MechaWest Kickstarter Is Live!

Deadwood-copyA howling westerly wind blows down the center of a wide, dusty street, carrying with it a vagabond tumbleweed and the unmistakable smells of gun oil and fear.

A lone figure steps off the boardwalk into the street, lowering the wide brim of his hat against the wind. Shutters and doors slam as he passes, as if any of them can shut out the violence that’s to come.

The man’s spurs clink on the heels of his boots, the tail of his duster flaps and balloons behind him, offering hints of the tools of his trade. Poised like blunted horns in the holsters tied to his legs are the walnut grips of a pair of .44 pistols.

The man reaches the center of the street and hooks his coat behind the butts of his pistols.

“Alright, marshal!” he roars, elbows bent, fingers stroking the handles of his revolvers. “You called down the thunder, now come on out and catch the lightning!”

There is a whirring, hissing sound, and big shadow falls across the man in the street.

The shadow of his hat brim recedes as he cranes his neck upward, and his narrow eyes widen.

BLAM!

The shot echoes, a tremendous cannon crash that rattles the windows and makes the horses kick over the troughs and roll their eyes and scream all up and down the avenue.

When the dense, acrid cloud of smoke clears, a pair of smoking boots and a charred hat turning in place like a fallen penny in the middle of a dark patch of scorched ground are all that’s left of the gunman.

A clanking conglomeration of iron and steel, three times the size of a man, twirls a massive, smoking Colt revolver on its armored finger, then drops it into a holster the size of a steer on its jointed, rust spotted hip.

The metal man’s face creaks open and a grizzled looking man with grey whiskers and a star on his vest grins a yellow grin.

“Looks like you came underdressed to this occasion, Billy,” the marshal says through his cheroot….

photo-original

Readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for and recent rediscovery of tabletop roleplaying games. Well, I went and wrote one.

This is MechaWest, bringing the anime giant robot suit action of Heroic Journey Publishing’s Mecha roleplaying game system to the American Old West. Here high noon showdowns are fought in lumbering iron suits, powered by chugging boilers burning coal and wood. Cowboys race among lowing cattle in fleet footed rooster walkers, ready with lasso launchers, branding irons and barb wire clipper arms, and Indian Iron Killer Societies eschew the white man’s technology, using ingenious guerrilla tactics to bring shining blue and gold cavalry mecha crashing to their literal knees.

In the alternate history of MechaWest fighting mecha have been around since the Napoleonic Wars in the form of elegant clockwork suits of oak and tin worn by officers and gentlemen duelists, moving jerkily up and down the lines of battle with large flowing capes, and sweeping through lines of infantry with gargantuan rapiers.

But when American engineer Robert Fulton places a steam engine into an old clockwork knight the gilded age of gentlemanly dueling ends and a new era of mechanized warfare begins. The first mecha see service in the Mexican War of Independence, new iron armored suits effectively retiring the Army of Spain and their outdated clockwork mecha.

MG-1-033-6In the subsequent Mexican American war, gunsmith Samuel Colt invents a repeating fire weapon that turns each mecha into a walking battalion. Then abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass seize a squad of mecha from the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and lead an army of free slaves into the West Virginia mountains, forming the free state of New Africa and touching off the American Civil War. When blue and gray machines clash, the conflict is catastrophic.

The harsh necessities of the post-war American West mother strange inventions, from the circling Steel Schooners of the pioneers to transforming mecha-trains that dig their own tunnels and transform to fight off robbers.

Quanah_Parker_c1890calamity-janePlayers in MechaWest can work for a cattle baron’s outfit, piloting swift iron giants with to herd beef across hostile Native American lands, or as the Iron Killers, elite warriors who bring down the white man’s metal machines with whatever resources they can muster. Maybe riding as an Iron Ranger, splitting their time chasing Indians and bringing justice to marauding outlaws are more their bag, or perhaps dodging the law in a rattletrap mecha held together with baling wire and burning moonshine, sporting the latest illegal weaponry is more their style.

When the ‘Chinese Freemen Syndicate’ seizes the mines and railroads they worked to build en masse and fort up in their Celestial Territories with flame throwing Dragon Mecha and daring highbinder pilots, the possibilities open up even more. Do the players want to play as a band of Chinese agents in exotic, sought-after mecha? Do they want to plays as the US Cavalry, mounting punitive expeditions against marauding tribes or besieging the Celestial Territories for much needed resources?

Independent warlords, cattle barons and criminal organizations all seek to rule the frontier with steam driven iron fists. And amongst every faction pass the Gunfighters, deft pilots-for-hire, each with their own agenda.

This is the era of MechaWest…

Written by myself and Jeff Carter, and based on Chris Perrin’s core rpg system Mecha, with Wayne Humfleet and Mark Reed.

We have thirty days to reach our art and production goal. Please head over there and kick a buck.

http://kck.st/1AdS0Li

 

Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Reverend Mr. Goodworks And The Yeggs Of Yig Appearing In Steampunk Cthulhu

Up for preorder from Chaosium Books and editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass is Steampunk Cthulhu, featuring stories from Jeffrey Thomas, Adam Bolivar, Carrie Cuinn, William Meikle, John Goodrich, Lee Clark Zumpe, D.J. Tyrer, Christine Morgan, Christopher M. Geeson, Thana Niveau, Leigh Kimmel, Josh Reynolds, Robert Neilson, Pete Rawlik, and including my story The Reverend Mister Goodworks and The Yeggs of Yig.

The book is due out June 16th and features a killer cover from Daniele Serra, who also did the cover for my novel Coyote’s Trail.

Readers of my Merkabah Rider series  may recognize the name The Reverend Mister Goodworks from the final book in the series, Once Upon A Time In The Weird West.

Also known as The Reverend Shadrach Mischach Abednego Carter, a former train engineer who, after a horrific crash, is partially reconstructed with steam engine parts and becomes a battling preacher dedicated to the destruction of evil, the Reverend Mr. Goodworks plays a sizable part in the events of Once Upon A Time In The Weird West.

NehushtanThis story can be considered a prequel spinoff which directly ties into the the last MR novel, and provides some insight into the character.

I actually wrote this some time before I published Once Upon A Time In The Weird West, so I’m excited to see it in print at last. It involves the servants of the Lovecraftian deity Yig (obviously), and ties into the Old Testament story of the Nehushtan.

yigIn this story, the Reverend encounters a distraught pregnant Mexican woman fleeing across the desert at night. Although she begs him to kill her before they are born, the Reverend delivers her children, only to be attacked by them as they slither from her womb; a pair of vicious serpent-human hybrids. He sets out to find those responsible for this abomination….

Here’s an excerpt.

_______________________________________

The Reverend lurched into New Valusia sometime before noon, the sand grinding in his knee joints. It was little more than a few communal frame houses, some gardens, and a couple outbuildings, all arranged around a two story farmhouse with a veranda.

On the porch stood a strikingly tall, lean, yellow haired woman in a white and purple robe. She folded her sun freckled arms at his approach.

Several of the New Valusians in white cassocks rose from their various tasks to interpose themselves, bearing only shovels and hoes as weapons. The Reverend was forced to halt or else plough through them.

He stood quietly, a head taller than their tallest, and surveyed the small crowd.

“Which of you is Susannah?” he bellowed at last.

“I’m Sister Susannah Coyle,” said the woman on the porch. “What brings you here?”

“The Lord brang me here,” drawled the Reverend, unfastening his coat.

“Well, the Lord welcome you.”

“Not your lord, bitch,” growled the Reverend.

He threw open his greatcoat like a knightly tabard.

Beneath, his body was flat black with steel accents, like the shell of a richly ornamented locomotive engine. Indeed, his chest resembled the face of a locomotive, with the dim lamp set in the center. His torso was further festooned with dancing pressure gauges and valve wheels, like a harness of little metal daisies. His heavy, ironclad legs bristled with pistons and driveshafts that plunged and hissed as he moved.

There was a thick bandolier belted around his blocky waist. Hanging from the belt was an old LeMat pistol. He brought his left arm up sharply, accompanied by a series of mechanical whirs and clicks. The sleeve was split down the middle from elbow to cuff, allowing the arm to emerge from the fabric unencumbered. His right hand went to his elbow and jacked a brass lever there. A strange amalgamation of octagonal rifle barrels, three in number, and situated in a kind of pyramid one atop the other, appeared at the end of the metal arm.

The Reverend rightly assumed any of these New Valusians walking around of their own volition were acquiescent in the hell the young woman he’d buried had been put through. He had no compunctions about firing into their midst, but he directed his aim at the statuesque Susannah Coyle, furiously levering his tri-repeater arm and cutting loose with a rapid barrage.

The New Valusians weren’t used to facing gunfire and scattered, dropping their makeshift weapons in their mad flight.

Susannah Coyle didn’t budge. To his amazement, the fifteen bullets he had flung in her direction all stopped and hung suspended in mid-air a few feet from the porch, spinning in a tight group.

When he lowered his smoking arm, frowning, he became aware of a deep thrumming in the air.

The door to the house opened and two muscular white-clad men armed with primitive, two-handed stone headed mallets appeared.

“The Pacifier Field,” Susannah explained, flicking the spinning bullets one by one with her finger until they bounced down the porch steps and rolled harmlessly in the dust at the Reverend’s feet. “An electromagnetic generator. It protects our Nesting House from those who do violence. It’s on its most agreeable setting now, but when I order it directed against your person, it will repel all your metal components, even from each other. That suit of yours will come apart and fly to the compass points.”

“It’s not a suit,” said the Reverend.

————————————————-

Steampunk Cthulhu is up for preorder now on Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Steampunk-Cthulhu-Mythos-Chaosium-Fiction/dp/1568823940/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1402728266&sr=8-5&keywords=erdelac

 

Black Tallow In The Dark Rites Of Cthulhu

darkritesI’m very proud to have my story BLACK TALLOW appearing in the inaugural book from Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU.

