I am pleased to announce that the e-book prices on my first two books are finally down where I think they should be for a relatively unknown author. iUniverse has both Homecoming and Tourist Trap at my preferred price of $4.99.

Amazon is selling Homecoming on Kindle at $4.39 but seems a bit slow on Tourist Trap, as they are still listing it at $7.69. I’ve pointed out to them that iUniverse is cheaper, but customer complaints might work faster.

Barnes and Noble offers both Homecoming and Tourist Trap in Nook format at $4.39 each.

Even people who don’t normally like science fiction have enjoyed these books. They include many of the things I’ve blogged about: horses, dogs, genetics, conservation laws, and hypoglycemia, for some.

A sample excerpt, from Homecoming:

The spring equinox found Marna moving back to the north, keeping ahead of the rains as she recrossed the savanna and moved into true desert. Furnace winds parched her mouth and throat, and blowing dust caked her eyes. She paused near the crest of a dune, shading her eyes against the glare of the morning sun.

The blue line to the north had become more than a line. She nodded in satisfaction as she turned back to the floater and picked up her canteen for a drink. The map had been telling her for more than a day that the Wind Hills were ahead of her, but this was the first time she had been sure that what she saw was more than a mirage. She sealed the canteen and returned it to the floater, making a quick check of her remaining water containers. A good three days’ worth, she thought, and she should reach the foothills and at least one spring tonight. She licked her dusty lips and began climbing down the slip face of the dune.

By late afternoon she had sighted three cabins, all well away from the line to the hills. The fourth, however, was directly in her path, and she paused to study it. It was built of the pale limestone that made up the backbone of the Wind Hills, roofed with red slate, and seemed almost untouched by time. In fact, it didn’t look as if it could possibly have been abandoned for as long as the cabins on Windhome, or even for a fraction of that time. Marna’s heartbeat quickened as she stepped closer. Could this place possibly be isolated enough to house a survivor of the plague?

She circled the cabin, looking for any sign of life. On the fourth side was a door, propped part way open by a chunk of rock. She ran up to it, her heart pounding and her breath tight in her throat, and looked inside.

The small windows had been sandblasted over the years, and her eyes, adjusted to the glare of the desert sun, at first saw only darkness broken by paler rectangles. Marna closed her eyes and covered them with her hands, willing her sight to adjust but already aware that there was no smell or sound of life. When she looked again, she saw that the room was half filled with drifted sand.

Something dark protruded from the sand to her left, and she thought at first it was a tree branch, oddly shriveled and distorted. She scuffed her way across the room to try and pull it free, and only then realized that what she held was a hand.

Her knees buckled and she collapsed into the sand, still holding that poor, withered travesty of a R’il’nian hand. She stroked it gently while tears ran down her face and the trained Healer in her mind noted the spread, backward-stretched fingers and bent-back wrist. A plague victim, no doubt hidden from scavengers by the drifting sand and mummified in the heat and dryness of the desert.

Gently she dug the sand away, revealing a contorted body that seemed little more than a skeleton covered with stretched, dried leather. Someone tired of the press of crowds had come here for rest and renewal, perhaps, but had brought the plague along and died in agony, far from any help. Elsewhere, the last to die had been reclaimed by the life of the planet, not even their bones remaining. Here, there had not even been a scavenger to accept the poor body.

Logic said she should get away, that the person was long gone and the body might still harbor the plague.

She could not abandon the remnant.

The body refused to be composed into any semblance of rest, but she brushed away the last of the sand and carried it into the sun, now high in the sky. Deaths among the R’il’nai had been rare, and she finally had to ask the computer for the proper words.

“I do not know who you are,” she told the body finally, “so I cannot speak of your life and the joy you brought those who knew you. I can only say the final farewell. Take the goodness and joy of your life with you as you go before, and let all sorrow and evil be consumed with your body in the furnace from which it came.”

She reached out to cup her hands around the skull-like face, locking her mind on the body. She gathered herself mentally, reached for the sun, and thrust the body into its nuclear heart.

For a long time after the funeral Marna sat unmoving beside the cabin, tears running down her face and making brief marks in the sand. Finally she struggled to her feet and began pulling the floater on toward the hills, but her pleasure in seeing the beauty of Riya was gone. She might as well go back to the island, she thought. At least there she had the tinerals for company.

*

            The tinerals were bearing their young when she returned. Most of the animals chose to give birth on their own, but Ruby preferred Marna’s bed. Her lavender mate, still suspicious of Marna, watched nervously from outside the window as Marna patted the garnet-downed infant dry.

“She’s going to be a beauty, Ruby, and a color I’ve never seen before,” Marna told the tineral. But there’ll never be a child for me, she thought as she handed the newborn back to its mother.

You’ll raise a child and bear one too, love. Mine in spirit, if not by blood. She jumped to her feet. Surely that message hadn’t come from her subconscious, nor could it have any precognitive content. She left the island again the next day. But if Win’s voice on the island tempted her to death, the unheard voices on the rest of the planet drove her in the same direction.

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