Friday, December 5, 2014

Snippet: remodeling

She was deep in mediation the next day, working on her tree, when Grigori showed up. He’d caught a ride with a tow truck driver, guiding the nervous looking man to the closest junk car. The driver stayed put as Grigori hopped out to check out the car.
Juniper sighed and disconnected. She was dreamy, in no state for company, but a deal was a deal. She joined the men, nodding to the skittish driver. “Hi. Checking for varmints?”
“Yeah. He won’t pay us until he’s sure there’s nothing alive in there.” Grigori picked up a rock, presumably to chuck it at the car.
She held up a hand. “I’ve got this.” Still deeply connected to the tree, she sent a pulse through the staff. Oak roots pushed from the soil, lifting the car and slowly rotating. They shook the car upside down, causing a clatter of old cans, trash and a family of ordinary mice to rain on the ground. Satisfied, she put the car back down and looked at the slack jawed driver. “Money?”
The guy shut mouth and fished some cash out of his flannel shirt pocket.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” she said, giving Grigori half. “I’ll see you tomorrow; I’m busy today.” She turned away.
“Are you high?” Grigori called.
“What?” she asked irritably.
“Your eyes are dilated,” he said smugly, no doubt enjoying throwing her comment back in her face.
She shook her head in disgust. “You interrupted my mediation, kid. Scram! I have a tree to remodel.”
“You added on,” he commented, nodding to the areal roots that formed a bump out.
“Twix needed a stable,” she said, offhand. She was itching to finish her project and in no mood to chat, so she hurried inside and sealed the door.
Grigori and the driver hooked up the car, working fast. The driver didn’t want to linger, and he suddenly stiffened and stared at the tree. “What the…?”
Grigori blinked as he saw tree roots snake over an old army truck. The roots glowed green and the truck began to shrink, absorbed by the tree roots. Astonished, he watched the gray sheen of metal crawl up the tree trunk, slowly coating the bark.
The driver thumbed his dirty ball cap back and shook his head. “Kid, the money’s good, but this place is weirder than granny on crack. You’re going to have to find another driver from here out.”
Grigori shook his head. “No guts, no glory.”
“You’re nuts, kid.”
Iron climbed the tree until it sheathed it completely. Spectators (people as far as a mile away, some with binoculars) watched as a golden bulb sprouted on top. It slowly grew to the size of a house, developing stained glass panels supported by amber ribs. The garden themed art on the panels was translucent, but prevented anyone from seeing inside.
 “What’s she thinking?” Grigori muttered. “Anything could break that glass.”
As if in response, the curled sepals, or the pointy leaf things that sit under flowers to protect them before they bloom, uncurled, becoming iron shutters that covered the bulb. The iron dome looked like leaves of brushed steel. Water shot from the bulb’s top in a geyser and settled into a living fountain. It lasted only a minute before drying up.
Grigori shut his mouth. “Oh.”
Dozens of vines grew from the tree, dangling within easy picking distance, each with an acorn on the end. The acorns had a flattened base and ranged in size from mug to canister. The men took a wary step back, but one of the acorns followed Grigori and swayed invitingly in front of him. The words, “Open me,” appeared on the acorn.
The driver took a big step back. “It’s for you, kid.”
Grigori shot him a look, but reached for the nut. It easily detached from the vine, and he found the cap was a screw top. Instead of a nut, there was a buttery, solid oil. On the inside of the cap, it said, “Acorn oil. Good for cooking, frying or fuel.”
Since Grigori hadn’t exploded, the driver crowded him for closer look. “I’ll be shaved ape.”
An acorn swayed in front of the driver. Print appeared on it, too. “A gift. If you’re willing to come back, I’ll give you more next time.”
The driver accepted the acorn, but said, “Thanks. I’ll have to think about it.” He admired the acorn and admitted, “My girlfriend likes to collect canisters. She’ll go crazy over this one.”
Grigori waited until the guy left and said, “You doing okay? That was something, lady.”

Silence. He waited a long moment and wove through the hanging acorns until he reached the steel-sheathed door. He banged the acorn knocker. “Are you all right, Juniper? Answer me!”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday

My family went Black Friday shopping at 3 AM, and John and my daughter are still at it. I think they're crazy, but they're having fun.

Home cured pork roast turned out deeply seasoned and popular. I'll fuss with the seasoning mix more, because we're on the right track. The pecan pie was awesome, and we were stuffed. Scalloped potatoes, butternut squash with bacon and green bean casserole were the stars of the show, all GF and dairy free. It was delicious and for the first time in two years, I didn't feel I was missing a thing.

Here are the recipies: http://glutenarmageddon.blogspot.com/2014/11/maple-pecan-pie-scalloped-potatoes.html

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's a Bramble Burn snippet:

He snorted and went back to making dinner. “Why Bramble Burn? With a talent like yours, you could live anywhere. Why the most dangerous place in the city?”
“I’m not trying to prove anything, if that’s what you’re wondering.” She didn’t want him to think she was a nut. “I’m a quarter elf, and there’s some weirdness in my father’s line. My grandfather and I have a thing for plants; we need them like you need food. A garden’s not enough, and the farm wasn’t big enough. I need my own space, my own trees, and the Burn called to me.” She’d felt it for years, the need growing until it was a compulsion. Her mother never understood, didn’t want to understand, so she’d stopped trying to explain a long time ago. “We need each other, the Burn and I.”
She looked into space, imagining her dream. “You’ve seen what I can do. Imagine a park filled with trees like the oak. I can make things you’ve never dreamed of.”
He didn’t say anything as he set two plates on the table, waving her to sit when she would have helped. He placed a pot of rice and a pan of green beans, sweet potatoes and ham in gravy between them. “The others are on call, so we might as well dig in.” He took a bite and said, “The guys said you were beefing up security on your tree.”
“Tomorrow,” she affirmed. “This is good.”
He nodded. “I’d like to see what you’ve done sometime. I’m curious about your tree; it’s not every day I meet a tree mage.”
“I’m more of a farmer,” she demurred. “What’s it like being a werewolf?”
He frowned. “That’s a bit off topic.”
“And off limits?”
“No, but you should learn subtly if you want to change the subject.”
“Okay, new subject. Let’s talk about you. If I let you into my tree, I’m inviting a member of the pack, which isn’t the same as inviting the nice F&R guy who let me stay the night. I don’t know what the pack would do with the information.”
He blinked. “We already have a good idea. You’re not exactly subtle.”
She shrugged. “I’m a private person. Territorial, even.” Maybe not as bad as her grandfather, who sometimes let trees eat trespassers, but strangers and crowds were difficult. Her mom had forced her to attend all kinds of functions as a kid, thinking she’d outgrown it, but she never had. Parties were noisy, which hurt her ears, and there was too much stimuli. Also, people’s body language often didn’t match their words, and that made her leery. She didn’t know how to play with kids her age, and adults often talked about shallow, unimportant stuff.
As a kid she couldn’t explain it, and as an adult, she understood it was normal for a highly gifted, very intelligent person. Her brain was different, hungry, and that was fine. Despite her mother’s worries, she was perfectly normal for who she was.
That was another reason she needed Bramble Burn; a book and a sunny garden were hard to beat. That was the end goal, but having a challenge to keep her mind busy was priceless.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to fight you for the Burn, but fine. I like being a wolf.”
Werewolves didn’t actually turn into wolves, although they could communicate with them. They became man-wolf hybrids with superior reflexes and strength. They couldn’t speak in the hybrid form, so they used sign language. They’d been on Earth long before the worlds merged, hiding among the human population. Since the world was already in chaos, it seemed like a good time to reveal their race.
She knew all that, and she didn’t have anything against them. She admitted she was irritable that the attraction she felt for him wouldn’t go anywhere. They could reproduce with elves but not humans, though they mostly married within their species. Besides, interspecies dating could be complicated.
God help her, she knew all that and still baited him. “I don’t mind letting you run through the woods when I’ve finished them, but the tree is for me. Maybe a man, if I have one someday.”
He raised his brows. “How very wolf-like of you.”
She shook her head. “I told you, my line is odd. I’ve made peace with it.” She washed their dishes as he silently cleaned the kitchen. He was probably mad, which was for the best. She was very, very busy.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Snippet: collecting scars

