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Salli met Phillip in the conference parlor once again, seating herself in one of the comfortable padded chairs. She watched for a few moments as he puttered around, arranging a second chair next to her for Ali, and one across from her for the reporter, neither of whom had arrived yet..

“All set, Milady?” he asked. “Where’s Miss Blacksailor?”

“Still dressing. I just spoke to her before I came downstairs,” Salli answered. Ali had been looking a bit twitchy and unhappy, and had asked her to go ahead while she prepared herself. Salli couldn’t blame her. It had been a long time since her last Media Relations course in finishing school, and poor Ali didn’t even have that much preparation for this.

“All right then. Hopefully this will be a loose, friendly interview. Just answer all the questions straight. These Oceanic News fellows enjoy pouncing on evasive Nobles. If you start getting uncomfortable, just give me a signal and I’ll wrap things up for you.”

“I understand,” she said.

Phillip nodded. “He’s probably going to direct a lot of questions towards Miss Blacksailor. If they get too personal I’ll deflect them, but we need to let her know that contradicting the basic facts in her criminal case probably won’t end well.”

“I don’t think that will be problem.” Given Ali’s usual stoic resignation towards her crimes, it was more likely she’d just nod in agreement with every accusation and provide even more damning details, Salli thought.

Phillip’s palm comp beeped. He gave a sharp nod as he checked it, rising to his feet. “The reporter is at the front entrance. I’ll bring him in for you.”

“Thank you, Phillip.” Salli waited as he left to get the reporter, wondering what was taking Ali.

He returned a few moments later, a familiar, gangly foxen following from behind. Oh, of course it would be him.

“Lady Darktail! A pleasure to see you again,” Nef Clawstroke greeted her cheerfully. He stuck out his paw, and Salli stood briefly to shake it, then settled back down in her chair.

“Mr. Clawstroke, what a surprise,” she admitted. “I thought you were covering the orbital beat.”

“Oh, I move up and down, depending on where the story is,” he said. “Since I’d already interviewed you both before, my editor thought it best if I did the follow up.”

That wasn’t an interview earlier, it was an ambush, she thought irritably. “I see. So, what topics would you like to discuss today?”

“Oh you and Miss Blacksailor. Particularly how you met and what seemed to spark the attraction between you, especially after you learned about her history.” He looked around the conference parlor. “Speaking of which, where is she?”

“Not here yet,” she admitted. She pulled out her palm comp to check Ali’s location. It showed she was still in her room. Which was a little annoying, but understandable. It was possible that Ali had funked out like when she had been unexpectedly introduced to her long lost brother Lu so recently. “She’s in her room. I’ll go see what is delaying her. Phillip, please stay and keep Mr. Clawstroke company.” No need to drag the reporter along for what might be an emotional moment with Ali.

As she stood up, Salli’s palm comp let out a loud emergency beep, pitched to scrape along a foxen’s auditory nerve like claws on a blackboard. Startled, she nearly dropped it before answering, “This is Salli, what’s the matter?”

“It’s Zaker, milady!” came the urgent reply, her voice shouting into Sali’s ear. In the background she could hear agonized growling and screams, which with a shock Salli recognized as coming from Ali. “I need you up in Ali’s room immediately!”

Ali Must SufferCollapse )
The day of the interview finally arrived, to Ali’s mixed relief and apprehension. The previous days she’d laid low, avoiding the Countess, the very fragile truce arranged by Salli’s father holding for now. The only times she ventured out was to help Salli with her exercise regimen, or do some laps around the edge of the manor’s grounds. The exercise was a balm, it cut the amount of time she had to think, which was never fun. Even during her life onboard the Scarlet Claw she’d gained a reputation for volunteering to help with whatever little task came along. That had made her friends, especially with the sanitation and nutritional techs.

Salli had spoken of her hopes that the interview would bring Ali sympathy, but she couldn’t figure out how that could happen. What she had done couldn’t be undone, and all the nice words in the world wouldn’t change that. Deeds though… Well, that would probably involve some kind of threat to Salli’s safety, and she couldn’t bring herself to wish that.

In Which Ali is a Jerk to NariCollapse )

RVA: Shadow of Doubt, Family Affair

Later that afternoon, after she’d cleaned up and left Ali to a well-earned post-coital nap, Salli hunted down her father in his personal office on the ground floor, not the one on the upper level he shared with Mother. The door was open and she found him leaning back in his desk chair, fingers laced over his paunch as he stared up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

“Hello, Father. Is now a good time?” she asked cautiously.

He smiled in irony. “I doubt any time would be a good time, but this will do.” He sat up and waved her in. “Shut the door and have a seat, would you, dear?”

Ali and Salli"s relationship isn"t the only one in jeopardy.Collapse )
So in case you didn't know already, I write a lot of furry fiction. Or as I described it once, stories about Lesbian Space Foxes.

And in my reviews I've been praised for avoiding the cliche of making the story a porn fest. Except for the reviews that wishing there was more sex in them. Sigh.

Now while I can write porn when I want to, as a preference I prefer to leave as much to the reader's imagination as possible. There's plenty of awful sex scenes out there. I feel no need to add more to the pile.

So when you're out to read something romantic, what do you look for?

Level of Detail

No hugging, no kissing
2(7.7%)
Hugging, kissing only.
4(15.4%)
Hugging, kissing, implied sex (pan over to fireplace)
5(19.2%)
Hugging, kissing, mention how hot this makes them feel, then pan over to the fireplace. (most of my stuff)
5(19.2%)
Sex scene, discreet amount of detail (Sharing Knife)
6(23.1%)
Sex scene, lots more detail. (Prisoners of War)
2(7.7%)
IKEA Erotica ("I inserted my Love Tab A into her willing Slot B")
2(7.7%)

Types of Romances

Hetero only
3(7.5%)
Male/Male
3(7.5%)
Female/Female
4(10.0%)
Bisexual (one partner at a time)
4(10.0%)
Bisexual (Polyarmory)
5(12.5%)
Same species (ex: human/human)
3(7.5%)
Same species, not human (Foxen/Foxen)
3(7.5%)
Alien but functionally identical (Human/Vulcan)
3(7.5%)
Functionally similar, genetically incompatible (Human/Foxen)
4(10.0%)
Different, but they find a way ("I see fingers and a tongue, everything else is gravy")
4(10.0%)
VERY different (Human/"Wait, are those tentacles?")
4(10.0%)
Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, Amy Shira Teitel

Exactly what it says on the tin, this book follows the paths of various spaceflight pioneers from the 1920’s through WWII and the early 50’s to just prior to the formation of NASA out of the NACA. The concentration of the book is on European scientists and inventors, focusing on Wehner von Braun, who gets a fairly sympathetic portrayal. The author’s narrative pushes the point that the use of slave labor in the construction of the V2 rockets was a decision of Nazi higher ups, not van Braun, who knew that a vehicle that requires such precise machining as a rocket would turn out as badly as it did when built by starving prisoners.

One odd absence is much on Robert Goddard, though his story has been told extensively in other books. We do get a good look at the American rocket plane program in compensation, and a warts and all gaze at the political maneuvering that went around the United States’ first satellite launch.

Recommended if you’re a real rocket enthusiast.


Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

The book that caused much hand wringing by critics of the Hugo awards recently. Which once I listened to it rather confused me. Honestly, it’s a bog standard space opera with the remnant of a warship’s AI trying to topple the rotten core of an ancient, belligerent, and increasingly corrupt empire. The only thing really ‘progressive’ about it is the odd gender confusion of the narrator, who describes everyone with female pronouns unless corrected. But on those terms it’s well written and engaging.

Recommended.


Bryony and Roses, “T. Kingfisher”

Bryony is the daughter of an impoverished and recently deceased merchant who finds herself trapped in the enchanted mansion of a cursed, bestial noble when she gets lost in the woods during a snowstorm. Which would sound very familiar, except that her name is Bryony, not Beauty, and the Beast is in desperate need of a gardener first, and True Love second.

A short novel published under Ursula Vernon’s adult publication non-de-plume, this look at the classic fairy tale combines her usual wry humor with a gimlet eye on the usual tropes of fantasy. That said it’s a considerably darker tale than her earlier Nine Goblins, given the truths Bryony finds when she discovers that she’s not the first visitor the Beast has kept.

Recommended, unless you’re really offended by Vernon’s opinion on mint herbs.

Song: Cover Art Blues

Music: Acoustic blues guitar


A long time ago,
In 2009
I went to Kindle Direct
Out to make a few dimes.
I wrote up a story
To make a lotta cash.
But without a decent cover all the readers gave it a pass.

CHORUS
Oh, yeah
Didn’t have a clue what to do.
Yeah I had a real bad case,
Of No Cover Art Blues.


Then one day,
I went begging to a friend.
A pretty Aussie momma,
Real good with a coloring pen.
I said, “I need a beautiful mage,”
“And her pretty elfboi friend.”
“But I’m telling right now I ain’t got much spend.”

CHORUS

She said, “I’ll draw ya cover,”
“Cuz I like your stories a bunch.”
“But I gotta tell ya, I can only do it once.”
It’s a pretty picture, she didn’t take a chance.
Cuz she knows the lady readers love an elf in tight pants!

CHORUS

I wrote more stories
With dragons, furries and ghostly shuttles.
But every time, the covers were just a muddle.
I needed artists, ones that were fast and cheap.
But when I told ‘em my budget, they looked at me like I was a freak.

SPOKEN: “Hey baby, think of the exposure! Hey, where ya going?!”

CHORUS

The years have gone by,
Cover artists have come and gone.
Found some friends who did me favors,
But the deals didn’t last too long.
They were just too good,
To stay in my price range
They said, “Hey Royce, we really love you, but we’ve got bills to pay.”

CHORUS

I got my latest book done
Art’s still my pain
Gonna ‘shop an image,
Found in Public Domain.
It looks like crap, the font is so lame.
But hey at least it’s still better,
Than the covers published by Baen!

Spoken: “A guy’s gotta have standards!”

CHORUS

RVA: Shadow of Doubt, Beyond This Horizon

Ali sat curled up on a chair, arms wrapped tight around her legs, chin resting on her knees, and waited. She knew perfectly Salli would be coming in a moment, either in tears or quietly furious, and that she was going to have to push Salli away again, for the sake of not permanently cracking the noblevixen’s bond with her family.

Get up, she told herself. Get up, go to the shuttleport and get on the next flight up to House Lovejoy’s freighter docks. No, take the beanstalk. That way Salli can’t follow for the three days it’ll take to get to the transfer station. Get away before she can do anything else foolish to defend you. Get up.

But her arms remained firmly around her legs, locking her in place as she rocked back and forth in her seat. Because Salli coming in crying and/or furious was a Salli who needed her. And she could not for the life of her imagine a life that wasn’t in the service of someone, if not the Red Vixen, then Salli, or before that Bloody Margo. The alternative, independence, was quietly terrifying. I need to serve… someone.

She blinked once, looking at the thought in a new light. I need to serve.

I’m not a Commoner, I’m Service caste

Just like the rest of my family.


Service, consent, futuresCollapse )
Yes, it's a crossover between the live-action television version of The Incredible Hulk and The Andy Griffith Show. No, I don't know why.

Set four years after the events of Return to Mayberry

* * *

North Carolina, 1990
WELCOME TO MAYBERRY, NC
Population 7,550

The last of David’s money, save for five dollars, had paid for the bus trip from Raleigh to this little town. He knew he should have walked or hitchhiked to avoid paying a fare, but the urge to get as far away from the city had been too much to ignore. Too close that time, he thought to himself. And while little towns had their own share of difficulties for him, at least it was a shorter distance to reach the road again.

The Greyhound bus sighed to a halt and the doors slid open. No station here, just a bench with a green painted corrugated awning over it, next a large shady oak tree at the edge of the town square. A young woman stepped out, waving to an older couple that waited by the tree , obviously her parents. David slipped out behind her, shouldering his knapsack, the only luggage he carried, with his spare clothes, shaving kit, and an extra pair of cheap sneakers. If there was a Goodwill store in this town he’d have to get another pair as soon as he could afford it.

David looked up and down the street. A man with thinning red hair was approaching from down the street, pulling a wagon filled with stacked newspapers, a cheerful looking red haired boy of maybe four years age walking beside him and chattering happily. David smiled slightly at the sight and turned away, only to bump straight into the police officer.

“Hey there!” the officer shouted. He was short, skinny man, barely over 5 and a half feet in height, a high peaked hat sitting on his balding head, with protuberant eyes and a prominent Adam’s apple. Recovering quickly he stood up straight, hooking his thumbs in his gun belt, looking over David suspiciously. “New in town, eh?” he asked, his voice too high pitched to manage a growl.

“Er, yes officer,” David said, backing up a step as he silently cursed his luck. He hadn’t even been in town for five minutes before bumping into the Law. And these little towns, especially in the South, always had something ugly underneath them, usually starting with a corrupt sheriff that had been in place since before the Voting Rights Act.

Wellllll you be careful,” the officer drawled. “I’m Deputy Fife, and I keep an eye on new folks who come into town.” He tugged on his gun belt with his thumbs, then kept tugging, looking down in dismay as the right one got stuck in his belt loop.

“You okay, Barney?” the red headed man asked, coming up beside them.

“Oh, hey Opie, hey Junior. Yep, just greetin’ this stranger here,” Deputy Fife replied amiably, still tugging futility at his belt. The little boy giggled, while his father reached over and disentangled the older man from his predicament. “Thanks, Ope.” He turned back to David, waggling his finger. “I’ll be watching you,” he stated, before turning away and walking off with a Bantam strut.

“Uncle Barney’s silly!” the boy stated.

His father grinned. “He sure is.” Turned back to David, he stuck out his hand. “Opie Taylor. Welcome to Mayberry.”

“Oh, hello. I’m David. Er, Belsen, David Belsen,” David shook hands briefly, Opie looking at him with considerably more friendliness than the deputy.

Opie grinned. “Good to meet you, David. Don’t mind, Barney. He always hangs around when the bus comes in. I think he gets bored sometimes.” He spoke to his son. “Hey, Junior. Want to give David a paper?”

“Sure!” Junior took the top newspaper off the pile in the wagon, handing it to David. “The Mayberry Gazette,” the boy announced proudly. “The best paper this side of Mount Pilot!”

“Thank you,” David told him, fishing in his pocket for a quarter.

“Naw, the first issue’s free,” Opie said, waving him down. “$1.50 a week, $2.00 if you want the Sunday edition.”

“I’ll think about it,” David carefully. “Though I do thank you, I was going to get a copy anyway and check the want ads.”

“Looking for work?” Obie asked.

“Yes,” he admitted.

“Can you drive? I always need somebody to deliver papers.”

“I, uh, don’t have a license right now,” he admitted. At least not in David Belsen’s name.

“Know anything about computers, like WordPerfect?”

David nodded. “A bit, yes.” Most home computers were pretty easy to use in comparison to, say, a hospital CAT scanner, he’d found.

“Terrific,” Opie said eagerly. “I bought this fancy new system to do all the page layouts and I can’t make heads nor tails of it. Tell you what, you find yourself a place to stay and then come over to my office. It's right down on the corner. By the time you get settled I should be done delivering the afternoon edition and we can talk.”

“Thank you,” David said sincerely. “Do you know a good place to stay?”

“Well there’s the YMCA three blocks down, or Mrs. Mendelbright's boarding house on Elm St.”

“Thank you. I’ll check out the Y. Good to meet you, Mr. Taylor.”

Taylor laughed. “Just Opie. My pa’s Mr. Taylor. Well, Sheriff Taylor.”

“Sheriff Taylor?” David asked cautiously.

“Yep.” Opie waved cheerfully and started pulling his wagon again. “See you around, David. Welcome to Mayberry!”

“Thanks,” David said, nonplussed, still wondering if coming to this sleepy looking town was a good idea or not.

RVA: Shadow of Doubt, Enough

Note: Revised and expanded from the original version.

* * *

Salli stood in front her parents, palms clasped tightly behind her back, feeling her toe claws dig into the soft carpeting on the floor. She tried to moderate her anger. Her earlier outcry had been a mistake in this arena. Soft words, she reminded herself, would be more cutting.

Any more soft words in Ali’s direction, and I do believe she will bleed to death from them.

“May I ask you a question?” Salli said to her parents. Her mother looked back at her with a look of mild exasperation. Her father’s expression was more embarrassed. Good. She would keep her focus on Mother then.

“What more questions could you have, Sallivera?” her mother asked. “The matter is settled.”

“To your satisfaction, perhaps. Not to mine,” Salli answered tightly.

“What do you need to know, Salli dear?” her father asked, shooting a quelling to look to her mother.

“What would be enough?” Salli demanded, flexing her finger claws against her palm pads. They dug in, little sparks of pain. Nothing compared to the pain in her heart, but enough to remind her of her goal here.

Turning pointCollapse )

RVA: Shadow of Doubt, Breakup

Ali leaned against the wall in the hallway, watching as Lt. Lightfoot and his forensics team marched in and out of Salli’s suite, carrying the paint stained sheets out in a plastic bag, and returning with more sterile baggies to take fur samples from everywhere nearby, and also finger and paw prints whatever flat surfaces they could dust. Meanwhile down the hall she could hear the serving girl, Nari, sniffling her way through an interrogation about what she’d seen or not seen when she’d entered the bedroom. The fact that Ali had just undergone a similar grilling about what she’d seen didn’t improve her mood.

Salli emerged from a side door, completing her own questioning from the annoyed look on her face, a CP officer exiting behind her. She approached Ali, eyebrow raised in an ironic tilt.

“I think there are plenty of civil protection officers keeping watch, Ali,” she noted.

“My job,” Ali replied. “Anyway, no point in me wandering off. They’ll probably want to ask me more questions in a bit.”

“Probably,” Salli agreed. She glanced in the direction of her suite’s open door. “So what’s your opinion on this?”

“We’re either short on suspects or have too many,” Ali said. “Too many servants have access to secure areas. Unless it’s an outsider sneaking in, possible but not as likely, it had to be one of them. Though I doubt it’s that drip of a bodyservant, whatshername, that found the paint on your bed.”

“Nari,” Salli replied. “No, not her. She has her faults, but disloyalty isn’t one of them.”

Ali snorted. “She always cry that much when there’s a scene?”

“I wouldn’t know.” After a moment she sheepishly added. “Honestly, I have no idea how she reacts to stress. Nari had always been part of background when I was lost in my  misery after escaping Kev. There, in my line of vision, but not, er, important.

Salli’s musings were interrupted by her parents arriving on the scene, having returned from a meeting with Lady Aganatha after the ceremony. They both looked on with dismay at the invasion of CP’s on the residence floor. Ali pushed off the wall and mentally braced herself as Salli’s mother approached.

BreakupCollapse )

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