Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Current Writing Space

Welcome to my first blog post sent by iPad. My sons would be so proud of me. They've long since concluded I'm a dinosaur and doomed to a life of composing on stone tablets.

In any event, while contractors are remodeling my kitchen, pantry and brand new first floor bathroom, I have been writing on an iPad. My computer is at too much of a remove from the action. As Gaspar said in Captive Heart, "My job consists of making decisions." Mine consists of making decisions, too.

Just for the heck of it, here is what I see when I look up from my screen.

When you read Adored, remember... this is where I wrote it. Oh, and parts of Victory Portrait, too. I've been promised the stove and dishwasher will be back in the kitchen tonight. The fridge, though, stays until tomorrow.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Five Things I Love About Aimee Mann

Anyone who hasn’t spent an evening listening to the music of Aimee Mann is missing out. You know I love singer-songwriters, right? Well, she’s one of the best. Here are five reasons why I think Mann is a goddess:

1. I love her voice. So many female pop singers are interchangeable I can’t even tell which one is singing which song. There’s no mistaking an Aimee Mann song. Not only do her lyrics vibrate with intelligence (see below) and deep insights, but she has one of those rich honest voices that haunts the words.

2. Intelligence. Aimee uses metaphor beautifully. She weaves melody and words to portray intense, emotional themes like addiction, celebrity, conformity, and rebellion. Her videos are wonderful stories unto themselves and are often sly with sharp introverted social humor. Here are my two favorites (bonus points if you get the joke about the author in the intro to "Charmer" or can identify the guy in the opening of "Labrador"):

Also, the video for "Labrador" harks back to [THIS VIDEO] for 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry," winner of the 1985 MTV Music Video Aware for Best New Artist. Aimee wrote the song and that's her performing in the video. Singer-songwriter from the very start.

3. Glasses. So many female artists won’t wear them. Aimee does and she totally rocks the look.

4. Aimee embodies artistic integrity. She believes in herself. Instead of conforming to what the music industry wanted her to be back in the 90s, she packed her bags and took control of her career by releasing her own albums. Her first self-released album, Bachelor No. 2, was sold from her website. Yep, she's self-published. Eventually her music gained more favorable distribution, but she's rooted in the tradition of independent songwriters. She’s the poster girl for indie artists who create their own fan bases and markets without the backing of big business or the exposure of hit singles.

5. Aimee has a great sense of humor. She knows how to make a point by poking gentle fun at something, such as the "artist as robot" in Charmer, but she’s also willing to put herself out there for a few laughs. The writers of Portlandia wrote her into a brilliant episode that makes biting points about the relationship between artists and their fans.

So there you have it... my fan girl love for Aimee Mann. I identify with her and her music speaks to me in ways I can barely articulate except... yeah, I love them! I can always count on her to cater to my melancholy or, in a different direction, talk to me about being a writer. Even though she's a singer. But  you see, Aimee gets that.

So, has anyone identified the guys who introduce her videos? 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Giveaway Winners--Captive Heart Paperback

Thanks to the number of entries, I drew 2 winners for the Captive Heart paperback! As you can see, my lovely Cate is enjoying her copy very much.

The poodle thumped her tail and the winning numbers went to:

Debby and Anonymous #6 (oncerfan)!

I will be sending emails to the winners and as soon as I receive their mailing addresses, the books will be on their way.

Thank you everyone for helping me make this celebration special. :D

Friday, March 22, 2013

Music as Inspiration: Grace R. Duncan Talks About Choices

I really enjoyed Grace R. Duncan's slave-fic novel, Choices. For one thing, the cover is gorgeous! But I also admire the sensuality the story evokes. Turns out she owes some of that to some of the beautiful music in this post.

Welcome, Grace!


Music has always inspired me.  As a kid, it helped me get homework done.  As an adult, it gets the housework moving, the other tasks I need to accomplish done much more quickly.  It’s always fed my moods, cheering me up or feeding the need to let it out and cry when I couldn’t seem to, otherwise.

So it seemed to me that it was a natural step for that to move into inspiring fiction and it was.  I’ve mentioned before that I started in fanfiction and I had more than a couple of songs cause the writing of short stories, chapters and even a couple of novel-length piece!

When it came time to sit and actively work on Choices, then, there was no doubt that I would build an entire playlist for the novel. The first place I went was to one of my favorite artists:  Loreena McKennitt.  The woman’s voice is absolutely incredible and her composition is amazing.  To top it off, she experiments with different flavors of music and had several pieces that were very Middle Eastern in style.

But the kicker for me about her music was the one song that had always been my favorite of hers: Caravanserai.

The song, which I’d heard first on CD and not yet seen any Youtube videos of, had always brought to mind the desert nomads that became my gypsies.  (For the lyrics, go here.)  Well, when I started looking at music and brought this one up, I knew in a heartbeat that it was Teman’s theme.  The consummate wanderer, the one who can’t seem to find a place to land, just couldn’t stay in one place, well, this song was perfect for him and one that got played a lot over the course of writing this book.

Another of Loreena’s songs that inspired me quite a bit was Marrakesh Night Market. 

I often thought of Teman and Jasim at the beginning a bit like the assassin’s from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games.  The robes I’d envisioned in my head looked very much like the ones Altair wore in the first edition of the series.  And this song often made me think of the assassins, climbing to the roofs, hiding inside their hoods.  Below the video on the Youtube site, the uploader included what Ms. McKennitt wrote in the CD notes and it is so appropriate to what I imagined nighttime in Behekem would be like.    I even had the image in my head of Jasim and Teman jumping from roof to roof in a desert city, hoods up, hidden blades in their sleeves.  This song became the theme for the first chapter of Choices

Because the game helped to inspire me, I discovered that some of the music from the Revelations soundtrack went very well with the rest.  Among those are Fight Or Flight, Welcome To Kostantiniyye, The Traitor, Ambush, Nova Roma, On The Attack and Yerebatan Cistern

Marrakesh Night Market and Caravanserai were, by far, not the only songs of Loreena’s on my soundtrack.  A few of the others are: The Gates Of Istanbul, Kecharitomene , Marco Polo, Night Ride Across The Caucasus , Santiago, and Tango to Evora.

But as much as I love Loreena’s music and even with the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack, those few songs can get repetitive after a while.  So, I poked around to see what other Middle Eastern style music I could fine.  Let’s just say… there was a lot.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised to discover an album by Sarah Brightman from a special DVD she did called “Harem.”  There were two in particular I liked from the album:  Harem and one called “Arabian Knights.”  But, though the whole song was, of course, on my playlist, it’s really the 40ish-second bit starting here that caught me:

There is a scene in the book where Teman is walking into the Grand Hall (the palace’s dining hall) in line with the rest of the pleasure slaves, all done up for the evening in gold jewelry.  I imagine that snippet playing as they walk in and it just seemed perfect to me.

My search turned up an interesting mix of music.  I was reminded of the “Prince of Persia” movie and the “Welcome To Persia” piece, while short, fit well.  That led me to other soundtracks and I nearly smacked myself in the forehead when I found the “Kingdom of Heaven” soundtrack.  In very short order, I had A New World, Ibelin, Sibylla, Saladin, and Light Of Life added to the list.

Well, I got away from movie soundtracks because, as much as I liked what I found, I wanted something a little less Hollywood and a little more Middle East.  That’s when I found Azam Ali, a very talented lady with an amazing voice.  She had some of the most beautiful songs and it wasn’t even a question of adding her to the list. She had a number of lovely songs that I added, including Abode, Ben Pode Santa Maria, Breton Medley, El Rey De Francia , I Am A Stranger In This World , Spring Arrives.

But the one that got me was one that came on while I was writing a particularly difficult dinner scene (for those who’ve read it, this is, fittingly, chapter 13), called “Inna-I-Malak”.   It was almost surreal how well the music fit the scene.  See for yourself how haunting the song sounds:

When I listen to that, it’s almost as if I’m watching the scene in my mind through slow motion.  That combination of imagery and sound would not leave me for a long time. 

So, when it came to the Middle Eastern music, I now had a nice variety.  But as I made my way in the book toward Tiantang (which is not-so-loosely based on Asian culture, specifically Chinese), I wanted something less Middle Eastern and more Asian.  Well, that was easy.  I’d always liked Kitaro’s music and knew that I had something of his to listen to while travelled through the Tiantang countryside and into Duankou.  I knew at once that Caravansary  and Dance of the Sarasvati would fit the bill nicely.

Please note:  What follows from here includes spoilers!

Then, as the company makes its way back to Neyem, they stop for an evening and visit with Teman’s family.  And as I’m writing this dinner with the gypsies, the Tiantang contingent and the group from Neyem, one of the pieces from the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack came on and I thought the title was very appropriate:  The Crossroads Of The World.

The last song I wanted to include was one that inspired me, made me cry and carried me through the parts of this story that I cried while writing.  This one, in particular, is towards the end and the parts of the song that talk about horses that never tire, sweet desert flowers and dreams just… fit.  For those who have read it, you’ll know what scene I’m talking about.  Now listen:


Thank you for going through the music that has inspired and carried me through writing Choices.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed it.  Which did you like best? Were there any you didn’t like? Why? Leave your comment for a chance at a swag bag and entry for the signed paperback!

Thank you so much to Miss Tali for hosting me today! I very much appreciate her patience in setting the post up for me. 

* * *


Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they're caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim's new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he'll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Captive Heart In Print—and a Giveaway

I found out from my publisher that Captive Heart is now available in print! The print edition can be purchased on Amazon. [CLICK HERE]

Naturally, I'm thrilled. Firstly, this means my mother can read my book. She never cottoned to the Kindle I gave her for Christmas, so I've been hoping for a print version for her. Happy Easter, Mom! (While erotic romance may not be everyone's idea of the perfect Easter gift, I can make it one by sending along a bag of candy.)

I will also now have at least one more book I can have available to sign when I am at GayRomLit (GRL) in Atlanta later this year. Thick as Thieves will be in print also. One thing for sure, the gorgeous cover will look very nice at the table!

Oh...and I love this book so much I want to share it. So I will be giving away a PRINT copy of Captive Heart to one of the commenters on this post. If more than 10 people respond, I will give away two. :D

  • Just leave a comment with your email address. 
  • International shipping not a problem. I'll spring for that. 
  • Remember that for a print copy you have to be willing to give me your shipping address after I contact you by email. 
  • The drawing will be held in four days, first thing when I wake up on Saturday, March 23rd.

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped make this book a bestseller at AllRomance and other sites. Now that print is an option for this book, I will be including the paperback in future giveaways, too.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sexy Elizabethans: Rebecca Cohen's Duty to the Crown

Love historical romances? Well, I do. When Rebecca Cohen offered to write a guest blog post about her new M/M historical romance, Duty to the Crown, set in the Tudor era, I leaped at the chance to hear more. After all, I'd loved The Actor and the Earl, the first book in the series. I wanted to find out more about what what Rebecca had to say about sexuality in the time of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.

So welcome Rebecca!

Sexy Tudors

Brits are often stereotyped as being prudish, stiff upper lip types and, as with any stereotype, there are elements of truth in it. Looking back at the Elizabethan period of British history (1558 – 1603), society was very ‘proper’, and anything but limited touching in public was heavily frowned upon. When Elizabeth I took the throne, she reinstated her father’s laws that were repealed by Queen Mary, and this included the 1533 buggery act. The act made homosexuality punishable by death by hanging, although there are only a handful of executions in the records, and strings were pulled for the well-connected!

But despite the laws and perceived proper way to behave, you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to find a very different Elizabethan England. Renaissance Italy was well known for its pornography, and young rich Englishmen would travel abroad to widen their ‘education’ and enjoy the illicit material.  But not wanting to be out done by the Italians there were also choice pieces of English literature including Thomas Nashe’s Choice of Valentines which featured a man and his prostitute lover … and her glass dildo.  And yes, Anthony Crofton, the earl in The Actor and the Earl, has a large private collection of erotica.

London was already a vibrant city by this time, and a part of London called South Bank was known as the seedier part of the city. Here was a warren of streets where the less reputable Londoners could be found. Alongside theatres and the gambling dens were some of the city’s most popular brothels, often called stews after the bath houses they originated in. In Duty to the Crown, Sebastian, who used to be an actor, gives Anthony a unique birthday present.

A couple of tankards of wine had steeled his courage and helped to while away enough time for the evening to set in properly. Long shadows appeared in the wider alleys and in the others, where the sun hardly penetrated even at midday, it was now almost dark. These were the alleys Sebastian was interested in, their darkness a perfect cover for his plan. It was the kind of place Sebastian had frequented only on very rare occasions when he’d lived in London, having been warned off by the tales the other actors had told of cutthroats and pickpockets lurking around every corner. He checked that his dagger was close at hand before heading into the warren of little alleys where London’s least salubrious inhabitants would perpetrate the most disreputable deeds.
Sebastian didn’t stop to worry about what went on behind the closed doors of the buildings on this street; he had no wish to be seen as a nosey passerby and ultimately a body that would need to be disposed of. He rounded the corner briskly, relieved to enter a better-lit area where the local water pump was situated, grateful that he’d found the place he’d been searching for without getting lost.
There were three women gathered outside a bright red door, standing provocatively to show as much of their impressive bosoms as possible. A young man, probably a few years Sebastian’s junior, with wild brown hair sat on the pump’s pedestal, his long legs out in front of him and leaning back as if on display. One of the women, her age obscured by heavy makeup, was talking to a man dressed in expensive, fashionable clothes, whose face was hidden by the brim of a wide hat. Sebastian’s appearance made the other two women, also wearing heavy makeup and low necklines, preen to get his attention, one pouting almost comically while the second leaned forward to flash her cleavage and play with her hair. The young man jumped to his feet as he saw Sebastian approach, but his interest in Sebastian was sidetracked when the gentleman talking to the first woman called him over, and the three of them entered the house with the red door together.
Sebastian hung back as two more men arrived from different alleys and the two remaining women beckoned them over, and after exchanging a few words, led them inside the house, leaving Sebastian on his own. He prayed he wouldn’t have to wait long; his fingers curled around the hilt of his dagger unprompted. Taking off the traveling cloak, he laid it on the pedestal of the water pump, then, checking all the possible approaches, leaned against the pump in a way he hoped would come across as alluring. Sebastian was dressed in a set of clothing on which the tailor had done an amazing job of complementing his build, and he knew that he should make an attractive figure.
The bells of a nearby church rang out, telling the city it was eight o’clock. Footsteps approached, and Sebastian’s heart began to beat rapidly. The shadow preceded the man, and resplendent in his favorite dark red doublet, Earl Anthony Crofton arrived. He grinned as he saw Sebastian, his eyes raking slowly down Sebastian’s lean frame. Sebastian pushed off the water pump and sauntered forward, with a deliberate sway to hips.
“Are you lost, sir? Perhaps I can help.”
“Oh, I am sure your services would be very welcome, but it is not directions I am after,” replied Anthony, standing only inches away.
Sebastian leaned in close to whisper in Anthony’s ear. “There are many things I can offer, sir. Do you have anything particular in mind?”
“That would depend.”
“On what?”
“On whether I can buy you for an hour or a whole night, and if you have somewhere we can go.”
Sebastian bit the inside of his cheek to keep his moan caused by Anthony’s words and the heat in his eyes under his breath. “I have a room at a nearby tavern.”
“Then you can consider yourself bought for the night.”
Sebastian grabbed his cloak and wrapped it back around him. “Follow me.”
He headed into the lanes with Anthony at his heels, and Sebastian could barely contain his excitement. They didn’t talk, keeping in character of the game they were playing. Sebastian led Anthony into the White Lion, a tavern that had seen better days but offered rooms to travelers at an affordable rate. Once upstairs, Sebastian stopped outside a room on the second floor and fished out a key from around his neck and opened the door.
The room could not be described as luxurious but it had a large canopy bed, which was pretty much all it had needed to fit Sebastian’s requirements for the evening he had planned ahead.
Sebastian locked the door behind them and threw his cloak to the floor. “I should warn you, sir, that I am not one of those cheap whores from the stews. You will need to dig deep into your purse for a night with me.”
“Oh, if you are truly worthy of a high price, I will have no issue with handing over payment.” Anthony removed his own cloak. “Now take off your clothes and lie on the bed. I want to examine the wares I have purchased.”


[Just a brief note: Rebecca is trying to respond to comments but for some reason Blogger is not cooperating with her. Those responses should be posted ASAP.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Useful Things #20

Welcome back to Wednesday Briefs, in which writers post a 500-1000 word flash story—or episode, in my case—based on the weekly prompts. This week I am concluding the M/M science fiction story I’ve been posting, “Useful Things,” using the prompt: use a windmill.

If you’d like to read the story from its beginning, click here. [Chapter 1]

You’ll find links to the other Wednesday Briefs bloggers at the end of this post.


Useful Things 20

When Jesse reached for the boots he’d worn the day before, Majak stopped him. “Not those,” he said.

Majak walked to a service cabinet and returned with a package he placed in Jesse’s hands. “I communicated with base yesterday and had them retrieve the footwear you wore when we found you. I noticed you walked better in those. They were filthy, so I ordered Alaksu to replicate some for you.”

Jesse took the package and broke the seal. The shoes were shaped like those Osvith had given him, retrieved from a crumbling warehouse filled with human gear. Osvith had thought the shoes exotic and liked that they kept his feet from developing callouses. The shoes he held now were not relics, however, but new. The deep blue-grey color embellished by ridges of metallic gold in a cloven pattern mimicked the hoof shields worn by the Aeth.

“The first design was based on our attempt to alter our boots to fit your human foot, as we did with the shield skin,” Majak explained. “Our torsos and limbs are similar. Our feet, however, are too different. We did not need to invent something new. Humans already know how to make suitable footwear for their own kind.”

Flashing a smile, Jesse placed his right foot into the shoe. It fit nearly perfectly and much better than the altered Aeth boot had. He would find a way later to tell Majak about socks. Osvith had not given him those either, probably because the Aeth, with their hardened, non-sweating feet, did not wear socks for protection.

“Thank you,” he said, putting on the second shoe and then standing to test the fit. He might still get blisters, at least until he got some socks, but they would not be nearly so bad, and in the meantime he could walk normally. Where the shield skin met the shoe at the ankle needed adjusting, though. He sat back down to work on it.

The ankle tables were designed to attach to Aeth footwear and all he could do was tuck them into the tops of his shoes before tying the laces. The task gave him something to focus on other than Majak. He kept admiring the way Majak’s form-fitting shield skin emphasized the alien’s elegant frame, the powerful haunches and legs, and the thick muscled chest of a male in his prime capable of handling heavy weaponry—or a single human. The vambraces on Majak’s arms glinted with menace, reminding him that even an Aeth noble could be a warrior. Jesse clasped a lighter force shield vambrace around his left forearm and tried to drive from his mind all thoughts that belonged to a slave.

That was easier said than done. For one thing, Majak had not released him from bondage. It didn’t matter what name he used—Jesse or Rasvim—he remained a slave. According to Aeth law, he could be nothing else. His breathing settled and his limbs stopped threatening to shake as he realized his freedoms were limited to his master. Majak remained in control, would protect him and guide him and make sure he made no mistakes. Being set loose alone among the Aeth was the most terrible thing Jesse could imagine.

Majak’s ownership afforded protection.

“How do you wish to use me?” he asked.

“Stand,” Majak said. When Jesse did so, he made a warm noise of approval and said, “Remember all I have told you about how to behave. Your place is described; honor it and none will harm you. You wear my emblem”—he tapped the jewel-toned holograph on Jesse’s breast plate—“and it will be respected. Submit only to me. Speak only to me unless you have my permission to speak to another.  Alaksu. Urhal. Enir. These you may speak to without restriction. Others are less to be trusted.”

He recognized a warning in the confidence and met Majak’s steady gaze with his own. “Are you in danger?”

“Perhaps. Human sapience is not universally accepted by the Aeth. If some of these officers or holders knew what I was doing—better to make changes carefully, in ways that do not threaten them.”

“So I’m still your pet?” He needed to hear it.

Majak brushed his fingers against Jesse’s upraised cheek. “An amazing pet. Unlike any they can conceive.”

“But you want other humans to be like me, right? To think, to learn, to speak their minds?”

“I want to give them the chance to demonstrate what they are. The same chance I am giving you, my Rasvim.”

Jesse detected Majak’s careful wording. Whatever it was he ultimately wanted from humans, he was not sure of finding. It hinged intangibly on intelligence or some use for it. All Jesse could be sure of was if Majak found humans useful in a better way than he’d experienced so far, he wanted to help Majak uncover it. He did not think the Aeth would be leaving Earth anytime soon. He wasn’t even sure he wanted that to happen. The criminals would just come back, the ones that weren’t here already. The remaining humans needed Majak just as much as he did.

“Call me Jesse,” he said.

Majak cocked his head, a telling hesitation. “Is that your wish?”

He nodded.

“Then I will do so, but only when we are alone. Do you understand why?”

“For the same reason I call you Majak only when we’re alone. Others would use it against me, and against you also.” The approval that warmed in Majak’s violet eyes told him he was right.

“This is going to be interesting,” Majak said.

They stepped out of the door together, into morning sunshine turned blue by the solar shield. A line of gleaming windmills sliced the cold bright air above the command complex as they walked toward it. New days, Jesse thought. 

He was still on Earth, treading the soil of his home world, but this wasn’t Kansas anymore.



Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. I decided to end it here because Rasvim has responded to Majak’s handling of him and has clearly emerged from his shell. I’ve also reached a point where I need to go back into earlier chapters and add/expand parts if I want to take it forward. So this is a good place to stop. I will probably extend “Useful Things” to full novel length later this year, because I am truly excited by these characters and what lies ahead for them. If I do that, commenters can count on the same bonus I’m giving everyone who commented on Thick as Thieves.

If you’re looking for other great stories, be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers, linked below:
Lily Sawyer      
Cia Nordwell     
Victoria Adams      

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Useful Things #19

Welcome back to Wednesday Briefs, in which writers post a 500-1000 word flash story—or episode, in my case—based on the weekly prompts. This week I am continuing the M/M science fiction story I’ve been posting, “Useful Things.” I will be wrapping up the story soon, though, because I am ready to move on to something else.

This week I chose to go with the prompt: Use image of a dead tree.

If you'd like to read the story from its beginning, click here. [Chapter 1]

You’ll find links to the other Wednesday Briefs bloggers at the end of this post.


Useful Things #19

Jesse pondered what Majak said. Jesse, not Rasvim…because Rasvim did not ponder things, not really. Rasvim observed rules, did as commanded, and never, ever, deviated from the path the Aeth had laid out for his survival. Jesse relied on Rasvim to keep him alive. Rasvim was necessary, he remembered what needed to be remembered, endured what must be endured. But Rasvim was incomplete. As such, he could not handle what Majak was saying, not like Jesse, who examined every word, turning it and turning it and fitting the pieces together. So many pieces, all the bits of Aeth language and things he had seen and suffered and hidden…every day, every word.

All of the pieces. That was what Jesse could do.

He remembered his father arguing with Ben Rick, his fear and his rage, saying that the Aeth didn’t care about making contact… that the Aeth only wanted to kill, not understand.

He had just heard Majak ask to understand what a human could be.

Majak was different from Osvith, and Osvith had been different from the processers who had looked at him and his mother and every other human just as meat. Or the slavers who saw him as a salable commodity. Osvith had revealed a path to safety. Majak was showing him a different way.

Dare he believe it? Rasvim could not, was incapable. He had been constructed to believe in nothing. But Jesse could.

Oh fuck, oh fuck… oh fuck.


“No.” He looked up and could barely believe what he was doing. “You’re too late. The Aeth set the pattern and you’re too late. What did you think would happen? I only know how to be a slave!”

Majak's brows lifted and he leaned forward, lips parted eagerly. He paused for a moment before continuing. “But you were not always a slave.”

“I was a child!”

“Then be a child again. Start from there, again.”

“A child—”

“A human child among the Aeth. You speak our language better than any other human I have found. Use that. You will learn our ways—all our ways, whatever knowledge you seek, I would have you learn. If you wish, I will teach you our technology. I will teach you to fly, to use n-space, to protect yourself.”

Majak was doing that already. An Aeth shield skin lay draped at the end of the bed, waiting to be worn again by a human. Jesse battled a powerful urge to retreat back into his shell. For how many years had he felt hollow, like a dead tree, still standing but surrounded by a forest of the fallen, fearing the day he would fall himself?

“You have much to teach me,” Majak continued in the same measured voice. “I will value every lesson, however wonderful or painful those prove to be.”

“Human speech?” It seemed an easy place to start.

“Yes. I would like to learn that.”

“You have technology. Why don’t you have translator devices?” He had never asked. He’d been present when a captive had asked Osvith that question and gotten his throat slashed for impertinence.

“You will help us create one. Your brain holds all we require to make such a device.”

His brain? His mouth went dry and somewhere inside him Rasvim screamed. But Jesse decided to trust. To think. “You knew that before, when you took me from Osvith—when I started reading the Oz book to you.”

“Yes. But I would never violate your trust—or your mind. You are capable of reason and perhaps much more. I am responsible for your well-being. The neurolinguistic replication process is completely safe, but I will not force it upon you.”

Majak wanted to use his brain to create a translation device? Could he trust that the process really was safe? Not yet. Maybe someday. It might help if the Aeth could speak to other humans. Then he thought of something. “We don’t all speak the same language. Humans. We speak lots of different ones, at least that’s what I was told. The one I speak may not work for every human.”

“But it will work for some?”

“Those near Wheeling and Baltimore and… Kansas.”

Majak smiled. “That is a very large region. It will serve for a start. And it may be human languages are all similar enough. The device interprets brain activity, not sound waves.”

Jesse relaxed. Maybe this would work… if he kept Rasvim near.

“I must go out in the field this morning,” Majak said, causing Jesse to look up at him again. “I want to examine a new communications array. If you would rather stay here—”

“I want to go with you. I will learn more that way.” He would also be safer. That was the primary reason. But the warm gaze that greeted his answer made him happy again.

“Yes. You will. Good, then.” Majak rose.

Jesse rose also, the better to put on the shield skin. If nothing else, it would protect his naked body from the sun’s harsh rays… and also scrutiny from the Aeth he would be with. “Majak,” he said, deciding to test their new understanding. There was still an answer he wanted desperately to hear. “You said you want to use me. I heard you. I felt it. But you will not claim me?”

“No. Not unless you wish me to. I will not use you as an act of aggression, or terror. And I refuse to use you as an instrument of my comfort.” Majak appeared pleased that he was putting on the shield suit without assistance. Jesse remembered the sequence of tabs and fasteners. “I want to use you in that way, yes, but when I do it will mean so much more.”

When would that be? Jesse wondered. Though he had never enjoyed being used, he clung to what it represented. But it was something more—different and new—that made him quicken at Majak’s words.


Thank you for reading. And here’s a list of the other Wednesday Briefers who have stories this week.
MC Houle     
Victoria Adams     
Elyzabeth VaLey