Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dark Heroes released by Pill Hill Press, Did Someone Say ‘Excerpt?’

After all the excitement of getting my first ebook out, I should have mentioned by now that I also had a short story published in September in Pill Hill Press’s DARK HEROES anthology, available through all the usual sales channels. I’ve read a few stories in the pages of DARK HEROES (other than my own, of course) and must say that editor Jessy Marie Roberts did a fine job of selecting some quality talent. I specifically enjoyed tales by authors J. Leigh Bailey, Christopher Heath and Darin Kennedy.

Anyhow, here’s a snip of my story. Perhaps one of you will like it enough to order the entire antho! You never know.

HE FROWNED, PEERED DOWN at the large wolf. It laid still, on its side, a stark heap of brown and red and gray against the snowy forest floor. Four ash wood shafts jutted out of its thick fur—four dark-quilled arrows. The man took care to look around, slowly, his intense gaze ranging out from the cowl of his worn woolen hood of gray, scanning the trees high and low for a long quiet moment.

He sniffed the frigid air, then sucked his own teeth, his frown refusing to leave its perch above his whiskered chin. The man had his black bow in hand, leaned on it as he squatted, silent and sullen. He looked the wolf over from just a foot or two away, his gaze moving back and forth. He saw its blood still wet, not yet congealed, not yet turned to frost. Leaning closer, inches from the stilled creature, the man saw the arrows bore small carvings, a crudely etched design to a pair of arrows each and he knew them for what they were: hunter’s marks.

He looked around the woods again, stock-still, his gray cloak splayed about, his face in shadow. It was early winter—Brooding Rise it was called in the lands without, in the High Kingdoms and the nearer parts of the Empire—and the forest floor was blanketed white.

The undergrowth and the surrounding somber aspens and cocked-crown elms, though mostly leafless, had not yet taken on their mantles of ice. No flakes fell, yet it was a misty morning, and good for hiding.

After a bit of silence, the man resigned to set his bow on the ground, reached to his belt and drew a single-edged knife with a curved point, its grip fashioned from deer antler, its blade from cold-quenched iron with a keen bright edge. He grasped the nearest arrow, buried deep between the ribs of the beast and poised his knife to cut the shaft loose. The wolf jolted and yawped, went rigid, then twisted its head back to snap at him. The man let go and straightened, barely avoiding those dire, gnashing teeth.

“Still alive…” The man settled back at a somewhat less intimate distance, small puffs of white air issuing from between his blue-tinged lips.

He and the wolf crossed stares briefly, wet golden eyes sweeping through the frigid air locking longingly unto the man’s earthy brown, then the wounded creature laid its shaggy head down again, and the man watched now the slight rise and fall of its chest. “Killing you would be a mercy, eh, wolf-brother?” his voice came soft and low with a tinge of kinship. “Would you welcome such comfort, though, without taking off my hand?”

A rumbling came from somewhere behind, and the gray-cloaked man’s head turned toward it just slightly before the snapping of brush made him seize up his black bow and roll forward rather than stand. He sheathed his knife into the ground as he rolled, procured a shaft from his quiver, whipped around, still low, and brought arrow to bowstring, all in one smooth motion. At the same time, a dark blur sprang from a tangled thicket of snow-clumped bushes and weeds, issuing a deep throaty growl that was anything but human.

A beastly thing it was, a hybrid of wolf and man, leaping lightning-swift on powerful haunches, its elongated torso upright, with man-like arms fitted with long claws at the ends of each extended finger. Above its dark mane a vicious snout bared a mouthful of canines behind black lips drawn back in a deathly glare. In its baleful eyes, black and shining gold—much like the wolf that lay dying—there abided an alliance of the primal instinct of the beast and the cunning intelligence of man…[END PREVIEW]


READ MORE by getting your copy of DARK HEROES today!

DARK HEROES
Publisher: Pill Hill Press
Pages: 228
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 1617060879
Price: $15.99

Also available for your Kindle for just 99 cents!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering David Gemmell, the Undisputed King of Heroic Fantasy

I started reading David Gemmell again this week, after a five-year hiatus. He passed away in 2006 and I’ve not been able to read the remainder of his works (specifically the TROY series) because the sadness of my favorite author’s death hit me that hard.

Fantasy writers James Barclay (“Chronicles of the Raven,” “Legends of the Raven”), David Alastair Hayden (WRATH OF THE WHITE TIGRESS) and myself began discussing the Legend himself on my Goodreads review thread and such nice things were said I felt compelled to share it here.


JAMES BARCLAY: I loved this book… [TROY: SHIELD OF THUNDER]. Troy is a brilliant series from Dave - tragic that he died when we was writing so well. I hope you enjoy it.

ME: Certain moments stay with us forever. Some in my generation were hit hard the day Kurt Cobain died. They remember where they were when they heard the news. More recently for some, Michael Jackson. For me, I was hit hard by David's passing. I discovered his work in the '90s and he fast became my favorite author, bar none. Late July 2006, when I read the news online, though I'd never met him personally (I understand you knew him rather well?), his stories had mingled within my heart and soul and I remember actually gasping "no!" with tears welling in my eyes. My first thought was no more Gemmell books?!; my next was mourning for the passing of a legend whose work, in my opinion, wasn't appreciated nearly enough. Today his legions have steadily grown and his work has garnered much of that missing esteem, thanks in part to the efforts of people like yourself and the DGLA folks. After he died, I put his books on the shelf -- the unread ones -- and haven't touched them for five years. I haven't been able to bring myself to indulge in his work, knowing soon I'll be finished with it all, but I'm finally picking them up and losing myself in his world. When I finish the Troy series, I will have read everything David wrote. That's going to be rather bittersweet, I do believe.

Thanks for the message, James. I intend to read your work very soon! I love Pyr and you're in great company with the likes of Lou Anders and Joe Abercrombie.

DAVID ALASTAIR HAYDEN: I really must comment here.

a) I just started reading DAWNTHIEF [by James Barclay].

b) Lou Anders is a buddy of mine.

And most critical...

c) I love David Gemmell. (Second favorite author after Michael Moorcock. I like to think of my books as a paler shade of a cross between the two.) My experience was exactly the same as yours, J.M.

David's death hit me hard. Unexpected. Too young. When you read enough books by an author, you get to know them, or at least one inner side of them. And though I never met him, David seemed more than most to share himself through his writing. I loved him for that.

When he died, I'd read everything he'd written except the first two Troy books. They're still sitting on the shelf. Waiting. Because I know there will never be more. One day I will take them down from the shelf and bask, but I'm not ready yet.

ME: David, that is well said (or typed). Most certainly too young to have passed at age 58 [My mistake: He was 57 at his passing].

But, yes, this is why he resonated with me too, how, like you said, he shared himself through his characters, a paragon of a man who could be strong yet gentle, brave yet wise, a mentor and a defender. He was a role model who imparted lessons to young men (and women) through his stories. I loved that and needed it during my twenties.

I feel a kinship with you! It's neat to have found someone else who felt the loss deep enough he couldn't bring himself to finish Gemmell's last remaining work just yet.

DAH: Agree with all that you said. I discovered his books just before a time in my life when I dealt with a lot of depression. They were immensely helpful to me. Think I read WAYLANDER three times one year.

I read an interview once where David referenced how important Marvel Comics had been to him in his youth, reading about flawed characters being heroic despite everything wrong in their lives. He took that and turned it up to 11. I have yet to see anyone achieve quite the same heroic drive, and so consistently, in their fantasy fiction.

JB: Dave was a great man. He was a good friend and a peerless mentor. One of the most wonderful things about him was the way he found so much time for other people.

His signings went on for ages because he'd chat to everyone - and that was because he genuinely cared about his fans and never ever forgot it was fans that allowed him to do the thing he loved the most.

We spent long hours chatting about writing and other authorly things and I credit him with rescuing my book 'Shout for the Dead' - the second Ascendants book. I was stuck fast and one day and long into the night at his house, he picked the problems apart and reassembled them as solutions. I miss him to this day and always try to think 'What would Dave have done?' when I'm in a hole.

He'll live on in the hearts of his fans forever and that is a truly great legacy. A great among authors in any genre and the undisputed king of heroic fantasy.

I hope all who read my work enjoy it - I'm always happy for constructive criticism, would obviously prefer unadulterated praise.

DAH: It does not surprise me in the least that David would make so much time for his fans. I very much wish that I'd had the chance to meet him. And yet I feel in many ways like I have.

And I prefer to give unadulterated praise, though I'm good with constructive criticism.

The first chapters of DAWNTHIEF are wonderful, by the way. I had to put it down because I realized book club was a week sooner than I thought. And it's a Pyr book we're reading. And I'd end up sitting across from Lou Anders having not read the book... But I'm definitely returning to DAWNTHIEF as soon as I finish this book.

ME: That's a wonderful rule of thumb for a fantasy writer, James: WWDHD! If I'm honored enough to meet any of you gents at a con someday, we must raise an after-hours ale in memory of those who've guided us, who have honed our skills, and especially to one of the greatest writers of all time.

JB: I look forward to raising that ale, JM. And three more after it. Then perhaps another two.

David - thanks for your early feedback. Lou'll be glad to hear you're enjoying DAWNTHIEF. Hope the book club book entertains...


For more information about David Gemmell and his works, Black Gate has an excellent article by Wayne MacLaurin and Steve Tompkins.

Also: Become FANS of James Barclay and David Alastair Hayden on Goodreads!

*Some c0mments from the original thread have been omitted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Tisarian’s Treasure

TT_cover_thumbA review of my novella by David J. West at his blog, “Nephite Blood, Spartan Heart.” He has some cool things to say, particularly: “…I was carried along and every time I thought I knew what would happen Martin turned the tables.

For more, read the full review.

The Case of the Stolen Superman Collection

What kind of jerkhole takes advantage of a mentally disabled dude, stealing thousands of dollars of their personal stuff? In this case, a scum-sucker named Gary and his loser girlfriend, Sara, took advantage of 48-year-old Mike Meyer of Granite City, IL. Gary was a former co-worker of Mike’s, who distracted and deceived him as he stole 1,800 of his SUPERMAN comics and other memorabilia, some of it dating all the way back to the ‘50s. Instead of me telling you more, here’s a Fox News clip reporting about the incident (below):

 
Superman Comic Books Stolen (2:23)

Here’s also a link for the story on Newsarama.

And, finally, the Facebook effort to help the guy out.

It’s just sad the lows some people will sink to. What goes through a person’s mind, where they come up with a predacious plot like this? I hope Granite City police (the place even sounds like a comic book metropolis) can catch this loser and his sidekick/strumpet and give them both the ol’ whut-fer!

My heart, however, is uplifted by how many good people have responded to the news.

UPDATE (09/16/11): Gerry Arville busted for theft of comic collection, comics returned to Mike Meyer of Granite City. This story has a happy ending after all.

Friday, September 2, 2011

“Gods, what was that thing?” – A Novella Excerpt

An excerpt from Tisarian’s Treasure for your reading pleasure:


…Marshall had been continuing to scream as he was tossed about, but all at once, with a grotesque cracking noise, he warped into a red nightmare. Blood and gore showered the Albiyan, yet he managed to shear off one of the creature’s forelimbs before it submerged with what remained of Boatswain Marshall. In the water to his knees, Hamish took one last thrust at where he thought the beast might be lurking just beneath the surface. Stabbing nothing, he growled and spouted a litany of curses in his native tongue.

Meanwhile, I searched for Katalin and found her standing alone on a moss-covered rise. She met my horrified gaze with a sad one of her own.

Don’t let the boatswain near the water...

“Where’s bloody Teag?” Hamish rapped out fiercely. He rushed toward us, claymore in hand, and a feral gleam yet in his eyes.

Oberon Teag had evidently decided to make the most of Marshall’s death by fleeing into the jungle.

“There.” Katalin pointed. “He ran that way.”

“Wait!” yelled Lieutenant Hensley, but the Albiyan was already dashing off into the trees. The first mate turned to me and said imploringly, “We can’t abandon the captain,” as if he thought I, too, was planning to give chase—which I most assuredly was not; though, I didn’t relish staying near the monster in the lagoon either, lest it decided to surface again.

“No, of course not,” I said, and strode over to where he and Dominy stood. I peered back at Katalin just as Hensley spoke again: “M’lady, please, come away from the water.”

“As you please, Lieutenant,” she said slowly.

“Gods, what was that...that thing?” asked Dominy, his eyes still wide with fright.

“Not for sure, lad,” Hensley answered, “but I’ve seen the like years ago on the Galleon Coast; all kinds of giant crabs and insects and other mutations. No way for a man to go. Poor Marshall. It’s no way at all. May he rest in the morning tide with his lady love.”

We stood quietly for several long breaths, a sullen mist rising in the sweltering heat as the tropical forest darkened. I felt the eyes again, and soon a commotion in the jungle drew up our heads. Something moved toward us through the underbrush.

Katalin looked at the ground beneath long-lashed drooping lids. She reached out and took my hand. Her words came fraught with a menace that stole my next breath: “They are here.”

A crowd of shadows moved in the jungle, and Hamish stepped into view at the fore, his taut, suffused face set in a grim mask. Behind him came Thadieus Drake, tall and wide-shouldered, a crimson bandanna tied beneath his cocked hat, the brim of which partially shaded his grizzled face, yet not quite enough to hide those protean eyes, sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes green, always deep-set and beaming. A broadsword with a gold basket-hilt hung in a scroll-worked baldric at his waist, and two burgundy gold-chased pistols were housed in a cross belt over his ruffled silk tunic. He bore another pair of black silver-chased pistols, one cocked in each hand, pointing them at the Albiyan’s broad back. Upon seeing us, his black-whiskered lips imparted a feral grin like that of a hungry leopard’s. He swiveled one pistol in our direction.

“Ho, what fortune!” the pirate captain greeted us in his off-putting, self-possessed baritone. “Doubly so that we should renew our acquaintance, good Doctor.” Then Drake smiled at Katalin. “Ah, an’ a flower of womanhood, as well? Truly, the gods are fine.”

He moved into the clearing, prodding Hamish ahead of him with a pistol barrel. The dimness of the jungle had grown thicker, the sky above no longer blue but the color of slate, gray and heavy. From the darkness of the undergrowth, more men came into view, some nine or ten of them, with Oberon Teag among their numbers. Pirates, they were, every steely eyed one, with metallic rings in their ears, noses, some even their lips, and armed to the teeth with blades and pistol butts of every sort, their very bearing threatening murder.


Tisarian’s Treasure is available right now in ebook format for 99 paltry pennies at:

Print version forthcoming on Amazon.com. I’ll announce it here. You can order the print version on the CreateSpace store if you’d rather not wait for Amazon to go live.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Slim Chance is Better than None

I'm really excited for this to start, in just six more weeks. My favorite series on television right now, with GAME OF THRONES a close second.