Tag Archives: Anthology

Poetry Giveaway


It’s a short volume — less than seventy pages — but it spans two or three decades’ worth of poems inspired by the author’s life, relationships, troubles, daydreams, and family.

And she’s giving away signed paperback copies to five winners of a Goodreads giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Laughing at the Moon by Elizabeth Easter

Laughing at the Moon

by Elizabeth Easter

Giveaway ends March 31, 2016.



UPDATE (April 5, 2016):
The giveaway is ended, and the winners are chosen! They are from Italy, Ireland, England, and the United States. Congratulations to all!


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Pilgrimage, Heroic Fantasy, and Robin Hood

Pilgrimage, Heroic Fantasy, and Robin Hood

The difference between wanting to write and having written is…hard, relentless labour. It’s a bridge you have to build all by yourself, all alone, all through the night, while the world goes about its business without giving a damn. The only way of making this perilous passage is by looking at it as a pilgrimage. ― Shatrujeet Nath

What a pilgrimage it has been — and it’s far from ended.

I meant to write a blog post last month, or perhaps the month before, about the most influential character I ever encountered as a reader, and thought the character and the words would come pouring forth with ease.

I shoulda known better.

My imagination went into hiding, I seemed to forget every story I’d ever read, and all the words evaporated like summer rain in the desert.

HFQ 6x9 front cover ONLY-croppedAdd to that sudden betrayal by my brain the equally sudden request from my friends at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: They’d finalized the stories and poems for their anthology, and were ready for me to do my part — design and format the book.

I’d been preparing for this event for about two years. It is one of several reasons I published Dragon’s Rook after almost throwing it away. Needing material on which to practice, I heavily revised the novel and restructured it, then learned how to format it for print and e-book, and then — with the artwork and cover design from a friend — published it independently. The experience and skills gained from that process has been put to excellent use in helping bring HFQ’s anthology to the public.

Words may have hidden from me, but book formatting is a different kind of creativity.There wasn’t much time to bemoan the lack of storytelling or blog posting — there was a cover to design, and text to manipulate, and fonts to sample. And a deadline to meet.

Still, I pondered which character(s) could be considered “the most influential”, but didn’t know the answer until it strolled onto the scene in a private message exchange on social media. A fellow writer said he was preparing to read my book, but had lost some of his enthusiasm for the genre.

There’s more to his message, and more to my reply, but this is the portion pertinent to this post:

(I)f you proceed, I hope you’re pleasantly surprised. People see swords and dragons, and they form opinions without knowing how those items are used in the story. Rather than being a Tolkien knock-off or a GRRM wannabe, Dragon’s Rook is its own thing.

Couldn’t duplicate GRRM or Robert Jordan or most others, even if I tried, because I’ve never read them. My reading is mainly in other genres — detective mysteries, for example.

The main stylistic influence is Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, a book which led to trouble one summer when I confessed to having read it x number of times and was about to read it again. Dad decided I needed to get out more, so he made my brother and me cut and haul pine on BLM land that needed to be cleared, and then we stacked it at our house in preparation for winter. (Yes, I have stories about stories.)

Bingo! Robin Hood! How did I not realize that before?

a photo of the rough front cover of my beloved Velveteen-Rabbit-ed copy (KB)

a photo of the front cover of my beloved Velveteen-Rabbit-ed copy (KB)

He isn’t the only character who has influenced my life once I read his/her story, but Robin i’ the Hood certainly had an impact on my plans that summer.

My dad meant to make me exercise and soak up sunlight, but he’s also the one who introduced me to this edition of the book, and he used to read portions aloud, so — loving it as he did — what did he expect but that I would love it, too?

I loved it so much, in fact, that the copy pictured here has begun to fall apart. Several years ago, I purchased a replacement copy — in much better shape, almost pristine — of this very same edition. It is the best, mimicking an illuminated text, and rich with color and action.

I’ve read other versions by other authors, but none beats Howard Pyle’s. It’s robust, full of humor and tragedy and exploits, and it fired my imagination until I composed pale imitations of the adventures of Robin and his merry band.

In seeking for something Robin-like, I stumbled upon other classic tales, such as Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.

You guessed it. That book’s falling apart, too.


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For Your Reading Pleasure

For Your Reading Pleasure

In the middle of October, an international crew of authors — with the considerable aid of Plaisted Publishing — produced two volumes of short fiction: Awethology Light and Awethology Dark. Both are free as e-books, but are also available in paperback for a reasonable price. A Christmas-themed anthology is also in the works.

A quirky mashup of genres, my story “Modern Mythology” opens Awethology Light, but there’s enough strangeness in it that I might get away with recommending the story as a non-scary Halloween read.

However, the Dark volume — which I have not yet had the opportunity to read — contains the kinds of stories its name implies. So you could keep this book open on your e-reader and be entertained tonight in the pauses between trick-or-treaters at the door. 🙂

Note: Light is okay for older children and teens through adults. Dark, however, might be best for ages 18 and up.



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Annotated Dracula (part 2)

Dracula, Hollywood Wax Museum, Branson, MO (c2013, KB)

Dracula, Hollywood Wax Museum, Branson, MO (c2013, KB)

(Below is a revised re-post from February 14, 2010.)

‘…Oh, but I am grateful to you, you so clever woman. Madam’—he said this very solemnly—’if ever Abraham Van Helsing can do anything for you or yours, I trust you will let me know. It will be pleasure and delight if I may serve you as a friend…all I have ever learned, all I can ever do, shall be for you and those you love. There are darknesses in life, and there are lights; you are one of the lights. You will have happy life and good life, and your husband will be blessed in you.’

In the last installment concerning this topic (part 1 can be read here), I expressed my doubts that Bram Stoker was making any sort of point about female sexuality in his classic horror novel.

Of all the commentary presented in the edition of Dracula I read, the material I can most readily accept as being part of Stoker’s intentional vision for the material is the inclusion of possible jabs concerning the tensions between Ireland and England*. As a writer, I have included names or versions of events that are jokes or jabs or homages, and it’s kinda fun when a reader recognizes them, too, and tells me so.

But over-analyzing the work of a long-dead author can lead us in directions he or she never intended. And he or she, being dead, cannot correct our errors.

I find it interesting that no mention was made to the Biblical allusion in the above dialogue from Van Helsing, which also later includes this:

‘Your husband is noble nature, and you are noble too, for you trust, and trust cannot be where there is mean nature.’

The Biblical reference that came to mind when I read this passage is found in Proverbs 31, verses 28 and 29:

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

Funny. Among all the other bits of trivia, historical references, suggestions of repressed sexuality, that didn’t make it into Valente’s notes at the back of the book.

Euripides, a Greek playwright from way back, said this: “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” So, I’m questioning.

Valente also asserts that, since Dracula casts no reflection in a mirror, he doesn’t really exist.

The notion of the immortal count being only a projection of one’s inhibitions or subconscious desires doesn’t stand. After all, Stoker writes that Dracula has been around for centuries before the novel’s characters meet him, and he has been served by the gypsies for generations. Sounds pretty corporeal to me.

Valente states in the notes, “The manner of Dracula’s death tends to confirm his status as a psychic emanation rather than an autonomous being.”

Uh, you sure about that? He crumbles into dust. As in “from dust we were made, to dust we shall return.” Again, sounds pretty corporeal to me.

There is also an argument made that blood in the novel can be seen as a metaphor for racism i.e. “bad blood” that is undesirable for mixing with one of pure blood.* That, and the fact that Dracula is proud of his varied and warrior heritage. I can sorta see that idea (refer to my above remark about the conflict between Irish and English, that is referenced subtly in the book), but it has the look of reaching about it; as if, once again, more is being read into Stoker’s words than he may have intended.**

— to be continued —

* The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization by Stephen D. Arata (1990)

** “I Would Be Master Still”: Dracula as the Aftermath of the Wilde Trials and the Irish Land League Policies (2002) by Tanya Olson at thirdspace, a journal of feminist theory and culture. The article suggests Stoker may have been homosexual, and that the character of Jonathan Harker was also homosexual and functioned as Stoker’s stand-in.

Of Further Interest:
Tales of Woe and Wonder by Jeff Chapman, an excellent anthology of nine sideways stories, including “The Princess and the Vampire”, a tale of princess who decides to take a vampire for a lover.


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Launch Day!

It’s the official launch day for Raygun Chronicles, the space opera anthology inspired by Ray Gun Revival.

[Visit Goodreads for a chance to win a free copy.]


I am privileged to have a story included among others by far more famous and skilled authors. My story is “Shooting the Devil’s Eye”, a standalone prequel to Thieves’ Honor, the serial I wrote for the magazine.

Should you be in need of short science fiction to read, you can catch up with Thieves’ Honor here on the blog: Season 1 or Season 2.

Thanks to a group of fellow serialists and other writers, I hope to finish the series during the coming year.

Meantime, here’s a sample from “Shooting the Devil’s Eye”:

Finney landed the ship with nary a bump, shouldering between two larger vessels, as cozy as a bird in its nest. Air sighed out from the slip, creating a vacuum that held the ship steady while docked. It could only be released by the harbor master—a measure supposed to prevent pirating, but this was Vortuna, and piracy was its stock in trade.

That was no fuel off Finney’s engine. Wasn’t her ship.

The all-clear sounded. She unstrapped, stood, grabbed her duffel from the locker, and exited the wheelhouse, thudding down the companionway in boots two sizes too big. Hers had been stolen at the last port.

The captain, arms folded, blocked the passage. “Was it something I said?”

“Twenty percent share.” Finney held out a hand. “And a new pair of boots.”

“Thirty percent, and you stay aboard for the next run.”

“It’s been a week, ship’s time. Can’t have you gettin’ too fond of me.”

“Too late, darlin’.”

Finney adjusted her grip on the duffel straps, her other hand still extended. “This can just as easily become a fist.”

The captain rubbed his bruised jaw, and grinned. “See the purser on your way out.”

A new bag of colonial coin weighting her bag, and the purser’s leather boots on her feet, Finney strode down the gangway and onto the noisy wharf.

Remember to stop by Goodreads to enter the drawing for a free copy of Raygun Chronicles!

And then I promise to shut up about the book for a while — at least here on the blog. I make no promises otherwise. (wink and a smile)


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Raygun Chronicles — Coming Soon!

A few years back, one of the Overlords at Ray Gun Revival magazine — Johne Cook — stumbled upon a comment I made on a blog somewhere, wandered over to mine, and discovered my science fiction serial, which I was posting a few hundred words at a time.

It didn’t have a title then, just a placeholder: “Space Pirates”.

I’d already been reading Johne’s serial over at RGR, so when he invited me to join the crew, I was honored.

And terrified.

You mean, put my work out there for the world to read? One chapter at a time? What if I change my mind about the story’s direction? What if I write myself into a corner? There aren’t any take-backs, y’know! Once it’s done, it’s done.

photo-mainI took the challenge.

And wrote an awful lot of crap.

But I had fun, too.

So did readers, who weighed in on the characters. I received e-mail about why the hero was a jerk (yet strangely likable), or with guesses as to who was the mole aboard the Martina Vega.

Now, six years after the first words were written in the space pirates yarn that became a blog serial that became Thieves’ Honor, an origin story — “Shooting the Devil’s Eye” — is appearing in Raygun Chronicles, an anthology including some reprints from the magazine, as well as several original stories from RGR authors and others.

The book is being released at Orycon in early November, and then will be available to the great wide world December 3, 2013. The awesome cover art is by Paul Pederson.

RaygunChronicles“Shooting the Devil’s Eye” shows how freelance pilot, Fiona Grace (Finney), navigates the fiery seam of a ruined moon and accepts a permanent berth aboard the aging freighter, Martina Vega, owned by Captain Kristoff, a war hero turned smuggler (and occasional pirate).

Although the serial didn’t end before Ray Gun Revival went into hiatus, I’ve re-edited and re-posted all the existing episodes here (Season 1 and Season 2), and hope to finish the entire story within the next year or so.


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Tales of Woe and Wonder

Just a short post after a long silence.

Here’s a review of a book I recently finished reading:

Tales of Woe and WonderTales of Woe and Wonder by Jeff Chapman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Tales of Woe and Wonder” is an excellent title for this collection of short stories. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I dove in, but I’m glad I did. There’s darkness here — as there was in the old fairy tales — but also much wonder.

Sometimes I stopped to re-read a sentence or a phrase, enjoying the way the words sounded, how they fit one another. Enjoying the actual writing in a novel is a rare thing for me these days, so when I encounter it, I share it with the world.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Books, Reading, Stories, Uncategorized


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What’s In a Name?

I’m horrible with names. I can shake someone’s hand and introduce myself, listen to them introduce themselves, and then, thirty seconds later, I can’t tell you who they are.

“The short guy over there, the one with the mustache. Yeah. What’s his name again?”

There are all sorts of mnemonic techniques to help recall names, but I’m the guy that needs repetition.

So you can imagine how tough it is for me to come up with titles for my stories. I hate cliches, and yet those are the lines that come most easily to mind, as anyone who read the original incarnation of Thieves’ Honor might be able to tell.  There were titles like “Endgame” and “Trial by Fire” and such. Cool enough, but overused.

What I ended up with was plain and not a little boring, although true to the episode content. I’m still considering a title change.

Shakespeare is an excellent source for place names and characters. I like to switch ’em up, use the name of a city for a character, turn a character name into a city. (Then again, I like using last names for first names, and so on.) If you’re familiar with Shakespeare and Tolkien, you’ll find winks and nods to their work throughout Thieves’ Honor. And if history is also one of your geeky indulgences, well, there’s a reference here or there to Rome or the American West.

