Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo and a Health Update


Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months. One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM E. M. FONER:  Independent Living.


In space, nobody can hear retirees complain about the food.

What do a group of retirees leaving Earth and a young woman in EarthCent’s new witness protection have in common? They’re all going to live on Flower, an enormous alien colony vessel employed by Eccentric Enterprises to travel a circuit of far-flung human communities. But Flower is a sentient ship that’s been traveling the galaxy for 20,000 years and has her own opinions about how her inhabitants should conduct themselves.

I wrote Independent Living because readers of my EarthCent Ambassador series were always asking what happens in the galaxy where the Stryx aren’t around to watch every second. The answer is, about what you’d expect. In terms of the EarthCent universe, Independent Living would be the seventeenth book in the sequence, but it can be read as a standalone.

ALMA BOYKIN:  Distinctly Familiar: Familiar Tales Book Six.


Temptation lurks in marshes between the land and the sea…

Lelia and Tay discover a new puzzle…

Fundraising collides with a spell gone awry…

A mage discovers the impossibility of arguing with almost two-thousand-pounds of Familiar…

There’s something distinctly familiar, and Familiar, about these urban fantasy short stories, set in a world like our own, almost.

Short stories, 46,000 words.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: BOX

Update on Sarah’s Health

Hi, this is Sarah:

Yeah, well, since this one has scared me, as I can’t seem to shake it, I thought I might as well tell you what’s going on.
This is some sort of weird virus that either husband brought back from Ohio or son brought home as a gift from his place of education.  I incline towards the second, as lovely daughter in law dragged this — or something startlingly like it — for about a month before I got it.

Of course, the answer might be: both.  Since this stuff seems to be going around health-care and elder-care facilities.

OR maybe someone is putting pins in that virtual Sarah Voodoo doll. Though I’m assured those dolls are of Straw-Sarah.

It is only  because I saw DIL struggle with it, that I haven’t run for the hills or my doctor’s office. Or more likely a psychiatrist’s office.  While in my husband, despite these other symptoms in common, there is enough coughing to make it obvious he’s very ill, in me it is just extreme tiredness, depression, intermittent ear/sinus pain and bizarre body temperature disregulation.  Yesterday afternoon I spent under a winter blanket, wearing my thickest flannel shirt (It’s padded. I wear it when I go outside in negative degrees to shovel snow) and feeling coolish, in a 77 degree room.  I also felt so tired that holding up the kindle paperwhite tired me out.

I do sometimes have coughing fits, and sometimes even productive of (forgive TMI) highly condensed, almost dry bits of phlegm.

Seems to be a virus. Both DIL and husband went in and got told to treat symptoms.

Join to my sufferings the fact I don’t feel I should allow this to sideline me, because d*mn it I have books that waited through last year’s… issues and this year’s travel, and I need to finish stuff, for my own mental health. Need to.

In addition to this, I need to be well for the week and change off signings of Guardian at Colorado Springs and Denver. (No, I don’t know why not also Utah, though I don’t mind not spending two weeks on this. Particularly after how much I need to write.)

So my greatest trouble right now is being very annoyed with this whole thing.

Judging from the course of this in DIL, I should be okay for the signings. But I must write, I must.

On the signings: details on the Baen site, and I’ll be holding a couple of contests for copies of Guardian signed by both Larry and I, as well as telling you how to acquire your very own double-signed book-cover-card in the middle of August.

Till then, keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  It’s not that this illness is anywhere near fatal, but that I really need to be well enough to write.  I don’t mind writing in bed, but writing MUST happen or my family will be in some trouble.

So, keep me in mind.




84 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo and a Health Update

  1. “Hank! What happened to you? You look terrible! Come in and have a drink”

    “Ah Fred, can we have that drink on the patio? I can’t stand being inside right now.”

    “What happened”?

    “Remember Harold?”

    “Yeah, he creates pocket universes.”

    “Well, I managed to p*ss him off and he put me in a box universe.”

    “A box universe?”

    “The size of a coffin and I couldn’t break out. He left me there only minutes by his time but it felt like years for me.”

