CyberWar Anthology ?>

CyberWar Anthology

Another Phoenix Prime anthology has gone live! This one tackles the serious topic of Cyber warfare. Within its pages, you’ll find more than a dozen stories written by the talented Phoenix Prime authors – including one by me!

My story is a darker tale that takes the reality of cyber warfare into the realms of Urban Fantasy. If you like your hackers with a heavy dose of magic and demons, check it out!



Snippet Time! This one is from a story I have in an upcoming anthology called Prime Shadows ?>

Snippet Time! This one is from a story I have in an upcoming anthology called Prime Shadows

This is from my story, Legacy of a Regrettable Game. It’s dark and angry and is set in a gaslamp fantasy world that never existed. Like a lot of my writing, it deals with demons.

The laughter grows louder. If anything, it becomes even more scornful. At the same time, it loses its hollow aspect and becomes more substantial. More localized. And even though Francho assured himself only moments before that he was alone in the sunroom, now there is a shadowy figure seated on one of the chairs.

The figure is indistinct, yet gives an impression of wiry strength. It is like a smudge given form. A three-dimensional shadow. A dirty cloud in the shape of a man.

At its appearance, Francho recoils. His old heart is pumping blood filled with horror through his veins. Yet Francho’s instinct is not to cower in fear, or to run and hide. His instinct, beyond his first hesitation, is to raise his cane and attack, his expression a grimace that combines hatred with murderous rage.

Without pausing to think, without allowing himself to consider the consequences of attacking a shade without true provocation, he swings as hard as he can. He madly lashes the insubstantial form on the chair left and right.

But the cane makes no contact. It cuts through Marzal’s ghost as if through a fog, leaving no mark and rousing no more than a swirl at its passing. And all the while, the laughter continues.

Spurred on by insanity and fear-driven rage, Francho gives voice to a strangled snarl as he continues to swing. But he is old and lacks strength. In only moments, he is struggling for breath and his arms start to ache, both the one swinging the cane and the other holding the lamp. He has to stop, has to step back else risk injuring himself. Already, his heart is thundering too loudly, like the drums of impending doom.

He does so and stands panting like a dog after a run, glaring with hate at the specter before him.

As Francho tries to recover, the laughter fades. It is replaced by a low drawl of a voice that carries infinite menace.

“Is this how you greet your brother after so many years?” it asks. “With violence and hate?”

The shadowy figure seems to expect no response, yet Francho will not remain silent.

“My brother is dead! For half a century he is dead, rotting and forgotten! You are not him! You cannot be him! There is no such thing as ghosts!”

For just a moment, the laughter returns. Then the shade surges to its feet, and the dark fabric that makes up its head swirls in place. Its – his – face becomes clear. It is thin and hollow and appears to be covered in scars. It is the face of a Demon of pain. Yet its eyes are human and blue, and put Francho in mind of a wheat field on a clear summer’s day.

The shade’s eyes also put Francho in mind more strongly than ever of his brother.

Francho flinches away and tries to hide behind arms raised to ward off a blow. But the remnant of Marzal, the shadowy presence before him, doesn’t attack.

Instead, the demonic laughter fades, and the voice returns to bellow out loud. “I am not dead!” the thing that has Marzal’s eyes shouts in anger to more than match Francho’s own. “I am not a ghost! Think back, brother dearest, and remember what it was that you purchased! Remember the results of our last game of chess!”

Despite his burgeoning terror, Francho does as the phantom in front of him demands. He has no choice. The memories come unbidden as if this fragment of Marzal has conjured them from the depths of his mind.

He lives again a moment in time before his second decade was done when playing against his younger brother. He remembers the pride he had taken in his skill at the game, the condescension he held for his opponent. The countless games in the past he had won.

He remembers the creeping sense of surprise as he realized that Marzal had the upper hand and was going to win. The disbelief. The sense of almost betrayal. And the angry denial that led to Francho moving a critical piece out of turn just one square when Marzal had looked briefly away.