And speaking of names, one of the first pieces of mail I received after moving here was a warrant. You might imagine my surprise — and distress — at receiving it. I thought, Surely I haven’t violated any traffic laws to the extent that the cops are after me.

(Is it sad that I can’t think of anything worse than a traffic violation to — ahem — warrant a warrant?)

Then I noticed the first line of the address: “Mary ______”, in care of my name and address.

Ah. That explained it.

She was married to my father for a short time several years ago, and was of less than an honest disposition. An addict, she stole from him, her kids, anyone naive enough to let her near anything valuable, in order to feed her habit. She ran off with another man — the father of one or more of her children, I think — and that’s the last I knew of her, until she tried stealing my mother’s identity. They briefly shared the same last name; I guess that made it easier for her criminal activities.

KB, c2011

KB, c2011

So, to quote the Bard, what’s in a name?


It’s identity, meaning, story.

I’m more than my name, but much of what people know of me begins there: “Keanan Brand? The writer? Yeah, heard of of him. Can’t seem to settle down. Easily distracted. Lame sense of humor. Watches way too much foreign television.”

Sure, I could be called anything. The content of my character (to borrow from another great man) would remain the same. I could be Brian, James, Parker, Trey — and my personality, dreams, goals, intelligence, humor, and everything that makes me me, would be unchanged.

So, then, following that line of logic, why does a story title matter so much? After all, the story doesn’t change just because it has a snazzy name.

Yes, and no.

A title imparts something extra. It helps tell the story, providing theme, foreshadowing events, adding literary cadence.

In a fantasy series still trying to find a publisher, I used a non-rhyming poetic structure to title the parts:
Book 1
Part 1 — The Heir of Uartha
Part 2 — Blacksmith, Laundress, Healer, Priest
Part 3 — The Lady of Skarda
Part 4 — Captain, Farmer, Orphan, Spy
Book 2
Part 5 — Outlaws, Murderers, and Thieves
Part 6 — The Blood of Dragons
Part 7 — Keeper, Soldier, Dragon, King
Part 8 — The Sword of Ages

In truth, it’s more functional and straight-forward than poetic. I admire those writers who conjure the perfect, eloquent title. One of these days, I’ll get it right.

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him. -Mel Brooks

The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own heart, given surnames and Christian names, and sent to walk the earth. –William Butler Yeats

If you take different mythologies from different cultures, the names may change and the story lines may vary but there is always something in common. –Maynard James Keenan

George Orwell’s contention was that it is a sure sign of trouble when things can no longer be called by their right names and described in plain, forthright speech. –Christopher Lasch

I grew up hearing words like snakeroot, sassafras, mullein – things that had wondrous, mysterious sounds in their names. –Jan Karon

Titles are not only important, they are essential for me. I cannot write without a title.
Guillermo Cabrera Infante

I always have trouble with titles for my books. I usually have no title until the editor has to present the book and calls me frantically, ‘Judy, we need a title.’ –Judy Blume

Next, in importance to books are their titles. –Frank Crane


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“We Interrupt This Program…”

“We interrupt this program for an important bulletin.”

In this case, the Kickstarter campaign for the space opera anthology, Raygun Chronicles, compiled and edited by SF author Bryan Thomas Schmidt (see a list of his work here, here, and here). The work of several known science fiction writers will be included, as well as selected stories from Ray Gun Revival magazine.

These are modern science fiction stories with an old-fashioned, “golden age” feel. There’s humor, adventure, space westerns, and more. If the stories were movies, they’d be PG.

This isn’t my usual order of business — posting commercials on the blog — but I used to read Ray Gun Revival, sucked in by the awesome cover art and then the stories. Then, Johne Cook, one of the founders (ahem, Overlords) invited me to write a serial (Thieves’ Honor) for the magazine, and he later asked me to join the editing team. I loved the magazine, now on indefinite hiatus, and became friends with a couple of the Overlords, and through them met Bryan Thomas Schmidt. (Networking by accident, you might say.)

Until Ray Gun, I’d only dabbled at writing science fiction. Then there I was, cranking out new episodes every month or so. Crazy thing is, people liked my work. Another crazy thing, they’d tell me that behind the scenes (e-mail, etcetera), but rarely on the website. (I’m not a great self-promoter, but I’m working on that.)

Bryan invited me to help sort through old RGR stories and choose the best ones to include in the anthology. Turns out, I didn’t work fast enough to keep up with him, and there was an open slot for another author, so he relieved me of any compiling duties and asked me to contribute a story instead. (Was there a repressed sigh of bless-his-heart in that request?)

So, I’m writing a story. Gotta be honest. I’m kinda nervous about that, seeing as none of my short stories have ever been anthologized, and this one is being created from scratch, never before published, to be included among the work of more experienced SF authors.

Set in the universe of Thieves’ Honor, the story features the two lead characters, pilot Fiona Grace (Finney) and Helmer Kristoff, captain of the pirate-freighter, Martina Vega. What would make a freedom-loving pilot stop wandering and settle in for a long, unpredictable run with a crew of outcasts and criminals?

Wanna find out what happens next? So do I! (mwah-ha-ha-ha)

Meantime, you can help the anthology see the light of day by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign.

Contributors to the campaign can receive e-book or paperback copies of the anthology. t-shirts, even a trip to OryCon and dinner with the authors!


Read about the Raygun Chronicles campaign at To Be Read, on Bryan’s site, on the Kickstarter page, or listen to DJ Grandpa’s podcast to hear Bryan talk about the anthology. The project is also sponsored by Every Day Fiction, which publishes fiction (trumpet fanfare) every day.

Ten days left!

The goal is still $5,000 away, and some of the best stuff (such as the trip to OryCon) is still up for grabs. But even a $1 donation helps — and, as a contributor, you’ll have your name printed in the back of the book.

I look forward to seeing you inside the pages.

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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Creativity, Journeys, Life, Stories, Uncategorized, Writing


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Raygun Chronicles

I’m new to the Kickstarter concept, but I’m liking it: “a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.”

Author and editor, Bryan Thomas Schmidt is no stranger to Kickstarter, having funded previous projects there. His current project, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age, is an anthology of “23 contemporary stories capturing the classic golden age feel of space opera past.”

Raygun Chronicles cover b-w

I used to write a serial, Thieves’ Honor, for Ray Gun Revival magazine (on indefinite hiatus at the moment), and briefly served as Overseer, reading the opinions of the Slushmasters, often wading through the slush myself, and deciding the fate of many a story.

Thieves’ Honor began life as my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2007, and was an homage to one of my favorite science fiction television series, Firefly. (I’m also partial to Farscape, as well as Babylon 5, the various Star Trek incarnations, and more. Fringe won me, lost me, won me again.) Although I didn’t complete 50,000 words during November that year, I liked the characters I’d created, so decided to post pieces of the story on my blog, using the working title “Space Pirates” until I could come up with something zingier.

Some time in the middle of those posts, I commented on someone else’s blog, and that comment was read by Johne Cook, Overlord at Ray Gun Revival, a magazine I’d discovered and started reading a few weeks before. He invited me to send my work to RGR, and share the adventure with more readers.

This was my first serious attempt at long-form science fiction. Johne and other authors already published serials in a similar vein; would mine stand up to theirs?

No way to find out unless I took the leap.

So I did.

Thieves’ Honor became my most challenging writing exercise, forcing me to create a story one chapter (one episode) at a time. No time to plan out a whole novel, just time to take a few more steps in the light provided by the previous chapter. Some episodes were more successful than others, and I didn’t always keep the writing as tight as it should have been, yet my mind was stretched and my skills tested.

When Ray Gun Revival went into hiatus, the story of Captain Kristoff and the crew of Martina Vega remained unfinished. Can’t have that, now, can we? So I went back to the beginning, edited and revised the existing episodes, and once more posted them — a couple thousand words at a time — on my old blog. (I’m posting those episodes here, too, one or two episodes a week.)

Then Bryan Thomas Schmidt invited me to join established science fiction writers and contribute a story to the Raygun Chronicles anthology, a story set in the Thieves’ Honor universe.

Wow. Well. So. Ahem.

What is there to say to that but yes?

So I did.

Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age combines the best stories from the 6 year run of Ray Gun Revival ezine with new stories from some of the top writers in science fiction today. 23 stories from writers including Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, A.C. Crispin, Mike Resnick, Seanan McGuire, Allen Steele, Brenda Cooper, Robin Wayne Bailey and Sarah A. Hoyt — all contemporary yet capturing the classic golden age feel of space opera in the past.

Edited by anthologist Bryan Thomas Schmidt with artwork by Illustrators Of The Future Winner Paul Pedersen, this unforgettable collection will be available in limited hardback, trade paperback and ebook editions. The purpose of this Kickstarter is to fund pro-rate payments to the editor and writers as well as partial production costs for the anthology.

If you enjoy reading science fiction, specifically space opera, then please consider contributing to the Kickstarter campaign to get this anthology off the ground, or pass the word along to others who might be interested in this project.

Meantime, I have a story to write, and a series to finish.

Come, join the crew!

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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized, Writing


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