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 ALMA T. C. BOYKIN: Preternaturally Familiar

Where is home for a Hunter?

Uneasy rests the head upon which rests the leadership of the River County Hunter clan. Arthur Saldovado’s older brother grows distant and untrusting. Arthur must balance his duty to the senior Hunter with protecting the shadow mage Hunter in Shadows and preventing strife within the clan. Arthur’s adopted daughter, Lelia Lestrang, watches and worries. That is, when she’s not trying hard to keep from ordering her children to marry (she wants grandchildren!) and sighing mightily when her much loved husband leaves his clothes lying in front of the laundry hamper yet again.

Then a sorceress discovers the remains of a gate between the worlds, cast with blood-path magic.

Where can an out-cast Hunter find shelter, save for the grave?

“I wish something would happen and clear the air!” When the storm breaks, Lelia, André, their Familiars, and their family pull together to fight a battle Lelia though had ended fifty years before.

The end of an era? Or the start of something Preternaturally Familiar?

FROM TOM VEAL: Daimon Born: The First Adventure of Theagoniste

To feeble human perception, Earth is a tiny ball inside a gigantic void. To the daimons, the aetherial winds fill that void with sights, sounds, odors, tastes, feelings and sensations that humans cannot comprehend. From the clash of those winds, daimons come into being. “Daimon Born” portrays that strange world beyond the Moon from the viewpoint of Theagonistes, a daimon whose actions will someday be highly consequential for the human world. This prologue to his biography recounts his first (literal) impact on the Earth and how he became an exile there.

FROM E. L. LYONS: Starlight Jewel: Gifts of the Auldtree

Gifts of the Auldtree is a world of mythology, glamor, mud, blood, civilizations in conflict, and hints of distant powers. In the center of it all is the mysterious Starlight Jewel of Minalav.

Axly, the Starlight Company’s premier seductress-thief and assassin, will do whatever it takes to keep her human brother hidden. The secrets of his origin could tear their world apart, and keeping them has driven her to lies and murder. Her people, the sprygan-human hybrids that live under the city of Minalav, aren’t keen on allowing their most skilled asset to roam free. A job with a human offers a chance to get her brother out of danger, but it comes at a price. Divided loyalties, duty, romance, and the twisted hands of fate intertwine as the characters struggle through this epic fantasy adventure.

FROM ANNA FERREIRA: The Flight of Miss Stanhope: A Short and Sweet Regency Romance

Marianne Stanhope is in trouble. Her family is urging her to accept the attentions of a most odious suitor, so she turns to a gentleman of her acquaintance for aid. But Mr. Firth has his own reasons for assisting Miss Stanhope, and it falls to her childhood friend Mr. Killingham to convince her that she’s made a dreadful mistake.

FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Simple Service: A Science Fiction Lost Colony Adventure

They’re stranded beyond the known stars. Will Peter Dawe’s perilous mission with a brother he despises end in death?

A lost starship’s settlers, isolated on an uncharted alien world, manage to terraform a mountain-ringed valley into a rich replica of Earth. Despite their success reproducing the environment they need to survive and thrive, only tenuous forces hold together the human

colony on the world of Not What We Were Looking For. The governor’s appropriation of the western settlers’ weapons for the city strains those bonds to breaking point—and then beyond when Peter Dawe’s father sends him to get the weapons back.
Twenty-year-old Peter Dawe’s restless nature easily endures the lost colony world’s rigors. His genetic modifications make it even easier. So when Peter retrieves the family weapon, he also brings back a motorbike, a piece of technology no longer available to everyone.

It would be a fine prize to keep to himself. He won it. He earned it. He quickly learns that his brother Simon lies in wait to take what isn’t his. Simon wants more than just the motorbike. He wants Peter’s glory.

But when Peter’s father forces him to take his hated older brother on Peter’s next mission, the pair must not only navigate the city’s perils and politics but learn to work together—when neither thinks the other should be in charge. Their success—and their very lives—depend on it. Or will Peter be proven right that he should have faced this task alone?

Simple Service is the first book in the immersive Martha’s Sons science fiction series. If you like gripping action, insurmountable odds, and alien worlds, you’ll love Laura Montgomery’s tale of a man determined not to let family ties sabotage mission success.

Buy Simple Service to pull off the impossible today!

FROM ROY M. GRIFFIS: The Thing From HR: A Cthulhu, Amalgamated Novel

What’s a nice Shoggoth like him doing in a dump like this?

Narg was content working as a Damnation Services-10 in HR. Sure, he was related to one of the Elder Gods, but a little nepotism never hurt any Thing. His life was just wailing and gibbering, right up until his Uncle needed a small favor from his nephew.

All Narg had to do was go down among the humans…and pretend to be one of them.

These are not your Grandfather’s tales of Eldritch Horror: this is the untold story of the ghastly, unappreciated (and entirely expendable) minor monstrosities that support the Inscrutable Plans Of Dark Gods And Elder Things Beyond The Knowledge Of Men.

The Cthulhu Amalgamated series is a comic romp full of action and mystery, including, of course, Sanity-Shattering Horror––and that’s just the paperwork. Even H.P. could not conceive of the Corporate Terrors that await The Thing from HR.

FROM AMIE GIBBONS: Scorpions of the Deep: The Demon Crusades Dark Paranormal Thrillers

If you love chilling tales of the demonic that’ll keep you up at night a la ‘The Conjuring,’ and stories of the ultimate battle against evil for humanity’s soul, then plunge into this pulse pounding, paranormal thriller series from bestselling author Amie Gibbons.

Since The Fall, demons have infected humanity. Most people these days don’t believe. And as the world grows darker, what they don’t know will hurt them.

Sarah Blakely’s back home after college when her life falls apart. With no plan, no direction, and no hope, she could use something to believe in. Especially after her depressed mind starts playing tricks on her.

She’s seeing and hearing things that aren’t there, that can’t be there, no matter what abilities she’s imagined herself having in the past, because demons, ghosts, and the supernatural aren’t real…

But there are more things in Hell and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy. They’ll use her depression to break her. Does she have it in her to save her soul from the clutches of Hell?


Like all Private Detectives, Seamus Lebanon [Leb] Magis has often been told to go to Hell. He just never thought he’d actually have to go. But when an old client asks him to investigate why Death Metal bands are dressing in pink – with butterfly mustache clips – and singing about puppies and kittens in a bad imitation of K-pop bands, Leb knows there’s something foul in the realm of music. When the something grows to include the woman he fell in love with in kindergarten and a missing six-year-old girl, Leb climbs into his battered Suburban and like a knight of old goes forth to do battles with the legions of Hell. This is when things become insane…. Or perhaps in the interest of truth we should say more insane.

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: POSITION

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

  1. “I’m in a strange position here, Agent Michaelson.”

    “How so MISTER Grey”?

    “Well, here we are detained by the police of a petty island nation for the crime of defending ourselves.”

    “I don’t think they’d like the “petty” part.”

    “Ah, but their listening devices have “broken down” so they can’t hear us”.

    “Thanks to a gadget you pawned from your hotel room, Mr. Slippery Fox”.

    “Ah, that makes things easier for me dear lady”.

  2. “I would like to posit that this ion is part of the results of experiment 3.14 Papa Indigo,” she said.

    “I see. So that is your posit ion?”

        1. No, not ducks. Carp. Not even the same class, though the same kingdom. (Even both vertebrates, but a lot of animals have that in common.)

  3. Seeking relief, Jane shifted her position on the hard cafeteria bench for the third time in ten minutes. Rhetta Morgan, the PTA head, was complimenting her best friend Susan on her committee’s timely inventory of the contents of the school library. As Susan was angling for the position of PTA head for the next calendar year, Rhetta had stretched her fulsome compliments to three minutes when thirty seconds would have been more than enough.

    As Jane caught the eye of the school’s principal she could see that he, too, had reached the end of his patience. “Thank you, Mrs. Morgan, but I really think that it is time we discussed the fundraiser for the school’s athletic equipment,” he commented.

    “Perhaps we should have… a bake sale!” Rhetta announced as if she’d discovered the theory of relativity.

    Dr. Anderson produced an index card from his pocket and reviewed it. “The results of the bake sale seven months ago were rather disappointing, as you will recall, Mrs. Morgan. We need to get more of the parents involved. Perhaps a games night? With an entry fee?”

    The response was silence, until Jane raised her hand. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. We could have a separate games area for the children and one for the adults. Board games and refreshments!”

    Anderson gave her a grateful look. The PTA head looked as if Jane had committed an act of sacrilege against the Holy Bake Sale. “Well, perhaps then you would take charge of this event, Mrs. Waite?” was her response.

    Jane realized she had placed herself squarely behind the eight ball.

    1. “Don’t worry, dear girl,” whispered the devil on Jane’s shoulder. “I’ve got just the thing.”

      Although a couple of parents stormed out the night of – and the PTA head fainted dead away – everyone else had a wonderful time playing Dungeons and Dragons.

      And Jane was never asked to plan game night ever again…

      1. Although the visit to the old steam-tunnels was perhaps a bit more exciting than originally envisioned, what with losing Karen Egbert and all.

    2. “Don’t worry, dear girl,” whispered the devil on Jane’s shoulder. “I’ve got just the thing.”

