Re-Release: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS!!

I am pleased to announce that ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS, the adventures of Chief Veterinarian (enslaved) of the Evil Dark Lord, Dr. James DeGrande and his valiant Veterinary Assistant (also enslaved), Witch Harriet Templin, is about to go back in print! It is now on preorder on Amazon as an e-book, and paperback will shortly follow! This is my first foray into the wonderful world of SELF PUBLISHING!!

You can preorder here!

“Hilarious! Veterinary horror like Terry Pratchett would write!”
— D.J. Butler, author of WITCHY EYE

“A rollicking adventure that hits all the right notes.”
–Christopher Ruocchio, Award-Winning Author of The Sun Eater Series

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord subjugated us. Before he gave all the good land to his ogres, orcs and trolls, reducing the civilized races to serfdom and the dirty work: pig farming, sewer cleaning, veterinary medicine.

But even before that happened, things weren’t that much different for the veterinarians. Everyone cheered the heroes who rode their unicorn chargers into combat against the Dark Lord’s dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. The only real difference is that now I’m treating the dragons. Today I have to save one’s life. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because I have only a few hours to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client.

I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue
me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the
possibility that the old hag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant.
She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t kill each other first.

Baen Fantasy Adventure Award WINNER!

So.

That Baen Fantasy Adventure Award I’ve been banging on about for this pat month?

I won.

My story, “Humanslayer,” will be published on the Baen Books Website later this month. They also sent me a bunch of books.

Also, because the award was crystal, I couldn’t resist…

See the source image

Thank you all for your support and readership. I hope you like the story!

Taglines Not To Emulate

Cruising around book descriptions, you see a lot of taglines supposedly designed to make you want to read books. Here are some that well… didn’t. 

Can one man save an immortal race on the brink of extinction?

Um, you know what ‘immortal’ means, right?

Humans are unwelcome but tolerated as none of the galaxy’s other intelligent species has the power to stop them.

Yeah, I tend to “tolerate” people who can kill me with impunity, too. And a run-on sentence isn’t a great way to convince me to buy what you’re selling.

He wouldn’t have stolen the latest cybernetic implant if he knew it was infected with a virus.

Well, I’d really hope not. I wouldn’t want to read the story of an idiot. Actually, I think I’ll pass on reading the story of someone who thinks “not being an idiot” is compelling.

Ahem!! Who says the star messiah can’t be a chick?

No one I suppose, but if you’re trying for some sort of gender-equality, here, I think your tone’s, um, off.

It’s not too late to click now!!

Oh, thank heavens, I thought you might not allow me to give you money for your writing if I waited another minute.

He never thought of arming himself to defend the ones he loves…

Um, really? Never thought of it? Is that because he’s a complete coward, or simply lacks any vestige of imagination?

Stranded on an alien planet, luckily, Major XXX XXX is the most powerful human in the universe!

Thing is, powerful people don’t usually end up stranded on alien planets. That’s one of the indications they’re powerful.

Turns out there’s a whole lotta’ strange going on that most of the world knows nothing about.

Turns out there’s a whole lotta’ bad writin’ going on that most of the world knows nothing about, and for good reason.

Submarine Explorer’s sentient. Dr. Smith knows. Admiral Donovan doesn’t believe. Giant sharks, octopus, a cyberswarm, and enemy submarines. It’s fun.

Tagline consists of fragments. Sounds bad. Reads bad. Stuff happens. Do not want.

Abandoned as a child, Kelly is later forced into a situation where her parents’ betrayal will only be pardoned after her execution. 

That seems needlessly complicated: can’t we just execute Mom and Dad?

PEACE TALKS Theories: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!

Okay, so I know Jim Butcher’s latest installment of The Dresden Files came out only yesterday, but I devoured the whole thing by this morning, and I really want to talk about it, so in case the HUGE CAPITAL LETTERS weren’t enough, I want to make it really clear to everyone choosing to read further that there will be HUGE AMOUNTS of spoilers below.

Okay, if you’ve got this far and haven’t chosen to turn back…

Too late, here they come.

All right, so what I suspected about this “book:” since seeing that we were getting two of them this year was correct: PEACE TALKS is not a book. It’s the first half of a book. At best, we get the second half in BATTLE GROUND later this year. At worst, of course, we get part two of three or more. But Butcher is a good guy and hasn’t left us with that kind of cliffhanger since the end of CHANGES.

So, there are a LOT of questions unanswered here, and the biggest one is this: Why did Thomas Raith decide to attack King Etri of the Svartalves, causing a lot of trouble for Harry and Mab? This question is unanswered in the book, a lingering mystery.

First of all, what are the possible reasons?

It is heavily implied, and Harry acts on the assumption, that Thomas was being blackmailed into the attack on Etri by someone who could credibly threaten the love of his life, Justine. This is made more serious by the fact that Justine is revealed in the opening chapter to be — very improbably — pregnant.

But there’s a few serious problems with that. Firstly, who would want Etri dead and have the ability to threaten Thomas to the point of making him carry out a near-suicidal attack? White Court vampires aren’t supposed to operate that way even if they are good at it. Furthermore, Justine is guarded by several formidable security teams. Harry’s hiring of Goodman Grey is very nearly redundant. Thomas had to know Justine was guarded by the full force of the White Court. But she’s also being watched by hired Monoc Securities guys, the cops, Feds, Goodman Grey and Paranoid Gary. And Thomas, whose brother is Harry Dresden and the Winter Knight, didn’t go to him or his sister, the White Court ruler, for help? Especially if Harry is right about his supposition that Justine is being threatened by one of her “guards?” The only credible threats of those mentioned (against Thomas) are the White Court and Monoc. Neither have an interest in killing Etri OR destabilizing the Accords.
That’s dumb.
Secondly, what was the effect of the attack? Who benefited from it?
Well, you could argue that no one did, because the attack failed. Okay, sometimes the bad guys fail. But Etri’s death has no obvious consequences besides making the svartalves even more angry with the White Court.
Very well, was that the goal? If so, the Fomor and the Outsiders — who are obviously working together — are the obvious suspects. There’s only one problem with that: it didn’t work. By betraying the peace talks, the Fomor and their patron Titan simply forced the svartalves and the White Court to work together in spite of their issues. That’s also dumb.
So, if that makes no sense, why else would Thomas attack the svartalf king? Were the svartalves threatening Justine? Why? It would be utterly out of character for them to attack or threaten a guest.

No, there’s a much more sinister plot that’s possible here. The person who was influencing Thomas to attack the svartalves was… Justine herself. Or, more accurately, something pretending to be Justine.

Consider these hints:

  1. Justine should not be pregnant. Thomas and Justine can barely touch, they’re using contraceptives, and White Court vampires are almost infertile.
  2. Justine surprises Harry by her reaction to the news of Thomas’s attack and capture. Rather than falling apart, she asks if Lara knows. Her first reaction is to seek intelligence on Harry’s actions and Lara’s knowledge.
  3. Thomas is conveniently unable to talk to Harry after the attack. He manages two words: Harry’s name, and then, three attempts at a word starting with ‘J.’ Harry assumes he is trying to say “Justine” and means, “Protect Justine, Harry.” Each time Harry promises to, though, Thomas breaks down crying. Harry thinks he’s desperate to protect Justine. But what if Thomas is trying to protect Harry by warning him about Justine? Thomas says “Junghg. S’Jnngh.” Suppose what he was trying to say was “Justine. It’s Justine?” He cries because not only is the real Justine in danger, but now so are Harry, Lara, and everyone else who believes they are guarding the real Justine.
  4. The one player we haven’t seen in PEACE TALKS is The Black Council, whose man Cristos they elevated to the Senior Council back in TURN COAT. The Black Council is known to be able to exercise mind control powers, and the Outsiders are known to be able to infect humans and fae with a seemingly unbeatable mind-control effect.
  5. Finally, Harry orders up and uses an ability to cast a doppelganger that fools even Blackstaff McCoy.

So, taking all these things together, I hypothesize the following:

The Black Council has taken the real Justine and done something to her. Possibly they are simply holding her under threat, and possibly she is taken by the Outsiders’ mind control. In either case, they simulated her pregnancy and are continuing to simulate her. Sometime after Thomas revealed Justine’s “pregnancy” to Harry, she revealed her true nature and demanded that Thomas attack Etri and the svartalves. The goal of the attack was to get Thomas out of the way and distract Harry Dresden. Which means that something happened while Harry was away from the Peace Talks or on his way to the island, and that Justine is an entirely new front of the Black Council/Fomor/Outsider alliance, ready to strike at either the White Court, Monoc, the svartalves as a false flag, or Harry himself or any combination as opportunity presents itself. The worst thing would be if it could similarly infect others.

Okay, once you’ve read the book and this, explain to me why I’m wrong.

Baen Fantasy Adventure Award Finalist! “Humanslayer.”

See the source image

I am honored to announce that my story, “Humanslayer” has been selected as one of the ten finalists for this year’s Baen Adventure Fantasy Award!

I’d like to post an excerpt, but I think that might go against contest rules.

I was honored to win First Runner Up in the inaugural BFAA in 2014 with my story, “Phoenix For The Amateur Chef.” It would be awesome to win, but obviously I am honored simply to have made it this far.

Oh, heck, no one can get upset if I just give you the first line, right..?

“At the foot of the mountains at the cold edge of the world, a dragon lay dying…”

RELEASE DAY: Fantastic Schools Anthology!

So, every now and then, I think: wouldn’t it be cool if there were a story about…

For example, like many people, I loved the story of Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Not just because he was an awesome character, but because he started me thinking: what other cursed kids can’t go to Hogwarts? Dumbledore managed to come up with a scheme to get Remus into Hogwarts and keep him and his classmates safe, to an extent, but what about the kids who couldn’t go?

Children with disabilities never seemed to exist in Hogwarts. To be fair, maybe wizards aren’t “disabled” in the same ways as Muggles. After all, Madame Pomfrey is pretty much able to regrow Harry’s arm. Perhaps blindness, deafness, paralysis and developmental delays are cured among wizards in the same way that we remove extra fingers and toes o the rare occasions they develop. But there are curses and conditions that even wizards cannot cure.

Where would such children — the children who couldn’t be mainstreamed without great danger to themselves or others — learn their magic? And what would happen on that terrible day when they, and they alone were left to save the world, against all odds? This was the genesis of my novelette, “The Last Academy.” And I never thought I would write it until I was invited to the anthology Fantastic Schools. Obviously, I didn’t write in the Potterverse, but think of it as a, shall we say, Potteresque story.

And now, to whet your appetite, an excerpt, from Edric’s first day at his new school:

There was already a chair pushed back next to the boy who was eating with one hand. Edric began to sit.

“Excuse me, but this seat is taken,” said an exasperated voice.

Edric jumped. He almost lost form. “What?” The boy next to him was looking up with an amused expression on his face, but Edric would swear he hadn’t spoken.

“Yes, I know, you weren’t to know,” said the voice, which sounded like a young boy’s. “But I promise you that I am here, even though you can’t see me. Although honestly, the food might have been a clue.”

Edric blinked. There was indeed about a third of a meal on the plate in front of the seat. And the seat-cushion was flattened.

“Look, you can sit opposite me if you like.”

“Um, thank you.”

That meant that Edric had to walk around the girl in the wheelchair, the head of the table, and then the sphere of darkness, which was uncomfortably close to the wall.

“Um,” Edric said, trying not to address anyone in particular, “Is that dangerous?”

“No,” said a girl’s voice from inside the sphere. “Just don’t stick your head inside it.”

Edging around so as not to touch it, Edric sat down next to the blindfolded girl with grayish skin. As he did so, his plate filled. There was a steaming portion of shepherd’s pie, some white bread, and a cherry tart. The food looked decent enough, but it didn’t appear he was going to get any choice.

“Are you Edric?” the girl asked, without turning to face him.

“Yes,” he said.

“I’m Gwen.” She faced him and smiled, offering her hand in his general direction. He took it. Her hand felt unusually dry and cold. “Thanks for sitting with us.”

“It wasn’t his first choice,” said the girl in the wheelchair, sourly.

“Oh, come off it, Karen,” said the boy across from Gwen with a smile. “Half the people at the table tried to sit down there. It’s a shock finding yourself at Calarzat with the monsters. Can’t blame people for wanting to latch on to what looks normal.” He nodded to Edric. “Hi, I’m Callahan.”

Edric extended his hand. Callahan gave a wry smile. “Thanks, but you don’t want to do that.” He pushed himself back and withdrew his hand. Instantly, the candles guttered out and he held up a hand that was alive from wrist to fingertips in incandescent flames.

“Ah… I see,” said Edric. “I could shake the other hand?”

“Not unless you like second-degree burns,” Callahan said.

“Oi! Kindling! Lights!” yelled the biggest wolf, from down the table.

Callahan slid his hand back under the table and the candles sprang to life. “It’s useful.” He gestured to the chair beside him. “That’s Ian.”

“Sorry I tried to sit on you.”

“Oh, it’s all right, I suppose.”

Edric turned to Gwen. Might as well get the awkward parts over with. “Why are your eyes bandaged? Did you hurt them?”

“Not exactly. Are you afraid of snakes?”

Edric blinked. “Not particularly. Why?”

For an answer, her hair parted, and a thin snake peered out at him brightly. His mouth dried up as he realized what he was sitting next to. “You’re a… gorgon?”

“In a way. The Dark Lord cursed me when I was four. An attempt to blackmail my family. But I started out as a human. Calarzat is for human monsters.”

“Is that what happened to you?” Edric asked Callahan.

“Um, no,” said Callahan. “I’m afraid we had a bit of a house fire when I was seven years old. My Dad panicked and tried to cast a spell so the fire wouldn’t hurt me. It worked. Sort of. You see, the fire became my best friend. And it never wants to go away.”

“Can you control it?”

“Can you control your friends?” asked Callahan. “It gets… upset if I do that too much. You don’t want to see it angry. Ian’s dad tried to keep him safe, too. From the Dark Lord. Turned him invisible. Permanently.”

“Callahan!” snapped Karen. “You don’t talk about other people’s conditions. You know the rules.”

“I don’t mind,” said Ian. “S’true.”

“That’s not the point,” Karen said.

“What about them?” asked Edric, jerking a nod toward the group at the other end of the table. “They look normal enough.”

“It’s not full moon,” said Ian.

“Werewolves?” Callahan nodded. “Don’t like anyone else much, do they?”

“If you’re not a wolf, you’re not worth anything to them,” Callahan said.

Even Karen didn’t bother to dispute this. “And you’re here because… you can’t walk?”

Karen frowned. “No one at Calarzat is compelled to talk about why they are here unless they want to. And I don’t.”

“What about you?” Callahan asked. “What brings you here?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Edric said. I don’t want to explain it.

Karen scoffed. “Wants to know our secrets but keep his own.”

“Can you show us?” asked Callahan.

“Uh… not if you want to keep eating,” Edric said, staring down at his plate.

“And you’ve been to Porcinoma?” asked Gwen. “Yes,” Edric muttered. He wished he was back there, with his friends. Except he’d be dead. With his friends.

I hope you’ll give it a try.

LAST DAY: SFWA Storybundle: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS and MORE!!

Today is the last day of the Science Fiction Writers of America Storybundle, which features my novel, ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. The theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

And right now, this is the ONLY way to get a copy of ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. It goes away in just a few hours.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is all-covers-large.jpg

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

I’d also like to take a moment to say that I have finished Cici and the Curator, and it is a really fun sci-fi romp! So there’s at least two books in here that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Thanks to everyone who purchased!

SFWA Bundle: CICI AND THE CURATOR Snippet!

It is my great honor to announce that the Science Fiction Writers of America have chosen ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS as part of their StoryBundle offering this year. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

For the next few days on my blog, I am going to be promoting a snippet from each of these authors. Today’s snippet is from S.J. Wynde‘s CICI AND THE CURATOR!

“Whoa! What the—” The delivery girl was wide-eyed and blinking. Cici flipped the lid of the container closed and spun it back around to face her, so that the girl couldn’t see inside the gap caused by the lid resting on the dogs’ heads. The delivery girl stared at her. “What are those things? Where did they come from? How did they—” 

“Loose exhibit,” Cici said glibly. “Sorry about that. Little escape artists, they are.”

“But… how did they… but…” The delivery girl looked as if she might start hyperventilating. Then she took a breath and lifted her chin higher and pulled the strap of her air-board tighter on her shoulder. “Exotic, right. You ain’t kidding.” 

“It’s a great show.” Cici kept a bright smile plastered on her face. “You should come back and see the whole thing.” 

“Didn’t know it was animals,” the girl said. “Thought it was Art.” Her emphasis on the last word was tinged with a hint of scorn. 

“We’ve got some of everything,” Cici said. A hysterical laugh was rising in the back of her throat but she forced it down with an effort. She was piling lies upon lies, digging a trap for herself that was getting deeper and deeper. “It’s mostly art, though. You don’t like art? You’d probably find it boring, then. Really dull, I’m sure.”

“I don’t know.” The delivery girl shook her head, staring speculatively at the back of the food container. She tucked her e-pad into a pouch on her waist and grabbed the thermal bag, then paused. “Can I see ‘em again?” Cici froze with indecision, mind racing. Her mother would… her brother would… she should… It felt like forever but was no more than two or three seconds before she said, “I probably shouldn’t. I should get them back in their stasis chamber. They’re not supposed to be out. But a quick look couldn’t hurt.” Secrets were suspicious. Making a big deal about not letting the girl see the dogs would make her more curious than treating her request as casual interest about something not very important. Very not important. Definitely not the only remaining evidence of murder. 

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.

SFWA Bundle: ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS Snippet!

It is my great honor to announce that the Science Fiction Writers of America have chosen ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS as part of their StoryBundle offering this year. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s bundle is FANTASTIC BEASTS.

For the next few days on my blog, I am going to be promoting a snippet from each of these authors. And because it’s my blog, I get to go first!

As I have previously noted, I am a big believer in the power of drinking to solve problems.

No, not my drinking. That’s just stupid: even my mentor Arghash had known that. It’s other people’s drinking that solves my problems. For example: Two days ago, Djug the goblin got drunk enough to think he could get away with burgling an orc-lord’s summer house. The orc-lord’s dire-wolf ate Djug and broke off two of its teeth. Pulling the teeth for the orc-lord solved my problem of paying the rent for my veterinary practice.

Well, I didn’t say it brought in repeat business.

But sometimes I join people in drinking, because we have the same problems.

In this case, I was drinking with Ulghash, Arghash’s son. Ulg and I grew up together. Only he became a doctor and a self-made man. Well, orc. And I inherited Arghash’s veterinary practice.

Hard feelings? Why? Ulghash and Arghash both got what they wanted: namely for Ulghash to rise to a higher level than fixing up animals. I, on the other hand, as a human chattel slave, wasn’t going to build my own business in the Dread Empire. So we all got what we wanted: I grew up as a higher class of slave, and Arghash got someone to keep the practice going.

Even so, Ulghash was saying, “Days like this I want to take Dad’s practice back from you.” He drained half his beer. “At least your patients don’t decide they know better than you.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “Their owners do it. I told you about the human vampire-wannabe Countess who kept her basilisk on a diet of blood, right?”

“Yeah, but at least you can feel sorry for the basilisk.” Ulghash held his head in his hands. “I’m treating a clan chief for impotence. ‘Use the herbs,’ I said. ‘The herbs work. And stop trying every day, for the Dark Ones’ sakes. Relax a bit.’ Did he listen?”

“What did he do?” I asked.

“Got someone else to look at it.”

“Who?”

“A medusa.”

I stopped in mid-pull from my beer. “You don’t mean he got her to… look… at… it?

“Yep. He wanted it stiff. Well, it is now. I may have to cut it off before it gets infected. At least he can still piss, or he’d be dead already. He just has to watch the, uh. The range.”

How much does it cost? That’s part of the awesomeness: Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books! You can even choose how big a share we authors get!

ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS is part of the LOWEST TIER! YOU GET IT AND FOUR OTHER BOOKS FOR JUST $5! They are: Moonshadow by Thea Harrison, Cici and the Curator by S. J. Wynde, Whalemoon by Dustin Porta, Bloodrush by Ben Galley. It’s like getting each book for only a dollar!

You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get TEN more books: including Eyrie by K. Vale Nagle, Sunset, She Fights by Tameri Etherton, Bursts of Fire by Susan Forest, The Cursing Stones by Sonya Bateman, Night’s Favor by Richard Parry, Song of Shadow by Natalya Capello, Heritage of Power – The Complete Series Books 1-5 by Lindsay Buroker, Prince of Foxes by H. L. Macfarlane, The Wolf at the End of the World by Douglas Smith and Windsworn by Derek Alan Siddoway

The bundle is available for purchase here. Or you can look at SFWA’s blog about the StoryBundle here.