Back in 2011, I set a Baker’s Dozen challenge for myself–13 short stories in 13 weeks. Not only did I have to write each story, I also had to edit, copy edit, and publish each story as I finished it.
The end product was the Baker’s Dozen collection. I’m still proud of this collection. There are stories in it that I really love.
This fall, I’m going to be doing something similar. Not writing 13 short stories, but publishing them, one a week, culminating in the publication of War Among the Crocodiles, the final book in The Shadow Wars trilogy.
For one week, I’ll be offering each story for free in my blog as well as here.
In the first Baker’s Dozen collection, I wrote and published, The Third Raven. That story inspired The Raven and the Dancing Tiger which then led to The Guardian Hound and now I have the final book in that world, coming out in December.
One of the other things that I’m aware of, that I’ll be doing another blog post on at some point, is that I write lots of different things. Lots and LOTS of different things. I believe that’s one of my issues in regards to discoverability: Just because you loved one of my novels doesn’t mean you’ll love the next. I think it’s a rare reader who likes my entire body of work.
For example—I’m best known for Paper Mage– which is historic fantasy. I have three other historic fantasies. The Shadow Wars trilogy, at least The Guardian Hound and War Among the Crocodiles, have strong historic elements in them.
If you read one, will you like the other? Possibly.
I do have two trilogies (that I will be finishing, promise!) that aren’t related, but I believe if you like one, you’ll like the other – The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom books, as well as the Troll books (I’ve only finished, The Changeling Troll but The Princess Troll will be published in 2016. And I have the basic idea for The Fairy-Bridge Troll which is the third in that trilogy. Plus I’ve promised to finish The Dwarven Wars – the last of the Clockwork Fairy Kingdom trilogy, this year.)
Then there are the Chronicles of Franklin. I consider these “immersive”–dive down deep into the world and revel. The setting is rural. Franklin is deliberate. But boy, is he voicy.
If you like The Popcorn Thief (which is now in audio!) and The Soul Thief (which has audio coming soon!) what else would you like?
If your focus is on voicy characters, you might like the Cassie stories. But the pace is completely different. The voice and setting are also so very different. So the reader for one might not be the reader for the other.
And then I have the other novels. Like When the Moon Over Kualina Mountain Comes, which is dark, epic fantasy. Immersive, but different than Franklin. Much more fantasy, much less real world. (There will be a sequel to that, as well as other dark, epic fantasy novels.)
If you like post-apocalyptic, you may like the following short story, the first of this Baker’s Dozen Redux. It’s called, Touch and it’s post-apocalyptic. It’s also flash fiction – 700 words long.
I’ve received some great rejections with this story. Many editors really liked it, wanted me to send them the next thing I wrote. But after a dozen submissions, it couldn’t find a home.
So I present it here. Strap yourself in. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.
He touched me.
Why did he do that?
In a post-apocalyptic world where a single touch can contaminate and condemn, why did he touch me?
He touched me.
Why did he do that?
Did he contaminate me? Am I infected now?
Why did he touch me?
Did anyone see him touch me? Where are the cameras?
Don’t be obvious, just glance.
There’s only one. Over there. Up on the subway platform. To the right.
He touched my left arm. Maybe they didn’t see.
The ghost of the contact haunted me, raising the hairs along my neck.
I don’t think anyone saw him break protocol. It wasn’t like he touched my skin, but my sleeve.
His hands looked bare. Was he wearing noblos, or some other see–thru complex–blocking gloves?
Maybe his hands were actually bare. Like some kind of pervert.
No one exposed any skin. Not ever. I’d never be able to wear a short skirt in public. Let alone a sleeveless blouse.
I should burn this jacket, just in case. Put it into the biohazard incineration chute back at the apartment.
That idiot touched me. Who knows what contaminants he might have been harboring?
Why did he touch me?
It was deliberate. I know it was.
I couldn’t believe the contact when I felt it. I had to look.
He’s got on the same wide–spectrum isolation mask I do—mid–range price but high protection, with no incidents of contagion found on the public web. I can’t afford to search the private networks beyond those.
His eyes above the gray mask looked kind, not crazed or infected.
However, the photos of John Johnson, the terrorist who released the Singular plague, had friendly eyes. Lonely eyes. He’d merely wanted to find his soulmate, or manufacture one. The ultimate love potion, making both parties instantly attracted to one another, instantly desirable to each other.
He hadn’t counted on the mutations. On the writhing masses screwing themselves to death on the streets of the busier cities—Hong Kong, New York, London. The virus spread, and the sight of a man trying to screw a building or a woman impaling herself on a tree became common.
No one touches now, not skin on skin. There are a few who are naturally immune, not that anyone gets themselves tested: Who risks finding out they’re biologically incapable of falling in love? That it isn’t possible for them to be fully attracted to another?
Of course, there are always rumors that the governments of the world found a cure long ago that they’re not sharing, that scared people are easier to manage, while they get rich on barrier technology.
I think the rumors are wrong. Cities are no longer full, and a widely dispersed population is more difficult to manage.
So why did he touch me? Was he, too, looking for his soulmate? Had he watched too many old movies, or even the new city porn, created from video of long–ago security camera, showing strangers casually bumping into each other in the street?
He didn’t have permission to touch me. That alone should have stopped him. Did he get an illicit thrill by breaking the code?
I want to kill him.
His touch stripped me bare again of the illusion that I was safe.
We all pretend we are, the rich secure behind biotech fabrics, the not–so–rich underneath multiple layers of clothing, like wearing our old lives, carrying past into present. The poor just filled their jackets with plastic bags and mattress stuffing.
Was that why he touched me? To remind me of how thin the veneer of safety, of sanity, really is?
I wish I had screamed. I wish I had denounced him for what he is. Even if the police hadn’t believed me but only his lies if he’d denied it. Even if it would have meant an isolation ward for the rest of my life, or at least as long as I could afford one, before being passed into a public ward, becoming one of the writhing corridors of flesh.
Maybe he hadn’t meant to scare me, but to remind me to see the people around me, not merely as obstacles to avoid, but as companions on this difficult journey. Maybe he wanted me to touch him, too.
He’ll never get his wish.
I must go cleanse myself now.