excerpts New Post

Solstice Snippet

Joining in the Round is a lighter, more personal story from my Restoration series. Since it takes place in part around the Winter Solstice, it’s my choice for this week’s snippet.

THE FARM DIDN’T LOOK its best in winter. The mountains were lost to sight, wrapped in dull, misty clouds, and the forest surrounding the pastures became a gloomy wall of bare black tree limbs and drooping wet evergreen boughs.

It was a dismal sight, but in Felicity’s opinion the warmth made up for the dreary view. The sky might be murky and the ground soggy, but the damp air felt positively balmy after the last few weeks of frigid Nebraska winds.

No tents huddled in the pastures for this revel. The weather was too unpredictable, and the attendance was low enough to house everyone in the lodge’s guest rooms and the twelve rustic cabins behind it. The creaking porch rockers held elders enjoying the fresh air and dogs who had been evicted from furniture indoors.

Felicity’s shouted greeting was met with a few desultory waves and a bark or two. She inhaled the heady scent of home, with its unique blend of greenery, drifting smoke and wet farm animals, and then she gave Carl a smile. “What do you think?”

Carl lifted each boot and lowered it in place, squishing mud into their clean treads. His bright blue winter coat was so new it still had creases, and it made a beautiful contrast with his hair, like sunshine and clear sky. He scowled at the lodge while he swung his weekend bag idly in one hand as if preparing to throw it at someone. Felicity cleared her throat. “Carl?”

He took a deep breath. “I’m too scared to think, and I hurt people when I feel vulnerable.”

“Not with me around, you won’t. I’ll slap you back fast if you cross the line from jerk to manipulator.” Wasn’t that the whole point of all the work we did, the last few weeks? “My brain is full of keywords and warning signs, remember?”

“There’s a fairly long stretch of spectrum between civilized behavior and slipping far enough into sociopathy to warrant a neurological ass-kicking.”

“Pulling out all the vocabulary stops and using expletives?” Felicity took his hand and gave his wrist a quick kiss. “You are fretting. Listen. Unless you get radically worked up, no one will even notice. Haven’t you paid any attention to my stories? This crowd thinks of barbed commentary and verbal beatings as casual conversation. Berating others is an art form.”

Carl exhaled on a chuckle. “This is a selling point?”

And yeah, if you like, you can buy it along with its partner novella Turning the Work in the edition titled Weaving in the Ends. 

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excerpts New Post

A little bit of Prodigals

Here’s a bit of my other beloved work in progress,  which I do feed and water and pet occasionally so it doesn’t feel neglected. I will begin taking it for walks and polishing its rough scales as soon as I complete Grace’s adventures.

WHEN YOSHI CHECKED INTO the infirmary to begin his week’s swing shift, Keene was busy reading instructions for repairing a diagnostic unit. He cleared his throat to draw her attention off the screen. “Hey, boss, what’s up first tonight? I see Jean’s on dinner detail. Want me to stop her from finding a new way to ruin vegetables?”

“I would, if I was a merciful woman.” Keene glanced up and tugged on a wayward sprig of hair. “But I’m not. Let her destroy supper on her own.”

Jean, the newest member of the Support team, felt anything other than medical support was beneath her dignity. She was not adapting well to the idea that her job included cooking, cleaning, equipment maintenance, and supply chain logistics. Yoshi said, “It’s turning into a joke, you know. There’s a pool on what she’ll manage to burn next.”

“That figures.” Keene snorted. “She thinks I’ll reassign her if I get too many complaints.”

Yoshi knew his boss better than that. If Jean didn’t get her ass in gear soon, Keene would assign her twelve-hour shifts cooking every meal alone until she shaped up or quit. “If I’m not helping her, where do you want me?”

“Carl’s quarters. Wanda called down after his morning wash and wax to warn me he barely made it back under his own power. I don’t want him passing out on the stairs. Do a house call for me.”

In case anyone is wondering…

…it’s time to officially admit Prodigals will be delayed until spring. I could say, “I’ll aim at late winter” and live in denial a few months more, but meh. Honesty is the better part of valor.  I want Prodigals to be as good as it can be, it needs significant revision–and I need to finish Heartwood.

Alas, I cannot take the wide, well-traveled obvious path and revise one while writing the other. Filed under “epiphanies of the last 18 months” is this gem: I cannot world-switch. I can juggle multiple casts, and plots in one environment, but add a second whole world, and I drop pieces everywhere. Forward progress crashed to a halt in both projects unless I concentrated on one or the other.

I am an efficient task-switcher, but only within a single headspace. I made the decision/mistake to dive into Heartwood while waiting for PRodigals beta reads, and now there’s no turning back. Right now, Heartwood fills my imagination. (Well, Heartwood, the first full novel in that world, the short story that’s percolating…) I’m dreaming in that reality now, and I’ll stick with it until the current tale is done.

Enough navel-gazing.

2. Writing Work excerpts

Another Weekly Snapshot

Things are about to get awkward for Grace.

Elena scooped up her papers while Grace spun open the combination lock on the side entrance to the yard. The tall wooden gate swung wide, and Elena hurried through. Grace expected her to take off running, but instead she turned on her heel, hugging the briefcase to her chest like a shield. The tall viburnums beside the house arched over her head in a green bower.

“I’d love for you to meet Jack and Heather,” she said. “I mean, I think you’ll have to meet eventually, but I—may I introduce you to them? Or am I asking too much?”

The question didn’t make sense at first. Then Grace put two and two together. “Jack is your tro—T-series friend. And Heather? Another active poz?” Another demon, she didn’t say aloud, but even thinking it made her feel ill.

Elena nodded, her face solemn. “Heather teleports. She’s my ride. She also has feathers. Wings. Neither of them are evil demons, I swear to you on a stack of Bibles, but if it makes you too uncomfortable, I’ll just go now.”


Writing again

Weekly Snapshot: Nightmares

I made a new cover for this story, so this week’s excerpt comes from Nightmares along with a close-up of the picture I’m far too proud of making. Is it pathetic and amateur? Maybe. Probably. I loved the original and still do.  So why change it?  Because I crave change.  I rearrange furniture, re-organize dresser drawers and cabinets, and change out pictures. Not a shocker that I also get the itch to switch up book covers.

Not a huge surprise that I write about people struggling with disrupted lives, either. Enjoy this tiny little sample.

Amy said, “You don’t walk home alone, not wearing a pacifier around your neck. Want to leave with me, or wait ‘til last call and let Sergeant Jackass escort you?”

The dance floor was empty, and only a few tables were still occupied. Sgt. Coby and a T-series woman Kris didn’t recognize were deep in conversation in a booth. There was no reason to stay, and every reason to leave. “I’ll come with you, but I’m warning you now, it won’t work.”

“What won’t?”

“You’re going to spend the whole walk trying to talk me into transferring back. It won’t work.”

Amy grinned. “Smartypants. See why I want you on my team?”

They were nearly to the door when the plan fell apart. Two teleporters in uniform appeared back-to-back in the middle of the dance floor. One was looking straight at Kris.

“Locked,” she said, and the partner facing the other side of the room said, “Confirm lock.” The world turned inside out, and Kris sank knee-deep in snow.

Amy fell on her butt in a drift. “What the actual fuck?” she said, and the ‘porters disappeared.

A sphere of dim red light floated overhead, illuminating a fifty foot circle of snow well enough make out the crates stacked at the center. Kris’s breath clouded the air in front of her face, clearing when she took in a lungful of searing cold. Her skin automatically rippled and thickened in response, and she held her breath waiting until she was sure the pacifier collar  would not punish her for the protective reflex.

Alarm klaxons and sirens wailed in the distance. Lieutenant Akron’s voice shouted orders nearby in the dark. The lit circle had the look of a night operation in progress, but that was where familiarity ended. But I’m off-duty was Kris’s first thought, followed by, And I’m restricted. And this isn’t even my unit any more.

Confusion was no excuse for inaction. Kris turned to check her six. Sergeant Coby had been scooped up too. All around, porters popped in with passengers and out again. Most of the arrivals were as inappropriately dressed as Kris was. Pinpoints of light flared and disappeared far out in the darkness too: Marines ’porting into perimeter positions. It was definitely a major op of some kind. A lumpy object fell out of nowhere, and she automatically lifted her arms to catch it.

Beside her, Amy cradled her own bundle of boots, harness and weapons. A pale figure who looked like an albino fox in a uniform trotted past in the distant gloom. Amy took a deep breath and bellowed, “LT, what the fuck is going on?”

“Shut up, suit up, and pump up,” Lieutenant Akron called back. “Brief in five.”

“Aye-aye, sir.” Amy shook her head and started dressing.

(EDIT: this story is now available only as part of the collected Rough Passages).

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