I’ll send you Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology”

Last week, I made an offer to my mailing list and got a fantastic response. I now want to extend that same offer to my social media friends and to also give those who missed that first email another opportunity.

The idea is simple. If you pledge to my Patreon at the $2 level or above, I’ll send you a free hardcover copy of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I had a great time reading it, and I think you will too.

If you change your mind after I’ve sent you the book, you’re free to cancel your pledge, no questions asked. I believe most people are kind and won’t take advantage.

Your pledge also entitles you to other perks. The $2 level gives you access to rough drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write. The $5 level lets you decide which of my flash fiction pieces I should turn into a longer story. Whatever you can give, it will help me immensely on my journey toward becoming a full-time writer.

There are only two rules.

1. You have to have an address in the United States to be eligible (I’m working on the legalities and logistics of offering a similar giveaway to residents of Canada and the UK.)

2. You must become a patron at or above the $2 level on or before Monday, February 27, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.

That’s it. Once you become a patron, I’ll send you an email to request your shipping address, and once I get it, I’ll order the book through Amazon and send it to you as a gift. I may or may not do a similar giveaway in the future. This is an experiment. Let’s see how it goes 🙂

To become a patron and get your free hardcover copy of Norse Mythology, click the “Become a patron” button below.

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The Stone

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This piece of flash fiction appears in the February issue of The Wagon Magazine.

A special shout out to my new patrons, Buffy, Melody, Sandy and Jenn! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

“Psst, boy.”

Adrian glanced toward the alley, where an old man stood hunched against a brick wall.

“Boy,” he repeated. “Come here. I have something for you.”

Curious and heedless of potential danger, Adrian did as he was told. When he was close enough to get a good look at his soiled rags, and to smell that he hadn’t bathed in weeks, the man glanced sideways, as if nervous he was being watched.

“Take this.”

Adrian looked down at the man’s closed fist.

“A gift,” he said, shoving a smooth round object into Adrian’s left hand. A moment later, he darted off into the shadows.

Adrian examined his prize.

A stone.

Brow furrowed, he continued home and placed it atop a shelf. He didn’t think about it anymore that day.

Meanwhile, the stone waited.

That night, when Adrian returned to his room to sleep, he found the stone where he’d left it. He picked it up and carried it with him to bed. Beneath the moonlight spilling through the window, it seemed almost to glow. Suddenly, his imagination went wild, and he was certain this simple object could reveal the universe’s deepest secrets.

When exhaustion overtook him and he finally fell asleep, the stone was still clutched between his fingers.

He dreamed that night.

He was tumbling through the stars, falling, floating, jets like cosmic sparks shooting through space. Galaxies spiraled in the distance, galaxies of every shape and size, whirling, colliding, bursting in blinding coruscating flashes.

Adrian felt lost, but he was not afraid because he held the stone.

“The cosmos are yours now,” said the voice of the man he’d met in the alley. The universe shook with the force of his words. They were a binding, the oldest and most powerful kind.

And then he was opening his eyes, and all he could see or hear was the pale light of the moon and the chirping of crickets outside. He glanced at the ordinary-looking stone, still firmly grasped in his left hand. It felt warm.

Adrian smiled.

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The Music Within

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The music called to him, and Steve skipped work early to follow after it.

He rushed home, head down, walking back to his apartment. All the while that spectral, otherworldly tune twined through him, shooting feelers into his heart, penetrating the darkest corners of his soul. He bolted up the stairs, dug through his pockets for his key, opened the door and slipped inside.

The room was dark, with only a sliver of late-afternoon sun seeping through the shuttered window. But he didn’t turn on the light. Instead, he sat beside the coffee table where his violin lay, the polished surface catching the minuscule light from the window so that it seemed almost to glow.

He took the instrument into his hands, and the music within swirled, coalesced. He ran a finger along the smooth, wood-grain surface. An electric charge surged down his spine. The music was pounding at his skull now, demanding to have its way with him, and he was ready to oblige.

It was going to sweep him away, he thought, carry him to that other world once more, a world where music was the language of creation, a world under siege, a world that needed his help if it was going to survive. He was afraid, but the music had embraced him like a lover, and Steve was powerless to resist.

He held the bow above the strings. Paused. Sighed.

He began to play.

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The Tree

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A special shout out to my new patron, Lisa! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

The tree. It towered over Diane, thick muscular branches reaching high into the sky, gilded by late-afternoon light. She’d been walking through the park on her way home from work. She must have passed it a hundred times before, yet today it had stopped her.

She felt for a moment that it was calling to her, that it was trying to establish a connection. But that was a childish thought.

Grow up, Diane.

The words of her foster mother sprang to mind, and she began to pull away.

“Diane.”

She stopped, looked back. Had the tree just called her name?

Grow up, Diane. It’s just a tree. Trees don’t talk.

She turned away once more.

“Diane, come back.”

The voice wasn’t one of sound but of feeling, a silent mournful breeze that seemed to blow from someplace far away. Diane shook it off.

She was tired. She was on her way home from work after ten hours without lunch, and her imagination was getting the best of her. Once more, the words of her foster mother came to mind.

