Last preview

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I need more coffee.  Oh, guys.

I know, I know, it’s been a lot of previews up in here lately.  But Brewing Trouble goes live on Thursday, so next week you should have a different sort of post here.  Assuming NaNoWriMo hasn’t completely shut my brain down.

Hah, maybe I’ll write about how it’s difficult to be creative on demand.  Entirely possible, but tough.

At any rate, here’s your last excerpt before launch, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Brewing Trouble ebookA heavy shudder ran over her body and made the old bench creak.Suddenly, the stillness of the night and the soft gurgle of the water seemed ominous, and the soothing peace she’d sought fled for the comfort of the lighted apartments.Sarah wanted nothing more than to follow it.She turned in her seat and started to stand up, and the shadowed figure standing on the path froze her in place.For one panicked second she thought the wights were back and had somehow gotten inside the wards, but then the familiar, friendly, safe greeting reached her.

“Mr. Young!” Sarah gasped.The world around her snapped back into place, the stress and anxiety driven off by the quiet older spirit.Mr. Young smiled and tipped his head at her, his brown eyes soft and comforting.

“Sure, I’d love for you to join me.”Sarah scooted over on the bench to make room for him.He never spoke— at least not that she had ever heard— but he still managed to communicate somehow.Nobody really understood it, but everyone agreed that you just knew, somehow, what it was he wanted to say.

Mr. Young stepped over and sat gingerly on the bench, sighing in simple pleasure as he settled his weight and brushed his hand over his plain brown trousers.He settled back onto the bench slowly, with a long, tired sigh.

“Oh, come on, you’re not that old.You’re barely old enough to be my grandfather,” Sarah said, then chuckled and shook her head.“Actually, you’re probably older than I would guess, aren’t you?”

Mr. Young winked at her and reached into the pocket of his cardigan.He pulled out a candy bar and snapped it in half, holding one piece out to her.

“Thanks.” Sarah accepted the gift and turned back to the pond, which was once again just a pleasant spot to spend some time.“I guess you’re only as old as you feel, huh?”

Mr. Young nodded.They sat and listened to the water splashing into the pool while they ate their treat.Finally, after swallowing his last bite, Mr. Young turned to her and tipped his head.

“Nah, I just needed a few minutes, you know?Everything’s been so hard this week, I had to step away for a breath or two.”Sarah shrugged.“This outbreak of shadow pox while Doc’s in the hospital, and then Meg got hurt today—”

Mr. Young frowned.

“She’s okay, mostly.She got shoved by some guy, and it all cascaded until the display case broke.She needed to get stitches for one cut, but otherwise she’s fine,” she said.“But I’m not fine with it.The guy that shoved her?He was sent into the shop on purpose, with a talisman specifically to get through the wards.”

Mr. Young’s frown deepened.

“I know.I’m kind of freaked out.” Sarah slumped back onto the bench and pulled her own jacket tighter around herself.The days were plenty warm, with the summer sun shining, but the evenings could get chilly and tonight definitely qualified.“Doc is being attacked deliberately, it’s not just some weird, random virus she picked up or anything.I’m so worried about her. And we don’t know what to do.Gabe saw a witch casting some sort of big spell, and she seems to be Angela Davila Meg’s so-called coven leader and all around favorite person. “I’m not Doc.I’m not my grandmother.I’m not good enough to do all this.”

She sensed rather than saw him roll his eyes, and got the impression of a snort.A lone wisp of mist drifted past her eyes where she stared at the path that they sat beside.It flowed over the ornamental gravel and collected on the surface of the pond to swirl playfully away to nothing.

“You know I’m not exactly a well trained witch.Sure, I know I have the potential, I’m not going to ignore that, but with the exception of breaking that one curse on Sebastian, I’ve never done anything big on my own.And even that was almost just pure luck, and I’m pretty sure that Kai’s dad was helping guide me.”

Mr. Young nodded.He looked around the pond and pointed at something invisible, just past the wall on the far side of the water that surrounded the whole apartment complex.

“Yeah, I fixed the wards, but I’ve worked with Doc on wards for months.I’ve never seen Shadow pox before. Or Ellie came in the other day with Dryad Flu.And now there’s another witch out there coming after the shop, and Doc, and by extension all of us.And I have to fix everything.”

It was too much for a new witch to handle on her own. Mr. Young shook his head and raised his eyebrow at her.

“Yeah, I know you’re right.Nobody can do everything by themselves.And I’m not on my own here.I’ve got you and Sebastian and Kai and everyone,” Sarah slumped on the bench. “It’s just that this feels like a problem that needs to be solved by a witch, you know?And I’m the only one around now.And I don’t even know where to begin to start.I don’t know if I can do this, and then it’ll be my fault if Doc doesn’t get better.”

Her eyes burned and she squeezed then shut against the tears.A warm hand brushed over her shoulder and she smelled something that made her think of her garden after a cool morning shower passed over it, something refreshing and healing and honest.

Tears filled Sarah’s eyes now for a different reason.Mr. Young patted her shoulder and then held out a packet of tissues.

“Thank you.”She took the tissues and dabbed at her eyes while her companion smiled gently at her.

“Yeah, Doc said I should look for other teachers, too.It seems to be a theme lately,” she said.It was a little scary to know that Mr. Young— a spirit old and powerful enough to be considered a god— had faith in her. A completely average, young, all too human witch.She had to smile at the idea that she now thought that being a witch was average.

He nudged her elbow with his own and grinned.

Sarah laughed out loud now.“Yeah.Sebastian has been after Gabe, and I made the mistake of mentioning the idea to him.Now he’s starting to get after me about it, and it’s been barely a day since the idea came up.”She sobered slightly.“Doc suggested that I study herbalism, but I don’t know.I feel like I’m getting as much hands on practice with that as I need. Maybe I should look at something else to compliment that?What do you think?”

He tipped his head and his salt-and-pepper hair caught the bit of light from the corner.It almost looked like the mist was clinging to him as much as to the pond.Sarah wondered again what sort of spirit he could be.Not that it mattered especially, but…

He looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“I guess.”Sarah wasn’t sure that she was ready to take a whole new degree in anything.“I mean, I could look into classes for that sort of thing.Sebastian’s been after me to take classes ever since I mentioned it.You’re right that if I’m going to stick around doing this back-room witch clinic stuff, I should know more about medicine in general.Especially if Doc’s not around as much.”Sarah refused to accept that her mentor might not recover.The Apothecary without Doc was unthinkable.

Mr. Young nudged her elbow again.His grin was sly, and Sarah had to laugh again.

“You’re right.My mother would have a harder time arguing about a medical degree,” she said.“Though I have to say, I’d probably go for something like nursing rather than trying to be a doctor.She’d complain loudly that it wasn’t prestigious enough or something, I’m sure.”

Mr. Young just rolled his eyes slightly, but Sarah didn’t get any impressions of conversation behind the gesture, so it must have been just that.She sat beside him quietly thinking for a moment before turning back to tip her own head.

“Thank you,” she said.“I didn’t realize how much I just needed a friend for a minute.”

Mr. Young patted her arm, and Sarah had the sense— not that he was speaking in any way, but there was just a connection to a feeling— that Mr. Young was looking out for his family in his own way.If family was what you made of it, then she was glad to call Mr. Young her grandfather.And Doc was more maternal than her own mother.

Sarah was going to make them both proud.

Brewing Trouble is in preorder until Thursday when it goes live, and the rest of the series will be on sale to celebrate!

NaNoWriMo ate my brain

woman-sitting-at-table-and-working-with-computer.jpgI forgot it was Monday.  So I didn’t write a blog post and now I’m in bed and have no energy to come up with one, so instead, I’m offering a small piece of Book Five, which I’m trying to complete under the NaNo guidelines.  So here, completely raw, unedited, and totally unrevised, is an excerpt from my work-in-progress.  Let me know what you think!

Kai ended the call a moment later with over polite farewells, then frowned at the phone when it rested back in its cradle.

“Who was that?” Seb asked.

“That was Lloyd Franklin, city inspector.He wants to come inspect,” Kai answered.

“Inspect what, exactly?And why?I thought we’d finished all that.” Sebastian pressed, and Kai had to shrug.

“I have no idea.The roof, I guess.Maybe the clubhouse since that was sort of a last minute thing.We’ll have to make sure that there’s no suspicious informal coffee shop stuff in there, I guess.”Kai frowned at the phone again, then shrugged and returned his attention to Gabe.“Now then, back to your problem.”

“Oh thank god,” Sebastain groaned.“If I had to spend one more hour working with the gloomy yawn machine here, I was going to run away to the Carribean.”

“Oh come on, it’s not like you’ve never showing up here exhausted from not sleeping,” Gabe shot back.“Just because my excuse isn’t as pretty as yours is, doesn’t mean you need to rub your nose in it.”

Sebastian just grinned broadly.“Sarah is pretty, isn’t she?Maybe she’ll come with me to a tropical island and neither of us will have to hear you yawn.”

“Okay, both of you,” Kai cut in.“I swear, it’s like preschool in here some days.Gabe.Let’s go through your grounding ritual real quick and see if that helps drain off some of these unscheduled nightmares.”

“I hope I never want to schedule a nightmare,” Gabe grumbled, but he kicked off his shoes and socks and stood, barefoot, to head to the small manmade spring.

“And then after that, I want you to go with Sebastian to The Apothecary.Doc’ll take one look at you and you’ll be set up with some tea or something that’ll help you get some decent rest.”

“Seriously, Gabe.I don’t want you working around here when you’re exhausted.It’s unsafe,” Sebastian agreed.

“Exactly.And it’ll get the both of you out of my hair for a while so I can get some actual work done instead of having to hold storytime and recess for you children.”Kai started toward the door.

“So you’re sending us off for naptime and a timeout instead?Very clever, Mr. Kai.Can we have art class later?”Sebastian’s voice followed him out the door and as it closed he flicked a ball of foxfire back into the room, laughing at Sebastian’s sudden yelp.

I hope it’s not too terrible.  Also, the preorder for Brewing Trouble is still up until next week!

A second sneak peek!

Here, my lovelies, is another peek at Brewing Trouble.  I hope you enjoy!

Brewing Trouble ebookIt was Tuesday and the whole atmosphere of the shop was filled with absolute insanity in Sarah’s mind.  She’d started getting phone calls while Sebastian served up dinner the night before.  A couple of the kids in the Village had come down with something and Sarah had to spend the evening doing research instead of relaxing like they’d planned, before she finally gave up and called Doc’s phone since hospital visiting hours were long over.

Doc pointed Sarah in the right direction and it was a damn good thing, too.  This bug going around wasn’t anything terrible, but it was still something that needed to be treated.  Doc told her how to make up the medicine that the kids would need and how they should take it, and said it should start working for them pretty quickly.  She also warned that the number of cases would increase before the kids started getting better.  She hadn’t said anything about almost every kid in the Village coming down with it at the same time, nor that every one of their parents would be calling Sarah in a panic.

So, Sarah had been effectively trapped in the back of the shop all morning, mixing batch after batch of the potion that would help the kids get over the worst of it while they recovered.  Now it was just after one in the afternoon and she’d had to field about thirty phone calls of varying intensity and reassure everyone that she was making the potion as fast as she could and would have the first batch ready by around 3 for Sebastian to come and pick up for delivery.

The fact that it just needed to simmer for a while inside the grid of magic that she’d set up around the portable cooktop on the workbench for an hour was more of a relief than Sarah had imagined it would be.  It meant that she could sit down for a few minutes before hopping back up to make a few phone calls.  She had run out of two ingredients, unfortunately, and needed to replace them before she could start the next batch.

Before that, though, she needed to check in with the actual shop.  Gabe could handle most things, and she thanked all the gods she could think of that he was in today.  Still, it was technically her job to be in charge, and they’d been busy every time she stuck her head out front.  Not swamped enough to call for reinforcements, but busy enough that none of them had taken a break since opening.  Sarah decided that she would let Meg take a break, then Gabe, then use her own break to go pick up the ingredients she needed.  By the time she got back the first batch would be cool and ready to bottle.

As she approached the curtain that draped over the opening to the kitchen serving the cafe, she heard the normal hum of chatter die away and a man’s voice carried over top, raised in irritation.

“If you can’t even get my order right, what’s the damn point of taking it?” he said.

“Sir, I’m sorry you’re not—” Meg tried to answer, but just as Sarah emerged from the kitchen, the man who had been yelling reached out and shoved Meg’s shoulder hard enough to send her stepping back.  The whole room full of people watched as she tried to keep the tray of used dishes steady while stumbling backwards to regain her balance.  Even the nasty customer seemed somewhat surprised by the result of his actions as Meg took one last attempted step back and got her foot snagged on the leg of a chair.

That was all it took.  Meg went tumbling back and caught her elbow on the edge of the cafe table on her way past.  Cups and saucers and silverware went flying to land in a cacophony of splintering china that bounced and scattered all over the room. Meg grabbed at the table’s edge, trying and failing to save both it and herself. It landed heavily against the display case with Meg’s momentum behind it.  The crack of shattering glass replaced the crash of the table once it smashed through the front of the display.  Meg shrieked and let go of the table to wrap her arms protectively over her face to fend off the newly created daggers that fell around her like rain.

There was a moment of dead silence in the shop as everyone stared at the disaster that was still skittering to a halt in shards of glass and ceramic and a smear of chocolate cream where a cake had once been.

Care and feeding

man-dark-silhouetteI am, as you have no doubt figured by now, rather more of an introvert than anything.  Finding some peace and quiet to sit with a good book and a cup of coffee is a pretty much a life goal.  My husband, on the other hand, is an extrovert.  As much as he loves hanging out at home, he actually starts getting twitchy if he doesn’t get to marinate in the wildly swirling energy of a group of people.  Needless to say, Tokyo is a good place for him.

The only real trouble is that he’s caught between wanting to do what I need him to do for my own mental health (take our son off for a few hours so I can have some peace and quiet at home, turn the TV down fairly low, that sort of thing,) and honestly not understanding what I need.  To him, going out with a large group and spending hours talking and eating and going to karaoke 7is as necessary as breathing.  To me… well I like a few hours of that, but it’s exhausting beyond words after a while.  I’m pretty classic.  I need alone time to recover from being social, with fairly few exceptions.

So the other night we went out to celebrate two friends’ birthdays.  It was a wonderful day that was half spent just us as a family, wandering around and seeing the sights as we slowly made our way to the restaurant we were meeting everyone at.  Once there, we had a fun, slightly odd meal of almost all pies, and they wrapped up while I wrangled The Boy.  On the train home there was a flurry of texting, then silence, then more texting.  The Boy and I were ready to get home and crawl into bed, but my husband? He wanted to go back, meet everyone for karaoke at another station not far from us.

So, in a park in Tokyo, on a warm autumn evening, I had to call him to task.  It was an entertaining conversation that never quite reached the argument stage, where I told him to go.  Go play with his friends, sing loud songs about giant robots and argue about whose turn it is next.  He wanted to stay with us, go through the whole bath-and-bed routine with our son.  Watch whatever recorded on the DVR that day.  He wanted to take care of us and make sure we weren’t left out, even though he reeeeeally wanted to go out and play with his friends, and I wanted to go home and take a long bath.

I feel for him.  It’s hard, not understanding at such a visceral level what makes someone else tick.  I don’t see the appeal, myself, of karaoke.  Or of loud restaurants and spending hours at an arcade with the flashing lights and overwhelming noise.  But my husband does.  He thrives on it.  And I love him, so I send him off.  And he tries to understand the other side of that coin, to help me get the time I need, but I think that ultimately it’s much easier for an introvert to send someone away than it is for an extrovert to leave someone behind.

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Vectors

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I am a creature of momentum, and frankly, it makes life really difficult.  I suppose, to a degree, everyone has this problem, and I know I’m not alone in this difficulty.  It’s the reason that kids throw a tantrum when they have to change activities.  It’s why binge-watching has become how people consume television programs.  It’s why gamers will sit down and intend to play for one level or just this one quest, and then get up hours later only thanks to the demands of biology. It’s why knitters lie and say ‘just one more row’ or bookworms claim they’re only reading till the end of the chapter.  Once you’re doing something, it’s so much easier and more satisfying to just keep doing that thing pretty much forever.

Still, most people are capable of getting their butts up at the end of lunch or a break or when they finish the one task they need to complete, in order to move on to the next thing they need to attend do.  Turning off the TV and going to start dinner doesn’t feel like an impossibly difficult thing for most normal folks, and ordinarily, I’m able to manage to force myself to get into the kitchen and feed myself and my family.

It’s just my circumstances right now that are really messing with me.  My sleeping habits are not the greatest, as you’re aware by now.  Added to that, the dark peacefulness of the small hours of the night are the only quiet I really get to myself.  But this translates into not waking up before The Boy does, not that it’d be easy to do that anyway.  Kid’s up at almost 5 am daily and has been since birth.

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Photo credit: Fairy Heart ♥ on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

So, he gets up and plays in his room, often with a Nintendo DS or the Switch, but there’s Legos and robots and other things to amuse him as well.  Then my husband gets up and gets through his morning routine to get ready for work, and then… well, lately I sleep through all of that.  I’ll wake up when my alarm goes off at quarter till nine.  Now, it’s not an alarm I set to get me out of bed.  It’s an alarm I set to remind me to keep a record of something at nearly the same time every day.  It’s a business thing. And for the past month, I’ve managed to almost sleep right through it.

So the day is already off to a poor start.  Instead of getting up and being ready to leave the house with my husband like I’m supposed to, to walk with The Boy to the market and get the day’s groceries (which was working really well for a while!) we’re lucky to leave the house at all.  I’m in pajamas most weekdays, much to the amusement of a couple of delivery guys who’ve been by.

It’s a struggle that I’m trying to break free of, and my body hasn’t been helping with the back-to-back colds I’ve had in the last few weeks.  The bright side of this is, though, that if I can start writing in the morning like I have the past few days, I can bang out a pretty respectable word count by bedtime.  Which means that I’m making headway on short stories, and on a few other projects.  So there is a small glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel.  I just hope I can shift my habits around a bit and get some more positive momentum going.

After all, the holidays are coming, and nothing wreaks more havoc on a routine than December.

Trouble’s Brewing

Here, my dear, patient readers, is a little teaser excerpt from Brewing Trouble.  The manuscript is finally complete, and off to the editor, so if you see any typos, please feel free to let me know!  After all, even editors are only human.

 

Sarah and Gabe were laughing when they walked into The Apothecary tea shop.  Gabe only helped out a few days a week now that he was working with Sebastian and Kai at the apartments.  He didn’t need to wait tables anymore, and as a result of his schedule, it meant that he was working seven days a week.  Still, he said he liked the atmosphere at the shop, and he’d rather spend a day off there anyway, might as well get paid for it.  Sarah was just glad of the chance to hang out with him.  She liked the kid.

It was still early enough that the shop wasn’t open yet, so the fact that there was nobody in the dining room wasn’t a surprise. The fact that they stepped into the back room to grab their aprons and found Doc being fussed over by the new girl was.

“Doc!  What happened?” Sarah hurried over to inspect the scrape that ran up from the older woman’s elbow.  Meg— the new hire— was dabbing at it with a clean tea cloth.

“I’ll get the front set up,” Gabe said quietly so just Sarah could hear.  He didn’t say that Sarah could handle the Meg Situation.

“Some jerk on a bike damn near ran me over on the way here.  Didn’t even apologize or slow down much.  Just wobbled a bit and kept going, while cussing at me,” Doc scowled.  “Like it’s rude for a pedestrian to be crossing the street in a crosswalk or something.  Jackass.”

“Hold still,” Meg stuffed the cloth into her pocket and started to turn towards the shelves. “Now where’s the first aid kit back here?”

“I’ll get it,” Sarah said.  Nobody wanted Meg rummaging around too much.  All the shop stock was on the front shelves, but in the back of the room were Doc and Sarah’s more specialized supplies.  It wasn’t always easy keeping a community of spirits healthy on a normal day, and in the past six months, abnormal had become much more common.  Wights and Hunters and warlocks and… Sarah sighed and grabbed the small kit near the front of the shelving units.

“Here we go, Doc.  Get to break into the new batch of ointment yourself!”  Sarah winked.

“Wow, is that handmade?”  Meg gasped, her eyes wide.  Doc and Sarah exchanged glances.

“Yep,” Doc answered.  “Made it myself.  I’ve studied herbal remedies for years.”

“Oh my gosh, that is so exciting!  I’m considering that path myself,” Meg gushed while she watched Sarah carefully.  “It would mesh really well with my other skills.  After all, I’m a witch, you know, and it just seems like such a perfectly witchy thing to do.”  Doc’s eyebrows shot up her forehead and Sarah almost dropped the jar at this declaration.  They exchanged glances and turned to look at Meg, who was holding out her hand to take the jar and peer at it curiously, completely oblivious to the other two women.

Sarah reached out mentally, seeking a trace, a wisp of power to confirm the girl’s statement, and came up blank.  Another glance at Doc confirmed that her mentor hadn’t detected anything either.  They shrugged and moved on.  Lots of women called themselves witches.  It was a cool thing, or a spiritual thing, or a wishful thinking thing.  If Meg wanted to call herself a witch and study herbal medicine there was no reason to discourage her, after all.

“My coven leader agrees that it’s worth pursuing,” Meg turned the small jar this way and that, as if she could figure out its secrets just from peering into it.  “She’s really encouraging that way.  It’s so nice to have that sort of guidance in one’s life, you know?  Everyone should have a mentor of some kind, I think, even if they don’t have access to the magic of the deeper mysteries like I do.”

“Well if you want to learn a few things, I could tell you some.  It takes a lot of hard work and focus though, if you want to really know much about it all.  If you really want to pursue it, you need to learn a lot of biology and mainstream medicine as well,” Doc said.  Sarah bit her lip to keep her laugher back and taped the square bandage over the scrape.  It wasn’t bad enough for anything more than that, but it would annoy the older woman every time she bent her arm and noticed the tape.

“Oh, do you mean that?”  Meg was starting to really gush now, and Sarah smiled.  “I’m sure that I’ll be able to pick it up quickly once you start teaching.  I have a true connection to the energies of plants.  My coven leader says she’s never seen anyone as inherently talented in the garden as I am.  She loves it when I come over to help her out with the weeding and harvesting, she says that the plants always seem more lively when I’m done.”

Sarah was not surprised.  Gardens generally look nicer after a bit of attention, but if it made Meg happy, then who was she to judge?  And there were plenty of herbalists out there that had not a lick of magic in them who were true healers.

“I’m always impressed by anyone who can be a healer,” Sarah said.  She finished packing up the first aid kit and returned it to the shelf.  “Doc’s been teaching me a bit, but I don’t know if I could ever be as good as she is.  Or as my gran was, from all I hear.”

“Oh, honey.  You’re an excellent student, don’t be talking yourself down.  Your gran would be so proud of you, and of how far you’ve come in just a few months.”  Doc reached out and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder, a small, sad smile on her face.

“Where’s your gran?”  Meg asked.

“She died last winter. Cancer,” Sarah answered, washing her hands.  She rummaged under the sink for the cleaner and a rag.  “I hadn’t seen her since I was a kid.  She and my mom had a fight about something, and Mom never forgave her, I guess.”  Sarah shrugged, but the acid mix of emotions stirred in her stomach again.  Regret at never being brave enough to defy her mother until Gran was dead.  Anger and frustration with her mother for being so close-minded and controlling.  Guilt at feeling glad to be away from both her mother and New York City, and at not being a better daughter.

“Holding a grudge only hurts the grudge holder,” Meg shook her head sadly.  “And I guess it hurts the grudge holder’s daughter, too.”  Meg stepped forward for a quick hug.

“That’s very wise, Meg,” Doc said.“And you new her Gran.  Sarah is Rosie’s granddaughter.”

“And my mom was her daughter in law, but I think your point still applies.  I don’t think Mom came out of the whole thing unscathed either.”  Sarah sighed, then shook her head so as not to get lost in memories.

Doc shooed both women in front of her and toward the door like she was herding ducks. “Maybe we can continue this out front, where I’m sure Gabe could use our help.”

“Oh!” Meg jumped, then scurried out to the front.  Doc just laughed quietly and shook her head.

“That girl is sweet.  A bit easily led, but sweet,” Doc said.  “I suppose I can teach her a bit about the teas and what have you.”

“I kind of wonder about this coven, though.  How are we going to deal with our…” Sarah groped for a subtle way to say Spirit customers that need magical help but her imagination failed her.

“Our work with the spirit folk?  We’ll manage,” Doc shrugged.  “It’s a bit of a lull right now, thankfully.  I’m hoping that we have a few weeks at least, between Gabe’s adventures and whatever it was that he saw coming next.  He tried to get a clearer vision, but I guess that seeing what could be and what will be are two entirely different things.”  Doc started pulling supplies down from the shelf and Sarah joined her at the work bench, curious to see what today’s special blend of tea would be.  Doc started with the green tea she favored for blending.  The sweet herbal smell floated through the back room and Sarah took a deep breath to pull the sensation into her body.  The barest fizz of the magic inherent in the tea plants soothed her as much as the familiar scent of the tea.

“Yeah.  He was explaining it to me a little,” Sarah nodded.  “I guess, the more branches there are between now and the possible future event, the fuzzier it is for him.  He can see the past a much clearer, but only little bits of it, like a short internet video or something.”

“Yes,” Doc nodded, measuring the tea into her large mixing bowl with practiced movements.  “Also, he’s still adjusting to being able to call his visions on command instead of whenever the power leaks out of him and takes control.  He’s been practicing every day, though.  I think he’ll get the hang of it sooner rather than later.”

The mint’s bright sharpness swelled, then started blending with the softer green tea as Doc scooped that into her bowl.

“Yeah. He’s a great kid.  Young man, excuse me,” Sarah grinned.  Doc added a large scoop of bright yellow lemon peel and the sunny citrus smell added its note to the chorus of scents.  Sebastian will enjoy this when he stops by.  He always stopped by the door when he came in and took a deep breath, scenting the day’s blend and finding some peace in the moment.  Sarah had noticed it soon after she started working there, and it made her smile every time, even when she was having a terrible day.

Doc mixed the batch with her fingers, carefully sifting through the new blend and making sure she was satisfied with the proportions.  She didn’t use recipes for these, going more by instinct, and Sarah herself was beginning to get a feel for it as well.

“Ready?” Doc flicked her eyes to Sarah for a moment, then to the door out to the front of the shop to make sure they were undisturbed, and they both held their hands over the bowl, casting the enchantment they always infused into their teas.  Good health, and now after everything the Village had survived over the past few months, they also threw in a mild protection charm.

After the spells were cast, Doc rolled her shoulders and gestured to the large tea canister they would use for the day.

“You okay?” Sarah asked.  She scooped the new blend into the canister and tidied up the workspace.

