Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm Moving!

Hey guys! It's getting too difficult to keep up with multiple blogs, so I'm moving everything to my new website where you will find everything Kayla Curry related. I'll be republishing most of the posts from this blog on the over the next few weeks, but once I've done that, I'll be putting up new content!

Feel free to subscribe via email!

Friday, July 26, 2013

M Pepper Langlinais: The K-Pro Excerpt #2

The excerpts today come from M Pepper Langlinais. Her novel The K-Pro is about the ancient Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. If you missed the first excerpt, check it out before this one!

The K-Pro Excerpt:
Across the wide green at the side of the house was a garden, in full bloom in early June. Andra and David walked toward it in silence, side by side, though Andra noticed David was careful not to walk near enough to even accidentally brush or touch her. The closer they came to the colorful jumble of plants, the stronger the smell of them became, the breeze off the ocean below only managing to blow around the hot air and heavy perfume of flowers.

“It’s just a bay,” David said, unprompted, just for something to say. “An inlet, really.”

Andra nodded as if this were an interesting and important fact.

“You see how the land gives way . . .” David gestured to the far side of the garden, which was bordered by a short wall of piled stones. It didn’t look to Andra like it would stop anyone from falling; on the contrary, Andra thought someone might be just as likely to trip on it and go flying out into the open air.

As if reading the direction of her thoughts, David said, “It’s not that long a way down.”

There had been no path on the lawn, and there wasn’t one in the garden, either, only grass between the flowerbeds, though the landscapers had left plenty of space. Andra guessed four people could walk shoulder to shoulder between the plantings. Or, in their case, it was just enough room for her and David to maintain a comfortable distance from one another. Now they meandered past hot pink somethings (Andra was terrible at gardening, though she could identify roses and tulips pretty definitely), and yellow other things, and some whites and purples, steadily making their way toward the wall.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Andra quoted.

“What?” asked David, sounding yet again as if he’d only just arrived from somewhere else. Andra wondered where he went when inside his mind.

“Robert Frost,” she said. “The poet?” When David only continued to stare blankly, Andra added, “You probably don’t have to learn him over here.”

“We’ve got plenty of our own,” said David as he picked his way through some yellows that lined the wall, presumably planted there to keep people away from it, though David’s long legs allowed him to get over them with relative ease. He took a seat on the uneven pile, and Andra blanched as one of the flat, smooth stones shifted beneath him.

“What’s wrong?” David asked.

“That’s not . . . really very safe, is it?”

David glanced over his shoulder. “It’s fine. It doesn’t drop straight to the water, you see? Kind of like a ha-ha. But without the cows.”

Andra didn’t know what a ha-ha was, or what cows had to do with anything, nor could she see what David meant from where she stood, and she didn’t want to. Something panicky fluttered in her chest. “The stones are loose,” she pointed out. “They’re just piled, not, you know, stuck together or anything.”

David cocked his bright eyes at her, and in that moment Andra saw just why they were the subject of so much Internet fan-girl chatter. The brilliant sunlight only served to make them clearer, so that they rivaled the sky for color. All at once Andra felt like she were falling forward and found herself thankful she wasn’t anywhere near the open drop. Reflexively, she dug the heels of her sandals into the grass as if to ground herself, and David’s eyes traveled away from Andra’s face to her feet, restoring her to rational thinking.

Also by M Pepper Langlinais:
St. Peter in Chains
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed
The World Ends at Five and Other Stories

and coming soon:

St. Peter at the Gate

Find them and The K-Pro at:

And follow M on her site at and on Twitter @sh8kspeare

M Pepper Langlinais: The K-Pro Excerpt #1

The excerpts today come from M Pepper Langlinais. Her novel The K-Pro is about the ancient Roman and Greek gods and goddesses. Come back at noon central time for another excerpt!

The K-Pro Excerpt:
“What’s wrong with David?” Mac was wondering aloud.

From where he stood monitoring the video assist, Craig came alert. “Sir?”

“I wasn’t asking you,” Mac told him. He turned expectantly to Andra, “You’re old friends, right? Anything going on with him?”

Andra shifted uncomfortably against the canvas on which she sat. “Well . . .” She drew the word out in an attempt to buy herself time to think. “You know, I came out to see him because . . .” And here she let the words hang; she didn’t have anything more to say.

Of course, Mac filled in the open air with his own assumptions. And if Craig was paying attention to what was being said—or not being said—neither Andra nor Mac noticed.

Whatever conclusion Mac reached, he didn’t voice it, only sighed. Then, cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted, “David! Wake up and focus! Mr. Hastings is an energetic character, and you’re playing him like a narcoleptic!”

David looked over, nodded his understanding, stepped back to his mark. And while Andra detected a fair amount of determination in his face, she saw traces of the forlorn as well.

“Let me talk to him,” she said, slipping out of the chair.

“Hey!” Craig called after her, then realized his seat was finally free. He hurried to reclaim it while Mac’s attention remained on the woman crossing the set to where the actors stood waiting for cue.

“Andra, darling, has Mac added you to the cast?” Alfred asked as she stopped short in front of David.

“Who’s this?” Liz asked.

“Old friend of David’s. And Mac’s, too, apparently.” Alfred’s lips stretched like a snake uncoiling as he looked to their visitor. “You just know all kinds of interesting people, don’t you?”

She ignored him. “What do you want?” she asked David, alarmed at the desperate tone she heard in her own voice.

David only blinked, a small frown on his face.

“Just tell me or let me go,” Andra pleaded.

But David’s brow furrowed as he shook his head. He felt as if he had static between his ears. “I don’t . . .”

“Shouldn’t we finish this shot?” asked Liz.

“Yes, David,” said Alfred, “tell her you want to finish this scene so we can get in out of the heat.”

“Would it help you concentrate if I weren’t here?” Andra asked.

Unable now to think at all with her standing there, those green eyes on him making him dizzy and nauseous, David started to bring his hands to his face, was startled when something prevented them from getting there. A bolt ran through him as he realized Andra had taken his hands in hers.

“Your makeup,” she said by way of explanation. Froze. Something was wrong. Andra heard it like a rolling thunder, going so far as to turn her eyes briefly to the empty summer sky in search of signs of an unexpected storm.

But of course there was nothing. The sky was a clear, blank expanse of blue.

So Andra looked again at David, whose dark blue eyes were digging into her in a way that made her distinctly uncomfortable.

Wait. Dark blue? If there was one thing everyone knew about David Styles, it was that his eyes were a bright, light blue. The color of a Caribbean sea. Or the Mediterranean, depending on which magazine you read. In any case, not this strange slate color.

Meaning to let go of David’s hands, Andra started to draw back and away, but he closed his fingers and held on.

“I want my key back, Katie.”

For Andra, the words were like a crack of lighting splitting the world in two, complete with the high-pitched howling of a wickedly cold wind. Her breath stopped in her chest and she rocked on her feet; the only thing that kept her from falling outright was David’s unrelenting grip.

“That’s not the line,” Liz said, and the spell was broken. Andra used the moment to pull her hands free, and at the loss of her touch David blinked like a man waking from a dream. All at once he had a blazing headache. He reached again for his face but stopped himself short of touching it, eyeing Andra all the while.

For her part, Andra watched David’s eyes clear, the darkness parting from them like rainclouds breaking open to allow daylight to shine through. And somewhere in the back of her mind, the screaming stopped again. “Alfred’s right,” she said when she realized everyone was still staring at her, “It’s hot out here. I’m going . . .” She didn’t finish the sentence, merely beat a hasty retreat.

Also by M Pepper Langlinais:
St. Peter in Chains
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed
The World Ends at Five and Other Stories

and coming soon:

St. Peter at the Gate

Find them and The K-Pro at:

And follow M on her site at and on Twitter @sh8kspeare

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nathan Squiers #3: FIRST EVER LOOK at Crimson Shadow: Love you to Death!!

The excerpts being featured today are from Nathan Squiers' Crimson Shadow Series. The first was from book one, Noir. The second excerpt was from Sins of the Father and now, the moment you've been waiting for, a NEVER before seen, first look at the third book in the series, Love You to Death!

This is the very first time the world has seen anything from this long-awaited third book!

But before I show it to you, I just want to say that Nathan Squiers is an awesome author. He is very interested in his readers and loves to chat on Facebook. You will get at least a few laughs from the stuff he posts daily, so if you aren't following him yet, make sure that you do!


Are you ready?

Are you sure?


Okay, I'll give you a second. Get excited!


Finger on the scroll button?

Eyes glued to the screen?

Here it is!!!

Love You to Death

Shooting from her seat she headed for the exit, gritting her teeth and cursing the café’s open mike night. A barista, delivering two steaming cups of coffee to a couple at a nearby table, tried to side-step out of her path but wound up bumping her hip with her own. Estella stumbled, hearing the girl’s heartbeat hasten and sending excited torrents of life through her veins.

The roar of the music faded.

There was no sound at all…

Nothing but the rhythmic thumping of the barista’s pounding heart—the only song her body cared to hear at that moment—and the blood coursing like a river just under her skin.

Her fangs extended further and it felt as though they would finally tear through her mouth in an effort to escape her starvation…

Her gums were on fire!

The barista backed up, nervously. “Oh, I’m sorry. I—”

“IT’S FINE!” Estella screamed to hear herself over the girl’s heartbeat. Everybody turned to stare. She blushed and stepped back; away from the girl, whose blood was still calling to her. Her eyes darted about, seeing that everyone was staring at her and she felt a deep, gravel-thick growl crawl up her throat. “WHAT?” she roared at the staring crowd.

The band stopped in mid chorus and any who weren’t staring before were now.

And all their heartbeats beat like the damn bass-drum in her head.

She covered her ears and ran, knocking the barista over on her way to the exit. Tears formed in her eyes—burning hot and blurring her vision—and she wished she could cast a spell, any kind of spell, to make it all go away.

But she didn’t have the materials.

Or the focus.

The door crashed outward before she’d even reached it—reacting to her chaotic magical energies—and began to tear it from the hinges, sending the small bell fastened over the frame into a rattling frenzy that sounded like a series of gongs in her head. Behind her the crowd gasped and cried out in surprise.

So many heartbeats…

So much blood…

What was just one bite going to hurt?

“NO!” Estella slapped her palms against her temples, trying to jar the temptation from her thoughts.

The hinges finally lost their battle with Estella’s wayward spell, throwing the door from its twisted frame and into the street where it crashed into a passing cab and lodged itself in the passenger-side door. Estella found enough control of her new abilities to jump into what Xander had referred to in the past as “overdrive”, the sangsuigan ability that allowed them to move faster than the human eye could register. She moved down the road in a powerful-yet-energy-draining sprint, ducking and weaving between the seemingly time-frozen crowds. Her effort to distance herself from them, however, took its toll on her starved body. Unable to fuel the process any further, her exhaustion grew more intense, and though she fought to stay in overdrive—fought to get as far away as possible—the people around her appeared to move more quickly as her speed began to wane.

With her body drained, she fell out of overdrive and crashed to the sidewalk in the middle of a crowd. Startled by the spectacle of a young lady falling out of nowhere, the onlookers gawked while several who proved more kind than astonished closed in around her to help her up.

“Oh my god! Are you alright?”

“Did you break anything?”

“I think she’s bleeding!”

“Should we call an ambulance?”

Estella’s mind reeled as she scrambled away from one person only to collide with another; her fangs throbbing with the promise of blood. Her mind roared as the hunger pushed her to cross the unspeakable threshold. They were all around her! Potential prey! They were coming to her! There was no need to even hunt!

Take it.

Take it!



Estella thrashed to try and clear her mind as well as the people around her. Still dizzy, she pulled herself up and looked for a gap in the crowd to break through, holding her murderous instincts at bay despite every fiber of her being pushing her to remedy her pain and exhaustion.

She sensed somebody approaching her from behind and she spun, pushing them away. Miscalculating the act and her superhuman strength, the large man was thrown off his feet and sailed into the street. An SUV leaned on its horn and screeched to a stop a short distance from him. The shocked onlookers let out a collective sigh of relief when they saw that their fellow Samaritan hadn’t been run over, but his survival was not yet insured.

He’d scraped his palms…

The scent!

Estella groaned and keeled over, throwing up all over the pavement before turning and scampering off, away from the gasping and yelling crowd.

“What the hell’s the matter with her?”

“She almost killed him!”

“Hey! Get back—”

But she didn’t go back, didn’t even look back. Instead she ran, clutching her burning stomach and pushing through anything that was in her way. By some strange miracle she made it to the bridge and the dank crate beneath it where she’d been sleeping in for the past few nights.

Nobody ever came there; it was swampy and cold and dark.

The perfect place for a monster.

The perfect place for her.

She’d been there for barely half a minute before a passing rat fell victim to her hunger and she tore into its heaving belly, ignoring the sharp little teeth that felt like a minor itch as they bore into her hand. The bites stopped quickly as she drained the creature, and as it uttered its final, pained squeaks she heaved forward, dropping it and coughing what little blood remained in her mouth all over the ground. The rodent’s small body still twitched with lingering spasms, and Estella felt the first wells of scalding tears grow in her eyes at the sight of its suffering.

“Sorry…” she sobbed, “I’m so sorry…”

The display of pain and death was soon over, but the memory carried on in her mind. Over and over she saw it and all others like it that her monstrous desires had destroyed. So much pain and suffering and death. All at her own hands. All to keep herself alive.

Just to have another day and another chance to ruin another life.

But, for the time being, the pain was gone, and her fangs receded back into the hollow shafts in her gums where her canines had once been.

Waiting for when they could torture her next.

Finally able to rest, she crawled—unable to get to her feet—to the entrance of the wooden shipping crate and wrapped the ripped and dirty blanket that she had found in nearby motel’s dumpster around her to keep the rising sun from touching her. Once protected from the outside world, she clenched her eyes and tried to block out the roar of the growing morning traffic overhead. Behind her eyelids, the welling tears that had blurred the blood-filled world continued to spill and she wrapped her arm around her face to stifle herself.

“Xander…” she sobbed, choking on the name “… how could you let this happen?” Her body shook with her growing rage, “GOD DAMN YOU, XANDER!”

Her vampiric strength coupled with her magic took its toll on the crate, which finally burst into fragments and left her exposed. She lay there for a long moment, trying to decide if it was worth it to finally let the sun take her. However, as tempting as the notion of freedom was, the fear of what lay beyond was too powerful to humor it for long, and she rose to her feet, pulling the blanket over her head like a shawl.

With no destination in mind, she cast her sights towards the West—away from the source of the impending morning light—and started off for her next shelter.

Wherever that may be…

Author Links:

Books can be found at Amazon:
And SmashWords:

Nathan Squiers #2: Crimson Shadow: Sins of the Father Excerpt

The excerpts being featured today are from Nathan Squiers' Crimson Shadow Series. The first was from Book One, Noir. This excerpt is from Sins of the Father and later, a NEVER before seen, first look at the third book in the series, Love You to Death will be published at 1 p.m. central time!

Sins of the Father

It was nearly midnight when Xander got to Estella’s. His blood was still boiling from the encounter and he could feel his body shaking from the lingering adrenaline still coursing in his veins. This and his lingering panic distracted him and his jump onto the roof was overshot and clumsy and he cursed to himself as he had to work against fall over the edge.

Her window was closed in response to the chilled night air—proof enough that she hadn’t “seen” or predicted his arrival—and he smiled. He’d been hoping to surprise her with the gift, and if she’d been expecting him it might have meant she had cast her sight spell on him and was already aware it.

He carefully opened the window, cringing at the random creaks and groans that the old woodwork gave as it slid upward. Finally, he had it open far enough and he slinked in with all the swiftness and stealth of his kind.

Estella was, thankfully, still asleep; her slowed heart rate and steady breathing during his entrance confirming that she wasn’t just pretending. He smiled at the scene as he approached and pulled the small box from his pocket and put it on the bedside counter. After a moment of thought he carefully flipped open the lid and turned it towards her so that it would be the first thing she saw. Then, satisfied that the gift was properly displayed, he turned away and headed back towards the window. He was halfway there when a soft, panicked moan escaped his sleeping lover’s lips and he turned to look at her outlined form as it momentarily pitched in the bed, rolling over once, then again, then once more. She whimpered again, this time sounding defeated, and finally came to rest on her back.

Xander frowned at this and turned back again, retrieving her desk chair and setting it beside the bed. Settling in beside her, he reached his left hand out and rested it on an exposed portion of Estella’s forearm and giving it a gentle squeeze so that she’d be subconsciously aware that she wasn’t alone. Though he very rarely used physical contact as a means of energy transference—feeling that it was easier and to do so from a distance with his aura—even he had to admit that, in a case like this, it served his purposes well. It was one of the first lessons he’d learned after being introduced to the world of mythos: the ability for aurics to physically pull energy from a victim through their writing hand or push a controlled amount of their own energy into a recipient with their opposite hand. In Xander’s case, his right hand could drain life-energy if he so desired, but with his left…

Gathering a bundle of positive energies, he allowed them to flow out of him and into her and he watched with a satisfied smile as her distressed features melted away into calmness. Her aura brightened with the donation and rippled with fresh vitality as a gentle sigh issued past her lips and her hand moved and came to rest on his own, clasping it tightly. Despite this calculated gesture, she remained asleep and Xander, realizing that he neither could nor wanted to leave, gently shifted from the chair to her side in the bed.

“You’ve always been right about me,” he whispered to her, “even when we were little, you were so… so damn perfect! And, even then, I knew that there would never be anybody or anything in my life that made the pieces fall into place just the way they needed to. Even when that…” he inhaled, feeling a tear welling in his blood-stained right eye, “… when that monster was with us—waiting at home every fucking day to torture and torment me—I was somehow able to forget about how, sooner or later, I’d have to go back to it; somehow able to not be afraid. And all… all because you—you and your damnable happiness; that beautiful light that you’ve always just offered to anybody in need of it—were nice enough to not see me like everybody else did. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Estella. I couldn’t try to pretend that there was something sharing that list. Hell, I’d be fucking dead for sure if it wasn’t for you!” he shook his head and sighed, carefully laying his thumb on her cheek. “That night—when we were finally reunited and you made me promise that I’d come back after I killed Kyle—I…” he bit his lip, “… I’d lied to you. I’d lied, and I’m sorry for that; I wish I could take it back now, but… I don’t know if I could. I’d spent so many nights for so many years hoping to escape all the pain. I’d even lost you, and I know that was my own fault… but I had nothing left to live for.” He fought the growing knot in his throat as another well of tears splashed from his eyes. “And then you…”—he shook his head—“you fucking made me promise to come back; you made me! You made me… and, even after so many years of being out of your light—without that intoxicating joy of yours—you made me want to live again!” an inhale snagged as a sob fought to get out and he clenched his eyes to keep from falling into a coughing fit. As he steadied his breathing and regained himself, he brought his gaze back to his sleeping lover. “I’m not smart enough to know how to tell you how much I love you, Estella, and I don’t think I ever will be. No matter how many added years I have to try.” He smiled, “So let me do the next best thing for you, Estella: let me always be there to show you—even if I can’t say it right—how much you’ve always meant to me. Let me spend this new life not fighting to end it, but fighting to make it something great; something that I can dedicate to you for giving me that chance. Let me dedicate my life to proving how much I love you.”

He sighed as he finished, staring into Estella’s serene face. Even though his rant hadn’t awoken her, her aura seemed brighter than it had before he’d spoken, and, as he traced her angelic features with his superhuman eyes, he saw a faint smile creep over her porcelain features.

Taking this as all the response he needed, he gently pulled her into him and closed his eyes.

Author Links:

Books can be found at Amazon:
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Nathan Squiers #1: Crimson Shadow: Noir Excerpt

The excerpts being featured today are from Nathan Squiers' Crimson Shadow Series. The first is from Book One, Noir. An excerpt from Sins of the Father will be published on this blog later today at 10 a.m. (Central) and then a NEVER before seen, first look at the third book in the series, Love You to Death at 1 p.m.!


The night air was cool and refreshing as Xander jumped into overdrive and headed towards Estella's old house, hoping she hadn't moved since his last visit. It took only several seconds to travel the fifteen-or-so miles to her house, which was several seconds that he could have done without; the anxiety to finally come face-to-face with his old friend and apologize for all of his wrongdoings had been eating away at his insides since he'd first heard that she'd been asking about him.

When, at last, he stood in front of the house, he was reassured by the slightly peeled letters on the mailbox that still read "EDASH". As he approached the entrance, he suddenly realized that he didn't want to knock and go through the discomfort of dealing with her parents and, instead, decided to make his entrance through the attic window—what he hoped was still Estella's bedroom.

Backing away to get a better view of his intended entrance he noticed that not only were the lights already on in her room but that the window was open as well. For a moment he entertained the notion that his old friend had been keeping her bedroom cool, but the nagging fact that it was early winter and too cold for comfort refused to let him hold on to that belief for very long. Left with no other truth other than the obvious, he took in a deep breath and tried to calm his racing heart.

It was an easy jump to the roof, though landing on the sharply angled roof proved a bit awkward. He teetered, the sharp slope threatening to drop him back over the edge, before he finally found his footing and began walking towards the window. Taking his time, hoping to elude—if no one but himself—of any views of him being clumsy, he dared his first peek into the room when the voice emerged:

"Come in, Xander. It's safe."

He paused as he was not only welcomed inside, but assured of the absence of any third parties. Slowly, he ducked his head and poked it inside. Estella sat on her bed at the other side of the room, which housed a combination of posters and several bookshelves crammed with an ample collection. His eyes quickly scanned a few of the titles, not surprised to find that many of them were somehow magical in nature.

He had not been completely shocked when Stan warned him that she had become a witch in the time they had spent apart, but, seeing her research material, he couldn’t help but realize just how well versed she had become. Finally, his wandering eyes paused, having taken in every detail of the room around him and leaving him with no other option than to finally make eye contact.

"Just on time." Her voice was soft and timid; as though she was afraid of startling a wild animal, "And you don't have to worry about Mom and Dad… they went to bed a few hours ago."

Xander took in a sharp inhale and nodded and looked up at her and her bright-orange aura shifted and she cringed and he frowned; she expected him to yell at her. Instead, he pulled a nearby office chair to himself and sat down, leaning forward and exhaling.

"I'm sorry." She said, "I'll get out of your head now. And I'm sorry about before."

Xander looked at her, "Before?"

She nodded and blushed as she realized that he didn't know what she was referring to, "About entering your mind… more than once." She smiled faintly and shrugged her left shoulder, "I guess you never picked up on the spells when I was casting them." She said the last part with a twinge of pride.
Xander smiled at her. She had always been so sweet and innocent and he was glad to see that time hadn't tarnished that quality.

"It's… good to see you again. I will admit, though, I was surprised to hear that you'd been asking about me." he finally said.

Estella smiled when she heard that and nodded, then suddenly grew still and laced her fingers together in her lap as if she'd done something wrong, "You… you've been gone for a while now.” She looked down sadly, "The principal told me you'd moved away after the fire, but he got angry when I asked him where you'd gone." She smiled, "He always gets angry when someone catches him in a lie. It took forever to finally get Stan to tell me anything."

He looked up at her again, taking in for the first time how much she had changed. Her hair was still raven-black, though she had let it grow out and her eyes still shown with the same bright blue. As he looked more deeply, he couldn't help but notice that her pale face was still somewhat young-looking, though time appeared to have hardened it some in the course of her life and giving the appearance of a marble statue. He was surprised that someone so beautiful would be so shy.

"Why did you ask about me?" he interrupted his own thoughts.

She blushed again, "I… never stopped caring about you, Xander. One day you just sort of cut away from the world and we fell apart. I didn't like it, but there wasn't much I could seem to do. Every time I—"

"I'm sorry." Xander frowned looking down, seeing where the conversation was leading. He didn't want to be reminded of his atrocities towards someone who had been such a good friend over the years.

A far better friend than he'd ever been.

She sat quietly and nodded, smiling slightly, "Can I ask what happened? Why you disappeared and what's happened to your…" she looked down.

Xander knew what she was thinking and raised a hand to his face, "My eye?" He chuckled and nodded. She was owed an explanation, "I suppose I should start from the beginning."

Author Links:

Books can be found at Amazon:
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

M.L. Weaver #3: The Lightness of Dust: Chapter 11 Excerpt

Here is the final of three excerpts today from M.L. Weaver's Lightness of Dust!

If you'd like to read the excerpts from Chapter One, and Chapter Eight head there first!

Chapter 11: Underestimation

By focusing only on Amanda’s paperwork Jake had the necessary approvals to put her to work the next Tuesday.  She was, he thought, a godsend.  In less than a week she decided to research pathological mineralization.  Which disease, she didn’t know.  Kidney stones, maybe, or atherosclerosis.  Even FOP, a disease that Jake found both fascinating and hellishly cruel.  In any case, as a subfield of biomineralization her research on the pathological would require instrumentation that he had already researched but not yet ordered.

“Here you go,” he said, handing her a list.

Amanda read through the page quickly.  “What is your budget?”

Jake hesitated, but she had to know if she was going to help.  He told her.

She nodded and skimmed the page again.  “Your funds are insufficient.”

“I know.  I’ve requested supplemental funds but they haven’t come through yet.”  He hoped the additional money would be approved.  If he had to make do with what he already had he would be forced to truncate the list severely.  His ability to do research would be crippled from the beginning.  “Education budgets are a bloodbath right now.”

Amanda nodded.  “I will take care of it.”  Her confidence amused him but he let any comment pass unsaid.  There was something else he needed to deal with.

“Amanda…here’s a little rule I have.  Well, it’s actually someone else’s rule.  I borrowed it from my Latin professor.  Undergrads call me ‘Professor.’  Grad students call me ‘Jake.’  Okay?  Over the next few years it’ll save you tens of thousands of syllables.”

“Okay…Jake.  We will meet this afternoon after I have a chance to review this,” she said, indicating the list.

By the end of the next day she had selected and ordered, with Jake’s approval, optical and atomic-force microscopes, chemicals, glassware, and various other laboratory supplies.  Jake was impressed, especially so by the shrewdness with which Amanda had shopped.  He’d priced much of the equipment himself and found that he could barely afford the basics with the start-up grant provided by the university.  He hadn’t expected a raw student to do any better than he had, though he also hadn’t looked into used equipment.  Amanda, however, had found more equipment, with more features, at better prices.  So much better, in fact, that after the orders were placed Jake would still have a comfortable cushion of funds.  Not a lot, but enough to cover a research assistantship for Amanda for six months if he had to.  Since students were guaranteed teaching assistantships during their first two years, though, he didn’t expect to use the money for a while.
It took another two weeks for boxes to start appearing in the lab, but even Amanda couldn’t speed up shipping.  Jake entered the lab one morning to find her carefully unpacking boxes of chemicals and dividing their contents between cupboards and flame cabinets along the south wall.

“Chemicals first?” he asked, intrigued by the fact that the microscopes lay nestled in unopened boxes under a table.

“Mmm-hmm,” she replied.  The box cutter between her teeth prevented a more detailed response.  She set it on the floor and stood holding two jars of calcium chloride, which she placed in a cupboard.  “I need the chemicals to use the AFM, and I need the supplies to use the chemicals.  So the…fun… part comes last.”

It was, Jake thought, entirely logical, even if it wasn’t helping to sustain his kid-on-Christmas-morning excitement about getting the equipment in the first place.  “Need some help?”

“Sure.  Do you want to hook up the Milli-Q?”  She referred to the filtration system that would produce the ultra-clean water necessary for her work.

By the time Jake figured out how to connect the system and had installed it, Amanda had the supplies sorted out and was unpacking the microscope.  He picked up the base and examined it.  “A Nanoscope III! Where did you find this?” he exclaimed.  “It’s the same model I used in school! Doesn’t have a lot of the features that newer ones do, but it’s a great machine.”

Amanda bounced on her toes.  “It is not just the same model, Jake.  It is the same microscope!  Your old professor has no one to use it, so he gave us a great price.”

Together they assembled the base, scanner, and optical head and connected them to a computer.  “Would you like to calibrate it?” she offered.

Jake was tempted but knew that Amanda should be the one to get it running.  Figuring out its eccentricities for herself would make her life a lot easier later on.  “No, you go ahead.  I need to apply for some grants.”
Before the end of the month she was running experiments and collecting marvelous datasets.  Secretly impressed, Jake wished that his first year of grad school had been so easy.  It had taken almost nine months for him to produce real images instead of tip artifacts.  Looking back, he had to admit to himself that his advisors had been more patient than he’d had any right to expect; he had been so sure that the images were real.

His only source of dissatisfaction with Amanda was her inability to find time to talk to other potential recruits.  Nothing held as much currency with students as the opinions, whether positive or not, of other students.  That, plus she was hard to find sometimes.  Even considering her teaching duties, she was gone from the lab so often, and for so long, that Jake found himself secretly examining her imaging logs and data files.  Everything seemed in order, though, and Jake had to admit that whatever she was up to wasn’t interfering with her work.

Amanda quickly claimed his lab as her own.  In fact, she began to display signs that, in her mind, at least, they had passed from a purely academic relationship to friendship.  Every once in a while she brought him a soda, or packed a big lunch to share, claiming ‘leftovers’ as an excuse even though the only food he ever saw her eat otherwise was packaged and reheated in the microwave.  While sharing leftovers on a wet winter-quarter day, Amanda handed him a flash drive.

He picked it up.  “What’s this?”

She swallowed another bite.  “My paper.”

“Your paper.”  Jake didn’t believe it.  “You’ve only been working on this project for a few months.”


“Don’t you think it’s a little too soon?”

“How long, exactly, should it take?  I can bring it back to you then, if you like.”  She looked at him without the slightest hint of sarcasm or guile.  So innocently, in fact, that Jake thought she might be serious.

“All right,” he said.  Tread lightly…either she’s going to come out of this looking like an idiot, or I am.  “Tell you what.  I’ll read this over, and tomorrow at lunch we can discuss it.  Be warned, though.  If I don’t think your conclusions are solid, or that you don’t have enough data to back them up, we don’t even edit this.”

“And when you find that it is ready?”  There was no challenge in her words, only a firm self-assurance.

“Then we talk about the next direction for your research.  And I buy lunch tomorrow,” he replied, not really expecting he would have to do so.  The next day, however, found them ordering at the Silo Pub from a young man wearing black slacks with a vest over a ruffled white shirt.

“I take it my paper meets with your approval,” she said.

“More or less.  I have a few small changes for you to make, but overall it’s a nice piece of writing.  They’re on the drive.”  He handed it to her.  There wasn’t really anything that needed to be changed, but Jake had spent the night thinking about an exchange he’d had with Jim while writing his own first paper.  Jim had given Jake some changes to make, and less than an hour later Jake had been back in Jim’s office.

Jake stood in the doorway while Jim opened the document, read a few sentences, and closed it again.

“I’m not going to read the rest of it.”  Jim handed the disc back to Jake.

“Why not?” Jake didn’t understand.

“You didn’t make the change I wanted in the first sentence.  Go try again.

The humiliation of that experience had instilled in Jake the importance not of getting things right, but of what one could learn from getting them wrong.  Amanda deserved the same lesson, so he’d come up with a few things for her to rewrite.

Amanda slipped the drive into her knapsack.  “I will correct them this afternoon.”

Their waiter returned.  “Chicken Marrakesh?” Jake raised his hand to indicate that it was for him.  “And the mushroom-and-tofu sandwich must be for you,” the young man said to Amanda with a smile.

“I’ll have another Sudwerk Marzen.”  Jake slid an empty bottle to the table’s edge.

“Would you bring me a glass of wine?” Amanda asked.

The waiter nodded.  “Of course.  What would you like?

“Surprise me.  Something red.”

When they were alone again Jake teased, “Are you even old enough to drink?”

“Without a doubt.”  She quickly changed the subject.  “I know where I want to take my research next,” she said between bites.

“That’s great.  Where?”

“Well, not the exact questions that I want to answer, but in general.”  She took another bite and chewed slowly while Jake waited.


“Oh.”  She seemed surprised by his prompt for more information.  “I have spoken with Professor Matheson in Anthropology and Archaeology.  Do you know him?”

Jake did not.  He’d barely met everyone in his own department.  He was nearly overwhelmed already with proposals for joint research to review and requests for him to join this committee or that.  “After tenure,” he would reply to such invitations, silently blessing his own advisor.  Jake had been dubious when Jim told him that this was the best way to avoid wasting on committees time better spent on meeting tenure requirements.  He’d been sure that insisting tenure precede committee work was certain to cost him goodwill, if not tenure itself.  Surprisingly, no one took it particularly badly.  Even Bill, the mentor assigned by the department to help Jake navigate through his first year, had not brought up his refusals when laying out the plan for Jake’s path to tenure.

“The past few years Matheson has excavated on the coast of southern Turkey,” Amanda continued.  “He has boxes and boxes stuffed with artifacts from a newly discovered settlement.  He says it was a port city of some size and importance, but that he can find no historical references to any significant population in that area.  In any source!”

“Interesting,” Jake said.  He tried to sound disinterested.

“Fascinating, is more like it!  Matheson says it was destroyed in some great cataclysm.  A tsunami, or an earthquake!”

Jake found her enthusiasm infectious but naive.  He wondered if she had any idea how complicated archaeological science could be.  He, too, had once dreamed of doing the same kind of work that she now proposed.  Working with fragments, hoping that just one out of hundreds might contain some organic residue, or that the chemical profile of a metal tool could be matched to a specific geographical area?  And there was another problem.

“He says there is evidence of a harbor.  They have not been able to go underwater, yet.  The political situation has been getting worse in light of the war.  Western researchers have had a lot of trouble getting paperwork approved.  They may not be able to go back next summer, if ever.”  Words spilled out of her in a torrent, and her eyes stared through him as though she saw something wonderful in the distance.  “And the best thing…they found copper.  Tools, jewelry, artwork. Copper everywhere, at least by ancient standards, but no evidence of smelting.  There is no evidence for mining or refining for a thousand miles.  And even there, not on the necessary scale.”

“Amanda, I admire your enthusiasm,” Jake interrupted her.  As fascinating as it was, there was no way this could work.  “But I really don’t have a lot of the equipment for that kind of work.   Any of it, for that matter.
I’m sorry, but…” He didn’t know what else to say.  He braced for her reaction.

“Just buy it.”

Jake squelched his irritation with effort.  “I don’t think you understand.  I don’t have the instrumentation you’d need.  I don’t have the money to buy it, either.”

“Buy it.  You have the budget now.”

“In fact, I don’t have the money to buy the equipment, because I spent most of it on equipment for your research.  Research you selected.”  His voice rose as he punctuated you and your with his finger.  He stared at her.  Each bite she took stuck in his own throat.  She calmly watched his eyes as she ate.

“There is no problem,” she finally said.  “We can still buy it.  And it is your research, too.”

“No, it’s not!”  He felt his patience rapidly slipping out of his grasp.  “My research is in crystal growth.  Goddammit!” Jake rose.  “You…”

“Sit down, Professor.”  Amanda pointed firmly at his chair.  He obeyed.  “Matheson has extensive skeletal remains boxed up in his lab; we can examine some of them, too.  We may discover evidence of gout.”
Jake’s irritation began to be supplanted by scientific curiosity.  Finding uric acid crystals in ancient bone fragments would make for an exciting paper, indeed.

“Matheson is willing to pay for some of the equipment.  Plus, I got a grant.”
Jake sat.  “A grant.”

“Mmm-hmm.”  She swallowed the last of her sandwich.  Jake thought she looked eerily like a viper swallowing a bite of apple, tempting him to taste.


“Easily.  I filled out some forms.  Described my research.  Asked for money.  All in an application packet.  Someone read it.  Liked it.  Sent money.  Something like that, I guess.  The money is in an account with the department.  You should have been notified by now…”

“You’re a student.  You can’t possibly have gotten enough money for this!”  Jake had spent half a year writing proposals.  Six months of his life begging every government department and private foundation he could think of with nothing to show for it.  He knew that pent-up frustration over his failure colored his judgment but at this point he didn’t care.  Jake would win this; when he did he would bow to his fury and throw this impudent girl out of his group.  “Or have accelerators for neutron analysis dropped in price recently?”  That would show her!

Amanda stared at Jake with what seemed to him a mixture of contempt and pity, with just a salting of malice.
“What we can purchase, we purchase.  Other things, like neutron-bombardment, we can pay for.  There are at least two facilities with the capability I require within a hundred miles.”  She smiled at him.  “Never underestimate me, Jake.  I will tell Matheson to expect your call.  Get in touch with him.”

Amanda tried again to drink the merlot but grimaced and wiped it from her lips with a napkin instead.  “Thanks for lunch.”

Jake stared after her through the empty doorway for a while, numbed by the feeling that he, Professor, Principal Investigator, had just lost control of his own lab to a first-year graduate student.  The restaurant began to clear out.  Jake nursed his beer until it was warm and flat then gulped it down.  He wanted to go home.  No.  He needed to.

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