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May 29, 2012 — 893 words

From Journalist to Novelist

By Guest Author

by Lauren Clark

As a broadcast journalist, you quickly learn that everything is about deadlines. There’s a deadline for the noon show, the 6 o’clock show, the ten o’clock, and so on. And not only do you have to complete your assignment, but the stories have to be accurate, compelling, and brief. Most of the time, my own stories were never longer than a minute and thirty seconds. That’s not much time to get in the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How!

After working in the television biz for six years, I became quite adept at completing assignments, writing down my script in the news van (going over bumps in the road), and typing at (a little under) the speed of light. Unless I wanted to look for a new career, there was no missing any deadlines, so I learned to work fast and smart.

When I decided to retire from the news desk, stay home with my children, and dip my toe into the author world, my experience as a journalist certainly came in handy. I could come up with a zillion ideas, I was disciplined enough to crank out several pages of manuscript in a day, and I could create fun and interesting characters.

On the flip side, I wasn’t used to working on a single project for longer than a day or two, so sitting down at a computer keyboard and working on the same story day after day was a challenge. Also, instead of the fun, noise, and excitement of the newsroom, I had my laptop and a tiny, quiet corner in my house. I’ll admit, my first attempts at novel writing were not pretty—meaning, I didn’t take the time to plot, I just sat down and wrote. My stories meandered and went in a million different directions, and when I tried to rein everything back in, I might as well have been trying to catch raindrops in a sieve.

After my first couple of tries, I had to completely re-think writing stories. I began to outline, I worked from note cards, and I had friends read what I’d written. (It still wasn’t pretty, but it was better!) For me, planning, outlining, and getting to know my characters BEFORE I started writing was the key. I’d never had this luxury in the news business, but it was crucial to getting a good story together.

I did make myself finish each manuscript (approximately 80,000 words). I do think completion is important, even if your novel will never see the light of day. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment when you can type ‘The End.’ It’s not a waste of time, I promise. You have to work through the terrible, awful first drafts. Otherwise, it’s too easy to give up. All that will get you is a bunch of ten thousand word drafts.

Of course, I still tend to be impatient and wish I could crank out three thousand words a day like Stephen King, but now that I am taking the time to plan, the actual writing part is much more fun. The added bonus is this:  the revising is a lot less painful. Think sweeping off your front porch with a broom rather than trying to use a toothpick.

So, did my experience as a journalist helped when it came to writing as an author? Again, the answer is yes, but it took being open to learning new methods and even greater discipline. The foundation is crucial—sentence structure, grammar, story structure—but the test is in your own tenacity. There’s no trick or shortcut. It’s about being in the chair, day after day, even when you don’t want to sit at your desk or you feel less than motivated. There’s no substitute for the hard work.

If you’re a writer, make time for yourself, also. Celebrate when you reach that 20,000 or 40,000 word milestone. Kiss your children, hug your parents, and smile at a stranger. People watch—it’s a great idea generator. Dream a little. Wonder ‘what if.’

Every day, I feel blessed and lucky to be an author. And I will keep doing the hard work, because I wouldn’t trade the life of a writer for the world.

About Lauren Clark

Lauren Clark writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets. She is the author of Stay Tuned and Dancing Naked in Dixie (May 21, 2012 release date, Amazon).  

A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com. You can also find Lauren on GoodReads, Twitter, and Facebook.

May 29, 2012 — 579 words

MERGE #2: Long Way Down by Yvonne Reid

By 1889 Labs

(Pst! Don't know what MERGE is? See the introductory post!)

Day 2 of the MERGE blog tour... and time to introduce our SECOND author!

We kicked off to a great start yesterday with over 60 entries into the grand prize giveaway for a brand new iPad!

Kit Iwasaki's guest post on All-Consuming Media brought smiles to faces -- if you haven't stopped by and left a comment, DO IT NOW! You want to win that iPad, don't you?

What can you expect today? Let me tell you....

The MERGE blog tour!

For the second stop of our blog tour, we're swinging by Black Sun Reviews for a review by awesome blogger Soleil Noir.

Soleil is reviewing the second story in the MERGE series, Long Way Down by Yvonne Reid, which is launching TODAY!

Check out her review today... and remember to leave a comment for ANOTHER chance to win that iPad!

You acn grab Long Way Down from the Kindle store!

Anyone who comments on Black Sun Reviews will ALSO be entered to win an 1889 Labs book of their choosing!

Today's Release!

Long Way Down by Yvonne Reid

Leo Harrison hunts fugitives for a living, and business is good.

So what if his soul is in danger?

Hunting transhumans is a hell of a job, where the tiniest misstep can cost you your life. When your prey is more dangerous than you are, how do you know where to draw the line? Harrison's got a good reputation, but every time he looks into the eyes of another mark, he has to wonder: if one of us has to die today, who should it be?

Set in a world reeling from the discovery of transhumans, MERGE is a series of thirteen short stories that charts the loves, the betrayals, and the struggle for survival in a world where humans and transhumans are uneasy neighbours. Tensions are high, riots are brewing. The human race is about to come undone.

Buy it today on Kindle!

Join the fun!

Want a chance to win that iPad? You know you do!

Enter the grand prize giveaway NOW by completing all the tasks in our fancy rafflecopter widget!

And remember to check back often. Nearly every day, we'll update the widget to link to our blog tour stops -- your first comment on each blog post is worth ONE entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What are you waiting for?

May 29, 2012 — 278 words

Chapter 18p1 – Hold On

By Tim Sevenhuysen

The Galactic Pelican hummed into life and rose into the air, shedding snow drifts from its wings. The sun was sinking lower in the frigid sky, and the rumblings of battle-eager yetis could be heard from the hold.

"Hold on back there, everyone," said Tic Bolter over the intercom. "Gal: hit the cloak."

 

The invisible Pelican coasted in over downtown and settled into a low hover above Haglyn's old pawn shop. The rear ramp whirred open, and Eilk's voice resounded: "Yetis! To war!"

A dozen of the massive beasts roared ferociously and leapt out onto the roof of the pawn shop, the tails of their red headbands flying in the wind.

The moment the ramp was shut, Tic sent the Pelican soaring into the sky and disengaged the cloaking field. Dunter's headquarters erupted into activity, spewing out jets and Liberati fighters like wasps from a hive.

Before the enemies could get into firing range, Tic headed back down over the city. The enemy ships gave chase, and Tic and the others watched through a rear-facing camera...

One by one, their pursuers began to fall from the sky, their cockpits, wings, and fuselages collapsing under a barrage of slingshot-propelled Gortinawa acid. In just one pass, the yetis took out five jets and three Liberati fighters.

"That'll divide their attention a little, eh?" smirked Overard.

"Looks like it," agreed Tic, watching as the rest of the enemy ships peeled off in disarray, seeking to escape the unexpected threat.

"The question is," said Milly, "will it be enough to get us inside?"

Tic gripped the control stick. "Let's find out..."

[poll id="90"]

May 28, 2012 — 638 words

It’s time to MERGE!

By 1889 Labs

THE TIME HAS COME!

No, not the end of the world--that's not until December 12st.

The time has come to MERGE!

One series, four authors, four weeks of blog tour madness, and probably the best giveaway in town.

That's right: from May 28 until June 18, we're going to merge so hard, your brain will permanently melt into ours. In a good way. Honest.

Did someone say PRIZES? #hellyes

3rd place: 4 MERGE stories by the author of your choice plus a $10 Amazon or iTunes voucher!

2nd place: The complete 13-story MERGE series plus a $10 Amazon or iTunes voucher!

1st place: The complete 13-story MERGE series plus a brand new IPAD!! #yesreally

Not enough for you? Several of our book blogger sponsors will be running additional side giveaways -- follow along to find out who.

Want to find out how to enter to win? Keep on reading....

MERGE#1: 5 Days At A Time by Kit Iwasaki

For the first stop of our blog tour, we're swinging by All-Consuming Media for a guest post by Kit Iwasaki.

Kit has written the first story in the MERGE series, 5 Days At A Time, which is launching TODAY... and if you stop by All-Consuming Media and leave a comment, you could win a shiny new ebook!

Plus your first comment on the post counts towards the iPad giveaway... so what are you waiting for?

5 Days At A Time by Kit Iwasaki

Only 3% of Alzheimer's patients show symptoms before 55.

Beth's husband, it seems, has won the lottery.

As every fragment of her life flakes away, Beth struggles to find something to hold on to, in the rules and routines that control every moment of every day. But somewhere amongst the crushing depression, something is changing for Beth. Something that will rewrite the history of her marriage forever.

