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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 2

The special Boosting the Signal feature week for the NIWA 2015 Anthology Asylum continues! Today’s post is a piece from author William J. Cook. In his story “The Last Refuge”, Qunbula, a splinter group from Al-Qaeda, has destroyed Seattle in a nuclear holocaust. A firestorm of anti-Islamic hysteria is sweeping the country, and the newly established Patriots Administration is rounding up Muslims on the west coast and confining them to prison camps in Montana and Wyoming. Hamza, the registrar at a community college near Portland, is on the run with a very straightforward goal: trying to survive as he grapples with the growing virulence around him, even from children. A very timely story, I feel!




Lunch in the Burger King was terrifying. He knew his American history. A dark-skinned man huddled in the corner with a suitcase? He imagined sitting at the counter of a whites-only diner in 1950 Alabama. Children were the worst. While grownups would usually look away when they saw his darker skin and hair, children would stare at him and point. They had already been taught profiling by their parents.

“He’s one of them, Momma, I just know it,” a tow-haired boy about his daughter’s age whispered loudly, while tugging at his mother’s sleeve.

Hamza hunkered down lower and rushed to finish his sandwich and fries. This is my country! he thought helplessly, eager to get out from under the watchful gaze of the unforgiving child. I’m an American citizen! I served in the Army! But something vital had ruptured, some organic kinship with this boy and his mother had dissolved. The threat these people felt from all things Muslim was projected onto Hamza. Soon someone would stand up and point an outstretched arm at him, shouting imprecations at the stranger in their midst. He envisioned uniformed Patriots crashing through the glass doors, guns raised.

Through it all he imagined his daughter’s confused face, her eyebrows arching, her lips quivering. “Why Daddy? Why don’t they like us anymore? I go to school with them. We play jump rope and volleyball together. They came to my birthday party.”

“Why Daddy?”

How could he have explained this dark secret, this violence at the heart of things, to a ten-year-old girl—or to his wife for that matter? Despite his grief, he was glad he would never have to.

In a moment, he was up and hurrying out of the restaurant. In his haste, he caught his suitcase in the double doors and the clatter drew all eyes to him. He saw several people reach for their cell phones.

Again he ran.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Asylum, by Various Authors, Post No. 1

Normally I run Boosting the Signal posts on Fridays when I have them to run. But since I’m a member of NIWA, and NIWA does a yearly anthology, I’m running a special feature week to highlight the 2015 NIWA anthology! It’s called Asylum, and features stories by both NIWA and non-NIWA authors, all along the theme of the anthology title. Today’s Boosting the Signal post features a piece from Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins to highlight their story “Bedlam Asylum”. Of this story, Jeffrey says that it’s set one month after their novel Foul is Fair, and it’s a strategic analysis of the emotional needs of disabled pixie Ashling. And as you might guess, Ashling’s goal is pretty much what the anthology says on the tin: asylum.




Humans mistake pixies for butterflies and sprites for moths. Pixies travel and work in glimmers; sprites, in murmurs.

Pixie magic focuses on locations, and sprite magic focuses on events, but the important thing is that it’s always done together.

Ashling’s wings were torn years ago. She relies on a service crow just to fly at all. Her glimmer left her behind a long time ago. She’s worked mostly alone with her crow, or with people fifty times her size. She says she’s fine. She’s lying. Who knows if her friends can tell, but any pixie or sprite could.

An outcast sprite and an outcast pixie will understand each other in ways a half-human sidhe princess and a half-menehune will never fathom, no matter how good of friends they all are.

But Ashling is friends with the princess. The princess whose little clique in Seattle is safely off-limits from Faerie conflict for the rest of the season.

Ashling needs not to be alone anymore, and that’s all the ‘in’ a sprite looking to be granted asylum could ask for.


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Boosting the Signal

Special Boosting the Signal announcement!

As y’all know, Boosting the Signal posts usually run on Fridays (when I have them to run). However, next week I will be running one every weekday, because I want to give some special love to this year’s NIWA anthology!

The anthology is called Asylum, and it features stories by both NIWA and non-NIWA authors. I’m not in it, but since I am a NIWA member, I’m helping out by doing that signal-boosting thing. If you like short fiction, I hope you’ll come check out the posts I’ll be running, and that you’ll consider snarfing up a copy of the anthology for your reading.

Meanwhile: stick around for today’s Boosting the Signal post, which is imminent!

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Underground, by the Northwest Independent Writers Association

This is another out-of-band Boosting the Signal post, which I’m doing mostly to support the 2014 NIWA anthology, and because I can! So y’all remember I’m in NIWA, right? There’s an anthology coming out TODAY! It’s called Underground, and one of the participating authors, Roslyn McFarland, sent me in a piece called “Soldier Boy”, which is a prologue to her piece in the anthology. Enjoy!




Soldier Boy


How long has it been?

Swords rose and fell accompanied by a cacophony of sound: the clashing of steel, the thudding impact of a weapon meeting its mark, the screams and moans of the dying. As a soldier of Scotland, ’twas my duty to play the part as directed by my superiors. This primarily involved the bloodying of my hands, an occupation in which I did not revel despite my unusual—let’s say, aptitude.

Then came the change.

Years? Decades? Centuries? So long since I’ve even bothered to keep track, I have no idea.

The pervasive harmonies of trauma and war stilled as soldiers returned to their homes or were committed to the grave. I stand alone amid the echoes of their memory. I don’t know why. Why me? Why this trail, this path, this lake? Mine is not to know, only to protect. I assume that’s what I am, what I do. A protector. Any who come upon me shouldering the mantle of darkness or bearing a soul full of anger and fight, soon meets the specter I cannot. Death will come to call within a fortnight, claiming yet another soul not my own.

Therein lies the crux of the situation. Though neither food nor drink pass my lips, rest also purely optional despite my ceaseless wanderings, I do not die. I live. Alone. Endlessly alone. Human contact is as surreal a concept in my waking days as the possibility of an endless sleep claiming me in the night. It doesn’t happen. It can’t happen.

It is my destiny. My curse.

I walk through the mists and weeds along green shores, forsaken, the burden of the souls lost by my hand weighing down each step.

Then she came.

The lass with the bright eyes and fiery spirit, who either doesn’t know my tale or doesn’t care. Whose odd accent and stranger clothes, products of a new era, do nothing to disguise the strength of a soul bearing its own heavy burdens. Whose touch, soft skin, cocky yet kind smile, blow warmth through the husk of what I am, relighting embers I thought long since withered away, buried by the ash of time and death.

How long has it been, since I felt the warmth of human touch?

How long before my curse takes her?


Anthology Blurb

What does “underground” mean to you?

This anthology from the Northwest Independent Writers Association presents fourteen “underground” stories, each with a different interpretation of the titular theme. In these pages, you will visit a murderer’s hideout, walk the road to the afterlife, plunder a dragon’s lair, uncover a mysterious archaeological artifact, glimpse human existence after an environmental apocalypse, and delve deep into dark secrets, crime syndicates, forbidden worlds, sacrifice, and the human psyche.

Featuring stories by:

Mike Chinakos • Amber Michelle Cook • Pamela Cowan • Jake Elliot • Jonathan Ems • T.L. Kleinberg • Jason LaPier • Maggie Lynch • Roslyn McFarland • Cody Newton • Dey Rivers • Steven L. Shrewsbury • Dale Ivan Smith • Laurel Standley • Jennifer Willis

The Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA) supports indie and hybrid authors and promotes professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental, feat. Kimberley Long-Ewing

This is the final Boosting the Signal post for Friday the 23rd/Saturday the 24th! Heading into a long weekend in the States means y’all get THREE posts. And I’m putting this one up on Saturday morning just to help make sure people see it.

And this one’s a special one too, since it’s actually about an anthology! Bad-Ass Faeries is a title you may have seen in the post I put up about Danielle Ackley-McPhail. It’s an ongoing anthology series, and this post is featuring Kimberley Long-Ewing, who’ll be one of the authors in the forthcoming fourth volume, It’s Elemental, due in September of this year. I call the entire concept of badass faeries entirely acceptable.

Kimberley’s story in the anthology is “Spin, Weave, and Measure”, and her character Yarrow’s goal? Well. If you’ve got a bad-ass faerie loose among humankind, what do you think she’s out to do?

ETA 6/6/2014: Correcting the spelling of Kimberley’s name! My bad!


Bad-Ass Faeries 4

Bad-Ass Faeries 4

My sisters and I have watched you for millennia. You were, for the most part, quite boring. Then you invented weaving and spinning. We learned. We watch the patterns of eternity in the weft and weave of our cloth. We wove our own patterns, subtly nudging and shaping the world.

All the world’s a stage and the gianes work in the shadows, behind the scenes. Rose, Thorn, and I moved to Britain in the pockets of a sweet girl from Sicily. We set up shop and, on our whim, would draw in a creative soul to loan a little token of our esteem. Later, we followed a snippet of our cloth across the ocean to America. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of our clients —Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Thomas J. Watson, Nolan Bushnell, and…well, perhaps I shouldn’t list too many of them. The agreement is that we will bestow our blessings by weaving reality in the clients favor. We will hold that pattern for seven years. Then they are on their own. Yet you’d think we were the oath breakers when we call for our token. We had to become quite adept at recovering them. We are of shadow, shape shifters and master trackers. The few who succeeded in thwarting us learned the error of their ways. We are, after all, on good terms with the Furies. What fools these mortals be.

Oh what a tangled web we weave and none greater than the world wide web. I love spinning bits into threads that Rose then shapes into, well, all sorts of things. Poor Thorn spends so much time snipping away at stray information strewn across the Internet. Rumors of our existence irk her most. Rose just smirks and says that Thorn actually loves playing whack-a-mole. I think Rose just enjoys tormenting Thorn. It’s not just Thorn she taunts with her cloth of data. Upon my tongue so many slanders ride. So many rumors, so little time.

It passes the time anyway. You try spending millennia with your sisters. I think we ran out of novel topics of conversation after about year twenty. Oh, there are new toys you develop which hold our interest but awhile. But I can already tell you what Rose and Thorn will have to say about them. So predictable. At least Rose explores new poets. Not that any of them compare with Shakespeare. I appreciate her efforts and perhaps one day she will find one worthy of my attention. Thorn, on the other hand, never moved past Sappho. Imagine having the same poetry quoted at you for centuries. It is so tiresome.

Now Thorn is giving me one of her looks—the one that says it’s time to work. We’re spinning a web to bring in our next victim client. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble and all that. You know. Off to spin thread. Let’s see who we attract today.



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