Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chaos Child preview

So... The Chaos Child isn't coming to me linearly (yeah, that does look weird, doesn't it?). It doesn't help that this story is actually the one that started the entire 'verse. I'm picking through my old notes and trying to take out the things that still work (Duke was originally a very minor character and Sebastian was less of a jerk).

Most of chapter one is done. This is a snippet from the second chapter:

A loud crash from the vicinity of Duke's office has Viola jerking out of Duke's embrace and reaching for the tranq gun tucked underneath the side table. She flicks the safety off with her thumb and checks to make sure a dart is loaded. Whatever demon thought it necessary to ruin her reunion is going to be so very sorry.

Duke watches Viola's quick, efficient motions with unadulerated admiration. He's a sucker for women who can handle weapons. The glint of determination and glee in her eyes pulls him out of his lust-induced haze. "It's just your brother, sugar."

Viola's grin stretches from ear to ear. She rolls her shoulders and toes off her sneakers. She tiptoes stealthily towards the office. Duke wraps an arm around her middle and hefts her over his shoulder.

"Oh no, sweetness. I didn't spend the better part of six hours restraining myself just so you could waltz in and shoot the bastard."

I just love Vi and Duke - it's romance but not mushy.

Glide Like Ghosts - April 1990

April 1990

“Dude, did you have to bring your sisters along?” Eleven-year-old Toby Duke glanced over his shoulder at the two younger girls trailing behind. He’d been looking forward to spending the first warm, sunny Saturday of April with his best friend. Not his best friend and two Barbie-toting girls.

Sebastian Ashwood shrugged his shoulders. He tossed his baseball in the air, squinted as he tilted his head back and easily caught it. He often watched his sisters while her parents did grown up, Network things. They weren’t so bad. Olivia had fun playing by herself and Viola followed Sebastian around like a puppy. She could be annoying, but it was also kinda cool having someone who looked up to you.

“You want me to send them back to the house?” Sebastian asked. They’d taken off for the wooded area behind Toby’s house, but Sebastian could still see the roof of the back porch. He hadn’t thought anything of letting his sisters tag along, but if it bothered his friend, Sebastian would send them back.

“Nah.” Toby ran a hand through his shaggy blond hair. His dad had promised to take him to get it cut three weeks ago, but was too busy whenever Toby brought it up. Ever since his mom left, his dad seemed to always be busy.

Paul Duke and Sebastian’s parents were in the small shed next to the house doing Network stuff. Toby knew that if they sent the girls running back, his dad would just tell him to keep them out of the way. At least this way, it didn’t feel like a chore.

The wind kicked up suddenly. The few dried leaves on the ground swirled around Toby’s ankles. Several yards away, a twig snapped. Toby jerked to attention. Sharp eyes, eyes that didn’t belong on an eleven-year-old’s face, scanned the familiar woods. He sniffed the air tentatively.

It smelled like rotten eggs. Toby tightened his grip on his Louisville Slugger. The muscles in his legs tensed. He could run as fast as possible to get help. If he started shouting before he hit the old pine tree he’d climbed earlier that morning, his father would be able to hear him from inside the shed.

“Peee-eeww! That you, Bas? It's stinky!” Six-year-old Viola Ashwood pinched her nose, stuck out her tongue theatrically. She giggled at Toby’s eye roll and stuck her tongue out even further. Toby was funny when he was mad.

Okay, so he couldn’t run for help. Though the older of the two boys, Sebastian didn’t have the training, such as it was, that Toby’d had. Sebastian still froze in place at the first sign of a demon. Toby couldn’t leave behind his wimpy best friend and two scaredy-cat girls.

Sebastian dropped his baseball glove to the ground. He grabbed Olivia by the shoulders and spun the oblivious girl around. “Livy, run to the house. Get Mom, Dad, and Mr. Duke. Tell them it’s…” Sebastian glanced nervously at an avidly listening Viola. “Tell them it’s a d-e-m-o-n.”

Viola whacked her brother in the knee with her Skipper doll. She scowled crossly. “Spellin’s not nice. ‘Sides, I know what it means.”

“No you don’t,” was the automatic retort. Sebastian winced when Skipper’s head and torso hit his knee again. He gave Olivia a small shove towards the house. “Go get the grown-ups, Livy.”

Olivia raced back to the house. Her shiny white tennis shoes were a blur on the dark soil. Her blonde hair trailed behind her like a flag. Her lungs burned, but she didn’t stop running. She hated demons. They gave her the willies.

“Can I help with th’ demon, Bas?” Viola tugged on her brother’s t-shirt. Her daddy had been teaching her how to tell which demons were good and which ones were bad. She liked to look through the colorful picture books even if she couldn’t remember, or pronounce, many of the names.

“No!” Toby glowered at the little girl. The last thing he needed was to get in trouble because Viola got hurt. If anything happened to her, his dad would ground him for a year. The stench of rotten eggs was growing stronger. He could hear something moving not too far away. “You should have gone back with your sister. You’re just in the way.”

Fat tears welled up in Viola’s eyes. She sniffled noisily. Stupid meanie-head Toby. “’S that true, Bas?”

Sebastian wrinkled his nose. It was true, but he couldn’t tell Viola that. He hated hurting his sister’s feelings. “Nope, squirt. In fact, I've got an important job for you. Go sit by that tree over there and be lookout, okay? Keep your back against the tree and don’t move.”

Viola wrapped her arms around her brother’s side for a quick hug before happily skipping off to the tree Sebastian pointed at. She stopped abruptly when something pierced the leather of her pink My Little Pony sneakers and imbedded itself in the tender skin of her big toe. She collapsed to the ground, Skipper doll forgotten as she kicked her throbbing foot wildly.

“Ow! Owie! Owie! Owwwww!”

Both boys spun around at the high-pitched squeal. Before either could take a step towards Viola, a tall, thin lizard-like demon emerged from behind a fat tree. The demon cautiously approached a still-screaming Viola. Filmy black eyes were glued to the crying girl. The demon crouched on the ground beside Viola. Pointed yellow teeth flashed when the demon spoke to her in a language none of them understood.

Seeing the demon extend a clawed hand towards Viola spurred Toby into action. His vision narrowed until all he could see was the nasty demon trying to hurt his friend’s stupid sister. No one got to mess with his friend’s stupid sister but him. And sometimes his friend.

With a snarl of rage, Toby charged the demon. He swung the baseball bat, made contact with the back of the demon’s shoulder. The demon pitched forward. Toby swung again, this time hitting the demon on the side of the head.

“Get away from her!” Toby slid in between the demon and Viola. Chest heaving, he hefted the bat over his shoulder and glared at the demon with wild eyes.

The demon’s gaze slipped past Toby to land on Viola. It slowly rose to its feet, said something to the hiccupping girl, and sped out of sight. Toby let out a small sigh of relief but didn’t loosen his grip on his bat. His heart was pounding so hard he was afraid it would bruise his chest.

Sebastian, finally over his shock, pried the bat from Toby’s hands. He should have been the one defending his sister. It was embarrassing to know that he’d frozen when the demon had appeared yet Toby had raced in to save a girl he couldn’t stand half the time. Some Tracker Sebastian was going to be. His father was going to be so disappointed in him.

Toby dropped to his knees next to Viola’s feet. He could see a long, thin black spike sticking out from her shoe. A small stream of red blood stained the pink shoe near where the spike entered. “It’s just a Lefla spike, Vi.”

“C-can you g-g-get it out?” Viola scrubbed at wet cheeks with her dirty hands. She wiped her runny nose on the sleeve of her bright pink shirt. She didn’t like crying, hated doing anything that made people think she was a baby, but it hurt so much.

Toby grinned reassuringly at the girl. He reached forward and brushed a sweaty strand of dark hair off her red, puffy cheek. “No problem, kiddo. It might hurt a bit.”

Viola nodded bravely. She didn’t bother to tell him that it already hurt. She met and held Duke’s eyes while he grasped the spike firmly and quickly yanked it out of her foot. A sharp cry of pain passed through her lips before she could stop it. She was such a baby!

Toby handed the spike up to a nauseous-looking Sebastian. He held open his arms, mildly surprised when Viola flew into them. Her faith in him was humbling. He treated her like an annoying, buzzing mosquito most of the time, but she still trusted him enough to take care of her foot.

He had to admit that she’d been pretty brave, too. Most girls, heck, most people he knew, would have been screaming if they were that close to a demon. Viola had been crying, sure, but he figured that was mostly due to the Lefla spike. He'd had one in his thumb once and it had hurt for days after his dad pulled it out. Maybe Sebastian’s stupid baby sister wasn’t so bad after all. For a girl.

“You did good, Via-mia.”

Viola beamed at both the praise and the new nickname. Thin pale arms wound their way around Toby’s neck. She snuggled into his chest and closed her achy eyes. It felt almost as good as being hugged by her daddy.

The sound of heavy, hurried footsteps had Toby turning his head. He tensed, ready to shove Viola off his lap if the demon was back for more. He could still feel adrenaline pumping through his veins. His hands ached from the vibrations of the bat, but he would ignore the pain if it meant protecting his friends.

Paul Duke, closely followed by an anxious Gerard Ashwood and panting Alicia Ashwood, skittered to a stop in front of the two boys. His eyebrows hit his hairline at the sight of his son holding on to Viola. He knew full well that his son didn’t have much patience for either of the Ashwood girls.

“What’s going on?” Gerard clamped a hand onto Sebastian's shoulders. All a frantic Olivia had managed to stammer out was the word “demon.” Hearing the echo of Viola’s scream only made them fear the worst.

Viola’s eyes popped open at her father’s voice. She smiled at him brightly, arms tightening around Toby. “Daddy, Toby’s the bestest boy in the whole world! He saved me from the bogeyman and he fixed my toe!”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Precious - a one-shot challenge fic

Written for Cathy who wanted: romance, fantasy, and some angst all written in one hour. Slave driver. Here you go.


They meet at one of her mother's grand soirees. He looks out of place, like an alien, in his wrinkled, simple cotton clothes and scuffed but comfortable boots. She feels out of place, like an alien, in her shimmering silk gown and jeweled tiara. They are outcasts so it's only natural that they gravitate towards each other.

Though it would make for a dramatic, romantic tale to recount at bedtime, it is not love at first sight. For one thing, it is not his first time to see her. He's heard the few true friends he has in his world talk about the beautiful and brilliant Princess of Nasha. Nor is he a stranger to her. What child does not know the stories about the mysterious, heroic Veil Crosser?

For another thing, it is not love. Something as all-encompassing, as soul-shattering, as life re-shaping as love takes more than mere seconds to form. Love requires work. It requires pouring everything you possess, every breath you take, into giving it life. Love cannot be created at the blink of an eye. Even if one of you is an immortal time-slash-dimension traveler and the other is the genius heir to the greatest, most prosperous kingdom in history.

His sharp, dark eyes are drawn, naturally, to the brightest thing in the room. And, oh, how she shines. She's twice as blinding as the three suns of Loph'hang. It is not her physical beauty that pulls his feet across the polished hardwood floor, though that certainly isn't stopping him. It's the brilliance of her mind, the light in her pretty little soul that draws him in.

Spotting the Crosser beside a silver tray of imported wine sends a shiver of relief down her spine. She hates these parties. She hates the insincere compliments, the pointless small talk, and the gossip. She's absolutely certain that her mother only requires her presence as punishment for something terrible she did as a child but can't remember. He, though, is the cure for her terminal case of boredom.

She politely excuses herself from the conversation with the Duke of Whocaresistan and drops into a deep curtsy in front of the Crosser. She knows all eyes in the room are now on her so she pastes on a wide smile. Might as well give everyone a show. She can only hope he is willing to play along. "It is an honor to meet you, My Lord Veil Crosser."

