Short Stories

All short stories are free for download everywhere but Kindle where they are $.99 (until I can figure out how to make them free there too.)
Go to the "Fiction" tab for a free Lady Margaret short story "Violet Crime."
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Interview with a Dragon #1
Angie Tanaka, a professional thief, has an uneasy friendship with Daiyu, a dragon who has been around since China was a collection of mud huts. This is the first of a series of interviews with an ancient dragon who struggles to live down her past. And she has such a lot of it to live down.

It's FREE in all the usual places: KindleBarnes & Noble, and Smashwords








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Wicked They Come

Wicked aliens are bad enough. The wickedness in the human heart can be bottomless. Fortunately, so can human courage and goodness.


Miriam heard that noise again. The walls vibrated and a sound like howling wind roared briefly and then cut off quick like someone slammed the window shut on it.  It came from the empty flat above her basement room.

When Miriam first heard it she ran upstairs to see what it was. Mr. Menkin was already in the front hall and several people ran out of their tenement rooms. The landlady, Mrs. Waters, lived in the other first-floor flat right across the hall from the empty room. Even so, she was the last to appear.

“What’s the problem?” she demanded. 

“Something’s in there, Mrs. Waters,” said Mr. Menkin. “It shook the whole building. You didn’t notice it?”

“No, I didn't,” she said sharply. Miriam didn’'t believe her. A brief silence indicated that nobody else believed her either.

“Something caused that caterwalling, Mrs. Waters,” said Miriam. “If you would be so kind as to unlock that door.”

Mrs. Waters, clearly annoyed, took out her ring of keys and unlocked the door. Nasty old Mr. Nickolas had died in there a few years ago, after of lifetime of meanness, petty cruelty and probably petty crime as well, though nobody could ever prove it. Mrs. Waters found him one morning stiff and cold, his eyes staring and his face drawn back in a rictus of terror.  Mr. Menkin was one of the men who carried him out. He confided to Miriam later that he thought Mr. Nickolas must have seen the devil coming for him.

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Merlin's Gate
Merlin's Gate is a dark world where owning books, weapons or products of modern technology will get you a one-way ticket to The Pit—and all tickets to The Pit are one way.

This is a long short story (or a very tiny novel) for your snacking pleasure.


FREE! on Barnes & Noble Nook and Smashwords
$.99 on Kindle 

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The King's Best Soldier
(and Other Stories)

Four sword and sorcery fantasy stories, some very dark, some very not.



FREE on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble
$.99 on Kindle

Excerpt from "The Stone of Immortality"
Inside, the cottage smelled of spices and woodsmoke. He felt folded into a pervasive sense of hominess laced with a faint, sharp tang that could only be the taste of magic. The sweet young girl stood by the hearth, stirring porridge. Near her sat a very old woman, whose loose white hair flowed about her like a shawl. She was unbent and bright of eye, but frail seeming and wrapped about with a heavy cloak decorated with bits of fur and much fanciful embroidery.

"Come here, young man." Her voice was thin, but strong. She did not invite him to sit. He approached, his knees like water. "I have a message for your father." She stretched out a scrawny white hand covered with blue veins. In the withered palm was a smooth gray stone.

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The Last Tattoo


If you get THAT tattoo and if you get it THERE, it will be your LAST tattoo! 


$.99 on Kindle








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The Book of Poisons
A Merlin's Gate Story

The Chief Priest of the largest temple in Merlin’s Gate needs to die and only one person can do it. Tuila, his wife.











This is for the TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge. I was challenged.
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/06/15/flash-fiction-challenge-the-crooked-tree/

Leaning Tree


The mist wasn’t natural. It pulsated and swirled around the damp grass like a living thing. Jax thought it tasted like blood on the tongue. He pushed that idea out of his mind. This is mist and that is a fancy, he told himself. When the sun rose, all would be well. Surely.

