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Good Day, Agent for a Day,
Based on the quirky sense of humor with which the articles on your blog are written, I think you might be interested in my novel, XLI. I would like to invite you to review the manuscript for my novel and hope you will consider representing me.
Monk and warrior, knight-errant and priest, policeman and philosopher, Bertram Do’Shire (Tram) is a Protector of Astori. He will give everything he has and is to save his people from the pirates who have conquered them. Nomads and storytellers, refugees and dream weavers, The People of the Ships will do anything to escape the ancient threat that has pursued them since the dawn of their history. Assassin and hedonist, Tenly is the self proclaimed most feared woman in known space. She would do anyone, pirates and ancient threats included, for a decent cheese steak.
XLI is the story of Tram, a Protector from the world of Astori, who has come to the world of Penance, where anything can be had for a price, seeking mercenaries to liberate his world from a brutal band of pirates. While on Penance, he is manipulated into hiring Tenly, an assassin, thinking that she is a mercenary captain. Tenly insists on Tram himself as part of her price for liberating Penance, a price to which he reluctantly agrees. During the voyage back to Astori, Tram begins to notice unusual things about Tenly and begins to have a series of strange dreams. On their return to Astori, they gather the dregs of Astori society and form them into a force to defeat the invaders.
XLI is written as an action adventure, but the technical elements contained in the book are based loosely on currently held scientific theories. The future history has been plotted out from the present time to the time at which the story starts. In short, it’s hard science fiction candy with a swashbuckling chocolate coating and a creamy nougat center of romance and just a bit of nutty philosophy. XLI is a complete 136 KWord novel intended to be the first in a five book series. The second book in the series is my current work in progress, and is roughly 1/2 complete at 86 KWords. While XLI is my first novel, I have already received very positive feedback from Pamela Uphoff at Baen books, who recommended I rewrite it and find an agent. The rewrite completed, I am now looking for an agent. She also said very plainly that she wouldn’t mind seeing the novel again, but hinted that it might stand a better chance if represented by a professional agent.
I’d be glad to send you a complete copy of the manuscript for review. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Sample Pages follow:
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
Tram closed his eyes leaned his head back against the smooth, cool tiles of the wall. The tile felt strange against his close cropped sandy hair, strange because of the unfamiliar lack of texture in the ceramic, but mainly strange from most of his hair being gone. He rolled his head gently back and forth, the chill easing the ache even as the motion and the gentle bumping caused a faint nausea.
After a few moments, he opened his eyes and looked toward the receptionist. By that gentleman’s collar tabs’ insignia, Tram supposed the man had a job title that sounded a bit grander and far more militant, but to Tram, anyone sitting at a waiting room desk greeting visitors was, by definition, a receptionist. Tram took himself to task briefly for allowing his thoughts to wander, then realized that the middle-aged man behind the desk was trying, subtly, to get his attention.
Tram made eye contact, then glanced at the mans hands, which had been raised above the desk as if he were about to rest his chin on them. One finger pointed to the timepiece on his wrist, then the opposite hand flashed three fingers then clenched. A ghost of a smile, a ghost of a nod, and the man behind the desk went back to being a study in attentive non-communication.
Tram tried not to sigh gratefully as he digested the information. Unless he completely misread the man, he had roughly thirty minutes further to wait. Not enough to get the real sleep he so desperately needed, but perhaps enough to rest his eyes and take stock of how close to the edge he had pushed himself. He closed his eyes, folded his legs up under him on the chair, and laid his hands across his knees. The position wasn’t the most comfortable, especially on the hard plastic chair, but hed learned the hard way that one didnt sit on the floor anywhere on the world of Penance, and despite extensive practice hed never quite mastered the skill of meditating in any position he found himself.
He brought his breathing under control then relaxed all but those muscles holding him in his chair. Next he began a count of heartbeats, and let a corner of his mind keep count. All of it was both difficult, due to the distractions of his failing body, and frighteningly easy, perhaps due to the same cause. In the privacy of his mind, he took stock of his situation. Hed had no food since his first day on Penance, which his faltering time sense told him was some six days ago. More pressing, hed had no water since two days before. Worst of all was the lack of sleep. Since he left Astori, hed not truly had any sleep, although during the transit there was ample time to meditate.
Hed meditated expecting to sleep once he arrived on Penance. Even if he couldn’t afford a temporary residence, as a wandering Protector hed often enough slept on the ground. His surprise at the ordnances forbidding any such activity was only equaled by his surprise at the fact that they were quite strictly enforced, and transient lodgings on Penance went at rates that made Tram’s eyes widen quite abruptly. Given the nature of his business, he carried as much portable wealth as could be secreted on a human body, but Penance was not a world that catered to visitors. More accurately, it catered to them quite thoroughly, and based on the advertisements he had seen, in any fashion they so desired, so long as they no lack of funds to spare.
Despite his hidden wealth, Tram didnt have any to spare. He knew that what he carried would only be a down payment, and that a fairly small one, for the services he looked to purchase here. So he did without sleep, catching short rests like this one while awaiting meetings with the companies he sought to employ.
The same thing held true for sustenance, only more so. Thus far only the first company Tram visited had actually supplied their prospective customer with a meal during negotiations. He suspected that after that first meeting, word had been spread in advance of his arrival that he wasnt a well-funded customer, and no more meals were forthcoming. Three companies since then had at least been polite or generous enough to provide water at the meetings, but not all had, and walking, even in Penance’s generally cool evenings and mornings, hadnt been without its cost in sweat.
Things were looking up, though. After the first few meetings, which Tram had arranged with companies with enough fame to have been heard of even back on Astori, his tactics had changed. Instead of negotiating directly and ardently for the services he was seeking, he instead made a polite inquiry as to the cost of those services and then, when the answer inevitably came up higher than any amount his people could afford, he had asked if the company could recommend someone more suited to his budget. Twice that had gotten him ejected forcefully from the compounds, and more often than not, his request for information was denied. But for whatever reason some of the company representatives felt his question was worth answering. Hed gradually moved down the list, from the famous, through the infamous, and on down until he hit the level he had privately labeled ‘just competent enough to remain alive in a deadly profession’. Thus far he had spoken with two such companies, neither of whom had quoted prices far out of his budget. Unfortunately, while neither company flat refused to work for the prices he mentioned, or with the conditions his situation required, neither had the resources available to assist him.
Both of them had recommended a third, however, and that third was where he now waited, hovering on the edge of starvation, dehydration, and well beyond the edge of sleep deprivation.
A nagging thought caught his attention, and his eyes snapped open on the thirteen-hundredth heart beat since he began. The receptionist, who had just opened his mouth to speak, was unable to stifle a slight grin as Tram unfolded himself and stood a moment before he was prompted.
“The Captain will see you now, Mr. Do-Shire.”
“Thank you. You have been a most gracious host.”
Tram strode past the amused receptionist and through the indicated door. He stumbled slightly as he caught sight of his reflection in the door. His normally sandy hair had been bleached by Penance’s harsh sun, and his skin, normally the color of wild clover honey, had been tanned to the color of age darkened amber. The contrast with his pale green eyes was shocking. He adjusted his clothing to cover his delay then continued through the door.
The reception area had been, compared to most hed been in recently, quite Spartan. The conference room continued the theme, but with more of an air of practical reuse than simple frugality. The long table in the center of the room quite obviously did double duty as a desk, and from faint smells in the air, conferences frequently included food or the room doubled as a dining room. Well cushioned, equally well worn chairs were rolled back against the walls on all sides of the room, and a quick glance upward showed the ceiling to have the telltale marks of a recessed projector. Given the lack of any corresponding marks for a screen, Tram assumed the whiteboard at one end of the room was the typical projection surface.
The man seated on the far side of the table was of a piece with the rest of the room, attired in a uniform that was well cared for and clean, but obviously not new or expensive, with hair graying at more than the temples, and a face worn by responsibility and time. As Tram entered, he looked up from signing the last of a stack of paper documents.
All of this registered in a flash, and if Tram felt dismay at how primitive the equipment appeared to be compared to the truly amazing multimedia setups hed been exposed to recently, an equally strong feeling of relief hit as he realized that here he had found a company which might be employed without beggaring his people.
His quick survey of the room had not, however, gone unnoticed by the man on the far side of the room.
“Good day, son. I’m Captain Olton. I hear you have a proposal for OMalley’s Company. I also have heard through the grapevine that you’re polite to a fault, but Im not the sort with time to be complimented by every potential client who walks in off the street. Either well take your work or we won’t, just spit it out.”
Tram swallowed the greeting hed been about to reply with. After a moment to gather his thoughts, he decided that simplicity was his best option.
“Captain Olton, I wish to employ OMalley’s company to defend my people from invaders and, if possible, drive them from my world.”
“Well. You can follow orders if they’re clear. That’s good.” Olton snorted, as if suddenly amused by something. “On the other hand, ‘if possible? Son, thats got to be the oddest request Ive heard in a while. For one thing, most requests I hear of put the driving off first and the protection second, at least in cases where the opponents are already on the ground. For another, we work in absolutes. Do or do not. People don’t pay mercenaries for a good effort.”
“So I have been given to understand. My first priority must be to the defense of my people, however. Goods can be replaced, homes can be rebuilt, and if need be, new neighbors can be tolerated. My people have done all of these things and more in the past. They cannot, however, bring the dead back to life.”
Embarrassingly, Trams voice failed on the last word. The Captain looked at him a moment, then pressed a button on the phone on his desk.
“Canteen, send a cadet up to my office with a pitcher of water. The negotiations are making me thirsty.” He nodded to Tram. “Go on.”
“Thank you sir,” said Tram hoarsely, “but if I could wait until the water arrives, I will be much more able to continue.”
“Didn’t say it was for you, did I now? In fact, Im betting that cadet only brings up one glass. Course, if youre rude enough and desperate enough to drink straight from the pitcher, I’m probably not going to be all that offended, seeing how trying to sort out what youre saying is causing undue strain on my poor old ears.”
Tram stood stunned for just a moment then forced his face to stillness. Shock at the implied insult gave way to curiosity as to the odd generosity of his host. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it had actually become slightly painful to talk, Tram held his peace until the pitcher arrived. Once the cadet had poured a glass, set it in front of the Captain, and left the room, Tram waited for the Captain to raise his glass.
“Negotiating sure is thirsty work, no? I imagine youre quite familiar with that phenomenon by now.”
Upon seeing the Captain drink, Tram reached across the table with deliberate slowness to lift the pitcher. Somewhat to his surprise, he needed both hands, as it was a rather large pitcher, obviously designed to provide water for a full conference room at need, and it was near full of iced water. He lifted it to his lips, drank a small amount, and pulled an ice cube into his mouth. For a moment, both the slight at being forced to drink from a pitcher and the embarrassment of being forced to attend to his physical condition were forgotten in the combined shock and pleasure of the cold, clear water and the crunch of the ice.
Refreshed, at least to some small degree, he carefully set the pitcher back down on the table in front of himself.
The Captain smiled. “Cocky, but not so full of yourself that you cant suck down your pride rather than dropping from dehydration. Son, let me ask you a few things, just to make sure Im sure of what youre asking. That will save your voice and, if Im right, save us both some time.”
Tram nodded his assent, still not quite sure of his voice.
“Well then. First, I’ve heard through the grapevine that there is a young man traveling about Penance alone and on foot looking for a mercenary company to defend his home world from an unspecified invading force. That would be you, correct?”
Tram nodded, then, out of ingrained impulse, said “To the best of my knowledge there are no others that fit that description.” His voice was a bit scratchy, but coming back nicely. He lifted the pitcher again for another sip and another cube of ice.
“Second, based on those same inquiries, that force has already landed, controls the only spaceport on the planet, and instead of following normal operational patterns for raiders, has emplaced a permanent garrison?”
Tram nodded again, and again spoke to clarify. “There have already been multiple ships sent off world with a variety of goods. It is possible troops were rotated as well.”
Tram realized hed fallen into a position of parade rest while addressing the Captain. He shrugged and continued, suddenly not caring if it made him appear the supplicant. The display fit the reality, and that fit his basic, truthful nature.
“We’re uncertain how stable the garrison size is, only that there are always troops on the surface holding the port.”
“Ah. Understood. Now, third, you understand that OMalley’s is not an assault unit? In point of fact, were not even really what you might call combat troops. We can and have stood off pirates before, but our specialty is and has always been low-risk protective details. Going in to that kind of mission isnt something were terribly well equipped for.”
Tram began to feel the first tendrils of despair reaching up from his gut. Despite his attempt at control, something must have shown through on his face, because the old man on the far side of the table relented.
“Son, Im going to level with you. I know how much youve offered other units to try this, and I know how much it would cost us to ensure we could liberate your world from what youve described there. We could do it, although it would be right on that fuzzy borderline of profitable. But weve done charity work before too.” At this point the Captains face, previously quite animated for a negotiator, had simply closed off. “But due to considerations entirely separate from economics or merit, I cannot commit men under my command to this task.”
The Captains face softened slightly and a wry grin tilted one corner of his mouth. “Tell you what, son. You can’t help your people back home. Not here, not now. Maybe not anywhere, maybe not ever. Certainly not with the pittance youre carrying on you. But Im impressed with what Ive heard about you over the past week, and Im even more impressed by what Ive seen today. Answer a few simple questions for me, and maybe I can do something for you.”
“I shall endeavor to answer any questions to the best of my ability, as any aid you can provide is more than I have received from most of the Companies I have visited.”
Tram paused, confused momentarily by the questions. Cursing his condition mentally when he understood the simple nature of what the Captain was asking him, he spoke while calculating rapidly. “I am six feet tall and weigh one hundred seventy five pounds.” As the Captain looked at him quizzically, he finished his rapid conversions and spoke again. “That would be roughly one hundred eighty four centimeters in height and roughly eighty kilos. The weight may be off slightly, I have not been able to work out since I left Astori, and have had little food since then.”
The Captain made a few notes, and then continued, “Any combat experience?”
“I have been trained in several forms of combat, and have had reason to use most of the particulars of my training at one time or another.”
Olton set down his pen and gave Tram a wry look. “Son, I gotta tell you, Im a mustang myself, came up through the ranks. You used one too many oblique references in that answer for me to follow. Care to try again?”
Tram blushed at the older mans tone, took a moment to think then replied. “I have been trained to use man portable linear accelerators, to fight with knives, and to fight without weapons. I have used that training in life threatening situations against both men and animals. I have not taken part in large unit actions, so I cannot honestly say I have battlefield experience.”
“Ever killed someone with that training of yours?”
STATS: 3% request rate