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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah A. Hoyt’

For those of you who might have missed Sarah’s wonderful series of articles on bringing back that sense of wonder we used to find in science fiction and fantasy, I recommend you read Bring Back That Wonder Feeling, What is Human Wave Science Fiction and You Got To Move It Move It. Also check out Patrick Richardson’s The New Human Wave in Science Fiction.

Like Sarah and all those who have commented on her posts, I miss those days of derring-do in science fiction and I’ve been thinking about why I first started reading science fiction and why, after going away from it for awhile, I returned to it.

I grew up in a house where books were valued friends. I was one of the lucky ones where my parents were voracious readers and they began reading to me very early. When I was old enough, we read together. They encouraged me to read fiction and non-fiction, no book in the house was off-limits. In a time before video games, books were my escape.

When I was an early teen, maybe even a tween, I was spending a week or two at my grandmother’s house in small town Oklahoma. It wasn’t the first time. Every summer I spent at least a week there and another week in Tulsa with my other grandmother. But that summer was different. I’d read all the books in Grandma’s house–all two dozen or so of them. My grandmother just wasn’t a reader. The books that were there were either some left by my dad when he moved out years and years before or by my Uncle John.

Uncle John’s books introduced me to Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. They were good books but short and it didn’t take long for me to read them. So, one day, I did what most any kid who is bored will do–I started prowling the dark corners of the house to see if I could find anything of interest.

Imagine my surprise when I came across a HUGE closet filled almost floor to ceiling with not only books and magazines but also records. I was in heaven. The only problem was that there was nothing to play the records on.

I spent hours going through the books and magazines. There was such a wide assortment of them to choose from. But one thing–well, several actually–that caught my eye. There were a number of If: Worlds of Science Fiction magazines. The covers and story titles intrigued me. I gathered them up and went outside to sit under one of the huge trees to read.

One of the very first stories I read was Jungle in the Sky by Milton Lesser. I’d never heard of either the story or the author before, but there was something about the cover that called to me. I didn’t know then that the magazine had been published in 1952. That part of the cover had been torn away. All I knew was it was something new I hadn’t read at least twice.

The story, like so many science fiction stories, could just as easily have been set in Africa. It was basically a safari set in space, but with a twist. There were aliens, sort of like parasites, that were hunting humans just as humans were hunting other aliens for their expositions on Earth. When our heroes are captured and “infested”, they have to not only find a way to defeat an enemy that is now part of them, but also find a way off the planet and back home to warn the rest of humanity about this threat.

I came across the story again a few months ago. It’s probably been thirty years since I last read it. My initial response on reading it this time was to shake my head when Lesser described the ship’s captain–our heroine–wearing hot pants and a cape while the rest of the crew is in overalls, etc. But then I realized I was looking at the story through today’s so-called sensibilities. This wasn’t a military ship. So the captain could wear whatever she wanted, as long as the ship’s owners didn’t mind. Also, this fit what was being written in the pulps back then. So, I put away the judgmental part of me and just read the story again, wondering if I’d like it as much as I did back then.

I can’t say I did, not completely. But it still made me smile at the right place and cringe when I was supposed to. I still found myself imagining that I was one of those crew members having to fight to survive. Yes, there were structural issues with the story and the science really doesn’t work. But you know what? That really doesn’t matter. It is a good story and I felt good at the end, even though some of the good guys died and some of the bad guys didn’t get the comeuppance I wanted them to.

It didn’t take me long to finish Jungle. So I started looking for more like it. Guess what I found. The first two installments of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I was hooked. Oh boy was I hooked. And I was ticked because the last installment wasn’t there. Worse, stuck as I was in Ardmore without a car–my grandmother didn’t drive–and without a bookstore in walking distance–I had to wait until I got home and could con,er convince, my parents to take me to a store to buy the book.

Those two started my love affair with science fiction. SF allowed my imagination to fly. It took me to worlds where I knew I’d never be able to go but I could hope my children or grandchildren could. Even those books that didn’t have a happily ever after had that sense of hope to them. If only the survivor could hold out. If only the rescue team got there in time. There was a respect for humanity and for the human spirit I could identify with.

It’s that respect I have found lacking in so many of the “modern” science fiction novels and short stories. Well, that and the very unsubtle attempt by the author to beat me over the head with their political or social beliefs. It has seemed like the need to “teach” has become more important than the desire to “entertain”. Sorry, but when I read for pleasure, it isn’t so someone can pound a message into my head.

That has seemed especially true when it comes to most dystopian sf. (Well, to be honest, the utopian sf as well. But I have always tended to avoid those stories because, frankly, they bore me.) Governments are bad. Corporations are bad. Your neighbor is bad. Even your companions will sell you out at the drop of a hat and you can’t hold onto your beliefs if your life depended on it. Not only are these stories depressing but they usually wind up flying across the room before I finish the first quarter of the book. Why? Because the characters are unbelievable. Not everyone is a caricature. Just because you are a white, blond male doesn’t make you a villain. You aren’t automatically a victim because your skin is a certain color or you are a certain sex. Give me a break.

Give me Heinlein any day of the week. Do I like every one of his books? No. But most of them never fail to send my imagination soaring. Sarah’s Darkship Thieves does the same thing. Athena comes from a horrible world, but it is still a world where there is hope held by some of its inhabitants for a better world. It’s also a fun romp. Terry Pratchett is the same in fantasy as is Dave.  l have yet to find anything by Dave I haven’t liked. The reason why is simple. Dave and Sarah, like PTerry, RAH and so many others, are storytellers. They focus on story and character, putting the “message” in subtly instead of beating us over the head with it.

So, sign me up for the Human Waver movement. I’m thrilled with the opening of the publishing market to small presses and self-published authors for a number of reasons, including the fact that we will be getting more books that fit the Human Wave model. Even better, this “movement” can be applied to every genre. So who else is with me?

Cross-posted from Mad Genius Club

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A couple of days ago, Sarah A. Hoyt’s post Bring Back That Wonder Feeling got a lot of people, yours truly included, thinking. The basic gist of the post (and this is just scratching the surface of it. Please, go read it yourselves) is that much of science fiction, and even fantasy, has lost that sense of wonder it once had. Too much is either dystopian or politically/socially correct claptrap stories. Looking at the comments that followed, both to that post and to the next (What is Human Wave Science Fiction), it is clear a number of people have wanted that feeling of wonder to return.

If you’re one of those who misses the days of entertaining stories, characters you can care about, etc., I recommend you check out the two posts linked above. I also recommend her post today, You Got to Move It Move It.

The reason I am so excited by these posts, and especially by the comments to them, is that it shows there are readers out there who want the sort of stories I like to read and, more importantly, the type I like to write. The fact writers now have the opportunity to publish our books through channels that bypass certain gatekeepers that still want to push political or social agendas that don’t seem to celebrate the human condition or individualism or, gasp, innovation means these books can now find their way to the marketplace. I don’t know about you, but that excites me.

So get thee over to According to Hoyt and read these posts. They are well worth your while, imo.

 

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This morning at Mad Genius Club, I posted about how I’ve come to the decision that my advice to writers about keeping the politics separate from their careers was wrong. I started changing my mind when I watched a small number of authors and agents jumping all over anyone who dared disagree with them about whether or not Amazon is the cause of all publishing’s problems or whether the agency pricing model is a good thing or not. I’ve been pretty vocal about my thoughts on both issues. First, Amazon might not be anything close to a paragon of virtue, but it is by far NOT the big evil this small group of people want to make it out to be.  As for agency pricing, even the publishers using it point out they don’t make as much money from it as they did from the previous pricing model. So how in the HELL can it be better for them, much less for authors?

But what finally threw the lid off my reticence to talk politics or religion or anything else I damn well please has been the rash of pile-ons by another group of very vocal folks (funny thing is, many of them are the same ones who think we should continue backing publishers that have been slowly continuing policies that are killing the industry) who feel they have the right to bash those who don’t agree with their social policy beliefs.

I’ve done my best to ignore most of the Facebook posts about the so-called Republican War on Women. But the final straw came over the last 48 hours when a group of them felt they had free rein to go to Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog and attack her because she dared not agree with what they had to say. After all, she wasn’t being loyal to her gender when she said employers shouldn’t be forced to pay for birth control for their female employees. They took offense when she commented that any war based on sex that is being waged in this country is against our men. They called her names, they suggested she leave the country and they howled in outrage when she finally started blocking the more offensive comments.

They accused her of stifling discussion and of not wanting to hear the truth. Of course, it was their “truth”, usually unsupported by hard facts or data. At best, most of the data cited was flawed because it mingled different “classes” of people (no, not economic or racial, but by age). This co-mingling would be enough for most statisticians to toss it out as being flawed. But that co-mingling was the only way this vocal group could make its point.

What was worse is that it was so clearly a case of someone being outraged at what Sarah had to say that she called/texted/pm’d her buddies and said they had an infidel to deal with. Most of the comments were nothing more than almost verbatim repetitions of the one before it. They weren’t interested in discussion. They were interested only in browbeating Sarah and those who dared agree with her. Most of all, they were interested in disrupting Sarah’s blog.

So, for the record, there is no war on women. There are some really stupid pieces of proposed legislation out there. Most are not sponsored by more than one or two loonies. There are a few with more sponsors. But the actual probability of these being passed into law are slim to none.

Moreover, assigning a sinister motive to an entire political party based on the actions of a few of its members is ridiculous.

I’m more worried about how we are raising our kids now. As the mother of a son, I’ve watched him being told by teachers and administrators that boys are bad. They have centuries of mistreatment of women to make up for. They are taught that women have never had any power and the feminist movement is a natural correction to that oversight. There are even history classes that teach women never had the right to own property, have a profession or ply a trade (other than prostitution) until the last century. There’s more, but I think you get my drift.

So, if I don’t agree that employers should be forced to pay for birth control — for the purposes only of not getting pregnant and not for any existing medical condition — if it is against the employer’s fundamental religious beliefs, get over it. No one forced that woman to go to work for that employer. There is this thing called personal responsibility.

And don’t give me the line of crap that the employee pays for the insurance. They only pay a portion of it. This is the real world, boys and girls, so grow the hell up.

I’ll go even further. I think the government, be it state or federal, should put limits on welfare and unemployment benefits. But, in doing so, it should also offer job training and placement services. But the days of going on the government dole and staying there for years, even decades, has to end. Of course, if there are medical reasons, that is a different story.

We have spent the last generation weakening our country and our citizens. We have become a country full of folks who feel entitled to whatever they want. If they don’t get it, they pitch a fit like a little kid in the grocery who doesn’t get the piece of candy he wants. They kick and scream and call names. And they don’t think about the consequences of their actions.

It’s like this trend we’ve had for much too long of not keeping score at kids’ games. The reason, well meaning I’m sure, is to make sure no kid has his feelings hurt. The problem is, it doesn’t teach a kid how to lose, how to fail. And if you never experience either a loss or a failure, what is there to drive you to seek to achieve a gain or a win?

This trend has moved from the playground into the classroom. There are schools now where homework is no longer mandatory. In fact, if a teacher assigns it, it can’t be graded. Some schools now allow students to retake exams as many times as they want if they failed. Classroom curriculum is a one size fits all in public schools. Teachers aren’t allowed to adapt their lesson plans to meet the needs of all their students. And yet people wonder why our scores are continuing to fall when compared to other countries.

Then there’s the consequence–yes, I know that’s a word a lot of folks don’t like to think about–of not teaching our kids how to fail, or how to achieve. They get to college or into the workforce and are suddenly faced with the fact that not all people are created, much less treated, equal. Not everyone is going to like them and–gasp–maybe they aren’t as wonderful as mommy and daddy and their teachers led them to believe.

Personal responsibility needs to be re-introduced to this country. It starts with something as simple as taking responsibility for obtaining your own birth control if it isn’t a medical necessity for some physical condition. Guys, it includes you making sure some form of birth control is being used unless you want to assume the responsibility for a child. You can’t rely on the women to do it. Most of us are pretty honest, but there are those who will tell you they are on the Pill or using an IUD and aren’t.

Personal responsibility as parents means teaching our kids that not everything in the world is good. Nor is the world fair. There are times it will kick you in the teeth and the only way to respond is to pick yourself up and work harder. If you se an injustice, it is your decision to determine how you will react–and you have to live with the consequences. The government needs to stay the hell out of our bedrooms (as long as they are occupied by consenting adults) and out of our kitchens. I don’t need it telling me what to eat or not to eat. I take the responsibility for my actions.

One commenter the other day said they are fighting for a society. Of course, they didn’t say what society. Nor did they seem to care that there might be folks who don’t want to be part of it. In fact, they didn’t care about much of anything as long as we all agreed with their opinions. Sorry, but think about how boring the world would be if we all agreed on everything and if the world was a social utopia.

