Thursday, December 26, 2013

Freedom to Offend

In the last week there's been quite a pother (: about freedom of speech.

Let's start with the basics. Those we know as the founding fathers came from a political situation where freedom of speech relied on who was in power at the moment. If you were a royalist and the royalists were in power you could say pretty much anything you wanted. If you weren't, you'd better keep your mouth shut or you might end up in prison or dead. The same thing went for religious and moral questions--if you disagreed with those in power, it was important to keep your mouth shut.

Because of this, they wrote freedom of speech into the US constitution. Not freedom if you agree with those in power, not freedom to speak as long as no one will be offended, but freedom for everyone at all times. If someone chooses to say something that offends me, that's their right. I have the right to say something that offends someone else because if you start drawing lines of offense, where does it end?

If we start saying this is allowed speech but that is not, we're walking a very shaky line.

Let's just say (to select an example not at random) that speaking in derogatory terms of homosexuality becomes unacceptable as a form of free speech. You must then extend that same protection to all groups, correct? Christians? Gun owners? Muslims? Business owners? No more bashing the stupid flat earther morons!

Oh, it doesn't apply to those groups? Because one group is in a position of social power, they are protected while others aren't? You see where I'm going with this?

Who defines offense?

I was told once that lies are not protected, but what he referred to as lies were truth to me. I consider myself a conservative, and much of what I believe is derided by those at the opposite end of the political spectrum. Does that mean they should not speak? If I speak and they consider what I say to be lies (or offensive), do they have the right to shut me up because of superior social or political power?

This is where the Founding Fathers were coming from, this is what they hoped to prevent in their new democratic republic.

It snuck in anyway.

If you curtail someone's right to speak, regardless of whether you feel their speech is offensive, then you risk your own right to speak if the wheel turns.

When someone deliberately asks you a question which they know many of their readers will find offensive, and it's either lie or be hung, then will you change your mind about freedom of speech? What about when the courts uphold the right to silence you?

Think about it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another scenario

I decided not to cover the electrical thing in the last post, but just suppose?

Let's pretend that something did happen that destroyed the electrical infrastructure. That could be anything from a shortage of gas (everything has consequences, remember?) to terrorist attacks on the electrical system. But the electrical system is gone. Kaput. Finis. No more electricity except the bits and pieces from renewable sources such as home-mounted solar panels or windmills. The solar and wind farms are disconnected from the distribution apparatus because the rest of the infrastructure is totaled.

Without some viable alternative ("You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means") what would happen?

It depends largely on the time of year and the location, but lets just say big city summer, and let's make it an immediate disaster rather than a slow burn.

My opinion:

Most hospitals can't function for more than 24 hours on separate generator power
Radio communication would go down quickly, leaving whatever area was affected in communication blackout
Transmission for cell phones would end (probably within 24 hours)
Lights and air conditioning would end, air movement in most buildings would end
Computers, electric cars, etc, would last through one battery use
Anyone reliant on life support is dead within 24 hours after the power ends unless they can get to a location with backup power
Anyone with refrigerated medication (such as insulin) is dead within 48 hours unless they have access to alternative power
All refrigeration goes down immediately. Stores lose anything that has to be refrigerated within 24 hours. A deep freeze will last up to 72 hours (if you're not mobbed by people coming for your food)
Anyone who cannot leave their home and has no one to help them is dead within two weeks
Since most people in a city environment keep only a week's supply of food on hand, within two weeks the mobs are out looking for anything they can eat
Addicts roam the streets, unable to get their next fix. They target pharmacies, doctors offices, and hospitals
Those people who are left after the first two weeks head for the countryside

So no communication, no hospitals, no refrigeration, no AC...piece of cake.

And no, I'm not going to write this. If you want it, that's your job. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Think (or don't)

Normally I just start writing. I'm a pantser, or another way to put it is a discovery writer. I just sit down and start writing, then work with what comes.

But sometimes I have to sit down and think about things. Not timeline stuff or plot details, but social details. The one I have the most fun with is "How did this culture get this way?"

Sometimes it's very simple; sometimes it takes weeks of work to figure out where the roots are. That leads to more details and a more complete picture of the culture, because if I know how it got that way I can extrapolate other things that might have changed due to the history I discover.

Think of a dystopia in which the original root of all the problems was a foreign borer that got into all the strains of wheat. Well I can start with the character, and I know the situation s/he is in, but that one detail adds layers--did all the wheat die? If so, do they still have bread? I can imagine her going to a museum that grows a 2x2 foot patch of wheat so people can see what most of the world used to eat. The lack of wheat meant that many of the food animals that relied on that wheat also died out, so the current diet is mostly vegetarian with manufactured proteins. So right there, with that one detail of "history," I have an idea of their diet, what their world is like, and if I worked at it I could find hundreds of other details based on that one item--the lack of wheat.

If other grains were or were not affected, that would make a difference as well. How did the government respond? How did individuals respond? If the lack led to rioting, the government could have clamped down and created the dystopian culture for those that were left. A small group of people could have banded together to protect the last of the wheat culture, and they're besieged by the dystopian government.

A lot of this might have nothing to do with the story itself, but it creates a more textured and three dimensional world if I know the history and the present that came out of it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cover Reveal for Dark Spirit

My cover for Dark Spirit is finished!

This story was supposed to be out last October, but *wringing my hands and wailing* it got pushed back because I just couldn't figure out the cover.

So of course it falls together in a day once I make my mind stop playing and actually do some work. :)

Here it is: The second book in the Spirit Cycle.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I need better words

Today is Thanksgiving. I've been thinking about what I want to say, and how to say it, but the words elude me at the moment. I need better words.

I am thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful that I have been able to write for the last 2 1/2 years. I am thankful for those who have helped me become a published author this year, and they are many. We are legion. :)

I am thankful that I live in a country that allows the people to determine the shape of the government, even if the "majority" doesn't always choose as I would. We still have that right, to change things if we don't like them.

But even beyond that. Deeper. For the last two years I have been focusing on my writing, and that would not have been possible without a great deal of guidance and help from a higher power. God has helped me in so many ways, I can't even name them all. Some are too personal. Some seemed fleeting and small at the time but in hindsight they gain a greater importance. Others were right there in my face, with the definite implication that saying "accident" or "coincidence" would result in cosmic laughter or a lightning bolt.

Kidding on that last one. I think.

I say "Thank You" every morning and night, and at odd intervals in between. It just doesn't seem enough, for Someone who has been there at every turn. For once, I wish I had better words.

So this year, Thanksgiving is His.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Consequences of a new Technology

We don't often think about what would happen if, but as a writer I think about weird stuff all the time. Quite often it ends up in stories (of the "Be nice to me or I'll kill you in my novel" variety) but sometimes it's just fun to run through possibilities.

This week I want to go over the consequences of a new technology. Not just a new variation on old technology, like an iphone or a DVD, but something really new. I can't find the quote now, although I've seen it three times in the last week. Orson Scott Card, I believe, said something along the lines that there are four stages to discovery: 1) It's impossible 2) it might be possible 3) It's obvious 4)I thought of it first.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries people were just discovering electricity and all the marvels attached to it. Many inventions were tried, most of which have vanished into history. A few are still used today. It was a brand new technology, and everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon. In a very real way, the widespread use of electricity transformed our world.

The fact remains that there's enough power in the atmosphere and the gravitational force of our planet to power everything we need until the planet literally cools. We just don't know how to use it.

What would happen if someone discovered how to use that power, without recourse to utility companies? Well first of all the utility companies would try to prove the people were stealing from them (which is along the same lines as a city saying people are stealing "their" water by catching what runs off the roof) but that's not the point here.

The assumption here is that it's spread on a wide scale, everyone starts using it at once.

My opinion:

The utility companies would close their doors, resulting in an immediate 10% increase in unemployment
Everyone who had invested in those companies would lose their investment
The stock markets worldwide would plunge, probably 40 to 60%
Governments who rely on the electricity companies (they're notoriously slow at adopting good ideas) would shut down--hospitals, schools, military bases, etc.
Other companies who contracted with the utility companies would lose that business and take a next quarter loss. Many would have to close, resulting in another 5% increase in unemployment
Prices for whatever raw materials allowed the new technology would skyrocket, putting the new technology out of the reach of most people. Those who have not yet adopted the technology would be screaming for the electric companies to come back.
The government would declare the technology dangerous (or subversive) and allow it to be used only by "authorized" and properly equipped contractors.
The utility companies would return, using the technology and selling the free power at a massive markup

So that's my opinion. What do you think? What would be the consequences of a new technology?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weird Question #837

Hey! Probably closer to number 897,463, but I don't have that many fingers.

