So this is awkward.

I wrote a novella. I decided to self-publish it. But it really does feel like I told very few people about it, and, let’s face it – the greatest book in the world isn’t going to get much traction if you don’t actually tell me that it is out there.

This started off as a NaNoWriMo project a couple of years back that didn’t quite make it to the full 50k. But I was okay with that. The story ended up being as long as the story needed to me, and that worked for me. What I ended up with was a nitro boosted urban fantasy tale with a heart and soul of pulp action (no surprise there, really). Anyway, the working title was “That Old Black Magic” which I was never sold on for a title, and those people (un)lucky enough to read early drafts liked the story well enough… just not the title. Anyway, titles were never my strong suit anyway (with possibly the exception of BROADSWORDS and BLASTERS), so I went with two things that featured prominently in this particular story.

Anywho.

BULLETS AND BLACK MAGIC features a thief-for-hire, Blake, who has more than a little magicial mojo backing up his plays. He steals a book for a client, the client ends up dead… and well, the plot doesn’t let up from there. It also features cultists, vampires, a blind tattooist, and Angelic magic. I more or less stuffed it all into a blender and hit puree. Interested yet? You should be. You can grab a copy of it here:

Seems every few years or so, sword and sorcery goes and tries to reinvent itself, rebrand itself, see if it can’t get a new generation of readers and writers. As someone who has spent more than a little time reading, writing, and publishing sword-and-sorcery – I get it. There can be a sense of toiling in the shadows of giants (while also fighting against a general disposition to view swords-and-and-sorcery as some lesser version of fantasy fiction – more thud and blunder than literary, and maybe not offering much in the way of cognitive nutrition. Okay – but dammit, sometimes a body just wants to be entertained, and that’s okay as well.

Evidently – this concept of a New Edge grew out of a discord discourse about what could be done to help revitalize the genre, maybe shed some of the old tired tropes and predilections of the past, and help the genre move forward into the 21st century. They are hardly the only ones, but kudos to the editors for bringing more voices to the table. Part of the result is this, the inaugural issue of New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine. It is a decent sized volume, featuring six new pieces of fiction as well as seven non-fiction articles that any aficionado would do well to sink their teeth into. Some spoilers follow as to the fiction pieces.

Read more: Magazine Review: New Edge Sword and Sorcery #0

The Curse of the Horsetail Banner by Daniel R.A. Quirogue – A khan betrayed by his blood brother discovers that an ancient tomb has been desecrated, a banner stolen, and a curse unleashed on the land. What follows is a tale of curses and sorcerers and dark magic… and the persistence and stamina of the main character which may be his greatest virtue.

What makes this story unique (other than the departure from your typical Euro-centric Western fantasy) is the central character’s moral dilemma when it comes to the object of the quest. Does he take the banner for himself and assemble a host such has only been seen once before? Or does he return the banner to its rightful resting place and lift the curse from the land? It is this central moral quandry that helps elevate this particular story, and leaves the reader wondering what choice they would make in that situation.

The Ember Inside by Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams – Ymke, a writer, or at least a storyteller of one kind or another, is invited to meet with a like-minded individual- a one Sigismond, evidently because he misses the company of other “literary minded individuals.” However, Sigismond is less interested in sharing craft tips as he is to plunge Ymke into a dreamscape and plunder her dreams. What follows is an exploration of a life-not-lived, the alternative branch of choices not taken or maybe simply what happens when a coin lands on heads and not tails. How different would Ymke become as a result? While it made for an interesting tale, by the end I found the tale somewhat lacking. the way the dream scape worked, the way the story resolved at the end – it left me wondering “What are the stakes here? What is the danger? What does Ymke stand to gain? What might she lose?” While the ending, and Sigismond’s fate, did bring a smile to my face, the fact that at the end most of the story was little more than a dream left me feeling unfilled as a reader, and wanting more. I want to see Ymke in her native element, the way she is now, and felt like I received little more than a taste of that within the story.

Old Moon Over Irukad by David C. Smith – a pair of adventurers – Virissa and Edrion – agree to take on a commission. A simple enough job to escort a man to a tomb and stand guard while he retrieves a certain scroll from within. There is a twist to the plan, but it isn’t one that comes as any great surprise. There is a good sense of the weight of history within the story, of old secrets and older evil buried just under the surface. Virissa and Edrion make for a decent pair of rogues, and it would be interesting to see where else their adventures take them.

