Sneak Peek into “The Girl Without a Face”

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When I was a baby, my mother, the Queen, bit off my face. That was what the servants told me when I was old enough to ask why I had to wear a mask, why I was told not to take it off, and why there were no mirrors in the castle. They said she went mad with grief and chewed my face off, that it took three of her ladies-in-waiting to pry her off me.

More than that, I did not know. Few talked to me about my mother. When they did, it was either to relate a rumor or to offer up some speculation as to her motives or perhaps her whereabouts. Some say she had died, that she had thrown herself from the window of the highest tower. Others say that when she was locked up in said tower, they overheard her mad cackling on the night my last stepmother died in childbirth like those before her, taking with her my last would-be sibling. My father, the King knew, of course, but always I was afraid to ask him. He took such great care to lock me in a tower of perpetual happiness that I dared not shatter that joy with questions. I had seen him so rarely, our moments were so fleeting, it seemed a shame to waste it with sorrow and strife. But tonight was my sixteenth birthday, and I knew he would grant me anything.

Available for free Apr. 5-7th 2019

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Sneak Peek into “Model Town”

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The train’s engine was now painted an attractive devil-red, the coal cars a glossy black. I smiled as I examined my handiwork. Almost as good as new. That was enough of a day’s work, I decided. I set the train aside to dry and stood up, looking for the ceiling light, just an exposed light bulb with a chain attached. I reached overhead to click it off and from the corner of my eye, saw the shadowy figure of a man lying on the floor.

I gasped and jumped. The chain snapped out of my hand and slapped the light bulb. I stared at the shadow directly and the shape remained for a few seconds before fading into the hardwood floor.

Had that stain always been there?

I bent in for a closer look. I squatted. It was unmistakable. There was the oval head, the set of shoulders, arms, torso, and legs. He was sprawled with one arm up, one down, like a running man. The stain looked wet, a shade darker brown than the rest of the paint. Was this where Old Roy Jackson fell?

I touched my hand to where his forearm would have been. Dry. It only looked wet.

The shadow grabbed my wrist. I tried to pull back but he tugged me down. His head came up off the floor.

Help—me—” The voice croaked.

I screamed as I jerked my hand free and ran for the attic ladder.

The scream continued as I fell out of my stool and landed sideways on the floor. The floor that had no stain. I looked up at the model town, the train newly painted. My breaths came short and fast, my heart thudding. I must have fallen asleep waiting for the paint to dry… I must have been dreaming.

But my eyes went up to the ceiling light. The chain was still bouncing around the light bulb, each slap a little softer than the one before.

Available for free Apr. 5-7th 2019

 

 

Sneak Peek into “the Vault”

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Unblinking eyes stared out of a gray face framed by gray hair in the dim, gray light. I woke up to a dead woman lying next to me. Startled aback, I bumped into the cold and rigid body of a dead man behind me. I went scrambling off the bed-like stone slab when my bare foot touched something chilly and alien. Jerking back my foot, I glanced down. I had stepped on a face. Not only that, but there were rows upon rows of corpses piled on the floor from cement wall to cement wall. As I gaped at them, I almost slipped. Catching my balance, I teetered on my ass on this weird platform before crawling backwards to where I woke up. I shoved the body of the female down first before kicking the man over to join her.

The room was low-ceilinged and rectangular. Small, flickering yellow light bulbs illuminated the stone wall above me. Trapped in its metal cage, a light bulb hummed like a buzzing fly caught in a jar.

Where the hell was I? What happened last night? I couldn’t recall.

My breath came in fast, and a flapping noise sounded near my chest. That was when I noticed the note attached to my polo shirt by two bobby pins. Unfolding the yellow, blue-lined paper, I saw that one edge was frayed, like it had been torn from a spiral notebook.

“Try to remember why you’re here,” I murmured the note’s one sentence before crumbling it into a ball and throwing it as far from me as I could.

Available for free Apr. 5-7th 2019

Sneak Peek into “Unseen,” a dark fairy tale set in the Old West

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The girl ran through the forest. She didn’t know why she was running, only that she mustn’t stop. It seemed to her she had been running forever and couldn’t remember a time before the running. Neither did she know why she was splattered with blood.

Brambles scraped her face and tore her white dress. She pushed through the wall of them with a grunt and a whimper. Moonlight illuminated her form as she burst into the clearing. In front of a row of covered wagons, a ring of people sat around a fire.

One of the men started upon seeing her. He jumped to his feet and caught her as she fell forward. His eyes quickly scanned her tattered and stained appearance.

“Charlotte,” he said, righting her and giving her shoulder a rough shake. “Charlotte, what happened? Where is your sister?”

She didn’t reply; she couldn’t reply. His face was vaguely familiar to her. Charlotte was too tired to run anymore and leaned against him for support or else hide in his massive chest.

The man handed her over to a woman while glaring into the brush. “I’m going to go look for Rachel.”

“Be careful, Daniel.” The woman held Charlotte tightly and rubbed the girl’s arm in a comforting gesture.

Daniel gave the woman a curt nod before he grabbed his rifle and headed into the woods.

Charlotte screamed in protest, unable to form words to even warn him. The woman tried to quiet her with shushes, patting her head and rocking her in place, but Charlotte only dissolved into tears. The man called Daniel never looked back.

That was the last Charlotte saw her father alive.

Available for free Apr. 5-7th 2019

 

#FreeShortStories April 5th – 7th

If you missed out on my previous giveaways, have no fear: all of my short stories will be available for free download via Amazon April 5th – 7th.

What’s the catch? There is no catch. I want a readership, and I hope some of you will be lovely enough to leave me a review. Now, please note, this offer excludes the anthologies listed on my Amazon Author’s Page. If you’re not already following me, you can do so here.

I’ve got horror, dark fairy tales, and erotic romance waiting for you.

So mark your calendars, and get your Kindles ready. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on this wonderful deal!

Interview with Phoebe Darqueling, author of Riftmaker

Copy of Riftmaker ebook

What I dearly love about the writing community is that I get to meet some truly fascinating individuals. With me today is author Phoebe Darqueling,  editor for Our Write Side, author, and steampunk expert extraordinaire here to discuss her latest book, Riftmaker. I’m super-excited to conduct this interview, so without further ado, I have to ask…

How did you come up with the concept of Riftmaker? What is the story behind the story?

I was walking my dog, Gadget, in the garden area of my apartment building complex. There was a cardboard box lying around, but I didn’t think anything of it at first. Gadget and I went around one of the buildings, and when we re-entered the garden, the box had moved. We went around the next building and when I saw the box again, it had moved another few feet and tipped on its side. It looked like it was beckoning for someone to look inside of it. So, it got me thinking, what’s so special about this box, and if Gadget got too close, what would happen to him? Being the science fiction and fantasy fan that I am, my brain went to portals and parallel universes. And voila! The concept for Riftmaker fell into place.

Tell me a little about Buddy. What is he like? Is he based off of anyone in real life or inspired by any characters from fiction?

Buddy is the person I believe Gadget would be if he were suddenly to find himself in a human body with a human mind. He’s got a lot to learn about being human, but he’s an unwavering optimist. I had so much fun writing him because he is so sweet and naive, which sometimes leads to unexpected insights.

Travelers, which is another word for otherworlders, sometimes manifest special abilities in their new shape. I believe that dogs have a way of sensing things about people, so I gave that trait to Buddy as well. Except in his case, it manifests in being able to sense a person’s “true name” when he sees them. My dog also has a way of making himself as tiny and unobtrusive as possible, especially if he knows you’re mad at him. So, Buddy also can disappear when he’s afraid and people hardly remember he was ever there.

Do you have a dog? Any other pets?

I’ve already told you a little about Gadget, who is a toy poodle. (Get it? Toy, Gadget? Badum-ching) At the time I wrote Riftmaker, I was in a pretty low point in my life. I was recovering from an extremely painful surgery and my career choice turned out to be far less than it was cracked up to be. My husband spends some time abroad each year as part of his job, so Gadget was who I could always count on coming home to. He and I formed a really close bond.

My little furry friend is currently living with my parents back in the United States, and even though a lot of things have changed since that dark time, it breaks my heart to be without him. I know that he’d be right there, curled up on my feet while I’m doing this interview if he could be. But bringing him over to Germany, and into our tiny apartment without any access to a yard, seemed cruel. My parents have a much better setup for dogs, and the moment I move back to the States, I will definitely be finding a way to get him back to me.

How long have you been writing? What made you decide to write?

As with many a pensmith, I was interested in writing from a young age. I wrote my first “novel” when I was ten. It was about a cheetah cub that was captured by poachers and even included full color illustrations. My tweens were filled with some awful poetry, which morphed into some mediocre songs in high school. But once I got into late high school and college, I was doing so much writing for my classes and spending a lot of time doing studio art that I drifted away from writing for a while. Then, when the aforementioned excrement all hit the fan in the my 20’s and I needed an outlet, writing acted as a life raft.

Now, I’m guessing you love steampunk. You even wrote The Steampunk Handbook. How did you get into steampunk?

My first sojourn into Steampunk was at a friend’s burlesque show. Now, that may sound strange, but burlesque as distinctive form of theater emerged in the 1860’s, and I have actually seen burlesque at various Steampunk events since. But at the time, I had never seen burlesque or heard of Steampunk. My friend told me a little bit about the genre and aesthetic and cited one of my favorite movies, Wild Wild West, as being part of it. Then she decked me out in some goggles and a corset (that it turns out I was wearing upside down!), and I sat down to enjoy the show. After that, I was completely hooked and started to devour all of the books and movies I could, followed by starting my first Steampunk blog to review them. Now, I have annual engagements in Ohio and Wisconsin where I give lectures on various topics about the steam era. I’ll also be a featured author at Steampunk book fair in Connecticut in November.

What are some of your favorite books and movies?

This might sound weird to someone who didn’t grow up in the Midwest, but I spent much of my childhood watching a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. The premise is that a regular guy was shot into space by mad scientists, and they make him watch terrible old movies and monitor the effects on his brain. He’s got robot sidekicks, and they snark their way from start to finish. This instilled a love of both cheesy old science fiction movies and keeping up a running commentary. I admit, this makes it very difficult for me to enjoy dramas much of the time, though I recently watched both The Arrival and Annihilation. They were dramas and too good to snark about.

As far as non-MST3K movie experiences go, I’d say it’s probably a dead heat between The Princess Bride and The Fifth Element for all-time favorite film.

Do you have a favorite author, someone you consider an inspiration?

Neil Gaiman is my absolute favorite author. I often say that if some day he read something I wrote and didn’t hate it, I could die happy. Terry Pratchett and his knack for hiding social commentary in a fantasy world is also outstanding, and I was reading a lot his books at the time I wrote the first draft of Riftmaker. The original manuscript was much more in his style than the current version, but I hope readers will also enjoy my own attempt at allegory.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

In general, I’m an organized person. Not in an iron-my-underwear type of way, mind you, but I hate to feel like I am doing something in an inefficient way. However, writing and rewriting is messy. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things like plot points and pacing right the first time, which can sometimes make me stop in my tracks when what I really need to do is work it out on the page.

Do you have any favorite scenes from Riftmaker that you’d like to share?

One of my favorite scenes to write was the first time I got my four major players into the same place for the first time. It goes a little something like this…

When he saw Adelaide, Buddy waved enthusiastically and wiggled free of Grace’s grasp. “Oh hello, hello my friend!” he crowed. He bounded over and embraced her with gusto.
His sincere joy bubbled over and engulfed her, loosening the lump in her gullet and putting a tired smile on her face. “You seem to be feeling better,” she replied, reaching for an apple.


“Yes, I feel quite well. Grace has been telling me about ‘jokes.’ I did not know any, you see, so she has taught me one.” He cleared his throat dramatically and continued, “There are some muffins in an oven. Er, I think there are two…” He looked to Grace for reassurance, and she nodded her encouragement. “Yes, there are two muffins in an oven—” 

“Oh Goddess,” Adelaide interrupted. “You taught him the muffin joke?” This was directed at Grace, who stood by, looking bemused.

“It seemed like a good place to start.” She shrugged. “Besides, it was your favorite when you were a kid.”

Adelaide rolled her eyes and chomped into the golden fruit she held. Her next words were muddled by the sound of her crunching away at her breakfast.

“Well, I was a stupid kid, and it is an even stupider joke.”

Grace wagged her finger, the consummate caregiver. “Chew your food, then speak,” she said with a smirk. “Is that any way for a lady to behave?”

Adelaide nearly choked at the oddness. After a lifetime of never having the word applied to her, this was the second time it and her ability to live up to it had been challenged in less than a day. She stuck out her tongue at Grace before defiantly taking another bite.

“You mean you know it already?” Buddy asked, crestfallen.

Adelaide finished chewing, then swallowed dramatically and showed her empty mouth to Grace before answering. “Yes, I know the muffin joke,” she said. His shoulders sank, tugging at her heartstrings. “But you can still tell it to me if you want.”

“Okay!” he replied. “So, there are two muffins in an oven. One turns to the other and says, ‘Wow, it is so hot in here—”

“Oh no,” Jeremy said as he and Olivia approached. “It tells jokes now?”

Adelaide cringed, but Buddy did not seem to notice his choice of words.

“Yes, I was just getting to the ‘punch-line’” Buddy replied happily, drawing quotation marks in the air as he spoke. Jeremy snorted derisively and headed for the barrel of apples, his shoulder clipping Buddy’s as he passed. The Traveler flinched at the contact, but cleared his throat and tried again. “So, one muffin turns to the other and says, ‘Wow, it is so hot in here! —”

“You know,” Jeremy interjected. “I have never understood something about this joke.” His words and eyes were directed at Olivia only. Adelaide chided herself for how much this bothered her, but she couldn’t help but crave his attention even now. He tossed Olivia an apple which she barely caught and continued. “Why are there only two muffins in the oven anyway? They always get made in batches of twelves,” he crunched into his own apple and smacked his lips loudly, “or maybe six. But there would never be just two muffins in an oven, would there?”

Grace threw her hands up dramatically at the lack of etiquette shown by her wards and walked away to see to the other injured people.

Jeremy looked pointedly at Olivia, who just shrugged. “I’ve never made muffins.”

“No,” he said thoughtfully, “I suppose you haven’t.”

“I have not made muffins, either,” Buddy added helpfully.

“Until a few days ago you didn’t even have opposable thumbs,” Jeremy sneered, still trying to get a rise out of the flaxen-haired interloper.

“That is correct. They are wonderful!” Buddy looked down at his hands and studied his fingers.

Jeremy let out an exasperated sigh. “Are you sure you want to help this idiot?” he asked Olivia.

“He’s not an idiot,” Adelaide retorted. “He’s just…” she struggled for a moment before choosing her next word. “New. He’s new, that’s all.”

And how can fans stay connected with you?

You can find Riftmaker and all of my other books on my Amazon author page or Goodreads. Riftmaker is currently available for $1.99 from Amazon and a variety of other e-book retailers until Feb 14. Print price is $18.99 from Amazon and the Our Write Side store.

You can find more character spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Phoebe Darqueling during the Riftmaker blog tour, Jan 24 – Mar 6.  

Do you like free books? Sure you do! Sign up for Phoebe’s monthly newsletter and get a FREE COPY of The Steampunk Handbook right now.

You can also find more of Phoebe’s antics on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Awesome! Thanks so much for this interview, Phoebe.

Thanks so much for having me, Rebecca! 

Phoebe Darqueling

Phoebe Darqueling is the pen name of a globe trotting vagabond who currently hangs her hat in Freiburg, Germany. In her “real life” she writes curriculum for a creativity competition for kids in MN and edits academic texts for non-native English speakers. She loves all things Steampunk and writes about her obsession on SteampunkJournal.org. During 2017, she coordinated a Steampunk novel through the Collaborative Writing Challenge called Army of Brass, and also loves working with authors as an editor. You can also find her short stories in the Chasing Magic and The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales anthologies so far, and her next novel, No Rest for the Wicked is coming Spring 2019. She’s an equal opportunity Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly fan, but her favorite pastime is riffing on terrible old movies a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 

“Skeleton Flower” a poem

“Diphylleia Grayi or Skeleton Flower” © 2018 Rebecca R. Pierce

If my smiles seem sunlit
I crowd my pale face in to fit
I am a wish that is in vain;
Invisible in the rain.

Here is a truth I have gleaned:
You must shine to be seen.
Do not believe the form I feign.
Invisible in the rain.

A transparent drop will erase
The painted mask of stoic grace.
I am but sorrow’s stain
Invisible in the rain.

Under the hush of my regret,
Comes the trickle, cold and wet.
I am but a song’s refrain;
Invisible in the rain.

Crystal cracked like winter lace,
My arms fade; a failed embrace.
I am a ghost on the wane;
Invisible in the rain.

The showers pour, the rivers run
Washing away lies of the sun
Can you see me, sense my pain,
Invisible in the rain?

 

*Author’s note: Hi! If you’d like to learn more about the skeleton flower, check out this YouTube video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Peppermint Carnations” a poem

“Peppermint Carnations” © 2018 by Rebecca R. Pierce

I chose the peppermint carnation for you, Daddy.
Clutched in my small fist, it reminded me
Of the bite of candy cane comfort during thunderstorms,
Of a red and white pinwheel I could blow a kiss on.
I liked it because it was half and half—like me.
Blood and bone swirled imperfectly
In a soft fraying circle.

Years later, looking back, I see
Its meaning conveyed refusal.
My mother let me lay rejections on your grave
While she stabbed gladiolas in orange-beaded green swords
Above your head and wept tears of regret
Not loss.

Well.

I can swallow that hard candy of truth,
Cold and biting sweet.
She was half-right even when she did us wrong:
Each bloom I left behind refused
To believe you’d gone.
I’d given you
A flower that looked like candy
A flower that looked like a wish
A flower like a blood and bone girl
Mixed half and half
And a comfort through thunderstorms.

It was red and white, striped like
Scarred imperfect love
Unfurling into the unconditional, infinite spiral
Of soft, frayed beauty.
Woman that I’ve become,
I can stare at the overgrown, lush grass and know
The deeply grooved earth doesn’t hold you, Father
—I do—
And I pad away a tigress
With her war stripes furrowed deep in her skin.

OK, I’m Hooked: a book review

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Gillian’s tale is definitely that of a fish out of water. Sent into our world to investigate rogue fae, she struggles to learn our culture as much as who’s behind a string of drowning deaths that wash up along the Jersey Shore. Rich with lush descriptions of Underhill and its fae inhabitants, we journey with Gillian as she comes into creation, meet her “parents” and then is quickly shoved out of her proverbial nest.

I enjoyed this book! It had a slight slow start for me, but I think it was because I was anxious to get to the murders. Don’t do that. Take your time and enjoy the scenery. The author ensures that even if you know nothing of the fae, you will not be lost on any of the lore. The scenery is at times vivid enough that I could smell the salt in the sea air or feel the coolness of the moss. Nicely done. The characters, too, pop to life. When she meets the Troll King, I genuinely laughed out loud and was both surprised and delighted by his character. (I hope he shows up later in the series.) Without giving too much away, I stressed over the fate of certain characters and alternated between setting the book down (because I didn’t dare find out) and picking it up and reading on (because I HAD to find out).

This is an excellent start to a series and the best review I can give it is I’m on my way to buying the sequel.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon or your favorite bookseller.

“Happily Ever After” a poem

Digging through my pile of old poems and came across this fun one. Previously published in Waves From My Oddest Sea back in 2004, but it’s since been discontinued. Hope you enjoy its message as much as I do.

“Happily Ever After”

The frog said
“Kiss me and I’ll
Be your Prince.”
But I
Licked him and
Nothing made sense.

Why must
I perverse
The dreams
We rehearse?
Why am I always
Slapping the fairy’s tale?
Maybe I just
Don’t want my life
To be stale.

I mean if
Wishes were horses
Then I’m
Catherine the Great
Because it’s my wishes
That I
Wish to satiate
(Even if it kills me…)

Maybe my reality check just bounced.
“Insufficient funds”
—What can you do?—
Yes, it always thrills me…

I just want a
Near-life experience.
Is that too much to ask for?
If so, then
I want more!

I mean,
Didja ever notice that
Prince Charming’s not Prince Sincere?
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

So, why should I
Stay at home
In my ivory tower
Wasting away, waiting to be saved
When I
Want so much to roam—alone—
(And I’ve got the power.)

Why should I want to be enslaved,
Trading one monster for another?
A boy, for a mother?
Get out of my hair!
No Rapunzel am I
And no, I don’t care!

Besides, when it comes to love
Every man acts
Less like a Prince
And if you want facts,
More like the Gingerbread Man.
“Run, run, run as fast as you can.”
It’s less than inspiring.
So now I’m conspiring
To bite his head off.

So I
Want to be me
And I
Want to be free
And I’ll
Get that “Happily Ever After”
With or without you.