Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 10 Excerpt

The storm continued to rage outside the walls of the little house on Dolphin Island. The five young women had to make due with lighting from a single flashlight and several candles. They only ate food that could be eaten cold, and concentrated on that which was in the refrigerator, since without power the food within would eventually go bad.

“I wish I knew which direction the storm is moving,” said Penelope, as they sat around the table, eating a dinner of cheese sandwiches and cabbage and fennel salad.

“We had a hand crank radio,” said Eleanor, “but I broke the crank off of it.”

“Cranked it too hard?” wondered Penelope.

The blonde nodded.

“I can hook up the laptop directly to the internet,” said Astrid. “We’ve got enough battery power to run it for several hours.”

Unplugging the now unusable router, the girl inventor connected one MPro 5 notebook to the cable. Loading up the browser, she pulled up the satellite image of the storm.

“It’s passing to the north of us,” she told the others. “It’s not moving very fast though. I would guess we’ve got another two days of rough weather.”

“That’s what I figured,” said Adeline. “We’d better turn off the computer and conserve the battery.”

“First though,” said Penelope. “We each need to send a message to our loved ones telling them we’re okay.”

When it was her turn, Astrid sent the following message, making sure to address it to her mother, father, and to Toby. Power is out here, so no phone, but we are safe and sound. Don’t worry. Love to you all. Call you when we get the power back.

“Sending your love to Toby?” asked Penelope, looking over her shoulder.

“No, I’m just… That’s just what people say. You don’t think he…?”

“Stop worrying about it. He knows how you feel about him and he has since he was old enough to stand.”

“Well…” said Astrid, shrugging. “I guess.”

That night, the wind rattling loose boards and shingles on the outside of the house, made sleep difficult for Astrid. When she finally dozed off, it was late, and she was awakened at least three times during the night. It was a surprise therefor to find that she had slept late into the morning. All of the other young women were up and dresses and sitting around the table eating bread and jam.

“Why did you let me sleep so late?” asked Astrid, as she wiped the sleep from her eyes.

“There wasn’t much point in waking you,” said Penelope. “We can’t do anything but sit around staring at one another.”

“I thought now that it’s light outside, I might take a look at the generator,” returned Astrid.

“It’s light out,” said Eleanor, “but it’s still too windy to go outside. You would be blown off your feet. I’m a little surprised that we haven’t lost the roof.”

“The house is sturdy,” said Adeline. “We are also protected somewhat by the trees.”

“I hope the dolphins are okay,” said Astrid.

“They will be fine,” assured Océane. “They will swim out to the deep water. The storm won’t bother them at all.”

There was just enough light coming in through the boarded up windows that they were able to play a French version of Monopoly during mid-day. In the afternoon, the wind seemed to die down a bit, giving Astrid some hope that maybe the storm would soon be over. Then it grew suddenly dark, and minutes later, the island and the little house were deluged by waves of rain. The girls immediately had to scramble to lay out pots and dishes under the sixteen leaks in the ceiling that ranged from a steady drip to a constant stream.

“I feel like we need to look for two of every animal,” said Penelope.

It was so dark by five o’clock that it could have been midnight. Astrid peaked out a crack in the boards covering the window. All she could see were bushes being bent by the wind and pelted by the rain.

“Astrid,” said Océane, at her elbow. “Will you come help me make dinner?”

The girl inventor followed her to the part of the room that made up the kitchen.

“You seem very nervous,” said the French girl.

“Do I? I guess I am. This is the first hurricane that I’ve ever been in. We don’t get a lot of stormy weather in the southwest U.S.”

“Everything will be fine.”

“Oh, I know it will be,” said Astrid. “At least I know that in my head. I guess some other part of me isn’t so sure.”

“You will feel better after you eat. I’m making sandwiches with the last of the bread and hazel nut spread. I want you to chop of this bag of pistachios and whatever fruit we have left to go on them.”

Astrid found a handful of strawberries and two bananas in the no-longer-cold refrigerator, and diced them up fine, along with the pistachios. Océane sprinkled them on the hazel nut spread before placing the two pieces of bread together.

“I have a secret treat,” said Océane. “We’re all going to have hot cocoa.”

