Hear The Eagle Scream In Horror Library 6

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My story Hear The Eagle Scream is debuting in Farolight Publishing’s Horror Library Volume 6, edited by Eric G. Guignard.

Stories include –

Garrett Quinn – I’ve Finally Found You
Jackson Kuhl – Cartagena Hotel
Stephanie Bedwell-Grime – The Exterminators
Connor de Bruler – Il Mostro
Tom Johnstone – Oldstone Gardens
Bentley Little – The Plumber
Kathryn E. McGee – The Creek Keepers’ Lodge
Josh Rountree – Snowfather
Jeffrey Ford – Five Pointed Spell
John M. Floyd – The Red-Eye to Boston
Raymond Little – Elsa and I
Rebecca J. Allred – Mother’s Mouth, Full of Dirt
Darren O. Godfrey – D.U.I.
Sean Eads – Predestination’s a Bitch
David Tallerman – Casualty of Peace
Marc E. Fitch – The Starry Crown
Vitor Abdala – Instant Messaging
JG Faherty – The H Train
Dean H. Wild – The Gaff
Jayani C. Senanayake – Kalu Kumaraya (My Dark Prince)
Lucas Pederson – We Were Monsters
C. Michael Cook – The Night Crier
Thomas P. Balázs – Waiting for Mrs. Hemley
Jay Caselberg – The Ride
Ahna Wayne Aposhian – Old Hag
Carole Johnstone – Better You Believe

Here’s an excerpt from my story, which concerns an old rancher taking on a drifting hired hand in Depression-era Texas against his better judgment.

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It was not uncommon to see men on the road, what with that son of a bitch Hoover in the White House. Jim Thiemann did not stir when his old eyes first caught sight of one, even when the ragged man paused at the chicken wire and wagon wheel gate that separated the Longview Ranch from the rest of Scurry County.

He did cease rocking in his chair and put his hand to the double barreled shotgun leaning against the porch rail when the man lifted the gate and started trudging up to the house.

Just in case.

Jim had a long time to watch him, but it wasn’t till he was about halfway up the road that his failing eyes could make anything out other than his tall, slim shape. The details gradually coalesced as if surfacing from a murky depth.

He had a growth of beard, dirty blonde, and his coveralls were patched, as were the elbows of the corduroy coat slung over his shoulder. There was a beat up hat, what Jim’s daddy had always called a ‘goin’ to hell hat,’ tilted on his head at an angle Jim didn’t much care for, and ratty shoes whose soles flapped like chatty old spinsters when he walked, kicking up half the dust in Texas. The setting orange sun lit the dust like smoke from a brush fire.

“Hello there, brother,” the man called cheerfully as he came to a stop.

“Hello yourself,” Jim replied. He didn’t care for that ‘brother’ talk straight off. In this country you called no man brother who was not, and old men went by ‘sir.’

“You’ve got a sign on your gate says you’re lookin’ to hire a man,” said the stranger.

“I know it. I put it there.”

“Well, I’m your man.”

“You ain’t even asked what kinda work it is.”

“If it pays somethin’ more than stale bread or a can of peas, I’ll do it.”

“You ever worked around a ranch?”

“In California.”

“You know what a fence rider is?”

“Yeah.”

“What is it?”

“Somebody to restring wire, dig postholes, mend gaps.””

“If it weren’t for this goddamn arthritis I’d do it myself. As it is, I can’t keep a cow on the place. What stock I got left’s grazin’ up in them hills,” Jim said, throwing a twisted thumb over his shoulder to indicate the grassy uplands behind the house. “About forty head. The fence needs to get fixed before you can even start bringin’ ‘em down. You get your pay when the job’s done, food and a place to sleep till then. But don’t let me catch you slackin’ to prolong your meals, or you’ll be out on your ass.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“What’s your name?”

“Horace Greeley.”

Jim stared at the younger man a minute.

“Why do I know that name?”

“He founded the Republican Party. My pa was a tried and true Republican.”

“If you’re greenin’ me right from the get-go….”

“Brother believe me, I wouldn’t do that,” said Horace, showing his gritty palms. “Not in the state I’m in.”

“Alright, well the first thing you got to learn is in Texas you don’t go around callin’ your boss ‘brother.’ You call me ‘boss’ or ‘sir’ or ‘Mr. Thiemann’ or ‘Jim.’”

“Fair enough,” said Horace.

“Second thing is, that hat might be alright for workin’ in the orange groves, but it ain’t gonna make it here. After you go fetch that help sign off the gate, you can come on up to the house,” he said, rising out of the chair. “We’ll get you some proper headgear.”

Horace’s smile fell at the sight of the shotgun, which he apparently hadn’t noticed before.

“Don’t worry. It’s for coyotes. And tried and true Republicans,” Jim said, rubbing his aching back.

Pick up Horror Library Vol 6 here –

Three Ways To Save Iron Fist

finn-jones-iron-fist-netflixLike a lot of Marvel Netflix junkies I was looking forward to Iron Fist, perhaps more than any of the other Defenders even, not because I’m the world’s biggest Iron Fist fan (full disclosure: I haven’t read the Matt Fraction series and I’m mainly aware of the character from guest appearances in old Spider-Man comics and a few issues I’ve picked up here and there), but I AM a tremendous fan of martial arts entertainment, particularly classic 70’s era kung fu movies.

