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

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT

From this point forth, all of my new stories will be posted at Archive of Our Own as free fiction. You can read the stories online or download the stories as free e-books (in html, epub, mobi, or pdf formats) by clicking on the "Download" button toward the top of the story's page.

I'll also be posting all of my backlist at Archive of Our Own, starting with the stories that haven't yet been bundled into volumes.

I will continue to periodically bundle my online fiction by series volume or theme and offer such e-books for sale at online bookstores. However, I'm lowering the price of my commercial e-books, and I won't remove the free fiction when I publish the commercial e-books.

To those of you who have bought my e-books in the past and are now cursing yourself for not awaiting the free or cheaper versions of my stories . . . Your money has been paying my food bills. I greatly thank you.

I have eighty stories in my backlist that aren't yet free fiction. I have several hundred thousand words' worth of new stories at the editing/layout stage. I'm starting a new job. It's going to take me a while to get all my backlist posted, folks. In the meantime, my website will reflect the transitional nature of this change.

More announcements are available below, after my story announcements.
 

NEW E-BOOK: Risk (Dark Light)

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

Risk



REISSUED E-BOOKS: The Eternal Dungeon

Now available in multiformat. Click on the covers for more information. The expanded edition of the Eternal Dungeon omnibus now includes the story "Balladeer" and is available in wide distribution (including Amazon Kindle).

On GuardThe Eternal Dungeon: a Turn-of-the-Century Toughs omnibus



NEW FREE FICTION: Young Toughs, The Three Lands, & The Eternal Dungeon

Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurbs and story.
 

New Day (Young Toughs). Kit has reached her apprenticeship birthday and is on a path to inherit power. But what sort of power will she wield?

Guise (The Three Lands). Daxis is the land of bards and of truths too painful to be faced.

Sweeping Day (Young Toughs). "When she was hired as a maid, no one told her that she'd hold the future of the Dozen Landsteads in her bosom."

Tax the Dungeon (The Eternal Dungeon). Nothing in life is certain but love, death, and taxes. But what if all three should converge?


REISSUED FREE FICTION: Darkling Plain & Master/Other

These stories have been unlocked again and moved to new series. Information about my free fiction. Click on the titles for the full blurb and story.
 

Revenge (Darkling Plain). Revenge is sweet. . . unless you are haunted by dark memories of your own misdeeds.

Cold Stars (Master/Other). The prince was told that he must find himself. But what if finding oneself means losing one's love?


REVIEW: Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Rebirth doesn't pull its punches. It is quite intense and at times, it is pretty hard to read. The main themes explored are good and evil, guilt and redemption, life and death. . . . Rebirth is about two men, both very damaged by their pasts, and both of whom want nothing more than to be reborn into men that are each worthy of the other." —My Fiction Nook on Rebirth (The Eternal Dungeon).
 

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other)

An Arthurian tale. A simple Greek lesson reaches deep when a tutor seeks to teach a prince what can happen when love and duty clash.

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


Excerpt

I had already reached the summer room before I remembered; then I cursed myself. For four years, against all odds, I had maintained good relations with Belin, and one of the reasons I had managed to do so was because I had always shown him beforehand any texts I would assign to the prince. Belin had forbidden me to use only a handful of the texts I had shown him over the years; it took me little time to realize that this would have been one of the few.

I hesitated a moment, wondering what would be the best course to take now; then I molded my heart into courage and went searching for the priest, to make my confession.

I found him, appropriately, in the house's chapel. It had been a shrine to Mithras in the old days; Belin was not above desecrating other men's sacred places. To be fair to him, he probably thought he was bringing the shrine into the use that its original creators would have wanted, had they been so fortunate as to know of the Anointed One. Unlike some priests I had met over the years, Belin was refreshingly free of talk about pagan demons and their devillish followers; instead, he spoke of the fulfillment and summation of all good things in the Anointed One.

He was innocent of the fact that anyone might be offended upon being told that they adhered to a childish faith. I had not disillusioned him, partly because he was a good man in his own way, but mainly because he and his clergy friends were of too much importance. I had been in Ravenna when Rome's fourteen-year-old emperor was deposed there, partly because the Bishop of Salona denounced him.

Belin was not praying; he was reading from a bound wax tablet. At first I thought it was the letter from the King, but as I came closer I saw that the tablet's seal was not red but golden.

He looked up as I stopped next to him, and I said, "Bishop Dubricius has written to you?"

He nodded; his face was shining with joy. "He has asked me to send him the treatise I told him of, on the Blessed Paul's denunciation of pederasty."

I sat down on the bench beside him. The chapel was small, having originally been part of the larger room beside it, and then walled off when some earlier priest had decided that this mixing of sacred and secular was unwise. A tortured man hung from the wall – Belin was fashionable in his artistic tastes, and he preferred this design over the bare crosses that hung in most churches and chapels that I had seen. I slid my gaze away from the atrocity – after all, I reminded myself, my own ancestors had not been adverse to shedding blood for sacred purposes, though they had not gone so far as to revel in the agonizing death of a god. The altar below the cross was more to my taste, having been consecrated originally to an older god, as could be seen from the fact that the lettering of dedication had been hacked away.

The chapel was otherwise beautiful, filled with candles and incense and spring flowers. I breathed in the spice of the incense – I recognized it as one of the spices I had brought as a gift from the old Empire four years before – and tried to think what approach I should take in my confession. It did not appear that this was the best time for raising such a topic.

Belin, thankfully oblivious to my thoughts, said, "He says that he would like to use the treatise to help him compose a homily on the subject."

"Indeed?" I said. "That is a great honor."

Belin nodded, continuing to smile. "That such a great and influential man should value my thoughts on the subject is humbling to me. I hope that he will not be disappointed by what I have to offer. All that I have done is suggest some scriptural support for the Holy Church's condemnation of pederasty."

Belin was always the most polite of men; he never used words such as "sodomy" in the presence of an unbeliever. I said, "Surely that is not a matter that is under debate among the Anointed One's followers?"

The priest shook his head, his smile fading. "You would be surprised what wicked arguments men will make in the name of God. The bishop has among his flock some men and youth who, having lapsed into this sin, refuse to show proper contrition, but instead argue that the Blessed Paul did not condemn pederasty but some other sin instead. They quote the Blessed Hippolytus, who said that the Blessed Paul was speaking of those who take part in the orgiastic rites of the mother goddess. But I believe this is a misinterpretation of the letter to the Romans, and that the true interpretation of the passage can be found by examining the letters' later use of the words arsenokoites and malakos . . ."

He continued on for some time in this vein, with me pretending to show great interest – and indeed, I can always stay attentive to a good discussion of translation problems, however trivial the text may be. When Belin reached the point where he was preparing to describe the use of malakos in Homer to refer to Achilles' "soft bed," I interrupted him and said, "But does your holy man Paul say why he is opposed to pederasty?"

"That is clear from the words he uses," Belin replied promptly. "A malakos is a soft man, an effeminate man, one who has allowed himself to be used for the sexual pleasure of another man, as a woman should properly be used. 'Men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another . . .'"

This was tiresome; I had heard this argument made by too many would-be philosophers over their drinks. "I can see that might be true of men," I said mildly, "but we are not talking about men, we are talking about youths. Surely at that time of life, the role of a young man is to follow, not lead, and it would be as improper for him to serve as master over his lover as it would be for a woman to serve as master in a marriage."

Too late, I remembered that it is never wise to try to argue philosophy with followers of the Anointed One; they always end up appealing to their holy book as certain proof that their god ordained such-and-such an action. Belin, who had turned concerned eyes toward me, said, "Good Arnobius speaks of how the King of Pessinus sought to withdraw his son from so disgraceful an intimacy, but spurned on by the frenzied madness of his lover, the youth mutilated himself—"

I stood up hastily, my head swimming from the sudden rise. For a moment, I thought that I was on the edge of a vision, but then I saw before me only the priest, staring up at me with the benevolent concern of a holy man who has failed to assist a soul that has strayed from his god's ways.

"I am out of my depth in these matters, I fear," I said with a smile. "I would appreciate it if you would lend me a copy of your treatise so that I may learn more on this subject. For now, though, I must return to my pupil."

Belin nodded, satisfied with this excuse, and turned his attention back to the tablet. I left him in the chapel with the flickering candles and made my way hurriedly down the corridor as the bells began to chime for dinner. No, not a good time for a confession, I thought. My best course of action would be to take the scroll back and return it to its hiding place.

I could only hope that the prince had not read far.
 

Available free online: O Most Unthankful (Master/Other). Information about my free fiction.


NEW SERIES: Dungeon Guards

The Eternal Dungeon is soon to wrap up after five volumes and fourteen years' worth of stories. (I do plan to write an additional postlude novel.) However, don't worry. Although my main protagonists' stories are wrapping up, the Eternal Dungeon is a big place, and some of the other residents there have been clamoring for their own series.

Dungeon Guards is my response to their demands. That series begins with The Shining Ones, which I originally published as a side novella in the Eternal Dungeon series, but which is now story #1 in Dungeon Guards. The rest of the first volume of Dungeon Guards is already written (my Muse has had a good summer), so you'll be seeing those stories too, probably next year.
 

OLD SERIES: Young Spies & Young Toughs

Because I'll be having less bookstore presence in the future, I've taken down my YA site and am folding the current volume of Young Spies (Law Links, which started off as a Three Lands volume) back into The Three Lands. The Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series Young Toughs will remain independent, but it will serve as a companion series to Waterman, featuring minor characters from Waterman in their own series. (If you've been paying attention, you already know that this is what Young Toughs has consisted of so far.)
 

PROGRESS REPORTS

I've moved my progress reports to the bottom of each series page, for readers' easier reference: The Eternal Dungeon, Dungeon Guards, Michael's House, Life Prison, Commando, Waterman, Young Toughs, and The Three Lands. (The Three Lands has an especially long "in progress" list. Man, was I ambitious in the 1990s.) I haven't included progress reports for the archived series, because who knows when I'll get around to updating any of them; but I can say that I plan to repost all the completed stories from Loren's Lashes and Leather in Lawnville. Also, Wizard of the Sun is coming soon.
 

OTHER WEBSITE CHANGES

I've revised two FAQ: Which accessible books are available for the disabled? and I'm visually impaired. What else should I know about this website?

The copyright and FAQ pages have been changed to reflect my return to concentrating on free fiction.

About the Author has been updated with information on my preferred pronouns (they/their) – and wow, how amazing it is to live in an era when people actually ask for that information.

The Older Writings section of my home page has been expanded to list fiction series titles and nonfiction site titles.
 

NEWS FOR E-BOOK SUBSCRIPTION READERS

Scribd is carrying my e-books again, and 24symbols has been carrying them for a while, so I've added those links to the entries for my e-books that are in wide distribution.

I'd talked on my blog last spring about placing some of my stories in Kindle Unlimited. Instead I'm posting all my stories online! Which means I can't put them in Kindle Unlimited, since Amazon requires exclusivity of KU titles, darn it. I apologize to those of you who prefer to download stories from the Kindle store.
 

E-BOOK PRICES LOWERED

As mentioned above, I'm lowering my e-book prices. Omnibuses are now $9.99, novels/volumes are $2.99, and short fiction is 99c.
 

INTERVIEWS

I had a couple of interviews last spring that are already a bit outdated, in terms of my e-book plans, but a lot of what I said remains relevant.

MM Book Escape interviewed me. Much of the interview is about The Eternal Dungeon. You can read about the interviewer, KathyMac.

J. Scott Coatsworth also interviewed me. The interview centers on my lgbtq speculative fiction. In addition to being an author of lgbtq speculative fiction himself, Mr. Coatsworth is the energetic founder of the Queer Sci Fi community for readers and writers of lgbtq speculative fiction. I highly recommend Queer Sci Fi's Facebook group; it's lively with interesting conversations.

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

NEW E-BOOKS

Click on the covers for more information.

Far Enough AwayIn Hot Water
 

NEW E-BOOK SERIALIZATION OF A 2011 VOLUME

Click on the cover for more information.

Blood on the Blade
 

REISSUED E-BOOKS

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

The BalanceRe-creation
 

NEW COVERS

Click on the covers for more information.

Blood VowLaw of VengeanceLaw Links


REVIEW: The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon)

"Everything Dusk Peterson writes is ridiculously deep, rich, and satisfying. The Shining Ones is no exception. It was strikingly beautiful. The prose lingers and swirls." —Inked Rainbow Reviews on The Shining Ones (The Eternal Dungeon).


FREE FICTION: Night Shadow (Darkling Plain)

A reissued story at Archive of Our Own. Information about my fiction at Archive of Our Own.
 

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?

(Permalink.)


Spy Hill

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Spy Hill (Commando)

"Fairview was the finest friend a man could have, and the finest battle-companion. I dared not risk doing anything that might break our friendship."

On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

Rook and Fairview have worked alongside each other for years, first as officers in the navy, then as officers on a steamship, and finally as colonels in an invading army. Members of a nation where tiny differences of rank are considered all-important, the two men defy convention by treating each other as equals.

But now their life-long bond is about to meet its greatest strain, when they are ordered to seize and defend a hill whose landscape is unknown, in the company of soldiers who may be incompetent or treacherous. Will Rook and Fairview's friendship remain by the end of the battle? Or will their lives take an unexpected detour as they struggle to survive on Spy Hill?

This novella (short novel) of friendship and gay love can be read on its own or as part of Commando, a historical speculative fiction series that imagines what the South African Boer War could have been like if it had been fought on American soil.

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


Excerpt

As we reached the main trench, I bent down on one knee to inspect it. The stone breastwork that Spearman's sappers had built in front of the main trench – and in front of the right-flank and left-flank trenches – reached no more than a hand's span toward the sky.

"We'll be on our bellies if anyone shoots at us," said Major Arundel, Tice's second-in-command, who had come over to see how the other two battalions were doing. "Still, these stones are solid enough. They should do their work in shielding us, since the Mippites will have to shoot at us from far down on the slope. We should be able to kill any attackers before they come near enough to harm us." He glanced over his shoulder. Tice had evidently given up on swaying the General; he had stepped away from the General's rock, disgust on his face. To my dismay, I saw that the General was sitting in his field-chair now, smoking a cigarette and reading a book of poetry.

"I heard a rumor that his father forced him into the army," said Arundel, shaking his head. "He didn't want to be a soldier at all; he wanted to work for peace between Mip and the Dozen Landsteads, through the High Masters' diplomatic office."

"Even so," said Fairview, "he knows how to shoot a gun. I've seen him."

"Oh, yes, sir; he received military training in school," said Arundel. "But knowing how to fire a gun and being willing to do so – that's another matter."

Too many of Fairview's men were listening in on us; it would not do for them to think we had no faith in our General. I said stiffly, "It's not the General's job to shoot guns. His job is to issue orders."

"That's so, sir," said Arundel, saluting me in acknowledgment of my reprimand. "If you'll excuse me, Colonel Fairview, Colonel Rook – I should be getting back to my men."

"Prayers," murmured Fairview as he knelt down beside me to look at the shallow trench. It went down barely a foot before the sappers had hit rock.

"How many prayers do you know?" I tried to smile.

"Oh, plenty." Fairview turned to accept a sip of water from Davey, who was holding Fairview's water bottle. "When we joined the navy . . . do you remember that day?"

I nodded. "I was just remembering. We flipped to see who went first in line."

Fairview laughed. "Did we? I'd forgotten that, after all these years. Well, the night before we joined, I went to my grandmama and asked her what advice she had for me. My grandpapa had been a soldier, and I thought she might have overheard him talking about military matters before he died."

"Indeed?" I relaxed back onto my haunches. Around us, the enlisted men were tidying up after their breakfasts, while their officers checked to see that everyone's rifle was loaded, everyone's extra ammunition was at hand. In the dressing station, doctors and their assistants carried out final preparations. There was no sign yet of the stretcher-bearers and water-carriers, though I knew that Fairview had sent orders for their arrival, after he discovered that the General had neglected this task.

Fairview nodded, pushing back his helmet. The morning sun was growing brighter; an occasional bird flew past us, chirping brightly. Otherwise, all I could hear was the equally bright chatter of our men. "She taught me as many battle prayers as she could recall, and then she said, 'Alec my boy, the most important thing to remember is to put your affairs in good order before you go into battle. It's no use worrying about your affairs, once battle has begun. You need to do beforehand everything that needs to be done. The Fates get awfully annoyed at you if you arrive in afterdeath and tell them you've forgotten to do something. It's like leaving a stove fire going when you depart the house."

Fairview's messenger-lad put his hand over his mouth to smother his titter. I laughed outright. "And have you followed her advice?"

Fairview gave a quirk of a smile. "I suppose not. I've always been poor at tending to needed tasks."

"You're not the one who needs to make that confession." I frowned as I glanced back at the right flank. All seemed in order among my soldiers; the officers, good men, had noticed the brightening light and were urging the enlisted men into position in the trenches. It occurred to me, as I looked around, that Fairview's men were already in position, as were Tice's.

It was true enough, that Fairview and I made decisions jointly. But I had always been a bit slower than him in thinking matters through. The result of this was that, time after time, Fairview had acted first, and I had followed in his wake. It was the only flaw in our otherwise flawless friendship.

I looked over at Fairview again, and was surprised to see that he too was frowning. "Is something on your mind?" I asked. With one hand, I indicated the scene before us.

"The fighting, you mean? No. We've done everything we can to prepare, given our orders. It's just . . . Well, this isn't the place to talk about it, I suppose. Big ears." He looked over at Davey, who had been leaning in to listen. The lad blushed and ducked his head. Fairview laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

"Sir!" It was Branchwater, Fairview's second-in-command. "The mist is lifting!"

Fairview and I rose to our feet. Everywhere, despite the orders to entrench, men were standing up, trying to peer through the pale veil that was lifting as we watched. Whiteness turned to green and brown; I saw spread before us the lower ground that led to Fort Frederick. It was dotted with soldiers, many of them clustered near a creek at the foot of Spy Hill. Some of the soldiers below were already climbing.

My eyes rose further up. To the northeast I could see a magnificent range: the highest mountains I'd spied yet in Mip. And to our left, barely six hundred yards away, was the knoll to the north of Spy Hill. Light glimmered on rifle barrels there.

"Sweet blood," whispered Fairview. It was a prayer.

Then came a boom from Fairview Mountain, and the creek shook. Every man on the summit fell to his stomach.

The Mippite gunners had found us.

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


NEW YOUNG ADULT COMPANION SERIES TO THE THREE LANDS

I've started a new young adult series that is a companion series to The Three Lands. It's called Young Spies, and it will center upon teenage characters in the Three Lands of the Great Peninsula. As with the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs cycle, I've given this cycle of two series a name: The Great Peninsula. And as with Young Toughs, this is a YA crossover series, intended to be read by both young adults and adults.

(As an aside: I was stunned to discover that nobody, in the history of American publishing, has ever before used the title "Young Spies" for either a book or a series. What are the odds of that?)

To start the series, I'm serializing Law Links, which was previously published in the Three Lands series but which I've shifted to Young Spies because its protagonist is a teenager.

You'll see that I've managed to figure out a way to keep the stories of The Three Lands available at Amazon while I bring out the new multiformat editions. However, the series omnibus will be unavailable for a while.

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

Journey to Manhood

NEW NOVELETTE: Journey to Manhood (Young Toughs)

"Perhaps, when they spoke next, the other young man could tell Simmons of any masters here who were in need of an apprentice who was perilously close to the age of journeymanship."

Simmons has been waiting all his life for the day when he would come of age and pledge his service to a liege-master. But at the last minute, all his plans go awry; he is left in the awful position of having to find a liege-master quickly. Desperation may force Simmons to pick the worst of liege-masters.

Working at his uncle's waterfront store on a bay island, Simmons seeks a way out of his dilemma. Then another young man walks through the door, one whose problems may be even worse than Simmons's. . . .

With a setting based upon an island on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1910s, this novelette (miniature novel) can be read on its own or as a story in Young Toughs, an alternate history series about the struggles of youths in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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

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


Excerpt

At that moment, the door opened. A light spring breeze, fresh with the smell of Bay water, entered the store, along with a waterman, unmistakable in his oilskin hat and coat and boots. Simmons caught a flash of the man's rank-mark on the back of his right wrist as he removed his glove: black.

The servant wasted no time in the doorway; he limped forward as Simmons's uncle said, "Ah, Sol. I'm glad to see you up and about. How's that leg of yours doing?"

"None too good." The servant's reply was so brief, and without proper salutation, that Simmons might have thought the waterman rude, but he noticed that the man had carefully removed his hat the moment that the owner of the general store spoke.

His uncle, at any rate, seemed to treat his remark as inoffensive. "I'm sorry about that – very sorry indeed. But you've found a new captain, I hear? How have the oysters been this winter?"

Sol shook his head as he removed a list from within his coat. "None too good neither. Way I figure, all the right good ones've been stole by those dredgers from the Western Shore."

His uncle sighed. "It's very sad, very sad indeed that there's such animosity between our landstead and the Second Landstead. That their boats should take oysters from our own territory . . . Ah, well, oyster season is over. And Captain Harvey is doing well, I suppose, if he could afford to hire you as his new man."

Sol shrugged as he laid the list on a lard barrel next to Simmons's uncle. "Needed couple more servants for his boat. He's still short a man. Come autumn, he'll be looking for more watermen."

"Really? He needs more crew, with all the watermen on this island?" Simmons's uncle took the list and peered at it through his spectacles.

"'Deed he do. He's like to hire a full-grown man, but an oyster-shucking boy would do." Sol's gaze wandered over to Simmons. After a moment, Simmons realized why, and he felt his face grow flush.

Travelling from the capital to Hoopers Island had been no problem; Simmons had simply hired a boat with most of the remaining money his father had given him for the brief period during which he would still need his family's income, before his liege-master should begin paying him. But Simmons's belongings had been a greater problem. He had not anticipated having to move them further than the bedroom that had long awaited him in the house of his liege-master's father.

With his plans turned awry, he had been forced to dispose of all but his most precious goods. Fortunately, school term had only just ended; he had been able to give many of his belongings to the servant who had tended his study-bedroom at Capital School.

His trunks, he had sent down to Hoopers Island by road. He had taken care to hire an automobile, naively believing that, with such a swift means of transportation, his trunks would be awaiting him when he arrived by boat.

His uncle had smothered a laugh when he heard this, then had patiently explained that most of the marshy roads between the capital and Hoopers Island were not yet paved. The roads on Hoopers Island were. The pavement consisted of logs and oyster shells.

Feeling very much an ignorant townboy, and envisioning the automobile wallowing in the mud – or even sinking without a trace in the marshes – Simmons had made do as best he could. His uncle, a portly man, had no clothes that would fit the new arrival, and his uncle's apprentice was several sizes too small. So Simmons – by now grateful for anything that would cover his body – had borrowed clothing from his uncle's manservant, a waterman who spent most of his days making deliveries by boat.

His uncle, looking up from the list and seeing Sol's gaze upon Simmons, seemed to realize the mistake that the waterman had made. Characteristically, he did not reprimand the erring servant. Placing his arm across Simmons's shoulder, he said, "This is my nephew, Jasper Simmons. His journeymanship birthday is coming next month, so he's staying with us this month while he decides which master he wishes to pledge his liege-service to."

Sol did not embarrass Simmons by asking, "Why did you wait till now?" But neither did he dip his eyes, as any well-trained servant would ordinarily do under such circumstances. All that he said was, "Right glad to meet you . . . sir."

The slight pause could have been taken any number of ways, but Simmons, staring into the waterman's eyes, suddenly realized that this was a servant who rarely addressed masters as sir.

Smiling at the special courtesy he had just been granted, Simmons said, "I'm glad to meet you as well, Servant Sol."

Then, and only then, did the waterman dip his eyes. And Simmons realized that he had been granted a deep courtesy indeed. Simmons wondered what, by all that was sacred, he had done to earn such honor.

His uncle squeezed Simmons's arm in some sort of silent accolade. "I won't keep you, Sol; I know you're busy. Some of these items will have to be wrapped. Your boat-master still docks at Back Creek? I'll have my apprentice bring the goods over, then."

"Master Simmons." Sol's slight nod of farewell encompassed both uncle and nephew; then he turned away.

At the doorway, he paused. Another man had just arrived, wearing a wool coat against the spring chill. He made some brief greeting, and Sol, hearing the man's refined accent, carefully stepped to one side to let the master enter.

"That's a good man," said Simmons's uncle softly as the door shut behind Sol. "A very good man. I'm glad you didn't take offense at his mistake."

"Why should I?" Simmons laughed as he turned to his uncle, but he kept his voice low as well, so as not to disturb the newly arrived master, who was now at the other end of the store, fingering a bottle of morphine.

His uncle raised his eyebrows. "Some masters would be very offended indeed to be mistaken for a servant."

"Oh, but I look like a servant at the moment." Simmons stared down at his shabby clothing. "It's not his fault. I suppose I ought really to change out of these, lest I mislead—"

A bell, higher in pitch than a fog-bell, interrupted his speech. His uncle glanced out the window facing the water and said, "Postal boat. It's early today."

"Shall I help you bring in the mail, Uncle?" asked Simmons.

"No, no, my lad. You stay here and tend the customers." His third-ranked uncle patted Simmons's shoulder somewhat awkwardly.