Neil is a fellow Star Wars What’s The Story alumn and Mythos enthusiast, and he’s wrangled some great talent for his house’s first book, including editor/author Brian M. Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Goodrich, Scott T. Goudsward, T. E. Grau, C.J. Henderson, Tom Lynch, the ever lovin’ William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas and Don Webb.

Lovecraft Ezine just did a midnight chat on the book which you can view here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRjmMBp7kw0

Unfortunately I had some technical issues and wound up missing it, but here’s what I WOULD have talked about –

Brian pitched Dark Rites to me as a Hammer Studios style take on the ritualistic aspect of the Lovecraftian Mythos, akin to Dennis Wheatley’s fiction (like The Devil Rides Out) and Curse Of The Demon. I latched onto the idea immediately (and had a hand in naming the book).

My story BLACK TALLOW is about a rare book translator and lapsed occultist who is called to the house of an old friend who claims to owe all his substantial worldly success to the pursuit of ritual magic. And yet, the wealthy practitioner is as yet spiritually unfulfilled, until he comes across a rare tome whose ultimate purpose is said to be to grant the occultist the greatest desire of his heart.

blacktallowThe story incorporates The Infernalius, a book which readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize.

Perhaps I share my character’s love of physical books, but I have to take a minute and talk about how impressed I am with the look of this anthology. As you can see, Neil distressed the cover image to give the book a very 1960’s paperback feel which I love. He’s also crafted a series of minimalist representational images for each of the stories.

Here’s an excerpt from BLACK TALLOW.

He moved to the book and removed the covering.

I leaned in close.

bookIt was an ugly little thing, less than a hundred pages. It was bound in mottled, flaking, pale leather, and rather inexpertly, I thought. Some of the pages did not quite fit, as if they were mismatched, or taken from disparate sources.  I squinted hard at the cover, which bore no markings. It was old, whatever it was.

“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” he mumbled, very close to my ear. He was standing near, hovering almost.

“Binding in human skin?” I wrinkled my nose. Claims of book jackets made from human skin usually turned out to be unfounded. Pig skin was often mistaken for human. I had once seen a copy of deSade’s Justine et Juliette with a human nipple on the front board below the title, and another time, Carnegie’s biography of Lincoln bound in a black man’s hide.  “Not very well done, is it?”

“It was stitched together by hand. By the same hand that did the fleshing and tanning.”

“Whose hand is that?” I asked, reaching out to thumb the pages.

“No, don’t open it!” he snapped. Then, more gently, “Let me.”

There was no title, only page after page of densely inscribed text, all in various hands, languages, even hieroglyphs on what looked like brittle papyrus. There were strange diagrams inside. I knew it was some kind of grimoire, but it was impossible for me to guess where it originated from.

“What is this, Paul? Some kind of scrapbook?”

“Sort of. Have you ever heard of the Infernalius?”

“It sounds….familiar.”

“Think back to the books we heard talked about in our college days, Raymond. The books your own grandfather had from his great uncle.”

That was Great Great Uncle Warren, the man family history had always told me I’d inherited my love of languages and old books from. He’d been a Classical Languages professor in Arkham, Massachussetts in the old days, and a chum of the somewhat notorious occult scholar Henry Armitage. Upon Warren’s death in 1931, most of his books and papers had been donated to his university, though a few had been passed on to his brother.

It was the revelation that I was Warren Rice’s great great grand nephew that had started off Paul’s fascination with me in school. He seemed to buy into the old story about how Warren and Armitage had had some strange mystical dealings in Dunwich in 1928 or so.

The books my grandfather had let us peruse in his study one summer that had belonged to Warren were mainly scholarly treatises, such as Copeland’s Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation, Casterwell’s Kranorian Annals, and von Junzt’s Nameless Cults.

Then I remembered.

“The Book of Books?”

Paul smiled.

“The Book of Books. Not some idle boast, but a literal description. A book hidden among the pages of seven other books.” He held up his hands and ticked them off, finger by finger. “The Book of Eibon, the Book of Karnak, the Testament of Carnamagos, the Ponape Scripture, de Vermiss Mysteriis, and the Scroll of Thoth-Amon. Each one a rare treasure in their own right.”

“Come on, Paul. It’s a fantasy,” I laughed. “The timeline’s all wrong. How could something be hidden in an ancient Egyptian scroll and a book written in 1542?”

“You know of the Akashic Record. The ethereal library of all knowledge written and unwritten which men may tap into. And the history says that The Dark Man entity dictated The Infernalius to the Hyborean wizard Gargalesh Svidren, who dispersed the knowledge through time. Abdul Al-Hazred hid the assembly instructions in the original, unexpurgated Arabic Kitab al-Azif. They’re only visible to those who already know it’s there. A book which rewards the practitioner with ultimate knowledge of the universe.”