Grigori matched her stride. “I’ll try to get the tow truck out here tomorrow. We might have to check the cars for varmints, though. Maybe we should smoke them out.”
She shrugged. “Whatever. Just don’t burn down the park.” Her sock squelched, and she grimaced at the tacky feeling of drying blood. “Where did you learn to do that?”
He shrugged. “Dad took off, so we had to learn to defend the house ourselves. No loss.”
“Who’s ‘we’?”
“Mom, two brothers, two sisters. I’m oldest.”
“You got a trade in mind?” she asked.
He looked at her. “I’m working on it. I want my own salvage yard someday, maybe a welding shop.” He said it defiantly, as if he’d been mocked for it before.
She laughed. “Yeah? I’ve got lots of junk. Knock yourself out.”
She made it to the station at dusk and waved goodbye to Grigori. She still didn’t trust him, but time would tell.
“You made it back,” Lt Bjorn observed. He was stirring gravy in a pan. He turned off the burner and looked her over. “I smell blood.”
“Yep. I was attacked by a mutant kitty. Fortunately, my teenage sidekick reduced it to sashimi. He’s half elf, and he likes junk cars.” She rambled when she was tired, and today had been a heck of day.
“You’re bleeding, too.” He breathed deeply and walked around to look at her shoulder. “May I?”
“Sure. I already glued Twix back together.” Coming from a farm, she had lots of experience cleaning and treating wounded animals.
She grimaced as he gently peeled back the sticky cotton to examine the cut. “It stings, but I don’t think it’s too bad.”
“Take a shower and rinse it out, and I’ll get the unicorn glue.” Named for miraculous unicorn flower and made of natural botanical ingredients, the glue had amazing healing properties and numbing agents.
Twenty minutes later, Juniper sat at the table with a cup of cocoa while he dug the remaining glass fragments out of her shoulder. It had sucked getting dressed, but at least the tank top and jeans were clean. “I appreciate this, Bjorn.”
“Call me Kjetil. I think we’re well enough acquainted now,” he said dryly, dropping a piece of glass in the bowl next to him. He set the tweezers aside and put a towel under the gash as he rinsed it with saline. “I don’t think you’ll scar; the glue is good stuff.”
She almost shrugged, but thought better of it. “It doesn’t matter; I don’t see my shoulder.”
“Don’t be in a hurry to collect battle scars; you live in Bramble Burn now. There’s plenty of time to build a collection.” He applied the glue and cleaned up his mess. “I work hard to keep the damsels out of distress. You give macho types like me the vapors.”

She grinned. “I’ll have to keep smelling salts on hand.”

Virus finally letting up

Nothing like a days long headache. What is this virus?! We've all had it. Since traditional headache stuff causes asthma for me, I've been surprised to find fennel seed works excellently, and the stupid thing is finally getting better.

Bright and sunny today. Very pleased.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Virus found me. It's mild, but I've a headache and I'm a bit draggy. Writing should be interesting today, but the wooziness might spawn interesting monsters, and I have to wreak one of Juniper's trees and sic some nasties on her. There's nothing on the Fox news page to distract me, but there's always Gordan Ramsey cooking lettuce wraps on YouTube.

Snippet: eager to play

Juniper took a breath and centered herself. The well of power was there, eager to play. It wanted a job to do, and Juniper taught it to do exciting things. It jumped to do her bidding with the subtly of a runaway train, and she had to coax it to pay attention. She wanted to show it something intricate, but it fought to run wild, showing her images of monsters and crazy carnivorous plants. She ignored the suggestions and waited like a patient teacher, slowly building a matrix to contain the energy. A staff rose from the tree’s heart like an exotic stalk, formed of oak heartwood. Amber “fuel cells” twined over the wood, sinking deep to form beautiful designs in the wood. The cells hardened, accepting a carbon infusion that made the staff and three times harder than steel, nearly unbreakable.
Juniper gently grasped the staff and detached it from the tree’s heart. When not in use, it would appear to be ordinary wood with dull brown markings; no sense advertising its value. Not that just anyone could use it: only someone who could harness the power of the Bramble Burn could wield the staff.
She was lightheaded when she finished, so she sat down and ate the cinnamon rolls and bacon Karl had packed for her. She admired the staff, stroking the smooth surface. She’d need to make a sheath so she could ride with it, something that would attach to the saddle. It would be awkward, but she couldn’t leave it lying around. Besides, the staff wasn’t just a tool, it was a weapon, and she needed all the help she could get.
She was ready to head to the station when a tree sensed a disturbance. She looked out the one-way glass by the door and frowned. Why was there an elf on her doorstep?
She stepped outside, leading a saddled Twix, and cautiously looked him over. He was late teens and lean, with short dark hair. His worn t-shirt and jeans were clean and he had sneakers. He was armed with twin machetes, a cheap but effective weapon, and very necessary in this neighborhood. If he had a gun, it wasn’t in plain sight. Tucked in waistband, maybe?
“What do you want?” She saw no reason to be friendly yet.
“My name is Grigori. I’m looking for a job. I heard you might need protection.”
“Is this a shakedown?” she demanded, temper rising. She wasn’t paying the local gangs a dime, and they would regret asking.
“No! I’m looking for honest work.” He glanced at the park. “You’ve got a lot of heavy lifting to do.” He looked her over quickly, as if gauging her strength. “I’m not afraid of dirty jobs.”
She pondered him. Up close, she could tell he was only half-elf; his shoulders promised to be too wide and he was a hair short for an elf. Also, his ears were pointy, but he had broad features, attractive, but not pretty. “You want to work in Bramble Burn.” Times were hard, true, but was he crazy? Her eyes narrowed. Maybe he was a felon or a user and couldn’t find work. “Are you high?”
“I don’t use.” A muscle jumped in his jaw. “I’m clean.”
She gestured with her staff. “I don’t have any money.”
He nodded to the junk cars. “You have a lot of scrap metal there. I know a guy. What if I can sell it for you, get it towed? Would you split the money?”
She raised a brow. If he could do it, it would save her a lot of trouble and make her some badly needed cash. “Maybe. You got any references? How did you hear about me, anyway?”

He shifted. “My mother heard about it at salon where she works. You can ask her boss about me; I’ve done some odd jobs for her…look out!”
She spun to see what put the look of panic on his face and cried out as Twix shied and knocked her over. She rolled with the impact so she wouldn’t land on her staff and hissed as broken glass cut her shoulder. This was no place to roll in the clover.
Twix screamed in anger, twisting as he tried to throw off the huge saber tooth housecat clinging to his rump. Before she could rise to help, an orange striped tabby jumped for her ankle, jaws gaping. A machete swished, and the cat fell on her leg, spurting blood.
Juniper swore and scrambled up, ready to beat a cat to death with her staff, but Grigori stabbed the last one with a lightning fast thrust. A frantic glance showed Twix stomping the one who’d played cowboy to paste. Warm, wet blood soaked through her boot and jeans as she surveyed the five dead mutant cats, each as big as a bobcat. She shuddered, knowing it had been close.
Grigori wiped his machetes on a corpse, looking smug. “That could have been bad.”
Her eyes narrowed as she considered whether he might have sicced the cats on her to prove a point, but she couldn’t see how. He looked like a typical cocky teen, proud of his prowess.
Unfortunately, the incidence had proved a point. “You’re likely to see a lot of more of that and very little money, working for me. But you’re hired.” She checked Twix and decided it would be best to treat his cuts at the station. It was best not to ride him now, when he was hurting, or she’d risk worsening the injury. She started walking. “I can always fire you if you annoy me.”
“What about the bodies? They’ll attract scavengers,” Grigori pointed out.
“Ugh, right! Just a minute.” She was exhausted, but her “employee” could use a demonstration that she wasn’t a complete dud. The staff helped a lot, and the amber glowed as she told the oak to pull last night’s bodies into the ground for compost, as well as today’s fresh kill.
Grigori took a respectful step back, warily watching the ground.
She smirked, feeling better, and led Twix away.