New: Coppice and Brake!

A new anthology from Crone Girls Press, including a new story from Literary Underworld director Elizabeth Donald:

I’m really happy to be working with Crone Girls Press for the second time, as they published my story “In Memoriam” in Stories We Tell After Midnight back in October as a reprint. This release, Coppice and Brake, is a little less horror and more dark fantasy, and includes a brand-new short story from me titled “Shiny People.”

“Shiny People” was actually inspired by a panel at Archon 2019, in which we all shared “real-life” ghost stories. I told the stories of Isabel, the woman who was murdered in my house more than 100 years ago, and how we can always blame her when something breaks. Like the living room lamp, the boy’s mattress, the spatula and measuring cup, just in time for the apocalypse. Thanks, Isabel.

But there was a man in the audience who told a story I found so creepy, so fascinating, that I asked him afterward if he would mind if I wrote it as a short story. He said that was fine, as long as I named the little girl after his daughter. I was happy to do so.

I hope you enjoy “Shiny People” and the other stories in Coppice and Brake. It’s $10 from Literary Underworld for a limited time only, and if you prefer the pixel-version, you can get it for $1.99 right now on Amazon.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay home if you can, and wash those hands. Let’s live to make bad jokes about this another day.

— Elizabeth Donald

Two new titles from Shrewsbury!

Longtime Underlord Steven L. Shrewsbury has two titles new to the Literary Underworld! Shrews, as we call him on the circuit, is famous for raw, powerful fiction in fascinating and detailed alternate worlds. He’s also famous for his readings, which can blow down walls.

His latest in the Weird West series is Mojo Hand, which crosses from Peoria, Illinois to the voodoo dens of New Orleans.

After a gun battle in an 1884 Peoria cathouse, one-armed ex-Confederate guerrilla Joel Stuart has new problems. A small group arrives from New Orleans to inform him that his old friend and fellow Missouri Raider needs his help… and that someone is systemically killing all Confederate veterans in the area. Since all in the party perished in the gun battle but the young lady, DeVore, and the law will be on his tail, Joel offers to just return her to New Orleans.

After the train ride, Joel quickly discovers the city in the grip of a voodoo game with Pap Bon Deux and his estranged mate, Maman Elizi. While there, Maman attempts to contract Stuart to attain an article for her from Bon Deux: the soul of Marie LeVeaux, famed eternal voodoo mistress.

Joel 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 other is new to us, but has been in circulation for a few years. Shrews returns to his roots in dark fantasy, but this time with a biblical twist in Philistine.

The Philistines, a mysterious warrior people known now for mainly one man: Goliath. The giant.

Goliath. A name grander than even the man himself. You’ve heard of his infamous end at the hands of a shepherd as written in a famous book, but what of the life of the man himself? What book tells his tale?

A warrior among warriors, the son of a god, a living legend. Goliath, the warrior champion of the Philistines. On the battlefield, he runs like a horse, wields killing instruments no normal man may heft, and revels in the fear his presence evokes. Off the field, his will is immutable, his trust invaluable, and his appetites unbearable. Goliath. This man knows no challenge.

But such a reputation will not discourage all men. Scheming rulers and generals, prophetic priests and powerful cults, dauntless warriors looking to make their own legends. Monsters. Gods. For one seemingly unkillable, at the very least, these things can ruin an otherwise pleasant day.

Along with his shieldbearer Abimelech, and soldiers more in awe than they are useful, Goliath will set out on missions for kings, face foul magic users, and walk in the shadows of mysterious halls.

History tells us Goliath died at the hands of an Israelite.
Goliath may have something to say about that.

Enjoy these and the rest of Steven Shrewsbury’s amazing and prolific body of work at Literary Underworld!

New anthology for preorder!

We are happy to announce a reprint of one of Underlord Elizabeth Donald’s favorite short stories will appear in an upcoming anthology from Crone Girls Press. 

Now, we know we’re not supposed to have “favorite” short stories, because they’re all our babies. But let’s face it – some stories are just more fun than others. “In Memoriam” features the return of Cat Suarez, the photographer who sees dead people. Apart from her debut novel, Cat shows up in a couple of short stories in Donald’s Moonlight Sonata, which is still in print and available in ebook too (hint hint).

Stories We Tell After Midnight is edited by the indomitable Rachel Brune, and includes stories from Jane Hawley, Adam N. Leonard, Christy Mann and several others.  

A changeling binds a young girl to a mirror and takes her place…

A salesman pursues closing a deal until it costs him everything…

An ancient Duchess graciously invites you on a tour of her orangerie…

This is the world of Crone Girls Press. Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow. In these pages, 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. Stories We Tell After Midnight is a collection of short horror fiction from established names in the genre as well as a number of debut authors.

