085KMVAO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338051843&sr=8-1

My big publishing announcement!

Well, it hasn’t been too long since I mentioned that I got the rights back to my trilogy of novels: Comes The Dark, Into The Dark, and Beyond The Dark.  Now I can reveal where those books are heading, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I have just signed the contracts to have them re-released via Permuted Press starting in early 2013!

Each book will have the “Dark Stories” as I dubbed them, that belong with each book, rather than in a separate book that only appears in the electronic version, like what happened in the past.  So tales related to all the characters that I originally wrote into the trilogy will be back where they belong, as bonus material in each printed book and e-book version.  I’m thrilled that everyone who reads these versions of the books will have the opportunity to get the full story on characters such as George, Megan, and Michael and everyone else.   Of note is that one of the Dark Stories that will appear at the end of Beyond The Dark is brand new, and another one of them is expanded beyond its rather short length to a full-sized short story.  So there will be a good amount of brand new content that no one has seen before as well.

The schedule of releases hasn’t been set as of yet, but I wanted to make an additional announcement at this time as well.  As I have babbled in the past, my plan has always been to produce two more novels that follow up the Dark trilogy, and my intention is to get rolling with those immediately after I have completed this last Dark story I am presently working on.  It will be my goal to complete the fourth book before the end of this year, and dive right into the fifth and final book of the saga after that.  So my hope is that they will find their way to market not long after the release of the final book in the trilogy.  Nothing else is for certain at this time, but I hope to be providing updates on this project as it goes forward, so as always, stay tuned!

A word to the wise for those who are writers or plan on becoming one in the future.

For the most part, my posts on this blog have been related to my work and the work of others: reviews, updates, and promotion of my work and the work of my fellow writers.  There have been a few commentaries on my experiences in writing and I will admit there probably needs to be more.  While I am far from an expert on how to get published or just in the craft of writing, I have learned a few things along the way and continue to learn new things every day.

One thing in particular that I have learned is that there are so many people out there who genuinely care for one another in the writing community.  They may make their living writing, editing, publishing, doing formatting…or they may be doing it more as a sideline-hobby/passion/dream of making it big someday (most of us are like that, in fact), or they are fans of the different genres: horror, science fiction, fantasy, bizarro, etc who have dreams of getting more involved down the road-maybe making movies, writing, creating their own publishing company, or something else.  They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into what they do, and care about it enough to make sure they do the best job possible-not just for themselves, but for everyone else who is relying on them.  Social media has allowed pretty much everyone to share their thoughts, connect, and join in the conversation with a very wide ranging community that is all over the globe.  I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people.  Not just about writing, but about the business side of things-what it takes to get a book out there, how to promote your work, how do you hook up with filmmakers, etc.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve associated myself with people who not only care about what they do, but they behave in a very professional manner.

But you hear stories now and again about someone who steals stories from other authors and claims them to be their own, or publishers who refuse to pay the artists for the work they put out there.  It is unfortunate, but the people who share their experiences and send out warnings pave the way for the rest of us to be able to avoid the same pitfalls, and because of that, we all are grateful to these brave souls.  Sometimes the lessons are more simple, such as avoiding getting provoked by a review of your work that you disagree with.  Tales of woe for authors abound on this front.

This brings me to the main topic of this post.  Yesterday, I saw two separate warnings posted on Facebook from two separate authors, both of which are fairly new to being published.  Quite a few people have since shared their information with everyone on Twitter and Facebook that they know, and I am joining their ranks.  As some of you know, I tend to keep my opinions to myself beyond of the topic of the writing I do or someone else’s work…and when I do comment on anything anyone else does, I do my best to be constructive and professional about it.  I have avoided more flammable topics, but for right now, I feel it’s important that I share these two tales with anyone who reads my blog.  Take away from them what you will.  It is my hope that what has happened to these two writers doesn’t have to happen to anyone else because of what they’ve shared.

The first post is from horror author Alyn Day.


The second is from author Mandy De Geit.



I think it is fair to share these blog posts with the world, as I think it would also be fair for me to share any rebuttals that the publisher has to offer to either or both of these authors, if I hear of one in the future.  Because there is always two sides to the story, and even with the information shared above, I would be curious to see what response there may be to these accusations.  It is a shame when things like this happen.  But as so many others have said and I have as well, the fact that this information was shared makes all of us the wiser and more prepared as writers going forward with our efforts.


So always be alert and concerned about what is going on around you as a writer.  Find out as much as you can about a editor, a publisher, and everyone else involved in working with you before you hand your pride and joy over to them.  Just as you expect a mechanic to be trained to work on cars and a doctor to have a medical degree before you let them tell you to bend over and cough, you should know the history of who you are looking to work with in advance of agreeing to anything.  But if you do end up making a mistake (and we all have, on many different occasions), don’t hesitate to share with others, so they can learn and avoid those same mistakes.


Review of Suzanne Robb’s “Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My!”

Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My! is a trilogy of short stories by Suzanne Robb, author of Z-Boat, a zombie novel set in the dark depths of the ocean, as well as a wide array of strange and twisty short stories with a horror and fantasy bent to them.  These three stories fit right in with what the fan’s of Robb has come to expect.  In “Welcome To The Future” she explores a near future filled with disastrous attempts at genetic manipulations to the human body.  We get to see plenty of failings and know why the whole idea of mutation is abhorred.  Along comes a teenage boy whose parents and teachers have given up on him.  He has even given up on himself until a doctor provides him with a solution to all his problems that promises to make him the smartest man in the world.  Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned, and all hell breaks loose.  In “The Moonlight Killer” we are given a story that turns the traditional werewolf tale on its ear with man-bites-wolf repercussions.  A really twisty, humorous tale with plenty of darkness to it.  Finally, in “B.I.T.E.” the reader is introduced to world on the very brink of Apocalypse, with strange beasties boiling up through the ground including massive man-eating squirrels, cobra-men, and minions…lots of minions.  That plus a mother and daughter who are bound and determined to stop the end of the world, no matter how dysfunctional they appear to be.

These stories have an interesting flavor that I would call Robb-ish, in that they not only give you some good scares, they also have some wicked dark humor to them that make you snicker while feeling a bit uncomfortable with the circumstances the characters are going through.  These are quick, entertaining reads for those of you looking for a tidy little dose of scary fun from an up and coming author.

You can find Were-Wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutations, Oh My! here: http://www.amazon.com/Were-wolves-Apocalypses-Genetic-Mutation-ebook/dp/B006SBC2UQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1336948427&sr=1-1

A few changes on the horizon for my books…

I wanted to make a brief announcement at this time, which will be a prologue to a more important answer coming up in the not so distant future.  Instead of having some sort of big build up, I’m just going to come out and say it.  I have acquired the rights back to my three novels from the publisher, Library of the Living Dead.  This decision was made with a great deal of careful consideration on my part, and is based more on where I feel things are going for me in the future rather than anything that has happened recently, or in the past.  Let me put it another way.  Michael West, aka Dr. Pus, the owner of the Library of the Living Dead Press has been a spectacular partner for me over the past few years.  He is a man who genuinely cares for the authors who work for him and have aligned themselves with the Library.  The Library is, and always will be, a home away from home for me.  The people who have been involved with the Library’s message boards over the years, as well as the other authors, editors, and artists are all fantastic people.  So this departure is only for my books, not for me, and it will not change anything else.  It is mostly due to the fact that at present, Doc is not moving forward to publish new books as he takes a break from that for a time.  Unfortunately, time stands still for no man, and since my plan is to produce two more novels in this series, I needed to regain control of them so I can be sure they are in a home where the opportunity exists to publish the new chapters in this saga.

So for everyone out there who has purchased my books in either paper or electronic form, I thank you, as does Doc.  All three books were top sellers for the Library, which makes me very proud and sort of stunned at how well they have done.  If you have the paper versions of the three books, or want the first editions, my suggestion would be to grab them fairly soon, as they will no longer be available (at least new copies) very much longer.  The ebook version of the trilogy has already been taken down and is no longer available on Amazon.  The next time you see them, it will be very likely they will look a bit different than they do now.

As I mentioned, I will likely have another announcement to make about these books in the not so distant future, as well as where I go from here with my work.  So stayed tuned for that.

Review of Monique Snyman’s “Charming Incantations: Enticed”

Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily.  I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it.  So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.

Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.

While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her.  Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races.  There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world.  One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.

Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her.  She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.

This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure.  There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale.  Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance.  She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts.  In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.

This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.

Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1

Review of Jim LaVigne’s “Plaguesville, USA”

Plaguesville, USA tells a tale set in a world several years after much of the human population has been wiped out by a lethal virus.  The timeframe is in the late 2070’s, and much of the United States has turned into a desecrated land filled with survies, as they are called: gangs, small fiefdoms, cannibals, mutants, and a few people trying to maintain some sense of civilization.  We are introduced to Dr. Justin Kaes, an epidemiologist from the CDC in New Atlanta who has found himself in charge of a mission to prevent the “Sick,” as the plague has been dubbed, from reinventing itself and destroying what is left of the meager human population.  He has been sent to collect the one man who has survived the original iteration of the plague and whose blood might help them create a vaccine for whatever new iterations may come about.  He is Howard Lampert, a crusty, cranky old man of 102 who lives in Minnesota.  The story picks up after Justin and his team have picked up Mr. Lampert and are on their way to San Francisco, where there are doctors waiting who have the resources to craft the potential vaccine.  The doctor and his team’s massive RV has run out of fuel down in Oklahoma, where they are surrounded by gangs and religious zealots who also happen to be cannibals.  We are introduced to Teresa, a member of one of the local gangs, who’s interested in hitting the bricks because she has grown weary of the Blood Claws (not to mention that more than one member of the gang has tried to rape her).  She crosses paths with Justin as he and the others are trying to figure out what to do to keep moving west and the duo form an unlikely partnership.  The story tells of their adventures, which include an onslaught of virtually every post-apocalyptic danger imaginable, except perhaps for zombies, as they try to complete an almost impossible mission.

Plaguesville gives the reader a thoroughly realized post-apocalyptic world that isn’t set in our time, but over a half a century in the future.  Each chapter provides a nice little beginning blurb giving the reader a small taste of the world before the fall, with advertisements about the food, entertainment, and culture that adds additional flavor to the story.  As readers will note, this tale has an interesting arrangement with the characters.  Justin is the main character and we see the world through his eyes in many ways, but as Mr. Lampert comes from our day and age (he would be around 38 right now), it is easy to identify with him and his perspective on a bombed out, shell shocked world of plague and Mad Max sensibilities.  Justin is a doctor on a mission who finds himself attracted to the barbaric and yet incredibly enticing Teresa, and Mr. Lampert brings an old fashion sensibility to the story that is entertaining and somewhat humorous in spots, while getting dark and gruesome in others.  While Justin the voice of ethics and morality in a world with very little of such things, Lampert is the grumpy voice of reason and sanity in a world gone mad.

The story runs its cast through several different adventures-they meet the good, the bad, and the ugly that remain in the world, and there are quite a few secondary characters’ stories told that intertwine with the main cast as the tale runs toward its completion.  Again, the author has done a good job of laying out a detailed post-apocalyptic world and gives us a saga with plenty of action and adventure.  Time and again, Justin’s mission is on the brink of oblivion, but he continues to maintain hope and believe that as long as Lampert remains alive they can resolve things.  In some ways, it felt like there were almost too many near misses in the story, but it kept things moving at a fast clip.  Overall, this was a fun read, with a few gentle messages that weren’t too heavy-handed about corruption, craving for power, and man’s undeniable lust to cause his own destruction.  The growing attraction between Justin and Teresa is handled with a deft hand that made it feel believable and touching, despite the fact that these two people were worlds apart in so many ways.  If I have a criticism of this book, it would perhaps be that the story does not feel complete.  We are only introduced to the CDC team once they’ve broken down in Oklahoma and not when they set out from Atlanta, pick up Mr. Lampert, and make their way through so many other adventures leading up to that point.  Granted, the book is already a healthy 350 pages, but I felt as if there were more stories to be told.  Even with this minor complaint, this is an entertaining and robust post-apocalyptic tale with entertaining characters and a setting that was quite compelling.

Plaguesville, USA can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plaguesville-USA-ebook/dp/B0078FN0RA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336273247&sr=8-1

A fantasy anthology, for a bit of a change of pace.

Well, I’ve been doing my best to expand my writing horizons with the stories I choose to write, though many of them have been zombie tales, just like my novels.  Still, I have managed to produce other types of horror, comedy, bizarro, science fiction, western, spy/action-adventure…so it was only a matter of time before I got back to my roots and decided to dive into the realm of fantasy once again.  When I would write as a youngster, that was the type of stories I wrote: fantasy tales that transformed into fantasy adventures during my days of role playing.  It was rough stuff that I didn’t want to share with anyone else, which was okay, because publishing was not on my mind back then-it was for the pure joy of writing.  I still have some of the dust covered stories buried in a paper file, because back in those days I was using a typewriter.  Yep, in the days of yore we didn’t have the arcane sorcery of computers to save our work, we got a paper copy of it and that was pretty much the best you could do.  Fortunately, that means that none of my more atrocious early attempts at writing are circulating around on the internet.  Now as for my more recent atrocious attempts at writing…that is a different story.

Anyway, I digress.  I saw a posting perhaps six months ago calling for traditional tales of swords and sorcery in the style of the classic Conan the Barbarian stories and that potential authors should draw inspiration from paintings of Frank Frazetta, among others.  In other words, plenty of pounding base lines, thunderous orchestras, spurting blood, voluptuous maidens, heroes NOT with six packs, but with eight or ten packs at a minimum.  We were to have fun with it and flavor our tales with plenty of fearless, steely-eyed warriors who fight nasty monsters and perhaps a dark god or two, thrown in for good measure.  It was to be entitled, appropriately, Tough As Nails.

I didn’t start out with a plan to write for this anthology.  I loved the idea, and thought it would be great to dive back into the fantasy pool, as it were, but I was focused on some other projects at the time, and this one had a due date that was out past the horizon, in the new year.  So I put it at the back of my mind and as time has a tendency to do, it sped up and flew past me to where this submission call had perhaps a month left before the deadline.  I still was hesitant until the editor, someone who I have worked with before, started asking me if I planned on submitting something for the anthology.  He wanted me to do so, because he knew I loved the concept and for some odd reason he’d liked my work in the past.  So there I was, scrambling to come up with an idea.  I initially crafted the first scene, which takes place in a tavern (the classic locale for the start of many an adventure tale), and gave my story a name, just because I liked how it sounded: “The Sunken Lands.”  It sounded cool, and I knew I could wrap a quest around the idea of my hero/anti-hero needing to get to such an ominous place.

So I kept on writing, adding one scene after another, and introducing my different characters, putting them in harms way, etc.  It occurred to me about five or six thousand words into this thing that there was no way this story was going to qualify as a short that would fit within the word count guidelines set up by the editor.  At that point, I was in too deep, and told him that I planned on writing this tale whether it was acceptable for the anthology or not, since I was back in the mode of writing fantasy, with all the intricacies that go along with that, including all the behind the scenes “stuff” (that is the technical term) you have to put together to make the world you have crafted in any way believable.  This stuff usually starts with a map, then you add history, cultures, alliances and enemies, the habitats of strange creatures, what those strange creatures are, etc. etc.  And believe me, there is a lot more than that to it, but you get the idea.  Fortune smiled upon me, and the editor, Matt Nord, encouraged me to write the story to its completion and he would look at it regardless of whether it fit the size limitations he had put forth (8,000 words) or it went significantly beyond that, because he wanted to see what I had come up with.

Well, as fantasy tales have a tendency to get expansive (as anyone who has read any of the more involved fantasy series out there can testify to) and it was fast becoming clear to me that this story was in no way, shape, or form going to end up being considered a short story.  The only thing short about it would be the fact that it would be shorter than a novel by a good stretch.  But at approximately 23,000 words, this was definitely in novella territory.  Having that high a word count was the only way to effectively tell the tale in my humble opinion (for better or for worse) and also presented me with a cast of characters who could carry on in more tales of this world I had created, if I so chose.  Matt did take a look at it and I think the fact that I broke the story into two parts gave him the flexibility he needed to fit it into the book.  So despite the fact that I crafted something almost three times as long as what the editor wanted, he somehow liked what he saw and took it anyway.  Actually, he really liked it, which was great, because I wasn’t so sure, which is pretty normal for me as a writer.  I tend to never be all that sure whether what I have written is worth a damn.  I had other folks read my story before Matt ever got a look at it, naturally, and got some good constructive criticism from them, which helped shape and transform it into a sharper story than the original.  They liked it to, so I am hopeful others will as well.

Below is the cover of the book, and while I have absolutely LOVED the covers of my novels and most of the anthologies I’ve been in, the idea of something I’ve written being in a book with fantasy cover art makes me as giddy as a child.

More details to come as the book is released.  I hope some of you fantasy lovers out there will check this one out when it hits the shelves.