This is early on in the story, just after she's been mustered out of the military.

It had been a while since I was on Indra, and twenty years since I'd been through Fulda. Instead of teleporting, I caught a portal to Sumabad, several thousand kilometers south and west, where it was still the middle of planetary night. Overhead shone the span of Indra Habitat One, the closer of two annular habitats encircling Indra's star. When I'd first been here, the framework was just going up, now it was rapidly filling with people. It was so close, it felt like you could reach out and touch it - the six Indra Rosette Worlds orbited only two Imperial seconds (just over a million kilometers) inside the huge band - less than half the width of the habitat, close enough to watch storms and identify seas and major cities. It didn't really get dark on the Rosette Worlds any more, with the habitat shining more brightly than a dozen full moons on Earth. It looked like we'd be passing in front of Habitat Two, orbiting perpendicular to Habitat One ten seconds further out, in a few more days.

Fulda was a small town by Imperial standards - only a few million people. The spires of Sumabad, by comparison, held somewhere over a billion, facing the Sumabad Strait. Sumabad was literally older than the Empire; it had grown up as a port city during the dark ages of Imperial prehistory. When the Empire reached Indra, it had already been the largest city on the planet. It hadn't been one of the Empire's largest cities in a long time, but it was impressive for what it was. Twenty kilometer high arcologies, each five to eight kilometers on a side, each separated from the others by about five kilometers of jungle style greenbelt studded with berths for the great spherical ships that were the largest freighters. Scimtar's former flagship Response In Will was permanently grounded in front of the closest, an eighteen hundred meter radius sphere of dark gray metal looming over the jungle but in turn miniaturized by the spires around it.

I turned and entered the arcology. I wasn't strong enough to teleport twenty-three kilometers straight up in one jump, but the arcology's portal system could handle it just fine. It had been a while since I'd been back; caution seemed called for. I chose a destination just outside the official Residence, and emerged into a brightly lit corridor. It wasn't packed by any means, but there were people moving along it, moving with the air of those on their way somewhere. I left the receiving portal platform as I accessed Residence security and submitted my identity for scan.

Residence security agreed that I was cleared for the Residence and admitted me. I got about two steps before my perception said someone was there and I was swept up in a big bear hug by Scimtar himself.
"Welcome home, daughter!" Scimtar was the definition of larger than life - a full seven feet tall, wearing the uniform of his own family - gold trimmed with blue, reversing the Imperial colors. I'd never seen him anything other than in complete control of a situation. Scimtar was Asto's grandfather, the head of the family, a legend throughout the Empire, and, at nearly thirty square (108,000 Imperial or 75,000+ Earth years) one of its oldest citizens.

I hugged him back, "Good to be home, grandfather!" then stepped back and saluted. He returned it, twinkle in his eye.

About then Anara - Asto's mother - also zoomed in for a hug. "Congratulations! Asto told me you already started!" She was in civilian dress, but she was wearing the gray triangle of an Octus-in-fact. She was much younger than her father, barely past her first square (3600 Imperial years or 2500 Earth). My baby was her first grandchild. Not far behind, her husband Gilras was more restrained in his hug. I noticed he was wearing a uniform with three purple stars of rank - a First General - but white staff epaulets rather than the black of active command. Unusual as First General was a command grade, not staff, but I was no connoisseur of what went on at those exalted ranks.

Asto's Aunt Anana was close behind, and Helene, Scimtar's wife, his grandmother, then Ononi and Imre, Scimtar and Helene's youngest children, screaming "Aunt Grace!" Well, technically, they were my aunt- and uncle-in-law, but they'd been children when I met them. Now, they were the family's youngest adults. "Lady and More are waiting in your apartment!" they told me, a reference to the two dogs Asto and I had adopted. I was tempted to let the dogs out to greet me, but first I wanted to get the family under control. Parnit was the last of the adults to join the gathering, together with his brood of four children ranging from ten year old (7 Earth) Imar up to twenty-one year old (15 Earth) Anesto, with two girls, Urona and Anosha, in between the boys. Anesto had been just over a year old when Asto and I enlisted; we didn't know the kids well. That would have to change. I had plenty of practice being 'Aunt Grace'.

Earth natives wouldn't have thought any of them were related to each other. Scimtar was tall, dark-skinned like some Earthly South Asians and hawk-faced, like his grandson Asto. Anara looked like a fair-skinned Celt with fiery red hair and was a foot and a half shorter, the same height as me. Anana could have passed for my sister, medium-dark brown hair and skin of that shade that can be found on tanned Anglos, Mediterranean people, or lighter-skinned Mexicans. I was slightly darker, but close enough. Helene always reminded me of a young Katherine Hepburn with the grace and dignity of the same actress much later in life. Imre was tall with skin the color of dark chocolate, while his fraternal twin Ononi was my height and fair, like her older sister Anara except blonde. None of Anana and Parnit's kids looked especially like either one of their parents. But they were a family. Imperials, especially Guardians, could easily determine their own appearance. I was at the lower end of the modification scale - all I'd added was a couple inches of height and about sixty pounds of dense, augmented muscle. I think Scimtar himself was fairly close to what nature had given him, but there was no way to know other than asking him.

Scimtar's two older sons, Iaren and Amras, Amras' wife Corella, and the other four grandchildren were elsewhere. The family was one of the most active in both government and military circles, but they'd earned what they had. There were pictures in the family archives of all of them (except Scimtar) freshly graduated from initial military training, wearing the single black disc of a brand-new Trained Private. They had commercial interests and businesses that they all took turns running; Anana was about halfway through her sixty year turn, and Ononi and Imre were her current assistants. But Asto's elder sister Anri was a Squadron Corporal somewhere, Amtre was a First Staff Corporal, and youngest brother Etonas (whom I mostly remembered as an overly brash teenager) was already a Squad Private, having served a little under three years of his first enlistment contract. Their cousin Anosh, intermediate in age between Asto and Etonas, was a Platoon Private, senior to me despite less time in service. But that was okay; he'd agreed to the longer hitch while I hadn't, and he had a more capable mind.

"Grace, it's good to have you back, but Gilras and I were in the middle of something," Scimtar said, "I look forward to catching up over dinner."

Most of the others followed suit pretty quickly. In a few minutes, I was left alone with Anara and Helene. "I have a performance in an hour and a half," Helene said to Anara, "Make sure she knows what she's letting herself in for."

"I will, mother." Anara said, and Helene strode out, saying, "Welcome back, Grace. We'll do more catching up over dinner, but make certain to listen closely to what Anara has to say."

"Well, mother, I'm all ears," I told her.

The Set-Up

This is evidently the first in a series.

Emily is kidnapped from our Earth (or a reasonable facsimile) by a necromancer in order to sacrifice her to the dark powers because she is a Child of Destiny. She's rescued by a sorceror who finds she has some magical talent and sends her to Whitehall, this world's school for those with magical talent.

The Good:

I like the set-up. Whitehall is not Hogwarts as far as learning environment goes. The learning environment includes the very real possibility of doing real harm or killing yourself. True to the vaguely medieval setting, corporal punishment is a possibility.

There are real world politics involved. Nor are the 'good guys' all saints. Emily's benefactor spells loyalty onto his retainers, dulling their minds.

Finally, there is real character development in the course of the story. Emily starts out as pretty much a useless victim, and step by step learns to take control of what's happening around her. She also learns about consequences of actions.

The Need Improvement:

Both The World's Only Perfect Woman and I agreed that the story went on way too long. By two-thirds of the way through, we were both thinking "Get On With It!" increasingly stridently. That was really the only major complaint, though.

Being the first of a series, it has to do a fair amount of lifting to introduce the world, and that impacts the enjoyability. It's understandable, even inevitable, as I've learned to my chagrin, but you can't have something different without introducing it.

This book is aimed at the teen market, obviously enough. The language is mild and the situations and descriptions are within carefully set limits. There's nothing about this book that would be inappropriate for a child of ten.

I would rate this book a seven out of ten. By Amazon's standards, a four star book.

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

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

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

Grace I would like to ask you about extending.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what are your plans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

They're having trouble finding someone else.

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

Grace, work with me here!

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

I can't change your mind?

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

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

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

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

Thank you sir!

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

Too Wyrd

The Good:

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

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

The Needs Improvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Just a one-time thing, Graciela"

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

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

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

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

Still only $2.99 on Amazon

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

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

Author Interview

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

Thank you to Ms. King!

A Spell In The Country

#30days30authors #30authors30days

The Good:

This is an enjoyable little story

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

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

The Needs Improvement:

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

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

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

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

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

The Man From Empire (Rediscovery Book 1)

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Learning to be a real adult is serious work

A Guardian From Earth (Rediscovery Book 2)

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

Empire and Earth (Rediscovery Book 3)

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A New Series!

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

Preparing the Ground (Preparations for War 1)

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

Building the People

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

Copyright 2005-2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved


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