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

*In keeping with the fact the last few days have been full of Murphy’s blessings, (Including a subscription to mid journey bot, which I can’t activate for …. reasons I don’t understand.) I’m now engaged in a full tilt (at windmills) battle with Amazon to publish Darkship Thieves. While it’s perfectly normal for them to ask for the reversal letter, this time they decided to take stupid pills. So after I sent them the reversal letter, they decided to tell me it didn’t have my name or Baen’s. (It was right there.) And after I sent them that, (screen shots of where they were on the letter) they decided that I now needed to explain why Baen had published it and send documentation (WHAT?); that I had to prove the book was in fact written by me (WHAT? Also library of congress); I needed a contract between myself and the self owned press AND I hadn’t sent them the reversal letter (which has now been sent 5 times.) Now, before you say “Amazon is evil!” I’m not sure this is so much evil as the fact that an ESL speaker is acting like permit-raj. Because they CAN.
As for Amazon being evil: Yeah. It sure is. It’s no more and no less evil, OTOH than the other sites that publish books. Its accounting is better than smashwords; its search functions are better than B & N and Kobo. But more importantly, it is where the customers are. I don’t get the luxury of saying I won’t publish there. Though the fact they’re acting like loons terrifies me I won’t be able to publish the series at all, as I know of other people whom the permit raj decided to f*ck with. (And FYI of all political stripes.)
I do have a means to go around should I be permanently banned, but then I’ll only be able to market to those on my newsletter, which will stop my being able to expand my audience. For self-publishers, (or for that matter consumers of e-books, or even more strangely, low carb eaters) Amazon is Luna Authority in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I’d like to stop doing business with Luna authority, but it’s like stopping doing business with air.

I also wish you to know that Toni Weisskopf has offered to help me convince Amazon that I do indeed have the rights, something that no other traditional publishing house EVER would do. I’m still hoping I can solve this without more work for Toni, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I’m frazzled and upset and late with the promo post. For the last, I request your forgiveness – SAH*

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 WILLIAM LEHMAN: Shadow War (Harvest Of Evil)

When John Fisher retired from the Navy SEALS, he thought he was done with war.

But now, someone is killing the avatars of the tribal gods. Worse
they’re stealing the power that is supposed to revert tp the gods when
the avatars die. Mary has been told to investigate.

FROM JASON FLEMING, BY DWIGHT V. SWAIN: Crusade Across The Void (Annotated): The Classic Space Opera Novella of Revolution.

“Scum of the spaceways,” the interplanetary police had called them, so Wolf Stone and his motley crew left the solar system for another. There, they found a tyranny not too different from the one they left, and this time, they decided to fight.

And when they fought for justice, they were one blood with the crusaders!

    This iktaPOP Media edition has a new introduction giving historical and genre context to the story.

COLLECTED BY AMY SCHULTZ, AND CONTAINING MANY OF YOUR FAVORITE MISCREANTS: The Haunted Library Anthology: Volume 1 (The Haunted Libraries Anthologies)

This anthology is a benefit anthology for the Tom Burnett Memorial Library in Iowa Park, TX,
Is your library haunted?
Are you sure?
Many book lovers find peace and solace in their local library, returning over and over to the place their spirit calls home. Some of them keep going even after their bodies have stopped working. To say nothing of the ones who were already there when their home became the library.
Join 10 authors as they explore haunts from the past, the future, and the dead.

FROM JL CURTIS ET AL: Ranching in Colorado: The Bell Chronicles Book 2

Back in Texas he might be The Rio Kid, but at the other end of a long cattle drive in Fort Collins, Rio Bell is now struggling through his first year as a Colorado rancher. With his new wife, old hands, and a few mountain men, he’s learning fast as they deal with winter weather and stubborn cattle.

The killing cold and deep snows bring all new challenges to calving and just getting in supplies, but tempers can run hot as ever. Not everybody wants to see him succeed… or even survive.

They’re about to learn he’s no greenhorn when it comes to taking care of business, regardless of what that particular business may be.

