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Archive for December, 2012

Monday, December 31st, 2012
Happy New Year!

Watched Lockout last night, which is an SF movie starring Guy Pearce. I liked it. It was simple, a bit cliche, and yet, I had a good time with it. I’d recommend it.

Today we did relatively little. We wanted to go to Silver Falls State Park but it was raining and we got a late start and forgot water for dogs or us, so we’re going to try for tomorrow. And this time I’ll also bring a rain jacket. I know, it’s Oregon, I should have just taken it with me.

We’re not doing much for New Year. Or anything, really. Goofing with the kids mostly. Hoping the congress critters actually avert the fiscal cliff stuff (apparently they are close). Petting dogs.

I’ve decided on a resolution. My friend always says that you are responsible for the energy you bring into a room. Another good way of saying you’re responsible for how your are and can’t control other people. So my resolution is to try to bring more positive energy into the room at all times. I am going to work on a more positive attitude toward stuff in general.

Anybody out there have resolutions?

Have a lovely, wonderful, amazing year. 2012 has been a tough one for a lot of people, including me. Here’s hoping 2013 is tremendous.

Sunday, December 30th, 2012
I’m a tea whore

I admit it. I buy more tea than I can possibly drink and I might not do anything for it, but I will do a fair bit. Anyhow, headed to Portland today with a friend to slip into Teavana. And they were having a 75% off most of their teas sale. Yowza. I’d gone to get some green tea. Ended up with four different teas. Yeah. Then tried to find a B&N nearby to sign stock, but no luck. Did find a B&N at Bridgeport Village and signed there, though they didn’t have much. But at least I got on their radar. Maybe.

Ate a great salad at Sweet Tomatoes, and then came home and walked dogs. In the meantime, the man was subjected entirely to the children. Bwhahahahaha! Ahem. Did I laugh? I don’t know why I would do that.

I also finished Maria Snyder’s Touch of Magic last night. I enjoyed it a fair bit. It’s light fantasy and has a number of anachronisms that I think are deliberate. I liked her ensemble cast and their relationships and I liked the main character–Avry. She was strong and though there was an element of–why didn’t they just talk to each other to straighten things out? It was decently legitimate that they didn’t and everyone made assumptions, which were reasonably natural to do. It’s got some romance, and there is clearly more to come. In fact I downloaded the next book and will start it soon. The third book is probably a ways out on the horizon. I think this one stands alone, though, so if you’re looking for a fast, lighter fantasy with a slight romance, then you should dig in. It begins with some great action and you’re in the thick of it by the second page.

Saturday, December 29th, 2012
Coolest thing EVER!

We went for a drive to Tillamook today. We planned to go to Astoria and to the beaches up around there, but it started raining, despite Often Wrong’s declaration that it would not. So we headed back south to Lincoln City where it had stopped raining and was lovely on the beach. No wind, amazing waves, and sun-gilded clouds. I let the dogs off the leash for a bit and they raced, and then I caught them again. The kids were trailing behind doing kid things in the sand, and I turned around to see where girlie was. I saw this ball rolling past her and asked her if she was playing with it and where did she get it. About that time I had an inkling that maybe, just maybe, it was wasn’t a ball but a float.

It was!!! In Lincoln City, they put out blown glass floats on the beaches throughout the season for people to find. And we found one!!! It’s signed and numbered and dated 2013. If you follow that link, you’ll see some examples. I’ll have to take a picture of ours and post it. It’s splotched green, purple, and cobalt blue. It’s so lovely.

WE FOUND TREASURE TODAY!!!! How cool is that?

How about you? What did you do today?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012
The events of a day

First, I want to mention that I’m over at The Reading Cafe with a pretty cool interview (well the questions are cool. It’s up to you whether the answers were scintillating.)

Two interviews on Amazon! Am I counting? Maybe a little. Neurotic author is, well, neurotic. I want more!!!! Ok, breathe. Breathe.

Today we had a bit of adventure. Well, let’s start with last night where we got the Roku 2 to work and that was exciting. It’s always amazing when the tech works as advertised. Watched Mirror, Mirror, which was silly, but I enjoyed thoroughly all the same. I loved the giant dwarves on stilts, and well, Sean Bean showed up in the end. *swoon*

We went for a walk today out in Minto State Park. That’s the one where last summer my kids and I accidentally took a 5 mile walk because we had never been there before and didn’t know the trails at all. Now we know at least some. This time, we went much shorter. Tried to find a couple of Geocaches, but no luck. Then we went to the area where you can let dogs run off leashes. The boys were excited to meet some other doggies, and everything was going well until . . .

Let me preface the rest by saying that my daughter got an umbrella in her stocking this year. She’s had it with her pretty much every second since. In the house, or out. Today she was using it as a parasol. Well, out in the dog bark, we met a big, giant lab. She was sweet, right up to the point she grabbed the umbrella and took off running. She kept playing keep away with it from her person, and then stopped and started shredding it like a hyena with a dead wildebeast. Girlie was devastated. Full of woe. We ended up heading out to Target to get a replacement, so all is better, but it was damned funny watching that dog rip up the umbrella. She thought it was her own special toy.

And I’ve been doing some updating on the website. Got a lot of things up-to-date. Speaking of which, are there things you want to see on the website you don’t see? Things you want me to blog about? Anything?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
Publication Day!!!!

It’s Publication Day for Blood Winter!!! I’m so excited. And terrified. And so hopeful that you wall will love it!

On the positive side, Seduced by a Book says it’s wonderful. Also, it’s nice that this person named Shadow City as: “Best danger-filled, explosive paranormal urban fantasy” of 2012.

I forgot to mention I was interviewed at Gizmo’s Reviews. I also interviewed at Badass Books.

There are book giveaways involved and you should check them out.

And Chapter 1, just for you:

Chapter 1

What is this stuff?”

As Tyler complained, he brushed at his clothing. A streak of bright red dust clung to the shirt wrapping his lean, muscular frame. His long blond hair was tied at the base of his neck, and he sported a Three Musketeers-style mustache and beard.

Max sipped at the concoction in her glass, wincing at the thick, syrupy taste. Now that food was getting a lot harder to come by, Magpie, a Circle-level witch and the covenstead’s cook, had come up with a high-calorie drink made from honey, berries, and who knew what else. It tasted like the worst kind of cough medicine, but Shadowblades and Sunspears didn’t have much choice. They needed a minimum of twenty thousand calories a day each to fuel the spells that created them, and going to Costco or Walmart for tubs of peanut butter and pallets of power bars was no longer an option. The Ugly Juice, as everybody was quietly calling it when Magpie’s back was turned, was the only answer they had come up with.

“Maybe you rubbed up against something,” she suggested unhelpfully as the red smudge refused to budge. “Or someone.” She lifted a brow suggestively.

“The same something—or someone—you rubbed up against?” He glared at her arm. His blue eyes burned in his narrow face, and he spun a knife around the fingers of his left hand. It never seemed to leave his grip anymore. Like a deadly security blanket. He was perpetually angry, always needing to move. As if he was hunted.

Max glanced down at herself and frowned. A streak of red dust ran down her forearm. She wiped at it. The stuff might as well have been spray paint. She shrugged and gave up. “Probably something one of the witches concocted. Likely Kyle,” she said, wincing again.

Her brother had all the power of a Triangle witch and all the training and self-control of a toddler. He tended to experiment with spells before considering the consequences, with frequently messy and sometimes dire results.

“He needs a keeper,” Tyler said, taking half a biscuit drenched in gravy and offering it to the beast lying at his feet.

The Grim stared up at him with unworldly green eyes for a long moment, before closing Tyler’s entire hand in her jaws and scraping off the biscuit, leaving welts across his skin. The creature was at least two hundred fifty pounds of pure muscle and stood about three feet tall at the shoulder. Her bearlike fur was blue-black, developing into a ruff behind her heavy, square head. Her tail curled around her legs.

“Nice doggy,” Max said, eyeing the scrapes on Tyler’s hand. His healing spells kicked in instantly, and a moment later they vanished. “What’s she do when she’s pissed off at you?”

He looked down at the Grim. The beast looked like a cross between a dog and a bear, but she was something far more magical and dangerous. Not to mention unpredictable, moody, and very possessive of Tyler.

He grimaced, and then the corner of his mouth turned up reluctantly. “It’s not what she does when she’s pissed that’s the question, it’s what she does if she isn’t. That I’m still waiting to find out.”

Max snorted. “You do seem to attract sketchy women.”

“Like you?”

“I was thinking of the witch-bitch herself. Giselle.”

He chuckled. “You’ve got a point there. Apparently, I like hard-assed women with vicious tendencies.”

“Good thing, too, given that you’re surrounded by them. And sleeping with one,” she said, jerking her chin at the Grim. “Does she hog the bed?”

