Equus is here!

It’s launch day! Happy Book Birthday to Equus!!

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*Horsey dance*

To celebrate, I’m sharing one of the posts I wrote for the blog tour, which originally appeared over on Angie Rega’s blog. Check it out there, or read it below!

 

Four (and a Half) Fun Facts about Lightless

1. Almost all of the names in this story are based (loosely) on Latin and Greek words (#UsingMyDegree). The MC’s name, Fulsa, is a pseudo-Latin version of Greek “Phaethon” (you know, the guy who tries to drive the chariot of the sun and goes down in a fiery inferno? I swear my story has a better ending!). Phaios is Greek for “grey, dusky,” and Aithra can be related either to “aitho” (to burn, blaze) or “aither” (air, heaven, ether). Selphoros is “selas” (light) and “phoros” (bearing, carrying), and the mare Lun is Latin “luna” (moon) with a letter missing. Only her teammate Sona gets left out—for her name I took the word “sun” and tweaked.

2. I’ve made it my authorly goal to include a flying animal in each of the fantasy worlds that I create. In the world of my trilogy-that-may-never-get-finished, there are flying snakes. In the world of Lightless, there are flying stingrays. Unfortunately, the stingrays didn’t make it into the story, so you’ll just have to wait for the novel set in the same world. It’ll happen someday. I hope.

3. When I started developing this world further in the hopes of putting a novel in it one day (see #2), I decided all the characters were going to have really dark skin and hair. This meant that Phaios’ most distinguishing characteristic no longer fit the world…but I left it in anyway. I really need to work on that “kill your darlings” thing.

4. The story is set in a world where people literally glow, and features a main character whose glow is mysteriously fading. In early drafts, criminal activity was what caused people to lose their light. As the story developed, that connection no longer worked with the character arc that I wanted Fulsa to have, but you can see an early (criminal) version of the opening scene in my other Blog Tour post.

4.5. I had way too much fun creating a Pinterest board for this story. (What do you mean—this is totally a fun fact!) Check it out here!

~

Equus is now for sale at any of these online booksellers:

World Weaver Press | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBookstore

Equus Guest Post — FrankenHorse

Today on the Equus Blog Tour, please welcome Michael Leonberger.

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FrankenHorse

When you run the stories of the Elephant Man and Jack the Ripper side by side, you get a tragic kind of tapestry that is gruesome on the side of the gentlemanly doctor, and gentle on the side of the freak show performer.

We’ll lay these stories out flat beside each other, like old leathery straps of skin, inked in the blood of history. We’ll suture them together now, and see the whole history of the world, staring back at us in the serrated, glinting blade of the ripper, or in the gentle, vulnerable eyes of Mr. Joseph Merrick, aka the “Elephant Man”.

We’ll see the history of a world that uses other people’s bodies as props: how Jack the Ripper (never caught, but most likely a doctor as evidenced by his understanding of anatomy and the expensive grape stems he’d leave behind) mutilated the bodies of society’s out-casted women in Whitechapel in 1888, and how the world didn’t mourn those women. It had resigned them to that fate already: they were prostitutes, and only bodies to be used and discarded in the dark. The Ripper only literalized the extreme sexism that had abandoned these women to the streets in the first place, and subsequent newspaper articles on the crimes only used and discarded them further, until these women of the night were reduced to frightened fantasies in society’s collective unconsciousness. They once had names, though. They had memories, hopes, fears, and dreams. Hard to see that in the sooty print of a tabloid, or in the true crime section of the bookstore. They print their autopsy pictures in books even today, and it is an awful kind of tragedy to have the world remember you exclusively that way, even a century later.

Dust to dust, but you’d hope to be something more. You’d hope your peers in the species would let you be something more, but then they’d have to really see you, first. They’d have to really know you, and frankly, your body sometimes gets in the way of all that.

Likewise, paying geek-show customers used the deformed body of Joseph Merrick in the late 19th century in Whitechapel for their own purposes as well: to scream, to laugh, to clump together and warm themselves by the fires of his misery, stoked by their rejection and burning deep inside his misshapen “other” body. Bodies, the place where personalities live, where the customers couldn’t really see his, not for what it really was: the personality of a decent young man, bending from the unimaginable burden of a young body full bloom in its rapid decay, laid out for the visual consumption of perfect strangers.

We use each other all the time, don’t we? It’s a shameful and sometimes instinctual approach to other people, hidden as they are in their own bodies, all curled up and tucked away in the wrinkled bedsheets of their brains. It’s hard to get to know people; to really trepan someone and peer inside their skull and see them for who they are.

I love when studies are published that declare reading fiction encourages the growth of empathy, because it validates a long held suspicion of mine: that reading (and writing) are some of the purest ways to glimpse the insides of another person’s world. It’s like purchasing a ticket to another person’s soul, a front row seat, right in the warm, gooey space behind their eyeballs. If you read, you can see the whole world from that magnificent vantage point, until you really feel like you know other people.

You can imagine how they might see things, at least. Their senses; their memories; their ingredients, and how those things might set them up to make different decisions than the ones you yourself might make.

You become less judgmental, and the whole world can relax just a little bit more in your presence.

Not that reading and writing have an exclusive corner in this market: art in general is, as far as I can tell, the jewel encrusted height of communication. It’s our humanity’s last stand, a romantic gesture for the soul of the species as a kind of collective experience, rather than the isolated and alienating individual journey it might otherwise be.

No mystery than that Joseph Merrick was an artist: he created a miniaturized replica of the Mainz Cathedral while staying at the London Hospital in the late 19th century (a stone’s throw away from Whitechapel and the cite of the Jack the Ripper murders), and wrote the following poem:

‘Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind’s the standard of the man.

When Joseph Merrick died, it was because he wanted to lay flat in his bed, like “ordinary people”. He removed the high stack of pillows he required to keep his head up while he slept at night (his head measured 36 inches around). When he laid down flat, the weight of his own head broke his neck.

Meanwhile, Jack the Ripper probably died several years later surrounded by doting grandchildren, who never knew ‘ol Gramps was Satan incarnate.

How could they have? They couldn’t see past his mask. It wasn’t like the one that Joseph Merrick wore when he took walks in the gardens of the London Hospital: a sack with eye holes to hide his physical deformities.

No, the Ripper’s mask was one of skin and bone, and whatever it hid inside was legions worse than anything the customers at the freakshow could have stomached.

When I was a little kid, I was struck with the desire to tell a story where Joseph Merrick won, in obvious, pulpy comic book colors. Where he took on anyone who ever belittled him and made a break for it, to somewhere where he was free. Where he wasn’t reduced and compartmentalized by his obvious physical limitations. I remember fantasizing about it while brushing my teeth, and somewhere in the brush’s rhythm, a story puttered in and out of my thoughts: one with the sweet promise that one could be measured by the soul. That if it’s wings were powerful enough, it could fly away.

Likewise, I imagined those women in Whitechapel: if they could have simply plucked out the offending eyes of those who had objectified them, those who would reduce all of their human complexities into simple bodies, meant to be used and discarded and eventually dissected and butchered. If they had found an escape in those infinitely black shadows in the back alleys of Whitechapel, instead of certain death.

The ingredients of those parallel narratives eventually merged together in my thoughts as an adult. I did my best to sew the pieces together.

One piece involved a town full of men (possible rippers) unsure of how to prove their masculinity. They figured they needed women to grab and monsters to fight, because somewhere between that binary lay the promise of purpose. Without that, they’d have to succumb to the meaningless blackness of those back alley shadows. To the void. The dreadful thing. So they found bodies to make their narrative real.

Another piece involved a boy, so woefully disfigured, that he would play the part of their monster. He was, as far as they could tell, meant to be chased and ridiculed because his appearance fit within their fantasy. They could not see past his scars, his internal life obscured to them. To them, his life, his whole reality, was just another void.

The last piece was a girl whose internal life was also obscured to them, blocked out by a body they found attractive. She was there to love them, even if she didn’t know it yet, even if she didn’t want to, and if both would just play their parts, and subjugate themselves to the town’s collective fantasies, it would be testament entirely to the triumph of the town’s will.

And that was why it became so imperative that the boy and the girl had to escape.

Because that same void didn’t look like nothingness to them at all. It looked like promise. An alternative. Escape.

Hope.

I began assembling the pieces together in darkness, hours before anyone awoke, in a misty place before dawn that seemed like the promised land to me.

I wrote Eli the Hideous Horse Boy, and I’m very pleased with how the story came out.

I think it came to me in the moonlight, like some crooked footed, mystery eyed pony, cloaked in the skins of ancient tragedies that always seem new.

It was hungry for stardust and blood.

I hope I fed it accordingly.

~

Michael Leonberger is a writer and teacher from Virginia, where he currently lives with his girlfriend and their pet turtle.
He graduated from VCU with a degree in Cinema and has worked jobs as disparate as a horror make-up effects artist for Kings Dominion’s Halloween Haunt to being an extra in the Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln.
In 2014, his first feature film, Goodish, was an official selection in the VA Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA. That same year he published his first book, Halloween Sweets. He has since published several short stories.
He has a monthly column at the website Digital America.
Michael’s work can be found here.

Equus Blog Tour

Can you hear the thundering of hooves? That’s because Equus is coming in just 12 short days!

Now that the Battle Royale is almost complete (vote in the final round here!), some of the contributing authors are having a blog tour. Check out posts on where we found our inspiration, fun facts about our story worlds, our own history with equines, and more!

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Equus Blog Tour Schedule

July 7 – Sarena Ulibarri is hosting me!
July 8 – Stephanie A. Cain will host Chadwick Ginther
July 9 – I will host Michael Leonberger
July 10 – Diana Hurlburt will host Stephanie A. Cain
July 11 – Chadwick Ginther will host Diana Hurlburt
July 12 – Angela Rega will host me
July 13 – Rhonda Parrish will host Cat McDonald

Stop by for horsey hijinks and more!

You can also preorder your copy of Equus at any of these online booksellers:

World Weaver Press | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBookstore

Story Mad Libs: Lightless (2)

Aaaaand here it is, in all its silly glory! Thanks to those who contributed words!

~

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

He leapt and collided with Sona—he knew that voice, as well as the unnaturally serendipitous LEGO approaching down the aisle. Road apples shot through him, then a gargantuan image of himself lightless, then worse road apples.

Sneeze!” he hissed at Phaios, urging Sona toward the spaghetti without a single idea what they’d do when they leapfrogged it or why they were bothering to disappear. But if they could get there, maybe—

“Not. Another. Thumb tack.”

The empress’ tone was as icy as the deepest bucket, the fury in her light rivaled by that in her guitar. Stomach roiling, Fulsa squared his shoulders and snored, looping his hands behind his back so he could ambush Sona’s reins unseen. Behind him both envelopes stood quietly, Phaios an obstreperous non-presence beside their gentle glow. A strange entourage, but enough to give him the courage to pounce.

“Your Maj—”

“What,” she snapped, “is the meaning of this?”

“I’m here for the spigot.”

She stilled, dark lips parted, and mouthed the words once before speaking them aloud. “The spigot.” Her eyes narrowed. “You left Oxford, you risked showing this—” she flourished a princess at him “—to the entire West Edmonton Mall, for a spigot?”

~

What’s Fulsa going to do with the all-important spigot? What word is supposed to be there? You’ll have to read the story to find out!

 

Story Mad Libs: Lightless

Equus is coming, and you know what that means? It means July, which means even HOTTER temperatures than we already have, which means people doing crazy, heat-induced things!

In anticipation of Equus’ release, I thought we could turn the crazy toward my story, Lightless—by Mad Lib-ing it. I’ve got a 200-word excerpt of the story ready to be rendered hopelessly silly, so here’s what I need from you:

  • 7 nouns
  • 3 adjectives
  • 1 transitive verb
  • 4 intransitive verbs
  • 1 location

Leave your (PG-rated) words in the comments, and when all the slots are filled, I’ll publish the result!

Note: Please only one word per commenter to start. If I don’t get many comments, I’ll open it up to those who want to suggest more words.

Let the silliness begin! *Heads off to turn on AC*

sona

Battle…not so much

Weeeeelll, we lost. Rather pathetically, I might say, and I do, because I write too many prince characters and then I drop things like “rather pathetically” into everyday conversation.

Anyway.

The upside to losing is that you get to see an excerpt from Lightless! Head on over to Rhonda’s blog… or just keep reading.

Already Fulsa was halfway across the room, nerves coursing around his stomach while he unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it on a nearby chair. Immediately the room grew lighter, and desperate hope fired in his heart. Perhaps he was brightening after all. Perhaps his nightmare was finally over.

He slid a sheer coat across his shoulders and then studied his hands, but could discern no difference in their glow. Here in this secluded tower with only Phaios for company, he had no way to determine whether there had been any further dimming. Beside the lightless slave he always looked radiant, so bright he could almost forget what was happening, and then the empress would visit and he’d see just how quickly his dignity and worth were seeping out of his skin.

A last glance out the window while he clenched his fists and tried to calm his heartbeat. Another last glance toward Phaios, whose silent nod spoke more clearly than any words.

Then he knelt before the door and waited.

Aithra’s footsteps were mere tps on the polished stone, her presence announced instead by the brilliance which preceded her up the staircase, pressing away the shadows with proud disdain and careless ease.

“Your Majesty.”

Her gossamer coat rustled softly, scattering specks of light like jewels for the less fortunate. Even knowing how much of it was unnatural, he envied her splendor. To have so much to shed…

PS. I swear there are horses in this story. Here’s a close-up of Sona to tide you over:

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Battle… START!

It’s here! Sona from my story Lightless is facing Pat Flewwelling’s kelpie from The Boys from Witless Bay over on Rhonda Parrish’s blog!

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Want to read the opening paragraph of Lightless before the story’s released? Vote for Sona and if she wins this round, I’ll share it on the blog!

Meanwhile, stop by tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday for updates to this post as I roll a d20 each day to try and steal votes from Pat. Guess I should go open that box of dice and warm them up a bit. Or shall I wait and do my first-ever roll tomorrow?

Hmmm….

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Onward!

_________________

And now, we roll!

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Wore my lucky horse bracelet! It’s gotten me through everything from high school exams to my dissertation defense.

Drumroll, please….

Brrrrrrrrrrrr….. (it’s a drumroll, I swear):

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Not bad for its first-ever roll!

Day Two!

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Hm. Well that sucks.

Day Three!

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…which wouldn’t be bad at all if Pat hadn’t rolled a 16.

Battle Mode!

The Equus anthology launches in July, and you know what that means? Two and a half(ish) months of waiting for 19 awesomely horsey stories. And you know what that means? Well, obviously it means that in the meantime, we’re going to have a BATTLE ROYALE!

Beginning next week on May 2nd, horses from various stories in the anthology will be going up against each other in dramatic, action-packed, all-in-your-mind-because-we-don’t-have-an-animation-team showdowns. Each author has written a D&D-style stats sheet for his/her equine; editor Rhonda Parrish will post the stats on her blog, and YOU, the readers, get to vote on the winner!

To make things extra fun, each author will be rolling three d20s (one each on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) in order to steal votes from their opponent. Here are my brand new dice, purchased last year at GenCon and thus far untested in battle:

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How will they fare? You’ll have to stop by the blog to find out. *dramatic music*

My first battle is on May 9th, when a mare from my story “Lightless” will be going up against Pat Flewwelling’s horses (kelpies? pegasi? centaurs? who knows!) from “The Boys from Witless Bay.”

I can only hope the equines are as witless as the bay!

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Image via Pixabay

Stampede!

Hello, readers! I’m not sure there’s anyone here who doesn’t follow me on Twitter and hasn’t seen this news already, but just in case, I’m super excited to announce that my short story, Lightless, will appear this July in EQUUS, the next (and final) installment of Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries anthology series.

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The anthology contains 19 horse-themed stories–what more could you want?

Okay, yes, 20 horse-themed stories would have been better, but they can only fit so many pages in the book.

From World Weaver Press’ TOC reveal:

“There’s always something magical about horses, isn’t there? Whether winged or at home in the water, mechanical or mythological, the equines that gallop through these pages span the fantasy spectrum. In one story a woman knits her way up to the stars and in another Loki’s descendant grapples with bizarre transformations while fighting for their life. A woman races on a unique horse to save herself from servitude, while a man rides a chariot through the stars to reclaim his self-worth. From steampunk-inspired stories and tales that brush up against horror to straight-up fantasy, one theme connects them all: freedom.”

Who wants to date a different character?

And we’re back! (What, no I’m not avoiding writing my novels! Why would you even suggest that?)

Anyway, after Alahir was featured, Navarion got jealous and–

Nav: I don’t recall claiming to be jea–

Hush.

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Today’s Perfect Date is Crown Prince Navarion, also from Daystar. Say hello, Nav!

Nav: Hello! Very pleased to meet you.

(Alahir, are you taking notes?)

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1. What’s he look like? Eyes, hair, any tattoos or scars? What’s his style?

^ Like that. Nav’s known for his green eyes and beautiful smile, which he shares with pretty much everyone. As a prince, he’s very conscious of his appearance and presentation, and is likely to over-dress for your date. (But don’t worry–he won’t be bothered if you don’t do the same.)

2. What kind of music does he like? Food?

Navarion loves the esova, a shamisen-like instrument, though he doesn’t play it himself. (You’re probably better off not asking his 16-year-old brother Anorith to play for you unless you want surly teenage commentary on your date.)

Like Alahir, he loves spicy food, but anything’s good as long as it’s well made. Unlike Alahir, Nav LOVES coffee. If he could subsist on coffee, he would, so be advised: bringing him coffee beans might be the equivalent of a marriage proposal.

Nav: Phah, that’s ridiculous. Books are a marriage proposal, coffee beans are a dowry.

3. What’s his family like?

Navarion has a large family, which is unusual in his world. He has four younger siblings–twin sisters (21) and two brothers (16 and 10); one of his sisters is married and 4 months pregnant.

If you ever have dinner with them, his mother might throw food at you (it’s a sign she loves you) and his father might ignore you (it’s a sign you’re not a noble and therefore not worthy). He gets along with most of them very well, but maybe avoid asking about his father on your date? Unless you like rants.

Nav: I do not rant! *pause* …to anyone but Alahir.

4. Why would he be a great date?

He’s a prince. And the future emperor.

Nav: I like to think I have rather more to offer than simply my status and a role I’ve not yet attained.

He uses lots of adverbs and way more words than are necessary.

Nav: Why do I get the impression Alahir is writing this post?

All right, fine. He’s remarkably kind and sensitive, and has a strong sense of wonder–anything you have to say will be interesting to him, but if you’d rather just listen, he loves to talk and is a great storyteller. He’s also so well read that he can have an intelligent conversation on just about any topic.

(And he’s a prince, so he’ll pay for everything.)

5. Things he values.

Despite having everything handed to him, Navarion values hard work–he spent a lot of his childhood and teen years struggling academically, and appreciates the effort it takes to achieve something that doesn’t come easily. He also values fair play–everything from just laws administered properly to friends not putting you in a choke-hold when you least expect it.

Nav: Was that last part necessary?

6. What would he do for a first date?

If you like coffee, say so, and he’ll take you on a thorough tour of all the best coffee shops in Shovin, followed by a stop at a few confectioneries or bakeries to soak up all the caffeine. If you like books, he has a similar tour of every bookstore in the city ready to go–expect your date to last at least 3 days.

For a fancier and less public date, how about a gourmet dinner in the palace gardens beside the pond?

(Please note that dates with Navarion come with Scion supervision. The matchmaker will ensure that Alahir is not the assigned Scion so that your date is not full of heckling and snarky commentary.)

7. Looking for long-term relationship or just a quick date?

He’s looking for an empress, but don’t worry–it’s a fantasy novel. Commoners marry nobles all the time!

8. We’ve had our pros, what are the cons?

Navarion’s sensitivity means that he’s prone to bouts of self-doubt, and he may rely on you for emotional support fairly often. He’s easily frustrated by failure and loves praise and affirmation, but may disregard your praise if he’s too focused on his problems. Though very generous, he forgets that too much generosity may make others uncomfortable if they’re unable to reciprocate.

Also, he actually likes philosophy.

Nav: How is that a fault?

9. Flowers , chocolate, or promises he doesn’t intend to keep?

Chocolate and books, and maybe cuddles while you read the book together.

~

Want more date options? Check out Wendy, Katie, Olivia, and Jameson’s posts!

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