“How are we going to do that?” wondered Astrid. “We don’t have any heat.”

Advertisements

Astrid Maxxim and the Mystery of Dolphin Island – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Astrid kicked her legs as hard as she could, shooting through the water over Swen’s Atoll. The grey monster shot up from behind and passed her like a bullet, only to roll over and propel itself directly toward her. At the last moment, it rose just enough to pass above her without touching. Seeing him from the surface, it was difficult to tell just how big Alister was, but seen from here beneath the waves, he was huge—over ten feet long and weighing about a thousand pounds.

“Alister play. Alister play,” the device in Astrid’s hands translated the dolphin’s signals.

From twenty feet to Astrid’s left, came another sound. Alister’s partner called out to him.

“Alister. Alister”

Astrid didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that John was trying to get Alister to pay him some attention, rather than lavishing it on the surface-dweller. Five consecutive days of swimming with him had certainly given Astrid the impression that Alister enjoyed her company. She couldn’t say the same about his companion.

She dove down and flipped over, swimming in the reverse of the direction she had been going. As she approached where the boat was anchored, she saw Penelope and two female dolphins playing with the scarf. Then she saw Adeline, who was signaling to return to the surface. Astrid followed her until both their heads popped above the waves. The girl inventor was surprised to find it darker than it had been when she had submerged.

“We’ve got to go in,” said Adeline. “The clouds have rolled in and the wind is picking up.”

“Okay,” Astrid replied. “Let me get Penelope.”

Pushing the regulator back in her mouth, Astrid dove down to where her aunt was floating, tapping her on the shoulder. When Penelope looked, she signaled to head for the surface. When their heads reached the air, they could see that the ocean was already becoming choppy. They quickly climbed into the boat.

“Were we expecting weather?” asked Penelope.

“It’s Hurricane Diego,” said Eleanor. “It was supposed to be far north of us, but it’s turned our way.”

She pulled up the anchor and then took her place behind the wheel, starting up the engine and steering toward Dolphin Island. The dolphins swam along behind them for a while, riding the wake, but then disappeared.

“That was great fun,” said Astrid. “I can’t believe that Alister is saying whole sentences—well, at least a two word sentence.”

“I think our translation is problematic,” said Adeline. “The dolphins use gestures and other signals, but I think they should be saying more. I think we are only getting a little slice of what they could say to us.”

By the time the boat was cruising into the lagoon, the waves of the open ocean were five feet or more.

They pulled the boat as far onto the sand as they could and tied it to not one, but three trees. Then they hurried inside the little house.

Eleanor turned on the radio and dialed into the weather.

“I’m going to pull up the storm on the Internet,” said Astrid.

“I’m going to puke,” said Penelope.

She staggered to the front door and stepped outside. The others could hear a retching sound. Astrid stepped out to make sure that she was all right and found the sky so dark she could have been forgiven for thinking it was night. The wind was so strong that it pushed her two steps to the left. Steadying herself, she stepped over to where Penelope knelt in the sand and bent down over her.

“Are you okay, Aunt Penelope?”

Her aunt arched her back and heaved again in reply. Astrid pulled her aunt’s black hair back to keep it out of the pool of vomit in the sand.

“I think I’m going to be turned inside out,” gasped Penelope at last.   “I haven’t felt this bad since the after party at the Grammy’s.”

“What were you doing at the Grammy’s?”

“Getting sick. That’s really all you need to know. Well, I think I’m done.”

She began struggling to her feet. Astrid helped pull her up and then threw her shoulder under the elder Maxxim’s. She led the way back inside and into the office, where Penelope crawled into her sleeping bag.

“Here, Penelope, drink this,” said Océane, stepping into the room with a glass of amber liquid.

“What is it?” came the croaked reply.

“It’s ginger ale. It will settle your stomach. We keep it on hand because Eleanor gets seasick too.”

“Is she sick now too?” wondered Astrid.

Océane nodded. “You should drink some too, Astrid.”

“I’m not seasick.”

“Not yet.”

“I need something stronger,” said Penelope. “I think I need to be put in a medically-induced coma.”

