Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Month: February 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Oh, flu, how I hate thee

Welcome flu, my old friend. This is the first time in quite awhile, years really, when I’ve have a full-blown case of the flu and I am not amused. So, I’m going to link over to today’s Mad Genius Club post. Briefly, don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t writing in the correct manner. Everyone’s process is different. As long as it works for you, don’t worry about it.

Also, don’t forget Dagger of Elanna is available for pre-order and will be released March 15h.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Publication date – March 15.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Tuesday thoughts

It still amazes me the vitriol and pearl-clutching we are seeing from both sides of the political spectrum. There are those who are still firmly convinced Trump is trying to overthrow the Constitution and set himself up as emperor or something. Every action he takes is compared to Hitler or Stalin. Protesters take to the streets and many of them see no problem with destroying private property or assaulting people who don’t agree with them. At the same time, we are told that we shouldn’t condemn them for what they are doing because Trump scares them and feelz or something.

Mind you, they aren’t the only ones acting like spoiled kids. A certain set of Trump supporters are as well. If you don’t come down completely in favor of the president, these folks are quick to jump in and call names and accuse you of being the real problem. They troll blogs and FB or Twitter postings, acting as if they can do or say whatever they want without consequences.

It is really like watching two playground bullies trying to prove their predominance over the rest of us who just want to be left alone to earn a living, life our lives and get on with business.

Here’s the thing, none of you are doing your sides any good. Those of you who keep crying wolf every time Trump opens his mouth are creating such a constant static of background noise that we are tuning you out. That means when something serious really does happen, we won’t hear it because you have been screaming and ranting and wailing in despair so much and so long that we quit listening. Is that what you want to happen?

As for the other side, quit being poor winners. One of the things that make this country strong is our ability to question our leaders. Remember what it felt like the last eight years when you tried to question what Obama did and were told to shut up, that questioning him made you a racist or a traitor. Don’t start doing the same basic thing to the other side. Instead, praise the good the president does — when and if he does it — and question the bad. If you have to tell someone they are wrong, do it with facts and logic, not by name-calling and bully tactics.

Back to the other side, before you start crowing about how you have pressured publishers to pull books from the shelves — yes, I’m talking about Milo’s book — think about what is going to happen if the tide turns. More than that, each and every author out there who is standing on her soapbox shouting in glee that a publisher pulled a book by a gay foreigner should be ashamed of themselves. We, out of everyone, should advocate that every voice should be heard. We might not agree with what they have to say but to applaud when a voice is silenced is counter-productive for us all. Where do we draw the line?

Finally, since I have the city inspector due soon to check the hvac install, I need to cut this short. So go check out my post at Mad Genius Club this morning. I’ll be back tomorrow with a more coherent post — I promise.

Still here and working

Just a quick update. Remember a week or so ago when I said the blogging would get back to normal barring life interfering? Well, famous last words. Most of this week has been spent dealing with getting a new hvac system installed. It’s in but it took more than 12 hours the other day — 12 hours without heat. Yesterday was lost trying to get done everything I needed to do the day before and couldn’t because of the install. Today, I’m waiting for an inspector from the hvac company to come check on things so they can sign off and send it to the city inspectors. None of which makes for a good work atmosphere.

Add in the fact that the new thermostat doesn’t seem to read the temp at the same, well, temp as the old. We have it set to match what it had been with the old unit. The only problem? The house is now colder than it had been. Mom is miserable and I don’t know if it is just the new system working differently or if the thermostat might be faulty. So….guess what I’ll be talking to the inspector about?

Anyway, I will try to get back to regular blogging tomorrow — but more likely Monday. In the meantime, I am writing. Or at least trying to.

New titles from some friends of mine

What better way to start the week than to try out a new author? Here are new titles by three friends of mine. Check them out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Cannibal World (Wine of the Gods Book 30)

by Pam Uphoff

A Novella, #30 in the Wine of the Gods Universe.

A world that cannot be saved.
But Xen Wolfson is going to try.
Some time in the near mythical past of the Helaos a cataclysm ripped their world out of it’s universe and sent it careening across the the multiverse . . . and on a collision course with an unsuspecting world.

***

Scaling The Rim

by Dorothy Grant

Never underestimate the power of a competent tech…

When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony’s crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war…

But they hadn’t counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself!

***

Winter Into Spring: A Romance Novella

by Nitay Arbel

Veronica “Ronnie” Zielinski is a librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She’s always dreamed of writing, but has never dared pursue her own dreams — the needs of others have always come first. Until one day, a mysterious new library patron changes her life by opening her eyes to her self-imposed prison and encouraging her to break free…

Dagger of Elanna — snippet 2

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is now available for pre-order. Here’s another snippet.

***

The howling of the wind outside her small cottage greeted Cait Hawkener as she emerged from the sleeping chamber. She carried of mug of hot tea to the window and looked outside. The light snowfall of the night before had turned into a blanket of white that coated the ground. Large, heavy flakes continued to fall and, despite the warmth of the cottage, she shivered slightly.

A moment later, someone hurried down the narrow lane in front of the cottage. The figure lurched against the wind, as if walking upright might be impossible. Woolen cloak and scarf hid the person’s face. Whoever it was, they wasted little time getting down the lane. By early hour and the fact few who were not Confirmed members of the Order lived in this part of the Citadel, Cait guessed it was one of the clerics, hurrying to prepare for morning prayers.

The wind howled again and snow danced in the early morning light. She had seen worst mornings in her year and a half at the Citadel but not this early into the season. Remembering the tacticsmaster relaying the weather witch’s warning that this would be the worst winter in years, Cait wished she did not have to leave the warmth of the cottage. Unfortunately, just like the person stumbling by her window a few moments earlier, she had duties to see to and they would not wait simply because she preferred to stay warm and dry.

“At last you no longer have to compete for hot water and a place near the fire,” she reminded herself.

Once, she would not have awakened in this cottage. Then she had been a journeywoman, hoping to one day stand for Confirmation into the Order. Like so many others over the years, she spent her nights in one of the dormitories near the center of the Citadel. For much of that, she’d had her own room but had shared bathing facilities with the other journeymen. Meals had been taken in the common dining hall. The one advantage of living in the dormitory was that it was a quick jog across the courtyard to her classes.

She sipped her tea, her mind returning to the day when Kirris and Berral told her she would stand for Confirmation. At first, she could not believe it. She had not finished her studies. Others who had been preparing much longer than she would not be joining her in the Trials. Despite that, and despite her protests, the Knight-Commandant and the Adept assured her it was time.

Much as she wanted to serve the Lord and Lady, nothing had prepared her for that day. Or for what happened after she proved herself worthy to become a member of the Order. Even now, looking at her forearms and the markings the Lord and Lady had blessed her with, she sometimes wondered when she would wake and find herself returned to the nightmare that had been her life before coming to the Citadel.

Turning away from the window, Cait counted her blessings. Less than two years ago, she had been nothing more than a slave, to be used and abused by Dante Giaros. The patrons of the Black Duck Tavern had turned a blind eye to everything happening. Then Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, had arrived and her life had been forever changed. He rescued her from her enslavement and brought her to the Citadel where she worked hard to prove herself worthy, not only of all Fallon had done for her but of joining the Order. She might not remember life before waking in the slaver’s tent the day Giaros took possession of her but one thing she did know. She wanted to join the Order. She was meant to do so.

What she had not expected was for the Lord and Lady to prove They had a perverse sense of humor. With her Confirmation, Cait became not a knight or a cleric. As with her time as a journeywoman, she showed no specific Calling. Indeed, she had excelled in all her Trials and the Lord and Lady rewarded her not only with Their markings but with her ranking. She now held a seat on the Knights Council. She did her best not to think about the fact she was technically the third highest ranking member of the Order. She had enough to worry about with the classes she now taught as well as her own continuing studies. Then there were her duties as assistant to both the Weaponsmaster and the Tacticsmaster. There were times she longed for the days when she had been a journeywoman. At least then she had the occasional day off when she could rest or spend time with her friends.

In some ways, she was more tired than she had ever been during those dark days in Lineaus. Nightmares of her time there still plagued her, although not as badly as when she first arrived at the Citadel. keeping busy helped. But she knew the best medicine had been finding her place in the Order. She might not yet know what the Lord and Lady had in store for her, but that mattered not. She had willingly given herself as Their weapon to wield against the evil of Balaar and his followers.

The wind howled again, rattling the windows and finding every crack, no matter how small, to seep inside. Shivering Cait considered moving at least her first class of the day inside. No one would blame her if she did. No one but herself. She had not moved the yeoman’s class the day before and the weather then had been almost as bad as now. The yeomen had not only lasted the entire class without asking to go inside but they had thrived. They seemed to immediately grasp one lesson not always taught in a classroom – wars and battles are rarely fought in good weather and under comfortable conditions. Surely if the yeomen could understand that, so could the journeymen.

She finished her tea and returned the mug to her small kitchen. A few minutes later, she shrugged into the padded jacket she often wore for weapons practice and reached for her fur-lined cloak. As she settled it around her shoulders, a knock sounded at the door. Wondering who it could be, she crossed to the door and opened it.

“Your pardon, Lady Cait.”

As he spoke, the journeyman lifted his gloved hands and pushed back the hood of his cloak so she could see his face. When he did, the corners of her mouth turned down. That one act was yet another reminder of the troubles that had reached the Citadel before her Confirmation. They were still dealing with the repercussions from all that had happened.

Recognizing the journeyman as one of those currently assigned to the Knight-Commandant’s office, she stepped back and motioned him inside. For one brief moment, it looked like he might agree. Then he shook his head and her frown deepened.

“What can I do for you, Jaysen?”

“M’lady, the Knight-Commandant sends his greetings and requests your immediate presence in the council chamber.”

Cait studied the young man, hoping for an explanation. She could count on one hand the number of times the Knight’s Council had been called to emergency session since her arrival at the Citadel. In the time since her Confirmation, such a session had not been necessary. That Knight-Commandant Kirris saw fit to call one that morning worried her, not that she would let the journeyman know.

“Thank you, Jaysen.” She thought for a moment before continuing. “Please find Journeywoman Kala and ask her to take my morning class. Tell her I will relieve her as soon as I can. If she is unable to, let me know at once.”

“I will do so as soon as I finish delivering the Knight-Commandant’s messages, Lady Cait.” With that, he turned and took off at a run.

Cait closed the door and fought the urge to beat her head against it. Much as she had not looked forward to working out in the snow, at least that was something she understood. More importantly, she was comfortable teaching weapons to the yeomen and journeymen. Being part of the Knights Council was new and not something she had come to feel at ease with yet.

Wanted or not, she had a duty and the sooner she performed it, the sooner she could get back to her classes. With that thought in mind, she glanced around her cottage. Something was afoot, elsewise Kirris would not have called the session. Never one to take chances, she shrugged out of her cloak and hurried to her sleeping chamber. She might not have time to change clothes, but there was time enough for a few adjustments to her wardrobe.

Five minutes later, she checked her appearance one last time. Her hair, still in its braid, had been released from the tight bun she wore when teaching weapons. Now it hung down the middle of her back. She now wore a white silken blouse under a black leather jerkin. Hidden under the sleeves of the blouse were her quick-release sheaths and her throwing knives. For a moment, she considered her sword and scabbard where they lay on the foot of her bed. Her hand closed over the sheathed blade and she made quick work of securing it in place across her back. Being so heavily armed might not be necessary, certainly not within the confines of the Citadel, but it also made a statement. She would go into this session reminding the other members they were a warrior order, sworn to protect those who looked to them.

Nothing else mattered in the grand scheme of things.

***

To see the beginning of Cait’s story, check out Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails. Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission. Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Think

It seems easy enough. Before you hit the “enter” button, you should stop and think about what you just wrote. That’s especially true in this age of the internet where nothing ever really goes away. Yet so many people simply refuse — or don’t think — before posting. They don’t think that future employers will look at their online presence. They don’t think about their friends and neighbors googling what they posted. They don’t think about college admission officers doing the same. Then they wonder why it blows up in their face later.

What brought this up is a discussion, and I use that term loosely, I came across yesterday. Someone decided it would be a good thing to go onto another’s wall and proceed to tell everyone that 1) raising the minimum wage to $15/hr would not negatively impact employment numbers, 2) business owners are all liars and cheats, 3) businesses should be forced to spread their money around to everyone else and 4) raising the minimum wage to that magical $15/hr rate would lead to more entry level jobs.

Now, think about that for a moment.

I’m no master’s level economist but even I understand that if you increase the cost of producing goods — and the monies paid to employees does just that — then you will see that increase in production cost passed on to the customer. If that cost increase isn’t passed along to the customer, the business owner has to find another way to cut costs. CUT costs. Quite often, that is done by decreasing the number of employees.  So, already, you have impacted the price of goods and, potentially, the number of people employed.

As for all business owners being lairs and cheats, my only conclusion is that either the OP had a really bad experience with someone or, since he proclaimed himself a former business owner, he was projecting. The fact he had no problem painting all owners with such a broad brush weakens any other arguments he might have put forth to support his argument. When called on it, he refused to back down from this stance. Instead, he started shifting the goal posts, claiming he didn’t mean they broke laws and trying to play rhetoric games with the meanings of liar, cheat, laws, and ethics.

I can’t even grasp the idea that businesses, no matter how successful they might be or how large their cash reserves, should be forced to basically redistribute their money to those who have risked nothing to help make the business successful. As I read his comments along this line, I kept thinking about Jim Taggart, Wesely Mouch and others from Atlas Shrugged. You know the characters I mean. The ones who were the moochers, who didn’t want to put forth the effort or take the risk to make money. I even found myself wanting to pick up my copy of the book and start posting quotes from John Galt’s speech.

Mind you, I’m not a fanatic about Atlas Shrugged. But when I start seeing folks talking about taking money from one and redistributing it, I can’t help but think about what Rand wrote. Nor can I help thinking about the good old communist way of life where there are the “more equal among equals”.

Here’s the thing. I’m not against people making a living wage. However, I am against blindly choosing a number and requiring every business in the country to abide by it without first taking into consideration all the factors. A living wage in San Francisco is much higher than it would be for small town Iowa. If you want to live and work in San Fran, you should understand that you may have to work two or three jobs, while going to school to get the education you need to qualify for a higher paying position. I have little sympathy for the darlings who work at a coffee shop in San Fran and then bemoan the fact that they are barely making enough to cover rent, the same darlings who then say they don’t have a roommate because they don’t want anyone in their space. Sorry, sweetheart, you made the decision to live in one of the most expensive cities in the nation and you chose to live by yourself. Your employer should not be penalized because you aren’t taking reasonable steps to cut your expenses until you can find a better paying job.

But I digress.

The OP yesterday also said something that so blew my mind in a discussion about improving our economy and taking care of the workforce that it still amazes me. In the same point in the conversation where he was proudly proclaiming that all business owners were liars and cheats, he said he didn’t care if the higher minimum wage caused businesses to close their doors. In fact, he would have no problem if that happened to most businesses because, I guess, businesses are evil too.

Now, think about this. He wants the government to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr in order for the entry level workers to make a “livable” wage. But he has no problem with businesses closing down. He doesn’t see the impact that will have on the economy or on those workers he was just championing. That sort of cognitive disconnect is hard for me to fathom.

What is the answer about the minimum wage? I’m not sure. All I know for sure is that you have to look at not only how the increase will impact the workers but also the businesses, their customers and everyone else down the supply chain. You do no one any good if the wage increase winds up hurting the local economy more than it helps.

Look at what has been happening in those cities where local governments have mandated such increases. Businesses have closed. Others have let employees go or cut their hours. Still others have moved to automate more. Prices for goods have gone up and the unemployment rate for entry level workers has not, to the best of my knowledge, decreased.

Something has to be done — yes. Is raising the minimum wage to $15/hr the answer? Not necessarily. All I know for sure is that you have to look at the complete picture and not just those parts you think important.

***

Here’s a reminder that Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2) is available for pre-order.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

Where’s the line?

I have a confession to make. Real life isn’t the only reason why my blogging fell off dramatically the last few months. Since the election, I’ve been hard pressed not to blog about politics. It isn’t that I don’t want to talk about my take on issues. Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know I will wade in from time to time. No, the problem is that there are those on both sides of the political equation who simply refuse to actually read and consider what anyone says. They have taken the stand that if you don’t agree with me, you are wrong (or evil).

I am not a Trump fan. I admit that right off the bat. However, I also didn’t support Clinton. My reasons don’t matter beyond one. I didn’t think either of them would be good for the country. There were better candidates out there. Unfortunately, this election left us with a candidate for the Democrats who won the nomination thanks to manipulation from the DNC to make sure her opponent, Sanders, did not get the nomination. (I’m not sure he would have but I resent the hell out of the manipulation of the system.) Then we had Trump who no one thought would win the nomination and, when he did, did the second thing no one expected — he won the election.

No, I’m not going to debate the results. Yes, Clinton won the popular vote. By how much? Who knows. I say that because, in the few states where recounts were held, her numbers went down. I will also remind everyone that the US is not a democracy, not in the true definition of one. The founding fathers put the electoral college into place and, until that changes through constitutional amendment, it is the law.

And, for those who say we need to change it, I will remind you how that can come back and bite you in the ass. Don’t believe me? Look at how the republicans have been using the nuclear option so far with regard to Trump’s cabinet picks. That little “tool” didn’t exist until the Obama administration and was put into place to prevent the republicans from blocking things he wanted done. Now, the republicans are playing tit-for-tat. That is what happens when you start messing with rules just because you don’t like them.

After the election, many of those who had supported Clinton took to social media to tell us we needed to keep our opinions to ourselves and let them voice their concerns. They were afraid of what the president-elect might do. A teacher friend of mine, very liberal, worried that his gay students would be rounded up and either put into camps or deported. Those who entered the country illegally worried that they would be rounded up and forcibly returned to their countries of origin. Through it all, those who did not agree with their fears were told to shut up and let them voice their fears because, well, feelz.

On the flip-side, you had those who supported Trump and who felt like a double-standard was being applied by those who were mourning the fact Clinton hadn’t won the election. They pointed out, and rightly so sometimes, that the left hadn’t shown the same understanding to those who hadn’t wanted Obama to be elected as they were now demanding from those who voted for Trump. They reminded the Clinton supporters that those opposed to Obama had been called racists and told they were traitors for not wanting him as their president.

The proverbial line has been drawn in the sand and where all this leads I don’t know. I will admit I am worried.

The left wants to be allowed to say and do whatever they want. They don’t want to hear people who they feel marginalize their opinions or who promote “hate speech”. Death threats and violence have been used to shut down speakers like Milo. People are being jumped and beaten for simply wearing hats that proclaim “Make America Great”. Lady Gaga is attacked on social media for not politicizing her Super Bowl halftime show.

All I can say is grow the fuck up.

When you use violence to try to silence anyone’s voice, you are not upholding the values upon which this country was founded. When you publicly proclaim that it is your right to destroy private — and public — property to stop someone from voicing his opinion just because it doesn’t match yours, you are in the wrong. Then, when you cry that the laws against such destruction are being applied to you, you simply prove that you want to have a double-standard with you at the top of the “rights” hill.

I am not a Trump fan. Never have been. But, damn it, you guys need to listen to all of us when we tell you to stop making us defend him.

Where is the outrage when some Hollywood type — and, sorry, I don’t remember who it was other than some female comedian or the like — proclaims that all we need is to get the military and then overthrow Trump? Where is the outrage when people take to social media and start saying that the president — and, like him or not but he is your president — needs to be killed?

I would have a lot more respect for those screeching about how evil Trump is, or how evil Milo is, if the liberals would at least try to apply the same standards to both sides of the political spectrum. It amazes me that they don’t see the irony of promoting violent protests against Mile — a gay man who is not American.

Look, I get that Trump is a loose cannon. I wish someone close to him would take his phone and not let him have it back until his Twitter account was silenced. I get that it’s hard to figure what he’s going to do next because we have no public record (at least no public political record) to use as a road map. I get that all his rhetoric and bluster can be scary. Believe me, I get it.

But the way to combat it isn’t by telling half the country to shut up, that their opinions don’t matter or, worse, are evil. The way to combat it isn’t by trying to stop the free exchange of differing opinions. The way to combat it isn’t by destroying someone else’s property. They way to stop it isn’t by taking to social media and acting like self-important, privileged whiny brats.

And, before someone says that the Trump supporters are just as bad, stop. I haven’t seen them out setting fire to cars or braking business windows and looting. I haven’t seen them leaving so much trash at protest sites that the cost to clean up will run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Most of all, if you are protesting, don’t start shouting you are a professor and think that gives you the right to do or say whatever you want. I promise all that will happen is you will likely find yourself at least cited for breaking some ordinance and that some enterprising person will do a google-search on you and find out you like to do lobster porn (and no, I am so not linking to that) or worse.

So, to both sides, grow the fuck up and quit making me defend Trump.

Wednesday Snippet

It is way too early to be up and — checks watch — I’ve been up more than an hour already, thanks to BratCat. So let’s start the day off with a mug of coffee and a snippet from Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I know I’ve posted an earlier version of this before but, with the book now available for pre-order, I thought I’d start regular snippets. So, here goes.

Chapter One

A cold wind, as cold as his master’s heart, whipped through the trees, stripping them of the few leaves still clinging to their branches. The moisture in the air felt like knives cutting through his exposed skin. His breath frosted on his beard, making each breath torture. With fingers stiff and swollen, Gareth adjusted the woolen scarf his wife had knitted for him a lifetime ago around his lower face. It might not be much but it was the best he could do for the moment.

If he did not find shelter soon, he feared for his survival. Under normal circumstances, the cold would be no problem for him. A simple spell and he would be as warm as he wanted. A second spell to warn off any predator thinking him easy prey could then follow. Such simple spells, ones even a youngster could master with a little work. Simple the spells might be, but they presented danger he dared not risk. Any magicker nearby would sense the energies being manipulated and that.

And that, he knew, could well lead to not only discovery but to death.

Since he had no desire to die until his very old age, he had only one choice. He had to endure the cold and hope to find shelter soon. Until then, he would ignore the cold seeping into his bones the best he could and pray no wolf, or worse, decided to make a meal of him.

Another gust of wind cut through the trees. Shivering, Gareth pulled his fur-lined cloak tighter around him. Then he reached up and readjusted the scarf wrapped around his lower face. When his good wife pressed it into his hands that last time, he had seen the fear reflected in her eyes. Even without him telling her, she knew they might never see one another again. Nothing he said would have reassured her, so he said nothing. He simply held her close for a moment and then he left, wondering if he would ever return to their comfortable home and the life he’d been forced to leave behind.

By the gods, he would find a way to return, assuming he did not freeze to death first.

He trudged forward, each step carefully placed on the snow-covered trail. Plodding along at his side, the dappled gelding whickered in ill-temper. It shook its head, pulling against the reins. Gareth knew the gelding liked the cold no more than he did. Yet another reason to find shelter before the temperature dropped any further. If he lost the gelding, his days truly were numbered

“Soon,” he soothed as he ran a hand down the gelding’s neck. “We’ll find someplace warm soon.”

As if in answer, mocking and bitter, a gust of wind almost knocked him from his feet. With a curse, he fought for balance. Damn the gods above and below. If only he had not answered the knock at his door a fortnight before. If he had ignored the knock, he would be warm and safe now instead of wondering if the next breath he drew would be his last.

Gareth drew a deep breath, wincing as the cold burned his lungs. He was a fool. Much as he wanted to believe he could have avoided this thrice-damned mission by ignoring the knock at the door, he could not have. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he had known the summons would one day come. That was the price to pay for practicing the black arts. Blood magic was only part of his repertoire, one that would earn him a quick death should the Imperial courts learn of his activities. But should they ever discover his other talents, death would not come quickly enough.

Still, so many years had passed from that fateful day when the baron offered protection to the night a bare fortnight earlier when his life had been changed and, Gareth feared, not for the better. Years in which he had grown complacent, perhaps even over-confident his master would never call on him and his special abilities. Now he had to pay for those years of protection, no matter what the cost to him or those he cared for.

Slogging through the snow, Gareth knew the chances of successfully completing the task set for him were slim. Otherwise, he never would have been sent for. The baron preferred keeping him and his pets close to hand. Many times over the years, those pets had helped ferret out danger to his master and had brought Gareth rewards like most never dreamt of.

All that paled when compared to the knowledge of what the Baron would do should he fail in his mission, a mission Gareth never would have been forced to accept but for the failure of that bastard’s son, Wolf. Had the Baron asked his opinion sooner, Gareth would have told him not to trust anything so important to a skinwalker. Their kind was well-suited for violence and terror but not for stealth or patience. The bloodlust that marked skinwalkers all too often led to them making mistakes. The fact Wolf and his pack were now dead only validated Gareth’s concerns.

Not that such validation helped him now.

Nor did the knowledge that, even though Wolf and his pack might be dead, others would soon share their fate. Wolf’s failure to complete his mission meant the deaths of all those the skinwalker and his pack cared for. The baron did not accept failure and his punishment was swift and deadly. He would make examples of those who failed him, or their survivors, often killing them himself and then displaying their heads for all to see.

Gareth had no intention of letting that happen to his dear wife and children.

Nearing the tree line, he glanced across the open fields and training rings. Beyond them lay the Citadel. The home of the Order of Arelion had been built for easy defense. Resting atop a tall hill, almost a mesa, three sides formed cliffs leading down to the river. The fourth side, the side he currently surveyed, was nothing but open land, easily watched and guarded. Anyone approaching, either across the fields or by the trade road, would be seen long before they reached the main gates.

The baron knew that as well but cared not. He had given Gareth one order: watch the Citadel. Report who came and went and, should the opportunity arise, kill the girl.

All of which was much easier said than done, as Wolf and his pack discovered. At least Gareth had one tool Wolf had not. He had his pet.

At the thought of his only companion other than his horse, Gareth turned to the gelding. A slight smile touched his lips at the sight of the black raven perched on the pommel of the saddle. Except, if one looked closely enough, they would see it was not a raven. In fact, it was not even alive, not in the strictest sense of the word. The bird was a construct, something created from blood and magic. Gareth’s blood and magic, as well as the blood and bone of others, human and animal. Bound to Gareth, the construct was as much a part of his as was his heart or brain.

That alone was enough to turn his blood cold as he once again looked toward the Citadel. Whatever his master might do to him should he fail paled when he considered what the Order would do should they discover him spying on them. They would begin by destroying the construct and that would be akin to destroying a part of himself. It might be easier losing a hand or arm than to lose the construct in that manner.

The Order did not understand the glory and the power of blood magic. They were too closely bound to the Lord and Lady, too blinded by devotion to see the power they could wield if they would just allow themselves to stray a little from the Codes. Because of that, they would strip him of his magic, of all that made him. He had no doubt if he failed to answer their questions, they would imprison him – or worse. They might allow him to live, a paled shadow of himself, stripped of all magic, but his family would not be so lucky, if such an existence could be called lucky. His master would make sure his loved ones paid for his failure.

Tempting as it was to run, he knew better. He should have trusted his instincts when the messenger came, telling him the Baron wanted to see him. In that moment, every instinct screamed for Gareth to gather his family and run and hide. It had warned him not to open the door. But ego had overridden common sense and now he found himself in a situation with only two possible outcomes, a situation where death might be the best outcome he could hope for.

He could not dwell on that. If he did, he would fail. Cursing slightly, he shook off the doubts and gathered his thoughts. He had a job to do, one he would see to completion. No other outcome could be considered.

Standing in the shadows of the trees, he closed his eyes. The world seemed to shift under his feet. A moment later, he looked out of the construct’s eyes. He heard the sounds of the forest around them through the construct’s ears. It was time to set the raven to watch. Once he had, he could locate a safe place to set up camp and, hopefully, get warm.

Pulling his senses back to his body, Gareth opened his eyes and extended his left arm. He watched as the construct hopped onto his gloved fist, much as any well-trained living bird would. The raven cocked its head to one side as he held it close. The feathered head rubbed against his cheek and Gareth smiled slightly. The bond between them was strong and growing stronger. That meant the raven could keep watch on the Citadel while he kept out of sight. That was the best plan, the only plan, he had been able to come up with on such short notice. The Baron might not approve but his master was not the one risking life and limb in an attempt to keep an eye on the Order.

“You know what to do, my pet.” His gloved fingers caressed the construct’s head. “Watch them. Let me see any who come and go. Look for the girl. She is our target. Find her. Our lives depend on it.”

The construct nodded, and almost human-like gesture, and unfurled its wings. A moment later, Gareth lifted his arm and watched as the bird took flight. It would keep watch and let him know should trouble near. He might even get lucky and their target would show herself. Not that he expected it to be that easy. After all, she had managed to survive this long, despite everything his master had attempted to find her. But Gareth held out hope. He could do nothing else.

As the construct winged every closer to the Citadel, Gareth turned and moved deeper into the trees, the gelding pacing after him. If he wanted to be warm that night, he had best find some place to set up camp, especially since the sky showed every indication of more snow moving in.

Hopefully, there would be a cave nearby he could ensorcel, one where no one could see his fire or sense his magic. Then he would be safe to practice his craft and find a way to complete his mission without losing his life in the process.

***

Dagger of Elanna is the second book in the Sword of the Gods series. Sword of Arelion is the first book and is available in both digital and print formats.

Tuesday morning thoughts

It’s going to be a short post this morning, mainly because I’m blogging at Mad Genius Club today. Go check the post out. I talk about Books-a-Million and their indie publishing print platform as well as some of the changes over on the KDP side of things.

The other day, I posted a brief snippet of what I thought might turn out to be the opening to Nocturnal Rebellion, the next book in the Nocturnal Lives series. I’ll be honest. I had hoped by writing the scene, the muse would be satisfied and let me finish the final tweaking on Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). But noooo, the book has taken hold and the muse is demanding my attention. So, it looks like the next couple of weeks will see me splitting my time between the two. Fortunately, all that is needed on Dagger is minor tweaking and the final check of the print file before taking the book life. For now, however, the e-book is available for pre-order and, hopefully, the print book will be ready to go by the time the e-book goes live.

If Rebellion continues as it started, it is going to be a roller coaster ride. When I started figuring out the plot for the book several months ago, it did not look anything like what is happening now. Of course, as I’ve said before, my muse is an evil bitch and she is loving not only throwing me for a loop with the book but also in not letting me know what is happening more than a few pages ahead at a time. So far, it’s working — or so my alpha readers have said. Well, they also told me I had to keep writing it, so I guess something is working right.

Now I’m off to find another cup of coffee — idiot dog and BratCat decided 0430 was a wonderful time to get me up. It didn’t matter that I disagreed. Sigh.

Later!

Monday morning, oh how I loathe thee

This is the morning so many employers dread. Super Bowl Monday. The day when employees drag in, suffering from too little sleep, too much over-indulgence and either too much bragging because their team won or too much angsting because their team lost. Those who supported the Falcons — or at least wanted to see the Pats lose — might admit it was a great game, especially the last few minutes. But, there is still the fact the Falcons lost after holding a 21+ point lead at one point, something no other team has done in history. So, Falcon supporters have ruffled feathers, adding to the Monday morning blues.

As for me, I started the day off much too early — thank you, BratCat — and have already been to PT. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am firmly convinced physical therapists are frustrated sadists in their private lives and they take it out on their clients. All I can say right now is OUCH!

Which is also sort of what I’m feeling right now about my muse. Myrtle has never been an easy muse to live with. But, right now, she is taking great glee in causing me problems. Normally, when I finish a project, I need a week or so to recharge the batteries and get the new novel’s “voice” in my head. Except this time, Myrtle has different plans. I’m not officially finished with Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). Sure, it’s up for pre-order. Yay!. But there are still a few tweaks that need to be made and I need to finish the print set-up because I’m not happy with how it looked when I did it earlier. But is Myrtle letting me do it? Nooooo.

As you saw yesterday, she has ambushed me with the next Nocturnal Lives opening scene. Except now it is scenes. And, let me tell you, the book is already throwing me for a loop. Not only because I hadn’t planned on it being the next book I wrote but because of how it starts off. Worse, as I think I said yesterday, I don’t know where this is going. Myrtle is hiding more than the next few pages from me. Sigh, someone come take my muse on vacation for a week or so. Hell, I’d be happy if you’d just take her out for drinks and let her spend the night with you.

Why do I feel like Rodney Dangerfield right now when he would joke, “Take my wife — please”?

I guess I don’t need to sleep.

One more thing before I head off to do some work — after finding coffee. If you haven’t read Dave Freer’s Mad Genius Club post today, do so. He hits it out of the part with this post.

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