Posts Tagged ‘Lucky Penny

24
Nov
12

Christmas Content Countdown

Hey, guys. Obviously there’s an AWFUL lot going on with me right now, both in my personal life, at work, and in my writing. I’ll actually let you guys know a bit more about that last part in a few days. But in the meantime, the countdown to Christmas has begun, and I thought I’d just remind you guys that I’ve currently got two Christmas themed eBooks available and I’ve got a wedding to pay for.

First up, a for a mere $2.99 you can get A Long November, my anthology of Christmas stories written from 2000-2008, including the novella A Long November and nine short stories, some of which do tie in to the Other People’s Heroes or Beginner/Opening Night of the Dead universes, others which are more standalone. Here are all the places online to find it:

Second, last year I got into the eBook game big-time, including the release of a new short story set in the world of Other People’s Heroes. Christmas in Las Vegas in a world full of superheroes gives us the short story Lucky Penny. And there’s a bonus short in there as well, a sci-fi yarn called Stowaway. Here’s where you can find this 99-cent quickie:

And in the next few weeks, you can expect to find a few more Yuletide goodies from me. Is Santa Super? will be the next “Obligatory Everything But Imaginary” collection, rounding up several of my holiday-themed columns and features from around the internet. And as I’ve done since 2000, I’ll have a new Christmas story for you as well. This time it’s going to be a new OPH story, The Ghost of Simon Tower. Because screw Halloween, there’s no time like Christmas for a ghost story.

Keep your eyes open, tell your friends, and check out these books, guys. Hope you enjoy them, and I hope you come back for more stuff from me very soon.

 

16
Jan
12

Where to Buy… LUCKY PENNY

Lucky Penny

Gill Lutz is a Las Vegas runner — a man employed by a casino to make sure that everything runs smoothly with no interference by people with “special” talents, which in a world full of metahumans is no small task. When the Vegas-based superhero called Lucky Penny uses her powers make Gill’s casino pay out jackpot after jackpot, he’s got to stop her before the casino goes bankrupt or, even worse, he’s out of a job.

This new story is set in the world of the novel Other People’s Heroes and the short story “The Restless Dead of Siegel City,” but can be read independently of those works. This eBook edition also contains a bonus short story, “Stowaway.” It’s Christmas Eve, 1827, and Louis Baudreau is determined to find something in the skies over the Gulf of Mexico he never thought he would see again. Instead, he finds a visitor on his boat that may take him places he never imagined.

23
Dec
11

Stowaway

We’re almost to Christmas, friends, and I haven’t forgotten those of you who don’t have e-Readers. This year’s (two!) stories will be available for you right here, beginning now with Stowaway. Come back tomorrow for Lucky Penny!

Stowaway

My wife was right. Gloria implored me to stay on land, to be with her and the children for Christmas, but when Therriot came to told me about the sightings of the strange lights in the Gulf, I knew I had to see them for myself. Gloria thinks I’m a fool, but she wasn’t there before, when Therriot and I journeyed to Alaska in January of 1825. She didn’t see the lights in the sky, the ones the locals called the “aurora borealis,” the ones that amazed me so. I’ve never seen their like before or since, and although they swear that such wonders can only be seen at the northern latitudes, I’ve never believed that. God in Heaven couldn’t have reserved such a sight for just one spot on the globe, and ever since then I’ve made it my very public desire to see them again. Only Therriot understood, he was there with me, and it was he who agreed with me that we should take the yacht out and seek the lights again. I tried to convince Gloria to come, tried to tell her that the view would be worth the journey, but she refused. She’s always had a queer attachment to Christmas, one that she tries to pass on to our sons and daughter, and was determined to keep it again this year.

“It’s just another day, Gloria.”

“Louis Baudreau! It’s the Nativity of our Lord, and you’ll keep it with your children.”

You keep it with the children,” I said. “Therriot and I are going to find something truly divine this year.”

Gloria was rather incensed by the (quite mild, in my opinion) blasphemy, which was just fine by me. The angrier she was, the less she would attempt to argue when I left. Therriot and I set out three days before Christmas Eve, 1827, stopping in New Orleans for supplies before going to the yacht in Grande Isle. We coasted across the Gulf for two days before he was seized with a desire to return home. Too cold, he said, too wet. The aurora wouldn’t appear in conditions like this. But I wasn’t ready. The night before I caught a glimpse of them, I was certain – a spark in the distance that I was ready to pursue. At that point, though, the sun was beginning to rise, and Therriot slept through the whole damn thing.

So I was alone that night when I saw the lights again.

It was near midnight when I glimpsed them, a brilliant blue flash against a night sky, cutting its own path across a field of stars and filtering in through a cover of clouds. I immediately cut in the direction of the lights – it was simple enough, they appeared beneath Sirius, and I’ve been navigating by the Dog Star since my father first took me out on his skiff as a boy. It wasn’t exactly the same view as I enjoyed in the North – those lights had more of a green tinge to them, while this was a blue that looked as cold as the Gulf air. Although we had not experienced any poor weather while Therriot and I were on the Gulf together, that was beginning to change tonight. The clouds surrounding the Aurora crackled with lightning, and there was rain in the air. Father taught me how to taste for it, and although I believed myself the equal to any danger nature might conjure in my path, I have heard far too many stories of fools who believed the same thing and paid for it with their lives. There was no true danger of a hurricane, not for months yet, but any winter storm could be deadly.

I looked up at the lights, my heart fluttering as I gazed up at a sight I feared I would never see again. They were glorious, magnificent, and I wished only that I could bring Gloria and the children here to see it with me. Even old Therriot would have been welcome, just to have somebody to share the sight with.

But with the wind accelerating and the first drops of rain upon my cheeks, I knew my association with the lights would only be in passing this evening. With the storm threatening, even I could see that the time to return to shore had arrived, and I placed my hands on the wheel to make the turn when the woman spoke. “I’d really rather you didn’t,” she said.

She must have been hiding below deck all night, but when she spoke up from behind me, it was as though she came from nowhere. She was probably in her twentieth year, perhaps a few Christmases more, but surely no more than 25, and for a woman of the slave race she was remarkably fit. Her body was lean, but appeared firm, her hair clean and pulled back behind the head. Her chin was narrow, and came to a point below her full lips and crystal eyes. Her clothes were unusual – leather boots polished to a shine like I have never seen before, denim trousers that clung to her legs and hips in a most unseemly fashion, and a blouse that was probably a deep red in color, although it was difficult to be certain in the moonlight. She wore a long coat, brown in color, but of a style and cut with which I was completely unfamiliar.

And although the model was as unfamiliar as her coat, there could be no mistaking the object she pointed at my chest – it was a firearm, to be certain.

“I know it looks like the weather’s about to get rough, sugar, but I’m gonna need you to keep your little boat in the same direction we’ve been going.”

“Who are you? What’s the meaning of this?”

“Nothing personal, honey. I just needed a ride and your boat was the only one goin’ out tonight. Don’t you have better things to be doing on Christmas Eve?”

The comment about Christmas was odd, but I was too enraged to think much of it. “You must be mad. They’ll stretch your neck for this.”

“They’d have to catch me first.”

“I happen to know some gentlemen quite gifted at taking in runaway slaves.”

She somehow appeared offended. “Slave? Do I look like a slave to you?”

“Well… yes.”

She mumbled under her breath, but I did catch the phrase, “Damn… ignorant…” before her voice trailed away. “Let me rephrase that. Considering that it’s my gun pointed at your face, do I still look like a slave?”

“All that in consideration, not as such.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Don’t worry, I’ll be gone soon and you’ll be free to take yourself back to whatever Temple of Human Rights Violations you call home.”

The woman wasn’t making any sense, to be frank, but it was the first part of her statement that concerned me the most. “You’ll be gone? Where? We’re in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico! Unless…” Was someone coming for her? Pirates? Haitians?

“That’s right. I’ll just go away like a bad dream. And if you’re lucky, you’ll even get a show out of it.”

There was a sizzle in the air that I at first mistook for lightning, but it lingered far too long, nearly ten seconds. The light was pale blue, and seemed to extend from the North Star itself. The woman with the gun smiled, her eyes and gun both glittering in the light before it died. “That’s him,” she said. “He’s gonna find me soon.”

“Who’s going to find you? I swear, woman, if you’re bringing a pirate to my craft, you’ll not take me without a fight.”

“Pirate?” She laughed. “Ah, honey, even if I would do that to you, I wouldn’t do it on Christmas Eve.”

“Again, you ramble about Christmas. Are you from some Dutch settlement? I’m told they place greater stock in the holiday there.”

“What, are you saying you don’t know about Christmas?”

“Of course I know of Christmas. I simply don’t understand why a woman who stowed away on my ship and is holding me at the point of a gun is so concerned about it.”

“What’s the date?”

“December 24. I thought you knew that much.”

“No, the year.”

“The year?” Again, her madness startled me. What sort of person doesn’t know the year in which they currently live? A savage, perhaps, but for all her oddities this woman was certainly no savage. “It’s the year of our lord 1827.”

“Damn, pre-Dickens. No wonder.”

“Pre-what?”

“How ‘bout Washington Irving? You ever heard of him?”

“The writer? Why… yes, I have.”

“You ever read The History of New York?”

“I confess I have not.” Her line of questioning was inscrutable, but she held her weapon very steady, which made me far more inclined to answer her.

“Doesn’t matter. He’ll find me anyway.”

“Who?”

“Love of my life, sweetie. Come hell or high water, I’m gonna be with my man on Christmas. No pun intended.”

“So there is someone coming for you.”

“Yeah, he’s probably just looking in the wrong place. It’s our contingency plan, you see – if we get separated, we meet again on Christmas Day. But I went back further than I thought. Man, if he’s stopping in at every Christmas on his way back, people are gonna see lights at Christmas for years.”

“I haven’t the foggiest notion what you’re talking about, you understand.”

“It’s probably best you don’t.” She had a small smile, a sly smile, but not an unkind smile. She didn’t lower her weapon, but she professed that she meant me no harm, and something about her demeanor made me believe her, even if the winds were beginning to pick up and the seas beneath us began to grow harsh.

“This man of yours… he’s a good one? Worth all this?”

“You don’t stow away on a boat in the deep south in 1827 for a nobody. Especially when you know anybody who thinks you’re strange enough is just gonna call you a runaway slave.”

“And how would he feel about you taking my boat this way?”

“Oh, he’d be fine with it. I’m not keeping it, honey, I’m just delaying you a little while. It’s nothing personal, you were just the one who was here when I needed it. It’s actually kind of fun – he likes to see how clever I can be getting back to him whenever we get separated.”

The deck pitched underneath me and I grabbed ahold of the wheel, wrenching it with a sound that turned my stomach. “We need to turn back,” I said. “Can’t you feel it? The storm could capsize us.”

“And I’d be really sorry if that happened, baby, I swear it, but I have to take that chance.” As she said it, the star behind her head started to grow brighter, the glare more intense, and I knew I wasn’t looking at the Aurora after all. This light was different – still beautiful, but very different. Stronger, harder… and somehow more open. While the Aurora felt like a brilliant ribbon across this sky, looking up at that blue light streaming down upon us from the North Star was more like looking into a tunnel of some sort. I’d ridden on enough trains to know what it looked like when you’ve been cutting through the darkness of a mountain and the light on the other end appears. This was like that, but far more brilliant than any light I’d ever seen piercing the end of a tunnel.

“What are you?” I asked, no longer certain that I was speaking to a woman at all. She ignored the question, though, and instead continued her diatribe.

“I know you’ve never really been raised to celebrate Christmas much, right? Folks around here don’t celebrate the way they do where I’m from.”

“My… my wife,” I said. The light was dazzling, and I found myself answering her almost mechanically. “My wife… she wanted me to stay home… she celebrates…”

“Does she now? Well good for her. Little bit of advice, fella, and I’ll let you go. Next Christmas, when she asks you to stay home for the holidays, you just do it.”

Beneath us the boat shook again, harder this time, and I heard a splitting sound. Rain was falling, spattering my face, drenching right through my clothes. The weather had threatened all evening, but now it was turning in an instant, while the light grew brighter and brighter.

The woman stepped up to the front of the boat, gun still pointed at me. “Uh-oh,” she said. “You’re definitely gonna want to get that looked at, sweetie.”

“What?” She indicated behind me with the firearm, and when I turned I saw that my mast had actually split down the middle. Part of it was hanging now, dangling from ropes above the deck. I would be stranded after the storm ended, assuming I was still alive.

“You see? It’s so much better to be at home for Christmas,” she said.

“I’m going to die,” I whispered. “I’m going to die out here.”

“Aw, baby, don’t be like that. No reason to think things will turn out that badly. Don’t you know the other thing about Christmas?”

“What… what other thing?”

She smiled and looked up at the sky. The light from the star was brighter than ever, and I realized it wasn’t actually coming from the sky itself. The light, whatever was casting the light, was beneath the clouds… and moving towards us.

“Christmas,” she said, “is when all kinds of miracles get to happen,” she said.

She stepped backwards then, falling over the side of the boat, but she never touched the cold whitecaps beneath her. The blue light turned, bathing her, and she vanished before my eyes. As she disappeared, I heard her laughter echo through my ears, fade, and vanish.

“Where are you?” I screamed. “Where did you go? What’s happening?”

Fearing I was going mad, I rushed to the wheel and turned it hard, trying to steer myself back in the direction of the land, but the wheel itself came off in my hands. The crack in the mast now extended all the way to the deck, and I saw a dozen other breaks and splits as well. The boat was shaking, and I could feel it beginning to spin in the water.

I was going to capsize.

I rushed to the port side of the ship, the side that was being raised as the ship turned, and tried to climb over, but I wasn’t fast enough. As the deck beneath my feet assumed a vertical position, I grabbed on to the rail and dangled in the air, my feet over the water, my hands slipping.

The blue light was still there, falling around me, just as intense as before. I looked up at it, screaming, as my hands lost their grip on the wooden rail, and I fell towards the water. It rushed up towards me, and I howled louder than I’ve ever howled in my life—

And then it was gone.

The pale blue light flashed even brighter, dazzling me, and during my temporary blindness I fell upon a floor. Had the ship turned back over? And why wasn’t it raining anymore?

My eyes cleared and I looked around me. I was in a dark room, a single blue light shining down upon me, preventing me from seeing many details of my surroundings. But I could tell you with certainty that she was there, smiling, the firearm she’d carried on to my ship dangling from her hip.

“Hey, sugar,” she said. “You didn’t think I’d just strand you there after you were nice enough to give you a ride, did you?”

“What are you doing to me? Am… I am dead?”

“Dead? Aw, of course not. We’re just here to drop you off. Um… sorry about the boat, though.”

“Where am I?”

“You’re on our ship now.”

“Our?”

She looked over her shoulder, where I saw a tall, friendly looking man. He had reddish hair, and a thick beard, and wore clothes similar to hers, although his shirt was green and coat black. “I can send him wherever you want him to go, Lyla.”

“Perfect.” She looked back at me. “Where’s your home, man?”

“My home?”

“That wife you mentioned before, the one who wanted you home tonight. Where is she?”

Still stunned, I mumbled my address, and Lyla looked back at the man again. He was looking down into what looked like a flat, square pallet of some sort, but it seemed to be emanating light on his side, casting his face in an unnatural glow. He touched the pallet a few times. “I’ve got it, Lyla. Controls are set.”

“Thanks, Kirby,” she said. She smiled at me again. “See why I love him? All he needs is an address and he’ll have you home lickety-split.”

“Home?”

“Home,” she said.

“Goodbye, Louis,” Kirby said I looked up at him, confused again… when had I told either of them my name?

“And Merry Christmas,” Lyla added.

The light flashed again and I was back in the rain. I stumbled forward this time, feeling the wet slosh of grass under my hands. When my eyes cleared, I looked up at my own house, glowing softly from a single lantern within. I stood up, wiping the water from my eyes, and stepped inside.

After she finished castigating me for trailing rain on the floor, Gloria was thrilled.

