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: 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: “Paradise Sky” by Joe R. Lansdale

Book Title: Paradise Sky
Author(s): Joe R. Lansdale
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Mulholland Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Number Pages: 416

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale is to immerse oneself in a realm of roughneck, shoot-’em-up western writing where fact and fiction blend effortlessly on the page, and the action is only outgunned by the author’s tilt for beautiful literary prose.

For that’s the thing about Lansdale: His writing keeps you riveted by fleet pacing, bawdy characters, sharp-witted banter, and enough action to stampede a cavalry train, but it’s never cheap, it’s never gratuitous. Instead he fills each page with heartbreak, suspense, hope, and laughter through the lives and situations of his characters. They’re fallible, impassioned, the type of people you could imagine filling your own life, only these characters are ratcheted up tenfold, magnifying the ugliness of their lusts, the shock of their misfortunes, the satisfaction of recompense.

The story goes that Nat Love (AKA Deadwood Dick), a teenage black man, becomes fugitive from a Texas lynch mob after daring to gaze upon the derriere of a white woman in full public view while she’s hanging laundry. Her husband, Sam Ruggert, as vile a relentless zealot as any penned by Melville or McCarthy, dedicates life and resources to hunting down and punishing the ‘uppity’ youth.

Paradise Sky follows the life of Nat as he grows up and searches the country for himself, and pursues love and freedom and adventure. He becomes a buffalo soldier, a gunslinger and trick shot, an associate of Wild Bill Hickok; he befriends many and makes equal number of enemies, all the while looking over his shoulder for Ruggert, who continues to hunt him, set to ruin or kill any good thing that happens in Nat’s life. It’s a long, tragic journey Nat Love travels, and every day seems fraught with tough obstacles and tougher choices.

And, as fantastic as the story is, it’s founded in historic fact. The real Nat Love birthed over a century of Old West mythology as a freed slave turned gunslinger and Indian fighter; his attributed persona, ‘Deadwood Dick’ become the fodder for dime store adventure novels throughout the late 1800s. But what of Nat’s lore really happened or got fictionalized over the years matters less than a man’s chances of quick-drawing on Nat himself; It’s all just good storytelling.

Besides the western genre, Joe R. Lansdale has also successfully written in horror, action, mystery, and suspense, all in formats of novels, short stories, and comics. Fans of Paradise Sky may further enjoy his works of similar tone: The Bottoms (winner of the Edgar Award), The Thicket (one of best historical fiction books of 2013 per Library Journal), and Edge of Dark Water (2012 Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association)

Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/paradise-sky


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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: “Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories (a story collection)”

Book Title: Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories (a story collection)
Author(s): Elmore Leonard
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Number Pages: 256

Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories is a collection of fifteen short fiction stories (eleven of which have never been published), written by Elmore Leonard at the beginning of his career in the 1950s. The introduction to the book, written by Leonard’s son, Peter, lends a candid view of the author struggling to find balance in crafting his writing simultaneously with a career in advertising and in raising a family. It’s a shrewd lead-in to the book, framing these stories as Leonard’s ‘experiments’ with style and with voice, in which Leonard breaks his very own ‘Rules For Writing’ that he develops half a century later.

This book is honest and it’s raw, and I can picture Leonard so vividly working diligently away on tale after tale... but like all writers, much of what is crafted is not meant for publication. As his son notes, these unpublished stories are experiments or, perhaps more properly, ‘lessons’ as Leonard teaches himself to write.

By its nature, this type of work lends itself to a sort of paradox in review: On the one hand, there’s a reason these stories are not published. Many of them are flat or trite, long-winded with little pay-off at the end and, frankly, disappointing. On the other hand, it’s a meaningful insight into the mind of a burgeoning writer who would one day become an international bestseller; hailed as the best crime writer in America by Newsweek; be a recipient of the National Book Award’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution; and be a literary inspiration for generations of authors and fans.

And it is an inspiration to peruse the earliest works of this man, to find them as ‘average,’ sometimes less-so, but to know that from those origins he improved through hard work, study, and perseverance to write such novels as Get Shorty, Rum Punch,
and Out of Sight.

Of course, to say that that Elmore Leonard’s early writings were only average is still oft to say it’s passing enjoyment of which many readers will find satisfaction on diverse levels. The first story, One Horizontal, is a classic set-up piece, which brought a chuckle. The Charlie Martz stories were a bit banal. I wanted so much to like Short Stories For Men, but the characters seemed forced boilerplate, even the matador himself unengaging. The best stories in the book are Time of Terror, a clever military piece set in Malaysia, with empathetic and charismatic characters found in the contrast between Ah Min and Barney Clad; and Evenings Away From Home, which probably represented most closely the sharp, tight patter Leonard would later become known for.

No master of a skill is born as such; musical composers, athletic stars, artists, and authors all must start from that same baseline of inexperience, and it’s fascinating and inspiring to be invited to have a peek into Leonard’s own baseline. However, for the casual reader who may wish to invest time in some of his more well-crafted (nay, brilliant), thrilling stories, some of the following may be more enthusiastically recommended: The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard (2004) (which includes his famous tale-made-twice-to-movie, Three-Ten to Yuma); Pronto (1993) (which stars the US. Marshal, Raylan Givens, from which the television series Justified is based); Swag (1976); LaBrava (1983); or what Elmore Leonard may be most popularly known for, Get Shorty (1990).

Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/charlie-martz


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard