“Northern Correspondent” by Edgar award nominee Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
I’VE SEEN THE obituary they’ve written up for you, Molly. It’s empty and boring and isn’t about you at all. I pointed that out to Knudson and he directed his reply to the entire newsroom: “Seversen here thinks he’s so good that he can write a better damn obituary than the publisher of this paper.”
I didn’t yell at him, Molly. Honest. I told him that when a person dies, her obituary should be written by someone who doesn’t know her. That way, the cold, hard facts of her life tell their own tale. Whatever I write about you will be impure; it’ll be my vision of you and consequently, the story I tell will be mine, not yours. For that I apologize. You deserve better, but all that you get is me writing a column that Knudson won’t even print.
My typewriter and I were sitting at the front desk the day you arrived, remember, Molly? I was hoping that a change of scenery, no matter how slight, would inspire me. Instead, I had torn up four leads and was sweating over a fifth when the screen door slammed against its frame.
I didn’t look up. That week’s receptionist was on one of her frequent coffee breaks, and I had to work hard to keep my attention on the sentence before me.
“Excuse me.” Your voice was soft, rich—the tones of a soprano who wanted to be an alto all of her life.
I glanced at you. What I saw before me was a slight girl clutching a folder tightly in her right hand.
“I came to apply for the reporter position.”
I scanned you again. Dark brown hair stylishly cropped to cap your skull, eyelashes so thick and dark that they almost obscured your clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, a small nose, double-pierced ears and a lower lip that hinted at sensuality. I knew Knudson would take one look at you and assign you the society page.
“Look, kid, we usually don’t hire anyone under 21.”
Two spots of color appeared in those lovely cheeks, but to my surprise, you smiled and set the folder down in front of me. “Then I’m in luck. It’s been six years since I’ve been 21.”
I opened the folder. Your crisp, professional résumé confirmed your age. You graduated salutatorian from the local high school, got a B.A. in English from University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent the last three years as news director at a non-commercial radio station. Your clips, from local and national newspapers, covered stories so left-wing that they were unprintable up here in this redneck town of thirty thousand.
“You don’t belong here,” I said.
You looked at my manual typewriter and then at me. “Sure I do. I like a challenge.”
“Then you don’t want to work at the Sun.” I closed your folder and slid it back. “We print the same garbage the other rag in town prints, except we print it in the morning and they print it at night. There’s no challenge in that.”
“You’re Bill Seversen, aren’t you?”
I thought you were using an old reporter’s trick to get past me. My name was on top of the page in the typewriter; if you could flatter me, you thought I would pass you on to Knudson with a good word.
You picked up the folder and hugged it to your chest. “You spoke to my high school journalism class once and I’ll never forget what you said. You said that it was a reporter’s job to fairly and accurately report any story he discovers. Any story. Especially those stories people in power want to keep hidden.”
“Sounds faintly idealistic. I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.”
“And you were doing it. I can remember how everyone looked forward to your column because it was so interesting.”
“That was ten years ago.”
“And I’ve been trying to do that,” you said, ignoring my coldness. “Tell the stories no one else is willing to tell. But it’s easy at an alternative radio station where you’re expected to find the off-beat. The challenge comes in a place like this, where information is suppressed.”
“You want to make a difference.”
“You want to make an impact.”
You nodded again.
I shook my head. “Child, this is a place that turns idealists into cynics.”
“I’m not a child, Mr. Seversen.” You were smiling faintly and I got the sense that you were patronizing me. “And I’m a lot tougher than you think I am.”
“Knudson doesn’t want controversy.”
“Controversy?” You raised your eyebrows and the 19-ear-old innocent was back. “From me?”
Twelve years ago, when I stood in this office hugging my résumé, it had been the last step in a career that had gone nowhere but down. Although during those first few years before Knudson, I did make an impact even though I never really did make a difference.
“I’d take those clips on Central American refugees out of your file,” I said. “And if I were you, I’d make sure that everybody knew how much I hated writing that leftist trash.”
You grinned and I took you to see Knudson.
After he hired you, the society page never looked the same. You were a good writer and you always finished your rewrites of the engagement forms within an hour after your arrival. Then you pursued other “societal” stories. You profiled some of the more controversial residents and found experts who denounced the area’s dullness, saying it led to high alcohol and drug abuse. The local feminists suddenly found all of their major events running beside the latest church tea, and all speakers, even the challenging ones, had their speeches covered.
Knudson let you get away with this at first because you were young and pretty. Then, as you kept repeating how nice it was to work for an “objective” newspaper, he had no choice.
One afternoon, I finally did what I had wanted to do since I first saw you hugging your résumé. I asked you out for coffee. We went to one of the newer restaurants in town, done in early-eighties modern—all chrome and plants.
“Do you know,” you said before I had a chance to sit down, “that you haven’t had a single bylined article since I’ve been here?”
I pulled the chair back and sat. “I’m Knudson’s cliché. You know, former ace reporter now kept around as a relic to show the cubs what booze and hard living can do to a crack mind.”
“Why do you joke about it?”
“What else can I do?” The waitress set down menus and water glasses, then scurried away before she overheard too much.
“Write something Knudson will print.”
“Every once in a while I fail and write something innocuous and Knudson prints it. That’s how he justifies my meager salary. That, and the five or six rewrites I do daily.”
The waitress took advantage of the following silence to take our orders. Two coffees. She left a coffee pot so that we wouldn’t be disturbed.
“You used to be so good,” you said.
“Goodness doth not a reporter make.” I wrapped my hands around my warm cup.
I looked down at my coffee. The liquid was thick and gritty. I took a swallow and winced at the burned-bean flavor. Courage was the answer to your question. The courage to buck trends, to stand up for the work even if no one else does, the kind of courage you had displayed that afternoon when you had challenged Knudson. I had never had that kind of courage, although those few high points occurred in my career when I let anger act as a substitute.
You were still waiting for my answer when I looked up, so I countered with a question of my own: “What made you come back here?”
“I told you,” you said. “The challenge.”
The coffee was beginning to upset my stomach. “You could find a challenge anywhere.”
You studied me again. You had a way of taking in information through your eyes that was slightly unnerving. Perhaps it was the frown of concentration that you wore, or perhaps it was the way that you listened without making a sound. But there was something in that look that made me feel as if you could find your way past every single mask I tried to hide behind.
“I’m working on a story,” you said, apparently deciding I was trustworthy. “Actually, two stories. One, for the Milwaukee Journal, looking into some incidents that have been happening up here. And the other for The Progressive on media censorship.”
“Small town papers like the Sun are easy to pick on.”
“I’m not just picking on the Sun. I’ve worked in other markets as well.” You took a small sip of your coffee and then wrinkled your nose. Someone turned on a radio in the kitchen. The top-40 rhythms nearly drowned out the drone of muzak.
“What does the Milwaukee Journal want?” I asked.
You half-smiled and pushed the coffee cup away. Some of the liquid sloshed over the rim. “Let me tell you a story,” you said. “About six months ago, a Milwaukee sportscaster was up here attending her niece’s wedding. The hotel she and her husband were staying at didn’t have a restaurant, so she ordered two hamburgers-to-go from the chain restaurant across the highway. When she got there, she found that the waitress had given her some sort of hamburger combo, with fries and coleslaw. She patiently explained that she only wanted the burgers and was not willing to pay for the other food. The manager got into the argument and after a few minutes, called the police. The cops arrived rather quickly. The sportscaster explained her side of the story, but the cops agreed with the restaurant manager. They handcuffed the sportscaster, slapped her around a bit and then threw her into the back of their squad car. From the way they were talking, she doubted that they would take her back to the station right away, and she was terrified. So as they started pulling out of the parking lot she started screaming that she was a reporter and that they had no right to treat her like this.”
“Stupid ass thing to do.”
“Well, in this case it worked. They removed the handcuffs and threw her out of the squad. She left the city immediately, contacted an attorney who told her that it would be nearly impossible to press charges. The attorney wrote a letter of protest to the department, and the sportscaster went to the Journal.”
I was not impressed. Police brutality was an old story up here. The department had cleaned itself out five years ago after a police dog had mauled a suspect to death. “So?”
“So that’s not all of it. Other rumors had reached Journal reporters of cops involved in some kind of illegal activity. Apparently the entire department is covering for them.”
You watched as the hostess seated another couple across the room. The rock music grew louder and then someone shut off the muzak. I took another sip of the burned coffee. It was cold.
