The Price of Magic – Chapter 7 Excerpt

The lizzies of Yessonarah lined the streets and watched in fascination as the embassies from ten nearby villages paraded down the central avenue.  Each consisted of a village king, a witch doctor, and some fifty or more warriors, all wearing the paint and feathers of their people.  As they passed the great temple pyramid, each looked up to the top. Tokkenoht stood at the top of the steps, her bright blue form standing out clearly in front of the granite and stone structure behind her.  She didn’t mislead herself into thinking that they were looking at her though.  They were looking at the god.

She peered back at the scaly form draped over the building, just as he gave a great snore.  Yessonar had been asleep for more than a week. Occasionally he would snore, exhale a cloud of smoke, or roll over, but otherwise he was just like a giant statue of himself.

Walking around the corner of the vault, she looked out away from the city, past the lake, to the woods through which the lower portion of the River Ssukhas flowed.  She could see, rising up above the trees, smoke from the camps of the humans who were searching the river for gold.

“How many are there?” came a deep rumbling voice from behind her.

“I do not know, Great Yessonar.”

“I count about five thousand.  Are they causing any trouble?’

“Not really, Great Yessonar. Our king suspects they are not paying all their taxes.  It is hard for our warriors to collect the king’s share of gold, because the humans all look alike to us.”

“Then perhaps you need some way to distinguish them.”  He rose up on his four legs and stretched out his great wings.  “I’m going to eat and then I must visit Tsahloose before I can fly back to my fortress.  I will return in a few weeks time.”

“As you will, Great Yessonar,” said Tokkenoht with a bow.

The dragon usually shot into the sky so fast when he took off that it was impossible for one’s eyes to follow him.  Not this time.  He pushed off the top of the temple and glided over the forest, with only a couple of lazy wing beats.  Flying over the lower river, he gracefully turned and headed west, before suddenly shooting up into the clouds.  Only when the magnificent beast was no longer visible, did she turn and make her way down the great staircase.

When Tokkenoht reached the palace, it was a swarm of activity.  A line of a hundred lizzies was carrying in great quantities of food through the side gate, and just inside, a makeshift kitchen was preparing that food and placing it on great platters to be brought into the throne room.  The high priestess followed the line of servers carrying the platters into the largest room of the palace.  It had been converted to a great dining hall.  The king, his wives, and his advisors sat at a long table up on the dais, while the visitors from ten villages filled the rest of the hall.  All four walls were lined with warriors of Yessonarah, each holding an upright spear. Already the assembly was becoming loud and boisterous.

“More ssukhas!” shouted Hsrandtuss, raising his cup.

Tokkenoht lifted a pitcher full of the intoxicating liquor from the platter of a food bearer, and carried it the length of the room to the dais.  She filled the king’s cup, sat the pitcher down in front of him, and then reached up to straiten his gold crown.  Then she sat down in the empty chair between him and Ssu.

“The king has had much wine already,” said Ssu, leaning over in confidence.  “Perhaps you should not have filled his cup.”

“You will tell him he’s had enough then?” countered Tokkenoht.

Ssu hunkered down in submission.

Leaning back, Tokkenoht looked at Szakhandu, seated on the other side of the king.  She rarely wore paint, but she was completely made up this evening.  Her right half from the waist up, was bright red, while her left half from the waist up, the side facing Tokkenoht, was tar black.  Her bottom half was reversed.  She wasn’t wearing the gold necklace that she usually had on, and the priestess thought she saw it around Kendra’s neck.  Instead, Szakhandu wore a necklace of gorgosaurus teeth, a symbol of strength that few females would have been allowed.

The king stood up, leaning over his table.

“What say my friends?” he shouted out, and the noise of so many voices slowly died down.  “More food and more ssukhas?”

“We have food and ssukhas!” a voice shouted back.

Tokkenoht stared down from the dais as one of the village kings slowly got to his feet.  He was a young, muscular male, with a very handsome tail.

“We have food and ssukhas at home!”  Several lizzies around the village king hissed in agreement.  “What we want is what we came for!”

Szakhandu stood up.

“What is it you came for, King Thikkik of Ar-kussthek?”

“We came for our females!” shouted the king.  A dozen warriors around him stood up and hissed.

“What in the name of Hissussisthiss’s whiskers are you talking about?” demanded Hsrandtuss.  “I haven’t raided any of your villages.”

“You have lured away our females with your unnatural, soft-skin inspired ideas about child rearing.”

“The way we raise offspring has nothing to do with humans!” growled Hsrandtuss.  “It was my idea!”

Raising their own offspring, rather than leaving them to the mercy of predators, had in fact been Szakhandu’s and Kendra’s idea, but Tokkenoht certainly wasn’t going to contradict the king.

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Senta and the Steel Dragon Characters

Senta Bly is the title character from the Senta and the Steel Dragon series.  The funny thing about Senta is that I never intended to write a book about her, let alone make her the main character in a series. Here now, I’ve chronicled her life from age 6 to 34, in ten books.  I originally wrote a description from her viewpoint that was supposed to showcase the setting of Brech City. When I eventually plotted out the trilogy that would become books 1, 3, and 5 of the Senta and the Steel Dragon Series, she took on more and more importance. When I added books 0, 2, and 4 to the mix, the entire story really became her story.

Senta is precocious and self-confident. As she grows up she learns more and more magic and discovers that she is a powerful sorceress. One of the most fun things about writing this series is that the characters are so inter-connected. Senta has relationships of one sort or another with more than a hundred major and minor characters. Hopefully this diversity makes her as much fun to read about as she is to write about.

There is a book ten of the series (technically the eleventh book, since there is a book 0) and it will probably come out next year.

His Robot Wife – Chapter 10 Part 2

A little after noon, Patience led Mike to the dining car.  Tables on either side of the aisle were arrayed with linen tablecloths, shining silverware, and fine crystal glasses.  As soon as they sat down, a waiter approached them and filled their water glasses.

“Welcome to the dining car,” he said in a rich and resonant baritone.  “Today we are serving your choice petit filet mignon; a Cajun blackened chicken salad, or fresh water prawn linguini.”

Mike looked up.  The waiter had an unusual combination of features, as if his ancestry was from Africa, South American, and Central China, but Mike recognized that his mahogany skin was artificial.

“Are you a Daffodil?”

“I am a robot and I am your waiter,” came the reply.  “That is all that I am permitted to discuss about myself.”

“All right.  I’ll have the chicken salad.”

“Very good, sir.”

It was very good too.  It came with some kind of soda bread that Mike had never had before.  He was going to ask Patience what it was called, but he began watching the scenery and forgot.  Just after he finished eating, they passed the Sin City Special on its way back from the first of its twice-daily runs from Anaheim to Vegas.  And they were just getting up from the table as the train slowly slid into the Harry Reid Station in downtown Las Vegas.

From the window of their suite, Mike could see people feeding their cash cards into the video slots and poker machines.  He’d done enough gambling though over the previous summer, so he didn’t feel the urge to debark and do so now.

“What should we do?” he asked Patience.

“Why don’t you take your texTee to the lounge and finish reading Moby Dick? That way you’ll already have your seat for tea after the train starts off again.”

Mike passed through the dining cars, of which he now saw there were two, and made his way further up to two more cars which were outfitted as a lounge and club car, both with wood paneling, plush couches and chairs and small tables.  Several people were playing backgammon in the club car, while two women were watching vueTee in the lounge.  Mike sat down just beyond the backgammon players and opened to Moby Dick.  He was down to the last few pages.

He had just started reading when a familiar baritone voice asked.  “May I serve you a drink Sir?”

“Were you my waiter at lunch?” Mike asked looking up.

“No, sir.”

“A diet Pepsi, please.”

“Right away, sir.”

The train left the station at 2:42 and not quite twenty minutes later, the waiter, who had in the meantime supplied Mike with not one but several soft drinks, delivered two tiny sandwiches, some fruit, and an assortment of cheeses.  Mike ate them and read until he finished the book.  Back in the room he found Patience completely undressed and waiting for him. She was able to provide more than adequate afternoon entertainment.

Diners on the Spirit of America had their choice of two supper times.  Since Mike had eaten the food at tea, he chose the later of the two, which meant that they were in the dining room while the train was taking on passengers in Salt Lake City.  From where he sat, he could look across the dining car and out the far window at several very large, very ornate buildings that made up part of the Mormon’s Temple Square.  Patience was able to identify the Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, Temple, and Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

When Mike mentioned going back to the lounge to watch vueTee, Patience showed him the large screen hidden behind a painting in their suite.  He took a long hot shower and then they watched Juvenilia while lying in bed.  Mike was asleep by midnight, and noticed neither their crossover into Mountain Time, nor their night-time stop in Denver.

The next day, Patience brought Mike breakfast in bed, and he fell asleep again almost immediately after eating, the smooth humming of the mag-lev lulling him into a REM state.  Although he was awake when they arrived in Kansas City, he didn’t get up to take his shower until the train was already moving again.  He cast a quick eye out the window for Robert A. Heinlein Station on his way to the bathroom.  He knew Heinlein.  In fact, he had Starship Troopers queued up as his next book in his texTee.  The rest of the day was just as lazy as the morning had been, with Mike kicking up his feet, reading Superman Comics and alternately downing diet Pepsis and hot cocoa.  He spared a moment for the Chicago skyline late in the afternoon, but by the time the train hit Detroit, he and Patience had already returned from their second supper of the trip and Mike was watching Starship Troopers on vueTee, having decided to not wait until he finished the book.  They had just finished the movie as the train arrived in Cleveland and Mike was asleep before it started again at 1:45 AM.

“What time is it?” Mike asked as felt his robot girlfriend shaking his shoulder.

“It’s six o’clock.”

“In the morning?”

“Yes, Mike.  I thought you would want to watch out the window as we arrived in Washington D.C. It is our nation’s capitol and you can see many of the great monuments without having to get out of bed.”

“We already passed Pittsburgh?”

“Yes.  We were only there for an hour, from three to four.”

“You know I was thinking that over the summer we could make this trip again, only spend a few days in each of the cities.  See the sights.  That kind of thing.

“That sounds like a great idea, Mike.”  Patience smiled.

The truth was that Mike really wanted to get out and see Washington right now, but there was no way to see everything he wanted to see in a day, let alone the hour and a half that the train would be in the station.  He would have liked to spend a month in the Smithsonian alone.  Maybe he would now that he was rich.  Well not rich, but well off.  Well he had a little extra cash.

He looked out the window and watched as the train pulled out of the station at 7:41.  Then he climbed into the shower.  Later, Mike walked back past the lounge to the observation car and looked out at the scenery in between pages of Starship Troopers.  He wished that he had discovered the glass-domed seating when they were passing through the Rocky Mountains, but at least he would have something else to look forward to on the way back.

When he came down from the observation area, he saw a small sign indicating that the remainder of the car was occupied by “the Boutique”.  He stepped inside, expecting to find a clothing shop, but instead found that it was a tiny jewelry store.  The robot clerk looked as though she could have been the sister of the waiter… or waiters.  She seemed only too happy to help Mike select some overpriced piece of gold or silver. And he did select one.  He was suddenly cognizant of the fact that he had not until now purchased Patience a wedding ring, but right there in the case was one that seemed perfect for her.  It was yellow gold on the inside and platinum on the outside with three streaks of yellow gold partially wrapping around it, following three small diamonds that seemed to be orbiting like comets.  It was beautiful, and had a kind of robotish quality.

“Fourteen karat, two-tone,” said the clerk.  “Total diamond weight is point zero nine karats.”

“How much is it?”

“Two thousand forty five dollars.”

“I’ll take it.”

There was only one more stop, at Philadelphia, before the last leg of the trip that would take them into Boston.  They had lunch and high tea on the train, and then packed up their things and were ready to debark promptly when the train pulled into Robert Gould Shaw Station at 4:47PM.  By the time they had arrived by taxi at their hotel, checked in, and made their way to their room, it was almost eight.  Mike was exhausted.

Early the next morning, he got up, showered, shaved, and dressed in twill jacket and matching pleated pants with a tan shirt and mustard colored tie.  Patience put on a little straight, sleeveless white dress that reached to her mid-thigh.  It was accessorized only with a sky blue belt and a little blue flower pinned along the edge of its scoop neck.  On the top of her head she wore a little white spray of flowers.

The plan had been to get up and walk the short distance to the new municipal building, but during the night Boston had experienced its first snowfall in four years.  Though the streets were clear, several inches of accumulation covered the sidewalks, so they took a cab.  The city was a white fluffy wonderland.

Mike expected to see quite a line of people and robots at the license bureau. He imagined himself standing between a little nerdy guy with an Amazon robot and the little old lady with orange hair and Andre.  As it turned out, Patience was the only robot there that morning.  Of the three other couples waiting, all were human beings. They had to wait about fifteen minutes for the office to open, and then the four couples were issued their licenses in the order of their arrival.  Two of the couples then left, apparently having their weddings elsewhere, while Mike, Patience, and the other couple waited for the Justice of the Peace.

The other couple was a man and woman, a bit younger than Mike, if appearance didn’t lie.  The man was pretty nondescript, though the woman was quite attractive.  They were in and out of the Justice’s office in ten minutes. Then it was Mike’s and Patience’s turn. They stood before a young woman who looked far too young to be a judge or anything of the sort and a young man who worked as her clerk.

“You may place the ring on her finger,” said the Justice.  Patience smiled as Mike retrieved the ring he had purchased on the train from his pocket.  “Do you take this um… person as your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live?”

“I do,” said Mike.

The Justice turned to Patience.

“Do you take this person… this man as your lawfully wedded partner, to have and to hold, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live?”

Patience smiled.  “I will be anything and everything he wants me to be.”

 

 

The End

Reading Women of Power

I haven’t had a lot of time for reading lately, between work and trying to write.  I read a few minutes before bed and I read the excerpts that I post here online.  I haven’t read Women of Power in a while.  I wrote it just for fun, back when I first started writing lengthier stuff– really just to see if I could do it.  It maybe my least-selling book, but I have to admit, I like it.

The idea was to take a typical comic book character, in this case Skygirl, and pair her up with a more worldly, realistic superhero– All American Girl.  All American Girl is interested in sponsorships and making money from her powers and is well-aware that secret identities are all but impossible in the modern world.  All that was fun, but it was a treat to create a world just like our but with Olympian gods being quite real.  This was before I read Gods Behaving Badly, a book I highly recommend.

If you are a fan of superheroes, try Women of Power, available fore just 99 cents, wherever fine ebooks are sold.

The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 8 Excerpt

The clouds were low over Brech City, turning everything to a dull monochrome. A wave of drizzling rain dropped without cease—tiny drops that a person scarcely noticed until he was wet through. Smoke from fireplaces, steam carriages, and factories barely rose above the tops of houses and lingered there just below the proper clouds, making everything that the rain touched dirty, greasy, and grimy.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Prince Clitus from beneath his umbrella. His usual uniform had been replaced by a formal black suit, making him as monochrome as his surroundings.

“Do what?” asked his older half-brother Prince Tybalt. “Stand out in this Kafira-wretched rain?” He too was dressed in black formal.

The two of them stood surrounded by a massive crowd at the dockside, staring at a great black steam liner: S. S. Lied des Vaterlandes.

“No. Are you sure you want to marry Princess Henrietta?”

“It’s time for me to marry.”

“You love her at least, don’t you?”

“Love her?” Tybalt frowned. “I don’t even know her.”

“But you’ve corresponded.”

“She wrote me some stupid letters. I didn’t read them.”

“Why then did you agree to marry her?”

“I have to marry someone. With Henrietta, we will cement our rule over Freedonia.”

“You could have picked anyone you wanted,” said Clitus. “You had a choice.”

Tybalt rolled his eyes.

“What choice? That fat Bordonian pig Lady Enid? I don’t think so. Princess Ophelia of Mirsanna? She’s a whore. Maybe you think I should have chosen the idiot Hortence Moorn, or the egghead Iolana Staff?”

“Lady Iolana is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” said Clitus, exasperated.

“She talks all the time. Have you noticed? Henrietta doesn’t even speak Brech. I’ll never have to listen to her. All I have to do is mount her a couple of times and pop some heirs into her. Then I can send her back to Freedonia to her family, and I can spend my time doing something more exciting with someone more exciting. That’s the beauty of it all. As King, I can have any woman I want, any time.”

Clitus sighed and shook his head.

The Dragon’s Choice – And a break!

 

The Dragon’s Choice is out later this month and I am happy to see that there are quite a few preorders for it.  It is book nine in the series (making it the tenth book, since there is a book 0).  I had a great deal of fun writing it.  I think it was the fastest that I’ve ever written a book that long, simply because I was having such a great time.  However, I’m taking a break from Senta and the Steel Dragon for a while.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, the series makes up my slowest selling book series (though Eaglethorpe Buxton, Blood Trade, and Women of Power are my slowest selling books).  Second, I have other books that people want to see finished.  Notably His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire, which WILL be out in 2018, and the Astrid Maxxim books which are my only books in an upward spiral of sales at the moment.  I also have books that I want to write, including two very different sci-fi space series to get started.

Make no mistake however, eventually there will be a Senta and the Steel Dragon Book 10. I’ve got the plot in my head and know all the people who I have to kill off!  I even have a pretty important character to introduce.  (Her name is Maria).  Whether there will be a book 11, I don’t know, but book 10 will be the culmination of the plot lines at work in the previous four books.

Until then Grande Sorceress Senta, Police Chief Colbshallow, Princess Terra, Iolana Livonia Dechantagne Staff, Lord Augustus Dechantagne, Zoantheria the Dragon, Mr. and Mrs. Kieran Baxter, Tokkenoht the Lizzie High-Priestess, and Bessemer the Steel Dragon will sit simmering on the back burner.

My Books – Part One

I have written quite a few books now.  Some I really love and others I have mixed feelings about.  I thought I would go through them and give you a little background and details about them.

Princess of Amathar (2007)

I have had some version of Princess of Amathar in my head and on paper since High School.  The final version, I really started working on about 1990.  It got put on hold when I went back to college.  I hammered out the rest between 1994-1997.  When I was done, I tried to have it published but was rejected.  Eventually, I head about self-publishing and did so.  A year later, I was ready for the advent of ebooks.  Princess of Amathar was a huge deal for me, and I’m proud of it.  I like the story and it hits all the Burroughsian sci-fi adventure tropes I was aiming for.  That being said, it’s far from my best work– not surprising, as it is my first.

His Robot Girlfriend (2008)

I had written a massive book that would eventually become books 1, 3, 5 of Senta and the Steel Dragon and was sending it out to potential publishers.  I wanted something to get my name out there in the meantime.  I went to my box of old writing and pulled out a series of stories about a robot lover.  I rewrote them into a single story and added an ending, such as it was.  I fondly remember writing this over the summer, while I was teaching 11th-grade History to summer school students.  The story, I’ve always felt, is weak, due to being a mashup of existing works.  But it did what was intended.  It got my name out there.  It’s been downloaded nearly a million times.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess (2009)

I was still sending out Senta and the Steel Dragon and His Robot Girlfriend was being downloaded like crazy.  I needed something to work on, so I started a story set in my old Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  I wanted a foolish and unreliable narrator, so I created Eaglethorpe Buxton.  I just thought up a little story for him and ran with it.  People either love or hate Eaglethorpe, but I’m happy with how he turned out.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress (2009)

This book I wrote simply for my own enjoyment. I had so much fun writing the first Eaglethorpe story that I decided to do another one.  I was still waiting to hear from publishers about Senta and the Steel Dragon, so I didn’t want to start anything too major. Back about 1998, I had written a play for our school drama club.  It was performed twice. Since it was set, like Eaglethorpe, in my old D&D world, I simply made him the author of the play and since the characters were already established people in that world, it all tied in.  I like this story less than the first, but I still like it.