One of the fun things about meeting up with the Underlords on the convention circuit is finding out about the nifty new projects they’ve got going on. Hanging out with Steven Shrewsbury at Imaginarium was a blast as always, and we were delighted to add Bedlam Unleashed to our offerings at the Literary Underworld.
Hulking Norse berserker Erik Bedlam lives and fights with a piece of steel lodged in his skull. Ever hallucinating the netherworld, his unpredictable behavior provides no end of challenges to his traveling companion, mercenary Alanis Johansson. After the battle of Clontarf in 1014 A.D., the two launch into a series of bizarre circumstances and horrors that tackle their courage, meddle, and strength.
Through these warriors, thrown into a series of horrific events in what seemed like pure chance, cruel fate starts to form into a design. Though hopefully guided by Odin, the All-Father, when contacted via the power of the one-eyed mage Kendrick Prescott a greater mystery awaits. The trio moves onward, facing dragons, neo-druids, cannibal Highlanders, vampire dwarves, and a Lovecraftian horror, to name but a few obstacles. Through it all, Kendrick proves to be not all he appears, but uses the mercenaries as his vehicle to cross the land.
Alanis, also a man of secrets, struggles under so many horrors, but the unpredictable, jovial and violent Bedlam staggers through it all, be it episodes of demonic possession, jousts, or hallucinatory substances.
Painted on a canvas of actual historical events, the body count rises as the travelers make their way down the coast of England, seeking passage off the island.
A story of heroism, malevolence, and ferocity; BEDLAM UNLEASHED shows how courage can propel individuals beyond the borders of the human spirit.
STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. More than 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media, along with more than 100 poems. Nine of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from sword & sorcery (Overkill, Thrall, Bedlam Unleashed) to historical fantasy (Godforsaken) extreme horror (Hawg, Tormentor, Stronger Than Death) to horror-westerns (Hell Billy, Bad Magick, and the forthcoming Last Man Screaming). He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.
Elizabeth Donald has been writing the Blackfire series since the release of The Cold Ones in 2009. Sara Harvey is a former Marine and leader of a paramilitary team that intervenes in supernatural incidents, dealing with “critters” that most people think are only folklore. They can believe that, because Sara’s group keeps them safe. Most of the time.
Blackfire now spans several novels, novellas and short stories that have appeared on their own and as part of collections and anthologies. The most recent is Yanaguana, which was published in 2020 as part of a three-novella collection titled Foul Womb of Night, currently available in ebook only as part of Crone Girls Press‘s Midnight Bites series.
Recently, Elizabeth’s Patreon subscribers received a limited-edition print chapbook of Yanaguana as their annual bonus. But there were a few copies left over, and we’re happy to offer them in our shop up until the supply runs out!
One of their own is dead.
Unfortunately for the Blackfire team, that usually isn’t the end of the fight.
Something is prowling the Riverwalk of San Antonio, a hungry creature with powers beyond any being they’ve fought before. It can force them to face dark shadows of their past as well as the unquiet ghosts of the city, and with each step it grows stronger – and more hungry.
Follow the crew of Blackfire on their darkest journey yet, under the walkways and bridges of San Antonio in the shadow of the Alamo to face their deepest fears.
Click here to snag this limited-edition chapbook for your own collection! And if you want to hear more about Elizabeth’s work (and get in line for the next awesome bonus), subscribe to her Patreon at the link below!
We’ve got a bunch of news to share, but first we’re going to talk about PATREON.
If you’re under a rock and don’t know what it is, Patreon allows people to subscribe to a particular writer, artist, musician etc. and receive regular content on an ongoing basis. Much like the patrons of the Renaissance, you get to be part of supporting independent artists in a culture and economy that doesn’t really make space for the arts. For many of us, it’s a really important part of making our living, and your $1 or $5 a month goes a lot further than you think.
And we have several authors with terrific Patreons and awesome content!
