duskpeterson: (bookshelves)
Historical speculative fiction, including lgbtq novels, original slash, 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.

The Shining  Ones

NEW NOVELETTE: The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon)

"He was skilled by now at making innocuous remarks in the presence of the Shining Ones. Nobody had even guessed that he knew what they were."

The Eternal Dungeon is filled with prisoners who shine like the sun.

No one knows this except Barrett Boyd, a guard notorious for having survived a disciplinary punishment that should have killed him. He is also notorious for his rebellion against the authorities of the royal prison. At a pivotal time in the Eternal Dungeon's history, when abusive practices of the past may finally be abolished, Barrett finds himself drawn to the mystery of a younger guard, Clifford Crofford, who claims that he and Barrett are love-mates.

Barrett has no memory of this. He has no memory of anything before his punishment. What does the past matter, compared to Barrett's determination to protect the prisoners? But Barrett cannot ignore his bond with Clifford, and the closer that Barrett comes to Clifford, the more the danger arises that Clifford will question Barrett's sanity. . . .

This novelette (miniature novel) of disability and love can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning speculative fiction series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.

The Eternal Dungeon series is part of 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 novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.

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


Excerpt

During the first few weeks after the 101 strokes, his only awareness had been of pain and anger. He knew dimly that the anger was not merely for his own sake. Others here had suffered needlessly. Others here needed to be protected. His own pain had come from an attempt to protect. No one here was to be trusted, except those he had sought to protect.

His first sight of a prisoner after he rose from his sickbed nearly blinded him. Leaving his male nurse nodding off to sleep, he had departed the healer's surgery and had curiously explored one of the dungeon corridors. Several dark figures that he passed tried to speak to him; he ignored them. He was more interested in the iron doors that led off the corridor. He sensed that treasure lay behind those doors, but he couldn't envision what that treasure might be.

A door opened, and through it came the sun.

He threw himself to his knees. The dark figures, mistaking the cause, tried to pull him up with their coffin-cold hands, but he threw them off, blind with the glory of what he had seen. He heard someone say, "Take the prisoner away." That was how he knew what he had seen.

He let the dark figures persuade him back to his sickbed. He needed time to think. As the days passed, he took more and more illicit forays through the Eternal Dungeon, both the inner dungeon where the prisoners and Seekers were kept and the outer dungeon where laborers worked and guards lived. He was aware of carefully swept floors, neatly painted walls, entranceways to further corridors. But it was always the iron doors that fascinated him. He waited one day, in the shadow of a corner, to see whether it would happen again.

It did. The door opened. This time, the Shining One did not emerge. He was bound to the wall, being beaten by a dark figure.

Barrett's first impulse was to kill the dark figure. But he was still weak in body, and he remembered the consequences of the last time he had tried to help one of the Shining Ones. He would not survive another 101 strokes. Should he sacrifice himself for the Shining Ones now, or should he wait for a more important occasion to do so? He forced himself to return to the surgery and think.

The next day, the High Seeker visited. There had been many dark figures calling upon his sickbed, among them a junior Seeker named Elsdon Taylor, who claimed that Barrett had worked under him in the past. Barrett ignored them all. But Barrett knew who this latest visitor was. He was the man who had laid raw stripes across Barrett's back.

For an attempted murderer, the High Seeker seemed exceedingly mild-mannered. He suggested that, if Barrett was well enough to rise from his bed on occasion, he might wish to visit the dungeon's library in order to educate himself about the world in which he lived.

It was good advice, despite the source. The next day, Barrett went to the library, accompanied by his nurse. Barrett's primary purpose for the visit was to learn what the Shining Ones were. It was already clear to him that he was the only man in the dungeon who could see the prisoners as they truly were.

If he told other people what he had seen, perhaps they would think he had gone mad; perhaps he would be locked up in an asylum. During the previous week, a mind healer had carefully quizzed him to check if the 101-stroke beating had damaged his brain, which left Barrett momentarily uncertain whether he was actually seeing what he thought he saw.

Fortunately, the library revealed the truth. He spent every waking hour there for weeks, chasing threads, until he found what he was seeking, in the very oldest books.

The ancient ones had known the Shining Ones.

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


Servant  or Slave

NEW COLLECTION: Servant or Slave (Waterman)

Is service a privilege or a chain?

Two young men face this question. Both live in the Dozen Landsteads, where life centers on the nation's Bay. One young man lives at the beginning of the twentieth century, the other in the sixteenth century. Both youths possess masters. But do the masters have their best interests at heart?

"Servant or Slave" presents a twin tale of love, faithfulness, and responsibility. It can be read on its own or as a side story in Waterman, a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region.

Volume Contents

Lost Haven: a master, his servant, and a disappearing island. Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found? Meredith has brought his beloved master to the island where he spent the happiest days of his childhood. But when danger descends upon them, they must seek refuge, and Meredith must confront the tantalizing sorrows and rewards of change.

Master's Piece. He was his master's piece: the model for his master's sculptures. But his master was different. . . . As Pip longs for the unobtainable, his master finds that he is beginning to have doubts about a long-standing custom in his nation. Yet how can he risk giving up what he values most?

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Servant or Slave. Includes a new Waterman story, "Master's Piece."


Excerpt (from Master's Piece)

It was the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the world was changing. Ships sailed the ocean, exploring the Old World that had been left behind long ago, in ancient times. A new faith swept the nations of the New World with fervor, promising the possibility of rebirth, not only in a future lifetime, but now. And in a small, sunny room of his castle that grew stifling hot in the summertime, High Master Fernao experimented with new ways in which to create sculptures.

Pip, his piece, stood for hours on end in the sculpting room, occasionally turning his eyes to glance through the window. Outside, fishing boats skimmed the waters of the Bay as they came to port at Solomons Island, offshore from where the High Master's castle stood. He could smell the scent of crabs as they scrabbled in their cages, desperately trying to escape their fate as they were unloaded onto the docks. He could watch as the fishermen secured their captives.

But he preferred to watch his master at work. While Pip stood in the heat, sweating and itching, High Master Fernao would carefully sculpt the cooling wax, revealing what lay within the wax. Slowly, ever so slowly, a face would emerge: a strong face, set with eyes that sought something beyond the horizon.

The face never smiled. Pip had watched the High Master try to sculpt smiles – had followed the High Master's orders to smile – but the smile was never quite right. . . .

Available from Love in Dark Settings Press as a multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Servant or Slave. Includes a new Waterman story, "Master's Piece."


FREE FICTION

A new story at Archive of Our Own. This is a 2016 holiday gift story for my readers. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

Commoners' Festival (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon is celebrating the Commoners' Festival, and all the elite are feasting. Including a man who is secretly a commoner. (Permalink.)


A reissued story at Archive of Our Own.
 

Right or Right (Darkling Plain). Linnet is trouble. Everyone agrees about that. Driven from her native barony, she arrives at Goldhollow in hopes of beginning a new life, only to discover that she cannot escape her past. As Linnet is drawn into memories of a dark young man she once knew, she must deal in the present with a boy who is headed toward danger, as well as a child-like baron who may force her to betray her past. (Permalink.)


FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: On Guard (The Eternal Dungeon)

"'Shall we allow criminals to roam the streets at will because we're afraid to take the chance of harming an innocent prisoner?'"

The ties forged between the noble-minded Eternal Dungeon and an abusive foreign dungeon have set off an unpredictable chain of horrific events, in which the love between two of the Eternal Dungeon's Seekers (torturers) will be tested to the straining point. Caught in the middle of the struggle are Barrett Boyd and Seward Sobel, loyal guards who will find themselves questioning their most fundamental beliefs about the royal prison's ideals.

Barrett must help his Seeker determine whether their mild-mannered prisoner is an attempted murderer. His friend Seward has pledged to guard his own Seeker against an assassin . . . or should Seward be protecting the dungeon inhabitants against his Seeker? But when the guards' two Seekers fall into a lovers' quarrel, that is when the real danger begins.

This novel of friendship and gay love can be read on its own or as the fourth volume in The Eternal Dungeon, an award-winning historical fantasy series set in a nineteenth-century prison where the psychologists wield whips.
 

Available in the Eternal Dungeon omnibus from Love in Dark Settings Press: On Guard.

 
NEW SOCIAL NETWORK: Tumblr

I now have a Tumblr profile, mainly as another way to keep connected with the fanfic/originalfic communities. My website, blog, and e-mail list remain the best way to keep track of what I'm up to, but if you're at Tumblr, I hope you'll connect with me there. Here's a full list of my social networks, if you haven't seen it already.
 

2015 WORDAGE

It's a new year, so my word counts for 2015 are online. 'Twas another so-so year for productivity, but I'm hopeful of being able to bring my wordage up this year, as well as the number of new stories I publish, now that I'm not in the worst part of a serious decluttering crisis (2015), moving to a new town (2014), or horribly ill (2010-2013). Wish me luck.

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)
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 . . .

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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


Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Even Karia?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His hands clenched once more. "Yes."

"Prove it."

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

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

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

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

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


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"A love story between a young lord and his new slave [which] combines rich worldbuilding and characterization to produce a touching sweet romance.. . . Perhaps a good comparison is Mary Renault's The Persian Boy, but without the distance Renault's romantic elements usually come with. This is immediate and tender." —T. C. Mill on Re-creation (The Three Lands).
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Right or Right


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

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

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

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

This is a reissue of an older story.


Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is your name really Golden?"

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

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

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


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He'd abducted him, bedded him, and taught him every position he knew. So why wasn't the fool grateful?

This is a reissue of an older story.
 

Reader reviews

"My goodness, this story has stayed with me for two days now. I like the simple 'journal' format, that starts off almost lighthearted. . . . But it begins to hit hard fast, and by the end I had a lump in my throat that comes back whenever I think about it." —Glass Houses in a post to an e-mail list, April 2002.

"I adored the tonalities of it. It ranges from greys to very dark shot through with flashes of light. Beautifully done – angsty and edgy and just wonderfully written." —Jedi Clara in a letter to the author, April 2002.

"Delicately done, such that the reader is drawn deeper and deeper in to the situation, just as our unlikely hero is drawn to his destiny." —Smara in a post to an e-mail list, April 2002.

"Witty and ironic and rather sad all at the same time. I loved the way that you drew the developing relationship so lightly." —Lucie at orig_slavefic.

"I once had a literature professor who demonstrated how 'The Great Gatsby' is the perfect novel. Every chapter is carefully constructed; the pacing is perfect. I think this is probably the condensed version of the perfect slavefic. Just wonderful." —Pierrot Dreams at orig_slavefic.


Excerpt

Ended up telling him more than I'd intended, including the tale of how I first joined the tribe. He asked me whether I remembered my family, and I said I didn't; I was much younger than he was when I was captured. I don't even remember the man who first took me. I proved myself worthy of tribal status quickly, though, and I impressed upon the boy that he could do the same if he worked hard enough.

After all this time, I suppose nothing should surprise me about the boy, but it was still a shock to hear the boy say he didn't want to belong to the tribe. He called us "land pirates," which is the kindest name I've ever heard applied to us, but I managed to keep from laughing. Pointed out instead that he had no good alternatives now, and asked him whether he wanted to risk becoming a bed-slave again if I died. That shut him up.

Truly, the boy's the stubbornest person I've ever met. He reminds me of myself when I was young.
 

Available as online fiction: The Fool.


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I've updated my word counts and progress report to show my 2013 daily word counts (which I persist in calling daily, even though they aren't, alas) and my 2013 monthly and annual word totals. This was a good year. I got a ton of stories published, and a goodly number of them were new stories. My wordage for writing wasn't great this year, but it wasn't as bad as it's been for the past four years, since my Muse went on semi-permanent vacation. I hope to improve my wordage next year.

For those of you who don't already know, you can check my progress report periodically to see what stage I'm at in any story you may be interested in.

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Lost Haven

"Then he remembered (on the edge of his memory, like a smudge of land on the horizon of the Bay) the reason that he and his father had lived alone on an island where once hundreds of people had lived."

Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found?

Meredith has brought his beloved master to the island where he spent the happiest days of his childhood. But when danger descends upon them, they must seek refuge, and Meredith must confront the tantalizing sorrows and rewards of change.

This short story about love between two young men can be read on its own, or as a side story in Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.

A 2013 holiday gift story for Dusk Peterson's readers.


Excerpt

He saw his master's boat long before it arrived, skimming over the afternoon-bright waters of the Bay. The closer the lithe vessel approached, the deeper the sun dipped in the sky, and the more the grey clouds huddled together like cloaked guests awaiting the start of a dinner party. Meredith began to worry that his master would arrive so late in the day that he and Meredith would be trapped there overnight, with a storm approaching. Then Meredith recalled that a house awaited them, with four walls and a roof to shut out the wind and the water – a haven on an island that he had always considered a haven, since the time he left it as a child.

The Bay, which sliced like a knife between the two shores of the Dozen Landsteads, was already growing choppy from the upcoming storm by the time that the skipjack anchored, a few yards from shore. By that time, Meredith was hiding in a grove of loblolly pines, so he did not see the yawl carry his master from the skipjack to the island. However, he did hear the uncultured voice of a servant say, "You sure you don't want us to come back, sir? Looks like a rough place to stay the night, and there's a blow coming in on the tide."

Meredith did not hear his master's reply, but it must have been reassuring, for when he peeked out again, he saw that the little yawl was being hauled aboard the skipjack, while his master stood on the shell-strewn beach, his back to Meredith, his hand waving farewell to the crew who had brought him to the island.

The anchor came up, the rising wind bellowed the sails full, and the crew began the painful job of turning the skipjack and tacking their way back to the Western Shore from whence they had come. They would be eager to return home, Meredith knew, for tonight was the final day of the festival week of Spring Manhood, when servants would feast in honor of their masters.

Meredith had never attended such a feast, either as a master or as a servant. He never would, he knew. He would be embarrassed to be toasted by servants who believed him to be a master, and as for receiving the joy of toasting his own master . . . It was enough that he finally had a master, after so many years spent masquerading as one.

Or so he told himself.
 

Available as a FREE DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as online fiction: Lost Haven.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Re-creation

"He could not leave this room without his father's permission. And he could not imagine going to his father and saying, 'Please let me go gather moss so that my slave can have a proper New Year for once.'"

What can you give a slave who, by law, can own nothing? That is the question faced by Peter, the teenage heir to the throne of an empire. Despite his father's desire that the imperial heir maintain a formal distance from servants, Peter finds himself drawn in friendship to the younger boy who serves as his slave.

But a shocking revelation on the eve of the New Year forces Peter to confront his own motives for keeping the slave close by. And that in turn will help him understand the deeper meaning of the gift-giving festival.

This novelette is a holiday tale that can be read on its own or as a side story in The Three Lands, a fantasy series on friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace.

A 2008 holiday gift story for Dusk Peterson's readers. This is a reissue of an older story.
 

Reader reviews at Amazon

"Wonderfully written. A harsh tale told by the slave to a boy too young to really understand it at first. Over a few days a boy grows up and learns just how unfair his world is." —Gina.

"This novelette was a compelling read. It inspired thought, evoked emotion (sympathy, pity, anger, and ultimately a bit of happiness). . . . The story (for me) showed a glimpse in time when a boy became a man." —Christine Staeven.

"When I started reading, I had no idea where this would go. The prince was very naive. The slave a bit too hardened. But it all became clear and a friendship developed. . . . Such a short tale left me with much to think about." —Lee Phillips.

Full reviews at Amazon.


Excerpt

"Well," said Peter uncertainly, "it looks a bit like a Balance of Judgment."

He glanced over at his new slave-servant to see whether he agreed. Andrew was kneeling on the floor, carefully rolling bits of clay and attaching clay crossbars to them so that they held a vague resemblance to the Sword of Vengeance.

