the raglun oracle

UPDATE – May 1, 2018 – Raglun Oracle just won the story of the month over at Frontier Tales and will be in their eighth anthology!  Thanks to everyone who voted!

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My Twilight Zone meets the Old West piece, The Raglun Oracle is up today at Frontier Tales.  They’ve got a competition running on the site, so please vote for The Oracle!

And of course, you can also find this piece in my new collection Miserable Adventure Stories.

Here’s a snippet:

Christmas last year will not be a day that I—nor anyone in my family— will soon forget, I dare say. I write this comfortably from a bed at my Aunt Sara’s house. As you know, we did not make it to Sara’s last year. And we were anything but comfortable. The storms and snow of last year were greater than any we’d seen in decades. And while that would not usually stop my daddy from makin’ the trip, Ethan, as you know, was quite sick.

Poor Ethan—all of four years—had been a fairly strong boy till that last year—when various sickness overtook him. I had been packing an overnight bag for the trip up north when my Uncle Campbell told me that Ethan was burning up and we’d have to stay put. Daddy had gone for the doctor—a half-day trip, at the least. Ma was in her bedroom laying compresses on Ethan. His fever was high.

Over the past few years, my family had fallen into something of an isolation from the rest of the town, as tends to happen with farming families. Arguments are started and never resolved. Families lose touch and keep to themselves. And so, the begrudging offer to visit from my Aunt was quickly discarded when Ethan fell ill. Soon, a pallor lay over our house as wind crept in through chipped planks causing a low, solemn whistle. The holiday tree I’d cut down myself stood bent over, unseasonable.

Our town, Raglun, is a small one. There aren’t but forty, fifty families—all of whom I can name by sight. There’s little crime, no jail, and half the townsfolk can’t write or read proper. In fact, a great many, in this year of our lord 1873, still believe Lincoln runs the capital, if you can believe that.

Which may be why Ethan’s sickness—and his babbling in particular—came off so unsettling.

I was the one heard it first. I had woken up early that morning to his kicking and writhing. Still asleep, but tossing, turning. And saying words over and over that I couldn’t understand:

Nixon

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miserable review on new pop lit

MISERABLE ADVENTURE STORIES is a variegated collection of pop fiction by one of the best practitioners of the pop story, Alex Bernstein. Three of the stories aren’t miserable, they’re masterful…

Okay, you’re not supposed to draw attention to reviews – because then it’s like cherry picking if you don’t show the bad ones.  But this one is so nice.  (Listen, when Simon & Schuster start publishing my books, we can start a new conversation about it.)

The good folks over at New Pop Lit call the stories in MAS “Masterful examples of the pop genre” and “all entertaining”.  You can read the full review here.  Book reviews are a new sleeve over at NPL, and their other reviews are tremendously insightful about all the books they’re reading, new and old.  And as always, check out the rest of their site for some of today’s best up and coming authors.

Of course, you can easily discover what’s so masterful and entertaining about Miserable Adventure Stories by picking up your own copy here.  You can also find it at many of your better bookstores.  Ask for it by name!

plrknib now available at quimby’s!


Chicago area and nearby residents!  Both Plrknib and Miserable Adventure Stories are now available at Quimby’s! – Chicago’s  favorite independently owned bookstore that sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and ephemera. They “favor the unusual, the aberrant, the saucy and the lowbrow.”

And god knows, Prom on Mars books are certainly lowbrow! 

I, myself, have never actually been to Quimby’s – don’t get to the Chicago area too much – but I hear it is super cool and groovy!  And don’t forget to pick up some underground zines while you’re there!

groucho in the bardo

Groucho in the Bardo – another piece from my new book Miserable Adventure Stories – is up today at HeadStuff.org.  Very cool site.  Check it out.

This piece features the Marx Brothers – (Zeppo, too! circa Duck Soup) – as well as many other famous film celebrities, and Lincoln.

This piece, FYI, was inspired by my mother’s intense interest in the new book, Lincoln in the Bardo – although you don’t need to have read that book to enjoy this piece.  In fact, you may enjoy this piece even more if you haven’t read that book.  If you’ve read the book, there’s the slight chance that this piece might actually make you angry.  Although, my mother loved this piece.  But hey, she’s my mother.

Here’s the opening:

Scene – The Bardo. A misty, foggy place. RUFUS T. FIREFLY  wanders about lost. There are sounds of faint WAILING and CRYING.

FIREFLY
Hello! Hellooo! Either I’m in Hell or the world’s worst sauna!

CHICOLINI appears – also lost. They both creep about, not seeing one another. Chicolini raises his fists, ready to fight.

CHICOLINI
Who’sa dat? I hear you, but I no see you! And that’s two a you, I already don’t like!

They slowly back into each other and collide, surprised. They’re approximately pleased to see one another.

FIREFLY
I should’ve known it was you – fog follows you everywhere!

CHICOLINI
At’sa true! Hey! This is some barbecue! I think you left the steaks on too long!

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the rottweiler

Excited to announce that New Pop Lit is featuring The Rottweiler – the flagship story from my new collection Miserable Adventure Stories – on their site starting today.  NPL is publishing some of the most exciting up-and-coming indie fiction around right now, and I’m thrilled to be among their authors.  Go spend an hour on their site – you won’t regret it.

They also wrote an incredibly lovely introduction to the story that you can find here.  (Super cool illustrations, too.  If you’re into all things Holmes, you should be very cozy here.)

Here’s the opening of the story itself:

It was a cold, brittle day in late December when I came to the apartments of 442D Butcher Street, London, and met my cousin, the illustrious Sir Roderick Rottswilde for the first time. But Sir Roderick was known by another more famous name. He was familiar to all Londoners as not-quite-the-World’s-Greatest-Detective, and second-only-to-that-august-personage-himself-Mr. Sherlock Holmes. My elder cousin was, in fact, The Rottweiler.

And now, Sir Roderick – The Rottweiler – had done the impossible. He’d recovered the Crown Jewels of the Tower of London itself and captured the brigands who’d stolen them. And, today, amid a sea of reporters, he was turning both over to the highest ranking officers of Scotland Yard.

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the sixth sister

My tawdry, hard-boiled crime story “The Sixth Sister” is featured this morning up at the crime fiction site Near to the Knuckle.  Sixth Sister is also one of the featured pieces in my new collection, “Miserable Adventure Stories” (which you can order a copy of by clicking here – or on the big yellow picture over there of the maniacal deep-sea diver being attacked by skunks.)

Oh yeah – and a lot of stuff mentioned here about the Oneida community in upstate NY is true.

Here’s a brief taste of the maliciousness within:

“Conrad was experiencing a perfect moment.

He sat on his hotel room bed staring at the complete – yes, complete – set of Oneida LaVigne Silverplate XI steak knives – known to collectors as The Six Sisters. They were the holy grail of steak knives, and believed responsible for countless historical crimes and acts of mayhem.

By the late 1800s, the small Oneida Community in upstate New York was known for two things: a manufacturing business that crafted the finest cutlery in America; and having been founded as a utopian society that practiced, among other things, “complex marriages” allowing all members of the society to engage in free sexual relations with any other consensual member of the community. Older men and women regularly indoctrinated youngsters into this way of life and dissenting behavior was promptly chastised.”

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Miserable Adventure Stories – Now Available!

I’m pleased as punch to announce the arrival of my second fiction collection, Miserable Adventure Stories – just in time for the holidays!

MAS is a pulpy, genre-bending brew of pieces that have appeared over the past few years at New Pop Lit, The Big Jewel, The Zodiac Review, Defenestrationism, HeadStuff, Blue Skirt Productions, Saturday Night Reader, Near to the Knuckle, and Gi60.  It’s a companion piece to Miserable Holiday Stories (both of which are now available in lovely print editions!), and…it’s, uhm, actually much funnier than that volume, IMO.

MAS features a whopping 15 stories, including the soon-to-be classics “The Rottweiler”, “Across the Tundra”, and the fresh-off-the-presses parody of Lincoln in the Bardo – “Groucho in the Bardo”.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Tentacled monsters! Frozen wastelands! Nixon! Sherlock Holmes! Groucho! In his latest collection, the author of “Miserable Holiday Stories!” takes you to Victorian London, the Old West, alien worlds, Hamlet’s Denmark and other fantastic places that you would absolutely never want to visit. Featuring stories from The Big Jewel, New Pop Lit, The Zodiac Review, and other literary journals with equally fancy names, this head-scratchingly awful collection will make you wonder why you didn’t just stay home and rent a movie.

Miserable Adventure Stories retails for a measly $6.99 in paperback and an even measlier $1.99 for the e-book.

Order both collections and give your loved ones a truly disastrous stocking stuffer!