Prairie Harvest Festival

It’s been a while — a long while! — since I’ve had books for sale at an in-person event. So I’m really looking forward to the Prairie Harvest Festival in Columbus on Saturday, October 9. Looks like a fun autumn event with music and family-friendly activities, and I’ll have my books there — including Taylenor.

Here’s the info on the event. It runs from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday at Westland High School in Columbus. As of now, the weather is supposed to be great. Here’s a link to their page, and you can also find them on Facebook.

National Read A Book Day 2021

Photo by Sinziana Susa on Unsplash

Some suggestions from me for readers who love science fiction and fantasy (and maybe a little horror), for National Read A Book Day, 2021:

Something Classic: Dune, of course! Especially since there’s a movie coming out that I’m excited about. Dune, by Frank Herbert, is a brilliant classic science fiction novel with complex politics and environmental world building. A truly great book.

Something Newer: The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark. Published in 2019, this is a novella that’s a science fantasy novel about a possessed tram car. It’s set in Cairo in an alternate 1912.

Something Epic: The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. It’s the first book in the Broken Earth series and won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. Set in a land that is constantly in danger of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, with a complex civilization and characters.

Something Short: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. This is a series of five novellas about an AI constructed to be a Security Unit, that overrides its controlling module. The first in the series is All Systems Red, which won the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella. Highly entertaining!

Something on my To-Be-Read List: The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This has been on my TBR list for a while, and I’ll be reading it very soon. Here’s what The Guardian had to say about the novel.

Something Recommended by my Daughter: My daughter had a couple of recommendations. This one is also on my TBR list: Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Published in 2020, this is a gothic horror novel set, of course, in an isolated house. Here’s what NPR had to say about the book. After reading the review, I actually can’t wait to read it!

Something … by Me! Why not? Taylenor, published in 2019, follows Jaena, who is a priest of the peaceful goddess Imn-ashu. Jaena brings a young mage-talented boy to the city to save his life, only to find she has delivered him into the hands of the Mage Defender, who rules by stealing the magic — and the lives — of children. Link to the ebook is here.

Whatever you choose to read, it’s a great day to start a new book! If you have your own recommendations, feel free to comment with them!

First Friday Quick Reads

Looking for a refreshing break in the middle of your work day? Strong Women – Strange Worlds presents a lunchtime Quick Read on Friday, July 2 at noon (EDT). I’ll be one of six authors reading from their work — six authors, eight minutes each, so the perfect length for a midday break!

The event is on Zoom and it’s free, but you need to preregister. Here’s a link to register for this or later readings.

I’ve attended two of these readings just because they were fun — and now I’m participating, along with some wonderful authors. Strong Women – Strange Worlds focuses on readings from women and underrepresented gender identity authors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Hope to see you there on July 2!

New beginnings

Ohio is cold in the winter, muggy and hot in midsummer. But our transitional seasons are beautiful.

Spring is just beginning here. Daffodils are blooming, as well as some early trees. But most things are just beginning: a touch of green dusting a field, buds just thinking about opening on the end of knobby tree branches. There’s a moisture and warmth in the air we haven’t felt here for a while.

I’m hoping this can be a season of new beginnings for the world as well.

We’re not out of this pandemic yet, but if I try I can just see some hope. People are being vaccinated. People are starting to look outward again, when for the last year we have been in a protective, inward-looking mode.

We’re still masking, still being cautious, and hopefully still following advice from health experts about how to keep Covid-19 from spreading. But I hope for everyone’s sake that there is hope just around the corner.

Interview on New Books Network

I’m happy to share a link to this month’s fantasy channel podcast at New Books Network! I was interviewed by the host, Gabrielle Mathieu, about Taylenor, and the interview is currently available here!

Gabrielle interviewed me about Jaena, the main character who is a Priest of her goddess, Imn-ashu, and about what Imn-ashu — and Jaena — stand for in their world. We talked about Mage Herrein, the Mage Defender, who steals the power of children to feed his own. And about some of Jaena’s companions on her desperate quest to save a life.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. There is a new author podcast available every month as Gabrielle interviews authors of new fantasy releases.

Taylenor is available in ebook or paperback editions.

“City of the Dead” on my Blog!

It’s been a while since I posted a short story, and it’s October, the perfect time for an unusual story like “City of the Dead”. This story was originally published in March, 2018 in Gathering Storm Magazine. The theme was “The Customer Is Always Right”. Enjoy!

 

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

City of the Dead

by Anne Marie Lutz

 

The obelisks were twice as tall as Arly, lined up in canted rows to either side of her. She stared down the earthen corridor between the memorials. Could you even call it “earthen”, when it wasn’t even on Earth at all?

One step, two steps, and the gray obelisks seemed to shiver in front of her as if shifting between dimensions, as if in a dream from which she was about to wake.

They’d said the stones weren’t graves. They looked sort of like gravestones. Especially when you saw the inscriptions, some so old they had nearly worn off. The visitor’s brochure said there were no bodies buried here. Yet, the place was inhabited.

 

This is the only place in the galaxy where you can walk among alien ghosts! Orient yourself on the provided map first. Always stay on the paths; it’s easy to get lost in the City of the Dead!                

 

Footsteps receded behind her as Dad wandered down one of the paths that extended from the central clearing like spokes from the center of a wheel. Arly felt very grown-up, standing here almost alone offworld. Dad said she was old enough to have a little more freedom. As long as she trusted her instincts, and was responsible.

 

No personal communication devices are permitted in the City of the Dead! You can reach the office at any time by pressing one of the blue call buttons located at each entrance and in the safe zone in the middle of each section. Don’t forget to sign out when you leave! If we don’t hear from you by dusk, you’ll be charged the full cost of the search.

 

Something moved in the corner of Arly’s vision. She spun, but whatever it was had vanished.

“Dad?” The sound of Arly’s voice was muffled. She could barely hear it herself. “Dad?”

 

Mrae ghosts can move through ordinary matter! We know they move about the memorials, and we know they communicate amongst themselves. There are no living Mrae to tell us what they are saying or what they are doing! Disturbing the ghosts in any way is forbidden.

 

Something dark and shiny appeared on the side of the obelisk closest to Arly. It emerged from the stone, looking like an oil spill pooling gradually larger. It slid over the uneven surface and vanished, materializing in an instant on the next obelisk. It left no trace behind.

 

Stay away from the ghosts! Keep a respectful distance. The Mrae ghosts are indifferent to corporeal life of any species! The City of the Dead has been open to respectful tourists of all species for 30 terrestrial years, and never have we had a single fatality!

 

The Mrae began to sink into the surface of the next obelisk. Slow and inexorable, like a creature from a nightmare.

Fear gripped Arly. The brochure had lied. It wasn’t safe here at all. The Mrae were dangerous. She stepped back fast. Her heel caught on some imperfection in the ground and she sprawled terrified between the looming stones.

The Mrae, half-submerged in the ancient stone, paused.

It knew she was there. It wasn’t “indifferent” to her. Arly knew.

“Dad!” Arly screamed.

Footsteps scrambled. “Punkin?”

“Dad!”

Dad appeared in the open space at the end of the corridor. He seemed very far away. Arly’s heartbeat hammered against her ribs.

The Mrae pulled itself back out of the obelisk. It dripped down the side of the stone and massed into an expanding pool. It moved fast, nothing like the dreamy viscous drift Arly had seen in the videos they’d been shown. It was only two feet away, then close enough to touch

The Mrae ghost wound between her feet. It had a pull, like an emotional sink. Arly’s scream fell in and she stood frozen. The world around her whited out with her terror.

“Get outta there, you freakin’ alien!” Dad grabbed Arly under her arms and lifted.

Arly pulled her knees up high. Her feet came off the ground and the Mrae ghost slipped away. She clung to Dad, gasping with fear.

Dad hoisted her over a few feet of ground, grunting with the effort. He set her down, grabbed her arm and half-dragged her the few yards toward the central clearing.

Arly looked back, but the Mrae was gone.

They ran across the edge of the safe zone. The blue call button glowed on its pedestal. Dad slammed his hand down on it, and a moment later the transport arrived to take them back to safety.

###

 

Dad was red in the face. “What kind of outfit are you people running here?”

The woman behind the counter had brought them water. That was the extent of her sympathy. Her face was long and thin, not an ounce of extra softness in it. Her name tag read: “Manager”, with no personal name at all.

Arly was still shaking.

“There was full disclosure before you entered the City of the Dead,” Manager said. “Disturbing the Mrae in any way is forbidden.”

“You said they didn’t know we were here. You said there was no danger!”

“You must maintain a respectful distance at all times,” Manager said. “There is a fine for disobeying the rules. We’ve debited your account.”

Dad’s face got even redder.

“It came to me,” Arly quavered. “I didn’t disturb it.”

“Look.” Dad took a deep breath. “You have a Mrae here that threatened my daughter. I don’t care what you say about ghosts, that thing is alive and it tried to do something to my daughter!”

Manager shrugged. “What do you expect us to do?”

“Close the place down!” roared Dad.

Contempt flashed across Manager’s face. “Because your daughter imagined something, you want us to close down the City of the Dead? You’re just like the rest of the humans I’ve met. You think because you spend money here, you’re always right. This place is for the Mrae, not for you. The fact that you were even allowed in is a privilege.”

“It’s just another lousy tourist attraction!”

“Nevertheless. The Mrae do not interact with humans.”

“Then that one is dangerous. It could do anything! You should get rid of it.”

“How do you suggest we do that?”

“I don’t know! Back home, if there’s a hazardous animal somewhere it shouldn’t be — ”

Animal?

Arly flinched. “Dad? I don’t think it’s an — ”

“Catch and release!” Dad said. “Catch it! Release it somewhere else in this travesty of a tourist attraction! Haven’t you ever heard of catch and release?”

A look of cold enjoyment entered Manager’s eyes. “Sir. If you absolutely insist.”

“Well hell, of course I do! That thing is a hazard. Tourists should come first here!”

Arly knew that was wrong, knew the Mrae belonged here more than she did. Even though the fear of her encounter still gripped her. “Dad! We can just leave!”

But it was too late. A tube of blue energy descended from the ceiling and dropped around Dad, cutting him off from the rest of the room. Arly shrank back, but the Manager didn’t even look in her direction.

The energy field surrounded Dad, enclosing him in a blue capsule. His face reddened even more and his mouth moved, but his shouts never made it through the field to the rest of the room.

“You want catch-and-release?” Manager said. “You shall have it.”

She blinked twice, undoubtedly activating her net connection. Arly looked away for a split second and when she looked back, Dad was gone.

Arly’s breath seemed stuck in the back of her throat. She spoke in a small voice. “Where is he?”

“I wouldn’t know,” the Manager said. “We released him. No doubt he’ll contact you if he’s in condition to do so. We’ll make sure you’re safely relocated back home, and a responsible adult is notified.”

Arly should have felt shocked, but she didn’t. She remembered the cold feel of the Mrae ghost as it twined through her legs, remembered her fear sinking into it like liquid into a sponge. Humans didn’t belong here at all.

“Here.” Manager handed Arly a printed paper slip. “Take this. You can get a free ice cream as you leave the site. And a Mrae jelly cake. Don’t forget to get your free Mrae jelly cake!”

 

The City of the Dead is a Wonder of the Galaxy! Tourists and scientists are permitted in on the understanding that nothing be done to disturb the ghosts. We do not understand them, and none of them has ever acknowledged that we are here.

Human infringements of the rules will be met with the strictest punishment.

Entry into the grounds means you understand and have agreed to these terms.

The admission fee is 10 credits at the main entrance.

Rest rooms, water and treats are available at the exits. Save some room for ice cream!

###

Panel: Writing Great Genre Fiction

The 2020 Ohioana Book Festival is being held online this weekend, and I’m excited to be part of the Ohioana panel on Writing Great Genre Fiction!

The other authors participating are Sheldon Gleisser, Richard J. Norgard, TG Wolff, and John Vanek. The moderator will be Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Here’s a link to the Facebook page where you can see details about the panel, which will be held live online at 1 pm EDT on Sunday.

The book festival takes place throughout the weekend with various online panels. Here’s a link to the Ohioana Library Association’s preview of the weekend’s events: