Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: "Press Start to Play" edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

Book Title: Press Start to Play (Anthology)
Author(s): Edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
Release Date
: August 18, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Vintage Original, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
Number Pages: 528

Going into
Press Start to Play, one may be a bit hesitant; hmm... science fiction stories about video games? Interesting concept, though how far can this be taken, before the gimmick gets exhausted? Based, at least, on the strength of John Joseph Adams’ previous anthologies, any hesitant reader may wish to turn off ‘Call of Duty’ and flip to page one. Because, as it turns out, there’s nothing gimmicky about this anthology and, moreover, the depth authors take the subject is prominently inexhaustible; In short, this is one of the best anthologies published in 2015.

From pixel pong games to console immersion, this is an exhilarating journey through the levels of penned speculation. In addition to hard science fiction, there is a wonderful blend of dark horror, high fantasy, adventure, and insightful literary merit to these stories, which ranges from characters becoming part of the game they were playing; the effects of gaming on society; fantastical blendings of gaming and real life scenarios; the future of gaming; and even imaginings of how gaming can save the world.

The standard caveat applies, that not all stories will appeal to all readers; such is the balance of including a diverse mix of unique writers, but most of the tales in this book will be found appealing in numerous ways.

Some of the top picks include:

“Desert Walk” by S.R. Mastrantone
– A slow-build mystery about a rare cartridge game, where the player does little but walk in a desert. Just subtly chilling enough to leave the reader with ineffable feelings of dread.

“Rat Catcher’s Yellows” by Charlie Jane Anders
– A touching vision of the curative effects of living in an augmented reality.

“Survival Horror” by Seanan McGuire
– Funny, smart, riveting; A half-incubus and his cousin—the granddaughter of a witch—are trapped to play an evil (i.e. hacked) video game, which threatens to trap them in another dimension.

“Save Me Plz” by David Barr Kirtley
– One of the best tales in this book, a sword-wielding adventuress goes off in search of her ex-boyfriend who has mysteriously vanished from his college dorm room after obsessively playing a game based on real life.

“Anda’s Game” by Cory Doctorow – A rich story filled with world building that tackles the complexities of class struggle as well as being a young girl who finds her gaming life to be superior to her real life, until it isn’t... and then it is again.

“Select Character” by Hugh Howey – A surprisingly uplifting, sweet tale about looking at gaming from a different perspective. This closing selection is not quite as impactful as some of the other stories in the book, but it’s a great take on subjectivity, well written, and just ‘fitting’ on so many levels.

Overall, Press Start to Play is highly recommended and comprised of so many brilliant tales, one cannot help but long for a second installment once unlocking the accomplishment of finishing this book.


Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tribute to my brother, Jeff Guignard

Though this is not writing-related, it’s part of my life, which affects my writing, so wanted to share. The original post is on Facebook with responses here:


My younger brother, Jeff Guignard, passed away last night about 1:15 a.m., holding hands with a dear family friend.

He was my only sibling and my best friend, and the sense of his loss is so profoundly unrecoverable that I feel half of me died along with him.

Jeff was stricken with a sudden and frighteningly aggressive form of stomach cancer. Three months ago he was a healthy, strong man, living life as normal with no health concerns but for a mild pain forming in his stomach; in the course of only three months he fell deathly ill and withered to a skeleton, so weak as to barely raise his arms. He was fighting it to the end, but last night his heart gave out. He was only 36.

Jeff truly lived life his own way; he never pretended to be someone he was not, but accepted his fallibilities as frankly as he did his strengths. He spoke his mind, did whatever he wanted—to a fault, sometimes—was independent, loyal, and genuinely endearing to every person he met. Funny, brazen, sensitive: my brother brought energy and joy with him wherever he went. He dressed the same as he did in high school; Vans sneakers and baggy shirts, and everyone knew Jeff would always be the first to drop whatever he was doing and rush to the aid of someone he barely knew, whether it was to help them move apartments, lend them money, or sit with them in time of crises. He would open up on the most personal of topics with anyone, and he had a thirst to know and experience everything in the world. Jeff held himself back with mistakes made during his twenties, but as those years faded, he turned everything around and made amends to all including himself. He worked hard, developed a love for skydiving, sharpened his self-confidence, shared new goals and dreams; spent every other weekend at my house, playing with my kids, being the best uncle, and then suddenly this cancer hit him. It just seemed he was on the verge of finally ‘finding himself,’ of making it…

These past three months have been the hardest, most despondent time of my life. Once Jeff was admitted into the hospital, he was hooked up to machines and never able to again leave. Every day his condition worsened in some way; Debilitation, fatigue, pain -- Doctor after doctor would come in and just tell him he was going to die, and there was no hope. Though Jeff often did feel forlornness, he never gave up that hope. He and I worked through treatment plan after treatment plan, and though each failed, and he got sicker and weaker by the day, and more doctors would come in and tell him to ‘give up’, ‘to pick a hospice to die in’, and Jeff and I would cry together after the doctors would leave, we’d then discuss options, alternatives, vow not to give up, and we’d tell them to f**k off, and he was going to make a recovery and storm back in there one day and show them all...

The first two months of the cancer, Jeff felt the most depressed, and angry and scared. It was all so sudden, all so unexpected. He did not want anyone to know or see him in that condition; he wanted friends and family to remember him the way he was—healthy and smiling and independent. For those who texted or called Jeff, and never received response, please understand it was only his dejection at circumstances, not to mention the amount of effort in responding to so many well-wishes when he needed to rest. He was never alone though; my mother and I rotated shifts and spent every day with him, so he’d never be unattended. My life became a daily itinerary of how much time I could spend with him, and what we’d accomplish during that time. We’d watch movies, share memories, and often just sit in comfortable silence next to each other, lost in thought as to life and loss, regret and accomplishment, and the ever-gnawing fear of what the next hour would bring. I cried more for him than he did for himself.

The last, third month, Jeff gained acceptance of his disease and opened himself up to having friends visit. Thank you all so much, who came, and I’m sorry for those who were planning to come soon but did not make it in time. I tried to schedule his visitors so that he’d have around-the-clock care, without being overwhelmed by too many at once. Know though, I passed on every message to Jeff and let him know who I’d scheduled, and the size of his smile at every name I spoke reminded me of my brother from just three months ago, running and playing and healthy and free...

Even though Jeff’s condition was extremely delicate, I still had treatment plans for him and prayed so hard every day, believing that even with the most remote chance, he’d still be able to make a miraculous recovery and be around another fifty years... even in the face of every grim report and doctor visit, there was no way my little brother could be taken so soon... I tried so hard for him, and I’d have given anything to have saved him... but, God, I’m rambling and pouring tears now as I write this...

My memories of him are overwhelming, each more dear and cherished than the last, which makes it all the worse that they’re gone and I can never share in those things again: eating cinnamon rolls at the breakfast table; watching horror movies late at night; talking about books, about news, about gossip, friends, work, anything. My brother just made everything better in my life. Each time he would knock at my front door, my day brightened.

Jeff was my greatest champion, and I his. I knew my brother would support me in anything, regardless of how rash or careless the decision might be; he’d tell me that I shouldn’t do it, but then he’d be there for me anyway if I did. Regardless of my guilt, he’d be on my side. That’s not a characteristic one wishes in most people around them, but it was an immense assurance to know that no matter what, he’d have my back.

Jeff loved death metal music, astronomy and science fiction, high fantasy, Nintendo video games, junk food, books, and Monster energy drinks. He was an animal lover, a pacifist, enjoyed swimming, and most of all socializing with friends and family.

He hated computers, social media, banks, shopping, and pickles.

Jeff graduated Charter Oak High School, class of 1996.

He was impeccably polite. Every nurse that came into his room, Jeff would say hello, and ask them about their shift. They’d ask him how he was feeling, and he’d inquire the same of themselves. He’d thank and compliment every technician, therapist, nurse, who provided care, every time. Even when Jeff wasn’t part of their shift, nurses he’d had in the past would visit him to offer hope and assistance. When we left today, too many of the staff to count approached me to share tears...

Jeff was a ferocious driver, and in three years accumulated thirteen traffic tickets, all of which he somehow got dismissed by judges through charm and tenacity.

One time Jeff won a telescope on The Price is Right.

One time he and a friend won a trip to the Marlboro dude ranch in Montana for two weeks of partying, sports, and pampering.

One time an 18-wheel truck drove over his car, crushing it, and dragging it half a mile down the freeway. There was nothing left of the car but a pocket of air in the driver’s seat, from which Jeff emerged, unscathed.

One time Jeff was a child, and he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. His favorite flavor of shake was strawberry and then it changed to cookies-and-cream. His favorite color was blue.

One billion times and more, Jeff brought the purest of happiness into my life, and into the lives of so many others.

Jeff was a beloved son, friend, brother, brother-in-law, and so much more, not to mention the most wonderful uncle a child could have. He’d come over to visit my son, Julian, often, reading to him, playing games, making up stories, telling jokes –– It was like I was living vicariously though my son, playing with my brother again as we did when children. Julian loved his Uncle Jeff so much, and asked about him daily...

I just can’t believe he’s gone... can’t believe it, can’t believe it.