Simmons could understand why. He was still becoming used to it himself, his rise in rank. At school, he had always held the awkward position of being the son of a third-ranked master who was very, very rich. Now, after many years, the Third Landstead's House of Government had eased the lack of alignment between their family's wealth and rank by granting to Simmons's father the title of Envoy Extraordinary, assigning him duties in an overseas nation in the Old World and raising him to second rank.

Until that time, as a third-ranked lad, Simmons's choices were clear: as a journeyman, he could train under his father, under a third-ranked master, or under a second-ranked master – not under a first-ranked master, as he futilely tried to point out to his first-ranked schoolfellow Eugene on many occasions.

But now Simmons was second-ranked. He could train under a first-ranked master. He could even pledge his liege-loyalty to that master.

"I told you it would work out," Eugene had squealed, hugging the older boy on the day that Simmons received the news of his eligibility to be Eugene's liegeman. And Simmons had hugged Eugene back, stunned and joyful at this turn of events.

But it had not worked out – not in the end. . . .
 

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



FREE FICTION: Crossing the Cliff (Darkling Plain)

A reissued story at Archive of Our Own.
 

Crossing the Cliff (Darkling Plain). After ten years as apprentice to a Peacesteward, the one thing Erastus is sure of is that he's ill-prepared to become a master. Unfortunately, he's about to discover just how ill-prepared he is.

When he and his master stray into forbidden territory, Erastus is thrust alone into a community that is on the brink of war. His only hope for bringing peace is to ally himself with a young boy . . . a boy who has stolen what Erastus values most.

(Permalink.)


REISSUES: The Eternal Dungeon

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

RebirthThe Unanswered QuestionCommoners' Festival


REVIEW: Life Prison

"Beautifully written. Even the things that shouldn't be beautiful, were." —Amazon (Fenriz Angelo) on Life Prison (Life Prison).


Unmarked

FEATURED BACKLIST TITLE: Unmarked (Waterman)

"Master Meredith, whose entitlement to a last name had not yet been determined by the courts, was sitting in a window-seat overlooking the playing fields of Narrows School when the Third House bullies found him."

He needs a guard.

In his final terms of school before his university years, Meredith is faced with a host of problems: A prefect who abuses his power. A games captain who is supposed to protect Meredith but has befriended the prefect. And a legal status that makes everyone in the school question whether Meredith belongs there, among the elite.

Unexpectedly, rescue arrives, in the shape of a fellow student who seems determined to right wrongs. There's only one problem. . . .

"Fair play" is the motto of the Third House, but that motto takes on a different meaning when Meredith is secretly wooed by a young man from a rival House.

This novel can be read on its own or as the third and final story in the "Master and Servant" volume of Waterman, a speculative fiction series set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s and during the future as it was envisioned in the 1960s.
 

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


Excerpt

"Power boats is more important," insisted Billy to Theo. "Think of all the right calm days when we could be tonging oysters."

"The master of the House of His Master's Kindness wants power boats too," pointed out Sol. "And power dredging to go with it." In the silence that followed, he raised his voice, saying, "Lad, you're as quiet and dark as a dredger boat come night. Didn't hear nor see you till now."

Meredith stepped forward from where he had been fingering a muskrat trap that hung for sale from the ceiling. "I didn't mean to disturb your conversation, sir."

"You ain't disturbing nothing that don't deserve disturbing. You looking to find your daddy?"

"Yes, sir. My father said that he would meet me at the foot of the drawbridge, but he isn't there, and his skiff isn't docked at Back Creek. I thought you might have seen him recently."

"'Deed I did – seen him at his workplace just this morning, and he gave me this note for you. He figured you'd be coming by here." Sol reached down and pulled a piece of paper out of his rubber boot – probably the driest place he had for storing paper. He offered the note to Meredith, without rising.

Meredith cautiously came forward. As he reached out his hand to take the note, his overcoat spread open to reveal his blazer. The new crewman, who had just taken hold of the mug, choked on the coffee. The crewman hastily rose to his feet.

None of the other servants followed suit. With the exception of Sol, the servants were looking at the fish-hooks, the stuffed eagle on the wall, the turpentine, the tins of chewing tobacco, the corsets . . . anything but the young master standing in their midst.

Meredith tried to ignore his churning stomach, instead concentrating his attention on unfolding and reading the message. It was written in his father's uneven hand and erratic spelling: "Substute keeper sik. Yu come. Yur father, Master James Hooper."

His father had almost written "Yur daddy," but had scribbled out the servant-style word in time. Meredith looked up. Everybody was still staring at the store's merchandise, other than the new crewman – who was gazing with horror at his fellow servants – and Sol, who was watching Meredith.

"Thank you, sir," said Meredith to Sol. "Will you be going back to see my father any time soon?"

Sol shook his head. "Not till Spring Death. You needing a ride out? Believe Master Simmons is sending out goods to your daddy today."

"Thank you for that information, sir. I'll ask him whether I can ride along in his boat, then." He hesitated, seeking an excuse to linger longer, but most of the crewmen were beginning to shuffle their feet, and the new crewman looked as though he was about to expire from terror. "Goodbye," Meredith said, looking around at the crew, trying to make the farewell general.

Sol was the only one who bothered to reply to him. "You keep warm and safe, lad, and you give your daddy my respects, hear?"

"Yes, sir, I'll be glad to," replied Meredith eagerly, relieved to carry out a duty. "May I do anything else for you?"

In the next moment, he would gladly have thrown himself in front of the rifles of the Second Landstead's dredgers. Billy and Theo exchanged looks, while Hallie simply rolled his eyes.

Sol, far more patient than the others, said, "Thanks, lad, but there ain't no need. You'd best be getting on your way."

Meredith, taking the hint, backed away from the warm circle of fellowship. He opened the store's door, which was nearly wrenched from his hand; a moderate gale wind had blown up while he was inside. He swiftly closed the door, then leaned on it to make sure it had shut properly. As he did so, he heard the new crewman say, "Sol, have you gone mad as a 'Mippian in battle, speaking like that to a master? He's making fun at you, certain, calling you 'sir.'"

Sol said something in a voice too low for Meredith to hear.

"Him?" The new crewman sounded incredulous. "He don't look nothing like his daddy."

"Don't speak like him, neither," said Billy. "But he's the one, all right – Jim's son."

"You mean, Master Hooper's son." Theo's voice was bitter.

Billy made a sound like spitting. "Mean what I say. Jim was born a servant. He's still a servant, whatever he may think."

"It's him getting that new religion that messed up his head," suggested Hallie, who had barely been born at the time that the episode happened. "Him and all them Reformed Traditionalists—"

"Ain't a matter of Traditionalists 'gainst Reformed Traditionalists," Billy insisted. "Even if a man can go in one lifetime from being servant to being master, Jim ain't that man."

There was a murmur of agreement, and Theo asked, "Why d'you suppose he asked to be raised in rank? He was doing right smart in our crew."

"Why d'you think?" shot back Billy. "Way I figure it, he wanted a crew of his own."

"If that was his reason, he's well punished," interjected Hallie. "Ain't a crew in this fleet that'll sail under him."

"Neither would any boat-master take him as journeyman, back in the days when he was that young. Well, he's burned his own corpse-ashes." Theo sounded satisfied.

"The lad's who I feel sorry for," said Billy. "Being brought up figuring he's a master, when it's plain to see that he's just like his daddy."

"That's enough talk," said Sol gruffly. "You boys shouldn't be speaking 'gainst your betters."

"Our betters?" said Billy incredulously.

"Servant Sol, you keep your tongue to yourself," said Theo. "You ain't my master."

"But Jim is his best pal." Hallie sounded hesitant. "We shouldn't be talking like that 'gainst Sol's pal."

"He ain't my pal." There was no mistaking the bitterness in Sol's voice. "He's ranked as a master now; masters can't have servants as pals. But he was my pal once, and he followed the water along with us, over many a year, so there ain't no call for talk 'gainst him. He's catched his fair share of oysters and crabs and fish; it's his right to do what his faith and his conscience tells him."

There was an acknowledging murmur that sounded like it was more of dissent than of agreement. Sol, reading his fellow crewmen's mood, said, "Ain't worth talking 'bout what we can't change. You hear that wind out there? Sounds like the nor'west blow has arrived. Oh my blessed, I sure am glad the master let us take the day off."

That remark brought loud calls of agreement, and Theo began talking about what the annual autumn storm had been like in his great-granddaddy's day.

Meredith, turning away from the door, almost tripped over the watermen's tongs, leaning against the wall by the door. One of the tongs still had an oyster shell stuck within its tines. Absent-mindedly, Meredith took off his mittens, pried the shell off the tine, and nearly threw it in the great pile of shells near the porch. Master Simmons bought shells from the oyster packing houses and then resold them to companies that used the shells for road paving or fertilizer or chicken grit.

Then, on a whim, Meredith curled his hand round the shell. Letting his rucksack lie sheltered against the leeward side of an empty barrel, he shoved the shell and his mittens into his overcoat pockets and stepped off the porch.

The wind was hard as a culler's hammer now. The water had nearly emptied; most of the boat-masters, seeing the signs of the coming storm, had retreated to harbors and coves. Meredith, who had endured worse winds than this over the years, walked slowly toward the store's wharf, his thoughts on matters other than the weather.

It had never occurred to him to call Sol anything other than "sir." Whatever Sol's perspective might be on Servant Jim's transformation into Master James Hooper, Meredith knew that Sol was the closest thing his father had left to a friend. And so, since Meredith called his father "sir," he had also called his father's friend "sir." His father had never forbidden him from doing so, and Sol had not seemed disturbed by Meredith's manner of address.

But Meredith had not seen Sol in over three seasons, he recalled now. Perhaps the rules for proper address had changed, now that Meredith was beyond his apprentice years. Perhaps it would be safer to address Sol as "Servant Solomon." That would still be respectful, wouldn't it? Or would it overemphasize Sol's rank in relation to the young master who spoke to him?

Meredith sighed. The person he should be addressing such questions to, he was fully aware, was his liege-master. But Pembroke would treat any such question as a sign of weakness in him. Meredith supposed he would have to ask his own father instead – yet he was growing overly old for seeking answers from his father. Most of his fellow students treated their confirmation ceremony as a time when they broke away from the care of their parents. As journeymen, they still could not own property or run a House or business in their own right. But they were old enough to work under their liege-master, to study at university, and – with their liege-master's permission – to marry. They were even old enough to father children.

Meredith reached the shore. Master Simmons had cleared out all the Bay grass from the shoreline, so the shoreline was bare except for mud and the usual assortment of shells. Meredith fingered the shell in his pocket as he stared out at the churning waves, his eyes blinking against the harsh wind. He had wished, many a time, that he had never been fathered, or at least had been fathered after the revocation of the Act of Celadon and Brun. If that had happened, then his life's path would be clear. As it was . . .

The oyster shell was cutting into his tightened fingers now. He stared out at the water, where the crew of a lone shallop was struggling to reach shore. In a sudden and uncharacteristic fury, he took the oyster from his pocket and prepared to hurl it into the waves.
 

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



NEW TOUGHS SERIES & NEW YOUNG ADULT FICTION PORTAL

I've started a new Turn-of-the-Century Toughs series, entitled Young Toughs, which will center upon teenage characters in the Toughs world. Some of the characters will have appeared in other Toughs series, while other characters will be new. So Young Toughs is a crossover series with other Toughs series. It's also crossover fiction in another sense: this is a young adult series that is intended for both teens and adults.

I've added a portal, ya.duskpeterson.com, that will help readers go directly to my YA fiction. All the series listed there appear on the duskpeterson.com website, so you needn't check both places. However, those of you who are interested in young adult fiction may like to see my links to my favorite YA adventure fiction authors.
 

ABOUT THE REISSUES OF REBIRTH AND SPLIT

The Toughs series' volume e-books (Rebirth, Whipster, etc.) have needed new covers, and some of the volumes haven't been available in multiformat, so I'm gradually (re)issuing them all in multiformat editions. I'm taking this opportunity to reread the stories within the volumes to catch any stray typos or continuity errors that I missed the first time through. Other than that, there are no changes to the content.

Speaking of typos, I'm usually pretty good about catching them before publication, but I let a couple of really horrendous ones slip by me with Split. (Such as switching my protagonist's first and last names toward the end of the story.) Since I didn't want to wait till the full volume of Sweet Blood was issued before correcting errors of this magnitude, I've uploaded a corrected version of Split to the bookstores. If you've bought a copy in the past, you can try downloading the e-book again from the bookstore where you bought it, if the bookstore allows that. (The new edition is marked as the February 2016 edition in the copyright notice.) If that doesn't work, drop me a line, letting me know which format(s) you bought, and I'll send you a replacement. I'm sorry about the extra trouble to you.
 

THE THREE LANDS IS GOING TEMPORARILY OUT OF PRINT

Or whatever the electronic equivalent is of "out of print." Although I'm keeping all of the Toughs stories published as I reissue the volumes, The Three Lands is a more serious marketing challenge, since it's never found much of a readership. I've decided that it would be best to take an entirely fresh approach to the series, so I'll be taking down the current editions as I begin to issue the new editions (and will bring out new stories in the series, if my Muse is cooperative). I'll be taking down the current Three Lands e-books at the beginning of April; in the meantime, they remain available.
 

PROGRESS REPORT

The progress report of my writings has been updated, showing which stories are closest to being published (and which aren't).

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

The following e-books, both from the Main Bookshelf, have appeared in new e-book editions.

New Kindle e-book edition:

Blood Vow (The Three Lands). He has taken a blood vow to the Jackal God to bring freedom to his land by killing Koretia's greatest enemy. But what will he do when the enemy becomes his friend?

New ePub e-book edition (free):

Night Shadow (Darkling Plain). 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.

I'm in the process of converting my entire backlist into ePub e-books. Some of the e-books will have bonus material about the creation of the stories.

If you're not familiar with the format, ePub is the MP3 of the e-book world: a common e-book format that can be read by many e-readers and mobile devices. Since an ePub e-book is simply a bunch of HTML files collected together in a special way with a few other files, you can easily read ePub e-books in your Web browser, as well as in e-readers, mobile devices, etc. More information is available in Easy Ways to Read ePub E-books.

My first ePub e-book is now online: "Night Shadow." If you plan to read my e-books at any time in the future, I'd appreciate it if you'd download this free e-book. If you encounter any problems with the formatting or layout, please let me know so that I can correct them now, before I publish more e-books.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
This is flash fiction for my upcoming Prison City retrofuture series, which is partly set in a 1960s world that has Jetsons-like devices. It was written in response to this prompt by Lothy at the slavefics LJ community.

Depositing money in the bank was always the worst problem.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Cover for Crossing the Cliff

After ten years as apprentice to a Peacesteward, the one thing Erastus is sure of is that he's ill-prepared to become a master. Unfortunately, he's about to discover just how ill-prepared he is.

When he and his master stray into forbidden territory, Erastus is thrust alone into a community that is on the brink of war. His only hope for bringing peace is to ally himself with a young boy . . . a boy who has stolen what Erastus values most.

"For a full minute, it seemed, we remained as we were, his left hand upon my shoulder, his right upon my face. His eyes did not move from me; I knew they did not need to. I strained to hear what he was hearing."
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
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 would bring the prince news of an approaching danger.

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."

October 2017

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