Thursday, 5 September 2019

IWSG September 2019

We're into September already, the first Wednesday to be precise, and you know what that means - time once again for the monthly meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Founded and headed up by Alex J. Cavanaugh, it's a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without fear of being judged. This month's co-hosts are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken and Cathrine Constantine. I'm also running a bit late this month as I was having computing issues yesterday, which seem to beset me more often than I'd like these days, but on we go.

My insecurity this month is that despite making some public announcements, I've still not got down to writing again for the first time this year. Ideas are bubbling. Just got to take that leap to getting it down on screen which is proving a struggle for some reason, but this month will be the one!

Do I need a change of scenery, as proposed by this month's IWSG question - "If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?"

This is a very good question. I've been lucky in that I've been able to travel quite a bit during my life, so I could summon up a range of stunning locations. How about a view of Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia as the sun goes down? (I envisage a nifty little desk set up in the desert.) Or on a Caribbean beach with ice cold beer in hand (I'm not much of a cocktail drinker) - it would need to be well shaded to avoid a glare on my laptop though, as I'm one of those people who likes to go straight to screen with a book. Maybe I'm overthinking it. I could go all intellectual by sitting in a pavement cafe on Paris's Left Bank. Really, though, I like to think I could write anywhere because the worlds I'm conjuring can't be seen from here and because as long as my wife is by my side, I've got the support I need to keep going - is that schmaltzy?

Don't forget to check out more IWSG posts here!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

IWSG August 2019

It's the first Wednesday of the month and, as ever, that means it's time for the monthly posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! If you don't know about the group, it offers a safe haven where writers can post about their fears and insecurities without fear of being judged. For fun, there's an optional question to answer each month. Backing up our host and ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh this time round are Renee ScattergoodSadira StoneJacqui MurrayTamara Narayan and LG Keltner!

In terms of insecurities, I could be feeling insecure because I haven't made much headway with writing this year, but I'm feeling quite inspired. I just returned from Austin, Texas where I accompanied my wife on a business trip. It was great to soak up the hot weather and the Texan culture, but I was also impressed by many of the speakers at the convention who had all achieved amazing things in various fields. The talks were to do with motivation and empowerment so I hope to apply some of what I learned. I'm also going to post and share more about my wife's business because it's a great opportunity that anyone can join and make a career with.

Let's check out what's happening with IWSG this month - as usual, it's a lot!

Less than a month left to enter this year's IWSG Anthology Contest! We'd love to see lots more entries on the theme of voyagers and in the genre of middle grade historical (either adventure or fantasy). See the IWSG site for full details.

Don't forget our next Twitter Pitch event takes place in January. Deals have been struck and books published on the back of a tweet, so get yours polished up and ready now! See here for details.

The next WEP + IWSG collaborative writing event takes place on Aug 21-23, this time with the theme of "Red Wheelbarrow". Why not join in this fun and exciting challenge if you haven't already? Check out this post for more.

Instagrammers can follow along with this month's IWSG Instagram events by following our official account.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to introduce the newest addition to the IWSG admin team. Please give a big hand for Juneta Key!

Juneta Key writes SPECULATIVE FICTION, and loves fantasy and all its subgenres, the paranormal, mythological and space opera. In 2019, she entered into a partnership with another Indie author as co-owner of Stormdance Publications, to create fun, quality themed anthologies, especially about grumpy old gods. She’s one of seven founders of the Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop founded in 2015.

Interested in the Anthology Contest or Twitter Pitch? How does the WEP challenge grab you? You can find many more IWSG posts, as always, by checking out the sign-up page here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

IWSG July 2019

It is the first Wednesday of the month and of course that means it's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Hosted as ever by the Ninja Cap'n himself Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer writers a safe place to share insecurities without fear of being judged. Why not join us if you haven't already? This month's awesome co-hosts are Erika BeebeNatalie AguirreJennifer LaneM J FifieldLisa Buie-Collard and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Each month we get an optional question to answer, but I'm going to skip it this month because I'm drawing a blank on it. Instead I'm going to talk about my writing progress, or lack of it. I'm still trying to achieve a decent work/writing balance - I've not really got anything done this year in terms of the latter but I'm trying to remain stoical about it. Basically, we've got a few big things we need to get paid and then things should settle down a bit. I don't really feel in a writing headspace at all but then I do have various ideas flitting around - they settle for a minute like butterflies and then drift off again so I try to catch them while I can! I don't think I'll be stuck for things to work on when I do get some time - I've got the ending of the last book in my trilogy to finish off, the continuation of the book I started in December, or one of these twinkly new ideas. Basically, I'm trying not to be insecure - I'd rather not be writing for a lack of time than a lack of inspiration.

The IWSG Anthology Contest 2019 is open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules: 

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

For those who are confused by the genre:
Middle grade – suitable for 9 – 14 year-old children.
Historical – it must have historical aspects and be set in a time before 2000 or earlier. It just needs to be set in the past.
Adventure/fantasy – the subgenre can be either adventure OR fantasy. The fantasy genre is acceptable as there are many ancient cultures and times that believed in supernatural occurrences.

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (double-spaced, no footers or headers), previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group. You MUST be part of at least one of those to enter.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:

Finally, if you fancy pocketing a quick read for zero pennies, I've enrolled all my books as freebies in the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale for July. Check them out here!

And don't forget to check out more IWSG posts here.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

IWSG June 2019

It's time once again for the monthly posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Hosted of course by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaughthe purpose of the group is to provide a safe place where we can vent our fears and insecurities over writing without fear of judgement. This month's excellent co-hosts are Diane BurtonKim LajevardiSylvia NeySarah FosterJennifer Hawes and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

So this month's question is: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

This is a pretty easy one to answer for me - I'll simply refer you to my blog title, where I already nailed my colours to the mast! I love writing speculative fiction - inasmuch as it can be considered a genre - because it can encompass many other genres such as sci-fi, horror, dystopian, and more, even alternative history. I'm yet to write in all of them but it's great to have so many possibilities. With speculative writing, you can create entirely new worlds, populate them, decide the rules that govern them, break those rules and start again. The only limit is your imagination!


IWSG Anthology Contest

Don’t forget the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is open and taking submissions! 
Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers. 
See the site for full details. 


Mark your calendars! The annual #IWSGPit Twitter pitch party is set for January 20, 2020.

IWSG Instagram

The IWSG Instagram prompts for June are:


The WEP challenge for this month is open! 
Theme – Caged Bird. 
Up to 1000 words. 
There are also some changes regarding signing up, voting, and prizes, so be sure to visit the WEP site for details.

What's your genre of choice? Entering for the anthology or WEP? Following the Instagram challenge?
Don't forget to check out more IWSG posts here!

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

IWSG May 2019

We're rolling into the month of May, and with a new month comes a new posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Hosted as always by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to provide a safe place where we can vent our fears and insecurities over writing without fear of judgement. This month's excellent co-hosts are Lee LoweryJuneta KeyYvonne Ventresca and T. Powell Coltrin.

This month's IWSG question is "What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?"

This is a great question. I could cite various early attempts at writing stories, but one experience that stands out was performing a play by Harold Pinter, The Caretaker, in my school drama project. Pinter is notorious for including lots of ominous pauses in his dialogue, so there is almost as much as empty space as there is conversation. This is a pretty simple but effective method of creating a feeling of unease and I suppose was when I learned that what is not said, what is between the lines, can be just as important as the actual words on the page. That's the kind of power that we'd all like to have as writers!

We have two amazing announcements today!

Just released:
Masquerade: Oddly Suited - An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Young Adult Fiction: Romance - General/Paranormal/Contemporary
Print ISBN 9781939844644 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844651 $4.99

Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual companion or a date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…

Find Masquerade: Oddly Suited here - Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Kobo
You can find out more about the authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited here.

