It is my pleasure to present the April 2011 Free Fiction Sampler, a collection of excerpts and sample chapters from novels written by authors you love or may yet have to discover. Special thanks to the authors and publishers who have given me permission to link to the pieces listed below.
The Free Fiction Sampler is Underwords’ way of bringing authors, books, and readers together in one convenient location. This Sampler contains 27 authors as well as excerpts and chapters from 30 different books. Feel free to browse, read the book blurbs, visit their websites, and access the samples. Above all, I hope you find new books and authors to love.
Be sure to check out January 2011’s Free Fiction Sampler if you haven’t already see it. Enjoy!
Note: That the Free Fiction Sampler is arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name. Each sample contains 3 links: 1) the author’s name will take you to her web site, 2) the book’s title will take you to the sample chapter or excerpt, and 3) the book’s cover will take you to an online store where you can buy the book.
- Passion Play – Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive. When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever. And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.
- The Remembering, Book 3 of the MEQ – For thousands of years the Meq have existed side by side with humanity—appearing as twelve-year-old children, unsusceptible to wounds and disease, dying only by extraordinary means. They have survived through the rise and fall of empires and emperors, through explorations, expansions, and war. Five sacred stones give a few of them mystical powers, but not the power to understand a long-destined event called the Remembering. In the aftermath of the nuclear bombing of Japan in 1945, Zianno Zezen finds himself alone, while the fate of the other Meq and his beloved Opari, carrier of the Stone of Blood, is unknown. But Z’s archenemy, the Fleur-du-Mal, survives. In the next half century Z will reunite with far-flung friends both Meq and human, as American and Soviet spies vie to steal and harness the powers and mysteries of the timeless children. With the day of the Remembering rapidly approaching, Z must interpret the strange writing on an ancient etched stone sphere. In those markings, Z will discover messages within messages and begin a journey to the truth about his people and himself. Lyrical and mesmerizing, The Remembering spans the world and history, from the first humans to a secret that has never been told before. The Remembering is the moving saga of the Meq—their purpose, past, and future among us.
- Teeth – Vampire Tales: “Introduction” by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors; “Things to Know About Being Dead” by Genevieve Valentine; and “All Smiles” by Steve Berman – Fascinated by vampires? Then feast on nineteen tantalizing, bite-sized tales exploring the intersections between the living, dead, and undead. The vampires in these stories range from romantic to chilling to gleeful—and touch on nearly every emotion in between. The one thing they have in common is their desire for blood. . . . Stories from: Genevieve Valentine, Steve Berman, Christopher Barzak, Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Garth Nix, Suzy McKee Charnas, Kaaron Warren, Cecil Castellucci, Jeffrey Ford, Nathan Ballingrud, Kathe Koja, Catherynne M. Valente, Melissa Marr, Ellen Kushner, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Lucius Shepard, Emma Bull, and Tanith Lee
- Finder – Each key has a story. Each key unlocks a secret. They are yours, my dashi. My Zihariel. Your birthright. Your heritage. I pass them on to you as they were passed on to me, as they have been passed through the generations. Keep them safe. Keep them close. Remember my words, dashi. As long as you have them, you are no one’s slave. Survival along Therk’s seedy coast is precarious. Hounds rule the streets with fear and fists. Former highwaymen now call themselves Merchants. Spices, rare since the desert swallowed the Spice Way, are forbidden to all but the wealthy and powerful.
- Cosmocopia – Frank Lazorg, the dean of fantasy illustrators, has gone mad. His art fails him, his mistress spurns him, and younger rivals threaten to eclipse him. Is it any wonder he eagerly takes a new drug that promises to reinvigorate him, as both man and artist? He is plunged into a world inhabited by monstrous parodies of humanity, living in a culture that bears a skewed resemblance to his own world.
- Waking Nightmares: A Peter Octavian Novel – Peter Octavian, once a vampire, now a powerful mage, has been living a quiet life in San Francisco. But when the barrier that used to prevent demons and monsters from entering the world have fallen, Octavian is compelled to do what he can to hold back the darkness.
- The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild – The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things even he couldn’t set down in writing. Terrifying, mysterious, bizarre, and magical —these are the Secret Journeys of Jack London. We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could have ever imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts. Jack’s survival will depend on his ability to quell the demons within himself as much as those without.
