This just made my day. Outside the Walls (my co-write fantasy/historical with Diana L Wicker) has achieved a Readers’ Award from Chill With a Book.
Here’s the shiny certificate:
When the tide of war flows who will be caught in its wake? A short fantasy tale of a woman’s determination in time of war.
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2lU4vyN
Print edition http://amzn.to/2lUbTKG
I books http://apple.co/2lStWRQ
Bundle Rabbit Bundle Rabbit
Audio – Narrated by Melanie Fraser
Amazon.co.uk audio http://amzn.to/2mtHX53
*Name: Danny Letham
*Tell us a bit about yourself: Raised on a Scottish moorland farm, I spent much of my adult life in various Scottish and English cities and now live near the North Wales Coast. My work background is software development and systems analysis, specialising in commercial, financial, and manufacturing systems. Born into a musical family whose other stock-in-trade was teaching, I was a mobile deejay in my teens, and these days I can gossip for Britain about many musical genres.
How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? While I’ve always liked to talk, the impetus came in the form of the usual story: suggestions from friends and relations. I was very aware that merely being the “natural” that those good folks suggested was not enough, and indeed the well-intentioned encouragement might not even have been true. So, from about 2012 onwards I researched and self-trained with the help of Patrick Fraley’s tutorials and a few other sources. Meanwhile, before my wife’s death in 2016 I had gradually withdrawn from the world of I.T. to become her full-time caregiver, and since then I have reinvented myself as a narrator, video maker, and digital artist. I first encountered ACX through Mr. Fraley.
Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? You’ll have worked out from the foregoing that I have only just taken the plunge. So, for the time being I don’t have much to say here. I have a computer full of material that will never be seen or heard in public, kind of like those early Beatles recordings made in Hamburg. (Dream on, Danny!)
Do you have a preferred genre? Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I’m a non-fiction kind of a guy really, who aspires to biography, history, the education sector, and corporate reads. I have a high regard for the better fiction narrators and am not averse to characterisation, but not every title is an Agatha Christie mystery and although I have my moments and can run the gamut of SATB timbres (baritone and mezzo are my best) I’m not quite in the same league as David Suchet. What folk tend to overlook, though, is that within the vast tract that is non-fiction there is every bit as much of a need for nuance and sense of scene. Which isn’t to rule out the right novel, of course; never say “never”. That said, I am minded to avoid so-called “Adult” material but I’d not reject an otherwise suitable title just because it had some adult content; however it would have to be very good read. On the other hand, given that I have a well-developed avuncular style for kids’ books there is an obvious conflict, so “Adult” is not a market I would target.
What are you working on at present/Just finished? I have just arrived on Audible as narrator of a kids’ title written by Victoria Zigler, called “Eadweard: a Story of 1066”. That title attracted me partly for its historic interest but significantly also because of its ethic; as a lad who never wanted to be a soldier myself I identified with its busting of the myth. The ten-year-old Danny repulsed by the “It’s a Man’s Life” TV recruitment campaign would have loved that book.
Ongoing, from a business perspective I am looking at ethical advertising both in sound and on video more so than audiobooks, but additionally in the medium term I have my eye on a couple of older works which are now in the Public Domain and for which I would assume the role analogous with rights holder as well as that of narrator.
*Tell us about your process for narrating? (Be as elaborate as you like.) Step One is, sample it and improvise reading one or two previously unseen passages. See how it FEELS. That instinct is important, and I try to carry it with me throughout the creative process at the same time as balancing it with self-directing. Next, read the thing end to end; if you don’t do that you can paint yourself into a corner either with a wrong characterisation as the plot unfolds or, in non-fiction, with a compromised counter-argument. Try a few more passages as you go along, and revisit former ones. Note how different the passages you improvised feel when they are re-encountered. Rehearse. Mark the text with cues and emphases while progressing, considering any surprise inflections that might work to keep the audience engaged. Rehearse again. Set milestones. Go on the mic, for no more than half an hour at a time; after that amount of time mistakes will multiply. Avoid becoming a slave to the punctuation, especially if that punctuation is mechanised. Repeat whole sentences or at least clauses where you notice at the time there has been a blooper, without pausing. Then get technical with NR, EQ, and all that stuff. When editing bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to splice than merely to cut. Sometimes there is no option but to overdub, but don’t do that yet. Open a list of overdub requirements. Listen back, repairing any pops or clicks etc, while identifying any more overdubs. Listen again, following the text closely looking for misreads. Rely on it; there will be some, and consequently more overdubs. Each overdub is a miniature run of the “mic NR EQ pop click etc.” cycle. Cry, scream, and yell, when the sound palette of the overdub doesn’t match the main body of your narrative. Rinse and repeat. FINALLY (um, not really finally) submit your Thing Of Beauty. Cry, scream, and yell, some more when the rights holder sends a list of …. overdub requirements! Rinse and repeat. Oh, and that other chap who waves his arms? Me too.
I didn’t mention mixing just now. I always record vox in mono but where music or SFX is involved I will decide based on the specifics of the case whether or not to mix in stereo. If it’s narration only, it stays in mono unless I need to emulate physical activity. However, they never needed a stereo mix in the days of Steam Radio, did they? We have lost a lot these days, with the “live” imperative supplanted by all this tech, and yet I am mindful of babies and bathwater. I prefer to use Adobe Audition. Some freeware is absolutely magnificent, but Audition’s visualisations and its brush and lasso repair tools in particular are all but indispensable. In the end you get what you pay for.
What aspects do you find most enjoyable? In a sentence? I like the sound of my own voice! No, in all seriousness, performing is the buzz; I can’t say that I love the technical aspects. I did discover recently when invited to do a live reading that the dynamic is entirely different from studio work, so now I am looking to add that to the repertoire on a permanent basis.
Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? I certainly do. I think it unwise to dismiss either royalty share or finished-rate. Every project has its own business case. It depends on what balance you need to strike from time to time between visibility, prestige, and cash flow.
Do you listen to audiobooks? Not very often because in my limited leisure time I tend to read, looking for performance material! I spend more time listening to podcasts online. The audiobook that I have enjoyed the most – ever! – is David Suchet’s reading of “Death on the Nile”. Such characterisation! He is especially able when “doing” the women, and then there is all that over-the-top emoting, and excellent timing resulting from the great sound editing and audio engineering. What’s not to love? It is a lesson in the proper use of tech to give an enhanced performance experience. One of my bugbears is that the unavoidable pauses in “he-said-she-said” dialogue passages go unedited because of production time constraints. And people have been trained to like it, even to consider it best-practice. For me, while it’s fine in a live situation on a recording it just jars.
*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes and no. It’s unfortunate in some respects that the old way is almost extinct, of Wise Old Heads occasionally reading from a book but frequently improvising around a detailed memory. There is nothing quite like a live performance in which the narrator responds to the audience’s cues and maybe interacts with them. The best stories can be retold with near-infinite variation – consider how folk music works. In my dreams at least, I foresee that style of performance returning as ordinary people’s reading comprehension skills continue to diminish – which I believe they are doing regardless of the A-level statistics. For now, though, as a society we are going through a “more of the same” loop in which hearing the same story repeatedly in exactly the same formulaic way is the “four legs good” of our era, and whether we like it or not the playback device is king. Equally, the playback device is an ideal medium for disseminating listen-once material, superior to radio because of its on-demand nature. In that context word-of-mouth, social media ads, and the Infernal MP3 Machine are the narrator’s best friends. Just as the phonograph paved the way for excellence in musical performance we must hope the MP3 does the same for narration, although in my view we aren’t quite there yet.
Why do you think audio books are becoming so popular? The commuter lifestyle has a lot to do with it. The world of the past that I have described has largely been mechanised out of existence, and indeed that is the case even away from the urban cycle – in agriculture, for example, productivity demands shackle us to our tractors and our milking machines more than ever before. Changes in the popular music scene have made recorded music significantly less attractive to many than it has been previously, so the advent of affordable and – importantly – portable technology with which to hear something interesting is bringing the audiobook to the masses just like the Dansette did popular music half a century ago.
Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) It’s too early to say as regards earnings, but actually, I think it more realistic in my situation at least to seek prestige and visibility than it is to expect Big Bucks directly. It is an easy platform to use in the technical sense, while in another respect it falls somewhere in between an effective hiring fair and a useful additional networking tool, not so much with peer-to-peer networking (to steal an I.T. term) as in the wider literary community. Having said that, I think the signal-to-noise ratio in terms of networking opportunity is less than ideal.
Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? Every experience is a learning opportunity. If you don’t see it that way, that is a negative in itself.
Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. People perceive me to be fearless but… while obviously, I wouldn’t choose to do so I would wrestle a Rottweiler (and probably lose), and yet I have an irrational fear of chickens.
Where can we learn more about you?
Website with onward links is here: http://www.thevoiceofdaniel.com/
For repertoire and samples , go straight to soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dannyletham
If you want to check out Victoria and Danny’s work – please use the links below.
Barnes & Noble:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Eadweard-Story-1066-Victoria-Zigler/dp/1539534472/
The Book Depository:
As some of you may know I have always been rather fascinated by the legend of Jack the Ripper. (Don’t look at my browsing history – I’m a writer so it’s a bit weird!). For anyone unfamiliar with him Jack the Ripper stalked the London streets in the Autumn of 1888 and left at least five women dead and mutilated. These poor women were prostitutes of the lowest class; it was a dangerous profession. In many ways the killings highlighted the plight of the Victorian poor, particularly for females. Who did not have much choice in how they supported themselves if a husband was not around, or the family was very poor.
There are hundreds of theories about who he (or she) was – ranging from the grandson of the Queen Victoria (Eddie – Duke of Clarence who might have had some rather dubious doings but was several hundred miles away in Scotland at the time of one of the killings), to a mad doctor, to a Jewish slaughterman, to a midwife, to a wealthy Liverpool businessman (who himself was (possibly murdered by his wife Florence Maybrick ).
Who was this person who left London in the grip of terror? This new murderer more wicked than any before him? Who knows? That is part of the enduring legend. Jack the Ripper was never caught and his legacy is such that writers and historians aplenty have fielded proof, disproof, and stories for over a hundred years.
Anyway enough background…. The story is from the point of view of the killer – and recounts his last known murder – that of Mary Jane Kelly. I am not putting forward names – other than Jack but there is a twist at the end of his identity.
This was previously published as an anthology piece for Tales from Darker Places and Boo Fore! but has been updated and revised for this version.
Welcome to the darkness of Victorian London….
The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story
The year is 1888, and the place is Whitechapel, in the very heart of London. But the heart is bleeding. A mysterious killer is stalking women of the streets – his true name is unknown but his legend will go down in history. This is a short tale of Jack the Ripper.
18 rated for scenes of violence.
Bundle Rabbit https://bundlerabbit.com/products/detail/the-watcher
Coming soon to Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple.
Background reading for those interested.
The Florence Maybrick case is fascinating in itself, tragic for all concerned and showed the morals of the time well enough. Mrs Maybrick was tried more for the fact she’d had affairs (including with her husband’s brother) than anything else. Her husband had a mistress, was a hypochondriac who took arsenic as a tonic, and in more than one case had struck his wife.
*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after. I, Henry Morgan, was born in Wales around the year 1635 but the opportunities for a Welshman in those days for adventure and wealth were scarce, so I set out for the West Indies for some excitement, and to try to make my fortune as a privateer. The governor of Jamaica gave me a letter of marque so that I could legally attack Spanish ships and seize their cargo. I was even able to attack many cities under Spanish rule, including Panama City, Porto Bello, and Maracaibo raiding them for their riches. I was one of the most successful privateers of all time. King Charles the 2nd awarded me knighthood and I became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica after retiring from privateering.
After dying and ending up in hell, I suffered many lifetimes worth of years of drudgery and toil before I could acquire my own ship and begin plundering the riches of the ships on the seas of hell.
* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? Morgan: My love for riches was surpassed only by my love for drink. Perhaps my excesses with strong libations led to my damnation. Of course privateering is nasty business. I killed many men. Some people had to be physically convinced into giving up their information about the defenses of the cities I plundered.
Who are your friends/allies here? Morgan: I found unlikely allies in the shopkeeper Anton LaVey, founder of the modern Church of Satan before his damnation, and the Viking heroes Erik the Red, and his son Leif Eriksson, and Ragnar Loddbrok who joined me on my quest for the Unholy Grail that is rumoured to allow damned souls to become inebriated.
Do you have any enemies here? Morgan: HSM’s naval forces are on the prowl for me and my ship “Stingray” because I have plundered many trade vessels on the seas of hell.
Pirate – is that a word you resent? Morgan: I do not resent being called a pirate, though for most of my career I was known as a privateer, plundering Spanish ships and cities under the service of the British Empire and His Majesty the King.
How do you define ‘piracy’? Morgan: Taking something of value from someone else for one’s own personal gain.
What is the WORST thing about being here? Morgan: The worst thing about being in hell is not being able to get drunk. But I am working on a solution to that problem.
Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock! Morgan: I figured that if there was a hell, I’d be bound for it. I wasn’t all that surprised to find out it really did exist.
Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?Morgan: I bide my time by plundering ships, and looking for a loophole to the rule of not being able to get drunk in hell.
What do you miss most about your old….life? Morgan: I miss rum, wine and brandy, and the sensation of drunkenness.
*Name and bio.
Larry Atchley Jr. grew up in Grapevine, Texas, and has been writing stories and poems since he was in middle school. When he’s not writing, he likes reading and collecting books on a wide range of subjects and genres, hiking and mountain biking in the woods, birding, Kung Fu martial arts, playing guitar and harmonica, listening to all kinds of music, and watching britcoms and movies with his wife Ali, who is a writer and artist. Larry performs along with his wife and fellow crew members with the group The Seadog Slam which performs recitations of pirate poetry and performs pirate songs at various public appearances and festivals in North Texas.
* Tell us about your story for this edition.
Captain Sir Henry Morgan was famous for his drinking as a pirate buccaneer in the seventeenth century. I thought it would be fun for him to be on a quest for the one object in hell that was rumoured to be able to let damned souls get drunk, despite His Satanic Majesty’s rule against it being able to happen. Drunkeness would be the one thing that Morgan would miss most dearly from his life before damnation, and so he would want it more than anything. He goes to Anton LaVey’s shop Hellish Curiosities and Clothiers, a place known for its rare artefacts, to see if LaVey knows if it really exists and where it might be located. They end up going on an adventure together to try to find this so-called unholy grail.
What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?
I thought that Henry Morgan was an interesting choice because of his infamy for his love of the drink and the troubles it got him into in life. I wanted to explore his obsession/addiction and how it would drive him to search for the ability to get drunk again while damned to hell where it wasn’t possible to become inebriated.
How did you become involved with this project?
I Met Janet Morris online in 2010 when she was reviving the Heroes in Hell series for the 21st century. I was invited to submit a story for the anthology Lawyers in Hell, and had my story “Remember, Remember, Hell in November” accepted which was my first published story. I subsequently went on to have stories published in several volumes in the series including Rogues in Hell, Dreamers in Hell and Poets in Hell. Being one of the regular Hellion writers for the series meant that I could submit a story for the latest book. I managed to get something in at the eleventh hour that Janet graciously put a lot of work into editing it into a usable story in time to be included in the book. I can’t thank her and Chris Morris enough for the opportunity to have a story in this edition the of the series.
Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?
It takes a lot of research and knowledge of the rules and tropes of the series that you are writing for. It is harder than writing a stand-alone story but I find that it is very rewarding writing for a shared world series. You get to be part of a much bigger world than anything else you could come up with yourself. It is an honor to write for the Heroes in Hell series, especially since I have been a fan of it since the first books in the 1980’s.
What are you currently working on?
I’m always working on more short stories and two or three novels that are works in progress. Mostly dark fantasy, action adventure fantasy genre stuff.
*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?
“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell”
What other books/short stories have you written?
“Remember, Remember, Hell in November” my first published story, which appeared in Lawyers in Hell in June 2011. “Ragnarok & Roll” in Rogues in Hell, “Knocking on Heaven’s Gates” in Dreamers in Hell, and “Poetic Injustice” in Poets in Hell. He has also contributed stories to the Sha’Daa shared world series created by Michael H. Hanson, which include “Time for a Change” in Sha’Daa: Pawns, and “Harmonic Dissonance” in Sha’Daa Facets. Other works include “Shadow of a Doubt” in the horror anthology, What Scares the Boogeyman, and “A Light in the Black” in the Victorian era historical horror anthology Terror by Gaslight. His poetry credits include “The Stoic’s Mask” in the art/poetry/story collection Klarissa’s Dreams and “The Shadow People” in the poetry collection A Book of Night. I’ve written countless other unpublished short stories and poems and have a couple of fantasy novels as works in progress.
What do you think are the top three inventions/discoveries in human history and why?
The printing press, the personal computer, and the internet. They are all ways in which we have expanded, shared and spread knowledge throughout the world.
EXCERPT from your story:
From “Unholiest Grail” by Larry Atchley Jr. in Pirates in Hell, edited by Janet Morris
Morgan felt a palpable fear rising from his bowels, and although prayer was denied him, he could lament in the privacy of his skull. And this he did: In my life I have faced many challenges, from men, women, from the sea. I have faced each one with bravado and courage. But now comes a rarer torment: this uncertainty of being forever snuffed out of existence in hell, a punishment too cruel. If he died here, he might be obliterated, with no return even to the netherworlds. He might cease to exist completely, and eternally, forgotten as if he’d never lived at all. A shudder wracked his sturdy frame. I surely don’t court obliteration. But to revel in the sensation of inebriation again, after all these years . . . for even a chance at that most delectable of experiences; surely it’s worth the risk. The craving for drink has been upon me ever since I awoke in this domain of the damned. But it’s been the strongest since I first heard the story of the unholy grail. ‘Drink is the devil’ we privateers liked to say while alive. Knowing it causes one to commit deeds both careless and terrible. It brings forth the worst in a person. But never could I abstain from it, that carefree, impassioned, elated, and yet numbed feeling of drunkenness. I love it so. I love it more than life itself. I made my deal with the devil every time I besotted myself. And I’ll gladly do it again, to cast off the doldrums and despair of existence in hell.
Facebook: Larry Atchley Jr
Name: Joe Bonadonna
*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.
My name, it is Quasimodo. In life, I was once crowned Pope of Fools, for I was and still I am the most ugly and misshapen cathedral bell ringer of them all. The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . that is who I was and what I am now and forever more. The story, as I was later to learn, is that I was born to a Gypsy tribe, deformed at birth as if possessed by the Devil. My parents switched me with a normal baby girl . . . the one and only Esmeralda, of whom you will know from that most famous novel written about me. Her own bereaved parents had me exorcised, and later they abandoned me, placing me on the Foundling’s Bed of the cathedral. There was I discovered by the Archdeacon himself, Claude Frollo, who raised me, gave me what little education I have and then, when I was old enough, appointed me to be the bell ringer of Notre Dame. I was his foundling, his slave, his whipping post, and his accomplice in many acts of a nefarious nature.
My life, such as it was on earth, was one of misery and hard labour, empty of joy and love and hope. And the pain I suffered, much physical pain, in spite of my great strength. But the bells which I loved so much . . . ah, the bells of my cherished Notre Dame . . . their voices made me deaf, which did much to further my alienation from the society. You see, I was shunned as a monster, a flesh and blood gargoyle, which is what I still am. In Hell it is, perhaps, a little better, for the sights one sees here and the things that exist in the nether regions make me look lovely by comparison.
There is a sculpture of me at the cathedral, on the exterior of the north transept along the Rue du Cloitre-Notre-Dame. I was found on and named after Quasimodo Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. In Latin, my name means “almost the standard measure.” In other words, “almost human.” Most apropos, don’t you think?
* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?
I do not think: I know exactly why I am here, in Hell. For my master Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame, I committed many sins and many crimes. But none were so bad as when I threw him to his death from the high places of my beloved cathedral.
Who are your friends/allies here?
Life is strange, the perfect example being that of how Esmeralda, with whom I was switched at birth, (almost a sister, you might say) . . . how she came back into my life so many, many years later. And that story, I am most certain, you know. But here, in Hell, the afterlife is, by far, more strange. Here I have many friends, namely Doctor Victor Frankenstein, the master I gladly and willingly serve. The fine creature he made of his own two hands and brought to life, Adam Frankenstein, is also my friend. And so are Galatea, his beloved; Mary Shelley, the author; the Hellywood actors Jean Harlow and Errol Flynn; Argus the shipbuilder, and so many, many more. I have searched and searched for my beloved Esmeralda but have never found her. It is my hope, it is my prayer that she is not in Hell, for she was no witch in life and was unjustly hanged.
Do you have any enemies here?
One does not exist in Hell without making at least one enemy. In my case, the enemies of Doctor Frankenstein are also my enemies, and for him I would risk even the mortuary of the Undertaker and all his tortures and torments. I love the mad doctor, you see — love him as a son loves his father, for he gave me a home at Goblin Manor, gave me work, and gave me his trust. His enemies, my enemies . . . he and I, or I alone, have dealt with them in one manner or another.
Pirates – is that a word you resent?
And why should I resent such a word I consider to be one of praise? Pirates often ruled their vessels in a most democratic fashion. They are neither prejudiced nor judgmental, and never have I known a bigot among them. But we, Doctor Frankenstein and I, along with our crew, did not sail from New Hell in order to commit the acts of piracy, per se. No, we sailed under the pretence of filming a movie about pirates. But in truth, we sailed in search of the Isle of the Damned and the secret passage out of Hell. We fought many a pirate on the way — airship buccaneers and submarine corsairs, not to mention monsters of land and sea few of us ever knew existed in Hell. Plus, we battled or tried to battle the unknown monster that haunted the Snark, our very fine ship, and preyed upon our crew. No, to me, being a pirate is a noble calling, and I, for one, would gladly sign on and go to sea again, with Doctor Frankenstein as my captain.
*Name and bio.
