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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 3

The second post of today’s Boosting the Signal doubleheader features fellow Here Be Magic author Rebecca York. I’m quite honored to have her on my column tonight, given that I’ve got a few of this lady’s paperbacks on my shelf! Her entry in the Here Be Magic boxed set is the novella Terror Mansion, and she’s sent me an excerpt from same to run for you all here now. Her character Wyatt Granger’s goal? Find the mysterious woman he’s certain needs his help.


Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

This wasn’t Wyatt Granger’s routine nightmare. Usually he had a clear vision of some unfortunate future event that he might or might not be able to alter.

Instead he saw a confusing swirl of murky images with shadowy figures appearing and disappearing, mostly at an old building near the dock in a seaside town. More confounding were the scenes in what looked like a house of horrors, filled with distorted mirrors, a laughing but menacing clown and places where the floor dropped out from under your feet, sending you to the depths of hell.

But always at the center of the whirlwind was a beautiful young woman with terror in her wide-set blue eyes and her blond hair in a tangle around her heart-shaped face.

When his own eyes blinked open, he lay with his heart pounding, fighting his way back to reality. But the here and now kept slithering away. What he saw instead was the woman’s face floating in his mind, the most indelible image from the nightmare.

“Who are you?” he whispered as he sat up and thrust aside the tangled bedsheets.

Although she wasn’t there to respond, he had no doubt that he was going to meet her soon, and the encounter was going to change his life.

A dramatic way to put it? Maybe, but he knew to the marrow of his bones that the dream had been about his own future—even when his prescient nightmares had never been personal before.

“Crap,” he whispered under his breath. He stood up, pressed his feet against the cold floor and walked naked to the window of his condo, where he stood clenching and unclenching his fists as he looked toward the glimmer of dawn on the horizon.

He ached to shake off the vivid confusion of the dream.

But instead of the bare tree trunks outside, he saw the woman’s face, pale and intense and beautiful.

“Who are you?” he asked again, but he heard only the throbbing of the blood in his veins.

He might not know her name, but he had to find her. He could have fought the feeling of urgency that threatened to choke off his breath, but the truth of the dream was burned into his soul, even when he had no way to cope with it on a logical level. All he knew was that he had to go to her. And then he had to take her in his arms and protect her—even when he knew she was going to mount a savage denial that she needed his aid.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 2

This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but this is what happens when you spend most of your workday dealing with computer crankiness. But my delay is your gain, because this means y’all get to have a doubleheader today in the week-long Boosting the Signal feature on the Here Be Magic boxed set! Today’s post brings a new name to the Boosting the Signal author list: fellow HBM member Linda Mooney. Linda’s contribution to the boxed set is the story Tall, Tall Trees, and she’s offering up a deleted scene from that tale for you today. Her characters in that story have the very straightforward goal of surviving to save their lives and their love, while in this piece, the medicine woman Aunty Vo has a more immediate goal: withstanding the wrath of Pellera’s father.


Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Aunty Vo stared at the collection of personal items she’d managed to gather to take with her. Her old bones told her the upcoming rains would result in a flood unlike anything anyone had ever witnessed or survived. To say she was frightened would be a mistake. She was terrified beyond words, and almost beyond thought.

“Old woman! Where are you, old woman? Answer me!” A voice bellowed from the front room. She immediately knew who it was.

She took her time making her way through the curtain to find Maton and two of his cronies standing by the fire. They were armed with clubs and axes. By the expressions on their faces, she could tell they had a more sinister purpose for being here than asking for a hunting spell. She knew why they’d sought her out, and hardened herself.

“Watch your tongue, Maton. I do not like your tone,” she informed their leader.

“I demand to know where my daughter has gone,” Maton ordered. “Give me the information I seek.”

“I do not know where she’s gone,” the medicine woman replied coolly. It was the truth. She had only given Pellera and Oron her blessing and advice. She had no knowledge of what they did after they left. However, Maton refused to listen.

“You do know, old woman. Cortab saw them leave here not long ago. Where were they going? To the treeber home compound?”

Aunty Vo did not attempt to hide her disgust. “I did not say I hadn’t seen them. Only that I do not know where they went after they left.”

“Why were they here in the first place?” The man continued to irritate her.

“You know I am not obligated to tell you anything. What I do or say to those who seek my help is sacrosanct. But this one time I will tell you they were seeking my blessing on their union. Something you had no intention of giving. Now go away and leave me in peace.”

She turned to exit the room. She never expected Maton to lunge for her and grab her arm with bruising fingers.

“Tell me what I want to know!” he hotly demanded.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Let me go, Maton. I am telling you nothing more, and bullying will not work on me.” She glanced at the other two, who’d retreated to the front door flap to watch in uncomfortable silence. “If you continue to follow this man, you will be met with death. Heed my warning.”

The fingers squeezed more tightly, making her wince.

“You are a cruel and unjust man, Maton. Your forthcoming death will be beneficial to this tribe’s welfare.”

The man paled but he remained absolute. “Are you threatening me?”

She never flinched. “Are you? Don’t forget, Maton, I have the ears of the gods, and they have mine. They’ve whispered of your demise, and they are taking delight in it. Go look for your precious child…before it’s too late.”

“What do you mean by that? Before it’s too late?” He gave her arm a shake.

“Maton?” One of the men by the doorway interceded. “Maton, we need to hurry if we’re going to make any sort of headway before dark.”

Aunty Vo gave him her best shadowy smile. One she knew struck fear in men’s hearts whenever she graced them with it. “Yes, Maton. You’d best hurry. Your hours are numbered.”

Her soft prophecy had the effect she was seeking. The man shuddered, and he removed his hand.

“Hours? You mean years,” he tried to correct her.

“No, Maton. You heard me correctly the first time. Your time among the living is being measured in hours. I strongly suggest you to put them to good use, beginning with trying to make amends with your own flesh and blood before it’s too late.”

Jerking her arm from the man’s grasp, she left the outer room where she soon heard the men depart. After wrapping the few precious items she could not bear to leave behind, she bundled them in a sling and placed it over her head where it rested on one shoulder and across her body. Tying a flask of water and a bag of food around her waist, she grabbed her bowl of light and began her journey through the deep recesses of the caves where she would find shelter.

There, she would wait out the aftermath of the flooding rains, and the devastation they would bring.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Here Be Magic Boxed Set, by Various Authors, Post No. 1

Welcome to the first of the special Boosting the Signal run of posts featuring the Here Be Magic boxed set! This is a digital release put out by the blogging group I’m in, Here Be Magic. And while I’m not actually in this boxed set myself, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love, so I invited the participating authors to send me pieces to promote the release. The first of these is from previous Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert, whose story in the set is from her Ravensblood universe. Raven’s Song is set between books 1 and 2 of that series. If you’ve read Book 1, you might have a good idea already of what her protagonist’s goal is: to prove that he is capable of goodness. Here’s Corwyn Ravenscroft on that very topic!


Here Be Magic Boxed Set

Here Be Magic Boxed Set

I thought the hard part was over.

No, I can’t say that. It is over. I would never want to live those last dark months again. Watching William descend further and further into blood-soaked madness, terrified all the time that he would discover my duplicity. Terrified that he would win, and that all of the Three Communities would be forced into the hell that his followers had walked into of their own accord. Betraying both my master and my students to keep that from happening, never knowing whether I was buying back my soul or damning it further.

At the risk of tempting fate, I will say that nothing I face again in my life could be worse than those months.

But at least then I fought with weapons I knew. My skill with magic, which is both my birthright and my life’s study. The guile and dissembling gleaned from years of survival within William’s inner circle.

I confess that I hadn’t had any thought then of what lay on the other side of defeating William and gaining my pardon. Perhaps, deep down, I hadn’t expected to survive. In my darkest moments, I hadn’t believed I deserved to.

Now here I am, back in the world. A free citizen. With an agent of Guardian International Investigations for a lover, gods help us both.

I’ve been a dark mage for all of my adult life, minus the last half-year or so. I’m not sure I know how to be anything else. ‘Normal’ isn’t as easy as it looked from the outside. I can pick up the piano again, easily enough. There’s sheet music to remind me of where my fingers go. I can find no guide to making acquaintances not built on alliances and advantage.

