Friday, August 4, 2023

Flash Fiction, "The Dogman," by Christopher Rowe


1016 words

By Christopher Rowe

Art by Carlos Castilho

When he left his holdfast on the Heights, Dafid took along two of his wolfhounds. His wife, Calla, chose them. The twins, Job and Kit, fiercest of their litter. For a parting kiss, Calla bit his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. “Go and get yourself killed,” she said, “and I’ll never forgive you.”

Dafid believed her. She was an honest woman.

It took two weeks of walking to reach the wooden stockade on the Marches where his old comrogue, the Fink, held command. Dafid approached close enough for the men on the towers to see him, but not shoot him. He sat on his heels. The dogs gamboled a bit, but settled down when he clicked his tongue.

After a while, one of the gates opened. It might have been designed to swing on a hinge, but it had settled. It took four men to shove it through the mud while the Fink sat his saddle and watched.

Finally, the brown gelding crossed the killing ground burned around the fort. The Fink pulled reign a few yards short of where Dafid crouched scratching Kit’s ears.

Dafid wasn’t much for talking, but the Fink was as wordless a man as had ever breathed, so he started it.

“The Fink,” he said.

“The Dogman,” said the Fink.

“You sent a bird,” said Dafid.

“Did,” said the Fink.

“Told you to never send a bird,” said Dafid.

“Did,” said the Fink.

“Calla read what was wrapped around its leg.”

“Always smart,” said the Fink.

Dafid did not know how to read. The last he knew, the Fink did not know how to write.

“I was to bring a sword,” said Dafid.

“Don’t have a sword anymore.”

The Fink looked down on him, his expression unreadable. The he drew the broadsword at his belt and tossed it over. Dafid caught it by the hilt, old reflexes kicking in.

“Something you can’t do?” asked Dafid.

The Fink kicked and the gelding turned. As it cantered back across the field, Dafid barely heard what his friend said. 

“Something I won’t.”


There had been five of them.

T’jool the Old, the woman who found them all, rescued them all, fed them and armed them all. The 
woman they then watched slowly die as the purple wen on her neck grew big as an apple.

Dafid, the Dogman, had been the first gathered up. Then Calla Farshot with her arrows. Then the Fink with his blades. 

Then Syndra.

Syndra with her demons.

T’jool had discouraged them from pairing off, but they were young. Dafid saw that the Fink had his eye on Calla but Dafid was just that much more glib, just that much prettier a man. That’s what he told himself, anyway. Later, when he knew Calla better, Dafid knew it hadn’t been his choice.

So. The Fink and Syndra. 

It was never going to end well.

Syndra was… Calla said she was voluble, and then explained that that meant talking so much was an important part of her. 

Dafid wished that so much of the talking hadn’t been directed at the demons endlessly fluttering about her.

But it was, and she talked to them more and more, and to the rest of them, even to the Fink, less and 
less. After T’jool died, she hardly talked to anyone else.

Dafid learned some of their names in their travels. Choker. Smoke. Little Heart. They each saved his life at one time or another. Syndra was the deadliest of them, in her way. She was the softest of them, too.

When they’d done all the killing Calla could stand, they parted ways. Dafid followed Calla up to the Heights. The Fink joined the army.

Syndra went mad.


Madder and madder, it seemed. The Fink, loving her, couldn’t go and kill her.

He expected Dafid, loving her somewhat less, or somewhat differently anyway, to go and do the job.

“Three villages,” said the Fink.

“You know it was her,” said Dafid. “Couldn’t be anybody else.”

“Couldn’t be anything else,” said the Fink, and Dafid caught the change. Caught the fact that the Fink 
had strung four words together, too.


Job and Kit tracked her and treed her. 

When Dafid caught up, he quieted them down. Their howls disturbed him. They didn’t sound bloody. They sounded mournful.

He couldn’t see her. She had climbed high.

“Syndra,” he said. “It’s me. It’s the Dogman.”

It wasn’t a voice that answered him, but voices. Syndra’s might have been in there, might have been one of the eight or nine or ten saying in unison, “Dogman. Not Iason? Not the Fink?”

Dafid made a sign with his hand, directing the hounds away. Job gave him a willful look, but then broke for the edge of the woods with Kit.

“The Fink couldn’t come,” he said.

“Wouldn’t,” said all those voices. “The Fink wouldn’t come.”

Dafid shook his head and drew the sword that he’d been given. He’d not examined it closely until now, now when he needed his eyes to be looking anywhere but up in that tree. It had some words etched in the blade. He wondered what they said.

There was a chorus of hisses. The branches trembled.

“Put it away,” said the voices.

“Oh,” said Dafid. He understood, then, what kind of blade the Fink had given him.

“Don’t put it away,” said just one voice. One tired and frightened voice.

Then they dropped down from above and he was fighting for his life.


“You knew,” said Dafid.

The Fink did not answer.

“It didn’t touch the demons,” said Dafid.

The Fink did not answer.

“It just…sliced her right up,” said Dafid. “Then they were gone.”

“Three villages,” said the Fink.


“Here’s my Dogman come home,” said Calla. She put her hand to the torn flesh where his right eye had been.

“Come home half blinded,” he said. “Half blinded and sorrowful.”

She took his face between her hands and looked at him straight. “He’s home,” she said.


Author Bio: Christopher Rowe has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Neukom Institute, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards. His stories have been frequently reprinted, translated into a half-dozen languages around the world, and praised by the New York Times Book Review. His short fiction was collected in Telling the Map from Small Beer Press. 

He also co-wrote the Supernormal Sleuthing Series for middle grade readers with his wife, novelist Gwenda Bond. He is a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio, serves as a founding board member of the Lexington Writer's Room. He lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife and their many pets. You can learn more him here:

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Call for Submissions: Whetstone (Issue 8)

Submissions: OPEN (Issue 8)
• Submission deadline: Sunday, September 17th, 2023, 11:59p.
• Editorial decisions: Sunday, October 15th. E-mailed at the end of the work day.
• Publication of Issue 8: Friday, December 15th, 2023. Published digitally at the end of the work day.

Length: We prefer short, compressed stories that are nevertheless complete and cohesive narratives (1500 to 2500 words). These limits are firm. No more, no less. Stories over or under the limit will not be read. We mean it, friends! This limit serves two functions: (1) the limit is an artistic challenge. It takes skill to tell a compressed, punchy story. (2) We are an amateur publication and only pay a token honorarium, so save your longer works for better paying markets.

Style: We prefer "dialog light, action heavy" fiction with vivid imagery that is unselfconsciously literary but nevertheless takes joy in an occasional old word that gives the breath of antiquity. Please eschew typographical emphasis and variation--e.g. bolding, italicizing, underlining (there are more artful ways of rendering verbal timbre).

Questions? Join our Discord, the Whetstone Tavern and ask questions to the Whetstone channel there.

Publication, payment, and rightsIssues will be published as .pdf files. If work is selected for publication in WHETSTONE, authors will (1) be paid an honorarium of $10 and (2) will be asked to provide, by contract, "First North American Serial Rights." In our opinion, this means that copyright is NOT transferred. All copyright stays with you, the writer; however, you will have sold/transferred a form of "exclusive use rights" called "First North American Serial Rights" (FNASR). This is the right to publish your unpublished work for the first time, and ONLY the first time, no more. The important thing to remember is that some professional publications may ask for FNASR upon acceptance of a specific work; you are not legally permitted to provide those for that specific work after publication in WHETSTONE, for you have already rendered their use to us. In other words, once you publish a work in WHETSTONE, that works' associated FNASR have been sold/transferred. You CAN publish your previously published work elsewhere as a reprint but only as long as that publication does not require FNASR. This is a long way of saying that WHETSTONE is an amateur publication, meant for showcasing emerging talent for the consideration of professional markets (which is why we kept the word count so low). In essence: save your best work for higher paying markets!

Submit: Proofread standard manuscripts should be sent to the publisher at as .doc or .docx attachments. Please name your file your preferred last name: "Smith.docx". Include the following subject line: "WHETSTONE: [Last Name]." Please keep cover letters brief. A story title and a one- or two-sentence bio is sufficient.  If you have sold a story as a semi-pro or pro-rate, we appreciate the support but please refrain from submitting. We particularly encourage those who have not already been published to submit. 

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Issue 7 of Whetstone Now Available (Free)


Whetstone Issue 7 is now available for free. You can download it HERE (Issue 7). This issue includes several great stories. Thanks to Chuck Clark (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), Colin Goodpasture, and Grey Cashwell (First Readers) and all the great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it! -JRC (Managing Editor)

You can access our previous six issues here as free PDFs:

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Cover for Whetstone 7

Here is our cover for Whetstone (Issue 7), to be published as a free and open access pdf this Saturday, July 17th. Original art by Geraldo Marinho.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Calling All Whetstone Contributors: Database of Serial S&S Characters

To all Whetstone Contributors,

We received this interesting e-mail from the author Christopher Rowe. Christopher is putting together a list of "currently active" sword and sorcery serialized characters. Many of you have published the adventures of active sword and sorcery serial characters in Whetstone. If so, you might consider contacting Christopher. His contact information can be located on his website (linked below). Here is the e-mail we received:

Dear Editor,

I’m writing to let you know about a webpage I’m building to list all the “currently active” sword and sorcery series characters. You can look at what I’ve got up so far here:

What I’m hoping is that you can forward this email to any of your writers who are currently writing series characters, asking that they write me at with the following information.

Their byline

The name of the character (or characters in the case of duos or whatever) name

One paragraph about the character—this can be pretty much anything: inspiration, plans, a character bio, whatever

Most importantly, a list of all the stories or novels in which the character has appeared, with links to where those appearances can be read or purchased.

For the last, I want the stories listed in order of publication. And for stories that appeared in collections, I want the individual titles, not just the collection name.

Hopefully this all makes sense, and hopefully we can together build a good resource for the community.


Christopher Rowe

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Flash Fiction: Amidst the Sleeping Castle, by Liam Q. D. Hall

A few days ago, we shared a Flashes of Wonder writing prompt titled "Rendering Villainy through Costuming." We received several responses, and our favorite came from Liam Q. D. Hall. In his piece titled "Amidst the Sleeping Castle," Liam has created a captivating character--a queen who is as inorganic and inhuman as a crystal, with sharp edges to match. To fully appreciate the effect of this story, we recommend checking out the original writing prompt that inspired it.

Amidst the Sleeping Castle
By Liam Q. D. Hall

The black figure’s footfalls resounded off the paving stones, echoed off the white walls of the castle, carried his arrival to the denizens. Bodies crowded the court, dressed in the colors of red, blue, and purple. They wore the emblem of citizenry in patches upon their shoulders, on brooches on their bosoms, and on buckles on their belts. 

Only the soleil clad solein exile in black moved among the reposed crowd. Sighs and snores could be heard in the quietude. Some chests rose and fell, eyes flitting behind lids on sweating faces dreaming of spring while trapped in winter. Other’s stared sightless from grinning skulls, their bodies opened, the ribs white upon the clean white stone. 

The Exile’s recusant blood refused to slumber under the spell. He walked through the immaculate arches and marmoreal colonnade, avoiding the sprawled bodies with ease. He approached the keep which gazed down with ridicule in its tall and slitted oculi.  

He went to the quatrefoiled door of bronze, the porter a skeleton at his post. He entered the maw, steps calling to its inhabitor. 

Clack, clack, clack through the passages, the Exile wended. The light hushed like evening sunshine, silencing the grave stillness already present. 

Crossed spears in stiff grips, the owners desiccated but still standing sentinel heralded the throne room.

Within sat a queen arrayed in yellow, her terrible eyes hidden beneath a hood at once ancient but opulent. Jewelry adorned her chest, great chains of platinum and gems, their luster seemingly dimmed in shade. Her arms were bare and as stark as a corpse’s. They were covered in scratches as if some unsatisfiable itch was beneath the skin. They ran to wrists covered in simple but regnant bands. She licked her cruor crusted lips as the Exile entered her hall. 

With rusted nails upon long and beautiful fingers, the gyden of the citadel gestured and her pet from beyond the throne came forth. Its scales were tarnished electrum, a paucity of xanthous beneath. Cinders were in its lambent gaze, expectation in its regard and in its taut musculature; a roar ready to blaze forth.  

Energy built in the angsty room long unaccustomed to pregnant moments.

"Welcome to the feast," the queen said as she motioned the Exile forward with ringed finger. A frisson shook his frame but he advanced, loosening the shroud upon the irregular bladed cross on his back. The hame of dubious origin fell to the cold stones. The Exile smiled, his fangs glinted. The Queen, fiendishly buttressed, stood and pulled back her hood, the red maligning stress of her eyes an apocalypse.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Flashes of Wonder Prompt: Rendering Villainy through Costuming

UKA THE UNDYING, the zombie sorcerer, is experimenting with flashes of dark magicks to blast the minds of bards! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"Flashes of Wonder" is posted irregularly. It will feature a sword and sorcery flash fiction prompt. -JRC

Rendering Villainy through Costuming

Sword and sorcery villains bear a lot of narrative weight. Memorable villains have complex personalities, their evil actions driven by specific and often contradictory motivations and psychodramas. But how can writers externalize such internal psychological elements for readers without resorting to long passages of inner monologue, a narrative technique often (though not always) precluded by sword and sorcery genre expectations? One often-overlooked tactic is costuming. Imagine a sword and sorcery villain and describe their costume in detail, using clothing, accessories, and colors to symbolize their inner psyche, i.e., to signal their motivations, their contradictory impulses. For example, maybe they wear all black to represent their cynical worldview, or they might display flashy jewelry to demonstrate their greed, or they might wear religious icons or symbols to clarify their loyalty to dark powers. Moreover, give a sense of time to their costuming; show how their appearance has evolved over time, thereby giving the reader an opportunity to reflect on their growth or descent into darkness. How does their wardrobe interact with the setting and other characters? Let the clothing speak for the villain and deepen their personality in unexpected ways. 300-500 words.

Note: We are interested in publishing a flash fiction responses to Flashes of Wonder prompts. If interested, please e-mail with the subject line, "Flashes of Wonder." 

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