“I’m sorry,” said Océane. “I’m afraid we don’t even have motion sickness pills.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Electric Racecar Challenge“All systems nominal,” said Astrid, looking at Ariel’s instruments.

“We have a clean burn,” said copilot Carl Williams.

Ariel, propelled by her custom Maxxim liquid fuel blend, a combination of hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene, nitrous oxide, and several top secret ingredients, pushed the advanced spaceplane higher and higher into the atmosphere.

“Throttling up,” said Astrid.

She looked over her shoulder at her three passengers.

“Everything good back there?”

Laura Bell flashed a smile. Booker Larson’s eyes were glued to his instrument panel, but her threw Astrid a thumbs up. Sergei Bryce simply looked like he was going to throw up. The three of them, all of whom could be found on the list of the twenty richest Americans, had each paid $2 million for the chance to fly into space.

The force of acceleration pressed everyone back into their seats.

“Nosing up to forty degrees,” said Astrid. “Throttling up to seventy percent.”

“Mach six point three,” called Williams. “Altitude is four five miles.”

The gentle rumbling of the rocket engines through the fuselage of the space plane continued.

“Fuel is good,” said Williams. “Pressure is good. All navigation and secondary systems are good.”

“Flight controls are good,” said Astrid. “Plotting a geostationary transfer orbit.” She looked back at her three passengers. “This will take us flying out to 22,230 miles out, and then swing us back down to one hundred miles.”

“That’s fantastic!” Laura Bell’s shout was amplified by the microphone.

“Easy there, Miss,” said Williams. “I’d like to return with both my eardrums intact.”

“Sorry.”

“Who’d like to get out of their seats and float around?” asked Astrid, as she released her restraints.

The others followed suit and soon they were all floating around Ariel’s large cabin, spinning, doing summersaults, and peeling off their flight suits. Astrid had just finished stowing her suit and helmet, when she turned around to see Sergei Bryce throwing up.

“I’ve got it,” called Carl Williams, as he retrieved a vacuum hose from a ceiling compartment and began chasing down the spherical globules of vomit.

Several hours later, back in her seat, Astrid made an announcement.

“Congratulations lady and gentleman, you have just reached the farthest point away from the earth of anyone since the crew of Apollo 17.”

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionThe next morning, the girl inventor headed out the door, luggage in hand. She climbed into the car with her parents and then they all drove into the Maxxim Campus to the dedicated airfield. A Maxxim Starcraft 170 waited on the Tarmac. Toby, Austen, Denise, and the two Valeries were all waiting to say goodbye. Christopher, who would be making the trip to Antarctica with Astrid, was there with his parents, as was Denise’s brother Dennis, who would be piloting their flight to Los Angeles.

“Hello Nerd,” said a familiar voice from behind Astrid. The girl inventor turned around to come face to face with her cousin Gloria and Gloria’s parents.

“Be nice to your little cousin, now,” said Aunt Lauren.

“Indeed,” said Uncle Carl. “She’s going to be an important part of the new company.”

“What company is that?” wondered Astrid.

“The new Maxxim.”

“Hello Carl,” said Dr. Maxxim, smiling.

“Roger,” responded Uncle Carl, tersely. “Kate.”

Aunt Lauren turned her head, ignoring her in-laws.

“So, did you guys come to see me off?” Astrid asked her cousin.

“Oh no. I’m going to Cali to spend a week with Aunt Penny,” said Gloria. “It seemed a shame to charter another plane, when you’re already headed that way anyway.”

“Gloria’s very cost conscious,” added Aunt Lauren.

“I’ve always thought that about her,” said Astrid with a straight face.

Once everyone had said their goodbyes, the travelers stepped across the tarmac and up the steps to the plane’s hatch. Astrid had hoped for a moment alone with Toby before she left, but she didn’t get it. She shot a quick look back to see him watching her through the glass wall of the terminal building. They gave each other a quick wave. Dennis Brown and Marty Crockett, one of the Maxxim pilots, took their places in the cockpit, while Astrid and Christopher sat down together near the front. Gloria walked all the way to the back of the cabin and staked a claim to the seat directly in front of the small restroom.

“The view is better up here,” Astrid called back, thinking that Gloria’s window view would be obstructed by the rear canard wing.

“Survivability in case of a crash is greater in the rear of an airplane,” said Gloria. “I would think a nerd like you would know that.”

“The joke’s on her,” Astrid said to Christopher. “If this plane crashes we’re all going to die.”

“That’s it, Astrid,” he replied. “Always look on the bright side.”

The Dragon’s Choice – $2.99 for Kindle

The dragons seemingly have returned to the world and are once again in vying for power. Bessemer the steel dragon is worshipped by the reptilian lizzies, while the evil Voindrazius tries to put together a pantheon that he will control. Zoantheria, the coral dragon, feels pulled in all directions. Wanted both by Bessemer and Voindrazius, she is called to a world she has never known, her mistress, the sorceress Senta Bly encouraging her to take up the mantle of goddess. Her heart, however, is pulling her in a different direction, toward the young viscount Augustus Dechantagne. Which will prove stronger– love or destiny? Both Senta and Augie have their own problems, hers with teaching her wayward eponymous daughter the ways of magic, and him dealing with the yoke of leadership and a headstrong mother. Meanwhile, far across the ocean, the Dechantagne girls are taking Brech City by storm. Will one of them land a prince?

The Dragon’s Choice is available for Amazon Kindle for just $2.99.

The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 22 Excerpt

Senta was standing in front of her house when a car drove through the gate, up the drive, and stopped right in front of her.  All four of the occupants stared at her.  She was dressed in leather pants and a leather bustier instead of a shirt.  This left the two star sigils on her chest in full view.  She had recently shortened her hair to chin-length and today it was partially covered by a black top hat.

“Well, if it isn’t the whole Baxter clan,” she said.

Kieran Baxter was driving and Bryony sat in the front passenger seat.  In the back, were Sen and little Kerry.

“Daddy is driving us to the dinosaur ranch,” said Sen.

“Well isn’t that lovely. Bryony came along for the ride as well.”

“I’m riding shotgun,” said Bryony.

“Are you all packed, Sen?”

The girl held up a medium-sized purse—lime green to match her walking dress.

“Even so,” said her mother, holding up a similarly sized bag in black.  “Come along, Felicity!”

A young troodon, it’s brilliant green feathers the most colorful thing in the neighborhood, ran from behind the shrubs and pressed its toothy snout up against the sorceress’s leg.

“She’s getting big!” said Kerry excitedly.

The little dinosaur zeroed in on his voice and leapt up onto the side of the car.  Bryony gave a little shriek, but the creature did nothing more than hop into the boy’s lap and curl up.  Kerry cooed to it and petted its head.

“Boys and dinosaurs have a natural affinity,” opined Senta.  “I suppose I’m in the rear?”

“Too right,” said Bryony, as her husband stepped down to help the sorceress climb back between the children.

Soon they were all on the road, heading south.  Bryony turned and looked back at Senta.

“You’ll be gone two weeks?”

“I’m thinking more like three.  We must account for travel time.”

“That’s a long time.”

“Don’t worry,” said Sen. “I’ll keep her out of trouble.”

It was a journey of more than an hour to the Charmley Dinosaur Ranch, but at last they arrived.  Baxter helped Senta and then Sen down from the car.  The girl kissed all three of the Baxters good-bye, and lifted the sleeping dinosaur from Kerry’s hands.

“Be a good girl,” Baxter told her.

“Always, Daddy.”

“We’ll be back before you know it,” said the sorceress.

Baxter just nodded and climbed back into the car.  Without another word, he drove away with his family.

“We’re off on a great adventure,” Senta told her daughter.  “Let’s go.”

They walked to the front door of the large ranch house.  The troodons in the front yard gave them no trouble, though Sen carried Felicity in her arms, just in case.  Wenda Charmley met them at the front door.

“Senta.  Right on time.  Walter is waiting for you in back.  Come on through.”

She led them through the house and out the back door to a broad, open porch.  Walter was leaning against one of the columns, drinking soda water from a glass bottle.  He looked no different than he had when he was Warden.  Standing just beyond the porch, munching on greens piled in a wheelbarrow, was a huge iguanodon.  He was fully forty feet from nose to tail and weighed in at nearly five tons, and he was outfitted with a howdah on his back.

“Is that..?” wondered Senta.

“I wouldn’t trust you to any other.  Stinky really is the best.  He’s an old hand at carrying passengers.”

“I haven’t seen him since…” The sorceress looked around.  “I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

Novuary 1907 had been a long time before—fifteen years.  In another week and a half, it would be fifteen years to the day.  Stinky had been much smaller then and Senta had been so much younger. She had been seventeen and madly in love.  Then a steam carriage had exploded.  It was the same explosion that had cost Honor McCoort her leg.  It had injured Stinky the iguanodon, and he had fallen on his rider—Graham Dokkins.  Graham Dokkins, the boy that Senta had loved so fiercely.

“I took him out of the city after the accident,” said Walter.  “He hasn’t shown any real fear of cars, but I didn’t want to take the chance.  Since then, he’s carried a howdah to Yessonarah many times, and once he went all the way to Tsahloose.”

The sorceress stepped up to the great beast.  He lifted his head, and she rubbed it between his eyes.

“Do you remember me, Stinky? I remember the morning Graham came home and you were waiting for him.  That was the same day that I got my first sigils.”

The iguanodon snorted, leaving a wad of mucus the size of a large man’s fist on her stomach.

“He remembers me,” she said, cleaning herself up with a simple spell.  “Come along, Sen.”

“Hut hut,” called Walter, stepping up beside her.

The iguanodon dropped down onto his belly.

“You’ll still need a little help getting up.”  He pointed to a rope ladder handing down from the howdah.  “Once you’re up there, pull it up with you, so it doesn’t get tangled on anything. There’s plenty of room for you to sleep in the howdah, so you really needn’t get out until you reach your destination, except maybe to stretch your legs.  There’s a chamber pot inside.”

The Dragon’s Choice – Chapter 21 Excerpt

Prince Clitus of Greater Brechalon read through the news release arranged by the palace.  It announced his engagement to Miss Terra Dechantagne, and described him romantically asking the young lady to marry him.  He let out a long breath.

“There’s only one problem,” he told Mr. Flint, the official palace herald.  “I haven’t actually done any of this.  I haven’t stood before friends and family and proposed over a dessert of trifle.  I haven’t asked her brother for her hand.  I haven’t even picked out an engagement ring, let alone given it to her.”

“It’s all being arranged,” said Mr. Flint.  “The ring is almost ready.  The stationers are finishing up the invitations.  The meal has been scheduled.  Everything will go according to plan, Your Highness.  All you have to do is follow the program.”

“As usual, I’m really not necessary to the proceedings.”

“Nonsense, Your Highness. You are vital.  For example, right now, Mr. Caulinghoff is waiting for you to compose the telegram to Lord Dechantagne.  He is waiting in the North Wing drawing room.”

“Then I’d best hurry over there.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Clitus took off at a brisk walk down the long corridor.

“One would think that a person awaiting me would be awaiting in the same wing that I was in,” he grumbled as he walked along.

He heard footsteps behind him, hurrying to catch up.  Looking over his shoulder, he saw Bob fall into step with him.

“I thought this was your day off,” said the Prince.

“I don’t have a day off when you’re about, Your Highness.”

“What trouble can I get into walking from one end of the palace to the other?”

“Well, it is a long walk.”

Clitus laughed.

“Seems like everyone is rushing to get this engagement on track.”

“Well you don’t want to tarry.  Do you, Your Highness?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Just remember, your engagement is going to be a year long,” said Bob.

“Yes, I know.”

“You want to get it started so it will be over as soon as possible.  After all, the lady might not want to give up her virginity until her wedding night.”

Clitus came to a stop so quickly that his boot heel skidded on the red carpet runner.

“She did indicate as much to me,” he said with a frown.  “One would think it would be enough that we’re engaged.”

Bob shrugged.

“I mean, she already…”

“I know, lad.  She gave you a bit of nosh on the yacht. Maybe she’ll be willing to tied you over that way.”

“Come on!” said Clitus, starting off at slightly less than a jog.  “We’ve got to get this show on the road.”