Thank you to my wife, Jeannette Vasquez-Guignard, who supported me and loved Jeff as much, to my mother and father, and to his numerous friends that helped to give comfort, write letters, offer assistance, etc. Among them (not limited) include Miguel Holguin, Amber Sambrone, Michele Vaughn, Janie Igler, Erik Jansen, Kim Johns, Marisa Leigh Roman, Jennifer McGuigan-Wingfield, Regina Croom, Misty Acero, Mike Clayton, and so many more I'm missing, not to mention those who provided much needed advice and empathy during this time to myself.

I love you, little brother, and I’ll miss you forever. I know every person you touched will say the same, that their lives will feel a little emptier, sadder at your loss, but also having been made fuller by knowing your smile, your laugh, your empathy and sensitivity.

R.I.P. Jeffrey Brian Guignard, 11/13/1978 – 9/29/2015

I hope and pray that whatever occurs in the afterlife, you’ll be there with me when my own time arrives...


*** I also created a shared album of photos of Jeff on Facebook here:


Online condolences may be shared at either of these obituary links:



I created a photo tribute video for my brother’s memorial service. This video montage covers his life in chronological order, but still only represents such a tiny part of who he was.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: “Paradise Sky” by Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1

Book Title: Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1
Author(s): Jim Butcher
Release Date: July 9, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Dynamite Entertainment
Number Pages: 480

The Dresden Files is an exceptional series of fifteen (and counting) novels written by Jim Butcher, in addition to tie-in short stories and a short-lived television series. This graphic novel,
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1, includes comic adaptations of two of these novels, “Storm Front” and “Fool Moon,” as well as an exclusive-for-comics tale, “Welcome to the Jungle,” and a minor extra story, “Restoration of Faith”.

Overall, it’s a gorgeous book, as visually appealing as its stories are action-packed and engaging. The Dresden Files Omnibus is thoroughly enjoyable and well-deserves its critical acclaim, but that the quality of art seems to diminish slightly with each story. This one minor critique shouldn’t take away from the omnibus’s overall strengths, but it was a noticeable weakness; each of the art teams (pencils/ inks/ colors) was different with each story. The first, “Welcome to the Jungle,” was absolutely stellar and seems to set the bar for reader expectations, because following works leave one wondering, “Why do the characters get less gritty and more slapstick?” Again, a minor failing in an otherwise outstanding publication.

The Dresden Files universe is labeled as ‘magic-noir,’ blending hard-nosed detective mysteries with modern fantasy; Private Investigator Harry Dresden is as like to cross paths with a gun-toting mobster as he is a club-wielding troll, and more often than not, he crosses them at the same time. Damsels, demons, thieves, vampires, police, faeries, and more all fill Dresden’s world simultaneously.

The four stories contained include:

“Welcome to the Jungle” – Harry Dresden must solve a mysterious murder at the city’s zoo. Stunning artwork fills each page to accompany fast-paced action, likeable characters, and story arcs, setting, and dialogue that are exceptional. Background and explanation to Harry’s life are brief and meaningful, his ‘powers’ explained reasonably, and a stellar tie-in to Greek mythology. Really, if this is your first experience with Dresden, you’re hooked to be a lifelong fan.

“Storm Front
” – Harry Dresden is tasked with solving two mysteries at the same time which, coincidentally and expectedly, tie in with each other. Great homage to hardboiled pulp fiction tales. Dark, gritty, and sometimes erotic, the monster-filled action is offset by his humanization and snarky quips.

“Fool Moon
” – All the cards are down for Harry Dresden, who’s plunged into a vast werewolf conspiracy and murder mystery, where no one is who they seem. This story, though it has all the qualities of the stronger first stories, started to feel a little long-winded by its end. Character motivations and decisions felt ‘forced,’ although the story itself is fine. “Fool Moon” is thrilling and filled with intrigue and suspense; only by comparison, one may find this tale weaker than the others, although the artwork, just on par-value, came across as a bit clumsy.

“Restoration of Faith” – A giveaway comic, as part of Free Comic Book Day. A fun story, albeit it hokey and the least satisfying tale in the book, though an entertaining read nonetheless.

Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1 is a highly-recommended read for anyone with a love of supernatural suspense, paranormal investigation, or urban magic realism.

Review first written for New York Journal of Books:


Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.

Friday, July 17, 2015

GUEST BLOG: “Sometimes Knowing is A Heavy Burden” by Jay Wilburn

So, this thing is going to be twelve books. I know because I outlined the entire mythology to see and that was the number I came up with. I don’t know every detail about every book, but I know the major story lines and events. I know who will be alive in book twelve. I know who will die before then and in which book. I’m all ready sad about some of those deaths. There is a great power in knowing the course of the series. I am purposeful with the action and when characters come onto the scene. I can do meaningful things with their actions by knowing who they are now, who they will become, and why their presence matters to the legend. There is also a burden with that.

