Category Archives: Fiction

Stories I’ve posted here.

It’s Award Season! (aka “Here’s What I Published This Year!”)

Greetings friends, bots, and errant Twitter exiles!

As is tradition in the SF/F writing world, when the nominations for the Nebula awards open, we list off the stuff we wrote this year on the odd chance somebody with some kind of clout or pull notices us, remembers that story we wrote, and BANG, we make the ballot. This is very similar to buying raffle tickets at your local rotary club function, albeit with much lower chances of success and vastly fewer opportunities to score basketball tickets.

That said, I had a pretty good year for short fiction, and I’d like to advertise my work a bit, so listen up:

First up (and most recent) is my short story “Tithe the Bones, Sell the Blood” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #368

This one has the distinction of being able to be read online for free, so go and check it out right now if you haven’t. I am a big fan of BCS and have been trying to score a sale there for years – very pleased with this dark fantasy tale.

Then, back in August, my short story “Like Manna from Heaven Dark” in Zombies Need Brains’ Brave New Worlds anthology.

This is my second story to appear in ZNB anthologies and it has been a great experience both times. This particular one is a very dark tale of the future of space colonization, involving space pirates and a debate about a very particular kind of cannibalism.

In July was my most recent Faceless short story in the July/August issue of Analog: “Punctuated Equilibrium”

It seems I’m writing a series of linked short stories over on Analog, all involving a shape-shifting assassin “named” Faceless and its various adventures. I am loving these tales and I hope you are too!

In May, another Faceless story in the May/June Analog: “Proof of Concept”

This one has Faceless with a ravaged memory on a space ship full of violent aliens and no answers! Wheeee! These were my 4th and 5th appearances in this magazine, and I’m super excited every time I make its pages!

Finally, in January I published my story “Prison Colony Optimization Protocols” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

I’m particularly proud of this one – about a rogue AI who is sentenced to administer and prison colony – and it was my 3rd appearance in F&SF. January is a long time back, though, so I hope people haven’t forgotten it! I even made the cover!

Anyway, that’s about it for this year! 5 stories, all in pro markets–go me! I’m very proud of all of them and hope you will give them some consideration!Thanks and good luck to all my fellow writers out there!

How to Play Tithe

I’ve got a new story out! This one is on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a market I’ve been trying to break into for a while. It’s about a desperate man planning to cheat the undead at cards – nice and dark and bleak and with just a dash of hope. Perfect for Halloween, I’d say. Buy it here!

How to Play Tithe

Now, it just so happens I was obsessive enough with this story to actually draw up the rules for the card game that Cedric plays with the dead, called Tithe. I even went so far as to play a few hands (against myself, granted) to see if the game would work and, if it worked, how would it go. Nothing like an actual test of the game, of course, and I’m hardly the best card player in the world, but I did enough for it to pass basic inspection. Curious? Well, here are the rules.

The Deck and Play Area

Tithe is played with a deck of 60 cards with five suits of 12 cards – a Tomb, numbered cards 1-10, and a Lord. The suits are Skulls, Swords, Crowns, Coins, and Hearts.

The game is played on a five-pointed star, with up to five players, each at a vertex of the star. The game can also be played with as few as two players, but the rules shift a little bit to make that possible. Generally, play with a full table is preferred.

Sequence of Play

At the start of a hand, each player puts their ante in the center of the pentagram and are dealt 5 cards by the dealer. The dealer then lays five cards at the five intersections at the center of the pentagram – this is called “the Circle.”

The first round of betting happens just after the Circle, starting with the left of the dealer and moving clockwise. Players with poor starting positions or poor hands fold, anyone else has to match the highest bet at the table or go all-in with whatever they have remaining to play out the hand.

Remaining players must then play a card by matching or beating a card on the Circle adjacent to their starting point and placing it on top. Lords are high, but are beaten by Tombs. Additionally, the suits have a pecking order: Skulls over Coins over Swords over Crowns over Hearts over Skulls.

All suits are therefore dominant over one suit and servile to another. This affects what happens when a card is played on the Circle. It goes like this:

  • A card played on another card that is neither dominant or servile wins, meaning the card beneath is out of play (covered entirely by the winning card).
  • A card played on a card of a dominant suit merely buries, meaning the card beneath is still in play and the card above (the one you played) can be disregarded. (the top card is placed so the buried card is still visible).
  • A card played on a card of a servile suit takes, meaning the player takes the card beneath (and any other cards it has covered) and puts them in your hand.

End of the Hand

Bets are taken every two turns of the circle until everybody but the winner folds OR no remaining players can play cards. The pot is then split between the remaining players (assuming there is more than one left) and the deal moves clockwise and a new hand is begun.

Observations from Games Played against Myself

First, I’ve found it’s super unlikely that more than one person wins a hand. I played a few dozen hands of this thing (looking like a lunatic in my office, believe me), using a suit from a second deck with a different design to represent the 5th suit. The basic strategy circles around knowing or guessing what cards everybody else has based upon what has been shown already. Most hands did not go more than four turns.

Does it work as an actual, playable game? I have no goddamned idea. I am not much of a gambler or a card player (though I am an inveterate gamer), so whether this would make a good way to lose money to card sharks is sort of beyond me. However, the rules are just plausible enough to pass basic inspection. Yes, this seems like a playable game, and that’s what matters.

Also, if any of you ever want to try it out at a convention someday, I’m happy to try – you just have to figure out how to get our hands on a 5-suit, 60-card deck.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this one! And check out my story in BCS this month!

 

Current Projects: A Dragon in Her Lair

For the last couple years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to the anthologies published by Zombies Need Brains each year. Well, they’ve kicked off their 10 year anniversary with another set of anthologies and, once again, you’ll find my work in their pages. What’s my topic this year? Well, I’m really excited because it is one of my favorite subjects:

Dragons!

Here’s the description of the anthology:

DRAGONESQUE: Since Grendel and McCaffrey’s Pern, readers have been enthralled with the magic and mystique of dragons. But it’s rare that we get to see the world through the dragon’s perspective. In DRAGONESQUE, you’ll experience an anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories told from, or through, or with, the dragon’s point of view. High fantasy, sword & sorcery, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, magical realism, and of course science fiction…DRAGONESQUE will feature a wealth of genres that even a dragon would be tempted to horde. Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, DRAGONESQUE will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each.

Now, I’ve written dragon stuff before. My story “Lord of the Cul-de-sac,” about a dragon moving to the suburbs, made it into one of Galaxy’s Edge “Best Of” anthologies. I really dig dragons and, in particular, I really like to insert dragons into the modern world.

So, by way of a sneak peak for the story I’m working on for this next year’s anthology, let me tell you what I’m thinking: a dragon who solves crimes.

A dragon detective.

A modern art loving dragon detective.

A modern art loving dragon detective who refuses to leave her lair and, instead, has her personal assistant/henchman doing all the legwork and dragging suspects to her palatial home and so on and then solves the crimes using her supernaturally keen senses and even keener intellect.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it is a fantasy adaptation of my favorite mystery series of all time: none other than Rex Stout’s immortal Nero Wolfe mysteries, wherein gumshoe Archie Goodwin legs it all over town to help reclusive genius Nero Wolfe solve the crimes that leave the police scratching their heads.

Unlike Wolfe, my dragon (currently named “Angharad”) doesn’t collect orchids, she collects artwork. Collecting artwork costs a lot of money, and the way she sustains her habits is by recovering lost or stolen things, because I figured that there was very little that would disgust a dragon more than thieves.

In my dream of dreams, this won’t just be one story, but the first (or maybe second) of many. A linked series of dragon-centered mysteries. I’ve already written one of them (trying to sell it now) and either that one or the next one I write I hope to include in Dragonesque.

Now, I’m tempted to share an excerpt, but as I’m not sure whether the story I have done will be appearing in Dragonesque or somewhere else, I’ll just leave it at that and you’ll just have to wait. I’m excited and I hope you’re excited, too!

Want to make sure you meet Angharad and her loyal man-about-town, Sam Braun? Back the ZNB kickstarter, happening now!

 

Look Who’s on the Cover of F&SF! (Spoiler: ME!)

Hello!

I have let this blog lie fallow these last months. This has been a rough year for me and the traffic this place draws isn’t substantial, so I’ve not devoted much time to it. Moving forward, this is probably going to be a space where I primarily announce my upcoming or current publications before I (eventually) launch some kind of newsletter. That’s me, folks – getting in on Substack a full calendar year after it was cool.

Anyway, check this shit out:

Yeah! That’s my NAME!

I had a subscription to this magazine in high school. I read a ton of it (though I don’t think I ever managed to finish a single issue, alas) and it has always been the gold standard for my short fiction publication goals. The story in this issue is my third appearance in its esteemed pages, and my first time making the cover. I am super, super thrilled – this is the best writing news I’ve had in a while.

The story, “Prison Colony Optimization Protocols,” is about an AI convicted of a crime and sent  to administer a prison colony on a terraforming planet on a distant frontier as punishment. Just your average fish-out-of-water story, you know? People who love Murderbot (like ME! I love Murderbot! Read Murderbot!) will like this one, I hope.

To get a subscription or buy individual issues of this issue, go here. Honestly, you should subscribe to this magazine even if you have no interest in reading my specific story–it’s great, and the new editor, Sheree Renee Thomas, is doing great work. Check it out!

Catch next time I’ve got something big coming!

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE – Available Now (and other writing news)

Hi, everyone!

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but it’s been a challenging few months, to say the least (and maybe more on that later). I’m here now to do a little bit of plugging and give a few writing updates:

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, available now!

Get it now!

First things first, my short story “The Malevolent Liberation of Pret” is part of the wonderful new anthology from Zombies Need Brains titled WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. That story is my take on a member of a post-singularity collectivist society realizing their interest/attraction to more individualized existence. I’m halfway through reading the anthology now and I’ve really enjoyed the stories – I’m in very good company and I heartily recommend checking out the whole thing. You can buy it here.

 

Other Sales!

I’ve also sold four (yes, four) other stories to pro markets recently, which is great given my lull in sales for the past year. They are to the following venues:

  • “Planned Obsolescence” to Galaxy’s Edge
  • “Proof of Concept” to Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  • “Prison Colony Optimization Protocols” to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • “Epic Troll” to Humans Are the Problem, an anthology of monster tales from Weird Little Worlds

Now, I’m not sure when these various stories are coming out, per se – I’ll let you know when I know – but it’s exciting, to say the least.

Future Work?

I’ve got a number of irons in the fire right now. I’ve got a time travel caper novel on submission (think Loki, but with 70s Boston gangsters), another novel getting ready to go on submission (a space opera featuring a shape-shifting assassin), a bunch of stories still out there working their way through slush piles, and another invitation to write a story for a Zombies Need Brains anthology next year (I’ll let you all know when the kickstarter goes live!). I’m also writing another novel right now, still in its early drafting stages (it’s a humorous contemporary fantasy novel).

In other words, I hope to give all of you a lot more things to read, and soon. For now, keep an eye out for me in your favorite scifi mags and buy WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE now!

When Worlds Collide: Coming this Summer!

Hi, everybody!

Good news! If finally figured out how to get back to the classic editor on WordPress, which means I’ll probably get back to posting more regularly than once a month or so (I really really hate this site’s “block editor”).

Cool cover, right?

More (relevant) good news! I’ve got a story in an anthology releasing this summer! It’s called When Worlds Collide, published by Zombies Need Brains. Here’s the description:

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE:

What could possibly happen when two cultures meet for the first time?

In WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, anything.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE presents fourteen original stories where two different societies intersect and deal with the aftermath of that meeting. Will the conflicting cultures merge and adapt and find peace? Or will they clash, unable to either accept their differences or acknowledge their commonalities? Who will survive when the last of the Fae battle a world-killing AI? What happens when a being who is part of a vast collective-consciousness is forced to face their own individuality? Can a werewolf ever break free of the unholy pact its fae creator has made with humanity? Will Earth really manage to commit the biggest and most egregious faux pas in history when it’s on the cusp of joining the Galactic Union? And why is it that two very different kinds of elves are angrily facing off at a simple dinner party?

Whether your taste runs to humor, horror, science fiction, or fantasy, the stories collected in this latest anthology from Zombies Need Brains and written by some of today’s hottest SF&F authors will delight, thrill, and terrify you. Join Christopher Leapock, Howard Andrew Jones, Gary Kloster, Louis Evans, Peter S. Drang, Esther Friesner, S.C. Butler, Nancy Holzner, Auston Habershaw, Violette Malan, Stephen Leigh, Alan Smale, Steven Harper, and Jordan Chase-Young as they delve into what may happen…WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.

“The Erratics” by Christopher Leapock
“Brother of Swords” by Howard Andrew Jones
“Walls of Teeth and Iron” by Gary Kloster
“Faux Pas” by Louis Evans
“Darithian Life Cycle” by Peter S. Drang
“Seelie With a Kiss” by Esther Friesner
“What and Why” by S.C. Butler
“Melusina” by Nancy Holzner
“Malevolent Liberation of Pret” by Auston Habershaw
“Mercenary Code” by Violette Malan
“Deep Heart Inside” by Stephen Leigh
“Dogs of Babylon” by Alan Smale
“Eight Mile City” by Steven Harper
“How the Fae of Savernake Forest Fought the AI that Ate the World” by Jordan Chase-Young

So, there I am, cheek-and-jowl with some fine authors in a really cool themed anthology. It’s releasing sometime this summer, but you can pre-order it by going to Zombies Need Brains’ site.

Go and check it out!

 

New S&SF Anthologies Kickstarter from Zombies Need Brains – Pledge now!

Hello, friends!

Click on the image and pledge now!

I mentioned a little while back that I had been invited to anchor an anthology of cross-cultural exchange stories called When Worlds Collide. Well, it’s happening – or, at least, it’s in the process of happening. To fund the anthologies (and thus pay the authors and pay for the printing and so on), the publisher, Zombies Need Brains, is running a Kickstarter for three separate anthologies right now! If you pledge at the right level, you’ll get copies of these anthologies, too!

And for you writers out there? If the Kickstarter funds, there will be an open call for submissions to all three anthologies! This is a great venue for getting your first publication or adding to your publication list for newer authors.

Here are the anthologies currently being funded:

THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING

HUMANITY:

In this follow-up to THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, we switch our attention to how the deities of old have managed to fit themselves into today’s modern world! Is Narcissus an Instagram influencer? Is Coyote playing the stock market? Does Ra own a solar panel company? Was Dr. Ruth really Venus? How have the gods and goddesses managed to survive alongside cell phones and computers and social media influencers? We invite authors to explore how the immortals have changed with the times.

Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each.  Anchor authors (and the gods they may use) include:

  • Alma Alexander (Freyja: Nordic),
  • David Farland (Woden/Odin: German),
  • Tanya Huff (Hera: Greek),
  • Juliet E. McKenna (Nemesis/Themis: Greek),
  • Phyllis Irene Radford (Anshar/Tiamet: Babylonian),
  • Laura Resnick (assorted),
  • Kari Sperring (Cigfa, Goewin, Gwydion: Welsh),
  • Jean Marie Ward (Dionysus: Greek), and
  • Edward Willett (Ninkasi: Sumerian)

DERELICT:

No one can resist the mystery of the abandoned ship–whether it’s the ghost ship found afloat at sea in the Bermuda Triangle or the spaceship drifting in the depths of space a la the movie Alien. What happened to the crew? What horror forced them to abandon their vessel and flee…or are they still on board, trapped or even all dead? In this anthology, we want authors to explore all of the possibilities when one runs across…a DERELICT.

Edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier, DERELICT will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each. Anchor authors include:

  • Jacey Bedford,
  • Alex Bledsoe,
  • Gerald Brandt,
  • Julie E. Czerneda,
  • Kate Elliott,
  • John G. Hemry/Jack Campbell,
  • D.B. Jackson,
  • Gini Koch,
  • Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, and
  • Kristine Smith

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE:

Throughout history, different cultures have collided in different ways, whether it be the peaceful contact between Rome and Han China in the second century that established the Silk Road, or the more violent interactions between Europe and the Americas thirteen hundred years later. Such first contact stories have long been a staple of speculative fiction. The stories featured in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE will continue this long tradition as the authors explore the myriad ways in which two cultures—alien or fae, machine or human—can clash. Will the colliding societies manage to peacefully coexist after they finally meet? Or will they embark instead on a path of mutual self-destruction? Find out—WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.

Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each.  Anchor authors include:

  • S.C. Butler,
  • Esther Friesner,
  • Auston Habershaw,
  • Steven Harper,
  • Nancy Holzner,
  • Howard Andrew Jones,
  • Stephen Leigh,
  • Violette Malan, and
  • Alan Smale

So what are you all waiting for? This is you pre-ordering three great collections AND giving yourself the opportunity to submit to them! (To say nothing of any pledge rewards or stretch goals involved!) Get going!

Pledge today!

Writing Updates!

Hi, everyone!

Well, Graphic Audio keeps rolling along, releasing further books in The Saga of the Redeemed! Right now you can get your hands on both No Good Deed and Dead But Once (books 2 and 3) and I have on good authority that the final book in the series – The Far Far Better Thing – will be releasing soon (in two parts).

Check them both out!

ALSO:

Zombies Need Brains has asked me to be an “anchor author” for their new and upcoming anthology, When Worlds Collide. Here’s the skinny on that one:

Throughout history, different cultures have collided in different ways, whether it be the peaceful contact between Rome and Han China in the second century that established the Silk Road, or the more violent interactions between Europe and the Americas thirteen hundred years later. Such first contact stories have long been a staple of speculative fiction. The stories featured in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE will continue this long tradition as the authors explore the myriad ways in which two cultures—alien or fae, machine or human—can clash. Will the colliding societies manage to peacefully coexist after they finally meet? Or will they embark instead on a path of mutual self-destruction? Find out—WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.
Edited by S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each.  Anchor authors include:
  • S.C. Butler,
  • Esther Friesner,
  • Auston Habershaw,
  • Steven Harper,
  • Nancy Holzner,
  • Howard Andrew Jones,
  • Stephen Leigh,
  • Violette Malan, and
  • Alan Smale

They will be running a Kickstarter soon to fund the project – I’ll of course be promoting it here. In the meantime, you writers out there should start sharpening your short fiction game and submit to this and the other anthologies that ZNB has coming up. I’d love to share a table of contents with you all!

Thanks, and I’ll be posting again soon!

Saga of the Redeemed, Part 2 – Now Available on Graphic Audio!

Hello, all my isolated friends.

Feeling lonely? Want an escape? Well, I’ve got the perfect getaway! The good folks over at Graphic Audio who specialize in creating super cool audio dramas (with a full cast, musical score, sound effects – the works!) have just released part 2 of my Saga of the Redeemed, titled Iron and Blood.

It’s the second half of the first book (The Oldest Trick), which continues the story of Tyvian Reldamar, rogue duelist and dastardly smuggler, in his quest for revenge while saddled with a magic ring that just won’t let him do anything evil. If you missed the first part, you can get that from Graphic Audio here.

There’s swordfights, man-eating gnolls, wizard’s duels, ancient ruins, conspiracies, found families, and so much more! And if you listen to these two and can’t wait for the next one? Well, the whole series is complete and available in book form, on sale everywhere fine e-books are sold.

So, help me help you by getting these excellent fantasy stories into your hands as soon as possible! Click on the links! You won’t regret it!

 

Vrokthar Stands Aghast at Your Pathetic Apocalypse

Hail, weak and irrelevant wetlanders! It is I, Vrokthar the Skull-feaster, come to taunt you at your darkest hour, just as was foretold by the casting of the bones!

None of Vrokthar’s gloats, long composed and rehearsed, seem relevant now.

I must say that I have been waiting a long time for this. Long has Vrokthar anticipated the collapse of your decadent and corrupt civilization – such a thing was inevitable, just as the sun sets and the coming of the winter frost. And yet, despite this, Vrokthar is…underwhelmed.

Your civilization is on the brink of destruction and all I get is…Tiger King?

Where…where are the hordes of zombies? Where is the rain of fire from your distant adversaries? Where are the howling wolves and the roaming packs of lunatics on dirt bikes? WHERE ARE THEY?

Because that is the apocalypse Vrokthar demands! If I am to descend into the chaos of your doom and chain thee to the wheels of my battle-wagon, I want there to be a decent fight, first. I wish to cast down your meager guardians, clad in their football pads and armed with crude aluminum clubs, with the strength of my mighty weapons and the sight of my invincible immensity! Not…not crash into some losers apartment and slay him in his pajamas while he binges on Picard!

And, for another thing, if you think I’m even going to raid down there this year, you’re nuts.

Vrokthar does not truck with germs. Why else wouldst he dwell here, in the frozen north, well beyond the breeding ground of any tropical plague? Because, well…

Because Vrokthar fears disease, okay? There, it has been spoken. Getting sick is scary, especially when your health plan is just some magic talismans way past their expiration date and some dentist you kidnapped back in 2012 that you’ve been keeping in a cage for just this occasion. And, it is now that Vrokthar learns the awful truth – dentists know NOTHING of plagues! Just plaque! PLAQUE!

WHAT THE FUCK EVEN IS PLAQUE?!

But no matter. What is important here is that you – yonder slackbrained imbeciles and limp-limbed toadies – have managed to find a way to have an apocalypse that is just NO FUN AT ALL! All you idiots need to do to survive is sit on your needlessly over-cushioned settees and watch infinite hours of brainless, juvenile entertainment, and for some reason you can’t even manage it! You miss your friends? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LONG THE WINTERS ARE UP HERE? I live in a tiny cave that stinks of dead animals and dentist piss for seven fucking months a year, and you assholes can’t give up going to the bar for a few weeks? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

I think this is all a ploy, yes. All of you are just trying to cheat Vrokthar of his long-imagined revenge! You’re going to get yourselves killed in this, the most terrifying and least violent of ways, just so I won’t come down there and force you to build a pyramid in my honor in some post-apocalyptic wasteland. Ah, yes – you thought you had duped the mighty Vrokthar, but no, his keen intellect hath pierced your tattered ruse! HA!

Of course, I am not going to come down there and do anything about it. Not yet. You filthy creeps could all be sick, and Barry and I are not about to get any kind of illness here in our cozy little cave.

(Barry is the dentist, by the way. He bids greetings to his family, who doubtless gave him up for dead long ago and have found a new father to serve, as I remind him of daily.)

But I digress.

The point is, I’m angry with all of you and deeply disappointed. I thought, at the least, you might have managed an entertaining demise. But no matter. I will see you in July or something and oh, then you will pay! You will pay mightily!