A hill of beans in this crazy world …

Sidearm & Sorcery Volume Two is out now! Get your copy here, and if you still haven’t acquired a copy of Volume One, it remains available as well, right here.

I wrote a post a while back, in anticipation of Volume One, in which I tried to define the sword and sorcery genre in order to explain how the premise of the book was S&S through the lens of urban fantasy. That holds true enough, but I recently ran across an elaboration on the subject of sword and sorcery which felt especially relevant in light of Volume Two.

In the above-mentioned post I talked about the protagonists and antagonists of sword and sorcery stories, but not the stakes. If the formula pits skilled but not supernatural heroes against more powerful, supernatural villains, does that make Lord of the Rings a sword and sorcery story? Gandalf is a wizard and Aragorn is a member of the long-lived Dunedain, but Frodo and Sam are the ultimate everyman characters. However, Lord of the Rings is high fantasy because Frodo and Sam go on a quest to destroy the most powerful weapon in the world, to prevent a diabolical evil force from conquering the entire world, and coincidentally help restore a royal dynasty and bring about the end of one age and dawning of another.

Sword and sorcery has far less to do with the fate of all existence or the preservation of life as we know it, or global politics, or the sweep of history. The S&S protagonist fights against the odds for mere survival, and the stories unfold on a smaller, more personal scale. Whether the hero carries the day or succumbs, the larger world will continue on its own trajectory, unbothered.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both high fantasy and sword and sorcery, and just about every other speculative subgenre out there. But I was struck by this observation about the lower stakes of S&S in particular when considering my own story, “Personal Mythologies”, which has a distinct lack of capital-E Evil and reality-shattering consequences. I might have attributed this solely to my conception of Kellan Oakes as a low-key, somewhat lazy individual who often gets caught up in the weird, but as it turns out it’s perfectly appropriate for a sidearm and sorcery protagonist.

Oddities of the equinox

The cycle of the seasons continues to turn and a new edition of Weird Fiction Quarterly is upon us! Behold the Spring 2023 issue in all its vernal glory!

This volume includes my story “The Annual Grouseville Public Library Used Book Sale”, a humorous little two-hander about the unintended cosmic consequences of spring cleaning. Like all the other stories in WFQ, it’s only 500 words, perfect for quick shots of reading entertainment! Get your copy today RIGHT HERE!

The past is never dead

Having just signed the contract this morning, I am please to announce the following trio of good news items: Sidearm & Sorcery is returning this year for Volume Two, I will have another story in the anthology, and that story is a new adventure of everyone’s favorite druid-by-blood, slacker-by-choice private eye, Kellan Oakes.

“Personal Mythologies” finds Kellan on a case with an unexpectedly intimate connection to his younger years, hence the heavily literary reference I indulged in for the title of this post. I’ve written Kellan Oakes stories set earlier in his life before, but this one is much more about the ripple effects of the choices he once made, and how the past has gut-wrenching ways of catching up with us.

More info to come when a release date is announced for Sidearm & Sorcery, Volume Two. For now I will leave you with the following image, a tantalizing hint as to what “Personal Mythologies” has in store …

Never rains but it … snows?

We are still a few days out from the official release of INCUBATE, but I have another story release to announce! My creepy vignette “Cool Ride” is one of many seasonal scares within the inaugural issue of WEIRD FICTION QUARTERLY!

Every chilling story in this Winter 2022 volume is themed to coincide with the darkest time of year, and each one is only 500 words long. Perfect for holiday snacking!

Available now, and you can get a Kindle or print copy right here. Look for another update in a few months for the spring installment!

Long Gestating

Quite a few years ago, I had an idea for a horror story about a new mother confronted with disturbing changes in her body and her psychology, seemingly as a result of pregnancy. Some of these changes were common and typical, others more unusual. The main problem for this woman was that no matter where she turned for advice, she was told that every difference from her pre-gravid self, large or small, curious or unbearable, was simply something she needed to accept and not worry about. Which of course would turn out to very much not be true, but by the time she realized that for herself, it was too late to turn back the ensuing chaos.

I let the idea hang around in the back of my mind for a while, and talked it over with my wife to get her perspective as the mother of our children. Eventually I felt ready to start writing it, and was able to complete “Motherhood Changes You”, which turned out to be one of my longer stories, some time in the early summer of 2021. I sent the story out to a few different markets, and it took about a year, but eventually I was able to sell it. And now, finally, it is just about ready to emerge.

I’m really quite proud of this tale and to be part of this anthology, which is due out by the end of the year! More to come when it is available for order!

Ups and downs

I have not had much to report here on the blog through the spring of this year, partly due to a lack of free time to devote to generating new fiction, and partly due to long wait times hearing back from various outlets. But as the summer officially begins, I do have a couple of updates to share. As always seems to be the case, it’s a mixed bag, up and down, an acceptance and a rejection.

I’ll start with the acceptance: I’m deeply gratified to announce that my story “An Excerpt from the 2022-2023 Molitor University Course Catalog” has been accepted for publication on the Between the Shelves section of the Archive of the Odd website. This story is a bit outside my wheelhouse, in a couple of ways. It’s short, and it’s non-traditional prose; as the title implies, the tale is told entirely via course descriptions from a fictional institute of higher learning. It should be available to read in early August, and I will of course provide an update with a link to it when it debuts.

I won’t mention the title of the story I recently received a rejection for, as I’m still actively shopping it around, but I wanted to include it here not merely for the sake of yin/yang balance but because I was given substantive feedback on it, which is a rarity that I do appreciate. Said feedback also included the following line: “the image of the baby lapping the blood was nice and creepy” and honestly, any day where an email with a sentiment like that arrives in your inbox can’t be all bad.

Pre-order specials from LVP

I don’t have any recent news to share on story sales or publications, but I did want to take a moment to use this platform to promote some upcoming releases from Lycan Valley Press Publications. LVP is an outfit I’ve been published by in the past and will continue to work with in the future, and they have some solid offerings coming this year.

Books currently available for pre-order include:

Pink Triangle Rhapsody

Bottled Spirits and Other Dark Tales

Dreadful Fancies

Give one, two or all three a try! Support small and independent publishers!

Not all heroes

Available now! SUPER A.F.!, an anthology of fiction re-imagining six of the characters who appeared in the Ajax-Farrell line of comic books in the 1950’s, featuring my story “Divine Treasures and Cursed Things”.

I feel compelled to note that these are unauthorized updates, although authorization is a moot point, since Ajax-Farrell was one of many also-rans from the boom days of comics and their pantheon of heroes has fallen into the public domain.

I wound up taking part in this anthology because I was corresponding with the editor about a completely different project (more on that at a later date) and he had a writer drop out of SUPER AF. The editor asked me to step in and I gladly did so, because superheroes are one of my great devotions. In general, my fiction tends to oscillate wildly between two poles of darkness and light. I write a lot of horror and dark fantasy that traffics in the unsettling and weird, but I also write a lot of straight heroic stuff. Some, like my Kellan Oakes stories, are about a decently good guy trying his best to make things right, and some, like my Snow Wolf origin, are 100% funnybook fodder. Either way, the superhero comics I grew up reading are a massive direct influence on that sunnier side of my output. So of course when the editor of SUPER AF gave me a list of heroes to choose from, minus the ones already claimed by the other authors on the project, I chose … the one that wasn’t really a superhero at all.

“Hexmaster” is really more of a horror host, the staple narrator character archetype from the broad genre associated with EC Comics and the pre-Marvel era parental panics. You know, guys like the good old Cryptkeeper so memorably brought to life when HBO aired a Tales From the Crypt anthology series.

Of course, since the tales in this anthology are modernizations, the adaptation of the source material is loose to begin with, and although I went with a perhaps unintuitive choice I did warp it back around to the superhero motifs, ending up with a riff on the classic origin story that I hope is equal parts weird and costumed crusader comfort food for your inner twelve-year-old.

Head over to Amazon and get your copy today!