duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"Lying on my stomach in the passage, I held my breath. Knowing the man who spoke, I had no doubts as to what he was suggesting."

When an endangered slave visits an imprisoned spy, she discovers that she has more options in life than she had thought.

Life is not easy for Serva, the bastard daughter of the King of Daxis. Alternately treated as a slave and as a princess, she is distrusted on all sides . . . especially by her old rival from the nursery, her cousin the Prince.

When the Prince begins to hint that she is a threat to his ambitions, Serva must make a decision that will determine the course of her life. And that decision will determine the fate of a spy who is due to be hanged. . . .

Read online or download as a free e-book: Adversaries (The Three Lands: Breached Boundaries #1).


My bio )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Historical adventure tales that are speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels and young adult fiction. All e-books are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.

Survival School

NEW NOVELLA: Survival School (Young Toughs)

"This is the right place for you, boy. They'll school you here to be a right-standing man, one who can keep control over his actions, like any good man should. You just got to keep yourself open to learn and to grow."

How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?

Arrested for a crime he doesn't regret, Bat ends up handcuffed to a group of fellow city boys and sent on a long journey into the countryside. He know that he is being transported to a prison for delinquent servant boys, but what form will his imprisonment take?

Tattooed with the rank-mark of servant, Bat must learn how to keep from losing his temper with the men who carry the keys to his freedom. But in the unbelievable world where he has been deposited, in which a genial master orders strict punishments and a servant acts like a master, will Bat be able to locate the door to his release? Which of his fellow prisoners can he trust to help him?

And will he survive long enough to find out?

Inspired by true events at a turn-of-the-century reform school, this novella (short novel) is set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s. The story can be read on its own or as part of the Young Toughs alternate history series, an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Young Toughs is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

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


Excerpt

"Well, I've surely been schooled."

Having said this, Bat tossed another shovelful of dirt to the side and paused to wipe his brow free of sweat. The midsummer morning was clear, with not a cloud in the sky to provide them with shade. The trench they were digging remained too shallow at this point to throw shadows.

"Oh my blessed, you're right about that." Frank took up the refrain as his pickaxe chiselled another rock. "When I get my first job out there, and the master asks me what schooling I received here, I'll say, 'Why, sir, I was learned to break rocks.'"

Frank rarely voiced bitterness; that he did so now was a sign of how exhausted the boys were. Bat looked wearily over at the pails of water that Trusty had taken care to place near the boys. The water would last till sunset. He wasn't sure he would.

Bending down to scoop up a bucket of mud, Emmanuel said, "Might as well be in the Men's Penitentiary. Makes no difference to the work we do."

"Two thousand nine hundred feet long," Joe added as he reached down to lift Frank's broken rock into the wheelbarrow. "That's what the Super said the tunnel will be. Two thousand nine hundred feet times seventeen feet is—"

"Stop showing off." Emmanuel took a halfhearted swipe at him, then turned and shouted, "Hoi! Leave him alone!"

Bat turned to look. White-faced as he struggled to push another wheelbarrow full of dirt and mud and rock up the incline to the campus lawn, Mordecai was being blocked by one of the boys who worked in the main dormitory of Family Cottage Trustworthy – the "Big Dorm," as everyone called it now. Several of the other boys, who were assigned to take charge of the wheelbarrow once Mordecai reached the lawn, were laughing at the young boy's efforts to get past the barrier.

"We got to come over there and paste you?" demanded Joe.

Bat looked uneasily at where Trusty stood on the lawn. The young man was deep in conversation with the Superintendent, but it was unlikely he had missed hearing Joe's threat. For now, though, he seemed contented to let the quarrelling boys settle themselves.

The boys in the Big Dorm looked inclined to fight, if only to defend their honor, but at that moment Slow, with impeccable timing, returned from using the toilet in their cottage. He took one look at Mordecai and said, "Aw, that's too heavy for you. Let me help. We better help, right?" He turned toward the boys who had been teasing Mordecai. "Because we're big and he's little."

With the situation voiced in that stark fashion, the boys of the Big Dorm shrugged and moved forward to relieve Mordecai of the wheelbarrow. As they did so, Mordecai began to fall to his knees. Slow caught him and carefully escorted him back to where another packed wheelbarrow awaited him.

The boys of the Big Dorm took a second look at the small group digging the trench for the steam pipes, then evidently decided not to pursue the matter further. It was well known by now that the boys in the Little Dorm – as they'd been dubbed – were close pals who always protected one another. Separated at night from the other boys of Family Cottage Trustworthy, they formed their own little community, like a family within a family.

Bat watched Mordecai with concern as the young boy paused to lean against a boulder, panting. His legs were shaking. Joe, however, had turned his attention back to the work at hand. He said, "We got Comrade Carruthers to thank for this, you know. He gave the money for the steam plant."