Tyler winced. “More like I am the bed. I usually wake up with her sprawled across me and with a mouthful of dog hair.”

“Sounds romantic.”

“Shut up. What about Beyul? Alexander’s Grim doesn’t exactly strike me as the sort to sleep at the foot of the bed.”

“He likes the couch.”

“What about Spike?”

Spike was a Calopus and looked a lot like a silver wolf, except for the two thin horns that curved from her skull and the multitude of poison spines along her back, chest, sides, and tail. She had taken a liking to Max and had become her regular companion. Just at the moment, she slept under the table, her chin resting on Max’s foot.

“The couch is big enough for her and Beyul both.”

“You and Alexander are probably too loud and energetic for either beastie to sleep well if one of them tried to share the bed. But maybe they like to watch,” Tyler said, waggling his brows up and down. His knife still spun between his fingers.

Max flushed despite herself. She wasn’t used to having someone special in her life and in her bed. Ever since becoming a Shadowblade, she’d kept everyone at arm’s length, resorting to one-night stands to scratch her sexual itches. But then Alexander had come along and changed all that. Sort of. She was still trying to figure out how not to fall back into the habit of closing him out. During the days in bed, when she could float on the amazing feelings he awoke in her, things were just about perfect. But then nights came, and she had to deal with all her fears and knee-jerk patterns of shutting down rather than dealing with too many conflicting emotions. Alexander had a lot patience, but it was running out. After that— After that was something that was starting to give her nightmares.

“Maybe they do watch,” she said with a shrug. “’Course, I wouldn’t know. I keep busy, you know.”

“Which reminds me, where is the fair Alexander tonight?” Tyler glanced around at the other tables in the covenstead’s dining commons, where several other Shadowblades and Sunspears were eating. “You didn’t forget to unlock his handcuffs, did you?”

“No, just wore him out. Turned him into a puddle of satisfied man-goo.”

“Way too much information,” Tyler said, sitting back and making a face.

“You asked.”

“My mistake. Let’s change the subject. I don’t need to hear any more about your sex life. What’s the schedule for tonight?”

Max sipped her Ugly Juice before answering. Tyler was going to hate her answer. “I am leaving you in charge of the Blades for a while.”

He straightened, and his knife stopped spinning as he held it tight in his fingers. As if he was about to cut someone’s throat. “Why? Where are you going?”

“Well, that’s the fun part. I’m going to town.”

Tyler scowled. “Town? What for? Every idiot in Missoula has formed up into armies and gangs, and they’ve been fighting over food, gas, water, and territory. They don’t take to strangers. They shoot first and ask questions later. You know as well as I do that the last time we sent anyone into town, they barely got out in one piece. You can’t dodge a rifle bullet, and you won’t see it coming.” His words spilled out in a froth of worried anger.

Max kept her voice even. “The problem is, we have no idea what’s going on down there. Giselle wants me to find out.” She hesitated. “I’ll be fine. I’m not going to get hurt.”

“Right. That’s what Niko thought, and now he’s dead, along with how many others? I bet our indestructible angel friends thought the same thing, and where are they? Laid out in a stone vault like corpses, neither dead nor alive. It’s bullshit. We should stay the hell out of Missoula until they sort themselves out. When the dust settles, we can go find out what’s what. Most people think the only good witch is a dead witch—and the Change has only made them believe it more.”

She sighed quietly. Niko had been her best friend. Tyler’s, too. Losing him was beyond painful, and Tyler had reacted by being both wildly reckless with himself and more protective of everybody else. But Max wasn’t made to stay locked up safe; she was a weapon. She still had a job to do, and hiding in Horngate wouldn’t get it done. She told him as much.

“Then I’m going with you.”

She shook her head. “I’m taking Alexander. You’re staying here.”

He stared at her, his chin jutting. The Grim beside him rose and growled, her green eyes lighting with emerald sparks. Max wasn’t sure if the beast was threatening her, threatening him, or just generally commenting on the noise.

“You don’t trust me to have your back,” he said finally. “Is that it? You think I got Niko killed.”

“No,” she said emphatically, leaning forward and grabbing one of his hands. “Bad luck got Niko killed. Bad luck and bad magic.” She sat back, her fingers tapping restlessly. “Besides, Alexander was there, too. I don’t blame either one of you.” I blame me. “The fact is, I’m saving you from living hell. You really don’t want to come with me today.”

He didn’t give an inch. “Oh?”

