Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My books are character driven, which means I can't sit down and plot the whole book out; things change as people do. Even if I could, the book would feel pre-written and boring. Ask me how I know.

The great part about that is every day of writing is a surprise. The downside is that every day starts with a blank page. I brainstorm, come up with ideas, but essentially, writers make something out of nothing.

Right now I know sort of how Black Hound ends, but how the book gets from where I am to that point. Every day I solve more of that puzzle.

This is the part where I usually get fussy and start to think I should query a publisher, have someone else deal with cover design, formatting and edits. The temptation's always there, but it's so nice having control of the process...when I'm not tired. Never make decisions when you're tired, sick or stressed.

As it is, I'm thinking of buying a Mac just so I can use the Vellum book formatting program. It would be nice to spend less time on technical stuff. We'll see.

Snippet: I’m magic, cuz.

It's been about a month, so I thought I'd share. Here you go:

From the next Convergence book. No release date yet.

Black Hound

She woke the next day refreshed. It was Monday and everyone had to work. She was glad of it as she loaded up her charcoal gray, armored SUV. Ike and his friends had been very helpful, but she needed space and quiet to create. Although she could meditate with an audience, it was so much easier when she was alone.
Even so, she’d promised Ike she’d keep her cell phone handy and contact him if the slightest thing went wrong.
Her smile died as she bumped up the rutted road to the Yard, plans to smooth the road forgotten. Something black covered her formerly shiny Watchtower. She might have mistaken it for cast iron, but it swallowed light. It was also hard to look at, emitting a subtle energy that was dazzling to the eyes.
“What the French toast,” she swore, along with a few other choice words. She was all set to work, and now this. She debated briefly, but she’d promised. Dialing her cousin, she told Ike, “There’s some kind of crap coating the Watchtower. I’m in my car, doors locked, and I’m about to scan it. I’ll leave you on speaker.” That done, she closed her eyes and did a careful scan of the alien matter.
“Huh. It’s a metal, but nothing I’ve seen before. Figures. Hang on, I’m going to poke it.” She mentally tossed a car door and a hubcap at the tower, but nothing happened. She made a thoughtful noise. “Nothing. Standby.” She probed deeper, testing the metal’s properties. It was wonderfully malleable, but all metal was to her. It was hard, yet not brittle, like spring steel.
“Talk to me, cuz,” Ike ordered, his voice echoing a bit as if he were in the shop.
“It’s living steel. Well, not living,” she corrected, searching for a word. “It’s not sentient, but it responds to magic, which might be why it coated the tower.” She made a sound of frustration. “I don’t think it’s dangerous…to me…but I need more time to investigate before I move into the tower.”
“Do you need me?”
“No. I’m going to set up a bunker to work from. Since it’s just me, I’ll drive into the space I cleared earlier, set the robots on watch and form a shelter around me.  I can have it up in ten, fifteen minutes.”
There was a long silence. “Why didn’t you do that yesterday?”
Good question. Slightly embarrassed, she said, “Um…there was flying metal to play with?”
“And people to watch your back. Fine. Keep the speaker on.” He sounded resigned. “I’ll do paperwork while I wait.”
“You know you won’t be able to concentrate. Why don’t you clean the bathroom? It needs it.”
He said something rude, but didn’t disconnect.
She could visualize him pacing. Maybe she should have brought him along, spared his ulcer.
She drove into the Yard, but not far. Between the robots and her building project yesterday, she’d cleared some space, but not much.
This sucked. She’d have to root the building in magic, and she hadn’t wanted to do that until she’d stuck an anchor in the far side of the Yard. It was always easier if anchors were placed at the compass points first to help “pin” things down, prevent the pool of magic from spreading and taking over more of the city.
Since it had to be done, she pushed aside her annoyance and drew the metal over her in a rough sphere, liquefying rusty pipes and mangled wrecks on the fly, shedding rust. A swirl of metal rose around her in a spiral like a giant screw, providing basic coverage as she got out of the car. Taking a deep breath, she plunged metal into the ground, deep into the magic lake.
The power was turbulent this time, a rough ocean out to test her. Maintaining iron focus, she patiently welded metal to magic, soldering them together until they became a seamless whole.
She became aware of someone shouting in her ear. Wincing, she touched her Bluetooth headset. “Not so loud! What?”
“You promised to tell me when the bunker was done. It’s been twenty-five minutes!”
She blinked, realized she was standing in darkness, and felt for the car door to switch on the headlights. “Yeah, I was going to. I just anchored it first.” Her voice echoed inside the conical metal.” She tuned him out as he offered his opinion on that and grabbed a bottle of grape juice. “I’m fine. Seriously, I’m rehydrating and everything. You’ve got to relax a little.”
She could practically hear him roll his eyes.
“You’re going to make me take up smoking again, I swear! Fine. You’re coming home tonight, right? Things have changed?”
“Dude, I’m cocooned in a foot thick of solid iron right now; even you would say my position is secure. I’ve got food and supplies for a week and I’ve seriously got to work. I can’t pull this off if I don’t live on site. You know that. Right?”
His grunt was unhappy. “Fine. At least text me a picture? I’ll feel better if I know you won’t be eaten alive.”
She glanced up at the roof. “Inside’s a bit dark right now, but I’ll have Iron Eagle send you an aerial. Stand by.”
Ike made a surprised sound when the text came through. “Wow. Okay. A foot thick, you say?”
“Yep. I’m set. Let me get some work done and I’ll get back to you at lunch, okay?”
“Wait! If that thing’s a foot thick, how are you getting cell reception?”

She blinked. When the answer came to her, she grinned. “I’m magic, cuz.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Black Hound snippet: The Watchtower

Just noticed my last snippet was this summer. Oops! That was mean. Here you go:

From the next Convergence book. No release date yet.

Black Hound

Chapter 2

“I’m grateful we waited to try that thing out,” Ike said, staring in consternation at the “floating palace”.
Rue winced as the giant, warty green bear cubs climbed the chain, chasing a bug the size of a basset hound. Although they were the size of an adult polar bear, she knew they were cubs because their mother was as big as an elephant. Annoyed, the pea-green mother bear grabbed the chain to follow. She was too heavy, so the chain dipped slightly. With a growl, she put both paws on it and pulled, making the car palace bob like a ship in rough seas.
Bruce sighted the bear through the machine gun. Although the two hunting buddies had also come, he was the one who always ended up on the roof. “Green with yellow blobs. That thing looks like something floating in the toilet after eating corn.”
“Ew! Thanks for that. Go ahead and shoot it. I’ll bury the body.”
“A woman after my own heart,” he said approvingly, and shot the beast behind the shoulder, the high powered round punching through thick hide and hitting the heart.
Rue activated her robots, which had gone dormant in her absence. As they approached now twitching bear, she formed a spear out of a rusty pipe and shot it through the bear’s head before rapidly killing the cubs. She knew some would consider it brutal, but if not contained here, the animals would wander into the city in search of food. They wouldn’t hesitate to catch anyone would couldn’t outrun them.
She had the robots drag the monsters away and bury them; the former tractor was great for digging holes.
There were no monster attacks today, so it was easy to focus on improving the car palace…she really had to think of a better name for that. She made the chains razor sharp, adding spikes for good measure, and made four sharp spiral columns to brace the platform. It was no longer free floating, but she could worry about that later.
Barely winded, she grinned at her escort. “Ready to go inside? I’m calling it the Watchtower.”
Ike opened his mouth, but shut it as a car elevator descended from the belly of the tower. “Huh.”
She hopped in the car. “Cool, right? I didn’t want to leave the car undefended.”
“You’re sure it’s stable?” Bruce peered at the elevator nervously.
“Yes.” If it was one thing she knew, it was metal. Rue enjoyed the ride as they ascended, finally able to see above the junk. The noxious fumes didn’t bother her; they were mostly at ground level, and puddles of poison usually contained a lot of metal that could be manipulated, rendering them harmless.
The platform reached the inside of the Watchtower and locked into place. They stepped out, admiring the great hollow space. Car windows let in plenty of light, illuminating the brushed steel interior.
Bruce’s voice echoed as he spoke. “What are you going to put in here? This place is huge.”
“Also, it’s going to get hot with all those windows. Have you thought of a heating and cooling system yet? What are you going to do for plumbing?” Ike asked, wandering to a window. “Look at that view.”
She smiled. Trust Ike to be practical. “Actually, I thought you guys might have some input. There’s a cooler in the truck, plenty to eat and drink, and we brought paper and pens. Take some pictures, kick around ideas. If you have any recommendations for plumbers and whatnot, write it down.
“Meanwhile, I’m going to add some stairs and an upper story. When I’m done, I can rough out some space for bathrooms and whatnot.” She figured with men in charge, she’d have a huge garage planned, but that was fine. She’d need space to work on robots; most of hers were more elegant than the rough specimens she had patrolling the ground.
She walked a few steps and said, “Don’t forget ideas for defenses…and a decent kitchen.”
Ike flicked a hand. “Go do your thing. We got this.”
She chose a shady corner and mentally sorted through junk on the ground, drawing up metal for a curving stair and upper floor. Since the kitchen and living area would be upstairs, she added a glass and steel lift to make it easy to bring supplies up.
She chose to make the floor a grid of steel with frosted, bullet proof glass to let in maximum light.
To keep the space open, she ran a wide loft along the garage’s outer wall, figuring she could use the space as extra rooms or storage as needed.
It was a big space, so she added several bathrooms. For now they were little more than nice outhouses; plumbing this place was going to be interesting.
Before taking a break, she added several large fans and plugged them into the magic pool, allowing them to power themselves. She wasn’t sure how that would work with tricky things like heating and cooling units, but there were experts for that.
Of course, to hire them she’d need money. Not everyone could be paid in bullets.
“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Bruce said with a flirtatious grin.
“Thanks.” She gave him a lukewarm smile and helped herself to a sandwich and glass of iced tea. He was a nice enough guy, but there was an edge of nervousness to Bruce. She made him uneasy, or her power did. There was no future there.
They did a walk through and the guys shared several excellent ideas. Everyone had their own jobs to return to, but they had good suggestions for contractors.
“But you’ve got to beef up security here first,” Ike cautioned. “It’ll be hard enough to get workers out here, although curiosity will draw some of them. “You’ve got to prove they won’t get eaten for setting foot on the Yard. We thought a big fence would help.” He showed her a sketch of cars and trucks standing on end, forming a big ring around the Watchtower. A truck was balanced on two others, forming a massive gate.
“Why, cuz! You’re an artist,” she teased, making him color. “It’s a great idea.” She tilted her head. “Especially if I make each car robotic so it can crush monsters.”
“Nice. What about mounting guns on the bottom, too?”
She frowned. “Maintenance. Still, a crude cannon would work, or maybe spears on chains. It’s not like the monsters will shoot back.”
“In that case, what about pit traps?” Bruce asked, and they discussed several options for monster disposal.
Rue liked one so much she immediately implemented it. It took more effort than rearranging the house, so she sank into a trance and drew metal from the ground, forming several retractable metal bridges over pits, complete with trapdoors. The pits were lined with retractable spikes, perfect for impaling.
She was about to begin on the car fence when Ike gently shook her arm. “You can finish tomorrow.”
She scowled at him, but quickly realized he was right. She was beat. Also, she needed to improve the ventilation, because it was a bit hot in there, despite the magic powered fans. “All right. I need to go over your plans and call some contractors anyway. This place is going to be a money pit.”
“Welcome to homeownership. Wait until you get to pay property taxes.” He walked her to the truck with an evil grin. “By the way, what was your plan to pay for all this again?”
She groaned and dropped into the passenger seat. How ironic would it be to survive monsters only to fall prey to the tax man?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I tell people I'm a housewife

I tell people I'm a housewife. It's true enough, and it avoids weirdness. Writing is a job, but people are odd about it.

Imagine you're a plumber. One third of those you meet say, "Oh. Cool. I'm a mechanic. Nice weather we're having, right?"

The second group says, "Oh, you're a plumber. What kind of plumbing? Oh, sinks and toilets. But do you do the fancy Japanese toilets? With the heated seats, pre-mist, bidet, dryer and wifi?" Because you're not a real plumber until you work on the right kind of throne...and bring in a certain income stream. Blue, not yellow. Real plumbers produce blue.

The last group says, "Oh My Gosh! You're a PLUMBER! That's so cool! How many toilets have you fixed? Are you famous? I've always wanted to fix a toilet..."

I've always wanted to be more interested in the stock market, but can't sustain interest. Shrug.

And that's why I tell people I'm a housewife.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Yes, I'm still getting around to Blackhound. Burning the midnight oil. Healthy enough to burn the midnight oil! Yee haw!

Exhausted from the overtime, but having soooo much fun.

Discipline, dedication...and caffeine.

All my older books needed updated links and navigation. I feel like a factory inspector; check this, check that. Fix this, fix a monotone. It's the only way to make my product shine, however. Yesterday I uploaded to Kindle and Smashwords several times each, and still managed to upload the wrong file, found links to fix, etc. Took ALL day for one book.

Today something made me check this morning, and yep, the wrong file was up at Smashwords. Discipline, dedication...and caffeine.

I think I've got a system down for updating, so hopefully my template works and this is a much speedier process.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hi! Mostly I've been hanging out on Facebook. I've also redesigned my website There are some some interesting new details there.

Also, in case you missed the Facebook post:

Day 39, no sugar: Your nose won't run if you eat spicy food, unless there's congestion. Been eating spicy lunches, no sniffles (which I'd vaguely wondered about). After the durum wheat thing, my nose responded to spices by running. Fascinating indicator of nasal health.
Did I mention I used to take GABA ( has it) for the sads? Needed it daily or really noticed depression. Now, I'm cheerfully daily, haven't needed it in weeks. How's that for mind/body connection?
John's cat allergies are better. I can smell things much better, yet I'm less reactive to chemical fragrances. The smells from the deli and bakery in the grocery stores don't make me wheeze anymore.
It wasn't hard to give up sugar at all, with two exceptions: chocolate (because it's barely edible without sugar and I crave it) and coffee (also barely drinkable sans sugar, but now I'll need much less sugar to make it palatable). I've been drinking coffee in an espresso cup with coconut milk to train myself to expect less sweetness. It helps if you start with really good coffee beans.
Why bother? For one thing, it's loaded with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients. Talk about taking your bitters!
Things I've learned during the fast:
Einkorn, barley, rye and oats are fine. It's not the gluten, it's the modern wheat that's been crossbred. Organic kamut is not okay; too modern.
Pay your farmer or pay your doctor.
Honey and fruit are fine. Won't slow the detox one bit.
Combining a saddle stool with standing allows me to get things done as my tailbone heals (it's almost been a year!). Do not fall and bend your tailbone to a 45 degree angle.
But if you do...realize that it might be the Lord's redirection. I've realized during the fast that yes, I do want to move. I like my neighborhood and my house, but the houses being build around me are annoying and cut off the view. Finally, my husband will get his wish.
I have my eye on a property. I posted the pic on my fridge and have it open on my computer daily to motivate me to get up early and work my tail off.
I can work my tail off because of this no sugar fast. I have the energy now.
Last...I'm editing all my romance novels to have "sweet heat". In a world that's busy making everything hotter (and more obnoxious), I decided to step back.
I've always enjoyed going my own way.
Jer 29:11

Monday, June 26, 2017

Black Hound snippet: smart dog

For the readers who've tormented themselves re-reading the solitary snippet (Wince! I know what that's like), here's some relief.
Yes, I'm better. A standing desk has solved some of my problems, and I'm about to have a quieter work environment, with all teens busy for the summer. Short of being struck by a stray bit of space junk, I should be able to focus on work. Dear God, please, I just want to work...
With one thing and another, this book is taking the longest of any I've ever written. On the bright side, spring allergies were managed the best ever, I have high quality bluetooth headphones to drown out the construction that's in my back yard and I've lost 16 lbs with calorie counting! I'm hoping that this year will be mas excellente. Most importantly, we'll hope the snippets come a bit faster.... 

From the next Convergence book. No release date yet.

Black Hound

After Ike’s wife Katie had fussed over and fed her, Rue went to her loft over Ike’s industrial size garage and took a nap. It had been a while since she’d worked up to her magical potential, and she was still groggy when she woke. Half-heartedly, she tinkered with a robotic cheetah, but gave up when she found she had only a gnat’s worth of power left. Clearly, she was going to have to balance money making work with anchoring the Yard, but that was a problem for later.
Many people assumed that as a metal mage, Rue could simply pull gold and precious metals out of the ground at will. While she could, deposits of any significance rarely occurred near pools of metal magic, limiting what she could access. That, and dwarves had an uncanny affinity for finding and claiming easily accessed deposits. They viewed mages like her as interlopers and were aggressive about driving her away from their territory.
Mage she might be, but she wasn’t going to traipse through the hostile wilderness seeking gold.
Fortunately, there were many opportunities for a clever girl to earn money; the copper wire in the Yard would be a good start.
Restless, she moved to the window to watch the sunset. Early fall had brought chill winds that made eighty degrees feel brisk, but it was stuffy in her room, so she cracked a window. The paved yard was neat, but filled with the typical mechanic’s collection of cars in various stages of repair. Ike and Rue both had black thumbs, but Katie had filled half barrels around the tiny yard with vegetables and some kind of red flower…geraniums? Rue couldn’t remember if that was what they were called, but they were pretty. As she was admiring them, a black dog trotted into view.
Rue hissed. She hated black dogs. “Get out of here! Go on, git!”
The dog panted at her. He sat, staring at her as if daring her to do something.
She narrowed her eyes and considered throwing something, but it was only a dog. Stupid, maybe, but it hadn’t hurt her. She looked around, searching for the big water gun she used to shoo the neighbor’s goat away. The stupid animal was always escaping and was murder on Katie’s garden.
By the time she found it, the dog had disappeared.
Uneasy, Rue rubbed the black mark inside her left wrist. The rune was a daily reminder that not all black hounds were family pets…

“I can help.”
The hound became smoke and reformed into a man. A tall black elf dressed in unrelieved black, he had no visible weapons. Instead of the usual long white hair and teak or gray skin, this elf’s military cut was inky, his skin like carved obsidian. Like all elves, his ears were pointed, but they looked particularly wolfish on him. Midnight eyes gleamed with iridescent green like the feathers of a Cayuga duck.
He didn’t give her time to stare. “Greetings. You’ll want to run; they’re coming.”
She sent a frantic look at the door and then her father, torn. “I can’t,” she whispered, even though she knew she would. Shock and grief insisted she couldn’t leave him like that.
The stranger seemed to understand. “Here.” He waved a hand and smoke rose from her father’s body, leaving a pile of ashes. He closed his hands as if holding an invisible ball and the ash condensed, leaving a smooth gray marble. He scooped it up and thrust it in her hand. “Ashes to ashes, right? Time to run.” Which he did, leaving her to follow.
She had little choice; it was either follow the devil she’d just met or meet some new ones. She ran after him, the precious marble clutched in her hand. Her captors had brought her down a mine shaft in an elevator and though a long series of corridors. The tunnels were dimly lit, smooth stone, and she had no idea where she was.
He sped up, racing around a gently curving corner, and came to an abrupt halt at the lip of a black river.
She skidded to a halt and looked with dread at the dark water. Did he mean to swim it? She could see stone steps on the other side, within swimming distance. She looked at the water with suspicion. Anything could be in there.
“Scared?” He was barely winded and didn’t seem concerned. “I can help.” He pushed her.
It was only a three foot drop, but dark and shocking cold. Her scream was cut off as she hit the water. Freezing water made her lock up, but panic drove her to swim.
“This way,” the elf said, swimming for the stone steps on the far side.
There was no time to debate. She wasn’t fast, but she could swim..something he might have asked before pushing her.
Something slimy brushed her leg. Adrenaline spiked her blood, made her faster. Next to her, something displaced water. She shrieked as whatever it was hit her thigh with bruising force and left a hot line of pain on her calf. She floundered and the elf was there. He muttered a word and there was a hot explosion under the water.
“Swim!” he ordered. As soon as they reached the stairs he seized her arm and tossed her up the steps. She scrambled up, dripping river water, shuddering with terror and cold.
He reached the top before her and hauled her up to the stone road, his hand somehow dry and warm. Behind him, a few dim lights announced the outskirts of a town.
Sure enough, he was bone dry. Stupid, smoke sniffing fiend.
“Are you trying to kill me? What was that?” she rasped as she yanked her hand away. This man was dangerous.
He scanned her, checking for damage. “A pet of sorts. We feed it prisoners,” he said absently.
“So you pushed me in?” she cried.
“So ungrateful. Can you walk on that leg?” He knelt and flicked away her shredded pajamas to check her calf.
She swatted his hands away. “No thanks to you!”
He pinned her with a stare. “You’re welcome to save yourself.”
There was a small silence. Finally she let out a harsh breath. “How do I know this is a rescue?”
“Hm. I suppose I could be luring you to my secret chamber to torture you.” He nodded in approval and stood. “I like it. Suspicion looks good on you.” He tilted his head to the road and began to walk. “This is the way to the prison. Since I’ve already helped a slave escape, I may as well cap the day with a prison break.”
Like it or not, he knew the way out. She limped next to him, bare feet silent on the cold stone. She wanted to retort with a snappy comeback, but she was too busy shivering. The air was as chilly as a root cellar and the water may have washed away the blood from a busy day of murder, but without soap she still smelled like a slaughter house.
Sickened by the reminder of her father’s death, she shivered harder.
He glanced at her. “Unfortunately we’ll have to get you washed and dry first. You won’t get far like this and I won’t be around to nursemaid you if you develop a sniffle. You’ll need clothes, too. The cartoon chickens are creepy.”
She laughed in disbelief. After the day she’d had, he thought her pajamas were creepy? Her laughter sounded so unnatural, it made her uneasy, so she laughed again.
He frowned. “A glass of liquor might be in order. You need something to steady you.”
He cast a bit of glamour to darken her pale skin and lighten her brown hair. If he did anything to hide her blue eyes, she couldn’t tell.
The laundromat he chose was depressingly run down, but it had a shower in back. The lady who ran the place barely glanced up from her TV as she took his money.
The shower tile was cracked and grimy. It had one crusty hand towel hanging on a hook. The soap dispenser on the wall was one third full of harsh orange soap, but the water was blissfully hot.
She blotted her hair with a paper towel when she was done, one eye on the locked door.
There was a quick knock. “Crack the door and grab this bag. I got you some clothes.” There were some baggy sweatpants and a shapeless hoodie, very large, probably from the laundromat lost and found. He’d bought a pair of cheap sandals from the minimart next door. They weren’t warm but at least insolated her sore feet from the cold floor. He handed her a hot sandwich and tea when she stepped out and took her to a cheap hotel.
“Lock the door,” he said sternly. “If you have to rest, sleep lightly. I’ll be back shortly with better clothes and some supplies. The dwarves will know the way out, but there’s snow in the air and you’ll have a long walk. Don’t hesitate to kill if anyone but me comes for you.” He turned to smoke and was gone.
Rue gingerly sat on the bed, wrinkling her nose at the smell of smoke, mildew and other unpleasant things.
She took the marble she’d found in the sweatshirt pocket and held it. She thought she’d dropped it in the river, but somehow the elf must have retrieved it. Why was he helping her? Who was he?
She closed her eyes and brought the fist with the marble to her heart. If felt like her chest was going to crack with pain. What would she do now?

Rue blinked and let go of the memory. It was over; she didn’t need to think about him. She’d been seventeen and na├»ve when she’d been taken. She was twenty-one now and dwarf trained, more powerful and a lot wiser in the ways of the world.
She’d been in shock, had fallen half in love with her “savior”. Now she knew a dark elf did nothing without a motive. He thought he owned her; she’d like to see him claim her.
She looked with cold intent at the yard, but the dog was truly gone.

Smart dog.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Black Hound

No release date yet.

Black Hound

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 ancient ruins sprouted in vacant lots, on major highways, sometimes merging with existing buildings, twisting into completely new structures. 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.

Black Hound

Rue’s eyes were on her father even as the guards pushed her to her knees. The black stone bruised her kneecaps, but her father was taking a beating. A fist hit his stomach and he doubled over, dry heaving. She cried out and lunged for him, struggling against the guards.
The woman in front of her scoffed. Black elf, with braided white hair and dressed in a smoke colored robe, she was clearly in charge. Her hem brushed the design in the stone floor, as she sent an amused glance at her father’s systematic thrashing, the smack of fists on flesh echoing from the stone walls.
A black dog prowled the perimeter of the round stone room, yellow eyes glowing. Was he a pet? Definitely a threat.
Rue searched mentally, pushing her magic, but there wasn’t a speck of mined metal anywhere. They’d been taken in their pajamas, in the dead of night, and the elves had been careful. One didn’t steal a mage without extreme care.
Whoever the elf woman was, she’d sent the men to kidnap her and her father. “Come now, so tender-hearted! Think of it this is an incentive to behave.” She flicked a hand and the beating stopped. It was a warning.
Rue bared her teeth. She wasn’t going to bargain; this piece of trash had kidnapped them and beat her father unmercifully. Rue had heard of strong mages being taken, enslaved for the dark elves’ fight clubs. Massive money was made on the illegal games, and if this woman was a slaver, she had no pity.
The woman watched her for a moment, dark eyes drifting over the slave collar clamped to Rue’s neck, as if the enchanted bone would be enough to hold her. Pre-convergence, she was probably a big shot, but she had a lot to learn about modern mages. The old rules were obsolete, and rage changed everything.
“Nothing to say? That’s for the best. You’re my slave now, and your father’s life depends on your cooperation.” She signaled the guard, who kicked her father’s kneeling body to his back and stomped on his stomach.
Her father had a weak heart. A tough old man in so many ways, but his body couldn’t take this. She felt him die, felt him leave. He was gone.
The woman was frowning at her father’s body. She hadn’t realized what she’d done yet.
Horror and grief turned to rage. Rue would show her.

Rue came back to herself covered in blood. The bone collar lay broken on the floor, along with the bodies of the dead. She’d pulled the iron from their blood, ripped it through their skin. The memories were muted by rage, but they’d learned the hard way that metal didn’t have to mean smelted ore. Humans had plenty of useful trace metals, including potassium, iron and zinc.
Elves did, too.
A quiet whine made her look at the dog. He thumped his tail once, head tilted in query. Why was he still alive? Not that she would purposely kill a dog…
Her throat tightened as she looked at her dad. She checked of course, but she already knew he had no pulse. His eyes were open, and she closed them, throat tight. They were a long way from home, and she had to go.
“I don’t want to leave you, daddy.”
That’s when the dog said, “I can help.”

Noxious fumes rose from the junkyard, lending a ghostly vibe to hulks of rusting cars. Light flashed off eyes as something peered through a window and darted away, disappearing behind an old bus and a hill of old tires. Crumpled sheets of tinfoil floated in a ghostly wind, suspended like silver kites, making visibility difficult.
Originally four acers, the Convergence, the merging of the old elven world with Earth, had transformed places like the junkyard into spreading pools of magic. Now that the dying and upheaval had ended, cities like Spokane were determined to tame the magic, or at least keep it from gulping huge portions of prime real estate.
Mages like Rue were the answer. They fed on magic, controlled it, and the junkyard was brimming with her flavor of metal magic. She’d signed an agreement with the council and plunked down a hefty chunk of change as a down payment. In one year, she’d have anchored the Yard and payed off her loan…or she’d die trying.
Lights ignited in the junk; monsters stalking breakfast.
“Last chance, cuz. You doing this?” The retired Army Ranger cocked his rifle, casually sighting the glowing eyes. Ike looked the part, tall and lean, military haircut touched with gray, scars on his weathered skin. “Looks like hell’s flash sale out there. Reminds me of cleaning out Grandma’s house when she died. Crap everywhere.”
His friend Bruce was manning the machine gun mounted on the roof of the Humvee. Tattooed, the former navy gunner now worked EOD for the local police. An iron eagle perched next to him, eyes lit blue in scanning mode.
They’d recruited two other buddies, who were busy scanning the neighborhood with hunting rifles.
She swallowed the urge to snap at him again for dragging his friends into this; she was his last living blood relative, and she wasn’t going into danger without backup. Overprotective? Yeah, but she loved him for it.
She flashed a smile. “You know that stick man poster that says, ‘Help! There’s a dinosaur charging!’”
 He smirked and added the other stickman’s part. “Yes! Go get it! That’s lunch.”
She stepped out of the Humvee. As soon as her feet touched the ground, the magic surged. Delicious, deep and inexhaustible, the power made her feet itch, her toes curling in her boots. She breathed deep, eyes half closed in ecstasy. She’d been starved for this.
Rue was twenty-three and dwarf trained. She knew the many kinds of metal, how to bend it to her will, and she’d outgrown the pool of metal magic the dwarf mages shared. This vast lake of magic was more than enough, and it was all hers if she could tame it.
“Snap out of it, cuz. You’ve got work to do.”
She blinked at Ike’s rough command. She’d been mesmerized, standing out in the open in front of a monster spawning ground like a pothead before the world’s largest field of marijuana. Time to quit screwing around.
She drew her baton, twirled it to warm up her wrist. A line of blue circuits ignited as it powered up. Fully charged, the magic battery would give her a boost, help prevent exhaustion. Mages were known to work until they collapsed, and she’d been warned to be careful. The magic lake was inexhaustible, but she wasn’t. Mike would make sure she didn’t faint and get eaten.
Nobody knew where the monsters came from. Some said the magic pools were doorways to another dimension. Others thought the magic twisted natural creatures, turned them into monsters with no fear of man. Once spawned, the monsters were free to roam and devour any humans or animals they encountered. Humans had learned to build their houses strong, with iron grates over the doors and guns in every house. Children learned that guns were not a toy and caring parents taught them to shoot.
It was amazing how quickly hippies learned to kill monsters if they valued their hides. The government couldn’t protect every citizen from hordes of fire breathing, mutant hedgehogs. World peace was a great goal, but monsters couldn’t be reasoned with.
That’s where heroes came in.
Day one was spent letting the monsters know the Yard was under new management. Step one was to establish a perimeter. She sent the eagle into the air. Powered with a magic-charged battery, it was programed to highlight approaching threats with red laser lights, acting as an early warning system. Some of the monsters weren’t flesh, so Rue transformed a garbage truck and a tractor into robots to crush anything that wouldn’t bleed. That was the easy part; ignoring tons of crushing metal and bullets was tough, even with electronic earplugs. The sharp smell of gunpowder, blood and burning fuel added to the distraction.
Spiders made of car engines and cable made a terrible sound when shoved into the garbage truck’s trash compacter. Worse were the dog sized rats that crept out of the shadows, armed with titanium teeth and a taste for human meat. They died with a high-pitched squeal when stitched with a machine gun, spraying green blood like burst water pipes.
Closing her eyes to the sounds of war, she sank deep into meditation, seeking a suitable anchor in the piles of scrap…
Her eyes popped open and she laughed.
“What?” Ike demanded. He took careful aim and popped something with six legs and chainsaw pinchers. The awful meld of metal and flesh went down, legs flailing.
“Nothing.” She closed her eyes and seized the mammoth boat anchor, probably from a cargo ship. It still had three links of chain, and she quickly formed more, crushing and shaping cars into links, leaving the non-metallic bits in a discard pile out of the way. Space cleared as she transformed junk, giving her room to work as she sank the anchor deep, driving it through the dirt until it lodged in the pool of power. Sweat poured down her back as she wrestled the suddenly obstinate magic, applying sheer brute force to weld the anchor in place.
She broke off, staggering a bit as her vision blurred. She waved off Ike. “I’m good. Just need a breather.” She grabbed a bottle of juice and chugged it, then downed a handful of trail mix; staying fueled was critical when burning that kind of energy. Refreshed, no longer needing the deep meditation, she slipped into a lighter trance and gathered the floating trash, pulling it from the far reaches of the Yard until she had a floating disk two feet thick and the size of a swimming pool. She attached it to the chain and grinned in satisfaction when it rose into the air.
She began to sort cars, aware that the sounds of gunfire ceased as monsters and humans paused in awe. One by one, she cut the front ends off trucks and stacked them on the disk, then topped them with a tier of classic cars, until she had a wedding cake of cars three layers tall. Someone swore as the color bled off the cars, leaving brushed metal behind. She hardened and thickened the metal, smoothed the rough edges inside and replaced windshields with bullet proof, mirrored glass. A type of pressed metal, the glass was heavy, but the gravity defying foil didn’t even dip. It hung there, four stories above the ground, gleaming in the afternoon sun.
She staggered, realized Ike had her arm in a firm grip. Her vision blurred.
“That’s it for today,” he said, leading her to the hummer.
Ignoring her protests, he loaded her into the SUV and handed her a bottle of juice. “No. I’m taking you home and loading you up with lots of red meat. We can come back tomorrow.” He’d put a brisket in the smoker, and his wife was doing her part by preparing a feast for the (hopefully) triumphant hunters.
“But we didn’t even go inside!”
“Your toy will be there tomorrow…if it survives the Yard. In fact, I’m cool with letting it hang out a few hours, just to make sure that thing’s going to stay airborne.”
“Did you see that? That’s the coolest fortress ever,” Bruce enthused as he slid inside and closed the sunroof. “I can’t wait to see the inside.”
“Can you build me a house out of classic cars? That’s pretty sweet, girl,” one of the hunters said with a grin. “What else can you do?”
“Not much now,” she mumbled, slumped in the seat. She’d never been so tired. Good thing she’d brought Ike. “Tomorrow,” she slurred. She was thankful she’d presented the guys with a huge box of lead and buckshot pellets for reloading earlier, a gift for risking their lives and spending a fortune in bullets. She was so tired, she’d be lucky to bend a spoon, much less mass produce ammunition.
Ike looked at her doubtfully. “We’ll see.”

For my very patient readers who haven't harassed me about when the next book is coming out; thank you. I'm trying some things. It took about a month before I had enough stamina to walk around the block after the bee stings, and I couldn’t read a book for a couple of months bc I couldn’t concentrate.

Obviously, writing was out of the question, and there's still the problem of not sitting for long periods since my tailbone injury (13 wks now). I'm going to try voice recording vs writing (hasn't worked in the past, but I will MAKE it work) to get the uninterrupted stream of consciousness, and then transcribe it via voice-to-text. I'd do voice-to-text directly, but my phone can't keep up and keeps cutting out after a few sentences, forcing me to restart the mic. Combined with typos, it makes me nuts. However, I'm a creative girl. I've got this.

God willing, I'll have something rough by the time pollen hits. Since I've kept notes the last few years, I know it'll blank my brain for a solid six weeks, probably bring on bronchitis (dodged it last year with masks) and leave me too wiped from asthma to walk around the block for up to a month (last year, unfortunately).

Since I know what to expect, I've got a battle plan. This is an opportunity to overcome a challenge. I like challenges.