As far as anything beyond acquaintance, well… Under William’s tutelage I learned how to seduce, when urge or occasion arose. When the mood struck, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced. When it comes to the sort of long-term relationship that normal people have, the sort based on love and trust and honesty, I can only say that I’m willing to try, for Cassandra’s sake. For my own sake, to be truthful, because I can’t imagine walking into this new life without her at my side.

There are still plenty of people waiting for me to fail. To smile and nod and tell each other that they knew it all along. That there’s no way that a Ravenscroft could be anything other than dark.

I refuse to prove them right. Not only because I can be as arrogant and stubborn as I’ve often been accused of being. But because I’ve fought too hard for this new life to let it go. I have far too much to lose.

And because there are a small number of people who believe that I might succeed. And they matter more.


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Boosting the Signal

New Boosting the Signal special feature: the Here Be Magic boxed set!

I hope y’all enjoyed the special run of Boosting the Signal feature posts that I did for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum! Since that seemed to do pretty well overall, I’m going to do a similar one for another recent release by a group I’m involved with: i.e., the newly released boxed set by my fellow bloggers at Here Be Magic.

This is a digital boxed set, and you can read up about it right over here on participating author Linda Mooney’s site. I’m not actually in this boxed set (I was going to be, but was not able to finish a novella for it in time), but since this is a release by my Here Be Magic peeps, I wanted to give it some signalboosting love regardless. And if you’ve been following my periodic HBM posts, or the HBM blog in general, you’ll know that the authors in this group are a mixed bag of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and fantasy. The boxed set reflects this!

What’s the difference between a boxed set and an anthology, you might be asking? Fundamentally speaking, not much, actually. This is one gigantic ebook that contains multiple stories, but in this case, the stories are longer than the short stories you’d expect to find in an anthology. We’re talking novellas here, folks.

I’ve got a few pieces from participating authors that I hope will boost your interest in checking the release out, so stick around. These posts will start TOMORROW.

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 7

This post was supposed to go up on Sunday, but this is what happens when you are hit with SURPRISE CRITICAL SERVER MAINTENANCE! Which took us until Monday night to really resolve, so now I can finally bring you all the seventh and final special Boosting the Signal post for the 2015 NIWA anthology, Asylum. The final featured author is Walt Socha, whose story in the anthology is “The Seventy Percent Solution”, and he offers you a small prologue for that story now! (And Walt is now the second Boosting the Signal guest I’ve had whose piece stars non-humanoid protagonists, too! With a nice tasty goal of GTFO, always a classic.)




Prologue to “The Seventy Percent Solution”

“Your food cravings will cause trouble,” Adur chittered. “Think of the future.” He wiped a paw over his face.

“Future?” M’rist shook her head, whiskers quivering. “We People are bred to be sacrificed to the whims of the Two Legs.”

“Stealing food from the nest of the Two Legs worker will not help.”

“But the dark food is very tasty.” M’rist lowered her gaze. “Makes me feel good.” She looked up. “Is there no hope of communicating with them?”

“We have discussed that. Remember our non-talking smaller cousins? One ran the maze quickly without pretending to be confused.” Adur shivered. “The chief of the Two Legs cut his head open.”

“Even if they knew we can talk like them?”

“We hear their low pitched sounds and understand them, but the Two Legs can not hear our higher pitched words. Even if they could, I doubt they could understand.” Adur sat, licked the back of his paw, and brushed it across his face. Even if they did establish communications by sound or by inking the sound symbols on paper, what would the Two Legs do? Could they trust creatures who cut their prisoners heads open for merely running through their primitive mazes without hesitation?

Letting his grooming falter, Adur let out a deep breath. The Peoples’ only hope was to escape this prison of pain.

But what then? The People did not even know what lay beyond the hard metal doors. They had mastered the many sheets of symbols stored in the nests of individual Two Legs. But even with visual images, it was difficult to interpret the descriptions of the outside world.

He resumed his grooming.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 6

And now, the sixth post in the special Boosting the Signal series for the 2015 NIWA anthology Asylum! Making her Boosting the Signal debut is today’s author, Connie J. Jasperson. Her story in the anthology revolves around Billy Ninefingers, the Rowdies, and the fundamental idea of asylum—the concept around which the town of Limpwater has grown. The Fat Friar, Robert De Bolt, pushes Billy to widen his horizons and take on a bad job in this wandering tale of snark and strange majik. Here now as a prelude to that story, Connie offers this bit of flash fiction: “The Fat Friar”.




“The Fat Friar”

Billy Ninefingers, captain of the mercenary band known as the Rowdies, stood behind the bar at Billy’s Revenge. His inn had only been open for three days, but already he was doing good business. Several merchants he’d never met who were traveling the trade road stopped there, promising even more business for his Rowdies.

A rather portly looking man entered, wearing the robes of a Brother of St. Aelfrid.

“I’m looking for Billy Ninefingers.” His voice was deep and clear, the sort that would resonate at a naming ceremony or a funeral, bringing comfort even to those in the back of the chapel.

“Who shall I say is looking for him?” asked Billy.

“Oh, sorry. Robert De Bolt. I was told the church could buy some lots from him. I’ve been sent here to—what is this town’s name, anyway?”

“Limpwater. I’m putting the signs on the trade road today. I’m Billy Ninefingers,” replied Billy, holding up his maimed hand to forestall the friar’s onslaught of words. “I’d be happy to sell you what you need. Have you some idea which lots are you interested in?”

“I suppose we should look at them.” The friar looked longingly at the mugs on the shelf behind the bar. “But perhaps we might quench our thirst first?”

“It’ll cost you a copper,” Billy poured a mug and handed it to the friar. “So you’re building a chapel here in Limpwater.”

“And also an infirmary,” replied Robert, savoring his ale. “I’ve the plans with me. Mother Agnes will send sisters for healing from Hyola once I get the chapel open for business.”

“You’ll want at least two adjoining lots,” said Billy.

“Eight. This will be a larger infirmary as it has to serve Dervy and Somber Flats too,” Robert said, smiling broadly. “But I’ll need to build a double-cottage, one side for me, and one for the sisters. Separate entrances and all. I’ll make the sisters’ side of the cottage spacious, as several healers and their apprentices will be sent here. The Patriarch and Mother Agnes expect this town to grow quite rapidly.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” replied Billy. “The nearest Sisters of Anan were in Somber Flats, but they were run off.”

“I know about Somber Flats. The church is taking a dim view of that, which is I why I’m here.” Robert held his mug out again. “I’ll need a room here until I get the chapel built.”

“The lots cost five golds each, because I have to figure out how to get the streets paved and sewer catches installed. I don’t have enough gold for that right now. Selling the lots covers those costs. We’ll have water piped to pumps at the street corners so everyone has good clean water. That means the water system will need to be cleaned every year and repaired, and so we’ll have to have an annual subscription for that. Folks need access to a sewer-catch on each street to dump their chamberpots. James Holloway, the king’s architect, designed the sewers, but maintaining them costs money. I’ll have to levy a small fee for that.”

“That’s fair. I spoke to James before I left, because you’ll need to expand them soon. You’re smart to plan ahead for maintenance.”

Billy looked ill. “How soon? My pockets are empty these days.”

“Next year, by the look of things.” Robert set his mug down. “Don’t worry. I’ll help you find the golds. But I’ll have to wait until later for another mug.” Sighing, he said, “My stipend is small, and my appetite for ale is over-large.”

Billy chuckled. “Well, let’s get you set up in a room for now and talk with the carpenters. Builders and thatchers have come from all over to work.”

Robert said, “I noticed you’ve a lot of refugees from Lanqueshire and Somber Flats here and they can’t feed themselves, much less pay for the lots.”

“I know, but I can’t turn them away. Once they get settled they’ll be able to pay their way.” Billy grinned. “I’d have nothing if not for the men and women from all over this sad, bad world who have come here looking for refuge.” He looked away. “I’m hard-pressed to feed us all, but the river is full of fish, and it was a good year for turnips.”

“I’ve some ideas you might be interested in, to bring more coins to town. We’ve a lot of raw material to work with here that will provide income for your citizens and pay the fees for your projects. And I’ve a large shipment of beans and dried peas on the way from Harlynde, courtesy of the church.”

Billy smiled, feeling one burden lifted away. “Everyone has pitched in, and we’ve a stockpile of root vegetables for now, but our beans didn’t do well this year. That will help get us through the winter.” He drew the friar a mug of ale. “You just earned yourself a mug on me!”


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 5

The special Boosting the Signal week for the NIWA 2015 anthology Asylum continues! Today’s featured author is Pamela Bainbridge-Cowan, whose story is “Going Sane”—and whose unnamed narrator is seeking to escape The Facility. (And oh my no, a name like The Facility is not the SLIGHTEST BIT OMINOUS.) Before that, though, there’s a goal of figuring out how to cope with life, and Pamela’s sent me an excerpt in which her narrator and her friend Vo discuss how the narrator has had to cope with what life has thrown her up till now, via painting.




I had one friend at The Facility, maybe one friend anywhere. Of course the universe, with its ironic sense of humor, made sure that he—the least likely to help me—would be the only one who could.

Vo Danielson. Unless you’ve spent your life beyond the Milky Way you’ve heard of him: the best musician of our time, maybe of all time. And also that guy who wrapped his hands around a transport slide wire which discharged, melting his hands into unrecognizable lumps of useless flesh.

I remember the first time we talked. It was late and we were the only ones in the community lounge. Earlier, the walls of my room had felt like they were shrinking. I was having one of my manic nights, a dish of self-pity served with a side of rage.

Brazenly I stared at his hands, balled up into fists on his lap. “They say you didn’t know the wire carried enough energy to fry your hands. Did you?”

I was sitting at one of the carved mahogany tables. Had been reading. He was sitting on the end of one of the tastefully horrific white and pink silk couches my mother had donated. Had been doing nothing. He looked up and smiled. “I knew,” he said.

Later, he asked about my family.

“My family…” I repeated as I thought about the question. “My family is brilliant and unique. My mother, before she retired to be my business manager, was in genetic R&D with Myer-Hoy. She designed me when she was sixteen and perfected her work at nineteen when she got her first breeding license. She hadn’t wanted me to be conventionally pretty—there were far too many pretty people. Instead, my pattern was a truly heteromorphic design. As you can see, she made my features stark and angled, my eyes sharply slanted and of course just this lovely slash across my face for a mouth. She also wanted me tall, but since my torso is about average she put most of my height in my lower legs. Then, to make things more symmetrical she designed my forearms to be extra-long. She thought she was creating a really new exotic, not an ugly freak who looks more like an insect than a human.”

Sometimes Vo made me forget what I was. Forgetting is a set up. It’s like drinking, or drugs, or dreams. It’s a temporary fix that takes you up and drops you so you hit the ground again. It hurts when you hit the ground because you can remember the last time and the time before that: all those bad landings. The aggregate should kill you—but it doesn’t.

Vo eventually asked me why I paint the things I do.

I didn’t want to talk about that, but I didn’t want him to go away again either. Finally I said, “When I was thirteen I saw a dead raven beside a garbage can. It was an old bird, feathers ruffled, not bleeding, not shot. I thought maybe it had a broken neck, some sort of natural death. I wanted that to be true. Someone had tied a wide pink ribbon around its legs. Maybe so they could carry it without touching it too much. I don’t know. And why a ribbon, something so pretty? It was death and beauty. It was black and pink. Rough and smooth. I ran home and painted it. Everyone thought it was amazing. My mother saw it as my first truly creative moment. It was proof that she’d done everything right. Not just my design but all of it—not marrying, giving all her passion to her work. It was affirmation.

“She took it to a gallery and they wanted more. So for five years, I painted dead birds. Dead birds with ribbons around their feet or their necks. Dead birds covered with flowers, hung from twisted ivy in the branches of trees, heaped on the shores of breathtaking lakes. I got sick of dead birds. One day I painted a bird without feathers. Raw sinews and tissue purple with blood, feathers torn off and thrown down. I was having a tantrum. And they loved it.”


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