Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Hard Loss for Us All

On September 29, a young woman of my acquaintance killed herself. I had not met her in real life but that doesn’t mean I didn’t know her. We had been friends on facebook for several years and had corresponded frequently. I had learned about her life, her pups, her house, her job, her fears and hopes.

Amanda was kind-hearted, intelligent, principled. She worked with animals and loved them. She had much to offer the world, but the world didn’t seem to want it. Not the whole world, certainly. She had friends and people who cared about her. But I believe she felt that there wasn’t a place for her in the world. It is not for me to address the reasons why she might have felt this way. I know others with the same reasons who also suffer.

On the day of the act, she posted a short message on facebook to say goodbye. Despite the fact that people responded within fifteen minutes and the police were called, it was too late. I did not find that out until late evening, and now my heart hurts. I wish the world had been better for her.

All I can say is, be kind to each other. One thing I try to ask myself when I make judgements about people from some brief interaction with them, or from just knowing their opinion about some particular issue, is: “What if you’re wrong?” “What if that’s not who they really are inside?” I don’t always succeed in doing this and certainly wish I was much better at it. But I do know, Kindness Matters!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Doorbells at Dusk Review

Doorbells at Dusk, edited by Evans Light, Corpus Press, 2018, 280 pages.

Released just in time for Halloween, Doorbells at Dusk presents fourteen varied tales of seasonal horror. These range from the gory to the atmospheric. I have a piece in this anthology but will mainly focus on other stories.

My piece is called “A Plague of Monsters.” I wanted to keep the reader guessing as to the source of the “monsters” until pretty far along in the story. I hope it worked. I definitely had a lot of fun writing the story. It’s a kind of ode to the many SF/horror tales and movies that I’ve enjoyed in my life.

Next up we have “The Rye-Mother” (great title) by Curtis M. Lawson. An eerie tale, very atmospheric. What lies at the heart of the corn maze on Halloween? Young David decides to find out.

Amber Fallon is next with “The Day of the Dead.” There’s a cool twist here with the role that costumes play in the tale. I certainly didn’t predict the kicker at the end.

“Rusty Husk,” by Evans Light is next. Another great title. This one ups the gore content of the collection. Rusty enjoys Halloween a little too much but he’s soon to learn the true meaning of the holiday.

“Adam’s Bed,” by Josh Malerman follows. Ronnie is a dad, and he loves his kid, although he loves his party lifestyle at least as much. What he doesn’t love is the presence under his son’s bed.

Jason Parent is next with “Keeping up Appearances.” They chose the richest looking houses to rob. And everything went smoothly. Until they picked the wrong house.

Chad Lutzke gives us “Vigil.” Different folks are probably going to have different favorites in a collection like Doorbells at Dusk. “Vigil” was one of mine from the collection. This tale is absolutely realistic, and maybe that’s why it creeped me out so much. I could easily put myself into the narrator’s shoes.

Gregor Xane gives us “Mr. Impossible.” A fun block party takes a turn for the worse. The last half of the story is visceral and relentless.

Ian Welke gives us “Between,” one of the atmospheric tales in the collection. The main character, Yolanda, has a fascination with mathematical forms, and with hallucinogenics. Definitely a character driven story.

“The Friendly Man” by Thomas Vaughn is up next, and I’m going to give this one a slight edge as my favorite piece in the collection. Gory for sure, but with a real underlying creep factor. The ending kept me thinking about the story long after it was over.

Sean Eads and Joshua Viola are up next with “Many Carvings,” (another great title.) Another atmospheric tale. Full of creepiness. If you raise an army of children to do your bidding, what happens when they take the reins in their own hands?

“Trick ‘em All,” by Adam Light is next. Travis is relegated by his parents to manning the candy dish for Halloween. He has other plans, and it begins with carving a secret pumpkin, a pumpkin with a secret of its own. Really strong ending to this one.

“Offerings,” by Joanna Koch is up next. This one is just fantastically creepy. All of us adults know how strange little children can be. We were like that when we were children. But the kids in this story have a little more strangeness than most.

The final story in the anthology is “Masks,” by Lisa Lepovetsky. No one can leave the party until the last guest arrives. That’s when the fun begins! I thought this was a good strong choice to end the anthology with.

Each of the stories in Doorbells at Dusk offered an interesting take on the horrors of Halloween. I read one story a day and was thus able to really milk each one for all it had to offer. I recommend that process to you as well, and I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed in Doorbells at Dusk.  

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Twilight Echoes #1

So, let me drop this casually on you. I’m in a magazine with Robert E. Howard. You might respond with, “Robert E. Howard died quite a long time ago.” Yes. Yes, he did. But his stories live on. And one of his living stories has just been reprinted in Twilight Echoes #1, from Carnelian Press, edited by Steve Dilks. And it so happens that my own story, “A Whisper in Ashes” is also to be found in the same magazine. It makes me a little giddy.

There are stories by two other writers in the mag as well, and plenty of great illustrations, so let me give my brief review here. First up we have my own story, “A Whisper in Ashes.” This is the first tale I completed about a character I call Krieg. Krieg is not a pastiche of any previous sword & sorcery character out there, but his development was certainly influenced by Karl Edward Wagner’s stories of “Kane,” and Howard’s tales of “Kull.” One difference is that nothing is revealed here, or in the first few stories, about Krieg’s origins. We don’t know where he came from and no one will until some of the later stories in the series. So far, only three tales are complete. The second one, “Where all the Souls are Hollow” was recently published in the anthology Unsheathed. The third one, “The Rotted Land,” is ready to be sent out. And two more are in partial stages of completion.

The second story in the magazine is “Bride of the Swamp God” by Davide Mana. I’ve not been familiar with Mana’s work but intend to change that. We’ve got strong characters in Aculeo, a Roman legionary, and Amunet, the daughter of a sorcerer who seeks her own power. Twists and turns and betrayals abound in this tale of sorcerous bargains gone wrong. Throw in an elder god and you have all the ingredients of a great sword and sorcery tale.

The third story is “The Eyes of the Scorpion” by Steve Lines. I was also not familiar with Steve Lines’ work but this is an excellent tale written in an interesting style. For those of you know of Conan, you know of the quote: “Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…” To me, Lines’ style captures this kind of feel. Great atmospheric piece. I also loved the vocabulary here, which is something I always enjoyed about Robert E. Howard’s work as well.

Finally, we have Robert E. Howard, with a Conan tale called “The Vale of Lost Women.” “Vale” is not one of the better known Conan stories; in fact, it wasn’t published during Howard’s lifetime. These may be the reasons our editor selected it. The plot is very simple. A female captive needs rescuing, but Howard doesn’t give us that rescue in the way we think it’s going to happen. The tale certainly showcases the “vigor” of Howard’s prose. That’s always the word that comes to mind when I read Howard. There’s a “physicality” to his writing that is hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

These stories, along with dynamite illustrations by the likes of Jim Pitts, Tony Gleeson, Yannis Rubus Rubulias, Kurt Brugel, and Regis Moulun, as well as a substantive editorial by Steve Dilks, make Twilight Echoes #1 a sweet little package. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, here’s the link you need: