Short Story Sale: “The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu Mǎ”

Aidan Moher
Jul 19, 2016 · 4 min read

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve ‘sold’ my short story, ‘The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu Mǎ,’ to Shawn Speakman at Grim Oak Press. The story will appear in Unfettered II this November.

I say ‘sold,’ because Unfettered II is a fundraiser — with all proceeds being donated to the Cancer Research Institute in NY and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Grim Oak Shield, Speakman’s newly-founded not-for-profit which aims to ease and eliminate author and artist medical debt. All the stories in the collection have been donated by the authors. I’m extremely proud to be among those contributing to this great cause.

(On a side note, this is the first pro-level short fiction sale announcement for me, but it’s actually the second story I’ve sold in the last month. More on my first official pro sale soon.)

To save his friend, Farid Sulayk, the Patchwork Priest, needs to get to O’oa Tsetse before the next full moon. But between here and there are highways crawling with rebels, and a range of sky-scraping mountains riddled with blood ghosts, kō-dan, and worse. Ethereal Tóu Mǎ offers Farid passage through the mountains, but at a cost: defeat the warlock Wu-jiu, who holds the village of Tt’Hsiung in her blood-soaked fist.

Accompanied by Tóu Mǎ, a mischievous fire djinn, and his growing doubts, Farid races to reach O’oa Tsetse before it’s too late; but first he must defeat the deadly warlock and her ghostly Yoo-in. As secrets are revealed and blood is spilled, will Farid’s battle-hardened mechanical arm and djinn magic be enough to see them through alive?

‘The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu Mǎ’ is a very special story to me for several reasons. First, it’s been in the cooker for a long time. I started the first draft two years ago (July 2013) and it’s gone through nearly a dozen revisions as I’ve honed the story, explored the world, and polished all of Farid and Tóu Mǎ’s faceted personalities and conflicts. (With literally the best beta readers in the world.)

Second, Farid himself has been with me even longer than that. In 2011, as epic fantasy readers and writers tend to do, I began to conceptualize and develop a secondary fantasy world which would be home to the novel(s) I’m working on and several interconnected short stories. ‘The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu Mǎ’ is the first of those stories, and Farid is the piece that ties them all together. These stories—together tentatively called “The Patchwork Priest” stories—follow Farid on various misadventures as he enters and leaves the lives and conflicts of troubled characters throughout the world, from Atan-Shah to O’oa Tsetse to Cerris Tau. As a travelling sellsword, he gets around. These stories are all written as standalones, even when they take place within the timeframe covered by the novel(s), and serve as a great, varied introduction to Farid and the world.

Most of all, I want to have fun.

My goal for the novel(s) and the short stories is to write something with the scope and story-telling diversity of the best modern sword and sorcery (I’m a big fan of Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales, after all) mixed with worldbuilding and characterizations founded on writing principals I’ve gleaned from writers like Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemisin, and Guy Gavriel Kay. But, most of all, I want to have fun. Big battles, memorable set pieces, interesting cultures, limitless possibilities for worldbuilding. You want cities built on the backs of huge roaming inter-dimensional beasts? You got it. Automatons and mechanical appendages powered by djinn? Yep, that too. Ancient castles constructed above the clouds on the tip-tops of mountains where everyone rides rhuuks and airships? Sure, why not? I grew up reading fantasy that lit my mind with imagination and made me whoop in delight, and that’s the type of fantasy I want to write.

Also exciting? Iconic artist Don Maitz, twice-winner of the Hugo for “Best Professional Artist,” is doing black and white illustrations for each of the stories in Unfettered II. It’ll be a thrill to see how he interprets the world and characters that have lived inside my head for so long. I spent a lot of time creating a rich, diverse, and interesting setting for this story, so I’m particularly excited to have it illustrated. I have no doubt that Maitz will knock it out of the park.

Unfettered II has an incredible Table of Contents, with many of my favourite authors contributing stories. Frankly, I look at my name next to them and just sort of shake my head. I mean, sharing a ToC with Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, Brandon Sanderson, and Janny Wurts? Are you kidding me?

Here’s the full list of contributors:

  • Bradley Beulieau
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher
  • Rachel Caine
  • Sarah Beth Durst
  • David Farland
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Erin Lindsey
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Aidan Moher
  • Naomi Novik
  • Peter Orullian
  • J.A. Pitts
  • Anthony Ryan
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Scott Sigler
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Django Wexler
  • Janny Wurts
  • Todd Lockwood (Cover Artist)
  • Don Maitz (Interior Illustrator)

For more news on Unfettered II, head over to Tor.com to read my interview with Speakman about the project. It’s available for preorder now.

Aidan Moher

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