The Beast of the Shadow Gum Trees by T.K. Rex – An ecological allegory wrapped in a fantasy story, of how the only constant in life is change. Moth is an engaging character, as I am always intrigued by how writers handle characters who have prolonged lifespans, and who they end up seeing the world around them. It might be too bold to state this acts as a meditation on love and loss and the process of letting go… but there is a bit of that as well. The action, however, is muted, but it provides a different take on a guardian of wild places than what one usually sees.

Vapors of Zinai by J.M. Clarke – A tale of an itinerant wanderer, dark magic, old gods and foul demons – so you know this one is like catnip for me. Set in an analogous Africa, it follows Kyembe of Sengezi and how he comes to be employed by the Priestess Takhat to slay a demon. Clarke does a masterful job of setting up competing interests and factions through the course of the story and manages to give enough of a taste of the world (objects of power, gods and demons, named warriors out for hire) to leave the reader wanting to delve deeper into the lore behind the story. The final battle with the demon Kyembe is pitted against is appropriately danger wrought, and the resolution does not merely rely on Kyembe’s strength of arm, but also his wits.

The Grief-Note of Vultures by Bryn Hammond – What happens when a caravan is forced to take shelter from monstrous vultures? How do you battle something that refuses to die? If it is a curse, is it one that can be lifted? A great story where the main character, Angaj-Duzmat, gets by on her wits and her knowledge, and is able to carry the day, and where what seems like a just and fit punishment ripples through the years to create new atrocities. Again, there is a strong sense of a broader world and a consistent set of rules applied that hints to some deep world building by Hammond. However, she does a fantastic job of using it to inform the story, rather than hitting the reader with it.

The non-fiction pieces also deserve a special mention, with my two favorites being Cora Buhlert’s profile of C.L. Moore and Nicole Emmelhaniz’s deep dive into Robert E. Howard’s Dark Agnes.

This issue, as I understand it, was a bit of experiment to see if there was enough interest to support the idea. As a result, you can pick up the issue for free at payhip – link is below. The layout is well done, with plenty of illustrations to break up the text as well advertisements for other like-minded publications.

You can grab a free copy here.

You can also grab a dead tree version (paperback or hardback) at Amazon:

Out Now: The Tripper

Posted: June 30, 2022 in Uncategorized

I got share a TOC with some heavy weights in this anthology. My story is “The Demon of the Blade” which is what happens when Liam the Black is suckered into finding out what happened to an expedition to recover a lost treasure. If you do pick it up, be sure to leave a review, all right? Word of mouth and all.

New story dropped today in Savage Realms. And if you pick it up and think “Wow, I really hope there is more Reynauld forthcoming!” I have already drafted the second part of his travails, and well, I’ve at least started a word document for Part III. Anyway, “A Gentleman of Blades” started because I was watching DEADWOOD and was thinking what a fantasy Al Swearengen would be like. Only somehow he ended up taking on traits of John Wick, all with a fantasy twist.

You can find it here: https://www.schlock.co.uk/pb/wp_938b3718/wp_938b3718.html and kinda sorta ties into the BULLETS AND BLACK MAGIC short novel I’ll be putting out later this year.

Did you check it out? Let me know what you think!

(Wrote this back in 2003 for the now defunct DARK FUTURES website, where it came in 1st for their HOT DAYS CAN MAKE A HOT LIFE HOTTER contest).

I’ve heard some say winters are the worst around here. The way the cold freezes your blood, the way people are found flash frozen where they lay down the night before, how food is scarce and everyone scrabbles for what little there is. Those of us that have been around though, us scavenger types, the jackals, we know the truth. Summers’ll kill you faster than winter.

Winters cold keeps most of the diseases at bay, keeps them sleeping, see? You don’t get as much type two cholera, or  rampant dysentery, or whatever that new bug the speakers on the police drones are blasting on about. Take today, for instance. The speakers are warning that Mandarin Monkey-pox has been documented in quadrant B. Sure. That’s fine and all. That just means that one of the hospitals in Quadrant B has documented it. Know what that means for us down here, where there aren’t hospitals and you might get lucky and get into the clinic once a year? Yeah, it means that Monkey-Pox is in Quadrants B, C, D, F and probably all the way through Z. And they don’t bother telling you how not to get it. Some of them you get by eating the wrong thing, or fucking the wrong person, or breathing in the wrong air. Speaking of eating, its early, so I better go get my grub on.

Yeah, picking through the garbage is a before the sun is up kind of job. In the winter, it don’t matter so much. It stays cold enough, dry enough, the rot takes a while to set in. This time of year though, you better be up and out quick if you’re picking through the rich folks garbage for a hint of fresh veg, maybe a bit of gristle that’s gone unnoticed. Wait too long, and you’ll be battling bloated flies big as your head, and those rats the size of a two year old that have been popping up more and more. Then you’ve got to worry about what the garbage might have been sprayed with. I’ve heard the rich have started dousing their scraps. Maybe with something to keep us jackals sterile, maybe to spread the Monkey-pox. Maybe Monkey-Pox doesn’t come from Mandara after all, wherever that is, but its another form of control.

Here’s the other thing about summers down here on the ass end of the city. It gets hot, and it stays hot. Sure, we might not have to worry about getting burned directly by that big yellow bitch in the sky, but she heats up the air down here, makes it like an oven. All that concrete and steel up top, it traps it down here with us. Cooking us. Roasting us. Making the air so thick you’ve got to cut it with a knife.

So welcome to the slums. Welcome to the Oven. Pray that you make it to winter, because at least then you might get some peace.

Captain Gaveston sat in his cabin, slumped forward in his chair, his bloodshot eyes fixed on the chart spread across the stained and scarred table. His right hand was planted on a rune inscribed skull, his left on crystal globe, the interior swirling with a purple cloud. His greying black locks fell to his shoulders, and his eyes had the wide manic stare of the fanatic. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept or the last time he’d set foot on land that wasn’t surrounded by water.

Artwork created using Wombo.

The cabin door crashed open and First Mate Ningle lurched into the cabin, dragging the wreck of his leg behind him.

“Captain, we’ve nearly caught them.”

He slurred his words, the result of the right side of his face being a melted ruin, the eye clouded over and unseeing. His left leg was nothing more than bone and a few dangling scraps of sinew. How long ago had he died? How long since Gaveston had bound his departing soul to the remains of his corpse? He felt like if he could remember he could solve the puzzle to his own continued existence. Ningle had been the first he had dragged back beyond the Black Veil. He had not been the last.

“Caught who, Ningle?”

Ningle dragged one ragged finger against his cheek. A bit of rotting flesh hit the floor with a wet slap. “Our… prey, Captain. The one you set us on the trail of.”

“Did I?” Gaveston stared down at the chart, stared at the small ships moving across it, the storm bank approaching from the east. If they put all the sails out, if they had a bit of luck, they’d catch their pursuers as the storm hit. Gaveston frowned. Something about that should bother him more than it did, a memory gnawing away like a mouse in the hardtack. “Yes. I did.” He felt a pull, like a steady hand on the rudder of his soul.

“More sail, Ningle. We’ll need to fly like the dead to catch them but catch them we shall.”

“Do I tell the crew to beat to quarters?”

“No need yet,” Gaveston replied. He looked up and stared at Ningle. He could see moonlight streaming through the hole in his chest where his heart should have been. “Wait until we’re within sight of the ship.”

How long had they pursued this particular vessel? How many days and months and years? Wind whipped through the cracked and warped planks of the vessel, as dead as the men that crewed her and as seemingly oblivious to the fact, still slicing through waves and weathering storms, still bending to the will of its master.

He stared down at the chart, watched as the gap between the ships grew ever closer. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he could hear the crack of thunder echoing across the water when Ningle opened the door to the cabin once more.

“We’re in sight of them Captain.”

“Beat to arms, Ningle. Ready the guns.”

“Are we taking prisoners?”

Gaveston locked his feverish gaze on Ningle’s one good eye. “Bring me the captain. I don’t care about the rest.”

“Aye Captain.”

Gaveston stared down at the map, heard the thunder grow closer, heard the calls for sails to be furled. The long guns boomed. The other ship returned fire, one shot crashing through the rotted wood of his cabin and revealing the storm-tossed sky outside. Gaveston kept both hands fixed on skull and globe, his will holding ship and crew steady. The wall knit itself back together, an ugly scar running along the hull, another scar to mark their damned passage.

There was a sudden crash as the ships came together, and he could hear the shouts from the crew they pursued. His own band of cutthroats didn’t utter a sound. No need to talk when you were dead. He wasn’t sure how Ningle communicated to the rest of the crew, and he realized that such a triviality didn’t interest him. The sound of steel clashing on steel rang out, muffled only by the sound of thunder and the piteous groaning of the ship’s timber.

Then all fell silent.  

Ningle reentered the cabin, pushing the enemy captain in front of him. The captain’s coat was torn, and he bled from a gash in his forehead.

“Casualties, Mr. Ningle?” Gaveston asked.

“Six of ours are no longer fit to fight sir, but we were able to take sixteen of theirs in turn. Figure half will be fit to fight again, Captain. The others will suit as supplies.”

“Good,” Gaveston replied, though he made the word sound anything but.

