In the next year, I’m planning to finish 2-3 books. Which of these books would you most like to see first?
The lizzies of Yessonarah lined the streets and watched in fascination as the embassies from ten nearby villages paraded down the central avenue. Each consisted of a village king, a witch doctor, and some fifty or more warriors, all wearing the paint and feathers of their people. As they passed the great temple pyramid, each looked up to the top. Tokkenoht stood at the top of the steps, her bright blue form standing out clearly in front of the granite and stone structure behind her. She didn’t mislead herself into thinking that they were looking at her though. They were looking at the god.
She peered back at the scaly form draped over the building, just as he gave a great snore. Yessonar had been asleep for more than a week. Occasionally he would snore, exhale a cloud of smoke, or roll over, but otherwise he was just like a giant statue of himself.
Walking around the corner of the vault, she looked out away from the city, past the lake, to the woods through which the lower portion of the River Ssukhas flowed. She could see, rising up above the trees, smoke from the camps of the humans who were searching the river for gold.
“How many are there?” came a deep rumbling voice from behind her.
“I do not know, Great Yessonar.”
“I count about five thousand. Are they causing any trouble?’
“Not really, Great Yessonar. Our king suspects they are not paying all their taxes. It is hard for our warriors to collect the king’s share of gold, because the humans all look alike to us.”
“Then perhaps you need some way to distinguish them.” He rose up on his four legs and stretched out his great wings. “I’m going to eat and then I must visit Tsahloose before I can fly back to my fortress. I will return in a few weeks time.”
“As you will, Great Yessonar,” said Tokkenoht with a bow.
The dragon usually shot into the sky so fast when he took off that it was impossible for one’s eyes to follow him. Not this time. He pushed off the top of the temple and glided over the forest, with only a couple of lazy wing beats. Flying over the lower river, he gracefully turned and headed west, before suddenly shooting up into the clouds. Only when the magnificent beast was no longer visible, did she turn and make her way down the great staircase.
When Tokkenoht reached the palace, it was a swarm of activity. A line of a hundred lizzies was carrying in great quantities of food through the side gate, and just inside, a makeshift kitchen was preparing that food and placing it on great platters to be brought into the throne room. The high priestess followed the line of servers carrying the platters into the largest room of the palace. It had been converted to a great dining hall. The king, his wives, and his advisors sat at a long table up on the dais, while the visitors from ten villages filled the rest of the hall. All four walls were lined with warriors of Yessonarah, each holding an upright spear. Already the assembly was becoming loud and boisterous.
“More ssukhas!” shouted Hsrandtuss, raising his cup.
Tokkenoht lifted a pitcher full of the intoxicating liquor from the platter of a food bearer, and carried it the length of the room to the dais. She filled the king’s cup, sat the pitcher down in front of him, and then reached up to straiten his gold crown. Then she sat down in the empty chair between him and Ssu.
“The king has had much wine already,” said Ssu, leaning over in confidence. “Perhaps you should not have filled his cup.”
“You will tell him he’s had enough then?” countered Tokkenoht.
Ssu hunkered down in submission.
Leaning back, Tokkenoht looked at Szakhandu, seated on the other side of the king. She rarely wore paint, but she was completely made up this evening. Her right half from the waist up, was bright red, while her left half from the waist up, the side facing Tokkenoht, was tar black. Her bottom half was reversed. She wasn’t wearing the gold necklace that she usually had on, and the priestess thought she saw it around Kendra’s neck. Instead, Szakhandu wore a necklace of gorgosaurus teeth, a symbol of strength that few females would have been allowed.
The king stood up, leaning over his table.
“What say my friends?” he shouted out, and the noise of so many voices slowly died down. “More food and more ssukhas?”
“We have food and ssukhas!” a voice shouted back.
Tokkenoht stared down from the dais as one of the village kings slowly got to his feet. He was a young, muscular male, with a very handsome tail.
“We have food and ssukhas at home!” Several lizzies around the village king hissed in agreement. “What we want is what we came for!”
Szakhandu stood up.
“What is it you came for, King Thikkik of Ar-kussthek?”
