Monday, August 1, 2016

James Aquilone Infuses the Detective Novel with a Fun Dose of the Dead

James Aquilone has launched a Kickstarter to fund "Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device," the first book in a new fantasy/horror series about a drug-addicted zombie detective and his homunculus frenemy. Visit the campaign here.


Dead Jack isn't the best detective in Pandemonium. He's just the cheapest. In fact he'll work for fairy dust. But don't judge. Jack needs it to curb his hunger for sweet, succulent flesh. In "Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device," the first book in the series, things go bad for the brain-licker after he tries to score from his old dealer. Jack and his homunculus sidekick Oswald find themselves on the run from angry leprechauns. But they have bigger krakens to fry, because Pandemonium is in danger of going bye-bye — and our duo is its only hope. Lucifer help them!


Waiting for My Wee-Man
I reached into my jacket for a Lucky Dragon once the shakes began. The undead aren’t known for their dexterity, so I had a bit of fun getting that hellfire stick. I was like a drunken mummy trying to do jazz hands. I burned off half the skin on my left index finger lighting the damn thing. That made four fingers now that were practically nothing but bone. If this kept up, I’d end up a skeleton inside a cheap suit and fedora. I doubt anyone would notice.

Being a member of the great unwashed undead isn’t all bad, though. I was happy for my dulled sense of smell. The alleyway stunk like rotten cabbage and sour apples.

I took a deep drag on my hellfire stick. Smoke poured out from the hole in my right cheek like exhaust out of a busted tailpipe. I sucked that thing halfway down and it barely made a difference. My hand still trembled like a virgin at a satyr convention. I needed fairy dust. Bad.

I had tried everyone in downtown ShadowShade, but no one was holding. Out of desperation I came here to Irish Town, in search of Flanagan, my old dealer.

Without dust, the hunger becomes overpowering, and when I’m hungry no one’s safe. I’d eat my own mother.

I had been waiting in the alley behind Finn McCool’s for at least an hour before the leprechaun finally appeared.

Flanagan isn’t your typical lep. First off, he’s not that short. Maybe five-foot-two. He’s broad shouldered, barrel chested, and someone you don’t want to mess with. He also has the saltiest mouth in all the Five Cities of Pandemonium.

As he entered the alley, he sang, rather jauntily:

“There once was a fellow McSweeney
Who spilled some gin on his weenie…”

A large sack was slung over his shoulder as he swaggered past the reeking dumpsters full of what must have been hundred-year-old cabbage.

“Just to be couth
He added vermouth
Then slipped his girlfriend a martini…”

“Sorry to interrupt that charming little ditty,” I said, and slipped out of the shadows as I blew smoke out of all the holes in my face. All nine. Real bad-ass.

The lep stopped deader than my libido. Like I’d caught him bathing naked in his pot of gold. (Leprechauns don’t really have pots of gold, by the way, but they are known to carry sweet, sweet fairy dust, the closest thing to heaven in this godforsaken world.)

The sack jerked and he gripped it tighter.

“What’s in the sack, Flanny? Someone didn’t pay their vig?”

“None of your fookin business. Now if you wouldn’t be minding. I have better tings to do than converse with a brain-licker.” The lep took a step forward, but I blocked his way.

“Look, meat bag, I don’t want any trouble.”

“No trouble. I’m just looking for dust.”

The lep exploded into laughter. He actually placed his hand over his belly. A real guffaw.

“You fookin dust head. Oh, Jackie boy, I thought maybe you were on a case.”

“Just a gram. The hunger is starting to eat through my innards.”

“You have innards? Figured it’s all just sludge inside ya by now. Like your brain.”

“The last time I went cold turkey, it ended real bad for some fairies. I went wilder on them than a pack of werewolves. I’m still not welcome in The Red Garden.”
“You ain’t threatening now, are ya, ya dead dick?”

My hands shook and my bones rattled as I held them up. It looked like I was trying to conjure a pixie spirit. “I’m desperate.”

“Then you’re out of luck. I don’t deal anymore. I have new opportunities.”

There was a clink, like a glass bell, and the sack flew up. Flanagan nearly lost his grip on it but was able to pull it back down.

“What’s in the sack, Flanny?”

“None of your fookin business, ya filthy corpse.”

He drove his shoulder into my crotch, shoved me into the wall, and took off down the alley.

Maybe the hunger had reached its apex or maybe I didn’t like the way he called me a filthy corpse. I didn’t mind the crotch shot. As for my zombie genital situation, let’s not go there. Either way I was on him like a werewolf on a moonpie.

About the Author

James Aquilone was raised on Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, sitcoms, and Cap’n Crunch. Amid the Cold War, he dreamed of being a jet fighter pilot but decided against the military life after realizing it would require him to wake up early. He had further illusions of being a stand-up comedian, until a traumatic experience on stage forced him to seek a college education. Brief stints as an alternative rock singer/guitarist and child model also proved unsuccessful. Today he battles a severe Tetris addiction while trying to write in the speculative fiction game.

His short fiction has been published in such places as Nature’s Futures, "The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014," "Unidentified Funny Objects 4," and Weird Tales Magazine. Suffice it to say, things are going much better than his modeling career.

He lives in Staten Island, New York, but don’t hold that against him.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

47 Parsecs

Latest News:

Announcing Project 47 Parsecs

47 Parsecs is the code name for a SF universe set not far away in our Solar neighborhood.  In this space - there's always a frontier - never a safe haven.

The inspiration for this project began with the simple desire of feeding my childhood appetite for grand exploration, harrowing celestial battles, and fascinating encounters with alien landscapes.  In those days, I'd stare up at the cold night sky over northern Maine and wonder what made the stars sparkle.  I'd imagine galactic battles raging around stars with such ferocity that I bore witness to the devastation they unleashed in the heavens.  Each flash of red was a starship laying siege to an enemy planet or the explosion of a battle cruiser in an invading fleet.  To this day, I will tilt my head to the heavens, study the constellations for a spark of red or a flare of blue, and tell myself somewhere out there my childhood fantasy is another civilization's reality, or maybe others are staring back at me with the same wonder in their eyes, the same dream playing out in their minds.
I've spent many years studying, developing my story-telling skills.  I've even written a couple amateur novels.  One day those may turn into projects of their own.  For now, they've been shelved.
47 Parsecs is my endeavor to roll everything I've learned into a new SF brand, a career, and I can't wait to share it with you.  The first installment is a full length novel in final draft with a 150,000 word goal.  The first 100 pages are halfway through editing by one of the industry's greats, Dave Farland.  He is an extremely talented and challenging editor, teacher, and writer.  I have had the pleasure to call him my mentor for a number of months now.  He offers invaluable instruction at his website and if you've been bitten by the story bug, as I have, than I highly recommend learning from him.  I've taken his Mastery I course and am enrolled in Promising Starts.  As soon as editing is complete, I'm off to find an agent and Dave has great advice for the business side of writing too.  As events unfold, I will blog about them here.
To that end, I will be posting regular updated progress, as well as other articles that explore my interests.  So keep reading please, comment, and share what you like.  Together, the future looks exciting!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A. F. E. Smith Releases Debut Fantasy Novel: DARKHAVEN

Out today: DARKHAVEN

Darkhaven cover
About the Book: 
Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)


Book description:
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Buy links 
Amazon (global link)
Barnes & Noble
Google play



A.F.E. Smith photo
About the Author:
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Author social media links
DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Conflict, What is it good for?

Absolutely Everything.

