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Chris Howard
Author, artist, software engineer, lover of the sea
Author, artist, software engineer, lover of the sea

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I submitted a query letter to get a short story published in the Swords Against Darkness anthology in 1981, and received my first rejection letter. It was an amazing letter. No rejection letter after that ever lived up to that one.

I was just out of high school and I sent off a query letter to Andrew Offutt, who had been editing a fantasy anthology called Swords Against Darkness. I had just finished reading his latest addition to the Cormac Mac Art saga. My mom persuaded me to send a query, just to see if I could get a story submitted for the anthology. What's the worst that could happen? I wrote out a long letter, described my story and character, what he did, some sort of crafty Odysseus type hero, if I'm remembering him right. Being a total newb, I mucked it up pretty good right from the start, calling the anthology, Swords of Darkness instead of Swords Against Darkness. (Actually I'm almost certain I had it right in my draft letter, but when my mom typed it out for me she changed "Against" to "of").

Anyway, not only did Andrew Offutt reply, he sent me a full page letter typed on one of the page proofs to a Thieves World story. It still amazes me that an author and editor would take the time to write a letter to someone just starting out.

What's awesome is that Paula Guran is the editor of an all new Swords Against Darkness anthology, which will be out in April. Check out the cover and info here:


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No. 94. Just arrived in the mail. Subterranean Press really does a beautiful job. I bought this for Christopher's birthday.

Chris Howard

Tyrannies are drains, dispelling joys,
forged anew from uneven steel--deformed free shapes,
into shapes in thrall.
Into towers that fall.
Into fragile alloys
of people forced to turn their backs
on the man with a knife
who betrays them all.
Don’t let your tears flow above the flood-mark,
Fight your enemies with fear.
Cries for their lies.
Show rather the smiles that never begin
on the faces of men
who double on coins
whose forgeries are genuine.
Hold steady your eyes.
The waters will subside.

Chris Howard -

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Very cool segmented underwater vehicle design--with configurable sections and tools.

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Mermaid Triptych: from left to right, "Mermaids Fucking with the Forecast", "Mermaids Discuss the Complexities of Global Shipping", and "A Mermaid and her Friendly Floatees".

Mermaids Fucking with the Forecast: after a particularly raucous underwater celebration, three sisters conjure up a real ship-tosser of a gale, complete with random bolts of lightning, cloud-riding ghost humpbacks, and several million dollars in damages.

Mermaids Discuss the Complexities of Global Shipping: there are millions of shipping containers on vessels on the oceans at any given moment, and for various reasons some of these are lost at sea en route, reported missing, and written off. Someone finds them, mainly because they don't sink right away. The World Shipping Council estimates that on average there are between 500 and 600 containers lost at sea each year--that's hundreds of forty-foot boxes of steel just tumbling over the side of the ship and into the ocean. (This doesn't include cases where the ships themselves sink or run aground. These catastrophic losses put the number of lost containers well over 2000.)

A Mermaid and her Friendly Floatees: In 1992 a container ship bound for the Port of Tacoma lost a container over the side in the middle of a storm in the Pacific Ocean, and almost 30,000 rubber ducks and various other floating animals were released to drift in the currents. As late as 2007, fifteen years later, people were still finding rubber ducks on the shores of Ireland and France, the Floatees having made their way through the Northern Passage, above Canada, around Greenland, and into the Atlantic. More here:

I painted these three in ArtRage4 and Photoshop CC, about twenty total hours.

Saltwater Witch:


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Mermaids are celebrating in every ocean! Also, there are quite a few sharks and other fish out there dancing in the pelagic zone. Why? The Saltwater Witch audiobook is finally here.
Download and listen at,, and iTunes:

Listen to some of my demo chapter narrations on Youtube:

chapter 1:
chapter 2:
chapter 3:
chapter 4:
chapter 5:


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Three of Queen Nikoletta's bodyguards, surfacing in the grotto beneath Kassandra's house in North Hampton. They're going to do a thorough exploration of the house before the Queen of the Seaborn arrives--sort of like a Secret Service pre-visit detail. Every one of the Seaborn kings or queens appoint their own Trusted Eight--oktoloi, to guard their lives. This scene would have been nice in Sea Throne, but would have taken place after the last chapter--so, here's the visual instead.


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Kelp on the beach.

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Took some chords I played on the guitar and played them on the Akai LPK25 keyboard, and...not bad, even with the Akai's mini-keys. Recorded this in Garage Band MIDI on the Mac, which I've never really used. Pretty damn fun.

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