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 (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM DAVE FREER:  The Shaman of Karres (Witches of Karres Book 4)


Captain Pausert just can’t catch a break!

First, he became the mortal enemy of his fiancée, his home planet, the Empire—and even the Worm World, the darkest threat to mankind in all of space. All because he helped rescue three slave children from their masters. Of course, these three young women were the universally feared Witches of Karres—but how was he to know that?!

And after he defeated the Worm World (with the help of the witches, of course), the Empress herself had sent him on a secret mission to stop a nanite plague that was raging across the galaxy. But an enemy had somehow convinced the Imperial Fleet that he was actually a wanted criminal, so after a battle leaving his ship in urgent need of repairs, Pausert and the witches of Karres joined an interstellar traveling circus in order to save the galaxy.

Now Pausert and the witches of Karres roam the spaceways again, this time dealing with a slaver-culture that somehow makes slaves happy to be in servitude, and a quest for a long-lost alien pet, during which the youngest witch, The Leewit, begins to come to her full powers as a healer—and of course generates chaos in her wake.

For Pausert, it’s all in a day’s work. But would it be too much to ask for a vacation?

FROM Z. M. RENICK:  Red Lights on Silver Mountain Road (The Seelie Court Book 1)


Emma Greer became a deputy in order to help people, so when a friend suspects that his brother’s fatal crash on Silver Mountain Road was no accident, she’s eager to come to his aid. Trouble is, Emma doesn’t believe that the accident was arranged or even that it would be humanly possible for it to have been so. But she soon learns that what’s humanly possible is only the beginning of what can happen on Silver Mountain Road. Creatures unlike any Emma has ever imagined lurk along its shoulders, and an ancient evil has discovered a new way of committing murder. Emma must find a way to vanquish that evil, or she might become its next victim.

FROM MARY CATELLI:  Over the Sea, To Me.


A novelette retelling an old ballad.

A castle of marvels, by the sea — full of goblins and sprites. Many young knights come in search of adventures, and leave in search of something less adventurous.

A knight brave enough to face it could even woo the Lady Isobel there, but when Sir Beichan and she catch the attention of her father, the castle has horrors as well as wonders, enough to hold him prisoner. Winning freedom may only separate them, unless its marvels can be used to unite them, over the sea.

EDITED BY DOUG IRVIN:  Space Force: Building The Legacy.


Tenere Altum. Hold The High Ground.

These are the stories of the first 100 years of the United States Space Force created by then U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Within this new anthology of military sci-fi short stories you will find stories of service and incredible sacrifice. Stories of the one sacrificing a few to save the many, and of the one sacrificing himself for all.

But mostly these are tales of the men and women to come, who will patrol the harsh, cold blackness of space. Those that willingly place themselves in harm’s way to protect a solitary blue marble and all that call it home.

Tenere Altum!

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: Sand


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

  1. “Where did this sand come from?”

    “Ah Mom, it came from the beach.”

    “Henry William Smith, There Isn’t A Beach Within A Hundred Miles.”

    “Mom! I’m not lying. I’ll Show You!”

    With that Henry opened the gate leading to the Hawaiian Beach.

  2. “I hate sand. It’s rough and it’s course and–”

    “Utter one more syllable and I will disembowel you with a rusty spoon!”

    “What? I thought you liked Star Wars?”

  3. She blushed scarlet, caught between the shame and pride of her exposure, under the adoring hungry gaze of her beloved. Heat from the sun matched heat from her emotions, warmth suffusing her. She approached her lover, with just a little extra bounce. They kissed, the sand hot under bare feet.

  4. I can’t restrain myself;

    A quote from one of the last genuinely funny issues of CEREBUS THE AARDVARK, regarding Elrond of Melvinbone (an Elric of Melniboné satire who talks like Foghorn Leghorn) “Just what the finely tuned administrative machinery of Palau needs…six feet of sand!”