That had been the start of it all. The moment where Francho’s life had turned into Hell. Marzal had caught the deception and confronted Francho. It had led to a fight, with Marzal smashing Francho’s nose with his fist. Three drops of blood had fallen onto the chess set, a match for those Marzal’s shade had now reproduced. And worse, Marzal had told their father what Francho had done.

In the darkest parts of Francho’s heart, he always suspected that Marzal was the favorite. And at that moment, his suspicions proved true. Their father had cut Francho’s allowance and treated him with scorn.

With a bitter resentment that followed him for the rest of his life, Francho had sworn vengeance on Marzal for his treatment. He had stolen a great sum of their father’s silver and sought the services of a Diabolist.

Using Francho’s own blood as the catalyst, they had summoned a demon. And when that demon stared out through a wall of red flames into Francho’s soul and asked what it was he desired, Francho had responded.

Drag my brother into the deepest pit of Hell itself and leave him there to rot!

Another snippet! This one is from a friend who is in one of the anthologies I’m in. Enjoy! ?>

Another snippet! This one is from a friend who is in one of the anthologies I’m in. Enjoy!

Rance hopped down off the ramp into the purple dirt. As her feet hit the ground, gritty purple sand accosted her from every angle, blowing into her nose, eyes, and mouth. Her single, tight braid whipped around and smacked her in the eye. She winced, grabbing for the mask on her belt. Before pulling it on, she turned to tell Tally to close the ramp. But the ramp was already rising, humming smoothly until it sealed shut.

The crew had scattered. Rance quickly made her way alone across the expanse of the docks, out of the wind. When she reached the broad thoroughfare spanning the marketplace, she broke into a jog. The street looked the same as it always did, with metal stalls facing the thoroughfare and enough foods and goods to make the planet seem more like a Core world than a mining colony.

Her implant synced with the city’s network, and a map of the marketplace popped up on her ZOD, displaying grid lines over the streets and even giving her the names of vendors. She turned on her heel, drinking in the still-familiar sights of Xanthes. The smell of warm, rich food and wet sand. The sound of vendors bickering and bartering.

But Rance didn’t have time for misplaced nostalgia. She hunched over and hurried past the crowds, looking back occasionally to make sure she wasn’t being followed. The less time she spent here, the better. She didn’t want to run into—

“Rance Cooper! How are ya?”

Rance cringed and slowed to a walk. There he was, coming out of a tavern like he’d been waiting for her. He walked in a slightly crooked line. How did Harrison McConnell always know when she returned home? He must have a friend at the port office. Rance felt like she’d spent half her life in space and the other half avoiding Harrison.

“Sorry I can’t stay, Harrison. Tight schedule.”

“You haven’t seen me in over a year, and that’s the ‘hello’ I get?” He lifted his mask expectantly.

Rance sighed before sliding her mask over for him. Harrison stood on his tiptoes and kissed her cheek. He smelled sweaty, like he hadn’t bathed in days.

And he was already pouting—a sure sign he was drunk. His bright blue eyes peered up at her sorrowfully. “When are we going to get married, Rance?”

Rance rolled her eyes. “When Triton stops sending Unity to interfere with the Outer Colonies.”

So, never.

Now Harrison rolled his eyes. “We are betrothed, you know. I could tell your father you’re on Xanthes, get proceedings going.”

Rance glared at him. “Don’t you dare, Harrison McConnell!”

“If you didn’t want to get married, why’d you consent to the arrangement?”

“I didn’t . . .”

Rance glanced around, then grabbed Harrison’s shoulder and steered him back toward the tavern. She pushed him through the door and ducked her head to enter. A wall of noise hit her before her eyes adjusted. Glasses clinking. Voices raised in drunken tirades. She removed her mask to see better, and then wished she hadn’t.

The smell almost sent her to her knees. By the Founders, every time. She always forgot how horrible these places were. The room smelled like cats had died under every table. That stink would have been enough to send Rance back to the Streaker, but it mixed with sweat and hair and alcohol to form some sort of fetid odor all its own. She fought the urge to gag as they made their way around tables to the bar.

“What are you having?” she asked Harrison.

“A Blue.”

Her nose was already wrinkled in disgust, so it couldn’t turn up any more. She settled for a sneer. Still gripping his shoulder much harder than necessary, Rance ordered the drink and steered Harrison to an empty table in the corner. He didn’t argue as she pushed him down into a hard metal chair.

“You can’t say things like that out in the open, Harrison,” she began.

He held up his hand, signaling her to wait while a young woman in a dirty white tunic brought his drink. It glowed blue and smelled like rotten eggs. Harrison didn’t seem to mind, and downed the horrible thing in one swallow. When he finished, he waved his hand at the bartender for another. Then he fixed Rance with a less-than-focused stare.

“Not having anything?”

“You know very well I don’t drink.”

“Right. Gotta keep up appearances and all that.”

“Speaking of keeping up appearances, don’t you ever mention our engagement in public again. If Unity hears I’ve been skipping planet on a Founders’ Marriage, they’ll throw me in the plasma prison and you with me. And they won’t let us out until we’re married.”

“Then stop running. Just go see the Founder official with me. It’ll be fun.”
Harrison listed to starboard as he talked, reminding Rance of just how fun a marriage to this buffoon would be.

“Remember our deal?” she asked through gritted teeth.

This snippet is from my friend TM Catron‘s story. Want to read more? Check out Phoenix Galactic!

Snippet Time! Check out this short clip from the Prime Fiction anthology ?>

Snippet Time! Check out this short clip from the Prime Fiction anthology

The devil waits for the laughter to fade. He is a showman, and holds the attention of everyone in the crowd.

“Now!” he shouts. He holds the whip out for all to see. “Are you all ready for My Final Trick?”

“YES!” the audience all cry in response.

Leigh is shaking her head in denial. I mumble “no,” but nobody hears.

“What did you say?” the devil asks.

“YES!!” they all shout, more loudly.

Leigh is still shaking her head. She’s looking down at her feet, plainly terrified and hating every moment.

“I can’t hear you!” the performer says, an obvious lie.

“YES!!!” The noise is deafening.

The devil stands back for a moment with his hands on his hips, enjoying the response as if it’s a form of adulation, or worship.

“OK! Now Leigh, Stand Very Still!” He’s moved behind her and punctuates his words with a crack of the whip. Leigh flinches. Several people in the crowd let out small gasps of surprise, and there’s a snigger or two from the back.

I shut my eyes and grimace as if the whip has opened up a wound on my back. The sound has caused me physical pain, and I could only guess at what it has done to Leigh.

When I open my eyes, the devil is looking around. I want to rush into the stage and steal my Leigh away from him, but I’m too afraid to move.

“Very good, my precious,” he says. “Very good indeed.” He moves so close that he’s almost rubbing against her, making her lean away from his loathsome face in revulsion. He runs his tongue suggestively over his teeth and I hate him like I’d seldom hated anyone before. But I’m powerless and ashamed of that lack of strength. He has us both under his spell.

“Now,” he says just to her, but loud enough for all to hear. “This is what we’re going to do.” Still too close, he opens his jacket and takes an innocuous drinking straw from an inside pocket.

“We’re going to play a little game,” he says. He’s still breathing at her, drooling over her cheek. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“No,” says Leigh. I can hear the fear and disgust in her voice. My heart aches to do something, to do anything to make this stop. But the crowd simply chortles in happy anticipation.

The devil grins. “Of course you would,” he says, but Leigh shakes her head. “Aww, please, pretty lady? All I want you to do is hold this straw between your teeth.” He holds the end of it close to her face and gives her no choice. I can see that she is afraid and wants only to run, but the demon holds her in place by his strength of will.

And the crowd … the crowd is no longer a random collection of strangers watching a show.

The crowd is instead a gathering of ghouls, of imps and creatures of the dark, watching with an avid hunger and excitement all of their own. They drool and snarl like slobbering beasts, and I expect to catch the stench of sulfur for the third time.

Instead, it’s the odor of death and decay that fills my senses.

This time, it’s so quick that I barely have time for panic. Before I can do so much as clutch at my chest to keep my heart from bursting, Leigh accepts her fate and bites the end of the straw.
Read the rest of this story and a number of others, here on Amazon!

