Fairly Wicked Tales Cover Reveal! [fairly wicked tales]

Fairly Wicked Tales

Alright, alright, I know it’s been far too long. And I’ve got a blog entry that explains everything, along with where those scratch marks on the sofa came from and why the basement smells like quicklime. But for now, I just wanted to show you all the cover of Fairly Wicked Tales, the next anthology in which I have a short story (“Sweetheart, the Dream is Not Ended”) included, with gorgeous art by Rebecca Treadway. Click upon it to see it in all its wicked glory!

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthologies Fading Light and Fairly Wicked Tales. His blog originates here. Cover art: Rebecca Treadway.

Fabulous Beasts (a dark fantasy short story) [e-stories | writing]

(Edit 4/24/15: Updated buy links)

Fabulous BeastsReeling from a breakup with his girlfriend Jean, Paul Miller encounters Cyane, a wealthy model who wants to hire him to create disturbing paintings for nameless clients. But that work is only the start of what she wants from him. With her seductive song, she lures both he and Jean past desires for flesh, into a hallucinatory hunger for ecstasy and transcendence. To save Jean, himself, and his unborn child, he must learn who and what Cyane really is, and make a harrowing choice.

Here’s an excerpt of the start of the story:

The ropes that held me to the mast of the ship were loose. I found that as frightening as the dark shapes that thrashed just over the side. The men around me rowed on, ears stopped with wax, oblivious to the howls that rose above the roiling waters. I pitied them, for they wouldn’t know what they missed–voices sharp enough to cut thought and honeyed enough to clot the wound.

Though I could have easily freed myself, I remained still. In this place, I could hear the song. If I moved, it would dissolve into feral noise. My understanding of this grew with every change of the vast and beautiful voices that wove through the near-liquid air.

My ropes fell to the deck with the fading of the last octave. The men stopped rowing and stared with fearful eyes at the sea.

I walked toward the bow. The rush of her feathers came as a gasp of hungry breath that voided every other sound.

“Not this way.”

Her voice held a quiver from the song.

The wooden deck barked my knees when I slumped. She landed before me, dark brown wings in angelic spread, eyes locked with mine. Her human face could have been real, though my instincts whispered that it was not. Her sinuous body moved in ways more reptilian than avian. Her sharp red lips drew back into a grin.

Talons flashed. Blood ran down my neck.

“There is no easy way,” she said. “If you want it, it will hurt.”

(continued…)

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Fabulous Beasts cover art: Sergey Nivens/BigStock.com.

Long Time Gone [it burns! it burns!, writing]

PersonalLAST TIME ON GARY’S BLOG: Our hero, the looming yet strangely beguiling Writer Lad, was hip deep in writing a first draft of an urban fantasy with talking raptors and flying sharks and things like that, unaware that he was moments from being captured by Amphi-dodecahedron, the Avatar of Fish-Based Geometry, to be used as an oblique angle in his decidedly fussy war against Cartanga, Finder of Small Pebbles, whose underhanded tactics and undercooked pasta were the subject of thousands of savage Yelp reviews, all written by Professor Ivan Sharpski, ex-KGB tap dancer and girl friday to Gummo Lemmingsnort, noted New York Times Bestselling Author of “That’s Not Chicken, and Probably Not a Taco, Either” and several not-so-bestselling horror novels featuring occult detective and part-time spatula Bacon McGee, a concept derived from a 1923 article on Bootlegging Badgers and the Flappers who Love Them, as mis-transcribed by Randall Everwood, a.k.a. the Shadow Over the Breakfast Nook, aided by a ratty English-Klingon dictionary, a vole paid off by Joe Don Baker, and Dr. Leslie Ann Cartier, inventor of the least joyful whoopee cushion ever documented.

We join Gary, already in progress.

Hmmm, guess it’s been a while since I last wrote a non-repost blog-entry. See, what happened was I broke free from the chains that bound me to the black pit and roamed the moors, slaking my thirst for blood just got busy with a lot of stuff, both writing and non-writing, and something had to give. Also, an anniversary trip to Niagara Falls, some car crash and replacement car buying drama, work stress, and so on. I’ve moved on, why can’t you?

Ha! Seriously, though, you don’t want to hear my lame, lame excuses. You want to know what’s going on now. And that is… writing. I’ve got a steampunk horror story I’m trying to wrestle into shape, and another short that may or may not get written after that. Redscale is on hold until the new year. Possibly longer, if I go and rewrite/polish/finish off/ship out The Morpheist, the biopunk novella I first-drafted more than a year ago. I’m putting together another short, Fabulous Beasts, for self-publicational glory later this month. My next non-self-publication is coming in January, with a story in Angelic Knight Press’s Fairly Wicked Tales.

Plus, December is eating my head, and we’ve barely started the month. So there’s that.

Reading-wise, there’s a lot of good stuff out there that I’m gonna take this opportunity to push at you. If you’re an urban fantasy fan, you’ve gotta check out Manifesto: UF edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann. It’s got twenty-three envelope-pushing urban fantasy tales by the likes of Lincoln Crisler, Jake Elliot, Teresa Frohock, and many more. If ghost stories are more your speed, check out Bryan Hall’s The Girl. It’s an evocative and compelling story heavy on atmospheric dread that I enjoyed a lot.

My friend Eric Burns-White has been putting out entries in his Mythology of the Modern World series on Amazon and Smashwords. They’re short, sharp, sometimes satirical, sometimes haunting mythological stories composed as answers to reader questions posed to him. The Sky of L.A. is Yellow/Gray is my favorite of these so far, but all of them are highly entertaining.

Another friend, Angi Shearstone, put out the second issue of her BloodDreams comic not too long ago. It’s a sharp tale of a conflict between vampires and hunters that ensnares a troubled punk rock singer and his friends, with gorgeous fully-painted artwork. Absolutely no sparkling going on, I promise. (I reviewed issue 1 a long while ago.)

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, meanwhile, has two anthologies out, both of which began life as Kickstarter projects. Beyond the Sun, which features science ficton tales of colonization of new worlds, has a number of outstanding stories (by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo, and Maurice Broaddus, among others). Raygun Chronicles, an anthology of golden-age-style space opera stories, just recently came out, and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of books I’m really looking forward to reading, Emmy Jackson’s second novel, Empty Cradle: Shiloh in the Circle (set in the world of his previous novel, Empty Cradle: the Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson, which I reviewed a long time ago). The first one was damn good, and I’m expecting this one will be as well. Plus there’s Greg Chapman’s new horror novella, The Last Night in October… holy crap I have a lot of reading to catch up on!

(Note: there are a lot of Amazon links above. I’m not participating in any affiliate thing here, I promise–it’s just convenient for me to link there, to show you I didn’t just come up with these things in a caffeine-and-pork-rind-fueled fever dream. Because I know that’s what you’re thinking.)

That’s all for now. I’m signing off and heading for the tub. Don’t forget to tip your server!

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Elena Ray/Bigstock.com.

These Books Made Me Weird(er) [Brutal Light]

Brutal Light

I originally wrote this in December 2011 as part of my Brutal Light blog promo tour. As the blog it originally appeared on no longer exists, I’m reposting it here. Yay?

One of the things I’m frequently asked about are my influences. As someone who’s read a lot, in a lot of genres, that’s a topic I can go on about for quite a while–the list of authors range from Stephen King to Terry Pratchett to Michael Connelly to Clive Barker to… well, you get the idea. But even within this list, there are certain books I can pick out that exerted great influence on both my reading choices and my storytelling style. I can’t rightly say how much any particular one of these examples influenced me when it came to writing my debut dark fantasy novel Brutal Light, but collectively, I think it’s safe to say they left their mark. Here are seven books that made me, and my writing, weird(er):

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

This was not my first introduction to Lovecraft–that had been the wonderfully-titled Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, a collection of some of his short fiction–but it was the one that left the deepest impression on me. The deliberate, atmospheric pacing of this journey into the ruins of a lost civilization had me on edge the first time I read it, and it excited my mind around the details of what would later become the Mythos the way it had not quite been before.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

This one took a while to win me over–at first I didn’t know what to think of the careening strangeness of the narrative and the hyperbolic mix of what I assume is every conspiracy theory out there up to the point of the novel’s publication. Then at some point, maybe a hundred pages in, it started gelling, and from that point I was hooked. It’s lost a little of its lustre over the years–the conspiracy stuff is a bit dated, and some passages seem more juvenile than provocative–but overall it’s still a hell of a trip.

Valis by Philip K. Dick

Valis was my introduction to Philip K. Dick’s strange and addictive works. Probably it wasn’t the best one to start with; it came at a point late in his career and life where he was evidently not too concerned with being ‘accessible.’ It’s a bizarre story to begin with, with its main character, Horselover Fat, contacted directly by God via a mysterious pink laser. Then it gets stranger, as Horselover seeks to understand his experience, with esoteric theories and crackpot paranoia continually throwing the events of his life into newer and weirder lights. I just recently re-read this one, and its as baffling and entertaining as I remember.

Dead Boys, Dead Girls, Dead Things by Richard Calder

By the time I got to this book, I’d read my share of cyberpunk science fiction, and had my head spun around by the likes of Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson. I thought I was ready. But I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the convoluted, paranoid, utterly perverse, high-voltage trip that is the Dead trilogy. The first book, Dead Boys, makes at least a passing attempt at a standardized story structure, but the next two sail off into rampaging, obsessive apocalyptic madness. This one left my head spinning for weeks. I really wish Calder’s publisher would get his books into e-format; I’d buy them all in a heartbeat.

God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert

Now, I’d taken the first three books in the Dune series in stride. They were fine, weird beasts in and of themselves, full of complex ideas and strange events. But this one trumped them all. It took me a long time to really come to terms with Leto’s merger with a sandworm and his transformation into a near-immortal, unstable tyrant, and to appreciate the paradoxical depths of the philosophical discussions within. It’s a flawed book, certainly, but unlike anything I had read to that point (the mid-eighties, when I was an impressionable lad). One of these days I’ll have to read it again, just to see if it stands up to my memories of it.

Zod Wallop by William Browning Spencer

While the idea of a book as a doorway into another world is hardly new, I was unprepared for how this book would affect me. The action takes place both in the ‘real’ world, where ex-children’s book author Harry Gainesborough has escaped the institution where he was being treated for depression following the death of his daughter, and the world of Zod Wallop, the fantasy world of the books he wrote with said daughter as the central character. The transitions between worlds are seamless, and the climax is as emotionally stunning as I’ve ever read. It’s a strange and amazing journey.

Imajica by Clive Barker

This was my introduction to Clive Barker. You might as well have dropped a bus on me. Barker’s framework of a hidden world behind the superficial façade of this one completely drew me in with the depth of its obsessive detailing, the complicated story threads, and the sheer power of its metaphysical invention. It’s a beautiful, perverse, and terrifying work–still my favorite of Barker’s, and one that undoubtedly left its mark on my writing since.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Brutal Light cover art: Dawne Dominique.

I hear the roar of a big machine [writing]

WritingI don’t always write short blog entries, but when I do, it’s because I’ve been on a writing tear. And this month I have–about 19k words into a first draft of a new urban fantasy novel, Redscale. If I can sustain that pace, I expect to have the draft finished, or at least close to, by the end of the year.

Why it is that I always find myself of being in the position of either doing bloggy, tweety, updatey things or doing some actual writing, I don’t know. I mean, I’d always expected one or the other would take center stage at any given time, based on what was going on, but I didn’t expect right stage and left stage would be taken up as well! It’s a case of something’s gotta give, and better this give than the writing.

Among other things that can’t give: I’m working with my wife, Kristyn, on Onyx Fire, a short puppet movie based on a mid-grade fantasy book we co-wrote (but did not publish) a couple years back. It’s quite different than my adult horror and dark fantasy writing, and I really can’t imagine any sort of crossover audience, but I’m finding I’m enjoying the slow process of getting it ready for filming (with puppets and a greenscreen background)–doing the storyboards, working on the website, and so on. I probably won’t mention it (much) on this blog, at least not until the film’s done, but it’s going to take up some time for the next few months.

Finally, I’m reading. Not that this should come as a shock to anyone. But this reading is research–specifically, into Chicago circa 1893, the backdrop of a steampunk horror story I’ll be working on later this year. Not only will it be my first steampunk story, but also my first (alternate) historical fiction, which puts me under tremendous mental pressure to READ ALL THE HISTORY THINGS. Fortunately, many of these THINGS were already on my bookshelves, in the form of research I’d done more than a decade ago for a novel that got abandoned halfway through (one of the failed precursors to Brutal Light). And fortunately, 1890s Chicago is proving as fascinating to me now as it did then.

Oh, and I went to Cedar Point this month. Rode most of the coasters, and finished off with my favorite, the Top Thrill Dragster. And though I was kinda worn out by the end of the day, and a bit sunburned as well, it was a real good time.

Ok, I guess this blog entry wasn’t so short.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Andres/Bigstock.com.

My brain has decided… [writing]

WritingI don’t seem to be doing so well with the blogging; I suspect it’s because I’m too busy actually writing. Which is a good thing. Since my last missive (announcing a self-published short story, “The Body in Motion”), I completed three short stories–one of which (“Sweetheart, the Dream is Not Ended”) has already been accepted to an anthology, Fairly Wicked Tales, set to come out in late September or early October from Angelic Knight Press.

I’m also working on placing the other two, along with the one older work I’d really like to see land somewhere. Tunnel vision tends to overtake me once a work has left my hands… once I’m off to the next project, it can be hard for me to come back, dust off a piece, and send it someplace else. I’ve not always been the best for keeping at the slushpile shuffle, but of late I’ve gotten better at it.

Back when I was laying out my goals for the year, I tossed off the idea of writing four shorts. I’ve already got three done, and I know what the fourth one will be, which should mean I’m back to working on reworking The Morpheist, or plowing ahead on the first draft of This Island Monstrous, right?

Ha ha. Right.

My brain has decided that nothing would be so fine as to write an urban fantasy novella set in the world I created for one of the aforementioned short stories. I’d barely scratched the surface of all the ideas I’d had when writing that story, but they wouldn’t go and sit back down, so, out they come. No title yet, but I’m determined to get it out and on its way by summer’s end.

It’s also the first project I’ve started using the Scrivener writing program, which I downloaded from Amazon about a month ago when it was half-off its already reasonable $40 price. So far I’m really loving it. Instead of just starting at chapter one and seeing what came out of me, I’m using its corkboard setup to write up some character profiles. It started as just a way to consolidate what I already determined in the short story, but it’s blossomed into sort of an org chart of characters from that story, plus characters who’ll be appearing in that story, characters they know, and so on. I didn’t take this approach with This Island Monstrous, which may be why it foundered.

All this means, of course, that my other goals for this year are up in the air. I may or may not return to The Morpheist this year, but I’m definitely going to return to This Island Monstrous, this time with Scrivener to help me keep track of things. Plus one more short story to write, and a couple older short works to self-publish.

And then… light refreshments will be served.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and a contributor to the dark fiction anthology Fading Light. His blog originates here. Photo: Andres/Bigstock.com.