Author Archives: Peter Darbyshire

Because the world needs more newsletters right now

You may have noticed I’ve been somewhat quiet on the news and social media fronts of late. One reason for that is I’ve been busy writing. I’ve published some new stories lately and I’ve also written two new novels. Hopefully I’ll have something to share about that in the near future.

The other reason I’ve been quiet is I’ve increasingly found social media to do more harm than good. It’s a complicated thing — I appreciate the broader community/communities that social media can support. It’s a crucial tool for writers — especially when the media has more or less abandoned discussions of books. Social media accounts and online reviews are sometimes the only places that books get mentioned now. But social media can also be incredibly toxic and do real harm to individuals and society. I don’t think I need to remind everyone of the countless examples of that.

The recent controversies over Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter highlighted a feeling I already had of wanting a different way of connecting with people. I’ve always liked blog posts, but it’s difficult to keep track of them without a useful RSS reader service. Newsletters are a little easier, however, and I have subscribed to a number of creator and magazine newsletters that I enjoy. I’ve found myself appreciating the more in-depth experience of the newsletter compared to the ephemeral nature of the social post. Or maybe it’s the old newspaper reporter in me coming out again. Whatever the reason, I decided to start up my newsletter again and see how it goes.

I’ll try sending a newsletter once a month or so over the next year about my writing updates, what I’m up to in my life, that sort of thing. If that interests you, then you can subscribe here. (The most recent newsletter can be found here.) I’m going to try to post more on this journal as well. Maybe someday I’ll even do a Patreon….

In the meantime, I will continue to have a presence on social media, although that presence will likely be somewhat random.

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If you know of a culture newsletter that you think others would enjoy, please share it!

As always, thanks for reading.

Peter

The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts

I’ve written another tale of Azrael, the angel gunslinger, that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been kind enough to publish. “The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts” follows the fallen angel Azrael as he crosses paths with some soldiers that refuse to die and who just can’t leave the past behind. Here’s the opening bit:

It was a gunshot that woke the angel Azrael from his dream of the wars and put him on the path to redemption. A single shot that cracked through the hot air of the day like the world had snapped and broken somewhere.

At the time, Azrael was slumbering in the saddle atop the dead horse, letting it take him where it would across the badlands, for he had no destination of his own. He was dreaming of the final battle at the Jericho Wall, of the angel Lazarus standing amid all the dead in the breach in that wall, his bible burning in his hands and flames in his eyes as he stared accusingly at Azrael. The battle cries and screams of the dying were so loud in Azrael’s ears that he almost didn’t hear the shot.

He opened his eyes to find himself riding across the same lifeless plain as when he’d drifted off to sleep hours or perhaps even days earlier. The ground was hard and cracked from the unrelenting heat. He suspected it hadn’t seen a rainfall in his lifetime. It rose and fell here and there, providing just enough cover for someone to set up an ambush. But Azrael saw no other soul, living or dead, and no bullet struck him. There wasn’t even a mark of one hitting the ground anywhere nearby. The shot must have been fired somewhere else, at someone else. He rested his hands on the guns at his hips nevertheless.

The dead horse was following a wagon trail, but that trail had come to a crossroads where it split in two. One branch angled off to the west, while the other disappeared into the horizon in the opposite direction. There were no signs indicating where the trails might lead.

Azrael squinted up at the sky, searching. The merciless sun filled the heavens with a bright emptiness. The two buzzards that accompanied him everywhere were circling to the west, a sure sign there was something of import that way. Azrael nudged the dead horse in their direction. The buzzards had a sense for trouble that was rarely wrong. Experience had taught him it was best not to ignore them.

Bonus feature: I’ve just finished a working draft of the first Azrael novel, and this story hints at a few things that take place in the novel.

Bonus bonus feature: The issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies also contains a new Bone and Gaunt story by Chris Willrich, “On Magog’s Pond.” If you know Willrich’s writing you’ll be as excited about this as I was. If you haven’t read Willrich yet, then you’re in for a treat.

Bonus bonus bonus feature: The issue also opens up the BCS archives to republish Lavie Tidhar’s “Drowned God’s Heresy.” Does it get any better than this? No. No, it does not.

This marks the fifth Azrael story that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published. If you’re curious about the order in which to read them, I’m partial to the order of publication.

The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse

The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies

The Angel Azrael Delivers Justice to the People of the Dust

The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities

The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts

Please also check out the audio version of “The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies” with a new introduction I recorded for the story.

Support the Taddle Creek Book!

Sad to see Taddle Creek ending its run as it’s one of my favourite reads. I’ve discovered many a great writer there and I’m deeply grateful to have published a few of my own stories in the journal. 

Taddle Creek will be including one of those stories in the Taddle Creek Book, a keepsake anthology of some of the works it has published over the years. But which one of my stories will make the cut? Will it be The Code, an account of misadventures in a fetish club? Or Neighbours, an odd voyeurism misadventure? Or Starseed, a tale of a mad spider-man scientist and the superhero he is determined to uncover as being a secret villain? Or If You Lived Here, a chronicle of a break and enter gone wrong? 

Head on over to the fundraiser today to find out! $39 CAD plus shipping gets you a 352-page hardcover book, including 32 pages of colour comics, with 70 creative pieces inside!

The Angel Gunslinger Azrael Rides Again!

I’m thrilled to announce I’ve published another tale of the angel gunslinger Azrael over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! Azrael and his dead horse are back in the weird western “The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities.” Ride with them for a time as Azrael attempts to take a dead woman’s bible through the badlands to her kin, only to encounter a curious collection of pilgrims, a murderous gang of half angels and one very strange… well, that would be giving it away.

I’m deeply grateful to the guidance of BCS editor Scott Andrews not only for publishing my Azrael stories but for helping me to more fully realize the character of Azrael and his world. When I wrote the first Azrael story, “The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse,” I didn’t really have more in mind than a one-off weird west story in between my other projects. But Azrael kept on riding into my imagination after that first story, and BCS kept publishing his tales, and now I’m finishing my first Azrael novel. I don’t think any of that would have been possible without BCS and Scott’s insightful editing. 

And, of course, the angel Azrael tales wouldn’t have been possible without readers such as yourself. Thanks for journeying along with Azrael and me on these wanderings. I hope you’ll continue to ride with us for a time.

If you’re new to the Azrael stories, you can read them for free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies:

The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse

The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies

The Angel Azrael Delivers Justice to the People of the Dust

The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities

Bonus feature: Check out the audio version of “The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies” with a new introduction I recorded for the story!

(Make sure you also read Patty Templeton’s “A Nickel for the Burlap Man,” which is in the same issue as “The Angel Azrael Encounters the Revelation Pilgrims and Other Curiosities.” It’s a hell of a tale.)

It’s PLR time again!

Writers all across Canada are celebrating the arrival of PLR payments — and I’m one of those writers. 

Being a writer can be challenging at times, as most writers typically earn poverty wages from years of creative effort. Thankfully there are programs like the Public Lending Right Program, which sends yearly payments to creators whose works can be found in public libraries across Canada. The formula used to calculate payments varies a little, but let’s just say it’s a lifeline for Canadian authors. 

The PLR payments are important for a few reasons. They a crucial form of compensation for authors to receive payment for books they’ve already written and others get to enjoy for free, courtesy of our great library system. So it’s a win-win scenario – the public gets free library books AND the authors get compensated. 

But the PLR payments are more than just compensation. They are also an investment. Those cheques that get sent out every February help writers across the country keep writing — they’re both a boost to the bank account and a boost to morale. As such, they’re part of an ecosystem of cultural support that includes other funding programs — Canada Council awards, regional funding programs, Access Copyright and so on. All these critical supports help pay the bills so writers can keep doing what they do best — write. And they remind writers they are in fact valued creators and people want to see their next creations. 

I’m one of those creators, for I’m not sure I would have published six books to date without such support — that’s my most recent book, Has the World Ended Yet?, in the photo. The arrival of another PLR payment in the mail helps me pay some bills, and that’s great. But more important than that, it makes me want to sit back down at my desk and do one thing: write. 

Thank you to all those at PLR and the other cultural programs — and a very special thanks to all the readers across this wonderful country. You are what this is all about.

The apocalypse is not evenly distributed

I haven’t had much to post of late because I’ve been busy writing. I’ve finished a number of stories and a new novel, and I’m partway through another novel. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to read some of them soon. In the meantime, I’d thought a post a few things from the archives. Here’s a Halloween interview I did with Open Book a while back for my collection Has the World Ended Yet? (it’s looking increasingly likely).

I realized early on that the stories I was writing were all kind of apocalyptic but in very different ways. I came up with a few ideas to link them but they all felt kind of forced, so I let them go. The book now has a chaotic, crazed feel to it — “Wait, how does this demon investigator story go with the retired superheroes battling angels?” But I really like the way that the structure of the book reflects its subject matter. We’re all mad here, right?

So the stories are both linked and not linked. The book is like a broken mirror. That said, there are a few easter eggs in the book where stories speak to each other, if people are willing to look for them.

Angel apocalypses, casual miracles, travelling deity salesmen, elder god placement agencies, aging superheroes and more — this collection has all the Halloween treats you can imagine! Buy a box today to give out to the kids in your neighbourhood! (Just remember to lock the doors and turn out the lights when the mob of angry parents shows up.)

The doctors said there was nothing wrong with me

In honour of that strange time before the pandemic when we used to get out and socialize more, here’s a story from the archives about spying on my neighbours. It’s from my first book, Please, which really is from a different time.

“An appropriate apocalyptic pulpy cover”

Interview from the archives: All Lit Up talks to designer Michel Vrana about the design process for my book Has the World Ended Yet? I still think this is a beautiful cover, and the retro images inside are just a bonus.

A Beholder balloon on a string

The Broadsword Bandits are back for more sessions of Dungeons and Dragons! Join myself and writers James McCann, Arthur Slade, Adrienne Kress, KC Dyer, Kevin Sylvester and guest star Susan Juby as we try to return a wayward Beholder to its retirement ranch. Of course, it’s never that easy when Beholders are involved. Or writers….

Have you downloaded the apocalypse yet?

As we head into the season of endless night, it’s important to make sure you have enough reading material to keep your mind occupied so you don’t notice what the shadows are doing. Here’s a friendly reminder that my latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, is available in ebook format so you can download it and immediately start reading its tales of travelling deity salesman, Craigslist miracles, angel invasions, elder god job placement agencies and more.

Buy Has the World Ended Yet? on Kindle | Kobo | iBooks

And if you’ve read Has the World Ended Yet? and liked it, please leave a review in your preferred Book of Judgement (Goodreads | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). If enough people demand it, we may be able to release the Has the World Ended Yet? expansion pack: My Pandemic Superpower Is….

(Image taken from Has the World Ended Yet?, which has many retrofuturish images for your nightmarish pleasure.)