- A Discovery of Witches – Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
- Hell Hole – Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a new home on Hellhole. Reeling from a recent asteroid impact, tortured with horrific storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and churning volcanic eruptions, the planet is a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans…but also a haven for dreamers and independent pioneers. Against all odds, an exiled general named Adolphus has turned Hellhole into a place of real opportunity for the desperate colonists who call the planet their home. While the colonists are hard at work developing the planet, General Adolphus secretly builds alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds, forming a clandestine coalition against the tyrannical, fossilized government responsible for their exile. What no one knows is this: the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides an amazing secret. Deep beneath its surface lies the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization and the buried memories of its unrecorded past that, when unearthed, could tear the galaxy apart.
- Goblin Quest, Chapter 1 – When Jig’s patrol is ambushed by a group of adventurers, he does what goblins do best: throws down his weapon and surrenders. Thus begins Jig’s quest, as the adventurers force him to serve as their guide through the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the mountain. Led by Prince Barius Wendelson, their goal is an ancient magical artifact, hidden here ages past. As the group moves deeper into the tunnels, Jig finds himself face to face with creatures of goblin legend: ogres, trolls, not to mention the long-dead servants of the dreaded Necromancer, all leading to one final, deadly battle. To survive, Jig will have to find a way to combine heroism with his own goblin ideals. The result is an unpredictable adventure that will leave readers cheering this unlikeliest of heroes and questioning some of the most basic traditions of fantasy quests.
- The Stepsister Scheme (Princess Novels, Book 1) – What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels? What’s delivered is The Stepsister Scheme—a whole new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. And with Jim C. Hines penning the tale readers can bet it won’t be “and they lived happily ever after.”
- The Snow Queen’s Shadow (Princess Novels, Book 4) – A broken mirror. A stolen child. A final mission to try to stop an enemy they never dreamed they would face. When a spell gone wrong shatters Snow White’s enchanted mirror, a demon escapes into the world. The demon’s magic distorts the vision of all it touches, showing them only ugliness and hate. It is a power which turns even friends and lovers into mortal foes, one which will threaten humans and fairies alike. And the first to fall under the demon’s power is the princess Snow White.
- The Screaming Season, A Possessions Novel – The gutsy heroine of Possessions and The Evil Within returns for another year of boarding school at the haunted Marlwood Academy. Lindsay wakes to find herself strapped down in the infirmary. She had a breakdown and might have tried to kill her nemesis Mandy or Mandys boyfriend, Troyor both. The details are hazy, but one thing is certain: she is possessed by a spirit she cannot trust. Lindsay soon realizes that nowhere on campus is safe. Then, she finds a surprising ally in her former rival. Together, Lindsay and Mandy must figure out who can be trustedand who wants them dead. But when Lindsays ex-boyfriend shows up at Marlwood, she is given a chance to get away and be free of the curse. Will she take Rileys hand and run, or team up with a new love to save Marlwood from the evil spirits forever?
- The Broken Kingdoms, Chapter One – In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree’s guest is at the heart of it…
- Near Death, Power of the Blood World – The second book in Kilpatrick’s Power of the Blood World, NEAR DEATH is the story of the vampire David Lyle Hardwick – a poet who for over a centruy has lived in the unholy world of the undead, resiting his thirst for blood. Zero, a beautiful, wounded mortal, is sent to destroy him but falls for his seductive power and together they set out in search of his enemies. As their torrid love affair grows, so too does David’s unspeakable tormented desire. He is becoming Nosferatu, and when his fury is unleashed who will be safe, not even his own kind…
- Desideria, Prologe – When Ange St. Loup is brought unconscious to the madhouse of the Amaranth, she is outlandishly dressed, covered with scorches from the building she burned and bruises from jumping out one of its windows, and her mouth is sewn shut. And that is all she knows. Even as her memory returns to her, and she begins to piece together the puzzle of her life as an actress in the theatre Lady Minerva, every answer only raises further questions, and at the heart of them remain the ones she has no answers for. Answers that might explain what she was doing in an alley, by night, outside a burning building, with her face mutilated and her mind in tatters. Which version of the story is the truth? Is it Ange’s own, despite the amnesia that only gives back her past in fragments? Is it the madhouse warders’, which paints Ange as a murderer, or the prioress’s, which paints her as insane? Is it the one that returns to Ange piecemeal, over time, growing only more sinister as it inches toward completion? Or is the truth something more complex, more dangerous, than anything that Ange can even grasp?
- Triptych, Chapter 1 – The Winter Triptych is a story plucked from a tapestry’s thread. In one panel Liese is a scullery maid working in Queenskeep, where tragedy and treason have ruled for one hundred years. In the night, she chases ghosts up a winding stair. There, in another, Isele is a traitor’s hope, and here a huntsman seeks to unwind them from a curse’s knot. The panels flow together as the story unfolds, until ghosts and curses collide at the top of the Keep.
- Pink Noise – One of the best brain doctors of his time, Nathi lost his own brain five centuries ago when he became a posthuman. He is now called upon to save a comatose girl. The damage is extensive, so he decides to map his own mind into her brain in order to replace the damaged part. But something unexpected awaits him within the girl’s brain. She is a carrier of a Wish Fairy, an enigmatic sentient cyberbeing whose only purpose is to kill the Wish, a virus used to enslave all posthuman minds, including Nathi’s. Liberated, Nathi forms a symbiotic union with the girl, discovers the true cause of her brain injury, and finds a way to break out of the Castle, their high-tech prison, and into the Martian polar night. But once outside, the real chase begins. It is a battle that must be fought both in the physical world and that of the mind.
- Huntress – Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance. To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
- The Warlord’s Legacy – Corvis Rebaine, the Terror of the East, a man as quick with a quip as he is with a blade, returns in this highly anticipated sequel to Ari Marmell’s acclaimed The Conqueror’s Shadow, a debut hailed for its refreshing take on dark fantasy and surprising flashes of sharp, sarcastic wit. Now Marmell raises the stakes in a story that has all the humor and excitement of its predecessor, plus a terrifying new villain so evil that he may well be a match for Rebaine himself. For let’s not forget how Corvis Rebaine came by the charming nickname “Terror of the East.” Certainly no one else has forgotten. Corvis Rebaine is no hero. In his trademark suit of black armor and skull-like helm, armed with a demon-forged axe, in command of a demonic slave, and with allies that include a bloodthirsty ogre, Rebaine has twice brought death and destruction to Imphallion in pursuit of a better, more equitable and just society. If he had to kill countless innocents in order to achieve that dream, so be it. At least that was the old Rebaine. Before he slew the mad warlord Audriss. Before he banished the demon Khanda. Before he lost his wife and children, who could not forgive or forget his violent crimes. Now, years later, Rebaine lives in a distant city, under a false name, a member of one of the Guilds he despises, trying to achieve change nonviolently, from within the power structure. Not even when the neighboring nation of Cephira invades Imphallion and the bickering Guilds prove unable to respond does Rebaine return to his old habits of slaughter. But someone else does. Someone wearing Rebaine’s black armor and bearing what appears to be his axe. Someone who is, if anything, even less careful of human life than Rebaine was. Now Baron Jassion, Rebaine’s old nemesis, is hunting him once more, aided by a mysterious sorcerer named Kaleb, whose powers and secrets make him a more dangerous enemy than Rebaine has ever known. Even worse, accompanying them is a young woman who hates Corvis Rebaine perhaps more than anyone else: his own daughter, Mellorin. Suddenly Rebaine seems to have no choice. To clear his name, to protect his country, and to reconcile with his family, must he once again become the Terror of the East?
- Kraken – In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air. As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder. There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo. All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.
- Oath of Fealty – Thanks to Paks’s courage, the long-vanished heir to the half-elven kingdom of Lyonya has been revealed as Kieri Phelan, a formidable mercenary who earned a title—and enemies—in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, where Prince Mikeli suddenly faces the threat of a coup. Acting swiftly, Mikeli strikes at the powerful family behind the attack: the Verrakaien, magelords steeped in death and evil. Mikeli’s survival—and that of Tsaia—depend on the only Verrakai whose magery is not tainted with innocent blood. Two kings stand at a pivotal point in the history of their worlds. For dark forces are gathering against them, knit in a secret conspiracy more sinister and far more ancient than they can imagine.
- Elric: The Stealer of Souls – When Michael Moorcock began chronicling the adventures of the albino sorcerer Elric, last king of decadent Melniboné, and his sentient vampiric sword, Stormbringer, he set out to create a new kind of fantasy adventure, one that broke with tradition and reflected a more up-to-date sophistication of theme and style. The result was a bold and unique hero–weak in body, subtle in mind, dependent on drugs for the vitality to sustain himself–with great crimes behind him and a greater destiny ahead: a rock-and-roll antihero who would channel all the violent excesses of the sixties into one enduring archetype. Now, with a major film in development, here is the first volume of a dazzling collection of stories containing the seminal appearances of Elric and lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Picacio–plus essays, letters, maps, and other material. Adventures include “The Dreaming City,” “While the Gods Laugh,” “Kings in Darkness,” “Dead God’s Homecoming,” “Black Sword’s Brothers,” and “Sad Giant’s Shield.” An indispensable addition to any fantasy collection, Elric: The Stealer of Souls is an unmatched introduction to a brilliant writer and his most famous–or infamous–creation.
- The Devil’s Temptress – At the treacherous court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, one woman’s desire to escape an arranged marriage may lead her straight into the arms of the most dangerous man in the country, a disgraced knight known as the Raven.
- Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret – It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when the moon is full over Regency England, the gentlemen are all subject to its curse. It is a peculiar monthly Affliction inducing them to take on various unnatural shapes—neither quite demon, nor proper beast—and in those shapes to roam the land; to hunt, murder, dismember, gorge on blood, consume haggis and kidney pie, gamble away familial fortune, marry below their station (and below their stature, when the lady is an Amazon), vote Whig, perform sudden and voluntary manual labor, cultivate orchids, collect butterflies and Limoges snuff boxes, and perpetrate other such odious evil—unless properly contained.
- All the Lives He Led – When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. it gave so little warning that Pompeiians were caught unawares, and many bodies were preserved in volcanic ash. Two thousand years later, in 2079, Pompeii is a popular theme park eagerly anticipating Il Giubeleo, the Jubilee celebration of the great anniversary. But Vesuvius is still capable of erupting, and even more threatening are terrorists who want to use the occasion to draw attention to their cause by creating a huge disaster. As the fateful day draws near, people from all over the world—workers, tourists, terrorists—caught in the shadow of the volcano will grapple with upheaval both natural and political.
- Bloodshot – Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.
- The Little Sheep – Raymond Chandler meets Jonathan Lethem in this wickedly entertaining debut featuring Mark Genevich, Narcoleptic Detective. Mark Genevich is a South Boston P.I. with a little problem: he’s narcoleptic, and he suffers from the most severe symptoms, including hypnogogic hallucinations. These waking dreams wreak havoc for a guy who depends on real-life clues to make his living. Clients haven’t exactly been beating down the door when Mark meets Jennifer Times—daughter of the powerful local D.A. and a contestant on American Star—who walks into his office with an outlandish story about a man who stole her fingers. He awakes from his latest hallucination alone, but on his desk is a manila envelope containing risqué photos of Jennifer. Are the pictures real, and if so, is Mark hunting a blackmailer, or worse? Wildly imaginative and with a pitch-perfect voice, The Little Sleep is the first in a new series that casts a fresh eye on the rigors of detective work, and introduces a character who has a lot to prove—if only he can stay awake long enough to do it.
- No Sleep till Wonderland – Mark Genevich, narcoleptic detective, is caught between friends and a police investigation in this wickedly riveting PI novel with a twist—a follow-up to The Little Sleep. Mark Genevich is stuck in a rut: his narcolepsy isn’t improving, his private-detective business is barely scraping by, and his landlord mother is forcing him to attend group therapy sessions. Desperate for companionship, Mark goes on a two-day bender with a new acquaintance, Gus, who is slick and charismatic—and someone Mark knows very little about. When Gus asks Mark to protect a friend who is being stalked, Mark inexplicably finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation and soon becomes the target of the police, a sue-happy lawyer, and a violent local bouncer. Will Mark learn to trust himself in time to solve the crime—and in time to escape with his life? Written with the same “witty voice that doesn’t let go”* that has won Paul Tremblay so many fans, No Sleep Till Wonderland features a memorable detective whose only hope for reconciling with his difficult past is to keep moving—asleep or awake—toward an uncertain future.
- The Harlequin and the Train (novella) – Rudy has only been on the job as a train engineer for a few months. While at the helm of a commuter train headed to Boston, Massachusetts, it hits a harlequin clown, and in the chaotic aftermath, he witnesses the horrific and inexplicable actions of a group of people who were seemingly laying in wait for the accident. There are other accidents and as the group infiltrates his life (present and past), and as random global acts of violence and suffering seem to be connected, what Rudy believes about others and himself will be forever warped as he makes his final choice.
- In the Mean Time – A history teacher begins his unorthodox senior course with clips from an ominous surveillance video, causing a student’s home life to deteriorate along with the lessons. A girl with a second head that changes into different historical and fictional identities tries to find her father while figuring out how to handle Mom and the book club. A blog documents society’s slow, unexplained, but inexorable end, or is it only a collection of pixel-sized paranoia? A once-awkward teen holes up in a kiddie-themed amusement park after the end of the world, and schemes to take Cinderella’s Castle by force. This collection by Paul G. Tremblay (author of THE LITTLE SLEEP and NO SLEEP TILL WONDERLAND) features fifteen stories of fear and paranoia, stories of apocalypses both societal and personal, and stories of longing and coping.