A Look at Halloween Carnival Volume One

Halloween Carnival, Volume One
Brian James Freeman, ed.
ebook only $2.99

I’d like to thank Bryan James Freeman for the review copy of Halloween Carnival, Volume One.  This is the first of five volumes.  It was published on October 3 of this year (2017).  The remaining volumes will be published a week apart.  As of this writing the third volume dropped yesterday.  I hope to be able to read and review all of them before Halloween.

If the packing on the book reminds you of the Dark Screams series, that shouldn’t be surprising.  They from the same publisher and have the same editor. If you’ve read any of that series, then you know they are going to contain some quality fiction.

Here’s what you get with this volume. Continue reading

Road Kill, Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2 Now Available

Road Kill, Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 2
E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick, eds.
Eakin Press
Trade paper $19.95
ebook $7.95

Texas is a big place, and it can be pretty scary.  Last year, the first volume of Road Kill made that pretty clear.  You can see my review here.  That volume was 226 pages long.  This year you get 344 pages, a 52% increase in thrills and chills.

I’m honored to be included in this volume.  Here’s what the email sent to authors had to say about events over the next few months:

In the meanwhile, we’ve also already set up several RK2 appearances/signings at some of the best book venues in the state:
October 21 (BOOK LAUNCH): Fleur Fine Books, Port Neches
October 28: Burrowing Owl Bookshop, Canyon
October 29: Book People, Austin
November 4: Fort Worth Restaurant of the Mind
January 23: Brazos Books, Houston
If you’re in the area for one of the launches, please try to stop by and say hello.  I’ll be attending the launch in Canyon, and I’m looking forward to it.
And if you happen to pick up a copy, please leave a review.  It will be much appreciated.

Rough Week

I’ve got several reviews I’m been intending to write, but this week hasn’t been that week.  I hope to have some up by the end of the weekend.

Monday we got word that one of our graduate students who had left the country to present an invited paper at a conference had been denied readmission.  Our TA assignments were already stretched to the breaking point, and now we have to fill another hole in the schedule.  Then Monday evening a student with an illegally obtained handgun fatally shot a university police officer when he was picked up on a drug related incident.  To top the day off, an acquaintance was killed in a collision that night, leaving a young wife and children.

Tuesday there was a fire in one of the dorms, and yesterday a student with no history of health issues had a major seizure in class.

Not the best week for blogging.  By the time I’ve been able to sit down and write anything, I’ve been to brain dead and fried to put words together.  Hopefully next week will be quieter.

Tales From the Magician’s Skull Kickstarter Launches

The Kickstarter for a new sword and sorcery magazine has launched.  Tales From the Magician’s Skull will be edited by Howard Andrew Jones and promises to be one of the top venues for short S&S fiction.

I’ve been excited about this ever since Howard announced it.  This is a print periodical that harkens back to the days of the pulps.  I’ve pledged it.

The table of contents for the first issue has been posted on the Kickstarter page. Check it out.  This is gonna be fantastic.

Reading Robert E. Howard on National Poetry Day


I saw somewhere that today is supposed to be National Poetry Day, so I thought I would read some selections by one of my favorite poets.  Robert E. Howard is held in pretty high esteem in these here parts.  This is a side of Howard’s writing that isn’t as well known as it should be.The volume you see on the left is over 700 pages in length. It was published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press.  If you don’t have a copy, that’s unfortunate. It’s out of print.  (And you ain’t gettin’ mine.)

Here are some of my favorites. Continue reading

Pulphouse Is Back!

So, way back in the 90s there was this interesting thing called Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine.  It was soon followed by Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.  At the time I was a starving graduate student who wanted to be a writer.  That last part is still true.

The hardback was a little out of my budget at the time, although I’ve got an almost complete set now, with a couple of duplicates.

I did manage to find the cash for a subscription to Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, all the way to the end.  (I think I have a complete run.)  I read each issue eagerly, not just for the fiction but the columns on writing.  I’d met the editorial team of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch at a science fiction convention in Dallas early in Pulphouse’s run.  I paid attention to what they said about writing.

Pulphouse folded in 1996.  Time marched on, and the publishing landscape changed.  Rusch and Smith dipped their toes back into publishing  with Fiction River, a publication regular readers of this blog know I‘m a fan of.  (I’m also way behind on in my reading, but we won’t go there.)

Fiction River has been a success, as has Smith’s Monthly.  Now Pulphouse is being revived, with Dean Wesley Smith as the editor and Kristine Kathryn Rusch serving as Executive Editor.  They’ve launched a Kickstarter.  I’ve pledged and subscribed.  (My only complaint is there isn’t an option for a combined electronic and print subscription.  I went with print.)  Pulphouse isn’t going to be limited to a particular genre. That is something I like.

So if you like short fiction and want to see more of it, especially a variety, consider pledging.


Under The Bloody Black Flag

The Bloody Black Flag
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $9.99

The Bloody Black Flag is both a murder mystery as well as rousing pirate adventure. I’ll look at the historical adventure aspect of the novel here. The mystery component I review at Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

The story opens in October 1722. Spider John and his friend Ezra, fleeing from the British Navy, have given up their attempt to establish honest lives on shore and are returning to a life of piracy, or going back on the account as they would say.  They sign up with Plymouth Dream, a pirate ship captained by the despotic Captain Barlow. Unlike most ships, where the crew votes on all decisions except during combat, when the captain has absolute authority, Barlow rules with an iron hand at all times.

Barlow is sailing for Jamaica, which suits Spider and Ezra just fine.  Trouble comes during the first night, when one of the crew murders Ezra.  Spider John swears to find the murderer and kill him, but he has more immediate problems, such as staying alive himself.  Before his death, Ezra was recognized by one of the crew and accused of having witchblood because of his family history.  The same accusation could be made against Spider, so he has to keep a low profile while he pursues his investigation, pirates being a superstitious lot. Fortunately, his role as the ship’s carpenter gives him a reason to move about and talk to the other pirates.

It doesn’t take Spider long to figure out that Plymouth Dream is not your typical pirate ship, and not just because of the way things are run.  Barlow, the first mate Addison, and the second mate are hiding secrets.  They have a small item they intend to sell in Jamaica to an agent of the French crown.  When the item goes missing, Spider finds he’s shipped out on the pirate ship from Hell. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: “Black Amazon of Mars”

“Black Amazon of Mars” appeared in its original form in Planet Stories, March 1951. It was later expanded into the short novel The People of the Talisman (1964). This post will review just the original version. I’ll save comparison of the two for another day.

The story starts with Eric John Stark accompanying a Martian companion, Camar, home to the city of Kushat just south of the northern polar ice cap. Camar is dying and wants to return a sacred talisman he stole. The talisman was left by the legendary Ban Cruach to protect the city from a danger in a canyon to the north known as the Gates of Death.

Camar dies in the opening scene of the story, but not before Stark promises to fulfill his quest. The talisman is a jewel. Stark puts it against his temple, sees strange visions that come straight from Ban Cruach’s mind, and takes it off. He hides the talisman in his belt and sets off for Kushat. It isn’t long before he runs into trouble. Continue reading

Blogging Jirel of Joiry: “Hellsgarde”

Published in the April 1939 issue of Weird Tales, “Hellsgarde” is in many ways the last of the Jirel stories, at least her solo adventures.  She will meet up with Northwest Smith in “Quest of the Starstone”.  That’s another post for another day. “Starstone” was actually published first, in 1937, but all collections I’ve seen place it last in the book.

I found this story to have a bit more depth than “The Dark Land”, which we looked at yesterday. YMMV. There will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned.

It opens with Jirel riding to the castle of Hellsgarde,which sits in a vast swamp of quicksand and only appears at sunset. Two hundred years ago, Andred, master of Hellsgarde had found a great treasure which he kept in a small box. No one knew the exact nature of the treasure, but many coveted it. Andred died defending his treasure, but his killers never found it. Since then many have died trying to find it, and Hellsgarde has gained an evil reputation.

Now Guy of Garlot has taken some of Jirel’s men prisoner. He’s told Jirel that he will kill them unless she brings him Andred’s box from Hellsgarde. Guy’s fortress sits atop an unassailable cliff. Jirel has no choice but to go for the treasure. Guy is too cowardly to attempt finding it himself. Although it’s never stated, I suspect Guy hopes to take control of Jirel’s lands if she fails. Continue reading