“We came for our females!” shouted the king. A dozen warriors around him stood up and hissed.
“What in the name of Hissussisthiss’s whiskers are you talking about?” demanded Hsrandtuss. “I haven’t raided any of your villages.”
“You have lured away our females with your unnatural, soft-skin inspired ideas about child rearing.”
“The way we raise offspring has nothing to do with humans!” growled Hsrandtuss. “It was my idea!”
Raising their own offspring, rather than leaving them to the mercy of predators, had in fact been Szakhandu’s and Kendra’s idea, but Tokkenoht certainly wasn’t going to contradict the king.
She was reclining across a Mirsannan divan. She wore a long, flowing silk gown that completely covered her charms, though on the wall directly above her was a photograph of her and her mother reclining on the same piece of furniture—both nude. She reached up to rub her long, exposed neck. Then she ran her hand over her head, her blond tresses about the same length as his own red hair.
“Of course not,” she smiled. “I want you to be here. These girls today are my oldest and dearest friends and they’ll want to see you. Afterwards you can run along so that they can all tell me how jealous they are.”
“What about yesterday?”
“That was different. It was more of an obligation. I know that Graham’s sister will see me with you sooner or later, but I didn’t want to throw it in her face the moment I got back.”
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “He’s been gone a long time.”
“Almost four years, but when I see Gaylene, it’s like it was yesterday. Not like now—now it feels like it was eons ago. It’s a kind of magic, you know.”
“So I’m invited?”
“You’re more than invited. How did they say it when you were in the navy? You’re requested and required. You can skip out tomorrow if you like. The same girls will be back again, along with some others. But you have to be here the day after. The governor and her family are coming.”
“Oh, yes. You’re living in sin with a very important mucky-muck.”
“Should I dress?” he asked.
“We always dress for tea in this house—unless we don’t.”
He stared at her for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders and left the room. Senta knew he was going upstairs to dress. He had been given over for his own use one of the thirty rooms in the three-story mansion, but he had spent both nights in Senta’s bed. Looking up at the clock, she decided that she should dress too.
Climbing the stairs still causes a pain in her chest where she had been shot, but it was the only time now that she thought about it. At the top of the sweeping staircase, she waved her hand, magically summoning her lizzie dressing maid. The deep olive reptilian appeared from a room at the end of the hall and met her as she stepped into her boudoir.
One of only three servants in the house as of yet, Aggie was new. Cheery the butler, and Thonass the maid had worked for Senta for years and had taken care of the house while she was away. Thonass had given Aggie the recommendation. They were from the same family—or what passed for family among the lizzies.
“Something pretty today,” she told the reptilian. “Bring me my yellow and white striped day dress.”
The dress was a traditional one. Cut for a medium-sized bustle, the skirt was vertically lined with broad yellow and white stripes while the bodice was a solid yellow with puffy frills of lace around the high neck and at the end of each long sleeve. She topped off the ensemble with yellow emeralds dangling from her pierced ears. She slipped a ring on her right hand that featured a yellow garnet. It was practically worthless, but she had purchased it in Bangdorf because she thought it was pretty.
“Nice,” said the dressing maid.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” said Baxter, stepping into the room. He was sharp in his grey suit. He was always sharp.
“Thank you, kind sir,” she said with a curtsey. “Shall we go down?”
Suddenly the baby began fussing from her crib in the next room.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” said Baxter, following her cries.
“Hmm,” she murmured, observing him. Then she turned to the dressing maid. “I’m going down to set up. Tell Thonass to find me.”
In the dining room, Senta found the table set with the everyday china, but the food for the afternoon tea filled several wooden crates stacked nearby. Having no one to cook and no one really to serve, she had ordered the tea catered from Café Etta.
“Uuthanum,” she said and the food began flying out of the crates, soaring around the room, and landing on the appropriate plates and serving platters. A spice cake was coming into a landing in the center of the table with Thonass stepped into the room.
“Take this envelope,” said Senta, retrieving the stated item from the lamp table along the wall. “Deliver it to the employment agency at the Department of Lizzie Affairs. It is a list of the other servants I shall need.”
