What – it’s been a week already since my last post? Well, I’m all out of fresh ideas for a new one. Instead, here’s something I prepared earlier – an excerpt from my story “With Paper Armour and Wooden Sword”, which was published in Bleed anthology in 2013. What  I really want you to do, once you’ve read the excerpt, is to buy the whole anthology to read the rest. Don’t like second person viewpoints? That’s OK – there are 46 other pieces in the anthology, and the proceeds from the sale of this book go to the American National Children’s Cancer Society.

* * * * *

Early next morning, the wailing begins. In households scattered across the city, mothers and fathers arise from their beds to find their doors still firmly bolted, their windows still shut fast, the embers in their hearth fires still glowing, and their beloved children cold and still. A baker’s daughter, not yet ten years old, her skin mysteriously covered in a mass of pustules where none existed the day before. A wealthy merchant’s son, who had celebrated his fifth birthday the week before, his limbs twisted into impossible and agonising shapes. A farmer’s daughter on the cusp of adulthood, come to visit her city cousin, her corpse oddly deflated, as if she had been drained of her blood. A pauper’s son, still in swaddling, seemingly asleep in his mother’s arms, until the swaddling is unwrapped to reveal his belly sliced open and his innards rearranged. Your own child is unscathed, and for this you feel both profoundly grateful and obscurely guilty.
Some of the bereaved parents take to the streets, weeping and wailing in their sackcloth and ashes. You view these mourners out of the corner of your eye with a kind of superstitious dread, as if confronting them fully with your gaze were to invite the same fate upon you.

When the Foe returns to the gate, none dare cast another stone.

“Send me your children,” he repeats. “The war has begun, and will be waged whether you choose to or not.”

“We will not, sir,” pronounces the mayor. Her voice shakes, yet she stands resolute, her hands clenched in fists at her side. Her own child, a pretty little thing with coppery skin and hair like midnight, clings to her skirts and gazes up at the Foe with wide, innocent eyes. “If you want war, then you shall have it, but it will be with us,”—she gestures at the adults gathered behind her—“not with our children.”

The Foe laughs. It is a sound redolent of agony and death, of festering battleground wounds and vicious back-alley diseases.

“Perhaps I will have you, one day,” he says with a nod, “after I have consumed your children.”


The crowd stirs and parts to reveal a small child in its midst. He steps forward fearlessly and looks up at the Foe, his little brow creased with confusion. “Why must we fight you?”

The Foe crouches down to bring himself eye to eye with the child. He traces a forefinger down the boy’s cheek in a parody of affection, leaving a livid scar in its wake.

“Just because, little one,” he says, “just because.”

* * * * *

Purchase link for Bleed: http://www.amazon.com/Bleed-Lori-Michelle/dp/0988748886/

Followers of my blog (and my life in general) will know that Dark Continents Publishing shut up shop last month. With the company’s closure, my first (and so far only) single author collection Ghosts Can Bleed was withdrawn from sale.

But I have exciting news in Tracieland – Ghosts Can Bleed will live again, thanks to Miika Hannila and his team at Creativia.

Creativia is a European independent press that has a similar ethos to Dark Continents. They’re small (but growing fast) and agile, they love speculative fiction, and they like their authors to retain control of their work and their careers. Although the ink is barely dry on the (simple and transparent) contract, I have a feeling I’m going to fit right in.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to fellow Kiwi author and close-friend-I’ve-never-met, John Irvine (I’ve promised him duty free rum on my next visit to New Zealand). Creativia is publishing Disquiet, an anthology of fiction and poetry by New Zealand and Australian authors co-edited by John and me (but more on that in a later post). They also publish two of John’s works, Blood Curry and Anomalous Appetites, the latter being a dark speculative fiction poetry anthology that has achieved great things on Amazon’s bestseller list under Creativia’s assured promotional hand. John introduced Miika and me and put in a good word for me…and now, here we are!

GhostscanBleed cover smashwords

Earlier this week, the most excellent Hack programme on Triple J featured an article on the posthumous use of social media and its effect on the grieving process. It’s not something I have had much experience with – of the handful of my loved ones who have died since I started using social media, only one had a Facebook account, and that was under-utilized – but as a speculative fiction author who likes to think about technological advancements, the near future, and things of generally morbid nature, the topic held great fascination for me. Coincidentally, I happened to witness this week what happens when someone dies and Facebook Goes Horribly Wrong, when the aforementioned social media site alerted the Facebookverse that it was one of my distant virtual acquaintance’s birthday. Trouble was, said acquaintance passed away some weeks ago. His timeline was filled with happy birthday wishes from a host of (presumably) even more distant acquaintances who didn’t get the memo. “Awkward” doesn’t begin to cover it.

But back to Hack. Among other things, the programme discussed such start-up companies as Eterni.me and LIVESON. Via sophisticated artificial intelligence programming that doesn’t exist yet, Eterni.me will take all of one’s social media interactions and analyze them to create a digital avatar that will continue to communicate with your loved ones on your behalf after you die. LIVESON is a similar service that will posthumously tweet for you. Their tagline is “When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.”

So many questions, so little time…

Here’s what I’m thinking – and for a change, it has little to do with death. Writers are constantly being exhorted to spend up to half of our productive time attending to our social media profile in order to engage with our audience (or somehow magically attract an audience in the first place). Why wait until death to create an avatar? Why not get one of these puppies going and put it to work doing our online promotion for us? Surely it’s got to be cheaper than employing a publicist, and our fans need never know the difference between the real you and the virtual AI you. It’d be like David Brin’s Kil’n People or that Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, only without the somewhat creepy physical facsimiles.By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I also wonder what it would be like interacting with a virtual avatar of myself. Would I like me, or would I be an insufferable bore? Perhaps, if this technology ever makes it to fruition, it should be mandatory to spend some time with your avatar before death so you can make a more informed decision on whether or not to inflict yourself on your loved ones for eternity. On the other hand, if you really dig yourself but you’re a bit on the lonely side, a ready-made digital friend who shares your hopes, dreams, interests and opinions is only a mouse click away.