Princess of Amathar – Chapter 1 Excerpt

I don’t expect you to believe this story, but it is the truth. My name is Alexander Ashton. I was born in the heart of the American west. I have often been known to say that I was born either a hundred years too late, or perhaps a hundred years too early. It always seemed to me that I had the misfortune to live in the single most unexciting period of time the panorama of history had to offer. I don’t say that I longed to be transported to another time or to another world, for never in my wildest dreams did I believe this to be possible. I was destined to be surprised.

I was born in a small city. I played as a child in a park that was once a dusty street where outlaws of the old west fought famous gunfights. When I was seven, my parents were killed in a motor vehicle accident. I really remember little of them. I was put in a state run children’s home where I lived until I was eighteen, passed by time after time by prospective adoptive parents, primarily because I was too old. I hold no ill feelings about it now. If there is one thing I learned while I was a ward of the state, it is that no matter how bad off one may be, there is always someone worse off than you are.

After graduating high school and being set on my own by the state, I entered college at the local university. I became a voracious reader and excelled in athletics, but did poorly in my required studies. After two semesters of academic probation I was asked to leave. I walked down the street to the Army Recruiter’s office and enlisted. There wasn’t much to the army, since there was no war on at the time. While I was there, I did learn to shoot, and fight with a saber, and to keep in good physical condition, but otherwise I left the service just as I had gone in.

After finding a new apartment in my old home town, I happened to run into a fellow whom I knew from college. He was running a small grocery store, and doing quite well, since no large grocery chain was interested in such a small market area. He offered me a job, I took it, and we became pretty close friends.

My friend, the grocery store owner, was engaged to a nice girl, and they decided in time to get married. I was chosen to be the best man. The wedding was nice, and the reception was even better. I have never been much of a drinking man, but that night I made a name for myself in that capacity. I don’t know why I drank so much. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself and my lot in life, I don’t know. I do know that in short order, I had worked myself into a staggering, slobbering, half-conscious stupor. How, when, and where I became unconscious, I cannot say, but at some point I did. And this is where my story truly begins.

I awoke with a chill in my bones. I was lying down in a small stream bed with icy water running over my feet. I tried to rise, but couldn’t. My body was stiff and weak and its only response was to shiver uncontrollably. Around me was a thick forest, and I could see dark shapes moving around in the trees. I sensed then, on some deeper level, that I was in a place I had never been before. Then I heard a deep growling as I passed once again into unconsciousness.

When next I awoke I looked around to find myself in a small shack. I was lying on a cot made of animal furs, and I was bathed in a cold sweat. The walls of the small shelter were made from cut logs and a roughly fashioned wooden chair was the room’s only furnishing. When the door of the shack opened, I truly believed for the first time in my life that there were life forms other than those I was familiar with on Earth.

The creature that stepped inside the door, and closed it after him, was most ugly. That he was intelligent was demonstrated not only by the fact that he had opened and then closed the door, but also by the fact that he wore clothing— ugly clothing yes, but clothing nonetheless. He was about five feet tall and stood in a kind of perpetual crouch. His body was covered with coarse brown hair, two to three inches long, from his head to his feet, which reminded me of the feet of a dog or a wolf, although larger. He was somewhat wolf-like in every aspect, such as his protruding snout, but he also seemed somewhat baboon-like in his expressive eyes. I am comparing him to earthly animals, but this is really inadequate, as the similarities were actually quite superficial, and he was totally unearthly in appearance. I remember most looking at his hands. He had four fingers not too different from my own, but his abbreviated thumb possessed a great, long, curving claw.

The creature, stepping slowly over to me, reached out a hand and gave me a piece of dried fruit. I was quite hungry and the fruit was quite good. As I began to eat, the creature began to bark and growl at me. At first I thought he was angry, but then I realized that he was trying to communicate in his language.   I was too tired to respond and fruit still in hand, passed back into sleep.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 5 Excerpt

“Eat more,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “You’re skin and bones.”

“I’m full up, Mother,” said her son.

Saba Colbshallow was full up, too. He had eaten a full breakfast this morning at the Dechantagne family home, and sat back to enjoy his morning tea. Around the large pine table sat his mother, Mrs. Dechantagne, Mrs. Godwin, little Iolana Calliere and at the head of the table Professor Merced Calliere. Mrs. Dechantagne’s baby was in the next room, being rocked in a cradle by one of the reptilian servants, and Governor Dechantagne-Calliere, who normally sat at the other end of the table from her husband, was not present at breakfast this morning.

“I’m sorry that I missed Mrs. C,” said Saba, though he wasn’t sure if that was entirely true. He had known her all his life, and had been in love with her from the time he was five and she was a striking, sixteen year old beauty, until he was seven and she was a very bossy eighteen-year-old. Then his affections had been switched to Mrs. Dechantagne, who back then had just been Yuah Korlann, and who had grown up to be a bit prettier and much nicer.

“She’s quite busy this morning,” said the professor, setting aside the book that he had been reading. “You’ll be quite busy too, I dare say. Another ship came in last night.”

“So I heard. Mirsannan freighter. Mostly cargo, but I bet there’ll be a couple of poofs out causing trouble.”

“Quite,” said the professor, saluting with his teacup. “Don’t let us keep you from your duty then, officer.”

“Right.” Saba drained his teacup and stood up, pushing in the chair as he left the table. He picked up his constabulary helmet from the small table in front of the window. It had gold braid around its base, a large gold star on the front, and a gold spike on the very top. Of course it was navy blue, just like his uniform.

“Look at my boy,” said his mother. “He looks like a right man, doesn’t he? An officer of the peace.”

“You look just dashing,” said Mrs. Dechantagne, which made Saba blush a bit. He bowed low to her, saluted everyone else, and then headed out the front door, which one of the lizardmen servants held open for him.

Saba was quite proud of his position as one of the first two constables on the police force in Port Dechantagne. In fact, he could well say that he was the first constable, since he had badge number one, and Eamon Shrubb had badge number two. Even though he was only twenty, Saba had worked hard for this position. He had signed on to the Colonial Militia when he was only sixteen, eventually becoming the youngest sergeant at any time before or since. He had served his two years with what he thought was distinction and had volunteered for an extra year. Now he was a copper. Anyone who knew Saba recognized that few deserved a spot in the new police department more than he did. Anyone who knew the royal governor knew that she would not have sponsored him for the position just because she had known him all his life.

“Good morning, constable,” called a woman in a plain brown dress with a brown shawl thrown across her shoulders and a brown bonnet on her head, pushing a wheelbarrow down the gravel road.

“Good morning to you, Mrs. Eamsham. Do you need a hand with that?”

“Heavens no. I was just taking the slop from the neighborhood out to the pigs and dinosaurs.”

“That’s a good five miles pushing that thing. You be sure and take several rest stops along the way.”

Mrs. Eamsham nodded and turned the corner heading for Town Square. Saba continued walking into the southwestern part of the town, where the homes sat on larger lots, but were not necessarily larger themselves. The leaves had long gone from the maples and the other deciduous trees, but the pines and cedars were still glorious green. A chill wind whipped here and there, but did nothing to Saba but turn his cheeks a little redder. His wool uniform was exceedingly warm.

Suddenly he heard gunfire erupting from directly in front of him. One, two shots. Then a pause. Then one, two, three, four, five, six, pause. He looked up above the trees and saw a flash of steel shoot across the sky.

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – $2.99 at Smashwords

It is the year 2037, when men are men and robots are cute. Patience, the robot wife, has a new friend– Wanda. Wanda, another Daffodil, has been having difficulty bonding with her human, the recently divorced Ryan. She hopes that with Patience’s mentoring, she’ll be able to help Ryan accept her into his troubled life. But even Patience isn’t prepared for what happens when they take a joint vacation cruise to Antarctica. His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue is a science fiction story in a world where technology is more than just a pretty face.

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue is available wherever fine ebooks are sold for $2.99.  Follow this link to purchase it in any ebook format at Smashwords.com.

 

The Drache Girl – Chapter 4 Excerpt

“Do you have a last name?” wondered Graham.

He sat beneath a willow on a large rock ten feet from the frigid water of Battle Creek. Hamonth was almost over and the chilly winds had, for now, stopped. It was still cold enough for a steady cloud of steam to make its way up from the cups of tea, Senta had poured from the pot she carried in her picnic basket.

“You know I do,” replied Senta. “You’ve heard it a hundred times.”

“I guess I wasn’t paying attention. What is it?”

“Zurfina says that if you are famous and powerful enough, you don’t need more than one name. It’s like kings and queens, and Magnus the Great.”

“My Da says everything deserves a name, and people deserve a last name.”

“He does not.”

“Huh?”

“I bet he never said any such thing.”

Graham shrugged.

“Did he say it or not?”

“No.”

“You just said that he said it?”

“Yes.”

“I knew it,” said Senta. “You just go around saying ‘My Da says this’ and ‘My Da says that’ and he never said any such thing.”

“No!”

“No?”

“I only say that he said things that he really would say, but he just might not have.”

“I always knew you were dodgy.”

Graham shrugged again and took a sip of his tea. Then his brow twisted in thought.

“I bet you do the same thing,” he said.

“What?”

“You’re always going on about how ‘Zurfina says this’. I bet you make it up too.”

“No.”

“No?”

“Never.”

“She actually said that bit about not needing a last name?”

“Word for word.”

“Oh.” He sipped his tea again. “So do you figure you’re famous and powerful enough, then?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you famous and powerful enough that you don’t need a last name?”

“No, I guess not,” said Senta. “I don’t think I like it though. I never knew anyone else with it. It’s Bly.”

“Oh, right. It’s not that bad.”

“It’s better than Dokkins.”

“No. My Da says Dokkins is one of the finest names in Greater Brechalon.” Then he added. “And he does say that too.”

Senta stood up; balancing on the large rock, then bent down at the waist and sat her teacup where she had been sitting. She stretched her arms out to either side and balanced herself, as she stepped in her bare feet from one rock to another. She made a circuitous route back to the picnic basket and opened it up. She pulled out a warm potpie in a small ceramic bowl. She held the pie out in her left hand and a fork in her right and balanced her way across five more rocks to where the brown haired, freckled boy sat and handed both to him.

“You know you’ve got a hole in that dress?”

“Yes,” said Senta, sadly.

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 16 Excerpt

Ryan spent the last day of the cruise with Patience and Mike. Despite medical advice and a continuing pain in his neck, he signed himself out of Medical and met them at their cabin that morning. They expended little energy, staying away from the water park, or the Ferris wheel, or even the casino. They did visit the penguin habitat and even sat by the Celebrity Pool for an hour.

Just after noon the M.S. Bacchanalia came to rest in its usual spot at the end of the long, thin peninsula. Patience made sure that Ryan’s bags, as well as their own, were all properly packed before turning them over to be transferred to the airline. She made a quick stop at Medical and Security to say goodbye to Moira and Carl.

As they took the people mover belt from the ship to the transportation terminal, there seemed to be far more people than when they had been traveling the other direction. There also seemed to be many more people unaccompanied by robots. Once under the great domed ceiling of the terminal, they saw why.

Hundreds of inactive Gizmo robots were standing, leaning, and in some cases stacked one upon the other at one end of the massive room. Comanco, the company that provided the Gizmo operating system, had set up a special station where the afflicted individuals had their systems wiped and then reinstalled. Patience just shook her head.

The two men and one robot had halfway crossed to the huge escalator, when a man in a brown suit intercepted them. In one hand he held a briefcase and in the other a clipboard, so he didn’t offer to shake hands when he spoke to them.

“Mr. Keller?”

“Yes,” said Ryan.

“I’m a representative of Rio Cruise Lines. We would like to give you this check for $75,000 to cover your expenses and the loss of your property. Also in this envelope you will find two free tickets to another Rio Cruise Lines cruise of your choice. There is no expiration date. You can use that anytime you want to. We just need you to sign this receipt.”

He shoved the clipboard toward Ryan.

“Hold the phone,” said Mike. “Patience, look over that form.”

The man tried to pull the clipboard back, but Patience quickly snatched it from his hand.

“It is a release of liability,” she said, after giving it a once-over.

“Nice,” said Mike with a scowl. “You ambush him and shove this in his face. He’ll take this home and read it, and then he can decide if he wants what you’re offering him or not.”

“I’m afraid it’s a limited offer.”

“No, it’s not. You send him your contact info and he’ll call as soon as he decides whatever he decides.”

“I really don’t think I want to sue the cruise lines,” said Ryan.

“I’m not saying you should,” said Mike. “Just go home and read this paper before you sign it. Then, when you’re comfortable in your own home and in your own time, decide what’s best for you.” He glared at the man. “Is that all right with you, or is it too reasonable?”

“I… I’m sure that will be fine.”

The flight home seemed even longer than the flight south had been. Mike was in no hurry to get off in Buenos Aires, so they stayed on the plane. As it turned out, those passengers who had stepped off were quickly ushered back on when a large bomb exploded three miles from the airport, just outside the green zone. The plane took off on time but with many worried occupants.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 3 Excerpt

There was chaos on the shore. Practically every citizen of Nutooka was pressed into the confines of the harbor. Some screamed. Some cried. Some waved to get the attention of the battleship off shore. No doubt all of them would have piled into small boats and rowed out to the ship, if Captain Mould had not already had all of the local boats scuttled. Even so, some of the people on shore jumped into the water, trying to swim out to the ship. The city of Nutooka itself was almost completely empty. This was not surprising, once one looked at the size of the army advancing upon it. For more than three years, the followers of the Ape god Guma and their allies, the antiforeigner Red Sashes, had built up their strength. Now they were ready to eliminate the Brechs, whose single naval installation was, they felt, the greatest blight on their great land of Enclep.

On the bridge of the battleship H.M.S. Superb, the captain and his first officer watched the locals’ panic, while several other officers hunched over a map of the region surrounding the port. Captain Mould was the youngest captain in the Royal Navy of Greater Brechalon, and looked every inch like a man capable of rising quickly in that prestigious service. His sharp nose and neatly trimmed beard gave him the look of a predatory bird, which his black eyes did nothing to diminish. He turned on his heel and looked at the men hunched over the map.

“Where are they exactly, Wizard Than?”

One of the officers, dressed no different than any of the others save a blue bar on the sleeve of his stiffly starched white uniform, waved his hand over the map and said, “Uuthanum.” A hundred tiny red dots appeared grouped in three large bunches on the map, indicating three massive arms of the approaching army.

“Whenever you are ready, Commander,” said the Captain.

“Aye, sir.”

Commander Staff seemed almost the polar opposite of his captain in some ways. Light blond and clean-shaven, his freckled face made him look far younger than his twenty-nine years. His small nose and well-formed mouth made him almost too pretty. For all that, he seemed nothing less of a naval man of action than his superior. He leaned over the ship’s phone.

“Sixteen degrees, eight minutes. Twenty-two degrees, five minutes. Elevation, make it five thousand yards. Load high explosive.”

The entire ship shook slightly as the two massive front facing turrets, each with three twelve-inch guns, turned into position. Once they were in place, Staff leaned back over the phone.

“Lay down a pattern of fire.”

Six giant guns fired, rending the air with a sound that thunder could only envy. Huge gouts of flame and monstrous clouds of acrid smoke shot across the bay. As soon as the flame was gone and the great sound began to die away, the guns fired off again. And again. And again. Three hundred massive shells were fired into the advancing army on the far side of the city of Nutooka.

“Hold fire,” said Staff into the phone. The thundering of the cannons ceased.

“Are they getting the message, Wizard Than?” asked the Captain.

The wizard and the other officers watched the red dots across the map. They began to spread out from the three masses of their original formation into an even dispersion throughout the jungle.

“Just what we hoped for, Captain,” said the wizard.

“You know what to do, Mr. Staff.”

Once again, Staff leaned over the phone. “Raise elevation to seven thousand yards. Load anti-personnel.” Then turning back to Captain Mould. “Ready, sir.”

“At your discretion, Mr. Staff.”

“Lay down your pattern of fire.”

The six giant guns began firing again. While the first three hundred shells had just grazed the advancing forces’ front, this extended volley fell right in their midst. The raised elevation spread the falling shells throughout the army. The first wave of fire, laid down with high explosive shells that had blown up upon impact, created huge craters in the jungle battlefield and knocked down thousands of trees. This second attack was made with anti-personnel shells, which burst upon impact releasing tens of thousands of flechettes, needle-like bits of iron, which then flew in all directions, slicing through the warriors on the ground and their terror-bird mounts, like hot tacks through butter. Captain Mould and Commander Staff stepped back to lean over the officers and look at the map. The red dots, indicating the cult fighters and the Red Sash terrorists were disappearing from the paper. The red dots were fading away not in ones and twos, but in hundreds, in thousands. By the time three hundred shells had been fired, only a tiny fraction of the symbols representing the enemy remained.

“All right Mr. Staff, hold fire.”

“Hold fire,” called Staff into the ship’s phone. The great cannons became quiet.

“Mr. Rise.” The captain turned his attention to the man inside the nearby wireless room. “Signal Major Black to advance.”

Captain Mould stepped stiffly back to the other officers watching the map. A line of blue dots began sweeping across the map from the far right side. These dots represented the contingent of Royal Marines, whose job it would be to finish off the enemy and who ironically enough were dressed in their bright red coats and white pith helmets. The captain nodded in satisfaction at the outcome of the operation. With any luck, it would be a permanent blow to the forces of instability in Enclep. If not that, at least it would set them back years.

“Commander Staff, it looks as though you will be able to make your rendezvous with the S.S. Arrow.”

“Yes, Sir.”

A New Writers Group

So, I decided to visit the Henderson Writers Group to check it out.  I live in Henderson, but have never been to any of their meetings, though I do occasionally run across a member.  Checking their website, I found they had several meetings each week, but all but one of them are held someplace outside of Henderson!  Go figure.  So I decided to attend the meeting here.  It was still on the other side of the city from me, about 10 miles away.  So I cruised over in 114-degree heat to the location at National University… and I couldn’t find any meeting.  The website said go to National University and follow the signs.  I found no meeting and no signs and no one to ask about it.  Lest you think National University is some sprawling campus and I missed them.  It’s not.  It’s a single floor of a single office building.  Oh well.