‘The Weald Maiden’s Will’ live at Cast of Wonders

September 13, 2017

CoW promo 264My story, “The Weald Maiden’s Will,” is now live at Cast of Wonders, a young adult speculative fiction podcast.

It’s packaged with two other very short stories (dubbed “Little Wonders”) —  “The Best Busker in the World,” by R.K. Duncan, and “The Sherd,” by Ryan Shapal — under the theme of “lyrical beauty.” My tale is narrated by Pete Milan, a writer, audiobook narrator, voice actor, and audio drama scriptwriter and producer. You can also read along with the text of the story.

Cast of Wonders has earned some distinction in the podcast realm in recent years. In 2013, it won a Parsec Award (the Parsecs are an annual set of awards recognizing excellence in speculative fiction podcasts) and was a finalist in both 2014 and 2015. It recently joined the Escape Artists family of podcasts, home to Podcastle, Escapepod, and Pseudopod. These three shows combined have more than a quarter million downloads per month, and it will only grow with Cast of Wonders in the fold. This also means that Cast of Wonders is now paying professional-level rates. So this is my first professional sale (albeit at reprint rates).

“The Weald Maiden’s Will” was previously published at the online flash fiction market Every Day Fiction and later in the print anthology The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

Story Accepted at Cast of Wonders

February 9, 2016

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but now the ink is dry on the contract, so it’s safe to announce it.

themelogoA previously published story of mine, “The Weald Maiden’s Will,” has been accepted at Cast of Wonders, a young adult speculative fiction podcast market. This means my story will be read by a high-quality voice artist, recorded, produced, and then broadcast as a stand-alone episode sometime in 2017. How cool is that?

In 2013, Cast of Wonders won a Parsec Award (the Parsecs are an annual set of awards recognizing excellence in speculative fiction podcasts) and was a finalist in both 2014 and 2015. It recently joined the Escape Artists family of podcasts, home to Podcastle, Escapepod, and Pseudopod. These three shows combined have more than a quarter million downloads per month, and it will only grow with Cast of Wonders in the fold. This also means that Cast of Wonders is now paying professional-level rates. So this is my first professional sale (albeit at reprint rates).

“The Weald Maiden’s Will” was previously published at the online flash fiction market Every Day Fiction and later in the print anthology The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

Sumer, and Other Speculative Short Films

February 2, 2016

The other day, I stumbled upon a short animated speculative film called Sumer, a brief but satisfying tale of a desolate future, a boy, and the place that hope takes him. Directed by Alavaro Garcia, it has been showcased at more than 50 film festivals and, according to some sources, it has racked up several awards in the process (although I can’t seem to find a list of which awards, specifically, and IMDb.com only lists one nomination). Doesn’t matter — it’s worth watching with or without awards.

If you’re intrigued, here’s a description of Sumer from IMDb.com:

For unknown reasons, the Earth’s ionosphere has weakened dramatically during the course of the last century. All animal and plant species perished decades ago. All that remains is one small group of humans who attempt to resist the hostility and hardness of the external environment from SUMER, the last hive city in the world. A young boy, Hermes, lives alone close to the wall that delimits the city, an area that is highly guarded by the SSW (SUMER Security Watchers). While observing the desert from the roof of a building, Hermes suddenly sees something that looks a lot like a blue feather floating in the air…

Now, if you’re sold, you can watch below:

I’m not what you’d call a huge fan of short films, but Sumer intrigued me enough to check out some others. Consequently, I happened upon two Star Wars fan films that are quite good. One, called Rebel Scum, follows one of the Rebellion’s snow speeder pilots as he tries to escape the Empire and a frozen death in the aftermath of the battle of Hoth. The acting is a bit amateurish, but the special effects are pretty impressive for a fan film, and it has a nice twist. Also, kudos to the crew for enduring some seriously cold Canadian winter conditions while filming this.

The other, called Kara, focuses on an aging X-wing pilot and the young, gifted woman he’s escorting to a Rebel base. The acting is better in this one, and the special effects are beyond what is expected of a fan film. The desert setting, the costumes, and the spaceships are reminiscent of A New Hope, so it has the nostalgia factor going for it. But what sets Kara apart from the original trilogy (and in a good way) is the truly intimate fashion in which it is shot. The tight frames really help convey the relationship between the two main characters and the struggle Kara is enduring as she comes to terms with her powers. All it needed to bring it all together was some John Williams playing softly in the background.

Having found some good sci fi offerings, I’m now on the lookout for an equally impressive independent fantasy short film. If anyone has suggestions, please send them my way.

Book Review: Darrell Schweitzer’s ‘We Are All Legends’

January 25, 2016
We Are All Legends, by Darrell Schweitzer, is a collection of weird sword and sorcery tales about the otherworldly wanderings of Sir Julian, a Crusader damned by God for his sins. I read this way back in October, but I never got around to posting a review. So here goes.
According to Wikipedia:

The book was edited by Hank Stine and illustrated by Stephen Fabian, and features an introduction by L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published as a trade paperback by The Donning Company in 1981. It was reprinted by Starmount House in 1988, Borgo Press in 1989 and Wildside Press in 1999.

