Conversations with Christopher: Hebe

Silence falls into the clearing. Shadows gather around Paul’s face, making his eye gleam. He doesn’t bat them away. He parts his lips as if he savors the taste of the darkness as much as it savors him. 

The nearby greenery rustles. Christopher feels eyes watching them, wanting to come closer, to approach the temple and the stream, but whomever is there doesn’t. 

Paul: (closing his eyes and smiling) She cannot enter holy ground. (He swivels his head to look away from Christopher.) Go on. Talk to her. That’s what you do. Isn’t it?

Christopher: (backing away) Yes it is, although I wonder what cannot enter this place while I, whom you’ve called a monster can. 

Paul: You should know the answer to that. If not, go and find out. 

Christopher circles the clearing, giving Paul a wide berth. He plunges into the bushes. 

He is seized by two strong hands, swept within a billowing cloak. 

Hebe: What are you doing, talking to him? Come away at once!

She pulls Christopher through the thicket which is softer than he expected toward a shimmering patch of air. 

He doesn’t resist. He recognizes the rippling the sensation in the air of an opening between worlds, what he calls a Door.

The rippling sensation surrounds them, swallowing them until there are elsewhere. 

Hebe and Christopher stumble into another clearing with a very different temple. Smaller than the green one with the blue roof and golden dragons, yet taller and a completely different design. Open air, supported by four pillars, and a domed roof, a white marble statue graces the center. The statue is of a naked youth who looks very much like Paul.

Christopher: There’s always a statue, isn’t there? At least this one is really a statue. 

Hebe: Of course there’s a statue. He is beautiful, that creature you were speaking with, beautiful and terrible. A legendary beauty, although too few see the terror until it’s too late. 

Christopher: You mean Paul?

Hebe: Is that what he calls himself? (She smiles bitterly.) When he seduced my father and took my position, he had a different name. 

Christopher: He seduced your father?

Hebe: (frowns) Well, that’s what my father says. My mother agrees. She feels he betwitched my father into forgetting me, my family, and his obligations. 

Christopher: You don’t sound convinced. 

Hebe: He said he was kidnapped. That my father turned into a beautiful bird that carried him away. 

Christopher: Do you believe him?

Hebe: It wouldn’t be the first time my father has turned into a bird to seduce someone or ravage them. He got to my mother in that form. 

Christopher: Did he?

Hebe: Personally I think the shower of gold form is more seductive. Who’s going to say no to gold? 

Christopher: Yes, but a shower of it? Particularly if it’s melted down into a molten form which sears you when it touches you. Or if it traps you in a mold, turning you into a statue of gold, unable to speak or move. Slowly killing you in a beautiful, motionless form, or cursing you with eternity within the shell. 

Hebe: You and your sinister view of statues! One would think you had a close encounter with a gorgon. 

Christopher: A gorgon? 

Hebe: Hmm. Snakes for hair. Sometimes immortal, but not always. Even the ones that aren’t immortal retain their power after death. Even if you hack off her head, a gorgon can still turn you to stone just by looking at you.

Christopher: Like and unlike an arachnocrat. She has to do a lot more than look at you to turn you to stone. And she’d need your consent. 

Hebe: Sounds like a more convivial relationship for both the arachnocrat and her victim. More convivial than any you’d have with a gorgon, whether the gorgon wished it or not. 

Christopher: You sound like the Lady Duessa herself.

Hebe: Is she an arachnocat? (She rubs her throat. There’s a petal-shaped scar upon it.)

Christopher: Yes. (He gives the scar a pointed look.) I thought you knew.

Hebe: I’m not sure how much I knew or know. I’m not a statue.

Christopher: You weren’t a Marriage Feast.

Hebe: No. I was feasted upon, but marriage wasn’t offered. 

Christopher: I don’t think the Lady Duessa could have. The Marriage Feast is always a boy, selected by an arachnocrat as her Marriage Feast, something my sister, Vanessa never stopped reminding us of. 

Hebe: Us?

Christopher: (straining to recall something, someone who’s become like the faded part of a dream) Damian, myself…and Melyssa. Yes, Melyssa. How could I forgotten her? I think…(his cheeks color)

Hebe: (raising an eyebrow) You think?

Christopher: I think Melyssa might have asked Vanessa to be her Marriage Feast if ladies could take other ladies, but Van was shocked by the idea. 

Hebe: Shocked and unwilling?

Christopher: I’m not sure. Strange, that such a thing would be shocking, but the Gardens were a strange place. 

Hebe: Yes, strange. Almost as strange as the Tower. 

Christopher: What? What do you know of the Tower? 

Hebe: Never you mind. I wasn’t warning you about the Tower or the Gardens. I was warning you about Ganymeades. 

Christopher: Ganymeades?

Hebe: The one you call Paul.

Christopher: Actually it was Peter who called him Paul. They used to be together. 

Map: What? Our Peter? Our sweet, silly flirt at the Navel had a relationship with that creature?

Christopher: One that’s not over, judging from Paul’s attitude. 

Hebe: Well. First my parents, now Ganymeades. Our Peter has a way of enchanting everyone. 

Christopher: Yes, he does.

Hebe: I’m surprised to hear you agree. You were the only one who seemed immune to his charms. 

Christopher: I’m not immune. I’m just less…responsive to his charms. 

Hebe: I suppose we vary in responsiveness. Peter and Paul, eh? Now that I think about it, they would look lovely together. 

Christopher: (looking at his feet) Yes.

Hebe: I wouldn’t trust that one, if I was Peter. He may have been a victim when he lashed out at the gods after being unwillingly turned into one…

Christopher: Unwillingly?

Hebe: Tricked into tasting the ambrosia in my father’s cup, the way the lady of the underworld was tricked into tasting pomegranate. Only the effects of the drink may not be as everlasting as we thought. Given none of us are what we were. 

Christopher: I see, I think. 

Hebe: I’m not sure how he did it. He had help in stealing my father’s thunder. He might argue he had to do it, to get away from my father and the heavens, but he’s gotten a taste for the hunt. He likes to get close to his victims before he drains them of their power. 

Christopher: I don’t think Paul sees Peter as a victim. You and I, yes. Your parents and the other gods, yes. Not Peter. 

Hebe: I see. We’re monsters, gods and shadows alike. Peter is the fool who just wandered among us. 

Christopher: Is he wrong?

Hebe: No, I fear he’s not. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

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For my own, Phaedra reveals a little more about herself and the future she’s part of in A Symposium in Space

What would it have been like, to grow inside another woman’s body, being nourished by her, my heart beating inside her? It sounded terrifying, being that close to someone else, needing someone else so utterly and completely. 

Perhaps if I had experienced such closeness, I wouldn’t seek it with other people. I wouldn’t need them so badly. 

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been desperate for any kind of affection I might get from Pausania. 

“Men might have done those things to fill the emptiness inside of them,” I murmured. “A child could never grow within their bodies. Maybe that inability to create life became a void they sought to fill.”

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Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Jupitre

Quartz stretches, shakes out his beard, stomps his boots, seeing the mist disappear beneath them as it clears around him. 

Quartz: That right, I’m back! Took the scribbler long enough to bring me back. Not that the shadows, nor the Conversations with Christopher can keep this dwarf down!

Jupitre: How nice for you. I wish I was back. I’d darken the sky and illuminate it with brilliance. I’d shower my might down on my worshippers, sporting with the more attractive ones. All I was once is gone. Gone!

Quartz turns, seeing he’s in some sort of forest clearing. The complains come from an old man sitting on a stump. He has stooped shoulders, resting his chin on a hoary hand as he scowls. A scraggly grey beard hangs in limp hanks from his chin. The rest of his face is lined with misery. 

Quartz: Right. Secondary Characters Speak Out is back, too. You must be my guest. Go on. 

Jupitre: Right? There is no right! Not for me! I’ve lost my thunder, my majesty, my godhood! Just look at me now. Talking to a snarky little dwarf I would have once hit with a lightning bolt for sport. Talking about secondary characters as if I was such a trival thing! Don’t you realize who I am? I am Jupitre! I ruled the heavens, making all the puny forms of earth beneath me tremble with fear and awe!

Quartz: Right. You’re not going to awe anyone. Not with that beard.

Jupitre: And now those puny forms dare to criticize my beard!

Quartz: Expect more. Criticism, that is. You should take better care of your whiskers. 

Jupitre: Take better care of my whiskers? I’ll have you know when I ruled the heavens, I had scores of beautiful boys comb, brush, and oil my whiskers! (He leers in nostalgia.) Not to mention other parts of me. 

Quartz: Uh huh. (utterly unimpressed) And what happened to them, eh? Those boys. 

Jupitre: (slumping back into a morose slouch) They left me. All my servants. All my worshippers. They stopped believing in me. Me!

Quartz: Sounds like you lost your worshippers because they stopped believing in you and maybe your godlike whatever as well?

Jupitre: Why do you think we gods made such a severe example of those who didn’t worship us, didn’t sacrifice to us? Without sacrifices, prayers, offerings, the devotion of our followers, we starve! We shrink and diminish into this!

Quartz: So this is what’s left of you without them. Your followers.

Jupitre: (tearing at his beard) How can I live like this?!

Quartz: Well for starters, don’t go worrying your beard! (waving his hands) Having scraggly whiskers solves nothing. Something my own family fails to figure out. 

Jupitre: And now this impudent dwarf dares to call me scraggly!

Quartz: You bet the shards I dare. What kind of deity goes ripping off his whiskers? You’re not a fool kid like my little brother. You’re a god, right? Show some pride!

Jupitre: Just what do I have left to be proud of? Without my power, I’m nothing but a weak old man!

Quartz: Right. No wonder you lost your worshippers with that attitude. 

Jupitre: I’m kept home by my wife, kept in a weakened state while she parades pretty visitors before me to mock me!

Quartz: Met Christopher, have you?

Jupitre: (showing interest in something other than himself for a moment) Is Christopher the slender youth, pretty as a girl with the multicolored eyes?

Quartz: Uh huh, that’s him. 

Jupitre: (the moment has passed) He looked upon this aging wreck of my former self with no awe. 

Quartz: Can’t imagine why not. 

Jupitre: And now you mock me again! I’m reduced to being a secondary character by a rude little dwarf in a blog written by a half wit with pretensions of being an author!

Me: (looking up with annoyance) Hey!

Jupitre: Once great artists and poets depicted me, worshipped me. Now I’m just a secondary character in some miserable scribbler’s blog!

Me: (grumbling) At least you’re getting an appearance. Which is more than you can expect of many people’s blogs.

Quartz: Scribbler, this is what comes of encouraging secondary characters to speak out. Some of them never shut up. 

Me: You’re the one encouraging secondary characters to speak out. 

Jupitre: (drawing himself up) How dare you treat me like a nuisance, both of you! (turns on Quartz) How dare you accuse a god of whining?

Quartz: Like I said, when that god won’t shut up. If you’re all that, why don’t you do something about it?

Jupitre: I told you, dwarf. I’m no longer any of that. This is all that I am now. All that’s left of me. 

Quartz: Right. Again, why don’t you do something about it?

Jupitre: What?

Quartz: Do something, anything. Change. Or try to change. You don’t like what you’ve become? Do something about it. 

Looking aggravated, Quartz stomps away, muttering something about gods being worse than witches or kobolds. 

Jupitre sits alone, the mists rising around him, his morose face turning pensive. 

Jupitre: Change. Yes. If I opened a Door to the Shadow Forest, change would be inevitable. Change would be far better than remaining as I am.

The mists almost hiss in sinister encouragement as they envelop him. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

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For my own, Phaedra will continue to enjoy less and less her domestic arrangement with Pausania in A Symposium in Space

“Thinking her wealth and power are enough to lure you to one of her dull dinner parties, let alone me!”

“You just used the word ‘woman’,” I ventured. “Didn’t you just chastise me for saying that?”

“Of course I chastised you.” Pausania ran a hand through her hair in a self-conscious gesture. “We’re trying to get away from a past dominated by men in the name we use for ourselves.”

“Why use it?” I asked. “If you feel the word is wrong, why do you keep using it?”

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#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. IT just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

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For my own, Pausania will continue to react to the orb, the orb will continue to tease her with information while Phaedra tries to figure out what’s going on and who’s who in the next bit of A Symposium in Space

“Sokrat? How did you manage to persuade her to come?”

“I believe she welcomes an escape from the affections of her overly enthusiastic beloved. Thus she will be honoring us with her presence at this gathering, along with Aristophania.”

At least I’d heard of Aristophania. Her webcasts were hilarious, although Pausania and others muttered that she was quite dated and stale in her routines.

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#QueerBlogWed: Seven Tricks Freebie Story

On October 20, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptywant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving sausage, a nose, and boxes. This Seven Tricks freebie story was the result…

A long nose poked its way out of a pile of boxes, whiskers twitching at the smell of sausage.

Only for a second nose attached to a muzzle to rise from the boxes, baring its teeth. Those teeth closed around the first muzzle, biting it. 

“Youch!” Cheesecurd whined. “Why’d you do that for?”

“Don’t go scurrying after the first sniff of sausage!” Madam Mousenip chittered at her subject. “Honestly! You only have a fraction of wit, not to mention charm that Mousetrick possessed!”

“Uh huh. And where’s Mousetrick?” Cheesecurd sniffed with some petulance. “Off with some human.”

“No, he’s not!” Madam Mousenip bared her teeth at this sullen substitute for a decent mouse, let alone a prince. “He’s following his dream, you hear me? No matter how cheese-curdled that dream might be.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a little curdled cheese,” the affronted mouse retorted. “Say what you like of me. I’m here. I haven’t abandoned you for sugar plums and a magician’s nephew.”

“No, you’d abandon me in an instant for cheese. Or gingerbread,” the queen asserted. “Stop trying to act like you’re any better than the rest of us. Mousetrick had finer feelings than you’ll ever know. Not to mention a finer coat. And far more expressive whiskers.” She sighed, wringing her paws against her chest.

“Hmph. If my feelings, coat, and whiskers are so disappointing, why are you scampering with me?” Cheesecurd demanded. “What’s the point?”

“Training!” Madam Mousenip snapped. “Uncouth and ruffled as your fur might be, you still faced a troupe of gingerbread soldiers, showing spunk. Only you gobbled your way straight into a human’s trap.”

“How can you blame me? They smelled too delicious to resist.” Cheescurd drooped his whiskers in a sulky fashion. “How was to know I should have?”

“Exactly. You should know better. You need to learn how to know better. This is why I’m scampering with you.” Madam Mousenip flickered her tail in a meaningful manner. “I’m offering you knowledge. It’s up to you whether you decide to gain it. To think before scampering after anything that smells delicious. It might help you survive.”

“Or it might mean someone else will rush in and eat the delicious thing while we wait!” Cheesecurd whined. “I want that sausage!”

“Yes, and you might scamper straight into a trap if you don’t think when you sniff!” The queen flicked her tail in the direction of the kitchen. “Look!”

A giant human, dragging the cloth of its skirts across the floor plodded her way past the boxes in the kitchen. 

Madam Mousenip and Cheesecurd barely had time to dive beneath the boxes before hiding. 

“I’m bored!” The human’s shrill voice pierced the air. If the mice hadn’t taken cover, it might have knocked them over. “Where is Cracktooth?”

“He’s gone.” Another human’s voice rang out, softer, yet more dangerous. “I told you, Prissipat. He’s not here any more.”

Cheesecurd felt his fur stand on end. It was her. The human who’d drugged him, who’d set the gingerbread trap. What had that shrieking doll called her? Marchen. 

“Why? Why isn’t he here?” The one human whirled to face the other. “He was just starting to get a little less annoying and he just disappears! What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Marchen sounded a bit defensive as well as sad. “He wanted to go. That’s all.”

“That’s not all. You’re hiding something, both you and your godfather. Why won’t you tell me?” Prissipat turned again, stamping her foot. 

The mice under the boxes covered.

“Come. Come have some sausage.” Marchen took her arm, coaxing her away. “You’ll feel better if you eat.”

“I don’t want to eat.” In spite of her petulant reply, Prissipat let herself be led away. 

The mice cautiously peeked out from beneath the boxes.

“You see?” Madam Mousenip chittered. “We would have been caught if we’d scampered after the sausage.”

“Now the humans are going to eat it,” Cheesecurd grumbled. “Cracktooth…Cracktooth. Isn’t that the one Mousetrick kept carrying on about? Wouldn’t let us eat any gingerbread until we’d saved his beloved Cracktooth. Wouldn’t give up that doll either. Nearly led us all into a trap.”

“Really.” Madam Mousenip looked down her snout at him. “From what I’ve heard, it was you who gobbled your way right into a gingerbread trap.”

“No!” Cheesecurd protested. “It was Mousetrick! He was your prince! We had no choice but to follow him! All he cared about was rescuing his precious Cracktooth!”

“Save the excuses,” Madam Mousenip sighed. “Scamper now. You may let learn something…and how to find the right opportunity to steal sausage.” 

Cheesecurd let out a sulky chitter, but he obeyed. He followed his queen as she raced across the floor to under a chair. 

As if he didn’t know about finding opportunities. He was a lot better at this than Mousetrick who did nothing but smooth his fine fur and twirl his whiskers. 

Eventually his queen would understand this. 

Wonder what this was about? Here are buy links to Seven Tricks…

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#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

I’m back! Back to Rainbow Snippets where we post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on our blogs Saturday or Sunday.

Blogging From AZ April Project: Character Origins distracted me along with all the mad writing and everything else I’ve been doing in April. I’m returning to A Symposium in Space, at a point where Phaedra herself is trying to figure out what’s going on. This is a little longer than six sentences, but they’re short sentences…:)

I wasn’t used to this level of complexity in a simple communicator, but I was behind the times. Or so Pausania kept telling me. 

Perhaps she was right. I had no idea who Sokrat was.

Pausania did, judging from the way her eyes widened. “Sokrat? How did you manage to persuade her to come?”

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T is for Troile

I was inspired by a mythological character named Troilus, but mine is a different tale to tell. I have another name in Aissa and Polyxena. When I don skirts and the guise of a woman, I become Polyxena of Troy. 

Does this shock you? Polyxena has become a Trojan princess of legends Achilles achieved as much passion for as he did her brother, Troilus. I have a secret to reveal, they’re both me. 

This secret dawned upon the scribbler when she realized Polyxena wasn’t in The Iliad. My Achaen, my mightiest of the Achaens, my Achille had another reason for withdrawing from the Trojan war, another motive for picking a fight with Agamemnon. It was me. Cressida or Briseis was the one who transformed me into Polyxena, dressing me as a woman so Achille and I could meet. 

You might say the contradictions in mythology inspired my story along with Achille’s. Our scribbler looked between those contradictions and found our story. Found how Ganymede, former prince of Troy and cupbearer of the gods sent me to the Isle of Scyros so Achille and I could meet. He himself was there in skirts, pretending to be Aissa. It was a disguise which wasn’t to last, but it inspired my own as Polyxena. 

Love in skirts, how different his feelings for me were than those he held for Patrocles! Not that the latter weren’t strong. I saw a very different side, a soft side of Achille, a side which perhaps playing Aissa brought out of him? For donning skirts and putting aside our manhood taught us things we might never have learned otherwise, bringing us close together. Even if we did clash with swords at the end. 

Only this is a tale waiting to be revised and told by our scribbler. May she finally find the time to tell it, of what truly happened between us. May our feelings finally be vindicated within this tale. I pray to the gods it shall be so. 

S is for Shelley

Three sources came together to create me.

One was our scribbler reading a collection of poems by the poet Shelley, followed by a couple of biographies. She was not only enchanted by both, but struck Shelley’s unreasoning fear of his father, a mystery which was never explained. She was also struck by Lord Godwin’s comment about the poet, “Ah, but he is beautiful! A pity he is evil!” Or something very similar to that. 

An interesting comment to make about the man who ran off with his daughter, a man who often came to his rescue when Lord Godwin was in debt. How complex emotions can be, even about those who are a danger to us…or our salvation. 

The residents of Paradise bow their heads every day to pale lords who drink their blood and life in the service of their Goddess. We’re expected to obey, but we’re terrified. Byron and I are rebels, regarded as evil, yet the pale lords covet us for our spirits, our creativity, the beauty they feel they can cultivate in us. Lord Ruthvyn seeks to cage us for all of these reasons in On the Other Side of the Mask. I don’t think he can forgive Byron or myself for the bond we’ve formed with each other, even as he drinks in our emotions, the sight of us. Perhaps we remind him of something he himself once lost. 

The legend of Shelley reached even me, a poor orphan who belonged our Lady of Paradise’s choir. The only thing I ever had was the right to choose my own name. I chose to be Shelley, to echo his rebel song in Paradise. The rebel song Byron and I sing together was inspired by one of his poems. We both choose our names to imbue some of the spirit of those who’d carried them before. 

The second source for me was a roleplaying game in which humans were kidnapped by the fae, trapped in their surreal world; escaping to find they were no longer human. They’d imbued some of the mad beauty of the cage they’d been imprisoned within. They could never escape, not completely. They could never know when they would be recaptured. 

This inspired our scribbler’s idea for Paradise, the enclosed city ruled by pale lords no one could escape. It also inspired Lord Ruthvyn’s estate, its labyrithine ways, its living art. The way reality itself doesn’t seem entirely solid on his grounds. Byron and I are not the first caged “songbirds” his lordship has kept in his home. The mystery of what happened to the others, a fate Byron and I could share is one of the mysteries we confront in On the Other Side of the Mask. 

The third source is what our scribbler read of Lord Ruthven in her world and the relationship he had with the poet Lord Byron. Byron loathed Ruthven, yet the two lords are often linked together due to Dr. Polidori’s The Vampyre. This inspired out host, a boy once very much like my Byron and myself. Only this boy lost his song. He seeks to find it again in Byron and myself. Who knows how many others he tried to find it in? Perhaps that song is the key to Lord Ruthvyn’s lost soul. Perhaps it is the key to opening the Gates of the Paradise we are trapped within. I hope so. Pray that Byron and I find a solution in our story. We’ve lingered in limbo for far too long. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it!

It’s also time for Rainbow Snippets, six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction posted on our blogs. After considering what to share, I decided to continue with A Symposium in Space. After all, Agathea’s orb is sort of like an Easter egg. Sort of. 🙂

A sly tone laced with humor emitted from the mechanical device. 

I wondered if Agathea had given it her voice. What projected from the orb was such a caressing, sensual tone. It rivaled Pausania’s own for the levels of malice it could deliver, wrapped in a disguise of courtesy. I wasn’t used to this level of complexity in a simple communicator, but I was behind the times. Or so Pausania kept telling me. 

Want to read the rest of A Symposium in Space? Here are buy links…

Nine Star Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/a-symposium-in-space/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Symposium-Space-Feast-Words-ebook/dp/B07PGB15FY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3BPACY58MCCMV&keywords=a+symposium+in+space&qid=1552937461&s=digital-text&sprefix=A+Sympo%2Caps%2C239&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130883509?ean=2940161507872

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-symposium-in-space

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928136

Want to read some more Rainbow Snippets by different writers? Here the link to more samples…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets