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Nov. 11th, 2017

November 2017 fiction round-up. Theme: Resist!


THIS MONTH'S 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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).
 


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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).


Excerpt )


NOW AVAILABLE AS MULTIFORMAT E-BOOKS: The Three Lands

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.]


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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.)
 


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MY NEW HISTORICAL RESEARCH BUSINESS

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.
 


ONE MILLION WORDS

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.

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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).
 


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NEW STORY TAGS

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.)
 


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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).


Excerpt )

Mar. 7th, 2016

Interview of me by Tami Veldura

[This interview originally appeared in the March 2016 newsletter of Tami Veldura, who writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and queer fiction. Because of a formatting glitch, I've combined her questions with my answers as I originally sent them to her (except for the links, which I've added here).]

Today's interview with Dusk touches on apprenticeship, history, and alternate universes. They've written and published over 70 books. They read and write almost exclusively historical works.

Q&A )

Jan. 22nd, 2016

January 2016 historical speculative fiction e-books, free fiction, and news

Historical speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels, original slash, and other types of diverse fiction. All e-books from Love in Dark Settings Press are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.

The Shining  Ones

NEW NOVELETTE: The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon)

"He was skilled by now at making innocuous remarks in the presence of the Shining Ones. Nobody had even guessed that he knew what they were."

The Eternal Dungeon is filled with prisoners who shine like the sun.

No one knows this except Barrett Boyd, a guard notorious for having survived a disciplinary punishment that should have killed him. He is also notorious for his rebellion against the authorities of the royal prison. At a pivotal time in the Eternal Dungeon's history, when abusive practices of the past may finally be abolished, Barrett finds himself drawn to the mystery of a younger guard, Clifford Crofford, who claims that he and Barrett are love-mates.

Barrett has no memory of this. He has no memory of anything before his punishment. What does the past matter, compared to Barrett's determination to protect the prisoners? But Barrett cannot ignore his bond with Clifford, and the closer that Barrett comes to Clifford, the more the danger arises that Clifford will question Barrett's sanity. . . .

This novelette (miniature novel) of disability and love can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction 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 alternate history series (Dark Light, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, and The Eternal Dungeon) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set between the 1880s and the 1910s, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): The Shining Ones.


Excerpt

During the first few weeks after the 101 strokes, his only awareness had been of pain and anger. He knew dimly that the anger was not merely for his own sake. Others here had suffered needlessly. Others here needed to be protected. His own pain had come from an attempt to protect. No one here was to be trusted, except those he had sought to protect.

His first sight of a prisoner after he rose from his sickbed nearly blinded him. Leaving his male nurse nodding off to sleep, he had departed the healer's surgery and had curiously explored one of the dungeon corridors. Several dark figures that he passed tried to speak to him; he ignored them. He was more interested in the iron doors that led off the corridor. He sensed that treasure lay behind those doors, but he couldn't envision what that treasure might be.

A door opened, and through it came the sun.

He threw himself to his knees. The dark figures, mistaking the cause, tried to pull him up with their coffin-cold hands, but he threw them off, blind with the glory of what he had seen. He heard someone say, "Take the prisoner away." That was how he knew what he had seen.

He let the dark figures persuade him back to his sickbed. He needed time to think. As the days passed, he took more and more illicit forays through the Eternal Dungeon, both the inner dungeon where the prisoners and Seekers were kept and the outer dungeon where laborers worked and guards lived. He was aware of carefully swept floors, neatly painted walls, entranceways to further corridors. But it was always the iron doors that fascinated him. He waited one day, in the shadow of a corner, to see whether it would happen again.

It did. The door opened. This time, the Shining One did not emerge. He was bound to the wall, being beaten by a dark figure.

Barrett's first impulse was to kill the dark figure. But he was still weak in body, and he remembered the consequences of the last time he had tried to help one of the Shining Ones. He would not survive another 101 strokes. Should he sacrifice himself for the Shining Ones now, or should he wait for a more important occasion to do so? He forced himself to return to the surgery and think.

The next day, the High Seeker visited. There had been many dark figures calling upon his sickbed, among them a junior Seeker named Elsdon Taylor, who claimed that Barrett had worked under him in the past. Barrett ignored them all. But Barrett knew who this latest visitor was. He was the man who had laid raw stripes across Barrett's back.

For an attempted murderer, the High Seeker seemed exceedingly mild-mannered. He suggested that, if Barrett was well enough to rise from his bed on occasion, he might wish to visit the dungeon's library in order to educate himself about the world in which he lived.

It was good advice, despite the source. The next day, Barrett went to the library, accompanied by his nurse. Barrett's primary purpose for the visit was to learn what the Shining Ones were. It was already clear to him that he was the only man in the dungeon who could see the prisoners as they truly were.

If he told other people what he had seen, perhaps they would think he had gone mad; perhaps he would be locked up in an asylum. During the previous week, a mind healer had carefully quizzed him to check if the 101-stroke beating had damaged his brain, which left Barrett momentarily uncertain whether he was actually seeing what he thought he saw.

Fortunately, the library revealed the truth. He spent every waking hour there for weeks, chasing threads, until he found what he was seeking, in the very oldest books.

The ancient ones had known the Shining Ones.

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): The Shining Ones.


Servant  or Slave

NEW COLLECTION: Servant or Slave (Waterman)

Is service a privilege or a chain?

Two young men face this question. Both live in the Dozen Landsteads, where life centers on the nation's Bay. One young man lives at the beginning of the twentieth century, the other in the sixteenth century. Both youths possess masters. But do the masters have their best interests at heart?

"Servant or Slave" presents a twin tale of love, faithfulness, and responsibility. It can be read on its own or as a side story in Waterman, a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region.

Volume Contents

Lost Haven: a master, his servant, and a disappearing island. Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found? Meredith has brought his beloved master to the island where he spent the happiest days of his childhood. But when danger descends upon them, they must seek refuge, and Meredith must confront the tantalizing sorrows and rewards of change.

Master's Piece. He was his master's piece: the model for his master's sculptures. But his master was different. . . . As Pip longs for the unobtainable, his master finds that he is beginning to have doubts about a long-standing custom in his nation. Yet how can he risk giving up what he values most?

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Servant or Slave. Includes a new Waterman story, "Master's Piece."


Excerpt (from Master's Piece)

It was the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the world was changing. Ships sailed the ocean, exploring the Old World that had been left behind long ago, in ancient times. A new faith swept the nations of the New World with fervor, promising the possibility of rebirth, not only in a future lifetime, but now. And in a small, sunny room of his castle that grew stifling hot in the summertime, High Master Fernao experimented with new ways in which to create sculptures.

Pip, his piece, stood for hours on end in the sculpting room, occasionally turning his eyes to glance through the window. Outside, fishing boats skimmed the waters of the Bay as they came to port at Solomons Island, offshore from where the High Master's castle stood. He could smell the scent of crabs as they scrabbled in their cages, desperately trying to escape their fate as they were unloaded onto the docks. He could watch as the fishermen secured their captives.

But he preferred to watch his master at work. While Pip stood in the heat, sweating and itching, High Master Fernao would carefully sculpt the cooling wax, revealing what lay within the wax. Slowly, ever so slowly, a face would emerge: a strong face, set with eyes that sought something beyond the horizon.

The face never smiled. Pip had watched the High Master try to sculpt smiles – had followed the High Master's orders to smile – but the smile was never quite right. . . .

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Servant or Slave. Includes a new Waterman story, "Master's Piece."


FREE FICTION

A new story at Archive of Our Own. This is a 2016 holiday gift story for my readers. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Commoners' Festival (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon is celebrating the Commoners' Festival, and all the elite are feasting. Including a man who is secretly a commoner. (Permalink.)


A reissued story at Archive of Our Own.
 

Right or Right (Darkling Plain). Linnet is trouble. Everyone agrees about that. Driven from her native barony, she arrives at Goldhollow in hopes of beginning a new life, only to discover that she cannot escape her past. As Linnet is drawn into memories of a dark young man she once knew, she must deal in the present with a boy who is headed toward danger, as well as a child-like baron who may force her to betray her past. (Permalink.)


FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon)

"'Shall we allow criminals to roam the streets at will because we're afraid to take the chance of harming an innocent prisoner?'"

The ties forged between the noble-minded Eternal Dungeon and an abusive foreign dungeon have set off an unpredictable chain of horrific events, in which the love between two of the Eternal Dungeon's Seekers (torturers) will be tested to the straining point. Caught in the middle of the struggle are Barrett Boyd and Seward Sobel, loyal guards who will find themselves questioning their most fundamental beliefs about the royal prison's ideals.

Barrett must help his Seeker determine whether their mild-mannered prisoner is an attempted murderer. His friend Seward has pledged to guard his own Seeker against an assassin . . . or should Seward be protecting the dungeon inhabitants against his Seeker? But when the guards' two Seekers fall into a lovers' quarrel, that is when the real danger begins.

This novel of friendship and gay love can be read on its own or as the fourth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning historical fantasy series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.
 

Available in the Eternal Dungeon omnibus from Love in Dark Settings Press: On Guard.

 
NEW SOCIAL NETWORK: Tumblr

I now have a Tumblr profile, mainly as another way to keep connected with the fanfic/originalfic communities. My website, blog, and e-mail list remain the best way to keep track of what I'm up to, but if you're at Tumblr, I hope you'll connect with me there. Here's a full list of my social networks, if you haven't seen it already.
 

2015 WORDAGE

It's a new year, so my word counts for 2015 are online. 'Twas another so-so year for productivity, but I'm hopeful of being able to bring my wordage up this year, as well as the number of new stories I publish, now that I'm not in the worst part of a serious decluttering crisis (2015), moving to a new town (2014), or horribly ill (2010-2013). Wish me luck.

Jul. 3rd, 2015

Daily life: Wow, busy. Eternal Dungeon, submissions, web addiction, trips, introversion, & clutter.

"She will still talk to people, but it will be in a withdrawn way."

--A priest discussing a new Scottish hermit, as quoted by The Press and Journal.


My professional work last month )
On 'The Eternal Dungeon' )
Writing in the fresh outdoors, research trips, and a rant about heavy furniture) )
Professional trips (mainly Waterman research) and personal trips last month )
Getting a handle on my introversion )
The inauspicious anniversary of my web addiction )

REPLY TO BLOG COMMENTS

As some of you will have noticed, I've been a little backed up in responding to comments to this blog. Unfortunately, I lost all my e-mails prior to April 2014 (yes, that's how backed up I am), but here's my replies to the rest. I hope I didn't miss anyone - if I did, let me know.


Reply to Catana on e-book covers and productivity )
Reply to Dianna Kay on my e-books and the m/m readership )
Reply to Musicman on narratives )
Reply to Angie Fiedler Sutton on Scribe Mozell )

Apr. 22nd, 2015

Daily life: Writing breakthroughs, Waterman research, & web addiction progress. It was a good month.

"I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

"I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real. . . .

"When I write again, it will be for you, I hope – just in a different form. I need to decompress and get healthy for a while; but I won’t disappear as a writer."

--Andrew Sullivan.


I had some big changes in March in how I write stories, so that's what most of this entry is about.


New ways of writing fiction )
Waterman research )
My professional work last month )
My reading last month )
My decluttering and homemaking last month )
My personal life last month )
My web addiction and other health matters last month )

Jan. 2nd, 2015

FIC: Rain 5: Joy (Waterman)

This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). This is the final story in the cycle.

Has everyone here been able to find their way through the cycle? I had a plea for navigation help from one reader.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

He knew isolation. Still, it would be nice if he could make friends here.

Happy New Year!

Oct. 28th, 2013

Daily life: Four weeks to get my life in order

"We're all so concerned about making money and being successful.

"But no poet ever wrote to make money. No amateur painter ever expected to have his work hung in the Lourve. You don't throw a pot hoping for fame, and you didn't take piano lessons because you have aspirations to play Carnegie Hall.

"You do those things because you want to."

--The most sensible thing ever said by J. A. Konrath.


So it turns out that my surgery is on November 21st, not October 21st. Good - I need that extra time.



Writing and Watermen research )
E-book marketing )
So, about that decluttering )

Oct. 2nd, 2013

"The Abolitionist" is a finalist in the Rainbow Awards 2013

Rainbow Awards Finalist


The Abolitionist (Waterman) is a finalist in the Gay Fantasy category of the Rainbow Awards 2013.

Congratulations also to my blog/Goodreads readers Megan Derr (in teeny-weeny type on the cover, but I noticed you), Clare London (your book's attractive cover caught my eye before your name did), Brandon Shire (your blurb caught my eye), and A. B. Gayle (yay! "Leather+Lace"!) for their finalist entries. If I missed titles by any other of my blog readers, please do let me know, because I like to follow along with what's going on in the lives of you folks.

(And jeez louise, somewhere-out-there L. A. Witt, what are you, some kind of finalist magnet? Nine finalist entries. Nine. My hearty congratulations.)

The winners will be announced on December 8. You can see the full list of finalists - along with some really nice covers - at this post at the blog of the ever-amazing Elisa Rolle.

Aug. 19th, 2013

Queue (Waterman)


Cover for 'Queue'



"Depositing money in the bank was always the worst problem."

What should a young servant do when his employer may fire him at any moment, his employer's beautiful daughter is absorbed with her high school textbook ("How to be Firm with Servants"), and he's blocked from carrying out a simple task by a snooty cyborg?

This flash fiction blends science fiction with 1960s domestic comedy. It is a side story in Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

Depositing money in the bank was always the worst problem. He'd be first in line at three a.m., to give himself enough time for the bank opening at nine a.m., but he always seemed to pick the day when two dozen misters just happened to saunter in, walk right past him to the bank clerks, and spend the next six hours chatting at length with the clerks about their problems. At three p.m., the bank would close, and he'd still be waiting in line. The bank manager would throw him out then, and he'd be left with bruises from the manager's metal claws.

"You should use our computer connection to the bank," Honey suggested, looking up from where she was studying her high-school textbook – vividly illustrated with holophotos – that was entitled How to be Firm with Servants.

She could be delightfully naive at times. "I'm not allowed to use the computer, miss. It's not permitted to servants, by landstead law."

"Well, talk to Daddy, then," she said, tossing back her long hair impatiently. "He'll come up with a solution. He always does."

He didn't talk to his mister – he never talked to the mister about such matters, because he lived in fear that, if he made any complaints, the mister would tire of him – but Honey must have spoken to him, because the next day, right at nine a.m., Mr. Tilbury showed up at the bank and stood behind Foster in the line. . . .
 

Available as a FREE multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Queue.

New Waterman collections

I've issued two Waterman collections. One (Master and Servant) is new, while the other (the Waterman omnibus) is an older collection that has been expanded to include the novel The Abolitionist. The only difference between their contents is that the omnibus includes Queue.

Cover for 'Master and Servant'


Another cover, plus blurbs, excerpts, and links to ordering information )

Aug. 5th, 2013

Unmarked (Waterman)


Cover for 'Unmarked'



"Master Meredith, whose entitlement to a last name had not yet been determined by the courts, was sitting in a window-seat overlooking the playing fields of Narrows School when the Third House bullies found him."

In his final terms of school before his university years, Meredith is faced with a host of problems: A prefect who abuses his power. A games captain who is supposed to protect Meredith but has befriended the prefect. And a legal status that makes everyone in the school question whether Meredith belongs there, among the elite.

Unexpectedly, rescue arrives, in the shape of a fellow student who seems determined to right wrongs. There's only one problem. . . .

"Fair play" is the motto of the Third House, but that motto takes on a different meaning when Meredith is secretly wooed by a young man from a rival House.

This novel can be read on its own or as the third and final story in the "Master and Servant" volume of Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

"Let's look at your arm now."

Meredith cautiously turned round. Carruthers stood fully dressed in his school uniform: shoes, trousers, shirt, vest, and a dark blue blazer – blue to represent transformation. No doubt he was entitled to a House cap as well, but he was as bareheaded as always. His hair was the color of yellow cordgrass when sun shone upon it. His eyes shimmered grey like pebbles in a pond. His skin was darker than the usual milky-white shade that distinguished masters from servants; one of the more vicious rumors circulating in the Third House was that Carruthers's parents, who were notorious Egalitarians, forced Carruthers to do servant-work during holidays. Meredith refused to believe the rumor, if only because he could not imagine any servant standing by and allowing Carruthers to do work on his behalf.

Carruthers had turned toward a table beside the students' lockers and was pulling open a first aid kit marked with the symbol of the Red Circle, for Narrows School was one of the few Dozen Landstead institutions that was charitable enough to raise funds for that international, humanitarian organization. "Giving money to the Yclau!" Rudd had once said in anger. One of Rudd's ancestors had drafted the Embargo Act of 1912.

Carruthers – like his father – clearly had no qualms about using foreign technology, for he was pulling out the kit's contents, carefully selected by the school, so as not to contravene the Embargo Act: bichloride of mercury tablets, tincture of iodine, aromatic spirits of ammonia, carbolized petroleum jelly, rubber tubes for tourniquets, adhesive plaster, picric acid gauze, cascara tablets, crystals of hydrated magnesium sulfate, and crystals of potassium permanganate. The last item – used to treat poisonous snake bites – was next to useless for a kit used on a Bay-island school, but some of the school's students who came from the mainland were convinced that every harmless water snake they saw was a venomous water moccasin.

In a prosaic manner, Carruthers focussed his attention on the kit's scissors and roll of bandages. As he cut a small square of bandage off the roll, he said, "Two pieces will do for now, I think, until we've cleaned your arm."

He was holding the scissors awkwardly, and Meredith remembered suddenly that Carruthers had sprained his right wrist at the last footer match. Meredith cried: "Oh, please, sir, let me do that for you!"

A moment later, he would gladly have borrowed Carruthers's heirship dagger and plunged it into himself. Carruthers glanced over at him, but this time he made no comment upon Meredith's eccentric eagerness. He simply handed Meredith the scissors and stepped aside. Meredith cut the final piece, sweat slickening his palms. He could feel Carruthers's gaze upon him.

"There's a bench over there that you might feel comfortable sitting on." Once again, Carruthers was being exceedingly careful in his wording. Meredith went over to the bench; then, at Carruthers's suggestion, he dragged it over to the table where the kit lay.

He felt light-headed as he sat down. The bench – which had been carved with the names of generations of Second House lads – was irregular under his bare thighs. The day had grown warm enough that Meredith had changed, that afternoon, back into his apprentice-aged clothing: short trousers and no blazer, only a vest, with his sleeves rolled up. Now Carruthers had Meredith pull up his right sleeve further so that the cloth would be well away from the cut.

"Fletcher's work, I take it." Carruthers placed his hands around Meredith's forearm and gently pressed the skin next to the cut with his fingers.

"Yes, sir. His cane." Meredith was all too aware now of the firmness of Carruthers's grip, and the tenderness of his probing.

"We'll have to hope, then, that he hasn't been sticking his cane into the ground for picket practice recently." He let go of Meredith. "The cut doesn't look deep, but tomorrow morning, when the school physician arrives, you should go straight to the sanatorium and have him check on you. If you wish, that is," Carruthers carefully amended his command.

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"He may want to treat you with tetanus antitoxin. In the meantime" – Carruthers's fingers were suddenly on Meredith's forearm again, squeezing hard – "I'll do what I can."

Meredith held his breath as Carruthers squeezed blood out of the cut, then carefully wiped off the blood with one of the pieces of sterile bandaging that Meredith had cut. "This needs a bit of antiseptic," said Carruthers, straightening up. He leaned over Meredith, reaching for a bottle labelled "Peroxide of Hydrogen."

Meredith forgot to let out his breath. Sitting as he was, his face was only inches now from Carruthers's chest. The strong smell of sweat on Carruthers's body had been replaced, after the sponge bath, with a sweet, salty scent that reminded Meredith of Bay water.

"Hold still," said Carruthers as he pulled back, adding, "if you don't mind." He poured a few drops of the antiseptic onto the wound. It fizzed, biting into the fresh wound. Meredith remained still and silent, as he had done when Carruthers had probed his cut and forced out blood.

He looked up from Carruthers's hands to see that the Head was watching him. "You're a player on the Third House footer team, as I recall?" Carruthers said.

"Yes, sir."

"Ah. That explains it." Carruthers turned his attention back to the cut.

Meredith felt a warm glow cover him then. No further words were needed from Carruthers; the Head did not need to say, "You bear pain well." His sentiments were contained in the simple words, "You're a player."
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Unmarked.

Jul. 22nd, 2013

The True Master (Waterman)


Cover for 'The True Master'



"Ledwin growled, 'I trust the slave is dead. The last thing our landstead needs are perverts wandering about causing trouble.'"

In a society where the rank of master or slave defines every aspect of a person's being, what do you do when you're a master and you envy your slaves?

This question is debated by the men who have gathered for the quarterly meeting of the High Masters of the Dozen Landsteads. It seems an impossible dilemma; in the Dozen Landsteads, one's rank is determined at birth. A master or a slave who wishes to hold a different rank is considered shocking.

The masters sitting in that room, receiving the service of slaves, would be even more shocked if they realized how deeply this question will affect their nation's future. Only one man there could tell them, but he is not yet free to reveal his secret.

This fantasy novella (short novel) of gay love can be read on its own or as the second story in the "Master and Servant" volume of the Waterman series.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

Masters' children played upon the courtyard flagstones, young boys and girls making a hurried and serious consultation with each other over the conditions of the play. The decision was reached: a young boy stepped forward, looked around shyly at the adults who were watching with amusement, and knelt down before one of the girls. The boy gave an uneasy grin as the girl ruffled his hair in a masterly fashion.

"You ought to marry, Celadon."

The young High Master cast his gaze down and shook his head. He had been watching the children until a few minutes before, but now his attention was focussed upon a line of slaves carrying his wardrobe through the narrow, heavily guarded door that led to the winding stairwell of the newly completed tower. Perhaps it was only his imagination that told him the guards were watching, not the slaves, but himself, judging their new High Master with penetrating scrutiny, reading what sort of man he was from his gestures and posture.

Celadon managed to raise his eyes; the very effort exhausted him as much as though he were a weak man trying to lift a heavy stone. To his relief, the expression of the master beside him held nothing but friendly concern.

Celadon shook his head again. "I don't – I don't see why there's a need, Pentheus. I already have an heir."

Pentheus smiled, and his own gaze switched over to the young boy who was continuing to play at being a slave. "Now I will sound as though I'm asking you to strip my youngest son of the honor you have bestowed upon him. That is far from the case – Basil is well suited to inherit your rank, and I was pleased that you recognized that fact. But there are more reasons than children to marry, Celadon. You might find it easier to bear the burden of your rank if you had a companion to provide comfort to you in your leisure hours."

Celadon found that his gaze had dropped again. Cursing himself inwardly, he forced his eyes up and said, "I'm not sure— That is, I don't think my inclinations take me that way."

He kept his eyes carefully fixed upon Pentheus as he said this, but the lesser master's gaze drifted over to the male slaves, who were continuing to carry Celadon's many formal gowns into his new residence.

"Ah," Pentheus said. "Well, I can't say I'm happy about that, but at least I can be sure you would never force a slave. So the rumors I've heard are true? You've taken a bed-slave?"

Celadon gave up the struggle to keep his gaze level with Pentheus's. "I— Yes."

"Then I wish you happiness with him, Celadon; I need worry no longer that your nights will be lonely. Now, about the upcoming quarterly—"

"I don't know!" Celadon knew that his voice sounded desperate, and he tried to modulate its tone. "I haven't decided yet. I'm just not sure .. ."

"Celadon, you have been saying that for the past month. Sooner or later, you must make up your mind about the topics that the High Masters will discuss. You cannot remain silent through yet another quarterly; no true master—"

He stopped abruptly at the approach of a slave. The man knelt at Celadon's feet; without looking up, he murmured, "Master, a messenger has arrived for Master Pentheus."

"Mm." Pentheus eyed the slave, clearly wondering whether he should be the one to chastise the slave for his interruption of the conversation. He looked over at Celadon, but the High Master did not speak, so Pentheus said only, "That will be from Druce's homestead; I asked Sert to keep me informed as to Druce's condition. If you will excuse me, master?"

He gave Celadon a formal bow for the sake of the slave who was continuing to kneel at Celadon's feet. The High Master opened his mouth, then closed it again, uncertain how to respond. This caused Pentheus to give Celadon another sharp look, but the lesser master turned away and began walking through the courtyard toward the gate, where the slave-messenger from Druce's homestead was being held in waiting by the guards.

Celadon turned back to look at the slaves. They had finished bringing the wardrobe into the tower and were now carrying a series of chairs; Celadon saw that one of the chairs was high-backed and bore the symbol of the golden sunburst. He closed his eyes.

A soft cough beside him startled him into consciousness again. He had forgotten the slave who had brought the news about the messenger; the man had evidently given up hope that Celadon would order him to rise, and had risen to his feet on his own initiative. Celadon cleared his throat and said, "Thank you. You may return to your duties."

To his surprise, the slave did not move. He was wearing the heavy tunic of an outdoor slave, and it occurred to Celadon that the man might be lingering in the courtyard in order to avoid returning to the blustery winds outside the castle walls. Celadon knew that he ought to reprimand the slave for this, but he could not seem to find the words.

Of course, he never could; that was the problem. Feeling his chest grow tight, he swung his gaze away from the slave, dealing with that trouble as he had dealt with all troubles since he took the High Mastership, by remaining silent. He could feel next to his right hand the hard sheath of his dagger, and he had a sudden wild impulse to throw the dagger onto the ground and see how everyone reacted. His gaze travelled over to Pentheus, who was deep in conversation with the slave-messenger kneeling before him. Nearby, Pentheus's son bounded up from his knees and began to argue with the girl who had been mastering him.

"Summon me to your presence."

For a moment the words did not register, so unexpected were they. Then Celadon swung round awkwardly and found that the outdoor slave was still standing beside him. His gaze was level upon the High Master.

"What?" said Celadon, convinced that this new nightmare must be of his imagination.

"Summon me to your presence." The slave's words were soft, but there was a hardness at their core that stunned Celadon momentarily. He stared at the slave open-mouthed, trying to put his whirling mind to rights.
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): The True Master.

Jul. 10th, 2013

Review: Waterman + Website news: New series page, tag, and e-bookstores

Review: Waterman

"The hero's parents are hilariously daffy and heartbreakingly heroic and heartbreakingly wrong – just like parents always are, only larger than life and twice as true. . . . Plus the story absolutely nails all kinds of abolition-related power dynamics which almost never get into slave fiction because they're so subtle and awkward – and here they're not just acknowledged, they're hot. So, in summary, the emotions and ethics and world-building are rich, deeply satisfying and sexy." —Amazon (Yingtai/Justine) on The Abolitionist (Waterman).
 

New series page: "Just the Facts, Ma'am"

I now have a page devoted to my current and upcoming nonfiction e-books: Just the Facts, Ma'am.

(If you're one of my fiction readers, don't worry; I still have plenty of fiction e-books lined up to publish.)
 

New tag: "New Adult"

I've been struggling for a while now with the problem of how to easily describe my numerous coming-of-age stories that are aimed at readers of adult literature. I finally found the term I was searching for: new adult. I've accordingly added this term to the tags page.
 

New e-bookstores: All Romance eBooks, etc.

I've begun uploading my books at All Romance eBooks and OmniLit. Romance-related titles will appear at both stores.

Kobo is now pairing with independent bookstores in the United States to give them a share of the profits on e-books sold through Kobo's bookstore. Not all of the bookstores on the linked list sell Kobo e-books (some simply sell Kobo e-readers), but if you have a favorite bookstore that you'd like to support, it's worth checking to see whether it's on the list.

The list of international e-bookstores carrying my titles has grown so large that I've divided it by country. I've heard that buying items from U.S. e-bookstores can be a frustrating and expensive experience for some non-U.S. readers, so I hope that this list will provide those readers with a more convenient way to buy my e-books.

Jun. 26th, 2013

The Abolitionist (Waterman)

Cover for 'The Abolitionist'


"The servants were scared stiff of him, and the masters were clearly uncertain what to say to a man who came from such an eccentric House. Nothing was different, nothing had changed. And yet everything had changed since Carr met a young foreigner who showed him not the least bit of respect."

When a foul-mouthed, seditious foreigner turns up at your door, what are the benefits of letting him in? So wonders Carr, a young man living in a bayside nation that is troubled by internal battles. In his world, servants fight against masters, tonging watermen fight against dredging watermen, and landsteads eye one another's oyster grounds with greed. It seems to Carr that the only way in which to keep such warfare from entering his own home is to keep very, very quiet about certain aspects of himself which his family would not be able to accept.

But "trouble" is a word that appears to delight the new visitor. He is ready to stir up danger . . . though he may not be as prepared as he thinks to confront what lies within Carr.

This novel about an unconventional pairing features a special appearance by a character from the Slave Breakers series by Sabrina Deane. The novel can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Master and Servant" volume of Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.


Excerpt

 "Why do they call it Gunners Cove?" his visitor asked.

At that moment, clear as a crack of Bay ice at the end of winter, came the sound of gunfire. In the same instant, the fleet of the House of His Master's Kindness burst round Bentley Point, rushing like Ammippian war arrows through the grey dawn.

"Down!" shouted Carr, envisioning what would come next; for extra measure, he grabbed his visitor and pulled him prone to the deck.

Aware of his responsibilities as the highest-ranked master on the steamer, he raised his torso high enough to see what lay behind him. But no children were on the viewing deck, and all of the masters – heeding the warning of Carr's shout or of the gunfire – had either fled through the doors to the lower decks or were flattening themselves against the deck. Carr turned his head toward the water in time to see, through the railings, an Oyster Navy schooner dash around Bentley Point, hot in pursuit of the skipjacks. The police had evidently not yet noticed the steamboat ahead, for the cannon on the schooner's bow boomed. The cannonball sped across the water and plunged into the river, just ahead of the steamer. The steamer gave out a loud whistle of protest.

The fleet of His Master's Kindness, sensing salvation, sped toward the steamer, the skipjacks' sails full and proud in the breeze. As the fleet passed the bow of the steamer, Carr caught a glimpse of Rowlett, standing in the foremost boat and shouting orders to the captains of the boats behind him. Then the skipjacks were out of sight, hidden behind the squat steamer.

The Oyster Navy sent another rain of rifle bullets in the direction of the fleet. Some of the bullets hit the steamer; women screamed on the lower decks. Then the rifles were silent; the naval police dared not fire at the skipjacks once they were hidden behind a steamer crowded with masters and their families. Already, Carr could hear the masters behind him growling their indignation at the policemen's action.

"You give fucking exciting tours, Carruthers," his visitor said cheerfully as he rose and brushed the dust off his recently bought trousers. "Who's the boys in blue over there? The ones who are looking like the mice got away from the cat?" He pointed at the police schooner, which – in defiance to watermen's tradition – was painted blue to represent the policemen's desire to transform criminals. The schooner had stopped alongside the steamer, no doubt so that the police could check that they had not injured any masters.

"Excuse me," Carr said, his voice more rough than he would have liked. "I need to see whether anyone was hurt on the other decks."
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): The Abolitionist.

New Turn-of-the-Century Toughs map

The map for Waterman, which shows the locations of Carr and Meredith's homes, is also available on the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs page and is linked from the Waterman page.

Map of the Bay in the Dozen Landsteads

Mar. 28th, 2013

Reviews: Waterman, Master/Other, & The Eternal Dungeon

"If you like reading about masters and slaves, you will love this collection. You get caring masters, neglectful masters, abusive masters, devoted slaves defying their masters, despairing slaves being comforted and trained. . . . Also, the hurt/comfort is amazing, I cried over this book. The heroes go through such emotional agony that it's hard to believe there can be enough comfort to make it worthwhile – but it is!" —Amazon (Yingtai/Justine) on Waterman: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus of historical fantasy and retrofuture science fiction.

"This book broke my heart. All pieces from my shattered heart were scattered in different directions. Each page cast them away, further and further away from me. When I believed hope was lost, and nothing could be saved, I had a surprise . . ." —Goodreads (Bookwatcher) on Debt Price (Master/Other).

"This is a series that shows enormous promise, with truly fabulous characters, and perfect worldbuilding. (Peterson gave me actual nightmares. That's gotta be a sign of evocative writing. I dreamed all night that I was being prepared for Seeking. It was not restful.)" —Goodreads (Emma) on The Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus of historical fantasy novels.

Sep. 14th, 2012

Waterman covers

For the upcoming editions of Waterman. I'm still working on the cover for "The True Master," but you can see the others.

Feedback is welcome. It's not too late for me to make changes.

Cover for 'Master and Servant'

Not entirely worksafe art )

Mar. 6th, 2011

Spend $2.50. Buy four novels. (Yes, my omnibus e-books are on sale.)

Read an E-book Week: March 6-12, 2011

In honor of Read an E-book Week, my two omnibuses are available for cheap prices at Smashwords, in various e-book formats: Mobipocket/Kindle, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, Palm Doc, and plain text.

Waterman Omnibus. Meredith is from the Eastern Shore of the Bay. Carr is from the Western Shore. . . . This 100,000-word omnibus contains all the current stories in Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.

During the checkout procedure, enter the coupon code RAE50 in order to buy the omnibus for $1.50 (which is 50% off). The offer is good through March 12, 2011.

The Eternal Dungeon Omnibus. A man of deadly impulses, Layle Smith binds himself strictly by his dungeon's code of conduct. The head torturer's efforts to maintain this delicate balance are altered, though, by the introduction into his life of Elsdon Taylor, a vulnerable prisoner who is coming to terms with his own darkness. ¶ This 440,000-word omnibus contains four novels in the Eternal Dungeon historical fantasy series.

During the checkout procedure, enter the coupon code RAE75 in order to buy the four-novel omnibus for $2.50 (which is 75% off). The offer is good through March 12, 2011.

And don't forget that the first story in the Eternal Dungeon series is always available for free at Smashwords:

The Breaking. The prisoner knew that the Eternal Dungeon was a place where suspected criminals were broken by torture, and he was prepared to hold out against any methods used against him – except the method he could not anticipate. . . . "The Breaking" is a sample novella from The Eternal Dungeon, a historical fantasy series set in a land where the psychologists wield whips.

You may also wish to browse through the other e-books available for cheap or free by other authors at Smashwords this week.

Nov. 22nd, 2010

FIC: Master and Servant 3: Unmarked (Waterman) 11/11

"Fair play" is the motto of the Third House at Narrows School, but that motto takes on a different meaning when a lonely member of the Third House is secretly wooed by a young man from a rival House.

"There was a dangerous quietness about Carruthers's voice now."

*Parental supervision is strongly suggested for this story.*

Latest chapter: http://duskpeterson.com/waterman/#unmarked
All of the story as part of an e-book: http://duskpeterson.com/waterman/#watermanomnibus

I've also posted the novel's historical note (at any rate, the portions of the historical note that don't provide spoilers for the first part of the novel), this being the final installment of "Unmarked." I hope to publish the *first* story in the Waterman series next year, "Master and Servant 1: The Abolitionist." The first scene in that story has been posted for a while now.

In the meantime, I'm taking a short break before the holidays. I'll be back at the end of December with my gift holiday story and with a new online serialization.

Nov. 12th, 2010

FIC: Master and Servant 3: Unmarked (Waterman) 10/11

"Fair play" is the motto of the Third House at Narrows School, but that motto takes on a different meaning when a lonely member of the Third House is secretly wooed by a young man from a rival House.

"By good fortune, Rudd didn't kill Meredith after the match."

*Parental supervision is strongly suggested for this story.*

Latest chapter: http://duskpeterson.com/waterman/#unmarked
All of the story as part of an e-book: http://duskpeterson.com/waterman/#watermanomnibus

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