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! 

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.

A second chance at a Cold Run

What does it mean when your so-called new book launch is actually a second chance at life?

I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially as I work my way through finishing the book series I contracted last year with Falstaff Books. Cold Run, Book 1 of the Rick Keller Project, is a werewolf secret agent novel that tells the story of Rick Keller, a wolf without a pack, a soldier without a country, a wanderer who searches for someplace to call home.

Falstaff Books released Cold Run on Dec. 8, 2022, but it wasn’t the first time the novel had ever been launched into the world. I’d originally written it for NaNoWriMo in 2011, although the idea for the novel came around even earlier than that.

The book, which I hadn’t even considered expanding into a series at the time I wrote it, grew out of a book, Naming the World. My writing group in Texas was working its way through the various prompts and practical exercises contained in NtW, and I had chosen to write about a dark place on a snowy night off a narrow trail in the wilds of Vermont. As I imagined this place and started concentrating on the details that would bring it to life, I saw a wolf running along the path, pursued by men with silver weapons, sprinting for sanctuary under the full moon.

As the writing exercises evolved into a novel idea, and the idea evolved into an extremely rudimentary outline, and the outline served as the basis for the mad dash that is NaNoWriMo, I began to think about publication. For the next two years after I wrote it, I workshopped, revised, workshopped, and revised again. I continued to grow as a writer, and eventually conceived of an entire trilogy around this character of Rick Keller, secret agent werewolf; his partner, former Army psychological operations officer Karen Willet, Ph.D.; and their run-ins with the agency he used to work for, MONIKER.

When I was finally satisfied with the book, I submitted it to a few agents and editors. A small publishing house by the name of Untold Press picked it up and offered me a chance to get it published. And then I wrote another novel, and a novella and a reader magnet, which they also sent out into the world. I personally made a lot of mistakes and did eventually end up asking for and readily receiving my rights back to the books. However, I don’t regret this experience. I learned a lot from it, and when it came time to decide how I wanted to publish other writing, or to coach others’ in their writing journey, the lessons became that many more tools in my writing and coaching toolbox.

Instead of publishing right away, I decided that I was going to rapid-release them all, and also that Winter Run, the fourth book, would be the last in the series.

Deciding to indie publish is a route that can be fraught with, if not danger, then a lot of frustration and head-desk contact. The stereotype of the writer who drinks is often based in reality. Let me tell you, the writer who is publishing herself, and also running an indie publishing company (because of course, launching an indie horror micropress in the middle of plague times was a great idea! For more on that, check out Crone Girls Press,) that writer/editor/publisher is going to keep the package good store in good standing.

At one point, I ran up against a roadblock that was going to take a good deal of time, effort, and likely money to fix. I headed over to my current writing group, The Writing Tribe, and with sorrow in my heart, I vented my frustration and asked the universe (and my fellow writers) if this was worth it. Not writing, in general. This werewolf secret agent series in particular.

I don’t have an answer yet to that question. And when I do formulate that answer, I’ll be taking my publisher’s concerns into the equation. But I will say this.

When you get a second chance to return to a character, a book, or a series that you have put a lot of yourself into, and that you still believe in, you sometimes just have to take a chance and kick your imposter syndrome to the curb, along with your inner editor who can’t believe that you’re allowing you early writing back out into the world. I did do some updates and revisions to Cold Run, based on my growth as a writer, and my new understanding of craft and how to structure a novel. I have also been working on a series arc in addition to the other novels in the series (four? Ha! It’s going to be five books long now, and I have so many ideas for short stories in the universe.)

The decision to go with a publisher or head down the indie route can be a hard one, especially with a project that you’ve already tried and not quite met with the success you hoped. But it you have a publisher who believes in you, and who says things like, “I can’t wait to have this book on my table” or “Rick Keller reminds me of Joe Ledger,” then it becomes easier to take a leap of faith and get back to writing. (Also, if you sign the contract, you’re obligated to do so, and therefore I should probably wrap this up and get back to work.)

Thanks to John Hartness and Falstaff Books for giving Rick Keller and company a new lease on life, and thanks to the readers, old and new, who have grabbed a copy and are coming along on the ride.


Richard Keller wanted nothing more than to watch the world go by from his isolated home in Vermont. Life on the other hand had other plans. Kidnapped by his former employers, the covert government organization MONIKER. Richard is forced to suit up once more and use his supernatural abilities in an effort to save kidnapped victims.

However, not all is as it seems with MONIKER, and Keller is going to need all of his wits and strength if he is to return to some semblance of his normal life.

The hunter is about to become the hunted.

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 assistant-ship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. After five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her MA 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 in early 2013. She blogs her thoughts about reading and the writing life at http://www.infamous-scribbler.com.

We hope to have Cold Run in the Literary Underworld soon! In the meantime, catch it on Amazon where it is available on Kindle Unlimited. 

The answer is…. a woman unbecoming

By Rachel A. Brune, Editor, Crone Girls Press

The question was: how to channel the anger, rage, despair, more anger, frustration, and once more, anger, at the news that Roe v. Wade had been toppled by a Supreme Court filled with privileged beings far removed from the pain and suffering they were about to cause?

It’s not that we didn’t see it coming. Those who feared and those who rejoiced in the prospect of reproductive healthcare and bodily autonomy rights being stripped from half the population saw it coming. And in the days and weeks after, as fingers pointed and tempers flared, there were those who placed the blame on previous administrations, Congresses, for not encoding those rights into law, as if it were realistic in the past partisan twenty years to take up an issue as polarizing as reproductive healthcare and find some way for everyone to enshrine it in law.

Those same blame-makers were often those who would never have to hear a medical professional tell them that their lifesaving procedures could not be enacted due to a strict law enacted by old, righteous men. Nor could they, apparently, envision their loved ones bleeding slowly to death, with sepsis poisoning their body. Those images had been out of the mainstream for so long. But not anymore.

Take a look at the headlines. If you have a uterus, and want to see how far your particular state cares about your health and welfare, all you have to do is read about miscarriages that could be easily treated with a D&C, but are now subject to so much legal threat that the doctors who could perform them don’t want to take the risk to their license by giving their patients the medical care they need.

I could go on. And I do. But words aren’t enough.

Or rather, words are the weapon I choose for the next phase of this struggle.

Thus was born the anthology, A Woman Unbecoming.

This project came from a post that I made in the Crone Girls Press private authors’ Facebook group. Comment by comment popped up from authors who stated not only their interest, but their desire to contribute to making the barest hint of an idea of a charity anthology for reproductive healthcare an actual reality.

The race was on to get this project put together, and while there were and are a number of speedbumps, it was almost alarming how quickly and subtly things came together to make it happen. A catching-up lunch with an old friend led to her coming onboard as co-editor. I had worked with Carol Gyzander before on a series of charity anthologies for Writerpunk Press, and I knew that she was creative, organized, able to work under pressure and, better yet, had the same affinity for spreadsheets that I do.

A few days after that, Lynne Hansen sent out her newsletter. The monthly pre-made cover art she included for that month was so perfect for this project, I immediately replied and asked to purchase it before anyone else could snatch it up.

All throughout, authors that I’ve worked with, and authors that I’ve always wanted to work with, sent us stories to read and consider. And over and over, we heard the same refrain: Writing (or revising or contributing) this story gives me a chance to do something.

And that’s what this project is. A chance to do something. Proceeds from the anthology will be donated to an organization that has already been established and working to guarantee access to reproductive healthcare. Hey—even when it was legal across the U.S. didn’t mean it was accessible to everyone. We will also be donating half the proceeds to an organization supporting candidates in political races, as the mid-terms are almost upon us.

And so that is A Woman Unbecoming. Not merely an anthology of fierce and ferocious horror stories, but a chance to do something. To step out of the feelings of anger and hopelessness, and act. But this is not the end of action—it is the beginning. Elections are rolling around. Have you registered to vote? Have you confirmed your registration is active? There is also a list at the end of the anthology of books and articles for further reading. Check them out.

Or, you may be tired and overwhelmed and unsure of what to do or where to get the energy to do it. Perhaps buying a book and putting it on your TBR pile is what you have the time for right now. If that is the case, we thank you, and hope that your TBR pile, unlike ours, is short enough that it won’t threaten to topple over and smother you in the night (and if so, then just push it a little farther away from your bed, I’m sure it will be fine.)

For those who have already picked up a copy—thank you. And to those organizations and people out there working to restore the rights we have lost due to this decision—we thank you, we see you, and we support you.

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Welcome to the Disunited States

By Angelia Sparrow

In November of 2005, I won NaNoWriMo for the first time. The result was a novel that is now called Nikolai: Revenant.

It’s undergone a lot of revision and character changes since the initial draft. The world has expanded and shifted with each new projection of the future. Now, we are four books, a gaming manual, several short stories, and a couple of rough drafts into the series. My now-coauthor, Gabriel, went from my biggest fan to my loyal conspirator, and brought his own brand of creativity to the world.

The series is set at the end of the twenty-first century. America balkanized into eleven countries, with Hawaii and Alaska becoming independent. Some countries have moved forward from the DisUnification and others have chosen to move backward.

I started this as a reaction to a lot of trends I was seeing in the mid 2000s. It has aged eerily, as I’ve watched some of my predictions come to fruition in some ways, but it remains solid. My dystopia is not supposed to be more comforting than my reality, but it has become more so as the years go on.

Most of the series occurs in Memphis, with occasional excursions to Italy, Kansas, Pacifica and other places. The Confederated States are fascinating, and rather terrifying. Based on the trends in Christian Nationalism, including the Christian Exodus movement, the CS is a fascist theocracy with an absolutely free market. Church attendance is required by law, and the law enforces modesty codes. Education is limited to white boys, and only available through private schools. Racial segregation is law, and most crimes are capital ones.

Half of the titular Nikolai’s education is unlearning erroneous history from his three years of formal schooling. Nick Boyd is a Memphis street rat, who took the name Nikolai when he became a member of the Revenant gang. Smart, vicious, and self-assured, he caught the eye of James Ligatos, one of the Eight, the cabal that rules the world behind the scenes.

James turns promising young criminals into world leaders. In Anthony: Reprobate, we delve into the hyper-surveillanced and repressive Heartlands for another protege, Anthony Hatcher, who is stuck in a reeducation facility with an R tattooed on his hand. Reprobate is the lowest of the low, both Homosexual and Nymphomaniac, and every other “anti-social” marker. But with enough work and a little support, anyone can change the course of a country.

Glad Hands was my biggest seller, a side story set in the Tribal Lands about a trucker who finds a Heartlands boy with an H tattoo. They go on a mad dash ride into the CS on what should have been an average haul, and almost end in the Stoneyard for execution on live national television. This was written on many loading docks, in sleeper berths and rest areas when I was still driving a truck.

Master Anton is our newest installment, and it follows the training of our boys forward. Anthony is called to Rome, to the Eight’s center of operations. Their leader, Benta, the Spider at the top of the World, is a mysterious and seemingly eternal goddess in his eyes. His odd learning style makes for a difficult road, but not nearly as difficult as the rest of the Memphis team is experiencing. Betrayal, collapse, fanaticism, and ruin spin together in a web that can only end when it’s run its course. Anthony earns his title…and he will bring the rest of them along with him if it kills him…or them.

As mentioned, there is also a gaming sourcebook which Gabriel put together over the course of 3 years. He created the PIPA 12 system, and we codified the DisUnited States and much of the world. We’ve run one-shot games at conventions from Kentucky to Georgia, with great success. The opportunity to throw your hat in the ring of a collapsing but vibrant society seems to capture the imagination… especially when we kill someone in mid-game.

I could spend several books (and have) explaining to you all that I see in my world. I would invite you to ride the giant roller coasters in the Arcologies of the California Conglomerate. I would walk you through the Pleasure Clubs of Rome, where every debauchery is at your disposal as long as you know its cost. I would stroll with you through the City State of New Orleans, with its sky-high levees and floating strands of proud laughter and music. I would march with you alongside the fierce warriors of Azteca, their titanium mesh armor shining in the desert sun. I would invite you to lounge with James Ligatos in his boudoir, enjoying the most beautiful of things to fend off the tinges of madness around the edges. I would welcome you home.

But I must instead hope to see you in the pages of the book. It has been my vent and my hope for long over a decade, and there is more to come. Because no matter how dystopian, there is always someone ready to plant their feet and to say no, and inspire others to do the same.

The Eight Thrones Cycle is the story of how to save the world… while indulging your darkest fantasies.

 

Buy the whole series for $40 here!

The Eight Thrones books on sale at Amazon

Each book will be on sale for 99c for one week, Amazon only: Glad Hands on Sept. 15, Anthony Reprobate on Oct. 3, Nikolai Revenant on Oct. 10 and Master Anton on Oct. 15

 

Mortalus: The Eight Thrones Cycle Game is not currently available, though digital copies may be requested through the author if you’d like to try it out for your campaign. Gabriel is also seeking an artist to help him bring the next version into being.


Angelia Sparrow is a professional driver, part-time grandma and full time cat-servant. She lives quietly in the midsouth with two husbands and a wife, overseeing the legalities of an Emerging Religion. She runs Crossroad Treasures, a craft shop, and handles its subscription box at Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Buy now