New book available: SIGNAL (plus playlist!)

Some of you who’ve been following me for a few years might remember my novella “Signal” when it was published in the magazine STRAEON. That’s out of print now, as far as I can tell—but “Signal” is now available as a standalone book from Goal Publications, as part of their “Pocket Shots” line of small paperbacks.

Click on the cover to go to the order page:

Signal cover

Jak’s curiosity has always set him apart from the other young rakuun, but for the most part his clan has accepted his odd ways—until he finds a mysterious object that just might be a relic of the ones Before.

His discovery sparks an adventure that will lead him far from his home and into the dangerous lands beyond. As dreams and visions of the days Before compel him onward, Jak struggles to find meaning in the sights and sounds flooding his mind. Has his curiosity led him to his people’s destiny, or simply to the destruction of everything he loves?

The book will be released on December 1, but for the next few days it’s still available for the special preorder price. I’m really excited to have this out in book format (how cool is that cover?), and I can’t wait to see what my readers think of it.

(For those of you who prefer digital copies, it’ll also be released as an ebook on December 1 and should show up here when it’s available.)

I’ve also had way too much fun creating a Spotify playlist for Signal. (If you’re not already on Spotify, you’ll need to sign up for a free account to listen to it.) Most of my stories wind up with some kind of soundtrack during the writing process, whether it’s a full playlist or just a single “theme song,” and I love that I can use Spotify to share that with readers… so yeah, likely there’ll be more playlists forthcoming for future (and maybe even past) projects.

 

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Sneak Peek: The Second Life of Bartholomew T. Lion

In celebration of #WorldLionDay, here’s a first look at my novel-in-progress, The Second Life of Bartholomew T. Lion.  On an island-based afterlife for toys, the plush lion Bartholomew struggles with the grief of his former life and tries to find a way back to the human world to be loved again — which means taking on the fashion-doll dictator who wants to isolate the island forever.

Standard disclaimer: Work in progress, so the text isn’t in final form and will probably be revised before publication. (The chapters might not be this short, for one thing…)

To get updates on Bartholomew and my other projects, sign up for my mailing list here.

 

Chapter 1

 

White.

A white beach with no sea. But if there was no sea, what was the endless roar in his head?

Voices now, far away and then closer:

“…haul today, huh?”

“…smell like fuzzer all day…”

Laughter. Bartholomew knew laughter, though this was harsher than he was used to. Jamie had laughed so much, before…

Before what? But the thought, the name, everything was gone into the white, the mist, the blankness.

He was being lifted, being carried. It wasn’t gentle, but that was all right. He was soft. Nothing would break.

Nothing…

 

***

 

Then, at last, he didn’t know how long after, he was being spoken to.

“It’s all right. You mustn’t be afraid. You will be taken care of. There’s a place for you here.”

The words, he guessed, were meant to be soothing, but the voice was brisk, as if it did nothing but recite the same phrases all day.

Gradually Bartholomew’s senses returned, each one interlocking like a puzzle being put together. Once the last piece was in place, he looked around at the picture.

He was sitting in a large white room, on a kind of table. The voice belonged to a prim-looking doll, a lady with chestnut hair in a bun, wearing a long dress with a high collar. Everything about her looked starched, even her powdery porcelain skin. A fine crack edged along her cheek.

Jamie didn’t have any dolls. His sister did, but they were soft with dimpled faces — nothing like this lady. What was this place? Where was Jamie?

“It will come back to you,” the lady said. And then, as if her words had been a magic key, it did. There was no Jamie, not anymore. There never would be again.

If he had been able to cry, he would have. Jamie had cried that night in the hospital, snuggled in close, hot tears soaking into Bartholomew’s plush fur. But stuffed lions didn’t have tears inside them like boys did, so all he could do now was sit very quietly, eyes down, yarn whiskers drooping, while great dark chasms opened up inside him, each one deeper and colder than the last.

Eventually the lady’s voice came back to him. He wondered if she’d been speaking the whole time.

“We have a place for you to go. You can still be useful.”

