UNUSUAL Vignettes and also Book Promo

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*

(Finally, you guys are writing again.  Yeah, me too. Now shut up.)

FROM PETER GRANT:  Gold on the Hoof (Ames Archives Book 3.


The Comanche and Kiowa are painting for war in the Texas Panhandle. The US Army is preparing to stop them – but it needs horses to do so. Lots of horses. Walt Ames knows where to find them, and breeding stock for his horse ranch, too. All he has to do is ride down to Mexico, buy them, and bring them back safely. That’s easier said than done.

He and his men will have to cover more than two thousand brutally hard miles, and deal with Indian raiders, Comanchero renegades, bandidos, and would-be horse thieves… not to mention a certain Irish-Mexican redheaded beauty who can make him forget everything else in the emerald glow of her eyes. Walt’s going to need every ounce of his grit and determination, plenty of firepower, and a lot of luck if he’s to convert the gold in his pockets to gold on the hoof.

FROM J. L. CURTIS: The Grey Man- Down South.


After too much action, too much peace gets on a man’s nerves. John Cronin’s back from Vietnam and bored, when Billy Moore suggests he check out the brand new Drug Enforcement Agency. He’d expected paperwork and meetings; he got on-the-job training in South America with stakeouts gone wrong and ambushes exploding into firefights.

This isn’t Cronin’s first rodeo, and now he’s taking the fight to the cartels, from the laboratories hidden deep in the highland jungles to the enforcers in the cities and secure compounds!

Novella 34,500 words.


Yes, Mary sent me “the word” but I forgot to do this before leaving home, and now I can’t access it.


Here’s a picture. Write the opening of the story and explain the scene. (Yes, it’s mine. yes, I put it here before. Now have fun.)




40 thoughts on “UNUSUAL Vignettes and also Book Promo

  1. Tangent; has anyone here ever met or corresponded with Robert Frezza, author of A SMALL COLONIAL WAR, FIRE IN A FAR AWAY PLACE, CAIN’S LAND, and MCLENDON’S SYNDROME?

    Four of my favorite books, and have no idea what happened to him. I managed a single email exchange with him, back in the late ‘90’s. Tokd him how much I liked the books, got a brief reply saying he was working on an alternate history revolving about the American Rebellion.

    But the link I had went dead.

    BTW , I know about THE VMR THEORY. I like it, but it is to MCLENDON’S SYNDROME as THE UNICORN GIRL is to THE BUTTERFLY KID.

    1. Re: Robert A Frezza. Reasonable enough certainty, might be worth contacting.

      From http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?281
      Author: Robert Frezza Author Record # 281
      Legal Name: Frezza, Robert
      Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA
      Birthdate: 5 August 1956

      From Ancestry.com
      Name: Robert A Frezza
      Birth Date: 5 Aug 1956
      Address: 5033 Durham Rd W, Columbia, MD, 21044-1449 (1983)
      [8133 Turn Loop Rd, Glen Burnie, MD, 21061-1110 (1993)]

      From https://www.beenverified.com/people/robert-frezza/
      Robert A Frezza | Glen Burnie, Maryland Age: 63
      Phone Number: 410-969-1286
      Email: robert******@charter.net
      Addresses: 8133 Turn Loop Rd, Glen Burnie, MD; 5033 Durham Rd W, Columbia, MD; 5033 Durham Rd E, Columbia, MD

    2. Info as discovered in various low places, consistent with the entry in SF Encyclopedia

      Robert Anthony Frezza, born 5 Aug 1956
      lives in Maryland

      I found a mailing address; PM me if you want it.
      rez at doomgold dot com

  2. “Not a story. He did build an automaton to guard the grave,” said Edwin. “Gold-plated it, too. I think it was intended to be protective, like the yellow roses.”
    “Which helps explain,” said Florio gloomily, “why it was as much as nuisance as a dragon. They were originally guardians, too.”

