Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Two stories, one to read and one to hear. Wait, make that three!

The Dying Earth anthology is finally out. My story "To Climb by the Light of the Sputtering Sun" was written specifically for the antho. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the only full short story I wrote in 2018. (I wrote some flash and micro fiction, not to mention the draft of one novel and a major revision of another. But only the one short story.)

We had a lot of discussion in the forums about what the Dying Earth subgenre really is. A lot of people, even knowledgeable writers, conflated it with your standard apocalyptic, end-of-the-world kinds of stories. But these have a different flavor, a mood and feeling of the world as an old, old place, where powerful technologies have been invented and lost countless times so that the line between what the characters think of as magic and what they consider science becomes blurred. It's a really fun space to explore. The writers in the antho just got our digital copies of the book the other day, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the other writers addressed it.

My story involves a team of scavengers, mistrusted by the other citizens of their aging city. But when the power goes out in the city, they're given the task to search for the magical? technological? parts to restore the electricity.

Be sure to pick up your copy of the Dying Earth anthology today!

Second, you can listen to me read one of my flash fiction stories at Beth Turnage's website. A few months ago, a group of us sat down and wrote entries for the Weird Christmas contest. None of us were chosen, but we got to talking and liked the idea of hearing each other read our own stories. Only problem for me: I fully expect to find a paying market for my piece and am planning to send it out again on submission. And releasing a recording of it would turn it into a reprint. So I went back for a suitably holiday-themed reprint of my own and read my story "Letter to Santa from a Budding Mad Scientist," which was published in Splickety Magazine a few years ago.

It isn't often you get to listen to me read my own work, so enjoy!

And last but not least, last year's SFFWorld anthology was the superhero-themed Pacific City shared-world anthology. It includes my story "Over Sea, Under Surveillance," about people who want to be left alone and a high tech government who won't let them. This leads to the origin story of a new superhero of the ocean.

The anthology is free for two days only...and one of those days is already past. So hurry for your chance to get a copy of the anthology, full of a wide range of superheroes fighting to save the city. Or maybe fighting the city to save something else.

Happy reading, whatever holidays you choose to celebrate!

Friday, December 06, 2019

The next Lyrical Worlds newsletter

I knew a newsletter going out at the start of the week would just get lost in Cyber Monday sales pitches (and yikes, I knew it would be bad, but it seemed like a lot more than other years this time...). So the December newsletter will be going out early next week.

You shouldn't miss this month's. In addition to news and the like, this month will include a seasonal story, "A Winter Solstice Sun,"--and it will even include some fan art that I was given around the time it was first published. Here's a teaser of a portion of that picture:

What? There's got to be a story around that. And there is. So subscribe to the newsletter now so you can not only read the story but also find out just how that all came about. My subscriber numbers have doubled in the past month. I'd love to see it double again--join in so you don't miss out!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Story sale! "Carnival Days and Days" to Daily Science Fiction

Quick news that I've sold this flash fiction story, a sort of trapped-by-forces-beyond-our-control horror/fantasy story. With clowns. It will be my fourth story in DSF.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

2019 eligibility post

Lots of posts going up on Twitter about this year's eligibility for various awards, etc. I have two more short stories that I'm expecting to come out before the end of the year, so I'll add those in tentatively and update it with links, new stories if any, and deletions if necessary (there's also a forthcoming story in DSF that I haven't even announced yet, but I suspect that won't be out until the new year):

Short stories:
"The Scapegoat Village" in Kaleidotrope
"Amid Stone and Sun, an Alias" in Mirror Dance
"To Climb by the Light of the Sputtering Sun" in SFFWorld's Dying Earth anthology (hopefully out by the end of the year)
"Heroes Never Die" flash fiction in Frozen Wavelets (first issue is currently rolling out, so...possibly by the end of the year)

And then my collection Cities of Wonder, Rails of Irreality included some reprints and also these previously unpublished short/flash stories:

"City of Animals"
"The Singing Caves"
"The City of Corpses"
"City of Letters"
"The City of Lost Voices"

and it includes these previously unpublished poems:

"The Locus of All Rails"
"The People of Train Smoke"
"The Fossils of Yahm"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

“The Game” in the Lyrical Worlds newsletter

I mentioned in my November Lyrical Worlds newsletter that I would share pictures of the original publication of the reprinted story in it, "The Game."

Fictitious Force had a unique shape. I suppose it was simply folded the other direction (hotdog bun style instead of hamburger bun style, as I used to explain to kids), but it definitely makes it stand out in my box of contributor copies. The cover for this issue was even inspired by my story, so that's a cool thing.

The story itself is a rather jaded take on the political process...sort of. Or else it's a cynical take on office culture and the things people engage in outside of work to keep life meaningful. But really it's a fantasy story of a fantastical city where everything is decided by a game of numbers, skill, intrigue, and subterfuge.

Or as a friend used to say about all his stories when forced to explain them: you know, a love story.

This issue had quite the table of contents. Some of these are writers I haven't heard from since then, but many have established themselves as prolific and award winning writers. Contributors, in addition to myself were Aliette de Bodard, Ian Whates, Michael Merriam, Brian K. Derkson, Michele Winkler, Anetta Ribken, Brian Dotlon, Cheryl McCreary, Mari Ness, Sarah Monette, Kurt Kirchmeier, and Michelle Scott.

So if you've signed up for the Lyrical Worlds newsletter, be sure to open that email and give the story a read. If you haven't signed up yet, sign up now and then send me a quick email saying you'd like to have the November issue as well as future ones.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Dying Earth cover art

I announced a story sale to this anthology some months ago, and at the time it was expected to come out fairly soon, but there were some delays in getting to publication.

Now it's finally getting close to publication, and we recently were sent the cover art. Looking good!

I'm excited to get a peek inside the antho once it's out, so keep your eyes peeled here, at SFFWorld, and elsewhere for news on when it actually comes out.

Monday, November 04, 2019

November newsletter almost ready to go out.

Here's what could be in your inbox soon...

This newsletter includes a short story that has never appeared online before, a story that appeared (I'm just rediscovering now) alongside some now well known, award-winning short story writers. So if you haven't signed up for the newsletter yet, do so soon.

And check your spam folders. The test emails, at least, are getting sent to my spam folder in Outlook... So if you don't think you got an email after signing up, check again!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Lyrical Worlds newsletter--sign up now!

And there it is, hinted at a few weeks ago and now live: the Lyrical Worlds newsletter.

Lyrical Worlds will be the key way to get the latest news about my stories, poems, novels, etc. I'll still share links here on the blog, but the monthly newsletter will be a simpler format to update readers on everything strange and wondrous happening with my writing.

Free books!

And just for signing up, you'll get two free books. One is a Spire City novel, the first season of the Spire City series. The other is a booklet that looks behind the scenes at The Silk Betrayal and the Arcist Chronicles.

But wait, there's more!

It's a newsletter, but it isn't just about news. I've had stories and poems published going back almost twenty years now. Many of those were in print zines that are no longer published. Others were online at one time, but the pages have disappeared and the links gone dark. Some of them will be very early writing that you'd think I'd be embarrassed to be read.

But you'd be wrong. I have no shame.

OK, maybe I do... There are probably some stories and poems that I won't bring back out of oblivion.

Others will be stories I'm still very proud of, stories and poems that I don't want anyone to miss out on. So don't unsubscribe after you get your free ebooks. The first reprint, in November, will be a story that's never appeared online, a strangely off-kilter fantasy that you shouldn't miss.

So sign up now!

All you have to do is enter your email in the form below. Don't worry, I won't use your email address for anything except to send the newsletters through the Mailerlite automated system. Just make sure you check your spam filters for a confirmation email. And then check your spam filters again if you don't get the email with a link to your free books.

And, of course, stay subscribed to the newsletter so you can get the monthly updates and delightful reprints, and the occasional special deals!

And thanks in advance for signing up!

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

New place, same as the old place

Well, look at that. This is a brand new website. One that...looks exactly like the old one, for now anyway. Updating it to is just one of the behind-the-scenes things I've been working on.

In other news, The Roots of Betrayal has now been fully revised, tweaked, polished, torn apart, put back together, etc. and is now in the hands of the publisher. While I started working on the novel soon after The Silk Betrayal came out, it has especially consumed my writing time over the past few months (which may explain my lack of blogging). I don't have any other news about that to share yet, no idea of the timeline or anything. But pleased to at least get to this point.

["Psst," you say. "There's something about a newsletter up in the right-hand column, what's that about?"
"Something still coming, but hopefully more on that soon!"]

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Faux newspaper of Spire City

Looking through the ads I'd created for the Spire City stories, I came across this image that I'd forgotten about. I probably created it between writing Season 1 and Season 2, long before the series was picked up by Musa.

It's the same newspaper masthead that I've posted before, but there's an entire article, written as if those who are infected are merely delusional. Not that the infections aren't real, but that the effects described in the episodes are imagined.

The font (done on an old computer I no longer use, so I don't recall the name) mimics the way older printing used an s that looks to us more like an f (sometimes), and some other differences from modern printing. That's from a considerably earlier time period than the late Victorian-ish era of the stories, but still fun to play with.

Not the easiest to read, though...

If you puzzle through the odd letters, it's a fun tongue-in-cheek look at how those in power might undermine the claims of those infected by Orgood's serum.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Short story sale to SFFWorld's Dying Earth anthology

My story "To Climb by the Light of the Sputtering Sun" will be appearing in SFFWorld's Dying Earth anthology. Dying Earth may make you think of Jack Vance's far future stories. The anthology isn't meant as a pastiche of or tribute to his work, but that is that basic milieu for these stories, that sense of a far future world, a sun that is old, a place filled with the memories and weight of thousands of generations of people.

The full Table of Contents hasn't been announced yet, but I know that Matthew Hughes (rightly seen as an heir of sorts to Jack Vance--his penultimate-age-of-the-earth stories are fun, droll stories that I often recommend) and Sue Burke (whose novel Semiosis is generating a lot of buzz on award shortlists and recommended reading lists) will be included.

I'm very curious to see the approaches other writers took to this theme. I'll write more about my story when we get closer to publication time (which should be in just a few months, if all goes as planned).

Friday, May 31, 2019

Spire City faux ad (+social media blah blah)

The people of Spire City need to be able to travel sometimes, like anywhere else.


By the way, I've been blog silent for a while as I've been doing a variety of things in the background. The truth is that blogging feels like a carryover from an earlier time. Speaking with other writers, many nonfiction writers find it to be an essential part of their platform. Speaking to fiction writers...many don't. I've been on Twitter for years, ever since I sold a Twitter-serial to Thaumatrope something like 10 years ago, but I've always found that too overwhelming to be helpful. I always resisted creating a separate author page on Facebook from my regular one—I'm an open book, folks—but some other writers convinced me I should create a writer page to be able to make use of some of Facebook's tools. So I have a new page at Not a lot there yet, but planning to try my hand at that for now. I'm also dipping my toes in Instagram: I had an account there at some point, it looks like. Probably some app I used and didn't even realize it was adding pictures to Instagram. But I'll be putting things up there regularly too.

It doesn't mean I'm abandoning my blog. I'll still post updates when new stories sell (in fact I'll have a new announcement soon, once I'm cleared to begin talking about it!) and new things published. And I'll cross post some of what ends up on those other pages here. But if you're one of the blogging holdouts like me (or just happen across this blog for whatever other reason), you may want to follow me on those other sites as well.

I'd love to see you joining me over there!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Cities of Wonder, Rails of Irreality ebook available for pre-order

So you've been curious about this chapbook but wanting the ebook version instead? Well, National Poetry Month is an excellent time to give it a try. It combines poems, some previously published and some new, with poetic flash-story prose into something that I think you'll find entertaining.

And now the Kindle version is available for pre-order and will be released next week Tuesday. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you'll be able to read it for free. And even if you don't, consider buying a copy for your phone/tablet/ereader or whatever.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, April 08, 2019

Short story published in Mirror Dance

My story "Amid Sun and Stone, an Alias," is in the latest issue of Mirror Dance. I've longed enjoyed the stories written by the editor of Mirror Dance, Megan Arkenberg, and kept thinking I should submit a story...and never got around to it before sending in this one.

This story is a lyrical fantasy that I wrote...quite a few years ago, I guess. I was trying to capture a flavor of mythic writing that I was enjoying in various novels and stories at the time, and ended up with this story of a woman who flees her home, but leaves behind her name. And names, as any reader of fairy knows, are far more important than we humans might imagine, whether it's the name we're given or the ones we choose for ourselves.

The writers in the issue were asked to share any writing advice they might like. So read to the end, and you'll see my advice, coming from the world of improv comedy. (Not that I'm a stand-up comedian, mind you...)