    1. Q: What do you call it when a politician is buried up to his neck in sand?
      A: Not enough sand!

      1. Better to bury the politician in sand with his head downward. 😉

  5. A critical hand on the work, a critical eye on the worker. “You’re sanding too deep.”

    The apprentice blinked. “Eh? But it’s supposed to be smooth-”

    “Not so smooth that you remove all the varnish you just applied!” the journeyman snapped. “Just enough that any bubbles are opened! Start again!”

  6. Jenny had just taken the last piece off the lathe when her friend May walked in.

    “Nice work!” May said, admiring the neat stacks on the workbench. “Is this a commission?”

    “Yes!” Jenny said proudly. “Seventy-eight white oak spindles for a new patio across town.”

    May picked up one of the slender 30″ pieces and ran her fingers over the smooth curves and beads.

    “So what’s the next step?” she asked. “Are you putting oil on them, or poly, or what?”

    “Nothing.” Jenny replied smugly. “The customer will do the finishing. All I have to do is sand and deliver.”

    100 words. 😉 (holds fishnet out hopefully)

  7. We have tamed the lightning and taught the sand to give error messages.
    — button at a con

  8. “This must be the amulet.” She opened the little yellow envelope and dumped out a rough blackish rock about the size and shape of an almond, with a brass wire looped through a hole near one end.

    He nodded. “Clever. It doesn’t look valuable or important at all.”

    “It’s a data crystal,” she said absently, concentrating on it.

    “Doesn’t look like a crystal.”

    She glanced up. “The crystal itself is no bigger than a grain of sand, but try keeping track of that. It needed a container.”

    1. Ah, so you can indeed see a world (of data) in a grain of sand. But can you see heaven in a wild flower?

      1. Maybe not a world, but a large grain of quartz sand contains about 9.4 x 10^18 silicon and oxygen atoms. Depending on how many atoms it takes to store each bit so the data remains readable for, say, a thousand years, a grain of sand could hold up to 1.2 x 10^16 bytes, or 12,000 terabytes.
        “Well, it’s got some rat in it.”
        “Ow much?”
        “Errr…three. Quite a lot, really.”

      2. Some interesting fractals resemble wildflowers. To a mathematician, that may well be heaven.

        (I really need to get back to rendering fractals again. My collection isn’t nearly large enough).

        1. Aaaaand the software sprung a memory leak and I ended up having to restart my whole computer to get it resolved. It’s not the first time I’ve had trouble with it. It’s SourceForge stuff, and the creator’s apparently stopped maintaining it. I’m going to have to see if there’s finally a version of Apophysis for the Mac.

  9. She stood, her feet firmly on the sand. Water lapped higher. She could make it faster, and higher yet, or turn about and withdraw. She wondered what the consequences would be.
    They probably wouldn’t kill anyone, said a fugitive thought.
    She turned and walked back over the smooth sand, past the high tide mark where it turned loose.

  10. “I’ve got sand in my shoe.”

    “Just what I need.” Mudverg held his hand out.

    I gave him my shoe. “Sand?”

    “No, a disreputable old shoe.”

    “My shoes aren’t disreputable!”

    Mudverg threw it in the cauldron. “Nobody wears good shoes to the beach.”

    The cauldron belched paisley smoke.
    “Idiot!” Mudverg bellowed. “You left the sand in it!”

  11. Captain (Senior Grade) Alex Starling realized that it was possible to be bored of being in paradise.

    This was (and he kept strict count) his sixty-third day on Suri, and like about half of his mornings, he was on a beach, towel spread along the sand, slowly testing out the resilience of his Navy-standard medical nanomachines by trying to get a sunburn.

    Sixty-three standard days, about sixty and some change days on Suri, of waiting for the court martial tribunal to complete its deliberations. Starling wasn’t optimistic, and neither was his lawyer. It didn’t matter how right you were, how much your commanding officer couldn’t pour piss from a boot even with the instructions printed on the heel, or how the man commanding your fleet was a craven coward that would have ran and killed half of the task force he commanded trying to escape. Punching out a senior officer and winning the battle he would have terribly bungled into a disaster would have probably gotten him promoted fifty years ago, and medals a hundred years ago. Twenty years ago, he might have gotten a rip on his record but now? The Empire had been in a severe decline when Starling went to the Academy on Luna, but he thought it was one of those phases.

    Now? It was a black hole of suck, if he had to make a guess, and it wasn’t going to get better any time soon. That Commodore Henry Chu-Lin was barely competent to take a ship to the breakers didn’t matter if you were the beloved first cousin of a senior member of the Imperial Peerage, the Octagon’s senior officers though you were a dashing officer with at least two or three centuries of good service ahead of him, and looked like the very model of the Proper Naval Officer. You didn’t even have to be competent, or courageous, or even have a spine stronger than wet tissue paper.

    Starling still had-for some reason-access to the Navy intelligence and report databases through his implants and just the reports he could get as a beachcomber Navy officer wasn’t looking good. Rebellions breaking out in the Naveline Chain, including three Stage Six worlds “held by bandits.” The Throne and Parliament were barely speaking to each other, as the Emperor made it very clear that He was extremely displeased with most of his Government, at least the legislative section. But his last attempt to dissolve Parliament and require a new one to be formed had over four-fifths of the Members of Parliaments refuse His order of dissolution. And, even the Centrists were in near-lockstep with the Corporate-Socialist MPs these days, with only the Crown Loyalists holding a thin line that kept Parliament from impeaching the Emperor. The Heir that Parliament wanted to put in place of the current Emperor, Crown Princess Sarah, had barely passed her Confirmation and was by all reports a bloody-handed sexual sadist who was really good at hiding the bodies. Raids by the Alphas across the border, which suggested that they were preparing-again-to invade Imperial space. And, even more worrying, rumors that the Archons were engaging in more and more direct and blatant interventions in Imperial government. Starling sighed, and reached around for his cooler. He was an officer without a command, and he would be lucky if he could honorably resign the Navy…

    “Excuse me,” a female voice said, and Starling realized he hadn’t heard her footsteps on the sand, “may I set up here?”

  12. “Be careful,” said Lucie. “It’s not all sand on the riverbed. There’s some mucky stuff down there.”
    “I don’t know much about boats,” said Autumn.
    “Keep low.”
    Autumn nodded, remembering Lucie getting into the boat, bent over with her hands on the gunnels.
    “Now, push it out a bit farther.”

  13. Rand found Tara curled up in a chair beside the electric fireplace in the module lounge. “What’re you reading?”

    Tara hardly looked up from her tablet. “George Sand.”

    “Isn’t he the one who wrote Silas Marner?”

    Tara suppressed a laugh. “No, that’s George Eliot. And they were both she’s. Back in those days it was considered vulgar for a woman to be published under her own name, so they both wrote under male pseudonyms. In fact, according to our textbook, many people then believed that a woman’s own name should appear in the papers only when she was born, she was married, and she was buried.”

    Rand considered that bit of information, contrasted it with the present in which several senior positions here in Shepardsport were held by women, and some of the outlying settlements of Farside were commanded by women. “What class is this for?”

    Tara turned another page in her e-book reader app. “It’s a course in the history of women authors. I found it in the list of free courses on the Open University website, so I decided to do it as an elective.”

    Rand recalled how much Tara was already doing as a new settler with a lot of things to learn. Electives were supposed to be done strictly on your own time, although he knew some people did them during slow times at work, especially in jobs like help desks or departmental secretary and receptionist jobs where they were effectively on call. On the other hand, it wouldn’t count against you if you did poorly in an elective, or dropped it when it became simply too much.

  14. Coarse grained sand, as jewels. Topazes, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, opals.
    “It,” said Aidan, and swallowed. “It loses something being all mixed together like this. You can’t see the colors.”
    “It shows their contempt,” said Carrigiana.
    “Too wealthy to care? But the more clear the expense, the more the contempt shows.”

  15. “Sand.” The young woman in the slick black skintight suit bent down to the ground and picked up a brimming handful of it, as if in simple emphasis. Sand, soft and fine as flour, perhaps even a noticeable bit more amber in hue than the common run of red that blew free over so much of the world.

    A hint of yellow, if you wanted to stretch the point to its breaking point, a bit like gold, or perhaps even yellowcake uranium. Yet neither one. It ran over the sides of her hand like the proverbial sands through the hourglass, counting an ever-lessening time down to the end of… one thing or another.

    “This, gentlemen, is what this sudden — nasty little business of yours here — is all about.” Her English was noticeably tinged with Russian, but her accent all in all held far more of Cambridge than Petersburg. “But no ordinary sand, not here, not on Acidalia Planitia east of Sytinskaya about as far as Timoshenko is west of it. Here is yellow monazite in our common sand, often as much as a percent of it, and richly in that heavy golden sand is what makes fusion pay.”

    “Much as we appreciate the history and geology lesson, Miss Tereshkova, we are here only to serve you and your settlement some legal papers from the courts back home. And” — he had at least the last threadbare rags of decency enough to cough slightly, and shift the heavy assault rifle over his shoulder a bit as if even its three-eighths weight was a burden to him — “take any needed and consequent enforcement action, of course.” By contrast to her skinsuit, his heavy full-pressure armored spacesuit looked hulking, even a bit menacing.

    “‘And the King has written a broad letter, and signed it with his hand, and sent it to Sir Patrick Spence was walkin’ on the sand.’ Is that about the shape of it, Mr. Cartwright? Well this plainly isn’t medieval Scotland, or even Earth, any more, and I am for bloody dead-certain sure not Sir Patrick bloody Spence to fall in line and captain your bloody about-to-sink boat over the angry waves.” There was little or nothing of actual Scottish dialect in her voice; but Audrey’s English had suddenly gotten a lot less generic and a lot more like, to make a classic music reference, Adele Adkins’ old London-colored tones.

    “Miss Tereshkova,” diffidently began the weaselly-featured one in the more civilian (but still quite heavy and full-pressure) suit, “you know the World Court has quite authoritatively ruled…”

    “World Court, Mr. Benoit? The same World Court that’s been bought an’ paid for by the Greater Chinese Co-Prosperity Sphere for a decade and more? The same one that’s not ruled against a People’s Liberation Army owned holding or shell company yet, in all that time? The same World Court that’s got more than half the world, that’s Earth, all but literally up in arms against it?

    “And like I already said it’s Coordinator Tereshkova, or Audrey, or if you really must, Mrs. Tereshkova. Pyotr Tereshkov may be dead but I’m still his widow.”

    “Coordinator, if you like, though no one recognizes such a title outside your little settlement here, why don’t we just all go inside, and we can talk this matter out like calm and civilized people.” It was the weaselly one again, who looked uncomfortable with the very idea of one-percent pressure, though of course here in the lowlands of Mars the air pressure was higher than usual.

    She held out her left hand again, still with its mostly-undiminished freight of fine reddish loess. “Sand, gentlemen, is the key to any Martian settlement, or at least its self-sufficiency. This sand, rich in the thorium that’s able to make a current D-T fusion reactor actually make net energy and power all the things you need to light the agri-tunnels and grow crops in a low-rad space and recycle the air for people. Take the 14-MeV neutrons from fusion and stop them and you get, well, 14 MeV. Hit thorium with them, they strip out a lot of secondary neutrons and even cause fissions in the thorium too, they’re that much ‘hotter’ than fission makes. Hundreds of MeV per fusion. Enough to go far past breakeven.”

    And she smiled a merry, cat’s got the cream smile. A soft echo of the younger and far more naive nuclear engineer Audrey Dearlove had been, once upon a time, hitting the ground of Mars. “And unlike ‘pure’ fusion that means a hybrid fusion reactor really will produce net and useful power. But that’s not nearly the end of it, because all that lovely brood of neutrons still have to stop somewhere, and if it’s in more of our AP-mined monazite thorium, it makes fissile U-233. Stuff you can ‘burn’ in a simple nuclear reactor, anywhere on the planet. The key to our whole current in-place energy economy.” And the look on her face, plainly visible through her bubble helmet, got much older and darker.

    “What’s it the man said, once upon a time, back on Earth? ‘Come onto this red rock, into the shadow you cast on our red rock, and I will show you fear in a handful of sand?’ Maybe not exactly that, the banker Mr. Eliot did; but still yet far too much like that. For me and for us.” And the look on her face was all harsh planes and sharp angles, love and fear and determination all alloyed.

    “Mrs. Tereshkova,” now it was their apparent leader she called Mr. Cartwright once again, “I fear we are getting, as they used to say in golf, into the weeds.” An odd metaphor to use on Mars, but obviously he ‘wasn’t from around here.’ “Wonderful as it is that you can quote old British poetry so freely, we still have some very real business to do here. That’s all it is, simple, legal business.”

    “So, gentlemen, I know full well power is what this is all about. Not just the power, the raw energy, of fusion. Also the power it gives someone — you, or XOCorp, or whoever holds our energy airline in his hands to kink or not to kink it at the whim of your masters in Peking or Brussels or wherever else.” And on the other side of a pause, she actually did answer him directly. “So I know, as you say that, what this ‘only business’ amounts to, and far more clearly than you do yourself. Have you ever dealt with shortage, Mr. Cartwright? I mean the kind that really bites down hard, that makes you scrabble hard day after day, trying to make up for all of what you almost have enough of to live?”

    And there was a coldness in her face that had nothing to do with the Martian climate and a tightness around her eyes that had nothing to do with any of the tensions of the present. “I do know,” she said quietly. “Because you taught us, through the export limits and the embargoes and those sudden ‘supply chain anomalies’ and all the rest. People died in those shortages, gentlemen, and my husband was just one of the many. But while Darwin is a harsh master, he is also a fine teacher. So we learned your lean lessons well, for we are still here now after it all.”

    “Captain Cartwright,” one of the other men said, out loud and ‘in the clear’ for her and everyone to hear, “the ship has launched from Port Lowell and will be here in five minutes. You,” and he glared at Audrey with something like hatred for a traitorous colonial, “will change your fishwife tune fast enough now.”

    She could see the exhaust trail already. “Fort McHenry,” she said, in a sad and mournful tone of voice. And then watched, as another far more visible trail of dirty brown (as the first stage burned magnesium in carbon dioxide) turning almost invisible (as the second burned monomethyl hydrazine in nitrogen tetroxide) moved far faster across the sky. And barely a handful of seconds later, was swallowed up by a bright fast-expanding ball of light. Hers.

    “Davros,” she said, and with a whirr and a hum, platforms rose up out of the sand around them. Each with a .50 caliber gun and a grinning gunner, each of the muzzles aimed precisely at a Terran.

    “The Americans never did get their U-233 bombs to work,” she said, “but it’s really not so hard, gentlemen. Especially when failure is not an option.”

    “Come onto this red rock, cast your shadow on our red rock, and I will show you fear in a handful of sand,” said Audrey Tereshkova, and let it fall at last.

    1. Nicely done. *shiver* I like the reference to Fort McHenry, assuming I have interpreted it correctly. 😉

  16. The artist slowly and carefully shaped mounds on the beach. A large winged insect shape and large, standing, rather striking, numeral one.
    Many of the beach goers stopped to admire his work
    “That’s beautiful, what do you call it?”. A passerby asked.
    “Sand Up And Bee Counted.” The artist answered.

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