Want four free books? Including one of mine?
Yeah, that one of mine.
Hurry off to queerscifi.com and sign up for the newsletter. Get four free books. (Not all mine.)
Want four free books? Including one of mine?
Yeah, that one of mine.
Hurry off to queerscifi.com and sign up for the newsletter. Get four free books. (Not all mine.)
There’s this group, you see, called Queer Sci Fi. It’s not all spaceships, any kind of speculative fiction is welcome, as long as it’s got queer characters.
And why am I promoting this, you ask?
Simple. The founder of the group asked me to. So here’s a link for the mailing list. Sign up, get free books. One of ’em is mine.
Um. Yeah. Dumb me kind of forgot it’s okay to promote my own stuff on my own damn blog.
If you see a red glow off in the distance, it’s just me blushing.
So. After a bit over a year of living on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, almost all my ebooks have now returned to their proper home, Smashwords. (The ones that aren’t there are awaiting new covers.) And as luck would have it, they went live on the first day of the big annual sale. They’re all either free, or half off.
Nika pulled the horses to a halt on the rise just outside the city. From up here, near one of the big watchtowers, she could see everything.
Behind her, if she chose to look, at least a dozen columns of dark smoke reached for the sky. Funeral pyres. Really big funeral pyres.
To either side, the view was nearly as bleak, although less smoky. This close to the city walls, the big manors of the ultra-wealthy sprawled in safety and splendor, with regular patrols to keep them protected. Or at least that was what used to be there. Now, the big buildings remained, but most of them were vacant, some even smoking hulks where untended fires had run rampant.
Her brain felt… numb. The single word took more effort than it was worth.
Resolutely, Nika turned forward, towards the future. The wide, paved road, showing signs of neglect after two years of the Blue Death, stretched ahead of her. She’d never traveled the whole thing, not even close. When she was younger she’d been out in the field, true, but her Division had served the settled lands around the capital. This road ran right out of the Dominion, according to maps. It led through the settled lands, through precincts that long ago had been neighboring countries. In the early days of the Dominion, acquisitive rulers had developed the skills of conflict, taking over the nearby kingdoms and demesnes.
They hadn’t stopped there. They kept going, for hundreds of years, until the Dominion encompassed nearly the entire known world. A long, long way away, straight ahead on the Great North Road, she’d reach the frontier.
But would she make it that far? Whole lot of effort involved in going out of the known world. Might be better to give up, lay down on the side of the road, crawl under a bush and die.
Forward, Nika demanded of herself. She nudged Wraith. The horse obediently stepped forward.
“Forward,” she said aloud, a mere faint and broken whisper. Berry, laden with supplies she’d purchased during the two days it took to get out of the enormous city, stepped into a walk with his buddy Wraith.
“Forward,” Nika said again, this time in a real voice, with real determination. She’d decided to live two days ago. Nothing had made her change her mind yet, not for real.
With the horses in motion, Nika kept her focus forward. She didn’t look back at the smoking city. Instead, she remembered how it had looked the last time she entered from this very road.
Huge. Mind-bogglingly huge. Auros held roughly a million people, the largest city in the known world. It had started as a small coastal fishing village, but grown beyond all recognition for nearly a thousand years, ever since the arrival of the first of the Shining Ones. The city spread along the coastline, up and down hills, along the wide and slow River Went. Different neighborhoods showed distinct architectural styles. Walls tried to contain the city, then succumbed, becoming just another part of the architecture. Currently the outer curtain wall served as more decoration than protection, given the estates sprawling outside it.
The horses started down the other side of the hill. Behind them, Auros vanished from sight. Nika sighed with relief, then immediately felt guilty. She shouldn’t feel relieved that her home was left behind for good. It just wasn’t right.
But she did.
Something broke into her sad thoughts, and Nika halted the horses again. What was that?
A sound, a faint scrabble and even fainter whimper.
Nika dismounted. Before she could investigate the sound, her body decided to stretch without her telling it to. Stiff already, even though she’d only been on the road two days. She felt good, though. She felt alive.
Then she dropped to a crouch, trusting the horses to remain standing, and looked under the hedgerow lining the Great North Road. A pair of eyes gleamed back at her.
“Hello,” Nika said, extending her hand.
Another faint whimper, and a dim flash of pink as the animal licked its nose.
“You’re a dog, aren’t you? Come on out, I won’t hurt you.”
A short while and a good bit of coaxing later, a bitch dog crawled out from under a bush. Hesitantly, but with confidence that increased as nothing bad happened, she sniffed at Nika’s extended hand. Big, solidly made, although quite thin. Black, with a big muscular head, short hair…
“You’re a calla-hound, aren’t you?” Nika scratched the bitch’s head, relieved when the nervous creature allowed the touch rather than snapping her hand off. Calla-hounds were a highly prized breed, capable of herding, guarding, and hunting. This one must’ve belonged to one of the big estates along the road.