My name is Joe Bonadonna, formerly a musician and labourer, now retired and writing as much as I can. To date, I have published three novels: the heroic fantasy Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera Three Against the Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and the sword and sorcery pirate novel, Waters of Darkness, (in collaboration with David C. Smith), published by Damnation Books. For Perseid Press I have stories appearing in Heroika: Dragon Eaters; Poets in Hell, Doctors in Hell, and now Pirates in Hell. I have also written short stories for Griots: Sisters of the Spear (MVmedia); Sinbad: The New Voyages — Vol. 4 (Airship 27 Productions); and Azieran Presents: Artifacts and Relics — Extreme Sword and Sorcery, (Heathen Oracle).) At this time I am waiting to hear back from a publisher regarding my fourth novel, a sword and planet sequel to my Three Against the Stars; I have also submitted a short, space opera story to a new shared-world anthology. In addition, I do some editing on the side, and help out with the Blue Ribbon Arts Initiative, which provides art supplies, toys, games, and other things to children on the autism spectrum; this organization was founded by my friend, author Rebecca Miller and her brilliant, autistic son Max, also an author.
* Tell us about your story for this edition.
In the original Baen Books editions of the Heroes in Hell series, screenwriter/author Bill Kerby (The Rose, starring Bette Midler) created and wrote about the film industry in Hell. I’m a movie junky, especially the old Golden Age Hollywood movies, have some knowledge of the industry and have written 5 unsold screenplays. So Janet Morris, author, editor and series creator, suggested I resurrect the Hellywood film industry, even if it’s just for one story.
My story is called The Pirates of Penance. At heart it’s an old school, pulp-fiction adventure, but with all the tropes, pitfalls, horrors and irony that are unique to Hell. In this story I resurrect the film industry in Hell — or try to, at any rate. Basically, under the guise of filming a pirate movie in Hell, Doctor Frankenstein and Quasimodo, along with silver screen legends Errol Flynn, Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Senior and Douglas Fairbanks Junior, and a number of others, sail in search of the Isle of the Damned. This all occurs during a time of massive floods plaguing all the nether regions, and the island must be reached before the oceans swallow it up again. From the Isle of the Dead there is purported to be a cave that leads to Hades and up to an exit on Cape Matapan, an island off the coast of Greece. While Flynn is actually shooting a film he hopes to show to the world once they escape, the others are more concerned with escaping Hell. Of course, Hell being Hell, there are dangers and set-backs galore before they eventually reach the island, where things are not what they hoped they’d be, and the futility of their mission hits them with despairing realization.
What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?
Well, when the project was first announced, I had just re-watched The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, both starring Errol Flynn. The idea to use old, long dead film actors known for playing pirates in the movies — like Flynn, the two Fairbankses, Wallace Beery — and combine them with other historical figures, just seemed like a natural for me, especially because it allowed me to write another pirate adventure. The irony of Hell, the failure of one’s ambitions and projects in life as well as in the afterlife, plus the futility of lost souls, long dead and trying to escape infernity, as we call it, were all right there for the using. The tropes of Hell are amazing, the rules of the shared-universe liberating, rather than constricting. I was able to use those as to further the character studies amidst all the action, create new creatures, ideas, punishments and torments, and to play the ultimate joke on my cast and crew. I was also able to tie this into earlier stories of mine, adding to the overall arc to my characters, as well connect it to events that took place in Hell long before I came on board. It was a long and hard story to write, but also much fun and very rewarding for me, personally.
How did you become involved with this project?
About 4 years ago Janet Morris became aware of me through some articles I wrote for Black Gate online magazine and a review I wrote of Rogues in Hell. She sampled some of my own stories, and I guess she liked my style and, more importantly, my sensibilities, because she asked me to write for Hell. Having the right attitude, sensibility and feeling for Hell is very important, because Heroes in Hell, like Hell itself, is a very special, very extraordinary and unique series. The Pirates of Penance now marks my third appearance in the series. I also have one story in another Perseid Press publication, the heroic fantasy collection Heroika: Dragon Eaters.
What are you currently working on?
Mad Shadows II: The Return of Dorgo the Dowser; another story for Heroes in Hell; some editing for other authors, and hopefully, I’ll be involved in the publication of my fourth novel.
In these days of movies and video games are books really influential?
Not really, these days. I don’t read much because my time is spent writing and editing. I read in other genres from those in which I write, and I occasionally re-read classics of fantasy and science fiction . . . the books that originally inspired me. Very few post-modern films influence me. My best cinematic influences come from silent films and the Golden Age of Hollywood, between 1930 and 1950; it’s amazing what one can learn from the films made back then. I am not a gamer, so video games, computer games and such hold no interest for me. I played a lot of pinball and backgammon in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, so many I can find some inspiration in those.
EXCERPT from your story.
Fading in through a muck-stained window, crimson light illuminates the laboratory of Goblin Manor. Doctor Victor Frankenstein stands there, gazing into the distance as the rising waters of the Lake of Tears threaten to flood New Hell. Dressed in red-flannel shirt, blue pea coat, canvas trousers and heavy black boots, he feels safe and secure high above it all in the Golem Heights — as safe and secure as anyone can ever feel in hell. With the seas and oceans of hell merging, with the Flux causing the always unstable geography of hell to become even more unstable, he wonders if all infernity will soon be flooded.
Turning from the window, Victor makes his way through a maze of tables sagging under a sorcerer’s sanctum sanctorum of crucibles and alembics, and a variety of scientific implements and instruments. Walls of blood-red stone bristle with electrical panels, toggles and switches. A few sputtering torches, set in iron brackets, illuminate the laboratory but cannot chase away the shadows hanging near the vaulted ceiling. Victor’s collection of gizmos and gadgets are as silent as the grave in which his mortal remains lie buried.
Frankenstein reaches his desk, sits in his chair and skims through a pile of reports from Hades, Gehenna and all over infernity. Rivers such as the Styx and the Lethe have either overflowed their banks or gone bone dry. Shorelines in one circle of hell or another have fallen into the sea, while in other areas landmasses have risen where before had only been open water. Even the great Sea of Purgatory has receded to such an extent that islands now poke their crowns above the surface. After the torrents of plagues cast down upon the damned by Erra and his Seven, Sibitti sons-of-bitches, Victor suspects the self-righteous bastard and his brood are responsible for the oceans threatening to swallow everything and everyone whole.
But Victor isn’t worried. Victor doesn’t care.
Victor has a plan.
He dons a stocking cap to conceal his brain, visible through the wire mesh that replaces the top portion of his skull, which had been removed by the Undertaker. It is Victor’s very own brilliant but tortured brain inside the head and body once belonging to Adam, the creature he assembled from parts of dead bodies and to which he had given life. Their brains had been switched by Merlin the magician, as part of a prior business agreement.
Still floundering in a private sea of guilt and sorrow over the part his vaccine had played in obliterating thousands of damned souls, Victor wishes he could remember the formula for his serum. But all his notes were destroyed when his Crapple Slablet crashed and burned; Satan himself then stole the vaccine and made sure Victor could never tell another lost soul about it. Soon afterwards, scores of black-market versions of the vaccine were being sold all over hell under various generic names to damned fools seeking protection against the ravages of the plagues sweeping the underworld. If he had even one drop of his vaccine, Victor would administer it to himself and go gently into sweet obliteration, all sins expunged in past, present or future.
A ship’s bell rings three times, echoing loudly throughout his quiet laboratory. He turns in his chair as a trap door in the stone floor pops open. A thick length of rope shoots into the air like a stage magician’s prop, standing stiff and straight without attaching itself to anything. The whistling of a sea chantey announces the arrival of Quasimodo, who emerges from the opening in the floor, climbing the rope as nimbly as he once scaled the walls of Notre Dame.
“Ahoy, le Capitaine Docteur!” the hunchback said in his quaint French accent. He gave Victor a sharp salute. “I ask the autorisation to come aboard.”
“Who taught you the rope trick?” asked Victor, rising from his chair.
Victor eyed his lab assistant with amusement. The hunchback sported white knickers, a flowery shirt open at the front, black shoes and a black Monmouth hat. He resembled Pip, from Moby Dick, although with his humped back he looked more a spawn of the infamous whale than the frail cabin boy. Victor noticed that Quasimodo’s clothes were dirty, torn and stained.
“It’s getting bad out there?” he asked.
Quasimodo gave a lopsided shrug. “No worse than it was when the plagues were raging, Docteur. Hell will forever be hellish, no?”
Welcome to Hell Week 2017 – brought to you by the Infernal Interview Service, the Library of Erana and with kind permission of Perseid Press.
The twentieth book in the much-acclaimed Heroes in Hell series brings us pirates, plagiarists, monsters, heroes and villains and, of course, the shared world of Hell.
Spotlight on Hell – check out the link for further details.
So what poor souls are joining us for this?
Joe Bonadonna, Seth Lindberg, Andrew Weston, Michael Hanson, Rob Hinkle, Larry Atchley Jr, and Janet and Chris Morris bring us their characters and their time.
So, dear minions…. er readers… pull up a pitchfork, get the marshmallows out and watch out for those pesky demons.
Title: The Pacifist
Author: Mehreen Ahmed
Genre: Historical Fiction
Blurb: In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.
During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit; however, he fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter?
Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future.
Bio: Queensland writer, Mehreen Ahmed has been publishing since 1987. Her writing career began with journalism, academic reviews and articles. Her journalistic articles appeared in The Sheaf, a campus newspaper for the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, between 1987 and 1999.
She has written academic book reviews and articles and has published them in notable peer-reviewed journals in her area of study. Mostly introspective, Mehreen also writes fiction. Set in Brisbane Queensland, Jacaranda Blues is her debut novella, written in a stream of consciousness style. A featured author for Story Institute, she has published The Blotted Line, a collection of short stories. More recently, Snapshots and Moirae were first published by PostScript Editions, UK in 2010 and a second edition by Cosmic Teapot Publishing, Canada in 2016. Her flash fiction, The Portrait has been published by Straylight Literary Magazine, a biannual magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Parkland, English Department.
She has earned two MA degrees. One in English and the other in Computer Assisted Language Learning (Applied Linguistics) from Dhaka University and the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia.
Connect with Mehreen
Pirates! Fantasy and the great storytelling from a plethora of talented authors all set in a supremely crafted shared world, what more could one want. I love the Heroes in Hell series and the latest volume does not disappoint.
From plagiarists to buccaneers, to the Devil’s own Reaper, to a search for the way out, to the hunt for the Unholy Grail there are tales aplenty in this volume; Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, pharaohs, poets; murderers, heroes of war and water try and salvage what they may from the rising water (and I use that term loosely), the ever-shifting lands and realms of a Hell patrolled by something worse than even the Dark Lord himself. The Devil is trying to keep house in this chaos and the damned are… well….damned and trying to make the best of it, the worst of it and everything in between.
The stories flow well enough, and the dark humour is apparent. Wellington and Napoleon as neighbours makes me chuckle and the clever punishments meted out never cease to raise a smile.
This is Hell, of course, but it’s a hell with class.
Arrgh! Shiver me timbers *whatever the hell that means….
The latest Heroes in Hell anthology has been blown by a Hellish Maelstrom onto these shores. Hell Week 2017 will be along in good time but for now here’s a taster.
Perdition Goes Viral As Floods Overrun Infernity!
From Perseid Press:
Avast, ye readers! Here be Pyrates! Feast yer eyes on the cursed treasures before you! Hoist the skull ‘n’ crossbones! Walk the plank with hell’s sorest losers! Join the damnedest buccaneers and privateers ever to sail infernal seas. The depths of hell chill the boldest sinner as damned souls learn why the deeper in hell you go, the colder it gets.
Come on down: Join us in the depths of hell where a few of our damnedest writers break every rule of perdition, resulting in longer stories overflowing with torment. Amid more horrific punishments than ever, only a few survive Satan’s cruellest purges, while hell’s bowels runneth over.
Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Nancy Asire, Paul Freeman, Rob Hinkle, Michael H. Hanson, Joe Bonadonna, Andrew P. Weston, S. E. Lindberg, Jack William Finley come together to bring us piratical hellish adventures.
Shakespeare denounces plagiarism but learns what’s in a name when Marlowe takes the blame, as Satan pronounces a penance built for two. Not even eleven flayed Rameses have a dry place to stand when blood overruns the Vile’s banks and Hatshepsut confronts history’s worst pirates, while Howard Carter seeks to loot yet another tomb before Germany’s Haeckel can take the credit.
Attila the Hun and Admiral Nelson square off until the Iron Duke and Napoleon brave an expanding lake to take the tide at its flood.
Daemon Grim, The devil’s Reaper, heads for Skull Island on His Satanic Majesty’s most infernal service to quench his taste for blood money, hell’s truest treasure.
Jason and the Argonauts find that piracy in hell isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Medea proves you can’t teach an old witch new tricks.
Elliott Ness and Frank Nitti tangle with Hell’s Demon Minister of Copyright Enforcement, who insists that the price for musical copyright violation be paid in severed heads, including the head of King James I of England, but not even decapitation can still those wagging tongues. Doctor Frankenstein and Quasimodo swashbuckle on a voyage through Hades, searching for a way out of hell, while the Fairbanks boys and Errol Flynn capture a real vampire on film, showing that hell’s damnedest actors are never ready for their close-ups. Fleet Admiral Ogle and his nemesis Bartholomew Roberts quest for a mythical bottle of wine which may prove once and for all that damnation is just a test of faith. Kit Marlowe loses his Rose while Shakespeare finds out that a cold day in hell isn’t merely a turn of phrase. Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, and Strongbow, 2nd Earl of Pembroke confront the Vilekings with the help of Shaka Zulu, but not even Brendan the Navigator can help the ghostly Children of Lir.