Friday, March 30, 2012

The Weird of the Natural World: What If We Looked Down at the Earth, and It Blinked and Looked Back?

The planet on which we live houses so many secrets.  Someday, if we're unlucky, we'll learn them all.

The photo above sets the mind a' spinning...

Taken from the oft forgotten International Space Station orbiting in the firmament 240 miles above our gourds by Dutch astronaut (and, judging by his picture, weekend basketball coach) Andre Kuipers, the picture shows what is known as a Richat Structure, geological anomalies that are somewhat shrouded in mystery.


What caused it, then?  What shall we imagine birthed this 30 kilometer, spiraling ring in present day Mauritania and the Western Sahara Desert, but what was once a vast, fertile jungle?

It could be the fossilized remains of an eye socket.  It could be a naval to the hollowed out, populated spaces below us.  It could be an uncovered nautilus shell of antediluvian sea creatures that weren't measured or constrained in relation to human size or present earthly physics.  It could be an impact crater of something vast and fast landing on earth.

It could be anything we want to be, if we tilt our head in a slightly different direction, open our eyes, and imagine what could be looking back at us right this very second.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Publishing News: Aklonomicon Now Shipping, Featuring Original Tales 'Flutes' and 'In the Cave, She Sang' with Art by Paul Carrick

We create, rear, then eventually bid farewell to a loved one, freeing it to the slings and arrows of the wider world.  Then we wait, watching the horizons and ships sailing back to port, newly adorned with silks and spices and faces that we don't recognize.  This is the way of things.

Then one day, a fierce vessel crests the waterline, flying a flag both familiar yet excitingly new, cradling on deck that which you wrought from your flesh and soul, surrounded by a band of new resolute brothers and sisters, all paying fealty to a similar cause.  All bound together under the banner of a New Mission.

After much waiting at the harbor docks, I'm proud and thrilled to announce the highly and long-awaited Aklonomicon has arrived in bulk at the offices of Aklo Press, carrying two of my babies, and is now ready for immediate order.

Yes, the day has finally arrived, and the uninitiated should sit straight, act right, and take note.  This is a big deal, folks, as this is a BIG book with BIG names and BIG ambition, as it's not just another anthology of short fiction, its a multimedia neck kick to your quivering senses.  It's fiction and art and poetry and comics and mash-ups and weirdness and terror and beauty and dread from every corner of the speculative fiction omniverse.  It's Lovecraftian.  It's "Big W" Weird.

It's the Aklonomicon, and few have been akin to it before, and few will be afterwards.

And now it's ready to order by clicking right here.

Where else can you get the work of such mad alchemists as Laird Barron, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, Nick Gucker, Paul Carrick, Joe Pulver, JD Busch, Jordan Krall, Garrett Cook, Mike Dubisch, Edward Morris, Ivan McCann, Andrea Bonazzi, Nova McIntosh, Kristamas Klousch, Scott Nicolay, Steve Lines, Livia Llewellyn, Kirill Rozhkov, Brandi Jording, Jason Roberts, Eric Reinert, Tara Vanflower, Daniele Serra, Michael Zigerlig, Johnny Mains, Jeff Thomas, Eric York, Jacob Parmentier, Ann Koi, J Karl Bogartte, Stan Sargent, Tom Moran, David Lee Ingersoll, and Daniel Mills - all under one Dave Carson cover?

I'll answer that for you, silly samurai - You can't.   That's what makes the Aklonomicon so special, and so worthy of your close, heated attention.

I was lucky enough to sneak two of my stories, "Flutes" and "In the Cave, She Sang", under the door just before lights out, and the next morning, art by Master Paul Carrick somehow managed to grow on top of each respective manuscript like a vile, gorgeous lichen.  The patterns that took shape look something like this:

Read more about Paul's art for my two stories here, in Cosmicomicon cycles past.

Welp, I think you and I will both agree that I've spilled enough electronic ink onto ethery pages about this tome, as a quick search of this very blog will bare witness.  My job is over.  Now it's your turn to heed my advice, and warnings, and order this blasphemous creation RIGHT HERE.

Failure to do so could cost you more than you now presently know.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Publishing News: "That Old Problem" Published in Issue #12 of the Lovecraft eZine, Available Now To Read Online and for Free Download

Lovecraft eZine Issue #12 Cover Art by Stjepan Lukac
The wax and wane... The hustle and the flow.

