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.
*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*

FROM MARY CATELLI: The Other Princess.

This time, they invited the last fairy to the christening.

Elise, uncursed at her christening, received strange gifts about castles and roses. With such good fortune, what more does she need? She grows up forever in the shadow of her lovely, cursed, tragic cousin.

Even when the curse falls, and Princess Isabelle lies in enchanted sleep, life must go on for Princess Elise. Despite the curse, the kingdom can not sleep itself, and neither can she.

FROM GAYL SIEGEL: Blood Stained: A Madalyn Mitchell Mystery.

Maddy mused abstractedly in the back of her mind. What if one of the sweet, kind people she knew were someone else on the inside—someone capable of murder?
Madalyn Mitchell is the contented wife of a Lutheran pastor in a quiet rural Iowa town. Suddenly her world is turned upside down when the body of a murdered man is found in the city park. Maddy follows clues to identity of the murderer, motivated by the desire to return to her safe, calm existence. But can life ever return to normal?

BY EDMOND HAMILTON, FROM D. JASON FLEMING: Outside the Universe (Annotated): The Interstellar Patrol, Volume 2: The classic space opera galaxy invasion novel!

A colossal novel about outer space — three universes in a desperate fight to the death!

    This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving historical and genre context to the novel.

BY ROBERT J. HORTON, FROM D. JASON FLEMING: Three Riders (Annotated): a pulp western omnibus

iktaPOP Media proudly presents three classic westerns by pulp author Robert J. Horton!

Rider o’ the Stars

When he was hired on to the Diamond H Ranch, the stranger gave his name as Dane. After seeing his skill with rope and gun folks started calling him “Lightning Dane”.

Was he a gunman? An outlaw? Why was he here? Nobody knew except Dane himself. And he wasn’t talking.

The Prairie Shrine

Annalee Bronson and her mother left everything behind when her father died, setting out to homestead in the prairielands of Montana. But being from the east, they simply don’t have the experience to cope with all the circumstances they find themselves caught up in.

Luckily, prairie poet and loafer Andy Sawtelle and mysterious gunman Silent Scott are more than willing to lend a helping hand.

The Man of the Desert

It starts with a stampede, and never lets up from there!

    This iktaPOP Media omnibus includes introductions by indie editor and author D. Jason Fleming putting the book into historical and genre context.


At eighteen, Allen Rupert’s criminal past caught up with him and he faces a choice of military or prison. To get as far from central Texas as possible, he joins the navy but spends half of his time in the brig.

Recognizing Allen’s mechanical skill, he’s trained as a machinist and assigned to the small corvette Liberty, patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. During an ASW drill, Allen defuses a torpedo that went live in its tube, and is summoned to the bridge. There, Acting Captain Ryland Rigó commends him for his good work.

For the first time in his life, Allen sees someone look at him with respect. Weeks later, ashore, he invites her to lunch. To his utter shock, she accepts.

Thinking her just another girl, Allen is shaken to his core to find himself swept into a maelstrom of domestic politics, international intrigue, and the plots and plans of Demi-humans and Machines. All while trying to fix his broken life and attain the only thing he wants: Ryland.

FROM SABRINA CHASE: The Last Mage Guardian (Guardian’s Compact Book 1)

Her great-uncle, the mage Oron, bequeathed to her his oak-shaded chateau and a debt of magical honor. But in a world where women do not do magic, Miss Ardhuin Andrews must hide her magical talents. How can she repay the debt? When Oron’s enemies attack, how can she survive? Political intrigue, duty, and echoes of an old war not truly ended combine to create a smoldering crisis in a world where magic and science coexist.

FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Familiar Tales

Smiley Lorraine: Wolverine. Rosie Jones: 100-lb. Skunk. Morgana Lorraine: Witch with Editorial Problems.

Welcome to a world where Familiars choose magic workers, and a few others, as their partners. A world of adventure, tax-deductions, bad publisher tricks, and odd veterinary clinics, where wolverines wear glasses and iguanas sing along with the radio—badly—while casting spells and keeping their chosen humans out of mischief.

Or try to.

(Five short-stories.)

BY DAVE FREER: Joy Cometh With The Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery

Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

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: POSSESSIVE

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

  1. “You look very possessive toward your wife.”

    “Well, you might think that but from her point of view, it is she that possess me”.

    “Oh, what you do you think of that?”

    “She is Mine and I am hers.”

  2. I am rather possessive about many things. Not quite as free of “the common good” as Ayn Rand encouraged, I retain a strong aversion to spe ding money on ungrateful strangers. Even those related by blood.

    It all began in 1982, when …

  3. Why the hell am I here?

    That wasn’t just his first thought, it was the only thought he could come up with. The elegant and intimidating man who’d escorted him here closed the doors behind him. The room looked like a movie set, almost the size of his mother’s whole apartment, lined with bookshelves and equipped with two of those rolling ladder thingys. Tables, chairs and small couches were arranged across much of the floor space. To the left was a curtained alcove that resembled a small stage. Matching it on the right was a fireplace, unlit, flanked by two large leather chairs. The vigorous-looking middle-aged man in the right-hand chair riveted one’s attention; his presence filled the room.

    He waved to the empty chair. “Have a seat, Mr. Douglas.”

    Samuel Douglas approached warily and sat down. The chair was quite comfortable. “Uh, Mister, uh…”

    “Harrigan, Mr. Douglas. You’re wondering why the hell you’re here.”

    Sam felt instant panic. It must have shown on his face.

    Harrigan chuckled. “No, I’m not reading your mind. It’s the obvious question for someone in your position.”

    Sam nodded, not trusting his voice.

    “You’re here because I have a business proposition for you. I want to buy a year of your life.”

    He turned that over a few times. “You mean, a job?” What’s going on? I’m nobody. Why would he go to this much trouble to hire a black kid just out of the city’s worst high school, son of a single mother who barely scrapes by in a rathole apartment in a lousy neighborhood? What does he really want?

    Harrigan smiled indulgently. “No, I mean an actual year of your life. I propose to remove one year of your lifespan and add it to mine, in exchange for a suitable payment.”

    Shock froze him in place. I’m stuck in here with a nutcase! A rich nutcase with a butler that looks like a hit man! He managed to stammer out, “Y-you can’t do that! It ain’t possible!”

    The smile remained. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Sam Douglas, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    Samuel didn’t know what he’d expected Harrigan to say, but that line would never have occurred to him. He blurted out, “Shakespeare?” before he could stop himself.

    Harrigan nodded his approval. “A quote from Hamlet, in fact, adapted for our current situation. You didn’t learn that in school, did you?”

    The question distracted him again. “What? Uh, no…” The man fairly compelled one to answer his questions by sheer force of personality. What might be mere arrogance in a lesser man, Harrigan brought off as calm assurance. The mansion, the money, the power, none of those contributed anything to his effortless authority; his possessions were subordinate to him, effects rather than causes.

    “I thought not. Indeed, I’m impressed if you learned anything in that school. The bureaucrats, the teachers, and the feral students make it a place most unsuited to learning. Few of them can read anything more complex than a protest sign. Which they misspell, more often than not.”

    Sam privately agreed with Harrigan’s assessment of his ‘fellow students’. Academics was the last thing they were interested in.

    1. This seems interesting. I like the description of Harrigan – you’re doing a good job getting across his charisma, which is a wonderful thing to have in a maybe-bad-guy, maybe-just-less-than-scrupulous-businessman.

      And Sam seems a pretty relatable main character too, so I could see this working well as a longer story. How did Harrigan get his power? (To transfer life like he describes.) Deal with the devil? Born with this gift/curse? I’d be interested to learn.

      1. Why, thankee kindly, Lady Eleanor. That’s pretty much what I’m going for.

        As for the hows and wherefores, let’s just say Harrigan has been performing this ritual every year for a really, really long time. He locates a likely candidate, somebody with potential that’s probably never going to be realized, buys a year and watches the results.

        The original idea came from a story I read a long, long time ago. Rich old man offers to make a college student his heir. There are some rather odd conditions attached, such as a thorough medical exam, but they reach an agreement, the papers are drawn up and signed, and they seal the deal with a drink. The student feels funny and passes out.

        The next day he wakes up in the old man’s decrepit body. The old man had been deliberately acting strange for a while, so nobody believes a word he says. In the end, he takes the poison the old man had left for him.

        I wanted to explore an exchange of lifespans without doing evil. Provide full disclosure, take less, and pay a fair price. How could that be worked out?

        1. Oooh, interesting.

          And even if it’s a little evil, it’s a more pragmatic evil. Far less chance of someone dedicating the few years remaining of their life to destroying your new one/finding the magical ritual you used to switch over and switching back.

  4. My sister’s look of disdain was manifest as she eyed the signs in the farmer’s market: APPLE’S 0.80/LB. Another stand: CUCUMBER’S 0.75 EA. She’s quite the grammarian. “The apple’s what? The cucumber’s what?” she snarled angrily. “They’re using the possessive case wrong again!”