    “Sh*t. Remind me to not annoy him.”


  2. Get not unwell soon. Rest is best – us old folk need more recovery time than robust young’ns, and eschewing rest merely retards the restoration.

    I have added the Sarah Post-It to the Thoughts & Minds File. Putting you in my prayers, too, although based on responses to personal requests I doubt it will do you much good. About the closest to reassurance I’ve ever gotten was an “I will discuss this when the Time comes for Us to meet.” And even that was merely implied.

    1. Also, consider having your ventilation system cleaned – when we did ours, after several years of neglect, mold was found. This will complicate many URIs with something that lingers on, sometimes for months, with lack of energy and need to sleep being classic symptoms.
      Doctors generally don’t check for it; only if you can report that you inhabited a mold-infested environment will they do a test.

  3. Sarah,

    I hear if you breathe real fast and hyperventilate it will up your blood pH and get rid of the virus.

    (obviously kidding, folks. if you don’t get the joke, you need to watch a 47 year old movie.)

    1. Too Late for that Draven it has probably already mutated. And could some one please disarm the dungeons self destruct before we lose 10% of Colorado…

            1. Got it after tregonsee314 commented. I have enough hydrocodone in me to slow my brain down. And I’m sticking to that story. 🙂

              1. Had a bit of a scare yestereve. Ran a temp of 100.9, not a good thing after a procedure, but the pain was in the throat. ??? Called the doc, and after we found a pharmacy open on Sunday (RiteAid FTW), he prescribed an antibiotic.

                This AM, the fever had broken, but signs came that it was a fairly intense sinus flare with a bit of infection. Duh! 2 hours in dry oxygen after dealing with local irritants, I should have thought of it.

                I probably don’t need the antibiotic, but will pick it up Monday; have to see the surgeon and my cardiologist. (Wonders what Norco(tm) does to an EKG reading.)

                Gonna taper to 6 hours tomorrow, and it that works, will switch to acetaminophen and ibuprofen after that.

          1. Oh. never seen it. Annoyed by it as unacknowledged rip-off of Harry Harrison’s 1965 Plague from Space (expanded and reissued in 1982 as The Jupiter Plague.

            Even if Crichton knew nothing of Harrison’s novel it was irresponsible of the producers not to know.

            1. Bah. They’re all based on Fred Hoyle’s theories*.
              Note, the late… er… not great French SF magazine Panspermia wasn’t. I bought a copy thinking it was and…
              Uh. The clue should have the been the plain brown paper wrapping.

    2. I got it, having just watched with Darlin’ daughter a couple of months ago. (I try to ensure she has a classical education ).

  4. The box had been on Harlan’s desk when he arrived at work that morning. There was no return address and no postage.

    When he picked the box up, there was some weight to it, weight that seemed to shift independent of how he tilted the box.

    Wait, were those airholes?

  5. You obviously need to go to those conventions. This sounds like one of those you don’t get rid of until you give it away. (It’s a virtuous virus in that.)

  6. Good books! And hope you get better soonest. Those lingering viruses suck! That is the last thing you need right now.

  7. Sorry you are so sick. With the dry cough. Sure it isn’t Whooping Cough? Virus. All you can do is treat the symptoms. Yes. Some of us can still get it even vaccinated. Symptoms aren’t 100% same in older adults as they are in children.

    When kid was 12, I was sick with a “cough” that was going around the (open concept) at the office. I mean you could tell the progress of the virus. Were infectious before signs, cough symptoms lasted weeks, and horribly tiring, even for the reasonable healthy. About 5 days after I started coughing, kid started. My fever was eh, and lasted just a bit, tired, but hey coughing, just a “summer cold”. Kid’s fever was higher. Him we took to the doctor. Doctor said immediately it was Whooping Cough, confirmed with blood test, confirmed kid was current with vaccinations, within last 2 years. (Me? Should have been current, but minimum 5 years prior, to probably almost due for booster.) Just a thought. Hint – when coughing, it is difficult to get a breath when you need it, getting one, triggers another round, to the point where coughing, it hurts not only your lungs, but all the way down to your toes; and it is exhausting. But adults don’t get the “whoop, whoop” sound that it is named for like babies.

      1. But has the doctor seen Dan?

        Oh look, it’s raining carp. Don’t they glitter prettily?

  8. “Since you’re new to the food shelf, we’re going to have you carry a box for our guests as they choose their items.”

    So I’m going to be a boxer?”

    “I suppose, in a sense.”

    “Cool! I’ve never been a boxer before, though I took some Judo back in college . . .”

  9. She’d barely gotten home, kicked off her shoes, and started the kettle for some tea when there was a knock at her door. The sharp triple rap made her hair stand up on end – it triggered her “run and hide! Guardia!” instinct before she shook her head and went to answer the door for her neighbor.
    He was leaning on her doorjamb in his undershirt and work pants, duty belt with the gun and all the pouches still slung around his hips, and she couldn’t supress the smile at the way such a huge, intimidating muscled goon was trying to so hard to look at ease. “Yes?” He was carrying a handful of letters and a box… “Oh! Did they misdeliver the mail again?”
    “Yes, ma’am.” He smiled, and handed it over – what he could easily palm was a double handful, for her. “Careful, whatever that thing is, it’s got fragile all over it.”
    “Yeah, it’d be very bad if the glass got broken!” She turned and started padding into the house, to set everything on the kitchen counter. He followed, and she eyed the layers of tape and string. “I’m surprised customs didn’t cut it open.”
    “They probably X-rayed it and ran it through a sniffer.” As she turned away to opened drawers, looking for scissors, she heard a snick that made her jump and turn – he’d flicked open a knife from somewhere, and easily sliced the top open. “Here you go, ma’am.”
    She opened it up, and dug the long glass jars out of the packing. When she cracked the first one, a rich wave of spices and heat poured off the mix within, calling up the memory of souks and roasted meat over a hot fire on a cold desert night. She took an appreciative sniff – NOT directly over the jar, lest she get spices up her nose. “Ah, definitely worth importing the real thing. I’ll have to get some goat for a tagine.”
    She looked up, then, expecting her neighbor to be laughing at all the fuss and trouble over a few spices. Instead, he was grinning widely. “I’ll get the goat, if you cook it.” At her confused noise, the grin got even wider. “I haven’t had a proper tagine in years… and if I get it, I know it’ll be goat, not dog this time!”
    She blinked, shrugged, and said, “You know where the carniceria is, down on Huffman? They have goat.” He didn’t look so intimidating, now – just hungry, and she knew how to deal with that.

  10. when you go to the signings, wear a white medical mask (from walmark) you will not only protect your fans buuuuuuutttttttttt, you will start newness.

  11. Edwin pulled out a box, a small wooden one such as a merchant family might use to hold fine knives, but Edwin was not a merchant but a rogue. He grinned, and opened the lockpick kit.
    “Guard my back,” he said. “If those dogmen come back, they might distract me.”

  12. Sarah, you are definitely not alone. I got a bad cold back in April and was sick for 3 weeks. DH caught it in early May, and is just now starting to feel like himself again. Coughed so hard he pulled a muscle in his side, so he don’t most of that time in pain, too. Rest as much as you can. Can you set up your preferred method of writing so you can rest while doing it?

    Anyway, long-winded way of saying rest well, feel better, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

  13. My sympathies. I’ve been sick with a bad respiratory complaint myself and it has my asthma flaring up.

  14. “There’s a box over here,” called Jan.
    Minette scowled. Hard to carry boxes about the forest. Most travelers carried backpacks, and if they brought donkeys, sacks. She pushed her way through the bracken, the pale green ferns reaching over her head in places, and saw the thing. Looking old and weathered, but with no shelf fungus, and no moss.

  15. Tarr stared into the box. In it was a spider about the size of a small dog, on its back, unmoving. Embedded in the thorax were a dozen translucent balls the size of peas.

    “…entirely unknown to Science!”, babbled the doctor, “We need to send this back to the University immediately!”

    “If you want my advice, you’ll fill that box with cement. Quickly.”

