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Sunday, May 25, 2014 7 comments

Taking a Dive

I was working at home Thursday morning, minding my own business, when:

KA-RASSHHHHH

My first thought was, “OMG, +E.J Hobbs just had something fall on him!” and was out of my seat and halfway up the stairs in a heartbeat.

“I’m OK,” he said. “I was just in here shaving…”

Mirror, mirror, on the floor,
Why’d you have to fall down for?
“It just came off the wall,” he said. If you look at the picture, you’ll see five black spots where the mirror was. They’re some kind of caulk, dried up and hard and not sticky at all. A line of silicone caulk at the bottom of the mirror, where it contacted the vanity, was the only thing holding it in place. No clips or anything else. Just another example of why FAR Manor was a bad idea.

“Oh well,” the wife said. “We” (that is, she and Daughter Dearest) “were talking about repainting the bathroom anyway. We also need to do something about the lighting.”

She had bought Daughter Dearest a mirror with a white frame a while back, that she isn’t using, and it’s just big enough to cover the black spots (the wallpaper underneath is dissolved, so chipping it off won’t solve anything). I found a cardboard box in the garage, and EJ used that to collect the shards. Since it’s a 3-day weekend in the US, maybe I’ll be able to hang the mirror today or tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2014 9 comments

Red's Basket (#FridayFlash)

Image source:
openclipart.org
Once upon a time, in the Strange Lands north of Aht-Lann-Tah, a pretty red-haired girl dwelt with her stepmother. Being a red-headed stepchild, Red (as she was called) was often called upon to do the hard and hazardous tasks, and today was no different.

“Take this basket to your granny,” the stepmother told her. “Visit with her, and help her out if she needs it.”

“Whatever,” Red sighed, because Granny always had work needing doing. But she pulled on her favorite red hoodie, the one with a large G on the front, stuffed a few essentials in her pockets, and took the basket. Getting out from under her stepmother for the day was worth the hassle, after all.

As Red made her way through the woods, a rather large and impolite wolf heard and saw her. He sat in the path and waited for her to approach.

“Good morning, little girl,” the wolf purred as Red stopped short.

“Don’t give me that,” Red growled. “I know you’re after my goodies.”

“Actually, I was more interested in that basket. But if you’re offering…”

Red reached into her pocket and pulled out a chrome snub-nosed .38 revolver, the only thing she had kept of her mother’s belongings. “Back off. I’m taking this to Granny’s.”

“Okay, okay.” The wolf slunk off the path, but ran on ahead. Red was a tough customer, but Granny was the baddest badass in the Strange Lands. It would take careful planning and a little luck to get that basket.

Arriving at Granny’s place, he saw her hoeing in the garden. “Get outta here!” she greeted the wolf, brandishing her hoe.

“Sheesh. I just came to tell you there’s five cows gone through the fence. Such gratitude.”

“Right.” Granny grounded the hoe. “Chase ‘em back in, and I’ll give you two chickens.”

“If I chase a cow, I’ll probably eat it,” the wolf said. “Nature just kind of takes over.”

Granny cursed. “If any of them chickens are missing when I get back, I’ll make your hide into a scarf for my scarecrow!”

The wolf stared at the scarecrow, the mummified corpse of a dragon stupid enough to cross Granny in the past, and gulped. “I don’t feel like chicken. I’ll make sure nothing else gets in there, either.” He laid in front of the chicken coop, but Granny was already gone, hoe and all.

Not long after, a fox came by. “Morning,” said the wolf, “what do ya say?”

“Oh, that’s original,” the fox sniffed. “Who let the wolf guard the henhouse? I thought that was my job.”

“The early wolf gets the goodies.”

“Whatever. I’ve got a taste for some grapes, anyway.” The fox trotted off.

The wolf hid in the grass as Red arrived. “Granny?” she called. Hearing nothing, she slipped inside. As the wolf peeked in the window, Red laid the basket on the table and took out her cellphone. She and the woodsman hadn’t seen each other for a while, after all, and he was working nearby.

Red searched the entire house, making sure Granny wasn’t hiding somewhere, until the woodsman arrived. “My,” said Red with a grin, “what big hands you have!”

“The better to grope you with, my dear,” said the woodsman, licking his lips.

“My, what a long tongue you have!”

“The better to taste you with, my dear.”

Nature took over, as the wolf would say, and they skipped right on by the last part. As they got down to business, the wolf slipped inside. He grabbed the basket, thinking so much for the goodies, and departed. He was long gone before Granny came back, fuming.

“Blame wolf was right about the fence,” she muttered, “at least the cows all went back in—” her old ears finally picked up on the noise, and stormed into the bedroom. “In my bed, of all things! If you two are gonna do that, take it out back of the woodpile or something! Of all the—you got two minutes to get dressed.”

It took them half that to throw their clothes on and agree to meet behind the woodpile after lunch. The woodsman slipped out the window to avoid Granny’s wrath, and Red walked out alone.

“Where’s your friend?” Granny demanded, glaring at the bedroom. “Out the window? Good. Too bad you didn’t get here sooner, I had a fencing problem. You brought lunch?”

“It’s on the table.”

“No it ain’t.”

“What?” Red ran into the kitchen. “I left it right here!”

“That wolf was skulking around,” said Granny. “He musta grabbed it while you and your friend were busy. Serves him right; that stepmother of yours can’t cook for squat anyway. It won’t take five minutes to fix something better than what she sent. Then after you change my sheets, you can help with the garden.”

Meanwhile, the wolf inspected his prize: ham, store-bought cheese, and home-made rolls. The rolls were hard as bricks, so he donated them to the birds and wolfed the rest. Red stayed on with Granny, until the woodsman divorced his ill-tempered wife and built a new cabin, then she moved in with him. They made sure Granny was well-supplied with firewood, and she had them over for dinner on Sundays. Except for a touch of indigestion on the wolf’s part, and occasional interference from the woodsman’s ex, they all lived happily… enough.

(“Happily ever after?” In the Strange Lands? Yeah, right.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014 3 comments

“Into the Icebound” — setting sail May 29!

The fourth Accidental Sorcerers book is just about ready to depart!


Sura, Mik, and Bailar set sail for the Northern Reach, with Lord Darin in pursuit. Their journey is anything but smooth, with storms, raiders, and the prince of Westmarch standing in the way. Joining an expedition to the ruins of Isenbund, Bailar disappears in the night. Now, Mik and Sura must help rescue their mentor from a legendary foe thought long extinct.
The book’s about ready (just have to go through the checklist), and OMG just look at the cover…


May 29, folks! Add it on Goodreads, tell your friends, all that good stuff… and re-download the first first two during the first week of June, because I’m going back and re-formatting them to reflect all the stuff I’ve learned since.

Monday, May 19, 2014 4 comments

Blackberry Winter

We only had three mini-winters on Planet Georgia this year, although they were pretty harsh. In mid-spring, we get a cold snap they like to call “Blackberry Winter,” because it usually happens around the time the blackberry vines are blooming. The fun thing is, blackberries blossom for two or three weeks, so there’s plenty of time for one (or more) to happen.

So last week, it got cool. “Maybe this is all the blackberry winter we get,” said the wife. “But they need some cold to bloom out, I thought.”

“They’ve been blooming out for a week in some places,” I pointed out.

But this weekend had to be it. The lows got to 40F, and it was cloudy and rainy. The rain is gone, but the cool weather remains. After a taste of nice May weather the week before, this was a bit of a letdown. But with any luck, that’s the last of the cool/cold weather until late October.

The vines are already setting fruit. Looks like Mason will have a great time picking come July 4th weekend. The wild lowbush blueberries should be ripe in the next couple weeks as well.


Friday, May 16, 2014 1 comment

Launch: “Inquisitor” by R.J. Blain

Say hello to +R.J. Blain, an American expat living in that exotic land called Canada. You could say (I do) that she’s one of the class acts among indie authors. When she’s not working on her own books, she’s editing for other people. She puts plenty of effort (and money) into making sure her books have top-notch editing and covers as well.

Today, R.J. is celebrating not only her birthday, but the official launch of her new book, Inquisitor. When she put out a call for bloggers to help, I raised my hand. She sent plenty of support material along, and I get to share it with you:



When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…




OK, blurb isn’t enough? How about an excerpt?

