They strain: wolf and woman, struggling. Red cords burn across their skins, biting deep enough to bleed. Rich scents coil as they breathe, reaching in and drawing out again.
The wolf thrashes in her grip. She dodges its teeth and wrestles it down. Locking eyes, they snarl. The sound becomes one with the ocean’s roar. It pulls her, draws her, taunts her, dares her.
Furious, she dives…
Thrashing, spinning, no air, no light. Cold weight, dragging. Darkness. Sand. Shedding bonds. Shedding leather. Bursting up through cold sharp stars. Up above, a chill moon glaring. Slivered. Rimmed with fog. Furious, she sputters. Gasps. Starts to swim. Not toward the beach – away. Toward deep water solitude. To drown? To fight? To escape?
To tear the moon to pieces from its sky…
– From “Chaser,” collected in Wyldsight
“Where can I find your non-game fiction writing?” Folks ask me that question every few weeks, and so I wanted to provide a collection of links to anthologies that include my short stories. Sorry about the Amazon links, but although I realize some folks loathe that particular 16-ton gorilla, it’s still the easiest place to find work that is, in several cases, rare and/ or out of print. Even so, you can still find most of these books online… or in actual bookstores, too.
Thanks, and enjoy!
Under an Enchanted Skyline: Eight Complete Works of Urban Fantasy in One Boxed Set
My new novella “Dream Along the Edge” is being released today on a variety of platforms. Published under my pen-name Cedar Blake, this paranormal romance is part of a digital “boxed set” of six urban- fantasy novellas for an absurdly affordable price.
…His fingers brushed against my face. I leaned slightly into them. His eyes seemed to swell as they looked into my own. I closed my own eyes and held my breath again.
I can hold my breath a long, long time.
Heaven’s fingertips slid across my chin. My cheek. My throat. And then withdrew. The skin hummed where he’d touched my face. “I’m Rachel,” I breathed at last.
“I’m…” he paused.
“Heaven.” I replied, then laughed shakily. “You’re Heaven. Just go with it...”
Features my story “The Lord’s Great Jest,” a take on Poe’s tale “Hop-Frog.”
..Triptolemus and I had good reason to fear our king’s attentions. For by some gracious blessing of celestial wit, this young man and I shared a common secret with the king. Had truth prevailed in that forest of lies, all three of us would have been hoist upon the spikes intended to punish buggery. But while the king’s appetites were as gentle as his cruelties, Triptolemus and I held common comfort in the touch of a secret angel’s wings.
I cannot in good conscience claim he loved me. How could any man desire in his heart an accident of flesh such as I? It speaks of strange devotions that so beautiful a young Adonis could cradle my misshapen head, stroke a perfect finger down my cheek, suffer slights and rantings from our king when petitioning on my behalf. Triptolemus kneaded my bent shoulders, rubbed balm on my frequent whip-burns. He held me at night when the torments took me, whispering that he would never leave my side. What inspired such dedication I cannot say. He never told me then, and he cannot tell me now…
Features possibly my most disturbing tale thus far, “Clown Balloons,” which should come with its very own trigger warning.
..When we came back from the bathroom, I heard balloons scream. I wanted to stay inside, but she wouldn’t let me. She said it was time to have fun, time to laugh, time to play. Marcie wanted all her friends to be there, and I didn’t want to miss the clown, did I?
How little we recall kid fears.
He caught my eye as I came out through the door. He’d been waiting for my return. At the middle of the yard, he tortured two balloons in his white-gloved hands, much to the other children’s delight.
I winced as tiny screams broke me into goosebumps. My friends didn’t notice, but I did. Dancing Marcie held a balloon-beast in her eager hands. Bruce and Katrina did, too. The clown gave his weeping balloons a final, vicious twist, then handed the result toward me.
It was hideous…
Weird Tales: The 21st Century, Volume 1
Perhaps my most often-reprinted story, “Ravenous,” appears in this best-of collection, following its original appearance in an earlier issue of that magazine.
…The Beast screams now, fists high in the air. We pause to pose a bit. Red lights and smoke backlight us like gods of hell. Rice and I lock eyes. He grins his crazy grin, and I’ve probably got one too. Kelsey, blazing green amidst the red, lifts her arms and flexes her wings again. This close, I see light pulse through the membranes. She catches me looking, reaches out, grabs a fistful of my hair, and pulls me to her with the biggest grin of all.
The crowd goes psycho. We melt together and I taste warm green.
Time locks up again. I feel her tongue on my soul and I don’t care. Far away, my Fender’s screaming feedback. It blends with the Beast. I’m lost.
Then she rips me back. I’m at arm’s length suddenly, gasping like a fish held by a fistful of hair. Red light. Green light. Everything is fire and fog.
Now it’s Rice’s turn. I try not to watch. It’s not the first time I’ve seen them kiss but my guts twitch anyway. I don’t want to watch. I can’t not watch.
Red light. Everything goes thick and flat and red…
Featuring my faerie tale “Johnny Serious,” this collection is among my favorites on this list.
…In the streets outside, shovels and plows tore furrows in the white. They pulled the snow away, baring bones of black concrete. People walked on those bones, and drove their cars, and moved as though nothing was wrong in their world. But Johnny felt the earth ache beneath their feet. His own bones shivered at the sight. So he walled himself inside his room, with his darkness and dead rock stars and the endless call of white.
The fields and woods glowed beneath a winter moon. Night after night, Johnny sat, restless, on his bed or stood chilly near the window, his breath fogging the glass to mist. As the world slept, he stared out to the winter as if the snow could answer questions he hadn’t thought to ask.
And then one night, he saw Thorn…
My first mass-market publication, this book also contains the first appearance of my high-fantasy story “Elynne Dragonchild.” Despite MZB’s horrific personal history, she did give many authors their first big break, and I was one of them.
…Huge wings, furled to the sides, unfolded, lifted, spread, flapped. Elynne’s pulse sped beneath her skin. She feared that her hammering heart would explode as her breathing deepened, quickened, then held itself with awe. Clouds of dust and leaves swirled, rose, blew away as both girl and dragon lifted and the ground fell away.
Wind caressed Elynne, whipping hair and rippling skin. She felt her stomach lurch as the trees danced far below. She strained to clutch pounding wing muscles and cobbled dragonhide. Startled birds squawked and wheeled from distant skybourne paths. The air chilled. The clouds approached. A league or so above the ground, the dragon leveled out into a glide. Elynne raised her head, shook the hair from her eyes. Her heart skipped as wide eyes peered down upon the world spread out forever. Not even the highest hill had been anything like this. All below was green and brown. The sun seemed closer, the clouds whisping near enough to touch. Freedom sang within her – the freedom of gods. Vertigo and exultation whirled and warred and stole her breath. Gripping tightly with her legs, Elynne pulled back, sat up, and spread her arms in joy. She sucked breath from the wind that roared in her ears and then bellowed her soul’s song. The dragon peered over its shoulder to confirm her safety, but Elynne’s eyes were closed and her mouth was wide and her throat sang wordless praise for a long, long time…
Gods, I hate that kick-me title. The cover-art is even worse. Still, I love my novella “Loopholes,” which is set for reappearance in the forthcoming collection Rootless and features Gino, the attorney advocate for some dark and scary people. You can get this book in either Kindle or paperback formats now, and – lousy cover aside – there are several other good stories in the collection as well.
…Yeah, God’s a crummy lawyer. He just keeps paralegals busy with the details. Me, I became part of the opposing counsel. The price of my quarter-mil from Sal was to take my clients pro bono. Clients like the faceless woman, or sea-stallion with a thing for kids. They weren’t ALL horrors, but I parceled off enough of my soul for that partnership that by the time Stephen made off with the office, I halfway thought I deserved a knife in the back. Funny thing about loopholes: Just because you can use ’em doesn’t mean you’ll feel good about it afterward…
The first in a series of three collections of my work, Wyldsight contains the stories “Elynne Dragonchild,” “Waves,” “Gramma Wolf’s Garden,” “Drinking the Moon,” “Willow and Wind,” and “Chaser.” Book 2 in that series, Tritone: Tales of Musical Weirdness, is finished and will become available as soon as I have the time to send it to press and post it on the Kindle store. Book 3, Rootless: Tales of Mystic Men, will be completed early next year.
…Some folk in the village remembered Gram well; others drew back from her presence and held their children close. She was a rumor, a demon, a flicker of nameless dread. Where certain folk smiled, others cringed. Mama Thistle, they called her… or Gramma Wolf.
Gram did not come to the village alone. Though he stayed well out of sight at the borders of the town, the kind-eyed wolf and his pack watched for her return. When she would emerge from the market, heavy with tears and trade-goods, the wolf licked her hand and nuzzled her face and sang wild songs for her. In time, they’d leave the town behind, Gram’s step lightening with each league until she walked with sure and feral steps. Each journey into town became a trip through time – a visit back to youth that left her old until she left the town behind and became young again.
Years passed. Trees grew. Children became young adults while their parents soon turned old. Whispers crept out of the woods, settling in hungry ears. Gram, the whispers said, was wealthy, was a witch, was hiding gold beneath her garden’s soil. She was younger now, claimed the tales, than her own son was. Back in town, Gram’s son and his wife creaked with bitter age. Their own children, thick as mossy stumps, became mirrors of their impermanence.
And so, the son and his wife decided, they would visit Gram in the woods, and coax from her that secret of eternal youth…
One of the proudest achievements of my career, Ravens was a benefit collection featuring top-name authors and artists who contributed their work to help our beloved friend S.J. Tucker with some grotesque medical bills. My partner Sandra Buskirk collaborated with me on this project, and it initiated our publishing company, Quiet Thunder Productions. This book also features “Ravenous,” with a wonderful illustration by Bryan Syme. I love this book deeply, and recommend it to everyone.
…I wish I could say it stayed good between us. But nothing teenage is forever. By the time I hit senior year, Kelsey and I fought constantly. Over boys. Girls. Time together. Time apart. The only moments when the anger fell away was in the arms of Old Man Ivan. There, we remembered the children we had been. That sounds crazy, but really – wasn’t everything about us crazy…?
Okay, this one actually is game-related fiction. Still, I’m rather fond of my story “Shards” (which was later rewritten and published as “Chaser”), as it was inspired by a rather transitional time in my personal life as well as my professional one.
…“I’m not sure where we’re going, Sara,” he said after a while. “We’ve been together for a long time, but I don’t see where we’re going.”
“That’s a lot of crap,” Her tone was quiet and sharp. She restrained a sudden urge to shove him down in the sand and scream out the fury just below her words. Deep inside, below her human mask, Sara felt another, darker urge. Something inside her twisted and uncoiled…”
Okay, another game-fiction book. And to be honest, “Patchbelly and the Plague-Wolf” is not one of my better stories. Nor is “Pegasus,” really. They are what they are. Still, for Werewolf: The Apocalypse fans, this collection remains a touchstone in the series’ history, and contains a lot of good material. I’m just not terribly proud of my contributions to it, amusing though parts of them might be.
…“I have had enough of you, Horse” said Bellerophon. “Take me home.”
“HORSE!” she howled. “HORSE? I’ll take you home, good sir!” So saying, Pegasus bucked him from her back and watched him scream to his death…
Several of my other publications appear to have more or less vanished from the earth: The early ’90s anthology Dragons!, the original edition of Backstage Passes, the run of Steampunk Tales digital magazine that featured my uncompleted saga Stormada, and various other magazines like The Shroud and newWitch. Other stories have – as of this writing – been published only online. Still, this is a start. And there’s much more where this came from, coming soon…
Thank you for asking, thanks for wanting to know, and thank you for enjoying my work.