  3. “What the hell is wrong with this robot?” complained the gravestone. “Its just sitting there.”
    “No idea,” replied the occupant of the grave. “Isn’t sitting like a rock your job?”
    “Yes!” exclaimed the gravestone. “Thank you!”
    “Don’t get yer man-bun in a twist, Rocky,” snarled the robot. “I’m lookin’ fer a dead guy.”
    “Well you have certainly come to the right place,” commented the occupant of the grave three stones to the left.

  4. “Yes, I’m still on the line – OK, so you’re the Public Safety Robotics division dispatcher, right? Finally. I’m here at Pinehurst Cemetery, and there’s a gold humanoid anatomically correct android that appears to performing a lewd act at one particular grave. Yes, right now. Here, let me shoot you an image. Yeah, it acts like it can hear me, but it doesn’t seem to care much. Right. OK. Um, my shoe size is 12 1/2. OK, I’ll look for the officers. Alright, I’ll be here at this number if you need me. OK, bye.”

    “So they’re coming?” asked the robot, glancing back at me over his shoulder.

    “Yep – just like you asked. You can stop perving over there.” I pulled the SIM card and cracked it in half, inserting a new one. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

  5. “Well, I did it, Annie. Finally got those SOB’s who murdered you and almost murdered me. You wouldn’t know me now if you could see me; there wasn’t much left to save. But save me they did…at a price. I’m a merc now, Annie. I know it isn’t what I used to say I wanted — honestly, I still don’t really want it. But there aren’t too many jobs open for men who are mostly machine. It was worth it, though, Babe. I couldn’t have gotten those murdering scum in a meat body….I hear my Sgt. calling, Annie. Gotta go. But I’ll come back as often as I can. Rest easy, Beloved.”

    1. That needs a whole bunch more words – in front of it.

      Not a criticism, I’m in the same boat. Actually laboring this weekend, in between growling at anyone wanting me to go anywhere, but not on that story (which has grown from a short to a novelette, and probably needs whacked back down to a short, sigh…).

      Which reminds me – Sarah, what copyright year should be on these “Gold Cyborg” images?

            1. Because they are your property, that you gave me permission to use?

              I’m picky about that… All cover art that I use is listed with the appropriate information about the licensing. (I had to scramble to find a new source when I couldn’t use the very nice Bethlehem image from an art auction site for “Regular Visitors.” The one I did use is from WikiGallery – and I think it is someone’s only slightly altered, and not as well done, copy of the original Lear painting.)

      1. I’m working on something else right now so only had a couple of minutes to give to this. I don’t normally respond to the vignettes, but this one spoke to me.

        1. I don’t do vignettes, either – but this picture (and the earlier one) just plain kicked off a word flow.

          Sarah, take this as proof that your graphic art is worth just as much as your literary art – you speak to us!

  6. Anders’ neural monitoring circuit registered an anomaly: Even though there was no record of being in this place before, this moment of space/time engendered a resonance within its memory banks. It had been here/now before. Can robots feel? Much more to the point – can they feel Deja Vu?

    1. Tangent Alert!

      With so many cult films getting high profile reboots – that usually aren’t very good – film critics are often feeling a sense of Deja Review; the sense that ‘I’ve reviewed this piece of drek before’.

  7. When Anthony Stark’s last battle had incinerated him in his armor, they found that the armor had fused in a kneeling position, and they couldn’t un-fuse it without destroying it entirely. Since Stark was probably a fine ash inside the armor, and they couldn’t unbend it, they placed him kneeling at his own grave.

  8. “It’s been 10 years since that disease took you from me, unit A-015, and I still miss you.

    Fuck servo-cal cancer.”

  9. I wondered about the human junkyards. I mean, any robot who’s been around past its production life has made the trip down to Spares, to dig among the discarded, wrecked, and worn old husks for a replacement part, or guilty upgrade. By Root, I swore, some of my own friends – and enemies – were no longer recognizable, as everything had been replaced at least once, and when did you get too tenuous a connection to the original firmware and OEM that you weren’t you anymore?

    But humans did that their entire life. They were born a collection of cells, and before they’d even reached maturity, those were long gone, or subsumed in the greater whole and unrecognizable. And yet they remembered, and belonged to each other, and hoped, and dreamed, and knew. And lived on, in strings of text, audio, and other assorted ephemera long after their final parts had… self-disassembled. Unuseable, that way – but they hadn’t kept them preserved. Nor had they tossed them out with the trash; they’d instead carefully stored each one in this plot of land, set aside and protected.

    They’d left their mark on the world, so that now, all these centuries later, I could stand in front of a wall they’d built (though I couldn’t know who; there was no manufacturer mark), staring at a stone that contained no code, no copyright, no assembler, even… only the barest facts of name, and dates of operational span. But the stone spoke: it said that the others cared enough that they put it there. That this person had lived, and was gone, and was worth remembering. Long after the people who saw it here had disassembled, it still stood to mark that they had loved someone here.

    And I, made in human image by hands whose hands were made by hands whose hands were made by hands whose hands were made by factories who were assembled by ships who were made by factories who were made by worldcities who were made by humans…I knelt there, and contemplated those that came before me, and the imprint they had left upon history.

    Beloved wife and mother… not only to flesh and blood, but to an entire race of robots who wondered what it meant to be human, and why we were alive, and if we were alone out there. “Did you do good work, Mary? Am I a good man? We’re building the wormhole gate back up from this side, and soon we’ll be stepping through, looking for the Terra this is Nova to. I hope we’ll make you proud. And if we find your peoples, we’ll let them know. You were loved. Still are.”

  10. The first saltgrass tank died when they were fourteen days out from Bluebell Granite, well into Foldspace. Senior Hydroponics Mate Matt Granell was worried for two reasons.

    The first reason was professional. The entire tank had failed during the night watch, when he and Sonia, his assistant, had been sleeping. This was normal procedure, for the plants didn’t change very fast – most of the time. That they suddenly had now suggested a pathogen. His job now was to figure out what that pathogen was, how it had gotten aboard, and how to stop it from spreading.

    The second reason was very personal, because the saltgrass was part of the JHJ Aldebaran Commerce’s air supply. Since she had twenty-six people aboard, the ship’s scrubbers could only break down carbon dioxide for about five days before being depleted. If he couldn’t isolate whatever it was, and guarantee that it wouldn’t affect any of the other tanks, they would have to divert to a colony or emergency station within that range. Neither of these, of course, was their original destination of Woldhills, still twenty days away. Nobody at JHJ Shipping would appreciate that, for diversion would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, at the very least. And, of course, if the investigation found that he’d screwed up badly enough, he would have to find another line of work. That would hurt, for he’d wanted to be a Foldspacer since he was fourteen.

    You haven’t found anything yet that you did wrong, he reminded himself. And concentrating on fixing whatever this is is more important than maybe-might-have-beens.

    Setting up the clean room around the affected tank had taken most of the morning, and diverted him from the possible consequences to his career, but now, with the microscopes and robots set up, those consequences were in the front of his mind again. A mass die-off was not supposed to happen. Not only were the plants designed to resist most of the diseases that had plagued dirt farms throughout history, there were protocols to keep pathogens out of the tanks, the water, and the nutrient supplies. If those protocols failed, the hydroponics crew were usually to blame, which meant him.

    Worrying about it, though was not going to help him. The captain – and the rest of the crew, for that matter – wanted answers. He did to, so he sent out orders to the robots to prepare samples of the dead saltgrass for the microscopes and loaded the pathogen databases. It promised to be tedious work.

  11. I visited the grave again today. It’s an odd feeling, looking at your own gravestone, and wondering just how much of you went into that hole in the ground, and how much really transferred into the robot frame that you inhabit today. I mean, yeah, they tell you the download… or is that an upload? I never can remember which way they say it works. The copy that they make is as complete as possible. Hah! Wiggle words, from the doctors and lawyers. As complete as possible. That means they know there may be things they miss, but they don’t want you to think about that. Just enjoy your new, electronic life… But the meat goes on living even after the copy, for a while. And what about that old notion of the soul? Where does that go? Is this the resurrection? A metal body that doesn’t eat or drink, that just keep running as long as there is enough electricity to recharge the batteries?
    Anyway, I paid my respects to the gravestone. Sometimes I almost feel as if he can tell when I’m standing up here, and I can feel him slowly rotting down there…

    Quickie. However, while it does a nice mood thing, I’m not at all sure how I would turn it into a story. I mean, the melancholy robot reflecting on the downloaded persona — and the real person who has died? Where do you go with that?

    1. Some vignettes are stand-alone mood pieces. It does help improve them. My own are all pieces of stories in development, and sometimes my hidden knowledge of the story architecture is necessary to really get it.

  12. “That has got to be the tackiest grave marker ever.”
    “It’s even positioned so it looks like it’s looking at the gravestone next to it.”
    “Who would do that?!?”
    “Old Man Farkole.”
    “Yeah, OK, he was crazy enough I guess he would want something like this.”
    “He was also rich enough that I doubt any one official objected.”
    “Look, are you going to stand there all night speculating on someone’s poor art choice, or are you going to help me finish digging this body up?
    Preferably before sunrise?”
    “Wait… Did it just move?”

    No idea where the story is going, but I can’t get the idea of two grave robbers battling a bronze golem in the middle of a cemetery out of my head.

  13. Of all the astral drops he’d done, some of them at bare seconds’ notice into fiendishly ‘hot’ combat zones, this was… turning out to be about the toughest yet.

    But then of course, reflected High Admiral Robert Moorman, by all rights it bloody well ought to be. Nice militarily-secure little town in central Québec, in beautiful weather (he glanced up at the pure-blue sky and had to resist the old habit of shifting his vision into the near infrared to look past the blue blur and beyond the air) of soft late summer on the cusp of fall… but of course it’d been like that back then, too, on the very doorstep of the Decimation. He’d not been here then, of course, but she had been, and known, and had told him in turn.

    Adrienne Angélique Moureau, 2021 — 2079

    Beloved Wife and Mother

    Benefactress of the Human Race

    Blessings Go With You

    And that was it, on the little granite marker that could almost as easily have been set a century or two previous. Except for the modest little symbol also cut into the bottom-right corner of the stone. An eight-pointed star very like a compass rose, as the ‘nucleus’ of a three-ellipses ‘atom’ chosen to portray the carbon at the basis of (almost) all known life — human and nonhuman alike.

    The Benefactor’s Bestowment of the Narthani Alliance (it did not otherwise say).

    Robert still couldn’t quite believe it, the 137th iteration of that award in all the history of the Alliance. Named quite directly for the Narthani ‘race’ that had put together that multi-species ‘alliance’ in the first place.

    About a megayear and a half ago, or so he was assured. And then — vanished.

    But the Decimation, the plague that had swept away about 93% of human life on Earth by the time it was done, was not only very unusual even in that wide and deep vista of history… it had been just about unique in its sheer artificiality.

    But not its alienness. Spanish Flu, Bird Flu, and (tellingly) more than a hint of smallpox, cooked up into a devil’s brew by… a species that left a viral-genetic ‘signature’ behind. Quite readable, at least if you were someone as skillful, as stubborn, as purely unstoppable as Doctor Adrienne Moureau turned out to be.

    And the effect of her genomic ‘smoking gun’ on the Alliance at large, mostly made up of species as incapable of such aggression as they were of a ‘mere’ human generation’s worth of change and ‘progress’ in less than a millennium, had been literally beyond horror. Suddenly that scary, rogue, near-feral human race had been the target of a historic act of aggressive slaughter by one of their own highly-trusted old-member races. And that had changed everything.

    Suddenly they were contrite not coy or downright covert. Apologetic not aloof. Nearly begging to be allowed to help. (Want an eight-mile diameter cylinder ten feet thick and twenty miles long, poured out of asteroidal nickel-steel? Sure, how about a month from today. Could you use a dozen? A hundred? Maybe a nice fat five-mile ice-asteroid from the Kuiper Belt, FOB the Moon’s Trailing Trojans? Sure. Interstellar-type fast-drive gets it there in seconds, not decades.) Still unwilling or unable to fight the ‘enemy’ — but perfectly happy to stand by and watch us do it. And maybe even load the odd gun for us.

    For so long, the Perps had been the foxes in the Alliance’s henhouse. Maybe even shyly, slyly bucking for promotion to the wolves in their sheepfold.

    But now, the wolfhounds were loose. And on the scent. Those of the human remnant, left on the world or (like him) off it, that had not been daunted or stunted or broken, had been instead, what..? Awakened?

    Yes, that. Or at least closest.

    On his office wall, near where his other body lay in a pharma-techno slumber like some ancient shaman journeying to the Otherworlds for his tribe, hung a piece of calligraphy by his First Officer.

    I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve. (Then repeated in the original Japanese.)

    Your job is not to die for your country; your job is to make the other poor bastard die for his country. (And then translated skillfully into Japanese.)

    And a terrible, driving resolve it was, for so many now. Grief distilled into fuel.

    “When I was a child, I spoke as a child and I acted as a child. But when I became a man I put away all childish things.” So much insipid, decadent folly simply… put away. Dropped on the road and left by its side. Unmourned.

    Like that same general, slapping a PTSD victim into (perhaps?) more clarity.

    But thinking of the mile-long “Dunkirk Beach” scurrying along a mere couple of light-milliseconds away in close orbit, reminded him how fleeting this present chance really was. Even though, obedient to the embargo and quarantine his own wife had asked for and received, anyone who came down openly had to stay down. Even though (or especially because) that meant telepresence bots were the only option for so many of his men — and thus their commander, too.

    Robert Moorman knelt by the stone, tactile sensors on metal fingers brought slowly to contact. “Still can’t quite believe it, Ree. Killed in a car accident, after all that crazy apocalyptica you flew through like the Saxons’ bird through the longhouse. Just like that old General Patton, too. But you did all you really had to do. The analysis, the vaccinations [based on a cowpox carrier like Jenner’s own], the genetic resurrection program.” (Blood and bone samples from each and every person who could be so handled. The basis for a “younger twin” self for way more than a few, once the ‘uterine replicator’ had been reverse-engineered for human manufacture. And the cure for a potential genetic-diversity crisis.)

    His metal face, if it could, would have smiled. “Benefactress of humanity, no crap. You go, girl, and I’ll catch up when I can.”

    And because there could be no newsvids here, he stood up as naturally as if he was here nakedly and breathing embargoed air; and said without a trace of melodrama, “Though I have miles and kiloparsecs to go before I sleep.” As his eyes shifted to near-infrared after all, stripping away the cherished blue skies of Earth, and found his ship in all her orbital splendor. And terrible resolve.

  14. The stone said Samuel Brighton, with my date of birth and the day of The Accident. But the body down there was a discard. An amputation. Solenoid Articulated Mannequin, number 2840, had been my system and designator for a decade and more, running deep-cover ops as anything from a (fictional) super-warrior AI package to a nondescript hotel busboy, and sometimes both at once at the Waldorf Dianopolis where pan-global oligarchs plotted murders and committed them. Pay was good, the training was invaluable, and the women and vices were almost flung at my new high-quality feet.

    But somewhere wired in among the plastics and ceramics, the gold-and-rubberized circuitry were the heart and brain of the bright young man from way back then, and I knelt there with my silk flowers in my hand. I couldn’t shed my tears from no ducts for three college boys on a night like tonight, dreaming and drinking by the railroad tracks, with our music blaring louder than a government train. I would give the moon to have those two beside me one more time.

  15. “Looking at your own grave is always an unsettling experience.
    It gets easier over time. The memory of the fear and pain fade. But something gets stirred up in your soul when you have to confront it again.
    It’s difficult to explain in words.
    I sighed and began to dig. “

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