New Treasures: Hidden by Benedict Jacka

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Hidden Benedict Jacka-smallBenedict Jacka’s first Alex Versus novel, Fated, was published by Ace on February 28, 2012. He’s kept up a regular schedule since, with four more following over the last two years: Cursed, Taken, Chosen, and now Hidden.

They’ve gradually been gathering some acclaim, too. In a starred review of Chosen, Publishers Weekly said “Jacka puts other urban fantasists to shame.” It called Cursed “An even more impressive tale of gunplay and spellcraft in present-day London… [a] tasty blend of magic, explosions, and moral complexity.” And Patricia Briggs, author of Shifting Shadows, called the opening volume in the series “A stay-up-all-night read.” I haven’t been able to keep up with the latest in urban fantasy over the past five years, but the Alex Versus novels are definitely near the top of my list.

With his talent for divining the future, Alex Verus should have foreseen his friends’ reactions to the revelations about his previous life. Anne Walker no longer trusts him—and has also cut all ties with the mage community after getting kicked out of the apprentice program. As a favor to Luna, Alex’s own apprentice and Anne’s best friend, he checks in on her only to be told to leave her alone.

Then Anne gets kidnapped. The Council Keepers of the Order of the Star believe Dark mages from her past may be involved. Working with the Keepers, Alex and Luna discover that Anne has been taken into the shadow realm of Sagash, her former Dark mage mentor, and they must find a way to rescue her.

But another shadow from the past has resurfaced—Alex’s former master may be back in London, and Alex has no idea what his agenda is…

Hidden was published by Ace Books on September 2, 2014. It is 293 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.


Game Books, Epic Fantasy, and Military Science Fiction: The Multiple Identities of R.A.V. Salsitz

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magickers-small Death Storm-small Night of Dragons-small The Sand Wars-small The Dark Ferryman-small

Do you enjoy the fantasy novels of Emily Drake, author of the popular The Magickers series? What about the contemporary horror of Anne Knight, author of Death Storm? Perhaps you’re more partial to the light fantasy of R.A.V. Salsitz, author of Night of Dragons and The Unicorn Dancer novels. Or the military science fiction of Charles Ingrid, author of the long-running Sand Wars series. Or maybe the dark fantasy of Jenna Rhodes (The Dark Ferryman).

Possibly the contemporary science fiction of Elizabeth Forrest (Phoenix Fire, Dark Tide) is more your thing. Or the fantasy novels of Rhondi Vilott Salsitz (The Twilight Gate). Perhaps the eleven volumes in Rhondi Vilott’s Dragon Roads gamebook series have fired your imagination.

Possibly you’ve enjoyed them all, as they’re all written by the same person.

It’s not unusual for popular writers to use a pseudonym in this industry — indeed, even multiple pseudonyms. But in a field where almost everyone seems to have a secret identity or two, R.A.V. Salsitz still stands out. She has an amazing number of pseudonyms, and has published successfully in numerous genres, including epic fantasy, horror, mystery, game books, YA, military science fiction, romance, and urban fantasy. Her first novel was Her Secret Self, published by Bantam in 1982; since then she’s published dozens more.

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Discover an Historical Action-Adventure Travel Story with Predatory Ant-Riders: Mark Sumner’s The Naturalist

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Naturalist-smallMark Sumner is one of the most popular writers we’ve ever published. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “an absolutely riveting story, certainly a Best-Of caliber work, and I am retroactively adding it to my Best-Of 2004 list… I do not usually open Black Gate expecting to find masterpieces of contemporary science fiction, but I think this gem may be exactly that!”

But it was his next contribution to the magazine that really made an impact: a complete novel published in three standalone installments in BG 10, BG 11, and BG 13. The tale of a botanist/scientist who discovers a highly advanced and aggressive colony of predatory ant-riding insects in Central America, and his desperate struggles to survive and warn the nearly human communities, was widely acclaimed when it first appeared. In his 2010 short fiction summary Rich Horton summarized the final installment as follows:

My favorite story this year was the third and last in Mark Sumner’s series The Naturalist, this episode called “St. George and the Antriders.” In an alternate 19th Century Central America, naturalist Mr. Brown and the resourceful landowner Miss Marlowe lead a band of refugees back to the capital city where they find the corrupt governorship of the territory as menacing as the antriders. The series as a whole is novel length, and while each individual story stands well enough alone they make a sufficiently unified whole that I could see The Naturalist as a book…

I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Mark has in fact assembled the pieces into a complete novel, published this month by Word Posse. I’m delighted to see three of the strongest and most popular stories we published in Black Gate finally made available in one volume. If you remember the original stories, you’re sure to want a permanent edition. And if you don’t, then you definitely want to check out the one-volume edition of The Naturalist.

Here’s the book description.

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New Treasures: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Winter Long Seanan McGuire-smallSeanan McGuire published her first novel, the urban fantasy/detective story Rosemary and Rue, on September 1, 2009, barely five years ago. In the last five years, she has come dangerously close to conquering the entire field.

To start with, she’s produced seven additional novels in what’s now known as the October Day series — including the latest, The Winter Long. In between she’s also published three novels in her InCryptid series (with one more on the way.) Both series have put her on the New York Times bestseller list. Because 11 novels isn’t enough in five years, she’s also written five novels under her pseudonym Mira Grant, including the Newsflesh zombie trilogy and two novels in the new Parasitology trilogy, plus at least one standalone novel. I’m not sure how many novels that is in total, because I’ve lost count.

Blackout, the final Newsflash novel, received a 2013 Hugo Award nomination — and in fact, that year McGuire received a record five Hugo nominations, two for Grant and three under her own name. In 2010, she was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2010 World Science Fiction Convention. I’m telling you, this woman intends to conquer the entire genre, and she’s perilously close. If you haven’t been paying attention to Seanan McGuire, it’s probably time to change that. Here’s the compact blurb for her latest novel, The Winter Long.

Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It’s time to learn the truth.

The Winter Long was published by DAW Books on September 2, 2014. It is 358 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. The cover is by the ubiquitous Chris McGrath,


Meet a Dominatrix Who Solves Murders in Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client by Michael Penkas

Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client-smallWhen I discussed his short story collection Dead Boys last year, I said the following about Michael Penkas:

Michael has an uncanny ability to pry open your heart with sparkling prose, humor, and warm and genuine characters… and then drive a cold spike through it with relentless and diabolical twists. All with some of the most compact and economical prose I have ever encountered.

Now that I’ve read his first novel, Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client, I can confirm that he is just as impressive at longer lengths. Mistress Bunny, a cozy mystery featuring a Chicago dominatrix who’s very good at her job, is, in the words of C.S.E. Cooney, ”Too weird to dismiss as quirky, too warm and funny to keep you at a distance, but so kinky and clear-sighted and compassionate.” I predict that it will launch Michael on a very successful career.

Life’s hard enough for a working class dominatrix without the occasional murder.

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mistress Bunny cancels her six o’clock session so that she can cry and drink herself to sleep. When she learns the next day that her client was found dead in his office, shot in the head at the same time she should have been tying him up, she can’t help but feel a little responsible.

But when she attends his funeral, Bunny begins to suspect that the gunshot wound wasn’t nearly as self-inflicted as the police believe. Her investigation uncovers a string of “suicides” that don’t begin (or end) with her client … a string where the next mysterious death might be her own. Hounded by a drunk ex-boyfriend, a pissed-off widow, and an office assistant with a hidden agenda, Mistress Bunny finds herself at the center of a mystery and discovers that there are some secrets a man won’t even share with his dominatrix.

If you’d like a taste of the twisted sense of humor on display in his novel, try Michael’s chilling and hilarious biblical fantasy ”The Worst Was Yet to Come,” published right here at Black GateMistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client was published on November 6, 2014. It is 208 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5 for the digital edition. The cover is by Viola Estrella.


New Treasures: The Elementals by Michael McDowell

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Elementals-smallI spent only four days at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. last weekend, but I picked up enough new books to fuel a few months of New Treasures. It was extremely rewarding just to spend a few minutes at each booth in the Dealers Room, perusing the handsome titles on display. I was familiar with many of the various publishers, of course, but more than a few — like the amazing Hippocampus Press, whom I talked about on Friday — were new to me, and discovering all of their titles at once, I felt like a kid in a candy store.

That was the case with the impressive Valancourt Books, who describe themselves as “an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction.” The team behind the table was very friendly and enthusiastic, but I remember almost nothing of our conversation because I was so taken with their wide range of horror titles. I’ll have a lot more to say about their catalog in a future post, but for now I want to highlight the first book I picked up, a gorgeous reprint of Michael McDowell’s 1981 mass market paperback The Elementals.

After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier — and is now ready to kill again…

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Weird Fiction Review #4 Now on Sale

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Fiction Review 4-smallWhile I was wandering around the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention, I spotted this little gem on Greg Ketter’s table. It’s the fourth issue of Weird Fiction Review, S.T. Joshi’s annual magazine devoted to the study of weird and supernatural fiction. And yeah, that’s our boy Godzilla on the cover.

Joshi has a rep as a serious scholar of weird fiction and he’s edited numerous collections and anthologies, including the brand new The Madness of CthulhuThe Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies by Clark Ashton Smith, and the long-running magazine Lovecraft Studies. But the thing that’s surprised me about Weird Fiction Review is the delightful sense of whimsy it exhibits, especially with cover art. The cover of the previous issue, for example, featured Mad magazine poster child Alfred E. Neuman with Cthulhu tentacles. That’s some serious satiric genius right there.

The massive fourth issue contains fiction from J.C. Hemphill, Lynne Jamneck, Donald Tyson, Mark Fuller Dillon, Michael Kelly, Clint Smith, Michael Washburn, and a classic reprint by Nigel Dennis. The cover is by Bob Eggleton (click the image at left for the glorious wrap-around version.)

There’s also some terrific articles — John Butler contributes a lengthy (30-page) review of The New Monster Magazines and a retrospective of E.C. artist Jack Davis, Jason V. Brock looks at “Forrest J. Ackerman: Fan Zero,” there’s a lengthy interview with Patrick McGrath, there’s an 8-page full-color gallery of art by Bob Eggleton, plus regular columns by Danel Olson and John Pelan, and much more, including poetry, and reviews.

The only serious drawback, in fact, is the price: $35. Like almost everything Centipede publishes, it has a limited print run (500 copies.) However, it is available through Amazon at a 45% discount (for $19.17).

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New Treasures: Burnt Black Suns by Simon Strantzas

Friday, November 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Black Suns-smallAnother interesting thing about exploring the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention was meeting all these marvelous small press publishers, and discovering just how many delightful books they’ve produced. Hippocampus Press, whom I’m not really familiar with, had a table packed high with books by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, S. T. Joshi, Wade German, Algernon Blackwood, William F. Nolan, Donald Wandrei, and Thomas Ligotti, as well as several copies of their journals, Dead Reckonings, Spectral Realms, and The Lovecraft Annual.

I had to try at least one. I was sorely tempted by John Langan’s collection The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Clint Smith’s Ghouljaw and Other Stories. But the one I eventually settled on was Simon Strantzas’s most recent collection, Burnt Black Suns, mostly because I was drawn to the cover and the story descriptions on the back. Adam Nevill’s quote on the back cover (“In Burnt Black Suns Strantzas casts far into time and space to find the alien, and what comes back wriggling inside his net is ghastly”) didn’t hurt, either. The first story, “On Ice,” described as “a grim novella of arctic horror,” will be the story I read this weekend.

In this fourth collection of stories, Simon Strantzas establishes himself as one of the most dynamic figures in contemporary weird fiction. The nine stories in this volume exhibit Strantzas’s wide range in theme and subject matter, from the Lovecraftian “Thistle’s Find” to the Robert W. Chambers homage “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine.” But Strantzas’s imagination, while drawing upon the best weird fiction of the past, ventures into new territory in such works as “On Ice,” a grim novella of arctic horror; “One Last Bloom,” a grisly account of a scientific experiment gone hideously awry; and the title story, an emotionally wrenching account of terror and loss in the baked Mexican desert. With this volume, Strantzas lays claim to be discussed in the company of Caitlín R. Kiernan and Laird Barron as one of the premier weird fictionists of our time.

Burnt Black Suns was published by Hippocampus Press on May 1, 2014. It is 310 pages, priced at $20 in trade paperback and $6 for the digital edition. The Foreword is by Laird Barron. The cover art is by Santiago Caruso. Burnt Black Suns is available for half price on the Hippocampus Press website this month — check out their November specials here.


New Treasures: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

We Are All Completely Fine-smallWell, I’m back from the 2014 World Fantasy Convention and I had a terrific time. Matthew Wuertz did a fine job with his daily convention reports… just don’t ask me where he found the time to write them. It certainly looks like he had fun, anyway, what with all the sight-seeing, panels, autograph sessions, readings, and whatnot. Me, I headed right for the Dealer’s Room, where I spent four days ogling books.

And what marvelous books! You’d think that running a website like Black Gate, I’d be more or less on top of major genre releases, right? Not so, apparently. While wandering the floor, I came across dozens (and dozens) of marvelous new titles from such splendid publishers as Prime, American Fantasy Press, Small Beer Press, Hippocampus, ChiZine, Midnight Books, Tachyon, Fairwood Press, Borderlands Press, and many others. I’ll be reporting on the most intriguing books right here over the next few weeks — starting with Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine, the tale of a support group for people who have survived horror-movie traumas. It’s a book that’s received a great deal of attention over the past two months, and it went right to the top of my reading pile.

Harrison was the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time popping pills and not sleeping. Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by unreadable messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. Martin never takes off his sunglasses. Never.

No one believes the extent of their horrific tales, not until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these seemingly-insane outcasts form a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within — and which are lurking in plain sight.

Daryl Gregory is also the author of Pandemonium, Afterparty, and The Devil’s Alphabet. We Are All Completely Fine was published by Tachyon Publications on August 12, 2014. It is 192 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 fo the digital edition.


New Treasures: Elements by Suzanne Church

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Suzanne Church Elements-smallTeam Black Gate has been friends with Suzanne Church for a long time. It’s not just that she’s friendly and full of energy — she always seems to show up with a helping hand just when you need it most. She’s pulled us out of more than one fire, usually when something has gone terribly wrong at a convention and we’re standing around looking lost. Purely in terms of karmic balance, we owe her big time.

So I was delighted to see her first collection Elements arrive. Not just because I’m a fan of her delightful short stories, but because I figured we’d finally have a chance to balance the scales a bit, you know, help spread the word. As it turns out, of course, Suzanne needs no such help, as figures with far greater reach than Black Gate have already jumped ahead of the line to sing her praises. Bestselling author Kelly Armstrong calls the book  “An engrossing collection of tales, sometimes dark, always thought-provoking and original,” just as an example. Someday we’ll be able to repay Suzanne for all her kindness. But today, we’re just going to curl up with her collection and enjoy it.

Can humanity survive an ice age? Will the storm man steal Wanda’s baby? When will Bob and Sebbee escape the relentless march of the Lost Circle? What is the cause of the taint in Faya’s courted ice? If you can’t escape hell, can you at least afford a trip on a teleporting couch?

Church infuses emotion into every tale. Whether quirky or horrific, the prose deftly snatches the reader onto a whirlwind expedition of laughter and sorrow.

Elements collects science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories published in such places as Clarkesworld, Cicada, On Spec, Chilling Tales, Tesseracts, and Urban Green Man. It was published April 30, 2014 by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. It is 248 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition. The creepy cover is by Neil Jackson. Amazon.com currently has the trade paperback edition discounted to just $2.73, an 82% savings. But move fast to make sure you get a copy. Check it out here.


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