    That stopped the babble. “What!?! Why?!”

    “I don’t know what those balls in it are, but knowing the natural history of spiders, I think there’s a good chance they are wasp eggs. Which supposes a wasp big enough to paralyze a spider this size. We don’t want to take a chance of introducing that kind of dangerous invasive species at some random point along the route back.”

    “But we have to study this!” The doctor almost wailed.

    “That kind of thinking belongs in bad horror movies, not reality. If there are more of these, we’ll find them. Here, where they arose. Where, one hopes, they have natural enemies. No, doctor, what you should be sending the the University is an urgent request for, at a minimum, epinephrine autoinjectors. Lots of them.”

  16. I just want to publicly thank Sarah for taking the time and effort to help me get my book fit to sell. I know she’s not feeling well, and I’m sure she has better things to be doing.

  17. Anna concentrated on not trudging.

    By now, sessions in the Box, the Low Speed Regular Gravity Flight Training Room, or its zero-g companion, the Bubble, were no longer a novelty. A lot of the drills had become tedious, or even annoying. She did want to learn how to fly, though, so she stuck with it.

    1. If the simulator runs are becoming routine, the sim operator isn’t doing the job right. I once put a (simulated) Boeing 727, inverted, into the Minnesota River south of MSP airport. The operator had given me a 90 knot crosswind . . .

      1. I drove a Subaru Forester in a 55 mph crosswind. That was more interesting than fun. The only trucker who didn’t mind had a flatbed with a whacking heavy, but low load; probably steel plate.

        The Forester actually did well, even though it has a large sail area.

      2. She’s learning to fly without an aircraft, so the drills are like sports drills, covering basic movements. This bit is somewhat out of context; I should have busted the 50 after all.

  18. Jordan opened his door, glanced down, and gleefully grabbed the package.

    “Yes,” he chortled, carrying it inside and carefully slitting the tape sealing the top. Dumping plastic cushions, he lifted the enclosed calendar and tossed it aside.

    Raising the box Jordan crowed, “Perfect!!! 1AB! Just right for storing my folios!”

  19. Get well. And don’t beat yourself up about writing. I have found that a vague virus type thing with non life threatening symptoms is quite capable of sending the writing brain offline.

  20. And what is this?

    This is my box, this is my box…
    I never travel without my box.
    In the first drawer I keep my magic stones.
    One carnelian against all evil and envy.
    One moonstone to make you sleep.
    One red coral to heal your wounds.
    One lapis lazuli against quartern fever.
    One small jasper to help you find water.
    One small topaz to soothe your eyes.
    One red ruby to protect you from lightning.

    This is my box. This is my box
    I never travel without my box
    In the second drawer, I keep all my beads.
    Oh! How I love to play with beads…
    all kinds of beads!

    This is my box… this is my box…
    I never travel without my box.
    In the third drawer… in the third drawer…

    1. I’d forgotten all about that opera! We had to watch it (and sing it) in one of my middle school music classes! I enjoyed it back then, and don’t mind having that song stuck in my head now.

  21. From the size, weight, and ominous dark stains that covered the bottom third of the box that had appeared on his front steps, Callahan knew what was inside without having to open it. But he’d opened it anyway. That niggling bit of doubt in the back of his mind had to be quashed.

    There was no anguish, no blind fury, no lashing out, no punching walls, no tears. Only cold, hard, carefully-calculating rage.

    His first call was to the sheriff. He’d waited for them to do their thing, offer their condolences, and be well on their way before he made his second call.

    Davis had reacted just as Callahan had expected him to. Quiet condolences and an unspoken promise to help with what they both knew was coming. One the call was over, Callahan pulled the old foot locker out of the attic, carried it down to the basement, and carefully set its contents out on the floor. As he field stripped the old CAR-15 and began to clean it and lubricate it, he ran through a list of who else he could call. Plenty would be willing, but not all would be able. And it was going to be a long, hard trip down Mexico-way.

    1. I don’t know where my mind is this morning, Andrew; but your piece, and it’s a good one, sent me down a weird, parallel track.

