Two-Gun Witch – The Big Idea

One week ago today, Two-Gun Witch was released, as you know. On that day, John Scalzi was kind enough to give me a Big Idea spot on his blog. The Big Idea was the inspiration for A Story is Born on this blog. It’s essentially a spot for authors to talk about a book’s premise. Why didn’t I post that here at the time, you ask? Well, for two reasons. First, his blog gets roughly 23 trillion times the traffic mine does, so it felt a little unnecessary because it’s not like I’d drive a lot of traffic his way. As I’d hoped, this gave the book a nice boost in sales, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that some people may not know Scalzi or follow his blog. If that’s you, first I highly recommend both. There’s a reason he’s such a successful writer. Second, I apologize.

Click here if you’d like to know how Two-Gun Witch came to be, please to enjoy!

As ever, please buy the book. If you have already, many thanks, and now please buy a copy for a friend. If you’ve done that, many more thanks, and now please ask your friend to buy a copy for another friend.

Happy Book Birthday Two-Gun Witch!

#SFWAPRO
Today is the day I’ve been waiting for, for a long while. You can now own your very own copy of Two-Gun Witch! You’ll find links to all the usual places to buy the book at the end of this post, but I also wanted to share something special. Music is very important to me and my writing process. As I noted in an earlier blog post, one of the great ironies of life is that the sound of typing keys drives me crazy. Seriously, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. As such, music is vital to maintain my sanity while writing (or working for that matter). Add to that, I tend to visualize my stories and music does an important providing a soundtrack for my mental movie. That’s why one of the first things I do when I start a new book is I create a new playlist for it. The songs provide a nice emotional punch to keep me in the right headspace. With that in mind, I’ve decided to recreate the playlist I made for Two-Gun Witch on Spotify and share it with you. There’s some songs in there you’ve probably heard, and perhaps more than a few you haven’t. Either way, I hope you enjoy it! If you’d prefer, here’s the direct link. If you prefer to find the songs yourself, I’ll paste the names in the text below, with YouTube links.

Two-Gun Witch Playlist

Enjoy the music, enjoy the book, and like with all books, posting a review or spreading word of the book to others would be a huge help! Thanks!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Google Books

My local indie bookstore (they ship worldwide)
Fountain Bookstore – Paperback
Fountain Bookstore – Hardcover


Playlist

Against the Wind – The Highwaymen
Aint Going to Heaven – Gangstagrass
Ain’t No Grave – Johnny Cash
All for One – Gangstagrass
Annabelle – Gillian Welch
At Your Window – Trampled by Turtles
Ballad of a Lonely Man – Mike Ness
Banks of the Ohio – Gangstagrass
Big Iron – Mike Ness
Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound – Johnny Cash
Come Dance – Steep Canyon Rangers
Dear Sister – Claire Lynch
Don’t Take Your Guns to Town – Johnny Cash
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky – Johnny Cash
God’s Gonna Cut You Down – Johnny Cash
Hey Brother – Avicii
Highwaymen – The Highwaymen
Honey Babe – Gangstagrass
Hurt – Johnny Cash
In Hell I’ll be in Good Company – The Dead South
It Will Follow the Rain – The Tallest Man On Earth
John Henry – Gangstagrass
Long Hard Times To Come – Gangstagrass
I am a Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys
The Mercy Seat – Johnny Cash
Murder Ballad in G Minor – The Rosewood Thieves
Murder Song (5,4,3,2,1) – Aurora
O’ Death – Gangstagrass
Orphan Girl – Gillian Welch
The Outskirts – Trampled by Turtles
Peacemaker – The Steeldrivers
Ran Dry – Gangstagrass
The Recap – The Dead South
Remember Me This Way – Steve Martin, Edie Brickell
Renegades – X Ambassadors
Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
River Runs Red – The Steeldrivers
Six More Miles – Mike Ness
Take the Wheel – Steep Canyon Rangers
Walk the Line – The Tallest Man On Earth
The Way it Goes – Gillian Welch
We All Get Lonely – Trampled by Turtles
Whiskey – Trampled by Turtles
Wildwood Flower – Mike Ness
You Can Never Go Home Again – Gangstagrass
Your Rocky Spine – Great Lake Swimmers

Podcast Appearance

Ed, my friend since seventh grade, is a history teacher in Northern California. He also co-hosts a podcast called A Geek History of Time with Damian Harmony, a fellow teacher. They were kind enough to invite me on to talk about my writing journey, and my American Faerie Tale books. I’m a fan of the podcast and if you enjoy history and/or geekery, I highly recommend it, even the episodes I don’t appear in. The episode on Squirrel Girl is on of my favorites. Beware, if you dread puns, stretch your eyes before listening because Damian will have them rolling continually. And good news, the podcast is available everywhere I know of that you can get podcasts!

Home Page

iTunes

Spotify

Release Date!Cover Reveal! But Wait, There’s More!

#SFWAPRO
Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I’ve been excited to get Two-Gun Witch out into the world. I think it’s the best work I’ve done, which it should be as my latest work. Well, after literal years of working and waiting and working some more, we have a release date! Come May 31st, you can finally read the story I’m sure you’ve been chomping at the bit to read! That’s right, not even two months! It’s been great working with the folks at Falstaff books, and I’m excited to officially join the misfit clan. For those of you who don’t know, it’s been a long and winding path to get this story to publication. It got shopped around at most of the big houses and several smaller presses, but they all passed. Which was surprising because with two exceptions, all the editors who read it, really liked it. They said they loved the world building, the characters, and that the writing was strong. One was so sure his house would pick it up that he actually started editing it. The problem came from the marketing people. Weird\Fantasy Western isn’t a genre that tends to do very well. Which is one reason I push Two-Gun Witch as historical fantasy, but don’t tell anyone. All this to say, I’m glad Falstaff had the courage to take the risk with the book, and it would be really helpful not just for me, but for other authors of niche and stranger stories if you picked up a copy. Okay, right now it would be mostly for me, but it will also help Falstaff find other cool stories.

That done, here is the official cover reveal for Two-Gun Witch! I know, you already saw a thumbnail in the post or email, just play along!

Covers are always nerve-wracking. As an author, you typically get very little, if any, input. Which I’m mostly okay with because I’m a writer, not an artist/graphic designer. But you always worry you won’t like it and even if you can provide feedback, you feel guilty or like a prima donna. At least I do. That said, I couldn’t be happier with this cover! I love the tone and feel, the small details, and, well, everything! I think Falstaff knocked it out of the park and special kudos to the artists, Susan Roddey!

But wait, there’s more! I hired Kirbi Fagan (an excellent artist) to do the first art work of Talen, and as you can see, she crushed it.

Well, I also had her do the four main characters in the story, which I’ll have available as postcards at events.

However, she also did an image of all four of them together! If you order the book from The Fountain Bookstore (they ship worldwide and details will be coming shortly) I’ll include an 11X17 print of the entire cast image. Keep in mind, the post cards can’t be lined up to create the full image, so this is the only way to get all four characters in one image! But, Bishop, I hear you ask. Why would I care about characters I know nothing about? I’m glad you asked! Because you’re a cool and culturally interesting person who enjoys art across various media! And I’ll even cover any additional shipping costs!

Also, you’ll be supporting an indie bookstore that does great things in the community and is staffed by awesome people! It’s a win-win-win! That’s three wins! Twice as many wins as the next leading competitor! (excluding Brandon Sanderson)

At this point, you’re probably close to being overstimulated, because even super cool people can only take so much awesome. So, I’ll let you look over the artwork and tell you to stay tuned for more posts about the new book!

A Story is Born – Sarah Sover

Sarah Sover is a publishing sibling and the author of Fairy Godmurder, a noir fantasy. Even if we weren’t with the same publisher (Falstaff Books) though, I’d be all in for this kind of story, even if she did misspell faerie.


Some ideas stem from a wayward conversation, some from a turn of phrase, some from a life experience, etc. Fairy Godmurder originated from a single scene that popped into my head fully formed like some kind of silent film.

You know how there’s a kind of magic you can feel in certain places? I always felt that way about cobblestone streets. It’s as if magic oozes out from between the stones, well-worn from the feet and wheels and hooves that have travelled over them. I’ve heard that a house resonates with the energy of those who occupied it, and I think the same goes for roads and paths.

The scene that played in my head was of rainwater gathering in those crevices between cobblestones before a pair of combat boots breaks the spell by stomping through the puddles. The woman wearing the boots is in a suit, a pencil skirt and button-up blouse, and she’s got a wide-brimmed hat keeping the rain from her eyes. She’s young. And angry.

She splashes through the puddles to where a bunch of important-looking men are milling around. She takes over, ordering them to step aside. Then she stoops over a body splayed out on the cobblestone street, blood mixing with the rainwater reflecting the streetlights above.

That’s it.

From that scene lasting only a few frames came the idea for a noir fantasy centered around a pissed off fairy godmother hunting the killer of her first princess. The body became a brownie, and the woman became Gwen, a fairy with empathic magic and motivated by a need for vengeance. She’s a magical creature, but the horrors in her life and the decisions she’s made stunt her magic, which is ironic since her magic is the key to cracking the case. The boots breaking the spell of rainwater on cobblestone are, in a way, symbolic of Gwen’s struggle to forgive herself and move forward.

But Fairy Godmurder isn’t all angst. It’s also got touches of my trademark off-kilter humor strewn throughout. I adore playing with tropes, subverting expectations, and combining and contrasting unlikely elements when I tell stories. I think it’s something about the way my ADHD brain works, connecting things in strange ways. And, like all my books, it’s got a cast of characters I’d love to grab a beer with.

Fairy Godmurder the first in my Fractured Fae series, with Faed to Black releasing next year, and I’m having a blast digging deeper into some of the dark forces at work in Fairy Godmurder while adding in some truly self-indulgent elements along the way. After all, what’s the point of writing a book if it doesn’t satisfy some part of you? The Fractured Fae series is my unapologetic take on the magical noir genre, and it all started with that single scene. It’s not so silent now.


You can find Sarah at her website, which also tells you how to find her on all the usual places. I’d also recommend her YouTube channel here, where she competed with another author for pre-order sales and shows why faeries beat pirates.

Hey, Remember Me? Updates and Some Announcements

#SWFAPRO

The title is rhetorical. If you’re getting this, you’ll (hopefully) remember me. Been a while, hasn’t it? How are you? How’s your mom and them? Me? Well, like—I imagine—many of you, I’m still wandering through the pandemic weary world where every day seems to blur into the next. All while lasting roughly 150 years. I’m getting some words down, but never as many as I’d like and mostly just focused on getting from one day to the next.

Now, some announcements:

First, I now have a roommate. Well, it’s a kitten, so probably closer to a landlord.

This is Guinness, and yes, he is as adorable in person.

He is entertaining, a total goofball, and has fondness for human flesh. Specifically, mine.

I’ve had him a few months now and he’s been good for me. It’s my first time owning a cat and I assume it’s his first time owning a human, so we’re both figuring it out as we go.

Okay, now that I’ve hooked you with cat pictures, here is some other less adorable news.

Two-Gun Witch is being editing and should be released early next year. Those of you with good memories might recall me saying something similar about the released date last year. Well, Covid is a thing and it’s caused delays as do the normal, and not so normal, problems that existed before the plague hit. In short, expect to hear more from me as the release date approaches about special pre-order offers and teasers.

And lastly but not least(ly?), there is a new(ish) American Faerie Tale story available! Yes, you heard that right! The Greatest Gift was part of a novella collection a few years ago. Since then, it’s been re-edited, given a spiffy cover (see below), and made available on its own! If you want to know how Wraith spends her holidays, check it out! It makes an excellent gift for family, friends, strangers, the barista at Starbucks who always gives you a little extra whipped cream, or even your cat or dog.

Yes, I know they can’t read! That’s what they have you for.

Fair warning, it’s a Wraith story, which means it isn’t candy canes and hot chocolate, but it has heart. If you liked the rest of the series, I’m confident you’ll like this story too.

So, there it is, short and sweet. I hope you’re all faring well through this, well, this. Hang in there and keeping hanging on. Despite some people (waaaay too many) seemingly determined to drag this out for as long as possible and learn the entire Greek alphabet, we can and will get through it.

And just because it’s that time of year, here’s a short film staring Guinness titled “My Fucking Mouse”.

A Story is Born I.L. Cruz

#SFWAPRO

In this edition of A Story is Born, I.L. Cruz is here to talk about her Enchanted Isle series. I found I.L. through her blog, Fairy Tale Feminista. If you like faerie tales, you’ll really enjoy her site. I highly recommend it, even if she does spell it fairy instead of faerie.


Starting from the Beginning: The Birth of The Enchanted Isles series

I remember the story that started it all.

My daughter was perfecting the art of being two and refused to stay down for her nap. My solution was to read to her from a book of fairy tales she’d gotten for her birthday. One of the stories was Rumpelstiltskin. I read the story and she fell asleep, but my mind kept turning the story over and over in my mind.

It’s a story about a woman who had a lying father, who claimed she could spin straw into gold. It’s a story of a woman who is bullied by her king to make good on her father’s lies on pain of death. And it’s the story of a woman who threw herself into the power of yet another man who made the most outrageous demand of all—her firstborn. Yet the story never gives her a name.

In an era where everything sends everyone into fits of ire, I’d say this took me to four or five—annoyed and pensive. Childhood is full of stories that cast men and boys as heroes for being bold and clever, but girls and women are heroes only when they’re meek and beautiful. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It began the germ of an idea.

I started looking for instances where women were at the heart of an adventure and more often than not romance was center stage. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like a good romance for men or women in any combination—it makes a story more well-rounded. But the more I read, the more I realized that a romantic entanglement spurred women and girls in adventure stories as though being female meant adventure for the sake of it was unthinkable. Being a proactive kind of person, I decided the only way to fix this oversight, was to add a story of my own.

My aims were initially simple. Write a story about a woman who engaged in an adventurous life and make her Latina, another deficit I’d noticed. I knew she was would have a love interest, but it would have little to do with her motivations. Because my reading of fairy tales gave rise to this idea, I began my search in the pages in my daughter’s books. This was at a time when fairy tale reimaginings were becoming popular. I settled on Mother Goose, but writing is rarely that simple.

The book, which would become a series, evolved through time. At first it was a mystery and then mystery/fantasy. At one point it became a YA novel because I went to a conference and the “expert” said it should be geared to young adults. It was at the same conference that someone else gave my work a title. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to tame my idea into a YA mold.

Then I remembered what originally brought me to writing. I wanted to see myself reflected in genre fiction. And I couldn’t do so within a context that was pushed on me. So, I did the hardest thing a writer has to do. I started from the beginning. I still liked my characters, but I knew the situations I was subjecting them to were artificial (as much as that is true for a world outside our own where magic is real). I opened myself up to other possibilities.

My characters had been with me long enough to talk back—a scary prospect to any sane person, but a common occurrence for a writer. From my “conversations” with my characters the Enchanted Isles books were born. It’s been and continues to be a rewarding and at times, heartbreaking experience, but I’m so happy it’s my career.


You can find I.L. at the aforementioned Fairy Tale Feminista, her website here, and on Twitter here.

You can find her books at the links below.


A Smuggler’s Path
Digital or Paperback


A Noble’s Path
Digital or Paperback

A Story is Born – T. Frohock

#SFWAPRO

Welcome to the inaugural post of what I intend to become an ongoing series. Several authors I respect and admire have an ongoing blog series where authors can come and talk about their books. John Scalzi has The Big Idea, Mary Robinette Kowal has My Favorite Bit, and Chuck Wendig has 5 Things I learned. I wanted to do something different, and since authors are so often asked “where do your ideas come from” I decided my contribution (or rather theirs) would be how the story of their book came about.

But I’ve taken up enough space talking about other people. For the very first A Story is Born I invited T. Frohock to talk about her book, Where Oblivion Lives. She did one better and talked about how her Los Nefilim series came about.


In the beginning …

King Solomon was dying. That was how the first incarnation of Los Nefilim began. It went something like this:

In the garden beyond my window, a night bird cried a sublime song while in the distance, a guard called the watch. Otherwise, the palace slept as I, Solomon, third King of all Israel, lay dying with only an angel at my side.

She was a small creature, this angel of mine who cradled my hand, her wings folded demurely at her back. When I was a young man, the tip of her head barely reached my collarbone. Now she towered over my deathbed. She seemed larger somehow; an illusion amplified by the darkness and my fear of the dark.

Except that book didn’t sell. It was too much story in such a short space of words. There were angelic and daimonic wars, and multiple incarnations, and the narrative moved between Solomon’s first person account of the events in the past and the third person account of the events on the Iberian Peninsula in 1348. It was a huge tale that probably should have spanned multiple novels, but I wrote it like one book and it failed to win an editor’s eye.

That happens sometimes. We spend a lot of time and energy on our prose, and though it might feel emotionally devastating when something doesn’t sell, often it just means a particular work isn’t ready for publication. Sometimes, the story needs time to settle … ferment, if you will.

With that thought in mind, I tucked the novel into the metaphorical trunk that is a computer’s memory, and then I moved on to other stories. None of them sold, either.

I was ready to quit writing. Not out of petulance—okay, maybe a little, but once my hurt feelings passed, I took a quick inventory and realized that if my work wasn’t being published, then it was probably something wrong with my writing. Maybe … just maybe … it might be an idea to start back at the beginning. I considered taking some classes, honing my craft a little more before trying for publication again. In other words, it was time for a break.

Meanwhile, the novella market was opening up and a friend suggested that I try writing one. At something of a loss for what to do, I decided to make the novella a gauntlet challenge: if the novella was rejected, then I would quit writing for a while.

As I turned ideas over in my head, I remembered my Solomon story, which is really the backstory for Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel. That backstory went something like this:

You see, the Psalms of the Old Testament were written by several people: David, Solomon, and someone called Asaph. I thought it odd that there was so much literature about David and Solomon and the other members of their respective courts, but this guy named Asaph gets a byline and then pretty much drops out of sight forever. I’m sure Biblical scholars know more about him, but I couldn’t find anything. So I made up a story about how Asaph and Solomon were great friends, but they had a falling out, one so severe that Solomon banished Asaph from his court and imprisoned him with a half-mad angel, but Solomon still loved Asaph too much to erase him from existence entirely, so he left his name on the Psalms they composed. The end.

Then I kept the components of the original story that worked: Solomon/Guillermo, who in his arrogance caused the fall of the Nephilim; his best-friend and betrayer, Asaph/Diago; and the commander of one of Solomon’s army divisions and Asaph’s lover, Benaiah/Miquel.

For everything else, I essentially started from scratch. I eliminated the shape changing and as I reworked the story, I discovered that it wasn’t really about Guillermo. The story of the nefilim was about Diago. So I trimmed the details down to their very essence for the first novella, and since they all had Spanish names, I kept the setting in Spain.

Rather than stick with epic fantasy, I moved the story forward to the turbulent years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. The novellas (In Midnight’s Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death) all serve as an introduction into the world of Los Nefilim, as well as forming the basis for discovering the Key—the song that will enable the nefilim to open the realms as the angels do. The novels, which begin with Where Oblivion Lives, concern Diago’s actual composition of the Key. Somewhat like an opera in three parts, the stories follow the crucial points that lead our heroes to the next act of the movement.

The newest novel, Carved from Stone and Dream, will be published February 2020 and is something akin to Band of Brothers meets John Wick. It takes place at the end of the Spanish Civil War. I spend some time talking about the Spanish retreat and how the French treated the refugees fleeing Franco’s armies.

It’s been an amazing journey with these three guys and their adventures. As I work on the third novel, A Song with Teeth, I’m bringing this portion of their story to a close and realizing that theirs is the journey of three men moving away from the toxic masculinity of their firstborn lives to learn to nurture one another in an emotionally healthy relationship.

After reviewing this very long post, I guess my message to authors is a simple one. You never know which incarnation of a story might sell, so stick with the process you’ve developed for yourself and keep trying, keep writing. More than anything, don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles.

Write on … I will watch for you.


T. Frohock has turned a love of history and dark fantasy into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. A real-life cyborg, T. has a cochlear implant, meaning she can turn you on or off with the flick of a switch. Make of that what you will. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.

You can find her in a lot of places online, but she is most often at her website or lurking on Twitter.

Another short story

#SFWAPRO

Continuing my plan for the end of last year (if a little late) here is another short story. Let’s call it farcical fantasy. It’s dark, and loosely based on a similar encounter in I had in college, though in that case, the lich’s eyes burned purple, not blue.
You can read it in it’s entirety here (also linked below the sample), and view my other short story here. Enjoy.


Erstwhile Thaumatecnic University

By Bishop O’Connell

“What is that smell?” someone in line behind Walter asked.

He didn’t look up or acknowledge it. It might not be him. Sure, he was a shit farmer from a long line of shit farmers, but it could be someone wearing Battle Axe body spray.

“Yeah, something smells like shit,” someone else added.

It could still be Battle Axe.

“Next,” the kobold working the desk said.

Walter hurried forward and held out his class course selection parchment.

“Name,” the kobold said without looking up. A nametag on his tunic read “Marvin.”

“Walter,” he said and lowered his voice. “Dungharvester.”

“Dungha—” Marvin looked up, his yellow eyes going wide. He sniffed the air a couple times and leaned back.

Walter didn’t move, just held the parchment out. He’d prepared himself for this, though apparently washing all his robes and undergarments eight times, taking three showers, and loading up on deodorant didn’t do any good. He made a mental note to pick up some Celtic Spring body wash.

Marvin reached out, took the parchment between two claws as if it might explode and coat the room in a layer of crap. After a careful examination, Marvin reluctantly set the parchment on his table, well away from anything else.

“Student ID,” he said.

“What?” Walter asked.

“Student identification card,” Marvin said, as if to an idiot child. “It’s a little card with your name and picture on it.”

Walter reached into his bag and began fishing through it. “Sorry, I didn’t think I’d need it anymore.”

The kobold just sighed and rolled his eyes, hand still out as Walter removed items from his bag and set them on the table: registration paperwork, quills, ink, comic scrolls, dorm room key, student handbook—

He cleared his throat and gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I know it’s in here.” He pulled out the small checkbook—the account contained the princely sum of two copper phalluses, one of which would soon be claimed by the bank as a monthly low balance fee—and found the ID underneath the cover.

He sighed, handed it over, then set to shoving everything back into his bag.

Marvin checked the ID, handed it back, then opened a gigantic tome. He flipped through pages of remarkably small text, ticking marks every now and then.

“You’re lucky,” Marvin said, marking another tick. “‘Hexes, curses, and the unholy art of retributive magics’ is being taught by Dr. Heckel. She’s a great teacher, but watch out for her assistant. Mr. Jyde can be a monumental asshole. I suggest sitting near the back and try not to show any fear.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Walter said and peered at a line of ticks. “Did I get into ‘Necromantic studies in horde building’?”

“Second to last spot,” Marvin said.

“Yes!” Walter did a little happy dance.

Marvin drew in a breath. “However, I’m now required to point out that it’s horde building, with a ‘d’.”

Walter blinked. “I don’t follow. What else could it could—oh dear Gods!”

Marvin nodded. “Yeah, an undead brothel makes one hell of a mess. It’ll be another year before ‘Ratigan the Fleshy’ hall is cleaned up enough for anyone to stay there.”

Walter shuddered. He wasn’t a prude, but he’d never understood not-so-necrophilia.

“You do not want to meet the ghosts that haunt that place,” Marvin said as he resumed marking the tome. “Sorry, ‘Raining fire and destruction 101’ is full.”

Walter knew that’d been a long shot. “What about ‘Intro to outer-planar contracts’ instead?”

“It’s open,” Marvin said and made a mark. “But you’re still missing the required athletics and liberal arts courses.”

“Um, well,” Walter said, adjusting his robes, which reminded him they were secondhand and freshly mended, by his mother no less. “I’m either majoring in Applied Necromantic Arts or Thaumaturgic Annihilative Studies,” he shrugged, “maybe a double major I don’t know, so I—”

“Tough tinkles, Dungharvester,” Marvin said, giving him a flat look. “It’s required that all freshmeats take an athletic, and an arts course in their first two semesters—”

“Freshmen.”

“What?” Walter asked.

“You said freshmeat,” Walter said. “You meant freshmen, right?”

“No.”

Walter opened his mouth to question further, but decided against it. “What are my options for athletics and arts?”

Marvin flipped to another page. “For athletics we have openings in beginning jousting.” He smiled. “You know the Erstwhile Ents tourney and jousting team made it to the all kingdom finals last year.”

“Yeah, I know,” Walter said, “but, um, jousting isn’t really my thing.”

“You sure?” Marvin asked. “Coach Horzrath, eater of spleens, teaches the class himself. And we only had seven student deaths last year. That’s an all-time low.”

“Yeah, tempting, but I have really bad carpal tunnel syndrome,” Walter said.

Marvin shrugged. “Archery?”

Walter tapped his spectacles. “Far sighted.”

“Hammer throw?”

“Anything less, um,” Walter bounced his head from side to side. “Physical?”

“You do understand what the word athletic means, right?” Marvin asked.

Walter opened his mouth.

Walter glanced down then back up. “What about bowling?”

“Oh, I like bowling.”

“Huzzah, I’m sure we’ll have a festival to celebrate,” Marvin said in a flat tone. “For arts class we have—”

“I don’t want to be a bard, why do I—?”

“Because it’s the rules,” Marvin said and pointed across the room. “And the line for people who give two shits is over there. This is the line for people give a single shit, and I’m fresh out.”

“I see why they have you working the table.”

“Yeah, my people skills are the stuff of legend and song,” Marvin said. “You can take a philosophy course in lieu of art. What about ‘Discussions on Current Events’? It’s taught by Sarlakin the baby gnawer—”

“The ogre that invaded the kingdom a last year?” Walter asked. “He wasn’t list in the handbook.”

Marvin shrugged. “Part of the peace treaty granted him tenure. He also teaches ‘Human privilege and non-human studies’ as well as ‘Intro to interpretive dance.’”

“I’m from the Feculence Hills,” Walter said. “I’d rather not take a class taught by the ogre who slaughtered a third of my neighbors.”

“Typical human,” Marvin said. “There’s a spot in ‘Crumbling Towers: The Toxicity of damsel in distress stereotypes’?”

“Probably a lot of girls in that one,” Walter said to himself smiling.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Marvin asked.

“What? No! I didn’t mean, uh, I just—”

“I know what you ‘just,’” Marvin said. “You think the rampant sexism princesses have had to deal with all these years is some kind of joke? You don’t suppose they’d rather armor up and take on that dragon themselves instead of waiting for Sir Bro to rescue them?”

“No!” Walter said. “I mean yes! I’m sorry, I. Um.” Walter cleared his throat. “I guess, um, put me down for non-human studies?”

“Good choice,” Marvin said and marked the book. “I think you’ll find it quite enlightening.”

Walter nodded as the memory of his neighbors being pulled apart like string cheese flashed in his head.

Marvin marked up the parchment and thrust it at Walter. “Your required tome list is in the class catalog next to each course,” he said. “Orientation for freshmeats is in Lord Tautkeister the Frugal auditorium every three bells, starting at noon.” He looked at the line. “Next.”

A human girl dressed in all black, probably a student acolyte of the dark goddess Penelope, stepped around him, and handed her paperwork to Marvin.

Read the entire story here…

A New American Faerie Tale Story: Pre-Order

#SFWAPRO

I know it has been especially quiet for the last several months. In honesty, I’ve always struggled with the idea of maintain a blog. I just don’t feel as if my day to day activities are interesting enough to warrant being blogged about. As such, I like to think I post more quality than quantity, though I’m tossing around an idea that might achieve both goals (more to come). I also, of course, post news and information about my writing and the like. As such, I’m delighted to announce a new American Faerie Tale story.

When I was invited to participate in this collection, I knew I wanted to write a Wraith story. It easy in the madness of the holidays to forget a lot of people are struggling, sometimes just to make it another day. I never like to preach, but I think there are stories that need to be told and Wraith makes it easy to share the rougher side of life, a reminder about the forgotten of society. However, when I set out to write this story, I wasn’t sure I could do it. The deadline was tight, as I was just finishing the first draft of my latest novel, and I didn’t want the story to feel forced. To my delight, once I sat down and started writing, the pieces of the story fell into place. This was going to be a story about hope, something that can be hard to hold on to, especially when it seems everything around you is burning. In the end, I think I did right by Wraith in this story, and the AFT universe. I didn’t expect it, but Wraith grew as a character in this story, and that’s all I could’ve hoped for. To make it even better, it’s only nintey-nine cents!

In terms of timeline, Greatest Gift takes place after The Returned.

The Greatest Gift of All: Wraith is a spell slinger, able to manipulate reality itself, but she’s been on the streets since losing her parents and her life has never been easy. Through all the darkness, she’s always tried to help the other children living at the fringes of society; the dejected, the ignored, and the forgotten. Now, the Fae court needs her help in finding a solstice child. If Wraith succeeds, the child will become a beacon of hope. If she fails, the child will become a monster, inspiring anger and rage. Wraith has faced all manner of terrors, both mundane and supernatural, and has never backed down from a fight. Can she save this solstice child and bring hope to the hopeless when she’s never had much of that even for herself?

A Very Faerie Christmas: Six Holiday Inspired Novellas. As the title suggests, it’s a collection of six novellas; all faerie stories, and all inspired by the holidays. It’s a great collection with stories that span the gamut of faerie stories, from the traditional to the modern. I think it will hold something for everyone and a couple of my friends are also in it: Ruth Vincent, and Jack Heckel (officially John Peck and Harry Heckel).

You can also enter to win an Amazon gift card by going here!

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