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Faux ad of Spire City--entertainment!

Spire City isn't only infections, callous wealthy, and dirty alleys and tunnels. People can enjoy themselves here. When they aren't running for their lives... So maybe they'll even get a chance to hear this traveling troupe:

Like the last ad, this is a multi-column ad. Clearly a high budget campaign.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Spire City 50% off sale!

If you want to patronize stores outside the Amazon milieu, Smashwords is a great source for buying ebooks. This week is Read an Ebook Sale at Smashwords, and all my Spire City novels/seasons are on sale there. Season One: Infected, Season Two: Pursued, and Season Three: Unwoven are each 50% off.

One week only!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Faux ad of Spire City: Banking!

Where do the people of Spire City go for their banking? Probably not here if they have the steampunk equivalent of a good credit score... But if not, this is the place to go. This is one of the ads that would have crossed multiple columns of the Spire Song's news stories and cheap serials.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Cities of Wonder copies have arrived

Doing print copies through KDP's print-on-demand service (as with Createspace previously) always gives you this moment of wondering how the final product will look. You can examine the pdfs all you want, launch the viewer, order proof copies. But until you have the final version in hand, it always feels a little surreal, a little too unknown.

So I love finally getting my hands on copies of the books. I'm impressed with the quality of the books KDP produces. These chapbooks look very good, inside and out.

Get your copy today!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Return of the Spire City ads

Lots of talk about ads today... Here are some very different kinds of advertising.

It was roughly 11 years ago when I began the pre-writing for the Spire City episodes, dreaming up the characters, the effects of their terrible infections, and details of the city itself. Early on I had the idea to have an in-world explanation that these episodes were appearing, serialized, in some pulp newspaper within the same setting. I even created letterhead for the newspaper:

That was fun to create. I started playing around with other grunge and distressed fonts. Of course, the official claim is that these infections are something natural, that the warnings of those who are infected arise from delusions caused by the same infection. So I created this warning to appear within the pages of the newspaper as well. It likely appeared on lamp-posts throughout the city as well.

For those who've read the stories, you know how cruelly false "easily treatable" is...

Anyway, I kept playing around with free images and various fonts and came up with dozens of in-world ads to appear alongside the episodes. They're meant to they'd appear in a cheap newspaper, nothing fancy. I've always loved when writers create in-world...things, realia to go along with the story. It gives the story world an extra dimension, extra weight as it were.

I've shared some of the single-column ads on my blog before, though I had to go back quite a few years to find the latest. I'm planning to continue sharing more of them in the weeks ahead. But first, here are all the ads that I've already shared. You can follow this link to see the original posts for each one as well as new ads in the series. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cities of Wonder, Trains of Irreality released!

This has been sneaking along beneath the surface for awhile now, but at last I can make it official.

This collection/chapbook of flash stories and poems is now available!

Going back over ten years, I began playing around with the idea of a narrative approach that combines Italo Calvino's arch fabulist descriptions of imaginary cities (and other places/ideas) with Lord Dunsany's languid and dreamy fantasy stories, such as "Idle Days on the Yann." Toss in a railroad and some metaphysical playfulness, and the first story of the series, "City of Games," was published. Others followed, expanding on the original but each its own story, playing with the ideas of meaning and language through the cities that line the fabled rails of Yahm. Some were longer, pushing into the short story range, and some were poems, but most fall right around 1,000 words. Perfect for a quick dip of a read between other time commitments.

For a long time I thought it'd be fun to have a chapbook collection of all those stories. So after weighing various options, I decided to release them now, in print form only. (I'll likely eventually re-format it for kindle and/or other e-versions.)

I'll put up a tab soon with the full table of contents. The collection is roughly half previously published and half completely new. The previous publications include flash fiction that appeared in Raven Electrick Ink's Sporty Spec and Cinema Spec as well as Kaleidotrope and the INDIEpendence anthology plus a poem that appeared in Strange Horizons.

So whether you're an Italo Calvino fan, a Lord Dunsany fan, or simply want to try out some of my writing in a short format (or maybe all three), order your copy of Cities of Wonder, Rails of Irreality today!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hopepunk? Do we really need a label like that?

While I was traveling recently I happened to read the Vox think piece about "Hopepunk." The (genre-ish) label was coined by Alexandra Rowland, so I followed up later reading on Twitter some of her thoughts on it, her elaborations and explanations.

Hmm, what to make of it?

I both like and dislike the idea, but definitely like the discussions that the label leads to.

So first, what don't I like? Well...the main thing is that I wonder if it's necessary. Must we label and define every sub-category of literary approaches? It reminds me of the old discussion forums that Nightshade Books hosted long ago. I came along a few years too late for all the animated New Weird discussions, but the effects of those discussions still haunted portions of the site. Is this really something new and noteworthy? Can we just allow writers to write what intrigues them without trying to label and define it?

Now...I happened to like New Weird, and really I found that the discussions helped lead me to discover new works and new writers I enjoyed. But I sympathize with the idea that the act of labeling can put restrictions on the writers. If New Weird had devolved into Bugs 'n Drugs, as some dismissively called it, then it would have been a pointless distinction. (Instead it just...fffaded away, and now it's rare to find anyone willing to claim the label. Which is maybe better than a restricting label. But still...)

So I guess my dislike is the fear that "hopepunk" turns into some label for people to wrangle over, some sub-genre that turns its fans inward instead of outward. This work isn't hopepunk enough. That work isn't hopepunk at all, so I won't bother reading it. Mindless insularity and border policing, the very things I've resisted in the broader fields of fantasy, SF, literature in general.

But...that's simply a potential pitfall for now.

So what do I like about it?

I recognize what I've been trying to do in my writing for years, for one.

I never felt a strong draw toward grimdark. Some works that get labeled that have been good, but as a label, it doesn't excite me, and I never saw myself trying to make my name within its confines. It wasn't so much a dislike of the idea as simply a lack of any real connection to the themes.

Then noblebright came along, and...meh. Again, it wasn't so much that I was adamantly against anything that might be labeled that, but rather that I didn't feel any connection with the underlying push. Can a good story have a character inspired by ideals who isn't narratively punished for that? Sure. In fact, much that I've written would probably fit that very minimalist definition, but I've never felt like it was really noblebright.

What piqued my interest in hopepunk was the idea of resisting, of recognizing the awful things in the world and not letting that lead to despair. Of fighting against a darkness that will probably win in the end, but maybe not. No matter how the story ends up (in a Tolkien-style eucatastrophe--a surprising victory when failure seemed assured; a true failure; a bittersweet victory; a well earned triumph), it's in those moments of not knowing but continuing on that make a story compelling. Often my favorite stories to read are favorites for that very reason, for the beleaguered travelers who keep going, the doomed rebel soldiers who fight on, the underground resisters who know they're likely to end up arrested by the Nazis but who help hide the Jewish refugees even so.

Way back when Musa was publishing my Spire City serials, I wrote a guest blog about keeping the punk part of steampunk, about keeping the focus of the story on those who are being ground down by society. (That post later ended up, slightly modified, as the author intro to the collected Season Two: Pursued.) I think that fits well with the conversations around hopepunk and together they form a part of what I always try to touch on in my writing. In Spire City, it's a group of homeless people, poor and infected by a mad scientists' deadly serum. In The Silk Betrayal, the character who gives the novel its main arc isn't at first interested in that--Pavresh is mid-caste and comfortable and only wants to learn the performance magic Chaitan has discovered/invented. But in many ways it's the story of Pavresh becoming concerned with those things, becoming a part of the dreamers who want (and fight for) a better society. It's no coincidence that many of them come from a much lower position in society, and some do lose hope in the face of failure and betrayal. But that's a part of the arc of the story, and some fight on, no matter the cost.

I hope that hopepunk continues to be one lens to look at stories through. But not a genre label. I hope there are no anthologies of hopepunk, no raging battles over what is and isn't a member of the club. Not a definition to constrain how writers write their stories, but a way to look and see those stories after they're written. With everything going on in the world, stories of hope and even hopepunk have an important role so we don't give in to mindless fascism, greed, and despair.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

New story! "The Scapegoat Village" in Kaleidotrope

Starting off the year* with a new short story published in Kaleidotrope, my 5th story in that magazine (two back when it was a print zine and now three in the online version). "The Scapegoat Village" is a lyrical, stylish sort of fantasy—I was playing around with a particular narrative distance when I wrote it.

What else to say as background to the story? It was inspired in part by the origin of the word scapegoat, where a goat would be sent out from the village, symbolically carrying the villagers' sins/faults/failures, into the desert to be punished where that punishment wouldn't harm the people. What an awful thing for the poor goat, right? There's something evocative yet terrible about that image that always caught my attention.

I should also mention the Spanish headings to the story. They mean "The Disillusionment," "The Reaction," "The Idealism," and "The Wisdom." But there's more than just their English meanings to including them. The Spanish for disillusionment is one of those words I can remember precisely when and where I learned it—it was in discussing the decadence of what's called the Golden Age of Spanish literature and art (16th-17th century or so). One of the characteristics of the age was recognizing the falseness of their empire's glory, becoming disillusioned with it.

If you think about the word "disillusion," you can see it's basically "no longer believing the illusion," but I don't think most of us think it through that way entirely, in English at least. We just hear the word. For me, as a Spanish student, the connection to "engaƱo"—which I'd learned as deception, hoax, scam—made that meaning much clearer. Disillusionment isn't merely seeing the truth after not being aware of it, it's seeing the truth after being deliberately fooled by some outside force. It's The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" (which I'm not too proud to admit I first learned from the Van Halen version back in high school...).

So I always liked the Spanish word and felt it captured something that's missing or overlooked in the English word. The other headings were simply chosen to follow through on that, creating a progression from that moment of disillusionment, of un-hoaxing.

*(And yes, the way these first days of the year have gone with a new puppy in the house, this is still very much the start of the year...)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Silk Betrayal: sneak peek, Roots of Betrayal

And now we have come to the end of this past month’s celebration of The Silk Betrayal. Thank you for joining with me in this series of posts, and be sure to get yourself a copy of the novel and a few more to share. Encourage your local library to purchase it. Review the book, mention it on social media, and all the rest. You have my thanks for any part of that you do.

In thanks, then, I’d like to present to you a brief sneak peek at the sequel, the second book in The Arcist Chronicles. Fair warning, this has been smoothed out and cleaned up some, but it is still in a fundamental way a rough draft. I do not know when I will have the novel fully revised and ready to send to beta readers or my publisher Guardbridge Books. I do not know when it might be published.

The novel is tentatively titled The Roots of Betrayal, and one of the threads of the story is a growing doubt in the accepted story of the land’s past. The first few chapters would all require a spoiler warning for book 1, but chapter 5 introduces us to a new character—Harkala is a middle-aged scholar with a reputation for eccentricity. Her latest discovery could put her rivals to shame and prove her standing as one of the valley’s great scholars. Or may only lead to her own embarrassment.

So here is the opening scene of chapter 5. Enjoy!

Chapter 5 
The sea wind shook the paper in Harkala’s hands so she could scarcely read it. But no matter, she knew it by heart, the old words, the oddly structured description that no one had been able to decipher. No one until she had. 
Six hundred and fifty years ago, the first people of Eghsal had fled the Forgotten South. Had come to Eghsal. Even the name they’d given the valley was an old version of the word exile, if she was correct. They’d arrived in their boats here, not far from the mouth of the Eghsal River. 
Was it a thousand people who’d come through those terrible waters to land here? Two thousand? Most scholars placed it somewhere between those numbers. Shouldn’t it be even higher, though? By her calculations there must have been more than ten thousand, and even then those first settlers would have been extraordinarily fertile. 
And that meant, what, fifty huge ships at least. But a smaller ship might have made it through the rough seas more easily, from what she knew of modern fishing boats, anyway. So probably hundreds of ships arriving. 
Then where had so many ships ended up? They couldn’t have all been buried in the silt of the river mouth or turned into the first buildings of Jarnur. Somewhere there must be remains of the ships. 
The only clue was in a silk paper record from a century or more after the fact. No one had been able to figure out what it meant, though, not until she had the chance to study that scrap of ancient silk. 
She scrambled up a rise, pausing halfway to the top to examine the soil. She gestured to her student Nakhil, a would-be scholar from a low caste nefli family. 
“See this?” The rock had a characteristic white line rippling along its surface for a ways. “This was a riverbank once. The Eghsal River shifted from here to its current bed.” 
Nakhil bent down to see. “When, tisrah? Aren’t these rocks far older?” 
“Thousands of years, that’s what the other scholars say.” Harkala waved them away with her empty hand. “Is that what you were going to suggest? Well, what if it wasn’t so long ago? The salty sea wind ages everything faster, buildings and boats but soil and rock as well. The river flowed through here far more recently than anyone realizes.” 
But six hundred years ago? Seeing the rocks, Harkala felt a voice of doubt. What if it wasn’t the age of the rocks she should question but the time since the ancestors arrived. Add a thousand years to that, and the story required far fewer settlers, far fewer ships. No. She shook her head to clear the thought away. Now was not the time to stumble after some new errant idea, not when she was so close to proving herself as a true scholar. 
Nakhil straightened and studied the line of where the river must have gone down toward the sea. No one born to scholarship would have submitted to being mentored by such an eccentric teacher, so she often drew students who were outside the normal. In the case of Nakhil she’d lucked out. The young man was quick to listen and eager to follow her lead. Those were the key skills she required. He could think for himself, too, which was a pleasant bonus. 
“And if the river mouth was along here instead of its current location, then this description makes far more sense.” She waved the paper in her hand, her own copy of the scrap of silk. Knowing the ancient path of the river alone didn’t explain everything in the paper. She’d also had to translate an archaic measurement the settlers had used, and their compasses must have all been shifted slightly off true, perhaps by the iron of the mountains. 
She sighted her compass, making the adjustment for the ancient error, and set off along what had once been riverbank. 
Farming had altered the land, even after the river’s course changed. Rows of gourds and shell beans lined the ancient ridge, and grape vineyards stood closer to the current river, where the air was warmer. 
The ancestors would have brought the ships up the river this far, the paper suggested. 
Perhaps they wanted to salvage some of the timber or perhaps they hoped to protect them from the storms of the shoreline, as if they might find a way to go back into that unforgiving sea and return to the Forgotten South. Whatever the reason, the remains of the ships should be a short way in from where the banks had been. 
At least, she hoped to prove as much. Then let the other scholars laugh. 
“Right here,” she told Nakhil, scanning the ground ahead. The dirt was especially rich here, so that a fair-sized bowl of a valley, shallow but clearing lower than the surrounding land, grew an abundance of crops. “There would have been an oxbow of some kind, or other stagnant offshoot of water. You can see the shape of it in the fields themselves.” 
“Did they sink the ships, then? Do we have to dig beneath the fields?” 
Harkala shook her head. “Not if I read this scrap right. It seems to indicate that they pulled the ships out of the water and stored them in a protected...area of some kind. I can’t make that out. What do you see nearby?” 
Nakhil strode in among the mounds of carrots and cabbage and peered across. Harkala focused on a rougher patch of ground to the southeast of the fields. The remains of the ships could have stayed undiscovered there, as it looked like land that had never been excavated. It didn’t exactly match her recreation of the silk paper, but perhaps she’d misunderstood part of it. 
Nakhil pointed at a different location, a flat-topped ridge that marched down to the field. 
“If this looked like I imagine it did, wouldn’t that be a better, more protected space?” 
It did fit the description in the silk paper better. She looked down at her copy and back at the ridge. The location was a better fit, at least, but the ridge was much too small. “For the number of ships we’re talking, it had to be a bigger area.” Another glance between paper and ridge. “But we should check it out, at least. Let’s take a look straight across here first. If we get stuck, we’ll head over that way.” 
Stuck? Stuck was a mild word for the morass they found themselves in where Harkala had hoped to find her evidence. An early plow blade had been the first evidence that it was less pristine than she had hoped. Some early settlers had planted terraces around the massive boulders that surely hadn’t moved in thousands of years. Whether they’d managed to grow anything, Harkala doubted, unless the change in the river’s course had swept most of the fertile soil away. What soil remained blew away with a simply brush of the tools the servants carried. Beneath was only solid rock. 
No stray timber left behind by rotting ships. No indication at all that the ships had ever been anywhere near the area. 
The laughter of her fellow scholars echoed hollowly in her mind. She could already see the covered smiles of those who’d never liked her and the embarrassed way her few one-time allies turned away upon seeing her. 
No, there were more sections to examine. She mustn’t give in.

Will she give in? Will she find the evidence of long lost ships from a distant land? What does her story have to do with the surviving characters from The Silk Betrayal? What is the connection to arcist magic? The answers are in the sequel, The Roots of Betrayal.