The collection consists of a cycle of thirteen stories, nine of them originally published from 1976-1979 in various fantasy and science fiction magazines and anthologies, with the remainder original to the collection.

I have the Wildside Press edition myself. I give it a solid B.

legends-cvr2It gets an A+ for the dark, vivid atmosphere that envelopes each tale — perfect reading material for October — and a C- for characterization. You never truly get to know Julian the apostate knight (or any of the secondary characters, for that matter), but the lands through which Julian travels are fully realized…and spectacularly creepy. This isn’t that surprising given that the book is not a novel but rather a compilation of a body of serial fiction, a medium that can make characterization more difficult.

I’ve seen comparisons of Julian to other ill-fated protagonists like Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane and Michael Moorcock’s Elric, but I see a major difference. In my somewhat limited exposure to Kane and Elric, I never came away with the sense that they possessed any conscience, so I could never really root for them. In fact, I just didn’t like them. Elric especially came across as a narcissistic, lugubrious prick.

Julian, however, clearly has a sense of morality; but most of the time, his morality seems to kick in too little or too late to rise above his obsession with escaping from his past sins to –and I’m paraphrasing Julian’s words here — a place of peace that is neither Heaven nor Hell. As a result, I think readers can feel for him a bit more than they can for a couple of devious, immortal killers like Kane and Elric.

‘A Bowl of Echoes’ Published in New Realm

August 11, 2015

NewRealmVol03No10My story, “A Bowl of Echoes,” is included in the August 2015 issue of New Realm, which just hit the digital magazine racks today.

New Realm’s stunning covers were one of the reasons I chose to submit my story there. They caught my eye, and I figured it would be a trip to have my byline printed alongside such impressive artwork. The magazine’s international distribution was also a draw.

But mostly I was intrigued by the method in which the magazine’s umbrella company, Fiction Magazines, chooses the stories that appear in its seven publications. From their website:

The company focuses on community power to keep the magazines running. The eFiction community of writers and readers volunteer their time and energy to produce the magazines each month. Instead of locking down the production and selection of stories to a chosen few editors, eFiction has flipped magazine publishing on its head. The company allows readers to volunteer to read story submissions and vote on them. The highest voted stories are selected, edited, and then put into the issue.

In addition to New Realm, they publish eFiction, a literary magazine; FIVE Poetry; and four other genre publications, which include Under the Bed, Nebula Rift, Heater, and Romance Magazine.

Individual issues and subscriptions for New Realm are available for purchase in a variety of digital formats at FictionMagazines.com (where you can preview the first page of each story), Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. I haven’t received my contributor copy yet, but I’m looking forward to checking out the other tales.

Review of Outposts of Beyond at Black Gate

August 8, 2015

outposts-of-beyond-july-2015-coverThe esteemed John O’Neill over at Black Gate just posted my review of the July 2015 issue of Outposts of Beyond, a magazine featuring short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in the science fiction and fantasy genres. The magazine, from Alban Lake Publishing, is available in print and a variety of digital formats.

I enjoyed most of the fantasy fiction and poetry in this issue. One story in particular, “The Weaverman of Askhan Bazaar,” by Joanna Galbraith, I absolutely loved. Beautiful prose, likeable characters, and an unusual setting. I’ll read it again.

It’s my first review for Black Gate, but I hope to find time to do more in the future.

Writing Contest Honorable Mention

January 19, 2015

Back in July 2014, I finished a short story for the first time in several years, and I began submitting it to some well-known professional and semi-professional short story markets. After a few rejections and some “close but no thanks” responses at some of the most competitive venues, I decided on a whim to enter the Writers of the Future Contest.

app-e2bf3e4e7b485b2eceda22f4d0833d4cThis is an international contest run on a quarterly basis and limited to authors with a few professional short fiction sales and no novel sales. Professional authors with very recognizable names judge the entries. Now entering its 32nd year, the contest has stirred a bit of controversy in the past, but well-known and respected authors of fantasy and science fiction stand by its legitimacy, and no one can deny that many of its winners go on to successful careers.

I recently found out that I received an honorable mention for the fourth quarter of the contest’s 31st year. Now, while there’s a handful of finalists and semi-finalists each quarter, there are typically quite a few more honorable mentions. I’m part of a pool of 140-odd honorable mention recipients from the fourth quarter, so I’m not sure if this is even an accomplishment.

That said, I’ve read that they receive thousands of entries each quarter from around the world. On the list of finalists, semi-finalists, and honorable mentions for this quarter alone, I noticed submissions not only from most (if not all) of the United States but also Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. That’s a broad range of competition. Looks like I’m the only one from Wisconsin to “place” this quarter, so there’s that. And I do get a certificate in the mail!

I’ve since sent my tale, “A Bowl of Echoes,” on to another market, so we’ll see where that goes. Another tale is in the works.

Home Alone: A Holiday Beating

December 11, 2014

I just finished watching Home Alone, always one of my go-to movies for this time of year. I think this film hit theaters when I was around 11, and it’s a holiday classic to a lot of people my age.

Pesci burning

Pesci burning up in Home Alone.

Since I’ve seen it dozens of times, I’ve probably been desensitized to the utter horror the two thieves (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have to go through in McCaulay Culkin’s sadistic little fun house. This time around, to regain some perspective, I decided to catalog all of the painful incidents. Here they are — all 23 of them — in chronological order, along with which poor soul has to suffer through each. It wasn’t easy to keep up with the steady stream of violence. Enjoy.

  1. BB to the balls (Pesci)
  2. BB to the noggin (Stern)
  3. Slip on concrete steps, back plant (Pesci)
  4. Slip on concrete steps, painful downward slide (Stern)
  5. Slip on door threshold, lands on concrete, crowbar to noggin (Stern)
  6. Slip on concrete steps, back plant (repeat) (Pesci)
  7. Clothes iron descends laundry chute straight to waiting noggin (Stern)
  8. Hand branded by scalding hot door handle (Pesci)
  9. Nail through bare foot on basement stairs (Stern)
  10. Blow torch to the noggin (Pesci)
  11. Slip on door threshold, lands on concrete, maybe crowbar to noggin? (hard to say if this is an exact repeat because it happens off camera) (Stern)
  12. Crazy-glued and feathered via Saranwrap and fan (Pesci)
  13. Broken ornaments embedded in bare feet (Stern)
  14. Slip on Micromachines, back plant on wooden floor (Both)
  15. Paint bucket to face (Stern)
  16. Paint bucket to face, loses gold tooth! (Pesci)
  17. Trip wire, full front flip onto back in hallway (Pesci)
  18. Tarantula to the face (Stern)
  19. Crow bar to chest (Stern’s failed attempt to kill tarantula) (Pesci)
  20. Crow bar to the arm multiple times (Pesci’s retaliation) (Stern)
  21. Rope to tree house cut, death-defying swing that ends with body plant into brick wall of house (Both)
  22. Snow shovel to back of the head (courtesy old man Marley) (Stern)
  23. Snow shovel to face (courtesy old man Marley) (Pesci)

Amazing Stories

February 13, 2014

Amazing Stories Amazing Stories was a television anthology series developed by Steven Spielberg that featured tales of fantasy, science fiction, and horror and ran from 1985 – 1987.  It was graced by some pretty well-known writers, such as Richard Matheson (I am Legend, A Stir of Echoes); a host of even better-known directors, such as Spielberg himself, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorcese, and Robert Zemeckis; and a gaggle of famous 80s actors, like John Lithgow, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Costner, Gregory Hines, James Cromwell, Mark Hamill, Jeffrey Jones, Jon Cryer, Christina Applegate, Christopher Lloyd, that guy who played the jerk Troy in The Goonies…the list goes on.

I remember watching these episodes as a young kid, and some of them stuck with me over the years, particularly “No Day at the Beach,” a rather dark study of heroism set during the invasion of Normandy and featuring a then-likeable Sheen.  I was extremely pleased to see that both seasons of the show have been made available on Netflix streaming.  Now my treadmill runs in this cold winter weather will seem to go just a little faster with the warm glow of 80s nostalgia working its magic.

Book Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

October 20, 2013

Book cover: The Scroll of Years, by Chris Willrich

I’ve been reading Chris Willrich’s short fiction for years, and I particularly enjoy his Gaunt and Bone stories. Their lyricism and whimsy seem to fill a void in a fantasy fiction landscape marked by dark, gritty realism. I love dark, gritty realism, but I can only take so much.

I’ve long been hoping that some gutsy publisher would buck the trend and print a compilation of Willrich’s Gaunt and Bone tales to sprinkle some dreamlike fable amidst our worldly fantasy fiction. Instead, this Gaunt and Bone novel arrives.  Even better.  The fantasy fiction shelves need to be stocked with more books like this one.

Willrich injects The Scroll of Years with the same gorgeous prose of his short fiction but still manages to move the story along at a steady clip. It rises to a pulse-pounding pace in delightfully entertaining moments of action and at times slows to a trickle to allow the reader to ponder a bit of philosophy. But it never stalls.  The landscape—described in precise, exquisite detail—is a character in itself (literally and figuratively), and the dialogue is witty and insightful. Through all of this, Willrich weaves his signature threads of antithesis and paradox. There’s enough depth and beauty here to make subsequent readings just as entertaining as the first.

Book Cover The Silk Map by Chris Willrich

He packs this all into about 260 pages, which is impressive, but this may have detracted from the overall story a bit only because it prevents the inclusion of more background about the characters. Gaunt and Bone, and some of the secondary characters as well, have fascinating pasts that readers can only glimpse. This is at once tantalizing and frustrating. Readers well acquainted with Gaunt and Bone will not be deterred, but those meeting the characters for the first time may miss out a little on what makes them so compelling.

I do hope this absence will urge them to read the next installment, The Silk Map, to learn more. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy (and I’m still holding out hope for that Gaunt and Bone short story compilation).