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Category: books/publishing

A haunted swamp, a dancer and the Angel of Death…

It sounds like the opening of a joke, but there are three new items up for order (or preorder) this month! 

First: We are now accepting preorders for Dreadmire, the 15th anniversary edition of my first quest fantasy. It’s a dark one – not for the kiddos – and I’ve always had a great fondness for my haunted swamp and the band of merry adventurers who face more than monsters in their quest. 

Dreadmire was first published by Spellbinder Games, as a media tie-in novel for the d20 RPG by Randy Richards. Later it was re-released through Inkstained Succubus Press, but went out of print again when Inkstained sadly went out of business. I’m delighted that Randy and I could work out the paperwork to put Dreadmire back out into the world again, and am always grateful that he allowed me to play in his sandbox. 

A float trip into hell, Dreadmire follows four adventurers on a quest through the dark, dismal haunted swamp that lies on the edge of their land as a living nightmare.

Tam is a Moor Knight whose dearest love, the half-elf Wynter, has vanished into Dreadmire on a quest to destroy the evil at the center of the swamp and set free the people terrorized by its half-dead creatures.

But it has been a long time since anyone heard from Wynter.

Tam and his best friend, Kancethedrus, enlist the help of guide Alesia and seer Angiss to help them find Wynter – and perhaps complete her mission to destroy the evil Somesuch that has controlled the life, death and unlife of the swamp for so many years.

But the way through Dreadmire is not easy, and that’s not just because of monstrous mosquitoes, sentient weregators and cannibalistic undead elves living among the predatory flora and fauna of this twisted bayou.

What’s more dangerous than a demonic tree that can eat you alive? The perils of the human heart… and what a man will risk for the woman he loves.

Based on the legends of the Louisiana bayou with a sword-and-sorcery flair, this amazing novel based on the game by Randy Richards will turn your skin cold as a gator’s stare and your heart hotter than a Cajun summer. Preorder your copy today!

“Elizabeth does it again! Raw action and high intense scenes that you don’t read–you absorb! A must read!”

— Shane Moore, author of The Apocalypse of Enoch and the Abyss Walker series


Now in stock: the December 2023 edition of parABnormal Magazine features an original short story by me, originally written and developed in my MFA workshops.

“Azrael” asks what might happen if the Angel of Death, wearily collecting souls throughout history, meets a woman who wants to die… and cannot.

We have a limited quantity of these magazines, and I’m pretty sure once they’re gone we won’t be able to get more. Snag yours!




Also now in stock: the 2024 anthology of the St. Louis Writers Guild includes a short story by me that has no ghosts, no monsters, no creepy-crawlies! It’s also not a story of unicorns and rainbows, because y’all have met me. Yes, I write literary fiction based in the alleged real world, and I’m rather fond of this particular piece, as it stems from a challenge much more difficult than it sounds: can you write a story where one word appears in every single sentence save the last one? I managed, but it was a serious challenge. 

There are more than 30 other authors from the Guild in this anthology, and I’m honored to be among them. I hope you’ll enjoy! We have a small quantity in stock and I am not sure if I can get more, so you might want to get this one before it disappears. 



We should have the anthologies in hand at Midsouthcon next weekend, so if you’re going to be there, order now and choose pickup/personal delivery for the shipping open. We will reserve a copy for you at the booth. Odds are slim that Dreadmire will be in hand at the convention, but we will take preorders and ship them as soon as the books arrive. Thank you for your support!

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BookNotes: Nevermore


Today’s top read: The Estrogen Zone, or how women pioneered creative nonfiction before it was even a thing. All the way back to Nellie Bly, women like Joan Didion, Rachel Carson, Gail Sheehy, and others had to deal with the most rank sexism to fight their way out of the “flamingo pink” women’s pages to get to do real work in the white-male-dominated world of nonfiction and journalism. 

(Lest you think this is ancient history, know that as a young reporter I was assigned to write up weddings. Yes, all the details of the dresses worn to the bridesmaids’ luncheon, too. To be fair, I also got to cover the shooting of U.S. Marshals and eventually got to do real journalism.)

Much of the article is focused on Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Cochrane and pioneered investigative undercover journalism by getting herself committed to an asylum to uncover how women with mental health issues were mistreated. One such woman’s “mental health” issue was not wanting to be married to her husband anymore, so he dumped her in the asylum. For life. Cochrane and Ida Tarbell and Nell Nelson and Annie Laurie and the amazing Martha Gellhorn exposed injustice and oppression before it was cool, and did it in defiance of a society that insisted their place was to serve men in their homes. It’s from The Fine Art of Literary Fistfighting, a history of creative nonfiction that just vaulted to the top of my wishlist.

• I’m not rehashing Barbenheimer Goes to the Oscars, but Den Of Geek has an interesting piece despite being solidly in Oppy’s camp about the missing women of Oppenheimer. I recall being annoyed at how the women characters were reduced basically to sex objects and background noise (with a notable exception included in the article) but I had forgotten about all the women scientists they ignored or mocked. The movie version of history shouldn’t be more sexist than actual history. I had never thought of Nolan’s work as being overtly male-centered, but now I can’t unsee it. That said, it isn’t fair to say Oppenheimer is solely for male viewers, as that’s in itself a sexist assumption that women aren’t interested in all that sciencey stuff.

• This Week in A.I. Hell: The estate George Carlin sues the podcasters who made an A.I. zombie Carlin special, whereupon the podcasters immediately declared, “Uh, we didn’t use A.I.! We totally wrote it ourselves.” They sound like my students. We’ll see in the depositions, boys. This case has the potential to set legal precedent about the use of A.I. generated images of deceased celebrities without their families’ consent or compensation, thus the backpedaling.

• That creepy author who requested nudes from young women to promote his book, which we talked about last week? His agent dropped him, he appears to have been removed from his speakers bureau, he’s been kicked off a number of boards and organizations… basically, stick a fork in him, he’s done. It’s easy to completely torch your career by being a creeper. Also, he’s very sorry.

• An interesting interview with author Eric A. Stanley on their new book detailing anti-trans/queer violence. They argue that modernity cannot be examined separate from violence and oppression of LGBTQ+ people and their art. “I think a lot of the promises of inclusion are crumbling, and people are unsure what to do. I hope that this will radicalize us all toward demanding an end to this world and [demanding] one [where] we can all survive,” they said. The book is titled Atmospheres ofViolence, and you can read the whole interview at Public Books.

Finally: Happy birthday, Edgar Allan Poe.

Note: Next week I am back on the road, attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Kansas City. Daily travelogues and convention write-ups will appear on Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe! There will be no Show Your Work or BookNotes next week due to the conference, unless I get super ambitious. But I’ll be back the next week!

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BookNotes: AI and book banning, once again.

This week’s roundup in book news is pretty much all AI and book banning, but we do have some fun stuff first:

• A postdoc teaching associate at Northwestern University believes he has found about 20 stories and poems he believes were authored by Louisa May Alcott, previously unknown. They were ghost stories and even some spicy stories, which maybe we can finally use to put a pin in the idea that speculative fiction and genre fiction can’t be literary? Please? 

• Angel City Press is an independent press focused on Los Angeles cultural history, and the owners recently announced their retirement. So the Los Angeles Public Library bought the press, and they will be the third public library in the country to own their own publishing house (following the Library Congress and the New York Public Library.) 

• Shocking precisely no one, AI-generated book rewrites are flooding Amazon. Pirates are stealing new, in-copyright books, making AI “rewrite” them and popping them back up on Amazon. Sometimes they call them “summaries” of the books they’re stealing; others simply pass themselves off as the real thing. Wired did a full write-up on this.. Amazon, by the way, has instituted a rule that no author can upload more than three books per day to the site. That’ll do it!

• This week in book banning: A Florida school district has decided the new DeSantis law policing books with “sexual conduct” means they have to remove 673 books, including the dictionary. Here’s a commentary on it from Vanity Fair and the straight news article. Also on the naughty list: John Grisham, John Steinbeck, John Irving, other writers not named John, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Beloved, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Catch-22, and ironically Brave New World. By the way, teachers are no longer allowed to even call students by their preferred nickname because •gasp• it might be a trans name! In one county alone – Escambia County – more than 2,800 books have been removed from circulation. I wonder if Fahrenheit 451 is on the list again?

Meanwhile, lawsuits challenging book bans in Florida and Iowa are moving forward. In Florida, Penguin Random House has joined with PEN America among others to sue Escambia County School Board on the constitutionality of the book bans. In addition to the obvious First Amendment issues, the suit alleges a 14th Amendment violation under the Equal Protection Clause, as the challenged books are disproportionately titles by non-white and/or LGBTQ authors. It’s hard to imagine in a country where a pending state bill actually defines the word “terrorist” as “person of Hispanic descent living in Oklahoma.”

