duskpeterson: (summer night shells)
"This morning four boxes containing not quite all of my worldly possessions arrived at my doorstep. Less than two months via cargo ship is not too bad. The funny thing is that I'd almost forgotten what was in them. There were some things that I was very happy to see (my Icelandic novels, a sweatshirt, a pair of light pyjama bottoms, the tin containing my spare buttons) and other things that only made me think 'huh, why did I ship that across the Atlantic?' There's a strong argument for donating anything that you're not thrilled to see after two months living out of a suitcase."

--Naraht.


My professional work last month )
On foreshadows in stories )
Researching African-American slavery; or, How I get ideas for historical stories )
My web addiction last month )
My decluttering last month )
My family and leisure time last month )
Replies to Musicman and Twicet )
Chronological order of the Toughs stories (slightly corrected), along with some dates of birth for my characters )
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 New Year's Day.

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

The essence of Liege-Love Day was giving to others, so he would celebrate the day by giving a present to his sister.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Historical speculative fiction and suspenseful lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Split (The Eternal Dungeon)

Split

"The High Seeker surely could not know in full what Vito was thinking and planning. If he'd known, he'd have ordered Vito strapped to a rack."

It was his duty to transform the prisoner's soul. But which one?

When Vito de Vere is assigned a prisoner who is not quite what he appears to be, Vito must penetrate the mystery of his prisoner's unexpected appearance in the Eternal Dungeon, arrested for a crime that is no crime.

But Vito himself is hiding a mystery from the other members of the dungeon. Increasingly filled with tenderness toward his vulnerable prisoner, can Vito accomplish his secret mission without sacrificing his prisoner?

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the third 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. Friendship, family, gay love, and rebellion are intertwining plotlines in the series.

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

Tags: prison fiction, gay love, friendship, bisexual characters, mentally ill characters, torturers, prisoners, guards, rebels.


Excerpt

The narrow breaking cell was warmer than the corridor. Although the Eternal Dungeon, with due caution toward the ingenuity of its prisoners, refused to place stoves within the breaking cells, the prisoners were kept in relative comfort. The ceiling held electric lights behind unbreakable glass, while a vertical hypocaust blasted warm air through the old furnaces, located behind glass blocks along the short end wall of each cell. The old stone ledges in the cells were in the process of being replaced by tall beds that matched the design of beds in the Seekers' living quarters; this particular cell had already made the change. In this redesigned breaking cell, there was also a washstand, a small shelf beneath it for toiletry articles, and a shelf on the wall on which were placed a copy of the Code of Seeking and the prisoner's choice of a prayer book. There were even plans to add a toilet and running water to every breaking cell. In design, the prisoners' cells of the Eternal Dungeon offered the appearance of being quite modern.

Vito could well guess why the High Seeker had sought to disguise, through superficial changes, the antique cruelty of the dungeon. Inconspicuous against the long wall was the whipping ring, while the dungeon racks were kept in separate rooms, never shown to dungeon visitors, other than the prisoners.

The prisoner in this cell was hard to see, for he had somehow managed to cram himself under the tall bed. He was sitting on the hard floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face pressed against his knees, his body rocking back and forth.

Vito paused at the entrance, hearing the cell door lock behind him. Then he cleared his throat. "Mr. Gurth?"

The rocking continued, unabated.

He tried again. "Edwin Gurth?"

A face looked up cautiously. It was young. It said nothing.

Vito did not make the mistake of walking forward to take a closer look at the prisoner. Seekers died that way. "Sir, will you stand up, please?"

He expected, at best, a cautious rising; instead, the prisoner scrambled quickly out from under the bed, leapt to his feet, and stood rigidly at attention. Fear was stark upon his face.

So much for the guards' assessment of this being a dangerous prisoner. Vito lowered his voice accordingly. "Mr. Gurth, I am your Seeker—"

"Seeker?" The prisoner's face took on a look of bewilderment. "Seeker? Am I in the Eternal Dungeon?"

Once again, Vito paused, taking in the prisoner's appearance. Prisoners in the Eternal Dungeon were permitted to keep their own clothing, other than their jacket and vest. This prisoner's shirt and trousers were manifestly commoners' clothing, yet his accent, unexpectedly, was that of a mid-class man. Perhaps he or his family had received a downturn of fortune.

"Yes, Mr. Gurth. Were you not informed at the time of your arrest that you would be brought here?"

He was prepared for anything at this point, but even so, the prisoner's response took him off-guard. A look of shock blasted across the young man's face, like a storm-wave. The prisoner fell to his knees. "Oh, no!" he cried. "Is Gurth in trouble again?"
 

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


FREE FICTION: First Lesson (Loren's Lashes)

"He couldn't remember later why he began talking about bondage."

When a security guard walks into the wrong bar in town, he learns about the dark side of desire, and also about the hope that lies beyond it.

Available as online fiction or download FREE as a multiformat e-book: First Lesson.

Tags: contemporary fiction, gay leather, dark humor, abuse issues.
 

REISSUE

Click on the cover for more information.

Lord and Servant
 

RAINBOW AWARDS 2014

Rainbow Awards Runner-upMercy's PrisonerRainbow Awards honorable mention

For the fourth year in a row, my writings have been honored in the Rainbow Awards. In addition to the honorable mention which it received earlier this year at the Rainbow Awards, Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison) is a runner-up in the Gay Fantasy category. To celebrate this, the Smashwords edition of Mercy's Prisoner is 50% off during the month of December 2014. Visit the Mercy's Prisoner section of this website for more information on the discount.

My congratulations to all the winners and runners-up of the Rainbow Awards 2014, and a big thank you to Elise Rolle and the rest of the gang who organized the awards this year. I don't have any easy way to link to the books that received an honorable mention, but it's worth scrolling through all the blog entries on this year's Rainbow Awards, because the contest includes quite a few interesting titles.

On my awards page, you can see e-books of mine that received honors in previous years.
 

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

A sample of the Love in Dark Settings Press e-books that were category bestsellers during the past month. Click on the covers for more information.

TourBondsSearchingIn TrainingAs a SeekerTops and Sops
 

REVIEWS

"Spectacularly clever. . . . The brutality is not the point of the tale, as in dubcon fics; it's a tool the author uses to subvert established tropes and trick the reader into something glorious." —Goodreads (Julio) on Life Prison (Life Prison).

"I read [The Breaking] for the title and the cover. Ooooh, I thought: a deviant story about deviants set in a prison called the Eternal Dungeon. It wasn't what I expected but I liked it." —Goodreads (Roger Teuting) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"What a strangely singular piece. I loved the textbook excerpts the author created. . . . [The excerpts provide] more background on the universe, how the changes that make the AU affect that universe versus our own, and give great little oblique meta-analyses." —Goodreads (Ayanna) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

SHARED UNIVERSES

The covers for Split and the reissue of Mercy's Prisoner are commissioned art by Gregory Welter. I've updated Shared Universes: works set in Dusk Peterson's worlds by other authors and artists to include links to variant versions of Mr. Welter's art for the covers.

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Historical speculative fiction and suspenseful lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Tour (Life Prison)

Tour

"'How have any folk here managed to survive so long? These are killing conditions!'"

He has taken his first step to being accepted by the other prisoners. But what is the secret of the missing prisoners?

As Tyrrell is granted a tour of Compassion Life Prison, he realizes that the truth about his new home is both more horrific and more wonderful than he could possibly have imagined. An intricate network of protection, service, and love is enabling the prisoners to battle against harsh living conditions. As Tyrrell begins to penetrate the mystery of a massive affliction of pain and death within the prison, the question arises: Who is to blame for the suffering? And how can they be stopped?

This suspenseful novel can be read on its own or as the second 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.

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

Tags: crime fiction, friendship, comradeship, romance subplot, bisexual and gay characters, couples and poly, multicultural characters, prisoners, guards, wardens, rebels, spies, servants, slaves.


Excerpt

The "lads," the prisoners who were required to offer their service, fell silent. There were about two dozen of them – just enough to make a tight line across the length of the wide gate. Tyrrell moved closer into his corner, until all the lads merged in his sight, and then he peered cautiously around the corner toward the guards.

Pugh spoke briskly. "Medinger?" He looked up at the balcony, where Medinger had just walked into view.

"Pass," replied the guard, leaning onto the balcony railing.

There was light laughter from the other guards. One of them said, "And you'll keep passing till the magisterial seats send us female prisoners."

"I know that you're not interested in claiming a lad," Pugh said in an annoyed voice. "You're not eligible, anyway. I'm asking about Keeper. It's his turn."

Medinger shook his head. "Our Keeper is passing as well. He's already left for town – didn't you hear the riot doors ring the alarm half an hour ago? He left when I came in from the auxiliary wing."

"What in Hell's name is wrong with Tom Keeper?" asked one of the guards, to nobody in particular. "Is he planning to act like a lovelorn man for the rest of his life?"

"He'll recover," said Pugh. "Whose turn is it next?"

"Yours, as you very well know," said Landry. "I don't think you've forgotten that you're second in rank here."

"Maybe we should wait until the night watch arrives," suggested another guard.

"They're not eligible to claim," said someone else. "They're on duty during claiming hours."

"Yes, but they always seem to arrive for duty at the same moment that the lad is brought out for his claiming. If we waited till they entered the outbuildings, then we wouldn't have the riot doors screeching just when the taking starts. The first few minutes are always the best."

"If you think I'm going to take a lad in front of you lot, you're mad," rejoined Pugh. "I don't put on performances. Medinger, is the claiming room clean? It was a pigsty the last time I used it."

"Bed-sheets were changed today," said Medinger, his voice clipped short. "New toiletries as well. And Keeper told me to remind everyone that this prison's regulations require the use of a sheath whenever there is penetration—"

The rest of what he said was lost in loud laughter that came from the other guards. His voice rising above the others, Landry said, "Fifteen drilling years he's been going on about that. It's like living with a schoolmarm."

"Oh?" said Medinger. "Well, you're welcome to drill naked if you like, Landry. What's the name of that lad whom Chambers gave the Damnation to, a few weeks before Chambers died?"

The laughter cut off abruptly. Starke, who had lit another cigarette, smiled as he said, "Medinger, you're wasted as Keeper's orderly. You should be in the army. They need soldiers who can shoot straight into the belly."

"The issue is moot." Pugh's voice had returned to his usual tone of boredom. "I always use a sheath. I wouldn't trust myself inside one of those filthy lads otherwise. Landry, are you and Starke ready?"

"Ready and willing," replied Landry, pulling himself back from the parapet in order to take hold of his machine rifle.

"Medinger, take charge of the switch."

Medinger remained motionless. "I'm on the night watch. I don't take orders from you, Pugh."

Pugh muttered something under his breath, and then said, "Niesely."

"On my way." Niesely mounted the right-hand stairway, taking two steps at a time. Pugh turned his head toward the gate.

Tyrrell ducked back in the brief second before Pugh's gaze swung in his direction. He looked over at the lads. He could only see the one closest to him, an older lad with lines of experience on his face. The lad's expression was set, but his hands were white-knuckled on the bars.

"You." It was Pugh's voice, flat. "The one with the rag on your leg."

"No!"

The claimed lad's shout of rage was overwhelmed by the scream of the gate alarm. The other lads scurried back, leaving an open space next to the gate that was filled now only with two prisoners: the claimed lad, who was shaking his head over and over, and his mate, who had his hands on the claimed lad's arms as he spoke to the other lad.

Whatever he was saying, it was not reaching his mate. "No!" shouted the claimed lad, so loudly that he could be heard over the alarm. "I won't do it again! Not with Pugh!" He pulled himself away from his mate at the same moment that the alarm ended, taking a dozen rapid steps away from the gate.

"Wild lad!" The shout came from Ahiga, somewhere beyond Tyrrell's view. "All back! All ba—!"

The rest of his words were broken off by the sound of machine-rifle fire as bullets blazed thick into the prison.
 

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





FREE FICTION: What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets: A Tale of Web Accessibility in the Cybersex Era (Rebels)

"'What I want from you is quite simple. I want you to design a Website that's compatible with Section 508— Stop sobbing, damn it!'"

What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets is the first story in the world that presents web accessibility information for the disabled in the form of gay leather erotica.

For adults only. Available as online fiction or download FREE as a multiformat e-book: What Slaves Do When They Aren't Cleaning Toilets.

Tags: contemporary erotica, gay leather master/slave, disability issues, W3C, geek humor.
 

REISSUES

Click on the covers for more information.

Tops and SopsDeceptionTwists and TurnsA Prisoner Has NeedThe Consultation

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Twenty-nine Love in Dark Settings Press e-books were category bestsellers at Amazon during the past month; below is a small sample of the bestsellers. Click on the covers for more information.

Blood VowLaw of VengeanceBard of PainDeath WatchGreen RuinWax / Broken
 

RAINBOW AWARDS 2014

Rainbow Awards honorable mentionMercy's PrisonerRainbow Awards finalist

Mercy's Prisoner (Life Prison) has received an honorable mention in the Rainbow Awards 2014, indicating that a judge gave a rating of 36 or above out of 40 to the e-book). The book bundle has also become a finalist in this annual awards contest for lgbt literature. A judge's comment:

"Dusk is all about subtlety and shades of meaning. The details of the plot were slowly revealed, and often by reading between the lines of what a character says, rather than having motives laid out clearly before us. Sex does not dominate the plot, it is about relationships, companionship and the unexpected development of love. I also liked that the [five] stories linked to each other because I was so immersed in the world Dusk had created that I didn't want to leave it."

My congratulations to the other authors and artists who have been honored; I was pleased to notice the names of some of my blog readers.

On my awards page, you can see e-books of mine that received honors in previous years.
 

REVIEWS

"If you like Dark and brooding and BDSM, I would highly recommended it . . ." —Amazon (Roger G. Grace) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I don't quite understand why Elsdon suddenly is crushing hard on Layle.. . . It seemed to turn into a romcom. Heroine's gossiping with her bestie about omg I can't figure this guy out at ALL, and bestie's like, 'well, I mean he seems to respect me because I don't fawn over him, so maybe he's looking for that,' heroine's like 'well, he does seem to like it when I'm assertive; maybe he wants me to assert myself more.' They do this as the bestie sorts through her clothes. (Okay, fine it's probably for laundry in this one, but close enough.)" —Goodreads (Ayanna) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).

"The only reason [I kept] glued to the text was the text. It flows. I don't know how else to put it. It's like listening to music that's so translucent and harmonic you barely notice it's there; instinctively you just bathe in it. The style of writing, the whole world created by the author . . . Elsdon, his timidness and hesitance which grew into something so magnificent, and Layle, who just took my breath away and made me want to scream at the same time." —Goodreads (Jaz) on Love and Betrayal (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

NaNoWriMo & HOLIDAY GIFT STORY PROMPTS

NaNoWriMo Participant 2014

I'm seeking Writing Buddies at NaNoWriMo (this is my first year doing NaNo), and I'm asking readers for prompt requests for my holiday gift story this year.
 

BORROW MY BOOKS

On my fiction series pages, I've added links to my e-books at Scribd (my other Scribd books are here) and Oyster. At either of these e-book subscription services, you pay a flat monthly fee to borrow as many e-books as you'd like. (To those of you who are wondering: I get paid the same for a borrow at Scribd or Oyster as I do for a sale at most online bookstores.)

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Historical speculative fiction and suspenseful lgbtq novels. All e-books are DRM-free; new e-books and reissues are multiformat.
 

NEW BOOK BUNDLE: Mercy's Prisoner (Volume 1 of Life Prison)

Mercy's Prisoner

"'You have committed a vile and savage act, one that any other nation would punish with death. Our punishment, on the other hand, will only be to give you what you want. You have sought to live in a world without boundaries of civilization, and such a world shall henceforth be your dwelling place.'"

A cold-hearted murderer. A vicious abuser. A young man hiding a shameful secret. A bewildered immigrant. A pure-minded spy.

All of these men have found their appointed places at Mercy Life Prison, where it is easy to tell who your enemies are. But a new visitor to Mercy is about to challenge decades-old customs. Now these men's worst enemies may be hiding behind masks . . . and so may their closest allies.

"Mercy's Prisoner" can be read on its own or as the second volume in the Life Prison series. 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.
 

VOLUME CONTENTS

Life Prison. In the unmerciful world of Mercy Prison, there is no rule but unending pain. For Merrick, the arrival of his new guard provides hope that he may break beyond the boundaries of his life prison. But appearances can be deceptive, and Merrick does not yet recognize the danger this guard poses to his future.

Men and Lads. Two guards. Two prisoners. A multitude of problems.

Milord. He was the model prisoner, respectful to his guards and loyal to his fellow prisoners. What no one knew was that he held the key to destruction.

Isolation. Being locked in a prison cell can cause a man to re-examine his priorities. Especially when the door never opens.

Curious. His job is to guard the prisoners. But against what?

Mercy's Prisoner: Epilogue.

Mercy's Prisoner: Historical Note.
 

Tags: romance, friendship, comradeship, bisexual and gay characters, asexual and celibate characters, bdsm characters (in one story), multicultural characters, prisoners, guards, wardens, rebels, spies.


Excerpt

I had trouble sleeping that night. I don't know why; sleep had always been my one blessing at Mercy, transporting me back to the pleasant days preceding my arrest. I usually woke with a smile on my face. But tonight, tired though I was, I found myself staring up at the ceiling, hour after tedious hour, wishing there were cracks there that I could count.

Some of the prisoners had started a debate the previous year over what was most painful about Mercy. Was it the separation from family and friends? The beatings? The humiliations? The backbreaking work? The rapes? The list went on and on.

I hadn't participated in the debate, which, like all such conversations, had taken the form of shouts exchanged between the cells. There was a reason I'd been granted the luxury of a single-man cell: my last three cellmates had been prepared to murder me rather than live another moment with me. Since the death of a prisoner was not, alas, one of the many pains permitted at a life prison, Mercy's Keeper had finally dealt with the problem by giving me a cell of my own – which, of course, had been my plan all along. It was irritating to have to endure being strangled three times in order to achieve what I wanted.

Particularly since I couldn't hope that the stranglings would be successful.

Though I had no desire to become chummy with the bog-scum who inhabited this place, my own unspoken contribution to the debate was that boredom was the greatest pain. Boredom didn't come often – most days after work I was barely awake enough to do whatever my present guard required of me – but when it occurred, it was excruciating, like being flayed slowly by a dagger. I often thought that, if I were ever broken into madness, it would be through such a spell of boredom.

I say all this to explain why, when I heard the cell door being opened at lamp-lighting time, my first thought was not (as one might expect), "Oh, no, not again," but rather, "Thank the gods, something new." I rolled over onto my stomach and raised my head to look.

He was a slightly built man; I could see that at once from the outline of his shape against the fire in the pit. With my eyes still dazzled by the newly lit lamps, I couldn't immediately make out the man's face, but I could see one of his hands, gripping hard the hilt of his dagger. That grip stopped my heart for a moment, but even my wildest imagination couldn't hope that the new guard would start our acquaintance by stabbing me, so I raised my eyes to his face.

And my heart stopped once more. I jerked upright in bed, twinging an old hip wound as I did so. I had been rather foolish during my first year, testing the guards in various ways. I winced.

The guard said softly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

"Not at all," I said through gritted teeth as I rubbed my hip. "I'll return the favor when I can."

It took no artifice on my part to sound annoyed, though the annoyance was aimed solely at myself. This was not the guard I had been preparing myself for. I had expected a rod-mutilating monster, and what I found myself faced with was a young man.

His face came full into the light as he stepped forward. Wearing the uniform of a Compassion guard, he looked even more like his father: he had the same thin lips and the same straight eyebrows. But the eyes were empty of all coldness – indeed, of all expression of any sort – and there was no smile on his lips, cruel or otherwise.

"My name is Thomas," he said. "I'm your new guard."

I noted the use of his given name rather than his paternal name, and with the instinct of a veteran fighter I dropped and made my attack accordingly. "Ah, yes," I said. "The son of Compassion's Keeper. I can expect great deeds from you, I'm sure."

His lips grew even thinner, but that was all; it seemed that he was well used to this mode of attack. He said, as though I had not spoken, "My job is to provide service to you during your stay at this prison, and to make your stay as comfortable as is possible under your circumstances. If you have any needs, I hope you will let me know of them."

I stared at him open-mouthed for a moment, and then I gave a hoot of laughter that resounded through the entire level. The early-morning conversations across the fire-pit paused briefly, and Sedgewick, who was passing my cell, glanced in with narrowed eyes before continuing on.

"Let me – let me understand you correctly," I said, struggling to gain control of myself. "You'll give me any service I want?"

"Any service that is in accordance with the rules of your stay."

"But the only rule is that I should not be permitted escape, either through death or any other means. So you'll give me anything else?"

"If it's within reason, yes."

"Anything at all?"

"Tell me what you want, and I'll be able to give you a firm answer." His patience, I saw with delight, was wearing down.

"Fine," I said, leaning back and pulling off the blanket to reveal my body underneath. I had given up wearing clothes at bedtime several guards before. "I want you to come over here and service me on your knees."
 

Available as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Mercy's Prisoner.


ONLINE FICTION

Reposted:

A Sexual Minority Speaks Out (Rebels). "I am an adult male belonging to a rare minority group that is called, in layman's language, Plain Vanilla Straight. I have had these sexual desires for as long as I can remember. . ."

For adult readers. Tags: contemporary satire, heterosexual characters, far-from-straight characters, business people, police, church folk, psychology.
 

RECENT CATEGORY BESTSELLERS

Click on the covers for more information. Spy Hill, First Time, In Training, and As a Seeker are also recently reissued in multiformat.

Spy HillMen and LadsTrialCell-matesLost HavenRe-creationThe BreakingLove and BetrayalFirst TimeIn TrainingAs a SeekerBarbariansHiddenBondsSearching
 

REVIEWS

"Really well written, sexy and intelligent." —Amazon (Jason Lawrence) [review to an out-of-print edition] on Transformation (The Eternal Dungeon).

"This story is set in a prison where the jailers are psychologists who use any means necessary to get to the truth of the crime. Most times torture works. Sometimes friendship works." —Goodreads (Rachael) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"The world-building – especially all the detail given about the Eternal Dungeon, and hints about the world abroad – are incredibly interesting.. . . The 'romance' is really only hinted at towards the end, which seems to imply another installment might continue on the theme (or revisit the characters) . . .  For myself, it was just fine, as I think throwing in a romantic arc would have dampened what made the story so interesting in the first place." —Goodreads (Devon) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I'm really glad I got to read it. It's pretty special." —All Romance eBooks (Lulubizou) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"More to the story than you'd expect . . . very engaging." —Amazon (EMH) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).

"I wish I could purchase the rest of this series now. If they are as compelling as this one I wouldn't come up for air until I had read each one." —Barnes & Noble (customer review) on The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

NEW FICTION CYCLE: YES, MY LIEGE

I've done a bit of shuffling of my fiction series in order to better group together similar series. The Three Lands, Princeling, and Darkling Plain are now all part of Yes, My Liege, a cycle of fantasy novels about the bonds of affection in service, friendship, and romance.
 

AMAZON STOREFRONT

Those of you who prefer to shop by book cover at Amazon may be interested in my new Amazon storefront, where my Kindle e-books are divided by series. I was able to build this nifty storefront as a result of becoming an Amazon Associate.

(And no, this doesn't mean that I've gone over to the Dark Side. My e-books are still available at other stores.)
 

SOCIAL NETWORKS

Speaking of the Dark Side, I've finally given in and created a Facebook page:

facebook.com/loveindarksettings

Like my Twitter and Goodreads accounts, my Facebook account will link to my blog entries. I've also updated my list of social networking profiles to add my profiles at several authors' forums: KBoards Writers' Cafe, Rainbow Romance Writers, Romance Divas, and Romance Writers of America.
 

TAGS

I've added new items to the tags page:

* female homoromantic love, female romantic friendship, and female classical friendship.
* service love (lord/liegeman, master/servant, etc.).
* polyamory and multiple partners (in romantic friendship, romance, or just plain sex).

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.

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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)
Cover for 'Cell-mates'

"They had to settle the issue of sex first."

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 . . .

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.


Excerpt

They had to settle the issue of sex first.

"No," said Merrick flatly as he shoved his only belonging – a toothbrush given to him by his previous guard – under the stone bed-ledge on the other side of the cell.

Well, that was a direct enough answer. Or would have been, if Tyrrell had been the type to accept 'no' for an answer.

If he had been the type to accept 'no,' he wouldn't have spent two years persuading Merrick to become his cell-mate.

"Is it because . . ." He paused, wondering how to put this delicately. Because the Magisterial Republic of Mip had originally been colonized by the two warring nations of Yclau and Vovim, cultural clashes among Mippite citizens were inevitable. It was said that even Cecelia – the great Cecelia – had been rejected by a suitor's family, which was clearly a sign of lunacy in that family. Some of the Yclau-descended folk had strange notions about maintaining the purity of their families. Anyone ethnic or foreign or darker than a pasty shade of white was considered off-limits. That would make Tyrrell extremely off-limits. "It isn't because I was born in southern Vovim, is it?"

Merrick looked annoyed. "What, do you think I have something against players?"

Tyrrell straightened his spine. Like most emigrants from Vovim, he had acted in plays from time to time. Street plays, with no props other than broken objects dug out of the local garbage heap, but they were plays just the same. "Do you?" he responded in a challenging voice.

Merrick's mouth twisted. He was busy tightening the blankets on the bed-ledge with what seemed to Tyrrell to be unnecessary thoroughness, given that they were both about to go to bed. Unless – Tyrrell brightened at the thought – Merrick intended that they use only one bed-ledge.

After a moment, Merrick said, "The Bijou. The City Opera. The Frederick.. . ."

It turned out to be a very long recital. Tyrrell was impressed. "You've been to all the theaters in this city?"

"All the theaters in the whole of eastern Mip." Merrick mumbled the words.

"Gods preserve us – that many?"

Merrick glared at his blanket. "Does it matter? I've spent plenty of time with players. Let's move on to more important subjects."

Tyrrell hated to think what Merrick's idea was of an important subject. Probably how to strangle all the guards at Mercy Life Prison. He asked, "Is it because I'm short?"

Merrick sighed as he turned toward Tyrrell. "Look," he said, "you could be six feet tall, with dashing dark eyes, and skin a delicious shade of sepia—"

Tyrrell began to tick off in his mind which men in the prison fit this description.

"—and I still wouldn't fuck you. I'm just not interested in doing that. Not with you. Not with anyone here."

"Married?" Tyrrell asked sympathetically. So many men in the prison were, or had left behind love-mates, male or female, when they were convicted of their crimes and sent to spend the rest of their lives in Mercy Prison.

Merrick's gaze turned toward the flagstoned floor. "Hell."

"You don't have to swear at me," said Tyrrell reproachfully.

"I'm not swearing. I'm praying to Hell to rise up and kidnap you to his domain so that I won't have to continue this conversation. Look—"

And suddenly his voice was low, as low as it had been when he had finally made the amazing declaration that he would submit a formal request to his guard that he be transferred to Tyrrell's cell. So Tyrrell held his breath, because he knew that Merrick was never low-voiced – never, never, never – unless he was saying something that cost him a great deal to say.
 

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


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
I've re-ordered the series pages for The Eternal Dungeon and Life Prison so that the side stories are listed in chronological order (regarding the events of the series). I've also indicated at what point the side stories occur in relation to the main stories of those series. Spoiler notices are included. (Because, like, I paid attention to panel seven of this.)
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'In the Silence'


"Images came, like flickers of a candle: Dark stones. Dark metal. Faint fire. A spoon in his hand, as someone urged him to eat. A stinking pit that he knew he was duty-bound to fill. A loom nearby that he vaguely remembered he had once known how to work, but which now stood as silent as the rest of his world."

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.

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in the Life Prison series. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.


Excerpt

Some of the prisoners began to retreat to the back of their cells, made uneasy by this breaking of the silence. He ought to as well. A prisoner was speaking. A prisoner was shouting. No good could come of this. Nothing could come of this but pain and fear and screaming.

Tears were running down his face now. He gripped the bars hard, trying to figure out what to do. He had emerged from a dream, only to find himself trapped in a nightmare. How could he make it stop?

The solid door opened suddenly. The guard named Sedgewick stood there, breathing heavily. His hair was dishevelled; his jacket was torn; his neck was turning purple. "Get chains," he snapped at Milton.

"Chains?" Turning, Milton gaped at him.

"Chains. From the showers. The manacles on chains that we use when we give the prisoners the cold-water punishment."

"The chains are bolted to the shower walls," Milton protested. "They're attached high up on the walls, above the prisoners' heads."

"Pliers. Stepladder. Be quick about it."

"Sedgewick, it sounds as though you're killing your prisoner. If you kill him, our Keeper will be angry—"

"Go." As the shouts inside the cell reached a new high pitch, Sedgewick slammed the door shut.

Milton looked around the level uncertainly. But in all the cells he glanced at, none of the prisoners were moving. Swallowing hard, Milton retreated to the stairwell.

The shouts from the battle-torn cell were so loud now that he covered his ears. He could still hear the bellow of the prisoner, who sounded like a bull let loose in a ring. "I am going to maul you so badly that you'll never be reborn!" the prisoner was shouting. "Just watch me!"

There was a loud crack. Identifying the sound, he flinched back, as though the whip had landed on him. The only response from the prisoner was another bellow, this time of profanity.

He bit his lip. He had no doubt as to the outcome of this struggle. The prisoner could not hold out against two guards armed with whips and daggers. It was a miracle he had done so already. How long would this last?

How long had it lasted? He glanced briefly over his shoulder at his cell, but it looked just the same as it had the last time he had seen it – had truly seen it.

Only the loom was gone. How had they taken the loom away without waking him from his dream? And how long ago had they done this?

He felt the bars under his hands. Bars. There had been no bars when he last saw this cell – only a solid door. The solid door was still there, but it was an inner door now, open. There were two doors to his cell now, one solid, one barred. The barred one must have been added.

How could they have added a barred door without him noticing it?

Sweat was trickling down his back now. He tried to read the time passed from the amount of ashes next to the fire. But for all he knew, the ashes might have been scooped out a dozen times or more. A whole month might have passed. Or two months?

He put his hand upon his cheek, trying to wipe away the tears that continued to stream there—

And froze. Were those wrinkles he felt next to his eyes?

He was twenty-one years old. How could he have wrinkles?
 

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


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Isolation'


"Now I was at the last prison of all, the one I'd be at till they buried my body in quicklime."

Being locked in a prison cell can cause a man to re-examine his priorities. Especially when the door never opens.

Gavin is young, but his time may be short as he enters a prison not known for treating its prisoners gently.

Even so, he is shocked to discover what his fate will be. Faced with living conditions even worse than he was raised in, he must call upon the lessons his immigrant parents taught him for how to survive in a slum.

But his life takes an unexpected turn when a secret correspondent suggests that Gavin may be able to play a role in changing conditions at Mercy Life Prison. To do so will mean risking what remains of his life, as well as turning away from the only life he has known. What reward can he hope to receive in exchange for such a sacrifice?

This short story can be read on its own or as the fourth story in the "Mercy's Prisoner" volume of Life Prison. Friendship and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.


Excerpt

I couldn't go and read the words of the guard's newsie, but I could be seeing the pictures, and they gave tale themselves. The news from the Queendom of Yclau, in the bottom-right corner of the newsie, wasn't the best. Mip's southern neighbor, which claimed to be the seed of all civilization in the world, had chosen to celebrate the Autumn Commoners' Festival by sending soldiers to beat up the Yclau branch of the Commoners' Guild. In the photo, there was a kiddie lying bleeding on the ground, her head bashed in by a passing soldier.

"Poor little lass," I muttered. "She should have someone to protect her."

