Out now: Stormy Nights

Release day for my new book. :-) This is a collection of short stories, some reprints and some new to publication. It’s available now from all good ebook sellers (and you would not believe how long I spent at the weekend tracking down All The Amazons). Full details including all those buy links are on the page for Stormy Nights on the Storm Duffy site, and you can see the cover below. I don’t have an approved-by-publisher excerpt as yet, but will endeavour to provide some snippets over the next few days.

Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

Stormy Nights contemporary gay romance

Book log – Hugo 2017 short stories

I wrote some notes as I went along with the Hugo short story nominees, which I then failed to post soon enough to be of any help to anyone else. Never mind. Here they are anyway…

Given in the order in which I read them. I’d be happy to vote for any of these, and picking an order is going to be difficult.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Two sisters, both weather workers, both capable of bending time back on itself and trying another timeline. It starts with one burning up in her own flame; it ends with the other still searching for a timeline in which her sister can live. In between we learn much about them and the different paths they have taken. It’s raw emotion delivered in skillful prose, and not only supports but demands a second reading to understand the layers. The idea of a fan or network of timelines spreading out and being able to step from one strand to another is not new; but this use of the concept is an emotionally wrenching read.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

One woman is required to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes. Another sits atop a glass hill too slippery to climb. El-Mohtar considers what might happen when the woman of one fairy tale walks into the other story, and subverts the subtext of both. “Subverts” is rather too weak a word here – it dances on the subtext with hobnailed boots. Possibly too much so, but then there’s a lot of subtext in fairy stories that needs to be dragged into the light and examined. This particular happy ending is one that I can believe has a chance at being happy ever after. It’s sweet but not saccharine.

There’s a lot to like in this story, but I was especially taken with the short scene in which the women run a scientific experiment with the golden apples meant to be a reward for the Hero who manages to climb the mountain. It left me wanting to buy the anthology it was originally published in.

First published in the anthology “The Starlit Wood” . Reprinted in Uncanny Tales (available free online). There’s an interesting discussion of it at Short Story Squee and Snark.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander

A short tale of a harpy’s sweet revenge. Too short to review without giving away too much, but fabulous use of language that brings the narrator to vivid life in a commentary on modern media’s portrayal of women.

Published in Uncanny Tales (available free online)

That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

“The people of Gaant are telepaths. The people of Enith are not. The two countries have been at war for decades, but now peace has fallen, and Calla of Enith seeks to renew an unlikely friendship with Gaantish officer Valk over an even more unlikely game of chess.”

A short story that explores some of the ramifications of full telepathy, and does so through a pair of fascinating characters and their unfolding friendship. The chess game is indeed a metaphor for the war, and gives some idea of how a non-telepathic nation could have held its own against an army of telepaths, but it’s the characterisation that makes this story shine. Calla and and Valk have each been a prisoner under the control of the other as fortunes have shifted over the war; Calla working as a nurse in her own side’s military hospital treating prisoners of war that include Valk, and then as a trustee prisoner in a Gaantish hospital desperately in need of nursing staff. The chess game starts as a way to pass time, a way to take their minds off the situation they’re in, and becomes much more.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The City Born Great by NK Jemesin

Great cities come alive, and in this short story they do so in a most literal fashion. But there are things out there that feed on new life, and a city needs a midwife to guard it as it struggles to birth itself. Our protaganist is a young black man in New York who half believes, half disbelieves a new friend’s tales of living cities and his role in New York’s story – right up until the monsters try to come for him. Stunning fantasy story deeply rooted in a deftly depicted metropolis.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

One week to publication day

So the countdown begins to the release of my short story collection. :-) Stormy Nights is now available for pre-order direct from the publisher’s website and from all the usual suspects including SmashWords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and the many and varied Amazons – UK, US, AU or search on your local ‘Zon for the ASIN B073RRNKBD.

Official list price is US$3.99. Looks like local prices are currently £3.09-£3.49 and AU$5.25 for the UK and Oz.

StormyNights-f500

Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

book log: June 2014 part 1

As previously noted, the book log is woefully out of date. However, I want to try and write up this year’s Hugo Voting Packet while it is still of some use to other people (and indeed me, for purposes of doing my ballot), so I’m skipping straight to this month instead of trying to keep it in order. Here are the three short story nominations I’ve read so far (if it wasn’t in epub, it didn’t go on the Kobo):

35) “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. The water of the title falls on anyone who lies — the less truthful what is said, the harder and colder the water falls. It’s possible to avoid the water by being careful with your phrasing, but that just makes it obvious that you’re being economical with the truth. What does it do to relationships, for both good and ill, when it becomes impossible to lie convincingly? Beautifully written character-driven short.

http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere
Amazon uk
Amazon US

(DRM-free)

36) “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. Wishes for the year are sent floating down a Thai river, and it’s one village’s duty and privilege to gather the wishes up and grant them, in exchange for the money and gifts attached to the wishes. It’s a situation that’s ripe for exploitation, but all the lives around the river are connected, and wishes can be granted in surprising ways. It’s a fun concept and there’s some nice writing in it, but the story didn’t quite gel for me.

http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/04/the-ink-readers-of-doi-saket

(DRM-free)

37) “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)

Hugo short story finalist. First person narrative by a young woman who has good reason to believe that selkie stories are for losers. It’s difficult to say much about it without spoilers. I liked it but thought it took time to get going.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2013/20130107/selkie-f.shtml

Erotic romance short story now out – Bread and Butter Pudding

I have a new short story out today. :-)

Not Quite Shakespeare cover art Bread and Butter Pudding. Erotic romance short story, 3,600 words, contemporary, m/m. First published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Not Quite Shakespeare, which is now available at Dreamspinner’s website in both ebook format (ISBN-13 978-1-63216-020-1) and trade paperback (ISBN-13 978-1-63216-019-5).

(It’s not showing up on Amazon yet, but give it a day or two and it should be.)

I have a new trib copy…

… but alas, my trib copy of The Mammoth Book of Quick and Dirty Erotica has been mangled by a minion of Royal Mail, who shoved it into my letter box without regard as to whether it could actually fit through without tearing the envelope and contents. I may have to write a letter of complaint tomorrow. And yes, I will be only too pleased to display the damaged item if need be. Anyway, my contribution, “A Sparrow Flies Through”, amounts to 4 pages out of 554. But there are 119 other stories for your entertainment contained within this volume, so if you wish to make a lot of authors and their editor and publisher very happy, you can pre-order it now at Amazon UK, Amazon US, and other fine book emporia. Official release date is 18 April, at least in the UK (US Amazon is showing a June date).

Book review: Pati Nagle – Pet Noir

79) Pati Nagle – Pet Noir

Note: I received a review copy of this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Short fix-up novel about a genetically engineered cat whose creation is commissioned by the security chief of a large space station. The chief wants an undercover agent who’ll be overlooked by criminals who might be suspicious of humanoids. A Maine Coon who’s been genetically engineered to have human level intelligence, opposable thumbs, and a tongue that can wrap itself around human language is a useful thing to have loitering around fast food outlets and in cargo holds, picking up the gossip. An ordinary-looking cat won’t be suspected because the high cost of gengineered animals means they’re still rare — but it’s a price that’s worth it for someone who wants to bust a drug-smuggling ring.

The book is structured as a series of short stories covering the first year or so of Leon’s life, a first person retrospective from the day the Chief collects a know-all kitten from the labs to a year or so later, when Leon’s experienced enough to understand how very inexperienced and naive he was that day. The general tone is that of a hard-boiled detective story, only here the hard-boiled tone is distinctly feline-flavoured and the setting is futuristic.

It’s a lot of fun following Leon’s emotional and intellectual development alongside his cases, and the cases themselves mostly make good stories. There are some good observations of feline behaviour worked into this. Leon’s mostly plausible as a portrait of a cat with boosted intelligence, and his relationship with his human partner Devin, a mix of self-centredness and genuine affection after a rocky start, works well. However, there are two flaws which badly broke suspension of disbelief for me.

The first is that Leon is not just super intelligent, at 4 weeks old he speaks fluent English and he’s already showing a better grasp of human culture than a human ten year old. Yes, cats develop much faster, but there hasn’t been time for him to physically assimilate that amount of information, even if he does spend all day in front of the tv.

The second is that Leon speaks to other, unenhanced animals, who appear to be also human level intelligence in their conversation, even if they’re speaking in cat rather than English, which rather undermines the point of him being genetically engineered for human level intelligence. There also appears to be a single human-level language across at least three species who are not regarded as fully sentient by the humans and other sentient species on the station. It felt as if the author was trying to appeal to readers who like to think of their cats as being just little humans in fur coats.

One of the things I did like about the book is that it touches on the ethics of uplifted animals. It’s a very light touch, and anything stronger would have unbalanced the book, but it’s made clear that Leon is under an indentured contract and is required to pay off the costs of his creation by working for whoever owns the contract. He’s effectively the property of Gamma Station Security for several years, and he’s unimpressed by this.

Overall, something of a mixed bag. It’s a fun light read, and has some laugh out loud moments, but there are some niggles which mean I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. A free sample consisting of the prologue and first chapter are available for download at Book View Cafe, which will give you a reasonable idea of the style.

LibraryThing entry