Tag Archives: excerpt

LABYRINTHIAN: first look!

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I wasn’t going to launch into promo for this book until September, but whatever, it’s almost September, and I want to. So here’s the first chapter of Labyrinthian, which – recap – is coming out in January from Samhain Publishing. It’s a (very, very loose) retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur IN SPACE, and it’s set in the Line and Orbit universe, though it doesn’t feature any of the characters from that book and it stands totally on its own. It takes place shortly after the events of Line and Orbit, and if the L&O sequel ever actually gets a release, one should assume that it’s happening concurrent with that.

Here’s the blurb:

A hunter should never fall for his prey.
A hunter’s heart should never fall prey to his quarry.

Still nursing his latest post-mission hangover, bounty hunter Theseus jumps at a high-paying, high-risk job that sounds ridiculously easy. Yet from the moment he nabs the alleged supersoldier with sedative gas, nothing is as it seems.

On the run from the facility where he was created and raised, Taur is desperate to locate his genetically engineered brothers and sisters. To rescue them—and himself—from slavery. Waking aboard Theseus’ ship, his fury is tempered by curiosity about his captor. Despite his doubts about his prisoner, Theseus figures it’d be risky to let Taur go—until they’re thrown together by a shared betrayal. They declare a tentative truce as they flee from a shadowy and immensely powerful organization that will stop at nothing to find them.

But as they wrestle with their growing feelings for each other, Taur and Theseus face an even greater danger. A lethal threat lurking inside Taur’s own body, waiting to explode…

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So here’s the first chapter, which introduces Taur and reveals the fact that he’s not having a very good day, or week, or life.

(Warning: this actually gets pretty violent at one point)

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RAVENFALL excerpt: Chapter 1

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As promised, here’s the first chapter of Ravenfall, free to read.

The Story So Far, by way of the back cover blurb:

In exile from her home and her people, Turn – once Crow and psychopomp-in-training – is living among the mysterious Ravens, a people steeped in magic and forgotten history. Despite a period of relative peace, Turn is restless and struggling to find her place among her adopted tribe. Complicating things are her feelings for her friend and companion Ava, which are both changing and intensifying. And of course, peace can’t last. Unexpectedly, an old friend appears bearing bad tidings, and the Ravens are faced with a choice between fight or flight. But the choice may not be as clear as it appears, and Turn suspects it may be informed by an influence that means to destroy them.

The lost tribe of the Moravici, supposedly stripped of power, are not as dead as they seemed, and are extending tentacles of control and dark coercion into places Turn didn’t believe possible. The Crows, convinced that the Ravens pose a lethal threat, are preparing to make war. In Sol, the world of the living, the dead are rising, and they have an appetite for flesh. The Ravens are arguing among themselves, unable to take action. Despairing, Turn sees little hope of saving anyone.

But of course, help can come from the unlikeliest of places. The question is what price it will demand.

Click the cut for excerpty goodness. And if you like what you read, please add on Goodreads. And buy. And if you buy, it’s always amazing if you review anywhere you like. I pretty much depend on word-of-mouth, so any help there is so appreciated.

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News and an excerpt from a novel-in-progress

I haven’t posted in a bit. Nothing major to announce at the moment, except that I sold a short story – “A Shadow on the Sky”, a tale of a drone queen because of course drones would need one – to Mythic Delirium.

AND here’s a novel update: I’m currently working on two concurrently, because I’m out of my mind. The first is Rookwar, the final installment in the Casting the Bones trilogy – which I am very behind on and need to push hard at this month – and also an as-yet untitled one that I began on a whim. You know how I seem to keep coming back to the Line and Orbit universe? Well, this is the story of Kae, how he met his wife Leila, and how – together – they saved the entire convoy from starvation, managed a conflict between a lost human colony and a sentient biosphere, dealt with Relationship Feelings, and somehow didn’t murder Lochlan.

I’m not very far into it, and like any baby novel its future is uncertain, but I’m feeling pretty good about it and so far it feels like it’s coming relatively smoothly. If you like, here – with the usual caveats about a work-in-progress (rough draft, may not make it into the final product if there is one, etc.) – is an excerpt.

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I have a wolf’s bite; I have a pack at my heels

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This is from “Singing With All My Skin and Bone”, which will be out at some point in Nightmare, and which I’m posting because I’ve been thinking about it, because it’s pertinent to my post last night, and it remains the most intensely personal thing I’ve written in a long time. It is essentially autobiography through a veil. It was frightening to write. I’m glad I did.

Let me tell you what I wish I could have said, when they saw the blood and the pits in my flesh and tried to get me to stop, because everyone knows a little kid shouldn’t do this shit to themselves. Let me tell you that when you discover a direct line into the fabric of the universe, it’s very difficult to just leave that alone. Let me tell you what it’s like to wear every mark like a secret ornament that only you find lovely, and to hate them at the same time because of what they’ll mean to everyone else, so you hide them as best you can with long sleeves and shadows but they always see in the end. Let me tell you what it’s like to make blood magic, real magic, because packed under your fingernails the world loses its power to hurt you anymore. Let me tell you want it’s like to run pain through a complex refinement process that makes it chocolate and warm sheets and dappled summer sunlight. Let me tell you what it’s like to select your instruments of sorcery according to their sharpness and keen edges. Let me tell you what it’s like to be a witch in junior high school. Let me tell you. Shut up and let me talk.

~

I wish I could get this into words. None of them are coming out quite right. I want to tell you what it’s like to have magic in your skin. Sit down beside me and let me illuminate all my scars, let me tell you all my many early names. No, they weren’t bestowed like honorable titles and they hurt worse than the actual wounds, but they dug into me just like everything else, and I have them still. Not all scars are the kinds you can see. Not all scars are beautiful. A changing body is a dangerous thing; a body that can be changed is more dangerous still. All these little bodies, all this potential, and imagine if they all found out how to take hold of it all at once. Every single beaten-down body, rising in angry flames.

God, we would have been terrifying. Can you imagine? Can you just imagine that? There’s a reason why we send children off to war.

Long Hidden and my own uncovered story

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[Note: Initially I got a few details wrong about which actual side of my husband’s family some of this stuff is from; they’re corrected now]

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History is out today. You should get it, so here’s where you can:

Print ($19.95) ISBN-13: 978-0-9913921-0-0

Ebook ($9.99) ISBN-13: 978-0-9913921-1-7

I just finished reading the last story this morning (Sabrina Vourvoulias’s “The Dance of the White Demons”, which totally gut-punched me in the end) and I can say with absolutely no reservations whatsoever that this is one of the finest anthologies I’ve ever read. I would be saying that even if I wasn’t in it. It’s beautiful and wrenching, it’s sad and angry and horrifying and hopeful, and above all it’s necessary. You say you want diverse speculative fiction? Here you go. Buy it. Read it. Support it. Let it transport you.

By the way, another anthology that’s gotten somewhat less attention but which I think is a perfect companion to Long Hidden is We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology (in which I also have a story). It takes a different but very complementary approach to marginalized peoples and forgotten histories, in part because it also turns an eye toward an imagined future. It’s fabulous. Get it.

So let me talk a little about my story, “Across the Seam”. Because how it came to be is a story in itself.

Some time ago, my husband started doing some genealogy work on both sides of his family. His maternal side has roots in Sicily. Both his maternal and paternal side have roots in the coal mines of McDowell County in West Virginia – now the most profoundly impoverished county in that state but a place of astonishing strength and endurance in spite of that, and also a place of startling, stark beauty. Here’s a post that deals with our trip there and our exploration into some of that family history.

But it yielded an even more fascinating story.

The child of working class South Philadelphians,  my husband has always been told that his paternal family was Ukrainian in origin (also “Austro-Hungarian”, which means absolutely anything), but when he started digging deeper into that history, the truth he uncovered was a good deal more complicated – and certainly fits the definition of hidden, or at least lost to displacement and trauma and time. It’s a long story and I honestly still can’t keep all of it straight – I very much hope that someday he’ll compile it into a single narrative volume – but essentially, my husband’s paternal family originally hails from a small village on the Polish-Ukrainian border. It was predominantly populated by members of an ethnic group called the Lemko, a people who have long been inhabitants of the Carpathian Mountains. They were farmers and herdsmen with deep ties to their land, and like many minority ethnic groups of that kind they were – and are – fiercely proud and protective of their culture.

Nothing remains of that village now. It was destroyed after World War II as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign called Operation Vistula that resettled – often forcibly – undesirable groups along the border into the “recovered territories” of western and northern Poland. The members of my husband’s family who had not already traveled to America were loaded into boxcars and transported to bombed-out cities in the north of Poland. The same happened almost everywhere. If you’ve never heard of the Lemko, that’s by design; they were intentionally scattered as part of a concerted effort to destroy them as a distinct ethnic group, as these things always go. Their stories were erased along with their homes, buried along with their people.

But now we know this story, my husband and I. So when I saw the call for stories of marginalized people that had been lost and hidden, it seemed imperative to tell it.

In the end it was a combination of family histories, as well as my own personal biography. From the paternal side of my husband’s family I drew the story of a Lemko immigrant in a foreign land, in many ways as hostile as the one they fled. From the more recent history of that side I drew the story of a coal miner and the fight for rights and dignity into which miners threw themselves at the turn of the century. This is not confined to West Virginia; Pennsylvania itself was flooded with immigrants from Eastern Europe seeking the plentiful but profoundly dangerous jobs that the mines offered. From myself I drew the story of someone struggling with identity and the loneliness that comes from that struggle, the desire to know oneself and the anger of being made to suffer for that self-knowledge.

I needed a final time and place to tie it all together, and that time and place was the Pennsylvania coal town of Lattimer in September of 1897, when a sheriff’s posse opened fire on a march of between three and four hundred unarmed striking miners. Nineteen were killed and scores more were wounded. In 1972 a small monument was erected on the site, which reads:

It was not a battle because they were not aggressive, nor were they defensive because they had no weapons of any kind and were simply shot down like so many worthless objects, each of the licensed life-takers trying to outdo the others in butchery.

