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.

Meet the Underlord: Diana Morgan

I am Diana Morgan. That’s actually a pen name. It comes from two of my favorite characters in literature. Diana is for Wonder Woman’s alias Diana Prince. She was the first superhero I encountered as a kid and I’ve always been obsessed with her. Morgan is from Morgan le Fay of King Arthur legend. Not always portrayed in a positive light, I have still always found her story fascinating and I love some of the more modern takes that cast her as an anti-hero.

In my day life I work as a librarian. I’ve always been passionate about books. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. I started writing when I was a young kid. In fact, one of my first forays into writing was a summer camp where we pretended to be authors. I still have the first books I “published” there. I love helping people find new books and authors. I specialize in teen fiction but I’m also an expert in science fiction and fantasy, which is what I read and write.

My current book is Alliances. It’s the first in a planned series. It’s about Livia, a space pirate that is attempting to save the last colony of human survivors after they were driven off Earth by killer robots. But she has to contend with the egotistical admiral of the colony, Travs, as well as his assistant who doesn’t trust her and more pirates from her past. The story takes place mostly in space and in a space station. It has a lot of Battlestar Galactica and Firefly vibes. Space opera is one of my favorite genres and getting to play in this world has been huge fun.

I’m currently working on a second book for this series, continuing the adventures of Livia and Travs as they try to keep the colony of Earth survivors alive while dealing with the AI robots pursuing them as well as pirates and even more surprises in deep space.

I have several other projects in the works. I’m not the fastest writer, but I hope to have a lot of new stories out over the next year.

If I’m not working on writing I’m hanging out at the library. Keep reading!

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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. 

Her Royal Majesty Alethea Kontis!

The Literary Underworld is delighted to offer a limited selection of titles from our longtime friend Alethea Kontis, New York Times bestseller, princess and storm chaser. Her Majesty has written more than 20 books and 50 short stories, including the wildly popular AlphaOops! children’s series. Alethea has received the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant, the Scribe Award, the Garden State Teen Book Award, and is a two-time winner of the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award. She has been twice nominated for both the Andre Norton Nebula and the Dragon Award.

Also, she chases storms. She’s just that awesome.

Below are the Alethea Kontis titles temporarily available at the Literary Underworld, online and at our booths at the fall conventions. When they’re gone they’re gone, so move fast!

BEAUTY AND DYNAMITE

Once upon a time, a young girl walked into a world of wonder and delight. But that’s not where this story starts.

The young woman she became published a nationally recognized children’s book and edited a star-filled collection of stories to benefit the tsunami relief effort. But that’s not where this story ends.

Meet Alethea Kontis, a self-proclaimed Genre Chick whose life is an adventure that tears through these pages like a hurricane. Carrot-a-day cancer cures and Murphy as a guardian angel (yes, that Murphy, the guy with all those irritating laws) are just a part of the daily routine for the Incredible Whirlwind of Beauty and Dynamite, the force of nature masquerading in human form.

Through essays, poetry, and commentary from family, friends, and famous authors alike, a world of Blood Oaths and road trips, broken hearts and mended cars, comes alive with the strength of one woman’s conviction that the world is there to be befriended.

You have now been introduced.

Let your adventure begin.

 

ENCHANTED

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

 

HERO

Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she’s the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, “Did romance have to be part of the adventure?”

As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance.

 

DARK HUNTER COMPANION

with Sherrilyn Kenyon

Consider this handbook your education. Hunter 101. And don’t go thinking you got off easy just because there’s not a pop quiz at the end. This is the good stuff. The real deal. In here you’ll find out all there is to know about being a Dark-Hunter.

Now for the disclaimer: This book is mutable. It goes with the wind. It changes more often than the mind of a sixteen-year-old Gemini with a closet full of clothes and a date in an hour. Don’t be surprised if you open it up for the thirty-five thousandth time and find something old, something new, something borrowed or. . .well you get the point.

Curl up in a comfy chair with some millennium-old scotch and feast upon the informative banquet I have prepared for your enjoyment.

Welcome to your new life.

 

ZERO GRAVITY

Alva J. Roberts, ed.

This short story collection features thirteen fantastic adventures set in the cold vacuum of space. Read about rogues, scoundrels, aliens, robots, heroes, junkers and priests as you explore the rich and creative diversity of the following stories: “Junker’s Fancy” By Rosemary Jones, “Leech Run” By Scott W. Baker, “A Space Romance” By Paul A. Freeman, “Hawking’s Caution” By Mark Rivett, “Parhelion” By David Schembri, “To Stand Among Kings” By Kenneth Mark Hoover, “The Unicorn Tree” By Alethea Kontis, “The Beacon of Hope” By Gregory L Norris, “Tangwen’s Last Heist” By C.B. Calsing, “The Stand-Ins” By Gef Fox, “Glacier Castle” By Will Morton, “Rescue” By Margaret Karmazin, and “At One Stride Comes the Dark” By Murray Leeder.