The Crosser does not disappoint. His goofy grin sets her nerves at ease. His formal bow looks ridiculous on someone dressed so casually. "On the contrary, both the honor and the pleasure are all mine, Your Highness."

She holds out her hand, family jewels twinkling on her slender fingers. She does not keep wrist up and fingers limp. She extends her entire arm, palm sideways and fingers straight. It is her father's handshake not her mother's. "Lila."

His large, warm hand engulfs her smaller, cooler one. He squeezes her hand tightly and is pleasantly surprised when she returns the gesture. She's got spirit, this little princess. "Vic."

Hand still tucked in the Crosser's, Lila cocks her head to the side and regards him with sparkling gray-blue eyes. "Vic-tor, I assume. You don't strike me as the Vic-tim sort." She chuckles softly and it reminds him of pearls and rubies and wild songbirds. "Then again, it could be Lodovico for all I know. If it is, Vic's a wise choice."

Vic, not Victor or Victim or, gods preserve him, Lodovico, but a fourteen syllable name only pronounceable by the handful of people who speak the old language, knows without a shadow of a doubt that he's going to take Princess Lila with him when he leaves. She's not the poor, abused, lost princess of fairy tales, but he is going to rescue her. Staying in this dull, slow, colorless world will only atrophy her mind and kill the spark in her soul.

By the time the last of the intoxicated lords and ladies have been seen into their shiny chauffeured cars, Lila is standing beside Vic in front of her parents, a small black suitcase at her feet. She listens to her mother list the dozens of reasons she should stay behind.

It is an impressive list. Aside from being heir to the throne, Lila has responsibilities. She’s supposed to be guest-lecturing at the Nasha Institute of Science for the rest of the year. She’s the strongest energy manipulator in Nasha, and she is a veil child. There are people and, at times, entire worlds depending upon her.

And if she stays, she’s going to drown under the weight of all that. Her father, the King of Nasha, simply smiles at Lila when he wife winds down. He kisses her forehead lovingly then turns stern, concerned eyes onto Vic. “Take care of my daughter.”

Though he is thousands of years older than the king, Vic nods his head in acknowledgement. He is, after all, taking away the man’s most precious possession. The brightest jewel in Nasha. “I will.”

With a wide grin on her face, one her parents haven’t seen since she was a child, Lila lifts her suitcase and grasps Vic’s hand. Her heart thuds in anticipation. This is it, the start of a grand adventure.

Oh what an adventure it is. They visit worlds Lila had only dreamed about. Vic teaches her more about the Veils and about energy manipulation than she could ever learn back home. He couldn’t be more pleased with his pupil. She soaks information like a sponge and offers her own observations on social interaction and the politics of the various worlds they see.

The love that didn’t steal their breath at first sight grows slowly, silently. It remains unobtrusive, only showing itself through small gestures: the hand he keeps at the small of her back, the goodnight kiss she presses to his cheek at the end of every day, the way they learn to say a hundred words without having speak aloud. Each trip, each time they land with that skip and bump that makes Lila’s heart miss a beat, only makes the love grow.

It’s not all stops at tropical paradises or shopping at bustling, shiny shops. He takes his self-appointed duty very seriously. The Veil Crosser is a one-man universal police force. He stops slavery on several worlds, takes down tyrants, and even stops an earthquake once. He admits to himself, and to her once, that it’s easier when he’s got his shiny, brilliant girl by his side.

All adventures, though, must come to an end. Four years after placing her hand into Vic’s, Lila, still crown-princess of Nasha, learns that lesson the hard, painful way.

On Tritash IV, she sprains her ankle running away from a squad of gun-toting Freads. They make it to his vessel, the Crosser before the bullets start to fly. As soon as the doors close, they slide to the floor, still arm in arm, and listen to the tings as bullets hit the sturdy metal hull of his ship.

Lila is panting for oxygen, her cheeks are flushed, and her hair is in disarray. To him, she's still the most beautiful creature in the universes. The tings remind him how close, how so very, very close, he came to losing her. She's connected to the Veils, true, but she's not of them like he is. She is not invulnerable. She can die. She will die if she continues to bounce from one troubled world to the next with him. It's just a sprained ankle here, but it was a broken arm three trips ago and a concussion during their visit to Mariz.

Mouth set in a determined line, he surges to his feet and brushes the dust off his trousers. He holds out a hand, hauls her to her feet, and then returns to the ship's consoles. He punches in the coordinates for her home world. The ship lurches and he feels the familiar tingle as they cross through the veils.

"So? Where to next?" Lila leans back against the cool, metal wall and crosses her arms over her chest. She would have liked to stay longer on Tritash IV, but their job is to start the revolutions, to set the wheels in motion. They're not the ones who stick around to watch the fall out.

"I'm taking you home."

She shrugs her shoulders. Home's not so bad a place. It'll be good to see her parents and brothers again. "If you can put us back a week after we left last time, we can be there for the Strawberry Harvest. It's always a good time. We can make a long weekend of it."

He crosses the control room in three large strides. He cups her cheek with a cool hand. He keeps his face as blank as possible. She's called him a heartless bastard before. It's time he tries to live up to that label. "You're going home to stay."

"What? Is it because of that thing on Legoa? I'm telling you, that wasn't my fault." The teasing smile slides off her face when he doesn't join in her laughter. Oh. Oh no. He really is sending her home for good. Hot tears sting her eyes and a lump clogs her throat. "Why?"

He brushes a tear off her cheek with the pad of his thumb. "This is dangerous, princess. Too dangerous for someone as precious as you."

Her eyelids flutter shut. Of course. It always comes down to that. She nods jerkily and takes a small step backwards. His hand falls off her face and hangs limply by his side. For a moment, he looks as lost as she feels. Every cell in her body, her stupid, weak mortal body, aches to comfort him.

She'd like to believe that when he calls her precious, he means that she's precious to him. It would be so nice to tell herself that he's sending her way, locking her in an ivory tower, because he loves her too much to lose her to a Fread or a Huloa or any of the others they've been up against. It wouldn't make leaving him any easier, but at least then she'd have a leg to stand on when it comes to arguing.

But, that's not what he means. When he calls her precious, he means precious to her world. Her value comes, not from who she is, but from what she is: future Queen of Nasha, most advanced energy manipulator in her kingdom, genius scientist, and Veil Child. She's too valuable to everyone, but or maybe including him just not in the way she wants, to risk taking on any more adventures.

She wants to beg to stay. Wants to lock herself in her room on the Crosser and refuse to come out. She wants to tell him how much she absolutely, completely loves him. She can't do that to the man who taught her to be more than a bored, spoiled princess. In the end, all she does is pack her suitcase with clothes and the trinkets she's picked up over the years and step out of the ship that feels like home into the palace that does not.

Before she's swallowed up by her mother's enthusiastic hug and her father's booming voice, she risks a glance back at the man in the Crosser's doorway. He raises his hand and wriggles his fingers in a half-wave. His mouth opens like he's going to say something and the breath catches in her throat. If he says the word, she'll pick her bag back up and follow him to the end of the universe. He slips back into his ship without saying anything at all. In the small gaps of silence between her mother's squeals, her father's greetings, and the cacophony in the throne room, is the sound of a heart shattering into a thousand tiny pieces.

For a year, she tries to move on. She learns at her father's right hand. She absorbs every scrap of knowledge she can about peace treaties, trade agreements, and national defense. She can see her father's excitement about it all, but after chasing down rogue armies and talking down a tyrannical Daddna, it all seems a bit dull to her.

She picks up her energy studies and even attends a physics conference or two. She spends time with her family, becomes the perfect sister, daughter, and princess. Her hours are filled, from sunrise to well after dark, with millions of things, but it never seems to be enough. Her mind and body are in Nasha, but her heart and soul are still stuck on the Crosser.

Thirteen months, four days, and sixteen hours after returning to Nasha, she makes her decision. She can't live this life anymore. It's killing her from the inside out. It's not fair to those who depend on her, either. They deserve more than half a princess, sister, daughter, whatever else she is. So over breakfast of toast and eggs, she surprises her mother, but not her father, by announcing her plans to remove herself from the line of succession. Her brother George, only ten months younger than her, is king material. He'll do the House of Neyla proud.

Hands washed of that, she starts tutoring her youngest brother Tom in energy manipulation. After a few false starts, he picks it up. He's not the natural she is, but he's got a quick mind. Late at night, when the rest of the palace is sleeping, she writes down all her thoughts, every scrap of knowledge, every theory, into thick notebooks.

It doesn't take long to become a ghost. She drifts through the halls but has no impact on anyone except the servants who clean her room, wash her clothes, and prepare her meals. She limits the time spent with each family member to ten minutes a day. Her mother wails and rails against her, but her father seems to understand. If she ever gets the chance to go back to him, she'll take it without thinking twice. And this time, she won't leave behind anyone or anything that relies on her.

Three years, two months, seventeen days, five hours, and twenty-six minutes after he left her in the palace throne room, he reappears in the garden outside her suite. He has not aged, one of the benefits of being of the Veil, but she can see the strain around his eyes and the tenseness in his lean body. She uncurls her legs and smoothly rises off the concrete bench. This is not how she envisioned their reunion, she'd had plenty of time to plan it down to the laces on her shoes, but she'll take what she can get.

"Hello, Princess Lila of Nasha." He pauses for a moment and tilts his head to the side in that way she loves. It makes her want to clamp her lips on the juncture between his neck and his shoulder and finally answer the question of whether or not he tastes as good as he looks. "Or is it Queen Lila, now?"

She shakes her head solemnly. "Not Queen. My brother's coronation is in three months. King George, can you believe it?"

She takes advantage of the astonishment on his face to step forward and wind her arms around his waist. She presses herself against, making a happy hum when his hands automatically fall to her hips. She rises up on her toes so that her lips brush the shell of his ear. "Guess what? I'm not precious anymore."

He throws his head back and laughs. It's a joyous, infectious sound. He's still grinning when he kisses her forehead and snuggles her closer. Later, when they're back to bouncing between and through veils, he'll make her understand just how precious she'll always be.

I missed my vacation for this?

So, in case you haven't heard me complain (read: whine) about it, I gave up my vacation time to work because we're seriously shorthanded and there's no one who can sub for me. It totally, completely sucks, but I'm a grown-up and we're supposed to do sucky things, right?

Today has been the day from hell. I could be basking in the warmth of my family and sipping a beer (or a glass of wine) while eating too many sweets. Or Mexican food. I love Mexican food.

Nope. I'm here. At work. Having my soul slowly sucked out by a bunch of morons.

And it still totally, completely sucks.

/end rant.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Birds & Bees Sweet White Wine

Have I mentioned lately that I love the new HEB they built near me? Well, I do. I love how bright and open it is and how friendly all the checkers seem to be. Oh, and the wine samples. I really, really love those.

Today's wine was Birds & Bees Sweet White. I declined the sample at first and then saw the price on the tag near the bottles. For wine I drink around the house, I generally like to spend under $15 a bottle. For company or parties, I'll splurge. This wine was under $8.00, so I took the small plastic cup.


The wine is crisp and fruity.  It's light and sweet, the way I like my wines.  There is no underlying "alcohol" aftertaste. It's one of the few wines I'm willing to break my "Texas Wine Only" rule for.  I'm sure, if I were inclined, I could give you the whole "with hints of berries and summer fruits" or whatever, but honestly, when I'm drinking wine, I don't think about things like that.  I care about how it feels on on my tongue, what kind of aftertaste (if any) it leaves, and how it tastes.  I'm happy to say that the Birds & Bees Sweet White Wine was easy to drink, left no aftertase, and was the perfect balance of sweetness (without being cloying) and crispness (without being too tart).

