Category Archives for Silver Empire

2016 Planetary Awards Nominations

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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:

  1. Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
  2. 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.

Shorter Story

Between the Wall and the Fire

Between the Wall and the Fire

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!

Longer Story

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!

Lyonesse Author Spotlight and Free Story – L Jagi Lamplighter

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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.


Four Funerals and a Wedding

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.

Nothing.

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.

 

The End

NEW RELEASE: The Cinder Witch by Morgon Newquist

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Months ago, Alis joined with her new friend Cahan to fight a dragon beneath the School of Spells and War. Now she fights something altogether different: fame. Worse, her newfound notoriety has resulted in a mission to the far north. As if it weren’t bad enough that it’s so cold, she also finds herself in a tiny village whose residents innately distrust spellcasters of all kinds. Yet they tolerate her because she comes with Cahan – and because something is threatening their children. Can Alis and Cahan save them?

THE CINDER WITCH is the is the third story of the The School of Spells & War series. following the adventures of the sorceress Alis and her companion Cahan the warrior.

The School of Spells & War Tale Three, THE CINDER WITCH, is 45 pages, DRM free, and $0.99. If you enjoyed Mrs. Newquist‘s DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE, or A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY you will definitely enjoy the third story in The School of Spells & War.

The School of Spells & War is an ongoing collection of old fashioned sword-and-sorcery adventure stories following a wizard and warrior duo as they galavant across the continent of Thillon. Good-humored, powerful warrior Cahan and intelligent, skilled wizard Alis work together to serve their university, the school of spells and war, by battling dragons, investigating plots against the king, hunting witches, and dealing with the ongoing threat of the ancient and mysterious Formless.

As an added bonus, the first tale of The School of Spells & War, DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE will be free on Amazon from tomorrow, December 30th, 2016, through New Year’s Day 2017 for those who have not yet begun this delightful series.

A Conversation with Christopher Lansdown

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Fellow author Christopher Lansdown very graciously invited me to join him on his YouTube channel to discuss, among other things, Short Stories and Lyonesse. I had to put him off for a few days due to losing my voice to a cold and the Christmas holiday itself. Last night we finally managed to sit down together. I had a blast talking with Chris. The one complaint that I have is, I suspect, the largest one you’ll have, too. The conversation ran kind of long. Er, maybe a LOT long, at two and a half hours. I hope that I prove interesting enough to hold your attention that long.

View the video at the embed below.

Lyonesse Kickstarter FUNDED!

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Thank you to all of our backers for helping us to get our subscription SciFi & Fantasy short story service, Lyonesse, fully funded! Thanks to your help, we can ensure a minimum payment to each of our launch authors. As a bonus reward this morning, we’re offering up this piece of art done by my sister-in-law for the Kickstarter campaign.

If you haven’t contributed yet, don’t fret! There’s still time! You can contribute now! Remember, a mere $7 gets you a full year subscription. That’s at least 52 stories! Get your subscription now and spread the word! Your friends will want in on this, too. We’d love to hit our stretch goal and pay our authors even more. Given the amazing stories in this collection, they certainly deserve it.

Authors – there’s still time to contribute! See our submission guidelines for more information!

Lyonesse Update and Author Spotlight – Cheah Kai Wai

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logo-01Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! As of this morning we’re more than two thirds of the way to 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. We’ve got some great stuff on deck for our first quarter, and I can’t wait to start sharing these stories with readers. Speaking of our great up and coming authors, today I’d like to spotlight Cheah Kai Wai.

benjamincheahI first became aware of Cheah Kai Wai when I read his story Flashpoint: Titan in Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War: Volume X. The most excellent story intrigued me in its own right. I found it extra fascinating, however, for personal reasons. It featured a scenario quite similar to my own contribution to that anthology (The Fourth Fleet). Yet he took it in a completely different direction and made it a wholly different story. Many (myself included) would argue he actually made it a better story, as evidenced by the Hugo nomination it received.

Flashpoint: Titan was a great story. His contribution to Lyonesse, if I may say so, is leagues better. We Bury Our Own blew me away when I read it, and it will do the same to you. I won’t go into to much detail because you really don’t want to know too much going in. Let me just say, “science fiction battle angels.” It’s every bit as awesome as that makes it sound – but it’s also got a depth to it that might catch you well off guard.

I believe he also has a novel forthcoming from Castalia House, which I look forward to with great interest. Cheah Kai Wai is definitely a young author to watch.

Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

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logo-01The Lyonesse Kickstarter is now live! Drop by and help us Make Short Fiction Great Again!

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

Lyonesse Author Spotlight – Jonathan Ward

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It’s time to meet another of the authors whose stories you’ll be reading after you purchase your Lyonesse subscription. We’ve already met met Dean Abbott and Anya Ow. Today we meet Jonathan Ward. In the words of his Amazon.com bio:

jonathanwardJonathan is a science-fiction, horror and fantasy writer hailing from the sprawling urban metropolis of Bedford. He has wanted to be an author since the age of eight, though it’s questionable whether his writing talents have improved since then. When not writing he can be found reading a good book, out exploring new places, or in the pub being sarcastic to his closest friends.

outliersMr. Ward has a rather extensive back catalog of books. His latest novel, Outliers, is set in a world where a new drug is giving people extraordinary talents and abilities. Meanwhile, clandestine groups fight for power. It’s the first part of what promises to be a fascinating new series.

His Lyonesse submission, Number 43, tells the tale of a man augmented chemically and mechanically by a mad scientist. As he reaches the point of madness, he also fights for his freedom. It’s a dark and gritty tale that veers almost into the horror side of science fiction, and you’ll find it quite intriguing.

Lyonesse Author Spotlight – Anya Ow

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anyaowIt’s time to meet another of the authors whose stories you’ll be reading after you purchase your Lyonesse subscription. Last time we met Dean Abbott. Today, we meet Anya Ow. In the words of her own bio:

One of the first things I ever drew was a five-legged dog: I’ve been adding more randomness to life since the 80s. I practiced as a lawyer for a few years before switching to advertising (it’s better for the soul). Now designing, doodling and writing on the side in between work. Born in Singapore. Based in Melbourne. Culturally food obsessed.

Her first book, The Firebird’s Tale, begins with the end of a familiar story: a Prince who never smiled, and by Imperial decree, has to marry the one who managed to make him do so.

Except that it was all an accident, and the Prince would say he didn’t actually smile at the thief who dared to rob a Tsar, and the thief was not even a woman—or, as it turns out, even human.

The book is available now, from Less than Three Press.

Her Lyonesse submission, The Dreaming Wounds, tells of a special family. They carry the gift of seeing ghosts – and helping put them to rest. I must say that the tale caught me by surprise at more than one point.

A Pius Book Deal

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Dragon Award nominated author Declan Finn.

Dragon Award nominated author Declan Finn.

I am pleased to announce the newest author in the Silver Empire family: Declan Finn. Mr. Finn is the Dragon Award nominated author of Honor at Stake, Sad Puppies Bite Back, and many more.

We have picked up Mr Finn for not one, not three, but five books! We’re picking up the entire Pius Trilogy – A Pius Man, A Pius Legacy, and A Pius Stand. We’re also picking up the related works, Pius Tales (a collection of short stories) and Pius History (the real history behind the trilogy). These books, previously self published by Mr. Finn, will continue to be available on Amazon.com through November 18, 2016.

apiusman_ebook-01Afterward, we’ll be taking them down for new covers, new ebook and print layouts, and a mild editing pass. We’ll be re-releasing the books soon, spacing them out a few months apart.

We’re very excited to have Mr. Finn aboard. This is a huge expansion for Silver Empire, and a big step forward for Mr. Finn. We look forward to a long partnership with him. For more information see the official Silver Empire press release, Mr. Finn’s blog, and his author page at SilverEmpire.org.