Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and 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*

FROM HARDING MCFADDEN:  The Judas Hymn: stories.



“As you read these stories, get to the know the characters, and lose yourself in imagination for a while.”-Chester Haas, from his Introduction. Here, collected for the first time, is the short fiction of Harding McFadden, co-writer of The Children’s War. Among the quick excursions are visits to Lovecraft and Doyle country, as well as winks of the eye to origional regions of the post-human world. Take a lunch in a garden with a little girl who can shape reality to her will. Go on a trek to possible salvation with a another young girl and her robotic monkey protector. Travel the twisting tunnels that fill the hollow earth, and see the horrid things that inhabit them. All this and more awaits you in more than twenty tales.

FROM SCOTT ANDERSON: Western Terminus: An Eli Tucker Thriller.


Rookie FBI Special Agent Elias Tucker is the son of Liberian immigrants and he’s living his American Dream. He graduated from Brown and turned his attention to the law. His first assignment with the Bureau is the Phoenix satellite office in Cochise County, Arizona, just a short drive from the Mexican border. His work involves the cross-border drug trade, missing persons, and tracking foreign nationals who have entered the country illegally.

He’s a cultural fish out of water. Adjusting to his new life will take time, but time isn’t something he has.

A string of mysterious disappearances among migrant communities has shocked the locals, but the brass seem unconcerned. What’s happened to them? Where did they go? And how does it relate to the unusually high number of retirements and medical leaves being taken among lifers in DC?

A never-ending wave of Central American caravans. Disappearing politicians. A mystery epidemic. A wonder drug. And a green FBI agent named Elias Tucker who won’t take no for an answer. Can he solve the mystery before time runs out? And will the truth die with him?

FROM BLAKE SMITH:  A Small and Inconvenient Disaster.



THIS ONE I READ: I won’t say the kid is JUST like Heyer. That’s saying someone is just like Heinlein. But it’s close enough to Heyer to be very impressive, given the age of the author. Highly recommend.

Everywhere she goes, Maria Mason is plagued by little catastrophes. Getting caught in the rain, running from the friendliness of a muddy dog, tripping over her own feet at the worst possible moment- she has been subject to all manner of accidents, and to fend off the worst of them, she has learned to be silent and still.

Until she accompanies her friend Miss Gordon to London for a season of gaiety and pleasure. Life in Town is full of wonder, and soon Maria has new clothes, new friends, and the attention of the amusing and clever Mr. James Callahan. She begins to wonder if she has outgrown her propensity for falling into disaster, only to find herself embroiled in the worst sort of catastrophe when she is obliged to mediate between her feuding friends. One wrong word, one false step, and she might lose the regard of her friends- or worse, the love of a good man.

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: String.


22 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

  1. “What was that “string” you shot at those bullies.”

    “Oh, you saw it? Well, I hate bullies and what you saw was me implanting a “piece of myself” so I’d know when they’re around and/or planning to bully somebody”.

    “Ah, ok I guess as long as you’re not planning to enthrall them.”

  2. The shipment drifted away from the station, outside the reach of all the grapplers. “See, sometimes that phrase is problematic after all.”

    “What phrase?”

    “No strings attached.”

    “Is Grabby the Gasball filled up? We can send him out for a game of fetch.”

    “Yes. Already on the way. You’re welcome.”

  3. The books I picked up were almost entirely non-freshman books, and I take a look at my class schedule. “I’ve tested out of most of the base Freshman and Sophomore classes. The only Sophomore classes I’m taking is math,” I note, checking against the class schedule.

    “I didn’t expect anything less,” Mother says.

    “Try this on for size, I’m in college prep English,” I show her my schedule.

    “While you may think of yourself that way at times, you are not stupid Adelaide,” Father pointed out. “I wish you had done better in math, but testing out of algebra and geometry is a good thing.”

    “Occasionally, I’m an idiot, Dad. Emphasis,” I point out with a raised finger, “on occasionally.”

    “I don’t know,” a female voice says behind me, “You demonstrated that you are perhaps rarely an idiot during your interview.”

    I turned, and standing behind me at about six paces was the nun that I had met during the interview. Same full habit, perfectly tailored and cut to emphasis her form and in high-end silk. Same well-blended concealer on her knuckles, and the same too-perfect smile in a beautiful face. She nodded, and smiled again. “A pleasure to see you again, Adelaide,” she said in Spanish.

    “And, you as well, Sister…” and I let my voice trail off in English.

    “Oh, Sister Justina,” the nun chuckled and continued in English. “Traditionally, you don’t know the names of your testers during the process, to ensure that there’s no bias. And, despite what Father Herrera tried, you did pass with flying colors by my standards.”

    “Thank you, Sister Justina,” I smile. I look around for a moment and find my stack of books and get it organized. They had string to tie them off with, and I’m starting to tie them up when Sister Justina comes over and puts her hand on the books.

    “May I?” Sister Justina offers, and I step back as she swiftly ties the books down with a single piece of twine. “Have you considered what clubs you’re going to be taking this year?” she asks, handing me the bundle of books.

    “I’m still getting used to the idea that I’m here, Sister,” I reply after a moment. “What about the clubs?”

    “There are all sorts of clubs here,” Sister Justina begins, saying off a well-recorded spiel. “And they meet during the hour break for lunch, and every other weekend at certain times. While club membership isn’t required,” and I could hear the emphasis in her voice, “questions will be asked if you aren’t a member of at least one club or three. There’s pretty much every club for every interest, even if you’re only allowed to go to the freshman clubs.”

    “Is there a list?” I asked, curious.

    “There is, but I thought I would also give you a list of the clubs that I’m running this year for freshman,” she said cheerfully. “I’m running four this year-a freshman club for ladies interested in STEM, a freshman club for kendo, the novicii magicis puella club…”

    “What?” I interrupt just as she finishes up that statement. She just didn’t say freshman magical girl club in Latin, did she?

    Sister Justina looks at me and chuckles. “Sorry, it’s an interesting story. Since all the clubs are sex-segregated until your junior year, there’s a boy’s and a girl’s anime club. That we call it the ‘Freshman Magical Girl Club’ is a long running joke here. There’s, of course, the Order of St. Sebastian for the male anime fans. And, we have a photography club.” Here, she leans over slightly and whispered conspiratorially. “We also do some cosplay work with the anime club and the fashion club, doing photos.”

    I’m looking at her, somewhat amazed, and I chuckle. “I’m very much tempted. Do you have a schedule?”

    Sister Justina reaches into her habit, and pulls out a postcard sized sheet of paper with information on it. And, sure enough, it’s the information you’d need to join the clubs that she runs. I slipped the note in the bundle of books, and smile. “Thank you, Sister.”

    “Oh, you’re welcome, Adelaide. Hope to see you soon,” and she walks away, singing softly to herself. I have to smile, and as I turn around, Father is looking as she leaves.

    “We need to discuss something,” Father says after Sister Justina turns the corner. “On our way back home.”

    Something tells me that this will be an interesting conversation.

  4. “There’s a legend of an enchanted string,” said Edwin, “that you can let play through a labyrinth, which will get you back the way you came.”
    “Holds it open?” said Florio in open disbelief. “Keeps the monsters off?”
    “Truly a wonder of wonders and marvels of marvels, by all accounts.”

  5. “So that’s how your “string drive” works?”

    “Indeed. It creates a dimensional curve, so the ship “slides” in spacetime. However, there might be certain… side-effects.”

    “Such as?”

    “Slight temporal anomalies, maybe even a time loop. But it’s hypothetical. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe.”

    “So that’s how your “string drive” works?”

  6. “Hold on to the end of this.”

    “A piece of string??”

    “No, a means of remaining in contact while we go through. Now, wrap it around your wrist. Like you used to do with balloons when you were a little kid.”

    “OK. But…” Moira’s voice trailed off.

    Zach gave an exasperated sigh. “It’s been magically strengthened. Don’t worry, it won’t break.”

    Moira almost choked on the word “magically”, but rapidly tied the string around her wrist as Zach started walking toward the painting.

  7. Rain dripped from leaves onto the ground. Minette walked out into the middle of the clearing, where it simply fell, without the vast drops.
    “Behold sun and cloud,” she said drearily.
    “This,” said Guillaume, “is not chance. One day, or two, perhaps. But when the weather does not match your word for a string of days as long as this, something must be changing it.”
    “We have no reason to believe that,” said Alba. “Nothing is known about her powers. A touch of uncanny perhaps, and so no wonder when they fail.”
    “All the more reason to search. If we find no cause, we can consider whether it is so.”

  8. And then it was over, for now, as Kreada pressed the Warden’s seal into the last of the parchments – Hald’s election as treasurer, he noticed – and laid it in its stack. Other members of the would-be company were sorting the documents and tying them in bundles. He supposed that the string would look rough compared to the ribbons that fancy folk used, but with bits of rag for the edges, it would serve.

  9. “How did the Topless Music Festival go?”

    “It was really fun. I admit I didn’t expect the audience to be much into classical works. But the men really applauded the female violinist who performed the JS Bach solo.”

    “Why her in particular?”

    “Because she played the Air in a G-String.”

    50 and ducking. ;-

      1. *Sigh* And I was hoping for another free fish dinner. [Carefully puts her violin and bow back into the case.] But thanks for the comment! 😉

  10. “So you see, Downbelow *has* no faith. The Silent Gods are dead to them, or worse, forgotten completely.”

    Sully pondered this for a moment. He’d never really considered it Downbelow existing without its caretakers. Sure, the biosphere was as stable as bedrock and the radiation level was no problem to the residents, not if things had gone as planned. It was nearly as well designed a system as he could imagine. And where this was concerned, from his studies and research his imagination was *very* good.


    Of course any complex system needed maintenance. That’s what the caretakers were for. They kept all the bits and bobs working properly, replaced the worn out parts on time, and tinkered here and there to, well, “maintain” the whole bloody thing. Why just the energy generation process alone was-

    “Sir!” She grabbed his shoulder. “You went away there for a moment. We need you in the here and now.”

    “Yes, of course. Wait.” Something she’d said, just a moment ago…

    “You said ‘Silent Gods.’ I know there was a bit of a cult thing going on for a while there, nothing serious though. Just a few of us granting ‘boons’ or some such for nice weather this growing season. And let me tell you, mucking about with the weather on that scale is highly irresp-” She spoke over him again. Quietly, of course.

    “Yes. That’s you. Downbelow hasn’t had an honest answer to their prayers in nearly a thousand local years.”

    “P-prayers?” He spluttered. The very idea was preposterous.

    “Please tell me that you are joking.” She shook her head slowly.

    “In that case, what does that make you?” It was the pretty young brunette’s turn to consider her words carefully, pursing her lips in thought.

    “If faith is the tapestry the Silent Gods are the characters and scenes upon it. The faithful are the threads that weave. It all hangs upon Downbelow, and from the faithful come servants to do the will of the Gods. At least, that is how the nuns taught us when I was young.” She took a breath, her eyes searching his face. For what he could not say.

    “We are the strings that mend and change at our master’s will. We serve the will of the Gods.”

    “But what now? The station is in absolute chaos. You can’t tell me that *that,*” he gestured to the door they had escaped through, “is under anyone’s control.” The occasional howl echoed through from the nightmare maze outside. Thankfully the wet smacking sound wasn’t around- whether it had stopped or just moved away he couldn’t tell. The whole thing made no sense. From waking up deep in the bowels of the maintenance section to being attacked by crazy people to seeing the famous Rosalia using a *living person’s juices* as paint for her canvas to rescuing this poor girl who looked at him like the answer to her… prayers. It was just too much for him to contain. His breaths came faster and faster.

    He gritted his teeth. He hissed out slowly, attempting to force his galloping heartbeat to slow. It had limited success.

    “What. Happened. Here.”

    This time she looked him directly in the eye.

    “It worked.”

    “If the stories I was told are true, we left our dying sun behind and traveled here over untold millennia. The gods put Downbelow in a deep slumber for that time, and my folk as well. When we awoke, things were as you found it. Downbelow suffered greatly as well. When the Gods returned to us, they were… changed. They were as you found them. Mad. All of them. From Silas the Father to the least of the greatest. Every single one. Until you.”

    “But none of that makes any sense! The last thing I remember clearly before this morning is drinking in celebration to completing work on the first part of the technology that would save us all…” She twitched her mouth to the side, cocking her head, considering him anew for the, third? Fifth? Time since they met bare moments ago.

    “Before this, we called you Vor. The Mad God. I guess, now, with all the rest lost in madness there’s a pitiful sort of symmetry to it.” She nodded again.

    “Now though, you are the Mad God Made Sane. And if we are ever to fix this mess, this ‘station,’ Downbelow, and all, we will need your help to do it.”

  11. The beads seemed to glow, luminous in pink, green, and blue. Illys strung them on the thread. Then she took a deep breath and hung them over the still empty cradle.
    The baby kicked. She let her breath out. Another month. There were other things to ready for the day.

  12. “See?” said Cari, manipulating the string, “this one’s called ‘Cat’s Cradle.'” The little boy watched, fascinated. “Now pull here,” she said, pointing with her pinkie. The little boy complied. “This one’s called ‘Candles.'”

    “Candles?” the little boy said. Suddenly, the string ignited, startling Cari very much.

    “Candles!” he asserted.

  13. Further proof that I can’t right a vignette no matter how hard I try…

    To set the stage, a 21st Century American finds himself in a world roughly on-par with Napoleonic Europe…

    “Woah, freeze!”

    Evans threw his arm up, catching Pachuik mid-stride and knocking him on his rear. The quartet of riflemen behind them stopped short, one of them turning to signal the rest of the party to come to a halt

    “What’d ye do that for?” Pachuik snarled hand going for his sword as he hauled himself to his feet.

    “Look,” Evans said, gesturing to the trail.

    “Look a’ what?” Pachuik snorted. “I don’ see… wait.” He did see… something. The two men crouched down to take a look at the string, maybe just a tad thicker than a human’s hair, that had been stretched across the road at about the height of a man’s calf.

    “What th’ devil’s goin’ on up here?” Sergeant Major Hornigen demanded as he ran to the front of the column. “Pachuik, what’s th’ mad outlander up to now?”

    “He may’ve just saved our lives, sah,” Pachuik said, “Spotted what looks t’ be a trap of some kind, Sergeant Major sah.”

    “What in the Gods’ name is in this time?!” Hornigen suppressed a snort – but since his back was to the man, he did not hold back from dramatically rolling his eyes – as Lord Major General Wolmanet disembarked from His Lordship’s carriage and stalked to the head of the party. “We are already late and for what… so your imbeciles of riflemen can gaze at pebbles.”

    “If Rifleman Pachuik called a halt,” Major Pyke said as he walked up behind the Lord Major General, “then he had a damned good reason for it.”

    “Aye, sah!” Pachuik snapped to attention and saluted. Pyke returned the gesture while the Lord Major General ignored it. “Spotted a tripwire, sah!”

    Pyke’s frown deepened. “What’s it attached to?”

    “What does it matter what it’s attached to?” Lord Major General Wolmanet scoffed. “Cut it and move on!”

    “Bad idea,” Evans said.

    “Oh, and why is that?”

    “Because doin’ so may set off whatever trap th’ wire’s attached to,” Major Pyke answered before Evans, Pachuik, or Hornigen could. “So go ahead an’ cut it if you feel like risking death, My Lord Major General.”

    Lord Major General Wolmanet’s cheeks went flush. “You dare threaten me, Major?”

    “It wasn’t a threat,” Evans said. Dumbass went unsaid, but was heard by all. Except, of course, for Lord Major General Wolmanet. “He was trying to keep you from getting yourself killed, and maybe the rest of us along with you too.” Evans ignored His Lordship’s sputtering and blustering, and turned to Major Pyke. “What’s the plan, Major?”

    “Well we can’t exactly go around,” Pyke nodded towards the thick trees and underbrush that came right up to the road’s edges. “An’ turnin’ ‘round would take too long.”

    “So we’re gonna have to find whatever the wire’s hooked to and see if we can disarm it.”