      From the size, weight, and ominous dark stains that covered the bottom third of the box that had appeared on his front steps, Callahan knew what was inside without having to open it. But he’d opened it anyway. That niggling bit of doubt in the back of his mind had to be quashed.

      There was noticeable smell that brought tears to his eyes; but no anguish, no blind fury, no lashing out, no punching walls over a corny old joke. Only warm, soft, careful appreciation.

      His first call was to the florist shop. He’d waited for them to do their thing, offer their congratulations, and be well on their way with his new plants way before he made his second call.

      Davis had reacted just as Callahan had expected him to. Quiet congratulations and an unspoken promise to help with what they both knew was coming. Once the call was over, Callahan pulled the toolbox out of the closet, carried it out to the greenhouse, and carefully set its contents out on the floor. As he cleaned the trowel and cultivators, he ran through a list of what else he could need. Plenty would be willing to eat the vegetables when ready, but not all would be willing to spread the box of very fresh, bovine-derived fertilizer.

  22. The initiate brought the day’s mail into the elder’s office. On top of the letters sat a small package. The elder said, “Open the package, please.” Once it was opened, the initiate mumbled, ” That’s strange. ” “What did we receive, young one?” ” Nothing. ” “Nothing?” ” it’s just a box, Elder. “

      1. I want to fly like a beagle, to the sea, fly like a beagle, let my Sopwith carry me.

    1. I am going to have to turn in my Punmeister badge for this but I genuinely don’t get it.

        1. There is a Box Elder County in Northern Utah. I know this because there is a Brigham City in Box Elder County, Utah. There was also once a Brigham City in Arizona Territory (now a ghost town, near Winslow). Some of my ancestors lived in the Arizona Brigham City during its short 5 year existence, They were never anywhere near Box Elder County. And yes, I have had relatives who did genealogy and confused the two places. .@$#%!!

  23. The parcels were labelled with the recipient’s name. Yet someone always had to ask if the recipient was contained within. And then, well, ACME had a Reputation. “Is it ticking?” “Will it explode?” Amusing at first, but later.. how hard was it for people to understand. It’s just a box.

  24. “He said it was in the box, but not which one. We’ve looked through all the boxes, twice.” Marty all but whined.

    Susan walked over to a collection of physical-media recordings and pulled out a brightly-color envelope that stuck out worse than a sore thumb.

    “What? How?”

    “In the Bachs.”

      1. What pattern? They were just Chopin around until something on their Liszt turned up.

  25. “Isn’t it hard to get the boxes in and out?” said Illys. “Sacks are easier to sling over a donkey’s back.”
    “It would have to be some donkey to carry a dragon’s hoard,” said Bredon. “No, they bear it off by magic. Just as we were rescued. Albeit with less haste.”
    A short laugh, lacking humor, sounded behind him. “You didn’t see what showed up at the scene, Bredon.”

  26. Tim proudly displayed his newest genetic creation, a 3-foot long centipede.
    He struck the creature gently with a mallet in various places. Each time it emitted a bell-tone; and he quickly played the tune of, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

    “So, what do you think of my Biological Organic Xylophone?”

    1. I’m thinking you’re going to have to buy LOTS of little strings to hobble those 100 pairs of feet, or it’s going to wander off during your show.

  27. (Coming in late because I’ve been covered up with preparations for Tampa Bay Comic Con, including pricing a last-minute shipment of merchandise to replace some that arrived damaged).

    The smack-smack-smack of leather on leather sounded odd amidst the usual clinks and clanks of the exercise machines that filled the Shepardsport gym. Curious, Juss went behind the big six-station weight machine to find Colonel Hearne with boxing gloves, giving a punching bag a thorough drubbing.

    The older man paused. “Why so surprised? Deke Slayton was an avid boxer in his youth, after all.”

    Juss thought back to his lessons in space history. Yet just because one of the early astronauts was fond of a particular sport, it didn’t necessarily follow that his clones would as well. Although his own ur-brother had been a runner, he’d taken to gymnastics, which had been Scott Carpenter’s thing.

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