Last preview

coffee-snack-cup

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!

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.

35599527141_3a1fa0a68d_z

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

Vectors

road-street-sign-way.jpg

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.

5923137015_d612e7ce88_b

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.

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

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?

Summer

Holy balls it’s hot here, you guys.  Like, melt into a puddle the moment you step foot outside hot.  Even the hallways in the apartment building are hot and they’re theoretically air conditioned.  It’s get your errands done early in the day hot.  It’s carry an insulated bag for your milk hot.  It’s so hot nobody even wants to wear their skin let alone clothes hot.  And it’s not just the temperature that’s got everyone sweating.  It’s so humid that stepping outside feels like wearing a damp wool bag over your whole body.  It’s so humid that the laundry takes forever to dry on the line.  It’s an itchy, prickly, sticky, soupy heat.

IMG_9345

My kakigouri was lemon, but The Boy prefers melon flavor.

That said, there are ways around it.  You can stay in your apartment with the AC on and play video games (or write!) all day.  The only trouble is that you start to feel a little stir crazy after a bit— especially with an active 8 year old boy involved!  If you can survive the walk, head to a mall or a shopping arcade of some sort.  Always pleasantly air conditioned there’s usually enough to do to spend a few hours.  We could try to figure out how to get to a beach of some sort, but wed have to go buy swimsuits first, and then get on the train for a while, and… well.

So instead we’re settling for a combination of the two above options, with a few others thrown in.  The Boy has developed an instant love of kakigouri and melon soda, and I can’t blame him.  There’s always ice cream, as well.  We each have folding fans we carry around, and can I tell you how much I love my new parasol?  Love.

IMG_9368

Finished setting up!  Now’s the calm before the crowds…

There are benefits to summer, though.  Fireworks and summer festivals and the abundance of produce at the shop across the street.  I enjoy the sound of the cicadas in the odd quiet moment, though I know they drive some folks crazy.  I do wish we had a little space to grew some plants, but then, we do have a small balcony and now a potted rosemary, so we may be closer to a container gardener life than I’d thought.

It’s hot, sure, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying the season anyway.  At the risk of melting every time we go out, I still like to walk to the market and see what’s there, and discovering what’s going on at the park we walk through to get there.  You never know when you’ll find a festival, and where there’s a festival, there’s probably kakigouri.

Life, large and small

14949202534_bacd339174_bI had a blog post all written out but when I looked at it this morning, I kind of hated it.  So I scrapped it and here we are. Post-less and out of ideas first thing on Monday morning.  Ah well.

If you’re following my Facebook or my Instagram, you’ll have seen some of our adventures this weekend.  We got out and about and played, and left our son’s backpack on the train, and got the bag back with everything but his Nintendo Switch.  We had some amazing food, saw some awesome people, and I still have some photos left to post later this week

I got to practice my terrible Japanese a little, which is honestly pretty surprising.  I’m one of that terribly self-conscious sort of people who don’t want to sound like an idiot in any language, and when it’s a language you don’t know well… Well.  But my husband’s friend is super cool and I felt pretty comfortable to try my limited Japanese on her, and in return, she used her somewhat less limited English on me.  We both had beers and honestly, it was kind of perfect.  I hope we get to hang out some more soon.

When we got home last night, we were getting ready for bed, and my husband made a comment about how he can tell that I’m really here now.  When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to the small desk he was standing next to and pointed.

“I’ve never been so happy to see coffee rings,” he said.  I, naturally, threw a pillow at him, but honestly?  I love you too, sweetheart. And I’ll start using a coaster, thanks.

 

3375886335_b195b829e1

Coffee rings are a symbol of love.  I think.   Photo credit: roger.karlsson on Visual hunt / CC BY

Social life

japan-tokyo-shibuya-japanese-building-crowd

Shibuya scramble, photo from Visualhunt

our first week in Tokyo was spent almost entirely in the apartment.  Jet lag, rain, a nasty cold, and just plain exhaustion combined to keep me and The Boy inside playing video games and watching TV.  I didn’t mind too terribly much, but on top of my already shattered attention span, it really hasn’t helped my productive output, word out wise.    I did have a couple of fairly productive days, overall, but not nearly as much as I should have, and I’m feeling a wee bit guilty about that.

On top of that, I’m feeling pretty drained, creatively speaking.  What little energy I’ve had this past week has been all about organization and practical stuff.  Go to the Ward Office and get our papers in order.  Go buy a shelving solution for my clothes.  Figure out how to use the washing machine and the cooking appliances.  (Our microwave is also our oven, and all the instructions are in kanji.  I’ve been cooking everything on the stovetop.)

group-day-out-man-people-friends-park-strolling.jpgSo I took the weekend off.  Well, mostly, but even though our shopping trip was to Daiso for household supplies, it was still out at a mall and we got to do some window shopping.  We went out to lunch, looked at the capsule machines, even managed to hit up a kaiten sushi place!  Saturday night we got to hang out with several folks for popsicles and chatting and fun.  We saw another friend for lunch on yesterday, and last night, we went to the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya to meet a  friend and enjoy a collaboration cafe for a Granblue Fantasy Cafe experience.  It was silly and fun and the food was surprisingly decent!

I had an amazing weekend talking to other adult human beings and going outside the

IMG_9249

My husband and several plates of Granblue Fantasy themed food!

apartment.   I’m afraid that at a few points I managed to complete word-vomit all over them because I guess I’d had all the chattiness saved up from the past few days.  I mean, I’m introverted, not antisocial, and I’ve been effectively sealed in a box for a week!

It’s a little overboard, probably because everyone wants to see us finally AND they’re in town for a convention, but still.  It’s been really good to see people and be out among other human beings.  I think that when I sit down to work out my next few chapters, I’ll be in better shape to actually get my creativity flowing.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do mid-week to recharge when I need it and it’s just me and The Boy…. Anyone have any suggestions?

Jet lag is not for sissies

plane_window

I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

3690218087_2c32372cdf_b

 

Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!