The Stoutkan

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This is a sort of deer creature colloquially referred to as a ‘snowdrop fattie’ from my current sci-fi series. Catero’s first hunting trip as a young man was to catch this sort of deer, and Vince explains that the proper name of the creature is a stoutkan.

I’m processing terror right now, and it’s very unpleasant. Physically, I’m having difficulty breathing. But I am getting the fear out, slowly. There’s a lot of it because I grew up being regularly threatened with murder. Silly people who talk about killing children.

Here’s some more Diana.

Sample

Define the Relationship

“How can you like me, Stuart? You can’t like me. You’re . . . no,” Diana said, feeling rage move like lava through her bones. She was getting angry enough to slip from the concentration she’d been holding towards the aliens this whole time, and a part of her brain reflected that she was very likely to be captured or dead soon.

“I know. I”m sorry,” Stuart said, meeting her eyes without any excitement.

Diana stared at him. She wanted to say several things to him that she didn’t feel were wise to say while the aliens were listening, so she looked down at the roof for a while and thought about what she could do that wouldn’t make her feel like exploding.

She wanted to drag up and mention a whole lot of physically inexcusable things Stuart had done to her in the past, and she was pretty sure the aliens didn’t know about any of those interactions. She’d told the two aliens who had visited last time that Stuart was violent, but she didn’t think they would realize how savage he’d been, or how complete his hatred of her had always seemed.

“What changed for you?” Diana asked, keeping her tone level with an effort. She could feel old bruises along her arms, phantom pains where Stuart had crushed her years ago and laughed. She was in the habit of not remembering any of the other injuries, and she blocked them out now, though her body seemed to ache as several ugly memories rose up.

“I got to know you better. Please come to bed, Diana,” Stuart said.

She hated the tone in his voice. It was a kind of friendly, pragmatic, protective voice, the kind she knew she was supposed to melt towards.

Diana’s face was completely still, though she wanted to curl into a snarl and start flinging vitriol at Stuart.

“I won’t sleep with you, Stuart,” Diana said, her voice clipping with a tight snap over the end of his name.

“I am going to take care of you, Di, and if you don’t come with me I will pick you up and take you to bed by force. Do you want me to do that? Because I will,” Stuart said.

Diana got really, really mad. She stood up, meaning to throw herself off the roof in order to get away from Stuart, but his hands closed around her wrist and her waist and she was, once again, too slow to kick him between the legs before he had her trapped. She’d always been too slow. Diana suspected that the long nature of Stuart’s abuse had made her body resist her attempts to fight back, since that usually made the pain worse.

“I hate you,” Diana said in a calm voice.

“I know, baby. Keep on hating me. It’s good for you,” Stuart said, slinging her over his back and trudging carefully down the roof towards the window.

Oh, it’s good for me? Diana wanted to howl, but she held still, aside from closing her hands around the waist of his pants and imagining yanking them up. She’d tried that sort of thing before and it had never gone well for her. Diana’s body, now that Stuart was in actual attack mode, was no longer cooperating with her. She felt stuck in a sludge-like morass of numb patience, and she wondered how long the aliens would watch before coming down to stop Stuart. He’d never once touched her in any way that could be construed as flirtatious, and he wasn’t touching her that way right now.

“Why did you kiss me?” Diana asked as Stuart maneuvered his way into the open window. He put her down on the bed and pointed a finger at her.

“Stay,” Stuart said, meeting her eyes. Diana fought the snarl that threatened to rise through her face. Stuart turned and ducked back out of the window.

Diana stood up and left the room, going to the end of the upstairs hall and into the master bedroom, where she shut and locked the door. She was pulling a heavy wooden dresser over to block off the door when she heard Stuart rattling the handle.

“Diana! Open the door!” Stuart called.

Why does he always know where to find me? Diana asked herself, repressing the desire to roll her eyes as she tugged on the dresser.

“Diana Vassel, if you do not open this door, I’ll break it down, and then we’ll be stuck in a house with a broken door. Seriously,” Stuart said.

“I want to be by myself,” Diana called with a convincingly cheerful sound.

There was a slight pause.

“Di, I’m for real. I’ll smash it open,” Stuart called, his voice perfectly calm. Diana held in a feral growl. There was a light knock on the door. Diana hated the idea of a broken door. She went and unlocked it, stepping back before Stuart came in.

