Cyber Monday sale – Hero’s Best Friend ebook and more!

Just a quick heads-up that herocoveras part of Seventh Star Press’ Cyber Monday sale, the ebook version of Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions is on sale for just 99 cents today. If, like me, you’ve always been more interested in hearing about the animal sidekicks than the fantasy heroes, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It includes my short story “The Emerald Mage,” about a wizard and his snowcat companion dealing with the personal and magical effects of the wizard’s aging.

You can get Hero’s Best Friend here on Amazon — again, 99 cents, today only:
http://www.amazon.com/Heros-Best-Friend-Anthology-Companions-ebook/dp/B00IAHEI1W/

Seventh Star Press is offering the same great deal on a lot of other novels and anthologies today, and they’re also giving away a Kindle HDX. You can find all the details about the giveaway and a full list of discounted titles here on their website.

 

Coming soon: “Wishing Season”

WishingI’m getting together a new short story collection for the holiday season, available soon as an ebook from Amazon and Smashwords! Wishing Season: Holiday Tales of Whimsy and Wonder will feature several previously published stories, including “The Gingerbread Reindeer” (first published in audio form in the Anthro Dreams podcast), “Nativity” (runner-up in one of Women on Writing‘s flash fiction contests), and more, as well as two brand-new stories — the fable of “The First Winter” and the tale of “Santa’s Summer Vacation.” Various real-life issues have delayed it a bit, but (fingers crossed and Christmas wishes) I’m hoping to have it all ready for release by next weekend. Watch this space!

Beatrix Potter meets Stephen King…

Those of you who’ve checked out my pages on Amazon or Goodreads know that my bio there lists a rather eclectic grouping of influences — all the way from Beatrix Potter to Stephen King. So what might a story look like if it combined some of the tones and styles and subject matter of those two authors?

Maybe something like this…

How Mother Rabbit Lost Her Name

(Warning: Most definitely not a children’s story, unless perhaps you’re the type of parent who reads the original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales to the little ones before tucking them into bed without a nightlight.)

The inspiration for “Mother Rabbit” actually came from Nickelodeon’s children’s show Peter Rabbit (which I love, by the way). In one episode, the character Lily announces to her friends that she’s moving, because her parents just don’t feel like the Lake District is a safe place for the family to live.

At that point, I cracked up. Well, no, I guess it’s not safe, considering that you have at least two neighbors who actually want to eat your children! Like, literally cook them in a big pot and eat them. Yeah, I don’t really blame Lily’s parents — I’d want to move my kid, too.

And then I started thinking about all the storybooks with predator and prey species mixed, and how there’s kind of a potentially dark undertone there. How civilized do these creatures get by putting them in waistcoats? It took a while to figure out exactly what sort of story I wanted to tell from that notion, but in the end it became this dark bit of flash.

Apologies to Beatrix. And thanks.

Hero’s Best Friend: Roundtable Interview

I love doing interviews, even if it’s just a pre-written set of questions. And as part of the blog tour for the Hero’s Best Friend anthology, there’s now an author roundtable interview posted in 4 parts at the editor’s blog. (There are a lot of authors in this anthology.)

You can find all my answers — including the all-important Benji vs. Cujo one — here:

http://smsand.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/heros-best-friend-roundtable-interview-part-2/

herocover

Poem: “The Unicorn at the Zoo”

The Unicorn at the Zoo

 

They put it among trees and rose bushes,

ringed a dry moat with an iron fence.

They’re still not sure if it’s

male or female; the ultrasound

goes to static and freezes every time.

They tried to test its blood,

but the silver serum in the tube

swirled and shimmered into nothing.

They held a contest to name it anyway,

and a third-grader won with Moonflower.

Tourists gather at its enclosure with

strollers and cameras,

whinny at it like a horse,

hold their children up to see.

In their snapshots, it is only

a vague white blur, a bit

of pearly horn here, a hint

of cloven hoof there.

The gift shop has no postcards of it,

but the plush horned ponies sell out every week.

The keepers aren’t sure what it eats.

Some say the flowers, but they’re untouched.

Some say water, some say air.

Some say love, but they’re laughed at

by people who feel guilty for it afterward.

The keepers hold somber meetings

with scholars and art historians.

Every day they worry it seems a bit thinner,

its coat a touch paler, more translucent.

The words on the sign at its enclosure

are starting to fade.

Sometimes the zoo director stands

before it in his three-piece suit,

slow tears tracing the lines of his face.

Some say he’s only thinking about

the money he might lose.

Others aren’t so sure.

 

 

          -Renee Carter Hall

 

Now available: Hero’s Best Friend

herocoverWe snowcats may be born for swirling blizzards and icy cliffs, but for myself, I’ll take a cozy cottage hearth any day. A bellyful of roast rabbit, a fire of crimson embers, the old rug covered with layer on layer of my gray-and-white fur — that’s comfort.

I was stretched out on that rug, dreaming of yellow butterflies, when the explosion woke me.”

–from “The Emerald Mage”

Sometimes an anthology comes along that just seems made for you — not just what you like to write, but what you love to read, the kind of book you’re just as excited about reading as you are about seeing your work included.

This is definitely one of those anthologies.

From Seventh Star Press and editor Scott M. Sandridge, I give you Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions. Publisher’s synopsis:

How far would Gandalf have gotten without Shadowfax? Where would the Vault Dweller be without Dogmeat? And could the Beastmaster have been the Beastmaster without his fuzzy allies? Animal companions are more than just sidekicks. Animals can be heroes, too!

Found within are twenty stories of heroic action that focuses on the furries and scalies who have long been the unsung heroes pulling their foolish human buddies out of the fire, and often at great sacrifice—from authors both established and new, including Frank Creed, S. H. Roddey, and Steven S. Long.

Whether you’re a fan of Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Science Fiction, or just animal stories in general, this is the anthology for you!

So sit back, kick your feet up, and find out what it truly means to be the Hero’s Best Friend.

My story “The Emerald Mage” is told by the snowcat Jiro, longtime companion and friend of the Emerald Mage, as the two of them realize it’s time to face the aging mage’s mental — and magical — decline. I’ve realized I really enjoy writing about vulnerable characters (children or adults) with powerful animals as companions/protectors, and this story gave me a wonderful excuse to explore those possibilities. (And to throw some humor in there along the way, too, which I still feel I don’t get to write often enough.)

You can order a paperback copy from Amazon or B&N, or snag an ebook version for your Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

A bit of shameless Valentine’s Day self-promotion

Since I have some newer followers who might have missed some of my earlier published stuff, I thought this would be a good time to highlight some of my more romance-focused stories. If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day read, here are a few you might want to check out:

Moon, June, Raccoon

Karen’s sick of watching all her friends find true love. Out of sheer desperation, she decides to try casting a love spell — and winds up getting the attention of a neighborhood raccoon instead. But this furry matchmaker just won’t mind his own business. (All ages.)

Drawn From Memory

Lauren’s been a fan of Terrence Tiger since she was a little girl, and the chance to interview the cartoon star is any fan’s dream. But there’s more to Terrence than sight gags and pratfalls, and soon there’s more to their relationship than either of them expected. (Recommended for teen and adult readers.)

The Bear with the Quantum Heart

Since they first met that Christmas morning, Bear has wanted nothing more than to be by Kayla’s side, but when innocence turns to experience, is it just an artificial intelligence’s programming — or love? (Recommended for older teens and adults.)

“Moon” and “Drawn” also are included in my free short story collection Six Impossible Things, so if you want them in a more ereader-friendly format, you can snag the Kindle version at Amazon and all formats from Smashwords. And if you’re wanting one of those poignant, funny, kinda-happy-kinda-sad-ending stories, you might like “The Spirit of Pinetop Inn,” from Andromeda Spaceways #58, which tells the story of a young couple who decide to help their struggling bed and breakfast by hiring a ghost to haunt the place.

I’ll be back very soon with some other announcements — I’ve fallen behind this month thanks to paperwork for an attempt at a mortgage refinance, husband’s ER visit for kidney stones, husband’s outpatient surgery for same, husband’s overnight hospital stay after what was supposed to be outpatient surgery, and preparing for what we both hope will be his last outpatient surgery next week, not to mention the day job and various other necessary irritations. Lately I’ve been reminded of what Mary Schmich said in her “wear sunscreen” piece that went viral (though misattributed) years ago: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.” There have been a lot of those idle Tuesday troubles lately, and I’ve been caught in that lousy, exhausting, guilt-ridden spiral of very much wanting to write while at the same time being too stressed to spare any headspace for anything other than what’s required for work, household finances, my husband, and/or basic personal hygiene and self-care. I know I put too much of my self-worth and feelings of progress into my writing achievements, but I’m still hoping things will get back to normal (or at least closer to normal) soon, so I won’t have to watch more deadlines fly past. (That’s the plan, anyway…)

 

“Huntress” in Five Fortunes

fivefortunesmed

The first time she’d seen them, she had been very young, but she hadn’t been afraid. The other cubs, male and female alike, had hidden behind their mothers, frightened by the huntresses’ fierce eyes and sharp weapons. Where the villagers wore beads or stones, the karanja sported necklaces of bone and hoof and claw, and their loincloths were made of zebra hide in deference to Kamara’s first kill, a material only they were permitted to wear. They were all mesmerizing, exotic and dangerous and beautiful, their eyeshine flashing like lightning-strikes as they took their places around the fire.

-from “Huntress”

The furry anthology Five Fortunes, containing five new novellas from five authors, is now available for pre-order from the publisher!

My contribution, “Huntress,” follows the young anthro lioness Leya as she struggles to become one of her tribe’s warrior women and yet begins to question if it’s truly what she wants. It’s part coming of age, part romance, very much a character-based story, and it’s also kind of my personal rebuttal to the furry fiction that often includes female characters tangentially or not at all. Writing “Huntress” was an emotional experience and a learning experience, both in terms of craft (for one thing, understanding at a gut level the difference between a short story scene and a novel scene) and in terms of challenging myself to complete something on a tight schedule but still to the highest degree of quality I was capable of. I consider it a great success, and while I know I can’t control how it will be received, I hope it finds some sympathetic readers.

The other works included are “Chosen People” by Phil Geusz, set in his Book of Lapism world; “Going Concerns” by Watts Martin, set in his Ranea world; “When a Cat Loves a Dog” by Mary E. Lowd, set in her Otters in Space world; and “Piece of Mind” by Bernard Doove, set in his Chakat Universe. (Yeah, mine is the only one that isn’t written in a storyverse I’d previously created. But you never know — I might return to Leya’s homeland someday for another story or two.)

Pre-order Five Fortunes at FurPlanet.