Sunday, December 28, 2014

Snippet: I'm no lightweight

I survived Christmas. Parts of it were quite nice.

Anyway, here's a snippet.

A moment went by before the door silently opened, revealing the well-lit, airy interior. Tall and narrow stained glass windows lined the upper walls, and there was an arch leading to Twix’s stable. The floor was polished oak, and a platform bed sat in one corner. Burled wood shelves and a counter made up the otherwise bare kitchen, and the sink consisted of two sunken wooden basins with an wooden spout and knobs. A partition hid what he presumed was a bathroom, for he could see a rain-type shower fixture.
Juniper slumped in the middle of the floor, her face ghastly pale. Her staff was on the floor next to her, a length of dull wood. Swearing, he hurried to help her up, supporting her when her knees tried to fold. He got her to the bed, absently noting the mattress was made of a rough, buff colored fabric and filled with something oddly springy, almost like coconut fiber. “You overdid it, didn’t you?”
“Trail mix in my pack,” she whispered, and he hurried to grab it for her. She ate with an effort, gradually regaining color.
He handed her a canteen. “You look like crap.”
She closed her eyes and lay back on the naked mattress. “I miscalculated, ran out of juice. Was too much fun.” The desire to keep going made her ignore her body’s warning signals. Like a child, she played too hard and crashed.
She couldn’t afford to crash in the Bramble.
He laughed without humor. “Great. Do you need a doctor?”
“Good question,” a dark voice said from the door. Grigori whirled, his machetes out to confront the man. “Who are you?”
Juniper frowned. “Kjetil. What are doing here?”
He ignored the question and came closer. “Relax. I want to check her pulse.” He looked at Juniper with displeasure. “Before she tries to die on me again.”
“I’m not dying,” she protested. Everyone was a drama queen. “I work hard, that’s all.”
The guys exchanged glances, and Grigori put away his blades.
Kjetil checked her wrist and looked at her eyes. “There’s probably a news team on the way. You’re headline news tonight…again.”
She sighed. “I’ll lock the door.”
He frowned. “You aren’t staying by yourself.”
“I’m too tired to argue with you. What’s the point of making a fortress if I don’t use it?”
“I hate to agree with him, but he’s right. Like I said, you look like crap,” Grigori said helpfully. “I should stay with you.”
Kjetil stared at him.
“I’m working for her,” Grigori said defensively.
Kjetil looked at her, and she suddenly remembered telling him that the only one who would get inside her tree was “her man”. She scowled. “I’m employing him, but nobody needs to stay. Did you see what I did? I’m no lightweight.”
“Maybe when you’re healthy,” Kjetil said calmly. “Did you wonder why I’m here? I got called out to check on the “disturbance”. My superiors want to know what’s going on with this tree, and they aren’t the only ones who’ll wonder if you’re a threat. My team’s outside.”
She groaned. “I have a headache. Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
“The elves sent investigators, too. Should I let my team let them in?”
“What do you want?” she growled, recognizing blackmail when she heard it. She was tapped, but she still had enough juice to eject him from the room and seal it if she had to. After all, he was trespassing.
“Sleep at the station tonight, and you can come back tomorrow.”


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:

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bramble Burn cover

I just finished the cover for Bramble Burn, which will be released in 2015, possibly early spring, maybe sooner. I'm aiming to post an excerpt every Friday, and I'm going to set up my website to carry the excerpts every week on the same page, so you don't have to wade through blog posts to read the story to date.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Carrot Cake

I love having energy and no being wiped with allergies. Getting lots done, writing and cooking. I'm especially thrilled to have carrot cake back in my life. We decided that frosting was unnecessary sugary distraction, so we skipped it.

Carrot Cake

Packed with fiber, good oils, with a light yet luscious topping.

2 ½ c flour or GF flour mix
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
1 lb carrots, peeled
2 c brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 ½ c vegetable oil
1 ½ c chopped nuts, optional
1 c raisins, optional (if using both raisins and nuts, increase cooking time by 10-12 minutes)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices in a bowl, set aside.
3. In a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, shred carrots. Add carrots, nuts and raisins (if using) to bowl with dry stuff and set aside.
4. Switch to the metal blade in the food processor. Process eggs with sugar until frothy. Slowly pour in oil, allowing eggs time to incorporate it all. It’s going to look a lot like mayonnaise, and is going to keep the cake from having a soggy bottom.

5. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing until just combined. Pour into a baking pan. Bake a 350 F 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

Flour mix:

1 c white rice flour
1/2 c sweet rice flour
1/2 c brown rice flour, toasted
1/2 c bean flour, toasted
1/4 tsp pectin

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

For UK readers

I’m happy to let you know that WHEN SPARKS FLY is to be included in the November 40 for £1 promotion in the UK Kindle store! That will begin tomorrow, November 1, and run through the end of the month.  Once live, you will be able to view that here:

Friday, October 31, 2014

It's raining and I have no asthma. Zip. Meanwhile, two of my family are fighting five day sore throats, and I still have a lovely singing voice. Thank you, pectin in my GF flour mix.

I'm excited and happy about turning 40. Good things are happening, and my writing is flowing. Life is good.

Snippet: thanks for breakfast

Juniper smiled. “Could be. Anyway, thank you for breakfast. Is there anything I can do to thank you before I go?” She looked at Mia. “I’m sorry about the bed. I’m afraid I can’t “ungrow” a tree, but I can pay for damages.”
“What’s up with the bed?” Faolán wanted to know.
Mia grinned. “Go see for yourself. Don’t worry about it, girl. It’s a conversation piece now. But if you’re serious about helping out, maybe you could look into the back yard. It’s a sorry bit of concrete, and we could use a tree or something for shade when we grill.”
Juniper followed her outside and surveyed the back lot. It was a cracked bit of concrete with weeds growing in the cracks and a couple of rickety wooden tables and lawn chairs, surrounded by a battered wooden fence. She nodded. “I can do something with this. Did you have anything in particular in mind?”
The crew looked at each other. “Nothing too high maintenance,” Karl suggested. “Maybe a tree and some grass or something.”
“Can you put in some herbs? I love rosemary,” Mia added.
“No problem. Let me get my seeds from my pack. You can go about your work while I do this, and I’ll show you what I’ve done when it’s finished.”

She was saddling Twix when Lt Bjorn entered the stable. Thankfully the crew had grabbed her tack and saddlebags when they finished with her tree last night, or she’d be riding bareback. It was less than a mile to the park, but a saddle was welcome.
“You did the back yard,” he said with a tinge of admiration. “I had no idea it could look so good.”
She smiled. It hadn’t been hard to line the lot with hedges and sprout a climbing oak. It had a branch that would be perfect for a swing, and she’d made a bench project from the trunk. The lot was now lined with a sturdy hazelnut hedge and she’d used the roots to break up the concrete into pavers. Grass grew thick and green in the cracks. She’d planted an herb garden and cherry tree, too. “It was my pleasure.”
“You’re leaving?” He walked her out of the stable.
“Yes. I need to get to work.”
He was silent for a moment. “Karl said you had some ideas to make the tree safer.”
“Yes.” She hesitated. “The first steps are still dangerous, but I have to start somewhere.”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“Yep.” She mounted up.
He looked her over thoughtfully. “Will the tree be done today?”
She shook her head. “It will be two days at least, but it will be easy to close the holes in the tree today. I’ll have some protection while I work.”
“All right. Do me a favor; sleep here tonight. I’d rather not be called out to the Burn again.”
She looked away, considering it.
“You more than earned it with the yard work. Beside, you’ve given the crew something to talk about, and you already marked your bunk.”
His smile made her heart beat faster, but she didn’t need romance right now; too much to do. She tried to sound casual. “Okay. Just for tonight. I won’t need it after that. I appreciate the offer.” It would be good to have a place to rest tonight, and she would be dog tired.
“Cool. See you then.” He stepped back and let her ride away.
The gangs watched her as she trotted up to the Burn, and this time the neighbors stared, too. She kept an eye on them, but her senses were busy on the tree and the immediate vicinity. The tree rustled with pleasure at her approach and assured her there were no monsters inside. She hurried past the burned carcasses and into the tree, sealing the door. The first thing she did was help the tree repair the bark so she could work safely, though she wouldn’t take that safety for granted. The Bramble had taught her an important lesson, and she would watch her back.
She settled Twix in his sandy stall and helped the tree “breathe” away the smoke stink. She didn’t want to be distracted while she worked.
The next bit was harder. She stood in the center of the floor and thought about her battery. She knew the theory of how to make one, but she’d never had access to a power source like Bramble Burn before. It took a river of power to make, and it was dangerous. If she got cocky, the battery could explode, taking her, the tree and Twix with it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Birthday soon, will be 40

I'll be forty in November. It's a cool landmark, so we were thinking about a weekend in Seattle. After running the numbers and factoring in Christmas coming, we decided to have local fun instead. We're going to take the kids to PF Chang's for lunch and maybe mini golf. Big Hero Six looks fun, too.

I don't mind getting old one bit. First off, I look ten years younger than I am, which was a plague when I was younger, but fine now. I'm also healthier now than I ever was, and rarely suffer colds and illness, and my asthma has greatly improved. Removing milk and going GF was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I've got a great marriage of over 20 years and three healthy kids, a comfortable house, a job I love. There's a lot to be thankful for.

Snippet: “You really bought Bramble Burn?”

“You really bought Bramble Burn?” The medic chatted while Juniper was loaded into the ambulance for the ride to the station. “You do things like that often?”
“First time for everything,” Juniper mumbled. She was so tired. Maybe she’d been overconfident. Obviously she needed to tweak a few things. If she wanted to anchor the park, she’d need a safe place to crawl home to at night and a way to keep from draining all her energy. She couldn’t afford to be weak, or the Burn would eat her.
The station was stark outside, from what she could see in the dark, a brick building on a city lot. It was clean inside and furnished with Government Issue furniture and castoffs. She walked in under her own steam and nearly fell into one of the kitchen chairs. The pair of F &R guys with KP looked at her uncertainly.
“She needs to eat and crash,” Bjorn said, placing a bowl of steaming stew in front of her. “It was that or arrest her crazy self so she wouldn’t get killed in the Burn.”
Juniper ignored him. The stew fortified her enough that she helped coax Twix into a box stall, calming his furious protests. He’d followed the ambulance on his own, but they wouldn’t let him hang out on the street, scaring pedestrians.
“Quit, old man. They aren’t going to eat either of us,” she muttered, rubbing his neck. She was tempted to lie down in the hay, but Lt Bjorn was watching. If she looked too weak, he might decide the hospital was the place for her.

She showered, but it took all she had. The bunk in the woman’s dorm was clean, and she collapsed on it gratefully. She had a thousand things to do tomorrow, and she couldn’t wait to start the day.

Chapter 2

“What did you do to the bed?”
Juniper opened her eyes and peered at the woman frowning at her. It took a moment to remember attack, fire, rescue. She sat up and looked at the bunk bed, then hopped off for a better look. “Holy cow!” The bedposts had sprouted into saplings, rooting into the floor as she slept. The branches formed an arch over the top bunk, and the only thing missing was a flock of little birdies.
She looked at the fire fighter, dumbfounded. “That never happened before.” Did it have something to do with Bramble Burn? She could sense the park, even from here. Had the tree done something to tune her senses to the park’s power? The tree was supposed to anchor the magic, to be the first of many “fence posts”. She’d never dreamed that the wild energy might change her, too.
The woman snorted. “The guys are never going to believe this. Come on, let’s get breakfast.” She waited while Juniper brushed her hair and changed into jeans and a t-shirt, then led the way downstairs, chatting as she went. “I’m Mia, by the way. Word has it Kjetil picked you up from Bramble Park. You know, we were on the roof yesterday watching that tree of yours grow with binoculars. You’re the talk of the town. No one knew if it was some kind of new monster.” Mia had short, straight black hair and was built small but sturdy.
“Cher-til? Is that Lt Bjorn’s given name?”
“Yep. He’s one of the Norse wolves. The local pack likes to keep an eye on the city, and wolves like action, so we’ve got a couple on staff. Hope you like cinnamon rolls.”
Mia handed her a plate and introduced her to the day crew. There were four on duty, plus Mia, and all of them had questions.
“How did you grow a tree that big, that fast?” a large black man, Karl, wanted to know. He was responsible for the cinnamon rolls, and he had a southern drawl.
“Did you know you were on the news?” Faolán, an Irish man with black hair and a neatly trimmed goatee wanted to know. He waved a hand at the TV. “Not many tree mages out there.”
“I’m not a mage,” Juniper protested. “More like a farmer.”
“That’s a bloody big tree, farm girl,” Faolán remarked. “But you can’t mean to go back there?”
“I do, yes. I need to fix my tree.”
“Now that’s crazy talk,” Karl said. He set his coffee aside and leaned closer over the table. “You’ll ruin all of Bjorn’s hard work. What are you going to do the next time a mutant woodchuck sets your tree on fire? You can’t count on rescue every time.”
Juniper nodded. “Good point. May I have some paper? I need to add it to the list.” She took a pencil and busily began making a tree diagram. “You’re an expert on safety. What do I need to plan for?”
Mia leaned closer to view her sketch. “For starters, you need to plan for fire. Second, you need something stronger than wood to keep the critters out. You’ve already proved that they think of giant trees as chew toys.”
Juniper drew a picture of a tree burning and stick figures running around, arms in the air. She drew a slash through it. “Tougher skin. I think I can do that.” She thought about all the junk cars and made scales on the trunk. She had plenty of metal to work with. She sketched in rain water collection tanks that would be hidden in the walls of the tree and added a greenhouse on top.
“What’s that?” Karl asked.
“Greenhouse. I need to grow some herbs and stuff,” she said absently.
“What kind of herbs?” he asked suspiciously.
She laughed. “The legal kind. Saffron and chocolate, for one. I need to make money, and I need to eat. A garden won’t be safe on the ground at this time.”
“You can grow chocolate?” Mia asked with interest.
“It doesn’t matter. It will be too vulnerable. You’ll have giant grasshoppers trying to break in,” Karl warned.
“Bullet proof glass and protective shutters,” Juniper added to her list.
“What’s to stop something from eating you when you’re leaving your tree?” Faolán wanted to know. “That’s when you’ll be most vulnerable.”
“Defenses, very important.” Juniper drew a ring of thorns around the tree and studied the picture.
“You know Bramble Burn is in the middle of a tough neighborhood,” Mia said seriously. “You can be mugged or worse.”
Juniper met her eyes. “I could be. Twix is dangerous, but he could be shot. I could be shot. I’ll have to take steps to prevent that.”
“Kevlar,” Faolán suggested.
“Bodyguards,” Karl grumped.
Juniper cocked her head. “Tenants,” she said thoughtfully.
Karl guffawed. “You think you’re going to get renters in Bramble Burn? You’re crazy, girl.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Snippet: That’s me, drama queen.

“Sure. My tree was attacked by squirrels and mutant hedgehogs. I need to make some adjustments.”
He scowled. “I should arrest you for disturbing the peace and trespassing.”
Juniper gulped the sweet, salty drink the EMT handed her and was able to sit up. “I bought the park from the city. I have the deed, so it’s not trespassing.”
“I’d like to see this deed.”
“Sure. Please bring me my pack.” She nodded to the tree, which the emergency personnel and assorted gawkers were giving a wide berth. “She’ll behave.”
He looked doubtful, but approached the door. The warning snort inside made him pause.
“Twix, come here,” Juniper called, summoning the animal. He’d never let the soldier in without her.
The crowd moved back warily as he walked out of the tree. Black Adders weren’t known to cotton to strangers.
The Lt brought her pack. She rummaged in it and found the deed so he could look at it. “I’m surprised Fire and Rescue was called out for Bramble Burn.”
“You grow a tree as tall as a skyscraper and set it on fire. It could be seen for miles, and you’re surprised anyone noticed?” he said dryly. “Sheer curiosity would have gotten us called out, if nothing else.”
“That’s me, drama queen.” Juniper tried to sit up. Spots danced before her eyes and she quickly lay back. She felt like puking.
“Your blood pressure is low,” the medic reported. “We need to take you to the hospital for observation.”
“Nope, too expensive. I’ll be fine tomorrow.” Juniper struggled to sit up, but the medic placed a hand on her shoulder and pointed to the smoldering tree. Smoking corpses littered the ground around it, and splintered holes gaped in the hollow trunk. “Were you planning to stay in that?”
Juniper sighed in defeat. There was no way she could patch it up, not tonight, but a hospital stay was out of the question. “I just need some sugar and some sleep. Any chance you could drop me at a hotel on the way back?”
Lt. Bjorn exchanged a look with the medic. “Look, we have room in the station. You can bunk there tonight. We have medics on staff who can keep an eye on you.” At her doubtful look, he added, “Or I could arrest you and toss you a cell for a few hours. There won’t be charges, but you’ll get some sleep without becoming a chipmunk snack.”
Not much of a choice, and she was weak as wet paper. “Fine. I accept your hospitality. Appreciate it.”

“My pleasure. Now I won’t have to come back for your body later.” He left to help with cleanup.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Monster boar roast

I spend seven hours yesterday turning a hunk of pork shoulder into a beautiful mahogany roast with crackling crisp skin, and then I let it rest in the oven until the kids had filled up on leftovers. They moaned in protest when I brought it out because they were almost full, but obligingly finished their veggies so they could have some. Best way to use up leftovers ever. Good thing there was plenty of beautifully rendered skin, because there would have been a fight over it. For a while all I could hear was crunching and blissful yum sounds.

It's definitely going on my holiday meal list. Ham's a problem because of allergies and undisclosed ingredients, and turkey doesn't like me. Crispy pork shoulder, brisket, ribs and Cornish hens are my answer to holiday meals. They throw in a prime rib when we buy half a cow, and that's nothing to sneeze at, either.

I used the Cook's Illustrated Cuban Pork Roast method of 3 hours scored skin down on a rack, covered with tinfoil at 325 F. Flip skin side up at three hours and leave uncovered. When almost done, turn off oven and let rest for an hour for maximum yumminess. Remember to use a generous amount of dry rub before roasting, and I add a bit of water to the pan under the rack to prevent smoking up the house.

After that, I knew I needed to let Juniper roast some of the monstrous boars rooting in her yard. She's a busy girl, but fortunately, she has help...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bramble Burn snippet: infested with mutant squirrels.

“Keep an eye out, Twix.” She led Twix across the border and gently breathed on it. She put the acorn on the ground, tapping into the magic of Bramble Burn. A thrill chilled her. There was a river of power here, waiting to be tapped. It tested her, pulled with a strong current to drown her like it had done so many others, but she knew how to tame wild magic. She pointed it at the acorn and told it to anchor, to not only claim the space, but to own it.
Gleeful to finally have direction, eager to work, it grabbed the acorn and pulled it under the soil. A sprout shot out, making the ground ripple with rapid growth. A normal oak grew a hundred feet tall and four feet wide. This one widened until it was the girth of a house and soared thirty stories, as tall a redwood. The leaves spread over the ruined park, forming a huge canopy of green.
Deep in her trance, Juniper stepped inside the massive hollow tree, followed by Twix, and sealed the door. Dusk was approaching, and they needed solid walls between them and the Bramble, but they also needed light. Narrow windows of thick amber formed beside the door, acting like one-way mirrors. More dotted the trunk, forming an amber spiral, and her eyes slowly adjusted to the gloom.
Juniper breathed deeply of fresh green oak, beginning to feel the exertion. She formed a box stall with a sandy floor and took a break to remove Twix’s tack. She taught the tree to draw water into a basin for him and made one for her own use across the way, adding a drain.
She was trembling now, so she quickly formed a crude toilet and called it a night. Exhausted, she washed up and ate a quick dinner.
The floor was hard, but it was solid and she was safe. She slept like a log.

The tree screeched in her mind, jolting her awake. Twix paced his stall, frantic with the smell of smoke.
What the garbage? Was someone trying to smoke them out? Fuzzy with sleep, Juniper tapped into the tree to see what the problem was and flinched. There were things crawling in the limbs, burrowing into the bark. They were infested with mutant squirrels.
The tree groaned in pain as another blast of fire seared the bark. She peered cautiously through the amber windows and saw a pack of giant hedgehogs breathing fire, having a squirrel barbeque. They were milling in excitement at the all-they-could-eat buffet.
Alrighty then.
She was already dressed, so she sat in a lotus position and focused on the tree. “Time to exterminate some pests.” She let the tree feel her outrage, the need to protect and avenge. She fed it power and limbs suddenly became limber, swatting and squeezing Rottweiler sized, saber tooth squirrels into jelly. It flung the carcasses at the hedgehogs, bowling them over. While they were distracted, the roots and branches snared the hogs, binding and crushing.
The magic built, and Juniper grew lightheaded. She directed the tap roots to draw on the aquifer, pulling up massive amounts of water to quench the fire ravaging her branches. Dots peppered her vision, and she strained to rein in the energy. It resisted, testing her. She dug deep and hauled up hard, forcing it to spin until it stopped fighting. Roots burrowed into the ground with a sigh and blackened limbs hardened.
Sirens split the night. Dizzy, she crawled to the door and peered out the window. Fire trucks and armored police vehicles screeched to a halt next to smoking carcasses. She made sure the energy was quiet and crawled up the door frame, opening the door. She flinched at the glare of headlights. She reached for the wall, but the light grew and punched her in the face.
She must have fainted, because when she came to, she was lying on a stretcher with a flashlight beam in her eyes. She turned her head and tried to sit up, but that made the world flare white. She gave up.
“She’s awake. I can’t find any injuries,” an elven EMT reported.
“Jus’ tired,” Juniper slurred. “How’s Twix? He bites.”

A head blocked her view and resolved into a man’s face. “My name is Lt. Bjorn. I’m with Fire and Rescue. Can you make a statement?” He had dark eyes and short dark hair and might be in his late twenties. Judging from his black Kevlar and the rifle over his shoulder, he was the Rescue. If there was mayhem, soldiers like him were deployed along with fire crews. They were empowered to make arrests, though mostly they shot things until they stopped twitching.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Most excellent white chocolate orange cupcakes

Link to awesome cupcakes I made. 

Most excellent white chocolate orange cupcakes

I wasn't sure my kids would like this or if it would come out right off the bat,
but as I was mixing the extracts and the perfume filled the house, I knew. 
Tasting the batter was a clue, and the cupcakes, a revelation.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Here's a link to a GF cinnamon swirl bread. I have to write all this stuff down for my own use, so eventually there'll be a cookbook...because that's what I do. Besides, I have this thing about my house burning down (insert disaster) and losing all my recipes because I wasn't bright enough to share.
So here's me, sharing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gluten free cinnamon swirl bread, no gums, no starch, best bread to date!

I wanted healthier bread that didn't have starch in it, and I figured the starch might be causing some of the dryness in my baked goods, because it did in test pancakes. People use it to lighten GF flours, but there are better ways.

Also, I hate gums and they hate me back. I use potato flakes and sweet rice flours as binders, and occasionally, pectin.

Best of all, all these things are easy to pick up in the local grocery store, and they don't cost an arm and a leg. Local and sustainable, right?

Bramble Burn snippet (the latest book featuring Haunt)

Sorry, been distracted. Bramble Burn is consuming my imagination, so Rowen & Gold is on the back burner. Of course, all those who were clamoring for Haunt will be pleased.

Bramble Burn

Autumn Dawn

Autumn Dawn on Smashwords

Judy Stone

Cover images by:

Bramble Burn
Copyright © 2015 by Autumn Dawn

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.


Bramble Burn

Super-duper book blurb here.

It had been thirty years since the Convergence, when the dimensions aligned and combined Earth and the world of Gwyllon, known in human mythology as “Underhill”. Elven castles and random buildings sprouted in vacant lots, on major highways, sometimes merging with existing buildings, twisting into completely new structures; the courthouse had merged with an Elven government building. Roads and rail systems reformed, and after the rioting, starvation and death, agriculture finally sorted itself and food began to flow. A new government formed of elves and men had arisen, a society of human tech and elven magic. Cell phones and frost giants, race cars and elven steeds, dungeons and dragons…
And everywhere, monsters.
Juniper was twenty-three, a child of the new generation of small farmers. Her grandfather was Tylwyth Teg, an elf of the forest. Her father had been mostly normal, or pretended to be, but Juniper had her grandfather’s hunger for growing things. He’d tolerated her visiting his woods as long as he could, but there could be only one Forest Lord. He’d told her kindly but firmly to find her own Wood. She could not go back, or he’d kill her.
XXX words

Chapter 1

“You’re a fool, girl.”
Juniper Rose stared at the blasted, twisted wreckage of the former park and contemplated her mother’s words. She might have a point.
She kicked the dirt with her worn work boot, her sky blue eyes frowning at the scorched, salted soil. Broken glass glittered in the late afternoon light and she could smell motor oil and threadbare tires warmed by the June sun. Trash caught on the burnt skeletons of trees and old cars, and she could smell something rotten, probably carrion. The local gangs probably dumped bodies here.
Bramble Park had once been a cute little park in an upscale neighborhood, five blocks long by two blocks wide. After the Convergence, a well of wild magic had opened, spawning monsters. The panicked neighbors had tried to burn it, hoping to stop the critters from eating their children, and the army had used explosives. The park kept growing, quadrupling, spawning nightmares. Finally it was quarantined, the once prosperous neighborhood now a slum. The residents installed bars on windows and doors and invested in guns; there were no pacifists there.
It had been thirty years since the Convergence, when the dimensions aligned and combined Earth and the world of Gwyllon, known in human mythology as “Underhill”. Elven castles and random buildings sprouted in vacant lots, on major highways, sometimes merging with existing buildings, twisting into completely new structures; the courthouse had merged with an Elven government building. Roads and rail systems reformed, and after the rioting, starvation and death, agriculture finally sorted itself and food began to flow. A new government formed of elves and men had arisen, a society of human tech and elven magic. Cell phones and frost giants, race cars and elven steeds, dungeons and dragons…
And everywhere, monsters.
Juniper was twenty-three, a child of the new generation of small farmers. Her grandfather was Tylwyth Teg, an elf of the forest. Her father had been mostly normal, or pretended to be, but Juniper had her grandfather’s hunger for growing things. He’d tolerated her visiting his woods as long as he could, but there could be only one Forest Lord. He’d told her kindly but firmly to find her own Wood. She could not go back, or he’d kill her.
“Be sure to write, let me know how you’re doing,” he’d said, and meant it. After all, they were still family.
Her mother paced the farmhouse while Juniper packed. She’d given Juniper her light brown hair and lanky body, but they couldn’t be more different. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you! You don’t see your sister or cousins leaving. Cities are dirty and dangerous, and if you were sensible, you’d get your head out of the clouds and stay here.” She couldn’t hear the call of the wild magic, and wouldn’t want to hear about it if she did.
Juniper patted her Black Adder mount, Twix, and fished in his saddlebags. A mix of horse and Kudu, it had a kudu tail and long spiral horns, a broad deer’s head, fast horse body and horse hooves. Its bite was mildly venomous and it liked to dine on hay, bracken and small rodents. He was tireless and cheaper than a car, because gas was expensive. Convergence caused magic pulses that played havoc with geology, and magic was needed to reinforce the mines. The black elves had cornered the market on the technology, and they weren’t cheap.
A mist rose from the ground, obscuring rusting cars, a crashed airplane and blackened ground. Parts of it had been salted, as if salt could contain magical monsters.
Her hand brushed aside the deed to Bramble Park, aka Bramble Burn. She’d made a deal with the city and gotten it cheap, on the condition that she stop the expansion. She had a year to do what no one else had done and no time to waste. She couldn’t afford a hotel if she wanted to buy supplies, and she wouldn’t survive a night in the open. A group of rough men were openly watching her, and shadows slinked in the Bramble. Her pistols could only do so much to protect her.
She pulled out her seed collection and chose an acorn. Time to move in.