I need beta readers for an Eternal Dungeon novelette


I definitely didn't expect my Muse to show up with this. As it is, I need a quick beta report, within three weeks. Mainly, I'm seeking a check for inconsistencies, though if you notice any typos or other errors, you can feel free to point them out.

The story is 11,000 words long, it's T-rated, and it's mentorfic with queer characters, with a small number of sexual references. Some of the characters engage in activities that aren't ethical. All of the main characters are over eighteen. Basically, if you've read one of my Eternal Dungeon stories, you know what to expect. Feel free to contact me with questions.

To my e-mail subscribers: I'm going to be switching to a new subscription service this week


My old e-mail subscription service for this blog (Feedburner) is going out of business, so I'm having to switch to a new service (follow.it). If you've subscribed to receive my posts by email via Feedburner, you don't have to do anything; you'll be automatically switched over. As before, you'll be able to unsubscribe at any time.

I'll post more about this at my next update, once the switch is accomplished, but I didn't want you to be startled by the change in the e-mail layout of my next post.

READING: "Operation Destruct" (1969), by Christopher Nicole


Originally posted at Goodreads.

This is a pleasant curiosity: a young adult British spy novel from the 1960s. It's by an author who had previously only written novels for adults, and that's obvious: the only accommodations made for young readers are a PG level of violence and sex. ("I'd figured you weren't a veteran [spy]," a female character tells the male protagonist. "James Bond would have been making violent love to me, by now.")

This being written back in the days before publishers decided that teen fiction had to feature teen protagonists, the protagonist is a realistic 23 years old. The trouble is, his youth becomes less and less plausible as the story goes on.

At first, there's a nice contrast between the youthful protagonist and his callous boss. When the protagonist fails in his first attempt to protect himself with a gun, I figured that this would set up a plotline whereby the protagonist must either make a difficult transition into being a hardened spy or else decide to reject such a life.

Neither happens. He simply kills someone later, and moves on. The whole ethical plotline fell flat.

Since I didn't find the espionage terribly thrilling, all I was left with was a few witty passages. For example:


She got up, stood above him. "Perhaps you are making an all too common mistake, in men. You see someone in a skirt, and you think to yourself, there is a woman, and therefore I am her superior. Or even if it is not framed as crudely as that, you still feel, deep in your subconscious, that except perhaps in matters like love or for the protection of her children, a woman can never be as dangerous, as interested, as a man. Well, you would be wrong, Mr. Anders. I am a scientist first, and a woman second. In fact, you could say that out of every twenty-four hours I am a woman for perhaps an hour. I make this concession because I like good clothes."


The treatment of female characters (and thank goodness there is more than one) is decent enough, given the period. The female character who serves as the protagonist's ally shows herself to be more capable than most of the male characters, a fact which the protagonist seems not to be aware of, because in the climactic scene he locks her away, then goes off to fight the villain with her less capable brother.

Stylistically, the novel is well written, so I'm going to try the other novels in the series (which I read when I was young and which have been sitting on my bookshelves ever since). The author - still alive! - has apparently written over two hundred novels under various pseudonyms, so chances are good that I'll find one that fully suits me.


Christopher Nicole at Goodreads.

Christopher Nicole at OpenLibrary.

FIC: Trap 2/4 (The Eternal Dungeon: Forge #5)



Chapter 2/4 of Trap (The Eternal Dungeon: Forge #5).

"'You forget,' he said softly. 'I was trained to break prisoners by word alone.'"

The hunt is drawing to an end. The outcome remains uncertain.

Memories of love have sent Toler on a long road leading to this trap. Now love will send him into a second trap. The choice of whether to escape is his.

Rated M. Boilerplate warning for all my stories + my rating system.

Coming next: The next chapter of "Forge #5: Trap."

FIC: Trap 1/4 (The Eternal Dungeon: Forge #5)



Chapter 1/4 of Trap (The Eternal Dungeon: Forge #5).

"'You forget,' he said softly. 'I was trained to break prisoners by word alone.'"

The hunt is drawing to an end. The outcome remains uncertain.

Memories of love have sent Toler on a long road leading to this trap. Now love will send him into a second trap. The choice of whether to escape is his.

Rated M. Boilerplate warning for all my stories + my rating system.

Coming next: The next chapter of "Forge #5: Trap."

READING: "The Game of Kings" (1961; The Lymond Chronicles #1), by Dorothy Dunnett


I can remember nothing like it since I first read The Three Musketeers at the age of thirteen. . . . However foolish it may sound, the plain fact is that I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy, and paid only a distracted attention to the doodle-bugs which happened to be infesting the neighbourhood at the time, until I had panted my way through [the books].

[Dorothy L. Sayers: "'. . . And Telling You a Story.'"]

For me, the last time it happened was when I was sixteen. I've read a lot of great stories since then, and I've encountered a lot of great characters. But sixteen was the last time that I encountered a new novel that had everything just perfect: plot, characters (oh my, Deth), setting, theme, tropes (oh my, Dark!Deth and Mentor!Deth), ethical dilemmas, and (though I was only dimly aware of it at that age) writing style. It all came together in one crashing crescendo, and I was hopelessly in love.

This time, it happened by mistake.

Well, not entirely a mistake, thanks to one of you. But I really wasn't expecting to have anything happen at all. The only reason I decided to try out an author whom [personal profile] melita66 had recommended was that I was nursing my bitter disappointment over the fact that I'd decided not to continue watching Outlander (a really excellent TV adaptation of the book series), because I'd realized that I just couldn't allow myself to instill that many graphic images of violence into my mind, where they would linger for the rest of my life. (Wentworth Prison was coming up. I knew what that meant.)

I was seeking a distraction from my disappointment, and so I figured I'd try out a new author, though I expected to be bored soon, the way I am 99% of the time when I read a new author.

It was only a sneeze; but a sneeze outside the door of their chamber, which dislimned every shade of their privacy. Tom Erskine got there first, the other two at his heels. The room beyond was empty, but the door of Mungo's bedroom was ajar. Taking a candle like a banner in his fist, Erskine rushed in.

His hair soft as a nestling's, his eyes graceless with malice, Lymond was watching him in a silver mirror. Before Erskine could call, Buccleuch and Mungo Tennant had piled in beside him and Lymond had taken two steps to the far door, there to linger, hand on latch and the blade of his sword held twinkling at breast level as they jumped, weaponless, to face him, and then fell back.

"As my lady of Suffolk saith," said Lymond gently, "God is a marvellous man." Eyes of cornflower blue rested thoughtfully on Sir Wat. "I had fallen behind with the gossip. . . . Nouvelle amour, nouvelle affection; nouvelles fleurs parmi l'herbe nouvelle. Tell Richard his bride has yet to meet her brother-in-law, her Sea-Catte, her Sea-Scorpion, beautiful in the breeding season. What a pity you didn't wear your swords."

Now, please understand: I don't jump to conclusions about books. Even if I really, really like them, I generally wait until I've reread them, or reread them twice, before I decide they deserve to be recommended to others. It takes time for me to be sure of the quality of a book.

This novel I was ready to place on the top of my Favorites shelves by the time I had finished with that entrance speech from its Robin-Hood-like protagonist. The only question was whether the author would be able to sustain that height of quality.

She didn't. She surpassed it.

"Why are you here?"

Silence. Then the boy said slowly, "Because I admire you."

An appreciative titter ran round the audience. "You shock me," said Lymond. "Explain, please."

"All right," said the boy. "You've chosen a life of vice, and have been consistent and reliable and thorough and successful in carrying it out."

Lymond considered this with every appearance of seriousness. "I see. Thus the baseness of my morals is redeemed by the stature of my manners? You admire consistency?"

"Yes, I do."

"But prefer consistency in evil to consistency in good?"

"The choice is hypothetical."

"Lord; is it? What an exciting past you must have."

"I despise mediocrity," stated the young man firmly.

"And you would also despise me if I practiced evil but professed purity?"

"Yes. I should."

"I see. What you are really saying, of course, is that you dislike hypocrisy, and people who can't stand by their principles. I find it so helpful," continued Lymond, "when some of my gentlemen have well-defined codes of conduct. It makes them more predictable. What security have I got for your loyalty?"

Redhead chanced his arm, solemnly. "Your appraisal of me, sir."

"Touching; but I'd prefer your appraisal of yourself. Do your principles admit an oath of fealty?"

"If you want it. I won't betray you, any of you; you can have my word on that. And I'll do anything you want, within reason. I don't mind," said Redhead recklessly, "what crimes you commit, as long as they've got a sensible purpose. Wanton injury and destruction, of course, are just juvenile."

"Of course," said the Master, digesting this remarkable statement. "Then let us be adult at all costs. Do you have a mistress? A wife? No? All in vain, this flors de biauté? A little quietness, if you please. We are all ready to help, you see. What else . . . Do you use broadsword or rapier? A hackbut?"

Smoothly spinning, the inexorable questions resumed, faster and faster. "What do you know about gunpowder? Not very much, is it? How old are you? Year of birth? If you must invent, stay awake afterwards. . . . What are you like with the longbow? There's Mat's quiver: hit that tree. Passable. Now the thorn. Good. Now," said Lymond, "kill the man by the cooking-pot."

Oh. My. God. DarkMentorLiteratus!Lymond. I'm sixteen again, and I'm pleading with my mother to let me go to the library after dark, so that I can get the next book in the series.

Thankfully, in this day and age, I have access to library e-books at home. I haven't yet read the remaining five novels in this series (I'd say this was mature self-control, if I hadn't stayed up till four a.m. finishing the first novel last night), but I am enthralled, captivated, hopelessly lost to adoration of a book in a way I haven't been in forty-two years.

Highly recommended to those of you who like novels with swords and castles, well-rounded characters, tender relationships, breathless plotlines, ethics galore, and sentences that you reread a dozen times in a row to make sure you have committed them to memory.


Dorothy Dunnett at Goodreads.

Dorothy Dunnett at Open Library.

The Lymond Chronicles at Fanlore, with a major spoiler for the end of the first novel (any series descriptions and later book blurbs have the same spoiler), but with lots of helpful links to fandom resources.

In addition to the websites linked at Fanlore, the website Dorothy Dunnett was compiled with the help of Dunnett and includes nonfiction writings by her.

A note on editions: I'm darned if I can find any information online about the editions, but the 2019 Knopf/Vintage edition, which I read, includes an introduction by Dorothy Dunnett in which she states (in so many words) that this is her Author's Cut. I don't know at what point that introduction was added, but when choosing an edition, I'd suggest you keep your eye out for that introduction if you want to read Dunnett's preferred text.

A note on annotations: Honestly, I think the best way to read the novel the first time through is without the distraction of annotations. But if you're like me, you're not going to be able to resist figuring out everything that Lymond says, including his multitudinous quotations. Unless you know Middle English, French, Latin, and the original context of all those quotes, you'll need an annotated guide at your side. The Dorothy Dunnett Companion and The Dorothy Dunnett Companion, Volume II supposedly include contributions from Dunnett herself, but those books are in alphabetical order, which isn't very helpful. Unfortunately, it looks as the Companion volumes are the only annotations available for the later novels in the series. Laura Caine Ramsey's The Ultimate Guide to Dorothy Dunnett's The Game of Thrones is, thankfully, in page order. There is also an anthology, The Lymond Poetry, which was put together by Dunnett. Personally, I made use of this website, which is less wordy than the printed annotations. Or you can simply Google each quote and see what turns up.