“I thought it was supposed to end the world,” I said, pursing my lips. “How much did you get fleeced for buying this, Paul?”

“It’s the genuine article,” said Paul. “Dr. Francis Morgan recovered it from Old Noah Whateley’s personal library in Dunwich after the affair with your uncle and Professor Armitage.  It’s been in a private collection since 1966, along with Whateley’s diary.”

“Noah Whateley kept a diary?” I said, incredulous.

Whateley’s reputation as a sorcerer was renowned, but like my own as a translator, only among certain circles. As students, we’d spent our junior year spring break in Arkham and Dunwich trying to learn all we could about him and run into a wall. I’d chalked it all up to being folklore. Paul had insisted the locals had protected us from the true knowledge.

“He did, and related his assembly of the book in 1882.”

“Finding the right copies of those books, unaltered by translation….it would’ve been impossible for one man,” I said.

“He was hired by a cult, the Order of The Black Dragon. You remember them.”

I nodded. Von Junzt had mentioned them, some sort of apocalyptic cult with origins in ancient Israel and adherents all over the globe.

“Their members gathered the required books and brought them to Whateley. He assembled them, and once the Order had performed the ritual and taken what they wanted from the book, he was sent back to Dunwich with it. Apparently it was their intention to call something forth, something that should have ended the world.”

“Well, so the book’s a fraud,” I said. “Obviously the world didn’t end.”

“The book’s purpose isn’t to end the world, but to grant the ritualist his heart’s desire. The Order wanted the end of the world. The book gave them the means. The book changes to fit the magician’s desire.”

“A book that changes? That’s crazy….”

—–

Black_candles_Speyer_1THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU is available now in Kindle, and for preorder in paperback. Neil’s made some cool perks for the special edition of the book too, so check them out here.

http://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/#!the-dark-rites-of-cthulhu/c1q0a

 

 

Devil’s Cap Brawl Now Appearing In Kaiju Rising

Ragnarok Publications had released the Kindle version of their giant monster themed anthology Kaiju Rising, which features stories from Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey,
Jonathan Wood, C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson,
Erin Hoffman, Howard Andrew Jones, James Swallow, and yours truly, with killer interior art by Chuck Lukacs and Robert Elrod.

March will see the release of the print edition as well.

My own story, Devil’s Cap Brawl, is set in the High Sierras of the 1860’s, during the Central Pacific Railroad’s race east through the mountains. Chinese and Shoshone laborers are ordered to blast their way through a certain peak called Devil’s Cap, a promontory that houses a menace that has slept for millennium.

25032012060854pmLongtime readers will know I have a standing love for the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine. It’s a mesmerizing piece of television centering on the journey of a Shaolin priest through the American West. I’m also a giant monster fanatic, not just of the classic 50’s B-movies America put out, but also the subsequent kaiju films of Toho and Daiei. I love the weird designs of Japanese monsters like Gigan, Megalon, and Hedorah, and my design of the giant ogre antagonist in this story, Dzoavits (the name taken from an old Native American legend) reflects that. I also have a soft spot for heroes like Ultraman and Spectreman (I missed the Power Rangers – too old) who grow to immense size and duke it out with these big rubbery monstrosities.

spectremanMarrying these diverse elements in a story appealed to me, and when I pitched the idea to Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin,they went for it, particularly as they wanted to feature a Chinese martial artist monk in their ongoing weird western series Dead West. So, the unnamed priest in this story may appear again in the future.

Go pick up the book. It’s fantastic.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, Devil’s Cap Brawl –

Dzoavits.

It erupted from the stone, doing to Devil’s Cap in seven seconds what it would have taken another eleven months for them to do with hand drills and blasting powder.

It was immense. At least a hundred and fifty feet tall. Another arm punched through the side of the rock and it extricated itself from the encasing rock like a fat man wriggling out of a barrel. It was moundish, with a huge hairy hump between its muscled shoulders, covered with spiky, quartz-like protuberances of a muddy hue that poked through its dirty grey-black hair. In the center of its chest was a hint of a head, framed by long, scraggly hair. There was an overlarge disapproving mouth that stretched almost from shoulder to shoulder, and was hung with fleshy lips and shot through with a row of yellow, serrated shark teeth. Above that maw, two bulging red eyes glowed. The thing opened its mouth, took its first cold breath of fresh air in God only knew how long, and let out a terrifying, protracted howl that washed over them in a wave that drove them all physically back in horror.
Rocks cascading off its body, it pulled itself free of its prison, revealing a pair of strange, spindly, kangaroo-like legs that ended in long grasping black talons. It seemed to rest on its massive arms, and use them for locomotion, like a great gorilla, or a man with withered legs.

The horrible thing perched atop the ruins of Devil’s Cap and surveyed the countryside, a newly emerged monarch. It sucked the air with its ponderous lungs and regarded the milling men below.

Joe tried to run, and tripped over Chow Lan, who had fallen sprawling in the snow and was groping for his spectacles. The Chinese and Indians were in full route, except for the priest, who knelt beside Tolliver, yelling in Chinese at the men who passed, apparently urging them to take him with.

Joe heard gunshots, and looked over. Several of the Indians and white men in the camp had seen the thing and had emerged from the snow tunnel. They were firing at it with shotguns and muskets. Joe almost laughed as he scrabbled to his feet.

But before he could run, the priest grabbed a hold of his sleeve.

“You must take Boss Tom with you,” said the priest.

“Let go of me, you bloody monkey!” Joe shrieked and swung at him.

It was an old prizefighter’s instinctual blow, the kind that would have knocked an untrained man unconscious had it landed. But the priest did something peculiar with his free hand, and Joe’s punch seemed to slide uselessly down his branded arm. Then the smaller man’s two fingers pinched Joe’s wrist and twisted. The pain was so intense Joe gasped and fell to his knees, all thought of struggle gone.

He found himself face to face with Tolliver, laying nearby. The man was a black and bloody mess. He must have been caught in the explosion Joe had heard earlier, the one that had awakened this thing. He had known Tolliver back when Irish muscle had done the backbreaking work, not Chinese. They had come up together. He felt ashamed at having tried to abandon him.

But they were all dead men anyhow, in the face of this thing from the pit of hell.

“Chow Lan!” the priest yelled. “Help him!”

“Where can we go?” Chow Lan yelled, having fitted his glasses back on his nose. One lens looked like a spiderweb.
The priest looked about for a moment, then pointed to the shallow western tunnel in the base of Devil’s Cap which the terrified coolies had abandoned.

He pointed.

Joe looked up as a massive shadow fell across the entire area. The air grew chill. The sky was dark.
Then were was a tremendous impact that knocked Chow Lan to the ground and sent the snow and the loose stones hovering for a surreal moment before everything crashed back down.
The thing had leapt from the summit and landed behind them.

Joe watched as it scooped up a fistful of the fleeing workmen. He saw dozens of men flailing between its huge ruddy fingers, and heard their screams as it stuffed them hungrily into its mouth.

“Let me go!” Joe yelled.

“You will help Boss Tom?”
Joe nodded, exhaling as the pressure on his wrist disappeared.

“Go then!” the priest ordered, and to Joe’s surprise, he began to strip away his shirt and pants.

“Come on, Chow Lan,” Joe urged, taking Tolliver under the armpits.

“Where he go?” Chow Lan wondered, taking Tolliver’s feet and watching mystified as the priest discarded his pants.

“Never mind him! He’s barmy! Let’s go!”

They bore Tolliver back to the shallow depression and huddled among the rubble and abandoned equipment.

The priest was bare ass naked. He sat down on the spot and closed his eyes. He was muttering something, and his fingers were interlacing in weird passes.

Tolliver groaned.

Joe reached into his coat and pulled out his bottle.

“Here Tom, here now,” he said, pulling out the cork and tipping it to Tolliver’s bruised lips. “Mother Mary’s milk, it is. You drink. I’m sorry, Tom.”

Beside him, Chow Lan gave a cry of surprise and fell to his knees, throwing his forehead to the ground.

Joe looked over and nearly dumped the rest of the firewater up Tolliver’s right nostril.

The priest was getting to his feet.

But he had changed….

Pick up the Kindle edition of Kaiju Rising here,and watch out for the print version next month all over.

http://www.amazon.com/Kaiju-Rising-Monsters-James-Swallow-ebook/dp/B00ICCX5QY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393403741&sr=8-1&keywords=kaiju+rising

If You’re Ever Down In Texas Look Me Up -Weird West Fest

Hey all, I’ll be appearing at the Weird West Fest in Giddings, Texas next weekend, December 14th (it was originally this Saturday the 7th, but the whole shebang has been rescheduled due to inclement weather).

I’ll be on the weird western panel from 2-2:30, and the HWA panel with Karen Lansdale (HWA founder and wife of Joe R. Lansdale) from 3:00-3:30.

I’ll be hawking books all day as well somewhere among the vendors, so if you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time (or just swing by for an autograph or to say hi).

Should be a cool convention, as the lions share of it will be taking place in a restored 1880’s Train Depot and all of the Lansdales will be around, including Joe R., whose work my readers will know is a big inspiration for Merkabah Rider and a lot of what I do.

Check the link.

http://www.weirdwestfest.com/

Hasta Pronto!

TexasTom2

Published in: on December 5, 2013 at 6:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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Kaiju Rising!

I’m involved in a brand new project from Ragnarok Publishing, an anthology of 19 giant monster stories called Kaiju Rising. Participating authors include Larry Correia, Peter Clines, Peter Rawlik, James Lovegrove, Erin Hoffman, James Maxey, David Annandale, Clint Lee Werner, Jonathan Wood, J.C. Koch, Paul Genesse, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samuel Sattin, Jaym Gates, Timothy W. Long, Mike MacLean, Natania Barron, and Joshua Reynolds.

photo-mainCheck out the kickstarter –
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1089607742/kaiju-rising-age-of-monsters-anthology/posts

As of this writing we’re a featured kickstarter, about 70% funded and have twenty five days to go. Not bad.

http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2013/09/featured-kickstarter-kaiju-rising.html

My own story, DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL, is a weird western/daikaiju/kyodai hero mashup, drawing on inspiration from wuxia, Godzilla flicks, and Kung Fu among other things.

