“Father of War” Returns in Dogs of War

DTF_Dogs_rawOriginally published by Dark Quest Books, Defending the Future, Volume 5: Dogs of War has bee re-issued by eSpec Books. This volume includes my story, “Father of War,” about a scientist taken prisoner, and the cybernetically enhanced dogs he created who attempt to rescue him. Researching military working dogs (MWDs) proved fascinating. The ability of these dogs amazed me as much as their connection to their handlers. These brave canines have saved many lives in battle over the years, though they haven’t always been treated with the respect and appreciation they earned. That situation has improved significantly in recent times, but there’s still a ways to go. This collection honors their efforts and those of their trainers and handlers. “Father of War” is the most emotionally taxing story I’ve written for DTF–but there’s a fair amount of fun to it as well, especially for those who enjoyed 1970s war comics and the artists and writers who created them. More info and the full table of contents is posted on eSpec’s website. Amazon has the book for sale in print and e-book.

“Mother of Peace” Reprinted in The Best of Defending the Future

Defending The Future is a long-running, award-winning series of military/science fiction, comprised of six volumes. I’ve been fortunate to have contributed stories to all but one volume, with special thanks to series editors Mike McPhail and Danielle Ackley-McPhail whose confidence in me allowed me the opportunity to take a crack at writing this kind of s/f. It’s a challenging genre to write, demanding of meticulous research, and I’ve turned in at least one or two “weird” stories along the way when ideas led me to strange places. Mike and Dani accepted them along with the more conventional ones, much to my great excitement. Editors aren’t always able to allow their writers that kind of freedom. For authors, it’s invaluable because it opens up opportunities to flex different writing muscles, explore new ideas, and play with genre conventions.

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I’ve seen plenty of sci-fi movies that fit into this genre, with Aliens, Enemy Mine, and Starship Troopers springing to mind. But my inspiration for writing these stories lay firmly with the works of Joe Haldeman, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Fred Saberhagen, and the other s/f masters I read growing up, with perhaps a dash of DC Comics’ Weird War Tales thrown in (especially for my contribution to Dogs of War). So it strikes me as a great honor that my story, “Mother of Peace,” originally published in DFT3: By Other Means has been selected for the recently published The Best of Defending the Future. The stories, chosen based on reader reaction and requests, individual reviews, and editorial judgement include a fantastic cross-section from the series and work by some of the best military/sf writers working today. More information and the full list of table of contents can be found here. The Best of Defending the Future is also available on Amazon.

“The Many Hands Inside the Mountain,” in Dark Hallows II: Tales from the Witching Hour

Earlier this year, Mark Parker, publisher at Scarlet Galleon Publications, kindly asked me to send him a story to consider for his Dark Hallows II anthology, a follow-up collection of dark Halloween stories to last year’s Dark Hallows. After mulling it over for a few days, I sent Mark a quick pitch for a story about sex, betrayal, and horror inspired in part by the classic E.C. Comics horror stories and then set out to write it, finding in it some grim and twisted turns I hadn’t even anticipated. It’s a trip into a weird, Halloween-inflected world, a story about a love triangle, about ritual and riches, love and betrayal, the conflict between rich and poor, and the sacrifices people make (or force others to) to preserve their way of life. It’s called “The Many Hands Inside in the Mountain,” and you can read it in Dark Hallows II, along with tales from Lisa Morton, Richard Chizmar, Ronald Malfi, Annie Neugebauer, Brian Moreland, and many other terrific writers. Now on sale at Amazon.com.

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Kolchak Is Back, Baby!

Due out at the end of November, Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Forgotten Lore of Edgar Allan Poe! Here’s the final cover design. Created by Jeff Rice, Kolchak the Night Stalker sprang to national attention when Darren McGavin brought the character to life for a TV movie, The Night Stalker, in 1972, produced by Dan Curtis, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, and written by Richard Matheson. It became the highest-rated television movie ever at the time. A sequel, The Night Strangler, followed, created by the same team, and then Kolchak moved into a regular TV series, which lasted a single season in 1974. The character’s enduring appeal and ground-breaking stories inspired The X-Files and many other supernatural investigator characters and stories. Today, with the full run of the show available on Netflix, he is more popular than ever.

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Written by James Chambers. Art by Luis Czerniawski, Felipe Kroll, and Jim Fern. Cover by E.M. Gist.

From tell-tale hearts and premature burials to black cats and the Red Death, reporter Carl Kolchak grapples with deepening horror and madness as events from Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery and imagination come to life in modern-day Baltimore. Kolchak teams with a street magician who performs tricks and escapes inspired by Poe to expose the supernatural power bringing the author’s deadly visions to life and solve a series of terrifying occurrences, disappearances, and murders.

Preview of Kolchak, the Night Stalker: The Poe Cases

My all-new, original graphic novel, Kolchak, the Night Stalker: The Poe Cases is in the home stretch in production and soon to be sent off to press. Moonstone Books will be publishing it this spring, the latest in their ongoing series of comics and anthologies continuing the adventures of Carl Kolchak. Although The Night Stalker originally comprised two novels by creator Jeff Rice, two television movies written by Richard Matheson and directed by Dan Curtis, and one season of an hourly television series, Carl seems more popular today than ever before. The full original series is currently streaming on Netflix, and I’m extremely excited to add to the Kolchak mythos, especially with The Poe Cases, which pits Carl against a series of macabre occurrences and threats inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. To hold you over until the book is published, here are some preview pages. More soon!

“In Wolf’s Clothing”–The Twisted Steampunk Fairy Tale Your Mother Never Read to You

My latest short story, “In Wolf’s Clothing,” will appear in Gaslight and Grimm next month. A dark (and sexy!) steampunk retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” it also continues my Machinations Sundry short story cycle.

Once Upon a Time… ageless tales were told from one generation to the next, filled with both wonders and warnings. Tales of handsome princes and wicked queens, of good-hearted folk and evil stepmothers. Tales of danger and caution and magic…classics that still echo in our hearts and memories even to this day, told from old, cherished books or from memory at Grandma’s knee.

Oh yes, tales have been told…but never quite like these. Order here!

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Journey With tales by James Chambers ~ Christine Norris ~ Bernie Mojzes ~ Danny Birt ~ Jean Marie Ward ~ Jeff Young ~ Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin ~ Elaine Corvidae ~ David Lee Summers ~ Kelly A. Harmon ~ Jonah Knight ~ Diana Bastine ~ Jody Lynn Nye.with through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.

“The Lost Boy” in Kolchak, the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre

My short story, “The Lost Boy,” appears in Moonstone Books’s newest anthology chronicling the shadowy adventures of Carl Kolchak, the Night Stalker. I’ve been a fan of the original Kolchak television movies and series for years and loved writing Carl. An intrepid reporter, the supernatural, and a mystery to be solved–all makings for great stories. The anthology includes work by Nancy Holder, Nancy Kilpatrick, Ed Gorman, CJ Henderson, Lilith Saintcrow, Dave Ulanski, and many others, thirteen original stories in all, with a cover by Byron Winton.

Now available on Amazon.

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Kolchak, the Night Stalker: The Poe Cases–Coming This Spring!

“There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of Hell…” —Edgar Allan Poe, “The Premature Burial.”

“…when you have finished this bizarre account, judge for yourself its believability, and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here.” —Carl Kolchak, The Night Stalker

Kolchak, The Night Stalker: The Edgar Allan Poe Cases

From tell-tale hearts and premature burials to black cats and the Red Death, reporter Carl Kolchak grapples with deepening horror and madness as events from Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery and imagination come to life in modern-day Baltimore. Kolchak teams with a street magician who performs tricks and escapes inspired by Poe to expose the supernatural power bringing the author’s deadly visions to life and solve a series of terrifying occurrences, disappearances, and murders.

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Cover art by E.M. Gist.

Written by James Chambers, Art by Luis Czerniawski, Felipe Kroll, and Jim Fern, Letters by Bernie Lee, Cover by E.M. Gist.

Coming this spring from Moonstone Books!

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 6 of 6

The final part of my conversation with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, casting an eye on the nuts and bolts of creating anthologies, finding an audience, making the most of the convention circuit, and Dani’s most recent projects and ventures. Thanks all for reading! (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, or Part 5.)

You’re known as one of the most successful anthology editors in the specialty press, having edited, co-edited, or worked on nearly a dozen anthologies in the past decade and helped to launch them. How does your role as editor shape your work as a writer?

Well…thank you again. Editing anthologies came out of my love of creating books, something I have been doing for thirty-two years. I get ideas, I find the twist, and then I am driven to complete the project. Mostly they come about because I want to explore whatever concept has captured my mind. Consequently, of all of the anthologies I’ve been involved with in an editorial capacity only two of them do not contain stories I’ve written. So…in that context my editorial work shaped my writing by enabling me to explore some fascinating concepts as I found my tale to fit the theme. Conversely, in most other ways my editorial work just gets in the way. I find I’m so busy dealing with production and administrivia (not my phrase, though I absolutely love it!) that my writing often comes in last minute as I scramble to get my story done before we have to go to press. That, in fact, is why I only have an introduction in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental… I just couldn’t draw my story together fast enough and we were out of time. This is the first volume in the series that doesn’t have a Wild Hunt tale. I’ve started it, but I just haven’t had time to find my way to the end. I’ll likely post it on the Bad-Ass Faeries website (www.badassfaeries.com) as a bonus freebie once it’s done.