      Although a couple of parents stormed out the night of – and the PTA head fainted dead away – everyone else had a wonderful time playing Dungeons and Dragons.

      And Jane was never asked to plan game night ever again…

  4. “The particles are not neutral. If they were, we could give you an accurate accounting of our location. Of course, could we do that we would not need to seek your aid in navigation by setting up beacons or homing in on us.”

    “You posit ions interfering with your ability to compute your position?”

    “I was very carefully avoiding saying it that way.”

    “Was that ‘Ozzy’ on the radio?”

    “Yep, Phineas Shone stuck again.”

    “I admire your restraint. I’d have called him-”

    “I was carefully avoiding making our situation worse by calling him ”P. ‘Ozzy’ Shone’!”

    “Their comms guy is really smooth. Straight talk, and did not make the obvious joke on my name. I was kinda looking forward to that, really, so I could razz him about it.”

    “So what you gonna do/”

    “The worst revenge of all. I’m gonna recommend him for a promotion.”

    K. Ronos nearly choked on his drink.

      1. Good news! The aardvark just unlocked the carp storage room, so we’re in position for any non-piscine stinkers. The piccine ultra-stinkers are in the closed tub for recycled puns.

  5. Lina shifted her position and stared out at the back yard. What the hell was moving around out there? She rubbed her eyes. Wait. It was in the middle of the yard… where did it go? She darted to the back door then hesitated.

    “No, let’s not be that stupid,” she muttered to herself. “Running into a dark yard at two in the morning when you have no idea what’s out there is a really bad idea. A Darwin Award winning idea, even.”

    She went back to staring out the kitchen window.

    And I LOVE the new Deep Pink cover!

  6. Deep Pnk…

    Great. Now my mind’s ear is stuck hearing a J-pop “Smoke on the Water”…


    At least it isn’t Disco.

    Oh, frell…

    1. Hey! Fellow Farscape fan!

      I’ve found myself using ‘Frell’ a lot lately, though generally just to myself rather than in conversation. It’s kind of interesting to watch what made-up expletives I use most often, they generally shift every once in a while.

      1. Farscape has some fans here (raises hand), but it doesn’t get referenced nearly as much as Babylon 5.

  7. Far from his usual Baltimore haunts, the penurious author Edgar Allen was expected at a place in New Orleans.

    The police stakeout was located with exacting care, in the po’ Poe po-po position.

    The officers ran, screaming, into the night.

        1. Never fear… we upgraded them to X-ray lasers. No pesky back-lighting to spoil the surprise when they reach the position of the intended recipient.

        2. I suspect I really do not want to know, but what, in this context, is a ‘shooting shark’? I’m guessing it’s nothing to do with Austin Powers.

          1. It’s from the song ‘Shooting Shark’ on the 1983 Blue Oyster Cult album ‘The Revolution By Night’. In the song, the Shooting Shark is a recurring comet.

            Three times I’ve sent you back from me
            Three times my bones gone dry
            And three times I’ve seen the Shooting Shark lighting up the sky

  8. A good article/interview with myself by Christian Toto just hit the stacks, “How ‘Escape from the Future’ Highlights Our Surreal Present” Sarah, you graciously allowed me to post about a sale of one of my books before, so I’m going to take a chance and post this link. If this is a problem, please just excise it. But I think, since the topic is books and promos… I think it fits. If not, you know what to do. Thank you!

    1. @ carlmelcher1 > “interview with myself by Christian Toto”

      That was very interesting, and you made some excellent points, especially about the ability of science fiction to get readers to entertain ideas and ideologies that they might shun if presented as “real world” facts.
      And the caveat that they have to be presented in well-written, entertaining works, “vivid and compelling” as you say, and not as what I would call propaganda sermons.

      As for the lack of conservative-oriented “mainstream” culture (movies, books, tv) — let’s hope that is changing with the advent of Daily Wire films, high-quality Christian-themed films, and movies by other independents (eg, “My Son Hunter”).
      Of course, few of these are being seen by the committed Left, but they might influence independents and centrist Democrats.
      We hope.

      1. Thanks for reading the article and your comment. I appreciate it and thought it was ‘on point.’. I wanted to comment on this: “the advent of Daily Wire films, high-quality Christian-themed films, ” I’m a Christian, not a very good one, but I’m trying. I was born a cradle Catholic, and like a lot of them I fell away once I got in my teens. But I came back to Christianity much later in life. I’ve thought about writing a ‘Christian book,’ but I decided that no many secular people–the majority of the United States now–would read it. So what I try to do in my books of late, is to approach them, using ‘moral’ but not outwardly Christian types. I try to write ‘moral fiction.’ And in this last book, (Escape From the Future), I did something that… if I slipped it in to a manuscript with a commercial publisher, they might demand that I take it out. I put in, right at the end of the story, the family, praying around the table, mentioning Jesus, praying that what they saw in 2025 would somehow never come to pass. I’m very proud of that and also, I know that commercial publishers would not be. Anyway, best to you and yours!

  9. The next morning, after we escaped and found our rides and got back home, we woke up after an unsettling and sore sleep. Fortunately, neither of our outfits from the show were damaged, so we could return them with a clean conscience. We got a shower in, kicked our regeneration into full gear, and rested as long as we could before Mayuri came for us and we were sitting at the table for breakfast.

    Before we can get out for the day, Touma comes in and sits down. “Adelaide, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to grab you for today,” he starts without preamble.

    I’m still sore and it takes me a few seconds to track. “Uh?” I said around the food in my mouth. I was not a delicate flower of a lady at that point, damn it.

    “I asked some of the people I know in the Japanese government,” Touma continued. He’s rich enough that there are people that owe him that kind of request for information and they would help him. “The moment I started talking about Solists, someone in the Ministry of Justice came to me and asked some questions. When I told him that you were here, he wanted to talk with you, this morning, at his office. Just you, nobody else.”

    I’m finishing my next bite, and I look at my breakfast. “Does he have a name?”

    “Yoshimi Kei,” Touma continues. “Junior but oddly connected member of the Ministry of Justice in the Civil Affairs Bureau. Doesn’t seem to have a real position but has a corner office on the inside portion of the Red Brick Building, the first office of the Ministry of Justice. I had some of the company people check on him, and he’s remarkably light on photos, appearances online and such. He exists, that’s not to be argued, but he’s very discreet.”

    “So, when are we seeing him?” I asked.

    He looked at his watch and frowned. “One hour. Forty-five minutes to drive there.”

    Which is why I had to do about four different spells to look like I spent a half-hour styling my hair and cleaning myself in less than five minutes and getting dressed and ready at the door in ten minutes. Viola-thank God, Goddess, Odin, Amaterasu-ōmikami, Visinu, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, take your pick of deities-had packed a sensible dress suit, sensible heels, and a sensible strand of pearls to go with the sensible handbag and tie that made me look like a very serious young lady. Into the car and Charlotte drove like a maniac, giving us four minutes to spare. About four blocks away, Touma gives me a card and says, “You’ll have to leave your cell phone outside of his office, you understand.”

    “I do,” I sigh, and Charlotte pulls us in front of the doors to the Red Brick Building-two and a half stories of classical office structure, and I step out of the car alone. Through the front door, security, a metal detector, polite questions and a phone call, and an escort to a very plain door with only a name and very vague title on it. I knocked on the door and the pretty secretary let me in, apologized and asked to keep my cell phone, and led me into the small office.

    First impressions of Kei Yoshimi? Spindly. Japanese male, mid-30s, black hair that looks like a wire mop head, arms and legs probably 15% too long for his body, thin-to-gaunt general body design. Lips so thin that it’s barely a slash of pinkish red in his face, eyes so dark brown they’re almost black. He comes around his desk and formally greets me. “Taylor-san, a pleasure to meet you,” and we shake hands, great grip with swordsman calluses along the inside of his first finger and thumb. Well-concealed surprise at how strong my grip is but hides it quickly. Excellent poker face for the unwary, but five and a half months of Sayuri-watching has given me great insights into Japanese facial expressions.

    “A pleasure as well,” I reply, and before I sit down, I can feel the air dimple in the room as Kei brings up scrying barriers. He’s strong, but not that strong from what I can feel. I switch to High Imperial for a moment, and ask, “You’re a Sol, right?”

    Kei looks grumpy at this, and replies in High Imperial, “Yes, Solist Taylor, I am a Sol.” He then switches back to Japanese. “In fact, I am the oldest Sol in Japan, and the oldest known members of the Dawn Empire here in Japan.” I suspect he was going to try to play “I’m your senpai“ card, but by strict Dawn Empire rules of precedence, I’m the senior here, even if I became a Solist only twenty minutes ago. We waited a moment, and he realized that he couldn’t use that against me. “But it is good to see a new member of the Empire here.”

    I tilted my head, curious. “How old are you?”

    “I was born in Taisho 10, Taylor-san,” he considered me and walked over to a small side table with a tea pot and fixings. “Tea?”

    “Yes, please,” I reply, and he starts brewing. “I’m glad to meet you, Yoshimi-san. I don’t know how the Empire-at least the military aristocracy end-interacts with governments. What can you tell me about American interactions?”

    He stiffens for a moment, and the slight tremor of his hand is-to my eyes-a sign of well-concealed rage. If his claimed birthday was right, he was born in 1921, and he probably grew up despising Westerners and Americans. “Very little, I’m afraid. After the mokusatsu and the end of the Greater East Asian War, we had to interact a great deal with the American forces involved. Their hunters were mostly occupied in Europe, you must understand, but there was one Sol and his Companions that were here before the Gyokuon-hōsō, by the request of the Solist here at the time.”

    He handed me a teacup and sat down behind his desk. We both sipped at our tea and waited for a moment. “We lost our Solist prior to Hiroshima being bombed, but the new Solist tried to maintain continuity of operations. We were in cooperation with the American authorities during the Occupation, which I learned was an aspect of a group called ‘the Black Chamber’. This continued up until Showa 23, when it ended abruptly. The members left, and we had no formal contact after that. Any actions of a supernatural nature that involved American occupation sites were handled internally, which included their forces engaging us. I have also heard that some pressure has been placed on the government to start a more proactive policy against the kami and ourselves.”

    “Do you know why?” I asked, curiously. His choice of words were very interesting-classical Japanese years, dating around the Emperor at the time. All of his terminology was directly out of the pre- and World War II-era Japanese nationalist cant, and he clearly was not happy when the United States tried to dictate policy.

    “They’re gaijin,” Kai replied, a touch of a sneer as he used the term. Definitely an insult, I thought. One he would use on me, if I wasn’t a Solist and could probably kick his ass across the Imperial Palace and land without hitting anything in the Palace grounds. I’m getting the feeling that he’s an old-school misogynist that would prefer to see me in geta, keeping the house up, and working on a brood of children for him. Assuming he would pollute himself by wasting his seed on dasai American whores.

    His opinion of me was not obvious, mind you, but I was getting a better feel for his emotions. He did not like me, and it wasn’t just that I was a female and American. “From what I have been told, they will not speak with us directly. All of our interactions with them are through the Ministry of Foregin Affairs, and they are simply barbarians ordering us around. Just that ‘the supernatural in any form is dangerous’ and offering to help ‘deal’ with things. That would be a mistake here, as the land of Yashima is as much a part of the world of the kami and the mortal realm. There would be war, Taylor-san, and I do not think that the Americans would prevail as easily as they thought.”

    “Any word about a group or organization called ‘Special Operating Group Manticore’?” I asked calmly.

    “No, no mentions of that,” he replied.

    “And, what about,” and here I switched over to High Imperial again, as I wanted to spell out exactly what I was asking for. “‘The Goddess, the Princess of Light and Dark?’ I heard that name when someone was telling me who was mentoring her in how to call on the Darkness.”

    Here, he paused for a moment, and there was a flickering of some kind of emotion across his face, too fast for me to understand what I had seen. “There are always rumors of someone powerful in that world,” he said, and sipped at his tea. “I am sorry I was not able to be of much help for you…”

    “You’re not sorry,” a voice said in the empty chair next to me. A moment later, she lowered her veil of invisibility, and sitting there next to me was Seo Katoka, current musumeyaku headliner of the Star Troupe of the Takarazuka Review, budding film actress, and Japan’s current Solist. She was sitting in the chair, looking spectacular in a long black dress with wrist-length sleeves, her waist-length dark brown hair was perfectly styled, and you couldn’t tell that less than sixteen hours ago, she was in hand-to-hand combat with an aonyōbō who’s innermost kimono layer was from a clan that had died early on in the Sengoku Jidai. She smiled cheerfully and looked at Kai. “Yoshimi-me, didn’t you brief me less than two months ago about someone moving around in the magical underground claiming that title,” she asked cheerfully, almost sweetly cute in tone. Seo’s words, on the other hand, were a slap in the face and Kai flinched.

    “Katoka-dono,” Kai said slowly, then shook his head. “They were unconfirmed reports and there’s always someone trying to pretend that they are that kind of powerful.”

    “True,” Seo nodded. “But, when I called you this morning, I told you to give Adelaide-chan a full briefing.” She sighed and looked at me, “I was going to ask you out afterwards for coffee, Adelaide-chan, but I know of this perfect shop just nearby. Shall we go?”

    The mental whipsaw effect had me confused for a moment-Seo was all but slapping Kai across the face and treating me like I was immediate family. Siblings-level immediate family, with all the informality that implies. Which was extremely weird for me, but I knew when to get going when the going was good. “Of course, Katoka-san,” I said, standing up and offering her my hand.

    Seo very gently wrapped me on the knuckles with her fingertips, more sensed than felt, and smiled cheerfully. “Adelaide-chan, didn’t I tell you that you could call me Seo-chan?” Seo grinned, and took my hand to help her stand up. “I’m sorry we were wasting your time, Yoshimi-me,” she said with such harsh sweetness that it was a ground sugar sandblaster.

    And, with my hand in hers, she led me out of the office, stopping only long enough to apologize to the receptionist and get my phone back. Kai was left sitting there, looking like a gutted fish, and realizing who he had offended so greatly.

      1. I especially liked writing the classical Japanese cultural bitch-slap of Kei, mostly because I wanted to punch him in the face afterwards. The very few good characteristics are outweighed by his issues.

  10. “You finished?” Dave asked eagerly.
    “Yeah,” came the reply from Bob. “But you’re not going to like it. We’ll be lucky to ever hold a position in a scientific field again.”
    “It’s a message from an extra-terrestrial species from a distant world! What could be so bad about it!?”
    Bob handed the message translation to Dave, who began to read it aloud.

    “Greetings, distant sentients! Have you heard about our Lord and Savior the Son of God, who died for our sins on a distant and as yet undiscovered world? Would you like to know more?”

    1. My reaction: mad cackling

      To the aliens: “Why, yes! I would love to know more! Perhaps later, you could come visit, and establish some form of missionary outpost?”

      (To myself: Oh, I cannot wait to see their reactions when they figure it out…)

      1. > “My reaction: mad cackling”

        My reaction was about the same, and I’m an atheist. It would almost be worth getting proven wrong just to watch the heads explode. 😉

  11. “No dice, Salamander.” The younger fighter’s voice had a definite Southern drawl.

    Yuri glowered at the captive, currently standing on tiptoes with his fingertips against the wall. Every time the man tried to assume a more normal stance, Bird Dog would poke and prod him back into the stress position.

    Didn’t this guy have a breaking point? Yuri wished he could just lay into the little weasel with his fists, but even being Spartan’s cousin wouldn’t protect him from the big boss’s wrath, and he knew why.

    The Sharp Resistance needed to be perceived as the good guys by the “silent majority,” the vast majority of Americans who just wanted to go about their ordinary lives in peace. If Spartan’s Own indulged in torture, it would only serve the Administration’s narrative of Sharps as violent and dangerous.

    “Maybe it’s time to get a telepath down here.” Imagining him trying to hold out against Kay Belinsky’s powerful projective telepathy had a certain satisfaction.

  12. “Your studies will begin the day after tomorrow.”
    Ava sat. It did not seem to invite response, and none of the others twitched.
    “It’s one thing to delay a day or two, but you need to begin. Aubrey can deal with his position of having to catch up after arriving.”

  13. The one advantage of her position was that she could walk out the front door, letting it lock behind her. She could climb back in if she needed, and she ought not to think that, at all. She needed to think that she would never return and plan from there.

  14. “… and as soon as I finish A-School, I’m coming right back to Eden Colony. My position will be Power Production aboard the Finlandia! Isn’t that great?”

    Cherry clutched the message pad to her chest. “Charlie’s coming home!” she thought. She wanted to turn cartwheels, but her boss was watching.

  15. Kevin went down on his knees and took his hand. Their father opened his eyes briefly. Kevin, as if he were certainly awake, recounted the story and asked for leave to go.
    Their father muttered something, so muddled that even Kevin, that close, could not have heard what he said.

  16. Many thanks, Sarah!

    [For those who like the Familiars world, it’s not going away. But this will be the last full novel with the Big Three as main characters.]

    1. It’s interesting how those three became the Main Three. 😉

      By the way, Art needs a familiar especially one that his parents’ familiars don’t like. 👿

  17. From their position inside Finlandia’s observation dome, Cherry tried to see everything at once: the splash of stars, the space dock, the binary sunrise breaking over Eden’s horizon. She could almost feel Charlie’s gaze, asking her what she thought. She was out of words though, and merely squeezed Charlie’s hand.

  18. “How can the greatest knight in the land be excluded from the honor?” called a noble.
    Rose sat with her hands in her lap. She wished she knew their names better, but she had no doubt that disaster lurked.
    “He holds a castle, but no title. It is not fitting.”

  19. I suddenly found myself in a very uncomfortable position.

    First, I had the need to support my family.

    Second, there was a chance at least one of them was working for the Adversary. Willingly. And not for pay.

    Oh, sure, I could understand. If I ever got what I deserved, there’d be a brief flash, the smell of ozone, and a smudge of soot on the sidewalk. But I wasn’t certain.

    Third, there was another complication: I had to keep the family’s identities hidden from the folks with whom I was doing business—and vice-versa…

  20. It was not a comfortable position, all the more as the hours wound on. And on. But the rider never hesitated.
    Gloriana stared at the horizon. Hills came and went. The sun sank, and the sky turned pink.
    Gloriana yawned.
    “Stay awake, foolish child,” said the rider. “We’re not there.”

  21. “That is an interesting position. If prosperity is so evil, perhaps bandits and necromancers should rampage in the land. They will destroy prosperity quite thoroughly, even for themselves.”
    The other wizard snorted. “All things should be in proportion. And place.”
    Marcus left before the wizard took more notice of him.

  22. Chad pulled into the driveway and stopped. He turned and met his wife’s eyes.
    “We’re home, Mom,” he said.
    “Home? Hmph!” his mother snorted from the back seat.
    Taking care of parent was not a position they ever expected to be in.
    It will get better, he thought. It must.

  23. Chad pulled into the driveway and stopped. He turned and met his wife’s eyes.
    “We’re home, Mom,” he said.
    “Home? Hmph!” his mother snorted from the back seat.
    Taking care of parent was not a position they ever expected to be in.
    It will get better, he thought. It must.

  24. “So, we found out why the navigational position algorithm wouldn’t quite converge.” The Chief Engineer had stuck her head around the doorframe of what they now called the Operations and Command Office instead of the Captain’s Dayroom, moving easily since artificial gravity was restored. And spoken lightly, though with a recently-familiar but still unwelcome undercurrent of tension.

    “Turns out one of the constraints was wrong.” Her second sentence waited until the Captain (and her husband of some few years now) had raised his head, and then also his eyebrows in a sufficiently questioning manner. It also had a there’s-more-to-this inflection to it — the same kind as had accompanied her report on how two serious sabotage attempts can still add up (because they did) to zero fatal outcomes for ship and crew, both.

    “And the Chief of Engineering is presently reporting this result to me, alone and not together with the Chief of Navigation, because…?”

    “She’s still working on nailing this down absolutely; and it hasn’t much helped we have all the apprentice-candidates who’d otherwise be underfoot for all of this, ah, normally quiet stuff. Most of them are busy helping put the deuterium separator together…” (Which would normally be very much on the down-low itself, since using starship technology that way was really not an approved activity, anywhere the Empire might notice, or be told of later.)

    “Lirian, we already know we’re pretty far outside the Swarm, quite a ways beyond where we were supposed to end up. Thousands of stars on one side, near-black background space on the other, not a difficult puzzle. And I’d have to guess you’re not about to tell me we’re out on the fringes of the wrong globular cluster instead of home, right?” (He’d seen the plates himself, in a rare near-idle moment since that insane, rushed Jump; and navigation was his original specialty.)

    “Oh, no, it’s definitely Home Cluster, and we’re only about… it would be about eight light years beyond our original target point.” (Most of the time, light-months of 30 light-days would be the reasonable unit.) A further tightening in her voice warned him it would be quicker to let her come to the point on her own — and Ofkeny Lirian had only rarely been one to dance skittishly around anything, ever.

    “The constraint is the obvious-seeming one that rules out any arrival time before a full light-speed delay from the departure point. Once we set it to looking back to around the date we departed, it converged quickly and routinely, even out this far from most of the stars of Home.” And that, he realized in a quietly-stunning little flash, so simply said it all.

    Ever since there had been a jump drive, except possibly for some amazing super-science unknowns from inside the epic events of the Great War, you disappeared from one spot and reappeared in another, taking about thirty seconds plus or minus a few by your clocks; and a month of everyone else’s time per light-month between those two points plus a bit more, or possibly (if you and your equipment weren’t well-regulated) even a lot more. It was vaguely like using a rocket (or whatever) to run up to near light speed, then brake back down again… only without the huge expenditure of energy and mass, and the truly impressive danger of anything (even molecules of rarefied gas) hitting you at that insane speed.

    (Which meant, go on a trading round trip of a dozen light-years, come back no less than a dozen years later. So being a starship crewman meant being also, at least in a small and one-way sense, a time traveller after all. At least it always had, until this.)

    “Okay, then, what’s the zero-time frame on that? If you’re really saying that we emerged about the same day we immerged, by the Empire’s clocks, or thereabouts?” And almost as soon as he’d said it, he was rewarded with a grin. So, still, ‘great minds think alike’ and all…

    “It matches perfectly with the reference frame of the fixed stars. That old theory about faster than light not equating to time travel, because it’s still ordered in that one version of time… is confirmed, as far as it says anything.” Something, at least, to sound like good news.

    And it took it that long to hit him. “Wait a minute, doesn’t this mean we actually have a working faster-than-light Jump drive?? Did we get all the usual data, the flying-wire recorders and the sequencer program and all?”

    A couple thousands of years now, the Orrikanni and the Old Empire and the New Empire and lots of other people around and between them… all looking for this, dreaming of this. That had now simply dropped into their laps.

    “Yes and no,” said Lirian (her people put given names last), with a tight and painful-looking smile. “That box I found, plugged into the main drive control bus, fused itself into junk. But as far as I can tell, it simply overclocked our reference timing signals by about a factor of ten, so we likely have that program in our own computer-sequencer. That alone, best we can tell, was supposed to kill us outright. But what it really did was try to drive the analogue components faster than they really could go, so the actual field configuration was… unusual, probably novel. Which does make some sense, because, well, faster than light!” And her voice, at the very last, sounded like he felt.

    And her face and her voice fell, a little but a telling little. “And we do have the wire recorders, totally analogue because the wire picks up the actual state of the drive conduits instant-by-instant. But they respond first linear, then logarithmic, and we’re pretty sure it’s well into the log range. That… whatever it was, drove the system orders of magnitude harder than anything in normal operation.” She paused. “That means not just beyond normal calibration, not just beyond normal safety limits, it likely pushed everything beyond guaranteed-stability limits. Maybe, if the longer-period hysteresis effects are involved, beyond actual stability limits for the main accumulators or the entire Jump-energy subsystem.”

    The accumulators held about as much energy, per unit mass, as fissioning uranium or plutonium or whatever; much the same way, as distortions in the shape of the nuclei of the material they were made of. So “stability” was a pretty big deal, even though it was most unlikely they could ever “blow up” in the nuclear-bomb sense. (Even if you asked ’em nicely to do it…)

    “Not that I’m saying it’s unstable, and we might even have to eject the mains eventually.” (Which would maroon a ship where it was, except the paltry fraction of light it could go on fusion-powered rockets.) “And not that I’m saying it’s okay. Simply no way to tell yet, whatever that was we just did.” And that engineer’s smile of hers, from the old days that had led him to follow her, quite literally, on to the star roads instead of the seas of his first home. “Besides making the swift far daring jump, my dear Tiradi, all our own ought-to-be-dead selves, at last.”

    (Based on some pre-existing setting and characters.)

  25. The Monastery of St. Balthasar in the rugged Estrela mountains was not much for contact with the outside world, but the new abbot had selected one of the faithful monks to ‘modernize’ their refuge with a small gesture. After all, they only received a dozen or so visitors every year, and most of their income was derived from generous patrons (for a given value of ‘generous’), so a minor expansion of the spiritual into the secular was warranted for additional income, if nothing else for arthritis medication and heating pads.

    So it was that their newly appointed Outreach Coordinator Brother Benedict went forth into the world and returned several months later, bearing a burden of second-hand books, postal contacts from interested tourists, and several used games in tattered cardboard boxes.

    “This one looked interesting, and we have just enough of the brethren to play,” said the monk, who had come to the monastery at a very young age and should have known better. “Diplomacy.”

    Three days later when the abbot had finally convinced the last of the brothers to emerge from their cells, put down the weapons, and renew their vows of non-violence, Brother Benedict was quietly put in charge of renewing the trampled gardens, where he remained for many years.

  26. It was a little concerning how often I was surprised to wake up. The day I’d signed the contract with Asmodeus, I’d expected to one day realize I’d signed my soul away without noticing, despite all my care and caution. I’d expected to spend the rest of my life spying on other nations, tempting paladins and priests, corrupting churches… something of that sort.

    Instead, I kept finding myself having to crawl away from yet another battle with yet another demonic cult trying to ravage cities or end the world.

    Dear gods, the warlocks of devils were never meant to be the heroes.

    Since no one was monologuing incessantly or chanting in Abyssal, I could only assume we’d escaped somehow. I opened my eyes, a hand wrapped around my dagger hilt in case I was wrong.

    The paladin was slumped against the wall, but breathing. Young Outia was alive – more than I’d expected, really, given how poorly the plan had gone – and was standing with her hand raised as if she was offering a toast.

    The demon-worshiper with whom we’d formed such a tentative alliance was in a rather precarious position. To clarify, she was hanging in the air, arms outstretched, her mouth open in a soundless scream.

    I blinked, then glanced at Outia again. Young, withdrawn, stammering Outia.

    Come to think of it, I really should have seen this coming. The Emperor of the Nine Hells does nothing idly. If he put her in our party, even claiming that we were her bodyguards, she was going to be more than she seemed.

  27. “What’ve we got?” Detective Kovacek asked.

    The uniform shrugged. “A dead guy. No marks, except the dots on his neck.”

    Two puncture wounds directly over the victims carotid artery. No blood.

    Kovacek drove a fence slat into the stiff’s chest.

    You can’t be too careful.

    1. Stake to the heart will kill anything, vampire or no.

      I applaud the caution though. As a certain wise detective once said: “Just ’cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

Comments are closed.