 

Therriot returned two days later to tell Gloria that I’d been lost at sea. His shock upon seeing me step out of the kitchen nearly killed the poor fellow, and I had to apologize profusely. If I had known he was there to report on my death, I told him, I would have tried to be more accommodating.

When my boat had failed to come in on Christmas Eve, I was reported missing and Therriot led a brief search for me on Christmas Day. At the same time I was sitting down for Christmas Mass with Gloria and the children, Therriot was finding my boat, overturned, drifting in the water. Everyone assumed I was dead, and Therriot began to busy himself with the horrible task of explaining what happened to me to my wife.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “If you were coming home, why didn’t you just say so?”

I had no answer for him. I blurbled some nonsense about it being a hasty decision and apologized for not informing him. I allowed him to think the boat had been stolen that night, and that the thief must have been the one who went down with it. And the matter was dropped.

But the next year, on Christmas Eve, Gloria began to pester me again about Christmas. I tried to ignore her… I tried to ignore it, and I may have succeeded if Therriot hadn’t arrived just after the sun began to dip in the sky.

“The Aurora, Louis, it’s back,” he told me. “People are reporting seeing the lights in the Gulf again. We must go.”

I thought about joining him, even after all that, but I remembered what the woman Lyla said, about how the lights were her man Kirby looking for her… even now, after he found her. It didn’t make sense, not really. But something about her tone…

“No, Therriot.”

“No?”

“No, sir. Go if you will. But it’s Christmas. I have other things to do.”

* * *

There you have it, friends, I hope you enjoyed this little story. Don’t forget, Stowaway and Lucky Penny are both available in a free eBook download from Smashwords.com! And to read the first nine years of Christmas stories from this little tradition of mine, they’re all available in the eBook A Long November,  now available in the Amazon.com Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at Smashwords.com

And the two more recent stories, written since A Long November was released, are both still available online for free:

 

20
Dec
11

A Christmas gift from me: Lucky Penny

As I’ve chronicled here many (many, many) times before, every Christmas I write a new short story to share with all of my friends and family, both in real life and here online. This year I’m doing things differently, but only a little. You see, over the past year I’ve been working really hard to establish a presence in the world of eBooks. I wholeheartedly believe that this is the direction publishing is going, and I think it really helps level the playing field for writers who aren’t attached to a huge publisher.

That in mind, this year I’m giving away my new story, Lucky Penny, as a free eBook download. All you’ve got to do is pop over to Smashwords.com and download the book in whatever format your particular e-reader uses — .MOBI for your Kindles, .EPUB for most other devices, or you can even read it right there on the page if you don’t have any such device!  The book is also currently available for 99 cents at Amazon.com, but only because I don’t know how to set a Kindle book for a free download (I’m looking into it). The free Smashwords offer is for a limited time, though — on January 1 it will go up to my regular short story price of 99 cents.

But what do you get when you download Lucky Penny, you ask? Well, the story is set in the superhero universe I first presented to readers in the novel Other People’s Heroes and the Halloween story “The Restless Dead of Siegel City.” However, the primary characters in this story are brand new, and “Lucky Penny” can be read completely independent of those two works.

But that’s not all! As I was finishing “Lucky Penny,” I got seized with a bit of unexpected inspiration, and dashed out a second Christmas tale, “Stowaway.” I could have shelved it and waited for next Christmas, but I’m far too narcissistic to wait an entire year to get feedback on something that’s finished. So this year’s Christmas is a two-for-one special!

So please, download the book, tell me what you think of it, and pass the word along to your friends. And Merry Christmas!

Special thanks to Jacob Bascle (www.freemindgraphix.com) for the cover image to this eBook. Jacob is also the cover artist for Other People’s Heroes and The Restless Dead, and has again proven himself incredibly generous with his time and talent.

Oh, and as for my previous Christmas stories…

Don’t forget…

My eBook, A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas, is now available in the Amazon.com Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at Smashwords.com! This eBook contains the entire short novel A Long November, PLUS eight additional short stories of the holidays, including the short story “Lonely Miracle,” set in the world of my novel Other People’s Heroes. That’s nine stories for just $2.99, friends.

And the two more recent stories, written since A Long November was released, are both still available online for free:




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