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After writing Patience is a Virtue, I decided I wouldn’t write another robot book unless I had a story. I finally thought of one and planned out a trilogy of books. The first book was A Great Deal of Patience, and I think it is by far the best of the series.
As so often, I started writing and got side-tracked several times. I stopped for about two months and wrote The Dragon’s Choice, but left it unedited to return to Patience. It was finally done and I published it in 2017. That sounds like a long time ago, but in my mind, I just finished that book. It continues to sell well and I get more positive emails and comments about it than any other book.
I had been working on an outline for the next robot book, which I planned on calling His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience. While I was doing that, I came up with a plot line that I wanted to write about. This probably grew out of my frustrations with writing Kanana the Jungle Girl, which I had been trying to finish, but couldn’t quite, and which also had a similar plot line woven into it.
I could have written this plot in any number of ways– made it an entirely new story or a space opera story. Knowing that people were clamoring for a new robot book, I decided to go that way. Of course the story didn’t fit with Patience and Mike, so I created Charity and Dakota. I decided to throw a bit of the back story that I had been working on for A Great Deal of Patience, along with a cameo by Mike, and there is a quick little book. As I mentioned the other day, it took me only forty-two days to write.
A Great Deal of Patience ended up changing a lot, because much of what I had originally planned was in Charity. That’s really worked out well, because I can move the plot along without having to worry about doling out background tidbits. The story has to be able to stand on its own though and I think it does. Both Dakota and Charity will appear in the new book, especially Charity, as this is a much more robot-centered story and less human-centered. Watch this space for more information on the upcoming books in the series.
His Robot Wife was written for entirely different reasons than any other book I’ve written. All the other books (with maybe the exception of His Robot Girlfriend) were written because I thought I had a great story to tell and I wanted to tell it. You could say that I wrote His Robot Wife for money, though that’s not entirely accurate. I priced it an 99 cents even though I could have made more by pricing it higher. I wrote it because I knew it would sell.
I publish His Robot Girlfriend in 2008, and it has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. Many people wrote and asked for a sequel. This was a big deal for me. But I didn’t have a story. As far as I was concerned, the story of Mike and Patience was over. Still, people kept asking. It took me three years to come up with a story for them, and I think it’s probably my weakest plot (but HRG wasn’t popular for its plot, but rather its characters anyway). So in 2011 I wrote His Robot Wife. It is short, at 28,000 words, but it went easily enough, and as it turned out, it has sold more copies than all my other books put together.
It was 2008, and I had just finished writing the first draft of a massive fantasy novel that I was calling The Steel Dragon. This would eventually become The Voyage of the Minotaur, The Drache Girl, and The Two Dragons. I printed up 10 copies and handed them out to friends to read and edit over the summer. Each one was a 4″ thick notebook. I had also just self-published Princess of Amathar.
While I was waiting for the editing to be completed, I thought I needed something to post to Feedbooks and Manybooks to get my name out there. I had written some sci-fi flash fiction a few years earlier and thought I could piece them together to make a novel. This became the first half of His Robot Girlfriend and I wrote the other half over the summer (while teaching summer school). I published it online and was astounded at the interest. At one time, it was the third most downloaded book on Feedbooks.
His Robot Girlfriend succeeded in getting my name out there. It’s been downloaded almost 500,000 times, has been reviewed numerous times, and I get many emails and notes from people that enjoy it. Part of this has to do with the fact that it came out at the same time that Apple Books was founded. It was in the top ten free downloads on what was then called iBooks, for years. That being said, I think it’s far from my best story.
One comment that detractors frequently make about His Robot Girlfriend (feedback is overwhelmingly positive) is that Patience has no will of her own. She is a robot, duh! But this gave me an idea for the new book– His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue. It shows a bit more from her point of view and we find out that not everything is as Mike thinks it is.
The newest edition of the series will be His Robot Wife: A Great Deal of Patience, and will be the first full-length novel featuring the characters. And as they title suggests, it will feature a great deal of Patience.
The first quarter of the school year flew by. Despite the fact that classes were larger than ever, the children were more obnoxious than ever, parents were more clueless than ever, and the administrators were more useless than ever, Mike thought that things were going pretty well. It was he mused, probably because he was one hell of a teacher. He felt more organized and prepared than he had in years and he certainly had more energy. He walked to and from school almost every day. Three days a week he went to the gym afterwards too. Each day at lunchtime, the other teachers at his table would watch him as he unpacked the carefully crafted meal that Patience had sent with him.
The students and teachers at school saw Patience only occasionally. This was not because Mike was ashamed of her, but because he remained as he had been before her arrival, essentially a homebody. They went out to dinner once a week, and Patience would provide pleasant conversation, though she didn’t eat. Most nights though, they stayed home. She fixed him a dinner more than equal to those they found at restaurants and then they usually watched a movie on vueTee. Increasingly this was followed by some sexual activity, and Patience confirmed Mike’s opinion that his libido was on the increase, though he declined her offer to graph it for him.
Mike carefully watched the unfolding election. Though he was loath to throw away his vote by choosing the Greens, in the end there was just no way he could live with himself voting for either Barlow or Wakovia. Mendoza was the right person for the job. So he resigned himself to the fact that his candidate was going to lose and put a bright green Mendoza/McPhee ’32 bumper sticker on the back of his Chevy. Then fate stepped in. In early October, a series of announcements by Ford, Gizmo, Intel, and other major manufacturers pushed the market up past 20,000 for the first time. The government’s monthly economic indicators were even better than expected and it shot up even more. Then at the end of October, President Busby announced that the Chinese had brokered a deal in which the Russians would pull out of Antarctica. The war was over and the United States and her allies had won! The first troops began arriving home November second, just two days before the election.
Patience produced a dinner of barbeque ribs and chicken, potato salad and coleslaw, and apple cobbler on election night. Harriet and Jack arrived early and they all gathered around the vueTee in the living room to watch the returns. The twenty-ninth amendment provided a national set time for elections. The polls were open from 7AM to midnight, Eastern Standard Time. Of course ninety five percent of the voters, Mike included, had voted during the previous two weeks on the internet. By law, the news outlets were not allowed to announce winners until after the polls closed. Even so, when four o’clock hit, the states on the vueTee screen began filling in with color at a remarkable pace.
Mendoza reached the required electoral votes well before the small party watching in Springdale, California had finished their meal. The Republicans took the new south—Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Cuba, and the Virgin Islands. For a while it looked as though the only state to go blue would be Puerto Rico, but then after the winner had already been declared, California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Pacifica were filled in with blue. Mike’s disgust that his vote had in fact not counted, since Wakovia had won California was ameliorated by the fact that his candidate had won the election. Evelyn Mendoza would become only the second female President of the United States, having won the remaining forty three states and a whopping 407 electoral votes.
It was late that evening, after Harriet and Jack had gone home, after the talking heads on the screen had finished interviewing the winners and losers, campaign workers, and supporters, after the victory and concessions speeches, as some of the many ballot questions were being reviewed, that Mike sat bolt upright. In Massachusetts voters had passed a non-binding vote in support of their state’s governor who had earlier in the year signed an executive order allowing marriages between human beings and robots. How had he not heard about that?
Her smiling head popped around the corner from the kitchen, where she was putting away the last of the dinner dishes.
“Did you know that humans and robots could get married in Massachusetts?”
“Mm-hmm,” she nodded.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You had other things to worry about Mike. School was just starting. Besides, Massachusetts is on the other side of the country.”
“Don’t you want to get married?”
“Of course I do. Now that I know it’s what you want.”
“Why didn’t you know that before? What about Vegas?”
“What happens in…”
“Don’t say it.”
Mike Smith’s life was crap, living all alone, years after his wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away. Then he saw the commercial for the Daffodil. Far more than other robots, the Daffodil could become anything and everything he wanted it to be. Mike’s life is about to change.
His Robot Girlfriend is available at the following locations.
“Just a headache.”
The headache didn’t go away and by the time lunch came at 11:30 Mike thought his head was going to split open. He followed the other faculty members out the school’s front door, squinting in the bright sunlight.
“We’re going to Hot Dog Paradise,” said Mr. Franklin, slapping him on the right shoulder. “Do you want to come along?”
“Maybe…” Before Mike could get anything more out of his mouth, his own car pulled to a stop in front of him. Patience rolled down the passenger-side window.
“I have your lunch ready at home,” said Patience, poking her head out. Mike climbed in, not paying any attention to those watching him from the school parking lot.
Patience drove around the block and pulled into their driveway. Opening the garage door with the remote, she drove right inside and parked in the shady interior next to the Tesla. Mike climbed out of the car and stepped through the door into the family room.
“What’s the matter Mike?” Patience asked.
“I think I’m having an aneurism.”
“No. But I’ve got a bitch of a headache.”
“Sit down here,” she said, pushing him into his recliner. “I’ll make you feel better.”
In less than a minute she had unfastened Mike’s pants, completely disrobed herself, and straddled his lap. And though she did work valiantly to make him feel better, and if he were truly honest about it he would have to admit that he did feel better, he still had that bitch of a headache. It hadn’t diminished at all. Mike didn’t tell Patience this. He just thanked her with a kiss, sat down and ate the lentil soup and strange little salad (with cous cous, bell peppers, dried fruit, and mint leaves) that she had made for him. Then he had Patience stay home and drove himself back to school. He arrived back just as his fellow teachers did.
“So, who was that,” asked Miss Treewise.
“That was my girlfriend.”
“Nice,” said Mr. Franklin. “Did you tell her you were rich?”
“She’s a Daffodil,” said Miss Treewise.
“Really? She didn’t look like a robot. You didn’t have any of that trouble we heard about over the summer?”
“Nothing to speak of,” replied Mike, making his way past them and into the school.
Holding on to the side of his head, as if to keep his brains from spilling out his ears, he unlocked his classroom door, opened it, and then relocked it and sat down at his desk. The rest of the afternoon was devoted, for most teachers, to decorating their classrooms and getting their materials together. Mike had been in the same classroom for ten years now and had very few changes to make in any case, and he certainly didn’t feel like hanging up posters.
He sat with his head in his hands for about an hour. Nobody bothered him, but his headache didn’t improve. Finally he got up and sorted through some of the files he would be using for the first unit he was teaching—Latin America. He walked copies to the reprographics department to have them scanned for the students’ texTees, rather than sending them directly. After he had filled out the necessary requisition forms, he looked up at the clock on the wall. It was nearly a quarter past two. He was legally required to stay until 2:46 PM, but screw it. It wasn’t like they were going to fire him two days before the start of school. He headed out the front door, climbed into the car and drove home.
Patience wasn’t waiting at the door when he came in. Of course he was earlier than expected. Climbing the stairs, Mike made his way through his bedroom and into the bathroom, where his opened the medicine cabinet and retrieved the bottle of aspirin there. As he tossed five or six into his mouth and started chewing, he glanced out the window into the back yard. Patience was there, wearing her large hat, digging some kind of pit or trench.
Mike sighed and walked back through the bedroom, down the short hall and into his study. As he stepped through the door, it suddenly hit him. For a moment he thought he really was having a stroke. He was seeing things that weren’t there. Where his desk now sat was a baby crib and across the room where Patience had her own little desk, was a baby changing table. The walls were covered with 8×10 and 11×14 pictures of a happy little blond girl with chubby little pink cheeks and huge eyes.
“Agnes,” Mike whispered, feeling the blood drain from his face. “Aggie.”
He stepped quickly across the hall to Harriet’s room, but it wasn’t Harriet’s room anymore. It was the guest bedroom. Mike moved through it in two steps and threw open the closet, but it was completely empty. He went back to the study and opened the closet door. The interior had been covered with shelves, now filled with the things that Patience had been buying and selling on eBay—Depression glass dishes, Hummel figurines, Disney memorabilia. On the floor in the back of the closet were six brown storage boxes. Mike pulled the first one out and opened it. It was filled with brochures from family trips, old maps, movie ticket stubs, and pressed flowers. He pushed it aside and opened the second box. This box was full of framed pictures.
Lifting the topmost picture frame and examining it, Mike looked into his own eyes. No, not his own eyes; the eyes of a Mike Smith that existed fifteen years ago. This Mike Smith was looking directly into the camera and smiling the type of smile that said he had everything he ever wanted. To his right was his wife Tiffany, with her happy grey eyes and that twisted smile that was just a bit too playful to be called a smirk. His almost grown daughter Harriet, with a her hair pulled back and thick glasses hanging from chains like an old time librarian, held onto his left arm, and his teenage son Lucas in his boy scout uniform, stood to his far right. And in Mike’s arms was a perfect little baby, with chubby cheeks and a smile like Christmas, and just a bit of that soon-to-be awesome blond hair. Aggie.
“Aggie. How could I forget you?”
He saw it all again, only this time it was a memory and not a dream. Tiffany was lying on the hospital bed, her body broken and bloody. Her mangled arm and crushed hips were far more alarming than the tiny bump on her head that had actually killed her. And just beyond her, on another hospital bed, lay little Aggie. She was several years older than she appeared in the framed picture—a precious four year-old that would grow no older.
“Traumatic amnesia,” said Patience’s voice from the door. “The memory of her death was so painful that you took down all the pictures of her and boxed them away. Then your mind did the same thing to your memories.”
“I remember everything now,” said Mike. And he did. He couldn’t stop the flood of memories suddenly rushing around his insides.
“We didn’t even really want another kid. Harriet and Lucas were almost grown up. But… nobody in the world knows this but me. Tiffany had this kink about getting pregnant. She really got a thrill from the possibility. Her favorite sex talk was about “getting knocked up”. Even when she was young, before we met, she hadn’t used birth control. She was just lucky she hadn’t gotten pregnant before. She never took pills, so after we decided that two kids was enough, I used condoms. Then after a couple of years, Tiffany wanted to spice things up. She started opening the boxes of condoms as soon as we bought them, and she would poke holes in half of them. I suppose it was only a matter of time, but it was almost ten years…”
“Before Agnes was born…” offered Patience.
“God, she was perfect. The cutest baby. She didn’t even cry. She used to fall asleep in my arms every night. As soon as she was able to sit up, I started reading to her every day. Well. When Harriet was little, I was finishing my masters, and then Lucas came along and I was working two jobs. I suppose I was so happy to be able to spend time with Aggie. I guess I gave her all the attention that I had wanted to give the others. And then she was dead…. Um, the police said that Tiffany was probably bending over to get something, God only knows what, and she veered into the other lane. Aggie was in her little seat. Tiffany always buckled her in. But… well, it was a head on.”
Patience put her hand on Mike’s shoulder, but he pulled away and stood up.
“I want to put these pictures back up,” he said.
“I know where they all go,” said Patience. Mike looked at her. “I saw pictures in the scrapbooks that show them hanging.”
Mike nodded and walked out of the room. He went downstairs and climbed into the car. Pulling out of the driveway and steering his way to the end of the block, he wasn’t conscious of his destination, but something down inside him knew where to go. He turned into the cemetery and drove very slowly to the southeast corner, parking a short distance from Tiffany’s grave. He got out, leaving the car door hanging open, and walked across the newly mowed grass. He briefly brushed off Tiffany’s marker and then moved on to that other grave. He dropped down to sit next to the tiny little angel statue which wore a nightgown and held a flower in her left hand, her right hand raising a handkerchief to her eye. Agnes Winnie Smith. 2016-2021.
Mike lay back on the grass next to the little grave. And he cried.