In Texas, a federal appeals court blocked a law that would have required a ratings system from booksellers dealing with school libraries. And an investigation by the Texas Tribune found that in a district banning books about trans people, the superintendent called a meeting with the librarians and told them the county was very conservative and anyone with different political beliefs “better hide it.” This was his lead-in to tell them to remove any book about LGBTQ themes, even if they don’t describe sex. “There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female,” he declared. This happened two years ago, but now the federal government is investigating under civil rights enforcement.

On the other side, Massachusetts has presented bills to ensure that books cannot be removed from schools or libraries due to personal or political beliefs; only library professionals decide how to curate the collection. Believe it or not, last week police actually raided a middle school without a warrant seeking a copy of the book Gender Queer. The superintendent apologized for allowing it, saying “I recognize that this was likely a targeted racist and homophobic attack on a colleague and teacher.” The teacher in question was an advisor for the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. 

Book Riot has been exploring this issue in depth, because book banning is clearly not going to stop with schools, and as we’ve seen in Murfreesboro, Tenn., it won’t necessarily stop with books, either. The town passed “public decency” ordinances that outlawed LGBTQ people in town. They were quickly repealed when lawsuits were filed. 

Also, there’s an interesting commentary by Book Riot’s Kelly Jensen this week on trauma, book bans, and what it does to society when librarians are threatened and accused of grooming. She points out that librarians often cover the social services gaps in communities, and offers a resource guide for them.

Coming up next week: Authors Guild will hold a Zoom on school book bans and civil rights, which I plan to attend. 

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New items in the store!

First: We are about to stock copies of parABnormal Magazine, December 2023 edition, which includes an original short story by moi. We only have a small quantity coming in and likely won’t be available for long, so if you want one, you might want to snag it soon! Click here to order.

Also, the site has been updated with a lot of new images, including shots from Paris, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and other places. As always, anything available on can be custom ordered, but check out the store for a quick print order – it’s not too late for the holidays!

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Jolabokaflod – wait, what?

I’ve seen that meme about Christmas Eve in Sweden – or is it Finland? – where traditionally everyone gets a book on Christmas Eve and they all snuggle up under blankets, drink cocoa and read. It’s called Jolabokaflod, meaning “Christmas Flood of Books” which doesn’t sound nearly as cool in English.

This is a holiday I can get behind, folks.

In the spirit of Sweden-or-is-it-Finland, I’m offering Setting Suns at $2.99 and Infinity and Gethsemane at 99c for the month of December. Check them out at the links! And remember, you can give these to others via Amazon and even delay the delivery so they arrive on Christmas Eve in a timely fashion.

What, you want dead-tree versions for yourself or to give at the holiday of your choice? Yes, you can order them through Amazon, or you can order directly from me and indicate you want them autographed in the comment on your order. You can also email us at and we’ll make sure they get personalized. 

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New story pending…

I’m happy to announce that my short story “Azrael” has been picked up by parABnormal Magazine (Hiraeth Publishing).

“Azrael” is a funky little story with a weird genesis. I was sitting in one of my favorite coffeehouses, happily typing away with a cup of caffeine beside me. A young man walked up to my table and I looked up at him.

“You die now,” he said. Then he turned and walked out of the shop.

After a few blinks and “what the hell was that?” I started writing. Because that’s what we weirdos do.

“Azrael” went through a few iterations (and titles), was workshopped extensively in the MFA program. Eventually it was included in my MFA thesis portfolio, and I told the tale of its inspiration at my MFA jury. I’m so delighted that it will see print. Many thanks to editor H. David Blalock for picking it up, and I look forward to working with him.

It’s slated for the December edition of parABnormal, and I’ll let everyone know when it’s live so you can snag a copy. I will try to get a batch myself for sale at events and signings. (Such as this Saturday in Martin, Tennessee! Click here for details.)

So thank you, strange young man whom I’ve never seen again. Your inspiration is much appreciated.

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River Bluff Review

They didn’t tell me! The annual release of River Bluff Review is live, and I didn’t know. I was honored to see one short story, two poems and a photograph accepted for publication in my final year, and you can see them all here. 

“Tiny Monsters” has extra weight for me, as it is not only one of very few stories I’ve seen published with no speculative-fiction or supernatural content, but also draws a great deal from my life in the past. I found that the more I delved into literary fiction, the more I was exploring parts of my life and self, some of it deeply uncomfortable. Fiction shouldn’t be therapy – or at least it shouldn’t be only therapy, or you get bad fiction. But I was surprised by how much of myself and things I buried deep came to the surface as I experimented with this kind of writing.

Likewise, I hadn’t written any poetry since I was seventeen, because everyone writes poetry when they’re seventeen. My youthful poetry is buried at sea where it can’t get loose and hurt anyone. But then I took an advanced poetry workshop a few semesters ago, and two of those poems appear in River Bluff Review. That makes them the very first poetry I’ve ever had published. 

Finally, if you click “visual art” in the header, you’ll see my photographic depiction of “Edgar” among the other art accepted for the issue. It’s interesting that it goes live now, because I’m finishing my presentation on Edgar Allan Poe and “The Raven” I’ll be giving next week, and I’ve got Edgar on the brain.

Well, now I’ve got something to put in this month’s newsletter…

In other news, I’m signing at Writers of the Riverbend on Saturday, so if you’re local to Maeva’s Coffee in Alton, Ill., come by and see us 11:30 to 4 p.m.! 

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Books of 2022

I really wanted to hit 60 books in 2022, more than my usual goal of Harlan Ellison’s “a book a week.” As it is, I fell short by giving up on Stephen King’s Fairy Tale shortly after Jan. 1. Sorry, Uncle Harlan.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a synopsis of every book I read this year. I wouldn’t do that to you. I will, however, give you my top choices, with the understanding that as with the last four years, 2022’s reading list is heavily influenced by my courses of study. Six months to go, folks.
Best story cycle: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. Honestly, every story cycle I’ve read so far has been amazing, but this one really blew off my head. (A story cycle, if you’ll recall, is a novel comprised of interconnected short stories and a form I find fascinating.) I knew of Brewster because they made it into a movie, but I’d never seen it. Thus I was unprepared for its beauty and horror, and the writing is on point.
Best nonfiction: Wordslut by Amanda Montell. Billed as a feminist guide for taking back the English language, I was prepared for a dull examination of etymology, a word I always have to look up so I don’t mix it up with the bugs. Instead it was accessible, hilarious and thought-provoking as it examined the misogyny behind some of our language evolution and how the language continues to evolve.
Best re-read: Imzadi by Peter David, now available on Amazon as Imzadi Forever. I’m not sure why, because it turns out to be pretty much the same book as the amazing novel I first read as a teenager. I got the chance to ask Peter  about it on tour umpteen years ago – we were both signing in a dead hallway at an eerily quiet con – and he said it was still his most wildly popular book, which was more than a little awkward since it’s a love story he wrote when he was with his first wife. Regardless, it’s an incredible story and one that I always wished would become one of the movies.
Biggest disappointment: The Wastelands by Stephen King. Look, folks, I keep trying to get with the Dark Tower series and we’re past book three at this point and I just don’t think it’s going to happen. At what point does it stop being a slog and start becoming “the most amazing thing he’s ever written”? 
Biggest turnaround: Sula by Toni Morrison. I read this book first for a class on “Nasty Women,” an examination of female characters whose behavior is considered wrong or foul by society but would be lauded if they were men. Kind of. From that standpoint, I really disliked Sula, and found that her behavior would never have been lauded even if she were a man. I think I even wrote an essay about how she didn’t deserve to stand with the rest of the nasty women. But I re-read the book a semester later in the context of a class all about themes in Toni Morrison’s work, and I began to see Sula in a new light. Eventually it became my favorite of Morrison’s work, with the full knowledge I still have some of her works to go. 
Best Book Overall: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Stephen King once called it “the hole in the paper,” that moment when you fall into a book and forget who and where you are. The older I get and the further in my career, the harder it is for me to find that hole, whether it’s a book I’m reading or a book I’m writing. But there’s nothing like it, like Alice’s fall into the rabbit hole, so easy when I was young and every book was a new world. Crawdads was that book. I picked it up at the library and started reading it that afternoon, and could not stop save to refill my tea until I finished. The language paints a stark picture of the Carolina marsh and a central character that was amazingly compelling. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but that stems from the high emotions raised by this story. 
Full list:
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
My Evil Mother by Margaret Atwood
The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson, duh
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (nonfiction)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck
Things Left Behind by Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni (collection)
Feeling Very Strange ed. by James Patrick Kelly (anthology)
Billy Summers by Stephen King
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Firestarter by Stephen King
On Writing and Writers by C.S. Lewis (full column pending)
A Day Like This by Kelley McNeil
The New Thanksgiving by Diane Morgan (nonfiction)
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison (literary analysis)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Fan by Bob Randall
The Old Guard vol. 2 by Greg Rucka (graphic novel)
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke (graphic novel)
The Shapes of Night by Mary SanGiovanni
King Lear by William Shakespeare (play)
The Sweet Science of Bruising by Angelia Sparrow
Make Art Make Money: Lessons From Jim Henson by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens (nonfiction)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
At the Quiet Edge by Victoria Helen Stone
Creative Writing in the Community by Terry Ann Thaxton (textbook)
Flash Fiction International ed. by James Thomas (anthology)
Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly
The Great Silence by Ted Chiang
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Jerusalem’s Lot by Stephen King
Inventory by Carmen Mara Machado
Recitatif by Toni Morrison
Sweetness by Toni Morrison
The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Sea Oak by George Saunders
The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright
So what was the best book YOU read in 2022? Time to fill up next year’s list – and I will get to 60!
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Did you miss Blackfire? Because it’s back…


As I announced in my newsletter, the contracts are signed and the deadlines are etched in stone (gulp), so it’s time to talk about my four-book contract beginning in 2023 with Falstaff Books – and the return of Sara Harvey!

Not to be confused with brilliant writer Sara M. Harvey, a dear friend who kindly loaned me her name for the heroine of a novella I wrote mumblety years ago and probably didn’t imagine she’d then be featured as the heroine of a series. The real Sara has never been a Marine or fought zombies and monsters. As far as I know.

The Blackfire series began with a short novel titled The Cold Ones, originally published through Sam’s Dot Publishing, but its origins actually go back to my first publisher, New Babel Books. The amazing Frank Fradella, then owner of NBB, was putting together an anthology of novellas by the Sleepwalkers, a wonderful and sadly defunct writers’ group of midlist beginners, each tasked with writing a conventional monster in a nonconventional way. I thought Frank was going to stick me with vampires, because I was just coming off the success of the Nocturnal Urges series, and I wasn’t all that keen on trying to find a new take on vampires since I’d already done that. He gave me zombies, and I said, “But I’ve never written zombies.” Exactly, Frank replied.

I decided to try for zombie fiction that wasn’t extreme body horror, that didn’t aim for the gross-out. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But that was the conventional zombie take, and I aimed for something else: a psychological horror stemming from some of the original legends rather than the more American takes stemming from Romero films. 

I thought, “What is the scariest part about zombies?” It’s not the brain-eating or shambling or the rotted corpses chasing you. It’s the time between being bitten and turning, knowing you will die and it can’t be prevented, and worse, you will become the monster yourself. You will become a threat to everyone and everything you ever cared about. So I did it to a warrior, and let wackiness ensue. 

It seemed to work out pretty well. We premiered the first book at Archon in 2009, and offered a free “zombie bite kit” with every purchase. We sold out the entire print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend the publisher wanted a sequel. That was Blackfire, which came out in 2011, and was followed by short stories in literary magazines after Sam’s Dot closed and the books went out of print.

The latest was Yanaguana, a prequel set in San Antonio published by Crone Girls Press in 2020 as part of Foul Womb of Night, a ebook trilogy of military horror stories and later released in print as a limited-edition chapbook. 

Yanaguana coverEvery time I do a public appearance, readers will ask me when they’re getting more Blackfire. I did kind of leave them on a cliffhanger, with another book planned… and now it seems there will be even more of them.

Also pending as part of this Falstaff deal: Banshee’s Run. A blockade runner in a time of plague is pursued by a bounty hunter who believes she is responsible for the death of his wife. Wackiness ensues. I’ve played in space opera before, but this is a much bigger scope than any of those short stories and I can’t wait for you all to see it. Note: I was writing this tale of space leprosy long before COVID, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a COVID novel…. stupid virus. 

I’m delighted to be working with John Hartness and the fine folks at Falstaff Books, self-described as the misfit toys of speculative fiction. That definitely describes my work, and I hope you will enjoy these books as much as I’m enjoying playing with them. It is also a great way to re-enter novel publishing, as I’ve kind of set aside novels in favor of short stories and novellas all through my grad school experience. With graduation looming in May (!!!), it’s time to get the novels rolling again.

The first Blackfire release will be a compendium of all the previously released stories, including the really rare ones, and a new novella bringing the story forward to Phase 2 (see? just like the MCU!). Look for that in 2024, with Banshee’s Run to follow. 


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Five cups of tea for Nocturne Infernum

Kimberly Richardson of Viridian Tea House gave a smashing review of Nocturne Infernum on her YouTube channel this week!

“I flew through this book,” she says, and declares that the erotica scenes gave her hot flashes. “A couple of times my boyfriend asked, ‘Are you going to be okay?'” She gave it five out of five cups of tea. 

Check out Kimberly’s review of Nocturne Infernum and another vampire novel by Kurt Amacker on YouTube!

“This is one hell of a book.” — Kimberly Richardson, Viridian Tea House

Now I want some tea… 


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