Happy International Fiction Day! Free Fiction: Amelie’s Guardian (Fantasy)

Well, since it’s International Fiction Day, and it’s also about a year since my first short story was published in an anthology, I thought I’d share something fictional with you. This is my first sold fantasy short story. It’s written like a modern fairy tale and focuses around a dragon’s friendship with a young girl. The story was inspired by an open call for submissions of stories about dragons, cats, or both. My friend Dana Bell edited the anthology and it also features Andre Norton and many other talented writers and poets. So I hope you enjoy this tale. It’s named after my dog, Amelie, yes. And Glendon is from my mom’s name, Glenda. And Ramon is my father’s name. Just a little trivia. I have fun tuckerizing. Anyway, I hope you enjoy:

Amelie’s Guardian

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

© copyright 2011 by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. All Rights Reserved. Duplication without permission except under fair use prohibited.

Published April 2011 in “Of Fur And Fire,” an anthology from DreamZion Publications, Denver, CO.


ong ago in a land known as Glendon, there lived a young girl, whose name was Amélie. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a soldier, a Captain in the Kingdom Guard, who’d been seven moons at war. They lived in a small village on the banks of the mighty River Rhi, surrounded by woods. They led  a quiet life of farming and simple trades, far from the capitol.

Her mother’s name was Mara, and her father’s name was Ramon. Mara and Amélie had huddled together as Ramon and his men rode out one fate-ful day, straight down the main street, amidst the straw roofed cottages. Their horses whinnied with excitement as the villagers felt the vibration of their pounding hooves, and choking clouds of dust rose up, carried on the Autumn breeze.

Amélie buried her face in her mother’s well-worn apron, her shoulder rising and falling to the rhythm of her sobs. Her mother kept a brave face, but Amélie knew she was worried, too. Late at night, as she lay restless, Amélie heard her mother’s own sobs through the thin walls of their cottage.

The village itself, Tallerive, had not known conflict in many years and the surrounding woods were known to be safe and quiet.  To keep her daughter occupied and avoid her sitting around worrying, Mara sent Amélie out each morning on a daily quest. One day might be to gather berries in the near-by woods, another to pick up freshly fallen apples. Amélie delivered eggs to the inn and gathered cloth from the weaver’s. All the while Mara stayed home to feed the chickens, work on her sewing, and kept the cottage clean.

On one of these quests I met Amélie. I’d been watching her for a long while and found her intriguing. Her blonde curls bounced as she walked which was a kind of rhythmic loping with a bounce in her steps. Her demeanor was one of curiosity and playfulness, yet I detected a sadness beneath it, echoed in her brown eyes. It touched me. She looked lonely, and that was something I understood well.

For years, I had occupied a mountain-top near the village, but because I nev-er bothered the village, the humans never came to trouble me. I rarely ap-proached humans because of their reaction. Adult humans would scream and hurl rocks or spears when I got too close.

But Amélie was a wee child, and ex-cept for worry about her father, she seemed quite fearless. My heart ached for her on the times I glimpsed her sobbing beneath the apple trees. Other times she talked or sang to herself as she gathered the fruit.  Her lilting voice was a delight to my ears.

I chose to meet her one day atop a hill beside the apple trees. I went early, for Amélie always came mid-morning, and I wanted time to prepare so I could present myself well. I heard her singing first as she approached. The gentle wind seemed to amplify it somehow through the woods.  I could make out every syllable long before I heard her feet rustling in the fallen leaves and brush.

In a few moments, she bounced into view. I saw her golden locks first, then her silky white skin and red cheeks. She began gathering the apples lying at the base of the trees. She seemed in better spirits than I’d seen her previously.

As she worked her way through the trees, I considered again how best to make my presence known. My kind are not known for their subtlety, of course, but at the same time, startling her didn’t seem wise. So, as she continued singing and gathering, I decided to join her song. I’d heard her repeat the refrain several times already, so I waited until she finished the verse she was on, cleared my throat as softly as I could, and joined her on the refrain.

My voice, I’ll admit, was rough from disuse. I lived alone atop a mountain, after all. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the to-tal disaster I’d feared. It took a few moments for her to realize she was no longer singing alone. As soon as she did, she stopped and whirled around, her eyes searching, until finally they found their way to the top of the hill.

Finishing the refrain’s last line alone, I curved my lips into smile, taking care not show my sharp teeth lest I frighten her. I didn’t speak, wanting to be sure I said the right thing.  I feared she would run away, but her eyes never showed the fear which was most hu-man’s normal reaction. Instead, her head tilted slightly as her eyes took me in, and she set down her basket, She stepped closer to get a better view.

“You’re a dragon, aren’t you?”

I nodded, the smile frozen on my long narrow snout.

“Are you going to eat me?”

I shook my large head. “No.”

“In my uncle’s stories, dragons either eat you or burn you,” Amélie said, her face twisting in a quizzical way as she thought. “You don’t look so scary to me.”

I laughed, relieved. I couldn’t help my-self, but the sheer volume made her step back toward the woods, looking as if she might run. “No, I won’t eat you, I promise. I came here to meet you.”

“Meet me?” She stepped forward again, clearly intrigued. “Why?”

“I’ve been watching you for some time now. You’re quite fascinating.”

She shook her head, an amused smile crossing her face. “I’m just a little girl.”

“Yes, and I’m just an old dragon, but still, I find you interesting.”

Amélie laughed, a charming high pitched sound which warmed my heart. The sound was filled with joy and a sense of freedom I longed to know, as if she had not a care in the world. Oh to know such freedom! I was rapt with fascination.

“What’s your name?” Amélie started slowly climbing the grassy hillside toward me.

“My name is hard to translate into human,” I told her, trying to come up with something she could understand. “You can call me whatever you’d like,” I finally said.

She smiled as she stopped beside me, then moved slowly around, examining me without fear. “You’re very green, you know. And very big, too.” She crinkled her nose. “You smell funny, too.”

“I smell like all dragons, I suppose.” I tried not to be offended, reminding myself she meant no harm. Besides, she smelled odd to me, too.

“Perhaps I should name you some-thing grand.” She put a finger on her mouth thinking.

I smiled, liking the sound of it. I was-n’t familiar with human names, but I hoped it was grand. “I like that.”

Amélie giggled. Her face took on a serious look. “I think I shall name you Johannes. Okay? ”

“Johannes?” I thought it over, trying it on for size. It did sound somewhat re-gal to me, very formal and proper it seemed. “Okay, Johannes it is.”

She nodded with approval and smiled again. “My name is Amélie. I’m from Tallerive. Do you know it?”

I nodded and smiled back. “Indeed. I live atop the Mount to the East.”

“Shadow Mount?”

So that’s what the humans called it! As I considered the meaning  I remem-bered it did cast shadows over their village in late morning, before the sun rose to its afternoon peak and started its descent. “Shadow Mount, yes.” I nodded.

“Is it scary? Father and Mother told me stories of large creatures and people who disappeared there long ago.” She shuddered at the memory of them.

My mind raced to find words I could tell her which wouldn’t make her fear me. Dangerous creatures dwelled there—direwolves and bats and trolls—and the few human adventurers who’d tried to climb it usually died at the hands of one or the other. Only one had made it to the top and confronted me but that had been long in the past. I’d meant to spare him but he came at me with a sword, and I’d had to defend myself. The stench of burning flesh haunted my memory causing me to cringe. I’d always tried to live in peace with the world around me. It gave me no pleasure watching him die.

“It’s been my home for many gener-ations,” I explained. “It’s not scary to me, but there are creatures about who might do harm to someone like you.”

Her lower lip curled up over its com-panion a moment, then she shook her head and spread her legs in a defiant stance. “I’m not afraid. My daddy would protect me.” She paused, her eyes turning sad and looked at her feet. “If he were here.”

My heart melted at seeing her pain. I wanted to reach out and comfort her, but one of my hands was twice her size and I feared crushing her by accident, so I sat where I was.

“He’s gone to war,” she told me, not knowing I already knew. Sadness dark-ened her face like a shadow. “But he’s coming back to visit soon. My Mother got a letter today.” At the mention of it, her smile returned and she did a little dance, sending her brown skirt fluttering around her long, skinny legs.

I laughed as I watched her. Such a delightful sight to behold. “You miss him a lot.”

She nodded, glancing back at her apples. “I have to go back soon. My Mother will worry. She’s waiting to make fresh apple pie.” Her tongue slid quickly across her lips at the mention of it .From her face I could see it was something delicious. “But I enjoyed meeting you, Johannes.”

“I enjoyed meeting you, too, Amélie.”

“Will I see you again?”

“I hope so,” I said as I watched her turn and bounce back down the hill the way she’d come. She went straight to her basket and picked it up, glanc-ing back at me with a smile before re-turning to her gathering.

