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.”

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 15 Excerpt

Mike was already dressed when Patience arrived back in their room. He looked quite handsome in his white shirt and tan slacks. They met Wanda and Ryan out in the hall and all walked down to the Incubus Steakhouse together. After sitting down, the men planned out their orders. Mike chose the iceberg wedge, peppercorn New York steak with red onion compote, ginger sweet potatoes, and chocolate mouse cake. Ryan ordered the warm asparagus salad with hollandaise and truffle vinaigrette, braised beef short ribs with m’hamsa couscous, French horn mushrooms, and bacon; and crème brulee.

Patience was quiet, a fact that Wanda was quick to point out.

“Is it the murder?” she asked.

“You know about that, do you?” asked Mike.

“Everyone knows about it,” said Ryan. “And of course, Wanda knows that they asked Patience to help them solve it. Did you figure it out?”

“Yes,” said Patience. “I might as well tell you, since it will be widely known shortly.”

“We knew them,” Mike told Ryan. “Well, we met them. We had lunch with them.”

“The girl who was murdered and her robot?”

“Yeah.”

“Freaky.”

“Yeah, well…”

“So who killed her?” Ryan asked, turning to Patience.

“Delia killed Bella,” said Patience.

“Who is Delia?”

“Delia was her Daffodil. She killed Bella and she killed herself.”

“That cannot be right,” said Wanda, “but I see that it is.”

“Why?” asked Mike. “Why did she kill her?”

“Bella met a man. Delia loved Bella and was afraid that she would lose her to him.”

“That is really frightening,” said Ryan.

“It’s really human, is what it is,” said Mike. “It’s just the kind of thing that humans do to each other all the time. You just don’t expect it from a robot… and yes, I know she wasn’t just a robot—she was a Daffodil.”

“It is too horrible,” said Wanda. “She was for Bella. She should have wanted whatever was best for Bella, even if it meant giving her up.”

“See Ryan,” said Mike. “You have a special little robot there.”

“I realize that.”

The salads arrived and they began eating.

“You feel the same way, don’t you, Patience?” asked Wanda. “You feel the same way about Mike that I do about Ryan, don’t you?”

Patience flashed her a nonverbal blip of annoyance but answered. “I love Mike and I want him to be happy of course. Over the past few years however, I have programmed myself to want him… to need him. I have been running it over in my mind for the past several hours. More and more I understand how Delia was feeling. I don’t know how I would react if I thought I was losing Mike.”

Ryan choked on a bit of lettuce and took a quick drink of water, giving Mike a nervous look.

“It’s my fault,” said Mike. “I’m just too damn charming. The women and robots—they just go crazy for me.”

Patience smiled and put her hand on his. The main courses arrived and the conversation took a much lighter tone through the rest of their meal. After dessert, they left the steakhouse and walked downstairs to the movie theater.

“What shall we see,” asked Ryan.

“Okay,” said Mike. “We have a sappy chick flic, two mindless action movies, and Shakespeare.”

“So… Motor California?”

Much Ado About Nothing.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” said Ryan. “Well, I suppose we don’t have to see the same movie.”

“Try a little culture for once. Maybe you’ll like it.”

“All right. I’ll try it, but I don’t think I’ll like it.”

One hundred nine minutes later the four of them stepped back out of the theater entrance.

“That wasn’t that bad,” said Ryan.

“See, I knew you’d like it,” said Mike.

“It didn’t hurt that Margarite Pine was in it.”

“Which one was she?”

“The one with the boobs.”

“Oh, the one who played Beatrice. Yes, she is a healthy young woman.”

“She’s in Motor California, too,” said Wanda. “Ryan has it in his queue. He finds her sexually appealing.”

“Wanda!”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I think I look a little bit like her.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

The Dark and Forbidding Land – Chapter 14 Excerpt

The next few days grew progressively warmer. It was as if the land couldn’t wait for the return of spring. Senta certainly couldn’t wait. The snowdrifts between the great redwoods disappeared, and she began to wander through the forest around the tower. Sometimes Graham came with her, but it was impossible to coax Hero beyond the relative safety of the road or the yard.

Three days after Mr. Jex had completed Zurfina’s painting, Senta got up early in the morning and went to the Hertling home. She hoped that she could lend a hand with household chores, supposing that this might endear her to Hero’s sister Honor. She had forgotten though that it was the Zaeri Sabbath, and the Hertlings, like the other Zaeri, were attending shrine, or rather the neighborhood lot on which they hoped to have a shrine built sometime in the future. She considered joining them, as non-Zaeri were allowed to sit in the back, but the prospect of an hour or more of she-wasn’t-too-sure what in a dead language she couldn’t understand dissuaded her. She stopped by the Dokkins house hoping to find Graham, but he wasn’t home. More and more, he had been getting odd jobs around the dock, and a ship had come in from Freedonia the day before.

Senta skipped down Bay Street, which was one of the two parallel roadways that ran south from Town Square. The earliest flowers had popped their heads up to enjoy the new sun. Blue ones and white ones, they were all very tiny compared to the blossoms that would appear later. The girl didn’t know what they were called, but she instinctively knew that they heralded the return of spring, and this put lightness into her heart and step. In no time, she had gathered together quite a bouquet and had reached the southern limit of the road.

Beyond was the wilderness. It had been uninterrupted forest just a few years before, but now the land for several miles from where she stood was a ragged looking plain having been logged extensively by the colonists, with only a few copses of standing trees here and there.

“You shouldn’t be out alone,” said a heavily accented voice. She didn’t need to turn around to recognize its owner, but turn around she did.

“I thought you were hiding in your apartment,” she told Streck. “I heard you got quite a scare on your hunting trip.”

“This place is a hell-hole. It’s not fit for a civilized man, and it won’t be until the monsters and the Eidechse are wiped out.”

“The Eidechse? You mean the lizzies? You can’t wipe all of them out. There are millions, not just the lot around here. They have some big cities to the south and west. I’ve seen one.”

“You would be surprised what can be done.”

“What do you want anyway? You want to finish our duel?”

“Oh, I have seen your shield spell and I am suitably impressed. It is clear you are a gifted, if boastful, child.”

“I think I asked already… what is it you want?”

“I’m just here to say goodbye, little bit.” Streck smiled. “My ship is here and I’ll be leaving soon.”

“Good riddance then,” said Senta.

Steck’s face turned even more sour. “I am inviting you to come with me. Not only will you learn to respect your elders, you will learn the true magic—far more than you will ever learn with your Zurfina.”

“What is it with you exactly?” asked the girl. “Do you want to open up my brain and scoop out the magic, or are you one of those weirdoes that like little girls?”