"Sheridan Holmes, The Curse of the Serpent King," is available at Amazon.
I always wondered if Sherlock ever allowed himself to settle down and be a father, and what kind of father he might turn out to be and in this story, you can discover what I did as his son and the very impish, but bright Emily Watson, the daughter of Doctor John Watson, pair off to team on an investigation that delves into mystical horrors and mythological beasts and gods.
And what would a Baker Street Adventure be without Sherlock and Watson, and a guest duo as well. Whom you'll just have to wait and read about when you read the story.
INCREMENTS: A NEW JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH NOVEL. Some background history on the cover and its creation.
hought it would be fun, and maybe even a little helpful to tell how I came about a cover for one version of my front covers for Increments, my new Amazon and Smashwords novel.
As you can see above this is one of those beautiful photos taken in the Northern latitudes where the Aurora Borealis does its incredible fractal flames flares in the sky on a nightly basis.
I'm sure people living there probably get used to it, or not. I've never met anyone who lives there. Anyone reading this who lives in that area of the world, I'd love to hear from you about this phenomena, it's so awesome.
So having the above beautiful flare of lights, I thought I would incorporate that into another image.
Combine this above images and some sweet photoshoping, a nice Victorian gentleman silhouette and a flare of my own kind, along with titles and you have what is below.
I added next a cavern scene to complete the piece, and the shades of green imagery.
I'm working on a different computer or I would add all the elements of the final cover, but you kind of get the idea from what I've posted.
In Photoshop it's a matter of layering your images, pulling some up or down, right or left, then maybe adding a green shader layer with some blending to color correct and create the monotone green colors.
Hope this was fun for you.
Dial T for Time and Destiny
"A Lord When Story"
By John Pirillo
Lord When settled into a booth in the back of Denny's, his eyes focused on a young couple seated on the opposite side, several booths up. The booths were covered with leather like plastic of shiny red, interspaced with ribbons of blonde wood, very highly polished. The floor was gritty from the recent rain. He glanced outside and could see the puddles of water gathering in the street gutters, slight reflections of clouds and an emerging sun shining there.
"Ready to order?"
He turned to look at a very petite, older woman, probably in her middle forties, with blonde wispy hair that threatened to run away from her forehead at any moment, a pair of narrow lips smeared with some kind of lip-gloss and kind blue eyes that considered him thoughtfully as he examined her.
"Not yet. Thanks!"
She nodded, and then gestured to the street outside. "It's not always like this here."
She looked at him more closely. "Never seen you here before."
"I usually park outside the city and walk into town later. Like the privacy."
"Gotcha." She said, taking that as a warning to shut up.
He quickly stopped that assumption. "I like your town." He smiled. "It seems pleasant, like you."
She blushed. "Honey, I'm way outside your boundaries." She held up a marriage finger.
"And rightly so." He uttered with a smirk.
She laughed. "Coffee coming right up."
She smiled as she headed for the small kitchen, where she kept her small pot of coffee brewing. She didn't believe in those automatic ones. No control over the final product. She knew by scent when the coffee was strong or weak and preferred to keep on doing things that way. Her husband, the cook, grunted at her as she entered and she noticed the order up. "On it." She told him, then quickly started a fresh pot of coffee, then swept the bacon and fries sandwich combo up in her right hand and a tall, fizzing coke in the other and headed back out into the dining area.
Lord when watched as she served the older couple in the back, nodding and chatting, as warm as could be.
He glanced at his watch.
He put a hand under the table. "Shhh. Someone will hear you, even if they can't see you."
"As if you cared." Binky replied sharply, but still keeping it down.
Lord When felt Binky shuffle around and his tail brush his pants leg, then he knew the tiny friend had managed to position himself with a better view of the dining area, as limited as it might be. Binky was always in protection mode. Must be hard on his circuits. He mused to himself, and then brightened as his coffee came out in a steaming mug on a tiny tray for him.
The waitress set it down, added some sweeteners, then a spoon and napkin. She hoisted her order book. "Anything yet?"
"Do you serve vegetarian burgers?"
She gave him a surprised look, and then stooped closer to whisper. "I never thought I'd live to see another real, honest to gosh vegetarian eater."
He gave her a surprised look. "I thought this town was a bunch of older hippies."
She laughed. "Honey, the only thing hippie about this town anymore is no one wanting to pay their taxes, and there ain't a single person born who doesn't fit that description."
She laughed again and then said. "I could have the Hub do you some nice soy burger if you like. He always keeps a stash in back for the occasional nostalgic person."
"Great. Any fries or anything with it?"
"And a coke please."
"Give me fifteen and I'll have you the best dressed plate in town...and eatable too."
He laughs. "I'm sure it will be. Thanks."
She scoots off into the kitchen again to give the order, while he turns his attention back to the street again. "How long, Binky?"
"Beep. Beep. Maybe ten minutes."
"Maybe? That's kind of strong language coming from you."
Binky makes a short snickering sound. "Coming from those lips, I take that as a compliment."
An older man seated across from Lord When leans across aisle and whispers. "Whatever you're having, I'd sure like some." He winks, and then goes back to scooping up vanilla ice cream which buries a chunk of cherry pie.
Lord When gives him a smile, and then looks at the street again. "Sure this is the right time?"
"And right place." Binky insists from beneath the table. "And could you have her bring me a plate of batteries please?"
"She might think that a bit odd."
"No more odd than eating beans for a meal."
Binky doesn't reply. He gives a sharp squeak. "Here it comes!"
A great shadow casts across the Denny's, then the street and a huge WHOOMP sound shakes the building. The building rattles so hard that dishes fly off tables and customers hang on for dear life.
Lord When hears a scream from the kitchen.
"Now!" Binky hollers.
Lord When runs for the kitchen the same time as flames erupt from it.
He dashes inside, and into a cloud of black smoke, made by the Cook's stove which has just had had a bottle of oil spill onto it, spreading a fire swiftly across stacked empty egg crates and milk crates.
The Waitress is striving to pull her husband, the Cook, a very large man from the floor, where the flames are eating towards his feet. He's unconscious. Lord When rushes to her side and helps her lift the heavy man. They stagger towards the back door, but it's jammed with a fallen frigeration unit. Suddenly, the unit makes a loud groaning sound and begins to fall towards them.
"Beep, beep!" Binky bleeps as he rushes into the room and becoming visible wedges against the unit to keep it from falling.
"Oh my God!" The Waitress calls out as she sees the strange bionic robot before her. She looks at Lord When. "He acts as if he knows you."
"He does. He's my traveling companion."
"You young hippies are sure a different crowd from my sort." She shoots back. "Quick, hold him up while I get the fire extinguisher."
She rushes for the other side of the kitchen, yanks a red bottle down and begins spraying down the fire on the floor and counters. It's not enough. "Not working." She yells.
Lord When looks at Binky. "A little magic would be nice."
Several customers, including the older man that was seated opposite Lord When rush inside. "Betty, you all right?" The older man yells.
"Do I look all right?" She yells at him when the fire renews itself and explodes into a more furious mass of flames.
"They'll all see!"
"Too many lives depend on us now. You know what happens next?"
Binky shoots between Lord When's legs and past the men, who all gawk at him like he's something from outer space. He stops before the flames, and then emits a high frequency beam that freezes the flames.
The room falls into a stunned silence, and then the older man snaps out of it. He looks at Lord When. "I'll take one of him as well."
The two men rush around the flames and take Betty to safety in the main dining room and then come back and help Lord When carry the Cook, her husband, into it as well.
They set him down in a booth and he begins to revive.
Binky rolls up and lifts on his hind feet, his glowing eyes looking at the man. "Pulse high. Heart okay. A diet is his only problem." Then he lowers himself and exits the diner to the sound of clapping and awestruck voices.
Lord When looks at Betty. "I'm afraid I'll have to pass on that veggie burger."
"You come back anytime." She says, smiling, taking her husband's hand as he stirs from unconsciousness. "We owe our lives to you."
"And that critter." The older man adds. Winks. "Sure I can't get one like that?"
From outside the diner they hear "Beep Beep. Bleep!"
"What'd that critter say?"
Lord When smiles at the older man. "Not in a billion, billion years."
Everyone laughs and Lord When exits.
They all follow him to the door and then gasp as his Time Boat begins to materialize in the middle of the street. He turns back to wave at them. "And about that sound. You should be glad it didn't land here."
He waves again, and then as a boarding ramp extends from the belly of the barbell shaped vehicle, he climbs it, followed by Binky. They enter the vessel and it begins to make a loud humming sound, then shimmers a bit and vanishes.
The older man looks over at the Waitress. "Why would he say that?"
An excited Sheriff comes running up. "Everyone okay?"
"Where the hell was you when that fire happened, Grizzly?"
The Sheriff, who had a long hippie beard, frowned. "Didn't you have the TV on?"
"The Twin Towers in New York City just went down big time."
Everyone froze for a moment and then looked up at the sky. What had happened while they were in the diner?
Inside Lord When's Time Boat, he adjusted the time spooler, setting it for their home. His and Binky's. "Well, Binky, I guess we did some good today."
"Never got my plate of batteries."
"Or my veggie burger. But sure appreciated some people making it to another day, when so many others didn't."
They were both silent a moment as the image of Twin Towers collapsing in New York lit up their view screen for a moment.
"I wish we could stop that." Lord When uttered, his voice sad.
"It would disrupt the time stream. You know that."
"What about what we just did?"
Binky was silent.
Lord When's eyebrows arched. Or had they already?
The Time Boat made a sizzling sound and then like a bolt of lightning shot away from earth and into the vast depths of space and time.
"The Eighth Ring of Hell"
A To Hell and Back Story
by John Pirillo
Swimmer, also known as Ryan Stone to his friends, and Squad Commander the Triple A squad, hunched down behind the outcropping off North 41 coming out of Vegas. It was a little traveled road, and for good reason. There was hell to pay there during the summer, because the nearest gas station was a hundred miles away, which had no water unless you bottled it in and no food unless you liked eating Little Debbie's, the only food the station carried, or probably could afford.
Swimmer had stumbled upon the station in a delirium. He had just escaped a very, very dark place, but without his support. They had fallen back to cover his escape, so he could bring the big guns back with him. It wasn't going to happen. He was stunned, dehydrated and beaten.
Oh, and by the way, there are regions...not really on our world...we call them rings...where hell resides. Each hell caters to the beliefs of those who have imagined them into existence. You see, the problem with human beings is that their thoughts are so powerful, that when they fear something enough, they actually create it at some point, in some place or another. Thus Hell. And more than one version. All nasty places, all places a smart person would rather have no part of. Not that only dumb people go to hell, they're actually more filed up with smart people than the other way around, because smart people think they can get away with anything. But they're wrong. No one gets away with anything. Ever. Not in the long run, sometimes not even in the short.
Anyway, he had survived. They had survived. The owner of the station turned out to be a little known angel...literally...named Michael, who looked after those doing the work his kind carried on for the Big One upstairs.
He had awoken on a crusty counter, devoid of anything but Little Debbie's, chocolate doughnuts. Michael was gently dabbing his mouth with a swab of cloth from bottled water he had sprung into, and poured liberally over Swimmer's body.
"Sorry. It's the best I can do. Angels thrive on Little Debbie's."
"So I hear." I told him, trying to laugh, but my face was too dried up and cracked. It hurt like hell from the sunburn I had gotten. Never march three hundred miles in the hot deserts of Vegas. It's begging to be hurting.
"Your men are safe." Michael told him with a gentle smile.
"They're safe too, but one of them will need a few weeks to recover her pride."
I gave him an odd look, but he said nothing else.
"What did you say your name was?"
I pointed upwards slowly.
"The Big One?"
He shook his head. "None of us are any bigger than the other. It's a humble thing, you know."
"Yeah." I agreed, not really knowing what to believe.
I had just escaped the Eighth Ring of Hell and had stumbled into a gas station run by an angel, whose name was Michael, and sold only gas and Little Debbie's.
"You'll be better in the morning when they find you." He told me.
"Find me? I'm already found."
He just gave me that odd smile and said no more.
I managed to get my feet under me, and dropped to the concrete flooring. Big mistake. I collapsed like a rag doll. He rushed around, though I don't remember the sound of any footsteps, even though he was wearing thick boots. He came to me and lifted me as easily as if I were no more than a bag of feathers and set me on the counter again.
"I don't want to mess up..."
He grinned. "Too late. Here."
He gave me another Little Debbie. Damn! If it didn't actually boost me as soon as I bit into it. My mind became sharp as a needle.
It had been 0800 hours. Our team had been chasing a cluster Demon. It's a rare one, but very dangerous, because it can multiply itself, and believe me, when I say multiply, I don't just mean to ten. We had followed it all the way from Vegas across Red Rock Canyon, over the Vegas Valley desert and heading towards Mohave. It was fast. We were faster. Equipped with sand sails, we used the winds, which usually gusted quite a bit through there, to propel us on our sand slays at over sixty miles an hour. The cluster demon could make just barely fifty.
We corned him in Baker, before he could reach the city proper and diverted him back towards Vegas again, thus avoiding him killing everyone in Baker, and making sure we could battle him on grounds where we held the advantage. Were we stupid!
He reached the 41 and took off like a bat of hell. We swept after him, barely able to keep him in view until he cut off the narrow paved road and began jumping in enormous leaps up a raw hillside, where aged sandstone boulders and granite spikes rose threateningly in the air.
"Blue and Red teams to the left. Green and Yellow right." I ordered and we split up.
My team caught up to him just as he triggered the Doorway. We called them doorways, because they sort of looked like them. But bigger, much bigger. Demons don't do anything in miniature. Everything's big and grandiose. This is why you don't want one rampaging in a city or town. They won't just take one soul, but all of them they can.
We plunged through the doorway, not even seconds after the cluster demon, but still too slow. He had already managed to lunge ahead along a narrow path that ran around steep black mountains next to a liquid fire ocean that slithered and sloshed at its base, casting very hot and bright flares of light upwards, so that any clothing it touched seared and threatened to catch fire.
I turned to Digger, my right hand man. "Anything?"
He shook his head. "This place is new."
Shaker, who was vibrating a mile a minute, shook his head, which was quite an event to see, as his whole body was already shaking so bad it hurt to watch. "This place is a different vibration from all seven hells, Swimmer."
I shook my head, discouraged. Another hell. God! How many were there?
Almost as if answering my question." Digger shot back with. "I told you there were probably more."
I gave him a stern look. He shrugged.
I sighed, and then we put on a burst of speed, limbering our Flingers for the upcoming battle.
We reached a hard turn that began to climb steeply, and widening as it did so. We finally crested the top, our bodies straining from the effort, sweat stains over every inch of our uniforms. The cluster demon stood on the top of the black mountain, its ravenous purple eyes fixed on us. It began to cluster.
"We're so..." Digger said.
"Screwed." Shaker finished.
"Not if I can help it." I told them, and began firing my Flinger. The whole time I held my trigger finger down, I thought of my daughter, and what would happen to her if I didn't get back home. I had lost her once. I would never do that again. "Never." I swore as I ran out of ammo and the last of the demons launched itself at me, reaching out with lobster claws to skewer my throat. Instead, I skewered it with my regulation knife.
It fell to my feet and I scrunched its head into mush, then looked up just as one of the cluster demons, that had not died put on a burst of clusters. I grabbed over my shoulder and reached for my grenade launcher. They were miniature atomic bombs, clean ones, that only blew up and killed things, didn't leave any radiation traces behind.
The cluster demon's forms continued to multiply. I blew up first one, then the other, but there were always ten more than the last time I fired. Digger and Shaker joined in and we began to catch up. My teams converged on our position and we laid down a blanket of highly volatile short range missiles that rearranged the shape of the mountain top. When the dust settled, all that was left was blood and guts. Demon blood and guts, which is just totally disgusting. Imagine living inside a slaughter house, with all the sewage of the world dumped in there for flavor, and you have just a glimmer of how awful their smell was.
We looked at the remains and the holes in the mountain top, and then made a short camp. I looked at our teams. "Okay. This place is new. Let's not wait to find out how new. Got me?"
"Yo!" They all answered.
"I signaled them with my right hand and we all hustled down the mountain, seeking the doorway we had entered through. Usually the only way out of hell was the same way in, but sometimes the devils changed things, laid traps. They were quite crafty, if somewhat ambitious. I finally was able to take in more of the details on the return hike.
The black rock we had been traveling over was not rock at all, but condensed bones of humans. Every now and then a piece of the rock would move, revealing a hand, or a mouth, or a set of eyes. All of them reaching towards us, pleading for help.
It broke my heart, but I knew we couldn't save them. Anyone down here, up here, wherever in the hell this place was...they were out of our ability to make a difference. All we could do was hope to stop more from being trapped.
We reached the doorway. It was open.
I had been sweating the possibility of it being closed, but it appeared to be just a fear, nothing more. But as soon as we approached the doorway, a burst of demons broke forth through the doorway, and shook their way free of the black rocky ground about us.
In moments we were fighting for our lives.
That was when my good people had practically shoved me through the doorway. They could hold their own, but no way could they all make it through without half of them biting it.
"Penny for your thoughts." Michael told me.
I looked up from the counter at him; he had another Little Debbie held out for me.
"This will be the last one."
I nodded and reached for it. I took it and dragged it towards my mouth to take a bite. I bit.
Then I felt a hand slap my face really, really hard.
I blinked my eyes and Mustard was squatted next to me, sucking on her hand, which I had just bitten. "What were you thinking?" She bit out to me, her eyes bloody red from anger and sun stare.
"Always thought you tasted better than you looked." I quipped.
She reached a hand up to slap me again.
Digger caught it.
"Welcome back, Commander."
Everyone gathered around me and as I rose, I could see how weary and beaten all of them were.
"Where's..." I started to say as I realized a very important member of our teams was missing.
"She's back a mile, nursing her pride." Laughed Mustard. "She got nipped in the.....uh, place where the sun don't shine."
Everyone broke into laughter. I did too.
I turned around, instinctively knowing the direction to go, because I had already spotted the direction of their footprints. I was going to have to scald them about leaving tracks for the demons to follow, but right then I was just happy to see everyone alive.
Now to get back home and give that daughter of mine a hug and kiss. My heart began to ache at that thought and worry. Because she had already been in jeopardy once by the demons. I had sworn it would never happen again. And it wouldn't. Not as long as I was alive and my Triple Kick Ass Angels.
"Yo!" They joined in when I ordered them to double time behind me.
All Cats Are Gray
by Andrew North (alias for Andre Norton)
When Alice began her life long career as a writer, women were considered less than equal to men, basically baby factories and child providers, so it's no wonder she head her gender. And of course, it also explains the sensitivity of her writing, which was imbued with a warmth that wasn't always found in her male competitor's works.
Yay for her to have the bravura to go against the waves women had to go against in those days and stand up and be read!
Andre Alice Norton (born Alice Mary Norton, February 17, 1912 – March 17, 2005) was an American writer of science fiction and fantasywith some works of historical fiction and contemporary fiction. She wrote primarily under the pen name Andre Norton, but also underAndrew North and Allen Weston. She was the first woman to be Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, first to be SFWA Grand Master, and first inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
After graduating from high school in 1930, Norton planned to become a teacher and began studying at Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University. However, in 1932 she had to leave because of the Depression and began working for the Cleveland Library System, where she remained for 18 years, latterly in the children's section of the Nottingham Branch Library in Cleveland. In 1934, she legally changed her name to Andre Alice Norton, a pen name she had adopted to increase her marketability since boys were the main audience for fantasy. Her first book was published by D. Appleton–Century Company that year, with illustrations by Kate Seredy, titled The Prince Commands, being sundry adventures of Michael Karl, sometime crown prince & pretender to the throne of Morvania (cataloged by the U.S. Library of Congress as by "André Norton").
During 1940–1941 she worked as a special librarian in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress. She was involved in a project related to alien citizenship which was abruptly terminated upon the American entry into World War II. In 1941 she bought a bookstore called Mystery House in Mount Rainier, Maryland, the eastern neighbor of D.C. The business failed, and she returned to the Cleveland Public Library until 1950 when she retired due to ill health. She began working as a reader for publisher-editor Martin Greenberg[a] at Gnome Press, asmall press in New York City that focused on science fiction. She remained until 1958, when she became a full-time professional writer—with 21 novels published. Kirkus had reviewed 16 of them and awarded four starred reviews.[b]
Norton's first published science fiction was a short novella, "The People of the Crater", which appeared under the name "Andrew North" as pages 4–18 of the inaugural 1947 number ofFantasy Book, a magazine from Fantasy Publishing Company, Inc. Her first fantasy novel, Huon of the Horn, published by Harcourt Brace under her own name in 1951, adapted the 13th-century story of Huon, Duke of Bordeaux. Her first science fiction novel, Star Man's Son, 2250 A.D., appeared from Harcourt in 1952. She became a prolific novelist in the 1950s, with many of her books published for the juvenile market, at least in their original hardcover editions.
She wrote more than a dozen speculative fiction series, but her longest, and longest-running project was "Witch World", which began with the novel Witch World in 1963. The first six novels were Ace Books paperback originals published from 1963 to 1968. From the 1970s most of the series was published in hardcover editions. From the 1980s some were written by Norton and a co-author, and others were anthologies of short fiction for which she was editor. (Witch World became a shared universe).[c] There were dozens of books in all.
Norton was twice nominated for the Hugo Award, in 1964 for the novel Witch World and in 1967 for the novelette "Wizard's World". She was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, winning the award in 1998. Norton won a number of other genre awards and regularly had works appear in the Locus annual "best of year" polls.
She was a founding member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, led by Lin Carter, with entry by fantasy credentials alone. Norton was the only woman among the original eight members. Some works by SAGA members were published in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies.
As Norton's health became uncertain, she moved to Winter Park, Florida in November 1966, where she remained until 1997. In 1976, Gary Gygax invited Norton to play Dungeons & Dragons in his Greyhawk world. Norton subsequently wrote Quag Keep, which involved a group of characters who travel from the real world to Greyhawk. It was the first novel to be set, at least partially, in the Greyhawk setting and, according to Alternative Worlds, the first to be based on D&D. Quag Keep was excerpted in Issue 12 of The Dragon (February 1978) just prior to the book's release. She and Jean Rabe were collaborating on the sequel to her 1979 Greyhawk novel Quag Keep when she died. Return to Quag Keep was completed by Rabe and published by Tor Books in January 2006.
She moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1997 and from February 21, 2005, she was under hospice care. She died at home on March 17, 2005, of congestive heart failure.
Her final complete novel, Three Hands for Scorpio, was published on April 1, 2005. Besides Return to Quag Keep, Tor has published two more novels with Norton and Rabe credited as co-authors, Dragon Mage (Nov 2006) and Taste of Magic (Jan 2008).
LegacyOn February 20, 2005, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which had earlier honored her with its Grand Master Award in 1983, announced the creation of the Andre Norton Award, to be given each year for an outstanding work of fantasy or science fiction for the young adult literature market, beginning with 2005 publications. While the Norton Award is not a Nebula Award, it is voted by SFWA members on the Nebula ballot and shares some procedures with the Nebula Awards. Nominally for a young adult book, actually the eligible class is middle grade and young adult novels. Unlike Nebulas, there is a jury whose function is to expand the ballot beyond the six books with most nominations by members.
Often called the Grande Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy by biographers such as J. M. Cornwell and organizations such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,Publishers Weekly, and Time, Andre Norton wrote novels for over 70 years. She had a profound influence on the entire genre, having over 300 published titles read by at least four generations of science fiction and fantasy readers and writers. Notable authors who cite her influence include Greg Bear, Lois McMaster Bujold, C. J. Cherryh, Cecilia Dart-Thornton,Tanya Huff, Mercedes Lackey, Charles de Lint, Joan D. Vinge, David Weber, K. D. Wentworth, and Catherine Asaro.
Recurring motifsThis section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2013)Norton started out writing juvenile historical fiction and adventure, and then moved into fantasy and finally science fiction. Again and again in her works, alienated outsiders undertake a journey through which they realize their full potential; this emphasis on the rite of passage continued her association in many readers' minds with young adult fiction, although she became a best seller to adults.
In most Norton books, whether science-fiction or fantasy, the plot takes place in the open countryside, with only short episodes in a city environment. Protagonists usually move about singly or in small groups, and in conflict situations they are more often scouts, spies or guerrillas rather than regular soldiers in large military formations.
As could be expected of such characters, they tend to be resourceful and capable of taking independent initiative. In some books, protagonists are introduced already in possession of such characteristics. In others the protagonists (often young) are thrust into situations where they must develop them quickly, and invariably succeed at it.
Many planets in the books are Earth-like places, where humans can live without special protection, and have extensive flora and fauna which are described in considerable detail and often have substantial bearing on the plot. Airless planets and ones with unbreathable atmospheres are sometimes mentioned in passing, but are virtually never the main scene of a Norton book (an exception is Night of Masks). In many of her books, especially her mid-period and later fantasies, such as most of the Witch World series, there are settings described similarly, with ancient stone highways left by unknown civilizations, flanked by half-fallen walls overgrown with vines, and often studded with tall pillars topped by mythical shapes. These vistas are universally presented as almost vibrating with magical power. Another common setting, in both fantasies and science fiction, is of a room filled with alien super-scientific equipment, often where something evil (such as experimentation on humans or other living creatures) has gone or is going on.
A common theme in the books is the presence of sympathetically presented feudal and tribal cultures. In several books Native American tribes and their various analogues are given a chance to be more successful than they were in actual American history. (Norton often told friends that she was proud of her little bit of Native American ancestry.) Nonhuman creatures and cultures are usually presented sympathetically, with human protagonists sometimes supporting them against oppressive human authorities. In contrast, several books present technological and mechanized cultures as negative or even positively evil.
With her 1965 book Year of the Unicorn (third in the High Hallack spinoff of her Witch World series), she used a young woman as the protagonist, which was at the time uncommon for American works of fantasy.
An important role in Norton's books is often given to animals — both ordinary terrestrial ones, such as cats (with whom she had much personal experience — see List of fictional cats#Andre Norton) and exotic fictional ones, whose characteristics are meticulously worked out. Many of Norton's animals are highly intelligent without being anthropomorphic, acting as virtually full partners to the human protagonists and in many books forming telepathic links with them.
Cover of Voodoo Planet by Andrew North, artist Ed Valigursky; half of Ace Double#D-345 (1959)Some background elements, such as the use of "Credits" as a unit of currency and of the lethal "Blasters" and the non-lethal "Stunners" as the main hand-weapons, are common to many of Norton's science fiction books, even when they are not set in precisely the same future.
A fictional board and counter game called "Stars and Comets" appears in many Norton science fiction books. However, only fleeting hints of the rules are revealed. Counters styled as either "stars" or "comets" move across the board taking opponents' pieces. The rules of movement and capture seem to be very complex allowing hidden strategies and sudden reversals of fortune. It may be that there are both elements of skill and chance. Often, it is not the game being played itself which features, but references to it as an analogy of some plot situation. Its use helps to reinforce the alien culture being portrayed, and also gives the reader a sense of continuity between books portraying differing people and places.
Equally, an interstellar refugee camp turned slum of dubious reputation called the Dipple provides the starting point for a number of planet stories, as the number of desperate young people seeking any escape from its poverty is high.
She also developed the concept of traveling through alternate worlds in The Crossroads of Time. In the Time Trader series, she explored Celtic Europe, and Ice Age Baltic region, synthesizing anthropology, archeology, and hard science fiction, and this series must also be seen as a pivotal exploration of time travel, as a method of fictionally exploring lost cultures. The second book in the Time Trader series, Galactic Derelict, features the use of recovered alien technology, to enable human travel to the stars, and this theme is also very recurrent, with definite features developed by Andre Norton.
High Hallack LibraryThe High Hallack Library was a facility that Andre Norton was instrumental in organizing and opening. Designed as a research facility for genre writers, and scholars of “popular” literature (the genres of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, western, romance, gothic, or horror), it was located near Norton’s home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The facility, named after one of the continents in Norton's Witch World series, was home to over 10,000 texts, videos and various other media. Attached to the facility were three guest rooms, allowing authors and scholars the chance to stay on-site to facilitate their research goals.
The facility was opened on February 28, 1999, and operated until March 2004. Most of the collection was sold during the closing days of the facility. The declining health of Andre Norton was one of the leading causes of its closing.
(New) Edgar Rice Burroughs "At the Earth's Core" audiobook Chapter 12 fractals, artwork & stories at www.johnpirillo.com
I cut my sci-fi teeth on Andre Norton, whom at the time I thought was a man, but later in college found out was a woman trying to get a break in a man's world, and most certainly did, and deservedly so.
Ace used to double up her novels and for a quater or fifty cents I could purchase two of her astounding stories in one great smelling volume.
Ah, those were the days.
For those of you who missed those days, I'm sure one day you'll say the same thing about electronic books as they eventually warp into something else.
Enjoy the first chapter. There are a total of eight.
-- John --
The Geldings Residence sat alone in a street of mainly shop keepers, a lone and ancient structure that had been inherited from generations of Geldings, starting from the days of King Cornish to the current Queen Mary of Scots. Not a lovely place. But a forbidding one, it sprung from the street like a malignant tumor against all the more brightly lit and clean businesses that hugged its right and left sides, and faced it from the Manly Park opposite it.
It had always been a queer neighborhood. Rumors of vampires, werewolves, changelings, black magic and dark sorcerers had abounded there from the times of King Cornish. Some even rumored it to be back from the times of King Arthur, when he and Merlin established their brief empire of Light and the round table of equality run by the most educated and noble Knights of the times.
Therefore it came as no surprise that one day the ancient structure should catch on fire and immediately burn to the ground, impacting business on both sides as firemen from the length and breadth of London strove to put out the scorching flames before all the good nearby businesses were leveled to the ground as well. The fire burned so hot that the firemen were forced to stand at least a hundred feet away to blast their water upon it.
McBride and McBride, fabled inventors of the Golden Ruby, a special hand watch that could accurately keep track of time no matter what time zone, were very bitter that Monday morning, as they rushed to their place of business to see it in flames as well as the dark and malignant mansion nearby.
"Serves them right!" Father McBride told his twenty year old partner and son, Fable McBride, a good lad with blonde hair and stark blue eyes that looked into your very soul. Or at least that's what people told him. Often. And repeatedly.
Fable shook his head, tossing his mane of shoulder length locks and curls about his broad shoulders. "We can rebuild."
His father sighed. "Yes. But will I still be alive to see the business thrive once more?"
His son was silent.
"Excuse me, kind sir." Watson asked from two gentlemen away. "Am I right to assume that you two are related to the fire here this morning?"
"Not related, but victimized." Father McBride corrected.
Watson stepped around the two gawkers of the crowd that had been building to watch the death and destruction of the old mansion, and took his hat off. "I'm deeply sorry for your loss. You are then Father McBride?"
"How would you know that, sir?"
Watson indicated the briefcase in Father McBride's hands, and the label upon it.
"Oh. Yes. Rather silly of me to question you on that, wasn't it? How can I help you then?"
"My friend and I..." He indicated Sherlock Holmes who stood closer to the fire, his eyes on something only he was aware of. "Mister Holmes..."
"Not the...Mister Holmes!" Fable exclaimed, reaching out his hand to take Watson's. "I read your articles in the London Blast every day. Fascinating. Brilliant. You are admired by every school child and young woman and man in the Greater Britains."
Watson flushed with embarrassment at the comment and looked away to hide his red face. "I've been told that you two knew the deceased."
Father McBride gave Watson another look of astonishment. "But how could you know..."
Fable nudged him. "No one could have survived that fire, Father."
"Right. Yes. So sorry. I'm just testy because of the damage to our reputation."
Watson turned to look at him again, his embarrassment under control once more. "Before we were summoned here by Inspector Bloodstone, he mentioned that you two had been having some...uh...difficulties with the Elder Gelding?"
"Yes. The man kept an inordinate number of bats in his basement, and they would fly out at night and attack our dear Nellie."
Fable jumped in. "A sheep dog. My father got him as a gift from me Mummy."
Father McBride corrected him. "Your mother!"
"Yes. That's right, Me...My Mother."
Watson almost laughed, but restrained himself at this minor infraction on the father's part against his son. It wasn't uncommon for the richer gentry to be very precise about their language as a way of showing off their wealth and considerations.
"I see." Watson spoke finally.
"Can you tell me how your dog fares now, Mister McBride?" Sherlock said as he stepped between the father and son to look into his face.
Sherlock waited, saying nothing.
"She is quite happy." Father McBride answered a bit too quickly.
Sherlock's eyes narrowed.
Inspector Bloodstone, his short red hair flaring a bit from rushing to the crime scene, or perhaps not a crime scene. That was yet to be determined. He came up and nodded to the father and son. "You remember our earlier conversation?"
"Yes." Father McBride responded. "You had two gentlemen looking into the bats issue to see if a mutually agreeable solution could be found."
"It would appear a solution has been found, though not beneficial to either your, the Geldings, or the other business scored by this unfortunate incident."
Sherlock spoke again, more slowly. "Did you have any relationship with the Goodfellows, who owned the other shop?"
"We spoke sometimes when passing." Father McBride answered politely.
Fable jumped in. "Merilee Goodfellow and I are dating."
His father glared at him. "A bad relationship it is too."
"You do not approve of the daughter?" Sherlock inquired.
"No, I think she is fine, but the father is a dark sort, and I'm afraid his nature rubs off on his daughter as well, though why my son can't see that, I don't know."
"I see. Then you won't mind us speaking to them about this incident?"
"Why should I mind? It's a free London."
Sherlock nodded, then as the last of the flames were smothered by water and began settling down; he proceeded with Inspector Bloodstone to the ruins to inspect them. On the way he stopped to look back at Father McBride, who was watching him closely, but quickly looked away when seen doing so.
Watson took out a small notebook, with hurried notes in it. "How long have you known the Geldings?"
"Never. Never saw them. Never spoke to them, except through a Legal Counsel who applied the letter of law upon them for the bats."
"And Nellie, your sheepdog. Have you made a claim for her death?"
Father McBride blanched the color of a ghost. "How in the devil did you know that, sir?"
Sherlock and Inspector Bloodstone stooped in the smoking rubble and dug something up with their hands, then slowly lifted it into view. They came waking back towards Watson and the McBride's.
They set the object down on the cobblestone street in front of the pair.
Sherlock eyed the father. "You said your sheep dog was fine, am I correct?"
Inspector Bloodstone dropped back to the left on Sherlock's slight eye movement and kept an intent stance as Sherlock continued.
"Please examine the tags on this dog's neck."
"My God! The poor creature. Caught in that horrible place!" Father McBride gasped, then dropped to a knee and examined the tags. His face drained of all color as he slowly rose.
"Inspector." Sherlock spoke.
Inspector Bloodstone pulled out a pair of handcuffs from his jacket pocket and approached the father.
Fable tried to stop him.
"Son. Will you interfere with the arrest of a man for the murder of an entire family?"
Fable began to shake with fear and anxiety and dropped back, making short intakes of air, sounding like he might be ready to faint.
Sherlock nodded to Watson who attended to Fable, leading him towards a nearby constable wagon.
"Mister McBride, you are under arrest for the murder of Elmer, Aimee and Louis Gelding."
Father McBride put his hands out and they were handcuffed.
He looked back at Sherlock before he was led away.
"How could you know I set the fire?"
Sherlock raised a fingertip with a white substance on it. "Phosphor."
"Your firm is well known for using phosphor in large quantities to apply the extreme heat needed for your construction of the most excellent time pieces you manufacture."
"Everyone knows that." Father McBride protested.
"This dog did not die of the fire." Sherlock noted.
"No, it died from a severe beating. Its skull was split in three different places."
Sherlock walked closer to Father McBride.
"Mister Gelding caught you beating your beloved dog to death and threatened to expose you to the world as a man who hurts innocent creatures, thus tarnishing your reputation and that of your shop."
Fable, who had been struggling with the indictment of his father, spoke up, his voice weak and trembling. "Father. You told me that Mister Gelding killed the dog."
The Inspector gave the son a look of surprise.
Sherlock turned to the Inspector. "I think that you will find that it was the father, who ordered the burning of the mansion, but it was his son who delivered the deadly white phosphorous through the basement windows, knowing full well how deadly and highly inflammable it was."
The Inspector scowled at the son, who know hid his face in his hands and began to weep.
The Inspector nodded to a nearby constable who took the son in tow. They marched the McBrides off to the constable wagon.
Watson sighed. "So many lives ruined over an animal."
Sherlock turned to Watson. "Which animal do you refer to, Watson? The dog or the father?" Without another word he stuck his hands behind his back and strode off, leaving a shocked Watson behind him.
Starting next Tuesday I will be posting less often and later.
Arthur was young, but not stupid. He was actually quite talented, and very intelligent. Just a bit naive at times about how people should or should not act with each other. On one such day he was taking a short walk with Merlin, who was chatting up a storm, talking about how one day he was going to raise stones to create a Cosmic Calendar and an invitation to the gods. And how many clovers there were in the pasture. How many butterflies it took to lift a cow. And so on.
Arthur wasn't really listening after all. So it came as a big surprise when he got a smack on the back of his head. Not a hard one, just enough to shake him out of his fantasies.
"Why did you do that, Merlin?"
"Living in the now is all there is. You live in your head. You die in your head. You never get to live in the real world at all."
"Sure, but everybody does it."
"Sometimes, Arthur. Sometimes. But those who do well in our world do not live in their head as much as you."
Arthur shrugged. "What else am I supposed to do when I'm threading. It's beautiful work to do, but boringggggg."
Merlin gave him a bemused look on the last word. "You're beginning to sound like those rich kids who have nothing better to do with their lives than eat pastries and grow up and get married."
Merlin smacked him again on the back of his head.
"Do you hear nothing I've been telling you?"
"What hurts is to think that I'm wasting my time on a young king...young boy...who wants to be a king and hasn't the guts to deal with his reality."
"I'm going to be a king?"
"Not at the rate you're going." Merlin snapped back, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "You can't expect a goat that wants to live like a chicken, to ever grow up to be a Ram."
"But they all do." Arthur insisted.
"Yes. But then they get their wool shorn, and their bodies eaten for meat."
"That's morbid." Arthur retorted, screwing his nose up in a look of disgust.
Merlin sat down on a broken tree stump and tapped the other side of the stump.
Arthur hopped up beside him, his feet barely touching the ground, compared to Merlin's which went a good several feet longer. Merlin was a tall man by any standard. Even a giant might have to think twice about picking on him. Arthur smiled to himself. But then the giant wouldn't know he could be turned into a bunch of broccoli for doing so either.
Merlin smacked him again, this time a bit harder.
"Come back into your body, lad. The angels will have you soon enough!"
"You believe in angels?"
Merlin gave him a sly look. "Do you?"
"Not really. Wings on a person, kind of weird if you ask me."
Merlin laughed. "You have more opinions that a loom has threads, Arthur."
"What do you expect from a young kid?"
Merlin pointed to an oak across the path they had been traversing. "Quickly, tell me what you see?"
"An old tree."
Merlin shook his head. "Wrong. Try again."
Arthur narrowed his eyes and scrutinized the tree more closely. "It is an old oak, with many branches, some of which are touching the ground and some the sky."
"And like that mighty oak tree, you also must bend and rise. Touching the ground for strength and the sky for vision."
"But I'm not a tree, am I?" Arthur fired back, a smirk on his lips.
Merlin sighed. "Young man, you will never be a tree. Nor I, but that doesn't mean we can't love it for what it is, learn from it."
Arthur considered that. "And they make good wood for fires too."
Merlin laughed. "Ever the practical soul, are we?"
"I learned that from you."
Merlin smiled, and then made an expression of awe. "Oh!"
Arthur looked and a turtle came into view, plodding along slowly.
"Don't move an inch." Merlin warned with a whisper.
The turtle got closer and closer and Arthur could see a Blue Bird on its back as well. It was squatted, its wings folded about itself and sleeping. They watched the turtle come up, and then stop at Merlin's feet. It nuzzled his shoes a moment, then seeing it was not a tasty thing, moved back onto the path again.
The Blue Bird never moved once, but kept its wings folded, its eyes closed.
Finally, the turtle and the bird went from view.
"Tell me what you saw, Arthur."
"A silly turtle carrying the weight of two."
Merlin arched an eyebrow, which he usually did when he was excited or annoyed. Arthur couldn't tell which, but he assumed the latter.
"But he was." Arthur protested.
Arthur when a soul is weak and weary, the strong will take its burden and carry it for a time until it has regained its strength."
Suddenly, the Blue Bird shot into view. It dipped in the sky over their heads several times, chirping sweetly, and then hurtled into the forest behind them.
Arthur thought about it.
"Then I shall be a turtle when I grow up and help those less fortunate to carry their burdens until they, like the Blue Bird, are rested enough to stand on their own."
Merlin smiled. "And this is why I am so proud of you, dear Arthur." Merlin said, his voice rich with warmth and pride.
Rock and Roll the Comic Books
"A Cartoon Story"
It was a fierce battle, and no one was going to back off. No one was going to give an inch without getting blood in return. Lots of blood.
Trouble was, it was all from his picking fingers. They hurt like someone was cutting off a piece at a time and were starting to bleed. But he was relentless, he couldn't give up, because the fate of a world depended on him.
He was the Rock and Roll King and the beautiful Princess beside him, Cartoon, was the woman of his heart and soul and he couldn't let her be swept away by the hordes of Zombie guitar players who were hungry for her body, as well as her soul.
So he kept on picking at his electric guitar, his Jimmie Hendrix afro, flagging in the breeze of all the megawatt amps behind him and the ones behind the Zombie King, who was rocking on from the other side of the zombie horde, using the power of his rock and roll to stir them, to move them, to guide and rush them for he and Cartoon.
Johnnie had fought a lot of weird battles lately, but this had to take the cake for the most blood he'd shit.
"Oh shitzleputt!" He cursed as one of his picking fingers got so greasy from blood that he made a bad note.
That gave the zombie horde all the time they needed to reach the platform he and Cartoon were on. She took out her drum sticks, the ones he had gotten from the comic book Rock and Roll Stars and began poking at the closer ones. Each poke took out a zombie, but for every zombie she poked and annihilated into a cloud of gray and blood colored dust, came another one, just as eager as the last to take a bite of her tender flesh and anoint her into zombie hood.
"You won't win this battle, Johnnie!" Screamed the Zombie King. "My Mojo is greater than yours."
"You have no Mojo." He hollered back, staring down the monster. "Because you don't even know what it means, you son of a dog bone!"
The Zombie King snarled, revealed all twenty of his scary teeth, each one of them capped with gold and diamond studs. "Pretend you're tough, but admit it, this time I win!"
Johnnie reached into his back pocket where he kept the comic with the Rock and Roll King. Issue Number Ten, where the Rock and Roll King had a blaster for a right hand that could knock space ship out of the sky. He hurriedly thumbed through the pages, feeling the energies grow. He was getting better at this.
Then he started to lose the energies, until Cartoon put both her hands over his and gave him that smile that would knock the socks off a space suited astronaut.
His right hand flew up, now a cartoon blaster and he began firing into the horde. Zombie parts flew into the air, their snarls continuing as their heads separated from their bodies, then there was only one left. The Zombie King.
The Zombie King put down the bone guitar he had been playing and stomped across the space of the auditorium towards them.
"I don't need hordes to finish you!"
Johnnie let the blaster hand dissolve back into his good right hand again, then pulled Cartoon against him. He felt her warmth suffusing his body for a moment, then said. "You don't have to stay with me."
"I'm not going anywhere without you. If you die, I'd rather not live!"
"But that monster won't let you die! He'll suck your flesh dry for centuries!"
"Just let him try!" She cursed, her eyes flashing with fury, then turned to join me in the battle. We raised our silver swords tipped with Twinkies. They were deadly. The only way you can slice and dice a living zombie like the Zombie King is with one of those. It may sound a bit Disney, but it's true. They hate Twinkies. It separates them from their bones, and dissolves them back into dust ands them off to LaLa Land where they have to face the karmas they've created by their horrible deeds.
Oh yes, and in case you were wondering, not all zombies are made that way. Some choose to be that way. They're the worst and they're usually led by a scoundrel like the Zombie King. God knows I'd dissolved him a hundred times by now, but his hatred for me and humanity was so strong that he kept coming back from the dead.
Some day, when...if...I had the time, I'd have to do some research to see why he gets away with dying so many times and coming back. Was another human re-energizing raising him, a black sorcerer type like those from Doctor Strange. Speaking of which, I'd forgot to close up my Doctor Strange back home. I just hoped Elizabeth didn't sneak in and start reading it, it might let loose a horde of different monsters for me to take out.
The Zombie King leaped to the stage I and Cartoon stood upon and raised two swords over our heads. "Which to die first. Eeny, Meeny, Miney."
Cartoon and I both swung our Twinkie swords at the same time, one beheading him, the other slicing his body from neck to abdomen.
His head clunked to the platform we stood on, making a kind of squishy sound, then his eyes looked up at us. "Oops!"
Then the head the halved skeleton all made a powder puff explosion and vanished into gray and red dust.
Cartoon and I choked on it for a moment, then took a deep breath as we leaped off the platform, which dissolved, along with all the remains of the battlefield. The local Wal-Mart store. Most of the patrons had scurried out as fast as they could when the zombies came a biting.
We exited the huge store, then hugged.
"One of these days we really gotta get a life." I told her.
"You do." She said, smiling as she raised her lips for a kiss. "Have a life. Me!"
We kissed. Oh, did I tell you that I really, really love this girl. Even if she is a cartoon?
Get more Cartoonish with the first of this fun, adventure packed, series: Cartoon Episode One: Shades of Gray, the Portal Opens (99 cents) at Amazon.
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