When an Indian warns the Irish boss of a Central Pacific Railroad gang not to dynamite through a towering rock known as Devil’s Cap, the boss goes ahead and does it anyway, unleashing Dzoavits, a massive ogre-like creature which proceeds to smash the camp flat and endanger the entire crew. But among the hapless Chinese rail workers, a single man, a monk, doesn’t flee the beast’s shadow. He sits down and closes his eyes. And then he begins to grow….

Here’s an excerpt from DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL. Swing by the kickstarter and kick a buck. Kick two and help Ragnarok meets its stretch goals, which include some amazing interior illustrations from monster illustrator Robert Elrod, Chuck Lukacs (of Wizards of The Coast fame), and just maybe, a positively legendary fantasy artist…

Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History MuseumJoe cussed and trudged up the incline. He heard a crash behind him and all of a sudden the Chinese priest was climbing alongside him.

Halfway up the top, the ground shook hard and rumbled. A pile of loose rocks tumbled free and one struck Joe bloody in the head. The priest grabbed his shirt and kept him from falling. For nearly a full minute they hugged the rock, watching the trees sway and shed snow down on them. It was like gripping a bull trying to shake them loose.

“Earthquake!” he managed to yell.

Below, the coolies working the west tunnel ran into the open shouting, dirt and rubble sliding from their shoulders.
Bushy bearded Jesus, he had never felt one this bad. It seemed like it would never end. He glanced up and saw the wood enclosure trembling atop the summit. His heart sank when he heard a crack and saw part of the roof shift. The Paiutes spilled out and fell to their bellies just as the roof collapsed inward, the whole structure crashing flat over the engine and the tender. Debris slid down the embankment, carrying a couple screaming Paiutes with it.
Joe put his head down and quietly willed the engine not to fall from the mountain. Christ’s bloody breechclout, they would be here another year if they lost it. What would he tell Crocker? He had talked big to the priest about being footloose and fancy free. Damn if it didn’t look like he really would be. Sure, he’d get the blame, even for an earthquake. And Crocker would put some other mick in his place. It’d be back to Fisherman’s Wharf for him, bareknuckle fighting, spittin’ teeth and pissin’ blood and whiskey till a good job came his way again, if it ever did.

He looked over at the priest but he was gone. Fallen or carried off by a boulder or bit of rubble, no doubt. But no, Joe saw him above then, springing nimble as a goat from rock to rock, even in the midst of the shaking, making his way up to the summit.

Joe held on for dear life, and watched as the priest reached Tolliver where the Paiute had laid him when the shaking had started. He lifted the bloody man up in his arms and hurled himself over the edge like a madman. But instead of tumbling to his death, he skipped lightly till he reached the bottom of the hill, and then knelt there over Tolliver, shielding him from falling rocks with his own body.

No priest Joe had ever seen was like that.

The shaking stopped, and he looked up at the pile of wood and snow that had once covered the engine, and saw Old Judah’s smokestack poking through.

“Well thank Missus Lot’s salt tits for that!” he exclaimed.
Just then something burst from the side of the rock to his immediate left. It looked like a huge, mossy mass of tendril roots.

Joe was so surprised he relaxed his grip on the stone and fell backwards.

Well, that’s the end of me, he thought, as he plummeted into the open air. He supposed he would land on that rock he had been standing on before, and be broken in two. If he was lucky, he might squash a Chinaman and be saved.
But neither happened.

Instead, he felt a dull impact on his upper back and behind his knees, and found himself sagging in the surprisingly hard, strong arms of the priest like a suckling baby.

He looked at the priest in surprise, and noticed the inside of his forearms were tattooed….no, not tattooed. There were designs branded on his skin, puffy scars in the shape of a fanciful Oriental dragon on his right arm, and a tiger on his left.

He put down his feet.

“Ta, boyo,” Joe muttered.

But the priest wasn’t looking at him. No one was. The coolies and the Indians were uniformly staring wide eyed up at the top of Devil’s Cap.

The mass of tangled roots that had surprised Joe were moving, waggling like great knotty, long nailed fingers.
Because that’s what they were.

He didn’t want to believe it, but when the splayed things shot further out causing the rock to crack and crumble, they were on the end of an immensely long, muscular arm, shaggy with string grey hair stained brown by the dirt.

mountaineruptThe top of Devil’s Cap moved. It rose and fell once, like something beneath were testing the weight, then it swelled again, enough to tip Old Judah and its tender off the slope at last. The noise of all that iron and steel rolling down was a terrible cacophony, and a few men were caught up in it and smashed flat.

