Category Archives: Writing

The Jomsvikings

jomsvikingsI’ve been working on a novel for a while now—an adaptation of The Saga of the Jomsvikings, which was written in Old Icelandic in the 13th century. It tells of an elite band of viking warriors residing in the fortress of Jomsborg on the island of Jom. They were theoretically real, though it’s hard to say how much truth there is to the story. They appear in other sagas, including the ones I based my first YA novel Seidman on. But by then, they were in decline. They appear briefly at the battle of Svoldr, when King Olaf Tryggvason was defeated, but they quickly decided to sit the battle out.

This novel will be an adult MM romance, because, frankly, the story begs to be a MM romance. It’s a fortress full of young men, and no women are allowed. The Norse were a very homophobic society, but I can’t imagine a context like this in which absolutely no sexual activity occurred. Conveniently, the saga has a gap of three years between the initial founding and selection of warriors and the death of their leader, which led to their decline. I’ve written up to that point, and now I’ve begun to fill in those three years. That’s where the romance will really take place.

I decided to tell the story from the POV of two characters not actually in the saga: Bragi and Asleif.

ragnarBragi is older than most of the men in the fortress, and he’s seen a lot of combat. He’s weary of the death he sees on the battlefield, but he’s a survivor and he takes pride in his skill with a blade. At Jomsborg, he’s given the opportunity to pass some of his knowledge of fighting techniques along to others and help keep them alive. The actor who most closely resembles him is Travis Fimmel from Vikings.

tumblr_mub3o5naae1qa2ovmo1_500Asleif is young, and he has endured a lot of teasing over the years because of his feminine features, even after he grew to stand over his comrades. He’s skilled and cocky, and sees Bragi as a challenge. But he also senses a strong sexual undercurrent between them. Bragi is hesitant to pursue it, but Asleif gleefully chases after him, despite the danger of discovery. I found this picture online, which I believe is of Alexander Skarsgard, and despite the modern clothes and background, it perfectly represents the image I have of Asleif in my head.

The novel has been coming along slowly, in part because the saga is very short and sparse. I’m having to flesh out a lot of scenes. It also requires a lot of research into Viking fighting styles, locations (Jomsborg was most likely on the island of Wolin in modern-day Poland), and what life would be like in that environment. But it’s coming along.

Here’s an excerpt from when Asleif is being tested in mock combat to see if he can be accepted into Jomsborg. He’s part of Vagn’s crew — Vagn being a 12-year-old boy with his own raiding fleet, and no I didn’t make that up — and the entire crew is fighting against the men already residing in Jomsborg.

Excerpt:

Asleif parried a thrust to his midsection, and then bashed his attacker in the face with his shield. The Jomsviking staggered back. He seemed to be readying himself for another charge, but Bragi came up behind him and forcefully shoved him aside. “Leave him! He’s mine!”

The warriors swarming Asleif suddenly drew back, forming a circle around him and Bragi. Asleif was so startled, he almost failed to parry Bragi’s attack—almost. He deflected Bragi’s sword with the head of his axe in a quick upward and outward motion.

“Good!” Bragi shouted delightedly.

Asleif knew then that Bragi wanted him to test him, rather than kill him. Not that it was going to be easy. Bragi’s next cut was swift and powerful, looping around Asleif’s arm and coming up inside. Asleif barely managed to jump back in time to prevent a nasty cut to his abdomen. As it was, the tip of Bragi’s sword cut through his tunic, before he slammed down upon it with the edge of his shield.

It was a hasty move, and it opened his upper body up for an attack. Bragi lost no time in crashing down upon Asleif’s head with his own shield. Asleif had a thick head—he’d be the first to admit it. And he was wearing a helmet. So the blow didn’t knock him unconscious, but it rattled him. He staggered back.

“You went easy on me,” he grumbled. “You could have easily hit my eyes or my throat.”

Bragi grinned. “Now, what would be the fun in that?”

It pissed Asleif off to be treated like a child. But he’d also seen in just the few blows they’d exchanged that Bragi’s skill was equal to his own. Possibly—though he was loathe to admit it—greater. He’d never defeat the man, as long as he stayed on the defensive. Bragi could keep coming at him until he collapsed or opened himself up again. Asleif would have to go on the attack. But a charge could prove foolhardy. If Bragi managed to sidestep, Asleif’s momentum might carry him past and open him up to an attack from the rear.

Instead, he began walking slowly forward, whipping his axe around in a swirling motion and striking against Bragi’s shield so fast it was impossible to count the blows. Bragi was forced to duck behind the shield and edge backward. Any attempt to thrust his sword at Asleif would merely damage the blade against the axe.

At last, the shield cracked loudly and split in two. Asleif immediately drew back, surrendering his advantage, rather than bringing his axe down upon Bragi’s arms or head.

Bragi tossed his broken shield aside, but he was laughing. “Excellent!”

In the distance, someone blew a horn.

“Give him a shield!” Asleif shouted, panting.

A man tossed one into the air, and Bragi caught it. But then he stepped forward with the pommel of his sword held outward. “Let’s see how you do with a sword.”

The men around them laughed, and someone shouted, “This isn’t a fight! It’s a lesson!”

That evoked more laughter. But Asleif was up to the challenge, so he reached for Bragi’s weapon. But as he clasped it, a second horn called out over the strand.

Bragi glanced up. “It seems the fight is over.”

It was true. Straightening, Asleif looked over the heads of those nearby and saw that everywhere men were sheathing swords and catching their breath. Some had cuts on their bodies and their clothes were blood-spattered, but if anyone was severely injured, Asleif saw no sign of it. All appeared to be standing.

“Get out of my way!”

The men near him parted to let Vagn through. The boy looked healthy enough, despite a bloody gash on his shield arm. “Asleif!” he shouted in exasperation, “Did you miss the entire battle? We won!”

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Filed under Excerpt, gay, Historical, Jamie Fessenden, Romance, Viking, Work in Progress, Writing

“The Christmas Wager” is being re-released as a second edition!

the-christmas-wager
My  very first sale as a writer occurred in the summer of 2010. I’d written a Christmas Victorian, and I chose Dreamspinner Press to submit it to. Luckily for me, they bought it, and it was published that December.

It did moderately well, and has continued to sell a few copies every year around Christmas time, but there was a problem: my knowledge of the Victorian Era—and particularly British culture—was severely lacking. I’d written it as a sweet romance, before I began defining myself as an author who loves to really dig into my research and wallow around in it.

This put my first novel in a unique position—it was the only one of my published stories I couldn’t stand to re-read. The prose wasn’t utterly terrible, in my opinion, and I liked the story, but six years later, I’d come to know a few people from England, and I’d learned a bit more about the Victorian Era, so the mistakes I’d made now jumped out at me on every page.

The solution presented itself to me this past March, when a friend from Britain and I were having coffee and I mentioned how much I would love to go back and fix all of the problems in it, assuming that was even possible. She agreed to help.

Now, with her assistance, and the assistance of a wonderful editor, I now present the 2nd Edition of The Christmas Wager! It is currently available for pre-order, and will be released on December 14th.

The story is basically the same. I didn’t want to change that. It still follows Thomas and Andrew as they spend the Christmas holiday at the home of Thomas’s estranged father, Andrew still secretly in love with his close friend, and Thomas gradually coming to realize his feelings for Andrew.

What has changed are some surface details, such as names—since we discovered there is a real Duke of Barrington, Thomas is now Lord Thomas Pendleton, second son of the Duke of Branmoor. The way the family and servants addressed one another was driving British readers to distraction, so that has (I sincerely hope) been corrected. And much of the detail of the period has been corrected, as well as anachronisms and Americanisms (one of the biggest challenges for me) removed.

It was a much larger undertaking than I realized back in March. Just when I thought I had a handle on things, a new set of eyes would uncover more problems. But I am extremely happy with the end result.

The wonderful cover by Paul Richmond wasn’t changed at all. I still think it perfectly suits the story.

Blurb:

2nd Edition

Lord Thomas Pendleton, second son of the Duke of Branmoor, needs to discharge a debt to his friend Andrew Nash. In doing so, he must return to the family estate he fled six years earlier after refusing to marry the woman his father had chosen. To Thomas’s dismay, Branmoor Hall is no longer the joyful home he remembers from his childhood, and his four-year-old niece has no idea what Christmas is.

Determined to bring some seasonal cheer back to the gloomy estate, Thomas must confront his tyrannical father, salvage a brother lost in his own misery, and attempt to fight off his father’s machinations.

As Christmas Day draws near, Thomas and his friend Andrew begin to realize they are more than merely close friends… and those feelings are not only a threat to their social positions, but, in Victorian England, to their lives as well.

First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, 2010.

Excerpt:

“Your father seems to have mellowed a bit,” Andrew commented as they stood in the hallway outside his door.

“Don’t believe it for a second,” Thomas replied. “He never gives in. The old bugger is up to something.”

Andrew smiled at that. “Well, are you coming in, then?”

“I think I’ll have hot water brought up for a bath.” Thomas leaned his head wearily against the doorframe. “Would you care to join me for a brandy?”

Andrew laughed. “In the bath?”

“No,” Thomas replied with a tired smile, “that isn’t precisely what I meant.”

A short time later, Andrew was sitting in his dressing gown, sipping a brandy near the tub in Thomas’s room. This, too, had become a ritual with them, back at the University Club—one of them bathing while the other sat nearby, both of them enjoying one of their lengthy philosophical conversations.

Thomas didn’t appear to be feeling philosophical tonight. He sat in the water, steam billowing about him, sipping his own brandy and brooding. After his third glass, he was rather tipsy. “I really don’t see that we’ll have any attendance at the dance at all. It’s going to be an unqualified disaster.”

“We shall see,” Andrew replied. He was used to Thomas’s dark moods and knew not to take them overly seriously. “Have the invitations gone out yet?”

“No!” Thomas gestured dramatically with his snifter, splashing some brandy into the tub. “That’s part of the problem. Henrietta is still preparing them.”

“Who is Henrietta?” Andrew looked at him quizzically. “I thought your mother said she would take care of it.”

“She did take care of it, by ordering Henrietta to do it. She’s my mother’s personal secretary.”

“I see where your streak of industriousness comes from.”

Thomas smirked at him. “Are you disparaging my mother, you blackguard?”

“Of course not. I would never—”

Thomas staggered to his feet, dripping with water. He brandished his snifter at his friend like a weapon. “If I weren’t a bit drunk, and naked, I would call you out, you scoundrel.”

Andrew laughed, but he found the sight of Thomas’s naked crotch so near, and at eye level, extremely disconcerting. He set his glass down on the floor, then stood to take Thomas’s snifter out of his hand.

Thomas offered no resistance.

“Sit down, you fool,” Andrew said, “before you slip and break your neck.”

“The water is getting cold, at any rate.”

“Then let me help you out.” Andrew slipped his arms underneath Thomas’s armpits. Thomas wrapped his own arms around Andrew’s shoulders in a soaking-wet embrace, allowing his friend to half lift him out of the metal tub.

Andrew found Thomas’s towel and wrapped it around him before settling him on the chair he’d been using himself. Then he held out his arms, surveying the sodden arms of his dressing gown. “Well, that ends my evening. I think I shall retire to my room and crawl into a nice dry bed.”

Andrew wasn’t certain whether Thomas would find his way to bed, if he left, or simply fall asleep in the chair. So he helped his friend up again, made certain he was reasonably dry—at least so far as his sense of honor would allow—and then helped Thomas climb into his own bed. “There you go.”

“Andrew, you are the best friend a man could ever ask for.”

Andrew smiled, feeling self-conscious. “Everybody’s a bosom friend when you’re drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk,” Thomas protested. “And I mean it. You’re wonderful, and I adore you.”

That made Andrew even more uncomfortable. He smiled faintly and permitted himself a light brush of his fingers along Thomas’s forehead and cheek—to brush the hair out of his eyes, or so he told himself. “Sleep well.”

Then he went back to his room. He doubted he would sleep well. Not after that. Oh, why did Thomas have to be so prone to these bouts of melancholic affection? They made Andrew’s life agony.

 

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“Train to Sevmash” is now available! For FREE!

77When I was approached to contribute a story for 7&7: A DSP Publications Anthology of Virtue and Vice, I immediately chose “mercy” as the virtue I wanted to write about. My first idea had to do with a police officer chasing down a criminal, but ultimately choosing to let him go. Unfortunately, the more I thought about that idea, the less I liked it.

But I’d recently found a tutor to help me brush up on the Russian language, which I’d studied a very long time ago in college, and I’d also just read Ian Fleming’s original novel Casino Royale. Suddenly, it clicked! A secret agent! And he wasn’t trying to capture somebody—he intended to assassinate his target.

Since I’m not British, my secret agent wouldn’t be, either. He’d be American, a former member of the Special Forces. And less upper crust than Bond, with a bit of Mack Bolan and John Clark (from Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six) thrown in. Agent Jax Colby. I was setting this in the late 60s, during the Cold War, when the USSR was developing Victor Class nuclear submarines, so that would be the impetus of the agent’s mission.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time studying Soviet naval bases, and determined that the most likely place a submarine of that class would be docked for testing would be Sevmash. (I’d originally picked Murmansk, and I no longer remember why that wasn’t viable.) So how would I get an American spy into a high-security Soviet naval base?

Initially, the story was going to revolve around Colby’s adventures in Sevmash itself, once he’d infiltrated the base. He was there to assassinate an American defector. But a throwaway line I’d written in the first paragraph about how he’d killed an innocent man on the train to steal his identity intrigued me, and I found myself more interested in exploring how that had gone down, so I rewound the timeline to that night.

YuriColby needed a target who had a similar physical description to himself, and who was en route to the location on a fairly long journey, being transferred from another base—Murmansk. It was possible to travel by train between the two bases, but the trip took several days. This, of course, was in the days before information could be transferred easily over the Internet from one city to another, which would work to Colby’s advantage. He would have to have forged papers with his photo, but the Russian’s vital information—internal Soviet travel papers had a stamp across both the photo and the document, so simply replacing the photo would be an arduous task. As long as nobody in Sevmash had seen this man—Yuri Ivanovich Veselov—Colby should be able to get in and out. He just needed to kill Veselov on the train to Sevmash and step into his identity.

The only problem was, in order to kill Veselov, Colby had to get him alone. And that meant getting close to him. And the closer he got, the more Colby would be forced to realize Veselov was not only an innocent in this game, but in many ways a kindred spirit and downright likable.

In fact, he was kind of adorable….

After I finished the short story Train to Sevmash, it was clear to me that I’d just begun to explore these characters and the world they inhabited, so I got permission from DSP Publications to expand the story into a full-length novel (tentatively called Chimera). That’s about half completed now, with the Train to Sevmash story taking up chapters five through seven, and I’m hoping to finish it this summer. Then, perhaps, it will be released next year.

Train in St PetersburgTrain To Sevmash—Jamie Fessenden 

Jax Colby is an American secret agent operating within the Soviet Union in 1967. His assignment is to infiltrate the Sevmash naval shipyard in Severodvinsk in pursuit of an American scientist turned traitor to his country. But in order to do this, he must first kill a naval lieutenant traveling to the base and steal his transfer orders. He homes in on his target on the two-day train ride from Leningrad to Belomorsk.

But there’s one problem. Lt. Yuri Veselov is handsome and friendly. As Colby spends time with him, he begins to like him—and it might be more than friendship. The train draws nearer to Severodvinsk, and Colby grows increasingly reluctant to do what he knows he must—kill Yuri Veselov.

(This story is included in the free anthology 7&7: A DSP Publications Anthology of Virtue and Vice )

Buy Links:

DSP Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/77-by-andrea-speed-271-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/7-Andrea-Speed-ebook/dp/B01DRIXN8M

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Trying my hand at category romance

Main Street in Gorham, NH.

My publisher, Dreamspinner Press, recently came up with the idea of putting out category romance novels — light, quick reads between fifty and sixty thousand words without much angst or too much sex. Think some of the old (and probably current) Harlequin and Silhouette romance lines. I actually like this idea a lot. It may come as a surprise to many people, but I used to love category romances. Not all the time, certainly. But as a pleasant distraction now and then.

The new Dreamspun Desires line seems to be doing quite well with readers. And now a lot of writers I know are working on books for it.

I’m not normally one to jump on bandwagons, but this particular bandwagon appeals to me. So with that in mind, and knowing full well that my submission will be at the tail end of a lot of other author submissions, I’m going to try my hand at it. No rape, no child abuse, no murder. Just a nice, happy little romance.

I can do this!

My story is tentatively called Small Town Sonata, though I’m not utterly thrilled with that name. It was going to take place in a fictional community called Springhaven, NH. Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered there is a Spring Haven campground or something in NH, so I’ll have to come up with a different name. It’s based upon the town I grew up in, which was a pleasant little community of less than 2,000 people in northern New Hampshire, which goes by the rather unpleasant-sounding name Gorham. The picture at the top of the post is of main street in Gorham, and it looks pretty much like it did when I was a kid there in the 1970s. Parts of it have changed, of course. But that’s why I’m setting my story in a fictional, idealized version of the town, rather than the real one.

The story follows two characters: Dean Cooper and Aiden Clark. (Uh-oh. I just noticed both last names begin with “C.” I might change that….)

Dean is a local handyman. Everyone in town knows him, and most like him. He’s openly gay, but the prospects for a gay man in a town that size are somewhat small. In place of a love life, Dean has the dubious honor of being mothered by a host of elderly women in town. The ladies have taken it upon themselves to organize the annual town fair. Mr. Robinson, who used to conduct the band, passed away two years ago, so the ladies decide it’s up to Dean to continue the tradition this year. Aside from playing clarinet in the band, when it existed, Dean has no idea how he’s going to get everyone back together, especially when confronted by band members moving away and broken instruments that can’t be replaced.

In the meantime, Aiden Clark, who moved away from town when he was a teenager to pursue a career as a concert pianist, is back in town. He’s pleasantly surprised to discover his best friend from high school, Dean, has grown up to be sexy as hell. But the last thing Aiden wants is to get involved with someone. He hasn’t told anyone the reason for his return — that his career as a pianist was ended by an injury to his hands, and he just wants to withdraw from the world for a while. Possibly forever.

As a blurb, this is awfully wordy and somewhat awkward, but you get the idea. I’m having fun with it. It’s up close to 8,000 words now, and if I can keep up the past I’ve set, I should have it done in four to six weeks.

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What I’ve been up to lately

008Things have been pretty quiet on both my adult blog (https://jamiefessenden.com/) and my YA blog (http://jameserich.com/) over the past few months, so perhaps it’s time to let people know what I’ve got going on.

So I did have a novel (Violated) come out in the fall, and it did pretty well. It’s pretty dark, and the resolution — while happy — isn’t the big catharsis a lot of readers hoped for, simply because my goal was realism. A story like this isn’t resolved by an epic bout of sobbing in your lover’s arms. Ever. Derek and Russ find the best possible, realistic happily-ever-after for them.

At Christmas time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to do a Christmas story on the WROTE Podcast — one of twelve stories representing the twelve days of Christmas in the carol. I hadn’t had time to get out any of the Christmas stories I was working on (I have one contemporary novella in the works, a free holiday story that revolves around the characters in the Dreams of Fire and Gods series, and a re-write of a previously published novella), so this was a great opportunity. I’m delighted with how the story came out, and Brad Vance‘s wonderful narration! All of the stories are terrific, so if you’re still in the mood for Christmas….

Brad also conducted a great interview of me, aided by my friend, Scott Coatsworth, if you’re interested.

Moving forward, I’m currently working on a novella about alien abduction for the next Gothika anthology (see previous installments: Stitch, Bones, Claw, and Spirit). Eli Easton, who originated the series (I helped a little), won’t be joining us on this installment. The authors participating in this issue are Kim Fielding, BG Thomas, FE Feeley Jr., and myself.

As far as which novels I’m working on goes, I’m having a little trouble with that one. I have several in the works. My YA novel Martian Born, a novel about a spy in the Soviet Union during the cold war (currently called Chimera), and a novelization of the Jomsviking Saga, about a fortress full of Vikings in the tenth century. I’m also tentatively working on an untitled novel about “cavemen” (what we used to call Cro-Magnon Man, but is now referred to as “Early Modern Humans” or “Anatomically Modern Humans,” because they are physically no different from us).

This probably sounds like I need to focus, and that would be correct. Martian Born is closest to being finished, but it’s intended for the mainstream science fiction market. This means a long, tedious process of sending queries to agents — most likely over a year or two, if not longer — because mainstream publishers, by and large, no longer accept submissions directly from authors. So while I do want to get that process moving, I’m also looking at getting other novels out more quickly.

This probably means I’ll either finish up Chimera or The Vikings of Jomsborg. But both still have a lot of work to do on them.

In the meantime, I have two stories that will be coming out soon. One is actually the first part of Chimera, presented as a short story called Train to Sevmash. This will be part of an anthology published by DSP Publications. I wrote the story first, then got permission from the editor of the anthology to expand it into a novel.

The second story is in an anthology put together by BG Thomas called A More Perfect Union — a collection of stories about same-sex marriage written by gay men who are actually married. My story, Destined, is a fictionalized account of how I met my husband and how we created our life together. The characters aren’t exactly me and Erich, but the events are largely true.

This has gotten lengthy, and I haven’t even touched on other projects I’ve been working on, such as finishing the Dogs of Cyberwar trilogy (I’m nearly done the second novella (A Mote in the Eye), but my publisher wants the third, before we move ahead), the samurai tale I’ve been adapting (Shinosuke), and the sequel to Murder on the Mountain, which is in the plotting stages (murder mysteries take a lot of plotting).

Yes, I’m a bit over-extended. But it’s my fault — ideas keep popping into my head. I just need to focus and prioritize.

In the meantime, I have the re-release of my first novel, Murderous Requiem, available for pre-order on DSP Publications. It will be released on March 22nd. This edition isn’t enormously different from the first, but I did go through and tighten things a bit, as well as clarify some of the confusing sexual issues in the novel. The story centers around an occult order in what is basically a “free love” commune, so all of the characters are in open relationships. This upsets some readers, who regard it as “cheating.” I do not. I wrote it for my friends who are involved in open or polyamorous relationships where everything is up front and honest, and everyone’s feelings are taken into account.

But that isn’t actually what the novel is about, anyway. It’s about an ancient manuscript containing a requiem mass that, when performed, may cause death… or possibly may resurrect the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Murder on the Mountain” has won an award!

This past weekend, I was very honored to see my novel Murder on the Mountain win the Bisexual Mystery category at the Bisexual Book Awards in New York!

I’d been planning on attending the awards ceremony, and now I really wish I had. However, travel proved too difficult this time around. Fortunately, author Cecilia Tan tweeted the awards ceremony!

Click here to see the other winners!

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An American spy struggling to conjugate Russian adjectives

bondI study Russian as a hobby these days. I used to take classes in it in college, and not only was the language interesting in and of itself, but my classmates were terrific. There were only eight of us, and we formed a Russian club. We put on dinners of Russian food and got together to study Russian obscenities when nobody was looking. We were a disparate group—Sandy, the former cheerleader who was rushing a sorority; Steve, a jock who was, frankly, gorgeous; Troy, who was pretty much a nerd (no offense, Troy, you were a great guy), and others I no longer remember so clearly. Then me. I was a nerd, too. But we were united by a common interest, and we had a lot of fun. Sadly, as we moved into our second year, we all found other friends and the Russian club drifted apart.

But over the years, I’ve been frustrated, trying to recall words and phrases from a language I once knew at least a little of. It was nearly gone, when my husband suggested I could take a class in it. I couldn’t find any classes (apart from spending a small our retirement savings on Continuing Ed through UNH—don’t even get me started). But I did discover tutors who were local.

So now I go to Barnes & Noble once a week to study Russian with Natasha* for an hour. She’s from Russia, and Russian is her native language, so I know when she corrects my accent she isn’t steering me wrong. And bit by bit, it’s coming back to me. In fact, I suspect I’m already moving a bit past where I left off in college. Of course, from Natasha’s perspective, I’m about the level of a talking monkey. (“Today… it is… warm.”) Fortunately, she’s lived here a long time, so her English is perfect.

So you’re probably wondering about the James Bond logo. That’s because I was recently asked to write a short story for an athology, and my theme was mercy. I agonized over it for a while, and then while I was re-watching the old 1964 Jonny Quest cartoon series, I had an idea: what about a secret agent during the cold war whose mission is to assassinate someone, but he can’t?

This, not surprisingly, led me to James Bond. But Rex Colby, secret agent, isn’t exactly James Bond. He’s a former US Navy man, trained by the CIA to infiltrate the Russian military. He might have shades of Mack Bolan in him, though I haven’t read one of those novels since I was a kid. Colby speaks Russian without a trace of his native Texas accent, and is the perfect man to go onboard a top secret Russian submarine in search of an American scientist who defected to the USSR with the advanced long-range sonar he was developing.

It was an interesting idea, and it might even allow me to drop in some Russian. I love doing that!

When I mentioned this to Natasha during last week’s tutoring session—”Я пишу рассказ об американском шпионе на российском подводном лодке.” (I am writing a short story about an American spy on a Russian submarine.)—I was expecting her to react to it. I was hoping she’d be amused. At worst, I was afraid she’d be offended. After all, the Russians (Soviets) are the enemy in stories like this.

She looked at me calmly and said, “Лодка is feminine, not masculine. It would be российской подводной лодки.

Oh.  Right.

* In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve changed all the names in this post. I’m no fool.

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