Finished the first draft of the Invention of Motherhood last night. I'm proud of that climactic scene - it pulled me in emotionally and I know it's just a story I was writing. Sent it off to the beta readers. When it comes back, I'll look at revisions they suggest. Should be ready within about thirty days!

I'm hoping to have this to the beta readers by the end of September. It is currently roughly 65,000 words in length

Grace I would like to ask you about extending.

The telepathic message was not unexpected. I had twelve days - three Imperial weeks - to go in my twenty year commitment to the Imperial military. In our capacity as Merlon's Eyes, Asto and I had been all over the Empire in that time, from the thinly human Thirtyfifth Galaxy where the aliens were barely more advanced than the Earth where I'd been born, to the Second and Fourth Galaxies, where humans had a more substantial presence for much longer, and the alien species inhabiting them were therefore technologically competitive with the Empire.

I was, and had been, for several years, a Staff Private. The Eyes recruited closely bonded husband and wife operant teams (or the equivalent), valuing the rapport that made such teams work more like two fingers of the same hand. But Merlon's Eyes still had to work within their roles in the Imperial military. An Eye who was a Section Private was a Section Leader with additional duties, as I had been for three years prior to making Staff Private. I would have made Platoon Private by now, except that I was getting close to timing out of the military. Officers selecting for promotion wanted someone with more time left on their contract than I did.

My husband Asto had just made Staff Corporal, three grades above me, but his commitment was not expiring. Asto had agreed to a sixty year commitment when he signed up. I'd initially agreed to ten, extending ten more to justify our selection as Eyes, but that was it. I wasn't making a big deal about my - our - plans, but I'd done my share of pulling the wagon for a while. I wanted to start our family, so I was letting my contract expire.

Which was what First Corporal Whelsed wanted to talk to me about. But that didn't mean I wanted to talk to her about it. I have other plans. In fact, I've already made promises. I'm here for another twelve days, then I'm going home for a visit. Twenty Imperial years was the same duration as fourteen Earth years, but time on Earth ran about four times faster than the Imperial Home Instance. It had been nearly sixty years on Earth since my last visit.

Earth wasn't really home any longer, but it was where I was from. I might not even recognize it any more. Fifty years before I was born, Riverside had been mostly citrus groves. The advent of the Empire was certainly no less of a change than the urbanization of California after World War II.

So go home for a visit, but give me a contract to extend first. We'll write leave of whatever duration you want into the new contract.

That's not the only plan I have, sir. Technical ang was unisex, but English "sir" captured the connotations better than other alternatives. Whelsed was in my direct chain of command - operations deputy for the squadron I was attached to. Roughly the equivalent of a one-star general in the disbanded US Army.

So what are your plans?

With respect, sir, none of your business and you know it. I agreed to twenty years. In twelve days, I will have met that commitment and what I do then is my own business.

Someone wants to select you for Platoon Private but with twelve days left, it's pointless.

People have been declining to select me for Platoon Private for about three years, sir. I've been aware of it the whole time. If I wanted to be a Platoon Private bad enough to extend, I'd have already done it.

The Eyes are stretched too thin. They don't want to lose one of their better pairs.

I've already extended once for the Eyes, because my husband wanted us to be Eyes. Now it's time for what I want, which is out. For at least sixty years.

By which time your husband will be too senior for the Eyes. Asto was something pretty special, even among Guardians. He would be well into the sergeant grades before I considered rejoining the military. Commanders of forty-odd thousand troops or more really couldn't take off for Eyes work. The Empire's command structure was too steep to allow it. In the Planetary Surface troops, any rank other than staff grades went with a specific command assignment. Asto might transfer to Tactical Space or Strategic Space command, but the situation there was no different. You might technically be an Eye forever, but above Company Corporal, only staff grades got actual Eye assignments.

As I said, sir, the Eyes got their pound of flesh.

What?

Sorry, local Earth idiom. I honored my contract, even though I wanted something else. Now are you going to waste my last twelve days trying to persuade me to do something I'm not going to do, do you have an assignment for us, or do I go back to scheduling personnel shuttles?

We have an assignment. It might take more than twelve days.

Then you'd better get them to assign someone else. Because you know as well as I do what happens if you try to hold me over involuntarily. The Imperial military knew full well people took time out between military tours, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of Imperial years. They didn't want to give people an incentive not to come back by holding them past their contract expiration. Officers at grades where they commanded multiple systems could be involuntarily extended, but that pointedly didn't include me, Asto, or even Whelsed. The lowest grade subject to that was thirty-odd promotions away.

They're having trouble finding someone else.

If you assign us the mission, I'll do my best for twelve days. Not thirteen. And that assumes you have transport standing by. I'm even willing to pilot my own way back, if I can leave the ship there. We'd formally enlisted at Fulda Base on Indra. The rule was the military was responsible for returning us there for separation by the time the contract expired.

Grace, work with me here!

I am working with you. I've been working with you these last twenty years. I've honored every last bit of my contract, but you're assuming you're entitled to more of my life than I've contracted to give you. You're not. I might point out that I'm entitled to nearly two prime days of leave I haven't taken. That was 120 days - half an Imperial year - that I hadn't taken because Asto and I had been so much in demand as Eyes. The Empire didn't really do terminal leave like Earth's bureaucracies, where people used untaken leave to take their last several months off. I'd be paid for it on separation, but they had a contractual right to my services up until the moment my contract expired. It's just that most people did get at least a few days because there wasn't assignment to fit the time remaining. You are entitled to my best efforts until the end of the Imperial day on one-fortyfour. Not one moment longer, and the fact that I have one-fiftyeight (118 in base 10) days of leave accrued and untaken is evidence I've been more than willing to do my part under the contract. Total leave for twenty years was 240 days; I still had almost half of it.

I can't change your mind?

No, you can't, Corporal Whelsed. Tell whomever tasked you with trying that I've been looking forward to this day since the moment I agreed to be an Eye. I've done what I agreed, or at least in twelve days I will have done it. I need to be doing something else after.

Well, I can't force you, so how long do you think you'll need with the shuttle schedule?

I'll be done with it tomorrow, sir. Truth be told I'm mostly fiddling at the edges, anyway. Division will need to make more changes in reaction to events than I will to be happy with it in the theoretical state.

Alright, Grace, we'll be damned sorry to lose you, but you're right. You have shuttle runs on the current schedule through one-thirtynine; I'll cut orders sending you to Indra on one-forty. The commander's staff at Fulda base might have something for me to do the last four days, or they might let me go early. Make that probably would; their shuttle schedule would be as settled as ours was, and it was unlikely they'd find other work for only four days.

Thank you sir!

Thank you, Grace. Whelsed wasn't really a friend, but I was pretty certain she liked me. And good luck.

Too Wyrd

The Good:

The writing flows well. I was able to (mostly) keep reading smoothly. The elements of magic and fantasy feel organic and not forced. Works around the flaws in the protagonist to send the story where it needs to go.

Lengthwise, this is an actual novel, unlike many Amazon books that tease you into buying a novellette length serial installment. The author is selling you a novel's worth of reading, not a teaser that you're done with in ten or twenty minutes and asking "where's the rest?".

The Needs Improvement

I really developed a dislike for the protagonist. People who repeatedly whine about their special talents do not, in my experience, become heroes or success stories. And she spends the entire novel reacting, rather than acting. The one good decision she makes is a reaction of desperation.

I am emphatically not Christian, but I would recommend Christians avoid this book unless you've got pretty thick skin. The author goes out of the way to cast the Christian God as the ultimate antagonist, despite abundant evidence that is not the case (the author uses a Greek Chorus character for that purpose). On the other hand, a certain stripe of non-christian may enjoy it precisely for that reason.


I would rate this as a five on the ten scale. The writing was good, but there were many moments when I was disgusted by the protagonist or the cluelessness of insisting upon the identity of the ultimate antagonist. By Amazon standards, a three star product.

If you want me to review your book, contact me via my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dan.Melson.Author My schedule can mean it sometimes takes a while, and it definitely wouldn't hurt your chances to review one of mine. I do not do puff pieces - real reviews only - but neither do I do hack jobs in vengeance.

The microwave dinged. I was being pulled in too many ways too fast. I didn't trust myself to speak, so I simply opened the door and handed him one of them. Beef and cheese enchilada with rice and beans. I had machaca burrito with the same sides.

Soon as I started eating, I realized I was ravenously hungry. It hadn't just been ten hours since I ate, I realized that ScOsh had used my own energy to fix all the little things wrong with me. Among those had been the blood sugar drop that signals hunger most of the time, but once food started going in, it was hard to stop. Soon as I finished the dinner, I grabbed bread and sandwich stuffings from the fridge, and started putting them together. PB&J, turkey, ham and cheese, another PB&J. I kept building them and handing him every other one until I'd had four. He'd had the same, and we'd finished the bread. I was torn between thinking I'd gain ten pounds and that I would be doomed to keep eating forever hungry and getting thinner like the guy in some myth I'd heard once.

"Just a one-time thing, Graciela"

"You can call me Grace," I said, "Everybody does. Well, at least everyone who's not close family"

"Just a one-time thing, Grace," he repeated, "Your body will replace the energy I used, then go back to normal, although it will want more for a while. You were about forty, I've moved you back to a thirty year old body"

As I said, I'm 28. You tell a woman she was an old hag and you've helped her by moving he back to two years older than she is and see what happens.

ScOsh sensed my anger, and said, "We consider thirty to be the first flush of physical maturity. It's also the age at which we expect our children to have become adults for most purposes. Maybe our years are shorter than yours." As I said earlier, he told me the next day that the years he talked about were 255 Earth days, almost exactly. The decimal conversion he told me was 0.698. So normal people where he came from "only" lived about 630 to 1250 Earth years, and he was "only" a little over fifteen thousand Earth years old. Give or take. It didn't make much difference to resentment and anger I felt, but at least I was an insanely healthy 21 year old now, not the forty year old hag I'd been imagining (who was really the same 28 I was)

Still only $2.99 on Amazon

Well, last night I broke a little logjam I'd been having on The Invention of Motherhood, and as soon as I did, the characters hijacked the story again. I thought I was getting ready to enter the homestretch into the climax, but thanks to Grace and Asto, I've got more work to do.

Not griping. I think it will be a better story for this, even if it does violate one of Chekov's rules. Not like it's the first time or anything, but I still want to be mindful when I do.

Author Interview

| | Comments (0)

C A King interviewed me for her Goodreads blog. Worth checking out!

Thank you to Ms. King!

A Spell In The Country

#30days30authors #30authors30days

The Good:

This is an enjoyable little story

I like the characters, the dialog and the narration are good, and it kept me reading and interested. As jaded as I sometimes get about books, that's not a trivial feat. If what you're after is a fun little read with some intelligent plotting, a good story. It doesn't put me in mind of any great, well-known stories - the closest in mood I can come is the moderately obscure Curse of Sagamore by Kara Dalkey. I would say it's most appropriate for a pre-teen or younger teenager - no adult things going on, and few adult situations, none more salacious than a pretty girl batting her eyes at men who should know better.

Finally, I should note that this is an actual novel, not a short story or novellette trying to tease you into getting into a serial. Unlike a lot of what I see published in e-book format, a solid value.


The Needs Improvement:

Pretty much everyone in the book other than the protagonist is incapable of putting two and two together. Soldiers who cannot tell that a person that is still alive, and similar things. Nor would I rate it high on the scale of pseudo-historical verisimilitude. This is a younger person's story and these things are forgivable in that context. But the general incapability of everyone else in the story puts this right on the border of Mary Sue territory.

I would rate this an eight on the ten scale - as I said, it was an enjoyable read, and I had no problems staying interested. I would like to read the next story. By Amazon standards, a solid four star product.

If you want me to review your book, contact me via my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Dan.Melson.Author My schedule can mean it sometimes takes a while, and it definitely wouldn't hurt your chances to review one of mine. I do not do puff pieces - real reviews only - but neither do I do hack jobs in vengeance.

Today only! Prime customers get 40% off all kindle books! Not that $2.99 regular price isn't a great bargain, but if you're a Prime customer, what are you waiting for?


Kusaan del. It means 'finger of fate'. When it points at you do you walk away or do you step up?

The Man From Empire (Rediscovery Book 1)

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Learning to be a real adult is serious work

A Guardian From Earth (Rediscovery Book 2)

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Ji da to pront. Literally "part of the price"

Empire and Earth (Rediscovery Book 3)

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A New Series!

It started innocently enough. I was the engineer on one of Earth's first explorations beyond the Solar System, using borrowed Imperial technology. Captured on a hostile planet, I have to make a plan to escape. And then I discovered my real mistake

Preparing the Ground (Preparations for War 1)

Preparing the ground cover thumb.jpg

Missionary work doesn't necessarily have anything to do with religion.

Building the People

Building the People Amazon thumb.jpg


PS: My author's Amazon site is here for those who might be interested in other works, like the best layman's guide to mortgages on the market.

#30days30authors

I got this from a fellow member of the 30 days, 30 authors group

https://www.amazon.com/Showdown-Wyrd-West-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B06XC85VJZ

The Good:

A setting rich in thought, with lots of world-building behind it. The Wild West with Elves and Dwarves and Trolls and many more such things, including magic. This is NOT More Brand New Same Old Thing. Some serious thought has gone into building the world that is the background for the story. I could sit here and pick some things about it to pieces, but I could do that with a lot of good stories. The story works, at least on the surface level. It held my interest for as long as it needed to.


The Needs Improvement

Hops around in time with excessive information-dumps. It's a novellette, and a shortish one, not a novel. I didn't do a word-count, but I would be surprised if it was over ten thousand words. The hopping around in time conducting information dumping was distracting. This would be a better story told in a less non-linear fashion. The climax begs a big question of where the protagonist's father/trainer is.

With that said, each individual segment flows well from start to finish. It comes together to build a coherent picture of the protagonist that makes the climax make sense. I would like to read more.

I would give it about a seven on a ten scale, or three to three and a half stars on the five star system. By Amazon's definitions, a four star product.


Only 99 cents on Kindle today!

Man From Empire cover thumb.jpg

No matter what the song says, it does rain in southern California. All the damn time in March of El Nino years.

The most recent storm had finished blowing through earlier that evening. I didn't like working after dark, but the compliance reports just couldn't wait any longer. My boss, "Call me George" Martinez, had informed me that the EPA was crawling all over him and that if the hazardous usage and disposal reports weren't completed by the time he got to work in the morning, I would be joining the ranks of the unemployed. In blue state basket case California, in the middle of the worst economy of the last eighty years. Jerk.

Overall, Riverside's not a bad town. I've got a small apartment not too far from the UC campus. The complex is full of students with a smattering of old fogeys too poor and too stubborn to leave, and working class stiffs, not to mention hybrids like me. The ones I've talked to were alright.

But this wasn't there. The warehouse sits in a commercial district near where the 91 dies and turns into the 215 at the 60 merge. There are some rough people nearby, in the old twenties and thirties housing they threw up back before tract housing. Tiny lots, old decaying houses, ancient plumbing and wiring, never updated. Paint cracked, chipped, and peeling. Calling them Craftsmen would be implying a level of charm that simply didn't exist. Streets jammed with old junker cars. Chain link fences, neglected lawns, junk left wherever someone dropped it because it was too much effort to clean up. An occasional abuela put in a few flowers that just made the rest of the neighborhood look even more pitiful. Rough people, mostly poor hispanics with the occasional white trash or black, human refuse that just didn't have what it took to get ahead in the world as it had become. Some were disabled, most simply never applied themselves much. Get a second or third generation in there, and you got some real gangbanging. Easy path to see, damned near impossible to make it work into a real life worth living. Enough to make me appreciate my parents, who escaped that world and made sure I knew enough not to fall back.

The gangs had been cooped up inside most of the previous ten days. El Nino storms came through one after another. Maybe they wouldn't drown or freeze you, but they were cold, wet, and miserable - at least by the standards of California weather. Nobody came out when it was raining without a good reason why they had to be out there and then, but once it stopped a light jacket would keep you warm, and the hoodies would be out looking to burn off some energy. It's not like they had anything better to do.

And here I was, a 28 year old woman leaving the building all by myself in the dark just after eight-thirty with no one around. Just bad luck the four guys in jackets walking up the other side of the street at the exact wrong time. No key to get back in - damn "Call me George" to hell. I picked up my pace. If I could get to my car - beater that it is - and lock the doors there was a chance I'd be able to drive away.

Mistake. The hoodies started to run. Now there was some effort in it for them, things were looking worse for me. Cell phone, you say? I could grab the phone and push the number to dial 911, but it wouldn't do me a bit of good. Typical response time was thirty minutes. By the time the cops showed up, it would be long over. I was about to do it anyway when it happened.

I swear on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that this happened. He looked like an Angel of the Lord, minus the wings. Hanging up there in the air. Well, not hanging - he was falling, though not like he was getting pulled - more like he was riding an escalator that wasn't there. At least six five, thin as a rail, with a softly glowing sword of all the improbable things. Wearing what looked like some kind of uniform, dark with lighter trim, cut like nothing I'd ever seen.

I don't know what he did to call attention to himself, but all of a sudden the 'bangers noticed him. Not just the 'bangers, but everything's attention was wrenched towards him as if someone grabbed our heads, sunk hooks into our eyeballs and made us look. Right down to the rats in the dumpsters.

That was enough for the 'bangers. They hauled out their guns and started banging away. The visitor looked puzzled for an instant, then the sword vanished, and I saw a flash from him. Something in his hand - didn't did get a good look at what it was. The gang members fell over so fast it was over before I could twitch. Damn! The guy was fast. I'd never seen anything like that even in the movies.

One look showed four lifeless bodies with blood starting to pool. The visitor lit with catlike grace, apparently as unconcerned as if nothing had just happened. I had a decision to make, and I did. I jumped in my car and got the hell out of Dodge. I didn't want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when the cops finally got there. I didn't stop to say thanks, I definitely didn't talk to him, I just jumped in and went. I didn't slow down until I was home. I might have run a red light or two; I really couldn't tell you with any certainty.

Copyright 2005-2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved

 



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