Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 8: Of Rum and Rhum

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us an entry from Jesse Bullington, who’s not afraid to refer to himself in the third person. While Bullington has worn more than one hat for Stone Skin Press over the years, today entry focuses on the first story he published with us, which appears in The New Hero Volume 2.

I’ve been a fan of (in)famous NYC photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig for years, and writing a weird story that payed homage to his unique voice seemed like a gas. While he’s the narrator of my story “Saturday’s Children,” he may not actually be the hero…

When settling on a drink to pair with the story, I initially considered a gin cocktail, since our narrator is sipping one at the start of the tale. As I re-read the story, however, I realized I’d screwed up–Weegee tells us he’s drinking a Rickey, but from the description we can tell he’s clearly drinking a Gin Fizz. Maybe he had one too many at the Carousel before putting his thoughts down on paper? Whatever the cause of the mix-up, I decided this was a sign to direct this column toward the other obvious choice: rum, or even better, rhum.

Why is this the other obvious choice? Because it figures prominently into the practices of Claire Simons, a fictional character who plays the Vodoun priestess Holmes to Weegee’s shutterbug Watson. Why the H in that rum? Because “rhum” short for “rhum agricole,” which is rum that is distilled only from the juice of the sugar cane, as opposed to molasses, which is more common. Just as all Scotch is whisky but not all whisky is Scotch, so is all rhum rum, but not all rum is rhum. Ruuuuuuuuum.

Rhum is probably Haiti’s most popular export, other than Vodou, and the link between the two was not something invented to suit this story. Baron Samedi, the loa summoned by Mrs. Simons, is very partial to strong liquor, and so she keeps overproof rhum on hand for when she summons him (as well as a good cigar). The Baron drinks his rhum straight, and so should we, for despite its good name being dragged through the gutter by certain dubious pirate captains, quality rums are every bit as nuanced and sippable as fine Scotches. Well, okay, maybe you don’t have to knock it back neat like the Baron does: a little ice is acceptable, and a touch of lime if the spirits so move you.

As for what rum to use in particular, the thirsty reader is spoiled for choice. Rhum Barbancourt is far and away Haiti’s best known rhum, and with good reason: available at a variety of different ages and priced to please, both their 4 year old and 8 year old offerings are great introductory rhums. If you are trying to curry the favor of a loa you’ll want something stronger, though, preferably Clairin, which is Haitian moonshine. Don’t feel bad if you can’t scare any up, though–even our mambo Mrs. Simons can’t score any in the story, and has to make do with overproof rum from another island.

Mrs. Simons calls her rum Babash, which is overproof homemade rum from Trinidad and Tobago (among other islands). It’s such a ferocious spirit it’s been outlawed across the board, but thankfully for us Trinidad and Tobago do export several lovely rums, some of them from the House of Angostura. That name ought to ring a bell for any self-respecting tippler, as Angostura Bitters are a staple in any bar. They present a slightly different range of ages than Rhum Barbancourt, but not being distilled purely from the sugar cane itself, Angostura has many rums but no rhum.

Whether or not the illicit Babash mentioned by Mrs. Simons is a rhum or merely a rum is a moot point, as she doesn’t actually possess the spirit she thinks she does. Scoring overproof island rum in the 1940s was a tricky business, even in New York, and so while Mrs. Simons believes her supplier when he tells her the rhum is moonshine from Trinidad, it is actually sourced much closer to her Haitian homeland: Jamaica. The tell is when Baron Saturday samples the bottle and pronounces the hooch to be Jankro Batty, which is illicit Jamaican rum alleged to be so powerful it will singe your nose hairs.

This brings us to our final suggestion, an overproof Jamaican rum called Smith & Cross. At 57% alcohol, it qualifies as a “Navy Strength” tipple, but is still a far cry from the rumored potency of the island’s Batty. This one should be attempted only in small doses, for obvious reasons! Had I more time, I’d wax philosophical on the glories of Ti Punch, but since I’m rum-rambled long enough I’ll leave you all in the capable hands of David Wondrich. Cheers!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 7: Down and Dirty in the Deep South

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us an entry from S.J. Chambers, whom you can find on both her website and facebook, in addition to the pages of The New Gothic:

While there is a lot of smoking in “Dive in Me,” there is very little libation. Even so, I am certain the three girls in this story were no strangers to drink. Because it was the 90s, and they were underage and flat broke, more than likely their poison came with a screwcap in a 32 ounce glass bottle.  Less Than Jake sang “malt liquor tastes better when you’ve got problems,” and the Morai in this story have plenty of those.

Malt Liquor. While we discuss it like its in some other category from beer, it is actually a lager made of malted barley with corn as the fermenting sugar. Because that which gives malt liquor its high alcohol content is also subsidized, it is blessed by the trinity of teenage drinking: it’s smooth, it’s cheap, and it’s strong.

Malt liquor was an icon of the 90s. Not only was it referenced in every major rap album from Ice Cube to Snoop Dogg, it was a staple of punk rock as well. Despite its hardcore associations, I think what made malt liquor popular was its practicality. You only needed one 32 to yourself, and before you were half way through a pizza and episode 5 of Star Wars, you were gone daddy gone barfing in a grocery bag. The needs were simple and were simply met. You got more drunk for your buck (literally, a 32 back then cost like a buck fifty), and that was all there was to it. Fun times.

But, hold up. You keep saying 32. Doesn’t malt liquor typically come in 40 ounce bottles, hence its nickname “the forty”?

It does everywhere but in the Sunshine State where “Dive in Me” is based, and where my co-author Jesse Bullington and I grew up.  In Florida, liquor laws forbid brews to be sold in anything over 32 ounces making a 40 mythical. If you managed to wrap your hand around one, it would be because you had friends in low Georgia-line places with fake IDs and a car.

Regardless of 32 or 40, there are a lot of malt liquors to choose from at your nearest convenience store.  While Colt 45 is the most recognizable, it is also the most foul. Old English 800 was what I remember downing back-in-the day. Since then, I’ve become fond of King Cobra. Hailing from Busch, it is the most palatable of the malt liquors. One can imagine it has a cider-like taste, but the imagination can be a tricky thing. The bottle is easy to grip and sip from, and most importantly it has a 6% ABV rating. But remember, malt liquor is about simple needs, so any of it will do just about as fine as another.

So grab a neck, crack open THE NEW GOTHIC, and make sure to spill some for all the poor souls in this anthology, especially the foul-mouthed adventuresses in “Dive in Me.”

There you have it, Stone Skinners–and remember, when it comes to malt liquor, slurp, don’t sip! Tune in next week when we will almost definitely have a classier recommendation…

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 6: Dmetri & the Lychee

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us an entry from Dmetri Kakmi, whom you can find on both his website and facebook, in addition to the pages of The New Gothic:

When asked to provide a drink to go with my story ‘The Boy by the Gate’ in The New Gothic anthology, my first thoughts turned to beer. The story is set in wintry coastal Australia after all.

But I’m not a beer drinker and I don’t frequent pubs — it’s a national pastime I’ve never understood. Bars are more my style and I like a sophisticated drink, with complex hints and tantalising undercurrents.

When thinking about the characters in my story, it occurs to me that some of them would share my passion for the classic martini (even the dead ones). And because they are also united by an enthusiasm for the exotic and the far-fetched, I thought a lychee martini would best serve the palate as the story is consumed.

You will need…

Canned lychees

Ice

150 ml gin (I prefer Bombay)

A mere suggestion of extra dry vermouth (I use Noilly Prat)

Put a lychee in a chilled martini glass. Place the other ingredients in a cocktail shaker, with a dash of lychee syrup from the can, and shake. You can also create this brew in an ice jug and stir with a long spoon. You won’t stop at one.

There really is nothing like a martini to help lower your standards, while remaining vaguely classy. Luis Bunuel used the martini as his creative process. E B White called it ‘the elixir of quietude’ and it’s probably the best thing the Americans invented since Brian de Palma.

Don’t blame me if you start seeing spirits after three of these.

That’s it for this week, Stone Skinners–Cheers!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 5: The New Hero, Sweet and Sour

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us one substantial entry followed by a quick bump of liquid bliss. First up is the inimitable Ed Greenwood, whom you can find on both his website and facebook, in addition to the pages of The New Hero:

In the first volume of THE NEW HERO, and specifically my story therein entitled The Midnight Knight, we meet Mednaiya Knight, whose nickname became the title for the tale she stars in.

As unashamed, daring, and whimsical as any merry adventuress one may meet in a misspent life, she isn’t James Bond or the Saint, or even Modesty Blaise—but if the Saint had been a woman, she and Mednaiya would likely have been good friends, perhaps VERY good friends (insert nudges and winks here, though in a lifestyle like Mednaiya’s, there’s often little time for dalliance; opportunities must be seized with vigor in the brief moments available).

Left to her druthers, Mednaiya would be a green tea girl by day, and sip gently dry Riesling by night—but where The Midnight Knight takes place (the mythical and thankfully tiny South American country of Mariacordoba), the hot, humid climate calls for something sweeter and more tropical than her usual. Enter peach schnapps enlivened by a generous pour of mango syrup. How many ounces, you ask? Saith Mednaiya: “Ounces, my dear, are for mixing explosives or antidotes. For all other times in your life, master pouring with a steady hand—unless a nearby tongue happens to feel neglected.”

In the general unfolding of things, our Midnight Knight would find this cocktail far too sweet, and might even add a splash of grenadine and a glacé cherry to “go really decadent, as it’s just the one glass; if we’re drinking more deeply, all that sugar will have me worshipping at a handy porcelain bowl altar.” Or, on a whim—and our Mednaiya is never averse to whimsy—one could scorn the grenadine and cherry in favor of introducing a sour note, with a splash of sour apple schnapps or even two splashes of grapefruit juice.

If one desires a light snack to accompany this, one could do as Mednaiya does when she can get it, and grill the right sort of snake (anaconda, for choice), or settle for something more readily attainable: dosa or another thin flatbread with whatever mild curry or sambhar is your favourite. (Mednaiya has even been known to drench fat and fresh stalks of asparagus in melted butter and pepper, when she hasn’t the time to cook a curry.)

If that doesn’t your palate excited than you may want to check your pulse. In addition to Ed’s contribution, we also have a shooter-sized entry from Maurice Broaddus (website/twitter/facebook). This mixed drink is meant to accompany his stirring tale from The New Hero, “Warrior of the Sunrise”:

Vodka and cranberry juice (with a splash of sweet n sour) … mostly because that’s one of my drinks of choice for most situations.  Because no drink better prepares me to go to war…

There you have it, thirsty readers, a pair of sweet and sour beverages to go with The New Hero–Salud!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 4: Something Orange, Something Black

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us two entries, one a heady cocktail and the other a beverage suitable for teetotalers. First up is Damien Kelly (whom you can find on both his website and Twitter), with a recommendation to go with his story in The New Gothic:

It would be only half the story to suggest some sort of whiskey cocktail to accompany “The Whipping Boy,” though it is the undeniable Irish beverage, and the burning sensation is no less apropos. Yet, for a tale about two little boys, it seemed a bit harsh. I did briefly consider something virgin by contrast; a Shirley Temple is, after all, best made with a fiery ginger ale to undercut all that grenadine and maraschino cherry. But then, this isn’t a sweet story either.

No, the best accompaniment hits somewhere in between, I think. Something as sharp as it is sweet, as raw as it is warming and viscous. Something that has, at its heart, essential flavours of childhood, and then utterly corrupts them. So I’ve chosen an Orange Whip: orange juice and cream, laced with vodka and rum. That the name is also a good fit is just a bonus.

Cute story, though: When the late, great John Candy appeared in The Blues Brothers and ordered this potent drink with – “Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips!” – it had never been part of the script. The Orange Whip Corporation, who made a non-alcoholic drink of the same name and who had provided catering for the cast and crew, asked if their product could be mentioned in the film. Director John Landis put the idea to Candy, and he obliged them. Sort of.

I mean, if that doesn’t seal this drink’s legend as being all about dirtying up something that was meant to be wholesome and clean, then I don’t know what would.

Orange Whip

Ingredients:

4 oz Orange juice

1 oz Rum

1 oz Vodka

Cream to taste

Mixing instructions:

Pour ingredients over ice and stir.

And for those who prefer something a little more sobering, Wena Poon offers the following suggestion to pair with her story from The Lion and the Aardvark: Aesop’s Modern Fables:

“Shotaro & Haruka” is about a boy and a girl who race street cars in Japan. Seventy percent of Japan is mountain. This means there are a lot of wiggly mountain roads and passes (touge) on which kids can drift their cars, usually in the middle of the night when there are no other cars. Touge racing was immortalized by Shuichi Shigeno in his Initial D manga, long before Hollywood caught on with their lame and overglorified Fast and Furious series. Many Asian kids in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia have obsessed their whole lives over the subculture of Japanese touge racing. Street racers are usually boys, but sometimes girls race too. Street racers aren’t glamorous or rich. They wear really crappy clothes. Their cars are just normal cars. They worry about money for gas. When street racers are hungry, they go to the 7-Eleven in the gas station and they eat a refrigerated, pre-made rice ball (onigiri). The street racer drink of choice is canned coffee. If you’ve been to Japan, you know they are ubiquitous, dispensed from vending machines and sold at convenience stores. They cost about US$1 to US$1.50 apiece. Even if you’re not thirsty, if you had spare change in your pocket, you would pop a coin in the machine and buy a can, because it is fun, like buying liquid candy bars. There are literally dozens of types of coffee cans, often brightly decorated with bombastic manly slogans, designed to appeal to the image-conscious male. The coffee is terrible by cognoscenti standards, and the servings very small. Still, if you were a street racer, you wouldn’t drink anything else. Beer affects your driving. You need to stay awake to attack the mountain.

That’s it for this week, Stone Skinners–whether you get whipped or caffeinated, here’s hoping you stay frosty!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 3: Ramsey Campbell and la Fée Verte

Welcome to another installment of Stone Skin on the Rocks, our weekly column where our authors provide a liquid pairing suggestion for their short fiction. This week brings us a brief essay by Ramsey Campbell, wherein he suggests a very tipple with a reputation to accompany his contribution to The New Gothic.

My tales try to shine a strange light on things we take for granted – to make the reader look again, which I do myself in the act of writing – and so it seems to me there’s only one tipple to accompany “Reading the Signs”: absinthe, that once fashionable drug, now back in the shops.

Drugs! How much creativity would have been lost without them? The honest answer is that nobody knows. We would lack at least the early novels of William Burroughs, of course, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, not to mention Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s splendid Hashish Eater (which demonstrates that Victorian cannabis was impressively potent) and de Quincey’s rather calmer contemplation of opium. Can we be sure that any of Cocteau’s fantasies owe their genesis to the same substance, though? Would Philip K. Dick’s later work have been much different without his years on amphetamine? Graham Greene’s use of Benzedrine may have lent extra edge to his vision in The Power and the Glory, but it was already enviably sharp. Perhaps that’s the truth: drugs may confer or increase imagination, but it takes a user who is already a disciplined artist – or at the very least prepared to be one – to wield it with any artistic worth. Still, it’s fun to imagine a drug that brings the Muses down on the indulger. The more unavailable the drug, the more legendary its effects are likely to grow, and the more of a Grail it may seem. Think of William Burroughs’ search for Yage. Think of laudanum, or indeed of pure opium, an experience beyond the reach of most of us. Think of absinthe while you may, since it or a liqueur called by its name can again be had.

I once sampled a bottle of the Spanish variety.  The preparation  is a ritual in itself. I was reminded of the well-nigh religious, not to say interminable, rite of rolling a joint with tobacco, as they used to do in Britain; many’s the stoner, I imagine, who entered a stupor before the joint was even licked into shape. I was never deft at rolling, and proved to be equally inept at firing up the sugar cube on the antique absinthe spoon. By the time I’d finished poking the cube with the flame of a lighter, the tips of my thumb and finger were candidates for caramelisation too. Still, once the lump doused in absinthe had done writhing and popping, the results ended up in the glass, which I sipped with suitable solemnity. I’m happy to report that the effects weren’t quite like being drunk, nor the same as other psychoactive experiences. I had a sense of heightened clarity warring with intoxication rather than merged together, as is the case with psychedelics. My eye was drawn to anything green in the room, and as the colour glowed it touched off other colours. They and the textures of the kitchen seemed on the edge of revealing more about themselves, while the grain of every wooden surface grew keenly defined. Objects began to take on the quality of visual puns I’d first encountered in my childhood. When I had a second glass of absinthe I was delighted to gaze for a while at an elongated drop of caramelised sugar, which had borrowed a pallid luminous green from the drink beneath it, and enjoy its resemblance to spun glass.

I have to admit that while all this was pleasant, it produced no ideas other than the observations I’ve noted, a somewhat introverted outcome, you might think. At least it was more productive than my one trial of opium. Perhaps I wasted that by awaiting its effects, as Cocteau warned us not to do. What may come of reading prose while quaffing absinthe? The adventurous reader may test the experience. There’s no green in my tale, but perhaps the drink will add a special spectral glow.

There’s only one way to find out, isn’t there? À la vôtre!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks, Round 2: Something Red and Something Green

Welcome to our second entry in Stone Skin on the Rocks, our series that pairs stories from our anthologies with thematic drink recommendations. We believe that a good story can enhance a beverage, and vice versa, and who better to ask for the best pairing suggestion than the authors themselves? Today’s two contributions come to us from Robin D. Laws and Kyla Ward, and offer something for the imbiber and teetotaler alike.

We will start with Robin, veteran editor of five Stone Skin Press anthologies and sometime contributor, who writes:

Cocktails v. Cthulhu

When asked to think of an alcoholic beverage to pair with Shotguns v. Cthulhu, or my apocalyptic story in it, thoughts naturally turn to blood. Rivers and rivers of blood.

The Bloody Mary must be discounted, first for obviousness, secondly for connotations of Christian blasphemy out of keeping with Lovecraft’s inhuman mythology.

The Toronto setting of my story, “And I Feel Fine”, might suggest that most Canadian of mixed drinks, the Bloody Caesar. Though its crucial clam juice ingredient does evoke the swirling waters of R’lyeh, its associations of patio and cottage feel too happy for a nightmarish end to life as we know it.

Instead I submit to your attention a drink with greater bite, the Blood Jaguar.

2 oz cachaça

2 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice

1/2 lime, quartered and muddled

Serve on the rocks.”

It’s worth noting for the uninitiated that cachaça is a sugarcane spirit from Brazil that bears a similar pedigree to Rhum Agricole (rum distilled directly from sugarcane rather than its byproducts, like molasses). When not mixing up Blood Jaguars for his inhuman house guests, Robin can be found on his website or Twitter.

Our other thematic beverage comes to us from frequent Stone Skin Press contributor Kyla Ward. Kyla can be found online at her website, and her entry for our series provides a very different sort of lift from Robin’s contribution:

“The reading of ‘Cursebreaker: The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist’ in The New Hero should be accompanied by fine sencha; that is, a Japanese green tea. The best teas in Japan come from the Uji region near Kyoto, where the plant has been cultivated since the fourteenth century. Although she was some way to the north, in Yamagata, the Cursebreaker scaled the Sacred Mountains in search of a soothing bowl.

“Do you know the last place I got to sit down for an hour? To put my feet up and drink something hot? Well, it involved the Spanish Inquisition and that’s why I shall now move onto the sake.”

In the eighteenth century, green tea was rapidly adopted in Europe by such writers and artists who were over that other green beverage: absinthe. Green tea was renowned for its stimulating effect on the mental, especially the imaginative faculties. I myself can attest to its effectiveness in bringing on weird dreams. For this reason, it came to share the myth of absinthe: that it could drive the habitual drinker mad. This belief is reflected in Sheridan Le Fanu’s Green Tea, and Bram Stoker’s The Judge’s House

But proper sencha should be brewed in an earthernware pot and served in a glazed bowl. First, the fragrance must be appreciated. Then it should be sipped slowly, and the mind allowed to wander, like the Cursebreaker, through time and space.”