Things are happening fast and with resounding fury around The Cosmicomicon as of late, with publishing and acceptance announcements, coming interviews/book reviews, and even a bit o' long overdue Weird news in general all on the docket and jockeying for position.  I'm a few days behind updating about it all, so I'll try to hesitantly embrace the soul of wit and hammer through these postings without my usual digressions and blathery verbal claptrap.  I doubt I'll be successful on the latter, but please know that it truly is the thought that counts.

To start this week off correctly, I'm INCREDIBLY proud to announce that my story "That Old Problem" - which first started out as an idea for a short film that could be shot relatively cheaply in some High Desert shithole diner - was published just this last weekend in Issue #12 of the always nails Lovecraft eZine, founded by devoted 'Craftian and reputed Olympic-caliber bobsledder Mike Davis, aided in his salty endeavor by co-editors A.J. French and Bruce L. Priddy (often, but not exclusively, of Cosmicomicon-fave Eschatology Journal).  My humble tale joins those written by Nicole Cushing ("A Catechism for Aspiring Amnesiacs"), Mark Howard Jones ("Taking the Cure"), Randall D. Larson ("The Fire of Zon Mezzamalech")  and fellow Angelino John Palisano ("Available Light").  Please go read these stories and let the authors know what you think in the comments section.  We insecure hacks absolutely LIVE for validation.  Well, that and the huge satchels of cash that are part and parcel of the indie/small press world.
"That Old Problem" original art by Galen Dara

Also of note, "That Old Problem" features an outstanding work of visual art from Galen Dara, an artist with whom I was unfamiliar until this weekend, but who is an obvious talent that I'm very happy to have finally discovered, and even more happy to have associated with my writing.  Her kick-ass portfolio is available here, and she'll definitely be one to watch for future covers and anthology/collection interior art.

As for the publication itself, what is so refreshing, blessed, and necessary about the Lovecraft eZine is that it's one of the few consistent resources that provides an opportunity to read some of the finest contemporary writers of Lovecraftian fiction every month for free.

This cannot be overemphasized, and I don't draw special attention to this out of some innate sense of stinginess - as we in our house forego many other avenues of capital depletion in order to set aside enough cash each new moon to purchase new tomes, as avid supporters and fans of genre and small press speculative fiction.  I draw attention to this "gratis factor" because it is perhaps completely unprecedented for a professional market publication to assemble such an array of writers and artists and editors, and then allow readers - like you and me and that asshole down the street who might be an asshole but damn does he have good taste in literature - a chance to sample the wares of writers and visual artists whom we have only seen in the table of contents for a book or magazine we can't afford, or through the promo for a exhibit in a city too far away to reach by recumbent bike.

So, I'm thankful for the Lovecraft eZine, additionally thankful to be featured in it, and am hugely thankful to all of you whole stepped up and helped out Mike and the eZine when they needed us most.  It's a give and take, this balanced life of ours.  After taking so much for so long, it felt good to give a little, and our reward is not just this handsome Issue #12, but Issue #13 through infinity.  That's a lovely thing to contemplate....

Now, that wasn't too blathery, was it? ...

DON'T answer that!  I'll do better next time.  Pinky swear...

(Issue #12 of the Lovecraft eZine will be available for Kindle/Nook in a few days, while an audio version of "The Old Problem" will be popping up at the top of the story page very soon, as well)

(Also, buy a freakin' T-shirt, people.  Electronic publications devoted to Lovecraftian fiction and art don't grow on trees, you know...)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Call for Donations: Lovecraft eZine Founder Mike Davis Needs Your Help

I think of us - all of us, from reader to writer to any curious party in between - as part of an extended, amazing family devoted to an exploration and celebration of (as the banner says) "all things cosmic, terrifying, and strange".   And dark, and beautiful, and wondrous, and, of course, Weird.  This is our family.  This is what we love.  This is what we do.

Well, one of the members of our family is in presently in dire and immediate need, and like any good family not given over to defeatist dysfunction, its up to the rest of us to pitch in and help.  A virtual barn raising after a metaphorical fire, so to speak.

You see, Mike Davis, founder of the fantastic Lovecraft eZine, was recently sideswiped by a sizable and unexpected medical bill, which has put his family's finances, and the immediate future of the eZine, in jeopardy.  We can't have this.  We don't have to allow this.  Mike is truly a wonderful guy, and his eZine puts out Lovecraftian news almost daily, and publishes some of the finest Lovecraftian fiction for free every month.  His site is a resource, a gem, and so is he.  Therefore, we need to rally to the ramparts to aid our brother-in-arms (and writhing tentacles), as well as his wife Danielle and son Logan.  If it takes a village, we'll bring a city.

So, I'd like for all of the loyal readers of The Cosmicomicon to please click on this link and donate $10, or another amount that suits your situation.  Skip a before-work Starbucks Whateverthefuckaccino, or an after-work cocktail.  Bring your lunch to work one day rather than eating out.  Set aside a few dollars right now that would normally go to an ephemeral and ultimately unnecessary trifle, and put that towards something of great importance.

Mike's message:
The Lovecraft eZine SERIOUSLY needs your help

You know what’s annoying? When I turn on public radio to listen to the news, and they’re having a funds drive. I found myself annoyed, that is, until I realized that they exist in part because people donate funds, and they wouldn’t exist without those donations.

So I’m about to be annoying. But, please keep reading, because this magazine really needs your help.

I did not start The Lovecraft eZine to get rich. I didn’t even start it to turn a profit. I’m deep in the red on this magazine, but I’m not publishing it for the money; I’m doing it because I really want to provide quality Lovecraftian fiction for free. With that in mind…

I just got hit with a $1,100 medical bill. (For those of you who don’t know, I have a very painful chronic illness called Fibromyalgia; according to my doctor, it’s one of the worst cases he’s ever seen.) And when I say “hit”, I mean I could not avoid paying it. It has left my wife and I in a very tight situation. Even paying my regular bills for the next couple of months is going to be very difficult. I had money set aside to pay the writers for the March and April issues… and now that has been wiped out.

If you don’t help me, I’m going to have to delay publishing for a couple of months until I get caught up again.

If everyone reading this donated $10, the magazine’s financial troubles would be over in a heartbeat. Think about how small an amount that is. $10 is a couple of orders at Starbucks. A meal for two at McDonalds costs more than $10. The Lovecraftian magazine Strange Aeons charges $8.99 per issue, just to put things in perspective.

Of course, not everyone will give $10. If you can afford it, please give more, but in a perfect world, I’d rather get a small amount of money from a lot of readers than large amounts from just a few.

I think it’s important to note that Lovecraft eZine has been in existence for 15 months, and I’ve never made a request like this before. Sure, I have a donations page, and occasionally I mention it, but I don’t hit you guys up for funds all the time, I think you’ll agree. And I’m working on some great ideas to fund this magazine without relying as much on donations (like the t-shirts) … but it takes time.

Please believe me when I say that I hate to even ask… I would rather fund this magazine entirely from our own money and never ask readers for anything. But if this magazine is important to you, please help me out.

Otherwise, I am going to have to delay the next few issues until I get caught up.

I promise you that I am NOT looking to get rich from this magazine, or really even to turn a profit. If I never turn a profit, that’s fine. My goal is to bring quality Lovecraftian fiction to my readers, and that’s what I will continue to do to the best of my ability.


Just to repeat, please click HERE, scroll down to the bottom of the message, and get your sweet ass over to PayPal to send a brother some relief.

We have an obligation as a member of this silly human race to take care of each other, look out for each other, and to help those in need.  This is one of those times.  If you believe in karma, compassionate humanism, or earning jewels for your crown in heaven, please give a little to help out a lot.

Let's rally, Family o' The Cosmicomicon.  We can make a difference.

I thank you all from the bottom of my frigid little heart.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Short Story Review: "Transmission" from 'Dead But Dreaming 2' Gets a Horror World Hug

This is going to be a quickie, as I slowly reconstitute myself after being blended into a fine, worthless paste this last week by the rigors of the rat race combined with a nasty microbial assault, but I wanted to give a shout to Horror World - "Horror's #1 community on the web" - for the kind words printed about "Transmission" in their review of Dead But Dreaming 2, published just today on their hugely popular site by horror critic and author Dave Simms.

I get a mention as a standout, along with fellow scribes Cody Goodfellow, Brian Sammons, Rick Hautala, Darrell Schweitzer, and the Mayor of Lovecraftiana W.H. Pugmire.  Esteemed company, to say the least, and proof that my ever-expanding pool of critic bribery is paying off in spades.

I'd paste up a pull quote (as much to add space to a relatively tiny post as to peacock around a little bit in my own living room), but the admonishing tone at the bottom of the page scared the hell out of me.  Please click on through to the review and read for yourself, as clicks do everyone good.

As I've noted in the past, I'm overjoyed by the reaction "Transmission" has generated, from casual readers, to critics, to colleagues, to scholars.  It was my first finished piece of Lovecraftian fiction - and really, my first ever completed short story written for submission - so the fact that it has been enjoyed and well received makes me feel lucky and blessed beyond compare.  It helped launch me onto the path where I now teeter, and for that, I'll always been thankful for MRP kingpin Tom Lynch and International Man of Mystery (and Call of Cthulhu legend) Kevin Ross for taking a chance on some overly excited dickweed panting into his shoes in Los Angeles.

Dead But Dreaming 2 can be ordered through Amazon for the sissies, or through the Miskatonic River Press mothership website for the true lads and lasses composed of fine essential salts and strong moral fiber (or, indeed, "fibre" for my friends in Canada, the UK, and other places around the globe still struggling with proper spelling).

Coming Soon to The Cosmicomicon:  A prance down my bloodstream, and a review of Simon Strantza's Nightingale Songs.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Publishing News: Full Table of Contents and Cover Image Finally Revealed for 'Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities', Edited by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen for H. Harksen Productions

Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities cover by Paul Carrick
March should be a damn good month for devoted readers - and writers - of the Weird, the Cosmic, and the Lovecraftian.

Not only will it see the release of the Aklonomicon, compiled and edited by madcap talented Aklo Press founder Ivan McCann and the legendary Joseph S. Pulver, but it will also go down in barnacled annals of history as the month that saw the release of another monumental tome, titled Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, edited by Danish Lovecraftian/horror fiction writer, editor, publisher, and Cyclopean pillar Henrik Sandbeck Harksen, released via his extremely active H. Harken Productions, which has several fantastic books coming out this year, including The Eltdown Shards by Franklyn Searight and the Lovecraftian anthology Whisperers in Darkness, among others, listed here.

My personal tie between the Aklonomicon and Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities also extends to the artistic realm, as Paul Carrick - the conjurer who unleashed the cover above - also provided original artwork for and based on my two stories in the Aklonomicon.  As mentioned previously in The Cosmicomicon, I almost can't believe that my writing is now adorned, in even a small way, by Paul's art, which has been a favorite of mine since I first stumbled across the name "Cthulhu" in some tattered tome so many gibbous moons ago.  Paul is a true Lovecraftian legend, and a proud ambassador and trailblazer in the visual interpretation of things often left partially/vaguely described.  He's the terrifying Cliff's Notes of Cosmic Horror and Dark Fantasy, allowing the reader a mind-bending cheat sheet in the endeavor to visualize the unnameable, helping our feeble human minds to correlate a dangerous amount of its contents.  What would we do without magicians like him?

Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities has been flying under the radar for quite some time, as Henrik isn't one to flash his impressive literary plumage.  So, being the often overly enthusiastic fanboy of all of my esteemed colleagues, I'll do the shouting for him, by releasing the Table of Contents below, from Henrik's recent blog on the subject:
“Dancer of the Dying” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
“The Neighbors Upstairs” by John Goodrich
“Carcosapunk” by Glynn Owen Barrass
“Architect Eyes” by Thomas Strømsholt
“Slou” by Robert Tangiers
“Ozeelah’s Lake” by Morten Carlsen
“The Statement of Frank Elwood” by Pete Rawlik
“In the Shadow of Bh’Yhlun” by Ian Davey
“The Screamer” by T. E. Grau
“Night Life” by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen
“the guilt of each … at the end…” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

As you can see, the ToC of this anthology is noticeably sparse, reflecting a devotion to showcasing larger works in the anthology format (penned by an exciting line-up of well known names, and some that are new to my eye).  This focus includes my story, "The Screamer," which is my longest piece to date, and perhaps the most personal, as it deals with the strangeness (and worse) that can fester amid the white collar, office drone high rises of west Los Angeles.  "Urban" doesn't necessarily just apply to gritty streets, blighted neighborhoods, and gangland gun battles, as a deeper horror can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.

I'll go into a bit more detail about the story once the tome is finally released, and I once again send out a barrage of electronic smoke signals to possibly annoy and hopefully delight.  But for now, I wanted to get this glimpse of what's coming for you out into the ether, and plant a spore in your brain as we creep toward the anticipated birth of Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities.

Watch this space for the release announcement, and in the meantime, hazard an occasional look out those cold, office building windows.  You never know what could be taking place on the other side of the glass while we all face our computerized headmasters, counting down the minutes...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Publishing News: "Ignis Fatuus" Accepted for Publication in 'Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk', Edited by Lois Gresh for PS Publishing

I'm pleased as punch and proud as pie to announce that "Ignis Fatuus" - a story I co-wrote with renowned speculative fiction writer, editor, and Call of Cthulhu scenario trailblazer (and editor of my forthcoming collection) Scott David Aniolowski - was recently accepted into the forthcoming anthology Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk, edited by Stoker and Nebula award winning, six-time NY Times Bestselling author and major literary/horror personage Lois Gresh, to be released as a deluxe, signed hardcover by the excellent British horror, fantasy and sci-fi indie press PS Publishing this coming winter.

"Ignis Fatuus" is a bit of a dark, Ligottian fairy tale, told through the eyes of an aging, book-loving curmudgeon who feels most at home in the ancient Irish cemetery near his home, far from the howling neighborhood children and mechanized society that he increasingly shuns in favor of the solitude of the buried dead.  It was a blast to co-write, and is based off of Scott's fantastic original idea.  I grabbed his coattails and hung on tight, riding just long enough to throw in some bloated prose and a smear of unnecessary adjectives.  Even with all that going against it, the finished story made it over the wall.  And who says envelops full of large bills can't solve all the world's problems?

I wasn't really sure how a collaboration would play out initially, as fiction writing is such a personal undertaking, where styles are so varied and rhythms unique.  As a screenwriter in a former life, I occasionally collaborated with other writers on screenplays, as a script is such a purposely stripped down blueprint as far as stylistic flourish and ownership of language.  Screenwriting is meant to be somewhat cookie cutter for all of us schmucks who hadn't yet established a "brand" and earned the right (aka "been allowed") to put a personalized stamp onto a cinematic written work.

But prose is different, as prose is one's own.  Unique voice is encouraged, and almost unavoidable (unless imitation is actively sought).  The internal is externalized onto the page.  As such, one never knows how two different people will meld their voices into a duet.  And while I think Scott is a dynamite writer, I never really got the impression that we were similar stylistically.  But a funny thing happens when two are of one mind, and share a devotion for the same inspirations.  Throughout the process, literary alchemy took place, and in the end, an organic synthesis was achieved.  This resulted in "Ignis Fatuus" emerging whole and seamless, in that not even I can tell which parts are his, and which mine.  That's a good collaboration.  I enjoyed the hell out of it and am quite proud of the results.

While not much has been leaked into the ether as of yet about this project (as it's still quite early), this is the most recent announcement with details from Lois' blog:
In no particular order, these are the contributors to DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK. 
Cody Goodfellow
Nicholas Kaufmann
Mark McLaughlin
Darrell Schweitzer
Robert M. Price
Ann Schwader
Lynn Spitz
James Alan Gardner
Michael Marano
Lisa Morton
Nick Cato
John Haefele
Christopher Fulbright
David Sakmyster
Yvonne Navarro
Nancy Kilpatrick
Scott David Aniolowski & T.E. Grau
Norman Prentiss 
We have a great lineup and some terrific stories in this anthology. 
Abundant thanks to Weird Fiction Master ST Joshi and Fantastic Publisher Pete Crowther! 

There are many eminent names on that list - some with whom I've shared anthology space in the past, and others that I have haven't yet had the honor.  I'm once again humbled to be included in the company of such talented colleagues.  All authors will autograph tip sheets for the deluxe edition of Dark Fusions, which is damn exciting, and should edge this antho into "must have" territory upon release.

As for my "Ignis Fatuus" writing partner and I, it's my sincere wish to continue collaborating with Scott in the future on additional stories, as we have a few other ideas under construction in the pipeline, and will release them into the wild as time, schedule, and opportunity allow.  It's always a joy to work with someone so inspired and talented, and I look forward with great anticipation to our next journey into the Weird places of this world, and others.

When not kicking ass, taking names, and guiding my first collection into bookstores, Scott David Aniolowski whispers from his beloved House of Secrets.

Finally, huge thanks to Lois for publishing our story in her fantastic anthology.  Purchase her extremely well-timed Hunger Games Companion here, and the rest of her TWENTY-EIGHT (yes, 28) books right about here.

Keep your eye out (like, literally right out of your pulpy gourd) for Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk at the end of this rapidly unspooling year.  In the meantime, PS Publishing is putting out wicked gold every week, so sign up for their updates at their visually stimulating website, pick up a few of their monstrous tomes, then lock your doors.