What Goodreads reviewers are saying about Duel Visions

“Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen spin some interesting and often excellent imaginative yarns with everything from modern-day vampires to sinister black cats covered. The stories are all skillfully written, and once you begin reading one you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished them all!”

–Iestyn Long

“This was a collection of short stories in a new-wave style of Fiction. I was very impressed by this, the two author’s were very well written and had great ideas. All of the stories were dark and twisted, with a bit of humor to them.”

–Blake Johnson

“LOVE! Each one of these tales is chilling in its own way. The situations are all unique and creative, and the author doesn’t rely on a single form of horror. One story may be psychological, the next gory, another with an intriguing story that is all explained by the end, and another may leave you in terrifying ignorance. Well-written and developed all around.”

–Sehreth Bowden

“Great short stories giving a glimpse into different lives. Many of these stories have very subtle twists, pay attention or you might miss it! I strongly suggest readers that like short stories to give this a read!”

–Kyle Fleischhacker

But don’t take their word for it, check it out for yourself. 

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Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Case Files of Erik Rugar by Misha Burnett

Another nice review of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts

Davetopia

Front cover of TITLEbyAUTHORBurnett fuses the possibility of weird fiction with the solidity of crime noir to create a collection that is both a gritty detective story and a baroque urban fantasy.

Dracoheim is a human city, but abuts the Realms of Nightmare. Ancient treaties and modern laws define the appropriate uses of magic, mysticism, and migration. Mostly it works; however, when it doesn’t someone has to investigate the incomprehensible; someone like Erik Rugar, agent for the Lord Mayor’s Committee for Public Safety. This book collects seven cases of the weird but not wonderful.

Unlike many urban fantasy books dealing with magical policing, Burnett’s protagonist is not a magic user or a metaphysical James Bond laden with arcane gizmos. Instead, he is a slightly crumpled and stained cop with a badge and a gun, relying on grit and smarts. This ‘ordinary working stiff’ trope gives each story a deep sense of both crime…

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Time to go to Cha’alt!

Kill all the things! Take all the stuff!

The Mixed GM

At the request of one of my players, I am going to tell you the story of Yasid the Florida Man’s ‘dick-capitation’.

Yasid found a swimming pool deep in the spaceship with glittering gold and gems sitting at the bottom. He immediately jumped in.

As a Florida Man, he does not wear clothes. He travels the world skyclad. No need to worry about trying to swim in armor!

Dispelling the illusion it cast on itself, a strange creature attacked poor Yasid.

Eye of the Deep This is NOT something you want to meet in a swimming pool.

In the ensuing attack, Yasid fell to zero hp from a bite attack, but the party was able to kill the creature and rescue him. Because we are playing ACKS, that meant it was time to roll on the Mortal Wounds table.

Guess what the result was?

“Your genitals are damaged (cannot reproduce, -3 to reaction…

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Sins, New and Old

The fourth volume of Chastity Nicole and Debbie Manber Kupfer’s Sins Of Time series of themed Horror/Dark Fantasy anthologies is out now. I’ve kept my streak going, I have a story in all four volumes.

It’s a series that has a special place in my heart. I was originally invited to contribute by Debbie, who is one of the few of my writing contacts I’ve actually met in person. The first one was Sins Of The Past, and at that time we weren’t thinking in terms of a series, Chastity just had the idea for an anthology that mixed Horror with Historical fiction.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to contribute at first, because I couldn’t think of anything to write. I’m not much of historian. Then I was watching one of my collection of B-Movies and I got to thinking about the persistent urban legend about a movie so horrifying that it had to be destroyed because everyone who saw it went insane.

I sat down and wrote “We Pass From View” in about two hours–once I got started on it, it just flowed out, like I was watching the conversation and transcribing it. I was also alone in the house and it gave me serious chills. The story has since been reprinted in Duel Visions, and it’s one of my favorites.

Well, it was so much fun we decided to do it again. Instead of doing Sins Of The Past II, I suggested doing Sins Of The Future, and everyone else seemed to like the idea.

So that’s what we did. For this collection I decided to write a cautionary tale about a technology that deeply concerns me–autonomous motor vehicles. So called “self-driving cars” scare me, because I work with machines all day long and I know how many ways they can fail. My story, “In The Driving Lane”, explores one possibility.

