dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

In the dimness he woke and knew it was too late. Morning never came so late unless the world was ending.

Fortunately, he knew what to do about that.

He blinked and ruffled his feathers, looking around. This was his place. Surrounding a patch of grass were two holly trees, a pine, a cypress whose branches all went the wrong way, and much shrubbery, mostly beech and thorn. The shelter was good here, even on nights like last night. And in the holly, food appeared hung up: good food that tasted of fat and meat. It was all his. Later, when it was time for sex, there would be someone else who’d get some of it. But right now, he owned it.

This cold white stuff on the ground did complicate matters. It came and went without warning, and here it was again. Now, others who might have spent the morning scratching around the ground instead of stuffing themselves full up here would be turning up in his territory, eating his food. His feathers ruffled up again, this time with rage at the thought. Bastards. Bastards. Kill them all.

He hopped up onto the branch that had the best view across the patch of grass and into the bushes, and sang. Bastards! Who wants a piece of me? Come and get it! Because this was when it had to be said, no matter how much you might have preferred to sit quiet with your feathers fluffed up, conserving your heat. The dim sky was already paling toward that too-cold blue. It would be a bad day, cold, everybody and his family would turn up here trying to get at the tree food, which was what you needed this time of year if you meant to stay alive until dusk –

And suddenly he heard the harsh dark cawing coming from across the hardened path, across the wall, in the wood full of tall starved pines. He shivered. Not so early, he thought, what are you doing up at this hour? But he knew. That one wanted the tree-food too. It had come for it before. Now, in the silence before the morning wind, he heard the flapping of the wings.

Hastily he turned to the food cage, ate a few mouthfuls, felt the fat melt down his throat like blood, like life. Almost before he finished, the darkness had landed with a noisy thrash of leaves and branches up in the holly. A huge expressionless black eye gazed down at him.

He sang. It was almost all he could do. It’s mine! Stay away, or I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you! But the outcome was hardly so simple. The black-headed, white-backed shape with the axe-like beak bounced down another branch, and another, its eye on that tree food, that meat. It liked meat too. He’d once seen it zoom down onto the pond and simply pick up a baby duck and fly off with it. I’ll kill you if you get any closer! Don't push me! I will!

It came closer. It was winter, it was death, the shape now only one branch of holly away. He sang as if life depended on it: because it did. If he had enough to eat, the sun came up. If the sun came up, the world was safe. It was as simple as that. Go away! I have to eat the food or the world will end! I’ll kill you to keep that from happening! Monster, go away, don’t make me rip you up -- ! He fluttered at the monstrous gaping head, enraged, desperate.

A clacketing, rattling noise from behind. The black eye went wide, the death-pale bulk roused its wings and flapped clumsily out of the holly tree. Desperate with relief, he flung himself at the food-cage again, and ate with frantic speed as the sky paled brighter, toward day-blue: and between mouthfuls, he sang at the top of his lungs, shuddering with relief and triumph. Bastard! I warned you not to mess with me! Victory! Victory!

The sun peered up over the far hill. The shadows fled. He gorged himself as the black bird flew off, and stopped, and shouted again, Victory!

...She stood there with her teacup in one hand, looking out across the back yard snow at the dot of red breast deep in among the holly branches, pecking furiously at the suet in its little cage. “Boy,” she said to the husband, back in the kitchen, “listen to that little guy. You’d think he’d just won World War Three.”

“Yeah. Where’s the milk?”

The door closed. On the snow, the sun of the shortest day shone.


dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
In the heart of Dublin, something is killing the People of the Hills — and it’s going to take Ireland’s only superhero to stop it…

In honor of Saint Patrick's day... a taste of something Irish for #SampleSunday. 

The Irish Thing can hardly avoid being part of the “ground of being” of someone who’s lived in Ireland for nearly a quarter-century. That familiarity, though, with the way things really are here (insofar as anyone, “blow-in” or native, can ever tell what’s really going on in this island…) can make the inhabitant a little impatient with the perceptions of outsiders: particularly those who think Ireland is some kind of theme park that should be preserved to match its overflow into the last couple of centuries’ popular culture. I have actually stood in Dublin Airport and heard fellow Americans complaining that Ireland has broadband: as if it’s somehow polluting the cultural purity of the place. (I saw another American look around absolutely without irony or humor intended and say, disbelieving, “I thought it was supposed to be thatched.” The airport. Was supposed. To be thatched.)

…Yeah. So you will understand that when I was invited to participate in an anthology called Emerald Magic: Great Tales of Irish Fantasy, before I decided what story I wanted to write, I asked casually if I could see a list of the other contributors. When I saw the list, it was as I thought: only one of them (our former neighbor Morgan Llewellyn) had ever lived here. One of them (the excellent Tanith Lee) might have at least been here. And I knew in my bones what way everyone else would be going with their stories: the Celtic twilight, thatch everywhere, the soft green countryside, the old school Ireland and the old-school myths of a century or so back. I immediately thought, Somebody’s got to actually get into Dublin, where a third of the damn population lives! Somebody’s got to at least spend a little time in the here and now. …I’m going urban on this one.

So I wrote "Herself". The first part of the story appears here. Those eager to find out what happens can do so for US 99¢.
Those who want the whole anthology can have that too, for USD $5.99. The PayPal buttons are at the bottom of the page...

Enjoy, folks!  ...And don't dye the beer green.
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Cover of Uptown Local and Other Interventions
People have been asking me for some time where they can find various short works I've done. So it seemed like a good idea to publish a collection of short fiction, and some time next week we'll be publishing Uptown Local and Other Interventions. The collection will contain some of the harder to find stuff, like the title story, and various other original works (not licensed stuff, sorry: I can't self-publish the Star Trek or Dr. Who work, for obvious reasons).

However, before we bring this out, we need to test the shopping cart a little, as it's occasionally been acting up on okaying some purchases. So I'm hoping people might try a little experiment and help us figure out what's going on with it.

In 1991 the new newspaper The European did a short story contest, the only restrictions being that the stories could not be more than 2000 words long and had to have a European theme. So I did a short story and sent it along. It didn't win, but I got a very nice letter back from one of the editors saying that if they'd been considering publishing a fantasy story, it would have been a strong contender.

Anyway, it got saved to disk and tucked away, and when our website tech lady suggested that a good way to test the shopping cart would be to give it a small ebook to handle, after a little while I thought of the European story, which is called "The Rizzoli Bag." So if you'd like to read it, please click here to go to the Rizzoli Bag page at the new online store, and use PayPal to buy a copy. The story costs five US cents, otherwise known as a nickel, and is available in two formats, Kindle /.mobi and Nook / iPad / ePub. I would have sold it for a penny, but that would have created problems with the other main currency we want to test, which is sterling.

Five cents is about three pence at the moment, so I'm encouraging the UK readership to swing out and help us sort out the cart's issues -- as it was on UK purchases that the cart started acting cranky, and we want to fix this problem, which seemed to have to do with incorrect or incomplete communication between PayPal and the store. Other currencies are obviously also very welcome: the more the merrier... as the sooner we get the cart sorted out, the sooner we can publish Uptown Local.

If you have any download issues after purchasing, or if you aren't immediately redirected to a download page at the store after your order completes at PayPal, please use the contact form to let Lee the tech lady know what went wrong. Also, since we're expecting a lot of these messages at once if trouble starts, please be patient about hearing back from her, as it may take her some while to get things at the store sorted out.

Thanks, all! And have fun with the story.


dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

November 2013

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