New Release

Promises and Powers, a Cat Among Dragons story four-pack plus bonus excerpt, will be available at Amazon and B&N this weekend, barring technical difficulties.

 

Don’t threaten a HalfDragon’s family.

A developing situation on Earth forces Joschka Graf von Hohen-Drachenburg to make a choice: continue in semi-hiding or risk everything to protect his family and House Drachenburg. His decision brings Rada Ni Drako back into his life. Not long afterward, a creature as old as Earth itself makes Rada and offer she should probably refuse.

When the Cat helps a Dragon, everything changes.

Tech Bits – Psionics in the Cat Universe

Psionic abilities appear somewhat frequently in the Cat Among Dragons (CAD) universe. Rada Ni Drako is an empath, telepath, healer, and has strong temporal sensitivities. Joschka von Hohen-Drachenburg is a telepath who could be stronger if he’d put in the effort. Zabet dar Nagali, being a True-dragon, is a telepath by default, although she and other True-dragons can vocalize speech if they really want to.  Master Thomas’s telepathy makes Rada sound like a whisper in the wind, and healing doesn’t leave him flat on his back, unlike his mentee. The Azdhagi have healers, and although she didn’t realize it at the time, Rada encountered one Azdhag with passive telepathy. But outside of Rada’s circle, just how common are psionic talents/gifts/abilities/tendencies?

Psionics depend on the ability to use and manipulate energy. For example, simplifying mightily, the human eye uses special cells to convert light into electric impulses that travel via nerves to the brain, where they are interpreted as images. Animals take in food, break it down into chemical components, then convert those into heat (if endothermic), kinetic energy, electricity, and other things. Just so, some species in the CAD universe can consume or convert other energies into psionic abilities, because all psionics are just forms of energy manipulation. But not species do that, at least not the way Rada and her associates tend to.

Passive telepathy and empathy are the most common abilities among the sapient species. They use the least amount of energy, and provide some benefits, at least once the individual sorts out what are their own thoughts and which belong to someone or something else. Active telepathy, or as Rada puts it “projective telepathy and empathy” are rarer, but still somewhat common, for low values of common. For example, in the first century that he lived on Earth, Joschka encountered at most eight people with projective telepathy, including a few House members that he crossed paths with.

The next most-common ability is Healing. The ability to transmute energy into cell growth or to isolate pathogens and toxins is the rarest type of Healing, because of the energy demand it places on the Healer. Weaker forms, such as the ability to sense what the problems are (a diagnostic Healer), are more common.  That’s why even the most powerful Healers, like Master Thomas or the chief Healer at the Azdhag Imperial court, also learn surgery, toxicology, and other non-psionic medical techniques. Along those lines, don’t ask Rada about her stint learning how to treat various mammalian venereal diseases. If she’s in the right mood, she might give you an illustrated lecture.

Telekinesis and its variants are rarer still, enough so that in all her travels over 300 or so Earth years, Rada’s only encountered one species with telekinetic abilities. There is some argument among experts over the extent to which Healing involves a telekinetic component, but that’s an academic argument among those who don’t have active medical practices. Telekinesis makes enormous phenomenal metabolic energy demands for the amount of work done, one of the reasons it remains unusual. The symbiotic creature in the Dark Hart is descended from ancestors that hunted using telekinesis and temporal sensing, although the telekinetic ability has been bred out by the Wanderers (or so it seems).

The rarest ability of all is temporal sensitivity. Thus far only three species have usable forms of it: Wanderers, Rowfow, and Osstal, and even among those groups, at most 5% of the population has the ability. The Traders average 10% because of inbreeding, with the problems that one would expect.

The Wanderers, of whom the Traders are a subculture, can only navigate through time with the help of the symbiotic creatures in their ships. The Wanderers sense time and its potentials, while the creatures actually “twist” or manipulate temporal energy. Working together and boosted by energy storage and collection equipment, they can move back, forward, and sideways through time, along what Rada calls “threads” or “streams” of temporal energy. The symbiote actually consumes temporal energy, along with high-protein food. Compared to a pure-blood Wanderer, Rada’s abilities are weak. If a normal Trader time pilot has a sensitivity of 1.00, so to speak, Rada is at .75. Her emotional sensitivity allows the symbiote to make up the difference. Rada could never handle a large Trader transport ship on her own, but the Dark Hart is small enough for her to power and steer.

Rada’s “weakness” explains why the arrival or departure of other time ships causes her physical discomfort. She senses the warping in the time threads without the psychic buffer that most Wanderers have, even those without active temporal sense.

Other species can sense temporal energy even though they cannot use it, or even recognize exactly what they feel. Rada befriended a human who had what she came to suspect was a streak of temporal sensitivity that grew stronger over his years of working with, and around, Rada. He was also able to sense animal thoughts, giving him the ability to communicate telepathically with Rada, but not with Joschka or other “normal” telepaths.

Energy use and manipulation come at a physical cost, as Rada well knows. Because Master Thomas pounded on her for draining herself into comas twice, she in turn hammers her mentees and students about it. In contrast, most species that develop the abilities over time don’t notice the expenditure any more than a human notices the energy used for walking, breathing, and other functions. Humans are a little different, but as Rada sighs and swears, humans are always different. Zabet just rolls her eyes and mutters, <<Mammals.>>

Next Books: Progress Report

The next Cat Among Dragons story set, a four pack with a bonus chapter from the forthcoming novel, Hubris, should be out next weekend on Amazon, with ePub versions coming a little later. Joschka makes a fateful decision, Rada gets a new job, and in the process makes a bargain that will cost her far more than she imagines.

My copy editor is about half way through the next book in the Cat Among Dragons universe, and I’m working with the cover art designer on something that should work for this novel and the sequel.

Continue reading

Teaser Trailer – New Beginnings

An excerpt from “In the Beginning – 1979” a story in the upcoming Cat Among Dragons short-story four-pack. (C) Alma T.C. Boykin 2014, all rights reserved.

“Colonel Hohen-Drachenburg, have you seen these?” Major General Karl Weizenfeld handed his chief-of-staff a file folder, sat back, and watched the Austrian’s reaction.

Joschka glanced at the contents, then stopped and stared at the black-and-white photographs. Well, he thought, they are classified images; that much is obvious. And how much does anyone else know? Yes, he had seen those creatures before, but it had been over a century before, very far away from the army base near Graz, Austria. So he lied, a little. “No sir, I’ve not seen these pictures. Where are they from? And what were, or are, these things?” He pointed to the hexapedal, feather-covered beings.

The Bohemian general shook his head. “No one knows, except that they apparently tried to move into North America, near the Great Lakes. Fortunately for the Americans and Canadians, these things approached an Air Force base and the Americans fought them off, then tracked them back to their landing ship.”

“Lord have mercy,” Joschka breathed, trying to act impressed and amazed.

“Apparently all those crazy science-fiction writers are not that crazy, since these things really exist. So,” Weizenfeld announced, “You’ve dealt with the bizarre before. I want you to find out if this is the first time something like this has occurred. If not, gather all the information available regarding other incursions and strange things.” He tapped the file. “Verifiable strange things, that is.”

Getting Ideas (in All the Wrong Places)

So, where do writers get their ideas? Some people subscribe to the catalogue from the old lady in Detroit (or the lady in Schenectady. I think she specializes in romances, but I could be wrong.) I have yet to find her address.

Instead, I have a subconscious (aka the Muse) that likes to throw things at me at inopportune moments, usually when my hands are full, or I’m in the middle of something I can’t stop doing, or just before I go to sleep, so I wake up and pummel my memory trying to recall what that plot twist was. The most recent moment came on the treadmill at the gym, with Crüxshadows “Valkyrie” blasting on my headphones. As I trotted along, I saw Rada Ni Drako, or rather, saw over Rada’s shoulder as she initiated the final approach to a spacecraft carrier in high orbit around Drakon IV. You see, even the Lord Defender has to re-qualify every century or so. And the Landing Signals Officer waves her off. She growls and goes around and lines up again. And the LSO waves her off.

At this point, the Muse pulled up a second, previously unrelated story bit out of my memory and jammed it into the scene, then announced “They go together. Your turn.” Note that as this is going on, I’m still trotting away, with at least an hour of weights and cardio to go before I can get to pen and paper. Shaking my fist at the Muse does nothing but make the other folks at the gym concerned about my sanity, so I grimace and do what I can to lock the ideas into my memory.

This was a mild example of the Muse at work. Last week, as I tried to get the revisions to Non-fiction 1 done and polish some on Non-fiction 2,  the Muse reminded me that I had a WWI novel to research, and another Colplatschki book to write. “What do you mean? That was a short story that turned into a four-book series and a novella. Enough’s enough.”

Muse pulled a book off the shelf and dropped it on my toe. “Nope. Go back, use this scene, and you need to read this and a few others.” I looked at the book and groaned. So that was why Muse prodded me to read about the lead-up to the Thirty Years War last year! “Quite whining, you can reuse some of the writings you cited in Book Four.” Thanks, Muse.

“Oh, yeah, and there may be a sequel to the WWI book. The Twenties and Thirties were pretty interesting in the Hapsburg Confederation after all.”

Arrrrrgh! What became of a nice, orderly mind that stays on track?

“Thpppth,” Muse replied. “And you might consider taking those Cat stories that you don’t know what to do with and turning them into a novel.”

No! Oh no, no, that’s asking too much. Really, come on, Rada likes short stories.

“Bullcorn. But that’s for the future.”

Whimper. Putting your fingers in your ears and going “la, la, la I can’t hear you” does not work on the subconscious. I know I should have kept my mouth shut back in early January when I was wondering where my next stories would come from, since it felt as if the well had run dry.

Spring Bulbs or Why I Don’t Garden Much

You’d think, after four or five years in the ground, the daffodils in front of Festung TXRed would know better. But no. Three weeks ago, the first little green spears appeared, only to vanish under two splatters of snow. Now at least 30 bits of overly optimistic foliage have worked their way through what passes for loam in this area and are seeking sunlight.

The roses are not helping. Granted, sweetbriar (also known as “jogger beware” or “lawnmower bane”) has an excuse. It’s hardy, not smart. But the neighbor’s shrub roses are starting to bud.

Now, normal people in places with mostly normal weather would see this is, well, normal.* The High Plains and western Great Plains are not normal. We have at least one massive hard freeze around Easter, just to keep gardeners from getting too optimistic. And anyone who puts tomatoes out before May 10 deserves what they get. Last year, in late April, the temperature dropped to 15 F with constant 35 mph north winds and no moisture. You could stand at the window and watch the new leaves and flowers turning into freeze-dried plant jerky.

So when I see things starting to sprout in mid February, I feel an urge to go pile ice over them, just to try to convince the little things to go back into dormancy.  Oh well. It keeps the greenhouses and hardware stores in business.

*If you are north of Nebraska, you are laughing at this, I know.