Black Friday Sale at Storm Moon Press!
So, in honor of the Black Friday sale, I'm putting up the excerpts for the Carved in Flesh Anthology. Make sure to check out the sales Storm Moon has going on!
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. :)
People often say that the true perfection in the human form is in its imperfections. Scars are visceral reminders of a person's past, a sign of an event that can never fade. Whether it was gained in combat, a traumatic experience, or part of a ritual with a lover, scars are the ultimate labels. They leave a permanent mark on the body and spirit that, one way or another, change a person forever.
From "Oren's Right" by Blaine D. Arden
My head bowed, my hands folded within the sleeves of my cloak, I hummed along with the Prayer of Death as I followed the procession. I kept my head down, even though I walked behind Oren. As long as I didn't look at him, I didn't think about having to bear seeing him in mourning, didn't have to think about how the minute I'd catch the sorrow in his eyes, my feet would be taking me to him, my hands would be reaching out. I couldn't let myself lose control. He wasn't mine.
I didn't even look up when Oren suddenly stopped. I chalked it up to nerves, emotions. Any minute now, we would round the corner to lead Haram's body through the center of the village. There, everyone could wish his departed essence farewell one last time before we led him to his pyre.
The shuffling of Oren's feet seemed at odds with his mood, though, and, in the end, I just had to look up. I only barely kept my jaw from dropping. Oren had taken his shirt off. Before I had time to process his actions, we moved on. With great reluctance, I dragged my sight away from Oren's gorgeous, broad back. I had no right. He wasn't mine.
My resolve lasted as long as it took for us to reach the center, and a collective gasp greeted us. Everyone looked away from Oren. Everyone but me and Oren's sister, Ajuna, who walked next to him, her hand firmly planted in the small of Oren's back to support him. I swallowed, clenching my hands within my sleeves. As much as I wanted to reach out, I couldn't. He wasn't mine. Ajuna would have to be the pillar Haram had always been for Oren.
From "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá" by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
Joe wrapped himself in the night, letting the darkness fall around him and caress his scarred face with velvet softness. No lover would ever touch him so again. None had in the twenty-five years since the black-and-tans had sliced him from mouth to ear and then made him scream to tear the gashes wider. The Unionist soldiers, traitors to their homeland, had marked him so he'd be easy to spot, easier to arrest the next time. He'd fled instead of taking that chance. He pulled his uniform hat lower and walked on, not wanting to think about the nightmare he'd left behind in Ireland.
He loved winter best. The high collar of his uniform coat and a scarf hid the worst of his face. Summer was a trial, bringing short-sleeved uniforms that showed the other scars as well. He finished his rounds, everything was safe and secure at Amalgamated Conglomerated Incorporated tonight. Joe Colson was on the job.
He made his way to the break room and saw the night programmer was already there with a cup of coffee, a sandwich, and a fat paperback with a woman in armor on the front. He never knew how someone would react to the first sight of him. He liked it when he cornered some problem person and saw their terror as they stared at his mangled face. But ordinary people gawked. They looked away. They asked awkward questions.
Joe squared his shoulders. He had as much right to a break as the kid did. He strode in, pretending he looked normal, acting like he was supposed to be there.
From "Faded Love" by M.A. Church
Naked, Ashley dropped to his knees and pressed his face against the bulge looming in front of him. The rough denim of Will's jeans scratched his face. Cutting his eyes up, he moaned as Will unbuttoned his shirt, showing off hard pecs and a washboard stomach. The man was definitely put together. Ashley ran a shaky hand over Will's muscular chest and pinched a nipple. A grunt from above made him smile. So, Will liked his nipples played with, huh? Good to know. He tweaked the nipple again as he mouthed at the bulge near his face.
He lowered his hand and opened Will's jeans, smoothing the sides back. Ah, no underwear. Nice. A hard, smooth dick jutted out, curving up slightly, with pre-come leaking from the tip. Humming deep in his throat, Ashley teased the tip of Will's dick, licking and nibbling at the mushroom head. He couldn't wait to have that buried down his throat. Will had more than a mouthful, and he yearned to choke on that thick piece of meat.
"Mmm, yeah." Will buried his hands in Ashley's long, silky black hair.
"Let's get these jeans off, Will. Need to see all of you."
"In a minute. I like having you on your knees in front of me, naked." Will pulled Ashley's head back by his hair, carefully, so he could see those unique eyes. "Suck me first."
From "Scar Therapy" by Logan Zachary
"Hi. I'm Larry, and I'll be your occupational therapist. My primary focus is seeing how your scar is doing." My new patient, Tim Weston, sat down in the chair across from me. He had been involved in a robbery at knife point, and he had been stabbed multiple times. I picked up my pen and clipboard, ready to take notes on his injury. "How long have you had this scar?"
My twenty-one year old patient squirmed in his chair and covered his arm with his other hand. Tim had been in the intensive care unit for two months, and he was finally out and coming in for outpatient therapy. He looked down at the floor as his foot tapped a steady beat. His long, brown hair hung across his face, hiding both of his eyes, shielding him from me. As he tipped his head back, two dark eyes peered up at me, but they avoided eye contact. His whole body read extremely nervous. He looked ready to jump out of his skin.
Before he could answer, his pinched-faced mother commanded, "Answer the man." She sat in a chair pushed up against the wall directly behind Tim. Deep wrinkles surrounded her eyes and lips, showing how often she had an angry scowl on her face.
I smiled at him as I tried to ignore her. "It's okay if you don't remember the exact date. I can always call the hospital for records. I just need the month..."
"March 13th, two o'clock in the afternoon." His voice was hard to hear, but he answered. His hand rubbed over the scar, stopped, covered it, and then started rubbing it again.
From "Gift of the Goddess" by Kaje Harper
It hurt like hell! He'd thought he was prepared for anything, but this was like a shower of molten iron on his skin. Garvin clapped his hands over his eyes, pressing hard until he saw flashes of light. He froze in that position, unwilling to move. It was as though his body was being scorched and charred, up both arms and across his chest, but there was no sound and no smell of burning flesh. He didn't dare look at himself. He'd begged for help, implored Rima for guidance, something, anything, without really expecting his prayer to be answered. Clearly, he'd gotten attention from the goddess herself. But by all the gods, it hurt!
Somehow, he forced his lips to complete the ritual blessing. "All thanks, Rima Who Made the Stars, for answering my prayer. All hail, Rima Who Made the Earth, to your power. All praise, Rima Who Bore the First Man, for your love toward your creations."
As he spoke the final word, he felt a touch like a cool hand on his burning forehead. After a moment, the sensation faded and was gone. There was only silence and the near-unbearable fire that spread across his skin.
Garvin drew in a ragged breath. He'd never dared approach Rima before. He wasn't one to petition the gods for anything. He preferred to live his life, do his work, keep to himself, and take the arrows of fortune as they came. But this had been for Nyle. For Nyle, he would storm the very gates of the heavens. It hurt like hell! He'd thought he was prepared for anything, but this was like a shower of molten iron on his skin. Garvin clapped his hands over his eyes, pressing hard until he saw flashes of light. He froze in that position, unwilling to move. It was as though his body was being scorched and charred, up both arms and across his chest, but there was no sound and no smell of burning flesh. He didn't dare look at himself. He'd begged for help, implored Rima for guidance, something, anything, without really expecting his prayer to be answered. Clearly, he'd gotten attention from the goddess herself. But by all the gods, it hurt!
From "Sojourn Home" by T.C. Mill
Any one of those ships might be carrying Kanovan, but I didn't try to pick the one out. Last I'd looked, the screens reported he'd be landing in an hour or so. But, after all the years we'd been together, I still was never certain he'd be back when he said he'd be. Anything could have happened in the week since his message reached me, and I'd have no way of knowing. Something could happen on the other side of the world and I'd know in minutes, that sort of technology had been in place for centuries, but if it happened off this world... Sometimes, I felt like one of those sailor's spouses in ancient days, standing on the seashore with eyes aching for the sight of a mast. At least then there had been the comfort of sharing the same sky.
I didn't look at the screens again. I just waited, humming bars, sometimes practicing my fingering subconsciously. If I'd brought my guitar with me, I could have cheered the waiting room crowd up a bit.
He found me even with my face turned to the window.
"Mirin." The air seemed to echo behind me with the force of his voice. To other people, it might have lacked such intensity; he was otherwise soft-spoken, with a low voice that rolled words out smoothly with an occasional hitch, as if it came to the verge of cracking.