So, how can you get your hands on this awesome collection? You can preorder the ebook from Amazon for 99c right now! After release on Oct. 21, the ebook will cost you $4.99, so preorders are definitely in your best interest. 

The print edition is not yet up on Amazon, but you can preorder that as well from Literary Underworld! Ordering from LitUnd means you can opt to have it signed if you wish. You can also order it as a gift with optional gift wrap.

Will you be at Archon or Imaginarium in the next couple of weeks? So will we… and you’ll be able to preorder Stories We Tell After Midnight at those events as well. Look for it to release on Oct. 21!

Search History and the Writer’s Spark

From Seventh Star Press!

There is the standing joke about not checking the search history of a writer.  Questions, often of a criminal nature, find their way into long, damning lists (How to dispose of a body? or domestic terrorist organizations or importing poisonous animals might pop up in histories of friends), as writers research things that, given our more sedentary and timid natures, we probably don’t know first-hand. 

This research is usually for the obvious purposes.  Writers anchor themselves in plausible fictional worlds, creating a kind of dream they invite the reader to share, and any time the dream veers unnecessarily and unintentionally from plausible stuff, you’ll have a reader out there who knows the terrain: when your errors emerge, there’s a reader out there who’ll catch them, whose whole absorption in the book is punctured by your ignorance of what you may have thought was a small matter, but becomes enormous to the reader who knows you’ve made the mistake, then begins to speculate that if you’ve made a mistake he knows about, what is keeping you from others?

When I found out how to tap a telegraph wire, I resolved I’d be damned if I didn’t use all that reading and consultation and leg work in the piece of fiction I’d researched it for.  Then discovered, of course, that parts of my newfound knowledge deflected from the power and dream of the story—that if I talked about this fascinating subject for as long as I wanted to go on with it, my readers would forget what was going on in the book.

How reliable, in short, is the world you’ve created?

So, for the most part, research guides you through uncertain country, maps out the signposts so you can steer the reader’s belief in the story around swamps and sinkholes and perilous bluffs.  That’s why I spent days researching how to tap a telegraph wire—because I both dreaded and respected that informed reader who’d have the information, who was trusting me to unfold the story and whose trust I needed to have for my fiction to work.

It’s also why I steer away from technical passages on firearms in my books.  I grew up around guns, but they held little interest for me, and when they come into play in my stories, it’s always with reluctance that I bring them up, because somewhere out there are a dozen readers whose version of the way that a specific gun works is both authoritative and enough different from the other authorities to cause disputes. For which I am blamed, and my story is discredited.

In short, you can’t be a thorough-going font of specific knowledge, but you can do your best.  And when you do your best, it often patches the worst holes in narrative detail, thereby making the dream of your fiction more vivid and plausible.

But the practical benefits of research are only part of the reason I’m doing it constantly.  Good research not only patches my ideas, but it gives me new ones.  The older I get, the more I glimpse the vast interconnectedness of all the things I learn—how a discovery, say, of a particular medical phenomenon might take my thoughts back to an historical moment that might have only a metaphorical connection to medicine, or to an architectural structure or to a move in a chess game.  What this kind of research does, if you enter it openly, is bend or disorder what you expected.  It’s research in the romantic/academic vein—research as discovery and poetry and play. 

And there are always dangers special to this kind of research.  It’s like the lotus-eaters of the Odyssey, where you bite into the plant and want to stay on the island forever.  For why write when there’s all these good things to discover?

Then you recall that writing is discovery as well.  That it is poetry and play and insight, and that such pleasure are why you got into it in the first place.

And the other principal danger is the temptation to use it all. 

Nowadays, I couldn’t even tell you what I learned about the telegraph.  But no knowledge you gather dies unheeded or untransformed: it lies fallow for years, or floats out to connect with something far-fetched and more useful and wonderful.  Knowledge is the parent of playfulness, which is the parent of knowledge. 

So cut perpetual slack to search histories.  And above all, don’t erase them: we’re going to revisit them in a month or two.

Trajan’s Arch by Michael Williams

Gabriel Rackett stands at the threshold of middle age. He lives north of Chicago and teaches at a small community college. He has written one novel and has no prospects of writing another, his powers stagnated by drink and loss. Into his possession comes a manuscript, written by a childhood friend and neighbor, which ignites his memory and takes him back to his mysterious mentor and the ghosts that haunted his own coming of age.

Now, at the ebb of his resources, Gabriel returns to his old haunts through a series of fantastic stories spilling dangerously off the page–tales that will preoccupy and pursue him back to their dark and secret sources.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.

Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.

Williams was born in Louisville, Ky. and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in humanities and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the modern fantastic in fiction and film. He is married and has two grown sons.

The writing process that works for me

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the writing process.  Each writer develops their own process, over the course of time, that works best for them as an individual.  The sooner the writer understands this, the better it will go for their writing.

My approach has been honed since the mid-1990s, when I dedicated myself to writing fiction with an intent of being published.  Looking back, I have made some small refinements to my process, but by and large I found what worked for me during the first few years and did not deviate from it.

One of the best early decisions I made was to have a dedicated space set aside for writing only.  I made the conscious decision to have one computer committed to being my writing computer, and to have it located in a different room from the one that I conducted business on.

Author Stephen Zimmer

Over time, this had the effect of snapping my brain into writing mode when I sat down at this particular computer.  I attribute this as a big reason why I have not had problems during my career with writer’s block.

I started playing music while writing to block out sounds in the house or out on the street, creating a sort of bubble that further reinforced my writing mindset when in a session.  Music also can help with the mood of a scene, providing another benefit for my process.   

As the internet grew to greater prominence (long before the rise of social media), I also recognized the potential distractions of the online world and saw to it that the computer that I wrote on was offline.  When social media emerged into the pervasive force that it is today, that decision turned out to be a great one, as it is very easy to be distracted by notifications, the urge to check messages, or browse online. 

Despite writing in large word count formats like epic fantasy, I have never put my focus on word count goals for my writing sessions.  The most important thing to me then and now is writing regularly, whether I write a couple hundred words or several thousand in a given session.  Writing on a consistent basis keeps my mind in the right kind of zone for the creative process, even when I go about my daily activities in between sessions.

I also do not allow myself to become bogged in a particular scene.  If I find myself becoming a little stuck in a particular scene, I will move ahead with another, and come back to the earlier one later.  This “walking away” from the problematic scene for a short time has worked out well in giving me a fresh perspective, as when I return to it I usually have figured out what I want to do with it and what it needs to accomplish for the greater story.   

From the beginning, as a writer of multiple series, I deemed it important to know the destination of my stories and have a basic framework for getting there.  At the same time, I understood how new ideas, plot lines, and characters can crop up over the course of writing a manuscript. 

I embraced balancing the need for having a road map in the form of an outline while leaving room to breathe for the creation of new characters and story ideas.  I have never sensed that I have boxed myself in too tightly with my initial outline, and I have always had a very clear vision of the general course I envision for a manuscript. 

The part of the process that had to come with time and experience was knowing when I was ready to hand off a manuscript to an editor.  Virtually all writers are capable of making changes and rewriting endlessly, if they allowed themselves to. 

When doing passes through a manuscript, a writer will always come across a word, phrase, or even scene that they will feel a need to change.  A very important part of the writing process is having the sense to know when a manuscript has reached the right state to declare it finished and ready for the editing process.  

During the course of the past ten years, I have tightened up this window and I recognize the point where a manuscript is ready much clearer than I did before.  Rewriting and additional passes through the manuscript take less time than they did before and my editors have remarked that I have been delivering extremely clean copy on my last few titles (which allows them to spend extra time analyzing content, as opposed to correcting things they come across).  It is a sense that I had to develop through seasoning, growth, and experience.

Going forward, I am open to adjusting things in my writing process to make sure that I have the process that best suits me.  I share my process as I enjoy seeing the writing processes of others, and I never know when I might come across a good suggestion that could work for me as well.

Writing is quite the journey and it is a path of constant growth, but it is very individual in nature.  Just remember, there is no right writing process for everyone. 

You have to find what works the best for you. 

About the author:  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington, Ky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (wword and worcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (cross-genre), the Fires in Eden Series (epic fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA dystopian/cross-genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV pilot. Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Find out more about Stephen Zimmer’s new book, Prowling the Darkness!

Dark rumors and whisperings of unholy sorcery bring Rayden Valkyrie to the remote city of Sereth-Naga. There she finds a populace cowering in fear of the city’s ruthless, mysterious rulers, who remain behind the high walls of their citadel.

An even greater mystery surrounds the city. Something is prowling the darkness.

Something that has kept the enigmatic rulers for centuries from escaping Sereth-Naga to spread their wickedness to other lands.

Prowling the Darkness is a stand-alone novella that is part of the Rayden Valkyrie Tales.

Blog Tour!

Website: www.stephenzimmer.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

Seasoned romance, or, old people like sex too

And who are you calling old? Get off my lawn.

Romance genres can get pretty darn niche.

The vampires of yesteryear became werewolves, and those became werebears, and those became billionaire alpha werebears, and those became interracial billionaire bear shifter menage pregnancy romances.*

One of the niches that isn’t quite so, er, specific is Seasoned Romance. Basically, it’s romance between people who are no longer nubile 20- or 30-somethings. It’s romance with characters who’ve had a life. They’ve been married and divorced or widowed. Or not, because they never found the right person before they got bifocals. They may still have teens at home, or they may be grandparents, or somewhere in between, or neither, or both.

Sela Carsen

But it’s still a relatively new genre, even with the advent of self-publishing, because for years, agents and publishers told us these stories wouldn’t sell. No one wants to read about people their parents’ age gettin’ it on, they said. And the occasional toe-dip into the older demographic just proved their point.

What’s that? You mean the audience they trained to respond only to perky virgins and buff billionaires didn’t flock to buy something they’d never seen before?

But since authors decided by the hundreds to self-publish, readers now have access to the stories we’ve always wanted to tell without anyone trying to yuck their yum.

Now, readers can type “seasoned romance” into the search bar on Amazon… and there are things there! They can even narrow it down to their favorite sub-genre — historical, paranormal, sci-fi**, military, small-town. Whatever they like to read, someone is writing it with characters who have a uniquely experienced viewpoint.

It’s become established enough that RWA — Romance Writers of America — just established a separate chapter during their national conference this summer called “Aged to Perfection.” The Seasoned Romance Facebook group that started three years ago now has nearly 3,000 members and grows daily. There are readers who are tired of characters who’ve never had to deal with menopause and poochy mom-tummies and random chin hairs. They’re looking for characters like them, who are facing retirement and wondering what’s the next step. Who just got their youngest child launched into the world, but now they’re caring for their elderly parents.

Love doesn’t stop after forty, so why should love stories?

*In case you thought I was kidding: An Heir for the Billionaire Werebears: A BWWM Paranormal Shifter Menage Pregnancy Romance.

** If you’re interested in seasoned sci-fi romance, check out Silver Wolf Rising, a stand-alone story that’s part of my Wolves of Fenrir series. Or read Ace’s Odds, my latest release that includes a seasoned romance on a futuristic space station.

Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least.

Seventh Star to launch web TV pilot

Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart will launch worldwide on July 28 through Seventh Star Press’s YouTube channel! Underlord Stephen Zimmer and the crew at Seventh Star Studios have been working for a long time on Rayden, which had its world premiere in September.

Please subscribe to the Seventh Star Press YouTube channel in advance of the July 28 streaming premiere! You’ll also catch a lot of the great content Seventh Star offers, including the Creative Cauldron vidcast, book trailers, interviews and more.

Sand Mermaids: a new story from J.L. Mulvihill

A mythological creature helps a young boy come to terms with his mother’s death in an unexpected way.

Justin looked out across the water watching the sun rays dance across the tops of the waves. To him the ocean appeared both mysterious and frightening. The mystery came from the intrigue of not knowing what lies beneath. There were thousands of miles of uncharted lands beneath the oceans of the world and unimaginable depths of endless dark waters containing countless life forms. Yet the Ocean frightened Justin, for he knew it could be unforgiving and unkind…

Available now for FREE on Kindle Unlimited or 99c to buy!

A California native born in Hollywood, California, J.L. MULVIHILL wanted to be a rock star. After several years of modeling, acting, and singing, she decided to marry, have a family, and moved to a quieter life in Mississippi where she has lived for the past twenty years. Finding she has a gift for story telling she began to write young adult books, including the Steel Roots series and The Lost Daughter of Easa. She is very active in the writing community, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Gulf Coast Writers Association, Imagicopter, the Mississippi Writers Guild and Clinton Ink-slingers Writing Group. She continues to write fantasy, steampunk, poetry and essays inspired by her life in the South.

Nick Rowan: Anthony Reprobate

Want a twice-a-week trip into a dark future? Join Anthony Hatcher, the titular Anthony Reprobate as he is taken from a re-education hospital near St. Louis, trained by the ruler of North America and sent to keep a second civil war from breaking out between the countries of the DisUnited States.

Anthony Reprobate is a serialized novel published at Nick Rowan’s Patreon. $5 patrons get the serial and an ebook copy. $10 patrons get the paperback and ebook. Other rewards for other tiers are available. (At $50, Nick starts writing you in and sending you yarn goodies every month)

Come save the DisUnited States from itself, with the help of a young man so corrupt they just call him Reprobate.

Subscribe at Nick Rowan’s Patreon!