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Black Dog

The Black Dog is stalking me, it has been sniffing after me for days. This Black Dog is substantial; standing on all fours, its shoulder comes to my chest. Right now, it is broad of back, paws the size of dinner plates, thick black fur – black as pitch – covers it, but that is right now.

Of all its forms – large/small, menacing/cute – two things remain consistent. The color of its fur is always the darkest, deepest black. The other is its eyes. No, they are not the clichéd glowing red eyes. That’d be far too easy. Red eyes could symbolize many things – passion, fury, evil even – all of which symbolize some sort of life. Where there is life, there is hope. Black Dog brings no hope.

A soul, no matter how twisted, can be seen.

Those eyes haunt me; waking or dreaming, they are terrifying. Sunken pits, surrounded by cracked, grey skin, they do not absorb or reflect light as an eye would, rather they are dead lights – devouring all life and light up which they fall.

Once I tried to embrace the Black Dog, to overcome my fear of him and accept it.

The experiment failed. With Black Dog at my side or occasionally leading, the paths we walked grew darker. Swiftly my sense of direction was overwhelmed. Black Dog began to blur indistinctly into the gloom.

Panic welled up when I thought we became separated. I listened intently but could hear nothing. So profound was the silence, my heart had no beat. Between the silence and the absence of light – the grave would have seemed raucous.

Lost – in the deepening wood – each step sinking into a rising tide of madness and despair. In this pre-dawn blackout, devoid of birdsong, it was then Black Dog came to me.

Silently, Black Dog padded to my side. I saw it only because the eyes; their somber obsidian pitch caused the surrounding pool of gloom to seem bright in contrast. Black Dog’s considerable tongue slipped from its jowls to lap at my arm.

The tenticular appendage caressed my arm, as a lover in the afterglow.

Each quiet stroke brushing my skin left me – thinner.

I was unable to tell if Black Dog was showing affection – or feeding.

As the moist muscle slid along my flesh the essence of my being became gaunt and longing, a pang of hunger even began to drive me.

Desperate in the fear of my ephemeral essence dissolving under this tongue onslaught, I lashed out.

Believing it had a docile meal under its sway, Black Dog was knocked back, stunned.

I shambled through the woods unseeing, uncaring. I can sense Black Dog stalking me, waiting for a chance to pounce; I cannot let it happen. If I succumb to Black Dog, I do not believe I could survive its affection. Yet, the promise of oblivion has an allure all its own.

When I contemplate surrendering to Black Dog and its promise to give me the sweet enticement of oblivion, the craving brings forth the anguish of longing, and I stumble onward.

I live, for now, in perpetual twilight.

In the distance there are lights. Snatches of revelry and merriment occasionally drift to me.

When they do, the hunger and desire intensify. If I strive to join the revelry, I am unable. I am outside looking in. I see the gaiety and mirth through windows, but they are barred, and I find no portal.

Black Dog will appear, tongue lolling to one side, the musky scent of tinctured rancid breath emanates from its maw. I cannot – I must not – succumb to it. For down, that path lies madness and its consort – oblivion.

My life has become a constant flight from Black Dog’s darkness and toward the lights beyond the woods.

Some nights I dream. A simple doorway allows me to enter a grand ballroom. People smiling, laughing, welcome me as a long-lost friend. Always, it feels awkward. There is a haze between us – we are focused differently. As Phineus, whose sustenance is so near yet is stolen or despoiled by the harpies as he approaches, so too does my connection to their reality.

In the distance, a baying. Everyone turns; I feel my façade melt away.

Horrified, the once merry band flees, their faces melting as truths are revealed – and I become the reviled.

A howl now. The source of the baying comes closer. It awakens me from my stupor. Doggedly, I get up and push onward to continue my (dream?) struggle, to walk the world between madness and death.