Set in a world reeling from the discovery of transhumans, MERGE is a series of thirteen short stories that charts the loves, the betrayals, and the struggle for survival in a world where humans and transhumans are uneasy neighbours. Tensions are high, riots are brewing. The human race is about to come undone.

Join the fun!

Want a chance to win that iPad? You know you do!

Enter the grand prize giveaway NOW by completing all the tasks in our fancy rafflecopter widget!

And remember to check back often. Nearly every day, we'll update the widget to link to our blog tour stops -- your first comment on each blog post is worth ONE entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What are you waiting for?

May 26, 2012 — 290 words

Chapter 17p5 – We Need the Yetis

By Tim Sevenhuysen

With the foundations of their alliance set in place, the humans and the yetis turned in for the night. Brother Eilk brought the humans to a small dug-out chamber deeper within the cave complex. He carried Haglyn—who was still more than a little uncomfortable with that arrangement—in his paws, and laid her on a woven mat that was spread over the floor.

It was cold and dark, but Tic, Haglyn, Milly, and Overard huddled together for warmth and made it through the night. When the sounds of morning awoke them, they gathered the contents of their packs and assembled a makeshift breakfast.

Eilk returned as they were eating. He was wearing a thick leather headband, dyed a rough red. "You are nearly ready?" he said. "Good. I will wait until you finish."

Overard, who had already swallowed his bread and jam, asked Eilk, "Do you only fight with slingshots?"

"No, not only," said Eilk. "We also have long spears! But they are not much use against aircraft or laser blasters in wide open spaces..."

"True," said Overard. "Actually, I don't entirely understand how the slingshots can take down aircraft, either. Their shields can stop other projectiles. Why not the Gortinawa seeds?"

Eilk shrugged. "We do what works, and we do not do what does not work."

"Fair enough. Maybe the seeds just move too slowly to get detected by the shields..."

"Perhaps."

"Doesn't matter why it works," said Tic, "as long as it keeps working. We need the yetis to be our anti-air so we can get ourselves inside the building."

"A good plan," said Eilk. "Elder Aidoan is waiting. He has made early plans, as well. Come: we have much to do before the evening."

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May 25, 2012 — 1,619 words

The Lonely Coat by Ged Maybury

By

In the park he came across a coat, and he took it home. It seemed abandoned and uncared for, laid across a chair inside a tent. It drew him closer, for it was beautiful. Not so much for its colour but for its cut. It was grey, but a perfect grey, and every edge including the pockets (and there were many of these), every edge was trimmed in the most glorious pink. Hot pink. The kind of pink that sang to him, dazzled his eyes, dazzled his mind, and sparked his desire.

He took the coat, he took it swiftly home.

No one loved it. But he would.

He took it swiftly home as only he could, speeding through the park via the ways he knew, going off the path here and there, going under the fence elsewhere, then across the busy road, such a dance and how he enjoyed it! Then two more blocks to home, where he slunk in and finally put it on and gazed a huge while at himself in the mirror. Oh but it was good. The happiest coat he had seen.

Odd, however. For all of its many pockets, only two were real ones. And in places there was padding inside, to make the collar sit up for example, and the lapels seem plump.
And the sleeves were far too short for him. More of a jacket, he decided after turning about many times to admire it.

And velvety. So velvety.

It was truly and by far the most perfect thing he had ever brought home.

Outside, voices. The others were getting back. Swiftly he put it into his wardrobe on his best coat hanger, and slid the door closed.

But the love of the coat was to prove no protection against the Monthly Shrivel. The Shrivel marched relentless, it crept like a thief, it burgled him of bounce. And within a few days back at the Factory, his spirit slumped. They shouted at him at breakfast, to eat it all up, to take his meds. He didn’t care, and he did their bidding, but it did no good. Another week at the factory, a rainy weekend, another week at the Factory. The entire month dragged by until the moon came back, and when it got full and fat and shiny, he felt up to going out again.

He took some tights this time. No one seemed to love them, hanging all forlorn on that clothesline. But he did, he loved them, he would take care of them.

He took them swiftly home, speeding down the ways he knew. With the tights on – oh it felt so good! What else did he have? His new tights made him think of his funny hat – the one that Punch might wear with the three colours and the bells. He put that on too, stood in front of his mirror. What else? A shirt. Yes a shirt, but not tucked in. A shiny shirt. He had a girl’s one somewhere, very pink! He slid open his wardrobe, and oh! There was the Lonely Coat! Now he would look good! He would look HUGE!

He ran through the park, and he was very happy. Ran, ran, ran around and through the children’s playground, around and through the rose garden. People watched. He ran around the fountain and back the other way for fun, then headed for the big lawn. There were always people picnicking there. They would watch him for sure!

But even better, the big lawn was full of people. There was a tent. Two vans off to the side. Lots of people. They were watching something going on in the middle. There were Players. There were lines pegged out on the ground. There was music playing loudly, there were cameras. Television cameras.

Oh this would be fun!

He ran on, skipping as well, slowing down, getting through the crowd, getting to the edge of that big pattern of lines on the ground. Ah, squares. It was hopscotch! A huge hopscotch! And there were Players dressed up fine and standing in their places with huge tall hats, and some moving about, dancing and changing places in time to the music.

He loved this park! This sort of stuff was always going on.

Through he moved, through the final line of children sitting, and onto the squares he danced as well, swiftly, giggling, twirling.

He saw the Players startle, heard them gasp. One, a pretty girl in a fairy costume, gasped the loudest. He even heard her say, “My coat!”

Oh, she admired his coat? Well of course, and so she should! He dodged around one of the Players – the one in the castle costume, and pranced across the squares again back the way he came, jumped over the children! The fairy lunged for him, he heard her curse, her hand missed by a mile. Everybody laughed.

He went swiftly, the crowd sprang back, the way opened, he bumped a few of them but it didn’t matter because everyone still laughed!

In the show! He had been in the show! His new coat had been in the show!

He took it swiftly away from that grasping fairy, speeding through the park via the ways he knew, going off the path here and there, going under the fence elsewhere, and soon he was through the children’s playground again, and over the bridge where the ducks got fed, across the car park so very full and off a mile away in the bigger park (the one with the golf course further over, and the path where the sporty people ran and ran), and here there were even more people, and a hundred tents, and a huge stage. Huge!

What a place to frolic, and he did, and the people thought he was great except the security guys but he saw them and swiftly slunk away around the back.

He slowed down. He was puffed. He slunk around between the trucks and the vans and the plain-coloured little tents. There were Players in those tents, music people and dancer people getting ready or getting undone and dressed again. He flitted past them, peeking in, hoping to see some undies.

No. No undies today.

And around the corner he found a very quiet spot between three vans, and sitting there were four ladies, with tea. Old ladies. Ordinary ladies. Except the little one. There was a little one. She was a dwarf. He knew that. Two of his friends at the Factory were dwarfs. Dwarfs were cool. He was cool with dwarfs.

“Hello,” he said. They had taught him manners at Special School.

“Hello,” they said in reply, even as one of them turned to whisper to another, “It’s your coat!”

He stood, panting a bit after all that running. He had stopped because they had cake.

“Hello,” he said again, eyeing the cake.

“Would you like some cake?”

“Yes please.”

The little one sprang down off her big folding chair, squatted, cut a piece of cake, moved it onto a paper plate, stood, and handed it to him.

“That’s a lovely coat,” she said. She had a lovely voice.

He nodded. Mustn’t talk with his mouth full. They’d taught him manners at school.

“Is it yours, then?”

He stopped eating, eyed them carefully. They didn’t look like they might hit him. His mouth was still full of cake. He felt bad.

“How did you get that lovely coat?”

Once again he was silent. He needed to swallow his cake, but he could not swallow.
“That is it?” asked one of the ladies.

“Definitely,” said the dwarf lady.

He began to move, ever so slowly, hoping they would not notice. They all got to their feet. They were following him. One of them had a telephone. He saw her slowly opening it, hoping he would not notice.

“Did you take the coat?” asked Little Lady.

He hunched his shoulders, looked down at the ground.

“You took it, didn’t you? You shouldn’t have taken it, should you?”

He shook his head.

“I made that coat,” said Little Lady, “I made it very specially for someone I know.”
Quickly he swallowed his cake. He knew the answer to this one! It was always good to know the right answer!

“The fairy!”

The ladies all glanced at each other. Little Lady nodded. “Yes, the fairy.”

He hunched down further, right against the back of a tent. They had surrounded him.

“Do you think maybe you should give it back?” asked Little Lady.

He dropped his cake plate. It wobbled, rolled, fell over. He was pressed against the tent’s pole now. His hands came up, his fingers curled. His shoulders were pushing the funny fat collar right up to his ears.

“I know the fairy,” said Little Lady, “if you give it to me, I’ll give it back to her.”

“Okay.”

He took it off. He closed his eyes. He held it to her. She took it. But it was alright, because he still had on his shiny pink shirt underneath. But he still cried.

“It’s alright,” said the ladies, “it’s alright! Don’t cry. You’ve done a good thing! What’s your name anyway?”

“Kevin.”

“Do you like pretty clothes, Kevin?”

He nodded.

“I could make you your very own coat,” said Little Lady.

“Grace, you’ll only be rewarding him!” whispered one of the ladies crossly.

“Would you like that, Kevin?” continued Little Lady.

Kevin nodded.

“Then I will, because you’ve done a good thing.”

Slowly he unfolded himself, like a tent. He smiled.

 

May 25, 2012 — 282 words

Chapter 17p4 – Help Us

By Tim Sevenhuysen

"Whoa, hold on," said Milly hurriedly. "We aren't your enemies..." She flashed Tic a what-are-you-doing glare. "Look, as proof, here are all the rest of our Gortinawa seeds." She pulled the water bottle full of seeds out of her backpack and set it on the table.

Elder Aidoan grinned. "You present us with a bountiful harvest. We are grateful. The seeds will sweeten our tongues, which have grown weary of cave fish and unseasoned meat."

"Er, yes, you could eat them all," said Milly, "or..."

Tic jumped in. "Or you could use them to help us take down Dunter!"

Aidoan raised his shaggy eyebrows. "Ah, you wish us to join you in battle."

"Well it's pretty clear that we're not going to accomplish much on our own," said Tic. "If you help us fight Dunter, we'll make sure the rest of the humans let you live in peace."

"I fear that is a promise you may be unable to fulfill," intoned Aidoan, "but it is a sign of hope, nonetheless. We will aid you, humans, however we are able. But it will take our warriors some time to prepare themselves. How soon do you wish to begin the attack?"

"I guess 'right now' would be a bit hasty, eh?" said Tic.

"Some of our strongest warriors are out hunting," said Aidoan. "They will return to Yettison tomorrow morning. With more time, we could gather support from the other yeti villages, as well."

Overard pointed out, "The longer we wait, the more time Dunter and Libden have to arm more goons and fly in more Liberati."

"True," said Tic. "Then let's set the attack for tomorrow night..."

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May 24, 2012 — 828 words

Heart of Glass by Catherine Black

By

I found him out there on the bluff overlooking the ocean, his car was his quiet tomb. I noticed this solitary car in the car park at 7am, at first I thought of young couples snuggled together watching the sunrise but an odd shape made me take a second look. I went over and looked in the window. There was this bright pink face staring out into infinity. Stepping backwards I stumbled on uneven ground while my mind was trying to comprehend the scene in front of me. He was dead, I could see that just by looking at the body, he was frozen in time. There is a look a dead person gets when the soul has left the body, if you believe in souls of course. Vacant like there is no one home. I dialled 000 and called an ambulance and the police. I know I am with the police but I was off duty. This needed more investigation.

After reporting the suicide, I went back to looking around the car and also to fend off any other nosey parkers who might find this all too interesting. On the passenger side front seat was a piece of paper. I was dying to find out if it was a note that would explain why this man took his own life. But I had to wait. It was about an hour later when the police car arrived and a little later came the ambulance. The paramedics got the police to unlock the driver’s door and they pulled the body from the car. The constable looked into the car and leaned over to pick the note up. He read it and shook his head… he was disturbed by the contents of the note.

I went over to him and said, “Hi, I am Sergeant Castile from Newport station."

“Constable Milano.”

“What did the note say? You seem pretty cut up about it."

He handed the note to me and I read about the last few months of the man’s life. He wrote about the loss of his wife and child in a car accident, the subsequent loss of his job because he couldn’t manage the grief, the loss of his family home from having no income and he wrote about how last week he thought his luck had changed... he wrote about the phone call from the lottery office advising him his ticket had won the first prize pool of $30 million. All he had to do was produce the ticket.

Apparently he had a habit of buying a weekly lottery ticket and usually he checked it but lately he had been struggling to follow a lot of his regular habits and he had been tossing the tickets out unchecked. The reality was his flat was a mess, he just had not gotten around to cleaning it up. He was thankful for his bad habits and set about trying to find the lottery ticket in the mess. Day after day he searched the flat and he couldn’t find the missing ticket. The despair was so overwhelming he felt himself sinking into the black abyss. The more he searched the darker his world seemed… there was nothing left to live for… if only he hadn’t gotten that phone call.

I was standing there with Constable Milano and we shared the pain this man had suffered. I needed to do something so I thought I might call the lottery office and ask about the process for collecting first prize lottery pools. I asked Constable Milano if he objected to me doing this. He thought it was a good idea.

First thing on my next shift I rang the lottery office and asked them for some information. I asked them if it was their practice to ring first prize winners. They said not usually but in exceptional circumstances they did. When I asked them about the $30 million prize pool week and the winners for that week they said they hadn’t rung anyone. However they reported that there was a spate of practical jokes where this woman rang people out of the blue and told them they had won first prize. Often these people rang the lottery office to confirm and found out that they had been victims of a hoax.

Seems my man in the car was one such victim. Only he didn’t ring the lottery office to confirm, he died and there was nothing I could do.

He was fragile as glass and his heart shattered.

*    *    *

Catherine Black writes for fun... she hates to call herself a writer and prefers to say she has pieces of writing that want to be read. Catherine, her cat and her lizards enjoy the meditative musings that writing gives them. They all live in Logan Qld Australia... it is sunny there most of the time and it is a warm winter this year.

May 24, 2012 — 298 words

Read any good graphic novels lately?

By Letitia Coyne

I have. Wow. I’ve never looked into this artform before. What beautiful work.

I enjoyed:

Dreamless, illustrated by Sarah Ellerton; written by Bobby Crosby.

The Phoenix Requiem, also by Sarah Ellerton. The Phoenix Requiem is a Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy story about faith, love, death, and the things we believe in.

Xyliatales: A Faerie Tale by B L Jacobs

17 Sensational, Free and Downloadable Graphic Novels. In this post, I want to highlight a booming segment of the online free culture movement: graphic novels. Each link will take you to a page where you can download or view a high quality graphic novel or excerpt freely and with no strings attached. There are plenty more to be found, but these seventeen are some of the best you’ll find.

Lackadaisy by Tracy J Butler

Doom Patrol . Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, various; Cover by Brian Bolland

If, like me, you never really looked into this brilliant world before, do yourself a big favour. For others new to the genre, let me recommend following the links list from any artist you have enjoyed, and take a tour through the many worlds of graphic novels.

For those of you who know your way around, who do you recommend? Anyone, even your own site. Go on, spread the love.

Featured artwork from Dreamless, Sarah Ellerton.

May 24, 2012 — 303 words

Chapter 17p3 – Treacherous Humans

By Tim Sevenhuysen

Elder Aidoan guffawed, his laughter sounding like an avalanche. "Humans, what has shocked you so?"

Milly blurted out, "You just swallowed a Gortinawa seed!"

"How are you not disintegrating from the neck down?" said Overard.

"We yetis," Aidoan mused, "have very strong stomachs."

"Maybe the acid inside the seed didn't get released," said Overard thoughtfully. "If the digestive fluids didn't eat through the seed's outer shell..."

"That is one possible explanation," admitted Aidoan. "Regardless, to the yetis, the seeds are a special treat, though it has been decades since last I had one."

"Where did you get them?" asked Overard. "Non-military possession is illegal galaxy-wide!"

"Our kind grew the Gortinawa plant, once," said Aidoan. "We ate its seeds, and its leaves make strong medicines."

"But you don't grow them anymore?" asked Tic.

Elder Aidoan shook his shaggy head. "When the first humans arrived on Yaddock, it did not take them long to discover the seeds' more... aggressive use. But the plants grow only on the mountaintops, and we would not surrender our land, so they declared war on us. No planted seed lasts to fruition anymore. Now they seek to kill us all, and they carry away the corpses of our fallen brothers to dishearten us."

"That's terrible!" said Milly.

Overard stared at the floor in grim introspection.

Tic addressed the room at large. "Why are you helping us, then? Aren't you worried that we might be more treacherous humans, here to kill you?" A tense hush fell. The hair on the back of Tic's neck stood on end.

"We have hope, human. Hope for both our kind and yours. Hope that we may yet find an ally among our enemies. But should you wish to initiate hostilities"—Aidoan flexed his enormous paw—"you are welcome to."

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