She sighed. “Remember what you said about Kyle needing a keeper?” Max lifted her hand to her brow in a casual salute. “Head keeper reporting for duty.”

His lips slowly widened into a grin. “That does sound like a good time. Let me know when you’re ready to bury the body. I want to help.” Then he frowned. “He’s a liability in town. Why take him?”

“Oh, it gets better. Tory and Carrie Lydman are going, too.”

He goggled and shook his head. “Explain to me why you are taking a stupid witch and a pair of teenagers—one of whom is a bitch on wheels—into a war zone. Use small words. I’m feeling slow.”

“Because Giselle wants me to mingle and spy, and Kyle and the girls are about as close to ordinary people as you can get for Horngate. Add in that Tory and Carrie have been threatening to sneak off by themselves, and Giselle figures that they’ll get it out of their systems and be useful at the same time.”

“That’s insane. I can’t believe their parents agreed.”

“The girls are of age. And as crazy as it sounds, Giselle is right. We need intel on what’s going on in Missoula. Not knowing is like having a bomb in the backyard and guessing when it will go off.”

Tyler rubbed his lips with his knuckles. “Kyle’s a loose cannon. He’s just as likely to chase butterflies into a hornet’s nest as help you.”

“I’ll handle him,” Max said. “Even if I have to club him over the head. But he’s good to have around, just in case. His magic could come in handy if we run into serious trouble.”

“Trouble? Tory and Carrie are nothing but trouble. You won’t be able to escape it,” Tyler scoffed.

“The girls are excited to help. They think it’s all a game. And since we’re going to start at the River Market, I’m sure they’re hoping to find a new pair of shoes or some makeup.” Max rolled her eyes. Teenage girls. Pre- or postapocalypse, their priorities never changed.

“Aren’t you ready yet? We’re all waiting for you.”

Max glanced up at the nineteen-year-old girl standing in the doorway, keeping her expression neutral. Tory was her niece—a walking tornado of hormones and emotion. As Tyler said, a bitch on wheels. She was stubborn, angry, resentful, and mouthy, and she had a knack for getting on Max’s last nerve.

She scanned Tory slowly from head to foot, taking in her fashionably ripped skinny jeans, her low-cut rhinestone-studded shirt revealing the top of her lacy bra and a healthy amount of cleavage, and a pair of spiked boots. Her golden hair hung loose to her waist and was curled and teased. Her full lips sparkled with gloss. She looked, in a word, sexy. Sexy as hell. Max glanced at Tyler. He stared with widening eyes, his mouth dropping open.

Men. They were so easy.

She looked back at Tory. “You know you’re not going hooking on the Vegas Strip, right? You may want to tone it down. We’re trying not to attract a lot of attention.”

“You may be, but I’m not,” Tory said, jabbing her thumbs into her back pockets so her full breasts thrust out. Tyler nearly choked. “You want information. Boys see a hot body, and they do nothing but talk. Their brains drop to their dicks, and they get diarrhea of the mouth.”

Max couldn’t argue with that. If she needed proof, there was Tyler. She shook her head. “Your mother is going to love this. She’ll kick my ass.”

Tory tossed her hair. Her face was round and sweet. Camouflage. Max was pretty sure that at nineteen, the girl could chew up most people and spit them out without breaking a sweat.

“You know, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” Tory said.

“Are you sure, Buttercup?” Max drawled, clamping down on her irritation. “You want to go into town, but you’re not going anywhere without me. That pretty much means I’m the center of your universe tonight, doesn’t it?”

Tory’s cheeks flushed red, and her eyes snapped with fury. She dropped her hands to her sides, her fingers curling into fists. “Yeah? Well, you need my help, too—besides, once I talk Giselle into making me a Shadowblade, I’ll be able to do anything I want, whenever I want, just like you.”

Max met her niece’s gaze for a long moment and then glanced at Tyler. His body was chiseled in stone. She could feel his emotions flaring hot and wild. It had been just a bit more than a month since Niko had died, adding to the too-long tally of Shadowblades and Sunspears Horngate had lost since the Change—when the Guardians had flooded the world with magic. Both Max and Tyler knew that those supernatural warriors needed to be replaced in order to protect the covenstead, but the reality was too much to handle right now. The grief was still too raw.

Abruptly, Max swigged down the last of the Ugly Juice and stood. “Let’s go,” she said, and led Tory out of the dining commons. Spike trotted behind them.

Tory kept abreast of Max despite her aunt’s fury. It was actually impressive. Most humans cowered around an aroused Blade, much less a full Prime like herself. But then again, Tory was a burning ball of anger and resentment. Fear was a foreign concept to her.

Max slowed, reaching down to scratch Spike’s ears. “You ready to give up going out during the day?” she asked. “Because Shadowblades fry—literally—in the daylight. Poof! Burn to ash in a matter of seconds. Or Giselle could make you a Sunspear, but they have their own problems. The dark poisons them. Sometimes slowly, but within an hour or so if they don’t get inside.”

“You just don’t want to give me the chance to be like you,” Tory said, stepping in front of Max with her hands on her hips. “You still hate Giselle for turning you, and you think just because you don’t want to be a Shadowblade, nobody else will, either.”

Max considered the accusation. Six months ago, there might have been some truth to it. But things had changed. Max had changed. She no longer resented being turned. She liked what she was. It allowed her to protect the people she cared about.

Except for Niko.

A worm of grief wriggled through her heart. At least she could protect them better than if she were still human. And if Tory were turned, the girl could at least protect herself. Still, Max doubted she had the slightest clue what being a Shadowblade really entailed.

“You won’t be able to have kids,” she said. “So you’ll want to think about having one before you’re turned. You have to eat a minimum of twenty thousand calories a day, more if you get into a battle or have to run thirty or forty miles or toss around a few cars. That’s not so easy with food getting scarcer. You’ll have healing spells, but you’ll need them. You’ll end up hurt a lot, and I’m not talking hangnails. Broken bones are easy, but you’ll get shot, knifed, burned, mauled, shredded—all in a day’s work. That will happen with depressing regularity for your entire life.

“The healing spells won’t help with the pain. That’s all yours. Let’s hope you have a high tolerance. You won’t age, as you can tell.” Max gestured at herself. At fifty years old, she still looked the way she did when she was twenty-one. She looked more like Tory’s sister than her aunt. “That means you probably shouldn’t fall in love with any ordinary humans. They’ll age and die long before you do. Then there’s the binding. Most witches bind their Blades and Spears. There are some good reasons for that—Giselle will know when you’ve been hurt, she’ll be able to summon you when she needs you, and she can help you heal faster through the binding. On the other hand, you won’t be able to ever get away from her, and you’ll be stuck serving her unless she releases you. Or you die. That works, too.”

“You’re trying to talk me out of it,” Tory said. “It’s not going to work.”

Max shook her head. “That’s not it at all, Buttercup. Giselle got me drunk and asked if I wanted to be superstrong, never age, never get sick, all that sort of thing. I said sure—who wouldn’t say yes? But I thought it was all a joke. Next thing I knew, it was months later, and I was a Shadowblade, chained to serve her. I was a slave. Things might have been different if I’d really been willing. I just figure you ought to make an informed decision.”

Tory sniffed and pushed her hair behind her ears. “Don’t call me Buttercup. I know what I’m doing. But Giselle says she’s not going to do it. I know why, too. It’s you. She doesn’t want to piss you off, for some reason.” Despite the defiant edge to Tory’s voice, Max could tell the girl was thinking about what she’d said.

“I’m not going to stop you. Turns out I’m pretty happy being a Shadowblade.”

“So you’ll talk to Giselle?” Tory’s expression suddenly glowed with passionate hope, the kind only the young and naive can really feel.

“Sure. But don’t be in a hurry. You’ve got to wait until you’re twenty-one.”

Tory’s joyous triumph collapsed. “What? Why?”

Max shrugged. “It’s a magic number.”

“But people don’t have to be exactly twenty-one, right? Alexander was twenty-five when he was made.”

Max’s brows rose. How the hell did Tory know that? She swallowed her curiosity and the sharp jab of jealousy that accompanied it. It wasn’t as if Alexander didn’t have a right to tell people about his life. “He was turned more than a hundred years ago by a flesh witch. Maybe she didn’t care about the numbers. Giselle does.”

“Couldn’t Uncle Kyle do it if Giselle won’t?”

“Only if he wanted to be banished from Horngate—or killed. Giselle won’t tolerate anyone stepping on her toes.”

“Killed?” Tory repeated, her eyes widening.

“Yep. Oh, that’s another thing about being a Shadowblade, Buttercup. You’ll be killing things. Maybe people, maybe creatures, but you’ll be spilling a lot of blood. Sometimes you’ll use weapons, sometimes you’ll kill bare-handed. Get used to the idea. That’s a major part of the job. If you want, I could take you out hunting to see how you do with that.”

