Category Archives: schedule

New Titles & Upcoming Schedule

Just a quick announcement to let you know we have some new titles available for purchase from our webstore as well as from Amazon.  They will also be available shortly from Barnes & Noble and other e-book outlets.

Cat’s Paw

by Robert A. Hoyt

($4.99)

The Mountain at The End Of The World upon which a bird sharpens its beak is down to where one more beak-wipe will eliminate it, and thus bring about the end of the universe. The only ones who can save us are… a bunch of stray cats.

This isn’t your children’s bedtime story.  It has been described as “Watership Down meets the Terminato”r as well as “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — on acid”.  Check it out!

 

Be Careful What You Ask For

by Amanda S. Green

($0.99)

All she’d ever wanted was to get out of the dead end town she’d lived in all her life.  Well, that and find a job that wasn’t as much of a dead end as the town.  Perhaps even find someone to share her life with.  Then Alexander Reed  walked back into her life just as suddenly as he’d walked out years before.  There’d been a time when she’d have done almost anything to be with him.  Now he offered her the chance to do exactly what she’d been wishing all her life.  But at what cost?

 

For Conspicuous Valor

by Darwin A. Garrison

($0.99)

In Conspicuous Valor. Darwin A. Garrison gives us a wonderful science fiction short story with a believable main character who would rather be doing anything but playing with her younger sister. Until, that is, her daydreaming results in danger for her baby brother and a well-deserved dressing down by her uncle. In an attempt to prove herself, she sneaks out the next morning, only to find herself hip-deep in trouble she’d never expected and having to find a way out to save not only herself but her family as well. Whether she has the strength and determination to do it is a question she has to answer — and she’s not sure she can.

 

In the Absence of Light

by Sarah A. Hoyt

($0.99)

In this short story, Sarah A. Hoyt takes us to a time when space travel has many of the same sort of tales that sea travel did several centuries ago. So these monsters really exist or are they just the figments of overly active imaginations? The crew and passengers of the the Amadryad will all too soon learn the answer to what happened to those who’d traveled on the the Tenebras, the first colony ship to Tau Centauri as well as learning if the drifters are real or nothing more than tales meant to frighten people so they don’t look too closely at what is really happening.

 

Night Shifted

by Kate Paulk

($0.99)

The unexpected is commonplace when you work the night shift at the local convenience store. But even that doesn’t prepare you for the Buffy-wanna be who walks through the door and all the trouble she brings with her.

 

The Blood Like Wine

by Sarah A. Hoyt

($0.99)

In the French revolution rivers of blood flowed. From the blood evil arose. Ancient evil engulfed Sylvie. Now in a twentieth century of fast cars and faster living, she must try to expiate evil and recapture her lost love.

 

Here is a list of our upcoming novels.  We will also be publishing at least two short stories a month.  So check our website often for new titles.

November 2011

 ConVent
Kate Paulk

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways.  If there is a plot further from her novel Impaler, I can’t think of it.  When I asked Kate last night to give me a quick synopsis of ConVent, she emailed this:  A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time. Just so you know, that pretty much sums up the book which is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a very long time.

 

Quick Sand
C. S. Laurel

When a dying man rings his doorbell, secrets from Professor William Yates’ past rise up, which threaten his relationship with Brian Quick, his reputation and his life.  Caught in the quicksand of his past, he has to solve the murder to get free.

 

Quick Change Artist
C. S. Laurel

In this story, Professor William Yates’ gets more than he bargains for when he wakes up with a snake tattoo, a pierced tongue and an even bigger surprise. It turns out a serial rapist who answers his description EXCEPT for having those, has kidnapped him and made him match. Bill and Brian interview “ink artists” and various one night stands to find him.

 

December 2011

A Flaw in Her Magic
Sarah A. Hoyt

In A Flaw of Her Magic, Sarah A. Hoyt gives us her take on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. This time, Austen’s England is populated with weredragons, werewolves and magic.

 

Nocturnal Serenade
Amanda S. Green

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

 

January 2012

Scytheman
Chris McMahon

Book 2 of the Jakirian Cycle, Chris’s wonderful fantasy, begun in The Calvanni.

 

Demise of Faith
Ellie Ferguson

Murder and dirty cops make for a very bad week for Liza Ashe as she tries to learn the truth about her father’s death.

 

February 2012

A Deadly Paws
Elise Hyatt

This is the first of the Orphan Kitten Mysteries by Hyatt.

A litter of kittens in a bag getting dropped on the lawn of any family can be expected to create some stir.  But when the litter is dropped on the devil strip of the Goldport, Colorado,home of a creatively eccentric family, what ensues is a murder investigation, a fun romp, and a new all absorbing passion for kitten rescue.

 

Skeletons in the Closet
Ellie Ferguson

Every family has its skeletons they’d prefer stayed hidden in that proverbial closet. That’s especially true when it comes to Lexie Smithson’s family. The only problem is, her family’s skeletons are all too real and they refuse to stay in the closet. It not only plays hell with her home life, but what’s a girl to do for a love life when those old bones start rattling and demanding attention?

 

March 2012

Sword of Arelion
J. T. Schall

Book 1 of a new fantasy series.

 

Hell Bound
Sarah A. Hoyt

Since Claudia Neri’s fiancé died under mysterious circumstances, she’s not been herself.  So when she starts seeing his ghost and getting signs he’s still around, she thinks she’s going insane.  The truth turns out to be far more distressing and will include and archangel, several ancient gods and blood sacrifice.

 

April 2012

Rye Crisp
Sarah A. Hoyt and Amanda S. Green

Alicia Rye learned long ago that life was never as simple or “normal” as those shows you see on TV. Divorced – and boy had her ego taken a beating over that. Not because she was divorced. No, because she’d been a fool to marry Howard for so many reasons – working to provide for herself and her cat, she finds her life once more intersecting that of her ex-husband as she investigates why his boss suddenly lit up like a Roman candle. As if that’s not enough, she has to deal with other, inherited troubles of the sort “normal” folks didn’t worry with – like the Vane, a ghost who has decided she’s his new best friend and who refuses to move on to the afterlife and a fire elemental that really wants to burn her bridges while she’s on them.

 

Musketeer’s Confessor
Sarah D’Almeida

Book 6 of the Musketeer’s Mystery series.

 

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New Titles Now Available

 

I love it when things work quicker than I planned.  We have three new short stories available today on Amazon and soon to be available from Barnes & Noble as well as our own webstore.  I’ll be honest, we figured it would take the other outlets until tomorrow to take the stories live, so they weren’t going up at Naked Reader until tomorrow…well, that’s changing and as soon as the tech guy has his coffee, he’ll be putting them up later this morning.  Any way, enough rambling.  Here are the new short stories and a list of other titles to expect in the next week.

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Amanda S. Green

($0.99)

All she’d ever wanted was to get out of the dead end town she’d lived in all her life. Well, that and find a job that wasn’t as much of a dead end as the town. Perhaps even find someone to share her life with. Then Alexander Reed walked back into her life just as suddenly as he’d walked out years before. There’d been a time when she’d have done almost anything to be with him. Now he offered her the chance to do exactly what she’d been wishing all her life. But at what cost?

The Blood Like Wine

by Sarah A. Hoyt

($0.99)

In the French revolution rivers of blood flowed. From the blood evil arose. Ancient evil engulfed Sylvie. Now in a twentieth century of fast cars and faster living, she must try to expiate evil and recapture her lost love.

Night Shifted

by Kate Paulk

($0.99)

The unexpected is commonplace when you work the night shift at the local convenience store. But even that doesn’t prepare you for the Buffy-wanna be who walks through the door and all the trouble she brings with her.

Coming later this next week are several more wonderful titles:

Cat’s Paw

by Robert A. Hoyt

Described as “Watership Down meets the Terminator” and the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — on acid”, this is by no means a children’s book.  Written by Robert when he was just 13 (and even then more mature than I’ll ever be), Cat’s Paw is one of those books you’ll laugh at even as you’re scratching your head and going back to see if you really did read what you think you just did.  You can find a snippet from it here.

For Conspicuous Valor

by Darwin Garrison

For Conspicuous Valor is a wonderful science fiction short story by Darwin.  He gives us a believable main character who would rather be doing anything but playing with her younger sister.  Until, that is, her daydreaming results in danger for her baby brother and a well-deserved dressing down by her uncle.  In an attempt to prove herself, she sneaks out the next morning, only to find herself hip-deep in trouble she’d never expected and having to find a way out to save not only herself but her family as well.  Whether she has the strength and determination to do it is a question she has to answer — and she’s not sure she can.

Absence of Light

by Sarah A. Hoyt

In this short story, Sarah takes us to a time when space travel has many of the same sort of tales that sea travel did several centuries ago.  So these monsters really exist or are they just the figments of overly active imaginations?  The crew and passengers of the the Amadryad will all too soon learn the answer to what happened to those who’d traveled on the the Tenebras, the first colony ship to Tau Centauri as well as learning if the drifters are real or nothing more than tales meant to frighten people so they don’t look too closely at what is really happening.

Check back next week for more news about our upcoming titles, including ConVent by Kate Paulk, a series of short stories by Dave Freer and much, much more.

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ConVent – Snippet Two

Good morning, everyone.  Before we get to the next snippet in Kate Paulk’s irreverent and hysterical take on sf/f cons, a quick word from the management.  If you look at the top of the page, you’ll see a new tab for snippets.  Starting next week, our regular snippets will be announced on the blog and the reader will then be redirected to the snippet page to finish reading.  The reason for this is so all our snippets are easier to find.  Also, we will start a regular snippet process.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we’ll have snippets from upcoming novellas and novels.  And now, without further delay, here’s the next snippet from ConVent.  As usual, the standard disclaimer applies:  this is not the final edited product.  This is similar to the ARC of a book.

*     *     *

    By the time the cops and paramedics arrived, Sean and I were in the middle of a crowd of rubbernecking con-goers. The nurse — her name was Gina — and I kept guard over the girl, while Sean helped hotel security keep the door clear.

The presence of uniformed, armed cops did what nothing else could. The onlookers faded off to other things. I doubted any of them had anything to fear, but the whole science fiction scene is kind of weird that way. Paranoia is the norm, not the exception.

At least I could do the vampire mind thing and make sure the cops believed what I told them. Not that it was anything exotic — everything except the reason Sean and I went into the art room was bare truth. If they checked out my credentials, they’d find it all matched up, too. I’ve been careful with that. Always make sure the paper trail matches your cover. Getting locked up on suspicion because your credentials don’t check out can do really bad things to your quality of life. Ending up in a lab as someone’s experiment would be worse.

All told, it was a relief when the cops left. For maybe five seconds.

Raph’s voice behind me put an end to any happy thoughts I might have wanted to harbor. “Lil says you’ll need help with this one.”

I didn’t groan. Yet. Instead, I turned around to face him. He had a succubus with him — the scent of sex mingled with expensive perfume overlying a hint of brimstone is unmistakable — presumably ‘Lil’. She oozed seduction, of course. The Star Trek costume helped: it was from the original series with the tight-tight minidress that showed off her legs and other… assets. This was one Uhura who had probably done the entire crew several times over. Even Scotty would have inspected that engine.

Raph was done up as Spock, complete with pointy ears and strange eyebrows. It would be the only time in history that anything involving Leonard Nimoy actually looked sexy. And no, I don’t swing that way, but I know hot when I see it. Raph sizzled.

It wasn’t because he was an angel, either. Most angels I’ve met aren’t earthy enough to be sexy. They’re more ethereal. Raph… I guess he takes his undercover work seriously enough to project like an incubus, only he doesn’t quite manage it. Typically your incubi and succubi project a kind of illicit sexiness. Raph gets the sex part, but it’s kind of wholesome sexy, if that makes sense.

“Thanks.” I might as well be polite — I’d never figured out precisely where we made immortals fit in with the natural immortals, and it never hurt to be on good terms with representatives of the current management. Besides, Lil was right. I might hate to admit it, but I did need help. Demonic rituals aren’t my line.

I nodded to the succubus. “Pleased to meet you, Lil.”

She smiled, the kind of demure, almost shy smile that would have been ordinary from anyone else. From her, it was practically an invitation. “The pleasure is all mine.”

Yes, she purred. Succubi do. It’s part of what they are.

Raph slipped his right arm around her waist. “You promised you wouldn’t go after the regulars, remember?”

Fat chance. Succubi and incubi are sex on legs. One of them thinking with their brain counted as a miracle in my book. “I’m immune.” I shrugged. “You might want to tone it down around Sean, though. He goes wolf when he’s aroused, and I’m not going to tweak the entire con because he couldn’t control himself.” I had to do that last time, and it takes all the fun out of a convention.

Lil giggled. “I’ll be good.” She turned a sly look on Raph that got the expected reaction. “You’re going to make it up to me, Raphie darlin’, right?”

That tight costume didn’t leave any room for imagination. Raph was trying to make it up to her right then and there. I half expected the spandex to tear.

“Get a room.” Sean’s low growl crawled up my spine. There wasn’t a hint of civilized in it. I hoped he was holding onto his human shape, because I really wasn’t ready to deal with another convention fiasco.

Raph blinked, and his eagerness deflated. Some. “Um.” He actually looked embarrassed. “Sorry.”

Lil tried to simper in Sean’s direction, and froze when he snarled. I got a glimpse of her true shape before she controlled herself: take away the hair and add wings, scales and a tail, and you’ve more or less got it.

Raph ignored her slip. “As far as I know, we’re the only regulars here. I haven’t come across any newcomers, either.” He shrugged. “Nothing to suggest any of the mortals are dabbling with anything they shouldn’t. All the interesting items in the dealer’s room are well warded.”

Pretty thorough, but then, that kind of thing is part of Raph’s job. Neither side is all that keen on a war — not what you’ll hear from those who are supposed to know these things, but most of them are fooling themselves. The world’s been pretty much neutral ground for years. Occasionally Someone will nudge, but for the most part it’s just people doing what people do.

Depressing thought, really.

Something nudged at my memory. Bill… and the Heart’s Blade. “You checked on Bill?”

Raph had the Spock eyebrows down perfectly — they moved the right way when he frowned. “Who?”

“Minor demon lord. I know him from way back.” I wasn’t about to explain when and why. “I saw him wheeling stuff in. Mostly he had books, but there was a Heart’s Blade on the trolley.”

Lil’s sharp gasp hissed just as much as Raph’s.

The angel shook his head. “I didn’t see any demons in there, or… that.”

I couldn’t blame him for not wanting to name a Heart’s Blade. The cursed things are the closest to pure evil you’re ever likely to see. “Crap.” I’d have to check the dealers myself. Not that I don’t trust Raph’s judgment or anything, but… I don’t actually know where he stands in the angelic hierarchy. A demon lord might well be able to trick him. Me being effectively immune to magic — I can feel the discharge when I break a spell, but that’s about it — I can see straight through illusions. It’s got to be a full masking to make me see something that’s not actually there.

I sighed, and turned my attention back to the more pressing issue. “Did either of you pick up anything from the… site?” I really didn’t want to call that setup in the Art Room a sacrificial altar. Old superstition, I guess. If it can hurt you, you don’t name it in case you summon it.

Lil nibbled on her lower lip. “I think it was supposed to be a gateway anchor.” With her eyes downcast while she thought, she looked almost demure.

I’ve seen Raph’s skin in circumstances I don’t want to think about, and I’ve never seen him this pale. “You’re sure about that?”

She nodded. “You big boys don’t need them.”

A few minutes ago I would have sworn a succubus couldn’t say anything like that and not sound flirtatious. You learn something every day.

“Mortals use them, same as we lesser demons, if we want to bring in one of the big players.”

Lovely. Major demons. Just freaking wonderful.

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Wow, We’re Almost One Year Old!

Later this month, NRP will celebrate it’s first anniversary.  Well, to be honest, it will be our first anniversary of going live.  We’d been in the planning stage for much longer.  But we’re excited and we’re hoping you are as well.  To help celebrate our birthday, we’ll be giving you, our readers, gifts so keep checking back for more details.  For now, I can tell you that we’ll be giving away some of our titles as well as discounting others.  There may be a contest or two for free copies of upcoming titles or for red-shirting in others.  Check back later this week and next for all the details.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will be publishing 12 more short stories by the wonderful Dave Freer.  We’ll be bringing out two short stories a month, starting in September.  The first will appear the week of September 5th, so mark your calendars.

Our titles this month run the gamut from science fiction to mystery to fantasy to the wildly imaginative worlds that exist in Robert A. Hoyt’s brain.  We have the first digital edition of Firefight, a novel by Thomas Easton first published in 1993.  Quicksand is the second novel in the Quick mystery series by C. S. Laurel.  Family Obligations is a fantasy short story by Stephen Simmons.  Cat’s Paw by Robert A. Hoyt is as funny as it satiric in this tale of a reluctant hero’s attempt to save the world.

Look for all of these titles the middle of the month.

And don’t forget to check back to see what sorts of surprises we have in store for you to celebrate our first anniversary.

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Borders, E-Books Sales and More

Before we get started with the weekly “news”, I have to give a shout out to Shiny Book Review and say “thanks” for the wonderful review of the e-arc of Dave Freer’s middle grade/early ya novella, Without a Trace.  You can check out the review here.  The final version of Without a Trace will be available shortly from NRP.

Now to the latest news from the industry front.  We may as well start with Borders.  I have to say, I’m thrilled to see that the bankruptcy judge is not just rolling over and letting Borders do as it wants.  Instead of approving the bonuses Borders wanted to pay its executives, bankruptcy court judge Martin Glenn said the Borders lawyers needed to negotiate with the U. S. Trustee to figure out something different from what had been proposed.  I applaud the judge for remembering the workers in the trenches at Borders, those who have given so much, often for a number of years, with little consideration from upper management of late.  “If this business goes down the toilet bowl, there are a lot of full or part-time employees who face the prospect of going out of work,” Glenn said.

The U. S. Trustee also deserves a pat on the back for realizing that these bonuses are premature at best, especially considering the fact that Borders has yet to show to the court — or its employees — how it will reorganize or pay its creditors.

But that’s not all the news concerning Borders this week.  According to CoStar, Borders has begun filing papers with the bankruptcy court to amend or cancel a number of its leases.  Let’s remember that Borders already has received approval from the bankruptcy court to close 226 stores.  In the last three weeks, it has filed papers seeking approval to cancel another 12 leases.  It is generally accepted that Borders will seek to cancel the leases on approximately 50 stores above and beyond the 226 already slated for closure.  Seems to me like the numbers of store closings continues to increase.  Is it any wonder why the U. S. Trustee and the bankruptcy judge felt the proposed payment of millions in bonuses to the execs was premature?

For a list of properties Borders is requesting lease terminations on, check pages 11 – 12 here.

In a follow-up to the announcement by Amazon that it would be closing its Irving, TX distribution center, so far, that hasn’t come to pass.  There are several bills before the Texas legislature that might entice Amazon to stay.  For more information, check out this article from the Austin Statesman.

On the e-book sales front, AAP (Association of American Publishers) has announced the February sales numbers.  At first glance, things don’t look so good.  There was an overall decrease in sales to the tune of 10.6% (a 5% fall for the year to date).  Here is how it breaks down, according to Shelf Awareness.  Note the huge increase in e-book sales.

CATEGORY SALES % CHANGE 
E-books $90.3 million 202.3%
Downloadable audiobooks  $6.9 million  36.7%
Religious books $48.9 million   5.5%
Professional $42.9 million  -3.6%
Univ. press paperback  $3.2 million  -5.5%
Children’s/YA hardcover $32.4 million  -6.1%
Univ. press hardcovers  $3.5 million  -6.5%
Adult paperback $81.2 million -24.6%
Children’s/YA paperback $26.1 million -25.9%
Audiobooks  $5.9 million -33.2%
Adult mass market $29.3 million -41.5%
Higher education $24.9 million -42.9%
Adult hardcover $46.2 million -43%

Finally, don’t forget to check out our two newest titles:  Want by Jay Caselberg and Skipping Stones by Darwin Garrison.

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The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy — Preview

Later this week, NRP will be releasing the Thomas Easton’s novel, The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy.  This is the first time it will be available in digital format.  Below is a snippet from the novel.  For more information about Tom and the novel, be sure to check out Tom’s guest post here.

*     *     *

The sky was not full of alien spaceships.

There were only six of them.

But they were huge, and their psychological impact was colossal.  All the works of humanity shrank in significance.  The thousands of satellites human beings had over more than half a century put into orbit to pass on gossip and keep an eye on worrisome neighbors suddenly seemed as toys upon a playroom floor, while the public consciousness quite forgot the two space stations, the small Moon-base, and even the tiny ship, with its crew of eight intrepid explorers, whose voyage to Mars had preoccupied the media for almost a year.

That preoccupation ended the day the Spacewatch radars picked up half a dozen fast-moving objects headed straight for Earth.  Cometary fragments, the experts said.  An asteroid swarm.  And yes, of course, they’ll punch holes in the crust, raise tidal waves a thousand feet high, and fill the air with exactly the sort of dust that froze out the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago.

Deep Impact and Armageddon were immediately re-released.

“DOOMSDAY!” cried even the soberest headlines and news anchors, while the tabloid newsfeeds were left to speculate that the six strange objects were not pieces of comet or asteroid at all.  They were spaceships, and at any moment they would begin to decelerate.  The most extreme tabloids blared that the captain of the alien fleet was Jesus Christ Himself, come to gather up the Faithful, schlep them to Heaven, and leave Earth and the vast majority of humanity to the Seven Vials and Satan’s wiles, but no one who counted paid much attention.  Most seemed to think the ships were quite secular, and as soon as they had achieved Earth orbit, the Wise Ones from Galactic Central would tell poor benighted humanity how to solve all its problems, from global warming and AIDS to infidelity, impotence (Viagra couldn’t fix everything), obesity, and hair loss.

Which was exactly what happened.  Sort of.  Once their ships–each one a cylinder a thousand feet long and five hundred in diameter–were in orbit, dominating the night sky wherever one lived, the Wise Ones didn’t seem to have much to say about human problems large or small. They were much more interested in seeing the sights.

That helped restore humanity’s pride in its accomplishments.  It didn’t hurt a bit that the aliens were sights themselves.  They were at least roughly humanoid, but strange enough–carny freak-show strange–to let people feel superior.  It was easy to call them “it,” especially once it became clear that their behavior did not map onto any human gender norm.

Since none of them seemed to care what humans called them, people named them according to what they saw or were reminded of when they met: The Placoderms, built like professional wrestler Jacko “The Bull” Magruder, had skins studded with bony plaques that suggested they had evolved from something like an armadillo.  The Placs’ garments resembled dashikis with side-pockets.

The Helfs were pale green cones about three feet tall, resting on four thickly built legs with broad feet encircled by stubby toes.  The upper body was slender, almost delicate, the arms as scrawny as a human child’s, the hands surprisingly large, and the narrow, almost human head rested on an extensible neck that could add at least another foot of height.  The pointed ears and slicked-back dark hair were why someone had dubbed them “heavy elves,” which was promptly abbreviated.  Their only clothing was a belt with pouches.

The narrow-headed Ents had slender, dark-skinned limbs that ended in clusters of twiggy tendrils instead of fingers; humans called them Ents because to some they resembled walking trees.  They smelled of resin, and they wore strips of a white material that looked like plastic wrapped in spirals around their torsos and the upper portions of their arms and legs.  At intervals, these strips were marked by very recognizable zippers.

