Sunday, September 12, 2021

Re-launch of ALIEN BONDS!

 Based on reviewer feedback, and to achieve a more uniform series look, I have relaunched Alien Bonds with a new cover! Only the Kindle version has the new cover, so far. I have to do some tweaks to republish the paperback.  But here it it is! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Snippet from Saronna's Gift

From Chapter One: Duncan Trushenko and his father own and operate a large intergalactic grading company, headquartered on a tax-free but very backward planet called Kruegger's World.


Duncan smiled to himself but was careful not to let his amusement show. His father had been curious about his breakup with Emily Pulaski since it happened, but Duncan had no intention of satisfying that curiosity, especially as his father had been right in his assessment of Emily’s intentions. “If you disliked her so much,” he said instead, “why did you hire her?”

“I didn’t dislike her,” Vladimir said. “When it came to navigating the seas of interstellar trade regulations, she had excellent skills. I’m happy you seem to have learned a lot of them from her. I just didn’t want you to marry her.”

“You can’t have it both ways, Dad. Either you want me to get married or you don’t.”

“Don’t be silly,” Vladimir said irritably. “Marrying the wrong person is worse than not getting married at all.”

Duncan didn’t know what to say. His parents had lived apart ever since he was a baby; the few occasions they had been together for any length of time had resulted in epic quarrels. Another awkward silence ensued.

“I’m sorry, Duncan,” his father said. “I wasn’t trying to cast any aspersions on your mother.”

Duncan put his glass down. “I know, Dad. Why all this eagerness to fix me up with someone? I thought that was Mom’s job.”

“Well,” Vladimir said, sounding oddly hesitant, “Your mother and I both want you to find someone—get married, have a family of your own. If nothing else, I’d like to think that someday there’ll be someone for you to pass Cameron Trushenko on to. It’ll all be yours someday. I won’t live forever, you know.”

Duncan grinned openly. “You’re not giving me the ‘I’m getting old’ speech, are you? You look pretty hale for that. Naomi must be taking good care of you.”

“She is, she is.” Vladimir’s face lit with affection. “I can’t tell you what a change it makes in your outlook to have someone who cares about you in that way. It’s meant a world of difference to me to have her with me.”

Almost the only good thing about his parents’ intense dislike for each other was it took away any guilt he might have felt for being pleased when one of them found consolation elsewhere. “Good. I’m glad you’re happy.”

“The thing is,” Vladimir went on, “poor Naomi had no one to keep her company. I mean, she looks after the house for me, but really, she had no close friends, nothing to occupy her leisure time. And sometimes I get tied up for days on end.”

Duncan frowned. What was the old man leading up to? “I know you’re busy. Cameron Trushenko is a major concern. Why don’t you just hire more help?”

“Well,” Vladimir said, a nervous edge creeping into his voice, “the thing is, Naomi wanted more than just to have me free up some time. She needed a friend—a woman friend.”

Duncan sat up straighter. “What’s going on, Dad? Are you trying to tell me something?”

Vladimir glanced at the window to the courtyard. He seemed almost reluctant to meet Duncan’s eyes. “Well, yes, I am, son.”

“Son?” Duncan moved to the edge of his chair in alarm. “Son? You never call me ‘son’ unless something’s wrong. The last time you called me ‘son,’ we had just lost three million credits.”

Vladimir looked almost relieved at the accusation. “Oh, it’s nothing like that. It’s just that, as I said, Naomi needed someone, and the people on this world are so stuffy. There are off-worlders, and there are natives and the two just don’t mix. There was no one Naomi was comfortable making friends with, no one who didn’t look down her nose at her. And native women almost never leave their homes. They don’t need friends, because they all have hordes of relations. And then I found out you were coming home, and I knew you’d broken up with Emily a while ago. It seemed like a perfect solution to both problems.”

“What did?” Duncan said, more mystified than ever.

“Well,” Vladimir said, still apparently finding it difficult to come to the point, “the thing is, son—Duncan, I sort of—well, I bought a woman for you.”

Duncan’s mouth dropped open. He must have heard his father wrong. “You did what?”

“I bought a woman for you.”

No, he had heard right. But the idea was incredible. “You bought a woman for me? You bought a sentient being?”

“Now, Duncan—”

The more he thought about it, the angrier it made him. “You thought I’d want some down-trodden, complacent, hapless little female to make use of in my free time? You thought I’d take advantage of a woman like that?”

“Well,” Vladimir said, “no, not really. Actually, I just needed someone to keep Naomi company, but there’s no way I could get someone on those terms. And besides,” he added as an afterthought, “she’s not little.”

“What?” Duncan jumped to his feet. The old man had gone crazy. There was no other explanation. “I don’t give a damn how tall she is! You just send her back where she came from, Dad. I won’t have any part of this.”

“But, Duncan,” Vladimir said, his voice filled with righteous indignation, “when I brought Naomi home, you didn’t act like this. You were proud of me for stepping in.”

Duncan brushed aside this argument with a wave of his hand. “That was different. Her husband had put her up as his stake in a poker game. You kept her from ending up with some gun-running scum.”

“Saronna’s father was desperate to sell her.” The indignation in his father’s voice gave way to a virtuous note. “She’s twenty-two in Standard years, and she’s never been married. A year ago her mother died, and her father stopped looking for a husband for her and tried to sell her. None of the hill men were interested, so he came into the city. You know very well where she could have ended up if I hadn’t made him an offer.”

Duncan cringed. Just when he thought Krueger’s World couldn’t get any worse, he found out he was wrong. “Her own father?”

Vladimir nodded.

“All right,” Duncan said, “if he needed the money so badly, let him keep it. Just send her home with no strings attached.”

His father shook his head. “I can’t do that. If I did, they’d assume she’d been unsatisfactory in some way. If they let her live, it would be as a nameless drudge without any rights.”

“God!” Duncan clutched his hair. “Why the hell did you have to move to this miserable, primitive hunk of rock? What kind of place is this, where men sell their daughters to strangers?”

“It’s Krueger’s World.” Vladimir almost snapped the words out, as if he were losing patience. “And you know as well as I do why I moved Cameron Trushenko here. Krueger’s World is an ideal location for interstellar trading, and when you add in the tax break from operating outside of ThreeCon, we’re in much better shape than we were five years ago. Even your mother approved the move. The combination of New Hong Kong’s taxes and ThreeCon taxes was crippling us.”

Duncan turned away, unwilling to concede the argument. “We’re doing really well now. My two percent of the corporate profits certainly reflects that. Can’t we move back into the civilized universe?”

“Not yet,” Vladimir said firmly. “I don’t know how long it’ll be, either.”

Duncan shot him a skeptical look. “Are you sure taxes and location are the only reason, Dad? It wouldn’t have anything to do with Naomi, would it?”

Again Vladimir wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I won’t deny that the thought that Naomi might not want to leave this planet worries me. However, it’s a moot point for now. We can’t afford to move, and that’s the truth.”

Duncan sighed. “All right, so Cameron Trushenko stays here for a while longer. Is that any reason to go around buying people?”

“Maybe it is,” Vladimir said. “So long as we’re here, we might as well try to make things better for at least one person when we get the chance. If I hadn’t bought Saronna, her father might be walking the streets right now, looking for someone to buy her. As it is, she’s safe and comfortable. I presume you don’t plan to rape her?”

Repulsed, Duncan put a good deal of heat in his voice. “If that’s supposed to be a joke, it’s not very funny.”

“I wasn’t joking at all. I brought her here, and I feel responsible for her.”

“Then why didn’t you just buy her for yourself?” Duncan demanded. “Why did you have to bring me into it at all?”

For the first time, guilt suffused Vladimir’s expression. “Well, I thought about that, but Naomi got very jealous when I mentioned it. She was much happier when I agreed we could find someone for you.”

Duncan snorted with disgust, but Vladimir continued.

“Anyway, fortunately, I could tell Naomi that this woman stirred no twinges of passion in me. She’s not homely or anything, but she’s not in Naomi’s league.”

Somehow his father’s reasoning made Duncan even angrier. “And what the hell am I supposed to do with her?”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Vladimir said, his voice as soothing as it had been sixteen years before, when Duncan had broken his arm and cried all the way to the doctor’s. “But it would be nice if you made friends with her. I’m sure she’s a little scared. She may have been brought up to think this was all perfectly natural, but still it can’t be easy to leave your home so suddenly and move somewhere where you don’t know anyone.”

Duncan groaned and resumed his chair. “Good god, Dad. When did you buy her?”

“This afternoon.”

Less than a day. Just his luck to arrive right as the old man suddenly went crazy. “Damn! Do you mean if I’d gotten here last week, I could have talked you out of this nonsense?”

“No, no. I waited until you were coming home, that’s all. Like I said, Naomi was jealous until I told her Saronna was for you.”

Duncan groaned again and covered his eyes. It just got worse and worse. “Will you listen to yourself, Dad? You sound as if you were talking about a house pet. You’ve been here too long, and that’s all there is to it.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Self-Publishing 101: W is for Workflow

The thing about self-publishing is, it's up to the author to establish a viable workflow, either by paying competent people, doing the work himself, or some combination of the two. To be clear, by workflow, I don't mean writing the book, I mean turning a manuscript into a printed book and/or or an ebook. I won't talk about audiobooks because I haven't created any.

I worked in publishing for almost 30 years, and those years saw a lot of change. As I was working for a publisher of legal and regulatory information rather than fiction, it was a very different workflow from producing novels. Over that span of time, my company's focus changed from print to digital because our customers were better served by information that could be delivered faster, updated more easily. and accessed from multiple places, as opposed to having to open a book or a binder on a shelf. 

Espresso Book Machine

In fiction publishing, that transition hasn't happened as thoroughly. Print is still very viable, but there is also a digital market—both ebook and audio. But the biggest change in fiction publishing has been the advent of self-publishing. Print-on-demand technology allows booksellers to print a book only when it has been ordered. The availability of ereaders (such as the Kindle), tablets, and even cell phones have created a market for ebooks, which are delivered via the web. Because of these two developments, self publishing has taken off. And now, individual authors are learning things abut producing books that traditional publishers have known for a long time . 

Workflow is a huge part of publishing. If your book is published by a major publisher, your part of its workflow will consist mostly of  turning in your manuscript, and reviewing and approving edits and the cover.  There may be a lot of back and forth between you and the editor and publisher but that won't involve you creating the print or digital pages. With self-publishing, unless you hire someone to do workflow for you, you are on your own. The one part of workflow I always hire out is doing the cover, because in additon to artistic talent, it takes a lot of specialized skills I don't have. Page layout and ebook production are, for me, much easier tasks than creating a good-looking, marketable cover. 

The thing to remember about publishing a book is, it's never going to be perfect the first time! You need to be able to make edits, right up to and even  after publication. And since you are publishing in multiple formats, you need to consider how those edits will be made. If you format the print edition yourself, you need to be able to create headers and possibly footers and paginate the main part of the book separately from the front and back matter. After some frustrating efforts to do page layout for my books with MS Word, I have been switched to Adobe InDesign for formatting my paperbacks (and two hardbacks!) partly because it can also output an epub file as well as PDF.  InDesign is not easy to learn and you can no longer buy a copy outright, but it is available on a subscription basis per month.  I find it useful because in addition to formatting books, it can create web page banners and similar files. It cannot edit individual images in the way that Adobe Photoshop does, but it lets you place one or more images on a page (print or digital) and add text and color. Also, once you know how, formatting a book in InDesign is very fast.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough that whatever workflow you use must allow for making edits. If you hand off your m.s. to someone who will do the page layout and/or convert your m.s. to ebook format, then you need to be sure either you can edit the files they send to you, or that they have a way to do it for you (either may well be an extra expense, so get that straight up front!). 

The publisher I worked for created an in-house system that had the authors and editors working in files that were stored in SGML (standard generalized markup language), which uses tags to identify what something is, not what you want it to look like. The tag names were things like "story", "headline""annotated,case" and "subhead. SGML also imposes rules to be sure the document you are creating has a specified structure. Then, when the document was printed or sent to the web or put onto a CD it could be reliably transformed into whatever format was required. This was called single-source publishing, and it it is very efficient, but it is harder to do on your own. The problem is that the epub file that you output from the print files might not come out exactly as you want it; you might in fact, need to edit the epub version. 

A good discussion and outline of how to create ebooks, including software recommendations,  is included in this post from Jane Friednman's blog

Good luck!

Addendum:  this post on using Kindle Create, a free app from Amazon, has a lot of good information.  Amazon says Kindle Create can also format a paperback version, but I can't speak to how good a job it does at that, as I have never used it for a print book.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The North Edge of Nowhere is free for a few days!

 The North Edge of Nowhere, the first half of the Nameless World duology, is free in the Kindle store until July 6.  Here's what an Amazon reviewer had to say about the story:

"The world building is great, the non-Terran animals are wonderful, and the nameless world is fascinating. Buxton's sleeper worlds aren't all grim places; the Northern Domain seems the best of all. Although Darius is young and angry, Nowhere isn't just a book for young adults. I highly recommend it as another excellent ThreeCon book."

The reviewer points out that although these book are not marked as part of the ThreeCon series, the story is set in the ThreeCon universe. 

Get Book 1 while it's free!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Character names: Why is he just Willoughby?

Characters' names can have meaning in stories. I try to maintain a pattern to naming characters, when I think it's important to the story. In my fantasy romance Bag of Tricks, I imagined an eastern European setting, so I named the male main character Zarek, a name found most often in Poland and Hungary. But because the female lead was a woman who had wandered far from her home, I gave her the French name Aveline (even though in my fantasy world, her country of origin was north of where Zarek came from. I mean, it is a fantasy). 

In the far future, on the other hand, I can see names merging and race and ethnicities blending.  In my science fiction romance Worlds Apart, some of the population of the colony world Celadon are Greek-speaking refugees, who didn't want to be assimilated, and so they lived separately on their new world, keeping their language while forming a new culture. Those characters all have Greek names, naturally, but in some cases I used names from Greek mythology, and the hero is actually named after the most famous sculptor of the classical age, Praxiteles. On a friend's advice, I gave him the nickname Prax so it was easier for readers who didn't have an art history teacher who drilled the name Praxiteles into their heads, as I did. 

In the same book, among the strangers who come to Caledon from more cosmopolitan worlds are a man named Hari Ijiomah (a South Asian first name and an African last name) and Rishi Trahn, another South Asian first name, but with a twist because it's a man's name and Rishi is a woman, the heroine, in fact. Trahn is South East Asian, so that gave me even more variety. And for a real mix there is a also a secondary character named Ingrid Nakamura. 

Sometimes. especially if I work on a book long enough, the characters' names become fixed in my mind. The Nameless World duology was written as one very long book and later split into two books. It took me so long to write and polish the book(s), that the characters' names became a part of them that I couldn't contemplate changing, even after a beta reader suggested that having two principal male characters' names both starting with D (Darius and Daniel) was not a good idea.  Too late! Darius and Daniel they stayed.  

I got to thinking about the importance of book character names because in the pandemic-induced isolation, I have been re-reading a lot, including some Jane Austen books. Let me add, if you're inclined to do this, I would not bother with Mansfield Park. I could not believe how prosy and long-winded it is! Pride and Prejudice holds up well, as does Sense and Sensibility, which brings me to my point. In 19th century Britain, there was more formality about names. Only good friends called each other by their first names. Indeed, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet's parents called each other Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet, at least in front of others. Darcy and Bingley are sometimes Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley and sometimes just Darcy and Bingley, especially in conversation. But in Sense and Sensibility, Marianne's love interest is almost always called just Willoughby. There are about a dozen or fewer instances of "Mr. Willoughby" being used but he is mentioned hundreds of times in the books as just plain "Willoughby." Even Marianne calls him Willoughby, not John. I wondered if, having named him John Willoughby, Jane Austen was in some way trying to signal the reader that just-plain-Willoughby was less of a gentleman than her other important characters? He certainly acts badly in getting Marianne to love him, all while knowing he won't ever marry a woman with no money.  I have no way of knowing if Austen did it on purpose, but I did notice the Willoughby difference. 

So, do other writers obsess about characters' names? Do non-writers? Just me? Oh, well. 



Monday, June 7, 2021

Musings on my muse: The care and feeding of my inner control freak

If you met me, you would probably think I'm perfectly normal.  But inside, I do have a quirk that makes me a tad different from most folks: on one level, I'm a control freak. This might surprise a lot of people who see me as reasonably laid back (except when I'm worried about my kids, and then I freak out).  

But I'm a different person when I write books. It's not just being a writer that makes me different. Technology has made it much easier to write and to publish, which has revealed that gazillions of folks have that ambition. Some of them write hoping to make money, some write hoping for recognition or fame, and some write because they enjoy it. I write because I want people to read what I have written. Let me stress that—what I have written. What appeals to me writing stories is that by writing them as science fiction or fantasy, I control not only the characters but the setting. I can create my own worlds, each with its own appearance, environment, inhabitants, and cultures. And I can populate those worlds with whatever characters I think would make for an interesting story.  

In the Wakanreo trilogy (Alien Bonds, Alien Vows, and Alien Skies), I created a world where  an alien people mate because of biological reaction that cannot be controlled. I wanted to create a society in which sex was completely divorced from morality, and where nudity was not linked to a desire to provoke a sexual reaction. I also foresaw greater equality between the sexes and among socioeconomic groups; because there was no such thing as marriage, either arranged or from affection, and divorce did not exist, class structures were too difficult to enforce. Also, since pairing off was purely pheromone-driven, looks didn't matter. Add to this the question of love; just because you paired off with someone doesn't mean you have to love him or her.

In Tribes, I wanted my readers to inhabit a world where there was one overriding loyalty, at least in a legal sense. Belonging to a tribe was a a life-long and immutable thing. One's tribe provided security, a safety net against disaster, and also determined what was legal for an individual. On the other hand, if someone had no tribe, his life was doomed to slavery, drudgery, and degradation. Interjecting a slave into such a setting provided a way to see how the other characters behave toward him.

But setting a story on another world or in the future isn't the only way to control all the facets of my story. In Hidden Magic, I gave some characters magical abilities, but plunked them down in a society that feared and suppressed magic. I made them brother and sister, and then, because I enjoy a romance, I had each of them find someone they loved.  

I don't only read science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy mysteries, historical fiction and historical romance, and even sometimes young adult novels. But I don't think I would ever write in those genres because I would be stuck with the rules imposed by reality. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

#BOWS2021 My inspiration for DRIFTERS, and how to win a free copy

I am participating in the BOWS event—the Book Owl Word Search, It's an online game for book lovers featuring books and authors from Snowy Wings Publishing. Six teams of writers each post information about one of their books, information that includes a secret word. There is also a  link to follow to get to the next post from an author on the same team. (six authors per team).

My book DRIFTERS is set a thousand years or so into the future, but in many ways the story is reminiscent of the settlement of the American west. Jehan Amato, a16-year-old boy, lives on a world called Menkar VII that has no native intelligent species and was thus colonized by humans. NOTE: Human are called Terrans in my books. If I were to call them humans, then every alien species would need a species name as well as a homeworld name, and that would be too much for me—or my readers—to keep straight.

When I create colony worlds, I like to think about why people would leave their home planet and go somewhere else to live. I think our earth is going to be very crowded in the future—parts of it are very crowded now. And also, between pollution and humans' use of resources, our environment may be much less pleasant than it is now. So I can see at some future date, humans being willing to leave our planet in order to have a better quality of life. In some ways, it's a bit like the folks who left Europe in large numbers, seeking a home in the "new world" because their old world had a bad economy or too many people or a war waging or some other obstacle to living a good life. Of course, those Europeans were in fact, moving onto land already settled by other humans, even though the land seemed empty to them. In my books, colony worlds have no equivalent to Native Americans. 

Some of my favorite books when I was growing up were the Little House books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was born in Wisconsin, but her family kept moving west, first to Missouri, then Kansas. After a few years back in Wisconsin, they moved to Minnesota, and then South Dakota. Laura was born right after the American Civil War and died in 1957, so she saw a tremendous amount of change in her lifetime.

In Drifters, Jehan Amato is raised in a city, but at the age of sixteen, he finds himself forced to live with his father's nomadic people who travel across the plains of his world, much as Laura Ingalls Wilder did on earth, except Drifters don't plan to move permanently. And instead of wagons, they migrate back and forth every year in "float trains" that hover above the surface and travel much more swiftly than horse-drawn wagons. I envisioned that some of the colonists of Menkar VII would have that same spirit of the pioneers that Laura's father had—a desire to keep moving and not live in one place so I gave these folks, called Drifters, that same drive to keep moving, and a much faster way to move.

Another thing Drifters have in common with American pioneers is strict discipline. I noticed that in the Little House books. parents were very aware that their children were at risk if they wandered off into the wilderness, so they were quite firm  with them, and would punish them when they broke safety rules. Jehan's father has a similar problem because Jehan grew up in a city; he has no idea why Drifters have to follow the rules they do. In his first week with the Drifter caravan, Jehan runs into very dangerous trouble TWICE!


As part of the BOWS event, I am offering to give away three free copies of Drifters. All you need to do to enter is to make a comment below, and I will draw three names of commenters as winners. You can tell me something about you—what you like to read, what you like to watch on TV. Or you can tell me if you're someone who has lived in one place or many places. My dad was in the US Navy for 20 years; between that and going away to two different  colleges, I have lived in 10 states—not quite a Drifter but not someone with a home town, either. How about you?  

After I draw the three names, I will reply to the winners via the blog. If you win, you will need to send me your physical address to if you choose a paperback copy or your email address if you prefer an ebook. If you win and you already have Drifters, you can choose a different ebook from my list (see the My Books tab on this blog). My email address is listed on the Contact tab if you have any questions, of if you win and need to let me know your address.

My team is the Blue Team (see the book covers in the montage at right). The next author in the BOWS Blue Team is Lyssa Chiavari. Visit her blog to find her post, read about her book, and discover her secret word! 

Good luck, and happy reading! 

NOTE: If you are relying on a screen reader and have not uncovered the secret word, it is "pioneers."

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

WORLDS APART launched today! Here's a snippet-- and May the 4th be with you!

My 18th title Worlds Apart is now for sale on Amazon, as both a paperback and a Kindle book!  Here's a snippet from Chapter 2.

Background:  Rishi Trahn is wealthy and powerful but she has no surviving family. While travelling on business she stops at the planet Celadon and goes sight-seeing on the wide-open plains. Her group stumbles across a tragedy in the making as a clan of nomadic herders is being attacked by ruthless bandits with superior weapons. To prevent a massacre, Rishi orders her ship, in orbit around Celadon, to fire on the bandits which kills the leader and makes the rest run away.

After the mess is cleared up, the herders invite Rishi and her staff to a feast in her honor the very next day. The herders all speak Greek, but one young man in the Mercouri clan can translate. His name is Praxiteles. He repeats what his clan leaders say, but no one tells Rishi how potent the local wine is.

From Chapter 2:

“Come, please, lady,” Praxiteles said, holding out his hands in a welcoming gesture, “and all your clan.”

Rishi debated trying to explain the concept of staff, but opted instead to smile and follow his lead.

When they arrived in the middle of the Elliniká encampment, she saw that a series of tables had been set up to form a huge square. A large bonfire had been lit in the center of the square. The combination of firelight and assorted lanterns hanging from poles illuminated the scene well, but the light flickered a good deal. Everything had multiple shadows.

The Mercouri had assembled, but waited by their stools and benches. Rishi decided there had to be at least a hundred people ready to sit down to dinner with her, maybe more. The tables were already loaded with food. It was, indeed, a feast.

Rishi wasn’t certain because she had been busy helping the day before, but she thought everyone looked more formally dressed. Most of the women wore long dresses, although some of them wore trousers underneath shorter gowns. The men wore vests or short jackets over their shirts, and it looked as if every one of them had polished his boots. Almost all their clothes were in shades of white, brown, or gray, but occasionally, a kerchief or a blouse matched the pink or orange of the wildflowers Rishi had seen on the plains. It occurred to her that they must not only sew their clothes but weave the fabrics from which they were made.

Achilles walked her to a seat. They put Hari next to her on one side, with Praxiteles on her other side to translate. Achilles sat across from Hari, and Eugenie sat across from Rishi. Everyone else gathered around and found their places, including several of the Golden Hawk’s crew who had helped the day before. There were a few minor altercations over who sat where, but eventually everyone had a seat. Even some older children were included in the event.

Young women brought around platters of grilled meat, and everyone helped themselves. There were bowls of fruits and vegetables on the tables, none of them familiar to Rishi. Praxiteles took a tiny loaf of crusty bread and tore it in half before taking a bite. Rishi did the same. It was good, although it tasted nothing like any bread she had ever had.

A smiling young woman filled Rishi’s cup with a deep red liquid. Rishi took a sip. It had to be wine, a slightly dry wine, with an almost bitter aftertaste. It was quite nice once she got used to it.

The food was good, and Rishi was soon full. She didn’t want to give offense, but she had to turn away more and more platters as they were offered. At Achilles’ urging, as translated by Praxiteles, she tried a hard, chewy cake that managed to be both sweet and salty and made Rishi very thirsty. She drank more of the red wine.

A young woman stood up holding a stringed instrument with a curved bottom and a long straight neck. She played while she sang what sounded like a very sad song. Rishi leaned her head towards Praxiteles and noted the faint aroma of wood smoke. She whispered for him to translate for her. He bent his head even nearer and told her that the song was about a woman whose mother put her on an island in a river, to keep her apart from her sweetheart. The young man drowned trying to swim to her.

“How tragic.” Rishi felt very strange, not light-headed exactly. It wasn’t that she felt bad. On the contrary, she felt wonderful—happy and lighthearted. She smiled at Praxiteles as she sipped her wine. The firelight gleamed on his hair and made it look like burnished gold. His blue eyes smiled back at her, and Rishi studied him covertly.

After the young woman finished singing, everyone applauded, and she started to play again, a more cheerful song this time. Several men got up and danced to the music. They started slowly, arms linked together, legs lifted in unison, stepping carefully around the bonfire. As the rhythm got faster, their dancing got faster and unrestrained, and the audience’s enthusiasm kept pace. By the time the dancers finished, there was wild cheering. Rishi applauded along with the Elliniká. She felt more than wonderful. She felt that she could do anything she wanted. 

Achilles got up and stood so he was facing Rishi. “Noble lady,” he said, in loud but terribly accented Standard. “We wish to offer to you our most heartfelt thanks for our deliverances.” From the stilted way he spoke, Rishi decided he must have memorized the words with no real idea of what he was saying. He paused, and Praxiteles translated his words into Elliniká. “We want you to know that every man, and woman, and child among us gives thanks to you.” Praxiteles translated again, and there was a murmur among the audience as if they were agreeing with their leader.

“We offer to you our hospitality without condition,” Achilles went on. “If there is anything ever we can do for you, most noble lady, we beg that you will ask us to do it.” Praxiteles translated, and Achilles bowed low to Rishi before resuming his seat.

Rishi decided she should respond. She stood up and bowed back, and then straightened up and surveyed the many faces that all looked at her so respectfully. “I thank you all,” she said, still feeling that wonderful sense of exhilaration, “for making me so welcome. I’m sorry my ship has to leave this evening, or I should be pleased to visit again. You don’t need to thank me.” She waved one hand in an expansive gesture. After all, she could do anything. What were a few lightning bolts to someone like her? “There’s no reason for you to feel indebted to me. It was nothing.”

After Praxiteles translated Rishi’s speech, Eugenie jumped up and spoke rapidly in her own language.

“Noble lady.” Praxiteles translated her comments. “The Mercouri are indeed in your debt. I, the Mercouri, say this, and I beg that you will believe me. We would do anything—give you anything—that you asked of us. If we have it, you have only to speak, and it is yours to keep.”

“All right,” Rishi said, smiling. It was nice that they recognized how wonderful she was. And after all, there were things she wanted. Still standing, she laid one hand negligently on Praxiteles’ shoulder. “Since you insist, I’ll take him.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cover Reveal: WORLDS APART

Worlds Apart is a science fiction romance set on two very different worlds. 

Cover by Najla Qamber

Praxiteles Mercouri, known to his friends as Prax, has spent his whole life on the plains of the planet Celadon. He knows nothing of technology; his nomadic people travel in huge wagons pulled by enormous beasts native to Celadon. His culture is based on clans, duty, and obligation.

Rishi Trahn lives on Subidar, a much more populous world with a much higher level of technology. As the sole survivor of her family, Rishi has inherited a very profitable trading company. On a routine trip to check up on the business, she travels to Celadon.

While sightseeing, Rishi is able to avert a terrible disaster for Prax’s clan. In the ensuing celebration, Rishi overdoes the potent local wine and causes a crisis for the clan she saved. As a result, Prax ends up travelling back to Subidar with her, but he is a man lost in a maze of a foreign culture and unknown technology. In addition, he's keeping a shameful secret. Rishi, meanwhile, feels terrible for taking him away from his people. But not so terrible that she wants to send him back.

Releasing May 4 from Crimson Fox Publishing. Available in paperback and on the Kindle . Pre-order the Kindle book on Amazon now.  See all my titles here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

I'm relaunching SHADES OF EMPIRE as science fiction romance

My novel SHADES OF EMPIRE is definitely a space opera, and the original cover reflects that part of the story. The action starts on the planet Gaulle, home of the Gaullian Empire, which is ruled by a despotic emperor. It continues on board a somewhat shady merchant starship, aptly named The Queen Bee. Occasionally the characters visit some remote planets with very loose laws. 
cover art by Danielle Fine

However, inside this rather dark space opera are three separate love stories: one involves the woman who owns and commands the Queen Bee; the second happens to a young soldier charged with treason against the empire; and the third occurs when an aristocrat on Gaulle tries to help his younger sister, a co-conspirator of the young soldier. Each of these three find someone as a result of their circumstances or actions. As part of the relaunch, I commissioned a new cover, which I think manages to incorporate both the space opera and the romance sides to the story. Also as part of the relaunch, I have enrolled this book in Kindle Unlimited. 

A word to readers: as I mentioned, this book is dark, by far the darkest story I have written. The other characters are generally good—even sometimes heroic—but the villains are twisted, terrible, and often cruel. Be warned!  Here's part of what SFBook Reviews said about this book:

"Set within the same universe as the authors previous novel Tribes, Shades of Empire follows the ex-soldier Alexander Napier, merchant starship captain Madeline Pallestrino and a host of other colourful characters.... While there are a number of romantic elements to the plot there are some much more serious aspects at play... in the wrong hands [these themes] could prove a story-breaker; luckily we are in good hands and the author manages everything in an intelligent and effective manner without once coming across as gratuitous or over the top. Some of the scenes are nevertheless a little graphic and as such this isn't suited to the younger reader, or indeed those who don't like to read about that sort of thing.

So it's not a book for everyone however it is a very well crafted tale that blends some really creative characters into a multi-threaded plot without losing the reader anywhere and the way these are all brought together is excellent."