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Jun. 25th, 2017

June 2017 fiction round-up. Theme: Middle East & North Africa


THIS MONTH'S THEME: Middle East & North Africa

A number of my characters come from societies that are partially based on societies in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Koretians and Daxions of the Three Lands series are descended from a desert people who are based loosely upon the Bedouin. (Very loosely. When I started the series at age sixteen, I had a vague sense of the Koretians being connected with desert life; the rest I gradually pieced together as time went on.) Although the people of Koretia and Daxis have lost most of their desert customs over the centuries, their cultures remain strongly based on kinship; in Koretia, this often takes the form of men vowing to be blood brothers. In addition, the traditional Koretian system of justice is based partially on honor codes. By the time that the Three Lands series begins, the Koretian justice system has been tainted by such practices as blood feuds.

An early test cover for an installment of Breached Boundaries:

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Southern Vovimians appear in several parts of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle: Transformation 3: A Prisoner Has Need (The Eternal Dungeon), Sweet Blood 4: Checkmate (The Eternal Dungeon), Whipster (Michael's House), Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison), and Hell's Messenger (Life Prison). Southern Vovim is what we would call a pan-African settlement in the New World, but its original founders were from the Toughs world's equivalent of the Kingdom of Kush in what is now Sudan (and also Egypt, during the century in which Kushites were pharoahs). More can be learned about the Kushites in the Wikipedia article on Meroë. (Again, it took me time to figure out this connection.)

Turning back the Toughs cycle: In ancient times, when these people settled in what would become the southern-most province of Vovim in the New World, they brought with them a tradition of creating textiles, jewelry, and works of gold, which would help to make Vovim the most arts-oriented country of the Midcoast nations. Unfortunately, the southern Vovimians' native tradition of iron-working died out, with the result that neighboring Yclau would later pioneer the Industrial Revolution, rather than Vovim. However, southern Vovimians are one of the two "tribes" that helped to form Vovim, the largest country in the Midcoast nations. Among the Midcoast nations, Vovim is rivalled only by Mip (which Vovim helped to found) for its multicultural splendor.

Cover for Whipster, showing a much later resident of southern Vovim, whose ancestors came from further south in the Old World:

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I'VE SET MY MULTIFORMAT E-BOOKS FREE

Enjoy and enjoy. My e-books at other bookstores are available free too, except at Amazon, where they're 99c.
 

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NOW AVAILABLE FREE IN MULTIFORMAT: 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.

Torn between affection toward his traditional-minded father and worship of his peace-loving, heretical priest, Adrian finds himself caught between two incompatible visions of his duty to the gods. Then the Jackal God sends Adrian a message that will disrupt his world and send him fleeing to a new and perilous life.

This novel on a young man's encounters with soldiers and spies can be read on its own or as part of The Three Lands, a diverse fantasy series on friendship, romantic friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Law Links (The Three Lands).
 

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NEW ONLINE FICTION: The Eternal Dungeon, The Three Lands, and Life Prison

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

Ma'am (The Eternal Dungeon). The guards who serve under her are mocking her. In other words, it's an ordinary workday.

Wildfire (The Three Lands). He was a loyal servant of the god. But even loyal servants have their limits.

Shifts (The Eternal Dungeon). Midwinter's god is as cold as cruelty and as warm as a loving heart.

Adversaries (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #1). When an endangered slave visits an imprisoned spy, she discovers that she has more options in life than she had thought.

Open-Soul Surgery (The Eternal Dungeon). He expected death. What arrived was worse.

Emancipation (Life Prison). Civil war is tearing apart the land. Again. . . . "Emancipation" is loosely inspired by events at a border-state manor during and after the American Civil War. This is a special Juneteenth holiday gift story for my readers.


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REISSUED ONLINE FICTION: Leather in Lawnville, The Eternal Dungeon, Young Toughs, The Three Lands, and Life Prison

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

Leatherdar (Leather in Lawnville). The narrator goes on the hunt at a college ballroom dance.

Prison Food and Fondness (The Eternal Dungeon). "All she needed to gather were the ingredients for the meal. This she tried to explain on one summer morning, standing by the outer dungeon's exit while confronting two guards who had their daggers pointed at her."

Far Enough Away (Young Toughs). He knew he wasn't normal. Now he must save others who have been left behind.

Pinned (Leather in Lawnville). A rude top and an interfering family member prove to be an explosive combination at the Eagle bar.

In Hot Water (The Eternal Dungeon). They are two of the most talented prison-workers in the world. It's a pity their skills don't extend to dishwashing.

On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon). A bloody knife from a crime scene becomes a mystery to be solved and a foreshadow of trouble to come.

The Whipping Post (The Eternal Dungeon). Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

Bonds (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood #1). A prisoner meeting his fate. A torturer meeting his demons. And between them, a man whose bonds are on the point of shattering.

Green Ruin (The Eternal Dungeon). Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix.

New-Fashioned (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Searching (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood #2). Walking into a trap may be the only way to create one.

Bard of Pain (The Three Lands). In the battle-weary lands of the Great Peninsula, only one fate is worse than being taken prisoner by the Lieutenant: being taken prisoner if you are the Lieutenant. (Also available in free Braille and DAISY editions).

Split (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood #3). It was his duty to transform the prisoner's soul. But which one?

In the Silence (Life Prison). He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known. But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger . . . and the hope of something more.


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CURRENT ONLINE SERIALIZATIONS: Leather in Lawnville, The Eternal Dungeon, Young Toughs, and The Three Lands

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

Spy Hill (Commando). On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

Survival School (Young Toughs). How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?

Checkmate (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood #4). The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield.

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.



*Certificate: 2016 Rainbow Awards. This certificies that Dusk Peterson has been awarded Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality for Risk (Dark Light #2).

RISK IS A WINNER IN THE RAINBOW AWARDS 2016

For the fifth time, the Rainbow Awards has honored one of my e-books. Risk (Dark Light) received the following honors:
 

  • 3rd Place, Best LGBT Book.
  • Winner, Best LGBT Alternative Universe/Reality.
  • Finalist.
  • Honorable Mention.


You can read the judges' comments (with an understandable but fairly serious couple of errors in the first sentence).

In addition, you can browse through a list of my e-books that were previously honored in the Rainbow Awards on my Awards page.
 

NEW STORY TAGS

I've updated the story tags page with additional stories and with the following new or expanded tags:
 

  • adventure, suspense, and thrillers (which is basically what I write, yeah).
  • fantasy.
  • historical fantasy.
  • 1870s.
  • Middle Ages.
  • Renaissance.
  • physically disabled characters.
  • chauffeurs.
  • craftsfolk.
  • diplomats and peacemakers (expanded tag).
  • monolatrism (see definition).
  • pluriform monotheism (see definition).
  • arsonists.
  • assailants.
  • assassins, murderers, and terrorists (expanded tag).
  • traitors.
  • war criminals and aggressive seizure of foreign lands (expanded tag).
  • soldiers and former soldiers (expanded tag).
  • father & daughter.


Just do a Find search on the story tags page to find these tags.
 

OTHER ADDITIONS TO THE WEBSITE

I changed my mind; I've brought back my young adult site.

At duskpeterson.com, I've added a page listing interviews with me.
 

Words per year

2016 WORD COUNTS

I've posted my word counts for 2016. I issued fifteen new stories last year, which is a number I'm pleased by. Unfortunately, my wordage continues to be so-so: 114,186 last year, which is no better than it has been every year from 2010 onwards. Granted that I had a legitimate excuse last year (I was spending a lot of time getting ready to launch my new business), but still, I could be doing a lot better than this. Fortunately, my 2017 wordage is looking good so far.

For the first time in seven years, I've also updated the wordage charts. I use these charts to help me see work patterns I might otherwise miss noticing. One chart reveals what I never would have guessed: My words per hour keep going up.

The last chart on that page, which shows how many stories I've published and reissued each year (with the e-books mainly showing up in red) . . . Do I get some sort of award for workaholism?
 

2017 PLANS

First, a bit of crowing, for I hit a personal milestone last year, without noticing it: I've issued over one hundred stories!

I began the year by posting a lot of long works of online fiction rapidly, but because of the demands of my new day job, I've had to switch over to a chapter-a-week serialization schedule. The good news is that I'm serializing more than one story at a time.

Here's my main serialization schedule for this year. The serializations run parallel with one another, though they don't all start on the same day (as you'll already have noted, if you've been following the updates at my blog).
 


Because I've set my multiformat e-books free, you can read ahead in older stories if you like, but this will give folks who don't know about my e-books a chance to read my stories gradually. And if you like book-club-style read-alongs, you can join fellow readers in reading and discussing each chapter as it's posted.

Breached Boundaries (The Three Lands) and The Awakening (Dungeon Guards) are at the editing stage. However, those two volumes collectively add up to 320,000 words, so it will take a while to finish editing them. (I'd originally hoped to issue Breached Boundaries at a rate of one installment per month, while the later installments were being edited, which was why I posted the first installment in January. But once I finished writing the remaining sections this March, it became clear that all the sections of Breached Boundaries would need to be edited at the same time, for continuity reasons.)

A reminder that, if you want to know at any point where I am in getting a new story issued, you can check the bottom of the series pages at duskpeterson.com, where I place my progress reports. My weekly updates (including announcements not made at the online archives where I post stories) are available through my blog and my e-mail list.
 


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Thank you. Thank you for this story, for these characters, the stealing me away from a cold Winter day and giving me a hot prison to feel like home, a little cell of my own to feel safe and Layle and Elsdon to restore my faith in humanity." —Elaine White / Divine Magazine on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).
 


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FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Blood Vow (The Three Lands)

"I had come to tell him, in the cheerful manner boys have, that our world was about to be destroyed."

He has taken a blood vow to the Jackal God to bring freedom to his land by killing Koretia's greatest enemy. But what will he do when the enemy becomes his friend?

Thrust into exile and pain, young Andrew has no choice but to accept the friendship of the very person he had vowed to kill. When he returns with his friend to his homeland fifteen years later, though, he finds himself in a land of conflicting loyalties . . . where a vengeful god awaits him.

This novel on a young man's quest for true manhood can be read on its own or as part of The Three Lands, a fantasy series on friendship, romantic friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace. The series is inspired by conflicts between nations during the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Blood Vow (The Three Lands).


Excerpt

Peter turned away and carefully undid the sorting I had just made of his clothes. "I fear that I have led both of us into a pitch-black cave, without bothering to bring a light with me," he said. "Let us move on to another subject. How did you spend your day? Aside from listening to insults from Lord Carle, I mean."

"I spent my day doing absolutely nothing."

Peter continued to look down at the items he was aimlessly moving from one pile to another, but a smile crept up the side of his face. "That sounds glorious. Where did you do this nothing?"

I came over beside him and took a belt out of his hands. "In the council library, to begin with; hence my embarrassing appearance at your closed meeting. I must apologize to Lord Dean tonight before he takes vengeance on the porter."

"I wouldn't bother." Peter left the sorting to my hands and sat down on the bed near me, leaning back against the wall. "I was witness to the porter's own apology, which was the most eloquent piece of poetry I've heard since I had a Daxion bard up on charges of stealing a bit of butter from the palace pantry."

"You put a bard on trial for stealing butter?"

"It's hard to believe, but the law classifies that as a major crime. Any use of the Chara's goods or money for forbidden purposes is considered a crime of disobedience – though you'll be relieved to hear that I let the bard go free. As for the porter, he has nothing to worry about; Lord Dean is fully occupied with planning this trip. Where did you go after you left the meeting?"

"Out to do more nothing. I did it under a certain tree in the garden."

Peter smiled and pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his interlocked hands around them as he leaned further back. "I'm glad that you found a good use for my birthday present. You've no idea the trouble I had in convincing the gardener that Emor would not crumble if he planted a Koretian tree in the palace grounds."

"Is it a Koretian tree? I didn't know."

"It turned out to be less expensive to bring a sapling over the black border mountains than to buy one of Emor's few remaining trees. I hope you won't stop using it, now that you know its barbaric origin."

I didn't bother to reply, but tossed a tunic at Peter. Laughing, he prevented it from landing in his face. "If you've spent an entire afternoon doing nothing, then you must have had a particularly terrible morning. I hope that our talk in the Map Room wasn't what drove you to seek pleasure ahead of duty."

I shook my head and knelt down to pull Peter's travel pack from beneath his bed. I knew that it was there only because I had cleaned the floor around it during my time as his slave. Over ten years had passed since it was last put to use.

As I stood up, I saw that Peter was still watching me expectantly. I said, "Lord Dean saw me in the council library before the meeting. We had a talk on marriage."

"Ah." Peter let the word drop like a heavy pebble into water. When the ripples were beginning to fade, he added, "Well, you needn't pass on to me what he said. I'm sure it's the same that was said to me at the meeting. That was what the council spent most of its time discussing: my ill-considered decision to visit a dangerous land when I have no heir. Fortunately, the lords did not insist that I beget an heir tonight, before leaving Emor."

I began to fold the tunics in the tidy manner which had never come naturally to me, but which pleased Peter. After a while, Peter said, "It seems a curious topic for Lord Dean to discuss with you. Did he say why he chose you as the messenger of his views?"

I noticed that his voice had taken on a note of quiet authority, but I ignored this and said simply, "He has asked me to mediate for him in the past."

"That isn't what I asked." He waited. When I did not reply, he said, "Andrew."

I continued to stare down at the tunics, but my hands were checked in their motions. Peter said, "Andrew, it is my duty as Chara to know what methods my council lords are using to try to influence me. Do not make me have to command you in this matter."

I stared at the items I was packing and took a moment to still my heart before saying, in the neutral voice that the Chara's clerk adopted when reporting the words of a witness, "Lord Dean said I would be able to demonstrate clearly to you the importance of fathering an heir. He also said he was sure that, like any other man, I understood the desire to raise a family."

I did not look up at Peter, but I heard him slowly let out his breath, as though he himself had taken the blow. "May he die a Slave's Death," he said. "He actually told you that?"

I did not reply. His voice dangerously low, Peter added, "High Lord or not, he can be summoned on a charge of insulting a free-man. I would request such a charge if you wished."

"No." I reached over and picked up the dagger without thought, and then placed it hastily in the pack before reaching for the tunics from the chest. Finally I said, "He probably just forgot."

"Lord Dean never forgets."

The bitterness in Peter's voice made me look up. Peter was staring into the distance as though peering at an invisible scene. "When I was four years old," he said, "Lord Dean took me to see some kinsmen of his in his hometown of Busedge. It was the first time I'd ever left the palace, and it was one of the happiest periods of my life. The High Lord let me have my way in everything; he wasn't strict with me the way my father always was. Toward the end of the visit, I confided to Lord Dean that I had once tried on the Pendant of Judgment to see what it felt like. Lord Dean promised to keep my secret – and he did, for many years. Then, one day about a year before my father died, I was talking with my father and Lord Dean – you may remember, for it was on the night when we first spoke. Suddenly, to gain a trivial point in an argument with my father, Lord Dean mentioned what I'd done. I've never forgotten the look my father gave me, and I've never trusted Lord Dean since then."

He pulled his gaze away from the past, reached to his tunic, and unclasped the emblem brooch in order to toss it to me. "You'd better pack this now. . . . It was perhaps unwise of Lord Dean to reveal his true nature so clearly to the Chara To Be. These days, if I were about to be cut down in battle and needed the help of either Lord Carle when he was being his most brutal or Lord Dean when he was being his most amiable, Lord Carle is the one I'd turn to."

"It's not a choice I'd want to make," I said, wrapping the brooch carefully in a face-cloth before packing it. "At any rate, Lord Dean does have a point in what he said to me."

"Lord Dean's points are like dagger points; they can only kill. Listen to me." Peter pulled himself forward so that he was kneeling on the bed close to me. "If I ever need advice on who to marry, it is you I will go to, not a man like Lord Dean. You know me better than anyone, better than even my father knew me, and nothing of what you are to the world changes what you are to me."

I said nothing, did not even look his way, but let my smile be my reply. . . .
 

Available as a free multiformat e-book or as a 99c Kindle e-book: Blood Vow (The Three Lands).

Aug. 29th, 2016

Big announcement! Plus e-books, free fiction, and other news | #freeread #originalfiction #sff

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free.
 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

From this point forth, all of my new stories will be posted at Archive of Our Own as free fiction. You can read the stories online or download the stories as free e-books (in html, epub, mobi, or pdf formats) by clicking on the "Download" button toward the top of the story's page.

I'll also be posting all of my backlist at Archive of Our Own, starting with the stories that haven't yet been bundled into volumes.

I will continue to periodically bundle my online fiction by series volume or theme and offer such e-books for sale at online bookstores. However, I'm lowering the price of my commercial e-books, and I won't remove the free fiction when I publish the commercial e-books.

To those of you who have bought my e-books in the past and are now cursing yourself for not awaiting the free or cheaper versions of my stories . . . Your money has been paying my food bills. I greatly thank you.

I have eighty stories in my backlist that aren't yet free fiction. I have several hundred thousand words' worth of new stories at the editing/layout stage. I'm starting a new job. It's going to take me a while to get all my backlist posted, folks. In the meantime, my website will reflect the transitional nature of this change.

More announcements are available below, after my story announcements.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Risk (Dark Light)

Now available in multiformat. Click on the cover for more information.

Risk



REISSUED E-BOOKS: The Eternal Dungeon

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information. The expanded edition of the Eternal Dungeon omnibus now includes the story "Balladeer" and is available in wide distribution (including Amazon Kindle).

On GuardThe Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus



NEW FREE FICTION: Young Toughs, The Three Lands, & The Eternal Dungeon

Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurbs and story.
 

New Day (Young Toughs). Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?

Guise (The Three Lands). Daxis is the land of bards and of truths too painful to be faced.

Sweeping Day (Young Toughs). "When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."

Tax the Dungeon (The Eternal Dungeon). Nothing in life is certain but love, death, and taxes. But what if all three should converge?


REISSUED FREE FICTION: Darkling Plain & Master/Other

These stories have been unlocked again and moved to new series. Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurb and story.
 

Revenge (Darkling Plain). Revenge is sweet. . . unless you are haunted by dark memories of your own misdeeds.

Cold Stars (Master/Other). The prince was told that he must find himself. But what if finding oneself means losing one's love?


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Rebirth doesn't pull its punches. It is quite intense and at times, it is pretty hard to read. The main themes explored are good and evil, guilt and redemption, life and death. . . . Rebirth is about two men, both very damaged by their pasts, and both of whom want nothing more than to be reborn into men that are each worthy of the other." —My Fiction Nook on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other)

An Arthurian tale. A simple Greek lesson reaches deep when a tutor seeks to teach a prince what can happen when love and duty clash.

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


Excerpt

I had already reached the summer room before I remembered; then I cursed myself. For four years, against all odds, I had maintained good relations with Belin, and one of the reasons I had managed to do so was because I had always shown him beforehand any texts I would assign to the prince. Belin had forbidden me to use only a handful of the texts I had shown him over the years; it took me little time to realize that this would have been one of the few.

I hesitated a moment, wondering what would be the best course to take now; then I molded my heart into courage and went searching for the priest, to make my confession.

I found him, appropriately, in the house's chapel. It had been a shrine to Mithras in the old days; Belin was not above desecrating other men's sacred places. To be fair to him, he probably thought he was bringing the shrine into the use that its original creators would have wanted, had they been so fortunate as to know of the Anointed One. Unlike some priests I had met over the years, Belin was refreshingly free of talk about pagan demons and their devillish followers; instead, he spoke of the fulfillment and summation of all good things in the Anointed One.

He was innocent of the fact that anyone might be offended upon being told that they adhered to a childish faith. I had not disillusioned him, partly because he was a good man in his own way, but mainly because he and his clergy friends were of too much importance. I had been in Ravenna when Rome's fourteen-year-old emperor was deposed there, partly because the Bishop of Salona denounced him.

Belin was not praying; he was reading from a bound wax tablet. At first I thought it was the letter from the King, but as I came closer I saw that the tablet's seal was not red but golden.

He looked up as I stopped next to him, and I said, "Bishop Dubricius has written to you?"

He nodded; his face was shining with joy. "He has asked me to send him the treatise I told him of, on the Blessed Paul's denunciation of pederasty."

I sat down on the bench beside him. The chapel was small, having originally been part of the larger room beside it, and then walled off when some earlier priest had decided that this mixing of sacred and secular was unwise. A tortured man hung from the wall – Belin was fashionable in his artistic tastes, and he preferred this design over the bare crosses that hung in most churches and chapels that I had seen. I slid my gaze away from the atrocity – after all, I reminded myself, my own ancestors had not been adverse to shedding blood for sacred purposes, though they had not gone so far as to revel in the agonizing death of a god. The altar below the cross was more to my taste, having been consecrated originally to an older god, as could be seen from the fact that the lettering of dedication had been hacked away.

The chapel was otherwise beautiful, filled with candles and incense and spring flowers. I breathed in the spice of the incense – I recognized it as one of the spices I had brought as a gift from the old Empire four years before – and tried to think what approach I should take in my confession. It did not appear that this was the best time for raising such a topic.

Belin, thankfully oblivious to my thoughts, said, "He says that he would like to use the treatise to help him compose a homily on the subject."

"Indeed?" I said. "That is a great honor."

Belin nodded, continuing to smile. "That such a great and influential man should value my thoughts on the subject is humbling to me. I hope that he will not be disappointed by what I have to offer. All that I have done is suggest some scriptural support for the Holy Church's condemnation of pederasty."

Belin was always the most polite of men; he never used words such as "sodomy" in the presence of an unbeliever. I said, "Surely that is not a matter that is under debate among the Anointed One's followers?"

The priest shook his head, his smile fading. "You would be surprised what wicked arguments men will make in the name of God. The bishop has among his flock some men and youth who, having lapsed into this sin, refuse to show proper contrition, but instead argue that the Blessed Paul did not condemn pederasty but some other sin instead. They quote the Blessed Hippolytus, who said that the Blessed Paul was speaking of those who take part in the orgiastic rites of the mother goddess. But I believe this is a misinterpretation of the letter to the Romans, and that the true interpretation of the passage can be found by examining the letters' later use of the words arsenokoites and malakos . . ."

He continued on for some time in this vein, with me pretending to show great interest – and indeed, I can always stay attentive to a good discussion of translation problems, however trivial the text may be. When Belin reached the point where he was preparing to describe the use of malakos in Homer to refer to Achilles' "soft bed," I interrupted him and said, "But does your holy man Paul say why he is opposed to pederasty?"

"That is clear from the words he uses," Belin replied promptly. "A malakos is a soft man, an effeminate man, one who has allowed himself to be used for the sexual pleasure of another man, as a woman should properly be used. 'Men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another . . .'"

This was tiresome; I had heard this argument made by too many would-be philosophers over their drinks. "I can see that might be true of men," I said mildly, "but we are not talking about men, we are talking about youths. Surely at that time of life, the role of a young man is to follow, not lead, and it would be as improper for him to serve as master over his lover as it would be for a woman to serve as master in a marriage."

Too late, I remembered that it is never wise to try to argue philosophy with followers of the Anointed One; they always end up appealing to their holy book as certain proof that their god ordained such-and-such an action. Belin, who had turned concerned eyes toward me, said, "Good Arnobius speaks of how the King of Pessinus sought to withdraw his son from so disgraceful an intimacy, but spurned on by the frenzied madness of his lover, the youth mutilated himself—"

I stood up hastily, my head swimming from the sudden rise. For a moment, I thought that I was on the edge of a vision, but then I saw before me only the priest, staring up at me with the benevolent concern of a holy man who has failed to assist a soul that has strayed from his god's ways.

"I am out of my depth in these matters, I fear," I said with a smile. "I would appreciate it if you would lend me a copy of your treatise so that I may learn more on this subject. For now, though, I must return to my pupil."

Belin nodded, satisfied with this excuse, and turned his attention back to the tablet. I left him in the chapel with the flickering candles and made my way hurriedly down the corridor as the bells began to chime for dinner. No, not a good time for a confession, I thought. My best course of action would be to take the scroll back and return it to its hiding place.

I could only hope that the prince had not read far.
 

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


NEW SERIES: Dungeon Guards

The Eternal Dungeon is soon to wrap up after five volumes and fourteen years' worth of stories. (I do plan to write an additional postlude novel.) However, don't worry. Although my main protagonists' stories are wrapping up, the Eternal Dungeon is a big place, and some of the other residents there have been clamoring for their own series.

Dungeon Guards is my response to their demands. That series begins with The Shining Ones, which I originally published as a side novella in the Eternal Dungeon series, but which is now story #1 in Dungeon Guards. The rest of the first volume of Dungeon Guards is already written (my Muse has had a good summer), so you'll be seeing those stories too, probably next year.
 

OLD SERIES: Young Spies & Young Toughs

Because I'll be having less bookstore presence in the future, I've taken down my YA site and am folding the current volume of Young Spies (Law Links, which started off as a Three Lands volume) back into The Three Lands. The Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series Young Toughs will remain independent, but it will serve as a companion series to Waterman, featuring minor characters from Waterman in their own series. (If you've been paying attention, you already know that this is what Young Toughs has consisted of so far.)
 

PROGRESS REPORTS

I've moved my progress reports to the bottom of each series page, for readers' easier reference: The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and The Three Lands. (The Three Lands has an especially long "in progress" list. Man, was I ambitious in the 1990s.) I haven't included progress reports for the archived series, because who knows when I'll get around to updating any of them; but I can say that I plan to repost all the completed stories from Loren's Lashes and Leather in Lawnville. Also, Wizard of the Sun is coming soon.
 

OTHER WEBSITE CHANGES

I've revised two FAQ: Which accessible books are available for the disabled? and I'm visually impaired. What else should I know about this website?

The copyright and FAQ pages have been changed to reflect my return to concentrating on free fiction.

About the Author has been updated with information on my preferred pronouns (they/their) – and wow, how amazing it is to live in an era when people actually ask for that information.

The Older Writings section of my home page has been expanded to list fiction series titles and nonfiction site titles.
 

NEWS FOR E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION READERS

Scribd is carrying my e-books again, and 24symbols has been carrying them for a while, so I've added those links to the entries for my e-books that are in wide distribution.

I'd talked on my blog last spring about placing some of my stories in Kindle Unlimited. Instead I'm posting all my stories online! Which means I can't put them in Kindle Unlimited, since Amazon requires exclusivity of KU titles, darn it. I apologize to those of you who prefer to download stories from the Kindle store.
 

E-BOOK PRICES LOWERED

As mentioned above, I'm lowering my e-book prices. Omnibuses are now $9.99, novels/volumes are $2.99, and short fiction is 99c.
 

INTERVIEWS

I had a couple of interviews last spring that are already a bit outdated, in terms of my e-book plans, but a lot of what I said remains relevant.

MM Book Escape interviewed me. Much of the interview is about The Eternal Dungeon. You can read about the interviewer, KathyMac.

J. Scott Coatsworth also interviewed me. The interview centers on my lgbtq speculative fiction. In addition to being an author of lgbtq speculative fiction himself, Mr. Coatsworth is the energetic founder of the Queer Sci Fi community for readers and writers of lgbtq speculative fiction. I highly recommend Queer Sci Fi's Facebook group; it's lively with interesting conversations.

Big announcement! Plus e-books, free fiction, and other news | #freeread #originalfiction #sff

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free.
 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

From this point forth, all of my new stories will be posted at Archive of Our Own as free fiction. You can read the stories online or download the stories as free e-books (in html, epub, mobi, or pdf formats) by clicking on the "Download" button toward the top of the story's page.

I'll also be posting all of my backlist at Archive of Our Own, starting with the stories that haven't yet been bundled into volumes.

I will continue to periodically bundle my online fiction by series volume or theme and offer such e-books for sale at online bookstores. However, I'm lowering the price of my commercial e-books, and I won't remove the free fiction when I publish the commercial e-books.

To those of you who have bought my e-books in the past and are now cursing yourself for not awaiting the free or cheaper versions of my stories .. . Your money has been paying my food bills. I greatly thank you.

I have eighty stories in my backlist that aren't yet free fiction. I have several hundred thousand words' worth of new stories at the editing/layout stage. I'm starting a new job. It's going to take me a while to get all my backlist posted, folks. In the meantime, my website will reflect the transitional nature of this change.

More announcements are available below, after my story announcements.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Risk (Dark Light)

Now available in multiformat. Click on the cover for more information.

Risk



REISSUED E-BOOKS: The Eternal Dungeon

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information. The expanded edition of the Eternal Dungeon omnibus now includes the story "Balladeer" and is available in wide distribution (including Amazon Kindle).

On GuardThe Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus



NEW FREE FICTION: Young Toughs, The Three Lands, & The Eternal Dungeon

Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurbs and story.
 

New Day (Young Toughs). Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?

Guise (The Three Lands). Daxis is the land of bards and of truths too painful to be faced.

Sweeping Day (Young Toughs). "When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."

Tax the Dungeon (The Eternal Dungeon). Nothing in life is certain but love, death, and taxes. But what if all three should converge?


REISSUED FREE FICTION: Darkling Plain & Master/Other

These stories have been unlocked again and moved to new series. Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurb and story.
 

Revenge (Darkling Plain). Revenge is sweet. . . unless you are haunted by dark memories of your own misdeeds.

Cold Stars (Master/Other). The prince was told that he must find himself. But what if finding oneself means losing one's love?


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Rebirth doesn't pull its punches. It is quite intense and at times, it is pretty hard to read. The main themes explored are good and evil, guilt and redemption, life and death. . . . Rebirth is about two men, both very damaged by their pasts, and both of whom want nothing more than to be reborn into men that are each worthy of the other." —My Fiction Nook on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other)

An Arthurian tale. A simple Greek lesson reaches deep when a tutor seeks to teach a prince what can happen when love and duty clash.

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


Excerpt

I had already reached the summer room before I remembered; then I cursed myself. For four years, against all odds, I had maintained good relations with Belin, and one of the reasons I had managed to do so was because I had always shown him beforehand any texts I would assign to the prince. Belin had forbidden me to use only a handful of the texts I had shown him over the years; it took me little time to realize that this would have been one of the few.

I hesitated a moment, wondering what would be the best course to take now; then I molded my heart into courage and went searching for the priest, to make my confession.

I found him, appropriately, in the house's chapel. It had been a shrine to Mithras in the old days; Belin was not above desecrating other men's sacred places. To be fair to him, he probably thought he was bringing the shrine into the use that its original creators would have wanted, had they been so fortunate as to know of the Anointed One. Unlike some priests I had met over the years, Belin was refreshingly free of talk about pagan demons and their devillish followers; instead, he spoke of the fulfillment and summation of all good things in the Anointed One.

He was innocent of the fact that anyone might be offended upon being told that they adhered to a childish faith. I had not disillusioned him, partly because he was a good man in his own way, but mainly because he and his clergy friends were of too much importance. I had been in Ravenna when Rome's fourteen-year-old emperor was deposed there, partly because the Bishop of Salona denounced him.

Belin was not praying; he was reading from a bound wax tablet. At first I thought it was the letter from the King, but as I came closer I saw that the tablet's seal was not red but golden.

He looked up as I stopped next to him, and I said, "Bishop Dubricius has written to you?"

He nodded; his face was shining with joy. "He has asked me to send him the treatise I told him of, on the Blessed Paul's denunciation of pederasty."

I sat down on the bench beside him. The chapel was small, having originally been part of the larger room beside it, and then walled off when some earlier priest had decided that this mixing of sacred and secular was unwise. A tortured man hung from the wall – Belin was fashionable in his artistic tastes, and he preferred this design over the bare crosses that hung in most churches and chapels that I had seen. I slid my gaze away from the atrocity – after all, I reminded myself, my own ancestors had not been adverse to shedding blood for sacred purposes, though they had not gone so far as to revel in the agonizing death of a god. The altar below the cross was more to my taste, having been consecrated originally to an older god, as could be seen from the fact that the lettering of dedication had been hacked away.

The chapel was otherwise beautiful, filled with candles and incense and spring flowers. I breathed in the spice of the incense – I recognized it as one of the spices I had brought as a gift from the old Empire four years before – and tried to think what approach I should take in my confession. It did not appear that this was the best time for raising such a topic.

Belin, thankfully oblivious to my thoughts, said, "He says that he would like to use the treatise to help him compose a homily on the subject."

"Indeed?" I said. "That is a great honor."

Belin nodded, continuing to smile. "That such a great and influential man should value my thoughts on the subject is humbling to me. I hope that he will not be disappointed by what I have to offer. All that I have done is suggest some scriptural support for the Holy Church's condemnation of pederasty."

Belin was always the most polite of men; he never used words such as "sodomy" in the presence of an unbeliever. I said, "Surely that is not a matter that is under debate among the Anointed One's followers?"

The priest shook his head, his smile fading. "You would be surprised what wicked arguments men will make in the name of God. The bishop has among his flock some men and youth who, having lapsed into this sin, refuse to show proper contrition, but instead argue that the Blessed Paul did not condemn pederasty but some other sin instead. They quote the Blessed Hippolytus, who said that the Blessed Paul was speaking of those who take part in the orgiastic rites of the mother goddess. But I believe this is a misinterpretation of the letter to the Romans, and that the true interpretation of the passage can be found by examining the letters' later use of the words arsenokoites and malakos . . ."

He continued on for some time in this vein, with me pretending to show great interest – and indeed, I can always stay attentive to a good discussion of translation problems, however trivial the text may be. When Belin reached the point where he was preparing to describe the use of malakos in Homer to refer to Achilles' "soft bed," I interrupted him and said, "But does your holy man Paul say why he is opposed to pederasty?"

"That is clear from the words he uses," Belin replied promptly. "A malakos is a soft man, an effeminate man, one who has allowed himself to be used for the sexual pleasure of another man, as a woman should properly be used. 'Men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another . . .'"

This was tiresome; I had heard this argument made by too many would-be philosophers over their drinks. "I can see that might be true of men," I said mildly, "but we are not talking about men, we are talking about youths. Surely at that time of life, the role of a young man is to follow, not lead, and it would be as improper for him to serve as master over his lover as it would be for a woman to serve as master in a marriage."

Too late, I remembered that it is never wise to try to argue philosophy with followers of the Anointed One; they always end up appealing to their holy book as certain proof that their god ordained such-and-such an action. Belin, who had turned concerned eyes toward me, said, "Good Arnobius speaks of how the King of Pessinus sought to withdraw his son from so disgraceful an intimacy, but spurned on by the frenzied madness of his lover, the youth mutilated himself—"

I stood up hastily, my head swimming from the sudden rise. For a moment, I thought that I was on the edge of a vision, but then I saw before me only the priest, staring up at me with the benevolent concern of a holy man who has failed to assist a soul that has strayed from his god's ways.

"I am out of my depth in these matters, I fear," I said with a smile. "I would appreciate it if you would lend me a copy of your treatise so that I may learn more on this subject. For now, though, I must return to my pupil."

Belin nodded, satisfied with this excuse, and turned his attention back to the tablet. I left him in the chapel with the flickering candles and made my way hurriedly down the corridor as the bells began to chime for dinner. No, not a good time for a confession, I thought. My best course of action would be to take the scroll back and return it to its hiding place.

I could only hope that the prince had not read far.
 

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


NEW SERIES: Dungeon Guards

The Eternal Dungeon is soon to wrap up after five volumes and fourteen years' worth of stories. (I do plan to write an additional postlude novel.) However, don't worry. Although my main protagonists' stories are wrapping up, the Eternal Dungeon is a big place, and some of the other residents there have been clamoring for their own series.

Dungeon Guards is my response to their demands. That series begins with The Shining Ones, which I originally published as a side novella in the Eternal Dungeon series, but which is now story #1 in Dungeon Guards. The rest of the first volume of Dungeon Guards is already written (my Muse has had a good summer), so you'll be seeing those stories too, probably next year.
 

OLD SERIES: Young Spies & Young Toughs

Because I'll be having less bookstore presence in the future, I've taken down my YA site and am folding the current volume of Young Spies (Law Links, which started off as a Three Lands volume) back into The Three Lands. The Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series Young Toughs will remain independent, but it will serve as a companion series to Waterman, featuring minor characters from Waterman in their own series. (If you've been paying attention, you already know that this is what Young Toughs has consisted of so far.)
 

PROGRESS REPORTS

I've moved my progress reports to the bottom of each series page, for readers' easier reference: The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and The Three Lands. (The Three Lands has an especially long "in progress" list. Man, was I ambitious in the 1990s.) I haven't included progress reports for the archived series, because who knows when I'll get around to updating any of them; but I can say that I plan to repost all the completed stories from Loren's Lashes and Leather in Lawnville. Also, Wizard of the Sun is coming soon.
 

OTHER WEBSITE CHANGES

I've revised two FAQ: Which accessible books are available for the disabled? and I'm visually impaired. What else should I know about this website?

The copyright and FAQ pages have been changed to reflect my return to concentrating on free fiction.

About the Author has been updated with information on my preferred pronouns (they/their) – and wow, how amazing it is to live in an era when people actually ask for that information.

The Older Writings section of my home page has been expanded to list fiction series titles and nonfiction site titles.
 

NEWS FOR E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION READERS

Scribd is carrying my e-books again, and 24symbols has been carrying them for a while, so I've added those links to the entries for my e-books that are in wide distribution.

I'd talked on my blog last spring about placing some of my stories in Kindle Unlimited. Instead I'm posting all my stories online! Which means I can't put them in Kindle Unlimited, since Amazon requires exclusivity of KU titles, darn it. I apologize to those of you who prefer to download stories from the Kindle store.
 

E-BOOK PRICES LOWERED

As mentioned above, I'm lowering my e-book prices. Omnibuses are now $9.99, novels/volumes are $2.99, and short fiction is 99c.
 

INTERVIEWS

I had a couple of interviews last spring that are already a bit outdated, in terms of my e-book plans, but a lot of what I said remains relevant.

MM Book Escape interviewed me. Much of the interview is about The Eternal Dungeon. You can read about the interviewer, KathyMac.

J. Scott Coatsworth also interviewed me. The interview centers on my lgbtq speculative fiction. In addition to being an author of lgbtq speculative fiction himself, Mr. Coatsworth is the energetic founder of the Queer Sci Fi community for readers and writers of lgbtq speculative fiction. I highly recommend Queer Sci Fi's Facebook group; it's lively with interesting conversations.

May. 2nd, 2016

May 2016 round-up: e-books, free fiction, and news | #sff #scifi #althistory #epicfantasy #freeread

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq stories and young adult fiction. All e-books are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOKS

Click on the covers for more information.

Far Enough AwayIn Hot Water
 

NEW E-BOOK SERIALIZATION OF A 2011 VOLUME

Click on the cover for more information.

Blood on the Blade
 

REISSUED E-BOOKS

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information.

The BalanceRe-creation
 

NEW COVERS

Click on the covers for more information.

Blood VowLaw of VengeanceLaw Links


REVIEW: The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Everything Dusk Peterson writes is ridiculously deep, rich, and satisfying. The Shining Ones is no exception. It was strikingly beautiful. The prose lingers and swirls." —Inked Rainbow Reviews on The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon).


FREE FICTION: Night Shadow (Darkling Plain)

A reissued story at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Night Shadow. "That will be your death."

A prince who could see beyond his borders but not see the people around him. . . . An enemy who would take any measure to get what he wanted. .. . And now a stranger has brought news to the prince of an approaching danger.

Young though he is, Farsight has inherited a powerful gift from his father that allows him to protect his realm. But when a conniving king in a neighboring country sets his sights on Farsight's mountain of gold, the prince will need help to protect himself against an assassin's knife. Will a newfound companion-in-arms be enough to save Farsight, once the Night Shadow crosses the border?

(Permalink.)


Spy Hill

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Spy Hill (Commando)

"Fairview was the finest friend a man could have, and the finest battle-companion. I dared not risk doing anything that might break our friendship."

On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

Rook and Fairview have worked alongside each other for years, first as officers in the navy, then as officers on a steamship, and finally as colonels in an invading army. Members of a nation where tiny differences of rank are considered all-important, the two men defy convention by treating each other as equals.

But now their life-long bond is about to meet its greatest strain, when they are ordered to seize and defend a hill whose landscape is unknown, in the company of soldiers who may be incompetent or treacherous. Will Rook and Fairview's friendship remain by the end of the battle? Or will their lives take an unexpected detour as they struggle to survive on Spy Hill?

This novella (short novel) of friendship and gay love can be read on its own or as part of Commando, a historical speculative fiction series that imagines what the South African Boer War could have been like if it had been fought on American soil.

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


Excerpt

As we reached the main trench, I bent down on one knee to inspect it. The stone breastwork that Spearman's sappers had built in front of the main trench – and in front of the right-flank and left-flank trenches – reached no more than a hand's span toward the sky.

"We'll be on our bellies if anyone shoots at us," said Major Arundel, Tice's second-in-command, who had come over to see how the other two battalions were doing. "Still, these stones are solid enough. They should do their work in shielding us, since the Mippites will have to shoot at us from far down on the slope. We should be able to kill any attackers before they come near enough to harm us." He glanced over his shoulder. Tice had evidently given up on swaying the General; he had stepped away from the General's rock, disgust on his face. To my dismay, I saw that the General was sitting in his field-chair now, smoking a cigarette and reading a book of poetry.

"I heard a rumor that his father forced him into the army," said Arundel, shaking his head. "He didn't want to be a soldier at all; he wanted to work for peace between Mip and the Dozen Landsteads, through the High Masters' diplomatic office."

"Even so," said Fairview, "he knows how to shoot a gun. I've seen him."

"Oh, yes, sir; he received military training in school," said Arundel. "But knowing how to fire a gun and being willing to do so – that's another matter."

Too many of Fairview's men were listening in on us; it would not do for them to think we had no faith in our General. I said stiffly, "It's not the General's job to shoot guns. His job is to issue orders."

"That's so, sir," said Arundel, saluting me in acknowledgment of my reprimand. "If you'll excuse me, Colonel Fairview, Colonel Rook – I should be getting back to my men."

"Prayers," murmured Fairview as he knelt down beside me to look at the shallow trench. It went down barely a foot before the sappers had hit rock.

"How many prayers do you know?" I tried to smile.

"Oh, plenty." Fairview turned to accept a sip of water from Davey, who was holding Fairview's water bottle. "When we joined the navy . . . do you remember that day?"

I nodded. "I was just remembering. We flipped to see who went first in line."

Fairview laughed. "Did we? I'd forgotten that, after all these years. Well, the night before we joined, I went to my grandmama and asked her what advice she had for me. My grandpapa had been a soldier, and I thought she might have overheard him talking about military matters before he died."

"Indeed?" I relaxed back onto my haunches. Around us, the enlisted men were tidying up after their breakfasts, while their officers checked to see that everyone's rifle was loaded, everyone's extra ammunition was at hand. In the dressing station, doctors and their assistants carried out final preparations. There was no sign yet of the stretcher-bearers and water-carriers, though I knew that Fairview had sent orders for their arrival, after he discovered that the General had neglected this task.

Fairview nodded, pushing back his helmet. The morning sun was growing brighter; an occasional bird flew past us, chirping brightly. Otherwise, all I could hear was the equally bright chatter of our men. "She taught me as many battle prayers as she could recall, and then she said, 'Alec my boy, the most important thing to remember is to put your affairs in good order before you go into battle. It's no use worrying about your affairs, once battle has begun. You need to do beforehand everything that needs to be done. The Fates get awfully annoyed at you if you arrive in afterdeath and tell them you've forgotten to do something. It's like leaving a stove fire going when you depart the house."

Fairview's messenger-lad put his hand over his mouth to smother his titter. I laughed outright. "And have you followed her advice?"

Fairview gave a quirk of a smile. "I suppose not. I've always been poor at tending to needed tasks."

"You're not the one who needs to make that confession." I frowned as I glanced back at the right flank. All seemed in order among my soldiers; the officers, good men, had noticed the brightening light and were urging the enlisted men into position in the trenches. It occurred to me, as I looked around, that Fairview's men were already in position, as were Tice's.

It was true enough, that Fairview and I made decisions jointly. But I had always been a bit slower than him in thinking matters through. The result of this was that, time after time, Fairview had acted first, and I had followed in his wake. It was the only flaw in our otherwise flawless friendship.

I looked over at Fairview again, and was surprised to see that he too was frowning. "Is something on your mind?" I asked. With one hand, I indicated the scene before us.

"The fighting, you mean? No. We've done everything we can to prepare, given our orders. It's just . . . Well, this isn't the place to talk about it, I suppose. Big ears." He looked over at Davey, who had been leaning in to listen. The lad blushed and ducked his head. Fairview laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

"Sir!" It was Branchwater, Fairview's second-in-command. "The mist is lifting!"

Fairview and I rose to our feet. Everywhere, despite the orders to entrench, men were standing up, trying to peer through the pale veil that was lifting as we watched. Whiteness turned to green and brown; I saw spread before us the lower ground that led to Fort Frederick. It was dotted with soldiers, many of them clustered near a creek at the foot of Spy Hill. Some of the soldiers below were already climbing.

My eyes rose further up. To the northeast I could see a magnificent range: the highest mountains I'd spied yet in Mip. And to our left, barely six hundred yards away, was the knoll to the north of Spy Hill. Light glimmered on rifle barrels there.

"Sweet blood," whispered Fairview. It was a prayer.

Then came a boom from Fairview Mountain, and the creek shook. Every man on the summit fell to his stomach.

The Mippite gunners had found us.

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


NEW YOUNG ADULT COMPANION SERIES TO THE THREE LANDS

I've started a new young adult series that is a companion series to The Three Lands. It's called Young Spies, and it will center upon teenage characters in the Three Lands of the Great Peninsula. As with the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle, I've given this cycle of two series a name: The Great Peninsula. And as with Young Toughs, this is a YA crossover series, intended to be read by both young adults and adults.

(As an aside: I was stunned to discover that nobody, in the history of American publishing, has ever before used the title "Young Spies" for either a book or a series. What are the odds of that?)

To start the series, I'm serializing Law Links, which was previously published in the Three Lands series but which I've shifted to Young Spies because its protagonist is a teenager.

You'll see that I've managed to figure out a way to keep the stories of The Three Lands available at Amazon while I bring out the new multiformat editions. However, the series omnibus will be unavailable for a while.

Apr. 5th, 2016

April 2016 e-books | #sff #scifi #althistory #queerlit #sfr #historicalcrime #historicalthriller

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels and young adult fiction. All e-books are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.

Survival School

NEW NOVELLA: Survival School (Young Toughs)

"This is the right place for you, boy. They'll school you here to be a right-standing man, one who can keep control over his actions, like any good man should. You just got to keep yourself open to learn and to grow."

How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?

Arrested for a crime he doesn't regret, Bat ends up handcuffed to a group of fellow city boys and sent on a long journey into the countryside. He know that he is being transported to a prison for delinquent servant boys, but what form will his imprisonment take?

Tattooed with the rank-mark of servant, Bat must learn how to keep from losing his temper with the men who carry the keys to his freedom. But in the unbelievable world where he has been deposited, in which a genial master orders strict punishments and a servant acts like a master, will Bat be able to locate the door to his release? Which of his fellow prisoners can he trust to help him?

And will he survive long enough to find out?

Inspired by true events at a turn-of-the-century reform school, this novella (short novel) is set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s. The story can be read on its own or as part of the Young Toughs alternate history series, an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Young Toughs is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, 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 multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Survival School.


Excerpt

"Well, I've surely been schooled."

Having said this, Bat tossed another shovelful of dirt to the side and paused to wipe his brow free of sweat. The midsummer morning was clear, with not a cloud in the sky to provide them with shade. The trench they were digging remained too shallow at this point to throw shadows.

"Oh my blessed, you're right about that." Frank took up the refrain as his pickaxe chiselled another rock. "When I get my first job out there, and the master asks me what schooling I received here, I'll say, 'Why, sir, I was learned to break rocks.'"

Frank rarely voiced bitterness; that he did so now was a sign of how exhausted the boys were. Bat looked wearily over at the pails of water that Trusty had taken care to place near the boys. The water would last till sunset. He wasn't sure he would.

Bending down to scoop up a bucket of mud, Emmanuel said, "Might as well be in the Men's Penitentiary. Makes no difference to the work we do."

"Two thousand nine hundred feet long," Joe added as he reached down to lift Frank's broken rock into the wheelbarrow. "That's what the Super said the tunnel will be. Two thousand nine hundred feet times seventeen feet is—"

"Stop showing off." Emmanuel took a halfhearted swipe at him, then turned and shouted, "Hoi! Leave him alone!"

Bat turned to look. White-faced as he struggled to push another wheelbarrow full of dirt and mud and rock up the incline to the campus lawn, Mordecai was being blocked by one of the boys who worked in the main dormitory of Family Cottage Trustworthy – the "Big Dorm," as everyone called it now. Several of the other boys, who were assigned to take charge of the wheelbarrow once Mordecai reached the lawn, were laughing at the young boy's efforts to get past the barrier.

"We got to come over there and paste you?" demanded Joe.

Bat looked uneasily at where Trusty stood on the lawn. The young man was deep in conversation with the Superintendent, but it was unlikely he had missed hearing Joe's threat. For now, though, he seemed contented to let the quarrelling boys settle themselves.

The boys in the Big Dorm looked inclined to fight, if only to defend their honor, but at that moment Slow, with impeccable timing, returned from using the toilet in their cottage. He took one look at Mordecai and said, "Aw, that's too heavy for you. Let me help. We better help, right?" He turned toward the boys who had been teasing Mordecai. "Because we're big and he's little."

With the situation voiced in that stark fashion, the boys of the Big Dorm shrugged and moved forward to relieve Mordecai of the wheelbarrow. As they did so, Mordecai began to fall to his knees. Slow caught him and carefully escorted him back to where another packed wheelbarrow awaited him.

The boys of the Big Dorm took a second look at the small group digging the trench for the steam pipes, then evidently decided not to pursue the matter further. It was well known by now that the boys in the Little Dorm – as they'd been dubbed – were close pals who always protected one another. Separated at night from the other boys of Family Cottage Trustworthy, they formed their own little community, like a family within a family.

Bat watched Mordecai with concern as the young boy paused to lean against a boulder, panting. His legs were shaking. Joe, however, had turned his attention back to the work at hand. He said, "We got Comrade Carruthers to thank for this, you know. He gave the money for the steam plant."

Restored to his usual good humor by the pause in labor, Frank said, "At least we won't be cold at night."

"I'd never let you get cold, honey boy." Joe flung this observation over his shoulder as he bent down to scoop up more mud.

Emmanuel gave a snort then, and Bat and Slow exchanged smiles. Everyone in the Little Dorm knew that Joe had taken to sneaking into Frank's bed after lights were out. Even Trusty knew, because he'd caught them sleeping peacefully together one morning. Since it was clear that both boys were where they wanted to be, and since they were both fully clothed in their underwear, Trusty had confined himself to telling them that they'd best not take the matter any further than they had, or they'd be in trouble with the Night Watchman.

He had left them in an agony of curiosity as to what happened "further."

Bat had been amused. One week, not long before he was arrested, a childhood playmate of his had invited him to tea with her mother. The mother had proceeded to explain to him – with drawings, no less – what constituted "further" when it came to boys and girls, with an added explanation that he mustn't go too far with any girl he wasn't marrying. Then she had shooed them out of the room, saying, "Bat, you can go to Sally's bedroom now. I'm sure you two want to play." And they had.

Now, leaning against his shovel, Bat spared a thought of regret for Sally. She was so pretty that she'd likely be married by the time he got out of prison. In the meantime . . . His gaze wandered over to Emmanuel, who had removed his jacket and shirt to work, revealing from his physique that he was well on his way to manhood. Bat figured that, if he turned up at Emmanuel's bedside one night, Emmanuel would likely invite him under the sheets, in his easygoing fashion. They could go a lot further than Joe and Frank had. Bat knew by now that such arrangements were common in the House of Transformation, though always risky in family cottages not placed under Trusty's benevolent rule. The Superintendent, a widower who had no doubt served his liege-master in bed during his youth, had taken it into his head that the inmates' bed-play was "filthy."

Bat forced his weary limbs back to work. He liked Emmanuel, as he liked all the boys in the Little Dorm, but he had no interest in establishing the sorts of ties that might bind him here when the time came for him to leave. He'd declared that to Trusty on the first day, and he hadn't changed his mind since then. This place was a prison, not a home; he'd wait till he was out of here before joining himself with anyone else in love.

He'd missed part of the conversation; Emmanuel was saying, ". . . Most of the farms around here belong to him. The farmers are his tenants. No wonder he wants to place us out with the farmers. We're free labor to him, even when we're paroled."

Bat cast another quick glance in the direction of Trusty. Trusty had moved his conversation with the Superintendent a few yards from the trench, no doubt to prevent the Super from overhearing this conversation.

"Is the House of Transformation's farmer the Super's tenant?" asked Frank.

Emmanuel shrugged as he knelt down in the mud with his bucket. "Might as well be. He's married to Super's daughter. —Hoi, watch out." This was to Mordecai who was in danger of staggering in front of Frank's pickaxe, having returned from delivering his latest load.

Bat caught hold of Mordecai as Joe said, "I heard the farmer and his wife can't have children, even though they've been trying for years."

The other boys exchanged looks, but nobody voiced any doubts. Joe was always up to date on the campus gossip.

"But she's pretty!" cried Slow, who had not quite mastered yet the rules for how children were produced.

"She surely is," said Joe appreciatively as he paused to take out his matches, first glancing around to ensure that none of the boys from the Big Dorm were watching. Super and Trusty remained absorbed in their conversation. Slow went over to help Mordecai push the wheelbarrow up the incline.

A question had been forming in Bat's mind for several weeks. Now, with Mordecai gone, Bat blurted out the question: "Joe, did you have anything to do with that ferry fire that killed Mordecai's parents?"

Frank looked shocked. From the expression on Emmanuel's face, Bat surmised that this possibility had occurred to him too.

Joe simply gave Bat a sour look. "There were folks on that ferry. Not just men and women – kids too. I'm not a murderer."

"His master's boat was empty," Frank said in quick support.

"So why'd you set it on fire?" asked Emmanuel with mild curiosity. "'Cause you hated your master?"

"That fire?" Joe gave a wicked smile. "That fire was fun." He pulled out his box of cigarettes.

Emmanuel snorted again as he paused to drink another full dipper of water from one of the pails. Bat paused too. As Slow and Mordecai returned, Frank tossed dippers to them while Joe tamped down the end of his cigarette. Cigarettes were the most precious contraband on campus; inmates who were forcibly returned from parole would sneak back boxes of cigarettes and sell them for favors. Emmanuel, who received gifts of fruit from his mother through the mail, regularly exchanged the fruit for cigarettes that he gave to Joe. Emmanuel figured – probably correctly, Bat thought as he watched Joe lovingly strike a match – that this was the safest way to channel Joe's worship of fire.

"Can I try one?" asked Frank, staring at the cigarette.

"You ain't getting hooked on one of those coffin nails, boy," said Emmanuel as he placed Frank into a headlock. Joe laughed as Frank twisted free and thrust Emmanuel against the shallow wall of the trench. Newly returned, Slow pulled Mordecai to safety as the struggling boys thrust dirt all over the place. Bat dived to save the pails of water.

"All right, that's enough." It was Trusty's voice. The result of his arrival was striking. Frank immediately released Emmanuel. Bat rose to his feet, brushing dirt out of his hair and grabbing for his shovel. And Joe slipped the matchbox back into his drawers as he swept the lit cigarette behind his back.

"You're all here to work, not fight," Trusty told them. "Drink your water and get back to digging. Give me that." He held out his palm.

With a sigh, Joe handed him the cigarette. Trusty ground it underfoot as he said, "Matches too."

For a moment, it looked as though Joe would turn stubborn. Trusty tilted his head to one side. "You planning to eat supper tonight?"

The threat of the missed meal did its trick. With a deep heave of breath such as a martyred slave might emit, Joe took out the matches and handed them to Trusty. Slow had been looking exceedingly nervous during this conversation, but there was really no reason. Trusty never beat the boys in his care. At most, he'd tell the Super that a misbehaving boy deserved to be lowered by a merit-grade, but that rarely happened. Trusty anticipated and caught problems early on, before they had time to worsen, perhaps because he was an inmate himself.

Trusty treated the matches with the same contempt as the cigarette, dowsing them in a pail that held a bare inch of water. Emmanuel raised his eyebrows. The Watchman, they all knew, would confiscate matches and cigarettes from boys, and then he'd sell the contraband to journeymen who were being released from prison with a few coins in their pocket. Trusty could not fail to know that he was destroying a healthy profit for himself.

"Back to work," Trusty instructed; then he beckoned to Bat. Bat set down his shovel and came forward, ignoring the looks that the other boys gave him – the looks that the other boys always gave him when Trusty took him aside for a lecture. Without any word ever spoken between them, Trusty had established himself as Bat's private mentor, giving him a quiet word on the side whenever Bat began to stray from the straight path.

Bat wondered what he had done this time. He'd been trying for weeks to behave properly, though it wasn't easy, especially on week's end, when the cleric from the local chapel would stand in the transformatory chapel, thundering down his denunciations of the boys' evil ways. Afterwards, on the campus lawn, there would be drill inspection by the Superintendent, which was even harder to take, for the Super invariably had an "encouraging" word for each well-behaved family cottage about how far the boys had come from their days of ill repute. Bat sometimes suspected that the journeymen kept their family cottages in everlasting turmoil simply in order to avoid these speeches.

He and Trusty passed the boys in the Big Dorm and came out of the trench. The sun blazed like flames from a house-fire. Trusty, who was wearing a straw hat like those worn by all the inmates who did outside work, took it off to fan himself, one of the few times he had ever hinted that he suffered as badly as his fellow inmates.

Trusty looked tired. Bat had heard him get up during the middle of the night when he was fetched by the Watchman to fix some plumbing problem that had developed with the Super's toilet. He often did chores like that around the campus; Bat had overheard the Superintendent refer to him as "my man-of-all-work."

Now Trusty said, "Your transfer has come through. You start tomorrow morning."

He couldn't help hopping on his toes with joy. "At the campus farm? What about the other boys?"

"Harry is being transferred to the stables. The rest of the Little Dorm stays in the broom manufactory."

His spirits abruptly fell. He looked back at the boys. Emmanuel, Slow, Frank, and Joe were all laughing over a joke, but Mordecai, who was trying to turn the wheelbarrow around, looked as though he was about to pass out.

"Say, can't he be left off this work?" As he spoke, Bat pointed at the younger boy. "He's not made for this. He's a domestic, and he's too young to be hauling rocks anyhow. Even working the fields would be better for him than this."

Trusty took his time in answering. Finally he said, "You prepared to let him take the farm job in your place?"

The words fell like chunks of hot lead, searing through his insides. He looked back at the trench. Two thousand nine hundred feet, Joe had said. The tunnel would take months to dig. Months of shovelling in the blazing sun. . . .
 

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


Prison Food and Fondness

NEW SHORT STORY: Prison Food and Fondness (The Eternal Dungeon)

"All she needed to gather were the ingredients for the meal. This she tried to explain on one summer morning, standing by the outer dungeon's exit while confronting two guards who had their daggers pointed at her."

Voluntarily incarcerated in a prison full of men, married to a man who has no desire to "love" her in the traditional sense of the word, Birdesmond Manx Chapman has chosen a challenging path in life. But she is a Seeker, a prison-worker who has taken an oath of eternal confinement in order to share the conditions of her prisoners. She has the strength to meet all challenges.

Until she encounters her greatest challenge of all: obtaining the ingredients for a wedding-anniversary meal in a dungeon filled with men who don't know how to cook.

This short story of an unconventional marriage by a woman who lives in a man's world can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, 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 multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Prison Food and Fondness.


Excerpt

She knew in her heart that her frantic desire to cook a meal had to do with what had taken place on her wedding night.

Her musings on this were interrupted by Weldon's arrival at the master bedroom in their "living cell," as Seekers termed their apartments. He was in his shirt and drawers, rubbing dry his hair, having just completed his week's end bathing. "I saved the water for you," he said.

She grimaced, glancing beyond him at the round iron tub sitting in the middle of their parlor. Some of the sacrifices she had undergone to become a Seeker were more distasteful than others. "I'll bathe tomorrow," she said. When there was some hope that the water would still be warm out of the maid's pitcher. "My chain is snagged on my collar. Will you loosen it for me?"

He came forward quickly, eager as always to help. It took him a moment to free the chain that held the locket she wore as a traditional indicator that she was married. The dungeon's Codifier – himself a widower who wore a marriage watch to work – had ruled that it was acceptable for her to wear the locket on duty, provided that it remained hidden under the plain uniform she wore as a Seeker. It was the uniform of a female prisoner; similarly, all of the male Seekers wore the uniform of a male prisoner, as a visible symbol of the oaths they had made to live as much as possible like their prisoners.

Weldon stepped back with the chain and locket in hand. She turned her head to look at him. Even after all these months, she instinctively expected to see a familiar sight: the expression of a man who has touched the neck of a beautiful woman and who longs for greater intimacy.

What she saw was Weldon's polite smile. "I'll put this away beside my watch, shall I?" he offered.

She nodded, turning toward the mirror before he should see the look in her eyes. Her throat ached as she reached for her brush. . . .
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Prison Food and Fondness.


REISSUED NOVEL: Transformation (The Eternal Dungeon)

Now available in multiformat. Click on the cover for more information.

Transformation


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Rebirth is the dark, fascinating tale of two very different men who come to know and love each other under almost impossible conditions. The writing is detailed and powerful, the story fresh and unpredictable." —Outrageous Heroes (with major spoilers) on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).


The Abolitionist

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: The Abolitionist (Waterman)

"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.

A finalist in the Rainbow Awards 2013, his novel can be read on its own or as the first novel in Waterman, a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
 

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


Excerpt

Perhaps in acknowledgment of the guest's political leanings, Carr's father had chosen to hold supper, not in the formal dining room, but in the family dining room. By the time they arrived there – having taken a tour of the mansion grounds – Sally had returned from town: she was stationed in the corner, breathing heavily as she pulled the rope that stirred the peacock-feathered ceiling fan, which hung over the dining table. Jesse took one look at this and demanded, "Do we really need that?"

"Hmm?" Carr's father, who was making last-minute adjustments to his manuscript, looked up from the galley proofs, transformation-blue pencil in hand. "No . . . no, I don't suppose so. It's cool enough today that we don't really need the fan. That's enough, my girl."

Sally let go of the rope, practically collapsing as she did so. Bat, his footman's uniform slightly askew, came forward to support her with his arm. Carr made a note to himself to remind his father that he should really remember to assign the House's heaviest duties to the male servants. His father, who lived under the delusion that the servants would inform him if they didn't like the tasks they were assigned, was inclined to forget such niceties.

Carr's mother entered the room, all aflutter, her embroidered shirtwaist dress shining cream-colored in the late-afternoon sun. "Oh, dear, I'm sorry I'm late," she exclaimed. "I was helping Cook with the dessert."

Carr managed not to wince. Carr's father said equably, "I'm so glad you can find the time to assist the servants. I dearly wish I could. Carr, do have a seat."

Carr sat down, acutely conscious of Bat, who had not rushed forward to help him. When Carr's father had presented Bat as a gift in honor of Carr's seventeenth birthday, as a potential future valet for his only son, Carr had spent an entire week having disturbing dreams. . . . But the dreams had come to nothing. It soon became clear that, for Bat, service was merely a way to earn money so that he could keep from starving. The young footman was very unlike Variel, Carr's father's valet, who was dedicated to serving his master.

Carr turned this dangerous thought from his mind as Jesse, rather than wait to be seated in a master's chair, pulled up a servants' stool to the table. Nobody besides Carr noticed; Carr's father's attention was focussed on Sally, who was pulling back a chair for her mastress.

"Why, thank you!" As always, Carr's mother managed to sound surprised and grateful for the duties she herself had trained the servants to do. It was one of the reasons why, despite everything, the servants loved her. "That's so very kind of you. And so nicely done."

Turning pink, Sally curtsied. "Thank you, ma'am."

"Oh, please, no curtsies. And no 'ma'am' either. Benjamin," added Carr's mother, turning her head toward her husband as Sally, crestfallen at this reproach, retreated from the table, "it's really too bad that the servants have no suitable title by which to address me. Can't we create a female equivalent of 'Comrade Carruthers'?"

"'Comradess,' perhaps?" Ignoring the plate of terrapin meat that Variel was offering him, Carr's father paused to consider the dilemma.

"Food's at your elbow," Jesse pointed out. "Why do you need a special female title anyway? What's wrong with calling her Comrade Carruthers too? It would show that she's your equal."

Carr's mother gave Jesse a delighted look. Smiling, Carr's father said, "Daisy, allow me to introduce our guest, Comrade Jesse. Carr has invited him to join us today."

Carr could feel Jesse's eye on him. "I thought, Father, that we might invite him to stay with us for a few days." Seeing his father's incipient frown, he added, "There are so few Egalitarian homes in the Second Landstead for him to stay at, and it seems a shame for him to have to resort to a hotel."

His father's expression cleared. The elder Carruthers valued his privacy, but he responded, as Carr had intended, to this clear reminder of his duties as the highest-ranked Egalitarian in the Second Landstead. "Of course," replied Carr's father. "Our home is yours, comrade, for as long as you need. Have you travelled far?"

"A fair bit. —This food is good." Jesse directed this comment, not at Carr's mother, but at Variel and Bat and Sally, who had retreated to the serving table.

"We have an excellent cook," said Carr's mother, always happy for an opportunity to compliment the servants. "I wish that I could prepare meals half as well as she can."

"Nonsense, sweet one; your meals are always a delight to eat." Carr's father frowned as Sally came forward again to retrieve the napkin that Carr's mother had dislodged in her excitement. "My girl, what is that you're wearing?"

Sally stared down at her dress, bewildered. Carr's mother looked surprised. "Is something wrong with the servants' uniforms?" she asked.

"Her top button is undone. And her skirt is far too short. She looks like a woman of the streets." Carr's father glared at the young servant, who was now blinking back tears.

"Oh, dear." Carr's mother grew flustered. "I hadn't noticed. . . . Sally, perhaps it would be best if you made a few adjustments to your uniform."

"Yes, ma—" Sally quickly cut off the forbidden word. "Now?"

"Yes, now." As the girl retreated, Carr's mother looked over at her husband, who continued to glare in the direction of the departing servant. "It's not her fault, is it, dear? I mean, she's very young."

"Yeah, she is, isn't she?" Jesse's voice was lazily speculative. Carr winced, wishing that his guest was less perceptive.

His father's expression turned to puzzlement. "Excuse me?"

"Nothing," Jesse replied around a mouthful of hominy. "Look, why is it that you don't have the time to do household tasks alongside the other residents here?" He waved his hand toward Variel and Bat, who continued to stand by the serving table, silent and alert.

Carr's father sighed. "Because, regrettably, my primary responsibility is to earn the money that keeps this House operating. We lost our tenant farmers during the financial troubles three tri-decades ago, and the Bay doesn't bring in as good a harvest as it used to. If it weren't for my work at the Bureau, this mansion would be in a state of disrepair."

"The Bureau?" Jesse had gone suddenly as still as the servants. Carr bent his head, concentrating his gaze on the celery salad that he was pushing around the plate with his fork. Not merely perceptive but quick-witted. Jesse was going to prove . . . interesting.
 

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


AT MY BLOG

If you're interested in reading about my daily life, you may wish to read my March daily life entry: Trying to get back into the writing habit.
 

INTERVIEW OF ME BY TAMI VELDURA

For those of you who didn't see my earlier announcement: This interview of me originally appeared in the March 2016 newsletter of Tami Veldura, who writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and queer fiction. Ms. Veldura begins by saying, "Today's interview with Dusk touches on apprenticeship, history, and alternate universes."
 

NEW TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY TOUGHS MAPS

The number of Toughs maps are beginning to multiply, so I've added a maps page to the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs resources. You'll see three new maps there.
 

MORE FREQUENT STORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & A REMINDER ABOUT REVIEW COPIES

You might have noticed that my monthly update is getting a bit clogged. For the sake of you who don't want to read a whole bunch of blurbs and excerpts at once, I'm going to start posting weekly updates of my latest e-books at my blog, e-mail list, and the various social networks that my blog feed goes to. The blog/list/feed will continue to carry a monthly round-up (like the one you're currently reading) of all my e-books issued during the past month, as well as links to my online fiction, excerpts from backlist titles, links to posts I make at my blog, and general announcements.

Because my posts are ending up in so many places besides my blog these days, I'll be adding hashtags to my post titles. Since I can't add every hashtag that applies to any one of my stories (#sff #althistory #crimefiction #romance #newadult #suspense #adventure #lgbtlit #histfic #everygenreunderthesun), you'll need to take these tags as a hint at the nature of the story, not as a definitive description.

Because these posts will also be going to potential reviewers, you'll see notices in the posts about the availability of review copies. This is just a reminder: Anyone who is willing to post a review online – at online bookstores, at their blog, or anywhere else – is welcome to request a review copy of any of my e-books. Your review needn't be a positive one; I value honest, negative reviews (as you can tell from the fact that I frequently link to them here).

For those of you who can't afford to buy as many of my e-books as you'd like, reviews are a good way for you to get the word out to fellow readers of what you think about my writings and to satisfy your curiosity about what happens next with my characters.

Mar. 14th, 2016

March 2016 historical adventure speculative fiction e-books, free fiction, and news

Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels and other types of diverse fiction. All e-books are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.

Journey to Manhood

NEW NOVELETTE: Journey to Manhood (Young Toughs)

"Perhaps, when they spoke next, the other young man could tell Simmons of any masters here who were in need of an apprentice who was perilously close to the age of journeymanship."

Simmons has been waiting all his life for the day when he would come of age and pledge his service to a liege-master. But at the last minute, all his plans go awry; he is left in the awful position of having to find a liege-master quickly. Desperation may force Simmons to pick the worst of liege-masters.

Working at his uncle's waterfront store on a bay island, Simmons seeks a way out of his dilemma. Then another young man walks through the door, one whose problems may be even worse than Simmons's. . . .

With a setting based upon an island on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1910s, this novelette (miniature novel) can be read on its own or as a story in Young Toughs, an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Young Toughs is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, 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 multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Journey to Manhood.


Excerpt

At that moment, the door opened. A light spring breeze, fresh with the smell of Bay water, entered the store, along with a waterman, unmistakable in his oilskin hat and coat and boots. Simmons caught a flash of the man's rank-mark on the back of his right wrist as he removed his glove: black.

The servant wasted no time in the doorway; he limped forward as Simmons's uncle said, "Ah, Sol. I'm glad to see you up and about. How's that leg of yours doing?"

"None too good." The servant's reply was so brief, and without proper salutation, that Simmons might have thought the waterman rude, but he noticed that the man had carefully removed his hat the moment that the owner of the general store spoke.

His uncle, at any rate, seemed to treat his remark as inoffensive. "I'm sorry about that – very sorry indeed. But you've found a new captain, I hear? How have the oysters been this winter?"

Sol shook his head as he removed a list from within his coat. "None too good neither. Way I figure, all the right good ones've been stole by those dredgers from the Western Shore."

His uncle sighed. "It's very sad, very sad indeed that there's such animosity between our landstead and the Second Landstead. That their boats should take oysters from our own territory . . . Ah, well, oyster season is over. And Captain Harvey is doing well, I suppose, if he could afford to hire you as his new man."

Sol shrugged as he laid the list on a lard barrel next to Simmons's uncle. "Needed couple more servants for his boat. He's still short a man. Come autumn, he'll be looking for more watermen."

"Really? He needs more crew, with all the watermen on this island?" Simmons's uncle took the list and peered at it through his spectacles.

"'Deed he do. He's like to hire a full-grown man, but an oyster-shucking boy would do." Sol's gaze wandered over to Simmons. After a moment, Simmons realized why, and he felt his face grow flush.

Travelling from the capital to Hoopers Island had been no problem; Simmons had simply hired a boat with most of the remaining money his father had given him for the brief period during which he would still need his family's income, before his liege-master should begin paying him. But Simmons's belongings had been a greater problem. He had not anticipated having to move them further than the bedroom that had long awaited him in the house of his liege-master's father.

With his plans turned awry, he had been forced to dispose of all but his most precious goods. Fortunately, school term had only just ended; he had been able to give many of his belongings to the servant who had tended his study-bedroom at Capital School.

His trunks, he had sent down to Hoopers Island by road. He had taken care to hire an automobile, naively believing that, with such a swift means of transportation, his trunks would be awaiting him when he arrived by boat.

His uncle had smothered a laugh when he heard this, then had patiently explained that most of the marshy roads between the capital and Hoopers Island were not yet paved. The roads on Hoopers Island were. The pavement consisted of logs and oyster shells.

Feeling very much an ignorant townboy, and envisioning the automobile wallowing in the mud – or even sinking without a trace in the marshes – Simmons had made do as best he could. His uncle, a portly man, had no clothes that would fit the new arrival, and his uncle's apprentice was several sizes too small. So Simmons – by now grateful for anything that would cover his body – had borrowed clothing from his uncle's manservant, a waterman who spent most of his days making deliveries by boat.

His uncle, looking up from the list and seeing Sol's gaze upon Simmons, seemed to realize the mistake that the waterman had made. Characteristically, he did not reprimand the erring servant. Placing his arm across Simmons's shoulder, he said, "This is my nephew, Jasper Simmons. His journeymanship birthday is coming next month, so he's staying with us this month while he decides which master he wishes to pledge his liege-service to."

Sol did not embarrass Simmons by asking, "Why did you wait till now?" But neither did he dip his eyes, as any well-trained servant would ordinarily do under such circumstances. All that he said was, "Right glad to meet you . . . sir."

The slight pause could have been taken any number of ways, but Simmons, staring into the waterman's eyes, suddenly realized that this was a servant who rarely addressed masters as sir.

Smiling at the special courtesy he had just been granted, Simmons said, "I'm glad to meet you as well, Servant Sol."

Then, and only then, did the waterman dip his eyes. And Simmons realized that he had been granted a deep courtesy indeed. Simmons wondered what, by all that was sacred, he had done to earn such honor.

His uncle squeezed Simmons's arm in some sort of silent accolade. "I won't keep you, Sol; I know you're busy. Some of these items will have to be wrapped. Your boat-master still docks at Back Creek? I'll have my apprentice bring the goods over, then."

"Master Simmons." Sol's slight nod of farewell encompassed both uncle and nephew; then he turned away.

At the doorway, he paused. Another man had just arrived, wearing a wool coat against the spring chill. He made some brief greeting, and Sol, hearing the man's refined accent, carefully stepped to one side to let the master enter.

"That's a good man," said Simmons's uncle softly as the door shut behind Sol. "A very good man. I'm glad you didn't take offense at his mistake."

"Why should I?" Simmons laughed as he turned to his uncle, but he kept his voice low as well, so as not to disturb the newly arrived master, who was now at the other end of the store, fingering a bottle of morphine.

His uncle raised his eyebrows. "Some masters would be very offended indeed to be mistaken for a servant."

"Oh, but I look like a servant at the moment." Simmons stared down at his shabby clothing. "It's not his fault. I suppose I ought really to change out of these, lest I mislead—"

A bell, higher in pitch than a fog-bell, interrupted his speech. His uncle glanced out the window facing the water and said, "Postal boat. It's early today."

"Shall I help you bring in the mail, Uncle?" asked Simmons.

"No, no, my lad. You stay here and tend the customers." His third-ranked uncle patted Simmons's shoulder somewhat awkwardly.

Simmons could understand why. He was still becoming used to it himself, his rise in rank. At school, he had always held the awkward position of being the son of a third-ranked master who was very, very rich. Now, after many years, the Third Landstead's House of Government had eased the lack of alignment between their family's wealth and rank by granting to Simmons's father the title of Envoy Extraordinary, assigning him duties in an overseas nation in the Old World and raising him to second rank.

Until that time, as a third-ranked lad, Simmons's choices were clear: as a journeyman, he could train under his father, under a third-ranked master, or under a second-ranked master – not under a first-ranked master, as he futilely tried to point out to his first-ranked schoolfellow Eugene on many occasions.

But now Simmons was second-ranked. He could train under a first-ranked master. He could even pledge his liege-loyalty to that master.

"I told you it would work out," Eugene had squealed, hugging the older boy on the day that Simmons received the news of his eligibility to be Eugene's liegeman. And Simmons had hugged Eugene back, stunned and joyful at this turn of events.

But it had not worked out – not in the end. . . .
 

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


FREE FICTION: Crossing the Cliff (Darkling Plain)

A reissued story at Archive of Our Own.
 

Crossing the Cliff (Darkling Plain). After ten years as apprentice to a Peacesteward, the one thing Erastus is sure of is that he's ill-prepared to become a master. Unfortunately, he's about to discover just how ill-prepared he is.

When he and his master stray into forbidden territory, Erastus is thrust alone into a community that is on the brink of war. His only hope for bringing peace is to ally himself with a young boy . . . a boy who has stolen what Erastus values most.

(Permalink.)


REISSUES: The Eternal Dungeon

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information.

RebirthThe Unanswered QuestionCommoners' Festival


REVIEW: Life Prison

"Beautifully written. Even the things that shouldn't be beautiful, were." —Amazon (Fenriz Angelo) on Life Prison (Life Prison).


Unmarked

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Unmarked (Waterman)

"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."

He needs a guard.

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 speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
 

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


Excerpt

"Power boats is more important," insisted Billy to Theo. "Think of all the right calm days when we could be tonging oysters."

"The master of the House of His Master's Kindness wants power boats too," pointed out Sol. "And power dredging to go with it." In the silence that followed, he raised his voice, saying, "Lad, you're as quiet and dark as a dredger boat come night. Didn't hear nor see you till now."

Meredith stepped forward from where he had been fingering a muskrat trap that hung for sale from the ceiling. "I didn't mean to disturb your conversation, sir."

"You ain't disturbing nothing that don't deserve disturbing. You looking to find your daddy?"

"Yes, sir. My father said that he would meet me at the foot of the drawbridge, but he isn't there, and his skiff isn't docked at Back Creek. I thought you might have seen him recently."

"'Deed I did – seen him at his workplace just this morning, and he gave me this note for you. He figured you'd be coming by here." Sol reached down and pulled a piece of paper out of his rubber boot – probably the driest place he had for storing paper. He offered the note to Meredith, without rising.

Meredith cautiously came forward. As he reached out his hand to take the note, his overcoat spread open to reveal his blazer. The new crewman, who had just taken hold of the mug, choked on the coffee. The crewman hastily rose to his feet.

None of the other servants followed suit. With the exception of Sol, the servants were looking at the fish-hooks, the stuffed eagle on the wall, the turpentine, the tins of chewing tobacco, the corsets . . . anything but the young master standing in their midst.

Meredith tried to ignore his churning stomach, instead concentrating his attention on unfolding and reading the message. It was written in his father's uneven hand and erratic spelling: "Substute keeper sik. Yu come. Yur father, Master James Hooper."

His father had almost written "Yur daddy," but had scribbled out the servant-style word in time. Meredith looked up. Everybody was still staring at the store's merchandise, other than the new crewman – who was gazing with horror at his fellow servants – and Sol, who was watching Meredith.

"Thank you, sir," said Meredith to Sol. "Will you be going back to see my father any time soon?"

Sol shook his head. "Not till Spring Death. You needing a ride out? Believe Master Simmons is sending out goods to your daddy today."

"Thank you for that information, sir. I'll ask him whether I can ride along in his boat, then." He hesitated, seeking an excuse to linger longer, but most of the crewmen were beginning to shuffle their feet, and the new crewman looked as though he was about to expire from terror. "Goodbye," Meredith said, looking around at the crew, trying to make the farewell general.

Sol was the only one who bothered to reply to him. "You keep warm and safe, lad, and you give your daddy my respects, hear?"

"Yes, sir, I'll be glad to," replied Meredith eagerly, relieved to carry out a duty. "May I do anything else for you?"

In the next moment, he would gladly have thrown himself in front of the rifles of the Second Landstead's dredgers. Billy and Theo exchanged looks, while Hallie simply rolled his eyes.

Sol, far more patient than the others, said, "Thanks, lad, but there ain't no need. You'd best be getting on your way."

Meredith, taking the hint, backed away from the warm circle of fellowship. He opened the store's door, which was nearly wrenched from his hand; a moderate gale wind had blown up while he was inside. He swiftly closed the door, then leaned on it to make sure it had shut properly. As he did so, he heard the new crewman say, "Sol, have you gone mad as a 'Mippian in battle, speaking like that to a master? He's making fun at you, certain, calling you 'sir.'"

Sol said something in a voice too low for Meredith to hear.

"Him?" The new crewman sounded incredulous. "He don't look nothing like his daddy."

"Don't speak like him, neither," said Billy. "But he's the one, all right – Jim's son."

"You mean, Master Hooper's son." Theo's voice was bitter.

Billy made a sound like spitting. "Mean what I say. Jim was born a servant. He's still a servant, whatever he may think."

"It's him getting that new religion that messed up his head," suggested Hallie, who had barely been born at the time that the episode happened. "Him and all them Reformed Traditionalists—"

"Ain't a matter of Traditionalists 'gainst Reformed Traditionalists," Billy insisted. "Even if a man can go in one lifetime from being servant to being master, Jim ain't that man."

There was a murmur of agreement, and Theo asked, "Why d'you suppose he asked to be raised in rank? He was doing right smart in our crew."

"Why d'you think?" shot back Billy. "Way I figure it, he wanted a crew of his own."

"If that was his reason, he's well punished," interjected Hallie. "Ain't a crew in this fleet that'll sail under him."

"Neither would any boat-master take him as journeyman, back in the days when he was that young. Well, he's burned his own corpse-ashes." Theo sounded satisfied.

"The lad's who I feel sorry for," said Billy. "Being brought up figuring he's a master, when it's plain to see that he's just like his daddy."

"That's enough talk," said Sol gruffly. "You boys shouldn't be speaking 'gainst your betters."

"Our betters?" said Billy incredulously.

"Servant Sol, you keep your tongue to yourself," said Theo. "You ain't my master."

"But Jim is his best pal." Hallie sounded hesitant. "We shouldn't be talking like that 'gainst Sol's pal."

"He ain't my pal." There was no mistaking the bitterness in Sol's voice. "He's ranked as a master now; masters can't have servants as pals. But he was my pal once, and he followed the water along with us, over many a year, so there ain't no call for talk 'gainst him. He's catched his fair share of oysters and crabs and fish; it's his right to do what his faith and his conscience tells him."

There was an acknowledging murmur that sounded like it was more of dissent than of agreement. Sol, reading his fellow crewmen's mood, said, "Ain't worth talking 'bout what we can't change. You hear that wind out there? Sounds like the nor'west blow has arrived. Oh my blessed, I sure am glad the master let us take the day off."

That remark brought loud calls of agreement, and Theo began talking about what the annual autumn storm had been like in his great-granddaddy's day.

Meredith, turning away from the door, almost tripped over the watermen's tongs, leaning against the wall by the door. One of the tongs still had an oyster shell stuck within its tines. Absent-mindedly, Meredith took off his mittens, pried the shell off the tine, and nearly threw it in the great pile of shells near the porch. Master Simmons bought shells from the oyster packing houses and then resold them to companies that used the shells for road paving or fertilizer or chicken grit.

Then, on a whim, Meredith curled his hand round the shell. Letting his rucksack lie sheltered against the leeward side of an empty barrel, he shoved the shell and his mittens into his overcoat pockets and stepped off the porch.

The wind was hard as a culler's hammer now. The water had nearly emptied; most of the boat-masters, seeing the signs of the coming storm, had retreated to harbors and coves. Meredith, who had endured worse winds than this over the years, walked slowly toward the store's wharf, his thoughts on matters other than the weather.

It had never occurred to him to call Sol anything other than "sir." Whatever Sol's perspective might be on Servant Jim's transformation into Master James Hooper, Meredith knew that Sol was the closest thing his father had left to a friend. And so, since Meredith called his father "sir," he had also called his father's friend "sir." His father had never forbidden him from doing so, and Sol had not seemed disturbed by Meredith's manner of address.

But Meredith had not seen Sol in over three seasons, he recalled now. Perhaps the rules for proper address had changed, now that Meredith was beyond his apprentice years. Perhaps it would be safer to address Sol as "Servant Solomon." That would still be respectful, wouldn't it? Or would it overemphasize Sol's rank in relation to the young master who spoke to him?

Meredith sighed. The person he should be addressing such questions to, he was fully aware, was his liege-master. But Pembroke would treat any such question as a sign of weakness in him. Meredith supposed he would have to ask his own father instead – yet he was growing overly old for seeking answers from his father. Most of his fellow students treated their confirmation ceremony as a time when they broke away from the care of their parents. As journeymen, they still could not own property or run a House or business in their own right. But they were old enough to work under their liege-master, to study at university, and – with their liege-master's permission – to marry. They were even old enough to father children.

Meredith reached the shore. Master Simmons had cleared out all the Bay grass from the shoreline, so the shoreline was bare except for mud and the usual assortment of shells. Meredith fingered the shell in his pocket as he stared out at the churning waves, his eyes blinking against the harsh wind. He had wished, many a time, that he had never been fathered, or at least had been fathered after the revocation of the Act of Celadon and Brun. If that had happened, then his life's path would be clear. As it was . . .

The oyster shell was cutting into his tightened fingers now. He stared out at the water, where the crew of a lone shallop was struggling to reach shore. In a sudden and uncharacteristic fury, he took the oyster from his pocket and prepared to hurl it into the waves.
 

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


NEW TOUGHS SERIES & NEW YOUNG ADULT FICTION PORTAL

I've started a new Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series, entitled Young Toughs, which will center upon teenage characters in the Toughs world. Some of the characters will have appeared in other Toughs series, while other characters will be new. So Young Toughs is a crossover series with other Toughs series. It's also crossover fiction in another sense: this is a young adult series that is intended for both teens and adults.

I've added a portal, ya.duskpeterson.com, that will help readers go directly to my YA fiction. All the series listed there appear on the duskpeterson.com website, so you needn't check both places. However, those of you who are interested in young adult fiction may like to see my links to my favorite YA adventure fiction authors.
 

ABOUT THE REISSUES OF REBIRTH AND SPLIT

The Toughs series' volume e-books (Rebirth, Whipster, etc.) have needed new covers, and some of the volumes haven't been available in multiformat, so I'm gradually (re)issuing them all in multiformat editions. I'm taking this opportunity to reread the stories within the volumes to catch any stray typos or continuity errors that I missed the first time through. Other than that, there are no changes to the content.

Speaking of typos, I'm usually pretty good about catching them before publication, but I let a couple of really horrendous ones slip by me with Split. (Such as switching my protagonist's first and last names toward the end of the story.) Since I didn't want to wait till the full volume of Sweet Blood was issued before correcting errors of this magnitude, I've uploaded a corrected version of Split to the bookstores. If you've bought a copy in the past, you can try downloading the e-book again from the bookstore where you bought it, if the bookstore allows that. (The new edition is marked as the February 2016 edition in the copyright notice.) If that doesn't work, drop me a line, letting me know which format(s) you bought, and I'll send you a replacement. I'm sorry about the extra trouble to you.
 

THE THREE LANDS IS GOING TEMPORARILY OUT OF PRINT

Or whatever the electronic equivalent is of "out of print." Although I'm keeping all of the Toughs stories published as I reissue the volumes, The Three Lands is a more serious marketing challenge, since it's never found much of a readership. I've decided that it would be best to take an entirely fresh approach to the series, so I'll be taking down the current editions as I begin to issue the new editions (and will bring out new stories in the series, if my Muse is cooperative). I'll be taking down the current Three Lands e-books at the beginning of April; in the meantime, they remain available.
 

PROGRESS REPORT

The progress report of my writings has been updated, showing which stories are closest to being published (and which aren't).

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.

Dec. 10th, 2015

December 2015 historical speculative fiction e-books, free fiction, and news

Historical speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels 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.
 

NEW NOVEL: Checkmate (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood  #4)

Checkmate

The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield.

Split apart from their closest loves and friends, a small group of prison-workers seek to abolish the use of torture against prisoners in the queendom's royal dungeon. Time is running out, for the deadly High Seeker has already flogged and executed prison-workers who opposed his policies.

Do the reformers have enough time and skill to bring about radical change in the dungeon? Will they be able to overcome their mistrust of one another?

This suspenseful novel can be read on its own or as the fourth story in the "Sweet Blood" volume of The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

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


Excerpt

"It would have to be a bloody big protest to get the attention of all those people." D. spoke lightly.

Zenas shifted restlessly in his seat on the floor. D. had spoken in a seemingly careless manner, but from his expression, and from the expressions of the others in this living cell, it was obvious that everyone knew what was being proposed.

Finally, Birdesmond said, "We knew we'd reach this stage in the end. I wasn't willing to take chances if our sacrifices would be useless, but. . . Yes, now is the moment to move."

"Surely you're not in danger, ma'am?" said Clifford. "You've never tortured any of your prisoners. You're not allowed to, by the dungeon rules on searching female prisoners."

Birdesmond gave a faint smile. "But I am a leader of the New School. If the New School makes its final move, the High Seeker will know which of us are to blame."

"Well, it's about bloody time, that's all I can say," growled D. "Some of the other guards who belong to the New School, the ones we represent – they've been asking me how long we planned to drag our feet before we did the fucking obvious."

"Language, please," Elsdon reprimanded automatically. "Do you mean that the other members of the New School would be willing to assist with this?"

"The ones with guts will," inserted Clifford. "Look, I don't want to sound stupid, but I just want us to be clear: We're talking about refusing to torture prisoners, aren't we?"

Barrett said, "Hangman."

"Yes," agreed Birdesmond softly. "The Code's penalty for Seekers and guards who refuse to carry out the prescribed methods of searching prisoners is execution."

"Ready to be hanged, Cliff?" As he spoke, D. gave a gruesome grin.
 

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


NEW STORY COLLECTION: Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1)

Lockup

Deep underground lies a prison filled with idealistic men who have committed themselves to putting the best interest of their prisoners first . . . through torture. Soaring high in an adjoining nation are two "reformed" prisons where life prisoners (and a few sympathetic guards) must band together for survival.

Friendships between prisoners and guards, romance between two torturers, a young woman's appalled discovery that a dungeon-worker is courting her, desire and companionship in prison cells, a teenage guard's struggle to survive when his train is attacked by soldiers intent on slaughter . .. The two nations are broiling with events centered upon their prisons.

This historical speculative fiction volume explores with drama and dry humor the complexities of prison life in the nineteenth century, while taking a peek at the surrounding societies in the nations' alternate universe. Characters who appear in one story reappear in other stories, seen from a different perspective and at a different age.

This first volume of Dark Light collects seventeen stories from 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 cycle's novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times.

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Lockup. Includes two new Eternal Dungeon stories: "The Whipping Post" (flash fiction) and "New-Fashioned" (short story).
 

Volume Contents:

In the Silence (Life Prison). He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known. But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger . . . and the hope of something more.

Green Ruin (The Eternal Dungeon). Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix. Soon three very different men – a married man who is committed to respect and honor, a bachelor harboring secret desires, and a soldier with an unfulfilled ambition – will find themselves caught in a trap. Their rescue will come from an unexpected quarter.

Hunger (The Eternal Dungeon). Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

Wax (The Eternal Dungeon). The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon has always prided himself on his skills in procuring any object needed by his employers. But when the head torturer makes a seemingly innocent request for wax, the Record-keeper goes in search of a very special supply.

Never (The Eternal Dungeon). She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

The Whipping Post (The Eternal Dungeon). Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

New-Fashioned (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Broken (The Eternal Dungeon). What would happen if a technophobic torturer was plunged into the twenty-first century?

Torture (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison). When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently at Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature. . . and his own nature.

Cell-mates (Life Prison). Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play . . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as "play." So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust. If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .

Coded Messages (Life Prison). One of them rapes prisoners. The other wants to help prisoners. So why are they talking to each other?

Lord and Servant (Life Prison). A tramp and a lord may seem to make an odd pair. But Compassion Life Prison is an odd place to start with, and the tramp has his own perspective on life there.

Rain (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman). Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble. In this cycle of five short stories, five young men in troubling situations must make choices that will change the path of their upcoming lives . . . and the path of the societies they dwell in.


Excerpt (from "New-Fashioned")

Layle pressed his hands upon his ears, his eyes watering as he tried to read the volume on his desk in the flickering light of the oil lamp. It was not as though he had an easy job before him. One hundred and twenty pages of the Code of Seeking were devoted to the three dozen instruments of torture in the dungeon. He would have to decide when they should be used, for how long, and how many dead bodies could be tolerated in the quest for justice.

There were also a couple of pages at the end of the Code about determining first whether the prisoners were innocent. He thought that section could use a bit of expansion.

The hammering continued. He'd already met the chief engineer, an amiable man imported – so like so many of this queendom's engineers – from the tiny island nation that the Queendom of Yclau had colonized several centuries before, at the time when the New World rediscovered the Old World. Layle had read a book about the travails which the Yclau explorers had undergone during that time. On one occasion, for example, the explorers had visited a primitive city by the name of Londinium. In Londinium, they had decided to bring back to Yclau a native playwright to whom they'd taken a fancy.

There had been riots in the streets over that. "He's a national treasure!" had cried one native as the playwright clung to his desk, desperately trying to scribble a few more words of the play he was working on, which had the eccentric name of Hamlet.

Natives could be absurdly parochial. However, the playwright had refused to create any plays during the rest of his captive life, so after that, Yclau's explorers had abandoned the idea of enslaving natives; instead, they lured talented natives overseas to the queendom with promises of riches. As a result, Yclau – not the little island colony – was now the most technologically advanced nation in the world: the birthplace of an Industrial Revolution that had changed the queendom forever.

Layle glanced at a mechanical jill-in-the-box which the native engineer had been fiddling with when he came to visit. The engineer had left it behind when Layle expressed his admiration of its ingenuity. Layle had spent most of the afternoon since then attempting to figure out how to revise the Code in a manner that was unlikely to draw the wrong sort of attention from the High Torturer.

The High Torturer was a man of changeable tempers. The last dozen torturers he had executed had discovered that too late.
 

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


FREE FICTION

A new story at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own. Also available free in The Slash Pile's PDF anthology Restart.
 

AI (Waterman). Tripp has two friends in high school: a rebel without a cause, and a girl fighting the social restraints upon her. But only one human being has any real hope of understanding Tripp, and he isn't human at all.


Reissues of older stories at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Debt Price (Master/Other). No one would pay his debt price to gain him release from prison. So he sought to pay it himself by offering the only thing he could, his body. But one man would require more. (Permalink.)

Pleasure (Master/Other). Egon had a position that won him respect, friends who raised his spirits, and lovers who gave him pleasure. Then a man came into his life who would take all that away from him. If Egon was lucky. (Permalink.)

Clothesline (Leather in Lawnville). An encounter with clothesline at the Lawnville 5&10 leads the narrator to discover his neighbor's secret fantasy. (Permalink.)

Bad Habit (Leather in Lawnville). A leatherman shows off his leatherboy to a skeptic. (Permalink.)


NEW COVERS

Click on the covers for the blurbs and ordering information.

Checkmate Checkmate Unmarked


FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Whipster (Michael's House)

Whipster

Michael is an ex-prostitute, which means that nobody in polite society wants anything to do with him. He believes that the only way to help other male prostitutes is to make their working conditions bearable. His friend Janus is an upper-class gentleman who believes that his duty to the gods requires him to fight against sexual immorality. Now Michael wants Janus to help him run a house of prostitution.

This novel is the first volume in Michael's House, a speculative fiction series set in a Progressive Era slum. Male friendship and gay love intertwine in this multicultural series based on life in America during the 1910s, a time when society seemed as stable as ever, though it was about to be turned topsy-turvy.
 

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


REVIEW: Re-creation (The Three Lands)

"I think that in today's more – ehem – 'accepting' society, far too many people are far too quick to jump to the conclusion that just because the story revolves around two guys who are close, that they must be banging each other. This story could certainly disprove this belief, yet show that a friendship story is just as captivating and endearing as any M/M romance."  —Reckless Indulgence of the Written Word on Re-creation (The Three Lands).
 

REVIEWS: Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison)

"The world-building is exquisite. . . . The writing is fantastic. Each word shows talent and craft, research and imagination, passion and purpose." —Inked Rainbow Reads on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"This historical speculative fiction novel easily captures the minds of any reader, even those who might not think this to be 'their thing,' with its dark setting and even darker themes. But there is a point to all this seemingly unnecessary suffering and pain. Reformation is at hand and with it comes a serious call to action, to the re-examination one's own sense of morality and of right and wrong. Believe you-me, this book makes you THINK – about topics of discussion most would prefer never to think about or take into account." —Reckless Indulgence of the Written Word on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"It's clear that the author has done their research and has cleverly woven this into an atmospheric and gritty read." —Shari Sakuri on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"What's my opinion about these stories? They made me think. They really made me feel, and it wasn't always a comfortable feel. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. It's very important that tales like these be told so that we remain aware of the different shades of humanity and that there are those who suffer unjustly. I'm not sure if the word 'love' is the proper label for me to attach to my feelings regarding Mercy's Prisoner, but I was wholeheartedly invested and lost in the horror of the world Dusk Peterson created. When writing successfully does that to me, then I have no choice but to give it 5 Stars." —Crystal's Many Reviewers on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

Other reviews of Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison): World of Diversity Fiction and Love Bytes Reviews.
 

REVIEWS: The Eternal Dungeon

"Why [do] authors always describe sadists as people unable to control themselves and their sexual urges? Not that this part of the story is not good. It gives the author the opportunity to explain her vision of good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral and how the margin between one and the other could be thin." —Goodreads (Danny Tyran) on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).

"Some found this novel cold. I don't know how their minds work, but this story is as hot as the fire burning behind the transparent wall of the cells of the eternal dungeon." —Goodreads (Danny Tyran) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"This is a very dry, asexual and extremely thought-out and intricate AU of a past world in which torturing and truth-'seeking' has been elevated to a religion, or rather to achieve the end goal of the belief system of these people." —Goodreads (Steelwhisper) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I think I might have fallen in love with the characters. They do adorably stupid things while keeping me interested with their gruesome acts." —Amazon (Shinasuki) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

STORY LISTS AND TAGS

The Turn-of-the-Century Toughs timeline has been greatly expanded to include more information, as well as links to all of the Toughs stories in chronological order.

The story tags page has also been greatly expanded. Tons of new categories there. However, since the extensive time needed to maintain that page only narrowly passes the WIBBOW test ("Would I be better off writing?"), I've decided to stop listing the online fiction series on that page, since all of my online stories at Archive of Our Own have their own tags there.
 

MY E-BOOKS AT BOOKSTORES AND E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

Courtesy of my distributor Draft2Digital – which provides me with links to my e-books at bookstores – I've added back in links to my e-books at Kobo and Barnes & Noble. I'm having some metadata problems with iTunes, but hope to have more of my fiction back up there next year.

Alas, Scribd is no longer lending my e-books, so I've had to remove those links. My e-books are still available at Oyster, but that e-book subscription service is due to shut down soon. I'm hoping that new e-book subscription services will arise.
 

MIND THE WEBSITE DUST

I apologize for the lengthy delay in an update. As a glance at my website will show, I've done the first major reworking of this site since 2007. Duskpeterson.com is now centered upon Turn-of-the-Century Toughs and The Three Lands.

My remaining stories are in the process of being uploaded to Archive of Our Own (AO3). I'll post notices of updates here. I have a new page (or rather, a revised version of an old series page) that links to all of my online fiction at AO3.

The Darkfics series has been renamed Dark Light. The series page's URL remains the same.

The progress report on the status of my upcoming stories has been updated.

If you have problems finding stories of mine that you've read in the past (or were planning to read), drop me an e-mail, and I'll help you locate the stories. You can also check the list of published fiction in reverse order of the date of composition, which links to all my fiction.

Nov. 2nd, 2014

Love in Dark Settings Press: November 2014 e-books, free fiction, bestsellers, honors, and news

Historical speculative fiction and suspenseful lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Tour (Life Prison)

Tour

"'How have any folk here managed to survive so long? These are killing conditions!'"

He has taken his first step to being accepted by the other prisoners. But what is the secret of the missing prisoners?

As Tyrrell is granted a tour of Compassion Life Prison, he realizes that the truth about his new home is both more horrific and more wonderful than he could possibly have imagined. An intricate network of protection, service, and love is enabling the prisoners to battle against harsh living conditions. As Tyrrell begins to penetrate the mystery of a massive affliction of pain and death within the prison, the question arises: Who is to blame for the suffering? And how can they be stopped?

This suspenseful novel can be read on its own or as the second story in the "Hell's Messenger" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.

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

Tags: crime fiction, friendship, comradeship, romance subplot, bisexual and gay characters, couples and poly, multicultural characters, prisoners, guards, wardens, rebels, spies, servants, slaves.


Excerpt

The "lads," the prisoners who were required to offer their service, fell silent. There were about two dozen of them – just enough to make a tight line across the length of the wide gate. Tyrrell moved closer into his corner, until all the lads merged in his sight, and then he peered cautiously around the corner toward the guards.

Pugh spoke briskly. "Medinger?" He looked up at the balcony, where Medinger had just walked into view.

"Pass," replied the guard, leaning onto the balcony railing.

There was light laughter from the other guards. One of them said, "And you'll keep passing till the magisterial seats send us female prisoners."

"I know that you're not interested in claiming a lad," Pugh said in an annoyed voice. "You're not eligible, anyway. I'm asking about Keeper. It's his turn."

Medinger shook his head. "Our Keeper is passing as well. He's already left for town – didn't you hear the riot doors ring the alarm half an hour ago? He left when I came in from the auxiliary wing."

"What in Hell's name is wrong with Tom Keeper?" asked one of the guards, to nobody in particular. "Is he planning to act like a lovelorn man for the rest of his life?"

"He'll recover," said Pugh. "Whose turn is it next?"

"Yours, as you very well know," said Landry. "I don't think you've forgotten that you're second in rank here."

"Maybe we should wait until the night watch arrives," suggested another guard.

"They're not eligible to claim," said someone else. "They're on duty during claiming hours."

"Yes, but they always seem to arrive for duty at the same moment that the lad is brought out for his claiming. If we waited till they entered the outbuildings, then we wouldn't have the riot doors screeching just when the taking starts. The first few minutes are always the best."

"If you think I'm going to take a lad in front of you lot, you're mad," rejoined Pugh. "I don't put on performances. Medinger, is the claiming room clean? It was a pigsty the last time I used it."

"Bed-sheets were changed today," said Medinger, his voice clipped short. "New toiletries as well. And Keeper told me to remind everyone that this prison's regulations require the use of a sheath whenever there is penetration—"

The rest of what he said was lost in loud laughter that came from the other guards. His voice rising above the others, Landry said, "Fifteen drilling years he's been going on about that. It's like living with a schoolmarm."

"Oh?" said Medinger. "Well, you're welcome to drill naked if you like, Landry. What's the name of that lad whom Chambers gave the Damnation to, a few weeks before Chambers died?"

The laughter cut off abruptly. Starke, who had lit another cigarette, smiled as he said, "Medinger, you're wasted as Keeper's orderly. You should be in the army. They need soldiers who can shoot straight into the belly."

"The issue is moot." Pugh's voice had returned to his usual tone of boredom. "I always use a sheath. I wouldn't trust myself inside one of those filthy lads otherwise. Landry, are you and Starke ready?"

"Ready and willing," replied Landry, pulling himself back from the parapet in order to take hold of his machine rifle.

"Medinger, take charge of the switch."

Medinger remained motionless. "I'm on the night watch. I don't take orders from you, Pugh."

Pugh muttered something under his breath, and then said, "Niesely."

"On my way." Niesely mounted the right-hand stairway, taking two steps at a time. Pugh turned his head toward the gate.

Tyrrell ducked back in the brief second before Pugh's gaze swung in his direction. He looked over at the lads. He could only see the one closest to him, an older lad with lines of experience on his face. The lad's expression was set, but his hands were white-knuckled on the bars.

"You." It was Pugh's voice, flat. "The one with the rag on your leg."

"No!"

The claimed lad's shout of rage was overwhelmed by the scream of the gate alarm. The other lads scurried back, leaving an open space next to the gate that was filled now only with two prisoners: the claimed lad, who was shaking his head over and over, and his mate, who had his hands on the claimed lad's arms as he spoke to the other lad.

Whatever he was saying, it was not reaching his mate. "No!" shouted the claimed lad, so loudly that he could be heard over the alarm. "I won't do it again! Not with Pugh!" He pulled himself away from his mate at the same moment that the alarm ended, taking a dozen rapid steps away from the gate.

"Wild lad!" The shout came from Ahiga, somewhere beyond Tyrrell's view. "All back! All ba—!"

The rest of his words were broken off by the sound of machine-rifle fire as bullets blazed thick into the prison.
 

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




FREE FICTION: What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets: A Tale of Web Accessibility in the Cybersex Era (Rebels)

"'What I want from you is quite simple. I want you to design a Website that's compatible with Section 508— Stop sobbing, damn it!'"

What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets is the first story in the world that presents web accessibility information for the disabled in the form of gay leather erotica.

For adults only. Available as online fiction or download FREE as a multiformat e-book: What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets.

Tags: contemporary erotica, gay leather master/slave, disability issues, W3C, geek humor.
 

REISSUES

Click on the covers for more information.

Tops and SopsDeceptionTwists and TurnsA Prisoner Has NeedThe Consultation

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Twenty-nine Love in Dark Settings Press e-books were category bestsellers at Amazon during the past month; below is a small sample of the bestsellers. Click on the covers for more information.

Blood VowLaw of VengeanceBard of PainDeath WatchGreen RuinWax / Broken
 

RAINBOW AWARDS 2014

Rainbow Awards honorable mentionMercy's PrisonerRainbow Awards finalist

Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison) has received an honorable mention in the Rainbow Awards 2014, indicating that a judge gave a rating of 36 or above out of 40 to the e-book). The book bundle has also become a finalist in this annual awards contest for lgbt literature. A judge's comment:

"Dusk is all about subtlety and shades of meaning. The details of the plot were slowly revealed, and often by reading between the lines of what a character says, rather than having motives laid out clearly before us. Sex does not dominate the plot, it is about relationships, companionship and the unexpected development of love. I also liked that the [five] stories linked to each other because I was so immersed in the world Dusk had created that I didn't want to leave it."

My congratulations to the other authors and artists who have been honored; I was pleased to notice the names of some of my blog readers.

On my awards page, you can see e-books of mine that received honors in previous years.
 

REVIEWS

"If you like Dark and brooding and BDSM, I would highly recommended it . . ." —Amazon (Roger G. Grace) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I don't quite understand why Elsdon suddenly is crushing hard on Layle.. . . It seemed to turn into a romcom. Heroine's gossiping with her bestie about omg I can't figure this guy out at ALL, and bestie's like, 'well, I mean he seems to respect me because I don't fawn over him, so maybe he's looking for that,' heroine's like 'well, he does seem to like it when I'm assertive; maybe he wants me to assert myself more.' They do this as the bestie sorts through her clothes. (Okay, fine it's probably for laundry in this one, but close enough.)" —Goodreads (Ayanna) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).

"The only reason [I kept] glued to the text was the text. It flows. I don't know how else to put it. It's like listening to music that's so translucent and harmonic you barely notice it's there; instinctively you just bathe in it. The style of writing, the whole world created by the author . . . Elsdon, his timidness and hesitance which grew into something so magnificent, and Layle, who just took my breath away and made me want to scream at the same time." —Goodreads (Jaz) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

NaNoWriMo & HOLIDAY GIFT STORY PROMPTS

NaNoWriMo Participant 2014

I'm seeking Writing Buddies at NaNoWriMo (this is my first year doing NaNo), and I'm asking readers for prompt requests for my holiday gift story this year.
 

BORROW MY BOOKS

On my fiction series pages, I've added links to my e-books at Scribd (my other Scribd books are here) and Oyster. At either of these e-book subscription services, you pay a flat monthly fee to borrow as many e-books as you'd like. (To those of you who are wondering: I get paid the same for a borrow at Scribd or Oyster as I do for a sale at most online bookstores.)

Sep. 15th, 2014

Love in Dark Settings Press: September 2014 e-books, free fiction, bestsellers, and news

Historical speculative fiction and suspenseful lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW BOOK BUNDLE: Mercy's Prisoner (Volume 1 of Life Prison)

Mercy's Prisoner

"'You have committed a vile and savage act, one that any other nation would punish with death. Our punishment, on the other hand, will only be to give you what you want. You have sought to live in a world without boundaries of civilization, and such a world shall henceforth be your dwelling place.'"

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.

"Mercy's Prisoner" can be read on its own or as the second volume in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.
 

VOLUME CONTENTS

Life Prison. In the unmerciful world of Mercy Prison, there is no rule but unending pain. For Merrick, the arrival of his new guard provides hope that he may break beyond the boundaries of his life prison. But appearances can be deceptive, and Merrick does not yet recognize the danger this guard poses to his future.

Men and Lads. Two guards. Two prisoners. A multitude of problems.

Milord. He was the model prisoner, respectful to his guards and loyal to his fellow prisoners. What no one knew was that he held the key to destruction.

Isolation. Being locked in a prison cell can cause a man to re-examine his priorities. Especially when the door never opens.

Curious. His job is to guard the prisoners. But against what?

Mercy's Prisoner: Epilogue.

Mercy's Prisoner: Historical Note.
 

Tags: romance, friendship, comradeship, bisexual and gay characters, asexual and celibate characters, bdsm characters (in one story), multicultural characters, prisoners, guards, wardens, rebels, spies.


Excerpt

I had trouble sleeping that night. I don't know why; sleep had always been my one blessing at Mercy, transporting me back to the pleasant days preceding my arrest. I usually woke with a smile on my face. But tonight, tired though I was, I found myself staring up at the ceiling, hour after tedious hour, wishing there were cracks there that I could count.

Some of the prisoners had started a debate the previous year over what was most painful about Mercy. Was it the separation from family and friends? The beatings? The humiliations? The backbreaking work? The rapes? The list went on and on.

I hadn't participated in the debate, which, like all such conversations, had taken the form of shouts exchanged between the cells. There was a reason I'd been granted the luxury of a single-man cell: my last three cellmates had been prepared to murder me rather than live another moment with me. Since the death of a prisoner was not, alas, one of the many pains permitted at a life prison, Mercy's Keeper had finally dealt with the problem by giving me a cell of my own – which, of course, had been my plan all along. It was irritating to have to endure being strangled three times in order to achieve what I wanted.

Particularly since I couldn't hope that the stranglings would be successful.

Though I had no desire to become chummy with the bog-scum who inhabited this place, my own unspoken contribution to the debate was that boredom was the greatest pain. Boredom didn't come often – most days after work I was barely awake enough to do whatever my present guard required of me – but when it occurred, it was excruciating, like being flayed slowly by a dagger. I often thought that, if I were ever broken into madness, it would be through such a spell of boredom.

I say all this to explain why, when I heard the cell door being opened at lamp-lighting time, my first thought was not (as one might expect), "Oh, no, not again," but rather, "Thank the gods, something new." I rolled over onto my stomach and raised my head to look.

He was a slightly built man; I could see that at once from the outline of his shape against the fire in the pit. With my eyes still dazzled by the newly lit lamps, I couldn't immediately make out the man's face, but I could see one of his hands, gripping hard the hilt of his dagger. That grip stopped my heart for a moment, but even my wildest imagination couldn't hope that the new guard would start our acquaintance by stabbing me, so I raised my eyes to his face.

And my heart stopped once more. I jerked upright in bed, twinging an old hip wound as I did so. I had been rather foolish during my first year, testing the guards in various ways. I winced.

The guard said softly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

"Not at all," I said through gritted teeth as I rubbed my hip. "I'll return the favor when I can."

It took no artifice on my part to sound annoyed, though the annoyance was aimed solely at myself. This was not the guard I had been preparing myself for. I had expected a rod-mutilating monster, and what I found myself faced with was a young man.

His face came full into the light as he stepped forward. Wearing the uniform of a Compassion guard, he looked even more like his father: he had the same thin lips and the same straight eyebrows. But the eyes were empty of all coldness – indeed, of all expression of any sort – and there was no smile on his lips, cruel or otherwise.

"My name is Thomas," he said. "I'm your new guard."

I noted the use of his given name rather than his paternal name, and with the instinct of a veteran fighter I dropped and made my attack accordingly. "Ah, yes," I said. "The son of Compassion's Keeper. I can expect great deeds from you, I'm sure."

His lips grew even thinner, but that was all; it seemed that he was well used to this mode of attack. He said, as though I had not spoken, "My job is to provide service to you during your stay at this prison, and to make your stay as comfortable as is possible under your circumstances. If you have any needs, I hope you will let me know of them."

I stared at him open-mouthed for a moment, and then I gave a hoot of laughter that resounded through the entire level. The early-morning conversations across the fire-pit paused briefly, and Sedgewick, who was passing my cell, glanced in with narrowed eyes before continuing on.

"Let me – let me understand you correctly," I said, struggling to gain control of myself. "You'll give me any service I want?"

"Any service that is in accordance with the rules of your stay."

"But the only rule is that I should not be permitted escape, either through death or any other means. So you'll give me anything else?"

"If it's within reason, yes."

"Anything at all?"

"Tell me what you want, and I'll be able to give you a firm answer." His patience, I saw with delight, was wearing down.

"Fine," I said, leaning back and pulling off the blanket to reveal my body underneath. I had given up wearing clothes at bedtime several guards before. "I want you to come over here and service me on your knees."
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Mercy's Prisoner.


ONLINE FICTION

Reposted:

A Sexual Minority Speaks Out (Rebels). "I am an adult male belonging to a rare minority group that is called, in layman's language, Plain Vanilla Straight. I have had these sexual desires for as long as I can remember. . ."

For adult readers. Tags: contemporary satire, heterosexual characters, far-from-straight characters, business people, police, church folk, psychology.
 

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Click on the covers for more information. Spy Hill, First Time, In Training, and As a Seeker are also recently reissued in multiformat.

Spy HillMen and LadsTrialCell-matesLost HavenRe-creationThe BreakingLove and BetrayalFirst TimeIn TrainingAs a SeekerBarbariansHiddenBondsSearching
 

REVIEWS

"Really well written, sexy and intelligent." —Amazon (Jason Lawrence) [review to an out-of-print edition] on Transformation (The Eternal Dungeon).

"This story is set in a prison where the jailers are psychologists who use any means necessary to get to the truth of the crime. Most times torture works. Sometimes friendship works." —Goodreads (Rachael) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"The world-building – especially all the detail given about the Eternal Dungeon, and hints about the world abroad – are incredibly interesting.. . . The 'romance' is really only hinted at towards the end, which seems to imply another installment might continue on the theme (or revisit the characters) . . .  For myself, it was just fine, as I think throwing in a romantic arc would have dampened what made the story so interesting in the first place." —Goodreads (Devon) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I'm really glad I got to read it. It's pretty special." —All Romance eBooks (Lulubizou) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"More to the story than you'd expect . . . very engaging." —Amazon (EMH) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I wish I could purchase the rest of this series now. If they are as compelling as this one I wouldn't come up for air until I had read each one." —Barnes & Noble (customer review) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

NEW FICTION CYCLE: YES, MY LIEGE

I've done a bit of shuffling of my fiction series in order to better group together similar series. The Three Lands, Princeling, and Darkling Plain are now all part of Yes, My Liege, a cycle of fantasy novels about the bonds of affection in service, friendship, and romance.
 

AMAZON STOREFRONT

Those of you who prefer to shop by book cover at Amazon may be interested in my new Amazon storefront, where my Kindle e-books are divided by series. I was able to build this nifty storefront as a result of becoming an Amazon Associate.

(And no, this doesn't mean that I've gone over to the Dark Side. My e-books are still available at other stores.)
 

SOCIAL NETWORKS

Speaking of the Dark Side, I've finally given in and created a Facebook page:

facebook.com/loveindarksettings

Like my Twitter and Goodreads accounts, my Facebook account will link to my blog entries. I've also updated my list of social networking profiles to add my profiles at several authors' forums: KBoards Writers' Cafe, Rainbow Romance Writers, Romance Divas, and Romance Writers of America.
 

TAGS

I've added new items to the tags page:

* female homoromantic love, female romantic friendship, and female classical friendship.
* service love (lord/liegeman, master/servant, etc.).
* polyamory and multiple partners (in romantic friendship, romance, or just plain sex).

Aug. 6th, 2014

August 2014 e-books and free fiction

Suspenseful gay stories and male romantic friendship fiction. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Trial (Life Prison: Hell's Messenger #1)

Trial

"Compassion's Keeper took his hand off the dagger hilt only long enough to turn a page. '"Sentenced to sixty lashes of the leaded whip. Sentence commuted to a transfer to Compassion Life Prison."' The Keeper raised his eyebrows. 'That's the first time I've ever heard a transfer to this prison described as a commutation. We'll assume that particular phrasing was meant as a joke.'"

The prisoner has suffered endless pain and has raised a rebellion. Now he faces his greatest trial.

For fifteen years, Tyrrell has struggled against odds to better the lives of his fellow prisoners. Now he must start all over again, for he has been transferred to Compassion Prison, reputed to be the worst life prison in his nation. The first signs of trouble at his new prison are brutally armed guards, a probing physician, and a Keeper of mysterious motives. But Tyrrell knows that, when he walks into his new cell, he'll face danger beyond measure:

The prisoners of Compassion, who are waiting to test him.

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Hell's Messenger" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.

Tags: bisexual and gay characters, multicultural, prisoners, guards, wardens, spies.


Excerpt

He lay on the cold concrete in the darkness, cursing in an indiscriminate manner that embraced every guard he had possessed the misfortune to be serviced by. The chill of the ground, combined with his wetness, had set him shivering, and he could taste blood in his mouth where his teeth had caught his cheek as he fell. In an automatic manner, he checked his teeth. They were all there, except for the four he had lost over the years, courtesy of past guards.

He allowed Bailey to pull him onto his feet, and as he did so, he realized that laughter echoed in the dark room. The laughter did not come from either of his guards.

He raised his head. He was in a large, high-ceilinged room. That much he could tell from the echoes and from the fact that he could not see the ceiling. Most of the room was lightless. But in the left-hand corner ahead of him, on a balcony about where he would expect a ceiling to be, sat two men lit by wall-lamps. Both wore dark blue uniforms, and both had their boots resting in a leisurely manner on the low, barred railing of the balcony. Both had rifles in their laps, and both rifles were pointed straight at Tyrrell.

Tyrrell felt his empty stomach lurch. One of the men who had been laughing called across the room, "Mercy's man! What gift do you bring us today?"

"Compassion's man!" Oslo called back in a casual manner that suggested he was acquainted with the other guard. "I have a prisoner transfer for you. Fresh meat for the banquet."

The rifle-bearing guards seemed to appreciate this small witticism more than Tyrrell thought it merited; they hooted with laughter. "Tenderizing the meat, are you?" asked the second guard, who held a cigarette between his lips.

"Oh, believe me," said Oslo, grinning, "I've poked the meat quite thoroughly to make sure it's well done."

Tyrrell rolled his eyes. Even Bailey winced at Oslo's poor wit.

The first guard lifted his rifle and set it aside. "Ah, what a pity we will not be able to feast at length on him at our banquet. But we are somewhat gentler on our prisoners than you are at Mercy Prison. How many fuckings a year do you service each of your prisoners with? One hundred? Two hundred?"

"We're working on raising the number." Oslo's voice held nothing but amusement.

"Whereas we are unlikely to see your prisoner more than once or twice this year . . . if that much." The first guard pulled his boots off the railing and leaned over the railing, remaining in his chair as he scrutinized the scene before him. The wavering light of the gas-lamps on the balcony wall moved shadows across his face, which was thoughtful. "Hard to say from this distance," concluded the guard finally. "Why the transfer?"

"Your Keeper knows. You can probably guess. His name's Tyrrell."

The second guard, who had removed his cigarette from his lips in order to tap it over a spittoon nearby, went suddenly still. The first guard raised an appreciative eyebrow. "Oh-ho!" he said softly. "So that's the way of it. I was wondering how long it would be before Mercy's Keeper lost patience with those riot-rousers he's been housing. What happened to the others?"

Oslo shrugged. "We'll know when we get back. The first decision our Keeper made was to arrange this transfer. Your Keeper seemed willing to take him in."

The first guard shrugged as he leaned back in his chair. "Our Keeper," he said, "has all sorts of grandiose plans for this prison, though whether any of them will come to fruit is another matter. I suppose that servicing riot-rousers is part of his plan. Will you break your fast with us? Starke likes to arrive early for his gunner duty . . ." He gestured toward the second guard. "But I prefer to extend my dawn break as long as possible. You're welcome to join me in the guards' dining hall. The night watch will be coming off-duty soon, and I can introduce you."

"Yes," muttered Bailey through gritted teeth. "Warmth. Yes."

Oslo ignored him. "Good food wouldn't go amiss," he said, smiling. "And I hear that Compassion Life Prison is famed for that."

More hoots of appreciative laughter erupted from the first guard, though the second was busy drawing a long lungful of smoke from his cigarette and scrutinizing Tyrrell with an expression he could not read.

"We promise to feed you only the best," replied the first guard, getting to his feet and reaching toward a hand-sized lever set within a small, red hatch on the wall. "Come to the dining hall when you've delivered your charge. You remember the way, I'm sure."

"I hope I do," said Oslo, beginning to tug Tyrrell forward into the darkness, "but everything may be changed here, from what I hear. Your Keeper seems to want to turn things upside down."

"We'll see," said the second guard as his eyes followed Tyrrell's progress. His voice was barely audible, and his expression was hidden behind a puff of smoke. "We'll see. . . ."
 

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


FREE FICTION

Click on the covers for more information. The online editions are free; the newly-reissued multiformat e-book editions are as priced.

Life PrisonMen and Lads

Online fiction:

Coded Messages (Life Prison). One of them rapes prisoners. The other wants to help prisoners. So why are they talking to each other? (Includes major spoilers for the novella Life Prison.)
 

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Click on the covers for more information. "The Breaking," "Love and Betrayal," and "Re-creation" are also newly reissued in multiformat.

The BreakingLove and BetrayalFirst TimeIn TrainingThe Eternal DungeonDebt PriceRe-creation
 

REISSUED IN MULTIFORMAT

Click on the cover for more information.

Noble
 

REVIEWS

"This series takes very complicated ideas and executes them masterfully.. . . I've never seen anyone handle the subject matter better." —Megan Derr's Top Ten MM Fantasy and MM Sci-Fi book lists (Scorching Book Reviews) on The Eternal Dungeon.

"A powerful tale of two men who accommodate the needs of each other and learn to find happiness in a hopeless situation." —Amazon (Lee Phillips) on Pleasure (Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion).
 

DARKFICS

My new series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle is Darkfics, which is simply a collection point for all the side stories in the five Toughs series: The Eternal Dungeon, Life Prison, Michael's House, Commando, and Waterman. Many of the stories are free. The stories are listed in chronological order of the date when they were set, with a timeline interspersed, so even readers who have already read all of the side stories may find this page of interest.

If you look carefully at that page, you'll notice that I've also listed stories and art which are created by other authors and artists but are set in the Toughs universe. This is one of my periodic encouragements to folks to please feel free to borrow my characters. My characters like to get out of my yard now and then.
 

SUBTEXT

I've updated at Subtext the list of writings by other authors that inspired my own work. Every time I think that list is finished, I reread another book and discover where my Muse got a story idea from. This time I reread the final chapters of Mary Stewart's heterosexual romantic suspense novel Nine Coaches Waiting ("I saw the look that came down over his face, bleak bitter pride shutting down over anger, and I knew that I had turned my world back to cinders, sunk my lovely ship with my own stupid, wicked hands . . ."), only to realize that I was rereading the final chapter of Unmarked.
 

TAGS

My tags page is one of the most-visited pages at my website, so I've added more tags in hopes of making it easier for visitors to find the particular stories they're looking for. Asexual characters! Senior-aged characters! Afterlife! Rebels! BDSM! Age of Sail! Romantic friendship fiction! They're all here, along with many more tags.

Feb. 10th, 2014

In (non-)celebration of the continued Great Recession: 8 free stories

Cover for 'Wax / Broken'


I've made some price changes on my e-books, mainly in the downward direction. Among other things, most of the e-book versions of the side stories in The Eternal Dungeon and Life Prison are now free at my store at Gumroad, and at other bookstores where possible. If you download the e-book from Gumroad, voluntary donations can be made before or after downloading. Whether or not you donate, reviews (pro or con) are always welcome.
 

The Eternal Dungeon free stories are as follows. Click on the titles for longer blurbs and download links.

Never. She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

Hunger. Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

Wax / Broken. "All in all, he held a satisfactory position, one where his talents were properly appreciated. But the Record-keeper, rubbing his bleary eyes as he began his shift, could not help but wish that the High Seeker had chosen a love-mate who was less loud."

Green Ruin. Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix. Soon three very different men – a married man who is committed to respect and honor, a bachelor harboring secret desires, and a soldier with an unfulfilled ambition – will find themselves caught in a trap. Their rescue will come from an unexpected quarter.
 

The Life Prison free stories are as follows. Click on the titles for longer blurbs and download links.

Torture (crossover with the Eternal Dungeon series). When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently in Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his own suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature . . . and his own nature.

In the Silence. He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known. But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger . . . and the hope of something more.

Cell-mates. Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play. . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as "play." So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust. If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .

Reviews: Master/Other & Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion

"I admit, I was ready to dislike this novella as soon as I started it: a young man in prison for a nefarious crime (killing children) has to pay his debt becoming a whore, first raped by the prison guards, and then sold to the relatives of the children he killed. . . . I [came] to deeply care for both the young man and the young lord [who was one of the relatives]; towards the end, it seemed almost a fairy tale, a tragedy turned [into] romance . . . but that wasn't surprising, cause, [from] what I remember, the best fairy tales are indeed tragic love stories." —My Reviews and Ramblings (Elisa Rolle) on Debt Price (Master/Other).

"Slightly different in comparison to other serials I read by the same author due to the sci-fi/futuristic setting instead of an historical one, there is in any case a common thread. The primitive and passionate nature of human beings is tamed by the force of intellect or by the ability to dominate their own emotions. . . . The bond between Egon and Halvar is there, and it was real, I [came] even to see it turned from captive to protector, with Egon caring for [his captor], and dreading the time when he will die, cause it will deprive Egon of his mainstay, the reason why he managed to find a balance in his own existence as a slave." —My Reviews and Ramblings (Elisa Rolle) on Pleasure (Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion).

Jan. 30th, 2014

Now available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book: Pleasure (Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion)

*


"Halvar leaned forward. His eyes were the color of an arctic sky. 'I am not a fool, Egon,' he said softly, 'so do not treat me as such.'"

Egon had a position that won him respect, friends who raised his spirits, and lovers who gave him pleasure. Then a man came into his life who would take all that away from him. If Egon was lucky.

As a slave, Egon has already reached the highest position he will ever achieve: he is the household's airship chauffeur. Forced to confront the contradiction between his ideals and his behavior, Egon must make a choice between continuing to pursue immediate pleasure or willingly submitting himself to another man for the sake of a higher goal. What Egon does not yet know is that his guide on this journey into the unknown is hiding a secret that will transform both their lives.

This science fiction novella of gay love and service can be read on its own or as part of Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion, an award-winning science fiction series on exploitation and love, set in a time when the nation's corporate government has institutionalized slavery.

This is a reissue of an older story, moved to a new series.
 

Review

"An unconventional and unexpected love story between two men who aren't free in any sense of the word, but who nonetheless forge a loving bond." —The Novel Approach (Lisa).
 

Coming soon as multiformat e-books from Love in Dark Settings Press: Remy Hart's original three stories in the Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion series.


Excerpt

He stood motionless, a bulky shape looming over the older man sitting at his desk, examining his datapad. He was taller than Halvar, and stronger. He reminded himself of these facts, though he knew that they were of no relevance.

It was not the first time he had been called into Halvar's office. He had been sent there many times over the years, at the Chairman's orders. Sometimes the beatings he received at Halvar's hands were merited, sometimes they were not. He took no notice of them either way, nor any notice of the words from Halvar that accompanied the beatings. His mind was on higher matters, and the beatings always gave him the excuse he needed to court the latest of his lovers, showing her his welts and pouring out his sorrowful tale.

Not that he lacked gratitude for what his lovers gave him. They helped to distract him from the horrors of his life, so he did his best to return the favor – and was successful, he knew. In his ears were still ringing the cries his latest lover had made when he pleasured her.

Halvar looked up from his datapad. "Sit," he said briefly, and Egon sat in the straight-backed chair opposite Halvar's desk. He suspected that Halvar wanted him seated only because it allowed the Supervisor to stand over him. His theory was confirmed in the next moment as Halvar rose, emerged from behind his desk, and leaned back against the front of the desk, his arms folded as he contemplated Egon.

"Well," he said finally, "you are fortunate. The Chairman received a good price for Karia from the breeding farm – they took one look at the genetics information from your chip's database and decided that your child and its host were worth buying. They wanted to buy you as well, but they didn't offer the Chairman a good enough price."

Egon sat immobile, unable to think what to say. That he had escaped being sold to a breeding farm ought to give him joy, he knew – but that he would never see his child, and that laughing Karia would now be condemned to a life of forced mating and endless pregnancies . . .

"So that matters to you." Halvar's voice was chill. "I had wondered whether it would."

Egon raised his chin and looked Halvar straight in the eye. "We didn't intend for it to happen."

"No, I'm quite sure she didn't intend for it to happen." Halvar's voice remained cool, though quiet. "At sixteen, she was young enough to believe you when you told her that you were infertile. I'm only surprised that you have continued to use that tale, since none of your other bed-mates believed it."

Egon's face grew warm, and he shifted his hands from the arms of the chair to his lap, lounging back in an effort to look relaxed. "I thought it was true. My parents only ever had one child, though they made love often, and they told me that my uncle—"

Halvar's rod shot out to full length; it crashed down upon the chair arms with a crack like lightning. Egon, who would have fallen out of the chair if the rod had not barred his way, went rigid and pressed himself against the chair's straight back.

Halvar leaned forward. His eyes were the color of an arctic sky. "I am not a fool, Egon," he said softly, "so do not treat me as such. If you are a fool, and believe the words you are saying, then I suggest that you rapidly educate yourself. You cared not whether you impregnated that girl and ruined her life – you cared nothing for her or for any other woman you have bedded for the past ten years. All you care for is your own pleasure."

"At least the Chairman has permitted me that much."

The words had escaped from his mouth before he could pull them back. Halvar looked down at him a moment more before slowly raising the rod from the chair. His wrist flicked; the rod collapsed back in on itself.

He did not return the rod to his pocket, though; instead he ran a hand slowly across its surface while saying, "So you expect rewards from the Chairman. For what? For the lackadaisical fashion in which you perform your duties?"

"Maybe." Egon kept his gaze fixed upon Halvar, unwilling to concede him any ground. "Or maybe I'd like payment for the parents he took from me."

Halvar did not speak for a moment. His office was of spartan appearance – no more than a desk and two chairs – and his personal appearance was likewise simple: scorning the black suits worn by the more privileged slaves of this household, Halvar wore a grey uniform, as though he were a slave just beginning his training. On him, it did not look odd.

"You blame the Chairman for the loss of your parents." The Supervisor's voice was flat.

"Who else am I to blame?" The bitterness that Egon had succeeded in hiding until now spilled out of him, like acidic liquid from a poorly tended ionizer. "My parents both served the Chairman with loyalty, and he rewarded that by selling my mother to a household where she'd be beaten or worse, and by driving my father to his death. What justice is there in that?"

"Justice?" The Supervisor raised his eyebrows, as Egon's father had. "Is that what you seek?"

Egon gave a short, humorless laugh. "Not justice. Slaves can't expect justice. That being the case, I'll take what pleasure I can, where I can."

"Interesting." Halvar folded his arms again without releasing the rod from his hand. "How far do you extend this philosophy of taking without giving? To your friends? To your lovers?"

"Of course not." Egon glared at Halvar, resuming his slouched position. "I always do my best to give pleasure to my friends and to my lovers. I entertain my friends with stories, and my lovers— Well, I give them a different sort of pleasure. Any of them would tell you that."

"Even Karia?"

"Especially Karia!" Egon leaned forward, his hands now in fists. "She and I— Not using protection was a mistake, I'll admit that. But I gave her pleasure all the same. Towards the end of each time, when she—"

He broke off, realizing the futility of what he was saying. As far as he knew, Halvar was completely celibate; if he had had any lovers in his youth, he had given them up at the time he became Supervisor. Halvar had not even participated in the rape fourteen years before. He probably had forgotten what bed-pleasure could be like.

"Mm." Halvar appeared to contemplate this information, staring down at his rod and lightly touching its surface. After a while he said, without looking up, "Well, your lovers seem to hold a different view on this matter. They regard you, uniformly, as the worst mistake they ever made."

For a moment Egon was still; then he relaxed further back into the chair, chuckling. "Do you expect me to believe that?"

"Believe it or not, as you wish. According to one of your lovers, 'When he took me in the store-rooms, while I was supposed to be checking the flour bins, it was as though I was making love to a machine on automatic. His thoughts weren't on me – I'm not sure where they were. I'm not sure whether he has any thoughts, beyond satisfying his body.'"

His mouth had turned so dry that he had trouble swallowing. He knew whom Halvar was quoting – it was Karia, telling of the day on which he had given her his child. The day on which she had cried his name into his chest, over and over . . .

"But she enjoyed it," he said, his voice dull. "I know she enjoyed it. She . . . Towards the end . . ."

Halvar slid his hand around the rod, gripping it tight. "I seem to recall," he said conversationally, "that you were present where you should not have been fourteen years ago, and that you witnessed a certain punishment that took place in the kitchen. Did you happen to notice, on that occasion, whether the slave in question reached orgasm?"

A heaviness in his throat prevented him from speaking for a moment. "He . . . That is, my father . . . The man being punished was forced .. ." He stopped and tried again. "Even if Karia— That is, she was only one. There were others . . . And my friends. You can't tell me that my friends don't enjoy my company."

"Ah, yes, your friends. You claim to them that you are a skilled lover – is that not so?"

His hands clenched once more. "Yes."

"Prove it."

He stared up at Halvar's opaque expression, but could think of no better response than, "What?"

"Prove that you are a passably good lover. I will offer you a choice. You may receive a beating now for the loss of a young slave – and that beating will be consonant with the heinousness of your offense, I can promise you. Or return here tonight before lights-off and prove to me your skills as a lover. If I find that you have told the truth, I will let you go without further punishment. If I find that you have lied, you will receive a beating, though a lesser one than you would receive now."

"I don't understand the point of this," Egon said slowly.

"Don't you?" Halvar flicked out the slender rod full length, then pulled it back, as though he were a towtractor hooking a dead aircar. "You were once a hard-working servant – indeed, I had hopes that you would prove as skilled at service as your mother. Then you lost interest in your duties. I had held out hope all these years that, though you were as poor a chauffeur as any household could bear to sustain, you were at least a hard worker in the hobby you had taken up in place of mindfulness to your duties. Now I'm beginning to doubt even that. So prove me wrong."
 

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

Review: The Three Lands

"A love story between a young lord and his new slave [which] combines rich worldbuilding and characterization to produce a touching sweet romance.. . . Perhaps a good comparison is Mary Renault's The Persian Boy, but without the distance Renault's romantic elements usually come with. This is immediate and tender." —T. C. Mill on Re-creation (The Three Lands).

Nov. 18th, 2013

Cell-mates (Life Prison)

Cover for 'Cell-mates'

"They had to settle the issue of sex first."

Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play . . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as "play." So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust.

If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.


Excerpt

They had to settle the issue of sex first.

"No," said Merrick flatly as he shoved his only belonging – a toothbrush given to him by his previous guard – under the stone bed-ledge on the other side of the cell.

Well, that was a direct enough answer. Or would have been, if Tyrrell had been the type to accept 'no' for an answer.

If he had been the type to accept 'no,' he wouldn't have spent two years persuading Merrick to become his cell-mate.

"Is it because . . ." He paused, wondering how to put this delicately. Because the Magisterial Republic of Mip had originally been colonized by the two warring nations of Yclau and Vovim, cultural clashes among Mippite citizens were inevitable. It was said that even Cecelia – the great Cecelia – had been rejected by a suitor's family, which was clearly a sign of lunacy in that family. Some of the Yclau-descended folk had strange notions about maintaining the purity of their families. Anyone ethnic or foreign or darker than a pasty shade of white was considered off-limits. That would make Tyrrell extremely off-limits. "It isn't because I was born in southern Vovim, is it?"

Merrick looked annoyed. "What, do you think I have something against players?"

Tyrrell straightened his spine. Like most emigrants from Vovim, he had acted in plays from time to time. Street plays, with no props other than broken objects dug out of the local garbage heap, but they were plays just the same. "Do you?" he responded in a challenging voice.

Merrick's mouth twisted. He was busy tightening the blankets on the bed-ledge with what seemed to Tyrrell to be unnecessary thoroughness, given that they were both about to go to bed. Unless – Tyrrell brightened at the thought – Merrick intended that they use only one bed-ledge.

After a moment, Merrick said, "The Bijou. The City Opera. The Frederick.. . ."

It turned out to be a very long recital. Tyrrell was impressed. "You've been to all the theaters in this city?"

"All the theaters in the whole of eastern Mip." Merrick mumbled the words.

"Gods preserve us – that many?"

Merrick glared at his blanket. "Does it matter? I've spent plenty of time with players. Let's move on to more important subjects."

Tyrrell hated to think what Merrick's idea was of an important subject. Probably how to strangle all the guards at Mercy Life Prison. He asked, "Is it because I'm short?"

Merrick sighed as he turned toward Tyrrell. "Look," he said, "you could be six feet tall, with dashing dark eyes, and skin a delicious shade of sepia—"

Tyrrell began to tick off in his mind which men in the prison fit this description.

"—and I still wouldn't fuck you. I'm just not interested in doing that. Not with you. Not with anyone here."

"Married?" Tyrrell asked sympathetically. So many men in the prison were, or had left behind love-mates, male or female, when they were convicted of their crimes and sent to spend the rest of their lives in Mercy Prison.

Merrick's gaze turned toward the flagstoned floor. "Hell."

"You don't have to swear at me," said Tyrrell reproachfully.

"I'm not swearing. I'm praying to Hell to rise up and kidnap you to his domain so that I won't have to continue this conversation. Look—"

And suddenly his voice was low, as low as it had been when he had finally made the amazing declaration that he would submit a formal request to his guard that he be transferred to Tyrrell's cell. So Tyrrell held his breath, because he knew that Merrick was never low-voiced – never, never, never – unless he was saying something that cost him a great deal to say.
 

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Cell-mates.

Never (The Eternal Dungeon)

Cover for 'Never'

"'Never!' she exclaimed, shocked, when he asked her to marry him."

She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

It was even more annoying to find that she kept thinking about the man. Why would she want to continue to speak to a guard who rudely implied that she led a frivolous life?

And why oh why were all the balls in the capital suddenly so boring?

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning historical fantasy series inspired by late nineteenth-century life.

Begins twenty-two years before Rebirth. Written as part of the 100 Darkfics challenge cycle.


Excerpt

"Are you sure you want to talk to him?" her brother asked dubiously. "He is working these days in the Eternal Dungeon."

"Oh, I know all about that," she said dismissively, in order to impress her brother. "It need not affect matters. We are only meeting briefly, and I am so very bored, Harold."

Her brother grinned and said that he expected so, since this was hardly the sort of event she was accustomed to attending. He made the introduction and then, curse him, he went off to talk with the prison's Keeper, who, as it turned out, had a beautiful, grown daughter.

She and her erstwhile suitor discussed the weather. She was quite careful to avoid mentioning any connection between the weather and crime waves. She was congratulating herself on keeping the conversation well away from dangerous topics when they were interrupted by a commoner who wished to wring her suitor's hand. The commoner was crying, she realized with discomfort.

"Never thought I'd thank you," said the commoner to her companion. "Never thought I'd do anything but slit your throat. But it made a difference, my time in the Eternal Dungeon. It made all the difference in the world, I vow by all that is sacred. I've lived a straight life since then – my wife can testify to that."

Her companion demurred, saying something about playing only a small role in such matters.

The commoner, however, shook his head. "Nay," he replied. "That's what they say out here in the lighted world, that it's the Torturers we have to look out for. But it's you guards who carry out the Torturers' orders, and how you do so makes all the difference. If you'd been harsh to me, or cruel or indifferent, then nothing my Torturer said would have swayed me. But you were always civil to me – you treated me like a man, not like a miserable criminal. And once I'd seen what it was like to be treated as a man, I thirsted for it, sir. I truly did. I began to think how I might live that way. So what the Torturer said to me, that made a mark. But only because of how you'd treated me, first-off."

This was, to say the least, a disconcerting speech. She made a private resolve to ask her brother afterwards what this was about. Surely all that took place in the Eternal Dungeon was that prisoners were tortured until they confessed to their crimes?

Her companion was apologetic, once the commoner had left. "I had not meant for you to be exposed to such dark matters," he said.

Paradoxically – for she had already regretted asking to be introduced to him – she found herself saying angrily, "I should think it would be the duty of every gentlewoman in this queendom to know of how criminals are handled in prisons, since the criminals' conduct affects the lives of everyone, elite and mid-class and commoner. That is why I am here today." Which was as bold a lie as she had ever told. She resolved to make her statement true by asking her brother a few questions about the Keeper's plans for Parkside Prison.

The conversation ended then, as her brother fetched her to take her home. She was relieved, knowing that she had passed through this trial unscathed.

And so it was not a little annoying when she received a letter soon afterwards from the guard.

He apologized for being so bold, begged her forgiveness if he was creating distress in her life by contacting her. He had been struck, he said, by the remark she made about the duties of gentlewomen. . . .
 

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as FREE online fiction: Never.

Chronologically correct

I've re-ordered the series pages for The Eternal Dungeon and Life Prison so that the side stories are listed in chronological order (regarding the events of the series). I've also indicated at what point the side stories occur in relation to the main stories of those series. Spoiler notices are included. (Because, like, I paid attention to panel seven of this.)

Nov. 11th, 2013

In the Silence (Life Prison)

Cover for 'In the Silence'


"Images came, like flickers of a candle: Dark stones. Dark metal. Faint fire. A spoon in his hand, as someone urged him to eat. A stinking pit that he knew he was duty-bound to fill. A loom nearby that he vaguely remembered he had once known how to work, but which now stood as silent as the rest of his world."

He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known.

But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger. . . and the hope of something more.

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.


Excerpt

Some of the prisoners began to retreat to the back of their cells, made uneasy by this breaking of the silence. He ought to as well. A prisoner was speaking. A prisoner was shouting. No good could come of this. Nothing could come of this but pain and fear and screaming.

Tears were running down his face now. He gripped the bars hard, trying to figure out what to do. He had emerged from a dream, only to find himself trapped in a nightmare. How could he make it stop?

The solid door opened suddenly. The guard named Sedgewick stood there, breathing heavily. His hair was dishevelled; his jacket was torn; his neck was turning purple. "Get chains," he snapped at Milton.

"Chains?" Turning, Milton gaped at him.

"Chains. From the showers. The manacles on chains that we use when we give the prisoners the cold-water punishment."

"The chains are bolted to the shower walls," Milton protested. "They're attached high up on the walls, above the prisoners' heads."

"Pliers. Stepladder. Be quick about it."

"Sedgewick, it sounds as though you're killing your prisoner. If you kill him, our Keeper will be angry—"

"Go." As the shouts inside the cell reached a new high pitch, Sedgewick slammed the door shut.

Milton looked around the level uncertainly. But in all the cells he glanced at, none of the prisoners were moving. Swallowing hard, Milton retreated to the stairwell.

The shouts from the battle-torn cell were so loud now that he covered his ears. He could still hear the bellow of the prisoner, who sounded like a bull let loose in a ring. "I am going to maul you so badly that you'll never be reborn!" the prisoner was shouting. "Just watch me!"

There was a loud crack. Identifying the sound, he flinched back, as though the whip had landed on him. The only response from the prisoner was another bellow, this time of profanity.

He bit his lip. He had no doubt as to the outcome of this struggle. The prisoner could not hold out against two guards armed with whips and daggers. It was a miracle he had done so already. How long would this last?

How long had it lasted? He glanced briefly over his shoulder at his cell, but it looked just the same as it had the last time he had seen it – had truly seen it.

Only the loom was gone. How had they taken the loom away without waking him from his dream? And how long ago had they done this?

He felt the bars under his hands. Bars. There had been no bars when he last saw this cell – only a solid door. The solid door was still there, but it was an inner door now, open. There were two doors to his cell now, one solid, one barred. The barred one must have been added.

How could they have added a barred door without him noticing it?

Sweat was trickling down his back now. He tried to read the time passed from the amount of ashes next to the fire. But for all he knew, the ashes might have been scooped out a dozen times or more. A whole month might have passed. Or two months?

He put his hand upon his cheek, trying to wipe away the tears that continued to stream there—

And froze. Were those wrinkles he felt next to his eyes?

He was twenty-one years old. How could he have wrinkles?
 

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): In the Silence.

Reviews: The Three Lands & The Eternal Dungeon

"Wonderfully written. A harsh tale told by the slave to a boy too young to really understand it at first. Over a few days a boy grows up and learns just how unfair his world is." —Amazon (Gina) on Re-creation (The Three Lands).

"It's so dark, so intriguing. Peterson is able to build a fascinating world in 84 pages. . . . It is a story that definitely will stay with you for a while." —Solace in Another World (Mierke) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

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