summer reading


Two books that are “fast, breezy reads” great for taking on vacation.

Miserable Adventure Stories is a new collection of quirky sci-fi and adventure stories, including the award-winning “Raglan Oracle”.  From Amazon:

“It’s a light, easy read and I resented it for making me want more.”
“This is a wonderful collection that had me howling while I was reading it on a plane in the dark.”
“A variegated collection of pop fiction by one of the best practitioners of the pop story…the stories aren’t miserable, they’re masterful.”

Plrknib is my memoir about doing stand-up in high school in the late 70’s at the d.w eye club in Cincinnati.  (Last summer, the book was a hit in Cinti and prompted a sold-out reunion performance of the d.w. eye comics.)

“The Power of Jokes permeates this book in a way that’s rarely seen in fiction.
“High, hysterical, edge-of-your-seat drama.”
“I started reading PLRKNIB in an airport in DC and couldn’t put it down.”

Both books are available on Amazon and at finer bookstores everywhere.

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!

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!

 

Miserable Holiday Stories – Now in Print!

It’s the perfect stocking stuffer and cheaper than coal!

For the first time ever, Miserable Holiday Stories is now available in a print edition!  And just in time for the holidays!

Yes, now you can actually wrap up a physical copy of Miserable Holiday Stories – with a bow, if you like! – and send sleigh-loads of seasonal misery to family members and other people you don’t really like.  And, unlike the e-version, the print version is flammable and ready to help set your yule log ablaze!

Featuring the infamous chapter-book parody The #$@!# Bicycle Boys Save Christmas, Again!, the new print version of Miserable Holiday Stories is available from your favorite online retailers as well as discerning bookstores everywhere!

for your consideration!


Folks!  If you’ve read and enjoyed Plrknib this year (and, hell, even if you haven’t!) please consider making Plrknib your write-in vote for Best Memoir in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2017!  It’s easy enough to do.  Just click on this link here and enter – Plrknib.  There!  You’re done!  Excellent!  Wasn’t that easy?

You can only enter Plrknib as a Write-in for one category.  So, while we would certainly love you for to enter it in eg – humor, nonfiction, or debut Goodreads author (which technically, alas, it’s not – damn you, Miserable Holiday Stories!) – we would really love it if you’d plug us right there into the Memoir category.

And then…go vote for all those other books you loved this year!

Thanks, and remember – Reading Is Good!

halloween required reading


Once upon a time I was Reviews Editor for the well-respected comics/pop culture site PopImage (managed by the incredibly talented Chris Butcher, Ed Mathews and lots of other fine writers.)  Though PopImage is long gone, some of the content lingers including this piece I wrote about eleven of the most haunting comics available back in 2004.
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Halloween Required Reading
PopImage
October 21, 2004

It’s the time of year for ghosts and goblins to come out of their graves and start haunting up a storm. Herein, you’ll find my list of quality reading for your own All Hallow’s Eve. I had dozens of creators and books to choose from, for my personal best. Works by Rick Veitch, Gahan Wilson, Steve Gerber and Michael Fleisher were all considered as well as single issues of STRAY BULLETS (#2), WASTELAND and even NEGATION (#16). And you could pick up almost any issue of CREEPY, EERIE, or any EC comic and make an evening out of it. But I had criteria for my reading list. Above all, the stories I chose had to truly make your skin crawl. I wasn’t looking for twist-in-the-tales, I wanted stories that were creepy and disturbing in their essence.

Upon compiling my list, I realized that the most creepy and disturbing comics I’ve seen can be counted on two hands (or so) – but the few creators associated with such works do keep turning up: Addams, Moore, Gaiman – and especially, the artists – Wrightson, Ditko, Burns. Maybe you won’t agree with all of my choices, but I promise you – crack at least one of these open – and you’ll likely have a week’s worth of nightmares.

SWAMP THING: DARK GENESIS
by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson
DC/Vertigo

Scientist Alec Holland is enveloped in an explosion while working on his bio-restorative formula. Consumed by flames, he leaps into the murky bayou behind his lab, and emerges later as the tragic, muck-encrusted SWAMP THING.

In comics, Swamp Thing remains the most venerated horror icon. He wasn’t the first muck-monster in comics (The Heap toured the swamps throughout the 40’s), but he was the first one we related to. Wein and Wrightson’s short run in the early 70’s established Swamp Thing as a gothic, modern-day Frankenstein – a man turned swamp creature searching for his lost humanity. Swamp Thing was about identity and alienation. Swamp Thing gave a major outlet to comic’s premier horror artist of the moment, Berni Wrightson. (Wrightson was the only artist to ever draw Cain of HOUSE OF MYSTERY effectively.) Wrightson lush, texturized, moody art kept Swampy in full horror-mode when he could easily have turned into a b-grade superhero (which he would essentially become later). All the early issues are included in the tpb, including Arcane and his un-men.

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obscenity trial in encyclopedia vol. 3

Very excited to announce that my extremely profane piece Obscenity Trial is in the long-awaited third volume of Encyclopedia.  I received my copy of Encyclopedia the other day and it is a gorgeous book, full of literary (and artistic/photographic) genius.  This tome has been swirling around in the ether for – literally – about five years now.  I was actually stunned to finally hold it in my hands.  But the encyclopedists have done fine, fine work.  You can order the book here.

Below is a (redacted) snippet from Obscenity Trial.  Pick up Vol 3 to read the full thing.