Tory swallowed and didn’t answer. Instead, she spun around and started up the corridor in silence. Max fell in beside her.

The heart of the Horngate covenstead was a mountain fortress west of Missoula. Giselle and the coven witches had carved a warren of rooms and passages, enough to house hundreds of people, with room to expand if needed. Max and Tory headed for a newer chamber on the northeast side of the mountain.

It was an expansive space with low ceilings. Vehicles were parked in rows. Max headed for a dark green Suburban. Kyle, Carrie Lydman, and Alexander were already waiting. Carrie was dressed much like Tory. Together, the two were stunning. Max had little doubt that men would certainly get diarrhea of the mouth upon seeing them.

Kyle was bouncing on his toes like a five-year-old at Disneyland, and Alexander stood at the rear of the Suburban, the back doors open as he checked supplies. At six feet, he was just a few inches taller than she. His skin was the color of tea, as if he spent all his time in the sun. His short hair was black. A close-cut goatee framed his mouth. He was lean and muscular, and it made Max drool just to look at him.

He looked up as she and Tory entered, his dark gaze smoldering. Max shivered, resisting the urge to drag him off to a closet and have her way with him.

She took hold of herself, suppressing her reaction, keeping her face from showing her hunger. She was Horngate’s Shadowblade Prime, which meant she was in charge of Alexander and the rest of the Blades. She needed to stay focused on her job. She didn’t need anybody else dying on her watch.

She crossed to glance inside the back of the Suburban, sidling away from his hand as he reached for her. He pulled back, his mouth flattening, his eyes flashing hurt annoyance. Max clenched her teeth. What the hell did he expect from her? But she knew the answer. He wanted public acknowledgment of their relationship. The trouble was, she was still trying to figure out exactly what their relationship was. She cared about him—loved him, she corrected herself acidly. She might as well admit it to herself, even if she was too much of a coward to tell him.

She didn’t have much experience with long-term relationships. She’d only had one serious boyfriend before Giselle had turned her, and she’d fumbled that. She was like a child figuring out how to do calculus.

With a silent sigh, she pushed aside her internal turmoil. She’d work on fixing her head later. Now she had to get everybody in and out of Missoula alive.

Inside the back of the Suburban was a row of six shotguns upright in a rack. Beside them were six bandoliers with shells and grenades. The latter were witch-made. There was also a chest containing a variety of other weapons, including handguns, clips of bullets, knives, witch chain, canisters of salt, iron filings, mixes of herbs, tubs of healing salve, bandages, charms, light and dark sealed sacks, and duct tape, plus jerky, homemade high-calorie energy bars, and two jugs of Ugly Juice.

She and Alexander were both already wearing tactical vests, the pockets bulging with a variety of supplies. Max’s .45 was holstered on her hip, and she had her two favorite flat-bladed knives strapped to her arms. Around her neck was a gold torque that could stretch itself into a garrote, a wire-thin rope, and other useful shapes. She had a Glock 9mm tucked into an ankle holster and a combat knife in her waistband.

She glanced at her companions. “Ready? Remember, we’re going for the single purpose of intelligence collection. We’ll have to park away from the River Market and walk in. We don’t need anyone noticing that our vehicle runs on magic. Once there, try to blend in. The word is that the market stays lively late into the night, with a lot of buying and selling, not to mention gambling, whoring, drinking, and who knows what else. It can turn into a free-for-all pretty quickly. Stick close to me and Alexander—and Kyle? Don’t do anything witchy unless you have to.”

Her brother looked at her innocently. Kyle never planned to be stupid and reckless, he just followed his idiot impulses. Babies had more sense than he did sometimes.

Max’s eyes narrowed. A smudge of the red dust streaked Kyle’s pale blond hair above his left ear. “What is that stuff?” she asked. “Do you know?”

“What stuff?” he said, even as Alexander came around the front of the Suburban. Beyul, another massive Grim, padded at his side.

“It’s on you, too,” she said, pointing at Alexander’s boot.

He glanced down, his brow creasing.

“What is it?” Max held up her forearm to show her splash of red.

Tory and Carrie examined each other. “We don’t have any of that junk on us,” Carrie said with clear relief, no doubt relieved that she didn’t have to worry about it staining her clothes.

“It doesn’t come off,” Max said. “Tyler had some on him, too.”

Kyle ran a finger over her arm. Pale blue magic flickered along his fingertip, and Max’s skin tingled. He pulled away, looking intrigued. “Could be magic-related. I need to do some experiments . . .”

