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.”

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 10 Excerpt

Mike went right to bed, but he didn’t sleep well. Patience put their clothes into the dresser drawers and hung up her dresses and Mike’s suit and slacks. She set up the bathroom as close as possible to the configuration that her husband was used to at home. Periodically she would stand near him as he alternately tossed the blanket from him or pulled it back on. She was unable to tell from his vital signs if he was hot or cold at any particular moment. She was looking at him when, at 5:38AM local time, he suddenly sat up.

“Are you all right Mike?”

He looked at her for a moment. “Yeah. I have to pee.”

Getting out of bed, he made it to the small bathroom in three steps. He was back in two minutes, twelve seconds.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Patience asked as he climbed back into bed.

“I don’t like an unfamiliar bed.”

“It seems like more than that,” she said, but almost immediately he began to snore loudly.

He woke again after three hours and climbed out of bed.

“What time is it?”

“Eight thirty-nine AM,” said Patience.

“What is that in real time?”

“Three thirty-nine AM.”

“Shit. No wonder I’m exhausted.”

“I think the time has less to do with how long you’ve slept than the quality of your sleep. After all, you slept through much of the flight down.”

“Yeah, maybe,” he said, pulling off his underwear.

Patience waited until Mike was almost finished shaving before starting the shower and laying out a bath mat. He seemed to revive a bit under the hot water and after brushing his teeth. He dressed in the clothes that she had laid out for him without complaint. Finally he stood immobile, as Patience applied a coating of special Antarctic sun block to all the exposed areas of his skin.

“Where can we get some breakfast around here?”

“I thought you would enjoy a breakfast buffet this morning.”

“That sounds good. What time does it start?”

“There are two buffets with staggered times, so we can eat any time before eleven.”

“Great. Are we waiting for your buddy and her pet human?”

“No,” said Patience. “Ryan will probably sleep in a few more hours. He didn’t go right to bed.”

“He didn’t? What did he do? Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

At that moment, Mike’s phone, which was on the dresser, rang.

“I can’t believe I have service in Antarctica.”

“Only in Adelaide or within range of the ship,” said Patience.

“Hello,” said Mike, picking up the device.

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Hi Harriet. Is everything all right? Is Selma okay? Did my house burn down?”

“No, Dad. Everything is fine. I just called to see if you got there all right.”

“Yes, we made it. What are you doing up anyway? Isn’t it the middle of the night there?”

“I have a child old enough to climb out of her crib in the middle of the night and get into mischief if I sleep too soundly. Seems like somebody could have warned me about that.”

“I did,” said Mike. “How many times did I say ‘don’t have kids’?”

“Yeah, that was a big help. Well, have fun. I’m going back to bed.”

“Okay, sweetheart. I love you. Take care of my grandkid.”

“Right. Love ya, Dad.”

The Grande Bacchanal Buffet was on the Champagne Deck and was so large that it was easy to forget it was on a ship. Approaching the size of a football field, the room was ringed with a balcony level around three sides. Along the fourth wall were the winding counters of the food islands, divided up into sections according to food variety. As he entered, Mike was handed a plastic tag with his table number on it.

“Do you want me to serve you?” Patience asked her husband.

“No. You get the drinks. I’ll get my own food.”

Patience located two drink stations, equal distance from the walls along the x-axis and in the center of the room along the y-axis. She collected two tall glasses of water and a diet soda. Next to the drinks was a selection of condiments. She grabbed a bottle of Tabasco, taking it with her to their assigned table.

While she waited for Mike, she observed others nearby. As expected, the room consisted of about one half human beings and one half robots. At the table to her right, a handsome man of African descent, about thirty years old, sat with a new model Gizmo robot. The Gizmo was a female model, with a very shapely body and platinum blond hair. She hated to admit it, but Gizmos had definitely improved their models recently, at least on the outside. On the other side of her, a man about Mike’s age, but a good six inches shorter, sat with an Amonte 2. Tall and thin, the Amonte 2 was dressed in a business suit, despite her human’s casual clothing. And directly across from Patience were a pair of women, one human and the other a Barone model Daffodil. The human was five foot six inches tall, with short brown hair, and the Barone was an inch taller with long strawberry blond tresses. They both wore yellow sundresses.

“Lesbian watching, are we?” asked Mike, setting down his tray.

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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?”

His Robot Wife: Patience is a Virtue – Chapter 9 Excerpt

It was an uncomplicated layover in Buenos Aires, because travelers didn’t have to change gates or manage their luggage. They didn’t even have to change planes. The long time between landing and takeoff had little to do with loading and unloading passengers, and much to do with refueling and preparing the plane. Since they had more than an hour, and it was for them, breakfast time, eating seemed a good idea.

“There’s a McDonald’s right there,” said Ryan, pointing to a spot between the gates.

“I don’t want to eat fast food,” said Mike. “We’re in Argentina. We should get a taste of what the locals eat. I went to Europe years ago and had traditional English, French, German, and Spanish breakfasts. I can’t wait to see what they have here in Argentina. After all, they’re famous for their grilled meats and their unusually thick pizza and that caramel that they put on everything.”

“I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed,” said Patience.

“Why? What’s a traditional Argentinean breakfast?”

“Coffee with milk, a shot of seltzer water, and a croissant.”

“A steak croissant? With steak in it? And cheese?”

“No, just plain.”

“It’s Italy all over again,” said Mike, shaking his head sadly. “Let’s go to McDonald’s.”

After a couple of McOmelets and yogurt sticks, the two men and their two mechanical women reboarded the plane. Their same seats were reserved, so they sat for a few quiet moments before the rest of the passengers entered.

As the aircraft taxied toward the runway, the Daffodil stewardess gave the exact same safety speech that she had when they left Los Angeles. She varied not one single inflection or gesture. Patience frowned for a fraction of a second. Mike just happened to be looking at her at the time.

“What’s the matter?”

“She did that presentation perfectly.”

“Isn’t that, ‘to be expected’?” He made air quotes.

“I think it would be better if she varied it slightly, or even made one small error.”

“What a very unrobotlike thing to say,” laughed Mike. “Maybe I’m rubbing off on you.”

“You rub off on me every single day, both literally and figuratively.”

“Literally?”

“Human skin being what it is,” said Patience.

The plane took off and finally reached cruising altitude. Mike took his face away from the window and turned back to his texTee.

“How long now?” he asked Patience.

“About eleven hours until we land in Adelaide.”

“Isn’t there an Adelaide in Australia too?” asked Ryan from across the aisle.

“Yes.”

“It seems like people would get confused. They should have chosen a unique name.”

“There is also one in Canada, one in South Africa, and one in North Dakota,” said Patience. “Human beings can be repetitious.”

“What about Paris?” wondered Wanda. “Besides the Paris in France, there are cities by that name in Canada, Denmark, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Ohio, South Dakota, and three of them in Wisconsin.”

“But we’re not going to Paris,” said Mike. “Get your robot under control, Ryan.”

“Don’t mind him,” said Patience. “He’s just upset about breakfast.”

“Seltzer water,” said Mike through gritted teeth. “What the hell is that about? Why would you need to burp when all you’ve eaten is a piece of croissant?”

Mike read a while and played a few games on his texTee. He even watched an animated movie about a floating castle. But Patience could see that he was growing more and more restless being cooped up in the aircraft’s cabin. When he made his third trip to the restroom, she checked the time and found that they still had almost an hour until lunch.

Just as Mike reached the restroom door, Patience pressed her hand into the small of his back. He paused, but she reached around and opened the door, guiding him inside and then squeezing into the tiny room beyond with him.

“What’s this?” he asked with a knowing smile.