Excerpt: “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

My story “Caroline” was just published in Red Sun Magazine #3, and it’s the cover story. The you can check out that cover below by the incredibly talented Mitchell Malloy. The piece perfectly captures a scene from “Caroline,” not to mention the overall tone of the story. Also in this issue, Red Sun horror editor Phillip Englund interviews me in a vain attempt to discover what exactly is wrong with my brain that makes me write such bleak and horrific tales. 🙂

The good folks at Red Sun have also given me permission to publish the first 500 words of “Caroline” right here on my blog to whet your appetite for the rest of the story, not to mention the other great stories that are offered up in issue #3.

An Excerpt from “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

“Can I go to the basement to see Daddy?” Caroline said.

Barbara set the shotgun on the kitchen counter, made sure the safety was on, and knelt down to her daughter. “No, honey. Daddy isn’t ready for visitors yet.”

“When he finishes his lessons?” Caroline asked, hopeful. She and David had been very close, and Barbara knew she felt the loss more deeply than her twelve-year-old brother. Mark wanted nothing to do with his father.

“Maybe, but that might be a long time from now.” She pulled her daughter close, and Caroline melted into the embrace. After a few moments, Barbara gently pushed Caroline away. It took real effort to let her go. “Now go outside with your brother and Uncle Robert. I’ll call for you when I come back upstairs.” It was just too dangerous to have the kids in the house during rehab.

“I could help you with the lessons,” Caroline said. “I could help Daddy too.”

Barbara smiled. “I know you could, but remember what the people from the Rehabilitation Agency said. Just one of us right now, until he gets a little better.” Caroline was so smart, and she was fascinated by the rehab process, questioning Barbara on every detail. Barbara didn’t tell her daughter much–most of it wasn’t fit for an eight-year-old to hear, and the rest . . . She wouldn’t dash Caroline’s hopes like that.

“Please, Mom. I miss him so much.” Tears stood in her pale green eyes. Green like her father’s used to be.

“Go on, honey. Now,” Barbara said. It was a knife in her heart to see Caroline like this.

Caroline shuffled to the sliding glass door, opened it, and stepped out into the backyard. Her brother and her uncle were waiting for her. Robert looked a lot like David; he was three years younger, though his hair had started to gray at the temples. Stress, probably. She watched him scoop up Caroline, saw her come alive in his arms, smiling and laughing as he spun her around. Mark walked up behind them. He was smiling, too. They all looked happy. Despite the terrible thing that had happened, her family looked happy.

She watched Robert and her children for a few moments, trying to soak in as much of their joy as possible. Robert didn’t like staying outside while she was downstairs. He wanted to be with her if things got bad, but she wouldn’t allow it. She needed him to stay with Mark and Caroline. She didn’t want to worry about them while she worked with David. There was another reason, too, one she couldn’t tell him. Robert had become the bedrock upon which they were rebuilding their lives. She couldn’t risk him getting hurt, or worse. She remained devoted to her husband, but if David couldn’t come all the way back . . . She pushed the thought from her mind, guilty for even considering it. It was too soon to be thinking like that.


If you like what you’ve read, head on over to the Red Sun Magazine website and purchase issue #3 for the rest of the story, plus a whole bunch of other goodies.

Multi-Sub Publishers: Skip or Submit?

Occasionally, you will run into literary or genre markets that accept multiple submissions, where you can submit two, three, or more stories at the same time. These markets are pretty rare in my experience, much rarer than markets that accept simultaneous submissions. In general, they also tend to publish shorter works, either flash fiction or poetry, but there are a few that will take full-length short stories at two or three at a time.

So, providing you have enough stories sitting around, should you send multiple submissions if a market accepts them? I say yes, and here are two reasons why.

