Sunday, April 29, 2012


I'm interviewed over at Lee-Ann Graff-Vinson's blog:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Snippets

Here is the opening of Just The Messenger, hopefully soon available from Darwin's Evolutions.  As a note, this is my version of the story - the editor hasn't taken a pass yet - so may differ somewhat from the final version:

In the borderlands binding the northern kingdoms together, babies died frequently and were only named on their sixth birthday, usually for traits they showed.  Thorn had just such a name.

The rider crouched, stretching out worn leg muscles from the trip through the shadow realms.  The guardpost had been burned down to its foundations, if it could be called that - it was only a hut, occupied when the village beyond could spare an able-bodied man.  The scent of smoke and charred flesh stirred dread in the rider, unwelcome visions of the scene.  The tethered mare did not react to the stench, but there were reasons for that.

The figure rose, then hesitated.  Under the hood, one dark eye flickered with apprehension.  Easier to keep walking, not confirm the carnage.  Thorn had a mission, one that did not call for detours.

Yet forward into overhanging trees, through the arch cut by frequent passage.  The crows had beat the rider there, as had other scavengers.  Impossible to guess how many homes, though probably not more than thirty.  Just enough that every farmer could walk to his land.

"Scion?  Are you real, or is my mind finally betraying me?"

Thorn might have initially mistaken the figure for a corpse, so grey was his skin, so unkempt his appearance.  The man straightened, flashed a smile that missed half a tooth.

He strutted closer, poked Thorn in the chest.  "Real, then," he said, "or I'm poking a tree I never noticed growing here before."

Thorn resisted the urge to bat the hand away, irritated.  "What happened here, old man?"

"Old?"  Blue eyes swept down, and he chuckled hoarsely.  "I suppose I am, at that.  Thank you for the reminder.  You can call me Squirrel."

"I'm Thorn.  Are there any other survivors?"

Squirrel sighed gustily.  "None.  The raiders came, they slaughtered everyone like animals - except the animals.  Those they set loose.  Some came back to their barns."  He smiled without mirth.  "I would be eating well, except it's beyond my ability to kill a pig on my own."

Thorn placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and started to lead him up the path.  "I'm sorry for your loss.  I'll escort you to the next town, where you'll be provided for."

Squirrel cocked his head, an inquiring gleam in his eyes.  "Where are you bound, young Scion?"

"Coerth's capital.  Dangerous things are happening," Thorn said.  "The king needs to know before it's too late."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I wonder if I would be able to cheer myself out of my allergy funk by writing a story about evil flowers, poisoning innocent industrialists?

I wonder if people would flame me horribly for writing such a thing?

Natural pollution is terrifying.

How about a flowering tree that produces curses instead of buds?

Or a race that wins a war by planting trees on the opposing territory.  Spy trees?  Stealth trees!  Poisonous trees.

I'm not even going to get into ambulatory trees.  That would be terrifying.

I've gotten good ideas from my misery before.  Maybe it will happen again.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sunday Snippets

I've finally been writing again, rather than editing or working on blog posts, etc.  Here's a recent bit from "The Base of the World," the short story I'm now trying to finish about a healer dealing with a mysterious disease:

It was the second time she had been awakened from a sound sleep by shouting; she dreaded it before she even fully recovered to consciousness.  She blinked her eyes open to see Viresi.
"Liva, why are you sleeping?" the girl persisted.
She drew herself up, stung.  "I'm exhausted.  I can only do so much.  It will have to wait."
"What about Garra?"
She shook her head, irritated, about to snap at the child.  The resemblance to - the memory of - Islu stopped her.  "Garra?  She's fine - not fine," she amended, "but she'll be my next target.  She might complain even more when she's cured, but she will be."
"Did you really not look at her?" Viresi pressed.
Liva sank back on her heels.  Though still bleary, she focused on the words rather than reacting.  "Her cough was worse … almost overwhelming … I didn't look at her colors," she admitted.  "I didn't have time."  Though she offered the justification, she didn't focus on it as the first part of her statement sunk in.  "I didn't look.  I didn't see how badly off she was …"
"No," Viresi agreed.  "You didn't."
How had the child known?  She wasn't there … Liva pushed it off in the face of a sense of foreboding.  She rose in a rush.  "I should go."
"And I will come with you."
Healer and girl moved swiftly through the camp.  This time, Liva didn't notice the eyes upon them, breaking into a sprint.  She was stunned to find she had the energy.
She burst into the infirmary to find Delis and Nethin clustered at the dour woman's bedside, soothing her with words, conversing in wary whispers.  She placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and nudged him aside with a strained smile for Nethin.
"We were just debating if we should send for you," Nethin said, "but we figured you knew her condition before you left."
Liva pressed down the stab of guilt as Garra turned her head to stare, eyes flitting back in her head.  "You finally decided …"  Another coughing spasm took her, a full-body shudder.  She gripped the sheets to steady herself.  Lina reached out to hold her shoulders and delved into her healer's sight.  What she saw chilled her:  the blue mire had spread out through the bulk of Garra's body, thinning only towards the extremities.
Liva was not fully rested, but there was no time to build up her reserves - and as with the wounded man earlier, she could not begin with the subtle, delicate work, for the disease had twined thickest around Garra's lungs, twisting hard.  At best, permanent damage that would make the woman's current occupation impossible; at worst …

Friday, April 06, 2012

Strip Mauled (Supernatural Suburbia)Strip Mauled by Esther M. Friesner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Part of a series of anthologies set in suburbia, each looking at the trials and tribulations of a particular brand of supernatural species (or occupation, in the case of the witches), Strip Mauled is the werewolf part of this set. Unfortunately, while most of the stories have humorous moments and are at least worth a smile, most of the authors in turn sacrifice tension and interest in favor of levity. Sometimes, it's hard to suspend disbelief; other times, it's hard to care. When the characters aren't emotionally invested, how can the reader be?

There were some aspects of the anthology I enjoyed. For instance, some of the stories - but not all - link to the tales in Witch Way to the Mall. The sense of continuity was nice. And of course, some of the humor is enjoyable enough that it doesn't matter that the attached story isn't the most gripping of tales. Superlative in the volume - no surprise - was Friesner's own contribution. Incisively witty and hilarious, the satisfaction and suspense in the tale is to see how the odious narrator is outmanuevered. Usually, I object to editors including their own stories ... here, I just can't.

This is a serviceable anthology - only one or two of the stories are actually bad. With the exception of Friesner's, however, I can't really say that any of them stand-out, either.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Guide to Style

So first of all, a public service announcement:

If you can view that without giggling, you are made of sterner stuff than I.  I've gone back multiple times in the past few days just to look at it.

Secondly, I've brushed up A Dose of Aconite for future submission.  Because I keep a rolling submissions list of a specific number of stories - which remain in as close-to-continuous circulation as I can manage - it won't be hunting for a home until I either sell or retire something else, but it is next up on my list.  It's a very dark story - one of my darkest pieces.  It was originally written for a "villain POV" challenge over at FWO, and got some comments that reviewers weren't sure which side was which.  That's intentional when it comes to the Borderwatch versus the water-witches ... but Mannix himself is a cold, calculating piece of work.

What's interesting is I occasionally come across phrases that I don't think I would write now - but I don't feel the urge to change them.  They're not bad or inferior, just different from my present stylistic approach.  Has anyone ever encountered this?

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Another story available!  Voices is now out in Kaleidotrope:


Check it out!

Flow now available in ... print!

Flow is now - huzzah! - out in print. Can order it from here:

Crazy excited here. Bounce!