Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise by Paula Berinstein @pberinstein @lolasblogtours

Today is the cover reveal for Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise by Paula Berinstein. The cover is designed by Anna Mogileva. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles SurpriseAmanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise (Amanda Lester, Detective #6)
By Paula Berinstein
Genre: Detective/ Mystery
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 27 march, 2017

Blurb:
What is Professor Scribbish hiding?

Amanda and her friends have known about the mysterious Detective’s Bible for some time. But what they never dreamed was that old Lovelace Earful, Legatum’s founder and the author of the precious book, had much more up his sleeve than that.

Now a strange pair of gold-rimmed spectacles he designed has fallen into the hands of the Moriarty brothers. But the glasses have been stolen, and it falls to Amanda to figure out where they are and get them back before . . . what? All she knows is that they’re powerful and the bad guys want them. But in order to acquire them she’ll have to penetrate a fortress where a new enemy is waiting—one who has already targeted Scapulus Holmes and is coming for her next.

What she doesn’t know is that sometimes you should leave well enough alone.

You can find Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise on Goodreads

You can get your copy of Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise for free for a limited time on Amazon

Excerpt:
In the deepest reaches of the basements he discovered Noel in the musical instruments room. Simon wasn’t the least bit musical but Ivy was, which meant he was deeply interested in anything along that line, and what in the world was Noel doing? He’d got the top of a grand piano open and the strings were hanging out all over the place.
“Greetings,” said Simon. “That’s quite a mess you’ve got there.”
Noel looked up with a confused expression on his face. “Oh, it’s you, Binkle. Say, come over here for a minute and hold this, will you?” He held up a string.
Simon tromped over to the piano and peered inside. “What are you doing? Did something happen?”
“Just hold this please,” said Noel.
Simon grabbed the string and pulled tight.
“No, not like that,” said Noel. “Just keep it out of the way.”
“Oh,” said Simon. He felt like an idiot standing there holding a loose piano string. But he was too curious not to ask. “What are you doing?”
“I dropped something. I need to get it out.”
“What?” He peered deeper. There was a teensy tiny frog inside. “Oh, I see it. Wait, it’s alive!”
“That’s right, it’s alive, and it’s going to be a disaster if I don’t get it out. It belongs to Professor Pargeter and it’s very valuable. It’s also poisonous so don’t touch it.”
“Really?” said Simon, reaching for the animal. “How poisonous?”
“What did I just say?” said Noel slapping Simon’s hand.
“Oh, sorry,” said Simon. He withdrew the hand but stared intently at the little thing, which was obviously so frightened it was turning colors.
“Now look what you’ve done,” said Noel. “It’s brought the poison to the surface. Stand back or it will spit.”

Paula BerinsteinAbout the Author:
Paula Berinstein is nothing like Amanda. For one thing, she’s crazy about Sherlock Holmes. For another, she’s never wanted to be a filmmaker. In addition, compared to Amanda she’s a big chicken! And she wouldn’t mind going to a secret school at all. In fact, she’s hoping that some day she’ll get to build one.

You can find and contact Paula here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Paula’s blog on Goodreads
The Writing Show podcasts
Newsletter

Giveaway
There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise. These are the prizes you can win:
– a 30$ Amazon gift card
– 2 paperback copies of Amanda Lester and the Gold Spectacles Surprise

For a chance to win enter the rafflecopter below:
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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Friday Reveal Blood Road by Amanda McCrina @9inchsnails #BookReveal #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

 
Today Amanda McCrina and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for BLOOD ROAD which releases April 25,
2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to
receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:

 

 
The funny thing about historical fiction—or
historical fantasy, in this case—is that it often reveals more about the
present than it does about the past. It provides a lens through which we can
understand and contextualize our own experiences. BLOOD ROAD is a tribute to my
love of Roman history, but it’s also very much a product of its time. It’s a
story about corruption and injustice and empire and a young soldier who stands
up and resists, and writing it gave me the opportunity to ask hard questions
about my own present and the part I play.
 
 
Title: BLOOD
ROAD
Author: Amanda McCrina
Pub. Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 329
Find it: Goodreads
| Amazon | B&N
| TBD
Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen
dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him
will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.
Someone inside the provincial government
is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt
mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of
those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a
personal war against the Empire.
Determined to save her life, Torien sets
out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep
into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.
Now, Torien is no longer sure where his
own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny,
political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in
blood.

 

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONEHe could see the sky in pieces between the tenements, bruised purple now with dusk.

At first he was glad for the darkness, because it meant they would be firing the beacon in the lighthouse at the point. He leaned on his saddle-horns, craning his neck to look down the narrow cross streets, trying to catch a glimpse of the great light burning in the distance. By means of the lighthouse he could reorient himself. But the cross streets twisted away into deep shadow between the tenement blocks, and there was the irksome thought at the back of his mind that if they had wandered so far into the city as not see the lighthouse, then they had wandered so far as to be where Imperial control was more a matter of theory than practice—at least at night.

Earlier, when the young summer sun was glaring white in a blue- glaze sky and the air under the awnings still and close and hot enough one could feel one’s skin baking in it—the tenements shut out the harbor breeze—the streets had seethed with people: sellers of figs and dates and pomegranates and honeyed almonds and goats’ milk and flavored ices and sour wine; and potters and silversmiths and leatherworkers and basket-weavers at their shopfronts; and housewives browsing the market stalls; and slave girls with water in sloshing panniers over their shoulders; and naked children playing sticks-andhoops along the foot-stones; and now and then a mounted official in white linen, shouting and swearing until the crowd shuffled aside to let him pass. Now in darkness they were alone in the street. It was as though the rest of the city had died with the sun. The air was dry and rapidly cooling, heavy with silence like a bated breath. He would not mind the darkness if not for the silence. In a city such silence was unnatural.

“Do you suppose they’ll look for us?” Alluin said. “Or just wait until our bodies turn up in an alley in a week or so?”

“I imagine they’ll expend the effort for me, if they wouldn’t otherwise trouble about you.”

“So there is some benefit to your acquaintance, after all.”

“If not for my acquaintance, you’d be just finishing the first course at the officers’ dinner.”

It had been his idea to explore the city. Alluin was city-born and indifferent—all cities were the same when you got down to it; there came a point when unwashed bodies and stray dogs and bad wine in dirty shops ceased to be as interesting as bed. But he, Torien, still had 3 Blood Road a provincial awe of big cities—an itching, impatient need to see and hear and know. He had been determined not to idle away his time in Modigne behind the fort walls. True that he and Alluin had no more than a smattering of bastardized Modigno between them, and that Modigne was a rabbit’s warren of nameless, ancient streets, built and overbuilt in incongruous layers—in daylight that had seemed far less important than it did now. In daylight it had been enough to know he was an officer of the Imperial army, and a Vareno nobleman, with sufficient coin on his person for any foreseeable difficulty and a sword at his hip in the event his coin should fail. It was remarkable how in darkness one saw things more clearly.

Certain things, anyway—other things than the way back to the fort or the direction of the harbor light.

The street, so narrow now that Alluin had to rein in his horse and fall in behind, plunged into a honeycomb of tight-packed adobe huts, each no wider than the span of Torien’s arms, joined to its neighbors by rickety wooden ladders running an uneven line from flat rooftop to flat rooftop. He took the downward slant for a good sign: he knew, from studying the maps on the wall of the headquarters at the fort, that Modigne, built as it was along a volcanic crater, went down to the ocean like the insides of a bowl, and so for the street to be sloping downward meant it must be working its way however haphazardly to the harbor.

He leaned on the saddle-horns, lifting himself a little to see if he could pick out the lighthouse below.

There was a rustle on the rooftop above. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a darker shadow take shape against the darkness. He recognized the glint of metal in time to jerk around in his saddle, hauling on the reins as he turned. He took the blade in the back of his left shoulder rather than in his throat.

He had braced for it and did not slip from the saddle, though for a moment he thought he might: his knees, pressed against the horse’s ribs, went as weak as water. He lost the reins from his left hand. Above him, he heard very clearly the patter of footsteps as the knifeman fled across the rooftop for the nearest ladder. Just as clearly, he heard the thin cry and the muffled thump as the knifeman lost his footing on the ladder and fell back to the roof.

Silence followed.

Torien brushed away Alluin’s hand and propped his right shoulder against the wall. He nodded to the hut. “Bring him,” he said—calmly, though his heart was pounding. “That fall won’t have killed him.”

He saw Alluin’s face as a pale blur in the darkness. “Tor—”

“It’s nothing. It’ll wait. Our friend won’t.”

In truth, his knees were still trembling, and he was speaking through clenched teeth because he knew if he unclenched them they would chatter. There was blood seeping through his tunic and jerkin, and he was conscious, as he hadn’t been at first, of the knife blade sunk to its hilt just beyond the cuff of his shoulder. His body was revolting against the thought, sickness threatening in the pit of his stomach.

Lamplight blossomed inside the hut. Low voices filtered out through the reed curtain in the doorway. Torien dipped his chin again, with effort. Alluin swore and swung from his saddle and drew his sword. He pushed into the hut through the curtain, and Torien heard him issuing orders in a clumsy hybrid of Modigno and Vareno—heard the crash of pottery breaking, the scrape of wood dragging across stone, a child’s whimper. A moment later, Alluin’s head and shoulders and sword hand emerged above him from inside the hut. Alluin pushed himself up on his hands from the opening, landing lightly on his feet on the roof. Picking up his sword, he vanished beyond the roof edge.

Torien leaned carefully back against the wall. He glanced down the street. There were no other doorways lit, no other sound than the clatter of Alluin’s hobnailed boots on the rooftop above. In Choiro, there would have been a crowd by now. Modigne lay as still and silent as a plague city.

Alluin reappeared at the roof edge. He had sheathed his sword. He was handling the knifeman along by the shoulders—no, not a man, Torien thought, certainly a boy: he came barely to Alluin’s chest. His arms and legs, silhouetted black against the sky, were thin, stick-like things around which his tunic fluttered shapelessly.

Torien pushed up from the wall and gathered himself together and dismounted. The ground was springy under his feet. He wavered for a moment as his heels touched, swallowing back the sickness. There was a ringing in his ears. He blinked in the sudden brightness of lamplight as Alluin flung aside the curtain in the doorway and shoved the boy before him out into the street. Behind him the hut’s occupants—a man and a woman and an assortment of half-dressed children—gathered silently in the doorway to watch.

The boy had stumbled and fallen in a heap of skinny limbs and wool rags. He caught himself on his palms. He adjusted the cap on his head and sat back awkwardly, keeping his knobby legs to the side. In the dim light, Torien could see enough to know the left ankle was broken. There was blood dribbling from the boy’s nose, and he was sucking breath low and softly through his teeth. His eyes darted over Torien’s face, lingering for a moment at Torien’s shoulder. He looked quickly to the ground. He was, Torien judged, eleven or perhaps twelve—not yet old enough to face execution for an assault upon an Imperial soldier. He would go to a slaver’s block instead. There would be an examination to determine the guilt of his family.

He caught Alluin’s eye and jerked his chin to the sullen family in the doorway. “Wine if they have it. Water otherwise—and something passable for bandage cloth.” The pain had started, and he was leaning into his horse’s shoulder for balance.

The woman in the doorway said something in Modigno. He recognized the word for wine. He said, “What did she say?” Alluin’s Modigno was bad, but better than his own.

“They have wine, but it’s for a wedding,” Alluin said, “for her sister’s wedding—I think.”

He was irritated and impatient now. “Water, then. Tell them I’d have paid for wine.”

Alluin stood at his shoulder and unbuckled his cuirass while the woman went into the hut. “Do you want to do this inside?” he said. His voice was quiet.

“Not until I know he acted alone.” Torien nodded to the boy, who had sat motionless all this while, studying the ground as though he were reading something written there. “You. You speak Vareno?”

The boy looked up incuriously into Torien’s face. He had determined not to speak: Torien could see as much from the set of his mouth, the hollowness of his eyes. His thin brown hands were clenched to fists on his lap.

From the doorway, the man spoke up in rapid Modigno.

“He’s reconsidered about the wine?” Torien said. The shoulder was hurting fiercely.

“He says he knows her family,” Alluin said.

“Whose family?” There was a moment’s silence in which he suddenly understood.

“A girl,” he said, stupidly. “He says he knows her family and will tell us where she lives,” Alluin said.

“Also, he would appreciate very much his lord’s kindness if his lord would consider a pittance in return for the service.”

The girl flung up her head suddenly to spit at the man’s feet. The man seemed embarrassed. He hunched his shoulders and looked at his hands. The woman came out from the hut with a water jug and a cloth. She held them out to Alluin at arm’s length, making a quick, nervous gesture with her hands. Alluin shook his head. “Hold them. Quedas—hold them, you understand?”

“Give them to me,” Torien said.

“Don’t give them to him,” Alluin said. “He’ll drop them when I do this.”

He jerked the knife from Torien’s shoulder. Torien folded to his knees. The street swam around him. He heard Alluin’s voice as though it were carrying to him underwater. He shook his head. Alluin was prying the cuirass from his shoulder and tugging the jerkin down his arm. The night air through his blood-soaked tunic was sharp and cold; he shivered. The girl’s eyes were on him. She was watching with the same flat-eyed incuriosity. There was blood trickling over her lips from her nose, but she made no move to wipe it away.

“Her ankle,” Torien said. For some reason, her silence shamed him.

Far above him Alluin said, patiently, “What?”

“Tie up her ankle. And tell the Modigno he can show us where she lives, because I don’t trust the word of a coward.”

****

The Modigno walked ahead, self-consciously, shoulders still hunched in embarrassment. Alluin followed on foot, leading his horse by the reins. The girl huddled in his saddle with her hands outstretched to the horns, her face buried in the horse’s mane, her bare legs dangling limp against the horse’s belly. Torien rode at the rear. The street, which turned this way and that through the honeycombed huts, ran steadily downhill all the while, and he knew they must be close to the water because there was a stiff salt breeze rising to his face. It cut through his soaked tunic like a knife. His fingers were numb on the reins. He had knotted them in the horse’s mane to keep himself upright in the saddle.

He could have ordered the Modigno to show them instead to the harbor light, of course, or to the fort itself, and they could have delivered the girl into the prison on the hill, and very soon now he might have been enjoying the comfort of his own quarters and a skin of wine to ease the pain in his shoulder—but it might easily be a month before the girl’s case went to the governor, and he was due to report at Tasso in a week, and he had too many questions of his own to let it go like that.

Only after they had gone on for near half an hour, the adobe huts having given way to ramshackle wooden shanties and the street sunk in soft, rank mud, the air heavy with the smell of brine and rotten fish, did it occur to him that most likely the Modigno had no idea about the girl’s family and no idea where she lived—had grasped for the chance to make a quick coin and come away with more than he had bargained for, and was looking for the opportunity to dart down an alley and vanish into the night.

He had opened his mouth to say this to Alluin when the Modigno swung about suddenly and said something in his own tongue, gesturing with his hands. The shanty at his back was threesided, sheltered from the street by a tattered sailcloth curtain, unlit.

“He says it’s here,” Alluin said.

The girl shifted in Alluin’s saddle. A shudder ran through her shoulders, but she did not raise her head.

“Tell him to lift the curtain,” Torien said. He was cold and aching and the Modigno was a fool, but that was no reason to abandon caution.

The Modigno lifted the curtain. The shanty was empty. There was a fire pit dug in the bare-dirt floor, but the coals were dead.

The Modigno spoke very quickly in his own tongue, his eyes going from Alluin to Torien and back again.

“He seems to think we think he’s lied,” Alluin said. “He wants us to ask the girl.”

“Tell him the girl’s our concern.” Torien dismounted, cradling his left arm against his stomach. He was too tired for anger. Anyway, it was pointless to threaten reprisals: they would not find him again if they tried. He fumbled at his belt and withdrew a bronze from his wallet. He flicked the coin in the Modigno’s direction. “Bayas—go.”

The Modigno dropped to his heels to dig out the coin from the mud. He made a mockery of a bow as he straightened: it had occurred to him that they had been essentially at his mercy. His shoulders were straight as he walked away back up the street.

Alluin pulled the girl down from his saddle by the waist and held her before him, as easily as though she were made of straw. “I’ll have a look around. The harbor can’t be far.”

“No. We can spend the night here.”

“That shoulder needs more than water, Tor, and sooner is better. Though I appreciate your faith in my medical ability.”

“I don’t like the idea of splitting up. It won’t do my shoulder any good if you end up in the harbor with your throat cut. And I couldn’t drag myself back into a saddle right now if I wanted to.”

Alluin was silent, studying him. He had the girl’s shoulder in one hand, his reins in the other. He let go the girl’s shoulder, reluctantly. “Adienta—inside,” he said. And to Torien: “I’ll see to the horses.”

Weak moonlight filtered through the roof of the shanty, which was nothing more than a reed lattice tied down with leather strips. The girl sat down against the left-hand wall, stretching her bad leg straight before her. She watched silently and unmoving while Torien crouched on his heels at the fire pit and searched one-handed through the ashes for salvageable tinder. By the time he had built up a decent pile, and had found flint and iron to strike a light, Alluin had ducked in from the street with a saddle on each arm.

“I’d have done it if you’d waited,” he said. He deposited Torien’s saddle against the right-hand wall and sat down with his own against the rear wall.

Torien unbuckled his helmet and leaned his head back against the wall. He sat with the helmet on his lap, his eyes closed. Beyond the crackling of the fire and the rattling of the lattice in the salt breeze, the silence stretched vast and hostile. “If you speak,” he said, “it goes better for you.” He opened his eyes and looked at the girl across the fire pit. In the firelight, he could see the details of her bony bronze face. She was older than he had thought at first—older than he’d thought when he’d thought her a boy. It was possible she was fifteen. The smallness of her limbs and the sunkenness of her cheeks made it hard to tell. She was looking into the flame in silence, her eyes halfclosed, her face magnificently blank, but he knew she had heard and had taken his general meaning by the way her shoulders tightened against the wa

ll. “Tell me if there were others,” he said. “Tell me how many.”

When she said nothing, he said to Alluin, “In Modigno. Tell her if she doesn’t answer to us now, she’ll answer to the governor in court—she and her family.”

The girl jerked her chin, suddenly. “No others,” she said. “I understand what you say.” Her eyes came up to his. Her voice was low but hard. “I do it alone. No family. The cobarte he lies when he brings you. No family. He says it because he wants your coin.”

“Why did you do it?”

She turned her face back to the fire.

“Answer me,” Torien said.

“I go to the slavers anyway,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I answer you.”

“Possibly you’ll go to the slavers. Possibly they’ll decide you’re old enough to face execution. My word means a great deal, either way.”

“I do not care,” she said.

“My word can spare you an examination.”

“I do not care.”

He glanced over to Alluin, who shrugged very slightly against the wall. Torien could sense his discomfort in his silence. He looked back at the girl. “Speak now and I’ll listen,” he said. “Come tomorrow in the city prison, it’ll be too late.”

She said nothing. He saw there was no use in it. He said to Alluin, “We’d better set a watch.”

“I’ll watch,” Alluin said. He seemed thankful for something to do.

“I’ll take it over in a few hours,” Torien said. “Wake me if you need to.”

He did not sleep. He lay against his saddle, carefully still on account of the shoulder, watching the sky through the cracks in the lattice and waiting for sleep to come, but his mind was moving on and on through the streets of Modigne, and in the silence he was restless. At length, he got up. The fire had died to embers. Across the room, the girl was huddled shapeless in the darkness. He could not tell if she was asleep. He went over to the doorway, where Alluin sat cross-legged against the corner post. “You sleep,” he said. “I can’t.”

“Your shoulder?” Alluin’s voice was tight. “You should have let me go for help, Tor.”

“It’s fine. It’s just that I can’t sleep and you might as well.”

“Next time you’ll listen to me. Next time when I say I can see enough of Modigne from the fort walls, and you say—”

“You talk like you’re the one who took the knife.”

“That’s the difference between us,” Alluin said. “I don’t have to take a knife in my back before I recognize a bad idea.”

Torien sat with his back against the post, his sword unsheathed across his lap. Through the gap between the post and the curtain, he could see the horses and the moonlit street beyond. He watched a cat come noiselessly down the street. It saw him as it approached the shanty, and it paused and watched him and went on again when it decided he was no threat. Behind him, in the shanty, Alluin was breathing long and steadily in his sleep. It was perhaps midnight or a little past. He heard a noise like a muffled laugh or a cough, and he started, fingers seizing instinctively on his sword grip. At his movement, the noise stopped. Across the room, the girl was struggling to hold herself still against the wall. Her shoulders shook with trapped sobs.

He pulled himself up to his feet, supporting himself on the sword. He crossed the room to her. She heard him approaching and drew herself stiffly up, but she did not raise her head. He knelt beside her. In the moonlight through the lattice, he could see the tear streaks on her cheeks. Leaning on the sword, he said, quietly, “Tell me why you did it.”

Another tremor ran through her shoulders. She bit her lip. Alluin’s untroubled breathing was loud in the silence.

“Give me the truth and I may be able to help you.”

She shook her head, once, sharply, her eyes squeezed shut. “You lie. I know you lie.”

“I don’t lie.”

“All Vareni lie. I know this.”

“Maybe. But I’m Cesino blood through my father’s line.”

“Then to your people you are a traitor.”

She said it flatly, without interest, as though it were as obvious as the weather, and he understood the absurdity of trying to explain to her, in that moment, how one could feel loyalty to homeland and to empire without hypocrisy. He said, instead, “I’m trying to help you.”

“Why do you want to help me?”

“I care to see proper justice done.”

“I know your justice.” She lifted her face to his, finally. Her voice was thick with anger and tears. “I know what you mean when you say justice. You take Mahlan when he does nothing wrong. I know what you mean by justice.”

The curtain rustled in a draft of cold salt breeze. Torien was on his feet and spinning to the doorway in one motion, his sword ready in his hand. Behind him, Alluin sat bolt upright, flinging aside his cloak. He drew his sword and scrambled up, his back to the wall. The figure in the doorway stood frozen at Torien’s sword point. For a moment, there was silence in the shanty. Then Torien jerked his chin over his shoulder and said, “Sit—slowly. Linta.”

He kept his blade leveled at the newcomer’s throat while the newcomer slid down beside the girl. He said to Alluin, “Light.”

Alluin dropped to his knees at the fire pit. There was another stretch of silence while he coaxed a flame from the spent tinder. In the moonlight, Torien could see the newcomer’s arms tight around the girl’s shoulders, head bowed against the girl’s head. He lowered his sword. After a moment’s consideration, he sheathed it. He turned on his heel and went to the curtain and looked out into the street. It lay empty and silent as before. The horses stood tethered at the post. He drew the curtain shut. There was a tightness in him that had nothing to do with the wound.

Feeble light sprang over the shanty walls.

“It won’t last long,” Alluin said.

“Use this.” With one booted foot, Torien prodded the bundle of sticks that the newcomer had let drop in the doorway. The girl watched him over the newcomer’s shoulder. Her face was set as hard as stone, but he saw the flicker of fear in her eyes. He crouched on his heels, facing her, the fire pit at his back. “No family? So it’s not only Vareni who lie.”

The girl said nothing. The newcomer straightened slowly against the wall and looked at him. He saw the girl’s face in near-exact duplicate, but duplicated as it would be in twenty years’ time: bronze skin prematurely lined, lips cracked by the sun, dark eyes sunken with hunger and hardship and grief. There was neither fear nor defiance in the woman’s face, but rather a resignation which shook him. “I give you what you want. Do not ask it of the girl.”

“You can give me satisfactory answers. Otherwise the girl goes before an Imperial court for sedition and attempted murder.”

The woman looked at the girl, the girl at the floor. Neither spoke, but in the firelight Torien watched the color drain from the woman’s face.

“Dependent upon her age, the penalty is enslavement or death, so I advise you to consider your answers carefully. Who is Mahlan?”

The woman was silent. The girl raised her eyes briefly from the floor.

“Silence does your daughter no good,” Torien said.

“My son. He is my son—Mahlan.” Her mouth contorted as though the name pained her.

“Where is he?”

“They take him,” the woman said. She swallowed. “This spring when the harbor open they come and take him.”

“Who?”

She said nothing. Her fingers were tight around the girl’s arms. They were bony fingers, bent and blunted from work, the knuckles swollen, the nails split. The backs of her brown hands were traced over with lines like dry leather.

“Vareni?” Torien said. “Answer me.”

The woman closed her eyes. “Of the jente.”

He did not know the word. He darted a glance to Alluin, who was sitting and watching from the other side of the fire pit. “One of the crime lords,” Alluin said, quietly.

Torien said to the woman, “This jente took your son?”

“When the harbor open, they take him.”

He supposed in her mind and in the girl’s the Imperial governing authorities were partially culpable in that they had not stopped it; and he supposed he had made more accessible a target than the jente for the girl’s retribution. It was a stupid reason to be knifed in the street, and a stupider reason to be executed. He was irritated. “You should have gone to the governor. He might have explained to you the difference between justice and vengeance before the girl need hang for it.”

“I go to your courts.” The woman flung up her head. “I am a citizen. My daughter she is a citizen. My son he is a citizen. I go to your courts for justice. They say to me I have no case, and they tell me if I am not silent then they will silence me. Always it is the same. Always you pretend you do not see, because the jente he pays you not to see. I know what is justice and what is not justice. What you hang my daughter for it is not justice, and you know this too.”

“How many others besides your son?” There was a moment’s silence. He could sense Alluin frozen behind him across the fire pit. He said, “You say always like it’s common practice. How many others?”

The woman drew up a little. Her eyes were flat, her mouth tight. She thought he was mocking her. “There are hundreds the jente take. You know—”

“I know nothing. I’ve been two days in Modigne, and despite the fact I just took a knife in my shoulder, I hope to be shipboard and gone tomorrow.” He kneaded his temples with his fingertips. “So the jente takes them—why? As slaves?”

“He sells them into the salt mines in Tasso. I hear it from the sailors.”

“And you say the governor knows and does nothing.”

Anger flashed across the sun-cracked face. “I say because I know. We tell him what happens. We tell him the jente he takes us to be slaves in the mines. We ask his protection. ‘We are citizens,’ we say. ‘Help us against the jente.’ But the ones who speak out he gives their name to the jente, and the jente he kills them or he takes them to the ships. I have seen this. The jente he kills us in the street, and your governor and your courts and your garrison they do nothing.”

“Every ship coming into or going out from an Imperial port is inspected—slave ships more closely than the rest. Every manifest is reviewed, every cargo taxed. So many kidnapped citizens would hardly escape notice. It would take more than the governor turning a blind eye. At the least, it would mean the city guard, and the harbor master and his agents, and the harbor master at Tasso, and every level of the administration at the mines. This jente can’t have bought them all.”

“The city guard always they belong to the jentes,” the woman said. “Anyway, the jente he doesn’t use the slave ships. I see it myself. In the night they put the slaves on trade ships—hundreds of slaves into hidden holds. In the day they fill the ships with jugs of wine, jugs of oil. That is what the harbor master sees. They put water in some of the jugs so it doesn’t show on the manifests that they carry water for the slaves. I don’t know about the mines.”

Torien was silent. The girl was looking at him over the woman’s shoulder—unblinking, contemptuous, as though she were daring him to call it a lie. Alluin sat motionless behind him, waiting for him to speak, because in the end the decision was his alone, but he knew Alluin’s thoughts like his own, and he knew Alluin, too, was thinking of the empty streets outside the shanty and the silence like a bated breath—fear hanging over the city like a plague.

He rocked back on his heels and got to his feet. The shanty spun as he stood. “This is what will happen. In the morning, I take ship for Tasso. You’ll go with me down to the harbor, and you’ll show me the jente’s ships, and I’ll investigate crew and cargo for myself. If I find nothing to convince me of this slaving business, then I’ll leave it for the governor’s court to decide your fate. Otherwise I’ll do what I can from Tasso to see this thing ended and those responsible made to pay for it—Modigno and Vareno alike. In any case, I swear to you I’ll see justice done. If you’ve told me the truth, you’ve nothing to fear by that.”

The woman’s fingers were tight on the girl’s arms. “I tell you the truth,” she said. Her voice was low and hard, and in it he heard what she left unsaid: that she knew the value of Vareno oaths just as she knew the value of Vareno justice. The truth made no difference to whim.

He ground out the fire under one boot heel. “I’ll take the watch,” he said to Alluin. It was perhaps four hours to dawn, and he knew he would not sleep.

 

 
Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy,
taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She
received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now
pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages,
and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a
winning fantasy-hockey season.

 

 

3 winners will receive and eGalley of BLOOD
ROAD, International.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Follow the Music by L.C. Ireland #CoverReveal @LC_writes @lolasblogtours

Today is the cover reveal for Follow the Music by L.C. Ireland. This cover reveal is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours.

Follow the MusicFollow the Music (The Collective #1)
By L.C. Ireland
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Middle Grade
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Blurb:
Ama is a talented, young musician whose life is changed forever when she is kidnapped by bandits and wounded so badly that she loses her hearing. Far from home and newly deafened, Ama discovers that the music she has been learning all her life possesses hidden powers. The music may even be powerful enough to guide Ama home … if she can learn to listen without hearing.

You can find Follow the Music on Goodreads

You can pre-order Follow the Music on Amazon.

Excerpt:
Ama tried to hear. She tried to hear the words spoken by the girl with the honey-brown eyes, who held out her hands to push her back down when she tried to sit up. She tried to hear her own ragged breaths as panic welled inside her. She strained to hear the music that had accompanied and defined every moment of her life. But she heard nothing.
Nothing.
And that’s when Ama knew, absolutely knew, that she wasn’t dead. Because Ama’s mother had always told her that Heaven was made of music. And this strange place was nothing but silence. The quiet was so loud that Ama wondered if sound had ever existed.
She couldn’t even hear herself scream.

L.C. IrelandAbout the Author:
Leslie Colleen “L.C.” Ireland is an Arts Specialist in Ogden, Utah. By day she works as an educator and arts advocate for two elementary schools. By night, she writes plays and novels.

You can find and contact L.C. Ireland here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Amazon

Giveaway
There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of Follow the Music. One winner will win an e-copy of Follow the Music by L.C. Ireland. Open International.

For a chance to win, enter the giveaway below:
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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

SHERLOCK BONES Series by Jennifer M. Eaton #ReleaseBlast @month9books @LaurenBaratzL

 

 #ReleaseDay #TantrumJr #TantrumBooks #Kidlit #Month9Books

 



I am so
excited that the SHERLOCK BONES series
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted releases today and that I get to share the news!
 
If you
haven’t yet heard about these wonderful books by Author Lauren Baratz-Logsted,
be sure to check out all the details below.

 

 
This blitz
also includes a giveaway for a
pair
of Great Dane socks and Dog or Cat treats for your Fur Babies, US Only
courtesy of Month9Books
.
So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of
this post.
 
Title: THE
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK BONES: DOGGONE
Author: Lauren
Baratz-Logsted
Pub.
Date:
February 21, 2017
Publisher:
Month9Books
Format: Hardcover,
eBook
Pages: 150
The Adventures of Sherlock Bones turns snooping on its floppy ear when
one day, Dr. Jane Catson, a surgeon injured in the Cat Wars has an afternoon
nap interrupted by a most unusual occurrence.
On the front lawn of her home, rather loud footsteps disturb her peace as
Sherlock Bones, a Great Dane in a deerstalker claiming to be the greatest
detective in the world arrives.
After a quick critical examination of the intrusive dog whose enormous
body blocks the entire sun from view, Catson has her doubts. But that’s not
all. The monstrously-sized creature makes an even more astonishing claim. He
has come to live with her!
Before Catson can collect her thoughts into an intelligent rebuttal,
Sherlock Bones has made himself quite at home, inventing things like a jetpack
for her Castilian housekeeper-cook, a turtle named Mr. Javier and placing his
gigantic food and water dishes next to hers.
But there’s no time for protest. The great detective and Dr. Catson have
caught themselves their first case: A suspiciously dead human in a nearby
abandoned building. Can Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson crack the case before the
killer strikes again? Or will their differences get in the way of solving Case
File No. 1? One thing’s for sure, that would be a doggone shame.
Title: THE
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK BONES: DOG NOT GONE
Author: Lauren
Baratz-Logsted
Pub.
Date:
February 21, 2017
Publisher:
Month9Books
Format: Hardcover,
eBook
Pages: 150
After being introduced to Sherlock Bones, the Greatest Detective in the
World, in Case File #1: Dogged to Death, Dr. Jane Catson – surgeon and veteran
of the Cat Wars – is back to share an all-new mystery adventure with readers.
Despite all of Jane’s resistance, Bones is now living with her and her
housekeeper/chef, the turtle with a jetpack, Mr. Javier. This time out, the
mismatched duo’s investigations lead them to a case involving murder, of
course, and – wait for it! – Utah. If there’s one thing readers can be certain
of it’s that in this world, the animals are always smarter than the humans.
Also, did we mention…Utah?
 
 
 
 
Excerpt:
 
“You can’t be serious!” I practically shouted, outraged.
If a murder really had been committed, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t going
to do anything about it. I also couldn’t believe that I was arguing with him
about this. I’d never wanted to get involved with him and all his craziness in
the first place.
“Oh, but I am, my dear Catson.”
My dear … Who did this dog think he was?
“And why is that, Bones?” I demanded, determined not to let my right eye
squint.
“Because I am tired of not getting credit.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Here’s how this kind of case always goes: a crime, usually murder,
occurs. The professional, public detectives—the so-called ‘experts’—are called
in. They fail to solve the case. Then I am called in. I solve the case, but
they take all the credit. End of story.”
As he spoke, his eyes shifted sadly from me to the floor to studying his
toenails.
I found myself, for the first time, starting to feel sorry for him. Then:
“Wait,” I said, this time letting my right eye go ahead and twitch.
“You’re not going to investigate, you’re going to let a murderer run
free—because your feelings are hurt? Because you feel you don’t get enough
credit?”
“Well,” he said, now looking slightly embarrassed, “yes, that is exactly
what I plan to do. Or rather, not do.”
“You can’t be serious! If you think you can help, it is your duty to do
so!”
“I suppose … ” His eyes met mine. “Do you want to come with?”
“Come with where?”
He eagerly un-crumpled the crumpled piece of paper.
“There,” he said, pointing to an address.
I thought of my lunch, which was still sitting on the table. I thought
longingly of the cushion in front of the bay window, my nap long overdue. And
then I thought of the adventure of potentially aiding to solve a murder. I must
confess: I was curious. It also occurred to me that perhaps since returning
home from the Cat Wars, my life had been a little dull.
“Fine,” I said, mildly exasperated with myself.
“Great,” he said, all smiles once more. “I’ll go get my hat.”
About Lauren:

 

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of over 25 books for adults, teens
and kids, including The Sisters 8 series for young readers which she created
with her husband and daughter. She lives in Danbury, CT, with that husband and
daughter as well as their marvelous cat, Yoyo.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giveaway
Details:
 
(1) winner will receive a pair of Great Dane Socks (pictured below) and a
Bag of Wellness Brand Dor or Cat treats, US Only.

 



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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Colors of the Sun & Moon by Talia Aikens-Nunez #BookBlast @talia_n

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colors-2

colors-1

Colors of the Sun & Moon by Talia Aikens-Nunez

Colors of the Sun and Moon is an English/Spanish STEM book which featuring an inquisitive young girl and her grandmother. The bright illustrations engage children and illuminate the science of the horizon with vibrant colors.

An inquisitive young girl questions her grandmother about the science behind the colors of the sun and moon. With a forward by Spencer Christian. “Colors of the Sun and Moon” is the second book from the new multicultural, multilingual children’s press, SundanceKid Press. The mission of SundanceKid Press is to promote cultural, ethnic/racial and linguistic diversity in children’s literature. Each page includes the English text along with the Spanish translation. A free audio recording is available on the SundanceKid Press website.

colors-of-sun-moon

amazon

Forward by Spencer Christian

As a young child, I was much like the little girl in this book – intensely curious about the wonders of the natural world – asking questions such as those put forth by young Gabriela, “Why is the sky blue; why are leaves green?” My search for answers took me on a fascinating path of discovery, which eventually led me to become a national TV weather forecaster.
If the child in you – or a child you know – finds the world to be a wondrous place, your path to discovery can be found in the pages of “Colors of the Sun and Moon.” “Colors of the Sun and Moon” is the story of 8-year-old Gabriela and her wise and loving grandmother – a grandmother who has the answers to all of her precious granddaughter’s questions about the world of wonders they see around them. While Abuela’s answers are simple enough for a young child to understand, they are factual and scientifically sound.

I applaud author Talia Aikens-Nuñez for giving her readers a story that is appealing on so many levels: it is educational, entertaining, and family-focused. What a rare combination of elements! As I read “Colors of the Sun and Moon,” images from my own childhood flashed in my mind, and I found myself smiling in amusement and amazement. I feel certain that the young reader and the not-so-young reader in your home will enjoy this book as much as I did.

– Spencer Christian, Weather Anchor for ABC 7/KGO-TV, San Francisco

add to goodreads

taliaAuthor Talia Aikens-Nuñez
Talia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be a writer. It was the birth of her daughter that caused her to start writing. Raising a bilingual child inspired Talia to write lyrical children’s books. Talia’s family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water. They live on a river in Connecticut with their kids.

Website * Twitter * Facebook

$25 Blog Tour giveawayBlog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 1/1/17

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

STATION FOSAAN by Dee Garretson #CoverReveal #FridayReveals #Month9Squad #Month9Books

Today Dee Garretson and Month9Books are
revealing the cover and first chapter for STATION FOSAAN, which releases February
14, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers
to receive a eGalley!!
A quick note from the author:
I’ve been a major science
fiction fan ever since I discovered A WRINKLE IN TIME. When I moved on to
watching STAR TREK every day after school, that hooked me. Spock was my first
crush. I don’t know what that says about me. Maybe it was his pointy ears,
because I’m very taken with the pointy eared elves in LORD OF THE RINGS too. It
wasn’t just Spock though. I loved all the strange new worlds. I was devastated
the day my father told me that even once I grew up, there would be no
Enterprise spaceships and I couldn’t be Lieutenant Uhura. I still remember how
I wanted that communication earpiece, the miniskirt and the boots.
 
So you might say STATION
FOSAAN is in response to that disappointment. I created my own science fiction
world, which has been influenced not only by STAR TREK, but by STAR WARS and
DUNE as well. And while it is a space adventure, it’s also a story of two
people who find each other only to discover their lives may have to follow
different paths. The essence of a story is always the characters. I love to
create ones I’d want to know in real life. And like in real life, these
characters face powerful forces who try to emphasize the differences between
peoples rather than finding common ground. It’s a test to see what they choose.
One of my favorite parts from the book is something that is also my personal
motto: “We have to take chances. I have to take a chance. It’s time to go
beyond the known.”
On to the reveal! 

 

Title: STATION
FOSAAN
Author: Dee Garretson
Pub. Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads
|
Amazon | B&N | TBD
Scientists and their families stationed
on the remote planet of Fosaan were promised a tropical vacation-like
experience. But Fosaan, devastated from an apocalyptic event nearly
three-hundred years ago, is full of lethal predators and dangerous terrain.
Earthers are forbidden to go beyond the
safety zone of their settlement and must not engage the remaining reclusive
Fosaanians, native to the planet. Sixteen-year-old Quinn Neen is about to do
both of those things.
During an unsanctioned exploration of
the planet, Quinn discovers a beautiful Fosaanian girl named Mira stealing food
from his family’s living unit. But before he can convince her to show him
around, scientists are taken captive, leaving Quinn and the other young
Earthers at the mercy of space raiders.
Quinn must go from renegade to leader
and convince Mira to become an ally in a fight against an enemy whose very
existence threatens their lives and the future of Earthers stuck on Fosaan and
at home.

 

STATION FOSAAN is THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
meets STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN. 

Excerpt

Chapter 1When a civilization comes close to extinction, what emerges out of the ashes? On Fosaan, music did not, and art has turned to survival craft. Perhaps if I record what I know, some in the future will understand us better. The coming of the Earthers may be the end of us, and I do not want our memories to fade to ash. I may be giving myself too lofty a title, but for now I shall sign my musings,

Erimik, historian of the Clan

A flash in Fosaan’s sky distracted me from my work for a moment. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought a large ship just entered the atmosphere, but none were scheduled to land.

The flex wall rustled behind me. “Piper?” I said, not looking up from the display slip. One more minute and I would have the depiction of the snake-like creature completed, right down to the exact interlocking star pattern on the skin and the red speckling on the forelegs. Duplicating the vivid greenish yellow color would be trickier, but I had imaged it so there’d be a reference when I got down to mixing colors.

It was pure luck I had found a dead one on the walkway to study. I didn’t know what happened to the other deceased animals on Fosaan, but if the shrieks and howls that came from shore were any hint, I could guess. I’d just have to make sure I got rid of the thing before Piper got home. My younger sister hated seeing anything dead.

“Piper?” I turned around, but no one was in the unit. The rustling sound had moved into the kitchen.

Magellan squawked and flapped her wings from the window ledge, “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!”

Since the parrot said the same thing at every sound she didn’t recognize, I wasn’t too worried. “Mags, relax. It’s probably just an olon.” I got up and grabbed the stick I always used to shoo away the tiny nuisances. If I let one in, a whole flock of them would follow, perching on every available surface, chittering and staring as if expecting me to put on a show for them. Me, Quinn Neen, whose talents, such as they were, did not include entertaining anyone or anything. It was even worse when they brought in their latest catches from the sea, treating the floating living units like their own picnic area, dropping bones all over the floor.

Now that Mags felt like she had done her guard job, she lost interest. Balancing on one leg, she examined a talon on the other. “Beautiful toe,” she declared.

“Yes, you’ve told me before,” I said, knowing I’d never be able to convince the parrot a talon was not the same thing as a toe. I wasn’t sure she grasped the concept of “beautiful,” but she applied it more frequently to herself than anyone else. Leaving the bird to her talon inspection, I pushed aside the divider to get into the kitchen. No olons. No more rustling noise either, just the faint splash of the waves rocking the walkways that connected the individual living quarters. A gust of wind brought in the briny scent of the water, sharper smelling than the oceans of Earth. It overpowered the pine scent I had set on the room control, which I liked to use as a reminder of the pine forest reserve my grandmother managed on Earth. Another gust rattled the beads Piper had attached to her favorite house droid, but there were no other sounds. Maybe an olon had come and gone.

I turned to go back when a flash of white caught my eye. Startled, I dropped the stick and then tripped over it. A girl, a Fosaanian girl, stood clutching a wafer loaf to her chest, a cloud of long shimmery white hair quivering. In fact, all of her was shivering. She was soaked, water dripping off her. I could see her wet footprints all over the kitchen. Her silvery eyes held mine and I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I wasn’t usually so speechless around girls with incredible eyes, but I’d never encountered one I didn’t know in my own quarters.

“What are you doing?” I finally managed to croak, even though it was obvious she was taking the loaf, or more accurately, stealing the loaf. Fosaanians never came out onto the Earthers’ floating compound.

“I’m sorry,” the girl said, putting the loaf back on counter and edging to the door.

“No, wait!” I didn’t mean to shout, but my words came out too loud. The girl froze like I had issued an order, though I could tell she was ready to bolt. “It’s okay,” I said. “I mean, if you’re hungry, take it.” Picking the loaf up, I held it out to her, hoping it would convince her to stay for a little while. She would be the first Fosaanian I had talked to, if I could get her to talk. The small population of Fosaanians, the descendants of the few who had survived the planetary apocalypse, kept away from all of us Earthers, except for the ones who worked at the supply depot or who delivered the iridium sulfide. None of those could be called the least bit friendly.

She didn’t take the loaf, but she didn’t run either. Instead, she stood there looking around the room, clearly curious.

“I have an even better idea,” I said, trying to come up with one. “How about I fix us both something to eat? I’m hungry too.” The girl was too thin, but then all the Fosaanians I had seen were skinny. I assumed it was a Fosaanian physical trait that went along with their long fingers and thin necks, but now it occurred to me that if she was here to steal food maybe they weren’t getting enough to eat.

“The food, it is not for me,” the girl said. “My little sister, she had an accident and some of her teeth were damaged. It’s easier for her to eat soft food….” Her voice trailed off, and she clutched her hands together.

“You can take it. We have plenty. I’ll find some other stuff too.” I grabbed a carryall and opened the storage cabinet, looking for soft food. “Why doesn’t your sister just get replacement teeth?”

Her eyes widened. “You can replace teeth?”

“Sure, people do it all the time.” I had two replacements already, from running into a low bulkhead when I was trying to get some exercise during the long dull journey to Fosaan from Earth.

“How much do teeth cost?”

“I don’t know.” I found some milk bars and added them to the carryall. “Not much, probably.” I’d never even thought about it.

“If it costs as much as wafer bread, then it would be too much.” She sounded angry.

“Maybe not. I have a friend up on the space station in charge of inventory,” I told her. “I can ask him if they have some extra teeth. They probably do.”

Her eyes narrowed and she took a step back. “What would I have to do for them?”

“Nothing,” I said. I was struck by how suspicious she sounded. “My friend, Gregor, he isn’t too strict about things. Giving you some teeth for your sister isn’t going to break the budget of the station.” I knew Gregor would actually be pleased to do something that was outside the rules. He took so much pleasure in breaking military protocol, I sometimes wondered why he had signed up for more service after the mandatory enlistment was up.

An olon flew in and perched on a stool, folding its wings into small pleats and settling down like it intended to stay. I recognized it from its abnormal markings. Most olons had a bright green streak under each eye, but this one was missing the streak on the left. It was also the one who seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing when food was out. “You’re not getting any of this,” I said to it. “Don’t be lazy. Go find your own food.” It hooted at me.

At the noise, Mags hopped into the room and then flew up and landed on the counter, flapping her wings and screeching, “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert! Dog! Dog!” She hated the olons and “dog” was her word for anything she hated.

The olon just gazed at the parrot, not moving. “Easy, Mags,” I said, “It’s ‘olon’. ‘Olon.’”

“Dog!” Mags flapped her wings threateningly. “Man the weapons!” My father had taught Mags the weapons line, and he and I thought it hilarious, though my mother wasn’t crazy about the parrot threatening any guest the bird didn’t like. When the olon didn’t move, Mags added in some incoming missile sound effects to indicate she was extremely displeased.

“Calm down, Mags.” The olon didn’t appear perturbed at all by the parrot. It sidled to the edge of the stool, its attention totally focused on the wafer loaf.

“Your creature talks? You communicate with them?” the girl asked, her amazing eyes widening.

It took me a moment to answer; I was so caught up in looking at her. “Uh, no, I sort of communicate with Mags, but I just talk to the olons. They don’t understand me. It’s a habit when I’m by myself.” Now she would think I was strange. I’d only started talking to myself once we’d arrived. There were fifteen other younger Earthers onplanet and an assortment of scientists who came and went to the orbiting space station for their shifts, but we often got tired of each other. I spent most of the time working on my own projects.

The girl eyed the olon. “I’ve never seen one without two markings on the face,” she said. “I did see one once with double markings, but never just one.”

“I’d like to see one like that.” I was intrigued that she had noticed. Most people didn’t pay much attention to them. When I had first observed the marking and pointed it out to my friend Lainie, she had pretended to be interested, but the way she smiled made it clear she was just humoring me.

The olon hooted once more and then flew back out the window, like it had given up on the possibility of a handout.

“All clear!” Mags announced, using another of the military phrases my father favored. She began to preen herself. “Beautiful feathers.”

“Quinn!” Piper shouted from the walkway. The bells my little sister wore in her hair jangled crazily as she ran into the room. “Quinn, guess what? The shuttle landed but nobody was on it. Not mom, not anybody. Nobody knows why.” Piper skidded to a stop, noticing the girl. “Why is a Fosaanian here?” she demanded, her eyes wide.

“Um…She was out swimming,” I said, not wanting to explain the conversation about the bread. There were never simple explanations for Piper. Everything always led to another why. “I invited her in,” I added.

“Hello,” Piper said, moving closer to the girl and sniffing the air. “You don’t smell. My friend Lia says Fosaanians smell.”

“That’s rude, Piper. I’m sorry,” I said to the girl. I had heard the same rumor, that Fosaanians smelled like the sulfur permeating the atmosphere.

“I said she DIDN’T smell.” Piper glared at me. “It would be rude if I said she DID. What’s your name?”

“My name is Mira,” The girl answered almost in a whisper.

Piper reached out and patted Mira on the arm as if she was some shy creature. “Mira is a pretty name. Mine’s Piper. How old are you? I’m seven. Why do you have that funny mark on your face?”

The girl jerked back like the question shocked her. I didn’t understand her reaction, and after she didn’t respond, I said to Piper, “It’s a tattoo.” I didn’t think much about it because the small three-sided red mark on her check matched the ones on the two Fosaanians who worked at the station.

Mira’s lack of response didn’t stop Piper. “Why do all the Fosaanians have white hair? It makes everyone look old.” Piper moved closer like she was going to touch Mira’s hair.

“Piper!” Time to distract my sister before she did anything embarrassing. “What about the shuttle?” I asked.

“It landed without anybody on it, and nobody at the supply depot can talk to the space station. Is it true Fosaanian babies are born with black hair and then it turns white?”

Piper’s jumps in topics were hard to follow, and it took Mira some time to answer. “We all have white hair all along,” the girl said.

“That’s strange.” I was puzzled, not about the hair, but about the shuttle. There were always communication problems between the depot and the station because of the weird atmospheric components on Fosaan, and because of the frequent volcanic ash that spewed into the air from a nearby island, but I couldn’t think of a reason why the shuttle wouldn’t have anyone on it. “Maybe everyone decided to stay for a double shift. Mom said they were having problems with the newest version of the MIdroids.”

Piper shrugged. “Mick didn’t say anything.”

“What’s Mick doing about it?” I asked. Mick ran the depot, with the help of a few Fosaanians and some ancient droids he refused to replace. He was good with supplies and machines and droids, not so good with other people.

“He sent the second shift up. They’re supposed to report back.” Piper twisted her finger through her own hair, and the bells jingled softly. I knew the hair-twisting meant Piper was nervous.

“I’m sure they will,” I said to reassure her. I was about to go back to talking to Mira when I realized there was something odd about Piper’s last statement. “How are they going to report back if the link isn’t working?”

“I don’t know. Do all Fosaanians have such curly hair? I wish I did.”

“Piper, stop with the questions. You’re being nosy. Why don’t you see if you can get Mom on the comm here?” I suggested.

“Okay.” Piper darted out of the kitchen, and too late, I remembered what I had left on the work table.

Piper’s shriek came a second later. “Quinn! Disgusting! It’s dead! Get it away!”

“Sorry, Piper,” I said. The Fosaanian girl was edging for the door again. “Wait, don’t go yet. Maybe you could help me with something. It’s in here.” I didn’t want to let her go so I gestured towards the other room and walked out of the kitchen hoping she would follow me. She did, stopping in the doorway. I heard a sharp intake of breath.

When I turned around, the girl was staring wide-eyed around the room. “How is this possible?” she said, reaching out her hand to touch one of the holographic pine trees.

“Oh, I forgot,” I pointed at the scene setter on the table. “I had the scene set to be a pine forest. I really miss one I used to go to on Earth, so I like to set that surrounding when I work.”

“I didn’t know such things existed,” Mira said, kneeling down to touch the stream that ran around the chairs. I turned the sound up so the faint murmur of water came from it. The girl’s hand went into it and touched the floor. “This is amazing! It looks so real. I smell something strange too.”

“I’ve got it set to pine forest scent. I can switch it to something else if you like, flowers, or a camp fire. Do you want to see it snow?” I changed the scene to snowfall and immediately drifts appeared, covering most of the furniture. Holographic snowflakes fell from the ceiling, which had changed to the gray of a winter sky.

Mira lifted her hands out and smiled. “It’s cold! I have heard of snow, but I didn’t know it was cold.”

“Excuse me,” Piper said, standing by the work table with her hands on her hips, her face screwed up in disgust. “Does anyone besides me care that there is a dead thing here?”

“It’s okay, Piper.” I said. “It can’t hurt you. I meant to get rid of it before you got home.” I switched the snowfall back to the forest. The falling flakes were too distracting most of the time.

Piper stomped her foot. “Why do you have to drag stuff inside to depict it? Why can’t you just image things like normal people?”

“There’s no challenge to imaging it. Anybody can do that. Depicting objects sharpens a person’s power of observation.” I’d heard one of the tests to get into the reconnaissance corps training program measured how well the applicant could observe tiny details. “Besides, I needed to scan its measurements so I could record them.” We’d had this argument many times and I didn’t get why Piper couldn’t understand. It wasn’t like I kept the specimens around forever, though sometimes to tease her I pretended I’d accidentally lost one in her room. She fell for it every time.

The Fosaanian girl got up and walked over to the table, stepping around a moss-covered boulder that wasn’t really there. She looked down at the creature. “You didn’t kill this, did you?” she asked.

If I had been the type to lie, I would have told her I caught it barehanded as it ran past me. I was a terrible at lying though. “No, it was already dead when I found it.” I switched the room back to normal.

“I thought so. Most beings don’t survive getting close to an anguist.”

“I didn’t know,” I said, somewhat pleased I had managed to study something so lethal. “It’s called an anguist?”

“I don’t care what it’s called!” Piper wailed. “Just get it away!”

Since I was done with it anyway, and it was already starting to smell in the heat, I reached over to pick it up, intending to drop it out the window into the water.

“Wait!” The Fosaanian girl said. “How did you get it in here? Did you touch it?” She sounded horrified.

My hand froze. “Uh, yeah, I picked it up and brought it in. Why?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

“How did you pick it up?”

I pictured how I had found the creature. “I picked it up behind the forelegs. Why?”

“They exude poison when they’re threatened, particularly from their tails.” Mira’s face showed the same alarm that her voice held. “It’s so lethal, it paralyzes you almost immediately.”

I couldn’t remember exactly where I had touched it. I’d moved it around a lot as I was measuring it. Was my hand feeling a little numb? I flexed my fingers. They still worked. “I feel fine. I guess I didn’t touch the poison part.” Good to know I hadn’t managed to paralyze myself. It had been idiotic of me not to think of that possibility. I knew there were dangerous life forms on Fosaan, and the Earthers were forbidden to go anywhere except the depot and the beach, but I hadn’t even imagined a small dead creature could hurt me.

“You shouldn’t just pick up what you find,” Mira said, putting her hands on hips just like Piper did. “There are many deadly animals and plants on Fosaan.”

At first I didn’t hear what she said. The amazing color of her eyes distracted me again. I had thought all Fosaanians had dull gray eyes.

“Quinn, didn’t you hear her? Deadly animals are a BAD thing,” Piper said.

“Um… I heard. Do you know how to identify them?” I asked the girl. She had just given me an idea.

“Of course I know,” she said, as if I were slightly dense. “I wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t.”

I tried to pick my words carefully so I could get her to go along with my idea. “Could you show me which ones are dangerous? I really want to know, because I’m making a guide.” Her expression grew more puzzled and I realized she didn’t understand, so I kept talking. “The life forms that survived the Apocalypse haven’t been completely logged, I mean logged by our people. If you helped me, I could make a real guide. We could work on it together. I’ve got some great recording equipment my friend on the space station lent me and I’ve made this capture device to get some of the smaller flying creatures, so I can observe them and then release them. I’ll show it to you…that is…if you want to see it….” Her face was expressionless, and I realized she might think it was all too boring.

Finally she said, “No…I don’t think my uncle would allow me to help you…I don’t know.”

Since it wasn’t a flat-out no, I persisted, “It wouldn’t take much time.”

“It’s not a good idea,” she said, sounding certain.

I slumped back against the table. At this rate, I’d never get the guide done before the deadline to submit my application to the reconnaissance corps. Without something unique like a guide to add to my application, I didn’t stand much of a chance of acceptance. My examination scores fell right in the middle of average. And if I didn’t get in, my grandfather would make sure I was assigned to one of the officer academies. I knew that would only lead to a spectacular failure. I’d make an even worse officer than my father.

Piper’s voice caught my attention. “Quinn, I thought we were going to talk to Mom.”

“You can speak to someone on the space station from your own home?” Mira drew close to the comm unit and put out her hand like she wanted to touch it.

“Yes, everyone has one of these,” I said.

“Haven’t you seen the ones inside the depot?” Piper asked.

“Fosaanians aren’t allowed inside unless they work there,” Mira said.

I hadn’t realized that. I just assumed the Fosaanians preferred to keep to themselves. “Why not? It’s nothing special.”

“It’s a rule. Are these hard to work?” Mira’s hand still hovered over the touchpad. “My uncle and my cousin operate the one at the depot, and they say you can get information from everywhere in the galaxy, and pictures of other places. My cousin told me he’s seen images of other planets, and they have giant buildings on them.” She said it like she didn’t really believe it.

“Sure, tall buildings are everywhere.” I wasn’t interested in ordinary buildings, but if she was and it got her to stay, I’d show her as many as she wanted. “We’ll look at some once I talk to my mother.”

I was about to speak the code to call up the Comm Center at the station when a voice said, “Incoming message. Secure channel. Turing Seven. Response.”

“That’s Grandfather!” Piper squealed.

I restrained myself from groaning. My grandfather was the last person in the galaxy I wanted to speak to. “Not good timing,” I said, turning to Mira. “I’m sorry, but it would be good if you go in the kitchen while we’re talking to my grandfather. I don’t want to have to explain to him what you’re doing here.”

She didn’t question me, which surprised me, though at the same time I was happy I didn’t have to go into more detail. My grandfather did not like to be kept waiting. I spoke the response. “Turing Five.”

My grandfather’s attaché appeared on the slip, a woman who Piper called Lieutenant Bark because every word the woman spoke came out short and abrupt. “Hold a moment for Admiral Neen,” the woman said.

It didn’t take a moment. Almost instantly the grim, lined face of my grandfather filled the display. I knew everyone remarked on how much I looked like the man, down to the dark brown eyes that were nearly black, the sharp lines of our faces, and the set of our jaws, but I hoped I never grew to look so rigid. In a dress uniform, the dark green sheen of it rippling in the sterile light of his office, the man would have projected authority even if you didn’t know he was head of the Konsilan.

“Good day, Quinn.”

“Good day, Sir.” I instinctively sat up straighter. I’d learned long ago not to slouch in view of my grandfather.

“Hi Grandpa!” Piper pushed in besides me on the chair.

“Hello, Miss Piper.” A smile appeared on the stone face, something rarely seen. “How’s my girl?”

“Good! When are you coming to visit?”

I hoped he’d say “Never.” The last argument between my father and grandfather had been so terrible, I couldn’t imagine them meeting again.

“I’m not sure.” The admiral turned and said something to the attaché and then turned back. “I’m sorry, Piper, but I don’t have much time and I need to talk to your brother.”

“Okay,” she said, sliding off the chair. I heard her move to the kitchen and begin chattering again to Mira. “That’s a pretty necklace! Can you show me how to make one like it?” I didn’t hear Mira’s reply and I tried to block out their voices so my grandfather wouldn’t comment on my lack of focus, an almost criminal offense to him.

The frown had reappeared on his face. “Quinn, I understand you haven’t yet submitted your application for any of the officer academies. The deadline is coming up.”

“I know, Sir. I…uh…wanted to speak with you about that.” I felt sweat running down my back and wondered why the room had suddenly gotten so hot. I tried to think of how I had practiced my speech to my grandfather, but instead all I could see in my head was the sweep of wall in the man’s office that contained image after image of Neen ancestors in all their military glory.

My grandfather raised an eyebrow. “Go ahead.”

I reminded myself that it was my future at stake, not my grandfather’s. “I…” Before I could say anything else, the slip went blank. “That’s weird,” I said.

“What’s weird?” Piper came back in the room.

“We lost contact with Grandfather.”

I spoke the code to call up the Comm Center. The display flickered, then the familiar logo of the station came up, the words Advanced Artificial Intelligence Research Center emblazoned across a rotating triple torus. I waited for the next slip. Someone on first or second shift communications should appear.

Instead, a voice said, “Due to technical difficulties, AAIRC is not available at this time.” The slip went clear.

 

Dee Garretson writes for many different
age groups, from chapter books to middle grade to young adult to adult fiction.
She lives in Ohio with her family, and in true writer fashion, has cat
companions who oversee her daily word count. When she’s not writing, she loves
to travel, watch old movies, and attempt various kinds of drawing, painting and
other artistic pursuits.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl