duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Imprisonment. Slavery. War. Love. Suspenseful historical fantasy: duskpeterson.com

My writings: E-books, online fiction, and online nonfiction

This blog is intended for people who are permitted to read fiction and nonfiction in the adult section of their public library. Parental supervision is recommended.

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CURRENT CHALLENGES


(Original challenges slightly altered, because I never do things quite the way other folks do.)

One hour of writing a dayPledge to get offline 5 days a week100 Darkfics


PROGRESS METERS FOR 2014


Progress meters courtesy of Rikki A. Hyperion.


Wordage


28590 / 300000 (9.53%)



New works published


0 / 7 (0.00%)



Reissues and collections of previously published stories


27 / 75 (36.00%)
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Suspenseful gay stories and male romantic friendship fiction. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Trial (Life Prison: Hell's Messenger #1)

Trial

"Compassion's Keeper took his hand off the dagger hilt only long enough to turn a page. '"Sentenced to sixty lashes of the leaded whip. Sentence commuted to a transfer to Compassion Life Prison."' The Keeper raised his eyebrows. 'That's the first time I've ever heard a transfer to this prison described as a commutation. We'll assume that particular phrasing was meant as a joke.'"

The prisoner has suffered endless pain and has raised a rebellion. Now he faces his greatest trial.

For fifteen years, Tyrrell has struggled against odds to better the lives of his fellow prisoners. Now he must start all over again, for he has been transferred to Compassion Prison, reputed to be the worst life prison in his nation. The first signs of trouble at his new prison are brutally armed guards, a probing physician, and a Keeper of mysterious motives. But Tyrrell knows that, when he walks into his new cell, he'll face danger beyond measure:

The prisoners of Compassion, who are waiting to test him.

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Hell's Messenger" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.

Tags: bisexual and gay characters, multicultural, prisoners, guards, wardens, spies.


Excerpt

He lay on the cold concrete in the darkness, cursing in an indiscriminate manner that embraced every guard he had possessed the misfortune to be serviced by. The chill of the ground, combined with his wetness, had set him shivering, and he could taste blood in his mouth where his teeth had caught his cheek as he fell. In an automatic manner, he checked his teeth. They were all there, except for the four he had lost over the years, courtesy of past guards.

He allowed Bailey to pull him onto his feet, and as he did so, he realized that laughter echoed in the dark room. The laughter did not come from either of his guards.

He raised his head. He was in a large, high-ceilinged room. That much he could tell from the echoes and from the fact that he could not see the ceiling. Most of the room was lightless. But in the left-hand corner ahead of him, on a balcony about where he would expect a ceiling to be, sat two men lit by wall-lamps. Both wore dark blue uniforms, and both had their boots resting in a leisurely manner on the low, barred railing of the balcony. Both had rifles in their laps, and both rifles were pointed straight at Tyrrell.

Tyrrell felt his empty stomach lurch. One of the men who had been laughing called across the room, "Mercy's man! What gift do you bring us today?"

"Compassion's man!" Oslo called back in a casual manner that suggested he was acquainted with the other guard. "I have a prisoner transfer for you. Fresh meat for the banquet."

The rifle-bearing guards seemed to appreciate this small witticism more than Tyrrell thought it merited; they hooted with laughter. "Tenderizing the meat, are you?" asked the second guard, who held a cigarette between his lips.

"Oh, believe me," said Oslo, grinning, "I've poked the meat quite thoroughly to make sure it's well done."

Tyrrell rolled his eyes. Even Bailey winced at Oslo's poor wit.

The first guard lifted his rifle and set it aside. "Ah, what a pity we will not be able to feast at length on him at our banquet. But we are somewhat gentler on our prisoners than you are at Mercy Prison. How many fuckings a year do you service each of your prisoners with? One hundred? Two hundred?"

"We're working on raising the number." Oslo's voice held nothing but amusement.

"Whereas we are unlikely to see your prisoner more than once or twice this year . . . if that much." The first guard pulled his boots off the railing and leaned over the railing, remaining in his chair as he scrutinized the scene before him. The wavering light of the gas-lamps on the balcony wall moved shadows across his face, which was thoughtful. "Hard to say from this distance," concluded the guard finally. "Why the transfer?"

"Your Keeper knows. You can probably guess. His name's Tyrrell."

The second guard, who had removed his cigarette from his lips in order to tap it over a spittoon nearby, went suddenly still. The first guard raised an appreciative eyebrow. "Oh-ho!" he said softly. "So that's the way of it. I was wondering how long it would be before Mercy's Keeper lost patience with those riot-rousers he's been housing. What happened to the others?"

Oslo shrugged. "We'll know when we get back. The first decision our Keeper made was to arrange this transfer. Your Keeper seemed willing to take him in."

The first guard shrugged as he leaned back in his chair. "Our Keeper," he said, "has all sorts of grandiose plans for this prison, though whether any of them will come to fruit is another matter. I suppose that servicing riot-rousers is part of his plan. Will you break your fast with us? Starke likes to arrive early for his gunner duty . . ." He gestured toward the second guard. "But I prefer to extend my dawn break as long as possible. You're welcome to join me in the guards' dining hall. The night watch will be coming off-duty soon, and I can introduce you."

"Yes," muttered Bailey through gritted teeth. "Warmth. Yes."

Oslo ignored him. "Good food wouldn't go amiss," he said, smiling. "And I hear that Compassion Life Prison is famed for that."

More hoots of appreciative laughter erupted from the first guard, though the second was busy drawing a long lungful of smoke from his cigarette and scrutinizing Tyrrell with an expression he could not read.

"We promise to feed you only the best," replied the first guard, getting to his feet and reaching toward a hand-sized lever set within a small, red hatch on the wall. "Come to the dining hall when you've delivered your charge. You remember the way, I'm sure."

"I hope I do," said Oslo, beginning to tug Tyrrell forward into the darkness, "but everything may be changed here, from what I hear. Your Keeper seems to want to turn things upside down."

"We'll see," said the second guard as his eyes followed Tyrrell's progress. His voice was barely audible, and his expression was hidden behind a puff of smoke. "We'll see. . . ."
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Trial.



FREE FICTION

Click on the covers for more information. The online editions are free; the newly-reissued multiformat e-book editions are as priced.

Life PrisonMen and Lads

Online fiction:

Coded Messages (Life Prison). One of them rapes prisoners. The other wants to help prisoners. So why are they talking to each other? (Includes major spoilers for the novella Life Prison.)
 

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Click on the covers for more information. "The Breaking," "Love and Betrayal," and "Re-creation" are also newly reissued in multiformat.

The BreakingLove and BetrayalFirst TimeIn TrainingThe Eternal DungeonDebt PriceRe-creation
 

REISSUED IN MULTIFORMAT

Click on the cover for more information.

Noble
 

REVIEWS

"This series takes very complicated ideas and executes them masterfully.. . . I've never seen anyone handle the subject matter better." —Megan Derr's Top Ten MM Fantasy and MM Sci-Fi book lists (Scorching Book Reviews) on The Eternal Dungeon.

"A powerful tale of two men who accommodate the needs of each other and learn to find happiness in a hopeless situation." —Amazon (Lee Phillips) on Pleasure (Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion).
 

DARKFICS

My new series in the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle is Darkfics, which is simply a collection point for all the side stories in the five Toughs series: The Eternal Dungeon, Life Prison, Michael's House, Commando, and Waterman. Many of the stories are free. The stories are listed in chronological order of the date when they were set, with a timeline interspersed, so even readers who have already read all of the side stories may find this page of interest.

If you look carefully at that page, you'll notice that I've also listed stories and art which are created by other authors and artists but are set in the Toughs universe. This is one of my periodic encouragements to folks to please feel free to borrow my characters. My characters like to get out of my yard now and then.
 

SUBTEXT

I've updated at Subtext the list of writings by other authors that inspired my own work. Every time I think that list is finished, I reread another book and discover where my Muse got a story idea from. This time I reread the final chapters of Mary Stewart's heterosexual romantic suspense novel Nine Coaches Waiting ("I saw the look that came down over his face, bleak bitter pride shutting down over anger, and I knew that I had turned my world back to cinders, sunk my lovely ship with my own stupid, wicked hands . . ."), only to realize that I was rereading the final chapter of Unmarked.
 

TAGS

My tags page is one of the most-visited pages at my website, so I've added more tags in hopes of making it easier for visitors to find the particular stories they're looking for. Asexual characters! Senior-aged characters! Afterlife! Rebels! BDSM! Age of Sail! Romantic friendship fiction! They're all here, along with many more tags.

duskpeterson: (summer night shells)
"Follow our instructions. Seriously, I'm not kidding. I don't care if you are a publishing expert with 20 years experience, follow the damn instructions. There is one exception. For those who want to fail, spend 300% more time on the formatting, and have no fear of being driven terminally insane, and are generally narcissistic bastards, you may do as you please. For the rest of you, follow the instructions. Repeat after me, 'I will follow the instructions in the style guide or have a pox upon my house.' Now say it 37 times, turn around and hop on one leg."

--Brian Meeks, parodying Mark Coker putting "the fear of god" in self-publishers in The Smashwords Style Guide.


Just to alert you folks that I'm switching over to a once-a-month update schedule for my website and blog. I'm much more productive if I stay off the web to work on a batch of books that I release all at once. So you'll see me again in about a month's time.


Work, work, work )

It does eventually get easier than this, right?
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"The most dangerous lie we tell ourselves is that writing novels shouldn't feel like a job. It encourages younger and newer writers to work for little or no pay. It convinces those with a book or two under their belt that there's something wrong with them when the writing is no longer fun all the time. Worst of all, when we hit bumps along the road, we're convinced we're the only ones to feel this type of burnout, and that there's something wrong with us because of it.

"One of the most powerful things I ever did for my career, and my continued sanity, was to get to know other writers facing the same challenges. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook, supplemented with the occasional convention, have connected me with incredible people willing to share their own fraught publishing journeys. What stunned me more than anything else is how each of us thought our experiences were entirely unique, when it turned out we shared many of the same fears and frustrations.

"What will keep me writing far longer than I expected is not, necessarily, my passion, my talent, or the romantic story of how stringing together words will help me transcend the mortal plane. No, the deeper I get into the publishing game, the more I realize that what will keep me going when everything crumbles around me is the incredible support, advice, and commiseration I've gotten from other writers."

--Kameron Hurley: Busting Down the Romantic Myth of Writing Fiction, and Mitigating Author Burnout.


Question for you folks: Do any of you buy the doc editions of my ebooks? I'm trying to decide whether they're worth continuing.


Software struggles galore and working out a proper writing schedule )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
I'm bumping to the top of the blog this interesting discussion between Tharyn and me about m/f in m/m fiction, in case anyone else wants to add their two cents. A warning that our earlier discussion, and my latest reply below, includes spoilers for the already-published stories in The Eternal Dungeon.

o--o--o


Starting out by disentangling a misunderstanding )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"– The cabin pressure has changed, so let's all place the plastic masks of reality over our noses and mouths and inhale deeply for a moment: It's taken me since December 2012 to have the two crazy fuckers who make up the Legion 'find me.' (Thank you again.) And that's with extensive blogging, blog-hopping (including creating my OWN ill-attended hop which is really the ultimate in candlelit shrines to Self in the basement), interviews, guest posts, reviews by GODDAMNED MOTHERFUCKING Violet Blue (hi Violet), pimping myself all over the goddamned place 'til I am disgusted with myself. All that pimping and I'll still be dead before I have twenty readers. FACT.

"– Wonder if going totally underground (maybe a blog post here and there when the funny mood strikes) and writing stuff I think is funny or smutty or both, in whatever 'genre' (maybe a new one I invent), and then very quietly uploading it all to Amazon and the usual places, but with no pimping anymore, no blog hops, nothing but a single 'Here is a new book and I am very excited to announce this but now back to Wheel of Fortune' post on the blog, just on the day it’s uploaded, would work? Like, that would be it. Workable? Just as 'effective' as what I've been trying all this time?"

--Sheri Savill, whose BDSM parody Bound for Disappointment looks quite worthy of readers, judging from the online sample.


Getting back to work, thank goodness )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
This comment by Musicman is interesting enough to bump to the head of the blog:

"You could do a m/f version of one of your stories, to change the sex of one character and see if it sells on the m/f romance? Do it under a pseudonym so you don't ruin your rep as a m/m writer? It might make for an interesting experiment."

Not unless the character was Millard. :)

Filing off the gender serial numbers of my stories isn't as easy as all that. Being gender-neutral, I depend on my readers to tell me whether I do a good job of portraying male and female characters (in terms of the characters' gender-based characteristics). But I do know that, if I changed the gender of any of characters, I'd have to rip up my story settings entirely. With the exception of a couple of my contemporary stories, my story settings are either all-male or patriarchal. If you turned, say, Merrick into a woman, having a female prisoner in an all-male prison would have some impact. :) And an all-female turn-of-the-century prison would be run entirely differently. (I've been tempted to write about turn-of-the-century female prisons, because they're so interesting.)

I have, in fact, written m/f - though, like my m/m, the romance in those stories tends not to be the central plotline in the series as a whole. At the moment, there's Right or Right and Never, as well as m/f subplots in Green Ruin, Blood Vow, and Law of Vengeance. There are more m/f plotlines coming up in The Three Lands, Princeling, Waterman, Michael's House, and even Loren's Lashes (if I ever get around to finishing that series). And, in case you hadn't noticed, I write as much friendship fiction as m/m, so my rep as an m/m author was ruined long ago. :) I hold to the theory - also held by Maculategiraffe, Manna Francis, and many other original slashers - that there's no need for segregation of orientations in fiction series.

The issue is really one of marketing. I don't have enough m/f stories to effectively market myself as an m/f writer. So I'd either have to gradually accumulated enough stories in that subgenre (which I'm happy enough to do), or I'd have to immediately put my m/m stories aside to work on m/f, with no guarantee that I'd be any more likely to earn money as an m/f writer than I do as an m/m writer. As you can imagine, I'm not keen on the latter idea.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"I'm closing in on 62. I might have 10 productive years left, 20 if I'm lucky and don't get hit by any more minivans. When I ask myself how much of that time I want to spend playing online cribbage or watching cute-kitty videos instead of visiting with my family and friends, goofing with my idiotic dog, or out riding my motorcycle, the answer is not too much."

--Stephen King: My Screen Addiction.

Read more... )

So which fiction stylists do you folks like? I'm dying for recs, so that I can find some more good writers to read.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here."

--William Gibson, via The Passive Voice.


What I'm doing and trying to do )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"I call the stuff . . . 'soft-porn' myself, and I like it. But I also get good money for it, especially from folks who use the word 'erotica'."

--Parhelion: Masks.


Marketing, genre ghettos, and other musings )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"They're here!!! They're here!!!"

The speaker (actually, shrieker) was a teenage girl and she and her friends came running over to my table. I was packing boxes and getting ready to go downstairs to speak at the opening session of the UPublishU conference downstairs. The Author Hub behind me was empty, as yet. It was only 8:30 AM.

"Is this where the indie authors are going to be?" she asked, gazing up at the sign said The Alliance of Independent Authors as if it said Private Audience with Justin Bieber.

"Yes, they'll be coming in shortly," I said. The front row of the Author Hub housed five high-sales, headliner author-publishers: Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy (the highest selling author on Amazon Kindle, who had cut the ribbon and declared Author Hub officially open for business on Thursday morning); Hugh Howey, CJ Lyons and Holly Ward.

This girl, and her pals, must be after one of them. "Was there somebody you particularly wanted to meet?"

She shrugged. "We just want to see (tone of rapt wonder) the indie authors."

"Any indie author?"

"Yeah!"

“Really?"

"That's what I, like, want to be when I leave school."

"Me too," said her friend.

"And me!"

"All of you?"

Yes, all eleven of them had the same ambition and had come to the Javitts Centre to stake out some self-publishing heroes.

--Orna Ross: Indie Authors at BEA 2014, via The Passive Voice.


Thoughts on covers and plans )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"Don't act like you have forever. You absolutely, positively do not, and the great lie, the most destructive conceit, is that there's still plenty of road left. No, there isn't. There might be, but there also might not be, and nobody knows for sure. So don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and prioritize your shit so you're doing things that matter, like you're only going to be around for a few more hours or days. If you're wrong, nice surprise. If you're right you won't have frittered away what you had left playing some idiotic game or staring at the tube or exchanging vapid pleasantries online. Treat your time as precious and use it wisely."

--Russell Blake: 10 Things I Wish I'd Been Told.


Starting to settle down to normal life, but still busy with move-in stuff )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough."

--Author Unknown.


(I still haven't reached the point in the post-move period of responding to folks' kind emails and blog comments, so I hope this post will at least assure my correspondents that I'm still alive.)


The move: Awful, awful, awful. But after the move has been great. )
duskpeterson: (bookshelves)
1) The house is sold.

2) I and the co-owner agreed (after three years' discussion) on how to disentangle our tangled financial affairs.

3) Jo/e and I have signed a lease to a loft apartment (*cue video clip of Rent*) in downtown Havre de Grace (*cue image of our new neighbor, Martha Lewis*).

4) I read a lot of original slash to get me through all of the above.

I'll be back again in May, after I've packed and moved 1500 square feet worth of furniture, several hundred LPs, and several thousand books. (*Still reading slash.*)
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Wax / Broken'


I've made some price changes on my e-books, mainly in the downward direction. Among other things, most of the e-book versions of the side stories in The Eternal Dungeon and Life Prison are now free at my store at Gumroad, and at other bookstores where possible. If you download the e-book from Gumroad, voluntary donations can be made before or after downloading. Whether or not you donate, reviews (pro or con) are always welcome.
 

The Eternal Dungeon free stories are as follows. Click on the titles for longer blurbs and download links.

Never. She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

Hunger. Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

Wax / Broken. "All in all, he held a satisfactory position, one where his talents were properly appreciated. But the Record-keeper, rubbing his bleary eyes as he began his shift, could not help but wish that the High Seeker had chosen a love-mate who was less loud."

Green Ruin. Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix. Soon three very different men – a married man who is committed to respect and honor, a bachelor harboring secret desires, and a soldier with an unfulfilled ambition – will find themselves caught in a trap. Their rescue will come from an unexpected quarter.
 

The Life Prison free stories are as follows. Click on the titles for longer blurbs and download links.

Torture (crossover with the Eternal Dungeon series). When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently in Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his own suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature . . . and his own nature.

In the Silence. He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known. But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger . . . and the hope of something more.

Cell-mates. Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play. . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as "play." So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust. If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"I admit, I was ready to dislike this novella as soon as I started it: a young man in prison for a nefarious crime (killing children) has to pay his debt becoming a whore, first raped by the prison guards, and then sold to the relatives of the children he killed. . . . I [came] to deeply care for both the young man and the young lord [who was one of the relatives]; towards the end, it seemed almost a fairy tale, a tragedy turned [into] romance . . . but that wasn't surprising, cause, [from] what I remember, the best fairy tales are indeed tragic love stories." —My Reviews and Ramblings (Elisa Rolle) on Debt Price (Master/Other).

"Slightly different in comparison to other serials I read by the same author due to the sci-fi/futuristic setting instead of an historical one, there is in any case a common thread. The primitive and passionate nature of human beings is tamed by the force of intellect or by the ability to dominate their own emotions. . . . The bond between Egon and Halvar is there, and it was real, I [came] even to see it turned from captive to protector, with Egon caring for [his captor], and dreading the time when he will die, cause it will deprive Egon of his mainstay, the reason why he managed to find a balance in his own existence as a slave." —My Reviews and Ramblings (Elisa Rolle) on Pleasure (Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion).

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
*


"Halvar leaned forward. His eyes were the color of an arctic sky. 'I am not a fool, Egon,' he said softly, 'so do not treat me as such.'"

Egon had a position that won him respect, friends who raised his spirits, and lovers who gave him pleasure. Then a man came into his life who would take all that away from him. If Egon was lucky.

As a slave, Egon has already reached the highest position he will ever achieve: he is the household's airship chauffeur. Forced to confront the contradiction between his ideals and his behavior, Egon must make a choice between continuing to pursue immediate pleasure or willingly submitting himself to another man for the sake of a higher goal. What Egon does not yet know is that his guide on this journey into the unknown is hiding a secret that will transform both their lives.

This science fiction novella of gay love and service can be read on its own or as part of Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion, an award-winning science fiction series on exploitation and love, set in a time when the nation's corporate government has institutionalized slavery.

This is a reissue of an older story, moved to a new series.
 

Review

"An unconventional and unexpected love story between two men who aren't free in any sense of the word, but who nonetheless forge a loving bond." —The Novel Approach (Lisa).
 

Coming soon as multiformat e-books from Love in Dark Settings Press: Remy Hart's original three stories in the Slaves of the Northern Corporate Dominion series.


Excerpt

He stood motionless, a bulky shape looming over the older man sitting at his desk, examining his datapad. He was taller than Halvar, and stronger. He reminded himself of these facts, though he knew that they were of no relevance.

It was not the first time he had been called into Halvar's office. He had been sent there many times over the years, at the Chairman's orders. Sometimes the beatings he received at Halvar's hands were merited, sometimes they were not. He took no notice of them either way, nor any notice of the words from Halvar that accompanied the beatings. His mind was on higher matters, and the beatings always gave him the excuse he needed to court the latest of his lovers, showing her his welts and pouring out his sorrowful tale.

Not that he lacked gratitude for what his lovers gave him. They helped to distract him from the horrors of his life, so he did his best to return the favor – and was successful, he knew. In his ears were still ringing the cries his latest lover had made when he pleasured her.

Halvar looked up from his datapad. "Sit," he said briefly, and Egon sat in the straight-backed chair opposite Halvar's desk. He suspected that Halvar wanted him seated only because it allowed the Supervisor to stand over him. His theory was confirmed in the next moment as Halvar rose, emerged from behind his desk, and leaned back against the front of the desk, his arms folded as he contemplated Egon.

"Well," he said finally, "you are fortunate. The Chairman received a good price for Karia from the breeding farm – they took one look at the genetics information from your chip's database and decided that your child and its host were worth buying. They wanted to buy you as well, but they didn't offer the Chairman a good enough price."

Egon sat immobile, unable to think what to say. That he had escaped being sold to a breeding farm ought to give him joy, he knew – but that he would never see his child, and that laughing Karia would now be condemned to a life of forced mating and endless pregnancies . . .

"So that matters to you." Halvar's voice was chill. "I had wondered whether it would."

Egon raised his chin and looked Halvar straight in the eye. "We didn't intend for it to happen."

"No, I'm quite sure she didn't intend for it to happen." Halvar's voice remained cool, though quiet. "At sixteen, she was young enough to believe you when you told her that you were infertile. I'm only surprised that you have continued to use that tale, since none of your other bed-mates believed it."

Egon's face grew warm, and he shifted his hands from the arms of the chair to his lap, lounging back in an effort to look relaxed. "I thought it was true. My parents only ever had one child, though they made love often, and they told me that my uncle—"

Halvar's rod shot out to full length; it crashed down upon the chair arms with a crack like lightning. Egon, who would have fallen out of the chair if the rod had not barred his way, went rigid and pressed himself against the chair's straight back.

Halvar leaned forward. His eyes were the color of an arctic sky. "I am not a fool, Egon," he said softly, "so do not treat me as such. If you are a fool, and believe the words you are saying, then I suggest that you rapidly educate yourself. You cared not whether you impregnated that girl and ruined her life – you cared nothing for her or for any other woman you have bedded for the past ten years. All you care for is your own pleasure."

"At least the Chairman has permitted me that much."

The words had escaped from his mouth before he could pull them back. Halvar looked down at him a moment more before slowly raising the rod from the chair. His wrist flicked; the rod collapsed back in on itself.

He did not return the rod to his pocket, though; instead he ran a hand slowly across its surface while saying, "So you expect rewards from the Chairman. For what? For the lackadaisical fashion in which you perform your duties?"

"Maybe." Egon kept his gaze fixed upon Halvar, unwilling to concede him any ground. "Or maybe I'd like payment for the parents he took from me."

Halvar did not speak for a moment. His office was of spartan appearance – no more than a desk and two chairs – and his personal appearance was likewise simple: scorning the black suits worn by the more privileged slaves of this household, Halvar wore a grey uniform, as though he were a slave just beginning his training. On him, it did not look odd.

"You blame the Chairman for the loss of your parents." The Supervisor's voice was flat.

"Who else am I to blame?" The bitterness that Egon had succeeded in hiding until now spilled out of him, like acidic liquid from a poorly tended ionizer. "My parents both served the Chairman with loyalty, and he rewarded that by selling my mother to a household where she'd be beaten or worse, and by driving my father to his death. What justice is there in that?"

"Justice?" The Supervisor raised his eyebrows, as Egon's father had. "Is that what you seek?"

Egon gave a short, humorless laugh. "Not justice. Slaves can't expect justice. That being the case, I'll take what pleasure I can, where I can."

"Interesting." Halvar folded his arms again without releasing the rod from his hand. "How far do you extend this philosophy of taking without giving? To your friends? To your lovers?"

