Opening Death’s Door

By Jim D. Gillentine

Back when I wrote my first horror/romance novel, The Beast Within, I had a very minor character in the story named KD. KD was brutally beaten to a pulp, then murdered, then thrown into the Wolf River.

This minor character was named after my friend, KD. It was done in light-heartedness just as a joke to rib my friend of eight-plus years at the time. But then he came to me, saying how many people thought I had done him so dirty. He actually seemed hurt.

So to make it up to him, I came up with the story of Death’s Door. In this story, I created the powerful vampire hunter character named KD. An ex-Green Beret badass through and through, I wanted to make it up to my friend by making him a hero. However, I have to say I still had fun kicking that character’s ass – in story, of course.

All jokes aside, A Night at Death’s Door is a fun action comedy that I wrote partially in response to the whole Twilight sparkle trend that was going on at that time. My vampires are uncaring, vicious creatures that view humans as a food source, and maybe a sexual source if you are that unlucky. They view humans as cattle, and are determined to dominate the world.

So who is going to stop them? My little band of one college girl, a guy out for revenge, and two former soldiers, that’s who.

I call my story an action comedy because I tried to put humor into the mix along with the flying bullets, throat ripping, and of course the “dusting,” as they called it on Buffy. I hope you’ll take the time to read A Night at Death’s Door. I think you will be entertained with the blood and laughs.

And always remember, don’t forget the garlic.


 

Janet left her simple life in Mississippi for the hustle and bustle of New York for college. At the insistence of her new roommate, Janet goes to Death’s Door, a mysterious and trendy nightclub, in reality the hidden domain of the evil vampire Jeanova. She is planning the Rising…a ritual that will give all vampires power to resist the sun, making them the rulers of the world.

In danger of being turned into a plaything for the Vampire and her brood, Janet is saved by a small group of vampire hunters determined to stop Jeanova at all cost. Thrust into a battle for her very soul, for the planet itself, Janet and allies she barely knows must fight their way through Death’s Door to stop the Rising…or humanity will fall.

JIM D. GILLENTINE grew up with a fondness for horror, science fiction and fantasy flavored with the southern tang of his native Memphis. His debut novella, Of Blood and the Moon, was published in 2009 and was runner-up for the Darrell Award. Other publications include stories in anthologies Cover of Darkness and When Darkness Sees the Light and a novella titled A Night at Death’s Door. His novel The Beast Within begins a bittersweet love story between a woman and a beast, which continued in Crossroads, published by Inkstained Succubus Press. The trilogy was completed with Heart of the Beast, published as a compendium by Pro Se Press. Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He is a member of the Literary Underworld and the Eville Writers, and is the biggest Godzilla fan in the western hemisphere. Find out more about him at www.jimmygillentine.com.

 

A fungus amongus from Crone Girls Press

 

By Rachel Brune

On March 19, 2020, I hit “publish” on an anthology of horror fiction.

Coppice & Brake: A Dark Fiction Anthology was the second anthology Crone Girls Press published, and it was also almost the last. Although there are many horror fans who dug into the genre during a global pandemic, it still wasn’t the best timing.

Still, deep in the dark void space that passes for my soul these days, I knew that if I kept publishing the dark, the creepy, and the liminal, our audience would find us, following the trail of moldy breadcrumbs to the feast of fear and terror that we’ve been serving up for eleven publications so far.

Speaking of mold, have you heard about what we have planned for our twelfth, full-length anthology?

So many stories to tell…

Our first volume of quiet horror, Stories We Tell After Midnight, Volume 1, brought readers a selection of stories I like to refer to as the anthology that would happen if Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark grew up and got depression and a mortgage. The stories within are a selection of tales that draw heavily on the tricks the mind can play on you, the evil hiding in plain sight, and the horror that can stem from the selfishness of a young child.

For three volumes, Stories We Tell After Midnight has followed the same idea as a series—find and publish the quiet horror, the terror that screams in your mind, even when your throat can’t make a sound.

For the fourth volume, we wanted to do the same—but different.

Mushrooms, spores, fungi…all the things that grow in the rot.

Thus Dark Spores: Stories We Tell After Midnight 4 popped out of our brains like a fairy ring of white mushrooms in your lawn after a suspiciously out-of-season thunderstorm. Carol Gyzander, my long-time writing and publishing colleague and now co-editor and associate publisher, joins me in this venture.

What inspired this, our first themed anthology? It’s hard to say, but when Carol suggested mushrooms as a theme, I looked around my kitchen, saw just how many mushroom-emblazoned items I had on the counter (I mean, who can resist a coffee mug with a mushroom on it? Definitely not me!) and said: “Of course!”

Like many small presses, we are endeavoring to invite people to become part of the project by chipping in through a Kickstarter campaign. This will allow us to offer not just your regular pre-orders, but also prizes and rewards like a mid-campaign backers’ Zoom party, with author readings and door prizes. If you like eating mushrooms as much as reading about them, we have a kitchen witch cooking up a custom recipe, which she will share through a Zoom cooking lesson.

And the authors within these pages? How do these names sound? Nicholas Kaufmann, Gabino Iglesias, Randee Dawn, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Gwendolyn Kiste—and those are just the authors we’ve announced so far! Tomorrow (May 14th) we will announce another slate of writers we love who have agreed to share their fungus—er, their fungus stories—with us.

In addition to the stories, a number of authors are contributing some rewards of their own. We have several books for your TBR pile, as well as the chance to die a grisly death (or, roll the dice, maybe you’ll survive!) by Tuckerization in one of our other author rewards.

How do I get in on this sporiffic campaign?

Easy! Check out the Dark Spores: Stories We Tell After Midnight 4 Kickstarter campaign. We’ve got backer levels designed for people who like digital books, readers who like paperback books, and readers who want a copy of the paperback book but only to put it on their shelf because they read everything on their e-reader. Yes. We see you.

We hope you’ll check it out! And in the meantime, I want to give a quick shout-out to Elizabeth Donald and The Literary Underworld. She contributed a story to that very first Stories We Tell After Midnight volume, followed by another in Coppice & Brake. She’s been a supporter of Crone Girls Press since the beginning, so if you happen to see her at an event, tell her we said hello! (And then buy some books…)


Rachel A. Brune graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in May 2000, and was immediately plunged into the low-stakes world of entry-level executive assistantship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. Rachel served five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper. After her second tour, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her M.A. in political communication, and her commission as a second lieutenant in the military police corps.

Although her day job has taken in her in many strange, often twisted directions, Rachel continues to write and publish short fiction. She released her first novel, Soft Target, in early 2013, and other books have followed. In addition to writing, she is the founder and chief editor at Crone Girls Press and edits the Falstaff Dread line of horror fiction at Falstaff Books.

If only this had happened thirty years ago

By John McFarland

It looks like 2024 may be my biggest year ever. Early last year, German publisher Wandler-Verlag caught wind of my work through my association with T.E.D. Klein, horror icon, former editor of The Twilight Zone Magazine, and early champion of Ramsey Campell. Michael Schmidt of Wandler contacted me and asked permission to publish a chapbook featuring a story of mine and one of Mr. Klein’s.

Amazingly, my publisher rejected this idea at first. I managed to talk her into it, as the deal promised to make money for Dark Owl Publishing. Also, of course, it brought some prestige to her small publishing house.

Wandler produced the small book, featuring the most reprinted tale I have ever written, One Happy Family with TED’s story The Ladder. To my surprise, Michael informed me that my story was printed in a collection in Germany before, in 1985, without my knowledge or permission!

Five hundred copies of our chapbook were printed and they sold out. With that success and having purchased my story collection, The Dark Walk Forward, on Amazon, Michael sought permission to publish the collection also. Having seen illustrations I have done for my Bigfoot kid book, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, Michael asked if I could illustrate the collection too. That book will appear in May. He also wishes to publish Annette this year or next.

Like most writers, as soon as the first collection was out, I started work on the second. It’s looking like 100,000 words. Stories that continue the sad tale of Ste. Odile, and more. Each story has a title page with an illustration. It’s an old-timey touch that I like. I may do that from now on. The cover was done by the incomparable dark artist and native of Brazil, Gabriel Augusto and like my other books, I am satisfied that the cover is a real attention-getter. Blurbs have generously been provided again by the inimitable T.E.D. Klein, Dacre Stoker, best-selling novelist and great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, and Michael Schmidt. There is a lot of advance interest and the book drops June 1.

Getting your work out there is essential and sometimes it helps to know people, as they say. I am now friends with an Irish expat living and working in Seville, Spain, Joseph Dawson. I had happened across Joseph’s work online because he is a book illustrator in love with horror. His work is amazing. He contacted me through facebook saying he had read my historical horror novel, The Black Garden. He expressed praise for it a writer seldom hears. He loved it and said it changed him in some ways.

It turns out one of the houses he illustrates for is Zagava in Dusseldorf, Germany, who produces leather-bound, illustrated collectors editions of special books. Joseph asked if he could recommend The Black Garden to Jonas, the publisher at Zagava. Jonas loved the book too, Joseph is illustrating it and it will be out later this year.

Also later this year, possibly in summer, the sequel to Annette, entitled Annette: A Big, Hairy Grandma will be out too, as will my story The Testament of Cleander in the collection Alone On The Borderland from Belanger Books.

In my experience, the best way to sell these things are book fairs and comic-cons. I already have one under my belt for 2024; next is Beltane Bash in Champaign, Ill., always a good one; the Bigfoot Festival in Sutton, W.V.; Dark History, also in Champaign; a book festival in Washington, Mo. and various book events in Illinois and St. Louis.


JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010, and the story continues with Mother of Centuries. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.

Check out John McFarland’s work on the Literary Underworld!

Invasive Species, and the Suffering Sequence Trilogy

By Elizabeth Lynn Blackson

Invasive Species is the third book in the Suffering Sequence trilogy. Man-eating, shapeshifting daemons have infiltrated humanity’s systems of power. Their blood poisons the world. Against that threat, a clandestine group of heroes have gathered, but the more they face the daemonic threat, the more it infects them, until they are targeted for eradication.

Teetering on the edge of the supernatural, FBI Special Agent Javier Torres leads an FBI Critical Incident Response Group. In their midst, to his shock and dismay, he finds family and love. Special agent Sophia DeMarko, second in command, grapples with the fear of the demonic threat to her young child. LaTanya Jefferson, Marine-turned-Medic, has her faith in God tested. Madison “Lucy” Carpenter is thrust into the spotlight as the world watches her. David Pruitt’s Marine training prepared him to fight daemons, but never taught him how to be a father. Greg Tillman is trapped in a facility with other would-be scions of the daemonic overlords. He must serve them or be destroyed. Hannah Olson crawls out of the earth again, called back to life in service of cthonic powers. The daemon Tigrosa turns to confront her former masters. Joining them is new recruit, Vinny Bowers, ranger, tasked with eradicating this Invasive Species.

That’s the blurb. The plot in a nutshell. I don’t think it does a good job of saying what this book and series are ABOUT, though.

You want to know what my Suffering Sequence Trilogy is? A short passage from Invasive Species to illustrate:

Lucy paused, and took a breath. “I had nightmares, and I didn’t know what to do with all that… pent up… pain, I guess. And I thought ‘What if I was just honest? Totally honest.’ I didn’t have to ever show anyone the pictures if I didn’t want to. I never had to admit that I was a scared, fucked-up, ball of hurt and rage, if I didn’t want to. This feels more like a therapy session than an art exhibit to me, and any minute now, I kind of expect you all to start pointing and laughing, knowing what a fraud I am.”

That.

The nightmare scenario for me is to try to describe my Suffering Sequence Trilogy. Urban fantasy. Dark urban fantasy or urban fantasy/horror. The Dresden Files if it were written by Clive Barker. A d20 Modern RPG if Stephen King was the game master. A modern mythological tale. My own therapy session.

In the forward of the first book I wrote this: “This book is about a succubus and how two very different people have two very different reactions to her existence. It’s about the path to hell that’s paved with best intentions. It’s about poverty and property values. It’s about racism in St. Louis. It’s about being LGBT. It’s about art through the eyes of an underclass young woman. It’s about guns and blood, and splintered bones. Except, it’s not. The truth is, this book is about trauma. It’s about the horrible things some people have to do to survive. It’s about fighting demons, figurative and literal. It’s about finding self worth.”

It’s the story of a handful of characters confronted with humanity’s systems of power taken over by shapeshifting, soul-sucking, flesh-eating Daemons.

But that’s not what the book is ABOUT. For one character, it’s about faith. For another, it’s about losing faith. For one, it’s about finding self worth. It’s about getting the ‘gold ring,’ and seeing it for the garbage it actually is. It’s about the price you pay for doing the right thing.

It’s about the masks we wear, the roles we play, and the horror of rejection when people see beneath that mask. It’s about peeling the mask away, to see the truth underneath.

And, damn, that all sounds pretentious to me when I say it like that.

ELIZABETH LYNN BLACKSON grew up in a small town in Eastern Ohio, living on a steady diet of comic books, horror movies, and Stephen King novels, while playing D&D and listening to heavy metal. It twisted her into the maniacal creature you now see before you. While certain she was going to be a comic artist, life pulled her in a different direction, and she ended up in the St. Louis metro area, where she lives with her hubby and two cats.

Invasive Species will soon be available from the Literary Underworld! Preorder your copy now! 

The Fellowship of the Book

By Elizabeth Donald

I’m honored to share that I’ve been awarded an AWP Community Scholarship to attend the 2024 conference in Kansas City.

I was lucky to attend last year’s conference in Seattle, and I absolutely loved it. AWP is one hell of a conference, with about 25 panels per hour aimed for writers and writing programs. Think Dragoncon, but all books. It’s got a heavy literary bent, but there is also programming for commercial and genre writers, tons for poets and a LOT for the teaching of writing. And unlike the very white-cis-male spaces we find in publishing, AWP has more diversity in all forms than just about any other space I’ve seen.

A few of the panels I’ve got my eye on:

  • Social justice on the page: How writing and activism feed each other
  • Writing practices for neurodiverse and disabled writers
  • Mapping the creative and pedagogical terrain of community colleges
  • Breaking the rules on chapbooks: New approaches to an old form
  • Women of new fabulism and speculative literature
  • Be Shameless: Everything you need to know to nail promotion
  • Writing life post-MFA: Unearthing the realities
  • A turn of the page: From journalism to creative writing
  • Greater than the sum of its parts: Writing and structuring essay collections
  • The fine art of the craft talk
  • Writing the literary sex scene: Dethroning the male gaze
  • Show (Me) Don’t Tell: Missouri writers grappling with the state of their state
  • Ableism off and on the page
  • How do you eat? Writers talk plainly about funding their writing lives

And about two dozen others among the hundreds available.

In addition to the daytime panels, AWP really comes alive at the evening off-site events. Readings are everywhere, wine-and-cheese receptions and gatherings in dozens of locations every night until the wee hours. I made the grave mistake in Seattle of skipping the nighttime events for the first couple of days, thinking it was like a con room party: fun but skippable. It was only on the third day that I realized it’s where so much of the creative energy of the convention comes from.

In fact, I wrote a column on ten tips for attending AWP, which you can read here. Tip No. 3 was “The real beauty is in the offsite events.”

I strongly recommend AWP for beginning writers, established writers, poets, librarians, students, editors, publishers, creative writing teachers, memoirists… basically if you put pen to paper and/or teach others to do the same, there’s something for you here, particularly in academic and literary circles.

Having graduated out of student rates, I was very afraid I could not afford to return even though it’s so close to me this year: Kansas City is a mere four hours according to Google Maps, which always means five hours for me. The scholarship makes a huge difference, and I’m incredibly grateful to AWP for its generosity and those of the donors who kick in to help underserved, disabled and low-income writers join in the fray.

If you’re interested, check out the website at awpwriter.org. And let me know if you’ll be there! All adventures are more fun with a fellowship. Didn’t Tolkein teach us that?

Happy not-shopping-in-stores day!

happy holidays!

If you’re like us here at LitUnd Towers, you really prefer doing Black Friday from your couch, watching silly movies and drinking cocoa. Fortunately, we are all set up to help you get your shopping done without leaving that wonderful couch!

We have a few suggestions for your list. (You thought we might.) Can’t make up your mind? We now offer GIFT CARDS! Click here to pick up a gift card that lets your loved ones pick out some really awesome reading AND helps support small presses and their authors.

Remember that when you buy from Literary Underworld, you are buying from the authors and small presses directly, so they will get to keep much more of the sale price. Every little bit helps your favorite author keep creating those fascinating new worlds.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Literary Underworld!

All shipping is $8 flat rate OR free with $49 purchase!

 

Newer releases from the Underlords!

Coming very soon from Crone Girls Press: Tangle and Fen! On the European front, there are worse things stalking the battlefield than enemy soldiers. A laid-off ad exec’s second career takes a turn for the bloody. The halls of Shy Rock High welcome the Class of 2005—but why so few attendees to this shadowy gala? The stories in this anthology are the glimpses of the dark places between the forest and a dream. Tangle & Fen is an anthology of dark fiction, featuring tales from the borderlands of horror, speculative fiction, and the nightmare fears that linger even after you turn on the lights. Preorder your copy now for $15!

A Woman Unbecoming from Crone Girls Press includes stories from Rachel Brune, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Carol Gyzander, Jeff Strand, Michael G. Williams, Bridgett Nelson and others. Proceeds from this charity anthology go to support women’s healthcare.

A Girl’s Gotta Eat from new Underlord Elizabeth Lynn Blackson. Whape-shifting, man-eating daemons, succubi and more. Now available for $25! Then pick up the sequel, Old Black Water!

The Brothers in Arms series by Silke Campion includes eight titles of hot, flirty, sweet and dirty love stories with military heroes. Each is only $5 or get all eight for $35!

Lost Colony: Alliances is the first science fiction adventure from new Underlord Diana Morgan. Pirates, killer robots, adventure in the stars, all for $10!

The Sweet Science of Bruising by Angelia Sparrow. She invents vibrators; he batters men to a pulp. True love in a steampunk world. On sale for $12.

A new edition of A Night at Death’s Door by Jim D. Gillentine. Horror-comedy with a touch of romance at Death’s Door, a mysterious and trendy nightclub that actually cloaks the hidden domain of a vampire planning the Rising… only $8!

The latest Gorias La Gaul adventure from Steven L. Shrewsbury is Reckoning Day, as Gorias serves as regent to the boy king, protecting him against evil usurpers, a rising sorceres and a dragon made of water. Now available for $20!

Mother of Centuries by John McFarland returns to St. Odile, the haunted town of The Black Garden. Check it out for $13!

For the fantasy fan…

Music City by Sara M. Harvey ($15)

Banished from Ireland in the wake of an accident that snatched away both her mortal lover and her banshee voice’s power to sing souls to the beyond, Keela O’Reardon sets out to find the Oran na Céle, the original banshee song, whose power birthed the banshees themselves. The urge to sing is the very core of a banshee, and in Nashville, Keela does the one thing even more forbidden than dalliances with a mortal: she performs. In the spotlight, she discovers a new power to her voice. A power to entrance an audience. A power that others want. The strange Irish girl with the otherworldly voice is the talk of Nashville, but she’s not there to be a star, no matter how much a record producer wants to make her one. She wants to find the banshee song buried in a city without banshees. She’s not the only one.

Killer of Giants by Steven Shrewsbury ($15)

After learning that his sister is to be a sacrificial bride to Nephilim giant Marduk, Rogan journeys to Irem in the company of Elisa, a warrior herself, whose mother is a wizardess. With a horde of warriors in pursuit, they encounter many evils, monsters, and challenges to their selves and souls. Will the song of Rogan’s blood make him strong enough to be the Killer of Giants?

For the romance fan…

Heart of the Beast by Jim D. Gillentine ($20) tells the story of Andrew, a man with a beastly secret, and his horrifying journey with his love Angela from the dark streets of Memphis to the cold reaches of Alaska, from faraway places to deep within each other’s souls, seeking peace and freedom to love one another – if only the world would let them.

The Carolina Wolf box set by Sela Carsen ($7) combines Carolina Wolf and Carolina Pearl, two tales of werewolves and true love in South Carolina. Whoever said there were no wolves in South Carolina lied. Put a little grrrrl power into your romp in the swamp this holiday season!

Beloved Forever by Kit Tunstall is a classic tale of a newly-made vampire whose master believes she is the reincarnation of his first love, found and lost over and over for the last 800 years. Yours for only $5!

 

For the weird Western fan…

Mojo Hand by Steven L. Shrewsbury ($15) After a gun battle in an 1884 Peoria cathouse, one-armed ex-Confederate guerrilla Joel Stuart finds himself at odds with dire magical forces. He runs headfirst into an army of the undead, a demon guard, the persona of African god Damballah, and even finds himself beneath the lid of a coffin.

The Alamo and Zombies by Jean A. Stuntz ($5) is exactly what it says! Zombies at the Alamo, what else could you want?

For the horror fan…

Nocturne Infernum by Elizabeth Donald ($20) compiles the three books of the Nocturnal Urges series into one volume filled with heat, horror and intrigue. In this alternate Memphis, vampires are a dark underclass whose bite offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. Humans take advantage of the pleasures vampires can provide, but call them friends? Lovers? The strain between human and vampire grows as death rises in the streets…

Paradise Earth by Anthony Mathenia ($12) is a deconstruction of faith at the end of the world and beyond. When blazing balls of fire fall from the sky, a religious sect interprets it as the fulfillment of long-held prophecies foretelling the end of the world. The members flee to their religious sanctuary, believing that this global cataclysm is the portent of a new paradise of eternal happiness. Inside, one cold and starving man struggles to hold onto his hope for the future as the torturous night drags on and he struggles to hold onto his hope for the future. Limited quantities available.

The Dark Walk Forward by John McFarland ($12) is “riveting” according to Publisher’s Weekly! A collection of stories set in McFarland’s creepy Ste. Odile village through history, John S. McFarland has slogged through his characters’ woes and woven them into sweetly emotional yet acutely distressful tales. We as readers are forced to understand the pain, the despair, and sometimes the hope of his creations. We realize we are lucky to live in the era we do. We also realize anything can change to tear us apart. Is it fate? Destiny? Or do we bring about these changes on our own?

For the sci-fi fan…

Dream of the Navigator by Stephen Zimmer. For most, virtual realms, substances, and entertainment provide escapes, but for Haven, Cayden, Jaelynn, and Salvador, growing up in Technate 6 is a restless existence. A hunger for something more gnaws inside each of them. Discoveries await that open the gates to transcend time and space, and even new planes of existence. Nothing in their universe, or others, is impossible to explore.

Ace’s Odds by Sela Carsen ($10). Mkhai is a former soldier in debt to the mob boss who runs a glitzy, glamorous space station casino hiding a dark underworld. The only hand he’s got left to play is getting the mob boss’s daughter off the station… but Silbe is no pampered princess, even if her father is one of the most feared men in the galaxy. Embroiled in a desperate scheme to keep her family safe, Silbe must team up with a roguish smuggler who makes her want to bet on him with everything she’s got.

 

For the YA reader…

Moonblood by T.W. Fendley. ($12) Who wants to live a century before seeing the outside world? Not Ariadne. Restless and idealistic, the young immortal sneaks out of the Eves’ secret compound and finds the outside world more dangerous than she could have imagined. Cut off from her own kind and hunted by mortals, she is forced to hide among the Adams, the immortal sons born of her sisters. But the Adams have sinister plans of their own. Ariadne must find a way to stop them, even if it means sacrificing her immortal life.

The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill ($15) is the first book of the Steel Roots series. Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia. At least, that is what Papa Steel always told AB’Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it’s up to AB’Gale to find him. (Or splurge on the whole series for $40!)

For something shorter….

Setting Suns: Anniversary Edition by Elizabeth Donald brings a new look to her first collection, including a new story, new afterward and more.

A nightmarish fun house turned deadly.
A couple trapped in a futile journey through time.
A single baleful eye watching from the deep.
An assassin waiting in a snow-covered tree.
A toy that seems to have a life of its own.
A pair of soldiers trapped between death and something worse.
A tenebrous hand reaching out of the shadows.
These are the award-winning tales and terrors of Elizabeth Donald, writer of things that go chomp in the night. This new anniversary edition is being released 20 years after the first story was published, now including a bonus short story and the author’s reflections on twenty years of twilight tales.
In that space between evening and nightfall, between consciousness and sleep, the moment when the light fades and the shadows take over… These are the lands of the Setting Suns.

Side Roads by Rachel Brune is a Crone Girls Press title, and thus is 10 percent off this season. Clockwork fairies, arachnid mothers, the Carnival Ghost…
The stories gathered here take the reader on a winding trip down a darkened road as the battery in your phone slowly dies. The threads of this collection weave a tale of wrong turns in the early morning hours, of faded photographs that don’t quite fit one’s memory, of dying monarchs and has-been superheroes. In these pages, you will find the eerie, the grim, and the lost souls that wander the gloom. These stories were born of dark nights and cold drives and the certain knowledge that, as winter sets in and the nights grow longer, there’s more out there in the darkness than the shadows let on…

For the cosplayer….

A handmade leather mask is the perfect stocking stuffer for the cosplayer on your list! Branson’s General Store has a variety of colors in the simple $5 design, so be sure to indicate your preferred colors in your order!

 

STILL MULLING? THINK GIFT CARDS!

A Special Thank You

The authors and artists of the Literary Underworld are very grateful for your continued support. When you buy from us, you are buying directly from authors and small presses. As we celebrate this holiday season, we hope for a happy, safe and prosperous year for everyone.

Stay safe out there, and we will all see each other again soon.

You read all the way to the end!
Use the code BF2023 to get a discount on your purchase!

A Night at Death’s Door

By Jim D. Gillentine

I am proud to announce the release of my novella A Night at Death’s Door. It’s a little adventure that I wrote as a favor to my friend KD, who I used to work with at Kroger.

I had based a character on KD for my first novel, and I killed him in a truly gruesome fashion. Word got around that I based the character on him and he got several comments about how he died. He actually got a little bothered by it. So to make it up to him I based a character on him in A Night at Death’s Door. Now he’s a kickass vampire hunter, and thus a friendship was saved.

This novel is my take on vampires and I threw in a few laughs here and there. At the time I wrote this novel, Twilight was in full force and I wanted to write vampires that blew up in the sun instead of sparkle. I hope I succeeded in that, as I think this is an enjoyable romp through New York with fun characters and a fast action-paced story. I hope you enjoy it.

I also want to announce my short story “Moonless Night” has been published in the Tangle and Fen anthology from Crone Girls Press. The story takes place during World War II, and it was a challenge to write this story because I wanted to write a story with a man in love with another man. I had never written that type of story and I wanted to be respectful to the subject matter. A young British solider falls in love with his brother in arms, and finds that he holds many dark secrets about his past. Can love survive this knowledge? And what happens when it is time for the secret comes out?

——

A Night at Death’s Door is now available at the Literary Underworld for only $8! Tangle and Fen is only available in ebook right now, but you better believe we’ll have it as soon as it’s in print! Check them out and order for the holidays!

Witness Underground: Finding Creative Freedom Amidst Struggles

By Anthony Mathenia

I vividly recall the day I wrote my first short story as a high school assignment. Looking back, it might seem cringeworthy, but it was a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and I was immensely proud. Excited to share my creation, I showed it to my parents, who, in their concern for our religious beliefs, brought out a red marker and circled words like “lust.” That was my first encounter with the tension between creative expression and religious orthodoxy.

I was hooked on writing, and my dream of one day writing a novel began to take shape. But when I shared my ambitions with my father, he discouraged me. In the eyes of our faith, becoming a welder seemed like a more fitting occupation. According to him, the world was on the brink of its end, and such creative dreams appeared frivolous. This was how my childhood unfolded: creative expression was not encouraged, as pursuing art, writing books, or making music could brand you as rebellious, weird, or “worldly.”

During my later teenage years, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became a sensation, and it seemed like everyone I knew was picking up a guitar or a bass to learn music. For us, due to our religious background, these musical pursuits had to remain secret, confined to basements. If the wrong person discovered that you were playing and recording rock music, you might find yourself summoned to the back of the Kingdom Hall and counseled by the elders. Pushing the boundaries too far could result in exile. As a creative person, this was beyond frustrating.

However, the early days of the internet brought a turning point in my life. I connected with a group of Jehovah’s Witness kids in the Twin Cities who had formed an underground music label for JW’s called “Nuclear Gopher.” The indie rock music they produced wasn’t just good for JW’s; it was good music, period. Some of these band members were exceptionally talented, and they might have been household names if not for their religious community holding them back. Joining this group was a revelation, the first time in my life that creative expression was celebrated.

Life takes us on unexpected journeys, and many of us eventually left our childhood faith to rebuild our lives from the ashes. Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses comes with strict consequences; once you depart, even family members become unreachable, labeled as dangerous and devil-afflicted. It was a challenging time, but I was finally ready to pursue my dreams that had been put on hold for so long. I decided it was time to write that book, and NaNoWriMo not only provided the avenue to achieve that goal but also introduced me to like-minded individuals, fellow “weirdos” who supported my creative endeavors. Meeting people like Elizabeth Donald was a turning point; I was finally in my element.

Over the years, I’ve ticked off many items from my creative bucket list, with novels, comics, and graphic novels to my name. Most recently, I’ve ventured into documentary filmmaking. Today, I am excited to share “Witness Underground,” a powerful documentary I’ve had the privilege of producing. The film traces the rise and fall of Nuclear Gopher, shedding light on the pain of shunning, and illustrating the transformative power of creative expression to guide us through hardships and craft a fulfilling life.

The documentary is complete, and we are now in the process of securing distribution. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible with our heartfelt story. We currently have a Kickstarter campaign, and your support would mean the world to us. If you could share our campaign on your social media, we would be truly grateful.

This documentary is not just another exposé on Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a story with heart, soul, and a powerful soundtrack. Above all, “Witness Underground” highlights the resilience of creative expression to heal, inspire, and create a beautiful life.

Thank you for your unwavering support and friendship throughout this incredible journey.

ANTHONY MATHENIA is a writer and comic creator. He is the author of two novels, Paradise Earth: Day Zero and Happiness, Next Exit. In comics, Anthony writes Pretty Face and has produced Supreme Team, among others. He currently lives in the Appalachians and is convinced it is paradise on earth. Find out more here.

An infernal Ste. Genevieve

by John S. McFarland

 

As a kid in St. Francois County who already loved history, learning about Ste. Genevieve, Mo. was the treat in the Cracker Jack box. Even in my earliest years of elementary school in a small mining town that no longer exists, I was fascinated by the past. I loved historical movies, not yet suspecting how grotesquely inaccurate they mostly were, and reading stories set in historical times. I was a bit frustrated by how brief the history of the United States was, at least from a Hollywood-inspired Euro-centric perspective. We had no castles, no dolmens or Roman ruins, no walled towns and no sunny islands populated by sirens and Greek monsters. But then I discovered we had Ste. Genevieve.

I heard of it long before I visited it. It was sort of a legendary “old town” on the nearby Mississippi, a remnant of the French-controlled great river, the enormous diocese of Quebec from the 18th century. On my mom’s side of the family, there were old stories of an ancestor who was “raised by Indians” but my grandmother and her sister knew no more about the story than that. But my grandmother did know that I loved history, and feeling some vague connection to Ste. Genevieve, apparently, she and my grandfather took me there.

I was amazed, at age ten or so, that there was something so reminiscent, I imagined, of old Europe so close to my home town. A French town with 200+-year-old buildings where French was spoken, primarily, until sometime in the 19th century. There was also, when I imagined it, a sense of old world decadence out of place, out of time. It was a little slice of the French Quarter in southeastern Missouri.

Eventually I found out more about that mysterious ancestor. It turns out the old story was essentially true. He was a child of English settlers in Pennsylvania, age three or so, taken, along with his infant brother when his parents were killed in an Indian raid in the early 1750’s. The infant brother died of a fever soon after, but my ancestor, my great grandfather five times removed, survived with the band of raiders as they moved west to the Mississippi Valley. The group was on Kaskaskia Island on a day when the parish priest at Fort de Chartres nearby, Father Callet, was ministering to his second flock there.

Callet knew the boy was white, though he had little left of his English language by then. The priest bought him from the raiders for five barrels of whiskey and renamed him Hypollite Robert. Hypollite went on to become one of the patriarchs of old Ste. Genevieve and to father twelve children. Over time the name Hypollite was corrupted to Politte, which was my grandmother’s maiden name, she being a descendant of Hypolitte’s son Charles.

In my late teens I discovered the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. I was struck by how the fictional inhabitants of Yoknapatawpha County and northern Georgia in these writers’ work were people I had essentially grown up with and known all my life. As Jane Austen had found the whole world in a few counties and a smattering of families, so too had these American writers, working in a fictional field called “regionalism.”

My love of horror was at least as foundational to my development as was my love of history. In my mid-twenties I discovered H. P. Lovecraft. Here was a different kind of regionalism: an infernal one scattered with rotting gambrel roofs and cosmic terrors. One evening a light switched on in my head. I hit on the idea of creating a fictional Ste. Genevieve, an accursed, forgotten village with a dark history and tentative future.

I wanted to re-name the town. I wanted an unusual French name and oddly, I wanted the name to begin with the letter ‘O’. On many visits to the old graveyard in Ste. Genevieve, I kept coming upon the name Odile. That was perfect. Ste. Odile it was. I drew a detailed map of the town, keeping some landmarks that existed in the real location, and changing most others. Then I started thinking of a story, a dark narrative to cast a pall over my newly invented region.

I wanted all the classic elements of 19th century horror which I had enjoyed in my youth. I needed an ancient evil, a crumbling mansion, a forgotten village populated by a closed, unwelcoming citizenry. The result, after years of research and writing, was my novel The Black Garden.

The book was well-received. All reviews were good from the UK to India and beyond. The novel gave rise to a sequel, The Mother of Centuries, which resolved the life narrative of one of the essential characters of the first book. It also inspired my story collection The Dark Walk Forward, soon to be republished in German. At this moment I am at work on a second collection of Ste. Odile stories, Baby Monster which will appear later this year.

There may be one or two of my readers who wonder when I will move on and leave old Ste. Odile behind. It has happened intermittently. I am producing some tales now that have nothing to do with the crumbling village. Still, ideas keep popping into my head that include foreboding mansions, well-kept secrets and a cursed, forgotten old town.

 

 

JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010, and the story continues with the recent Mother of Centuries. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers. Find John’s work on the Literary Underworld!

Poe’s Dream Mag

By John S. McFarland

I have lived most of my life in or near St. Louis, Mo. And ever since I was old enough to realize that I actually liked being scared and unsettled, I have been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. I was surprised to learn, in recent years that there was a connection between the city and my literary hero, or at least one was in the making when Poe died. In fact, if Poe had lived another month or so, he very well could have been buried in one of the grand old cemeteries in the city which have been the last resting places of historical and literary figures for nearly 200 years.

When he died in Baltimore on Oct. 7, 1849, Poe was poised to move to St. Louis. There he hoped to realize his greatest ambition: the founding of his own literary magazine.

For many years, beginning in the early 1830s, Poe worked long hours for low pay, editing magazines for others. In addition to squabbles about his pitifully low salary, Poe also had frequent disagreements with his publishers about content, as well as the sporadic “irregularities” that were the result of his terrible alcoholism. Desperate for his own magazine, he issued a prospectus in 1840 for a periodical, solicited contributions from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell and others and began years of futile attempts to raise money and begin publication.

Poe’s greatest friend as an adult was Frederick W. Thomas, a novelist and government bureaucrat who had moved to St. Louis from Baltimore. Thomas encouraged Poe in his dream and agreed to contribute articles. Eventually Thomas began soliciting subscriptions in St. Louis for the magazine, to be called the The Stylus.

Somehow, the needed capital was always just out of reach, and Poe’s plans were further set back by his debilitating bouts of alcoholism and tragic personal life. In 1847, Poe’s young wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis, as had his mother and foster mother. By 1849, Poe’s health and spirits had greatly deteriorated, and the prospect of his magazine ever coming into being seemed far-fetched. Then, out of nowhere, Poe received a letter from the little northwestern Illinois town of Oquawka that offered him the prospect of realizing his dream.

Edward Patterson was a well-to-do newspaper publisher and admired Poe, and he had heard of the failed plans for The Stylus. Patterson offered to finance the project in Oquawka. Poe responded excitedly, outlining his vision of a lofty literary journal and predicting a circulation of 20,000 within five years.

More letters between the two men followed. Poe convinced Patterson to publish the journal in St. Louis, where Poe had support from Thomas and Joseph Field, editor of the St. Louis Reveille. Patterson agreed and arranged to meet Poe in St. Louis on October 15, 1849, to work out details.

His dream at last in sight, Poe began a lecture tour in the south to raise money and sell subscriptions to the magazine. Unfortunately, after a brief hiatus of sobriety, he resumed drinking and began experiencing paranoia and occasional hallucinations. When his tour brought him to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, he joined The Sons of Temperance, and became engaged to an old childhood love.

Then he made the mistake of visiting Baltimore, his home for many years, where he again fell off the wagon. It is generally accepted that Poe, who was possibly already intoxicated when he arrived in Baltimore, was plied with liquor by crooked electioneers and sent with other inebriates to vote repeatedly for a Whig candidate in a city election.

He was found delirious near the Fourth Ward Club, and died on Oct. 7, eight days before he was to meet Patterson in St. Louis.

Could Poe have made a success of The Stylus in St. Louis? In Some Words With a Mummy, Poe wrote, probably self-analytically: “The truth is, I am heartily sick of this life, and of the 19th century in general.” Many biographers doubt that in the 41st year of a troubled life, Poe would have had enough strength to see the project through. It is likely that The Stylus, like so many women in Poe’s stories, represented to him an idealized and unattainable dream.  

*****

JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010, and the story continues with Mother of Centuries. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.