Something burst through the snowy cap….

Terovolas Signing At Dark Delicacies September 28th At 2PM

On Saturday the 28th (my birthday), I’ll be signing copies of TEROVOLAS over at the famous Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank, along with JournalStone authors Eric Guignard, Rena Mason, Eric Red, Lisa Morton, and Benjamin Kane Ethridge.

Swing by if you’e in the neighborhood!

terovolascoverMore about the book here.

 

 

The Akeldama Dig Now Appearing In Strange Trails

strange-trails-coverA new weird western anthology from Mechanoid Press, the guys behind Monster Earth, is out and features my short story The Akeldama Dig, about an ex-miner suffering from claustrophobia who agrees to tunnel into a rich man’s grave for a huge paycheck and runs into something….bad.

Born from my own mild claustrophobia (don’t get it in closets or elevators, but can’t be locked in a trunk), The Akeldama Dig takes place in (or underneath, really) Delirium Tremens, a town my loyal readers will be familiar with.

Here’s an excerpt.

“You’re a miner, Mr. Leslie?” Gallow repeated.

“I was,” Spiro said, warmed to the company by the drink, bad as it was. “I used to be foreman at the Copper Queen in Bisbee.”

“Used to be?” Gallow pressed.

“A shaft collapsed.”

gleision-mine-in-the-neath-valley-south-wales-pic-wns-955379992-154079He tried to keep the tremor out of his voice. He wasn’t sure if he had. Three little words hardly encompassed what had happened to drive him from his trade for good. First there had been a faraway groaning in the earth, then the timber had splintered and the whole shaft had shuddered and filled with dust and the tremendous clatter of stone. That reassuring pinhole of daylight far over his head had winked out like a pinched candle. He’d never known just how much he’d depended on that little light until it was gone. Hell, he had worked without sight of the surface since a boy fishing for lead in Galena, Illinois, but somehow he had come to think of that point of light in the Copper Queen as a guardian angel looking down. Seeing it go out was like seeing God turn away from you when you needed it most.

He may well have, for tons of rock had come down, enclosing Spiro like a firefly in a fist. He hadn’t been able to move. Could only lay there, feeling the cool subterranean air grow hot.

A few of the men who’d been near him had been trapped too. He could hear their muffled pleas turn to faraway screams as the desperate hours turned to lingering days and all reckoning of time faded like a drop of blood in water. He heard the subdued scratching of men trying to dig themselves free one bootless finger of dust and stone at a time. Then came a deep, perennial silence.

300px-Cave-in_(indust)At some point, he knew not when, something animate had penetrated the inches of space around his head and begun to paw and scrape at back of his neck.  This alien sensation had thrown him into a trembling panic which, while encased in tons of rock, made Spiro feel like a trapped bird. He had no notion of what it could be…some animal?  It was hours before he deduced it to be a single disembodied hand belonging to a man buried very near him. Like a spider, that strange hand blindly groped his neck for hours, growing feeble and finally ceasing its labors, cooling and stiffening as the unseen owner suffocated. He had thanked God for that man’s death. Every stroke of the phantom fingers, every brush of broken, bleeding nails against his sweaty nape had raised his small hairs and got him whimpering.

His head pounding, heart beating only intermittently in his sinking chest, he had prayed in his last moments that a rock might slip and flatten his skull, putting an end to his anguish. When the stone above his face had shifted and light had broken over him on the third day, he had nearly torn through his rescuers to get at the cool air.  After a precarious ride up the rope, he had whirled and flapped his elbows, dancing and gibbering hoarsely like a madman. They told him later he had bit the men who tried to restrain him.

Once he had been strong enough to stand again, he straightaway resigned and put miles between himself and his would-be grave. He hadn’t even stayed to learn the fate of his comrades.

But now every night was like the time in the shaft anew. He couldn’t bear to sleep beneath a roof. He awoke sweaty and thrashing beneath bedclothes. Whenever he closed his eyes for any period, his breaths grew short and sharp, his heart hammered, and all he saw behind his eyelids was the lid of a stone coffin. He had to drink himself insensible or go to the point of collapse just to sleep.

Featuring stories from James Palmer, Josh Reynolds, Tommy Hancock, Morgan Minor, and Barry Reese, Strange Trails can be picked up right ‘chere for about nine bucks.

Not bad for all that.

http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Trails-James-Palmer/dp/1491077492/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376679647&sr=8-1&keywords=strange+trails

Published in: on August 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight The Critics

I’ve been against this new Lone Ranger movie since it was announced Johnny Depp was playing Tonto. You can read my initial reaction, and my personal take on the character HERE.

lone-bannerI had no intention of seeing this thing, but about a month ago, I accidentally committed what’s pretty much a hanging offense in terms of movie appreciation: I spoiled the ending of a movie (STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS) to a friend who had been looking forward to the thing all year, the very day before he was headed to the theater. It was an honest mistake (I thought he had seen it early, he sees a lot of movies early, and that we were talking about WRATH OF KHAN), but yeah, I felt pretty terrible, particularly as it was a movie I had no intention of seeing (I had read the synopsis). I told him I owed him, that he could name any fitting recompense. Knowing full well my resistance to the thing on a moral basis, he told me I had to go see THE LONE RANGER and talk about it with him on his podcast.

