666 Dark Drabbles: An anthology from Black Hare Press.

666 is the eleventh title of the Dark Drabbles series of books, published by Black Hare Press out of Melbourne, Australia.* My magnificent contribution to this collection is a 100 word piece entitled “Azazel’s Heart,” which I came up with a couple of years ago. I recently rewrote the drabble to give it a more infernal flavor, what with the title of the book and all.

“Azazel’s Heart” is something of an epistolary** tale of sorcery and revenge set in the same vaguely post modern milieu I often use as a backdrop for some of my other stories.

I was casting around for a devil’s name to use and I came up with a few names, and then I thought of Azazel. Now, this devil is associated with various things, including the idea of a scapegoat and also forbidden knowledge, but in modern times this mighty fiend is perhaps best known as the dark patron of miniature painters, who ardently wish to both achieve a high output and excellent quality for their creations. So, Azazel it was!

I liked the cover when I first saw it, though my first reaction was, “Poor bunny!”***

Now I have to admit, I wasn’t terribly interested when I first heard of drabbles some years ago. A drabble is a type of flash fiction where one tells a story in exactly a hundred words. I had all sorts of objections, which I won’t go into here. Eventually I came around to where I put my objections aside and now enjoy both reading and writing in this form.

Reading, because I like to wind down with a book for about a half-hour each night before I go to sleep but sometimes I’m too tired to read that long or with much attention, so I go to one of the many books of drabbles I now have in my collection and read three or four selections before sliding into a hideous yet strangely restful dreamland.****

Also, it is fun to see how others paint a picture and tell a story within the limits of this form. To my thinking, a properly written drabble is not just a scene or a slice-of-life, it is a small story. That is where both the challenge and the fun lie.

Writing, for many reasons–too many to go into all of them here. A few are:

  • I enjoy the challenge of trying to tell a story in exactly 100 words, which I think is the main attraction for many people.
  • I like exploring an idea by writing a drabble and then seeing if any longer work comes from it. Lately, I’ve been writing drabbles in the same “universe” or along the same theme with a longer story. The idea is the drabbles and the longer story stand together, while still being able to stand apart as a coherent whole.
  • I use drabbles as a way to catalogue ideas to take a look at them later, while still producing something that is (hopefully) interesting.
  • Drabbles are a nice way to have some fun with writing when one is busy. Too often I have gone long periods of time without writing because of some other large project or ongoing responsibility that is dominating my life at the time.

* Australia is one of those countries I’ve always wanted to visit, ever since I was a kid. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I hope to once travel becomes easier and I figure out a plan to deal with that ubiquitous terror of German backpackers all over the continent–the dreaded Brown-Legged Kidney Huntsman! (Be warned about the K.H. link, it is most definitely NSFW in so many ways, lol.) I’m sure Pat has had to dodge these monstrosities more than once in his travels!

** The story is taken, in part, from what might be a page in a diary.

*** Zeus, our infernal (note the sanguineous Evil Eye!) bunny from the early 2000s, whose great claim to fame was he was featured in a pet magazine–the name of which I can’t recall–with national distribution, isn’t sure what he thinks of the 666 cover. I really liked the art, as I said, but I can see why my favorite fiendish lagomorph has mixed feelings on the issue.

**** Certain others in my household like having physical, rather than electronic, books of drabbles laying around for “bathroom reading.”

Forgotten Ones Anthology, Bigfoots & Bugbears

Somewhere in the dissolving folds and mists of space-time, between obsessing over getting my 20 poxwalkers done in less than three years and finishing an Etsy bugbear before the current painting challenge closes on May 3rd, I received my author’s copy of Forgotten Ones, published by Eeire River Publishing out of Ontario, Canada, and it is currently available on Amazon.

Forgotten Ones is a collection of two hundred drabbles featuring “creatures of lore, and ancient rituals,” and happily (for me) four of these tiny tales came from my pen.*

Brass Cat and Carrot Foot would both give Forgotten Ones a thumbs up, if they had thumbs!

I see a number Lovecraft-inspired titles as well as Norse, Greek, Mayan, Biblical references and more as I hold the book in my right hand and scan through the table of contents while I one-finger type this with my left.  (Not bad if I say so myself and I do!)

I’ve written quite a few of these drabbles over the past year or so.  I’ve noticed that with a little practice one develops a knack for hitting pretty close to one hundred words on the first couple of tries.  Sometimes a drabble will lead me into writing a longer story and other times I’m content, like Poe and many others, to leave at least one character screaming out their remaining existence in a wet tomb, whether that be a literal one or a sarcophagus of the imagination and so on.**  

My Forgotten Ones drabbles feature such innovations as a change of viewpoint in an iconic scene from The Odyssey and another was inspired by my general reading about Hellenistic mystery religions/schools.  Then there is the magician in north Africa in danger of being (deservedly though I’m sure he’d disagree!) burned alive … but wait, look, the sky it, it … Eieee! … and my personal favorite of the four, “Robin Never Finished Her Bigfoot Video.”***

I think turning from bigfeet to bugbears makes for a nice segue, don’t you?  I’ve been continuing to make progress on my Etsy Work-in-Progress bugbear that I want to get done before my Paint the Crap You Already Own! painting challenge wraps up on May 3rd.  I completed the base coat colors for all three mace-and-shield bugbears a few days ago and decided to finish at least one to go along with poxwalker #18.

April 20, 2020: Put some base colors on my trio of mace-wielding bugbears

The first time I heard the word “bugbear” was when as a child I heard someone say that something was his bugbear and I thought he meant it was his pet and wondered what a bear that was a bug or bug that was a bear looked like.  Although it was lost as far as I know in the aforementioned mists of space-time, I drew a bugbear in grade school art class not long after.  I remember it looked like a bear and I gave it the head of an ant because at that time (and I still do!) I liked ants quite a lot.

I later on discovered bugbears figured in folklore and then later on, when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, they figured there too as a type of large “goblinoid” that was violent – no real surprise there – and stealthy – considering their bulk a bit more surprising – and not too smart but possessed of a low cunning.****

WIP Bugbear One on April 24, 2020.

To the best of my knowledge bugbears first appeared in D&D with the publication of the Greyhawk supplement, where there is a (to me) silly picture of a furry, ogre-like creature with a tomato, pumpkin or some other such vegetable for a head.

Bugbears really came into their own to my thinking in AD&D some time later and I used them as antagonists quite a bit back then.  I also went through an Anne of Green Gables phase after reading the book.  Naturally this culminated, at its height, with my playing a bugbear ranger-type character, Anneglak, who ran around helping people, even though they initially misunderstood her what with being an eight foot tall bugbear.  Anneglak later considered herself the protector of the Green Forest, and I patterned the way she talked and such after the eponymous Anne Shirley.

Let’s hope the bigfoots don’t start getting organized!

Gosh, it is hard to believe now that I was ever so young.  Then again, it turned out that character, as silly as it all seems now, was beloved by the DM and other players.  Years later, I was talking to one of my fellow players from back then and she asked if I “still had Anneglak’s character sheet.”  I was impressed that she still remembered the character’s name!

Happy memories but back to now.  My current painting plan is to finish up my first bugbear before the end of April.  Maybe even poxwalker #19 too, but don’t hold me to it.  After that I’ll probably continue with my recent painting innovation of actually finishing up projects before moving on to something else and paint the other two for May.

This is the picture that inspired Anneglak.

* A drabble is a 100 word story.  Also see flash fiction for more information on this topic.  For “pen” read “keyboard.”

** Like Poe, Lovecraft, and many others I have a soft spot for burying people alive in my writing.  I’m reminded of that practice, apparently common not so long ago, of having a little bell on one’s grave plot with a connecting string into the coffin so if you end up waking up after the funeral and all of your nearest and dearest have gotten about their business of fighting over your will, you can at least hope someone can hear you.  This is especially important given that cell phones often lose their signal when you are buried in a coffin six feet under the earth.

***  I’ve always had a soft spot for bigfeet ever since I saw one on The Six Million Dollar Man.  Even more so now that my current home is among the redwoods on the California coast where (according to the local bigfoot museum) Sasquatch is alive and well.