Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pandora Post #12

Title: Pandora

Part Twelve: Know Thyself

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. This part’s shorter, but I’m laying groundwork here. Enjoy!

Garrett didn’t try to find out Jonah’s last name. He wasn’t the type to pine over a hookup, and if Jonah had woken up that morning and decided to get out while the getting was good, then that was his prerogative. If it stung more than a little bit, well, that came with the territory too. It had been nice. Great. Fantastic even, and that was all Garrett could rightfully ask.

He didn’t even scan peoples’ faces over the next few days, just to check for him. There was no way a drifter like Jonah was going to Pandora. Whatever the man’s business with the expedition had been, it was likely over and done with now, and he was on his way back to his huge, lumbering, hodgepodge of a ship, with more nooks and crawlspaces than most cities. That was how drifter clans lived, and that was how they liked it.

The launch of the Neptune itself Garrett missed, which he was fine with. It was an overblown event anyway, and why certain governments still found it amusing to waste perfectly good champagne on the sides of ships was just beyond him. Garrett spent the morning in his apartment instead, loading a picture of the Aurora nebula into the photorealistic cloth covering his walls and ignoring the faint shudders of the colony ship as it clawed free of Olympus’ atmosphere. He modified the picture to gently spin, then sat back on his still horribly beige couch and watched it for a while. There were worse ways to get over a sudden onset of melancholy, he figured.

After a while, he reached over and grabbed the journal off the counter. As soon as he touched the disc, the floppy-eared cartoon operator appeared. It wiggled its pink nose alluringly and said, “Ready to record?”

Garrett smiled at the buffo quality of the critter’s deep voice. “Why not? Go on.”

“Journal record two, beginning.”

“I’m hoping to start a trend with this,” Garrett said languidly, stretching his legs out on the couch. “Not a generalized ‘grown adults confessing to using children’s toys’ trend, but a personal trend. I had the best sex I’ve had in possibly years last night after the shame of pouring my heart out to an inanimate object forced me off my ass. If the same thing happens today, then you can bet I’m going to be journaling on a very regular basis. Several times a day, if I can work it. On the other hand, if last night was a fluke and I’m looking forward to another stretch of reluctant celibacy, then I want to make sure I have this to listen to later, to prove to my poor ossifying penis that I did actually have sex with this man.

“His name was Jonah, and he was the most delicious, commanding supplicant I can remember being with. It’s kind of hard to convey the feel of someone who’s both desperately appreciative and sensually demanding, but Jonah completely owned that line. He was one of my favorite types, long and lean everywhere, except his dick; that was thicker than my wrist. I’ll be feeling that inside me for several days, and I already wish the feeling would last longer. I really wish he had stayed for coffee. I wish I hadn’t met him the day before this show gets on the road, because I really would have enjoyed fucking him more regularly. I wish…”

Garrett shut the journal. The operator winked out, and he tossed the thing onto his coffee table. “Wishing, right, that’s a logical response. There’s the scientific course of action to take, you moron.” He frowned. His mood was low. Really low. Post-orgasmic letdown, or a true chemical problem? Garrett decided to visit the infirmary and find out. What the hell, it was his day off and he hadn’t been since the day he first came aboard.

The Pandora expedition was extremely well staffed medically. Because the autodocs would only work on people who could use regenerative medicine, there were doctors on board the Neptune that specialized in everything from pregnancy to the elderly, sniffles to cancer. Many of them were naturals themselves, which explained why they’d chosen to dedicate themselves to obscure branches of care. Garrett could have gone to an actual person in the infirmary, there were always several professionals staffing it, but when the nurse checking him in asked if he had a preference, he asked for a private autodoc booth.

“Are all your medical records uploaded into our system?” the nurse asked.

“Yes.” Garrett handed over his ID and let the nurse scan it. The man frowned.

“Our records show you were in here less than a month ago. You shouldn’t need a shot of Regen for another three months. May I ask why you feel you need to see a doctor?”

“Blood chemistry,” Garrett said shortly. Could this man not read?

“Oh.” The nurse scanned a little further. “Oh! Volatile metabolizer, huh? Better safe than sorry, then. Booth Two is free.”

“Thanks.” Garrett took his badge back and walked into the infirmary, rolling his eyes at having to explain his presence in a goddamn infirmary. Maybe naturals had to be more fulsome about their every ache and pain, but most of the people Garrett had ever interacted with on a medical level had been more than happy to shove him towards the nearest autodoc and let it take care of things.

Garrett stepped into the booth and was greeted by his second hologram of the day. This one was an white-clothed androgynous figure with a soothing voice. “Good morning, Doctor Caractacus. Please place your hand into the gauntlet.” He slid his hand into the oversized glove, felt the tiny, painless pricks of different probes taking readings, and then all of it was loaded into the central computer. The hologram appeared to glance down at a clipboard.

“Your serotonin levels are very high. Do you have a headache?”

“A slight one.”

“Some of your other neurotransmitter levels are either above or below your normal thresholds. Have you been stressed at work lately?”

“Not particularly.”

“Hmm. I’m going to regulate your levels now, and I recommend you come in and see me again in one week to verify that you’re back on track.” Garrett heard the faint pneumatic hiss of a medgun and felt a brief spot of coolness in the back of his hand. “Is this acceptable to you?”

“It is.”

“Good. I’ll have the system send you a reminder. Thank you for coming in today, Doctor Caractacus.” The hologram disappeared, and the green light above the gauntlet meant that Garrett could remove his hand safely. He did so, checking the skin for redness out of habit before leaving the booth. He headed straight for the exit.


Meaning…what, him? Garrett was the only other person around, so the nurse had to mean him. He turned back towards the man. “Yes?”

“Have you signed up yet for your first aid class?”

Garrett blinked. “Excuse me?”

“The mandatory first aid classes. You know, first aid for naturals? It was one of the standard clauses in the medical section of your contract. It’s just that we have an opening in our class tomorrow if you’d like to sign up now.”

He wondered if the nurse could hear his teeth grinding from across the room. First aid classes. Right, because when a natural stubbed a toe you couldn’t just stick them in the nearest autodoc, you had to kiss it better too. That was sure to be exhilarating. God damn fucking contract. “I have work tomorrow. I’ll check my schedule, though.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Garrett left the infirmary and headed for the gym. He needed to work off his pissy mood somehow, and in lieu of sparring with Robbie or yoga with Wyl, he’d gone back to running for exercise. It wasn’t difficult for him, he could do alone and on a ship this size, he could practically log it as having a practical application for his work. There was a silver lining to every cloud. See? His mood was improving already.

Yeah. Lovely.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blogging On Lisabet's Site

Today I get to guest blog on Lisabet Sarai's site, which just thrills me right down to the toes:)  Feel free to jump over and read, comment, say hi...whatever tickles your fancy.  The link is here: Beyond Romance blog.  I'm talking about the difficulty writers face (or at least I do) when it comes to deciding how much background research to actually write into a story.  As some of you know, I can be exhaustive that way, which can in turn be very dull.  This is why we beta, people.  So a friend can tell you "Cari, um...this sucks, here's why, but you can fix it!"  I've canned several stories or pushed them back because they were too much world building and not enough character building.  Anyway.  Check it out!

Other things in the works...Pandora Pt. 12 is getting finished today and will be posted tonight or tomorrow (speaking of betas, this story doesn't have one, I just put it out there...could be a mistake), I'm finishing the rough draft of the sequel to Treasured, and my man just finished editing my NaNoWriMo novella for me, so hopefully I'll be sending that somewhere soon.  And there's regular work too.  Go solar ovens!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pandora Post #11

Title: Pandora

Part Eleven: Abrupt Departures

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. This one is rated NC-17, long and dirty for a belated Valentine’s Day splurge. Enjoy!

The going away extravaganza was exactly what Garrett had pictured from the sanctity of his apartment. There were five thousand workers and colonists heading to Pandora, and it seemed like all of them had decided to show up. Apparently each of them could bring a guest as well, and everyone did, right down to the toddlers.

The docking bay of the Neptune seethed with people. Crowds lined all levels of the bay itself, packed the main floor and even perched on the ships that were left in there. Garrett noticed several people sitting on top of his own cruiser but didn’t bother to get worked up about it. They couldn’t get inside and they couldn’t break anything. Hell, he would have preferred to join them, but he hadn’t had anything to drink yet and he wasn’t subjecting himself to this without alcohol.

There were name tags being handed out at the doors, which Garrett steadfastly refused to wear. There were party hats and noisemakers and floating balloon animals that people could mold and then throw into the air, where they would hover and glow. Children were screaming and laughing, adults were yelling and shouting into the ferocious din, and wafting over it all was the Olympian planetary anthem, coming in tinnily over the speaker system. It was on repeat, apparently. The horns would blow, the tambourines would shiver with their final triumphant rattle, there would be one last strum on the giant lyre…and then it would all start over again. And again.

Five minutes in Garrett knew he’d made a mistake. Five minutes after that and he was beginning to wonder of he’d be able to push through to the outer edge of the pool of people, much less make it back up to his apartment. He decided discretion was the better part of valor and headed for his ship. He could take refuge there.

Apparently some other people had had the same idea. There was a group of what looked like teenagers hanging around the undercarriage of his cruiser, trying to act casual but failing miserably. They were clustered too tightly together for it to be natural, despite the press, and as he got closer Garrett could see that one of their number was lying on the floor behind them, busily rewiring the controls for his outer locks. The kid had somehow managed to get the paneling off without prying it, which would have set off the alarm. Even as Garrett watched the hatch hissed lightly and released, opening for the industrious young hacker. He was impressed more than he was pissed, which was why when he pushed the worried-faced gang out of his way and dragged the girl out, he did it by the arm instead of the hair.

“Hey!” she shrieked, falling back on defensive aggression even as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “Get off me!”

“Get off my ship,” Garrett replied calmly, letting the girl go but not moving out of her way.

“It’s, what, no…it’s…no personal ships are allowed to go to fucking Pandora.” The way she said it left no doubt as to how she felt about their destination.

“So because it’s not supposed to be going with you it’s okay to break into it?”

“I didn’t break anything,” she muttered. White blond hair fell over her eyes, but Garrett could see enough to see that she was glaring at him. “And you’re not coming to Pandora, you’re a fucking doll.”

“Doll” was a colloquialism for people who had either had a lot of very obvious modifications done in an effort to stand out or, as Garrett had very recently learned, an epithet that naturals used to describe anyone who could tolerate regenerative medicine. Garrett had learned quite a bit about the prejudices naturals had against normal members of society, “normal” also being a very loaded term, of course. In the society he was entering into, normal would be defined by the naturals, who were the majority of people moving to Pandora.

Garrett chuckled at the girl’s insult, which seemed to make her even more upset. Her friends vanished into the crowd, their interest waning now that the opportunity for some exciting breaking and entering was denied to them. Her hands had clenched into fists, and her nails dug so deeply into her palms that Garrett thought she might be puncturing the skin. Her caramel skin was taking on a reddish tone, either from anger or shame he couldn’t tell.

“What, you think I’m funny, doll?” Hmm, that definitely sounded like anger.

“Not exactly,” Garrett replied, getting his wayward sense of humor under control. Laughing in her face was just making it worse for her. “And I’m not a doll.”

“Yeah, right. You’re not a doll like I’m not a fucking reg.” “Regs” were another term Garrett had learned recently, intimating that naturals were regular people and everyone else was abnormal.

“Honest. I’m not a doll. I am, however, the owner of that ship. And I want you to put it back together. Now.”

“Make me, doll.”

Garrett sighed. The last thing he wanted to do right now was get into a shouting match with a repetitive, angst-filled teenager. On the other hand, it would take security forever to wade through the crowd and he didn’t feel comfortable personally restraining her. Her eyes were darting back and forth, and she was clearly considering making a break for it.

“Tamara.” A new voice from behind them made them both turn to look, the girl with apprehension and Garrett with appreciation. It had been forever since he’d heard that accent, the long vowels and rolling drawl turning the girl’s name into “Taamrah.” Drifters were a rare breed, the last of the real independent traders in this part of the universe. They were born, lived and died aboard their ships, running from planet to planet and taking on the cargo that most Federation-based shipping companied refused to. Technically they weren’t smugglers, but the planets in the central system did everything they could to restrict trading to resident shipping cartels. The majority of drifters had been pushed to the Fringe planets, and even there they were becoming fewer and further between. This man wasn’t wearing a uniform, but Garrett figured he had to be involved in the colony project somehow.

“I didn’t break anything,” the girl—Tamara—said, but her voice was less angry and more nervous now.

“Didn’t say you did,” the man replied. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to put somethin’ back together. I’ll give you five minutes before I let your pa know.”

Her face paled almost to the shade of her hair. “You wouldn’t.”

“Those five minutes’ve already started,” he said gently.

Tamara blew an explosive breath upwards, ruffling her bangs, but she turned around and crawled back under the cruiser, swearing just loud enough to be audible but not quite loud enough so they could make out the details. It was probably better that way.

The man settled in next to Garrett and nodded companionably. “Evenin’.”

“Thanks for the assist,” Garrett replied.

“My pleasure. Tamara’s smart as a whip, but that doesn’t mean she’s got the sense God gave little apples.”

Ah, drifter slang. So deliciously quaint. “I gathered as much.”

“I reckon you did.” The look the other man gave him was amicably tolerant, a lot like the one he’d given the girl, but Garrett could see a welcoming heat behind it. He held out his hand.

“I’m Garrett.” It would take too long to explain his last name.

“Jonah.” They shook, and when Jonah’s fingertips slid against Garrett’s palm as he let go, Garrett felt the heat as well. Jonah had the slightly tense look of a man long-contained and bursting at the seams, wanting but not knowing how to get what he wanted. He was good looking, not incredibly handsome but comfortably attractive, with a lean, lanky body a few inches taller than Garrett’s and sandy brown hair tucked back behind his ears. His eyes were a warm brown, and his jaw was a little scruffy with the beginnings of a beard. Not military, then. Probably not even an expedition member; perhaps he was a consultant. The last thing an inveterate wanderer like a drifter would want was to settle on a planet in the Fringe. They carried their homes with them, they didn’t stop moving and put down roots. That actually made Garrett happy. Here was his hook-up, if he played it right.

“Nice ship,” Jonah offered. He might as well have been screaming subtext. Garrett liked discussion laced with casual innuendo, and he threw himself into it.

“Thank you. She’s been good enough for me lately.” She’s my home away from home. See how alike we are?

“No other crew members?” No wife, husband, lover, family?

“Nope. Just me.” All on my lonesome.

“You been out on her long?” Just how desperate are you?

“The last stretch was for three weeks.” Not that desperate, thanks very much, but I’m willing to consider you.

“Plenty long for most people.” I’m willing to be considered.

“Hellooo, are you done orally fucking each other yet?”

They both turned and looked at Tamara, who was rolling her eyes. “It’s finished. Can I go already?”

Garrett leaned down and looked at the panel. It was back in place, with no sign of tampering. His hatch was still open, but one push from him would reclose it. “It looks good.”

“Try not to break into any more ships tonight, Tam,” Jonah said mildly. Tamara didn’t say anything, just brushed by both of them with a scowl.

Garrett looked over at Jonah and decided to drop the innuendo. “I’m much better at orally fucking people than that, actually.”

Jonah looked startled for a moment, then laughed. “God, I bet you are. Got anything to drink in there?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” He’d stocked all of the alcohol he’d bought for the journey into his ship, where it would be harder to monitor his consumption than if he stored it in his quarters. “Would you care to look at my selection?”

“Love to.”

Garrett opened the hatch all the way and stepped inside, gesturing for Jonah to follow him. Dim lights lit in the narrow hallway as he made his way to his kitchen. Garrett grabbed a couple of glasses from a cabinet and turned around to face Jonah. In the low light his face was shadowed, mysterious. The way he moved was languidly graceful, more relaxed than Robbie, more comfortable than Isidore. He seemed completely at home in Garrett’s space, which Garrett supposed came from a lifetime aboard ships. Jonah had never developed self-consciousness.

“What would you like?”

“What’ve you got?”

“There’s a bottle of pretty decent whiskey.” It was excellent whiskey, honestly, but Garrett didn’t expect his guest to know the difference.

Jonah nodded slightly. “Sounds fine.”

Garrett poured the amber liquid into the tumblers, a classic whiskey, using Old Earth grain varieties. He handed a glass over to Jonah and they toasted each other silently, then drank. The liquid burned on the way down, and was immediately followed by such a relaxing smoothness that Garrett sighed appreciatively.

Jonah sipped once to taste, then knocked the rest of his back. A second later he belied his languorous posture by slipping quickly in front of Garrett, his hands coming to rest lightly on the other man’s hips. Garrett followed suit and swallowed his whiskey down, then set the glass aside. The warmth welling inside of him was partially from the alcohol but mostly from being surrounded by a hot, willing partner. Someone who wanted him. He hadn’t felt wanted lately, but if the slight trembles in Jonah’s hands were anything to go by, he sure as hell was wanted now. Garrett twined his arms around Jonah’s shoulders and pulled him down into a kiss.

That was where Garrett’s direction ended. Jonah took control of the kiss, his mouth slanting hot and hard against Garrett’s lips, and the taste of whiskey backed by the insistent thrust of his tongue was more intoxicating than any alcohol. His hands moved restlessly against Garrett’s form, mapping the curves and planes of his body beneath his suit, and suddenly there were way too many clothes separating them.

“Bed,” Garrett gasped as he pulled back for a second. “Across the hall—” His voice cut off abruptly as Jonah bent quickly and threw Garrett over his shoulder, squeezing the breath out of him. He didn’t protest, just let himself be carried into his small bedroom and tossed down onto the bed. He bounced, and was filled with the sudden inexplicable urge to giggle, which would have been embarrassing. Fortunately Jonah followed him down fast and stopped his impending outburst with another kiss. Garrett heard the faint groan in the back of Jonah’s throat and realized that it however long it had been for him, it had been a lot longer for his hook-up. Jonah didn’t just want Garrett, he needed him.

“You’ve got me,” Garrett whispered, slowing the kiss down a little, smoothing his hands over Jonah’s back and shoulders. “You’ve got me, I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Jonah shuddered for a moment, then pulled back. His hair was loose around his face, making him look young. He gave Garrett a half-smile. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to just jump you.”

“I like jumping, jumping is good,” Garrett assured him.

Jonah somehow managed a nonchalant shrug from a prone position. “Still, not exactly polite of me. I sorta skipped ahead a few steps.” He smiled more genuinely. “I mean, you haven’t even shown me how good you are at orally fucking people.”

“Oh, I’m incredible at it,” Garrett promised him. “I’m a fantastic oral fucker. Is that what you’d like?”

“For starters,” Jonah replied. “Then I’d like to fuck you into the mattress.”

Ah. Well. It had been quite a while since Garrett had bottomed for anyone. Actually…it had been since Robbie. Years, now. Every person he’d fucked since then he’d, well, fucked them.

Jonah was watching his face closely. “You don’t care for that?”

“I do, actually. It’s just been some time since I have.”

“We’ll take it slow if you want it.”

Garrett grinned. “Slow doesn’t seem to be your forté.”

“Oh ye of little faith,” Jonah said. “I can make it so slow you beg me for it, darlin’.”

Why did Garrett shiver when he heard that silly pet name applied to himself? Maybe it was the concept of begging for it. Yes, that was it. “Maybe after some oral fucking. I do have something to prove, after all.”

“True that.” Jonah kissed him again, then sat back on his heels and pulled off his shirt. His chest was lean and broad, and dusted with dark curls of hair. He unfastened his pants and stood up just long enough to shuck them and his underwear to the floor and step out of his boots, then sprawled back down on the bed, not on top of Garrett but beside him. He took one of Garrett’s hands in his own and brought it down to his thick, hot erection. The tip was already wet.

Garrett didn’t bother to undress, he just slid over until their bodies were flush, silk cloth against silky skin. He kissed Jonah’s mouth again, then his chin, then made his way down his throat and over his chest as he slid down the bed. Garrett pumped his hand along Jonah’s cock, once, twice, and then his mouth was even with it and he couldn’t resist leaning in to taste. He flicked his tongue across the tip, catching the precome and savoring the tang of it on his tongue, before leaning in and closing his lips over the head. Jonah groaned loudly and spread his legs, and Garrett shifted to settle between them.

Jonah was large, a little longer than average and thick enough that Garrett had to work to relax his throat around him. He could do it; he’d spent many nights of his misbegotten youth practicing deep-throating anyone who was interested, but it had been a long time since he’d had someone who really made him stretch. He took Jonah’s cock deep into his mouth, until his lips brushed wiry curls, and then went back again, rising up to the head and swirling his tongue around it. Garrett pulled off and ran his wet, clinging lips down the velvety skin, breathing hot breaths against it as he wrapped his fingers around Jonah’s balls and pulled, ever so lightly. When he had Jonah squirming in his grip, seeking pressure and trying to thrust but not finding purchase, he swallowed him down again.

“Gonna come if you keep this up,” Jonah warned him with a gravelly voice.

Garrett removed his mouth with a slick, obscene pop. “I’m sure I can make you come more than once tonight.”

“Promises, promises,” Jonah muttered, spreading his legs wider. “But yeah, I reckon you can.”

“Let’s find out,” Garrett said. He got his knees underneath him and positioned himself more comfortably, and then he went to town. He licked and sucked, he hummed and tugged and stroked as he worked the heavy cock stretching his lips. Precome gushed into his mouth, just a little and then a lot, and after a few minutes Jonah’s abdomen was as hard as a board, his breaths were shallow and then his hands buried themselves in the softness of Garrett’s hair as he came in Garrett’s mouth, so hard and so much that he almost choked on it. He pulled back when the flow stopped, enjoying the quivers racing through Jonah’s body as he slowly came down from his orgasmic high. Garrett gently stroked Jonah’s thighs and stomach, content just to watch him for a while.

Garrett loved sex, but he never chased orgasms. He might have a reputation as a selfish hedonistic bastard, but in reality he was just as interested in pleasing his partners as he was in pleasing himself. More, even. He didn’t keep track or insist on tit for tat, he just gave what he could and took what was given while making it as good as possible for them both. Most people appreciated that. The few who didn’t he never bothered with a second time.

Jonah finally caught his breath and then looked down at the man laid out between his legs. “Holy shit.”

Garrett smirked and nodded immodestly. “So I’m told.”

“That was…real good.”

“Thanks.” It was kind of underwhelming praise, but Garrett didn’t need words to know how he’d made the other man feel. “Do you need some more time, or are you ready to make me beg yet?” Not to rush things, but Garrett was hard and aching after tasting Jonah.

“I can be ready,” Jonah smiled. “Come up here.” Garrett crawled up his body, slow and sinuous, and settled down on top of Jonah’s chest. They pressed their lips together, Jonah’s tongue coming out to taste the remnants of his spend while his hands got to work peeling back Garrett’s jacket. The soft blue material fell away, followed by his shirt and pants, until they were both naked and moving against each other. Jonah rolled them over so he was on top, and then his own hand was on Garrett’s cock, pulling lightly. He had the calluses of a pilot, hard edged along his fingers but with fingertips so smooth the contrast was a shocking surprise.

Jonah’s hand dipped lower, fondling and rolling Garrett’s balls, then stroking over his perineum. When his fingertips brushed Garrett’s entrance, he spread his legs wider and reached up into one of the pop-out drawers for a container of lubricant. His body and mind were buzzing, pulsing, ready. He could do this. It would be good. He handed the lube to Jonah, who thanked him and then set it aside.

“Don’t you want to…”

“Told you I’d take it slow.” Jonah smiled and ran his tongue over Garrett’s left nipple, worrying at it and biting lightly. His hand kept moving, and Garrett decided to just relax and let the man do things how he wanted to. Garrett didn’t need to direct or control right now. He just needed to let a sex-starved drifter have his way with him, which was really no hardship.

Jonah nuzzled into the hollow of Garrett’s hip, and bit a light circle around his bellybutton. His hands went lower, massaging smooth, hairless skin and long muscles. Garrett preened under the attention, delighting in being worshipped. That was what it felt like. Every touch of Jonah’s tongue on his skin was appreciative, every panting breath and kiss and caress was reverent in the manner of someone who truly longed for what he was being given. It had been a long time since Garrett had been worshipped, not with eager fumbling and more energy than refinement, but with the slow and steady movements of a man who knew exactly what he was touching and how to handle it.

When Jonah started sucking Garrett’s toes it sent actual chills up his back. He pressed up and arched towards him, trying to get more skin-on-skin contact, but Jonah just bit the ball of his foot and smiled mischievously. “Anxious?”

“Ready,” Garrett corrected breathlessly.

“Nice to know,” Jonah said. “But I’m not done with you.” He lay Garrett’s foot down on the bed. “Roll over.”

Garrett obeyed, and the sudden heavy weight of Jonah’s body on his own was delicious. He stretched his arms up over his head and smiled when the other man’s hands circled his wrists, holding him in place. Jonah slotted his body against Garrett’s, the thick curve of his cock fitting perfectly along Garrett’s ass, and he moved, slowly rutting. Garrett groaned.

“Fucking tease.”

“You gotta want it,” Jonah murmured in his ear. “Gotta want it bad.”

“I do.”

“Yeah?” He let go with one hand and fumbled for the lubricant. Garrett shut his eyes and took a deep breath, consciously relaxing. When he felt a finger against him he frowned.


“Barely have one yet, darlin’,” Jonah teased as he slipped his finger inside. “God, you’re bossy.” A second finger joined the first and they twisted, stretching and curling inside of him. Garrett firmly shut his mouth and didn’t say anything when the third finger entered him, working not to tense or moan.

“I want to hear you,” Jonah said, his voice husky and low. “Let me hear you.”

“Jonah, god, just fuck me.”

A moment later the thick, blunt head of Jonah’s cock replaced his fingers, and Garrett did moan now. “Yes, that’s it, I want it,” he whispered hoarsely. “Please, please…” It had been so long since he’d taken someone inside, and in that moment Garrett couldn’t imagine wanting anything more. Jonah braced his free arm above Garrett’s head and slid forward, and he was so much thicker than three fingers, so much thicker than he’d had in so long… Jonah pressed in until he couldn’t go any further, and they both shuddered.

“Garrett…” Jonah rocked against him, and pressed kisses into his long blond hair. “You feel so good.”

“Move,” he begged. “I’m fine, you can move, please.”

Jonah did move, slowly at first, just edging his way in and out before he felt comfortable to push it further. After a few minutes he drew back and pulled Garrett up onto his knees, and the change in angle was sharp and perfect and made Garrett groan again. Jonah thrust in harder and faster, and Garrett braced himself on his elbows and appreciatively rode the waves of pleasure edged with the stinging, familiar pain of accepting another man into his body. It had been so long, and it felt so wonderful. He was making noises, saying nothing but being understood, because Jonah reached around his hip and found his cock, grabbing it with slippery fingers and thumbing over the head until Garrett cried out and came, hard, clenching around Jonah’s cock as stars flickered across his vision. He felt the sudden wet heat flood his body, felt Jonah tremble and lean suddenly against him and then they collapsed back down against the bed.

Jonah kept moving inside of him, just short, fluttering thrusts, kissing his shoulders and neck and clutching him tight. He rolled them so they were on their sides rather than him laying on top and crushing Garrett with his weight, but he stayed inside as they both calmed down, his thrusts slowing and his cock softening until finally he slipped free with a sigh of disappointment. “God, you’re incredible,” he said.

“I think I can share the acclaim,” Garrett smiled. “You felt perfect.”

“Slow enough for ya?”

“Much more waiting and I would have gotten violent, which isn’t a good look for me,” Garrett confessed.

“Not really a good look for anyone,” Jonah said philosophically. He pulled back, just slightly, but it was enough to let cool air in between their bodies, and Garrett shivered.

“No,” he said. “Stay. Get some sleep. It’s a jungle out there; wait for the herd to thin a little.”

“Mixin’ your metaphors a little, darlin’.”

“I have coffee for the morning,” Garrett coaxed. No matter whom he fucked, Garrett wasn’t in the habit of letting them slink away in the night. It was just rude not to stare down the person you’d invited into your body, or vice versa, by the light of day.

“Real coffee?”

“One hundred percent real, and not freeze dried or reconstituted.”

“Hmm. I suppose that’s worth waiting around for.” Jonah turned Garrett’s head just far enough to kiss his lips, then scooted them both over until they were off of the wet spot. Garrett settled back into his lover’s arms, relaxed and content for the first time in weeks, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

When Garrett woke up the next morning, Jonah was gone. There was no note, no empty cup of coffee and no goodbye, awkward or otherwise. Garrett was just alone in a small room smelling heavily of sex, flooded with delicious recent memories but only able to feel disappointment.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Silver Wings Anthology Release

Silver Wings Anthology Release

My newest release is the story Nothing Ventured in the homoerotic steampunk anthology Silver Wings, from Phaze Books. Here is the cover:

Beautiful, no?  Pretty men in aviator goggles, what’s not to love.  Here’s the buy link for the lovers:
Silver Wings.
There are three other stories in the antho by Mahalia Levey, Ross Baxter and JT Whitehall. It’s edited by Leigh Ellwood and totals a little over 50k. My story in particular concerns an English inventor who’s designed a completely new style of airship and is in the process of getting it ready for a competition with France (the Hundred Years War really stretched on in this universe) when he’s given a new, American pilot to work with. Sparks ensue. Have a snippet:

“This is bloody ridiculous,” Sean Carlyle muttered into his glass, glaring darkly across the crowded ballroom.

“Gently,” Professor Emerson, his mentor from the aeronautics department at the University of Oxford, advised as he joined the younger man at the edge of the crowd. “We wouldn’t want any displays of discontent with all our dear friends in the room, would we?”

“Friends!” Sean scoffed, managing to keep his voice soft despite the urge to yell. “France is a two-faced monster biding its time, and the rest are little more than satellites orbiting the sun of our empire.”

“So choleric tonight,” Professor Emerson said with a slight headshake. “Dare I ponder whether your opinion of the American has changed at all over the past few days?”

“That,” Sean said with a grimace as his gaze recaptured the figure that drew so much attention that evening, “is not an American. That is a caricature of an American.” Good God, could no one else see that the insolent newcomer was playing with them? His ridiculous long leather coat, the tall, broad-brimmed hat, those strange boots and the well-cut, tailored-to-look-rugged clothes beneath it all…the entire ensemble screamed “cowboy,” when any rational human being would have made an effort to fit into his surroundings, not stand out. Yet, there the man stood, drawing attention like honey drew flies and keeping it once people were close, with his smoothly good looks, his soft, strange American drawl, and a way of moving that captured you and refused to let go.

He was doing it again. Looking at Sean with that tiny smirk on his face, and Sean had been caught staring. Again. He jerked his gaze away, angry at himself for becoming enthralled by the abrasive foreigner. “Explain once more why I can’t have James as my pilot?”

“Because,” Professor Emerson said with exaggerated calm, “he cannot be spared from his duties at the Academy of Military Science, to which your Department of Technological Innovation is directly answerable. He’s the head flight instructor for our airship pilots, and with the way things are going now it looks like he and his students will be having more than enough to do before the year is out. So we had to look elsewhere, but of course hiring a Frenchman, who are the next most qualified group of individuals, was out of the question. So, the Board of Regents turned to America. ” He shrugged minutely. “Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, Sean, Mr. Winters has an excellent reputation as a pilot, and nothing we’ve seen so far has disabused me of his competency.”

“I could always take her up myself.”

“That,” the professor’s voice turned hard, “is possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say, and I endured some very odd responses during your undergraduate years, Sean. You must have a pilot, someone to free you up to deal with any technical difficulties that may arise during the trial. It is the minimum safety requirement for the ridiculously dangerous endeavors that you manufacture for yourself, and may I say I would be much more comfortable if you went up with a three or four man crew.”

“Impossible, we can’t take the weight,” Sean replied instantly.

“So you’ve told me. Repeatedly. And I listened, my boy, and now I’m asking you to do the same.” He laid one hand on his former student’s shoulder. “You’re an excellent aeronautical engineer, and one of the finest inventors I’ve ever known. Your ideas are brilliant, but your motivation verges on obsession, Sean. You need balance in your work, or someday you’ll push an idea too far and wind up killing yourself, and where would that leave the rest of us? James has never reigned you in as much as I would like, and he’s no better at making a good impression in elevated social circles than you are.”

Sean opened his mouth to object but Professor Emerson didn’t let him. “No, Sean. You need to give Nicholas Winters a try. Get a feel for his piloting skills, see whether you can work together, and keep in mind that having him around to charm our myriad of investors means that you don’t have to.”

“He seems to be able to do that, at least,” Sean grudgingly agreed, his gaze pulled back to the tall American against his conscious will.

“Give some thought to the source of this odd antipathy, my boy, and try to exorcise it,” his mentor advised. “Right now Mr. Winters is all we have, and the competition against France is in less than three months. It’s very important for the nation’s morale that we win.”

“I know.” Professor Emerson left him alone after that, but he was more distracted by his internal thoughts at this point than the charming, aggravating American on the ballroom floor. After a few more minutes and a few preoccupied interactions, Sean excused himself from the soiree and made his way back to his laboratory. That the American’s presence had given him the liberty to do so this early in the evening was the first thing he felt remotely grateful to the man for.

He loosened his tie and cravat as he walked, calculating the next step in the construction process of his new airship even as he cursed the circumstances that took James’ participation off the table. Yes, he was needed at the Academy. Yes, he hadn’t been able to tell Sean “boo,” much less reign in his sometimes disastrous creativity, but he was an excellent pilot, and that skill more than made up for the occasional error in judgment. At least, nothing fatal had happened so far.

Sean pushed that tremor of doubt to the back of his mind. He didn’t need his own subconscious giving him distractions, not when he had so many other things to worry about. Concrete things, like whether or not his new pilot was worth a damn at anything other than posturing, and whether he had correctly calculated the tensile strength of the armatures for the balloon. He’d gone over the math time and again, and it was rather pointless now to worry about it since there wasn’t time to rebuild them if he’d gotten it wrong, but still…

The laboratory was empty except for himself and the ship. Sean walked to it, freshly captivated by her beauty even though he saw her every day. Polished brass fittings gleamed in the faint lamplight, dark wood and pulleys and wound metal cord working together like an orchestra to create the opus that lay before him. She was coming together, and she would be perfect. She had to be perfect.

Sean closed his eyes and ran a hand over the railing, delighting in the flawlessness of it even as he wondered if he should have made it slimmer. Light, but durable. Tough enough to withstand the elements but simple enough that a two-man crew could operate her. So many equations to balance in his mind, and that didn’t even begin to take into consideration the off-putting factor of a new pilot. A new American pilot, someone who wouldn’t feel the same burning drive to win that an Englishman would. Someone who might not be willing to make the sacrifices it would take to win. Someone who might be afraid of the risks…although from the little he knew of the man, the concept of risk wasn’t frightening to him.

What did he know of Nicholas Winters, anyway? Sean retrieved a spanner from one of his graduate student’s toolkits and began checking the tightness of the bolts. He liked to work as he thought through things, as it seemed to make them clearer somehow. For starters, the man was American…well-established, that fact. He was something of an arrogant bugger as well—although, to be fair, that was par for the course with pilots. The work was difficult, demanding, and exciting. A little arrogance was to be expected, but the easy self-assurance of this man made Sean grit his teeth. Winters had fought for the West during the United States’ few years of internal strife not long ago, and apparently had distinguished himself. He had flown an airship without pause across the whole of the country which, given the size of that country, was saying something. He had excellent recommendations from Oxford’s contacts in New York, which was also saying something if they could be persuaded to praise a Westerner. He was astonishingly attractive when he smiled, and he smiled quite often…

A sudden sound jerked Sean out of his increasingly uncomfortable reverie. He turned his eyes towards the door, but there was no one there. The place was empty but for him and his ship. He was hearing things. He sighed and turned back to where he had been inspecting the hull. Strange, he hadn’t even remembered kneeling down. He trailed his fingers over the dark, polished surface of the wood and smiled. Here was where her name would be carved, eventually. It was bad luck to name a ship before her launch, and while Sean wasn’t really superstitious he also didn’t feel like tempting fate. When she was ready, he would christen her with a name. Then they would fly and they would win, no matter what the French could conjure or how distracting her new pilot turned out to be. Even though, right now it seemed like he was going to be very distracting indeed.

* * * *

This was a really fun story in part because the airship design I mention was originally proposed by Francesco de Lana in 1670 but never developed. My husband, an inventor among many other things, brought it to my attention when I mentioned wanting steampunk inspiration. I just ran with it.  I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Excerpt of A Blinded Mind

So, I'm not done with the next part of Pandora, but I thought I would offer this up to the interested.  This is the first chapter of the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo, and once I get it beta'd and proofread and generally made better, I might try submitting it somewhere.  It topped out at 55k.  Long for me!  Let me know if you think it sounds interesting.  Also, warning, this snippet rated R for language.

Chapter One

The first thing Jonathan Hatcher notices when he wakes up is the smell. It isn’t the smell of sewers. It isn’t the smell of dust and old wax and slowly encroaching earth. This is the smell of antiseptic, overwhelming the nose with rubbing alcohol and the sickly sweet scent of aloe vera. It wafts up from his body like an assault, and he grimaces unconsciously. There are notes of bleach as well, a scanty miasma of antibacterial soap and the barest hint of…mashed potatoes? Jonathan groans. His eyes won’t open for some reason, but his arm lifts itself reluctantly to the back of his aching skull. Questing fingertips touch a metal bulge projecting from his medulla, and he groans again. He’s been suppressed. Wonderful.

Even the best suppressors can’t entirely shut down Jonathan’s psychic ability, not insofar as it pertains to himself, and he runs a personal inventory that’s far more thorough than “arms, legs, hands, feet.” Apart from a very nasty knot on the side of his forehead, dangerously close to his temple, he’s sustained a few stitched-up gashes from batons across his back and shoulders, and contusions where the rubber bullets impacted his chest. Aside from the metal now sticking out of his skull, he’s okay. Sore as hell, pissed as hell and trying to ignore the rising panic born of ignorance inside of him, but okay.

“Jonnie, Jonnie, Angry Jonnie…” Wizened vocal cords rasp the mocking chorus, and bare gums smack obscenely. “It’s Jezebel in Hell. Wakey wakey, you stupid little fuck.”

“Constance,” Jonathan mumbles, forcing his eyes open. Lead-grey ceiling tiles stare back at him, heavy and dull, just like he feels right now.

“Look familiar?” she asks, her voice filled with relish.

“Unfortunately,” Jonathan replies, schooling his tone to be dry. Feeding Connie emotions is a surefire way to go insane. He pushes slowly to a sitting position, anticipating the wave of pain that batters against the dregs of morphine floating through his system. Morphine…he got morphine for the suppressor’s implantation, right. Morphine for a three-minute surgery. Jonathan would have killed for morphine a few days ago, anything to ease Sam’s pain…Sam. Fuck!

He looks across the hall at the holding cell opposite his. A round old woman in a sack-like jumper stares back at him. Her feet and hands are completely enclosed by cloth mitts, not even her thumbs protruding for mobility. The garment zips up the back, where it’s locked into place against her security collar. She’s mostly bald, but wisps of grey hair hang lank across her face. Her jaw is short and sharp, her mouth entirely toothless, and her eyes entirely gone. Sunken lids close over the empty pits, dark purple splotches in the paleness of her face. She is a specter from Jonathan’s past, ten years old but hardly changed at all.


“Jonnie,” the old woman cackles. Her lips curl in around her gums, garbling her consonants, but Jonathan has a lot of experience at interpreting her speech, far more than he wants. “Little puppy turned into a bitch, not a wolf.”

“How long have I been here?” Jonathan asks.

Connie grins, her mouth a venomous hole. “Feels like you never left.”

“I’m serious, Connie, how long?” He needs to know. Sam…he needs to find out about Sam. He needs to know how much time he’s lost.

“What is time in here?” she asks, shrugging her hunched shoulders. “Time doesn’t pass in here. Not for me, not for…” she lifts her chin in the direction of Jonathan’s right, and the cell next door, “him. Not for you either.”

It’s useless to try to get information from Constance when you need it. Jonathan closes his eyes and goes back into himself, evaluating the freshness of his wounds and the cloudiness of his mind. Twelve hours…maybe as much as fourteen. That had been long enough for PsyCo to extract him from his bunker in the ruins of London and get him to Heidelberg, perform the suppressor surgery and put him back in the super-maximum security prison that’s the dumping ground for the most dangerous high-risk, high-reward psychics. Fourteen hours. It’s an eternity away from Sam. He’d been so bad, failing so fast…had they just left him there? Had they brought him along? Jonathan needs to know what happened to him.

“What’s wrong, little puppy?” Constance doesn’t need to be able to see to know he’s worried. She’s probably the most powerful offensive psychic alive today, and like with Jonathan, a suppressor isn’t enough to wholly take away her ability. “Missing the tit?”

“I haven’t missed anything about this place,” he says flatly.

“Then why come back? You’re a stupid little fuck, but you’re not careless.”

Jonathan doesn’t say anything. He feels her mind like a pressure around him, trying to penetrate, but where Constance is gifted in attack, Jonathan is unparalleled in defense. He blocks her best efforts out with a thought, but whatever glimpse she manages before the walls went up, that coupled with her predator’s intuition is enough to give her a target.

“Bitch is right!” she shrieks gleefully. “Panting after a man, trading freedom for some pretty boy’s cock. Freedom.” Her voice drops lower, its register harsh and growling. “Freedom. All yours, all wasted. The things I could have done with that freedom, and it went to a filthy, puling puppy who couldn’t keep his nose out of the shit.” Her speech devolves into a litany of curses and insults, spit flying from her maw as she hisses at him.

Jonathan ignores her. That’s another thing that comes back with ready, unfortunate ease; ignoring Constance. Memories of ignoring other indignities crowd at the back of his consciousness as well, demanding entrance, but Jonathan pushes them away. He can work through all that later, all the mental crap that comes up as a result of being in this hellacious place again, this fucking…no. Not now. He needs to focus on Sam, find out what happened to him.

Jonathan is prepared to bargain for good information, and that will please the PsyCo brass. PsyCo, aka the Bureau of Psychological Corrections, is the European Coalition’s black ops headquarters. They’re in charge of the psychics, the spies, the mercenaries and the officially-sanctioned murderers. They’d had Jonathan in their grasp from the age of five until his escape at sixteen, and the ten intervening years haven’t done much to dull his memories. Fleeing for his life has tended to focus them instead.

God damn it, think of something different. Something better. Dwelling on PsyCo is a pit that Jonathan doesn’t want to fall into. Something better…like Sam. Jonathan leans back against the wall and thinks about Sam. Not the way he’d been at the end, so sick from infection and exhaustion that he could barely move. Not the way he’d been at the beginning either, freshly wounded and highly suspicious. The middle, though…the honeymoon phase, Jonathan dubs it, his sarcasm tinged with longing. That had been amazing.

Sam. Samuel Darion Sharpe. Thirty-two, African American, tall, broad, dangerous. Muscles on his muscles, but not so much that he can’t move quietly when he needs to. Capable with a gun and absolutely lethal with a knife. Mocha colored skin, dark brown eyes, a surprisingly natural smile that transforms his face from forbidding to enticing in an instant. Sam Sharpe. He carried hundred-year-old paperback novels side by side with his spare ammunition, and he speaks better Spanish than Jonathan does. His palms are ridged with calluses, but they’re gentle when he touches Jonathan, gentle even before Sam liked him, before they were friends, before they became lovers.

Those memories are too good, too close to be borne when he doesn’t know whether Sam is alive or dead. Jonathan can’t think those thoughts now, and he forces himself away from them and back to the basic facts of the man. That strange American accent, so rare now after the United States’ implosion at the end of the Third World War. Sam’s family was from Chicago, he said. The Windy City. No more city now, just twisted rubble and buried bodies. Jonathan’s seen satellite photos. It’s more than Sam himself has ever seen, but his parents described it to him.

The best part about Sam? Well, the best G-rated part, anyhow, is his mind. His ability. His total, utter blankness when it comes to a psychic imprint. Sam thinks, he feels, he plans, but it doesn’t show up. Not even Jonathan could detect him, and he can feel the mind of a fetus less than a month along in the womb. Sam’s invisibility is the biggest advantage he has in his line of work, which was—no, is—hunting down rogue or enemy psychics.

The hunter and his prey. Only Jonathan had turned that around beautifully. Sam had been a loan from the United States government, and like any one entrusting their possession to another would, his owners had insisted he be well taken care of. That meant he was given backup in unfamiliar zones, which most of Europe was for the American soldier. There are so many dangerous things out there in the dead zones, the ruins, the fragments of the great and glorious past. Outside the walls of the EuroCo’s well-guarded cities, there are packs of roaming animals, mostly dogs gone feral generations ago and now breeding like mad. There are salvage teams and scavengers, some official but most little more than bandits preying on the stupid and unwary in between forays into the cities. There are loners, often insane but always badass. Then there are the vics, those people who had been over-exposed to chemical weapons during the war but somehow survived. They’re largely a dying breed, but those who survived the decades after the war are practically indestructible, and often highly contagious.

So many dangerous things, so much that could go wrong for the American asset. His support staff was small and elite, but not quite up to speed on the particulars of their latest target. Better yet, the men had been overconfident, coming within range of Jonathan’s ability before sending Sam off on his own. It was all Jonathan had needed to turn the situation on its head.

The door at the end of the hall suddenly opens and Jonathan opens his eyes with it, not wanting to continue down the mental track he’s been on just then. He doesn’t need to look to recognize the footsteps; that slow, steady cadence is something he’d listened to throughout his entire childhood. It used to make him feel good, protected. It had come to mean nothing but fear, however, and it’s the fear that he’s fighting now.

Jonathan tentatively reaches his mind out towards the man. Suppressed. Of course. Doctor Nelson Cagney is probably the only person in the entire command structure of PsyCo who wears a suppressor, not because he’s a rogue or damaged psychic, but because he’s their jailer. It’s an additional failsafe against mental assault. Cagney stops outside of Jonathan’s cell and looks at him through the tempered glass. Jonathan stares back impassively.

“You’re not half so wild-looking as your last known photograph, son.”

Don’t call me son. “The one taken outside of Edinburgh, I suppose.”

“Yes. That was, what, two years ago now?”

“About that.”

“You look much better now.” Cagney touches an index finger to his plump mouth as he assesses Jonathan’s appearance. “Your beard is gone, and I know how desperate you must have been to grow one. Your hair has been trimmed with actual scissors and not just hacked off with a knife, hasn’t it? Very nice. Who was your barber?”

“I think you know him.”

“I know a lot of people, son, but none of the ones I’ve sent after you over the years would have politely cut your hair without cutting your throat as well. Except maybe the last one. I didn’t have the training of him, so it’s no surprise if he turned out to be weaker than we expected.”

“He’s not weak.”

Cagney smiles blandly. “If he were truly strong, he would have captured you. If he were just strong enough, he would have killed you. It was a distant second objective, but preferable to you leading our psychics astray for another ten years. He did neither of these things. Therefore, weak.”

“Perhaps Lieutenant Sharpe has a different idea of what constitutes strength than you do.” It’s a risk being the first to mention his name, but Jonathan is truly desperate for information. Cagney opens his mouth to speak, but then Constance lets loose with such a raucous screech of laughter that neither of them would have been heard for a moment. After she’s done, Cagney glances over at her, then looks back.

“Perhaps,” he says, his eyes cool behind silver wire-rimmed frames. “Not that it matters now.”

Jonathan’s mouth is suddenly dry. “And why is that?”

“No.” Cagney shakes his head. “I think I’ve already given you more information than you deserve. I’d prefer for you to sit and think a while longer about what you’ve done before I open our channels of communication again. Your good behavior will earn it.”

He gestures at the corner of the cell. “You’ll be monitored constantly, of course. Your suppressor is top of the line, but given time you’re capable of just about anything, so we’re taking no chances. I have three psychics running shifts on you day and night, and naturally we’re starting up the medication regimen again.” Cagney smiles thinly. “A more docile personality suits you, Jonathan. Once I’m convinced you’re beginning to mend your ways, then we’ll talk about Lieutenant Sharpe.” He tilts his head mockingly. “Or is it ‘Sam’? I believe you referred to him like that a number of times while you coming out of the anesthetic.” He turns and walks away down the hall, and if Jonathan thought for a moment that begging would get him anything, he would do it despite Constance’s presence.

Instead he lets the door close without another word.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Research And Destroy

I’ve been thinking a little (okay, a lot) lately about the end of my service in about half a year and what I’ll do back in, in all probability, the US of A. Looming on the horizon are things like where to spend the much-diminished remainder of our vacation, negotiating how to get home with all our accumulated crap of over two years of living, finding work or going back to school or, in all probability, doing both. Lots of stuff to think on with great potential to overwhelm. Joy!

Writing is, of course, a given, and probably the one thing I have to look forward to (apart from, you know, always having 1st world amenities like running water) that will get vastly easier with our return. Not that I’ll have more time for it, but that researching my topics of interest won’t cost me the equivalent of a day’s pay and a year’s patience.

I have the offline version of Wikipedia, which has been a godsend, but it’s almost impossible to load a website on the local connections that has any graphics worth mentioning. I can’t watch videos or download large files. Getting an e-book is usually a prospect of hours, but I’m grateful I can get them at all. Still, it makes me long for high speed internet.

I take my research pretty seriously. I’m the child of a historian, and we couldn’t travel anywhere of consequence in my youth without my dad pointing out historical landmarks and battle sites and monuments. Every vacation included a museum. I didn’t savor it then, but clearly his influence has a presence in me, because if I don’t know the details of a place or thing I’m reluctant to write about it. Some writers just go with the flow and don’t worry about synchronizing details because the characters are more important to them. Some writers write about places they know intimately and therefore don’t have to research. Others write pure fantasy that allows them to make up whatever they want on the spot and go with it.

I do some of all of those things, but I’m also riddled with the niggling need to check and double check my facts. The thought of rambling into a historical setting laissez-faire style and plopping my characters down on, I don’t know, wrought iron benches in Bronze Age Mesopotamia makes me want to beat my head in with my computer. This reluctance of mine to sally forth into the great unknown for the sake of grandeur has killed a few really promising stories in their infancy over here, and I hope to be able to ameliorate that problem when I get back. Is this a common problem? I’ve no idea.

In the meantime I’ll write more for Pandora, which has the wonderful quality of being almost entirely the product of my own mind and therefore subject only to my rules and the generally accepted rules of the genre of space opera.

And I'm a sucker for puns, dammit.  Forgive the title.