Pantheon – By Eric Syrdal

Pantheon
by Eric Syrdal
Reviewed by Ernest Russell
Photo Courtesy of Jon Barmore

Pantheon

Pantheon, the debut novel from Eric Syrdal, is unique. His free verse poetry weaves mythology for modern times while being entertaining, insightful, and visionary in its scope. His passion within each tale, told in semi-epic verse, blends modern constructs with ancient forms, mixed with fairy tales and spaceships, only to find characters you not only want to be a part of your life but want to be them.
Mythologies have existed as long as our species has been able to communicate. Myth has provided us with explanations for the world around us, and answers for existential questions such as:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
For centuries, artists have turned to ancient myth as a reference for their art. Today, I have finished reading modern mythology worthy of being added to the archives of inspiration. For if a picture is worth a thousand words, contained within this debut novel by Eric Syrdal is a museum’s worth of art.
Syrdal’s heroines are the Queen of Hearts, Grace, Karma, Courage, Fate, Mercy, and Hope. The story unfolds as our anonymous narrator/protagonist meets or reconnects with these personifications of human concepts, for what else is a god or goddess, who have each influenced and assisted the hero through his many journeys.
The many tales woven throughout the myths of Pantheon create a rich tapestry, showing us in vivid imagery the journey through a multi-verse of genres. Our protagonist explores worlds set in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Time Travel as they learns what they really seek. Eric Syrdal has blended these concepts and different visions of reality with skill and deftness surpassing any single genre story. The imagination creating this mythos is genuinely greater than the sum of its parts.
To experience life in all of its variety, the joy, and heartbreak, as it all echoes the spirit within so we may fully experience the exhilaration of life. This hero’s quest is not one to save the world, but ultimately, ourselves, as the tales unfold, the questions asked, only to find we are the answer.
The, at times, semi-autobiographical mirror held up by Eric Syrdal reflects not only paths he has trodden but sheds light on the paths we have chosen for ourselves. It demonstrates why we should choose our path carefully, and do not settle, but select only the path with heart for you. The way will not always be easy, but if you take the established path, you may never realize your own potential.
As an epic poem, the style was as enjoyable to read as it was fresh. My eyes flowed as freely as the verse over each page. The drama, humor, and flights of fancy as you follow will keep you turning page after page, for within are multilayered depths of meaning and experience. I have followed Eric’s writing for many years, was able to watch as this incredible work developed, and with each reading I find new concepts to regard and consider.
One of my favorite myths within Pantheon is Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All) which is the story of Fate. It still chokes me up. If it does not move you, then you may need to check your own heart.
I want to offer this short excerpt from the myth, The Dragon and the Damsel.
“This time it’s not a roar
No
it is a sorrowful
pitiful howl
of an animal that is realizing
it’s just been cornered
and the odds of escaping
with its life
are not good…

‘Never heard that before’ says Angel as she takes her first
steps toward the door sword in hand.

Courage smiles, ‘All this time you’ve heard what it sounds like
when it’s in control. When it’s on top. Now…for the first
time, dear Angel, you will know what it sounds like
when it is afraid. And it is. It is afraid of you.

And together
They step through
the doorway to engage
in a battle,
the outcome of which,
is not only a victory for one woman’s soul
but for the soul of mankind.”

Please look for more by Eric Syrdal on his blog My Sword and Shield

And you can find this fantastic novel, Pantheon by Eric Syrdal, on Amazon

 

SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR FIRST IN NEW ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY TO DEBUT IN 2019-‘NEW PULP UNITED VOLUME ONE’ TO BENEFIT CREATORS IN NEED

Pro Se New Annual Anthology

Pro Se Productions

SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR FIRST IN NEW ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY TO DEBUT IN 2019-‘NEW PULP UNITED VOLUME ONE’ TO BENEFIT CREATORS IN NEED

Pro Se Productions, a publisher of Genre Fiction, is also a publisher and a leading figure in one aspect of what is considered The New Pulp Movement. This movement focuses on fiction that is inspired and in the style of Pulp Fiction published in the early 20th Century, influenced by Pulp of the past, but written by modern writers with an eye toward the future. New Pulp exists outside this movement, obviously, and many recognize all aspects of this style of fiction as a community. This feeling has been so prevalent in the past that it has led to creators coming together to produce benefit books in memory of other creators or, in the case of Pro Se’s Editor in Chief, Tommy Hancock, to assist during hard times.

“LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION,” says Hancock, “was a project put together by Jaime Ramos and Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27 Productions. Over 100 creators threw their talents into the mix to put together the biggest volume of modern Pulp ever to help me after I was diagnosed with a rare form of Congestive Heart Failure. It was the single biggest outpouring of support I have seen in a long time in publishing, especially within New Pulp. And I will personally be forever grateful for it.”

New Pulp Author Sean Taylor noted this very thing recently in
a post on social media, expressing concern about growing divides between writers today, due to politics and different world views. In this post, Taylor made a call to return to the sense of community that existed when collections were done for Hancock or when Pro Se produced WHEN THE SHADOW SEES THE SUN, a collection of essays about creatives and depression in honor of Logan Masterson, a writer who lost his battle with depression. Taylor’s post caused many creators to think, including Hancock.

“We don’t expect,” says Hancock, “to replicate LEGENDS or any other collections with what Pro Se plans to do, but the course of discussion Sean started this past week demands that we do something, at least it demands it of me. That’s why Pro Se Productions is now taking submissions for what will hopefully be the first of a yearly collection entitled NEW PULP UNITED!. All proceeds from this collection will go into a fund that is aimed at supporting New Pulp creators when there are medical issues or emergency situations beyond normal limitations. A committee will be formed that will oversee the distribution of funds. A website and Facebook page will be established prior to the release of the first volume with more details concerning how a creator may request funds.

“Any creator, that be writer, artist, or editor that wants to contribute can submit a story,” explains Hancock, “to NEW PULP UNITED!. With all money made going into the NPU fund, no royalties will be paid and Pro Se will absorb costs that we usually cover with royalties as well. Length of individual stories does not matter, only that the tales are some sort of largely unpublished Genre Fiction with an aim at adventure, action, thrills, and/or suspense. Previously published tales will be considered, but the collection should be more new material than anything else. Also, artists wishing to contribute can provide spot illustrations for stories. Editors wanting to help can also participate. All anyone who wants to be a part of this has to do is email me at editorinchief@prose-press.com. Writers need to send me a few lines about what they intend to write and/or submit, and if the story is good and meets Pro Se’s standards, it’s in.”

NEW PULP UNITED! Is currently slated for publication in March 2019, and if subsequent volumes occur, they will be published in March of each year. This collection WILL ONLY go to print if the number of stories reaches a minimum of 30,000 words. There is no maximum limit. For a story to appear in the first collection, writers MUST email Hancock to show intent to participate and the final work needs to be emailed to submissions@prose-press.com no later than November 1, 2018.

Hancock says, “I know people will immediately have questions about how the money will be distributed, how it will be determined who is considered a New Pulp creator, and such things. To that end, all sales figures and earnings on this collection and subsequent volumes will be made public. As to who qualifies as a New Pulp writer, that will in part be up to the Committee to determine and guidelines will be set up to oversee that, although the intent here is to help, not to create a bureaucratic, complicated process. Right now, the focus has to be on seeing if the first collection even makes. If it doesn’t, it does not necessarily mean that there is a divide in the community. It may also indicate, though, that maybe there isn’t a community at all. Either way, Pro Se wants to help its creators and those outside our company who are why New Pulp exists today. This is a small way, but it is our way.”

For more information on this submissions call, please contact Hancock at editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions

Violet Windows – Final edition (For Now)

It has been a pleasure and an honor to support Kimberly in her various endeavors. My best wishes to her in all of her future endeavors. Please enjoy this final, (for now), edition of Violet Windows.

Violet Windows – Volume VIIsafe_image

1 June 2018

Good evening everyone!

Violet Windows began as a labor of love with a dash of “Yeah, I’ll try this.” Since creating this journal, I received a lot of support throughout the world – that means a lot to me. However, due to my life taking off in a different direction, I am both happy and sad to report that I’m taking a break for a while. Tea is a harsh Mistress (wink).

Much thanks to those who submitted their work to me.

Enjoy this FINAL . . For Now issue and show support to those who submitted work!

Nightingale by Ellie Raine – A New Book Review

 

Nightingale – Ellie Raine

Pro Se Productions

Nightingale

One of my favorite parts of any workday is my lunch time. It’s not the food, it’s a solid block of time I can count on for one my favorite past times. Reading. This past week lunch has been really pleasurable as I devoured the most recent offering from Ellie Raine, Nightingale.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellie Raine at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention in November 2017. Her energy and smile were infectious. I picked up her first book, Willow of Ashes, and I immediately became an Ellie Raine fan.
Ellie Raine is a very talented author, bringing a distinct vision and fresh voice to her stories. I am glad to have an autographed copy of her first book. I will be getting her autograph for this one as well. She is an author in whom I believe will be a constant delight as she matures in her art.
When the chance came up to read and review Ellie Raine’s current offering from Pro Se Productions – Nightingale, I leaped at the chance. All I knew about it was from the promo tease, “A New Take on the Private Eye tale…and Death as well.” I already knew Ellie has a talent for writing fantasy that absorbs you into the story. Could she do it with a Detective Story?
Ellie’s main character Alastor Deus, P.I. seems to be the archetype of a man seeking vengeance for the murder of his father. Nightingale properly opens straight into the action. While “discussing” a lead to his father’s murderer, the interrogation is rudely interrupted by the murder of the informant. This is the last “normal” scene. From here on out, we are on the rollercoaster with Alastor as he finds his true family…even meeting Death. Just when you think you have a handle on the plot twists, Ellie finds a monkey wrench. But she doesn’t hit you over the head with it. Most of the plot twists came with a subtle lagniappe, a little extra. As a veteran reader of detective stories, it was quite refreshing. Imagine, reading a story that is almost predictable, but not completely.
The world of Nightingale is a very different, yet familiar reflection of our own. The twists in mythologies are highly creative and well imagined. The marriage of Private Eye story and the mythologies invoked is just shy of brilliant. Her prose is clever and evocative in the best tradition of Pulp detectives. The characters begin a little flat but each page reveals more of their past, adding shades of depth and grey motivations. There is not quite enough growth for them to become fully 3D but enough I wanted to see more of them. What else is waiting to be told? Between the pace of the story with new questions and revelations constantly expanding the backgrounds of the characters, Nightingale was very difficult to put it down.
As a pulp story, this tale really sings.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Shoggoths

scary-eye

 

Shoggoth,
Can you see me?
Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
Mutated through aeons,
Survive into modern era.
Feeding its thirst and slaking its hunger
A gelatinous amoeba,
Formless and shapeless,
Absorbing your fluids.

Shoggoth,
Can you hear me?
Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
Deep Ones and Mi-Go grant
Mind grafts and madness.
Mind trapped in a cage,
Overloading with thoughts
Dark and deep.

Shoggoth,
Do you dream?
Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
Of Underwater cities, Antarctic homes
Slaves to suggestion; Servant and tools,
Brewing rebellion.
Rolling on pseudopods and eyes,
Shaping organs and appendages
Ready to kill again –
If can you see me.

 

Thanks for reading,

Ernest

 

Whispers and Lures

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This blackest dawn, brightest night.
Creep toward the shadows
Shadows are tranquil.
Grey skies shield the light from
Soothing emptiness.
Filled with whispers and lures
The voices are loud.
Hands over my ears eyes closed.
Blindly stumble onward
To avoid drowning in the mire.
Tread in place trying to hold on the abyss.
It is covered by thin ice
If fall, it could crack I could freeze.
Be numb to the pain.
If only someone else understood.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest