Ambassador 3: changing fate – snippet

Ambassador3
Ambassador 3 will take place in Barresh and one other, secret, location. In it, we meet a number of regular characters, but also some new ones, and we’ll see that the expansion of Cory’s household according to his new status is not without trouble. From the first chapter:

She pushed herself from the couch with a groan and walked around the young man, eying him from top to bottom. If I hadn’t known that she had a good month to go still, I might have thought she’d be in danger of dropping the baby, but that was only the result of the fact that she liked wearing clothes at least two sizes too small.
“Hmm,” she said, and looked first at Thayu, who leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed over her chest, and then at me. “He’s a nice specimen. Apart from that horrible hair, he’s got nice shoulders, a good strong face, healthy legs and a butt to kill for, but tell me, why are you going for someone from outside?”
Thayu gave her the dead fish stare. Her gold-flecked eyes were the only thing moving in her otherwise impassive face.
“Because,” she said in her cold dead fish voice. “Because there are far too many Inner and First Circle people trying to get a foot in our household already.” She gave Xinanu a pointed look.
Oooo-er.
I waited for the return snipe, but Xinanu must have run out of pointed proverbs in this morning’s snipe-fest with Eirani. Maybe her pregnancy had finally slowed her down. Heavens be praised.

Ambassador 3: changing fate – snippet was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

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Ambassador will be out soon

Ambassador
And a reminder that I don’t post at this blog anymore. If you want to follow me, you can do so via the blog on my author site.

This is a snippet from chapter 6 of Ambassador, from one of my favourite sections in the story. If you want to read the rest, you can pre-order the book. This page has all the ordering options.

I kissed Eva, said goodbye to her parents and followed the two guards into the rain.

Except the car wasn’t a regular driver-less taxi, but one of the very few privately-owned vehicles in the city. Nothing on the doors or windows alluded to its owner, except the driver, whose Coldi ponytail glittered in the street light. A gamra contact then, someone out of the database.

Shit. If they didn’t even trust taxis, something had happened indeed. The guard held open the door.

I settled in the back seat and forced a smile as I waved to Eva. Her face showed no concern, thankfully. No doubt everything would be fine, but just now, it would be nice if someone told me what was going on.

Doors slammed. The electric motor whined and we were off.

Mashara, I’m sure it is time to tell me what this is about. You are aware that I no longer have my feeder?”

The guard didn’t answer immediately; he was fiddling with his comm unit. The holo-screen lit his face with a bluish glow.

“Delegate.” He bent forward, peeling the earpiece off.

I attached the device to my ear.

Someone said, “Cory?” In that warm-hued tone between male and female. Coldi.

I recognised the voice. “Amarru.”

“Where are you now?”

“I just got in the car.”

“Tell the driver to avoid the city bypass.”

“What?”

“Just tell him, right now.”

“All right.” I relayed the message. The driver grumbled that he was aware of trouble.

“Amarru, can you tell me what this is about?”

“First up, there is a car behind you.”

I looked over my shoulder, but saw only an empty street. “I know that.”

“There is also a group of police at the hotel, and there is a trap on the bypass. Our bugs are better than theirs, Cory.”

“Thank you.” I made every attempt not to sound sarcastic, but I felt sick. The concepts “ours” and “theirs” were becoming horribly blurred. “Does this mean I am being targeted now?”

“Have you heard the press release from the emergency council?”

“No. I was at a family dinner.” See? I shouldn’t have given in to Eva and kept my unit. I swear every time I had no communication I missed something important. Damn, damn it.

“The meeting only lasted about an hour and a half. Must be a record. Wait, I’ll read this out.” There was some rustling and clicking. “The Emergency council of Nations of Earth has declared that following the attack on President Sirkonen, member nations must ensure full cooperation to find and bring to trial the perpetrators, and have sanctioned the use of  all available  means in doing so…”

“All available means? But…”

“That means using armed forces if necessary.”

A chill went down my spine. “That could mean war.”

“Danziger has just declared a state of emergency for Rotterdam. Already, there’s riots in a number of places. People are looting shops owned by Coldi. And yes, the police want to talk to you. We’ve picked up some communication to that extent.”

“Shit. Are they going to give me the same treatment as Nicha?”

“I can’t answer that, but I have an offer: we can guarantee gamra protection on a flight that leaves for Athens in about an hour’s time.”

Leave Rotterdam. Now. That was ever as strong a suggestion as she had ever given me.

“I can’t. Not without Nicha.”

“I think Nixie is doing her best on that front. Nothing I can do; nothing you can do.”

I swallowed hard. “My luggage is at the hotel.”

Buying time, surely.

“That’s been taken care of.”

I glanced over the seat. My suitcase lay in the back.

Soldier’s Duty snippet and miscellaneous news

Soldiers Duty lowBecause I can! A random snippet from Chapter 3 of Soldier’s Duty. Expected date of release: October 2013. Don’t miss it. Sign up for my new release newsletter.


As soon as her shift finished and the relief from the Yellow shift arrived, Izramith sprinted to the change room where she left her anonymous guard personality behind and became Izramith again.

On the civilian side of the cubicles, a group of women sat talking on the benches in the change room. They fell quiet when Izramith came out of the cubicle and crossed the floor to hang up her uniform.

The women were all from the Blue shift and a mix of old and new faces. One of them whispered in another’s ear and that woman glanced sideways at Izramith.

“Really? How many did it say again? More than a hundred?” She stopped at Izramith’s glare and averted her eyes.
She must be a recruit joined at the most recent intake, because Izramith didn’t know her. The other, older, woman of course was Nayani, who never had anything nice to say about anyone.

The women remained quiet while Izramith put her heavy guns in her locker, shut the door with a clang and walked to the entry.

“The rumours are wrong, by the way,” she said standing at the door into the security lock. “There were a thousand.”

She opened the security lock’s door, stepped in and closed the door again.

Leaning against the side wall, she closed her eyes while the scanner traced her body. Instead of a single beam of light crawling over her skin, she saw a flaming aircraft plummeting from the sky. She heard soldiers screaming. Once again, she was overcome by horror when she realised that the craft would crash in the rebel camp. And she could do nothing to stop it. It fell and fell. A giant chunk broke off. Voices around her cheered. Someone clapped her on the shoulder, but she stared at the unfolding horror, wanting to stop the fall, wanting to move away all those people who had done nothing except to be born to the wrong parents–

The light came on in the security dock. Izramith wiped sweat from her face. She must try harder to keep these awful memories away. Indrahui was in the past, gone, finished. She would never go back there.


shiftingrealitythumb Also, if you’re in Australia or New Zealand: get Shifting Reality on Kobo for 30% off this weekend. Click here. Use code 30WINTER13

Soldier’s Duty snippet: because I can

Soldiers Duty lowI’m working on book 3 in the Return of the Aghyrians series, Soldier’s Duty, like the proverbial bat out of hell. This is the concept cover image, still very rough.

I’m hoping to be able to finish the book by the end of October. Keeping fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, if you like to be notified when the book is done and up on all sites for purchase, please add your name to my mailing list. I swear I only use this for new releases, not to generate any spam.

Unedited snippet hot off the press, from somewhere towards the end of the book. I literally wrote this five minutes ago:

Izramith didn’t care what he thought of her or about his status. She no longer cared what the guards at home thought, or whether there was still a job for her at Hedron at the end of this contract. Fuck Hedron. She was going to sell herself as mercenary to Indrahui or something. And fight and shoot people for the rest of her life. She didn’t even care if she lived or died.

Daya let another long silence lapse. Then he said, “We’ve probably grown too quickly. Taken on too many projects. All the work we’ve done in this town has concentrated on construction, on meeting gamra requirements, on expanding our reach, being inclusive, righting the wrongs of the past.”

“So, you’ve fucked up in the security department?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“And in two days, we have a huge public event that is a major security risk and any work I’ve done so far has not only uncovered far more trouble than my contract stipulated, but has increased that risk.”

“It seems so.”

Trader’s Honour snippet alert!

Trader's HonourI finished the first draft! Much work remains to be done, but here is a snippet from the middle of the first section of the book. Because I quite like this scene. And because I can.

Mikandra strode to the wardrobe and flung the dress onto the floor. She slammed the wardrobe door. She took the wad of paper with the text of the play–a stupid old-fashioned drama about some ancient event in Miran’s history–off the night stand and flung it on the bed. Papers flew like butterflies.

Stupid play with its pompous, self-righteous language. Stupid events in the past which still caused people to have hangups about participating in gamra society. The boycott had not started because the other gamra entities had cut off Miran, but because Miran was continuously obstructing foreign investment within its borders with arcane rules.
Because the council was stubborn and inflexible and old-fashioned. And then they were surprised that other nations got angry.

The Invasion indeed.

She spread the papers out over the bed.

Stupid noble arrogance.

Stupid traditions.

Stupid notion of being all nice and pretty and utterly useless.

So, she was not good marriage material, huh? Only to be passed to old creepy men who wanted a plaything. So, when she tried to be useful regardless, they treated her like this, huh?

Shut up and learn your lines, huh? Live the rest of your life in some sort of stupid fantasy oblivious to the burning of Miran’s society around it. Pretend Miran was still at the top of its glory. Pretend everything was like before The Invasion. Like the Coldi cared, like the Trader Guild cared. Those people were just laughing at Miran.

Clothes, plays, music, arts.

Stupid-fucking-make-up.

While in the poor parts of the city people froze to death and homeless were left to be eaten by wild animals. And then the nobles sent their girls into the hospitals to put bandages on their wounds?

And that was Miran’s noble culture?

She went to the mirror, picked up the eye paint brush and dipped in the paint. She wrote on the wall If you want to shine, be like a star.

There, that was better already, a much better use of eye paint than putting it on her eyelids where it irritated her eyes and made her look as if she’d been crying.

Bah, crying was for helpless damsels.

But that still didn’t make the decision any easier. She let her shoulders sag. It was easy to be angry in this room. Being angry when facing Father was a whole different matter. Or saying that she didn’t want to be in that play when Mother was crying.

There was a knock on the door. Mikandra looked from the door to the wall. If that was her father again, he’d be even more angry for painting on the wall. If that was her mother, she would say how disappointed she was in her eldest daughter. If it was Rosep, he would complain about having to re-paint the wall and tell her father.

There was another knock.

“Sis, it’s me,” a small voice said. “Open up, please.”

Mikandra sighed and went to open the door. Her sister slipped inside. In the low light, her face was a pale oval. She glanced from the dress on the floor to the papers scattered over the bed to the text scrawled on the wall. Her eyes were wide. Scared.

Mikandra sometimes forgot how young Liseyo was, and how much what Mother and Father said was still law to her.

“Why is it so cold in here? Hasn’t Rosep lit the fire?”

Mikandra gazed at the dark hearth. The fire was producing lots of smoke but no flames.

Annoyed, she poked the smothering fire bricks aside and fanned the tiny glow in the coals underneath. Flames licked the corner of the fire bricks.

Liseyo sat down on the bed amongst the scattered papers. She picked one up, and then a couple more, shuffling the sheets in order.

“Mother borrowed this text off Gisandra Tussamar. It’s very old and precious.” There was a tone of accusation in her voice, a tone that said that the noble lady would not appreciated if her precious play got flung over the bed out of order. She was right of course, and that was the annoying part.

“Don’t you start, too, Liseyo.”

“This is my favourite re-telling of The Invasion. I’m going to play Dinandra.”

“Isn’t that a role for someone older?”

“They’ll make me look older, with white paint in my hair and lines drawn on my face. I get to wear a really nice old-fashioned dress. I think you should join, too. It’d be great fun.”

Mikandra sighed. “It’s a hideously skewed view of history. There are plenty of documents in the library which say that there was no invasion at all. That the Coldi who came were weak and hungry. They say that the Mirani defenders killed a lot of them before the Coldi could make it clear what they wanted. It’s not as if they spoke our language. Flaming creatures came down from the sky indeed. Where is the truth in that? They didn’t shoot and weren’t aggressive. The truth is that Miran had the watchtower, the watchtower keeper used telescopes. Asto is by far the clearest point of light in the sky, and the Mirani council back then knew that people lived there. So why were they still surprised when these people came?” She spread her hands in frustration.

Liseyo’s mouth twitched. “Does it matter if it’s accurate? It’s just a story.”

“None of the historical plays is ever just a story. There are children in the audience, and this stuff is being taught to them as fact. They hear that Miran was glorious, yet the evidence is that it was not. We are far more healthy, better-clothed and better fed than the people back then. They hear that Miran was attacked, but the evidence is that these people came for help, not to conquer.”

“Baaah, you’re no fun.”

“This has nothing to do with fun. It’s about the way we learn to see people from outside Miran, and those views start when children are taught this sort of crap.”

She let an angry silence lapse.

Liseyo’s eyes were big. “I just wish you wouldn’t talk like this. It makes me scared. I don’t like it when Mother cries. Father is really angry this time, a lot more angry than he was when you refused to go to the theatre. Why do you do this?”

Mikandra sat next to her sister and closed her in her arms. Her shoulders were so thin. “Oh, Liseyo, I’d tell you, but you’re not old enough to understand.”

“That’s what everyone in this house says, and I’m sick of it. Try me. Why do you hate everyone so much?”

Was that what they thought? “I don’t hate everyone. I just want to make a difference and do something that helps.”

“Being in the hospital makes a difference. There are a lot of sick people who need you.”

“It’s all fake, Liseyo. Everything we’re allowed to do as girls is fake. The theatre, art, music, healing, nothing makes serious money or is anywhere near places where real decisions are made. Nothing is really important. While we’re in the theatre rehearsing the plays of centuries ago or in the wards covering up the problems of the city, they make decisions on our behalf, and nothing gets solved. Being in the hospital is just putting dressings on infected wounds that people wouldn’t have if they had houses so they weren’t sleeping in the street and attacked by maramarang, or if they had heating. I want people to stop the glorifying of Miran. I love Miran, but there are things wrong that we need to make better. I don’t think we can do that alone.”

“So, does that mean you’re going?”

Mikandra shrugged. For a moment she wished she’d never received that offer. Everything else she’d done in her life in the way of protest was gentle and reversible. She’d cut off her hair when Mother complained about her wearing it in a ponytail, but it had grown back. She’d walked around in hunting clothes in the city when she’d hidden that stupid dress Mother wanted her to wear so well that no one in the house could find it.

But she had never done anything or said anything that challenged her life with her parents and sister in a way this did.

If she went to Trader Academy, there would be no way back to this house or this room. She would have to be fully independent, and, since she would not find a husband to share her living costs, she would have to earn enough to support herself.

Money frightened her and the thought of not having any frightened her even more.

Attention: snippet alert

So… what am I working on at the moment? Well, it’s tentatively called Shifting Reality, it’s social/hard SF, it involves… see the picture? Geckoes! And descendants of Indonesians. In space. And Indonesian food. And spying, and war, and an army of cloned people. The Ari mentioned here is Ari Suleiman Rudiyanto from the short story The Rebelliousness of Trassi Udang (which is free on Amazon), and there will be mentions of Charlotte from Charlotte’s Army. The story also involves Jas Grimshaw from Poor Man’s Travel.

And just because I can and because I’m annoying, here is a snippet:

Melati wormed herself between the wall and the table. Not with her back to the door so as not to invite the bad spirits. Not that men wanted her anyway, but it kept Grandma happy. She nodded at the see-through container that still stood in front of Ari. “What have you got in there?”
“Nephew has an entire zoo in there,” Grandma muttered.
“This?” Ari held the container up so that Melati could see its contents: a tokay gecko, grey and orange spotted, with round-padded feet, bulgy eyes, a pointed snout and a long tail.
“What are you collecting those for? The whole station is full of them.” They lived in the nooks and crannies, the ducts, and, dangerously, in the insulated tubes that held the electric wiring. Because it was warm.
She added rice to her bowl and scooped up a glob with her fingers. “Do StatOp have a collection drive again?” Last time Ari had made a lot of money catching the critters, for which StatOp paid by number, as long as they were dead.
“Nah, no more eradication drives.” Ari twirled the container around so that the critter came to hang upside-down on the plastic, waving its rubbery-looking grey and orange-spotted tail as it did so. “See how it doesn’t fall?”
“Uh-uh,” Melati said while eating the rice from her fingers.
“And these crazy things are everywhere and, no matter how much poison StatOp uses, and no matter the hermetic seals, they always find a way in?”
“Mmmm.” This time Melati had her mouth full.
“Well, I had an idea,” said Ari and he puffed out his chest. “I figured we’d make use of these annoying things.”
“We tried that. They taste like shit,” Uncle commented, his back to the kitchen, stirring in the wok.
“Is it possible to think about something other than food, Uncle?”
Everyone laughed.
Melati asked, “Well, if they taste like shit and there’s no collection drive, how are they useful?”
“We’ll make them valuable.”
Another big belly laugh. “That’s impossible. Not even someone who bullshits out of his arse as much as you do can trick anyone into buying a gecko, Ari. The things are everywhere. Like barang-barang: invisible, everywhere and impossible to kill.”
“Grandson’s new scheme is to sell ground tokay poop to New Hyderabad as the best and most exclusive new coffee.”
Everyone laughed, except Ari.
“We tried that, too,” Uncle said.
Ari’s face twitched. He twirled the container and the animal inside tried to keep its balance. “The tokay get into places through really small gaps, and that would make them really good for snooping on people. Stick a small camera to their back, and send them into the room and record what was going on. People would pay lots for that, especially the rumak owners. Uncle would be interested.”
Uncle turned from the stove and gave him a wide-eyed look, and then started laughing. “Me? There are much better ways of finding out the neighbour’s recipes.”
“Uncle, I’m not talking about the damn cooking. What about the creditors?”
Uncle stopped laughing. Creditors was always a sore point. Merchants, crime bosses, some local, some not. They never kept their promises; they raised interest without notice; they tried to fudge the accounts. Most of them were too busy gambling and hiding their money. They were also dangerous people, and some were members of extortion rings, the ones the tier 1 enforcers didn’t care about, as long as they stayed in the B-sector. Uncle sighed. “Ari, please do us a favour and do something safe.”
“Like mining?” Ari said, with a flick of his head, and batting of his kohl-rimmed eyes.
Uncle sighed again.
“Admit it, Uncle, it’s not a bad idea.”
“It’s just that…” Uncle rolled his eyes at the ceiling and spread his hands.
Grandma said, “Uncle’s too soft, young Nephew. He should take you out the back and cane you over your naked buttocks. Mess with creditors and it’s going to be a fast-track into jail. Not for them, but for you. God knows you’ve come close enough already, huh?” She scraped her knife on the cutting board louder than she needed. “Maybe it’s time to come and help Uncle here, and stay away from those…” She didn’t say the word sekong, and Melati had never heard her use it, but everyone else said it, and everyone knew what she meant. And anyway, Grandma and Ari had that many disagreements about the way he dressed and what that meant and who his friends were, and it was not as if they would ever resolve that discussion. Ari _was_ sekong, like so many of the young men of the barang-barang. Melati had seen him often enough in the passages around the malampaks, drinking and talking and flirting with other men.
In the silence that followed, Ari flicked his kohl-lined eyebrows and raked his hair behind his ear in a clear gesture of provocation. His nails were painted pink.
He picked up the container again. “I don’t care what you think. Nobody appreciates my ideas anyway.”
“I’m interested,” Melati said. “How would it work?”

Book review deal

People are reading my work. People are posting reviews to my work. But, most people post their reviews only in one place. Usually that place is goodreads, or LibraryThing. But I want more reviews on Amazon. So, any of you who have already read any of my stuff (short or long, or non-fiction) and haven’t posted reviews on Amazon, here is an easy way to get any (or all) of my fiction that you don’t have and that you’d like and isn’t currently free.

It’s simple:

1. Post a review on Amazon. A copy of your goodreads review is fine. If you want me to really, really love you, copy the review to B & N as well.

2. Contact me here or elsewhere.

3. I’ll send you epub or mobi files.

A lot of my short work doesn’t have any reviews on Amazon at all. A lot of those stories are free on Smashwords. Or, if they’re not, let me know and I’ll send you a copy. Longer work, too, if you want.

Heck, it’s a review-fest!

Blood & Tears: Coming an ereader near you very soon!




Blood & Tears, book 3 of the Icefire Trilogy is done! Just a proofread and minor edit to be done and then it will be available.

Here is a part of the first scene by way of a teaser:




It was well past midnight when the truck stopped at the gate of Sady’s house. Orsan got out of the seat next to the driver, walked around the side and opened the door for Sady, who let himself down, pulling the sides of his cloak together against the biting wind.

‘Thank you,’ he said to the driver.

‘My pleasure, Proctor. Get some rest. I’ll be back here tomorrow morning, as usual.’

Sady nodded. Thank the heavens for faithful staff.

He walked through the gate, where Orsan exchanged a few words with the young guard Farius. Then across the path flanked by meticulously-clipped bushes, up the steps to the front door.

The night was darker and even more quiet than normal. Low scudding clouds stopped any moonlight reaching the ground, and ever since the bell had rung, the people of the city kept indoors. For the first time in Sady’s memory, the famous street lights of Tiverius remained unlit.

The only light in the hall was the lamp that Lana lit every day after dark and that normally burned all night. By its flickering light, Sady turned to Orsan.

‘Any word from my house guests?’

Orsan shook his head and fixed him with an intense stare. ‘Sady, they can wait until morning. Get Lana to make you some soup and go to bed. I’ll be out at the gate if you need me.’ He gave a customary bow and left.

Sady couldn’t argue with Orsan’s reason. Soup sounded great. Bed even better, although he suspected that once he lay down, sleep would be the last thing that came to him.

After the skirmishes in the refugee camp, he had gone back to his office to deal with the polite unhappiness of the senators, and with the much more rude complaints of the citizens, who told him bluntly that they did not want this southern menace in their city. Mercy, could these people just explain to him what they would have done with all those refugees? Turn the trains around and send the poor wretches back to their ravaged country?

He took his cloak off in the hall, and with it, the stoic façade of strength. He let his shoulders sag and dragged his hands across his stubbled face. He didn’t think he’d ever been so tired in his life.

But even here, in the comfort of his house, he still saw the people on the platform. He saw the stack of bodies. A tangle of arms and legs, coated in indescribable filth. He saw the wretched survivors, with weeping sonorics wounds. He smelled the incredible stench. He saw the angry faces of the refugees in the camp. They only asked to have their dead relatives’ bodies returned to them to observe the proper rituals. They’d been robbed of all dignity, and clung onto what little they had left. But all those bodies would have to be burned to stop contamination. He didn’t look forward to dealing with the aftermath of this necessity. From what he understood, burning your dead amounted to sacrilege in the south; burying them was even worse. It made sense how the southerners left their dead for animals to eat, so that the people could eat the animals in turn. But you just couldn’t do a thing like that in Chevakia’s climate. Not to mention the uproar it would cause to the citizens of Tiverius.

Mercy. How could he possibly solve this?

Bed, Sady, go to bed.

But first, something to eat.

He walked into the kitchen where a single light burned against the back wall. The benches were empty and clean. A bowl of fruit stood in the middle of the table.

‘Hello? Lana?’ He expected to hear a voice from the pantry, I’m in here! Wait a moment. Do you want roccas or some soup?

Now that he came to think of it, he was more than hungry. It could be the reason why he felt so ill. He couldn’t even remember his last meal.

‘Lana?’

The pantry door was closed. The back door into the laundry was closed. The corridor to the servant quarter was dark.
That was strange. Lana was always here. He couldn’t imagine that she had gone to bed; she never did before he was home. But then again, it was very late, and he had told her repeatedly to go to bed if he was late. He was just… disappointed that she seemed to have taken his advice on this night, when he needed to talk to someone calm and sane.

He left the kitchen and knocked on the door to her private room. ‘Lana, I’m back.’ She would want to know; she would worry if he stayed out too long.

There was no reply.

Neither was there a sign of life from anywhere else. Him making this much noise should have brought out Serran, because he was responsible for the grounds, or the young Merni, because she was a gossip, and would make sure that she didn’t miss anything.

Where was everyone?

Sady walked into the dark living room, feeling stupid. Here he was, the great leader of the country, and he was unnerved by being alone. Unnerved by feeling so strange in his own house.

The living room window looked out onto the courtyard, where he could only see a stone bench lit by a lantern on the patio, a little island of light in the dark. There was a statue in the middle of the yard, of Eseldus han Chevonian, one of his great forefathers. Today, Eseldus was only a dark silhouette.

The windows in the guest wing to the right hand side of the courtyard were dark. The surgeons must have already gone home. He was relieved about that; Sady had no desire to become more intimately acquainted with women’s business than absolutely necessary.

He could still see the woman’s bruised and red-blotched abdomen. The thought made him shiver. He hoped she survived. He hoped the child survived. That would be one point of light in this misery. Mercy, he’d never thought that this was the way his house would ever see a baby.

He went back to the kitchen and scouted for some food, cringing at every noise he made. The clank of a plate on the stone bench, the rummaging in the cutlery, the rumble of pouring coal into the stove, the hiss of the flame under the kettle, it all sounded incredibly loud. He found some bread and a bit of goat’s cheese, which crumbled all over the bench when he cut it up into clumsy, too-thick slices.

He sat down and ate, listening to the silence of the house.

And the sounds of the day. The ringing of the bell. The yelling of the men in the camp. He didn’t understand their language, but he could feel the despair and anger in their words. It brought back many bad memories of his youth. Hundreds of people crammed into a cellar for days without food. The stink of too many bodies in a confined space. There had been that boy, a bit older than himself at the time, who projectile-vomited on those around him.

Sady could still smell it. He could still see the mother’s embarrassment, her despair. Her son was seriously ill with sonorics, and yet her immediate concern was the irritation of the people around her.

Sady could still hear her, and the boy’s muffled cries. And the ringing of the bell. He would never forget that. And today, the bell had rung again, after more than ten years of silence.

Somewhere in his mind, he registered that the water was boiling and probably had been for a while. Now, where did Lana put the teapot?

As he pushed up from the seat, there was an enormous crash at the back of the house, and the breaking of glass.

free short story collection

Pending the release of part 1 of my fantasy trilogy, I’ve decided to make my short story collection Out of Here temporarily free. You can get it here at Smashwords (or click on the image). I’ll update this page when it has filtered through to Amazon.

The anthology contains more than 50,000 words of short stories both in fantasy and SF. All stories have been published previously.

Here are a few of the story beginnings for #SampleSunday:

Little Boy Lost

Originally published in Midnight Echo issue 4 June 2010

Some people say that when you die, they put you in the ground where worms come to eat you until there is nothing left but bones, and that’s what you are: dust and bones, never to come back to life. Other people say they’ve talked to the souls of the dead. Maria can do better than that: she feeds them carrots.
She sits on her knees in the grass, damp with dew, seeping into her jeans. The bag of carrots rests in her lap, the plastic crinkling whenever she moves.
It’s well after dark, and the back yard breathes mystery. The too-long grass casts tangled shadows and the forbidding metal fence hides just out of view. Even the concrete looks different: with deep cracks like hieroglyphs.
They come out of the shadows, one by one. First the nose, wriggling. Long ears, twitching, flashing pink when they catch the beam of light slanting out the living room window. Then they hop: two furry paws in the grass. Hop. Sit up on the back legs. Another cautious wriggle of the nose. Another hop.
Maria lifts her mobile phone. The screen lights up blue: a picture of a tropical beach. She presses send message from template. Scroll down the page.
It’s safe. You can come.
Select contact, a twelve-digit number. Press send. The icon bounces over the screen.

Never on a Birthday

Originally published in Byzarium November2008

They said in the corridors of the galaxy, if the galaxy had corridors, that no one could throw a birthday party as fine as Hermon Feyst.
Certainly no one did it as often. A thousand guests, magnificent food, outrageous ornaments, and the orchestra–such heavenly talent, especially that trumpet player who jumped on his chair in a magnifique solo at the end of ‘Happy Birthday’. One could of course argue that they got quite a lot of practice playing ‘Happy Birthday’. But then again, one could be accused of sour grapes. If you were the richest man in the universe, wouldn’t you want to celebrate your birthday every day?
On this day on Lokona, Hermon celebrated his birthday in Lokonian years, which wasn’t the same as Martian years and not at all the same as Earth years, but had he lived on Lokona, which he did not, it would have been his birthday, and that alone was worth coming here for a celebration.

The Invisible Fleas of the Galaxy

Originally published in MBrane SF

Jono Rasmussen became twice-dead on the night before the launch of the Giant Telescope. He had been working in the downtown office of Comtel Imaging and Telescopy when a mailbot ambled out of the lift to deliver a box of chocolate. Jono was very partial to chocolate. As soon as he picked it up, the box exploded in his face, and took out half the office as well.
The builder-bots fixed the office, while a medbot collected all the pieces of Jono, took them to the medbay where it put him back together again. That done, Jono applied for his second yellow stripe. Not just twice-dead, twice-murdered. Insignificant people died; important people were murdered. He’d be wearing the badge tomorrow, thanks insignificant Cygians; they hadn’t even made him late for his meeting with the president.