He looked angry, and Diana nearly ran for the window. Stuart looked around the dark room and saw the dresser she’d pulled partway across the room. He sighed and easily pushed the dresser back into place before approaching Diana, who went quickly out the door.

“Di, stop,” Stuart said. He’d looked angry, but his voice was calm. She slowed. “Di,” Stuart said. This time he sounded exasperated, but not at all irritated. Diana paused and looked over her shoulder. Stuart came and scooped up her hand before she could pull away. “I just went out to get our blankets, Di. You didn’t need to run. We’re together now, and I’m not letting you sleep by yourself. You know you don’t sleep well,” Stuart said, making little rubs over her fingers that made Diana want to throw up.

“Let go, Stu,” Diana said, the playful, happy lilt back in her voice, hiding the fury fomenting in her heart.

“No,” Stuart said, sounding just as cheerful and kind. Diana couldn’t help staring at him, and he bent in and kissed her lightly on the mouth. “Come on, darling,” Stuart said, ignoring the shiver of disgust and rage trembling through Diana’s hand and pulling her back to the bedroom they’d started in at first.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the horticulturist is endeavoring to improve his character.

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Shadow Experiment

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Here’s a dragon shadow. I’m experimenting with lighting. I’m not fond of the cloud, but I like the mountains in the distance.

Sample

The Next Message

Stuart kept his arms around Diana as they both read the burning white words that grew in the air, crawling like expanding worms of pale fire.

Good choice of showing. Enjoyable bond. Next. Break off or reproduction?

Diana’s heart did a very unpleasant flip.

“She’s too young. She can’t have babies right now. We can’t even copulate,” Stuart said before Diana had assembled her thoughts.

The first alien waved a misshapen hand and the white letters vanished and were replaced by slowly-appearing golden letters. The white letters had seemed to be made of fire, but these golden ones looked cold and metallic.

What maturation stage is of necessary age required in you?

“I’d have to be older, a lot older,” Diana said as soon as she saw the letters close off into the end.

“We’d have to be married,” Stuart added. Diana could feel his heart pounding against her shoulder, and she wondered if he was as scared as she was.

“I don’t–” Diana started to say, and then she stopped. She’d been about to say that she didn’t want children, even if she had been older and in some other relationship to some man she actually liked, but Diana had been doing a pretty good job of guessing what the aliens would like, and she had a sharp, unmistakable feeling in her gut that if she said out loud to the aliens right now that she didn’t want babies, the aliens might do something very permanent to her body to make sure she couldn’t conceive.

Diana didn’t like to think about the ramifications of that idea, so she changed what she was about to say.

“I don’t trust Stuart. He’s a bad person, violent, and he wants to change, but I don’t trust him yet. He has to earn my trust,” Diana said.

The second alien lifted one fist and the golden words vanished, to be replaced by one word in fluffy blue smoke.

Good.

The aliens vanished. Diana couldn’t see how they’d gone; it was as if they had paused time and gotten away before restarting Diana and Stuart, though she had felt no hiccup or interruption. There was no remnant left of the messages the aliens had written in the air.

“Well,” Stuart said, his arms immobile around her. She didn’t know what to do at all, and when Stuart gingerly let go and moved to sit down on the edge of the bed, Diana turned and climbed out of the window again.

She didn’t know what she’d expected the aliens to say, but she really hadn’t thought they’d ask about kids.

Diana sat down on the roof and in a few minutes, Stuart came out and stood next to her.

“Do you want to have a blanket or something?” Stuart asked. He sat a little distance from her. Diana shook her head and looked over at him.

“Thanks. I’ll just sit,” Diana said. She cleared her throat and studied the ice bubble that encased their house.

“What did they mean, break off? Would they have taken me back if you’d chosen the break off option?” Stuart asked.

“No,” Diana said, chewing on her bottom lip. Stuart glanced around at the ice bubble and then went back to staring at her. She could feel his eyes on her and was tempted to shift away.

“Will you tell me what you think, please?” Stuart asked. Diana glanced at him, tempted to smile.

“Are you afraid of what they’ll do?” Diana asked.

“I’m worried about you,” Stuart said.

This, Diana was sure, was a lie, and she turned away and stared at the cool white glow drifting from their dome of ice.

“You’re good at understanding them. What would they have done?” Stuart asked.

She could have told him that they shouldn’t talk about the aliens openly, but Diana felt angry, and restless, and a sensation of cold irritation was moving through her body, and had been ever since the aliens had broached the topic of reproduction. I don’t want to have a baby, Diana thought, repressing a shiver. Because she was angry, she answered Stuart honestly.

“They’ll bring in a girl, an older girl as good-looking as you, and see if they can make me jealous. They’re exploring my emotional range,” Diana said, putting her chin on her arms. She imagined the aliens chuckling in their strange, ugly laughter at what she said.

“You mean they would have done that? Why did you say they will?” Stuart asked.

“They want to know. Since we said we wouldn’t willingly copulate, they’ll bring an older female specimen and try again, and then watch me to see how I’ll handle it. How I will handle you and another girl,” Diana said.

Stuart was staring at her with a mixture of anger and disgust in his eyes.

“Well, I won’t. They’ll have to kill me,” Stuart said.

Diana looked at him with a smile, because she was completely sure Stuart did not know how he would react if the aliens did bring in a new female. She didn’t want to think about what she would do if the aliens dropped off a boy closer to her own age.

Diana shivered and Stuart stood up.

“Look, do you move around when you sleep?” Stuart said.

“I’m fine, Stu. You can go to bed,” Diana said. He looked at her for a long time and then nodded and went away. Diana thought she’d gotten rid of him, but Stuart came back with a couple of blankets and a pillow.

“Here,” he said, setting the bedding down next to her. Stuart moved a little down on the roof and sat down below Diana, his back to her and his eyes on the ice.

Diana would have told him to go away, but she recognized the ridge of tension through his shoulders, and she knew he would never leave her alone now. She sighed and went over to the other side of the roof. Diana had just sat down when she heard Stuart following her. He dragged the blankets and pillow over near her and then sat down a little lower on the roof, facing away.

Diana found Stuart exhausting. She felt bitter, irritated, and very angry with the aliens, and because the prospect of running away from Stuart all night was extremely tedious to her, Diana vengefully cuddled up in the blanket and pretended to go to sleep.

She lay very still, hoping that Stuart would go away or fall asleep eventually so she could get up and shake him off, but after an hour she peeked enough to see and found that he was still sitting there, staring out at the ice.

“I know you aren’t sleeping, Di,” Stuart said.

“Don’t call me that,” Diana said automatically. Being so still and quiet had, in many ways, reset her body and mind to the original state of their relationship, and she was very surprised to see Stuart’s body sag a little. “Are you sad?” Diana demanded, because she felt reckless and alone.

“Yeah, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you,” Stuart said.

“This isn’t your fault,” Diana said, ignoring what he meant and pretending he’d been talking about the current situation with the aliens.

“Yeah, this is my fault, Di,” Stuart said, turning and looking at her. Diana’s eyebrows climbed.

“How so?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you most of it. Talking about what goes on is not allowed, but I can tell you that this is my fault. You being saved out like this. I asked for you. I wanted you. This is me,” Stuart said.

Diana stood up, the blankets coiling around her legs. Stuart looked up at her. She sat down again, her mind racing.

Diana wanted to ask what things were like in the alien ship, or ships. She had no idea if there were a lot of them, or one big vessel. Diana wanted to ask Stuart if she would be worse off up there than down here, but a warning sense in her body told her this was a disastrous question that would bring the aliens down again.

Diana licked her lips and noticed for the first time how Stuart was looking at her.

“Do you like me?” Diana demanded, her voice rising a little.

Stuart looked away.

Well, shoot, Diana thought, staring at the boy who had made her life a living hell for the last ten years.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, someone is spreading gossip about old Frederick M.

Dragons Again

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Here’s a concept sketch for the MC in my dragon book, who, in this scene, was caught in a fight between a couple of the beasts. His middle got torn open and his wife is off looking for a doctor. The red dragon is Sance, who used to be a horse.

Sample

Afterwards

Diana was fourteen and Stuart was seventeen years old, and the first big issue in her mind, aside from the unraveling sense of disgust at having her old tormenter kissing her, was that he was way too old.

Diana couldn’t see her way into breaking off the exchange without essentially telling the aliens she wasn’t willing to play along anymore, and Stuart was only kissing her. To Diana’s enormous frustration, he was also very good at kissing.

Stuart drew back a little, his hand around her cheek and his eyes doing a sort of downcast shy business that Diana thought must look incredibly charming to the aliens. She told herself that Stuart had finally figured out how to play along in a way that would placate the aliens, and she really hoped that he was going to maintain some sense of balance in this whole building-a-fake-relationship scenario.

“Will you come to bed, sweetie?” Stuart asked.

Diana was in an odd fix. What she wanted to do was stand up on the roof and say, ‘Ew, no!’, and then do her best to shove Stuart off the house and hopefully give him a few broken bones. However, she was not yet willing to escalate the situation, and Diana was completely sure, from her interactions with the aliens so far, that they would react really badly to her becoming violent.

Her relationship to the aliens, such as it was right now in her mind, rested on the basis of her being more interesting and civil than the majority of the humans they’d interacted with. She had no idea how the aliens had lit on her as a piece of entertainment, or if they had other isolated human pairs scattered over the neighborhood or the world, but she was completely sure, based on how they had reacted to different things she’d done, that the aliens found her moral composition enlivening and possibly admirable.

Diana, therefore, saw any descent into cruelty or outright vicious behavior on her part as a kind of red flag to the aliens. She as pretty sure they’d either kill her or put her into those experimental tubes Stuart had mentioned if she stopped being positive and exciting. Diana kept herself from shoving Stuart away, though the nearness of his mouth and the very familiar touch of his hand was  making her body crawl with anger.

She hadn’t been able to think of anything she was willing to say in response to Stuart’s question, and he leaned in and kissed her again.

Stop, Diana wanted to say. Go away, you disgusting old man, she would have liked to shout, but he was being awfully respectful in the way he was touching her, and Diana found the balance between the threat of the aliens, and whatever they might do, and the known entity of Stuart to weigh heavily on Stuart’s side.

“Come on, Di. Let me take care of you,” Stuart said, doing a sort of nuzzling motion that made Diana’s heart flip over.

Diana examined her options. As she saw it, she had three choices. One, she could respond the way her body and soul wanted and attempt to murder Stuart. She was quite sure she would get nowhere with such an attempt, and knew from experience that Stuart would be able to physically stop her before she hurt him at all, and she was equally convinced that the aliens could come down again and break up a fight that she started.

Diana was pretty confident that the aliens would give up on this little social experiment if she attacked Stuart, and that she would find herself in whatever plight the rest of humanity presumably now suffered.

Two, Diana reflected, she could go along with Stuart and try to get him to lose his temper badly enough for the aliens to remove him again. If this happened, she thought, the aliens would bring another companion, and Diana found, when she remembered the very brief visit of the boy named James, that she really preferred the familiar Stuart to anyone else. She knew his limits and his buttons, and he cooperated with her far better than James had. Diana didn’t want to get caught into a one-sided exchange and have the aliens discard her out of boredom.

The third option Diana saw, as Stuart touched his lips very gently against her cheek, was that she could trust Stuart. Let me take care of you, he had said, and his voice, Diana thought, had sounded strangely sensible.

Maybe he’s woken up to the danger of our position, and decided to align with me because I’m human, Diana thought, and she chose the third option, as it seemed the most likely to give her more time to think.

Diana didn’t try to answer Stuart’s question about going to bed with words. She had no intention of engaging with him beyond this sort of light, innocuous kissing, but she figured she could turn ugly and draw down the aliens if Stuart got ideas about being handsy. She let out a slightly exaggerated sigh, as if she’d been pining secretly for Stuart all the time, and moved over into his lap.

Yes, that’s it, Diana thought, the second her body got up against Stuart, who cradled her in a protective sort of way and then picked her up.

Diana could feel success, and taste it. She knew she’d just won a huge victory with the aliens; she could practically feel their approval singing through her veins as Stuart carried her down the roof and back to the bedroom window.

A pair of hideous aliens were waiting in the dark bedroom when Stuart helped her climb through the window.

Diana stared at them as Stuart climbed in after her and put his arms around her from behind.

Diana was too distracted by the shadowed forms of the aliens to tighten as much as she normally would have against Stuart’s body. He was being, Diana thought, awfully respectful, and acting more like a protective big brother than any kind of lover, though he made sure to nestle his cheek against her in a good approximation of affection.

The room was very dark. One of the aliens lifted a hand, and a white, burning script began to appear in the air. Diana wondered why they weren’t speaking this time as she and Stuart read the words.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Simon’s wife is asking the dragon queen to read the future for her.

Lava Magic

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Here is an experimental rough sketch of Delmar making some lava dragons. Delmar’s the main male character from my long fantasy series that’s in workshopping mode right now. I’m balancing out the bits that are missing positive magic (which means dragons, because yay).

Sample

Uneasy Waiting

Stuart ate in the living room and Diana poked through the several containers in the kitchen and found one kind of goo that didn’t taste like cardboard. The house had no power, and Diana prodded at the white mash and put it on a plate in an effort to look civilized.

When she cleared up she had no idea what to do with the boxes of alien food, as the refrigerator was dark and without any power, so she packed the boxes up and left them in a stack on the kitchen table. Diana washed up the dishes she’d used and wandered out into the living room.

Stuart was sitting on the love seat with a book, though the room was too dark for him to see the words.

“Goodnight,” Diana said, heading towards the stairs.

“Okay,” Stuart said, lunging up to his feet and following her.

Diana kept herself from reacting, though her first instinct was to run. She knew the aliens were watching to see if she was afraid of Stuart, so she walked with measured steps upstairs and pretended not to feel the slight warmth of Stuart at her back.

Diana knew he wasn’t going to leave her alone, but her heart still dropped when he followed her into one of the bedrooms.

“I’m going to stand here by the window and wait for the sun to come up,” Diana said with a cheerful smile.

“Cool,” Stuart said, kicking off his shoes and flopping onto the bed.

Diana stood by the open window and stared out at the wall of frozen water that formed their prison bubble. The surface of the enclosure was about thirty feet from her window, and arched gracefully up out of sight. She held perfectly still and studied the variegated texture of the ice until Stuart’s breathing deepened.

Diana looked around at him. As usual, he looked cherubic when asleep. Diana made a face at the contradiction of his angelic looks in sleep with his usual violent and awful character, and she was perfectly aware of the tug in her heart, the sense of ‘I’m glad it’s Stuart and not that other guy.’

Diana sighed and climbed out of the open window. The house was completely thawed, and the shingles on the roof were warm to the touch. Diana walked over the roof to the highest point and sat down astride the peak, looking up at the ice bubble surrounding their current home.

The ice here was only a few feet above her head, and when she stretched her fingers and stood up, she brushed against the surface, which was hard and cool to the touch.

Diana moved onto the slope of the roof and lay down on her back, closing her eyes to think.

She didn’t know how much time had passed before she heard the crunch of footsteps coming towards her. Darn, Diana thought, and pretended not to hear.

“You want to come to bed, honey?” Stuart asked. He sat down next to her. Diana’s heart and body were doing a combination of a screaming fest and rage cartwheels. She couldn’t tell if she was freaked out or angry, more.

“I like it out here, thanks,” Diana said without opening her eyes. She was able to keep her voice from shaking at all, which pleased her. She felt Stuart slide down a little and relax next to her, and she fought to urge to move far away.

“Are you gonna fight with me about how I’m calling you pet names, dear?” Stuart asked, sounding almost normal. Usually his tone was full of terrifying threats, light shadows of things he was thinking of doing to Diana, but he sounded, just now, practically like an average boy on a sleepover with a friend.

Diana smiled and opened her eyes, looking over at him.

She saw the look in his eyes and stopped smiling. Stuart looked . . . fond.

Diana fought the urge to throw up. She closed her eyes and settled on the roof, trying with all her might to keep from jumping off the house.

“So you’ve figured out that you do love me. I wondered how long it would take you to realize how much you care,” Diana said, the playful lilt in her voice a complete opposite to the fiery terror raging in her veins. This is it, Diana told herself; this is the point where he breaks my face and the aliens sit back and watch.

She held herself still, waiting for the first taunting laugh, or the impact of Stuart’s fist. She felt a feathery brush of skin against her cheek and barely held back from jumping away.

“Yeah, I guess I did figure it out. You’re pretty, Di,” Stuart said.

Diana wanted to scream. She smiled.

“Aw, thanks Stu,” Diana said. She really didn’t want the aliens to figure out how she felt, so she kept a playful grin on her face.

“Hey, look at me,” Stuart said. Diana braced herself against more awful feelings and looked over at Stuart. The night was dark, but the ice lent a vague white glow to the roof, and she could clearly see his face.

Stuart didn’t look at all the way she’d expected him to look. He looked sad, and not in an ‘I’m trapped by aliens who have been torturing me’ kind of way, but in a reflective, mature way. It was a kind of expression she’d never seen in his eyes at all. Diana blinked and rose up a little on one elbow.

“What?” Diana asked.

Stuart’s eyes did a thing that Diana couldn’t describe but that she understood perfectly well. He was sorry. He wanted to apologize to her, and wouldn’t because of the aliens, which meant to Diana that he actually meant it.

Well, crap, Diana thought. Stuart reached out again and touched her hair. Diana’s insides were vibrating with the need to scramble away, or to fling herself off the roof, or to thrust Stuart’s hand away, but she held perfectly still and cocked an eyebrow at him.

Diana was absolutely convinced that the aliens were watching and loving this, and she was pretty sure she was giving them exactly what they’d been looking for in the first place when they’d asked her to demonstrate home. Stupid aliens, Diana thought, but she wanted more humans, and the aliens had promised her more companions if she was entertaining enough.

“Well, Stu,” Diana said, meaning to launch into another attack to make Stuart blush. Before she could go on, he leaned in and kissed her.

Oh, crap, Diana thought.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the next stage of the hunt is being diagrammed on some poster board.

Character Renovations

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This is Sance (the dragon) and the two main characters from my fantasy book that I’m partially redrafting. It’s a super rough sketch, but I’m working on building foundations for figures right now.

One of the characters in that book is undergoing major renovations currently; what I’m doing is going through his scenes over and over again and lifting his language and reactions up into positivity to make him a net plus on the pacing. I’m doing this slowly to be sure I don’t just ratchet him up into absurd happiness and froth by contrast.

He’s sort of a negative miser in the damaged bits of the draft. Anyhow, here is some Diana:

Sample

Enemies Again

“Are we expected to touch each other, sweetheart?” Stuart asked, his expression carefully mild and his tone polite.

“What did they do to you? Are you okay?” Diana demanded.

“I’m fine, honey. Try this one. I think it’s the least objectionable when it comes to flavor,” Stuart said, pushing a container of food towards her on the floor.

“Stu, talk to me,” Diana said.

“I am talking,” Stuart said, his face neutral but the slightest flash of annoyance in his eyes.

“You’re not answering my questions. Are you all right?” Diana asked.

Stuart stood up, and all the instincts for ‘run away now’ flared up in Diana’s body, though she remained perfectly still.

Stuart saw the stress flood through her body and his mouth twitched. Diana smiled, though she would have liked to hurl several things at Stuart’s head.

“I’m fine. Are you hungry?” Stuart asked.

“Not particularly. What was the alien ship like?” Diana asked.

“I’m not saying anything about that. That’s not to do with us,” Stuart said, speaking so quickly that Diana was sure he had been given instructions on the subject.

“Well I’m not afraid of you, so we’ve cleared that up,” Diana said, studying Stuart’s body to see if he would make the usual posture that meant he was going to threaten her. Stuart remained still, and Diana started to feel sort of sick. She wasn’t at all sure of what the aliens wanted from her anymore. She knew they’d been watching her very closely, and she suspected she was forming some manner of entertainment to them, but now that she’d interacted directly with the aliens, and now that Stuart was unrestrained and apparently able to be himself, Diana felt adrift.

The scenario before had been a game to her, but with the alien’s challenge to prove she wasn’t afraid, Diana had the uncomfortable feeling that the aliens would not interfere so rapidly if Stuart decided to attack her.

Hm, Diana thought, watching Stuart, who was looking just as carefully at her.

“Well, let’s sit at the table, then. Will you get out some cutlery?” Diana asked, shaking off her sense of impending doom and going to a cupboard for plates.

“No, honey, we can eat right out of the containers,” Stuart said, a slow smile crossing his cheeks.

“How much of a fight are you going to make about this, Stu?” Diana asked, her hand in the cupboard.

“We’re demonstrating home, right? Well, I’m the kind of guy who eats takeout on the couch. With my bare hands,” Stuart said, grabbing up a pair of the alien boxes and sauntering out of the kitchen.

Diana leaned against the counter for a moment and counted to ten. I will stay calm. I will not yell at Stuart, Diana told herself, and she got out place settings just for herself.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the hunting group is about to go after some beautiful birds.

Just a chunk of story

I’m still mad about a whole lot of things. And tired. Meh. Here’s some Diana, though.

And here’s a sketch-slash-color scheme for the second book’s cover from my fantasy series I’m still working on.

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Sample

The Production Meeting

Diana waited and waited, staring up at the ceiling with her hands on her hips. Stuart watched her and then dipped his finger into the corner of his box and took a cautious taste of the alien food.

“Mm,” Stuart said with a frown. “This one tastes like mud. How’s yours?” he asked, the cheerful note in his voice a tiny bit forced.

Diana made no reply, her eyes on the ceiling and her mouth in a fixed, patient line.

“Um,” Stuart said, shifting a little. He went to the backpack and the stack of boxes and started to sample the other containers, which held a variety of yellow, white, and green mashed foods. “This one’s not so bad. It’s kind of like a, um, a really thick pea soup. A little sour. Do you want some? Di?” Stuart asked.

Diana stared at the ceiling and waited some more, and Stuart, looking supremely uncomfortable, set down his latest box of food and sat down on the floor to wait with her.

Diana stood and Stuart sat on the floor. Her eyes were on the ceiling and his eyes were on her. After several minutes passed, Stuart fidgeted a little, but Diana made no sign that she noticed. Stuart stood up.

“Sit and wait, Stu,” Diana said without looking at him. Stuart blushed and awkwardly sat down again, folding his hands together and looking as if he felt totally ridiculous.

Diana kept her face clear of any expression, and at the end of a very long, quiet half an hour, an alien walked into the room. The pair of glowing lights above their heads dimmed and then turned a purple color. The alien lowered its hood, revealing a lumpy, elongated face with three eyes in a ragged line up the side of one cheek and a diagonally tilted mouth stretching over its forehead.

“What do you want, Diana Vassel?” the alien asked in a voice like breaking glass. Diana was too angry to wince, though she saw Stuart curl his shoulders inwards. Stuart’s reaction to the alien was more, Diana thought, than just a response to the noise. He looked like a frightened animal, and Diana experienced a bright flash of rage.

No one, she told herself, has any right to make Stuart feel badly except for me.

“You asked me to demonstrate home. I cannot do so effectively with constant interference of my management with my companion.  He’s in love with me and you’re scaring him. Fear destroys love,” Diana said, her voice bright and full of indignant distain. The alien let out a brief, hideous laugh, its mouth opening and closing with a flutter of misshapen lips.

“You are a clever combatant, Diana Vassel, and you have fans and admirers among my people, but you are not strong enough to contain the human’s rage. He will touch you, will he not?” the alien asked.

“I haven’t got any objection to him not touching me, Mr. Alien. I have got all sorts of problems with you electrifying him or whatever because you want to shape his response in normal conversation. If you want to play prison cell, then you’ll have to replace me, because I won’t do this. Either he’s mine and I show you home, or else you find some other girl to demonstrate domicile. Stuart had a home. He could do your work for you, I guess, but you can’t treat him like this and expect me to show you anything. You’re making him afraid,” Diana said.

“You are afraid of him,” the alien said.

Stuart was sitting and staring down at his hands with wide eyes, his body completely still. Diana wondered what he was thinking, which was something she’d never done before in her life.

“I hate him. That’s not being afraid,” Diana said.

“I saw you from above. I watched when first you saw the Stuart human. You felt fear,” the alien said.

“I experienced visceral disgust and aversion, which are completely different to fear. I hate Stuart; I don’t fear him,” Diana said.

The alien looked at Diana for a long time with its mouth stretched in what she thought was a smile.

“Prove it,” the alien said quietly, and then it vanished.

The lights turned white and bright again, and as Diana blinked against the renewed glare, she saw that Stuart’s yellow head restraint was gone.

Hm, Diana thought, as Stuart looked up into her eyes.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a couple of government officials are interfering with the hunt (checking permits and whatnot).

Cyborg Prep Sketch

sketch 9

This is Ethan, who is from my alien invasion/cyborg series that I’m working on. Basically some aliens come across Earth and absorb it into their empire as a cool garden planet, and they take humans as interesting worker bees in the form of cyborgs.

The series is about how the humans form a little rebel group and fight back against the aliens. Yay cyborg books!

And here is some Diana:

Sample

Calm Before the Crisis

Diana and Stuart had cleaned the house until there was nothing left to do in the way of surface organization. They had running water, but no electricity or heat, and Diana grabbed the metal alien backpack and hauled it into the kitchen.

Night had fallen, and balmy, sweet-smelling air was blowing through the open windows of the house. They were in the shadowy kitchen and could hardly see each other.

“So what is this? This is food?” Stuart asked, folding his arms and watching Diana unpack a series of clear boxes from the metal backpack.

“I think so. It looks like some kind of edible stuff. What should we do for light?” Diana asked. As soon as she’d spoken, a strange buzz came through the ceiling above them and the light fixture exploded. Shards of glass flew through the kitchen and Diana and Stuart instinctively ducked, putting their arms above their heads.

A soft glow and a hum filled up the kitchen. Diana looked cautiously up. One of the massive, shadowy aliens was standing over Stuart, who appeared to have been frozen.

“Is he okay?” Diana asked, her heart pounding violently in her chest.

“This wiring management. Weak,” the alien said in a screeching voice that made Diana clench her jaw to keep from wincing. The alien’s words felt like they were tearing holes in her ears.

“But is Stuart okay?” Diana asked. The tall alien, who was, to Diana’s eternal gratitude, wearing a hood over its presumably hideous face, let go of Stuart and crossed to her with a sliding, strangely fast step.

Diana remained completely still, hiding the fear she felt behind a friendly smile. The alien put a large, misshapen hand over Diana’s face and studied her from the shadow cast by the deep hood.

“He is fine. You still hate him?” the alien asked, sounding strangely invested, like a person inquiring after the love life of a celebrity. As soon as the alien had asked this, he vanished with a light squawk. Diana got the impression that someone in charge had snatched the alien away.

Stuart came alive again, blinking and then flinching and looking up at the ceiling, which was lit with a pair of soft, glowing orbs of white light just next to the broken fixture.

“What happened?” Stuart asked.

Diana had the sudden gut feeling that she’d better not answer him truthfully. She thought the aliens were getting sort of excited about whatever game they were playing with her and Stuart, and she didn’t want them to escalate or take one of them away.

“We were going to find out about this food,” Diana said.

“The aliens came, didn’t–” Stuart’s words broke into a long, vicious hiss and his body tensed. “Sorry. Won’t do it again,” Stuart said in a tight voice. His body slumped with relief. “So, food,” Stuart said cheerfully, coming a little closer to the pile of unpacked boxes and then stopping. He’d been maintaining a careful distance from Diana ever since he’d come back with that yellow metal thing around the back of his head. Diana stared at Stuart’s careful friendliness and started to feel really mad.

“Yeah, Stu, food. I bet this is all edible. Here, you try this one. We’ll each taste one and see if they’re good at all,” Diana said, pushing a box across the floor to Stuart, who stooped and picked it up.

“It looks like mashed cauliflower,” Stuart remarked, peeling open his box.

“Mine is green,” Diana said, frowning and examining the contents of her box.

“Should we try them at the same time?” Stuart asked, laughing and looking up at her.

Diana felt burned by the friendliness in his eyes. She started to feel rage at the aliens for interfering between her and Stuart, and she set down her box of greenish, lumpy food and stood up, putting her hands on her hips and glaring up at the ceiling.

“I’d like to have a production conference with someone in charge, okay?” Diana said, and she looked around at the ceiling and waited for the aliens to respond.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the hunter is negotiating the sale of a rare zoological specimen to a science team.