“Yess,” said the lizzie.
As Thonass was going out, Cheery was coming in.
“Guests,” he said.
“Bring them on into the dining room please.”
The reptilian stepped out and came back a few seconds later leading three young women.
“Senta!” squealed Hero Markham, rushing forward and wrapping her arms around the sorceress’s waist. “I’ve missed you so much! Look at your hair. You look like a boy.”
“Well it’s good to be appreciated. You look wonderful. How’s the baby?”
“She’s beautiful too,” said Gabrielle Bassett from behind Hero. She looks just like her mother.
Taller than Hero, though still shorter than Senta, Gabrielle was radiantly beautiful with sparkling blue eyes and ash brown hair. Behind her stood the third young woman. Dutty Morris was attractive but not pretty. Though her widely spaced eyes gave her a kind of blank expression, she was witty and kind.
“Hello, Gabby,” said Senta, disentangling herself from Hero and giving the other two girls quick kisses on the cheek. “Hi Dutty. Thanks for coming yesterday.”
“It was my pleasure,” said Dutty. “And I didn’t give away any of your secrets either.”
“What secrets?” asked Gabby and Hero at the same time.
Senta Bly is the title character from the Senta and the Steel Dragon series. The funny thing about Senta is that I never intended to write a book about her, let alone make her the main character in a series. Here now, I’ve chronicled her life from age 6 to 34, in ten books. I originally wrote a description from her viewpoint that was supposed to showcase the setting of Brech City. When I eventually plotted out the trilogy that would become books 1, 3, and 5 of the Senta and the Steel Dragon Series, she took on more and more importance. When I added books 0, 2, and 4 to the mix, the entire story really became her story.
Senta is precocious and self-confident. As she grows up she learns more and more magic and discovers that she is a powerful sorceress. One of the most fun things about writing this series is that the characters are so inter-connected. Senta has relationships of one sort or another with more than a hundred major and minor characters. Hopefully this diversity makes her as much fun to read about as she is to write about.
There is a book ten of the series (technically the eleventh book, since there is a book 0) and it will probably come out next year.
Birmisia was full of life in the spring. Wildflowers seemed to suddenly appear just about everywhere. The days were warm and wet, with frequent fog and almost daily rain showers. The giant maples grew new leaves, adding their lustrous green to the ever-present deep emerald of the tremendous pines. Ferns opened up their fronds in the dappled light beneath the mighty trees and in those places with no light, large and varied mushrooms showed their rounded heads. Plants were not the only life forms present though. The land was alive with both birds and beasts. One could easily spot cormorants, snipes, rails, and wrens hopping through the trees along with the strange four-winged microraptors. A few godwits, grebes, puffins, and pelicans occasionally strayed inland from the shore. On the ground caudipteryx, buitreraptors, bambiraptors, meilong, and mahakala ran among the ferns looking for small lizards and snakes and large insects, which were everywhere. They didn’t bother the opossums or the mice, which stayed snug in their dens until nightfall. In the open areas huge iguanodons grazed, sometimes accompanied by triceratops and ankylosaurs. Most of the large predators like the tyrannosaurs and utahraptors had become scarce due to the presence of man, though the velociraptors and deinonychus were still thick, as happy to scavenge human trash as to hunt the other Birmisian creatures.
A flock of seven velociraptors made their way down the road. They went in fits and starts, pausing to snatch a lizard or small rodent from among the ferns and squawking at each other. They were, like all of their species, covered with hairy feathers, yellow near their small arms, and green everywhere else. Most of this particular group had a black band around the base of their necks. They were only about two and a half feet tall, but their long tails stretched straight out almost five feet. The most famous features of the velociraptors were their feet, each of which had a three-inch claw curving upward, and their long many-toothed snouts, more like something one would expect to see on a crocodile than on a bird. The leader of the flock raised its head as it spotted a human walking toward them from down the lane.
