Singles Collection

The Singles Shift

The Singles Collection is getting a facelift and a shift in market strategy. While the single-volume compendium of all twenty-one short fictions is still available at all of the print and ebook outlets that my work is currently distributed through, the six individual titles are now available only on Amazon, a requirement of their being part of Kindle Unlimited.

As KU titles, the books are now free to read for subscribers to that service. But the shift to Kindle-exclusivity for these books also allows me to run special sales for non-KU members, the first of which begins today. All weekend (August 15 & 16), all six individual books in The Singles Collection are on sale for the low, low price of $0.00. This is a limited-time offer, but if you have an Amazon account, you undoubtedly have access to a device that can read Kindle ebooks (apps are available for non-Amazon phones, tablets, and personal computers of all sorts). Barrier to entry = ZERO!

All seven books (the six individual books plus the single-volume compendium of all twenty-one stories) also feature updated titles and formatting. To find out more about the books and where you can buy them (or get them free!), hit the button at the end of this post.

Thanks for reading.

The Singles Collection is Now Complete

Over the course of 2014, I've released six volumes of short stories and novellas. These have been a mixture of new stories and some of my favorites that were gathering dust in the unpublished back catalog, some for as long as a dozen years. All twenty-one of those stories are now collected for the first time in one place. The Singles Collection is available in both print (6x9" paperback) and ebook formats, and would make an excellent holiday gift for that someone special on your list who doesn't mind the science fiction getting mixed up with the fantasy on their plate.


Twenty-one stories. Twenty-one worlds. Some close to our own. Others less so… 

It begins on the frontier colony world of Abilene, where Jak and his band of retired Imperial marines hunt for a monster that killed one of their own. It ends in an alternate-history version of early 20th century Manhattan, where young Rory Donnelly has just been assigned to the Tesla cannon batteries that protect the walls of Gotham from an impending attack by the Kaiser’s runesingers and genetic monstrosities. 

In these pages, M.S. Hund spins tales of short fiction that span the speculative gamut from dark fantasy and psychological horror to dystopian science fiction. Previously available in six volumes, each focused on roughly similar themes or genres, and now gathered together in one master compendium, The Singles Collection includes… 

A Desolation of Grass, The Crow Hag’s Boy, Here There Be Monsters, Forgetting Leo, The Butterfly Jar, Yesterday’s War, Bale of Mars, The Rune Painter, Flicker, A Fragile Circle, Speaker Bryn, A Shipbuilder’s Prayer, Stork Is Not a Name I Love, The Ballad of Slaughter Rose, Letters from Paris, Songbird, Brethren, The Head Washer’s Tale, The Old Blood, The Musketeer’s Prayer, The Sack of Gotham


EBOOK

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PRINT

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Speaker Bryn & Other Tales Now Available

The sixth and final installment in my Singles Collection of short stories and novellas is now available at finer e-booksellers. Stay tuned after the following blurb and links to buy the ebook (just 99¢!) because one of the stories in this volume, The Musketeer's Prayer, is available in its entirety at the close of this post. Admittedly, it's what's known as flash fiction (less than 1000 words) and is more about evoking mood than telling a story, but I hope it does both and that you enjoy it...


The Speaker is a safe conduit, a channel the living can use to talk to the recently dead. Or so the Church of the Holy Communicator teaches. But true Speakers pay a price for their gift, and Bryn’s past is about to demand that he pay that price in full…

The eponymous Speaker Bryn is joined in this collection by three more tales of dark fantasy and the occult: The Musketeer’s Prayer, Songbird, and The Head Washer’s Tale

==================== 

This is the sixth and final volume of M.S. Hund’s Singles Collection. Each volume’s stories are focused on roughly similar themes or genres, spanning the gamut from science fiction to fantasy to horror.


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The Musketeer's Prayer

(from Speaker Bryn & Other Tales)

 

Musketeer Six prayed.

“Oreon protect me when death stalks the field.”

A line of purple and gold crested the hill before him, muskets at rest on their shoulders, legs kicking high and straight. From somewhere behind them came the sound of the Imperial rune-chant, slow and sonorous. 

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

“Odds high, evens low,” came the high voice of the Reverend General, tinny from its passage through the tubes that relayed his message from the command bunker to the front.

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

Six was an even, and evens were low. He dropped to one knee, placing his musket before him. Funnel in the barrel, powder in the funnel, remove funnel. Ball into barrel, ramrod, one and two and three. 

Firing position.

"Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

Why did none of the words of the Musketeer’s prayer invoke accuracy on his part?

"Hold, men," came the Reverend General’s disembodied voice. "Hold and put your trust in the Lord Prophet.”

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field."

Six could see the metal grills covering the faces of the Imperial soldiers now. No eyes, no flesh visible. Their bodies entirely covered. There were some that said nothing human lurked beneath, that whatever the first volley knocked down would rise to advance before the second could be readied.

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

Purple and gold filled the sights of his musket. Six’s sweat soaked the blue wool of his uniform. He wondered if the fresh dye, not quite blotting out the blood of the uniform’s previous wearer, would stain his flesh. When they pulled the uniforms from their bodies after the battle in order to stitch up the holes and prepare them for the next musketeer, would the skin beneath be the holy blue of the Lord Prophet? Would that guarantee Six a place in Oreon's hall?

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

"Hold," came a distant voice. Six no longer remembered who it belonged to or why he must obey it, but obey he did. Obedience was everything. Hadn't mother told him that when she entrusted him to the Lord Prophet? Hadn't the Lord Prophet’s ministers said that as they demonstrated the loading and firing of the musket?

As they drilled the prayer into his head.

As they handed him a freshly stitched and dyed uniform.

As they handed him a musket blessed by the Lord Prophet’s own hand.

“Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

All in this line of blue were the Lord Prophet’s own, yet how many would survive the rain of bullets that would soon scythe through their numbers? Could the Lord Prophet protect them all from lead and fire? There were none to ask that question of, for all of those standing beside and behind Six were like him, boys entrusted to the Lord Prophet and facing their first battle in his name. None boasted the gold stripes upon their forearms that signified an engagement survived.

Six remembered the Reverend General addressing them before they marched out from the trenches. He remembered the sleeves of the great man’s uniform glowing as he held his arms aloft, more gold than blue, so bedecked in combat stripes were they. He remembered the advisors standing behind the Reverend General, their arms similarly aglow.

Six and the boys like him—the boys holding the muskets—had numbers, not stripes. They were little more than their numbers now.

What had his name been before the ministers christened him Six?

Before they gave him musket and uniform and prayer?

"Hold," came the voice of the man with the innumerable golden stripes.

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field."

The purple and gold advance continued. They were nearly at the bottom of the hill. Soon they would be climbing toward the blue line of the Lord Prophet’s army. Six could see the sun winking off the cruel blades affixed to their muskets, could imagine with frightening clarity the cold progress of one of those blades between his ribs.

"Show the bullets a path around and not through."

The prayer said nothing of blades. Six fought to keep his trembling under control. The barrel of his gun danced, the sights wobbling before his eyes, stinging with sweat, blurred with tears. Not that it mattered. Wherever the sights swam, they were still filled with purple. It was impossible to miss.

Or to be missed.

"Nothing shall touch this blessed flesh, this hallowed soul."

He heard the others around him now. The prayer, once whispered or recited in silence, rose like the muttering of the stream behind the house he had shared with his mother and sisters. Father had been there in the dimness of his childhood. Before the war. The shadows of older brothers moved through those memories well. How many? He could not remember.

Father and brothers, all entrusted to the Lord Prophet.

How long ago?

Six could not remember, could not remember how long the war had been raging.

"Quench their spark and spoil their aim, for I am the Lord Prophet’s own."

Six could not remember the faces or names of his father and brothers. Nor could he remember when he had begun to yell, a wordless challenge echoed by the other boys in the Lord Prophet’s blue. The faceless metal masks drifted up toward him on a blurred mist of purple and gold. 

Six felt the tears streaming down his face, dimly heard the distant voice of the Reverend General telling him to fire, fire, fire, fire, fire.

"Oreon protect me when death stalks the field!" Six screamed.

He closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.


 

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The Butterfly Jar & Other Tales Now Available

The Butterfly Jar & Other Tales, the fifth of six volumes of short stories and novellas that will make up The Singles Collection, is now available in ebook format (read an excerpt).

* * *

Dana isn’t sure what happened after the blast door slammed closed on the shelter, but she has a bicycle, a map, and a butterfly in a jar that will be her companion on the long, lonely road to her grandmother’s house…

In this collection of short stories, The Butterfly Jar is accompanied by four tales (Stork Is Not a Name I Love, Bale of Mars, Forgetting Leo, & The Ballad of Slaughter Rose) that skirt the line between science fiction and science fantasy, with brief detours to destinations dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

==================== 

This is the fifth of six volumes to be released by M.S. Hund as part of his initial Singles Collection. Each volume’s stories will focus on roughly similar themes or genres, spanning the gamut from science fiction to fantasy to horror. Other volumes in this series include: 

  • Volume 1: A Desolation of Grass & Yesterday’s War 
  • Volume 2: The Rune Painter & Other Tales
  • Volume 3: The Sack of Gotham & Letters from Paris
  • Volume 4: A Fragile Circle & Other Tales

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Coming Soon: The Butterfly Jar & Other Tales

Next week will see the launch of Volume 5 of The Singles Collection. This time around, the stories are loosely science fiction, though purists will probably insist that they're borderline science fantasy. Whatever the case, if your tastes run to the dystopian or post-apocalyptic portion of the genre-fiction spectrum, this group of stories will probably be right up your alley.

As a teaser and to whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from the lead story in The Butterfly Jar & Other Tales...

__________

Excerpt from The Butterfly Jar

 

Dana burst from the tall grass, a whirlwind of pale, awkward limbs and a pink plastic net. She leapt, arms raised high above her head, her teeth bared in a savage smile as she brought the net crashing down on a patch of violet wildflowers.

She crept forward—keeping the pink net pressed firmly against the ground—and an exultant smile began to spread across her face. Her prey, its blue wings so pale they might have been white, fluttered beneath the mesh. Carefully, Dana twisted the netting around the frame, her eyes never leaving the trapped butterfly. She stared at it for a long time before standing to pick her way back through the grasping claws of half-dead shrubs to where her bicycle lay abandoned by the side of the desolate highway.

Dana knelt beside the scratched and dented frame of the old bike and rummaged blindly through her bag with one hand, keeping her eyes fixed on the butterfly. Her fingers brushed against the cool glass of a Mason jar and she pulled it free. Wedging it between her knees, she twisted the dull silver cap off and bunched the netting around the butterfly, transferring her prey to its new home.

She screwed the cap into place and held the jar up to catch the slanting rays of the late afternoon sun. It was a beautiful specimen. The wings held the light, glowing as they flapped slowly within the glass prison. Dana watched the butterfly for a long time as the shadows lengthened across the quiet, windless plain.  

Finally, she set the jar down and pulled a ragged road map from a bag so covered in a motley of butterfly patches that its original yellow barely peeked through. She traced the thick yellow line of the highway toward Springfield—toward Grandma Sylvie’s house. Then she stuffed both map and jar back into the bag with a rueful sigh as the butterfly disappeared from view. 

Sliding the bag up onto her back, Dana tightened the frayed straps and walked the ancient bicycle out to the center of the bare expanse of cracked, gray asphalt. She paused, aligning the bike with the fading yellow lines that ran down the center of the road, and then she was off, pedaling down the empty highway toward a low line of dark hills in the distance. A piece of plastic fixed to the bicycle’s frame thwack, thwack, thwacked a lonely staccato against the spokes in a vain attempt to drive back the surrounding silence.   

Weeds pierced the cracks in the road and grew up around the rusted hulks scattered along the berm, mostly obscuring them, hiding any bodies that might be entombed within. Dana ignored the dead vehicles and kept her eyes locked on the far-off hills as she began to drift back and forth across the yellow lines that marked the way to her grandmother’s house. 

Back and forth, back and forth, Dana wove her way into the dusk, her mind wandering into the past.

*

The lawnmower was acting up again, its guidance program crashing hard. The flattened orange cylinder darted erratically about the tiny emerald patch of lawn as the housebot loped along in pursuit. One of the housebot’s glossy black limbs shot out and upended the little mower, leaving it to spiral wildly on its back, an orange plastic turtle desperately trying to right itself as its blades whirled and gnashed at the sky above. Finally, a small puff of black smoke billowed from the mower’s underbelly and the blades spun to a halt. The housebot reached it in two long strides and gave it a kick.  

Dana’s laughter ended in a fit of coughing. Her throat burned as she pulled the covers tighter around her, staring out the window at the squabbling robots in the front yard. Three days on the couch and she was still sick and miserable. Her eyes shifted to the driveway, where her parents were saying their goodbyes. It was Dad’s turn to stay home with her today, and she watched him give a slight wave as her mom disappeared into the sleek silver car crouched at the curb.

She sank further into the pile of blankets and called up a display from the house computer, deciding to skip yesterday’s math lesson for now. Mr. Muncy’s droning monotone would just put her to sleep again. Dana brushed at the icons suspended in the air before her, navigating away from the familiar confines of grade six mathematics and scrolling up toward the great unknown of high school. She had noticed a lecture on butterflies in an advanced biology class during a series of bored searches yesterday. Finding the class directory, she retrieved the lecture from the archive, and a female teacher’s voice, high and marvelously accented, filled her earphones, enveloping her in an aural cocoon.  

Dana smiled weakly at her father as he came back into the house accompanied by the housebot, the forlorn little orange mower cradled in its arms. Her father pantomimed to her that he was going to make breakfast, and she nodded as giant holographic butterflies began to flutter around the couch. After a minute or so, she nudged the volume down to a background hum and just watched the panoply of wings flapping about her. One by one, the insects were frozen and expanded as distinctive wing markings were highlighted and identified. Her head nodded and she drifted off to the droning buzz of the lecture.

A crash from the kitchen woke her suddenly, and Dana twisted her head around to see her father’s back, his spine rigid. A shattered plate and cracked ceramic mug lay on the tile at his feet and she could see that he was staring intently at the speaker embedded in the face of the small silver oven. He raised a tentative hand toward it and then lowered it again, leaning in toward whatever he was listening to. The scene stretched and twisted before her.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the stillness was broken.

Her father scrambled to the back door and looked out at the horizon, then turned and grabbed the house phone from the counter, his fingers stabbing the buttons as he hurried back toward Dana. The look in his eyes was frightening, and her hands shook as she pulled out her earphones. He muttered under his breath as he strode into the swirling mass of butterflies that surrounded the couch, the telephone pressed firmly to his ear, his forehead creased. Standing over her, he paused for a long moment before tossing the phone aside with a hissed curse.

“Dana honey, can you walk?”

His voice came out high and thin, and his face was ashen.  She nodded and struggled to her feet as he turned to the housebot.

“Power up the shelter and gather as many fruits and vegetables as you can carry.”

The bot’s face flashed green in acknowledgment, then it spun and sped off to its tasks.

Dana took a few faltering steps on slippered feet before she collapsed. But her father was there to catch her, and she could feel his heart beating rapidly beneath the thin fabric of his white cotton undershirt as he lifted her. They were barely through the back door when the phone began to ring behind them. Her father stopped suddenly and whispered, “Laura.” The housebot dodged past them, heavy canvas bags full of produce draped over its thin arms.  It paused, face flashing yellow in confusion as her father grabbed its plastic shoulder.

The sky was gray and cloudy behind her father’s face as he placed her gently in the mechanical arms of the housebot. The smell of ripening fruit drifted up to her from the bags it carried. Again the phone chimed faintly from within the house.  

“That might be your mother,” he said, and gave her a stubbly smile, tussling her short hair before ordering the housebot to get her to the shelter and keep her safe.

Then he was gone, racing back into the house in search of the telephone.

---end excerpt---

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The Butterfly Jar & Other Tales will be available in electronic format for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks. If you don't want to miss the launch next week, your best bet is to subscribe to my newsletter. Email not your thing? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter or watch this space...

Paranoia, Predators & Human Sacrifice, Oh My!

A Fragile Circle & Other Tales, the fourth volume of my Singles Collection of short stories and novellas, is now available on the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo stores (links below) for 99¢. iBooks, as always, will follow in a few weeks when Apple gets around to "approving" the book.

How about a peak at the blurb and the cover?

Five short tales of dark fantasy & psychological horror from M.S. Hund, featuring… 
* A Fragile Circle. Bobby Mendes is gifted with rare intelligence and a talent for reading auras, but those abilities only serve to attract the unwelcome attention of Greg Mason and his pack of bully friends. When Bobby gets put in a “special” class at school, he learns that his new classmates have a way of protecting themselves from their tormentors. But their methods carry a cost. 
…and four other stories (Flicker, Brethren, Here There Be Monsters, and The Old Blood) that range from predators on the boardwalk to ancient rituals on backwater islands in the North Atlantic to the dubious fruits of the paranoid mind. 
 

 

A Fragile Circle & Other Tales

Now Available At

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Kobo

 

Back to Work

St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork

June was always going to be slow. The combination of the opening stages of the World Cup and taking part in a school trip to Ireland meant that I intentionally kept my production schedule light for June. 

That said, I haven't left things entirely fallow. At the beginning of the month, I wrapped up the beta draft of Song of the Severed Lord, the first novel in my forthcoming series, The Dreambetween Symphony (more news about this series soon), and sent it out to my beta readers.

(Want to be part of my Beta Brigade? Inquire within!)

And while I was in Ireland, I did some developmental editing work on the next of my short story Singles, A Fragile Circle & Other Tales, which will feature five horror/dark fantasy stories. I'm in the final stages of editing and proofing now, so that should be headed out to my proofreaders in the next week and should hit the digital shelves late this month or in the first week of August. As always, I'll be previewing cover designs and letting readers vote on the winner over on my Facebook page.

Now that our bags have finally arrived from Ireland after a baggage-sorting failure in London (only a week late, British Airways -- cheers!), it's time to get back to cranking out the words in earnest. 

Stay tuned...

Cover Polling in Progress

The Sack of Gotham & Letters from Paris, the third installment in my Singles Collection series of short stories and novellas, will be released in the next few weeks. I'm currently conducting a series of polls over on my Facebook page in order to pick the best of 12 possible covers I've mocked up. Head on over and cast your votes. Round 1 will be complete today with the winners advancing to face each other in the next round...

It's Cover Poll Time Again!

For the first installment of the Singles Collection series, I gave you three potential covers to choose from. This time there are six on offer!

* * *

Sometime in the middle of March (possible on the Ides of March, since I'm a masochist that way) I'm going to release volume 2 of my six-part Singles Collection. It will contain three short stories: The Crow Hag's Boy, The Rune Painter, and A Shipbuilder's Prayer, though I've yet to choose which of the first two will be the featured story. Actually, you get to play your part in that as well since the winning cover will determine which of the two stories gets a call-out on the cover and which is relegated to being part of the "& Other Tales" section of the title.

So, without further ado, here are your choices! Pick the cover that appeals to you most and/or is the most intriguing. Actually, why don't you go ahead and pick as many as you like? The poll will let you choose multiple covers if you just can't decide on one. Don't forget: the watermarks will not be present in the final version and these are just rough sketches of potential covers, not the final covers themselves. If you're so inclined, you can leave constructive criticism or smack talk for your favorite cover in the comments or on the corresponding FB post. Thanks!

covers_vol2_poll.png

Snow Day Escapism

For those of you snow-bound on the East coast today, I've got some new words available to take your mind off the weather outside and help fend off the cabin fever. A Desolation of Grass & Yesterday's War is the first of six volumes of short stories & novellas that I'm going to release this year and contains two military science fiction tales...

  • A Desolation of Grass. Twenty-five years in the Corps and what does it get you? A patch of grass on godforsaken and storm-wracked Ablene, hoo-rah! Sergeant Jak Galine leads a band of retired Imperial Marines in pursuit of a creature that has killed one of their own and threatens their families. But are they the hunters or the hunted?

  • Yesterday’s War. Cousins Archer and Brock are farm boys from rural Kansas whose world is destroyed by rocks falling from the sky. When they enlist to fight back, they find themselves launched on a mission of revenge that involves a 300 year journey in cryogenic sleep to reach their target. But will there even be a foe waiting for them?

Available on Amazon now and coming soon to other e-booksellers near you!