And the authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited are hosting a live Q & A session on Discord! Join them on Sat 11th May from 1:00 pm EST / 6:00 pm GMT to find out more about the anthology and the contributing authors and ask any burning questions you may have.
The Q & A will be held on Discord. Please follow the invite link: HERE

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (double-spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup dot com before the deadline passes. Please include your full contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:

Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge

Dianne K. Salerni, author

S.A. Larsen, author

Rachna Chhabria, author

Lynda Dietz, editor

Tonja Drecker, author

David Powers King, author

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

Our previous IWSG anthologies:
Masquerade: Oddly Suited
Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
Hero Lost: The Mysteries of Death and Life
Parallels: Felix Was Here

Will you be picking up a copy of Masquerade? Entering this year's contest? When did you first experience the power of language? Don't forget to check out more IWSG posts here

Friday, 26 April 2019

Trust by Jean Davis

Today I'd like to welcome Jean Davis to share her new release. Over to you, Jean!

Thanks, Nick, for having me on your blog. I'm excited to share my new release, Trust. This is the first book in my new space opera series, The Narvan.

You think you know someone, how the universe works, how your own government works, for that matter. But when Vayen takes a new job as a bodyguard for a woman from his past, he quickly discovers everything he's known is a lie.

Anastassia Kazan came from nowhere really, brought home by his brother years before as a consultant to help with Artor's war against their Jalvian neighbors. She'd been a spy, a soldier on a planet far from Artor. Those were things Vayen thought he understood. But she manages to end the war, brokering deals beyond his imagining, and then she works her way into a position only a select few in the population even know exist, advisor to the entire Narvan star system. And now he's working for her. Beside her, even, as she goes out her days of meetings on various worlds. Many of those meetings aren't the sit around the table type. They involve blackmail, heavy threats, and sometimes, blood.

She's got backers. Mysterious ones, with seemingly unlimited funds. Anastassia is only middle management and while she's set on keeping the Narvan at peace, her bosses want to expand their holdings in the known universe. The Narvan's now mostly idle military forces shouldn't be wasting their time rebuilding broken worlds, they should be out conquering.

If Anastassia puts up too much resistance her bosses might find a new advisor and who knows what allegiances they might have. If any one of those people she's threatened gets in a lucky shot, the order she's created in the Narvan will quickly unravel. Vayen has compromised his conscience too much to see his people fall back into war. How much more is he willing to give to keep his people at peace?


I stepped into a plain room with a mosaic tiled floor depicting a night sky full of stars. Two armed men nodded to Kazan and took note of me as we passed by.

“What is this place?” I asked.

“One of the Ka’opul strongholds on Merchess. They’re the largest of the three operations here. At last count, they had thirty thousand slaves and a solid hold on the drug market throughout the Narvan, the non-Fragian colonies in the Rakon Nebula and into the Verian Cluster. They also control various other lucrative black market dealings.”

“And you’re fine with slavery?”

She cast me a sideways glance. “Not in the Narvan, but out here, that’s how things are done. I’m not about to upset the balance of an already precarious arrangement by liberating the workforce. The families provide me with an abundant income from my cut of their profits. Usually.”

“Where do those profits go that makes this excusable?”

“They keep people paid off, fund the research the High Council demands from your people, and finance the extra weaponry upgrades on the Jalvian fleets.” She came to a halt. “And you can quit looking at me with that disgusted glare and be grateful the Narvan is happy and quiet and that the Jalvians are equipped to keep it that way. That was part of the deal I cut with them to get them off Artor’s back.”

I shoved my distaste down my throat and followed close behind as she made her way past closed doors and others that stood open, revealing small conference rooms. A woman, bearing a red slave-star tattoo on her neck, passed by with downcast eyes, a tray of half-eaten food in her hands.

Kazan came to a halt. “Here we are.”

Though Atashi's Ka'opul's name hinted at Artorian roots, this man was of a descent so mixed that I couldn’t begin to guess at the components. He sat at a rectangular table with two chairs opposite him. He stood up and offered us a tight smile.

“Welcome, Kazan.”

“Save the welcome, Atashi. Where are my credits?”

“Perhaps we could sit and discuss the matter?” He indicated the empty chairs and planted himself back in his seat.

“Oh, by all means, let’s.” Kazan sat on the table right in front of him and pulled out her knife. “So, now that we are seated, where are my credits?”

Trust : The Narvan (Book 1)

Science Fiction / Space Opera

Released April 2019   •  Published by Caffeinated Press

War has torn Vayen Ta'set's homeworld apart. It took away his parents and then his brother, leaving him alone. He's spent his life training to join the fight, to do his part, to bring peace to Artor. But the war ends before he's able to join in, quietly brought about by a human, Anastassia Kazan. When she offers him a job as her bodyguard, he's sure he's finally found his place.
He's wrong. She's not who he thought she was. The peace she brought to Artor, to his entire star system, comes with a cost. One he's now helping her pay. There are bigger enemies out in the known universe than he ever imagined. Without Kazan, deals and truces will crumble. War is just a death away.
Neck deep in Kazan’s world of bribes, blackmail, and assassins, Vayen must eliminate the threats to his boss and his homeworld without becoming a target himself. It’s hard to make your mark on the universe if you’re dead.

Amazon  /  Amazon UK   /  Barnes & Noble  /  Kobo  / Direct from the publisher
Add it on Goodreads  

Jean Davis lives in West Michigan with her musical husband, two attention-craving terriers and a small flock of chickens. When not ruining fictional lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she can be found devouring books and sushi, weeding her flower garden, or picking up hundreds of sticks while attempting to avoid her yard’s abundant snake population. Her focus is bringing strong, capable women to speculative fiction.

Follow her here: Blog / Amazon / Facebook

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Starting again

It’s been a while since I wrote a non-IWSG post on here, and although I love being part of the monthly festivities, it’d be good to be a bit more regular again. Even two posts a month would be good. So with that in mind, I thought I’d start off with a post that’ll be a bit of a pep talk for myself, and hopefully it benefits others too. 

As I mentioned before, I’ve been out of the writing game for about four months, since losing a full-time job and then looking to find other work. Well, I’m glad to report I have several ongoing gigs now and don’t have any shortage of work at the moment. That’s a blessing that I don’t take for granted. But still, I seem to struggle to get round to doing any writing. Why should this be? The passion to do it is still there; it just seems easier to reach for another editing job and make a handful of real money.

I suppose there is a lot to be said for having a routine in place. We hear about it all the time, so it’s a bit of a cliché, but it trains us to do the same thing at pretty much the same time each day. Once that’s been gone for a while, it becomes less than easy to just snap back into the rhythm of it. And there’s the overwhelming feeling of lost time which is clouding my vision.

But maybe that’s just an excuse. Just because I’ve not written anything for a while, it doesn’t mean I can’t write again. The hardest part of anything is getting started, at least for me, and that includes starting a new book as well as resuming work again after a bit of a hiatus. I mentioned this in my last post, I think, but I need to look at this as a fresh start, with a fresh perspective. Forget about any lost time and just do what I can do each day.

So today, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’ll report back on my progress.

What are you like with getting back into writing again after a break (intentional or otherwise)? Got any tips?

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

IWSG April 2019

It’s the first Wednesday of the month so of course it’s time once again for our meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Founded and hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is for writers to share their fears and insecurities in a mutually supportive atmosphere. This month's awesome co-hosts are J.H. MoncrieffNatalie AguirrePatsy Collins and Chemist Ken!

This month, I’m answering the question of the month over at the IWSG site. I hope to see you there.

As for insecurities, I don’t have much to report. I’ve not done any writing for four months – since losing my job, I’ve been focusing on establishing other sources of revenue – but I’d rather not see this as a setback. Instead, I’m making a fresh start, and I’m looking forward to getting back into my new WIP, still in its very early stages.

Now let's turn to this month's exciting news - we're announcing the genre and opening date for the next IWSG anthology!

Our genre is Middle grade historical: adventure/fantasy and the opening date is May 1. The best brains are on the theme, and that will be announced on the opening date. So this is just to whet your appetite - you could use that time to brush up your knowledge of the genre if it's not your usual bag, for example. We're looking forward to more great entries!

Don't forget the Masquerade anthology is hitting the shelves on April 30!

Masquerade: Oddly Suited
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Find love at the ball…
Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?
Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…

Website - IWSG Anthologies
Young Adult Fiction: Romance - General/Paranormal/Contemporary
Print ISBN 9781939844644
eBook ISBN 9781939844651
Print and eBook:

Special note:
We are partnering with DIY MFA this spring to bring you a great program for writers.

Before we announce details, we’ll be sharing several of their learning videos.

Check it out and come back later this month for details about the program.

OK, now it's time to check out more IWSGers at the sign-up page. What part of your WIP would you wish for help with? Excited about the theme for the next anthology? Or for grabbing a copy of Masquerade? Interested to learn more about DIY MFA?

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Rescuing Mara's Father blog tour

Today I'm pleased to welcome Diane Burton as part of the blog tour for her new release. I'm looking forward to checking this book out - it sounds fun and exciting!


A Middle Grade Science Fiction Adventure

By D.M. Burton

Approx. 75,000 words

ISBN:  978-0-9990452-4-4 (ebook)

ISBN-13: 978-0-9990452-5-1 (print)



Her father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. Mara has to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.

Instead of the kind, loving father she’s always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in their frontier outpost. Mara would rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give her a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and she’s happy. Now, he’s gone.

Never mind, they’ve had a rocky road lately.

Never mind, Father promised she could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when she turns fifteen, where she’ll learn to fly starships.

Never mind, she ran away because she’s furious with him because he reneged on that promise. Father is her only parent. She has to save him.

Along with her best friend, eleven-year-old Jako, and his brother 15-year-old Lukus, Mara sets off to find her father. Her mentor, old spaceport mechanic, seems to know why the Queen captured Father. In fact, he seems to know her father well. But, does he tell her everything? Of course not. He dribbles out info like a mush-eating baby. Worse, he indicates he’ll be leaving them soon. And Lukus can’t wait to get off our planet. Mara’s afraid they will all leave, and she’ll be on her own. Despite her fears, Mara has to rescue her father.


Another boring class on another boring day in my boring life. Nothing ever happens here at Raythos Outpost #3, the most boring place on the planet. I can’t wait to leave. Just three tendays and I’ll be off to Pamyria Tech. Then I won’t have to listen to Teacher drone on about governments of the Central Planets.

“…democracy, confederation, autocracy…”

Blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard this lecture a thousand times already. Teacher is only going over it because Perfect Lukus missed the other nine hundred and ninety-nine times. He’s fifteen—a year older than me—my best friend’s brother and a pain in the butt. He only comes to class when his work in the stable is done. Lucky him. I’d rather shovel zircan poop than sit through another history or government lesson. Bo-ring.

Of course, where I’d really rather be is in the pit at spaceport taking apart the engine of a Gilean Cruiser or, better yet, at Pamyria Tech learning how to fly one. I can’t wait. It’s bad enough this class comes after Mid-Day Meal. The sun shines through the closed window, and guess who’s sitting in its beam? If the window was open, the fresh air wouldn’t help. Just more heat, making me more drowsy.

“. . . Mara?”

How in Smilian’s Pit does Teacher always know when I’m not listening? Reluctantly, I get to my feet. Teacher insists we stand when speaking like we’re in a real classroom on a Central Planet instead of Teacher’s study in a mining village on the Outer Rim. Teacher’s desk is in one corner, and the eight of us older kids sit in two rows, one in front of the other, our comp pads for note-taking on our laps.

Usually, I sit in the back row with my buddy Jako. Today, the others got there first, and I had to sit in front. Lukus always sits in the front row whether or not he comes in late, like today. His light brown hair is slicked back and wet, as if he’s just showered. He missed the linguistics and mathematics lessons which were a lot more interesting, where I always know the right answers. Now, he gets to see me humiliated. Not that I care what he thinks of me. I don’t.

Teacher waits, his expression stern, while I try to figure out what question he asked. Part of me wants to crawl under the chair and hide. Instead I continue to stand, back straight, head up, my face burning hotter than the Laborian Desert.

I stare back at Teacher, who knows I don’t want to be here. I’m just about the only kid in this outpost who has to go to school. No, make that the only kid on this planet since Outposts #1 and #2 don’t have any kids. Wish I lived over there. As far as I’m concerned, learning history or government is a waste of time. Now, learning the inner workings of a Gilean Cruiser would be a lot more interesting.

Behind me, Jako whispers, “Example of autocracy.”

He always has my back. He’s the best friend a girl could have, even if he is only eleven.

“CoalitionPlanetComparaintheCentralDistrict,” I say in a rush and sit down.

“And why is the government of Compara considered an autocracy?” Teacher looms over me. Since the study is so small, he actually looms over all of us. He’s so tall his dark brown hair nearly brushes the ceiling. He stands as still as a soldier, back straight, his dark green eyes boring into me.

His hair and eyes are like mine, only darker. We’re a minority at this outpost. Most people have light hair the varying colors of grain in the fields, and their eyes range from pale blue to a light gray. Our green eyes set us apart, as if we don’t belong here.

I keep my head down and sharpen the pleat in my dress slacks. Most of us wear our best clothes to class. Those of us who have good clothes, that is. Being orphans on their own, Jako and Lukus don’t have good clothes. Still, they always wear clean pants and shirts, even if they are mended in places, especially Jako’s. His clothes are Lukus’s hand-me-downs. Even Teacher wears dark gray slacks and a white shirt, more formal than the normal work clothes other men wear in town. He says appropriate clothing is essential to making a good impression.

Right. Like I want to make a good impression on the kids I’ve grown up with.

Teacher clears his throat, waiting for a response. If I don’t look at him, maybe he’ll pick on someone else. It’s not like I don’t know the answer. He’s drummed it into our heads all year, as if knowing how Comparans are governed is the most important topic in the galaxy. Big whoop.

Lukus stands. “Teacher, may I attempt to answer your question?”

Show off.

At Teacher’s nod, Lukus explains. “Technically, Compara is an absolute monarchy which is a more specific type of autocracy. The Queen Regent assumed absolute power after the king and both their sons died fifteen years ago. She dissolved the Body of Representatives and rules by intimidation and terror.”

“Very good.” Teacher smiles. When he does, his eyes brighten. “Unlike some students, you have been listening,”

Gee, you think he means me?

“Thank you, sir.” Lukus sits, alert, eager to get on with the rest of the lesson.

Teacher’s Pet, I sneer, though I don’t say it out loud. I could’ve been the focus of Teacher’s smile if I’d answered. I don’t want to show off in front of the other kids. Most are my friends, and I don’t want them to think I’m better than they are. Lukus doesn’t have a problem with demonstrating what he’s learned.

How does he know this stuff? Maybe he only missed nine hundred and ninety-eight lectures. Okay, how’s this for irony? I have to be here all the time and hate it. He wants to and can’t because of his jobs. He’s the janitor at a boarding house in the morning, stable hand in the afternoon, and dishwasher at night. You’d think he’d want to just chill when he finishes early. Instead, he comes to school. Weird, huh?

The four little kids in the other corner of the study are getting restless. They must have finished the exercises Teacher gave them before he started teaching us older ones. He ignores them and asks us to identify the ideal form of government.

Like the others, except Lukus, I keep my head down so I won’t be called on. Once again, he stands. The rest of us sit back in relief. Lukus has Teacher’s attention, which is just fine. “The ideal form of government is one where all the inhabitants have a voice and are treated equally.”

I snort then mutter, “Like that’s ever going to happen.”

Jako yanks my braid and hisses at me to shut up.

Teacher pins me with his stare. “Mara, you have something to add?”

“I can explain what Mara means.” Lukus is still standing and according to class protocol, I shouldn’t have spoken. “Civilizations strive for the ideal. However—”

“I can do my own explaining.” I ignore class rules and stand without waiting for Lukus to sit. “Out here on the Rim, the only thing that matters is who’s rich enough or strong enough to rule. Might makes right. The Central Planets with their Coalition Security are light years away. They don’t care about us. Why should we learn about them or how they rule? All we have to know is who’s in charge here, and that’s the mining company.”

I sit quickly, surprised at my own outburst. Not as surprised as the rest of the class, let alone Teacher. He gives me a look that says I’m going to hear about this later. I am so glad I only have three more tendays of this. At Pamyria Tech, I won’t have to learn useless information about the Coalition and especially about Compara. I’ll learn important stuff about starship engines. Three more tendays. Just three tendays. And I am gone.

About the Author:

The first time D.M. Burton saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope, she was hooked on science fiction and space travel. The Star Trek movies made her want to travel to other planets. Alas, she is still Earth-bound. D.M. and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.

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She writes adult fiction as Diane Burton, where she combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries.

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