Tag Archives: Free Fiction


I became a fan of Chuck Wendig after reading his book 500 Ways to Be a Better Writer. He has built a following online for having biting, hard-hitting advice on writing and the publishing industry. It is a tradition of mine to read the first book of anyone I take writing advice from, and then read a newer work to see how they improve over time. After reading Blackbirds, I’m very excited to tear into the copy of Under the Empyrean Sky that I purchased this Fall.

There are few antagonists who get to me like Miriam Black, the namesake of the series that starts with Blackbirds and continues on with Mockingbird and the newly released The Cormorant. Miriam is a complete kick in the balls—a foul mouthed, cigarette-smoking, booze-guzzling hitchhiker that is just looking for the next unfortunate person that will die and leave behind their cash and credit cards. I love her.

Don’t be mistaken, Miriam isn’t a murderer. She can see the time and circumstance of a person’s death, as long as she makes skin-to-skin contact. When she meets Louis Darling, she sees that within a month he will die while saying her name. Miriam might be tough as nails, but her soft spot for Louis will take her right in the path of his killers and, possibly, lead to her own death.

Blackbirds is on the shorter side and very quickly paced. If you’re looking for a long, sprawling narrative and complicated plot-points, this is not the right book for you. The action is not the focus of the book, but rather Miriam herself takes center stage, her growth and discovery the most engrossing conflict. Admittedly, the sequences where Miriam is interviewed are my least favorite, but are well written, and give Wendig the chance to really let Miriam show who she is and where she came from.

Wendig is an excellent writer, and that skill makes the prose a joy to read. His use of language and imagery is masterful and his characters breathe on the page, brought to life by humorously placed flashbacks, descriptions, and some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to dive into some more of his work, and there is a lot as he’s quite a prolific penmonkey.

The Miriam Black novels are available through Angry Robot. For more of Chuck Wendig’s work, some free short fiction, his advice on writing, and a kick-ass recipe for Pho, please visit terribleminds.com.

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Enter the Gate—Free Admission!

T.R.O. Publishing recently released the second installment of The Gate series, The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair, an anthology featuring work from two of Shock Totem’s own—Mercedes M. Yardley (“Black Mary”) and me, K. Allen Wood (“The Candle Eaters”).

You can get the print version for $8.59 or, if you’re a Kindle owner, download it for free. It’ll be available at no cost today and throughout tomorrow.

[ Copyright © 2012 by Jesse David Young ]

In addition, you’ll find work by Daniel Pyle, Steven Pirie, David Dalglish, Robert J. Duperre, and seven others.

So if you’re looking for some great fiction at no cost, check out The Gate 2.

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New York, New Psalm

Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is one of the newer anthologies put out by Apex Publications. It features 26 short stories and five poems that attempt to tackle the intricacies of faith. I haven’t read much of it, and as it is with most anthologies, I won’t finish it all at once; but I look forward to slowly picking its bones clean.

The first story in Dark Faith is “Ghosts of New York,” by Jennifer Pelland. I will sing praise for this woman until its borderline creepy. (I’m harmless, I assure you.) Her anthology Unwelcome Bodies is one of the best I’ve ever read. Sure, some stories didn’t blow me away, but many floored me. Read “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man,” and you’ll understand. “Ghosts of New York” is not equal to that tale, but it is quite good.

The story revolves around the World Trade Center tragedy, particularly the ghosts of the jumpers, those victims that chose not to perish in fire or the collapse of either tower. The ghosts are forced to relive the terrifying free fall and final impact over and over again. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, one of horror, tragedy, and discovery. And its beautifully written.

Since originally writing this for my blog some months ago, “Ghosts of New York” has been chosen as a Nebula finalist. In celebration of this, Apex has put the story online for free. You can read the haunting tale here.

Next up in Dark Faith is Brian Keene’s “I Sing a New Psalm.” My first experience with Keene’s writing was his short story collection Fear of Gravity. I wasn’t blown away. I loved the final story, “The Garden Where My Rain Grows,” it more than lived up to the praise bestowed upon him, but the other stories just didn’t have the same impact with me. Decent, but maybe my expectations were too high. “I Sing a New Psalm,” however, is a very good tale if a bit obvious.

The story is told in 44 short bursts and follows a man of uncertain faith through his ultimate acceptance and subsequent denial of God. It’s a story that explores the puzzling contradiction of cruelty and selfishness from a so-called loving, omniscient god. Something we’ve all questioned. Keene does it justice.

Though I haven’t read it completely, Dark Faith is worth buying. Anything Apex puts out is worth buying. Dig it!

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Jennifer Pelland and the Nebula Nom Nom Noms

Issue #1 contributor Jennifer Pelland is once again a Nebula finalist. This time for her story “Ghosts of New York,” from the Dark Faith anthology.

Her first nomination was in 2007, for her story “Captive Girl,” which can be found in the fantastic Unwelcome Bodies.

Wish her luck!

And for those interested, you can read the haunting “Ghosts of New York” by clicking here. It’s well worth it.

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Mrs. Mathews is Afraid of Cricket Bats

Issue #3 contributor Steven “Seven” Pirie is offering up for free download a short collection of four humorous tales, which you can download here at Smashwords. It’s called Mrs. Mathews is Afraid of Cricket Bats.

Download it, dig it, and then consider checking out his novels Digging Up Donald and Burying Brian.

And issue #3 of Shock Totem, of course.

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