FROM CAROLYN BICKFORD: Death to COVID (And F*ck You Fauci)

EXPERIENCE THE HORROR! As a new virus escapes from its Chinese prison and threatens to infect all of humanity!
WATCH! As hordes of people fight for toilet paper and run home to lock themselves inside!
GASP! As “Doctor” Anthony Fauci tells everyone to stop everything and cowers them into submission with fear!
A TRUE STORY from a female firefighter who had to go forth amidst the lockdowns and personally saw the psychological and societal destruction brought on by thoughtless politicians, sloppy journalists, and the power of tales of terror.

“A Federal emergency hotline for psychological distress registered more than a 1000% increase in calls that April compared to the same time the year before. How many people were driven to taking their own lives as a result of the never-ceasing panic porn and with restrictions so tight as to imply coronavirus was deadly to each and all, regardless of age or medical status — we will never really know.”

ENCOUNTER! Scolds who shame and intimidate those who dare defy senseless orders!
SHIVER! As mobs appear in the streets to harass and compel the public to their beliefs, and watch as they destroy cities and lynch historical figures!
DISCOVER! A revolution in voting that ends with a new president inaugurated behind barbed wire and guarded by thousands of soldiers!
WITNESS THE POWER! Of censorship and blind public obedience!

And just when you think it’s over…you find out IT NEVER ENDS!

This gripping real-life tale of how people lost their minds in 2020 includes a car chase, a massive fire, and a cast of characters that you will never forget!

FROM D. JASON FLEMING, WRITTEN BY ROBERT ORMOND CASE: The Rider From Hell (Annotated): The classic pulp western revenge novella

A gripping novel of outlaw revenge!

They had heard, those Mexicans, of Gringo honor—and one at least, was willing to gamble that young Dal Givens would return with the many good American dollars for the release of his friend, John Thurston—who otherwise would die of dry rot and torture in the great new Federal prison of Carrizal!

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

(Btw, on these, I want to thank Jason Fleming for bringing these books back. So many of my pulp favorites are out of print and can’t be obtained at any price. These books pay almost nothing, so you need to have a massive volume to make ANY money, and it’s never enough to make a living. So, it’s in many ways a labor of love, and I just wish he’d do more early sf/f. 😉 – SAH)


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.

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: RADIATE

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

  1. My face is radiated with anger because Shadow War (Harvest Of Evil) IS NOT AVAILABLE IN KINDLE FORMAT!

    Oh, not really angered, just annoyed. 😉

  2. It didn’t seem real. All the nightmares Stella remembered had been of this moment, walking down the last hall to the Gate of the Unenlightened. Again and again she had followed this path, waking only when she dream-walked into the door of her quarters. In every one of those dreams it had felt unshakably real.

    But now that it was really happening, she felt herself to be a mere phantom observer, watching as her body wandered down the apparently endless ramp.

    Crowds of observers lined the halls. They were always there. She had even joined them from time to time, watching with morbid curiosity as the Unenlightened were cast out from their midst.

    Unenlightened. That was her, now. Her eyes fell on the black robes that hung from her shoulders to her knees. A hand raised from her side to run the coarse fabric between numb fingers. Her gaze lifted from her still-distant body to the faceless guards surrounding her, robed in radiant white. The brilliance of the World-Light reflecting from their uniforms seemed blinding.

    Her eyes winced shut, and the mocking shouts of the observers seemed like the low thundering of feet many levels above, audible but incomprehensible. A familiar scream rang in her ears, and she wondered that the others didn’t flee the tunnel. The Siren only wailed when a tunnel was collapsing. Did they want so much to see her banished that they were willing to be crushed for the pleasure?

    The Gate was before her. She wondered when it had gotten there. The head of the guard detail stepped forward and took hold of the great iron lock, removing the Key from its chain about his neck.

    Stella watched calmly, wondering when she would wake up.

    The Key was turned, the Gate was opened. Nothing but blackness beyond. Surely she would wake up now? Or no, no, the nightmares only ended when she stood in that blackness. She had a few more steps to go.

    The guards beside her gripped her arms. Looking down at her body, she thought they might be holding on too tightly. The area around their grasping fingers was bone-white. Marching in perfect sync, they pulled her body out past the gate and left her there.

    The Gate groaned as it slowly shut behind her. The Last Light was a circle around her feet, and beyond it was the Dark. A final clang announced the closing of the Gate, and she woke up.

    She was about to die. The Dark was death, all the Enlightened knew that. She was alone, cast out, and about to die. The Last Light would hover above her for a time – none of the condemned knew when it would die out, some had hours of reprieve from their final end, others only seconds – and then it would be gone and she would be eaten.

    Her hands were shaking. Her heartbeat throbbed in her head, as if she’d run through every tunnel behind her. The Last Light – it was there. It was still there. The Dark hadn’t eaten her yet. It was still there.

    She could feel the cameras on her, allowing the observers to watch her last moments. The back of her neck itched.

    And then a voice echoed in her mind, a voice she’d thought she’d killed long ago. To the Deepest Dark with them all, it shouted, a call louder than the shrieking Siren. Her face ached, and she realized she was grinning. A strange sound echoed off the unseen walls of the Dark, and she realized she was laughing.

    And she turned to face the Gate and the cameras, lifting a final salute (of sorts) to her observers. And she left the Last Light willingly, stepping out into the Black with a song of strange and wild joy in her heart.

      1. Thank you, Ing! I do, in fact, hope/intend to write more today. (Although my other vignettes are going to be from other percolating stories.)

        This particular snippet is from a tale I think would be better served by a movie than a book. It’s very visually-focused.

        1. I somewhat know the feeling considering I’m working to adapt things I’d have loved to have seen as story-driven video games into written stories and not generally having much luck unfortunately. Some of the flashier ways Max slices up demons just don’t seem to work as well written out as they would in a more visual medium…

  3. This sounds less like “Amazon evil” and more like this particular pipe has a moron at the keys. Or a lunatic.

    Good luck. I wish I had useful advice, but I don’t have any particular luck with that brand of witchcraft either…

    1. It did have a kind of sh*t-for-brains quality, didn’t it? I had the same sort of thing happen last time I tried refinancing our mortgage. Send in documents. Company asks for more documents. I dredge them up and send them in. Meanwhile, they want updated copies of documents I already sent. I had the luxury of telling them to jump in the lake, so I did.

      1. Now they’re demanding I show them that the author has granted the AUTHOR OWNED PRESS THAT ONLY PUBLISHES ME AND MY PEN NAMES the right to publish my book. No, fucking seriously.

        1. You got a “Big Gun” (named Toni) available.

          Use her.

          (Yes, I know you don’t want to make more work for her, but she is available & willing to help.)

        2. It’s right here in the Operations Manual. Dilbert and Wally will walk you through it…. 😎

            1. Now you comprehend why Vlad Tepes preferred not to remove heads from irritants before placing them on pikes.


        3. Ugh! Someone read Franz Kafka and learned the wrong lesson. Der Process is supposed to be a warning. (Or “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” a lesson in passive-aggressive behavior.)

  4. An unfamiliar sound penetrated Lucius Belfontaine’s sleep. He blinked his eyes to clear them, then pulled himself out of his hammock to get a better view of the lander’s instrument panel.

    Everything looked nominal. He looked over his shoulder at his pilot and Admiral Chaffee, both still sound asleep.

    Could he have imagined the sound? Maybe a dream on the edge of wakefulness, confused with reality?

    Better to check everything over. Given the narrow margins of survival up here on the Moon, he couldn’t assume. And the first rule of rescue was always Don’t put yourself into a situation where you need rescued.

    He examined each gauge and indicator for any sign that something might be amiss. Worst of all would be a situation in which something was giving a false reading that indicated no problem. That was how Aphrodite’s problem sneaked up on Roosa and his crew. Only when it came time to actually use the system did they discover the problem, and by then their only hope for survival was a daring rescue by the crew of the Soviet space station.

    There it was again, a sort of ping that made him think of the boiler for the steam radiators back home as it heated up.

    And then he had its answer. The Sun had reached an angle that the mountains beyond the Soviet moonbase no longer shaded the landing field, and their lander’s hull was heating up. It shouldn’t be a problem, as long as the cooling loops were working properly. But if there was a problem, they’d better catch it now, so they didn’t have to call back home for someone to fly a canister of Freon over here.

  5. “They just radiate sincerity, don’t they.” Pteri’s new exos hummed and whirred ever so slightly as she straightened her posture and attempted to radiate a dignity and respect she did not feel.

    The Committee for Fairness in Competition, they called themselves…fairness, ha! Azure Group finds a new way to win, and now the committee starts asking questions about rules? Where were they when the Crimson Coalition broke the rules with Cyill’s mass produced wall-copters? When Obsidian…Bill Speans, that traitor…almost killed everyone with nanocytes?

  6. SAH. Just want to say thank you for all your hard work on this blog. I’m a relative newbie here, but you inspire courage to keep me moving forward as a wannabee author and voice in the wilderness. Even though the odds are against success and I have a long way to go, I plod forward indefatigably on my book efforts. I’m having my first “Meet the Author” event at a conservative coffee shop in Florida in about a month. Placing flyers in libraries. Avoiding feeding the Amazon beast (for their dubious click adds) and just self-promoting. Amazon is just my printer and distributor. Even got my book into a library’s collection! Wow. Feels kind-of COOL! No matter what happens, again thanks for just inspiring us all to move forward, fight, and stand! Just wish I had more time to write a sequel.

    1. Good luck with your (ad)venture! Please let us know how you’re doing, and if you have a website.

      And thanks again to Sarah!

      1. I don’t have a website yet but have reserved a few domains in advance for when I can afford a website. I have some unique marketing ideas like starting a “book chain”, whereby I give out free book copies to readers. I put a sticker in the book saying this is for deplorables (conservatives and libertarians) and to read. If they like the book, the sticker says buy a copy to support the author and pass the copy with sticker to a like minded friend. Kind of like those old chain letters in school. Just starting these marketing campaigns and not sure how it will work but I believe in my product. My ultimate marketing plan is held in reserve until and if I ever make the big time.

      1. As for amazon ads, I just feel that the click ads are not fruitful. I’ll check their site again and try to learn more about how their system works. Learning and thinking are better than making decisions on feelings alone. Hell, I still need to pay off the couple of speeding tickets in Virginia when I was driving to do research at my books locale! Lol.

  7. I’m still a bit too drained for a vignette at the moment but I did want to offer some sympathy when it comes to Murphy’s blessings. Here’s hoping he finds other people to pester while we both work on important things…

  8. “Howland Technologies, LTD: We radiate life!”

    Nigel Slim-Howland cringed every time he read that bit of sales copy. “We lease companion services,” he thought. “We radiate competence. We radiate commitment.” Jenkins, Gwendolyn, all the firm’s companions were lifelike, but to suggest the comparison so directly? Nigel blanched at the idea.

      1. Don’t tell that to Howland Technologies’ marketing department. They’d just look at you funny. Nigel would certainly understand your comment, though.

        And Jenkins, with the ability to access endless information via the cloud, would have a pithy comment on the “spore” reference in about one and a quarter seconds, tops.

  9. Taking a slightly different tack here, in a different universe —

    Cari felt like shouting “Look at me, everybody!” New shoes, her deep blue dress with the silver piping – she felt absolutely radiant! Her auntie had even helped with her makeup. “Wait ‘til Max sees me!” she thought, entering the coffee shop across from the convention center to wait for him.

  10. Light formed a pool in the room, about the central table where a single light spell glowed a candle’s height over it. Isabella had lit no other, and the corners of the room were cast in shadow. Delia and Charlotte-Rose, moving ahead of them, darkened it farther until they sat.

      1. Ava does, too. It’s deliberately melodramatic to impress the importance of things on them.

  11. Brian had warned her to flee as far as she could. Paths would radiate outward, so that any pursuit would have to search more and more the farther she moved.
    Here she did not have to consider whether her path was marked. She could run before they knew she fled.

  12. (Btw, on these, I want to thank Jason Fleming for bringing these books back. So many of my pulp favorites are out of print and can’t be obtained at any price. These books pay almost nothing, so you need to have a massive volume to make ANY money, and it’s never enough to make a living. So, it’s in many ways a labor of love, and I just wish he’d do more early sf/f. 😉 – SAH)

    I do lots of SF/F! Granted, the westerns are more plentiful, simply because that genre isn’t being much served by the current market, and there’s tons of westerns becoming PD every year, while SF is only just starting to age into the public domain. (1926 entered the public domain in toto in the USA this past January. Which was the first year Gernsback published Amazing Stories.)

    But in the wings, after the October Eerie Collection — which includes SF by Dwight Swain and Leigh Brackett — I’ve got novels by Simak and John Russell Fearn and (if Gutenberg doesn’t beat me to any of them) Henry Kuttner lined up to work on, along with several novels that were only serialized in the pulps, pre-Golden Age.

          1. He only died in 1988, so my guess is he set up a legal entity to shepherd his IP. That virtually never works well, long-term. Burroughs and Tolkien are the only mostly-exceptions I know of, and Tolkien’s estate is going down the tubes now that his son is dead.

            I’ll look into it, though.

  13. Light radiated from the doorway ahead. Liam wondered how many candles they burned. At least they warmed the room while his father lay ill, and the doctors insisted that draft would endanger his living out the day.
    For a moment, he stood in the doorway. His father did not stir.

  14. Starship combat, I had learned, was all about the signatures.

    You can’t “see” a ship at combat ranges, not really. Even light isn’t that fast when you’re talking about a difference of light seconds and light minutes. It was what the ship’s signature that was radiating to your sensors that you looked out for, and what that signature did would tell you a lot.

    Blue shift, red shift, multi-point tracking from multiple sensors on your hull, how ships would “baffle” their signature using their hypersink, killing the reactor and running on capacitor power, deliberately running hot to conceal damage, distortion generators, “spike” and “static” jammers…and all of this going on with that strange illusion of both far too much time and not enough time because of how long it took torpedoes, missiles, and beam weapons to cross from one ship to another.

  15. She would never learn these corridors that Augusta flitted down. They did not radiate from the center or stand like squares, and if a field’s byways were as strange, that was easy enough to see by climbing a rise and looking about. Here, stone walls blocked sight, leaving her trapped.

  16. Something gleamed in the heart of the tower. Marcus knocked. When he got no answer, he eased back toward the kitchen. Perhaps Master Stephanos would be free from his studies and want to talk with him.
    Voices rose ahead. Another wizard stood with Master Stephanos by a light tinged blue.

  17. It looked like a normal – if particularly large and perfect – geologic sample.

    But within a certain distance, one would feel one’s skin prickling, like strong sunlight on a clear day. The closer one approached, the stronger the sensation, to the point where it would burn.

    The Geiger counter registered nothing.

    1. Now that’s an UH-OH if there ever was.
      I suspect that “run away” is a Good Idea with the Inverse-Square Law.
      And that drones with every detector imaginable (and not all making immediate sense) are also Good Ideas. And NOT of the Good Idea Fairy type.


      1. Sorry, just the vignette. There’s no WIP to go with it.

        I just like the challenge of evoking the prompt without actually using the word. ^_^

  18. He stood silently at the crossroads, watching the moon creep across the sky as it slowly edged closer to midnight. “About ten minutes, now,” he thought to himself and busied himself drawing the pentagram in salt in the exact middle, the point from which the roads radiated out in the cardinal directions, then began the incantation.
    “Mephistopheles, I summon thee!”

    Exactly at midnight, a well-dressed man appeared in the middle of the circle in a puff of brimstone and fire.
    “What do you seek, young one?”
    “Then let us bargain.”

    1. Oh, boy. This’ll go well.

      I’d be interested to hear where this story’s going! If this character is the protagonist, surely there’s going to be some story detailing how he got here… or at least where he’s planning to go from here.

      1. I’m pretty sure he’s an antagonist. He may be the primary foe of the private detective and the catholic priest in my urban fantasy stories that I’ll get back to some day.

        1. That sounds like an interesting story! And yeah, I was thinking antagonist, but sometimes you can work stories so that a normally decent protagonist (Harry Dresden, for example) has to go for the lesser of evils (which in Mephisto’s case would still be pretty darn evil, but he might be tricked/cheated if you’re going the Lawful Evil/More Lawyerly Than Lawyers route for your devils.)

  19. Simon peered through the microscope. If he knew his microscopy, and he should, he’d been using microscopes since they were invented, this pattern of cracks radiating from multiple centers was not natural to this material. He’d been doing occasional odd jobs of failure analysis since the field was invented, looking for just this kind of thing, but normally he saw mundane metal fatigue or ordinary contamination. This was different. To make certain, he murmured a cantrip, invoking magical sight. Yes, there it was, unmistakably, the signs of unnatural magic. His breath quickened. This was his true profession and always had been, to track down evil interference with nature’s laws, trace it to its source, and put it down. Those with evil intent were always coming up with new and clever exploits of growing knowledge of natural law, and it was all he could do to keep up.
    He picked up the phone. “Mrs. Dennison? Sorry to disturb you. This is Simon Magister, the failure analyst your company hired….Yes, I’ve found the cause of your husband’s plane crash, and you were right to suspect sabotage…No, I can’t explain, it’s much too technical, but I hope you will trust that I know what I’m talking about….Right now, I would recommend that you hire a forensic accountant to look over your company’s books. Yes, I’ve worked with them before. and I believe they are competent. I’d also recommend a very discreet look at one of your suppliers…. Yes, that one. You already suspected something there?… You do now? Very good. … No ma’am. there will be no charge for my services. This is pro bono…No ma’,am that’s very generous of you, but I can’t possibly accept your money. I have other sources of income and all expenses are already covered for this kind of investigation, but I would appreciate it if we could continue to work together….No ma’am, its no distraction at all. I now have a professional interest in this case as well and it overlaps with yours.

  20. “It’s radiating heat. Glorious heat, in this forsaken frozen-” Taylor was cut off by Logan

    “Get back NOW!”

    “What? Why?” demanded Taylor.

    Logan explained, “We have no idea WHY it’s hot. If there’s a fire behind it, fine, but we saw no smoke or heat plume. If it’s electric resistance, where’s the power coming from? Or it could be a nuclear reaction making heat, bad news up close. And then there’s the nasty stuff.”

    “Nastier than a reactor or such?”

    “We can deal reactors, radwaste, RTG’s, RPG’s. The scary stuff is the stuff we don’t know. For all we know know, it could be ‘magic'”..there was a faint, butstrange crackle… “and that’s ALWAYS bad news until fully understood – and sometimes still bad then.”


    ORANGE-BLACK(!) flash and Taylor seemed to have been turned into a statue.

    “Alright everyone, be VERY careful what you say. We seem to be in a high… I-WILL-NOT-SAY-IT… field.”

  21. “How do you do it?”

    The question dropped into the background near-silence like a rock into a pond; it made its little splash and then hardly anything more against the further noises of footfalls and hoof-falls and jingling this and that.

    Until the person it’d been aimed at said, simply, “Huh?” — in that very particular inflection that meant, “Need more information to say much.”

    When you were on the march, or especially on patrol in somewhat mischancy country like this, it was comforting to have those little silences, those narrow curt responses… so your ears and your attention were confirming for you, regularly and often, nothing noticeably far out of the ordinary. Or instead, telling you what to react to, soonest.

    “How do you do it, Parker? Radiate that sense of calm and goodness like you do, just about all the time?” (Repeating a question like that had a way of meaning “let’s really talk, huh?” or something close to it.)

    He smiled and sort-of chuckled, subtly and quietly. “Not so calm as you and the rest of the Company might think, Colby. Much of that’s simply how it’s easier and quicker to keep all the noise and nonsense inside, if you can’t leave it lyin’ in the box in the first place. Don’t do much good to let any of it run around loose.” This from a man who could and did scream like all the devils of Gehinnom had been freed to play, sometimes in the middle of a hot hard-pressed fight. But of course, that being useful or at least somewhat distracting to the foe, likely that was different.

    And there was another of those open little measured, measuring silences.

    Anselm Colby tried a different direction of approach. “But I know you’ve not the same demeanor as so many of us… you never seem to lose yourself in surprise or anger or passion or whatever. You get angry, you get happy at the littlest things, you fight like — nobody else I’ve ever seen, but none of it seems to pull you in or drag you down. I know you’re something of a holy man, that’s plain to see whatever you say with all the ones who come to you with this or that; but I can’t understand what it is you have that none of the rest of us seem able to touch.”

    And for Colby, like just about everyone in this end of the Company, that was about the closest thing to a full-on speech you’d ever likely hear.

    “What you’re talking about is called detachment, usually, equanamity, some such thing… it’s not grasping at anything, the Buddhists say, which may be how to say it best. But don’t think it’s sitting back and saying, no, I won’t feel anything, or if I do it’s not real or not me. It’s feeling what you feel, but not letting yourself forget everything else as you do.”

    And then he continued. “When my Anna died of the pox, I felt that my world was over — and only natural, from how long and how well we both knew the other. But the sun was still shining, most of the days that fall, the birds were still singing in the trees. My world wasn’t really over at all, it was only one very important piece had been ripped out of it. And it turned out I really wanted to live, after that, mostly because as soon as I bothered to think about it, she’d’ve been mad as fury at me if I’d just tried to sit down and ferment, or simply gone looking for an end, had she been still around to make me listen.”

    And there was another brief pause, full only of horse-noises and joggling of gear, and a hint of wind through the trees. Colby had no words to say.

    “But I couldn’t listen to her; if she could still talk to me I sure could not hear any more. But there were so many people who had said things, and so many places I could go to hear or read them. Church and the Good Book, and Rumi the poet, and the Tibetans and the other Buddhists, and mystics like Hildegarde of Bingen, and the Heathens and all their old Northland tales, and on and on and on. And before long I found that if I came to a few of those Ones in respect and courtesy, most of ’em would talk back.”

    He smiled a rueful smile that was barely tinged with sadness. “You know what the most terrifying and hopeful words in all the Bible are? For me?”

    “‘He is risen?’ I couldn’t begin to guess, Parker, I’m truly not much of a scholar or a verse-quoter, never have been.” Though it felt as if there ought to be some honorific attached to the older man’s name, he’d thrown ice-cold water on the idea of being even any sort of unofficial chaplain of any way or form. (“Can’t have a divided command, you know that; and where these things of the spirit are, I have one to answer to already.”)

    “‘All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.’ Note there are two conditions there, young Colby, which many people miss. But once they’re met… ‘all things.’ Not ‘all good things’ or ‘all blessed things’ — all things with no further exceptions, ifs ands or buts. Bold and clear… and if you bother to look deep enough, though often in subtle and terrifying ways… also quite visibly true, more and more so as harder and closer you look.”

    “But you look, though, Parker. Obviously you devote yourself to it, when so much of the rest of us don’t, or hardly do.” This was not going to be a matter settled simply to rest on horseback, in the middle of a maneuver.

    “Do you know why Odin’s always going around with that eyepatch?”

    Colby was a little nonplussed. “Where I come from just about everybody is Christian, so, no, not really at all.” The shift was jarring, puzzling.

    “A lot of outside people seem to think it’s from getting the runes, you know, ‘nine nights I hung on that windy tree, myself sacrificed to myself’ and finally at the end of it ‘then I took up the runes, screaming I fell back from there’ — but it’s something else entirely. Two people, that we know of from the stories, asked for a drink from Mimir’s well. Odin gave up one eye and got clear seeing; Heimdall gave up one ear and got clear hearing. Give a little up, or a lot, to get far more than you had.”

    And there was an impish and mischievous smile on Stevenson Parker’s face, just as sudden and mercurial as that. “Think about him, some long ‘boring’ night on sentry duty, young Colby. Standing on that bridge of his, all the time straining his amazing hearing, ever listening for that deadly sound of the coming of the end of the world.”

    And just as sudden it was gone. “I’d never have made that trade, not now in my life and not before either. But I never had to pay anything,” and he paused just a beat, just an instant before going on as before, “to get any such gift. Someone else paid for me, just like someone behind you in line at the general store giving you a nice surprise. And she didn’t pay only an eye or an ear, either, she gave up all she had. So I try to make the most of the gift Anna gave to me, whether she meant deep down to or not.”

    And then he smiled a different way, wide and bright as the blade of one of those full-size highland broadswords a very few of the more giantish members of the Company had sometimes been known to wield. “And further, it occurs to correct you in one particular. Radiate goodness, well, maybe at times. But do you know why my sword belt is made the way it is, when so many of us favor dull leather instead?” For it was braided cord, several strands of what seemed all the bright-dyed colors of the rainbow.

    “No, I always thought it some sort of challenge to the enemy.”

    “Oh, it is, it is. But where Constantine the Emperor got his sigil, ‘in this sign, conquer’ in a dream, I got a different one from a different Person. Her rainbow dress is the sign of Lady Oya, and the name of my sword is Tornado. Fortunately I’m no emperor, but it seems I have had a bit of luck with that far humbler favor. My Anna,” he smiled again a good bit less blood-hungrily, “always hated to see any good thing go to waste.”

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