Friday, March 27, 2015


I’ve been shaking my head for more than a week now over the very idea of the Clean Reader app Greta mentioned in her post March 25. I agree wholeheartedly with all the things Greta said and cheer along with her the CEO of Smashword’s decision to remove all of its publications from the grasp of this censoring tool. Here’s hoping that iTunes and Google will follow suit.

Of course, we as writers are understandably outraged at this attempt to sanitize our writing and strip it of meaning. That is what happens when you change the words we choose with great care to some other random words chosen by computer—the sentences lose meaning. The characters, forced to say things they were not intended to say, lose cohesion. The book falls apart.

As writers we understand this. Readers who love to read understand this, too. They may not have taken classes to learn exactly how a novel is structured (or maybe they have!), but they recognize well-written lines, well-drawn characters, pacing, tension, setting, tone. All those things depend on the words we choose.

In the backs of our minds as we write, if we have been in this business for any length of time at all, is a consideration for our audience. I envision my audience as adults with a taste for action, suspense, otherworldly elements and hot romance. I don’t write for teens, a Christian audience, readers of sweet contemporary romance or, on the other end of the scale, readers of military thrillers, tentacle romance or LGBT erotica. I choose my stories, my characters, my scenes and, most importantly, my words to fit my target audience.

I wouldn’t be doing my stories, my characters or my audience justice by limiting myself to PG-13 words or scenes. That wouldn’t be authentic, based on what I know (or imagine) of life in that kind of world. The people in my worlds curse, they have realistic sex, they react violently upon occasion—just like people in the real world. I need the proper words to express those things. I believe my audience appreciates my effort to find the appropriate words.

I don’t expect a teenager or younger child to be reading my books. And just because they want to is no reason they should be allowed to. They can wait until they’re mature enough to handle the language and other adult content. Bleaching the language will not mean they can understand the rest of what goes on. That’s why I still won’t allow my teenage grandson to watch certain shows on television even if the “bad” words have been bleeped out. The content is still more than he needs to see.

So the parents who came up with this censorious Clean Reader app would do better to simply say, “No, you can’t read that yet.” Or, discuss why certain words are used in certain books. And adults who prefer to avoid certain levels of language, sex and violence can simply choose to read other books. There are millions of books out there, after all. Why alter my book when you can just read another that fits your taste better?

One good thing that appears to have come of all this is that clearinghouses for publications, like Smashwords, have become aware of the insidious nature of the app and have refused to participate. Since authors have little say over what their distributors do in matters like these, it is well that Smashwords is leading the way. With any luck Clean Reader will join the thousands of other useless apps in the trash bin of history.


To all the RWA® Golden Heart® and RITA® nominees announced earlier this week! This is the beginning of an incredible rollercoaster ride for the unpublished authors of the GH competition and a recognition for much hard work for the published authors of the RITA competition. Congratulations and good luck to all of you when the winners are announced at the RWA National Conference in NYC in July!

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Clean Reader - censorship by any other name

I couldn't let this week go past without adding my two cents worth on the current storm over the Clean Reader app. My good friend, Diane Nelson, had a rant about the issue on her blog entitled Don't read my books if you need Clean Reader. She summarises the situation very well, with links to Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds blog, among others. For those who have just emerged from beneath a rock, Clean Reader (as the name suggests) sanitisizes text by blanking out swear words, or replacing them with more "acceptable" alternatives.

Can you imagine a sanitized version of Chuck's writing?

Pause while we all have a giggle. There'd be an awful lot of blacked out words. Rather like a letter from the Western Front, censored to take out any information of potential value to the enemy.

It's heartening to see that Mark Coker, CEO at Smashwords, has added his voice to this one. Read it here. Essentially, he's saying that the app changes what the author has written, and that's wrong. Needless to say, I'm in complete agreement.