While decency, decoration, and protection from the elements are all important, the most important function of clothing may be that universal requirement of intelligent species–pockets.  Or something like pockets.  The Burds made do with small, purse-like satchels.  Otherwise, they went naked, ignoring decency–unlike birds, the males were well and obviously hung–and painting their scaly hides in perfumed, pastel swirls.  Each one had a feathered crest extending from its head most of the way down its back.  Their projecting jaws did the most to give them a birdlike look but their facial skin was so thin and mobile that–unlike birds–they seemed to have a thousand expressions.  Humans had no idea what most of them meant.

The Furries were just that, round balls covered with thick fur in several colors.  Their heads were squashed caps of something like chitin, under which gleaming eyes twitched back and forth on stalks.  The arms were long and six-fingered.  The legs were stubby but long enough to wear pants–with pockets, of course.

The Spiders might actually have descended from Earth-primate stock, for they resembled nothing more than large-headed, black-lipped spider monkeys, with long arms and legs and creamy fur with just a bit more nap than velvet.  They stood a little shorter than adult humans.  They wore briefs like swimming trunks and open-weave, fish-net shirts that seemed little more than support for several baggy pouches.  Unlike spider monkeys, they did not have tails.

Everywhere they went–Fifth Avenue, the Met, the Grand Canyon, the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Vatican, Jerusalem, Wal-Mart, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall–they drew vast crowds of gawkers, hawkers, and eager journalists.  They waved to the gawkers while the hawkers peddled fast foods and souvenirs, they sampled the fast foods, they bought some of the knick-knacks in quantity and ignored the rest, and they said very little to the journalists.  They also spent a little time with the United Nations, sampling the canapés and arranging to convert some of their technology–such as the high-capacity batteries that were showing up in electric cars within a year–into cash.

Then they went shopping.

The Furries began with denim jeans.  The Burds flocked to Avon ladies for new shades and fragrances of hide paint.  Then both joined the rest in buying real estate.  Each alien species acquired land near every major university on the planet; within a month, they had installed attractive buildings built of a creamy stone, with lots of glass and columns.  They hired local landscapers to do the grounds.

Not knowing what else to call these bases, the media dubbed them “Embassies.”

The FBI, CIA, and other national security agencies promptly tried to burgle them and discovered that the glass wasn’t breakable and the stone wasn’t even chippable.  When Texas tried the National Guard’s tanks and mortars, they learned that the aliens didn’t mind.  They didn’t have to take offense–the buildings were impregnable to human weaponry.

The Texas governor insisted that nukes would do the job, but since the local embassies were surrounded by Houston, no one took her seriously.

Then the aliens bought computers and Net access and began to download the contents of every electronic library and database they could find and/or buy access to.  They discovered Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and powells.com and ordered vast piles of books.  They visited university libraries and signed up to audit the more advanced courses.  And their tastes were catholic; they showed no preference whatsoever for science, technology, math, literature, music, history, film, philosophy, art, or Jungian basket-weaving.  They set out to swallow it all and admitted quite cheerfully that there were enough books and courses to keep them there for years.

But they never said why.

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March Update

The problem with running a small press is that, well, there aren’t a lot of people involved in the operation.  That means when one — or in our case several — of us get sick or have real life intrude, things slow down.  That’s what happened this month.  But have no fear.  We will get the rest of the schedule out.  Impaler by Kate Paulk and Blood Reunion, a short story collection by Sarah A. Hoyt, will be out next week.  Without a Trace by Dave Freer, which is currently available here as an E-ARC, will be out the following week.  In the meantime, check out Death of a Musketeer by Sarah D’Almeida and Nocturnal Origins by Amanda S. Green.

In the meantime, I’m going to cut back blogging to three times a week.  Of course, if something happens that I think we need to talk about, I’ll pop up long enough to post it.  Our next blog will be Friday.

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