"Nay, O Lady of My Heart, I am not disappointed, but happily surprised. The fact it is a happy surprise does not alter the fact it is a surprise. Why does the universe allow us to exist, when it does not require our assistance? Why are we thus privileged? There must be some purpose to allowing us this power."

"Why question thy good fortune, husband?"

"I am ultsi, milady, by habit if not by fact. We are seekers after knowledge, which requires us to be askers of questions, and I'm not explaining myself clearly, so let's approach it from another direction. Have you ever seen a living thing simply exist?"

"Trees. Grass."

"Trees and grass do not simply exist. They're in competition for soil and sunlight and water. All the other trees and blades of grass want these same things, and there's only so much to go around. Where are our competitors?"

"Other gods."

"The niche seems suspiciously empty. One of the rules is populations expand to make full use of resources. Doesn't it seem that with so much energy available, there would be more and more beings clamoring to take it for their own survival? Yet it seems that there's plenty there for all, and there's a disturbing next question."

"I would rather not be disturbed at present, husband, but it does seem that the number of gods is increasing."

I let the next question lie for now. "And our rivals?"

"Kiltig and Klikitit would fit that description."

She had a valid point. Perhaps I came from a place so energy-starved that we'd been forced to learn to make more efficient use - and now suddenly I'd been given access to a place where all the energy you could want was there for the taking, and my competitors simply had less ability to take advantage of that energy? But resource rich environments served as a beacon for organisms from less fecund locales. Aescalon was so energy rich its divinities never learned skills that even the weakest martsi and natsi - ordinary humans with the weakest level of mind power - learned as a matter of course. "Not the same thing, milady. Those are personal animosities. Given the energy rich environment of Aescalon and its fountain of plentiful energy, there should be so many gods clamoring to partake that there is none to spare. I can think of two possible reasons why this is not the case, but I'm unable at the present to test either hypothesis."

Here's a short excerpt from Setting The Board, book 3 of Preparations for War:

Jammont's attack was crude; a feint towards my head that turned into an oblique cut towards my right-side ribcage when I moved to parry his initial assault. I parried it yieldingly in what an Earther would call seconde, deflecting the heavier blade down so its momentum would carry it downwards to my right, stepping to my left as I did so. I drew the back side of the tip along Jammont's forearm and wrist in passing, cutting through his clothing to leave a long trail along his forearm, rapidly running with red arterial blood.

That wasn't my real riposte, though. The continuation of the same stroke that pinked his arm turned to present the front edge of my blade towards his leg. Before Jammont could begin to recover his blade to protect himself, I'd hit him hard near his right hip, cutting through the stiffened leather to draw more bright arterial blood from his upper thigh, cutting the tendon of the abductor muscle in his outer leg. Then I stepped back and to the left, bringing my weapon back into a terce guard position as his leg gushed blood.

I needn't have bothered. He didn't collapse in place, but it was all he could do to remain standing. The cut had already saturated his armor and clothing, running down his leg and beginning to pool on the floor.
It would have been easier to kill him, but everyone could see that the duel was essentially over. The arm wound would have made it difficult to retain his grip on his weapon through slippery blood, the leg wound not only crippled him, he would bleed to death in a minute or so if I forced him to fight on it. A Guardian might have healed it while fighting; the locals didn't practice necris nearly so diligently.

"A lucky strike," I said, "Yield?" That would allow him to pretend it was luck, but I could see in his eyes he knew better. Before this, he might have told himself we were only half agaani by some sort of courtesy exempted from combat training; now he knew that we were the real thing. If there was a next time, my opponent would be more prepared, and I probably wouldn't have the option of being so merciful.

"I yield the issue," he responded, "Attend me!" to his servants, allowing himself to collapse to the floor.

The first thing to greet me upon returning home was a golden furry missile, ankle high and forearm long. Mischief launched herself off the sofa, demanding attention. I picked her up and petted her for a moment, then tucked her under my arm before taking a seat on one of the couches. The English Cream longhair dachshund fancied herself queen of the household, and she wasn't far wrong when she was in "Miss Chief" mode. Her chocolate and tan shorthair partner in crime, Scarecrow, wasn't far behind, with his song of greeting, telling me of the neglect and starvation he'd endured in the two hours since I left.

Studious Alden, my youngest, interrupted his cosmology lesson to come get a hug. It was still a disconcerting the way he'd teleport next to me just to save a few steps and seconds, grab a hug, then teleport back to what he'd been doing. At ten Imperial - seven Earth - he'd decided he liked his skin lighter than most, with light brown hair as well, so that was the way he was keeping it for now. But he was a holy terror with a blade or in a hadul arena as well, to the point where Asto and I tried to get him to eat more to bulk up his slight frame, in order to have a reserve if he needed it.

Imtara, eleven with the same dark brown shade of skin and black hair her father and great-grandfather favored, smiled over at me from where she was working with the specialty converter, building a circuit for some project of hers. Hi mom! Did you get all the bad guys today?

I did get more than my share of criminal cases, because however weak I was compared to my husband's family, I was a stronger than average Guardian. No criminals today. Just four civil cases any Investigator could have handled. What are you building?

A sensor discrimination module. Trying to find a more sensitive configuration for remote identification that doesn't fry with interference. Ilras and Esteban are with Dad's splinter and grandfather's getting lessons.

Here's an excerpt from near the beginning of Preparing The Ground. It's the first book of Preparations For War, the story of how a young man ends up as a missionary of civilization on a primitive world belonging to the enemy during the run up to war between two empires.

The series thus far is Preparing The Ground, Building The People, Setting The Board, and will conclude with Moving The Pieces, which is one of the two novels I'm actively working on.


Piloting a time-jammer was a lot like an old song from one of the rock stars my parents liked - Driving With Your Eyes Closed. I remember it being a fun little song, but the reality not so much. The piloting sensors used direct detection of mass akin to the operant discipline of farza, which allowed the computers to extrapolate mass from natural bodies from their effects on the metric of space - in other words, gravity. Imperial gear was crazy good. Anything shields or hull charge couldn't handle would get detected in time for a good pilot who was on the ball to avoid it, even at a couple hundred thousand times the speed of light. The problem was the potential for other ships. Gravity only propagated at light speed. It's all very well and good for natural bodies which are on the course God last set for them billions of years ago. Their gravity propagation was a thing of long standing. Not so much other ships travelling faster than light. As far as any such ships were concerned, we were driving with our eyes closed.

We didn't think there were any such ships around, but we didn't know. Difficult as it was to believe, we were actually going where no humans we knew of had ever been before. When the Imperial military had come to Earth, they'd done a fast survey looking for signs of advanced civilization, but signs of anything advanced enough to worry the Empire could be seen at interstellar distances. Nobody had actually visited Barnard's Star, our first destination, or any of the other nearby star systems we were planning to visit.

Back in the Empire, Tia Grace says time-jammers are essentially a hobby, and an uncommon hobby at that. Most interstellar ships use Vector Drive, or the brand-new Interstitial Vector. From point A to point B with effectively no in-between. But Vector Drive requires a pilot with auros and para, two of the disciplines of operant mindlords. Computers can simulate para just fine; even on Earth it's been done in hardware for decades. But computers can't quite get the fine ability auros gives a trained operant to anticipate with acceptable precision. The Empire had given up on computer-piloted Vectors thousands of years ago - the errors were too large and the accidents were too many. Except for my aunt, all of Earth's operants were currently somewhere back in the Empire undergoing initial training. So without operants, Earth had a stark choice for faster-than-light: time-jammers, or nothing.

The End of Childhood is the working title for the third book in Politics of Empire. The title may change before publication, and yes I'm aware Childhood's End would be a stronger title - but I'm not Arthur C. Clarke.

1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Call me Grace. I am a Guardian - only Second Order, though moderately strong for Second Order, and trained by Scimtar himself, as I married one of his grandsons. Professionally, I'm currently an Investigator under contract to Secundus Yeriala in Sumabad on Indra. I investigate crimes and torts, and provide factual information to the Imperial Viceroys that they use in deciding the cases.

2.Tell us where and when were you born.

I was born on a lost colony named Earth that has since been recontacted and absorbed into the Empire.

3. How would you describe yourself?

Being a Guardian, I look like a young woman just past physical maturity. I'm two ififths fiftythree, or 167 cm in Earth measure. For clueless Americans, that's 5 feet 6 inches. My body is conditioned for surviving dangerous situations, not attractiveness. As a result, I look more 'padded' than most beauty standards of the place where I grew up. I usually keep my skin the same color I was born, a medium brown. My hair is just a shade lighter than black, and I keep it cut in something that might have been called a 'pageboy' where I grew up as I don't want to spend a lot of time on it. My husband Asto likes it longer, but he knows I'm not my hair.

4. Tell us about where you grew up.

Earth, and specifically Southern California, was a weird place before Imperial contact. The government was involved in everything, and social and bureaucratic pressure to conform to the popular ideas of the day were intense. I'd compare them more to religious fervor than any hint of scientific process.

5. How old are you?

Prime thirtyfour in terms of personal duration. In Earth years, that's sixty-five.

6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

It seemed happy at the time. Youngest of five children, three older sisters and a brother. Americans in general and Californians in particular were fortunate in that we were much richer than most inhabitants of Earth in terms of living standards. My father was a high school math teacher (children were schooled in common, as there was almost no technology for teaching), and by the time I was born, we lived in a four bedroom suburban home.

7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?

I was an irresponsible self-destructive rebel during high school, and for a few years after. Nobody realized it at the time, but our culture was sick, and it had a bad effect on our youth - fewer and fewer were growing into responsible adults. That sounds like an excuse, and it is. I may have had encouragement, but I made my own choices and I should have been responsible for them. I eventually wised up and my family helped me get clean and put my life back on track. I started back to college and concentrated on getting a degree. When I had time, I helped my older sisters with their kids.

8. What do you value above all else in life?

My family.

9. What are you obsessed with?

I had a bad experience with obsession. I'm not ever going there again if I can help it.

10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?

I'm still Catholic, and however relaxed about it, probably always will be. Due to having married into a Great Family, it would be a bad idea if I attended church regularly, but I still practice the tenets of my faith. I pray, tithe, and go to confession when I can.

11. Biggest fear?

That one of their rivals will destroy my husband's side of the family. Theoretically my children are all legal children and should be protected from direct action but collateral damage happens. When they achieve adulthood, they will become legitimate targets as well.

12. What line will you never cross?

I have accepted what my in-laws refer to as The Code. I will not offend against the Code. We regard the welfare of the human race as the paramount concern, and of the Empire is immediately behind it.

13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?

The best has been my husband and children. Up to now, the worst that happened to me personally was that djhanta who tried to kill me when I was pregnant with Esteban. Yes, the nuclear exchange between China and Russia just before the Empire intervened on Earth was bad, but that wasn't directed at me personally.

14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

Any number of things while I was learning how much my upbringing and the culture I'd grown up in had confused the real nature of adulthood. The Scimtars were gracious towards me, but they never left me confused on the subject.

15. Biggest secret?

I can't tell you. The secret getting out might get someone innocent hurt.

16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?

Helper. I may not be able to solve problems with a wave of my hand, but I make things better, not worse.

17. What is your current goal?

I've just been given a commission to help ferret out fractal demons and those in the Empire they may have corrupted into betraying the Empire. We're headed for war with the fractal demons, and given what they did to us last time, this may be the most critical sort of contribution anyone can make.

This will be the third novel in Politics of Empire, working title is now 'The End of Childhood' This the first (rough) draft of the first paragraph.

"Nothing in the Game of Houses is certain and nothing is forever. The only guarantee is we all die someday."

I still remember the first time I heard that - Scimtar himself said it to me while training me as a Guardian. Eventually we all make the fatal mistake. That said, the fact it was Scimtar saying it changed the subtext - he'd been playing the game for over thirty square. Just because you were going to die someday didn't mean it had to be today or any time soon. Maybe the metaphorical dice would come up snake eyes for you today. Maybe you had enemies who'd do their best to make it happen. But you got to influence those dice, too. The leaders of the Empire were all masters at loading the dice in their favor, or better yet, controlling the outcome so the dice were never rolled.

But you're not the only one the dice can turn fickle on...

-Graciela Juarez di Scimtar


Amazon review

Goodreads review

"A Fast-Paced & Absorbing Sci-Fi Murder Mystery!
Overview: Mark Jackson's wife, Diane, left him seven years ago, but now she's back, and looking better than ever, claiming a cult that cured her cancer is now trying to kill her. It's bad enough that Mark is instantly falling for Diane all over again, but his real problems begin when he wakes up lovingly entwined with his ex-wife's mummified corpse lying in the bed beside him.

Author Dan Melson's fast-paced, absorbing sci-fi murder mystery is a page-turner as his main protagonist, Mark, is led on a mind-bending journey to find his ex-wife's killer."


You'd think there'd be more for a god to do.

Alexan and Petra have become Eternals - minor gods, binding themselves together in their divinity. According to most stories, that's where 'happily ever after' would start.

However, there's a divine ecosystem, as red in tooth and claw as any other part of nature, competing for power and worshippers and other divine benefits. There's also the diligar deity Klikitit, who's appointed Alexan his personal enemy for having dared defend himself against one of Klikitit's Sons. Then there is the question of how do they achieve the next step on the divine ladder? All of this while dealing with divine curses which bind both of them - for all divinities are cursed.

The Connected Realms are certainly more complex than they appear at first glance!

Cover lettered one third size.jpg

Amazon kindle edition

Amazon paperback

(The Amazon e-book and paperback editions will link eventually, but have not yet)

Books2Read version (Apple, Kobo, B&N, etcetera, plus all the library services if you want your favorite library to buy it for you) (both paper and e-book versions)

I have uploaded the files for "The Monad Trap", Book Two of Connected Realms, and it officially launches March 31.

You'd think there'd be more for a god to do.

Alexan and Petra have become Eternals - minor gods, binding themselves together in their divinity. According to most stories, that's where 'happily ever after' would start.

However, there's a divine ecosystem, as red in tooth and claw as any other part of nature, competing for power and worshippers and other divine benefits. There's also the diligar deity Klikitit, who's appointed Alexan his personal enemy for having dared defend himself against one of Klikitit's Sons. Then there is the question of how do they achieve the next step on the divine ladder? All of this while dealing with divine curses which bind both of them - for all divinities are cursed.

The Connected Realms are certainly more complex than they appear at first glance!

Cover lettered one third size.jpg

Amazon kindle edition

Books2Read version (Apple, Kobo, B&N, etcetera, plus all the library services if you want your favorite library to buy it for you) (both paper and e-book versions)

Amazon paperback

Amazon purchase link

A decent story, but not well thought through. Enjoyable, even if mostly popcorn level.

As an interstellar cruise liner gets underway, Earth's combined fleets come under assault from an unknown enemy. As Earth falls, they may be the only free humans left in the universe.

It's novella length, not novel, and obviously intended to be serialized but does have a story arc with a decent resolution within it.

Taken on it's own, a reasonable little story. Decent characters, even if they are way too dramatic for purposes of chewing scenery.

There are lots of unanswered questions and things that don't make sense - like how did the aliens get such sterling intelligence without Earth intelligence or military realizing what was going on (especially if even civilian grade sensors are as good as depicted)? If you don't know where they're from, how can you run away (as opposed to blundering into the middle of them)? Did Earth's military put up any kind of resistance at all, or were they simply overwhelmed and slaughtered (and if the latter, why is one of their jerry-rigged guns worth anything?) Why in the heck does Earth not have planetary defenses or even nationally based ones if they have military ships and an ongoing piracy problem? The author appears to have not thought things out very well or done very little research. The title may be a clue: season 1 episode 1 - in other words, he was trying to write for TV, where effects and dramatic music can be used in place of thinking things through. For these reasons, I'm not likely to continue with the series, but taken on its own, the story told here is decent.

My rating: Six out of ten. By Amazon standards, a four star book.


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The Man From Empire
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Setting The Board

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