Grow up, Diane.

She peeled her eyes away, forced herself to move in the direction of her apartment.

“Diane, please.”

And the voice of the tree intensified. It penetrated her strongest defenses, reaching her heart, setting it on fire. In an instant that transcended time, visions of an alien cosmos flowed through her, a broad sweeping narrative, first of pain, loss and defeat, then of victory, triumph and love. The tree. It loved her, and it wanted to sweep her away.

Diane came back to herself, caught herself mid-stride. She was shocked to find that she’d been headed toward the massive trunk with arms outstretched. She felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her.

The voice in her head was gone now, but not the supernal mystery that lingered long after the strange encounter. It had set her off balance, sent her reeling headfirst into a universe she knew nothing about.

Diane stood a moment longer, unable to move. Then she stumbled back. She gazed up at the tree one last time, now just an ordinary tree, then turned and bolted the rest of the way home.

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Planter of Worlds

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Andi reaches into a faded leather pouch and produces a handful of seeds. She scatters them about the ground. Waters them. Moves on.

She waits for them to grow.

She is a Sower, a planter of worlds. She wanders the cosmos, the last of her kind, spreading her celestial seed. Wherever she goes, worlds spring up in her wake, quivering with wild, newborn magic.

Long ago, her people filled the fertile fields of the universe, sowing and nurturing celestial objects of every kind. Stars burst to life in the darkness of empty space and bore an abundance of planetary fruit. It was their greatest work, their crowning glory.

But when they were finished they moved on. The canvas had been filled, they said, and they were ready to plant bigger better gardens. But Andi couldn’t let it go. She saw that it was beautiful, but also imperfect, and she knew that with time she could make it better.

So Andi picked up her seed pouch and got to work, planting a world here, a star there. Each sowing brought the cosmos that much closer to perfection.

Andi knows her work will never be complete, that perfection is an eternal struggle, something to be aimed for but never reached. She understands something the rest of her kind did not, that a labor of love is never finished, that it must be tended to assiduously.

She hopes that one day they’ll return. Perhaps if they lay eyes upon her work, they’ll stay to help.

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Half-Life

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A special shout out to my new patron, Pat! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

Fingers reaching, creeping, curling around my neck like choking vines. Draining my life. I struggle, try to pry it off my vulnerable skin. It taunts me, utters its low, susurrus laugh like dried leaves, like rattling snake’s skin, slithering across dry, desert sand.

I always manage to survive in spite of its debilitating grip, but only just. Mine is a sort of half-life, forever suspended between the dark and the light. And beneath me, the creature in the shadows, beckoning me to give up, to let go, to allow myself to fall into its insatiable jaws.

It knows I weaken, that I have not the strength to escape and fly toward the light. It does not age, but instead bides its time, for it knows I can only go on for so long before I falter.

How long can I live without rescue before my grip loosens? How long can I survive?

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Picking Up the Pieces

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She lives at the crossroads of time and space. The rest of her kind left long ago, choosing to search for a new world instead of trying to repair the one they already had. But she couldn’t go with them. This was her homeland, the world that had given birth to her. She couldn’t let it die. Now she stands alone in a barren land, trying to pick up the pieces they left behind.

Trying to rebuild.

She dreams of how it was, focuses her power on reversing the decay. She grits her teeth as that power flows out of her, and she picks the constituent pieces of her reality off the ground like scattered rubble, molding them into something new.

It is slow, lonely work.

Her world was vast, and the universe will nearly be in its death throes by the time she’s finished. But she hopes that if she fixes it they’ll return. Without them, without her world as it once was, she knows she’ll never be whole.

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Death by Ice

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This piece of flash fiction appears in the January issue of The Wagon Magazine.

A special shout out to my new patrons, Lisa and Shaka! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

If John didn’t find shelter soon, he would die.

It was his thirty-seventh birthday. He’d always wanted to see snow, so he and a group of friends had rented a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains to celebrate. A huge snowstorm had swept the region the night before, leaving behind humongous drifts of crystal white.

“Let’s go hiking,” Alicia had said, and everyone thought it was a great idea. They donned extra layers of clothing and snow jackets, took their phones for group selfies and resolved to be back in time for dinner. Unfortunately, John had gotten separated from the group.

“I have to go back,” he’d said after only twenty minutes of walking. “I want to change into my snow boots.”

“You know the way?” Alex asked.

“Of course. A quarter mile there.” He pointed back behind them. If it weren’t for the fact that they’d teased him for his terrible sense of direction, he would’ve asked for company.

Now, John trudged through waist-deep snow and shivered. He’d lost the path a while ago, so that all that surrounded him were large gray rocks and towering pines. The cold had leeched through his jacket and snow pants, seeping into flesh and bone, and he could no longer feel his limbs. Was this how he would die? Would he exit this world only thirty-seven years after entering it, all because of a pair of shoes and a bruised ego?

I won’t die. That’s ridiculous.

He reached out to steady himself against a nearby tree and paused. How long had he been walking? Two hours? Three? He needed to rest.

No! screamed a half mad thought that bubbled out of a partially frozen mind.

Just a couple minutes. A couple minutes to rest his aching muscles, a couple minutes to calm his nerves. Then he could press on. In the back of his head, that manic voice continued screaming for him to go on. But he was no longer listening.

He dropped to his knees, rested his head against a nearby tree trunk. He reached back with numb hands to form a crude pillow, and he wondered vaguely why he couldn’t feel the bark.

Just a couple minutes.

John closed his eyes.

*    *    *

He woke to scratching. Eyelids fluttered, and for a moment he was dazzled by the golden light that filtered through the treetops. Then he felt it again, coarse and painful. He stumbled to his feet. His heart jumped into his throat.

John was surrounded by horned creatures twice as tall as himself, balanced on horse-like haunches and blood-soaked hooves. They reached out to him, scraping with scythe-like claws. He scrambled back. Bumped into a tree. Fell into the snow.

They closed in, began to rip skin and flesh. It was like having his heart carved out of his chest with an icicle. He cried out, coughing as his lungs hitched on the frozen air. He tried to pull away, but they’d pinned him against the tree so he couldn’t move.

Each slashing claw stole more of his warmth, until his teeth chattered like machine gun fire.

“G– g– go away,” he rattled.

Slash. Cut.

He tried to fend them off with useless hands.

Slash. Cut.

Black began to creep in from the corners of his vision. His arms and legs were dead, frozen weights.

Slash. Cut.

The image before his eyes constricted to a narrow white tunnel.

Slash. Cut.

Then light. Dazzling. And warmth. Suffusing. John marveled as feeling flowed back into his limbs. It was not the painful pins-and-needles sensation he’d expected, but a near instant restoration of feeling and motor control. The black that had conquered his vision dispersed. Now, he could see not only the world around him but more, a whole other realm that waited just beyond the threshold of space and time. There was love, and a presence that wanted to protect him. John called out to it, and it answered.

The horned creatures shrieked, shielding their eyes against the sudden burst of light. Hooting and snorting, they staggered away.

The light coalesced, assumed form and substance. It was the most beautiful thing John had ever seen. It had come to his rescue because it loved him, and he found that he loved it in return. He was no longer afraid to die, not if the light would take him with it.

John opened himself to its embrace. He felt a tug. A pull. His body fell away, left to freeze in the snow. John gazed down with disinterest.

The light swept him up and carried him home.

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Nightmare

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A special shout out to my new patron, Justin!

Sleep. It weighs her down, muddles her thoughts. She can’t let it drag her under. If she falls asleep now, she’ll die.

She can feel the creature salivating in the shadows, waiting for her to tumble into its toothy maw. It’s hungry and wants to feed.

Sleep. It sings of peace, promises solace and renewal even as it threatens obliteration. The world tilts as she turns her head. She can sense the creature in every corner, hiding just beyond the range of her perception, an ambassador from the underworld who will steal her life the moment she departs from the waking world.

But her eyes are heavy. So heavy. Like tiny iron curtains, closing over the final act of her life.

Consciousness gutters like a dying flame.

She can hear its voice.

You are mine.

Yes, she thinks, too drowsy to resist. I am yours. And she finds herself drifting toward the dark, drifting toward death, heedless of the annihilation that awaits.

Come to me.

She closes her eyes.

You are mine.

A cold embrace. Then darkness.

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Dying Breath

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A special shout out to my new patrons, Brenda and Monica! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

“Time to sleep, little one.”

Jerome’s eyes began to droop.

“Mommy loves you very much.” She bent down to kiss his forehead, then walked back to the doorway, where she paused for a moment before turning off the light and closing the door.

Jerome stared up at the ceiling, watching the shadows change shape. Too young to form cohesive thoughts, all he could do was feel the lingering love of Mommy like a warm blanket as he drifted to sleep.

For a moment, he teetered on the edge of the waking world. Then he plummeted and all was dark.

* * *

Jerome woke on a bed of straw. He was not an infant but a man, elderly and gray, with an off-white beard that stuck out of his face like a clump of weeds. It was here, in the space between time, that he could remember who he was once again.

In a far off realm, in his true body, he lay dying in a hospital bed. But a woman, a young doctor he’d been sure he knew from somewhere but whose face he couldn’t place, had given him a special gift.

“A life for every dream,” she whispered so only he could hear.

He asked her what she meant, but she only shushed him and told him to go back to sleep.

She whispered something else, a baritone rumble that swallowed the world in a primordial language he felt more than understood. He closed his eyes. When he awoke, he found himself here, on this very same bed of straw.

Now, every time he closed his eyes, he woke someplace new. He would be a different age, exist in a different year. Each step on his sojourn through the cosmos was a flicker, a snapshot in time. Yet a billion snapshots later he was still drifting, with only these brief interludes in his bed of hay to remember who he was.

Someday, it would all come to an end, for a dying breath could only be stretched so far and so thin. But for now he would linger, unsure if what he’d been given was a gift or a curse.

Who would he be the next time? Jerome lay down and closed his eyes.

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