Restored to his usual good humor by the pause in labor, Frank said, "At least we won't be cold at night."

"I'd never let you get cold, honey boy." Joe flung this observation over his shoulder as he bent down to scoop up more mud.

Emmanuel gave a snort then, and Bat and Slow exchanged smiles. Everyone in the Little Dorm knew that Joe had taken to sneaking into Frank's bed after lights were out. Even Trusty knew, because he'd caught them sleeping peacefully together one morning. Since it was clear that both boys were where they wanted to be, and since they were both fully clothed in their underwear, Trusty had confined himself to telling them that they'd best not take the matter any further than they had, or they'd be in trouble with the Night Watchman.

He had left them in an agony of curiosity as to what happened "further."

Bat had been amused. One week, not long before he was arrested, a childhood playmate of his had invited him to tea with her mother. The mother had proceeded to explain to him – with drawings, no less – what constituted "further" when it came to boys and girls, with an added explanation that he mustn't go too far with any girl he wasn't marrying. Then she had shooed them out of the room, saying, "Bat, you can go to Sally's bedroom now. I'm sure you two want to play." And they had.

Now, leaning against his shovel, Bat spared a thought of regret for Sally. She was so pretty that she'd likely be married by the time he got out of prison. In the meantime . . . His gaze wandered over to Emmanuel, who had removed his jacket and shirt to work, revealing from his physique that he was well on his way to manhood. Bat figured that, if he turned up at Emmanuel's bedside one night, Emmanuel would likely invite him under the sheets, in his easygoing fashion. They could go a lot further than Joe and Frank had. Bat knew by now that such arrangements were common in the House of Transformation, though always risky in family cottages not placed under Trusty's benevolent rule. The Superintendent, a widower who had no doubt served his liege-master in bed during his youth, had taken it into his head that the inmates' bed-play was "filthy."

Bat forced his weary limbs back to work. He liked Emmanuel, as he liked all the boys in the Little Dorm, but he had no interest in establishing the sorts of ties that might bind him here when the time came for him to leave. He'd declared that to Trusty on the first day, and he hadn't changed his mind since then. This place was a prison, not a home; he'd wait till he was out of here before joining himself with anyone else in love.

He'd missed part of the conversation; Emmanuel was saying, ". . . Most of the farms around here belong to him. The farmers are his tenants. No wonder he wants to place us out with the farmers. We're free labor to him, even when we're paroled."

Bat cast another quick glance in the direction of Trusty. Trusty had moved his conversation with the Superintendent a few yards from the trench, no doubt to prevent the Super from overhearing this conversation.

"Is the House of Transformation's farmer the Super's tenant?" asked Frank.

Emmanuel shrugged as he knelt down in the mud with his bucket. "Might as well be. He's married to Super's daughter. —Hoi, watch out." This was to Mordecai who was in danger of staggering in front of Frank's pickaxe, having returned from delivering his latest load.

Bat caught hold of Mordecai as Joe said, "I heard the farmer and his wife can't have children, even though they've been trying for years."

The other boys exchanged looks, but nobody voiced any doubts. Joe was always up to date on the campus gossip.

"But she's pretty!" cried Slow, who had not quite mastered yet the rules for how children were produced.

"She surely is," said Joe appreciatively as he paused to take out his matches, first glancing around to ensure that none of the boys from the Big Dorm were watching. Super and Trusty remained absorbed in their conversation. Slow went over to help Mordecai push the wheelbarrow up the incline.

A question had been forming in Bat's mind for several weeks. Now, with Mordecai gone, Bat blurted out the question: "Joe, did you have anything to do with that ferry fire that killed Mordecai's parents?"

Frank looked shocked. From the expression on Emmanuel's face, Bat surmised that this possibility had occurred to him too.

Joe simply gave Bat a sour look. "There were folks on that ferry. Not just men and women – kids too. I'm not a murderer."

"His master's boat was empty," Frank said in quick support.

"So why'd you set it on fire?" asked Emmanuel with mild curiosity. "'Cause you hated your master?"

"That fire?" Joe gave a wicked smile. "That fire was fun." He pulled out his box of cigarettes.

Emmanuel snorted again as he paused to drink another full dipper of water from one of the pails. Bat paused too. As Slow and Mordecai returned, Frank tossed dippers to them while Joe tamped down the end of his cigarette. Cigarettes were the most precious contraband on campus; inmates who were forcibly returned from parole would sneak back boxes of cigarettes and sell them for favors. Emmanuel, who received gifts of fruit from his mother through the mail, regularly exchanged the fruit for cigarettes that he gave to Joe. Emmanuel figured – probably correctly, Bat thought as he watched Joe lovingly strike a match – that this was the safest way to channel Joe's worship of fire.

"Can I try one?" asked Frank, staring at the cigarette.

"You ain't getting hooked on one of those coffin nails, boy," said Emmanuel as he placed Frank into a headlock. Joe laughed as Frank twisted free and thrust Emmanuel against the shallow wall of the trench. Newly returned, Slow pulled Mordecai to safety as the struggling boys thrust dirt all over the place. Bat dived to save the pails of water.

"All right, that's enough." It was Trusty's voice. The result of his arrival was striking. Frank immediately released Emmanuel. Bat rose to his feet, brushing dirt out of his hair and grabbing for his shovel. And Joe slipped the matchbox back into his drawers as he swept the lit cigarette behind his back.

"You're all here to work, not fight," Trusty told them. "Drink your water and get back to digging. Give me that." He held out his palm.

With a sigh, Joe handed him the cigarette. Trusty ground it underfoot as he said, "Matches too."

For a moment, it looked as though Joe would turn stubborn. Trusty tilted his head to one side. "You planning to eat supper tonight?"

The threat of the missed meal did its trick. With a deep heave of breath such as a martyred slave might emit, Joe took out the matches and handed them to Trusty. Slow had been looking exceedingly nervous during this conversation, but there was really no reason. Trusty never beat the boys in his care. At most, he'd tell the Super that a misbehaving boy deserved to be lowered by a merit-grade, but that rarely happened. Trusty anticipated and caught problems early on, before they had time to worsen, perhaps because he was an inmate himself.

Trusty treated the matches with the same contempt as the cigarette, dowsing them in a pail that held a bare inch of water. Emmanuel raised his eyebrows. The Watchman, they all knew, would confiscate matches and cigarettes from boys, and then he'd sell the contraband to journeymen who were being released from prison with a few coins in their pocket. Trusty could not fail to know that he was destroying a healthy profit for himself.

"Back to work," Trusty instructed; then he beckoned to Bat. Bat set down his shovel and came forward, ignoring the looks that the other boys gave him – the looks that the other boys always gave him when Trusty took him aside for a lecture. Without any word ever spoken between them, Trusty had established himself as Bat's private mentor, giving him a quiet word on the side whenever Bat began to stray from the straight path.

Bat wondered what he had done this time. He'd been trying for weeks to behave properly, though it wasn't easy, especially on week's end, when the cleric from the local chapel would stand in the transformatory chapel, thundering down his denunciations of the boys' evil ways. Afterwards, on the campus lawn, there would be drill inspection by the Superintendent, which was even harder to take, for the Super invariably had an "encouraging" word for each well-behaved family cottage about how far the boys had come from their days of ill repute. Bat sometimes suspected that the journeymen kept their family cottages in everlasting turmoil simply in order to avoid these speeches.

He and Trusty passed the boys in the Big Dorm and came out of the trench. The sun blazed like flames from a house-fire. Trusty, who was wearing a straw hat like those worn by all the inmates who did outside work, took it off to fan himself, one of the few times he had ever hinted that he suffered as badly as his fellow inmates.

Trusty looked tired. Bat had heard him get up during the middle of the night when he was fetched by the Watchman to fix some plumbing problem that had developed with the Super's toilet. He often did chores like that around the campus; Bat had overheard the Superintendent refer to him as "my man-of-all-work."

Now Trusty said, "Your transfer has come through. You start tomorrow morning."

He couldn't help hopping on his toes with joy. "At the campus farm? What about the other boys?"

"Harry is being transferred to the stables. The rest of the Little Dorm stays in the broom manufactory."

His spirits abruptly fell. He looked back at the boys. Emmanuel, Slow, Frank, and Joe were all laughing over a joke, but Mordecai, who was trying to turn the wheelbarrow around, looked as though he was about to pass out.

"Say, can't he be left off this work?" As he spoke, Bat pointed at the younger boy. "He's not made for this. He's a domestic, and he's too young to be hauling rocks anyhow. Even working the fields would be better for him than this."

Trusty took his time in answering. Finally he said, "You prepared to let him take the farm job in your place?"

The words fell like chunks of hot lead, searing through his insides. He looked back at the trench. Two thousand nine hundred feet, Joe had said. The tunnel would take months to dig. Months of shovelling in the blazing sun. . . .
 

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


Prison Food and Fondness

NEW SHORT STORY: Prison Food and Fondness (The Eternal Dungeon)

"All she needed to gather were the ingredients for the meal. This she tried to explain on one summer morning, standing by the outer dungeon's exit while confronting two guards who had their daggers pointed at her."

Voluntarily incarcerated in a prison full of men, married to a man who has no desire to "love" her in the traditional sense of the word, Birdesmond Manx Chapman has chosen a challenging path in life. But she is a Seeker, a prison-worker who has taken an oath of eternal confinement in order to share the conditions of her prisoners. She has the strength to meet all challenges.

Until she encounters her greatest challenge of all: obtaining the ingredients for a wedding-anniversary meal in a dungeon filled with men who don't know how to cook.

This short story of an unconventional marriage by a woman who lives in a man's world can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, a speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Young Toughs, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, The Eternal Dungeon, and Dark Light) about adults and youths on the margins of society, and the people who love them. Set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. As a result, the New World retains certain classical and medieval customs.

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Prison Food and Fondness.


Excerpt

She knew in her heart that her frantic desire to cook a meal had to do with what had taken place on her wedding night.

Her musings on this were interrupted by Weldon's arrival at the master bedroom in their "living cell," as Seekers termed their apartments. He was in his shirt and drawers, rubbing dry his hair, having just completed his week's end bathing. "I saved the water for you," he said.

She grimaced, glancing beyond him at the round iron tub sitting in the middle of their parlor. Some of the sacrifices she had undergone to become a Seeker were more distasteful than others. "I'll bathe tomorrow," she said. When there was some hope that the water would still be warm out of the maid's pitcher. "My chain is snagged on my collar. Will you loosen it for me?"

He came forward quickly, eager as always to help. It took him a moment to free the chain that held the locket she wore as a traditional indicator that she was married. The dungeon's Codifier – himself a widower who wore a marriage watch to work – had ruled that it was acceptable for her to wear the locket on duty, provided that it remained hidden under the plain uniform she wore as a Seeker. It was the uniform of a female prisoner; similarly, all of the male Seekers wore the uniform of a male prisoner, as a visible symbol of the oaths they had made to live as much as possible like their prisoners.

Weldon stepped back with the chain and locket in hand. She turned her head to look at him. Even after all these months, she instinctively expected to see a familiar sight: the expression of a man who has touched the neck of a beautiful woman and who longs for greater intimacy.

What she saw was Weldon's polite smile. "I'll put this away beside my watch, shall I?" he offered.

She nodded, turning toward the mirror before he should see the look in her eyes. Her throat ached as she reached for her brush. . . .
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Prison Food and Fondness.


REISSUED NOVEL: Transformation (The Eternal Dungeon)

Now available in multiformat. Click on the cover for more information.

Transformation


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Rebirth is the dark, fascinating tale of two very different men who come to know and love each other under almost impossible conditions. The writing is detailed and powerful, the story fresh and unpredictable." —Outrageous Heroes (with major spoilers) on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).


The Abolitionist

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: The Abolitionist (Waterman)

"The servants were scared stiff of him, and the masters were clearly uncertain what to say to a man who came from such an eccentric House. Nothing was different, nothing had changed. And yet everything had changed since Carr met a young foreigner who showed him not the least bit of respect."

When a foul-mouthed, seditious foreigner turns up at your door, what are the benefits of letting him in?

So wonders Carr, a young man living in a bayside nation that is troubled by internal battles. In his world, servants fight against masters, tonging watermen fight against dredging watermen, and landsteads eye one another's oyster grounds with greed. It seems to Carr that the only way in which to keep such warfare from entering his own home is to keep very, very quiet about certain aspects of himself which his family would not be able to accept.

But "trouble" is a word that appears to delight the new visitor. He is ready to stir up danger . . . though he may not be as prepared as he thinks to confront what lies within Carr.

A finalist in the Rainbow Awards 2013, his novel can be read on its own or as the first novel in Waterman, a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
 

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


Excerpt

Perhaps in acknowledgment of the guest's political leanings, Carr's father had chosen to hold supper, not in the formal dining room, but in the family dining room. By the time they arrived there – having taken a tour of the mansion grounds – Sally had returned from town: she was stationed in the corner, breathing heavily as she pulled the rope that stirred the peacock-feathered ceiling fan, which hung over the dining table. Jesse took one look at this and demanded, "Do we really need that?"

"Hmm?" Carr's father, who was making last-minute adjustments to his manuscript, looked up from the galley proofs, transformation-blue pencil in hand. "No . . . no, I don't suppose so. It's cool enough today that we don't really need the fan. That's enough, my girl."

Sally let go of the rope, practically collapsing as she did so. Bat, his footman's uniform slightly askew, came forward to support her with his arm. Carr made a note to himself to remind his father that he should really remember to assign the House's heaviest duties to the male servants. His father, who lived under the delusion that the servants would inform him if they didn't like the tasks they were assigned, was inclined to forget such niceties.

Carr's mother entered the room, all aflutter, her embroidered shirtwaist dress shining cream-colored in the late-afternoon sun. "Oh, dear, I'm sorry I'm late," she exclaimed. "I was helping Cook with the dessert."

Carr managed not to wince. Carr's father said equably, "I'm so glad you can find the time to assist the servants. I dearly wish I could. Carr, do have a seat."

Carr sat down, acutely conscious of Bat, who had not rushed forward to help him. When Carr's father had presented Bat as a gift in honor of Carr's seventeenth birthday, as a potential future valet for his only son, Carr had spent an entire week having disturbing dreams. . . . But the dreams had come to nothing. It soon became clear that, for Bat, service was merely a way to earn money so that he could keep from starving. The young footman was very unlike Variel, Carr's father's valet, who was dedicated to serving his master.

Carr turned this dangerous thought from his mind as Jesse, rather than wait to be seated in a master's chair, pulled up a servants' stool to the table. Nobody besides Carr noticed; Carr's father's attention was focussed on Sally, who was pulling back a chair for her mastress.

"Why, thank you!" As always, Carr's mother managed to sound surprised and grateful for the duties she herself had trained the servants to do. It was one of the reasons why, despite everything, the servants loved her. "That's so very kind of you. And so nicely done."

Turning pink, Sally curtsied. "Thank you, ma'am."

"Oh, please, no curtsies. And no 'ma'am' either. Benjamin," added Carr's mother, turning her head toward her husband as Sally, crestfallen at this reproach, retreated from the table, "it's really too bad that the servants have no suitable title by which to address me. Can't we create a female equivalent of 'Comrade Carruthers'?"

"'Comradess,' perhaps?" Ignoring the plate of terrapin meat that Variel was offering him, Carr's father paused to consider the dilemma.

"Food's at your elbow," Jesse pointed out. "Why do you need a special female title anyway? What's wrong with calling her Comrade Carruthers too? It would show that she's your equal."

Carr's mother gave Jesse a delighted look. Smiling, Carr's father said, "Daisy, allow me to introduce our guest, Comrade Jesse. Carr has invited him to join us today."

Carr could feel Jesse's eye on him. "I thought, Father, that we might invite him to stay with us for a few days." Seeing his father's incipient frown, he added, "There are so few Egalitarian homes in the Second Landstead for him to stay at, and it seems a shame for him to have to resort to a hotel."

His father's expression cleared. The elder Carruthers valued his privacy, but he responded, as Carr had intended, to this clear reminder of his duties as the highest-ranked Egalitarian in the Second Landstead. "Of course," replied Carr's father. "Our home is yours, comrade, for as long as you need. Have you travelled far?"

"A fair bit. —This food is good." Jesse directed this comment, not at Carr's mother, but at Variel and Bat and Sally, who had retreated to the serving table.

"We have an excellent cook," said Carr's mother, always happy for an opportunity to compliment the servants. "I wish that I could prepare meals half as well as she can."

"Nonsense, sweet one; your meals are always a delight to eat." Carr's father frowned as Sally came forward again to retrieve the napkin that Carr's mother had dislodged in her excitement. "My girl, what is that you're wearing?"

Sally stared down at her dress, bewildered. Carr's mother looked surprised. "Is something wrong with the servants' uniforms?" she asked.

"Her top button is undone. And her skirt is far too short. She looks like a woman of the streets." Carr's father glared at the young servant, who was now blinking back tears.

"Oh, dear." Carr's mother grew flustered. "I hadn't noticed. . . . Sally, perhaps it would be best if you made a few adjustments to your uniform."

"Yes, ma—" Sally quickly cut off the forbidden word. "Now?"

"Yes, now." As the girl retreated, Carr's mother looked over at her husband, who continued to glare in the direction of the departing servant. "It's not her fault, is it, dear? I mean, she's very young."

"Yeah, she is, isn't she?" Jesse's voice was lazily speculative. Carr winced, wishing that his guest was less perceptive.

His father's expression turned to puzzlement. "Excuse me?"

"Nothing," Jesse replied around a mouthful of hominy. "Look, why is it that you don't have the time to do household tasks alongside the other residents here?" He waved his hand toward Variel and Bat, who continued to stand by the serving table, silent and alert.

Carr's father sighed. "Because, regrettably, my primary responsibility is to earn the money that keeps this House operating. We lost our tenant farmers during the financial troubles three tri-decades ago, and the Bay doesn't bring in as good a harvest as it used to. If it weren't for my work at the Bureau, this mansion would be in a state of disrepair."

"The Bureau?" Jesse had gone suddenly as still as the servants. Carr bent his head, concentrating his gaze on the celery salad that he was pushing around the plate with his fork. Not merely perceptive but quick-witted. Jesse was going to prove . . . interesting.
 

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


AT MY BLOG

If you're interested in reading about my daily life, you may wish to read my March daily life entry: Trying to get back into the writing habit.
 

INTERVIEW OF ME BY TAMI VELDURA

For those of you who didn't see my earlier announcement: This interview of me originally appeared in the March 2016 newsletter of Tami Veldura, who writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and queer fiction. Ms. Veldura begins by saying, "Today's interview with Dusk touches on apprenticeship, history, and alternate universes."
 

NEW TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY TOUGHS MAPS

The number of Toughs maps are beginning to multiply, so I've added a maps page to the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs resources. You'll see three new maps there.
 

MORE FREQUENT STORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & A REMINDER ABOUT REVIEW COPIES

You might have noticed that my monthly update is getting a bit clogged. For the sake of you who don't want to read a whole bunch of blurbs and excerpts at once, I'm going to start posting weekly updates of my latest e-books at my blog, e-mail list, and the various social networks that my blog feed goes to. The blog/list/feed will continue to carry a monthly round-up (like the one you're currently reading) of all my e-books issued during the past month, as well as links to my online fiction, excerpts from backlist titles, links to posts I make at my blog, and general announcements.

Because my posts are ending up in so many places besides my blog these days, I'll be adding hashtags to my post titles. Since I can't add every hashtag that applies to any one of my stories (#sff #althistory #crimefiction #romance #newadult #suspense #adventure #lgbtlit #histfic #everygenreunderthesun), you'll need to take these tags as a hint at the nature of the story, not as a definitive description.

Because these posts will also be going to potential reviewers, you'll see notices in the posts about the availability of review copies. This is just a reminder: Anyone who is willing to post a review online – at online bookstores, at their blog, or anywhere else – is welcome to request a review copy of any of my e-books. Your review needn't be a positive one; I value honest, negative reviews (as you can tell from the fact that I frequently link to them here).

For those of you who can't afford to buy as many of my e-books as you'd like, reviews are a good way for you to get the word out to fellow readers of what you think about my writings and to satisfy your curiosity about what happens next with my characters.

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Historical speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels and other types of diverse fiction. All e-books from Love in Dark Settings Press are DRM-free. New e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW NOVEL: Checkmate (The Eternal Dungeon: Sweet Blood  #4)

Checkmate

The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield.

Split apart from their closest loves and friends, a small group of prison-workers seek to abolish the use of torture against prisoners in the queendom's royal dungeon. Time is running out, for the deadly High Seeker has already flogged and executed prison-workers who opposed his policies.

Do the reformers have enough time and skill to bring about radical change in the dungeon? Will they be able to overcome their mistrust of one another?

This suspenseful novel can be read on its own or as the fourth story in the "Sweet Blood" volume of The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Checkmate.


Excerpt

"It would have to be a bloody big protest to get the attention of all those people." D. spoke lightly.

Zenas shifted restlessly in his seat on the floor. D. had spoken in a seemingly careless manner, but from his expression, and from the expressions of the others in this living cell, it was obvious that everyone knew what was being proposed.

Finally, Birdesmond said, "We knew we'd reach this stage in the end. I wasn't willing to take chances if our sacrifices would be useless, but. . . Yes, now is the moment to move."

"Surely you're not in danger, ma'am?" said Clifford. "You've never tortured any of your prisoners. You're not allowed to, by the dungeon rules on searching female prisoners."

Birdesmond gave a faint smile. "But I am a leader of the New School. If the New School makes its final move, the High Seeker will know which of us are to blame."

"Well, it's about bloody time, that's all I can say," growled D. "Some of the other guards who belong to the New School, the ones we represent – they've been asking me how long we planned to drag our feet before we did the fucking obvious."

"Language, please," Elsdon reprimanded automatically. "Do you mean that the other members of the New School would be willing to assist with this?"

"The ones with guts will," inserted Clifford. "Look, I don't want to sound stupid, but I just want us to be clear: We're talking about refusing to torture prisoners, aren't we?"

Barrett said, "Hangman."

"Yes," agreed Birdesmond softly. "The Code's penalty for Seekers and guards who refuse to carry out the prescribed methods of searching prisoners is execution."

"Ready to be hanged, Cliff?" As he spoke, D. gave a gruesome grin.
 

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Checkmate.



NEW STORY COLLECTION: Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1)

Lockup

Deep underground lies a prison filled with idealistic men who have committed themselves to putting the best interest of their prisoners first . . . through torture. Soaring high in an adjoining nation are two "reformed" prisons where life prisoners (and a few sympathetic guards) must band together for survival.

Friendships between prisoners and guards, romance between two torturers, a young woman's appalled discovery that a dungeon-worker is courting her, desire and companionship in prison cells, a teenage guard's struggle to survive when his train is attacked by soldiers intent on slaughter . .. The two nations are broiling with events centered upon their prisons.

This historical speculative fiction volume explores with drama and dry humor the complexities of prison life in the nineteenth century, while taking a peek at the surrounding societies in the nations' alternate universe. Characters who appear in one story reappear in other stories, seen from a different perspective and at a different age.

This first volume of Dark Light collects seventeen stories from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Dark Light, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, and The Eternal Dungeon) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set between the 1880s and the 1910s, the cycle's novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times.

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Lockup. Includes two new Eternal Dungeon stories: "The Whipping Post" (flash fiction) and "New-Fashioned" (short story).
 

Volume Contents:

In the Silence (Life Prison). 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.

Green Ruin (The Eternal Dungeon). 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.

Hunger (The Eternal Dungeon). 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 (The Eternal Dungeon). The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon has always prided himself on his skills in procuring any object needed by his employers. But when the head torturer makes a seemingly innocent request for wax, the Record-keeper goes in search of a very special supply.

Never (The Eternal Dungeon). 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.

The Whipping Post (The Eternal Dungeon). Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

New-Fashioned (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Broken (The Eternal Dungeon). What would happen if a technophobic torturer was plunged into the twenty-first century?

Torture (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison). 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 at Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his 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.

Cell-mates (Life Prison). 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 . . .

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

Lord and Servant (Life Prison). A tramp and a lord may seem to make an odd pair. But Compassion Life Prison is an odd place to start with, and the tramp has his own perspective on life there.

Rain (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman). Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble. In this cycle of five short stories, five young men in troubling situations must make choices that will change the path of their upcoming lives . . . and the path of the societies they dwell in.


Excerpt (from "New-Fashioned")

Layle pressed his hands upon his ears, his eyes watering as he tried to read the volume on his desk in the flickering light of the oil lamp. It was not as though he had an easy job before him. One hundred and twenty pages of the Code of Seeking were devoted to the three dozen instruments of torture in the dungeon. He would have to decide when they should be used, for how long, and how many dead bodies could be tolerated in the quest for justice.

There were also a couple of pages at the end of the Code about determining first whether the prisoners were innocent. He thought that section could use a bit of expansion.

The hammering continued. He'd already met the chief engineer, an amiable man imported – so like so many of this queendom's engineers – from the tiny island nation that the Queendom of Yclau had colonized several centuries before, at the time when the New World rediscovered the Old World. Layle had read a book about the travails which the Yclau explorers had undergone during that time. On one occasion, for example, the explorers had visited a primitive city by the name of Londinium. In Londinium, they had decided to bring back to Yclau a native playwright to whom they'd taken a fancy.

There had been riots in the streets over that. "He's a national treasure!" had cried one native as the playwright clung to his desk, desperately trying to scribble a few more words of the play he was working on, which had the eccentric name of Hamlet.

Natives could be absurdly parochial. However, the playwright had refused to create any plays during the rest of his captive life, so after that, Yclau's explorers had abandoned the idea of enslaving natives; instead, they lured talented natives overseas to the queendom with promises of riches. As a result, Yclau – not the little island colony – was now the most technologically advanced nation in the world: the birthplace of an Industrial Revolution that had changed the queendom forever.

Layle glanced at a mechanical jill-in-the-box which the native engineer had been fiddling with when he came to visit. The engineer had left it behind when Layle expressed his admiration of its ingenuity. Layle had spent most of the afternoon since then attempting to figure out how to revise the Code in a manner that was unlikely to draw the wrong sort of attention from the High Torturer.

The High Torturer was a man of changeable tempers. The last dozen torturers he had executed had discovered that too late.
 

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Lockup.



FREE FICTION

A new story at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own. Also available free in The Slash Pile's PDF anthology Restart.
 

AI (Waterman). Tripp has two friends in high school: a rebel without a cause, and a girl fighting the social restraints upon her. But only one human being has any real hope of understanding Tripp, and he isn't human at all.


Reissues of older stories at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Debt Price (Master/Other). No one would pay his debt price to gain him release from prison. So he sought to pay it himself by offering the only thing he could, his body. But one man would require more. (Permalink.)

Pleasure (Master/Other). 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. (Permalink.)

Clothesline (Leather in Lawnville). An encounter with clothesline at the Lawnville 5&10 leads the narrator to discover his neighbor's secret fantasy. (Permalink.)

Bad Habit (Leather in Lawnville). A leatherman shows off his leatherboy to a skeptic. (Permalink.)


NEW COVERS

Click on the covers for the blurbs and ordering information.

Checkmate Checkmate Unmarked


FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Whipster (Michael's House)

Whipster

Michael is an ex-prostitute, which means that nobody in polite society wants anything to do with him. He believes that the only way to help other male prostitutes is to make their working conditions bearable. His friend Janus is an upper-class gentleman who believes that his duty to the gods requires him to fight against sexual immorality. Now Michael wants Janus to help him run a house of prostitution.

This novel is the first volume in Michael's House, a speculative fiction series set in a Progressive Era slum. Male friendship and gay love intertwine in this multicultural series based on life in America during the 1910s, a time when society seemed as stable as ever, though it was about to be turned topsy-turvy.
 

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Whipster.


REVIEW: Re-creation (The Three Lands)

"I think that in today's more – ehem – 'accepting' society, far too many people are far too quick to jump to the conclusion that just because the story revolves around two guys who are close, that they must be banging each other. This story could certainly disprove this belief, yet show that a friendship story is just as captivating and endearing as any M/M romance."  —Reckless Indulgence of the Written Word on Re-creation (The Three Lands).
 

REVIEWS: Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison)

"The world-building is exquisite. . . . The writing is fantastic. Each word shows talent and craft, research and imagination, passion and purpose." —Inked Rainbow Reads on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"This historical speculative fiction novel easily captures the minds of any reader, even those who might not think this to be 'their thing,' with its dark setting and even darker themes. But there is a point to all this seemingly unnecessary suffering and pain. Reformation is at hand and with it comes a serious call to action, to the re-examination one's own sense of morality and of right and wrong. Believe you-me, this book makes you THINK – about topics of discussion most would prefer never to think about or take into account." —Reckless Indulgence of the Written Word on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"It's clear that the author has done their research and has cleverly woven this into an atmospheric and gritty read." —Shari Sakuri on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

"What's my opinion about these stories? They made me think. They really made me feel, and it wasn't always a comfortable feel. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. It's very important that tales like these be told so that we remain aware of the different shades of humanity and that there are those who suffer unjustly. I'm not sure if the word 'love' is the proper label for me to attach to my feelings regarding Mercy's Prisoner, but I was wholeheartedly invested and lost in the horror of the world Dusk Peterson created. When writing successfully does that to me, then I have no choice but to give it 5 Stars." —Crystal's Many Reviewers on Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison).

Other reviews of Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison): World of Diversity Fiction and Love Bytes Reviews.
 

REVIEWS: The Eternal Dungeon

"Why [do] authors always describe sadists as people unable to control themselves and their sexual urges? Not that this part of the story is not good. It gives the author the opportunity to explain her vision of good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral and how the margin between one and the other could be thin." —Goodreads (Danny Tyran) on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).

"Some found this novel cold. I don't know how their minds work, but this story is as hot as the fire burning behind the transparent wall of the cells of the eternal dungeon." —Goodreads (Danny Tyran) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"This is a very dry, asexual and extremely thought-out and intricate AU of a past world in which torturing and truth-'seeking' has been elevated to a religion, or rather to achieve the end goal of the belief system of these people." —Goodreads (Steelwhisper) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I think I might have fallen in love with the characters. They do adorably stupid things while keeping me interested with their gruesome acts." —Amazon (Shinasuki) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

STORY LISTS AND TAGS

The Turn-of-the-Century Toughs timeline has been greatly expanded to include more information, as well as links to all of the Toughs stories in chronological order.

The story tags page has also been greatly expanded. Tons of new categories there. However, since the extensive time needed to maintain that page only narrowly passes the WIBBOW test ("Would I be better off writing?"), I've decided to stop listing the online fiction series on that page, since all of my online stories at Archive of Our Own have their own tags there.
 

MY E-BOOKS AT BOOKSTORES AND E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES

Courtesy of my distributor Draft2Digital – which provides me with links to my e-books at bookstores – I've added back in links to my e-books at Kobo and Barnes & Noble. I'm having some metadata problems with iTunes, but hope to have more of my fiction back up there next year.

Alas, Scribd is no longer lending my e-books, so I've had to remove those links. My e-books are still available at Oyster, but that e-book subscription service is due to shut down soon. I'm hoping that new e-book subscription services will arise.
 

MIND THE WEBSITE DUST

I apologize for the lengthy delay in an update. As a glance at my website will show, I've done the first major reworking of this site since 2007. Duskpeterson.com is now centered upon Turn-of-the-Century Toughs and The Three Lands.

My remaining stories are in the process of being uploaded to Archive of Our Own (AO3). I'll post notices of updates here. I have a new page (or rather, a revised version of an old series page) that links to all of my online fiction at AO3.

The Darkfics series has been renamed Dark Light. The series page's URL remains the same.

The progress report on the status of my upcoming stories has been updated.

If you have problems finding stories of mine that you've read in the past (or were planning to read), drop me an e-mail, and I'll help you locate the stories. You can also check the list of published fiction in reverse order of the date of composition, which links to all my fiction.

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). This is the final story in the cycle.

Has everyone here been able to find their way through the cycle? I had a plea for navigation help from one reader.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

He knew isolation. Still, it would be nice if he could make friends here.

Happy New Year!
duskpeterson: (tree)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). I'm posting one story each day through . . . well, January 2.

Sorry for being late with the fourth installment, folks. Like a lot of other people, I'm in the midst of a two-day professional crisis of dealing with VAT MOSS. I'll post the final story in this cycle tomorrow.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

There was a gate there, meant to keep out the likes of him and his companion, but nobody was guarding it at the moment.

March 2017

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