The bitch whined, then licked Nika’s hand.
“You look hungry. C’mere, I’ll give you some jerky.”
Nika dug some jerky out of her saddlebag, nearly lost her hand after all as the hungry dog lunged for the food, then returned to Wraith’s saddle. Maybe the world wasn’t all that bad, not with horses and now a dog to keep her company on her fool’s quest.
The calla-hound fell into an easy jog beside the horses as though she’d done it all her life, occasionally frisking and looking cute to remind Nika that she would be happy to eat more of the jerky.
“Crazy,” Nika muttered, shaking her head at herself. “The world ends, and you decide to travel and pick up a pet. Absolutely crazy.”
But for all her mutterings, Nika felt better with another four-legged friend by her side.
Yeah, that’s right, Eternal bounced back up to NUMBER FREAKING ONE on Amazon in the LGBT Scifi category. Yeah, okay, it’s only going like hotcakes because it’s free, but still, NUMBER FREAKING ONE!!! Four days now. Woohoo!
I forgot to post this morning, but that means I can now once again refer to my novel Eternal as a NUMBER 1 BESTSELLER in its category on Amazon! Woohoo!
Of course, it’s only because the book is FREE for the week, but I’ll take it. I love seeing the #1 associated with my work.
So go grab a copy of my bestseller while you can! Eternal will be free Tuesday 8/7 through Saturday 8/11. Get it, read it, and you’ll be all ready for the sequel when Firestorm comes out on 8/13.
Other authors do this stuff all the time. I always admire their promotional skills, their ability to promote their own work without blushing brighter than an average bonfire. But I tend to hide in a shadowy corner and shove my stories out in the wild and let them stand or fall on their own.
But… that’s hardly a strategy used by successful authors. Instead, they do this thing called “engaging the audience,” and that other thing called “promotion.” Yes, I have indeed used that word several times now, all within two paragraphs. But I’ve got a new release coming soon, and my usual hiding in the shadows approach won’t help it succeed.
So here you go. I’m pushing myself out into the internet’s face, waving around my author flag, and saying Read my stuff! I can write! See? I tell stories!
Cool stories. Fun stories. Remember Eternal? No? Damn, then who bought it and bumped it up to #1 on Amazon for a while?
Well, fine. It wasn’t you. So have a sample.
(excerpt from Eternal)
The full repair of the drive and all its crystals took three more days. It was exhausting, but so worth it. I learned a lot, as previously mentioned, about history, deep inside those spells. I even fancied I knew the mages who’d assembled this drive and all its component spells. There had been three of them, each with his—or her, one was a woman—own style and signature. Absolutely fascinating work.
Kai watched some of it. Not all, because clearly, for all his potential, he was no mage and couldn’t see most of the good stuff, but some. Like the connections getting re-established in the spell matrices. That had to look pretty cool, a complex, glowing matrix weaving itself out of nothing right there in the air over the drive pedestal. And as soon as I finished repairing the main flight spells, we took off into space. I could work on the others while we flew between planets and D-gates. Most of spaceflight consisted of boring plodding back and forth between planetary systems and the dimensional gates that warped space anyway, might as well use the time for an important purpose, right?
I finished the entire repair shortly before we reached the D-gate. That meant I was atop my cabin, on a sweet little observation deck complete with railing to make it look like a boat, when we approached it. The concept of observation deck took a little getting used to, at first. Because, of course, the containment spells are fully invisible, so it looks like I’m out in the vacuum of space, leaning on a fragile, thin railing, a feeling sure to incite panic in most sensible souls. But I’m hardly all that sensible. I love the feeling of space surrounding me in all its immensity. And more than that, I love watching the stars. This stretch of space is pretty bland and boring, no nebulae or anything interesting like that, but who cares? The stars are enough for me. Of course, now there’s a D-gate to look at, too, and only a fool wouldn’t be fascinated by one of those.
A massive, octagonal metal frame hung in space, a technological monstrosity to build the spell matrix on. An assortment of traffic surrounded it, and a heavily armed Gate Patrol craft hung menacingly over it all, keeping the peace. Every gate in the huge network, Imperial or not, had at least one Gate Patrol boat assigned to it, because no one could ever be allowed to take over a D-gate. The survival of modern civilization required the gates remain neutral, and functional. Otherwise… well, I’m no political genius, but I can see where there would be a big problem if someone started messing with the gates. So the Gate Patrol formed up, a neutral, independent force that protected and maintained the D-gates for all to use. And, of course, collected fees from all users.
The gate spell itself looked like a rainbow of shifting energy. The beautiful, shimmering sheet spread across the physical gate like a soap bubble on a wand right before a child blows it. I wondered if maybe someday I’d get a chance to work on one. Gate maintenance sounded utterly boring to some, I know, but I’d always been attracted by the complexity of the spells. They had to be so generalized, and at the same time so precise! Parameters for touching each and every other gate in the network, for the dimensions ships went to in transit, for protecting human life and the ships themselves, for keeping other entities out of our universe… and so on. Hundreds of complex spells, and every one had to be in perfect working order to let ships pass through safely. Not that I have any say in the matter, but if I ever do get the chance to work for the D-gate service, I’m on it.
Kai appeared on the deck beside me, and I’d been so wrapped up in thoughts of the beautiful gate that I twitched in surprise when I saw him. Starlight and shadows played across his skin, making him look rather magical himself.
Huh. That was an odd thought.
“What’s it look like to you?”
“Um… you mean the gate?”
“Yeah. To me, it’s just a big thing, something to get from one place to another. But what’s a mage see?”
I smiled a little. “Beauty. Complexity. Hundreds of interwoven spells, each depending on the other, each forming a perfect web of functionality.”
“Much more interesting than a shiny patch in space.”
“Well, we’ll be going through the thing shortly. We’re number twenty-four in the line.”
“Where we going, anyway?”
“Monrovia.” He grinned at my startled reaction.
“Same thing everyone else goes to Monrovia for. Shopping.” He poked distastefully at my robe, my bland, boring, ordinary as the day is long robe. “Can’t have you running around like that, after all. I’ve got an image to maintain.”
I snorted. Today he wore a full-out Romance outfit, burgundy, cream, and black, complete with poofy sleeves and tights. “Huh. Great. I’ve got no fashion sense, you know. Never even been shopping.”
“Nope, never. Not even once. No money, remember?”
“Huh. No need to worry about that now. I may be an exile, but I’m still smarter than the damn Emperor. He thought he’d do me real damage by exiling me. He even tried to have me declared officially dead, since he couldn’t kill me the ordinary way. But I could see it coming miles away, so I took my accountant’s advice. I liquefied all my assets and had accounts set up out here before he even thought about blocking that sort of thing. The exile didn’t do much except get me out of his sight. Which is probably why there’s so many assassins on my tail these days. Anyway, there’ll never be a need to worry about money.”
“As long as you like me, anyway,” I said, all too aware of how transient good fortune is in my life.
He smiled. “No worries there, either. You’re far too useful to have around. I’m not about to run you off.”
We stood quietly for a moment longer, watching the traffic around the D-gate, then Kai left for the control room. I didn’t. Are you kidding? When there’s a chance to watch a D-gate translation from what amounts to right in the middle of it? I know the containment spells on this ship, which I’d found out is named the Chaos Rider, will hold. Of course they will, I’d done ’em myself. So why pass up the chance to see the translation in action? Most people never saw such a thing, not even mages. Because, of course, most space-going vessels kept passengers safely locked away, with walls in between themselves and the black. One more reason to love a space schooner. There’s nothing that can adequately describe the feeling of flying through space with nothing but invisible spells and a big balloon between me and the stars.
We crept slowly forward, towards the gate, taking our position in line. Well, slow relative to normal space travel. Propelled by freshly-repaired spells, the schooner moved along at a speed utterly impossible in an atmosphere, where the gas-filled envelope kept the ship aloft and air dragged at its bulk.
Watching the variety of other ships out there, each waiting its turn to transit, I wondered what it would be like if we were in one of the other ship types. Boring, I’d bet. They were all so ordinary, more like stereotypes of spacecraft than anything distinctive. Why not do something more interesting with your spacecraft than make it either ovoid, or boxlike? Come on, there’s no drag in space, why not have more creative and fanciful shapes.
Boring or not, the other ships made their transits in smooth succession, and I got to watch the way the spells handled each from the outside, with tendrils reaching out to a ship as it approached, touching and identifying, interfacing with shipboard systems, then pulling the ship in. Then a great flash, and the ship vanished, to come out the other end somewhere else entirely.
Our turn arrived. I saw the seeking tendrils come out, felt one catch onto me, watched them pull us right in. Then came the transit itself. It went fast, but I still managed to catch a glimpse of the pocket dimension we made the transfer in, then the hand-off to the spell-tendrils of the receiving gate. Awesome!
I think I could watch gate transfers all day. I grinned and shook my head at myself. What a ridiculous obsession, a branching off from the whole thing I’d had with transportation as a kid. But whatever, everyone needs some kind of interest to keep them going.
* * * * * * * *
Oh hey, look at that, you made it through the excerpt! Awesome. Have an image. This is, after all, the thing I’m supposed to promote.
Coming soon, to an Amazon near you. 08/13/18.