Tuesday, January 1, 2013

EVIL JESTER DIGEST VOL. 2: Behind the Stories, with Trent Zelazny, Gene O'Neill, Holly Newstein, Simon McCaffery, Mark Allan Gunnells, John Michael Kelley, Eric J. Guignard, and John Palisano

I still can't get over what an amazing year 2012 has been for me. I'm extremely grateful to everyone who has purchased my work, and for all the kind words and encouragement I've received along the way. 2012 saw the publication of two of my novels, two novellas, and two anthologies I edited. I made 2 professional fiction sales and had the honor of working as the editor of three remarkable novels: Inheritance by Joe McKinney, Seraphim by Jon Michael Kelley, and The Quarry by Mark Allan Gunnells. I also oversaw the production of more than a dozen fine books from Evil Jester Press, with a range of duties, including graphic design, formatting, proof-reading, contract negotiations, slush pile warrior, etc. What a year! I don't know if I can match that pace in 2013, or even if I should try, but I do know I'm in a far better place than I was in 2011, and I'm grateful to so many people.

I can think of no more fitting way to express that gratitude than to turn my blog over to 8 talented writers, all of whom have stories in Evil Jester Digest, Vol. 2, one of the projects I alluded to above. Working with these folks, and so many others, has been a special gift. So it is only fitting that I give a gift (courtesy of Evil Jester Press) to those of you reading my blog. Here it is...

The Amazon link to download Evil Jester Digest, Vol. 2 is here.
Included are 12 dark tales from masters and rising stars of genre fiction. It is our hope that you enjoy the book. Of course, Amazon and Goodreads reviews are appreciated, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth. But the most important thing is that you know how much we appreciate your consideration.

Without further ado, I would now like to turn the stage over to eight of the anthology's esteemed contributors. They have a few words to share about their stories.


Eric J. Guignard…

I try to write non-familiar monster trope pieces, but occasionally I like to slip back into the warm comfort of my favorite traditional horror genre: Zombies. The writing industry is glutted with zombie fiction, and I didn’t want to put out another gore-filled undead slasher. I wrote my story, “A Curse and a Kiss” with zombies taking more of an incidental or background role. The story itself is a variation of the fairytale “Beauty and the Beast,” told through the eyes of a servant. I have always been a lifelong fan of Grimms' Fairy Tales and Aesop's Fables. The original telling of “Beauty and the Beast” is much darker than the “Disney-fied” version, and I wanted to bring the story back to its original tone and message, though I changed the curse placed on the Prince to becoming transformed into the “Living Dead” rather than an animalistic beast.
(above) Eric J. Guignard and Gene O'Neill at KillerCon 2012

Gene O’Neill…

"Coyote Gambit" is the earliest of the Cal Wild stories. The series actually begins rolling with the introduction of the character, Karch, who is nicknamed the Armless Conductor. But this part of the series is actually quite along in time after The Collapse. So a novel down the road, The Confessions of St. Zach, will begin right after The Collapse and develop the early part of the series. But "Coyote Gambit" is the only immediate short story. The series really took form after I decided that we needed a modern argument of the philosophy underlying McCarthy's fine novel The Road. I like the book but don't agree with the writer's view of human nature in crisis. Cal Wild books and stories support my view of human nature. But "Coyote Gambit," especially the gruesome implication of the ending, is closer the harder edged view of The Road than my more humanistic beliefs. It's not a story for the faint hearted. 


Mark Allan Gunnells...


Let's face it, we're all addicted to technology. I certainly am. However, I also grew up in a time when no one had cell phones, there was no texting, no Facebook, no Instant Messaging. Therefore, as much as I love technology, I also feel I could live without it if I had to. However, when I look at young people today, kids that were born "plugged in" as it were, I wonder...could they survive if their technology was taken away? I decided I wanted to explore this in a story, and satire seemed the best way to go. Taking the idea and stretching it to an extreme and absurd to get my point across. I was happy with the result, hopefully readers will like it as well. 

(above) Mark Allan Gunnells, indulging his sweet tooth at any cost

Trent Zelazny…

Trent has two terrific stories in Evil Jester Digest, Vol. 2...
 Slink: Though in a contemporary setting, this was an attempt to write a story that might have hopefully been accepted and published by Black Mask, maybe in the forties, at some point before its decline and eventual demise.
Windows in the Wreckage: The story came to me after having a dream about being stranded in the woods. As I’m not a big camper or hiker these days, I asked myself, “How in the world would I get stranded in the woods? What would take me there, and what, in my own reality, would be something horrible I'd be terrified I might have to face?”
(left)The great Trent Zelazny ensconced in kitties!

Holly Newstein…

"Kristall Tag" had its genesis in what I learned about the fall of Berlin and the invading Russian Army. 

Berlin, when the Russians took it, was a city of women and children. The Russian soldiers were capable of great kindness—and terrible savagery. All Germans were tainted with Hitler's evil, even those who had no choice in the matter. The Russians wanted revenge for what the Nazi Army did to their countrymen. I wanted to explore the journey of one innocent in this maelstrom of death and brutality, and how her actions reverberated across the rest of her life. And because I am a horror writer as well as a history geek, there had to be a touch of the supernatural involved...

(above) Holly Newstein Hautala, Rick Hautala, and Peter Giglio
at World Horror 2012


Jon Michael Kelley…


“The Tardy Hand of Miss Tangerine” was inspired by a tattoo proclaiming an apocalyptic date that has, coincidentally enough, just passed. A few years ago, I’d been dragged to my first metaphysical fair, and it was there that I was introduced to the wearer of that prescient ink. She was a young woman, strikingly plain, who looked more like Beatrix Potter  than she did Helena Blavatsky. That was, until I saw that final Mayan calendar date running along the length of her lower right arm. At first glance, I’d initially thought it was a Bible verse. Silly me. You see, she was giving a rather expensive reading to my companion, so I had the opportunity to look again—and I then realized what that proverb was actually proclaiming. I passed on the Tarots, having by then decided that my money might be best spent buying freeze dried food, bottled water, and the blueprints to a bomb shelter made for two. Then a story started forming…
(above) Jon Michael Kelley at AnthoCon 2012


John Palisano…

What if there were a major outbreak happening in our sister country Mexico? How would we guard our borders? With what? Would we help, or just protect our own interests?
And if said outbreak had fangs, then what?
One young man discovers the illegal alien task force he's joined is just a cover, and that the border fence being constructed is crucial rather than just misguided patriotism.
With "VAMPIRO," playing with themes of xenophobia and self-loathing seemed interesting. Some have indicted the story as a simple comment that illegals are vampires. Take a bigger bite. There's more under the thin, translucent skin.
(above) John Palisano, Brad C. Hodson, Peter Giglio, and Eric Shapiro
at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California. Should we start a band?

Simon McCaffery…

The genesis of "Vanishing Act" was an article I read in the mid-1990s about poor deluded Sarah Winchester and her bizarre Mystery House. Writers are almost always voracious readers, and there's an unconscious filter that is always sifting through everything for the kernel of a new tale, like a whale sucking in thousands of gallons of seawater for specks of zooplankton. (below) Simon McCaffery, working on his tan.

I was fascinated by the true story of an educated, wealthy, devout young woman whose mind is stripped and driven to such extremes by grief and a fear of the afterlife. I knew I wanted to weave it into a story, and I made a couple of poor attempts, but eventually set it aside. The vivid story of Sarah and her mad, marvelous house of many doors remained in my imagination. I also had toyed with a potential novella or novel about a desperate father searching for a vanished son, and the idea of certain very rare individuals capable of conjuring unseen doorways between worlds, driven by an intense desire to escape from unhappy lives or relentless will to be reunited with the lost. And these ideas finally collided, with the resulting story.

I'm thrilled that it worked for Peter and the Evil Jester Press crew, and proud to appear among so many talented writers I admire. The human heart is a funny thing, and fear and obsession can lodge there and grow like dark cancers. And how many doors do we open and pass through in a lifetime, without a second thought? 



  1. Very Cool! I look forward to finally reading Evil Jester Digest, Vol. 2.