Some Fun Short Reads

Last week was a really bad week for many folks, for many reasons. I want to give all of us a chance to relax a bit. So I’m diving into my mason jar file and sharing some fun and interesting shorts. I’m putting these 5 snippets into public domain, so if you are a creator, feel free to have fun with them.

These were all written as part of ‘writing sprints’ where we were given a word and 15 minutes to write.

I hope you enjoy.

Airship — steampunk
Expelled — original world fantasy
Perplexed — contemporary fiction
Space junk — space fantasy
Spark — urban fantasy

 

Airship

Captain Haru Nagatsumi stood in the bows of his airship and enjoyed the feel of the wind in his face for the first time in 10 years. He’d first gone to England with one their cultural exposés, then found himself falling into the employ of the Count of Ambrey. Then he fell into the Count’s bed. With the Countess’ full approval. The affair, if he could call it that, had lasted three years, and every day of those three years he’d known it would someday end. Until three weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, Cherville had actually put down the newspaper at breakfast and out of nowhere said, “Look, old chap, you have to know by now that if it weren’t for the damnable law, I’d ask you to marry me. Since I can’t, the least you can do is take me home to meet your parents.”

Emelie was coming in from the kitchen with a plate of scones. Putting one on his plate she added, “Take us home, you mean.”

“Of course, dear.”

Haru fell out of his chair.

Remembering the scene, he smiled and muttered under his breath, “Damn all Englishmen and their stiff upper lip!” It turned out that Cherville had already bought a large airship for the trip, which brought Hoku back to the present moment.

“Cap’n!” a call came from the crows nest, “Ship a-port!”

Expelled —  original world fantasy

“Out.” That was all they said, and suddenly Danne found himself ejected from the only home he had anymore. He had gone to the headmaster, hoping to plead for another chance. But the door refused to admit him.

He hadn’t meant to blow up the alchemy classroom. It just…happened. Just like he hadn’t meant to frighten all the pegasi when it was his turn to groom them. Or turn all the food rancid while helping make dinner. And he definitely hadn’t meant to put invisibility powder in the laundry instead of soap. Who leaves invisibility powder sitting around the academy laundry room anyway?

It didn’t make any difference. After three years and fives of mishaps, they were done with him.

With nothing else to do, Danne wandered down the dirt road that ran past the academy. Sooner or later he’d come to a town—though he seemed to remember it had been a long way from the last town to the academy when he came here. NMIMY– No Mages In My Yard—was te popular sentiment in Carolia. And given his own mishaps, Danne couldn’t exactly blame them. But he’d need somewhere to sleep for the night…

“Are you done wallowing yet?” A voice squeaked in his ear.

“I’m not wallowing!” The little fire demon had started following hi around his first week at the academy—and for some reason never left.

“Sure, sure. Cheer up. I didn’t think we’d make it out of there alive. It’s a good day.”

Danne flicked the creature off his shoulder. A moment later the scent of scorched hair told him it had reappeared on his head.

“Yup, clear sailing from here. Gotta say, I’m impressed you stuck it out that long. Most cadets don’t last six months after management decides to get rid of them.”

Perplexed — contemporary

Marie’s eyes narrowed as she saw Paul and a strange woman laughing and holding hands outside the movie theater. She stormed up to them and slapped him. Hard.

“What the hell!” Hand to his face, he growled at her, “Marie, what is your fucking problem.”

“Fuck you,” she said, “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. My sister is marrying you next week and you have the fucking balls to be out at the movies making kissy noises with someone else?”

The woman beside him suddenly started laughing. After a moment, Paul joined her.

“What’s so funny,” Marie demanded.

“Ah…” Paul’s laughing trailed off, “You know, I was sure this was gonna bite me in the ass, but I’m not allowed to tell you.” He shrugged a bit uncomfortably, “Call your sister and she’ll explain.”

And they just started walking off. Marie stared after them in shock.

After a moment she pulled out her cellphone, speed dialed her sister, “Sis, I’m really, really sorry, but I gotta tell you. I think you need to call of the wedding. Paul is cheating on you… Yeah, yeah I’m sure. I saw him coming out of the movie theater making kissy face with some stranger… you mean you knew about her?… I… yeah, I guess we can talk later… I int erupted your DATE- but Paul was just… your boyfriend… BUT YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!”

Space junk — space fantasy

The aging satellite had circled the small green and white planet for millennium. It observed the rise of a dominant species, evolving for primitives bands to stone cities. The domestication of animals, the beginning of organized war.

Its masters, presumably, received the reports it beamed back, but no response ever came. It circled on, becoming erratic and unreliable. Micro pitting damaged its processors, batteries ran down and, as the solar cells lost alignment did not recharge.

More years passed, the civilization below continued to evolve. Finally the satellite stopped working entirely. It floated in space, an unusable collection of circuits and metal. Without rockets to stabilize its flight, its orbit degraded—a long, slow fall to the planet below.

Berchad was plowing his field, getting ready to plant the mage-touched rhubarb seeds. He ignored the flash of fire high above. The High Mage and Regus-the-Bastard had been fighting for a week already. He figured they’d still be going at it come harvest time.

If he’d looked up, he might have had some warning of the pile of molten metal which was about to crash into his just-planted turnips.

Spark — urban fantasy

Sometimes the most important things are small. Like the spark that lights a wildfire, the world is rewritten by the smallest chance.

“John, come take a look at this,” Sarah called from across the room. I took off my VR headset and leaned over to see her workstation without standing up. Rows of blotches on a dark background covered the screen.

“DNA from some of the stiffs?” She was frowning at the image and jabbing at keys.

“Do you have to call them that?”

Honestly, I wasn’t paying much attention. She’d interrupted my game. “So what’s the big deal?”

“Get off your butt and see for yourself. And stop calling them stiffs.”

I sighed and humored her. “Why not, they ar– What they hell?”

If you don’t know DNA, you wouldn’t have seen anything. Just blobs like some freaky modern art piece. Unfortunately, I knew DNA. I ran my finger down the screen, mostly to give myself something to focus on. “No way. No way this comes from the stiffs.”

She hit me. “Its logged. The samples are good, no contamination, clear chain of custody. These are the DOAs brought in this morning.”

“Look, Sarah, we’re supposed to be looking for what killed them, make sure it isn’t a new ebola or what not, maybe a virus got mixed in?”

She shook her head, and tapped her nail on the damning stat from sample 6. “A virus with 10,000 base pairs more than human DNA? This isn’t contamination, John.”

I stared at her, she couldn’t be saying…. “It has to be contamination, otherwise this stiff–”

“Isn’t human.”

Ah fuck. I knew, right then, I was screwed. The WereKing was so going to blame me for this.

Once Upon a Green Rose — Queer Romance Anthology

Cover for Once Upon a Green RoseCuil Press’ next (and last for now) anthology, Once Upon A Green Rose later, is now available for pre-order.

If you like queer and queered romance (and aromance) you’ll like this collection of stories the RWA wouldn’t consider romance.

As I said, this is our last anthology for the moment. We hope to start doing anthologies again in the future, but we don’t have the spoons to do anthologies and novels, and we want to spend our time and spoons now focusing on novels.

Also, our money. Anthology authors need to be paid a flat fee. Novel authors get paid a percentage of the profits on the novel. Our last anthology didn’t anywhere near pay out. So if by chance you really like these anthologies, tell your friends to buy a few copies.

Planting Life in a Dying City: First Chapter (Draft)

That move I mentioned a couple posts back is happening this week and I didn’t have the time or spoons to write a blog post. So instead, here’s the first draft chapter of Planting Life in a Dying City


A shaft of sunlight lanced through the forest gloom highlighting another empty snare. Lefeng shook eir head as ey pull up the small game snare and examined the grass rope. Somehow no one had seen that break in the canopy over the summer. They were lucky they snare hadn’t been sun-touched.

Ey coiled and stash the snare-rope it in eir pack with the dozen others ey had pulled earlier that day and the pair of lemurs that had been caught by two of the traps. Ey had been surprised to find that many after [sibling] ran the trapline two days ago. Lefeng was just as glad that ey had forgotten to pull the snares. It gave eir a chance to get into the foothills on eir own one last time before the summer ended.

Ey moved with a ground-eating lope to the next snare, pausing on the way to pull leaves from a low growing mint plant to munch on and moisten eir mouth. The air was dry in the foot hills, away from the influence of the ocean. But ey only had a few more snares to pull and then ey could head home.

Tomorrow, the adults and near-adults like Lefeng would start packing for their winter travels. They’d follow the old ways, camping for a shor ttime to gather food and supplies, then travelling on when the area they were in started to become depleted. Each year they travelled a slighty different path, giving the land time to recover.

The ground shook, making a stone under eir foot move. Ey fell to the ground. “Stagnant water!” ey cursed. That was the third shake today. The first one had been strong enough to bring down some of the young saplings. Earth shakes were a part of life. As the [priest] liked to remind them, even the earth is alive in it’s own way. But three in one day was unusual.

Ey stood and cursed again. Eir right ankle hurt when ey put weight on it. Checking the ankle showed that it was only swelling a bit. And it had held when ey put weight on it. Ey hobbled up to a straight sapling a short distance off the trail and used her handaxe to cut the sapling down and strip the branches from it. With this rough-made walking stick ey carefully continued down the trail carefully.

Ey had no intention of staying in the village this walking-season. And a bad injury would keep eir in the home compound this winter with elder, the young children, and some of the grandparents. Two of Lefeng’s siblings who were courting other family’s in the village and would be staying with their prospective-spouses most of the winter.

That was the last thing Lefeng wanted. Ey was planning on marrying-in and spending the rest of eir adult life the way ey had spend eir years so far. And GreatWave, a child of a fishing family who had been courting Lefeng and eir siblings would be coming with them this walking-season. Ey was hoping to get some time with eir outside of the crowded confines of the compound. So no more falls!

A short time late, ey had finished pulling the snares and was headed home. The sun was setting—ey’s injury was making eir late. But there was still light to see by.

A half-mark from the village ey reached the lookout clearing. The hill top had been cleared of trees to give a clear view of the sea. The fisher families used it in storm season to watch for storms gathering on the horizon.

There were no storms today, but the sea looked strange. More like a mud puddle a child had jumped in, swirling around and full of debris.

Lefeng licked eir lips and looked harder. Ey had the best far sight in eir family, and while ey had never seen the sea like that, some of that debris looked familiar. Like the scraps of wood and sail that washed up on shore sometimes after a boat was caught out in a storm or wrecked by the one of the bright days.

GreatWave had gone out with eir family boat that morning. Ey told Lefeng ey wanted to feel the sea under eir one more time before spending more than half the year in the mountains.

Caution forgotten, Lefeng pelted down the trail, skidding and sliding in damp leaves and muddy loam. A short time later, ey burst out of the trees at the edge of the village and stumbled to a halt.

Everything was mud. Mud and dead fish and ragged stumps of wood where walls and homes had been that morning. Here and there, a lump sprawled in the mud, lumps covered with fabric and often trailing banners of waterlogged hair.

Lefeng stared, trying to take in what ey was seeing. It was like the entire village had been washed away. Step by step ey crept out into the mud. It sucked at eir boots and clung to eir legs.

The first body ey came to was the elder, TallDeer. Ey’s face was unrecognizable, but somehow ey was still wearing the silly bracelet of nuts and dried berries ey had worn for nearly twenty years. Lefeng sank into the mud next to eir and gently touched the bracelet. Lefeng had given it to eir, a chilidsh gift from a youngling to eir favorite grandparent. TallDeer had promised never to take it off.

Now, Lefeng removed it for eir. “Journey long, Baba. Until I join you at the meeting-fire.”

Tears pouring down eir face, Lefeng forced eirself to stand. Somewhere, there had to be someone still alive. There had to.

When dark fell, Lefeng, retreated into the shelter of the trees and made a small camp. Ey forced eirself to eat, having learned well the lessons of the trail. Never go hungry when there is food, you don’t know when you will find more.

With dawn, ey returned to the remains of the village.

No one had survived. Most were simply gone, no sign remained that they had ever existed.

Where eir family’s compound had once stood were a few stumps from the fence and the wooden frame of the house. Scattered throughout the village where a few–a very few–things ey recognized as once belonging to eir family. Ey gathered everything ey could, both from eir family and others, that might possibly be useful.

The next day, ey spent gathered the bodies together on a pile with as much wood as ey was able to move. It had been over a year since ey had started a fire without a coal or spark to work with. And the wet wood didn’t want to burn. But the effort of getting the fire started kept eir from really thinking about what ey was doing.

About what ey would do next.

It was possible that others from the village had survived, but no one had been off on a long journey. Only the far-walking families regularly ever went further than a half days travel from the village, and they had all been here, preparing for the winter journeying. Even the fishing boats returned each day except for their yearly trips up the coast to the big city. Anyone who hadn’t been in the village when… whatever it was happened should have returned by now.

Which meant Lefeng was completely alone.

Finally, the fire started. Ey sat upwind and watched it burn. Saying and singing the prayers that were meant to be said when the dead were buried, but there was no way ey, alone, could bury them all before scavengers became to bold for eir to chase away.

The fire burned long into the night and ey watched.

His Innocent Victim: A Free Fantasy Short Story

I have a small treat to share today.

As you may know, my fantasy thriller novel The Bargain is coming out on January 18th. To celebrate (and in hopes of wetting your interest), I’m making my short story His Innocent Victim available for free for the next two weeks.

His Innocent Victim is set 500 years before The Bargain and starts the story of Falthro and Dannel. Falthro is also a character in The Bargain. However, like some characters, he didn’t like his relatively small role and insisted on having his own story.

In theory, His Innocent Victim is the first in a series of short stories about Falthro and his household. I’ve got the second part written and will hopefully be publishing it sometime in February.

Enjoy!

His Innocent Victim

When the town of Oak Grove captures a child-killer, they petition the fae lord Falthro to find his missing victims. But before the council will release him to Falthro, they insist he swear by the Goddess to punish the prisoner for the deaths of the town’s children.

Falthro is oathbound, but his magic tells him the prisoner is innocent…

His Innocent Victim is a complete short story, the first in a series about Falthro and his victim, Dannel.​

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