Saturday Snippet: Eerily Familiar

I’m getting tired of stories jumping up and grabbing me. This is the opening of the next Familiar novel.

“I just do not know,” Shoshana declared, paint-stained hands waving. “I do not know. The air is wrong.”

Lelia didn’t push the artist for more. If Shoshana Langtree said it was wrong, then it was wrong. Lelia was the last person to question Shoshana when it came to art and atmospherics. Instead she asked, “Is there a way Tay and I can help?” Tay, the ring-tailed lemur perched on Lelia’s shoulder, nodded his agreement.

Shoshana walked from the easel to the workroom door and back. She folded her arms and glared at the painting. “Can you make the bad air go away?”

Tay wrinkled his nose as his mage sorted out what Sho might mean and what mage and Familiar could do about it. “Um,” Tay started, “Uncle Leopard. If we talk to Uncle Leopard, and find out what he does, then we can build on that and cast a ward. Maybe?” Continue reading

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Tuesday Tidbit: The Vapors

In which Rigi, while visiting Aunt Kay and Uncle Eb adds to her list of valuable skills… (NOTE: two chunks are missing in order to avoid a Spoiler of Unusual Size.)

Which inadvertently reminded her. Rigi memorized the composition, shaking her head a little at all the dilated animal eyes, and returned the book. “Um, one other thing. How exactly does one have the vapors?”

Lexi’s eyes widened. He pivoted and bounded from the studio, closing the door behind him. Aunt Kay rolled her eyes. “So sensitive.” She put the book aside. “First, are you trying to distract people from something else, or to make a point that cannot be made any other way?” The older woman’s posture grew intent, eyes fixed on Rigi.

There were different sorts of vapors? Rigi considered. “Ah, making a point, probably. I’d think that there are better ways of distracting people.”

“It depends on one’s persona. If you are acting as Rigi Bernardi-Prananda, then yes, wailing and having a swooning fit after a brief bout of hysterics will more than adequately communicate your distress and displeasure. Stay seated.” Kay stood and began moving things out of the way, clearing a large open space in the center of the room. “However, if you are the quiet, proper NeoTraditionalist wife of Major Prananda, never raising your voice, always restrained, then an attack of the vapors will completely absorb the attention of the room, at least for the first little while.” Kay shook as if loosening muscles long unused. “We are fortunate in that our style of dress lets us throw fits without descending into dramatic immodesty, although I have seen that work. I do not recommend it, however.” Continue reading

Teaser Tidbit: Fountains of Mercy

The first, and fifth, Colplatschki book will be out later this month, if all goes well. Here’s the opening.

Well, Peter Babenburg thought, studying the water system’s master plan for the thousandth time, we’ve finally got enough labor. I just wish to hell it hadn’t happened like this. Dear Lord, how I wish it hadn’t happened like this. The last of the refugees had streamed in that morning, carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs. They looked behind them with almost every step, as if afraid the very hounds of hell were on their tracks. No, just two-footed hellhounds, Peter sighed, rubbing tired eyes.

A meaty hand gripped his shoulder. “Easy there, Peter,” Arturo Montoya said. “Worry about the water and organizing supplies for the city. Let Ann, Martin, and I worry about defending the farms and everything else.”

Peter rubbed his eyes again, then ran his hand through thinning brown hair. “I am. Worried that is. We need a miracle.”

The former space marine colonel—turned colonist—grinned, white teeth shining against dark tanned skin. “We’ve had one already, Pete. Now it’s our turn to show our gratitude by doing the next bit ourselves, as best we can.”

He’s got a point, Pete told himself. Water and tunnels are your thing. Fighting is his. And Ann’s. And if you don’t get some sleep, you’ll nap through the next meeting and find yourself elected mayor or something equally horrible. “OK, I surrender. You keep the bad guys out, and I’ll keep the water in.”

“Deal. Because I’ve seen what happens when you try to shoot. No offense, but I’d be safer standing right in front of you than anywhere else.”

“Uh huh.” Pete straightened up and folded his arms. “And who was it that didn’t believe me when I said don’t drink from that spring, hmm? And how long did it take you to recover?”

The angry growl answered his question. Pete slapped Arturo on the shoulder and went to his napping room, just off the hall from the engineering offices. Only one out of every four lights shone, giving the long hall an air of depression and weariness, if a building could be weary.

After Pete finally got home late that evening, and he and his wife put Pete Junior to bed, he poked at his supper and grumbled, “There’s something I need to do. I just can’t tell what it is.”

Cynthia shook her head and smiled a little. “Pete, love, Arturo’s right. Two years without being attacked is a miracle and you know it. Let him and Ann do their thing and we’ll do ours.”

“Mrgf,” he said around a mouth of beans and mystery meat. The tang suggested it came from the native pig-like species. Shit, Bettina and her mob will scream if they learn we’re eating the native fauna. But eating the wildlife beats starvation. Who’d have thought we’d reach this point so fast? Besides the marines—they always plan for the worst, and they’re rarely disappointed.

“Does it need salt?”

“No dear, it tastes fine. What’s the meat?”

“Pseudo-boar. I know,” she raised her hands, fending off complaints. “Can’t eat the natives, respect for all species, yes, yes. It was tearing up the vegetable plots so Martin Krehbiel shot it. This isn’t five years ago.”

Peter swallowed another bite. “Nope, it isn’t and our food comes before the native non-sapient fauna. And it doesn’t taste at all like chicken.” Actually, it tastes better than our pigs do. Five years has turned me into a xenovore. What will the neighbors say? Not that he really cared at that moment, not with his mouth full of good, hot food, his children safe, and his wife sitting at his side. Five years, only five years, and everything has turned upside down and inside out, and the Company failed us all.

# Continue reading

Tuesday Tale: A Quiet Morning at Home…

At last, our fearless heroine can settle in to work on that religious commission. What could possibly…

Rigi arranged the board just so, got the light where she needed it, and began sketching. Hardly had pencil touched surface, when //distress/apology// flowed in from the hallway. Rigi turned to see Nahla wringing her forefeet. “Mistress Rigi, a stink-pig is in the garden!”

Rigi set the pencil down, spun around, and raced for her shooter. Makana and Salmae had gone to the market to collect some household supplies, and Nahla’s aim was not good enough yet. “Where did you see it?” She checked the charge in the gas pack and kicked off her house shoes, stuffing her feet into her boots.

“It went into the wombow shed.” //Fear/concern//

Creator bless, Rigi wailed. Of course it would go into a confined space. “Thank you for spotting it,” Rigi said. “Please have bottles of cleaner ready and on the verandah, in case they are needed.” With that Rigi eased out the back door. It really was a job that called for Martinus, except getting the stench off of him would take the rest of the day and part of the next. As she crept toward the wombow shed, Rigi reset the beam strength to small-animal. She did not need to vaporize the beast and the shed wall together. After two steps she stopped, listening hard. Continue reading

Saturday Short: Pizzas in Paradise

I wrote this for a humor anthology that never got done.

Gina, holding her breath, watched as the wild pizza rippled toward the trap.

“Quiet,” Lui hissed. “Don’t spook it. We need it all the way in the box.”

It acted suspicious, moving slowly between the spiny, stunted trees. She couldn’t tell what kind it was yet, but she really hoped it wasn’t another black olive. No one had managed to find an olive breed that didn’t squirt foul smelling brine when they got mad or scared. The pizza fluttered along, closer and closer. It stopped flat, studying the box, then eased part of its crust in. Gina exhaled as quietly as she could, then inhaled. She caught a bit of spicy red scent as the breeze puffed across the trap. Now half the pizza lay in the box, and she eased her finger back, taking the slack out of the trigger. The last bit of crust flopped into the box. Continue reading