Tweaked the Ebook Cover for The Lost Librarians Grave

I tweaked the ebook cover for The Lost Librarian’s Grave a bit. I’m planning on uploading it to Amazon this weekend. As I mentioned in the Redwood Press blog post, suggestions and feedback are always welcome.

Redwood Press

Work continues on The Lost Librarian’s Grave horror and weird fiction anthology, which is good because October will be here before we know it. Today I tweaked the ebook cover a little, giving the gargoyle a bit of an aura or glowing effect, as well as a few other things.

I also decided to put some author names on the cover. It was very hard to decide* so the three of us each picked our favorite story–none of us liked the same one the best. This was easy for Don, a bit harder for Occasum, and very hard for me because I liked all the stories and had several favorites for differing reasons.

Then I added another author because I have misspelled their name now about a dozen times, and while not a huge deal it seemed a way of balancing the scales and achieving some literary Maat. Finally…

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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.”

“Little Paranoias” horror anthology by Sonora Taylor free on Amazon through July 30th

From the Redwood Press blog.

Redwood Press

Sonora Taylor is making Little Paranoias, her 2019 collection of short horror fiction available for free on Amazon until midnight (Pacific Time) on July 30th. I downloaded the e-book myself yesterday and have added it to my ever-growing reading list.

Click here to download Little Paranoias for free through July 30th.

About Little Paranoias:

Is it a knock on the door, or a gust of wind? A trick of the light, or someone who’ll see what you’ve done?

“Little Paranoias: Stories” features twenty tales of the little things that drive our deepest fears. It tells the stories of terror and sorrow, lust at the end of the world and death as an unwanted second chance. It dives into the darkest corners of the minds of men, women, and children. It wanders into the forest and touches every corner of the capital. Everyone has something to fear —…

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Started new site for Redwood Press

I’ve been working on a site for Redwood Press, which is going to be the name we publish under. I plan on continuing to post writing updates here but I wanted a separate place where I’m not also talking about miniatures, working out or recipes. My husband and I made a long list of names and decided on Redwood mainly because we live near redwoods and love them. Not sure that is a good basis for a name but there you have it.

Below is the general logo I plan on using for now. The website is pretty small, since this is the beginning, but like anything else it will grow in time.

I put up some writer’s guidelines and much to my surprise this morning I had over 50 stories in my inbox and I’ve gotten another 12 today so far. That was encouraging and a much greater response than I anticipated for the day after going live.

I’ve been pretty busy with this but I have managed to pick away a little each day on the Paint the Crap You Already Own! roundup. I hope to have it done by the end of the month or at the latest before the current Solstice painting challenge closes.

Have some painters coming tomorrow to paint three rooms where we tore out the carpet and put down faux wood flooring. That seems like a good time to go find a corner somewhere amongst the piles of stuff, that we had to take out of our rooms, and read some stories. Hope one of them is a really good gargoyle tale!

Sloth: Anthology from “Seven Deadly Sins” series.

Sloth is the third title of an anthology of short stories and micro fiction published by Black Hare Press out of Melbourne, Australia. The first two books in the series are Pride and Lust respectively.* I received a copy in the mail a fair time ago and I think that it is keeping with the theme of the anthology that I’m only posting this now. I’m sure the banana slugs from a few days ago would agree!

My small contribution to this colorful book was a quick, two page piece of micro fiction entitled, “I Want My Blanket,” where the denizens of the underworld gather upon the Plains of Paradox to witness a competition among imps with the prize being promotion to full devil and service with the Grand Devil itself. (Best not to dwell too much on the fates of the losers!)

The story came from a 2019 Halloween prompt where one was supposed to write a very short story that included a list of certain words such as “ominous” and the like.

I’m still reading Sloth and so far I would characterize some of the stories as straight Horror with shocking elements, exploration of the unknown or taboos and so on, while others seem more in the realm of dark fantasy or like the story I read last night, “The Last Stand” by Jo Mularczyk, dystopian science fiction. The tone of the stories varies, ranging from somewhat gritty to playful.

Now I don’t want to say too much more because this post isn’t meant to be a book review, since I don’t think it is seemly for me to review a book I have a piece of writing in. Even if it is only a two page curio touching upon the formalities of infernals. That said, my favorite stories so far have been “Death Care” by A.R. Dean and “One Hit Wonder” by A.L. King.

  • Publisher: Black Hare Press
  • Editors: Ben Thomas & D. Kershaw
  • Horror Short Story Anthology, released 2020
  • Available Formats: Hard Cover, Paperback, Kindle eBook
  • Hard Cover Pages: 447
  • Find Book on Amazon

* Book four, Envy, has also been released. As I understand, the next book in the seven book series will be Greed.

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.

 

Scary Snippets Christmas Edition Released

I’ve had a bounce in my step for awhile now what with getting some of my very short fiction out there in the world.  One of those putting-bounce-in-my-step moments was placing a short story called “Turkey Day” with the good folks at Suicide House Publishing for their holiday offering Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.*

I received two copies of the book the other day and am looking forward to reading it.  All of the stories are very short (hence “snippets”), between 100 and 600 words.  Naturally, being a Lady of Chaos Undivided I went for excess and made sure I used all 600 words.

Reindeer is tired of being used as a book rest and thinks duck needs to take a turn.**

Monsters and mayhem, by a goodly number of authors, include such things as cannibalism (tasty presented of course), Yule Cat, Revenge of the Christmas trees, and I am pleased to report that mine wasn’t the only story with zombies.

I must confess that my zombies were an oblique feature rather than the main attraction of Turkey Day.  One possible theme for my story might be that people are just a little too hard to impress these days and it’s a damned shame.  Whatever the case, I’m one of those people (currently anyway) who usually looks for a theme after I’ve finished my work rather than when I’m writing it.

Bird thinks the Thanksgiving Day ones are the scariest for obvious reasons!

In other news, I was the dungeon master for a Dungeons & Dragons game yesterday, which went pretty well.  I haven’t DMed in many years and I was a little nervous going in, but everyone said they had fun and are looking forward to once again visiting the Enchanted Forest, so I’m pretty pleased.

Finally, I have a sorry little tale (pun not intended) about my cat catching a mouse.  That will be for next time.  I hope everyone had a nice holiday.

Christmas Bird Clip Art

*  Suicide House Publishing has since changed its name to Nocturnal Sirens Publishing.

** My mother made the little clothespin angel, which I thought was cute, and put it in this year’s Christmas box.  Thanks, Mom! 🙂

Book Review: Stories We Tell After Midnight

“Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow.  In these pages, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen.”  — Crone Girls Press

Stories We Tell After Midnight is the debut anthology of short, horror fiction from Rachel A. Brune’s Crone Girls Press.  This book was my bedtime literary companion for a few nights and I found it an enjoyable read.  The stories varied in length from flash fiction to longer short stories.  Like pretty much all anthologies, the quality of the tales varied.  Some of the stories were excellent, some average, and a couple didn’t work for me.  Even with the stories that I thought fell flat, I did appreciate that the authors were taking chances.

This authorial taking of chances is something that I haven’t seen much of with the short fiction I’ve been reading lately, and made for an interesting change of pace.  This is probably because I have been reading a lot of fiction online.  Such work often tends to play it safe for reasons such as restrictive terms of service and risks the risk of feeling sanitized or politically correct.

Stories We Tell After Midnight is a refreshing alternative and gives us none of that.

The stories “go places” I haven’t seen lately.  Children in dangerous situations, terrors that seem familiar from recent headlines, unsavory culinary habits and sexual manipulations, to name a few.  Brune chooses work by authors who can sojourn into this dark country but do so without crossing the border into bad taste, even if in one case the author does drag his toe along that line, in my opinion.

Sometimes, Horror has to sojourn down twisted, borderland roads.

I also enjoyed how the stories took place in different eras and places.  There were tales set during the mid and late-19th Century up to the present day.*  I liked how the horrors varied between the entirely mundane to the magical/supernatural, and I appreciated the magic realism that permeated many of these evocative settings.

My favorite three stories in no particular order were:**

  • “Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Belardes
  • “Gobbl’uns” by Thea Rachel Brune
  • “It Has to Cool First” by Carol Gyzander

I just realized my top three picks all involved food one of sort or another!

“Kitchen Spirits” by Nicholas Berlardes introduces us to the recently widowed Pascual, who is having nightmares of his “re-animated wife” and seeing “a thing with crab-like legs” with “a corpse-colored tongue” sampling dead rats in his driveway.  Mostly, he wants to be left alone with his sorrow, microwaved refried beans and Netflix.  He also doesn’t want anyone messing with his cat, Panchito.  I can understand that, though one feels sorry for him as a man who has lost his old life and his purpose.

I enjoyed Pascual’s internal dialogue as he tries to cope with his current existence and broken heart while “visions of corpses infected his mind.”  If that wasn’t enough, throw in a pesky, teenage neighbor, who was given to “blabbing about some monster-filled dungeon he’d concocted for his stupid geek friends,” while delivering warnings about “bad mojo.”

As Pascual becomes more disturbed, and the environs around his house more sinister and seemingly unclean, one wonders if the kid might not have a point.

I enjoyed reading how Pascual ended up reacting once the full horror of the situation was revealed.  He seemed very human.  What made this a real page turner, of course, was hoping the cat didn’t take one in the neck.  You’ll have to read the story for yourself to find out what happens with Panchito.

Sure, take a big bite but watch out for your fillings!

“It Has to Cool First” is set in late-19th Century Atlantic City where two young orphans, Jeremy and his younger sister, Mary, try to obtain work.***  Any work so they might survive.  Jeremy is particularly appealing for his indefatigable willingness to strive, despite his tender years, to secure the immediate survival and possibility of a bright future for himself and Mary.

They end up at the Keuhnle Hotel at a bakery run by the sinister Herr Holdermann.

I enjoyed how Gyzander led me down the magical realism rabbit hole through addiction to a horrific outcome where the last line brings the story full circle to a satisfactory, evil conclusion, but with more questions and the possibility for alternative futures I can spin out in my head as a reader.  Horror that is more of the same?  A long and complicated Revenge?  What do the other people in the town and associated with the hotel really know about the bakery?  You get the idea.

You get extra evil monster points for taunting the kid when you know he’s hooked!

“Gobbl’uns” is a story of childhood jealousies and monsters under the bed.  Poor Charlie, on his sixth birthday, has to deal with the fact that his parents are much more focused on the needs of his younger brother than they are with the horrors that might be lurking under his bed, despite his father’s “monster repellent.”

What appealed me to most about this story was the masterful job the author did in capturing the essence of young Charlie through an adult, third-person voice.  I smiled at Charlie making a protective picket of his stuffed animals against the monsters and by the end understood (and sympathized a little) with his sibling rivalry, even while things didn’t work out quite like how the boy probably imagined or hoped they would.

Stories We Tell After Midnight was a dark, attractive read.  The plots were straight-forward, the writing crisp, and the settings varied and evocative, which makes for good bedtime reading.  I would only give this book a miss if you are highly sensitive or easily triggered, in which case I would respectfully ask why you are reading adult horror in the first place?

Congratulations to Crone Girls Place for a solid, debut offering.  As someone who enjoys a bit of horror tourism, I look forward to seeing the tormented landscapes Editor Brune takes us next.

This is an unsolicited review for which I received no compensation. All graphics used with permission of Crone Girls Press.**** 


* Would have been fun to see a story set in some sort of dark fantastic or science fiction future, though the lack of this in no way diminished my enjoyment of the anthology.

** Honorable mention to Elizabeth Donald’s “In Memoriam.”

*** It is fun when an author pulls from history, especially when they don’t tell you they are doing so.  (Several of the stories do this.)  Keuhnle’s Hotel, where Gyzander’s story is set, was built in 1875 by the father of Commodore Louis Keuhnle, who puts in an early appearance in the story.  According to Wikipedia, Keuhnle’s in Atlantic City was a “prime meeting place for some of the time’s earliest gangsters, racketeers, politicians, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs.”  Sounds to me like it was a place where people really knew how to party!

*** This I swear as a Chaos Lady and a supporting adept of the October Egregore, and upon the holy tentacles of the Dark Gods’ minions who handle such oaths as well as the ghost of Commodore Keuhnle!

Gabby Novel: Night

I finished the next section of my novel, Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster.  The title of this section is Night.

I decided to dispense with the idea of looking where I’d put the chapter divisions if the work were a traditional book.  Instead I’m looking at each section on Wattpad as its own chapter.  So this section is number four in the story.

I have another picture, though I haven’t worked it into the story yet but I plan on doing so fairly soon.  I experimented with including pictures in my Wattpad stories, but ended up taking them out because they apparently made it hard to load for phones, which caused a precipitous decrease in viewership.  I’m not on Wattpad necessarily to build a large viewership, because I don’t see myself having the time that it would take to do that, I don’t want to needlessly make it hard for people to view my work either.

Another offering by the talented Stefan Ljumov

I’ve been slacking off on moving forward with the story because I have had to give some attention to changes in my job situation.  The changes are good and will result in more free time, so I can work on the story more.  Wattpad has proven its worth so far.  In the past, this period of not working on the story would have probably caused me to consider abandoning the project in favor of the next shiny, new idea, but since I’ve put myself out there with it online, I find I still have the interest and energy to continue.

Finally, I started another WordPress blog.  This one is called Ann’s Physical Culture Journal and it is a place for me to keep track of my workouts and such.  I have enjoyed doing various workouts for years and have lots of old notebooks kicking around full of stuff that I have been doing from the 1980’s up until now.  This is the first time I have done a blog on the subject though.

I decided upon a separate blog instead of creating a section here, because I expect that I will be posting a lot and I don’t want to clutter this space up with lots of posts about lifting weights and such.  I want to keep the Immaterium primarily an arts space.

Finally, my husband has a lot of weight he needs/wants to lose and decided to start a Youtube channel where he does vegan recipes and every Friday posts a video detailing how his week went diet-wise, etc.  I’m proud of how he’s done so far — he’s lost 60 pounds.  So if you are interested in fairly easy-to-make vegan food and such check it out here.  Don mentioned, after I told him I was going to put out a link to his channel that a play list of the cooking videos is here.  I’ve (of course) eaten them all, some multiple times, and quite enjoyed them.  Having a husband who likes to cook is a beautiful thing.

 Gabby cover 125 wide for WordPress

Gabby: Last Shot (End of Chapter One)

I finished the next installment of my novel, Gabby the Bug-Eyed Monster.  This finishes chapter one and I achieved two of my goals: finish the first chapter and also finish with that wretched cave.  My first chapter was a bit over 5300 words, which means word count-wise I’m about 5% done.

The title of this section is Last Shot.  I decided that each of the subsections is going to be no more than two words.  I’m really only doing these chapter subsections because I’m doing this in an online format and need to break it up more than I would for a physical book.

Gabby by Stefan Ljumov

Steady but slow progress.  I’m looking forward to my schedule changing in October.  One happy consequence of that is I’ll have more time for writing on a set schedule instead of carving out some time here and there when I can, which doesn’t work very well for me in terms of completing long-term projects.

I have a pretty good idea where I want to go for Chapter Two, which will get me through the next few weeks of writing and give me some time to think about structure and plot beyond what I already have.  I have an idea for a sub-plot that I introduced the fleeting germ of at the end of the first chapter, and think I know where I more or less want to go by the end of the book though at this point that could still change.

Of course I can go back and fix structural problems and the like in a second draft at some point, but I would like to get as much right as I can on the first go.

The next section will go live on September 15, 2019.

Gabby cover 125 wide for WordPress