Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Fret

Yes, I skipped several weeks of blog posts.  I've been caught up in so much going on around me that I couldn't find time to do some of the auxiliary things like this blog. Besides, most of what I was doing was pretty boring.

Let's start with the one thing that was not boring, though!  I went to the mountains last weekend!  We made a wild, mad-dash of a trip in 44 hours from the far northeast edge of Nebraska to Rocky Mountain National Park and back again.  I took some lovely pictures and had a great time.

The wolf at sunset -- wow.  That was a once in a lifetime event.

Before and after the trip I was caught up in two main projects.  The writing one is to get Tales from Grey Station 9 completed, and it is very close now.  I really love this story.  The characters are all kinds of fun.  I am almost through with Part 9.  Only one more section to go.  I told my husband that I was going to regret being done with this one, and he reminded me that I said the same thing when I finished the first draft of the story.

The other massive project is the reworking of my ezine, Vision: A Resource for Writers.  I stopped publishing a couple years ago, but I still have over a thousand articles scattered about as archive material.  The last twenty or so issues had been published using a Joomla! base and I had started putting the back issues in as well.  However, Joomla! wanted me to do a major update right after I stopped publishing.  If the ezine were still in publication, it would have made sense -- but Vision is now static with no new additions.  I just kept ignoring it, but the version I am using is developing problems, so I have to do something.

I decided to take the entire collection back to a basic HTML site. That meant pulling 668 articles out of the Joomla! site plus gathering four to five hundred more from the original HTML site.  I've got the 668 copied out, and I've just started the other collection.  Once I get everything copied, I'll create a basic template and start setting everything up again.  Once I'm done, that will be it.  With no new articles, there will be no reason to update again.

This is a long process, though.  I'm about a quarter of the way through everything that needs to be done.  I hope to have it all finished by the end of the year.

Doing this work made me think about all the time and energy I've invested in helping other writers.  I took over Forward Motion for Writers so Holly wouldn't close it down in 2003.  The site is quiet now -- so many people find what they want on places like FB that it's difficult to get many things going there, though there is a very active goals section!  I'd been working with Holly Lisle at the site since 1998 -- so that's very close to 20 years dedicated to that site. 

I published Vision for about fourteen years.  That meant paying for the articles myself (though the early articles were all donated by many wonderful writers), plus doing the formatting and publishing.    Except for occasional donations, I've paid for the websites for both FM and Vision and have done a lot of the work, though I've had some help along the way and really appreciated it.

Then there is the Two Year Novel (2YN) Class which I've offered for free several times (this year it is on my FB author page). I sell the 8 2YN course books for $0.99 each, and they're pretty much available everywhere.  The NaNo for the New and the Insane is a free book on Smashwords and is still popular. 

I've had some wonderful thank you notes from people down through the years and even a couple book dedications. 

I have cut back on all the stuff I used to do.  I don't fret over FM and the lack of posts.  If people want to start writing-related conversations there, then they should leap in and have a good time.  I can't make people want to post, and for a few years that made me fret and worry and try to start things....

What changed?

The heart attack, I suspect, made me start thinking that I wanted to do things differently.  Even so, it's taken me a few years to back off from 'other' stuff and focus more on my writing again.  Oh, I didn't do badly before, but my focus wasn't always where it should be.  Now I have writing and photography with a bit of digital art thrown in.

And if I could just figure out how to sell more books, I'd be really happy.

But I won't fret about it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Flash Friday # 260 -- Dusty & Friends/5

The orc hadn't made tied down the covering very well, and they had a little more light.  Dusty crawled out from under the cloth, which turned out to be rags and discarded clothing. 

"Oh, these will help!" She started pulling out the darkest pieces she could find.  "My dress is too bright.  I need something less noticeable."

The orcs began a new chant, and the cart moved faster, each pounding step taking them further from home.  Dusty almost gave a cry of despair, but she didn't want to worry the poor baby dragon.  She watched him pick at pieces of fruit that had stuck to the cage's wires. She went and helped him, and when he was done, she ate a few pieces herself, but she was careful to leave some on the floor.

"You're smart," Blue said with a nod of appreciation.  "You know about clothes and how to fool the orcs about the food and everything.  We'll get away with your help.  Even if I could open the cage, I wouldn't know what to do."

"You've done very well, and it was smart not to try to escape.  I don't know how we're going to get away, Blue." She caught at the wall as they hit a bad bump and she almost fell again.  "Oh, I do wish they'd slow down or stop."

"They sometimes go like this for days," Blue warned.  "Orcs don't tire very fast."

Dusty fought back a surge of fear at those words. If they went for days heading southward they might leave the lands her grandmother ruled behind.  Even if they were still within the lands of Oserior, they would still be in a place she had never traveled and didn't know.

"How did the orcs take you?" she asked, hoping for some sort of answer that would help.

"Mama and I live in a high cave," he said.  "We'd been there most of the summer, and I liked to go out and wander around.  Never too far.  The orcs pretended to be big rocks.  One caught me, trapped me in a box, and then rolled down the hillside.  It was awful."

"That sounds terrible!" Dusty replied.

"I was too far from the cave.  Mama wouldn't hear me or the rocks," he said and sniffed.

"We're going to get you back home," Dusty promised. 

She began sorting through the cloth again, hoping that the orcs wouldn't notice that the piles had changed somewhat.  Orcs gathered cloth -- mostly rags -- in the north to trade with the tribes in the far southern desert where they had few resources and not even a good oasis.  If they went that far, Dusty didn't think she and Blue could make it back to territory she knew if they had to travel across the open desert.

So she began looking for a chance to escape far sooner.  Orcs, unfortunately, stood at all sides of the cart as they moved along the path.    She happened to see them go on past the bridge where the Miru River curved toward them.  A village stood the other side, but they didn't turn that way or break their pattern, so she sighed and hoped another chance came along soon.

The orcs did go on through the night, but they'd slowed.  At dawn an orc threw another piece of fruit at Blue and Dusty ate a little of it as well. She'd changed from her lovely green dress, which she shoved into the pile of cloth so it wouldn't stand out, being so much better than the rest.  Now she wore a dark brown dress with no frills, tied at her waist with a bit of blue cloth.  She made a scarf to go over her hair, too.  Then she knotted another cloth into a bag and put some of the softer material she had found in the bottom so that Blue could nestle in there.

They had to escape today.  They dared not go any farther away from Dusty's home.  For the first time, Dusty thought about how the others might have reacted to her own disappearance. She didn't want grandmother to worry!  Oh, and they would write to her parents!

They needed to get away soon!

In mid-morning, the orcs reached a village.  Dusty had expected them to rush through, but instead, the cart slowed to a stop and the orcs stopped chanting. Blue, who had been asleep, sat up quickly and looked around.

Outside the orcs were starting to shout and Dusty had a moment when she thought they might be saved, but after a bit, she made out what they were saying.

"Coins for cloth!"  The ground shook as the orcs shouted.

Dusty pulled some of the cloth over her so she could drop flat if any of the orcs looked in, but she also inched closer to Blue.

"Do they bring the cloth in or toss it in?" she whispered.

"Toss," he said as softly.  "They almost broke the cart putting me in here."

"Good.  We have to hope for a chance after they throw the rags and before they leave," she said.  "We don't dare take you out before then, or they would notice when they toss the cloth.  But if they are not climbing in, then I can untie the knot for us and even get the cage unlocked if you can hold the door closed."

"I can," he said with a bob of his head.

This would be their only chance.  If they were caught, she would scream for help and the local guards, who were likely not far away, would come to her aid.  She'd also tell Blue to run away and hope he found help.

Better, though, if they got away quietly.  The orcs wouldn't look again until they threw some fruit to the poor baby dragon, which she hoped would be a long ways from the village.

She unlocked the cage, and half untied a knot nearby.  This was their best chance.

1000 Words

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flash Friday # 259 -- Dusty & Friends/4

Before Dusty could get her wits about her, the cart began to move at a steady roll, though it hit every bump and hole along the first few yards.  Dusty couldn't get back to her feet, and panic almost made her cry out.  She did not want to go with the orcs and with ... whatever they had here in the cart.

"Are you alright?" the little voice whispered.

Not quite human, she had realized.  More sibilant and she thought of many dangerous creatures that could lure a person to their death.  She tried to back away but her feet tangled in a pile of cloth and she went down again, though at least she landed on something soft.

"I'm -- I'm alright," she said and tried to get better control of her emotions. She spoke softly because she could hear orcs chanting on both sides of the cart. They were loud enough, though, that she thought even if she shouted no one would hear her above their sounds.  Did they do that on purpose?

The sound she had first heard had sounded so pitiful that she didn't think the cry had been faked.

"My name is Dusty," she said and tried to get a touch of normality to the situation.

"I don't have a name yet.  My mama calls me My Boy."

"Oh, I don't think that will do," Dusty replied. That won a little giggle from the child.  What species didn't name their children right away?  She couldn't think of any.  "I'm afraid I can't see you in this darkness, little friend."

"Here I am."

A soft blue glow came from the left corner of the cart, illuminating the bars of a small cage. Dusty blinked and focused --

And all hope of normality disappeared.

"Dr-dragon," she said in a soft whisper.  "Baby dragon."

The light flickered out, and she heard a soft sniff.  "I'm sorry.  I'm too little to hold the light for long."

"You did wonderfully," she praised, just like she would have her younger cousins.  "You gave me exactly what I needed -- the chance to see where you are so I can help get you free."

"You'll help me?" he said softly.  "Truly?"

"Truly."  She had a duty to get the little guy free before his mother came looking for him and destroyed everything in sight trying to find her baby.  Though, in truth, she would have tried to get him free anyway. The orcs had no right to hold any child, no matter what the species.

The orcs had begun moving quickly now and on what she thought must be the road heading west out of the oasis.  She could see little spots of light coming through the stitched edges of the coverings, and her eyes had started to adjust.  Good.  She wanted out of here quickly --

Oh, but then what?

Dusty had crawled to the cage.  She could barely see the door and lock which did not look difficult to manipulate.  Orcs had large hands, after all. They didn't do delicate work.  She could probably get it open -- but then what?  They couldn't just leap out of the cart and run. The orcs would catch them before they could get more than a few yards.

"We'll have to wait until night," she said very softly.  "Otherwise we'll be spotted right away."

"Oh," he said and tried not to sound too disappointed.  "But you will stay and help me?"

"Yes.  I promise.  And I will call you Blue.  Is that all right?"

"Oh yes.  I like that name!"

Dusty would help him.  She would have tried to help any little creature, human or otherwise, captured by orcs.  However, finding a baby dragon was a real problem, though.  She would need to get him back to the palace and find a way to get him to his mother before the dragons came in force hunting him.  She'd heard about dragon raids, though there had not been one for more than a century.  Only fools took anything from them, let alone one of their rare young.

Fools and orcs.

"I'll see if I can get the lock open now while we have a little light," she said and bent close to the bars.  "It doesn't look difficult --"

Just then the orcs stopped chanting, and she heard a few shouts.  The cart started to roll to a stop, but before it had come to a rest, an orc had torn open the back left corner of the covering.  Dusty managed not to yelp as she dived for the only cover she could find, a huge pile of cloth beside the cage.  Some of it tumbled away as she slipped under it, and she hoped the orcs thought that only a reaction to the cart suddenly stopping.

"Food," the orc bellowed.  It tossed something that splattered against the cage and then made an odd grating sound.

Laughter, Dusty thought.  She stayed very still with only a slight peak out of the cloth that covered her.  The orc had turned to talk to another, the rumble of their words shaking the cart.  Watching them, she was convinced they didn't know she was there.

Dusty hardly dared to breathe for fear that the creatures would find her.  They were in no hurry move on, either.  Dusty wished she understood orc and knew what they were talking about.  They did a lot of gesturing with stubby fingers pointing back the way they'd come.

Maybe they'd head back to the city.  Oh, that would be so nice.  She'd get Blue free, leap out and run to the guards, and they'd get her back to the castle.  Grandmother would know just what to do.

The orc grabbed the covering and tied it back down.  In a moment the orcs started another chant, and the cart began to move again.  Dusty pushed away some of the cloth and waited, hoping....

They kept going straight.  Dusty tried not to sigh with disappointment.

995 Words

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Flash Friday #258 -- Dusty & Friends/3

Dusty felt better as she stepped past the castle gate.  The castle sometimes seemed stifling, filled with so many people and all their rules.  As a princess, Dusty had to know the correct way to treat anyone she came into contact with, but out here people saw her tanned skin and wild hair, and never realized her rank.

The Queen had a plethora of grandchildren, and as when they turned ten they came from their parent's keeps to spend the spring and summer at court.  The boys complained because they had to give up riding and hunting, but the girls loved to dress up and go to the fancy balls.

Dusty had never been one of those types of girls.

The breeze blew upward from the palm-covered oasis to the top of the escarpment where the castle sat.  Dusty couldn't imagine a prettier place, though she thought the smaller homes cascading downward to the lower hillside had a charm of their own.  When she reached the first town fountain and the square around it, she looked back to see the castle glittering like gold in the morning sun.

With Master Stuart's help she would find some position that worked for her, and in a couple of days, all this awful pressure would pass.

A few little birds played in the water beside her, but they flew off when some of the local women came to take water back to their homes.  Dusty didn't recognize any of them, so after polite greetings, she went on her way again.

Despite all her attempts to consider something serious for her future, Dusty still found herself drawn down to the area where the caravans gathered before they headed out across the desert or took the canal that linked to the Miru River.  Some were getting a late start since most left at dawn.  These were the people who had adventures.

Dusty looked around at camels, sheep, and crates loading onto barges to head to the river.  Last summer the Queen had arranged for all her grandchildren to take a barge to the Miru and down to the oldest temple in the land.  That had been as close to an adventure as Dusty had ever experienced.

"Stop thinking such things," she muttered to herself.  "Think about practical stuff.  I need to --"

Whatever she'd meant to say died in her throat. 


No one had mentioned that one of the rare caravans of orcs had arrived in town.  Dusty openly stared at the group of twenty or so creatures who stood around guarding their massive carts.  She wasn't the only one who watched, so she didn't feel terribly rude.  Orcs had to be used to seeing humans stare at them.

Dusty had never seen one in real life, and the drawings in books didn't do them justice.  They looked like various huge boulders had suddenly decided to get together and become animate.  The bodies had unlikely bulges everywhere beneath their speckled gray and white skin.  They wore no clothing, but then you wouldn't expect to see a rock in court attire, so it didn't bother Dusty.  Their dirt brown eyes were small and deeply recessed between rows of more rock-skin.

All of them held massive wooden clubs with metal spikes embedded in the upper half. They swung those menacingly, but they didn't seem very interested in the humans.

The orcs didn't stand very tall, but they were massive, both wide and deep.  When they spoke, the air seemed to tremble, and when one shouted, the ground and the nearby buildings shook.  Other people backed away in haste, but Dusty moved a little to the side and took over at the corner of one of the human trader's tents where she could still watch.  She could see they prepared to leave.

Orcs didn't use beasts of burden, not even to pull the carts.  Most pulled up packs that rested on their backs, but teams of four moved to pick up the harnesses to the wagons, and they all prepared to leave.

"Mama, mama -- I want to go home!"

The cry had been faint and pitiful.  Dusty looked around with a start, expecting to see a young child in his mother's arms, but she found no one close enough that she could have heard.  How odd --

And then she heard the child crying, the most heartbreaking sound she'd ever heard.  The yells and grunts of the orcs nearly buried the sobs, but she could hear --

The sounds came from the orc camp.  In fact, she feared it came from the smallest of the orc carts.  Dusty looked frantically around for a guard, but none were in sight.  Should she run to find one?  What if she was wrong?  Better to check before they left, right?

Oh, part of her knew she was foolish, but the crying child moved her beyond reason.  Strange -- the area had suddenly filled with birds who swept around in a frantic display as though the crying bothered them as well.  They distracted the orcs, and that helped her.  Dusty slid along the side of the tent, away from where anyone would see her, and then darted forward to the cart. The orcs had just started pulling up the harness for that one.  She didn't have much time.

The hide covering the cart had been tied down with huge ropes and knots, but the spaces between those knots were wide enough for a young human girl to squeeze through. The cart wasn't very high, either, since the orcs were short.  She had no trouble getting inside -- though she tumbled over a couple of boxes as the orcs began a monotonous chant and the cart started to move.

No time to do anything more than look and get out!

"Are you here to help me?  Did mama send you?" a small voice whispered.

And Dusty realized this was not a human voice after all.

To Be Continued....
993 Words

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Missed a week!

I have been both busy and not feeling well.  I'm trying to get back into doing all these little things like the weekly blog post, but it keeps getting lost in the piles of other things.

Though writing wise, still doing okay.  On Sunday I crossed the 500,000 word mark for the year.  My major project is still Tales of Grey Station 9 and I'm a bit over half way on it.  The final version is going to end up close to or over 200,000 words.

Dusty & Friends is up to the third 1k entry.  Writing those little pieces takes an entirely different approach from a sprawling novel.  That reminds me of something one person once said (and she claimed to be an expert):  Writing novels is easier than writing short stories because you can make mistakes and it doesn't matter.

I remember reading that line several times and shaking my head.  Make mistakes -- and just leave them.  Don't worry.  The story is so long that no one will notice, unlike with her short stories which had to be perfect.

I am amazed, sometimes, at the things people say about writing.

I have one huge non-writing project right now.  The ezine I published for 15 years stopped publication two years ago.  (Honestly, it seems a lot longer.)  A good part of it has been sitting on an out of date Joomla! site.  Since there will no longer be any updates, I don't need anything that fancy and I really don't want to have to keep updating it, so I am copying off articles and preparing for a simple html site.  Nothing fancy at all, but with easy links to the categories and such.

Shouldn't be hard, right?

660 articles on the Joomla! site.  At least that many, and maybe more, that have to be moved from an even older site and added in to the newer articles. 

I've copied over 200 articles so far.  And this is where I sing the praises of Scrivener.  I have copied files over (both html and text, depending on the article -- but I'll probably stick with text after this) and used the little synopsis card on the right to list the title, category, author, and Vision Issue.  This will make it very easy to sort everything out into whatever group I want later.

But yeah, it is a lot of work.  Non-writing work, which is hard for me.  I do some of it, take a break to write, and then do more.

Over the next two weeks I hope to get most of the Joomla! material copied. Then I'll copy all the others into Scrivener as well -- though I wonder if it has a limit on word count/file size/whatever?  I'll have to watch that and divide it into more than one set if that happens.

This isn't what I had been planning to do.  I think fondly of the outlines I should be writing -- but the site had developed some problems and my provider would like some changes.  I'm doing the change that should mean I won't have to do it again.

Sometimes you just can't write.  Real life (or something like it for me) steps in and other stuff has to be done. 

But still -- half a million words so far this year.  I can't complain!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flash Friday #257 -- Dusty & Friends/2

Dusty followed Master Stuart down the long path past the (thankfully) empty benches and toward the throne where her grandmother sat.  With each step, Dusty desperately tried to come up with an idea.  Not a guard.  She didn't like hitting people, even in practice.  Not a healer because she had no such magical gifts which also meant she couldn't be a mage, either.  She might become a personal servant to the Queen, but she'd always been klutzy.  Maybe she'd grow out of it?

Scribe?  She had neat penmanship, at least.  That future didn't sound very exciting -- and Dusty had always dreamed of adventures -- but at least she'd be able to write about other people's adventures.

One of the servants had just handed Queen Olivia a piece of paper. She scowled at the note, and that gave Dusty a moment to get ready.  Being a scribe as not what she wanted -- but a princess did have limitations, after all.  She couldn't run off on an adventure.

She bowed to the queen when the woman turned her way, and behaved quite properly, though she really wanted to run and hide.

"Ah, Princess Destiny," Queen Olivia said.  She still held the paper in her hand, but she smiled now.  "Welcome to your choosing.  What future do you see for yourself, my dear?"

Dusty took a deep breath and lifted her head.  "I would like to be a scri--scri --"

She choked on the word and looked appalled.

"Oh dear," Master Stuart said.  "I think that is not the word you really want to say, is it Princess Destiny?"

"I -- I don't know what I want!" she finally admitted and tried not to wail.  This was not fair.  She'd have to wait two more years and appear with her younger cousins. Everyone would make fun of her.  "A -- a scribe is a good choice, though, don't you think?"

"It might be," Master Stuart agreed though he looked bothered.  "However, your choice shouldn't be a last moment decision.  I'm sorry I failed you, Dusty."

Dusty wasn't certain which surprised her more -- the words or that he called her by the name she preferred.  "This is my fault, sir," she corrected.  "I saw all the others choose their way and I assumed something would come to me.  I'm sorry."

The queen glanced at the paper in her hand and then gave a decisive nod.  "I fear I will not be able to hear your choice today, Destiny.  There is some trouble in the North, and I must meet with the people immediately.  This matter will take at least two days and maybe more.  I hope you don't mind the delay."

"Oh, thank you, Grandmother," she said and bowed, tears of gratitude coming to her eyes. 

Queen Olivia went with her guards out the door.  Dusty could see a few of her friends gathered to wait for her, and they looked shocked when the Queen appeared instead.  Dusty saw a series of quick bows before the door closed.  How could she face them?

"I think we need to talk, Destiny," Master Stuart said.  "Come along."

Dusty followed him out another door and up the stairs to where he had taught the group of cousins for so many years.  His steps seemed heavy and he shook his head.  Dusty suspected she would be lectured.

They didn't go to the classroom, but instead to his office.  He chased off the assistants and closed the door before he crossed to sit at his desk.  He waved her to the chair before him and she settled in with a sigh.

"You have always been so quick to help others that I never thought you had no plans of your own.  I see now that you never pointed in any single direction."

"What shall I do, Master Stuart?" she asked.  "What should I choose?"

"I can't tell you that, Destiny.  I wish matters were that easy.  The truth is, I always found you to be rather unique.  I cannot imagine you in the future as a scribe -- or a cook, or any of the other choices your cousins made.  We must think this one out, my dear.  Don't worry. There is a future for you -- we just need to look at things that are out of the ordinary."

"Oh," she said and felt a smile start to grow for the first time all day.  "I like that idea!"

"I shall need to do some study," he said.  A bird came to the window and he gave it a nod, as though they were friends.  "You always seem to have a few animal companions, Destiny, haven't you?"

"They do seem to follow me everywhere," she admitted.  "My cousins didn't like the cats, but they've been rather rude about the mice."

A smile almost came to his lips.  "I imagine so.  Take the afternoon to think about your future.  I will study and I believe we can find something that will work for you.  Go on now."

Dusty stood, feeling a great welling of relief.  "Thank you, sir."

She headed back down the stairs, though she carefully avoided any places where she might run into friends and relatives.  She could give the simple answer about the queen and the trouble in the north, but she'd have no reason not to tell them her choice.

Dusty slipped out of the castle through the kitchens, narrowly avoiding Geren who was thrilled to know he would be working with Cook.  She hurried past the other workers and out the door into the garden.  From there she crossed behind the sheds and out into the edge of the courtyard.

She decided a walk through town would help clear her mind.  Dusty regretted wearing her good green dress still, but she'd be careful.  Just a nice, peaceful walk along the roads and fountains while she decided what to say to the others.

Unfortunately, her plans didn't work out that way.

To Be Continued

991 Words

Friday, June 23, 2017

Flash Friday #256: Dusty and Friends/1

The breeze woke Destiny as the familiar scent of the desert drifted into the castle tower where she and her cousins slept. Dawn light showed a trio of birds watching over her from the windowsill.  She smiled and shooed them away to the oasis below.  One of the castle cats had found his way to her bed, too.  Not a surprise since one usually slept with her.

The others were already dressing.  Usually, she woke first. Her cousins sounded excited.  Why --

Then she remembered!  Today everyone in her age group who lived in the castle, royal or not, would make a presentation to the queen to say what they wanted to do in life.  If they choose wisely, this would be the first step to adulthood.  Destiny desperately wanted that step forward.  Sharing a set of rooms with her four cousins had become increasingly difficult.

Her own fault, she suspected.  Destiny just couldn't fit in with the others.

"Destiny must still be asleep!" Carina laughed from out in the main room.

"I'm not!" she shouted back and leapt from the bed in case they looked. She grabbed the clothing she'd put by the bed.  How could she have overslept?  Last night it seemed as though she wouldn't sleep at all!

Destiny didn't like to wear fancy dresses, but she had no choice today.  At least the pale green looked lovely on her. She spent more time in the sun than most of her royal cousins, male or female, and her skin had grown darker and her hair bleached almost golden by the sunlight. She did not look like the other princesses, which she counted as good.  Destiny had never pursued having fashionably tawny skin and dark hair.  Her cousins hid in the castle away from the sunlight -- and away from any sort of freedom.

Today her cousins spent far more time than usual preparing, so she wasn't the last one ready to go down to breakfast. She tried not to sneeze at the perfumes, and she'd given up doing anything fancy with her hair.

Destiny wasn't hungry, but she didn't want the others to know how worried she felt about today's presentation.   Everyone mumbled and laughed about the next step.  There seemed to be an awful lot of them this year.

"Hey Dusty!  Come sit with us!" Alitia shouted from across the room.

Destiny headed that way. People had called her Dusty for as long as she could remember, and the name suited her since she'd always been a tomboy and gotten into messy situations.  She liked the name better than Destiny, but it was a child's name.  She ought to start thinking about adult things since she'd turned twelve.  If today somehow went well....

Alita, Geren, and Odesa were not royals, but they'd always been friends.  They didn't appear as happy about the day as she had expected and even Geren picked at his cinnamon bread and barely sipped his tea.  Master Stuart, the instructor who had taught them for the last four years, seemed to watch their table more than the other ones.  It was like he knew --

The bell rang.  Master Stuart went to the archway and looked back.  "Come along. Don't dawdle.  The Queen has other work to do!"

They lined up.  As usual, a group of the boys took the lead, but mostly because they intended to go into the guard and had been training for it already, so this was not such a big step for them. The others, though --

Alita started to back away, but Dusty caught her arm.  "You'll do fine."

"I won't, I won't," Alita whispered, her voice trembling.  She stared with terror at the doors as Master Stuart took the first group through.   Alita acted as though she'd never been to the Royal Hall or ever met the queen.  "Oh, I never do anything right, and I so want to be a healer and help those who are ill and injured."

"You'll be wonderful at the work," Dusty reassured her. 

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes, absolutely," Dusty said.  Alita had an excellent touch for healing magic, and she'd proved it several times already.  "You just tell the Queen about how you cared for the young owl and the old fox I brought to you.  She'll understand."

"Oh. I can talk about what I've done.  Yes!  She'll know then that I have thought about this very hard!" Teresa marched right up to the door beside Donid and Kratis, and they looked surprised to see her so proud and happy.  They even let her go in next when Master Stuart opened the door.

Good, because that little surge of hope wouldn't hold for long if Alita had to wait and fret, like Geren who paced back and forth from one side of the hall to the other.  He'd always been high strung but now he looked likely to explode with the tension.

"What should I tell her?  Royals don't usually go to work in the kitchens, but even Cook Nisie says I have the touch for it.  But how to I explain about cooking bread?  It sounds boring even to me, Dusty.  I think I'm doomed to join the army --"

"Tell her how much the children loved the cookies you baked at solstice and how you helped Cook Nisie when she broke her foot.  You are already doing the work.  You won't shock her."

He nodded, though he looked less assured than Alita.  Still, she had the feeling that things would go well for him.  She even encouraged a few others and saw them go through the door.  They all would leave by the far door at the other end of the Royal Hall, ready to begin their new lives.

Finally, in the end, only she remained  Master Stuart opened the door and escorted Dusty inside to see the Queen.

A shame she still had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.

To Be Continued....
994 words

Monday, June 19, 2017

More of the same

I had hoped to go to the mountains this last weekend, but things did not work out.  I had expected that to happen, but I always kind of hope for some little surprise at the end.   I haven't been to Rocky Mountain National Park for fourteen years now.  The mountains, the desert, the ocean -- those are three things I love, but here I am in Nebraska pretty much far from any of them.  Nebraska is not a bad place to be.  I love the seasons and the storms -- but I still miss the other things.  I haven't seen the ocean in a long, long time.  The desert?  Maybe 1997?  The mountains were at least this century. 

I hope that year fifteen will be the one when we get a chance to go.  You never know -- it could happen.  I might even make a few sales and be able to afford something as extravagant as one night away from home!  LOL.  Two nights?  Nah.  My books won't ever sell that well!

So what did I do this weekend instead?  Well, we had an interesting storm on Friday.  Lots and lots of pictures.  Great clouds.  Saturday was much cooler and quieter, which was nice.  Didn't do much at all since Russ had company.  Sunday we had a nice ride out to a local state park, and I got a few pictures, and then we took some dirt roads and headed towards home.  I also spent some time cleaning up some shelves in the living room and hoping that I can get the area cleaned up enough to sometimes set up my photo studio equipment.  I can't even say what I really want to do for pictures, but it would be fun to have the opportunity.

Oh yes, I did write.  I am closing in on the last of part four for Tales of Grey Station 9.  This one should be the final really major rewrite out of the group of ten parts.  I might have everything done by mid-July, which would be nice.  This will be my next Wattpad entry -- though I think I might drop a couple shorter pieces in there as well.  I just thought of a fun new cover art project for Author Vs. Character.  People enjoy that story, and since it's free on Smashwords (and part of NaNo for the New and the Insane), I might as well put it up on Wattpad as well.  Oh, and do a quick edit, too.

So there are my projects.  Must keep moving.  Something might come of it yet!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Flash Fiction # 255 -- Wilder Places

One day Kimberly walked away.

She hadn't planned to escape, but she'd had one too many snide emails from fellow office workers and far too many demands  for something Right Now from higher up the chain.  The last  had been an entire contradiction to the type of report the boss had demanded an hour before.

She'd read the note, considered mayhem, and then took her purse and walked out.  This was not the first time she'd made such a choice at a job.  Kimberly had walked out on pretentious professors who acted as though she hadn't a brain, to an obnoxious restaurant manager at peak time.

This had not been a conscious decision -- just something took over and kept her from screaming, throwing the computer off the desk, and maybe throwing a few things at others.  Martha, who had the desk by the door, saw her heading out and gave a slight nod and a sigh.  She'd probably seen such escapes before.  No one could be happy working for the ill-named Better Life Company.

An hour later Kimberly walked through a shaded street.  The older maples and oak trees formed a canopy over her head, blocking out the harsh light and at least giving the pretense of cooling the world around them.  Summer in the city did not appeal to her.

I could shed my clothing, shed this human skin ... shed my assignment?  Give up my wings?

Someday I'll fly away.

This wasn't the first time she'd said those words to herself, either.   She held up her human hand and tried to remember it furred and clawed, a weapon to use against those that would intrude on a griffin's territory.

If only the humans had been content with their own place.  If only they believed in magic.  If only....

The trees did help. They reminded her of the far wild places -- there were still a few -- where her kind, and a few other shape-shifters still roamed.  Those places were already marginal, though.  They needed to be able to survive living with humans.  She knew her work was important.  So far, she'd been one of the few who could stand to be around humans for any length of time.

She even liked them when they were not being pretentious, over-bearing monsters with delusions of grandeur.

Jonathon met her at the door.  She hadn't expected him to be home, too.

"I could sense you for about the last mile," he said with an unexpectedly bright smile.  "I take it work did not go well?"

"I need to send an email resignation so they don't start looking for me like the last job," she said.  "We don't want that mess again."

"True," Jonathon said and smiled again.

"You quit your job as well?" she asked.

"Oh yes.  I have welded my last weld.  I also told the boss what he could do with his welder."

"You have spent far too much time with humans."

"Maybe so, but tell me you didn't at least think something along the same line," he said as they headed into the kitchen.

"Maybe I'll put it in the email," she said.  The idea appealed to her.  She got a soda -- had taken a liking to those the last few years, along with the caffeine -- and sat at the table.  Jonathon grabbed one as well.  He still smiled.  "You look far too happy considering we just failed again."

"Maybe so," he admitted.  Then he shrugged.  "We've been approaching this the wrong way, Kim.  We've tried to be human in human places."

"I thought that was the idea."

"Yeah, but I think we need to make an adjustment and try for only half the equation."

"Not be humans in human places?" she said with a snort.

"Ha.  As much as I'd like to go wild ... no.  I have a better idea.  How about if we go human in wild places instead?"

Jonathon pushed a paper over that had been sitting on the edge of the table.  She hadn't noticed that it must have been reading it before now.  It made no sense to her, though.  She didn't know enough about human culture to see the chance he was offering.

"We can volunteer at one of the National Parks, Kim," he said with a touch of his hand on hers.  Human contact still bothered her sometimes, and this one shocked her.  "Their wild places, my friend."

"Volunteer?  We don't get paid?"

"You have been spending far too much time in the human world.  We don't need money.  We can get what we want with magic.  We can get the positions we want with magic, too -- just like we have been before now.  We go to the wild areas, Kimberly.  We go to where we can be ourselves, at least part of the time."

She had never seen such longing in him before and she let his emotions wash over her.  Wild places.  "Yes, let's do it."

A year later, she was still at the job. She even enjoyed helping humans and answering questions about the forest and mountain area she'd come to love and know so well.  Others of their kind worked at various parks.  They'd even used enough magic so that they didn't take jobs from the humans who deserved a chance to enjoy these places as well.

One day she saw a man and woman -- and the woman recognized her.  "Kimberly!  Look at you!  I am so glad to see you are doing alright!"

Martha, who had sat at the desk by the door, hugged her like a long lost sister.

"You look good, too," Kimberly said.  "Did you leave?"

"A week after you.  And a month later the place closed down and two of the bosses are still in court over irregularities in their paperwork.  I'm surprised no one contacted you.  Though maybe they couldn't find you out here in this wilderness!"

"Maybe," she said and then smiled brighter.  "Let me show you my world."

1000 Words

Monday, June 12, 2017

This is what prolific looks like

It is almost half way through the year.  I keep thinking that I need to pick up my writing pace now, but the truth is that I really don't.  I'm not certain why I think I've dropped way behind on anything.   I'm sitting at 443,810 words for the year so far.  I might manage to write another 56,190 words and reach the 500k mark before July 1, but I'm not actively pushing for it.  I've published three novels and almost completed one WattPad novel (I should post the last of it before the end of the week). I rewrote and edited four older novels, wrote one new first draft with the start of a second, wrote and posted about 25 flash fiction pieces, and worked on four outlines for the upcoming November NaNo.  Those last have a long ways to go.

I've taken several more courses from the Great Courses group: History of Ancient Egypt, The Night Sky, Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and I am part way through Oceanography.  The hieroglyphs one has lead to more books and more study, too.

I am perpetually busy. 

And I am never bored.  Sitting somewhere outside my house with nothing to do?  It doesn't happen often I keep notepads in my purse and I write notes about the current story or practice hieroglyphs.  Often I have my Nook and I'll read and sometimes write on it as well.  I've only read 18 books so far, so not quite one a week.  Still, with everything else ... not bad.

I never leave the house without at least one of the cameras.  Going for a short ride can net me a hundred pictures.  I bring them home, load them into my computer, tag them, sort out the bad ones and work with one or two to post, and generally have a good time.  I put one up every day for the picture of the day blog.  I taken 6365 pictures, all nicely tagged in Lightroom, and did at least 152 pieces of art, mostly based on the photos.

What don't you see on this list?



There has to be a trade off somewhere, because there simply isn't enough time to do everything.  I find writing more entertaining than most shows.  I do on occasion binge on some series or movie I have on DVD, but those times are rare. 

Except for some time on line, I am not a sociable person, either.  Most of the time, I would rather be writing.

I worked out the problem for myself years ago:   If I wanted to write, I had to make the time.  If I wanted to write a lot, I needed to make a lot of time.  No matter how fast you write, and how well you edit, creating a story takes time.  Creating several a year takes as much determination as it does time.    It also takes mental flexibility to easily move from one story to another.  That takes practice.  I am able to write something new in a first draft and switch over to editing something else.  The stories are not the same and the process for each of those steps is entirely different.

Focus, too.  Oh yes, if you can't ignore the outside world (and many of you don't have a choice -- you have to listen), then creating writing time becomes more difficult.  At worst, my distractions are a group of cats all of whom seem to want to learn how to type.  Zaphod is the most persistent.  I sometimes leave his 'messages' in my first drafts and mark them with his name.  Other times, I kick everyone out of the office and close the door.

And then I write some more.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Flash Fiction # 254 -- Space Cowboy

"An infestation!" LaxLix screamed, her skin turning an alarming shade of moss green as she leaned my way.  "YalYix, Are you saying we have an infestation of humans?"

I lifted all four hands in a warding gesture and hoped she thought I meant it for the humans and not for her.  She backed up anyway, her silver eyes blazing.

"They've only managed one small settlement."  I waved two hands to the map I had drawn on the sand board.

She snarled curses that I politely ignored.  If the Sleeping Council had listened to me at the last Long Dark meeting, this wouldn't have happened.  I'd tracked the humans and knew they were coming our way.

I didn't remind her of my warnings, nor did I saw that I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see one face-to-face. I had studied their culture, as much history as I could pry from the scattered tidbits of information we'd gathered, first from audio and later from video and text signals. 

I timed my meeting for late at night, since I had studied the rite.  I knew one did not interrupt work, but that this nebulous business ended somewhere around sunset.  I waited for both suns to go down, just to be safe.

They were not what I expected.

And I don't think they expected me at all.

When I walked into their camp, several people screamed.  This was not a cultural tradition I was familiar with, but I didn't want to insult them, so I screamed as well.  Five of them screamed louder.  I did my best to top them, though I had to compete alone.  A few began waving their arms.  I did as well.

They screamed louder.

Eventually, everyone quieted.  This, finally, was the moment.

I stepped forward.  "Klaatu Barada Nikto."

"He knows his science fiction," someone said.

"My favorite genre," I replied and surprised them again.

I sat at the table with one.  He said his name was Tom.  I said mine was Uncle Martin.  Others spoke, some of them quite excited now, though at least they'd given up the Rite of Screams.

"No sign of intelligent life forms," Tom said.  He still looked stunned.  "Not when the scout went by and not when we landed.  But now --"  He waved a mechanical device in front of me.   They'd come a long way since Star Trek. 

I explained about The Dark and the Long Sleep, about our quarters underground and how they were not likely to see many of my kind -- and no, they did not want to go looking for them.  LaxLix was already unhappy, and she had a lot of followers.

I, on the other hand, liked humans.  Loved their imagination. 

We talked a great deal about classic science fiction.  I noted that a few of the others studied me, some with devices and others taking notes.  The majority of the group, though, had begun to pack up all the items they'd brought out and scattered around.

"You aren't leaving!" I cried out in dismay and caught Tom with three hands, the fourth waving towards the others.

"We can't set up a colony here," Tom explained.  "It's against the rules.  Besides, you don't want a hundred thousand humans descending on you in the next year or so."

"Infestation," I mumbled.

"I imagine it would seem like one," he agreed.  "But don't worry.  We will put a post here. We'll want to keep in contact."

"Wonderful!" I said and let go of him.  I'm not sure if I really had meant to drag him away and keep him safe or not.  I noted that Tom had not said he would be here, which I would regret.  He seemed like a good Space Cadet.

"Come on.  I'll show you the ship," he said.

My breath caught.  This was a gift beyond all expectations.  I folded all my arms carefully across my chest. 

"I shall touch nothing," I promised.  "I have heeded the warnings and seen what happens to those who do not obey."

"Wiser than some of my crew," Tom mumbled.

So we went within the craft, and a wondrous vehicle it was, too.  Oh, not the Enterprise.  I thought more of a Firefly -- a friendly little home out in the stars.  In Tom's office, he reached into his desk and pulled out a device with a screen and held it out to me.

"This holds all the classic sci-fi that I own," Tom said.  "I want you to have it."

I was so shocked that all four of my arms moved in different directions, one waving in the air, one reaching, one folding to my chest, and the last grabbing the arm that almost took the device.

"I cannot," I said.  "It is too great a gift.  I am not worthy --"

"I have a complete backup," Tom reassured me.  "There are hours and hours of shows there, plus at least a thousand of the best books.  You can read standard?"

"Oh yes.  Learned from texts," I mumbled and let my fingers touch the device.

"You open the menu here," he said and showed me.  I committed the Rite to memory.  "If the battery goes low, it will chime and put up a text message.  This is solar powered.  Set it out in the sun for a couple hours, and it'll be good to go for another few months."

I would guard the gift, standing over it during the dangerous hours of the sun and sleep with it in the dark.  But I had no gift to return as we left the ship.  I could tell they would be gone before the dawn.

"I wish you well on your journey to where no human has gone before," I said.  "I cannot give you any gift but a warning.  Whatever you do, do not go to Z'ha'dum."

Tom nodded solemnly and bade me farewell.  I watched the ship lift.
"Until we meet again, Space Cowboy."

1000 Words

Monday, June 05, 2017

A break -- with photos!

I had a wonderful trip down to the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari on Sunday.  Except for a couple incidents with heat, it was a wonderful day.  The Safari has animals that are indigenous to the area, like wolves, bears, bison, elk -- I did not walk up to the bear and wolves because it was already too hot.  They have a number of birds, too: sandhill cranes, American pelicans, ducks, geese, etc.  It's just a nice little ride through the area and a great place for photos.
So today you get a few photos instead of seeing me rant about writing.  (It's going fine, by the way!)

Friday, June 02, 2017

Flash Fiction #253 -- Words

I haven't had any exploding clocks since I took over the position of personal liaison at  Permia's Fine Clothing for Men and Women a couple months ago.  I liked my job a lot better than the previous one, but it was still maddening.  Today I had four events to worry about coordinating.  Tomorrow I would deal with a mother of a sweet sixteen girl who appeared intent on driving me crazy before the big party in four days.

But that wasn't the problem.  I forgot about something.

Words have power.  You don't have to be magical to know that the right words can heal or wound a soul. With fae, they can also heal or wound the body to some degree and depending on the power and natural inclinations of the person speaking.  I knew this, of course.

But I had spent a lot of time with humans.  Humans say things they don't mean literally -- or at least they don't have the power to enforce them.

"Hey, Nita," someone said from the door to my office.  I looked up trying not to scowl.  "How's it going?  Need anything?"

"No thanks, Mark." This was the fourth time he'd come to chat today.  "I don't want to see you until I say so, okay?  I've got a mess to clean up here."

"A -- yeah," Mark replied.  He hurried away so quickly it took me by surprise -- but good.  I got through a lot of work that afternoon, mostly by saying the same thing to some other people.

I filed reports, sent off emails, and no one even tried to waylay me at lunch.  I had a plethora of emails from people who would otherwise have come to my office.  I got more work done.  By the end of the day, I had almost entirely caught up.

It wasn't until I was leaving the building that I realized something was wrong.  I stepped out into the main showroom -- and people I worked with scattered.  What kind of game -- no, not a game.  I felt the magic in the air, darting around like a wild thing.  Someone had used magic on my people!

I lifted my hand and vowed that when I found out who --


My magic.  What the hell?  Why would --

Snippets of my day ran through my mind.


Well, this was easy to fix.  "So how is business today?" I asked to no one in particular and to everyone in general.  Faces appeared, some of them looking surprised that they had gone somewhere else.  Lucky the doors had already been locked, or we might have had some odd rumors spread by 4reeeeeeeeeeeeeee (this is Zaphod the cat's contribution to the story) by customers.   It only took a couple moments for the others to get back to normal.  Good.

As I headed home, I thought about having unconsciously used magic that way.  Not something I would normally do.  I had let my fae guard down because I was so caught up in my human work.   I'd been trying to save my magic, build up enough to get back home -- and it scared me that I could use it so easily without even thinking.

Not that it had been much.  I'd only influenced the humans a little.  If anyone had needed to see me, that person might have felt uncomfortable coming to the door, but the moment we started to speak, all would be well.  So good there.


I thought about how that power might come in handy.  Not overuse it like today -- well, not often since I really did get work done -- but there might be other ways I could apply a hint of magic to make life easier for a lot of people.

I couldn't wait to get back to work. There was a whole new feeling for me.

I spread a little cheer through the store, though not too much.   Cheer, I knew, would spread on its own once it got a toehold.  Then I went to my office and waited for my 10 am meeting with Mrs. Vanderjune and her sixteen-year-old daughter.  I'd never been given her name.  She was nothing more than an accessory, much like some women carried around yapping little lap dogs covered in diamonds and cashmere.

The girl sat in the chair by her mother, gave a slight sigh, and looked as though she would endure a hurricane without moving or uttering a word.

For the next half hour, her mother went over details we'd checked a dozen times already.  I had laid down the law that she could not change colors this late in the game, but right then if she'd said she wanted matching purple and pink ball gowns trimmed in real gold, I probably would have conjured them just to send her on her way.

Daughter said nothing.  Daughter would endure the party, which probably had never been her idea of fun anyway --

I looked at her and caught her attention, which seemed to surprise the girl.  "I don't know your name," I said.

Her mother sputtered to a stop and frowned.

"Anne," the girl said.  Of course.  It was her mother's name as well.

"Anne is there something you'd like to add or change."  And then I added a little bit of magic. "After all, this is your party, not your mother's."

Mrs. Vanderjune's breath caught.  And then she began crying.  I had not expected that reaction at all, but she blubbered and apologized to her stunned daughter.  We spent the next three hours making a few changes.  Not many, actually.  Anne the younger was much like her mother.

Maybe I was starting to take this Fairy Godmother routine too far, but you know -- it feels good to help out others.  I found myself thinking more about the future of my job and less about going back to the world of the fae -- and that didn't seem so bad after all.

Word Count -- 997

Monday, May 29, 2017

And the next project is....

I have started the rewrite and edit of Tales from Grey Station 9.  The first 10k went very well.  The next portion has slowed me down.  I see the problem.  I can fix it as soon as I find the right key.

And talking to myself helped.  I have someone who needs a little more time in the spotlight.

Edmond has a bad cold.  He's sneezing and coughing like mad.  We'll have to get him some meds next week, I suspect, unless he pulls himself out of this.  I feel sorry for the poor little guy, but at least he's not so sick he turns away from kitty treats.

Russ has been in New York for the last few days.  He'll be home late today.  Yay! It's been a long week. There was so much I wanted to get done, but I ended up wasting most of the time.  I'm annoyed about that part, but overall it was not too bad.  Until Edmond started sneezing.

I am once again trying to figure out how to make marketing work for me.  This is an on-going circle of try this, try that -- and wondering just how to make it all come together so that I do more than jab at people now and then.  I see people do cover reveals and launch parties -- and I just can't seem to do those sorts of things.  I am not a good marketing person at all.  Live things -- not going to happen, I fear.  The mere idea -- well, I don't need another heart attack. Online stuff is nearly as bad.  I don't do well with the presentation part of things.  Write, edit, publish -- yeah, nice things I do all by myself and just sort of wave at people in passing to let them know what I'm doing.  Beyond that?  It just is not happening.

So there is my huge weakness as an author.  No way around it.

I guess I'll go write some more now while I wait for Russ to get home.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Flash Fiction # 252: That kind of day

The day started with my clock taking off from the nightstand with a wail of the alarm, flying around the room for five minutes while I tried to catch it, and then exploding in mid-air, showing the room with bits of plastic.

This was the third exploding clock this month.

It was half an hour late waking me besides.  I threw myself into the shower, pulled on clothing I'd put out the night before -- I am not a morning person -- and ran to work.  Literally.  I put a touch of magic into it and a shield, so the poor, easily upset humans didn't see me, and still made it to work on time.  I stood outside for a moment and got my breath back while I damped down the magic glow. Then I straightened my clothing and went inside the doors of Permia's Fine Clothing for Men and Women.

This was not the sort of place you would typically find a fae working, but at least it was a job.  Fae don't frequent the human realm much, but some of us are just unlucky.  I had fallen into a sinkhole in the fae realm -- one that appeared suspiciously fast under my feet and disappeared again before I could leap back out.  I'd been alone, so no one knew where I'd gone, though I'd held to the hope of rescue for a couple months.  Then I took fate into my hands and started looking for a way back home.  The best I could do would be to gather enough magic to make a door of my own. That would take a long time.  Meanwhile, I had to survive here.  I could have done so by using magic without a problem, but if I did that, then it would take me even longer to gather enough power to get home.

So I had to survive the way humans did.  I used a bit of magic to get a job at a clothing store, which looked marginally better than a fast food place (though free food did have an appeal), and then I just did the best I could.  I had been daunted at first, but I soon learned that I had a better fashion sense than most humans.

"Well at least your on time today," Tavia said with a disdainful sniff.  I had never, ever, been late, so I held her look until she walked away.  Tavia La Madga (not her real name, and I didn't need magic to know it) was in charge of woman's footwear, and I was one of her three slaves.  We dressed as though we were about to step out on a date with Prince Charming, including high heels and a short black dress that was the uniform of every woman in the building. The men wore black suits, blue ties, and white shirts.  We did not fraternize, except for the occasional publicity photo.

After my first week on the job, I found the best way to make my life easy.  Human women almost always lie about their shoe size.  I don't know why, but I could look at supposed seven and know it was an eight.  Rather than argue or have to retrieve several pairs of shoes before the woman gave up and left complaining about our sizing system, I started changing the tags on a box to read seven instead of eight.  I started selling a lot of shoes which made Tavia as happy as she ever got, but didn't improve my relationship with Anna and Clarice.  They didn't want to work hard, but they didn't want me to show them up, either.  I'd see them standing at the edges of displays, eyes narrowed.  I would have thought they were wraiths if I didn't know better.  They certainly were thin enough.

I didn't care.  I didn't intend for this to be my life's work.

We had rain in the afternoon, which was bad.  Women did not shop for high-end shoes on a rainy day unless they were in dire need.  That meant more time with my co-workers, and they were not the most appealing people.  They were so 'into' the New York scene that they might as well have been speaking another language.  I had learned to nod and never question anything.

When the young woman wandered into our department, the others took in her plain black coat and responsible shoes and gave her a look of disdain.  Not important enough for them. I thought she had dressed well for the weather, though tame compared to most of what we saw here. 
She looked lost.  I took that as my chance to get away from the others.

"I have to go to a fancy gathering tonight," she admitted and made it sound as though she was heading for prison.  "I don't have anything to wear.  I thought I'd start with shoes.  How hard can shoes be?"

She glanced my way with so pleading a look that I took pity on her.  I also used a bit of magic so I could help her with the rest of her shopping, including makeup.  By the time she left the shop, I felt as though I had done my first good deed since I came to this reality.

And it paid off.  Before I left work that day, I had a new position: personal liaison to women who needed help for some event.  They'd start advertising within the week.  I got a raise in pay and my own office.  Yes, it takes a bit of my hoarded magic to pull this off, but I didn't mind so much.  It's been fun to help some of the women, and the ones that are not fun, I get through the process with magic, and they're happy in the end, too.  Oh, and I ditched the damned heels, too.

This, people, is how I came to be a modern-day fairy godmother.  The pay's not bad, either!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Circe's Gifts is done!

I surprised myself with Circe's Gifts.  It barely took a month to do the rewrite and double edit.  I am posting on Wattpad at a couple chapters a day, but I'm also going to release the story in ebook.  I will continue posting on Wattpad, but I hope a few people pick up the finished work.  You know -- support the author sort of thing!

Next up might be A Plague of Rats, which I think people will like. That one seems to have the strongest call for me right now.  I might as well take advantage of that and leap in.

Russ is going to be gone for most of the week.  I'm not really sure what I'll do with myself.  I feel like I ought to have a big project.  Maybe a (gasp) house cleaning project would work.  I tend to drive Russ nuts with those because I move everything, get part way through, let it sit for a day or two, and then go back to it.  That might be something to think about, especially if it is going to be warm enough to not freeze in the rest of the house.

Okay, I just published Circe's Gifts on Amazon and Smashwords.  Smashwords will spread it out to all the other outlets.  I'll post links in a couple days when everything is cleared.  Here is the blurb:

Circe's sacred forest is a place where wounded and hunted animals can find sanctuary.  She and her long-time companions -- a one-eyed wolf, a cat with a limp, and a tailless mouse -- have lived quietly until a wounded young man wanders into her woods, followed by those who are hunting him.  When the All-Mother lets Circe know that she must help Tiernan, the best she can do is to send her friends to protect him, though they cannot go in their animal forms.

And that's it for me this week!  Still playing around with a lot of graphics stuff and having fun. The cats are still cats.  All is good in the world!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flash Fiction # 251: Anomaly

Note:  I have dropped in on Tana's little scout ship and her crew a few times before.  If you would like to read the sequence here are the previous flash fiction pieces:

Flash Friday # 106 -- The Replacement

Flash Fiction # 141 -- The Outpost

Flash Fiction # 161 -- Illusion

Flash Fiction # 211 -- Team work

Tana hated to admit how much she preferred being out in the fighter with her two crew rather than being back on the Belgium with the rest of the humans.  With a few rare exceptions, like the Captain of the Belgium, almost everyone had started to annoy her more than she wanted to admit.  Tana had snarled until they were finally away from communication's range and even those voices went silent.  Around them stretched a lovely bit of space with a blue-green nebula off to the side, a sparkle of stars through the haze.

However, she still had her two crew to deal with now.

"Another bad date?" Krisin asked.

Tana looked back over her shoulder with a snarl at the craft's weapon's officer.  Lisel, they're Catchin copilot, started to make a sound of amusement and coughed instead.  Wiser than Krisin.

Krisin looked unrepentant, but then he hadn't had any luck with dates either.  She almost asked Lisel if he'd had better luck than the humans, but she didn't know enough about the Catchin society to know if they dated at all.  The one hundred Catchin on board Belgium was the largest such community on any of the Fleet's ships, but they kept to themselves for the most part.

Tana sighed and sat back in her chair.  "You're right, another bad date.  This time it wasn't so much the guy as everyone else around us.  They were all rude.  Okay, and I punched the guy in the face at the other table who kept meowing, but that was kind of an afterthought."

Lisel looked at her, his green cat-eyes wide, and his mouth clamped shut.  His ears had not gone down and he looked more like a tabby with long curly hair than he had in a long time.  Catchins were hybrid human/cat genetic warriors.  She probably shouldn't have mentioned that part --

And then he started laughing.  A few moments later they were all laughing.  They were out on patrol, in a dangerous and uncharted territory, and she could barely get her breath back and her eyes watered.

"Could be -- could be -- trouble!" she protested and laughed again.

Lisel still managed to pilot without a problem at least, though a laugh rumbled through him while he took deep breaths.  He swept them around a small bit of rock and ice that wasn't even in a belt --

And then he turned them back in as sharp a curve as the fighter could make.  "Something wrong there," he needlessly said.  The other two had already realized he'd spotted something and Krisin even started bring up the weapons.

Lisel and Tana worked to bring the craft around and get a closer look at the asteroid.  As they slowed as much as they could -- no good gravity well to push against -- she watched the oddly shaped rock and the surface.

Those lines had to be natural features.  Nice straight lines at the bottom, and lines that curled up and around toward the top.  Pretty.

"Hell," she whispered.  "What are we supposed to do now?"

Lisel stared even as his fingers made careful adjustments to the controls and he swept them around the rock, using the innate gravity of the huge stone to hold them partly in place.  His eyes blinked, and she had the impression of a computer digging through very old files and looking for answers that were not there.

"Nazca," he said.  "The Tree."

"Is that supposed to make sense?" Kristin asked with a touch of curiosity overriding the usual snideness.

"Earth.  A place in South America, ancient Peru."

"I didn't know you were interested in Earth," Tana said.

"Why not?" he asked and flashed a brighter grin.  "After all, at least two of my ancestors came from there, though they lived entirely different lifestyles.  I am starting to think the cats might have been the wiser race.  They aren't running around out here looking for trouble."

"True," she admitted.  Tana hadn't realized until now that she'd considered her companion an alien, not a part of earth's history.  She didn't like to find that kind of bigotry in herself.  "Are you sure about the design?"

"Too close to be chance," he said.  "The tree at Nazca is laid out on a flat plain.  Here, they've drawn it up around the base so that the tree's limbs encircle the rest of the asteroid. See how they shaped the bottom like a tree trunk with all those straight lines?  But the design itself is very much the same."

"So the designs at Nazca were done by aliens?" Tana asked as they kept circling.  This was not a big rock -- about twice the size of Belgium.

Lisel said nothing for a moment.  His ears moved up and down as he watched the area before them.  "No, aliens didn't make Nazca.  They proved it was an indigenous people."

"So what is this?" Kristin asked.

"Someone who saw the tree. The designs are visible from high up and they've been there for thousands of years.  I am not reading any hollow in the asteroid."

"Neither am I," Tana agreed.  She ran her fingers over the controls again.  "I don't know if I'm happy or not.  I'd like answers."

"I think I know the big answer," Lisel said.  He smiled quite unexpectedly.  "They did this because it was pretty."

"Art for art's sake," Kristin replied and sounded as though he agreed.  "If we report this --"

"No," Tana said.  "This isn't the work of wereships, so that means another alien species.  I'll tell the Captain, but I don't think we want anyone else jumping at shadows."

"Or coming out here and cutting this to pieces, looking for answers," Lisel added.  "I wonder what else we'll find, now that we know to look."

"Aliens?" Tana asked.

"Yes. And maybe allies.  Beings who copy tree symbols from earth don't strike me as someone who would ally with the weres.  Let's hope we're not too late."

Word count 997