Take the June special edition of Lightspeed for example.  Entitled Women Destroy Science Fiction, this super issue is packed with amazing stories from female only authors.  There are also non-fiction articles, essays from the issue's many authors, and an editorial written by a team of five women.  Within its pages you will find talented examples of women contributing to science fiction.  Ironically enough, you will also find examples of women claiming they aren't accepted in the genre.  Hence the conflict.
Why am I writing about it?  Because my, rather recent, voluntary participation at Tangent Online led the editor, Dave Truesdale, to request me and the rest of his unpaid staff to perform a special review, one worthy of such a super issue.  Being male, something I'm not ashamed of by the way, I was asked only to review the author essays and/or non-fiction articles.  Dave requested all the fiction be reviewed by his female staff.  I recently read and reviewed a story by Seanan McGuire in John Joseph Adam's weird western anthology, Dead Man's Hand, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I volunteered to review her essay, which I found to be optimistic for the future of women in science fiction.
Afterward, Dave requested I personally review the issue's editorial.  He hand picked me, another male, and two females from his staff to provide what he aimed to be a balanced review.  Suffice it to say, I was flattered.  I only recently joined the staff at Tangent Online and don't think too highly of my skills as a reviewer just yet, give me time, I'm a Marine, it doesn't take long for us to excel, or, at least, to think we do.  Then apprehension set in.  More conflict.  I worried how wise it would be for an as yet unpublished male author to weigh in on such a controversial topic as sexism.  But I've never shied away from sticking my neck out.  I'm a Marine.  It's kinda what we do.
After reading the editorial, I decided to review the first section, Christie Yant's section, who also had a thought provoking and entertaining story in Dead Man's Hand.  Whereas I found McGuire's essay optimistic, I found Yant's editorial pessimistic and reviewed it accordingly.  You can read my review and those of the others at Tangent Online's special review issue, and do read Women Destroy Science Fiction what ever your feelings are.  The stories are well worth it.
So why am I writing about it?  Because I learned something, or perhaps realized it again in a profound way.  You see, when the review posted it took no time at all for such a contentious article to spread, and for all manner of things to be said about it.  I quickly learned the mother of conflict is perception.
Have you ever realized how much time and effort it takes to create something, anything, and how easy it is to destroy it.  Most of the universe works this way, but perception is the exception to the rule.  It takes precious little effort, none at all really, for someone to perceive something, to get an impression, form an opinion.  It takes an infinite amount of time and energy to destroy, or even change, that perception.
That was my profound take away from all this as I read countless examples of people perceiving the review a certain way and those who wrote it futilely attempting to explain themselves.  Indeed, it does not escape my attention that I too perceived Yant's editorial a certain way, right or wrong.
So is there sexism in science fiction?  Is Yant an extreme feminist?  Am I a male chauvinist?  The answer is Hell No!, Not Really, Maybe, A Little Bit Yeah, and Hell Yes! because it's all someone's perception.  They're all going to be different, but that's what is so great about perception.  IT BREEDS CONFLICT.
So conflict, What is it good for?  Absolutely everything.  Why?  Because conflict makes the world go round.  Conflict makes things interesting.  It powers argument.  It excites interest.  Everyone benefits from conflict.  Thanks to my review, my name is being thrown around, a lot.  One person, Amal El-Mohtar, who, in 2011, was nominated for a Nebula Award--the holy grail of science fiction, wrote a long and admirable counter argument dedicated solely to my review of Yant's editorial.  Hardly anyone had ever heard of me before.
So who benefited the most from the contentious Women Destroy Science Fiction?  John Joseph Adams, the editor of Lightspeed magazine.  His special June issue is selling of the charts.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Prolific editor John Joseph Adams quotes my review of Dead Man's Hand

This is my first time, and I couldn't be more stoked.  It is a surprisingly cool feeling to see your words referenced by someone else.  They felt more meaningful, more alive than the first time I wrote them.  It's a strange effect, but I'm honored Mr. Adams enjoyed my phrase enough to mention it on his site.  I've been shouting at the SF/F world for some time now, and it's a good feeling to know someone heard me.  Now, if they'd only listen to my stories.

Keep shouting everyone.  You will eventually be heard.

Dead Man's Hand Anthology

Here to comment on my latest review at Tangent Online, the premiere online magazine for in depth reviews of the latest in short science fiction and fantasy.

Dead Man's Hand is a must have of speculative western.

Within the pages of this monstrous anthology edited by the industry's most prolific editor:  John Joseph Adams, we find stories by authors who defined the weird western genre, for most among them:  Joe R. Lansdale; and stories by science fiction and fantasy giants like Orson Scott Card and Dave Farland.  One of my personal favorites:  "Stingers and Strangers" written by Seanan McGuire; there's plenty more.  This anthology is packed with 23 short stories.  Each one is no less than five thousand words; some are damn near novellas.  You can read my review of these stories at Tangent Online.  If you like steampunk, western settings, and/or supernatural tales then you'll love this anthology.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tangent Online Publishes My First SF Review

Yesterday, my first official review of science fiction was published to an online magazine: Tangent Online. Tangent posts reviews of all the leading publications in SF shorts. I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Analog’s May edition. It contains one novelette and six short stories by various authors. These shorts and others reviewed on Tangent represent the heartbeat of the genre. My review is linked here. I hope you find it helpful.