Another Healing

Another Healing

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice














"The darkest evening of the year..."
Robert Frost

I like to pause and reflect on the solstices, to try to open my mind to the changes they mark on the celestral calendar, which seems to me to be more in touch with nature than the calender hanging on my wall. To me, it's ironic that as the days begin to lengthen, the season becomes colder and winter takes hold of my world. The same is true in the summer, that just as the days reach their longest and begin to shorten, the weather grows warmer. I understand the logic of this in my head -- planetary orbits and tilts and all that science stuff, but in my heart, I think it's about hope and circles and where we are and where we're going and where we've been as we hurtle through space and time through the cosmos toward some destination, or maybe not.

Today is a quiet day in the midst of a bustling season. This morning, the morning after the longest night of the year, is the beginning of my holiday vacation. I took my camera and my dog and went for a walk, to refocus and open myself to this place while the sun rides as low over the tamaracks on the ridge above my house as it will ever get. I thought about where I was as a writer the last time the Earth had been in this position. I'd just published The Glass Man, The Rosebud, In Starlight, The Dragon and his Knight, and Ice. I was nervous about my reception in the publishing world. I was proud that I'd taken the risk to do it. I was appreciative of the support that my friends and family had given me.  

This year, I've added Notice, My Boyfriend has a Scar, Origin, and The Dragon and the Mistletoe. I've become more comfortable with who I am in this crazy adventure called Publishing. I'm still being challenged, but my family and friends are sticking with me no matter what. I've made an amazing new friend who is quite comfortable splashing around in the water I'm so timidly testing. I want to keep growing as a writer, to make my words, and worlds, better, deeper, richer.

Yesterday's rain brought the brook up above the ice and set it free to run again, a last chance before the snow and cold settle in for good. I listened to the water until I walked out of its range and through a field where the colors and beauty are subtle shades now, where you have to look to find the brilliance of a berry or a leaf silhouetted against a pale blue, winter sky. A quiet cheep from a chickadee working a birch tree was the only sound.

Except for my thoughts.

Yes, this is a good place in the heavens to be.




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nutcracker!







It's a beautiful, sparkly December morning here in Vermont, and if you live around here, it's still not too late to get tickets for today's shows of The Nutcracker at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, the most magical ballet in the world! Our show is put on by local dancers from the Vermont Ballet Theater School, of which my youngest daughter is a member of the Company. I've been very busy these last few weeks helping with the production. I volunteer to take photographs of the dancers for many local newspapers (have you all gotten the idea I like to take pictures?) Young dancers are a bit different from wildlife and scenery, but I enjoy a bit of a change.

Busy time of year! Off to the theater!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dragon and the Mistletoe

My holiday short story was released today! It's Notice, part II, but I think it's also a piece that stands on its own. Mistletoe is about love and trust and finding both in a world that needs a lot more of both.

Here's the Blurb:

Dragon-shifter Varian Kendall would rather face a sword than have to pick out a Christmas present for his flamboyant lover, Josh. But this is their first real Christmas together, and he knows he must find something special to go into the red, lacy, fishnet stocking Josh has hung by their tree. But what Varian comes up with is only one of the surprises waiting for them on Christmas Eve.

And here's the Except: 

I opened my wings and sprang off the roof into the frosty air. It was much easier than taking off from the ground. I had the power lines memorized, and I knew that even though the radar from the nearby airport would detect me, I would register only as a flock of birds. I did a quick circle high above the neighborhood to make sure I hadn't disturbed anyone. It was so late and cold that nobody was outside, and my wings were silent as a bat's in the air. All stayed quiet. I felt safer flying on dark winter nights than in the summer, and tonight, there was not even any moon to worry about. 

Satisfied we'd escaped detection, I stroked harder, picking up speed and gaining elevation at the same time. The air was very still, perfect for flying. Above us, the stars burned close enough to touch, little twinkling crystals of pure fire. Below us, the lights of Burlington spread out, the greens and reds of the holiday interspersed with the white streetlights, the orange glow from parking lots, and the occasional moving points of red and white made by cars. We flew across two worlds -- the sky and the land -- and were part of neither, and of both, at the same time. Mostly, we were just together. 

"So beautiful," Josh said, taking his hands out of the loops and leaning low along my neck, caressing me. "I am so lucky you chose me, Varian." 

I couldn't answer, but in reality, I knew I was more lucky that he'd accepted me. I was a lover who'd embroiled him in danger and death last fall, forced him into secrecy, changed his life, and generally not treated him as well as I could have until I'd wised up. I was a lover who'd hatched out of an egg, for God's sake. A lover who bought him a -- I couldn't even think it. When he saw what I'd gotten him for Christmas, he was probably going to reconsider everything.
 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some Silliness From My Live Journal Prompts Yesterday

Yesterday while I was hosting Live Journal in anticipation of Wednesday's release of "The Dragon and the Mistletoe," I asked for writing prompts. I was given five sets, and this is the silliness I came up with:




For Rapidess
Varian and Josh
Gift
Mud
Key



Damn it! Here I am, there's my van, and it's stuck in the mud. It's dark and cold, and my lover man never has his phone on... 

"Hello?"

"My knight in shining armor! It's your damsel in distress! Come save me from the encroaching cold and darkness. Pluck me from the teeth of disaster! And afterwards, have your wicked way with me!"


"Josh? Where the hell are you?"


"Beset by grave peril. I'm standing beside my mired chariot."


"Damn it, Josh, I warned you that parking lot was going to turn into mud today! You had to park down there?"


"How else was I to load the works of my soul into my chariot?"


"You could have waited for me to come and help you lug your paintings out the front door."


"Perhaps I wanted you to spend your energy on... other pastimes?"


"Josh, when have I not had energy for that? Listen, I've got another hour of faculty meeting to sit through. We're having a coffee break right now, or else you wouldn't have caught me. Can't you wait in the studio?"


"Alas, the keys are in the van."


"Well, get your feet muddy and get them out."


"The keys to the van are in the studio."


"Josh... Hang on. Arnold, I'm sorry, I've got to go. Josh has locked himself out of his studio and his keys are locked in the van. Yeah, I know. No, I don't think I'll be back in time -- he's stuck in the mud, too. No, no, I can pull him out. We'll be fine. I'll see you Monday."


"Knight in shining armor, winged warrior of the sky, you are a gift to my soul!"

"I love you, too, Josh."


For jmcartwright
Staples
Fairy
Marshmallow
Green

The tired fairy landed on one of the rolls of hay that dotted the field in the moonlight. The way farmers wrapped them up in white plastic these days, they looked like over sized marshmallows. Arthur missed the days when hay was forked up loosely into huge wagons that horses pulled into the barns. It had been fun to bounce on the top. Now, big, noisy, smelly machines picked them up and carried them. No bouncing.


The fairy sighed. The others were late. The moon was already high in the sky. That made it brighter, which was a good thing, but it also meant fewer hours before sunrise, and they would all have to be gone before the first rays of the sun touched the trees circling the green meadow where he'd called the emergency meeting. And if they had to leave before their work was complete, then...


Arthur thought Virgil and Wilbur would be here by now -- they were usually first -- but Virgil had warned him that Wilbur was into a new project involving paper and paint and lots of staples. As hard as it was to tear Wilbur away from things, the fairy was afraid that they would be the last to arrive.


For Ali Wilde
Virgil and Wilbur
Pineapple, volleyball, penguin


Finally, Arthur heard voices and looked up in time to see Virgil and Wilbur dropping in like a pair of volleyballs served over an astral net. Relief flooded through him. Now, if the others would just get here in time...


"What's up, Arthur?" Virgil asked, landing neatly on the freshly mowed grass in front of him and folding his gossamer wings.


Wilbur crashed ungracefully into the roll of hay, almost knocking Arthur off. Wilbur was not known for his coordination. But Arthur could see, as Wilbur picked himself up, that he was holding something tightly in his arms.

"We have a problem," Arthur said heavily. "Did you bring the pineapple?"


"Right here," Wilbur said proudly. "See? I made a cage for it."


"Okay," Arthur said slowly as Wilbur displayed the basket made of brightly painted paper, woven into strips and held together with many staples, in which happily rested a very perfect pineapple without even a single frond broken. "That's great, Wilbur, thank you. That's a beautiful pineapple cage."



Wilbur beamed, and Virgil rolled his eyes without speaking. They'd been a pair for longer than Arthur could remember.


"What's the problem?" Virgil asked, looking up at Arthur.


"It's back there," Arthur said heavily, nodding over his shoulder at the ground behind him.


"Oh, no." Virgil hurried around, Wilbur right behind him. Then they both froze.


"Yeah," Arthur said heavily. "Sunny's turned himself a penguin again."


For Eden Winters
Henry and Rafael
Doughnut, pinecone, handy



The penguin made a soft, pitiful peep and flapped its little wings, looking longingly up at Arthur on the hay roll. Arthur slid down and knelt beside his unlucky lover. "Don't worry, we'll fix you," he whispered. "The others are coming."


"We're here," said a new voice, and Arthur glanced up to see Henry and Rafael soaring down in the moonlight, much more gracefully than the previous two. Henry, tall and lithe even for a fairy, landed first and folded his wings quickly. Rafael, even taller and very regal, landed with a touch of disdain for the pinecones that had fallen from the nearby tree. Arthur knew he detested the outdoors and only cared for his sophisticated urban life. But even Rafael made a little moan of sympathy for the penguin, who flapped again and pressed himself against Arthur's side.


"Oh, how did he do it this time?" Rafael asked.


"I don't know," Arthur said heavily. "If I knew, I'd put him back. That's why we need everybody, and the magic book of spells. When I called Noah, he said to bring a pineapple."


"A pineapple?"


"That's what Noah said." Arthur sighed. "All I know is that Sunny was downstairs this afternoon, working in the damn lab of his, and all of a sudden, he called up to me, "Do you have a doughnut handy?"


"A doughnut?" Henry asked, frowning. "That's a human pastry, is it not?"


"Yeah. He loves them. Every Sunday morning, I buy a box when I go out to get the paper. I was just bringing one down to him when there was an awful bang, and when the smoke cleared, Sunny was a penguin again."


"You've got to stop doing this," Virgil said to Sunny.


The penguin ducked his head.


"I brought the pineapple," Wilbur put in with a worried smile.


For synthrax
Carson and Matt
German, hippos, zip-line


"And I have the hippos," called a new voice.


Arthur looked up in time to see another pair of fairies arrow in from the sky so fast they could have been coming down a zip-line. Muscular and athletic, Carson and Matt were so identical Arthur often wondered if they had common ancestry somewhere long ago. The only difference was the black collar around Matt's neck and the fact that he stayed a pace behind Carson as they approached.


"Penguin again?" Carson asked, looking down with raised eyebrows. "Isn't this the second time this month?"


"Yeah," Arthur said with a sigh. "He doesn't mean to."


"He's cute," Wilbur said.


"Yes," Carson said, "but I bet Arthur likes him better as a fairy."


"Well, I'm more used to him that way," Arthur said. "The hippos?"


"Matt?" Carson said over his shoulder.


"Here, master," Matt said, slipping off a dark pack he wore between his wings. Crammed inside it were two large, gray pillows that poofed up as soon as they were free. Mat knelt and stacked them on the ground, and at once, the penguin hopped up onto them, bouncing a little. Arthur remembered bouncing on the hay with Sunny back in the old days, and he wiped away a little tear for the past so long ago.




"And?" Carson asked Matt.


Matt pulled something smaller out from his pack and held it out to Arthur with a little smile. "This is for you," he said. "We thought you might need a little German Chocolate. It'll fix most anything, you know."


Arthur sniffed and let Matt, always very caring, give him a hug. "You guys are the best," Arthur said, including them all. Carson broke the chocolate bar into pieces and handed them around to everybody.


For Kim 629
Noah & Billy
Kindle
Snow Globe
Bottle opener


 
"Where are they?" Arthur asked worriedly. The moon was starting to fall down behind the pines, and the sky in the east was growing brighter. Arthur knew that if Noah and Billy didn't get here soon, it would be too late, and Sunny might have to stay a penguin forever. Because once the sun touched the land and a new day began, that which had been done yesterday would remain true forever.


"Sorry, sorry!" he heard Noah's deep, gruff voice bellow through the trees. Arthur turned and saw Noah and Billy come jogging up. "Thought you said England, not New England. Been looking for a place called Vermont there. A vampire set us straight, finally. Well, as straight as we'll ever be." He giggled, surprising in his deep voice. The two of them looked as disheveled as usual. Most fairies had learned how to keep their appearance neat and clean and cultivated a carefully windblown look. Noah and Billy looked as though they were permanently caught in a hurricane.


"No one would ever accuse you of being straight," Billy said, elbowing his partner and laughing.


"Why," Rafael asked, looking down his genteel nose, "did you arrive on foot? Don't you know there are unclean pinecones down there?"


"Oh, we just landed on the wrong field," Noah said. "We're here now. Penguin again, you said, Arthur? Never fear, I've brought my trusty Kindle along."


"Your Kindle?" Rafael asked in horror. "Not your ancient book of spells?"


"No need," Noah said, waving expansively. "It's all in here. Much lighter. Easier to fly long distances with." He whipped out a thin tablet-shaped thing with a glowing screen on one side from his large coat pocket. He began tapping his fingers frantically on it. "Ah, here we go. Anti-penguin spells. You have a pineapple, I see?"


"I brought the pineapple," Wilbur said proudly. "See its cage?"


"Very nice, Wilbur," Noah said. "It looks very sturdy."


"Well stapled," Virgil said with a long-suffering sigh.


"The sun..." Arthur said. "Please, guys, hurry! Did somebody bring something to cut it with?"


"I have a bottle opener," Billy said. "Never know when you might need to open a beer."


"Beer," Rafael sniffed, "is the drink of men, not fairies!"


"Oh, it's not so bad," Billy said. "Once I--"


The penguin gave an urgent peep. Arthur sank down onto the hippos and gathered his lover into his arms. "Hurry," he whispered, bouncing lightly.


His friends gathered around. Wilbur took the pineapple out of its cage and held it in the air above Sunny. Billy poised his bottle opener. Noah read aloud from his Kindle, "On the count of three, pierce the pineapple and allow the juice to touch the head of the afflicted. At the same time, those present must chant, 'Penguin, begone,' three times. One, two, three!"


Billy jabbed the sharp end of the bottle opener into the pineapple and the fragrant juice ran down onto the penguin's head. "Penguin, begone!" Everyone shouted three times.


And then, just before the sun touched the treetops, the penguin turned into a beautiful, dark-haired man who flung his arms around Arthur and began to cry in joy. Everyone laughed and cried, and then, as the light grew brighter, they all vanished, returned to their homes.


"What were you trying to do down here, anyway?" Arthur asked, once they were standing in their basement, which was filled with beakers of colored liquid and things that bubbled and smoked.


"Trying to make something for you," Sunny said. "I think it -- yes! Here it is." He held out a perfect snow globe.


Arthur took it and gazed into the gently swirling flakes inside. They slowly settled on an old-fashioned farm scene, complete with a barn and a wagon full of hay waiting to go inside.




"Oh," Arthur said, his eyes filling again. "Oh, Sunny, I love you so much."

Sunny pulled him down to the soft carpeting on the floor and made gentle love to him.


Arthur was happy.


***



 
High up in the air, Varian smelled pineapple juice and circled. Down below, in the growing light, he could see a pair of grey pillows and what looked like a bottle opener and the wrapper from a candy bar.


"Wonder what went on down there," Josh said. "Kids?"


Varian thought he could sense magic, but a very different kind than his. It was too late to investigate, he decided. He needed to get out of the air before it got any lighter. But he marked the spot for later. Interesting.








Saturday, December 3, 2011

Live on LJ

It's a beautiful, sparkly December morning here in Vermont today, 26 degrees with a pretty powdering of new snow, and I'm live on LJ talking about "The Dragon and the Mistletoe!"

Here's my view outside this very minute:






Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Winter!


Yesterday, we had the first skim of ice on our pond that lasted all day.




This morning, we woke to several inches of snow. 





This created a blizzard of Black-capped Chickadees around my feeders. Don't you love the tail shot? And peeking in on the right hand edge is a Tufted Titmouse. They're a bit shy.


I'm really glad I don't have to go anywhere today. I'd love snow, if it wasn't for having to drive in it. I am a TOTAL WIMP when it comes to winter driving, and I live on a road that is a nightmare to get up and down. But on days like today when I get to photograph it, watch it come down while I write, and do some holiday cooking in peace with gentle music playing, yeah, I'm okay with snow. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shifting Steam in Print

I received my copy of Shifting Steam in the mail today. There's something very cool about having a story in a print book and seeing my name on the back cover. That, and the check I got in the mail yesterday, made me think about how far I've come in a year and a half, from when The Glass Man was first accepted to now. It's been an amazing experience for someone who has dreamed of being published for so long -- thrilling and terrifying both. I've certainly done my share of laughing and crying. But really the best thing has been support and pride I've gotten from my friends and family who've been there while I've been laughing and crying. And the new friends I've made are a real gift. They have all truly kept me sane.

Well, as sane as I'll ever be.

I have all next week off from school! And that means writing, writing, writing...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Notice -- the Sequel!

Yes!
It's official! "The Dragon and the Mistletoe" will be out December 7, 2011. Okay, it's not another novel. It's a short story. A long one, though.

Yes!
It's about Varian and Josh.

Now he's Sir Adrian Varian Kendall, lord of knights as well as of dragons, and he's facing the greatest challenge he's ever faced in his life: what to get Josh for their first real Christmas together?

His solution is...uniquely Varian's.

And it's got dancing (yes, Varian dancing!) and flying and romance and candlelight and Josh being, well, Josh.

Aww, I'm so excited!

And will there be more additions to the saga?

Maybe. Perhaps. *Shrugging with a little smile*

Okay, now I have to get back to my edits or it won't be coming out. Deadline looming large.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Everything You Didn't Want to Know About my Septic System

First the furnace a few weeks ago, then last night the septic system. I was in bed about midnight, sound asleep, when I heard my husband yell at our oldest daughter, "Get out of the shower!" She'd just come home from college for the weekend (which means laundry and a long hot shower, first thing.) Well, the water from both was all spraying all over the cellar. I knew the tank didn't need pumping, so that meant another plug like the one I unplugged myself last summer. So, lying in bed after my husband and daughter had cleaned up the mess, I realized that if I didn't go out there right then and see what was going on, by the time I got home from school, it was going to be too late in the day to call anybody, and that would mean all weekend without being able to flush. Or shower. And since I have distant mermaid ancestry, if I don't get a shower every morning, well, it's really not going to be a good day.
 
So at two in the morning, I went outside and dug up the tank. (Hey, I'm a rugged lady. I write fiction. I work with high school kids. I can dig up a septic tank by flashlight!) I found the little square cover on my first try. (I'm also a dowser, so no surprise there. I don't know how it works, but it's an awfully handy talent for this kind of thing.) I pried the lid up. Sure enough, the old iron pipe was well plugged again. Holding the light in one hand and a long stick in the other, I spent ten minutes of real unpleasantness getting absolutely no results.

So, sputtering, I went back to bed and lay there until the alarm went off at 5:30. Shower time. A couple weeks ago, I had several days of icy cold ones. Today I had a warm one, but I had to keep turning the water off between each soaping cycle, so to speak. And in a cold house, that got chilly fast. Urg.

We called our favorite septic people (I went to high school with the owners) and a nice guy showed up ten minutes ago and unplugged us.The system is working fine, just too much paper going down. Ah, teenage daughters. Oh, well, it could have been the leach field. And now I'm happily doing laundry and looking forward to a long, hot shower to make up for this morning.

But you know, it was kind of nice being outside at two o'clock in the morning in late fall all by myself. Orion was beautiful and sparkly, it was perfectly quiet, and no Bigfoot lurked anywhere. Heck, if he'd come by, I'd have handed him the shovel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Morning Nightmare

All right, so I've always been a little freaked out by Bigfoot.

It started when I was a kid and saw one of those quasi-documentaries about mystery creatures. I was mainly watching it because it had a segment about Vermont's own lake monster, Champ, for whom I've watched diligently for years. But for some reason, the footage of Bigfoot really chilled me. Bigfoot doesn't live in lakes. He lives forests, and so do I. And that was enough to give me nightmares of a fleeting black shape in the twilight, especially at the far edges of headlight beams, triggered, I'm sure, by a segment in the film about a man who spent a terrifying night trapped alone in his car while Bigfoot prowled outside.