"Of course not." Egon glared at Halvar, resuming his slouched position. "I always do my best to give pleasure to my friends and to my lovers. I entertain my friends with stories, and my lovers— Well, I give them a different sort of pleasure. Any of them would tell you that."

"Even Karia?"

"Especially Karia!" Egon leaned forward, his hands now in fists. "She and I— Not using protection was a mistake, I'll admit that. But I gave her pleasure all the same. Towards the end of each time, when she—"

He broke off, realizing the futility of what he was saying. As far as he knew, Halvar was completely celibate; if he had had any lovers in his youth, he had given them up at the time he became Supervisor. Halvar had not even participated in the rape fourteen years before. He probably had forgotten what bed-pleasure could be like.

"Mm." Halvar appeared to contemplate this information, staring down at his rod and lightly touching its surface. After a while he said, without looking up, "Well, your lovers seem to hold a different view on this matter. They regard you, uniformly, as the worst mistake they ever made."

For a moment Egon was still; then he relaxed further back into the chair, chuckling. "Do you expect me to believe that?"

"Believe it or not, as you wish. According to one of your lovers, 'When he took me in the store-rooms, while I was supposed to be checking the flour bins, it was as though I was making love to a machine on automatic. His thoughts weren't on me – I'm not sure where they were. I'm not sure whether he has any thoughts, beyond satisfying his body.'"

His mouth had turned so dry that he had trouble swallowing. He knew whom Halvar was quoting – it was Karia, telling of the day on which he had given her his child. The day on which she had cried his name into his chest, over and over . . .

"But she enjoyed it," he said, his voice dull. "I know she enjoyed it. She . . . Towards the end . . ."

Halvar slid his hand around the rod, gripping it tight. "I seem to recall," he said conversationally, "that you were present where you should not have been fourteen years ago, and that you witnessed a certain punishment that took place in the kitchen. Did you happen to notice, on that occasion, whether the slave in question reached orgasm?"

A heaviness in his throat prevented him from speaking for a moment. "He . . . That is, my father . . . The man being punished was forced .. ." He stopped and tried again. "Even if Karia— That is, she was only one. There were others . . . And my friends. You can't tell me that my friends don't enjoy my company."

"Ah, yes, your friends. You claim to them that you are a skilled lover – is that not so?"

His hands clenched once more. "Yes."

"Prove it."

He stared up at Halvar's opaque expression, but could think of no better response than, "What?"

"Prove that you are a passably good lover. I will offer you a choice. You may receive a beating now for the loss of a young slave – and that beating will be consonant with the heinousness of your offense, I can promise you. Or return here tonight before lights-off and prove to me your skills as a lover. If I find that you have told the truth, I will let you go without further punishment. If I find that you have lied, you will receive a beating, though a lesser one than you would receive now."

"I don't understand the point of this," Egon said slowly.

"Don't you?" Halvar flicked out the slender rod full length, then pulled it back, as though he were a towtractor hooking a dead aircar. "You were once a hard-working servant – indeed, I had hopes that you would prove as skilled at service as your mother. Then you lost interest in your duties. I had held out hope all these years that, though you were as poor a chauffeur as any household could bear to sustain, you were at least a hard worker in the hobby you had taken up in place of mindfulness to your duties. Now I'm beginning to doubt even that. So prove me wrong."
 

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Pleasure.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"A love story between a young lord and his new slave [which] combines rich worldbuilding and characterization to produce a touching sweet romance.. . . Perhaps a good comparison is Mary Renault's The Persian Boy, but without the distance Renault's romantic elements usually come with. This is immediate and tender." —T. C. Mill on Re-creation (The Three Lands).
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
I and the co-owner of my house (with whom I've been negotiating for donkey's ages about the fate of our house, since he moved out) agreed today, after consulting with our lawyers and a real estate agent, that we will put this house on the market, to be sold as-is, in a week's time. (This is the house I've lived in since age eleven, *sniff, sniff*.) Depending on how long it takes for the house to sell, this means I could be moving out by March.

The horrible implications of this decision for my piece of mind this winter )

The good news is that, once I'm moved, I'll be able to devote a lot more of my attention to writing and publishing. Not my entire attention, mind you, because I expect I'll be taking a lot of still-to-be-sorted family papers with me. But I won't have to spend any more time worrying about home maintenance and rental income. (Just income, period. But we won't go into that.)
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Right or Right


"He looked at Linnet, smiling as sweetly as though she had offered to buy the man's shop. 'Tell me,' said the shopkeeper, 'what caused you to leave your barony?'"

Linnet is trouble. Everyone agrees about that. Driven from her native barony, she arrives at Goldhollow in hopes of beginning a new life, only to discover that she cannot escape her past.

As Linnet is drawn into memories of a dark young man she once knew, she must deal in the present with a boy who is headed toward danger, as well as a child-like baron who may force her to betray her past.

This novella on love and disabilities can be read on its own or as part of Darkling Plain, a collection of fantasy tales about young people in times of conflict.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

Crows mocked her in the trees as she grubbed under the fallen trunk for the piece of house-wood she wanted. It had been a good house, before the tree fell on it; the quality of the wood attested to that. She wondered for a moment, with bitter irony, what its rich owner would have thought if he had known how she would make use of his leavings.

The crisp leaves under her knees crackled as she shifted her position, straining to pull out the plank. Her hand caught at one unvarnished edge, and she gave a yelp as several splinters drove into her palm. With a sigh, she sat back on her haunches, plucked out the splinters, and sucked at her hand as she surveyed the valley below her.

Like black fish entering the broad entrance to a river, men and horses still poured into the valley from the mountain pass below the rising sun. Pulling her cloak further closed against the soft autumn wind, Linnet stared at the relatively tiny force that was meant to protect the town above her. If she had been any other woman, her thoughts would have been on the women and girls huddled behind the town walls, whose lives would end in slavery or death if the army below failed in its task. As it was, though, all that she could think as she reached down once more toward the plank was, "All those dark boys who will never grow to be golden."

Several minutes later she extracted the plank from its grave, but she saw that it was hardly worth the effort, for the plank was cracked in the middle. Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge her failure, she rose wearily to her feet and began to stagger toward the wood-pile with her find. It was then that she saw the man.

He was leaning against one of the wild apple trees nearby, with his cloak tossed back to reveal the scarlet clothes beneath. Fine gold along the edging matched the color of his hair, which shone like sun-gilded water. His body was slender and youthful, and his eyes held a blue brighter than the mid-morning sky. They sparkled now with laughter.

When he spoke, it was with the accent she had heard many times in recent days. "Fair maiden," he said, "you seem somewhat burdened with your labor. Might I assist you in finishing your task, and then, perhaps, escort you to a place of greater leisure where, if your favor extends so far—"

"You can save the rest of that speech." With an effort, Linnet turned and cast the plank onto the pile before her, then stood breathless for a moment, trying to calculate how many days it would take her to gather the remaining wood.

"Ah." The man, whom she was no longer facing, seemed more amused than before. "You have heard this approach on a previous occasion, I believe."

"On more than one occasion. The answer is no."

"Perhaps if I were to approach your father in the proper fashion . .."

"Go right ahead." Linnet pointed toward a fenced area further down the hill. "You'll find him there."

"Ah," the man repeated. He came over to stand beside her, and she saw that his expression was now properly grave. "A soldier, perhaps?"

"That's the trade which all the men in our barony lay claim to these days—those who are alive."

The man nodded, continuing to stare down the hillside with his sparkling blue eyes. Then he looked her way suddenly, and as though he had indeed received a proper introduction from her father, he said, "My name is Golden."

Linnet was wondering whether, if she wielded a plank against him, this gadfly would leave her alone, but she said with all the politeness her parents had taught her, "I am Linnet."

Golden took the hand she offered him, but his gaze never left her face as he slowly raised her hand and kissed the back of her fingers in a manner that made her body tingle. "Well, fair maiden," he said. "I am deeply sorry to hear of— You are a fair maiden, aren't you? I'm not wasting my time on someone's wife, am I? Not that I'm above that sort of courting if the pickings are lean."

Linnet laughed then, turning her back on the cemetery below. "Fair and sixteen, as the song goes," she replied. "And you?"

"Nineteen and golden, as the same song says." The young man offered her a sweeping bow.

"Is your name really Golden?"

"It's what the girls call me, anyway. I think it's quite apt, don't you?"

"As long as one doesn't look under the surface," Linnet remarked dryly, and she walked past him to the remains of the fallen house.
 

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Right or Right.


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