This one went fast, too, once I got the original idea. I wrote it over the course of an afternoon, just sat down and typed it up. I enjoyed writing it and I think it turned out well. I’m planning on including it in an upcoming anthology of SF stories.

Well, after that we tossed around a number of ideas before settling on Sins Of The Gods. I wasn’t going to contribute at first–I couldn’t think of anything that fit the theme and I was involved in a number of other projects. But then Debbie messaged me and said that they were short on stories and would I please reconsider.

I did, and came up with “Black Dog”, which is also in Duel Visions. Again, once I made up my mind to do it, it was a very quick and easy story to write. I based the main character, Andy, on a coworker of mine, and I could see him in my mind, figuring out what was going on and coming to terms with it.

The latest one, Sins Of The Fae, is where things start getting creepy. Because I didn’t write “The Lord Of Slow Candles” with that collection in mind. It was just an idea I had, the title came to me when I was driving home from work one day, and I sat down and wrote it out, planning on submitting it to a Weird Fiction market. Well, they rejected it, and I stuck it in my Unsold folder and didn’t think too much about it until Debbie messaged me again and asked if I could write something for the fourth collection.

I didn’t have much in the way of spare time–I was hammering out the last story of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts at the time, and also trying to edit the others to make them consistent. But then it occured to me that I had this unsold story that might just work…

Chastity and Debbie both liked it, so that makes four for four, and all of the stories I’ve written for them have been fast and easy, and I think four of the best stories of my career. “The Lord Of Slow Candles” may end up in a Fantasy collection I am planning on doing next year.

Is there going to be a next one? I sure hope so. Even though I haven’t made money from the collections themselves, they seem to inspire me to do my best work.

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Beyond The Great Divide

Stories written from an alien viewpoint, while long a staple of SF/F, are hard to do well.

They involve a kind of semiotic tightrope–if the language and concepts involved are too alien, the story becomes too hard to decipher to be enjoyable. If, on the other hand, they are too familiar the sense of the alien is lost and with it much of the magic of that particular type of story.

S H Mansouri, in my opinion, nails the balance perfectly in his short story, “Beyond The Great Divide”, published in Cirsova Issue 5.

The narrator, SB-13, is a Slagborn, an insectile humanoid. I actually invented the name “Slagborn” while I was working on the Eldritch Earth setting, but Mansouri fleshed out my bare bones concept. (I mean, seriously, I think I said something along the lines of, “Hey, you know, bug-people are cool. Let’s put some bug-people in there.”)

I had intended them to be a kind of background threat, something to show just how deadly the Eldritch Earth could be. An entry on the Wandering Monster Table, as it were.

Mansouri did the rest and penned a short, violent story that draws the reader into an alien psychology. A commando raid into a human settlement keeps the story focused on the practical demands of combat, but below the action there is a genuinely disturbing undercurrent of strangeness.

Like many alien races in SF, the Slagborn are portrayed as emotionless, driven by cold reason. The cracks in this veneer of pure logic are revealed almost at once, though, with the narrator admitting that some members of its race break under the strain of combat and surrender themselves to the darker passions the rest of them have left behind them.

These mad ones are used as shock troops against their human foes, with sane Slagborn, like the narrator, supervising them. As the story progresses, though, it becomes evident that the line between madness and sanity may not be a great a divide as SB-13 believes.

It’s a disturbing little gem of a story, a psychological horror tale wrapped in the chitinous exoskeleton of a Flash Gordon Insectman.

Highly recommended.

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Lost Gods

Let me begin by saying that I am not Catholic, and the doctrine of Purgatory is one of the main reasons why. I don’t want to argue the point here, but it’s significant because I am about to review a novel that is set mostly in Purgatory.

Since I believe that it is a fictional place, I have no problems with how it is portrayed in this Fantasy novel. A devout Catholic might find it offensive.

That having been said, Lost Gods is a fantastic novel, in nearly every sense of the word. It deals with religious matters–angels, devils, gods–realistically, without the smirking humanization of, say, Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett. The supernatural elements are, quite frankly, terrifying, older and more cruel than humanity. You won’t find any urbane socialite angels and demons here, discussing Heaven and Hell over wine and cigars.

What you will find is a nightmarish landscape inhabited by the souls of the dead and the stranger souls of dead gods–the titular Lost Gods who were cast into Purgatory by the resurrected Christ. Though decayed, they still wield vast power.