“Do you remember how difficult it was to get a rape crisis center up here?”
The question startled me. “Vaguely. Something about government funding.”
“If you go through the application for state funding, you’ll find all sorts of letters pro and con. Most of the con come from the police department.”
I shrugged. “They were afraid that someone would usurp their territory.”
“That’s what it would seem like until you put it together with the story of some college students.” Even though your voice sounded low-key and controlled, your hands were shaking. You saw me watching them, and clasped your fingers together.” Last spring, they had a party out at the Point, and they had been drinking. Two squads stopped and asked them to leave. One of the girls got mouthy, and a cop dragged her back to the car to teach her a lesson. The squad was far enough away that the group couldn’t see more than the lights. They were preoccupied with the other cops, and with proving that there was no underage drinking going on. Finally the cops left and took the girl with them, or so the students believed. She was discovered later that night down the beach, unconscious, her clothes shredded, but otherwise unmarked. She had been raped. She said the cop did it. He said he let her go back to her friends and one of them must have done it. The story didn’t even reach the papers. She decided not to press charges, then she dropped out of school and went down to Madison, where there’s a strong women’s community. That’s where I met her. And I believe her.”
You were clasping your hands together so tightly that your knuckles were turning white. I wanted to touch you, but something told me not to touch a woman after she had told a story like that.
“I know a lot of cops in that department. They wouldn’t tolerate a rapist.”
“I didn’t say the entire department was in on the cover-up,” you said.
“Why would any cop cover up something like that?”
“You do it once and you’re party to a felony. That makes it easier to do it again.”
“Yeah. But why cover it the first time?”
“You know,” you said, and your face was stiff, your voice cold, “Knudson stuck me on the society page because I’m female. He didn’t even look at my clips. I wonder how many other out-of-date attitudes there are up here.”
“You’re saying that the cops believe she deserved it.”
“He didn’t beat her, after all. He just showed her who was boss in the most masculine way possible.”
I took a deep breath. You were right about the attitudes. There were bars down near the docks that most women wouldn’t even set foot in. Up until a few years ago, the official line was that rapes didn’t occur in the city. Even though the crisis center proved that myth false, it didn’t change the attitude that some women deserved whatever they got.
“If this is true,” I said, “there are certain authorities who should be in on this with you.”
“I’ll contact them as soon as I have proof.”
“And what kind of proof are you looking for, a confession?”
“No.” You ran your fingers through your hair. “I’ve started working down at the crisis center. If I can find more women that this happened to, I’ll have enough information to start an investigation.”
“This doesn’t seem like a hell of a lot for the Journal to go on either.”
You smiled. “They said I’m on my own. That’s the other reason I went to the Sun. To eat.”
I smiled back. Your smile was beautiful, Molly, but it covered many things. “Why you?”
You tilted your head slightly as if you didn’t understand me.
“This sounds like a story that would have died, but for you taking it so personally. Why give up a good career to come to this backwater place?”
The smile disappeared. And those two spots of color were back in your cheeks. “It’s personal,” you said.
When I realized you weren’t going to say any more, I reached out and took your hand. It was amazing I had ever mistaken you for a teenage girl. You looked tough and competent and extremely fragile all at the same time. “If you need any help on this,” I said, “ask me, okay?”
You squeezed my fingers tightly. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
But you didn’t ask. For the next two months, you didn’t even say a word to me about the rape story. You continued to fill the society page with articles on brunches and teas and anti-apartheid speakers. A few of my columns even saw print. Granted, they were the least cogent of my works, but they were mine, nonetheless.
I also found myself spending a lot more time with you. We would go to lunch together or you would invite me to a speech. But most of the time, you tried to turn me back into a real reporter and most of the time, I ignored your efforts.
Part of the problem was that I lied to you. You, the crack reporter, would have found my history hard to believe. I wasn’t Knudson’s cliché—not really. It was easier to let you think that I was rewriting junk that came across the AP wire because I had drunk myself to the bottom. But liquor didn’t have a thing to do with it. The problem was that I never should have become a reporter in the first place. Sure, I graduated from Northwestern with a strong flair for language and lots of contacts in Chicago. Those attributes got me a job with the Tribune. And it was my nerves that got me fired.
Nerves and conscience. I hated doing interviews. They terrified me. But worse than doing the interview, I hated using them. I could never bring myself to report the best part of an interview unless I hated my subject. I discovered the beginnings of a major scandal in an aldermanic ward, but I sat on the story because I liked my source and I didn’t want him to get into trouble for talking to the press. Unfortunately for me, my source wanted his name in the papers, so he contacted someone else—and happened to inform the reporter that he had talked to me. And that reporter informed my editor who called me into his office for confirmation before he fired me.
I went on to the Milwaukee Sentinel and did a major exposé on construction fraud. I hated the man who headed the fraud and his partners weren’t much better. The deeper I dug, the angrier I got. My stories had enough well-documented information to put the leaders away for a number of years. The night that the Milwaukee Press Club honored me for the series, a teenager cornered me in an alley. He pointed to my award and said, “I hope you realize that plaque destroyed three families.” He didn’t have to tell me that one of those families was his.
The doctor said that with a little plastic surgery, the scars wouldn’t even be noticeable. But they’re my badges, a reminder of what my profession can and does do. I’ve had a few other good stories in my lifetime, but I’ve made sure that none of them have been on the backs of someone who wasn’t strong enough to take it.
So I was glad that you kept me out of the investigation of the rape story. But I did some digging on my own. First I went back ten years and dug out all the clippings relating to Molly, the charming salutatorian at Senior High. I learned that at the end of your senior year, you dropped out of everything, the debate squad, the model UN team, the drama club. You would have been valedictorian with no competition if you hadn’t stopped attending classes in the spring. The police records made reference to a case involving you, but the file was missing. Finally, I contacted every attorney in town until I found one who remembered you. That sweet, sweet little girl who claimed she had been raped by a cop. He said your parents were going to sue the department, until one day in mid-June they canceled the suit and left town, taking you with them. You waited another year before enrolling in college.
It took you a year, but you recovered from your wounds. Now you were back in town, facing your demons. It made me think about facing mine.
One morning you almost danced into the office, your perfume mingling nicely with the smell of freshly inked paper. You stopped at my desk and said in a low voice, “I’ve talked to seven, and four are willing to talk to the authorities as well. I’ve got an interview with the chief tomorrow.”
“I thought you weren’t going to do this alone,” I said.
You smiled, the innocent who-me? smile you had used on that first day. “I’ve been a good girl. I contacted the District Attorney, so I’ll have backup by then.”
You dropped a piece of paper on my desk. “When he heard about this, he said he’d start work on this immediately.”
I opened the paper. It was a photocopy of a letter composed of words clipped from the Sun: If you know what is good for you, you will go back to Madison where you belong.
“Now, no one would write me that because of my coverage of the United Methodist Women’s Circle breakfast, would they?”
“No.” The paper rattled as I handed it back to you. “But I wouldn’t be so flip about this if I were you.”
You pulled up a chair beside my desk. “I’m not being flip,” you said softly. “I’m scared to death. But I also know I’m on to something, and that makes me feel good.”
I remembered that feeling, half-high and half-sick, so full of adrenalin that nothing could get in the way. The kind of feeling that made you careless.
“Bill.” Your fingers had somehow found mine. “I have a favor to ask.”
I could feel the excitement throbbing in your fingertips. For a journalist like you, sneaking up on a story like this one meant more than falling in love. “What, Molly?”
“There’s a bar near the docks I want you to take me to tonight.”
My entire body became rigid. “Why? You’ll have real help tomorrow.”
“One of the waitresses says she wants to talk to me. She won’t meet me anywhere else.”
“I can’t give you any protection down there.” My throat had gone dry. I found it difficult to swallow. “I’m not athletic at all. I spend the entire damn day sitting at this stupid desk.”
“I just need company. You don’t have to do anything except watch.”
I shook my head slightly.
“I’ll go down there alone if I have to, Bill.”
It was probably an idle threat. You had never willingly put yourself into any danger. But when I looked up at your face, all I saw was determination. The last thing I wanted you to do was head down to the waterfront alone. “All right,” I said, “but only for an hour or so. If things get the least bit uncomfortable, we leave.”