Now, I haven't really worried about Bigfoot a lot lately, I have to admit. But yesterday at school, a student showed me some new video footage of that old, familiar, dark, menacing shape. I was real cool about it, and went home and made sure my doors were locked and that all the cats were in. And nothing happened. No otherworldly sounds in the night, no sense of being watched, no glimpses of anything at the edge of the light.

Until this morning.

I leave for school about 6:30, and this time of year, it's dark enough for high beams. I headed down my narrow dirt road in my trusty little car, dodging potholes, wondering what the kids had in store for me today, and trying to find my phone in all my various pockets. It wasn't there. I was getting a vulnerable feeling just as I came to the bend, which is sharp, left-handed, and slopes downhill. And as my headlights swung around and lit up the darkness, I saw it.

A black, shadowy shape, hunched over, running across the road on two legs right in front of me.

I slammed on my brakes.

The shape came to a halt, turned, and looked at me. I could see its eyes, bright spots in the shadow. Yes, I screamed.

It was frozen, unmoving.

I stared at it in terror.

It still didn't move.

And then I realized that the shadowy creature really looked an awful lot like a shadow. The shadow of the one tree limb over hanging the road just ahead of me that still, for some reason, had leaves. A shadow cast by my high beams. I eased off my brakes, my car rolled forward, and the creature slowly made its way off to the side of the road, its bright eyes fading as my headlights moved off two glistening pebbles.

Heart pounding, my throat burning from my scream, I drove on down the road. And I don't care whether it was a shadow or not -- you could not have paid me enough to get out of my car until I was safely in the school parking lot. And then I dashed inside, safe in a crowd of students who would be much more tender and juicy mouthfuls than me.

Happy Halloween a day late, everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shifting Steam


The Blurb:

Steampunk and shifters? Do they even go together? Of course they do. Steampunk is all about the possible, the magical and the otherworldly. Shapeshifters are all about bending the idea of humanity into new shapes. Combine them, and you get Shifting Steam.

The stories in Shifting Steam pave the way for a magical journey through space and time to alternate realities, where anything is possible. From dragons to birds, from Victorian era expositions to secret laboratories, these stories explore what happens when man meets beast in a world of airship captains and fantastic creatures. Whether it’s a Jekyll and Hyde style beast, a wolfman who would rather not be a wolf, or a man who wishes he could fly, every kind of creature gets its day in the steampunk sun. Step into the world of Shifting Steam and let it transport you to a sexy, fantastical new universe.

Shifting Steam features stories from authors Missouri Dalton, Ekaterina Morris, Rowan McBride, Lydia Nyx, M Raiya, Lynn Townsend and Emory Vargas


So guess who wrote one about dragons? Yes, that would be me.

No, it's not about Varian and Josh. It's about my other dragon pair, Justin and Wells. They first appeared about a year ago in my story "The Dragon and His Knight" in the Mine Anthology. But yes,"Origin" takes place in the same dragon universe that Notice does. The premise is that during the Dark Ages, some dragons learned to take human shape to survive the havoc that knights were inflicting on them. Roughly a thousand years later, their descendants are trying to live double lives and evade modern knights who know their secret. Varian Kendall in Notice is one of these modern dragons.

Justin, however, is a REAL dragon, though Varian would kill me for saying it. Justin is one of the original dragons to take human form. He is immortal (or at least, as a friend of mine pointed out, he hasn't died yet). His way of surviving in the human world was to capture a human prisoner to use as a guide. He chose to ensnare a young knight named Wells. The system worked far better than he'd hoped, and he and Wells become partners in every sense of the word. After a thousand years, they truly are everything to each other.

We meet Justin and Wells at, of all places, the University of New Hampshire, which is where I did graduate work. (Yes, I have a Master's Degree in English.  You may all bow and applaud. No, seriously, it a breezy three semesters of reading and writing. The only thing that scared me was the public reading at the end. Picture me behind a microphone on stage in a huge auditorium packed with underclassmen who were required to be there, and reading one of my short stories. It's one of those moments that if you can survive, you can get through just about anything later in life. My best memory of UNH is of the bagel cart outside Ham Smith, which Wells visits. And I wonder sometimes what my esteemed professors would think if they read some of the things I've published...)

Anyway, you'll have to read "The Dragon and his Knight" to find out what happens when a lady knight surprises Justin and Wells while sitting in the auditorium where I did my reading. Both their mortality and their love are deeply tested.

Now, "Origin" is a kind of prequel, set in the late 1800's in Liverpool, England. Justin and Wells are a kind of dragon police squad. When another dragon begins to misbehave in daylight over the bustling wharves, they investigate and find out there's a whole lot more going on in Liverpool than a renegade dragon having some fun. The story also explains what planted the seed in their minds to cross the Atlantic and leave their native land.

Fans of Varian and Josh, don't despair -- I have a few more things planned for them. Perhaps even a story that brings all four of my dragonish heroes together. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's an excerpt from "Origin:"

"Good sirs!" A woman slipped out from a doorway into Justin's path, forcing him to stop. From her scarlet gown with plunging neckline to her carefully groomed hair and sultry eyes, and from the dim lights and heady perfume drifting from the room behind her, Wells knew that she must be one of the "fallen women" as they were called now.
"This way, and all your needs shall be fulfilled," she said, beckoning.
Wells seriously doubted it, but she didn't know she was wasting her time as she slipped a well-manicured finger through Justin's collar. In the mood Justin was in, Wells knew she had no idea of her danger.
"Madam," Wells said, striding forward swiftly.
But he needn't have feared. Smoky air and hunger might shorten Justin's normally short temper, but his sense of honor wasn't touched. As Justin gently removed her finger, Wells had to smile. In some ways, the dragon was more of a knight than Wells. Justin -- tall and dark-haired and dark-eyed -- knew how attractive he was to the opposite sex, and to the same sex, for that matter. Justin couldn't help himself. It was the dragon just below the surface, in his eyes, in the lithe way he moved, in the cadence of his voice, which hinted of wildness and freedom and clean air. Wells would do anything to keep that dragon safe.
"I beg your indulgence another moment," she said. "If this might perhaps be more to the liking of you good sirs?" From behind her in the doorway, she pulled forward a boy. He looked about eleven, thin, fair-haired and with wide, bright blue eyes, and he wore a white shirt open to the waist over dark trousers. His expression was terrified as Justin and Wells stared.
The woman dug her fingers into his arm. "Avery," she hissed. "Your manners!"
"If it please you," the boy stammered out, "I mean -- I will -- please you?" He flushed bright red and sent a desperate look into the woman's face.
"Fortunately, he will not need words to serve you," she said, giving the boy's arm a sharp twist. He dropped, or collapsed, to his knees before them.
God Almighty, Wells thought, his knightly compassion for the weak stirring. What was humanity coming to? He was still human himself, though deeply changed by his relationship with Justin, but he felt the distance more each time he and Justin left their solitude.




Monday, October 24, 2011

When the Lights Go Out

Why is it so magical when the electricity goes out? I know it can be a major life disruption and create dangerous situations. But last night our power went off for two hours in the evening, and I sat in the candlelight sipping red wine, watching my daughter do homework and my husband reading in the tentative light, and everything had a quiet peacefulness that is so lacking most of the time. I could not check emails or even work on my new project, and it was all guilt-free. Nothing to do but sip wine and watch the candles flicker. Even the house rested around us. We could see stars through the windows.

It was nice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

LIp Dub 10,000 Hits!

Last winter, the school where I tutor made a Lip Dub. If you've never heard of one, don't worry. I hadn't either, until I was in one. Basically, a whole bunch of us faculty and kids showed up on a very snowy Sunday afternoon and spent three hours taking turns walking around the building backwards, lip syncing to a song played over the PA. It had to be shot in one continuous take with no rehearsing or editing except to dub in the song afterwards.We got it perfect in six takes.

Today, it got its 10,000th hit on YouTube!

Check it out, send it on its way to 20,000, and see the beautiful place where I work. I hear so many authors complain about their day jobs, but look at what I get to do! And yes, there might just be a tiny glimpse of the famous author herself in the background...

Here's the link to the Lip Dub:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHH6clID7Yg

And here's the link to the Making of the Lip Dub, which is pretty cool, too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWTywWCLJqA

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Magic Morning

I woke to one of those perfect fall sunrises this morning. I grabbed my camera, housecoat, and boots and spent an hour just shooting the light. I'd intended to focus on the foliage, but the way the light called, that was all I could see. It was so quiet that the only sounds were the soft splashing from the brook and the gentle plunk of apples falling from the laden limbs of the trees in our yard, and the quiet footfalls of my dog as she paced along beside me. I took over a hundred shots in that hour. But the peace that sank into me was worth more than all of them put together.




















Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Daughter's Bear

Last night was one of those interesting nights that will probably turn up in a story somewhere. (And not THAT kind of interesting!)

I was innocently driving home about 10:00 when my cell phone rings. It's my teenage daughter, freaking out. There's a bear outside. She just saw it through the sliding glass door -- a big, black, fuzzy shape running into the woods. The dog is going ballistic. She is hiding under her bed. (Daughter, not dog. Dog is still barking frantically.)

This has happened before, seeing a bear come out of the woods. It's why I stopped feeding birds during the summer a few years ago. We haven't had one around since. I, of course, panic at the thought of only a screen door between my child and a ferocious wild animal with teeth and claws that growls and stands up on its hind legs. (I also wonder why she called me and not her father, who is driving the van ahead of me. I guess even when you're a teenager and you freak, it's Mom you dial.)

So I keep her on the phone until we lose service in the hills, reassuring her that the bear was last seen running away, it won't try to get in with the dog barking (golden retriever, very protective), and how cool it is to see such an unusual animal, and trying to turn off my writer brain that is showing me coming home and finding them both bleeding, or worse.

A few minutes later, my husband, who has no idea of the mayhem awaiting us, pulls into the driveway, which is fairly long, and comes to a dead halt as soon as his headlights pick up the house. I almost slam into him. And in our headlights, I see not one, but three huge forms racing across the lawn. I think I screamed. One bear I can cope with. Not three.

And then I realize that the bears are galloping, not running, and they have very long legs for bears, and that they are, in fact, our neighbor's three horses. I am so weak with relief that I can hardly call her from the car to tell her that her babies are loose and have come over for the apples on the ground below our trees.

The horses are in full panic mode, set off the sudden arrival of two cars and headlights, not helped by the frantic dog inside. I hop out, so relieved that they aren't bears, shut off my scary headlights, and head onto the lawn toward them (they know me, since I feed them when their owners are gone). I really don't want them heading for the main road. They recognise me and stop racing around. They trot over, I catch hold of the only one wearing a halter (who, incidentally, is small, fuzzy and black), and start up a conversation with the other two. They all seem to think I'm more interesting than the apples underfoot. I grew up with horses and always enjoy their company.

Then I realise for the first time that my husband has only just gotten out of the van, whose headlights are lighting us up now. And he is not coming up onto the lawn. He has never been around horses, and he calls up in a shaky voice,"You okay up there?"

I answer that they're fine, just after the apples, and that I've got hold of them, and they aren't heading for the road, and I added that they aren't bears. Of course, he has no idea why I would say that, and then the neighbors arrive with a bucket of grain, and are very happy that I've gotten everybody calmed down and under control. They all leave, my daughter comes out, we park the cars, and then I realise my husband is still staring at me with an odd expression. "You are quite the horse tamer," he said, and I see it for the first time as he must have -- me heading in the dark into a melee of panicked horses.

So we both had a jolt of fear for someone we love last night. I guess it's all relative.

But how my daughter could mistake a black pony for a bear is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Intense Week

This has been an intense week that's left my head spinning a little, in a good way. The Charity Sips have flown and seem to be winging their way into people's hearts, and the authors have been busy squeeing away in a very long release day party that is in its second week. It's been wonderful to be part of the group led by the never-wearying J. Rocci. Reviews are coming in already -- check out my review sidebar -- and my Goodreads page is, well, hopping is an understatement.  I'm getting a double dose of excitement because a really nice review of Notice over on Coffeetime Romance was just posted, too. Give it a read.

Now I'm trying to take a deep breath and figure out what to do next.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bullying

Wow, so earlier this week I responded to the interview questions that J. Rocci posted for the Charity Sip authors, which were posted on LJ and now some of them have been put up on the Grave Tells blog. Mine was one of them, with a link over here, so if anybody is clicking over from that, first let me say that I really am okay and that I have a wonderful life, friends, family, and career. To be honest, what happened to me that year in middle school is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about any longer, and even when I wrote my story My Boyfriend Has a Scar, it wasn't up front in my mind. My character Gage was abused not by his peers but by his father, and that certainly never happened to me.

It really wasn't until I read the question, "Does this have any personal significance for you?" that an absolute floodgate opened in my head, and I was kind of stunned at how much I really could remember about that terrible year in middle school when I became a target for a gang of bullies, and how absolutely, deathly frightened of school I became. I honestly believed that there was something wrong with me, that I was somehow deserving of that terrible treatment, and I was mortally embarrassed by that kind of attention. After all, I was told by a teacher that it was my fault for putting up with it, and if I just stood up for myself and stopped crying, I could make it stop.

After the guidance councilor finally put at end to it, I was left with a feeling of vulnerability that has never really gone away, and I don't think I've ever regained the confidence in myself that I had before that year. I'm shy and perfectly happy to blend into a corner when in a crowd, watching my back, always just a little bit on guard.

On the other hand, I learned that there's not much that I can't live through after that, and nothing has been quite as bad as that year was. As to why it happened, why I was a target for such emotional and physical violence, I don't know. I was different -- I was shy, imaginative, an only child, more interested in being outside with my horse than in shopping or watching TV the way everyone else did. I was who I was, and that didn't fit the norm. I wasn't targeted for being gay -- I don't think we even knew what gay meant back then, and I'm not -- but, God, if the kids today who are gay and being bullied feel what I felt, then I truly understand why ending it all has such an appeal.

Now I'm a teacher myself, (well, technically a special ed writing tutor) and I may be shy, but I am a lioness when I get the whiff of any bullying going on. And I'm proud to say that the district where I work, which is the same one that I was in when I was bullied, now would treat my situation very differently.

It was also in sixth grade that I began to write, and where I ultimately found my refuge and my healing. And, in a way, with this story, I think I've come full circle.

Below are my responses to the interview questions:


Question 1: How did you choose the plot and characters of your story for the Charity Sip Blitz?

This is my thunderstorm story. I wrote it back in June, when Vermont was locked in a pattern of torrential rain, wild thunder and lightning, strong winds, and flooding. It was impossible to think of anything else, when every night I went to bed worried I wouldn't be able to get down our road the next morning, and all day at work, I worried that I wouldn't be able to get home where my pets were waiting. So when I sat down to write this Sip, it was inevitable that a storm was a key element. The characters and plot were born of the storm -- the inner reflecting the outer, so to speak. The day after I finished the first draft, I honestly drove home into the exact scenario my characters faced with water flowing over the road (okay, not quite so deep, but almost). I felt like there was no difference between my life and my fiction while I wrote this, and even right now, as I sit down to answer these questions, there is thunder in the distance. There is really something weird going on here.



Question 2: Why did you decide to participate in the Charity Sip Blitz?