I opened “Across the Seam” with that inscription, as well as a short verse by a Lemko poet that expresses longing for the land of his ancestors. And then the story was finished.

Through the process of telling this story, I learned this story. There was a great deal that I didn’t know when I started. There’s still a great deal that I don’t know. Part of the task of uncovering hidden history is learning how much you don’t know and how much you have left to learn. So the telling of these stories is not a final word on anything but a door that we open, through which we must have the courage to walk.

The rest of the anthology gave me other stories, each of them precious and each of them vital. I’m grateful for them, and for the fact that my own story – which is not even entirely my story – gets to stand among them.

Here’s a piece of it.

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Part of a Thing I Love: “Kaleidoscope”

image courtesy of Ashley Dace

image courtesy of Ashley Dace

Let’s have some nice things. Let’s have some nice “classic” SF, in fact.

Ray Bradbury is one of those writers who first made me want to write. The Illustrated Man blew my mind at a very young age. “The Smile”. “The Veldt” (which utterly terrified me; Bradbury was as good a writer of horror as he was science fiction). “A Sound of Thunder”. And then The Martian Chronicles, which changed the way I thought about SF and what it could do. “There Will Come Soft Rains” remains one of the most wrenchingly, unbearably sad and yet beautiful things I’ve ever read, and probably one of my favorite short stories of all time. It’s a perfect story. I literally can’t think of anything wrong with it. And I still can’t read it without crying.

Bradbury’s work is gentle, even when it’s also cruel. It’s frequently elegiac, even when it’s not overtly sad. It’s beautiful, even when he’s writing about ugly things. He has his weaknessness, and like many authors writing when he was, his stuff deals uncomfortably with race and gender, but I think there’s a humility to how he approaches things that’s missing from a lot of his contemporaries. He was profoundly skeptical of technology, of people, of the future, and yet he wrote about humanity with tremendous affection. He wanted good things for the world. He believed that we could do well.

His short story “Kaleidoscope” is among my favorites of his stuff. It’s one of those that’s quietly, gently cruel, but also deeply reflective. It’s meditation on death and what we make of it. It ended up unconsciously – at the time I was writing it – inspiring a story of mine (“What Glistens Back”) that will appear in Lightspeed at some point soon, a story I’ve been trying to write for the better part of a year and finally found a way to tell.

What Bradbury is saying, what he says in most of his stuff, is that horror and pain and beauty and love aren’t all that different in the end, that they’re ultimately not comprehensible without each other, and that – in extremis – all we have is each other.

The many good-bys. The short farewells. And now the great loose brain was disintegrating. The components of the brain which had worked so beautifully and efficiently in the skull case of the rocket ship firing through space were dying one by one; the meaning of their life together was falling apart. And as a body dies when the brain ceases functioning, so the spirit of the ship and their long time together and what they meant to one another was dying. Applegate was now no more than a finger blown from the parent body, no longer to be despised and worked against. The brain was exploded, and the senseless, useless fragments of it were far scattered. The voices faded and now all of space was silent. Hollis was alone, falling.

They were all alone. Their voices had died like echoes of the words of God spoken and vibrating in the starred deep. There went the captain to the Moon; there Stone with the meteor swarm; there Stimson; there Applegate toward Pluto; there Smith and Turner and Underwood and all the rest, the shards of the kaleidoscope that had formed a thinking pattern for so long, hurled apart.

And I? thought Hollis. What can I do? Is there anything I can do now to make up for a terrible and empty life? If only I could do one good thing to make up for the meanness I collected all these years and didn’t even know was in me! But there’s no one here but myself, and how can you do good all alone? You can’t. Tomorrow night I’ll hit Earth’s atmosphere.

I’ll burn, he thought, and be scattered in ashes all over the continental lands. I’ll be put to use. Just a little bit, but ashes are ashes and they’ll add to the land.

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about.

When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor.

“I wonder,” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

~

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”

The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

More good stuff today – Shimmer 17 release

Guess what else is out today? Shimmer #17! Which features stories by me, Helena Bell, A.C. Wise, Damien Angelica Walters, Lavie Tidhar, and a whole

mess of other awesome people.

You can read excerpts of each story at the link above. Here’s a bit of mine, “Love in the Time of Vivisection”.

A Setting

Stripped of its skin, muscle is very beautiful.

He brings a mirror and shows mine to me, my powerful, corded thighs and the harder stripes of red and white at my hips and the bars of my stomach. My arms. He has left my breasts untouched; those will be handled with exquisite care when most of the rest of me is done. I am a creature of glistening red. I am a wet ruby, run through with pale flaws. I move—I still can, a little—and I watch my gemstone body pull and flex.

He says he loves every part of me. As he pulls me slowly to pieces, he has an opportunity to acquaint himself with all of those component parts. This is both a gift that I give to him and a demonstration of himself to me, proof of what he says.

The ultimate test of any claim is whether one can hold to it when it is made as literal as possible. As literal as flesh. As bone. As the edge of a knife.