BAF4_ElementalLooking at it first from a writer’s perspective then from an editor’s, what’s do you think it takes to connect with science-fiction and fantasy readers today?

Oh… this is so hard to say… everyone has their own tastes when it comes to fiction. And I don’t think you can really break it out by editor and writer because there is too much overlap. Good fiction, originality, excitement. And as a writer I would add a solid connection to the characters, but that is me, as I am a writer of character-driven tales. Yet I know there are those readers out there who couldn’t care less about the characters, they want the action… You know. I think in the end it comes down to one thing: whether you are in the character camp or the action camp, you have to make the reader care. It is as simple as that.

To what extent do you think a shared connection with readers, such as common interest in fandom activities or a regular presence at conventions, contributes to succeeding as a writer versus simply publishing good writing?

I don’t know how it is for every author, but I know that I would not be where I am without my personal connection with my fans. I sell more books in person than I do on-line, with much more repeat customers because they know me. They can talk to me about what they liked and what they didn’t, we can chat and hang out at a convention. Now there are a lot more authors out there that are wildly successful who don’t do this, but most of those have a big-house publisher behind them feeding the distribution machine. And even so, I say an author that gets out and moves among their following has a stronger, more loyal fan base than one who stays up on their pedestal typing away, without connecting to their readership.

In terms of bringing great fiction to your readers, how do your goals as an editor differ from those as a writer?

Whatever hat I’m wearing, I love to create cool books. I love to share the unexpected and the wonderful with readers. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that goal is always the same.

DAMInt_WordFantasyYou’re very well plugged in to the regional science-fiction/fantasy convention scene, appearing at several cons each year, often hosting launch parties for new publications. What advice can you offer to writers about connecting with readers, editors, and publishers at these conventions?

Talk. Listen. Socialize. Don’t pitch or pimp or continually drag focus only to your book or manuscript. Build a relationship, don’t just try and make a connection. We’re all there to have fun in a community where we are comfortable and can relax. Being pushy or obnoxious gets in the way of that and will turn people off more than anything.

Where should a reader who hasn’t yet read your work start? Give us some suggestions from your short fiction as well as your long fiction.

Well… any of my first novels are good places to start, depending on the reader’s taste: Yesterday’s Dreams (Celtic urban fantasy), The Halfling’s Court (biker faeries – urban fantasy), or Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn (historic/steampunk fantasy). After all, who wants to start with book two of a series. J As for the short fiction. If a reader is partial to science fiction it would have to be the short story collection A Legacy of Stars, which contains the bulk of my sci-fi stories. For fantasy I have a collection called Transcendence coming out later this year from Dark Quest Books. It contains a nice chunk of my fantasy stories. As for individual stories… that is so much harder to recommend. I just can’t do it. Each one contains some kernel of wonder that I love, and all of them are so different from the others. There is no comparison, no way to guide someone to ease their way in. Best to leap in with both feet. J

What should readers look for next from Danielle Ackley-McPhail?

Oh goodness! Who knows what mischief I’ll get into next! I certainly don’t. There are a number of on-going projects in the works. For anthologies I’m editing: Gaslight and Grimm, Eternal Flame, The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson, and The Transdimensional Adventures of the Miracle Mead Men. Those I’ve contributed stories to that are coming out this year are: Dance Like a Monkey, Athena’s Daughters, Hellfire Lounge 4: Reflections of Evil, and Lucky 13. Novels I’m working on are The High King’s Fool: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, Daire’s Devils (military science fiction), an as-yet unnamed sequel to Baba Ali, and an unconventional vampire novel looking for a new name. So…I guess readers should expect pretty much anything!

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.

An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 5 of 6

Talking this week about Danielle’s science fiction stories, her oceanic fantasy tales, and her most recent novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-authored with Day Al Mohamed, and the fine art of authorial collaboration. (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or Part 4.)

DAMInt_LegacyYou also write science fiction, collected in A Legacy of Stars. How do you change gears from one genre to the other?

Basically? I have way too many ideas in my head. I get an idea and I follow it, it’s that simple. I read pretty much everything so I’m equally conversant with fantasy and science fiction. Beyond that, I love to play with ideas and to play what if. Whether the speculative element is magic or science it is still a challenge to make the improbable plausible. Also, no matter what I am writing it is virtually always character-driven. With the character being the most important element in the story, the rest is just a matter of how the character interacts with their world. With that approach it doesn’t really take much of a shift for me to go from magic to science.

Jean Paul Marot, a tragic character who appears in “By Any Means” and “Last Man Standing” in A Legacy of Stars has a bit of a cult following, even though you haven’t written that much about him yet. How did you come to create poor Jean, and do you plan to write anymore about him?

Oh, Jean-Paul…one of my favorite and most ill-fated characters. This is a case of a character introducing themselves. He first appeared in New Blood (Padwolf Publishing), a collection of stories about newly-turned vampires. When I was invited to the collection I asked the editor what they hadn’t received yet that they would have liked to have seen. The immediate response was science fiction. This is how Jean-Paul was born. I won’t go into the specifics since that would ruin the first story for anyone who hadn’t read it yet, but suffice it to say that these tales give a new perspective on humanity and the innate strength of man. I love Jean-Paul and I truly feel bad about what I’ve put him through, but you know… I think it’s always him because he is the strongest character I have. He is the best suited to come out the other end… eventually… even stronger yet. I am sure we will see him again as his tale is far from done, but I have to let my current idea simmer. Give Jean-Paul a chance to lick his wounds….

burning sailMost recently you published a collection of seafaring fantasy tales, Consigned to the Sea, and a novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, co-authored with Day Al Mohamed. Tell us about these books. Do they intersect with any of your series?

Consigned to the Sea (Dark Quest Books) is a collection of my short fiction that has appeared in various anthologies over the years. The stories are either in a purely fantasy world, or they are historic fantasy so they don’t draw on any of my other works. Someday they might spawn novels of their own…but right now they are just fiction written to whatever theme I was challenged to write at the time. Several of the stories are set in established universes that I return to from time to time when I can find a way to connect those universes to a particular theme, but that is mostly to simplify things for myself because, as with serials, a lot of the groundwork is already in place so all I need concern myself with is the thread of the story.

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is something altogether different from anything I have ever done before. Originally it was meant to be a story for Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales (Dark Quest Books, Fall 2014) and I was consulting with Day Al-Mohamed to ensure I captured the proper regional and cultural flavor the tale called for. In the end we instead co-wrote the piece, and it quickly grew beyond the bounds of our expectations. This was my first successful collaboration and while challenging, it also brought richness to the project as we mingled ideas and perspectives to find the right balance of action and introspection for the story. When we drew the “short” story to a close—having glossed over many details out of necessity—it was a hefty 17,000 words. When the publisher learned how long it had gone, he declared it a book and told us to go finish it. We owe him a drink for that one. After we fleshed it out and did a proper job of covering all the relevant points we had a work we could truly be proud of that seems to speak to the reader on so many levels, if our advance reviews are anything to go by. We are very excited to unleash this book on the world and see where it takes us all. Already we have several ideas for continuations… not to mention a new story to write for Gaslight and Grimm. We’re going with Aladdin this time, and tying it into the same universe. What can I say… we’re having fun!

What a great example of a book taking on a life of its own. Tell us a bit about what Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is all about.

This novel is a steampunk retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, but it is so much more than that at the same time. We’ve drawn in the history and the culture of both Victorian England and the Middle East to immerse the reader in Ali’s world. In our version Ali is the son, not the father, though the rest of the core story remains pretty much the same.

As the second son, Ali is sent to England to apprentice with the famed Charles Babbage as an artificer. When he is in the middle of his apprenticeship a strange clockwork falcon delivers a puzzle box and a mystery others would kill to keep secret. Ali is unaware of this and only knows the box is magical and he has yet to find the key. When his father dies and his jealous brother summons Ali back to Arabia, danger follows him home.

Once Ali returns to the desert the tale—mostly—follows the same path as original, but in its own unique way.

This is a rich tale set against an exotic backdrop where the universe itself comes alive for the reader. No matter whether a person is familiar with the original or not, this novel will enchant with its melding of the magic and the mechanical.

DAMInt_BabaAliHow did you and Day work together? What was the writing process like?

With a great deal of patience! Both of us have very take-charge personalities, our greatest challenge was in relinquishing some of that control we are both so used to having on a project. For Day this wasn’t as hard because she is used to working as a team on screenplays and comic, but for me it was my first time seriously collaborating with another author. There was never any tension between us, but I definitely had internal struggles when her creative vision didn’t match mine.

Our process mostly worked like this: One of us would write a scene and send it back to the other. That person would tweak what was there and add a little more. It would go back to the original person who would then accept or reject the revisions and then have to support why. We would use track changes to leave messages or clarifications for one another, or to question a particular decision we didn’t understand. At the same time as all of this was going on we had our alpha reader, Halla, reading sections as they were completed and she would call us on things as well. From time to time we would talk on the phone, in person, or via email and hash out particular plot points. The whole process was somewhat controlled chaos, but it worked for us!

Our individual creative inspiration, with a bit of input from Halla, really melded well together to create a lush, vibrant setting and characters with their own distinct and consistent voices. Justifiably we take pride in the fact that readers have been unable to identify segments of the text that were clearly written by one or the other of us.

Next Week: Danielle and I conclude our interview talking about what goes into making successful anthologies, the state of publishing today, navigating the wild trails of fandom and conventions, and what’s next for Danielle.

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.