The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part II

As she spoke, two other men emerged from the guildhall. They wore the simple vests of craftsmen, and the mark of the Tanner’s Guild emblazoned their arms in red ink—a scraping blade resting upon a stretched rawhide. The first tanner mumbled some rude comment, and the others laughed.

Saja seethed. She silently cursed her father again, and the Tanner’s Guild, and the Sultan, who allowed lechers to prey upon the desperate. She felt a chunk of sandstone under her palm and grasped it, eyeing the three men. She pictured the tanner clutching his nose and howling in pain, but then thought better of hurling the stone. She could perhaps outrun two, but three certainly pressed her luck. Besides, she still held a small hope the guild would take her in. Maybe if she came again later and spoke with someone else.

The tanner saw the stone as she dropped it, and his eyes went cold. Saja did her best to ignore him. Rising, she scraped off the silt and muck that clung to her dress. In the Tanner’s District, buckets were kept to collect the leavings from animal and man alike, for use in the tanning process, but the slop of refuse still soiled the ground. And in the air, baking under the noonday sun, the stench of the vats hung thick.

As Saja strode away from the guildhall, she passed a few peddlers hawking pottery and craftsmen’s tools from the backs of their carts, while wagons of fresh skins and rawhides trundled along. She dodged one of the wagons and almost collided with a beggar who shuffled by with his arms tucked into his robes, mumbling to himself. She heard giggling from a shadowed corner between two squat buildings, and spied a pair of harlots watching her. They wore sheer linen dresses, with paint caked upon their eyes and cheeks. They know, Saja thought with a shiver. They can see I will soon be one of them. The notion plunged her heart into her gut, and her eyes welled.

A year ago, she’d been in love with Tarim, her father’s apprentice. A year ago, she thought she’d never dream of another man. Her entire life lay before her, scripted like the sweet tales from a mummer’s stage. But then the winds had changed, and her father stole her future.

One of the harlots stepped forward, but the other caught her arm and flicked her gaze at something behind Saja. The first altered her step into a graceful pivot, so that her back faced the street. Saja frowned. She peered over her shoulder and gasped. The tanner and craftsmen followed her, trailing only a few dozen paces away.

For a moment, she only stared. An icy hand of fear gripped her spine and wouldn’t let go. Then, with a gasp, her knees buckled and she lurched forward. Weaving through the street, she quickened her pace, her mind racing with what the men would do to her if they reached her. When she glanced backward again, the tanner gave her a mocking grin.

She stumbled in a wagon rut and heard the two craftsmen laugh. She was only sport to them, she told herself, something to pass the afternoon. Soon they would tire of their chase. She just needed to keep moving.

But she felt them edging closer. The hot sun melded with the imagined heat of their breath upon her neck. The gentle breeze was their fingers reaching out to clutch her dress.

The street forked, and Saja darted down an alley pressed between a salting house and a dyer’s shack. The footsteps slapping the dirt behind her echoed louder, coming closer until they seemed like they were her own.

As she broke into a run, a shadow flittered across the corner of her vision. Only it was higher than it should’ve been, as if a giant hawk had suddenly swooped down beside her. A loud grunt sounded, followed by a thud.

Saja heard the tanner curse, then the shriek of another man. She stopped and spun around, shocked at what she found. A lithe man in a shirt of green silk had his back toward her, blocking the alley. He balanced on his toes like a dancer, with a dagger held in one hand. Even Saja could tell the man was dangerous.

One of the craftsmen clutched at his arm, blood weeping through his fingers. The other was crumpled upon the ground, moaning softly.

The tanner sneered and brought his hands up in fists. “This is unwise, thief,” he said. “We are guildsmen. We are protected. The Horned Man will hear of this and string you from your toes!”

The silk-shirted man shifted his dagger so it pointed toward the ground but remained silent. The tanner lunged at him. To Saja, the punch was as quick as an asp’s strike, but the thief danced to one side and brought the butt of his dagger into the man’s temple. The tanner grunted and was struck again. This time he fell to his knees.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part I

Saja gagged as the tanner’s breath washed over her in warm huffs that reeked of fish and ale. The man leaned forward from his perch upon the stoop of the guildhall, and pulled her close, his hands fumbling along her waist and rump.

She considered for a moment to let him have his way. Her father had left her with few choices, and almost all ended with her lying upon her back. She cursed her father for the thousandth time that day, wishing him dead, and at the same time wondering if he still lived. She hadn’t seen him for three days, since the Feast of Raast, where the denizens of Kuthahaar had celebrated those of the Sultan’s royal blood, the Kitame, the Children of Light.

blog_treeThe tanner forced his mouth to her neck, and its warmth broke her from her stupor. She shoved at the man’s chest. He raised a hand to strike her, and she quickly lowered her head, staring at his sandaled feet in meek submission.

“Please,” she said. “My father’s always been loyal to the guild. It is said you protect your own.”

The tanner smirked, revealing rotted teeth that pointed like daggers. “But your father’s not in the guild, no more than the boys who collect dung for the vats.”

“He sells you oak bark and lye, gathered from across the Seas of Abthinar. You need him!”

“Phaw, forget that doddering fool. There are a dozen others who would give us as fair a price for their bark and lye, and they wouldn’t squander it all in cups at the taverns.” The tanner rose. His eyes roamed her body. “Come inside, and we’ll find work for you.”

He grabbed her arm, and she slapped it away. Staring up at his leering face, she knew whatever work the tanner would offer, it was his bed he wanted her in. She took a step back, and his smile dropped.

Jerking forward, he snatched her close again. His fingers dug into her shoulders; his chin crushed down on the top of her head. She shrieked and tried to bat him away. He growled and threw her to the ground.

“Leave, then!” he barked.

Saja glanced about, but though the street was busy, no one stared at her. No one cared. The Immortal City of Kuthahaar was never kind to those without wealth or power, and less so to those without family or guild to protect them. Despair bubbled in her gut again, but she pushed it down. Her father had always taught her that panic during a negotiation produced only two effects: a spoiled stomach and an empty purse.

She settled her shoulders and drew her face blank. “I will find him,” she said, though the words brought little comfort.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

Sorrow’s Edge by Danielle DeVor – Excerpt

Book 2 in the fascinating series The Marker Chronicles!
See below for an excerpt & Giveaway!

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Sorrow’s Edge (The Marker Chronicles, Book 2)

Uncovering the truth will take an exorcist.
 
Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed.

When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmy’s old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.

After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks loose…again.

 

You can buy SORROW’S EDGE at these retailers:

 Amazon     |     Barnes & Noble

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Danielle DeVor

DanielleDeVorAuthorPhotoNamed one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.

 

You can follow Danielle at these links:

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Instagram

 

Excerpt

I got the phone call at three. Just as Lucy said I would. I was really starting to hate the true “witching hour.” I needed sleep, dammit.
I let the phone ring a few times, hoping that whoever was on the other end would just hang up. I wasn’t that lucky. I dragged my tired-ass body up, grabbed my phone off the nightstand, and swiped the screen.
“Mr. Holiday?” the man asked when I grunted into the phone.
“You realize it’s 3:00 AM, right?” My head hit the pillow. I did not want to be doing this right now.
The man sighed. “It couldn’t be helped. We need you.”
I twitched. Who the hell was this guy anyway? Kind of presumptuous to call somebody at random this late at night when you’d never met the person on the other end. Apparently, manners weren’t his strong point.
I glanced around the room. The lamp in the corner was on. The light glowed just enough to keep my mind at ease. I’d gotten into the habit of sleeping with a light on ever since Sorrow’s Point. Yeah, it was irrational, but hey, I was trying to keep the beasties at bay. From the dim light, I could see Lucy sitting on the floor in front of the TV. I, just barely, made out the program through her. Her hair was as pale as usual and so blond it seemed almost white. She wore the same white nightgown she always did.
“How did you get my number?” I had to know. I mean, I doubted Will would suggest me to someone else. Things hadn’t exactly ended on a positive note.
“You came highly recommended.”
That was news to me. A very small group of people even knew I did something besides graphic design. “By who?”
“That’s not important right now. You’re needed. That’s what should matter.”
I sat up. Not important to him, maybe, but it sure as shit was important to me. I squeezed the phone so hard my knuckles began to ache. If I broke it, this asshole was going to owe me another phone. “Listen. I’m not about to traipse around and do whatever the hell it is you want me to when you won’t tell me who you are or who told you about me.”
“O’Malley said you’d be difficult.”
I froze. Father O’Malley had been the one who allowed me to see the church as a vocation when I was a kid. But there was one problem. He’d been dead since before I left the church. I didn’t care where he got the information. That was a low blow. I clenched my teeth.
“I’m going to hang up now. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call here again—”
“No, wait!”
The desperation in his voice was the only thing that kept me from hanging up the phone. “All right. I’m listening.”
“O’Malley told me about you in a dream. When I woke up, your phone number was scrawled on my hand.”
Yeah, I knew that kind of weird. I had firsthand experience with it. Having a dead person talk to him in a dream wasn’t that different from a disembodied soul speaking to me in a nightmare. Yeah, my life was really interesting. Though I’d never drawn on myself in my sleep. That was a new one. “Who is it who needs an exorcism?”
The guy hung up. I literally heard the phone hitting the cradle. Who used an old phone like that anymore? I almost threw my cell phone against the wall. I mean, what the hell? Wake me up in the middle of the night for what?
I scratched the sleep out of my eyes and glanced over at Lucy. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
She stared at me and grinned. Her blue eyes almost sparkled. “I don’t have to.”
I shook my head. Of course a kid would think it great to not sleep. I, on the other hand needed my rest—strange phone calls or not. And if someone else called, I’d probably be facing a murder charge.
“Do you think Tabby will like me?” Lucy asked. She stayed dressed in this little white frilly nightgown. I wasn’t sure if it was her favorite or if there was something else at work keeping her dressed that way. When I’d done her exorcism, she sure wasn’t in frills.
Now that was the question, wasn’t it? I’d been toying with the idea of not telling Tabby about my ghostly child, but it appeared that was no longer an option. And with my luck, Tabby would eventually see her, freak out, and the whole thing would be blown out of proportion.
“I’m sure she will…” I hoped that was true. “After she gets used to the idea.”
Lucy stared at me for a bit. I could tell she wasn’t buying it. Best I start remembering there was more to her than to a regular six-year-old.
“It will all work out,” I told her. “Eventually.” Part of that was me trying to convince myself. There was only so much oddness a normal person could take, and I figured I was probably getting close to the threshold.
“Uh-huh,” Lucy said, back to watching the TV. How she could just sit in front of the TV for hours on end, I didn’t know. It was almost like she became somehow hypnotized by it.
I laid my head back on the pillow. Hopefully, I could go back to sleep. Hopefully, I could stop worrying about that odd phone call. Hopefully…who was I kidding? I was seriously screwed. Again.

 

Giveaway

Open internationally. Must be 13+ to win.

Prizes:

1 Winner – Amazon $5 Gift Card

2 Winners – ebook copy of SORROW’S POINT

To Enter Click Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Please check out our other tour hosts for Excerpts, Interviews and more chances to win!

 
11/6/16 Natalia Brothers mycookbookofwriting.blogspot.com
11/6/16 Cheshire Cat cheshirecatlookingglass.com
11/6/16 Jennifer Theriot http://jennifertheriot.blogspot.com/
11/6/16 Em shotwell EmShotwell.com/blog
11/6/16 Leigh Anderson www.leighandersonromance.com
11/7/16 Steven Ramirez http://stevenramirez.com/
11/7/16 Randi Perrin www.randiperrin.com
11/7/16 Mindy Wall http://dream-reader-dreamer2229.blogspot.com/
11/8/16 Maer Wilson http://maerwilson.com/
11/10/16 Maryanne Fantalis mfantaliswrites.wordpress.com
11/10/16 E. J. Wenstrom www.ejwenstrom.com/blog
11/10/16 Ashley Pomykala parsimoniouspash.com
11/10/16 Kathleen Kelly http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.com
11/10/16 Miriam Greystone www.miriamgreystone.com
11/10/16 Craig Comer http://craigcomer.com
11/12/16 Christina Mandara http://christinamandara.com
11/12/16 Ronelle Antoinette http://www.redhotbooks.com
11/12/16 Tina Traverse https://writersonthewharf.wordpress.com

The ASOIF End is Nigh…?

The Machine Stops had some fun this week, asking a handful of authors how they thought George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series would end. Below is how I answered, but if you’d like to read them all, head over here.

Also, thanks to all who voted for “The Tomb of Jerem’bel” over at the Bards & Sages reader’s choice polls. It won Best Short Story from the January 2016 issue!

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How I might end ASOIF:

“Of ASOIF’s many themes, two of the most prominent are 1) a mother’s love—Catelyn, Cersei, and Olenna all drive their decisions around the fate of their children and in grief are altered to their core—and 2) identity—Arya, Sansa, and Theon all assume multiple names and personalities as they struggle to find safety.

So it won’t be a shock when Daenerys chooses to protect her “children” and remove them far from the world of men rather than use them as tools to become Queen of Westeros. Likewise, Jon will take on the identity he never wanted, as the leader of the fight against the Others, but he’ll never achieve his heart’s desire, the small comforts of a close family.

The spoils of the war between Ice and Fire will go to those who least deserve it. While at the same time, the new power players in the Game of Thrones will learn nothing from those who fell before them. It is a dire fate for a dire world, and though Sansa may reclaim the Stark mantle, and Sam become a Maester, Arya’s list will grow ever long. For while the bite of Winter will leave its scars, its lessons are soon forgotten.”

The Fey Matter continues…

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s been a great October for The Fey Matter. Edits from City Owl Press are almost complete and we’ve started discussing a cover design for the book.

I’ve started writing the second book in the series, and the rough draft of the first chapter is already complete. I can’t wait until readers are able to follow Effie on her adventures!

For now, here is a rough sketch of Effie done by my friend (and INCREDIBLE artist) Ben Thornton.

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Last, if you haven’t already, the Bards & Sages poll is open until the end of the month. Head on over and vote for your favorite story! (click here) My short story, “The Tomb of Jorem’bel”, is in the January issue.

Shaolin vs Vikings: an anthology of weird fiction!

Want awesome stories of high fantasy, steampunk, and horror? Want them for FREE? Then check out this collection from Ahimsa Kerp!

…from a steampunk world where the Burmese Empire still rules most of Asia, to Japanese death dogs, from the real reason no writings of Socrates exist, to an ancient Sumerian sage corrupted by the modern world stalking the fjords of Oslo, from a town full of women eagerly desperate to avoid sacrifice to a Dragon, to a German cat who really just wants to play a DJ set at the local Techno Festival, these stories span the breadth of the speculative fiction field.

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#FF – The Machine Stops

I thought I’d do a little #FF here, though technically it’s a few hours until Friday. If you’re looking for some great mash-ups of fantasy, steampunk, horror, and sci-fi you should head over to The Machine Stops, the blog of author Garrett Calcaterra. He’s best known for his Dreamwielder series (the ebook of vol 1 is on sale through Sept 13th) but his recently released anthology, Dreamrush, is equally worth checking out. It has tales of air pirates raiding the California coast during the Gold Rush, a tie-in story set in the Dreamwielder ‘verse, and other weird pulp adventures.

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THE FEY MATTER finds a home with City Owl Press!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’m happy to return with the exciting news that City Owl Press has agreed to publish my new alternate history / gaslamp fantasy novel, THE FEY MATTER!

Set against the backdrop of 1882 Scotland, the novel follows a young, orphaned fey as she eludes the crown’s minions, matches wits against greedy lords, and battles an auld enemy of her people.

I’m super stoked to be working with City Owl Press and their great staff! More details to come, but now it is time for a happy dance!

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