Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Book promo

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. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction.

*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving” led, and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH*


What if the doom of the universe or its salvation didn’t depend on humans?
What if cats were far more than we imagine?
What if—
But enough of this: At the end of the universe there is a Mountain. Every thousand years, a bird flies to strop its beak on that mountain. When the mountain is worn to nothing the universe ends.
The mountain is down to a few grains of sand.
The only hope of survival for the entire universe rests in the grubby paws of an alcoholic alley cat, a fluffy cat with not much brainand a bookish cat who thinks Guinevere is a male hero’s name.
The universe might have run out of luck.
Or not.

(Yes, he really wrote it when he was thirteen. It’s been newly edited, and there’s a foreword by Pam Uphoff) Also now available in pb and hard cover. Soon to come, a collection of Robert’s short stories. We’re working on it.

FROM MILO JAMES FOWLER: After the Sky: (Spirits of the Earth Book 1)

The meek have not inherited the earth.

The world isn’t how they left it. When the bunker airlocks release them after twenty years in hibernation, the survivors find a silent, barren world outside. But they are not alone. There is a presence here, alive in the dust—spirits of the earth, benevolent and malicious as they interact with the human remnant.

Milton is haunted by a violent past he’s unable to escape, despite the superhuman speed the spirits give him.

Not interested in bearing the next generation, Daiyna is determined to destroy the flesh-eating mutants lurking in the dark, pierced by her night-vision.

Luther is a man of conviction who believes the Creator has offered humankind a second chance, yet he’s uncertain they deserve it—and he’s perplexed by the talons that flex out of his fingers.

Willard is a brilliant engineer-turned-soldier who refuses to leave his bunker, afraid of becoming infected and willing to destroy any obstacle in his way.

As their lives collide, the mysteries of this strange new world start unraveling, culminating in the ultimate life-or-death decision one survivor will make for them all.

Don’t miss this Post Apocalyptic Adventure with a Paranormal Fantasy twist! It’s perfect for fans of Stephen King, T.W. Piperbrook, and The Walking Dead.

FROM TONY ANDARIAN: Aftermath: Dawn of Chaos

The Eastern Continent reels in the aftermath of the demon invasion. Zomoran’s armies sweep over the land. Orion and Diana struggle to find a way to fulfill their oath under the new order as a determined resistance forms in the capital city. Great and small, the valiant of Carlissa commit themselves to a holy war against the Horde.

And no one believes that the princess and her grandfather, the Archmage, could possibly have survived the Massacre of Lannamon. But could they?

Note: An earlier version of several chapters from this book appeared as part of the novel Dawn of Chaos, published briefly on Amazon in 2017. That book has now been re-written and expanded into a series of six novella-length installments.

FROM STEPHEN HUBBARD: A Conspiracy of Ravens.

“A grim tableau of conspiracy, murder, and magic. Hubbard paints in shades of gray, but always seems to know which are the darker ones.” —Christopher Ruocchio, author of The Sun Eater series
Once and an age —

The precipice of war is never more than the width of a blade away. Now, when the legendary assassin known as the Black Rose has slaughtered Baron Dartris Gorsha and all who made up his house, then fled with the nobleman’s young daughter, three nations that knew tenuous peace prepare for the brutality of prolonged conflict.

Yet a new and mysterious danger has emerged. The Shrike arrives to offer mercy and vengeance in equal measure to all those with a role to play, bringing cryptic messages from his unnamed master. Underlying his threats is one simple command: Retrieve the daughter of Gorsha.

Three Ravens of Danot — Celnor, Derrigan, and Martyn — are called upon to protect the child, and they seek answers to troubling questions and motivations. Manipulated by their queen, feeling as no more than pawns in the history unfolding around them, they conspire to bring about what they believe is a necessary change to the balance of power.

The secrets of their own shadowed pasts serve to pull at their union, threatening to unmake their pact, and leading them to ask one simple question: Are there roads too entrenched in darkness to allow for redemption?

In a time of growing doom and dread, when long lost magic begins to find a new foothold, Wretches and Kings alike maneuver and scheme as the Codex is inscribed with the fell deeds and heroic sacrifice compelled by a conspiracy of Ravens.


REVIEW by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers’ Favorite. Crossing Over by Paul Clayton tells the story of an American family trying to survive the beginnings of the second civil war. Set some time in the not-too-distant future, the existence of two simultaneous presidents has split the country along ideological lines. The protests are becoming violent, sections of the country have formed their own militias, along with the militias of the two warring parties. In the midst of shortages of food and other necessities, gangs and thugs are terrorizing formerly safe neighborhoods. Realizing that it is no longer safe to remain in their home, Mike McNerney decides to pack the camper and flee to Canada with his wife, Marie, and disabled teenage daughter, Elly. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea.Once I started reading, I could not put down this well-written and compelling short novel. Clayton’s premise is chillingly realistic. The book does not focus on the politics, but instead focuses on regular Americans who not long before led totally normal lives, and who are quickly turned into refugees as they try to escape the crime and violence taking over the country. The scene at the Canadian border was highly believable, as was the deterioration of Mike and Marie’s relationship as it crumbled under the stress of their ordeal. Complicating matters is the need to protect their beautiful daughter Elly, who is naïve enough to wander off with any stranger. Crossing Over should stand as a warning to anyone inclined to think that violence is the answer to political disagreement, as it paints a picture of how America could slide into chaos far too easily. There is some mature subject matter and language. Recommended for readers who are brave enough to read it.

FROM CLAYTON BARNETT: Worlds Without End: A Sequel to Echoes of Family Lost

Their minds modified by the Machines, the Hartmann siblings see worlds differently than others do. Gary looks to a future where his A.I. girlfriend, Henge, can live with him. Faustina looks to her friend Tracy, whom she calls a goddess, whose soul has been lost in the internet for a decade, for a new kind of life. A half-generation on in post-Breakup America, they, along with their family and friends in the city-state of Knoxville, try to make their way forward. Social and technological unknowns may hinder them, but beyond those, the worlds they seek are threatened by a madman’s nuclear fire and a politician’s intrigue.[Picking up ten years after the breathless conclusion of “Echoes of Family Lost,” this new novel of Machine Civilization follows the relationship of human Gary Hartmann and his machine fiancée Henge. While centered around, them the book is broken into two parts: the desire of a human to leave our world and pass completely into the ‘net and the desire of an AI to cross in the opposite direction.]

FROM LAWDOG, ET AL: Ghosts of Malta.

Malta. Alchemists, Saints and Heroes have all made their way to this place, defended its walls, and added to its ranks of ghosts and lore.

Besieged, battered, and bombed, this archipelago has seen every tide of war, turmoil, and more than a few bits of piracy. It’s also been the land of courage, resilience, and grace under fire.

Ten authors have set out to bring you tales of the ghosts of Malta past, present, and future. Open the pages and meet the ancient guardians, ghost cats and inter dimensional spies that will be your guide…

BY STEVE FISHER, WITH INTRODUCTION BY D. JASON FLEMING: The Sheltering Night (Annotated): The Classic Pulp Noir)

(Please don’t ask me why wordpress wouldn’t let me copy-paste the text. Please don’t. My head hurts from hitting it on the desk. — SAH)

BY GEORGE O. SMITH, WITH INTRODUCTION BY D. JASON FLEMMING: Pattern for Conquest (Annotated): The classic space opera

(And this one too. SERIOUSLY, no idea why. -SAH)

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: CHEERFUL.

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


    “Uuuuurg…. seriously? It is too damn early for you or anybody else to be that damn cheerful.”

    1. Go read Cat’s paw. It will …. Um… if you see it as being written by an extremely bright 13 year old with a twisted version of life….
      No, it will STILL blow your mind.

        1. Galdar should have inherited. His cousin was supposed to stay on the farm, not move into the Great Hall with his paid retainers.
          With axe in one hand, and shield in the other, Galdar was almost cheerful as he walked in the rain to the Hall, to collect his due.