We visited daily from then on. I land-ed in a glen near the berry bushes or a brook near the path to the weaver’s; somewhere close to wherever she was headed for the day. I made sure to avoid other villagers or their animals. Drawing too much attention would put an end to our visits, and Amélie appeared to enjoy them as much as I did. In fact, since we’d met, I hadn’t seen her sob in the woods once. It was as if somehow my companionship made her feel less alone. I know my time with her had that effect on me. Both of us enjoyed each other’s com-pany, the only difficulty being the times she begged me to take her for a flight.

“What’s it like to fly?”

“It’s freeing.” It was all I could think of.

“I wish I could fly.” She looked up toward the puffy white clouds with a dreamy look. “It must be wonderful.”

“It is until…” I stopped. Perhaps she was too young to know the dark truth of her people’s relations with my kind.

“Until what?” Her eyes held the sense of wonder common to all younglings. Wide and brown, they looked at me as if I were the core of wisdom. It was im-possible to resist them, as much as I tried.

“Sometimes people see me and they become afraid.” I watched her for a re-action. “They try and attack me.”

Her eyes watered and she ran toward me, wrapping her arms around my lower arm. It was so large her out-stretched arms could only stretch part way around. “Why would anyone want to hurt you? You’re so kind.”

I closed my eyes at the warmth of her body pressed against mine. She softly stroked my scales.

“Your scales are soft,” she said in won-der. “They look so hard.”

I smiled. “They’re my protection a-gainst enemies. They hold up very well when I need them, but they’re like my skin, Amélie.”

She smiled as she caressed them. “I like them.” She stepped back so our eyes met. “Take me flying with you, Johannes!”

Fearing she might fall, I politely re-fused her. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”

“I’ll be careful, I promise. Just a little flight. Not even very high. I want to know what it’s like.”

Each time I refused from then on, she had the same sad eyed expression she’d had whenever she spoke of her father. After several tries, she turned away and looked back down the hill to-ward her village. “Friends do things for each other,” she half accused.

My heart ached to fulfill her wish, but how would she hold on? I couldn’t risk it. I didn’t know what to say, and, after a few heartbeats, she simply started her bouncing lope down the hill, not looking back at me, as she usually did when we parted.

The next day, she returned to her old self, running to hug me when she saw me in the glen near the berries. She chased me as I hopped and skipped just out of reach, using my wings for short bursts of flight, making her laugh and laugh as she kept trying to out-smart me. In the end, I let her catch me, and the joy on her face gave me a happiness I had never known. My life as a dragon had been so lonely. Amélie was the first true friend I’d had since I was a youngling, and had other drag-ons as my companions. I thought of her like family, although I tried to guard my heart.

As the day approached for her father’s expected arrival, the energy radiating from Amélie grew more and more joyful. It felt as if all her cares had suddenly vanished. She spoke often of her father—how he used to tell her stories as he tucked her in at night, stories of knights and castles and princesses and battles. She knew her daddy was as brave as the men in those stories. She spoke of him as gentle and kind and wise and honorable. Hearing her describe him, I wished I could meet him, but then I remembered my previous encounters with human adults Which hadn’t turned out well.

It made me sad to only share a small part of her world. I’d grown quite fond of her and she of me. But Amélie her-self seemed to enjoy our secret friendship. It was something of her own she didn’t have to share with anyone, she said once. She called me her best friend, her guardian, making me promise I would look out for her until her father came home. I always promised when she said it, although I started worrying her father’s arrival might bring an end to our encounters.

Finally the week came for her father’s homecoming. I watched from the woods as she and her mother waited anxiously outside their cottage. Smoke rose from the chimney and I smelled the scent of fresh baked bread, a smell I always associated with the village.

Her mother kept busy sweeping and doing laundry, but Amélie sat patiently on a wooden bench, watching the road, her eyes anxious and excited. I sniffed the wind, searching for a scent of human sweat and approaching horses. For several daylight hours I kept vigil with her. But no one came.

Her mother’s face grew more and more concerned, her eyes darkening with worry as her face dropped into a frown. She went behind the house twice, wiping tears on her stained apron where Amélie couldn’t see her. And finally, as the sun arced overhead, preparing to start its descent in the west, she called Amélie to her, handed her a basket and motioned toward the woods.

I found her near the apple trees, land-ing on the hill where we’d first met. She paid me no attention, sniffling as she gathered apples, her shoulders drooping, her eyes fixed on the ground near her feet. I ached with all my heart to reach out and comfort her, but the trees kept me from drawing near, and it seemed obvious she wanted to be left alone.

As she returned to the village, the basket half-full, I made a decision and launched myself with a running start. I soared high amongst the clouds, following the road leading from the village, the route she’d told me her fa-ther would come. The wind caressed me as soared, a pleasant feeling I al-ways enjoyed. I flew what seemed like a long time, but, from the sun’s lack of movement, I could tell little had passed. I heard them before I saw them—the sharp clash of swords, the high screams of horses. I could smell their sweat and hear their shouting. I knew the sounds of battle and willed my wings to move more swiftly.

I found them at a crossroads, fighting face to face, dozens of companions dy-ing all around. Her father looked tired and older than I remembered him. I knew then their fighting had been long and terrible. He and one of his soldiers stood outnumbered by the en-emy, who had three archers on horse-back firing at them from a rise, while five others surrounded them with swords.

One of the enemies, who appeared to the leader, raised his arm and his men stopped waiting. “If you surrender now, your lives will be spared,” the leader shouted.

“If we surrender now, our lives are worthless,” Amélie’s father answered. “Honor and glory to the King!” He raised his sword and his companion did likewise.

The enemy soldiers laughed. “Your honor will be your end,” the enemy leader responded. He lowered his arm and his men moved in.

Swords clanged and men grunted. I could see Amélie’s father was ex-hausted and could barely lift his sword. His companion took a sword through the stomach and fell to his knees, his life’s blood watering the parched dirt.

They needed me! Swooping down from behind, I blasted the archers with fire from my mouth. They shrieked  as their clothes caught fire and uselessly tried to escape into the woods. I con-tinued down toward the others. Spot-ting me, the enemy soldiers yelled and swung their swords over their heads in desperation, ducking as I flew past. I turned my head and blasted two of the enemies with flames. I then swung back up to circle around.

As I came in the second time, I saw some of the enemy mounting their horses. Apparently they’d done the damage they intended and had no desire to stick around and fight a dragon as well. Amélie’s father collapsed in a heap, as if his legs could no longer hold him. I dropped down and landed nearby. He turned his head toward me, his face showing resignation to whatever fate might bring.

“I have no strength left to fight you dragon,” he said. “I’m at your mercy.”

I looked him over, trying to decide what to do. Then I took a running start, reaching down to grab him with my talons  I arched back up into the clouds, returning the way I’d come toward Tallerive where my sweet friend would be waiting. He relaxed in my grip, hanging there as if he’d fallen asleep, but I glanced down once and saw his eyes examining me.

As I flew, my mind raced, trying to decide how I could return him to Tallerive without raising alarms. If I left him in the woods, Amélie and her mother wouldn’t know to find him there. But if I took him to the village, the men might attack me on sight. In the end, I knew I had no choice, so I flew over the village once, before I  came in for landing on the main road near his family’s cottage.

Two women removing clothes from a line screamed and ran as they saw me, calling for their husbands. I set Amélie’s father gently on the dirt and prepared to take off again as Amélie and her mother appeared in their doorway. Her mother’s face filled with fear as she saw me standing over her husband, but Amélie brightened, her face lighting up with a smile as she ran toward me. Her mother and father both called for her to stop, but she didn’t listen.  She embraced her fallen father.

His arms wrapped around her. I heard men shouting as they came up the road. I had only moments before they’d arrive to engage me, so I smiled at Amélie as she hugged her father.

She looked up at me, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, Johannes. I love you.”

I choked back my own tears as I nod-ded and ran up the road, launching myself into the air. I heard her father ask: “Who’s Johannes?” behind me as I disappeared over the trees into the woods, heading for my mountain home.

For the next week, I saw Amélie only from a distance. She did her usual chores, but I kept my distance for fear the adults might be nearby to protect her from me. It was always the same, in every town, with every race of hu-mans. Dragons were feared and hated—the enemy. No matter how she explained it, they’d never understand. I had to prepare myself for the loss of her companionship. I hoped I was wrong, but I had to be ready.

“Johannes! Where are you?”

Her voice echoed through the trees and cut through my fears like a sword through flesh. I circled down in an arc toward the glen near the berries. It sounded like her voice had come from there and my nose detected the scent of humans. I peered through the trees trying to spot those golden locks, but with the first snowfall, the canopy was layered in white, covering the gaps in the trees.

Setting aside my worry, I swung down and landed in the glen near my usual spot. As I turned toward the now bare trees, Amélie came racing toward me, a thick shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her curls bounced as bounded toward me and smiled with delight.

She swung her arms around my neck as she reached me, caressing my scales. “I missed you, Johannes!”

“I missed you, too.” And then I saw them. Her parents stepped out from behind the thick trunks to watch us cautiously.

Sensing my concern, Amélie stepped back to look me in the eye. “It’s all right. They came here to meet you. I told them all about us.” She patted my neck. “Don’t be afraid.”

As she waved at them, her parents approached with trepidation. “You save my life, dragon,” her father said as he drew near.

I nodded. “You family needs you.”

“We’re so grateful,” Amélie’s mother wiped moisture from her eyes.

“It is I who am grateful. For the friend-ship of your daughter.”

Her father smiled. “Dragons and humans are not known to be friends.”

“Johannes is a good dragon,” Amélie said. “He’s my guardian.” She smiled at us, as if dragons and humans should always have been friends

The adults and I laughed.

“We know that, dear.” Her mother tousled Amélie’s hair as she placed an arm around her shoulders.

“But he never let me fly with him.” Amélie frowned.

“It’s quite amazing,” her father teased.

“No fair!”

Her parents and I shared a laugh again. “I don’t want you to fall and my talons might crush you.”

“I have an idea about that,” her father said. “Meet us here tomorrow.”

The next day, they returned with a leather horse harness her father had modified. It fit Amélie securely and had a handle where I could clasp on with my talons and carry her safely.

Their confidence amazed me. “You would trust me with her life?”

“You proved trustworthy with mine.” Her father nodded as he finished helping Amélie into the harness. Lov-ingly, he snapped the last fitting and made sure her shawl was secure around  her. “Everything is fine,” he reassured Mara, who stood nearby, looking slightly worried.

Amélie smiled, then hurried over beside me, waving. “Come on! I’m ready!”

“As you wish, little one.”

And with that I lifted off, hovering just above the ground as her father rushed in, ducked underneath and held the harness handle up so I could grasp it. My talons closed tightly around it and I tugged gently. It moved with me.

With a nod from her father and wave from her mother, I took off, carrying Amélie into the clouds. She laughed with delight, pointing at the village as she saw it beneath us. She pointed at the mountain I called home, at the river, and the hill where we’d met. I told her stories about all of them, recollections from the hundreds of years I’d lived here. When she drew quiet, I guessed perhaps she was overwhelmed. I flew in silence, letting her ponder at what she’d heard and seen.

I returned her safely after a daylight hour to where her parents waited in the glen. Our daily visits resumed after that, and although she occasionally brought her parents, mostly she came alone.

Long ago in a land known as Glendon, there lived a girl, whose name was Amélie. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a soldier, and her best friend was a dragon.

She came to see him every day, intro-ducing him to her husband before they married, and bringing her child-ren to play with him. As she grew, their relationship transitioned from mere companionship to a sort of mentoring.

The loneliness which had once haunt-ed the dragon was never known again. Even the villagers welcomed him with open arms, calling him “Amélie’s Guardian.” Their friendship became legendary. He became part of the family, and he protected the girl and her village for all of his days.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

SPACE BATTLES Author Profile: Meet Author-Editor Dana Bell

Although she got her start in fanfic, which she continues to produce, Dana Bell has authored a number of short stories and her debut novel, Winter Awakening, released from Wolfsinger last year. Her stories and poems have appeared in Space Horrors: Full Throttle Space Tales #4 and Tales Of The Talisman, edited by David Lee Summers,  Lorelei Signal, All About Eve, Throw Down Your Dead: An Anthology of Western Horror, Frost Bitten Fantasies and Zombified: An Anthology Of All Things Zombie, amongst others.  She has a number of stories forthcoming in anthologies besides her Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 appearance and edited Of Fur And Fire, an anthology of cat and dragon stories and poems last year as well for Dreamzion in 2011 and is editing two anthologies for Wolfsinger at present, Time Traveling Coffers and Different Dragons. Her space opera tale, “Isis,” features a ship as alive as her crew. You can find her blog at http://dragonlotsma.blogspot.com.

BTS: How did you find out about the Space Battles anthology and what made you decide to submit?

Dana Bell: It’s amazing what you can find out about on Facebook, but then I hear about many submission opportunities there. Not to mention I’d met the editor at ConQuest a couple of years back and enjoyed working with him as a writer when he submitted a story to an anthology I edited called Of Fur and Fire.

I’m a writer who likes to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Much of today’s publishing world is about ‘branding’ yourself, I’ve recently read a blog by an agent who said the more diverse a writer can be the more sales they can make. ‘Isis’ stretched me because I’d never attempted a battle story, outside of Fan Fiction, and wasn’t sure I could do it. My first anthology sale was for ‘All About Eve’ when the editor, Carol Hightshoe, asked me at MileHiCon to send her a story. I also had a story in FTST#4 Space Horrors. Both were about cats. I have quite a few stories in several different anthologies.