  1. Shotgun analytics. If there’s a better way to get an idea of the kind of story a market is looking for (without reading every issue of their magazine), I don’t know what it is. For example, I recently submitted three flash stories to market that accepts multi-subs, and each one was markedly different in tone and content. Now, even all three get rejected, I feel like I’ll have a fairly good idea what they’re NOT looking for, and that will allow me to dial in my submissions next time. Update: I wrote this post a few days ago, and since then I’ve received two rejections from the market I mentioned earlier. I received one standard form rejection and one higher-tier form rejection with an invite to submit more work. That info at least points me in the general direction of what the editors might be looking for.
  2. Better odds. Sure, it’s possible that you send three stories that the editors hate, but I think you have a better chance at an acceptance or at least some solid feedback with multiple submissions. This kind of plays into my first point. If you send stories that are all fairly different, I think you stand a better chance at getting an editor’s attention with one of them, and, at the very least, getting some useful feedback.

Now, there are potential downsides to multiple submissions too. If you’re gonna send multiple submissions, you should be prepared for multiple rejections, maybe all in the same day. That can be a blow to the ol’ ego if they’re all form letters. Also, multi-sub publishers may not accept sim-subs, and if the publisher is particularly slow to respond, you could have two or more stories tied up for a while. Both are factors you should consider before hitting send.

Here are two good markets that accept multi-subs. I’ve sent submissions to both.

  • Flash Fiction Online: This market accepts everything: genre, literary, you name it. Like their name suggests, they only accept flash fiction between 500-1000 words. You cans send up to three stories at a time, and they accept reprints too. So you can mix you submissions between original fiction and reprint. They pay pro rates for originals (0.6/word) and less for reprints (.02/word).
  • Kaleidotrope: This is a semi-pro spec-fic market that accepts up to three short stories at a time. They’re a bit different in that they’ll accept stories up to 10,000 words.

What are your thoughts on multi-subs? Know of any good markets that accept them? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Author Self-Promotion: 4 First Steps

In today’s literary market, it pays to self-promote, and there are plenty of options available to authors for that purpose. So, if you’re just getting started with this whole publishing thing, how should you begin promoting yourself? I’m not a marketing expert, but I can point you at some basic and fairly easy-to-do things that have worked for me and can help expand your presence on the ol’ interwebs. Like the title of the post says, these are very basic first steps, not any kind of recipe for instant promotional success (if you have one of those, please post it in the comments :-)).

One more thing. Before you get started self-promoting, I suggest you obtain the following two items:

  • A good author bio. There are a lot of good reasons to have an author bio ready to go, but you’ll need one for nearly all of the online marketing platforms I’m going to suggest below. Writing a bio is a very individual thing, and you’ll need to decide what’s important enough to include. If you’d like to see how I write MY bios, check out this post.
  • Author photo. You might consider this one optional. Some folks don’t like having their picture taken, and there are some very real privacy and security risks that go along with letting the world know what you look like. Personally, I like the author photo, and I generally plaster my smiling mug all over the damn place. Like the bio, what makes a good author photo is up to the individual author. If you’d like to see what I think makes a good author photo, check out this post.

Okay, if you’ve got your bio and your author photo, here are four of the easier ways to get started down the self-promotional rabbit hole:

  1. Social media. I know, this sounds like a total no-brainer, but I know more than a few authors who don’t have any social media presence. Hey, I get it; Facebook and Twitter are full of inane bullshit, but, unfortunately, the vast majority of potential readers have Facebook and Twitter accounts (or start growing the ones you do have), and if there’s an easier way to reach a fuck-ton of people quickly these days, I don’t know what it is. So, at a minimum, I suggest you get a Facebook and Twitter account. If you’re the kind of author who tends to have a lot of illustrations in his or her books, then image-based platforms like Instagram and Tumblr could be good options too. The trick with social media is to stay active, posting often and with meaningful content. That said, the best way to do that is the subject of many, many articles, websites, and books, and is well beyond the scope of my humble little blog. All you need do, though, is type something like “grow my Facebook audience” into Google, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of resources on the subject.
  2. Set up a Goodreads author page. Goodreads is one of the premier book review sites, with something like 25 million members, so I definitely think having a presence out there is good idea. Obviously, you need to have published or self-published a book or have had a short story appear in a collection that was published (people need to have something they can actually read and review). Setting up an author page is super easy to do (and free), and once it’s done you get access to cool marketing tools like Goodreads Giveaways. You can also link your blog and other social media to the page. Basically, if someone has read one of your books and likes it, they can go to your Goodreads author page and see what else you’ve written, learn about you and your blog, and so and so on. Here’s my Goodreads page if you’re interested.
  3. Set up an Amazon author page. Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon; they sell a lot of books. If you’ve published or self-published books or short stories in collections that are sold through Amazon, I think an Amazon author page is a must. This is another freebie and setting up the page is really easy (go here for that). Like Goodreads, you can link your blog and other social media to your author page. Amazon also offers a lot of promotional tools for authors, but they’re usually of the pay-to-play variety, and you’ll have to decide if they’re worth it. You set up an Amazon author page for the same reason you set up a Goodreads author page: it’s a place for readers to go to learn more about your work, and with Amazon, buying that next book is just a click away for interested readers. Here’s my Amazon author page if you’d like to take a look.
  4. Start a blog. This is the most involved of my suggestions because running a blog requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s great to have a platform for your ideas and a place to promote your work. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute must, but it has been THE most successful promotional tool in my little repertoire. My suggestion is to pick some kind of hook or theme beyond, hey, here’s another author’s blog. Make sure that theme is something you actually want to talk about (and you can talk about a lot) and that ties into your work in some way. Starting a blog doesn’t have to cost you anything either, and WordPress and Blogger have perfectly serviceable free packages. That said, spending a few bucks to get a domain name and access to a few other useful features isn’t a terrible idea. Also, remember to point folks back at your blog in your author bio (and everywhere else it’s appropriate).

This really is just the very beginning/scratching the surface of promoting yourself as an author. You’ll need to invest time and effort into keeping these various platforms updated and current (for example, you often have to tell Amazon to add your latest book to your author page). As I mentioned earlier, there are TONS of books and websites devoted to helping authors promote their work though all of the platforms I mentioned above (and a bunch more). As usual, a little research goes a long way.

Got any tips to help new authors start promoting their work? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Listen to “Night Games” on Pseudopod

My vampire/baseball story “Night Games” was published on Pseudopod today. If you’re unfamiliar with Pseudopod, they’re a top-notch horror podcast that features short stories in audio format. Their readers are fantastic, and my reader, Rish Outfield, did a hell of a job bringing my story to life. Anyway, click the link below to listen to “Night Games” and let me “stake” you out to the ballgame. (Hah! I’m a bad person.)

Click Here >>>>> “Night Games”

Picture Me: Some Thoughts/Advice on Author Photos

Along with a bio, a lot of publishers big and small will ask you for an author photo to display alongside your story, on the back cover of your book, and so on and so forth. I know lots of folks hate having their picture taken, and if that’s you, I understand, but if you DO want to have an author photo, here are some things you might consider. Note, I am not a professional photographer, so take any technical advice I offer with a grain of salt. These are things that have worked for me; you may want to go in a completely different direction, and that’s perfectly cool and acceptable.

  1. You should look professional. I’m aware that people’s ideas of what “professional” means can vary widely, so I’ll approach this from my own perceptions of the word. For me it means getting myself into presentable shape: freshly shaven (face and head), putting on a nice shirt of some kind that will photograph well (I prefer stretchy T-shirt type things in dark colors), and doing some light maintenance on the facial area. For you, professional may be completely different, and that’s cool; you just want to make sure the image you’re putting forth is the one you actually want (a lot) of people to see.
  2. The photo should look professional. Usually, this means hiring a professional photographer. I lucked out and married a woman whose hobby has been photography for the last twenty years. Your author photo should probably not be a selfie.
  3. Style. So I prefer a close-up type photo, what is usually referred to as a head shot. I find that it scales up or down a lot easier when publishers have different display requirements. Even with my meager Photoshop skills, I can take the original and resize it for whatever the publisher needs. As for background, I like simple industrial looks: brick, steel, stone. This is all stuff that’s available outside my front door in downtown Seattle. That said, the black or white “studio” background is perfectly acceptable.
  4. Format. I’m a little out of my depth here, but generally a publisher will ask for a hi-res jpeg or TIF file, so it’s a good idea to keep hi-res versions of both handy.
  5. Color or black and white. This is totally a personal preference, but I like black and white. To me it just looks more authorly. That said, I have a color version of my author photo if a publisher required one.
  6. Smile. Again, this is just personal preference, but I think looking like a friendly, approachable person is a lot better than looking like a brooding angry writer guy. Your mileage may vary, of course. My goal with my author photo is for people to see it and think, “Hey, I’d have a beer with that guy” rather than “I wonder if that guy will punch me if I ask him about his books.”

So, with all that in mind, here’s my current author photo, for better or worse:

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If I could change a few things, it would be the hole in the brick wall below my left ear and maybe a bit more contrast between myself and the background, but those are not deal-breakers for me, and I’m pretty happy with this photo. This one is over a year old, and I’m considering changing it out in the next few months. I think freshening your author photo every couple of years isn’t a terrible idea; you want people to recognize what you look like now not five years ago.

Got any tips for author photos (like, what might be wrong with mine)? If so, I’d love to hear about them (or share your own photo).

Fightin’ Fiction II: 3 More Melee Myths

Since the first article I did in this Fightin’ Fiction series was so popular, I thought I’d double down and do another one in the same vein. So, here you go, three MORE melee myths.

Like the last article, this one is aimed at authors who would like to add more realism to melee combat in their work. The first article covered some broad stroke concepts, but I’m going get just a bit more granular with this article. Again, everything here should be taken as advice on writing melee combat in a very specific way. It is NOT the only way to write melee combat nor is it the BEST way to write melee combat. It’s a stylistic choice, and if it suits you, awesome. If it doesn’t suit you, also awesome. Also, yes, I’ve broken every one of these “rules” in my own writing, shamefully bowing to the almighty “cuz it sounds/looks cool.”

And away we go!

1) Heroes don’t wear helmets (but they should). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a hero on screen armored everywhere EXCEPT the one place that would likely result in her death if she were hit there. I mean, come on, if you armor everything else and leave your head bare, you’re basically saying to every enemy on the battlefield, “Hit me right HERE!”

Like armor and shields, helmets work really, really well. Hell, they might be the single most important bit of armor on a warrior’s body. Most helmets were shaped so that blows from weapons would slide off them to some degree, blunting the impact of the strike. As with body armor, thick padding was worn beneath the helmet to absorb even more of the impact. There’s ample evidence that helmets saved the lives of their wearers, and it’s kind of hard to imagine a warrior going into battle without one. I sure as hell wouldn’t.

The fix: So, yeah, I do understand why heroes don’t wear helmets on screen. They want you to see the actor’s face (and probably hear him or her speak). But you don’t have that limitation when you’re writing, so give your heroes (and bad guys) helmets to go along with their armor and show those helmets working every now and then. Have your hero take a shot to the head that rings his bell but doesn’t cleave his skull because of the helmet. Or, do the reverse: have your hero level a mighty blow against the bad guys melon, only to have her blade deflected by his cunningly wrought helm.

2) More than the blade. This one is kind of sword specific, but nearly every medieval and renaissance fighting manual I’ve seen teaches that the blade is not the only part of a sword that can be used to attack an opponent. The quillons and the pommel can make great weapons in certain circumstances, especially when close in. Smashing a guy in the teeth with the steel pommel of your longsword will definitely ruin his day. A warrior could also flip her sword around, grab it by the blade (it really won’t cut you that way), and use the quillons like a pick against heavy armor. There’s also half-swording, which is technically still using the blade, but the warrior grasps the blade in the middle with one hand and uses the sword more like a spear or dagger to gain extra power and control in a thrust, which can be useful against heavy armor.

The fix: Easy, have you hero smash bad guys in the face with the pommel of his sword when he’s in close, half-sword that dude in chainmail to death, or flip his sword around and use the pick-like quillons to end that mook in the flat-top helm.

3) Two weapons is better than one? I know; this one hurts. Wielding two weapons is cool, and hey, you have two swords or battleaxes or warhammers or whatever, so you can attack twice as much, right? Well, not really, especially if you have two longish weapons. One will invariably get tangled with the other and reduce your attack vectors. I’m not saying it was never done, just that it’s not all that great except in very specific circumstances. When you do see it historically, it’s almost never on the battlefield. Why? Well, it seems there were three primary weapon systems for foot soldiers on a medieval field of battle. (I really can’t see a situation where dual-wielding would be a good choice for cavalry.)

  • Weapon and a shield. This system is great for a couple of things. As I said in the last post, having a small, mobile wall in front of you is handy for keeping the bad guys’ weapons from splitting your skull. In formation, shields let you make a big mobile wall with your buddies (a shield wall), which is damn good at keeping missile weapons from killing you (missile weapons were kind of common on medieval battlefields). Oh, and here’s a pro tip, weapon and shield IS dual-wielding because a shield can easily be used as an offensive weapon, and a very effective one at that. Just sayin’.
  • Two-handed Weapon. The second weapon system was a two-handed weapon, usually something in the spear/polearm family. These are great for penetrating heavy armor (more leverage), and they’re just fucking wonderful in formations, allowing you to presents a forest of pikes or halberds to the enemy. That’s a pretty intimidating battlefield formation that’s effective against infantry and cavalry, who could absolutely murder foot soldiers out of formation.
  • Missile weapon. The last weapon system is a missile weapon of some kind, which, with a few rare exceptions, requires two hands (and even the one-handed type were usually paired with a shield). Missile weapons are great because you can kill the enemy without getting close to him, and when there’s a bunch of folks with missile weapons you can do cool stuff like make Spartans fight in the shade and whatnot.

So, you see, there’s really not a good reason to dual wield on the battlefield. It’s not great in formation, it won’t keep arrows off you, it won’t let you fire arrows of your own, and it won’t keep cavalry from riding you down and slaughtering you. As I said, it’s not that dual-wielding was never done, but when you do see it, it’s typically  in a civilian setting, and the off-hand weapon is smaller and primarily for defensive purposes.

Here’s a great video posted by Skallagrim (great channel, by the way), where two HEMA instructors discuss two-weapon fighting at length with demonstrations. They show a couple of ways it can work and some reasons it doesn’t. Keep in mind, this is not a discussion of a battlefield situation. It’s taken from the point of view of civilian dueling (no armor).

The fix: Hey, I can overlook the odd two-weapon fighting bad-ass here and there, but if you really do want something a little more realistic, use the dual-wielders sparingly and away from the battlefield if you can help it. Also, make those that do use that style all the time very special individuals (they’d have to be to fight like that and stay alive).


There you go. Three more melee myths to heed or ignore in your own combat scenes. As usual, if you have any experience in this area yourself, use the comments to chime in. Or, if you just want to tell me why your dual-battleaxe-wielding bad-ass doesn’t NEED a helmet, please do so below.

Never Bet the Devil: An Interview with Orrin Grey

Orrin Grey is one hell of a horror writer, and I’ve had the extreme pleasure of working with him a number of times in my previous role as managing editor for Skull Island eXpeditions. He just gets horror, and creepy, disturbing things fall out of his head and on to the page like a burst pinata full of spiders. To bring his particular brand of darkness to the world, Orrin has recently partnered with another of my favorite people in the publishing biz, Simon Berman of Strix Publishing. Together, they are creating the definitive edition of Orrin’s first short story collection Never Bet the Devil & Other WarningsI spoke with Orrin about this new project and some of the things that influence this master of the macabre.

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1) Okay, Orrin, give us the quick and dirty on your literary career. Who are you main influences? And where can we check out some of your work?

Primarily, I write what I like to think of as “fun, smart horror.” At least, I hope it’s fun and smart. But I’m also a freelancer, and as you are no doubt well aware, Aeryn, freelancers will (and do) write everything. So I also do stuff ranging from work for Privateer Press to writing website copy for car dealerships…

When it comes to influences, I have a lot, and I tend to wear them on my sleeve. But Mike Mignola has a story that he likes to tell in interviews, about how when he first read Dracula he knew all he wanted to do in life was draw monsters. My similar moment of clarity came not with Dracula, but when I encountered Mike’s own work on Hellboy. Since I can’t draw, I had to settle for writing monsters instead.

As for where you can check out some of my work: My second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, is available right now from Word Horde. I’ve got stories out or forthcoming in a bunch of exciting anthologies, including Children of Lovecraft (speaking of Mike Mignola, who did the cover) and Eternal Frankenstein, which features my story “Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet.” I don’t have as many stories online as I would like, but right now you can read my story “Black Hill” on the Strix Publishing website as part of our Kickstarter for Never Bet the Devil, or listen to it at Pseudopod.

2) You’re currently working with Simon Berman and Strix Publishing to breathe new life into your first collection of short stories, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. Tell us about it.

Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings originally came out from Evileye Books back in 2012, but they recently decided to stop publishing prose books entirely, so it unceremoniously dropped out of print at the end of last year. When that happened, I knew I wanted to get it back into print, but also that I wanted to do so in a way that would reward those who had already picked up the original edition. Enter Simon and Strix Publishing, who are helping me put together what I think is going to be the definitive edition of Never Bet the Devil: hardcover, cloth-bound, gold-foil-stamped, fully illustrated, and with a new introduction by Nathan Ballingrud, to name just a few of the features.

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3) Which is your favorite story in Never Bet the Devil and why?

You know, I just got asked this on a podcast. I told them it was “The Seventh Picture,” and that’s definitely a favorite of mine, though right now if I had to pick a favorite story from Never Bet the Devil, it might be my odd take on a haunted house tale “Nearly Human,” which is one of those stories that seldom gets singled out by reviewers but that just really feels like it did exactly what I wanted it to do.

4) Are we getting any new stories in this premium collection?

There will be at least two new stories in the deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil. One of them was previously published in The Mothman Files back in 2011, but has never been collected before. I wanted to include it in the original release of Never Bet the Devil, but rights issues prevented it, so now here it is, incorporated into the collection as I had always intended. The other is entirely new, written exclusively for this edition, and is a story about kids exploring an undertaker’s basement on Halloween night called “Goblins.” We’ve got several other stories planned as possible stretch goals, so if the Kickstarter does really well, who knows how many new stories might be in the final book?

5) I hear there are some truly kick-ass illustrations in the book. Tell us about the artist.

There are some truly kick-ass illustrations in the book! The original publication of Never Bet the Devil had a cover and some great interior spot illustrations by Bernie Gonzalez, which I loved, but they stayed with the previous publisher when the rights to the rest of the collection reverted back to me. When it came time to choose a cover artist and illustrator for the deluxe edition, M.S. Corley was my first and only choice. I’ve been a fan of Mike’s illustrations and cover design work for years, and we had previously worked together on a little chapbook called Gardinel’s Real Estate. For my money, Mike might be the best cover guy in the business, and when it comes to his interior illustrations, let’s just say that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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6) Who are the people that absolutely need to back this Kickstarter? What would you say to them?

Anyone who enjoyed my work in Painted Monsters or any of the recent anthologies that have featured my stories but never got a chance to pick up the previous edition of Never Bet the Devil. Anyone who has the previous edition and likes it well enough to upgrade to a fancy hardcover with more illustrations and new stories. Anyone who loves old-fashioned ghost stories, creaky old horror movies, fun weird horror, or Mike Mignola comics, I think you’ll find that I’m speaking your language in Never Bet the Devil. And even if not, I can guarantee that Mike Corley’s illustrations will be worth the price of admission all by themselves.


Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar, and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. His stories of monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. He’s the author of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and Monsters from the Vault. You can visit him online at orringrey.com.