Sunday, July 29, 2012

The End - From "The New Death and Others"

The story below is from The New Death and others, a collection of unexpected, thought-provoking, and highly original stories by James Hutchings.  I selected one of his lighter and more whimsical stories to share with you, because, hey, I'm shallow.

The End

"OK, that was a pretty scary story, but I think I've got a better one." Rob paused to pop a roasted marshmallow in his mouth. He stood up. In the flames of the campfire his eyes seemed to glow, like those of a wolf in the night.

"Once upon a time, not so long ago, a group of friends went out camping. There were five young men and women...but did I say five? In truth there were but four. For the fifth member of their party was not the young man he appeared to be. He was not a man at all; indeed, not even a living creature, but one of the walking dead! Dear friends, there is a twist in the tale. This is no story. Many years have I walked in the guise of mortal man. Many thirsty years. Now, at last, I shall feed!" Rob opened his mouth, now filled with long, wolf-life fangs, and howled with inhuman laughter.

There was a long silence.

"Wow. This is awkward, Rob," said Jenny at last. "I'm actually a vampire as well. But I guess we can split two ways?"

"Three ways," said Mark.

"Oh, no way you're both vampires too," Rob said angrily.

"No, no. I'm a demon. I was hoping to tempt you into sin and damn your souls. Well, Tim and Alice's souls now."

A pair of bat-like wings, huge and leathery, sprouted from Alice's back.
"Sorry. Succubus."

Tim raised his hand.

"I'm the coagulated rage of the murdered children whose bodies lie beneath us. I regenerate, so I guess you guys could eat a bit of me, but I'm kind of sour..." He trailed off as the others shook their heads. Mark warmed his hands at the campfire. Everywhere is too cold when you come from Hell.

"Man, what are the odds?" Rob asked no one in particular. "I mean, you assume everyone else is a real human, am I right?"

"I guess so," Tim replied. "I actually stalked these four college kids last month? Turned out they were the ghosts of some college kids I killed years ago. Pretty embarrassing."

"You don't..." Alice began, then trailed off.

"What?" Mark asked.

"Well, you don't think that they're all gone?"


"Humans. Mortals. They haven't...I don't know, died out?"

"What, everyone's really a vampire or a demon or something?"

"Well, yeah."

"No. No, no way. I mean, we'd know. You could tell."

"You know," Mark said thoughtfully, "people don't seem to be into forbidden magic any more. It's been so long since anyone tried to sell me their soul. It was...actually I think it was in the 20th century some time. Gee, that long. But no, no way they could all be gone." He turned to the two vampires. "I mean you guys get hunted all the time don't you?"

"Oh, for sure," Jenny nodded. "I'm always thinking people are following me or about to throw holy water or whatever. There was this old guy, Obadiah something. Wow, he just didn't give up. Followed me pretty much the whole Civil War."

No one replied. The only sounds were the insects and the fire. At last Alice broke the silence.
"Hey, if this was a TV show? The vampire hunters would leap out at us about now, and they'd be all like 'we didn't die, we just got real careful' or 'we're over here' or something."

But no human sprang upon them. None at all.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name 'Brad Pitt.' He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others is now available from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. He blogs daily at Teleleli.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

eFiction Kickstarter

Doug Lance is running a Kickstarter in support of two things close to my heart: launching five new genre fiction magazines, and paying his writers more.  eFiction Magazine has been around since 2010 and it's gotten well-enough established that Lance is branching out and creating separate titles for noir, fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  (There's also a romance title in the works, but why focus on the negative?  Kidding, I kid.)

It's a good chance to score a cheap subscription or three, and of course you'll be helping create something cool.  Check out the kickstarter here:

eFiction magazine is at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yes, There Is a Zombie Shark

So I submitted a story a little while back to Cruentus Libri Press for their upcoming "Dead Sea" horror anthology.  Today I got a reply.  Definitely the coolest editor response I've ever gotten.  Check it out:

Good morning, Brent,

Thank you for your submission to The Dead Sea. We are pleased to confirm that we will be including it in the anthology. It's a great story, well told. It's nice to see a horror story that isn't afraid to load itself with action, as opposed to a brooding, slow build - very refreshing. What really sold me on it was the inclusion of a zombie shark - seriously, what's not to love?

Anyway, a contract will reach you by the end of the week, so keep an eye out in your inbox.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book Review - The Brodie Wade Series

Jerry Hanel's Brodie Wade series rocks.  There are two books so far, Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body.  You could call them highly original paranormal mystery/adventure stories starring Brodie Wade, a man who can see the living embodiment of The Truth.

It's a challenging and intriguing premise for the series.  The Truth has a physical manifestation that is visible and palpable to Brodie Wade, the likeable everyman hero of the series.  The Truth just wants to be known.  In fact, sometimes it demands to be known, and it will quite literally smack Brodie around to make itself heard.  It's one of the most powerful parts of these stories.  The Truth is like a force of nature, extremely powerful yet completely unreasoning.  

Brodie's relationship with The Truth is strained, to say the least.  It has provided him with valuable insights.  It provides a source of income, allowing him to work as a consultant to the local police department.  But it has also pretty much ruined his life.  Brodie has spent time in a mental institution, and as he keeps reacting to things no one else can see, the risk of being committed again is always hanging over his head.

In the first book, Death Has a Name, Brodie has just one friend, homicide detective Phil Dawson.  Aided by a lady cop, Jamie Stanford, they try to stop a mysterious entity who seems to be a serial killer but may actually be trying to bring to life the living embodiment of Death.

Thaloc Has a Body gets off to a killer start when The Truth tells Brodie that he's going to die.  That's frightening enough, but what REALLY scares him is Jamie.  She wants to go on a date.  The mystery is puzzling, the drama is powerful, and the characters and their relationships are endlessly engaging.

Brodie as a hero is the best part of the series.  He's scrawny and timid and introverted, and heartily wishes The Truth would just leave him alone.  He constantly walks a fine line, needing to react to The Truth to keep this powerful supernatural force placated.  Yet he must constantly pretend that The Truth isn't there, to keep up an appearance of sanity.

Yet despite all that he goes through, when the chips are down and the stakes are high, he just keeps doing what needs to be done.  Life keeps clobbering him again and again, and he keeps getting back up, battered and bloody, and fighting the good fight.  You feel his pain, his terror, his hopelessness.  And his remarkable courage.  It's marvelously good reading.

There are things I don't like about the series.  It's crying out for a good editing and proofreading.  The prose is often clunky and unpolished, though the power of the storytelling more than makes up for it.  The Truth is a wonderfully original idea, but it's kind of inconsistently portrayed.  Sometimes The Truth is just a neutral, if powerful, force, wanting only to be known.  Other times The Truth seems to have an agenda, and pesters Brodie to save people who are in danger.  

Overall, though, it's well worth checking out.  Especially since volume 1, Death Has a Name, is currently free.

Get Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body at Smashwords.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review - Dark King of the North

My rating: 4 / 5

The Kobalos trilogy comes to a close with Dark King of the North.  In City of Rogues we met Kron Darkbow and saw him wage a war of vengeance on local crime lord Belgad the Liar.  In Road to Wrath he set out with Randall Tendbones and Adara Corvus to confront the freakishly powerful Lord Verkain, pursued by Verkain's war demons, an angry Belgad, and a professional duelist with grudges against Kron and Adara.  Now, in Dark King of the North, everything comes to a head.

There's a potential issue in this story with Kron encountering enemies and allies so powerful that he becomes superfluous.  However, even as war demons and a mage of mind-boggling power on one side do battle with a powerful wizard and a reincarnated god on the other side, there is still plenty of mayhem for Kron to revel in.

One of the beautiful things about the trilogy is how the story has been building up to this bigger-than-epic confrontation.  Verkain is a horrifically dangerous opponent, and the stakes have risen and risen until Kron has no choice but to somehow try to stop him.  The price he pays is high.  He gets hurt.  He loses friends.  He gets hurt more.  The things he tries blow up in his face, and he just has to pick up the pieces and try again.

It's very powerful storytelling, and it brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.  If you liked the earlier books you'll like this one.  Dark King of the North could work as a stand-alone novel, but I'd definitely recommend reading the other books first.

I think I can see the author improving, as well.  Ty Johnston is a writer to watch, constantly challenging himself, writing in various genres, expanding and honing his skills.  The prose is still a bit rough, but it has improved over the earlier books.  The kick-ass storytelling is still intact and working fine.

At three bucks it's a bargain, but there is now a Kobalos Trilogy omnibus edition that will save you a few bucks.  It's gritty, hard-edged, action-packed sword and sorcery adventure, and I recommend you check it out.

The Kobalos Trilogy Omnibus on Smashwords
Dark King of the North on Smashwords

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Review - The Whitechapel Gambit

My rating: 5 / 5

You'll know I'm a fan of Marcin Wrona if you've read my review of Pale Queen's Courtyard. What he's done for sword and sorcery he's now done for steampunk, and I think this book is actually better.

The Whitechapel Gambit is the story of a boy named Squeak who helps maintain the machinery that keeps an artificial sun blazing over an underground community.  An on-the-job injury leads to involvement with mad science, a millionaire with a dark obsession, and a deadly journey to the surface of this strange new world.  There's a serial killer, class struggles, bad poetry and chess lessons.

As with Pale Queen's Courtyard, Wrona has crafted something challenging, complex, and deep, while keeping all the fun genre elements that make it delightful to read.  I don't know anyone who does a better job of combining thought-provoking ideas and the best parts of literary writing with sheer fun, crowd-pleasing, really cool storytelling.

It's a very ambitious book.  I, as an author, would not try a lot of the things Wrona tackles.  There's a VERY strange setting.  There's language.  Some of the cast speaks a blend of 19th-century Cockney slang and invented slang.  Others speak the middle-class Victorian English.  The rest speak upper-class English.  It's no more difficult than juggling chainsaws, after designing one of the chainsaws yourself.

There's some non-linear narrative.  There are chess lessons loaded with symbolism.  There are technological and magical systems built from scratch.  I might attempt any one of these things.  This book earns my respect by trying them all.  I'd be impressed even if it had blown up in his face.  But he actually made it all work.

By the very end the timeline was starting to slip away from me. There were times when I wasn't sure where I was temporally, what level of flashback I was in.  There is a cast of servants too big to keep track of them, and when one of them does something shocking, the effect is blunted for me by not being able remember just who that person was.  And there was a significant plot element that I don't think got resolved.  I'm not sure if it's a setup for a sequel, or if I missed something.

Overall, though, the book is brilliant.  There's powerful drama, mystery, and parts that made me laugh.  It's a highly original world that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring, and there was no shortage of thought-provoking ideas.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Cover Art

I've got some fantastic new cover art for Lord of Fire, courtesy of Deedee Davies at She does excellent work, she's a pleasure to work with, and she's quite affordable.  I recommend her without reservation.

I think she's captured the essence of Hazel, my take-no-prisoners witch.  The look on her face makes you really glad you aren't the poor sap with the sword.  

If you have any inclination to buy the book, now would be a good time.  I'm going to be re-releasing it with the new cover art and a higher price sometime soon.