In Which We Make Mistakes

WRITING 02A couple of days ago I got an email from Rich Horton, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, pointing out that I’d made a slight error in a previous post when I said it was the first time I’d made it into one of his year’s best compilations. Quite true. I did have stories in his 2005 and 2007 books, but in my defense I’ll say that I wasn’t completely wrong, either. This is the first time I’ve been included in one of his combined sf & fantasy editions, since for many years the fantasy and sf volumes were separate. The two previous times I’d been reprinted by Rich were in his exclusively fantasy volumes. Yet I did misspeak (mistype?) and Rich was right to bring that to my attention.

Just as it was right for the reader yesterday to point out I’d included a physical impossibility in one of my scenes from Power’s Shadow. That’s also the reason I was hesitant about this experiment in the first place. See, this is the first time I’ve let anyone other than First Reader see one of my rough drafts, and there are good and solid reasons for that. What the reader has a right to expect when they pick up one of my books is that I’m not going to waste their time with sloppy work. Yet here’s the thing—this is a first draft. Almost by definition it’s going to be a little ragged around the edges. First drafts are the perfect place for mistakes, and don’t they know it. They show up and settle in with deep sighs of contentment. First drafts are made for them. Or as I’ve pointed out in the writer’s groups I’ve belonged to and elsewhere when a colleague was complaining that they get bogged down in this or that piece of minutiae when trying to get a project done, here is your mantra:

“It is not the job of a first draft to be perfect. It is the job of a first draft to get DONE.” Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 12, Part 3 — Conclusion

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Marta meets a new player in a very old place.





Chapter 12, Part 3 — Conclusion

“Tell the gull that its master and I will need to talk, sooner or later.”

Marta didn’t wait for Bonetapper to report back, but rather resumed her walk as soon as the raven took off again. As she walked, she let the question of the spying witch sink into the background of her awareness. There was something else tugging at her consciousness, a connection not unlike the Debt, but it felt more of kinship than obligation. Marta had heard the stories of a place near Amurlee that was a seat of ancient power, but also that it was something that had long since passed out of this world. What Marta had heard were just rumors and stories that her mother had once amused Marta with when she was little more than a toddler. Not to be taken seriously, perhaps, but entertaining for a child. What Marta felt now, on the other hand, that was real, even if she had no idea what it was or what it might mean.

Is this it?

Marta looked around at where she was. To her left was the edge of a bluff followed by a thirty-foot drop to a narrow sand beach. To her right was a grove of oaks on a grassy hillock. They seemed out of place. There were other trees scattered about the shoreline, but the soil there was sandy and poor, and most of the trees she’d seen were stunted and scraggly. The trees of the grove appeared to be no different than one might find in an inland forest. Considering that Amurlee was a ship-building port and those oaks contained good quantities of timber, she was amazed that the grove hadn’t been harvested. More than amazed, actually—puzzled.

These trees should not be here.

Yet they were. Marta walked up to the grove, hesitated at the first oak she came to and touched it briefly with her fingertips, and knew that this was what she had been searching for. What power had been there before at one time was gone now, or perhaps had transformed into something different than what it once had been. What Marta felt she thought of as like what a hunter might have heard as the leaves rustled somewhere in a nearby thicket but the game, whatever it might be, remained hidden.

It was here…is still here?

Marta wondered if she had touched on a Law, but after a few moments had to shake her head. Not a Law. Nothing, perhaps, that she was capable of understanding. She felt something close by that she had yet to grasp, but she did know that the grove was the place to look for it. She went inside.

It was only when she’d passed the first few oaks that she realized that the grove wasn’t a grove, but rather a wide ring of trees no more than four deep. In the center were what looked like what had once been the foundation of a small cottage, now covered in weeds and vines.

“Strange, isn’t it?” Continue reading

Rich Horton’s Year’s Best SF&F 2015

MorningRainbowHere’s the final Table of Contents as posted by the publisher. As soon as I have an open link to the final cover, I’ll post that too:

“Sadness” by Timons Esaias (Analog 7-8/14)
“Schools of Clay” by Derek Künsken (Asimov’s 2/14)
“Someday” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s 4-5/14)
“The Instructive Tale of the Archaeologist and his Wife” by Alexander Jablokov (Asimov’s 7/14)
“Heaven Thunders the Truth” by K. J. Parker (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/2/14)
“The Manor of Lost Time” by Richard Parks (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/26/14)
“Every Hill Ends With Sky” by Robert Reed (Carbide Tipped Pens)
“Wine” by Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld 1/14)
“Pernicious Romance” by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld 11/14)
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“The Long Haul” by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
“Aberration” by Genevieve Valentine (Fearsome Magics)
“Ghost Story” by John Grant (Interzone 3-4/14)
“Skull and Hyssop” by Kathleen Jennings (LCRW 12/14)
“The Endless Sink” by Damien Ober (LCRW 9/14)
“Drones Don’t Kill People” by Annalee Newitz (Lightspeed 12/14)
“How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed 3/14)
“Selfie” by Sandra MacDonald (Lightspeed 5/14)
“Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology” by Theodora Goss (Lightspeed 7/14)
“I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link (McSweeney’s, #48)
“The Wild and Hungry Times” by Patricia Russo (Not One of Us)
“Invisible Planets” by Hannu Rajaniemi (Reach for Infinity)
“Trademark Bugs: A Legal History” by Adam Roberts (Reach for Infinity)
“A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell (Rogues)
“Fift and Shria” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Solaris Rising 3)
“Witch, Beast, Saint: An Erotic Fairy Tale” by C. S. E. Cooney (Strange Horizons 7/21/14)
“Grand Jeté(the Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer/14)
“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason (Subterranean Winter/14)
“The Hand is Quicker” by Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
“Break! Break! Break!” by Charlie Jane Anders (The End is Nigh)
“Sleeper” by Jo Walton ( 8/14)
“Petard: A Tale of Just Deserts” by Cory Doctorow (Twelve Tomorrows)
“Collateral” by Peter Watts (Upgraded)

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 12, Part 2


Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Lose a servant, unmask a spy.




Chapter 12, Part 2


When Callowyn’s carriage had departed, Marta turned to Sela. “I need to go speak with Count Maton. It doesn’t concern you directly, but you’re welcome to come with me.”

“I’d like that, but I promised to meet Prince Dolan in the archives. He thinks he’s found another reference which might have a bearing on our search…I don’t know. He wasn’t very specific.”

“Which means he chose not to be so. Or perhaps he just wants to see you again.”

Sela scowled. “You’re teasing me.”

“I am? It wasn’t my intention.”

“I—oh, never mind. I’ll walk with you as far as Count Maton’s villa, if you don’t mind. His Highness better have a good reason, is all I can say.”

“A man who doesn’t realize he’s flirting and a woman who doesn’t realize she’s being flirted with,” Marta said. “I’m sure that will end well.”

“You’re doing it again,” Sela said.

Marta smiled. “This time I think you’re right. Let’s be off, then.”

Neither said anything for most of the walk toward the city’s center, though Sela kept glancing up and around as if she expected to find something, but that something never materialized.

“I still feel as if we’re being watched,” she said finally. “I’ve felt that way almost since we arrived here.”

“I think you might be right,” Marta said. “I would attribute it to some plot of Duke Okandis, but I’ve come to the conclusion that he has nothing to do with it.”

Sela frowned. “Based on what?”

“Based on the nature of the spy. We’ll know if I’m right soon enough. For now, this is where we part. Say hello to the prince for me.”

“If I can get a word in,” Sela said. “He does tend to talk when he’s on the trail.”

Sela continued toward the Royal Archives while Marta presented herself at the gate to Count Maton’s village. She was quickly ushered inside. She found the man in his library. Several books were open on the table beside the chair where he sat, but he wasn’t reading any of them. He appeared lost in thought, but he rose as soon as Marta entered.

“Welcome, Lady Marta.”

“Thank you. Pardon me if this seems to personal, but you appear to be troubled.”

“Not troubled…exactly. More confused. I feel—“

“As if something is missing?” Marta finished.

He looked at her intently. “Yes. That’s it exactly.”

She nodded. “I thought you might. What’s missing is the Debt. It created a connection between first you and my mother, then you and I, and you’ve lived with that connection for many years. That connection is no longer there, and what you feel its absence.”

“It’s…gone? I’m no longer—“ He stopped himself, but Marta just smiled.

“In my service? The answer is ‘no.’ The services you’ve rendered over the last several days were of great value to me, and they have discharged your obligation. Only the Debt knows its true extent, and when it is satisfied. When the connection is broken, I feel it just as you do. That is what I came to tell you today. I felt I owed you that much at least.”

“I hardly even know what to do now,” Count Maton said, slipping rather heavily back into his chair.

“Celebrate, would be a reasonable response,” Marta said. “It’s what I would do.”

Count Maton smiled then. “My years of indenture were long, but I feel fortunate. They were by no means unpleasant.”

“You were fortunate,” Marta said. “You were able to discharge your debt by continuing to be who you were before. Not everyone can say the same.”

“I am all too aware of that. Thank you.”

Marta inclined her head just slightly. “Goodbye, Count Maton. I will count you even more fortunate and me less so if we never meet again.”

He rose, and accepted her extended hand. “Goodbye, Lady Marta. Large though my obligation might have been, I can’t help but feel that it was as nothing compared to your own.”

“You have a kind heart, Excellency. Try not to let it get you into trouble again.” Continue reading

Blatant Commercial – Hereafter, and After

Hereafter, and After2Hereafter, and After






This is a heads up for anyone who might be interested. If not, feel free to ignore, as I’m sure you would. For the next few days, my afterlife (?) novella Hereafter, and After, will be avalable on Kindle for 99 cents, then it’s back to the regular price of $2.99.

The image on the right is of the original hardcover chapbook issued by PS Publishing some years ago and long since sold out. The image on the left is my cover redesign. I probably should have used the original image since its long been in the public domain, but I felt like a change. That could have been a mistake but, if so, it is my own. The novella itself remains a favorite of mine, so much so that I’ve resisted the urge to expand it to novel length. Some things are just best the way they are. Besides, it’s only Amazon review says it would be a “decent 3 star short story if it was cheaper.” Now it is. No excuses.

“When a man carelessly steps in front of a speeding garbage truck, that’s usually the end of his story. For Jake Hallman, that’s just the beginning. He awakens on a metaphorical stretch of the Afterlife called the Golden Road, where the angel Brendan comes to escort him to Heaven. But Jake isn’t having any:

“Heaven sounds like a good thing in theory, but what is it really? What will I do there? Can I leave if I don’t like it? Under what circumstances? Can you force me to go?”

Brendan scratched his head. “I don’t think this has come up before.”

With that simple exchange Jake becomes one of the rarest and most valuable commodities in the Afterlife — a free soul. What’s a free soul to do? That is, if he wants to remain that way?

If you’re Jake Hallman you team up with a disgruntled ex-valkyrie named Freya and hit the Golden Road, the mystic path that links the Heavens and Hells of every mythos, plus a few places even the gods forgot. The unlikely pair join forces on a quest to discover if there really is any place in the cosmos where a spirit can be truly free.”