QSFer M.D. Grimm has a new MM fantasy anthology book out:
Sometimes the greatest romance can be found in the vastness of space…
TRASH AND TREASURES
Tucker has spent his entire life as an interstellar trash man. But ever since his mother died, he’s been alone, and certainly lonely. So when he discovers the derelict ship he scooped up has an occupant-a beautiful young man named Ronan-Tucker is thrilled.
Ronan is royalty and running from his tyrannical mother, determined to keep a powerful object out of her hands. But when he strikes a deal with the adorable Tucker, he wonders if it’s time to stop running.
Or during one’s loneliest hour…
William was a soldier until an IED severely wounded and scarred his body. Now he lives a quiet life in a small village in the Black Forest and is the caretaker of the church and caregiver to the local priest. He’s grown fond of the two stone gargoyles on the bell tower and often speaks to them, reminding himself of Quasimodo. But on his thirty-seventh birthday he learns a stunning secret-the gargoyles aren’t what they seem.
Or among dear friends in their darkest time of need…
A GIANT’S FRIEND
For three years, Jeth and Kodie and their soldiers have guarded a hostile mountain pass against the invading Dathians in a war that has waged for decades. Jeth has the blood of giants running through his veins, and it has caused bigotry and death to dog his steps his entire life. After a childhood tragedy shatters his world, it takes the courage and loyalty of his best friend, Kodie, to protect him from himself. Jeth knows he’s a danger to everyone around him and joins the army to control and focus the black rage inherited from his bestial bloodline.
Kodie follows his friend into the army, determined to stay close to the one he loves most. He has never revealed his deeper feelings for Jeth, and is ignorant of Jeth’s own feelings. Their bond is too precious for either of them to risk rejection. Yet they might have to take the chance when Kodie’s life is threatened, and their enemy forges an alliance with a giant clan. Jeth must call upon his darker heritage to brave the hostile environment to make an alliance of his own-with a giant clan that knows more about him than he does himself.
Kodie led the charge through the thick snow and brutal wind. He wouldn’t grant the fleeing Dathian soldiers mercy, not this time. He shouted at his soldiers to keep going, keep pursuing. They pounded down the rough trail, the land and weather unforgiving and cruel to all sides. Every enemy soldier he reached, Kodie cut down with his sword and axe, and his soldiers were every bit as determined.
Yet so intent was he on pursing the enemy, he only realized where they were when it was too late. The frozen lake cracked under their feet, and he ordered at his troops to halt. Unfortunately, the battle frenzy held many in sway, and they continued to run, stomping on the ice, weakening it.
He yelled at them. “Stop! Halt!”
The cracks deepened, then spread like spider webs under the feet of Dathians and Senicians alike. Kodie managed to grab a few of his own soldiers and yanked them back, but too many were beyond help. The ice broke, upended, sending many into the frigid water.
“No!” He could only watch as nearly half of his unit disappeared under the ice. He and those by his side managed to drag a handful of soldiers out of the water. The rest were gone. Far beyond hope.
Bracing his hands on his knees, Kodie stared wide-eyed at the disaster. Soon the lake was calm again, serene and deadly like a sleeping saberwolf. All the Dathian soldiers had perished, but that was small comfort. One of his soldiers wailed, a woman named Skadha. She ripped off her helmet and fell to her knees, keening in sorrow. Several more women took up the keen and he let them. The dead would not get a proper burial. At least they would be given the respect of the keen.
Kodie straightened and pushed his long blond hair out of his eyes. It hung in small braids as was the custom of his people, but it was forever tangled. He hated the cold and snow. He hated these mountains. He hated all of this.
“A storm’s coming in,” Dagur said. His beard was long and thick as Kodie’s own, obscuring half his face. “We need to leave, Commander.”
“I know.” Yet he let the women finish their keen. When they fell silent and stood, he waved to those left and pointed back the way they’d come. Their breaths fanned out in front of their faces, and Kodie let the wounded lead, then the able women and men, then he brought up the rear. He kept looking over his shoulder, wishing the images and screams of the dying would leave his mind. Wishing to travel back in time and stop his soldiers before the edge of that accursed lake. He’d been stationed on the Curllun mountain for three years, and he was still learning the terrain, and moments like this reminded him he should do more of the scouting personally.
Curllun Mountain was the highest peak of the Lash Mountain Range, and it was named after the man who had successfully navigated it centuries ago. Curllun discovered the only safe pass through the range and settled in what was now Senica, and founded a small village that quickly grew into the capital city of Thuron, where the king sat. The range cleanly divided the kingdom of Senica and the neighboring Dathia.
Kodie’s half of the Senician army guarded that pass against Dathian invasion. The insane, genocidal king of Dathia wanted more land, more slaves, so he threw every resource at conquering Senica. But the dangerous mountains and thickly fortified ports at sea, along with Senica’s superior fleet, blocked his forward motion. That didn’t stop him in the least. For generations the kingdoms had been at war, though the bloodshed increased when King Kurmain had taken the throne decades earlier. It needed to end, somehow. Someday. Kodie just hoped it was before the extinction of the human species.
Kodie followed his troops into the cave where they camped and knew he’d have to report this failure to his general. He winced and glanced at the sky, observing the dark clouds, feeling the sharp cut of the wind. He considered it a failure despite the dead enemy. All his brothers and sisters in arms lost. Grief clutched his breast. He fought against it and walked into the cave, determined to tend to the wounded. He wouldn’t lose anyone else.
Kodie stared at the ground, shivering. He pulled his cloak closer, knowing it wouldn’t help much. Even his thick breeches and fur-lined cloak barely muted the frigid punch. He stood inside his general’s tent, waiting for a response. He’d reported his actions as duty commanded and shame filled every word. Ignorance and battle greed lost them good soldiers. Such was the burden of command.
He led most of the soldiers back to main camp and sent another small unit to relieve those left behind in the cave. There were other such temporary camps pocketed around the only trail known to bisect the Lash Mountains. Senician soldiers kept an eye on several parts of the trail to make sure Dathians didn’t get too far. A few Senician scouts reported other trails that could also be used to scale the mountains but they were far more hazardous. Yet Kodie wouldn’t put it past the Dathians, and their king, to grow desperate and use them.
There was yet another looming threat in those mountains beyond the weather, deadly terrain, and enemy soldiers: giants. Both mountain and ice giants thrived up here, so close to the clouds and frozen sky. Yet after generations of the army stationed on the mountains, not once had giants given them any attention. Kodie was thankful for that. The very last thing they needed was to be noticed by those enormous beasts.
“You didn’t know the lake was there.” His general’s voice was deep and rough, and though he spoke softly, Kodie knew he could trumpet his words over large distances.
Kodie looked at his general’s back and swallowed hard. “I did, sir. I am ashamed to say I did. But I didn’t realize we were standing on the blasted lake until it was too late. It was only when the ice cracked under my feet did I come to my senses and order the troops back.”
Little good it did.
“It was careless, Kodie. You were careless, and we lost soldiers because of it.”
“Yes, sir.” Kodie grimaced. He stared at the general’s hunched back as he leaned over the table, over the map held down with rocks. Despite his rank, their general had few comforts. They were nearly all equals up here, where survival was a daily struggle. They depended on each other for food and warmth. Without trust and loyalty, they would all perish.
Furs blanketed the floor at the back of the tent, indicating the sleeping area. The table was the only piece of furniture, and Kodie knew the map was continually being added to, every time a scout reported new cliffs, lakes, or peaks. Apparently, units before them hadn’t deemed that a worthy endeavor, and Kodie always cursed them for their carelessness. Previous units had been lulled into complacency by long periods of inactivity. With King Kurmain all that changed.
The general straightened as much as the tent would allow. Around eight feet tall, General Jeth was intimidating and powerful, broad and vicious. Kodie also knew he could be gentle and playful, and would even sing when he was in the mood.
They’d been friends for twenty years. Good friends. Brothers. Due to that bond, Kodie felt his failure more acutely.
Jeth turned around, and Kodie straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin. He stood over six feet himself, taller than anyone of his acquaintance. It was humbling to be near Jeth and feel dwarfed, though he was mostly used to it, since Jeth had always been taller and broader than him.
With black hair, onyx eyes, and dark skin, Jeth was a sight to behold. His heavy, thick brow gave him a perpetually angry expression, and the brutish structure of his face and body indicated his deadly heritage. Giant blood ran through his veins, and it gave him strength, height, and imperviousness to cold. He also retained their darker nature. Their black rage.
“I’m disappointed in you,” Jeth said. “But I can hardly throw any stones. More than anyone here, I know what it is to be lost in battle frenzy.”
Their eyes met, sharing a tragic memory that still haunted them both.
“I’m sorry, Jeth,” Kodie whispered.
“I know.” Jeth stepped closer and pulled Kodie into his arms, holding him tightly against his chest. Kodie locked his arm around Jeth’s waist, taking deep breaths of his scent, and it calmed him, warmed him inside-out. He indulged himself for a moment and buried his face against Jeth’s chest. Jeth’s body was always a furnace, and for the first time in years, Kodie felt warm.
Jeth could easily crush him without much effort, but Kodie’s trust in his friend was absolute. Long past was any fear that Jeth would hurt him. Physically, at least.
“We will get through this. We will survive this, or so help me, we die, taking as many of those bastards with us as possible.”
Kodie smiled. “Damn right.”
Jeth pulled back, and Kodie nearly clutched him tighter, wanting to stay in that safe, warm cocoon for the rest of his life. He called himself pathetic and forced his arms to drop, forced his expression blank. Jeth gently tugged his beard and Kodie snorted. Playing along, Kodie reached up and tugged Jeth’s thick, bushy beard. Jeth grinned, white teeth flashing.
“The women keened,” Kodie said, returning to sober events. “The dead got that much.”
“General!” a soldier shouted from beyond the tent.
A young soldier, one of the newer recruits, stumbled in, pale under his helmet. “Smoke was seen near the next rise. One of our scouts moved closer and claimed it was a small squadron of Dathian soldiers. She—she swore she saw green feathers in their helmets.”
Damn. Those were the elite warriors of Dathia, known as fendras. The king’s personal guard and often employed as assassins. What were they doing on these gods’ forsaken mountains? The king truly had grown desperate.
“A few of our soldiers stayed behind to watch their activity. Perhaps they wait until night to ambush us.”
Jeth shook his head, stroking his beard. “No. This must be a ploy.”
Kodie agreed. The elite warriors wouldn’t be so easily spotted if they didn’t want to be. That meant they either wanted to be noticed or they weren’t actually the elite and simply wore the green feathers as a trick. Either way it was smarter to observe them for a while.
“It is too obvious,” Jeth concluded, his line of thinking parallel with Kodie’s. He turned to Kodie. “We will increase our night watchers and make sure they are always observed. Tell the soldiers to stay a sensible distance away. We can’t afford to lose any more.”
Kodie barely avoided a wince. He merely nodded and gestured for the scout to leave. He took a deep breath. “The rest of my unit should return by daybreak. We can send out another scouting party, north this time. I thought about going with them and—”
Kodie looked up and blinked in surprise. “May I ask why not?”
“Fresh troops arrived this morning. I need you to train them.”
Kodie rubbed his chin. “Great. Fresh blood to cover the snow.”
Jeth laid a large, rough hand on Kodie’s shoulder and squeezed. “I feel as you do. But in that, we have no control. We can only train them as best we can to survive.”
Kodie nodded, acutely feeling Jeth’s hand, the strength and warmth of it. It made his groin spark with interest. He was hopeless.
“I’ll send Kurza, then. She has a good head and her sense of direction is equal to none. In a snow flurry she could find her way home.”
“I agree. Perfect choice.”
Kodie met Jeth’s dark eyes for a long moment before turning away and walking out the tent. He stood for a moment, breathing in the painfully cold air, feeling it slice into his lungs. He pulled up the thick collar of his tunic and covered his nose and mouth with it. He suspected it was the precariousness of living that had him continually thinking of his love for Jeth, and imagining what it would be like to have him for a lover. He’d never heard any of Jeth’s former lovers complain, whether they be free men and women or whores. He was envious of them, and hated himself for taking the coward’s way out and never once mentioning his need. But he couldn’t risk their friendship. If Jeth truly saw him as a brother, then their entire relationship could crumble, and he’d be stuck in this wasteland with a broken heart. If he said nothing, then he could hold onto his fantasies, that small speck of hope.
Kodie shook his head and called himself an idiot. Pushing such thoughts aside, he walked down the short incline in search of the new troops.
M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!).
Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.
Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.