When I introduce other elements in the story, I know where they will lead and why. I know characters that are growing in one moment, but will be pulled apart in another. Sometimes that will be spiritually and emotionally. Other times it will be physically too. There is a complexity to some of the coming villains that will make them sympathetic in ways they will not truly deserve. This will make the efforts of the heroes to stop them all the more difficult. I’m rooting for my heroes and I feel bad for the hard times that I’m finding ways to make darker and more difficult before they even begin.

Fiction serves sometimes to reflect our lives back to us in a way that allows us to look and see in ways we can’t without the lens of the fictional story. We can explore issues that we don’t know how to talk about. We can see our own hypocrisy laid bare in the actions of characters. We can hear our own prejudices and misconceptions voiced by characters in situations that allow us see through our own shortcomings. Sometimes coming to those realizations by opening ourselves to literature, even zombie stories, can bring the heavy weight of truth down onto our heads and shoulders. The truth was always there, but now we are aware of it and can really feel it in a way that we couldn’t before.

Stories can also expose our fears. It can do so in a way that helps us face them. It can let us know that they need to be faced even though we are often not anywhere ready to do so.

Knowing is a gift that often can feel like curse. There are moments in life we can look back on and realize that not knowing what was coming was a gift in the brief moment. But we also realize that ignorance was never meant to be a permanent state. Knowing brings responsibility and expectations. It pushes us to act on that knowledge as it relates to the principles we hold dear. Knowing the truth about something – anything – is an innate call to action. It is a call to begin. Realizing that you know it is time to begin something new is a burden we all must face from time to time both in fiction and in life.

Check out the latest book and music from a new series by Jay Wilburn:

The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals
The Sound May Suffer - Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel, The Sound May Suffer. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reached my 75th short story acceptance!

Just realized I reached a cool lil’ milestone the other day: I received my 75th short story acceptance! This number includes reprint sales, but still feels quite monumental that seventy-five markets have agreed to publish something I’ve written.

I keep track of every fiction short story submission sent out. As of today, I’ve accumulated 75 acceptances and 254 rejections, giving me a 22.8% acceptance rate. Another 16 stories are slated in the ‘Pending decision’ stacks. And, add to that, my non-fiction articles, interviews, book reviews, blurbs, and introductions, all since I decided to pursue writing in February, 2011!

Friday, June 19, 2015

New story published today at UNSUNG STORIES: “Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior”

New spec fiction story I wrote, “Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior”, is published today on “Unsung Stories”!  Check it out here:


Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior

            I’ve been hiding for hours, wearing the shadows like cloaks. Watching, just watching. The night is dark as midnight’s reach, and this favors my examination... specimens are less likely to notice my presence.
            I must be motionless at the moment of progression, or the mortals may see me in their dying breaths. If that occurs, the soul will spook and flee for the stars. It’s said that at the moment of progression—just before the physical body dies—its vision sharpens, adapting to awareness of our existence. It’s a tenuous transition into the domain of Mortuos, as the dying straddle the lands of dawn and dusk. Those fully alive do not notice us, but if dying mortals catch sight of our presence they may attempt to speak of our existence. Usually, if that should occur, their words are mere gasps and considered only delusional by friends and family wrought with grief. Nevertheless, no researcher wants his specimen aware it is being scrutinized; the results invariably will skew.
            With much experience comes patience and facility, and it’s now a rare outing in which I am detected. I slowly adjust the lens of my Anima Viewer to optimal magnification and zoom in.
            Like the colorful shells of brilliant scarab beetles, the mortal form gives visual clues to its genus and to the species of the soul encased.
            This subject is female. Her exterior is frail with skin wrinkled as wadded fabric, but she is lovely and intriguing, colored of autumn wheat. Wise green eyes flash between exaltation and long-suffering. Observing one who is aged, yet still filled with vitality, is hardly the visage I normally look upon during a death-watch. She has a large crowd of supporters, and I wonder as to her character. There is strength in her appearance and a glow from her aura I have seen in species such as Beloved Parent (Parenti dilectus) or Loyal Friend (Amice fidus), but this is something else.
            She may be a species of Artista or, by its common name, the Artist, which happens to be one of my favorite genera. But is it the Uninspired Artist (Artista non inspīrāta), or the Insecure Artist (Artista fragilemque), or the Unknown Artist (Artista obscura), or perhaps that rare breed, the Celebrated Artist (Artista celebre)?
            The moment is at hand: Death completes, and the human husk falls away. A pinprick of turquoise luminescence leaps to the air. I must set down my Anima Viewer in order to catch the soul within a collecting jar, careful as always not to touch it. A specimen’s behavior can be affected by direct physical contact....
Story continued at: