Winter In Words

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All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Winter in Words

A Guest Post by Doug Blakeslee

I wrote a novella, Fire and Frost, featuring a character associated with winter and related elements. I’ll admit have a character that embodies Fire and one associated with Cold is a cliché. In my defense, the story started with a superhero theme and changed along the way. Alexia grew from a background character to being a strong partner of the main character over the four or five revisions that I made to the story. She’s appeared in a couple of short stories, plays a major role in my current novel project, and mentioned in passing in related stories. Scenes have been rewritten to include her or shift to her point of view. She’s one of my top picks if I’m writing urban fantasy and the story requires female voice.

Alexia is the daughter of Yellusia [a Fae] and Alfonso [a mortal occultist]. They made a bargain, which resulted in a child whom the mother left in care of the father. She’s smart and well-educated thanks to her father’s teaching. Her looks and strong ties to winter come from her mother. I wanted her to be an equal to the main character of the novella. Truth be told, it took the last two revisions to bring her to that point. Alexia does get kidnapped, but she’s not the quiet prisoner, assists in her own escape, and takes control of situations when her expertise is required. She’s not a bystander and will not allow herself to be shunted to the side.

Her mother’s domain is, as one might guess, referred to as the Winter Realm. Vast plains of ice and snow with frozen rivers running through them. Stands of evergreens dot the landscape and provide shelter from the near constant wind that whistle down from the mountains. Rare is the day where snow doesn’t fall. Alp-like peaks surround the realm to form an impervious barrier to the other realms. The Winter Queen likes her privacy. Her fortress sits in the middle of the realm, rising out a frozen lake with minarets of ice. The blue-skinned elves that serve as her army aren’t the cheery kind that makes toys and there’s no jolly fat man in a red suit. Snow faeries, yeti, ogres, along with wolves, rabbits, and reindeer inhabit the “wilds” of the realm. Yellusia’s rule is lax for one of the Fae, owing to her association to mortals for the past few centuries.

My short story, Winter’s Daughter, is set in a “remote” area of the realm. It seems obvious now, but the connection wasn’t intentional as I wrote. This does mean I can use the two protagonists as they’re now connected to my fictional world. The realm also features in my current novel where I fill out more details of the realm, Alexia, and her mother. Winter’s going to remain a theme in my stories for the near future. I might even try to work in Santa, Krampus, and an animated snowman in future stories.

Here are a couple excerpts from stories featuring Alexia:

This is from my novella, ”Fire and Frost”. Theo and Alexia along with allies are trying to stop a minor incursion of Fae into the real world.

The noise rose as the surface tension of the large bubbling mass broke. Three, frog-like heads bobbed in the air on long necks that rose from a tank-like body. A toad, grown to twice the size of a killer whale. It waddle-hopped on all fours, letting out a thunderous croak, spitting out a mass of water and slime that drenched the first of the invaders and the priest. He shouted something unintelligible in the din of noise.

“That’s a big-ass frog,” Squire Greene said.

“Hydra,” I replied. Gold and white lettering traced down the gun barrel. Enchanted pistols, another trick for the modern age. The fairy tales tell of magical swords and daggers. They give weight to the legends and that means power. Modern times require modern methods.

“One of them anyways,” added Alexia. Her training shown through. She spoke and wrote in a dozen languages and carried an encyclopedic range of magical lore in her sharp mind. Poised and precise, a voice of reason and deliberate thought to my impulsive nature. My uptown girl.

“One of them?” His voice rose a bit.

“Welcome to Mythology 101. Don’t always believe popular fiction. They miss on many of the details. That’s why Theo keeps me around.” She gave me a smirk and a wink.

This is from “Here There Be Dragons”, a short story. Theo and Alexia are taking a room at an inn.

“Ye youngin’s heading towards the market? It is to be a grand thing.” Her tread on the stairs reminded me of bowling balls slammed together.

“We are,” I said. She led us up two flights of stairs and down a tiled hallway. “How long does the coach ride take?”

“A month of Sundays and an hour,” she said, pulling out a ring of keys, then pushed open a door. “Room with a bath. No sharing of facilities for ye kids.”

The chamber’s interior resembled the finest suite of a four star hotel. Wall to wall carpeting, king sized bed, and a bathroom complete with a hot-tub. Theo whistled at the sight.

“Leave the clothing on the hamper for the house elves, a complementary service. No room service, but meals are always available. We have our own grandmother in the kitchen.”

“It’s wonderful. Please, take your pick of a gift for the hospitality of this fine inn.” I fished out a leather cloth from the pack and unrolled it on the side table.

Her eyes narrowed at the array of objects. A silver hand mirror sans the reflective surface. Dreamcatcher of silk, gossamer, and the hair of a madman. Three strands of uncooked spaghetti wrapped by black thread, sealed with a drop of red wax, then wrapped around a spindle. The diary of a young girl, pierced by a paring knife. A vial of boiling sand. Her hand fell upon the last item.

This will suffice. A pleasure to do business with those that respect the traditional way.”

“We’ll be down shortly for a meal,” I said.

She winked at Theo, then closed the door.

“I don’t remember you packing those.” He dumped the pack on the floor and began to strip.

I paused to watch, admiring the toned body. He worked hard to keep fit and it paid dividends in eye candy. “They don’t take credit cards or cash here. You were too busy with the guns and camping gear.”

This is from “Strings of the Dead”, a short story. Alexia is investigating a cursed lyre and its connection to a murder.

Small rooms lined the hallway, large enough for a bed and nightstand. At the end of the hallway, two shared bathrooms with iron tubs and stand-alone sinks. Relics of the time when the saloon was first built. Alexia opened the door to room six and took a step back. Screams of ethereal energy infused the room, spewing forth to twirl and spiral across the walls and ceiling. Colored ribbons writhed as they danced to a tune that only they could hear. The source lay on the bed; a lyre of oak and vines resting on a velvet lining inside an open instrument case.

She felt a cool touch run across her neck, the light brushing of ethereal fingertips. “Spirit, please show yourself.”

Her breath fogged in the air as a swirling mass drifted down the hallway and coalesced into the hazy figure of a thin man. His eyes reflected a great fear, his mouth turned down in profound sadness.

“Go. Flee,” he whispered.

“Explain,” Alexia said.

“It hates you.” The spirit’s eye morphed between bright points of light and deep wells of darkness.

“Me?”

“You threaten it and the shade that follows. They’ll be your doom,” the ghost whispered, “a revenant of misfortune and greed and hubris.”

“Thank you, spirit,” she said.

“Run, girl. Run.” The old man’s face melted, ectoplasm streaming away in wisps, fading to nothing.

Alexia whirled around, taking the stairs two at the time, and skidded to a halt half way across the ground floor. Beyond the storefront window, an ethereal scarecrow-like figure stood on the sidewalk. A featureless face stared at her, radiating streams of envy and hatred. A void opened where the things mouth should have been and a soul-rending scream echoed up and down the street.

She pressed against a nearby column, seeking cover behind the wooden beam as the windows shattered, spraying shards of glass inwards. A piece lacerated her arm, sending a thin stream of blood splattering onto the floor. She dug into the side pocket of the courier bag, ignoring the stinging pain. Her fingers wrapped around a copper disk.

“Signs of old, strength of old. Ward and guard, bend and mold.” The patina on the copper disk flaked away, exposing the bare metal and the intricate engravings along the edge. Glamour pulsed out with her words, a white tinged flow of energy.

She heard another wail, laced with fear from behind her, then the rustle of cloth. Silence. Alexia glanced around the corner of the post. Car alarms whooped and wailed on the street. No sign of the malevolent spirit.

*  *  *

In real life, Doug buys games for a living and eat. His free time is spent writing to get the voices out of his head and playing RPGs. He’s managed to sell a number of short stories and working on his first novel. He can be found on Facebook, Blogspot [The Simms Project], and Twitter [@simms_doug].

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Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory Hoke

Fractured Friday: Michael M. Jones

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂

Interview With Michael M. Jones

What Letter Were You Assigned: O

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

The Theatre of Dreams stands alone, small and unimposing against its surroundings. It’s located on the outskirts of the Gaslight District, Puxhill’s oldest and strangest community, set back a little ways from the road itself. Save for a small sign, you’d never know what the building truly was. There is no ticket booth; you cannot call ahead or pre-order here. There are no prices listed; entrance is paid with innocence and secrets, whispers and hopes. There are no hours posted; either you know when performances are, or you do not. The Theatre is not listed in any newspapers, trade magazines, or travel guides. It does not advertise. It doesn’t need to.

It’s Friday night, and the marquee reads, “Juliet Sinclair, appearing irregularly.”

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? Sadly, the statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet, and all involved are still alive. But it was so SHINY.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? I don’t want to embarrass, shock, or scandalize anyone. But what happens in Vegas stays on the security cameras forever. Or so I’m told.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? Do the laws of time and space count? Because if it’s the laws of man, I really don’t want to incriminate myself.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? Oh, definitely.

Never ever? Well, I’ve learned never to say never. There are circumstances, sometimes.

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? Are we talking bribes here? What’s your offer? Is it cash? Food? Dancing girls? Booze? I may be easy but I’m not cheap.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? I cheated: I already had the perfect story on hand, about a young woman who was broken somewhere deep in her heart and spirit, and who yearned for a life in which she was whole. And as fortune would have it, it was easy to give it an appropriate title. “Theatre of Dreams” became “O is for Oneiroi” thanks to a hazy memory of obscure Greek mythology.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? There used to be a sequence where the main character—Juliet—went forth into the mundane part of the city, where she encountered another character I particularly like. That bit was cut long ago for pacing, but I still liked it.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? Appropriately, this one came to me in a dream, in that space between asleep and awake, when everything is hazy. The hard part was figuring out what, exactly, it was all about. This story is important to me because the Theatre of Dreams, and its owner Polly, are touchstones and waypoints in the Gaslight District, which recurs quite often in my Puxhill stories. They formed the seeds of something larger, and it’s exciting that at long last they’ll see the light of day. But unlike dreams, they won’t fade.

 


 

Michael M. Jones is a writer, book reviewer, and editor. He lives in Southwest Virginia, with too many books, just enough cats, and a wife who translates geek into mundane. His short stories have appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 3, A Chimerical World, and at Inscription Magazine. He is the editor of Scheherazade’s Facade and the forthcoming Schoolbooks & Sorcery. Visit him at www.michaelmjones.com.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Join the Poise and Pen Street Team to keep up-to-date on Alphabet Anthology happenings or sign up for my newsletter to stay informed about everything I do (including Alphabet Anthologies).

Or both.

Personally, I vote for both 😉

 

Fractured Friday: Sara Cleto

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂

Interview With Sara Cleto

What Letter Were You Assigned: D

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

When the sun sets, the Snow Queen rises from her bed and slips a diaphanous robe over her glinting skin. Taffeta, brocade, and leather crowd restlessly in her closet and ease past the doors, spilling in drifts of color onto the marbled floor. The King brings her new boxes, brimming with crisp tissue and crisper clothes, bound cheerfully with a bow, nearly every day. 

“For the gala,” he says, or “for dinner with the executive board.” 

He smiles at her, all teeth, and suggests with exquisite politeness that she might dress and come downstairs. 

She smiles, or the nearest approximation that her stiff, heavy lips can manage, and strokes her newest garment with a single fingertip. 

The fabric tears cleanly under her light caress, parting with the casual brutality of a broom on a spider web. 

The King sighs gently. “Darling, do remember to wear your gloves. And let your ladies help you dress.” 

She looks at the complicated undergarments, plates of metal twined with industrial straps, the screws and bolts that hold the pieces together, and then at the women who never quite leave the shadow of the door. They wear sturdy gloves, the kind that gardeners who tend particularly recalcitrant rose bushes favor, and sturdy lines around their mouths. 

“Tomorrow, perhaps,” she says quietly. Her lips clatter against each other, and her words are echoed by the tap of jewels striking the floor. She watches impassively as one of her ladies edges towards her. The woman collects the sparkling gems from where they lay around her feet and places them in one of the many glass caskets lining the room, arranged to catch the light. Her ruined gown is whisked away to be repaired, stitched back into a semblance of wholeness, and laid to rest, unworn, in her closet. The King inclines his head over her hand, lips scraped and lightly bleeding, and withdraws. 

Sliding on her gloves, she arranges her robe around her, concealing as much of her glittering skin as possible. 

She never goes downstairs.

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? My umbrella, the year I lived in England. I was so surly about it that I refused to buy a new one, and I was rewarded for my sensible behavior by getting drenched at least twice a week-it rains rather a lot there.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? I’ve been thinking and thinking about this, and, honestly, I can’t think of anything. I’m pretty much always consumed by guilt or nostalgia when I break things, even if they are ugly or useless or toxic. Even if they need to be broken.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? Trespassing laws, especially when I’m traveling. Half the interesting buildings have no trespassing signs all over them, which vexes me to no end.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? My strongest code is against harming animals, especially cats and dogs. I would never harm one on purpose.

Never ever? Probably not. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years for a reason.

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? If the critter was trying to kill me or a loved one and seemed to have a good shot at succeeding, I might have to reconsider.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? I knew exactly what I wanted to write, but actually writing it was like pulling teeth. Not because of the story- which was sitting there, very cooperatively, in my head-but because I was stretched especially thin when I was writing it.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? I considered dolls rather than diamonds for all of five minutes, but the moment I thought of diamonds, the story began to fall into place.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? Two fairy tales: Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and Charles Perrault’s “Diamonds and Toads.” My story is a merging of the two, given a modern spin.

 

 


SaraSara Cleto is a PhD student at the Ohio State University where she studies folklore, literature, disability, and the places where they intersect. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Goblin Fruit, Cabinet des Fees: Scheherazade’s Bequest, Ideomancer, Niteblade, The Golden Key, and others. Her work has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Join the Poise and Pen Street Team to keep up-to-date on Alphabet Anthology happenings or sign up for my newsletter to stay informed about everything I do (including Alphabet Anthologies).

Or both.

Personally, I vote for both 😉

Fractured Friday: Brittany Warman

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂

Interview With Brittany Warman

 

What Letter Were You Assigned: A

Short Excerpt:

“A hundred years is a long time and the world has changed. In this new, awakened world, there are no curses, at least not the way I remember them. My prince studies the skies with mechanical devices like I had never seen before and writes detailed notes about the movements of the universe. He whispers my name to the heavens but isn’t thinking of me.”

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking?: I broke a necklace that belonged to my Mom when I was in third grade. A friend of mine said it wasn’t fixable, so she further broke it into tiny pieces that we then played with. My mom was devastated that we’d so completely destroyed something from her own childhood and still I feel so guilty about that.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it?: Sometimes I feel relief… I tend to hang on to things until they’re completely unusable, even if they’re not as good as they once were, so when something like that truly breaks it’s finally an excuse to throw it away.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be?: Oh, probably robbing a bank or something like that? As long as it really didn’t hurt anyone! 

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break?: The big code that I always try to follow is simply to be kind but I know that no one is perfect, certainly not me, so I certainly do break it sometimes sadly.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned?: Very much actually! I had the idea right from the get go but I had a really hard time bringing it to life in the dreamy, fragmented way I wanted to. I had a LOT of false starts!

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter, inspired your story?: That’s easy, “Sleeping Beauty” of course :). I find myself drawn back to that fairy tale over and over again.

 


bookmeBrittany Warman is a PhD candidate in English and Folklore at The Ohio State University, where she concentrates on the intersection of literature and folklore. Her creative work has been published by or is forthcoming from Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky Magazine, Ideomancer, inkscrawl, Cabinet des Fées: Scheherezade’s Bequest, and others. Her story “Q is for Queen” appeared in A is for Apocalypse. She can be found online at BrittanyWarman.com

Facebook ~ Twitter ~

B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Join the Poise and Pen Street Team to keep up-to-date on Alphabet Anthology happenings or sign up for my newsletter to stay informed about everything I do (including Alphabet Anthologies).

Or both.

Personally, I vote for both 😉

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory Hoke

Fractured Friday: KV Taylor

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂


I met KV through Niteblade and invited her to contribute to A is for Apocalypse. I’m super stoked that she stuck around to contribute to B is for Broken as well!

Interview With KV Taylor

What letter were you assigned? Z

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“I’m gonna cut your fucking heart out,” she promises.

I doubt this very much, but don’t see the point in telling her. I know how dangerous she is. I’ve seen my twin sister’s brains blasted all over the front of her Chevy. I was willing to let the State have her, but they lost her, and now she’s mine.

I go back upstairs and look to my closet for inspiration. Spartacus follows on his silent padded feet and asks me what I’m doing, so I tell him. (Not really, of course, I know cats don’t speak; I haven’t lost that part of my mind. Yet.) I ask him what he thinks would work better. Could I use buttons? No, that would leave gaps. Velcro would become messy.

Well use a zipper, dummy, Spartacus doesn’t say, with an indolent lick of his paw.

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? Oh god, I don’t know. I had this really beautiful glass calligraphy pen that got broken in a move once. I totally regret that. There must be something worse, but I can’t think of it right now.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? Several relationships >.>

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? I’d like to be able to travel anywhere without visas and all the paperwork. That counts.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? Yeah, I’m really weird about what food I buy. I’m careful about cruelty-free stuff… and yes, that also includes cruelty to humans.

Never ever? Probably at some restaurants where I don’t know their ingredients, yeah.

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? Personally… I mean if my family was starving, yeah! If I can’t afford stuff, I can just go without, but I wouldn’t do that to my family. Or my cats. They’d eat me in my sleep. (The cats, not the family. I hope.)

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? It actually came to me straight away, for once. No one is more surprised than me.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? That was, amazingly, my first thought.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? My basement. I always think basements are incredibly creepy. Though mine does not have a dirt floor, it’s one of those partially excavated ones, so I always wonder what’s under all that gravel and dirt and stuff behind the half-walls…


KV Taylor is an avid reader and writer of fantasy and dark fiction, even though the only degree she holds is in the history of art. (Or, possibly, because the only degree she holds is in the history of art.) In her spare time she enjoys comic books, Himalayan Buddhist art, loud music, her Epiphone, and Black Bush. Her fiction can be found at kvtaylor.com.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Join the Poise and Pen Street Team to keep up-to-date on Alphabet Anthology happenings or sign up for my newsletter to stay informed about everything I do (including Alphabet Anthologies). Or both. Personally, I vote for both 😉

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory Hoke

Fractured Friday: L.S. Johnson

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂


I met L.S. when she submitted an amazeballs story to Fae and I’m super stoked to have her work in B is for Broken 🙂

Interview With L.S. Johnson

What letter were you assigned? V

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

On her knees in the dirt, Arianne can envision her mother before her, see her spattered hems and the rough clogs over her fine stockings. On her knees in the dirt, Arianne’s mind becomes formless and clear. On her knees the world is a whole thing once more, a single path as welcoming as an embrace.

Until she stands up, and the world breaks into pieces once again: the rows of brown grapevines splintering in all directions; the wind rattling the shutters on the crumbling cottage where she and her father live; the slope of the rise before the hollow, where the old house still stands, the embodiment of her mother’s betrayal.

Their tainted land.

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? I have broken the hearts of some people close to me, not from malice, but simply because of my choices in life. Hindsight is 20/20, and it is hard not to regret at least the more flippant decisions.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? I quit smoking cold turkey in 2000; two years later I buried a relative from smoking-related illness. I still miss some aspects of it—the social crutch, the way it dovetailed with my writing. But no sadness.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? Deleting everyone’s debt (though that would probably violate several laws, alas). But to just make all those numbers go away: it would change this country.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? No. I have many rules I try to live by, but life does a fine job of challenging even the simplest convictions.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? I actually had two ideas. One became far more personal than I anticipated, and I needed to talk to my mother before proceeding with the story, which didn’t happen until after the deadline. So I ended up on the Plan B for V, as it were, which seemed to turn out okay—? We’ll see what readers say!

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? There’s about a half-dozen myths and motifs that I have been circling around, well, I suppose for all of my writing life, which is longer than my adult life. One of them is part of this story. Too, I was reading Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety at the time, so I had that period of French history in my head—both its violence and its idiosyncrasies. And it all got me thinking about how a person’s life, their entire context for being in the world, can change in a moment, whether due to something personal or national . . . or perhaps even supernatural.

 


L.S. Johnson lives in Northern California. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Long Hidden, Fae, Lackington’s, Strange Tales V, and other venues. Currently she is working on a fantasy trilogy set in 18th century Europe.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Beth Cato -- photograph by Corey Ralston Photography

Fractured Friday: Beth Cato

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera.

B is for Broken contains 26 stories (one for each letter of the alphabet) centered on the theme of brokenness. The diversity of genres and subject matter will blow you away. We’ve got science fiction, fantasy, horror and weird fiction about broken hearts, broken space ships, broken lives, broken bones–you name it. If you like speculative fiction and short stories, this collection is one you’re going to want to check out 🙂


I feel like I’ve known Beth for forever, but it hasn’t been *quite* that long. We met way back when in a Livejournal (I told you it was a long time ago) group for NaNoWriMo participants. I didn’t get to sample her writing until she submitted to Niteblade though. Her post-apocalyptic flash, The Pacifier, is still one of my all-time favourite stories Niteblade published. You should go read it. No really. I’ll wait.

Done?

Awesome, right?

So you won’t be surprised to learn I invited her to contribute to A is for Apocalypse. Nor should there be any question about why she has a spot in B is for Broken as well (and wait until you read her C is for Chimera story!)

 

 

Interview With Beth Cato

What letter were you assigned? K

Please share a short excerpt from your story: 

The man on the rock looks up at us. His face so sad, emotion sharp, like a slap to the face. Tommy grunted like it hit him, too.

“Tommy Smith. George Blackworth.” He says my name and I feel it in my bones, like my mother, God rest her, yelling out the back door.

“Who’re you?” I ask.

“Who am I?” He stares at his hands. “A king without a queen, proof that the undying are not immortal.”

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? My cat Porom is the laziest cat ever. A few years ago, I was closing a door. Porom had flopped down in front of it and it was dark, so I couldn’t see her tail. The door actually amputated the tip of it. I was freaked out. We were able to get her to an emergency vet, where she had  a cleaner amputation made. She had a full recovery, or I don’t know if I could have forgiven myself.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? I had a sculpture I made during my freshman year of high school. It was a mythological creature of my own making, a threem (which is actually included in my Clockwork Dagger books from Harper Voyager). A few years ago parents were encouraging me to get the last of my belongings out of their house. I didn’t want this sculpture. I always hated how it turned out, and it was made during a time of my life when I was severely depressed and suicidal.

Instead of toting the big clay figure back to Arizona, I wrapped it in several layers of plastic bags and then pulverized it with a piece of rebar. It was all rather therapeutic.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? I’ll twist this around. I wish I could turn in negligent speeders on the highway and see THEM punished. I drive like an old lady and go the speed limit.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? Yes. Treat others the way I would like to be treated. That means to be courteous, thoughtful, and not an inconvenience.

Never ever? I do my utmost!

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? Okay, there was one time a survey guy called at 8:30pm and when I politely told him the late time was inappropriate, he argued with me. It actually developed into a yelling match. The company actually sent me a postcard asking me to give them another chance–which was a whole other level of freaky. When they had other people call, I flat out told them I would never, ever deal with them, and hung up.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? I had another idea that I started on but it just didn’t come together.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? The original idea was “King’s Horses and Men,” and to do a fresh take on Humpty Dumpty. I know. A story about a sentient egg. Maybe someday?

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? It wasn’t a conscious influence as I wrote, but in hindsight I think the movie Bedknobs & Broomsticks played a part as well. I always adored that movie and the idea of magic being used for the war effort. This is just a different take.

 


Beth Cato -- photograph by Corey Ralston Photography

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. The newest book is The Clockwork Crown.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
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Amazon
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And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Fractured Friday: Cindy James

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera. Each story in the series is associated with a letter of the alphabet and is titled in the letter is for word format. What’s more, just to keep things nice and complicated, the story’s title isn’t shared at the beginning but at the end so that you can guess at what it might be while you read.

On that note, even though the story titles could be considered spoilers because of how the book is formatted, for the sake of simplicity if the author has chosen to post their title publicly somewhere else (their blog, Facebook, wherever) I am going to include it in my posts. If they haven’t revealed that information, though, I’ll list the story titles as Letter is for…

 


I met Cindy through a local critique group we were both members of several years back. While I’ve lost contact with most of the people I knew from that group, Cindy and I are still good friends. It was my pleasure to include one of her stories in A is for Apocalypse (where she definitely won the award for most creative title. You will never guess what P was for) and I was super stoked to have her continue her involvement with this series with a story in B is for Broken.

Interview With Cindy James

What letter were you assigned? M

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

I stare at the dim outline of the ceiling fan as the rhyme repeats itself, and I see faces again. I’m accustomed to these disembodied, anonymous heads that flash through the dark with taunting, gnarled expressions, but they still make my heart race. I roll onto my side and promise myself I will talk to Dr. Woo when I have my checkup on Monday.

The next morning when I get to work, I call the cable company and arrange a service call and then sit at my desk Googling overheated electronics and stare at words like “toxic” and “tumour” and “toluene” until I don’t want to read anymore, and Shelley texts me to meet her for lunch. At noon I escape the office tower and find her downstairs on the sidewalk, huddled against the December bite in her long black coat with a smoke in her leather-gloved hand. I grimace at her, and she makes a face back.

“Don’t even think about saying anything.” Shelley narrows her eyes at me.

“I thought you quit.” I stand upwind of her and breathe shallow as she drags back her smoke in rapid-fire puffs.

“Yeah, so I’m weak. Gary walked out last night.”

“Oh,” I say. This isn’t really news, it’s happened so many times. “What happened?” I ask. I don’t mind talking about her problems. Shelley’s shitty life makes me feel better about my own.

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? I’m sure I’ve broken a few promises along the way, but not real regrets.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? Tax laws!

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? My one rule is if it’s going to make me feel guilty, don’t do it!

Never ever? Never!

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? I don’t deal well with guilt.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? Yes, I struggled with it.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? M is for Memorial. Couldn’t get it going.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? An episode from Law & Order from years ago stuck with me. A mother killed her children and while on the stand she said she did it because she couldn’t stand the thought of them suffering.

 


 

CindyJamesCindy James lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and two children. After twenty years working as a court reporter and listening to other people’s stories, she decided to engage the right side of her brain and tell a few of her own. She is pursuing a degree in English and History, and is committed to one day write something truly great. She now works as a broadcast closed-captioner, volunteers at the local art gallery, and agonizes in what remains of her free time over whether she should be writing or painting.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
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Amazon
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And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

Fractured Days

I’m a book behind! I’m currently reading Rebecca Roland’s Shards of History but in the meantime the sequel has come out and is making quite a splash on my social media and within my circle of friends. Fractured Days (not to be confused with Fractured Fridays) came out last week and every time I hop on Twitter someone is raving about it 🙂

Fractured DaysMalia returns home the hero of a war she can’t remember. The valley burning under the Maddion’s invasion, the fate of her late husband, the way she resolved the long-time distrust between the Taakwa people and the wolfish, winged Jegudun creatures–all of it has been erased from her memory. Malia hopes to resume training as her village’s next clan mother, but when the symbiotic magic that she and the Jeguduns used to repair the valley’s protective barrier starts to consume more and more of her mind, she’s faced with the threat of losing herself completely.

A powerful being known as “the changer” might hold the solution to her vanishing memories. But the Maddion’s new leader, Muvumo, also seeks the changer, hoping the being will cure them of the mysterious illness killing off his people. Meanwhile, Muvumo’s bride hopes the changer can bring about a new era, one in which she and the other Maddion women no longer need to hold onto their greatest secret.

But wait! There’s more! I also have an excerpt to share 🙂

 

Excerpt from Rebecca Roland’s Fractured Days:

 

Malia crested a rolling hill and stopped just before reaching the summit. Near the Big River, which flowed to her left, the bones of a dead dragon curved through the spring grass. On the other side of the rushing, wide river lay more bones. Their riders had been gathered into massive pyres and burned, but the dragons had been too large. They’d been burned where they had fallen when the magic barrier rose around the valley.

She had done this. She’d pulled the magic through her hands, and the Jeguduns’ hands, and repaired the shattered barrier. She’d killed thousands of Maddion men and their dragons.

And she couldn’t remember it at all.

She rubbed at her forehead as if that could shake loose the thick fog that hung around those particular memories. Anything that had happened to her in the seasons leading up to the Dragon War was gone. Vanished, as if she’d never lived that time. When she looked at her brother, Vedran, standing a half-pace behind her, it was as if he’d grown into a man overnight. He’d gone from a pesky, scrawny boy who left frogs in her sleeping pallet, into a braided man, carrying a hunting dagger at his hip, a bow and quiver against his back, and a dragon’s tooth on a leather strap around his neck.

Then there was the man who walked on her other side, also slightly behind. Enuwal, the healer. He’d prodded her on after she came out of the long sleep. All winter he’d given her work, both physical and mental, pushing her until she felt a semblance of normality. And now, proclaimed healthy, she was on her way home. She could return to her training to become her village’s next clan mother. She’d have to start over, or nearly so, but then again, almost everybody had to begin anew after the war, all because of the Maddion tearing down the magic barrier protecting their home.

Home. She recalled Selu, her village, but would it look the same? The people wouldn’t, or at least, not all of them, just as Vedran looked to her as if he’d aged overnight. Her stomach was a mess of knots. With sweaty palms, she gripped the leather strap of her travel sac, slung across her torso. Selu lay just over this rise. A few tendrils of cooking smoke rose in the distance. If she took a few more steps, she’d see the village. Then, she only had to get through the evening meal with her mother, perhaps with the clan father, and she could rest. It wasn’t only the day’s fatigue, or even the trail’s fatigue, that exhausted her; it was the weight of all that had happened to her, and the daily battle to try to reclaim any lost memories she could. Maybe, once she was home, she could push this fog aside and remember. Enuwal and the Jeguduns claimed it wasn’t possible, but nobody had ever before worked magic like she had.

 


rebeccaRebecca Roland is the author of the Shards of History series, The Necromancer’s Inheritance series, and The King of Ash and Bones, and Other Stories. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Nature, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Stupefying Stories, Plasma Frequency, and Every Day Fiction, and she is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. You can find out more about her and her work at rebeccaroland.net, her blog Spice of Life, or follow her on Twitter @rebecca_roland.

 

Fractured Friday: Interview with Milo James Fowler

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera. Each story in the series is associated with a letter of the alphabet and is titled in the letter is for word format. What’s more, just to keep things nice and complicated, the story’s title isn’t shared at the beginning but at the end so that you can guess at what it might be while you read.

On that note, even though the story titles could be considered spoilers because of how the book is formatted, for the sake of simplicity if the author has chosen to post their title publicly somewhere else (their blog, Facebook, wherever) I am going to include it in my posts. If they haven’t revealed that information, though, I’ll list the story titles as Letter is for…

Today I’m interviewing Milo James Fowler. Milo is pretty prolific so it probably won’t surprise anyone to hear he also had a great story in A is for Apocalypse and will also be contributing to C is for Chimera. Milo’s contribution to B is for Broken is a Captain Quasar story and as a sweet little bonus you can download the first five chapters of his latest Captain Quasar novel, Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum, for free here.

Interview with Milo James Fowler

What letter were you assigned? B

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“It’s time,” Hank grunted at the helm of the Effervescent Magnitude as the gorgeous star cruiser hurtled through deep space.

“Already?” Captain Bartholomew Quasar’s brow wrinkled. He glanced at his favorite Carpethrian helmsman who didn’t resemble a man at all. Hank looked more like a drunk orangutan or an overweight sloth suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. “Didn’t we make a stop six months ago?”

Hank turned in his swivel chair. “In Earth time, yes sir. But Carpethria’s years are much shorter.”

“So it’s been over a year since your last…” Quasar cleared his throat, leaning back in his deluxe-model captain’s chair. “Mating season?”

Bill snickered.

“What are you doing on the bridge, Bill?” Quasar snapped.

“Uh…” The goofy smile dropped from Bill’s face.

“Go back to engineering where you belong. Seriously. Whoever heard of a ship’s engineer hanging around the bridge all day and snickering at inappropriate moments. Go on, get out of here, or I’ll demote you back to janitor!”

Hanging his head, Bill left the bridge.

“The same goes for anybody else within earshot.” Captain Quasar’s steely-eyed gaze swept across his bridge crew. They stared back at him silently. “This is no laughing matter. Our dear helmsman must return to his home world, and we’ll make sure he gets there. Or…he will, rather. He is our helmsman, after all.”

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking?
Hearts.

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that?
The speed limit. It’s a daily occurrence, unfortunately.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be?
Illegal U-turn. There are so many missed opportunities…

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break?
I live by a fairly simple code: Never give up. But I’m sure a robot apocalypse or global chicken uprising could alter that credo.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely?
I’m always up for writing a new Captain Quasar tale, and the letter B afforded an opportunity to turn the spotlight onto Hank the Carpethrian helmsman.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story?
As with my novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum, I focused on the theme of regrets. Golden-age sci-fi heroes usually live boldly without regret, but that’s not the case for Captain Quasar as he seeks to overwrite past mistakes. In this short story, Hank is dealing with his own share of regret, having left his home planet in order to go starfaring around the galaxy with Quasar, and Hank hatches a plan to make things right with those he left behind.

 


MJFprofileMilo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. When he’s not grading papers, he’s imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. His work has appeared in AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology. His novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the SpaceTime Displacement Conundrum will be available later this year. www.milojamesfowler.com

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads

 

Fractured Friday — Interview With Suzanne van Rooyen

Cover design by Jonathan C. Parrish, original artwork by Tory HokeFor the next several weeks I’ve decided to call Fridays ‘Fractured Friday’ and use them to share news, contributor interviews and excerpts from B is for Broken.

B is for Broken is the second title in the Alphabet Anthologies series. It follows A is for Apocalypse and will in turn be followed by C is for Chimera. Each story in the series is associated with a letter of the alphabet and is titled in the letter is for word format. What’s more, just to keep things nice and complicated, the story’s title isn’t shared at the beginning but at the end so that you can guess at what it might be while you read.

On that note, even though the story titles could be considered spoilers because of how the book is formatted, for the sake of simplicity if the author has chosen to post their title publicly somewhere else (their blog, Facebook, wherever) I am going to include it in my posts. If they haven’t revealed that information, though, I’ll list the story titles as Letter is for…

For this, the second installment of Fractured Fridays I decided to go to the other end of the alphabet from where we started and interview an author from the other side of the planet as well. We began with C.S. MacCath who lives in Canada and had the letter C but now we’ll jump to Suzanne van Rooyen who lives in Sweden and had the letter U 🙂

Interview with Suzanne van Rooyen

What letter were you assigned? U

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

Satisfied she was alone, Victoria laid the leg beside the shrouded body on her exam table. Gently, she peeled away the sheet, revealing his exquisite face. She never got tired of looking at him. She brushed soft black hair from the android’s face before placing a tender kiss on each sleeping eyelid. His long lashes tickled her lips and turned the desire aching in her bones into a hungry, fanged creature chewing on her insides. The lashes swept indigo shadows beneath the eyes, shadows she trailed with an index finger to his full lips, rosebud pink, replete with delicate grooves carved into cupid bows.

He was almost done.

What is the thing you’ve most regretted breaking? Promises, hearts, rules… I could philosophical here but honestly, the thing I most recently regret breaking is my French press. It meant I couldn’t make myself coffee until it had been replaced. That was not a good one to start the morning!

Have you ever broken something and not been saddened by it? Can you tell us about that? Every time I broke the school rules in high school 😉 I felt like such a rebel for wearing a pentagram on a chain around my neck, which was strictly forbidden at my Catholic school. I also managed to get away with having pictures of Marilyn Manson plastered all over my books, and pictures of Brandon Lee as Eric Draven taped to the inside of my pencil case.

If you could break one law and get away with it consequence-free, what would it be? Um. I honestly have no idea. Maybe something fun like breaking into the climbing gym at midnight so we could have the place to ourselves for a few hours.

Do you have any rules for yourself, a code of some sort, which you’d never break? Holy Batman that’s a really personal question that’s making me examine my morality and integrity. While I definitely live by a moral code that I’d like to think makes me a fairly decent human being, I also understand that certain circumstances might require extreme actions that go against my personal ethos.

Never ever? Well…

Really? Isn’t there something which could make you break it? Sure. If one of my loved ones was in danger, I’d do whatever was necessary to protect them.

Did you struggle with the letter you were assigned, or did the ideas come freely? As soon as I got U I started listing all the cool words I could think of and the word I eventually settled on was maybe number three on the list. I knew I wanted to write about androids so once I had my word, the ideas started flowing.

What was your favourite idea you didn’t use? My first word choice was ‘ubiquitous’ and I’m a little sad I couldn’t figure out a story to match.

What, aside from the anthology’s theme and your letter inspired your story? My renewed love affair with Gothic horror thanks to the TV show Penny Dreadful, and my constant fascination with androids.


SuzanneSuzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.

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B is for Broken is available now at:
Smashwords
Kobo
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads