His Robot Girlfriend: Charity (Notes)

HRG CharityLike most writers, I put some of myself in just about every character.  You can’t help it really, can you?  In the original His Robot Girlfriend, the character of Mike really was me– about five years older than me, when I wrote it.  Now I’m several years older than him.  We’re both middle school teachers, both pretty snarky, and like him, I have a grown up daughter and son.  The big difference is that he gets into shape, and I continue to get more out of shape– but then, I don’t have a Daffodil.

In the new robot book, His Robot Girlfriend: Charity, I wanted a character who was very different.  So, the main character, Dakota Hawk, is young, blond, and athletic– all things which I am not.  He runs marathons– something I never did, even when I had two good knees.  He has very different relationships with other people than I have ever had, with one exception.  Part of his back story is a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s.  That is something we share.

Unlike his mother, mine is alive and physically healthy.  She currently lives in a memory care facility.  If you’ve ever had a family member or friend suffering from this terrible disease, I don’t need to tell you how difficult it can be for you or them.  If you haven’t, then you can’t understand.

In the story, Dakota’s relationship with his mother plays a small but ultimately pivotal part.  But this is something that I never would have included in any story, if I hadn’t experienced it myself.  I simply wouldn’t have understood.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess

Eaglethorpe BuxtonChapter Eight: Wherein I return to my story of the Queen of Aerithraine.

 

I put away my knife and then climbed back into the saddle. The orphan had regained his feet and I reached down, took his hand, and lifted him back into his spot behind me. He reached around my waist and held on tight.

“Thank you,” he said.

“All is well,” said I. “A few goblins are no match for a trained warrior.”

“Then how did they manage to prevent Prince Jared from becoming the King of Aerithraine? Did they catch him asleep and murder him?”

“One might have supposed that under ordinary circumstances.” I continued my story. “These times were not ordinary. Goblins are not only small and stupid and smelly; they are disorganized. But every once and so often, there comes along a goblin who is big enough and just smart enough to unite the goblin tribes and lead them on the warpath against the civilized lands of humans.”

“I had always heard that none of the human lands were truly civilized,” said he.

“What an odd and unorphanish thing to say.”

“Um… oh. I’m just discombobulated from the incident with the goblins.”

“Even so,” I agreed. “Well, at the time my story takes place, there was one such goblin king, who came to power by killing and eating his many rivals. And as happens when the goblins become unified in such a way, they experienced a population explosion. The mountains of the Goblineld were teaming with the little blighters. When the mountains could no longer contain them, they swept out across the southern third of the Kingdom of Aerithraine, destroying everything in their path.”

“Frightening,” said the orphan.

“Quite frightening.”

“Still…”

“Still what?”

“Humans are so large and goblins are so small. You vanquished three pairs of goblins, and did it quite handily too.”

“Thank you.”

“And you don’t seem particularly skilled or particularly bright.”

“What?”

“I just wonder that an entire human kingdom could not put together an army to destroy even a large horde of goblins,” said the orphan. “I would imagine that even a well-trained militia could do the job. I once heard the story of the Calille Lowain who held off five thousand goblins at Greer Drift.”

“I don’t know that story,” said I.

“Perhaps I will tell it to you sometime,” said he. “But what about it? Couldn’t the humans defeat the goblins?”

“There were tens of thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands. Thousands of thousands. But you are right. In other times, such hordes were sent packing, back to their mines and tunnels in the Goblineld. This time though, the goblins had a hidden ally. Far to the east, the Witch King of Thulla-Zor, who is always looking for ways to cause destruction and chaos, saw this as an opportunity. He supplied the goblin king with magic and weapons, and sent trolls and ogres to strengthen his ranks. None of these facts were known to King Justin when he rode forth with the Dragon Knights to meet them.

“King Justin, his three younger sons, and all of the Dragon Knights were slaughtered– to a man. Prince Jared, who had been in the north fighting sea raiders, hurried his forces south, only to meet a similar fate. The goblins were waiting for him. The entire southern third of the kingdom fell– and remained in the goblins’ filthy little hands for almost twenty years. And the Goblin King feasted on the spoils of war, sitting on his throne far below the surface of the mountains, drinking his disgusting goblin wine from a cup made from the skull of King Justin.”

“How horrible,” murmured the orphan.

“Yes indeed,” I continued. “And I think the worse part of the story is what happened to Queen Beatrix.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died. She died of a broken heart. And her unborn child almost died with her.

“Unborn child? It didn’t die?”

“No, the court physician cut the child from the Queen’s belly. It was a tiny baby girl.”

“Queen Elleena!” snapped the orphan.

“She should have been,” said I.

“What do you mean?”

“She should have been Queen the moment she was birthed, but that wasn’t to be. There were too many competing interests at court. Too many nobles wanted the throne for themselves. And in the chaos that followed the fall of the south lands, they might have done it, had it not been for the church. Little Princess Elleena Postuma was whisked off to the temple in Fall City, where she stayed for the next fourteen years, and Pope Bartholomew I became the regent of the kingdom.”

“Did they keep Elleena prisoner in the temple?” wondered the orphan.

“Of course they didn’t,” said I. “Though I will wager she sometimes felt that she was in a prison. She could go anywhere she wanted to as long as she stayed in Fall City and under constant protective guard. In the meantime she was given all the training and education that was necessary for one who would one day rule.”

“It is like prison,” said the orphan.

“Neither you nor I will ever really know the truth of that.”

At that moment, I spied a light in the distance. The story, or at least this chapter of the story over, conversation ceased. I urged Hysteria forward, which is to say I encouraged her onward toward the distant light, which turned out to be a small cabin on the side of the road. Yellow light spilled from its tiny windows onto the snow.

Not having had the best of luck so far that night with regard to welcomes, which is to say that I had been attacked three times already that night, two times of which I have already described for you here, I dismounted and crept around to the side of the cabin to the window and peered inside. Lying on the floor in a pool of blood was a man in common work clothes. The single room of the little cabin had been ransacked. And dancing around, or sitting and singing, or drinking; were more of the little, round-headed blighters, which is to say goblins.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess

Eaglethorpe BuxtonChapter Seven: Wherein my story is interrupted by goblins, thereby explaining why it might not seem as good as it really was.

 

Goblins are nasty little blighters. They remind me of my cousin Gervil’s friend called Rupert. His name was Sally, which explains why he was called Rupert. But like goblins, he was short and had a big, round head. I don’t know why goblins have such large heads for their little bodies. Of course I don’t know why Rupert did either. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage in it. On the other hand, goblins have excellent night vision, making it very easy to sneak up on people in the dark. And they have abnormally large mouths with an abnormally large number of teeth in them. This was very unlike Rupert, which is to say Sally, who as I recall had only five or six teeth, though he made up for that by having an extra toe. In addition to which I don’t believe his night vision was all that it might have been, for once he kicked me in the head when he was on his way to the outhouse. Of course that could have been on purpose. Rupert was a bit of a nasty blighter too.

“What are you doing?” asked the orphan, as Hysteria took a step back.

“Thinking about a fellow called Rupert,” said I.

“Well stop it, and get us away.”

I said that Hysteria took a step back, but I should have said that she took two steps back, one on each side. I could tell she didn’t want the foul little creatures around her feet. She’s very particular about her feet, as most horses are wont to be. As they approached still nearer, she reared up a bit—not enough to bother me, but just enough for the orphan to slip off her haunches and land with a “poof” on his seat in the snow. The goblins cackled grotesquely and I’m sure that they thought they had secured for themselves a snack. They stopped laughing though when I kicked my leg over Hysteria’s shoulder and dropped lightly to the ground.

With a quick motion, I pulled my knife, still stained red from crabapple pie, from my boot. It was a small enough weapon to face off six attackers and I would have much rather had a sword, but I had been forced to sell my sword in order to get a fellow out of prison. I didn’t really know him, but he was the beloved of a poor but beautiful farm girl. In retrospect it would have been better if he had not turned out to be a werewolf, but that is another story. If I ever write this down, maybe I’ll say that I sold it to get the poor but beautiful farm girl out of prison and that I slew the werewolf. Yes, that’s a much better story.

“What are you doing?” asked the orphan.

“Recalling the time I slew a werewolf,” said I.

“Finally something useful!” he exclaimed.

The two foremost goblins looked at one another. While six or seven goblins might sneak up on a man when he was asleep, or might chase down a maiden who was alone and defenseless, they would have to be extraordinary members of their species to take on a seasoned warrior with a weapon.

