awards BrazenHead Lethe Press novella spec fic

the occult head of brass speaks

BrazenHead news:

Our first release, Dayna Ingram’s exhilarating Eat Your Heart Out, is a finalist for the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Goldie Award in Speculative Fiction. Alas that BrazenHead is competing against our corporate overlords at Lethe Press, which has two titles (both of which I also designed) in contention for the same prize: Hellebore & Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic, edited by Catherine Lundoff and JoSelle Vanderhooft; and Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft and Steve Berman. Winners of all the myriad Goldies are due to be announced this coming Saturday, 16 June, at the 2012 GCLS Literary Awards Ceremony in Minneapolis. Bated breath, bated breath. May the best women win!

Eat Your Heart Out has also been the recipient of still more rave reviews since the last time I posted about it here on the front page. In print: Black Static in the UK, the Bay Area Reporter on the left coast, Rue Morgue magazine. On the web: the Edge network, Lambda Literary Review, and the book blog The Rainbow Reader. Check out excerpts and (as available) links here.

Speaking of favorable reviews, forthcoming second release Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone is reviewed in this week’s Publishers Weekly. Quite happy about that. Scheduled publication date for Green Thumb remains 1 August.

Brand-new news! Official announcement, more or less. BrazenHead’s third release will be The Grigori by Joshua Skye. The Grigori is a thoroughly disturbing dark fantasy set in contemporary Pittsburgh, about which I will say nothing more (until I compose some marketing copy…) except two words: Angel. Meth. Joshua and I are just beginning the final edit phase prior to layout and, barring unforeseen hiccups, the book should be out by 1 November.

Meanwhile, here’s an interview with Joshua published in the Pride edition of Philadelphia Gay News. You can also explore his other work at his official site.

BrazenHead fiction short stories spec fic work in progress You Will Meet a Stranger…


Publishers Weekly, trade journal of the US book publishing industry, reviewed You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home in the 14 May issue. Nice review, much appreciated. Although I can’t figure out how the reviewer got the impression all the stories were linked in any manner other than being written by the same guy.

(The same issue of PW also reviews Melissa Scott’s novella Point of Knives, second {in internal chronology} of the Books of Astreiant, about which I raved back in February.)

I’ll belatedly add that I have a very nice blurb for You Will Meet a Stranger from my friend Agnes Bushell, whose too few and too hard to track down novels you should make an effort to find.

What a cornucopia! Each story is a world, and each is more amazing than the one before it. The book is a like a jewel-case filled with these glittering, gorgeous, but very dangerous brooches! The pins are sharp! Barbed at times. And the writing is perfection.

Oh, and, Lethe Press has posted a freely downloadable PDF copy of “Firooz and His Brother” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2008), which will reappear in You Will Meet a Stranger.

Yet more: genial and handsome Canadian short-story writer ’Nathan Burgoine, with whom I share two recent tables of contents but whose work I don’t yet know well enough, has declared May short story month. To celebrate which, he embarked on the project of reviewing one story a day from both of those TOCs on his blog. ’Nathan’s reviews of Boys of Summer begin here (he looks at my “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy” here), and The Touch of the Sea here (I expect him to post his look at my “Ban’s Dream of the Sea” on Wednesday, 16 May {edited to add link on 20 May}). My only disappointment in this project is that ’Nathan skips over his own stories, “Leap” in Boys of Summer and “Time and Tide” in The Touch of the Sea, both of which I enjoyed a good deal. While I have yet to see any reviews of The Touch of the Sea, our blessed lord the internet has coughed up several of Boys of Summer:

Edited to add two more encountered today, 20 May:

Edited to add one more, posted today, 4 June:

In newer news about an older title, Speaking Out: LGBT Youth Stand Up (edited, like Boys of Summer and The Touch of the Sea, by Steve Berman, and in which my story “Captain of the World” appears) is one of three finalists in the Teen: Fiction category of the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 2012 Benjamin Franklin Awards. So that’s pretty neat. The awards will be presented early next month, I believe.

More? Oh, all right. I wrote my third story of 2012 last month. “Two Dead Men” (5,900 words) takes place in the same secondary world as 2012’s second story, “The Other Bridge” (announced at the bottom of this page), although they are otherwise unrelated. Inspired by the recent twenty-year anniversary of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly the sieges of Sarajevo and Mostar.

Story #4, “The Oily Man,” in the works, is also set in that world. I don’t have a name for it—probably should, but its inhabitants just call it the world. Don’t have a map, despite my propensity for maps. Haven’t even named the continents and am not entirely clear on the locations of the nations and cities I have named. Placeholder collective title for the on-going group, Tales of the Subcontinent, refers to the secondary world’s analogue of Europe. “The Other Bridge” and “Two Dead Men” take place respectively in the subcontinental cities of Sjolussa (a former colonial power) and Fejz—with flashbacks to the tropical nation of Aveng—during the equivalent of our high-tech, post-colonial twenty-first century…but with, you know, magic and supernatural beings and incarnated gods.

Whereas “The Oily Man” is set centuries earlier during the messy period between the subcontinent’s Age of Discovery and its Age of Colonialism, the narrator a native of subcontinental mercantile city Trebt exiled to distant Aveng. This one’s intended for a 2013 anthology that hasn’t been announced yet (I have friends) but whose editor has expressed approval of the 3,000 or so words of first draft I’ve come up with so far.

Will I complete it this month? Up in the air. I have a terrifying pile of freelance copyediting I ought to be doing instead….

Finally, although I’m not ready to make a formal announcement, the third BrazenHead novella, a gripping dark fantasy, has been tentatively scheduled for publication in early November. But first we have to get Tom Cardamone’s brilliantly peculiar Green Thumb into your hands or downloaded onto your e-reader. August. Watch for it.

design fantasy fiction short stories spec fic YA

Steve Berman day at s&

Every day is actually Daulton and Steve day, of course.

Unsilent partner in all SB's endeavors.

But above and beyond all that, today saw receipt of contributor copies of Steve’s new anthology of stories for gay teens (and teens at heart, and gays at heart), Boys of Summer, available any week now—or RIGHT NOW direct from the publisher.

My contribution is “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy,” a long tale (even longer than the title) of a summer sailboat cruise off the Aegean coast of Turkey, in which young Luke becomes enmeshed in multiple strands of multiple variations of the Adonis story.

And also! Originally scheduled for last September, then pushed forward to this July, now rushed into print because why not: The Touch of the Sea, a seaweed garland of fantastical tales of men and the life-giving and -taking ocean. Should be available in print in a week or so, in e-formats not much later.

Besides the cover and interior design (which all the other writers seem to like, yay), my contribution is “Ban’s Dream of the Sea,” a story of a mysteriously ancient city in the sea, its uncanny original inhabitants, and the interlopers from across the ocean who have claimed it as their colonial capital.

And…and…this evening I’ll be attempting to add more sentences and paragraphs to a new story intended for another Steve Berman anthology about which I’m not yet permitted to speak.

design fantasy fiction short stories spec fic The Unexpected Thing


A good deal later, I have finally brought the designs portfolio up to date. Also reordered it in reverse-chronological order so you don’t have to scroll way down to see what’s new.

What’s new? Eleven books designed, laid out, and sent to press over the fall, winter, and into early spring. (There were twelve, actually, but one of ’em will remain unrepresented here for reasons private to the publisher and myself.) So go take a look at: Fog by Jeff Mann, The House of Wolves by Robert B. McDiarmid, Tales from the Den, edited by R. Jackson, Jewish Gentle and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living by Daniel M. Jaffe, Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram (the first BrazenHead novella), The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce, Heiresses of Russ 2011, edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft & Steve Berman, Purgatory by Jeff Mann, Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett (which I wrote up here, if you missed it), The Dirty Boys’ Club: The Soap Opera Murders by Simon Sheppard, and Beyond Binary, edited by Brit Mandelo.

Ten others are in my files at various stages of production—the majority fully laid out but not yet in print, including two sequels to Point of Hopes, my own You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home, Steve Berman’s annual round up of the best gay speculative fiction, Wilde Stories 2012, and the second BrazenHead novella, Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone (whose surname I invariably mistype as Cardamom). So there’s those to look forward to. Maybe I’ll even get them posted timely.

What else is new? In March I managed (two weeks past self-imposed deadline) to complete an 11,000-word story begun nearly a year previously, “Seb and Duncan and the Sirens.” What it says on the tin. And then, in the face of an irresistable challenge, wrote from scratch “The Other Bridge,” a 5,600-word story of post-colonial brittleness. Which one reader has told me is among the best I’ve ever produced. My judgment is reserved.

April promises to be devoted largely to intensive revision of The Unexpected Thing. Joy.

design fantasy fiction Lethe Press recommendation spec fic work in progress You Will Meet a Stranger…

return to Astreiant

Nicolas Rathe and Philip Eslingen are back! And I am really very extremely pleased to be involved in their renascence.

Point of Hopes, the novel in which Rathe, Eslingen, and the great city of Astreiant were introduced, was the second collaboration of science-fiction novelist Melissa Scott and her partner, Lisa A. Barnett, following by several years and solo Scott novels The Armor of Light, their dazzling alt-history fantasy of an Elizabethan era in which neither Sir Philip Sidney nor Christopher Marlowe died untimely but allied to defeat a magical threat to the kingdom.

First published by Tor in 1995, Point of Hopes is rather a different animal, a pure secondary-world fantasy of a peculiarly solid, matter-of-fact sort. This is a world that feels, as Booklist’s review of the first edition put it, “lived in.” It’s a world lit by two suns—the familiar day-time primary and the smaller, more distant winter-sun—in which astrology, alchemy, necromancy, and other magical disciplines are demonstrably science, every great household employs a wizard (or magist, in the novel’s terminology), and nobody would risk making a major decision without first consulting her horoscope.

And yet it’s the farthest place from the idealized, romantic, sorcerous Age of Heroes of Tolkien and his innumerable followers. Middle Earth is a lovely place to visit but it’s not anywhere you, as a reasonable human person with human needs and desires, could live. The city of Astreiant, the nation of Chenedolle of which Astreiant is capital, Chenedolle’s immediate neighbors and distant trading partners, all possess the qualities of actual places with working economies, histories, technologies. (My guess—probably wrong—is that Astreiant’s models were the wealthy mercantile cities of the Burgundian Low Countries in the early Renaissance.) Life would be hard in Astreiant for a refugee from twenty-first-century USA but not especially harder than in Elizabethan London and conceivable in a way that acclimation to daily life in Minas Tirith or the Shire, it seems to me, is not. Indeed, for women and queer people, Astreiant has multiple advantages over our own time in that, without any fuss at all, Scott and Barnett have imagined societies in which gender equality is the norm and minority sexualities no big deal.

Refreshingly furthermore, although Chenedolle and other nations naturally possess entrenched aristocracies, nearly all the principal characters in Point of Hopes are ordinary people—not quite middle class, largely because an Astreianter middle class hasn’t quite evolved yet. Ladies and lords are, as they would be for you and me, distant glamorous figures who make you self-conscious about your second-best coat and unpolished manners when the course of events brings you into contact with them. Neither Rathe nor Eslingen are hidden heirs to any kingdom nor potential heroes of the humble-hobbit-turned-Savior!-of-the-World! variety. They do their jobs as best they can, worry about money and laundry like you and me, live their mostly ordinary lives without expectation of being extraordinary. Which, of course, makes them all too extraordinary in fantasy-land.

Nico Rathe is a pointsman, member of a kind of city guard or police force that’s grown up in the various districts (points) of Astreiant, charged with maintaining public order and investigating crimes. Only a century or so since the institution’s establishment, pointsmen are still regarded with suspicion by the city people whose business they’re likely to interfere in and the nobility, fearful of erosion of their privileges. Meanwhile, Philip Eslingen, a mercenary from Chenedolle’s traditional enemy, current ally, the League (a loose confederation of independent city states, apparently), is paid off at the end of the campaign season and looking for work to keep him through a winter in Astreiant, where foreigners are less trusted than pointsmen.

The plot of Point of Hopes involves the mysterious disappearance of scores of Astreiant’s children and an alchemical conspiracy in support of one candidate for Chenedolle’s childless queen’s throne. It’s an excellent, clockwork plot, and grand fun to watch it working out, red herrings, detective work, adventurous rescues, and all. But for this reader the real joy of the book was the picture of a fully realized, working secondary world—and the pleasure of making Rathe’s and Eslingen’s acquaintance, for they are lovely, solid, imperfect men.

Point of Hopes was followed by Point of Dreams (also Tor, 2001), set largely in Astreiant’s theatre district. I haven’t reread it as recently as Hopes—this will be remedied soon!—but as I recall the plot was smaller scale though no less satisfying and the new corners of Astreiant fascinating to explore. The big surprise was discovering Rathe and Eslingen to be acknowledged lovers now, not so many months after the end of Hopes when they were merely good friends and accidental partners in adventure who had (subtly, subtly) admitted an attraction between them. At any rate, I enjoyed Dreams a great deal and resigned myself to waiting another six years for the next Point.

Very sadly, that was not to be. Barnett was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and after a long, hard fight died in 2006. Tor ceased releasing a new Scott novel just about every year. As best I could determine (admittedly I didn’t try that hard), Scott fell completely silent—understandably!

Then, ’round about the time I became inextricably entangled in the webs of Steve Berman’s Lethe Press, Steve announced he would be reissuing Scott’s Lambda Literary Award-winning science fiction novel Shadow Man, although he didn’t ask me to design it. Nevertheless, I perked up, very happy to see that fine, extremely peculiar book rescued from out-of-print oblivion.

Two and a bit years later, after negotiations I don’t pretend to know anything about, huzzah!, Lethe is also rescuing Nico Rathe, Philip Eslingen, and Astreiant.

Spectacular cover art by Ben Baldwin; cover layout and interior design by me. I uploaded files for the dead-tree edition to the printer earlier today; that and various e-book formats should go on sale within a few weeks.

But that’s not all! Steve confessed feeling a dreadful disappointment, when Point of Dreams was first released, about not getting to witness the beginning of Rathe’s and Eslingen’s non-working relationship, skipped over in the interval between Hopes and Dreams. And so Melissa Scott took herself back to Astreiant, bittersweetly solo, to write Point of Knives, a savory novella which, in the interstices of another tricky case for Adjunct Point Rathe and his ex-mercenary sidekick, shows exactly that. And, incidentally, Rathe’s transfer/promotion from Point of Hopes to Point of Dreams, something that was rather glossed over in the second full-length novel.

Another spectacular piece by Ben Baldwin.

Point of Knives is scheduled for release this summer, followed in the autumn by Lethe’s new edition of Point of Hopes. Rumor has it we can expect the fourth Book of Astreiant, Fairs’ Point, next year. I’m pretty damned impatient, let me tell you.

On a self-involvedly personal note, the other day I received You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home’s second blurb. Christopher Barzak, author of the widely acclaimed novels One for Sorrow and The Love We Share Without Knowing, writes:

Step onto this flying carpet and prepare to be carried away to exotic times and places, where Alex Jeffers has set up camp to tell his tales to both those already familiar with his wonderful wonder stories and to those strangers who happen to be passing by.

And I am within spitting distance of completing a draft of “Seb and Duncan and the Sirens,” a longish story begun over a year ago, set aside several times, but now (foolishly) promised to Somebody (he knows who he is) by month’s end.

fiction novelette SF short stories spec fic You Will Meet a Stranger…

praise, belated and advance

These are lovely.


Over the weekend, I encountered a thoughtful and complimentary 1 February review of Steve Berman’s  anthology of inspirational stories for queer teens Speaking Out, released last September. On the blog (a resource you should bookmark right fast), Lydia Sharp writes:



And as much as I hate to play favorites, I have to admit that my personal favorite of all the stories is “Captain of the World” by Alex Jeffers.


Then just this morning I was forwarded the first blurb for my forthcoming story collection You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home…from legendary speculative-fiction writer TANITH LEE, author of Tales from the Flat Earth, Disturbed by Her Song, etc, &c, whose work I have been reading a very long time:


It’s a marvelous book. This guy is a major talent…. The stories compliment yet satisfyingly differ from each other, the atmospheres are like different-colour palettes. Jeffers can be cruel, pragmatic, tender, sweet, funny, sexy, and devastating. The stories, and their underlying themes and currents, linger. A most collectable collection.

That may give me the oomph required to go out and do a nearly literal ton of laundry….

fiction novelette short stories spec fic You Will Meet a Stranger…

table of contents

Formal announcement:

My next book will be a collection of short(ish) fiction that teeters along the edges between several genres. Lethe Press will issue You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home: wonder stories on 14 July 2012. Yes, my birthday, so what, the publisher’s a dear, indulgent friend.

