Readers love S.D. McPhail‘s debut novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key. Since I didn’t have the foresight to film the wonderful gentleman who read the first chapter aloud at the Southern Authors Expo, you’ll have to simply take the written word of these other readers.
This book is definitively the best third century Persian sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read – and it’s now available FREE to Kindle Unlmited subscribers!
We’re closing in on a launch date for Silver Empire’s upcoming project, Lyonesse. We’ve combed through our first batch of submissions and found some really great stories. As of this morning, we have contacted every author we’ve received submissions from. If you haven’t heard back from us, check your spam folder. If there’s not a response there, we didn’t get your submission.
We’re working hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for a solid launch. Here are a few of the exciting things you can expect from this industry-changing project:
There’s still time to contribute! We’ve gotten some really fantastic stories over the summer, but we need more – lots more! In case you missed it, here are our Lyonesse submission guidelines:
- Science fiction or fantasy short stories of roughly 3,000 to 20,000 words.
- Previously unpublished works.
- There is no theme – topics are wide open.
- This project is not specifically superversive. However, superversive stories are preferred.
- The payment model for this project is royalty based. However, the model is somewhat unique. Details will be provided upon acceptance of stories. We expect this project to be able to at least provide payment comparable to old school short-fiction magazines (ie, within the range of $0.03 to $0.05 per word). In fact, we think it will eventually do considerably better than that. However, this is an experimental project and this is not guaranteed.
- Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
- Authors whose stories are accepted will also have opportunities to advertise previous, current, or up and coming works as part of this project.
- Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
- At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular project – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
- E-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And one extra requirement that didn’t make the first list: please specify that your submission is for Lyonesse!
Lyonesse is coming and it’s going to be awesome. Tell your friends about it!
DragonCon 2016 was great. I got to spend the weekend with my good friend Dan Baker of Oxide Games. I met a few folks who were well worth meeting, including meeting Declan Finn in person. We enjoyed a few fantastic panels. I photographed some lovely cosplayers. And I finally had some time to catch up on a bit of reading.
In particular, I finally finished Christopher Lansdown‘s Ordinary Superheroes. I must apologize to Mr. Lansdown. He sent me a free review copy of this book quite some time ago. The delay in this review is through no fault of the book. It is merely because August was one of the busier months of my entire life. Merging two already-functioning businesses together is a lot of work.
Quite to the contrary, this is a pretty fun book. As the title and the cover might suggest, it’s a young adult book and should be approached as such. With that said, however, there’s a lot here for adults and parents to like. For one thing, this is a pretty clean book, which is not at all guaranteed in YA these days! As a parent, I’d have no objection to even pretty young children reading this. For another, there’s genuine humor in the superhero banter, much of which will actually leave young readers thinking. The characters are fun, and Mr. Lansdown fleshes them out well.
But the best part of this book is its villain: The Bureaucrat. Seriously, how can you not love that concept? The name alone makes me want to punch him in the face – and it’s rewarding when Mr. Macho, one of the book’s trio of protagonists, finally gets the chance to do so. What’s his beef? He hates living. Not his own life, but all living. Basically, he’s like any other small-b bureaucrat. He just has a lot of superpowers to go with that. I’ll refrain from spoilers here, but the ending isn’t quite what I expected. That’s a good thing. And I liked how the characters found their way into it smartly, thinking their way through.
My biggest complaint about the book is that it bogs down a bit in the middle. If you find this happening, like I did, then note that it’s worth pushing through to the finish. You won’t stay stuck in that bit for long. The short, quick nature of the book helps alleviate this quite a bit.
I give this book four out of five stars. Most adults will enjoy it. But if you’ve got a young teen who likes superheroes, this one is for them.
Round one of the author gladiatorial challenge went to Brian, as he turned a battle with a barbed devil into an existential discussion of shoes. But Declan turned in a fantastic entry as well, so both contestants move along to stage two!
The crowd erupts as our hero stands over the fallen corpse of the barbed devil. Weary and wary, she pauses to catch her breath. The Gamelord oozes dark mirth as he joins in with lazy applause of his own. Clearly he has more planned for her. Suddenly the torches go out. A moment later, the stars themselves go dark. As the applause fades to silence, so does our hero’s vision.
She awakens some time later. She isn’t sure how long it’s been, but she’s feeling strangely refreshed. Her small cell features no windows and no obvious light fixtures. There is but a single, simple door, but it closes tight with no cracks. Even so, the room is strangely well lit. She rises from the hard bed and gathers her belongings. Testing at the door, she finds that it opens easily.
She steps out of the room into a sewer of sorts. At least, that’s what it smells like. The same strange, pale ambient light fills the corridors. Water and muck line the floors. Still, it beats staying in a cage. The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape. She steps out into the catacombs.
She hears the dark laughter of the Gamelord, but she can’t place the source. Then, across the hallway, she sees it. The gelatinous cube approaches. Ten feet to a side, green in tint, it moves toward her, slowly and silently. Bones and remains are visible through the translucent gel, as well as strange objects: a tennis racket; a pair of running shoes; a stop sign. The creature closes in, blocking our hero’s only escape.
Our second challenge is a Gelatinous Cube.
One of the dungeon’s most unusual and specialized predators, gelatinous cubes spend their existence mindlessly roaming dungeon halls and dark caverns, swallowing up organic material such as plants, refuse, carrion, and even living creatures. Materials the cube cannot digest, such as metal and stone, can eventually fill up the creature’s mass with such detritus, and at times the creature may excrete some of this material out of its body. Often the treasure and possessions of past victims remain inside the gelatinous cube, leaving a ghostly impression of their material remains.
As before, both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.
If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer and Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake are both well worth the purchase.
Mr. Finn gets points for lots of guns and explosions, as well as having a heroine who leaps around more than Yoda on crack. He gets bonus points for having a vampire use holy water as a weapon. Very creative. And the throwaway line about dating Gary Gygax was priceless.
Mr. Niemeier scores for the battle of the telepathic minds, as well as liquid fire. You can’t go wrong with liquid fire. Plus, bonus points for a character who has River Tam level grasps on sanity.
The winner of round 1? This one was hard to judge. Both entries literally made me laugh out loud from the awesome. It’s going to have to go to Brian for transforming a gladiatorial cage match into an existentialist discussion of shoes.
Tomorrow we announce the challenge for round two!
A while back I posted about open submissions for Silver Empire‘s next major project, Lyonesse. Now that I’ve finished up a few other projects (including publishing Silver Empire’s first novel and merging two dojos together), we’re ramping up Lyonesse to full production.
If you sent us a submission for Lyonesse, we probably got it. I will be sending out responses over the next two weeks. If we accepted your submission, you will be getting an NDA agreement. Sign it and we’ll be letting you in on what we’re actually up to. If we didn’t accept your submission, I will let you know. If you haven’t heard back from me by Monday, September 12, then I probably didn’t get your submission and you should try sending it again.
We are still looking for submissions! We’ve had some great ones, but we need more. This is a pretty large project, and it will also be ongoing. So if you have them, send them over. You can find the official submission guidelines here.
What is Lyonesse?
We’re still not quite ready to lay it all out. But here are a few things I can tell you. Lyonesse is not a magazine, and bears only the thinnest resemblance to that model. Neither is it a retread of the magazine concept, shoehorned onto the web. Lyonesse is conceived with the digital age in mind, and is built for the internet era. Lyonesse will be very price competitive – you’ll be getting a lot out of your entertainment dollars. Yet even so, Lyonesse is very author friendly. We’re here to support your favorite authors, not exploit them. There will be no print edition of Lyonesse itself. Dead trees are so twentieth century. There will, however, be semi-annual roundups into traditional anthologies that will be available on Amazon, and may be available in print.
Look for more information throughout the month of September. And if we stay on track, look for our Kickstarter project to launch in early October. Stay tuned – this is about to get exciting!
Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry ran earlier this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
The Barbed Devil charges with a mighty Infernal oath to bring this chaotic aberration to heel.
In the cool of the night, the devil’s heat shines as bright as day to Astlin’s fiery eyes. She’s not sure what to make of the onrushing foe until the image of a man’s face painted on a broken shield lying half-buried in the sand speaks to her with the voice of a derelict whose mind she consumed years ago.
“He doesn’t believe in your shoes.”
Hearing that the devil doubts her shoes’ existence deeply perturbs Astlin. It’s not as if they aren’t right there on her feet for everyone to see.
Wait. Are they?
She looks down at the toes of her black, sturdy boots. Yes. This guy must be crazy.
The Barbed Devil’s charge has carried him halfway across the arena. Sand sprays and bones crunch under his spiny feet.
He’s not wearing any shoes. Is that why he doesn’t believe in hers? Because he’s never worn them?
Astlin decides that the best way to prove her shoes’ existence is for the devil to try them on. She bends down to undo the complex series of buckles and fasteners that connect her boots to her armor.
No sooner are Astlin’s boots detached from her leggings than the Barbed Devil knocks her right out of them. The force of the impact surprises her, and she topples onto the sand under her shoe-doubting foe.
The devil furiously rakes Astlin with his razor-sharp claws. Most of the attacks fail to pierce her strong leather armor and stronger brass skin, but some of the barbs scratch her still human face, drawing molten brass blood.
Being infused with positive energy, the Worked liquid metal irritates the devil, making him rear back. Astlin uses the distraction to roll out from under him. In her hurry to stand, she slips and falls prone on the soft arena floor. She sees her boots lying nearby and crawls toward them.
The fingers of Astlin’s outstretched hand are about to brush against her boots when a glowing cage of pure energy surrounds her. The devil’s deep, mocking laughter cuts her as no blade can.
Anger stokes the Fire in Astlin’s soul. She lunges forward, and her transessed body’s resistance to Workings shatters the glowing cage. She seizes the boots, and the diabolical laughter stops.
The devil is on her back in an instant, pressing her face into the sand with inhuman strength. Enraged beyond words, its telepathic curses flood her mind.
This guy’s a telepath, too? Wow! This whole time Astlin thought she was the only one. Eager to show off her skill with the power they share, Astlin projects all of her thoughts and memories into the devil’s mind. He tries to resist for some reason, but it turns out that he’s not nearly as good at this as she is.
The devil doesn’t seem to like Astlin sharing her mind with him as much as she thought he would. He screams, throws himself off her, and keeps screaming while rolling around in the sand.
Astlin gleans from their telepathic bond that this guy comes from hell. She’s surprised and a little disappointed to learn that nothing he’s seen there is as bad as what happened to her.
Oh well. Serves him right for interrupting her.
What was she doing again?
Oh yeah. Shoes.
Astlin sits down on the devil’s back. He struggles but can’t do much more than writhe under the weight of what’s basically a living brass statue. She takes her boots in one hand.
You’re supposed to start with the dominant foot. Is this guy right-handed? Probably a safe bet. She grabs his right ankle. Sharp spines cover that, too, but her gloves are up to the job.
Her first attempt to put the shoe on the devil’s foot reveals a problem. Astlin’s feet are way smaller than this guy’s. She snaps off spines, and the devil howls. Still won’t fit. This is gonna take something more drastic.
Having his foot crushed down to half size drives all reason from the devil’s mind. His spear-like tail stabs out and impales Astlin through her right eye.
Astlin’s scream joins the devil’s in a nightmarish chorus. In a spasm of pain, she accidentally rips his foot from his ankle. Positively charged molten brass eats through the tip of his tail, leaving a cauterized stump behind.
In her agonized fury, Astlin jumps up. All of her weight comes crashing down on the devil’s head, squashing it like a melon. Black blood sizzles on her brass feet as she squishes grey matter between her toes. The stench of a burned corpse rises on the night air.
The devil’s barbs rattle like dry, bare brush in the wind; then go still.
Molten metal drips from Astlin’s eye socket onto the sand, where it cools into shiny amber drops. She steps off the devil’s dead body and lets its blood and brains burn off her feet before donning her boots again.
A single question haunts the souldancer: do her shoes really exist? Now she may never know.
Declan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
Amanda Colt walked into the arena, and all she could think was What the hell am I doing here?
Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the battlefield, and cataloged what she could – piece of sword, piece of armor, piece of lance, piece of … person.
When I am done here, I need to eat someone. Preferably whoever’s in charge. Can’t kill the author. He has to finish writing the book. Stupid Dragon Award…
On the other side of the arena came the hell beast, and did a quick inventory: four knives, holy water, enough phials to make things interesting, two calf holsters, and a sword. She knew her opening move, since the creature had only four areas of attack. She could see three, and adjust. But there were two obvious opening moves for the creature in front of her.
The creature broke lose. At the speed of an eye blink, Amanda drew her sword, thrusting it behind her, into thin air. When the barbed devil teleported behind her, it materialized around the sword.
The displaced air made a sound like bampf, and Amanda threw herself forward, pulling the sword out as she leaped.
“Ha!” she cried as she spun to face the seven foot demon. “I dated Gary Gygax … in … the … oh darn.”
The devil looked like a gamma-irradiated porcupine; and while she concluded correctly that its teleportation ability would bring it behind her (or above, that was an option), she probably just pissed it off.
The devil threw itself after Amanda with full blitzkrieg speed, as she backpedaled just as fast. Her sword flicked out, trying to discourage it from engaging with her, but she knew that if she got close enough to hurt it, her day was going to really suck.
She reached behind her, grabbing the first of the phials, and grimaced. This thing was fast enough to dodge most of what she threw at it. This was going to hurt.
Amanda thrust forward with the sword, and the devil knocked it aside with one claw, and grabbed Amanda’s sword arm with the other. The demonic barbs ribbed into muscle and bone, and she cried out. She went limp as the demon hoisted her by the arm, and grinned down at her.
She decided she was high enough as the devil poised its claws to eviscerate her. Then she smashed the 100 ml phial of holy water into its maw.
The glass shattered, splashing the devil. At the speed she threw it, shattered glass made little cuts in the skin, which didn’t react well to the holy water on the open wounds. There was a sizzling, crackling sound, and she expected to smell something like sulfur, but she didn’t get a chance. The devil roared in pain, but didn’t let go of Amanda’s arm, throwing her around like a rag doll. It slammed her against the ground once or twice, and she expected it to say “Puny vampire.”
Amanda started to turn to mist, starting with the captured arm. The sleeve tore, and she lost her sword, but she was free.
She was hurled a hundred feet across the arena, but she was free.
She groaned as she pushed herself to her feet. She had bounced over several broken weapons, including several spears that had left splinters in her back. But she had bigger problems. It was starting to shake off the last attack like it was just annoyed.
Amanda reached and slit the sides of her jeans with her fingernails. She needed quick access to her calf holsters. Given how far away it was, it had two options. She dropped to one knee, feeling the ground while keeping an eye on the devil. She found a piece of old armor, and the hilt of a sword.
It turned and glared at her, and she was certain it wasn’t going to transport again.
She leaped to one side and hurled both the ancient weapon and armor, just a split second before the scorching ray lashed out and laid waste to the area she’d been. The armor piece hit like a discus and the broken blade jabbed it in the arm, but that just made it blink. Less a matter of pain, and more like “Where did this come from?”
She hurled any discarded detritus on the ground – partial spear, a ribcage. The devil just lashed out again. She dove out of the way, but it still caught her on the side. It blasted her across the field, and she deliberately rolled to put out the blaze before she made an ash out of herself.
Amanda grabbed the H&K-PDW in her left calf holster, yanking it out, and spraying it right at the devil. It flinched, like multiple bees were stabbing into it.
She didn’t empty the magazine before she reloaded. She reached down, grabbed the next PDW. Knowing it had to close with her, she leaped straight up into the air, 20 feet off the ground, before it bampfed.
The beast bampfed right underneath her, only six feet off the ground, attempting to attack her above her previous position. She pointed her left gun straight down, blasting down into devil’s skull. She landed on it, feet first, plowing it into the ground.
It bounced back. It’s right hand burst into flame. She dropped her empty left gun and grabbed its wrist. The tail lashed out and wrapped around her waist, slowly crushing and cutting into her. The left hand slashed down, overhanded. Amanda blocked it with her right forearm.
The devil looked at her, and tried to burrow into her mind.
She glared. “I … am … vampire!”
She rotated her arm, making the attack slide down her right side. She jammed the PDW into the devil’s mouth, and held down the trigger. Thirty rounds of armor piercing bullets punched through the back of the devil’s mouth, and out its head.
The devil’s fire went out, and the muscles relaxed as it fell over. Amanda dropped to her knees, exhausted. “I need more blood if I do this again.”
Last Saturday the members of the World Science Fiction Convetion voted on the annual Hugo Awards. As I noted some time ago, there is a certain clique within science fiction that has a real problem. The perverted SJWs who make up the majority of the convention are covering for sexual predators, molestation, and child rape. There are some who still seem to think there is something redeemable about this collection of perverts.
Not one but two child rape exposes received Hugo Award nominations this year. “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Jeffro and “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland. Lest you feel this somehow excuses them, please note that these two exposes only made the ballots due to extraordinary efforts of outside forces. This is conclusively demonstrated by the sad news out of WorldCon this weekend. Not only did neither of these tales win the award – that would be OK, if disappointing. More to the point, both of them were voted well underneath “No Award.” For those unfamiliar with Hugo Award voting, that means that the majority (in this case the vast majority) of the perverts who attend WorldCon believed that exposing this very serious issue not only wasn’t the best “related work” this year, but that these articles weren’t even worthy of the nomination in the first place.
In other words, these sickos believe that exposing actual, documented child rape is an unworthy cause.
Why? There is only one plausible explanation. This kind of sick perversion continues to this day and these people are covering for it.
A while back I noted that my friends Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier both got nominated for the upcoming first annual Dragon Award in the same category. Being a good and loyal friend, this forced me into a conundrum: who to vote for? There is only one way to settle this – gladiatorial combat! The authors have now submitted their champions.
100 years old, give or take. Russian. Her CV is extensive. She’s served as a spy and a soldier on multiple continents and wars. She’s also Catholic, religious, and has alternate blood supplies. She has mastered more combat systems than even she remembers, if only because of professional interest, and she has the time on her hands. She’s smarter than the average bear, and has several bachelor’s degrees, and a smattering of Masters degrees here and there. She hasn’t bothered with any PhDs that I know of, but characters sometimes don’t tell you everything.
Her powers are standard vampire: seriously strong, seriously fast, and has teeth. At this point, she can turn to mist, but probably can’t take her clothes with her. She can become a rat or a bat, or a wolf. She is eye-blink fast when she wants to be (as in: she’s in front of you, you blink, she’s behind you breaking your neck). She is allergic to sunlight, wood, and silver. If she’s set on fire, she can put it out, but she has to do it fast, or she goes up like flash paper. Her exposure to low-level sunlight won’t kill her, but direct sunlight will burn her, and she has seconds to get to cover. Religious objects will not hurt her, because of her moral / ethical / alignment. And of course, cutting her into little pieces or cutting her head off will kill her.
Astlin Tremore, Souldancer of Fire.
The Souldancer of Fire resembles a slight teenage girl with shoulder-length, deep red hair and incandescent blue eyes. Clad in asymmetrical leather armor haphazardly fashioned from the tanned hides of otherworldly beasts and strewn with metal fasteners, rings, and buckles.
In truth, a souldancer’s outward appearance is merely a shell Worked to contain the merged interdimensional rift/soul of its true being.
The arena goes dark, lit only by tiny torches ringing its vast combat field and the twinkling of the stars above. The audience quiets in anticipation. Bones of fallen gladiators litter the field, punctuated occasionally by the random piece of arms and armor. Our champion steps onto the field, ready for combat, and they erupt in raucous cheers
A dark, robed figure stands above all on a floating dais: the Gamelord. He makes a gesture with his hand and the audience goes silent. The ground rumbles. Across the arena from our champion smoke billows out from below. A creature appears. From the tip of its lashing tail to the serrated features of its fang-filled visage, this fiery-eyed sentinel bristles with barbs. Hell itself has come alive. It drools and snaps its jaws. It sees our champion and lashes out, straining to reach her. An invisible force holds it at bay.
The Gamemaster raises his arm and the audience goes wild. His face remains hidden under a thick hood, yet our champion can feel his malicious grin through the cloth.
“Begin!” he calls out. The monster moves, as if invisible bonds have broken.
The first challenge is a Barbed Devil inside a darkened, star-and-torchlit arena at night.
Sentinels of the vaults of Hell, jailers of the darkest souls, and living weapons of the infernal forges, barbed devils—known as hamatulas to diabolists—enforce the strictures of the damned and safeguard the nefarious works of greater devils. A hamatula enjoys the feel of warm blood on its spines, and prefers to leap into melee when presented with an opportunity for battle.
Hamatulas are collectors and organizers, and are favorite allies of greedy summoners as they often bring with them tempting treasures from Hell’s vaults or know the paths to deadly riches. Left to their own devices, the lairs of these devils often bear the pierced trophies of their past victims, hung like perverse bug collections on bloodied walls. Most barbed devils stand upward of 7 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds, though their leanly muscled bodies appear much larger due to the constantly growing and adjusting spines that protrude from their razor-sharp bodies.
Both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.
If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. And please consider both of them as worthy contenders in the upcoming Dragon Awards!
Special Note: Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer is currently free and will remain so until the end of the week. You can’t beat that!