Monday, July 30, 2012

Tidbits They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Part 2

by Stephanie Osborn

We've been talking about the little odds and ends that beginning writers NEED to know, but often aren't TOLD. Things that it's useful to know about to avoid making mistakes. Last week we covered a pre-tidbit, and Tidbit One, which was about finding out how long a novel is FOR YOUR GENRE, and shooting for that length. We're picking up today with Tidbits Two and Three.

Tidbit Two: It IS possible to have a novel that’s TOO LONG. You see, there’s a bit of alchemy mixed into publishing. There’s some arcane formula publishers use to transmute word count into page count. Page count, in turn, converts to shelf space. Use up too much shelf space on one book, and the publisher suddenly can’t display as many books. So your wonderful, two hundred thousand plus word count book that spewed out of you like water from a fire hose probably isn’t usable, unless you can find a way to cut it down into two or three books.

Trust me, I've been there. Yes, I broke it into multiple volumes.

Tidbit Three: There is a pecking order among authors, and it is not entirely determined by tenure, sales figures and awards. Who published you? How big was your last advance? (This is, not coincidentally, often determined by the size of the publishing house.) The bigger the publishing house, the larger your advance, the higher up the pecking order you are – at least in the minds of some. Be prepared to experience resentment from those below you, and disdain from those above. Some of us view the playing field as level – but not all.

Not quite what you expected to hear? Sorry. When was there ever a decent-sized group of people who did NOT establish a stratified society, or social subset? Writers are people too. Better to find out now than later, when you run into somebody way above you in the pecking order and who recognizes said order.

Yeah, been there, too.

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tidbits They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Part 1

By Stephanie Osborn http://www/

I’m a pretty decent writer. And well before I decided to submit a novel manuscript for publication, I did my homework. I knew about query letters, slush piles, and house formats. I knew some publishing houses don’t take unagented submissions and some do. I knew how to find the correct name and address for a submission, and to address the query letter TO that person. I knew how to make my query letter POP.
But once I got into the industry (translated – I had a manuscript under contract), I discovered that there are a few little details they don’t tell you in author’s school.

Sub-tidbit: Everybody knows not to trust spelling and grammar checkers, right? They don’t know there from they’re from their… (finish the statement on your own). Good. ‘Nuff said. On to the serious stuff.

Tidbit One: Different publishers have different definitions of what constitutes novel length. For some, it’s anything over forty thousand words. For others, it’s sixty, and for most in my genre (science fiction and mystery, often combined) it’s around one hundred thousand. This is a rough rule of thumb, and generally the bigger the number, the more leeway you have, plus or minus, in your word count. But make sure you know what the definition is for your genre, and MAKE IT LONG ENOUGH, or you could run into problems.

Yep, been there, done that. Nobody gave me a t-shirt though. Should have.

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, July 16, 2012

Excerpt: The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident

This is the prologue to the third book in my Displaced Detective Series, The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident, a science fiction mystery. Books 1 and 2 (The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed) are in release, ebook and treebook; book 3, (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident) has been released THIS WEEK! Book 4 (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings) will be released this fall. You can purchase all of them in pretty much any format you like through my website, Hope you enjoy this excerpt.



"Leeming Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner; Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner."

"This is RAF Leeming. Go, Blue-One-Niner."

"Tower, I have visual at one o'clock low, approaching coast along south-southeast heading; range, estimated twelve klicks. Request verification and possible change of altitude."

"Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower. Please repeat visual info."

"Tower, Blue-One-Niner. Visual at one o'clock low, estimated range ten klicks and closing."

"Blue-One-Niner, Tower. I thought you said twelve klicks."

"Tower, One-Niner. I did; it's incoming."

"Blue-One-Niner, radar shows no other aircraft in your vicinity."

"Leeming, better look again. It's right there, range now…HOLY SHIT! It just accelerated! Range now seven kilometres and closing fast! I am executing evasive manoeuvers! Climbing to twelve thousand metres! Bogey heading south-southeast, nearing coastline…"

"Copy, Blue-One-Niner. Evasive manoeuvers; you are cleared to twelve thousand. Be advised, radar still shows no—hold one! Where the bloody hell did THAT come from?! Contact Fylingdales—you did? They don't? Roger that! All other traffic on this channel, this is Leeming Tower; please move to Channel Four immediately. Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower! Do you still have visual on bogey?"

"Roger, Tower! Closing fast…"

"You are authorised to pursue and bring down, peaceful preferred. Scrambling backup."

"Copy, pursue and bring down. If peaceful refused?"

"You are authorised to use whatever means necessary. If peaceful refused, consider hostile."

"Roger that. It's passing below me now. Turning to pursue."

"Copy that. Blue-One-Niner, can you identify aircraft? Radar signature is…inconclusive."

"Uh…Tower, that visual is an inconclusive, too. It doesn't look like any bloody aircraft I've ever seen. In fact, it doesn't even look like an aircraft…"


"It's a…big fuzzy ball, glowing kind of…yellowish-orange. And moving like a bat out of hell."

"Blue-One-Niner, please repeat last transmission. It sounded like you said a big fuzzy ball?"

"Affirm, Tower, that's exactly what I said. Think…giant tennis ball, only more orange. Still approaching coastline near Scarborough… correction! Bogey has changed heading! Damn! Stand by, Tower…"

"Leeming Tower standing by."

"Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner. I don't know what the blazes they've got, but it's way the hell more manoeuvreable than my Typhoon. They just executed a sharp turn to port, and I do mean sharp! I overshot by several miles inland, trying to make the turn. They are now paralleling the coastline, bearing southeast."

"Roger that, Blue-One-Niner. We…saw the turn on radar…"

"Yeah, you probably see something else, too."

"Roger that. Bogey is…ACCELERATING?!"

"Like that bat out of hell—on warp drive. Punching 'burners…"

"Blue-One-Niner, this is Leeming Tower. Report."

"Leeming, this is Blue-One-Niner. Sorry, mates, she's outstripped me by a long shot. Keep 'er on radar as long as you can, and try to anticipate and scramble interceptors. I've already almost lost visual."

"Roger that…"

* * *

Inside the radar room at RAF Fylingdales, the Officer of the Day discussed the situation with his chief technician.

"Are you sure?" the OD pressed his radar tech.

"Positive, sir," the tech replied, grim. "We've been watching it for the last five minutes, ever since it showed on radar. The only thing I know of that can travel that fast is a blasted Space Shuttle, and even they couldn't make manoeuvres like this ruddy thing is making. We're gathering all the radar data on it we can, profiles and such, but so far, we've not been able to put a plane close. Blue-One-Niner got a good visual on it, but that was sheer dumb luck."

"What kind of craft was One-Niner in? Recon?"

"A Typhoon, sir. And the bogey left it in the dust, even on full afterburners."

"Bollocks!" the OD exclaimed, shocked and gawking. "Left in the DUST? A TYPHOON?!"

"Like it was sitting still, as near as I can tell from air-to-ground transmissions. Radar supported the assessment, too."

The OD thought hard for several moments.

"Any idea where it's headed?"

"Yeah." The techie scowled.


"You're not gonna like it."

"Tell me anyway."

"Bentwaters." The engineer gazed solemnly at his superior. The OD blanched.

"Bugger. Get the brass on the bloody horn!"

* * *

Deep beneath the seemingly abandoned RAF Bentwaters base, ciphered telephones were ringing off their hooks. Frantic officers and enlisted personnel scurried about, attempting to ascertain under what sort of threat they were operating.

The underground facility itself was under full lockdown, with absolutely no sign of life visible to the outside.

And that was precisely how they wanted it.

Far overhead, in the deepening twilight sky, a glowing golden sphere floated, searching.