    “Precisely,” Pyke nodded, then turned to his men. “Pachuick, check the right side of the road. Keife, the left. Go slowly and fer Gods’ sake, be careful!” The two selected riflemen each threw a quick salute and moved cautiously off their directed sides of the road.

    “Major,” Evans said, “If it’s all right with you, I’m gonna head back to the carriages and take a post there.”

    “I should think not!” Lord Makor General Wolament spluttered, “Shirking form your post here?! I should have you hanged for desertion!”

    “Okay, first off, I’m not in Their Majesties’ Army. I’m a civilian. Second…”

    “Major Pyke, Sir!” Pachuik’s cry echoed through the trees. “Found something ‘ere, sah!” Pyke immediately jogged into the trees towards the rifleman, with both Hornigen and Evans on his heels. They found Pachick perhaps ten yards off the road, at the back of a clearing that stretched clear to the thick bushes at the edge of the road. He stood next to a six-pounder cannon on an artillery carriage that was pointed directly at the road. A length of fuse had been stuffed in the charge hole and run to a nearby tree. Tied to the tree was a flintlock lighter: the fuse was tied above the lighter such that the edge hung next to the closed pan. The string Evans had found ran across the clearing and was ties to the lighter’s trigger.

    “Saints preserve us!” Hornigen breathed when he beheld the devilish the assembly. Evans just let out a slow whistle and a quiet “Damn!” Pyke pulled the fuse from the cannon’s charge hole, then turned and knelt next to the tree. With an efficiency born from years in Their Majesties’ army, he deftly opened the lighter’s frizzen and swept the pan free of powder. He then pulled a knife from his boot and sliced through the tripwire.

    Pachuik picked up the discarded fuse and examined it for a few seconds.

    “Looks t’ be quickfuse, sah,” the rifleman reported.

    “That length’d take maybe ten, fifteen seconds at most t’ burn down an’ fire the cannon,” Hornigen said.

    “Which means the escort would directly in the line of fire when it discharged,” Pyke reasoned. A horrifying understanding dawned on the major an instant later. “Which was why you wanted t’ take post at the carriages.” Pyke pointed at Evans

    “Because the devils that prepared this are probably lyin’ in ambush right now, waitin’ ta drag off th’ Dutchess an’ her poor laides in’ waitin’!” Hornigen finished. All four men were, by now, racing back to the road as fast as their legs could carry them: Pyke and Pachuick towards the column of escorts, Hornigen and Evans towards the carriages.

    “RIFLES!” Pyke bellowed as he emerged from the underbrush, “STAND TO!” ENEMY TO THE RIGHT!”

    No sooner had Honigen and Evans emerged from the trees, carriages before them, than a bone-chilling wail echoed through the woods behind them. Both men spun to face the oncoming threat.

    “Tell me somethin’, Mister Evans,” Honigen asked as he pulled his Manter Rifle’s hammer to full cock, “D’you ever get tired o’ bein’ correct?” The American let out a long sigh as he flipped swept his Ruger Scout’s safety off and brought the rifle to his shoulder.

    “Sarge, right now I am absolutely sick of it.

  14. “Okay, so I wasn’t expecting our first contact to be with two shiploads of alien cat-girls. I’m relieved that they seem to be friendly. But why do they keep breaking contact to chase our satellites? And why only the ones in polar orbits?”

    The Ambassador gave her assistant a disappointed look. “What’s the nickname for a polar orbit?”

    “Uh, ball-of—“ He returned her gaze sheepishly as comprehension dawned. “—string.”

  15. Vyn gazed at the small locket, relaxing and opening herself to viewing the enchantments upon it. A slight frown as she noticed a faint thread almost fully obscured by the bright weave of the pieces enchantments to protect and clean itself. She followed the faint string deeper into the locket, discovering the trap beneath, an enchantment to overwrite the outer spells, but with what?

  16. The kitten neatly caught the toy and immediately started biting the line attaching it to the pole.

    “Don’t bite the string, silly.” The pole was twitched and the line moved, but not the toy. A few seconds later the kitten trotted away proudly carrying the toy. Yeah, this kitten was going to be challenging.

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