The guard flicked another glance at me – this one a grimmer one, like as he suspected I was muttering curses against him – and then he gave back his attention to the newsie. I felt my chest tighten, having mind of all those poor commoners being beat over the head by the nightsticks of the soldiers. Then I came to have knowing that my chest was tightening for another reason. I was near on having another of my attacks.

I looked round, wild-like. Back in my last holding prison, one of the guards had gifted me with a cup to cough into. There was an empty cup next to the brandy bottle, within reach. I grabbed it and coughed up what was in my throat: a greenish-grey mess, with spots of red in it. The red spots had been worrying me for some days now.

I'd put from mind the sawbones. Right away, with a cry, he yanked the cup from me. I was figuring he didn't much care for having his cups messed up. He stared down at the cup and gave another cry of dismay. Dismally, I wondered if I'd gotten myself in trouble already.

The guard had put down his paper; he spoke something to the sawbones in Mippite. The sawbones turned and chattered away. I couldn't figure out any of the words he spoke, 'cept for one he gave tale to again over and over: Tibby. I wondered if that was the name of his girl. Drunks get soppy with having mind of love some days.

The guard got off his seat with great care. He walked over to where the sawbones stood and stared down at the cup. Then he looked up at me and smiled.

I didn't care for that smile. It was a cold smile, and I didn't have mind that the guard was the sort of man to smile 'cept at another man's bad luck.
 

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


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"[The prisoner Llewellyn] manipulates the guards to get what he wants, until he's paired up with Milord, a guard with honour and a tight control on his emotions. . . . [The setting is] a mix of historical and fantasy, with enough detail given in this short format to be able to understand what's happening in this story but with other details that are only alluded to and which made me want to seek out other stories [in the series]. .. . If you like dark romance stories then this would be a good one to pick up." —Brief Encounters (Jenre) on Milord (Life Prison), with major spoilers.
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Milord (Life Prison) as it appears in the Kobo e-reader app


All of my new e-books will now be published in DRM-free multiformat (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc), with somewhat more attractive layouts. All of the multiformat e-books will be available at my Gumroad store (which is most easily browsed through the story entries at this website).

My e-books with the new layout will also be available at Smashwords (DRM-free), Amazon (DRM-free), Barnes & Noble (DRM-free from November 2012 onwards), and (after a delay) other stores. Smashwords customers should be aware that the only Smashwords format that I will be preparing myself is the epub edition; all of the other formats at Smashwords are created by that store's automatic converter.

In addition to the new e-books, I'm gradually reissuing my older e-books in multiformat. I'll announce them here as they become available.
 

The following series is now available as DRM-free multiformat e-books (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc):
 

Life Prison. They are imprisoned until death, and their lives cannot get worse . . . or so they think. But when an unlikely alliance forms against their captors, the reformers risk losing what little comforts they possess. ¶ Life Prison is a historical fantasy series about male desire and determination in Victorian prisons.

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Life Prison'


"I'd heard of guards like this; they existed in prisoners' tales like beautiful princesses exist in the tales of ugly boys. I supposed that I ought to be grateful to have been assigned such a guard. . . . I didn't feel grateful."

In the unmerciful world of Mercy Prison, there is no rule but unending pain. For Merrick, the arrival of his new guard provides hope that he may break beyond the boundaries of his life prison. But appearances can be deceptive, and Merrick does not yet recognize the danger this guard poses to his future.

Merrick's guard is bound in his own special imprisonment. The meeting of these two troubled men will determine their destinies, and the destiny of their nation's life prisons.

This novella can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Mercy's Prisoner" volume of Life Prison.  Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is based on late Victorian prison life.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Reviews

"Combining a historical background similar to that of Victorian England with a skilled perspective into the nature of human relations and a wide range of characterization, 'Life Prison' is a real page-turner . . . This is a story – and an author – not to be missed." —Rainbow Reviews

"Written in the first person, Life Prison is a dark, eloquent, and absorbing psychological tale that delves into the mind of a killer who, perhaps incongruously, manages to evolve into a sympathetic character in spite of the horror of his crime." —Top 2 Bottom Reviews

"[Outside the prison, Merrick] would be a criminal, a reject of the society; inside he is a man." —Elisa Rolle's Reviews and Ramblings

"Liveprison. Der Name sagt alles. Sehr düster." —Mllesatine: Empfehlungen


Excerpt

When Thomas arrived the next morning – it was my weekly day of rest from work, so I was engaging in a particularly agonizing examination of the walls – I said, before he could speak, "I'm sorry about my bad temper last time. I get out of sorts occasionally."

"Not at all." His reply was cool, as were his eyes, which rested upon me heavily, like a block of ice. It came to me as I watched him that this young man, whatever his flaws might be, had received personal training from Compassion's Keeper. He could not be quite the fool he appeared to be.

I'm nothing if not flexible, as Sedgewick had pronounced on the day he tried me in a dozen different positions. I let the smile drop from my face and said in my normal voice, "Well? What brings you here?"

The coolness disappeared from his eyes, and he said, "The usual. See to your needs and all that. The dancing girls are on their way, but I'm afraid I couldn't fit the performing elephant into the stairwell."

There was a moment's silence, and then, despite myself, I burst into laughter. Thomas grinned like a boy and moved forward, keeping well away from me and resting his hand on his dagger. He inspected the rubbish hole first, then the water – going so far as to give the wall a lick – and then, satisfied, moved to the other end of the cell. "You're short a blanket," he said. "That's against regulations."

I snorted. "There aren't any regulations in the life prisons, or hadn't you noticed?"

"Well, there are customs." He was inspecting the blankets now, checking them for secreted objects. "Short-tail whip – that's the type used at Mercy. Compassion uses the black whip – longer range, harder to control. Four of the other life prisons use the straight whip – rather like a bamboo rod, but more flexible. The remainder use the bamboo rod alone. . . . Your cell could do with some tidying."

Yes, he'd been trained by a Keeper all right. I wondered whether he thought he was scaring me. "What type of bamboo rod?" I asked. "Imported or domestic? The type that splinter? We had a prisoner last year who came close to dying from the splinters alone."

"Those ought to be banned." He got up from his hands and knees from inspecting under my bed. I had retreated into the corner to allow him to do this without nervousness. As he dusted off his hands on his trousers, he said, "Mind you, if a guard does his work properly, he needn't resort to any of those." He looked over at me.

It was hard to say whether his speech was more effective as an apology or as a threat. I was beginning to think that I might have underestimated this young man. . . .
 

Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub): Life Prison. A shorter version of the novella is available as online fiction.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Coded Messages'


"Sweet blood, Tom, sometimes I wonder at your innocence. Why do you think that your prisoners were sent to prison? It wasn't for lacing daisy chains."

One of them rapes prisoners. The other wants to help prisoners. So why are they talking to each other?

As guards send each other telegraph messages through their prisons' coding offices, strange developments occur in the life prisons of the Magisterial Republic of Mip: hardened prisoners become reformers, idealists dally with danger, and the prison keepers struggle to keep control. The strangeness will only become odder when two guards, who hold very different views on the proper handling of prisoners, strive to find common ground.

This short story can be read on its own or as the second story in the "Mercy's Prisoner" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is based on late Victorian prison life.

This is a reissue of an older story.
 


Review

"Each cryptic phrase [in the telegraph messages] unleashes a whole myriad of action the reader is able to build in their imagination." —A. B. Gayle at Goodreads


Excerpt

Tom:

You might have warned me before that our letters are being read by Compassion's Keeper. You know that Mercy's Keeper has a hard enough time staying awake to do routine paperwork, much less bothering to read private correspondence between guards.

I don't know what you mean by "applicable to your own situation." I was just curious about your activities. One thing I will say for you, Tom: You livened this place up by always doing the unexpected.

Yes, Merrick's insanity has infected guards now. Our Keeper is tearing his hair out. He can't actually order those guards to rape prisoners, and none of the guards has been stupid enough to refrain from beating their prisoners when the prisoners break rules. But this is causing divisiveness in the guard-room. Up until now, except for the occasional eccentric like you, we were all agreed on how the prisoners should be treated. Now that unity is gone, and I'm not the only guard worried that the prisoners will take advantage of this fact to start a riot.

Sedgewick

o—o—o

Dear Sedge,

I should clarify what I said in my last letter. My father reads outgoing correspondence from Compassion. He considers it a matter of honor not to read incoming messages. He isn't concerned about the activities of guards in other prisons, but he doesn't entirely trust his own guards, least of all me.

I think that, when you come down to it, trust and lack of trust are what divide the guards at your prison. The guards who keep the Boundaries trust the prisoners to adhere to the rules with minimal need for punishment. The other guards don't.

How are matters with your prisoner? Is he continuing to cause problems for you?

With respect,
Thomas

o—o—o

Tom:

Wake up to the real world. What divides the guards here is that some of us like to rape prisoners and some of the guards are too goody-good for that. Bloody blades, Tom, you're never going to be able to keep control of Compassion if you continue talking like a child.

My prisoner is driving me to distraction. I might be able to take leave some time during the next century.

Sedgewick

o—o—o

Dear Sedge,

Maybe you should take leave now. I sense there is more going on than you're saying. . . .
 

Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub): Coded Messages.



duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Milord'


"'You've been very well-behaved here. You deserve a better assignment than Milord as your guard.'"

He was the model prisoner, respectful to his guards and loyal to his fellow prisoners. What no one knew was that he held the key to destruction.

Having pledged himself to assist in a popular movement by prisoners and guards to reform Mercy Life Prison, Llewellyn fears the future, when it is likely that the reform movement will face stiffer opposition from Mercy's Keeper. But Llewellyn's fear of the future is overwhelmed by the present knowledge that he is not what he appears to be. Until now, he has managed to hide his secret and to sway his guards to follow his chosen path.

Now he has been placed under the power of a guard who cannot be swayed and who is intent on bringing Llewellyn under his control. Can Llewellyn escape from his new guard's control? Will he really want to, once he has seen the door open to a world filled with true respect, loyalty, and love?

This novelette can be read on its own or as the third story in the "Mercy's Prisoner" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is based on late Victorian prison life.
 


Excerpt

Panting from his exertions, Merrick began to inspect the plumbing. "Drip pan looks fine. Nothing clogging the strainer. Let me get this pipe open. Have you chosen your guard yet?"

Llewellyn hesitated. "I'm not sure. . . ."

"There are lots of us guards abiding by the Boundaries these days," Denley pointed out, removing a cigarette from his jacket.

"I wondered . . . I thought perhaps I could do more for our Alliance if I picked a guard who doesn't keep the Boundaries."

"Try to persuade him to join the Alliance, you mean?" Denley tapped the end of his cigarette against the broken refrigerator.

"Milord," said Merrick, frowning over the plumbing pipe as he thrust his hand into it.

"You think so?" said Denley, his eyebrows raised. "He keeps the Boundaries."

"He has never admitted it, though." Merrick pushed the handkerchief into the pipe. "'I'm not going to have my judgment as a guard second-guessed by a scheme dreamed up by a clique of convicted criminals. . . .' He natters on and on about it, if the subject comes up."

"But he keeps the Boundaries?" said Llewellyn.

"Yes," replied Denley, lighting a match from the stove-fire.

"Yes, if you define the Boundaries as beating your prisoner every night." Merrick extracted the handkerchief, which showed little sign of having been inserted in the pipe.

"Not every night," Denley protested. "Be fair to him, Merrick. He's a strict disciplinarian, but he only beats prisoners who deserve it."

"Why is he called Milord, sir?" Llewellyn asked Denley.

"Oh, he's Lord Vere, officially. Comes from southern Vovim originally. He's one of those Vovimian lords who lost his land during that kingdom's civil war." Denley lit his cigarette. "He still has a lordly air to him, so we call him Milord, for fun. He doesn't mind; he'll accept a good-natured joke."

"So he's an honorable guard, but he's strict," Llewellyn concluded. "He'll only beat me if I've done something that makes me truly deserve a beating."

"Not that that will be a problem for you." Denley bestowed one of his condescending smiles upon Llewellyn. "You've been very well-behaved here. You deserve a better assignment than Milord as your permanent guard."

"Request Milord." Merrick threw aside the plumbing pipe with a gesture of disgust.

"You think I should?" Llewellyn asked uncertainly, standing up and leaning against the squat box of the refrigerator, which he and Merrick had laboriously pushed aside at the beginning of the evening, while Denley stood next to them, chatting brightly as other men did the hard work.

"He's the right guard for you." Merrick's voice was flat.
 

Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub): Milord.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Torture'


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.

This alternate-universe short story of a meeting that never happened brings together major characters from two of Dusk Peterson's historical fantasy series about Victorian prisons: Life Prison, about an unlikely alliance that forms against the prisoners' captors, and The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning series set in a land where the psychologists wield whips.

