The Grim Tidings Podcast: Dark Poetry Special: The Crimson Circle

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In this episode we take a special look at dark poetry. Host Rob Matheny recently attended the Hippocampus Press Happy Hour, a special event debuting the publisher’s newest poetry collections as part of the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. During the event Rob had a chance to interview four writers who specialize in dark poetry: Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, Adam Bolivar, and D.L. Myers – also known as The Crimson Circle. Rob also interviewed Obadiah Baird and Dan Sauer of The Audient Void, a small Oregon-based zine featuring the works of The Crimson Circle among others. This episode highlights the growing dark poetry community, including short readings from each poet.

Visit Hippocampus Press to buy the titles mentioned on today’s episode!

The Audient Void, A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy

Ashley Dioses – K.A. Opperman – Adam Bolivar – D.L. Myers

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

The Five Minutes Stories Podcast, a little bit of story to last you all day

PATERNUS by Dyrk Ashton

Past episodes you’ll want to check out:

Interview with editor Ellen Datlow

Interview with Paul Tremblay


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Music by Michael R. Fletcher


The Grim Tidings Podcast: Ed McDonald


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We’re joined by Ed McDonald, author of the Grimdark fantasy debut BLACKWING! Ed Skypes in from his hometown of London to chat about the new novel and what creepy monsters and Grimdark elements readers will find within its pages. We chat about the significant six figure deals Ed received after rights were auctioned to publish the gritty trilogy. Plenty of writing discussion as well as we hit on what to consider when writing realistic weapons that makes sense, and why maybe debuting with a sprawling multi-epic series isn’t the best choice for a fantasy author starting out. You can find Ed McDonald online at, or on Twitter at @EdMcDonaldTFK!

Buy BLACKWING on Amazon!

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

Grimtoberfest 2017, 15 Grimdark fantasy ebooks for $.99 each until 10/13!

PATERNUS by Dyrk Ashton

Archivos, online at Archovis.Digial!


Past episodes you’ll want to check out:

Interview with Anna Smith Spark

Talking Literary Agents with Mark Gottlieb


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Philip Overby online at, or on Twitter

The Grim Tidings Podcast: Author Thunderdome 2-Phipps vs. Hayes

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We’re back with another exciting edition of Author Thunderdome! In one corner representing the US-of-A, it’s multi-genre author, blogger, and reviewer C.T. Phipps, known for such titles as Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, The Rules of Supervillainy, and Straight Outta Fangton (not to mention a sweet elbow-drop from the top rope). His opponent, hailing from the U.K. and wearing the (rather snug) Union Jack singlet, it’s Rob J. Hayes, author of multiple fantasy series’ including The Ties That Bind, It Takes a Thief, and Best Laid Plans. Join us as these two publishing heavyweights settle the score and duke it out in a bone-crushing literary battle of wits! Who will find glory in the Author Thunderdome? Find C.T. Phipps online at, and Rob J. Hayes at!

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:


Editing Services by Laura M. Hughes

FISH WIELDER by J.R.R.R. Hardison

Past episodes you’ll want to check out:

Author Thunderdome 1 – Soward V Skorkowsky

The Writer’s Pit – Ben Galley

The Writer’s Pit – Graham Austin-King


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On Facebook

On Twitter @GrimdarkFiction

Rob Matheny on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Philip Overby online at, or on Twitter

The Grim Tidings Podcast: Anna Smith Spark Parts I and II

Listen to Part I of our interview of Anna Smith Spark!

Anna Smith Spark

In part one of this queen-sized two part episode, Rob and Phil are joined by debut Grimdark fantasy author Dr. Anna Smith Spark! Anna is the author of the new novel THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES, book one of the Empires of Dust Trilogy. It’s clear that 2017 has been a big year for Grimdark, and Anna stops by to talk about her ultra-violent and dark fantasy debut and the pressures of being a new author, and being the queen of Grimdark, we get her thoughts on the ever-evolving sub-genre and address some common, we also get a preview of her short story appearing in the new issue Grimdark Magazine, and more! Find Anna online at, or on Twitter @QueenofGrimdark!


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LUCIFER’S STAR by CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus

ARCHIVOS Story App, online at Archivos.Digital


NINE PARTS BLUSTER by author AZ Anthony

Listen to Part II of our interview with Anna Smith Spark here!

Court of Broken KnivesIn part II of our conversation with Anna Smith Spark, author of the Grimdark fantasy debut THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES, we conclude our chat by talking literary influences and what sort of fiction is too extreme for the Queen of Grimdark; we delve into Anna’s past as a goth and what her favorite pair of shoes look like (hint: they’re covered in spikes); we’ll talk about Anna’s struggle with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Aspurger’s Syndrome, and what advice she has for creatives who struggle with disabilities; we’ll find out how she landed Mark Lawrence’s literary agent, get a preview of new projects Anna’s working on including the occult Grimdark serial anthology LANDFALL, a round of our new game Knife Party, and more!  Find Anna Smith Spark online at, or on Twitter @QueenofGrimdark!


Thanks to this weeks sponsors:

Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer, grimdark epic adventure avilable now on Amazon!

The Strangeful Things Podcast, download on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play!

Ascension by Matthew Johnson, rise with the gods, or fall with the dead!

GOAT DEMON BLOOD SWORD #1: Sebastien de Castell

Grim Gozzoth Goat Demon Blood Sword

Welcome to the newest feature on The Grim Tidings, GOAT DEMON BLOOD SWORD, which shall feature blood-soaked goblin interviewer/Splatter Elf mascot Grim Gozzoth talking to some of the heavy-hitters of the fantasy genre. Grim Gozzoth never went to school for this shit, so bear that in mind. Enjoy!

Grim Gozzoth: Thank you for agreeing to this meeting, manflesh. We shall dig further into your guts and find the truths that await within. Our shamans have received ill omens from the constellation of the Skeletal Serpent, but we shall carry on. For my first question, I’d like to start with the usual: who is your favorite Butcher of the Five Angelic Scars?

Sebastien De Castell: Buddy Holly. Sure, Elvis had more hits, but Buddy brought so much melodic innovation to the genre that I think he deserves more recognition. Give the man a sharpened Stratocaster and he would totally have butchered the shit out of those angelic scars.

GG: How does it feel to be human?

SDC: Like being a goblin only taller and you don’t freak out every time you catch your reflection in a mirror. Actually, after a while, you start to freak out when your reflection anyway, so I guess not that different.

GG: Sacrificial offerings are something often brought up in the office. How many elves have you sacrificed to the Petrified Goddess and why so many?

SDC: Six, but to be fair, I was just trying to sacrifice the one. I kept getting the setting on the blender wrong.

GG: You write books. What is your feeling on the transition from e-books to the nightly screeches of swamp hags?

SDC: I think we all need to move past the false dichotomy between nightly swamp hag screeches and e-readers. Both have an audience, both have a place in the modern world of publishing, and, really, in the end what matters are the stories, right?

GG: I collect the withered husks of forgotten pixies. What is your most prized grotesquerie in your collection?

SDC: I kept a gorgeous collection of tiny misshapen sprites until one day my mother pointed out that those were just desiccated flies. I got my first pair of prescription glasses the next day.

GG: You are well-renowned for your musical ability with the pan-flute. What creature’s bones did you craft it from?

SDC: Well, I have several pan flutes, but my favourite is made from the dried tongues of swamp hags. Every song I perform with it is like french-kissing seven septuagenarian serpents. #heaven

GG: I can’t stop eating raw turnips. Can you help me?

SDC: If you look at a raw turnip from just the right angle, it looks like the inside of a troll’s testicle. Let that thought guide your culinary decisions.

GG: What is the smartest thing you can say to people to prove that you are not a minion of the Necromancer Lord Aktolminium?

SDC: Uh . . . because I joined the Kiss Army when I was a kid? Sure, Gene Simmons was the most popular, but I think Ace Frehley was the better musician.

GG: And finally, tell us about your books.

SDC: I’m the author of the swashbuckling fantasy series, The Greatcoats, which has just completed with the fourth and final book, Tyrant’s Throne. For those just starting out, the first book is Traitor’s Blade, which was shortlisted for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy, the Gemmell Award for Best Debut, the Cambell Award for Best New Writer, and the Prix Imaginale for Best Foreign Work.

My new series is a YA fantasy with a wild-west feel called Spellslinger. The first book is out now and the sequel, Shadowblack, comes out in October.

Click on the picture to Sebastien’s Amazon author page!



Fantasy EBook Deals Galore!

We have a goal here at The Grim Tidings Podcast to completely ruin any hope of EVER reaching the bottom of your TBR pile. So we’ve gathered some great eBook deals for you to check out and add some of these great titles to your Kindle library!

BLOOD SONG by Anthony Ryan – Kindle US $2.99

Past guest Anthony Ryan’s stunning dark fantasy debut that made him a New York Times Best-Seller. Check out our first interview here, and be sure to pick up BLOOD SONG.


PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence – Kindle US $2.99

Papa Mark is in on today’s list as well with PRINCE OF FOOLS, the first entry in the RED QUEEN’S WAR trilogy. Nominated for Gemmell Legend Awards and voted one of the best fantasy novels of 2014 by Goodreads. Pick this one up today!


THE BLACK PRISM by Brent Weeks – Kindle US $2.99

The New York Times Best-Selling LIGHTBRINGER series kicks off with THE BLACK PRISM, an action packed tale of magic and adventure.


OTHERLAND by Tad Williams – Kindle US $2.99

This gargantuan novel kicks off the far-reaching cyberpunk saga about the mysterious golden city known as Otherland.


Be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes, Sticher, or Podbean. Follow us on Twitter @GrimdarkFiction, and like us on Facebook as well! Be sure to visit our Facebook group GRIMDARK FICTION READERS & WRITERS for daily updates on all things Grimdark! Happy reading!


(Not-So-)Grimspirations #3: Happy Hardcore, Final Fantasy VIII, and the Mental Storyboard (Guest Post by Brandon Draga)


If you’re reading this right now, it’s not unlikely that you’ve come across me at one point or another, most likely over on the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers Facebook group. I’m… a bit of a black sheep in the community, if I’m being honest. I don’t mean that in the sense that I feel unwelcome, far from it. If anything, Rob and Phil are easily two of the nicest guys in the industry, if not the fandom at large, and said Facebook group is a product of that. What I mean is, I’m not really a grimdark guy. Sure, I watch Game of Thrones, I’ve read some of the grimdark staples, hell if we’re being honest I’m shopping a pretty grimdark short around as we speak. That said, though, I’ve always had a bit of a taste for the more pleasant side of the genre. Give me your Sullivans, your Weekes, your Brooks, and your Greenwoods. Give me your tropes, your tie-ins, your halflings.

Seriously, there’s a whole thread on /r/Fantasy right now talking about why people don’t care about halflings, and it’s a bit upsetting.

Similarly, my inspirations are maybe not quite what one might expect for a fantasy author, grimdark or not. I won’t belabor the point about how video games have become a major influence to fantasy writers, because that’s already been discussed by the inimitable Sam Sykes. Music has more often than not been considered the greatest muse for any creative endeavor, and such has been my case on several occasions. Now, obviously if these two things are so common as inspirations for the modern day writer, then I’ve just wasted your time, right?

Well, I want to tell you a story about when the importance of music collided with a video game in so perfect a way that it swapped out the lenses through which I saw the world.

In 1998 my family got a Sony Playstation. It was the first non-Nintendo console we’d owned since the Genesis, and it was already a couple years into its production cycle. I mention this because it leads up to two important facts about this story:

  1. Up until the release of the Nintendo 64 two years prior, I wasn’t a terribly well-informed gamer, and most of what I did know from then on came from Nintendo Power magazine.
  2. Because of this, I was blissfully unaware of any Final Fantasy game between the original, which I had for NES, and VII, which was on a console that, when it was released, I didn’t own.

That’s right, I never experienced the Final Fantasy games that, for many people, were life-changing pieces of media. In truth, by the time I did have a Playstation at my disposal, there was little drive for me to pick the franchise back up, and I probably wouldn’t have, had it not been for the fateful day when my older brother came home from a trip to the local Blockbuster Video, a rental copy of the new Final Fantasy game in his hand.

Now, people can rag on Final Fantasy VIII all they like, and I won’t for a second tell them that many of their points aren’t valid, but the fact of the matter is that this game sunk its hooks deep into twelve-year-old me, so much so that I asked for a copy for Christmas (keeping the save file from the rented copy on a memory card for months). My brother, too, fell in love with the game, and it was his further influence, in fact, that pushes this little story forward.

In a time when most teenagers were listening to the latest pop-punk, or the nascent rap-metal that inundated the radio, my older brother’s musical tastes were a bit more off-the-beaten-path. Yes, by the mid-late 90s the mainstream was beginning to see the emergence of electronic music by way of Fatboy Slim, the Prodigy, and that one commercial for The Gap where someone is skating an all-white vert ramp to the Crystal Method. My brother, however, was tapped into something a bit more esoteric, something he shared with me one afternoon.

“I have to show you this!” he told me excitedly as he beckoned me into his bedroom. “It’s this subgenre called happy hardcore. There’s this song, ‘Distant Skies’. You listen to it and you just imagine Squall and the others flying the Raganrok over Gaia!”

Sidenote: The Raganrok was the name of the ship your party eventually gets in FFVIII that allows you to fly across the map.

He cued up the song and pressed play, and damned if he wasn’t spot-on. The music had a pulsing, frenetic backbeat, a soaring synth hook, and the classic backing of a grand piano chord structure. My eyes widened as if to manifest my mind’s eye in physical form.

It was perfect. The music was the scene. The two were intertwined intrinsically. In my mind the movements of the Raganrok mirrored the highs and lows of the song, each crescendo a punch on the throttle of her controls.

The experience set me on the path of what would become a love-affair with both JRPGs and electronic music of many different stripes. The latter I would eschew as I got older, favouring punk rock to fuel my teenage angst and post-secondary political radicalization. That feeling never subsided, though, the feeling of how music could not just impact or inform, but become the very backbone of a scene. It didn’t always manifest in fiction, mind you. As a matter of fact I more or less stopped writing fiction from ages eighteen to twenty-six. More often than not, it existed as something more ephemeral; vague narratives that would play out in my mind, but never on paper. The soundtracks, however, were always constant.

Funny enough, it was when I was on a particularly nostalgic kick, listening to a happy hardcore playlist I found on Spotify, that what was arguably the most pivotal plot moment in Collapse of Kingdoms, and arguably in the whole of The Four Kingdoms Saga, came to me. Funnier still, if you look hard enough, you can see the influence of some of those most formative Final Fantasy games in the plot.

Some authors seek their inspiration in metal, Tolkien, and if they’re in my age bracket probably Final Fantasy VI, VII, and Neverwinter Nights. And all the power to you if you do. Whatever your grim (or not-so-grim)-spiration, just be sure to keep that volume cranked to eleven, and remember to save often, or all progress may be lost.


Brandon Draga was born in 1986, just outside Toronto, Ontario. His love of all things fantasy began at an early age with games like The Legend of Zelda, Heroquest, and Dungeons and Dragons. This affinity for the arcane and archaic led to his studying history at York University from 2005 to 2011. In late 2012, he began writing a D&D campaign setting that would lay the groundwork for the world of Olhean, the setting for his “Four Kingdoms Saga” novel series, compared by critics to the works of Terry Brooks, Michael J. Sullivan, and R.A. Salvatore. Brandon has also proven that SF/F can be made accessible at any age, writing the lauded picture book “Dragon in the Doghouse”. Brandon still lives just outside Toronto, and when he is not writing enjoys skateboarding, playing guitar, and playing tabletop games.

Social Media Stuff
Twitter: @brandondraga
Instagram: brandondraga

To find Brandon’s books, check out his Amazon author page here!

And, for special bonus Draga action, you can listen to our Keeping it Indie Panel episode of The Grim Tidings Podcast as well!