“Yeah.  I think I must have gone down harder than I thought, though.  I’m feeling it a bit,” Doc said.  “You mind if I get some office work done for now?  You can call me if you need anything, but sitting down for a bit and taking it easy feels like a good idea.”

“No problem at all,” Sarah said.  She picked up the canister and headed to the front.  “You take care of yourself.  I’ll bring you a cup in a bit.  And a snack when the food gets here.”

“Oh, good.  There’s supposed to be a purslane and tomato salad today.  Sounds just right.”  Doc winked and headed back to the office, while Sarah bumped the door to the front open with her hip.

Blog post goes here

I’m wiped out, you guys.  I apologize.  I spent last week pretending that I wasn’t sick, then the weekend was The Boy’s birthday.  We went, shockingly enough, to Akihabara.  The Boy wanted to go to the Gundam Cafe (giant robots, you guys.  They’re multi-generational.)

Well, we went, but it seems that so did half of Tokyo.  There was some kind of Pokemon Go thing happening as well, and it was a holiday weekend, and there was a sale at the infamous Yodobashi Camera, and basically, it was a perfect storm of overstimulation and Thoe Boy made it clear that he was Done.

Honestly?  So were the rest of us.

We never made it to dinner and we spent the rest of the holiday weekend crashed out on the sofa watching tv and not really moving much.  I kinda did the same again today, and still feel fairly drained.  I’ve been doing some revisions, and I made dinner, and that’s about it, so no acceptably geeky or writerly post today.  If you are really jonesing for something new to read, there’s a short story posted for Patrons!  Otherwise, I beg your pardon and your patience, and I promise to do better by you next week.dog-sleeping-resting-rest-canine-tired-sleepy

Book Report: Fire Mage

Okay, I grant I read this a little ways back, so my memory is a wee bit fuzzier than I’d prefer as I write this, but honestly, I think you all would enjoy the heck out of it, so here I am.  Fire Mage was one of those books that my husband had to force me to put down so I would actually sleep at some point, the night I picked it up.

StockSnap_Vinicius_AmanoThe two lead characters were both compelling and each had completely believable reasons for going out on their respective adventures, and I rather liked them both.  Scarred since childhood, Jena has spent the past few years in the best place she can remember.  The great mage Thornal shelters her and, despite the prohibition on women using mage spells, teaches her all he knows.  When he is killed at the hands of elite royal assassins, he spends the last of his power to keep her safe and destroy the very thing the assassins were sent for.  As Thornal instructed with his last words, Jena uses her illicit mage skills to destroy her mentor’s hut, reach the supposed safety of the Forest of Ghosts, and get past one of the forest’s creepy guardians.  Once there, she learns more about her late mentor and discovers a sister, Bree, that she never knew of.

Jena is plucky and determined, and as we learn on the way also pretty powerful with a Super Secret Super Power, but she’s not all powerful.  She’s also not prone to fits of hysteria or sulking or any of the common heroine tropes.  She’s inexperienced and aware of it,  and she’s scared, with good reason.  The only complaint I really have is how easily she falls into accepting her newfound sister, and how she’ immediately tries to be close ‘like sisters are.’ Yes, they’re blood relatives, when they both thought they didn’t have any, but sharing DNA doesn’t always automatically mean that people will be close, or even like each other, necessarily.

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Nate is rescued from being murdered by those very same royal assassins by a mercenary under a geas.  This man explains that the Crown Prince— and soon to be king— wants him dead since Nate is in actuality the Long Lost True Heir.  Nate is, shall we say, skeptical.  While he appreciates Argus saving his life and all, he’s clearly a bit cracked if he thinks Nate is anything other than a bastard and a failed mage.  And his refusal to say who he’s working for makes Argus somewhat less than trustworthy.  Argus turns out to be right about one thing, though: Nate is definitely being hunted.  Nate can also see and interact with ghosts, so when he is suddenly haunted by the ghost of a particular, recently dead mage who helps him tap into powers he never knew he had, Nate finds himself on a journey he never wanted, just in a bid to keep himself alive.

I like Nate.  He’s not the sort of hero that simply accepts everything he’s told by whoever he runs into on the journey.  He questions everything, doesn’t trust his companions outside of a narrow band of behaviors, and has a more than healthy amount of skepticism.  It’s a pleasant change from the standard ‘I’m on an adventure s everyone must obviously be just what they present themselves as!’ Attitude that so many heroes adopt the second they set out.  Frankly, I wouldn’t trust Argus either, Nate.  Good call.

