Pointman Comics Review

Okay, so, quick review of Pointman Comics. I wish I hadn’t been sleeping on these for so long, because I’ve been mutuals with Kassidy for a couple of years now.

Right now, Gorilla Galaxy is in the spotlight, because the new issue is a full length Gorilla Galaxy story.

Really, though, I’d like to mention the horror stories of the first and second issues. These are both really solid, and the one in the second issue is VERY much in the tradition of the classic horror books.

Leatherfist in issue 2, I wasn’t as hot on, but if Kassidy were to spin off a weird horror short series in vein of a Grimm’s Ghost Stories, that would be fantastic.

Gorilla Galaxy has a lot of potential as an IP, and I loved the one-off short in the first issue. Kinda reminded me of the classic Aniverse raygun romance stuff. After reading it, I was looking forward to a full-length adventure.

Honestly, though, I don’t care for the new art as much in issue 3. One selling point of GG, naturally, is cute girls. But the new art doesn’t really show them being cute. It’s a matter of taste, obviously, and while the new art is VERY expressive, it borders on grotesque–it would be nice to be able to let the characters have a few panels where they aren’t mugging and making twisted, contorted faces.

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Redd in Issue #1
Redd in Issue #3

That said, I still plan on supporting Pointman Comics and will stick with Gorilla Galaxy for another issue [though I really liked the first artist better].

Anyway, you can pick up all 3 issues of Pointman Comics here at IndyPlanet.

Cirsova Publishing Terminating Relationship with Ingram Spark

Cirsova Publishing is terminating its relationship with Ingram Spark effective December 9, 2021.

This comes after years of high damages, poor service, high fees, and other myriad issues.

We are adjusting our business model to accommodate this shift away from Ingram Spark.

This principally means that existing titles will be moved to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. We will rely more on Lulu for a wide range of products and services that KDP is incapable of delivering.

Most of our titles will remain available on Amazon. [note that none of our eBooks are currently affected by this change].

The following print titles will be going out of print and may no longer be available after December 9th, 2021:

“Going out of Print” does not necessarily mean “not available.” The remaining stock in the hands of retailers will remain available until it has been fully liquidated, however, retailers will no longer be able to place re-orders for these titles when they are out of stock.

*: Due to disambiguation issues with these titles as public domain works, these are constantly buried under other mercenary editions. Additionally, certain printing/trim issues that KDP has with these books that Ingram overlooked are treated as “blocking” issues. These may not be gone forever, but they will take some work to get reformatted, and it’s honestly not a top priority at the moment.

**: The paperback is probably going away forever, but there’s a chance we may release a new deluxe edition of the hardcover. I was honestly never very happy with the quality of the Ingram Spark version, so we may see what an improved Lulu version looks like.

***: Yeah, I know it’s not even out yet, but you’ll have all of November and then some of December to grab this! We may end up getting a Lulu pocketbook edition of it up at some point, but Lulu’s pocketbook trim size is marginally different from Ingram Spark’s so it will take some work. And honestly, pocketbooks are NOT economical for us and we will most likely not be offering them going forward.

****: We will make a Lulu version of this available before it goes out of print, but the hardcover with dust jacket as was received by backers of the Kickstarter will no longer be available after December 9th. The hardcover version available on Amazon will be replaced by a case-wrapped hardcover.

+: In all likelihood, gone and not coming back to Amazon. Ironically enough, according to Ingram, this should not have been allowed to be distributed in the first place. Their insistence that they would not distribute multiple formats of The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm is a major reason for our break with them. This will be available in the future through Lulu, however.

++: The pocket book edition is going away on Amazon. It may end up on Lulu, but again, pocketbooks are not economical for us, so we’re not putting any energy into them going forward.

+++: This version of The Cosmic Courtship is being discontinued and, like The Paths of Cormanor, is being replaced by a casewrap edition. A dust-jacketed edition may come to Lulu in the future, but not to Amazon.

++++: The version on Amazon may be replaced by a case-wrapped edition. A dust-jacketed edition may come to Lulu in the future, but not to Amazon.

#: Duel Visions was falling out of the Cirsova catalog at the end of the year. Rather than create a stop-gap KDP version, we are simply allowing the print edition to lapse on December 9th when Ingram Spark closes our account. The eBook version will remain available through the end of the year.

Band on the Run! – A Review of “Our Lady of the Open Road” and A Song For A New Day by Sarah Pinsker (Guest Post by J. Comer)

    When SF fans (such as myself) speak to people who don’t read SF, or who know the field through media, there are two reactions which come when we explain the difference between hard SF (Hal Clement’s or Robert Forward’s work) and media ‘soft’ SF (Star Wars).  One reaction is that hard SF is ‘prediction’; the other is that hard SF must be boring. In this reviewer’s experience neither is true.

    Many SF writers, such as Anne McCaffrey, Pat Cadigan, and Spider Robinson, love to write about music. While this work can date itself quickly (The Rainbow Cadenza), some has aged well (Dragonsong).  With her SF novel of rock music, musician and writer Sarah Pinsker[1] tells a convincing story of a repressive era and the need for performance in the human soul.

     The novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” introduces the Joan Jett-like rocker Luce Cannon, her band, and their van Daisy the Diesel.  The band performs rock music in an era when congregating for any reason is illegal because of terrorist bombs and disease- a world in permanent lockdown. The performers in this dystopia are people who cannot perform without the feedback of an audience.  Luce must find illegal, often literally underground venues to which fans come by word of mouth, and do a show, escaping before police bust the club. She and her band sleep in the van and live on next to nothing. Her biodiesel van, Daisy, is transport and home for them, virtually a member of the band herself.  The band face crime as well as friendly squatters, and despite agonizing hardship, vows to rock on, any way possible. (They mention touring on bicycles, which the Ditty Bops actually did at one point.)

     In the novel A Song For A New Day, Luce’s world is expanded with peeks at her Chasidic family, her last concert, and her interaction with Rosemary, a young fan trying to recruit Luce for StageHoloLive, a megacorporation which brings performers into living rooms via holographic technology.  Farm-girl Rosemary, who grew up in the lockdown, is unused to in-person interaction, and there is same-sex love brewing. Is StageHolo out to wreck the underground scene?  Can Luce and Rosemary cut a deal that will respect Luce’s authenticity as well as corporate needs? The ending hints at a changed world.

     And here we come to unprecedented times. “Our Lady” won a Nebula for Best Novelette in 2016, and A Song won Best Novel in 2019…before Covid-19 reshaped American life.  Like William Jenks’ Memoir of the Northern Kingdom (which predicted the Civil War in 1808) or Cleve Cartmill’s “Deadline” (which foresaw the atomic bomb in 1944), Pinsker’s novel is guilty of unwilling prediction via the golden road of SF.  I would argue that in all three cases, the author, rather than seeking to predict events, merely saw the facts of their own era and worked with them. Recommended to music fans as well as lovers of well-crafted hard SF.


[1] Music of one band, Stalking Horses, is here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4Os0k7w-jk&list=PLDPpAYpRllKs–rzemQB3LvDHrvUH3E_V

[Be sure to check out our kickstarter to restore Julian Hawthorne’s near-lost All-Story Weekly fiction, The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm!

Also, check out J. Comer’s latest story in the Summer issue of Cirsova!]

A “Goth” from Boston?

Something interesting worth noting is that Martha Klemm is NOT the “Goth from Boston.” Yes, she’s mildly clairvoyant, yes, and she was the protagonist of a “gothic” horror [what the editors of All-Story Weekly refer to as a “different” story]. But…

The title is actually an artifact of this line:

“It was wonderful to hear the chaste lips of Cabot Selwyn reproduce the speech of the old Yorkshire mariner—as if from the portals of a Greek temple were to issue a Gothic gargoyle.”

Cabot Selwyn, the stodgy university biology professor, is quoting the uncle of his cute tomboy maid (Polly King) describing how she would “wallop” the boys, “but the first one as licks [her, she’ll] marry him.”

So, the “Goth” from Boston is Polly King.

Who’s that on the cover?

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Maybe Martha Klemm, or more likely just a generic portrait that seemed like it would fit the title.

It’s hard to see from the original cover that A Goth From Boston is neither a gothic nor a horror nor even really a supernatural story! Rather it is a romantic comedy that features a South Seas adventure.

Martha tries to convince Selwin he should settle down with the lovely but rough girl, stop being stodgy, and take up farming and raise a family. When that doesn’t work, Martha and Polly go on an adventure together but keep running into Selwin.

Whether by rail or by ship, every time Martha thinks they’re finally off on their own just-girls adventure:

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Be sure to check out our Kickstarter to restore A Goth From Boston and the other Julian Hawthorne All-Story Weekly fiction!

Martha Klemm herself is actually more prototypical of a Phryne Fisher-type character.

Miss Fisher and her fans: how a heroine on Australia's small screen became  a global phenomenon

Cirsova 2022 Lineup!

We have finalized the Cirsova lineup for 2022! This is going to be an incredibly exciting year.

Major features include not only the serialization of Michael Tierney’s Orphan of the Shadowy Moons, a sword & sandal sci-fi epic from the 70s seeing publication for first time, but the serialization of an original sword & sorcery novel from Dave Ritzlin, Vran the Chaos-Warped.

After numerous picaresque adventures, Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat moves into its climactic final arc.

Next year also sees some returning favorites, including Adrian Cole’s New Dream Lords Saga with Serpent God of Mars, Louise Sorensen’s Darla of Deodanth in her third Cirsova adventure Firewood, more of Mark Mellon’s Melkart, Harold R. Thompson’s bookish explorer Anchor Brown, and quite a few other familiar names and rising stars of Cirsova Magazine’s roster. [We’re dubbing Mark Pellegrini “the King of Gen Y Horror” and crossing our fingers our Spring issue does 1/10th of the numbers that his comic books are doing.]

We’re also looking to expand the number of illustrations per issue, but we’ll get more on that soon!

Spring (March 2022)

  • Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 1) – Michael Tierney
  • The Flying Mongoose – Jim Breyfogle
  • Channel 121, After Midnight – Mark Pellegrini
  • The Recorporator Finds a Live One! – Andrew Majors
  • Serpent God of Mars – Adrian Cole
  • The City of the Crocodile God – Owen G. Tabard
  • Firewood – Louise Sorensen
  • An Ayre By Landor – Jeffery Scott Sims
  • Just Another Crappy Story that Kills Everybody In It – Jim Breyfogle
  • Dreaming of Mart Senson – Liviu Surugiu
  • Touch of Night – Erik Johnson
  • The Sound of Silence – Rodica Bretin

Summer (June 2022)

  • Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 2) – Michael Tierney
  • Death and Renewal – Jim Breyfogle
  • Vran the Chaos-Warped (Book 1) – D.M. Ritzlin
  • What Price the Stars – Jeff Stoner
  • Dead Planet Drifter – J.D. Cowan
  • People of the Stone God – Harold R. Thompson
  • The Last Khazar – Rev. Joe Kelly
  • Melkart and the Crocodile God – Mark Mellon

Fall (September 2022)

  • Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 3) – Michael Tierney
  • Fight of the Sandfishers – Jim Breyfogle
  • Vran the Chaos Warped (Book 2) – D.M. Ritzlin
  • The Impossible Footprint – David Skinner
  • The Wisdom of Man – Adam S. Furman
  • New Troops for Old: A Review of Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries Series – J. Comer
  • A Long Way to Fall – David Eyk
  • Fall of a Stormking – Misha Burnett
  • Tripping to Aldous – J. Manfred Weichsel
  • Cerulean – J. Thomas Howard
  • The Strickland Line – Alec Cizak

Winter (December 2022)

  • Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 4) – Michael Tierney
  • Thunder in the North – Jim Breyfogle
  • Vran the Chaos-Warped (Book 3) – D.M. Ritzlin
  • Sister Winter – John Daker
  • Pick Trick – Troy Riser
  • Wishing Well – Michael Wiesenberg
  • The Nighthawk – Michael Gallagher
  • House Odds – Ken Lizzi
  • Moon Magic and the Art of Fencing Doubtful Jewels – Tais Teng
  • The Gold of Palladias – John Gradoville
  • Take the Sword – Michael Ray
  • Lights – Lou Normann

Don’t forget to pick up the Fall 2021 issue out now, both with the Raven Monroe cover and the Genzoman Variant! Also, check out Julian Hawthorne’s Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm for pre-order now on Kickstarter!

Julian Hawthorne’s The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter!

Cirsova Publishing’s effort to rescue Julian Hawthorne’s planetary romance The Cosmic Courtship from its ‘near-lost’ status was met with a tremendous response. We established a new and ongoing Cirsova Classics imprint devoted to finding ‘near-lost’ pulp fiction in the public domain and publishing them in modern format as part of a Stretch Goal that was met.

We only thought it fitting that, before moving on to other works by other authors, we should complete a set of Julian Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly-era fiction in a standard set.

What is ‘near-lost’ fiction?

When we talk about ‘near-lost’ fiction, we refer to works that extant but virtually unobtainable for most modern readers. These particular stories are Public Domain and part of the world’s common literary heritage, however, in many cases, there’s virtually no way for anyone to read them! Many works from this era have only ever been printed in now very expensive and hard to find pulp magazines. Even if cost were not an object, availability often is.

As with The Cosmic Courtship, the aim of this project is to collect and reproduce these works in a standard modern format for readers today to be able to enjoy without having to spend a fortune collecting the rare and antique magazines in which they were originally published.

Who is Julian Hawthorne?

For those who are new and didn’t follow our project to restore The Cosmic Courtship, hello!  Julian Hawthorne was the son of iconic American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne and an incredibly prolific writer in his own right. Julian wrote on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from literary analysis of his father’s works to poetry to period romances and adventures. Late in his career, Julian even dabbled in the emerging genre of Science Fiction. He was especially fascinated by the metaphysical, and many of his stories foreshadow “Weird Fiction.”

Who is Martha Klemm?

“JULIAN HAWTHORNE and Marth Klemm! Here is a combination to provoke the most jaded fiction appetite. Hawthorne, who is in the tradition of his illustrious father, transcends the commendation accorded lesser lights.” Thus did the editor for the December 20, 1919 issue of All-Story Weekly introduce the second appearance of Hawthorne’s heroine.

Martha Klemm describes herself as “a handsome spinster, of the Beacon Street, Boston, brand.” Claiming descent from the “Salem witches,” Martha is bold and forward modern woman with a touch of clairvoyance and a penchant for finding herself in strange circumstance and odd adventure in her globetrotting lifestyle. 

Following The Cosmic Courtship, Hawthorne featured Martha as protagonist narrator of the horror novelette, Absolute Evil. The character must have been well received, at least by the editorial staff of All-Story Weekly. All-Story would go on to publish the novella A Goth From Boston and the novel Sara Was Judith, both of which featured Martha as narrator and a central figure in the midst of wild and tumultuous events, while vociferously lauding and touting Hawthorne’s charming heroine in the editor-written lead-ins.

The Formats

Like The Cosmic Courtship, all three books in this project will be offered in the following formats:

  •  Pocket Paperback  – Cirsova has been bringing back the Pocket Paperback format! These are no-frills and have a small type face to reduce page count and costs. A good, cheap way to get the stories, but maybe not the best for older readers and the visually impaired.
  •  Magazine Format – Cirsova recreates the look and feel of the pulps with these large-sized double-columned magazine-style paperbacks.
  •  Trade Paperback – Standard trade paperback format. Good balance of cost and convenience.
  •  Hardcover – Cirsova is offering each book as a handsome hardcover volume with wrap-around dust-jacket.

We are also offering an incredible limited edition coffee table Omnibus that collects ALL of Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly fiction in a single oversized volume. 

All in all, that’s 13 different books!

The Tiers

There are a LOT of books being offered as part of this project, so we want to try to make things as clear as possible!

Individual books – Whether it’s the pocketbook, trade, magazine, or hardcover, you can back for a single one of the books we’re offering. You can back for one book and choose other titles/formats as add-ons to your pledge. THIS INCLUDES THE LIMITED OVERSIZED HARDCOVER OMNIBUS.

Sets of a title – You can back for a set of a single title and receive all formats for that title. For instance, if you backed for a set of Sara was Judith, you would receive the pocketbook, the trade, the magazine, and the hardcover formats of Sara was Judith, and you could add other titles/formats as add-ons to your pledge.

Sets of a format – You can back for a set of all titles in a single format. For instance, if you backed for a hardcover set, you would receive Absolute Evil & A Goth From Boston, Sara Was Judith, and Doris Dances & Fires Rekindled in the hardcover format, and you could add other titles/formats as add-ons to your pledge.

The Add-Ons

All of the titles and all of the formats we’re offering through this project are available as add-ons which may be added individually to any tier. THIS INCLUDES THE LIMITED OVERSIZED HARDCOVER OMNIBUS! We’ve set aside an additional 100 which may be included as add-ons to orders for individuals who want the other sets or individual volumes.

The Goals

This project has taken an immense amount of time, money, and energy from the team. Copies of the issues containing pieces of the stories that were NOT extant had to be tracked down, purchased, and scanned.

The text then had to be retyped from the scans of the pulps by Robert. 

The retyped text has had to undergo numerous reviews for accuracy and then placed into format. We’ve brought in additional help, Cirsova Magazine copy editor Mark Thompson, so that P. Alexander isn’t doing all of those reviews himself. Hopefully, this third set of eyes will reduce embarrassing errors and typos managing to get through.

The artwork has had to be digitally restored by Michael using multiple copies of old, faded and sometimes damaged pulp covers.

We’re getting these fantastic stories back into the world come hell or high water, but being able to compensate the team for their time, effort, and investment is absolutely critical to allowing us to continue this project of restoring near-lost pulp works.

$10,000 – Pulp Trading Cards

We will be including free pulp trading cards for the Cirsova Classics releases. Each card will be fronted with the cover of the Cirsova Classics pulp title, and the reverse will contain vital facts, such as author, publication dates, originally printed, etc. and a short summary. Backers will be sent cards corresponding to the titles they pre-order. A card for The Cosmic Courtship will be sent to backers who pre-order the Hawthorne Omnibus. These cards will be exclusively made available through our pre-orders for Cirsova Classics titles!

$15,000 – Digital copies to all backers and donating the text to Project Gutenberg

The ultimate goal of a project like this is to make these available to the world because they are part of our literary heritage and everyone should be able to discover and analyze these works to better understand the patchwork history of this fascinating era of fiction.

If we manage to hit this goal, we will give EPUB ebooks to all backers AND we will donate the digital texts of these stories to Project Gutenberg!

The Books:

Absolute Evil & A Goth From Boston

This volume collects the novelette Absolute Evil and the novella A Goth From Boston.

Unlike many of Hawthorne’s All-Story works, Absolute Evil has been collected and reprinted many times and is considered an absolute classic of horror. A Goth From Boston is a bit more obscure. Serialized across two issues, this story CAN be found online in scans with some digging, but has never been collected and presented as a whole.

Absolute Evil – (1918)

“Thomas Aquinas says that angels, white and black, can change men into beasts permanently; enchanters could do it, too, but not for long. Seventeenth century witchcraft affirmed that certain natural objects and rites could produce strange effects without aid of God or devil. But the operator must renounce God and Christ, be re-baptised, trample on the cross, and be marked in a certain way—a symbolic transaction. The person could then do only evil—good was forbidden to him, or her!”

Absolute Evil is, in many ways, Julian Hawthorne’s coda on his father’s works pertaining to the theme of Calvinist “doom.” Many of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s villains and tragic figures hearken back to  Marlowe’s Faustus, with the worldview that destiny and damnation are unalterable though it was the choices they made through free-will that set them on the road to hell.

Unlike his father’s work on the subject, however, Absolute Evil is an action-packed thriller in which a Presbyterian minister turns himself into a werewolf and haunts the New England beaches.

A Goth From Boston – (1919)

“Her father assured me with pride that she could—as he expressed it—lick any boy of her age on the Beach. And he said to her once, in my hearing, when she had come in rather late to cook dinner, with that grin of hers, in spite of a black eye and a bloody nose, and with a tale how she had ‘walloped’ her latest antagonist—‘Right-o, Polly, my lass,’ he said; ‘as long as ye lick ’em, ye’re excused; but the first one as licks you ye’ll marry him—mind that!—so be he’s not married already; and that’ll be a lesson to ye never to mix it up with married men, anyway!’ A plain reversion to the Stone Age, you see.”

While on an errand to gently turn down a proposal from Cabot Selwyn, a Professor of Biology, Martha Klemm meets a most intriguing and alluring beauty–working in the service of the good doctor as mere maid!

Fate and the forces of nature conspire to throw the trio together time and again: can the Doctor escape his ivory tower understanding of biology and embrace the human? 

Hawthorne explores the dichotomy between the “Prospero” and the “Caliban” within the human spirit, in this adventure on the high seas featuring a delightful Tomboy, a hapless professor, a chad sailor, and of course, Martha Klemm!

Sara Was Judith

This volume collects a true near-lost Hawthorne story. Originally serialized across five issues, Sara Was Judith was Hawthorne’s final novel for All-Story Weekly. It has never been collected or reprinted until now.

Sara Was Judith – (1920)

“She is not there, she is something else; she is an angel—or a devil come back to peep at us, to be worshiped, to mock us, to kill us, to smile on us as we die, and to go on to another, again to ravish and destroy him! What is she—who is she? No one knows! But she was, before the Pyramids, and when our great Londons and Parises are a jungle and a swamp, she was what men desire and can never possess, the glimmer in the dark, the mirage in the desert, the thing that is, and is not!”

The editor for All-Story Weekly called “Sara Was Judith” “one of the most remarkable stories ever written. It is entirely unlike any story that you have ever read.” Indeed, Hawthorne weaves a strange tale that straddles gothic, romantic adventure, and even body horror in a work that is truly prototypic of what would eventually become known as “Weird Fiction.” 

Martha Klemm’s school chum, Sara, is an impossibly bland and uninspired woman living a rather dull and ordinary life–quite the contrast with Martha’s, filled with globetrotting adventure. Sara’s daughter Judith is her exact opposite: filled with life and vibrancy, mystery and mischief.

When a deadly storm drowns the girl saving the young lad who fancies her, Sara, in her one act of passion, hangs herself in her boudoir. Pronounced dead, Sara shocks the mourning household, friends, and doctor when she emerges later that evening, more vivacious than she has ever been… and protesting that she is Judith!