      1. Actually, that was pretty much my life growing up, since that’s how Mama Raptor used to get me and Little Brother out of bed in the morning (minus the “damns” since Mama Raptor would’ve tanned our hides for using that kind of language in her presence). She’d barge into our bedrooms singing that song off-key at the top of her lungs.

        Mama Raptor was a morning person. Little Brother and I…. not so much.

        1. That… would have been better. Really. The $RatFink on the radio that played some atrocity that went “GOOD MORNING! GOOD MORNING! GOOD MORNING! IT’S TIME TO RISE AND SHINE!” should be… no, horsewhipping is FAR TOO KIND… I won’t say it’s THE thing that made me a night-type, but it might have been a Contributing Factor.

          1. Ma and Dad had their radio set to wake to Music, and one morning, this was what we all woke to:

            and every morning after that, as long as the station played it, it came on at the time the alarm was set.
            “Hello, mother, it Benton . . . Benton Harbor … your son.”

  2. “You should know funny-guy that you’d have more luck in your thievery if you didn’t make it a contest between me and you. So Jester, you’re going back to jail.”

    “Night Hunter, you’re no fun at all”.

    “Well, I’m cheerful that you’re such an idiot”.

  3. “Smiles, everyone, smiles!” Tony waited a moment and added, semi-desperately, “At least try to fake it!”

    “Forget it, Tony,” Suzanne sulked. “I’ve had it up to here with Tahiti. There’s nothing to do here. Don’t ask me to be cheerful.”

    “Robbie seems to manage just fine.” Their eighteen month old daughter beamed and banged her spoon on the table; Suzanne’s expression softened. She forked up a small piece of mango and held it to Robbie’s lips.

    “It doesn’t take much to make her happy, but this humidity is killing me.”

    “Take her to the baby beach. As soon as I get done with this Zoom meeting, I’ll come out and give you a break.”

    “Okay.” With a sigh, Suzanne readied herself for her fourth straight day of babysitting. “At least see if you can move up our flight?” Looking around the terrace, she found herself focusing on the nearby table where “Hawaiian shirt man,” as she had nicknamed him, sat every morning. He isn’t looking too good, she thought just as he tried to stand up, clutched his chest and fell across the table.

    “Watch the baby!” she shouted to her husband as she ran to the other table. “And call nine-one… what am I saying? Get a doctor!” she yelled to the restaurant staff.

  4. Here’s the thing that I’ve never understood. Belladonna was this lovely and cheerful set of contradictions. Optimistic without being a Pollyanna, considerate without being smothering, caring for anyone that needed to be cared for, and yet one of the most viscously sadistic people I’ve ever known. Highly agnostic, but almost perfectly chaste in Catholic terms-or at least as chaste as any member of the Dawn Empire warrior caste can be. Polite and respectful, and also a whole psychology college’s doctorate program on the interplay of sex and violence.

    Which, for her, was a glutton’s banquet. Without the bulimic puking to make more space in a stomach that…it seemed…was infinite.

    1. “…viscously sadistic …” – in other words, her sadism flowed slowly and really stuck to her victims? 🙂

  5. “You look like the cat that swallowed… well, swallowed something tasty. What’s got you so cheerful this morning?”
    “You won’t believe what, or actually who, turned up on the front porch this morning.”
    “Try me.”

  6. Her father woke her with a cheerful greeting. “Rise and shine! Breakfast is on the table.”
    She turned over and tapped on the window. Big Bear stood up on all fours and sniffed the air. Today she’d follow his trail down to Salmon Creek and collect fish for the freezer.

  7. Cheddar cheese and pickle, the Vincent motorsickle
    Slap and tickle
    Woody Allen, Dali, Dimitri and Pasquale
    Balabalabala and Volare

    Reasons to be cheerful 1 2 3.

  8. Isabelle laughed outright. “And once you forecast a dance, you have better slippers?”
    “Oh, yes,” said Ava. “No fairy godmothers for me. I might conjure myself slippers.”
    “Don’t use glass,” said Isabelle. “Use flower petals if you must. Husband your strength, even if you think you will not need it.”

  9. “Hey, Isaac!” John yelled, and threw the clamshell– flower shell? Cherry blossom shell? Whatever, bright pink themed food storage device– at the bigger man. It bounced off of his chest and landed in his lap while Isaac blinked at him and tried to remember how to drink out of a coffee cup.
    Isaac looked down, and blinked at the container, then looked back up and grinned.
    It was really hard to harass someone that wasn’t a morning person but was still cheerful about pretty much everything.

  10. True to the style, the gap was enough for him to get into the room. It was almost enough to make him cheerful.
    Finish, he reminded himself. He even had to duplicate what he did to get in, in order to get out. And Reynardette was waiting for his work.

  11. Figured another one of these guys would show up. This is a hundred or so years after Max’s adventure…

    “Hey George! Where’s Adrian at?!”

    “Probably out back smoking again.” the tall man replied with a shrug.

    “Probably.” Tyrone grumbled, throwing his dish towel to the side before running out the back door and looking around. Nothing. “Damn, where is he?!”

    “Right here.” a smooth voice answered, prompting Tyrone to whirl around in shock. He could have sworn nobody was there a few seconds ago but there he was, the man he was looking for. Adrian Brooks, owner of the Cemetery Bluffs bar. Like George predicted the man was smoking a cigarette, looking completely unfazed by it. That never failed to creep Tyrone out about him.

    “The hell?! Where’d you come from, Adrian?!” Tyrone snapped, giving the slender man a hurt glare.

    “I was always here,” he replied, his ever-present grin on his face. “You just need to keep your eyes peeled is all!”

    “Damn, man… Anyway, someone’s lookin’ for you. Big, mean-lookin’ mofo in fatigues. What’d you do this time, Adrian?!”

    If Adrian was bothered by the news he didn’t show it. If anything, he looked vaguely amused by it. He simply stubbed out his cigarette, put it in an outside ash tray, and threw the newspaper he was reading away in a nearby can. “What did I do, you ask? I invited him here, of course! He’s a relative of mine and I wanted him to meet you.”

    “A relative…? You’ve got one weird family then, Boss Man.” Tyrone muttered, finding himself flummoxed by the bar owner’s mannerisms yet again. “And what do you want me to meet him for?!”

    “Follow me and find out.” Adrian said, waving for the young man to do just that as he entered the back door.

    Tyrone sighed and began to follow him when he noticed that a sheet had fallen out of the newspaper Adrian had been reading. He stopped to pick it up and put the rest of it in the trash when a particular story caught his attention. It was an article about how a young woman’s death had been ruled a suicide. He froze. He knew her. He knew Tyra hadn’t been coming by the bar recently, and that she’d been increasingly despondent when she had, but why would she do that?!

    “Tyrone! Chop, chop!” Adrian’s voice called, snapping him out of his trance.

    “Coming, Boss Man!” he yelled back, a chill running through his body. He had no doubt Adrian had read the article and yet he was as cheerful as ever… He never would understand that guy.

  12. The blooms were pink and peach, shading from one to the other, and nodding in every breeze.
    “Come look at this, Rosaleen!” called Polly. She ran to see how the vines had draped over a scowling little troll statue, now looking enraged at the flowers, and they laughed and laughed.

  13. “Walk with me an hour, child. You’ll be home in but a trice! Yet stray not from the poppy path – else you’ll pay the price.”
    My Guide was all that the fey should be: cheerful, deadly, childlike, ancient… White snow touched not the scarlet poppies I walked upon behind Him.

    1. P.S. Hi, everyone! I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but this is my first time posting anything. And I have to say, 50 words is a lot fewer than even I thought it would be. And I come from a very verbose family. (Sorry about the lack of tabs/indented paragraphs in my blurb. I wrote it in a Word Document and then copy-pasted. It may not bother you all, but it kind of bothers me.)

  14. Help, I am trapped at my wife’s family reunion listening to her first cousin praise the “unbiased” Zinn People’s History. Arghhhh.

      1. Right. Then I got back from helping her grandfather pack up the car as the picnic was ending to find said cousin’s daughter lecturing my wife about how important Trans rights are. My wife responded with standard biology and Bible stuff, at which point the cousin’s mother (my wife’s aunt) started lecturing my wife. At least it was all after dessert. My sanity is hanging by a shred.

        1. Thread. I mean thread. But I have escaped for the day. With remaining shreds of sanity. Now I just need to survive tomorrow morning’s university tour, the should start heading for reality.

        2. Look on the bright side — you’ve still got some sanity left. Theirs is long gone.

          1. True. Too many of her kin grew up in Cali or just outside a university town. Some are smart, but nuts due to the environment they grew up in. More education just makes them nuttier.

        3. The worst thing is that they don’t even make good villain inspiration, being both tedious and implausible.

    1. Now I want to give her a couple books by Leo Brodie and say, “Go FORTH and Zinn no more!” but… I ain’t exactly normal. Thank goodness.

      1. LOL! That’s awesome, Orvan. I will have to remember that for the next time Zinn comes up.

          1. Thankfully, today wasn’t too bad. We survived the campus tour without incident, because my wife was far enough from the tour guide and her more loudmouth relatives to hear them well. We got through the unexpected lunch and then ducked out for an afternoon bicycling, so avoided getting hit up for donations to a Dem senator’s reelection campaign. I just sat silently through my wife’s cousin bragging about her diversity and inclusion work as an HR manager. An evening cookout and singing at her grandparent’s campsite is the last hurdle. Thanks all for the thoughts and virtual hugs.

  15. You want cheerful? I’ll give you cheerful!

    (Please forgive me if this cones across badly. I’m just an IT guy, not a polished author.)

    I was a B-52 gunner in the Cold War under Jimmy Carter when he was busy dismantling our conventional forces. By the grace of God, we never needed to fly off to Armageddon while I was standing a nuclear alert, even though there were a couple times things could have gone sideways in 1979.

    I flunked out of college my first go, left home, wandered a few years (including the Air Force), came back home, married badly (my fault) graduated with two degrees and a B average for all of it, including the bad, about the time I turned 30.

    Then I was hired by an IT company where I worked for 20 years, got divorced, got married again, got laid off, got into a cycle of alternating mid-length contract jobs and full-time roles, “failing upwards” for about another 15 years. Have my dream job now. And “it just showed up out of the blue.”

    What’s really so cheerful? God knocked out everything I could lean on except Him—and let me realize how much Liberty there is in trusting someone who will never leave you.

    He also let me survive a sarcoma in my head and prostate cancer in my, well, you know, multiple car accidents (honest, they went out of their way to hit me!), and a few other speed bumps.

    I am cheerful because I know I am loved. And even if something bad happens that I don’t survive, I was blessed to see all that I did survive. It’s enough to make me look forward to everything else.

    I hope the rest of you have a much better life than mine and etc.; but please consider my story.

  16. I have a book suggestion for you: =The Secret of Our Success= by Joseph Henrich, about human cultural learning and how it has so outstripped genetic selection that it has changed our evolution.

  17. She didn’t know how he could be so calm and cheerful after the day’s events. She asked.

    He smiled. “Bad as it was, it is over with.”

  18. “Seems they had a fine little social get-together in front of Chez Borgia last night,” said Marc Tremblay to no-one in particular, or maybe the entire great dark-timbered old front room of the Pig and Poke. Before anyone made reply, the main door opened and cold, snow-spiced air poured in — though at least the heavier sleet stayed outside.

    Last night had been sultry with temperature and humidity in the high seventies; day had brought storms chasing the late-season tropical surliness; now the cold, forty-odd degrees lower, that had pushed the steaminess and thunder ahead of it had arrived.

    Welcome to the pleasant autumn of Marquesas’ North Continent; pleasanter, after all, than that season of contrasts could so easily be or become.

    “Fine little get-together, if you like torches and chanting and a whole lot of blatant ill-feeling,” said Aidan Illiopoulos, over his brimming plate of bangers and mash. “Not that I got anywhere near that hot little kettle of political nitroglycerine, of course. Lots of handhelds streamcasting all of it to all the wide world, to see from a safe distance.”

    “I thought it was quite cheerful, for my own part,” said Tremblay, over a steaming spoonful of the Pig’s hearty soup-stew. Already, warmth from the immense turf fire in the huge fireplace at the other end of the room was dispelling the brief gush of cold. “More than cheerful, really; reassuring. Something of a true comfort.”

    “Excuse me, my dear sir,” said the recent arrival, already seated with a mug of hot steaming black tea. “But isn’t that, I don’t know, either trivializing or downright mad? Not to give any offense, of course.” The last was offered in the offhand way that marked either an offworlder or a moron — Marquesan society had featured duelling over any slight or injury grave enough to make it worthwhile since its infancy, and too many ‘foreigners’ simply did not ‘get’ what that actually was and did.

    “Oh, none taken, I’m sure,” promptly said Allie Mackenzie, of the high-Highlands and (therefore naturally) the Langmuirs. Her airiness matched his offhanded ease only superficially — being a mathematician and ranked duellist, she had what it took to quell any tendency to over-react. “But perhaps you could explain your logic to our assembled company, some degree more precisely.” With a soft smile alluding to more than a few verbal victories in her unofficial books, too.

    “Well, I didn’t mean more than the almost-obvious, really; there was this huge mob of protesters in front of Borgia House last night, after all, challenging and even maybe threatening the Borgias and their Head of House. And all carrying burning torches, as they chanted ‘Burn, Burn!’ in French. Seemed pretty provocative, to me.” Somehow he hadn’t seemed to expect that more than the one person he’d addressed would join in to the conversation. Or entirely liked it that they had. (But then, foreigner…)

    “Okay, if I may, Miss Mackenzie?” And Tremblay, of the Freydisdottirs, waited a bit of short but clear time before continuing. “First, not a mob; if it had been acting as any sort of mob, the Borgias would’ve took offense and routed it — indeed, about sixty-one percent of the crowd had their handhelds set to authenticate open as accredited full or conditional members of House Borgia.” And slurped another spoonful, getting all the abundant solid bits. “They don’t take kindly to any random collection of who-so-ever gathering in their grove in such number. Second, you’re missing one of the big ‘tells’ in the nuances of what they said. Guessing French isn’t one of your languages?”

    The stranger — perhaps beginning to realize he might’ve wanted to make something of an introduction on his own behalf — simply nodded.

    “‘Brulons’ would’ve meant, ‘let us burn’ or ‘let’s burn it’ — yeah, pretty threatening in the context. But, not what they were saying. Instead, they said ‘Brulez’ — which is ‘you burn’ or ‘you burn it’ — not a direct threat to the Borgias, far more like a petition or a request. Very pointed, of course, maybe with an implication ‘you fix it or we will’ right enough; but not what you said you heard. Clear enough?”

    “Yes, that sounds different. And I suppose French is one of the Borgias’ languages, here? It’s a bit confusing, back towards Earth you mostly get by with just English and maybe a heavy slug of Cantonese.” He took a considerable slug of tea. “But I guess this part of the Rim is enough light-years from New New York and Chowlun Square…”

    “Yes, my dear sir, it is. For just about any such purpose.” Aidan’s voice was precise, a bit less dialectical than before. “Each of our Five Great Houses has its own history, and one or two ‘extra’ languages out of that family history, besides the common English.

    “Italian and French for the Borgias, who’re the Old Borgias from Old Earth. French and Hungarian for the Vargasz, Scottish for the Langmuirs and Irish for the Ceoghans, and of course Icelandic for the Freydisdottirs. Then you get down into the subordinate Houses like the Korolyov-Borgias, the subsidiary Houses with other Families entirely, or into the Scottish and Nipponese clan families from the high-Highlands, where it gets still more detailed yet. But the big point is, what you were seeing, or hearing about, in that hour and a half of torchlight and plain-speaking — was most of it ‘all in the family’ to the Borgias themselves, with enough people from other Houses to support them.

    “And it’s easy for someone not raised here, to be — misled by details you can’t rightly be expected to catch. Like the fact we don’t really have ‘protesters’ here in the Old Earth sense. Remember, like they say so much out there, we’re the oddball planet with either five governments or none at all. There’s no Constitution, there’s no Law Courts in the sense you’d likely see it. There’s us, and our own Houses, and in the end the point of a sword if it’s dire enough to go so far.”

    And he turned to Ailis Nic Choinneach, Allie Mackenzie, with a smile and a nod.

    “But, if I might — and by the way my name is Bill Sykes and I’m originally from out this way too, New Canaan, but I was raised mostly on Mars and Riverdance” (which last was the main ‘usable’ planet of the Epsilon Eridani system) “so I’ve had a lot of Central Worlds influence in my life — could you simply tell me what this is all about? It isn’t such an easy mystery to penetrate, it’s not like there’s a ‘news for outworlders’ channel in your videosphere or anything.”

    And there was a general snicker. Quickly, before misunderstanding had time to take root, “We’re not laughing at you, Mister Sykes. We’re laughing at the very idea that anyone or ones would be arrogant or foolish enough to think they could speak for all of us in any sensible way, especially to foreigners — no slight involved — such as yourself. We have no government policy because who’d care if we did? We have no explainers to the wider worlds, because who’d dare to figure being perfect enough in understanding to take such a mad burden on?” Mackenzie, again.

    “I can venture to explain what I said, Mister Sykes. I find what happened last night to be such a comfort because I see — note, all of you, I see, myself — and hear House Borgia as a whole telling its own leadership to right the ship and cut the crap.”

    Marc Tremblay’s voice came clear and calm, and claimed the floor easily.

    “There’s been, as I think even you’ll have understood as an offworlder, a certain bit of what I’d see as loose talk. On about how House Borgia is, all a-sudden, First Among Equals. Calliope Borgia never said that, but her Svetlana has come all too close; and a few others have right crossed that line. And though it’s ‘provocative’ as you say, Mister Sykes, for any other House to say ‘enough’ right out… Borgia itself can do that in the clear.

    “So here we have a constitutional crisis, and not even a Constitution.” And he smiled a soft and hopeful smile. “But, God willin’ and by the grace of Fate, also a way out.”

  19. I would have cheerfully removed every last reminder of that most horrible mistake of my life. Except the last remaining one was standing right in front of me.

    “Hi Dad,” she said.

    “Okay,” I said. “Let’s get started.”

  20. I’m a pretty cheerful guy by nature. Not much gets to me. To be alive and breathing, muscles that work, good eyesight, sharp hearing. A wife, children. Sounds boring, I know.

    But when you almost lost all of it, not so much.

  21. (Yet another segment of the saga of the Soviet moonbase in the Grissom timeline)

    Yakov Tsiklauri curbed his urge to crowd in so he could hear better. His official specialty didn’t lend itself to the work at hand.

    Still, Tsiklauri was happy to find Leonid Gruzinsky in good spirits as a Georgian should be, so unlike the foul temper that had been coloring the Marshal’s public pronouncements ever since his elevation to Minister of Defense. On consideration, it was unsurprising that Gruzinsky should be happier dealing with a technical problem than the madness in the Caucasus. From everything Tsiklauri had heard, Gruzinsky was first and foremost an engineer and a pilot, and had he been free to do so, would’ve preferred to remain at a rank that allowed him to focus on those things rather than being pushed into command.

  22. We were newlywed and broke. And in the delivery room, where I was coaching her through delivery: “Take a deep breath!” “Everything’s great!” “Soon!” Pain, anguish, shouts of agony — then, a tiny bundle laid into my arms! In the most beautiful way imaginable, my life is no longer my own.

  23. With a sigh and a smile, I shut the laptop. Dawn peeked through the slat curtains and I felt the warmth as I stretched in a sunbeam. The article was finished and submitted, and the bacon sizzling from the kitchen had me feeling almost cheerful. But how? I lived alone.

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