Naturally, these two meet up in the Forest of Ghosts when Nate and Argus are desperately trying to outrun some nasty dark rider style creatures made up of thousands of flies.  Not corpses.  Not smoke or brainwashed humans on aggressive horses.  Horse and rider are both made out of flies.  That is both creative and super gross.

Anyway, Nate and Argus make it into the Forest, though Argus is poisoned by the fly-rider things, and from there it’s a merry-is band of four as the sisters, the mage, and the mercenary set out with the vague aim of making it to Argus’ master’s house.  Not that any of them trust the guy, but it’s the only lead they’ve got.

This is already dragging on a bit, so I’m going to wrap up by pointing out that these characters are well worth spending a few hours of your time with. Nate and Jena do feel an attraction to one another, so there is a potential romance floating in the plot.  It’s a series, so the bigger plot doesn’t wrap up, either.  There’s a healthy bit of story left to go in this universe, and frankly, I look forward to going over it.  What, exactly, does it mean that Nate is the prophesied Fire Mage?  How can he leverage that to keep himself alive, and presumably save the world on the way?  How does Jena manage to keep herself alive even though she’s clearly a mage of no small skill herself, which as a woman carries a death sentence?  What happens to Argus and Bree?

The book does end on a cliffhanger.  They reach the interim goal they’d set for themselves, but the book doesn’t take them further than that, and I definitely can’t help but feel like this whole thing is a setup for badness.  As cliffhangers go, it’s a good one.  I definitely want to know what happens next.

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Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

In the end, this was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with characters I didn’t get tired of and a decent take on the old Rightful Heir trope.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun high fantasy escape.  I have a feeling that book two is going to be worth the wait.  In the meantime, I’m going to check out a few of Trudi Jaye’s other books.   If you want a copy, now’s your chance.  Giveaways don’t happen EVERY day, but aren’t they fun when they do?  What’s next on your TBR list?

Akihabara

I honestly don’t know what to write for this post today.  I spent my weekend mostly just hanging out with family and friends.  We bought The Boy a desk lamp.  He asked to do some school on Saturday morning, so we did that.  We made Science Cookies— simple shortbread cookies that we weighed before and after baking to document any possible changes in mass since his science unit is discussing measuring right now.  Science, for the record, can be super delicious.

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Photo credit: Japón Entre Amigos on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

We did run over to Akihabara to meet up with some friends who are in the business of geekery and were over there for work.  If you don’t know what it is, Akihabara is sort of a destination for all things geeky in a Japanese sort of way: anime, manga, video games, and all the related toys and foods and posters and art books and, well, merchandise that is associated with it is for sale and on display.  There are more girls in costumes selling things then I’ve seen about anywhere outside of an *ahem* more adult sort of district.

I could get into the history and all that of the place— and it is pretty interesting— but if you’re unfamiliar with the place all you need to know is that it is now somewhere across between Times Square and a traveling carnival, with an unrelenting theme of crowds and anime style.  It’s also probably the most tourist-dense place I’ve been so far in Tokyo.

The thing of it is, though, is that it’s only a few blocks long.  It’s not even more than maybe two blocks deep, either.  The crowds thin dramatically once you pass an invisible line in the pavement, and suddenly you’re just in Tokyo, albeit with a bit more emphasis on the entertainment industry.  The temple I mentioned a few weeks back was a fairly easy walk from the main strip, but the people there were a distinctly different sort of crowd: more calm, more polite, less inclined to stopping suddenly and pushing across the stream of traffic to get a better view of something.

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So it’s not much of a shock that on our way from the mobbed JR station to our friend’s hotel a few blocks away, we not only left the mass of humanity but also passed a tiny postage-stamp park with a historical marker in it.  It seems that the river (which I hadn’t even known about before, though I’m not surprised by) that runs past Akihabara also once ran past one of the major roads through Japan, from Kyoto to what was then known as Edo.  My husband told me that in the evenings when it’s not oppressively hot and soupy (and probably even when it is, if I’ve learned anything at all about the longtime locals,) young guys gather there for Tokyo-style rap battles.

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We didn’t see anyone there when we passed on Saturday, but I did get to check out the sign and took some photos of the backs of some found-space shops and cafes that are squirreled away in the arches of the train bridge.  I learned a little more about my newly adopted hometown, and, after a few stops for business, I got to have my first okonomiyaki. The restaurant was on a floor full of restaurants in what seemed to be an otherwise normal office building smack dab in the center of the Otaku Mecca.  A small, hidden-n-plain-sight oasis of quiet.

So I guess what I’m saying, really, is that when you’re traveling, it makes sense to dig a little deeper, even at the tourist sites.  Because you never know what you’ll find just off the beaten path.

Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?