Although I'll give my opinion I'd like some discussion.

We know that the crude oil/natural gas resources of the world are finite, and according to some sources we've nearly reached the "hockey-stick" or "j-curve" point where oil usage for the world is out of control. We're quickly approaching the PONR (Point of No Return) at which consumption outstrips production beyond the capacity of various regulatory agencies to hide the fact. Yes, at that point prices will skyrocket, but gone is gone.

At some point in the future, gas and oil will be gone regardless of how much we try to hide the fact. Increased efficiency and new sources will only take us so far. Oil companies and utility companies have no reason to look into alternatives and in many cases are actively antagonistic, as evidenced by the increasing number of lawsuits by big oil and utility companies against other companies selling solar or wind alternatives. They have a monopoly, they don't want the competition.

So taking into consideration the fact that resources are finite, that there is little research being done in viable alternatives, and that embedded interests (scientific, economic and governmental) are doing their best to keep our heads in the sand, what do you think will happen when the oil does run out? This is under the assumption that viable alternatives are not found in the meantime.

My opinion:

Governments will try to hide the fact as long as possible so as to avoid a panic
Permanent rationing will go into effect but it will be blamed on terrorists or economic factors rather than scarcity
Resources will be reallocated so that governments can continue to run, further increasing the strain on citizens credulity
"Insurrections" will be put down with increasing force and brutality as people try to protect themselves from the growing chaos
As resources are reallocated, food distribution will start to break down, resulting in chaos and panic
People will run to the countryside, expecting to find food. Rumors about "hoarders" and "stockpiles" will cause further panic
The countryside is stripped bare by people looking for food
Mass starvation and disease
Armed camps spring up to protect the remaining resources
Governments confiscate what they can, destroy what they can't in an effort to maintain their power

So what's your opinion? Local, national or international consequences of one resource disappearing.

Next: Consequences of a new technology

Thursday, November 7, 2013

As A Reader

A few weeks ago I was reading a blog post that talked about what readers want from a writer. Outside of the creative part, it said that most readers want to know the writer, to feel like they're a friend.

Oddly, what I most want to know about writers is "When is your next book coming out," but that's part of the creative stuff, I guess.

So I was thinking about my blog. This particular blog is for my readers. I also have a writers blog, and my crazy herb lady blog, and a seed exchange blog, and...Um, I think my interests are rather varied. And obsessive.

I was thinking about what my readers might like to know about me, and I kept coming up blank. What would I like to know about my favorite writers?

"When is your next book coming out?" which brings me right back to the beginning. I have no idea what my readers might like to know, but I know that whatever I say is probably going to be TMI. If so, I apologize in advance.

Your continued perusal of this blog is acknowledgment that I am human. Deal with it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaNo Update 2 (day 5)

Hit 22k today. Not nearly up to where I wanted to be, but well above where I should be to hit 50k by the end of the month. If I can do another 3000 by the end of the day I'll be halfway there.


Plans told her that the building held 120 sufficiencies, tiny family apartments that held, at most, four people each. Common sanitary facilities, common kitchen to which a sufficient number of nutritionally balanced meals was delivered on a daily basis.

The meals were uniformly tasteless, their texture something like hardened jelly from the one Nix had tasted many years ago. With her ancestors being teachers, she'd never had to live like that. And yet these people had pride in their own way, even when they had next to nothing, determined that their children would be better off than they were. That determination held them on track to make sure that their children had education and a higher position in the nonexistent hierarchy of the Council.

Without connections and without any ability to influence the decision makers, that hope was a dead end road. But still they worked, hoarding their social credits to buy the special schooling, the tutors and good clothes so that their children didn't need to be ashamed.

She found the little boy in the common classroom with fifteen others. All of them worked on their own studies. They all knew they were being watched, so there was no overt bullying, but a note was passed from hand to hand until it reached the child next to the boy.

He looked down at it, looked over at the smirking originator, and opened it. After a moment he folded it carefully and dropped it on the floor.

The boy who had planted the garden outside the apartment house looked down at it and swept it toward himself, centering it carefully under his shoe. He went back to his work.

After a time he froze his Teaching program and ran upstairs, incidentally sweeping up the note as he left his seat. He closed the flimsy door carefully and filled a pitcher with water, carrying it down the narrow stairs and out the front door.

There he stopped, and stared. He knelt in the dirt and read the little note at the base of one of the plants, then looked around as if expecting to find someone hurrying away with a shovel.

Carefully then, he emptied his pitcher around the base of the two plants and piled dirt around them before he went back inside, the pitcher swinging from his fingers.

The grin on his face seemed bright enough to illuminate the hallway.

The door he had entered gave her the names of the occupants, and only one was in the right age range. Nix was unsurprised when she accessed the records to find that he spent much of his time in Axon planting and tending a garden.

A look at his records showed her about what she expected—although he and his parents hadn't been informed yet, this was his last year of primary school. His scores alone would have indicated he should continue on. He was listed as a "disruptive influence," often interfering between the other children when they were involved in tormenting each other.

Nix looked deeper, grimaced at the "educational path" outlined for him. Street maintenance. Another mind gone to waste.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNo update 1

I got 9000 words today. I was hoping for 15k, but I don't think that's going to happen. Right now I am going to go take a nap.

Last year I worked up to 4000 words per day prior to NaNo. This time I didn't "warm up" so my writing muscles are screaming.

Excerpt from Axon:

"Exactly. Nationalism nearly destroyed our world, even before the collapse. Ania, can you give me a quote that supports this?"

Ania blinked at her, as if surprised. She didn't look to the side. "Nations must be abolished. We must come together under the banner of a shared humanity in order to stop the madness."

"Who said that?"

The other students stared at her, surprised that she would ask what everyone knew.

Since it was Ania she looked at, Ania answered. "Faber Milanoiaki. He gave us the peace after the collapse."

"You're close. Actually it was his wife Gina who said it first and the first Councilor always gave her the credit. She died in the second year of the collapse, killed by an assassin sent for the Councilor. Records indicate that the assassin was supported by Unistat, although they disclaimed all responsibility."

She looked around at her students. "Think of that. A single nation made a decision that could have destroyed any chance for a recovery from the collapse."

A light on one of the monitors indicated that Georg had a comment and she nodded to him. "Go ahead."

"They all feared him, so why limit it to one nation? It could have been Rus, Unistat, the Chin. Any of them. I looked at the records, and all we have is a statement by the first Councilor indicating that he thought it might have been Unistat."

Nix shook her head. "Regardless of who did it, it was nationalism. The idea of borders, the idea that people are different because of where and how they live, is one of the first fallacies that the great Councilor changed. Analysis of records captured from the Unistat databanks indicated it was them." He still looked skeptical.

"I've seen those records too," Anai commented. "In my analytics class last year. I see half a dozen ways that the information could have gone in another direction. All we know from that information is that Unistat knew who did it after the event."

Foolish girl. Most of Nix's co-teachers would have been confused, muttered and stuttered until they inadvertently supported the girl's delusions. "The Councilor had access to other information and he stated that it was Unistat. In any case, nationalism killed her. And the Councilor as well, later."

"It took more than a century to abolish nationalism," Priete commented. "And the nations fought every step of the way."

"Why would anyone fight against it?" Francis asked, his forehead furrowed in real confusion. "It's the only system that makes sense."

"But they didn't abolish nationalism." Ania smiled faintly and Nix began to wonder if the girl was doing this deliberately. "There are still a few nations that hold out."

How had the foolish child learned that? It wasn't common knowledge even among the elite of the university. A dangerous statement, and a dangerous situation she had put her teacher in.


Ha! Today is the first day of November, so that means the next month will be crazy busy and impossible. So fun.

NaNoWriMo is an international writing contest (in a sense) and the goal is 50,000 words in a month. That means a little over 1600 words per day if I write every day, but since I don't write on Sundays I do 2000 words the rest of the days to make my goal by November 30th at midnight.

I'll be posting bits and pieces here, along with word count updates.

For the last few years I haven't been able to contribute to support NaNoWriMo, even though I participate every year. This year I found a blog-hop that's "giving back" to the NaNoWriMo website to support their programs.

They've written an anthology, The Spirit of Christmas, and ALL PROCEEDS are being donated to The Office of Letters and Light, which runs the NaNoWriMo programs.

So here's my wish. All I want for NaNo is...a cover for my next book. :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Sometimes the hardest part of writing is pushing the "publish" button.

Understand, I'm a writer. That's what I do, it's what I am and I'm not going to apologize for that. But I've always been a writer for me rather than for other people. Letting other people see my work is a risk.

But the interesting thing there was that once I started letting other people read my work I learned that it wasn't so hard. And the first time I pushed the publish button on a blog post, it wasn't so hard.

The first time I pushed publish on one of my books--that was hard, it took several hours before I was willing to actually jump. But the second was only about half an hour, and I have no doubt that the third will be even easier.

My first negative review--I still laugh every time I think about it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An alternative to healthcare

I was just on the Matt Walsh blog reading responses to one of his posts. This particular post is real-life stories from people who are being affected by the Affordable Care Act.

Someone mentioned a bill-sharing ministry, which I've heard of before but not by that name. My understanding is that everyone pays into the "fund" each month, and medical bills are paid out of that fund. When someone submits a claim, it's paid out of the existing funds and the rest of the participants pick up whatever the fund doesn't cover. So if you have 100 people participating, and they're each putting in $100 per month the fund has about 10k per month to work with. So if someone submits a 20k claim, 10k would be paid out of the fund and the other 10k split between the individuals, so each would pay an additional $100.

My proposed structure is more like a health-insurance credit union or a health-insurance trust. The participants pay in every month, and medical bills are paid up to a certain limit, pretty much the reverse of our current system. As the fund builds, the amount available also increases. For the first year (or two years, depending on how it's structured) people would be restricted to the amount they've paid in to the system, but by that time the fund could have grown to the point where it is self-sustaining. If everyone has a particular limit per year then the fund could take a 30% loss and still be self-sustaining. And the next year each person has that same (or a higher) limit based on the fund balance. So a person who has 100k in medical bills could keep claiming the maximum per year as long as they continued to pay into the system.

People with preexisting conditions would have the same payout and the same "premiums" as everyone else.

Statistics say that 2% of individuals will have a "catastrophic" need in any given year. Even assuming that more than 2% of the individuals in the plan claim the maximum, the plan can take a 30% loss while remaining viable and continuing to grow. People would be in charge of their own medical coverage, deciding for themselves what they want to claim.

Example: Individual paying $100 per month, fund balance of 100k after the first year, 100 participants. Per family limit of 5k per year. 6% could claim the max and the fund remains viable. Year end balance of 160k, maximum goes up to 6k the next year or add 100 participants.

Makes sense to me. Someone please make it a reality?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One step at a time

I admire people who can speak their mind. I tend to try to make sure that no one will be offended, which is self defeating but as an indie author it's rather important not to alienate my audience.

Then I realize (every time) that if they're going to be offended it doesn't matter what I say or don't say. I could stand still in the middle of a room and someone would find my stillness offensive.

That seems to be the world we live in.

The problem is that all my life I've been taught not to make waves. Not told, mind you. Taught. There's a difference.

Keeping my mouth shut and my head down has always been my safety net, but now I'm an author. I've put my work out there for other people to read, which means I can't hide in the dark anymore. Eventually, what I write is going to clash with what someone else believes. It's inevitable.

And in my writing, what they think doesn't matter. It's in my life that I have to fight to say what I really think rather than pulling back into my safe turtle shell. I learned early that the only way to survive was to have no opinions, no feelings and keep my interests to myself.

I am working on stepping out of the dark, but it's an uphill struggle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Without A Voice a thriller?

I talked to one of my readers the other day and she said that she found Without A Voice frightening.

I can't get my head around it. It's alternately described by other readers as suspense or a thriller, but even that I can't quite figure out.  Thriller? When I think of thrillers I think of chainsaw murderers. I don't like thrillers. I don't like blood and guts and extreme violence, so I don't write it.

The book is tense, yes. It faces topics of domestic abuse, stalking, etc, but there are only two violent scenes and even those are what I would consider extremely mild. I cataloged it as suspense for a reason.

I think my idea of "thriller" must be seriously out of whack.

What do you think?  Is Without A Voice a thriller? Did you find it frightening?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My life in jigsaw

I have a puzzle on my desk. Well really I have five of them, but one I'm working on. The idea is to make sure all the pieces are there and send it off to the thrift store.  Otherwise, if the pieces aren't all there it's going in the garbage.

My nephew said I should just count the pieces and I told him it wouldn't be as much fun.

My life is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle.  Not these nice, neat puzzles with the perfectly shaped pieces that might fit anywhere in the frame--a jigsaw puzzle. Of course if all the pieces are the same shape that creates a different problem.

My problem isn't finding out where that black piece goes--it's that every piece of my life is a different shape. Making them all fit is near impossible.

It's the writing, and the puzzles, and the laundry and the books I want to read. It's looking for a job and wondering where the money is going to come from and thinking about the herbal stuff and a science project. The old language project and I need (i.e., want) to make a batch of soap but if I get the soap stuff out I'll get distracted by all the other projects I haven't finished. And the garden, the weather, politics and dancing. And that book of magic pictures is calling my name, which brings me back around to the writing because magic, you know.

Tomorrow I'll go off on another tangent. But no matter how hard it is to put all the pieces together I wouldn't trade the craziness for that perfect puzzle with all the pieces precisely the same size and shape. I graduated from that one a long time ago.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Do you remember when you were growing up, the old man who always yelled at everybody to stay off his lawn? He appeared for maybe thirty seconds, threatened to call the police, and disappeared again.

Welcome him to my blog, please! The old cranky man as you've never seen him before!

*Wild applause*

Chinish peered through the crack in the curtains, waiting. The animals were playing in the street, kicking their ridiculous toys around. A little further. Just a little further. One darted after the ball, trying to catch it before it flipped past the end of the wall and into his yard.

The ball rebounded from the curb and skittered along the low wall to where his property dipped down below street level.

He sucked in a breath in anticipation of the feast.

The ball bounded through the gap. The animal hesitated, looking back at its companions, then gingerly made its way down into the yard. Chinish struck as soon as the child was within range, an arrow into the soul that sucked, sucked, sucked, pulling all that energetic power. This one had more power than most, and a new thought occurred to Chinish. His eyes widened.

The child started, turned toward the house instinctively for a moment, its eyes frozen wide. When no one appeared in the doorway it worked its way through weeds to where the ball had come to rest and Chinish threw the door open. "Get out of my yard, you filthy animal!" The child was close now, close enough to see the patterns in the wide eyes. So close that the flow between them was visible.

The child's fear was sweet, increasing the flow of power. Chinish sucked it all down, careful not to reach too far or take too much. Oh, sweet. Like a draught of cold spring water after a long walk in the desert. It filled him, chilling him from the inside out until he thought he might shatter.

The child stood, terrified, then grabbed its ball and scurried through the weeds to the street.

Chinish kept the contact, let the power soak into him. He felt the child's exhaustion, heard through the link the complaint of a headache. I'm going home.

Chinish smiled and kept the contact. Tonight, after all memory of the incident had passed, the child would die peacefully in his sleep. Chinish had never emptied one completely before, fearing repercussions from those who might be able to sense his interference on this plane. But maybe, just perhaps the surge of power as the soul left the body would be enough to open the portal again, to send him home.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


If you haven't heard of Awakening, by Christy Dorrity, hop over to the Facebook event for prizes, giveaways and games. From now until whenever! "Because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth . . ."

I am really looking forward to reading this book, and can I just say I love the cover? Christy's a genius.

A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery's family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a psychic for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn't think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She just moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has a best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital, and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.

When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled, janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities.

After Aunt Avril comes to Star Valley in pursuit of a supernatural killer, people begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened. When the janitor reveals that an ancient curse, known as a geis, has awakened powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy.

If you're here FROM the launch party, the tabs above lead to information about my primary world--the Demons Bay world, or the HalfWorld universe. Take your pick. In Other Worlds has links to sample pages for my completed (but unpublished) books, and Eclectic is my writers blog. I write mostly science fiction and fantasy, often a mix of the two.

Look around! If you read something you particularly like, let me know. I'm trying to decide what to put out next. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wyre-Rat temporarily discontinued

I've been focusing so much on other things that I've just let the Wyre-Rat cycle continue. I'm going to pull back on that for a few weeks, since I haven't gotten any interest. Let me know if you'd prefer that I continue, as I have other things I'd like to do with this blog. I'm bored with rats at the moment.


Wyre-rat (part 24)

"Swim north along the shore until an alarm on your tank goes off, then look for a tiny shack built just above the waterline. When you're even with it, turn out to sea and they'll find you."

He stared. "I can't leave you alone. They'll come, they'll take you to the Center."

I shook my head at him. "Better me than you, and my people need to know what the Center is. If they can, they'll get me out." I stared into the dark, wondering if they would even try. If they couldn't, I still wouldn't give away any information.

I quickly packed up the bag. "Is he one of your supervisors?" I barely glanced at the corpse. I was surprised that he hadn't even thought about killing the man.

Now he showed no concern about the body beyond stepping around the blood. He lifted the corpse by the hair, then dropped it. "No. I don't recognize him." He quickly stripped out of his clothes, and I packed them in the bag as well, carefully not looking at him until he'd dwindled down to cat size.

He seemed amused by that, and jumped up on the bed to rub against me.

I pushed him away. "Get out of here. I need to get away before they activate that tracker." He squirmed out the narrow window and I watched him go, wondering if I was judging him correctly.

He could just as easily go back to the Center, but at the moment he seemed to be reveling in his new "freedom." An illusory and dangerous freedom, but he couldn't know that yet. If he followed my instructions, at least he'd be out of it.

When I could no longer see him I finished packing my bag and went looking for my hostess.

She looked up from the fireplace, surprised to see me in her private areas, and then her eyes darted down. I followed her gaze, saw the blood streaking my new leather boots.

"An uninvited visitor," I explained, keeping my voice hard. "I hope you didn't invite him in."

Her eyes moved to the bag over my shoulder. "You're leaving."

"I'm not staying where I've been attacked," I snapped. "And there's a body on your floor."

She nodded sharply. "I'll take care of it." She didn't move. I stalked past her and out the door.

The day was young enough that most people were still at home. I hurried away, through the narrow streets and up toward the Center. As I passed the hotel where I'd stayed I slipped inside to leave my bag at the back of one of the first floor closets.

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 23)

He didn't hold a gun, or a knife, but he crept toward the bed on soundless feet. I tensed to move.

The stranger lunged forward. I tried to move away, but was tangled in the blankets. I felt the pop of a pressure syringe against my upper shoulder and responded, throwing him off. He stumbled backward and I set myself, but the cat erupted from the bathroom and seemingly by accident found a hold that the stranger could not shake off. A few seconds later the man crumpled and lay shaking on the floor.

I swallowed, eyes wide as a pool of dark spread across the dirt floor. "You killed him." I looked from the narrow piece of broken plastic in the cat's hand to the corpse.

"Wasn't I supposed to?" He sounded both puzzled and frightened. Underneath, I heard exhilaration. "He would have killed you."

I touched my shoulder. I wasn't feeling lethargic or drugged in any way, and the painful pressure indicated that something had been injected into the muscle. I could guess what it was. "You're going to have to do this alone, now."

He blinked, suddenly frightened. His eyes went to my shoulder. "A tracker," he breathed. "They found us because of my tracker."

"No. The water I gave you last night would have neutralized any tracking devices. Unfortunately that was the only bottle I had." I rubbed at my face. "So it'll be up to you." I hated to leave him on his own, but this situation had just become more complicated.

"What will be up to me?"

"You need to get out, and let my people know what happened. If you stay in animal shape until you get across the border you should be fine." I didn't have much choice. At least the route I had planned wouldn't risk anyone.

"Do you know how to swim?"

His eyes widened in alarm. "Swim? I'm a cat."

"Good. Are you afraid of water?"

He hissed, perhaps in contempt at the idea.

"Good. Right now, before dawn, go down to the bay. The northern section, the trees come right down to the water. Go in cat form. Somewhere along the shore, under a large tree there's a small cave that you can get into as a cat but that no human could find. Inside you'll find a diver's mask and a tank."

He blinked in surprise.

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 22)

"What guarantees can you give me?" he asked after a long moment of silence. "We never go hungry, in the Center."

I easily heard what he didn't say--that in the Center there was no risk. A lie, and we both knew it. "None," I said flatly. "Whatever you do out there will be up to you. I can't even guarantee the next twenty minutes."

He stared down at his hands, and they stretched as mine had. What that meant for a cat, I couldn't guess. Interesting that those mannerisms would be so much the same when the animals they represented were deadly enemies.

"I'm not sure I even understand what you mean. I could go back right now, and you couldn't stop me."

Or so he thought. I kept my mouth shut over the challenge I wanted to give him. "Do you want to go back?"

His breath hissed, in and out. "No. I want...I want to be free." I heard him swallow. "But I don't even know what that means. Free right now means not having to go back."

One step in the right direction. "It may be dangerous. You may die, I may die. We'll need to take action, and that's never safe."

His slump against the wall didn't change. His head didn't come up, his shoulders didn't straighten. The sound he made might have been a sigh. "You're not a supervisor."

"No." If he'd made that connection, it could only increase the danger. I sensed that he was close to the breaking point, where he must go entirely in one direction or the other. "What made you decide that?"

Another nearly inaudible sigh. "They would never give a choice, and they would never say 'we.' They would never suggest that any action was less than entirely safe, even when they know otherwise."

I shivered. That could have been my life, if I'd been born here. "So you don't want to go back. What do you want to do?" I held up a hand, hearing the first stirrings in the house. We couldn't risk this conversation with other ears around.

We both fell silent, listening. I heard it, the stealthy sound of footsteps toward the door of this room, and motioned him toward the miniscule bathroom.

He moved as instructed. I quickly tossed the blankets he'd slept on across the bed and curled up under them as if I'd not moved all night. Through slitted eyes I watched the door.

The shape was not the shape of our hostess, but someone much larger who held himself as if he was armed. Inside the bathroom I sensed a shiver of motion. With any luck, the attacker would not hear it.

I shifted, stirred, pulling my legs up so that I could move in whichever direction seemed necessary.

Part 23

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 21)

What a life. "In other places, it's not like that." I glanced at the window, the first hints of dawn showing above the buildings beyond. "So if you could leave, would you?"

He didn't have to know that the decision was already made. I couldn't let him go back to the Center.

"I don't know. This is my life." He made a small gesture beside one knee, as if his whole life was constrained in that tiny circle.

"Would you want to? Leave and start over somewhere else where people don't care what you are?"

"You're trying to trick me," he snapped, but he still spoke quietly. Then his head dropped. "But it doesn't feel like a lie. I don't know what to believe." He shuddered. His head fell back against the wall.

"When I was a kitten, I remember the whispers that would go around in the dormitories."

I stared at him, stunned. Kitten? They'd been dehumanized to the point where they didn't even call their infants children?

He didn't seem to notice. "Rumors of wyre captured. Of those who tried to escape being killed by the people outside. We always knew we were being watched, that nothing we said could be safe." He flinched at some memory. "Those who spoke of other rumors, of those who lived their lives outside the Center, they disappeared."

He dropped his head. "No one believed them anyway."

I stared at him, trying to understand. No, not to understand but to assimilate where he was coming from.

It sounded like something out of a previous century, some medieval King deciding who should live and who should die, telling people what to think.

It would make our escape that much more dangerous, and also far more important.

I didn't want to have to kill him.

"Will you come with me?"

His eyes widened a little and turned toward me in the half-dark of the early morning. "Come with you where?"

"Back to my home. I think I can get us both out." This was one of many danger points that I could see in the future. If he came with me because he felt he had no other choices, if he came because he was so used to obedience that he would follow any instruction, chances were very good that he would change his mind later.

It would have to be his decision. Instinctively I stretched my hands, as a rat would do to expose its claws. He glanced down at the movement.

Part 22

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 20)

"Having a cat dogging my footsteps is not going to make this easier." I used the word deliberately, wondering if the same sort of rivalry existed between wyre dogs and wyre cats. From the pained expression, it probably did.

I sat on the bed, my legs curled up under me. He sat against the wall, out of sight of either the door or the window, and talked very quietly.

"I can't stay here."

"I agree, but that's something we need to work out. Unless you'd like to wear a collar and harness?" I raised my eyebrows at him. I expected him to get all offended.

His mouth twisted up. "Until a year ago, that's the only way I got out of the Center. The supervisors would take us out to introduce us to the city."

I think my mouth fell open. "What?" I swallowed hard. "That's..."

"Disgusting?" He said it quietly, staring at his hands. "That's the way it is."

The back of my throat tasted foul. "Wyre are people too. Not animals that can turn into people, but people who can turn into animals."

He looked at me strangely. "Is there really a difference?"

"We're people first." I scrubbed at my mouth, swallowing the bile taste. "You are a person first. How could anyone think that is right?"

He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. "I don't understand you. We couldn't survive out here. No one would want to hire us, we'd be distrusted and outcast."

"Is that what they told you?"

He seemed to be struggling again, glancing at me for a few seconds and then away. "That's the way it is."

"It doesn't have to be." How strange this must be to him. "My parents were wyre, and they both had jobs. Dad worked in sanitation and Mom in health care."

His eyes closed again. "People didn't mind having her...touch them?"

"Why would it matter?"

His eyes remained closed. "People don't like us touching them."

Part 21

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 19)

I rolled upright quickly, and looked under the low bed. Nothing. Stupid, stupid! Quickly I rolled together all of my equipment, slipped into the clothes that would identify me as a local.

Then I stood, undecided. There could be many explanations, and going back to the Center was only one of them. I could leave this place and not come back, leave him to the mercy of whatever prowled these streets.

But if they did come for me, they probably wouldn't use sirens. If I left I wouldn't be able to come back, and walking out that door after curfew would bring trouble down on my hostess as well.

I physically swayed, trying to decide, and saw a motion from the corner of my eye.

The cat sauntered out of the shadows and peered up at me.

I stared at him, settled to the edge of the bed. "And here I was trying to decide whether or not to kill you when you got back," I said conversationally.

The cat stiffened, as if he took the statement seriously.

"Now I'm going to ask you a question." I carefully kept my voice even. "Did you sneak out to go back to the Center?"

He didn't say anything, naturally. Just stared at me with those glowing eyes.

"Because if they come after us, you're going to be a bloody pile of fur on the floor when they get here."

The cat snorted, and I could swear he sounded amused.

"You think I'm kidding?"

In response, he crouched down with his hind end wiggling, then pounced forward, paws over something I couldn't see. For the first time I realized that he didn't have a tail. He looked up as if to make sure I understood.

"You eat as a cat?" I heard the disgust in my voice. I thought about what rats normally eat, and nausea raised its head.

He peered up at me, his mouth gaping open on a cat laugh. A moment later he jumped up on the bed and curled up where my head had been.

I nearly sighed. Time for episode 2, apparently.

I picked him up by the scruff of his neck and dropped him on the floor from head height. "Understand?" I asked.

Probably not.

Part 20

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 18)

"Once more, furball." I stared back.

His head ducked a little. He walked forward, staying well out of my reach, and this time curled up in his own bed. Men and cats.

I didn't sleep this time. Instead I stared into the dark. Choices to make.

I could head home, leave him to his own devices. I could send him out of the country, but that didn't leave out the possibility that there was a real "escapee" out there. Obviously he wasn't one--just an opportunist.

Could I in good conscience leave him here? I scrubbed at my scalp under hair, kept short because long hair was nasty to wash after I'd been a rat. Could I stay, and risk capture? I wouldn't be the only one risked in that scenario. They'd said no to me staying in the first place, and with good reason.

I carefully did not lean over to look at him. I knew from experience that a wyre animal's senses were just as acute as the real thing--although what real thing I would leave to the imagination.

I hissed quietly through my teeth, and wondered if he heard it. I might find myself out of a job when I got back, but--there's the rub. I couldn't leave one of my own kind here, if there was a way to get him out.

If he wanted to get out, which was by no means assured.

It occurred to me belatedly that I'd taken charge of a total innocent. He would have no idea how to survive in my world, would know nothing about the reality of it all. Only what he'd been spoon fed.

His comment that he'd thought I was a supervisor suddenly made sense, and I replayed our first meeting in my mind. He'd come with me, a total stranger. Now that I thought about it, nothing in our initial meeting had been what I thought. He hadn't chosen this--I'd simply assumed that any captive wyre would want to be free.

He might be better off if I let him go back, but I wouldn't. I'd compromised not only my own life and mission, but also the lives of any free wyre still living in the city. Letting him go back, to tell his people that there was a free wyre in the city, would start a witch hunt.

Whether he wanted to be free or not, I was committed now. I could either kill him, or get him out even against his will.

If I'd been in rat shape, I probably would have bitten my own tail for my stupidity.

I'd always wanted to be free, which was part of what had landed me in this situation, trapped inside a country hostile to my kind and trying to defend someone who might not want to be defended.

I rolled, looked over the edge of the bed, and hissed in a breath. Gone.

Part 19

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 17)

"Why would I do that? If I was one of your supervisors, why would I tell you things that go against everything you've been taught?"

His breath came a little deeper. "I don't know." Abruptly his shape shifted, shrank. He fought his way out of the clothes and stared at me. After a moment of contemplation he jumped up on the edge of the bed and bumped his head at my hand.

Did he want me to pet him? Weird. I held my hands away. He put his paws up on my knee, looked me in the face. I knew he was using the cat's senses to determine if I was telling the truth or not.

"I will try to get you out, if that's what you want," I whispered, and found my fingers running through the soft fur along his back. "I am not one of your supervisors, and keeping any human being captive like that is just..." I couldn't think of the word. "Disgusting."

He bumped his head against my hand and curled up with both paws on one thigh, an odd rumble shaking him. Purring?

I moved my hands uneasily, brushing him away without actually touching. "Get off me."

He jumped down and curled in the nest of clothes, as if determined to keep to his cat shape. I pulled the light blanket up. I'd be more comfortable as a rat, but best to stay human while he was a cat--particularly while I slept.

After a while I peeked over the edge of the bed and he was staring up at me. He twisted his head oddly, purred again. Stopped. Took a step closer to the edge of the bed and butted his head against my hand.

I yanked my hand away. "Will you stop that?"

The volume of his purrs increased. I've heard of a cat smile, but I don't think I've ever seen one. Obviously, just like every other cat, he wanted attention from anyone who wasn't interested in him.

"You jump up on this bed," I whispered fiercely, "you will find out what flying feels like." He peered up at me with that same grin, then put his paws up on the edge of the mattress and stared me in the face. A dare?

I stared back. "Try it, fur-ball."

The cat's head twisted to one side, and I could swear he was considering whether he wanted to push it. I raised my eyebrows at him.

After another contemplative moment, he put his paws down and curled up, still purring loudly. I settled back, pulled the blanket up and drifted off.

I woke up with a warm weight on my feet.

I sat up, glaring. He peered at me from under one paw, trying to look innocent. With the blanket wrapped around my feet I couldn't do much, but I flipped him over the edge of the bed. He thumped, rolled, sat staring at me in the dark. The way a cat's eyes glow is really eerie.

Part 18

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 16)

Good. He handed the bottle back to me and I gestured to the bathroom. "You can refill it and keep it, if you'd like."

As soon as that stuff got into his system, it would attack and neutralize whatever tracker they'd implanted. These were the kind of precautions that had kept me free this long.

He got to his feet and did as instructed. He settled back to the pallet with his water bottle clutched in his hand. "Who are you?"

No way I was going to tell him that, when even without the tracker he might go wyre and take the information back to his "Center."

"I'm a free wyre. I run an underground for others who want to get out."

I studied him, waited for his reaction, and wished I was in rat form. The rat would have known whether he was lying just from the smell.

He stared, blank-faced. "Want to get out?" He said it like it was unbelievable to him. "We're taken care of, we have everything. Why would we want to get out?"

So he had been part of a trap.

He stared down at his hands, turned them over. "I don't want to leave. I..."

I heard panic in his voice. "Then why did you come with me?"

"I thought you were a supervisor. Only a supervisor would be allowed out... unmonitored." He blinked, squeezed his eyes shut. His breath came very shallow, and as if I was still in rat form I knew his heart was beating too fast.

Frightened. He looked down at the water bottle. "Did you poison me?"

"No." Let him make of that what he would. "I am not one of these supervisors."

"There's no way." The words were nearly inaudible. "People hate us. The Center saved our lives. Wyre couldn't live out here, you're talking about an impossibility."

"Then why did you come with me?" I asked again. "I'm serious. I can try to get you out, if that's what you want. In most of the rest of the world, we live like anyone else. We're trusted, paid for our work. Treated like human beings."

"You're trying to trick me."

Part 17

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wyre-rat (part 15)

I magnanimously let him use the shower first. The blood, reekish as it was to my rat nose, barely registered as a human. I made up a pallet on the floor, since the single bed in the room was far too narrow for two.

Still a very real possibility that this was a trap, I perched on the windowsill in my rat form listening for any hint of unexplained movement outside the apartment.
He emerged from the shower, toweling his hair dry with one of the used-to-be-a-sheet towels the landlady had provided. He stumbled over the pallet, and stared in surprise at the rat staring out the window.

I jumped down, strolled past him into the miniscule bathroom and shut the door. After a moment I opened it again, still in rat form, and dragged my clothes through the door by my teeth.

He continued to stare, or I assume he did.

No big fancy tub here, no thick soft towels. And apparently no hot water. I shivered through my shower, dried off as much as I could and dressed again in the flippy white dress I'd started the day in.

I fluffed my hair with the square of cloth I presumed was intended to take the place of a towel and walked out into the bedroom. He was already curled up on the pallet of thin blankets, and looked so much like a human sized cat that I wondered for a moment. He looked up at me as I edged around him.

I sat on the bed, curled my feet under me and cocked my head to one side, waiting.

"You look like a rat when you do that." He uncurled himself and sat with his hands on his knees.

"You look like a cat when you do that," I retorted.

The corner of his mouth turned up. "You know they'll be after me."

"They can't track you any more." Of course they would use an implanted tracker as well, but it might be a while before they decided to use that.

"No one has ever gotten away." He looked away, studied my temporary refuge.

"They're holding you prisoner then. That's what the Center is for."

He blinked in surprise, looked me straight in the face for the first time since I'd shifted to human form. "Of course. Did you think otherwise?"

I reached into my bag and handed him a bottle of water I'd brought from my hotel room. "Drink that."

He stared down at it as if expecting poison. I grabbed the bottle, uncapped it and took a swallow. "Satisfied?"

Confused, he downed the water. He did seem thirsty, because he drank the whole thing with only a few stops for breath.

Part 16

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Monday, July 8, 2013

My turn! My turn!

Hi! I was hoping you'd all show up here eventually, and here you are! This is the last stop before we head back to the party, so here are the questions:

What color are Ethan's eyes?

What does Val call the desk monitors at her work?

1/2 point: Is there a DSMV?

Personally I think the screen-on fairy is hilarious. A final bonus question: Look back through the other posts on this blog. What does Val think of the decor at the restaurant called Caliente?

Link to Sample pages of Spirit

Back to the party

Launch Party Tonight!

Tonight is the launch party for Spirit, and you're all invited. We're having a facebook/blog scavenger hunt, with points and prizes. Let other people know who might be interested. A free e-copy of Spirit to the fourth person to tweet about it with the hashtag #spiritthebook.

Valerian (Val) Howell has no intention of using the Spirit skills she was born with, until she stands over the body of another spirit worker at a murder scene.

At that point she has a choice. It's either use those skills or get flattened, with the dubious help of an irritatingly attractive coworker-turned-bodyguard who just might be working for her enemies.

She's tangled in a web of memories that aren't even hers, fighting an enemy she can't see with weapons she's never taught herself to use.

Why can't anything dealing with Spirit be simple?

Sample (from chapter 2):

I'd deliberately picked Caliente to see if he could be put off by the decor―or the food. The food's taken a sharp downward turn since the old cook left. Ethan didn't seem concerned, didn't even seem to notice the ancient hairless moose-head hanging in the shadows eying us balefully. Did it resent that we were still alive?

"I don't want anyone to know." I glared at him. "And you mention it you're dead."

What seemed to be eight generations of layered decorations, from old autographed pictures of Elvis Presley to Chianti bottles and stuffed deer heads, made the shadows into a tasteful person's nightmare. Somewhere off in a high corner something with more than two eyes glared down at us. I ignored it.

"Why? Lots of people have minor sensitivities."

I loaded a chip with salsa and crunched into it, then held up a finger as if my mouth was full. Polite. Yeah, right. It gave me time to think. "Lots of people aren't me. I don't want people demanding I do spirit work for them. I open those eyes, I'm legally liable." Thankfully foretelling had never been one of my skills so I couldn't tell anyone whether they were in line to get that promotion or if their boyfriend was going to propose.

Then again, in some cases foretelling might have been useful. This was one of them. His eyes widened slightly, and I wondered again why I hadn't just gotten in my car and driven away rather than stalking over to confront him in the parking lot. I'd just told him that not only was I sensitive, but sensitive enough to interpret what I saw.

"Then why are you here?" He waved a hand, presumably meaning not so much the schmaltzy, old fashioned restaurant as the office we both worked in. Why not join a highly lucrative profession where my skills could be utilized?

"Because," I said patiently, "I don't want to use it." The reasons behind that would take more time than he would want to spend on me. Twenty three years of living with Môma, to be precise.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wyre-rat fail

I forgot to schedule Wyre-rat when the old episodes ran out. Back on schedule.

Wyre-rat (part 14)

I took my attention from the mouth of the alley, stood and paced forward, then sat again. I studied him. Some kind of calico, which in my training meant "mongrel."

His fur was mostly dark, streaked with odd patches of a lighter color that I couldn't identify with the rat's color-blind eyes. He blended well into the darkness.

He stared at me for a time, then slowly sat up, his front paws not curled beneath him but crouched low and ready if I should attack.

Likely that's exactly what he expected.

I stayed were I was. We couldn't communicate--one or the other of us was going to have to shift shape.

Instead he extended a paw toward me, claws retracted. I bent over to look and almost lost control. Buried in his fur, in a bracelet of stretchy material much like the one I'd worn last night, a tracking device.

His head dropped and I wondered. Taking a single step forward at a time, I crawled to my belly in front of him. Even slower, I reached out a paw. With my paw resting over his but not touching, I waited to see if this was what he wanted.

His head bobbed. Cautiously, still not touching in case this was a trap, I hooked claws over the edge of the stretchy material and pulled it off. It was tighter than I'd expected, which made sense if they didn't want him to be able to take it off himself.

It lay there on the cement, blinking at us.

He was apparently shocked when I lunged at him and bit him on the cheek, claws scrabbling against his skin so that blood dripped onto the pavement around the tracker. He fought, as expected, but I leaped away to the top of the dumpster.

I sat there, waiting for him to get it through his thick skull. It took longer than I'd hoped, but no longer than I'd expected. He stared down at the blood, then squalled and began rolling it across the cement with his paws.

Oh, man. I hissed and he looked up, obviously surprised. Balancing on my hind feet, I waved my paws at him and then deliberately put them down flat on the dumpster lid. One, two. One, two. Footprints, idiot.

He blinked, looked down at his bloody paws and then jumped into a puddle. With a final glance back at the scene of the crime, he leaped up to the dumpster lid and followed me across the rooftops.

Part 15

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spirit release

Spirit will be out on July 1. I don't know whether the jitters are excitement or terror.

Valerian (Val) Howell has no intention of using the Spirit skills she was born with, until she stands over the body of another spirit worker at a murder scene.

At that point she has a choice. It's either use those skills or get flattened, with the dubious help of an irritatingly attractive coworker-turned-bodyguard who just might be working for her enemies.

She's tangled in a web of memories that aren't even hers, fighting an enemy she can't see with weapons she's never taught herself to use.

Why can't anything dealing with Spirit be simple?


I'd deliberately picked Caliente to see if he could be put off by the decor―or the food. The food's taken a sharp downward turn since the old cook left. Ethan didn't seem concerned, didn't even seem to notice the ancient hairless moose-head hanging in the shadows eying us balefully. Did it resent that we were still alive?

"I don't want anyone to know." I glared at him. "And you mention it you're dead."

What seemed to be eight generations of layered decorations, from old autographed pictures of Elvis Presley to Chianti bottles and stuffed deer heads, made the shadows into a tasteful person's nightmare. Somewhere off in a high corner something with more than two eyes glared down at us. I ignored it.

"Why? Lots of people have minor sensitivities."

I loaded a chip with salsa and crunched into it, then held up a finger as if my mouth was full. Polite. Yeah, right. It gave me time to think. "Lots of people aren't me. I don't want people demanding I do spirit work for them. I open those eyes, I'm legally liable." Thankfully foretelling had never been one of my skills so I couldn't tell anyone whether they were in line to get that promotion or if their boyfriend was going to propose.

Then again, in some cases foretelling might have been useful. This was one of them. His eyes widened slightly, and I wondered again why I hadn't just gotten in my car and driven away rather than stalking over to confront him in the parking lot. I'd just told him that not only was I sensitive, but sensitive enough to interpret what I saw.

"Then why are you here?" He waved a hand, presumably meaning not so much the schmaltzy, old fashioned restaurant as the office we both worked in. Why not join a highly lucrative profession where my skills could be utilized?

"Because," I said patiently, "I don't want to use it." The reasons behind that would take more time than he would want to spend on me. Twenty three years of living with Môma, to be precise.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wyre Rat (part 13)

Ahead, a faint scuffle. Angry squeaks and squeals, the snarl of some kind of predator. My twitching nose told me that someone had cornered a stupid cat.

I strolled forward, and looked up at the dumpster where I'd almost had to sleep the night before. Then I cocked my head to the side and looked around the edge.

A cat, yes. From the patterns, probably the same cat that had followed me before.

I considered that momentarily, remembering the animals that had walked casually into the Center. Wyre Containment Facility. Even as a rat, I shivered.

Red eyes flashed and the cat crouched down. This had to be a real cat--surely a wyre wouldn't actually hunt a rat that way...

The cat pounced, and the smallish rat turned and ran. It scuttled close to the wall, dodging teeth and claws when necessary, and squished itself down into a space that most humans would have considered too small for its bulk.

The cat snarled at the hole, its claws flexing.

Unconcerned now, I sat easily on my haunches and watched the play.

As if the cat sensed me, sensed my attention, it spun. In doing so it put its back to the hole it had been watching and the rat slithered out and ran right to a pile of garbage. It burrowed in and held very still.

Smart rodent.

The cat glared at me, crouched again. Stupid cat. I looked away toward the mouth of the alley, pretending I didn't care about the predator a few feet away.

He squashed himself flatter to the pavement, his hind-end twitching. I watched him, spread my own claws and bared my teeth--still not looking at him. If he was human he'd see that as the insult it was. If he wasn't, he'd maybe get a brain and run.

I saw the anger. His ears laid back.

Human. Wyre.

Part 14

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wyre Rat (Part 12)

I sat, swishing my tail like a stupid cat, eyes half shut as I watched. No one came in and no one left. Some time after midnight I saw the first movement--three animals approached the big doors. A dog and two cats, it looked like, although the dog was small and furry.

The door swung open--not from either side, but from the middle. The animals walked in as if this was the most ordinary thing in the world.

So at least some of the wyre were not being held prisoner. Some worked with their captors.

One of the cats turned and looked back just before it walked through the doors, looked right at me.

Time to go.

I scuttled through the bushes, looking for any hint that I was seen or followed. This whole thing was looking more and more like a trap, probably set just for me.

I got back out to the main street and crept through the shadows away from that place. I had enough information, if I left now. They could send someone else in, infiltrate the place.

I scuttled back through the alleys and streets, lost myself. Not literally, but I ran around in enough circles to confuse anything but a 'bot. At a sound in the alley ahead of me I pressed myself against the wall, whiskers quivering. My ears shifted forward and back to pick up the sound if any humans approached.

Part 13

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Part 11)

In any city there are going to be people who live below the notice of the law abiding citizens. Simple enough to identify them, and to approach one with an offer.

I took a risk. Although the small room they rented to me was not an official apartment (meaning the city got no taxes or fees) they could easily call the police about a squatter if they thought they could collect a reward.

I paid in local currency and spoke with a dialect from the north, telling her that I needed the room for two days. She didn't question me. I paid her what she asked, and no more, and I bargained as much as I could to bring the price down. My money had to last until I could get myself and the un-named wyre out, and I could very easily find myself bribing someone. Or several someones, and that isn't cheap.

I knew my landlady was watching, so I left the room through a window and dragged my bag out after me. Not the whole thing--she'd get suspicious if I left nothing in the room--but the small green handbag with all my cash. That I buried just outside the window, and shifted again to rat shape.

This area of town was all narrow streets and alleys. I followed real rats when I could, because they knew all the ways. I edged closer to the monolith they called The Center and finally crouched in hiding across from its main gates.

I'd been in the city for close to a week and never seen this building.

The rest of the city was old and rambling, houses of adobe and plaster behind high garden walls with locked gates. But this area, the center of the city, was all modern. I wondered how many ancient homes they'd flattened for it.

The space around these buildings was wide and flat, with little landscaping beyond grass and bright lights everywhere. Apparently vehicles weren't allowed either. While I could hear traffic in all directions, none came through this area.

The Center was a monolith in the middle of the clear area, probably three stories of blank, windowless walls. The only visible entrance looked like some kind of security gate and my instincts told me that the place was under constant surveillance. No guards visible, but they must be there. Paranoia.

It did occur to me that I didn't really need to do this. I could just slip back out, go to the new hotel as planned and pretend none of this had happened.

My team needed to know the truth.

I considered the monolith one more time. What would happen to that massive door if the power went out? Likely they had backup generators, but a determined rat could solve that problem. If I was right about this place, it was built to keep people in, not out.

Part 12

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Monday, June 3, 2013

Two years ago...

It's an anniversary, of sorts. Two years ago (June of 2011) I decided to quit my job and write. And I have been writing. August 5th will be the next "anniversary," when I officially abandoned my old job and stepped into the dark.

I've learned so much, but the main thing comes down to this. Fear has no part in the decision making process. If you're doing something (or not doing something) because of fear, it's the wrong reason. Every time.

I'm serious. If you're facing someone with a gun and he says get in the car, fear says get in the car. But there are logical reasons NOT to get in that car, not to do as your fear tells you to do. If you want to run marathons but you're afraid you might not succeed, get rid of the fear.

If you're afraid of anything--living your dream, starting a family, changing genres--get the fear out of the way. Easier said than done, but possible. Once you eliminate the fear, the process takes on a life of its own. You can then identify the real reasons why you should or should not do something, and make a decision on that basis.

I tend to get all muddled--fear of taking any action at all. I'm afraid to, I'm afraid not to. I worry about what might happen and what might not happen. I want something and I want the opposite just as much (although for different reasons), which makes it impossible to make a rational decision.

If you're thinking of changing jobs, get rid of the fear. If you want to live your dream, get rid of the fear. Whatever your fear is, push it gently to one side and separate the fear from the decision. Decision making becomes much simpler, and you may just find answers you never expected when you take that first step into the dark.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wyre Rat (Part 10)

Instead I went back to my room to finish packing. The clock radio on the nightstand played softly, and I knew precisely what that meant. Leave as scheduled.

I carefully rolled a set of clothing as small as it could get, wrapped it with all my money and pulled a larger bag out of my suitcase.

I sat on the edge of the bed. One of the porters came to get my bags and I let them go. They'd be sent ahead--according to the schedule, the bags would arrive before me at the new hotel. I would travel tonight.

I hit the snooze button again.

With a flip of my hair I walked down the stairs again, saw the bags delivered to the car that would take them to the new hotel. It always seemed an odd arrangement to me, but the travel team insisted that I and my bags travel separately when possible.

Perhaps exactly for situations like this, where I would need to travel quiet and light. I moved through the lower levels, looking for the old woman, but aside from a few servant girls gossiping while they cleaned the parlor the place was empty.

A rat's instincts, perhaps. I swallowed as I stared out across the tiny back lawn and heard sirens.

I strolled away from the house, walked down into a little park.

Then I walked on. Sirens behind me made people turn and I turned with them, peering toward the commotion while I moved backward a step at a time. The flippy little dress made me stand out here, but I'd have to wait until I could find a good place to change.

Around the first corner I continued walking. This area was a market square, of a sort. One of the booths sold calf-high leather boots. I stopped to admire them, picked up two pair and tucked a brightly colored kerchief in my bag.

The floppy sandals went in the next trash-bin I passed.

Everywhere I looked, I saw cats. Big cats, little cats, dark cats and light cats. Dogs too, now that I was less focused on the mission. A furry mongrel followed me for several blocks before he got the idea that I wasn't going to feed him.

If even one of these animals was wyre, I was dead in the water.

I kept walking, making sure everyone saw me. I played tourist, taking pictures of everything, and acquired a big floppy hat like I saw the locals wearing.

Gradually I made my way deeper, toward the bay area. I found a small warehouse that appeared untenanted and changed clothes, stuffing the flippy dress into the bag with the rest of my supplies.

I walked away and disappeared.

Part 11

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Part 9)

The little camera looked like the cheap kind that could be purchased anywhere in the civilized world. I strolled along the streets, collected admiring glances from people I didn't care about and took pictures of everything. Twice I ducked into tiny little stores set out like mazes, browsed and watched to see if anyone passed.

The same man, both times, strolled past the shop, glanced inside and continued strolling. It would have been simple enough to dump him, but that would ruin the fun.

Instead I browsed, laughed, talked to the clerks and bought expensive junk that I really didn't want. And had it shipped. Keep up the pretense.

Around noon I wandered back to the narrow three-story house that had been converted into a hotel. All the houses on this block had been converted to hotels, but this one had done a good job of advertising and getting their customers to come back. According to my cover, I'd been here as a child with my parents.

It might even have been true, but I doubt it.

I don't remember my parents.

The old woman met me at the door. "What did they want?" she asked immediately, and I stared at her in blank surprise. She shouldn't have to ask, and she knew we weren't supposed to communicate in any way regarding my missions.

"Excuse me?"

She lowered her voice, but I suspected not enough. "What did they want? They were from the Center!"

I blinked at her, confused. "So they said. They were looking for someone."

Her eyes widened. "Wyre?" Her voice wavered in panic. "Did someone escape?"

Someone, I mused. Not something. To most of the people in this country, the wyre were subhuman. "They said a cat."

Her breath came out in a long sigh, and her eyes saddened. "If someone has escaped, I need..." She turned away, and I caught her arm.

"Wait." I barely breathed the words. "They put a listening device in my room."

She smiled slightly. "No, that was me." She slipped away and into the dark recesses of the house. I stared after her. It hadn't been there before the men came into my room, I was certain of that.

Time to get out. Get out before everything exploded.

Part 10

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Pard 8)

I'd heard of the Center, but I'd never heard it called a Wyre Containment Facility before. This was something my team needed to know. Officially the Center was the headquarters of the team assigned to keep the streets safe from the dangerous wyre, an extension of the police force. In the last few years people had begun to wonder what it really was, since they hadn't found a live shapeshifter in close to fifteen years.

If its usefulness was done, it should have been disbanded by now.

I wandered back into my room and threw myself across my bed, sprawled out as if I was exhausted from the interview. Surreptitiously I pressed a button on the bedside clock, watched the little light in the corner blink at me.

They'd left some kind of monitor within 20 feet of the meter, and it was broadcasting.

I should now shoulder my bag and walk out to a well deserved vacation, but something they'd said bothered me. Escaped wyre.


Rolling over, I reached out and hit the snooze button. Extending the mission, that meant. They should have received the package last night so there should normally not be any reason for an extension. Some poor overworked secretary would be panicking, trying to decide how to get me home outside of the schedule.

I paced, trying to see it from every angle. It could very easily be a trap, if they suspected what I was. Or it could be the truth and my involvement was coincidental.

I don't trust coincidence.

I puttered around the room, packing up a few things as I would if I was ending my vacation. Most of my stuff could go home on the plane--I wouldn't miss it. A secondary route out had been prepared but with little thought that I'd ever need it.

Likely the escaped wyre would need it, if he or she was even real.

I hummed to myself, watched the blinking light that would tell me when the volume was the loudest.

End of the bed, in the fanciful carving of the bedpost. I identified the tiny thing, but pretended to ignore it. If someone wanted to listen to me, they could. I had nothing to hide now that my mission was done.

I pulled the toiletries from the bathroom, repacked them in the suitcase. According to the schedule I would be moving on to another hotel tonight, one far out in the country. I looked down to make sure the white dress hadn't wrinkled, and slipped out the door.

Part 9

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Part 7)

The two traded a glance, totally opaque on the one side and worried on the other.

"We're looking for a wyre who escaped from the facility last night."

I wasn't ready for that, but I opened my eyes wide in response. "Escaped? Wyre can't be restrained..."

"They can," the grim one said. "And it's our job to make sure our citizens," he nodded to her, "and tourists are safe. Did you see a cat last night?"

It took me a moment to figure out that they'd said "cat" and not "rat." Their accents didn't help. "I saw several, but I wasn't really paying attention. Wouldn't a wyre cat look different?"

The two traded an amused glance. "If they looked different, they'd be easy to track down," Izates said. Was that a first name or last?

Something about this conversation was off. "I did see several cats, but I can't remember a specific one."

The two men rose. Izates nodded to me. "Thank you for your time."

The other said nothing, didn't even look at me.

They closed the door gently behind them.

Escaped wyre.

As if unconcerned I walked to the balcony and leaned over it until I saw them leave. The young one, Izates, looked up at me and waved.

I waved back, the stinking coat still draped over the faux stone. I made sure to smile until they were out of sight.

The solution was simple. My mission was done, I could leave this place as a tourist and they'd never know the difference.

Escaped wyre. The people here didn't trust us, and in the first few years every wyre identified had either escaped, died or...disappeared.

Part 8

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wyre-Rat (part 6)

At this point I wasn't too concerned about the interview. First of all if they'd been real cops--which I didn't think they were--and it had been something serious they would have dragged me to their place rather than coming into mine.

They weren't honestly concerned about gossip, or again they would have been more determined about the closed door--which, again, indicated to me that they weren't real cops. But at the same time, they didn't seem to be worried about being found out.

So some kind of hybrid, maybe.

"We represent the wyre Center," the younger and darker of the two stated.

I think that my face remained still. No simple tourist would know what the Center was. The word wyre, of course, was self explanatory. My instincts told me that both of these were just human.

I let them see my puzzlement. "What's that?"

He pulled out the traditional folder and handed it to me. I stared down at the words Wyre Containment Facility and somehow kept my face smooth. A tourist would not see those words, but only the official seal and the government logo. The name said Izates.

I flipped the folder open and closed. "I'm not sure I understand."

The young man called Izates reached out for the folder and I gave it to him. "You were out last night."


"Can you tell us where you went?"

"Of course." They would have all of this from the credit record for my cover identity. "There's a little dance club about half a mile from here called Muerto Paseo. I was there most of the night. Got back..." I squinted between them, as if trying to remember. "Some time after three, I think."

Part 7

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Part 5)

"I don't know, miss."

"Can we come in?" the taller of the two asked, and I looked at them with wide, innocent eyes. They both looked pretty ordinary, and neither had that particular look that I'd learned to associate with 'special' cops.

I tried to look embarrassed and shy. "Couldn't we go down to the parlor?"

One of the men stifled a laugh. The other made no reaction. "I'm sorry, no. May we come in?"

The hostess stared at the two of them, suddenly concerned.

I breathed out heavily. "I suppose." I turned away and left the door open.

There's a good reason that I meet any guests in the downstairs parlor. My bathroom is almost bigger than my bedroom. The bed fills all of one end of the room, and I skip around the end of it to get to the balcony. No room for a chair. I sniffed surreptitiously, but I couldn't smell any difference in the room.

I motioned both of them to the bed while I leaned against the wall. The one that laughed--dark hair, dark tired eyes and unshined shoes--looked uncomfortable. The other still didn't show any emotion. His shoes were shined to a high gloss, but the edges of his uniform coat were frayed.

I left the door open, a tacit invitation to the landlady to snoop.

The expressionless one pushed the door shut with his foot and I promptly opened it again, glaring.

He let it go.

Part 6

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat episode 1

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wyre-Rat (Episode 4)

I dropped the coat right inside my door and headed for the bath. The water ran hot, and I scrubbed off the worst of the stink before I let the water fill the big tub.

Oh, it felt so good. I sank in up to my nostrils, letting the heat soak even into my eyes. Sometimes I wonder if I could turn into a fish, but I've never tried it. Only about one percent of wyre are able to take more than one form, so I'm technically one of the elite.

I snorted water out of my nostrils. Elite. A rodent sneaking in among other rodents.

Now, I really don't like the furry little critters, but they can get in just about anywhere. Little claws and prehensile tails. They're pretty canny as well, and their survival instincts have no equal. But man, those things are filthy.

I lifted my head, scrubbed at muck caked into my short hair. It floated away. I used my fingers to scrape it out of the water, dumped it in the garbage can I kept right next to the tub. Now the garbage can stank too.

I finally crawled out of the tub after my skin was wrinkled and the water had cooled. No use refilling the tub--what I wanted was sleep. About eighteen hours of it, and then I'd report in. They wouldn't be expecting to hear from me until some time tomorrow anyway.

I slipped off the wide elastic wrist-band and tucked it in an envelope. The elastic stretched to accommodate rat or human (or even smaller things) and the contents had been my goal tonight.

I left the envelope on the table beside my door and fell into bed.

* * *

I smelled a full breakfast as I pried my eyes open. One eye touched the clock and I nearly groaned. Four hours. Four stinking hours of sleep.

My nose twitched, reminding me that I needed to feed it. Since my nose and my stomach were conspiring against additional sleep, I rolled out of bed.

I sniffed, cautiously, decided that the lingering rat-smell wasn't stuck to me and dressed quickly for the day. Today I would be a tourist, complete with a little disposable camera and flip-flops.

I laughed at the thought and slipped into a flippy little white dress. Sunglasses and a bright green purse--perfect.

"Excuse, me, Miss?" The voice of the hostess called through the door. She sounded slightly nervous.


"You have visitors."

I tossed my head, true to the character. I'd had "visitors" nearly every morning, most of them trying to sell me something. "Tell these visitors I'm not interested."

"They're police, miss."

Oh. I looked around. The coat still lay on the floor--the source of the lingering stench. I picked it up and took it out to the narrow balcony, draping it over the railing. The balcony door I left open, hoping that by the time these police actually came up to my room the smell would have disbursed.

I swung the door open, blinked at the two men standing behind the hostess. "Oh." I smiled brightly. "I thought you meant they were downstairs." All of my other "visitors" had been invited into the miniscule parlor.

"I'm sorry, miss. They insisted on coming right up."

I let my smile fade. "Is something wrong?" I looked at her, but let my eyes dart toward the strangers.

Part 5

If you want to start at the beginning: Wyre-Rat part 1