* * *

In the Headquarters of Her Majesty's Secret Service, the Director General was in her office, reviewing the dispatches as soon as they arrived.

"Not again," she muttered under her breath, obviously deeply concerned. "I thought we were done with this decades ago."

"Doesn't look like it, madam," Captain Braeden Ryker noted, subdued, handing her another report. "All hell is breaking loose out there, by the sound of it. Some of the public reports are probably spurious, and some of it—seventy-five percent, I'd say—likely due to hoaxes and copycats and just plain power of suggestion. But that still leaves the remaining twenty-five percent as real. We've got jets scrambled all along the coast, and except for the initial intercept, which was accidental, not one of our aircraft could even get close enough to see the thing." He looked down at the paper in his hand. "We did luck out on one point. Our local field office got a heads-up from Fylingdales at the same time they notified Bentwaters, and Gregory got his ass in gear with record speed. He mobilised a field team in time to have a gander at the object. They're still in the field, so we don't have word yet."

"Is it still out there?"

Ryker glanced again at the communiqué in his hand.

"Not according to the latest information, no, madam."

"Get a detail out there and start looking into the situation." The director shook her head, obviously gravely concerned.

"What about…?" Ryker began, then added candidly, "Do you want me to override Gregory, madam?"

"No, I want you to work WITH him," the Director declared with a wave of her hand. "Get some of the Headquarters experts out there right alongside his team—specialists, to aid him in his assessment, not supersede him. I know Gregory. He's a good man, with a good team. I simply want all the data we can gather. I want to know what this thing is, where it's from, what it's after, and I want to know five minutes ago."

"Right away, madam," Ryker nodded, exiting swiftly.

* * *

The field excursion team filed into the back of the nondescript office building, entering an equally bland conference room. They appeared to be college students and young professionals, clad in jeans or chinos and shirts, carrying attaché cases or backpacks, as appropriate. When the last of them arrived and the conference room door closed, they turned to the man in the corner.

"Here we go again, Gregory," the field team lead sighed, shaking his head. "It's the Halt transcript all over again, right down to the imagery in the night vision goggles."

"Any feeling of intent?"

"Definite intent," another remarked. "It was…looking…for something. A natural phenom doesn't sweep a grid pattern. This bugger did. Nice and precise, too."

"Blast and damnation," Gregory sighed. "What was it looking for? Any ideas?"

"That's the prize question, isn't it, boss?" the second field investigator shrugged. "If we could answer that, problem solved, and on to the next issue—which is, what to do about it?"

"Yeah," Gregory muttered. "Well, boys and girls, get your reports together fast. Headquarters is breathing down our necks. Word has it the Director General herself is involved, and you know to whom SHE reports. We're likely to have help soon. In fact, some experts are supposed to be coming down from London as we speak, to work alongside."

There was a collective groan from the room.

"All right, boss," the team lead noted. "Everyone, laptops out, reports in half an hour. Type fast."

* * *

Ryker came into the Director's office at speed, bearing the collected dispatches from the field office.

"Here you go, madam," he noted, handing them to the Secret Service director. "The latest on the phaenomenon. I can't say I'm pleased with the way this is headed."

The scowling director scanned through the reports, speed-reading. "Ah, I see your point. Are the subject matter experts on their way?"

"They are."

"Very good. Dismissed." As Ryker turned to leave, she changed her mind. "Ryker, wait a moment."

"Yes, madam?" He stopped, pivoting smartly on his heel to face her once more.

"Your…friends…in America…" She pondered briefly.

"Williams, madam?"

"No, the scientist and a certain detective." She threw a small grin at the agent.

"Ah," Ryker grinned back at her, "Dr. Skye Chadwick and Mr. Sherlock Holmes."

"The very ones. What are they doing at the present time?"

"I don't know offhand, madam, but I can contact Williams and find out," Ryker said. "I have strong reason to believe they may be coming across the Pond for a visit after the first of the year, however. Are you considering calling them in on this?"

"Possibly," the director confessed, looking over one of the dispatches. "Certainly they possess the specific expertise necessary to look into so abstruse a problem as this. They…" she paused, staring at the paper in her hand. "The night vision goggles showed a HOLE in the middle of the object?" She raised her head, gazing at Ryker in astonishment.

"Yes, ma'am. It makes no sense, I know, but that's just like it happened back in 1980."

"And you have every confidence in Chadwick and Holmes." She eyed Ryker sternly.

"Yes, ma'am," Ryker responded smartly, with confident emphasis.

"And this is really THE Sherlock Holmes?"

"Without doubt," Ryker smiled. His certainty was almost palpable. Despite this fact, the Director sighed without enthusiasm.

"Very well. Yes, Captain Ryker. Contact Captain Williams and have him ascertain their availability. Provide Williams with a detailed abstract of events through appropriately secure channels, and see to it he briefs Holmes and Chadwick on the matter as soon as possible. Ensure they are instructed to stand by in the event they are called in on the case."

"Consider it done." Ryker snapped off a salute before spinning and exiting the office.


For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guest Blog: We Can Rewrite It - We Can Make It Better

Better, stronger, faster...never mind.

Today I'm proud to introduce a guest blogger, a good friend of mine, known in fandom, an excellent beta reader (for me, for Sarah Hoyt, and I don't know who-all else!), and talented aspiring author, Courtney Galloway. I'm not going to waste a lot of space here yammering. I'm going to let Courtney speak for herself.


First, a quick thanks to Stephanie, for asking me to blog here as a guest!

Lots of folks have chimed in over time about writing groups and the good, the bad and the sometimes very ugly aspects of them. The question for me has always been, well ok, how do you recover from the bad or the ugly then? For a long time I wasn’t sure I had an answer to that.

Quite a while ago, maybe a year and a half or two years ago, I came up with a fantastic idea for a story. Of course, me being me and having my kind of luck, I came up with it the night before my writer's group meeting and not a week earlier when I could have had a least a few pages to submit. Anyway, I took my little idea to the meeting with me, figuring if nothing else, when we were done with the critiques - if we had time and the guys didn't object, they could help me brainstorm some of the finer points I hadn't fully figured out yet. In theory, this would have been a perfect scenario. I'd already built good trust with these guys and I respect their input and opinions.

However, the reality was that we had a guest that day. Unknown to me, while our guest wants to write - she never has. She had also never been trained on proper critique etiquette. Yes, boys and girls there is such a thing as critique etiquette, i.e.: critique the technical merit not the idea, be polite, keep it impersonal, and all the other lovely hints and tips you find in things like the Turkey City Lexicon.

I asked if the folks would mind helping me brainstorm on my new idea, and everyone was more than happy to. So I laid out my little brain child of an idea, and the guys gave me some very good ideas both on how to address things I hadn't been able to figure out, but also some aspects that hadn't occurred to me yet that would be vital information for the story. Then our guest spoke up, saying that she hated stories that ended that way (open ended for the reader to decide how they want to envision it ended). That they made horrible stories. That she refused to read them and told everyone she knew not to read them. I was quite simply eviscerated and left the meeting rather despondent.

While I stayed in love with my little fragile idea, and took down notes on what the guys had said, I had not been able to put down on the page more than 58 words of story text. Even that text I knew just wasn't quite right, not quite what I wanted it to be. But trying to work on it was about as effective as bashing my head against a brick wall just for the entertainment value.

To be honest, the experience was almost enough to drive me to leave the group if the woman returned. I agonized about the idea, because I really liked the guys - but I just wasn't sure I could deal with this woman's oblivious sabotage. I made the supreme effort, went back, tried to understand her. Which is how I found out she'd never written before, but wanted so badly to, and that she'd never been trained how to critique. The woman is older than I am - roughly late 60's. So I tried to reach her, to reach out to her. I sent her the Turkey City Lexicon and basically trained her on the proper way to do a critique in a writing group. She improved greatly in time. My little story however stayed a stunted, sickly thing.

Today, I finally had the brainstorm I'd been needing so badly. A new opening scene, new aspects of dealing with a tricky part in a smooth and simple fashion that the reader can accept without getting a headache, and enough material to change the basic story enough to let me try again. And perhaps even reclaim it. The basic premise of the story - the idea - is unchanged, but my new view of it is from a different enough angle, that I think I just got my story healed and functional again. YEAY!!

I made all the notes so I wouldn't forget my brainstorming and am hoping to get to the actual writing tomorrow if my luck holds. We're swamped prepping for the trip to TN this weekend [actually in late May  ~S.O.] for our niece's graduation. So if I don't get to the actual “words on the page” stage - I'll be all set to do so when we get back!

-Courtney Galloway


And I, for one, have no doubt but that she will. And I look forward to reading it.

-Stephanie Osborn

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This Is What It Says

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

At the bottom of this document are 56 signatures, representing the states of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. All 13 colonies. Fifty-six men willing to die to uphold these self-evident truths.

Read it. Really read it...and think.

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, July 2, 2012

Excerpt: The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed

This is the prologue to the second book in my Displaced Detective Series, The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed, a science fiction mystery. Books 1 and 2 (The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed) are in release, ebook and treebook; book 3, (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident) will be released later this year. You can purchase both in pretty much any format you like through my website, Hope you enjoy this excerpt.


Chapter 1—Ruminations and Rehabilitations

Skye woke up in a hospital bed on Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs the afternoon following the shooting, which was Saturday. Her chest and belly ached miserably, and there was a taste in her mouth as if all the armies that had ever marched had tramped across her tongue.

"Uhg," she groaned softly, smacking her mouth in disgust.

As sensation and full consciousness slowly returned, a previously unnoticed grip on her fingers tightened, and a familiar, English voice murmured, "Skye?"

"H-holmes? Is that you?" Skye wondered, confused.

"Yes, Skye. I am here."

Through the slits of her barely open eyelids, she saw a dark form loom over her, coming to sit gingerly on the edge of the bed. As her eyes finally responded to her mental command to focus, the form resolved into Holmes, who was now dressed in the RAF uniform he kept in their office. He reached for something beyond her range of sight, then brought his left hand back with a small plastic cup, a straw tucked inside it.

"Here. Sip this." His right hand never let go her own. Skye allowed him to place the straw in her mouth before sipping the cool water.

"Oh, that's better. My mouth tasted nasty."

"That would be the narcotics," he replied, the hint of a smile on his tired face as he returned the cup to the bedside table.

* * *

"Oh." Skye gave him a bleary-eyed scrutiny, and Holmes read it accurately.

"No, my dear. Watson broke me of that habit some years ago, at my own request, I might add. And I must confess, I find this world of yours stimulating enough that I have no interest in such substances, anyway." He allowed the hint of expression to become a full-fledged smile, and he said, "Dear old Watson, it seems, was equally as determined as dear new Skye. But it does mean I have some experience with nasty tastes in one's mouth."

"How bad?" Skye gestured to her bandaged, aching torso.

"Punctured left lung, lacerated spleen." Holmes drew a deep, pained breath. "Considerable blood loss. The spleen was not so damaged as to require complete removal, fortunately. There is speculation it caught a ricochet; the bits of metal pulled out from that organ definitely did not add up to a complete bullet, as opposed to the one in the lung, which emerged intact. But lung and spleen are repaired now, and you are getting blood." He gestured at the IV bags hanging nearby, where a deep-red fluid dribbled through a tube into her arm. "In fact, one of those is mine. They were low on your blood type." Then he quipped, "And relative to some of the people in this age of yours, it seems I am quite the healthy specimen." He paused, becoming very serious. "Skye, I must apologise…I had to break my oath to you."


For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website,