Why not steal a horse? The perils of steampunk tropes

By Angelia Sparrow

I have a new book forthcoming. I just sent the proofs back Monday.  The Sweet Science of Bruising will be out soon from Purple Sword Publications.  It’s steampunk adventure with strong erotic content, mostly heterosexual, although both leads are bi, and Lillian is disguised as a boy for most of the book.

Lillian is an inventor of vibrators who is swept off to adventure with an itinerant bare-knuckle boxing outfit. In her escape, she essentially invents a motorcycle.

When I was writing this, our Fearless Leader, Elizabeth, asked “Why don’t they just steal a horse?” The thought had never crossed my mind. It’s rather like when Gabriel asked “Why vampires?” and I stuttered a moment and said “I’d looked damned silly trying to have a vampire apocalypse without vampires.”

Other questions were raised by early readers, including the feasibility of dirigibles, and why cities don’t have balistas on city hall if airship pirates are a problem. Those were tabled. (Answer, figured out much later: because Abilene is not quite that advanced or that wealthy. Balistas are used in Kansas City and points east, which is why the pirates prefer to operate out west)

But my point is tropes. These recognizable conventions in a genre are useful shorthand for readers, and save the author a lot of explanation. They are almost a visual or literary shorthand. If I say “They climbed the winding steps up the tower to the sorceress’ workroom,” you have a mental image of the tower, the narrow, steep stairs that climb it (always turning counterclockwise, makes it easier to defend), the room at the top with shelves and work tables, and bubbling huggermugger that will play no part in the story but sets the tone. Likewise, if I talk about the dusty streets with board sidewalks and hitching rails, a lone tumbleweed drifting along, and the complete silence, you’re either expecting a gunfight or a post-apoc western. And your mind supplied a saloon, a livery stable and a sheriff’s office without me saying anything.  Tropes are very useful.

Until you hit a beta reader who is not conversant with that subgenre’s tropes. (Which is why, if I taught creative writing, genre fiction would be covered in the second semester, when we address the tropes as well as the story mechanics)  Then you find yourself questioning your airships, your wizard workrooms, your FTL travel methods, why the vampires don’t just shoot the hunters and even your mechanized vacuums.

I’ve had to deal with all these questions from beta readers and editors.  They are good questions, even if they are annoying. I’m caught in the story. I understand it’s steampunk, so I’m expecting goggles, and airships and contraptions. To have a simple, non-mechanical solution offered might be throwing a wrench into the works. Then again, that’s what writers are for.

One reader actually questioned the gadgetry and invention, saying “people don’t just do that sort of thing.” I referred him to the photo of Mr. Daimler and the motorized bicycle and reminded him that the motorcycle was invented in four different places within three years of each other. And then I wrote this, to show that the theory was sound, even if I don’t have the mechanical skill to do it myself.

 

A rider used an up and down motion, pushing pedals around in a circle, which drove a small wheel connected to a larger wheel. It was a very simple machine. She visualized one of her preventative machines and its own simple engine.

A simple steam chamber, heated by the gaslights, drove a single piston engine. The motion went in a straight line from the motor to her toy. She regulated it by turning the valve as to how much steam she wanted. She really should come up with a several stroke engine, one whose drive she could interrupt to control the velocity of the phallus, starting it slowly and then letting it pound.

She reminded herself to borrow the pen from Turlough’s desk at first light, and make the note on her shirtsleeve, having no paper to hand. She didn’t want to forget the idea. That way, she would not be tempted to interrupt the escape for forgotten notes, since she would be wearing them.

Another cheer from the fight drew her attention back to her escape plan. The engine would need to be quite small as most bicycles were built for one passenger, not two and an engine. It still needed to be faster than a man could run and faster than a horse and rider.

She played with the design of the bicycle, trying to figure a way to mount the engine and seat the both of them. Turlough would need to steer. She would have to ride backwards and mollycoddle the engine along. It would be a touchy and temporary thing, but she could do it.

The steam would rise, but she wanted the stroke to move downward. The memory of a carousel she had ridden with her parents on a trip back east to St. Louis returned. The great steam organ in the center had moved the axles around and round. But the horses had gone up and down because of a bend in the bar. The same should work in reverse, with the up and down motion causing a round and round motion.

If she mounted that over the back wheel and hooked it right into the axle…but no, that meant one stroke would move the bicycle one wheel-turn and she needed it to go faster than that.

Gearing, of course. If one stroke spun the tire three times, that would be good. Especially if she could make the piston move faster than a human leg.

So, back to the original question, why don’t they steal a horse?
I’ll let Lillian explain.

She explained the plan in hasty whispers in the dead of the night. Turlough shook his head.

“‘Twould be easier to just take a horse,” he said for the dozenth time.

“Have you seen the horses with this outfit? Two of them nearly as old as I am and the others slower than slugs. Draft horses aren’t built for running. Besides, they hang you for stealing horses. Tell Wulf you want to try a new training exercise and have him find you a bicycle.”

“I can’t ride one of those contraptions, lass.” The admission finally came, Turlough sounding embarrassed. “Horses I understand but not those things.”

“That’s why you practice before I attach the engine.” She smiled.

To find out the rest of Lilian and Turlough’s adventures, and enjoy seeing scenic Kansas by motorcycle, airship and train, look for The Sweet Science of Bruising by Angelia Sparrow, coming soon from Purple Sword Productions.

 

Angelia Sparrow is a bus driver who lives quietly in the MidSouth. She has been writing professionally since 2004. Unofficially called the Queen of Cross-genre, she has been a finalist for the Darrell Award, the Lamnbda Literary Award and the Gaylactic Spectrum award. She has a husband, kids and grandkids, and enjoys a variety of handcrafts as well as writing. Web presence.

 

 

Slaying giants and old tropes

By Steven L. Shrewsbury

An old trope sounds like a creature that lives under a bridge waiting for billy-goats, gruff and otherwise. What is this I speak of?

“In the arts, a trope is simply a common convention in a particular medium. It refers to anything that gets used often enough to be recognized. When you see a kid running around with a cape and know they’re pretending to be a superhero, you’ve recognized the trope that superheroes wear capes.”

An old trope is like having a dragons, dwarves and wizards in a fantasy novel. It isn’t necessary, but they pop up a great deal. Like one’s manhood, it all depends on how one uses such a thing if it is entertaining or not. In my new novel Killer of Giants there are no dragons (lots of other monsters), a few dwarves near the end, and a couple wizards. I’m guilty of using such tropes, but not in excess. The dwarves in Killer make a cameo appearance at the end, and the wizards? Well, they are evil bastards as always.

I had Gorias La Gaul beat a few guys to death with a dwarf, literally used as a foreign object in Thrall. He was a jerk necromancer on top of it. If I have a dragon appear, they are something different, like being undead (in Thrall and Curse of the Bastards), and in the forthcoming Gorias novel Reckoning Day, made of water. The idea should challenge not only the reader to go to a new place, but the writer to create a different view.

I have never used a monster manual to explore monsters, the endurance of characters or the parameters of a world. Years ago, I had an undead dragon in a WIP and a friend said, “Oh! A draco-lich!” I liked the term and used it, but I didn’t research the origin of the term. In Born of Swords, we see a dragon that loves to feast on the dead, eating out of tombs cut in cliff faces. Why? I just thought it was cool. A fan once tried to say, “Well, I’ve heard that blue skinned dragons are eaters of the dead.” Well, yeah, sure, because I just decided this one was like that. Why? Thought that for the area, where folks were entombed about the cliffs, it was a good idea and visual. If I broke a commandment of some kind in a lore manual, well, I’ll likely go to hell for worse behavior than that.

Wizards are another thing oft appearing in fantasy literature. I try and shy away from the wizards living in a cave, wearing robes…but that image persists a bit. I confess to making wizards appear in my works, but they are usually not nice guys or girls. Probably a tad extreme, but I find that entertaining and hope readers do, too.

So I reckon I’m not on a quest to destroy all old tropes as it were. I do things my own way and hope folks will find it enjoyable. I’ve been chastised a few times about the salty language in my works. I’ll paraphrase the late Karl Edward Wagner when he was given grief about saying shit or fuck in a book. If a character falls and hits their head, I really doubt they screamed FORSOOTH! thousands of years ago. Did they say shit or fuck? Not exactly, but something close…that didn’t sound like the King’s English…which they also didn’t speak thousands of years ago, either.

I implore everyone to read. Read things not just in your comfort zone, especially if you’re a writer. If you love horror, read a western. See how different stories are told. Read romance. Yes, you heard me. Why? Well, they outsell horror for starters and one might learn something. I write a lot of fantasy, but I read a great deal of biographies and historical works. Some of these facts slip into a tale or augment a culture set in an ancient time. It makes things interesting, I’ve found, and I’m certain I’m not the only one doing it.

So, check out my new novel, Killer of Giants from Seventh Star Press. It’s a rough, rowdy tale full of grit and wild happenings.

In an antediluvian world, Keltos warrior Rogan emerges as the lone survivor of a battle. Slaying a Nephilim giant from Shynar, Rogan takes back the mammoth his folk gifted the kings.

Soon, warriors are sent to recapture the mammoth and bring it to the Lord of the world, Zazaeil, a demon in human flesh, and the Nephilim giant Marduk, in the fabled city of Irem.

After learning that his sister is to be a sacrificial bride to 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?

Coming soon to the Literary Underworld! 

 

 

About the author:  Award-winning author Steven L. Shrewsbury lives and works in central Illinois. He writes hardcore sword & sorcery, fantasy and horror novels. Twenty of his novels have been published, including Killer of Giants, Beyond Night, Born of Swords, Within, Overkill, Philistine, Hell Billy, Thrall, Blood and Steel, Stronger Than Death, Hawg, Tormentor and Godforsaken. His horror/western series includes Bad Magick, Last Man Screaming, Mojo Hand and Along Come Evening. He has collaborated with Brian Keene on the works King of the Bastards, Throne of the Bastards and Curse of the Bastards, and Peter Welmerink on the Viking saga Bedlam Unleashed. A big fan of books, history, the occult, religion and sports, he tries to seek out brightness in the world, wherever it may hide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time (drink)

By J.L. Mulvihill 

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, and empty hole, it fills. It comes first and follows after, ends life, kills laughter.

— Riddles in the Dark; The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937.

Here I am turning 55, and I am pondering the concept of time and wondering where all my time went. When I was little, time was a thing of infinite substance and seemed to stretch on. I was always waiting. Waiting to get out of class, waiting to go to the pool, waiting for dinner to be ready, always waiting. Now I am constantly running to catch up and time eludes me.

By the way, did you know this is article includes a drinking game? If you are trying to stay or get healthy and are drinking water, carry on, or if you are a connoisseur of the spirits, so be it, but every time you see the word time, DRINK! Also, if you are under 21 might I recommend ginger beer, which is my beer of choice and non-alcoholic, it has a nice ginger bite to it.

So, back to my pondering. I seem to never have enough time in my life anymore. There is always something going on and it feels like the days are getting shorter and shorter and time runs away from me.  I have no idea why this is such a problem suddenly, or has time always been my nemesis? Perhaps in the turmoil of recent events I just forgot how to time manage, or is it manage time?

Time management is essential to a writer. If you have been doing this for a while, then you know this; if you are new to writing, then you should know this. The management of time is not just being able to schedule your writing around your work and life, but also consider setting aside time for research and editing, which are an absolute must if you want to be a good writer. Then there is the business side of writing and in this you must make time for marketing and promoting. So much time goes into the career of a writer that it is hard to sustain a normal life. In time you learn to manage and juggle all these things, or you don’t, and you ride time like a wild turnip hoping you don’t fall off.

Every person, whether you are a writer or not, tries to squeeze more time out of the day. Why is this, I wonder? Have we become a society that bites off more than we can handle? Have we added more tasks to our day and then given ourselves an inadequate amount of time to achieve our goals? Are there really that many things we need to do or get done in such a short time or are we fooling ourselves? I look at the dishes in the sink and wonder if I should do them later or take the time to get the job over with. On the other hand, I could be writing or working on something else more productive in my mind. However, the dishes are still there and eventually they still need to be done, so what does it matter when I set aside the time to do them?

It appears we never have enough time to get everything done we set out to achieve. Time is passing us by, and as we get older time flies by even faster. Psychologists have discovered the reason behind this time-flying thing. Oh, thank goodness, a mystery solved at last. So, psychologists believe the brain forms more memories of new experiences than that of familiar ones. Since fewer new memories are built later in life, time seems to pass more quickly. Well, that doesn’t solve any time problem at all. If this is true, then the simple solution to that is to constantly make memories. Keep going, don’t stop and you will never see time get away from you.

Nonsense, you say. Agreed, the psychologists might be right on the concept of time flying by for us, but it still does not satisfy the need to get everything done and not having enough time to do it. This leads me to the fact that we ask too much of ourselves in our daily lives. This excess of tasks leads to exhaustion, and it is not time that gets away from us, but rather us getting away from time, needing to nap or work slower because we are too tired, or procrastinate.

Exhaustion is not a new concept and in fact every era has its reasons for exhaustion. We now say that modern technology has made things so much easier for ourselves and our lives that we add more things to do on our list expecting that technology will save us time allowing us to achieve our goals. Perhaps we think too much of ourselves in this manner. We tend to want to overachieve or prove ourselves better than the next person. I have written five novels but feel that I am so far behind the status quo that I try to do too much to achieve what I think is the expected number of written novels I should have.  If I did that, would I actually be writing good novels though?

This line of thinking always circles back to needing more time. But I can’t buy time, I can’t steal time, I find it very hard to make time, and I sense there is no way to invent time. Time is elusive. As a child I used to complain at bedtime that time was a made-up concept by humans to make other humans do stuff they don’t want to do. Especially Daylight Savings. That only confuses my brain more, and my body when it thinks it needs more sleep, and my cat when she thinks it’s time to be fed. What started all this time nonsense anyway?

Scientists have concluded, without my help I might add, that there was a beginning of time with the Big Bang, but as far as there being an end, there is no way of knowing.  In particle physics experiments, random particles arise from a vacuum, so it doesn’t seem likely the universe would become static or timeless. I am not sure what that really means except that we cannot obtain more time, nor can we lose it.  This does not help at all and only confuses the matter of time.  Or is time real?

According to theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn’t correspond to physical reality. He explains, the apparent existence of time — in our perceptions and in physical descriptions, written in the mathematical languages of Newton, Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger — comes not from knowledge, but from ignorance. ‘Forward in time’ is the direction in which entropy increases, and in which we gain information.

Ahh, so at last someone who agrees with me. Time is as Einstein says, relative, meaning it will happen no matter what you do or when you do it. But Carlo Rovelli says that time is an illusion, and it is not real. So, is time what we make it, or will it happen anyway? The subject is still under debate to this day. Reading all the articles and books there are on time does not give me a sense of accomplishment, but merely scrambles my brain.

I have as much the answer as anyone else. If you believe in time then you must manage it properly, put your nose to the grindstone and get your stuff done. If you do not believe in time, then you should be able to slip through reality and get a lot more done than the rest of us. Either way I think you should not push yourself too much, and just go with the flow. You don’t have to be too strict but instead riding that wild turnip, then maybe try and tame it a little bit. Give it a saddle and teach it to prance at a pace before you gallop across the desert.

By now you are either waterlogged or drunk, and if that is the case then I have done my job. I don’t suppose I given you any real answer to the question of how to have more time, but maybe I have entertained you a bit or even enlightened you in some shape or fashion.  These are merely my ponderings and the wonderings of my mind, and I am happy to share my chaos.

Cited articles:

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “What Is Time? A Simple Explanation.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/what-is-time-4156799.

Andrew Jaffe probes Carlo Rovelli’s study arguing that physics deconstructs our sense of time; 16 April 2018; https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04558-7

 

Though J L Mulvihill (Jen), is a descendant of Hollywood royalty, she relinquished her crown and rock star days to obsess over her passion for telling stories. An author of young adult fiction and an award-winning screenplay writer and public speaker, Jen dabbles in a variety of genres including science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, medievalpunk, horror, thrillers, and historical fiction. Her recent debut as host for the talk show On The Page with Geeky Side Network TV has got everyone asking, “What will Jen do next?”

To find out the answer to that question check out Jen’s webpage at www.jlmulvihill.com where you can also find her books and short stories. Or just type in jlmulvihill for all social media and you can catch up on Jen’s much ado on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You might just happen upon her sporadic foodie fest Jen Can’t Cook where Jen tests her hand at old style cooking.

Jen’s y/a series, Steel Roots, is based in the steampunk genre and engages the reader in a train hopping heart stopping adventure across a dystopian America enclosed within the walls of its own making. Follow young AB’Gale Steel as she travels across America in search of her missing father learning about the world around her as she goes, and The System that has a hold on its people. A story of love, friendship, hope, and the courage to fight back injustice. 

Jen is also the author of a y/a medievalpunk series, The Elsie Lind Chronicles. This epic adventure boasts of demons, dragons, and dark witches. From the strange and dark corners of her mind Jen has created an extraordinary fantasy world. Weaving Scandinavian folklore into the telling of the adventure of a young girl who is struck with amnesia and finds herself in the middle of an ancient forest in a world filled with mystery and danger. 

Not only is she known for her writing but also her public speaking, where Jen encourages other writers to hone their skills. Currently Jen is working on several writing projects including a science fiction novel, a thriller, a children’s book, toss a couple of cookbooks in there and some poetry, include several movie scripts, and Jen will never get any sleep again. Ahh, but it’s gonna be great!

Check out J L Mulvihill’s books on Literary Underworld!

