Blog Archives

It’s a Heroic Fantasy Kickstarter!

UPDATE: The Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has exceeded its goal, which is great for readers and the writers involved — and the publishers! They’re still raising funds through June, and the more they raise the more the writers involved — like me — get paid in bonuses. So big thanks if you already helped out and/or spread the word!

The good people at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly are running a Kickstarter for their Best Of anthology Vol. 2, which includes my story The Princess Trap — in which a dragon and a captive sheepherder encounter a number of tasty knights. The Kickstarter is trying to generate art for each story, and I’d love to see what they come up with for mine. Check it out and support them if you’re into that sort of thing!

The hidden tentacles are the best part


I’m happy to announce that ChiZine, the publisher of my Cross series, will be publishing an omnibus edition of the first three Cross books this coming spring. Which is really just an excuse to show off another supernaturally good cover by Erik Mohr. Bonus content will be one or two Cross short stories, depending on their length when I’ve finished editing them.
The omnibus will be ebook only, because print is dead and we learned our lesson after people reading The Apocalypse Ark in bookstores raised all those ghouls in that hidden graveyard under the Barnes & Noble. 

Keep the west weird

If you like weird westerns or my Angel Azrael gunslinger stories — or both! — then you may be interested in the Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8th Anniversary Sale.

Buy or renew a BCS ebook subscription or buy Best of BCS Year Seven at Weightless Books, and you’ll get a free BCS anthology of your choice — including Ceaseless West, which contains my first ever Angel Azrael tale.

BCS Ebook Subscriptions are still only $15.99 for a whole year/26 issues (that’s less than 30 cents a story). Subscribers can get issues delivered directly to their Kindle or smart phone (any device with an email address), and they get new issues early, a week before the website. You can renew at any time, no matter when your subscription expires.

BCS is one of the best magazines out there and my personal favourite. Check it out and treat yourself!

Together again, for the first time

It’s the very first time I’ve seen all my Cross books together in a bookstore! Thanks, Chapters!

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Well, that’s the Sixth Seal broken. On to the next one.

Set sail for the sea of imagination

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There are all numbers of things fantastic in my third Cross novel, The Apocalypse Ark. There are angels and a crazed Noah, sorcerous pirates and sunken cities, a vampire and a white whale, to name just a few. In one sense, the book is a stand-in for the ark of the title, which in Cross’s universe is not the ship that saved humanity but is instead the storage place for all of God’s misfit creations. There are many such misfits in the book. In another, more personal sense, The Apocalypse Ark is a return to some of the things that inspired me to begin writing when I was a child.

The cast of curious creatures is nothing new for the series. The first two Cross books, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice and The Dead Hamlets, also have their share of the mythological and wondrous. With those books, though, the fantastic was much more grounded in the real. I’ve always loved fantasy, but I really wanted to create a fantasy series that was about our world rather than some made-up realm — I wanted readers to feel a real-life connection to the characters and places in the books, even if the characters were immortals, faerie and the like.

In The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, the fantasy elements are very clearly tied to our world — the Gaudi church in Barcelona inspired much of the book (as I’ve written about before), the gorgon is linked to a statue in the Louvre and a glass skull in the British Museum, Cross’s love Penelope is enmeshed in the spiritualist movement, an abandoned factory in Detroit is the setting for a key scene and so forth. There’s even a real-life painting or two that play a role.

I continued to find the fantasy in the real with The Dead Hamlets, where the Tower of London plays a key role, as does the castle that likely inspired Hamlet. There are a few other things, such as a certain cemetery, a legendary historical text, Westminster Abbey, the church where Shakespeare is buried, a real-life haunted theatre and rumoured ghost, and so on. I let my imagination run a little more wild in The Dead Hamlets, creating settings and characters that are definitely out of this world, but for the most part I was working within pre-existing myths, legends and texts.

With The Apocalypse Ark, I set sail for the seas of the imagination instead of the real world, though. The novel originated in a mad fantasy rather than the real world, after all — the idea that Noah was God’s jailer rather than humanity’s saviour and had gone mad and sought to end the world. As with the other books, I wanted a wild assortment of mythic characters and magical settings, but rather than find their origins in real life I wanted to anchor them in books, movies, and other works of art that had meant something to me. (Some of you may say there is no difference between real life and art, but bear with me….)

In many ways, The Apocalypse Ark is a tribute to the works that inspired me as a youth and lit the fires of my imagination. Chief among them is the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on the Jules Verne novel. I remember seeing the movie in a school gymnasium right before the holidays when I was in elementary school. I sat on the floor in the dark with hundreds of other students and watched, mesmerized, as the secret submarine Nautilus emerged from the depths and its crew did battle with a giant squid. It was a dark, stylish film with more than a little moral ambiguity and complex ideas for a young child such as myself. It was a far cry from the usual Disney fare I was used to, and I was hooked immediately.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of those things that changed the way I thought about books and movies — Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Amber were a couple of other notable atomic texts for me. It wasn’t long after I saw the movie that I found myself reading HP Lovecraft’s books and devouring the Conan tales, which are every bit as dark and disturbing as Lovecraft. If I were to go back through my life, I could probably follow the wake of the Nautilus through all my younger, formative years, right into university, where I discovered Melville’s tale of Ahab and the white whale. Another work of art that changed everything for me.

There’s so much of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in The Apocalypse Ark — the Nautilus and Nemo are both present in more than a passing manner. There’s a bit of steampunk to it, which was deliberate as I see 20,000 Leagues as one of the early steampunk works — not only for its stylish vision but also for its critique of capitalism and industry. The whole Cross series follows an antihero, of which we have a couple examples in 20,000 Leagues. Jules Verne even makes an appearance in The Apocalypse Ark! And, of course, The Apocalypse Ark does have a memorable giant squid attack. I hope it’s memorable, anyway….

I also wrote in the other books that influenced me, the ones that Verne’s Nautilus led me toward. The Sunken City may remind you of a certain Lovecraft aquatic abode, and I tried to channel the madness of Moby Dick with my own version of Ahab and the white whale.

It’s not all echoes and homages, though — I like to think I managed to create my own dark and wondrous world populated by deranged angels, cunning vampires and crazed kraken and the like. I would love it if readers set sail into the sea of my imagination and find it as much a shock and inspiration as that moment I found myself huddled in the dark on a gymnasium floor, watching a strange new world come to life before me.

I hope The Apocalypse Ark carries you away, dear reader, much as 20,000 Leagues carried me away to a world I never could have imagined but can now never forget.

The Apocalypse is here!

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The author copies of The Apocalypse Ark arrived today! They are strangely wet and smell of Kraken rum, but they are here!

Hey neighbour, can I borrow a cup of kickass fantasy?

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I’ve long been a fan of Sebastien de Castell and his Greatcoats series, which started with Traitor’s Blade, so I got a kick out of sharing some Amazon bestseller space with him. He’ll never let me live it down that he beat The Apocalypse Ark, though….

If you want to learn more about Sebastien and his kickass fantasy series, check out the interview and podcast I did with him at The Province, where he talks about moving from the barista lifestyle to the rich and glamorous life of a plumber after signing an eight-book publishing deal (it’s all explained in the interview).

The girl is in the ice cream truck! The iiiiccccceeee ccccrrrrreeeaaaaammmm trrrrruuuucccckkkk!

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Late in The Apocalypse Ark, there’s this real twist where….

Yeah, this is probably the point I should talk about spoilers.

I have a spoilers story I always like to tell people.

A couple of years back, I was watching a season of The Walking Dead on Netflix. I have two children, a full-time career in the media, and I try to write when I can, so I don’t tend to watch things when they first come out. I usually get around to it a year or three later. So I was catching up on the episodes of The Walking Dead that everyone else in the newsroom had already watched.

You can see where this is going.

I mentioned to the photo editor that I had just started Season 2, which focuses in large part on the survivor group’s attempts to find a girl who was separated from the others by walkers early in the season.

“Oh, that moment where she drives the ice cream truck into the house had me crying!” she said.

OK, that’s not really what she said. I’m not going to tell you what she said, because spoilers. Some of you may not have seen it yet, like I hadn’t when she told me what really happened with the missing girl.

A great deal of the season’s drama arises out of the characters’ search for the missing girl. Where is she? Will she ever be found? Did the walkers get her? Etc. The whole season, as I watched the drama build, I could only think: “She’s in the ice cream truck. Just listen for that unholy jingle and track her down.” Well, that’s not exactly what I was thinking, but you know what I mean. All the anticipation and excitement and anxiety and everything else of the season was lost for me because of that one slip by a colleague.

Of course, when I mentioned that to my other colleagues, they thought the situation was quite funny and now they openly discuss plot twists and turns around me whenever they can. It’s enough to make me watch House of Cards instead. There are no surprises there, right?

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying I have a new book out and please don’t give away the secrets. No spoilers! Unless the person you’re talking to wasn’t going to buy the book anyway. Then they deserve to have their day ruined.

“A vastly entertaining, fantastical, breakneck hodgepodge quest novel”

The same day The Apocalypse Ark received that wonderful Vancouver Sun review, it also got a fun review at Publishers Weekly. Hard to beat comments like this:

The Cross series is a spiritual relative to Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim and Lavie Tidhar’s Bookman series, meaning that anyone (and anything) in the literary universe is fair game. Mythological beasts, Lovecraftian allusions, pirates, and characters from Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea all fuse together to form a vastly entertaining, fantastical, breakneck hodgepodge quest novel that has the good sense never to take itself too seriously

“One of the strongest, and strangest, literary creations this country has ever seen”

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I will just say that I am deeply pleased to read this review of my latest Cross novel, The Apocalypse Ark. It’s nice to have a reader that gets what you’re trying to do.

Roman (a pseudonym for Vancouver Province journalist Peter Darbyshire) writes with the unfettered delight of a gluttonous reader trapped in a library in his own mind, drawing promiscuously from myth, folk tale, religious texts and apocrypha, literature, music and philosophy — seemingly anything that catches his attention. A Cross novel, at a quick glance or description, seems like an absurdist piece of outsider art, shiny objects thrown together in a fit of barely checked mania.

Anyone who has read a Cross novel, however, knows the truth: despite their crazed, iconoclastic appearance, Roman’s novels are skilfully wrought, thematically deep, with a philosophical depth and a keen sense for both story and its implications. They’re smarter than they would need to be, were they mere action novels, with a sense of literary intersectionality and deep, canonical knowledge most closely akin to writers like Neil Gaiman, Bill Willingham and Mike Carey, graphic novelists all, and three of the finest storytellers at work.

Special thanks to the Storm Crow Alehouse in Vancouver for the photo shoot! I will be back for the Dungeon Burger!