New to the club: Underlord Frank Fradella is launching a brand-new Patreon this month. Frank is the Renaissance man of our time, I swear: he’s been a novelist, a blogger, an editor, a publisher, a stand-up comic, a filmmaker, a podcaster, an educator, an artist, a pirate radio show host, a game designer, a comic book writer, a tarot deck creator, a mindset and empowerment coach, and the dad of three amazing boys. His Patreon will offer art, blogs and other writing, podcasts, serialized fiction, webinars – stop it, Frank, you’re making the rest of us look bad! Check it out here.
Nick Rowan is offering crafts and pictures, writing and Sexy Saturdays. Some higher levels get goodies in the mail! He writes: “My goals are to improve my writing, both novels and short stories and to continue providing quality content. (Also to decrease my yarn stash!) Welcome to my little corner of the universe. Where drunken PIs stalk the undead, where even demons fall in love and where the Space Exploration Rangers make life a little better for everyone.”
Sara M. Harveyis offering fiction and art history at her Patreon! “This Patreon will be devoted to a series of short stories called Starcrossed about two immortals who are dreadfully ill-matched but become lovers anyway. These tales will span hundreds of years from Ancient Greece to the present day and will be told in the order in which our narrator shares them (so, not necessarily in chronological order). While nothing will be explicit, this is a romance so expect some naughtiness… In addition to Starcrossed stories, I will also be filling in with some blog-type posts about the art history and clothing of the time period I’m writing about. My goal is one piece of fiction and one instructional post per month. (And maybe some bonus silly content like dog and kid stuff.)
Elizabeth Donalddoes essays, travelogues, photography, fiction, poetry and blogs from the MFA Circus at her Patreon! Posts range from wordcraft and publishing discussion to poems created in workshop to photo shoots on the road and travelogues from around the country (at least when the pandemic isn’t locking her up in her tower).
• We’re happy to announce that Literary Underworld is going back on the road! After more than a year staring wistfully at the boxes of books, we are booking cons again. First up will be Imaginarium, taking place July 9-11 in Louisville, Ky.; then Archon in Collinsville, Ill. on Oct. 1-3 and ContraKC in Kansas City on Nov. 5-7. In the meantime, of course, all our books are available at our online store!
• Underlord J.L. Mulvihill has a TV show! On the Page focuses on writers and writing, as Jen interviews Michael West, John Hartness, L.A. Story and others. Check it out here!
• Congratulations to Underlord Steven Shrewsbury on his nomination for the Imadjinn Award for best horror novel, honoring Along Came Evening. We don’t have that one yet, but you can bet we’ll be picking it up soon! Good luck, Shrews! Here’s the full list of nominees.
Thanks for sticking with us, friends. Hopefully we’ll see you on the road soon!
We are delighted to announce a new title from one of our members, T.W. Fendley! Her new novel explores more of her rich and fascinating science fiction worlds. Read more about Methuselah’s Legacy, soon to be available at the Literary Underworld!
A conversation with T.W. Fendley
Q. Why did you start writing?
A. Storytelling has always been a part of my life. As preschoolers, my older sister and I would create stories when we were supposed to be sleeping. We’d jump on our twin beds and take turns telling the next segments as quickly as we imagined them. Until our Mom returned with a stern warning to get to sleep… “and I mean now!” Later I wrote stories about the lives of my beloved model horses, inspired by Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, and I wrote for the school paper staff instead of taking P.E. I majored in journalism in college, which over the years has allowed me to continue to learn, as well as pay my bills. When I needed more creativity in my life, I began writing fiction.
Q. Why did you choose your particular genre?
A. Putting together ideas in new and unusual ways is fun for me. I love to weave together science and spirituality, myth and history, fact and fantasy. Science fiction and fantasy are perfect genres for doing just that.
Q. What inspired the idea for your current novel/project?
A. The concept of a longevity serum came to me twenty-three years ago while I was hunting for story ideas during the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. I imagined what truths about humanity are encoded in our genes, which eventually led me to write two short stories and now Methuselah’s Legacy. The novel’s longer format allowed me to share some of the possibilities with remote viewing–an intuitive-based protocol for precognitive predictions I’ve been practicing since 2009.
Q. What was the most useful advice you got as a beginning writer?
A. One of the Clarion instructors said it wasn’t always the best writers who got published, but those who persevered. While confident about my writing skills, I was even more sure of my tenacity. Stubbornness can be a great attribute for a writer.
Q. What are you doing next?
A. Now that Methuselah’s Legacy and my young adult sci-fi novel Moonblood are published, I’m revisiting the Zero Time universe and Xmucane’s home planet, Omeyocan, where the expedition to Earth began. I’m also writing some short stories that have been on the back burner for a while. The trick for me is keeping the plot simple. Most of my stories want to become novels!
Lilith Davidson has nothing to lose. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, her only hope for survival rests in an experimental longevity serum she herself helped to develop using an intuitive-based protocol known as remote viewing.
She never dreamed the treatment could be so wildly effective… nor did she expect its unusual side effect.
Now, as Lilith and the other eleven Methuselah Pioneers struggle to embrace the serum’s gift, powerful forces condemn their miracle cure as a violation of life’s natural order and threaten their lives. Will the treatment help humanity or tear society apart?
“Readers of sci-fi that revolves around genetic manipulation and human transformation will welcome a story that is vivid and fast-paced, containing many elements that will keep them engrossed to the end. It’s more than a cut above most science-oriented surveys because its inclusion of social norms, political responses, and revised visions of what it means to be an altered human are especially well detailed.” — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Methuselah’s Legacy asks thought-provoking questions and challenges hard-felt beliefs about life and love, while being an exciting tale of treachery and fanaticism. T.W. Fendley’s latest novel has readers turning the page until the end, and asking: would you take the treatment for a second chance at life?”– Brad R. Cook, author of The Iron Chronicles
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author whose published works include Zero Time, a historical fantasy novel for adults, and young adult speculative fiction novels, Moonblood and The Labyrinth of Time. Teresa’s short stories are available on Kindle and Audible. She fell in love with ancient American cultures while researching story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Since then, Teresa has trekked to archeological sites in the Yucatan, Peru, and American Southwest. She began writing fiction in 2007 after working more than 25 years in journalism and corporate communication. When she’s not writing, Teresa explores the boundaries of consciousness through remote viewing and shamanism. She currently lives near St. Louis with her artist husband and his pet fish.
A new dark-gothic collection from acclaimed horror writer John McFarland is out just in time for the holidays! McFarland is a long-time member of the Literary Underworld, with work ranging from dark fantasy like The Black Garden to offbeat children’s books like Annette: A Big Hairy Mom.
Now his new collection has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly! “McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted.”
Q: What was your first paid published work?
A: Actually my first paid published work were drawings, not writing so much. In the 1970’s surrealistic drawings by an artist called B. Kliban were all the rage. He published several books, which were the precursors of Gary Larsen’s Far Side, including several about cats. I did a parody of Kliban’s cat books called Kill A Cat and sent it to The National Lampoon. P. J. O’Rourke, the editor at that time, loved it and paid me the princely sum of $750. Scheduling mishaps at the magazine kept pushing the publication date back until the subject was no longer timely, and it never appeared. They never asked for their money back, though.
Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: Like most boys who turn out like me, my favorite writers as a kid were Poe, Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, but also the likes of Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Hitchens. In college I discovered James Joyce (of Dubliners), William Faulkner and especially Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor’s work was a revelation to me, small town country boy that I was. She seemed to know every one of my relatives and she has had a lifelong effect on my work. I visited her childhood home in Savannah, Ga. and Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, where she did her mature work. I am fortunate enough to own a signed first edition of The Violent Bear It Away, and a series of watercolor concept are studies for covers for her books.
Q: What are you doing next?
A: Two novels are in the works. My current publisher, Dark Owl, has shown interest in re-issuing my 2010 book The Black Garden, and then its sequel, tentatively titled Azmiel’s Daughter. I am also working on a ghost story novel, called Phrygia House. Also, DOP has shown interest in publishing my Young Reader series Bigfoot stories, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom.
Q: Was there anyone who inspired you as a beginning writer?
A: I actually touch on this in my acknowledgements section in The Dark Walk Forward. As a teen, I corresponded with both Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. I asked the usual young admirer dumb-ass questions, but they were both, especially Bradbury, very kind and generous with their responses.
A: Do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants?
A: Both, but mostly seat of my pants. I always have a general idea of where I want a narrative to go, but as the cliche goes, the story seems to take on a life of its own as you go along. I was amazed at this process when writing The Black Garden. Connections, plot points, twists and turns just popped into my head as I wrote. No one was more surprised at how it turned out than I.
JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom was his first novel for young readers and is in print in three languages. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis.
The small town of Ste. Odile in America has experienced the Great War in ways that no one should ever have to endure.
Doctors must tend to births and deaths that make their most difficult cases seem benign.
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.
A primitive woman experiences colonization and the stereotypes of men, yet finds her own method of retribution.
John S. McFarland has slogged through his characters’ woes and woven them into sweetly emotional yet acutely distressful tales. We as readers are forced to understand the pain, the despair, and sometimes the hope of his creations.
We realize we are lucky to live in the era we do. We also realize anything can change to tear us apart. Is it fate? Destiny? Or do we bring about these changes on our own? McFarland will let us know.
McFarland’s writing is lush and sensual, filled with textures, sounds, smells, and primal terrors that have lurked beyond the firelight since prehistory. –Kenneth Anderson, editor of Charon II
“John McFarland has a talent for drawing horror from raw human emotion. The Dark Walk Forward is heartbreaking and sad as well as frightening, with characters that linger in the mind long after the pages have turned.” — Elizabeth Donald, author of Moonlight Sonata, Setting Suns, and Nocturne Infernum.
“McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted.” ~ Publishers Weekly
Literary Underworld co-founder Elizabeth Donald has a new novella out from Crone Girls Press, the next adventure in her Blackfire horror series!
Elizabeth discussed this new release in a recent interview with Crone Girls Press managing editor Rachel Brune.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
I’ve been writing since I could pick up a crayon, but my first published fiction appeared in 2001 or thereabouts. I wrote short stories that usually ended up in the last issue of each magazine, so I was the Typhoid Mary of the small press for a while. My first novel was published in 2004, and I’ve been writing fiction ever since – usually horror, science fiction, a spot of romance and a touch of fantasy, but often where several of these coincide. By day, I was a newspaper reporter for 20-odd years and continue to commit journalism on a freelance basis; by night I write about ghouls and monsters, and I try not to mix them up with Congress.
Q: This is a prequel to your Blackfire series. Can you give readers an introduction to that series and tell us a little bit about it?
Blackfire started with a novella intended for a collection like this one: traditional monsters written in nontraditional ways. I was assigned zombies, which was a relief since I’d spent the last several years writing about vampires and I wanted the switch. Zombies are traditionally a gross-out horror: fear of disease and putrefaction coupled with the survivalist subgenre. So I went another way entirely, and strove to find a way to make zombies scary without eyeballs and entrails. That was The Cold Ones, but the anthology was canceled before publication. A year later I found a publisher willing to take it on even at that very short length, and the print run sold out in 48 hours. Since then I’ve written a full-length novel, Blackfire, and a handful of short stories published in genre magazines and traditional literary magazines, as well as in my own short story collection, Moonlight Sonata.
Yanaguana is part of that story – a prequel by its setting, but it doesn’t require knowledge of all the other stories to enjoy it. It’s a good introduction to Sara Harvey, Paul Vaughn and the rest of the Blackfire crew, and it’s my hope to keep writing tales of their adventures for a long time to come. Unfortunately, the original publisher went out of business, so those two early books are out of print for now.
