Tales of the Peluda dragon come down to us from French legend. According to the tale, the Peluda terrorized the village of La Ferté-Bernard, France during medieval times. Its name comes from the Occitan language (still spoken today in southern France and northern Spain). It literally means “shaggy beast,” as if someone let a three year old Stark of Winterfell name his dragon.
They named the monster honestly, however. Although its basic shape follows the form of the traditional European dragon, the details meander a bit. Rather than scaly lizard skin, the legend tells us that hair covers the dragon (or, depending on the version, porcupine-like quills). The hair ends at the long, serpentine neck. The head resembles a snake more than the traditional lizard-like head of a European dragon, and the beast also carries a snakelike tail. It walks around on the stumpy legs of a tortoise when not in flight. The green creature grows to roughly the size of a large ox.
According to myth, Noah denied the Peluda entry on the ark. The beast toughed out the flood in a cave in France, where it hid for many years. Eventually it returned to terrorize the countryside. In addition to the typical fiery breath of a dragon, the beast could ruin crops with its breath, spit acid, or shoot a stream of water rather like an evil fire hose. Tales tell of at least one occasion where it flooded the region simply by stepping in a river, and it could shoot its poisonous quills at will. Its tail could kill a full grown man with a single blow, and beast proved invulnerable to all attacks.
One day the Peluda ate the wrong maiden, as dragons do. Her fiance tracked down the beast and, enlightened by the wisdom of an old crone, cut off its tail – attacking the Peluda’s only weakness. The beast died instantly.
I cropped the picture of the Peluda above from the cover of my forthcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. My cover artist, Andy Duggan, drew a wonderful representation of the beast. I flavored the creature a bit to fit my novel, choosing the hairy version rather than the quilled version. Also, the full powers of the beast don’t come to the fore in this novel. That tale is brewing in the followup novella, Vigil, due out in late 2017 or early 2018.
The second draft of Post Traumatic Stress is DONE!
It took me a few months to get back to it, but once I did it took less than two weeks to finish the second draft. In a way, it’s better that it took me a while. A little bit of distance from the manuscript meant that I looked at it with very fresh eyes. I’m quite happy with the current state of the manuscript. The ultimate judgement lies, of course, with the readers.
I’m looking for an additional ten beta readers. Beta readers will receive a free copy of the manuscript in its current form sometime in the next week. Anyone can apply to be a beta reader, but I need a commitment to the following:
If you’re interested, send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve already signed up to be a beta reader, thank you! There is no need to sign up again.
Lyonesse is now LIVE! Kickstarter backers should have already received their login information via e-mail. If you haven’t gotten yours, check your spam folder.
We have 23 stories live in our back catalog at the moment, all available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF format – or readable for subscribers straight from the web site itself. Our first new story, The Dreaming Wounds by Anya Ow, will go out later this afternoon.
Base subscriptions start at only $6.99 per year, so don’t wait – get yours today!
Lyonesse is very nearly ready. We’re formatting the launch content and uploading it into the system now. Next, we’ll be entering all of our Kickstarter backers into the database and enabling their subscriptions. And that’s it. At this point, the process is going very smoothly. The official Lyonesse launch date will be Tuesday, March 21, 2017. We’ll be going live somewhere around 8:00 AM Central Time. I’ll have to punch the button manually, so that’s about as precise as I can time it.
For those of you who ordered t-shirts, they will be coming soon. Stay tuned!
Silver Empire is still accepting submissions for our upcoming Superversive Superheroes anthology! We’re still a few submissions short of where we want to be for this project, although the stories we have so far are quite exciting.
Submission guidelines are as follows:
Silver Empire author has a new self-published book out today. Live and Let Bite is book three of the Dragon Award nominated Love at First Bite series. From the official Amazon description:
Merlin “Merle” Kraft has been fighting the darkness for months. He left San Francisco in the capable hands of Marco Catalano and his anti-vampire team to defend them against vampires. With special operators at his command, Kraft has been killing every vampire he can find in the Middle East. After clearing out a nest in Tora Bora, he is finally brought back to New York, and the investigation that led him to vampires in the first place.
Marco is starting to spiral. He knows it. His team knows it. Everyone around him can see that he’s just a bomb waiting to explode. The only woman who can bring him back from the brink is also the woman who lit his fuse.
