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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.

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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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Gates of Faerie Intro

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This is the prelude to my back-burner project The Gates of Faerie, which will probably be next after I finish The Price of Power

I was fourteen the first time I saw someone vanish.

It was a girl, of course. I remember her as being tall and thin, her skin the rich dark brown of fertile soil, with tightly curled black hair, falling in clumps to her shoulders. Her bathing suit was lighter brown, and looked as if it were completely dry. In fact, I don't remember water dripping off her at all as she exited the lake.

Looking back now, I'd thought I was being cool and low key about scoping her out as she left the lake, which means I was staring and probably drooling. I knew she was way beyond me, or anyone else in the troop. We were all watching.

I saw from the way she moved that she wasn't really a girl at all. She moved lightly, not disturbing the leaves or dirt under her bare feet. Young as I was, I knew she had to be older. Nobody that age masters that kind of grace and effortless self-control. Not the dancers who practiced in the loft above the gym and took private lessons, not the martial arts devotees who spent every possible moment at the dojo and might already be fourth or fifth dan or the equivalent, and definitely not boy scout science nerds like me, no matter how much time we spent outdoors learning how to move quietly and not disturb the animals. She made the best of us look like clumsy blind bumblers, and she did it effortlessly. She looked maybe sixteen or eighteen, but she had to be older.

You could tell there was something special about her just looking at the way she moved, like the sunlight that hit her was somehow made special by her presence. Yet she had an air of complete nonchalance. She knew she was beautiful and desirable, but to her it was nothing special, it was just the way she was. She knew we were watching her, enjoying watching her, but it didn't harm her and so she enjoyed our enjoyment.
As she approached a large stand of manzanita, she turned and I caught a glimpse of her ear as her already dry hair moved, trailing her head through the turn. The ear I saw was small, and pointed, like some of the aliens on Star Trek. Our collective jaws dropped. She looked right at me, and laughed. Canines more pointed than anything I'd seen on a human flashed momentarily.

Then she turned back to the manzanita. Suddenly, her clothing shifted, no longer a two-piece thong, becoming instead a gown in rich earth colors, somehow all the more alluring. She turned again, walked under an arch of overhanging red branches, and was gone.

Not "out of sight" gone, "vanished" gone.
Being fourteen and both disturbed and intrigued by what I'd seen, I remember picking myself up off my towel on the lakeshore to check. Several other members of the troop followed. We could barely make out that she had left a trail, light footprints with long toes in a couple of places where she had crossed bare dirt. But it stopped dead under the manzanita arch. Nor was there a path to continue. Beyond a small space under the arch, the bushes closed in and became impassable to anything bigger than maybe a cat. There wasn't anywhere further to go.

We talked it over for half an hour, and intermittently the rest of the weekend and occasionally after, among those who had been there. We all agreed that we'd seen a young woman leave the lake. But beautiful young supermodels do not vanish without further trace in a manzanita thicket. Eventually, we agreed she'd somehow managed to go around rather than through. Agreeing that it had to be true didn't make it so, however, and I remembered what I had seen in the back of my head. I think we all knew that something unusual had happened, but didn't want to admit it for fear of appearing naïve.

What a group of children we were.

This is a piece from the middle. I woke up early this morning and did almost 1000 words, the most I've done in a sitting since we lost Ziggy. First draft here, so not likely to be the final form


The elder children's turns ended with a touch against them, so Ilora and Esteban would have a chance to heal before continuing. I might have been a spouse of a Great Family, but I was still their Mom, and they were still my kids. I made sure they healed themselves fully and correctly, and that they filled their energy reserves back to full while they were waiting for their next turn. And I helped them watch and learn from their elder siblings. See how Esteban never lets up? He's making Daddy work to beat him. Four phrases later, Asto allowed Esteban to score a touch on his thigh, before the riposte slashed Esteban across the cheek, ending his turn. Had it been a real duel, Asto's weapon would have sliced Esteban's head in two and disrupted brain function. The kids knew what was at stake - there was no crying about the Game of Houses or the preparation. They were ready to offer Esteban help with healing, but it wasn't necessary. He immediately clamped down on the blood vessels on the left side of his face He'll be as good as new in just a few minutes, I told the others, while Ilras was taking his turn. I helped wipe the blood away while counseling Esteban, just because a touch is a chance to drain your opponent doesn't mean every touch is a good touch. What good is something they can heal in two seconds if it lets them kill you?

Yes, Mama, Esteban replied, in a tone of infinite patience, letting me know he'd absorbed the lesson already, thank you very much. Silly Mama. He had a competitive instinct Ilora lacked, for all her sunny personality. My first pregnancy had more than its share of challenges, including a duel that would have killed me if Esteban hadn't been a part of it. I worried less about Esteban than I did the others. He'd be ready for adulthood in plenty of time.

Asto's splinter wasn't taking breaks longer than necessary to change blades for a new opponent. He didn't have to breathe, and he could draw plenty of energy via matra to keep himself going. And the splinter had all of my husband's knowledge and skill. But he knew the kids were still kids. After three turns each, he called a halt, and the kids cheered. Play with us, Mama! they all demanded.

I was confused for a fleeting moment, until Asto told me, I promised to teach them Natural State Survivor after three rounds.

Well, it wasn't often Mama got to do something fun as part of being Mama. They didn't have to ask a second time. Natural State Survivor it is!

The Man From Empire

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Kusaan del: It means 'finger of fate'. When it points at you, do you step up, or do you quietly step aside?

Life in the Empire has finally settled down. The last of the ston rebels have taken amnesty, and re-joined civilization - or have they? A massive terrorist attack kills millions and the trail leads the investigator straight to a remote world with no known Imperial contact - a world known to its inhabitants as Earth

Book One of Rediscovery, a 'tight' trilogy of novels plus a sequel, set in the Empire of Humanity, where ships move millions of light-years in quantum time, medical technology can keep you young and healthy indefinitely, and unshielded planets can be destroyed almost without noticing, but people are still human - or a little bit more

Available on Amazon and most other online retailers

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the opening of my work in progress, tentatively titled "The Price of Power". It is a sequel to The Invention of Motherhood.

Ilras, quit trying to squirt your sister with ketchup. The inverse square law is on her side.

But mom! I'm just trying to teach her defense! Meanwhile, baby Imtara giggled in delight at frustrating her brother's dastardly plan.

Dear, even if she was asleep, she'd have plenty of time to wake up and divert the stream. She's well past that drill. All you're doing is giving the dogs a mess to clean up.

Ilras didn't realize it, but his sister had ally. Esteban, the oldest at six Imperial years of age (4 Earth), scooped together a good-sized dollop with matris, stealthed it with a buffer of matra and brun, and flung it at his younger brother. I usually expected better behavior from Esteban, but under the circumstances, I let it slide.

Splat! It caught Ilras right on his jawline. No fair! Ilras cried indignantly, then had the awareness to look bashful when I gave him the mental equivalent of a cocked eyebrow. Ilras wasn't ready for the drills Esteban was doing yet, and Esteban had just made use of that fact to slip a counter-attack his brother wasn't ready for under his defenses. Given the impetus of an older brother who wasn't above using his advantages, I suspected Ilras would learn quickly.

Meanwhile, Mischief, our English Cream longhair miniature dachshund, gave a plaintive whine that she'd been deprived of her snack, most of which was now plastered across Ilras' face, and looked expectantly at Esteban for a replacement. Her name really was doubly appropriate; we ended up calling her Miss Chief about half the time. How she knew Esteban was responsible for her deprivation, I don't know, but no replacement was forthcoming. Scarecrow, our chocolate and tan shorthair male, gave a muted but pre-emptory bark informing us he wanted ketchup, too. We were at the table; we studiously ignored them.

I felt a muted thunk as Tina, my assistant, slid us into the control plug of my latest contract, followed a few seconds later by a datalink message of control verified, ready for Vector. I'd chosen Tina for the job because she was my niece and already a fully qualified insystem navigator, but despite my hopes after six years nearly constant exposure to the kids, she hadn't gone operant yet, so I still had to do all the Vectoring. I relieved her, re-computed the Vector for confirmation, performed it, verified position, and (because our next pickup was in this same system) transferred the helm back to her for insystem maneuvering to our next job. It had taken all of six seconds, and I'd still had a couple of para to keep the peace at the dinner table.

Mama, how long until we can play with baby Alden? Ilora wanted to know again.

About three more weeks, honey, I told her. Truth be told, despite all the advantages of being a Guardian, I was ready for my last pregnancy to be over. Next time, I would plan on one child, two at the most. But I really had only myself to blame - I could have just used artificial gestation for Esteban, same as everyone else, and then most of the Empire wouldn't have known about the advantages of operant mothers carrying operant children themselves. I'd introduced Alden to his older siblings on several occasions, but most of the time, kept him swaddled away where only I or Asto could interact with him. Since Asto was a First Corporal, assigned as executive officer of a squadron of Planetary Surface troops out in Ninth Galaxy, that didn't happen as often as any of us liked. The rank was an almost exact match to Brigadier General in the old US Army; a squadron was 14,400 combat troops plus their support staff of roughly another 3600.
Alden, for his part, wanted out into the great wide world. It took two of my para full time to keep him occupied and learning, and he still wasn't satisfied. Can I play with Ilras and Esteban, Mom? It was tempting to just blow off the last three weeks of this pregnancy, knowing any physical defects could be fixed later, but neither I nor Asto was ready to experiment with Alden's emotional development. The Empire had tens of thousands of years of evidence children were more able to deal with the world after a full gestation, even in an artificial womb. Neither of us wanted to experiment more than we'd already done with our own children, carrying them naturally as I'd done.

Dinner was just about over, winding down with chocolate ice cream for everyone, when Asto told me, It's official!

Children, some news. Your father is getting a new assignment. He's going to be a Staff Corporal assigned to maintenance and repair in Indra System! We're going to go live in the Residence, where he can be home every day!

Why is he getting demoted? Esteban wanted to know. Staff Corporal was a four grade drop, although two of them were staff grades, out of the line of command.

Because he's transferring to a space unit. You always transfer from Planetary Surface to Strategic Space or Tactical Space at a lower rank. He'd be expected to absorb an entirely new set of protocols; but a maintenance and repair assignment meant he'd henceforth be eligible for direct transfers or promotions within either of the space-borne branches.


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The Man From Empire
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Building the People
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