Q: This story was partly inspired by a trip to San Antonio. Can you talk a little about that, and how the story came out of it?
San Antonio is a nifty city! I travel a lot for my work as a journalist and as an author, averaging about 30 nights a year in hotel rooms when there isn’t a global life-threatening pandemic. Last year I was in San Antonio on business for journalism, and I fell in love with it. The history (ghost-related and otherwise), the food, the fascinating layout of a city on two levels. And did I mention the food? Yum.
But mostly it was that fascinating layout, of the Riverwalk and the thread of the San Antonio River meandering through downtown, and the city itself bustling about a level above it. I wandered along the river and realized what a wonderful setting it would be for monsters and demons and ghosts, because that’s the way my mind operates. Ask poor Memphis how many times I’ve infested it with monsters!
Before my trip, I had arranged to be allowed a photo shoot on the grounds of the Alamo (though not inside the chapel, they don’t allow God himself the rights to shoot inside there). I visited three times for photography and research, developing a travelogue for my nonfiction work.
But as I was planning the story of Yanaguana, I knew something had to happen at the Alamo. The city itself is practically a character in the novella, and the Alamo is the center and heart of the city and its history. Yes, it’s a huge tourist draw and I have no doubt economics is a big part of its importance, but it has special meaning for the people of Texas and San Antonio in particular. I knew I wanted it to be a big part of my story, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do my research properly. I hope I’ve treated the city and its history with the respect they deserve.
Q: What were some of the challenges of revisiting a series after some time away, especially writing something that happens before the other books? How did you meet that challenge?
It was harder than I thought it would be! Not so much revisiting these characters, because they’re still very much alive for me. In fact, a short story featuring Parish Roberts was published earlier this year in River Bluff Review, so I never go too long without playing with the Blackfire crew. But the prequel aspect was a struggle, because I am a Star Trek-level nerd about continuity. I was continually checking the previous works to make sure the events of Yanaguana fit into the timeline of the Blackfire story and don’t contradict events prior to or after its occurrence. I remember searching for quite some time to figure out in which leg Sara was stabbed way back in the first book! I never want my creative impulse to create questions in the mind of the reader that throw them out of the story or compromise the realism of the characters’ stories – as much realism as one can have when you’re talking ghosts and monsters.
Q: Can you explain why every time I read one of your stories, there is always a scene or sentence that makes your editor cry (in a good way)?
A horror writer isn’t necessarily an emotional sadist, but it helps! If I make a reader cry, or afraid, or laugh, or any strong emotional response, I win. The enemy of good fiction is boredom. If I hear someone lost interest in my story partway through, or even fell asleep at midnight reading it, I want to know where I lost them so I can fix it next time. The most beautifully written descriptive passage isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if the reader is skimming past it, muttering, “So when is something going to happen?” And if I hear they cared enough about my characters to cry for them, or that their snark made the readers laugh, I know I’ve created something that reaches them and will stick with them after they finish the book. And that’s really the point of the job, isn’t it?
Q: I recognize a lot of what I think of as “subtle accuracy” in your writing, especially around local law enforcement, mortuary affairs, etc. You’ve spent many years working as a reporter–does this inform your writing? For those writers without this experience, what would you recommend they do to achieve familiarity with these characters and situations?
As of this writing I’ve been in journalism for 23 years, and while I don’t tend to run out to crime scenes or courtrooms as a freelancer now, I did it for a very long time and have the scars to prove it. It goes back to that wish not to throw the reader out of the story. If you ask real cops and prosecutors what they think of forensic procedural TV shows like CSI, you will get a lot of laughter and some four-letter words. For the sake of dramaticism, they’ve got lab rats that kick down doors and interrogate suspects, and don’t get them started on the “not-a-cop who helps the cops” a la Castle or even Mr. Holmes. It’s important to me to get as much realism into my dark fantasies as possible, because it lends credence to the more fantastic elements. I have cop friends who read my interrogations and police procedures; I have military friends who review military aspects; I have gun experts to tell me the difference between a clip and a magazine because those are the tiny details that throw a reader out of the story. (Don’t get me started on my own reaction to the Evil Soul-Sucking Lying Journalist trope.)