“Not now,” Tory said, grabbing his arm and shoving him toward the door of the Suburban. “We’ll never get to town if you go off experimenting, Uncle Kyle. After all, it’s just a little color, right?”

Max had to agree. The stuff didn’t seem to be dangerous, and if Kyle went off on a mad-witch-scientist tangent, they might not get to town for another week or two.

“Load up,” she said as she slammed the two rear doors shut. The two girls pushed into the front seat beside Alexander, who was driving. Max let Spike and Beyul into the rear seats and then slid in beside Kyle.

She was just shutting her door when a jolt shuddered through the air and a hail of needles ran along her nerves. The walls of the mountain fortress trembled and groaned. A split second later, the alarm chime vibrated through the air. It reverberated through Max’s skull, making the marrow in her bones ache. Something had crossed the covenstead’s outer ward line, something magical that didn’t belong.

“What now?” Tory demanded. “Let’s just go.”

Max hopped out. “Trip’s canceled,” she said, her Prime rising hard. Her humanity flattened beneath the predator, her senses sharpening. With that came blinding rage. No one—no one—was going to get away with attacking her home again. She didn’t care what she had to do to protect it and the people within. This was her home, her family. She’d kill anyone who threatened them.

“Tory and Carrie, get to the Great Hall with everybody else,” she ordered hoarsely, her lips curling back from her lips in an animal snarl. “Kyle and Alexander, you’re with me.”

“I want to come with you,” Tory said, her voice tense but resolute as she stepped in front of Max.

“No chance, Buttercup,” Max replied, her fingers curling in an effort not to pick the teenager up and toss her out of the way.

“I can handle myself. Give me a gun.“

“When pigs fly. Get back to the Great Hall before you get yourself killed,” Max said. “That’s something else Shadowblades do—obey orders.” Max shoved past her, Spike loping at her side. Alexander and Beyul followed close on her heels, with Kyle bringing up the rear.

She pushed out into the night air. She could feel the wrongness in the wards and smell Divine magic. It came from the south.

She led the way around to the front entrance. The rest of her Blades had spilled out into the night, waiting for her, all armed to the teeth. A few Grims nosed around curiously.

Max turned to Tyler. “Where’s Giselle?”

“On her way with Gregory and Judith.”

She looked over her Blades. She probably ought to wait for them. “Tyler, Alexander, Oak, Nami, and Simon, you’re with me. We’ll scout ahead. The rest of you follow with the witches.” She looked around at them all. She scowled as she realized that each one was smudged with some of the red dust. She’d have to ask Giselle about it later.

“Whatever’s going on out there, watch one another’s back. Nobody dies tonight. Got it?”

Sober nods went all around the group, and a minute later, Max and her companions were loping across the steep ridges south of Horngate, each one a messenger of death for whatever lay in wait.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
Happy Christmas and Merry Holidays!

For those who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a fabulous day of warmth, light, love, and family. For those who don’t celebrate, I hope you had the same. For those in the tornado zone, I hope you came through unscathed and I hope that you are safe.

We had a lovely low key day with the family together, including a good friend, a presents-paper blizzard, happy kids, weirded out dogs who got this roly poly toy that pops (or poops) out kibbles when it rolls. Well, they are fascinated with the kibble, but terrified of the toy. So not sure that that was successful or not. We will be eating soon and then watching a movie. Is it weird to watch Paranorman on Christmas? Well, it’s going to happen anyhow, strange or not.

Tomorrow is release day for Blood Winter. I hope it does well! I’m thinking of going out and signing some stock. But we’ll see. I want to go to Portland to see the zoo lights, and I want to go see The Hobbit and Les Miz, so I’m just not sure what will actually happen. It’s entirely possible I’ll do nothing at all. Or rather, read books and maybe do some writing. Because, well, I can! It’s vacation. Thinking more about the bunion surgery. The bunion things I’ve been using haven’t been helping yet as much as I’d like.

Tell me about your day and your plans for this week. Have you got plans for New Years?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Enter the frazzling

Do you know how hard it is to get everything done for school, travel, cleaning, and children, while at the same time needing to finish reading a book? Sharon Shinn kills me! Oh but I love her books. Finally started reading Troubled Waters. Yum. You should definitely have a look. Loving it.

Okay, so yeah, finished grading and turned them in, cleaned bathrooms and other assorted places in the house, got laundry in the washer, still need to pack, which is dependent upon the clothes in the washer, and also I have to shower. But I think the house is clean. Also making some travel cds for the truck. Odd mix. But then, I’m odd.