The story is a compelling and, so far as I understand the doctrine, fitting one for the setting. Chet Moran is a man who loses everything in the first chapter and then struggles to regain it through perseverance, fighting his way through Purgatory to  seek his shot at redemption.

The characters, human and otherwise, are engaging and complex, nearly everyone has secrets and almost nothing is what it first appears. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because of spoilers, except to say that most of the real surprises are not “twists” in the conventional sense, but rather layers that are stripped away, revealing more and more details that eventually illuminate everything.

Very highly recommended.

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American Fantasy

I have been thinking a lot about Fantasy, and specifically about fantastic settings–settings in which the fantastic elements are integral to the world.

And frankly, I’m not interested in writing stories set in some vaguely Central European kingdom in the First Millenium AD. The Tolkien/D&D/Swords & Sorcery kind of setting is one that I don’t really relate to. I’ve never ridden a horse or herded a sheep.  I’ve never been in an actual stone castle, never fought using a sword or a mace, never fired a bow, and sitting around a campfire is something I do before I go inside and sleep in a real damned bed.

The idea of a Fantasy setting being tied to a particular cultural/technological level is a very tough one to shake, though. Part of it is the influence of Tolkien and his many imitators, and part of it is the Mythological aspect of Fantasy. And I think part of it is the distancing effect of history–it’s easier to add unreal elements to a time and place that doesn’t feel real to begin with.

And I expect that is why there are so few Overt, Historical Fantasy worlds based on America. Overt, in the sense that magic is an open and recognized part of the world (as opposed to Urban Fantasy like the Dresden Files) and Historical in the sense that magic has always been around (unlike the “magic returned” settings like Ilona Andrew’s novels or Shadowrun.)

Off the top of my head I can think of Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son and Larry Correia’s Grimnoir, both of which are alternate histories of the real US.

I’m not sure about the Anita Blake and Sookie Stackhouse books. I haven’t read either, but I think the supernatural creatures recently “came out” as being real in both series, as opposed to having always been acknowledged.

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger is closer to what I am talking about–a world as entirely invented as Narnia or Melnibone, but based on America. (I was only able to get through The Dark Tower. Stephen King’s style doesn’t appeal to me.)

That’s what I set out to do with Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts. Dracoheim is not on any version of Earth–the Settled Lands are on a world with a different year and a different climate than Earth, the physical/metaphysical laws are different there. Yet the setting is recognizably American (despite a sprinkling of UK terms to describe the government and courts).  Dracoheim is Los Angeles in the middle of the 20th Century in the same way that the Shire is rural England at the end of the 19th Century.

And once I wrapped my head around the basic concept I found the setting and the world naturally coelessed while I was writing it in a way that my attempts at more archaic settings never have for me.

And now I am doing it again, with a new setting. I don’t have a name for this project yet–I have been calling it in my head “anyone lived in a pretty how town” which is kind of an extreme title even for me. But I’ll probably take something from e e cummings when the time comes–it has that kind of feel to me.

I’m playing with a couple of ideas I’ve had over the years I’ve never fleshed out. The central one is that of Local Gods–the world is divided into Provinces that each have a Deity that is nigh-omnipotent but only within His, Her or Its domain. Thus it is a world run on what might be called a County-Level Theocracy, with the Gods ruling through priests and regents who carry out Their orders.

The details of the setting are based on Midwest America between the World Wars–say 1920-1940, depending on region. Radio and newspapers, but no television. Telephone exchanges rare and very local. Internal combustion cars and trucks, but also horse drawn vehicles. Electricity in some areas, candles and gaslights in others.

But I will also be drawing on the Mythology of the era–Bonnie & Clyde, The Grapes Of Wrath, and some references to the dieselpunk futurism of the time. Airships, for example. I definately need airships.

There’s going to be one big city, that could be St. Louis or Memphis or Chicago, but I think most of the action will take place in the small towns and farmland. And it’s going to involve the main character doing some travelling across the world, passing through different domains and interacting with the representatives of different Gods.

Probably by train. Trains are sexy.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing. What I want to do is to encourage other American writers to build your own American Fantasy worlds–instead of basing the Kingdom Of Thisorthat on a European monarchy, try extrapolating from a US setting.

The Everglades before the Civil War. Montana during the Gold Rush. Kansas City circa 1950. The possibilities are endless.

 

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