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:
And SmashWords:

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:
And SmashWords:

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.

Links Galore! Go crazy!

Publisher Website:

Book page at publisher website:

Publisher/Author Pinterest boards:

Author Twitter: @ML_Weaver

Publisher Twitter: @LunaRisen

M.L. Weaver #2: The Lightness of Dust: Chapter 8 Excerpt

Here is the second of three excerpts today from M.L. Weaver's Lightness of Dust! Come back at 1 p.m. for the third!

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

Chapter 8: Plato’s Rail Pass

“Not curious, Sam?”

“How did you get back in?”  Sam looked up sharply.  “What are you doing here?  I’m sorry, Ms. Ostendorf.  Ma’am.  What I mean is, the show was one-night-only.”  That made sense, he mocked himself.  The Persephone was nearly ready; floors glistened in the dim light, rubbish bins awaited the flotsam of the next crowd, and freshly scrubbed windows peered into the city.  Only repairs to the furnace, which had begun to blow cold halfway through the evening’s entertainment, remained undone.  And then Sam could go home.  He kept telling Mr. Craddock that the furnace needed replacing.  It wouldn’t even cost all that much, but Craddock always insisted that Sam could do anything he liked to effect repairs to the Persephone, except spend money.

“My point, exactly, Sam.  And if you call me that one more time I plan to have a little conversation with your Mr. Craddock about your manners.”

Sam backed up.  “Call you what, Ma’am?”

“That, Sam.  Ma’am.  My name is Lily.”

Lily smoothed the pale blue fabric of her simple cotton dress and pulled it tighter under the thin rope sash.  Her hair, he noticed, no longer trickled down her neck but instead was pushed up under a feathered hat.  Absence of jewelry magnified her strange beauty.  He thought she expended a great deal of care to appear little different from any other woman he might pass on the street but doubted she would succeed. No, he was absolutely certain that she would not.

“I ask you again, Sam.  Were you not curious?”

“I don’t follow, Ma’…  Lily.”  Though he tried, Sam couldn’t guess at the meaning of her question.

“Earlier I told you that I had to settle some of my things into the Persephone, Sam.  Did it not occur to you that a performer might not keep her things in a hall she only planned to play once?  One-night-only, as you yourself put it?”

Sam recalled her saying so, but hadn’t thought about it.  Now it was too late.  His embarrassment over his behavior prevented the admission.

“I have decided to stay a while longer.  This city warms something inside me.  Perhaps the scent of moisture risen from the Sound, or the sound of the tide-driven wavelets echoing across the water.”  A smile played at the edges of her lips.  “Perhaps it is simply that I have been traveling for so long, Sam, and I need a new place to call home, if only for a while.”

Lily turned and walked to the middle of the lobby.  Four small sofas, each large enough to hold two people (if they knew each other very well), bordered a small table.  Lily sank deep into worn leather and gestured at the seat opposite.  “Sit.  Please.”  Sam did, and held his back stiffly straight and pressed the palms of his hands over his knees.  His thumbs rubbed his index fingers.

“Do you know from where I came, Sam?”


“Yes, Sam.  But can you guess where, specifically, in Europe?”

By his silence Sam indicated that he could not.

“Do you know why I came here, Sam?

When he again did not reply, she continued.  “Then I shall answer your questions with a story.”

Sam was sure, absolutely sure, that the questions had been hers, and not his, but said nothing.

“Before I sailed to America, Sam, I traveled, exploring Greece and its islands.  So many islands.”  Her gaze extended through him.  “Did you know that someone once described the Greeks as frogs around a pond?  An acquaintance of mine, when I was younger.  A most fascinating man, he was, with a command of language that I have never had the pleasure to find in another.”

Sam didn’t know that; he’d had little schooling.  The year his parents died was the year he left school to work for Mr. Craddock.

“At any rate, I was there.  Looking for something, or somewhere, you might say.  One night a young couple walked into the cafe where I was dining alone.  The young man was tall.  Taller than even you, Sam, and far taller than his wife.  Dark-haired, both of them, and both of them together beautiful in a way that only the young and in-love can achieve.  They walked, hands entwined, through the cafe as though all eyes sought them and time itself might wait.  An elderly local couple greeted them with relief.  The young man, as it turned out, was their son—the young lady his new American bride.  The purpose of their visit was to introduce the young wife to the parents.  One purpose, at any rate.  Can you guess the other purpose?”

Sam shook his head.

Lily removed the pins from her hat and shook her hair.  “Gods!  How can they stand it?”  She tossed the hat to Sam.  “Get rid of that, will you?  Not right now!”  Sam sat.  He balanced the hat carefully on his palms.

“To finish my tale, short as it is…the younger couple presented to the older a painting. “
What a coincidence…I painted a Greek man and his American wife.

Lily continued.  “The old woman wept; the old man embraced his son across the table.  Tears escaped his eyes, as well.”

Sam daydreamed about his own painting.  Her story barely registered.  He imagined his painting traveling all the way around the world to live in the place where art began.  He knew nothing of frogs, or of their ponds, nor why they should be compared with Greeks.  But art, he knew, sprang from Greece.  The wonder of it!  No sooner had the thought occurred to him than his joy was shattered against reality.  My painting is here, in Seattle.  And will always be.

Sam didn’t notice that Lily had stopped speaking.  She peered at him intently with her head cocked to the side as if listening to a far-away conversation.  Sam’s thoughts returned to the fantasy of his painting traveling the world.  Lily let him wander for a moment.

“They were so pleased by the painting, Sam, that the three of them lapsed into Greek, leaving the young woman quite left out of the conversation.”

Having been left out of quite a few conversations himself, Sam could imagine how the young woman might have felt.

“Now art was not born in Greece, Sam.  But nearby.  Somewhere nearby. Having seen a great deal of art in my travels, I just had to know what the fuss was about, so I joined them.  Quite bold of me, would you agree?”  She didn’t wait for his reply.  “And even though I speak Greek nearly fluently, I pretended that I spoke only English.  Just my little way of bringing the young woman back into the conversation.  What do you think of my story so far, Sam?”

Sam started.  “It’s wonderful.”  He wracked his memory for her words.

“The young man had moved to America to seek his destiny, or so he put it, as though destiny is a thing that one may seek.  Or should.  I thought at the time, and still do, that he left Greece because of the war.  A prescient young man, Sam.  Before it ends, this war will engulf the world.”  Lily trailed off.

On more familiar ground now, Sam spoke.  “Mr. Craddock says the war won’t get too big, though.  Some of the rich folks think it will, and the U.S. will end up fighting, too.  But others, those of a mind with Mr. Craddock, say it will peter out.  Won’t come to much, because people got most of the fighting out of ‘em in the last war.”

Lily’s glittering eyes pierced Sam, making him wish he’d had the sense to keep his mouth shut.  “Your Mr. Craddock is a damned fool.  A damned fool.”  The inferno behind her eyes died slowly.

Why does she always call him “my” Mr. Craddock?

“The war will be unlike anything the world has known before, Samuel.  I know it.  I think the young man knew it.  I even think his parents knew, but they were too old, too frail, too resigned to escape the storm.  To continue, then…the young couple somehow made their way through war-torn Europe to deliver their gift.  A bold, foolish journey.  They presented a painting depicting the two of them on the day of their wedding.  I have no words with which to describe it, though I am confident that there is no need.  Somehow the artist, a man of innate talent and beautiful soul, captured the sheer joy these two felt to be wed.  Yet at the same time the man’s painted eyes shine with grief that the day could not be shared with his parents.  Joy and loss infused the very canvas.  I wept a little.”

A wide smile spread on Sam’s face.  “That was my painting…”  A thought tickled the edge of his mind—that he’d presented the painting less than a day before—but drifted away.

“I know.  The young couple planned to leave Greece for home soon, within days.  They promised that they would return, or would send for the old couple.  Everyone agreed that they would be together again; by the time each could to pretend to believe it, the meal was done.  Before I left, I inquired as to the name of the artist.  Samuel Freeman, they answered, of Seattle, Washington.  America.  In return, I advised the young couple, in my own way, to spend a few more days than they had planned.

“Your own way?”

“I liberated the rail passes from the young man.”

“Why did you do that?  If there’s war, shouldn’t they have gotten out as soon as possible?  Why trap them there without tickets?” Sam wondered.  “That’s an odd way to repay them.”  Her duplicity troubled him, but only for a moment.  Likewise, the matter of how the couple could have traveled to the other side of the world in less than a day was a short-lived thought.

Her eyes relaxed into the distance.  “It would not matter, Sam,” she said slowly.  “They will never see the old couple again.  Not in this life.  Or in any other.  Whether they stay a week, or a month, or leave on the day we meet, nothing will change.”

“How do you know?”

Lily shook her head as though to clear it.  “Shall we speak of the reason for my visit, instead?”

“Alright,” Sam agreed, wondering just what she was leaving out.  Why so secretive?

“I want that you paint my portrait.”

That was it? The reason she had traveled through a war-ravaged continent, across an ocean, and to the far side of another expanse?  To be painted?  By him?

Curiosity bested deference.  “Why a portrait of yourself?”

“To remember, Sam.  To mourn.  To celebrate.  Just…to.”

“I don’t understand…there must have been dozens of better artists in Europe.  Hundreds, even.  Why me?”  What’s the real reason?  Why are you toying with me?

“You, because it must be, has always been, you.”  She leaned to look intently through his eyes.  “I am not toying with you, Sam.  I want you to paint a portrait of me.  You will make me myself again, if only in oil and canvas, and for the me that you create, the world will again open like a portal to itself.  Free.  As I was in my youth.”

“You don’t seem so old to me,” he said.  It was the truth.  Though he couldn’t guess her age—she exuded both youth and great experience—he guessed she was only about as old as he.  “Why don’t I paint you as you are now?”

“Absolutely not.  As I was.”  She was adamant.

“How am I supposed to do that?  I need a model to work from.”  He was beginning to feel frustrated.  Why couldn’t she understand that he needed something to work from?  I’m a handyman, an artist…but not a magician.

“I have faith in you, Sam.  Shall we start tomorrow night?  Say around seven?”  She shaped the words as a question.  Sam knew they were not.

“I have to work tomorrow night.  Harry Owens and..”

She cut him off.  “..his Famous Royal Hawaiian Orchestra and Stage Revue are playing.  Do you truly enjoy vaudeville so much, Sam?”

“It’s not that.  I don’t like vaudeville much, really.   But Mr. Craddock…”

“Will see things my way, Sam.  I have a great deal of influence over him. Take tomorrow off.  Relax.  Take a nap.  I will see you at seven.”  She paused in the doorway, letting the shuush of rain echo in the lobby.  “And Sam?  I had the furnace seen to while you were sweeping.  Go home.  And throw the hat out with the rubbish.”

Links Galore! Go crazy!

Publisher Website:

Book page at publisher website:

Publisher/Author Pinterest boards:

Author Twitter: @ML_Weaver

Publisher Twitter: @LunaRisen

M.L. Weaver #1: The Lightness of Dust: Chapter 1 Excerpt

Here is the first of three excerpts today from M.L. Weaver's Lightness of Dust! Come back at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the second and third!

Chapter 1: Ocean’s Children

“I will belong to the gods before you return!”  Kere’s voice rose as the weight of Telamon’s words bore down on her, blurring his face through tears.  “My father will see it done!  I expect him…”  Sobs choked her into silence.

“To wed his daughter to a fisherman?  A hired fisherman at that, with no vessel to claim as his own?”  Telamon spat the words.  Pain twisted his face, and with it, her heart.  “Even if the fleet were to sail without me…he would not allow us to marry!”

Telamon took a faltering breath and continued more softly.  “Forgive my harsh words, love, but wealth and power are the only the languages that your father recognizes.  And though he has little of either, I have even less.”  Kere knew he spoke the truth; she made no reply.

A spasm drove her fingertips into his flesh until pain forced Telamon to pry her hands away.  The man she had loved since before the dawn of her memory rubbed his arm.  Blood came away with his palm.

“My love, I’m sorry!”  Kere gestured for him to kneel at the waterline. With the sea lapping over their thighs and swirling her thin dress she poured foaming water from her cupped hand to wash the blood away.  Eyes half-closed and vaguely searching the horizon, Kere brushed her fingers over the wounds.  Once, twice, again, until the wound was closed; thin white lines traced the curved arcs of her fingernails against his dark skin.  Telamon examined his arm and looked at her expectantly.

“You left scars…are you feeling unwell?”

Her lips brushed the raised flesh where she had pierced him.  “I was put here to heal, my love.  The scars are to be my reminder that instead I hurt you.”  Her hand hovered over his arm.  “Do you wish that I remove them?”

Telamon gently lifted her hand away.  “No,” he replied.  “It will serve as a reminder for me, as well.  While I am away.”

“A reminder of what?” she asked.

Cradling her hand in his, he wrapped a bracelet around her wrist and tied it snugly.  “A reminder of my promise,” he answered.  Kere’s breath caught in her throat; the significance of his gift overwhelmed her.

“Telamon…” she began, but no further words came.  Around her wrist coiled a thin strap of fine leather.  Colorful polished shells, small and beautiful, hung evenly spaced along its length.  No scarce metal formed its construction; even so, her shallow breath quickened.  Perhaps mistaking her silence for disapproval, Telamon spoke quickly.

“It should have copper, and the strap is too narrow…” He was forced to abandon the thought, for Kere embraced him and put an end to his criticism of his own efforts with a deep kiss.  Every denigration of his gift was, to her, a denigration of their love.  When she released him, he continued.  “I thought this would be best, even if I had the means for a proper one.”  He put out his hand in a silencing gesture when she tried to speak.
“Luwos,” he spoke of her father, “will not notice this trinket.  A marriage band, though…that he would notice.  He sees only the values of things, and not their meanings; his blindness is our opportunity.  Let this mark you as my own with the first promise that when I return, no matter who might object, we shall be wed.”

Clever, she thought, clever and dear and perfect.  Kere kissed him again, and when she reluctantly pulled her lips from his it was she who spoke.  “I’m sorry to disappoint you, my love, but the first promise was mine.”
Telamon studied her through narrowed eyes.  Kere laughed at his bewilderment and only when the good nature of his expression slipped did she answer his unspoken question.  “On the day we met.  Don’t you remember?”

A whirling mass of sea birds exploded into the air as his laughter boomed across the water.  “Gods witness the oaths of children!  We were five years old!”

Fixing an expression of feigned injury on her face, Kere pouted. “I knew you were the one I would marry that day.  Are you saying that you didn’t?”  She enjoyed the growing discomfort in his eyes.  Though his lips moved no sound emerged.  Kere lifted her wrist to his face and shook it with a musical rattle.  “Never call it a ‘trinket’ again.”  She spoke with fierce intensity.  “Of all the shining treasures hidden deep in the Sanctuary, I would love none more than this.”  She grasped his hand tightly and pulled him along.

They moved down the shore in silence for a time, listening to the fading sounds of the port behind.  Waves shattered into foam against the Keswiq, a great wall of rock that towered black and immovable above the city.  It was widely believed that if one prayed at its base, the stone itself would propel the message to the gods and even silent entreaties would be received; Kimber herself was said to sit atop the cliff and watch herself undulate across the world on nights when her sister lit the waves with her gentle glow.  Telamon gazed thoughtfully at its silent face as they approached.

“Did She keep me ashore that day?” he asked.  The words whispered; Kere did not know whether she spoke to her.  Or does he ask his father? Or Luna?

The shrieks of gulls overhead nearly drowned out her response.  “Why do you ask that?  What day?”  She knew, though, that there could be only one day he would speak of in that tone.

Telamon did not look at Kere, but spoke with his gaze fixed firmly on the Keswiq.  “The night before it happened, I promised the gods that I would do whatever they required of me, so long as they put a ship in my path one day.  A ship of my own.”  A deep breath filled his lungs.  “When Father woke me in the morning, I was ill.  My legs would not support me long enough to dress.  I insisted that I was strong enough to join him…he was a sturdy man who never let sickness or injury stand in his way, and I feared his disappointment most of all.  But Father put me back to my bed and pulled my blanket tight around me.  ‘I promise you will make the next trip with me,’ he whispered in my ear.  He kissed me goodbye and went to his ship.  And Mother and I were alone.”

The sea blurred in Kere’s eyes.  She wondered why he hadn’t shared this story before.  Her own memory of that day remained clear; it was the night, and the prayer, that were new.   Is the thought of his father coloring this voyage?  Is he afraid that he, too, might never return?

“When I asked for a ship of my own, did I send my own father beyond, Kere?  His ship would have been mine one day, and therefore not a ship of my own.  Did the gods answer my prayer after all, just not in the way that I’d expected?”

“The gods would never do such a thing!” she cried.
He looked at her with an expression she’d never seen him wear.  “Oh?  Have they never sent a man to his doom, then?”

The depth of his bitterness toward the gods shocked her.  “If the gods don’t witness the oaths of children,” she reminded him with a rattle of her bracelet, “then do you truly believe they would run through a man’s heart a spear wrought from the prayers of his own child?”  Kere embraced him tightly and ran her fingers through his long hair while he continued to look into the distance.  Does he see his father?  Or the ship broken in dark water with the bones of five men entombed within its pitch-smeared hull?   His next words answered her questions.  “Sometimes I dream about it, and in the dream I sleep, tucked into my warm bed by my father, as he sinks to the icy depths despite his struggles to reach the storm-churned surface.”

The loss of his father had been Telamon’s greatest tragedy.  The next-greatest loss was that with the ship had gone Telamon’s best future on the water.  In his family for generations, it was long paid-for and belonged outright to the family—a near-impossible feat when timber for ships was dear and the metals for payment even more so.  Now Telamon fished for a miserly old man as the least of the four-man crew.  He earned barely enough to care for himself; if insufferable mourning had not taken his mother a year after the waves claimed his father, responsibility for her care would be his now, as well.  The task would be impossible.

Her fingers twisted the bracelet around her wrist.  What price did he pay for this?  The shells, of course, could be had at no cost save the walk along the shore; the polishing might be done with sand and water for no more than one’s time.  The leather, though, spoke to the depths of his commitment.  Leather could, of course, be had cheaply enough if one was not too careful about the quality.  But she had seen fine leather before and recognized it wrapped against her skin; materials such as this, carefully prepared, darkened and sealed with oils, cost more.  She knew that a man on a small boat earned enough share of the catch for shelter and food.  But not a great deal of food, and not of great quality or variety.  Kere thought of the hunger he must have endured, how he must have strained to carry his share of the work at sea with too little food to sustain him, all so that he could afford to wrap a few bits of leather and shell around her arm.

She lifted a loaf of hard-crusted bread from her knapsack and tore away a small piece before offering the rest to him.  She noted how eagerly Telamon tore into this simple food.  Shame welled in her breast at the memory of feeding a similar loaf to the seabirds on a recent outing, and of how he hadn’t complained when she’d insisted they throw the entire loaf, piece by piece, into the air for the circling gulls to fight over.

“We could leave this place.” She watched the water whirl in the small pools among the rocks as the sea left them, not daring to see in his face the wounded pride that her words would cause.  His arm stiffened against her side; her hand now the one being crushed.  She whimpered reflexively and Telamon released her hand.  He turned, jaw tight, eyes cold.

“And go where? To some small village, where we could raise our children with too little food, thin and ragged clothing?  Or to another city, where I could find work as the lowest hand on a tiny ship?  Where I still would not have means to provide for you?  Tell me, where?”  Barely controlled frustration seethed from his tongue.

Though Kere knew that his anger was not directed at her, before she could control herself his anger was reflected back at him in her words.  “Anywhere!”  Defiance fueled by fear and driven by doubt welled inside her.  “I…I could charge for healing.  I would never take advantage of anyone in need, but I could earn enough.  Together we could provide enough to raise a family.”  To even think such a thing made her stomach clench.  To trade for material wealth what the gods had given freely was sacrilege.  Every child knew the story of Demir Anil, who had been blessed with the gift of foreknowledge, and whose end was still used by parents to caution their children.

At first Anil had shared the gift freely, telling any who asked whether they should sail on a certain day, or give a daughter in marriage to this family or that, or what outcome they might expect from a given course of action.  He always made certain to shade his answers so that the listener would choose the most advantageous option and still believe it had been his own idea.  Eventually, however, Anil had no time for his own family or his own life.  He began to require payment for his visions; with all of his time devoted to prophecy he had little time left each day to earn a living.  As his fee increased, so did demands for more straightforward prophecies.  Eventually Anil ceased directing the actions of the seekers, and instead told them exactly what he saw.  In many cases seekers misinterpreted his words and made disastrous choices.  In the end, Anil’s children were torn to pieces before his eyes by an angry mob, and he himself was fed alive to ravenous dogs.  Though Kere saw an entirely different moral to the tale, most ascribed Anil’s fate to his exploitation of the gods’ gifts, as apparently did Telamon.

He wheeled to face her.  “Never speak so again!  You shame the gods.  You shame yourself.”  The force in his voice softened.  “A man who relies on his wife to live?  You shame me.  And you would risk all for a few foolish hopes.”

“I’m sorry, Telamon, I wish I hadn’t said it.”  She reclaimed his hand, but she was not sorry.  Their only option was to leave together.  If they stayed her father would never allow the marriage.  If Telamon left with this year’s copper fleet her father would force her into the priesthood.  Sell me to it, she corrected herself.  Luwos’ grasping heart would never let a talent like hers go to waste, and for a man like her father, wasting her gift meant sharing it without profit.  If he could not force her to bleed the wounds of the aged and infirm he would squeeze the priests, who would gladly trade treasure for the legitimacy her ability would bring to their order.  But to allow his only daughter to marry without advantage would be to bring the other fishermen closer to his own level, even if his station was exalted only in his own eyes.

The sea receded.  When they arrived at the tide pools Kere and Telamon walked together through the microcosms of sea-life that lay scattered like droplets across the earth.  One droplet harbored an exotic round shell; flattened in profile, its wide red-mottled segments overlapped to form a flexible armor that protected the soft body beneath.  In another droplet, wisping away under the assault of wind and sun, three tiny fish swam an endless circle searching for an escape that would not exist for hours to come.  If they survived the predations of sea birds until then.  Seven-armed stars, called Lunafish by superstitious sailors, dotted watery depressions in a universe of colors and textures.  Only through the mercies of scavengers and the setting sun did the helpless creatures, trapped in abandoned moments, survive.  Shattered crab shells, remnants of a morning feast, lay hollow on the rocks.

Neither Kere nor Telamon spoke as the ocean crept away.  They didn’t want to acknowledge the heartbreak that lay ahead.  Kere flitted from pool to pool and soon the towering rock echoed with squeals of delight at each new creature she discovered.  Playing as they had long before, Kere and Telamon released for the moment the dread lurking in their hearts and became children again.  A cloak of seaweed, a mass of tangled leaves and spongy floats draped across the back and arms, transformed the boy into a fearsome, dripping sea monster.  Imaginary ships succumbed to the mighty onslaught of its grasping tentacles and gnashing beak.  The girl, cupping small creatures in her water-filled hands as she carried them back to the ocean, was reborn as Kimber, the gentle goddess of healing and the sea.  A blue-speckled crab left its perilous refuge in the care of the young goddess; it returned to the sea with its beak-riven carapace whole once more.

The fading sun invited the ocean to reclaim the broken territory so recently abandoned.  Pushed by the advancing moon, the water returned; as it did, so too did the worries of the young man and woman to displace the joys of the boy and girl.  Perched on a stone ledge above the high-water mark, they clasped their hands together and listened to the renewed roar of the water.  Cool mist wet their faces with each surge.

Hating herself, but no longer able to delay, Kere broke the silence.  “When must you leave?”

“On the third day from this.”

They would have less time together than she had hoped, but more than she’d feared.  “And the lands you’ll sail past?  Are they friendly?  Are their waters safe?”  Kere dreaded that grasping kings and preying pirates would beset the ships.

Telamon stroked her dark hair.  “For the first few weeks we can travel near enough to shore to be under the protection of local navies, such as they are.  At a cost, of course, but we will carry enough extra cargo to part with in such cases.”

Had Telamon not used the phrase ‘the first few weeks,’ Kere might have been reassured by his answer.  “And after the first few weeks?”  She immediately saw that he hadn’t intended to draw attention to what he must tell her next.

“After the first few weeks,” he said, drawing her closer, “we will enter another sea.  You’ve heard stories from the last voyage of the fleet?”  Kere nodded but they had been much younger when the fleet had last sailed.  The tales seemed impossible now.

“I’ve spoken with traders who come from across our own sea,” he continued.  “They speak of water seemingly without shores to hold it together.  If the sun were hidden by clouds for long enough, a ship might wander, lost, until long after its crew consumes the last of its clean water and food.”

This is why he thinks of his father today, she realized.  I must not make it worse for him.  “Surely that can’t happen.  The sun always reveals itself, eventually.  And the city will make the proper offerings at the Sanctuary, I’m sure.”  She hoped that more certainty filled her voice than resided in her heart.

“Of course,” he assured her.

The looming reality of his departure settled on her.  “How long will I wait until your return?”

Telamon nodded, acknowledging her acceptance.  “Two months at sea should see us to the land of copper.  If the gods are generous, the goods we take for trade will not spoil or be otherwise found wanting, and we can offer them in exchange for the metals.  If the people there accept our offers we could be pointed home after a week.  Perhaps sooner.”  He tapped a pebble against the ledge for a few moments.  “If the gods withhold their favor, or our cargo is not highly desired, then we will have to trade for the raw stone and work the copper from it ourselves.  Another two months, then, to crush the rock by hand and burn out the metal hidden within.”

“Why not just bring the stone back whole and burn the metal out here?” she asked.

“I wish it were so easy, love.  There is very little of the metals we seek in the stone itself.”  He chose a rock larger than his fist from those scattered about their perch.  Offering it to her, he said, “Imagine that this represents all of the stone that we could fit into the ships.”  Kere took the stone and nodded.  Telamon held out a pebble smaller than the tip of her finger.  “This represents the amount of metals hidden within the other.
If we were to return with all of that worthless stone filling our holds, there would be no profit in the voyage.  Do you understand?”

Kere did.  “Then two months, or four, before you turn for home.  Another two months to return?”  Up to half a year gone.  It was a dismal thought.  But it must be done.

Telamon hesitated.  “Actually, it will take at least three months to get home.”

So long?  She forced an uncertain smile through her disappointment.  “Why three months to return, when two are enough to get there?  Does it not take the same time to leave as to return when you fish off the shore?  Surely the breadth of the sea doesn’t depend on which direction you cross?”

The kindness of his reply, free of criticism of her lack of knowledge, comforted but did not reassure.  “The winds will be with us when we depart; we can sail a straighter course,” he answered.  “When we turn back, the winds will oppose us, forcing us to take a longer path.”  Kere was not certain that she understood completely, but as long as Telamon understood she would be satisfied.  “And there is the matter of returning with more than the ships’ own weights in cargo.  They’ll wallow lower in the water.  Move more slowly because of it.”

He pulled her tighter against his body and wrapped his light cloak over her shoulders to shield her from the cooling breeze now gusting from the water.  “But if my will were an oar or a sail, the return would be shorter.”

Kere gently kissed him.  Their lips lingered, both wanting more than this but neither wanting to taint their future together by appearing before a priestess having already known each other.  When the moon dipped beyond the Keswiq they returned to the city.

Links Galore! Go crazy!

Publisher Website:

Book page at publisher website:

Publisher/Author Pinterest boards:

Author Twitter: @ML_Weaver

Publisher Twitter: @LunaRisen