Happy Friday, everyone! This week, I get to read to you from a brand new hopepunk anthology - Save the World! There are 20 stories included, all about climate change solutions large and small, and I'm reading from J. Scott Coatsworth's story about an unusual building material. Come have a listen. :) (And don't forget the giveaway at the bottom of the post!)
Save The World
by Gustavo Bondoni, J. Scott Coatsworth, Jana Denardo, Derek Des Anges, CJ Erick, J. G. Follansbee, Geoffrey Hart, M.J. Holt, Jennifer Irani, Christopher R. Muscato, Masimba Musodza, Andrew Rucker Jones, Michael McCormick, M.D. Neu, Jennifer R. Povey, N. R. M. Roshak, Holly Schofield, Lisa Short, Heather Marie Spitzberg
Books2Read Buy Link
Climate change is no longer a vague future threat. Forests are burning, currents are shifting, and massive storms dump staggering amounts of water in less than 24 hours. Sometimes it’s hard to look ahead and see a hopeful future.
We asked sci-fi writers to send us stories about ways to save the world from climate change. From the myriad of stories we received, we chose the twenty most amazing (and hopefully prescient) tales.
Dive in and find out how we might mitigate climate change via solar mirrors, carbon capture, genetic manipulation, and acts of change both large and small.
The future’s not going to fix itself.
About the authors:
Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages. He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Lost Island Rampage (2021). He has also published three other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019), Jungle Lab Terror (2020) and Test Site Horror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
J. Scott Coatsworth lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends. A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and the head of its self-publishers committee.
Rachel Hope Crossman is an ex-fry cook, ex-substitute teacher and retired Montessori teacher. Her childhood year in Athens, Greece left indelible imprints of olive groves, pomegranates and the sparkling, turquoise blue of the Mediterranean upon her mind. She is the author of SAVING CINDERELLA: FAIRY TALES & CHILDREN IN THE 21ST CENTURY, (2014) The Apocryhile Press, which examines the world-wide Cinderella story as an archetype and explains the symbolism of rings, knives, birds, pumpkins and more. Her personal heroes are Harold (and his purple crayon), Peggy Hill and Nancy Pelosi.
Jana Denardo is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.
Derek Des Anges is an emerging cross-genre author working in London, who consistently fails to stick to a single format or genre but does at least really consistently write about the queer experience (or some of them, anyway). He’s into fungi, industrial and experimental music, and trying to avoid the climate apocalypse actually flooding his flat too many times, because he has far too many books to consider moving out.
CJ Erick’s stories have appeared in anthologies from WMG Publishing, WordFire Press, and others. He won the FenCon short story competition in 2015. He writes in multiple genres, publishes novels in a space fantasy series, and dabbles in poetry. He’s an MFA student in creative writing at Lindenwood University, and an editorial assistant for the Lindenwood Review. He lives in Dallas area with his wife and their rescue superhero dog Saber-Girl, calls his sourdough bread starter “Ursula” (K. Le Guin), and cooks crazy-good Cajun food for a Midwest Yankee.
J.G. Follansbee’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Others Worlds Ink’s Fix the World. Other publications include Bards and Sages Quarterly, Children, Churches and Daddies, the collection Still Life 2018, and the speculative fiction anthologies Satirica, After the Orange, Spring Into SciFi 2019, Rabbit Hole II, and Sunshine Superhighway. He is the author of the series Tales From A Warming Planet and the trilogy The Future History of the Grail. He has won several awards in the Writers of the Future contest, and he was a finalist in the inaugural Aftermath short story contest. He also has numerous non-fiction book credits. He lives in Seattle.
Geoffrey Hart: Startled by an aggressive dictionary late in her pregnancy, Geoff’s mother was delivered of a child with a precocious antipathy towards users of words. Over time, he transformed this antipathy into a more functional, if equally passive-aggressive, editorial career. After nearly 35 years, the flame burns brightly as ever, leading to an errant, semi-evangelical career ranting against the evils of words from pulpits at any editing or technical writing conference that will have him, seeking new recruits for his cause. In his spare time, he roams the globe, entertaining locals with creative and unrestrained interpretations of their linguistic conventions. He also commits occasional fictions, and has sold 46 stories.
M. J. Holt lives with her husband on their 60-acre family farm with many animals on a peninsula in Puget Sound. She is horrified that the entire world isn’t working to decrease pollution of all kinds. When she was a teenager, she and her mother sat under an ancient crabapple tree and read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Her mother told her that future generations would pay the price for the sins of past generations. That price has increased and now several generations later, some not yet born, will pay the price. Lightning struck that crab tree decades ago. It grew on land her great grandfather bought in 1892. Her great grandmother farmed the land and had the current house, started in 1900, built. The farm passed to her grandfather, and then to her mother. She lives in that house amid the surviving bits of her ancestors’ lives. This generational continuity informs her fiction. Her crime thriller novels, The Devil’s Safe (2021) and its sequel Making Angels (2022) can be found on Amazon. Recent short stories have appeared in the anthologies Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day: An Anthology of Hope, Low Down Dirty Vote Volume II, Alternate Theologies, and her poetry may be found in the poetry anthologies 300K, Timeless Love, and other periodicals. She earned separate undergraduate degrees in History and English Literature, and a Masters in English Literature. She is a member of SFWA, MWA, and other writing organizations.
Jennifer Irani lives and works in southern California. Her story, “Graft,” was inspired by the recent fires in California, Greta Thunberg, and generation Z. A version of this story first appeared in Writing in Place: Stories from a Pandemic. Her work has been published in the anthology Dove Tales Empathy in Art: Embracing the Other. She has published essays in Orange Coast magazine. Her essay, Regeneration, received honorable mention in the Writers Challenge 2021 on Medium.com. Her poem, “Cool Colors Warm the Soul,” was selected for the Connecting Through Color, Art and Poetry exhibit. She is a member of Barbara Demarco’s Literary Posse.
Andrew Rucker Jones was born and raised in Falls Church, Virginia. No muse heralded his birth, and he has not been writing novels since he was in diapers. He received his Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in mathematics with minors in computer programming and German. He has always loved reading, so when the time came to choose a new career after twenty years in IT (programmer, system administrator, manager), he decided writing looked like fun. If only it paid. He now lives in Mannheim, Germany, with his Georgian wife, who actually earns money, and their three children, the eldest of whom also earns more than he.
Micháel McCormick likes to write stories in his Batman pajamas. He and his wife also enjoy travel, hiking, Tai Chi, and perplexing cats. They split their time between Saint Paul, Minnesota and Lake Superior. Mike’s work has appeared in Arcanist, Daily SF, DreamForge, Frozen Wavelets, Grievous Angel, Metastellar, Talking Stick, and elsewhere.
Christopher R. Muscato is an adjunct history instructor and writer from Colorado, as well as the former writer-in-residence for the High Plains Library District. He has published over a dozen short stories and is thrilled to be a part of this project.
Masimba Musodza was born in Zimbabwe, and has lived most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. His short stories, mostly in the speculative fiction genre, have appeared in periodicals and anthologies around the world. He has written two novels and a novella in his first language, ChiShona. His collection of science-fiction stories, The Junkyard Rastaman & Other Stories, was published in 2020. Masimba also writes for stage and screen.
M.D. Neu: Growing up in an accepting family. internationally award-winning author M.D. Neu always wondered why there were never stories reflecting our diverse queer society. Surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, he decided to change that and began writing, wanting to tell epic stories that reflect our varied world. When not writing, M.D. Neu works for a non-profit in Silicon Valley, and travels with his husband of twenty plus years.
Jennifer R. Povey: Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. She has written a number of novels across multiple sub genres. Additionally, she is a writer, editor, and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.
NRM Roshak is an award-winning Canadian author and translator. Their stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Galaxies SF, Daily Science Fiction, and Future Science Fiction Digest, and has been translated into several languages. They live in Ontario, Canada, with a small family and a loud cat.
Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. Her stories have appeared in Analog, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes.
Lisa Short is a Texas-born, Kansas-bred writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. She has an honorable discharge from the United States Army, a degree in chemical engineering, and twenty years’ experience as a professional engineer. Lisa currently lives in Maryland with her husband, two youngest children, father-in-law and cats. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a Futurescapes 2021 alumnus.
Heather Marie Spitzberg is an environmental author, scientist, and lawyer who lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley with her family. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Extra exclamation points because I'm excited! Rarely Pure and Never Simple launches this coming Tuesday!
Available for pre-order now and the paperback is up, too. :D
Some interesting things from the blog tour so far:
Remember, there's a lovely giveaway, too - the more tour sites you visit, the more times you can enter.
For pre-orders - all the linky links!
Happy Friday, everyone! This week, I'm reading to you from the new fantasy in M.D. Grimm's The Stones of Power series, Sapphire: Home and Abroad. Come have a listen :D
Sapphire: Home and Abroad
The Stones of Power #8
by M.D. Grimm
Universal Buy Link
The time has come.
The Dark Mage, Lord Morgorth, and Aishe of the Ravena Tribe, are to become bondmates.
Morgorth is equal parts nervous and excited. He wants to unite with Aishe in the sacred dialen ceremony, to proclaim their devotion to the world, to show everyone that Aishe is his equal and deserving of respect. After all they’ve survived together, why shouldn’t they make the cosmic promise before friends and family? But duty must often come before pleasure. When Morgorth’s estranged mentor, Master Ulezander, comes to him with a time-sensitive mission involving a major stone of power, Morgorth has little choice but to acquiesce.
Aishe knows his mate struggles with the revelation of his true destiny, after a lifetime of defining himself as the future Destroyer of Karishian. All he can do is reassure Morgorth that being the Savior is a far better fate for both of them. But as Morgorth and Aishe leap through worlds and dimensions in pursuit of a stone of power, more pieces to the puzzle of Morgorth’s destiny are revealed. And they form an image of sacrifice and tragedy.
The dark cloud of an ancient enemy looms ever closer, and the path to becoming the Savior might prove more monstrous than that of the Destroyer.
M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.
Author Website: http://www.mdgrimmwrites.com/
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001710645622
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4574220.M_D_Grimm
Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/m-d-grimm/
Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/M.D.-Grimm/e/B00I0KZMY6/
Thursday News Bites - Paperback!
The paperback version of Rarely Pure and Never Simple is up at Amazon! :D
Rarely Pure and Never Simple - Print
Remember that you can pre-order from the usual sites until June 28, and if you prefer to purchase from the publisher (which, thank you!), the buy link goes live there on the 28th as well.
Currently #37 in LGBTQ+ Science Fiction - yaaaaay!
Shadow Run - Epilogue
Author's note: This is our final installment of the serial. My thanks - enormous thanks - to everyone who joined me on the journey.
Davs had no sooner ridden his edlak into the stable courtyard they shared with Ess’s mother and aunts than he fell out of the saddle onto the well-swept pavers. Ess, eager to get home, had ridden ahead up the hill on their sure-footed Sidle, and had already dismounted. They just managed the dive to prevent Davs’ head from hitting the stones.
What have you been hiding and how long? Zie swallowed a sigh and undid the stirrup straps on his bad leg before he slid off carefully and retrieved his cane from behind his saddle. After the afternoon in the saddle, his leg complained about wanting a hot bath and a long rest. He told it to shut up and be patient. Davs came first.
By the time he’d made it to their portion of the family compound, Ess had already carried Davs to their bedroom and was easing him down on the bed. Of all the comforts of home, Zie always missed this bed most. Long enough for Ess to stretch out comfortably and big enough for the three of them to curl up or sprawl as the mood took them, it was a luxury one didn’t often find on the road.
“Oof.” Ess stretched their back after yanking Davs boots off and hefting his feet onto the bed. “I swear you didn’t used to be this heavy.”
“Maybe it’s age,” Davs muttered as he cracked an eye open. “What in all the mother’s depths?”
Ess smoothed the nut-brown hair back from Davs’ forehead. “You fainted dead away, love. And Zie looks rather annoyed with you.”
“Hmm.” Zie leaned his cane against the bed and gave Ess a kiss on the cheek, the ishai rings pinging against each other as his ears flicked.. “Leave him with me, sheshu. The poor edlaks are standing in the yard.”
“Oh. Yes.” Ess straightened with a sigh. “Please don’t be too harsh with him, love.”
“No promises.” Zie settled on the edge of the bed next to his heroically large ishai, and when Ess had left, asked, “Where is it and how long?”
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
“You nearly cracked your head open, sheju.” Zie scooted closer to stroke Davs’ cheek, hoping that and his use of beloved—the masculine form to the non-gendered sheshu he used for Ess—would take the sting from his words. “You’re hiding a wound. It’s become infected. You forget that my nose is better than yours and I can smell it. Tell me where, or I get out a knife and cut your clothes off.”
Davs mumbled something that may have been bossy little man, but he sighed and rolled up his right shirt sleeve. “It’s not so bad. Honestly.”
“You’d say so if your arm were half lopped off.” Zie frowned to keep from hissing in dismay. Yes, the wound wasn’t terribly deep, slicing across muscle and missing tendons. But inflamed and sporting some unnatural colors, it was well and truly infected. “Why didn’t you simply tell me? We could’ve had this mended by now.”
“The client had an arrow in her leg,” Davs offered at his driest. “You were a little busy.”
“I wasn’t busy every moment of the last three days. And we got her home safe, as promised, yesterday.”
“You get so tired doing larger healings.” Davs sighed and let Zie take the arm into his lap. “And I really didn’t think it was bad.”
Zie only nodded in answer, already focusing on the wound. Some days, like this one, he missed Ke more than others, but she had left them the year before, gone back home after declaring that there was no more she could teach him. For anything else he wanted to learn, he was on his own.
The last year of his apprenticeship with her had been spent on healing. She had shown him to use pieces of the disciplines, particularly water, growth, pneuma, and sometimes fire, to treat various ailments and injuries. In all her tutelage, this was what Zie had latched onto tooth and claw, as something missing, something he needed.
Zie removed his hat and eyepatch, this one the plain black leather one he used for traveling, and set them on the end of the bed. With practice and Ke’s patient coaxing, he’d found that while his damaged eye no longer saw the physical world, it still showed him the shapes and tracks of magic with far greater accuracy than his unharmed one.
In Davs’ poor inflamed arm, in the smallest of the small spaces, he saw what he expected—the tiny invaders he had no name for, the ones causing the gash to sicken. He’d tried to explain it to Ess once, and they’d blithely taken to calling them the itty-bitty blood bugs. Close enough.
The most important thing was to encourage the body to engineer its own healing. He began the exacting process of deconstructing the invaders and speaking to Davs’ tiny blood guardians. They understood him and began to marshal their forces, picking up intelligence for their campaign from the slain invaders. They would do the rest, if all went well.
Zie patted Davs’ stomach. “That will do for now, though I need to clean it. Don’t even consider getting up.”
Cane in hand, he turned so Davs wouldn’t see his arm shaking as he clomped out of the room. Oh yes, he was tired. Beyond bone weary. He did find if he exhausted himself that he slept better, though. That and sex tended to stop the nightmares.
Five years in and they still haunted him. Not as often and not as screamingly dreadful as they were at first. Still.
Not that it had been a bad five years. On the contrary. As soon as they had arrived back in Pellienport, Essenin had gotten on their knees to ask them, formally, to be their ishai. The family had welcomed them with open arms and had helped to build the house for them on the sea cliff side of the shared property. Three rooms and a bath of their own, hot water piped in from the central boilers, room for their edlaks in the shared stables, and a few chockas in the yard.
They made their living as Davitts and Essenin always had, taking contract work as caravan guards and escorts. Ke would go with them to make sure the teaching was never interrupted, so there was usually little trouble with two sylvas mages in the company.
At first, the clients weren’t certain what to make of a crippled, one-eyed sylvas wearing braided gold ishai rings, but the first time Zie had called the wind to knock bandits out of the trees changed their outlook. Word had spread quickly and they’d been much in demand.
And there had been plenty to occupy him in those times in between jobs. A busy life, but a satisfying one.
Essenin caught up to him in the kitchen where he was heating water. “Is he all right?”
“He will be, no thanks to his stubborn nonsense,” Zie muttered as he poured the heated water into a pitcher. “He didn’t tell you either, did he? That he was in pain and fevered.”
“Of course not.” Ess snorted and gathered the supplies to carry them for Zie. “He knows I’d run right to you telling tales. Couldn't have that.”
Something was definitely bubbling in Essenin’s mind. They had that half smile that wasn’t quite a smile in place all through getting Davs cleaned up and tucked in, and still as they joined Zie in the bath to help each other wash off the travel dust. They kept silent until all three of them were in bed and Zie was beginning to drift toward sleep.
“I was thinking.”
“Dangerous,” Zie mumbled into Davs’ shoulder.
“Hush, you.” Ess reached across to swat his hip. “But I have been. Thinking. And Davs getting sick from a sword gash just made me think it harder.”
Davs cracked an eye open and sighed. “Are you going to tell what you’ve been thinking or just keep talking about thinking?”
“We’re not getting any younger—”
“We’re hardly in our dotage.” Zie lifted up on one elbow to peer across the expanse of Davs’ chest.
“Do you want to hear this or not?” Ess gave him a wounded look.
“I’m sorry, sheshu. Do go on.”
“Maybe…” Ess set both forearms on Davs’ chest as if he were a table, meeting Zie’s gaze directly. “Maybe it’s time to stop risking ourselves for money and reputation, before something really awful happens. Maybe it’s time to settle down. Stay put.”
“We’re too young to retire, sweets,” Davs rumbled. “Besides, what would you do with yourself? You’d make a nuisance of yourself with no honest occupation.”
“That hurts. Even if it’s true.” Ess patted the blanket, eyes shining with something barely held in check. “But see here. We’re very good at what we do. And there’s been no weapons’ school in town since old Faita retired. We should do that.”
“Retire?” Davs asked with a frown.
“No, start our own school. You’re very patient. And I’m very good.” Ess ignored the dual snorts. “And Zie could teach knife fighting if he wanted to. That’s something we didn’t learn much of.”
Davs picked up his head with a grunt. “You're serious about this. Yes, I see you are. We have some savings, but…”
“I did tell you I’ve been thinking. The family sets aside funds for new ventures. We’ll have to put the proposal in front of the aunties, make certain we’ve thought of all the questions they’ll ask, but I’m sure we can be persuasive enough for a loan. Just to get us started. The old school stands empty. No one’s been willing to take it on. Zie, love?”
Zie let the question hang between them a moment. “You have been thinking. But it’s hardly a conversation for when we’re all half dead from the road and Davs is poorly. Go to sleep. No decisions until morning.”
Thwarted, Ess plunked onto their back with a huff, but they behaved and the idea kept quite well until morning. Zie added his voice to the idea that it was time for his loves to stop flinging themselves into peril and Davs began the serious business of calculating who and how many they would need on staff, what equipment would have to be found, and how much the school’s building might be to purchase or perhaps to rent.
He left them to it. This was more their world than his, and while he would assist where he could, he also had his own concerns. Quietly, he packed up his satchel, gave them each a kiss, and headed down the hill to town.
In the poorest part of the city, he had his own establishment. No more than a poorly patched shack, but it had a door and there was a well nearby for water and a brazier inside for boiling. The residents knew that he came and went—something that was soon to change, apparently—but they always knew when he returned. Word spread quickly in the crowded tenements, called from room to room.
The healer’s back.
