Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'm reading a Brimstone Journal ficlet for you - Apprentice. This is the story where Julian first meets Kendra Hayes, which will become important later. :D
As promised in the audio, these are the Brimstone Journal stories that are important to A Fine Mess, coming up July 28:
From The Brimstone Journals: Collection 1
From The Brimstone Journals: Collection 2
From The Brimstone Journals: Collection 3
As promised, a short fic about a Brimstone birthday for my birthday. Comment below for a chance to enter the drawing!
"That's the date he's always used?" Captain Shax squinted at something on his reader.
Verin snorted a cloud of steam and shrugged. "He says they gave all the kids in that fucking orphanage the same damn birthday cause they didn't fucking know. And that doesn't answer what the fuck I'm supposed to do."
Curled up at the end of the bench in the corner, Heckle half listened while he scanned through inventory. The lack of more interesting cuss words told him Verin was frustrated already. He didn't want to say anything that might make it worse. While Heckle certainly didn't know when his birthday was and Verin probably didn't know his either, it seemed to be more important for humans.
The captain's summons startled him out of minding his own business. "Sir?"
"Can you run the fuel figures for me? My brain can't do mathing this early."
"Of course, Captain." Heckled found numbers so much easier than letters and his brain liked to think while it mathed. Er, did math. "Cake."
"Pardon?" Captain Shax blinked at him when he handed the reader back. "Was that a comment on how easy the calc was? And how brainless I am?"
Heckle stared back, horrified. He'd never imply that anyone else was stupid for something they were struggling with. "Oh, um, no. No! I meant cake. For humans. Human birthdays. They, um…don't they? Usually?"
"Ah. Yes. Yes, that's true." Captain Shax still looked like he might fall back to sleep. "We need to get Corny a cake. Chocolate. From Ms. Cleo's since will be in Thinis this afternoon. And we should sing, I think?"
Verin snorted again, this time with sparks. "I don't want to sing, numb nuts."
"It's a stupid song, anyway," Julian muttered from where he was digging in the cabinets. Probably for tea. Julian sometimes liked tea in the morning. "No one likes it. No one likes singing it. No one seems able to pick a key and stick to it. And it was written after Corny left Earth."
"Well. Someone's grumpy this morning." Captain Shax looked a little more alive since he'd started his second cup of coffee.
"It's just a ridiculous song, oh prince of the sleepy eyes, and it won't mean anything to Corny."
Captain Shax waved a hand back and forth. "Fine. We'll find something else. What else do humans do for birthdays? Are there orgies?"
Julian sputtered and coughed while laughing. "I guess sometimes, but it's not traditional. Cake, presents, silly hats, noisemakers. Maybe that's only for children's parties. You know, I'm probably not the best person to ask."
Some consultation with Mac verified the cake and presents, but probably not the silly hats and noisemakers. They divided up tasks and elected Heckle to go see Ms. Cleo because she liked him. Not that he minded. Heckle could've spent all day in her bakery just taking in the delicious smells.
Heckle trotted into Ms. Cleo's about mid-morning, after her breakfast rush had ended. She looked up from the tray she'd been rearranging and smiled at him.
"Hello, handsome. What can I do for you today?"
"Um, hi, Ms. Cleo." Heckle twisted his tail in both hands, suddenly shy. "I need…I mean, I'd like…a cake."
She rested both elbows on the counter, her dark eyes crinkling in amusement. "A bakery's a good place for that."
"Oh. Yes. Of course." Heckle waved his hands, completely flustered and blurted out, "Birthday. A birthday cake. For Corny."
"The cowboy? I think I can manage something. I'm going to assume chocolate since the other cakes for you boys have always been." She waited until Heckle nodded, amazed that she remembered what the crew had ordered before. "Does Corny like a little spice?"
Heckle nodded more enthusiastically. "He does. He makes the best chili."
"Good." She went into the back and returned with a rectangle cake. Round cakes were prettier, but Heckle knew by now how quickly they vanished. Disappointing if someone wanted a second slice.
"This is a special cake I make with guajillo peppers. Spicy, but not so spicy it drowns out the chocolate."
She got out a decorating tube and Heckle pulled one of the counter stools over so he could watch her write Happy Birthday in darker chocolate icing on top. When she was finished, the cake had all sorts of flowers and vines along the edges and sides, too, so it was just as pretty as any round cake.
"Do you have a present for him? Are you doing presents?" Ms. Cleo asked casually as she boxed up the cake.
Was I supposed to? Will everyone else? "Um...no. Yes. I mean I don't. We are."
She shook her head and sighed. "You are the cutest being I've ever met. Wait here."
So Heckle waited, blushing probably the brightest scarlet an imp could manage, until Ms. Cleo came back to hand him the cake box with a bag on top.
"There. Those are for you to give to Corny. Guajillas for when he makes chili. I guarantee he'll love them."
She patted his shoulder and sent him on his way and Heckle found himself smiling as he trotted back to the spaceport. She did like him. Someone not crew. And he felt successful. Like he'd accomplished something important that day, even if it was just cake.
Cake and presents on the galley table, everyone crowded in with Leopold, Max and Nic climbing atop Fluffy to save some space. Only Verin and Corny were missing, though not for long. Their voices carried down the corridor.
"I said I didn't want no fuss, Ver. Damn demons," Corny grumbled, his frown deepening as he stopped short in the doorway to take everything in. "This is definitely a fuss."
"Yeah. I know, Corn. But I thought…" Verin was staring at the floor, scuffing one scaled foot along the plates. "Just once, right? You should have one nice fucking birthday with people who, you know…"
Corny's expression softened. He leaned in to kiss Verin's temple. "I hear you, Hammer. I do. All right. Leastwise, there is cake."
Front several legs waving, Max began to sing. Not the birthday song Julian loathed so much, it was just Corny's name sung in Max's best operatic voice. And somehow? Max made it a birthday song.
After a moment, Corny even smiled. "Thank you. All y'all. Now, I reckon we better get to cake first since it'd be cruel to make you wait."
There were no silly hats or noisemakers, no stupid birthday song, but the cake was delicious, Corny liked his presents, and Heckle was certain that as human birthdays went, this was one of the better ones.
ALL THE THINGS!!!!
1. Sub Zero launched on Tuesday - a science fiction romance with a mystery, culture clashes, a heavy dose of anti-colonialism, and how hard it is to go back to where you died. (An ESTO Universe story - in ebook and paperback)
Mischief Corner Books
2. A Fine Mess: Brimstone 7 has a cover! And a fun cover it is with a certain young demon prince vying for attention. Coming July 28!
3. Mischief Corner decided that Hearts and Flower: A Tale of Hayfever and Bad Decor needed an updated cover - and it's so cuuute! An absurd Valentine's Day short story with an MC who hates Valentine's, the office party from hell and some magical mayhem!
Mischief Corner Books
Barnes and Noble
4. And finally, don't forget that Rainbow Space Magic Con is this weekend! It's FREE, but you do have to register to have the webinar link sent to you. :) Lots of fun panels and readings from queer science fiction and fantasy authors!
I'll be doing a reading during the 12 pm (EST) block on Saturday and a panel on Outlaws and Adversaries at 1 pm (EST) on Sunday!
And unlike SpaceX launches, it's not dependent on the weather!
A Fine Mess: Brimstone 7, will be set loose in the book wilds July 28, 2020. Mark your calendars. :D
It's by far the longest Brimstone story yet, coming in at just over 79K. Content edits are complete - on to the rest of the editing process, cover coming soon.
If you are a reviewer on Booksprout, Mischief Corner Books has started making ARC's available there if you're so inclined. (Obviously, A Fine Mess is not up in ARC yet, but the rest of the Brimstone series is.)
Leopold would like to remind you that the series really is about him.
First, the Almost Here part - the release date for Eating Stars is five days away! Eeee! It's a first contact story, it's a survivor's story, it's a story about grief, it's a romance.
For the rest, you'll have to read, but I do want to say a thing...
Eating Stars is science fiction, but unlike a lot of my other SF work, this one takes place in the near future. Our Earth, with our tech, slightly up ahead.
But it does assume several things that I hope will be true in the near future: no pandemic, a less hostile country, and a sane government for the US. I hope for this last one most of all.
Now for the Almost There part: I'm closing in on the end of content edits for A Fine Mess: Brimstone 7. Editor thought it needed more things. Several more things. So more things you will have. It's going to be well over 70K and will have a launch date in July.
I HIGHLY suggest reading Brimstone in order. It's not really one of those series you can just pick up in the middle. If you haven't started, the reading order can be found on this page: Brimstone
It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights...
Three things of note:
1. A Fine Mess is with the content editor. Yes. There's a lot of stuff going on there. Content editor can only do so much so fast.
But it's coming!
2. Eating Stars launches May 26!!
Some of you may recall the story under the title "Serge and Een." It's been re-edited and expanded by a little over 10K. While the story remains the same, you get to be there for a lot more of what happened.
Expansion means it will be available in paperback as well, for those of you who like your print. :D
3. The return of Sub Zero!
It's been a bit, so I'm not sure how many of you recall this one. Sub Zero is the missing ESTO universe novel, the one that was originally with Amber Quill. MCB has been kind enough to agree to a reissue and we're working through edits on that now, too. Yaaay!
Sub Zero should remain essentially the same with some small content edits. Also - paperback! I'm excited to be able to offer this story to you again.
Cover and release date coming soon. :)
Another quick update today - there are things on the horizon I'll keep for later since it's all early days still.
But I did promise to keep you updated on where A Fine Mess is on the Brimstone Scale. (That very scientific writing tool I recently introduced.) So here is where we are as of right this moment:
This was supposed to be the post where I tell you all how Emerald City Comic Con is going. Ah, well. Not so much. We're still waiting for new dates for the convention. We shall see. :)
In Brimstone news, I'm going to start looking at A Fine Mess in relation to other Brimstone stories now.
Current writing update: A Fine Mess has just reached one Hell for the Company long.
I should do a chart or something...
A lot of my energy has been going toward getting ready for Emerald City Comic Con, but I'm still writing. (Half a page, half a page, half a page onward - The Charge of the Write Brigade, if you will.)
The early Brimstone novels were all eight chapters long. It was sort of a joke, that they would all be eight chapters, no matter how long the chapters got. Potato Surprise - 8 chapters, at about 26.6K. Hell for the Company - 8 chapters, at about 22.7K. Fear of Frogs - 8 chapters, at about 32K (you see what started to happen there?)
By the time we get to The Hunt for Red Fluffy, I had to add a ninth chapter and hit about 43K words. We'd gone from snackity-snack size novellas to a light dinner novel size.
A Fine Mess is starting to scare me. I'm trying to keep the chapters a reasonable size, and I'm already at chapter five. This is nowhere near the midpoint of the story. Um. Well, then. We'll see how this goes...
This third Brimstone Journals collection took a while to get here, right? The publisher has encouraged me to have an exclusive longer story for each Journals collection and I didn't have one for Three until this past holiday season.
Anyway, my slow writing process notwithstanding, The Brimstone Journals, Collection Three is now up for pre-order at Amazon. Yay! Release date is February 11, 2020.
The Brimstone Journals
Cargo hauler, brigand ship, privateer. Crewed by the exiled, the misplaced, the uniquely strange and even a certain government assassin. Together, they've faced interstellar criminals, the wrath of archangels, the threat of frogs, their own terrors, nearly deadly buttercopters, and government paperwork. Through it all, as Brimstone's inhabitants expanded from two demons on the run to a complement of eleven various and sundry beings, they've become more than crew. They've evolved into family. Join us now for some snippets from the characters' timelines, flash fiction shorts between the stories from Shax and Verin as kids in Hell all the way to events after The Hunt for Red Fluffy.
The Brimstone Journals, Collection Three also includes a novelette in which the crew discovers that sometimes the simple task of holiday shopping is much more dangerous than it should be.
Also, a small housekeeping note:
The Endangered Fae series may vanish for a bit on Amazon. No worries - the publisher is just moving to a new distributor so they have wider options for how books are offered to readers.
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.