I also had an epiphany on a section of the WIP that was giving me trouble. I’m very pleased about it. I realized some things which do a lot of work in the book. From character development, plot twisting, world building, and creating tension. Lovely.

I still have not had a chance to update the website with the initial chapters of Blood Winter. I plan to asap, hopefully before I leave, but the way things are going . . .

I need to ask you all to go and give me a shout out for my books on your places of social media, to your friends, at bookstores, and anywhere you can think of. I’d like to see this book do well and the best way is word of mouth. So please, whatever you can do, I would be grateful. I still haven’t heard of any sightings yet. That surprises me. Usually people start seeing books in advance of the release date. Also, reviews on Amazon and BN would be awesome. Even bad ones. (has a small moment of hyperventilation that you might not like the book). But it really helps with the way that these online venues promote a book to readers, so if you can, I’d love you.

And there, that’s it. All begging over. Whew.

Now to go fold clothes and pack the suitcase. Let’s hope the dog doesn’t vomit on the way out there.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

It’s cold. The snow squeaks. I think it’s below zero, or close to it.

One of the puppies is sick. He keeps throwing up. I couldn’t figure out who was the sick dog for the longest time. He refused to barf while I was watching. I do have a vet appointment for tomorrow, but I just hope I can keep him comfortable for the night. Poor guy. Wish I could figure out how to help him.

Did I happen to mention that the cold water spigot on the shower stripped and won’t turn off? Yeah. Have to turn it off in the basement. Makes showering. . . interesting. The plumber doesn’t have a replacement part, so had to order a new faucet. Not cheap. Hopefully it gets installed tomorrow. I’d try to install it, but let’s face it, we don’t need a flood.

My Kindle stopped working today. Luckily it was on a warranty with Staples, and even luckier, they knew how to get it going again. So even though I couldn’t read anything on it in the doc office with the boy, at least I will be able to.

Tomorrow is the last day of the block. Then grading, packing, traveling. Maybe some sleep.

Also, Today I did interviews over at Literal Addiction and at The Quillery. Come on over and visit and maybe win books!

Sunday, December 16th, 2012
Being an adult

Being adult means getting up and getting stuff done. Chores, raising the kids, work, social things–all of it. I have had the boy home 2 weeks now and even as I type, he’s asleep on the couch. He may be making progress staying awake longer. He only slept a few times today. Though when I carted him out to the store with me, he fell asleep in the truck going and coming.

Anyhow, I am planning to go to OR on Friday to spend the holidays with my husband. Which means getting things ready here. This means wrapping up life stuff that has to be wrapped up, finishing the semester and all my grading, packing up stuff and to go, cleaning up here to leave the house ready for a showing (wouldn’t that be nice), and making sure that the day to day is getting done.

I made a long list for this weekend that I had to get done. Nevermind the stuff the kids had to do, which will fall on me if they don’t (like cleaning their rooms). I have managed to get most of it done, and get out for a small window to visit with some friends at a holiday gathering. That was lovely and involved singing. Not carols. But bluesy sorts of things. There was a guitar, two harmonicas, a standup bass, and singing. Boy came too and we left fairly quickly once he got tired. Luckily the event was only a couple blocks from the house and we walked. Girlie had a blast with her friend at the festivities. She is thoroughly over whatever she had a couple weeks ago.

I needed to get as much outdoor stuff done today as possible, because we’re under a winter weather advisory. Which may or may not mean snow. Yesterday it means about 4 inches. We’ll see if Oftenwrong the weatherman gets it right or not. So this weekend I did masses amounts of laundry, changed the sheets on all the beds, folded clothes, wrapped presents, shredded all kinds of paper stuff (I hate getting those credit card offers!), made food, cleaned the entire upstairs, wrote and sent bills, cleaned the fishtank pump (still have to do the tank), shoveled the front walk/sidewalk/driveway, loaded the truck with everything we have ready to go for the trip (it’s a lot), cleaned out the woodstove, cleaned up the enormous ash mess from cleaning out the woodstove, brought in wood, brought in wood again, vacuumed, and I did some other stuff. And I still have more to do. Like grade papers. So that’s what I’m going to do now, while dinner bakes in the oven.

Which is all to say, I’m not sure being an adult is all it’s cracked up to be. Okay, yeah, I can eat dessert whenever I want to, but then there’s the ‘being responsible’ part of the contract. Sigh.

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

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