BTS: Tell us a little about “Isis.” What’s it about? Where’d this particular idea come from?

DB: ‘Isis’ is about the relationship between a Spacer and his/her sentient ship as they transport a group of refugees from a missionary camp after a recent attack. They’re pursued by the Buton who are unable to produce their own young and take human children captive for purposes that are not really explained, but hinted at.

The idea for this story came from many sources. I borrowed a couple of ideas from Alan E. Nourse, whom I dedicated the story to, from his book ‘Raiders from the Rings’. In Raiders the men who lived in space could only produce male children due to radiation damage and they made regular raids on Earth for supplies and women. Their main base is protected by an asteroid maze which can only be safely traversed with the correct course.

I also do a great deal of research on the Old West. In South Dakota there’s an area called the Badlands, which I’ve visited, and where the bad guys hid regularly. It’s absolutely beautiful and dangerous if you stray from the marked paths.

Some of the other concepts in the story are ‘old school’ and have been used quite a bit by writers like Anne McCaffrey in ‘The Ship Who Sang’, except in her story it was a human who was placed in the ship to run it, or the twist used in the new BattleStar Galactica and Caprica about where the Cyclons came from and why the Colonials developed the absolute terror of interconnected computer technology.

BTS: You’ve also had a novel published and edited an anthology. Please tell us a little about those.

DB: My first novel Winter Awakening was released in 2011. It took me six years to write between the in depth research and field work I needed in order to complete the book. It follows Word Warrior, a cat who leads the others to the next level of evolution by learning to read the human language. He breaks tradition by protecting his females and helping to raise and educate his kittens. It is also the story of Mute or Snow Fur as he’s called who loses his mother as a kitten. He is rescued by wolves who take him to a Spotted Ghost, who fosters him. He too, learns to read despite his disability. He also adds writing to the new skills cats are acquiring along with learning how to use a computer. The lurking danger is the constant snow and ice with the continual threat of the two legs returning, who just might be the ancient humans the cat elders tell stories of.

I edited an anthology called Of Fur and Fire for Dreamzion Publishing, along with a couple of co-editors. It’s a mix of stories about dragons and cats, sometimes in the same story. Most of the pieces were Fantasy. Seems writers can’t think of dragons in any other setting. I did get a couple of good stories using them in Horror and Science Fiction. It was an interesting and a good learning experience for me. Not to mention working with several already published writers and a couple of newcomers. I’m not an easy editor. As I warn people, I’m your worst nightmare English teacher.

BTS: How’d you get started as a writer?

DB: *chuckle* I wrote a play in third grade that the teacher allowed me to rehearse with my classmates and present. Thinking back, I suspect it was because it was the last day of school and she wanted to keep the class entertained. I’ve also had encouragement from various writing teachers and a wonderful long time fanzine editor I worked with.

BTS: You got your start in fan fiction. How has that experience formed your writing or helped your craft?

DB: Years ago, writing Fan Fiction was a black mark on a pro writer’s record. Still is depending on the publisher. However, writing in other people’s universes was a great learning experience for me and taught me the following.

  1. How to work with an editor. As I mentioned earlier I worked with a wonderful long time zine editor whose edits I always looked forward to. She taught me some wonderful tricks on how to mix description with conversation, something many other writers don’t seem to know how to do. She never accepted a bad story and always justified the changes she wanted made. I learned to work with her instead of against and this will help me in my pro career.
  2. World building. Yes, there is world building in Fan Fiction even if it’s already created. The writer has to know the show well so the story, plot line and characters don’t seem unbelievable and it could be an episode. My story ‘New Hope’, a post Serenity/Firefly tale, was nominated for the Fan Quality award. My editor said, ‘You really know the show.’ I presented the characters realistically saying, doing and wearing clothes they really would. Since I tend to use regional locations, there are very few I haven’t experimented with in a FF story before doing an original piece.
  3. How to write fast and practice. I’ve talked to other pros and am amazed at how slowly they all write. I spent thirteen years writing Fan Fiction both for zines and online. I learned to write an entire story in one sitting or a chapter with an average of ten pages in about two to three hours. I call it the splat. Get the story out. The real writing is in the rewrite, which I also learned from my zine editor. It also gives me a place to try ideas to see if they’ll work before writing an original story using the same concept. An interesting note here. My first novel took me six years to write. The Second three years and the third one. One Fan Fiction novel of 100,000 words took five months.
  4. Feedback and developing an audience. My online stories get feedback from readers all the time. Sometimes they’re just ‘thanks for the update’ and other times they’re more in depth telling me what they liked or maybe didn’t like about a story. It helped me learn to handle bad reviews as well. And since Fanficition.net has a tracking system for hits, visitors, etc. these are figures I can approach an editor, agent or publisher with because it shows I have an established audience. Blogs can be used the same way I recently found out. It will also give my readers a place to read more of my fiction while I’m working on my next novel.
  5. Crossovers. I have a very hard time staying in one universe in Fan Fiction. I have a few where I do, like Planet of the Apes and Firefly, but I tend to cross them with something else just to see what would happen. An example would be a story that mixed Dr. Who, Highlander, and Babylon 5 told from the viewpoint of a cat. By the same token, I have a hard time confining by novels and short stories to one genre. It’s not uncommon for me to cross a Post Apocalyptic with Animorphic with Christian Speculative.

BTS: Do you have plans to do any more with this universe?

DB: Currently I don’t have any plans to write more in this universe but one can never tell what future opportunities may present themselves.

BTS: What other projects do you have in the works that we can look forward to?

DB: I will have stories in several anthologies this year: ‘Darkness in the Heartland’ will be in Ultimate Angels from KnightWatch Press. It features tiger angels who are assigned to stop a crazy cult leader. ‘Smothered’ told by a narrator who wanders off topic about how the Earth drowned in a dust bowl will be in Earth’s End: An Apocalyptic Anthology from Open Casket Press. ‘Keeping the Tradition’ accepted for The Mystical Cat from Sky Warrior books. Tells the story about a light house keeper in space complete with her cat and a ghost, all part of traditional lighthouse lore. ‘Tumbling Tumble Weeds’ a funny little tale about tumbleweeds attacking and overwhelming a house while two children are left at home alone will be in the Fall edition of Tales of the Talisman. ‘Justice’ is a fictionalized true life horror story based on the Sand Creek massacre. None of the gory details are made up. They’re all part of the historic record. It will be published in the Dead Rush anthology from Wicked East Press.

I’m currently editing and taking submissions through May 31st, 2012 for Time Traveling Coffers with WolfSinger Publications and will be editing Different Dragons. Guidelines are on the publisher’s site. I may be editing an anthology for Open Casket Press in 2013. My next two books have been submitted and I’m waiting to hear back from the publishers. God’s Gift is currently at WolfSinger Publications. My pitch line: ‘“God told us you were coming. Tell us about His son,” were the first words the aliens spoke to the human settlers.’ Possible prequel to my Winter trilogy with the cats, wolves and spotted ghosts. Titles are Winter Emergence mostly about the surviving humans, and Winter Moon, introducing the mother of two cats whose name is, oddly enough, Moon. My first romance Worth the Wait I’ve submitted a query letter to the Love Inspired Suspense line at Harlequin. I already have another small press who has expressed interest in the event Harlequin says no. Features two characters in their fifties who fall in love after a fatal shooting in a parking garage leaving four security agents dead and endangering my heroine’s life or else her senator cousin’s.

So here’s an excerpt of “Isis”:


Dana Bell

Dedicated to Alan E. Nourse

Explosions sounded, their vibrations rocking Isis in her launch cradle. I sensed her desire to flee and reached up a hand to glide my fingers across her pearl and ebony wing. “Easy,” I reassured her. “Just a few more minutes.”

Screams sounded beyond the wired gates. Women and children, many dressed in gray jumpsuits, trickled through the opening, scattering to whatever safety they could find. The men fired weapons to cover the retreat. Sometimes, I heard a shout as someone died.

Some of the needle-nosed ships vanished in flares of orange and blue. The fleeing refugees changed course, charging toward another.

One of the missionaries ran toward me. In her charge were about a half dozen children. “Please,” she pleaded, “please.”

I nodded, like I’d really ignore her plea. We spacers aren’t as heartless as the whispered tales the humans tell of us. Isis opened her
hatch and I motioned the group inside.

Another group came and we took them onboard. Nearby a neighboring ship erupted in a storm of fire and raining metal.
I noticed the enemy was careful only to destroy the empty vessels. Any with passengers aboard were spared. That didn’t surprise me. They were desperate to take the children alive.

“I’m full,” Isis told me.

“Time to leave then.” I stepped up the ramp and Isis closed her
door behind me. I glanced into the storage hold now full of frightened
children and their sparse caretakers. “Hang onto something.” The
adults nodded instructing the children to grab the railing along the
glittering blue walls.

