Snippet of April 7 – 18.5K words into it. Rough and unedited. Not even a quick read through.

“Why so glum husband? I thought things were going very well for us,” Huian said.
“Ah, I can never hide my moods from you,” Chen said, with a sigh. “Indeed as I was telling you yesterday things are going very well for us. Our security cooperative has a lot of work, and T has been generous sharing the profits from a number of his enterprises. I feel much more secure financially than when we arrived on Home. No, I feel sad because the gentleman we visited in Myanmar, Chan Aye, was taken by this horrible flu. He had a couple more names, but that was what he always invited foreigners to call him. I’d hoped to disperse some of our new funds to him and when I called I was informed of his death. I counted him a friend too.”
“Oh… Did he have life extension to be particularly susceptible?” Huian asked.
“No, he was deeply suspicious of the treatment. He’d asked before what the down side was, because he said there was always a down side. As it turned out he was right for many people. But, no,” Chen said, “he just was one of the many older people that died from this flu, as flu has always killed some.”
“Did you still have funds on deposit with him? Is that a problem?” Huian asked.
“No, given the uncertainty when we were fleeing I asked to withdraw all our funds. And it was quite accommodating of him to allow it on such short notice. But then I was quite frank with him about our situation. I was looking to deposit monies again. We have funds in both Home banks, and still have deposits in a few Earth institutions, but we saw the advantage of having assets dispersed when we had to leave abruptly.”
“They are not continuing the family business?” Huian asked surprised.
“Do not be offended wife, but they are a very traditional household. The man had no sons and he never trained a daughter to the business. They have his books, literal books as well as electronic records, he always said the memory of computers is too ephemeral. I’d joke with him that others found it entirely too hard to erase. I’ll miss the back and forth with him,” Chen said.
“So, they are just going to pay the funds out and shut down?” Huian asked. “I hate to see a business die almost as much as a person. Their means of living will vanish.”
“Chan Aye left them well provided for. His wives are of an age like his, and he was looking at retirement soon. His daughters will be provided for amply when they marry. I spoke briefly with his eldest wife and she was in no distress like they would be homeless or scrambling for a bowl of rice. A lot of their customers died in the epidemic too. Some of the accounts will never be demanded. She would have appointed another relative to handle dispersing funds, but the only uncle who was a traditional banker and takaful agent died too. She and her co-wives are managing their funds. They are mature women, experienced in life, they won’t do anything stupid with his wealth.”
“Could you not ask them to take you funds and continue as before?” Huian asked.
“I speak with you candidly, and ask your opinion, I value it highly. To do so new for us, and is even rarer in their culture. I’ll be honest that I’d feel very uncomfortable to do business with them. It was awkward just the short conversation we had, because I know women of their household do not interact with men who are not closely related.”
“And yet the young woman who entertained me while you dealt with the banker had no trouble at all speaking with you after, when you asked her help to outfit me,” Huian remembered.
“Yes, that was Myat, he often bragged on her. But she is of the younger generation. She is more comfortable with outsiders, and I admit I’m more comfortable with her, knowing she is different.”
“Would the sum you intended to entrust to him break us, Husband?”
“Not at all, that was the intent, to disperse our holdings, so no one part would be a catastrophic loss. I’d intended to send the equivalent of two ounces of gold to his accounts. Either by electronic transfer or the physical metal transferred by courier as two Solar, if he wished.
“Let me propose something, Husband. Allow me to call Myat. I thought very well of the young woman Although she was not that young. Like you, I can talk to her easier than the older women I never met. I’d like to offer to put the funds on deposit with the family, since they still have funds, and are managing them. She can do the talking to the older women for me. I remember she said she was the daughter of his second wife. If they are brave enough to accept the challenge then surely there are many other new widows down there who have funds to safeguard. I wonder how many of them lack male relatives they wish to act for them now, and would be very comfortable dealing with another woman. The young daughters like Myat are of an age now to be useful. Surely they have the assets to continue Chan Ayes work if they chose to.”
Chen didn’t reply for so long she thought he might not, or if he did he’d certainly decline.
“The way we’ll do this, is I’ll start an account with the System Trade bank in your name,” Chen said. “That way you are approaching Myat to handle the funds for another woman. That is even easier for them to accept than you merely as my agent. I’ll do this periodically and you may invest the funds with them, or wherever else you think it wise. You may want to confer with Tetsuo’s wife, Lin, on occasion as I know he has directed her to manage a separate fund in just this manner.
“I confess, the first time I knew of that it made me uncomfortable, but given his success in everything the man touches, how can I second guess him?” Chen asked.
“Thank you for your confidence, and expanding it,” Huian said.
“There are things you need to know,” Chen said. “You have to speak to them in the terms their traditions allow for financial services. You may think that it’s a silly way to do the same thing as western banking and insurance accomplishes, but the distinctions are real and important to the way they think.
“For example, they do not pay interest in the same manner a European or American bank would. Rather you are sharing profits in an enterprise, which can mean you may be called on to share in losses if that’s the way things go. Now we are not believers, but I always made deposits with the understanding that we’d accept that risk the same as them. It’s no different than other western investment vehicles that have no guarantee. But it has frequently been a source of conflict between Muslim bankers and western bank regulators, who insist on the deposits being completely insured. Now, anybody would know that is an illusion and a lie, because their insurance never has the funds to cover a total loss. But they demand that face to the public. Similarly insurance in their system accomplishes the same thing, but they describe it differently as a form of shared risk. It matters when you speak with them, because they regard the way they accomplish that as moral, and the way westerners do so as a violation of their religious law.”
Huian nodded every once in awhile, and maintained eye contact. Once Chen got in full lecture mode like this he could go on hours. Sometimes she thought he’d have made a better college professor than a spy. He was however an engaging speaker. Not one of those fellows who droned on in a monotone. He was really getting enthused to his subject, and she really did need to know these things, which helped make them interesting.
She might have to force him to stop for a meal in a couple hours, or he’d press on oblivious to the passage of time. But best not to stop him while he was expanding on what he’d granted. The more he built on the idea the less chance anything would undo it. Even though she was just itching to call Myat and get started. She suspected Myat would be much more forgiving of any gaps in her knowledge and gently correct any cultural gaffes she made. One tended to be patient and forgiving with a person when the money was flowing from them to you. Just like she was right now.