      1. Zounds!

        May their bulkheads collapse, their batteries sulphate, and their cows give sour milk.

    1. Tha’ts the groce’r’s apostrophe’ thank-you-very-much, and they have s’pecial dispensation’s for it.

      Some kind of protecte’d groups’ thing by thi’s point, I expect.

  5. “This is, what… the third time this week we’ve been called put to her place?”
    “The fourth, I think.”
    “Is this normal? I was under the impression that exorcisms usually work the first time.”
    “Oh, each of them worked. It’s just… as our Lord observed, sometimes the demon cones back, finds the place cleaned up, and moves right back in, sometimes bringing a more evil spirit with them. And this spirit seems remarkably possessive.”

    1. What happens if you don’t pay your exorcist?

      You get repossessed.

      I’ll see myself out …

      1. I’m just going to grab some digital popcorn and wait for our Illustrious Hostess to arrive with the Carpus Machinus of Ultimate Power.

        (Carp-flavored popcorn, of course.)

        Don’t mind me. Just here to watch the show.

  6. Greg Horn could tell he was getting way out of his depth. I’m an FBI telepath working under NASA cover, not a social worker, and certainly not a psychologist.

    However, his mission was clear: he was to recruit Elaine. To do that he had to gain her confidence, get her to view him as the one sympathetic person when everyone else had turned against her. Which meant listening even when he’d rather say that’s enough, tell her to chin up, that she needed to improve her attitude and make the best of her situation.

    Like right now. It had been what, four, five years since her trips to Russia had ended, and she was still sore about it. All she could talk about was how hard she’d tried to figure out what trivial mistake might had caused it — but if he pointed out that it wasn’t something irrelevant like unthinkingly trying to form the English possessive in the Russian manner for the first few days after she’d get back, she’d clam up and never trust him again.

  7. Angus sighed as he looked at the chaos of torn pages, battered equipment, and terrified waiters cowering around the edges of what had started as a peaceful diplomatic reception. “Do I want to know?”

    Fuyuko shook her head a little. “One of the interpreters accidentally used the possessive instead of the vocative when translating the Centauran ambassador’s reply to the Pride Speaker of Leodari.”

    “That would do it.”

  8. She would have to return it to the library. Librarians were often unforgiving about books.
    She stood, and realized that Julian stood in the doorway, looking at her, his face unreadable.
    “Were you looking for this book?” she said.
    He shook his head. “I was looking for the library, though.”

  9. The last three books have been on the market for awhile, and I’ve read (and enjoyed) them all. There’s a sequel to Sabrina Chase’s book, which I’ve also read. Alma T. C. Boykin has written more than 20 of the “Familiar” books, all enjoyable. Dave Freer has hinted of a sequel to “Joy Cometh with the Mourning”, and I can’t wait! They’re all great authors, and I follow them possessively. 8^)

    “She clung to Marty tightly as the river swept her small raft downriver in its flood. Marty, her armadillo Familiar, was all she had left of her old life. She held him close, possessive of what little comfort his scaly body could provide. The roar of the raging water seemed to lessen: perhaps she and Marty would survive this disaster after all.”

      1. Three weeks? I hope to release the last in the main series of Familiars books around September 10, so I can go to the release party at FenCon. Plus I hope to have the next Merchant book out soon, too.

        I’m 15K words into the next Familiar Generations book, and have almost 10K on a Familiar Origins story.

  10. “I’m having a highly possessive bitch moment,” Sayuri sighed. “Belladona managed to figure out how to get the two of you to go out for dinner tomorrow.”

    “She did pull it off well,” I agreed, then sighed. “You’re doing back-to-back miai, Deborah has a dance contest, Aretta has to see her grandmother…and, clearly that’s the perfect time for her to strike.”

    I’ve gotten good with two-plus years of practice of reading Sayuri’s body language, and she definitely was not happy about this. “She’s not predatory, but she has made it clear that she sees herself as first among equals, and that since you are our Solist, that makes her first in charge of the Companions…”

    “…which is why,” I interrupt gently, “she isn’t> in charge. Not now, and probably never.”

  11. “HOW DARE YOU?” Drusilla leaned toward her, looming like a thunderhead. “After all your pledges of trustworthiness, you fail me! After all I have done for you! What is your life worth without my spellcraft? And you could not gain for me this trifle? You have to bungle the theft?”

  12. You know, I mused, glancing as subtly as I could around the dinner table, this is going far better than I expected.

    Which wasn’t to say it was going well, exactly. Merely to note that thus far the food and drink seemed healthy (untainted), the conversation was courteous (if only by the slimmest margin), and no one had been drained dry of blood for a minor infraction of etiquette.

