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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Twelve

December 24, 2018 11 comments

My twelfth book of Christmas is not actually published until February, but it can be pre-ordered now – and arrive in time for Valentine’s Day, so there’s another holiday covered. You’re welcome.

Following on from the success of Colonial Horrors, I have assembled another anthology of pioneering horror stories, this time from female authors. More Deadly than the Male includes a story by Mary Shelley, of course, but there are some surprises as well. When she was not writing about the March family in Little Women and its sequels, Louisa May Alcott took time out to write one of the first mummy tales. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote several ghost stories, one of which is also in the collection. British readers of a certain age will remember Edith Nesbit’s classic The Railway Children with affection, but may not be aware of her extensive horror output. There are also obscure names like Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, adopting a male nom-de-plume in order to be take seriously) and forgotten ones like Alice Rea.

The publication date is well chosen, since February 2019 will be the tenth annual Women in Horror Month, while March is Women’s History Month. All of the ladies in this collection led surprising and inspiring lives: some were remarkable only for the fact that they made their mark in the male-dominated world of literature, while others achieved far more.

Most surprising of all, perhaps, is the claim made in a BBC online article that at the height of the 19th-century fashion for horror stories, more than 70% of published tales were written by women. They often brought a psychological dread to their horror, as well as some social commentary: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is a vivid portrait of psychological disintegration on the one hand, and on the other a savage indictment of the so-called “rest cure” – effectively a form of solitary imprisonment which kept women from embarrassing their families, under the guise of paternalistic concern for the delicate nature of the “weaker sex.”

Here are extracts from some early reviews:

“Davis (Colonial Horrors) has done thoughtful literary excavation, and the stories he has selected are a trove of fantastic gems.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

“An incredible collection of lesser-known ghost stories from female writers of the 18th and 19th centuries.”
– Goodreads

…and here is a link to the book’s page on the Pegasus Books web site.

This concludes my twelve books of Christmas. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have found something interesting – and perhaps some  inspiration for a last-minute gift – among them. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page, but if you find them at a brick-and-mortar store, your purchase will help them as well as helping me.

Merry Christmas to all, or the compliments of whichever season you celebrate at this time of year. May 2019 be a year in which unity triumphs over division, compassion over hate, and understanding over fear. And may it be a year in which more people discover, or rediscover, the joy of reading.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

 

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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eleven

December 23, 2018 12 comments

My eleventh book of Christmas is The Dirge of Reason, a tie-in novella I wrote for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror boardgame. It was part of a series giving an origin story for each character in the game, and my assigned character was Agent Roland Banks of the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI not being founded until some nine years after the game’s date of 1926). I researched 20s slang and did my best to channel Dashiell Hammett in this tale of a boy-scout agent forced into a situation where the rules – not just of the Bureau, but of physics and sanity – no longer make sense.

The story itself has a longer history. I first came up with the basic idea around 1982, when I had just purchased the first edition of Call of Cthulhu and was running a campaign for my college gaming group. I wrote up the first part as an adventure and sent it to Chaosium; I received a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen himself, telling me that he liked the adventure and planned to use it in the Second Cthulhu Companion.

When that book was published in 1985, though, my adventure – then titled “Rhapsody in Fear” – was not included, so I approached Games Workshop, who had just started publishing small Call of Cthulhu adventures including the excruciatingly-titled Trail of the Loathsome Slime and the double feature Shadow of the Sorcerer and The Vanishing Conjurer (for which I wrote a sequel, “Ghost Jackal Kill,” which was published in White Dwarf #79). I got another nice letter back, this time from Call of Cthulhu editor (and future Fighting Fantasy honcho) Marc Gascoigne, encouraging me to develop the adventure further. But then I was offered a job at Games Workshop developing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and all things Cthulhu went on a back burner.

Fast-forward twenty-five years or so, and I was writing WFRP for Fantasy Flight’s third edition when I heard of the proposed Arkham Horror novella line. I put “Rhapsody in Fear” forward, and this time – with a new title and a few changes – it was published. In addition to the story itself, the handsome hardback package includes a lavish color section with reproductions of various documents from the story, and some exclusive game cards relating to the character of Roland Banks. As a side-project (my eleven-and-a-halfth book of Christmas?), I was hired to write more short fiction featuring Roland and a few other game characters for the imposing tome The Investigators of Arkham Horror.

 

While The Dirge of Reason was written as a game tie-in, I made sure that the story, with its mix of hard-boiled action and cosmic horror, would be accessible to readers who are not familiar with the game. Here is what some reviewers had to say about it:

Pulp fiction of an agreeably lowbrow caliber. That’s not a slam. It’s exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I got.”
– Goodreads

A fun read …I expect I’ll read it again several times over the years.”
– Amazon.com

…and the book’s page on the Fantasy Flight web site is here.

Tomorrow I cover the last of my Twelve Books of Christmas. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Ten

December 22, 2018 11 comments

My tenth book of Christmas is an audio book, although you can still find print copies occasionally. Blood and Honor is a 2006 novel set in the Eberron campaign world for Dungeons & Dragons, involving a disgraced younger son’s quest to find his missing older brother.

After my friend and erstwhile colleague Keith Baker won the 2004 Wizards of the Coast setting search with his fantasy-pulp hybrid world of Eberron, the company announced an Eberron fiction competition. I won, with a novel proposal that was called Blood and Honor but which bore little resemblance to the story that was originally published. Over the next few months, with help from the editors at Wizards, I created my first, and so far only, novel.

Blood and Honor appeared as volume four in the War-Torn series: four different stories by different authors, linked only by the theme of the Last War and its effect upon those who had survived it.

Here is what a couple of reviewers had to say about it:

The book delivers on Eberron’s setting of noir detective work and non-stop pulp action, with fights on airships, raiding secret strongholds, in military installations, and throughout the dark streets of a bustling city. Davis does a particularly good job of keeping things interesting.”
– Goodreads

“A solid story that serves its purpose well. …if you are a fan of Eberron you will enjoy this novel.”
– Amazon.com

 

The book is no longer sold through Wizards’ web site, but its Amazon page has some reviews and a link to the audio version (which is free with a trial of their Audible service).

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas, Part Nine

December 21, 2018 8 comments

My ninth book of Christmas is another multi-author compilation. Tales of the Frozen City is a small collection of stories written to support the popular Osprey Games title, Frostgrave. My contribution, “Mind Over Matter,” tells of a magical duel between an enchanter and an illusionist, to prove whose magic was superior.

The collection includes eleven tales, an introduction to the world of the game, and an introduction by the game’s designer, Joseph A. McCullough. Frostgrave is Opsrey Games’ most popular title, and if you like skirmish games with themed warbands, like the old Games Workshop title Mordheim, it is worth looking at.

Here is what a couple of reviewers said:

“Great short stories for a great game.”
– Goodreads

A very pleasant surprise. The stories are short, accessible, and grounded in the concepts of the game. Enjoyable plot twists, believable characters, and a frozen city alive with suspense.
– Amazon

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eight

December 20, 2018 12 comments

My eighth book of Christmas is another mythology title: Thor: Viking God of Thunder, which was my first title for Osprey’s Myths and Legends series.

Thor

The original sources for Norse mythology are surprisingly limited, so I had the space in this book to retell all of the major stories in which Thor takes part, and to mention those in which he is a secondary character. It was interesting to see how, in the Christian era, the myths were shorn of religious content and became, effectively, early superhero stories: Thor’s battles with the giants of Jotunheim read very similarly to the ’60s slugfests of Marvel and DC comics.

This comes as no surprise, of course, considering Thor’s success as a superhero in recent decades. Marvel was not the first publisher to use him in comics, but the Marvel Thor is the most enduring version. In addition, he has given his name to a radioactive element (Thorium), several Norwegian and German warships, and two American rocket systems.

Most notoriously, of course, Thor’s hammer has been adopted as a symbol by some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, following the swastika – a universal design which in Scandinavia represented one of Thor’s thunderbolts – which was co-opted by the Nazi Party in 1920. We would all do well to remember that these are stolen emblems, and those who use them have no right to them – and equally, that not all those who use them are racists or fascists.

Here is what some reviewers had to say about the book:

“If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

This book is a nice, concise, beginning look at the legends of Thor. All tales that include him are at least briefly mentioned here, though most are told in full with extra bits of information to add depth to the reader’s understanding.
– Goodreads

Like all Osprey titles, the book is gorgeously illustrated, and the plates by Miguel Coimbra are outstanding.

The book’s page on the Osprey web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Seven

December 19, 2018 11 comments

My seventh book of Christmas is another multi-author anthology from the excellent Stone Skin Press. In The Lion and the Aardvark, no fewer than seventy authors give their takes on Aesop-style fables for the modern age. While all of the stories will raise a wry smile from adult readers, most also make nice bedtime stories for the young’uns, teaching them a few things about pride, critical thinking, and other important matters just as Aesop’s originals did.

Aesop cover

My contribution was a tale I called “The Lemmings and the Sea,” which was based on a story my dad told me when I was small: that lemmings threw themselves of cliffs not to commit mass suicide, but out of overconfidence: after all, they had successfully crossed every body of water they had encountered so far. I turned that idea into a story about the risks of following leaders uncritically when they urge us to stay the course.

Here is what some reviewers said about it:

Another solid anthology product from Stone Skin Press. If you haven’t been reading  their collections, I strongly recommend you do so.
 – Goodreads

“I have always loved Æsop’s Fables, so leaped upon a modern collection of similar tales with eager glee! And I have not been disappointed.”
– DriveThruRPG

…and the book’s page on the Stone Skin Press web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Six

December 18, 2018 11 comments

My sixth book of Christmas is the third title I wrote for the Dark Osprey line. Knights Templar: A Secret History was actually my first contribution to that series.

Templars cover

I first read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail back in the 80s, and I was amused when The Da Vinci Code turned the same basic story into a blockbuster success. I had a lot of fun chasing the Templars through a maze of history, rumour, conspiracy theory, and wild speculation, and I crafted the device of Dr. Emile Fouchet as an overarching structure to hold everything together, and create a fiction within which everything – absolutely everything – was true. I have since been approached a couple of times by people wanting to get their hands on Fouchet’s research, which I take as a sign that my fiction was a successful one!

Here is what some reviewers said about the book:

“It all makes for a fascinating read, and like the best fiction, leaves that nagging thought that it just might be true.”
– RPGNow.com

“…the most interesting retelling of the Knights Templar history I’ve seen …  this is the first time that I’ve seen the dots connected so flawlessly.”
– Weirdmage’s Reviews

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.