I have to wonder how people can give so much power to a word on a page, spoken by an imaginary character in a made-up story. I don't know about you, but if I had a child who came home looking sad about encountering a swear word in a book, my first response wouldn't be to get rid of the word. Why not just explain to your child that some people talk like that, it's a cuss word intended to have a certain effect on the reader? Coarse language is here to stay, folks. You'll find swear words in every language, in every culture. I talked about this in The dreaded F-word. What does it really mean?

But this Clean Reader app doesn't just root out 'fuck', 'shit' and 'cunt'. It famously changes 'bitch' to 'witch'. This is just plain ridiculous. Who decides what must be substituted, and what with? Let me illustrate my position with a true story.

I worked for a company that put a filter on emails arriving from outside. If the text contained words like the three mentioned above, they were stopped at the firewall and the intended recipient was informed that the mail from such-and-such wasn't delivered because it contained unacceptable material. But they didn't leave it at obvious cuss words. I sent my husband an email which was censored for no apparent reason. After we'd scratched our heads for a while, we worked out the magic word was 'tit'. To test the supposition, I sent an email which said, "I'm thinking of buying the statuette of a blue tit from that shop". Sure enough, it was rejected. For a bit of fun, I sent another email, "Jim has a big cock". That one went through. So 'tit' was rude, but 'cock' was fine. Ahem. I've read a few books where that wasn't really the case. I wonder if 'penis' would be acceptable. Or was it just that the company filter was misogynistic.  (See my raised eyebrow?)

Make no mistake readers, this is simply CENSORSHIP by any other name. Unlike the email filter I described above, people have to choose whether or not they use the Clean Reader app. But if they do, they change what the author has written. Personally, I'm NOT okay with that. Since I received a blistering review about my use of the "F-word", I've added a cautionary sentence to my blurbs. "This novel contains coarse language and sex scenes".  Take it or leave it. If the word 'fuck' upsets a potential reader, I'd really prefer it if the person found some other book more to their taste. After all, there's plenty out there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tethered Print Release! #scifi #romance

Available at... Breathless Press |
Smashwords | AReBookstrand

Print pre-order
It's release day for the print edition of my SciFi romance adventure Tethered (a top ten bestseller at Breathless Press!). This is my second print release for 2015, with two more to go. When Dark Falls will release in June, completing the print editions of my 2014 ebooks, while I hope to release the print edition of Keir close to the ebook re-release (the problem with self publishing is I have to do all the preparation and formatting myself rather than just being presented with a confirmed release date. Le sigh).

But as today is all about Tethered, I thought I'd share five facts about the story that might not be obvious at first glance from the cover and blurb...

1. Despite the generic white male on the cover (my scarred hero Zander), Tethered actually got a mention over at The Galaxy Express for being a diverse book. My heroine Tyree is black skinned.

2. The story is told entirely from Tyree's point of view, not the norm for romance novels (though I can point you toward the books of my co-blogger Laurie A Green with Farewell Andromeda being solely the heroine's POV, and the Inherit the Stars series being told entire from the hero's POV. There's also Unacceptable Risk by Jeanette Grey (cyberpunk/biopunk with a single female POV), Nebula's Music by Aubrie Dionne (SFR, heroine's POV), and Rachel Leigh Smith's My Name is A'yen told predominantly from the hero's POV. Hey, maybe it's not such a rarity...)

3. Tethered is the only story I never had a soundtrack for, not even after the event. The idea jumped me Christmas Day, so unless you count Christmas carols, I didn't have any music playing when I wrote it.

4. The idea started as a conversation on Twitter about under-represented mythical creatures, with things such as elves, orcs, vampires, dragons, and shifters dominating the market. Of course, at the time I didn't realize succubi were so popular either...

5. Tyree got a name change after the amused reaction from one of my fellow Brigaders to the original name during the 2012 SFR Brigade Pitch Contest. (And no, I'm not telling you what it was).

In the meantime, check out the upcoming events!

To celebrate the print release, I'll be appearing at the following blogs. In the meantime, you can order the print edition HERE at my publisher's website (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Book Depository to follow soon).