I like to feel like I'm making a difference, somewhere, somehow, with my writing, and this just feels like a good thing to do.


Question 3: Does the theme, It Gets Better, have any personal significance for you?

Hell, yeah. I was bullied one year in middle school, badly. I was taunted, hit, shoved, had my possessions stolen and destroyed, and I was pushed down a flight of stairs. The worst thing that happened was having my stall door in the bathroom kicked open, then having the lights shut out and being left alone in the dark to find my way out. I became absolutely terrified every moment that I was at school. My parent's advice didn't help. The teacher I told only made things worse. Finally, and I am so incredibly grateful to her, a friend took charge and forced me into my guidance councilor's office, where she proceeded to explain what was going on. Fortunately, the guidance councilor acted -- the next day, she got all the girls who'd been bullying me, and their parents, into her office, and that was the end of it. Sort of. Twelve-year-old me didn't know I needed some help getting over it, and schools didn't think about that kind of thing then. I know I still have scars inside from what happened that year. I can't go into the building today without feeling sick. Whenever I go down that flight of stairs, I hang on tightly to the railing and feel the old pain in my ankle, and when I finally made myself go into that bathroom again, thirty years later, I burst into tears. But they were good tears, tears of thankfulness that I survived. Because, without what my friend did for me, I don't think things would have turned out all right.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teammates by M. Durango: a Review by M. Raiya

Teammates by M. Durango
Review by M. Raiya 
This story draws the reader in with that universally dreaded moment when you put your key in the ignition, turn it over, and nothing happens. For Cory, this is really not good -- he's about to leave college for winter break, his dorm will soon be locked up, home is three hours away, and he knows nothing about cars. He is stranded and alone.
Rescue comes in the form of Jeff, Cory's old crush from high school. Jeff was the star of the basketball team and hung out with the homophobic bullies who'd made Cory's life miserable. Cory always assumed Jeff was quite straight. In other words, completely unattainable. But Jeff gives Cory a ride home, little realizing that within a few days, he's going to need a rescue, himself. As the tale unfolds, the two young men realize they have way more in common than they'd ever guessed.
I really like how this story shows both sides of the bullying issue. Bullying hurts everyone involved, not just the victim. This tale of awakening self-awareness, and passion, rides on strong dialogue and sympathetic characters. It's a great example of how people grow and change over time, and shows that life does, indeed, get better.

Author Biography:
"M. Durango ~ Mar to her friends ~ has been writing on and off since her first foray into fanfic at the age of 8. Sometime in 2003, she discovered m/m romance and was hooked. Finally figuring out what she wanted to do with her life at the early age of 34, she quit her corporate job, bought a bunch of writing books, and set out to learn how to create characters, dialog, and actual plots.
Mar grew up in New Jersey and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since the mid-90s with her scientist hubby and incredibly loud cat."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This Year's Charity

This will be my second year supporting Torquere's charity project, along with more than thirty other authors who have written a story for the cause. Here's the official announcement for the project, and the awesome cover.




In 2008, Torquere Press' fantastic authors decided to support a charity with an annual short story collection called our Charity Sip blitz. In the past three years, we've donated more than $13,000.00 to charitable organizations that support GLBT causes.

For 2011, Torquere's authors have chosen the theme "Getting Better" in honor of the It Gets Better project, which helps LGBT youth understand that life as an openly queer adult is not only possible, but happening for millions of people, worldwide. More than thirty authors have written short fiction pieces and have agreed to donate all proceeds of the sales of these stories to this year's charitable organization. Torquere Press Inc. will match the authors' donations completely.

 This year, we're also pleased to announce that our distribution partner, Rainbow eBooks, has agreed to be the title sponsor of our Sip collection, and will be our sole distributor outside of the Torquere Books website. Please support our sponsor by visiting them at www.rainbowebooks.com

Torquere Press and our authors truly believe we can make a difference by donating to organizations that promote awareness and equality. If you'd like to help, please support the Charity Sip Blitz and enjoy some great romance today!

 Available September 17, 2011 at www.torquerebooks.com and www.rainbowebooks.com

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Focusing

When I need one of those head-clearing breaks from about ten projects I'm in the middle of (like right now) I grab my camera (Nikon D50), put on my 300mm lens, and head outside. I have to literally focus on something else, and it's so refreshing to be surrounded by a visual world and not a written one for a while.

A week from today, my Charity Sip, "My Boyfriend Has a Scar," will be released into the world along with thirty some odd others, to show the world that It Gets Better. I got the story back from the proofreader a few days ago, gave it a final polish, and sent it off. I'll write more about it next week.

I also found out that my Steampunk story, "Origin" has been accepted for publication in Torquere's Shifting Steam Anthology, due out sometime this fall. More dragons there! My guys from "The Dragon and his Knight," in the Mine Anthology, will be making a reappearance.

The other project I've thrown myself into is -- drum roll -- a Christmas themed short story, featuring the guys from Notice!  I've been getting such wonderful feedback over on Goodreads that I felt inspired to write more about them.  Notice takes place in the fall, and I got to wondering how Varian and Josh would be celebrating their first Christmas together.  I've been having heaps of fun finding out.  Stay tuned.

Anyway, these are some of the shots I got today, when I should have been at the computer writing.

Enjoy