I've got a story in the forthcoming Unfettered III. This time, I went a different direction. I owe a lot to Stephen King, and his short story collections are like talismans to me. I get ideas all the time that are very much in line with Night Shift and Skeleton Crew.
So, for Unfettered III, I went with it, and turned in a story entitled "The Paper Man." And it's exactly what you think, a little man made of paper. But, he's kinda mean ... though he's got his reasons.
For Unfettered II I wrote a story set in my Vault of Heaven world. It's entitled "A Slow Kill." It's about a member of a holy assassin fraternity known as the Dannire. They don't kill like your run-o-the-mill assassins do.
It's a bit more like The Count of Monte Cristo.
Also, there's a shovel fight!
My friend got cancer. It hit me kinda hard. Brought up a lot of stuff. So, instead of a short story, I wrote a novel. I called it, The Sound of Broken Absolutes, about two men--one old and one young, with music gifts they use in very different ways, for good and ill.
You can get my story stand-alone now, but this book is a treasure trove a great stories. I should know, I read them all and wrote a song. You can listen to it here. It's very Nightwish in sound.
I got added as a stretch goal for this crowd-funded anthology by Adrian Collins--a fine bloke!
I wrote him a Dannire story--Dannire being the holy assassins in my Vault of Heaven series. The Dannire do their business with a slow, thoughtful hand. I liked its inclusion here, given the theme of the anthology.
For this anthology I wrote another Vault of Heaven tale entitled, "A Length of Cherrywood." It might be one of the darkest stories I've written. But that seemed appropriate, since this was a grim dark antho.
Turns out some readers really just want a villain with a heart of gold. One reader said mine was the only story more disturbing, and that she liked less, than Mark Lawrence's, which made me feel pretty darn good about it!
I'll be honest, I can't remember if this was the first or second story I ever sold. It's entitled, "Beats of Seven." It's about a sound engineer capturing wave sounds for seascape new-age music, when he hears something else in the waves. Turns out the town has a hidden music.
I sold to the website first, but they selected my story for their first anthology.
For this anthology I wrote a story entitled, "Stories Are Gods." It's not exactly what you might think. My hero has brittle-bone disease, and is fighting for the life of his catatonic wife.
It's another Vault of Heaven story. It doesn't end the way you'd imagine. I quite like this on both the surface and subtext levels.
"The Great Defense of Layosah" is a major historical event in my Vault of Heaven series. A woman at the end of her rope who does something desperate to incite change.
The ending made me cry, I'll have to admit. But I don't feel too bad about that, since many of its readers have told me the same.
Another Vault of Heaven story. This time, it's the Order of Sheason--pronounced SHAY-sun--a kind of magical order in my world, who are in a final battle that becomes known as the Battle of the Round.
Lots of magic and heroism in this one. Lots of war-craft.
Some of my readers dig it because of the blend of fighting and magic and ultimate sacrifice.
This is another Vault of Heaven story. It tells of a Sheason, a type of magic-bearing individual, who goes into a unique culture where they use rituals of pain to purify and strengthen themselves. Our Sheason undergoes these rituals, and makes a friend in the process.
That friendship is the substance of the story, not the pain rituals, known as Talenfoier. But, if the context makes you squeamish, this one might not be an easy read for you.
My favorite review of it reads: "Holy f*** that was beautiful!"
"The Hell of It" is yet another Vault of Heaven story. This time, it is important backstory for a central character in the novels.
It tells the story of a father and son in the extremes of poverty, and what a father is willing to do for his boy.
Some of my readers have a hard time with it, because they think its sad. I, however, find it rather triumphant at the end.
Either way, you'll see how these events shape a life in the later novels.
Adrian Collins of Grim Dark magazine approached me about writing a story for him. I never really thought of myself as a grim dark writer. I don't think my stuff is. That said, I had an idea for something that was grim, but also maybe about someone, and with an ending, that suggested a ray of hope. With that in mind, I wrote "A Fair Man."
My protagonist lives in a corrupt society, but steps in when and where he can to balance the unjustness. Then, one day, that depraved world touches close to home ... his daughter.
This is the first Vault of Heaven short story I wrote. It's set deep in the history of that world. If you decide to dive in, pay attention to the man with the pitch fork. There's a story related in one of the novels which for me is one of the most heart-breaking things I've ever written, but also one of the most noble.
You get some good introduction to the founding of my world in this one.
I don't make any apology for the fact that I cut my teeth on horror fiction. Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Ray Bradbury, Robert McCammon, and on and on.
So, for this horror anthology, it won't surprise anyone that my story, "The Quality of Light Is Not Strained," a play on the Shakespeare quote about mercy, is very Stephen King.
There's a haunting image in this one. It never leaves my head. It was the thing that got me writing. And if you read it, I challenge you to tell me what you think that image is.
I don't write a lot of modern war fiction. And I don't write a ton of science fiction. But when I got invited into this anthology, an idea struck me, and I wrote a kind of unique battle story entitled, "In Thought."
On the surface it would seem war has been sanitized. But, in truth, the consequences are more severe than bodily harm.
I couldn't help it, I just had to do my version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Here, it's entitled "Roxanne," as a play against both the Steve Martin film, but also the great tune by Sting.
This one's fun. Give it a go.
Here's another short story I did in an effort to produce something fun and funny. It's entitled, "RPG Reunion." And it's kind of what it sounds like. Only, the various adults gathering to relive their youth in a game of D&D aren't all arriving with the same intent.
And as it happens, one of them is both a little bitter and has managed to find some truth in the world to the whole magic thing.
A fun romp, this is!
For this one, I wanted to go in a different direction than I figured many might. So, I wrote "A Canticle of Abraham and Issac."
For a long time I'd considered whether the biblical story of Abraham and Issac was God testing Abraham, or maybe, just maybe, Abraham was testing God a little bit. It's only a thought exercise, I know how the story actually goes. And in truth, I cribbed the idea from Dan Simmons in his Hyperion books.
But I had a unique idea, I thought, and I wrote it out. I also managed to intimate the genesis of the world's greatest playwright.
For this antho, I wrote a story entitled, "Guilt by Association." It pits a scientist against a priest at the High Kirk of Scotland. Well, the scientist feels pitted, I guess. He takes as a supposition the idea the guilt might at last be the thing to disprove the existence of God.
Of course, as the story unfolds, many arguments are made, and it doesn't unfold the way either of the men think it might.
For Cosmic Cocktails I had the idea of an intergalactic bar where entrances and rooms all came in and let out onto entirely different worlds. Also, that the bartender is a twenty-third century everyman--you'll see what I mean.
But the story is about a guy who comes into that bar, and might never leave.
This is the other story that my faulty memory suggests might have been my first sale, if it wasn't "Beats of Seven." In this anthology, I have a story entitled, "Lilith," about the mythical figure by the same name.
In this one, she's come to help one of her children, who is using the body of an infant. Only it's something of a trap. And she has a moral choice to make, which is rather unique, given who she is by nature.
Most people know the story of Joseph and Mary, but what about the others who came to the manger? What are their stories? What gifts did they bear?
This is a collection of fictional tales that captures the spirit of charity and humility this moment is meant to teach. These stores share the gentle reminder that giving is an act of love and ennobles us most when it is a gift of self.