So a thing happened last week. My story, Child of the Emptyness (Grimdark
Magazine #17), made the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards in the ‘Best
Fantasy Short Story’ category. To say I’m stunned is an understatement. To
say I’m chuffed to bits – also understatement.
Apart from the awesomeness that is being shortlisted, what
makes this doubly, or even triply special is the amount of friends I find myself
amongst – two of which are ‘my people’ (yes, it’s a thing, we all have them, I wrote about
it). It’s a bit of a convoluted web this one, as I find myself sharing the
fantasy story nod with one of my closest of people, Alan Baxter, who also got a nod in
the ‘Best Fantasy Novel’ category, which also contains another of my closest of
people (and bestie), Devin Madson.
Oh, but it doesn’t stop there! Also please find drinking buddy
and he of the best-laugh-ever, J Ashley
Smith in the Fantasy Short category. Add in the most wonderful Sam Hawke in the Fantasy Novel shortlist
and… how the hell are you supposed to choose? Huh? Huh?
And there are so many more: Joanne Anderton, Kaaron Warren,
Rivqa Rafael, Maria Lewis, Shauna O’Meara, Kylie Chan… I couldn’t be more
pleased for these wonderful people and amazing authors. The breadth of talent in
this list is incredible to see – Aussie fiction is a deep, rich pool of unique
voices that deserve to be read.
But I want to make a shout-out to those who didn’t make the list. That’s right, you there, who sits down and makes word-babies every day (or every week, or whenever you can), you’re a goddamn star. To those who have the writer-imposteritis shouting in the ear yet still create worlds that are as vivid as the one in which we live – keep creating! To those who hope their tales will get the nod for which they so wish, then wonder what they need to do when their name doesn’t appear – I see you, I hear you, I feel you… I am you. We’ve all been there. Don’t give up. Because that character that’s whispering in your ear, urging you to tell their story may just be the tale those judges need. And if not? Well, you’ve created. You’ve put yourself out in the world, given joy to those who read it, and you should be damn well proud.
By Festivus Eve it’s another Pimpus! Slithering up onto the
slab today is another amazing Aussie author, Alan Baxter… whose names completes
that alliteration rather nicely! Devouring
Dark is the latest offering from Baxter that mixes crime and horror – crime
noir, if you will – while offering grey characters whose choices aren’t so much
between ‘good and bad’ rather between ‘bad and holy shitballs’.
follows Matt McLeod and his dance with the darkness, with death, and the
choice(s) he makes in how to deal with the power he has and where that leads.
Hint: not good places. These are my favourite kind of stories as they deal with
that power of choice and allows the reader those ‘what if’ moments where we
wonder if we’d make the same choices, the same deals if we suffered the same
Death in all its form runs deep through the book and
provides an almost narrative on society’s views and take on death and how we
deal with it.
Here’s the blurb:
Matt McLeod is a man plagued
since childhood by a malevolent darkness that threatens to consume him.
Following a lifetime spent wrestling for control over this lethal onslaught,
he’s learned to wield his mysterious paranormal skill to achieve an odious goal:
retribution as a supernatural vigilante.
When one such hit goes bad, McLeod finds himself ensnared in a
multi-tentacled criminal enterprise caught between a corrupt cop and a brutal
mobster. His only promise of salvation may be a bewitching young woman who
shares his dark talent but has murderous designs of her own.
I mean: ‘supernatural vigilante’. It’s got a nice ring to it! And
that cover is to die for! (Yes, I punned.)
If you’re looking for a tale of the darker kind, of crime bosses
and corruption, and for those souls who have a direct line to death, then this
is definitely a book for you.
Recommended for those who love horror, crime stories, supernatural tales, and just straight up action-based badassery.
It’s a Festivus miracle! Two Pimpus of Bookus today? Time is
short, my dudes, and there are sooooo many excellent books you should be
reading and gifting to others. Seriously, what better present than something
that ignites the imagination?
And we’re heading back into the realms of fantasy tonight
with Aussie author Aderyn Wood’s most wonderful Dragonshade. As the title no doubt suggests, here
there be dragons. But there is so much more at play here than mere dragons.
Wood has delved into two cultures here, borrowing heavily from both Egyptian
and Norse cultures to bring a vivid tapestry of both and what happens when
those worlds inevitably clash – both good and bad. There is magic, too, also of
the good and bad kind.
There is a stunning cast of characters in this tome, and a
tome it is – the book taps out at just over two hundred thousand words, and
normally I would balk at a book this size, but Dragonshade carries the weight of the words with ease – this doesn’t
at all feel like an overlong story, in fact, it leaves you wanting more (no
matter how well the threads of the story are tied up).
The battle scenes are epic in scale, but always there is the
undercurrent of political sabotage, of betrayal, prophecies and gods, and a duck
herder who might just be the one who can set the world to right.
And here’s the blurb:
Prince Sargan is the worst
swordsman in all Zraemia. His clumsy performance draws scorn from his uncle,
pity from his sister, disappointment from his father, and sniggers from
But soon, Sargan will enter the temple and begin his long-awaited path to the
seat of high priest.
His brother will one day inherit the throne.
His sister will marry.
The enemy king will leave them alone.
And all will be right with the world.
Unless… the gods change the game.
And when the gods play, the game turns to war – the Great War.
Ancient prophecies surface, dark enemies rise, new allies emerge, old ones can’t
be trusted, magic scorches the earth, reluctant heroes are made, and nothing is
ever the same again.
also an entrant in the SPFBO contest and missed out on a semi-finalist berth by
this much <holds fingers together real close>. It got great feedback from
the judges – scroll to the end to read the review here.
Recommended for those who love epic fantasy reads, dragons, intensive
world-building, magic, dark fantasy, political shenanigans.
It’s amazing what a good (bad?) earworm can do, and so this
morning’s Festivus Book Pimping comes to you via ‘Jolene’. Seriously, I’ll be shit-singing this for days now.
<shakes fist at Charles>
We’re side-stepping out of fantasy for a moment and diving face-first
into supernatural horror via the Griffin &
Price novels masterfully penned by two of my favourite people – James A Moore and Charles R Rutledge (yes, despite the
The series consists of three books (so far): Blind
of the Dead, and A
Hell Within. Each follows the trials and tribulations of Brennert
County Sheriff Carl Price and his best friend, ex-mercenary turned PI, Wade
Griffin. Set in the town (and surrounds) of Wellman, Georgia, a lot of super
and preternatural happenings pit Griffin and Price against a host of monsters
I love this series, and the two main characters have a
rapport beset with humour and sarcasm that’s right up my reading alley. The
writing is slick, the monsters are quite literally killer, and the brewing
tension between Sheriff Price and the otherworldly Blackbourne clan only ups
the ante. The secondary characters add extra depth to the stories, and only
build on what is an incredible cast (I’m looking at you, Jolene).
You should be reading this series.
When private investigator Wade
Griffin moved away from his hometown of Wellman, Georgia he didn’t think he
would be back. Too many memories and too many bridges burned. But when an old
friend is found brutally murdered and mutilated, nothing can keep Griffin from
going home. Teamed with another childhood friend, Sheriff Carl Price, Griffin
begins an investigation that will lead down darker paths than he could ever have
Soon Griffin and Price find that there are secrets both dark and ancient
lurking in the back woods of Crawford’s Hollow. As Halloween approaches,
something evil is growing near the roots of the Georgia mountains, and the keys
to the mystery seem to be a woman of almost indescribable beauty and a dead man
who won’t stay dead.
As the body count mounts and the horrors pile up, Griffin and Price come to
realize that the menace they face extends far beyond the boundaries of Wellman
and that their opponents seem to hold all the cards. But the two lawmen have a
few secrets of their own, and one way or another there will be hell to pay.
Blurb for Congregations of the Dead:
It’s one of the hottest summers
on record and a storm is brewing over the small town of Wellman, Georgia.
Still reeling from the horrific events of the previous October, all
Sheriff Carl Price wants is to get back to a normal life. Unfortunately things
aren’t working out. He’s got the Brennert County’s DA breathing down his neck
for answers about what happened in Crawford’s Hollow. He’s been served with a
lawsuit by the Blackbourne family. And just after he witnesses a child
abduction, the one person who always puts his life into a tailspin shows up to
add to the pressure.
Meanwhile, against his better judgment, Wade Griffin agrees to look for a
teenage girl who’s gone missing. It’s not his kind of case, but he’s trying to
establish his private investigations business and perhaps abandon his past as a
mercenary. But Griffin’s luck isn’t any better than Price’s and he ends up
crossing paths with the man behind most of the organized crime north of Atlanta.
Both lawmen have their plates full, but then they learn that there is
something abroad in the night. Not the supernatural menace they dealt with
before, but something even darker. Just what is the secret of the charismatic
Reverend Lazarus Cotton and what is he hiding in his small mountain church?
Once again, Griffin and Price must call upon all their deadly skills just
to stay alive and even in the middle of a pitched battle against things that
shouldn’t exist they are reminded that sometimes the darkest evils reside
within the human heart.
And the third in the series, A
Something dark is looming in
Brennert County, Georgia. Sheriff Carl Price and ex-mercenary-turned P.I. Wade
Griffin know well the other-worldly undercurrent that runs through the small
town of Wellman, but with the Blackbournes trying to rebuild their strength, it
seems they can breathe a little easier, Just a little. Griffin starts working a
case when he stumbles across a massacre at a drug lab, and when Price is called
to the scene of a brutal triple homicide, it has all the markings of
Blackbourne retribution. Before the blood is dry, two more people are torn
apart. As the body count rises, Griffin and Price find themselves in the middle
of a turn war where bullets and black magic are the weapons off choice. Caught
between the worlds of monsters and men, Griffin and Price enlist the help of
associate Carter Decamp to put an end to the brewing battle. But the gates of
Hell have been opened and the beasts won’t be denied their chance to feast.
And as a post-Festivus bonus, there’s
a Griffin & Price novella to be released in the latest SNAFU: Resurrection anthology.
Over 20,000 words of wicked horror in the form of Call up the Dead, due for release December 27 – pre-orders
Recommended for those who love
supernatural horror, horror, fantastic beasties, otherworldly monsters, crime,
urban horror, and just general top-notch writing with killer characters.
Not recommended for those who have an aversion to violence, demonic shenanigans, gore.
All right folks, I’m cutting it fine with recommendations
and the looming of Festivus so I’m going to try and pump these pimps out… okay,
could have worded that a little better, but onward!
First Festivus Pimpus for today is the first two novels of Aussie
author Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight Chronicles – Nevernightand Godsgrave.
I came late to the party for these novels, yet that’s not necessarily a bad
thing as it meant I got to read the two in quick succession. The only drawback
being the third in the series, Darkdawnisn’t due for release until late next year. But don’t let that hold you
back from diving deep in the darkness that is these chronicles.
the life of Mia Corvere from child to assassin for the Red Church in all things
murder. Vengeance is the driving force behind Mia’s assassin schooling, having
watched her father executed and her mother and little brother exiled to an
island prison. It’s Mia’s travelling companion, Mister Kindly – a shadow cat
that allows her to slip between the shadows and bend them to her will… of a kind.
The world-building is intricate, and the characters (first and secondary) are
brilliantly fleshed out. Kristoff makes you care for them, and as the self-named
bastard that he is… well, I’m not going to spoil that for you.
Blurb for Nevernight:
In a land where three suns
almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking
vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her
father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a
city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s
former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the
door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire
Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel,
poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of
Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer
is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to
haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the
shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
leaves off on a hell of cliffhanger, so I couldn’t wait to dive into Godsgrave to see how further Kristoff
could fuck with my emotions – I think it’s like sport for him. And I wasn’t
disappointed. Now a fully-fledged assassin, Mia is thrust into the world of the
gladiatori, where she must fight on the sands for the truth and the chance for
revenge upon those who destroyed her familigia. Godsgrave ramps not only the tension but the stakes. Giving you
more to care about and thus more to lose. Truths are revealed and paradigm
shifts are made (and all the while, I’m sure Kristoff is laughing his arse off).
Assassin Mia Corvere has found
her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red
Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a
backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal
Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old
enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.
When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public
appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the
Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally
end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and
more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies
unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced
to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change
the very face of her world.
These books aren’t going to be for everyone – they are dark and
brutal and don’t shy from violence or sex (there is a lot of sex happening, I’m
just sayin’, and the descriptions of said sex can go on for pages). There are
footnotes throughout both books that provide a greater understanding of the
world and what’s going on. Most of the time this works, but not so much when
the tension ramps up – at time it did take away from it, especially in those moments
where the info wasn’t necessary to the forward momentum of the story. But I
found you could skip some of these without losing anything from the story.
Oh, and the covers are beautiful.
Recommended for lovers of dark fantasy, grimdark, horror, assassin
tales, vengeance/revenge stories, subterfuge, great world-building.
Not recommended for those who struggle with in-your-face violence,
graphically-depicted sex scenes (of all iterations), swearing/cursing
(although, that worked a treat for me).
Hark, the Faerie Apocalypse sings! Well, likely more
screaming than singing, but work with me here. Breaking through the Pimpus of Festivus
veil is Aussie author Jason Franks’ most weirdly
Apocalypse(IFWG Australia). As
you can probably tell by the title, this is some darker reading but Franks has
fleshed out this oddly-magical world with characters that verily leap off the
page, and the storytelling is masterfully done.
We follow the story of four unnamed protagonists, each with their own story of venturing into the Faerie world. I wasn’t sure whether not knowing the names of the protags would work, but the writing is so well done that the names don’t matter – the stories, the journeys (gods how I hate that word) do.
It’s clever storytelling with sardonic Australian wit that
deconstructs everything you ever thought about fairy tales (or faerie tales –
absolute bonus for that spelling, too). Faerie
Apocalypse draws you in with its fable-esque narrative then
continues to hammer any thoughts of hope from you – this isn’t a bad thing.
It’s sharp, it’s twisted, and the threads between all four protags and those
special faerie world characters are skilfully woven.
And as killer lines are shaping up to be a thing in the Festivus
Book Pimping, how’s this: The magus
racked the uzi.
Back cover blurb incoming…
Over the centuries the Faerie Realms have drifted away from the mortal world. But for some, the Doors will open. For some, there is a Way to travel there, if they want it badly enough.
If they dream it hard enough.
In this era, only lovers, poets, and madmen can access the Realms of the Land–and for good reason.
A succession of mortals travel to Faerie: a veteran seeking beauty; a magus seeking power; an urchin seeking his wayward father; an engineer seeking meaning. These mortals bring the horrors of our age to the Land, and the Folk who live there respond in kind.
Franks has taken a risky approach to the narrative, and it pays off.
There will be those, however, who probably won’t quite take to the quirks, to
the brutality, to the mirror Franks places on humankind… the worst of
humankind, no matter their intentions. But it’s these types of books that really
stand out for me, that hit at the heart of humanity and aren’t afraid to show
it in all its ugliness, in all its beauty – you can’t have one without the
Apocalypse was one of my favourite reads this year, you should check it out.
Recommended for readers who like dark fantasy, horror,
re/deconstructed faerie tales, boundary-pushing narrative, all-round kick-arse
Not suited for those who struggle with violence, horror, and all things dark and nasty. (Huzzah!… Ahem.)
Apocalypse was one of my favourite reads this year, you should check it out.
Recommended for readers who like dark fantasy, horror,
re/deconstructed faerie tales, boundary-pushing narrative, all-round kick-arse
Keeping with the spirit of Festivus Pimpus, there ain’t no silent night in the Plague War trilogy (Severed Press). Stepping away from the fantasy genre for a moment, Australian author Alister Hodge has crafted an apocalyptic horror based on home soil – and with the plethora of apocalypse/post-apocalypse tales set in either the US or <insert generic setting here> it was a real treat to read a trilogy set in my backyard.
Hodge has created a virus-born cataclysm that produces zombies — first infection via bat (no vampires here). And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill shuffling kind of zombies, but the fast, nasty-as-shit kind that make survival pretty damn hard. As it should. I mean, we’re talking end times here, and Hodge taps into one of the reasons I love apocalyptic fiction –choice. The ‘who we become’ in these moments, who we want to be and who we are at our core. Where the mark of the person comes to the fore in moments such as these.
Now, I have to admit I’ve only read the first two in the trilogy – my paperbacks are taking forever to get here – but if the third is anything even remotely as good as the first two, then it’s going to be a hell of a final ride. Hodge doesn’t shy from making the tough decision of killing characters (even favourites), and he gets that exactly right. The apocalypse doesn’t discriminate – we’re all meat.
In an Emergency Department, Doctor Harry fails to resuscitate a young woman suffering from an infected bite wound. While her body awaits transfer to the morgue, Harry is stunned to witness the corpse lurch off the bed and attack his staff. It’s not an isolated incident. Lysan Plague has crossed the species divide from bat to human and mutated with devastating effect. Burning across the country in a tide of bloody violence, it overwhelms an unprepared police force and government. Bite victims re-animate as plague ‘Carriers’, creatures lost to conscious thought, consumed by rage and an urge to feed on the non-infected. No-one is safe in the apocalypse, and only those who are willing to fight will survive. Harry forms an alliance with several other survivors, but will it be enough for them to hold out until the Army regroups to fight back?
Hope is battered, but not lost. After jumping the species divide from bat to human, Lysan Plague has torn across mainland Australia in an orgy of bloody violence, decimating the population and smashing an unprepared army onto the back foot. Off the coast of Victoria, a mission to capture Queenscliff Fort and regain a military foothold on the mainland is about to launch. Mark is a soldier in the first landing party. Erin awaits evacuation from King Island to Tasmania, however, her safety is far from assured. While storm winds drive a plague-riddled ship in their direction, a sadistic guard begins to target women within the camp. The time for retreat is over. Neither Mark or Erin will back down from the coming fight, but when faced with monsters, both human and undead, will determination be enough for them to survive?
The Australian Army has won its first victory, but the gore-spattered streets of Melbourne await. Buried under a mega-swarm, Lysan Plague has transformed the state capital into a slaughterhouse of epic proportions. Meanwhile, famine threatens, and more troops are needed before the final assault. When Mark’s platoon is sent to a rural town to re-establish food production and conscript soldiers, they face violent opposition from an outlaw motorcycle club, ‘The Spartans’. Across the water, Tasmania is in the grip of a terror campaign led by the Patriot’s Party who aim to sever ties with the mainland. With supply lines and troop numbers secured, the Army prepares to attack the Melbourne swarm. But with a traitor in their midst, will this epic battle seethe armed forces obliterated in an orgy of violence?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a sucker for great apocalyptic fiction and zombie fiction, and Hodge has created a pretty fucked-up world here that doesn’t shy from the brutalities of the ‘quietus’, but it’s the characters that carry these books, and the decisions they make that really hold it alltogether… well that, and the damn fine storytelling.
You really should be reading this.
Recommended for those who enjoy horror, zombie tales, apocalyptic and post-apocalypse fiction, apocalyptic fiction with an Aussie flavour, great characters, military fiction, killer fight scenes.