Velociraptors seldom hunted human beings unless one was wandering alone and injured. It had little to do with size. Some of the animals that fell to the feathered runners were much larger than man-size. Though velociraptors were not known for their intelligence, they possessed a cunning that matched most aerial birds of prey and this allowed them to determine which potential targets were more likely to become their supper than the other way around. Simply put, most humans didn’t act like prey. A few did. They started, and jumped with fear. But most didn’t. They didn’t quite act like predators either. They blundered around the forest without regard to what they might run into. To the velociraptors, they were simply too confusing to be bothered with unless there was nothing else to eat. And in spring, here in Birmisia, there was plenty to eat.
Regardless of their intent on hunting this particular human, the flock fanned out, following their instinctual behavior for both hunting and defense. Three took positions on either side of the road, moving in and among the shelter of the trees, while the leader moved into direct confrontation. This way they formed a triangular trap around the animal, in this case a human, directing it forward and keeping its attention away from potential attackers on the side. What happened next cemented in the tiny minds of the velociraptors as much as anything could, that this human was a poor choice for prey.
This human being was a teenaged female, and though biologists still debate whether velociraptors can distinguish between the sexes of mammals, others of her kind could immediately recognize her gender by the long flowing deep violet velvet dress, made more expansive by an extensive bustle over her rear end, and the long flowing blond hair held back by the deep violet velvet ribbon fastened on the side. Tens of thousands of other human beings could in fact identify this particular human female, because this particular human female was the young sorceress Senta Bly. She was hurrying home from the Hertling house where she had enjoyed afternoon tea. When she noticed the brightly feathered creature standing directly in her path, she flipped her hand toward it and muttered a single word under her breath. A bright blue ball of energy flew from her fingers to the velociraptor, which exploded into a puff of yellow, green, and black feathers. Its comrades disappeared into the forest.
Senta had scarcely passed the spot in which the velociraptor had stood when she was brought to a stop by a honking coming from behind. She turned around to see a shiny steam carriage chugging down the road toward her. As she waited, the vehicle slowed and came to a stop. A tall man in the uniform of a police sergeant looked down at her. His thick blond hair, flashing moss green eyes, and confidant air made him handsome in a way that the recently acquired bend in his nose couldn’t detract from.
“You shouldn’t walk on this side of town alone,” said Police Sergeant Saba Colbshallow. “Velociraptors have been thick lately.”
“Nice car. I didn’t know you were so rich,” she said.
“It’s police property, as you well know little girl.”
“I’m not a little girl,” replied Senta. “I’ll be fifteen in six days.”
“Don’t I know it? I’ve got it marked on my calendar. Climb in. I’ll give you a ride home.”
“It’s only about a hundred yards.”
“Sure, but how often do you get to ride in a steam carriage?”
“I don’t think they’re safe. They used to blow up all the time back in Brech.”
“You’ve never ridden in a steam carriage have you?” Saba grinned. “The Drache Girl is too frightened to ride in a car?”
Senta stuck out her lip. “I’m not frightened.”
Saba reached across the passenger seat and offered her his hand. She stared at it for just a moment, then accepted it, and climbed up onto the empty seat, reaching behind to ensure she didn’t flatten her bustle. A quick press on the forward accelerator sent the car shooting down the gravel road.
“You’ve passed my house,” said Senta.
“I thought we could take a turn around the block.”
Well, I’m back at work today and I’m feeling pretty good. I still have to follow up with a pulmonologist and a hematologist, neither of which I even knew existed. In any case, I’m good, and not going to die anytime soon. Now I can get back to work.
It should be obvious by now that His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire is not going to be published in September. It’s not going to be October either. At this point, I am still hoping for 2018 though. I’m really happy with what I’ve written, but no so happy with how much. Stay tuned here for updates.
I was happily getting caught up with my writing, when I hit a little snag. I couldn’t breathe. Turns out I had a pulmonary embolism– a blood clot in my lungs (actually more than one– more than several). I spent some time in the hospital, and thought I could do some writing, since I had my trusty MacBook. I didn’t take into account the IVs in my wrist making it all but impossible to type.
Well, now I’m home again and ready to get started again. Maybe I can’t breathe easy, but at least now I can breathe.