Sigh.

So I went into this thing with my arms firmly crossed, and I saw it in a theater I hate (because it was cheaper and closer).

Lone-Ranger-largeBut you know, I came away appreciating it. It touched the greatness of the original material at times, and everybody did a fine job. I was a fan of the movie REMO WILLIAMS as a kid, and having seen it on a crummy, blurry VHS tape with tracking lines galore, I didn’t figure out the Korean character Chiun was played by Joel Gray, a white guy, until maybe seven years ago. I still think he did a pretty bang up job, and Depp plays Tonto well and fine here. I still wonder about his Native ancestry and maintain somebody like Adam Beach or an unknown Native actor would’ve been more ideal in the part, but whatever. For the purposes of this piece, I’m gonna refer you to my previous blog post and ignore all that. For now, this’ll take its place alongside REMO WILLIAMS and GUNGA DIN, in terms of white characters in makeup that I grudgingly accept due to my enjoyment of the material.

410241-the-lone-rangerThe Lone Ranger is fun. It’s like SILVERADO. A high adventure, rip snorting bombastic shoot ’em up where the bullets are as fast and plentiful as the jokes. It’s a buckskin buddy movie.

It’s LOADED with inaccuracies, as I’ve read in criticisms all over the place. It’s 1869, but there’s cartridge ammunition flying all over the place (most guns were cap and ball black powder till the mid 1870’s), and the Texas Rangers go thundering past the distinctive mesas of Monument Valley, wayyy out of their jurisdiction. The Comanches range far out of their usual stomping grounds as well (and Tonto was a Pottawatomie anyway).

But consider this. Verbinski and company aren’t dummies. They displayed a love for pirate movies in the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, referencing everything from THE CRIMSON PIRATE to CAPTAIN BLOOD. The same thing happens here. THE LONE RANGER is full of homages to classic westerns. Tonto’s elderly makeup reminded me a lot of LITTLE BIG MAN from the get-go, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is referenced a few times, in the train sequences, and in the musical cues throughout.

The Searchers inspired?

The Searchers inspired?

lone-ranger-review-valley-610x403-c

Cue the Morricone.

Cue the Morricone.

Maybe I’m giving the production team a little too much credit, but is it possible these glaring inaccuracies were intentional? John Ford regularly told us Monument Valley was in Texas, and Leone had Tuco, Angel Eyes, and Blondie loading their revolvers with cartridge ammo in the midst of the Civil War. Heck, maybe even Johnny Depp as Tonto is a reference to all the white guys in redface that permeated THE SEARCHERS, WINCHESTER 73, and numerous other classic outings.

lone-ranger-review-butch-800x600And let me say, the ubiquitous William Fichtner, whose face I was amazed to see when I looked the actor up after the movie, as you see this guy in solid supporting roles everywhere, played the HELL out of villain Butch Cavendish. There’s a scene where he escapes from a prison train. The doors to the car open behind him to show his gang racing along side the train, and he steps out onto the saddle. For an instant he has this fantastically exultant grin, that was a spectacular choice. Wish I had a freeze frame of it, because he’s got this sense of rogueish evil relish that really made me dig the portrayal.

My biggest criticism about the movie is that Armie Hammer isn’t really allowed to BE the Ranger as we know him until the last twenty minutes. Up until then he’s as bumbling as his cinematic grand nephew Seth Rogen (as Britt Reid in THE GREEN HORNET – interestingly, Tom Wilkinson, who plays the rail baron in THE LONE RANGER, played James Reid in THE GREEN HORNET). Is there some PC fear on the part of Disney to let the Ranger surpass Tonto? I don’t know. What I do know is this movie’s getting the John Carter treatment. Like that movie, it’s much better than people are being led to believe, and it doesn’t deserve to bomb the way something crummy as say, THE WATCH, does. It’s not perfect. But it’s escapist western adventure. A fine fantasy.

But those last twenty minutes are sublime. Yes it’s completely unbelievable to have Silver racing along the top of a speeding train (or IN it), but when Hammer is trading shots with Barry Pepper (on ANOTHER train) and the William Tell Overture is blaring….

THE LONE RANGERThe Lone Ranger rides again.

Go see him before he rides off into the sunset for another twenty years.

Tomorrow, Saturday the 20th, I’ll be appearing at the Buckaroo Bookshop event talking up weird westerns and palavering about my favorite subject (hint: it’s me) during the 20th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival at the famous Melody Ranch outside Newhall, CA.

So if you’re around, I’ll be there all day hawking books Saturday and Sunday.

http://cowboyfestival.org/schedule/buckaroo-book-shop/

Published in: on April 19, 2013 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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