You picked up my hand and kissed it. “You’re a marvelous man,” you said and then you got up and almost skipped to your desk. You spent the entire day humming as you worked, but I worried. The stories I rewrote lacked sparkle and my column was so insipid that Knudson used it.
You dragged me out of the office about a half an hour early. It was nearing 10 p.m., and rather than go home to change, you drove immediately to First Street. You pulled into the parking lot of one of those bars that changed ownership every time someone was knifed on the premises. The night was warm, and the lake smelled like dead fish.
“One drink,” I said as we got out of the car.
“I promise,” you said.
I took your arm as we walked across the gravel. Most of the cars in the parking lot were mechanics’ specials. Fuzzy dice and Playboy Bunnies hung from rearview mirrors. Beer bottles and condom wrappers littered the parking lot, and more than one bumper sticker read, “I came, I saw, I kicked ass.”
As I pushed open the door, the smell of sweat and stale beer assailed me. I put my hand on your back and led you to a booth in the corner. I didn’t know if they had table service, but I wasn’t going to leave you sitting at the booth alone. It was quite clear from your lack of makeup and neatly pressed jeans that you didn’t belong.
When the waitress approached, I ordered two beers. You scanned the crowd. A lot of the men were staring at you and more than one commented on your appearance as he passed the table.
After a few minutes your eyes met mine. Your adrenalin high was gone. “You’re right. This was not the smartest idea I’ve ever had.”
The waitress served the beers. I paid her and shoved my glass to one side. “See her?”
“No,” you said. You picked up your mug and wiped at a lipstick stain on the rim. The stain didn’t come off. “Let’s go.”
You didn’t have to ask twice. I took your arm again as I led you out of the bar. The other customers stayed away from us. I think they were relieved that we were leaving.
The air was cooler outside and even the stink of the lake was welcome. The scene inside the bar left me feeling as uncomfortable as the crank letter had. I was about to ask you to come home with me—I would like to say for protective reasons, but there might have been more to it than that—when someone cracked me on the head. I fell forward. Gravel stung against my palms as my hands broke the fall. Then you screamed.
I pushed myself up and absently rubbed my hands against my jeans as I looked for you. Then I heard ripping cloth, and turned in the direction of the sound. You were lying in the mud just past the row of cars and a man was bent over you. All of your energies were concentrated on fighting him off; you probably didn’t even think to scream again. I ran up behind him and grabbed his shoulders, trying to pull him away. He reached back and managed to grip my jaw. I tried to move away, his grip was too strong and he shoved me back into the bumper of a rusty Falcon.
I lay there, dazed for a moment, then I felt around me for a weapon. I couldn’t find anything except gravel. There was blood trickling down the side of my face and I felt dizzy. How could I fight him when I could barely sit up? I didn’t want to leave you, but I didn’t think I had any other choice. Slowly I got up and staggered back to the building. I knew better than to ask any of the patrons for help, but I leaned over the bar itself and grabbed the bartender’s sleeve.
He pointed at the pay phone over on the wall.
“Look,” I said, “this is an emergency. I want to use your phone and I want to use it now.”
He put a portable phone on the bar. I pulled up the antennae, punched “0,” and had the operator put me through to the police. When I got the dispatch, I told him that a woman was being raped down on the waterfront.
“No girl gets raped on the waterfront,” he said and cut me off. Then I knew what was happening. You had been set up, Molly. Either someone recognized you or they realized what you were doing, but you had been set up. I leaned my head on the bar for a moment, then dialed again. This time when I got the dispatch, I altered my voice and asked for Mike Larsson. I had known Larsson for years and I knew he would get a squad out right away.
By the time I got back out to the parking lot, your attacker was gone. You were laying spread-eagle in the mud. I approached you slowly, afraid of what I would find.
Apparently he hadn’t raped you. My attack must have changed his mind about that. He had grabbed you by the face so hard that his fingers left bruises in your cheeks and then he had slammed your head repeatedly against a dry concrete parking block near that decrepit Falcon.
I reached out to touch you, but my fingers stopped just above your shoulder. I didn’t want to feel the emptiness of your flesh. Slowly I gathered my knees to my chest and rocked until Mike appeared. It was only when they tried to move me that I noticed the wallet clutched in your right hand.
I can imagine what happened: You knew you were no match for him and you figured he would get away, so you grabbed his wallet. You slipped your small fingers around the leather and squeezed. As the pain got worse, you concentrated on that thick wad of identification because you knew that without it, you would make no impact, no difference.
The department is trying to cover this up, you know, although Larsson is making a fuss. Someone got to the DA because he says he needs more evidence before opening an investigation. Knudson won’t print anything until we have what he calls “proof positive”—as if a wallet carrying a policeman’s ID is not enough. I thought of calling the Journal, but there are still people there that remember the Milwaukee Press Club awards 13 years ago.
So much for your tribute, Molly.
I have to go back and edit this down to five hundred noteworthy words, concisely saying nothing. Then I’ll see if I can find an address for that non-commercial radio station of yours. I’ve never written for radio before, but I assume that it too concentrates on who, what, when, where and how. And you know, with a little digging and a few witnesses, I might even be able to add why. I think I can handle the interview. When I’m angry, I’m damn good. So, ignore the next five hundred words and concentrate on what I write in the future—because that will be your tribute, Molly, no matter what else they may call it.
Copyright © 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
First published in Clinton Street Quarterly, Fall/Winter 1988
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and Layout copyright © 2014 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing
Cover art copyright © Suzanne Tucker/Dreamstime
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Today is the official publication day for Discoverability. You can get the posts that I folded into the book free here on my website, but the posts are as raw as the day they went up. I touched them up, revised advice to fix the changes that have already occurred in the industry, and added some chapters. Plus, the book makes a lot more sense than the blog posts because the book is in order. Yep, I even wrote Discoverability out of order. [sigh] Me and my recalcitrant brain. I think the book is quite strong, and if you read it chronologically, you’ll learn a lot more than you will from the free blog posts or from reading the book out of order. (I did write it so that you could dip into the chapters that interest you, so if you are reading in order, you’ll see some repeated definitions.)
I know a lot of you preordered (thank you!), but I also know many of you wanted the paper book or wanted to download an ebook from your favorite etailer (many of which do not offer preorders). Now you can get your copies. The paper book is making its way to brick and mortar stores, but it’s available in most online stores. The ebook is available everywhere. The audio book will be done sometime next year (I think). So…discover Discoverability! And have fun with it.
Since we’re talking writing books, let me remind you about the storybundle that Kevin J. Anderson put together just in time for Nanorimo. You can get 12 writing books for a great price. Head on over to Storybundle…after you pick up your copy of Discoverability.
Me, I’m going to write a new short story. Or read something. Or take a nap.
“Asset Protection” by Shamus Award nominee Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
The free story will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, click on the links above. There’s another free story lurking somewhere around the site. Track the story down, read, and enjoy!
Well, not entirely done. I still have to go over Dean’s comments on Masterminds, the final book in the Anniversary Day saga, and then the book will go to the content editor. But the hard stuff–the getting-it-on-the-page stuff–all done. Whew.
Eight books from Anniversary Day to Masterminds, which will end the saga next June. And then, yes, there will be more Retrieval Artist novels, just not right away.
What has happened since my last update? Lots of copy edits. A slight revision of Starbase Human. And finishing Masterminds. Later this month, the reissue of Anniversary Day will appear, with information about the upcoming saga, and you’ll be able to preorder the ebooks of A Murder of Clones (the third book). I’ll let you know when that’s possible, but watch for it!
For those of you who prefer the Retrieval Artist books on audio, Audible has just published the novellas, The Possession of Paavo Deshin and The Recovery Man’s Bargain. You should probably listen to Paavo before getting too deep in the saga. It’ll give you some context. Click on the titles or the covers, and you’ll go straight to the order pages.
And if you didn’t have enough covers, here’s the marvelous cover that Allyson Longueira at WMG Publishing designed for Vigilantes (Book 6). I’ll reveal more covers in a few weeks, along with a nifty, nifty book trailer. And as soon as my brain returns, I’ll move to all those other series/stories you’ve been asking me about–not Retrieval Artist. Hmmm, after two years of RA novels, that’ll be a true luxury for me.
“Notes From the Buffer Zone” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
The free story will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, click on the links above. There’s another free story lurking somewhere around the site. Track the story down, read, and enjoy!