Ever since the demon Asmodeus tried to murder Marco, Amanda Colt has been hunting down every lead to find the ones ultimately behind the attempt. After months of investigation, she learns that something in the dark is colder than the dark. It is a vampire assassin that Amanda has faced once before, and Amanda lost. This assassin is stronger than anything they’ve face before, and it isn’t alone.
With Marco ready to self-destruct, and the armies of Hell ready to descend, the three of them must come together and stop a thousand-year-old assassin that has never been stopped, and has never failed to kill her target.
Contrary to popular conception, fantasy stories didn’t begin with J.R.R. Tolkien. The fact that much of modern fantasy imitates the master obscures decades of great work that came before him. In perfect honesty, I was somewhat ignorant of this fact myself. Until, that is, I began reading Jeffro Johnson‘s magnificent blog posts on Appendix N.
The somewhat bland title hides a treasure trove of fantastical stories. But to be fair, the title fits perfectly with the subject – and its source. It references the original Appendix N – as written by Gary Gygax in the original Dungeons and Dragons game.
Once more, popular conception assumes that the game is a Tolkien knockoff. Later editions of the game certainly seem to be. Yet Gygax built the original version around far more than just the works of one British linguistics professor. Appendix N of Dungeons and Dragons lists every single work that Gygax considered an influence in the game.
Jeffro’s masterpiece of the same name includes critical reviews of each and every single work in the original Appendix N. Much of his work – some of which I read in the original blog posts – also details how these stories relate to the final product that D&D became. It’s a somewhat nerdy tome, to be sure.
But for the fantasy connoisseur of a younger generation, it’s invaluable. Even in its early stages it pointed me toward a number of authors I had never even known existed. I have not yet delved into this final version, although Jeffro was kind enough to deliver me a free ebook edition of it via e-mail yesterday. But the works in progress were strong enough to earn him a well deserved Hugo Award nomination for “Best Related Work.” I look forward to the final product with great anticipation.
Get your ebook copy at Amazon today. If you prefer killing trees, a print version should be available within a month or so. Either way, I highly recommend it.
Planetary Defense Command has opened nominations for the 2016 Planetary Awards for the best science fiction and fantasy writing of 2016.
We’re doing only two categories this year:
- Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
- Longer story (novels)
Injustice Gamer stunned me this evening by nominating one of my stories, Edge, for the Shorter Story category. The story is available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. My story travels in good company. His nomination for Longer Story is a very worth entry indeed – Brian Niemeier’s The Secret Kings. Brian – I promise my review is coming soon!
I’ve read quite a bit of amazing fiction this year, and finding only two works to nominate is a daunting task. But at the end of the day, I think it must come down to the following.
Here I have to go with Negev, by Joshua M. Young. The story is also available in Between the Wall and the Fire. This tale of a Jewish family struggling with superintelligences is one of the absolute best works I’ve ever published at Silver Empire. I enjoyed writing Edge, but I must humbly disagree with Injustice Gamer and declare Negev to be the better overall work. But watch out, Josh – Cheah Kai Wai will give you a run for your money when we publish We Bury Our Own this spring in Lyonesse!
Here I have to go with Mr. John C. Wright’s Iron Chamber of Memory. This was also a tough call. Brian’s work was, indeed, fantastic. But Mr. Wright is a true grandmaster, and this is one of his absolute best works. My own review is available here. Brian, there is no shame at all in coming in slightly behind this book in my estimation, and I hope no offense is given to my friend.
These are two truly wonderful works. Whether they win or lose the 2016 Planetary Awards, I heartily recommend them and hope that you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. But don’t stop here. 2016 was an amazing year for science fiction and fantasy writing. There’s plenty to read, and I hope that you explore them all!
Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green over at the Mad Genius Club have declared to one and all that Silver Empire author Declan Finn is not one of the “cool kids.” Evidently he’s so uncool that they can’t even name him over at their blog, making it difficult for him to even defend himself. Yet nobody seems to have any doubt who they’re talking about.
On the surface, Mr. Finn stands accused of trying to assume the mantle of “leader of Sad Puppies 5.” The evidence? He wrote a blog post entitled, “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” The post includes such damning gems as:
I find the case unconvincing.
Sad Puppies 4, in theory, opened the puppies up to everyone. Indeed, they specifically called for others to solicit recommendations:
[Emphasis is mine.]
So, SP4 is all about MOAR! More voters. More votes. More people. We want to make the Hugos bigger and more representative of fandom as a whole, to bring people in rather than give them an asterisk that looks kind of wrong (especially beside the rocket) to try to drive the “interlopers” out. SF is a big tent: we don’t want to kick out anyone, even writers of bad message fiction that makes puppies sad.
To that end, this thread will be the first of several to collect recommendations. There will also be multiple permanent threads (one per category) on the SP4 website where people can make comments. The tireless, wonderful volunteer Puppy Pack will be collating recommendations.
This is exactly what Mr. Finn did in his post. Only they now inform us that he’s violating some sort of unwritten code in doing so. May anyone join in? Or may only those approved by the club gather suggestions now? Evidently some animals are more equal than others. I love the way they keep the spirit of Sad Puppies alive here.
The actual charge, reading between the lines, is of Supporting Sad Puppies Over-Enthusiastically While Being Uncool. Let’s examine the evidence here.
Mr. Finn has indeed enthusiastically supported Sad Puppies for quite some time. His novel Honor at Stake made the SP4 Best Novel list. He’s written more blog posts on the subject than I can count. He even published a satirical take on the whole affair, Sad Puppies Bite Back – first as a series of blog posts and then later in novel form.
I rather like Mr. Finn, and I even signed him to a five book publishing deal. Even so… I must confess that he is, in fact, a bit socially awkward. But then, he’s a science fiction and fantasy author. It kind of comes with the territory.
On this more honest charge, then, I must reluctantly find the defendant guilty.
On the other hand, any reasonable person would settle for a far lesser sentence – even were he actually guilty of the charges as stated. The appropriate response here is to issue a post noting that he is not in fact part of the SP5 leadership. Then, perhaps, drop him a note quietly behind the scenes and ask him if he can be a bit more clear in the future.
Instead, they chose to write no less than 3400 words between them (I counted [OK, I had Word count for me]) insulting Mr. Finn. They felt it necessary to inform the entire world – at length – of exactly how uncool he is. They chose to behave very unprofessionally, punching down to an author quite a bit further down the list than themselves. In a word, they chose to be cruel.
Their behavior is uncalled for. In fact, it’s ridiculously overdramatic. Mr. Finn deserves an apology.
Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! We have just over 24 hours left on our Kickstarter and we’ve reached 144% of our goal! If you haven’t already, stop by and contribute. A $7 contribution gets you an entire year’s subscription – including at least 52 stories (one per week, plus the occasional bonus story) from some of the most amazing up and coming science fiction and fantasy authors. And if you’re interested in one of our lifetime subscriptions, keep in mind that this will be your last chance to get one. They are only available through our Kickstarter campaign – when it ends, they will disappear!
Meanwhile, we also have a handful of more established authors on our list, and today I’d like to talk about one: the talented L. Jagi Lamplighter. Some of you may also know her as the Mrs. John C. Wright. Mrs. Lamplighter is the author of the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment series (which I have previously reviewed here, here, and here). She’s also the author of the Prospero’s Daughter series, and the editor of Brian Niemeier‘s Soul Cycle series (of which I have reviewed books one and two, and will get around to book three very soon!). I can also say that I have the great privilege of having contracted her to be my own editor for my upcoming novel Post Traumatic Stress.
Finally, as a special thank you to all of our backers for helping us with our successful Kickstarter project, I present our first Lyonesse bonus story, Mrs. Lamplighter’s, Four Funerals and a Wedding. This is but a small taste of things to come from Lyonesse, and I hope that all of you find the story as delightful as I did.
by L Jagi Lamplighter
This story is dedicated to
Matthew and Eugie Foster,
Who deserved better
Cassandra leaned against the shovel and wiped her brow as a flock of geese flew across the face of the moon. Beside her, Archie dug steadily, unearthing the grave dirt above his fiancée’s coffin.
“You know,” the young woman picked up her shovel again, “this was not where I had expected this to end.”
“Let’s just hope it doesn’t end here,” he grunted back. “Or worse, with us both in jail.
* * *
For the first funeral, Cassandra wore her sunglasses. They were huge and dark and made her look like a blind owl, but they covered her high cheekbones and her eyes. Nothing showed but the nose and chin she had inherited from her Jewish father—not unattractive but unremarkable. No one ever gave the lower half of her face a second glance.
She chose a slim black dress and low black suede boots. The silver and turquoise cat necklace she had worn whenever she left the house for four years now—Jeremy’s last present to her on her last mother’s day—was a bit cheery for the occasion, but she could not bear to leave it home. She tucked it inside her gown.
Seated in the back pews of St. Timothy’s, she gazed surreptitiously at the crowd. Ahead, the family paraded slowly by the open casket, saying their last goodbyes. An old woman in black and a middle-aged man were crying loudly, but the dead man’s wife was sitting with her back straight, a look of desperate hope in her eyes.
Maybe she read the newspapers.
Cassandra pulled Nicholas’s old handkerchief from her purse and pressed it against the corner of her eyes. After four years, it embarrassed her that she still cried. But they had been four lonely years—without Nicholas, without her little Jeremy.
No one understood what it was like to have been a mother and then not be one anymore. The worst was when her friends commented on her having the freedom to spend her hours how she pleased. She would given anything to trade her freedom, her prestigious career as a photographer, and her hobbies for the mess and toil of having her family back.
The door opened, and the reporter from Channel 9 evening news came in, his camera man beside him. Cassandra jerked her head away. If he saw her, he would know. He had been at the last funeral, too.
Should she leave? Her eyes flickered to the face of the widow.
Steepling her fingers and pressing them against her lips, she closed her eyes and quieted her heart. Life. It was eternal. Nothing could be put to it or be taken away from it.
The lately-deceased man sat up in his open coffin, blinking. The rafters of the small church echoed with screams of terror and then with screams of joy.
* * *
For the second funeral, she wore her hair down. It fell midway down her back, like a solid black waterfall. She hid Jeremy’s necklace beneath her black silk blouse, which she wore over gray slacks. Her sunglasses still hid her eyes.
This one was held at the Presbyterian church outside of town. Calhoun from Channel 9 was there before her, a big, heavy, scowling man. Cassandra shuddered and averted her head. She had been reading his columns, and they were vile. The man poured out vitriol and bile on every subject he covered.
It made her heart ache for humanity that people paid to read such vileness.
Beneath Jeremy’s necklace, her heart beat rapidly. Would he recognize her? If he did, what would happen?
It was not herself she was worried about. What did she have to lose? It was the folks who she could help if everyone left her alone.
She had tried going to the hospital, but she felt like a harpy, waiting around for people to die. Besides, hospitals made her nervous—too many bad memories. And when she was nervous, nothing happened. Same thing if she bragged or allowed even the slightest hint of pride.
If she wanted to help grieving families and lives cut short, she had to do it quietly, privately.
If Calhoun from Channel 9 outed her—put her in the public limelight—would she ever be able to help anyone again?
* * *
For the third funeral, she wore a very large black and white hat. Its large brim dipped down, making it easy to hide behind. Between that and her sunglasses, her face was hardly visible. This was a good thing because the despicable Calhoun looked right at her as she left the church. His assistant pivoted the camera and pointed the blank, black lens right at her. She had only enough time to duck her head and block her face with the hat.
By the time she arrived home, her whole body was shaking.
* * *
For the fourth funeral, she left her sunglasses home. Without them, she became a whole new person. All heads turned when she walked into the funeral parlor as people stared at the young Asian woman, so lovely she could be a model. But no one, not even Calhoun who was positioned at the door, hunched like a vulture, recognized her as the person had been when the upper part of her face was covered.
It was a disguise she could only use once.
She also took her work camera with its zoom lens.
There was a lone chair against the wall. Cassandra pushed it into a back corner, behind a large urn containing a palm. The smell of smoke and chemicals made it hard to concentrate. Her heart was beating so loudly, she could not hear herself pray.
She closed her eyes and tried to quiet her thoughts, but the angry, leering image of Calhoun kept imposing on her peace. His latest piece on the mysterious “zombie-maker” had been so hateful that it had made her sick to her stomach to read it.
Who hated a person for resurrecting the dead?
In her imagination, she kept picturing the moment when he found her out, the finger pointing, the clammy hands grabbing her by the arm and yanking her in front of everyone. She felt lightheaded.
Only the sight of the two children weeping beside the casket kept her run fleeing the premises.
She closed her eyes and breathed, but she could not clear her thoughts.
What was it with this man? Why was he so angry? Why…
Why had she not prayed for him?
The funeral proceeded. A preacher gave a blessing. A brother gave a eulogy. Children wept. Cassandra tried to pray for the bloated, angry reporter, but her words were empty. In her heart, she did not wish him well.
There must be something about him, something that could break the spell of disgust he had cast over her, some quality, however small, that she could admire.
The gathering was beginning to break up. People were rising, milling, laying a silent hand on the shoulder of the sobbing widower. And Calhoun still stood there, scouring the gathering, scowling at each person, as if they were personally guilty of having murdered the dead woman. Did he never give up?
Ah, that was a quality Cassandra admired. She had to give Calhoun that.
He was dogged.
Like a spell breaking, Cassandra looked at the reporter as if for the first time. How tired he looked, how bitter, his eyes were bloodshot. He looked…like a very miserable soul indeed.
That was enough. Her thoughts calmed. She closed her eyes. She kept them shut until the children began to shout.
Outside, the Channel 9 man was standing by the front walk, interviewing the happy family. People were crying and laughing and hugging. The woman’s husband, no longer a widower, clung to her, weeping with joy and relief.
The camera was pointed right at the door.
She should have worn her sunglasses after all.
Cassandra looked around. Did she dare cut through the vestibule to find another door? Her hand brushed against her camera. Raising her head, she walked over to loathsome toad of Channel 9, whom she really could not think quite as badly of as she had before, and stuck out her hand.
Heads turned as she walked. But neither the toad nor the no-longer-a-widower paid attention to her appearance.
“Hi there, Cassandra King Crossing.” She patted her camera bag, where hit hung at her hip. “I do some freelance work for the Mystic River Press and The Westerly Sun, among other places.
His hand was big and meaty. “Archibald Calhoun. Channel 9.”
Despite her nervousness, she flashed a big smile and gestured at the crowd. “I gather we’re looking for the same thing? Maybe we could compare notes?”
“You mean the person responsible for this circus?” he snarled. “Yeah, I’d like to find that bastard.”
“What would you do if you did?” she asked casually.
“Punch the S.O.B. in the face. Repeatedly.”
“For resurrecting the dead?” Her voice rose so high it broke.
“What kind of low human being hides the fact that they can resurrect the dead? Where was this bastard when my Effie…” His voice broke.
“O-oh,” breathed Cassandra.
His face had taken on a haggard dullness that she knew as well as she knew her own name. It struck her like a blow to her solar plexus.
“I’ve been looking for him for weeks. Thought maybe he could save…s-she’d been so healthy just three months ago. We thought the cancer had been beat. Then, wham.” The big, ugly brute, who was beginning to look dear to her, rubbed at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “Our wedding was set for tomorrow. She had bought a lovely dress—the nurses had promised to help her put it on—and her brother was going to fly in from Chicago. But things took a sudden turn for the worse. And Effie….” He swallowed, his big Adam’s apple jiggling. “Her brother ended up flying in a few days earlier, for the funeral.”
Cassandra could hear the man speaking, but she could not see him. All she could see was the glare of headlights from a car coming directly at her on a slick rainy night. She felt, again, the lurch of the car as Nicholas put the driver’s side between the danger and his family. In the heat of the moment, he forgot that Jeremy, so recently free of his booster seat, had moved over to sit behind the driver, so he could talk to his father.
If only…if only Nicholas had swerved the other way.
Cassandra yanked out the silly silver and turquoise cat from inside her dress and gripped it tightly. Her life was hard enough but… Not to have ever been Nicolas’s wife? Not to have ever held Jeremy, or see him take his first step, or win his first soccer game? Even this, even all the pain and agony of loss, was better than that.
Tears streaming down her cheeks, Cassandra grabbed the reporter’s arm. “Your fiancée, where did they put her body?”
* * *
For the wedding, she wore a wide straw hat with flowers tucked in the band. She even went up into the attic and took out a blue and green dress she had not worn since the last time she and Nicolas went out to dinner. The silver and blue cat looked lovely resting against the silky material.
She also left her sunglasses home.
The ceremony was held at St. Timothy’s. The press was there, not just Channel 9, but all the local stations and a few national ones as well. She could already foresee the running caption: Revenant Woman Weds.
Effie looked lovely in her white gown, her face aglow. Archie Calhoun stood beside her, proud as a bridegroom could be in his handsome tux. Looking at his round, beaming face, Cassandra could not remember why she had thought it anything but kindly and dear. The bridegroom turned his head. Across the crowded church, their eyes met.
Archie Calhoun winked.
Cassandra winked back—which never could have happened had she still been hiding behind her sunglasses.