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

"We have no need of racks or death sentences to control our prisoners," said the young man who represented the Magisterial Republic of Mip in the United Order of Prisons. The criticism of the Queendom of Yclau's Eternal Dungeon was implicit. "By lifting all threat of torture in the life prisons, we are able to appeal to the better nature of our prisoners."

"Indeed?" responded Layle Smith politely. He wondered whether he himself had ever been that naive. It seemed unlikely.

"Of course," added the young man in an evident effort to match his guest's politeness, "we have learned a great deal from the Eternal Dungeon's Code of Seeking. Your Code was carefully consulted at the time that our republic founded, seventeen years ago, and its best elements were incorporated into our plans for the life prisons . . . with a few improvements. These doors, for example—"

"Yes, I see." No privacy for the prisoners. None whatsoever. The barred doors in this life prison allowed any casual passerby to see what the prisoners were doing at any time of the day. The prisoners' urination and defecation must be public events.

"—are simply a wider extension of the principle you established, in your revision of the Code, that guards must keep watch over the prisoners at all times."

He managed to keep from wincing. "We use watch-holes in the cell doors in the Eternal Dungeon."

"Yes, we thought we could improve on that." The young man smiled at him. "Is there anything else you would like to see while we are here?"

Layle turned slowly, taking in the view before him. A fire-pit in the center of the circular level appeared to be the only source of heating – heaven only knew how cold it became for the prisoners in the winter. The cells held no pitchers of water and no chamber-pots. As for the bedding. . .

Exactly the same as the hard bed-ledges in the Eternal Dungeon.
 

Available as online fiction and as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub) with an online sample: Torture.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for 'Men and Lads / Lord and Servant'

"He twisted his head around to give a despairing look at the brakeman. Beyond him, the open boxcar door revealed that the train was presently making its way along a trestle over a steep ravine. If he jumped now, he would certainly end up dead at the bottom of the gorge. It wasn't clear whether the brakeman cared."

Two guards. Two prisoners. A multitude of problems.

As a tramp beats his dangerous way to a new destination on the Western Mippite Railroad, he is joined by a prison guard seeking guidance on a difficult prisoner. The guard's guidance must come from a man who is longing for a human bond . . . but who has a reputation to establish.

Meanwhile, 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.

This novella-sized volume contains two related side stories in the Life Prison series. The costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.

"Men and Lads" is a reissue of an older story. "Lord and Servant" is a new story.


Excerpt

Starke had never seen machine rifles in operation, but he had heard of the destruction they had caused during the final years of the Thousand Years' War. Those had been lumbering machines, difficult to move and operate, requiring an extra man to feed the ammunition. But this new design . . . Sweet blood, it looked as light as an ordinary rifle, and it was fed, not by an ammunition belt, but by magazine boxes.

The perfect gun to carry into battle . . . or to hold back murderous prisoners.

The Assistant Keeper shook his head. He was twenty-eight, four years younger than Starke, but he always had a certain gravity about his manner that made him look older – at least, he seemed that way to men who hadn't seen him in his bath, squealing as he played with a wooden duck decoy. That had happened when Tom was twelve, but it was an image impossible to forget.

Now Tom said, "Yclau won't sell arms to us. But in lieu of machine rifles . . ." He passed the accompanying letter to Starke.

Starke's eyebrows shot up as he scanned the missive. "To us? These are the same magisterial seats who have told us time and again that it's perfectly possible for twenty guards to control a thousand prisoners, using nothing but whips and daggers?"

Tom smiled. "They changed their minds."

Starke eyed him. Whenever Tom grew cagey with information, it was a sure sign that he had been involved in the event. No doubt he had sent letter after letter to the magisterial seats, arguing in favor of better weapons.

"Well," said Starke, folding up the letter, "at least we'll be able to use ordinary rifles. That will help with guarding the entryway." He pointed to the gunners' post.

"And even more with the prison itself." Tom took the letter from him, placed it and the blueprint back into the envelope, and carefully tucked the envelope into the inner pocket of his jacket. "If those prisoners ever decide to try to make a mass dash through the prison gate when we open it . . . Well, may the gods help us. Regretfully, we would need gunfire to hold them back."

The "regretful" part of the statement, Starke knew, did not have to do with the guards' lack of defense against the vicious prisoners. Tom always had a soft spot where convicts were concerned. Starke had given up trying to point out to Tom the folly of having a gushy heart toward men who had been sent to prison for life for their premeditated murders and rapes. "Where will you place the second gunners' post? Above the guards' post?"

Tom nodded. "The balcony opposite the prison gate will provide the best view for the gunners . . . if we can obtain the gunners. What worries me, Mr. Starke, is not whether we will get the rifles; my worry is who will man the gunners' posts."

"Ah." Starke reflected that Tom had a gift for pinpointing troubles. "How many guards are certified for gunnery duty?"

"You. Me. Mr. Landry. And our Keeper, of course, but he can't be expected to take gunnery duty. Nor can I, most days, because of my extra duties as Assistant Keeper." Tom shook his head. "Mr. Starke, we cannot protect this prison with only two active gunners. We need more guards who are certified to man firearms."

Starke made no reply. He knew that Tom was already aware that the best place in Mip to find certified gunners was in the Mippite army. Tom also knew how slim his chances were of persuading any soldiers to transfer their talents to a life prison. The army despised the life prisons, considering them a never-ending source of trouble, since it was the soldiers who were called upon to round up escaped prisoners and put down riots.

At Compassion Prison, only two guards were former soldiers. One was Landry, who was rumored to have requested a transfer from the army in order to escape incipient charges regarding his conduct with a neighborhood girl. The other soldier was Starke. Starke knew well enough why he had originally transferred to Compassion: out of curiosity to see why, by all that was sacred, the life prisons couldn't keep their prisoners under better control.

What puzzled him was why he was still here at Compassion, sixteen years later.
 

Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub), with an online sample; the first story in the e-book is also available as online fiction: Men and Lads / Lord and Servant.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
These stories are written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge, which offers one hundred one-word prompts on dark themes, to inspire authors to write stories on those topics. The darkfic written for this challenge ranges from lightly humorous to suspensefully dramatic. All of the stories here are set in the Midcoast nations of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs universe. Turn-of-the-Century Toughs is my cycle of historical fantasy series about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who love them. The novels are set in an imaginary version of Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states between the 1880s and the 1910s. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.

#92: Wax (The Eternal Dungeon). The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon goes in search of a very special supply.

#34: Broken (The Eternal Dungeon AU). Layle Smith is not always the ideal man for the job.

#10: Torture (The Eternal Dungeon/Life Prison AU). The High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison.

September 2017

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