“That’s right potato head!” shouted the orphan, jumping to his feet. “Werewolves, vampires, giants; he’s killed them all.

“Gree yard?” said the first goblin.

“Grock tor,” said the second goblin.

“I don’t think they understand us,” said I.

The first began to skirt around me to the right and the second began to skirt around me to the left. The others were following along. I don’t know whether their intention was to surround me so that they could attack from all sides at once, or to get by me and at the boy, but I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen. I took a quick step to the right and kicked the big round head of the first goblin, which flew almost as far as the kickball I kicked as a child, and of course the rest of the goblin went right along with his head.

As a child, kickball was one of my favorite pastimes. We had our own little team and I was almost always the bowler. Sally and Gervil and several other boys made up the outfield. Tuki played first, second, and third base.

“Look out for the other one!” the orphan cried, interrupting my fond memories.

I twisted around to my left and kicked the head of the second goblin, sending it in a lovely arc off into the forest. If my first kick had scored a double, which is to say a trip to second base, then this kick must surely have been a triple. And I would dare Tuki to say that either of those goblin’s heads went out of bounds.

“Look out!” the orphan shouted again.

I turned to give him a dirty look and saw a third goblin who was attempting to use the distraction of his fellows, which is to say their current use as substitute kick balls, to slice my Achilles tendon with a rusty old razor. With a quick jab, I thrust the point of my knife into his head and he dropped to the ground—dead. When I looked back around, the other goblins had wisely run away.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess tops 7,000 & 8,000 DownloadsChapter Six: Wherein I begin to tell the story of the Queen of Aerithraine.

 

Hysteria clomped along slowly down the snow covered road for some time. The orphan was so quiet that for a while I thought he must have fallen asleep. But at last he stirred and shifted a bit in his seat, which is to say upon Hysteria’s flank. I myself had been quiet as I remembered the events of that horrible night.

“What are you thinking about?” asked the orphan.

“I’m thinking about that horrible night,” I replied.

“Did you never find your family?”

“No, though I searched for weeks. My mother was to make me a blueberry pie that night, and I not only have never seen my mother since, I did not get to eat that pie either.”

“I’m sorry I brought up such a painful memory,” he said, then paused. “Do you suppose that the purple drops on the floor could have been from your blueberry pie?”

“Fiends!” said I. “To rob a man of his mother and his pie in the same night!”

“Perhaps it were best that we think on something else,” said he.

“Perhaps,” I agreed.

“If you are really such a great story-teller…”

“The greatest in the world.”

“And if the story of the Queen of Aerithraine is a great story…”

“Wonderful. Exciting. True. Profound.”

“Well, maybe you could tell me the story.”

“I get half a crown for that story in Illustria,” said I.

“I have a shiny penny,” said he.

“The story begins in Aerithraine, far to the west, along the coast of the great ocean sea. From storied Illustria, its capital, to Cor Cottage just outside Dewberry Hills in River County, Aerithraine has been a great and powerful country for some seven hundred years more or less. By more or less, I mean that it has been more or less seven hundred years that Aerithraine has been a country and that it has been more or less great and more or less powerful during those seven hundred years. But about fifty years ago, it was less. That was when the old king died, and as is the way of kings, a new one was crowned. He was King Julian the Rectifier.

“He was called Julian the Rectifier because he was chiefly interested in rectifying. He spent most of his time rectifying. He rectified all over the place. And he was good at it. He rectified like nobody else.”

“It means setting things to right,” said the orphan.

“Of course it does and that is just what he did. Under his reign, the kingdom was prosperous and wealthy. And, as he wasn’t so interested in warring as in rectifying, there was peace throughout the land. King Julian had only one son, and he passed to that son the strongest and wealthiest kingdom in all of Duaron, and if it had only remained so, Elleena would have become nothing more than a minor princess perhaps.”

“Which would not have made a half-crown story,” pointed out the orphan.

“That is so.”

“Carry on then.”

“King Justin was the son of Julian. I hear tell that he was once called Justin the Good and Justin the Wise, though now when story-tellers refer to him, they usually call him Justin the Weak or Justin the Unready.”

“What do you call him?”

“I just call him King Justin,” said I. “Though I truly believe he may deserve the title Justin the Brave, it is not what the listeners want to hear.”

“Go on.”

“King Justin married a princess from the faraway land of Goth. The Arch-Dukes of Goth, which is to say the rulers of that land, have for generations, maintained power through a tightly woven web of treaties with its mighty neighbors. Their chief barter in this endeavor is the marriage of the many female members of the family. I hear the current Arch-Duke has but four daughters at least as of yet, but his father who was Arch-Duke before him had seventeen, and his father, which is to say the grandfather of the current Arch-Duke had nineteen.”

“That hurts just thinking about it.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Go on.”

“It must have been quite a coup of diplomacy for the Arch-Duke of Goth to make a match with the King of Aerithraine, but he did, marrying to the King his daughter Beatrix. And though I hear that the women of that country wear too much make-up, she was never the less accounted a great beauty. She had pale white skin, raven hair, smoldering eyes, and a gold ring in her nose, as is the fashion in the east.

“King Justin and Queen Beatrix had four strong sons, the eldest of whom was Prince Jared. He was particularly beloved of the people. I saw him once when I was a child of four or five, sitting on my poor old father’s shoulders as the Dragon Knights passed on their tall white steeds. That is to say, I was seated on my father’s shoulders and the Prince was not. Neither were the Dragon Knights or their steeds. I don’t remember why the Prince and the knights were in River County. It was too long ago. He would have grown to be King upon his father’s death if it was not for…”

“Goblins!”

“Yes, that’s right. You didn’t say you had heard the story before, though I’ll warrant it wasn’t told as well…”

“No!” screamed the orphan. “Goblins! Right there!”

He pointed straight ahead, and sure enough, stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight were a half dozen creepy little man-things. They were no more than three feet tall, their over-sized round heads, glowing eyes, and gaping maws giving away their identity. As they came closer those mouths widened into grins filled with jagged little teeth, looking far too much like the teeth on the blade of a cross-cut saw for my taste. They brandished what weapons they had, mostly things they had picked up from the ground—a stick, a length of cord with a knot in it. But a couple of them carried old, discarded straight razors.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Free at Kobo Books

Eaglethorpe BuxtonEaglethorpe Buxton, famed adventurer and story-teller, friend to those in need of a friend and guardian to those in need of a guardian. He is a liar and braggart, not to be trusted, especially around pies. Who are we to believe? Buxton himself leads us through his world as he comes to the aid of… a poor orphan? An elven princess? Who can guess with Eaglethorpe himself telling the tale?

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess is available free at fine ebook stores everywhere, including Kobo Books.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess tops 7,000 & 8,000 DownloadsChapter Five: Wherein I reveal the mystery of my family.

 

“You said that you do not live far from here,” I mentioned, once we had finished the pies. One might say the purloined pies, but I would not. I would instead insist that they rightly belonged to us in recompense for our unjust confinement.

“That is correct,” said he.

“The pies rightfully belong to us?”

“No. I live not far from here. Are you carrying on some other conversation in your head about the pies?”

“Of course not,” I replied. “You are an orphan.”

“I am well aware of that fact. There is no need to keep rubbing it in my face.”

“What I mean is you don’t have a proper home any more now that you are an orphan.”

“Even an orphan may have extended family,” he explained. “Perhaps I live with them.”

“Do you?”

“One might suppose that I do.”

“One might suppose a great many things,” said I. “But would it not be better to base our future activities less on supposition than on actual remembrances?”

“One might suppose we should,” said he.

“You have an odd way of talking,” I commented. “You don’t quite sound orphanish at all.”

“Really? How many orphans have you known?”

“Quite a few actually,” I revealed. “The Queen of Aerithraine…”

“With whom you once had the pleasure of spending a fortnight.”

“Indeed it is so. The Queen of Aerithraine, with whom I once had… well, she has a soft spot for orphans. Some years back she opened an orphanage called Elleena’s House.”

“Is that because her name is Elleena?”

“Why would her name cause her to have a soft spot for orphans?” I wondered. “No, I believe it is because she was an orphan herself.”

“No. Is it called Elleena’s House because her name is Elleena? And how could a queen be an orphan? Doesn’t she have to be a princess? Or did the King find her in an orphanage and come to sweep her off her feet? That would be a lovely story.”

“Well, there is no king,” said I.

“Gah!” he exclaimed. “You are the worst story-teller in the world. You are messing everything up and making me confused.”

“Forsooth! I am the best story-teller in the world. I do not expect you to know so, as you are an unfortunate orphan without any knowledge of the world.” I looked over my shoulder at his pinched little face. “In truth I was not trying to tell you the story of the Queen of Aerithraine. If I had, you would be filled with wonder and excitement. I have made half my fortune from that story, and a better story, a truer story, a more profound story; you are not likely to hear in all the days of your life. But I was not trying to tell that story. I was trying to explain that the Queen of Aerithraine has a soft spot for orphans. In fact, I suppose that I do so myself, as I am almost an orphan.”

“You are almost an orphan?”

“Indeed.”

“How can you be almost an orphan?”

“Why couldn’t I be?” I demanded. “If anyone can be, I could be.”

“What I mean is…” He took a deep breath. “How can one be almost an orphan?”

“Oh. Well, it’s only that my parents aren’t dead.”

“I see,” said he.

“But they were kidnapped,” I confided.

“Are you sure they didn’t just run away?” he asked.

“It was a stormy night and I had been away from my parents’ home, which is to say my former home, which is to say Cor Cottage just outside Dewberry Hills, and I was returning for a visit. As I approached I heard a disturbance, though at first I attributed it to the sounds of the storm. Then I looked up at the cottage window to see figures silhouetted on the shade, locked in a grim struggle.”

“What did you do?”

“Why, I rushed forward to aid my poor old mother, who as I recall smells of warm pie, and my poor old father, and my sister Celia, and my aunt Oregana, and my cousin Gervil, and my other cousin Tuki, who is a girl cousin, which is to say a cousin who is a girl, which makes sense, because whoever heard of a boy named Tuki.”

“They were all struggling by the window?”

“They may all have been struggling by the window, or some of them may have been, or perhaps only one of them was struggling by the window. I don’t know, because when I burst into the front door, they were all gone. The back door was open wide and the rain was splashing in.”

“What happened to them?”

“I know not.”

“Were there any clues?”

“Indeed there were.”

“What were they?”

“The table had been set for nine, which was two places too many.”

“Three places!” said the orphan triumphantly. “You thought I wasn’t paying attention. There was your father, mother, sister, aunt, and two cousins. That makes six.”

“They would also have set a place for Geneva.”

“Of course they would have. Who is she?”

“She’s my other cousin, which is to say Gervil’s sister, only she’s imaginary, but she wasn’t always imaginary, which is to say she died, but Gervil still sees her, so Aunt Oregana always sets a place for her.”

“What other clues?”

I listed them off. “There was a knife stuck in Gervil’s bed. Floorboards had been loosened in several rooms. There were drops of purple liquid leading out the back door. And someone had hung bunches of onions from the rafters of the dining room. Most mysterious of all was the fact that the tracks led away from the house only fifty feet and then disappeared entirely.”

The orphan gripped me around the waist and squeezed. “How terrible,” he said, in a tiny voice.

What to write?

I’ve finished two Astrid Maxxim books and the reception has been very good.  I really kind of write them for myself, as I haven’t made enough money from them to pay for the covers.  (I take that back.  The first Astrid Maxxim book has more than sold enough to pay for its cover art.  The others are still working at it.)  Still, Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane had a very good first month. I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve also got His Robot Girlfriend: Charity on its way to publication.  It is available now for pre-order for just 99 cents.  Since my robot series is far and away my best seller, I expect it to do well too.

Now, the question is what to write.  My plan is to go back to 82 Eridani: Journey, which I had originally planned to finish before any of the previous three books.  It may take me a day or two to get into the right frame of mind.  I have to be in a very different mind-set than the one I’m in writing Astrid Maxxim or even His Robot Girlfriend.  82 Eridani is very gritty and adult.  I think of it as sort of my “HBO Sci-Fi.”  In other words, sex, violence, and darkness abound.

The good news is that I have a very detailed outline and the first 8 1/2 chapters drafted.  I’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, go out and pre-order His Robot Girlfriend: Charity.  It’s only 99 cents to you, but it will mean a great deal to me.  Thanks.