    Dear gods, what had gone wrong in my life that I was subjected to formal dinners with vampire lords?

    And why, in all the Heavens and Hells, could my companions not seem to comprehend the perils of the situation?

    Anton, seated at the right hand of the illustrious Count (why were they always Counts?), smirked at our host. “I’d wager you’ve never come across a band like ours before, my Lord.”

    I blinked, my fork frozen for a moment halfway to my mouth. It was an odd thing, to hear a man say one thing, and yet understand something entirely different thereby. Anton said ‘a band like ours,’ and yet I heard ‘a man like me,’ as clearly as if he had said it aloud. Similarly, he said ‘my Lord,’ and still I heard… Well. Something rather different.

    Still, the vampire didn’t strike him dead for the implicit impudence. He merely smiled at Anton, the expression gaining a disturbingly predatory edge from the display of long and inhumanly sharp incisors.

    “Alas, your company is not nearly so unique as you might think, my friend.” He took a sip from the ornate glass, swirling the red liquid within and observing it studiously. I was still silently debating whether it was wine or blood. The obvious assumption would be the latter, but the Count had shown glimpses of a tendency toward irony which would suggest the former. “When you have seen as many years as I have, you realize that adventurers – however glorious, however powerful – can be had in the dozens for a silver.”

    Anton bristled, but the Count continued, calm and inexorable. “Heroes, in comparison, are a truly rare breed. Difficult to find, more difficult still to retain in the midst of the world’s temptations.”

    His gaze remained fixed on the glass hanging from his fingers, the red sea within aflame with refracted candlelight. Still, I sensed an odd weight resting over my shoulders, as though his attention lay on me. I could not understand why such would be – nonetheless, I felt it keenly.

    “And yet… and yet. Such rarity only increases their value, their beauty. They shine like stars in the darkest nights. And when put through fire, to hammer and anvil, their beauty only grows. Strong as iron, and keen as the blade of a sword.”

    His hungry smile dwindled to a softer, more reverent look – but his eyes, as they rose from the glass to fix on me, were dark and possessive.

    “Over the decades, I find I have developed a particular taste for heroes.”

    1. Very interesting My Lady.

      Is this part of a planned story?

      I’d be interested in reading more. 😀

        1. Yay! You like it!

          We’ll see if I can work a little more of this particular tale into the next prompt. I’m not sure I’ll have time for anything else, given that college schoolwork starts this week. (Not to mention our Honored Hostess’s prompts are the easiest way for me to get feedback from you guys. It’d be a little rude/weird/difficult to start shoehorning segments of story into comment sections about entirely different posts. Rude to the people who want to discuss the subject matter at hand, and difficult to find the story in the mass of other material.)

          If people start offering to throw money at me, then I know I’ve got something good waiting to be written.

      1. Why thank you, kind Sir-Dragon! :bows:

        Really, I saw this comment (and TXRed’s, below,) and started quietly cheering. People like my work! People who aren’t my family! (Not that my family isn’t willing to give constructive criticism as well, but it’s the principle of the thing.)

        Honestly, it’s a bit of a weird story. I own a D&D adventure book involving a vampire lord (most D&D players, even the less invested ones, will be able to guess who). I took the story and homebrewed the heck out of it. (Or the not-heck into it, seeing as I started involving beings of an Infernal/Abyssal nature.) During the lockdown, my sister aided and abetted me in the acts of violent homebrewing and story-writing, giving her character and my vampire lord loads of scenes that were written book-style rather than roleplayed.

        But… copyright. So… file off the serial numbers, as our Evil but Beautiful (or was it Beautiful but Evil? I never can remember) Space Princess advised, and make it my own.

        Easy, right?

        Wrong. I’ve tried, but it never really worked. I’ve no idea where to really start.

        And then came this prompt, and the idea I had for the word really worked, and you guys found it interesting…

        So if I can make time around college work, this attempt might (maybe) actually stick. I just need to figure out this main character’s name. (And sex. I feel like he’s a man, personally. And I’d love to help fill in the lack of respectable, honorable male characters in current media. My only concern is that Mr. Vampire’s gonna creep, as vampires always do, and that might be taken in ways I don’t intend… Ah, well. My job to write, and to do so as well as I can. Reader’s interpretations are out of my hands.)

        (Oh, and I should probably come up with a name for Count Mr. Vampire. I used nouns like ‘host’ and titles like ‘Count’ to get around the fact that I don’t know his name yet. I probably need to fix that before the book is published.)

    2. Why “count”? Well, that’s the best translation for the Slavic honorific “voivode.” It means something like “warlord,” so it is close to the German Graff. The English “Duke” would be better, as in “dux bellorum,” or war leader, but by tradition that is reserved for the close male relatives of the monarch, or very high ranking nobles with administrative as well as military duties. A count was in charge of a region (county) and of organizing the defenses . . . so we are back to voivode.

      Yes, you can tell what I’ve been reading up on.

      1. Doesn’t that depend a lot on where and when you are describing?

        1100s France had Dukes (Burgundy, Normandy, Aquitaine) while co-temporally the English had Counts for their territories in France (ex: John as Count of Anjou) and (mostly) Earls at home.

        Skip a century or two and it changes ’round in England – Dukes of Gloucester, York, Lancaster, while Earls diminish in name. Counts in France, however, become rather commonplace and diffused in authority/importance.

        Call the vamp ‘domovoy’. That’s when the (brief) fight started …

        1. Isn’t that the title for a protector-spirit/house-god in Slavic cultures? I can see how that might be taken amiss by certain vamps…

          Or claimed by others as a ‘Big Brother’/’First Citizen’ sort of title.

        2. But Count goes back further than that in England. “Count of the Saxon Shore”, referenced by Kipling, goes back tp late Roman / just post-Roman Britain.

          1. Exactly – title usage seems to depend a lot on when and where. If you’ll pardon the reference to Wikipedia, the article on Roman ‘comes’ tracks precisely with what TXRed said – “Official responsible for the defense of” whatever. Seems like once the Romans left, the use of ‘count’ in England declined.

            Earls/jarls hit England more after about 600 with the Saxons, Jutes, Danes and other forcible settlers; that shifted a bit with William I and 1066, and again in the late 1300s- early 1400s. For example, Richard III was Duke of Gloucester and he married the daughter of that over-mighty subject, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in 1472.

            Hop across the Channel, and Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, was father to Henry, who was Duke of both Normandy and Aquitaine, as well as King of England, and Count of Anjou and Maine when Geoffrey died. Count of Anjou started in the 860s. Henry’s son Richard I was King of England, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, as well as Count of Poitiers, Anjou, Maine and Nantes.

            My info on vampires is principally Stoker’s 1897 Dracula; that was after the French Revolution and aristocrats were less common than before in France, where ‘count’ was kind of debased currency after 1600 or so.

            But if you had a castle in the Carpathians, probably you were some kind of nobility, and ‘count’ has a nicer ring than ‘Kentucky Colonel’.

            1. And in the Austrian Empire, Duke was only the male relatives (uncles and brothers) of the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary (Herzog). So if you translate ranks to contemporary-to-Stoker usage, Count is the next highest available.* And a Margrave/Markgraff was in charge of defending a border territory (like Wallachia/Transylvania), so you’re back to “what’s sort of close that makes sense even though Stoker wasn’t trying to be anything like accurate?”

              Stoker would not have used Prince/Fürst for Dracula, because to English readers, to wouldn’t make any sense at all. Vlad III Draculea *would have used Prince, and did. He saw himself as equal to Mathias Corvinus of Hungary, who was a king. As John S says, times and places and usages vary, and having the vampire use a lower rank would ease some social formalities. He’d have several titles such as “Prince of Wallachia, Count of Transylvania, Count of Red Ruthenia . . .” and so on anyway. Most did.

      2. Hey, it’s always helpful to have a nerd on hand to help you get things right. (Unless your preferred form of address is ‘geek.’ Apologies if I’ve accidentally mis-titled you. :wink:)

      3. (Spooky critter noises and thunder)

        Ah,ha ha ha! I love to count …. things!

        (Dodges) One! One carp! (Jumps) Two! Two carp!


        Mmph! Mnee (ptooie) Three carp!

        Ah hah hah ha!

        (Spooky critter noises and thunder)

          1. The irony is that vampires were indeed obsessive counters in folklore, and you could protect yourself by throwing poppy seeds in their path and escaping while they ran away.

  13. “He’s a complete rodent!” complained Cari. “What anyone would want with Max is beyond me!”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” said Leyda airily. “He is kind of cute, you know. And he’s –”

    “Now just a minute,” interrupted Cari.

    Leyda smiled as Cari’s face flushed. Works every time, she thought.

  14. When “awakening” from electronic slumber, Gwendolyn’s firmware would quickly inventory possessions and environment. The latest inventory transcript read thusly:

    Maid outfit – possession
    House/room keys – possession
    Mr. Jenkins, butler, cyborg – environment
    Mr. Slim-Howland, employer, biological –

    Here, the transcript shifted repeatedly between “possession” and “environment.” No-one knew why.

  15. “Alright, you did…better….this time.” The captain offered him the sheets of — paper, he’d called it. Whatever, the marks didn’t twitch around every time he shifted position, the way that displays sometimes did, it would work. Bel eyed the sheets and reluctantly accepted them.
    Since the prior attempt at written English had resulted in a spontaneous vocabulary lesson where the only word that anyone would define beyond ‘don’t say that’ was “phonics,” he wasn’t expecting much.

    Surprisingly, only a quarter to a third of the letters were crossed out with a bright red correction written across the top of them. Better than he’d expected. Their spelling was even worse than their grammar, and their grammar was an irrational mess– rather like the humans themselves.

    The correction that made no sense to him was those words that had circles at the end. Some portion had arrows, either backwards or forwards, and he couldn’t see a pattern to it.

    “Well?” Demanded the captain– Jer, safer to think of him as Jer when there wasn’t anyone near, or he’d scold Bel again.

    Bel placed the ‘paper’ on the table, and pointed at the circles. Jer tilted his head around to a less upside-down angle to read it.

    “That’s a possessive plural.”

  16. Simon had always felt a little possessive about Egypt. It had, after all, been more or less the center of his wanderings for thousands of years. It was sadly diminished from what it had once been. He was sitting in the marketplace in Rashid, thinking about how little he cared at the moment for the French, who were unloading their warships, when he felt a familiar itch in his mind. “It is time. Open the ancient world”.
    So. How was he do to that? He left the marketplace and wandered the town. thinking how much it had changed since the days of the Ptolemies. Wait. There was a fort a few kilometers away, and the French might well be planning to use it. Simon didn’t much care for the way people carelessly reused old material, destroying what information it could give them about the past, but Sultan Qait Bey had been doing just that when he first built the fort a few hundred years back on one of Simon’s many absences, and some of the stones he used were covered with hieroglyphics. In fact, there was one he remembered in particular that just might do the job.
    He arrived at the fort late that evening, found a quiet spot, and sat down to meditate. He cast a delving spell, one that would let him quickly find and skim all the stones remaining that had hieroglyphics. After a couple of hours, he found it. That one. It was broken, but on it,there were inscriptions in two forms of written Egyptian and Greek. Now that he had located the stone, he cast a glamour. The men looking for building material to would be sure to find it.
    The next day, he visited the French encampment. A few inquiries told him that the Lieutenant in charge, Bouchard was his name, had a bit of classical education and was indeed planning to repair the fort. Simon found a quiet nook and murmured a matching glamour to cast on the Lieutenant. For this kind, he only needed the man’s name, which he now had. He would not miss the significance of the find.
    Well, he had done what he could. It was time to move on.

  17. And, to be just, his father should have named an heir. Young to be so ill, with none of them, even Peter, married, but the kingdom would pass in due course.
    He should have had us shoot off arrows to find brides, thought Liam, even if I married a frog.

  18. “And he escorts you to dinner!” carolled Augusta. “How jealously he guards you! Before asking Father for your hand in marriage!” Her folded fan touched her lips.
    Rose stood helplessly. Her father ordered these gallantries. But there was no point to saying it when Augusta knew as well as she.

  19. “Stay out,” she spat. Mist swirled around her, and she towered over him. “This land is mine.” She stalked forward, arms outstreched, and her body passed through the brambles as if they were not here, or she was not.
    “I do not trespass in your lands, trespass not in mine!”

        1. Interesting. You did a great job packing a lot of details and meaning into very few words! (Always a good thing to be concise. That’s something I struggle with myself, I fear.)

  20. “my reading is eclectic and ‘craving led’”

    Had you typed the last word in this quote in all capital letters, it would have been a very illuminating fact about you, and I would have felt quite enlightened.

  21. A bheil Gadhlig agaibh?

    The question was polite and completely at home in its setting — and it stopped Alec Stross right in his tracks, mentally if not quite physically, just inside the doorway of the little pharmacy (no, chemist’s shop, they held to the old British terminology here even now, even here thousands of feet below what one could rightly begin to call the high-Highlands); then set him to scrolling madly through the few fragments of Scottish he had.

    But he did get that one, soon enough. “Chan eil,” he said in what he thought was a halfway-decent generic-Scottish accent. “At least not without a lot of work and far too many… missing pieces.” He shook his head a little. “And I’m still getting used to the way you have to say ‘it isn’t’ in place of ‘no’… because there isn’t any word for ‘no’ to say.”

    There was a smile, like a time-lapsed sunrise, from the man behind the narrow counter. “But at least you’ve bothered to try, which is more than a lot of the lot who come through here do. Tom Strachan.” His English, if in an idiosyncratically Langmuir-ish way Alec was not yet used to at all, was as accentless (best he could tell on either side) as his Scottish was.

    Like flipping a switch, or changing hats; all one or all the other.

    Even if his last name featured that ‘kh’ sound, like ‘loch’ or its cousins in Russian or German, front-and-center and making no apologies.

    “Alec Stross — and before you jump to conclusions from my last name, it was at least five generations between our first Stross off-Earth and the first one to go back to speaking anything but English, which would be me for my little twig of our family tree.”

    “So do you find Scottish difficult? So many of the people who come by here from — far away, let’s call it — seem to do.” There was no hint of “but isn’t it time to get on to why you’re here?” in the conversation. Again, even this far (both sideways and down) from the true Highland country.

    “It’s almost the reverse of English, the nouns decline but the verbs don’t really conjugate, so about a trade-off in that. Though that way you have four ways to say ‘it is’ — it is, it’s not, is it, and isn’t it — almost makes up for that. But the pronouns! The idea that pronouns have gender is normal, but the way the pronouns have sex with prepositions and give birth to lots and lots of combinations between ’em you have to learn… like that ‘agaibh’ meaning ‘to you’ in your asking me if I ‘had Scottish to me’! That’s… new.” And he remembered to slow down, and smile. “Sorry to get carried away, if I did. But learning things is what I do, more or less exactly. I know a fair bit about computers and communications, but… the way they say it back in the Empire is ‘integrating synthesist’ — so, bit of an occupational hazard.”

    Strachan returned a smile of his own. “Not every day I have someone come into my little shop here and apologize for wanting to talk about Scottish, thinking it’s maybe a bit too much. Most either speak it or not and leave it at that. Your little, ah, viewer’s review of Scottish is more than a little refreshing; as I said before, you did bother to make a real effort.” And looked at him a little sidelong. “Unless that ‘integrating’ thing means you’re some kind of savant who can pick up a decent grasp of Gaelic in half an hour’s light reading?” Most people would have lifted an eyebrow at the very least; ‘Tom’ got the same thing across in the tilt of his head and the least hint of a further smile.

    “No, that’s not what I do or how I do it — the point is not that we’re people who can learn things fast, though most of us aren’t slow at that either. The big point is having all the little pieces of something fit themselves together into one big picture, without anyone else having had to draw a map or make a system for us to follow first. That is, or so all the studies seem to say, something you have to be born with and also have had to develop and practice, too, for one reason or another.”

    And he paused, and looked at Tom Strachan in that way he’d half intuited, half had to learn over the years. “You know the old story of how Calliope Borgia put together a bucketful of bits and pieces of things others were already doing or trying to do, to make a way to measure absolute velocity against the Mach Frame? Well, that’s what one of us would very likely have been able to do, in her place; maybe minus the exotic dance and the whole founding-a-Great-House thing. We look at the world, and see… patterns. We simply see them, just like looking at the sky at night and seeing the moon up there so bright.” (Marquesas here did have one, a big one much like Earth’s minus its odd two-moons-in-one history and geology.)

    “And now that’s not something you’d likely hear from an offworlder, if you pardon my use of the term between us. That’s a story we all grow up with in school and out, like reading and writing or swinging a sword.” (Yes, he had learned, schoolkids studied the basics of dueling weapons in gym class… commonplace as it was here, and odd as it would likely be elsewhere.)

    Alec allowed himself that half-rueful half-smile he reserved for people who (at least half-way) ‘got it’ about the way he thought, and naturally spoke, and underneath it all simply lived in the world. “But I’m not; not the way ‘they’ are — ‘they’ learn one way to see the world, or maybe if they’re lucky, two or three… but they look at the world through that as their telescope, microscope, picture window. As people from ‘their’ particular little world. And to us… the bigger world tells us how to look at it, all by itself, a piece at a time.” And he wondered just a bit if he was telling too much, or too fast; while the rest of him (as so often, contemplating the majesty of what-is) was in stark and reverent awe of how much there was to see and know in the world, and how wide and deep its beauties ran. (And a different kind of fainter awe, at how little so many of humanity at large either saw or even wanted to see.)

    Strachan stuck out his hand, in that ‘second introduction’ he’d already learned to wait for, here on Marquesas and a few other socially-similar Rim worlds like New Canaan. “Ah, Alec Stross, it’s good to meet you. Sure and you’re an odd one, but only in the best of all possible ways. One of the greatest pleasures of running a little streetside shop like this — though most of our traffic overall is in deliveries, especially to the towns up in the High Country — is meeting people as they come through, interesting and engaging people like yourself. And I hope you’ll forgive my little test of language proficiency the moment we met, but you’ll already have noticed we’re a bit, ah, possessive about our own language here in the uplands.” There was a wry smile as he acknowledged his own sly little grammar pun. “So what exactly is it that brings you here?”

    “I’m going to be a consultant for House Langmuir here for awhile, on a few things that have to do with their networks and processor hubs, and a few other things of… more direct local social relevance.” (Aware he was talking a touch like a press release; and yet information was currency.)

    “No, I meant what brings you into ‘Chemistries and Curiosities’ today?”

    “Well, it happens that I’ve had a little bit of space-sickness on the trip here, and it seems to be persisting in odd little moments of vertigo and the like. Something very familiar to me, and there’s a certain widely exported medicinal-plant-based tonic that’s helped me with it in the past…”

    (Posted an hour or three of virtual-memory misbehavior after writing. And I think all the Scottish here is right, but still wouldn’t swear to it — and perhaps people who have actually been to Scotland can tell how ‘authentic’ (or not) I’ve managed to be in this fictionalized, 22nd-Century offworld, variation on there and about-now…)

  22. The party of Adventurers stopped and set up camp for the night. Everyone, save the mage ate heartily of everything available. He avoided the bread.

    “No bread?” the rest asked.

    He answered, “Haven’t you noticed that every time we stop and eat, something bad befalls us. at least individually? I have skipped everything else at time or another, and had issues each time. The bread might be somehow cursed, or something close to it.”

    “Nonsense! I made it myself! I can’t do magic, good or bad.”

    “I trust you, but something is still wrong.. say, did you sift the flour?”

    “Of course!”

    “With what?”

    “A sieve, of course!”

    “What color was it?”

    “Copper, but why would that matter?”

    “Next time use iron. That’s a possessed sieve.”

    1. This is amusing, and interesting. And there could be some interesting backstory elements, too – what exactly is possessing the sieve? And why? Is it trying to communicate somehow, or just to trouble the characters?

    2. “Next time use iron. That’s a possessed sieve.”

      Ah, instead of separating grains, it attracts weevil.

  23. From an FMA WIP:

    “What’s wrong?” asked Mistress Shan, when the soldier was removed from the work.
    “Either heat exhaustion or possession,” answered minor cleric Shinzou.
    “Possession?” she asked.
    “They believe the ghosts of the dead can take revenge on the living,” said Shinzou.
    “Only demons can possess the living,” said Shan. “They think our people are demons?”
    “No, no,” said the cleric. “They believe in many gods and demons and spirits. When a man kills, they believe he must sacrifice to appease the dead. Their priests and priestesses do that. But it gets tricky if the dead were killed unjustly. They have ways to handle that, too, but it usually involves restitution to the living relatives. You can see the problems they run into there.”
    Lebel approached the canopy. “Ma’am,” he said, bowing to Mistress Shan. “Cleric,” a nod of the head.
    “What’s wrong with your man?” asked Shan.
    He paused, looking at the two Ishvalans. He knew they considered his men to be superstitious.
    “We call it the shakes, ma’am. It just needs rest. A couple of hours should do it.”
    “What’s that?” she asked. “Is it the falling sickness?”
    “Ma’am, the ghosts like to shake us up a bit from time to time. Especially when we’re working in their territory.”

  24. A little, white-haired man burst into our rooms at 221B Baker Street. “I am Theophilus Flammifer,” he said. “I teach English at the Priory School. Look at this grammar book!”

    Sherlock Holmes took the book and leafed through it. “Interesting,” he said. “Here are the subjective and objective, but —”

    “Precisely. The possessive is missing.”

    “Come, Watson. We’ve no time to lose!”

    “I must stay behind,” I replied. “Mrs. Shadwell is almost due and I may be called at any moment.”

    “Very well.” Holmes and Mr. Flammifer departed.

    Half an hour later a knock came at the door. I opened it to find, not a messenger from the Shadwells, but Inspector Lestrade. “I heard about the Flammifer affair,” he said. “I’m here to help.”

    “You shall not touch it,” I said. “Possessive is Holmes’s case.”

    1. Wow. That’s fantastic!

      Possibly deserving of carp, even. Tell you what, I’ll just camp out here for a while and see if the Ichthyoid Division makes an appearance.

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