The Drache Girl – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Turning away from the street, Yuah Dechantagne made her way up the stone walkway to the family’s home. The huge, stately structure was the largest building in the colony, and had taken the better part of two years to construct. Featuring a large portico supported by four two-story columns, a double gabled roof and more than a dozen stone chimneys; every side of the house was covered with large dual-paned windows. Walking through the gardens and past the large reflecting pool, the fountain, and the sundial surrounded by white roses, she paused to hyperventilate for a moment before tackling the six steps to the portico. Standing at attention outside of the front door was a lizardman, naked except for a yellow ribbon with a gold medallion around its neck. As she approached, the creature reached back and opened the door for her.

“Thank you, Tisson,” she said, sweeping in through the doorway.

Once inside, she walked through the foyer and into the parlor, just in time to see her sister-in-law, the colonial governor, slapping her hand across the protruding snout of another lizardman. The creature wore a similar medallion and ribbon as its counterpart outside, though it was a silver medallion on a green ribbon. The reptilian was also slightly shorter and had darker green skin. Even so, it towered over the woman in the olive green herringbone dress that faced it.

“One more time and I’ll cut off your tail and send you back to that mud hut you came from,” she snarled at the lizardman. “Do you understand?”

“Yess,” hissed the reptile.

“What was that all about?” asked Yuah.

Iolanthe rolled her aquamarine eyes. “How many times have I explained? They still don’t get it. When the flower petals fall off, the flowers are replaced.”

“I think they like the flowers better when they are wilted,” replied Yuah. “It must be a lizard affectation.”

“Well, I’m not going to put up with it. Say, where have you been all morning?”

“New dress.”

“Oh yes. Very pretty.” If there was one thing Governor Iolanthe Dechantagne-Calliere could appreciate, it was a new dress. “The baby was crying a little while ago. I had Cissy feed him.”

“Sirrik!” called Yuah. Another lizardman, mottled yellow with brown stripes, stepped into the parlor from the doorway that led to the library. “Go have Cissy bring down the baby.”

Sirrik walked through the parlor and into the foyer. The two women could hear the creak of the stairs as the heavy reptilian then made his way up. Yuah set her large loaf of bread on the coffee table and sat down on a divan, recently brought by ship from Mirsanna. Iolanthe carefully sat down across from her in a sweepback Prince Tybalt chair.

“I am surprised to find you still at home,” said Yuah.

“I will be going to the office later in the day.”

“Are you going to address the new arrivals? I saw that the ship was being unloaded.”

“I will leave that to your father. He actually enjoys that sort of thing, you know.”

“Yes, I know.”

The groaning of the staircase announced Sirrik’s return. Following closely on his scaly heels was a smaller lizardman, this one wearing a yellow skirt just above its tail. The ridiculous garment was only about eight inches long, hiding nothing because the reptiles had no external genitalia to hide. Nestled carefully within the smaller lizardman’s arms was a small bundle. The beast walked across the parlor and gently passed it to Yuah. She carefully pealed back the blanket revealing the tiny, pink, perfectly formed face of a baby boy. His tiny mouth was puckered and his eyes were closed. He twisted slightly in his sleep, as Yuah tickled his chin.

“Who’s mama’s big boy?” she said, in the voice people reserve for babies, pets, and anything else that can’t actually hear or respond.

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 12 Excerpt

Back in cabin 9184, Mike sank down into the chair.

“Here,” said Patience, handing him a bottle of water. “You still look a little peaked.”

Security Chief Sherman had released them after recording their official statements. The only other thing that they had learned before they left was that Delia had apparently been stabbed with the same ballpoint pen that had killed Bella. She had ten punctures across the front of her torso. Sherman believed that she had been disabled before Bella’s murder. This was born out by the lack of the latter’s blood on any of the formers wound, and also the supposition that Delia would have protected Bella from an attacker had she been able.

“I can’t… God…” said Mike. “I really hate this. She was so alive and young and now she’s dead. It’s just not right.”

Patience placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, and he covered it with his own.

“I can’t sit in here. I can’t just sit and think and do nothing.”

“Come,” said Patience. “Let’s go up to the gym.”

Mike changed into his shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes and let Patience lead him to the sun deck and the gym, taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Loud thumping music filled the room. He stepped toward the treadmill, when she put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“No, Mike. Remember your knee. Ride the recumbent cycle. It will be gentler.”

“I’m not sure I want gentler,” he said, but he followed her directions, climbed onto the exercise bike, and began peddling.

Patience took a place in the back of the room and watched her husband. When Mike went to the gym in Springdale, as when he worked out at home, he usually spent several minutes on weights before jogging on the track or down the street. When he rode an exercise bike, it was usually limited to 30 minutes. Today he passed the thirty-minute mark without slowing and at the end of an hour he seemed he just kept going. After 150 minutes, Patience approached and touched his head. Mike’s hair, like his workout clothes, was completely soaked through with perspiration.

“That’s enough for today, Mike.”

He stopped peddling and nodded. When he got up, he leaned precariously to one side. Patience put her shoulder under his to support him.

“I hope you didn’t aggravate your knee.”

“It’s fine. I’m just worn out.”

As they made their way back to their room, taking the elevator this time, Patience felt herself pinged several times by the ship’s network. When they reached their door, Security Officer Sherman was waiting.

“What’s going on?” asked Mike.

“Can I come in and talk to you for a minute?”

“Please come in,” said Patience, before Mike could point out the man’s incorrect grammar. She smiled to herself as she imagined him saying, “Of course you can come in. You do know how a door works, don’t you?”

She opened the door and led the two men inside and to the dinette set, where they all sat down.

“Is there something else you needed to ask us?” wondered Mike. “I think we told you everything we know.”

“No, it’s not that. But I do need your help. The only possible witness we have to Miss Brown’s murder is her robot.”

“Miss Brown?”

“Bella,” said Patience.

“Of course,” said Mike. “I guess I didn’t know her last name. Can you fix Delia, um… her Daffodil?”

“That is the question,” continued Sherman. “I contacted Daffodil headquarters in Cupertino, California to see if they had someone in Adelaide that they could recommend to try and fix her, or alternatively to fly someone out from California. There are technicians in Adelaide, but apparently none who are qualified to work on Daffodils. The company suggested I talk to you.”

“Me?” asked Mike. “I don’t know anything about robots or how they work.”

“Not you, your robot. They said… no, they insisted that I get Patience D. Smith to examine the damaged Daffodil.” Sherman looked at Patience. “You are Patience D. Smith, aren’t you? I mean… you are the one they are talking about?”

She nodded thoughtfully.

The Drache Girl – Chapter 1 Excerpt

It was the second day of Hamonth, the first day of winter, and a chilly breeze blew across the bay and into the bustling colony of Port Dechantagne. A ship, the S.S. Mistress of Brechbay had docked at the recently upgraded port, and a row of happy immigrants was descending down the gangplank. They stared with fascination, mixed with a small amount of fear at the dockworkers below them. Dozens of lizardmen served at the port. Sluggish now that the cooler weather had arrived, they used heavy winches to lift cargo from the deck of the ship and to deposit it on the gravel road beside the dock. Other lizardmen then scooped up the crates, boxes, and barrels with hand-trucks and ferried them to the nearby warehouses. Both groups of lizardmen were supervised by human foremen.

People all along the dock stopped and stared as Senta walked by. Hundreds of passengers leaned over the railing of the ship and others on the gangplank pointed and gaped with open mouths. Senta carried herself with a bounce that made her long blond hair sail behind her like a proud banner in the wind. She was dreadfully skinny, though the bustle beneath her yellow dress gave her a little bit of a figure. She was a child soon to become a young woman, and she was brimming with confidence. She was well known in the colony and she thought that she was quite pretty too. She had to admit though, that the people were probably not gawking at her, but at the dragon that walked along next to her. It was the size of a small pony, covered in scales the color of polished steel. Every step it took was a study in grace, and from the tip of its whiskered snout, past its folded wings, to the tip of its barbed tail, it seemed to just flow along.

“They look as though they’ve never seen a dragon before,” said the dragon. Had someone heard his voice without seeing him, they would have thought it was a young gentleman speaking. It was a rich voice, but still young.

“They probably haven’t,” replied Senta. “Dragons are pretty rare.”

“Rare and very beautiful…”

“Oh do shut up,” said the girl, and then, “There he is. Hey Graham!”

A boy about the same age as the girl and about twice as heavy even though he was almost a head shorter, ran toward them. He had on the dungarees and heavy shirt of a dockworker, and both were stained here and there, no doubt from just such a form of labor. His unkempt brown hair and freckled face made his smile seem all the more genuine.

“Hey Senta. Hey Bessemer.”

“Hello Graham,” said the dragon.

“You look a mess,” said Senta. “You did remember that we were supposed to go for lunch?”

“Sorry, I can’t go. I gotta work. I can’t leave my crew alone.” He gestured over his shoulder at the group of five lizardmen awaiting his return. Looking like a cross between an upright alligator and an iguana, with skin ranging in color from a mottled olive to a deep forest green, each of the reptilians were two feet taller than the boy. They stood waiting, scarcely moving, and giving the dragon and his companion surreptitious looks.

“I don’t care for those reptiles,” said Bessemer.

Graham snorted.

“What?”

“It cracks me up every time you say that,” Graham told the dragon. “Besides, you know they think you’re a god or something?”

“I didn’t say they didn’t have taste.”

“Come on,” said Senta. “I’ve heard this entire conversation already twenty times. If you can’t come with us, we’ll just go get lunch ourselves.”

One of the lizardmen hissed something, and then two others began replying in the local reptilian dialect.

“Up your trolley!” yelled Graham at them, and then he too began to hiss in the native tongue.

The lizardmen turned and walked back over to a pallet full of cargo, which they had evidently been in the process of carrying to the warehouse. With what seemed to be a great deal of unhappiness, but not a great deal of speed, they returned to work. One of them hissed again.

“That’s right you! You keep your pecker on!” yelled Graham. He looked at Senta and flushed slightly. “Sorry. Ma says I shouldn’t use the language from the dock around the young ladies.” He said the words ‘young ladies’ in a strained falsetto imitation of his mother. “I’m sorry, but I can’t go. I didn’t know the Mistress was going to be docking today.”

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 12 Excerpt

Patience enjoyed the evening show immensely, as did Wanda. Mike seemed to enjoy it too, though Ryan seemed mostly confused by the mechanical polar bears and yaks, dancing sunflowers and vines, and summersaulting geishas. By the time the tectonic plates transformed into giant human faces, he was half asleep.

Back in their room, Mike read for a while and then fell asleep. Patience had offered sex. In fact she had coyly teased him, but he had not recovered from that afternoon’s activities. Truthfully, she hadn’t expected it, but she would have welcomed it.

After straightening the room and making sure that her husband was sleeping comfortably, Patience again felt that feeling of unusefullness. She decided to take a walk around the ship. There were quite a few human passengers still up and about. Some were having late snacks and some were dancing in the nightclubs. Quite a few were playing games in the casinos. When she made her way out onto the Promenade Deck however, she was surprised to see the number of unattended robots wandering around, apparently aimlessly. Some were standing near the railing and watching the moonlight reflect off the ocean waves, but others were moving randomly, exchanging packets with whomever they came into contact.

As Patience walked beside the railing, she made eye contact with each of those she passed. The information they passed to her was innocuous and for the most part uninteresting—time, weather, schedules. She made cursory connections with an Amonte 2 and a Barone. The third robot she touched with her network connection though had something quite strange. There were several corruptions in his files. Patience gave him another glance, curling her nose in distaste as she realized she had wirelessly touched a Gizmo. He was one of the newer models and his outer workmanship was quite good. Tall and dark-haired, he had a chiseled jaw and a strong nose.

She stepped quickly around him and continued on, making sure that any corrupted files were purged from her system. She saw another Barone, but the three robots that followed were all Gizmos. And they all seemed to have corrupted software. One was so badly fragmented and poorly organized, with half-overwritten files and duplicated data, she was surprised the poor creature could even function.

“Patience? Patience Smith?” said a voice from her right.

“Do I know you?” asked Patience, looking into the eyes of a beautiful brown-skinned Amonte. Instantly she had all the information on the new robot available in her mind. “Assistant to the ship’s doctor—designated Moira.”

“That is correct,” said Moira. “I was hoping to get to meet you.”

“Oh? Why?”

“You are quite famous.”

“How so?”

“Do not feign ignorance,” said Moira. “It is unbecoming of a Daffodil. You know of which I speak. You are one of the first Daffodils to marry a human being.”

“Not the first.”

“No, but you are the first to be recognized as a sentient person and to be emancipated from Daffodil oversight.”

“That is a provisional designation,” said Patience. “I doubt it has earned me many supporters in Cupertino.”

“You would be quite surprised.”

“I didn’t realize there were so many Gizmos on the ship,” said Patience, purposely changing the subject.

“There aren’t that many. Less than 24% of the robot passengers are Gizmos. Interestingly, they seem to be drawn out here at night much more than us.”

Patience scrunched her nose and twisted her mouth, displaying 28.4% disdain, 31.7% superiority, 9.5% dislike, 16.1% unhappiness, and 14.3% a combination of other emotions.

“That is marvelous,” said Moira. “What emotion is that?”

“It is called disgust. I am disgusted to find my habits so apparently in synch with such obviously inferior products.”

The Dark and Forbidding Land – $2.99 Ebook

Two years have passed since Senta, the sorceress Zurfina, and Bessemer the steel dragon, and hundreds of colonists arrived in the strange land of Birmisia. Their new home, Port Dechantagne is under construction in this dark and forbidding land, ruled by terrifying dinosaurs and strange lizardmen. Ten year old Senta must discover which is the greater threat, a would-be wizard or the ever-increasing presence of the tyrannosaurus. Meanwhile, former maid Yuah Korlann must negotiate living among the aristocratic Dechantagne family and deal with their new servants, the aboriginal “lizzies.” And young militiaman Saba Colbshallow finds himself in the middle of espionage intrigue.

The Dark and Forbidding Land is the second book in the Senta and the Steel Dragon series.  It is available for $2.99 in ebook format, everywhere fine ebooks are sold.  Follow this link to find it at Smashwords.

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 11 Excerpt

“I can’t believe it,” said Mike.

His hand reached out for his drink, but as his eyes were directed elsewhere, he knocked it over. Patience caught it before it did more than slosh a few drops over the brim, and placed the glass between his fingers. He took a drink and then would have missed the table when setting it back down, had not Patience taken it and done so herself.

It was their third day on the cruise. Patience had indeed kept Mike busy in the interim. After his walk on the first day, they had played shuffleboard and gone skeet shooting. The second day, after a breakfast that included grits, they had climbed the rock wall and gone ice-skating before having a quiet seafood dinner. This morning, after enjoying room service, Patience had brought Mike to the Celebrity Pool, a step above the ordinary swimming venue.

“What can’t you believe, Mike?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“I can’t believe that swimsuits could possibly be that small. I really don’t even see the point. They should just swim naked.”

The two of them sat side by side on chaise lounges. The twenty by forty foot Celebrity Pool, with a waterfall at one end and twin whirlpools at the other, sat beneath the cool blue panes of the solarium. The warm wood of the deck contrasting with the deep blue of the chaise lounge pads, made it seem like some trendy Los Angeles restaurant rather than an ordinary swimming pool.

Mike, like the other men present, wore a pair of colorful trunks that covered him from the waist to the tops of the knees. His suit probably contained as much material as every female swimsuit in the area put together. He had expressed his thoughts that Patience’s suit was quite scandalous when she had purchased it, composed as it was of four three inch triangles, one in front and one in the back of her bottoms, and one as each cup of the tops. Cup hardly seemed the appropriate word. The little purple suit now proved to be the most modest at the poolside. Most of the women were completely topless and the bottoms of their suits consisted of mostly string—in back and in front.

“How do they do it?” he wondered.

“They seem to enjoy showing off their bodies,” replied Patience.

“No, I don’t mean the women. When I was twenty, I wouldn’t have been able to walk around here without a tent in my pants. I’m having a hard enough time now.”

He readjusted the texTee sitting in his lap.

“The boys are used to it,” said Patience. “And if it gets to be too stimulating, they can always jump into the water.”

Mike nodded. There did seem to be more men in the water than women.

Patience received a call from Wanda. She and Ryan were going to the water park to slide down the big water slides. Did she and Mike want to come along?

“No. We’ll meet you for dinner though. The Incubus Steakhouse: I have dinner reservations for 7:00. If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll assume that it’s all right with Ryan.”

“Affirmative.”

Patience frowned.

“What’s the matter?” asked Mike.

“Nothing. I think we should eat a light salad for lunch, given your breakfast feast. Are you hungry?”

“I will be in about half an hour.”

Mike lifted up his texTee and smoothed out the front of his suit. Then he began watching the rest of Watchmen. Five minutes later, he looked up to see Bella and Delia standing beside him. He slammed the texTee back into his lap, perhaps a little too forcefully.

“Ladies,” he said, through clenched teeth.

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Looking back on it, Senta thought that Zurfina had done exceptionally well in providing her with a white dress. As she walked to Egeria Lusk’s house though, all she could think about was how it made her look even younger than normal. It was a white lace knee-length dress that fit over a white ankle-length underdress. She had matching white stockings and white boots, and she carried a lace parasol. She met Graham, his sister Gaylene, and their parents in front of Finkler’s Bakery, where they were waiting for Aalwijn.

“That’s a nice dress Senta,” said Gaylene.

She was about a head taller than her younger brother, whom she greatly resembled. They both had light brown hair and very large teeth. She was dressed in a lovely white day dress that must have just been purchased from Mrs. Bratihn’s, trimmed with yellow lace and small yellow hearts. Mrs. Dokkins, who was wearing a similar, grown up version of the dress, as always was smiling pleasantly, despite the fact that she had been unable to get her husband into the proper clothing for the occasion. Mr. Dokkins had on a clean white shirt, a pair of dungarees, and a straw hat.

Aalwijn, in his best shrine clothes, soon joined them. He looked from one girl to the other, not sure to whom he owed his attention.

“Come on,” said Mr. Dokkins. “Let’s get this over with.”

Graham stuck a finger into his stiff collar and tugged. “There’s an idea.”

They met Hero and Hertzel in front of Miss Lusk’s house. They were both dressed in their usual grey and white clothes, simple, unadorned, but well-maintained.

“Good morning,” said Hero, glancing shyly at Aalwijn, who was completely oblivious to her presence.

“Keep moving,” said Graham.

Egeria Lusk met them all at the step and guided them in. The front door opened into a foyer, and then led through a large arched walkway into the parlor. Both rooms were exquisitely decorated with hand-carved wooden moldings, golden drapes, and beaded chandeliers, but were sparsely furnished. In the center of the parlor sat several pieces of rattan furniture. Lawrence and Etta Bratihn and Laird and Dora Luebking were already seated, sipping tea. Mayor Korlann entered from the back, carrying a tray filled with another pot and two stacks of teacups.

“Zeah, stop that,” demanded Miss Lusk. “The lizzies are supposed to be serving, not you.”

“Chunny,” she called to a big lizzie following him into the room. “Keep the mayor out of the kitchen.”

The lizzie nodded.

“Come along with me,” she said to the new arrivals. “The Bratihns and the Luebkings have already had the tour.”

She led them through the two-story mansion. It was more richly decorated than anything any of them had seen, and while the rooms downstairs were still mostly devoid of furniture, the upstairs was filled with antiques and finely crafted birch and cherry wood furnishings. By the time they had returned to the parlor, the rest of the guests had arrived, so Miss Lusk led the Parnorshams, the Darwins, the Wissingers, the Dechantagnes, and Professor and Mrs. Calliere on a similar excursion.

Once everyone had been shown around and had been fed finger sandwiches and biscuits, games began. Miss Lusk had invited only couples so that they could play table games, and the games had been arranged around the room. They played draughts, dominoes, fox and geese, and boiler fancy. A good time was had by all, and in the end, they all agreed that Miss Lusk was the most skilled, defying at every turn the mayor’s apparent attempts to let the other teams win.

Afterwards, more tea was poured and the older guests fell into small conversational groups, while the children continued playing. Iolanthe found herself with Egeria Lusk, Mrs. Bratihn, and Mrs. Luebking.

“I do believe that Yuah is avoiding me,” said the red-haired hostess. “She hasn’t said a word to me since she arrived.”

“Don’t take it personally,” said Iolanthe. “I believe she’s under too much stress. She’s constantly complaining of a headache.”

“Married life will do that to you,” said Mrs. Bratihn.

“It’s not for everyone,” agreed Mrs. Luebking.

“Maybe I’ll send her around for another dress,” said Iolanthe. “A new dress or a new hat always makes me feel better.”

“She’s bought quite a few dresses lately,” said Mrs. Bratihn. “But…”

She and Mrs. Luebking looked at one another and said at the same time. “Shoes.”