16th Erzabet's Enchantments - An Unexpected Christmas Present Called Inspiration
20th Romance Junkies - interview
23rd Love Romance Passion - Five Things that make me pick up a Book
23rd Romance Reviews Today - interview
23rd Savvy Authors - Choosing a Single POV
24th - release day!
25th Katie Babbles - Inspiration

I'll also be taking part in a Facebook party at 4-5pm CDT (or 9-10pm GMT) here:

The party will be running from 11am CDT on the 24th until 9pm on the 25th of March, with more than 16 authors taking part and doing games, chat and giveaways.

March Madness
You have a few more days to take advantage of the 25% off all ebooks and free shipping on print book orders over $20.00 at Breathless Press, including my four titles there

And last but not least, April sees the start of the Fools for Love month long blog hop, sponsored by the SFR Station. The grand prize is a $75 gift card, with two runner ups winning $25 gift cards each, while all winners get an ebook bundle. I'm donating Tethered and a rare eARC of my upcoming time travel romance re-release, Keir

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ch-Ch-Changes Coming to Spacefreighters Lounge

Many of our blog readers are aware that we've had a recent change here at Spacefreighters Lounge. Just a couple of weeks ago, we made an enthusiastic introduction of Australian SFR author Greta van der Rol as the latest partner to our blogosphere. The dynamics she brings to our rowdy little space bar are exciting, but it's also a wonderful thing that we now have a peer from Down Under amongst us.

This gives Spacefreighters a unique scope: three time zones in the USA (Pacific, Mountain and Eastern), the UK and Oz! Speaking in temporal terms, that's a lot of real estate! Global time, I think we've pretty much got you covered.

But we're not stopping there.

The recent smash success of the SFR BRIGADE HOUSE PARTY illustrated what a powerful thing it can be to connect authors with readers of SFR. Since inception here at Spacefreighters Lounge, we've been focusing on more of a mixed author/reader bag and though the two are not mutually exclusive, we think a focus on more of a "SFR beat" is warranted. We'll now be aiming to blog on more timely topics of interest to SFR readers and fans.


Since 2009, we've been talking a lot about our writerly journeys and our successes--large and small--via the MISSION: Success posts. While it was very motivating to report on our efforts to obtain the Holy Grail of published authordom, as of 2015 we're all now THERE. So the time has come to retire our trusty MISSION: Success timelines. (::: a bit of nostalgia ensues ::: ) Maybe we'll even throw a little retirement ceremony for the familiar old button. Clearly, it did it's job of keeping our eyes on the prize and reaching for our goals.

Mission accomplished!

So here's this >>> If there are any aspiring authors out there who would like to pick up the torch and be "willed" the magic of MISSION: Success, chime in and let us know. We'd be glad to pass it on to a "Next Generation" author or authors-in-waiting. And may the Mission be with you.


Along with our change of focus, we're also working on an exciting new facelift for the Lounge itself. The look of Spacefreighters has changed very little since inception many years ago. Time to modernize (or maybe futurize) the ol' tavern.

We hope to make this interactive. We'll be asking blog readers to help us choose a new banner and tavern trimmings. (Stay tuned to this frequency.)


Along with the new look, we need to conduct a search and destroy mission for the Ghosts of Spacefreighters' Past. Here's what we're shooting for.

1. Update the text boxes to a dark font on light background
Along with the new banner, we'll reset the entire blog to tie into the new theme. One of the things our readers have mentioned in the past is that the white font on the dark background is a literal eye-sore. We'll be changing that up. (And really--good riddance!)

2. Sweep out the cobwebs
We've acquired a lot of cool site links and other clickable offerings over the years that have since gone defunct. Time to spiff up all the dark corners by eliminating the nonfunctioning content.

3. De-clutter the bar area
In the past, we've collected an overwhelming amount of information which we've plastered all over the sidebars, bottom bars and added pages--until it's the electronic equivalent of layers of posters. Most of it is no longer relevant for our new theme and definitely won't work with our revamped look. We'll be doing a major spring (and probably summer) scrape and polish to divest ourselves of the AIO (Accumulated Information Overload).

4. Develop a New Display Case for the Goods
This went from a no-book-title blog to a multiple-multiple-book-title blog in a very short time, and with the addition of Greta van der Rol's work...well, it's just a lot! We're going to design a more attractive way of showcasing our work and then pointing you to our websites if you want to learn more about the stories.


Another idea we've been booting around is the possibility of doing a Spacefreighters Lounge anthology of short stories, and re-introducing our bartenders, Fax and Benna. Surprise! Betcha didn't even know Spacefreighters Lounge had bartenders, didja? Well, sure we do! Who d'ya think serves up all that Billins and mops up the spills? (Psst. Benna may even have a crush on one of the characters in Inherit the Stars.)

Yes, the space ale dispensing duo made several brief appearances in the past but have since been relegated to the "not heard and not seen" status. We think we need to give them another shot at becoming Lounge personalities and narrators for this possible future antho.

What do you think?


So there's our plan. And here's the part where we ask you for your thoughts and ideas. Tell us what you like and don't like about Spacefreighters Lounge, and/or other blogs you frequent. What works for you as a patron? Really, we're all ears...or antennas.

Your opinions really matter to us.

Have a great week.

~~~ * ~~~

Friday, March 20, 2015


"Once upon a time in Greece . . ."

I had a reputation as a bit of a scrapper in college. You know the type—always asking the professor some crazy question that made his head explode. In one memorable instance I argued with an English prof that Homer couldn’t possibly have planned to write anything “deep and meaningful” when he produced the Odyssey. He was simply entertaining a bunch of drunk, rowdy Greeks at a feast that was teetering on the edge of an orgy.

The prof, a young, very earnest fellow who lived and breathed Homer, was outraged.

I still maintain that Homer was just trying to write a whacking good story. He succeeded beyond his wildest expectation. But I don’t believe he sat in his room the afternoon of the feast and thought, “Let’s see, what’s a universal theme that will ensure everyone will pay attention? Ah, I have it. A quest. Then, man vs. the gods, that’s always a good one.”

I had nothing but my instinct as a reader to go on in those days. But now, as an author, I’m even more convinced. Because whatever depth I may have as a writer comes from my unconscious, a place of pre-thought and intuition. I may recognize it once it’s on the page, and highlight it in a later draft, but I have never set out to write to a theme. More often than not, things emerge in my writing that only the readers can identify. Now that Unchained Memory is out in the world, I’m beginning to experience this on a wider scale.

Someone asked me the other day whether the names I chose had special significance. While I was stammering out an answer (something along the lines of “not really”), she explained that “Jack” (the name of the rescued child who comes to live with Ethan and Asia at the end of the story) is a symbol for the Everyman in literature, standing in for all humanity. She was very excited. (Just wait until she reads my second book, where Jack is a central character!) 

Let me just state for the record and for the benefit of any college student who may be tempted to argue with her literature professor in years to come about my books (ha!) that I gave not an instant’s thought to the deeper meaning of the name “Jack” when I chose it. My muse, my writer’s intuition, the accumulated knowledge of my lifetime—however you choose to describe it—supplied the name for this child, and it seemed to fit. Now it could very well be that I’m smarter than I realize, but drawing on my knowledge of the classics (such as the concept of Jack=Everyman) would still be an entirely unconscious process.

Another reader made note in a review of my theme of empowering women in Unchained Memory, expressed through strong secondary female characters. Huh. How about that! I just set out to populate my story with interesting, finely drawn characters. Similar to the diversity we addressed last week here at Spacefreighters, I simply looked around and described what I saw—strong women of all ages living active lives.

Not that we writers have to be completely oblivious to the power of a good theme, particularly across series. I attended a workshop at RWA National a few years back presented by the wonderful Suzanne Brockman. She fully acknowledged that themes emerge as we’re writing, but insisted they can be picked out, shaped and highlighted in subsequent drafts until they serve both to bind the book together and to tie the book to its series. 

I’m still working on identifying my overarching themes, but a few of them are: love as healing; equality in relationships; finding home/community; our world is not what it seems; and, yes, good vs. evil. My readers may see these, or a slew of others, as they read the books. But who knows? I encourage any and all interpretations. After all, I’m just trying to tell a whacking good story.

How about you, fellow authors? Found any good themes in your writing lately? Or has a reader educated you? And readers, what are your favorite themes?
Cheers, Donna

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ten things I learned from Terry Pratchett

I know this is a science fiction romance blog, but it's also a writers' blog and one of the greats has gone. Terry Pratchett will always be my favourite author. I've written quite a few blogs mentioning him, or reviewing his books and I won't do that here. Although you might be interested in this one, which explains why I like his writing so much. But here at Space Freighters, I'll talk about how he has influenced my writing, things I've learned from this master wordsmith.

  1. Nothing is sacred
TP would willingly tilt at windmills or cock a snoot at the most sacred of cows. I laughed out loud at Gollum's cameo appearance in Witches Abroad, and I still chuckle at the thought of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse being taught how to play bridge. And the send up of the dragon riders of Pern and the idea of Conan the Barbarian as an old man and so many other things. Wyrd Sisters is the Discworld equivalent of Macbeth. Maskerade borrows from the Phantom of the Opera – and sends up opera as a genre. Pyramids examines the beliefs of ancient Egypt with hilarious results.
Lesson: Look at the world from a different point of view. There's plenty of writing fodder out there.
  1. The Rules of Writing are rubbish.
Don't use 'there was'. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Don't use three words when one is enough. Terry ignored all these 'rules'. Move the story along, we're told. Do we really need to know how many pigs are consumed in Ankh-Morpork every year? Maybe not. But Terry told us anyway. And we read it, and stored that information into our brains and we knew a little more about a city that is a character in its own right.
Lesson: Know the 'rules' so you know when to break them.
  1. Embrace diversity
Terry included all sorts in his novels, and used them to hold up a warped mirror to our world. Trolls, dwarves, vampires, zombies, boogie-men, fairies, witches, wizards. Oh, and golems. And women. Let's not forget women. And werewolves (sorry, Angua). Possibly the best of the books poking fun at a monochrome (male, white) world is Men at Arms. Terry used diversity to great effect in all his books. The interplay between different species introduced complexity and conflict, where sworn enemies became friends in adversity when they discovered that everything they'd been told wasn't necessarily true. On that subject, one of my all time favourite TP books is Thud.
Lesson: Aliens have a part to play, so have genetically modified humans, cyborgs, IAs and anything else you want to throw into the mix. Just make sure it's convincing.
  1. Truth is a complicated concept
People have a habit of believing that 'now' is equivalent to 'true'. Terry had a habit of picking up a truism like “Christmas is a happy, family time” and turning it over to see what was underneath. The result in that instance was Hogfather, in which he revealed the real antecedents of the Yuletide celebrations and that red coat. Very often in his books he ventured into the dark. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents comes to mind, an award-winning YA story ostensibly something like the Pied Piper but with an even darker twist. Terry didn't like fairytales – or at least, not the modern, sugar-coated, frilly versions. For that reason he used them often to illustrate a point. See Witches Abroad. Terry's elves aren't the same as Tolkien's. Or Enid Blyton's. They're more like the dark Fae of the very old tales - not very nice at all. See Lords and Ladies.
Lesson: Pick up ideas (especially deep-rooted ones) and turn them over to look at the bottom.
  1. You don't need chapters
Terry often dispensed with chapters. I'm not suggesting he didn't have structure in his books. He did. He had cliffhangers just as we do. But instead of ending a chapter with the hero dangling over a cliff by one foot, he just moved on to action elsewhere, and returned to our suspended protagonist further in the narrative.
Lesson: Just because it's always been done doesn't mean it still has to be done.
  1. People love series
The Discworld books are a series, but there are series within the series. There's the Wizards series, the Witches series, the Death series, the Moist series, and the Watch series. Different readers have their preferences. Then there's a handful of books which are stand-alone, even if some of the characters from other books are used. I'd include Pyramids, Small Gods, Interesting Times, Moving Pictures and Monstrous Regiment. People identify with particular characters. Death (with his companion Death of Rats) is a wonderful character, even if he is an anthropomorphism. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Sam Vimes, Angua, Carrot, Rincewind, Lord Vetinari, Arch-chancellor Ridcully etc etc etc are all three-dimensional individuals and all have their dedicated camp followers. They all excite reader expectations – which is a challenge in its own right. Terry had to ensure all those characters remained true to the expectation.
Lesson: Once you've connected with a fan base, give them what they crave.
  1. Real characters are complicated
I'd be hard pressed to think of many two dimensional characters in Terry's books. Let's look at Sam Vimes, who became a main character after having been first introduced as a minor character in Guards, Guards. He was captain of the night watch, a sad group of men who avoided trouble whenever possible. He himself was a low born drunk, but as the book progressed he found himself having to do things he never would have thought he could do. It was endlessly entertaining, through a succession of books, to watch Sam being thrust reluctantly into the high office he despised. He became a reformed alcoholic, turning to cigars to stave off the craving (although that's never stated per se). He got married to an aristocrat and became a Duke. He reformed the Watch. And all the time he hated the pomp and circumstance, was never happier than sloping around the streets of his beloved city in thin-soled boots. I could write a similar description of every main character Terry wrote into a book.
Lesson: Real characters are complicated.
  1. 'What' is a great starter to a question
Terry must have used that question so many, many times. Such as:
“what happens to loin-clothed barbarian heroes when they get old?” Interesting Times.
“what would happen if Death went on vacation?” Reaper Man
“what if there was a Discworld equivalent of Shakespeare?” Wyrd Sisters
“what if the Egyptian Gods were real?” Pyramids
Lesson: Asks questions. Lots of question to which the answer is not yes or no.
  1. You can't please all of the people all of the time.
Terry's books are spectacularly successful. He's a household (almost) name around the world. But just as there are(were) some of us hanging out to read his next shopping list, I have friends that found him tiresome or even (heaven forbid) boring. I even have one distant acquaintance who loathed his writing style. (I think I unfriended this individual on Facebook.) But there it is. Horses for courses.
Lesson: Write for yourself and the people who like what you write. The rest can go... whatever it was that Thorin said to Thranduil in The Desolation of Smaug.

I shall miss TP more than I can ever say. Yes, he was “just another author” but it's sad to think there'll never be another piece of brilliance by his hand. True, I have my collection of hardbacks (pictured above, guarded by the Librarian) to re-read and that I will do.

Which leads me to TEN, which has nothing to do with writing.
  1. When my time comes, I hope I'll be able to welcome Death as an old friend, as Terry Pratchett undoubtedly did.
PS. I don't think he wrote those final tweets. I cannot imagine Terry referring to himself as “Sir Terry”. But even so, I suspect he discussed those final words with his daughter, who certainly posted them.

Let's treat this as a wake, shall we? A celebration of a life well lived. Please share your favourite TP quote, tell us which was your favourite book, and why. If you need inspiration, this post is a collection of memes showing his wisdom and humanity, words that will live on. But there are plenty of others, such as the opening to Wyrd Sisters...

Over to you.

S. Usher Evans Guest Blog: Alliances - Book 2 Raza Series

About the Book

Lyssa Peate has found a tenuous balance between her double lives - the planet-discovering scientist and space pirate bounty hunter named Razia. No longer on probation, Razia still struggles to be thought of as more than a chocolate-fetching joke, and Lyssa can't be truthful to those closest to her. But both lives are turned upside-down when feisty government investigator Lizbeth Carter shows up to capture the same pirate Razia is after.

Lizbeth's not interested in taking Razia's thunder; rather, she convinces the caustic bounty hunter to help solve a mystery. Somebody's hiring pirates to target government ships, and there's a money trail that doesn't make any sense. From the desert planet of D-882 to the capital city on S-864, the investigation leads them deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the Universal Government - and to one of the most painful chapters in Lyssa's past. Purchase on Amazon


Preview from Chapter One:

The room was dark, with a single, dingy lamp hanging over a table where three men sat, each holding a hand of cards. They said little, except for the occasional grunt or movement to tap their grungy mini-computers to up their ante. The first sighed and rubbed the scruff around his chin. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette and a lighter.

"You hear that Llendo is running for re-election?" he said, cigarette dangling from his mouth.
"What else is new?" The short, squatty man and whose toes barely brushed the floor, threw a few chips into the virtual pile using his mini-computer. "The guy's a puppet. There ain't nothin' that comes out of his mouth that ain't been sent through the ringer about a million times."

The other two men chuckled and shuffled around their cards. The third man, with a long face and sallow complexion, pulled two more cards for his own hand and shuffled them together and apart again.

"But who else is there to vote for?" he asked, counting his cards and stacking them together again.

"That general? You know that buffoon Peate works for him. He ain't getting my vote until I know he's gonna play along."

The second shrugged and said, "Nobody'd vote for him in a million years."
"You and your millions." The third rolled his eyes. "Everything you say has been done a million times."

"Bah, can it," the first barked. "And hurry up and make your move."
"I'm taking my time. Don't want to get fleeced again," the third said. "You're all a bunch of crooks."

"Takes one to know one." The second man peered at his cards through a pair of thick glasses, hunched over.

"I am retired," the first man said, sitting back and taking a long drag of his cigarette. "None of that piracy crap for me anymore. Getting too dangerous for me."

"Gonna break a nail?" the second snorted. "Bad enough you got that girl. Whatsherface."

"I hear she's doing all right," the third said. "Kidnapped Jukin Peate's brother and held him for ransom last year."

"And what's she done since then?" the second said.

"More than you've done."

"I'm just saying, it's unnatural to have a woman out with the men," the first said. He paused for a moment and began to smile. "Although I can't say I hate seeing her scamper around '882."

"Shame she doesn't wear tighter pants," the second said. "I seen pictures. She wears these baggy things. I bet if she wore something that made her look like a girl, she wouldn't even have to fight nobody."

"She could come capture me any day of the week. I don't care what she looks like," the third said. "I'd lay down and let her do whatever she wanted to me."

"Care to test that theory?"

The three glanced up sharply at the sound of a distinctly female voice in the doorway.

"Hey, hey," the first man said, standing up. "We don't want no trouble. We're retired here, lady."

"You are," Razia said, stepping into the light with a smirk on her face. She turned her eyes on the third man in the room. "He isn't."

About the Author

S. Usher Evans is an author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. Born in a small, suburban town in northwest Florida, she was seventeen before she realized that not all beach sand is white. From a young age, she has always been a long-winded individual, first verbally (to the chagrin of her ever-loving parents) and then eventually channeled into the many novels that dotted her Windows 98 computer in the early 2000's. After high school, she got the hell outta dodge and went to school near the nation's capital, where she somehow landed jobs at National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and the British Broadcasting Corporation, capping off her educational career with delivering the commencement address to 20,000 of her closest friends. She determined she'd goofed off long enough with that television nonsense and got a "real job" as an IT consultant. Yet she continued to write, developing 20 page standard operating procedures and then coming home to write novels about bounty hunters, teenage magic users, and other nonsense. After a severe quarter life crisis at age 27, she decided to finally get a move on and share those novels with the world in hopes that she will never have to write another SOP again.

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