Caroline was either the best actress I’d ever seen, or she was really dead. I crouched next to her, torn between touching her neck to feel for a pulse and running away before the sweet scent of a fresh kill overwhelmed my restraint.
A clock chimed ten. The power of the full moon slammed into me, tugging at my heart, and tightening my chest. The need to embrace my inner beast and become one with the night quickened my breath.
Scents flooded my nose. Strong perfumes mingled with cologne, and the sweat of hot, living bodies stirred my hunger. I licked my lips, and for one brief moment, imagined the salty sweetness of fresh blood on my tongue.
There was another hunter in the room with me, and they taunted me with their kill. Their prey was either dead or left to die. It was a challenge to the scavengers, to the hunters, and a warning to the prey.
“What do you think?” Mark’s mother asked.
“I think she’s an amazing actress,” I replied, careful to keep my tone light. I rose to my feet. If I grew a tail, I could only hope my gown would hide it long enough for me to slip from the party and find a place to gain control over myself.
Or complete the change and go on a rampage.
Another minute passed in silence. I shook my head. “This would be why I’m not a police officer.”
The Wicked Witch of the West giggled. I shivered at the sound. “I see. Very well, Cinderella. Shall we mingle with the other guests and learn about this terrible, terrible deed?”
“I thought this was when Mark was supposed to come rescue me from a fate worse than death,” I muttered.
Oops. So much for keeping civil. I guess it was inevitable. Bodies brought out the worst in me. Especially when the body wasn’t one of my making. To make matters worse, I couldn’t exactly raise the alarm.
If I did, I’d reveal to those who knew the truth about werewolves and witches that I wasn’t just some human girl after a wealthy boy. Then the Inquisition would find silver old enough to kill me or reduce me to ashes to make certain they purged the world of one more rogue werewolf.
“Why can’t you be wealthy?” Mrs. Livingston lamented.
The old woman’s question caught me by surprise. Had she heard me? Did she think it an amusing quip?
Was it possible the woman actually liked me? Confused at the question, I answered honestly. “Ma’am, who says I’m not? I’m your son’s accountant. Do you really think he’d trust someone who didn’t have access to at least some money with his money?” I glared at the old woman. At least the brewing fight between us distracted me from Caroline’s body a little. “Don’t forget I know exactly how much he makes a year, where he transfers his funds, who owes him how much, and whom he owes. I know how much he’s paid in taxes, and I know how much I saved him last tax season.”
The witch’s mouth dropped open. “Just what—”
“I paid more in taxes than he did last year. I’ll let you do the math. Unless, of course, he learned how to count from you.” I pivoted on a heel and stalked my way towards the refreshment stand.

Now, where were we? Oh yes. How about a bio?

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession*, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband, and obeys the commands of Tsu Dhi, the great warrior fish.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

*If you follow her on Google+ for any length of time, you’ll see that’s true. —LK

And don't forget to check out her book on Amazon

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 6 comments

Writing Wibbles

Woohoo! The words are flowing, and of course I need to get some edits cranked in. Oh well.

+Tony Noland tagged me in the Writing Process blog hop, in which you answer a few questions. Turns out I did this a couple months ago, but completely forgot. But I figured since I needed a Writing Wibbles topic, this was ready-made. Answers can change from time to time, right? So here they are:



1. What am I working on?

Good timing. This week, I just finished two stories that have been hanging around and waiting for me to get back to them. They suddenly turned into Shiny Writing Things and demanded all the attentions.

The first, Marginalia, is a side-story in the Accidental Sorcerers timeline, starring Mik’s friend Charn. The Prince has all the sorcerers up at the palace, leaving the apprentices stuck with minimal guidance. A new girl apprentice is distracting Charn, and someone is writing cryptic messages in his book. Something strange is going on, and Charn’s caught in the middle. Currently 13,600 words. (There’s an allusion to this story in The Sorcerer’s Daughter, if you’re curious.)

The second, The Magic App Store, is a sequel to The Crossover. The Trickster has touched Annie, and she recruits Chelinn and his Earthly apprentice Chuck to help her build a website that sells magic spells. This leads to widespread abuse of magic, and a problem that requires Chelinn and all his new friends to put right. (And it’s not a shadowy government agency trying to get all the magic for themselves, although they’re there, too.) Currently 17,000 words.

With those out of the way, I can get back to focusing on the primary stuff. The edits for Into the Icebound are done, and I need to finish cranking those in. I’ll soon be working on the next story in the series, tentatively called Lost in Nightwalk.


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

These aren’t 140,000 word epic fantasies, although the first four Accidental Sorcerers books run close to that put together. I write novelettes and novellas, 45,000 words or less, that you can read on your phone.


3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy worlds. Like Annie in The Magic App Store, I always wanted to have magical abilities myself. Creating words and writing stories is kind of like magic, though!


4. How does my writing process work?

I sit at the keyboard. The keyboard might be attached to my tablet if I’m mobile, or my desktop if I’m at home. I start pounding. Words come out. Sometimes they’re not all that good, in which case I stomp them and keep writing. Yes, I edit as I go. But I’ll do a complete edit after I finish, before sending it to beta writers. I also have to prod the cover designer (part of the co-op) and the editor (not part of the co-op) to work their own particular magic.

The closest thing I get to an outline is a list of notes in Scrivener: this happens, this happens, this happens. I’m not always sure how it’s going to end before I begin, which means that sometimes I keep writing because I want to know how it ends. This can lead to interesting additions to the notes, like what I had at the end of Marginalia for the longest time:
Then what?
Profit!
The End. :-P
For production, I live by my checklists. I will forget something critical without them. So much not-writing stuff to think about.

Friday, May 02, 2014 12 comments

Par for the Curse (#FridayFlash)

We now return you to the regularly-scheduled weirdness…



Stan nudged Cal, sitting next to him in the golf cart. “Ten bucks says Ricky sinks this putt.”

Cal turned to gape at his friend. “You’re serious? That’s a forty-footer if it’s an inch!” he rasped.

“Yup. So. We got a bet?”

“Easiest ten bucks ever. You’re on.”

They shook, and turned to watch Ricky, squatting on the green to check the slope. Cal thought nothing of that—Ricky was shooting for par, and even the most unlikely par putt demanded careful preparation. Their friend lined up, looked at the pin again, then shifted his feet ever so slightly. Ricky looked up one last time, then swung the putter with more follow-through than usual.

Ricky’s ball arced up the slope, then arced back. “Damn,” Cal whispered, “it’s gonna be close—holy shit!” The ball caught the rim of the hole, followed it halfway around, then fell in.

“That’ll be ten dollars,” said Stan, with a grin.

“Hell,” said Cal, fishing a pair of fives out of his wallet, “it was worth it to see someone sink that!” He ambled over to Ricky’s cart. “Awesome putt, Ricky.”

Ricky was not as elated as one might expect, having just hit a nearly impossible putt to make par. “Thanks,” he said, and dropped his putter into his bag. He looked at Cal, and put on a smile. “How much did Stan take you for on that one?”

Cal laughed. “Ten bucks. But like I told him, it was worth it. If we were in a tournament, that would be the shot they’d show on all the sports newscasts.” Cal made a minute more of small talk, then rejoined Stan in their cart. The electric motors whined as the carts climbed and coasted the slopes to the second hole.

“You knew he’d sink that,” said Cal.

“Ricky always makes par,” Stan said, watching the cart ahead. “Unless he slices a tee shot or something.”

“He didn’t seem too happy about it.”

“I never got a straight answer out of him. If you want to ride with him, go ahead. If he doesn’t tell you a line of crap, I’ll give you your ten bucks back.”


The next hole was a par three. Ricky’s tee shot was awesome, flying straight and true, landing on the green not two feet from the pin.

“That’s a birdie for sure,” Cal murmured.

“Ten bucks says he misses,” said Stan.

Cal opened his mouth. “No bet,” he replied. “I don’t know why, but you know something.”

Stan shook his head. “All I know is, he’ll miss this shot.”

Sure enough, Ricky’s putt caught a piece of debris that none of them had seen, and his ball stopped two inches short of the hole. His string of profanity had a resigned tone to it, though. All three of them made par on this hole.

Curiosity got the better of Cal, and he ambled over to Ricky’s cart with a beer in each hand. “Hey,” he said, “want some company?”

“Sure.” Ricky took the beer, and Cal took the shotgun seat. The carts whined and whirred on their way to Eleven; a faint smell of ozone from the electric motors wafted past.

“What’s the deal?” Cal asked. “You sunk that forty-footer, and then… hell, if you’d asked for a gimme on that last hole, I’d have given it to you.”

Ricky sighed. “You really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m cursed.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah. It happened at Glenoak, last year. I sliced into the brush, but not too far. There was this sapling in the way, and I pushed it over and stomped it to keep it down. Then this girl steps out from… from behind this big oak tree behind me, and asks me why I abused her tree. I told her I needed it out of the way to get onto the green; I figured I could at least make par. Then she goes, ‘you will par any hole where possible, but no better,’ and walks into the tree. Into it, man, I swear. I looked for her all around that place, but she was gone. And that’s how it’s been ever since.”

“Uh…”

“Yeah, I know. Sounds nuts.” Ricky chugged his beer. “But I swear by the hops in this beer, it’s true.”

As Ricky teed up at Eleven, Stan nudged Cal. “He tell you anything?”

“Yeah,” Cal whispered. “And I think he believes it. But you won’t.”

“The curse? Yeah. Ricky’s a great guy, but I think he’s a little nuts. You can have your ten bucks back, anyway.”

“Fine. But I’m buying the first round at the Nineteenth.”

They watched Ricky make par at Eleven, and all but one of the rest. Cal watched and wondered. If I land in the woods at Glenoak, he thought, I’ll just take the penalty.

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