Useful? What was that? Had he been useful before? He wanted to ask, Will I be loved? But he thought he already knew that answer. Never like that, no, never again. He shivered in that certainty.

The lady pursed her lips and watched him a moment. “You do understand, don’t you?”

His own voice sounded hollow. “I think so. Where am I, then?”

“The Island of the Forgotten,” she said crisply. “In the capital city of Mitziville.”

“But I wasn’t forgotten.”

“All the same. When we don’t exist to a child anymore–for whatever reason–we come here. And we begin our new lives. As you will.”

As the lady finished speaking, Bartholomew realized there were others in the room, farther down almost out of sight, stuffed animals and dolls, action figures, plastic animals. All around was a low murmur of voices, probably having the same conversation Bartholomew was having now.

A shriek cut through the room. The lady winced and put an elegant hand to her temple. “So high-strung. Terrible on the nerves. But a few days in the fields will calm her down.”

She gave Bartholomew a too-bright smile. “Now, come with me, and I’ll get you settled in.” She offered him a hand, and he placed his paw in it and followed.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

“My hair! My beautiful hair…”

Razzleberry stared into the compact mirror, horrified but unable to look away. Her lovely raspberry-pink mane with its streak of purple–someone had cut it, and not very well. The chopped ends stuck almost straight up.

She gave a hopeful look to the fairy doll holding the mirror. “It’ll grow back, won’t it?”

The doll shook her head and closed the mirror slowly.

“Listen,” Razzleberry said, “if you could just tell me the way back to Rainbow Valley–I know they’re wondering where I am by now. I was supposed to meet Starsweeper and Daisydew at Friendship Falls for a picnic today. We were going to have apple tarts and lemonade and…”

The fairy doll in her shimmery green gown was looking at her with something like pity.

Razzleberry shook herself. “Fine. Just fine. I’ll find it myself. You probably don’t even know where it is anyway. Bet you can’t even fly with those puny little wings. Starsweeper could fly figure-eights around you in her sleep.”

Razzleberry shoved past the fairy doll, who had to flutter her dragonfly wings to keep from losing her balance. Razzleberry stormed out of the little alcove to the main part of the room… and stopped, staring.

There were long rows of alcoves on either side, some empty, some full–stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, even another pony she didn’t know.

Slowly, like water soaking into a sponge, understanding seeped in, filled her, changed her. She trembled.

Rainbow Valley–it had been real, hadn’t it? Had she dreamt it somehow–but no, no, she’d tasted Daisydew’s apple tarts before. She’d felt the cool mist from Friendship Falls. She’d played hide and seek with the other ponies in the Peppermint Palace, and snuggled into a cloud-shaped canopy bed at night.

She felt her world crack, felt the pieces shiver, ready to fall.

The fairy doll laid a gentle hand on Razzleberry’s neck. “It was all real, to you and to the others. But that time is over now, and you cannot go back.” She stroked the pony’s neck. “Easy now, easy. It’ll be all right.”

Razzleberry would have kicked the stupid doll across the room in that moment if she’d only had the strength. But there was nothing left in her stunned mind now but a name, and not even her own.

“Moonblossom,” she choked out, and crumpled to the floor.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

If any of the flying toys had ever been able to get high enough to see the whole island at once, they would have been able to locate its capital in an instant. Mitziville lay near the island’s eastern coast, and Mitzi’s Mega-Mansion rose like a giant pink pimple on the island’s green face.

In Mitzi’s estate, everything was pink–the mansion, the cars, the stables, the private jet, the touring bus, the water park, the Ferris wheel, the tennis court, the concert stage where she sang every year at Mitzimas. Pink was her color now, and Mitzi luxuriated in its glow. Here, at last, she had found the one place the blond bitch didn’t rule, the one place Mitzi wasn’t always coming in second, always a “friend,” the extra, the backup, the anonymous fashion doll who would never be a household name. Except here.

Here, she was queen.

Of course, it was because the other doll was rarely forgotten. From time to time, a leggy blonde would wash up on the island’s misty shore–always the ones with hair chopped off, naked, maybe an arm or leg missing. Mitzi lived for those days. She loved seeing those sparkling blue eyes go dull and cloudy as they realized what their lives would be, as they prepared to serve her forever. She never dressed them, never repaired them. Sometimes, when she thought too much about how things used to be, and black moods overtook her, Mitzi would call them all in to stand before her in the pink-tiled courtyard with its circular driveway like a frosted doughnut. She would make them stand there–or lean, since most had no shoes and some only one leg–for hours while she gazed happily at them, basking in their brokenness, reveling in every missing part.

Mitzi was resting on a float in her heart-shaped pool when Major Mayhem arrived to deliver the day’s report.

Despite his name, the Major was not a military action figure, though he wore an Army-style uniform stretched across his ridiculously broad chest. But even though he’d been a wrestling action figure in his first life, here he was a born commander, and all the Freedom Force soldier figures had fallen in line behind him quite conveniently.

Besides, his headlock action came in handy for less confrontational applications as well.

He handed her the little chalkboard with the day’s tally of new arrivals.

Two ponies; good. They needed some fresh backs in the fields; she’d been wanting to step up production.

A handful of action figures, with a separate column tallying their weapons. New recruits for her army, perhaps even a few with leadership potential.

Her gaze locked on the last number. Nine stuffed animals of assorted species. Nine. The highest number so far this year for a single day.

She looked back up at the Major. “Are you sure these numbers are right?”

“Yes, ma’am. Double-checked them myself.”

She tapped a manicured pink nail on the edge of the board. At this rate, the filthy fuzzers would overrun the island. Something would have to be done, and the sooner the better.

“Increase production by ten percent.” She dipped the chalkboard in the pool and lazily watched the numbers fade away, then handed the board back to him. “Oh, and Mike…”

He hated when she called him by his first name while he was on official duty. Hated it–and loved it–and that was why she loved doing it. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Come by later when you’re done,” she purred. “I’ve got a brand-new marker that needs breaking in. Green apple’s your favorite, isn’t it?” They always gave her a raging headache the next day, but one had to make a few sacrifices to keep things running smoothly.

“As I’m able, ma’am. Good afternoon.” He turned crisply and strode away, and she smiled as she watched him go. He was so predictable, so easy to manipulate… in short, such a wonderful toy.

 

Furry Book Month 2017!

Furry Book Month Huntress promo 2

October is Furry Book Month (courtesy of the Furry Writers’ Guild), and as part of the festivities, many writers and publishers are offering special sales.

In my case, if you don’t have a copy of Huntress yet, you can get the book on sale at Smashwords for just $1.99 (regularly $4.99):

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/560694

or the paperback at FurPlanet for $7.95 (regularly $9.95).

http://furplanet.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=815

For a list of all the sales going on, be sure to check out the Furry Book Month page at the FWG and keep an eye on the #FurryBookMonth hashtag on Twitter.

Smashwords sale – 75% off my books in July!

Smashwords Summer_Winter SaleSmashwords is having their annual Summer/Winter sale promotion during the month of July, and I’ve added my ebooks to it, so for the month of July all my ebooks on Smashwords are 75% off. That makes Real Dragons Don’t Wear Sweaters and Wishing Season free, and it drops Huntress to just $1.25. (Six Impossible Things is, of course, always free.)

These prices are only good on Smashwords through July 31, using the coupon code SSW75.

You can see all my Smashwords stuff at my profile:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RCarterHall

And you can view and search all the Smashwords books in the Summer/Winter sale (25% off, 50% off, 75% off, or free) here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/1

And as always, whether you get your copies from Smashwords, Amazon, or somewhere else, please consider leaving a review after you’ve read them. Reviews help other readers find the stuff they’ll like, so they’re pretty important for authors like me who are still building their audience.

Leave and Courage

From L. M. Montgomery’s Emily’s Quest, and the title character’s journal:

This has been a lyric spring day — and a miracle has happened. It happened at dawn — when I was leaning out of my window, listening to a little, whispering, tricksy wind o’ morning blowing out of Lofty John’s bush. Suddenly — the flash came — again — after these long months of absence — my old, inexpressible glimpse of eternity. And all at once I knew I could write. I rushed to my desk and seized my pen. All the hours of early morning I wrote; and when I heard Cousin Jimmy going downstairs I flung down my pen and bowed my head over my desk in utter thankfulness that I could work again.

“Get leave to work–
In this world ’tis the best you get at all,
For God in cursing gives us better gifts
Than men in benediction.”

So wrote Elizabeth Barret Browning — and truly. It is hard to understand why work should be called a curse — until one remembers what bitterness force or uncongenial labour is. But the work for which we are fitted — which we feel we are sent into the world to do — what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds. I felt this to-day as the old fever burned in my finger-tips and my pen once more seemed a friend. . .

Oh, God, as long as I live give me “leave to work.” Thus pray I. Leave and courage.

It was not the wind this morning, it was the rain and the mist in the woods and the music in my headphones. It was only a few paragraphs, and I have no idea where they fit in the larger work, yet. But characters were speaking to me again, and it was time, at last, at my desk, writing, and the hope of more in the days to come — and after months of almost nothing, I understood exactly what Emily feels above.

 

Good company: Three anthologies

I’ve been lax about posting anthology acceptances/publications lately, but I wanted to call attention to three recent ones in particular that have been published within the furry fandom — not just because they feature my work, but also because I love their concepts.

anthrocenturyAn Anthropomorphic Century features stories from 1909 (“Tobermory” by Saki) to 2008 (my story “The Wishing Tree”), all involving anthro characters. It’s not often you get the chance to share a table of contents with authors like Philip K. Dick and Peter S. Beagle, so it was fun to have my lighthearted trickster-raccoon story added to the range of styles and voices.civcover

Civilized Beasts is, as far as I’m aware, the first all-poetry anthology from furry, and I’m hoping that “2015 Edition” subtitle means more will follow in the series. This charity anthology benefits the Wildlife Conservation Society, and it includes my poems “Pulse,” “Why I am Sometimes Jealous of the Cat,” “Panthera tigris,” “Hermit Crab,” and “Canis,” plus poems from twenty (!) other poets, all celebrating the diversity, beauty, and wisdom of the creatures with whom we share the planet.catscover

The most recent of the three, Cats and More Cats, is… well, just what it says. Cats of all kinds, domestic and wild, starring in stories from a variety of authors. Again, it’s an honor to have my story “The Emerald Mage” included in the same pages as work from Andre Norton, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and especially Clare Bell (whose book Ratha’s Creature made a big impression on me when I read it somewhere around age 10 or 11). Mary E. Lowd’s “Magtwilla and the Mouse” is also a poignant read.

So if you’re tired of reading about humans all the time (and really, we are tiresome sometimes, particularly in election years), give these a try. There’s so much variety in each of these anthologies, you’re bound to find something to enjoy.

Win a Wishing Season prize pack!

WishingMy holiday short story collection Wishing Season, released as an ebook last year, is now available in paperback from Amazon — and to celebrate, I’m having a giveaway. I love settling in on a winter evening with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book, so the winner will receive:

  • A signed paperback copy of Wishing Season
  • A 16 oz. holiday stoneware mug
  • Three packets of specialty hot cocoa mix

wsgiveaway1

Wishing Season features seven of my holiday-themed short stories, including “The First Winter,” which recently appeared as part of this special bear-themed episode of Podcastle. Wishing Season is also the only place to read my story “Santa’s Summer Vacation” — it was written just for this collection.

To enter:

  • You must be signed up for my mailing list (sign up here if you’re not already subscribed).
  • Send an email to reneecarterhall at gmail.com with the subject line “Wishing Season giveaway.”

The fine print: Open to US residents only. Only current mailing list subscribers are eligible to win. Giveaway ends at 8 AM Eastern on Monday, December 21. Winner will be notified by email.

Good luck!