Blood is live ?>

Blood is live

Breaking news! I’ve just released the dark fantasy story, ‘Blood’.

Blood is the first novel-length story in the Fae-Born Narratives series.

Blood is a dark fantasy filled with anger and hate. It’s a quest for revenge against monsters.

Blood is available for a limited time for the special launch price of just 99 cents.
Check it out:

Snippet from Blood ?>

Snippet from Blood

The first novel-length story in my Fae-Born Narratives sequence is due out in a couple of days. I thought you might like a taste. 🙂

What is your talent?” the woman demanded. She brandished her glaive as if he had threatened her. Before he could answer, she glanced at the man with the crossbow. “Corwin Druss, move!” she shouted at him. “You can’t shoot him from there!”

Marin didn’t know what to do. He tried to think of some way to gain an advantage, but the man with the crossbow—Corwin Druss—was too swift. Already he’d reached the woman’s side and his crossbow was ready.

Marin glared at them both with resentment, and said nothing.

What is your talent?” the woman demanded again.

I sense things,” Marin admitted. “Like the fact that there is someone injured among the rocks.”

Neither the woman nor Corwin Druss responded. Yet his words reassured them, somewhat, as if he had proven to be less dangerous than he might have been.

Marin didn’t care either way. He’d thought of something. “I’m also a healer. You can’t have my horse or my supplies or my coin. I need them. But if you offer me safe passage, I’ll do what I can for your friend.”

The idea of helping these people was repugnant to him, but it was the only thing he could think of that might allow him to keep to his quest.

There was a moment of silence. Marin felt waves of uncertainty mixed with hope from the woman, and mostly anger from Corwin Druss.

Then the woman nodded. “I grant you safe passage,” she said.

No!” said the man. “You cannot!”

It is already done!”

Corwin Druss snarled in anger. His crossbow wavered, but Marin knew it would take less than a moment for him to aim it again.

You are too soft!” Corwin Druss raged. “You care too much for Urdan! It clouds your reason! This fool has both a horse we can sell and supplies we can use! And Urdan is far beyond any aid we can give!”

The woman gripped her glaive more tightly and glared at him. “Watch your tongue before I cut it from your face!” she said. “Remember what Urdan did for you—you would be dead many times if it weren’t for him! You owe him! We all do!”

She shot a glance to the shorter man with the club, who nodded his agreement.

And while he may be beyond any aid we can give, this one is Fae, and a healer. We owe it to Urdan to see if he can help.”

She said the last without shouting, but with a calm vehemence that somehow carried more weight.

Corwin Druss oozed anger and hatred. But the man with the club was also on the woman’s side, and Corwin knew it.

Phah!” he exclaimed. He turned back to Marin, his expression murderous. “You!” he said, his crossbow shaking in rage. Marin could sense that he wanted to threaten or hurt, but in the end he just shook his head in disgust and spat.

Without waiting, Marin looped his mount’s reins around a dead-looking bush and checked his satchel. “Lead the way,” he said to the woman.

All of them made their way through the rocks. Even Corwin Druss, although he continued to exude fury and hate. He followed Marin closely, as if wanting to make sure that he knew he was there.

Marin didn’t care. He’d got what he wanted, assuming that these bandits were as good as their word. Corwin’s hate didn’t matter at all.

They came to a broad clearing among the rocks that looked as if it had once been the bandit’s camp. But it had been ravaged. Shelters made from timber and cloth had been broken and scattered, the ground had been torn up and it smelled of blood and entrails. Marin paused at the edge of the clearing to take it all in.

A wyvern did this,” he said. It looked worse than the store. And unlike with the store, there were scorchmarks here. Had the dragon been part of this attack as well?

Carwin Druss cursed and spat. The smaller man said nothing, and Marin wondered if maybe he had lost his tongue.

Yes,” said the woman. “It came from the sky and murdered one of our men and two women.” She gestured over to one side and Marin saw a small pile of bodies. “It also took poor Luto into the sky when it left Urdan wounded.” She made no mention of the dragon at all.

Then her tone hardened. “He is there. See to him. Make him live.”

Marin looked at her.

Where did the wyvern go? In which direction did it fly?” he asked.

What does that matter? You are here to keep him alive.”

But Marin shook his head.

No. I’m here to find the wyverns.”

He felt the woman’s anger. She let go of her glaive with one hand so that she could grip him by the tunic and drag him close. “You are here because I said so!” she said, her face hard and grim and only inches from his own. “You are here to keep Urdan alive! Do you understand?”

Marin said nothing. He should have feared her, but his grief dampened such feelings and his hate for the wyverns left no room for much else. But he did grip his staff more tightly, just in case he might need it.

Finally, she pushed him away from her.

I will do what I can for him,” Marin said. “But whether he lives or dies may depend on things I cannot control.”

Perhaps he shouldn’t have said the last. Not when she was already so angry. But she just repeated her words.

See to him,” she said.

He nodded.

Urdan was resting next to a boulder. Marin approached him, his senses filled with the man’s pain and fear. He’d felt such a combination many times before, with Arlius.

Sometimes the townsfolk who were afflicted would come to the apothecary store. A man might arrive with a wound that had started to rot. Or a woman, bleeding heavily, her belly large with a baby that had stopped moving inside. Or a child, suffering pains to the head with no obvious cause.

And sometimes Arlius and Marin had been called to visit those who were too sick to move. He’d known men and woman suffering chest pains and cancers and strokes to feel this same combination of feelings.

There was a flavor to them that he’d learned to recognize. A tinge of hopelessness that appeared when the person was convinced that they were going to die.

It was the same feeling that Urdan exuded.

The man was of medium build and dressed, like the others, in mismatched pieces of armor. Like Marin, the man had red hair, although his beard was darker. He was conscious, but his eyes were closed. He was gritting his teeth against the pain and Marin could see sweat beading on his brow.

His left arm was gone. Just gone, right up to the shoulder and a little beyond. And while some attempt had been made to staunch the flow of blood from the wound, Marin could see that it wasn’t working anywhere near as well as it needed to. Blood continued to flow, not in spurts, but not slowly.

He knelt down beside him and opened his satchel. But he already knew that there wasn’t much he could do. The man had already lost too much, and the wound was too great.

Well?” said the woman.

Marin flinched. He hadn’t noticed that she’d joined them. Hadn’t even sensed her, although now her anxiety was plain.

Urdan’s eyes flickered open. He looked at the woman. Marin sensed a tendril of joy from him, although that was quickly overwhelmed by the pain.

Who’s this?” he grated.

This is Marin. He’s a healer,” the woman replied.

Hmmph. Too late for that,” Urdan said.

Surprisingly, the woman crumpled. She collapsed next to the man, dropped her glaive to the ground and held him, awkwardly, so as not to increase his pain. “No,” she said. “Don’t say that. He can save you.”

But Marin knew he could not.

Urdan returned the woman’s embrace one-handed, as best he was able.

I can give you something for the pain,” Marin said, his voice catching in his throat. He couldn’t help but think of Arlius. The specific wounds were different; Arlius had been clawed or bitten, where it looked like this man had lost his arm and shoulder to acid. But the situation was the same. Urdan had been attacked by a wyvern. It was killing him, and there was nothing that he, Marin, could do about it.

And while Marin didn’t know Urdan beyond this moment, the woman did. She cared for him, as he plainly cared for her.

Marin searched in his satchel for the same vial of milky liquid that he’d given Arlius as he’d breathed his last.

Drink this,” he said.

The woman took her cue and moved out of the way. Marin noticed no tears. She was too hard, too inured to pain for that. But he sensed a grief in her that matched his own of Arlius.

What is it?” the man grated, his teeth still firmly clenched.

An extract from the seedpod of a desert flower. It numbs the pain.”

Will it help regrow my arm?”

Despite his condition, despite the pain he was in, Marin caught the man’s humor.

He found himself almost smiling. And though Urdan was a bandit, Marin found that he actually liked him.

It was a pity he was going to die.

Urdan drank from the vial. Almost immediately, Marin sensed the man’s pain start to fade. And then he couldn’t sense anything at all. His unpredictable talent was gone.

You can save him?” the woman asked.

I can make him comfortable,” Marin said.

The woman’s face became a snarl. She looked like she wanted to attack, but Urdan stopped her with a word.

Lyra, it isn’t his fault,” he said. “It is my own, for thinking I might best the monster. I should have just hidden, like Corwin did.”

Marin didn’t need his talent to read how angry she was. But her words didn’t express that anger. “You chased it away. If you had not, Relk and I would also be dead.”

The dying man’s pain had faded to the point where he could offer a grin. “Then it was worth it,” he said.

Marin closed his eyes. All his anguish and hurt had come flooding back. He saw Arlius Chorster again in his mind, dying and afraid, but also proud and content. And now this man, just the same.

And once more he found himself hating the wyverns, and the dragon that they had been with.

When the wyvern left, which way did it go?” Marin asked.

Lyra snarled at him again. But the effects of the milky liquid made the man more amenable. He blinked slowly and turned his head to look at Marin.

Do I know you?” he asked. Then he gave a half-shrug and said, “West, I think. There were others—that’s the way they were going.”

Marin breathed a small sigh of relief. But he had one more question. “How did you chase it away? What made you think you could best it?” he said.

The dying man grinned. “Because I am Fae-born,” he said.

Marin was shocked. He’d seldom met others like him before. Or if he had, he didn’t know it; those who were Fae were often scorned, and so tended to hide that part of who they were.

But what the man did next was even more of a surprise. He made a gesture with his remaining hand, and a flame appeared at the tips of his fingers. The flame was feeble and flickered out within moments, but Marin had no doubt that it had been real.

I can make fire,” Urdan said. He even laughed a little, although it looked painful. “Bigger than that, usually. And hotter. And I can cast it about like I was throwing a stone. The wyvern didn’t like it that much.”

It was a talent the like of which Marin had never heard of before. He now understood both the scorch marks he’d seen and the wariness of the bandits when they’d learned he was Fae. If he’d had a talent like that, he would have been dangerous.

But as amazing as Urdan’s talent was, it didn’t help with Marin’s quest in the least.


It took nearly half an hour for Urdan to die. Marin did what he could to keep him comfortable, but beyond the milky liquid and smearing another painrelieving salve on the parts of the wound he could reach, there was little that he could do.

And everyone knew it. Lyra stayed with him and even Corwin Druss and the smaller man—had Lyra called him Relk?—had come to stand close.

But nobody said much.

And then it was over. Urdan cried out in pain and stiffened for a moment, and then he relaxed.

He was no longer breathing.

Lyra stared at him in shocked disbelief. Even though Marin barely knew him and remained overwhelmed by the death of Arlius, he still felt a new sadness. Urdan had been a bandit, but a likeable one. And they’d had a surprising amount in common.

But where anyone else would have just died, for Urdan, that wasn’t the end. His entire body burst into spontaneous flames, quickly filling the air with the smell of burnt flesh and hair.

Lyra gasped in shock and lurched backwards, away from the burning body. Marin scrambled to keep the supplies that he’d used away from the flames. He heard Corwin start to curse, and Relk uttered a vowel-less gasp.

They all watched Urdan burn. Even Marin, who wanted to continue his quest for the wyverns now that he had confirmed their direction. He owed these bandits nothing, but it seemed fitting to stay for a time. He just covered his nose against the smell.

They were still watching when more than a dozen Battlemen emerged from the boulders with their glaives at the ready.

Stay tuned for the next snippet!

Third Solo Phoenix Prime Publication ?>

Third Solo Phoenix Prime Publication

It’s been about two weeks since my last publication, and my novel is coming along nicely. In the meantime, I thought you might like another short.

This one is called Nerve, and it shows some of the history of a character who is going to play a major role in all three novels that are planned.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Second Story! ?>

Second Story!

And now, just a couple of days after the first story went live, you can now check out the second. As you can see by the cover, it’s part of the same series as the first!

It’s called Wyvern, and it’s a collaboration (with thanks to M. Garzon).

You can find it on Amazon here.