The Hook: Darkness Fair by Rachel A. Marks

February 3, 2016


The Hook:

The demon is crouched in the corner, between the Cheetos and the onion dip. It’s a small one, only about four feet tall: a low-level creeper. I flick my gaze over the spot like I don’t see it and open the cooler door to get a Coke. 

I watch the cashier behind me in the security mirror as he finishes ringing up a customer. He notices me—eyes my ratty hoodie, grungy backpack, scruffy jaw, tattooed fist gripping the cooler handle—and reaches one hand under the counter, probably to grab the butt of a shotgun or a bat he’s got hidden there. He’s totally oblivious to the real danger that’s hanging out in the junk food aisle. 

The bell on the door rings as the customer leaves. 

I walk past the demon casually, hoping it doesn’t sense my awareness. It’s not here for me, though; its bulbous black eyes are trained on the cashier. Its scarred and misshapen wings twitch and knock at the shelf as its leg muscles tense, like it’s ready to pounce. Clawed feet dig into the linoleum floor, surrounded by traces of black ash and sulfur that seep from its skin. 

I set the can of Coke down on the counter and toss a Snickers up there too—dinner of champions. 

“Hey,” I say to the cashier. The chill of being too close to the demon crawls over me, but I clench my jaw and ignore it. 

Rachel A. Marks writes:

My debut YA Urban Fantasy series The Dark Cycle begins with DARKNESS BRUTAL, where we get to know the homeless seventeen-year-old, Aidan, and learn about his very strange abilities, which he’s been using, up until now, to try and keep his little sister safe. It’s based loosely on the idea that the underbelly of society could hold the greatest treasures of humanity; you know that bum walking past talking to himself? He might be just the guy to save the world. Think of it as Dickens’ Oliver Twist meets TV’s Supernatural in the gritty streets of Los Angeles.

I wrote this opening after several missed attempts, since I was trying to decide where Aidan’s story really started. I wanted to reveal him and his world in a way that would allow the reader to see his everyday life while still providing enough information and action so it wasn’t boring. And so, I imagined the most mundane thing in the daily life of Aidan, and plopped a demon on top, which he would see as an “everyday” thing but the reader certainly wouldn’t.

Demons and snack foods. It’s an opening line that people seem to attach to and instantly want to understand and know more about. I also wanted them to see how the rest of the world saw him. So when the store owner looks on in suspicion we know Aidan is a little ratty and not fit for “good” society. He’s an outsider. And he’s more worried about the demon knowing his awareness than the store clerk suspecting him of criminality. He avoids his abilities. And so in this scene, we watch him fail to stay in the shadows like he wants.

As the story progresses Aidan begins to realize what he’s really running from, and why, and we see that he’s not alone in these strange abilities, even if he thought he was, as other young people crowd around him. Without spoiling it, one thing that makes this series unique in the UF world, are the ties it has to legends and history. Time is a central theme as the story reveals the ancient battle that follows Aidan and his sister, which will soon have them looking at each other across a chasm of their parent’s mistakes.

Book two, DARKNESS FAIR, releases today and is the second part of the siblings’ story. It takes the reader even deeper into the legends and magic that Aidan has to traverse to help his sister, and gives us the story from another perspective. We see Aidan settling into his new role and attempting to use and grow his abilities rather than hide from them. Just before it all goes wrong, of course.

Buy The Dark Cycle on Amazon

About the author:

Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she’ll never have to test the theory. You can usually find her hanging out with her four teenagers, reciting lines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or arguing about which superhero rocks the hardest, while her husband looks on in confusion. Find out more about her and check out her art at


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Contributor Copies, International Edition

January 26, 2016


Many fine magazines with my stories in them arrived today.

ON SPEC #101, Canada’s premier SF/F digest, includes my humorous quantum physics story “One in a Million.”

NordCon XXIX convention booklet features the Polish translation of “Spidersong”

And Informator has been running my Tales of the Elopus mini-stories for close to a year, also in Polish translation. Pictured above is the second batch of the magazines — I think they ran all of them at this point.

Contributor copies make for a happy author.  #SFWApro

Fire Sale on UFO Paperbacks

January 21, 2016


There’s a major blizzard crawling along the East Coast this weekend, and what better way to fight snow and ice than with fire?

Until end of day Sunday, Jan 24, UFO Publishing is offering 25% off all paperbacks (including the brand-new Funny Science Fiction which will begin shipping as of January 29!)

Click here to browse the selection of books. Enter the discount code FIRE at checkout to activate the 25% off discount. Shipping is always free on all orders within the United States.



Help make “High-Tech Fairies and Pandora Perplexity” free for all.

January 19, 2016


A mini crowdfunding campaign started today on Moozvine. This website, launched last year, seeks to make excellent short science fiction and fantasy e-books available for all. Some stories are posted for free — readers are encouraged but not required to tip the author. You can read my “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” in that fashion. Other stories have a funded threshold. This means that if the funding goal is reached, the story will become available on the site for free, and users are welcome to share the e-books and the web version for free under the Creative Commons license (non-commercial.)

Since this is a short story rather than a novella the threshold is set reasonably low at $400. Anyone who pledges $10 or more will immediately receive the e-book for themselves and the free-for-all option will unlock as soon as full funding is reached. So please take a look, and help me share the project.

I also have two more Europe-related bits of writing news to report. I can now share that my Cthulhumor story “Recall Notice” is going to appear in the Tales from the Miskatonic Library anthology from PS Publishing. Also, my flash SF story “Grains of Wheat” will appear on the Concatenation‘s Best of Nature list later this year. Very pleased and honored to have my story selected!





Funny Science Fiction Paperback!

January 15, 2016


Funny Science Fiction, UFO Publishing’s most successful anthology to date in terms of month-to-month sales, is now available in paperback! I’ll have copies at 2016 conventions I attend, but you can also snag copies here.

Happy Friday!



Whom He May Devour published at Nautilus

January 7, 2016

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My science fiction story “Whom He May Devour” was published today at — an award-winning science magazine. It’s about singularities, FTL, religious fanatics, love, terrorism, and cyborgs. And it’s gorgeously laid out and illustrated, and free to read online. So, what are you waiting for?

Read “Whom He May Devour.”

In related news, XB-1 magazine translated “High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity” into Czech and published it in the January issue. I get to share the table of contents with Charlie Stross and Michael Swanwick. Not too shabby! You can click on the gorgeous cover above to see the larger version of the image.




The Hook: Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe

January 6, 2016


The Hook:

It was a pretty nice burlap sack. Not the best he’d had the pleasure of inhabiting, not by a long shot, but it wasn’t bad either. The jute was smooth and woven tight, not letting in an inkling of light or location. It didn’t chafe his cheeks either, which was a small comfort.

The chair he was tied to was of considerably lesser quality. Each time Detan shifted his weight to keep the ropes from cutting off his circulation little splinters worked their way into his exposed arms and itched something fierce. Despite the unfinished wood, the chair’s joints were solid, and the knots on his ropes well-tied, which was a shame.

Detan strained his ears, imagining that if he tried hard enough he could work out just where he was. No use, that. Walls muted the bustle of Aransa’s streets, and the bitter-char aromas of local delicacies were blotted by the tight weave of the sack over his head. At least the burlap didn’t stink of the fear-sweat of those who’d worn it before him.

Someone yanked the bag off and that was surprising, because he hadn’t heard anyone in the room for the last half-mark. Truth be told, he was starting to think they’d forgotten about him, which was a mighty blow to his pride.

Megan E. O’Keefe writes:

Right off the bat, I wanted readers to realize that Detan Honding’s view of the world is different than most. I think it’s fair to say that most people would be concerned to find themselves tied to a chair with a bag over their head, but not Detan – he’s calm as can be. Instead of worrying about what’s coming for him next, he’s busy critiquing the quality of the bag obscuring his vision.

And yet, Detan is beginning to show cracks of annoyance. Splinters are picking at him, and he’s growing bored – worried that he’s been forgotten about – but also trying to work an angle, trying to see his way clear of the mess he’s gotten himself into. The overall picture is that Detan is a man who’s familiar with danger, perhaps even thrives on it. He’s been in this chair or ones like it before, and though he’s a wee bit irritated, he’s confident he can see his way through.

I wrote these intro paragraphs to have a slight sing-songy tone, a definite rhythm that, when it breaks, the reader notices – further emphasizing the cracks in Detan’s sense of calm. He may be telling himself everything’s okay, but the wear in the veneer of his flippant demeanor is already beginning to show and, by the end of the book, he may just be strained to breaking.

Buy Steal the Sky on Amazon.

About the author:

Megan E. O’Keefe was raised amongst journalists, and as soon as she was able joined them by crafting a newsletter which chronicled the daily adventures of the local cat population. She has worked in both arts management and graphic design, and spends her free time tinkering with anything she can get her hands on.

Megan lives in the Bay Area of California and makes soap for a living. It’s only a little like Fight Club. She is a first place winner in the Writers of the Future competition and her debut novel, Steal the Sky, is out now from Angry Robot Books.


If you’re an author with a book coming out soon and you wish to participate on The Hook, please read this.


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