“Gaveston?” the enemy captain looked up, his eyes having trouble focusing. “Captain Gaveston? I know you… it’s me, Bentinck. We served together six years on The Scourge. Don’t you remember me? What happened to you?”

“Bentinck?” Gaveston blinked at the man before him, something vaguely familiar about the shape of his face, the sound of his voice, but he couldn’t quite place it. A baleful green light shone in Ningle’s ruined eye. “I… I don’t remember.”

“We thought you dead, lost at sea five years ago. Is this… is this The Golden Storm?”

Ningle cuffed Bentinck across the back of the head, sending him sprawling to the floor. “This isn’t The Golden Storm, it’s The Blood Abandoned. You understand?”

“Mr. Ningle.”

“Apologies, Captain,” Ningle replied, tipping an imaginary cap. “I overstepped my bounds.”

“Yes, well, make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“What do you want done with him, sir?”

Gaveston looked down at Bentinck, but all he saw was a pile of squirming, bleeding meat. And there was other prey to catch.

“Dispose of it,” he replied. Staring down at the chart, his eyes fixed on another small moving dot. Another ship. He felt his soul called to pursue.

“Cut ties to the other ship, Mr. Ningle. We have prey to catch.”

(A bit of flash fiction I drafted for an open call. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut, so I decided to put it here instead for you to enjoy. Artwork created via wombo.art where you feed an AI words and it generates art.- MXG)

Anthony Perconti drops a review of my Fahrenzine “Limitless.”

Punk Noir Magazine

In the mid 1990’s, I worked my way through the foundational works of the cyberpunk genre. Neal Stephenson’s highly satiricalSnow Crash(and the follow up,The Diamond Age), Bruce Sterling’sIslands in the Net, RichardKadrey’sMetrophageand the works of William Gibson. It was the works of Gibson in particular that resonated with me. He was able to strike the perfect balance between hard-boiled crime fiction andcutting-edgetech (at least of the time). His fiction seemed set in our world, but to borrow a phrase,”20 minutes into the future.” Take the opening lines of “Johnny Mnemonic” for instance. “I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you’re crude, go technical; if they think you’re technical, go crude.” Gibson’sgenerous use of inserting name brands into his fiction, added an extra layer…

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Yeah, we’re opening back up for an anthology, sword-and-planet style.

Broadswords and Blasters

  1. What we’re looking for: Sword and Planet fiction. Think John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs), Flash Gordon (especially the comic strip, the early serials, and the movie – not so much the attempted reboots), and Leigh Brackett (Eric John Stark). Need more examples? Check here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_and_planet.
  2. Word count is 5,000 to 10,000. This is for a one-off themed anthology, so no serials. Stories should be self-contained, with a readily identifiable beginning, middle, and end. Don’t send us a chapter of your novel unless it can completely stand on its own.
  3. Payment is $40 flat plus an electronic comp copy, regardless of word length. If we manage to secure additional funding, the first thing we’ll be doing is upping the pay rate for contributors. Payment will be made through PayPal, no exceptions.
  4. Submissions will open 12:01 AM EDT (GMT -4) July 1, 2022 and close July 15, 2022 at 11:59 PM…

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Right, who let this site languish for months at a time? Oh, guess that would be me then, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the short of it is I have brand new novel* now available for preorder from the fine folk at Fahrenheit Press. Best description? It’s a love letter to a future that never was, the cyberpunk dystopian dreams of the 1980s. Think Blade Runner and AKIRA, with more than a bit of Gibson’s Sprawl and Sterling’s neon and rain soaked city streets.

Ain’t that a slick cover?

This started as a NaNoWriMo project of all things, way back in 2016. There were more than a few times where I thought it wouldn’t go much further than a couple of friends and myself, stuffed into a folder on whatever laptop I was using at the time, accumulating dust. On a lark, I sent it to Fahrenheit Press, figuring the worst that would happen is that they’d laugh at me and tell me “No.” Mind you, this was before I collaborated with them on the Ramones Anthology I helped them out with last summer. I mean, sure Fahrenheit is known for gritty crime and noir with the occasional thriller. But cyberpunk? No one was going to touch that kind of throwback, right?

Happy to say I was dead wrong.

It’s a pulpy, action filled book that I’d like to say keeps its eyes firmly on the characters and less on the tech. It’s the kind of book that I want to hook you and not let you go, and yeah, going to say it goes with my stripped down style.

You can preorder the book here and it is coming in paperback, ebook, and a limited edition hardback edition. Release date is 2/25/22.

*Yes, it is a little weird talking about a book I finished a first draft of back in 2016 as “new,” but welcome to publishing folks.