Monday, November 20, 2023

Good Vibes from Demons: Re-release and Commentary

Rogue Blades Presents Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology ISBN-13: 9798863079608 (print) ASIN: B0045Y1LMS (Kindle); Cover Artist: Johnney Perkins. Interior Graphics: M.D. Jackson

  • Jason M Waltz (Publisher of RBE/RBF) had dedicated the re-release to Robert Mancebo, author for several Rogue Blade Entertainment anthologies, who sadly passed away in 2023.
  • For this "Good vibes from Reviews" tag, note the response from Robert Mancebo's daughter in the Black Gate commentary. Breathtaking. Reviews and announcements rarely are emotive. Writing and reading is often a solitary hobby, but as Rachel points out, books bring us together in ways often not told.

Here is my mini-review and re-release notice:

In 2010, Black Gate announced Rogue Blades Entertainment Conjures DEMONS. This October 2023, the third edition has been issued and with it a revamped Kindle version! The original Kindle edition lacked a functioning, linked Table of Contents, but that’s all brought up to modern standards. It is dedicated to Robert Mancebo, author for several Rogue Blade Entertainment anthologies, who sadly passed away in 2023.

Jason M Waltz is well known amongst adventure fiction readers, especially the Swords & Sorcery crowd. With his Rogue Blades Entertainment Books and associated Foundation, he’s brought us the epic Return of the Sword (BG review) and then Rage of the Behemoth, and Demons.  He’s edited/published a variety of other anthologies with themes of Weird Noir, Pirates, and Sword & Planet with Lost Empire of Sol (BG review), and splendid nonfiction like Writing Fantasy Heroes (BG review) and recently Robert E. Howard Changed My Life (BG review). He recently ran a successful Kickstarter for another anthology as spotlighted on BG: “Neither Beg Nor Yield – A Sword & Sorcery Anthology with Attitude.” As you await Neither Beg Nor Yield, you’ll want to revisit Demons.

Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology – Blurb

When the gates of Hell open, who stands between Man and the Abyss? From mankind’s infancy, people have huddled in the dark, drawing signs in the air, muttering quiet prayers, quivering with dread at what roams in the night. Demons. Creatures of the Darkness. Evil spirits riding dark winds. And mankind trembled. Yet a few stood, drew steel imbued with magic to hue spirit as well as flesh, and walked out into the night to meet the foes of mortal men. Join the struggle in these 28 masterful tales of adventure and mayhem as heroes, forged as ‎strong as the steel they wield, defy foes from the realms of nightmare.‎


In Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE) delivers what it claims: a sampling of demon stories and adventure. Your chance of finding appealing stories is decent with 28 entries. Chock full of demons, champions, possession, witches, etc.. Kudos to RBE for keeping these tales alive from a 2006 publication (Carnifex Press). The purpose of an anthology is to provide an array of options, allow new readers to explore the genre, allow self-described “veteran readers” to identify new authors, and enable reading in small doses (i.e. great for traveling or parents with small children constantly interrupting their activities). “Demons” delivers this.

For anthologies, we expect to experiment with doses of new material/authors. For me, three stories that emphasized personal demons (or personal challenges) were outstanding. They stuck with me and are worth rereading; my favorites are in bold below in the Table of Contents listing. But you may have your own favorites! Check them out:

Demons: Table of Contents

  • “Foreword” by Armand Rosamilia
  • “The Man with the Webbed Throat” by Steve Moody
  • “Imprisoned” by Carl Walmsley
  • “Toxic” by Steven L. Shrewsbury
  • “Azieran: Bound by Virtue” by Christopher Heath
  • “Bodyguard of the Dead” by C.L. Werner
  • “Kron Darkbow” by Ty Johnston
  • “The Vengeance of Tibor” by Ron Shiflet
  • “The Beast of Lyoness” by Christopher Stires
  • “Fifteen Breaths” by Phil Emery
  • “The Pact” by Jonathan Green
  • “Blood Ties” by Trista Robichaud
  • “Zeerembuk” by Steve Goble
  • “The Fearsome Hunger” by Rob Mancebo
  • “The Furnace” by Sandro G. Franco
  • “The First League Out from Land” by Brian Dolton
  • “The Sacrifice” by Jason Irrgang
  • “Son of the Rock” by Laura J. Underwood
  • “Into Shards” by Murray J.D. Leeder 
  • “Through the Dark” by Darla J. Bowen
  • “Joenna’s Ax” by Elaine Isaak
  • “The Lesser: A Swords of the Daemor Tale” by Patrick Thomas
  • “When the Darkness Grows” by Frederick Tor
  • “Demon Heart” by Bryan Lindenberger
  • “Azieran: Racked upon the Altar of Eeyuu” by Christopher Heath
  • “Born Warriors” by TW Williams
  • “Mistaken Identity” by Robert J. Santa
  • “Box of Bones” by Jonathan Moeller
  • “By Hellish Means” by Bill Ward


Saturday, November 18, 2023

Annual Barczak Retreat - 2023

During my annual trip to the IASR surfactant consortium meeting in Norman Oklahoma, well before breakfast was served, I sought out my author/artist friend Tom Barczak (link to prior join-ups) and we snuck in a few minutes of drawing together. 

This time we convened at the newly opened DIAK office, the architecture firm owned by Tom's wife Shannon Barczak. Their clients are mostly indigenous (Native American) communities. Below is a blurb from their website. 

DIAK Architects is a Full-Service Native Woman Owned Architectural Firm, a leading design firm that specializes in producing a wide range of innovative architectural and interior design applications. 

DIAK is an Apsaalooke word, meaning “To make.” To make something, to create something, that wasn’t there before, and to take on the honor and responsibility for its effect on everything and every life that it touches. It is a gift, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Authors serving the Skull meet at Dingles Irish Pub


Had a blast meeting up with fellow Sword and Sorcery authors at the local pub. With Andy Fix and Bill Pearce ... we salute Howard Andrew Jones whom we've admired and perhaps even served as Skull Interns. All hail the Skull!

With Bill Pearce who has a story in Tales from the Magician's Skull issue #11 (link to Gen Con 2023 when we first met),

Tuesday, November 7, 2023



Simulcast on Black Gate magazine Nov 6th, 2023.

Old Moon Quarterly is a magazine of dark fantasy and weird sword-and-sorcery. In the tradition of Clark Ashton Smith, Tanith Lee and Karl Edward Wagner, it contains stories of strange vistas, eldritch beings, and the bloody dispute thereof by both swordsmen and swordswomen. Old Moon Quarterly emerged in 2022 led by Editor-in-Chief Julian Barona, flanked by Assistant Editors Caitlyn Emily Wilcox and Graham Thomas Wilcox. This May 2023, Black Gate reviewed Issue #3 (with an overview of #1 and #2).  True to what the editors promise, the magazine consistently delivers strong doses of weird Sword & Sorcery.

This post reviews Old Moon Quarterly Issue V; shared below is the table of contents with summaries of each story and excerpts (these were selected to avoid spoilers while conveying the feel of each).  As with previous issues, expect stories that push the boundaries of uniqueness, blending poetic writing with horror and adventure. If you read tropes they’ll lean toward the twisted or bizarre.

But first a quick call out to the ongoing Kickstarter for Issues VII & VIII;  This campaign runs now through Nov 31st, 2023 and, if successful, would fund two more issues paying contributors professional rates!

Here is a key blurb from and about the Old Moon Quarterly crew.

Old Moon Quarterly is an award-winning print and digital magazine of sword-and-sorcery and dark fantasy fiction, featuring over 20,000 words of original fiction as well as poetry and original nonfiction. We’ve a love for the classics of the genre and a desire to push for some new, strange takes on our old favorites. And of course, the magazine is made with a particular love and affinity for the eldritch aesthetics and weird storytelling of BerserkBloodborne and Dark Souls.

We’ve published five issues so far, with a sixth issue on the way. Since our inception in June 2022, we’ve increased our pay for authors from 5c a word to 8c a word, making us the only sword-and-sorcery focused fantasy magazine that pays what the SFWA considers a “professional” rate. We firmly believe that dark fantasy and sword-and-sorcery authors deserve a venue where they can receive fair pay for stories that are often very difficult to place in other venues. We started Old Moon Quarterly to give authors that venue.

With the funding from this Kickstarter, we’ll be able to maintain that payrate for issues 7 and 8, which will release in 2024. And not only will we be able to maintain that payrate, we’ll be able to increase the amount of fiction in each issue from 20,000 to 30,000+; we’ll be able to include (for the first time) interior artwork in a classic black-and-white style!

Old Moon Quarterly Issue V: Stories and Poems

1) “Together Under the Wing” by Jonathan Olfert

The perspective and scale of this story are simply huge: the protagonists are mammoths, and they pale in size versus their giant antagonist!  Epic duels drive this revenge tale. Walks-like-a-Rockslide seeks revenge for the death of his mother (Grass-Wisper) by the hands of the ancient Giant King.

The matriarch Grass-Whisper had lived in a grove in the hills, now stomped flat by vast human-like footprints. Her carved tusks lay in cracked-off chunks; they and the blood were all that remained—that, and the huge flint used to skin her before eating. A flint five times the size of the quartz blades bound to his tusks… (p11)

2) Champions Against the Maggot King by K.H. Vaughn

Get ready for some Warhammer/Grimdark-Tolkien fare. The soldier Grath narrates this tale. He details an epic battle against the Maggot King. The titular, heroic champions lead an army of >60 thousand that ride in landships made from living stone, armed with canons, and fueled by elemental sorcery. The champions include the Dwarf Ko Mon who has a lengthy morning-star-like prosthetic, the sword-wielding elf-who-never-smiles lIhar, and their demoness leader Sergeant, the female Sorrow Mai.

A wave of wild men break against the ship. They are pathetic. Pale and soft, but secure in their sense of power, waving their genitals at us as they come. They howl in impotent rage as they die, mowed down by arrows and lances. The ship rolls over them and churns their corpses into dirt. No one will find their bones or mourn their deaths. Where does the Maggot King find them? There must be thousands of them in the dim light of subterranean caves, thinking nothing but their eventual victory.  (p49)

3) “The King’s Two Bodies” poem by Joe Koch

I enjoyed this so much, I read it three times to soak in the words. It is beautiful, but too cryptic to understand on its initial pass.  Two souls with liquid properties are contained within one body. One may exit the vessel via a ritual of exiting the body and filling a cup.

4) “The Origin of Boghounds” by Amelia Gorman

Samphire is a female bounty hunter searching out a snake-oil salesman at the edges of Sichel, the stained city that radiates a New Orleans swamp vibe. She’s not the only bounty hunter seeking a payout. Several other hunters stumble into her and boghounds as they track down their prey while unearthing mysteries and monsters.

Samphire blows out her candle and sips into the dark corner between the headboard and wall. She disappears into the dark sod and crouches down in a knot in the tiny crawlspace, barely fitting with her giant pack of unguents and vinegars. [A boghound] hops silently off the straw, pads over to her and crawls under the bed, looking up at her with those affectionate golden eyes like two stars in the dirty dark. As the dark obscured their faces, Samphire catches voices she’s butted against time and again.  (p56)

5) “Well Met at the Gates of Hell” by David K. Henrickson

An amoral warrior arrives in Hell and is met at the entrance by three antagonists (two humanoids, one not) seeking to duel.  Lots of banter makes this more of a light-hearted read.

In that moment, the newcomer skims the plate he has finally freed from his armor toward the giant’s eyes and throws himself in a roll.

Automatically, the giant flinches away from the spinning metal. ‘Faithless!” he cries out, aiming a blow at the tumbling figure as it dives past.

The newcomer is already inside and below the other’s guard. His blade flashes out in a backhand swing, shearing through the giant’s thigh just above the greave.  (p73)

6)  “A Warning Agaynste Woldes” poem by Zachary Bos

As the title suggests, this poem has an Old Shakespeare tone. It is cryptic like the previous poem. It conveys that nature, and its forests, are a type of temple or church. Be wary of entering the forest, since it is full of fear, faith, and spirits.

7) “The Skull of Ghosts” by Charles Gramlich

Confession: I’m a huge Gramlich fan and frequently seek out his Krieg stories (I interviewed him for Black Gate in 2019, and we discussed his Krieg character). Here the sorcerer-warrior receives a haunting call from “Amma”, so he seeks out his old acquaintance (of the same name) in a plagued city. An evil sorcerer is seeking bodies to possess, and as Krieg starts to put an end to the madness, he learns he’s jumped into a trap.

Krieg slipped to one side, caught the swordman’s hand and twisted. A raw shriek burst from the man’s lips; bones ground audibly together as his blade turned inevitably upward to point at his face.

The assailant’s hood fell back, revealing swarthy skin marked by plague skulls. A topknot of greasy reddish hair invited a hold. Krieg grabbed it, slammed the man’s face forward onto the sword. Once, twice, thrice. Wiping his hand on the man’s cloak, the black-eyed warrior let the body fall like a burden he’d grown tired of… (p87)


8) “The Headsman’s Melancholy” by Joseph Andre Thomas

This could easily be a Twilight Zone episode written by Edgar Allen Poe. Executioner Jack meets a robber multiple times on the chopping block. Written as a series of journal entries. The ending is emotive, and a bit abstract, as Jack seeks peace by stopping his profession, leaving town, or pursuing other options. Loved this.

The man screeched laughter as he eviscerated himself, His blood poured down my face, into my mouth. It seeped between my teeth and beneath my tongue.

I screamed.

His smile was no longer cocky, but overjoyed. He reached into his chest cavity and grabbed hold of something, pulled it out. His heart, I realized, still attached to whatever tubes and capillaries govern the viscera. He hung it out above me with one hand… (p129)