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It took four months, but all of my existing books now have new covers created by people with actual artistic talent!

Now that they're all updated with the new covers, I have been able to move the paperbacks from createspace to Kindle Direct Publishing, where the e-books have been all along (in addition to the Direct2Digital that lets me offer them through other electronic publishing outlets here)


My Amazon Page shows them as all live and available, but if you see any issues, please let me know!

"Don't sell yourself cheap, Grace," Scimtar said out loud, short-circuiting my attempt to keep the kids out of the conversation.

"Why? My only importance is because I'm married to a Scimtar."

All the older adults reacted in disbelief. Scimtar actually laughed, "Young lady, put your accomplishments in perspective. You've shown yourself to be a formidable foe, and you are married to my grandson. Because of that, our rivals might well think it's worth removing you from the game while you're still young and inexperienced."

Helene continued, "Let's start with saving that primitive planet you were born on from itself. What would have happened to it if you hadn't been there?"

The obvious thing was that the nuclear war between China and Russia would have been much worse. I and the other dog traders had destroyed most of the missiles in flight, and none of the dog traders would have been there without me. And then the fallout would have killed at least twice as many people as it spread, instead of us washing most of it out of the atmosphere. "A lot more people would have died."

Anara snorted. She'd been Earth's first planetary viceroy - and was still in charge of it through her subordinates. "The biggest continent would have become a radioactive waste, and all of the others would have suffered. Nor would the Empire have known to intervene. By the time we stepped in to save them from their ruling classes, another forty years would have passed - four times as long there due to the time differential. Instead of nine fifths, the planet might have been home to one or two fifths - if they were lucky."

Gilras took it up, "Many people would have thought marrying into the Scimtars was achievement enough for a prime or two. Instead, you devoted yourself to running that dog business, not only making it profitable, but saving large numbers of them, while enabling a lot of Imperials to enjoy the benefits." He gestured to where Dancer, a chow I'd given to Etonas, was curled around Scimtar's feet, his new master stroking his fur gently via matris. Mischief and Scarecrow were on patrol under the kids. Amazing how much food nine otherwise extraordinarily coordinated children managed to drop, even after we explained it wasn't good for the dogs. Not to mention some of the alleged adults. If it wasn't for Asto and I adjusting their metabolisms, the two dachshunds would have been hopelessly obese. Mischief, in particular, would have been a waddling blonde carpet instead of her active, svelte self.

Scimtar continued, "Then when you got tired with that, you spent twenty years in the Imperial military and the Merlon's Eyes. How many team privates earn a Thinker's Medal, even third class? And then you do something far more difficult, deciding to not only become a mother, but to actually carry the first one naturally. And I'll concede that you didn't know the benefits it would have for Esteban, but once you did, you kept at it with Ilora, Ilras, Imtara, and Alden immediately, rather than raising one at a time."

"I grew up with brothers and sisters. I wanted them to have the same thing."

"But you've still given the family five new children in barely six years. By comparison, Anana and Parnit took ten years for four, Anara and Gilras about the same, and Helene and I spaced our first four out over fifteen years. Not to mention all three of the women used artificial gestation - another thing you've managed to change. Sixth and Seventh Order children will be carried naturally now that we know it gives them a head start and a boost in abilities, and we know it because you did it the hard way."

"I'm only a team private. You're all senior officers."

Gilras: "Daughter, I'm the youngest of this generation of the family, and I'm one square fourteen, not to mention we hope we never see the circumstances that led to our rapid promotions again. You are how old? And how many of those years have been in the Empire?"

I still thought of my own age in terms of Earth years - fiftyeight. Personal duration, not calendar. I converted it to Imperial years "Prime twentythree. Fortytwo of them in the Empire."

"Daughter," Scimtar laughed, "Give yourself some time. Fortytwo years after becoming adult, I was still coming to terms with the fact I'd gone operant. Even by the standards of the time, I was weak and untrained. I might have been the equivalent of a first corporal now, but I hadn't done anything else, and the standards of the competition were much lower then."

"But you've given me so much help, and you had to do it all..."

Helene interrupted, "Daughter, you're welcome. You've more than paid us back with the children alone. Would have even if you'd done it with artificial gestation."

"Thanks for that, by the way," Anana interjected sarcastically, "I know there's nobody making me, but I can't not do it your way in the future. Not with the advantages your children gained."

"What she said goes for me, too," Anara continued, "Which demonstrates how much you've changed the Empire, and you're still practically an infant. Our rivals see the effects you've had already, and they wonder how much more you'll do, given a chance. If they're smart - and they are very smart - they're asking what they can do about it."

"So they're going to kill me?" I asked

IOM new cover.jpg

Excerpt from The Price of Power

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This is a freshly written rough draft excerpt

******

Grace, Secundus Goronos has been assassinated! I need you to start immediately!

The message from Yeriala broke me out of concentrating on a request for a large restaurant space with a view. It was two-twentyfive, three days before I was schedule to begin my appointment as an investigator. I don't know if Amras has the ghost he's going to train me with created, but I'll give it my best shot. I do need the official contract, though. Otherwise, I'm just a private citizen.

It should be in your queue. I've already been confirmed by Tertius Howsoff.

Yes, it was in my queue, ready for my agreement. I accepted it and sent it back to her while telling Imre an emergency had arisen. It appears that Yeriala's predecessor has been assassinated and I need to start immediately. I'll try to get back to helping you when I can, but I think this has a higher claim upon my attention?

Agreed, Grace. I think I'm ready to create another splinter anyway. I presume you have complete notes in the files? As soon as I indicated that I had, he said, I will handle it and broke off the link.

Before I could even consider my next move - which was to find or create an Imperial uniform - Amras contacted me. The ghost that will train you is at your outer door.

Thank you! How do I find it?

He will find you. If he was detectable by others, that would defeat the purpose. Just make sure you walk out your front door before you teleport out.

Any hints to start out with?

You might begin by checking if Goronos was officially a Quintus-in-rank.

Yeah, that might be smart. For one thing, it would determine whether we were potentially looking for a murderer or if the case didn't belong in the justice system at all. I sent a query with my datalink and it came back while he had the service points for Quintus-in-rank, he had only accepted Quartius-in-rank thus far. So if he had been murdered, it was in fact criminal murder, not political rivalry.

About that time I grabbed one of my old military uniforms and moved the white staff private's pips to the breast, between my golden triangles - the one with the stick figure that announced my status as a Second Order Guardian (officially) being junior to it, while the small unadorned golden triangle denoting that I was a Secundus-in-rank was the seniormost. On my epaulets went a larger golden triangle with crossed swords embossed, indicating that I was acting as the agent for a Secundus-in-fact. It was derivative authority - Yeriala could withdraw it at any time, for any reason or none. But it was Imperial authority, and I was suddenly feeling inadequate for the trust being placed in me - or at least doubtful of my ability. I was not responsible for judgment - but I was responsible for the findings of fact the judges would use to make their judgments. I thought it a good time for a quick prayer, O lord of hosts, guide me to truth and justice! Amen, before I walked out my front door.

Shield yourself even during prayers, I was told, the divine will hear regardless. Your enemies could use it against you.

Amazon link

This is a coming of age story set in an alternate version of early twentieth century San Francisco in a world where inhuman creatures such as vampires and lycanthropes are real.

It took me some time to figure out that what the author intended was neither "The Perils of Pauline" nor a Wooster and Jeeves type story, as there are elements of both here. The protagonist is Helena Brandywine, a sheltered little rich girl whose main issue is nobody has ever really held her to the same standards as everyone else, which is a pity (and appears likely to be remedied in future volumes of the series) because she's game to work and wants to make a difference. You can't help but like her, no matter how helpless she appears because she wants so badly to improve things. At one point, she's asked to make a major personal sacrifice and agrees almost without hesitation in order to rescue some people she believes need the help. It's not that she's unwilling, it's that her guardians and keepers have, for reasons of their own, kept her sheltered from the world (the title of the story is a fairly obvious euphemism for something else). So when she goes haring off here and there on wild goose chases only tangentially relevant to her self-appointed mission, it's because she doesn't know any better, not because she's incapable of making a coherent plan. Her primary foil is a police detective who actually possesses the skills she finds herself desiring, including a worldly knowledge such as only someone who's had his face rubbed in the ways of the world can possess. She wants to be Sherlock Holmes; he actually comes fairly close to being Sherlock Holmes.

Most of the supporting cast are at least reasonably distinct characters, and although the plot reflects some of Ms. Helena's present scatterbrained nature, it does come to a coherent conclusion. Although it's something of a 'to be continued', I didn't mind as I think I'm going to keep reading the series.

I give Pretty Waiter Girls a solid seven out of ten rating. By Amazon standards, a four star review.


Amazon link

The book feels like a guided tour with isolated stops and no feel as to how they all relate to each other. Go here, ask for help. Go there, ask for help. Every once in a while, it's broken by something or other, none of which incidents particularly engaged me. None of the characters engaged me or seemed memorable. The ending seemed like trying to wave a magic wand and failing - not that it didn't get the happy ending for the story - but that it didn't make any kind of real scientific sense, which is important given the nature of the ending.

This story would have benefited from someone reading it and asking the author a few tough or searching questions before publication.

I'm going to give it a five of ten rating - the writing flowed, the author has ability, it just didn't engage me. By Amazon standards, a three star review

I'm slowly getting the covers for my books re-done, one by one. Here is the new cover for Preparing the Ground

PTG new front cover.jpg

The next morning, I had some easy queries from people looking for property, but nobody wanted anything that required my actual presence, so Anesto and I went out in a Starbird to finish up his pilot ratings. I wanted to grab something equipped with the old Interstitial Drive, but it had been nearly thirty years since it had been superseded. Net result: Interstitial Vector was all that was available in a ship the two of us could run. The exceptions were all military craft, cruiser size and above, configured to require more crew than merchant versions.

I even tried asking Scimtar, Is there anything with an old style Interstitial Drive available that's not showing? I was going to take Anesto out today to finish his pilot ratings.

No, Grace, there isn't. Are you sure you want to be the one testing him on that? Assuming I recall correctly, it's been thirty years for you, and once you were done training with EnIlas, all you did was go straight to Earth and back.

Anesto says he's having trouble finding an instructor.

That's because all of the other instructors want to wait until he's a legal adult. There are plenty of them out there, Grace. You're plenty good at what you do, but you haven't been really working with Interstitial. I'd rather have Anesto tested by someone who's been doing exploration work recently.

He had a point. It hurt my pride, but that didn't mean it wasn't valid. Someone who had those qualifications would demand more from their students. Sorry, I didn't realize you objected to me certifying him.

If I objected, I would have prevented it. You're good at everything else, but it's been too long since you really worked at Interstitial, and you never really practiced with it. Stick to the rest of the pilot ratings. He's not piloting a ship until he takes his last adulthood test, anyway, and once he does that he'll be relieving Ononi and Imre so they can join the military, and he won't need an Interstitial certification for at least five years after that.

But Urona is only two years younger than him!

Urona is problematic. We also want him to understand what the important role really is, and there's no substitute for the assisting job to learn how important business operations are to the family. Anesto will be helping his mother at least until Anosha is of age. Plenty of time for you to refresh yourself by buying an Interstitial equipped vessel and bidding a couple exploration jobs if you want. And he was gone from the link.

No, I wouldn't be taking that much time away from my children, even if Asto's splinter was there to take care of them now. It would be thirty years before Alden was an adult - I wasn't going to be away from them more than an occasional overnight until that happened - end of discussion. I was Mom or Mama first until my children were adults.

So when I met with Anesto, I had to apologize, "I tried to find something with the old Interstitial Drive," I told him, "Because I will bet that when the time comes, the military is going to be using it to get at the fractal demons. From public data, most of their habitats have access points that require getting there via tongues or bridges in the Interstitial." A tongue was something like a peninsula in terms of the eleven dimensional structure of reality, a bridge was analogous to an isthmus like Panama. "Your grandfather persuaded me it wouldn't be helping you. It's been close to thirty years since I used Interstitial in reality and I was hoping for a refresher myself, but I should do that before I certify anyone else in it. Interstitial Vector is much better commercially and it accesses all of the instances we know of where human habitable spaces can be found, but it doesn't handle tongues or bridges." I realized while saying it that I had no particular desire to return to piloting for the forseeable future. It was time to be doing something else. I'd become a real Imperial in my attitude towards careers - you changed careers when the one you had no longer worked for the life you wanted.

"It's okay Aunt Grace. I didn't expect you to teach me Interstitial. I'm sure when I get into the military, they'll be happy to teach me if I already have all the other ratings."

"Perhaps you can explain to me the military implications of the two and their differences?"

"Interstitial Vector is like Vector Drive within our Home Instance - a force multiplier. It enables our units to move essentially immediately between any two points, while opponents without take anywhere from hours to years to move the same distance. Even in tactical engagements, it enables our units to escape enemy fire and allows us to concentrate instantly where needed. Old style Interstitial, while slower, can more easily get to places on the edges of the Interstitial medium where the arrival path isn't necessarily orthogonally based."

"In basic terms, a fleet equipped with Interstitial Vector will outfight one that is not. A fleet equipped with old style Interstitial can find places of refuge from one that is not."

One of the best things about our Great Old Ones was that the Empire only needed to learn lessons like that once, and we'd had that particular lesson long ago. The Empire's rulers wouldn't allow it to be forgotten. When the rematch came with the fractal demons, humans might be prepared to hide if we lost - but the demons would never be allowed to hide if we won.

"Good enough," I told him, "Let's see you dazzle me with your knowledge of Interstitial Vector. Take me to the solar system of Earth, outside the mandatory control zone."

"What are the Interstitial coordinates?" he asked, but I told him to check the ephemeris. While he looked, he brought the capacitors to full charge. When he found it, "Is this the system you mean, Aunt Grace?", and when I told him it was, blink! and there we were, directly 'under' the Earth-Moon pair a light minute below the plane of the ecliptic.

At that range Earth and Moon were barely resolvable into two distinct dots unless you magnified the feed. I admit my eyes still got a little misty - Earth wasn't 'home' any more but it was where I was from - but then I told him to take us directly to Arwind System, where we'd been the day before, again outside the participation zone. Blink! and there we were. Then five more Interstitial Vectors in quick succession, all to various Instances other than the Imperial Home Instance, before I agreed, "Looks like you're ready to fly on you own, nephew. Or at least you will be once you pass your final adulthood exam." I logged his endorsement, and told him to take us home to Sondergard in Indra System.

"Thank you Aunt Grace!" he told me. I could tell he'd been hoping for more actual piloting time, but even if nothing had popped up in my absence, I needed to start working on my promise to train Tina as a Guardian and in piloting. Blink! we were in the Indra System, and he was contacting System Control for a clearance into the mandatory zone and a landing sequence at Sondergard. Five minutes later, we were grounded and he was shutting down the Starbird for the next person.

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