Julian Hawthorne’s final novel for All-Story Weekly is a haunting and beautiful tale of love and betrayal and the struggle between good and evil that Miss Martha Klemm finds herself caught, an active and partial observer, within!

Doris Dances & Fires Rekindled

Before All-Story would revisit Martha Klemm in 1919 with A Goth From Boston, the magazine ran two more of Julian Hawthorne’s novellas, which are collected in this volume. As neither of these stories had accompanying cover art, we’ve commissioned this original cover with pencils & inks by Dark Filly [Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat, Wild Stars] and colors by Michael Tierney [Wild Stars, Beyond the Farthest Star]. 

Doris Dances – (1918)

“But for two kittens, Bob might have grown up a Calvinist divine, and been celebrated in ecclesiastical annals. As it was, he can boast of no memorial more pretentious than this plain record of his career.”

Robert “Bob” McIvor Melrose, an eccentric banjo-playing millionaire, was always a child at heart and wanted nothing more than a child of his own. When his gold-digging wife, forces him to choose between her and an orphan infant girl he adopted, Bob takes little Doris with him on the road. 

Leaving all but a pittance for himself and Doris to live on to his wife, the father and daughter live a simple and carefree life as tramps. Gerda Kent, an artist on the verge of fame, hones her skills and creates her masterpiece capturing the loving father and daughter, Bob picking on his banjo while Doris dances.  

Hawthorne delivers a cozy and clever comic romance to warm the heart.

Fires Rekindled  (1919)

“Yes, it may be that thunders of Armageddon portend that after so many blindfolded ages, the veil of Isis is being lifted at last! Some of us at last may consciously be admitted to intercourse with souls disincarnate, and hear nightingale notes of paradise. How can I doubt it!”

Against the backdrop of the Great War, an American visitor in London is struck by a peculiar deja vu–much stronger than the mere sense he has been to the house where he is staying, he finds he knows of details that he could not possibly, even had he once visited in his youth. The strange sense sends him on a quest for knowledge to uncover a past-life love and solve a century-old possible murder!

Fires Rekindled: The Complete All-Story Weekly Fiction of Julian Hawthorne

This hardcover coffee-table volume will collect ALL of Julian Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly Fiction in one oversized omnibus. This is limited to the Kickstarter and will NOT be made available through retail! 

  • The Cosmic Courtship (1917)
  • Absolute Evil (1918)
  • Doris Dances (1918)
  • Fires Rekindled (1919)
  • A Goth From Boston (1919)
  • Sara Was Judith (1920)

About The Team

Michael Tierney is a pulp historian and archivist who has written extensively on Edgar Rice Burroughs, having created the massive four volume Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology, and is currently working on another Art Chronology about Robert E. Howard. He has been involved in the comic book industry for 40 years, owning two of the oldest comic book stores in Central Arkansas until switching to mail-order only in 2020. He is also an accomplished science fiction writer and artist, having worked on his Wild Stars saga since the 1970s. Michael not only made his pulp library available for this project, he provided the photographic images of these rare magazines so that a manuscript could be produced. He has also lent his years of experience digitally restoring damaged pulp art to restore the original covers of A Goth From Boston and Sara Was Judith. He also did colors for the Fires Rekindled/Omnibus cover.

Robert Allen Lupton is a prolific author, pulp historian, and commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has published nearly 200 short stories across numerous anthologies, including the New York Times Best Selling Chicken Soup For the Soul series, and has published several anthologies and novels. His most recent novel, “Dejanna of the Double Star” was published in December 2020. Robert has been an active Edgar Rice Burroughs historian, researcher, and writer since the 1970s, including at ERBzine, where several of his articles and stories are published. Robert has painstakingly recreated the texts as they were originally published from the digital images provided from Michael’s and his collections.

Cirsova Publishing has been publishing thrilling adventure science fiction and fantasy since 2016. They have published nearly 20 issues of their flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine. Additionally, they have published a number of anthologies, a fully illustrated edition of Leigh Brackett’s Planet Stories-era Stark adventures, Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat, and the 35th Anniversary Editions of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars.

Cirsova Publishing to Collect Nearly-Lost Pulp Works of Julian Hawthorne

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., August 30, 2021 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) –Cirsova Publishing will be collecting and restoring the nearly-lost All-Story Weekly fiction of Julian Hawthorne, son of famed American author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In Spring of 2021, Cirsova Publishing partnered with Michael Tierney and Robert Allen Lupton to restore and reprint “The Cosmic Courtship,” a near-lost science fiction novel by Julian Hawthorne. Following the success of this project, Cirsova Publishing established a new Cirsova Classics imprint dedicated to restoring and reprinting other near-lost pulp fiction.

Given the interest in The Cosmic Courtship, Cirsova has prioritized collecting the rest of Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly fiction in a standard format. In addition to The Cosmic Courtship, Hawthorne had one novel and four novellas published in the Munsey magazine.

“The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm” resurrects Hawthorne’s pulp heroine, a witty and modern woman with a touch of clairvoyance and descent from Salem witches, in two volumes, collecting Absolute Evil, A Goth From Boston, and Sara Was Judith. A third volume will collect the stand-alone romances, Doris Dances and Fires Rekindled.

These collected editions of Julian Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly fiction will be released later in 2021.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cirsova/julian-hawthornes-strange-recollections-of-martha-klemm

ABOUT CIRSOVA PUBLISHING:

Cirsova Publishing ( https://www.cirsova.wordpress.com ) has been publishing thrilling adventure science fiction and fantasy since 2016. They have published over 20 issues of their flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine. Additionally, they have published a number of anthologies, a fully illustrated edition of Leigh Brackett’s Planet Stories-era Stark adventures, Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat, and the 35th Anniversary Editions of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars.

Michael Tierney ( http://www.thewildstars.com ) is a pulp historian and archivist who has written extensively on Edgar Rice Burroughs, having created the massive four volume “Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology,” and is currently working on another Art Chronology about Robert E. Howard. He has been involved in the comic book industry for 40 years, owning two of the oldest comic book stores in Central Arkansas until switching to mail-order only in 2020. He is also an accomplished science fiction writer and artist, having worked on his Wild Stars saga since the 1970s. Michael not only made his pulp library available for this project, he provided the photographic images of these rare magazines so that a manuscript could be produced. He has also lent his years of experience digitally restoring damaged pulp art to restore the original covers.

Robert Allen Lupton ( https://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Allen-Lupton/100022680383572 ) is a prolific author, pulp historian, and commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has published nearly 200 short stories across numerous anthologies, including the New York Times Best Selling Chicken Soup For the Soul series, and has published several anthologies and novels. His most recent novel, “Dejanna of the Double Star” was published in December 2020. Robert has been an active Edgar Rice Burroughs historian, researcher, and writer since the 1970s, including at ERBzine ( www.erbzine.com/lupton/ ), where several of his articles and stories are published. Robert has painstakingly recreated the texts as they were originally published from the digital images provided from Michael’s and his collection.

Shuriken Kickstarter is Live!

Yeah, I know, I should be plugging my own stuff, but you guys are probably tired of hearing about it by now.

Reggie has the Shuriken Kickstarter live. I’ve already double backed it [mostly to get two original pieces of artwork instead of just one, but if there’s a huge after-market demand for the book and chachkis, I won’t be in a position where I’d have to refuse to sell the only copy I have.]

One interesting tidbit is that the Kickstarter page affirms the 9-issue run of the original series [so “ha!” to all of you selling those “Complete set 1-8” on eBay]. Not that I’ve ever found a copy online or in the wild, except for that pirated scan.

In Cirsova news, our next Kickstarter to get the rest of Julian Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly fiction back into print is just about ready to go, but Kickstarter won’t let us launch it until The Paths of Cormanor is out the door. Look, like I said, I know you’re tired of hearing about it, but this is easily one of the best books we’ve published, and we don’t want you guys to sleep on it! So back it, and let’s hit those stretch goals for extra content!

Sneak Peak at The Paths of Cormanor!

We have just over two weeks left on the Kickstarter for The Paths of Cormanor! Don’t miss out on this fantastic novel that people are saying has the magic and wonder of Stardust, the wit and humor of The Princess Bride, and the action of A Princess of Mars! We offer you now, a glimpse, a walk down the path of Amara, a young cormorant woman, whose family receives a very special visit from the youngest prince!

Amara (with interludes of Kellen)

Amara smoothed her cloak of feathers. She and her sisters were going to dive for a prince today. The youngest prince, but a prince nonetheless, and she didn’t want to stand out because her feathers were out of place.

She, too, was the youngest. All sisters, that’s how it ran in the family.

She shrugged into her cloak and fastened it around her neck before looking out the window at the black water of the lake. It would be cold, but that wouldn’t matter once they’d transformed into cormorants.

Heidi stuck her head in the room. “Aren’t you ready, Mari?” she asked Amara. “Großmutti is in the hall. She expects the prince to arrive soon and wants us all there.”

Großmutti, Mutti, and Amara’s six sisters—three generations from the centuries of women who held the lake as their fiefdom.

It was late in the year for scrimshaw salmon; hopefully the prince wouldn’t be disappointed with their catch. It probably depended on what he came to see. Amara wished she knew.

“I’m on my way,” she said, pausing to look in the mirror to make sure her poor sleep—from bad dreams—didn’t show on her face. Satisfied, she hurried from her room.

***

Cormanor House wasn’t far ahead. One of the benefits of being the youngest prince is that my travel retinue is quite manageable. I rate one good horse as a travelling companion.

But I can travel wherever I wish. The kingdom is generally safe, and if I do die by accident or bandit attack? Most of my life has been a combination of deference and neglect, I imagine my death would be much the same.

You learn a lot by looking through the cracks to see what has fallen through. Sometimes you find people who need help, other times people who are happy enough to be left alone.

The stories of Cormanor always fascinated me—women who transformed into cormorants to dive for scrimshaw salmon. We had several carvings made from the ivory plates found in the salmon’s heads, but I’d never seen them being caught.

I sent ahead for permission—something my more senior brothers would not have done. Royal prerogative always saw them through. While the folk of Cormanor prefer to keep to themselves, they agreed to my visit.

***

The hall was warm when Amara entered. It rarely was in the winter. The vaulted timber ceiling normally sucked all the heat into its vastness, leaving the rest of the room chill and the flagstones cold.

Today, whole tree trunks burned in the fireplace, enough to heat the cavernous room. Großmutti sat at the edge of the hearth, its light highlighting her face, showing every line. The feathers of her cloak were laced with grey.

She spent her summer days on the parapets in the sun, her winter ones near the fire. She rarely flew, and never dove, but her eyes still sparkled and she missed little.

She beckoned Amara over. “What do you feel?” she asked.

Amara looked around, half expecting to see the question was actually directed to one of her sisters. “What do you mean? Few see us transform, but he is a prince. You could not say no.”

“Not that, what do you feel?” Großmutti said, impatient.

Amara tried again. “A little apprehensive? Only the cousins watch us dive.”

Großmutti shook her head. “That’s not what I meant, but well enough.” She waved Amara to join her sisters, who watched for the prince’s arrival.

Amara took two steps and stopped. “Großmutti? I dreamt of darkness last night. Is that what you meant?”

“What kind of darkness?”

Amara shrugged, ruffling her feathered cloak. “Darkness. Cold and darkness.”

Großmutti glanced at the fire. “Huh.”

When she didn’t say more, Amara asked, “Do you know why he’s coming?”

“It would be dangerous to speculate. Fate treats people like him differently.”

“People like him? Princes?”

Großmutti smiled, a hard but affectionate smile. “Them, too. No, he’s—”

“He’s here!” exclaimed Heidi from the window. The sisters jostled, fluttering about each other, trying to see out.

“He’s handsome enough,” said Alyce.

“Enough!” Großmutti said. “We will not embarrass ourselves acting like new-hatched chicks.”

By the time the prince knocked on the door, Mutti had come over to stand behind Großmutti, and the sisters had gathered on the opposite side of the hearth.

Amara listened as the door was opened, the door warden offered words of welcome, and footsteps sounded in the long foyer. The door to the hall opened, a few more words of direction, and Prince Kellen entered.

He hesitated and looked around while the last bits of snow melted off his boots. Seeing the gathering waiting for him, he straightened a little and approached. Mutti stepped around Großmutti’s chair and dipped into a curtsy. Großmutti didn’t rise, but bowed her head in respect. Amara and all her sisters curtsied as well.

“We are honored to have such an important visitor,” Großmutti said.

The prince looked a bit embarrassed. “The seventh son is hardly important. It is I who am honored.” He bowed first to Großmutti, then Mutti, and finally to the sisters.

Amara wasn’t sure what she expected—not this self-effacing young man who was almost embarrassed to be thought of as royalty.

“And yet your father was also the seventh son, and he became king,” Großmutti said.

Kellen acknowledged the statement with a nod before changing the subject. “I confess myself… fascinated by the idea of your diving. You’re sure my watching isn’t a trouble? I know you—” He faltered on the words and recovered. “I know this is something rarely seen outside your family. And it is very cold today.”

“The lake hasn’t frozen yet,” Mutti said. She crossed over to where the sisters stood, drawing the prince’s gaze with her. “The cold doesn’t affect us the same when we’ve transformed.” She then introduced the sisters, starting with Heidi and ending with Amara.

Amara looked down, just as she should when meeting royalty. She glanced back up, too soon, and met his eyes. She blushed, and he smiled his amusement.

“Have you experience on the water, Your Highness?” Mutti asked, drawing the prince’s attention from her.

“I have,” he said.

“We’ll be diving from a wherry. For your comfort, we have a skiff where you won’t risk being bumped or splashed. If that’s acceptable?”

Kellen nodded. “Of course. Whatever is best for you.”

Mutti gave a little curtsy.

Amara stifled a smile, amused that no matter how friendly the prince seemed, how normal, they must never forget he was a prince and give him due courtesy. She didn’t think he would mind a little less formality.

“Amara will be in the skiff with you,” said Großmutti.

Amara looked to her, shocked, beseeching with her eyes not to have to do this. Why choose her? She knew nothing of princes. She wanted to dive.

***

Amara led the Prince down to the water. Cormanor House sat where the river met the lake, giving it water on two sides, and the dock was on the river.

New snow lay thick on the land, a deep blanket, soft edges gilded by sunlight. The river water was ribboned with white where the current ran while the lake was placid and black.

“Is everybody here a woman?” the prince asked. She looked over her shoulder. He gave her a timid smile. “Even the door warden was a woman. It’s a bit unusual.”

“Father died shortly after I was born. That was twenty years ago, but the cousins are all men. They live across the lake. You’ll meet some of them as they man the wherry while we dive.”

She didn’t mean to sound bitter, but he said, “You’d rather be diving.”

She turned away so he wouldn’t see her expression. She could dive as well as any of her sisters. “It would be a gross violation of our hospitality to leave you alone.” She made her tone light. “Who would answer your questions if not me?”

“Well, I thank you, and I’m sorry you can’t dive on my account. I could ask to see you dive.”

She stopped in surprise. Nobody told her a prince could be kind. “Please don’t. Großmutti would think I asked you to.”

“Oh. If you wish.” He gestured to the dock where the skiff was tied. “Where are the other boats?”

“They’re docked across the lake.”

“But how—?” He looked around. “How will the others
get—?” Suddenly, six black cormorants flew over the house and headed across the lake. “Oh.”

She watched her sisters longingly as they crossed the lake.

“Is diving dangerous?” the prince asked.

“There are dangers.” She was sure he asked to distract her. “Sometimes nixies try to steal fish from us. There’s supposedly the Grimly in the water caves at the east end of the lake,” she said. “We stay away from there.”

“What’s the Grimly?”

She waited until they reached the dock and answered as she held the skiff for him. “If the Grimly were human, you’d call her a water-witch. She’s said to be a body-snatcher and soul-stealer.”

“What does she want?”

“At one time, she wanted to rule these lands. Now, she just wants to be left alone. I’ve never seen her. Nonetheless,” she said as she pointed to the west end of the lake, “we’ll dive over there.”

 She hopped into the skiff, intending to take the oars, but he already had them unshipped.

“I like rowing,” he said. She doubted that, and it must have shown, for he added, “Truly.”

She couldn’t help but like him and didn’t want to argue. How does one argue with a prince? she wondered.

The large diving wherry pulled away from the far shore. Four cousins, all the eldest and strongest, showing off for the prince, rowed at breakneck speed. A fifth, four-year old Svend, sat in the stern bundled against the cold.

“Poor Svend,” she said. “He’s wearing so many coats he can barely move.”

They met mid-lake. Heidi took charge of introductions from Einar, the eldest, to Svend, the youngest, who almost fell overboard when he tried to bow.

“We may not catch a scrimshaw salmon, Your Highness,” called Heidi, “but we’ll certainly catch dinner.” She stood in the bow of her wherry, shoulders back and chin lifted. She snapped her arms up and brought them down, suddenly wings lifting her into the sky, and she was no longer a woman but a cormorant. Jet black, she wheeled before settling onto the lake just long enough to arch into a graceful surface dive.

Kellen twisted to look at Amara. “You can do that too?”

She nodded. “Yes, Your Highness.”

“I’m Kellen. Just Kellen.” He turned back to watch the other sisters lift off, one by one. One by one, they disappeared into the lake.

“How far can they dive?”

“We can dive a hundred fifty feet.”

He blushed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to exclude you.”

She didn’t answer. How can you take back an implication? If she were honest with herself, she liked his company, she just wanted to dive.

Time dragged out. Kellen fidgeted. “How long can you stay underwater?”

“More than two minutes. You needn’t worry.”

A cormorant—Heidi—popped up. The cousins laughed and jested, for she didn’t have a fish. She gave a deep, almost guttural answer and dove again.

Amara glanced at Kellen, half-afraid he understood what Heidi said, but he seemed unoffended.

Another bird popped up to more laughter, then a third with a small trout in her beak. This wasn’t much better, as the fish was held up and found wanting.

“Do they always jest so harshly?” Kellen asked.

“Always,” Amara said. “But don’t feel sorry for us. The cousins wish they could dive and fly. And if you understood what Heidi said, well, she would never have said it as a person, but they understood well enough.”

The water was full of diving birds, and the air full of laughter, but it was a familiar laughter. Amara watched her sisters with a faint, bitter smile, for she had never wanted to catch the largest fish more than she did right now.

***

I didn’t hear what the cousin, I think his name was Einar, said, but the cormorant flew up and flapped her wings in his face. He laughed and stepped back, rocking the boat.

Little Svend was leaning over the side, trailing his fingers in the water. The sudden motion pitched him over the side. I confess I smiled, expecting him to be quickly fished out.

But nobody else had seen him fall, and worse, he didn’t surface. I leaned over and saw him, sinking under the weight of his many coats. Not wasting time for explanations, I shrugged off my own coat and dove to save him.

***

Amara spun in shock as Prince Kellen jumped to his feet, threw off his cloak, and dove into the water. She shouted and everybody turned.

Heidi immediately dove after him.

“Why did he do that?” somebody called.

Amara shook her head, frantically looking, into the lake, around at the cormorants and oarsmen. Did he think he was a bird?! Several more sisters ducked under the water.

“Svend!”

The shout snapped her attention to the wherry opposite. The boy was missing. She swore.

The cormorants re-appeared with news. The Prince had Svend, they said. Heidi was in human form and helping them both to the surface.

Amara closed her eyes for a moment in relief.

Heidi surfaced, holding Svend, but the Prince was not with them.

“Where’s Kellen?” Amara demanded. Did I just call the prince by his first name?

“Something grabbed him. I tried to save him, but he gave me Svend inst—”

Amara didn’t wait. She lifted her arms and snapped down her wings, lifting, transforming, and diving. Down, down, faster than a person could dive. Searching, searching. Deeper. Searching.

There!

Something had him. Something dark.

She surged down, driving her beak at its claws. She struck again and again until it loosened its grip. She transformed into a woman and pulled him away. The darkness reached for them both, but her sisters caught up to her. The water was full of cormorants.

The darkness drew back. In one last fit of spite, it struck at Kellen. A tendril of darkness lashed at him, glinting as it came away.

Amara kicked. Kellen had been underwater too long. He didn’t help her, didn’t struggle. He hung limp in her grip.

When she reached the surface, strong hands lifted Kellen into the wherry. Another pair helped her.

There was no laughter or jesting now. Just grim silence as Einar rolled Kellen onto his side and slapped his back, trying to clear water from his lungs so he could breathe again.

“How is Svend?” Amara asked, not taking her eyes from Kellen.

“Cold, but fine,” somebody said.

“Thanks to the prince,” another added.

Everybody, all the sisters, all the cousins, watched motionlessly as Einar pounded on Kellen’s back.

Breathe, Amara urged him. Breathe.

Kellen hacked and spat out water. Einar paused. Kellen didn’t breathe in. Just as Einar was about to strike again, Kellen spat out more water and wheezed in a lungful of air.

Amara leaned forward.

Kellen coughed, gasped, and started to breathe.

She let out her own breath and ventured a smile of relief. “Prince Kellen?”

Kellen didn’t move. Einar rolled him over and cushioned his head.

“Prince Kellen?” She reached out and shook him gently. “Your Highness?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know.” She looked up at Einar. “Get us back to the house. Maybe Großmutti will know.”

***

Something old, cold, and evil tore me away from the others and held me fast. Something born in the darkness under hills and waters when spirits ruled and mankind had not yet come to be. I could feel its hunger; for wealth, for power, and the only thing it had to feed its hunger was hate, of which it had a bottomless well.

It held me tightly, and I clung to it. It felt like I was missing something, that I would be lost, adrift, without something to inhabit. But even as I grasped at it, I felt smaller, and bound to it in some horrible way. I hated what held me, and that feeling, but I was helpless against both.

***

Amara sat on the hearth, staring at Kellen as he lay before the fire. His breathing seemed normal, and his color had returned, but he didn’t wake.

“Why now? Why him?” Heidi asked as Großmutti tended Kellen.

“He should never have gone in the water,” Großmutti muttered. She glanced at Amara. “It was your job to keep him safe.”

Amara shrank down, trying to disappear into her feathers.

“But what happened?” Heidi asked.

“The Grimly tried to snatch him,” Großmutti said. “He’s the seventh son of the seventh son, and she hoped to harness his power.”

“How did she know?”

“She felt it the moment he hit the water.”

His power? Amara felt a shiver go down her spine. If only she had known. Gathering her courage, for she didn’t want Großmutti to blame her again, she said, “What power does he have?”

“Who knows? Healing, maybe. Prophecy. Fate hasn’t led him to discover it yet. But the Grimly could twist it to her ends.”

“Why isn’t he waking?” Amara asked. “Svend is awake.”

Nobody answered her.

Großmutti crouched next to Kellen, opening his eyelids and peering in. Mutti stood over them, looking down with a grave expression.

Finally, Großmutti looked up. “He isn’t waking, because he isn’t here.”

“What do you mean?” Amara asked.

Großmutti gestured to Kellen. “When she couldn’t steal his body, the Grimly took his soul.”

“Oh, spirits,” Heidi said. The cousins looked away, as if the concept were too horrible to face.

Amara went cold inside. “What will she do with it?”

Großmutti shook her head. “Had she stolen him entire, she would have twisted his gifts and made him a werewolf to do her bidding. Perhaps she’ll build a golem and use his soul to power it. Perhaps she’ll eat it.”

“Eat it?” Amara said faintly.

Großmutti didn’t answer. After a moment Mutti said in horrified wonder, “It would be as if he never existed.”

“I’ll go fetch him,” Amara announced.

“Mari, no,” Heidi said.

“I took my eye from him in the skiff,” she said, “and he was in my grasp when his soul was stolen. I need to do this.”

“This isn’t your fault,” Heidi said.

“Maybe.”

“Then I’ll go with you.”

Großmutti shook her head. “Numbers will not help in the Grimly’s lair. Amara is better served with stealth.”

“If it needs be one,” Heidi protested, “it should be me. I’m the eldest.”

“She is a stronger diver,” Großmutti said. “Not by much, but we know nothing of the Grimly’s lair.”

***

The water was cold, and even Amara’s cloak couldn’t protect her completely. The cold seeped in like fear. She’d never dove in the east end of the lake, but she found the lair quickly. Three large slabs of slate, two supporting the third, formed a doorway. She passed inside, staying as close to the wall as she could.

At the end of a short passage, the tunnel walls fell away and light shimmered off the surface of the water. She was still deep beneath the lake, but she poked her head into the air pocket and blinked in the weak light.

A torch lit a shelf of stone covered with the detritus of years. Dried seaweed, fish bones, broken barrels and crates, even the stove-in hull of an old rowboat.

Amara hopped onto the shelf. She was alone in the cavern. A passage sloped upward from the back of the shelf. The only sound came from the burning of the torch and the drip of water from her tailfeathers.

She fluttered over some bones that weren’t fish and landed next to the passage. There might or might not have been a dim glow ahead. She returned to her human form and began to creep upward.

The glow grew brighter as her eyes adjusted. It was another torch, this one in a small chamber formed by intersecting passages. More trash littered the ground. A broken oar, a tattered jacket.

She tried to place these things, wondering whose jacket it had been. Was it just a lost jacket, or had somebody been wearing it when the Grimly dragged it here?

And where was the Grimly? Where was Kellen’s soul?

Which of these passages should she take?

Use the torch as a reference, start to its right.

Quietly, in a place as quiet as death; slowly, in a place that hadn’t changed since time began, she crept through the passage until reaching a small room filled with bones and a charnel house smell.

Here is the Grimly’s tale, she thought. Generations-old dead, who only live on in the reputation of their murderer. They had been dragged under, used, fed upon, and discarded.

The lure of Prince Kellen’s power was enough to waken dreams of such times and maybe bring them back.

She returned to the reference torch and chose another passage. This led her to another chamber, natural but enlarged by hand. It stank like the sediment at the bottom of a lake—slowly drying muck and fish and seaweed. There was a nest of sorts and a rough wooden door on the far wall. Nothing else.

A voice whispered, “Screams and dies,” as two cold hands clamped down on her arms.

She drew in her breath but whoever held her shook her and repeated, urgently, “Screams and dies.” Heart racing, she closed her mouth.

“What is this?” the voice hissed in her ear. It was a deep voice, surely a male, though maybe not? “Who creeps in this place? Nothing mein Geburtstier brought.” Her captor turned her around to look at her.

Birthbeast? Was this the Grimly’s child? Her son?

He held her out so he could examine her. He hunched over her, tall and stooped. He was nearly bald, only a few clumps of long hair hanging lank on his pale head. Large, dark eyes peered at her. His lips were thin; they didn’t cover his jagged teeth.

He didn’t wear a shirt. His shoulders were narrow, and his arms long with ropey muscles. His cold fingers dug into her arms.

She couldn’t speak, didn’t dare speak. She tried to pull away. He pulled her closer and shook her. “Geburtstier… what did she do? Why did she return with a soul? After all these years? Why now? And you come so soon after.”

“It’s a powerful soul,” Amara whispered.

“It’s a powerful soul,” he repeated. He leaned over her and sniffed. “You must stay away from her.”

Amara risked a wide-eyed nod.

He held her, and she didn’t dare move again. They couldn’t stay like this forever, but what did he want?

A long moment later, she gently pulled back, just to see how he would react. He kept staring at her. She twisted, just a little, to see if she could loosen his grip.

Somewhere, a door crashed open. “Kleiner Schrecken!”

The monster clutched Amara convulsively. She bit down a cry of pain.

Kleiner Schrecken!”

Schrecken, if that was his name, jerked her around, putting his body between her and the shouting voice. “Must stay away from Geburtstier.”

Amara nodded vigorously.

“Not me!” he said. “You. She’ll eat you. Bones in the closet.”

“We don’t want that,” she said.

Schrecken carried her to the ill-fitting door and opened it. “No. Not want that. She’s not to eat you. Your soul is not hers.” He pushed her into the dark room. “You’re mine.”

He closed the door, trapping her in the darkness.

***

Amara listened at the door. Schrecken’s footsteps left the room and she could hear the Grimly berating him. He protested, there was a solid thump.

She crouched down. The door slats were warped. She poked her finger through. The gap at the bottom of the door was only about three inches.

She felt her way around the closet. She found a pair of large, damp, smelly boots. Further back, a pile of clothes rotted into mush. Another, firmer, object seemed to be a book, but so soft it dripped and pulled apart as she moved her hands.

She found some bone buttons, some decayed leather cording, and three human teeth. A few inches away was what felt like a jawbone, but she didn’t hold it to the crack to examine it closely. There was no skull.

She pushed the door. It didn’t open, and she didn’t dare make too much noise.

“Well, I’m not going to wait for him to return.” She took a deep breath and lifted her arms. Moments later, she flattened herself to the floor. A cormorant could squirm through very narrow openings. Her webbed feet propelled her, beak first, under the door.

She couldn’t see as well as she could as a woman, but as a cormorant she could tuck her head under her wing and pretend to be a shadow in the corner. Mindful of this, she stayed a bird as she crept along the wall, slowly, taking the first passage away from the sounds of the Grimly and Schrecken’s argument.

There were hints that once the Grimly had lived differently. Broken furniture littered several chambers; saggy, mouldy tapestries clung by a few threads to their rusted rods. Long ago the Grimly had stopped caring for her lair.

In the furthest chamber, she found a pallet of furs on the floor. Next to the pallet was a pile of things that sparkled and shone, heirlooms from other houses so beautiful that, even when she despised all else, the Grimly kept these ancient trophies.

Next to the pile was an iron-bound chest.

Amara hopped over a raw, half-eaten fish, skirted the pallet, and approached the chest. She looked back to make sure she was alone before changing back into a human.

The lid stuck. It felt locked, but it opened when she tugged harder. A glass jar glowed in a nest of silks and linens. A slight warmth, trapped in the chest, wafted up.

She gathered it in both hands. It was lighter than she expected. Warm. Cheering. It was a good soul.

WHAT IS THIS?

Amara spun.

The Grimly stood in the doorway. “That soul is mine.”

The Grimly bared surprisingly white teeth. Amara had expected a monstrous creature, but the Grimly looked human. Intimidating in the way she loomed, disconcerting because of her wild appearance, but human.

They locked eyes. The Grimly sniffed. “The youngest. I’ve felt you, but you’ve never been worth it before. Now, here you are.” She smiled.

In those eyes, in the smile, Amara saw the monster. She set the soul back into the chest and closed it. “You had Prince Kellen at a disadvantage.”

The Grimly laughed. “You pretty child. You think you have an advantage here?”

Amara knew better.

The Grimly advanced. Amara ducked away. The Grimly grabbed her and lifted her up. Amara struggled to break free. If she transformed, the Grimly would break her fragile bird bones.

She kicked and twisted. The Grimly shook her like a rag doll.

Amara gave a violent twist and wrenched free. She stumbled as she landed and darted for the door. The Grimly reached back and hit her, knocking her into the wall and stepping to block her escape.

Amara rose. Her head spun and she staggered sideways, trying to get around to the door. Escape, hide, return; that was her only hope.

The Grimly laughed. She was toying with Amara now. She moved sideways, and back when Amara moved back. She advanced, smiling now.

Amara rushed her.

The Grimly struck with the back of her hand. Amara flew over the pallet, landing in the pile of treasure. Riches sprayed across the floor. Amara rose to her hands and knees. A curled scroll crinkled under her; a golden drinking cup rolled away.

“Who will save you now?” the Grimly said with a laugh.

Amara focused on the hilt of a sword, inches from her hand. Gems glinted in the torchlight. She grabbed it, drawing the blade out from under a wadded-up tapestry.

“I will,” she said.

The Grimly stopped laughing and leapt over the pallet. Amara rose up to her knees, but the Grimly kicked her in the ribs.

“I will!” Amara cried as she swung the sword.

The Grimly twisted away. Amara swung again. The Grimly evaded. “You’ve no training with that.” She was laughing again.

Amara stepped forward. The Grimly stepped back on the golden drinking cup. It rolled under her foot, and she pitched backwards. Amara leapt and drove the sword into the Grimly.

Amara stood, staring down, breathing heavily.

The hate and madness, all that gave the Grimly life, left her eyes. And something else, a strand of gold wafting up, a small thing, but it matched the glow of the jar. Amara cupped her hand over it and gathered it to her. If she tried to put it in the jar with the rest of Kellen’s soul, the entire soul would escape.

She opened the chest and picked up the jar, juggling it as she kept the glow contained. She hesitated, turning the jar over, wondering if she could open it upside down. Before she tried, the glow in her hand faded. It was gone.

Geburtstier?” Schrecken called timidly. “Geburtstier?”

Amara wrapped the jar in the fallen tapestry and went to stand beside the door.

A minute later, Schrecken came to the doorway. “Geburtstier?” He let out a wail of anguish and rushed to the Grimly’s side.

Amara ducked out the door and ran.

“NO! No, no, no!” Heavy footsteps sounded behind her.

She ran, from one chamber to the next, down the passage. Schrecken followed after, making sounds of anger and sorrow. She ran down the last passage, putting the tapestry in her mouth and, when she reached the bottom, she dove off, turning into a cormorant as she did, holding the soul in her beak.

The soul dragged on her as she swam. She could feel the water tremble as Schrecken dove in after her. She raced toward the lake, burst from the tunnel and headed toward the surface. She looked down to see Schrecken following, mere feet below her.

She redoubled her efforts, stretching up, breaking the surface and flying. Drops of water hit her as Schrecken surged up and splashed back, for he couldn’t fly.

***

I felt the change. It was like if your hand was stuck in the middens and suddenly comes free. That part of you is suddenly clean again. For a moment I was confused—lost—wondering if I had misplaced my… self, or a part of myself. But the feeling disappeared and I was anchored again. I might hate the helplessness of being without senses, but I did not hate whatever held me. No, I did not hate it at all.

***

Amara told what had happened while she clutched the jar tightly, afraid that here at the very threshold of victory she might drop it. Prince Kellen still lay on a cot near the fire, while Großmutti sat in her chair. The rest of the family had pulled the dining benches close so they could hear.

Amara let her gaze linger on Kellen. “What about that bit of soul that disappeared?”

Großmutti chuckled. “It did not disappear. Souls find homes in living things. That little bit entered the Grimly as she carried the whole soul. Had she not bottled it in time, the rest would have entered her body too. When she died, it left her.”

“But what happened to it?” Amara said.

Großmutti looked at her like she was being purposefully stupid. “You held it.”

Amara blushed. She had been stupid. “It’s inside me. How do I give it back?”

“I don’t have that kind of power.”

“Who—who does?” She looked around.

“He does,” Großmutti said. Amara followed her gaze to Prince Kellen. “But he doesn’t know how. Give him back what is in the jar so he can go learn.”

Mutti frowned and nodded. “The sooner the better.”

Amara knelt beside him and paused. It was a good soul; warm, cheery. She was surprisingly reluctant, but it was time it went home. She unstoppered the jar and pushed the opening into Kellen’s mouth.

A moment later his eyes opened. His gaze settled on her. He closed his eyes and relaxed, opening them again as the sisters and cousins began to murmur. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me,” she said. “You don’t have all your soul back.”

“I know,” he whispered as he fell asleep. “I still thank you.”

The next day, Amara stood in the doorway as Kellen waited for his horse. “How long will it take you to learn?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I’ll have to find somebody who will teach me. Then I’ll have to learn. It may take some time.”

He said “some time,” but Amara heard “maybe years.”

His horse was brought, and he swung into the saddle.

She didn’t want him to leave. How does holding part of his soul affect me? she wondered. “I’ll keep it safe,” she blurted.

“Keep yourself safe,” he said gently. “And not for my soul’s sake. I will return.”

***

Join Kellen and Amara and their many friends and foes along The Paths of Cormanor!

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Amara smoothed her cloak of feathers. She and her sisters were going to dive for a prince today. The youngest prince, but a prince nonetheless, and she didn’t want to stand out because her feathers were out of place.

Amara is a young woman of Cormanor, a household whose womenfolk have the ability to transform into cormorants to fly and dive for fish. Kellen is the youngest prince of the realm,  a seventh son of a seventh son, and wishes to see these remarkable women for himself.  During the pageantry upon the lake, Amara’s cousin falls into the water and is spirited away by the Grimly, a malign creature of the elder world! Kellen braves both water and monster to rescue the boy. However the Grimly manages to trap the prince’s soul and mark him for death! Amara tracks the Grimly to her lair, slays the wicked beast, and restores life to the young prince… but a piece of Kellen’s soul is trapped within Amara!

The death of the sinister Grimly is just the beginning—Kellen must find the means to recover his missing piece of soul, while Amara and her family are haunted by the vengeful offspring of the monster she had slain! Kellen and Amara each must undertake their own harrowing journey, meeting delightful friends and dastardly foes, along the Paths of Cormanor!

Jim Breyfogle’s beautiful new novel of fantastical romance is inspired by Eastern and Northern European myth and fairytale and sure to delight readers of all ages.

Cirsova is excited to bring you this new original property by Jim, showcasing some of his finest writing!