Mom's coming over... time to run out and buy a new bottle!

Yum. Yum. Yum.

For reviews of Texas wines, please visit here

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Book One of the Family Lies saga is done. I'm fairly set on re-titling Book One Daughter of Deception so that I can rename the saga.

I found an e-mail I'd sent JT on 12/8/08 with the first four chapters of the original Ashwood story. I've been working with these characters, off and on, for over a year!

I was so relieved to be done (one year and 105,000 words later) for about an hour and then I started asking myself, "Okay, so how do I want to start the next book."

Off to wrap Christmas presents! Is it wrong that all my shopping (except for JT) is done but my tree's still not up?

Monday, December 7, 2009

I <3 Gloriana

I admit it, I bought myself an early Christmas present. I've heard a couple of Gloriana's songs on the radio and broke down and bought the CD when I was ordering a bunch of presents on I absolutely love the CD! It's country but not twangy or all love/drinking songs. Defnitely Southern Rock-ish. It's, surprisingly enough, helping with the writing. It's the sort of music Duke listens to - and would make a good compromise for Vi & Duke.

Speaking of the saga (and when am I not these days?), chapter 32 is done so that leaves... 3. Three short chapters and it's all over.

Is it wrong that I'm a little giddy?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Four to go!

I just finished writing chapter thirty-one of Family Lies. That means only four chapters to go! I can't believe it's gotten this far (most projects don't get past the 30,000 word mark - my attention span just isn't that long) or that I've got the next two books in the Ashwood saga already plotted out. I think it's just that I adore these characters so much.

Perhaps I wasn't wrong when I said I wanted this one done by Christmas.

One step closer to Christmas

It's been cold for over a week. I'm talking so cold we actually turned on the heater (which we try to avoid since it makes my skin dry and JT's allergies act up). Now to some yankees it might not seem very cold when it's in the 50s and 40s (27 Saturday morning!), but to a gal born and raised in South Texas, that's hibernation weather. Which all means that I haven't done anything around the house since we got back from Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house. They gave us a very nice chair that used to belong to a great-aunt. As of this morning it was still sitting by the door with my suitcase and toiletry bag still on it.

I got the motivation (thank you writer's block) to actually get ready for Christmas decorations to go up. Two and a half hours later, I completely cleaned out my desk, cleaned off the entertainment center, and made room for the chair. We probably won't get anything out of storage until next weekend (when it's warmer), but if I keep doing one room at a time, I'll finally get over the kitten-mess from this summer and be ready for holiday company.

What's the soonest you've ever put up holiday decorations?

Friday, December 4, 2009


Sticking to the ground.
In Houston.
Damn, it's cold.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bran Cereal Fix Up

Bran cereal has never been a favorite of mine. I've only recently started eating it because it's got the magic "f" word (fiber). Unfortunately, after two months straight of eating it every morning, it gets a little bland. I found a quick fix up - my personal cinnamon toast blend.

1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon Splenda, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. I sprinkle it over my cereal and it really, really livens the cereal up.

Of course, once it starts cooling down, I'm going to switch to oatmeal, but it's a good quick substitute.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happiness is...

I had a bad day at work. I'm talking nothing goes right, I should have stayed in bed type of bad day. It didn't help that I couldn't get past this block in my story. No relief from that distraction.

I feel much better now. All it took was a cup of jasmine tea, a whole-grain blueberry muffin, and ten minutes with a warm, sleepy kitten.

And now, I think I can get over my block.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kittens and stuff

That little monster above, Shad or Scaredy Cat, is one of the reasons I've been so busy lately. I'd forgotten what a mess three little kittens (plus a playful momma cat) could make!

Of course, it doesn't help that work is just... crazy. I have Friday off (vet appointments and other errands) so hopefully I can catch up on all the things I've put off.

The first book in my Ashwood saga is halfway done. I can't believe I've gotten this far in it. I still absolutely adore the characters and there's so much I still want to put them through... er, I mean write for them!

Hope everyone out there has a great Wednesday!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This year's camping trip was so much fun!
I hadn't planned on going, but ended up catching a ride with Sharon and Ricky. I'm glad I went!
The river was down and slow, so we didn't rent tubes and do a big float trip. We hung out around camp and played in the water. I got sunburned even though it was overcast - I know, I know, the clouds don't block all the UV rays. Scraped my knees and shins on rocks. Got a cramp so bad I nearly drowned. Drank more beer than I should have. Had. A. Great. Time.

Seriously. If you live in Texas and you haven't camped by the Guadalupe River and floated down it, what have you been doing all this time? Get down there! Right now the nights are cool and the days are warm. The river is great fun. There's a ton to do in and around New Braunfels. You can stay in a tent, a travel trailer, or even rent a cabin at a couple of places. You have no excuses! Get going! Go! Most

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mondays & burgers

I don't like 'em. Not one bit. No matter how much I think I get done at work on Fridays, it always seems like the pile on my desk multiplied over the weekend. Sucks.

Last week I used a coupon I got in an e-mail for Omaha Steaks. The coupon was for $15 off an order. Having never ordered from them before, I chose the least expensive item I could get away with and then found a coupon code for free shipping. I got 4 pounds of 8 oz hamburgers for $4.99. Pretty sweet deal.

We made the burgers last night and they were wonderful! I normally don't like any hamburgers but the thin, overcooked fast food ones. I can't finish a "homemade" hamburger. Usually. I finished the entire Omaha Steaks burger. It was packed very tightly, didn't shrink much, and had a ton of flavor. Definitely going to buy again!

Off to do some writing now. My Ashwood saga is finally taking off! Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fate and Futility

Fate and Futility

When Annabeth Connolly is six, the dreams start.� At fourteen she tries to stop them.� At eighteen, she realizes it's impossible.

Annabeth Connolly is six when the dreams start. The first one starts off innocently enough: a day at the park with Mommy and her dog Baloo. They play on the swings and the slide in the bright sunshine. Annabeth can almost feel the sweat on her forehead and the springy grass underfoot.

It's a wonderful dream. She doesn't even mind being on the teeter-totter with meanie-beanie Tommy from down the street until he suddenly bounces up too fast and she slams down on the ground harder than ever before. Her legs and bottom hurt. She tells Tommy she wants to get off, but he pushes off again and she slams down. This time, however, she falls to the side and her legs crash into the metal support. Fire races through her left knee and brings tears to her eyes.

The pain wakes her up. Her frantic cries for Mommy bring Glenna Connolly dashing into the room. Glenna gathers Annabeth to her chest, kisses the top of her baby's blonde head, and promises that it was just a dream. A nightmare. She's not going to fall off the teeter-totter and break her knee.

Except she does. Three days later. In the same park with Tommy, Mommy, and Baloo. It happens exactly the way it did in her dream. It hurts exactly the same, too. On the way to the hospital, Annabeth desperately tries to make Glenna understand that her dream told her it was going to happen. Glenna, who knows that her daughter's going to have enough supernatural crap to deal with as it is, immediately puts a halt to any talk of special dreams.

Annabeth doesn't like the way her mother's face gets pinched and drawn whenever she starts to mention the dreams, so she keeps them to herself. Unfortunately, not talking abut the dreams doesn't make them go away. Some dreams aren't bad. She sees vocabulary tests before they're given. She sees her seventh birthday party and the color of Baloo's puppies. She also sees her mommy and daddy fighting. All the time. She hears it during the day and dreams about it at night. There's no escape.

Sometimes she tries to stop the bad things from happening. It's got to be the reason she has the dreams, right? She does her best to keep her parents from fighting but can't stop the divorce. That one doesn't bother her too much. Mommy seems happier away from Dad's pack and Daddy smiles more when it's just him and Annabeth.

Annabeth doesn't give up on thwarting the bad things she sees in her dreams. She learns to be sneaky when it comes to manipulating events so that some things don't happen. Not only does it keep Mommy from frowning, but it makes her feel a little like a spy on television. A spur-of-the-moment demand for ice cream saves Patrick Connolly from a fender-bender while driving Annabeth home from dance class. It also gets her in trouble with Mommy because she ruined her appetite for dinner. Apparently, interference comes with a price. At least it's a relatively small one.

Annabeth writes all her dreams down and keeps them in a pink journal under her pillow. She puts a check mark by the ones she successfully prevents, a star by those she doesn't, and a question mark by the dreams that haven't come true. Yet. She makes careful note of all the important details and memorizes them so that she'll be ready for those dreams.

They continue through elementary school and junior high. The dreams keep her from dating closet creep Joseph Martin, from failing Earth Science, and from getting bitten by a werewolf trying to kill her father. She prevents her best friend from moving across the country by talking her father into giving her friend's father a job with his company. The dreams help her accomplish so much and help the people closest to her so she doesn't mind the occasional nightmare or the relatively minor price she has to pay.

At least she doesn't mind the nightmares until late one night a fourteen-year-old Annabeth dreams about a funeral. She sees herself dressed in an incredibly ugly black dress, her father in a suit with tears in his eyes, and a polished mahogany casket. She tries to wake herself up even as she walks towards the front of the church. Her knees tremble and her hands shake as she leans forward to peer inside. She screams, both in the dream and in real life, when she sees her mother's pale, still face inside the casket.

When her mother, and thank goodness it's her weekend to be with her mother because Annabeth desperately needs some reassurance, races into the bedroom, Annabeth keeps the details about her nightmare vague and clings to her mother. She doesn't sleep for six nights afterwards. She also starts watching her mother closely. She talks Glenna into having her yearly physical two months early. She has one of her father's pack, a mechanic by trade, inspect Glenna's car. She makes up an excuse about tons of schoolwork so she can skip out on the next few weekends with her father.

Nothing happens for three long months. A question mark goes by that dream, and Annabeth starts to relax. Maybe this was just a regular nightmare and not a foreshadowing one. She resumes the visitation schedule with her father. Annabeth focuses once again on things a normal fourteen-year-old should focus on. Her mother breathes a sigh of relief Annabeth's grades pick back up. One Saturday night, Annabeth lets her father take her out for dinner and a movie even though it means she'll have to turn her phone off.

Dinner is great. Conversing with her father has always been easy for Annabeth. He doesn't try to shield her from the supernatural. He's encouraged her to sit in on pack meetings, and she knows more about pack hierarchy and rules than most newly turned lycanthropes. She has to keep from laughing from the silly girls at school who buy into the latest "were" books and romanticize werewolves. There's nothing romantic about boring old pack meetings or threats from other packs or terretorial lycanthropes who like to fight to the death with fangs and claws.

Halfway through the comedy Annabeth talked her father into, a small knot of pain forms in her stomach. She gasps softly and, when her father raises an eyebrow questioningly, blames it on the sinfully rich cheesecake she had for dessert. He hands her a roll of antacids. She chews four gritty tablets, but they do nothing to calm her stomach.

The pain steadily increases. In the car on the way home, Annabeth has her father pull over so she can throw up on the side of the road. She sips from a bottle of water afterwards as the pain moves from her stomach to her chest. It feels as if something is crushing her chest.

When they pull into the driveway of Patrick's house, Annabeth remembers to turn her phone on. There are six new messages. Patrick checks his phone while Annabeth starts listening to the messages. She's confused by the number of voicemails there are. All her friends knew she was going out with her dad.

Four messages are from her mother's boyfriend Frank. One is from the county hospital. One is from her mother's neighbor. Annabeth drops her phone to the floor and collapses into her father's arms. He calls for one of his pack members to drive them to the hospital then sits with her in the back seat on the ride there. She stays within the warm circle of his arms while Frank relays the tale of how Glenna swerved to avoid a drunk driver going the wrong way down a one-way street and ended up slamming into a tree. Glenna had been alive when the paramedics arrived on the scene but dead when the ambulance reached the hospital.

The next couple of days are a blur for Annabeth. She doesn't recall helping her father and Frank make plans for the funeral. She doesn't remember picking out an outfit for her mother to be buried in or greeting the family and pack members who stop by in a steady stream. Before she can fully process all that's happened, she's standing in the back of a church in a hideous black dress with her teary-eyed father.

Her knees shake and her hands tremble as she makes the long walk up the aisle towards the gleaming mahogany casket surrounded by hundreds of flowers. She stares down at her mother's pale, still face and screams. And screams. And screams. Then faints clean away.

When she wakes, Annabeth is in her bedroom at her father's house. She blinks rapidly then her eyes fall on the pink journal on her desk. Mouth set in a firm line, she grabs the journal and a pen and puts a star beside the dream she'd had of her mother's funeral. Dry-eyed, she stares down at the dreams written down. There were so many she prevented. So many stupid, little things she stopped from happening but this, this huge tragedy, she couldn't do anything about. What good are prophetic dreams if they're only going to help with the superficial stuff? Why couldn't she have dreamed about the accident and not the funeral? What's the point?

Annabeth locks her journal in the chest at the foot of her bed. She's been wrong about the dreams all along. They weren't a gift given to her by some higher power so that she could make a difference. If that had been the case, she should have seen the accident and saved her mother. What higher power would be so cruel as to have her dream about something so terrible that she had no way of preventing?

The dreams still come. She tries to ignore them but fails. Though she wants nothing to do with whatever mystical duty the big jerk on high has given her, her conscience compels her to keep from Lucy Simmons from falling down the stairs at school and her father's cook from burning his hand. Stupid conscience.

Six weeks after her mother's funeral, Annabeth sneaks out of the house and rides the bus to a town an hour away. She knocks on the door of her grandfather's house and makes up a story about a fight with her dad. He agrees to let her stay the night and to not call her father. Once Grandpa Evans is back in bed, Annabeth slips into his private library and steals three books on magic.

Three nights later, grounded for a month for sneaking out and lying, Annabeth finds the recipe for a potion that, if taken immediately upon waking, causes a person to forget their dreams. Fortunately the ingredients are all either in the kitchen or the herb garden. While waiting for the potion to finish, Annabeth flips through the oldest book. She stumbles upon a brew designed to stop the drinker from dreaming. It's tempting. Very, very tempting.

She resists, though. She can't risk missing out on a dream about her father. Even if she can't prevent anything from happening, she wants to be prepared. Once the forgetfulness potion is done, Annabeth bottles it up and hides it in a drawer in her nightstand. That night she dreams of one of her teammates spraining an ankle during volleyball practice. Awful? Yes. World ending? No. When she wakes, Annabeth takes three sips from the bottle and promptly forgets all about sprained ankles.

The routine of dream, drink, and forget becomes almost second nature. Her father, who had long ago figured out about her dreams, stares at her curiously when she fails a history pop quiz, gets stood up by Jason Eckland, and breaks her arm when she slips on the icy sidewalk all within the space of a few months. She pretends that she doesn't understand what he's talking about. Dreams? What dreams?

Annabeth does experience a flash or two of guilt when bad things happen to those around her. Though she can't remember the dreams, she figures she must have had one or two that would have prompted her to try and change the course of things. Since no one has died, though, she doesn't change her mind about the potion even though it's starting to take a higher dose to ensure complete forgetfulness.

Her senior year of high school, the potion stops working completely. Annabeth assumes she's built up a tolerance to it. After several nights of dreams and guilt over not acting on them, she looks up the recipe for the potion of dreamlessness. It's a huge step. One she's not certain she's ready for.

She brews up a weak version of the potion to test it out. She's nervous as she downs half a vial of the surprisingly tasty liquid. As soon as the potion hits her stomach, she's up off the bed and on her knees in front of the toilet. The potion, along with most of her dinner, ends up flushed away.

After brushing her teeth twice and changing pajamas, Annabeth goes over the recipe again. She did everything right. She's not allergic to any of the ingredients. Nausea isn't listed as one of the side effects. Why did it make her react that way?

She sets the book aside, determined to try it again the next evening, and snuggles in under her blankets. Her mind is still puzzled over the potion as she drifts off to sleep. That night, snuggled beneath her purple patterned quilt and clutching her raggedy stuffed wolf, Annabeth Connolly dreams of rivers of blood.



For the first time in his forty-two years, Clayton Baker is scared silly. There’s no gun in his face – been there, done that, have the scar. After years of working with just about every national intelligence agency, he’s finally found the one thing that gives him nightmares.

Alzheimer’s. Again.

He’s been through it with his father. Watching his strong, solid father reduced to a confused child had been agonizing. Heart-breaking but not terrifying. Not like watching his mother is. Not like listening to a panel of doctors debate the odds and possibilities of heredity.

When his father was diagnosed, Clayton told himself that it would be all right. He only had half his dad’s DNA, therefore he only had half the risk. Now his mother’s ill and the doctors are calling it extraordinary. Clayton calls it a death sentence.

He knows he’s driving his wife crazy with the plethora of vitamins and daily mental exercises. Mondays and Thursdays he does a crossword puzzle. Tuesdays and Saturdays are for word searches. Soduku is on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sunday afternoons are spent playing chess or Trivial Pursuit. He’s not sure if it’s going to any good, but it helps to be doing something.

He never was the popular one. Not athletic or outgoing or the class clown. But boy did he have a big brain, a near photographic memory, and a knack for solving puzzles. His brain got him through high school and college and then right into the CIA. He’s been passed around from agency to agency where he’s treated like a prized piece of equipment. On the rare occasion he’s let out into the field, he has a protection detail that rivals that of a few dignitaries.

He has to keep his mind sharp. He owes it everything. Without his brain, he never would have spent six weeks with the NSA and met his darling Audrey. She’s taken his new quirks in stride and even helps with the crossword or offers to beat him at Trivial Pursuit. She sets his vitamins out on the counter with his coffee mug and tries to hide the concern in her eyes.

There are two habits she hasn’t picked up on. If she ever does, there will certainly be hell to pay. He’ll spend more nights on the couch than he did the time she discovered the real reason she’d been taken off of active duty.

He watches her. All the time. He spends long hours committing every curve, line, and inch of pale skin to memory. He catches the expressions that flicker across her face and files them away in his big old brain.

The second habit involves a bit of deceit. On the nights she thinks he’s locked in his study catching up on paperwork, he’s really watching every home movie they own. He watches their wedding video twice a week. There’s that summer trip to Cancun, Christmases with her family, birthday parties, and anniversaries. He makes a point of watching at least twenty minutes of film every day. There are so many moments with Audrey he doesn’t want to lose.

He doesn’t care if in twenty years he can’t remember the capital of Lower Uzwhocaresistan or if he can’t get the answer to thirty-two across. He doesn’t care if he never finishes another Soduku puzzle or is forced to retire. He just never, ever wants to forget his wife.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wine Review - Yellow Tail Riesling

I bought a bottle of white wine yesterday because it was an absolutely beautiful day, and sitting out on the patio with a nice glass of wine sounded like a good idea. I prefer white wines because they are crisp and light. Feeling somewhat adventerous, I picked up a bottle I'd never purchased before.

Yellow Tail Riesling.

I'm not a wine conniseur. My palate just isn't refined enough. I've been to wine tastings and heard about what other people pick up in wines. To me, it's just wine, but I know what I like and what I think things should taste like. Other riesling's I've tried have been crisp with a bit of a floral or fruity flavor.

The Yellow Tail had none of those. It was flat on my tongue and the flavor was muddy. Not that it tasted of mud, but that there wasn't any definable flavor. It was like drinking flat cola.

I've got a nearly full bottle of white wine now in my fridge. Any suggestions on what to do with it?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Product Review - Quaker True Delights

I got a sample of the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond True Delights from Quaker in the mail and held out for a couple of days before giving into temptation and eating it. My opinion is... mixed.

1) It had nice chocolate chunks on the top which are definitely a plus. I hate products that claim to have chocolate but my tastebuds say otherwise.

2) It was chewy without being too hard or sticking to my teeth.

3) There were a couple of almond pieces which added a nice crunch. I wish there had been a couple of more, but all in all, not bad.

4) There was cinnamon in it, which I didn't like one bit. Maybe my tastebuds are too sensitive, but it really took something away from how the bar should have tasted. I don't think cinnamon has a place in a bar like that. It overpowered the raspberry flavor - in fact, I didn't taste much raspberry at all.

So... will I buy a box of those bars? Probably not. Am I willing to try another flavor? You betcha.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I've learned that you have to find happiness where ever you can. It's the small things that matter.

It's finding a cherry cordial Hershey's kiss from last week in the bottom of your lunch bag.

That was my moment of perfect happiness today. May sound pathetic to some of you, but hey, I can live with that.

Good night.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cold and Strawberry Breakfast Crepes

Living in Southeast Texas, I enjoy cold fronts. Especially in February/March. It means the a/c doesn't run which means not-so-astronomic electricity bills! Too bad it won't last past tomorrow.

While doing research for Love's Old Song, I found a yummy easy strawberry breakfast crepe recipe. They're good and, if you don't want to make crepes (which you can make ahead of time and store in the freezer) you can use flour tortillas instead.


8 crepes (or flour tortillas)
10 oz frozen strawberries
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup chopped frozen peaches
Sliced strawberries or kiwis for garnish


Use blender to turn frozen strawberries into a sauce

Warm crepes (or tortillas) in microwave

Spread 1/4 cup cottage cheese on each crepe (or tortilla). Put 2 tablespoons each of fresh strawberries and frozen peaches on top of the cottage cheese. Spoon 1 tablespoon of strawberry sauce over cottage cheese and fruit. Roll up crepe (or tortilla) and place seam-side down on the plate. Spoon additional strawberry sauce over the rolled up crepe.


Saturday, February 28, 2009


So... I've been a little lazy when it comes to updating.
Sorry 'bout that.
Life has, as I'm sure it has for millions of other people, become a lot more stressful lately.
The problem with working in a business that deals with new construction is that when new construction declines, so does your business. Let's just say it's not pretty.

JT and I are both doing as okay as we can, though, so that's a good thing.
Belle's still her bratty self.
Chit, unfortunately, gave in to old age last month. I really miss my little mouse.

I've been writing some - gave my self a break from NaCl and started a newer series - Love's Old Song. It's written in a style similar to NaCl but focuses more on a romantic relationship rather than just a friendship - okay, let's be honest, it's my way of getting out all those lovey-dovey scenes that popped into my head while writing NaCl. I'll post info on Love's Old Song once I get it somewhere easily accessible.

I've even finished two chapters of the main story along with 2 drabbles for the Companion-verse.

Last weekend we went down to Alice to see my grandparents - it was Grandpa Misenhimer's 80th birthday. ALL of Dad's family was there. It was nice for JT to meet them and for me to see them again. I really like my cousin's wife and, let me just say that after spending a weekend with them, I feel so very short. What do they feed those boys up in Indiana? Miracle-Gro?

Made the best white chocolate-chip/macadamia nut cookies and chocolate-cherry bars. JT printed the recipe for me from where ever he found it online but it was on the back of the cake mix box! I followed the instructions but didn't frost the bars with chocolate icing - I was afraid that it would make them too sweet and they turned out just fine without it. Had a minor scare when I didn't have enough Crisco for the cookies, but I mixed in a little extra butter and it all worked out.

Quiet weekend planned now - a few errands and then it's relaxation for as long as possible.