Both Shotguns v. Cthulhu and The New Hero are available directly through Stone Skin Press, as well as all finer booksellers. That’s it for now, thirsty readers–you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.  See you next week when we have another round of Stone Skin on the Rocks!

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Stone Skin on the Rocks: The Lion and the Aardvark, Round 1

When it comes to drinks, some things just go together. Gin and Tonic. Scotch and Water. Brandy and Soda. Writers and any booze they can lay their hands on. This symbiotic relationship often extends beyond the artists and into their characters, from Falstaff to Ford Prefect, and has been present from the very beginning: The Bablyonian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of humanity’s very first known works of literature, is brimming with references to wine and beer.

In honor of this ancient, fruitful, and occasionally catastrophic association, were are proud to present a new blog series: Stone Skin on the Rocks. Each week we will bring over a few of our contributing authors to offer you pairing suggestions for their works–just as a good beer, wine, or cocktail can be enhanced by pairing it with a certain appetizer, meal, or cigar, we believe a good story can be benefit from matching it with an appropriate beverage. For today’s inaugural entry, we’ll offer both a general pairing suggestion for The Lion and the Aardvark, and a unique recipe that contributor Molly Tanzer provided for her fable in particular.

For the classical connection, you can’t beat the spiced wine called Hippocras for a bevvie to pair with our collection of modern fables. As long as humans have been drinking wine they’ve been spicing it, and while Hippocrates himself may  never have quaffed a glass of his namesake beverage, he did provide the so-called Hippocratic Sleeve used to strain out all the spices and additives prior to drinking. This variety of spiced wine dates clear back to Medieval Europe, when it (apocryphally) rode west to Europe along with returning crusaders. The standard recipe for Hippocras comes to us from the the 14th Century English cook book The Forme of Cury, which is in of itself a fascinating text (See this wonderful BBC4 special on the subject by dearly beloved and recently deceased chef Clarissa Dickson Wright).

Whether you prefer the French or Anglo-Saxon spins on this classic beverage, you’ll find yourself in good company, both real and literary: Hippocras was the tipple of choice for Gilles de Rais–medieval serial killer, accused werewolf, and BFF of Jeanne D’Arc–and is also quite popular with the upper classes in Westeros.

Now, if spiced wine isn’t quite your style, Molly Tanzer has a very different pairing suggestion for “The Poison-Well,” her contribution to The Lion and the Aardvark. The following is an excerpt from Rumbullion and Other Liminal Libations, a collection of her work that both reprinted her fable and gave us the idea for this blog series:

“Opening a bottle of quality champagne evokes different emotions for different people, but a common association with champagne is having some cause for celebration. While, in my opinion, a champagne such as Moët et Chandon Imperial or Veuve Clicquot (two of my personal favorites) is best enjoyed by itself, very cold, in either a flute, or (more traditionally) a coupe or saucer-style glass, champagne cocktails are lovely and very special, too. The Kir Royal/Kir Royale is perhaps the most commonly known champagne cocktail, traditionally containing around half an ounce of crème de cassis and then six ounces or so of wine. If you like the Kir Royal but want to mix it up, plenty of mixologists, professional or otherwise, have created variations on this theme, using crème de framboise (raspberry) or crème de mûre (blackberry) to give the drink their unique spin (and, I suspect, use up whatever fruity liqueur they have on hand).

Now, while tasty, crème liqueurs are very sweet (the amount of sugar gives them their silky, cream-like texture—not milk). Thus, my take on the Royal uses Cynar, an Italian amaro that contains artichoke and other vegetal ingredients, giving it an earthy, bitter taste appropriate to “The Poison-Well.” While this drink is delicious under any circumstances, it’s especially delightful when one feels the need to toast the downfall of one’s enemies.

Choke Royal

½ oz room temperature Cynar

6 oz or so of chilled champagne

Pour Cynar into a champagne flute*, then slowly top with champagne.

*While I enjoy sipping champagne from a coupe, Avengers-style, I think the Royal is best served in a flute.”

If you’re still thirsty, author and reviewer Glen Mehn recently explored the connection between booze and geek culture in a guest post on the Almost Always Safe For Work website Pornokitsch–and provided some great cocktail recipes in the process. Until our next round of Stone Skin on the Rocks, may your drinks be as crisp as your pages!

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Ebooks Made Easy: A Quick Tutorial for Stone Skin Press Readers

We can all agree that the ebook revolution has been great for readers, writers, and publishers alike. Even so, new technology can be daunting, especially when certain ereaders only work with proprietary file formats, other files work well on desktops but not on devices, and so on. If you’re interested in making the most out of your ebook experience, you’ve come to the right place, because here’s a simple walk-through that should cover all your bases.

Step 1: Visit the Stoneskin Online Store and pick out an ebook or ebook and print book bundle–scroll down to the bottom for our special offers to maximize your savings.

Step 2: Place your order, either with a credit card or paypal. As soon as you complete check-out, we email you a link to download your titles.

Step 3: By clicking on the download link, you receive a zip file of each ebook you ordered. When the zip file is downloaded, you unzip it, usually by double-clicking on it, and then it unzips into a folder with your ebook available in three formats: pdf, epub, and mobi. All our ebooks are DRM-free, meaning you can use them anywhere in the world.

Step 4 (desktop): What you do next depends on how you would prefer to read your ebook. If you are just going to read it on the desktop of whatever device you downloaded it to, then simply open the pdf version of the ebook with Adobe Reader, or any other program you usually use to read pdfs. If you’re not sure which program to use, just double-click on the pdf file and the default pdf reader will open up the book. And that’s it, you’re ready to read an ebook on your desktop.

Step 4 (ereader): If you have a dedicated ereader like a Kindle or Nook, there are a few more simple steps to follow. Before you do, though, make sure you are selecting the correct file format for the best results. If you are using a Kindle, use the ebook file that ends in the extension mobi. Alternately, if you are using a Nook, use the ebook file that ends in the extension epub.

  1. The first thing to do is plug your ereader into whatever device you downloaded the ebook onto.
  2. When the device recognizes your ereader, it will appear on the desktop. Simply click on the appropriate ebook file and drag it over to the ereader icon, and drop into place. For all intent and purpose, think of the ereader as a zip drive you are adding a file to.
  3. Once you have dropped the appropriate ebook file into the ereader, turn on the device. Your new ebook will be right there, ready to read!
  4. Enjoy!

So there you have it; downloading any ebook from any online bookseller is as simple as a few quick clicks. With all the options available today, there’s no need to only go through one or two big etailers–instead, you can go show your support for small presses by going directly through them for all your ebook needs. What’s more, you may find the independent retailers sometimes often great deals on ebooks, so happy hunting out there!

 

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A 21st Century Bestiary

Few tomes are as magical as bestiaries, those encyclopedias of real animals, mythological creatures, and everything in between. From Aristotle to Pliny the Elder, from Saint Isidore of Seville to Anne Walshe, from Jorge Luis Borges to Gary Gygax, from ancient China’s The Classic of Mountains and Seas to the forthcoming 13th Age Bestiary, the greatest minds have produced monstrous taxonomies as timeless as they are fabulous. Now, as illuminated manuscripts have given way to ebooks, the time has come for a new addition to this worthy canon: A 21st Century Bestiary, from Stone Skin Press.

Author and editor Heather Wood has taken on the fearless task of compiling this illustrated volume, a rare literary chimera in the same genus as our previous The Lion and the Aardvark. Unlike any previously discovered bestiary, this collection will include both classic beasts that have evolved to cope in the modern world and the heretofore undiscovered creatures that thrive in the 21st century. Some entries are warmly evocative of the bestiaries of yore, while others are styled as decidedly modern short stories. This lexicon displays a range of tones from the amusing to the horrific, from the thoughtful to the diverting.

We’re keeping most of the contributors a secret for now, but since the manticore is out of the bag we can let a few names slips: Ed Greenwood, Emily Care Boss, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Dave Gross, Kyla Ward,  Robin D. Laws, Nancy Kilpatrick, Kenneth Hite, and John Tynes are but a few of the noted literary naturalists and beast-watchers who are taking part. A 21st Century Bestiary is sure to delight any reader who appreciates the marvelous and the unique. Look for it in the wild later this year…

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