Out Now: The Sword of Saints and Sinners

I have a new story out in Daily Science Fiction: The Sword of Saints and Sinners.

bible with a sword handle in front of it

150 Year Old Bible With Sword

When I nabbed this title during the annual Codex Weekend Warrior Title Rummage Sale, I knew the story had to be about justice… and injustice. For the characters, I turned to the Old Bailey Online project (oldbaileyonline.org), which digitized the records of London’s central criminal court from 1674 to 1912. Some of the stories implied by those crime summaries are fascinating, some are heart-breaking, and all of them are very human.

Out Now: Fools Pass Under

I have a new story out in Mysterion.

“Fools Pass Under” is a historical tale balancing on the tightrope between dark fantasy and horror. The year is 1633 and a massive troll slumbers beneath London Bridge. John Potter swore an oath before God to sustain the bridge, which should have been a simple matter of collecting tolls and paying for repairs. But when the houses that line that bridge catch fire, the troll awakens… hungry for human flesh.

image of historic London Bridge

Claude de Jongh’s View of London Bridge, circa 1632

In reality, London Bridge did partially burn down in 1633. The damage to the buildings upon the bridge was expensive enough that repairs hadn’t been completed 33 years later when a far more famous fire began in Pudding Lane. The Great Fire of London spread towards the river but the burnt-out portions of London Bridge served as a natural firebreak and prevented the flames from crossing the river. A fire thus saved Southwark and the south bank from the Great Fire, proving once again that history is sometimes stranger than fiction…

Sale: Fools Pass Under

I’m delighted to announce the sale of my story about the troll of London Bridge, “Fools Pass Under,” to Mysterion. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication around Thanksgiving (late November).

image of historic London Bridge

Claude de Jongh’s View of London Bridge, circa 1632

Out Now: Field of Cloth of Gold and Blood, Sweat and Tears

Henry VIII and Francis I at the Field of Cloth of Gold


I have a new story out in Alternate Peace, edited by Steven H. Silver and Joshua Palmatier, available directly from the publisher or from the usual suspects (Amazon | Barnes & Noble).

This anthology called for contributors to imagine alternate histories – but with a bit of a twist. Most stories in the alternate history genre take their “divergence point” from a moment of violence, often from battles or assassinations. The authors in this anthology were challenged to imagine more peaceful ways in which history might have followed a different path.

In 1520, King Henry VIII of England met King François I of France on a field near the border of their two kingdoms (there was a land border, thanks to the Pale of Calais). Not much came of it. But what if the king of England at that historic meeting of monarchs had not been Henry VIII – that infamous second son who broke with the Catholic Church in a desperate search for an heir – but his elder brother, the lost Tudor prince, Arthur of Wales?

Pick up your copy of the anthology today and find out!

Cover Art: Alternate Peace

While the cover’s still being designed, here’s a sneak peek at the cover art (by Justin Adams of Varia Studios) for Alternate Peace, an alternate history anthology of that will contain my story “Field of Cloth of Gold and Blood, Sweat and Tears.”

mountainous village with a waterfall in the background

Alternate Peace Cover by Justin Adams of Varia Studios

The anthology will be released this summer (June or July 2019). I’ve read my fellow contributors’ stories and it’s going to be a great anthology – you can pre-order it from https://squareup.com/market/zombies-need-brains-llc


Out Now: Remember, Remember

I have a new story out today in Factor Four Magazine, Issue 5, available in print or digital format (you can also subscribe to the magazine and get access to everything they’ve published to date).

CC-BY-NC-ND National Portrait Gallery 5529

“Remember, Remember” is an historical tale of time travel hijinx. Normally, we write time travel tales about modern people going back in time to change the past (or historical people coming forward to the present and finding it vastly superior), but why wouldn’t someone from the 17th century want to use time travel the same way we would – to change history for the better?

And if anyone had good cause to try to change her own past, it was Elizabeth Stuart, Winter Queen of Bohemia…

UPDATE: This story is currently available to read for free at http://factorfourmag.com/remember-remember-by-kat-otis/

Sale: Field of Cloth of Gold and Blood, Sweat and Tears

Now that the Table of Contents has been announced, I’m thrilled to say I have a story forthcoming in Zombies Need Brains’ Alternate Peace anthology this summer.

“Field of Cloth of Gold and Blood, Sweat and Tears” imagines how the 1520 meeting of kings at the Field of Cloth of Gold might have unfolded had a certain “malign vapour” not struck down the inhabitants of Ludlow Castle in 1502.

For the full TOC, see https://jpskewedthrone.dreamwidth.org/497980.html

16th c. image of the Field of Cloth of Gold showing procession of royals, temporary palaces, and tiltyards

By Unknown – Royal Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49241403


Story Behind the Story: What Merfolk Must Know

What Merfolk Must Know

A lot of times when we write historical fiction, it’s tempting to restrict ourselves to narratives of political, intellectual, religious, and artistic “heavyweights” – people about which much has been written and who play a significant role in the large-scale historical narratives we learn in school. Even when we write about a character we make up in, say colonial America, it’s fun to have that character accidentally run into Benjamin Franklin or George Washington as they go about their daily lives.

But writing other narratives is necessary, especially when they’re narratives about oppressed peoples and the uglier parts of our history that we’d rather not think about. It took me a long time to figure out how I could best write about the Zong massacre in a way that introduced a fantastical element without underplaying or discounting the horror of both this event and the transatlantic slave trade as a whole. The story only succeeds (if it succeeds – I’m sure some people may beg to differ!) because of the utter naiveté of the narrator. Like the original little mermaid, she comes face-to-face with the cruelties of the land and doesn’t escape unscathed… as none of us should.

For anyone who’s interested in learning more about the transatlantic slave trade than their high school or college history books taught them, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages and the over 10,000,000 African men, women, and children whose lives the trade consumed.

Story Behind the Story: A Legal Affair

To all Kings, Princes, and Lords,

Whereas I have no children, save only one daughter, I find it expedient to lock said daughter in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Whosoever rescues the princess shall marry her and become my heir.

King John VII of Phantacia

* * * * *

To Sir Sedgway, Lord Chief Justice of Phantacia,

I pray you enquire into the cause of my imprisonment, if it be legal or no.

Your devoted servant,

Princess Melissande

image of a tree on a hill with a castle tower in the background

The question everyone always seems to ask authors is: where do you get your ideas? Well, the Princess Melissande sprang from my head fully-formed and Athena-like, in an incident that went something like this…

I was sitting in Panera, reading a book on legal history. Everything was fine and dandy until I reached the section on the use of habeas corpus in custody disputes and domestic violence cases.

Like a lightbulb going off in my head, it occurred to me that your average princess (having been raised in Court and therefore possessing at least a modicum of political sensibility), upon being locked in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon (you know, the cliche), would attempt to secure her release by writ of habeas corpus (assuming she didn’t agree to be locked up in the first place.)

Great idea! And I’ve always wanted to write a princess-in-a-tower story. So I jotted it down on my mental to-do list and tried to go back to the book.

“Wait, aren’t you going to write it down for real?” Princess Melissande demanded.

“Um, I don’t have any paper on me, except my receipt,” I replied to the figment of my imagination, hoping no one thought I was crazy for talking to thin air.

“What kind of writer doesn’t have any paper on her?” The princess turned to her lawyer. “Is there some legal precedent for this?”

The lawyer frowned. “Maybe if she goes home right away and writes it down?”

“But-” I protested.

Princess Melissande nodded. “Very well. Shoo.”



In the face of her royal displeasure (and the fact that she wouldn’t shut up so I could go back to my book), there was nothing to do but race on home (she’s a horrible backseat, in case anyone cares). I spent the next several hours feverishly writing out her story, until I reached The End.

“Is that it?” Princess Melissande asked, staring at my computer screen doubtfully.

“It’s not done until she puts it into standard manuscript form,” her lawyer declared.

“Fine, fine,” I said, before they could start in on me again. I hastily reformatted it, calculated the word count, and put that in the upper right hand corner of my first page.

1200 words.

“Hmm. You know, there’d probably be a better market for this if I could get it down to flash fiction size,” I said.

“A better market? What do you have to do for that?” Princess Melissande asked, excitedly.

“Oh, just cut out two hundred words-“

Her screech of outrage stopped me cold. “Two hundred words!”

“Well, if it increases the chance of publication…,” her lawyer began, then cut himself off abruptly as she turned her ire on him and began using words no princess ought to know.

Very quietly, I slipped away while they were both distracted and went back to my book.

This story can be found in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress XXVI, available through all the Usual Bookstore Suspects