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. I reserve the right not to run any submission, if cover, blurb or anything else made me decide not to, at my sole discretion.– SAH

FROM MARY HARE: Cloak and Stola

When the Roman legion sweeps through the farmlands of Syria, Sophie loses everything: her home, her family, even her freedom. Changes to the marriage laws under Caesar Augustus bring her to the attention of Procerus, a Roman soldier stationed in Judea.
Procerus is looking for a wife. Sophie’s looking for a way forward. Neither are looking for love. But will they find it anyway? A historical romance set in the sweeping drama of ancient Rome.

BY LEIGH BRACKET, REVIVED BY D. JASON FLEMING: The Starmen of Llyrdis (Annotated): The Pulp Libertarian Science Fiction Classic.

Michael Trehearne sensed his difference from other men, but he little knew he was a changeling of the only race able to conquer the stars!

Leigh Brackett’s 1951 novel, which first appeared in Startling Stories, not only prefigures books like Alfred Bester’s The Stars, My Destination and movies like Joss Whedon’s Serenity, it also makes a strong case for open source software and free culture in general, decades before either of those terms were coined.

  • This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving the book genre and historical context.

FROM KYRA HALLAND: Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings Book 1)

The gunslinger. The rancher’s daughter. They share the same dangerous secret – magic.Silas Vendine, mage and bounty hunter, follows a trail of strange, dark magic to the remote Wildings town of Bitterbush Springs. There, he lands in the middle of a violent feud – and discovers that a local rancher’s daughter is hiding a deadly secret.Lainie Banfrey has been taught all her life that wizards are unnatural creatures with no heart and no soul. If anyone finds out she has magical powers, she could end up on the wrong end of a hanging rope. But when a gunslinger named Silas Vendine arrives in town, searching for the man who has brought Bitterbush Springs to the brink of open warfare, his power calls to hers, and she agrees to help him.


A journey to Mars… by zeppelin? Seven German university professors travel to Mars and find a utopia far in advance of civilization on Earth. The problem is that it is almost too perfect and the Martians’ tolerance of their presence may be growing a little thin. A long-lost classic of early science fiction, popular enough in its day to be reprinted in several editions, has now been translated into English for the first time. Originally published in 1909 at the height of popular enthusiasm for the existence of canals on Mars, the story vividly illustrates then current ideas about life on the Red Planet and how the presumed canals were constructed. The science is sometimes dubious, the author had a message of social reform he apparently wrote the novel to convey, the story is more contemplative than adventure — but it is a product of its time, often quaint and always inventive with occasional flashes of humor and satire. There are also genuine science-fictional moments with stopovers on Earth’s moon and the asteroid Eros. This edition includes the 1914 sequel, From Mars to Earth, which completes the story begun in the first book.

FROM HOLY CHISM: Pendragon Resurgent (Legends Book 2)

Life is much better when nobody is trying to kill you.

Sara Hawke, now a university professor, has had five years where nobody was trying to kill her…if you don’t count her course load’s grading. Five years of watching over and helping raise orphaned young dragons.

Her comfortable life comes to an end when she’s attacked by Eastern Dragons, once again—this time, though, her attackers aren’t in the ruling elite. She’s in for the fight of her life again, only this time, Mordred is on the other side of the world, and she must first reach his side before they can succeed.

The running fight to survive brings to light old treachery, blackest magic…and new hope and new allies.


What if our most treasured verities were in fact wrong?

To be selected for Project Mercury and be one of America’s first astronauts was a dream come true for test pilot Deke Slayton. But fellow Mercury astronaut Al Shepard kept telling old stories from his native New England, tales of monstrous entities like Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth. Earlier generations had viewed them as demons, but might they in fact be aliens, here long before humanity?

Soon Deke discovers evidence that something is watching the US space program. Something that begrudges humanity the stars and would put a ceiling on human attainment. Something that can manipulate time itself.

HP Lovecraft wrote that we dwell on a placid island of ignorance amidst the dark ocean of infinity, and that we were not meant to travel far.

What might the US space program have looked like in a cosmos filled with hostile eldritch entities? Would they notice us as playthings? Or as a nuisance to be dealt with?



A bold journey into a future where humanity and its children travel to a new star where they must overcome the unexpected challenges on the exoplanets that await them—or die trying.

Traveling to the stars will be difficult, but not, perhaps, the most difficult part. What about when we get to another star? What then? Will the planets be immediately habitable? Not likely. Will those who undertook the journey be able to easily turn around and come home if they don’t find “Earth 2.0?” Almost certainly not. Therein the lies the challenge: Finding worlds that are potentially habitable and then taking the time, perhaps centuries, to make them compatible with Earth life. They will encounter mysteries and unexpected challenges, but the human spirit will endure. Join this diverse group of science fiction writers and scientists as they take up the challenge of The Ross 248 Project.

FROM MARY CATELLI: Journeys And Wizardry

Drunken mermaids — a clan cursed to become crows — a magic book that even the Nameless Necromancer fears — and more in this reprint collection of thirteen stories and a poem.


Current events as the world is ready to burn. This material is edited and polished from the monthly booklets and weekly pamphlets, but it’s a good view of what’s going on. This was all planned-in-advance against us. It’s all falling together at a predetermined time, the middle of May. I don’t pretend to have an explanation, I just analyze and identify as much as I can.

FROM KAT AINSWORTH: Handgun Hunting: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game Kindle Edition

A Go-To Manual for One of the Fastest Growing Shooting Sports, With Invaluable Information for Both Newbies and Seasoned Hunters

Hunting with handguns has seen a huge growth in popularity in recent years, with hunters from all walks of life picking up the sport. In Handgun Hunting, author Kat Ainsworth examines all the game one can hunt in North America, from bears and deer to rabbits and coyotes. In each chapter, she touches upon such topics as:

  • The habits and habitats of each game animal
  • Recommended firearms and cartridges
  • Techniques and tactics
  • Shot placement
  • Game edibility
  • And much more

Aside from analyzing each game animal and the tactics required to take it, Ainsworth gets into skills and drills, care and maintenance of the different platforms, plus the pros and cons of various holsters and scabbards. There is also advice on building your own handguns and creating your own loads; it is easier than many people think! With information useful to beginners and veterans alike, Handgun Hunting sets the new standard for this challenging sport.

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:oafish

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

  1. Ooooh, The Starmen of Llyrdis. That’s a good one. I already own it, but I might be tempted to get another.

  2. She was less pleased, a few hours later, when she realized that he must have stolen it before he was killed. The fool, the oaf, he could have gotten it to her first, but he had not even tried.
    His house would have to be searched. And that in secret.

  3. He smelled of being low-class, with cheap whiskey spilled on his shirt, his oafish steps like he had to think of how to move his legs, the poorly repaired pants with visible tears. Faber didn’t turn his back on him, you didn’t turn your back on people, but he did tell Loggin, “Go see him off!”

    Loggin grumbled, stumped over on his stiff left leg, and reached the man with one of his ham-sized fists. “Come on, you drunken…,” he was about to say when the man’s bottle dropped to the ground and before it shattered, a knife blade had cut open Loggin’s throat as neatly as you could believe. He’d stepped out of the way of the blood spray and the spreading pool of blood without a drop touching him.

    Faber was about to yell something, but he realized that there was something shiny in the man’s right hand and it was a revolver. The hammer was cocked and it was aimed precisely at Faber’s head. “Now, Faber,” the man replied cheerfully. “You remember what I said when we last had this dance? That if you ever showed up here again, I’d toss you into the canal with a new smile?”

  4. Michael turned to his partner, a Ranger from Sigma Six, and asked: “Oafish, are you ready to join us in the hunt?” Oafish glared at him for a moment before nodding a yes.

  5. Little children stood and stared at the princess that they had heard talk of. Others, a little older, played at a prince saving a princess from an ogre. She thought she recognized the tale that she had told other children all those years ago, but it would be oafish to stand and stare. And set the little children a bad example. Their mothers were trying to hustle them away, talking of manners.
    She and her companions went on, to the church. There villagers joined them in prayer. Rosaleen felt coldly aware that the journey would be longer than any other.

  6. “Another alien species requesting Empire membership, boss.”
    “Anything particular about them?”
    “Not really; humanoid, oxy breather, evolved in lower air pressure – their language doesn’t use glottals or low-freq sounds. The only unusual thing is that they’re just crazy about kid’s card games. It’s pretty funny to watch them play “o-fish””.

      1. Didn’t we issue you one? Missed your basic equipment. mutters to self in foo-dog and rummages about for the prepackaged kit. Nope… nope. Got it!

        Carp cannon, Sarcasm detector, Non-Euclidian corner to call your own (don’t put it too close to the sea-serpent, it’ll flood), the Bag of Indeterminant Ammunition for the Carp Cannon… and well you can figure out the rest of this stuff. passes a nice, light weight bag of holding configured for Beings That Fly.

  7. The fishing spot I’d dubbed ‘Big Daddy Rock’ in the privacy of my mind was not the best one. Oh, the fish were there – big fish – but they were wary and disinclined to bite.

    Paddling past, I saw an old Asian lady anchored there in an old aluminum skiff, pole out.

    “Any luck?” I called. Just the usual ritual.

    She grinned and lifted her string, revealing three or four of the fat brothers.

    Now I was curious. “What are you using for bait?”

    “No bait!” she called back. “A lure – an oa-fish lure. It makes the fish angry, and they bite.”

    1. Haha! I was waiting for that. Was starting to worry that I might have to make the o-a-fish pun myself, and I’m not sure I’m up to it. (Chiming too late to matter, I know, but I’ve got the dreaded corona-plague-virus, and it kind of Rip Van Winkled me the past two days.)

  8. “Well, you were asking about Elmer Fuddstein? The first thing you should know is that he looks like an oaf and he mainly acts oafish. But that’s just the mask he shows the world. He’s very smart and can be a good friend and a better ally. But give him reasons to do so, he can be a very deadly foe and very few of his enemies have survived to warn others.”

  9. He stood there, agape, as they loaded up the cannon and pointed it his direction. What was it they always said they were going to fling at him? Oh, a fish. He wondered what he had done to deserve to get carped.

  10. Nice. Get to do a follow-up to one of the ones from last week.

    “Come again, Azahara?” Severino Carmona asked, giving the young woman across the desk from him a curious look.

    Fu shi – oh! Pardon me, Director,” she replied, not realizing she had been speaking Yamatai rather than Bastetani. “I meant to say that Vincent Austin is an Undying.”

    “No, I understood you the first time,” the Intelligence Director replied with a reassuring smile. “What I didn’t learn in training I picked up from your mother, including the meaning of that term. Now explain to me how you came to that conclusion.”

    “He was deathly pale, even in the light of the bar,” Azahara began, recalling that night. “His black attire only served to emphasize this further.”

    “Yet this isn’t uncommon in the…how do you say it…goth subculture seen throughout the continent and in Cascadia.” Carmona continued.

    “First off, Director, he wasn’t wearing any makeup or spiked accessories,” the assassin stated. “No visible piercings or tattoos, though the latter is admittedly common among soldiers of all types. Rather I could sense evil power within him. While I am sure he had his signature weapon in his coat he never used it all night so I was not sensing a dark charge ready to go off. The dark element he and others wield is very different from what I felt. Whatever this unholy power is has to be the only thing keeping him in this world. He is halfway to Yomi, Director. I swear it.”

    “Well done, keeping character and not provoking him.” Carmona said, giving his subordinate an approving smile.

    “Of course, Director,” Azahara replied, smiling back. “There would have been no need for that. He was a perfect gentleman the whole time I spoke to him, although I’m sure he realized that ‘Sakura-chan’ was no mere tourist. His oafish cousin, however… One of the main reasons Austin goes to that bar has to be to keep that baka from falling for a honeypot.”

    “Note to self, make sure all charming spies approach Bradley Carter whenever Vincent Austin isn’t around,” Carmona replied with a chuckle. “Azahara, you’ve helped me more than you know with this. More than simply disposing of Emilio Hernandez even. Austin being Undying actually explains quite a few things that I had questions about. Are you ready for your next orders?”

    Si, Director!” she responded with a salute.

    “Go see your mother and ask her if she knows any Yamatai exorcism arts,” he said. “She has told me the stories of the demon huntress you both are descended from. If you must travel to Yamatai to learn these arts, so be it. The Bureau and I will pay all relevant expenses. Just remember that manga is not a relevant expense.”

    Hai, Kantoku!” Azahara replied in her other language, unable to keep herself from chuckling.

  11. Rain fell in pounding sheets outside the best bar on Outlook IV. Not the only bar, not even the only bar in town. But it was the best for a reason.

    Hammond stood inside the atrium ‘fresher for longer than it took to dry his overcoat and heavy boots. The gravitics and the alchemy of technology so advanced it would make a cyber chiphead seize up. And they used it to make sure nobody dripped rainwater and muck on their shiny wooden floors.

    His contact was waiting in a booth. A young man. Rich, by the look of him, with latest issue hardware he probably didn’t know how to use, and a suit that cost more than a whole fleet of hovercabs. He even made it look good, too, with almost natural good looks.

    The young man looked up, frowned, and looked away. Probably searching for the staff. Someone to rid him of this oafish intruder. The man he hoped to hire, all unknowing.

    He knew what he looked like. Mirrors were common enough.

    “You’re early. Been waiting long?”

    Hammond settled his bulk into the booth. A waiter appeared, one perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised. All the staff were perfect in looks. Perfect in timing. And perfectly boring. He nodded, and the waiter left without a word.

    Almost instantly a glass of amber fluid appeared at the booth almost as if by magic. The waitress disappeared just as quickly.

    “Wait- you’re Hammond? The Hammond?” The boy even had a good voice, too. Very charismatic, just the right amount of incredulity.

    “Sadly, yes.”

    The young man continued as if he hadn’t even spoken.

    “I thought… I thought-”

    “That I’d be taller?”

    That seemed to somehow break the rich kid’s mental paralysis.

    “Well, not really. You are already quite tall enough as it is.”

    “I try not to be.” At nearly seven feet tall and almost half that in width at the shoulders, he was an anomaly. Born spacers tended to be tall, but thin. Heavyworlders tended to be short, but wide. He’d never met another like himself, at least not yet.

    “How does that… work?”

    Hammond sighed internally. Nobody read the classics anymore.

    “Never mind. My assistant said you have a job for me.”

    “Well, maybe. I don’t know. It’s kind of a delicate-”

    Hammond shook his large head slightly. He sipped his bourbon, feeling it warm his throat and steal away some of the cold he’d brought in with him, near magical drying machine or no.

    “Doesn’t matter. I find things. I bring them back where they belong. Parts of it might be delicate.”

    Parts like transporting a fragile pixie glass sculpture through a gang war. Or like negotiating with insane, corrupt fallen officials. Or like slipping through the personal domain of a paranoid genius.

    He pursed his lips in thought. Took another slow sip. When he didn’t continue, the kid started up again.

    “It’s Angelite. She’s missing.”

    “Is Angelite a pet? A favorite speed bike?” He’d once reacquired a stuffed parrot called “Jim” by its owner. Never James. Just ‘Jim.’ Rich people were often strange.

    “A pe- no. She’s my intended. We are getting married in the fall.”

    Married, was it? The young man’s hunched shoulders and darting eyes were tells he’d not been trained well enough to suppress, not yet. Rich folk tended to teach their young to suppress obvious signs of emotion to the point their faces and bodies only showed what they wanted them to.

    Hammond knew of some con men and security services that did the same.

    Maybe the kid really was in love. Maybe that broke through the training. Maybe he was lying, but doing it professionally well. Either way that made one of them.

    “Are you sure she did not just…” Scarper? Ditch you? Find some new rich fop to fascinate? “-leave on her own?”

    “Angelite would never! We are in love! Something you obviously know nothing about!”

    The big man let the boy rant for a bit. The bar really was good. Despite the shouts, nobody even turned to look. Concealed auditory dampers? Maybe a privacy cloak?

    “Look, I’ve a holo of us. See? That’s love you’re looking at. Somebody must’ve taken her!”

    The girl in the holo made him reconsider his ideas about beauty.

    She was tall and lean. Brunette. Blue eyes. Curves in all the right places. And by all the right places he meant that neither the AIs nor the cyber savants could improve on them. She wore a dark blue wrap and low heels. The background didn’t matter.

    Mere words would fail a poet. A man could indeed fall in love with that face, that woman. If only she’d smile, just once.

    Then she looked into the holo with those pale blue eyes and his impression changed again.

    “You see it, right? That’s why she can’t have… She would never!”

    Hammond looked away from the holo.

    “My rates are non negotiable. I find. I return with what was lost. If it’s people, and they don’t want to come back, and they’ve not committed any crimes-”

    “Angelite would not lower herself to- to-” The kid sputtered, red faced.

    “Doesn’t matter. She wants to stay gone, she stays gone.”

    Those eyes said she was already long gone.

    “If it’s more money-”

    “It’s not.” Hammond’s words cut off the kid’s offer like an avalanche cuts off a mountain road.

    “My father could-”

    “He can’t.”

    There were folks that could. And would. The technical term for those people was ‘kidnapper.’ Not that it seemed to penetrate the young fool’s brain.

    “Not even for-”

    “Not even then. My rates are standard. And fixed. Expenses are extra.”

    When he saw that the kid wanted to press, he continued.

    “Taking law abiding folk against their will is not an expense. It is a crime.”

    The young man sat back, defeated at last. Hammond took another sip. The bourbon warred with the cold feeling that had taken up residence in his gut.

    The woman was trouble. And troubled. He hoped that the kid would decide to cut his losses. For all the beauty on the outside, the eyes truly were windows to the soul.

    And that soul had scars. Deep ones. One look was enough.

    “Very well,” the kid sighed. “I’ll pay. But only because I know better than you. I know she’ll come back to me.”

    “Alright then. Send me everything you have. I’ll start tonight.”

    Hammond stood up. The glass had only a single swallow left in it.

    Then it had none. The glass disappeared again, and he felt his credit balance dip slightly.

    It truly was the best bar in the system. It was a shame it came with such a shit job.

  12. Clem spotted his partner lollygagging at the still, reading a book. “The hayull you readin?” he asked.

    “Brian May’s astrophysics dissertation,” answered Delbert. “Fascinating, though flawed. For example –”

    Clem cut him off. “Git back into character! They’s Martian tourists a-comin’. We need slack-jawed oaf and we need it now!”

  13. The day after his visit with the police, Kevin watched his fat, oafish downstairs neighbor lugging an enormous garbage bag into the alley. Is he one of the people I’m supposed to be watching?” he wondered. Then it occurred to him: Maybe the police have assigned him to watch me!

  14. As the bulk of Scotland Yard loomed ahead of them, Passepartout muttered “What did I do to deserve this” with a dramatic sigh. Fixx did not respond verbally but shot him a dark look. “Let’s get this over with,” he muttered, with a set expression on his face.

    It was clear that the detective would have preferred to do anything rather than enter the building. Nevertheless, he walked through the entrance with his head up and a casual nod to the man presiding at the desk. After proceeding up the main stairs and down a dim hallway with several turns, they reached a remote corner; opening a heavy wooden door, Fixx went straight to a desk, opened a drawer and swept the contents into the grip he carried. “Stay here,” he muttered, and exited the room, turning right down the hallway.

    A few moments later Passepartout heared raised voices and a coarse laugh. Shortly afterward, Fixx returned with a set expression and gestured to the door. Just as the two men entered the hallway, they were joined by a large, unshaven fellow with an air of belligerence.

    “Too bad for you, Fixx. I hear you weren’t selected for Criminal Investigation.”

    “I don’t have time to discuss it with you, Wilson,” Fixx snapped. “Now if you don’t mind — ”

    As he was not a native English speaker, “oafish” was not a word that would normally have occurred to Passepartout; yet at this moment it seemed completely appropriate. Wilson shoved Fixx back toward the office door. “I’m not done yet,” he snapped. “First you made a mess of the bank robbery case, and now you’re defending a murderer because he’s your brother-in-law — ”

    Without warning, Fixx punched Wilson in the jaw with an accuracy Passepartout had to applaud. Before the man landed on the floor, the two men traded glances, hurried down the hallway and were out of the building before anyone could stop them.

    When they finally paused a few blocks away to draw breath, Fixx gave a short laugh. “Well, that’s my job gone,” he commented. “But it was worth it. And it was nearly gone anyway, after that disaster of a bank robbery case.”

    “So there were…consequences?” Passepartout asked cautiously. A few hours before he would have taken pleasure in the knowledge that Fixx had been punished for his handling of the case. Yet, having seen the consequences firsthand, he was less inclined to do so.

    “Oh yes.” Hands in the pockets of his coat, the detective strolled down the street. “I arrested the wrong man, but worse yet, my expenses were enormous. Tracking a man around the world to no avail… can you imagine? I nearly lost my job, and I’ve been the mockery of Scotland Yard ever since. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Then theis murder came along, and my brother-in-law was the chief suspect. I know he didn’t do it, but with no proof, and with that dark cloud from the robbery, I had no chance of convincing anyone.”

    After walking in silence for a few minutes, Fixx added, “Mr. Fogg is my last chance. I can’t rely on my Scotland Yard connections. I know you and I aren’t exactly friends, but surely you can understand that?”

  15. Max waited in the hall while Cari discussed her thesis with her professor. This happened weekly, and weekly, Max felt oafish and stupid. But they always went for ice cream after, and Max couldn’t even describe how proud he was of Cari. Looking back, he realized he treasured those moments.

  16. “Andrew, don’t you usually read fiction?” asked Logan.

    “Yes. So what?”

    “That looks like an engineering text. Just what is that anyway?”

    On the Construction of Carp Projecting Weaponry is the title. And the author’s name HAS to be a pseudonym.”

    “Alright, author’s name?”

    “It’s by… O. A. Fish.”

  17. Not just because his tongue was numb in his mouth, and he acted oafish among men outside the necromancers’ lands.
    When had they come to the village? Why had they not dreaded the necromancers? There had been years, of course, but they had lived here long and well. Many of those cottages were years old.
    Had they waited until the ashes were cold?
    Marcus winced at the thoughts that followed. Had they been sent here by the necromancers to hold the lands?
    Had they heard the necromancers had fallen? What would they do if they learned an heir had lived?

  18. “Good heavens,” said Ned, “why are you taking forever, Will?” He glanced over. “What of it? Do you intend to make a tiny little mill that will grind grain for a mouse’s cake?”
    Will, with long practice, ignored Ned’s words and gathered up parts, taking care with the sharp claws.

  19. Quick question: When one downloads a sample, does ths ATH blog Apaccount get an amazon credit via clucking through to buy on the sample page? Or should one purchase the book back at the peomo page?

  20. Quick question: When one downloads a sample, does ths ATH blog Apaccount get an amazon credit via clucking through to buy on the sample page? Or should one purchase the book back at the peomo page?

  21. WDE.

    3rd try and then I am going to sleep.

    *the ATH blog account
    *C L I C K I N G

    Autocorrect keeps changing this: It has chickens on the brain.

    This is the comnent I typed, and and wordpress put up the duplicate of the original post instead.

    1. As I understand it, Sarah gets a kickback from use of any link here listed. AND taking such a link and then searching for/buying something ELSE also give a kickback. The kickback is relative to expense, so even if you are not interested in any of the list books, but want to help Sarah, click a book link, use that window/tab and search for the item you DO desire, and then buy it. If it’s a Very Expensive Item Indeed…. it hurts you none at all, and Sarah gets a bigger “Thank you” bonus. At least that’s how I understand it. But what do ox know?

  22. “Your pardon, gentlemen,” the travel-stained stranger at the little round table (for two, or three intimates) next to their trestle table (for six or more) looked up from his sadly-diminished trencher of mutton, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your discussion. Not to sound oafish or worse unpatriotic, but it seems to me you’re giving young Prince Roderick credit for more… smarts than deserved. Never once have I heard, even from those closest to Court, how he’s ever been anything near the sharpest knife in our kitchen drawer.”

    Three of the men at that table looked at him questioningly. One cast him a look of outright belligerence. “That’s Prince-Ascendant Roderick, to you, outlander. And less than half a moon from today, it’ll be his sixteenth birthday and King Roderick II for good measure, no more regency to fence him down off his rightful throne, so keep a civil tongue in your head.”

    The stranger, whose muttonchop whiskers had become so overgrown scarcely any jaw was still visible below them, smiled (somewhat) placatingly. “Oh, I mean no disrespect to our lovely Prittanya or its Crown, which I have at times had the pleasure of serving. What I do mean is, you seem to assert he’s ready and able to rule on the strength of his intelligence alone. And it’s that assertion I must doubt.”

    “Stranger, it may be you’re in the wrong place. Perhaps you’ve finished your dinner, and are ready to depart.”

    And he smiled, that slightly-muddy one. Not insultingly or snidely, but in some respectful way — aiming to disagree. “Perhaps I ought to take myself off to, oh, Westmarch. No, never mind I said it.” Now a wistful, secret smile, as if he could expect no-one else there to understand. “But again, I think you mistake my point, no disrespect to our Prince and soon-to-be King. Not every one of us can be gifted with uncommon cleverness. Being a good King does not rest on cunning; being overgifted with cunning does not a good ruler make.”

    There was a screech as the belligerent one slid off his bench, and shoved a nearby table aside as he did. “This has gone far enough, foreigner.” But before he could say or do any more, two of his friends had grabbed him and begun talking to him in low, urgent voices.

    “If you’re so much your King’s man, citizen, you’d not be showing as much true loyalty as you think, breaking his peace over a misunderstanding.” It was said as the stranger was standing up, himself, throwing back his heavy and long green cloak (with touches of muddy brown) to show a beaten-up and plain leather scabbard. Suddenly, he radiated something new; still of good nature, still of good cheer, but also… ready, for whatever might come. At which the loud one’s companions paled, a bit.

    He stood there, somehow taller than he’d looked before.

    “Done slowly, so there are no further misunderstandings.” His voice held no detectible menace at all; but had a crispness, a resonance to it, that reminded the older and more bookish one of his days in the King’s Cavalry, once upon a time. “Simply as a… point of fact.” His left hand moved down to the hilt of that sword, below, in a right-handed cross-draw rig; raised it to bare three-quarters or half a foot of blade.

    The tavern had abundant narwhale-oil lamps, kept well-filled with trimmed wicks and turned up enough to show that bright blade and its unmistakable color — a pinkish shade of rose-gold.

    Which meant, since only a madman or a royal at a coronation would have by his side a blade of real, uselessly soft gold, it was made of that rarest of antiquities, starmetal. From an ancient thing that had crossed from Old Grandmother Earth to Tellus, with the ancestors of the People, before the Great Wars and the Fall. Hard and tough enough to need working in the very fiercest of forge-fires, barely able to be forge-welded with the hottest flames and highest arts of the Tinkers of Bessemer City. Melted, never.

    A thing the House of Hyatt had claimed as an exclusive privilege, for all its centuries of existence, reserved to its own and its favorites.

    The stranger suddenly smiled wide, raised both hands empty in a shrug. “No shame or loss of melantiy, to see one’s been outclassed by one’s imperfect understanding of obscure circumstances.” And again, his expression and his manner… shifted. “Hagalaz!” he said, not loud but intense, a word only five there understood as the old, old Norse for “hail” — that sudden cold summer-time destroyer.

    Three, no, four more people stood up. Nondescript travellers, too, hardly worth a look, who’d not come in at the same time as each other or the one with the rose-gold blade. Three men-at-arms, traders, or journeymen; and a stocky, shortish woman, who’d thrown back her own cloak to reveal an even longer blade. On her face was a searching, piercing sort of smile, which she turned on man after man in succession, like a limelight burning holes in the dark. As if measuring them each, over a quick breath or so, for a possible night in the hay.

    Or, more likely, for a millennium under the turf.

    “King’s peace be on us all, now and still,” said the once-cavalryman, who had about him also the look of a scholar. “Whoever you are, good sir, you are no outlander, nor any seditionist.” He stood there with arms crossed; assertive, but also visibly less ready to mount any attack.

    By then his belligerent friend had found a deep interest in his tankard.

    “Who I am tonight, my dear and welcome fellow-citizen, is a lesson on two tired feet. Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a king of our fair and blessed realm, who was very intelligent indeed. He had all manner of clever and subtle ideas, found from seeing deeply into things. But he had not too much of perhaps that best of kingly riches, wisdom. So his clever ideas, applied a bit too soon or a bit too far, did not always bring a fruitful end. But still in the fullness of time, he had in his later years enough wisdom to see this and arrange for his nephew to be raised to king in his place; in the end he retired to a far country for a well deserved joyful double-handful of years.

    “His name was Alexander, and I am his great-grandson. I take after him in many, perhaps too many, ways — I might be a clever king, but not so much a wise one. Young Roderick, on the other hand… he is eerily wise, so far beyond his years and so many of his family. He has a plenty of steady ones to make all his cleverness for him; but none else could supply him wisdom to know which to hear, and which to be deaf to hearing.”

    The other, the older cavalryman, faced him yet over crossed arms. “But I’m sure King Alexander III was lost, then at last declared dead. In any case royal abdication in favor of a successor wasn’t legal then.”

    “Ah, but you see from the outside looking in, while I see from the inside looking out. Alexander Hyatt faked his death, not so hard in a time of war and other strife; then hared off to a far-away land to marry a lass most dear-beloved our King could never have wed. And so happily ends his tale. Meantime, his cunning did not go to waste; it was his idea to make our peace with Osteryke, for example.”

    The scholar-trooper’s eyes — crossed. “That would make you Prince Anatole of Westmarch… no?” His voice was, now, hesitant.

    And a smile. “Yes; the Crown’s own bloodhound and bulldog, a role suiting me far more than any endless sentence to Court. And yes, my dear sir, that makes me the great-great-grandson of the Butcher of Westmarch, who made us such a mountain of dead Osterykers they were happy to call it a draw.”

    And it was a wolfish smile. “Perhaps the one-eyed gentleman by the fire, who’s been savoring his half-bowl of soup, could undertake to clean up the mutton I must now leave? For now, my usefulness here is ended.”

    They left, the woman lingering last by the door, as if regretful her eyes had found her no intimate comforts to take here.

    (Tip o’ the hat to Lee and Miller, for a borrowed word in Liaden.)

  23. I bought Starmen. I though I had all her work but there was a gap… Just up to… Oh. Wait. No spoilers, right?


  24. “You know the worst part? This wasn’t the work of some evil mastermind, or a takeover by rogue machines. No, they built their prison themselves, brick by brick, with the best of intentions. They sought to mold a society in which the losers and failures were spared the consequences of their own inability. They wanted to make everybody equal. Well, they quickly found that they were unable to turn failure into success, so they settled for turning success into failure. They couldn’t give accomplishment to the losers, so they took it from the winners. In the end, they got their equality by dragging everybody down to a level set by the least among them. They hadn’t made life better for anybody, just made them all equally miserable.”

    “Now they are stuck. It would take people of extraordinary ability to undo what has been done — but such individuals are not allowed to exist in their world. They have spent generations grinding out every trace of initiative, creativity and individuality, whenever those virtues arose, until the few who might save them dare not call attention to themselves.”

  25. Milo Tanner lay dead in the dusty street, his oafish body no longer a menace to anyone. He had lived like an oaf and he had died like an oaf. He bullied, berated, and beat those around him to get his way. He never should have pushed the little girl, not in front of Handy. Handy being who he was called him out on his behavior, the oafish fool went for his gun. Handy went for his, it was no surprise Milo’s oafish fingers and hand was slower than Handy, much slower.
    “You’re in trouble now stranger, the Tanner Brothers will no doubt be after you when they hear you killed their little brother” a face in the gathering crowd said.
    “Not my problem” I said and spat in the dirt at the oafs feet.
    “What name should we put on your gravestone mister?” a smart-ass in crowd asked.
    “Handy, they always called me Handy” and I walked towards the hotel.
    “Gotta be” someone in the crowd said.
    “Can’t be right, that’s just a myth” another replied.
    “As fast as that feller is it can only be” an older shopkeeper said.
    “Alright who did this the sheriff?” asked coming up too late as the law almost always did.
    “It was the Handy Kid sheriff” another replied.
    “Oh shit” the sheriff replied.
    “Might be time to go fishing, sheriff” the smart ass replied.
    “I suggest we all go fishing, we can bury the Tanners after it’s all over. Then maybe have a fish fry to celebrate” the sheriff replied.

  26. Any other time, the moonbase dining area would be full of chatter. Today Admiral Chaffee had a rapt audience as he expounded on the nationalities of the Soviet Union.

    “A lot of popular jokes play on stereotypes: the taciturn Latvian, the slow-talking Estonian, the loud and bumptious Ukrainian, the talkative but honor-obsessed Georgian. Even jokes about politicians often play on those stereotypes.”

    “So was the image of Ukrainians as a bunch of hicks based on Khrushchev, or was he viewed that way because he was Ukrainian?”

    “That’s a good question, Bob. It’s even more complicated when we talk about Stalin and Georgian jokes, especially considering that Stalin was an atypical Georgian in many ways.”

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