Coming Soon: Tranquility and Other Myths

Tranquility and Other Myths, Full Cover

My (very) short story, “Winter Roses,” will be appearing in the upcoming anthology, Tranquility and Other Myths.” The anthology will be published in April, 2017. Here’s hoping you get a kick out of the full cover above, which was put together by John Dwight (including the back cover verbiage).

Seventeen stories of light, night and the writhing shadows. Indeed.

Note: (4/30/17) This just came out. Available on Amazon in print-only.

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The Shortest Fight

This is easily the shortest fight scene I’ve ever written in one of my stories. It’s from “The Rooftop Game,” a 16K word novelette of mine that will be appearing in May in the anthology, “Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders.”

The basic premise is “Die Hard, on the roof of a castle tower.” While the King is away, the castle the royal family is staying in is overrun. Unable to escape, Lydio Malik, the Royal Bodyguard for the infant Princess Analisa, takes refuge on the roof of a tower where his enemies will have trouble getting to him.

This is the scene:

   The Kashmal fighter heaved himself over the edge of the roof, lunged to a standing position, drew his sword and took a step towards Malik.
   The fighter’s forward boot slipped on the wet tile where Malik had urinated only a few moments before. He fell forward, audibly cracking his chin as he landed face first on the orange roof tiles. Stunned, he dropped his sword, which slid off the roof, followed almost immediately by the screaming rebel warrior.
   A few seconds later, there was a thud and clatter as the fighter hit the ground below.
   Malik couldn’t help grinning. All of his fights should be that easy.

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New Release: Reliquary

Reliquary I have a novelette in an anthology called Reliquary, which was published on Amazon today. The anthology features twelve stories by new writers on the theme of relics.

My story is called Road Trip:

Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, doesn’t have much left to live for. He’s disabled, unemployed and his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her. Then a beggar, a war veteran like himself, offers to sell him a road.

Go. Buy. Now. 😎

(And we’d all love a fair and honest Amazon review, if you have the time)

Oh, and for anybody who’d like a bit of a preview of the story, here’s an interview with Rocco Fitch, the main character of my story.

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Zombies of Manhattan

Warning: ZombiesCHAPTER 1: LEVEL 82

In any apocalyptic scenario, location is a major survival determinant…

         — apocalyptica.blogspot.com

I descend the stairs slowly, careful not to make any noise. The level I’d just come from had been safe. I know this, because I’m the one that cleared it. But all four stairways in the Kraftt Tower are apparently open on multiple levels, which means that they are emphatically not safe.

I clutch my flashlight in my sweaty left hand and direct its dim glow, muted by the red cloth I’ve tied over it, directly in front of me. I’m wearing three jackets for padding, plus Janet’s scarf (I try not to think about Janet, she was my first) and the motorcycle helmet I found on 85.

I’m holding a three-foot-long metal strut from a computer rack in my right hand. I’d wrapped duct tape around one end to give me a better grip. I call it “George,” I’m not sure why. Sometimes I talk to it, too. I’m probably not entirely sane anymore, but it beats the alternatives.

In a moment I’m on the landing, which turns out to be covered with bloodstains, long since dried. They look black in the light. There are drag marks going down the stairs, too.

I try not to imagine what happened here. I need to stay focused.

Ten more steps and I’m at the door for Level 82. I strain my senses for any sound of movement. I hear a faint scuffing sound, so faint that I’m not sure if it’s real or just my imagination.

It doesn’t matter.

Here and now, my choices are constrained. If I’m swarmed in the stairway, retreat to the floor above might be possible, unless I have the bad luck to be attacked from that direction. But retreat would only be a temporary respite. Food and water are limiting factors. To live, I need to keep moving. And if I’ve got to be moving, then it has to be down because that’s the only way I’ll ever escape this God-forsaken Tower of Doom.

The door is metal, with a faux wood façade. Pine, I think.

It’s locked, of course. There’s a badge reader next to it so all of us office workers can unlock it with our badges. Since the power’s been off for the past week, that’s not real useful. I shift George to my left hand, juggling to hold both my weapon and flashlight in one hand. The light shakes a little as I do this.

I pull my +3 Vorpal Lock Pick out of my pocket. OK, it’s really a screwdriver with a few metal bits superglued to it, but that just sounds too mundane for the apocalypse. Anyway, the server room on 88 has the same kind of lock as the stairway doors. It had taken me half a day of experimentation to cobble together a working lock pick.

I hear another scuffing sound. Unmistakable this time. And closer. I think there’s a hostile on the landing below me.

This is how things get dicey. I call this whole routine American Roulette. Pick a floor. See what’s behind the door. Live or die. Repeat again tomorrow, if you’re lucky.

I insert my lock pick in the gap between the door and its frame. Shove, twist, pry. All of this makes noise. Not a lot, but more than enough.

I pull the door open enough to put my foot in the gap, then I bite down on the handle of the screwdriver, sorry, I mean my +3 Vorpal Lock Pick. I grab George in my right hand and swing it in a whistling arc as a bloody-faced man in a grungy business suit lunges upward into my circle of illumination. The metal bar smashes his skull and sends blood splatter into the wall.

It’s really all about the follow-through. That’s something my grandfather taught me. Although he was talking about baseball, not smashing skulls. I’m still really glad he taught me how to properly swing a bat. I just never imagined that it would be a survival skill.

My attacker falls backward down the stairs, knocking at least one companion down, or so I judge from the snarling. In the momentary lull after that, I hear footsteps and groaning coming from above, too. I guess it’s time to see what’s behind door 82. I slip through and pull the door shut behind me, then move about six feet down the blessedly empty hallway.

I ignore the savage sounds from beyond the door and try to listen for any sounds of hostiles on this floor. Hearing nothing, I move to my next critical task.

Before I can clear a floor, I have to make sure all four stairway doors are closed, otherwise, well, I could be facing a nearly unending supply of hostiles.

From personal experience, let me tell you: Swarms are bad.

At full occupancy, the Kraftt Building could supposedly hold 20,000 people. I don’t really think the skyscraper was full when disaster struck, and some people undoubtedly escaped even then. I’m estimating that the building was half-full at worst. Of those, I figured half turned and the rest got eaten. That makes me a rounding error, I guess.

I jog quietly around the floor to check the other stairs. I’m careful to avoid the restrooms. All the bad guys need to survive is water; they’ll sleep and conserve energy if there’s no food (so never, never, never assume they’re dead until George has verified it), but they get weaker without water.

The floor turns out to be secure. Lucky me.

While I’d gotten my daily cardio in by barreling around the hallway track, I’d only passed one glass-fronted corporate entrance. This is a sure sign that the company has the entire floor, which isn’t my favorite situation. I prefer when the hostiles are penned up in different office pods.

I walk back to the entrance. A law firm. Not much use for that anymore. Glass doors embedded in glass walls let me look in on a fancy foyer with a marble floor, comfy chairs and a mahogany counter behind which, in some lost world now quickly receding from memory and never to return, an immaculately dressed administrative assistant would have smiled and greeted me.

Printed on one of the glass doors in white letters:

In an emergency
Press on door for 15 seconds
An alarm will sound

I press hard with my shoulder. After a moment, there’s a very slight pop and the door swings inward. No alarm goes off.

I wait for full minute with the door half-open, counting the seconds. Nothing happens. It’s all very boring. Which is good. I like boring.

Quietly, I make my way through the office. It’s daylight outside, which isn’t a surprise because that’s the way I plan these excursions. Light fans in through the exterior windows.

I see bloodstains in places, and drag marks, but no hostiles and no dead bodies. As I pass the break room, I curse silently when I see that the vending machine has been smashed open and all my junk food is gone. It’s not all bad, though. The soda machine is a tougher nut to crack (I have a tool for that, too), and it’s undamaged.

I turn a corner and I see a hostile fifteen feet away. Female, with her back turned to me. I’m feeling good because the floor’s been empty so far and maybe I’m feeling a little cocky, too. Plus, sometimes I think I just need to hear a voice, even if it’s only mine.

In my best faux Spanish accent, which is actually pretty awful, I say: “I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my co-workers. Prepare to die.”

Then I raise George and charge at the hostile.

The figure turns around, a shocked expression on her face, and screams.

Stunned, I shift my swing at the last second and slam George into the wall beside her. I yank it out of the wall and jump back away from her.

“You’re not a—”

“Obviously,” she says. “You moron.”

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Going to Chessiecon 2016

Chessiecon 2016 at the Radisson North Baltimore I’ll be attending Chessiecon for the first time ever this weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard about the con for years, but this is the first chance I’ve had to go. It’s being held at the Radisson North Baltimore in Timonium, MD. Seemed like a cool thing to do on my Thanksgiving semi-stay-cation.

My friend, Martin Wilsey, will be there as a panelist. Some of my other friends will be there as well. I suspect I’ll have a bit of a chance to transact some business. Plus, in general, I find cons to be really enervating.

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Inspiration: Galaxy’s Edge

From the Edge of the Galaxy This is a photo of a large mural that I saw displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. It imagines what it would be like if Earth were actually outside the galaxy. It shows a couple of people leaning against what looks like a Model-T Ford, contemplating the awe-inspiring night-time view of the galaxy in the sky above them.

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Top Secret Anthology Project

Well, OK, it’s not really a Top Secret anthology project, although I am keeping some of the details under wraps for now. The origin of the project stems from how I tend to think about things:

You can wait for good things to happen or you can make them happen.

Now, I’ve been involved in the creation of several “friends & family” anthologies through my primary writing group. They’re fun projects, and several of us have managed to build our book production skills up to a professional level doing them. But…well…the content is a little more problematic—anybody in the group who submits a story gets in, regardless of their skill level. And that doesn’t really make for a marketable anthology, at least not at the level that starts paying bills.

If that sounds like I’m coming down on those group anthology projects, I’m not. They’re excellent projects, teaching folks to write to a deadline, sign a real contract (at least for the next one), produce a professional-calber project, etc. But writing is a business, and business requires the capability to evaluate activities in a practical and critical manner…these projects aren’t going to make me money (although the gaining of new skills has definitely been a benefit).

My thought process went like this…

What if I put together my own anthology? If I could get good stories, then I’d have an anthology that might really be marketable. Well, I didn’t have a private relationship with lots of good authors, but I did know a few that were reliable. OK, so let’s make it an anthology of longer stories, maybe 10K – 20K words. So, five stories would make a solid anthology.

I picked four writers immediately (three other authors plus myself), and they were all amenable to the project when I laid out for them exactly how it was going to be run. That left me with one slot to fill, for which I put out a moderately open Call for Stories on the theme of Fantastic Defenders:

Looking for novelettes or short novellas in a fantasy setting featuring heroes defending against the forces of evil. Examples range from a royal bodyguard defending an infant princess against a well-organized assassination attempt to an aged bureaucrat defending an empire using only his wits. No elfie-welfie fiction.

The target publication date for the anthology is May 5, 2017, just in time for Balticon. The anthology will be available in ebook, trade paperback and audio. It will be published by Tannhauser Press.

I’ll post more details as the project continues…

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Reliquary: Coming Soon

Reliquary - An Anthology of Stories about RelicsSigh. I have a story called “Road Trip” in the upcoming anthology, Reliquary. The anthology publication has been delayed until November; it had originally been targeted for May. The anthology is edited by S. C. Megale and is being produced by my primary writing group, the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. Unsurprisingly, I’m also involved in the production end of things (mostly the ebook production).

I chalk most of the delays up to: 1) the cat herding necessary to get all of the stories in, 2) the complexity of the work (100K words with full wraparound cover, fancy typography, sophisticated interior design, illustrations, etc.), 3) the learning curve the production team had to climb for both the print and ebook editions, 4) two, yes, two rounds of copyedits, and 5) learning the hard way why contracts are necessary.

On the other hand, the proofs look absolutely stunning.

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Capclave 2016

Capclave 2016: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Convention Capclave is the Washington area’s premier literary SF and Fantasy convention, hosted each year by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). I had a great time at Capclave, as always (it’s my fourth time), but especially from the business perspective of a burgeoning writer.

I was here with Marty Wilsey, a fellow member of my primary writing group, who was here to promote his indie-published military SF trilogy, the Solstice 31 Saga (it’s doing very well, by the way). I’m also on the verge of significant publication myself, with one of my novelettes due to appear this month in an anthology called Reliquary and another one about to be indie-published as soon as I can work out the cover issues with my cover designer.

From the business perspective, here’s what went really well:

  • Cathy Green, Capclave 2017’s Programming Chair, asked me to do a workshop for Capclave 2017. I’ve previously done workshops at Capclave 2014 and 2015.
  • I got to discuss the Reliquary anthology with the production team.
  • I got to discuss a future anthology, possibly two anthologies, that I’m putting together for publication next year.
  • I attended a workshop on “Book Design” put on by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, an industry professional who has successfully published many anthologies, including the highly amusing Bad-Ass Faeries series.
  • I networked with people who can help me promote my indie-published works.
  • I got to talk craft and business with other writers…who treated me as the professional writer that I believe I’m becoming.
  • I attended the “Microfiction Workshop” conducted by Dustin Blottenberger, Deidre Dykes and Brigitte Winter. I ended up with what I think is a publishable 101-word Halloween story and a venue to which to submit it.

In addition to workshops, I attended a number of great panels. One thing that was gratifying, and isn’t always experienced at cons, is that all of the moderators quite obviously spent time to both prepare for their panels and ensure that the content was suitable for the people likely to attend, i.e. – if the topic was aimed at writers then they made sure there was useful information for writers.

As both a writer and a fan, it was great conference and I look forward to attending again in 2017.

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Publishing Schedule for 2017 and Early 2018

Reliquary: An SF AnthologyIt looks like 2017 is the year that I’m really going to embark on indie publishing. I’ve been working on stories for a while now, mostly at the novelette to novella length. I’ve finally reached the point where a number of them have successfully emerged from my production pipeline, gone through their respective review processes and are ready to face the wide, wide world.

It’s a little daunting, actually. This is indie publishing, so it’s all on me: the quality of the story, the third-party editing, the cover, the product design, the interior layout, the marketing, etc.

Nevertheless, it’s time to push the little birdies out of the nest. So, without further ado, here’s my publishing schedule for 2017 and early 2018. All stories will be published as both print editions and Kindle ebooks.

Date Story Type WC Pages
Jan, 2017 Road Trip (in an anthology)
Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, doesn’t have much left to live for. He’s disabled, unemployed and his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her. Then a beggar, a war veteran like himself, offers to sell him a road.

    — A Story of the Changed World
    — Roadwerks Limited #1
    — Published in the anthology, Reliquary

Urban Fantasy / Military / Crime 13.8K 56
Apr, 2017 Winter Roses (in an anthology)
The young heir to the mountainous Cragenrath Kingdom thought he’d met the love of his life. Instead, he got a lesson in crime, betrayal, magic and revenge.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — Published in the anthology, Tranquility and Other Myths

Fantasy 1K 5
May, 2017 The Good Book
Malcolm Jameson is planning to throw himself off a bridge when a passing bicyclist stops and hands him a magic book. Unsurprisingly, the book has a considerably different plan for Malcolm. And a bad attitude.
 
Magic Realism 10.4K 42
May, 2017 The Rooftop Game (in an anthology)
Even though Lydio Malik is the Royal Bodyguard for the infant Princess Analisa of Salasia, he’s ridiculed by his fellow bodyguards for his foreign heritage and his almost obsessive attention to detail. But when disaster looms, the kingdom’s enemies will discover that when he says, “Over my dead body!” — he means it.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — A Royal Bodyguard Story
    — Published in Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders

Fantasy 16K 64
Jun, 2017 Road Trip
Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, doesn’t have much left to live for. He’s disabled, unemployed and his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her. Then a beggar, a war veteran like himself, offers to sell him a road. Published as a standalone novelette.

    — A Story of the Changed World
    — Roadwerks Limited #1

Urban Fantasy / Military / Crime 13.8K 56
Jul, 2017 Death Comes to Town
Blacksmith Tavish Kraigdhu was enjoying a well-deserved retirement from the Salasian Third Legion in the foothills of the Cragenrath Mountains when…death came to town. And nothing would ever be the same for the battle-hardened warrior.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms

Fantasy 10K 40
Aug, 2017 Bitter Days
Pageeda is a young, homeless orphan girl in the gritty port city of Mozanya. When she loses the older sister who raised her to some ruthless kidnappers, she’ll do anything to get her sister back — even become a hero.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — Pageeda #1

Fantasy 18.5K 74
Sep, 2017 The Forever House
The Forever House is a tavern that appears in different times and realities. No one knows who built it or why it was built, but it has an effect on all who visit it. This is not a story, but a setting that is being made available for use by any who want to take advantage of it.
 
Fantasy/SF 18K 70
Oct, 2017 Catalyst (in an anthology)
It’s 2217 and a traveling exhibition of priceless artworks has gone missing in the war-ravaged territory that used to be modern Brazil. Emily Dunkirk and her band of art historians and mercenaries are going to rescue the works. The obstacles to their success are fierce, and they’ll find more than they ever bargained for. They’ll also learn that, sometimes, the greatest works of art are painted in blood.

    — Published in The Curator

SF 20K 78
Nov, 2017 The Rooftop Game
Even though Lydio Malik is the Royal Bodyguard for the infant Princess Analisa of Salasia, he’s ridiculed by his fellow bodyguards for his foreign heritage and his almost obsessive attention to detail. But when disaster looms, the kingdom’s enemies will discover that when he says, “Over my dead body!” — he means it.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — A Royal Bodyguard Story

Fantasy 16K 64
Dec, 2017 SkyriZe (in an anthology)
Jack Johnson’s a computer nerd. He never expected to survive the zombie apocalypse, but he did. And in the worst place possible: the 88th floor of a skyrise in Manhattan, the most zombie-infested city in the country, maybe even the world. He’s got to escape the deadly tower he’s trapped in, plan how to survive long-term and, oh yeah, maybe eventually figure out how to reboot civilization.

    — Published in Whispers of the Apoc

SF 20K 78
Jan, 2018 Last Day on the Job
Lydio Malik is accustomed to danger. He’s been the royal bodyguard for eight-year-old Princess Analisa, the sole heir to the throne of Salasia, for almost her entire life. But now he’s leaving for a new and less stressful life outside the royal palace. It’s his last day on the job. What could possibly go wrong?

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — A Royal Bodyguard Story

Fantasy 8K 32
Feb, 2018 The Threefold Revenge
Piker’s a City Guardsman in the fantastical port city of Mozanya with a bad attitude and a deep-seated prejudice against Neferian refugees. Pageeda’s a young, homeless Neferian refugee who doesn’t take abuse from anyone. They’re like oil and water, except oil burns.

    — A Story of the Thousand Kingdoms
    — Pageeda #2

Fantasy 35K 140
Mar, 2018 The Dragon Problem
Lady Wendilla, the young daughter of the Baron of Moravia, is unhappy. What she wants is True Love. What she’s getting, thanks to her father, is a Contest to find a husband for her. All the contestants have to do is rid Moravia of its pesky little dragon problem. And face down a very upset noble lady with a mind of her own.

    — A Slightly Bent Fairy Tale

Fantasy 10K 40
Apr, 2018 Catalyst
It’s 2217 and a traveling exhibition of priceless artworks has gone missing in the war-ravaged territory that used to be modern Brazil. Emily Dunkirk and her band of art historians and mercenaries are going to rescue the works. The obstacles to their success are fierce, and they’ll find more than they ever bargained for. They’ll also learn that, sometimes, the greatest works of art are painted in blood.
 
SF 20K 78
Jun, 2018 SkyriZe
Jack Johnson’s a computer nerd. He never expected to survive the zombie apocalypse, but he did. And in the worst place possible: the 88th floor of a skyrise in Manhattan, the most zombie-infested city in the country, maybe even the world. He’s got to escape the deadly tower he’s trapped in, plan how to survive long-term and, oh yeah, maybe eventually figure out how to reboot civilization.
 
SF 20K 78

More tentatively, here’s a very rough (and likely to change) list of other stories that may appear in 2018:

     The Deep Dive (SF)
     Unleashed (Fantasy, Thousand Kingdoms)
     The Mad Diver of Mistveil (Fantasy, Thousand Kingdoms)
     [Unnamed Space Opera] (SF)

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