November 2017 fiction round-up. Theme: Resist!


After checking to see which of my series cover the topics of rebellion and reform, I was tempted to say, "Just go read my fic." However, for the record, here's the full list.


The Three Lands centers upon the efforts of a group of men and women to reform oppressive aspects of society in three nations, such as slavery. Sometimes these practices are justified on religious grounds, sometimes on the basis of maintaining an orderly, law-abiding society. Some of the efforts at reform take place from within the governments; other efforts are most decidedly outside the channels of accepted law-making. Here be rebels and spies.


The fourth and fifth volumes in the Eternal Dungeon series, On Guard and Sweet Blood, feature a rebellion by a group of prison-workers against the accepted practice of torture in a royal prison that is already well known for its past reforms. The seeds for the rebellion are sown in the first three volumes of the series. The story of the Eternal Dungeon continues in the Dungeon Guards series.


Michael's House is about an ex-prostitute who takes a most unusual approach to helping youths trapped in prostitution. Opposing him are the owners of houses of prostitution, the government, and all of respectable society.


Life Prison is about a rebellion from within: When a couple of abused prisoners decide they've had enough, their efforts at creating change give rise to a battle over how best to handle prisoners within a nation's prison system.


Waterman and Young Toughs are set in a society where one's rank is determined at birth, and where sexual relationships are forbidden between ranks. When a couple of youths set out to break both rules, trouble lies ahead – trouble that will be spearheaded by a group of young men and young women.


Princeling is set in a world where the noble soldiers fight each other in order to protect the "petties," the commoners. After centuries of warfare, the petties are tired of all this protection. When one of the nobles becomes disabled, he must decide who to side with in this emerging conflict between protector and protected.


Debt Price (Master/Other) is about a young terrorist who discovers that there are other paths to resistance than the one he has chosen.


Finally, the difficulty of determining who the villain is in any clash between society and societal rebels is explored in my contemporary novel Twenty Thousand Gold Stars (Unmasked).


NEW E-BOOK: Sweet Blood (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Oh, Mercy and Hell. He would gladly allow himself to be flayed for eternity if he could thereby escape the responsibility of disciplining his love-mate for any future violations of the Code."

The Eternal Dungeon has been split by a civil war, with the division clearly marked by a quarrel between two Seekers (torturers) whose faithfulness to each other has already become legendary. Into this explosive situation arrives a new Seeker, one who is determined to see that past evils do not continue in the dungeon. But can he keep control of himself when assigned a prisoner who falls in love with him?

This tale of friendship, romance, and suspense can be read on its own or as the fifth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning alternate history series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of diverse alternate history series (The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Sweet Blood (The Eternal Dungeon).


"'Vito de Vere,'" the High Seeker read aloud from his records. "'Age thirty. Parents both alive—' You do not use your father's given name as a middle name?"

Vito wondered what the High Seeker imagined he was deducing about Vito's family relations. "No, sir. My parents never did. They thought that practice was old-fashioned."

"Hmm." The High Seeker – who, as everyone knew, didn't use his father's given name as a middle name either – stared down at the paper, the eyes within his hood's eyeholes momentarily hidden by shadows from the light. From the candlelight. The rest of the dungeon, by order of the Queen, had been modernized three years ago with electric lights – Vito knew that from his connection here. But apparently the High Seeker preferred to use candles as illumination, as though he still lived in the middle centuries.

This same High Seeker also ordered the use of racks in his dungeon. Vito stirred uneasily in his chair, sitting directly opposite the High Seeker at his desk, and then froze as the High Seeker raised his head, instantly alert.

All that the dungeon's head torturer said, however, was, "You arrive with the most superb set of recommendations I have ever seen for an applicant to the post of Seeker. Every man who has ever employed you – from the Union Telegraph supervisor, who hired you as a messenger boy when you were eleven, to your most recent employer, the Jailor of Pleasant Ridge Prison – all describe you as extremely hard-working, passionate in your pursuit of perfection, and brilliant of mind." The High Seeker abruptly pushed aside the recommendations with a sweep of his hand. "None of that matters."

"No, sir," Vito agreed quietly. "I understand that, from the perspective of the Eternal Dungeon, a Seeker's skill is less important than to what ends he uses his skill. All I can say, sir, is that I hope my record reveals that I have tried to achieve the right balance between being too soft with my prisoners and being too harsh with them. I have always kept in mind that my position is one of privilege, and with that privilege comes a responsibility to serve the best interests of my Queen, my queendom . . . and my prisoners."

He had considered, during the long train ride to the capital, how best to phrase his commitment to the principles under which the Eternal Dungeon was run. The closer he came to the capital, the more absurd his earlier, elaborate statements had seen. He currently lived on Cape Henry, close to Norfolk, a part of Yclau which spoke of sophisticated modern tastes. But the capital of the Queendom of Yclau – barely more than a small town hugging the long ridge of mountains that divided the Midcoast nations from the Midcontinental nations – spoke of rustic simplicity. The palace itself, elaborate and gilded though it was, seemed much smaller than Vito's childhood memories of it. As for the Eternal Dungeon . . . bleak, stark, only a century and a half old, and yet somehow harkening back to the values of many centuries before.

Not all of those values were bad.

And so, gradually, Vito had felt himself adjusting back to the time in his childhood when all had seemed simple, and necessary words had been few.

The High Seeker, evidently a man of few words himself, made no comment on Vito's carefully crafted commitment to the principles embodied in the dungeon's Code of Seeking. Instead, he said, "You have moved around a great deal."

"Yes, sir," he agreed, wondering furiously in his mind whether the High Seeker thought this denoted lack of commitment on Vito's part. "There are many prisons in my area, and I thought, for the sake of gaining full experience of the lesser prisons' variety as a guard—"

"Before that," said the High Seeker in a mild tone. "You moved around before then."

Oh, dear. He took a deep breath. "Yes, sir. I lived in this capital until I was ten, and then my parents moved to the Tidewater District in order that they might live with my mother's mother, who had recently become widowed. After graduation from university and training academy, I moved back to the capital—"

"In the spring of 355." The High Seeker did not so much as glance aside at Vito's records.

"Yes, sir. Alternating with posts at Alleyway Prison and the Courthouse Jail, I worked as a patrol soldier stationed out of Parkside Prison for a couple of years—"

"And met a certain lady there?" The High Seeker raised the topmost page of recommendations from the stack of paper. "Mistress Birdesmond says she knew you only briefly at Parkside Prison, yet you and she seem to have grown quite intimate during that time."

He could feel the blush cover his face. "She was doing charity work at the prison," he replied, hoping he did not sound too defensive. "A most uncommon occupation for a lady of leisure. Naturally, I was impressed by her consideration of the needs of the prisoners' families, and I struck up an acquaintance. Her work was unusual—"

"—and Mistress Birdesmond is a most unusual woman. Yes." The High Seeker seemed to dismiss the matter. "So that was your only previous point of contact with the Eternal Dungeon?"

His voice remained mild. His shadowed eyes were opaque. Vito stared at those eyes, remembering all the tales he had heard, in the lighted world above, about the High Seeker's capacities. Mistress Birdesmond had lightly hinted, in her letters, that the ballads sung about the High Seeker were not exaggerations.

It had been many years ago. He had been much younger then. The meeting had been brief. The High Seeker could not possibly remember—

He heard himself say, "Actually, sir, we've met before, though you wouldn't recall that meeting. It was in one of the judging rooms . . ."

His voice trailed off as the High Seeker relaxed into his seat. The High Seeker pulled the topmost volume of a small stack of blue-bound record books onto the table, resting his elbow on the remaining volumes. Stamped in gold upon the volume's face were the words: "Arrest Records of The Eternal Dungeon." Below the gold, written neatly in a copperplate script across a white label, were three additional words: "Elsdon Auburn Taylor."

Vito managed to pull his eyes away and clear his throat. "You remember?"

"The episode is hard to forget," the High Seeker replied dryly. "You attacked my prisoner."

This was a most unexpected way in which to characterize what had happened. But then, Mistress Birdesmond had warned him that the High Seeker was a subtle man, with depths beyond which most people guessed. He was, after all, the author of the fifth revision of the Code of Seeking, which was praised for its compassion toward the Eternal Dungeon's prisoners.

The High Seeker was waiting. Licking his dry lips with a flick of his tongue, Vito said, "Sir, I knew Mr. Taylor—"

"You were friends with Auburn Taylor?" There was no change to the High Seeker's tone, yet somehow, with that deep intuition which Vito seemed to have been born with, he sensed that he was roughly six inches from being tied to a rack.

"Not intimately, sir," he replied quickly. "I had just begun work at Parkside Prison, and Mr. Taylor's neighborhood was part of my patrol area. He was well known, because he had royal connections and he owned a business that employed many men. I had spoken briefly with him . . . no more than briefly. There was neighborhood gossip that there might be trouble in his family. And so, when Mr. Taylor's son was arrested for killing his younger sister . . . I was curious, I'll admit. I had not yet fully settled into work at Parkside Prison at the time of the arrest, so I missed witnessing Elsdon Taylor's imprisonment there, but the other guards there were full of talk about the arrest. They said that Elsdon Taylor's behavior had been most unusual – both exceedingly wild and exceedingly compliant. That combination of states worried me, as did the apparent murder. I began to fear that perhaps the mind of Mr. Taylor – young Mr. Taylor – was ill. So I attended the trial in interest to learn the outcome of his arrest, since he had been transferred into the custody of the Eternal Dungeon."

He was gabbling. He knew he was gabbling; he didn't seem to be able to stop himself.

The High Seeker – still looking idle, which was a bad sign in itself, Vito knew from many years of having searched prisoners – took up a pen and began to play with it, twiddling it with his fingers. "And so, having heard of Elsdon Taylor's bloody murder of his sister, you naturally assumed that he would murder his father too."

Vito felt another hot blush cover his face. "I'm not sure I thought that far ahead, sir. But Mr. Auburn Taylor startled his son in the judging room, and his son responded by pushing him away . . . It was a bad moment, and I thought it best that I should be the one to intervene, since the prisoner knew me."

"Oh?" The High Seeker stared at his pen.

"Yes, sir. We'd spoken to each other. As I say, I patrolled the neighborhood."

He waited, his back tingling in a manner that it hadn't since the early days of his training as a patrol soldier, when he had made several mistakes that his colonel had felt could best be corrected with whiplashes.

The High Seeker – bare of all weapons – seemed to be in no rush to make use of his formidable skills at extracting information through torture. He said only, "You pulled Mr. Auburn Taylor aside at the end of the trial, I recall."

Vito had a moment to be grateful for his instincts back then. "Yes, sir. I was greatly shocked by the evidence revealed in the trial, that the older Mr. Taylor had misused his son, which had no doubt led to the disordering of his son's mind. The evidence all fit; I could think of no other circumstances under which a mild young man such as Elsdon Taylor would have killed his sister. So I took Mr. Auburn Taylor into custody, in hopes that I could extract a confession from him that could lead to his being charged with abuse of his son."

"And was he charged?" The High Seeker stared down at the pen, with its sharp nib.

"No, sir. The keeper of Parkside Prison had some hesitation about my placing charges against a man who had royal connections. He ordered that I release my prisoner, and not long afterwards, Mr. Auburn Taylor grew ill, so I was advised to drop my enquiry. —But you would know that, sir," he added boldly.

The High Seeker looked up from the pen long enough to raise his eyebrows.

Vito added, "You sent a Seeker to Mr. Taylor's house two years later. I moved back to the Tidewater District around that time – my grandmother's health was failing, so I wished to be with my family. But one of my fellow patrol soldiers wrote me with the news that a Seeker had visited Mr. Auburn Taylor while he was dying."

The High Seeker said nothing. He set aside the pen. He waited, his elbow firmly planted on the stack of blue volumes.

Vito – trained to search prisoners himself – recognized all the signs. The High Seeker did not trust him. The High Seeker suspected that truth was being kept from him. The High Seeker would not cease his questions until he was sure he had extracted the truth.

Vito swallowed, but could not prevent himself from saying, "At the end of the trial, you took Mr. Taylor's son back into custody, for further questioning. Did you send the Seeker to Mr. Taylor's house to let him know that his son had finally died?"

The High Seeker did not even bother to create a polite fiction to describe what had happened. Instead he said – lightly, remorselessly – "So that was your only previous point of contact with the Eternal Dungeon?"

Vito stared at him. He could not know. He could not possibly know—

Vito's eyes shifted to the stack of blue volumes. Oh.

He cleared his throat. "Actually, sir, I've been to the Eternal Dungeon once before. It was a long time ago . . ."

His voice trailed off as the High Seeker relaxed against the back of his seat. The High Seeker pulled the topmost volume of the blue-bound record books onto the table. Stamped in gold upon the volume's face were the words: "Arrest Records of The Eternal Dungeon." Below the gold, written neatly in a copperplate script across a white label, were three additional words: "Vito de Vere."

"Perhaps, Mr. de Vere," said the High Seeker softly, "you should start at the beginning."

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Sweet Blood (The Eternal Dungeon).


Click on the covers for more information.

Law LinksBlood Vow

NEW ONLINE FICTION: The Eternal Dungeon and The Three Lands

Information about my online fiction. Click on the title for the full blurb, tags, and story.

Checkmate (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield. (E-book.)

Famine or Feast (The Three Lands). Adrian knew that friendship was a fundamental custom of all mankind. Or so he thought, until his closest friend discovered a mysterious journal. [Includes spoilers for Law Links; see below.]


CURRENTLY ONLINE SERIALIZATIONS: The Three Lands, The Eternal Dungeon, and Life Prison

Information about my online fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurbs, tags, and stories.

Law Links (The Three Lands). Few events are more thrilling in a young man's life than a blood feud between two villages. Or so Adrian thought. (E-book.)

Truth and Trust (The Eternal Dungeon). He has ten days to prepare for his performance in the Eternal Dungeon's first play. He may have fewer days than that to fight for his career and to save his prisoner's life. (E-book.)

Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison). A cold-hearted murderer. A vicious abuser. A young man hiding a shameful secret. A bewildered immigrant. A pure-minded spy. All of these men have found their appointed places at Mercy Life Prison, where it is easy to tell who your enemies are. But a new visitor to Mercy is about to challenge decades-old customs. Now these men's worst enemies may be hiding behind masks . . . and so may their closest allies. (E-book.)



Historicalfic: Historical Research for Fiction Writers is my new business. Those of you who read or write historical genres may be interested in Historicalfic's Twitter account, @historicalnovel, where I've been posting links to resources on historical research and historical genres. If any of you know of writers who might be interested in my research services (now or in the future), or know of writing communities whose members might be interested, I hope you'll spread the word.


I reached a new milestone in October: I've now posted over one million words of online fiction. This year alone, I'll have added half a million words to my collection of online fiction. I hope that you're all enjoying the stories.


I began posting fiction to e-mail lists in January 2002. This is the table of contents of my first website, from May 2002.

REVIEW: The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Wow! This short fantasy left me hungry for more." —Gina Marie (Amazon customer) on Rebirth 1: The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).



I've updated the story tags page with a new category: Stories of home life and community life. Amidst all my usual stories of threats to life or limb, I've been sneaking in a fair number of stories on quiet domestic life. (Or as quiet as my characters are ever permitted. Usually there's a threat to life or limb somewhere in there.)


FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon, Volume 1)

"'This prisoner deserves special treatment.' The hooded man looked over at the young man again."

Elsdon Taylor, a prisoner accused of committing a terrible murder. Layle Smith, a torturer with a terrible past. Their meeting in the Eternal Dungeon appears certain to bring out the worst in both men.

Yet neither man is quite what he appears. As the prisoner and his torturer begin to be drawn toward each other, the ripple effects of their meeting will have a powerful impact on other inhabitants of the Eternal Dungeon: Layle's faithful guard, struggling to contain his doubts. A younger guard determined to take any shortcuts necessary to ensure that his life follows the path he has already chosen. An old love from Layle's past, still sorrowing. And most of all, a prisoner who has not yet arrived at the Eternal Dungeon, but whose fate will depend on how Layle handles Elsdon Taylor . . . and on how Elsdon handles Layle Smith.

A winner of the 2011 Rainbow Awards (within the "Eternal Dungeon" omnibus), this tale of friendship, romance, and suspense can be read on its own or as the fifth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, an alternate history series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of diverse alternate history series (The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).


"He doesn't ask me anything that might have to do with me committing a crime," Elsdon said. "All he talks about is my schooldays: what my schoolwork was like, whether I had good times with my age-mates, and so on."

"He hasn't asked you about your family at all?" said Mr. Sobel, leaning over to scoop up the gravy from his dinner plate.

"Only indirectly. He asked me why, when I left school, I didn't go looking for work."

Carefully licking gravy from his spoon, Mr. Sobel said, "I'd wondered that too. When I came of age, I couldn't have been more eager to leave home. I wanted to prove my worth among other men."

"Oh." Elsdon's face grew warm. He leaned forward and stared at the remains of his own dinner. "Well, you've seen what I'm like."

"Yes?" The guard's voice held nothing more than mild curiosity.

"I'm not— That is, I couldn't hope to compete among other men. Not the way I am. I was grateful that my father was willing to pay me for taking care of his household. He was more generous than I deserved."

Ironware scraped against pottery as Mr. Sobel made another searching for any remaining gravy. "I don't understand," the guard said. "I saw your school records; you had high marks. Why do you think you wouldn't do well in a job?"

Elsdon swallowed around the painful hardness growing in his throat. "My school-marks were deceptive. The essence of what I am— My family always knew the truth."

"I thought you told Mr. Smith that your sister had a high opinion of you."

Elsdon's gaze flew up toward the guard, who was lapping away at his iron spoon. For a moment, Elsdon almost spoke; then he closed his mouth quickly.

The guard gave a soft chuckle. "He doesn't talk to me about your sessions. It was in the first-day searching report he filed with the Record-keeper. The High Seeker is as much a prisoner of documentwork as the rest of us."

Elsdon nodded. His face had grown warm again. Reaching down to toy with his spoon – the only ironware permitted to prisoners – he said, "Sara was always generous too. But my father – he knows the truth about me."

Even as he spoke, he knew he had gone too far, and he tensed. But when he looked up again, he was surprised to see a faint expression of distress upon the guard's face, as though he had committed a social breach.

"I shouldn't be asking you questions about your family," Mr. Sobel said. "It comes too close to searching, and the Code won't allow guards to search prisoners. It just seems odd to me, that you'd feel you were unqualified for work other than supervising your father's household. Did you tell Mr. Smith all this?"

"Yes, of course. And then he asked me what types of work the other boys at my school chose. His questions don't make any sense."

The guard shrugged, scraping at his dish. "He often doesn't make sense to me either. If you were to ask any prison worker in the world which man was most skilled at the art of searching prisoners, they wouldn't hesitate to say, 'Layle Smith.' But if you were to ask anyone how the High Seeker does his work . . . After seventeen years, I've given up trying to understand the questions he asks prisoners."

"That's how long you've been with Mr. Smith?" As he spoke, Elsdon leaned back against the fiery wall. They were on the floor again, as they had been for the past three mornings, this being the period when they shared dinnertime. Sitting on the floor allowed Mr. Sobel to stretch out his tired legs.

The guard nodded. "I've been with him since his arrival at the Eternal Dungeon. He was transferred here from another prison, but of course he had to be retrained, as all of us do. He was taught by the old High Seeker – the High Torturer, he was called back in those days. I was guard for the High Torturer; after the training period I asked permission to serve as guard to Mr. Smith."

"That didn't anger the High Torturer? —You can have my gravy, by the way."

"Are you sure?" Mr. Sobel waited for Elsdon's nod before reaching over to take the plate. He sighed, saying, "Stealing food from a prisoner. I hope the Codifier never finds out about this. . . . No, the High Torturer was pleased when I asked for the transfer. He knew – we all knew – that Mr. Smith would be the one to succeed him, and the High Torturer wanted an experienced guard to help Mr. Smith learn the ways of the Eternal Dungeon." Mr. Sobel leaned forward and scraped the gravy from Elsdon's plate. "Not that I've ever done much besides stand around, dropping my jaw in awe. —Bloody blades, no, don't give me your apple too. I don't mind falling into the hands of the Codifier, but if Mr. Smith should learn I'm taking food from you . . ."

"Oh, but maybe it would help you to be Mr. Smith's prisoner." Elsdon gave a small smile. "Good experience for a guard, don't you think?"

Mr. Sobel shuddered visibly. "No, thank you. I'd prefer to be put on the rack by any of the other Seekers rather than endure five minutes being searched by the High Seeker."

"But you must know him well if you've been his guard for seventeen years. Are you friends with him?"

Mr. Sobel suddenly seemed to lose interest in his food. Abandoning the last of the gravy, he pushed the plate back and shook his head silently.

Elsdon contemplated his bowed head for a moment before saying, "I suppose it wouldn't be professional for the two of you to form a friendship."

The guard shook his head slowly. "No, it's not that. I . . ." He looked up. There was a tension to his expression that Elsdon had never seen before, even in the moments after Elsdon had attacked the guard.

"If you had a very great darkness in you," Mr. Sobel said carefully, "a darkness so deep that it would frighten even those who worked in the bloodiest professions . . . Would you be able to share yourself with someone who had never experienced such darkness?"

Elsdon wanted to sever his gaze then, but the strain in Mr. Sobel's face would not permit him to do so. He said softly, "I've seen that in Mr. Smith."

The guard shook his head. "You haven't," he said firmly. "Truly, you've seen only the surface of the High Seeker so far. This other part of him. . . I don't know how deep it goes, but it only begins to show itself when he's with the worst prisoners, the ones he must rack. He uses it as a way to frighten them into confessing."

"And you've seen this." Elsdon's voice remained soft.

Mr. Sobel let out his breath slowly. "Yes. I attend him in the rack room. Afterwards— It affects me almost as much as it does the prisoners, and I know Mr. Smith senses that. It's little wonder he doesn't want to share more of himself with me when we're in our leisure hours."

"Perhaps he's afraid to." Even as he spoke, Elsdon realized how absurd his words were. He was not surprised when a faint smile drifted onto the lips of the guard.

But all that Mr. Sobel said was, "You're odd."

Elsdon bit his lip, making no response.

"Not odd in a bad way," the guard added hastily. "It's just that here you are, a prisoner in the Eternal Dungeon . . . and yet, every time we meet, somehow we always end up talking about my troubles."

"Perhaps I'm just trying to deflect the conversation from me."

"Maybe. I suppose the High Seeker would be able to know that."

Elsdon shifted uneasily, playing with the ironware once more. "What I said before about Mr. Smith . . . Don't pay any care to me; I always get things in a muddle. I'm sure that when Mr. Smith is with his friends— What is it?"

He could not have said what made him sure that some great discovery had been made, for Mr. Sobel had neither spoken nor moved. Only his expression changed slightly, and this was quickly hidden as the guard got onto his knees and began to collect the plates.

Watching him, Elsdon said slowly, "Mr. Smith doesn't have any friends."

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).


June 2018



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