Mark Sumner is the author of two fantasy novels of the Wild West, Devil's Tower
(a 1996 World Fantasy Award nominee) and Devil's Engine, both from Del Rey.
He also writes about Savannah Skye, a journalist of strange events,
in her adventures News From the Edge: The Monster of Minnesota
News From the Edge: Insanity, Illinois from Ace.
He has written Magic: The Prodigal Sorcerer
and the Extreme Zone series of novels from Archway, among many others.
Mark lives in the hills south of St. Louis with his wife and son.
Mark Sumner: An Auto-bio-bibliography
Mark Sumner Website
Extreme Zone Books
Mark Sumner is a man with a lot of creative
energy -- too much, it turns out. He's currently at work on an assortment
of new projects: novels, novellas, and short stories which he's shared with
the editors of the SF Site, and which we find fascinating.
With Mark's permission, we're offering you a look at the most
intriguing of these story excerpts. Here's your chance for a rare glimpse
at the creative process -- and an even rarer chance to take part. At the
end of this article you'll be given an opportunity to choose which of these
untold tales you'd like to see completed first.
At the bottom of each excerpt is a link called Vote For Your Favourite.
That link leads to a page where you can indicate your preference and send Mark a comment.
Last issue we offered three untold tales, beginning with
Antriders which is the first
chapter of a book Mark thought had been sold. The second is a creepy little number titled
A Matter of Death. Then ther is Touched By Fire,
which could turn into an alternate history novel about paranoia, politics, and maybe even the
meaning of freedom.
This issue we've added a fragment, Leather Doll,
which could be a short story or even a novelette where Mark knows every major event that occurs from the start to the end.
|Mark Sumner: Leather Doll|
Lisle was a hereford, born for meat and leather. When she was younger, the ranch manager had given some thought to breeding, but the girl grew up small-framed and narrow-hipped, so she was turned out into the fields. If it hadn't been for the whistling, she would have gone off to the slaughterhouse with the rest of the twelve year-olds.
Meyer first heard the whistling on a cold fall morning when rain clouds crowded the margins of the yellow sky. It had been a tiring week, what with pulling in the feeding troughs, gathering the remains of salt blocks, moving the herd to the low pasture, and generally getting ready for winter.
|Mark Sumner: Touched By Fire|
The southbound train was slow to leave the station. The engine's coal-fired boiler was deep in its sixth decade, and the numerous patches and welds along the curved iron flank could not hold back a trickle of rusty water at every seam. Both the wheels and the rails they followed showed long years of heavy use and little maintenance. Still, the fire was stoked and the pressure slowly built.
Far down the long row of tall, unpainted cattle cars, two grey-uniformed soldiers slammed close a sliding door. One of them fitted the thick bolt into the door lock while the other took the opportunity to remove his soft hat and wipe the sweat from his forehead. Barely seven in the morning and it was already stifling under a sky that promised a furnace by noon.
|Mark Sumner: Antriders|
It's not everyday you meet a faerie ambassador. To my knowledge, no member of their court had made a call on Timberlane since the days of the fist court. So it was little wonder that the grand hall was packed for the official introduction. Minor nobles and land holders appeared from homes more than three day's ride, and armor was polished bright as rain. Even old Wilater, my predecessor in the post of court magician, forsook his dusty research long enough to put in an appearance.
I wish I could say that everyone was there to witness this historic occasion and pay honor to our unusual guest, but that would be a lie. For the most part the nobles of Timberlane had assembled only to gawk and snigger at an ambassador the size of a fig roll.
|Mark Sumner: A Matter of Death|
The first one came in the grey hours of false dawn.
It was a pitiful thing, barely more than bones, with a wooden leg on the left and a face cracked and scaly as long dried leather. I watched through the second floor window as thing pawed at the door with the fingerless stump of its right hand and moaned for admittance. Flakes of skin rained down from its dry limbs like rust falling from ancient metal.
Copyright © 1998 by Mark Sumner