 

Trans Day of Visibility: Monica Roberts

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
—Maya Angelou
March is Women’s HERstory Month and today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. In celebration of both, Underlord Denny Upkins is paying tribute to the life and legacy of one of the greatest superheroines ever: Monica Roberts.
Outspoken and unapologetic in calling out the racism, transphobia, privilege, antiblackness and toxicity of the “gay community,” Ms. Cannick, Monica, myself, Rod McCullom and a few others found ourselves in the trenches and were regular targets for attacks, harassment and even threats from white fauxgressives. Of course after series of ass kickings (online and in real life) later, when all was said and done, truth and history vindicated us—we were the last ones standing.

Old Home Week at Midsouthcon

It was a delight to return to Midsouthcon, in many ways a “hometown con” for some of the Literary Underworld. Finally back in person after two years of COVID hibernation, Midsouthcon also has returned to the famous airport hotel where it was held waaaaaay back in the 1990s when Literary Underworld co-founder Elizabeth Donald was in college and attended far too many literary panels as an aspiring writer, which she remembered fondly years later when she was a Guest of Honor at the Memphis show.

It’s also home territory for Jim Gillentine, born and raised in Memphis, and for some time, Midsouthcon was the only con he knew. Joining us this weekend were the usual suspects, including Underlord J.L. Mulvihill, the good folks at Pro Se Publishing and Dark Oak Press, and our newest member, Rachel Brune of Crone Girls Press! We threw poor Rachel into the deep end of the pool with a full LitUnd con marathon including two nights of the Traveling Bar, and she’s still speaking to us.

We also got badges! (We don’t need no stinking…) Underlords and Minions each got a badge identifying them among the LitUnd crew, and David Tyler received the one and only Henchman badge after all the many many cons he has done through the years. These will be upgraded to actual buttons when Management gets her act together.

 

Rachel meets Yorick, booth mascot lo these many years. She shook him and asked, “Why does he rattle?” Of course, we vets know that Yorick has had a screw loose for many years….

 

The current state of the Traveling Bar. Hm. I think we’re out of vodka…

 

Two philosophy majors found Jim at the party. There may have been discussion of Kant and Nietzche; the rest of us were too busy drinking.

 

Jen Mulvihill asked them to watch her purse.

 

The Literary Underworld Bouncers. Fear them.

 

It’s been a hot minute since Elizabeth say Tyrone Tony Reed Jr. and his lovely wife, and they got to do a signing together!

 

The inevitable signing.

 

Many panels were rocked, many books were sold, many drinks were poured, and Jim had a baptism of fire on the Dark and Stormy panel, which Elizabeth has sworn to never do again. We all had a terrific time, are thoroughly exhausted, and thank the con staff for their hard work and showing us such gracious hospitality.

Rachel says Yorick demands his own badge. We will take this up at the next staff meeting.

Welcome to Crone Girls Press!

We denizens of LitUnd Towers are absolutely thrilled to announce that Crone Girls Press has joined our cooperative! Some of us have already had the pleasure of seeing our work published by Crone Girls in its fascinating and creepy anthologies, and we’re looking forward to many more terrific volumes from this up-and-coming new press.

This coming weekend is our triumphant return to Midsouthcon after four years or so of missing out on the Memphis fun, and we’re delighted that Crone Girls publisher Rachel Brune will be joining us for the first time there! (That means Rachel also hasn’t experienced the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar. Shhh, no one tell her.)

We hope you enjoy the offerings from Crone Girls as much as we have, and look forward to sharing them with you! And now, a few words from Rachel.

 

In 2019, I sat down to publish a collection of my sister’s short horror fiction. When she sent a grand total of one story, I decided to recruit some of my writing friends who also wrote horror, and our first anthology, Stories We Tell After Midnight, was born.
With our first title under our belt, I decided to branch out and publish two anthologies in 2020. The first, Coppice & Brake, was a full-length anthology of horror and dark fiction with distinct Ray Bradbury vibes. Its publication also coincided with the Great Plague of March 2020 and beyond.
Even though writing, reading, and publishing horror in the midst of a life-changing pandemic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we’ve managed to put together a decent slate of horror anthologies that feature the work of authors from all over the world. In addition to the full-length projects, we began a series of three-novella mini-anthologies, Midnight Bites, the first of which featured the work of Literary Underworld’s own Elizabeth Donald.
So, what’s next for Crone Girls Press? We’re currently working on a sequel anthology to Coppice & Brake, titled Tangle & Fen. We have several Midnight Bites volumes scheduled for 2022, and are currently reading submissions for more. You can find us at a number of fan conventions throughout the southeast, as well as with the Literary Underworld.
And, finally, if you’d like to come hang out with the Fiendish Readers of CGP, come check out our Facebook group.
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As a military journalist, Rachel A. Brune wrote and photographed the Army and its soldiers for five years. When she moved on, she didn’t quit writing stories with soldiers in them; she just added werewolves, sorcerers, a couple of evil mad scientists, and a Fae or two. Now a full-time author and writing coach living in North Carolina, Rachel enjoys poking around former military installations and listening for the ghosts of old soldiers… or writing them into her latest short story. In addition to writing, she is a contributing editor to the Writerpunk Press anthology series, which benefits the PAWS no-kill animal shelter in Lynnwood, WA. She also contributed her editing talents to the Pride Park anthology, proceeds of which benefit the Trevor Project. She lives with her spouse, two daughters, one reticent cat, and two flatulent rescue dogs.

Twenty years of fever dreams

By Elizabeth Donald

Harlan Ellison once asked me, “How many stories have you sold?” Nervous, I flubbed the question, because the answer certainly was “far fewer than you, sir.”

My first short story published for pay was “Vertigo,” a weird Twilight Zone-esque piece set in the middle of a campus shooting. It appeared in DogEar Magazine in 2002, and while I’d played around with the freebie sites beforehand, it was the first time someone paid me money for my fiction.

Three years later, the amazing Frank Fradella founded New Babel Books and came to me with an idea for a collection. Setting Suns collected all my published short stories and a handful of new ones written just for that volume, and it won the Darrell Award for best short story and stayed in print for more than 15 years.

I’ve had several books go out of print over the years, and some have been reissued by other presses, while others have quietly gone on into obscurity. But Setting Suns is a book that many of my readers continue to cite as their favorite, and I have a particular fondness for the old girl. It was not my first book – that distinction belongs to Nocturnal Urges, an ebook released in 2004 by Ellora’s Cave Publishing – but Setting Suns was the first time I opened a box of books and saw my own name on the cover. Ask any writer about that moment, and see the look in their eyes when they answer.

While I was thinking about this, I realized I was coming up on my anniversary: it’s been 20 years since my first paid fiction sale. That’s a nice round number, and I wanted to commemorate it somehow.

Thus was born the anniversary edition of Setting Suns, to be released this spring. It includes a bonus short story and a new afterword from me reflecting on the last twenty years and how damn lucky I am to have the career I have. After all, Harlan didn’t ask me how many stories I thought about, or plotted in my notebook, or even how many I managed to scribble out over the last 20 years… he asked how many I sold, and that ever-changing number is due to your support and continued willingness to plunk down your cash for my fever-dreams.

I’m very pleased to be able to offer this book, with my thanks for the past twenty years. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed walking through its garden of shadows.

To add to the fun: I’ve recently gotten a handful of books back from a store that had them on consignment, and to my delight, there are three out-of-print rarities among them! I now have two copies of Dreadmire and one each of Setting Suns (original edition) and Blackfire to find homes.

So we’re running a contest! To get an entry, you should:

Sign up for my newsletter!

Subscribe to my Patreon!

Preorder Setting Suns!

Each of these gets you an entry in the contest, and three winners will be randomly selected to receive one of the out-of-print rare books, signed upon request. Spread the word!

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award and Mimi Zanger Award for fiction, finalist for the Prism and Imadjinn awards, author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire dark fantasy series, as well as other novels, novellas and stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld small-press cooperative; an award-winning journalist and essayist with more than 25 years in journalism; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is currently completing two masters degrees at Southern Illinois University Edwardville and teaches news writing, composition and editing at SIUE and St. Louis University. She serves as president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists and the Eville Writers, and is a member of the national SPJ Ethics Commission, AEJMC, Sigma Tau Delta, Editorial Freelancers Association and belongs to more writing and trade organizations than is healthy. She lives with her family in a haunted house in Edwardsville, Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. 

Preorder your copy now! Available soon at Literary Underworld. 

Setting Suns Anniversary Edition

Setting Suns Anniversary Edition

$15.00

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Let’s talk about love

By Nick Rowan

Let’s talk about love.

Love is what drives most of the books I’ve ever read. Love of country. Love of family. Love of ideals. And yes, romantic love.

I get a little bent out of shape when I hear fanboys grumble about romance has no place in science fiction. What are they reading? Did they not fight with John Carter from frozen South Pole to frozen North Pole of Mars, to win the incomparable Dejah Thoris? Did they not want Wife Soup right along beside Wash? Do they not quote “I love you”/”I know” endlessly? Did they not, for the love of Asimov, read HEINLEIN?

I am very much for love in science fiction. Of course, the new ways of figuring out the friction, what with zero-gee, advanced sex toys and alien anatomy are fun, but what sells the story is the characters and their relationship.

It is said the secret to a character is to make them want something, or maybe it’s getting them up a tree and throwing rocks at them. When you’re writing love, the characters are wanting the same thing: each other.

And such a wealth of rocks this gives us to throw: does one want more than the other? Does one want only their image of the other? Is what one considers love incompatible with the other’s needs?

I chucked a whole lot of rocks in my recently-published Master Anton. It’s the third in a dark future series. Anthony has been sent to Rome for specialized training. He’s separated from his beloved James, who has remained in the States. And every day is some new test or trial that he must conquer before he can return.

In the scene before this one, James’ identical twin, Ishmael, has performed his own test, one he does on all of his brother’s proteges. He impersonated James, to see if Anthony could tell the difference or would even care. The next day, Anthony calls James.

Anthony sighed. “Ishmael visited last night.”

James’ face went thunderous. “He did, did he? And what judgment did he see fit to pronounce on you? For he sees himself as the guardian of my safety and tests all of my people to his satisfaction.”

Anthony smiled. “He said I have his highest commendation.”

James’ eyes narrowed and he frowned. “Before or after he took you to bed?”

Anthony pulled back. It felt as though he’d taken an arrow through his chest. “I…I didn’t let him. I knew it wasn’t you when he kissed me. I mean, it sounded like fun, but without you for so long…”

He ran a hand through his hair. James believed him to be so fickle. Ouch. “Do you really believe I’d trade anyone who looks like you as though I loved only the man you show everyone else?”

James smiled at that. “All the others have, although to be fair, some of them had no choice in the matter. My boy. My own, beloved Anthony. I will be coming to Rome before the year is out. I can endure no longer without you.”

You can see how Anthony and James work out, and how love can improve, destroy, inspire and defeat the characters in Master Anton, available in ebook, paperback or hardback from Amazon. (Coming soon to the Literary Underworld!)

To win an ebook copy, leave a comment. We will select one lucky vict- er reader, by random number generator to venture into the Compound in Rome, where the Great Spider rules the whole world.

The other books, in order are Anthony Reprobate, Nikolai Revenant (undergoing some corrections to the ebook and being formatted for hardback), and Glad Hands—a novel of the DisUnited States. Occasionally, a short story set in the universe will turn up on my Patreon, which regularly features recipes and drag performances, tarot readings and writing, short stories and occasionally novels. And at the $10 level, a pagan subscription box: 2 handmade goods of pagan interest. (Although shower fizzies are non-denominational.)

Where else to find me? As Angelia Sparrow or as Nick Rowan.

So, take your local witch’s advice: Always throw split salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck and fall in love whenever you can.

Engaging With Stories of Disabled People: Interview with Alice Wong

By Dennis R. Upkins

One of the true joys of my career is that I get to meet some truly extraordinary and amazing people from all walks of life. These individuals are using their gifts to make this world a better one. A few of them, I’m both honored and humbled to consider colleagues and good personal friends.

Case in point: Alice Wong.

Activist, media consultant, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, and excellence personified, Alice and I first crossed paths during our time as contributors for The Nerds of Color, a few years ago. I’ve learned a lot from Alice. Not only in regards to disability issues, but also in terms of being a leader, a class act, and showing true solidarity with other marginalized groups. If you don’t believe me, you can always ask President Obama. In 2013, he appointed Alice to the National Council on Disability.

This year alone has been a milestone for Ms. Wong. She recently released a new book entitled Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century which is available now and appeared on the cover of British Vogue.

I recently got the opportunity to catch up with Alice and discuss everything ranging from the new book, her podcast, activism, to the power of storytelling.


Upkins: Alice, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. For those who are unfamiliar, share a bit of background about yourself.

Wong: Thanks, Denny–always fun to be talking with a fellow nerd!! I’m the founder and eirector of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. I started it in 2014 as a one-year oral history campaign to record stories by disabled people for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and it snowballed into a bigger thing. I have a podcast and blog, I published guest essays, and I edited and published #ADA30InColor, a series of essays by disabled people of color this past July for the 30th anniversary of the ADA. As a side hustle, I’m a research consultant. I also have a new book that just came out, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, available now from Vintage Books.

Upkins: For some, activism is what they do, for others it’s a part of who they are. How did you find your calling?

Wong: It took me a long time to be comfortable identifying as an activist. As a person born disabled in a world that was never built for me, I had no choice to be an activist as a means of survival. I had to advocate for myself and I didn’t see it from a larger social and political and social perspective until I was a young adult. Even then, as I became involved in the disability community in the San Francisco Bay Area I didn’t do it as my ‘job,’ it was an act of love and service. For the last 5-6 years, most of my activism takes place in my writing, media making, and through social media. People described me as a community organizer and I still wonder if that’s accurate because I’ve internalized the idea of an activist or organizer as someone who is doing things ‘on the ground.’ Over time I’m becoming more okay with it because I believe what I do is activism and that we need to expand our ideas of who gets to be an activist and what activism looks like.

Upkins: The Disability Visibility Project, how did that idea become a reality?

Wong: The initial idea came from my frustration at the lack of disability history, especially stories of current disability history and stories by actual disabled people. The DVP first started as a community partnership with StoryCorps, an oral history nonprofit, where I encouraged disabled people to come in (or use their app) to record a story. StoryCorps has an arrangement with the Library of Congress giving participants an option of archiving it there for the public which is incredibly cool–we can create our own history and leave it there for generations. As of 2020, we recorded approximately 140 oral histories since 2014 and that makes me feel good. I made it a reality by creating a website and using social media to spread the word. And it was thanks to the community who supported it enthusiastically.

Upkins: In recent years, Selma Blair garnered headlines when she disclosed having multiple sclerosis. In many ways, she became a face for disability advocacy. This point was explored in the book with Zipporah Arielle’s essay, “Selma Blair Became a Disabled Icon Overnight. Here’s Why We Need More Stories Like Hers.” Who are other significant activists and trailblazers in the disability movement who may not be as famous as Ms. Blair?

Wong: So many people!! There are so many badass disabled people changing the game. Here are just a few:

Andraéa LaVant, Impact Producer for Netflix’s Crip Camp and President of LaVant Consulting, Inc. I recently interviewed Andraéa about her work on the impact campaign for the latest issue of Break the Story, an online publication from the Pop Culture Collaborative.

Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW, a disability rights consultant, writer, activist from Winnsboro, SC, and the creator of #DisabilityTooWhite.

Rebecca Cokley, Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress who has been instrumental in advancing disability issues in the last several Presidential elections.

President Obama poses for a photo next to a live video feed of Alice Wong, smiling at the camera. Behind them is a large bouquet of yellow, white and blue flowers.

Upkins: What are some major misconceptions and beliefs regarding disability issues that you find yourself debunking most often?

Wong: There’s a lot and the bar is so low. I find myself repeating some of the most basic things but unfortunately, this is where we are. A few things I try to change regarding narratives and beliefs about disability:

Disabled lives are not worth living.

Disabled lives are filled with suffering, tragedy, or bitterness.

Disabled people ‘take’ and consume rather than offer rich insights, creativity, and innovation to the world.

The future is one where disability, pain, and suffering do not exist.

Upkins: For parents who may learn that their child may be disabled and have challenges ahead of them, what advice would you give them in terms of navigating the unknown and being the best parents they can be for their child?

Wong: My parents told me they cried when they found out about my diagnosis. The shock and sadness is real. However, I was still their kid and they expected the same things from me as with my younger sisters, if not more since I was the oldest. I hope they will center their child on what they are experiencing and giving them a space to be angry, non-compliant, and frustrated. I hope they will seek out advice from disabled adults from the community and learn about the possibilities their child can have. I hope they will also rely on their own intuition and feel empowered to not heed every single piece of advice from professionals who frankly don’t know everything and cannot predict the future.

Upkins: One thing you have reiterated over the years on social media as well as in the introduction of the new book is the power of storytelling and the profound impact it can have. Would you mind expounding on this idea for readers?

Wong: Books were a gateway to freedom for me. I felt free and believe that everyone deserves to be seen and heard in books and all forms of culture and media. Stories can give a glimpse of what’s beyond our individual situations and this is incredibly powerful for people who receive messages from society that they are not enough or that they don’t count.

Upkins: I remember a little over a year ago, you reached out to me because two very talented Black writers were attempting to share their truths about the anti-blackness Lupita Nyong’o endured for starring in Us and the white privilege of Netflix’s Special respectively. Both writers got backlash for speaking truth to power. Nevertheless, you wanted to make certain their voices were heard. For PoCs with disabilities, how much of a fight is it to simply be heard?

Wong: It’s tough because let’s face it, racism, anti-blackness, sexism, homophobia is real and no community is immune from them. I am always interested in dissenting or different takes from the media hype around things, especially from disabled perspectives. When I see Asian American or disability representation in films or TV I also notice a pressure to have to embrace it without critique because of how little exists. We deserve more than the crumbs and we also need space for nuanced perspectives. People can read the two essays, by Da’Shaun Harrison and D’Arcee Charington Neal. I also recommend this fantastic essay for the DVP by Vyoma Raman on the Netflix series Never Have I Ever.

Upkins: Covid-19. It’s been a paradigm shift of sorts on a global scale. In your estimation, has the pandemic brought focus and resources to those with special needs or did it do the opposite?

Wong: First off, let’s abolish the term ‘special needs.’ Seriously, in 2020, we can eschew euphemisms and be more precise on who and what we’re talking about–disability. I feel great ambivalence about what’s happened during the pandemic. Suddenly, as non-disabled people were inconvenienced and had things taken away from them, access miraculously became available despite decades of advocacy by disabled people for accessible classes, remote working, and online conferences, performances, and events. During this same period, we’ve seen a narrowing of access and services for sick, disabled, and immunocompromised people. The rhetoric around ‘high risk’ people as acceptable losses is straight-up eugenic and this clearly also applies to Black, brown, and indigenous communities. I am glad to finally see people realizing what systemic racism and ableism looks like in the ways that our lives are devalued and deprioritized when it comes to testing and treatment for COVID-19. This year I wrote about the shortages of ventilators and health care rationing and the invisibility of deaths in congregant settings.

Book cover for "Disability Visibility: First-person Stories from the Twenty First Century" in black text on a background of brightly colored triangles with flat light beige behind them.

Upkins: Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the 21st Century. How did this anthology come about?

Wong: Catherine Tung, an editor at Vintage Books at the time, emailed me in 2018 about whether I had an interest in editing an anthology and I told her YES and that I had a great idea for it. After several conversations, I was able to prepare a book proposal and find an agent to submit it. I am very grateful for this opportunity and had an excellent experience working with the people at Vintage.

Upkins: How were each of the authors selected? Have you previously collaborated with any of them?

Wong: In preparation for the anthology, I created a spreadsheet of stories I loved over the last 20 years and it was a matter of deciding what kinds of stories and being intentional about the kinds of people I wanted to highlight. Each piece is unique, personal, and powerful. There were many more I wanted to include and I have a section in the back with a list of additional reading for people to explore.

Upkins: I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading and instantly I was blown away. Each piece was textured and nuanced. Was this organic, by design, or a combination of the two?

Wong: Yes–this was all part of the master plan *evil laugh*. I wanted to challenge readers with work that’s substantive, not Disability 101 or aimed to garner awareness or empathy. I also wanted to show just a small sample of the brilliance of disabled people doing a wide range of things. These contributors all have something to say and putting them together side-by-side was strategic. There are heavier, serious pieces, there are lighter pieces. Some are long while others are short and there is a wide range of writing styles which is important to me. There is a free plain language version of Disability Visibility and a discussion guide on my website if people are interested. Both are written by disabled writers, Sara Luterman and Naomi Ortiz respectively.

Upkins: As a reader, I found there was a component I could connect with in nearly every story. For example, being Indigenous myself, Jen Deerinwater’s (“The Erasure of Indigenous People In Chronic Illness”) firsthand account of invisibility and erasure was all too familiar. Jeremy Woody’s plight (“The Isolation of Being Death In Prison”) broke my heart. When Keah Brown explained (“Nurturing Black Disabled Joy”) that discovering joy as a queer disabled Black woman incites rage, hatred, and backlash from others, that resonated with me on too many levels. Were these universal elements something you noted while editing the book?

Wong: Not exactly–I don’t expect people to identify with every piece but I hope there is something for everyone. I also hope that one does not need to connect to something personally in order for them to appreciate and understand it. This is the opportunity and potential–to share something unexpected and revelatory without preaching.

Upkins: A point that was reiterated in many of the pieces is that these individuals aren’t waiting to be “fixed” or “healed.” In an ableist culture, why can’t this be stressed enough?

Wong: Just the other day the asswipe known as Elon Musk was touting a brain implant that according to him would ‘fix’ all kinds of disabilities. People eat this shit up because it’s edgy and futuristic. People forget that it’s also hella eugenic and ableist. And ableism is always bound up with white supremacy and heteropatriarchy, so there’s that. The struggle (and work) never ends, but if more non-disabled people after reading the book get it and decide to push back on these kinds of ‘progress,’ it would be one of many ways to be in solidarity with us.

Upkins: What’s been the reception and feedback to the anthology thus far?

Wong: Pretty good! It’s a weird time to come out with a book but I think it’s giving people a lot of joy and comfort. I also think there’s a hunger for a book like this in the world for both disabled and non-disabled people. I am always blown away by seeing people post selfies with the book or sharing their responses online. One cool thing that I cannot get over is the fact that Disability Visibility was selected for the Noname Book Club this September! I died, let me tell you, DIED!

Front cover of Vogue Magazine: Black and white photo of an Asian American woman in a power chair. She is wearing a vibrantly patterned blouse, a mask over her nose attached to a gray tube and a dark lip color. The Magazine says "Activism Now: The Facts of Hope" in red letters.

Upkins: You recently appeared on the cover of British Vogue. Congratulations. That had to be exciting and surreal for you?

Wong: Quite surreal for sure! An editor reached out to ask for a photo and I figured it was for an article but either I forgot or didn’t realize it would be on the cover. I definitely felt like the odd one out in that group of esteemed activists!

Upkins: You and I initially met during our time on the Nerds of Color? In keeping with the power of storytelling, what fandoms and speculative media are your personal favorites? Which characters and stories were influential on your journey in becoming the individual I’m interviewing now?

Wong: Gotta love the Nerds of Color! Shout-out to Keith Chow who invited me to be part of the crew and write for the blog. My go-to fandoms are Star Trek (DS9, TNG, Voyager, Discovery in that order) and X-Men. I am looking forward to the new version of Dune because I loved the books as a teenager and am intrigued by it especially since the director, Denis Villeneuve, did a remarkable job with Blade Runner 2049 (Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite movies).

Upkins: So aside from promoting the book, what lies ahead for Alice Wong in the immediate future?

Wong: I have a few things in the works that I can’t reveal just yet. I am continuing with my podcast, publishing guest essays periodically, and continuing my activism with #CripTheVote on Twitter in the lead up to Election Day. #CripTheVote is an online movement encouraging the political participation of disabled people with my co-partners Gregg Beratan and Andrew Pulrang.

Upkins: Where can readers grab a copy of Disability Visibility: First Person Stories From the 21st Century?

Wong: Folks can find my book in paperback, audiobook, and e-book from major retailers by going to the publisher’s websiteMy website also has info on upcoming book events, media coverage, and other goodies about the book.

Upkins: Where can someone follow you and the Disability Visibility Project?

Wong: On Twitter, I’m @SFdirewolf and @DisVisibility. I can be found on Instagram: @disability_visibility and my website is disabilityvisibilityproject.com.


A picture of Dennis R. Upkins, a lean black man with long limbs wearing a well fitted navy and white pinstripe button up shirt. He's wearing black framed glasses and a warm smile, and has a black katana leaning against his shoulder.

About the guest blogger/interviewer: Dennis R. Upkins is a speculative fiction author, a journalist, and an equal rights activist as well as a long-time member of the Literary Underworld. His first two young adult novels, Hollowstone and West of Sunset, were released through Parker Publishing. Both Upkins and his previous work have been featured in Harvard Political Law, Bitch Media, MTV News, Mental Health Matters, The Nerds of Color, Black Girl Nerds, Geeks OUT, Black Power: The Superhero Anthology, Sniplits, The Connect Magazine, and 30Up. You can learn more about him at his website.

This interview was originally published by Yopp. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Black Friday!

What better way celebrate the holidays than to support authors and artists through these times and introduce your friends and family to something new?

We have a few suggestions for your list. (You thought we might.) 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.

For the romance fan…

The Carolina Wolf box set by Sela Carsen ($7) combines Carolina Wolf and Carolina Pearl, two ta

les 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!

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.

Princess by Mistake by Kit Tunstall ($7). What started out as the worst day ever just got worse. Incorrectly identified as her strange roommate, curvy Jory finds herself spirited away by an intergalactic bounty hunter intent on returning her to the prince she’s expected to marry. Except she’s no princess, and forget a prince when she could have the sexy, magenta-skinned alien instead – if he’ll accept that she’s a mistaken princess and give in to the desire simmering between them.

For the fantasy fan…

Born of Swords by Steven L. Shrewsbury. Interviewing Gorias La Gaul is a dream come true for young scribe Jessica. Unfortunately for Jessica, she’s found Gorias in the midst of an annual pilgrimage of sorts, and though he agrees to let her come along, it’s not without a warning: You may not like what you see and hear. Whether viewing past visions with magical gemstones or jumping into the fray alongside the barbarian, Jessica’s about to get firsthand accounts she won’t soon forget…and discover legends are far from reality, and just as far from being pretty. For most men, the future is not certain and the past is prologue.

Wild Hunt by Nick Rowan ($10). When the Preternatural and Magical Squadron dumps an ugly batch of child serial murders into her lap, DJ Admire has a few weeks to find the killer before the next victims are found dead in their own little beds. On the Nightside of Memphis, few things are as they seem and even allies have their own agendas. And DJ has no magic, just a Desert Eagle and an ongoing romance with Captain Morgan and Admiral Nelson…

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…

The Dark Walk Forward by John McFarland($12). The small town of Ste. Odile in America has experienced the Great War in ways that no one should ever have to endure. An 1880s schoolteacher is faced with the worst blizzard of her time and must save the children under her charge. A young man searches for his father the abandoned orphanage the older man owns… and both know they will despair at what they find. John S. McFarland has slogged through his characters’ woes and woven them into these sweetly emotional yet acutely distressful tales.

Stories We Tell After Midnight ($10). Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow. In this collection, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen.

Planet of the Dead ($5) by T.K. Reilley. Commander Kate Daniels expected to find incompetency when sent to assess the terraforming progress on Primos. She didn’t expect a saboteur to force a crash landing, stranding them at the mercy of the hungry creatures roaming the planet.

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.

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.

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!)

Redheart by Jackie Gamber ($10). Kallon Redheart lives with his back turned on his fellow dragons, on humans, and on everything he once understood. Riza Diantus is a young woman with dreams too wide to fit inside her village fence. Their unexpected friendship is risky in Leland Province, where Fordon Blackclaw, Dragon Council Leader, has inflamed tensions between dragons and humans to the brink of war. When Riza is threatened, Kallon is the only one with the power to save her.

For something shorter….

Moonlight Sonata by Elizabeth Donald ($15-30) is a collection of award-winning short stories of the Twilight-Zone-creepy design. Imagine a haunted church, where the ground has turned sour and something walks in the shadows to the mournful hymns. A silent covered bridge that no one dares to cross. Angry spirits that cry out from beneath the ground of a cemetery that will not lie still. Also check out Yanaguana, a limited-edition chapbook from the Blackfire series available for a short time only!

Coppice and Brake from Crone Girls Press ($10). A night guard brings an offering to the eternal denizens of a notorious prison. In a young girl’s room, the shiny people keep watch in the night. A proud father beams as his son takes the stage for the performance of a lifetime. The stories in this anthology are the glimpses of the dark places between the forest and a dream. They are the shadows seeking the last notes of a dying violin. They invite the reader into a world where a condemned man faces his fate over and over and over again.

Between the Lines ($15). Stoker Award-winning editor and author Michael Knost gave his online writing students an opening sentence and a closing sentence and asked them to write a story. Every story opens with: “Kelvin pressed against the wound as blood seeped around his hands.” And ends with: “Watching the train disappear into the night, he brought the flower to his nose before tossing it to the tracks.” This anthology is the amazing result.

Get three Nick Rowan titles in ebook for only $10!

For the artist….

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!

Like what you’ve seen from photographer artist Elizabeth Donald? Order any size poster or print at elizabethdonaldphotography.com!

A special note of thank you

It’s been a year of recovery for the authors and artists of the Literary Underworld and all those whose livelihood depended on the cons and book fairs and other gatherings that were canceled by the pandemic. As we celebrate this holiday season, we are always grateful for the support of our readers and fans, and hope for a happier, safer and more prosperous year for everyone.

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

 

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