For a moment, Peter thought Andrew would not reply. It was becoming increasingly hard to tell which comments the other boy would reply to. If asked a direct question, Andrew would of course respond; that was part of his training. But slaves were also trained not to speak to free-men unless spoken to, and Peter had not yet figured out a way to convey that he wanted to hold ordinary conversations with his slave.

Could any conversation be ordinary, when the other person had  no choice but to speak if bidden to?

Andrew said, without looking up, "I suppose that we'd need an Arpeshian to tell us."

Peter laughed. "And I don't know any Arpeshians. Do you?"

"A couple. They were young children when your grandfather, the Chara Anthony, suppressed the first rebellion in the dominion of Arpesh."

Peter started to make some light-hearted remark about Andrew being well-versed in Emorian history; then he bit his lip. No doubt all of the inhabitants of the palace slave-quarters were well-versed in the parts of Emorian history that related to wars in which the Emorians had taken slaves. Andrew could almost certainly give a detailed account of the Border Wars between Emor and Koretia.

To cover his chagrin, Peter said, "The Balance is hard enough to make." He gave another doubtful look at the object in his hand, made up of scrap bits of metal joined together by sticky sap. "I don't know how we'll manage to make the Book."

"You needn't worry about that." Andrew reached over to gather a bit of clay, and as he did so, his back came into sight. He was wearing a slave's tunic, of course, which meant his back was bare . . . except for the bandages there. "I know how to make books."

"You do?" Peter asked, surprised. He had turned his eyes away; he still could not stand to look at Andrew's back, even though the bandages hid what Lord Carle had done to him, barely a week before.

If Peter had been beaten nearly to death, he thought he would have spent the next six months moaning in his bed. Instead, Andrew seemed determined to rise from his sickbed. Peter wondered whether Andrew believed that he would be sold back to Lord Carle if he did not immediately show his worth to his new master.

Peter would have as soon impaled himself on the Sword of Judgment as give Andrew back to the master who had ordered an eleven-year-old boy to be beaten so harshly. Lord Carle had meant well, no doubt, but Peter still could not imagine why the council lord had found it necessary to go to such measures. As far as Peter could tell, Andrew was an extremely obedient servant.

Perhaps too much so. Peter looked down once more at the pathetic little object in his hand that purported to be the Balance of Judgment. Judgment weighing vengeance and mercy.

"We've forgotten about the Heart of Mercy," he said suddenly.

"I know how to make that too," Andrew replied, inspecting the tip of the clay sword in his hand.

"You're a wonder," Peter said, setting the lopsided Balance aside and rolling over onto his stomach. They were in his chamber, of course, which meant that the only places to sit were some stiff-backed chairs, the bed, and the floor. Andrew seemed to prefer the floor, though Peter had invited him onto the bed each day since the younger boy became his slave. Peter supposed this was due to some Koretian custom; he resolved inwardly to ask Andrew about that. After all, Peter's ostensible reason for having Andrew as his slave was to familiarize himself with his empire's southern dominion of Koretia. Peter's father – who was legally Andrew's owner – had said that mastering Andrew would help Peter learn how to rule his subjects.

"How did you learn to make crafts?" he asked Andrew.

"From a friend."

Peter waited, but no further details emerged. Finally Peter said, "Was he a craftsman?"

"He was a boy. But he lived with the priests, and they trained him at artisan work, in case he should need such work when he grew up and—" Andrew shut his lips tightly. He bowed his head, as though concentrating all his thoughts on the clay he was flattening with his fingers.

Peter felt then that he deserved the beating Andrew had received. A friend. A boy whom Andrew had known in the Koretian capital. Probably the boy had been enslaved during the final battle there, if not killed outright. And Andrew had been forced to speak of him.

To Peter, Chara To Be, son of the ruler who had conquered Andrew's native land.
 

Available as a FREE DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as online fiction: Re-creation.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Those of you who have been avoiding my e-book store at Gumroads because you disliked having to unzip files may be interested to know that Gumroads will now allow me to sell my multiformat e-books as a single purchase, without zipping them into a zip file. (However, the HTML format will continue to be zipped in most cases, because that's the only way to include illustrations such as maps.) I'll be going back and uploading unzipped formats of my e-books when I get a chance; in the meantime, the latest e-books are unzipped.

Gumroads has added number of other nifty new features, such as allowing you to buy a gift for someone else and letting you make a donation for free e-books after you've read the e-book. Plus, its latest version of my browsable store is considerably easier on the eyes.

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

"That will be your death."

A prince who could see beyond his borders but not see the people around him. . . . An enemy who would take any measure to get what he wanted. .. . And now a stranger has brought news to the prince of an approaching danger.

Young though he is, Farsight has inherited a powerful gift from his father that allows him to protect his realm. But when a conniving king in a neighboring country sets his sights on Farsight's mountain of gold, the prince will need help to protect himself against an assassin's knife. Will a newfound companion-in-arms be enough to save Farsight, once the Night Shadow crosses the border?

This stand-alone novelette can be read on its own or as part of Darkling Plain, a collection of fantasy tales about young people in times of conflict.

This is a reissue of an out-of-print story.


Excerpt

Farsight, less commonly known as Prince Clerebold, ruler of Dawnlight since the death of his father by mischance, stood on the highest, narrowest tower of his keep and looked down upon his realm. From here, far higher than the birds swooping from tree to tree, he could see clearly his people: castle dwellers walking to and fro across the drawbridge under the watchful eye of the soldiers, tradesmen bumping carts against each other in the busy streets of the town under the keep's shadow, craftsmen working in their village houses with steady concentration, commoners spreading seed in the fields under the spring sun, and, most clearly of all, the nervous soldiers near the gold-filled mountain that stood by Dawnlight's northern border with Duskedge. Within Duskedge itself, Farsight could faintly sense fear and pain, especially the prolonged agony of men held captive in a faraway castle. But the darkness that Farsight had sensed during the past weeks was quiescent, perhaps driven into sleep by the light.

Kneeling on the ledge of the crenel that provided a gap in the tower's stonework, Farsight stared down at the hundred-foot drop and murmured to himself, "If only I could see the people near me clearly. They seem so dim."

"That will be your death."

Startled, Farsight turned so suddenly that he nearly matched his father's death by pitching through the crenel into open air. Standing behind him, near the trap door leading to the winding stairs, was a man not much younger than Farsight, wearing the clothes of a commoner. He was standing so close to the prince that Farsight could see little more than mud-colored hair and eyes that matched the burnished blue sky.

"Who are you?" asked Farsight sharply, his hand moving to the gold-hilted dagger at his side. "Why are you here?"

Farsight's abrupt words seemed to startle the young man. He stepped backwards onto the trap door, stumbling as he did so. The sound of his heavy swallow followed, and the blur of his outline shifted. Narrowing his eyes to better his sight, Farsight realized, with amusement and something more, that the young man's hands had tightened nervously like those of a boy facing scrutiny.

The gesture reassured him, as did the faint sound of footsteps below the trap door, which told him that the guard was still at his post. "Why are you here?" he asked in a more moderate tone. "The guard had orders to let no one through."

"The guard?" The young man's voice was breathless and somewhat puzzled. "He wasn't at the landing when I came up. I saw him— Well, he was at one of the windows of the stairwell, fiddling with his breeches."

Farsight sighed, wondering again what sort of men he was training to be in his personal guard. He tried not to let too much of this show in his voice as he said, "That was careless of him. So – the fault is not yours, but why are you here?"

He heard the young man swallow again. "That's why. To warn you to guard yourself better."

Farsight frowned, trying to read what lay inside the young man, but he was too close. Pulling himself out from the crenel ledge, which had begun to turn warm under the morning light, the prince walked toward the eastern side of the tower, until he was as far from the young man as he could go. The young man, perhaps sensing his need, obediently stepped backwards until he was at the opposite side of the tower.

He was still too close, but Farsight could at least see now the man's features: a heavy jaw, lips too asymmetrical to attract lovers, a broken nose, a scarred temple, and blue-lit eyes bearing nothing except uncertainty. As Farsight watched, the man licked his lips anxiously.

His hand, though, was resting with practiced ease on his dagger hilt, and his cheeks were shaven – he was not a field commoner, then. "You're a soldier?" Farsight guessed aloud.

"A guard, my prince." The young man hesitated, then added, "My name is Amyas. I've been with Lord Grimbold's household until recently." With delicate timing, he allowed his hand to drop from his dagger.

Farsight felt the blood thrumming through his throat and resisted the impulse to call for his guard's protection. "You're far from home," he said. "I wouldn't have thought you'd have left Duskedge at time of war. And why call me your prince?"

"My prince, I—" Amyas faltered, staring at his mud-wrapped boots. "Because you are my prince. I was born in Dawnlight, near the border. I would have stayed here, but I couldn't find work in this land. So I went over the border and took service with Lord Grimbold, but part of our agreement was that if war broke out between our two lands, I'd be released from his service to return home."

"War broke out four months ago," Farsight observed. "That's when Royston turned his hungry eyes toward our gold-mountain near his border."

"Yes, my prince, and I left Lord Grimbold's service at that time. It occurred to me, though, that you might be in need of information, so I went to King Royston's castle and listened to the gossip there. I'd been there in the past, so no one took notice of me."

Amyas spoke with a pure simplicity, as though risking his life as a spy were the most natural activity in the world. He had a habit, Farsight noticed, of shuffling his feet on the ground, as though he were a boy who might be noticed at any moment and would need to flee the room to escape his elders' wrath.

Farsight suddenly felt very old. He smiled at Amyas and said, "So you have come to me with that information. Thank you."

Amyas looked up at him. For a moment, on the edge of his expression, something seemed on the point of breaking through. Then his eyes grew sober, and he said, "Yes, my prince. I came to warn you to guard yourself. King Royston has sent his Night Shadow to seek you."

A wind, chill from the north, travelled through the crenel behind Farsight and played like a cold blade against his back. When he could breathe once more, Farsight said, "Well. I suppose that is the easiest way for him to win this war."

Amyas took a step forward, faltered, then said in an impassioned voice, "My prince, forgive me, but— In Duskedge, I always kept to my place, so I do not wish you to think I was ill-trained there—"

Farsight managed to pull his smile back from the black pit where it had dropped. "We handle matters differently here in Dawnlight, as you'll recall from your childhood. You needn't be afraid to offer advice – I welcome your thoughts."

"Then, my prince—" Like the surge of a blade, Amyas flung the words forward: "Prince Clerebold, you're as close to death at this moment as you were when you were kneeling on that ledge! Do you know how easy it was for me to enter your presence? No guard challenged me at the drawbridge, your soldiers in the courtyard were indifferent to my presence, your courtiers gave me detailed instructions on where to find you, and your bodyguard was off making water when a man from Duskedge arrived looking for you. My prince, if I were an assassin, you'd be dead now!"

Farsight let out his breath in a long sigh and walked forward until Amyas's face blurred into the stones. "No, I wouldn't be. My guard is close by; the Night Shadow never allows himself to be seen, and he never kills anyone except his mark."

This answer appeared to disconcert the young man. A moment passed before he said, "And what if the Night Shadow decides to change its pattern for this kill? My prince—"

"Call me Farsight," the prince said mildly. "You've been too long away from home."

"Farsight . . ." Amyas fumbled with the name. "Farsight, the Night Shadow always wins. Everyone knows that. That's how Royston keeps his people in terror. And you . . . Your soldiers are the best trained in the world; Royston dare not attack you again through battle. That's why he's sending the Night Shadow. My prince, how can you have such fine soldiers at the border and such poorly trained guards at home?"

Farsight closed his eyes, released a long breath, and opened them once more to the blur that was the young man. "I'm farsighted," he said.

"My prince?" Amyas's voice was tentative.

"I'm farsighted. I can't see you unless you're far away; I can't see anyone unless they're far away. The soldiers I train at a distance – I can see them. The people I rule from a distance – I can see them. But the people I work with from day to day – I can't see them. I can't understand them, I can't know them. So I make mistakes. In some cases, mortal mistakes."

The wind rattled grit across the tower roof. Faintly from the sky above, birds called to each other, but Farsight could hear nothing more, not even the shouts of the guards on the drawbridge as they changed their watch. Below the trap door, the guard continued to shuffle in his place. By now, he must have heard Amyas's voice, but Farsight's moderate tones had apparently reassured the guard as to the nature of the interview. With exasperation, Farsight wondered whether the guard thought that Amyas had flown to the tower from one of the trees.

"Are the stories true?" Amyas's voice was subdued.
 

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


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

"'We'll be hiring the finest craftsfolk in the city, giving them hours of training to perfect their much-demanded skills and allow them to perform their tasks to the peak of their mastery – and the peak of the satisfaction of those who buy our goods.'"

Running a business seemed a simple enough matter: you learned what the patron wanted, and you forced an employee to satisfy his needs. Then along came the new boy.

Male prostitution has a new face, with an old score to pay: an ex-whore has started a pleasure house, and he has turned all the old rules on their head. Now the centuries-old system of prostitution in the Kingdom of Vovim is in danger of being overturned in favor of a new, gentler way of doing business. But will the young man who is carrying out this revolution be able to keep himself from repeating history?

This novella can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Whipster" volume of Michael's House, a historical fantasy 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.

This is a reissue of an older story.
 

Review

"Tease away the outer layers [of the story], and a whole fascinating world of triumph over tragedy emerges." —Rainbow Reviews.


Excerpt

Michael laid down his crop and sat on the fountain edge, stretching out his long legs and saying, "Nobody warned me that scolding was so great a part of whoremastering."

"It's part of being a teacher," replied Janus.

"You would know. Speaking of which, what is this?" Michael plucked a piece of paper out of his pocket and held it up for inspection. The gold seal upon it glittered in the late afternoon light.

Janus pulled himself upright, staring with disbelief at the paper. "Michael, have you been searching my room?"

"I've been searching all the rooms, to be sure we sealed up every mouse-hole. You should have picked a less obvious place to hide this than under your bed."

"It's nothing."

Michael glanced at the letter. "'Royal tutor.' 'By request of His Majesty, at the recommendation of your uncle.' It certainly sounds like something."

"It's a bribe."

"Of course it's a bribe. It's a handsome bribe. Why aren't you taking it?"

Janus sighed, reached over to pull the letter from Michael's hand, and tore the note into pieces. "Why aren't you still selling yourself, Michael? Even at your age, I'd bargain that men like that patron we met earlier this week would gladly pay for your services."

Michael raised his eyebrows. "That's not the same."

"Of course it's the same. My father, having failed through all other methods to break me away from highly unsuitable company, is offering me the biggest bribe he can produce. The letter doesn't actually say, 'If you take this job, you will never see Michael again,' but you know how unlikely it is that His Majesty and my uncle the prime minister would allow the royal tutor to spend his free evenings visiting the proprietor of a house of prostitution." Janus tossed the letter fragments into the fountain, saying, "I know what riches I value most, Michael, and I'm not prepared to give them up for a royal job."
 

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


I'm back!

Dec. 17th, 2013 03:40 pm
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Sort of. I'm recovering slowly, but I'm back to bringing out stories. My surgery went fine, and so did the biopsy. (The thing that was causing problems in my skull was benign.) If you haven't already done so, you can read about the details of the surgery here.

My winter plans are to publish another volume in The Three Lands, another volume in Life Prison, all of the current Darkling Plain stories, more of the online fiction (previously issued, but it's been offline for a while) in Main Street Leather, more multiformat editions, and whatever else my Muse tosses at me.

And boy, am I happy I'm still alive and able to keep sending these stories to the world. Thank you to those of you who sent good wishes my way before the surgery; it made a big difference to my state of mind going into the surgery, which may well have contributed to the success of the surgery.

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.


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