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In the spring of 2018 I was part of a writer’s workshop that included the chance to sell stories for six different anthologies.
Dominion was originally written for a romance anthology. However, it was bought by Ron and Bridget Collins for their Face the Strange anthology. The coronapocalypse delayed the publication until 2020. By then I had already written the first novel, Ravages of Honor, and several other shorter works in the same universe.
I am thrilled to bring Dominion to you as a standalone. It allowed me to further explore the origins of the donai, something that I was still fleshing out in 2017.
Like all of my works, Dominion and its companion works are all complete, standalone works, with a beginning, middle, and end.
There are no cliffhangers.
You do not need to read any of the short stories or novellas in order for them to make sense.
Available now from your favorite retailer.
I’m a very visual person and always have been. If I see it I can memorize it, learn it, remember it, etc. But listening has always been a bit more challenging. I get distracted–usually by visual stuff.
But I really wanted to hear my short story, “Bonds of Love and Duty” being read. It’s been out in Fantastic Hope (edited by Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey) since April. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can tell you that I got chills. I’ve held copies of the book in my hand, I’ve seen it in stores, but listening to it still made quite an impression.
And it did bring up a question for all of you. I remember audio books as being read/narrated without “voices.” In other words, the narrator would read them with emotion and a bit of “acting” but not attempt to impersonate the characters’ dialogue. Does a man reading a woman’s dialogue as falsetto, or a woman reading a man’s dialogue by lowering her voice bother you? I can see lowering the voice for a whisper or raising it for a shout, but if a character is gasping for air, or crying, do you want to hear that re-enacted? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The mechanics of creativity is very interesting. We–meaning a bunch of us writers–were judiciously avoiding the actual act of writing on a chat and the subject of urban fantasy tropes and heroines came up. I then casually mentioned that I not only own a sword but have been known to use it. This would not come as a surprise to my social media friends, but it may come as a surprise to some of my readers and it was a surprise to the writers in the chat.
Caliborne’s Curse was written on a whim in 2017 because of this chat but stayed in my pile of unpublished works because genre-wise it doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek as it pokes at the tropes of the Mary-Sue urban fantasy heroine: she of the magical combat-only coordination; she of the plain-but-gorgeous visage; she of “the one” with the man-harem.
But when Jim Curtis approached me about this anthology and said I could submit anything, regardless of genre, I realized that Caliborne’s Curse had found a home.
No way this ends well.
Mallory Caliborne winced as she lowered the sword and reluctantly looked up. Dried paint and plaster drifted down like fine snow. Except it wasn’t snowing. And the six-inch slash in the ceiling was no cloud, silver-lined or otherwise.
The powder settled like dandruff atop the black CitroLu spandex of her tee-top. The Italian woman on the television kept going, slashing the fourth of an eight-cut sequence, all set to music, in some high-end studio filled with mirrors and overly coordinated fitness-types. And very high ceilings.
Mallory muted the sound and set the old katana on the second-hand couch she’d pushed to the wall to clear enough space to “Forza her way to fitness” as the DVD cover promised. She’d done a decent job of rearranging everything. No sense in slicing through the television. But she hadn’t thought about the ceiling.
The previous four lessons had all used angled cuts like two-to-eight or ten-to-four but today, her caffeine-fueled straight up and down cuts had been … enthusiastic.
Sure. The landlord will buy that.
She saw her deposit shrink to zero. After the flood, the fire, and the frogs, she thought she’d used up a lifetime’s supply of bad luck. What was next? Fiery hail? Locusts? Darkness? Come to think of it, there had been that three-day power outage starting on the day she’d moved in. Cross darkness off the list. Only two to go. She sighed.
The house had been a bit of a wreck to begin with, but she’d been desperate and a six-month lease was hard to come by. Great location. Good price. Vacant. Furnished. The previous tenant had been a packrat—an eccentric packrat. Borderline hoarder, probably. But, no dead bodies had been unearthed after she’d taken possession. That would’ve been too much. Even for New Orleans.
She could put up with almost anything for six months.
All the clutter had given her the impression that some old person had once lived here, some collector or academic. She hadn’t even begun to deal with the walls and walls of books, other than to note that not a single one was written in anything even resembling the Roman alphabet.
The sword had seemed like one of those cheap props you see at uber-geek conventions. Until she’d found the DVDs. Some were serious training videos, all in Japanese, featuring men who never smiled, realistically hacking at each other with curved wooden swords. No samurai movies though. Not a one. The workout video was the only one in English. So very strange.
She turned the television off and put some water to boil in a kettle.
Maybe the previous tenant had been an urban fantasy fan-girl with a cargo-cult belief system. The kind of woman who fancied herself a warrior by virtue of having a katana laying around for no reason. Said belief system hoped that the virtue of having something like said sword would result in the delivery of a desired cargo. In the urban fantasy context that would no doubt consist of a man-harem.
She smiled. Oh, that wouldn’t be bad. Not bad at all. Mmm. Better than fiery hail and locusts any day. And with all the clutter around here the honey-do list could be long enough to justify a whole harem. Maybe the previous tenant hadn’t been so crazy after all.
The kettle whistled and she set about making jasmine tea. Of all the kanji-bedazzled tins in the cupboard, she’d been brave enough to try only the one with a prominent jasmine flower on the lid. No sweetner. She added sugar to the top of her shopping list. Just for grins and giggles she added condoms.
Hand wrapped around the tiny cup, she returned to the living room to pack up the sword and rearrange her furniture before heading to the hardware store for a ladder.
She moved the cushions around, looking for the cond—she shook her head and her grin widened—the pretty silk sheath that she’d found the sword in.
The cup wobbled, spilling tea.
Great. Now she had a cut and a burn.
Several drops of tea swirled on the end of the bloody sword-tip. Frowning, she bent to get a closer look at the play of light as she sucked her finger.
“Please,” a deep voice rumbled from behind. Mallory pivoted and scrambled backward, knocking stuff over as she went, the bloody finger preventing a scream.
“Allow Ambrose to do that for you,” the heavily accented voice added.
Bloody hell. Some vampire-movie reject from the theme-bar down the street had walked right in. She inched away, eyeing the distance to the couch where the sword lay. Too far. She threw the cup at his drop-undead-gorgeous head, and ran for it. On cue, she pulled a Mallory special, tripping over her own two feet like she was some young-adult novel heroine—except that she was clumsy all the time, not magically coordinated for all combat scenes. Of the many leaning towers of books gave way. She ducked underneath her crossed arms as the books pummeled her, one after the other.
Thunk, thunk, thunk.Continue reading “Excerpt from Caliborne’s Curse”
Brennan turned, blue eyes full of mischief, a twist of a smile on his face. It was the trim beard that had thrown her. But she’d recognized those sky-blue eyes that promised storms and lightning.
The noise of the terminal faded to nothing. The crowd did too, becoming shadows without substance, a tide that parted for her as if by magic.
Her feet carried her towards him as if they had a will of their own.
His hands were in her hair, strong fingers pulling her up towards his mouth, their hearts resonating through the fabric of their clothes. His scent—oh, she’d missed that clean, man-smell so much—floated around her.
Their lips and tongues met—collided, dueled, renewed their acquaintance—and then retreated. He trailed a kiss down to her neck, tucking his head into the bend above her shoulder.
“I’ve missed you so,” he whispered, the sound of it rumbling against the hand she had on his chest.
Wrapped in the safety of his arms, her doubts and fears melted away like tears in the rain. It was what he did. Made her feel safe and loved and valued in a way no one and nothing else could. It was a different kind of “safe” from the one that she could create for herself.
Yes, power was an aphrodisiac, alright. The nature of power, however, remained tenuous, undefined … raw.
Read the rest in Men in Uniform.
David Weber and I both have stories in Robert E. Hampson’s upcoming The Founder Effect anthology (coming from Baen books in December). We thought it might be fun to share excerpts from our stories with you. You can find the excerpt from David’s story, Kamekura, here.
For Norman Borlaug, the man who saved a billion lives.
Mina squinted into Cistercia’s dawn as she pulled her scarf up and over her nose. Moisture settled into the corners of her eyes. The wind tugged the wetness across her chilled skin like tears.
Above, TRAPPIST-2 was at its zenith, very much like the Sun in Earth’s sky. Wispy clouds were drifting in, promising another chilly day.
They had been lucky. Cistercia was so Earth-like, so promising. An ideal candidate, as it were. Or as close as humanity had found.
It had taken two days to climb up the foothills overlooking Antonia, the colony’s primary landing site.
Terraforming packages had landed on Cistercia years before. They had been followed by pre-landing drop-pods. The drones had cleared and plowed the surrounding land for agriculture. When the colonists landed, prefab domes and shelters had been waiting for them. They now squatted in the distance, neatly arranged with the larger dome in the center.
Still like a lake, Cistercia’s ocean shimmered on the other side of Antonia. No moon meant no tides. Of all the things Mina had thought she’d miss coming here, the Earth’s moon had not been one of them.
A warm weight leaned into Mina’s leg. She petted the ewe’s curly head and earned herself a happy bleat.
The thunk-thunk-thunk of a four-legged robot approached, its body slung low, just like a border collie in intimidation mode. It growled and barked at the ewe. Mina was standing close to a ledge and since the sheep had poor depth perception, One was simply doing its job.
The ewe retreated into the safety of the flock, nudging aside several sheep to put as much distance between herself and the odd thing that looked and behaved like a dog, but didn’t smell like one.
“Good d—robot,” Mina said.
No anthropomorphizing. She’d promised. They all had. The Cerberus robots were to remain simply, One, Two, and Three. The numbers were even painted in reflective safety yellow on both “shoulders” and atop the domes of their heads.
The robotics people had outdone themselves. At first, they’d tried simpler robots that only resembled dogs because they had four legs, but the sheep didn’t respond to them. Herding worked only because sheep responded to the herding dog’s body-language. So the robots had been upgraded and made to look as much like a dog as possible. The servos, motors and hydraulic lines were covered in a pliable material that allowed them to move like dogs. Instead of fur, they were covered in segmented armor.
During the final testing phase, the robots had been sent out among the colonists. Their dog-like facial movements were real enough that the colonists quickly fell into the habit of treating them as if they were actual dogs. It didn’t seem to matter that their cybernetic lenses didn’t have the warmth of a dog’s eyes, or that their bodies weren’t soft and yielding to the touch, or that the sounds they made were mere recordings. It didn’t matter that they didn’t pant or lick.
Inevitably, people would pat them on the head or cuddle them. There had been multiple attempts to teach them to fetch, shake, and roll over. Someone had even hacked into the behavioral programming to make them circle three times before laying down, supposedly as a joke.
Alysster Wallace, the chief roboticist, had turned purple and sputtered with rage. It had taken him days to calm down. After the “sabotage” of his heuristics he’d wanted to start over, but the need to move the sheep upland was too dire. The Cerberus robots wouldn’t be getting the ideal of the brand new million-trial education that Dr. Wallace wanted.
Cerberus Three was bigger than One and Two. Closer to the size of a Great Dane, it doubled as a pack animal, carrying essential supplies for Mina and the smaller do—robots.
She tugged at the strap of her shotgun, repositioning it from where it had shifted so she could pull out her whistle. It was old and worn, but it had served her family for five generations. If Mina had her way, it would serve them for five more.
Leaning on her shepherd’s crook, she took a deep breath and put her tongue up against the inside curve of the whistle, drew it into her mouth and made the two short spurts of the “walk up” command.
Like shepherds of old, it was Mina’s job to take her herd to better pastures and return with a larger, fatter herd.
Can’t wait to read the rest? You can get the advanced eARC of this great, new hard-SF anthology today from the Baen website.
I originally wrote “Dominion” for the Oregon Writers’ Workshop in 2018. One of the buying editors for that workshop was looking for stories for a romance anthology. But “Dominion” was bought by a different set of editors for an anthology themed around strangers. Sometimes things work out differently than anticipated. “Dominion” was my first pro sale. That’s why I’m so thrilled to finally be able to share it with you.
Galeron approached the phase-shift transit-point, a “surface” in space not unlike the “disk” created by two soap bubbles where they touched.
Nothing on his instruments suggested anything but a stable transit-point, located exactly where it was supposed to be. Still, he hesitated, holding back from taking his fighter-craft through.
Holographic displays sprouted from the semi-circular panel that wrapped around him. Data streams told him that the minor damage his ship had taken was healing as expected.
A snapshot, taken an hour ago, of his prey—another fighter outclassed by his own at least once over—floated within the hologram, the image showing most of its stern.
The longer Galeron waited, the greater the chance that he would lose his prey’s trail. Yet, here he was, lurking.
He sank back into the yielding grip of his pilot’s chair, and ran his thumb along the smooth, pearlescent surface of the armrest. The ship’s smooth interior was like the inside of an egg-shell, ready to sprout additional controls and interfaces as needed. They remained dormant as clean, sanitized air—its movement the only motion in the stillness—filled his nostrils, then his lungs.
Teirani Tutori, former sister-in-arms, now vassal of an enemy House, had fled before him. According to his ship’s data, Gota-Dai, the system on the other side, had six other known transit-points. And if Teirani took any one of them, she’d disappear.
Galeron’s instruments could only detect gravitic waves from her fighter for a limited time. A time he was wasting here, hesitating. It wasn’t cowardice. Nor sentiment.
It was written into his nature, his donai genetic code, as much as the almost-human appearance, the layered irises that gave him augmented vision. The enhanced hearing, strength and agility. The ability to heal. The symbiosis with his nanites.
It was his ardent desire to catch and defeat her.Continue reading “Dominion (A Ravages of Honor novella) released.”
Out today in the urban fantasy anthology Flights of Fantasy, I’m proud to present the opening to my short story, “Dark Side of the Sun.”
June 20th, 2025
Eliana pulled her sedan up to the curb, right under the biggest oak she’d ever seen. Its canopy cast welcome shade from the scorching mid-day sun. Ahead, an ambulance was pulled under a mansion’s porte cochère. Four black-and-whites were also present, their lights twirling madly: one behind the ambulance, the others scattered along the curb.
A young cop was putting up barricades, while another was stringing crime scene tape between them. Another pair was gently encouraging five curious neighbors to back away. By the look of it, the gawkers were nannies and housewives, each with an obligatory kid or two in tow.
Eliana pulled her too-big jacket on. Simple, lightweight, and cut to hide the full-size Sig Sauer 1911 behind her right hip, it was still another layer of clothing she’d rather not have on in suburban Phoenix’s triple-digit heat. She pulled her purse to her shoulder and stepped out. The car door slid shut and she made her way across the just-watered grass. It left drops on her flats, but even those were sucked dry by the greedy heat of day.
She showed her credentials to the middle-aged cop who barred her way. It wasn’t exactly a badge, but the Order of Soteria was well-known and respected. His gaze flickered back and forth as he compared her photograph to the one on the card. When the picture had been taken, her pale, blonde hair had been short and curly. Now that she’d let it grow out, it was straighter, and she wore it in a tight bun at the back of her neck. Body guard work didn’t exactly pair well with flowing anything.
Besides, there was an appearance code. It could be summed up as “understated.” Armed nannies didn’t need to stand out. And they didn’t need to give wives any reason to worry that their husbands might find them interesting either. That’s why the Order went out of its way to emphasize the Bible’s version of Soteria as salvation from penalty, power, presence, and most importantly, the pleasures of sin.
Hence the flats. The lack of makeup. The conservative suit cut not just to hide weapons, but de-emphasize a woman’s shape. And a vow of chastity. The idea of mortal sin had regained its power when the supernatural had become less “super” and more “natural.”
There’d been a reason why the myths and legends of old had seen a rebirth during the last part of the twentieth century. The world was being prepared for the mainstreaming of vampires and shifters and witches. With the death of privacy, with the ubiquitous monitoring of everything, it had been inevitable. Science had tried to explain it all using reason and logic, but the world had been so ready to embrace the supernatural that it hadn’t mattered why things were. For most, accepting reality was easier than qualifying and quantifying it.
Some had feared the world would fall back into a dark age of superstition, but it hadn’t happened. Science and technology still had their uses. In truth the supernatural had always co-existed quite nicely alongside science and reason in most men’s minds.
The cop used the mic at his shoulder to verify that she was expected and handed back her card.
“Go on in, Sister, they’re expecting you.”
“Thank you, Officer.”
She crossed the cobblestoned driveway. The mansion was not the biggest in the gated neighborhood, but it was in a cul-de-sac, which were usually prime lots. The owner had obviously chosen it for privacy. It didn’t back to any other homes and it had been placed as far away from the neighboring properties as possible. Every single window had roll-down shutters masterfully made to look like anything but. And there were cameras everywhere, some better hidden than others. The cameras were not that unusual. The shutters were.
The entryway’s double doors swung open and an EMT backed out, dragging a gurney with a body-bag strapped to it.
His partner, a woman, was pushing from the other end. By the look on her face this might well have been her first day on the job. She looked more than a little green.
“A moment please,” Eliana said and showed her ID again. The EMT pulled at the body-bag’s zipper. It parted to reveal a woman’s face. Her eyes were closed, her face pale, her lips blue. She looked about forty, with gray in her short, wispy hair. Forty was about fifteen years too old for this to be Sister Isadora Conley.
There was one way to be sure.
“Would you mind turning her head so I can look behind her right ear?” Eliana asked. No point in getting gloved up when the EMTs already were.
The rookie EMT complied, gently nudging the corpse’s head and folding her ear. A laurel wreath crown was inked into the skin. Eliana fished her UV flashlight from her purse and aimed it at the tattoo. There was enough shade under the porte cochère that a barcode was revealed within the circle of the wreath.
Definitely Sister Conley. Eliana sighed as she put the flashlight away.
The fact that Sister Conley looked forty meant that she hadn’t just died because she’d been shot. She’d died because someone had drained her anima. According to her file, she was magic sensitive, but not a magic-user. Not all of the Sisters were witches. But even the sensitives became users in the face of a powerful enough threat. Which meant Sister Conley had been in a desperate fight for her life even before the bullet found her.
Eliana nodded at the EMT, who pulled the zipper shut. They loaded the gurney into the back of the ambulance, grunting as they lifted it.
One of the cops was holding the mansion’s front left door open, and Eliana stepped into a foyer. Staircases curved upward on the left and the right and a chandelier hung from a heavy chain above.
Underneath it, three men and a woman with “forensics” stamped on their jackets were busy taking photographs, measurements, and bagging things handled with tweezers. Blood pooled on the floor and numerical tent markers littered the marble tiles.
Two sets of couches that could each seat six filled the large room beyond the foyer. Its tall, wide windows were sealed against the sunlight by the rolling shutters. If it hadn’t been for the portable lights that the forensics people had set up, the house would be pitch black.
Sweat trickled down Eliana’s back. No air conditioning.
“Power’s out,” a voice from behind her said.
Despite the heat, her skin pebbled. Her heart skipped a beat and then sped up. Thorne’s voice descended—as it always had—right past her brain, to her stomach, sending it, and lower things, aflutter.
Even now, even here, with the stench of death still lingering in the air. Even after all these years. Would it ever lose its power? Would she ever be able to purge him out of her system?
She swore under breath. He was the last person she wanted to see or deal with in the whole world.
“The bloodsuckers’ bloodsucker,” she said. “I should’ve known.”
Trouble in the Wind (Phases of Mars Book 3) is out in audio. I’m really excited to share the opening of my contribution, “The Heretic,” an alt-history of Joan of Arc.
“France will be lost by a woman and shall thereafter be restored by a virgin.”— Marie d’Avignon
It is a terrible thing to know one’s future. To know that one cannot avoid it. To know that even if I could, I would not.
I do not walk my path alone. God has sent me counsel. It is for love of God that I take each inevitable step, knowing where it will lead: to victory; to pain; to lives lost. But also to freedom—not for me, but for France.
In my mind’s eye, I see them making the sign they will hold up as they escort me. I cannot read, but I know what they will call me: superstitious; a liar; a seducer of the people; blasphemer; presumptuous, cruel, and braggart; idolater and apostate; invoker of devils.
Even knowing how it will end, I march towards this future of my own free will. I walked the path knowing that I would take an arrow. I walk it again, knowing it will end in fire.
I know it will be worse than anything I can imagine. Worse than the beatings, the arrow to my chest, the wound to my thigh. I know that they will draw it out. There will be no quick release, no snap of the neck as the rope catches my fall.
They will make me live my own Hell because deep in their hearts they know my soul is destined for Heaven.
Do not call me brave. Save that for those who overcome fear. I fear not, for God is with me.