My steps echoed hollowly as I went down the pastel corridor to the
control room. Not that Isis actually needed a pilot. She could launch
on her own. Still, her designers thought it better to give her limited
intelligence so she could be controlled. They didn’t want a repeat of
what had happened on Earth in years past.

I shook my head. No need to think about that.

Slipping into the gray seat that curved to accommodate my long
limbs, my fingers immersed themselves into the spiky tendrils and
watched as they wrapped around my hands. The sensation still bothered
me. It was like holding warm slimy worms.

“Go now?” she asked.

“Yes, you can launch now.”

I sensed her bunch her strength and launch her bulk into the night
sky. On the overhead holo-vid I could see the ground below. Several
spike-nosed ships barreled up as the invading troops poured through
the gates, overrunning the defenders. The soldiers scattered, gathering
up those unfortunate enough not to escape. I turned my attention away.
There was no way to help the captives now.

Deep blue changed to a ruddy purple before we reached the blackness
of space. Isis hummed to herself as she “shook” her wings and darted to

On the vid I could see the enemy cruisers as they concentrated on
capturing any who tried to escape. They netted one ship while another
barely managed to slip past them.

They didn’t see us. I’d counted on that. Isis’ dark colors caused
her to blend into the star-studded jet. She also glided on the solar and
planetary winds. No output to be tracked.


“The Badlands.”

She “questioned” but didn’t argue. The Badlands were tricky
and unpredictable. Still, they’d be the safest place. The big battle
cruisers couldn’t navigate them. Neither could most other pilots.
Too many uncharted asteroid fields and many—more than could be
counted—had died.

“Are we safe?”

I turned to look at the woman who had asked. Her dark hair was
askew, framing her face in an almost lion-like mask. Her gray robes
showed traces of dirt. She clutched one end as if to anchor herself or
perhaps as a way to deal with her fear.

“They haven’t seen us.”

“I’ve heard about this ship.” She bit her lip. I think she was afraid.
There’s a deep seeded fear of AI’s in our culture. Ever since … I
stopped my train of thought. No need to upset my ship.

“We’re headed for the Badlands.” I glanced at the vid. There was
a dark dot trailing behind. I frowned.

Her voice crept up a notch. “They’re following us?”

“I doubt it. There’s no way for them to.” Or at least I hoped not.
“We need food and bedding.” Practical as always, despite a hovering
threat. Most of the nuns were like that.

“In the lockers outside the hold.” I gently removed my fingers and
wiped them on a towel I hung nearby. They weren’t really wet but they
felt like it. “I’m Captain Blair M’Tok.”

“Sister Sharon Louis.” Her brown eyes frankly took in my lean
form as I stood up. I stretched, aware yet not envious of the obvious
differences. My people are all the same; tall, slender, and with a bulky
upper torso. Most of us cropped our hair short. I’d done the same with
my dull black mop.

“You’re a Spacer,” the sister said.

I nodded not ashamed. I was among the few who understood why
the Buton’s wanted our children. There was a price to be paid to roam
the stars. We spacers had paid it gladly.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept to the hold as much as possible,” I
said. “Latrine and sonic showers are right next door.” They weren’t
standard in ships but I’d insisted. I didn’t always just carry cargo.
Settlers paid well to be transported for a possible new start on another
planet. I had no idea how many actually succeeded and didn’t really
care. Their credits paid docking fees and other supplies I needed.
The Sister glanced nervously at me before her eyes found the
deck. “Do we need to worry…?” She didn’t finish her question. She
didn’t need to.

“No. You won’t be aboard long enough.”

“But there’s nowhere to go in the Badlands.” I could hear the
bewilderment in her voice.

“Nowhere official.” I grinned.

She frowned and her expression turned to anger. “You’d take us to
be with the scum of the galaxy?”

“They’re good people.” I should know. I’d sheltered with them
more than once. “And they’ll take you in. Besides,” I pointed at the
dot, “where else are you going to go?”

“Humpf.” She finally released the edge of her robe. Her frightened
gaze darted to the dot and she straightened as if to show no fear. “Thank
you, Captain.” She stomped away.

I shook my head. I could hear the sounds of several children
laughing and a few crying. Their guardians murmured quietly trying
to reassure or quiet them.

“Going to be a long trip.” Or so it would seem. The Badlands
were only a few light years away. My over-large yellow—green eyes
drifted to the dot. It had crept closer. “I know you can’t see us.” At
least I hoped not.

Continued in Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which you can purchase here starting now (preorders end April 17).