Thursday, April 30, 2020

A to Z Challenge, Part 26: Z is for Zig aka Zero Inertia Gravity Drive and Camp NaNoWriMo

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge and Camp NaNoWriMo.
I struggled to get this story to the end point I initially planned. It feels rushed, but I did get here. The whole book is getting a serious revision. I wrote it so quickly, changed the spellings for certain things, changed a bit of the plot as I went. But, on the whole, I'm proud of what I produced in less than a month (I finished it earlier and started book 2). 

Part 26: Z is for Zig aka Zero Inertia Gravity Drive

“Zero Inertia Gravity Drive, countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ZIG.” Galer stated calmly.

This time, Amaya tapped the photo-medicine button twice, and she was mostly prepared for the gut-wrenching jump through space. She even kept her eyes mostly open to see a blinding blur of stars in the black.

When they slowed, the blue Earth hung like a jewel in the dark sky. The sun was behind them. The moon, in her orbit, looked calm. Amaya breathed a long sigh of relief. Home. She was home again. Or at least in orbit.

“How do you plan to land our ship?” Prya asked.

Amaya pulled her lips between her teeth, trying to think. She glanced at Sol, then the Sergeant Jayal, to Tanwen, Galer, then back to Prya, sitting straight in her Captain’s chair console. “My mom settled us outside of town on some farmland. I know that won’t help with getting past any of the military, but there aren’t any neighbors for several miles.”

Prya nodded curtly. “We’ll take care of the detection issues.” She tilted her head to Sol. “Cloaking online.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“I don’t suppose you know coordinates, like longitude and latitude?” She asked Amaya.

“Um,” Amaya knew them. She’d always thought her mom was oddly obsessed with knowing latitude and longitude for wherever they lived, but now … things from her odd childhood were weirdly falling into place. “45.6745° N, 111.0421° W.”

“And, how do you know them so well?” Sol gazed at her.

“My mom.” Amaya shrugged. “She was always weirdly obsessed with my knowledge of our coordinates, as well as our street address. I didn’t understand it … until now.”

“She sounds like a wise woman.” Tanwen stated.

The Rattieri Sergeant laughed. “A wise Rattieri spy knows how to get found and how to be hidden.”

“That is the case with Terr spies, as well.” Galer said, quietly. He glanced at Amaya. “Do you know if … your mother is Terr or Rattieri?”

Amaya shook her head. “No.” She put her hand to her necklace, but didn’t show it to them.

“It does not matter now.” Prya stated calmly. “Lock in the coordinates, Galer. Take us down.”

“What of my Captain?” Sergeant Jayal demanded.

His words were lost as the ship dipped nose first and flew swiftly towards the surface of the Earth. The atmospheric entry created a cacophony of noise. Once they reached a visual distance from Bozeman, Montana, Galer corned the ship and backed it down onto the land near Amaya’s home, just on the other side of a copse of trees.

“The Rattieri ships were detected on our entry.” Sol tapped the buttons on his console. “And that detection has led the defense forces to recognize our entry as well. We have only a few minutes until they arrive.”

“I need to get my mom.” Amaya unstrapped herself and raced out of the command console, not waiting for anyone to follow her.

As she exited the ship, she saw her mother coming out of the house, wearing an outfit she’d never seen before, carrying a huge military duffel bag.


“Amaya!” Her mom threw her arms around Amaya and hugged her close. “We have to leave, now. I don’t have time to explain everything, but your dad will do what he can to scramble the military defense of our planet. He’ll buy us time to leave.”

“Mom? Dad knew? What?” Amaya felt the tears she’d been holding back under all of her bravado start to well up in her eyes.

“I’m coming with you. You’re too important to lose to any Earth squabbling.”

Amaya followed her mother back into the ship.

When her mother saw Prya, she put her fist to her heart. “Captain. I am the daughter of Nerya and the daughter of Cayal, Terr and Rattieri nobility. I ask for asylum for myself and my daughter.”

“You’re daughter is the Ratayana. Asylum has already been granted.” Prya put her hand out. 
“Welcome, mother of Amaya, daughter of Nerya and Cayal."

Sol came out of the command console, attempting to straighten the mechanic’s coveralls he still wore. “Ma’am, I am Sol Terr, and I have accepted the vow of your daughter.” He held out his hand.

Amaya’s mother just stared at his hand, then she looked at Amaya. “You have some explaining to do. You may need to rescind that vow.”

“Mom.” Amaya felt a stubbornness rise up in her. “You have explaining to do. Sol is a friend. He’s protected me. Helped me. And, I do not rescind my vow.” She took the hand that Sol held out and held it in her own. “We stand together.”

Sol squeezed her hand.

She looked up into his gold-flecked green eyes, felt his strangely thin fingers between her own, and knew she’d made the right choice.

Her mother sighed. “You have a lot to learn.”

“Respectfully, we need to leave, Ratayana.” Prya reminded them.

Sergeant Jayal walked over to them. “I’ll take your mother to med-bay, Ratayana.” He put his fist to his heart.

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Amaya saluted him in return. She glanced at her mother. “Sergeant Jayal will help you get settled for flight, mom.”

“Good. I need you on the command center, for any ship to ship communications with Captain Rayal.” Captain Prya said. “Thank you for understanding, Sergeant Jayal.”

He nodded curtly at her and took the duffel bag from Amaya’s mom.


“It’s all right, mom.” Amaya hugged her mom again, then turned to walk back to the command center.

Once she was strapped in, she gazed out of the viewport at her home. It hadn’t really been her home all that long, but it represented everything she’d known on Earth, everything she realized she had to leave behind. Home had to become where her heart resided, where she could be free and safe, where she had a purpose.

“Let’s go.” She nodded to Prya.

Galer started the ship’s engines. Prya gave the command.

They lifted off the surface and flew to the stars.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A to Z Challenge, Part 25: Y is for You

CRASH - a SF Romance Adventure Novelette/Novella
Part 25: Y of the A to Z Challenge and Camp NaNoWriMo.
As you may have realized by now, this story went a little farther, deeper, and out of control than I had first planned, so the wrap up tomorrow will only be a partial wrap of one issue in the story. More will come. (Sorry to disappoint! I really didn't mean to write a series/cliff-hanger.)

“You know they don’t always keep their word.” Sol whispered this to Amaya as she entered his aunt and uncle’s space ship through the movie theater lobby.
Amaya didn’t look at him. From what she’d gain from the Terr memory cube, she knew their hatred of the Raitterians ran deep and raw, from a hundred years of assassination attempts, conflicts, and contempt. But underneath, their cultures were very similar, branched from similar roots. She wondered how their biology came to be so similar to human biology.
“Amaya,” Sol whispered again.
“I heard you, Terr Sol, Prince of the Realm.” She knew who he was now. Royalty, nobility, a member of one of the families who had gained the most from the ongoing war with the Raitterians. She wondered if he realized his complicity.
Instead of going to the med-bay, Galer wanted to be put into his seat in the command center. Prya and Chol helped him to his seat, and he immediately used the photo-meds hooked into his console.
“These will keep me steady until we get where we need to go, with our escort.” His lips twisted on the last word.
“We are here to make sure the Rayatana stays safe.” Sergeant Jayal took up a position inside the box office command center, strapping into a jump seat which folded down from the wall. He looked at Gunner Bay. “Take the perimeter.”
“Yes, Sergeant.” She nodded at him, and walked outside the box office, which freed up some of the space inside.
Chol went for the seat previously occupied by Amaya.
“No, Chol.” Prya stopped him. “Amaya will sit there, Tanwen will sit in the jump seat behind her, Sol will have his usual seat, and you will take a seat in the med-bay, the safest place outside of this booth.
“Take Gunner Bay with you.” Sergeant Jayal stated stiffly.
“Aren’t you afraid she’ll fall to my charm?” Chol purred in his sexiest voice.
Amaya rolled her shoulders and gritted her teeth. Chol’s voice might hit her deep, but it was also annoying to see how much he could affect her, even when she knew what he was doing.
“She’s smarter than that.” Sergeant Jayal glared at Chol.
“Sure.” Chol said. “Until we meet again, Rayatan.” Chol grabbed Amaya’s hand and pressed a sloppy kiss on the outside of it.
She pulled away, but as she did, she felt him slip something into her fingers. “That’s disgusting, creep.”
Chol waggled his eyebrows. “Oh, you say that now.” He laughed and sauntered out of the room.
Next to Amaya, Sol sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, Amaya.”
For some reason, his apology for his cousin’s behavior made her laugh. “He’s obnoxious, but he didn’t take me from my home.”
“As I vowed, I will make it up to you, even if it takes me a lifetime.”
Amaya glanced at him, saw the sincerity in his eyes, and looked away, before he could see how much his words affected her. She swallowed nervously. What was she going to do about this mess?
“To Earth, Rayatan?” Prya asked.
“Yes. Let’s go home.”

Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette: X is for Xia

This is part 24 of a 26-part novelette. Somehow, I have to wrap it up in two more segments. They may go long.

CRASH, Part 24: X is for Xia
To read the rest of the story, scroll back through my old posts or go to the Wattpad story.

“Xia’s oath, you are the Ratayana.” Captain Rayal put one hand on his knee and stood up slowly, gasping for breath.

Amaya watched him, taking slow deep breaths. She didn’t think any of her ribs were cracked or even bruised, but she wasn’t sure. The one hit he’d given her to her chest had hurt deep. She had to be careful about what she said next. While he was convinced and Tanwen was convinced of her tri-world heritage, she wasn’t sure. If she accepted it, what did it mean for her, now and in the future? What did even accepting the debt of Tanwen and the promise of Sol really mean? Was she tied to them forever? Did she want to be? She wanted to go home.

Captain Rayal finally finished standing up, but when he did, he put his fist to his heart and bowed low from the waist. “Command me, Ratayana Amaya. I am yours.”

Amaya wanted to look to Tanwen for help, or to Sol for some insight, but instead, she put her open hand to her heart and bowed her head slightly. “I am honored, Captain Rayal. I am in need of a safe passage to Earth.”

“Of course, I would be honored to give you a ride to that planet.”

Tanwen stirred slightly in the periphery of Amaya’s vision.

“I would prefer to take the Terr ship to Earth with your ship as an escort, Captain Rayal.”

Captain Rayal narrowed his eyes slightly, but he nodded. “And after you return to Earth, what is to become of the Terr ship and the royals?”

“I have yet to decide, Captain Rayal. Be sure that I will deal with them, as needed.”

“I have ownership of the vessel, as a captured vessel of the thousand-year war.”

“You have need of an S-29 class ship outfitted to blend in as an Earth movie theater?” Amaya asked him. “Did you plan to infiltrate Earth, as the Terr did? Or, have you already done so?”

Captain Rayal dropped his eyes to the ground. “The Raitterians have scouts on Earth, as the Terr do. It is not my area.”

“So, you have no need of the ship. I do.” Amaya stated calmly. “If you are to be under my command, you will have to accept this.”

“And what of my prisoners?”

“I have need of them.” Amaya stated. She wasn’t going to explain herself to him, especially as she had no idea of what she was really doing. And, she didn’t want to appear weak. Yes, that was it.

“I would like two of my officers to fly with you, to ensure your safety with the Terr.” Captain Rayal glanced back at his crew as he said this. They had started to grow restless during the conversation, obviously unhappy with Amaya’s ability to bully their Captain.

“Of course,” Amaya stated.

“Sergeant Jayal and Gunner Bay will accompany you.” Captain Rayal pointed to two different Raiterrians in turn, a tall man with red hair woven in dreads, and a stocky woman with close-cropped dark curls and skin darker than midnight.

The two glanced at each other, saluted their captain and stepped forward to stand next to him. Sergeant Jayal didn’t even look at Amaya, preferring to look over her head. Gunner Bay glared at her.
So be it. Amaya knew she could handle them. And, if she couldn’t, the others could.

“Then, let us be on our way.” Amaya nodded to Captain Rayal.

Captain Rayal gave her a short salute, and stepped back. He turned to his crew. “Let them pass!”

The crew slowly parted, crowded to either side of the gangway exiting the cargo bay.

With her head held high, Amaya walked past Captain Rayal and the crew, with Tanwen to her right side, Sol to her left, and the two Raiterrians on the outside of them. She hoped the others were able to keep up the pace, especially with Gelar’s injuries. She couldn’t appear weak and they needed off this ship.

Monday, April 27, 2020

A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette, Part 23: W for War

Part 23 W of a 26-part novelette for the A to Z Challenge and for Camp NaNoWriMo

CRASH, a SF, Romance, Adventure Novelette. Earlier parts can be found by scrolling through my old blog posts or reading the story on Wattpad.

Note: This section went a bit longer than planned.

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

Amaya remembered this quote by Tolkien, a favorite of her martial arts teacher, as they re-entered the cargo bay on the way out.

The exit was blocked by at least two dozen Ratters.

Sol let go of his uncle Galer and came to stand next to her. “Amaya, I understand you do not like killing, but I don’t think we’re going to get out of this without it.” His voice sounded strained.
She looked at him. “If you don’t have a choice. If it is self-defense. I understand. But, not until then.”

“I will follow your lead.” He nodded to her, but he had his weapons in his hands.

“May I speak?” Tanwen offered.

Amaya took a step back.

Tanwen stepped between them and the Ratters and held up her hands.

“Raiterrians and Terras, still your weapons for the woman of three worlds, the Rayatana Terr-Human.”

Tanwen made a sweeping gesture to indicate Amaya.

Amaya’s mouth dropped open slightly, then she closed it and tilted her chin upward, trying to look the part, but she thought she probably just looked foolish.

“The Rayatana is a myth!” One of the Ratters, the one wearing the most metal on his space jacket, stated. He held his weapon in the air, but he kept the nose of it tilted upward. “And, if she is not, then she can prove herself to us.”

Amaya felt her skin prickle in fear, but if she could prove herself, they could get out of here without bloodshed. But, how and what did they expect her to do?

“She has proven herself to me already.” Tanwen stated simply. “And you know who and what I am.”

“You’re a valuable prisoner. And just yesterday, you were trying to kill yourself to escape. You’d do and say anything to get out of here.” The same Ratter spoke.

“What is it you would have me to do prove myself?” Amaya stepped forward to stand next to Tanwen.

“Fight me.” The Ratter Captain put down his weapon and stepped into the center of the cargo bay. “No weapons. Just show me your skills. If you beat me, I will believe. If you even hold your own, I will consider. If you lose and lose badly, I will kill you and take all of your friends prisoner again.”

“You will not kill her.” Tanwen held out her hands. “One pulse from our friends’ weapons and I will kill you all. You know I can do it. You only captured me because I was asleep.”

“You were drunk.” The man laughed. “Drunk on your dreams and more juice than you could handle.”
“I’m not drunk now.” Tanwen held up her hands. “Just test me and see.”

“No, no. We’re testing her. Your Rayatana. Ray of Hope, Xia’s ass.”

Amaya watched the man as he mocked the galaxy, sauntering in the center of the cargo bay, flexing his muscles for his crew. She noticed his thick arms and chest, his tree trunk legs, but she also noticed the stiffness of one of his shoulders, the slight limp on one foot. She might be able to take him.

“I will fight you.” Amaya dropped her weapon to the ground with a clatter.

“Don’t!” Sol put his hand on her arm. “Please, if anything happens to you … please, don’t.”

Amaya gazed up at him, this cute alien boy who had kidnapped her accidentally, taken her off her world, showed her who she was. He wasn’t perfect, or necessarily good, but she didn’t want to lose him. She sighed. She was an idiot. “Sol, if we’re meant to be, then we will be. If not, I’m going to go out fighting for what I think is right in a way that I think is right.” She put her hand over his, gave it a squeeze, then walked away from him.

In the center of the cargo bay, she blocked everyone else out and focused on the Ratter Captain. “May I know your name?”

His eyebrows rose. “You don’t even know me? And you dare to challenge me?”

“I’m new to this.” Amaya told him. “But I do know it’s customary to share at first names before a match.” She held put her hand to her heart. “I am Amaya.” She gave him a short head bow, not taking her eyes off him.

He stiffened at the gesture, and placed his hand over his heart. “I am Rayal.” He also gave a short head bow, without looking away from her. Then, he broke formality, loosened up his shoulders and grinned at her. “And you can call me Captain Death.”

Behind him, his crew cheered.

Amaya ignored them and launched into a feint towards his left cheek.

He side-stepped into her cross into his right shoulder, winced, and bounced back on his feet.
She saw his leg sweep, and moved over and around it, countering it by kicking into his chest, never taking her eye off her main target.

Even though he stepped back, she made contact. But he was fast, grabbing her foot and twisting it.
She launched and spun with the twist, kicking at his hands with her other foot.

He broke away and she fell to the ground, into a roll, and back up into him as he bore down on her.

 Her punches hit him in the gut, a jab, and an upper cut, but he had her by the hair.

Tears sprang to her eyes as he yanked at her hair, but she continued to punch him in the gut, in the chest, and finally, as he yanked upward, she landed an upper cut on his jaw.

He fell back, but he didn’t let go of her hair, so she stumbled after him.

This time, he managed to hit her in the chest.

It hurt deep, but instead of falling back, she concentrated on forcing herself straight down, even with his hold on her hair. She felt some of her hair rip from her scalp, but it was worth it. She punched him in the knee, then the crotch, and then with all of her momentum, she pushed up, and punched him in the jaw again.

He let go of her, stumbled backwards, and this time, she came after him with a jumping kick, followed by a hammering of blows on his head.

When he tried to grab her, she twisted herself around him and put him in a choke hold.
Pulling at her arm, he went down to his knees.

“Tap out.”

He tapped her arm.

She let him go, and sprang back away from him, still not touching any of the places he’d hurt her. It was best to pretend those places didn’t exist.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette: V is for Vision

This is part 22 of a 26-part novelette.

CRASH - A SF, Romance, Adventure
Part 22:V for Vision

“Vision!” The woman’s eyes widened, and her green pupils grew larger until they almost eclipsed the violet rings of circle around them.

The woman’s voice changed, grew deeper. “She is a child of three worlds, an ambassador, a hope for peace. She has three paths, three choices, three destinies. Love, or peace, or death.”

The woman shuddered and she shook her head. When she gazed at Amaya again, she said, “Well, that sucks.”

Amaya, who had been staring at her, feeling terrified, started to laugh. It was a hysterical laugh, but the more it bubbled up, the more real it became. She leaned against the door and let it out. Then, she picked the lock on the door, and opened it. “Come on. We need to find Prya and Galer and get off this ship.”

“You would free me? Me?”

“Sure.” Amaya couldn’t imagine why the woman hesitated.

The woman nodded. “The first choice.” She smiled, revealing sharp teeth. “I will protect you with my life, child of three worlds.”

“Amaya. Just call me Amaya.”

“I am Tanwen Anadler tan Ddraig, Visionist. It is my full name. My secret name. Please only tell others my name is Tanwen.”

“I will, Tanwen.”

Tanwen bowed formally from the waist with her hand to her forehead. “I am forever in your debt, chain breaker.”

Amaya bowed slightly in return. “Thank you, Tanwen.”

They exited the cell and turned to go down the hallway back to the junction. Far down the hall, Amaya could see Sol and Chol leaving another cell, shouldering Galer between them. Galer was obviously injured, unable to hold weight on one of his legs. Behind them, Prya limped slowly out of the cell.

Amaya hurried towards them with Tanwen close behind. When they reached the others, Sol and Chol stopped.

“What are you doing here, you traitor?”

“I am being rescued by Amaya. I am forever in her debt and will protect her against all, enemies and those who call themselves friends. She is the Vision of three worlds come to pass.”

Galer lifted his head to look at Amaya. Prya pushed around the three of them and gazed into Amaya’s eyes.

“It is true.” Prya said. “There was something there before, but I did not see it. Now, I do.” She glanced at the other behind her. “Our mission has failed or succeeded, depending on who you believe. You, Sol, owe her a debt and have promised to keep your word to her. She has promised to hold you to your word. It is a life vow. One that cannot be broken once uttered in front of others.”

Chol raised an eyebrow at Amaya. “And you said you weren’t together?”

“We aren’t.” Amaya growled.

“She is … not a Terr. Aunt Prya, you can’t hold me to that vow. She didn’t know what it meant. I knew she didn’t. It was …”

“The right vow at the right time. A choice made for a lifetime.” Prya informed him. “You have saved our world.”

“But not your way of life, Terr.” Tanwen stated firmly.

Amaya just stood there, in shock, hurt, and fury. “I am not, nor will ever be, in a relationship with a trigger-happy kidnapper, so you have nothing to worry about, Sol.” But as she said these words out loud, Amaya felt like something inside her tore. “Oh.”

“You cannot break it.” Tanwen put her hand on Amaya’s shoulder. “I cannot protect you from choices you have already made.” She put her hand on Amaya’s shoulder. “If it makes you feel any better, his denial hurts him, as well.” She pointed at Sol.

Amaya looked at him, really gazed, and she could see what Tanwen meant. Sol’s face was tight, and he held one hand to his chest. “Good.”

Chol whistled. “Well, this makes me glad for the rescue, cousin. At least you’ve brought some excitement back into our family. I’m excited to see how this unravels, especially with our favorite Queen, mommy dearest.”

 Sol glanced at Chol, then at Amaya. “This ‘mommy dearest’ means something I don’t understand, doesn’t it? More of the Earth pop slang.”

“Yes.” Amaya said. Despite her hurt and fury, she felt a small bubble of something happy inside at his recognition of Earth pop culture and slang. She squashed it down and frowned at him. “Let’s get out of here, please.”

Friday, April 24, 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Challenge, Crash Novelette: U for Under

This is part 21: U of a 26-segment novelette I'm writing for both the A to Z Challenge and for Camp NaNoWriMo. This is a science fiction adventure romance novelette that is a current rough draft, and falls into a cheesy popcorn entertainment level, although I have started to explore a few themes I didn't plan to get into for the month. It just happened, really. 

CRASH: PART 21: U for Under

Under the impression that Sol knew the layout more than her, Amaya stopped at a junction in the ship’s passageways. They’d come up one level from the cargo bay, searched most of the rooms, and hadn’t found his aunt and uncle.

Thankfully, they hadn’t come across any other Ratters for Sol to kill.

Amaya’s silent, shaking anger had stayed with her as they searched, and was still with her as she waited for Sol to choose their direction.

“We should split up. We can cover more area that way.”

Amaya wasn’t sure she trusted him. But, she nodded, and went to the right. The first room she came across was empty. But the second door was locked from the outside. She swiveled to look for Sol behind her, but he had obviously gone into one of the rooms.

She took a bobby pin out of her hair and inserted it into the lock, which looked a little like an Earth padlock. With a bit of a wiggle, she found the tumbler. Gently, she pushed and heard a satisfying click. Taking the lock off the door, she placed it quietly on the ground, then she raised her weapon and opened the door.

Lying on a cot, a gorgeous looking guy with his purple-black hair twisted in dreads, opened his eyes and looked at her.

“Who are you?” His voice strummed a note in Amaya’s body. She felt herself relax slightly, and dropped her weapon to her side.

He was up on his feet and across the room before she could get off a shot, but as he reached for her neck, she ducked and swept his legs out from under him. Then she backed up and brought her weapon up again. “You’re not who I’m looking to rescue. So, stay down or get shot.”

He smiled lazily at her from the floor. “I’ve always liked a woman who likes to take control.”

His voice could still melt butter, but she didn’t waver this time. “Do you know where Captain Prya and Galer are?”

“Auntie and Uncle found me? They’re here?”

Suddenly, his looks went from charming to all-to-familiar. “You’re Sol’s brother.”

“Cousin Sol is here, too? It’s a family reunion, except for you.” He smiled at her. “I’ve always liked it when Sol brought me treats.”

Amaya shot a hole in the deck by his leg.

He flinched. “Ooh, feisty.”

The shot brought Sol running into the room. “What happened? Amaya, are you …” His words trailed off as he looked at his cousin. “Chol.” The name held a note of disbelief, mirrored with disappointment?

Amaya couldn’t be sure she understood the nuances of Sol’s tone, but he didn’t sound completely ecstatic to find his cousin.

“Sol, you’re with her? That’s … amazing.” Chol shot a look at Amaya. “What do you see in him?”

Amaya shook her head and lowered her weapon. “We’re not together. I’m not available. And, we’re here on a mission to save your aunt and uncle, so cut the chit chat and let’s find them, rescue their ship, so I can get home.”

“Girl has her priorities, Sol. Can you handle that?” Chol stood up slowly.

“She’s right.” Sol growled. “Let’s go the other way down the corridor. We don’t have much time.”

Amaya let the two of them check out the other end of the corridor, while she checked the other rooms off of this one. The last room had a tiny, retrofitted window with bars across it. She wondered why, until she looked inside.

A beautiful woman with jagged cut white-gray hair sat slumped with her eyes closed on the cot in the room. She wore a sleeveless top and shorts. That was it. But she had scars crisscrossing her arms and legs. She had cut herself repeatedly, presumably in an attempt to make a grisly and desperate escape.

“Hey.” Amaya called through the small window.

“Go away.”

“Don’t you want out?” Amaya asked.

The woman opened her eyes, revealing bright purple irises with green pupils. She definitely wasn’t human, Terr, or Ratter. “Who are you? You’re not one of them.”

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A to Z Challenge with Camp NaNoWriMo, Crash Novelette, Part 20: T for Taking

CRASH Novelette: SF, Romance, Adventure - a rough draft of epic complications in tiny bites.

When I wrote this section, actually earlier in April, I realized I had definitely added in a problem I hadn't planned on creating. I knew I wanted Sol and Amaya to have trust issues, but in the last few sections, those trust issues have become pretty serious.
Will I be able to pull them back together? Tell me what you think in the comment section.

Taking on a well-armed group of Ratters in the middle of a space port didn’t seem like a good plan to Amaya, but it was the only one they had.
After a short amount of reconnaissance, they had stolen space port personnel coveralls, the kind worn by the mechanics and the ground crews. Instead of hiding, they walked in plain sight, wearing the protective helmets equipped with noise cancelling equipment, headsets, and air filters, just like the ground crews did. This all made Sol’s plan more viable.
But Amaya had doubts. She struggled to hide them from Sol, but she had stopped asking many questions. She didn’t know what to say to cover her unease, because she wasn’t particularly good at telling lies. She could omit the truth, but if she started talking, Sol would definitely know she was hiding something. So, she said as little as possible as they waited for the right moment to service the two ships – the Ratter Cruiser and the Movie-Theater Space Ship, which according to Sol was a S-Class 29 retrofitted to blend into Earth pop culture. Amaya had just nodded at his explanation, not bothering to ask the questions she would normally have asked.
Finally, a large group of Ratters left their ship and headed into the space port. It was about dinner time, or so Amaya figured.
Using a fuel truck would bring too much attention onto them, so Sol had chosen a service truck. They jumped into the cab, Sol got it running, and they drove slowly over to the Ratter Cruiser, next to one of the engine outtakes.
Amaya got out of the truck and pretended to inspect the engine outtake system. She had a scanner in her hand.
One of the Ratter guards walked up. “What are you doing?” He asked in Terr.
“This the ship that called in for maintenance, right?” She said in English.
Sol had assured her the Ratter wouldn’t know her language but an attempt to communicate calmly would make the Ratter think the problem was on his end.
It appeared Sol was right. The guard cocked his head quizzically at her and brought his com link up to his mouth.
Sol hit him on the back of the head and the Ratter went down with a thump. Sol left him there and walked over to the other guard outside the gangway into the ship. This guard must have been even less wary than the first because Sol had him down even faster. Sol dragged the second guard to the truck and dumped him inside. He helped Amaya do the same to the first guard. Then, they walked into the ship, scanners out, as if looking for a problem.
No one was within sight of the entrance. They continued inward into the cavernous holding area, past piles of crates and small ships tied down for future use.
Someone across the bay shouted at them.
Sol waved languidly. Amaya stayed close to him.
As they approached the Ratter who had shouted, Amaya stepped forward.
“This is the ship that called for maintenance, right?” She repeated her dumb line from earlier.
“What?” The Ratter said back. “Rayatan Raterrian? How does one such as you come to be here with him?” He pointed a weapon at Sol.
Sol shot the Ratter in the leg, then hit him over the head with his weapon.
Amaya turned on Sol. “What are you doing?! He hadn’t tried to hurt us!”
“It was now or later.” Sol said. “He’s still alive. If you care, Rayatan.”

“What? I don’t know what you mean or what he means.” She shook her head at Sol. What was his problem? She had nothing to explain to him. She was the one taken from her home. She had no idea what craziness was going on, but asking Sol what he or the Ratter meant by “Rayatan” wasn’t going to get her home any faster. She had to find Sol’s aunt and uncle and get them to fly her home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A to Z, CRASH Novelette, Part S

This is part 19: S of a 26 part Novelette series for the A to Z Challenge

Part 19: S is for Sol

Sol had called a transport driver while Amaya had checked on the Nardel nest. After that, he stayed quiet, respecting Amaya’s need for silence. 

The transport arrived quickly – a flying, boxy vehicle with three compartments: one for the driver, one for passengers, and one for cargo. 

The pilot of the vehicle, an alien man with green skin, leaves in his hair, and a tiny flower buds growing out of his ear lobes where Amaya would normally expect earrings, rolled down his window only partially to speak to them when he arrived. 

“Tell me again why I should not call the police, Terr.”

“These Ratters attacked us. We defended ourselves.” Sol said, holding out his hands, currently empty of weapons.

Amaya wondered for a moment why she could understand the alien driver’s speech, and then a bit of information came to her, courtesy of the photo memory cube download. She understood four languages now: English, Terr, Galaxy Trade Tongue also known as XiaTat, and Dryadarian. The driver was a Dryadarian, a tree in human form.

“And what do you say, Earth Girl?” The Dryadarian looked pointedly at Amaya.

She sighed. “It is as he says, although the Ratter woman poisoned herself when I thought we could take her captive.”

The Dryadarian’s skin changed from dark green to pale green and he shook his head. “It is the way of the Terr-Ratterian War, a way of violence without end until the prophesied one comes.” He closed his eyes. “May these people’s roots become the seeds of the next generation. May they see life in the everlasting. So be it.”

“Amen.” Amaya said. She glanced at Sol.

“So be it.” His words came out slow and reluctant, and his lips twisted on the last word.

The Dryadarian pressed some controls in the transport and the doors on the cargo area opened. “If you will carefully place the Nardels in the cage, I will take care of the bodies of the Ratterians. I will not leave them here to mingle on the soil of an alien planet.”

Amaya understood what he meant and she was glad of it. 

Moving the Nardels meant working closely with Sol, but she still didn’t speak to him. 

Sol produced a vial from his pack, opened it, and threw it into the log by the nest. “It will put them to sleep so we can move them.”

The whimpering sounds of the Nardel young ceased. Together, they pushed and tugged the nest of the sleeping Nardel babies out of the log. Together, they carried it.

Amaya caught Sol’s glances in her direction, but she didn’t give him a chance to speak to her, always looking away from him, at the Nardel babies, who were cuter than anything that predatory should be, or at the ground under their feet.

Finally, they had the nest safely secured in the cage in the cargo area. The other side held the Raterrian bodies, all laid carefully on a tarp.

The Dryadarian was back in his pilot’s cab, separated from them. He obviously didn’t trust them much, which made sense to Amaya.

Once they were in the passenger seating area, the driver took off through the woods. In the warmth of the vehicle, Amaya’s cold feet started to warm up painfully.

Sol leaned towards her. “We need to get the spaceport, see if we can find my aunt and uncle’s ship. Make a plan once we see the situation.”

“Research, reconnaissance, plan, then action?”

“Yes.” He nodded. “Amaya, if I may ask you a question?”

“You just did.”

He sighed. “May I ask, how you are … so able to handle everything?”

“I didn’t handle those deaths all that well, if you remember.”

“You handled it better than some would. Some people, not just Earthers, but beings from all over the galaxy, would not have been able to shoot like that, would not have remained so calm on the ship, or after the cube download, or on this hard trek to the space port. How are you so different?”

Amaya didn’t look at him. She wanted to make light of it, to find a sarcastic quip to shut him up, but the reality is, she’d been wondering about that, like she’d been wondering about the symbol on her necklace. “I don’t know.”

“Are you sure?”

“My mother always made sure I knew how to defend myself. She made me go to martial arts classes, gymnastics, dance, archery lessons. She always said a woman should be able to take care of herself. But, I don’t know if there wasn’t more to it than that.”

“I see.” Sol looked out of the windows, away from her.

Was he having trouble trusting her just as much as she was having trouble trusting him?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette, Part 18: R for Review

This is part 18, Letter R of a 26-part novelette for the A to Z Challenge.

Crash is a cheesy-popcorn, SF, romance. Grab your snack and relax for a bumpy, rough draft ride!

Review and Reassess. Those words repeated in Amaya’s head as she walked away from Sol, toward the dead Nardel and the nursery log. Amaya’s mother had often rebuked her with that repeated phrase when she made mistakes. 

Review and reassess. Her father had hated that phrase, had disliked how her mother had signed Amaya up for martial arts, gymnastics, and archery. Yet, Amaya had loved it, excelled at all of it. And, she loved the way her mother expected the best of her. It made her feel loved, capable, known.

But, what did she know?

“Amaya?” Sol’s query hung in the air.

“Just let me think.” Amaya said, without looking back at him. 

What did she know about Sol? 

He was a good-looking alien guy who worked at the movie theater, which was actually a space ship. He was a member of the Terr family, the royal Terr line. 

His Aunt was a fighter pilot. His uncle was estranged from the royal family, but still doing their bidding. They had been on the planet to find a missing Terr royal. 

They had run from the Ratters to this planet, crash-landed, and given Amaya a cube of information that lacked anything on the Ratters, other than that they were the enemy. 

But who was on the right side of the age-long war between the two cultures, led by two families who had once been bonded in rulership over their planetary system? 

The cube had lacked any details about why the two families and cultures had separated.

Was Sol really the good guy in this situation? 

He was willing to leave a Ratter woman for the nardel, and obviously viewed her as less important than a creature of the forest. 
Some of his “help” was grabby, bossy help. 
He did know more than she did in this situation. But his view was skewed by his culture and his family. 

Could she trust Sol? 

He had saved her several times from death. She had to credit him with that. And, he said he was in her debt. That was also to her advantage. He hadn’t shot the woman when she told him not to, or at least he had hesitated. These were all in his favor. 

But, she couldn’t trust him to treat everyone with basic decency. That was a problem. 

She worried at her necklace through the coveralls and her shirt as she walked slowly past the dead Nardel and to the Nardel’s den. 

When she was nearly to the nursery log, she looked back at Sol. He was bending over one of the Ratter bodies. 

She moved partially behind the nursery log and peered inside. Tiny mewling sounds and small movements showed her the location of the nardel young in their nest. She wondered if they could be saved, if someone on this planet would care for them. 

Thinking of this, she glanced down again at the Ratter watch and the symbol on the face of it. It was an all-too-familiar of a symbol. It was one reason she had taken the watch. 

The symbol matched the one etched into the back of her necklace she wore under her shirt, nestled next to her skin at all times. That alone would have made her dizzy with fear and amazement, even if she hadn’t just killed two Ratters and a nardel. 

How was it possible she had the same symbol on the back of her necklace, the one her mother had given her as a small child? What did it mean?

Review and reassess. The repetition of the words usually comforted her. 
But she had more questions than answers and she didn’t trust Sol with her questions. 


I'm looking for:
1. Reviewers for the Walking with Jesus: Stories from One Hope Church project - ebook copies only at this time. I will have this out to my church soon, but I'm looking specifically for 25-50 more people to read and review this book at Amazon or Goodreads between April 20 and June 1st. A review can be as simple as a two-sentence comment.

2. First round beta readers for the Crash: Into You novella. The original draft has been going live at my blog this month, but I will need beta readers for the second draft soon. Starting next week through May 2nd - a 20,000 word read with three beta read questions. It's a super quick turnaround time, but I'm hoping for some general commentary. I'll need a second batch of beta reading later.

If you are interested in helping with either project, please let me know via a comment here or a message.

And, I had a new short story published at Creative Colloquy. Check it out here: Code: Gray

Monday, April 20, 2020

A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette, Part 17: Q for Quiet, and Camp NaNoWriMo

A to Z Challenge

Camp NaNoWriMo

This is part 17: Q out of a 26-part novelette, written in flash fiction chapters for both Camp NaNoWriMo and the A to Z Challenge.

To read from the beginning, go to the Wattpad story here.
This section broke my rule of keeping each piece under 700 words. It's 803 words.

“Quiet.” Amaya whispered to Sol when he snapped a small branch underneath him.

A pulse beam shot around the rock, angled off and hit a tree to the left of them.

Amaya ducked down behind the nursery log. 

Sol stayed upright and fired again. He crouched next to her.

“How many?” Amaya said.

“Two more.” Sol said. “We could wait them out, or …” He pointed to an opening in the nursery log. 
Amaya glanced into the log. It was hollow inside, and they could both probably fit, but a mound of something on the other end had a rank smell. “I think something has a nest in there.”

“Let me see.” Sol leaned across her and peered into the hollow log. He touched his watch and a beam of light pierced the darkness inside. Something moved at the other end. “Oh, Nardels. Not good. Not good.” Sol sat back slowly and pulled Amaya with him. “We have to get away from this opening.”

A low growl emanated from the log.

A pulse beam crashed into the other side of it. 

“Now.” Sol stood up, shot wildly towards the boulder several times and grabbed Amaya by the arm. “Toward them!”

“What?” Amaya shouted, but then she heard the growling get louder inside the log and thought she understood.

They ran towards the boulder, firing wildly at it. 

Amaya glanced back. Behind them, something huge, with yellow and purple fur clawed its way out of the nursery log. The claws on the creature were as long as her arms. The elongated snout revealed fangs. She turned back to the boulder, firing again.

Sol dove to the side where the Ratter had fallen, and she followed him, but in a crouch. Sol fired behind the boulder. 

Amaya waited, stepped until she could see behind the boulder, and aimed at the female Ratter who was fiddling with her weapon. The other two Ratters, both male, were down in the undergrowth, dead from their wounds.

“Drop it!” Amaya shouted at the Ratter woman.

The Ratter lifted her lip in disdain, showing off a high-ranking tooth jewel, and dove for Amaya.

Amaya side-stepped and fired at the Ratter’s leg. 

The woman screamed. 

“Nice work. Let’s go.” Sol grabbed at Amaya’s arm again.

“Knock it off!” Amaya pulled her arm away from him. “I don’t like being pushed around. And, I’m not leaving her to fend off that thing.” She spun and took aim at the snarling creature who was leaping across the clearing toward them.

“No!” Sol shouted.

One clean shot to its chest and it went down in a screech. It raised its head for a moment and whimpered. 

Amaya shot it again. The creature died. She turned to Sol. “What is wrong with you?” 
She’d lost all trust in him again. How could anyone decent leave someone to die under the claws of that creature?

“She had young in that nest. The Nardels, though deadly, are necessary for the survival of the forests on this planet. The young will not survive without their mother.”

“And what of this woman? Will her children survive without her?” Amaya pointed at the Ratter woman, who glared at her as she pressed her hand against the blackened wound on her obviously shattered leg. 

“I would rather die than rot in your prisons. I will tell you nothing.” The Ratter woman growled in the Terr language.

“You are nothing, Ratter scum.” Sol retorted, his face contorted in anger. He raised his weapon.

“No! I won’t go a step further with you if you shoot her,” Amaya informed him. 

“If we leave her here, she will call her Ratter friends and they will come after us.”

“Then we take her communications system, call for help from a third party, and get a ride to the space port – all of us, the Ratter, the Nardel young, and us.”

“What?!” Sol shook her head at her. “No. That is not possible.”

“Really? Or you just don’t like my plan?”

The Ratter woman laughed, then whimpered in pain. “He … is a Terr … his way is without mercy. He … would rather die than surrender. As would I. It is our way.” She put her wrist to her mouth, tore a container off the side of her bracelet, and swallowed it. 

“Poison.” Sol said. 

“No.” Amaya knelt next to the Ratter woman as she shook and died. 

Afterward, Amaya stood up, feeling a heavy weight settle over her. “She’s dead because of me. I killed two intelligent beings. One, to save myself. The other, with my lack of swift action. Two people dead because of me.” She felt bile rise to her throat and she stumbled away from the Ratter bodies. 

Sol reached out for her.

“No. Don’t touch me!”

If I haven't disappointed you too much with a grim downturn, please feel free to read a completely separate story at Creative Colloquy's site. They just published a new story of mine today about a job hunt in troubled times. Code: Gray.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A to Z Challenge, Crash Novelette, Part 16:P and Camp NaNoWriMo

A to Z Challenge

This post is part 16:P in a 26-part novelette with flash fiction sized chapters. 
This project is part of both the Camp NaNoWriMo Challenge and the A to Z Challenge.
A lot of pansting is happening, but so far, I'm pretty happy with this just-for-fun, cheesy popcorn story of mine that I'm writing in installments. 

To read the previous sections, go to my Wattpad account here

Pulsing beams of light split the tree trunk next to Amaya.

She screamed and ducked into a roll. Continuing the motion onto her feet again, she crouched low and ran behind another tree, her heart pounding wildly in her chest. Her martial arts instructor would have been proud of that defensive roll. Her mom had insisted she learn self-defense from early childhood, which made her weirder than most girls her age, but it was coming in handy now.

She glanced around for Sol and for another hiding place, knowing she couldn’t just stay in one place, but also not wanting to get the shooter’s attention. What would she do on a strange planet if Sol was killed or taken? She had to get home. Her mom would be worried. Amaya definitely didn’t want to die on an alien planet. 

Thankfully, she glimpsed a bit of Sol’s hair in between a clump of trees growing out of a nursery trunk in a fallen tree. Amaya plotted a course to him in two places, and started towards her first stop.

A pulse beam hit the ground next to her and she threw herself to the other side, then forward, and finally behind another tree trunk. She could hear the pulse beams hit the ground where she’d been and the tree trunk on the opposite side. They knew where she was. How was she going to survive this?

Just then, Sol poked his head up and shot a weapon at them. No light emitted from his tiny gun, but she heard a blast hit something. 

“Come on. I’ll cover you!” Sol shouted.

Amaya nodded, glanced to the side, then went right towards a copse of trees before zigging left behind the nursery log. She slid across mucky dirt in an effort to stay low.

Sol continued shooting the small weapon he held. It didn’t really look like any gun Amaya had seen, but more like a phaser from a science fiction show her mom liked. 

“Here.” Sol handed her a weapon like his. 

Amaya took the slender, short rod in her hands. It looked like something that would hold mace or bear spray, but it had recessed buttons on top. The shooting end was marked with red and was slightly tapered at that end. 

“Point that end and shoot at them.” Sol said, pointing to the tapered end.

“Got it.” Amaya held the weapon in her hand, carefully not aiming at either of them.

Pulses of light slammed into the nursery log. Splinters flew around them.

“Now!” Sol shouted.

Amaya turned to kneel next to him. She gripped the weapon in her hand, but she didn’t shoot. 
Their attackers were behind a set of boulders behind them.

Sol fired his weapon and the blast of energy hit the boulders with a crack, shattering pieces of rock off the face of it. Dark scoring in the rock showed Sol’s previous hits.

Amaya bit her lip. Could she really kills someone she didn’t know? 

A pulse beam hit the nursery log and she ducked, sucking back a scream, which came out in a garble. They weren’t giving her a choice.

The next time Sol sat up to fire, she fired her weapon before he fired his. The recoil was minimal, which surprised her the first time. She fired again and again, going for the edges of the rock, not seeing their attackers. 

Sol put his hand on her arm. “Fire once, wait two counts, fire again, wait three counts. That way, we’ll have a better chance of hitting them, and the grenjen won’t run out of energy.”

Amaya nodded to show she understood.

One of their attackers poked his head out from behind the rock.

Sol shot the Ratter. The alien fell back into the undergrowth behind him. 

Amaya held her grenjen at the ready and waited. 

No one else looked out from around the boulder. 

Several minutes passed. The forest was eerily silent around them.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette, Part 15: O for Overcome

A to Z Challenge

NOTE: Yesterday, I noted at the top of the post that my mom was in the hospital. She is out and okay. I still may be a bit distracted from commenting today.

This is part 15: O out of a 26 part novelette for the A to Z Challenge and for Camp NaNoWriMo.
To read from the beginning, go to my Wattpad page here. 

Overcome by the gentle warmth of Sol’s hands under hers, Amaya closed her eyes, just letting herself feel for a moment. Forgiveness felt like a lightening of her soul, as if a heavy slab she’d been carrying was lifted away. She took a deep breath, held it, let it out. Sent up another quick prayer. Let it go. 

Opening her eyes, she glanced up at Sol. He was gazing at her with his eyes soft, half-lidded, and his pupils were wide. 

She stepped back from him, again. Even if she forgave him, it didn’t mean she completely trusted him. “So, how much farther do we need to go?”

He clicked a button on his watch and furrowed his brow. “Nine clicks. We have a long way to go for … the long road home.” 

He was trying to use one of her Earth expressions again. She would let it go this time. “Okay. Let’s get going. Why don’t you tell me about your family while we walk? Why are the Ratters after you now? The cube didn’t exactly cover that. I know you’ve been at war for five generations, but why did they attack you on Earth? Why now?”

“I don’t know where to start.”

Sol pressed his lips together and started walking through the purple trees with the yellow bark again, winding a path through the undergrowth. She walked with him, patient for the moment. At least he was planning on answering her questions.

“The Ratters have looked for ways to usurp the Terr Rulership for several generations, but in the last twenty years, they have been more subtle. Assassins in court, spies embedded everywhere. It is hard to know who to trust.” He glanced at her.

She quirked an eyebrow at him like Spock in Star Trek. It was one of her nerdiest accomplishments. “You think I’m a Ratter spy? That is highly illogical.”

He gave her a funny look, as if trying to interpret her tone of voice. “No. It’s just that it’s hard to talk about it. I hope you’ll understand.”

“I still want a few details.”

“My aunt and uncle went to Earth on a mission to find someone missing from our family, to find and protect. I was sent to live with them some cycles ago. I had embarrassed my family and was sent to aid them in their … work.”

“So, you aren’t telling me everything to protect whoever this missing person is?”


Amaya thought this over as she walked a few more steps with him. “All right. Let’s say I believe your story. Why did the Ratters attack the movie theater?”

Sol stopped walking and put his finger to his lips.

Amaya stilled, listening.

A whirring sound came from overhead.

Sol backed into the trunk of a tree and held out his hands to her.

Amaya stepped into him, and allowed him to hold her close as they both peered up through the tree canopy. 

Above them, a small ship flew in the same direction of their course. Then, three more small ships went by.

A heavy droning sound signaled the approach of a larger space-ship, flying low. The movie theater space ship followed close behind it, with beam of light connecting the two ships like a tow cable.
When the ships receded into the distance, Sol looked down at Amaya. “My aunt and uncle have been taken, if that ship is under Ratter control. I need to save them.”

“Well, I guess it’s good we’re already walking in the right direction, then.” Amaya said. 

“Thank you.” He smiled a broad smile and squeezed her to him in a hug.

She hugged him back. “You’re welcome. But let’s get going, okay?” She let him go and stepped back into the open area between the trees.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A to Z Challenge: Crash Novelette, Part 14: N

This is part 14 of a 26-part series, which all ties into one novelette length story.

BEFORE YOU READ, PLEASE NOTE: My mom is in the hospital and I may not be quick to comment back or visit your blogs for the next few days. It all depends on how things go or how much "wait" time I have on my hands. Currently, she is a good mood and may get to come home tonight.

To read from the beginning, go to my Wattpad here, or scroll down through my past posts.

CRASH, Part 14: N (SF YA Adventure-Romance Novelette)

“No, probably not.” Sol pushed a tree branch aside for Amaya. “I don’t understand half of the things you say and the slang isn’t … well, it’s not what I was expecting.”

“What were you expecting?” Amaya knew from her quick download of Terr culture that she didn’t understand everything about his culture, but he had been on the Earth for several months, living in Montana longer than she had.

He shrugged. “Groovy. Dig it. Far out.”

Amaya giggled. “Oh, you’re stuck in the flower child era.”

“The what? I didn’t think Earthers had that much in common with the Dryadarians.”

Amaya felt the giggles turn into laughter. “No, no.” She snorted, imagining one of her teachers as an Azalea bush with eyes. “I don’t mean actual flower children. It’s …”

“An expression?” Sol shook his head. “How in the galaxy can you communicate with each other? It’s like you purposely confuse everything. No wonder the Earth has so much division, so much war. If you had clearer language, you could understand one another.”

Amaya felt the laughter go out of her. She remembered her parents’ shouting matches of the past five years, the crying, the screaming, the nastiness of it all. Her father’s threats of violence. She shivered and focused on the here and now.

She wished the warm coverall extended over her feet. Her tennis shoes were getting wet in the snow. Under these purple trees with orange trunks, she hoped she wasn’t being exposed to something unhealthy. But who was she kidding? She was on an alien planet, talking to an alien boy, on the run from other aliens. Except they weren’t running. Why weren’t they going faster?

“Amaya, did I say something wrong again?” Sol asked, his hand brushing her fingers.

“No.” She jerked away from him. “I’m wondering why we aren’t hurrying faster to get away from those Ratters, if there’s something you’re not telling me. Like how my words earlier to your aunt meant much more than I realized? You know that not explaining something, or simply not saying something, is just as bad as using slang? It’s almost worse, because it means you are purposefully hiding the truth.”

Sol sighed, then he glanced back the way they had come. “Even though the Ratters shot at you in the med-bay entrance, the door to the hidden hallway is only coded to those with my family genetics and Prya. By not running, our movement is less noticeable under the tree cover and we conserve our energy for the long road.” He quirked his lips into a smile, then let that go when she didn’t smile in return.

He held up his hands in front of him, as if in prayer, and then he opened them like a book. “On my honor as a Terr and a follower of the Word, I did not mean you harm, not earlier and not now. I’m sorry I did not speak up when you said you would hold me to my word.”

“You just let girls vow their lives to yours that easily?”

“No, I didn’t think it should be taken seriously since you did not understand what you were saying in our language.”

“And, you were telling me that Earthers don’t communicate well?”

His face reddened and he bit pressed his lips together. “I apologize, Amaya. Will you forgive me?”

“Will you hold me to that vow?”

“No.” His face fell and he gazed at the ground at their feet.

She almost felt bad for pushing him that hard, but she had to know.

“Will your Aunt Prya or your Uncle Geral?”

“I really am sorry, Amaya. I am in your debt. You have my life in your hands.” He held out his hands to her again. “Please, forgive me.”

She gazed at his long fingers, tapered at the ends. They were different, alien, but they were trembling in the cold, or from emotion.

Amaya placed her hands on his in the formal Terr way. “I forgive you.”

I'm looking for:
1. Reviewers for the Walking with Jesus: Stories from One Hope Church project - ebook copies only at this time. I will have this out to my church soon, but I'm looking specifically for 25-50 more people to read and review this book at Amazon or Goodreads between April 20 and June 1st. A review can be as simple as a two-sentence comment.

2. First round beta readers for the Crash: Into You novella. The original draft has been going live at my blog this month, but I will need beta readers for the second draft soon. Starting next week through May 2nd - a 20,000 word read with three beta read questions. It's a super quick turnaround time, but I'm hoping for some general commentary. I'll need a second batch of beta reading later.

If you are interested in helping with either project, please let me know via a comment here or a message.