My brain needs a rest, but the schedule won’t entirely allow it. I needed to post a few things here, so you know what’s going on. First, we’re in the final 24 hours of the Fiction River Kickstarter. We’re over $12,000, thanks to all the wonderful people who’ve participated. We’d love to hit our third stretch goal of $15,000. There are a lot of great rewards left, including lectures about the craft of writing. So, please, take a look. Those of you who’ve been on the fence about this, time to make a decision. If you can’t afford to back the Kickstarter project, please mention it on social media. I would appreciate it.
Here’s today’s announcement, though, the one that got me to the writing chair even though I’d rather be reading or sitting quietly or sleeping. I’ve got two books in the most marvelous Storybundle. Kevin J. Anderson curated this one with an eye to National Novel Writing Month. The bundle includes 12 books that, in the words of the bundle description, “can help you not only put together a novel in a month, but help guide you into a career as a writer.” If you pay $5 or more, you get six of the books. If you pay $15 or more, you get all 12–including my Freelancer’s Survival Guide, which is big and expensive and costs more than that in paper.
The bundle includes books by David Farland, Kevin J. Anderson, Dean Wesley Smith, Chuck Wendig, Brandon Sanderson (with Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells & Howard Tayler), Stephen L. Sears, Jessica Brawner, and Michael A. Stackpole. All of us have done a lot of work helping new and established writers. Heck, I downloaded this bundle, and expect to learn some things. The books cover everything from novel/short story craft to screenwriting to the business of writing, to convention appearances, to productivity. So, if you are a writer or are interested in writing, this bundle is one you don’t want to miss. The bundle is time-limited, so make sure you get it before it goes away.
And now, I shall crawl back into my cave, and read someone else’s work. That Retrieval Artist update I’ve been promising you? It’ll happen in next week. I hope. If my brain returns by then.
“Glass Walls” appears in a different form in the novel Alien Influences, which was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
“Glass Walls” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.
The free story will be available for one week only. If you missed this one, click on the links above. There’s another free story lurking somewhere around the site. Track the story down, read, and enjoy!
The first is in a project that Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon edited through Alliteration Ink. They Kickstarted the anthology, Streets of Shadows, and this weekend, they will have a launch party at Ohio’s Context SF convention. (If you’re in Columbus, head on over, and get your book signed by the attending writers.) There are two different editions of this book, with two different covers. One is a Kickstarter edition (and honestly, I prefer that cover), and the other is the mass release cover. I’ve put the Kickstarter cover here, because I just love it. It makes me want to read the book. (It also made me support the Kickstarter.) The book includes stories from Tom Piccirilli and Nisi Shawl, and so many other great writers. Kevin J. Anderson is also in Streets of Shadows–and he’s in the latest Fiction River, as well, which I’ll talk about below.
My story here, “Hand Fast,” came from a chance discussion at the grocery store. I kid you not. The opening line, “The most romantic gift anyone ever gave me? A gun,” was something one of the grocery clerks mentioned to me in passing, and I just had to come up with a story about it. My story is urban fantasy set in New York, not crime fiction set on the Oregon Coast. You can buy Streets of Shadows at your favorite bookstore or in the usual places online.
The other urban fantasy story I’ve published this week, “An Incursion of Mice,” is actually set on the Oregon Coast, but you can’t tell, since the detective here is an indoor cat who thinks he’s street smart. His street name, not that he deserves one, is Wall T. You can find this story in Fantastic Detectives, which is the ninth volume in the Fiction River line. You’ll find another Kevin J. Anderson story, and lots of other great fiction as well. I edited Fantastic Detectives, and I think it’s one of the strongest anthologies I’ve ever edited. I hope you pick it up.
The opportunity I mentioned in the headline is also about detective fiction, only it’s for my Kris Nelscott incarnation. On Monday, you can get A Dangerous Road, the award-winning first novel in the Smokey Dalton series, for $1.99 in ebook, on all sites. (You might be able to find that deal earlier, as the prices slowly change.) The low price will only last 48 hours, so if you’ve been thinking of trying my Smokey Dalton series, now is the time. Head over to your favorite sites, and click away.
And the goofy video? It’s another from the Fiction River Kickstarter. If you want to get Fantastic Detectives, let me humbly suggest you get the volume through Kickstarter, because you’ll get a better deal. Deal or not, supporting Kickstarter or not, you should watch this video: 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Fiction River. It’s a lot of fun. (By the way, the Kickstarter is nearly done as well. We’d really like to hit the 15K stretch goal, so if you’re thinking of trying Fiction River as well, now is the time.)
I didn’t want to.
I began to wonder if the problem was me, then I read a manuscript that I’ll be recommending next month (when you can actually buy it), and realized that I wasn’t the problem at all. Except maybe my choices were the problem. I was trying a new writer (to me), a longtime bestseller whose work came highly recommended. That was the gross book. And I was reading a book by a writer whose previous novels I loved—about five years ago. The last two, I haven’t been able to finish due to excessive boredom. She’s taken me to those places before, with those characters, doing the same thing.
Apparently, all the books I didn’t like had clustered in August. As I got deeper into my September reading, I realized that I was doing just fine; I had just picked up books I didn’t much like in August. It happens. It just usually isn’t that obvious to me.
I’ve listed the best of the best from my August reading below. Thank heavens for these pieces. They provided much needed escape.
Balogh, Mary, The Escape, Dell, 2014. I had preordered this novel, and when it arrived, I looked at it and thought, “I’m not in the mood for a Regency romance.” But I decided to read the first page—and I had to finish.
I love Balogh’s novels, some more than others. In the hands of a lesser writer, this novel would have failed miserably. In the middle of the book, the conflict changes utterly, and where we thought the story was going to go wasn’t where it went. Often that’s a set-up for disappointment, but not here.
The story starts simply: Samantha’s husband has just died, and she’s stuck with some pretty horrendous in-laws (England early 19th century). She meets a man badly injured in the Napoleonic Wars. They’re both rebuilding their lives. But she can’t really rebuild in her current situation, and he isn’t sure what to do in his. She’s the instigator here—not in the relationship, but in the escape of the title. She wants out of her oppressive situation and asks him to help her. He agrees—and the novel zooms forward.
Extremely well done, even for the standards of the always-excellent Balogh.
Burton, Jaci, All She Wants For Christmas, Carina Press, 2010. I read this book at night while I was trying to read the graphically violent book. I didn’t want to read that book before bed, and this one—with a country music singer heroine—spoke to me, even though it’s not Christmas time. (I think it shows how desperate I was to get away from that book that I went not only to a romance, but a Christmas romance.)
This is the first book I’ve read by Burton. I liked it. It was heartwarming, just like it should have been. I ordered the other two books in the series the moment I finished it, which tells you she did well. In fact, she did so well, she’s the one who convinced me I didn’t need to torture myself with that other book any longer. So I didn’t. I’m reading romances again instead.
DuBois, Brendan, “Cold Island” Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August, 2014. Twisty little Brendan DuBois story, set in the deep New Hampshire Cold. The police bring a defense attorney who often works pro bono to a standoff on an island across an ice-covered lake. It seems the man holed up in the cabin asked for her. Why, I can’t tell you without ruining the story. And that’s not even the main twist… Ah, what Brendan can do with a few thousand words. Well done.
Smith, Douglas, Playing The Short Game: How To Market And Sell Short Fiction, Lucky Bat Books, 2014. Full disclosure here: I wrote the introduction to this book. I agreed to write it because I’d been reading Doug’s blog on Amazing Stories’ website. I knew he had a lot of good things to say.
But I don’t always plug books that I’ve written introductions for, at least not in the recommended reading. I might like them, but I might not love them enough to recommend to you.
Doug wrote an indispensible book for those of us who love to write short fiction. He includes indie publishing, and a lot of traditional publishing tips. The short story arena is one of the few places in traditional publishing that remains viable, if not lively, and it often works as a great place to discover writers.
Doug has won Canada’s Aurora Award for speculative fiction three times, and have been a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award, Canada’s juried Sunburst Award, the CBC Bookies award, and France’s juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane. He’s one of the best short story writers in the business, and one of the best at the business of short story writing. I learned a few things from this book, and sometimes I think I’ve seen it all.
So, if you have any interest in writing short fiction, or you’re already making a living a short fiction, take a peek at this book. It’s wonderful.
“FoL” by World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch is free on this site for one week only. The story’s also available as a standalone from Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other ebook sites.