After the brilliant, brutal choreography of the Daredevil show and the depth of love shown to Afrocentrism and particularly to 70’s Black culture in Luke Cage, I assumed  we had a recipe for a killer Iron Fist show. Sadly, it didn’t go the route I expected.

I’m not gonna bash Iron Fist. Everybody has their favorite criticism. You can read that anywhere. Suffice it to say, I watched the whole thing, and in the end, I didn’t hate it, but I recognize it was not up to the other Marvel Netflix shows.

I’m not gonna list all the ways I think Iron Fist went wrong – that’d be annoying. But I’ll list here three sure fire ways to make Iron Fist right.

EMBRACE THE ORIGINS, CELEBRATE THE CULTURE

Iron Fist was created during the 70’s martial arts explosion that stemmed from the distribution of Shaw Bros kung fu movies abroad, Bruce Lee, and the Kung Fu television series with David Carradine.

kung-fu_tv-master_po-young_grasshopperYes, the one everybody hates but few have seen. I reconcile my love of both Bruce Lee’s films and Kung Fu because of the high quality of both.  Bruce Lee is amazing, unquestioned. The Kung Fu TV show (the original, not the modern day one) is amazing – seriously, watch it. With its dissemination of Eastern philosophy and message of peace and love, I truly think the world would be a better place if everybody did an episode a day.

This was probably also the reason, I think, that the early reviews citing the cultural appropriation inherent in the concept of Danny Rand didn’t affect me overly. Yes, an Asian actor in the role would have been preferable, and we can argue the importance of this all day, but in the end, they went with the original iteration of Danny Rand as the Immortal Weapon.  I’m not entirely sure altering the character’s race would have lessened the amount of pre-judgment, just swung it in the other direction. I would have watched it either way.

Anyway, Kung Fu was about Kwai Chang Cain, a half-Chinese, half-Caucasian orphan being taken into a Shaolin monastery and learning the discipline of the martial arts (sound familiar?) and employing those lessons as a somewhat naive outsider facing the prejudice and injustice of the American West (how about now?).  As Cain faced adversities in the course of an episode, he would invariably flash back to the past and his training as a young monk, remembering some applicable lesson that informed his decisions in the now. It’s practically a template for an Iron Fist show.

maxresdefaultNow these dream-like flashbacks were achieved pretty simply, with minimalist sets, mostly black, a lot of candles and the trappings of Chinese décor. The exterior scenes were actually a redressed castle set from the movie Camelot. There’s absolutely no reason our first glimpses of Danny’s past at K’un Lun couldn’t be depicted in a similar manner. It’d be a great homage, and cheap to film. Not seeing this in this starting season of Iron Fist was a tremendous misstep, like showing that gun in the first act and never having it go off.

return_36th_chamberIn the way Cage was a celebration of African American culture, Iron Fist should absolutely be a love letter to the martial arts genre, full of subtle references to everything from Chang Cheh’s Venom Mob, Jackie Chan, and Gordon Liu to wire-fu, 5ven04Donnie Yen, Jet Lee, and The Raid.  The producers should look to classics like Five Elements Ninjas, House of Traps, Master Of The Flying Guillotine, Kid With The Golden Arm and Flag of Iron for how to handle the bizarre martial assassins Iron Fist should be facing. The training sequences in K’un Lun should directly refer to movies like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. In fact, the direct inspiration for the character of Iron Fist was a line from the first kung fu movie creator Roy Thomas ever saw (maybe 1971’s Duel of The Iron Fist? Thomas doesn’t remember.) in an Upper East Side NYC theater in the 70’s. What better oeuvre to refer to then the wealth of movies that were shown in those kinds of theaters? This is what spawned this character!

I believe there was an intent to do just that that just got neglected somewhere along the way. Just as the episode titles for Luke Cage homaged black culture, Iron Fist’s episode titles recalled the colorful names for techniques in classic wuxia moves (Rolling Thunder Cannon Punch and Eight Diagram Dragon Palm). And I didn’t miss the drunken master either. The will was there, but it needs to be double downed.

Iron Fist should be chock full of references and cameos from the length and breadth of martial arts entertainment. Show the love! Embrace the source! We should see Sonny Chiba as a Hand leader or something. Or have Benny Urqidez show up, or Angela Mao! Bolo Yeung ! Dan Inosanto! Have Ray Park or Scott Adkins play villains. Jeez, could you imagine Ron ‘The Black Dragon’ Van Clief introducing Danny to Luke Cage?

MAKE MINE MARVEL

Which brings me to the second point.

Iron Fist is a Marvel character. We need to connect him to the Marvel universe in the same way Daredevil did. Daredevil was loaded with sly Marvel references (Stilt-Man, for Crissakes!).  The grainy 1940’s footage of the previous Iron Fist in costume duking it out with Chinese soldiers was great. More! Look to Iron Fist’s stable of villains and bring the kind of mystic martial arts action the character is designed for.  Let’s see Black Mariah, Chaka and the Golden Tigers, Chi’Lin, Senor Muerte, or Triple Iron.

OK, I suspect the long awaited meeting between Danny and future partner Luke Cage will probably happen in Defenders, but man I was really missing it in this first season. I fully expected Cage to notice his own bullet riddled shirt (given him by Claire) and ask Danny where he got it. Heck, when the DEA got involved and Danny was on the run, I thought he’d wind up in prison with Cage as a cell mate (this could have led to a killer Story of Ricky reference, with Danny punching his way out of jail and putting him and Luke on a Defiant Ones-style odyssey as fugitives).

Oh and the first time Luke sees Danny use his powers, take note: there had BETTER  be a Last Dragon joke!

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But I understand that might be best left for another time, another show.

Now what about Shang Chi?

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The early (false) rumors that Starlin and Engleheart’s Master of Kung Fu had been cast had me excited, and, I think, the inclusion of a powerful and savvy Chinese foil for Danny, commenting on the absurdity of his concept as a white savior and kung fu master, would have gone a long way towards deflecting the cultural appropriation criticism. It certainly worked for the last Tarzan movie, with Samuel L. Jackson fulfilling that very role.

Shang_ChiIf Danny Rand is David Carradine, Shang Chi is Bruce Lee, and that symbolic reconciliation needs to happen. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a Shang Chi spin off? I’m aware there were rights issues with the character due to his father being Sax Rohmer’s famous Fu Man Chu, but if The Ancient One can be a Celtic woman and the Mandarin can be a drug addled cockney actor, I don’t see why a single aspect of this character couldn’t be tweaked to make his father an unscrupulous crimelord (maybe even the ‘real’ Mandarin).

He was a big omission in season one, and he’d be a fantastic addition to season two.

And that brings me to my final pont….

BRING BACK RZA

rzaAll respect to HBO’s stable of talented writers and directors, but the standout episode of season one was Immortal Emerges From Cave, where the show touched on the brilliance it could have been. Danny facing off against weird Hand challengers in an honor duel to the death. Writer Dwain Worrell nailed it, but the fact that RZA directed it can’t be ignored.

The grandmaster of Wu-Tang knows his kung fu movies. I’ve seen him speak before a presentation of 36th Chamber at LACMA here in Los Angeles, and his Man With The Iron Fists displayed a love and passion for the genre unmatched. Bring him back for round two.

Buddha willing, there is one.

Namaste!

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DT Moviehouse Review: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here)and decide if each one was worth the money. Today, I review the Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Directed by Andrew Adamson

Screenplay by Andrew Adamson, Ann Peacock, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely

Tagline: The beloved masterpiece comes to life.

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What It’s About:

In the midst of the German bombardment of London during World War 2, four children are sent to the country to live with their eccentric uncle. During a game of hide and seek they pass through an enchanted wardrobe into the magic land of Narnia where they become embroiled in a war between its good creatures, led by the lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) and the White Witch Jadis (Tilda Swinton) and her dark army.

Why I Bought It:

I was not introduced to fantasy by C.S. Lewis, but probably by Rankin and Bass’ Hobbit cartoon and Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, which in turn led me to the original Tolkien novels, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, and most importantly, Dungeons and Dragons, the roleplaying game that supercharged my imagination early on. I spent untold hours in the basement of a friend’s house rolling dice and eating junk food while the older players passed the Captain Morgan and we took on hordes of monsters and each other in bleary-eyed sessions morning and night. I couldn’t get enough of fantasy.

I had read the entire Narnia series by the time this movie came out, so it was a given I was going to see it, but I remembered Lewis as being a bit bland, and so I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. I saw it with my best friend, a guy who I’d once watched turn his human thief into a fire breathing, flying minotaur trapped for all eternity inside a diamond (a magic Deck of Many Things, a few lucky Wish pulls and a complete inability to quit while he was ahead had culminated in this) and when the final battle sequence began with its dizzying array of Monster Manual denizens, we’d both turned to each other, looking past our wives in nerd-gasmic, bug-eyed appreciation, both of us I think, in that moment, really WANTING to be in Narnia.

e4cc9d4c53b1bf5a2b7edd1ef8bce7e4Following a cast of child actors can be pretty hit or miss. You can be blessed with Harry Potter or The Goonies, or damned to the ninth circle of Mary-Kate and Ashley Skywalker. The kids assembled to portray the Pevensie kids are winsome and earnest, and don’t come across as the type with a celebrity and money obsessed parent breathing down their necks, shoving them into the closet with St. Sebastian when they don’t hit their marks (or whatever showbiz parents do).

45b3874fbebeb72ddac3c01c986d7764Young Lucy (Georgie Hensley) is a standout, plucky and yet sensitive, with a great gosh-golly-wow face. I’d just had my first daughter when I saw this and she won me over pretty quick. I can’t even hear that Alanis Morrisette song that plays during the credits without picturing her now. The scene where she is betrayed by Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) is a particularly good display of her talent. Her bewilderment at the fawn’s lie (which, under the director’s hand, has an almost unseemly, exploitative feel, like a prelude to molestation in some darker Todd Solondz movie) comes across well.

Likewise Edmund (Skander Keynes) is sufficiently shifty, but doesn’t play his seduction by the White Witch so that we can’t forgive him later. Peter (William Moseley) is as heroic as you want him to be, and Anna Popplewell as the much-maligned Susan….I wish she had gotten the chance to play the character to the end of her involvement in the series, because I think from this (and Prince Caspian, the sequel) she had the chops to make it interesting.

Jadisedmundcastle1Tilda Swinton is as ever icy and ethereal as the White Queen Jadis, alluring and cruel as first crushes often are, which gets you in Edmund’s shoes pretty well. “I know she’s evil, but dang, I really want her to be good, so I’ll give it a go. Besides, Turkish Delights! So she must like me.” Jadis’ dwarf henchman Ginarrbrikk is played by Kiran Shah, who was the kid who let the monkey poison the dates in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Liam Neeson’s voice rivals James Earl Jones’ as the sound of ultimate paternal love in the form of Aslan the lion. Other recognizable voices include Michael Madsen as the Witch’s rough right-hand wolf who sounds like he’s ready to chew your ear off at any minute, and Ray Winstone as the salty, blue collar Mr. Beaver. James Cosmo has a memorable cameo as the most kick ass Santa Claus ever.

The CG animals are only a little difficult to accept, and even then, only initially. When blended with live action, its practically perfect, particularly as on display in the epic final battle sequence. For the most part the FX are great, and surprisingly bright and four color, eschewing the typical rule of using shadow to obscure the seams.  Narnia is a sumptuous land, with bright, beautiful scenery and luxuriant textures, as any storybook land should seem.

Narnia has a reputation as a Christian fantasy series. I guess there is some element of that on display in the character of Aslan, whose arc may be a bit mystifying if you don’t take his origins into account. Yet I wouldn’t say it pushes an agenda. I don’t feel proselytized to watching it. It’s just a pretty straightforward good vs. evil story.

chronicles-of-narnia-the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-the-20051019035129270-000What I really love about this movie is it feels like an 80’s throwback. In the 80’s we had fantasy movies like Dragonslayer, Ladyhawke, Legend, and Excalibur, movies that were never embarrassed of what they were. Even Jackson’s much-lauded Lord Of The Rings movies are peppered with anachronistic winks at the audience (that awful, awful Dwarf tossing joke). Narnia has a bunch of kids from our world in a fantasy realm, and they they aren’t cracking wise and giving us Poochie MST3K commentary. They’re in it, and it’s as real as can be. I like that the kids don’t take a rear echelon Pokemon role in any of the action. They’re in the thick of the fight at all times. It makes their ultimate enthronement more deserved, more satisfying, and their sudden departure back to their own lives (as if they’d never left) more poignant.

Best Dialogue/Line:

The one that gets me is right before the final battle.

Peter has been thrust into the role of commander of this vast army, and he sits atop a unicorn in shining armor with a magic sword, possibly every boy’s dream, and certainly mine. But he has this moment where he looks to his centaur second in command (played wonderfully by Patrick Kake) and asks, as a kid in a bit over his head might;

“Are you with me?”

And the centaur has this great look on his face, a sort of bewilderment at the question. Aslan, for all intents and purposes his god, has chosen this kid to lead them, so there’s not a doubt in his mind. He sort of shakes his head and furrows his brow in an ‘of course’ manner.

“To the death,” he says.

Best Scene:

maxresdefaultWell I keep talking up that final battle, don’t I? It’s every storybook fantasy battle you’ve ever dreamed of, with the ‘bad’ critters on one side (Minotaurs, werewolves, goat-men, bumbling giants, etc) and the ‘goodies’ on the other. There’s a fantastic shot where Peter in his shining armor, gallops on a freakin’ unicorn at the vanguard of this contingent of centaur cavalry. The centaurs lower their lances and a group of racing cheetahs pull ahead of the army, while on the opposite side, a group of white tigers rush to meet them. There’s a pullback to the whole battlefield and the music (which I must mention is really cool during this sequence, very 80’s Vangelis sound) cuts out to a pre-clash heartbeat. Then these great cats just bash into each other ahead of their respective hoses, and go tumbling. It’s not a bloody battle, but the violence is there, and dramatic. Jadis petrifies enemy combatants, even turning a diving hippogriff to stone in passing so that it crashes into the ground in fragments.

Would I Buy It Again? Yes. And this reminds me to revisit the others.

Next In The Queue:

Cimarron

Thorne & Cross

I’ll be on Thorne & Cross tonight at 5PM Pacific speaking to Alistair and Tamara about Monstrumfuhrer and doing my best to sound intelligent. Hopefully the kids are quiet! You can listen in below. Don’t worry if you miss the time and day, it becomes a permanent podcast link afterwards.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2017/01/27/ed-erdelac-returns-to-thorne-cross-haunted-nights-live

Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Monstrumfuhrer Is Out!

My tenth novel Monstrumfuhrer is out today from Comet Press. Pick it up here –

https://www.amazon.com/Monstrumfuhrer-Edward-M-Erdelac/dp/1936964015/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485284822&sr=8-1&keywords=monstrumfuhrer

Coinciding with that, I was interviewed over on Gingernuts of Horror. Give it a read here –

http://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/author-interview-five-minutes-with-edward-m-erdelac

Published in: on January 24, 2017 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy 111th Birthday, Robert E. Howard

yearbook-detailJanuary 22nd nearly came and went without me marking the birthday of my favorite author, Texan Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan The Barbarian, Solomon Kane, King Kull, and others.

As always, I feel the best way to honor the man is to read his words. This year, I present a selection from The Grey God Passes, Howard’s rendition of the Battle of Clontarf.

“My Lord,” said Conn, fingering the great copper ring around his neck, “I have slain the man who put this thrall-mark on me. I would be free of it.”

Black Turlough took his red stained ax-head in his hands and, pressing it against the ring, drove the keen edge through the softer metal. The keen edge gashed Conn’s shoulder, but neither heeded.

“Now I am truly free,” said Conn, flexing his mighty arms. “My heart is heavy for the chiefs who have fallen, but my mind is mazed with wonder and glory. Will ever such a battle be fought again? Truly it was a feast of ravens, a sea of slaughter….”

His voice trailed off, and he stood like a statue, head flung back, eyes staring into the clouded heavens. The sun was sinking in a dark ocean of scarlet.  Great clouds rolled and tumbled, piled mountainously against the smoldering red of the sunset. A wind blew out of them, biting, cold, and borne on the wind, etched shadowy against the clouds, a vague, gigantic form went flying, beard and wild locks streaming in the gale, cloak billowing out like great wings – speeding into the mysterious blue mists that pulsed and shimmered in the brooding North.

“Look up there – in the sky!” cried Conn. “The grey man! It is he! The grey man with the single terrible eye. I saw him in the mountains of Torka. I glimpsed him brooding on the walls of Dublin while the battle raged. I saw him looming above Prince Murrogh as he died. Look! He rides the wind and races the tall clouds. He swindles. He fades into the void. He vanishes!”

“It is Odin, god of the sea-people,” said Turlogh somberly. “His children are broken, his altars crumble, and his worshipers fallen before the swords of the South. He flees the new gods and their children, and returns to the blue gulfs of the North which gave him birth. No more will helpless victims howl beneath the daggers of his priests – no more will he stalk the black clouds.” He shook his head darkly. “The Grey God passes, and we too are passing, though we have conquered. The days of the twilight come on amain, and a strange feeling is upon me as of a waning age. What are we all, too, but ghosts waning into the night?”

And he went on into the dusk, leaving Conn to his freedom – from thralldom and cruelty, as both he and all the Gaels were now free of the shadow of the Grey God and his ruthless worshipers.

battle_of_clontarf_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_hugh_frazer_1826

Published in: on January 22, 2017 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Stories On The Great Jones Street

The Great Jones Street is a fairly new app that promises to be the Netflix of short fiction, and boasts a searchable database of a wide variety of short stories in various genres, including a couple offerings by yours truly.

https://www.greatjonesstreet.press/stories/

Here are direct links to Spearfinger –

https://www.greatjonesstreet.press/spearfinger-edward-m-erdelac-2/

Black Tallow –

https://greatjonesstreet.app.link/qXopl9hf1z?action=story-detail&storyId=16784&storyTitle=Black+Tallow&author=Edward+M.+Erdelac&referring_user_id=A552C8CA-7DB3-46A8-A242-8BD28D823E6A&share_medium=SMS

And The Blood Bay, a favorite of mine –

https://greatjonesstreet.app.link/b2TTxLmf1z?action=story-detail&storyId=16785&storyTitle=The+Blood+Bay&author=Edward+M.+Erdelac&referring_user_id=A552C8CA-7DB3-46A8-A242-8BD28D823E6A&share_medium=SMS

Download the app and check ’em out.

 

 

Published in: on January 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Angler In Darkness by M. Wayne Miller

I was gonna wait till the titles were in place and all, but rather than mar it with my name, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peak of M. Wayne Miller’s art for my forthcoming short fiction collection Angler In Darkness.

I love working with Wayne because while the development of my own art skills was arrested somewhere around my Freshman year of high school, I can float him a meager sketch of what I want and he delivers it so close to how I actually see it in my mind it’s uncanny. He may as well be mind melding with me. The late great Norm Rubenstein introduced me to Wayne when he got him to do the awesome wraparound cover for my Van Helsing novel Terovolas. I only sent him a text description, but he absolutely nailed what Norm and I both envisioned.  

Later, I was nervous sending him a sketch of what I envisioned for my story The Boonieman in World War Cthulhu as I didn’t want to offend him as an artist, but he took the bare bones I sent him and just…well, turned it into art. 

Anyway, without further ado….

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Awesome.

Check out Wayne’s work here.

http://www.mwaynemiller.com/

 

Monstrumfuhrer Chapter One

The opening chapter to my tenth novel, Monstrumfuhrer, due out January 24th from Comet Press.

opel_olympia1936’s December blew a bracing cold through high Ingolstadt. A cream colored new model Opel Olympia hummed through the twisting streets that ran between the crowded old edifices, necessarily clustered because of its encircling wall designed to defend it in its long gone capitol days. The car’s frame shuddered on the chipped cobbles just as the iron tires of the horse drawn carts had once.

A pudgy, flush faced boy paused at a curb to let the car rumble by, seeing himself stretch and thin in the bright world captured in the mud spattered chrome. It was as though he had been granted a brief glimpse of his future, better self to bolster him in the remainder of his awkward years. The boy smiled, and waved to the driver.

The well groomed man at the wheel looked down at the boy through the glass, acknowledging him with a nod for the clear passage granted, and a lazy half-salute. The boy waved harder, an excited puff of warm breath escaping between his teeth; he thought the man might be a movie star.

The car went on.

After a few blocks, it drew up to a curb across the street from one of the old-style gabled houses. This one sprouted a high, stone turret.

The engine of the Olympia cut out, and the driver’s door groaned open, relinquishing its motorist to the cold. The driver shuddered briefly beneath his rich, camel hair coat and set a feathered, Bavarian style hat on his head. One ivory gloved hand pushed the car door shut, and he crossed the street to the door of the house.

There followed a long moment after the visitor sounded the bell, in which the man turned slowly in place with his hands deep in his pockets and his shoulders hunched, stomping his feet for warmth. It was easy to see how the boy had mistaken him for an actor. He seemed too good looking to be anything else. His fine dark hair was neatly trimmed and styled, his face free of stubble, unmarred by even the blemish of cold.

A plump, white haired man with a broom mustache answered the door.

“Hello Friedrich,” the visitor said, doffing his hat.

“Beppo!” the older man exclaimed, stepping aside and waving him in. “Come in! Come in!”

The foyer was warm and the red drained from the visitor’s ears. The older man took his hat, but ‘Beppo (the name seemed a woeful misnomer)’ made no move to surrender his coat.

“Please,” Friedrich said, gesturing to a brass hook on the nearby mirror stand, “let me take your coat.”

“No really,” Beppo demurred. “I’m afraid I can’t stay. I’m expecting important news you see, and I must return to Leipzig in the morning.”

Friedrich held the hat in both hands, his lined face disappointed.

“Ah? Are you sure you can’t stay? At least for supper?”

The younger man shook his head, apologetic.

“I’m afraid not. It’s about my appointment, you see. I really must be there, and I want to get an early start.”

“Of course, of course,” the old man nodded, hanging the hat on the hook. “You’ll stay for a cup of tea, though?”

“Certainly,” Beppo allowed, removing his pristine doeskin gloves and folding them neatly.

The young man took a seat in the adjoining drawing room and regarded the collection of delicate ceramic Capodimonte gypsies capering on the mantle. They were snowed in under a blanket of dust. Nothing a man would keep in his house; these were the exquisite relics of Friedrich’s late wife, whose name escaped his memory. A cuckoo clock poised to release its inmate for hourly exercise hung high on the wall. The young man’s mind again wandered to the trip that lay before him and the important matter that waited at the end of it.

Friedrich returned, bearing a plain tray of china cups and a steaming pot. After a bit of clattering, he handed over a dainty cup and saucer. More womanly remembrances. The young man crossed his legs and sipped the tea as his host took the high-backed chair opposite him.

“How are your father and the factory?” Friedrich asked, brushing at his mustache with a table napkin.

“Thank you, fine,” the younger man replied. “He sends you his best as always.” then, as an afterthought before the tea touched his lips again, “As does mother.”

“Your appointment,” Friedrich ventured, “it will be at the university?”

The younger man shook his head.

“Not at the university proper,” he sipped, relishing his news as though it were contained in the cup. “Actually, Professor Mollinson has recommended me to Professor Von Verscheur’s staff at the Reich Institute.”

Friedrich raised his eyebrows.

The younger man uncrossed his legs and rested his elbows on his knees, excited.  Friedrich was the first he’d told, officially.

“Of course, I don’t dare hope that I’ll be accepted, but if I should…,” he smiled uncontrollably revealing a gap between his two front teeth that spoiled his film star looks only slightly. “Think of it, Freidrich!”

Friedrich smiled broadly at his young guest’s enthusiasm. He probably had little more than an inkling of the importance of the news. The Reich Institute he had heard of surely, Von Verscheur, likely he had not.

“But why shouldn’t you hope for the best, Beppo?” he said, wagging a finger in a way his grandfather used to do. “You are a brilliant physician. Your father always knew you would exceed all our expectations.”

The young man rubbed the bridge of his nose and chuckled at the praise.  Friedrich knew nothing of the Institute or of his skill as a physician. These were just empty, stupid words of encouragement.

“You embarrass me,” Beppo said. “It’s only an assistant’s position.” Of course it was more, but what did the old man know or care?

“Ah,” said Friedrich, mustering more encouragement, “but Herr Professor Von Verscheur is a great man, is he not? Great men recognize greatness in others.”

The young man sat back and sipped his tea. In his blindness, the old man had stumbled upon a truth. A hope he had not dared to express himself, but one that he harbored nonetheless.

“We are at the threshold of exciting times, Freidrich,” he said, glad to give free rein to his excitement even in this dusty drawing room to an uneducated widower who still called him by his childhood nickname. “In every flowering aspect of our culture, particularly in the realm of scientific knowledge, Germany is at the forefront of revolutionary thought. Human genetics is at last taking its rightful place among the classic sciences. Soon, it may even surpass them. All that is required to usher in the new era are men with the will to put the theories of great thinkers like Von Verscheur to practical application;men with the courage to further the boundaries of human understanding by any means. Men…”

“Men like you, Beppo?” Friedrich interrupted, smiling mischievously across his tea cup, fat fingers shoved into the too small handle.

The young man exhaled, like a ship with slackening sails. He stared at the old man. The nickname was suddenly unwelcome. Like the word ‘life,’ too small and paltry a thing to describe such a grand and expansive concept. It was almost insulting.

pinHe watched the old man’s expression falter, eyes falling, perhaps for the first time, on the party pin on the lapel of his coat.

The young man laughed, shaking his head. He was truly embarrassed now. Did a lion roar at an insect in its path? Ridiculous.

“Yes, Friedrich,” he said, letting the old man know it was alright again. “Like me.”

The last, he said into his empty teacup.

Exactly like me.”

The cuckoo sprang and toodled out the advancing hour.

After that, conversation dwindled. Friedrich spoke of his wife and the loneliness of the house, and his thoughts of selling and moving back to Gunzburg near the factory. The man pined for the old rustic village and was now intent on returning to his memories of farm tools and beer. Some were born to endless night, the younger man thought. At the end of this maudlin tirade, he glanced at his wristwatch.

He muttered his excuse and they both stood up, he still didn’t know the name of Friedrich’s late wife.

“I’m sorry to see you leave so soon, Beppo,” Friedrich said, as he took his hat off the hook in the foyer.

He looked at the old man, not without affection, for he could hear the sincerity in his voice. This man had worked for his father, had raised him up on his shoulders as a boy and shown him the workings of the factory, though they had bored him even then. He had taken pride in his work nonetheless. He was a good German.

He clapped the old man’s shoulder, pursing his lips.

“It’s regrettable, Friedrich,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll be in Ingolstadt again.”

The old man shrugged.

“Perhaps if you come to Christmas in Gunzburg, to see your family, you will see me there too, one of these days.”

“Perhaps,” he said, smiling and setting his hat on his head. “Thank you for the tea, Friedrich. It was good seeing you.”

He turned toward the door and opened it, the cold blasting his face.

“Just a moment, Beppo,” the old man said behind him. “I’d almost forgotten.”

He turned, and the old man gestured to a weighty, belted stack of books on the stand beneath the mirror, which the younger man hadn’t noticed before.

“I remembered your fondness for antique books,” the old man explained, smiling behind his moustache. “These are for you.”

The younger man pulled the door closed and moved to the books. He unbelted them and sifted through the stack. They were very old, bound in leather, some of them filigreed, the pages yellowed. His fingers trembled slightly as they traced the embossments, as they always did when physically connecting to old words and in his mind, to the forgotten men who authored them.

“These are very old,” he said, and there was a flutter in his chest. Some of them were probably quite valuable.

He inspected the titles, his marvel building with each subsequent name. Here was Paracelsus and the great Agrippa…Frater Albertus…the legendary Eirenaues Philalethes…mad Alhazred…John Dee…some even he had never encountered in his readings.

These were the alchemical and magical texts of the old masters, some dating back to the 15th century at least, and in good condition, hand copied. Their teachings were of course obsolete, but the books themselves were a treasure trove of historical value. He considered refusing the gift, shaking the old man by the shoulders and making him aware of the literal fortune which he sought to give away. An antiquarian or a museum, maybe even the Reich Institute would pay out a charitable sum for these books. They would be carefully preserved and copied as cultural artifacts. But if he did, what would Freidrich truly do with them? He would laugh at his young guest’s enthusiasm and leave them here in the foyer to gather dust like the dainty gypsy figurines his wife had left behind.

Money from their sale would help him and his new bride immensely as well. Who could use it more; an old man bumping about the cavernous, waning days of a lonesome twilight, or a young doctor with promising years ahead of him?

He struggled to retain his composure and smiled.

“Wherever did you get these, Freidrich?”

Friedrich waved off their importance.

“Oh, the prior owner was an invalid. She didn’t get out, let alone upstairs. I found them in an attic room. Old textbooks, most of them, left over from the university days, no doubt.”

12-c16-paracelsusThe younger man nodded, thumbing briefly but lovingly through the aged pages, inspecting the hand-inked paragraphs with their quasi-mystical formulas and complex diagrams. The university Freidrich spoke of was the old Jesuit university in Ingolstadt, where the astronomer Christoph Scheiner and Weishaupt, the founder of the Illuminati had taught. It had been closed in 1800 by Maximillian.

“This was a boarding house back then,” Freidrich went on. “Many of the students and young priests stayed here over the years.

The doctor paused on one of the pages, admiring an astoundingly detailed anatomical cross section of a human eye. It looked to be hand drawn, accurate to the minutest detail and annotated in a broad, handsome Latin. The drawing was strikingly beautiful. An eye so laid bare and removed from the context of the body was like a fanciful creature, alien of form, sprung entirely from whimsy.

Friedrich ran his liver-spotted hand over the back of his neck modestly.

“Probably just a lot of quaint old foolishness compared to what they assign you to read in Munich.”

“Not at all,” the doctor said, reluctantly closing the book and reading the cover. It was some sort of experimental log, unpublished. He didn’t recognize the author’s name. Some anonymous medical student long dead. “One should never disparage things of the past, Friedrich. Who can say what has been written and perhaps forgotten?”

“Well,” Friedrich smiled. “They are yours, Herr Doktor.”

The doctor smiled thinly. Herr Doktor. It was infinitely better than ‘Beppo.’

He nodded.

“Thank you again, Freidrich. I will cherish these.”

Friedrich waved him off and moved to open the door for him.

He stepped out into the cold again, hugging the books as if they would warm him. Snow drifted down outside like the remnants of frozen, dying stars.

“Drive carefully,” the old man said.

The doctor stepped out into the street.

“Goodbye!”

There was no traffic, and he crossed easily. The old man lingered in the doorway behind him and called;

“Give my love to your mother and father!”

The young doctor raised one gloved hand but did not look back. He reached the Olympia, now frosted with ice.

He wrenched open the door and slid in, setting the books on the passenger’s seat beside him.

“And to all the Mengeles!” Friedrich called.

Dr. Josef Mengele nodded as he closed the door, and mouthed a final goodbye. He shivered and turned the engine over, revving the accelerator, flooding its oily heart with combustible life. He could see his own breath. He wanted to let the car idle a bit before he began, but he saw that Friedrich intended to wait in the open doorway and see him off.

The old man’s love for the Mengele family was admirable, but a bit dogged for one who had drawn simple foreman’s wages and enjoyed only a passing friendship at his father’s tool factory. He knew his father had aided Freidrich’s family in some way long ago. Some trouble with the man’s son, he believed. But where was that son now? In his lonesomeness, the old man had practically adopted Josef in the short span of time they had spent together.

Still, he could not begrudge Friedrich his gift.

Mengele glanced at the spines of the books on the seat as he put the car into reverse and prepared to draw away from the curb. Paracelsus’ Der Grossen Wundartzney leapt out at him. So too, Albertus Magnus’ Physica. And then there was that enticing book with the drawing of the eye, marked in French, ‘Journal Experimental.’ The one by the unknown author, M. Victor Frankenstein.

When he shifted back into first gear and eased the Olympia onto the street, Friedrich was still waving from the doorway of the old house. The snow pelted the windscreen furiously as he guided the car out of Ingolstadt. A driving storm greeted him when he at last pointed it toward Leipzig.

monstrumtitle
Pick it up here –
https://www.amazon.com/Monstrumfuhrer-Edward-M-Erdelac/dp/1936964015/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482205530&sr=8-1&keywords=monstrumfuhrer

Ed Op: Attack On The Death Troopers

r1I haven’t seen Rogue One as of this writing, but I’ve seen the trailers.

Can we talk about Death Troopers?

These are a variant on the black-clad ‘elite’ stormtroopers or Shadow Troopers that sprang from the EU in its Legends days and gradually grew in popularity among the 501st cosplayers at conventions, and are now about to charge full blown into Star Wars canon onscreen.

Yeah, they look really cool.

1280-deathtrooperjpg-4853ff_1280w

I’ll buy the toy for my son ’cause he likes ’em, but even Death Troopers play with the classics.

But I’m not a fan….AND I’LL TELL YA WHY!

stormswarmStormtroopers are about shock and awe. They wear this pristine white armor not because it’s practical, but because there’s something incongruous to their appearance when they kick in your door or come hut hut hutting out of a dropship.

I remember the first time I saw them blasting their way onto the Tantive IV in A New Hope. Their appearance made my brain misfire. In my kid’s mind, bad guys wore black (Zorro notwithstanding, but he was sort of pretending to be a bad guy). Soldiers are gruff, down and dirty, but stormtroopers are spotless, unblemished, and regimental. There’s something in that that gives the mind pause (and in that pause is where Stormtroopers shine).

Stormtroopers represent the Imperial notion of Order with a capital O. They’re not interested in practicality, they’re there to overwhelm you, both mentally and physically. All jokes about them not being able to hit a thing (yes yes, they don’t hit waddling 3PO and R2 in the hallway when they wander through that firefight…very amusing. But on the other side of them, a whole lot of Rebel troopers are shown getting dropped. The plain truth is…they weren’t AIMING for the droids.), it takes something to go marching into a combat zone in bright white armor. Stupidity, you may say, but I say thee nay! Discipline and fanaticism -two things you want to foment in a stormtrooper recruit.
10-tie-pilotIt’s the same assurance that puts the TIE fighter pilots (the ONLY front liners who deserve to wear the black) into the cockpits of unshielded ships. Survivability is not a concern of stormtroopers. They’re a cog in a really big, really nasty machine and they know they can be replaced. That’s why the Emperor did away with all those pretty primary colored unit designations and emblems from the Clone Wars. The New Order isn’t about unit distinction, it’s about raw power.

scoutsLook at the Scout Troopers on Endor. No camouflage seems silly, right? When the Scouts hit the ground, the Empire is sending a message. That message is, we don’t give a laughin’ fuzzball about your planet. Not about your flora, not your fauna. We’ll stomp your trees with our AT-AT’s (rhymes with Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-a-tat-like that. And I never hesitate to put a Rebel on his back). Our Scouts don’t hide. They fly by on their speeder bikes and leave you smoking.

But what about Snowtroopers (my faves), you might say? They’re all white, they buy into the appeal of camo. Nope. Snowtroopers wear what Snowtroopers wear to keep warm. Hoth just happens to compliment Snowtroopers. It’s not the other way around. That’s why they run the joint. Snowtroopers weren’t made for Hoth. Hoth was made for Snowtroopers.

snowtroopers

Only one pair of black boots on the ground.

So yeah, black-clad stormtroopers. They just go against the whole notion of crushing faceless uniformity I’ve come to love in the Empire. You wanna be a special snowflake, go be a Royal Guard. The job is cushier and you get a pointy movealong and a flashy red dress.

On top of all that….when I’m playing Battlefront I can never see the little buggers.

battlefront

I see you in the back, you jerk!

May The Force Be Witcha.