 

DARK FAITH

Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, eds.

Some of the genre’s top authors and most promising newcomers whisper horror tales that creep through the mists at night to rattle your soul. Step beyond salvation and damnation in this intense horror and dark fantasy anthology containing thirty stories and poems that reveal the darkness beneath belief. Place your faith in that darkness; it’s always there, just beyond the light.

Experience the spiritual side of the zombie apocalypse in “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles” and transcend both hell and nirvana in “Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch’s Damnation.” Look into “The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” to find the beautiful brutality written in the moment of epiphany or “Go and Tell it On the Mountain,” where Jesus Christ awaits your last plea to enter heaven—if there is a heaven to enter when all is said and done.

Contains the following stories and poems:

  • “The Story of Belief-Non” by Linda D. Addison (poem)
  • “Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland
  • “I Sing a New Psalm” by Brian Keene
  • “He Who Would Not Bow” by Wrath James White
  • “Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch’s Damnation” by Douglas F. Warrick
  • “Go and Tell It on the Mountain” by Kyle S. Johnson
  • “Different from Other Nights” by Eliyanna Kaiser
  • “Lilith” by Rain Graves (poem)
  • “The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ” by Nick Mamatas
  • “To the Jerusalem Crater” by Lavie Tidhar
  • “Chimeras & Grotesqueries” by Matt Cardin
  • “You Dream” by Ekaterina Sedia
  • “Mother Urban’s Booke of Dayes” by Jay Lake
  • “The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” by Richard Dansky
  • “Paint Box, Puzzle Box” by D.T. Friedman
  • “A Loss For Words” by J. C. Hay
  • “Scrawl” by Tom Piccirilli
  • “C{her}ry Carvings” by Jennifer Baumgartner (poem)
  • “Good Enough” by Kelli Dunlap
  • “First Communions” by Geoffrey Girard
  • “The God of Last Moments” by Alethea Kontis
  • “Ring Road” by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • “The Unremembered” by Chesya Burke
  • “Desperata” by Lon Prater (poem)
  • “The Choir” by Lucien Soulban
  • “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects” by Lucy A. Snyder
  • “Paranoia” by Kurt Dinan (poem)
  • “Hush” by Kelly Barnhill
  • “Sandboys” by Richard Wright
  • “For My Next Trick, I’ll Need a Volunteer” by Gary A. Braunbeck

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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One savage, two novels at opposite ends of life

By Steven L. Shrewsbury

“Are you ready to meet your father, the devil?” – Robert E. Howard

Rogan, a savage from an antediluvian era mostly forgotten in our history swaggers forth this year in two new novels. Curse of the Bastards (co-written with Brian Keene from Apex Books) sees an aging, jaded Rogan entering the land of Nodd to rescue his nephew, battling demons, would be gods, and various terrible folks.

Killer of Giants (written by myself solo from Seventh Star Press) sees Rogan at age twenty-four, battling Nephilims, Chimeras, demons in human flesh, and bad folks as he fights save his father & sister from a fate worse than death. Swords clash and bodies are carved up as the blood, magick & monsters rage. But these books are more than just the usual sword & sorcery or high fantasy romp.

In Curse of the Bastards we see the older Rogan, cynical by a harsh life full of lies, loss and violence that had made him ponder his own eventual fate. Will he be disremembered after he dies, relegated unto bar ballads and inaccurate tales like his hero, Gorias La Gaul? For all he puts himself through, will he be overlooked and was any of it worth it?

In Killer of Giants, the younger Rogan strives to survive after a clash where his fellow mercenaries all fall but him. This Rogan has hope for the future in a grim world, but still fights on to save what is important to him, his own blood kin. Here, he doesn’t care what anyone might ever think of him, and doesn’t realize his acts of savagery and heroism will become the stuff of legends.

Rogan isn’t always kind. He isn’t Clark Kent or even Bruce Wayne for that matter (nor is he Conan or Kane). He borders on antihero at times, but is from primitive means. As the walls fall about him, he sometimes replaces the bricks, but often, smashes open a new way to escape through.

Why should you, brave reader, check these titles out? They are escapism from this world and an exciting thriller, filled action, adventure, passion and humor so dark it could hide the stars.

Come sit with me and I’ll tell you some tales. Let me spin a yarn about faraway places and people that might make one shake the head, but ones one won’t soon forget, and you won’t regret it. Though the realm Rogan wades though is grim, it isn’t as tenebrous as the news these days. Pour a drink and sit back, open up a book. Come trod through the bloody pages of history with me for a while. You might even learn something.

 

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 (OverkillThrallBedlam Unleashed) to historical fantasy (Godforsaken) extreme horror (HawgTormentorStronger Than Death) to horror-westerns (Hell BillyBad Magick, 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.

 

 

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.