He opened the door and set a cobble against it to hold it open, lit the coals and set his cane against the wall. There were two low stools and a pallet stuffed with hay that someone had replaced in his absence. The residents knew by now that he took no fee for his services. They understood it as something he felt he must do, but were kind enough not to ask.
With his bag unpacked, Zie bowed his head and closed his eyes. “Zaia of the snows, I offer my labor this day as recompense for all the lives I took, willing or no. To those spirits still restless and wandering, I offer my skills as reparation, in the hope that you may be soothed and move on.”
He took his seat on one of the stools and only had to wait a few moments before his first patient arrived, a mother with a fevered toddler. Healing was the greatest gift Ke had given him in their four years together. Most likely his own soul would never be entirely at peace, but there was solace in this, these simple things he could do to ease another’s pain.
And with his loves giving up their lives of adventure and danger? Life would be full of wonderful things. Love and laughter and a safe domestic haven, and his work here, to give back what he could. He was content and could want no more. No one could ask for more peace than that.
Zie smiled as he sent the mother off with instructions to come back if the fever worsened again. He had a place to stop, to make a different sort of stand. He was home.
Hello, again! You've reached Friday, and it's time for Reading Day! This week, I have an excerpt from Ellie Thomas' new Restoration era romance, Held Close to My Heart - ah, the decadence. :D Come have a listen:
Held Close to My Heart
by Ellie Thomas
Since their mid-teens, Luke has been deeply in love with his childhood friend and neighbour, Jem, who spends most of the year at the decadent court of King Charles II in London. In the intervening years at home on Twelvetrees Farm in Oxfordshire, Luke has been occupied by helping his disabled father run their small estate, taking on the burden of work to support his family. Meanwhile, Jem has enjoyed all the worldly pleasures available to him at court.
When they are both twenty-one, and Jem returns to Westlecot Manor to spend the summer, Luke’s feelings for him reach boiling point. Luke can no longer cling to the belief he is important to Jem. He is overwhelmed by jealousy at the prospect of Jem's dalliances with any visitors to the manor house, while aware that Jem is bewildered by his outbursts of disapproval.
Will Luke allow his jealousy to get the better of him? Might he dare to speak his deepest feelings? Or would that destroy their lifelong bond forever?
Ellie Thomas lives by the sea. She comes from a teaching background and goes for long seaside walks where she daydreams about history. She is a voracious reader especially about anything historical. She mainly writes historical gay romance.
Ellie also writes historical erotic romance as L. E. Thomas.
Back in September of 2021, my writing had hit the wall of walls. Nothing was working - I was simply unable to can.
Then a character appeared in the middle of the night, standing atop a fence post. I didn't know his name or where he'd come from. I just knew he was running from...something.
"Maybe I'll write something just because," I said. "A serial that I'll post weekly. Something short. It'll be fun."
Thirty-nine posts and a novel-length story later, we have Shadow Run. I'll have to rename it, since there's a franchise already out there of that name, but it WAS fun. It just wasn't short. :D
There will be an Epilogue post for Monday, and I'll leave the posts up for a bit. Eventually, I'll take it down and give to Editor to start the process of putting the story in book form. Zie deserves that, I think, after all I put him through.
Thank you all for coming along on this journey where you all got to find out what happened next pretty much when I did. It did help - I've got a release coming up!
Shadow Run - Episode 39
The sun sparked off the mica dotted benches outside the zerl’s rotunda. Such a cheery, quiet day with little blue lizards playing in the garden pond and tiny birds fluttering in the bushes. Zie hadn’t considered before that the weather could be mocking him, but it certainly felt like that with the anxious storm raging inside him.
Their passage back home had been…idyllic. A dream that Zie struggled to hold close for comfort, reviewing memories of simply being with Ess and Davs, of Ke’s careful teaching, of the murmuring of waves and the wind untainted by Shadows. Ess had carved him a cane with a sefta head since they said the clever little river predators reminded them of Zie.
Slowly, slowly, the left side of his body had begun to obey him and through persistent, constant practice, he could walk again, though he dragged the left leg still. The left arm was weak and shaky but could manage simple things like helping to pull on a boot. His eye…well. That would likely always remain cloudy, his sight on that side like peering through heavy fog at night. Davs had sewn him a blue eye patch to match his coat.
He wore both coat and eye patch now as he waited to be called into the chamber by the gathering of ulla, the clans’ eldest matriarchs, who made up the zerl. Their initial reaction had been joy to find that someone from his clan had survived. That joy had turned to stone-faced anger when Zie told them the whole of it.
For him, the kernel of bittersweet joy, of relief, to find his people still alive, to learn that while clans were wiped out, the damage had been limited to four and not the whole of the north. He had returned, he said to them with his head bowed and hands held wide in penitence, to tell the tale and to face judgment.
Ess and Davs were in there now, acting as witnesses. Davs testimony was a quiet rumble in which Zie couldn’t make out any actual words, though he was sure that Davs kept to factual answers. Ess’s voice rose and fell, some of his testimony impassioned enough that Zie could make out phrases like never seen such courage and all he needed was answers.
He supposed his actions at the end might have been mistaken for courage. He hadn’t felt at all brave at the time, though he loved Ess for trying to make him into the hero. No illusions. No hiding from it now. You’re the villain in this story. So many dead. Children. Elders. Entire families. My own family. I have snuffed out potential and murdered knowledge in all those lives. Murder is murder and can’t be erased.
I’ll always be a murderer. No matter what the decision today, I have to live with that.
One of the little blue lizards had climbed onto the carved entrance archway and was trying to bite one of the painted stone flowers. Six times it tried before it gave up. Some things were more difficult to learn than others, perhaps.
Ke’s voice, raised in anger, floated out from the chamber, “As if you’re free of blame! That boy has more power in his little claw than all of you’ve had in your long, pebble-headed lives! And you simply let him wander around untrained because of tradition!” She practically spat the last word, but then lowered her voice so Zie couldn’t overhear any longer.
He sat blinking in shock. No one spoke to the zerl that way. It was a wonder they hadn’t tossed her out. Ke must have stunned them all to silence to be permitted to keep speaking, though a little bit of his heart warmed to hear her speak so fiercely in his defense.
Finally, after the sun had moved across nearly the whole of the garden, Ess came to fetch him.
“They’re ready for you now.” Those lovely burgundy eyes were deeply worried. “Do you need an arm?”
Zie stood and made sure of his balance after sitting for so long. He tugged Ess’s head down to kiss their cheek. “No. I need to do this on my own.”
The five steps up into the chamber were the hardest since the actual floor where councils took place was raised in order to run heating pipes underneath the stone to keep old joints comfortable in the cold months.
Thump-slide, thump-slide, thump-slide, cane, then drag the leg up another stair, one slow step at a time. He meant no disrespect, but this was as fast as he could manage, and he was all too aware of Ess hovering behind him in case the leg buckled.
When he reached the center of the room, directly below the octagonal window of colored glass at the apex of the dome, he straightened as best he could, though he kept his gaze on the floor.
The ullas murmured around him, the thirteen who made up the zerl, though it was Ulla KIsh whom he faced, the oldest at somewhat over two hundred years.
Despite her age, her voice rang out strong and steady, and perhaps a bit irritated. “Young mahk, you have caused grievous harm. Your impetuous, reckless actions, summoning monsters in complete ignorance, might have been the end of all things. And certainly was the end for far too many.”
Zie had no right to refute the truth. He nodded and remained silent.
Ulla Kish clicked her tongue and let out a gusty sigh. “You complicate things since you also saved everyone left alive from these same monsters.” She raised a hand when Zie looked up and might have spoken. “We understand how wild your grief for your mother must have been. We understand that you had no one to teach you but your own rather frightening ingenuity.”
“The judgment, Kish,” one of the ulla’s behind Zie called out. “Haven’t we been here long enough today? I’d like to get home before the seasons change.”
“I may get to it faster if certain persons wouldn’t interrupt me.”
Someone laughed. It might have been Ke. Zie gripped his cane tight, trying to stop himself from flexing his claws. This was where he lost his freedom for the rest of his life and never saw his loves again. This was only what he deserved.
“Zie of clan Ruzt,” Ulla Kish went on. “You are banished from sylvas lands. If you set even claw or hair here again, the survivors of the decimated clans are given the right of blood feud by this council. Your clan’s holdings and goods are forfeit, to be divided among those survivors. You may return to the compound for your own belongings, whatever you can carry on your own back, and your mother’s knives. We give you two days grace for travel.”
Blinking in astonishment, Zie’s head jerked up. “I’m not…I’m not being sent to the deeps?”
“No, youngling. Untaught, you’re far too dangerous to shut away and hope for the best. Part of our decision came about because you have a teacher now.” Ulla Kish narrowed her eyes at Ke. “One as ferocious as the north wind, it seems. But you must be taught elsewhere. Go away, preferably far, and do not return.”
“Yes, Ulla.” Zie offered a bow, tongue-tied and dazed. Thank you seemed wrong somehow. Blessings on your judgments might sound facetious. All he managed was to repeat, “Yes.”
A gentle pat on his shoulder and Ke’s voice just behind him telling him it was time to go finally snapped him out of his frozen state. Two sets of strong hands reached up to assist him down the stairs, and this time, shaking and dizzy, he was more than happy to accept the help.
Emerging back into the sunlight, Zie drew in a gasping breath as if he’d surfaced after struggling up from the depths. A heavy stone of sorrow lay in his stomach, that he would never see his homelands again, that he was forbidden to live among his own people, but overtop the sorrow was…relief.
“Sweetheart, are you all right?” Davs asked from his left.
Zie tipped his head up to look at that beloved face. “I’m not certain. Not yet, at any rate.”
“I won’t have you going back into that compound where all this happened,” Ess said in what they probably meant as a stern voice, ruined by the quake in it. “You tell us what you need and we’ll fetch it out. And then…” Ess swallowed hard, their tone far less certain. “And then I’m hoping you’ll come home with us?”
“Home.” Zie considered the word a moment. It no longer meant what it used to. “I’m home. With you and Davs. The location doesn’t matter.”
Ess’s smile could have lit the length of a winter night and Davs leaned in to plant a kiss atop Zie’s head. It might well be that Zie would never walk comfortably again, but right then, he was certain he could fly.
Hello, Friday People! It's time to read to you from one of mine. Yes - an actual upcoming release! :D Rarely Pure and Never Simple comes out the end of this month and I'm so pleased to be able to read an excerpt for you! I may have rambled a bit...but there's stuff! To say!
Rarely Pure and Never Simple
Variant Configurations 1
Barnes and Noble
COMING JUNE 28, 2022- Up for Pre-order Now!
Variant children are vanishing at an alarming rate. It will take a uniquely mismatched pair of trackers to untangle a web of conspiracy and misdirection to find them.
In his isolated cabin, variant Damien Hazelwood avoids human contact as much as possible to prevent attacks of blind berserker panic. But his rare talent as a locator makes him the go-to contractor for tricky missing person's cases and when agents bring him a troubling contract involving missing variant children, he finds it impossible to refuse.
Licensed tracker Blaze Emerson can't help being irritated when he's expected to follow the strange, twitchy locator's lead on his latest case. He works alone, he's damn good, and as a variant sparker, he has both the fire and the firepower to take on anything out there. Though he has to admit there's something intriguing about a man who can find people with his brain.
With vastly different temperaments and backgrounds, Damien and Blaze need to negotiate quickly how to work together if they're going to crack this case. Add in the sudden appearance of Blaze's outlaw ex, the perils of tracking in the wilds, and a maddening lack of discernible motive or method, and they soon find themselves in as much danger as the kids they're trying to rescue.
Variant Configurations takes place in a future Earth where humanity is reclaiming its spot in a gradually healing world. This book contains mentions of past abuse, action-adventure style mayhem, and the beginning sparks of a slow burn, series-spanning relationship.
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.