You are looking for the leaning tree, give us a kiss and you will see…

Jax stopped, hardly daring to breathe. He listened. Could that little voice be his imagination too? It seemed far away, but clear. All he could hear was rattling branches, it seemed like he couldn’t have heard anything like someone singing.

The leaning tree is just nearby, give us a kiss and we’ll tell you why …

He whirled and ran. And got about six steps before he tripped over something—or perhaps nothing—and found himself face down in the shallow edge of the pond. The water was cold and filthy and tasted of rot. He pushed himself to his knees and the mist pressed around him.

Jax listened hard and all he could hear was drip…drip…drip and that was far away. Here among the weeds there was only mist and squishy, squashy earth, by the edge of a pond that shouldn’t be there. At least, he didn’t remember if from before.

He backed away from the water, trying to dry his face on the sleeves of his coat. It didn’t work. The sleeves were wet from the mist. Also he’d lost his hat. He could see it on the surface of the pond, not far away, just barely out of reach, but nothing could persuade him to wade in after. It was a lost hat.

As he watched, it sank beneath the surface.

Then he turned. The leaning tree was here somewhere, its roots partly exposed from the moisty soft bank where it had once grown. Among those roots grew a bush of white roses.

One perfect white rose. That’s what Manny said she wanted. One perfect white rose.

She had a garden full of roses, so it wasn’t the flower. No. She wanted him out here being brave. Risking his life. Exposing himself to danger for her sake. And for his own sake, he added to himself. He'd always been a timid man and this was just the thing to prove to himself he wasn’t a coward.

He took another swipe at the pond water on his face and pushed damp hair out of his eyes. Ponds smell like rotting flesh because … well, ponds are like that.

Come and find the leaning tree, give us a kiss and we’ll make you free …

This time the voice was closer, high-pitched and sweet like a boy soprano at Christmas time.

The mist swirled, even though there was no wind, not even the faintest hint of breeze. Jax walked away from the pond and his drowned hat. The leaning tree was near here, he was certain. He would find and cut a perfect white rose and then never look upon this place again.

The wet grass clung to his ankles and made each step difficult. The ground had little soft spots and sink holes, perfect to snare a foot and force him to fall again. Everything shimmered and softened and pretended to be something it was not. There he saw the ghostly shape of a man who turned out to be a fallen tree branch. There was a grave stone that was actually just a bit of lichen on a tree stump.

Jax pushed forward, sometimes stumbling, but always forward. Sometimes all he could hear was his own heart beating. Then—

You have found the leaning tree, give us a kiss and we’ll help you see…

The sweet voice lied. There was no tree here, just gray mist and something darker tangled in it.

And then mist thinned and parted and the tree was before him. Green-gray, clinging to life with roots exposed. It leaned more than he remembered. The tree was failing to right itself. It looked tired and finished and seemed to express a wish to lie down in the dark grass.

Beside it the white roses pricked bright spots in the mist like stars. When Jax saw it, a wave of unfamiliar emotion pressed in his chest. They were beautiful flowers, but just flowers, nothing more.

A few of the roses were buds, some were full-blown and spent, but many were at the peak of their perfection. He took out his little knife and cut a perfect one. It glowed with its own inner light and he held it to his nose. It smelled of life and possibility, of freedom, of insight.

Give us a kiss and you will see …

He wasn’t sure he heard that. Perhaps it was just a memory. But he kissed the rose, glowing in the mist, beautiful, but just a flower.

And then he saw.

While he walked home, the sun rose and the mist fled. The path lay clear and the road beyond that. When he arrived at Manny’s gate it was full morning. She stood there pink with anticipation. Beautiful and slender and a young tree, pink and lovely as a perfect flower.

Jax tossed her the rose. She snatched at it, but it hit her in the chest and fell at her feet. She frowned and stooped to pick it up.

“Good-bye, Manny,” he said.

And then he heard a song so soft, it was just an echo in his mind, faint and misty.



Come and find the leaning tree, give us a kiss and we’ll make you free …