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Family Law 3 is finished.

Title tentatively “Secrets in the Stars”
It ended up at 138K+ words.
Editor has it . Now back to April #7.

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Another short F.L. 3 snippet –

“Hmm… Maybe I’m playing this wrong,” Gordon suggested. “Are you up to a little eyelash fluttering and coy smiles? Pour the feminine charm on and get the fellow to babble everything?”
“Probably not,” Lee said. “I suspect my efforts might make Gabriel rupture something from the spasms of laughter, not babble secrets. I’ll keep that in mind as a needed skill set.”
“Yeah, you probably need to start learning that stuff at about four years old,” Gordon admitted.
“If we see each other again I’ll just ask,” Lee decided. “I think he’s admire the forthrightness far more than any social wiles I can fake this late in the game.”
Gordon nodded. “Your right. He’s seem plenty of the other in a century. You’re interesting because you’re different, not the same.”
“This is scary, but I actually understand that,” Lee said surprised. “I can even see how to cultivate it and use it. Which means I’m getting socialized, but not by becoming more like them.”
“Whatever works,” Gordon said, shrugging.
“No really, because I want to get along with people, but I haven’t had any desire to become like them. It’s encouraging. I know it’s possible now.”
“Call him up if you want,” Gordon said, making an effort to seem indifferent. “Since it’s atypical social behavior he’ll probably like it.”
“Is it really? Why’s it atypical?” Lee asked.
“I’m not sure. But if you watch enough old video you’ll see that the social convention is that the female waits on the male to call her.” He screwed his nose up and had that – thinking about it hard – look again. “I’m embarrassed to say I never questioned it, because Derf do the same thing to a large degree.”
“That seems silly,” Lee decided. “If I want to call him I shall,” she decided.
Gordon said nothing.

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Snippet of Family Law 3

This has been a hard book to do snippets late in the book. It gives too much away.

“Gordon, I have Custom Tailored Genes on the screen and the man is offering me an appointment for nine in the morning, day after tomorrow. Would you go with me?” Lee asked.
“They on the same clock as here?” Gordon asked.
“Yeah, I asked and he told me they’ve been on the same clock as the moon almost since their independence. He called it Zulu time,” Lee said. “Damned if I know why.”
“That’s why we buy web updates,” Gordon reminded her.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll look it up but he’s waiting. Want to go with me?” Lee repeated.
“Sure, what else am I going to do that would be half as much fun?” Gordon said gravely.
“Yes, I’m confirming that appointment,” Lee spoke at the com and ended the call. She stayed there however. If she didn’t look up Zulu time Gordon would bug her to death.
“You can never learn just one thing,” Lee said much later.
“You said that like it’s a bad thing,” Gordon accused.
“Once in awhile a simple answer would be nice. How am I going to remember everything if I live hundreds of years? We’ll all go crazy. No wonder April worried about it.”
Gordon looked tempted to speak, and then looked away. He was being polite today.
“I know, you have to assume we aren’t already crazy for that to happen,” Lee said, before he could.
“You’re having this conversation fine without me now,” Gordon observed.
“Here’s the deal. Zulu time is the same as Greenwich Mean Time, which is the time at the observatory in England where they established the zero meridian for Earth,” Lee said.
“They got all the Earthies to agree on something like that? I’m amazed.” Gordon said.
“Not at first,” Lee agreed. “But this was at just the right time when sailing ships needed such a standard for navigation, and about the time they had clocks good enough to help navigate. But England was apparently a very big deal right then, and had the biggest navy. I guessing here, but I bet they made a lot of the charts too.
“But the Zulu time is from zero, since it’s the zero meridian. But I tell you… nobody ever does things the easy way and just says zero time. It seems they used something called an acrophonic alphabet when radio was new. If it was all scratchy and garbled you’d spell out the message letter by letter with an agreed upon set of easily recognized words. So Zero Time became Zulu time. Doesn’t seem like much of an improvement to me, but it was faithful to the system.”
Gordon looked up scowling. “They have better radios now. They have satellite relays and fiber optics and digital processing. Why wouldn’t they drop the acrophonic stuff?”
“I suspect they think it sounds suave and military,” Lee said.
Gordon nodded. “They’d probably say it’s cool. I read that phrase has come back for the fifth time recently. Slang is like that. It recycles.”

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Family Law 3

Past 98K words.

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Projects… Works on the side

When I get an idea for a book I usually write a chapter or two. I have a half dozen in various stages. I’ll get back to them if I can but the series get first call on my time.
However, here is a little teaser.

A Quick Clean Victory
Chapter 1
“What are the numbers?” Commander Three Fingers demanded.
“Oxygen is about one part in five, maybe a little low, gravity is high, eight parts per hundred extra from standard. Spin is about seven-eighths of a standard day. The planet must have a big iron core,” the navigator/astrophysicist Blue mused.
“Temperature?” The officer asked gruffly. He wasn’t interested in abstract knowledge now.
“Well below the zero point of water freezing at the axis ends, all over the scale elsewhere. I’m seeing some areas at near half the scale to boiling, the terrain is rugged with large mountains and active volcanism on several continents. Temperature varies with altitude and proximity to the large bodies of water. It has a big tilt to its axis too. There’s more water than land, and it seems to be deeper than we can measure on passive scan out this far. Once we get well inside the orbit of that big moon I’ll get a reading.”
“Why don’t you sweep it with low frequency radar then?” Three Fingers asked, irritated.
“There is a technological presence on the planet. They may easily detect us, if I go to active scan.”
“Worse than that, I detect neutrino emissions and artificial satellites,” Blue said, quietly.
“People?” Three Fingers asked, tense.
“Not our kind, nor Tigers, nor Bugs,” Blue assured him. “But whatever they are there’s a lot of them. I can already see surface artifacts.”
“Set for stealth running, no emissions, not even internal wireless,” Three Fingers ordered. The flight deck sounded with a brief buzz, as a dozen belt communicators vibrated, and displayed a notice that all com was restricted to hard wired.
“There’s no artificial radiation from other planets in the system,” Blue added.”I’d be surprised if they are advanced enough to detect such low powered emissions.”
“So would I,” Three Fingers agreed. “And the last thing I need right now is any more surprises. I wish we could just pass on to the next few systems, and not have to deal with them.”
“Chances of a planet on which we could survive are so low it would be suicide. We have limited life support, several critical systems without redundancy, leaks it is impossible to evaluate without going EV, and a lot of our spare parts were blown to hell in the beam hole blown through decks twenty-six and twenty-seven by that Bug cruiser. Most folks would say we are unbelievably lucky to take a clean through beam weapon hit and not break up. Have you ever heard of it happening before?” Blue asked.
“No, but odds were pretty slim we’d come out of jump fifty man lengths from the Bugs. They were so close the beam didn’t have enough range to spread. And the bridge record shows they fired faster than any biological reaction time, so it was an automated response. They probably never saw any need to program their systems to hold fire if the target was too close.”
“And we jumped back out on automatic too,” Blue reminded him needlessly. Their problem then had been that they couldn’t turn the faster than light drive off, and nobody had ever proposed such a problem occurring, much less a fix. They had finally cut the power panel to the whole ship, to let it drift, allowing someone to disassemble the drive controls, coasting dark and without any gravity. “The beam was probably still on when we disappeared. I imagine none of them actually saw us until later when they reviewed their cameras as to why their weapon fired, and why there was a sudden debris field expanding away from them. We appeared and left faster than your brain could register it. I just wish our weapons had been programmed to fire automatically too.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Three Fingers assured him. “The tidal forces from jumping out that close will have warped and damaged the Bug cruiser badly. I don’t know about Bugs, but the tidal gradient would have been sufficient to kill or injure most of our crew were our actions reversed. If they didn’t have help close at hand, they might not have had sufficient crew functional to save the ship. Be glad they didn’t have it automated to jump out first if there was a ship too close.”
“Pilot, ease us into an orbit around the metastable point between the planet and the giant moon, with as little observable drive use as possible. Make it a big enough loop we are not silhouetted against the bright face of the satellite. I want to know some basics before we go in any closer. How many natives, some idea what they look like, and the level of their technology. Start accumulating data about their language, and if it has an acoustical component we can hear or speak. I’m exhausted. I’m taking a rest period, as should any of the prime team who have been up so long. I’ll examine your reports when rested, and we change shifts.”
* * *
“How many languages?” Three Fingers asked. Blue wasn’t sure he believed him.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve identified seventeen, but I really expect to find more.”
“This is insane. We don’t have the assets to deal with that many languages. They have world-wide travel, why would they retain isolated languages?”
“I have no idea, but here is something interesting. They use one language for air traffic control. The same language that is used at several widely separated, but large areas on the planet. We’re concentrating on it, because we can record their instructions to an aircraft, and then watch how it maneuvers.”
“That has promise,” Three Fingers agreed. He put a thumb along his jaw and his three fingers across his chin, deep in thought. The maimed hand still bothered Blue, after serving with him for years, but he forced himself not to look away.
“They have image transmission, in fact sequence video, which gives us a good idea how fast their nervous systems work and how fast they can react,” Blue boasted. “They are really similar to us. Upright bipeds with a similar face, but only one thumb, thinner, and the young feeding glands are weird, up near their arm pits instead of down on their hips. I’ll put a couple on the screen,” he offered.
After a few minutes study Three Fingers asked to make sure, “These are all the same race?”
“Yes, there is quite a wide range of physical size, pigmentation, and hair patterns.”
“I’d have said they are dainty compared to us, except for that fellow,” He pointed out a screen capture of a Suma wrestler, scowling with greased hair tied back tightly.
“Yes, he reminds me disturbingly of my mother-in-law,” Blue revealed. “The same hair too.”
“No wonder you signed up for the deep sky services,” Three Fingers understood at last.
“We have an approximation of their basic unit of length. Their man length is about two of their units called meters. They run an extra one part in ten taller than us – mostly,” Blue hedged. We have their numerals with some certainty, which are base ten, and enough videos had time counters we found there common short time unit is very close to our second. But it appears they count time in increments of sixty instead of a hundred. Don’t ask me why.”
“It looks like they have never had contact with another race, that’s to the good, because they won’t have technological weapons. By this cultural stage territorial disputes should be historic, and military weapons a curiosity in museums, if they’ve never faced anything like the Bugs.”
“Maybe…I’ve seen some strange things I can’t explain,” Blue admitted.
“Like what?” Three Fingers demanded.
“We saw several groups of ships like this,” Blue explained, putting an overhead view on the screen. It showed a number of surface vessels clustered around a big ship. “Look at the big ship closer,” he invited and zoomed in on it.
“Aircraft? Fixed wing aircraft on an ocean going vessel? Do they need them for refueling stations? Do they use really low energy density fuels? I can’t see this being economically viable. How big is that vessel?” he demanded.
“Half the length of the Protector,” Blue told him. “Greater than half our volume though.”
Three Fingers contemplated that silently a bit.
“However, they don’t store them all on deck, like we grapple our combat shuttles. They take them below decks on elevators and carry a variety of aircraft. Most of them seem to loiter around the ship awhile, and then land again. They will fly a big oval above the group at about a hundred-sixty man-lengths per second. A few times they would sprint off at three hundred man lengths per second. The thermal signature indicates they use air-breathing rockets.”
“That’s mighty expensive technology,” Three Fingers protested. Back on Home I, there were only a couple hundred fast couriers using that sort of engine.
“They have thousands of aircraft using that sort of propulsion,” Blue assured him. “Oh, and while we were watching, a small aircraft left this small island here,” he drew a circle on the screen with his pointer, ” and it landed on the big ship deck. It flew at over seven hundred man- lengths per second. As close as we can see it doesn’t have any wings. It must derive all its lift and control from the body shape.”
“There have been proposals to build such a thing from time to time,” Three Fingers acknowledged. “In theory it could be done, with exotic materials, but it would cost hundreds of times what a conventional aircraft would. The Bugs and the Tigers certainly have never made one, so we have little incentive to make one to match them. It seems like if you are going to that much expense, you might as well go ahead and build an orbital shuttle.”
“Oh, the neutrino emissions I spoke of? It is hard to localize, but it appears some of the ships are nuclear powered. It is an odd pattern, as if it is not just one fuzzy dot localized on the big ship but several nodes in the neutrino detector nearby. You know it doesn’t give a super sharp image,” Blue said.
“Nuclear powered wet navy? It just keeps getting stranger and stranger. We need to send some drones, maybe even a manned shuttle down to collect data. Draw up a list of things that caught your interest. Oh, and send a long range disk drone to get a close look at that big ship. If we ever make it back home, they won’t believe that without pictures.”
* * *
Well away from land in the Indian Ocean, the battle group around the CVN 147 George W. Bush looked for hazards to come to them from the north and west, from the Indian subcontinent or Africa. That didn’t mean they didn’t watch the entire horizon. The Bush was the last built of the three carriers still in service of the double hulled Clinton class. All the new ones were submersibles. It had three times the deck area of the old Ford class. It could launch its entire fleet of aircraft in fifteen minutes, since none of them needed catapult assistance, and it could land them on four capture lanes, staggered at three minute intervals. The elevators took the recovered aircraft down on the inside, between the hulls, to access three hanger decks.
“Cap three turn to one-seven-three and go to FMP. Climb to 28k meters. We have a radar return that does not fit any know aircraft or missile closing at five, five, zero knots. We wish you to make a visual of the bogey in passing. Cap four, go to 30k meters on one-seven-four, and loiter for possible intercept. We are broadcasting the standard warning to turn aside before the three hundred kilometer limit.”
Battle Group Commander Higgins had splashed three intruders in the last two years, who had tried to see how close they could get. Two were unmarked which was disturbing, and one had Pakistani marks which he flat out didn’t believe. Three hundred kilometers was way too close to allow something to approach so aggressively on a direct line for his carrier, but it was published doctrine for peace time, whatever that was. If he had an ongoing attack, he’d open his exclusion zone to a thousand kilometers, and if that happened to overlap the tip of India or Shri Lanka, tough shit. He had eight thousand lives and a couple Trillion dollars in his battle group, and he intended to return home with them all safe.
“Cap three, come left slightly as you will pass at five-hundred meters on your current heading. We’d like to get that down to two-hundred. Activate your sight camera, but do not go hot on weapons. You may back off FMP after passing and come around.”
Cap three, Alex Davison, put a little pressure on his stick to the left, and then came back on course, flipping the switches for the gun camera.
“Passing in twenty seconds from…Mark!”
At a combined speed of around three-thousand kilometers an hour Alex wasn’t going to read any nose art on what went past, but he was very unhappy at what he saw. At his silence the CDC prompted him. “Can you identify the intruder, Captain?”
“It’s an anomalous circular aircraft sir, very thin in cross section, and silvery metallic, sir.”
“It’s a frigging flying saucer!” he blurted out. Crap. It might be a flying saucer, but if it didn’t turn aside pretty quickly, it was going to be confetti raining down on the ocean. He reduced power and started a long easy turn to the west, staying well away from behind what he was pretty sure would soon be a target.
“Splash him as soon as he is a centimeter inside the limit,” the Director ordered. “I don’t give a damn if he is waving at us, green with deely boopers, he doesn’t get a shot at the carrier.”
“Cap four, turn to one-seven-one and descend to 29k meters. You are weapons hot, repeat, weapons hot. Fire upon target lock. You should have him in range already.”
“Roger, hot and descending,” Hal Roberts acknowledged.
From when he activated the targeting radar, until acquired the incoming craft was only about three seconds. He selected a missile that was designed for head on shots, but once it was released to his designated target it homed on its own radar. A gentle squeeze of the trigger on his stick sent it on its way. It popped from his weapons bay with a lurch, and a slight shudder of the airframe as the port opened and closed to allow it not to drop, but be thrown out. It launched inactive, but stabilized and the engine started. It passed him in less than a half second. It was a measure of his confidence in the weapon that he hadn’t asked to fire two of them. In the time it took him to blink there was an exhaust contrail to infinity from his viewpoint, the actual missile out of sight. In another two seconds there was a hot white spark of light at the end of the white thread. “Splash one,” he announced.
“AWACS confirms debris falling. That’s a definite kill,” CDC told him.
Does that mean I get to paint a little saucer on my kill marks? Hal wondered.
* * *
“Shiny, you’ve slicked drones like that around Bug missiles before. What happened?” Three Fingers asked. He didn’t seem angry, just genuinely curious.
“Oh, I jinked hard,” Shiny said, nervously wiping the bald top of his head that gave him his name. “I have to say that missile could really turn, and it was making radio emissions, I think it had its own radar, besides the one on the aircraft.”
The commander looked at the weapons operator, still sitting at the drone controls, digesting that. “Who the hell could afford to throw away an expensive radar set, on every individual missile they shoot off?” He finally asked. He didn’t really expect an answer, but the tech answered very literally, “Maybe they are all filthy rich.”
“They were repeatedly transmitting the same sequence on several different frequencies,” Blue said behind him. “I think we need to prioritize the words in that transmission in building the dictionary.”
“Sure, go ahead,” Three Fingers allowed. “But I think you can eliminate, ‘Welcome Galactic Travelers’ from your phrase list.”

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Well this is very nice! – and an update

Amazon put a page up to buy entire April series as a collection. This was something I was thinking of doing but they beat me to it and probably did a better job. I like that it shows if you already bought a book so you don’t irritate people by duplication.

Follow-up. Response from Amazon:
We are glad to hear that you liked our new feature which is called ‘Series Bundle’ that is displaying all the books under the series titled “April.”

However, I’ll have to be honest with you that this is still in testing phase and therefore we have provided this feature only to a certain set of publishers.

Having said that, the additional feature where one can buy all the books in a bundle has not yet been added to your books and which is why your reader has to buy each book individually.

Therefore, I’ve went ahead and introduced this feature to your series bundle so that customers can buy all 6 of your books with just one click. Please note that it may take up to 24 hours for this to update on our website.

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International sales –

I’ve sold regularly to the US of course… Denmark, Canada, Australia, UK, France and recently India, but this month I added Japan and The Netherlands.

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Re-edited “Down to Earth”

I took a couple day break to re-edit “Down to Earth”.
It was pretty rough and it bothered me. I also worried it’s errors would keep some people from continuing with the series.
It’s hard to edit you own material but I’ve been away from it so long a lot jumped out at me that wouldn’t immediately after writing it. Amazon also sent me a list of five misspelled words which helped goose me to do it.
I also am aware of several systemic errors I repeated often in the earlier books and repaired those. I think I’ll have it uploaded sometime tomorrow (6/11)

And – Done. In the system processing.

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Short snippet of Family Law 3 – at the 80K word mark. As always rough and unedited.

“Then do so and inform Captain Frost when you are ready to depart. Any other questions?” Gordon asked, leaning forward aggressively and showing a smile that was toothy and not at all pleasant. In fact he visibly ground his fangs a bit in irritation.
“No sir,” Twin said quickly. Talker just shook his head no in the Human manner.
“Fine, then I’m off shift and we are done,” Gordon said closing the conference. “Thor you have the conn to dismiss the shift. I suggest you have the alternate shift set a short orbital watch. I’ll be in my cabin.” He left without looking at Talker.
It was a bit past shift end, but Vigilant’s crew was not hanging around the bridge entry waiting to chit-chat at the change-over. They had undoubtedly made the short retreat to the mess after hearing the exchange at the end. They wanted to be out of Gordon’s sight and attention.
Thor waited until Gordon was well away, and unlikely to pop back in. He looked at Lee, amused.
“People think I’m a terror and Gordon is the easy going one. I love it when they abuse his patience until he knocks heads together. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard a Bill say ‘sir’.
“One will not forget the lesson,” Talker promised, rattled. “I never want him to smile at me again.”
“Well yeah,” Lee agreed. “I’m sure you’ll find it easier to negotiate with the Bills than Gordon.”
“Is that what we were doing?” Talker asked in horror. “It didn’t feel like it.”

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