From the preface:

My first fiction sale, when I was sixteen, was a short story of the science-fictional far future entangled with myths of the far past. My first fiction publication, when I was seventeen (that first sale took two years to see print), was an even shorter story set in the mundane here-and-then and containing no elements that contradicted consensus reality.

Neither story is reprinted here. I would just as soon nobody ever read either ever again.

Still, they offer a productive exemplum: As a writer of fiction, I’ve always been a chimeric amphibian, unwilling to commit to a single mode or genre, scuttling from the antique, oblique, oceanic depths of myth and fantasy onto the muddy shores of the known and knowable, now and then leaping for the enigmatic stars. A very few of the very recent works in You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home place themselves fairly securely in their appointed modes: realistic, fantastical, science-fictional. Most, however, are quite pleased not to be entirely one thing or another: chimerae. Amphibians.

The table of contents:

Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Blood for Sorrow, Salt for Joy
The Arab’s Prayer
Then We Went There
Firooz and His Brother
Haider and His Dog
Jannicke’s Cat
Liam and the Wild Fairy
Ban’s Dream of the Sea
Tattooed Love Boys

“Then We Went There” and “Haider and His Dog” (a sequel of sorts to “Firooz and His Brother”) will be published for the first time in You Will Meet a Stranger. “Tattooed Love Boys” and “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel…” will make their débuts a few months before the collection, respectively online at GigaNotoSaurus in March and in the print anthology Boys of Summer in May. “Ban’s Dream of the Sea” will appear almost simultaneously in You Will Meet a Stranger and the anthology The Touch of the Sea, also due from Lethe Press in July. The other five have already appeared in various places.

fiction Lethe Press short stories spec fic


Belatedly (the book was originally scheduled for this past November), I’ve been informed the second of three stories I wrote last year has found its first home. “Ban’s Dream of the Sea,” a story I like better today than I did when I wrote it, will appear in Steve Berman’s anthology of marine fantasies The Touch of the Sea in July. I look forward to sharing a table of contents for the first time with my friend Damon Shaw (whom I told to submit, hah, many moons ago)…and the other contributors as well, of course, but Damon’s the only one I know about just yet.

I don’t off hand know the name of the cover artist (it’s possibly buried in my e-mail inbox), but layout and typography are mine. As will be the interior design.

BrazenHead fiction novella spec fic

dispatch from the uncanny head of brass

BrazenHead’s second release can now be announced:

Green Thumb

by Tom Cardamone

Mutability blooms in the Florida Keys after the Red War and the genie boxes. King Pelicans with the brains of scientists and a single human hand in place of one webbed foot rule the ruins of half-drowned Miami. Slavers roam the deep waters offshore, taking captives to feed the voracious Kudzu Army and the human aqueduct bearing fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. On the last stretch of the Overseas Highway still standing, an albino seeress slowly becomes her name: White Flamingo. “You,” she says. “You will reach for the sun while staying rooted to the ground. But I fear your shadow will be much too long.”

Transformed by his father’s genie box in the late days of the Red War, Leaf has lived for decades or centuries alone in a collapsing Victorian house on a desolate sandy key, misunderstanding time, feeding on sunlight and dew. When at last he meets a boy like—but so unlike!—himself, Leaf understands he has met destiny and sets out on a long, strange journey.

A post-apocalyptic, psychoactive, polymorphous-perverse pastorale, Green Thumb will startle you with its utter strangeness and break your heart with its fragile beauty.

Tom Cardamone is the author of Lambda Award finalist Pumpkin Teeth: Stories and the erotic horror novel The Werewolves of Central Park, and editor of The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered. He lives in New York City.

Green Thumb will be released in print and electronic forms in June.

BrazenHead design fiction Lethe Press short stories spec fic

two things

A nice review of Dayna Ingram’s Eat Your Heart Out, the first release from BrazenHead (exceptional novellas of queer speculative fiction), posted two days ago on the Edge Media network:

Despite sounding like clichéd fanfiction written by a horny devotee, “Eat Your Heart Out” is tender yet ruthlessly gruesome.

Front cover design for Wilde Stories 2012, forthcoming in June from Lethe Press and including my short story “The Arab’s Prayer.” Concept: Steve Berman. Artwork: Ben Baldwin. Layout/typography: Alex Jeffers.