It’s also important to have first readers check you when you’re writing about populations beyond yourself, whether we’re talking about race or ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation and gender identity. I edited a piece once for a straight male client who was writing a love story between two men, and with his permission requested a sensitivity read from a fellow writer who was gay. Because both the client and I were working from outside our life experience, it helps to have the perspective of someone whose experience aligns more closely to your characters. The goal is to accurately and realistically portray people we made up from our imaginations, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of stereotypes and clichés that are offensive, inaccurate, or simply boring and overdone.
The easy answer is to do your research and never fall into the laziness of, “Nobody will notice.” (Someone always notices. Always.) There are groups like Writing the Other that offer seminars and strive regularly to help writers seek and destroy stereotypes and microaggressions that can creep into our writing, and professional sensitivity readers can also help you along those lines.
The more complex answer is that a writer is an observer of human nature, and you should seek out life experiences and acquaintances with a wide variety of ideas and expertise and backgrounds. The writer alone in her garret might not have much in the way of distractions from her art, but eventually it will become solely self-reflective art. Stephen King wrote that the most brilliantly rendered fictional character is “but a bag of bones” next to the dullest living human being, and so we can do worse than to become students of human nature and reflect that in our characters.
Q: What’s next in your fiction travels?
I am currently in year three of five years of grad school, working on two (2) masters degrees so I can be truly over-educated. I’ve begun the coursework this semester toward an MFA in creative writing, and so my focus has been on developing short stories and evolving my craft through the program. Next summer will be free, however, so I imagine a novel will be forthcoming. But I haven’t decided which novel it will be yet! I listen to requests from my readers, and the last few conventions before the pandemic had a cacophony of requests for more Blackfire. There’s a final confrontation coming, and I know how it ends…
Q: Anything to add?
I had a fantastic time playing with the Blackfire gang again, and infesting San Antonio with critters, as they call them. This has been a fun experience, and I hope the readers enjoy Yanaguana as much as I did. I remain grateful and humbled that publishers continue to gamble on me and readers continue to plunk down hard-earned cash for my work, as it’s a privilege and an honor.
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 for speculative fiction and the author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire dark fantasy series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning journalist and guest lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is currently pursuing two masters degrees at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is a teaching assistant at the college. She serves as president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists and Eville Writers, and is a member of the national SPJ Ethics Commission, AEJMC, ELLA, Freelancers Union, Editorial Freelancers Association and others. She lives with her husband and son in a haunted house in Edwardsville, Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time.
When you hear a train whistle, what do you think of? Do you hear the music floating on the air as it starts off soft, then builds to a crescendo and slowly fades on the breeze? Do you think of adventure and feel the wanderlust consume your thoughts, restlessness and aching to be on the move?
Maybe the sound of a train evokes the feeling of a bygone era romanticized in books and movies. Perhaps it is the intrigue of the science and mechanics of a train that comes to mind, whether it is a steam engine, a diesel locomotive, or even an electric train.
I think and feel all these scenarios at once when I hear that train whistle, feel the vibration of the rails, smell the iron and oil mixed with burnt water and wind.
I recall when I was a little girl staying with my grandparents, and would hear a train whistle at night in the distance as I drifted off to sleep. My grandparents lived in a small house on a little plot of land in northern California. My grandfather worked in the garden everyday while my grandmother saw to the house and painted pictures or wrote poetry. They had fruit trees and a grape arbor, as well as chickens and turtles who delighted in eating the tomato worms from the garden. In the corner of my mind where I store the fond memories with the warm fuzzy thoughts, a story was born: the story of a young girl growing up on a farm, and one day had to turn and face the world and its cruel nature. I didn’t know it at the time, but this story was growing inside of me until one day it made its presence known.
I was thinking one day about how the railroad system stretches for miles across America from east to west and north to south: rail routes crisscrossing and winding around mountains and rivers knitting the cities and towns of America together. The history of how the railroad system brought the nation closer intrigues me. The incredible invention of the steam engine and iron horses created by these inventions fascinates me to no end. I am also drawn to the steampunk aesthetics, and marvel in the art, creativity, and ingenuity. I wanted to build upon my story idea, so I tossed all my thoughts and memories into a bowl, mixed it up, and brought forth the Steel Roots story.
Initially Steel Roots was only supposed to be three books: The Boxcar Baby, Crossings, and Rails West. However, as the story unfolds, I find that I cannot end it at three and must at least have one more book to bring closure. AB’Gale Steel wants her story told to the fullest, so I began the long trek to The End of the Line, the fourth book. There is so much more that has been left unsaid, other characters’ stories untold, that the series could easily become more books. Yet AB’Gale Steel’s part in this story, has in essence come to a finish.
The End of the Line has so much more in it than the other books, and many additional characters have been brought forth from the background. My train fascination has grown, and my research become more in-depth. Not only is Abby involved in the world of trains and the battle for her freedom, but she is traveling to different parts of America, which of course must be explored as much as possible. Rails West took Abby to Colorado, a wild land but still under the strong hand of the System; a place where a revolution can be built in the hopes that the battle against the System can be won.
As my readers know, I strive to make a fictional story believable. All my research goes into finding real places, actual train routes, and believable engineering. Throughout my writing this book I have been posting on the Steel Roots Facebook page of fascinating historical items I have come across and incorporated them into the story. These are clues of what is to come and what fascinating inventions will be found in the fourth book, The End of the Line.
A California native born in Hollywood, 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 storytelling, 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.Twitter
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.
Gently he pushed her onto the bed and tucked the blankets around her. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t like to go, but we grownups have to do that sometime.”
“Okay Daddy.” She rubbed her eyes, which was the universal signal for sleepy child, thank God. “The shiny people will keep me company.”
“Shiny people?” That was a new one. “Who are the shiny people?”
Rowen’s eyes were drifting shut even as she spoke. In her sleepiness, her voice sounded more like Debbie on the cold meds. “The shiny people in my room.”
“Okay, you have fun with that,” he said, smiling. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Dream pretty pictures.”
He stood up, his knees popping a little more than he liked. He walked to the door and reached for the knob. Then he caught sight of himself in the large mirror over Rowen’s dresser.“Oops,” he laughed quietly. He was still wearing the silly crown.
He stepped over in front of the dresser and removed the crown, wincing as its plastic curlicues caught in his hair and pulled a couple of strands free. I need to keep the hair I’ve got, thanks, he thought ruefully.
He laid the crown on the dresser. In the mirror, he caught movement behind him.
“Sleep, little lady,” he ordered, turning around.
Rowen was asleep. She lay perfectly still in her toddler bed, the blankets he’d tucked around her undisturbed.
Then who was moving behind him?
Coming soon from Crone Girls Press: Coppice and Brake, an anthology of dark fiction edited by Rachel Brune. This anthology includes an original short story by Literary Underworld founder Elizabeth Donald, who will also see two short stories appear in River Bluff Review this month!
“Shiny People” is a short story inspired by a tale told at a convention last year, and Elizabeth is delighted that it has found a home at Crone Girls Press. River Bluff Review will include two other original stories: “Dear Katrina” and “Sergeant Curious.”
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 for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning journalist and instructor; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is married to author Jim Gillentine, and their family lives in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she… has no spare time.
You can preorder a print copy of Coppice and Brake from Literary Underworld for $10! Preorders for the ebook edition are coming soon from Crone Girls Press, and we will have print copies available at conventions throughout the rest of the year.
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!