I’ll go back to that “heretic” Heinlein: TANSTAAFL

It’s time we remembered that.

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A year or so ago, Sarah A. Hoyt and Kate Paulk challenged me to write a historical fantasy.  Now, I know some of you don’t see that as being all that hard.  But you have to take into account the source of the challenge.  Sarah has been known to put on her pointy boots and kick me in the butt to get me to write.  Kate, on the other hand, can be down right evil in her attempt to assist Sarah in keeping my butt in chair and fingers on the keyboard.  So any old historical fantasy just wasn’t going to do.  Oh no, they had to choose something not only off the beaten path but also something, to quote Monty Python, “completely different”.  The result was Russian Nights.  It’s almost finished, but hasn’t been edited yet…so take that as fair warning.

Set in St. Petersburg, Russia in the months before the Russian Revolution, this is a world of intrigue, political machination and magic.  Grigori Rasputin, the Mad Monk, is at the center of it all and knows his life depends on finding a way to save the life of the tsaravich.  But in this world, young Alexei doesn’t suffer from hemophilia, although the world at large believes he suffers from the “curse of the royals”.  No,  magic is the source of his illness and the only means to save him.  But to do so, others must be sacrificed.  All for the good of Mother Russia — and, of course, Rasputin.

As with our own timeline, Rasputin is feared and despised and the royals mistrusted.  Too many people, too many children have simply disappeared.  The tsars cossacks have been too enthusiastic in quashing the protests and strikes.  The pogroms have only stirred the troubled pot even more.

That should do as an intro…at least I hope it does.  Kate and Sarah didn’t give me much more than that when they set me down this road.  Now, with apologies to those who have already seen this, I give you the opening of Russian Nights.

*     *     *     *

St. Petersburg, Russia
January 1913

Winter settled on the city, blanketing it with a fresh coat of snow. Several blocks away, ice covered the Neva River, a reminder Spring was still several months away. Clouds hung heavily in the sky. Only the pale light from an occasional street lamp broke the darkness that mimicked an early dusk. Snowflakes, larger than any he’d seen in a long while, danced in the wind and mocked him as he moved as quickly as he dared in the direction of Rastelli Square.

Why had he insisted the cab drop him so far from his destination? Surely the need for discretion didn’t require him to chance freezing to death. Of course it did. A little discomfort was small enough price to pay to avoid discovery. He’d learned that lesson well over the years.

A gust of bitterly cold wind blowing in from the Gulf of Finland cut through him, chilling him to the bone. His step faltered as his boot heel landed on a patch of ice. His foot slid. His arms flailed as he struggled to keep on his feet. He would not fall. He wouldn’t.

No doubt about it. Winter here had to be the earthly representation of the Third Circle of Hell. Only Russian snow was white, not the black Dante wrote of.

Damn Peter the First! He’d wanted the Russian capital to be a showpiece; something to prove to the Europeans that Russia was a country to be reckoned with not only militarily, but artistically as well. That was all well and good, but Peter had not considered the problems with moving this far north. Nor had he thought about how those coming after him would pay for his ambition.

Instead, he’d instructed his ministers to find the best engineers to design a new capital on the Gulf of Finland. That would give him the natural port he desired. More importantly, the new capital would be closer to Europe, better for trade and, if one was to be honest, rapid troop movement.

Of course, engineering prowess hadn’t been enough. Not to build an entire city on marshlands. So many of those possessed of the old magic had been pressed into service. They had reshaped the land and the weather so construction of Peter’s showplace could proceed.

None of that mattered when all Grigori Yefimovich cared about was reaching his destination without catching his death of cold.

If only Peter I had left the capital in Moscow. St. Petersburg was too far north and too cold in the winter, especially now that the royal mages seemed unable to control the weather as they once had. Something had happened since the days of Peter the Great – and even Catherine after him. The old magics had deserted the royals. But this was neither the time nor the place for contemplations about things he could not control.

He hunched deeper into his heavy coat and reminded himself that, cold as it was, this was nothing compared to all those winters he’d survived in Siberia as he grew into manhood Not that the memory warmed him any.

Today, however, the weather acted as his ally. The threat of being caught in one of Russia’s infamous blizzards kept the faint of heart safely inside, all but insuring he’d arrive at Smolny Cathedral without curious eyes seeing. He might look like someone from ordinary peasant stock — which he happened to be – and, therefore, no one of any importance. But, as the last few years had proven, sometimes unpleasantly, he was no ordinary peasant, no ordinary man. Because of that, even the most lowly of St. Petersburg’s citizens knew his face and would mark his passage. At least now he had a chance of moving through the streets unseen.

He quickened his pace and soon turned down the stone path leading to Smolny Cathedral. A slight smile touched his lips as his gloved hands worked the ornate iron gate’s locking mechanism with an ease that betrayed the number of times he’d done so before. Neither Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, who had envisioned the cathedral as monastery for nuns, nor Catherine the Great, who had halted construction on the cathedral because she disliked the design, could have imagined his use for Smolny. Not that they would object. Both of those great women knew the importance of protecting Mother Russia and her rulers, no matter what the cost.

His booted feet moved surely yet carefully along the path, avoiding the occasional ice patch, until he stood before an unadorned door near the rear of the cathedral. A quick look over his shoulder confirmed what he already knew. No one who might be passing could see him from the street.

He didn’t pause to knock or announce his presence. He didn’t need to, not when he came in service of the Tsar or, more precisely, the Tsarina. Besides, it would be so much better if he could accomplish his task without any of the priests inside realizing he’d been there.

He closed the door behind him and almost moaned in relief to no longer be buffeted by the wind. Cold as the corridor was, it was still much warmer than outside. He could take comfort in that and not much else.

The cathedral might be a showplace with its ornate stylings, high ceilings and polished Revel stone floors. Yet it offered him little in the way of comfort. No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t the building itself that denied him. It was the priests within, those who resented him and his place with the Royal Family.

Determination replaced his relief to be inside. He had no time to waste, not if he wanted to avoid being caught there should the weather deteriorate even further. So no more ruminating. He had a job to do.

A soft footfall as he turned to the ancient coat tree in the corner warned him he was no longer alone. Frustration boiled and, for one brief moment, he closed his eyes. He’d prayed that just this once he’d be able to slip in and out of the cathedral without the priests knowing he’d been there. Perhaps this was his test. If he managed, again, not to let them know the real reason for his visit, he might finally accomplish his goal.

That had to be it. God did work in mysterious ways. Perhaps He used these priests to remind Grigori Yefimovich not to become too sure of himself. The sin of pride had felled many men. Grigori yefimovich would not be one of them. But what to do now?

That he had an answer for, one born from experience. He wouldn’t acknowledge the newcomer. Not yet. Let them make the first move so he could decide the best way to respond.

He waited, doing his best to ease the frustration from his expression and still his emotions. Instead of turning, he finished unwinding the scarf from around the bottom of his face and neck. Then he removed his hat, stuffing his scarf and gloves inside his hat before placing it atop the coat rack. To give himself a few moments more, he slowly unbuttoned his heavy black coat, ignoring the frayed cuffs and the third button barely hanging on by a thread. He must remember to have someone fix that. Or maybe not. A missing button, like the frayed cuffs and worn wool of the coat, even his long hair and scraggly beard, were all part of the image he’d so carefully crafted to suit his needs.

By the time he shrugged out of his coat, revealing an equally worn black cassock beneath it, hands were there to assist him. He bowed his head slightly, indicating an appreciation he didn’t feel.

“It has been some time since you last visited us, Father Grigori,” the newcomer said as he made use of the coat rack.

There could be no mistaking the slight note of censure in the younger man’s voice, and an anger as cold as the wind outside knotted in Grigori’s Yefimovich’s stomach. How dare he!

“My duties to the Royal Family keep me very busy, Father Dmitri.” Let that be a reminder as to which of them bore the real power. “Is the bishop in residence today?”

“He is. Shall I announce you?”

Grigori Yefimovich paused and chewed the edges of his scruffy mustache, as if deep in thought. Let Father Dmitri believe him hesitant to interrupt the bishop. Much as he hated it, he had to maintain the illusion of a respectful servant, one not worthy to be interrupting Bishop Malenko. How ironic. If anyone was unworthy, it was Malenko and the priests who served him. They had no true calling from God, not as he did.

Fortunately, the bishop hadn’t realized why he continued to visit. Of course, that was because Malenko and the younger priests were so busy being bastions of condemnation for what he did and for how he served the Royal Family, especially the Tsarina. Let them. He would no more abandon his calling as spiritual advisor to the Romanovs than he would willingly return to Siberia.

“Shall I tell Bishop Malenko you wish an audience, Father Grigori? He has a full schedule today, so I cannot promise he will be available to speak with you.”

That hint of impatience, of censure he’d come to expect once more crept into Father Dmitri’s voice. Fool! He would never enjoy the privilege of serving the Royal Family. Dmitri Rostapovich, newly ordained and assigned as the aging bishop’s secretary only because of who his family happened to be, would never understand that either.

Full schedule, indeed. Now the young fool lies to me. One day he shall learn just how foolish it is to try my patience.

Before he could answer, the sound of young voices raised in hymn filled the air and Father Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin smiled slightly. Excellent. He hadn’t braved the elements for naught after all.

No indeed. He’d come to the cathedral, as he had on a number of other occasions, to make a selection. He would visit the boys he’d heard singing and take their measure. Then he’d choose from them a suitable candidate to act as companion to Alexei Nickolaevich Romanov, Tsarevich and supposed hemophiliac.

It sounded so simple, so harmless. One or two boys chosen by the priest who advised the Royal Family, the holy man who’d saved the future tsar of all Mother Russia. The lucky one would become playmate and confidante to the Tsarevich. What an honor, not only for the boy, but for his family as well. An honor none had yet to decline.

But the one chosen would also be so much more than a simple companion to the Tsarevich. Not that the boy, or his family, would be told. The Royal Family couldn’t afford for their subjects to know the truth, not when so many already questioned the need for a tsar. Any hint of weakness in the Tsarevich, any hint of him being different, had to be avoided, no matter what the cost.

It fell to Rasputin to make the selection. After discussing his choice with the Tsarina, he would visit the boy’s family and give them the glorious news that their son had received the honor of being the Tsarevich’s close companion. It was his duty to convince the family to say goodbye to their son, to remind them of the benefits their son would receive – private tutors, the finest clothes, social contacts and, most important of all, a personal connection to the future ruler of Mother Russia. Then he’d promise they would soon be invited to the Winter Palace, or one of the other royal residences, to visit their son.

A visit that would never happen if everything went as it should.

So he had to be careful, not only in how he dealt with the bishop and the priests at Smolny, but also with his choice of whom to invite to become the Tsarevich’s companion. The lad, just like all those before him, would be chosen for something very unique to him. He must be strong in the old magic. The magic that had run through the royal lines of Russian aristocracy since before the Romanovs took power three hundred years earlier. A magic that had tragically, disastrously been declining within the Royal Family for generations.

A decline, Rasputin knew, that had led in great part to the challenges now facing the Tsar.

But that would, if all went according to God’s plan, change once the right boy was at the royal palace and introduced to the Tsarevich….

It was best not to think about that now, however. Several of the priests assigned to the cathedral were senstives. Of them, some already plotted against him. He knew it. Just as he knew they were jealous. Jealous of how God favored him. Jealous of his relationship with the Royal Family. Because of that, Rasputin couldn’t allow himself to become careless. He’d play their games and be patient until the day came when he could finally show them just how dangerous it was to attempt to undermine him.

A soft cough reminded him one of those sensitives stood before him, waiting impatiently for an answer. Rasputin once again carefully schooled his features before answering.

“Please, Father Dmitri.” He bowed slightly, hands folded before him. “While I wait to see the bishop, I shall look in on the boys and see how their lessons progress.”

For a moment, it seemed Father Dmitri might object. Then, with a nod just short of being curt, the young priest turned and started down the corridor. Rasputin watched, his pale blue eyes cold and hard.

Father Dmitri was just like all the rest, all those who whispered their poisonous lies in the Tsar’s ear. Just like those who tried to diminish him in the eyes of the Tsarina. They’d succeeded once because he’d allowed himself to grow too sure of himself and of his place in the Royals’ lives. That carelessness had found him torn from the Royal Family and his place at their side as ordained by God. Not again.

Never again.

How much simpler things would have been had the priest on duty been anyone save Dmitri Rostapovich.

Still, plans made could just as easily be altered as the situation dictated. That lesson he’d learned well back in Siberia. So he’d look in on the boys today, making note of any who seemed likely to suit his needs. It would be easy enough later to arrange to meet the boy somewhere away from the cathedral. Some place where they would be uninterrupted as he took the boy’s measure. Then, if the boy was suitable, an “introduction” to the Tsarevich would be arranged.

Yes, patience today, success later and without those of his enemies who would work to foil his plans being forewarned

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