Category: Short fiction

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It’s weekend Writing Warriors/SnipSunday again today, and you’re invited to read and (we hope) comment on both. Click on the logos to get the lists of participants. I’ll try to get around and comment today, though I can’t promise anything a week from now.

Horse Power coverHorse Power is free again today on Amazon, so I’m giving a short, repunctuated excerpt from that story today. It’s not a space opera, but a story of colonization of a frontier planet with the colonizing company trying to make debt slaves of the colonists. Yes, you’re seeing esper powers in this snippet, which is from just after the point where Amber hears the stampede and asks Roi to get them to the top of the hill.

Amber spared a quick glance at the mirror mounted on her handlebars as she pedaled wildly downhill, and cursed as she saw Roi standing next to his bike at the crest of the hill.  Debating the ethics of getting involved, she thought furiously, and began waving her arms and screaming at the oncoming tide of silkies.

The leaders hardly slowed, but she suddenly realized that the rearmost animals were shaking their heads as if waking up, seeing the fresh greenery on either side of the trampled stampede path and turning toward it as if starved.  She could almost see the wave of hesitation working forward through the herd until it reached the leaders, who were only a few armspans away when they stopped to graze.  No running over the leaders, no piling up when they reached a barrier they could not cross, no broken legs or other injuries she could see.  Just a quietly grazing herd, and a frantically pedaling cyclist following the stampede track.  Twice the front wheel twisted and the cyclist fell, but each time the rider scrambled back onto the vehicle and continued the pursuit.

“A bicycle?” asked Roi, who had rejoined Amber so quietly she was not aware of his presence until he spoke.

Next weekend will be the last snippet from War’s End for a while, at least until I get it a lot closer to publication. I’ll still be here, but I’ll be posting snippets from my published books, Homecoming and Tourist Trap. If I feel up to editing Rescue Operation (the first of the trilogy of which War’s End is the third) I may give you some short bits from that.

Snippet Sunday logo

Horse Power cover

(It’s FREE next weekend, June 15-16, at Amazon.)

I put “Horse Power” on Kindle primarily in order to learn how to do it. It turned out to be surprisingly easy, at least for a book which is primarily text.

The first step is to edit your work. Fully. Carefully. This is a sample of your work, and you want it to attract readers.

“Horse Power” had an additional function. It is a bridge, set 20 years after the end of Tourist Trap and relating an important incident in the history of the planet, Horizon, which is central to the trilogy I am now writing. As such, its primary function is to introduce the two books I have published, Homecoming and Tourist Trap, and provide the opening of the trilogy.

Horizon in the trilogy is a planet on which horse and dogs are critical to the stock-rearing economy. The planet has no fossil fuels, and in the wider world of the colonizing company’s owners, horses and dogs were merely luxuries. Stock was to be handled by imported vehicles, powered by fossil fuels imported at high prices. Horse Power was written to explain the transformation.

But it’s only a short story, and one on which I never expected to make any money. I’d give it away happily if it led to interest in Homecoming and Tourist Trap, which explore the earlier relationships among Roi, Amber and Timi. It was a natural to learn how to use Kindle Direct publishing, and the $.99 minimum price and the KDP Select Program, with 5 days free each 3 months, seemed well-suited to my needs. Eventually I want to take it off KDP Select and put it up on Smashwords as well as getting a few hard copies using CreateSpace, but the Kindle Direct program looked like the easiest place to start.

Once I had the edited story, the next step was to write the front matter, the short summaries of Homecoming and Tourist Trap explaining the background of the story, a short teaser for the trilogy, and create a table of contents which would link to each section. This was all done in Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac, using standard Word features such as bookmarks and hyperlinking. When I was sure everything worked, I “printed” the file as a PDF.

I then made the following metadata file, so that I could cut and paste into the Amazon metadata page:

Title: Horse Power

Description: Rumors have reached the Inner Council of the Jarnian Confederation that the Horizon Company is illegally exploiting the colonists. Roi has been sent to find out what’s happening, and he asks his old friends, colonists Timi and Amber, for help. But the Company’s behavior is legal, if immoral. Can the three find a solution to the problem?

Contributors: Sue Ann Bowling

Language: English

Publication date: leave blank

Publisher: Sue Ann Bowling

ISBN none

Categories: science fiction, animals?


Horses, Dogs, Science Fiction, Jarnian Confederation, Fiction, Colonization, Space travel, Debt slavery

DRM no

Cover? I’d seen some work I liked on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Saturday blog hop, and I contacted the artist ( She worked with me to create the cover for Horse Power at a very reasonable price.

With all complete, I filled out the metadata page and uploaded the PDF and the cover. Somewhat to my surprise the book, including the linked table of contents, worked fine on all of the viewers on the testing page, with one exception. I had bookmarked the centered section heads and table of contents title (which must be given the name toc.) As a result, whenever I used the “go to table of contents” or linked to a section from the table of contents, the centering of the title disappeared. I know enough HTML to suspect that the way I bookmarked did not nest the tags correctly. When I next do a revision I will put the bookmarks on the line before the centered titles. It would help I I could figure out how to remove an existing bookmark in Word; I may have to remove and retype part of the text.

I’ll be taking it off KDP Select once I learn other publishing options, but for the moment I still have five free days for this three-month period, and two of them are scheduled for the coming weekend: June 15 and 16. Download a free copy and play with the index and go to index functions, and watch how the centering of the section heads changes as you jump to them as opposed to scrolling to them. Minor, but something I will correct eventually.

Horse Power coverA bit of a change today, as I’m not posting from War’s End. (I’ll return to it next week.) This is from a short story I’ve just uploaded to Amazon Select and it does tie in with War’s End as a remote prequel. Coralie is from Horizon, the planet on which the action of “Horse Power” takes place, and she’s a descendant (about 8 generations on) of Timi and Amber. Roi, who does not age, is her husband and Audi’s, though Coralie is new to the family and still not quite sure how she feels about Audi. (For that matter Kelty was one of Roi’s rescued children and Ginger is torn between Roi and Roi’s other medical assistant, Mark.)

Here a much younger Roi is checking out a rumor that the colonizing company on Horizon is maneuvering the colonists into debt slavery, and his old friends Timi and Amber, now among the colonists, have put him up for the night in one of their children’s rooms. This is the next morning, edited a little to get to six sentences. Roi is the first speaker.

“Between the birds, the worms and the spiders the children obviously like animals. Is there a reason they don’t have more conventional pets?”

“Spiders?” Amber moaned. “I didn’t know about those.”

Probably just as well he hadn’t mentioned the snake that had been in bed with him this morning, Roi thought. It had been a perfectly friendly little grass snake, but he doubted that Amber would see it that way.

“Horse Power” is priced at $.99, but it’s free today. Pick up a copy, and I’d love reviews. Just click on the book cover to get there.

Incidentally, I finally talked iUniverse into dropping the ebook prices on Homecoming and Tourist Trap to $4.99 each. If Amazon and Barnes & Noble haven’t dropped theirs yet, they should soon.

Now, on to the rest of the Six Sentence Sunday snippets!Six Sentence Sunday logo

Well, I did it.

HORSE POWER Working A 2aI just clicked the “save and publish” button on Amazon Direct for my short story, “Horse Power.” It should be available for purchase at $.99 by this evening — I’ll update and link the cover to Amazon when it goes live. Update 10 pm: it’s live at Amazon.

I firmly believe that e-books should be less expensive than mass-market paperbacks, especially for new authors. I’ve been fighting with iUniverse on this (they want to price e-books at $9.99) and finally got Homecoming and Tourist Trap down to $4.99 each in e-book form at their site. The e-books should be even less at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but it will probably take a while. (If they don’t show a lower price by the end of the month, complain to them.) Meanwhile, I have a story between the end of Tourist Trap and the start of the trilogy I’m editing now, so why not get it out, and learn to use Amazon direct at the same time? Thus “Horse Power.”

If you’ve read Tourist Trap, you may have wondered what happened to Timi and Amber after the end of that book, and this is their story, 22 years later. To quote from the blurb I’ve put up, “Rumors have reached the Inner Council of the Jarnian Confederation that the Horizon Company is illegally exploiting the colonists. Roi has been sent to find out what’s happening, and he asks his old friends, colonists Timi and Amber, for help. But the Company’s behavior is legal, if immoral. Can the three find a solution to the problem?”

The trilogy will be about a future war between the Confederation and Horizon, and the events in this story will be pivotal to that future, innocent as they seem at the time.

The cover, which I’m showing here for the first time (Ta-da! Cover reveal!) was done by Like it? I do!

P.S: I’d love reviews on any of my books — especially if you like them!

Stories and Essays Index

Moose Tale 6/19 10
A Circus Horse with no Circus 7/11/10
Psi and Morality 1/8/11
Love and Lust 1/14/11
Responsibility 1/21/11
Where’s Mommy? 5/5/11
Things My Dogs have Taught Me 6/16/11
Be Careful What You Ask For 8/27/11
The Chimney Sweep 9/22/11
Conversation Piece 10/20/11
Death of Blue Babe 11/17/11
Give Us This Day 2/23/12

Shadows crept across the wall.

Richard didn’t see them, at first. He was too sunk in the stark reality of the agricultural reports before him, too chilled in a building built for solar heating.

He buried his face in his hands. Who knew for certain how it had started? A volcano, atomic bombs, a meteorite strike? All had been discussed, but it was impossible to tell rumor from truth. Even the reports, with their sentence of mass starvation, were late and scanty.

All he was sure of was that the sun was gone, hidden behind a pall of dark clouds, and he wasn’t even sure whether those clouds were ash, smoke or water. That, and the fact that without the sun, no crops could be grown.

He threw his head back and opened his eyes, looking upward in some half-remembered impulse toward prayer. His vision started to sweep past the shadows, stopped. Shadows?

The image of tree branches?

Scarcely daring to hope he turned to look at the window, uncovered to let in what little light remained, and saw the sun. Feeble, to be sure, but there, returning. Crops would grow again.

His eyes filled with tears, and everything faded.

Platform-Building Challenge #1 is the following:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
end the story with the words: “everything faded.” (also included in the word count) Yes.
include the word “orange” in the story No.
write in the same genre you normally write Yes, science fiction.
make your story 200 words exactly! Yes, if I counted right.

To see the other entries in the first Challenge, click the logo above.

500+ posts is too many for me to keep track of, and quite a few are “reference” posts, such as the ones on planet building or horse coat color genetics. So I’m putting in a new feature, an index page that links to posts linking to the posts on a given topic. (Sound confusing? Try doing it!)

These indexing posts start today (see below) and will appear occasionally until the reference posts are all indexed. After that I’ll just be updating the index posts, which will be accessible from the Index tab above.

With 550 posts as of today, I’ve started to have problems remembering what I’ve already put on here. This is particularly a problem with posting existing content such as poems, short pieces from the Summer Arts Festival, or science explanations originally written for the Alaska Science Forum. I can’t remember which books or DVDs I’ve posted reviews on. It also is starting to be a problem when I want to link to a previous post and can’t remember when it was put up or what the title was. And there are posts on this blog that have permanent information, like the series on planet building and the one on horse color genetics, or the book and DVD reviews. I want to make it easier for my readers as well as myself to find things.

I made a start some time ago by adding an index page, which can be accessed from the menu at the top of any page. Right now, the only links are to index pages on my author site. This takes you out of the site and sometimes back in, which is rather clumsy. The index list is also incomplete.

I’m going to start posting an occasional entry which is strictly an index of past posts on a particular topic. These posts will be linked from the index page, and will link forward to the individual blog posts. As it takes a while to find all the posts that belong together, this will be a slow process—probably extending over the next few months. The first in this series, on DVD reviews, is already queued for January 3. Others will follow, most on Thursdays.

I probably won’t be indexing every post. Some, like those early posts which were simply glossary entries for my books, are on the author site and really belong there. Others, like the regular Monday updates on North Pole weather starting in November 2010, can be found easily enough just by using the calendar on the site. But I hope that by the time I have finished this, older posts of interest will be easier to find.

The shaman is not at all what I expected. In fact, I am starting to wonder if “shaman” is even the right translation of the word Songbird used.

It occurred to me after Songbird had left on her errand that she’d told me her people were in the habit of giving gifts of food to visitors. One thing I was sure they would treasure was salt – easy enough for me to get, simply by teleporting seawater to my shelter and boiling it down. I’d replenished my stock a fiveday ago, so it was simple to fill one of my smaller gourds with the precious substance.

What else? A sweet, sticky fruit from the jungle to the north, as far away as I have memorized teleport coordinates, was at first as strange to Songbird as it was to me, but after one cautious trial it became a favorite for both of us. It was easy enough to teleport to a memorized part of the jungle, and probe mentally for the right kind of tree with a feel of ripeness. I plucked a huge leaf, teleported the fruit onto it from one of the branches too slender for the small primates gorging on the tree’s bounty, and then teleported it and myself back to the shelter. Wild melons were ripening, too, and I plucked one to temper the sweetness of the jungle fruit.

Salt as a gift, fruit for refreshment. I placed both the salt and the leaf holding the fruit on a shelf out of Patches’ reach and looked downstream.

Four tiny figures were just visible. I thought the smallest was Songbird from the way she was dancing around the others. Two taller figures appeared to be assisting a third over the boulders lining the stream at that point. The shaman? It had never occurred to me that the shaman might have difficulty covering what Songbird had said was an hour’s walk.

As they came closer I recognized Songbird, and I thought the two taller figures must be her parents. Both wore tunics that appeared more decoration – or perhaps a way of carrying things while leaving their hands free — than clothing. The third figure was bent and smaller, and as they made their final approach I saw that the face was wrinkled and the mouth drawn in.

My people shed and grow teeth as they age, as often as needed. I lost one tooth when I first arrived, but by the time I found Songbird it was growing back. Do these people age, like animals? Is their life span so limited that they quit growing new teeth when they themselves quit growing? Did I misinterpret the awe and respect that colored Songbird’s emotions when she spoke the word I have been translating as “shaman?”

Jarn’s Journal is the fictitious journal of an alien stranded on Earth, in Africa, 125,000 years ago. His story is the remote backstory of the Confederation in which my published novels, Homecoming and Tourist Trap, are set. Jarn’s Journal from the time he crashed on Earth is being put on my author website as I write it.

Day 595

They have returned, and Songbird has rejoined them.

How am I going to survive with no one but Patches to talk to?

I have been spying on their camp, and they returned yesterday. It must have shown on my face when I teleported back to the shelter, because Songbird at once began saying, “Are they back?”

“Yes,” I said. “Do you want to go back to them?”

I was of two minds about this. Surely she was safer with me, and she was a child; it was my duty to guard her. Guard her, yes, my mind whispered, but she is not your property, and she has a mind and will of her own. Let the decision be hers.

And there was never any question of what her decision would be.

I teleported her back to the vicinity of the camp. “Go home,” I told her.

“Thank you,” she half sobbed, and then turned and ran toward the camp.

I did not leave at once. I did not know these people, and it was not out of the question that they would consider her a ghost or a sacrifice that had failed, and would try to kill her.

They were awed, yes – I could see that much. But the man and woman who gathered her to their arms had only joy on their faces, and the rest of the group, though obviously astonished to find her alive, appeared equally welcoming.

Which was the shaman? I wondered. Not there, or one of those welcoming Songbird back? I stayed long enough to be sure Songbird would be safe, but when two of the group started in the direction Songbird had come from, I teleported back to the shelter.

It is very lonely here without Songbird. There are so many reminders – the pallet I made her, which she promptly tore apart and remade to suit herself, the storage baskets and gourds, the tanned hides ….

The rain on the roof is maddening.

Tomorrow I will teleport back to the vicinity of the camp, and make sure she is still safe.

I am posting this background to my published novels on my author website as I get it written. Don’t forget this is the last day to enter the drawing!