Category Archives: Writing

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.)

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.

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.)

The angels of inspiration

It’s quite lovely to see my book Has the World Ended Yet? included in a list of recommendations from the Edmonton Public Library and Shawna Lemay. Some of these creators have been an influence on my own writing, so it’s both gratifying and humbling to be on this list. Shawna talks more about influences and her forthcoming book, Everything Affects Everyone, over at Transactions with Beauty.

Put a ring on it

It’s lovely news to hear my most recent book, Has the World Ended Yet?, made the long shortlist for the ReLit Award. Some of you may remember my first book, Please, won a ReLit Award back in… well, let’s just say Life Before the Pandemic.

I’ve been lucky enough to win a few writing prizes over the years, and they’ve all seemed to come just when I was ready to give up on writing altogether. Most writers will recognize that feeling — it’s a lonely affair at the best of times, and self-doubt and imposter syndrome comes with the territory. So it’s nice to get that validation from strangers sometimes that maybe someone out there actually does like your writing.

The ReLit is one of my favourite awards even though there’s no money involved. The prize is a ring made of moveable dials engraved with letters, so that you can spell words with it. It is a lovely little fetish object and the perfect award for a writer. Even though I won it many years ago, it’s still on my writing desk today.

Not only is the ReLit Ring a beautiful creation, it is also a frequent and much valued reminder to myself that other people do care about what I write. Sometimes you need that reminder while staring at the blank screen, wondering what to do with these obstinate characters who refuse to tell you what they want. Sometimes that reminder is enough of a writing prompt that I continue to write when I feel like giving up, and I press on and get through the day until I finish the story or book or whatever mad experiment it is I’m working upon. The ReLit Ring was a prize for a book I had already published, but it’s helped me to write many other stories, and for that I will always be grateful.

Plus, I get to write secret messages to myself with it!

Learn more about the ReLit Ring and the ReLit Awards here: http://www.relitawards.com

(I know not everyone has a spare magic ring sitting around to throw at their favourite writers, but a good review works wonders as well. Please consider making a writer’s day by writing a review for a book you’ve enjoyed. Any writer — this isn’t about me. Trust me when I say it will make a difference.)

Happy End Times!

The end of the world is now 30% off! My publisher Wolsak & Wynn is holding an apocalyptically good sale on my book Has the World Ended Yet? and other of their fine titles. Check out these terrifying tales of retired superheroes vs. mysterious angels, travelling deity salesmen, Craigslist miracles, demon investigators and more before the world ends (or Halloween, whichever comes first)! (Use the code “TREAT” at checkout or visit the usual haunts.) https://bookstore.wolsakandwynn.ca/collections/fiction/products/has-the-world-ended-yet