Thursday Teaser – Between Flood and Flame

From the story “Scales of Justice” in the forthcoming Cat Among Dragons collection.

Commander Rada, Lord Ni Drako, daimyo of Singing Pines and Burnt Mountain, wanted to go hunting, not to oversee the Azdhagi version of family court. Damn feudal system, she growled to herself as she took a seat in the meeting hall of Singing Pines village. She’d rather have held the hearing at the manor house, but the number of interested witnesses now crowding into the hall made that impossible. Rada tried not to drum her claws on the top of the improvised desk as reptiles filed in. Her guards were searching both the witnesses and the participants without regard to rank real or perceived, causing grumbling that continued until Rada pounded her dagger handle on the wooden table to call for order.

The plaintiff and defendants walked to the front of the room, followed by Helee, the village priest. He would administer the oaths. On Rada’s left, Assistant Village Headman Zhlee chivied his mate and daughter to the front bench. He glared at Rada, who glared right back. The merchant and craftsman Kikoree and his mate and their son took their places to Rada’s right. The priest and Rada’s guards stayed between the two parties. Father Helee administered the oaths as Rada wondered what in the name of the Blessed Bookkeeper she was supposed to do with the mess.

The night before, Zabet had read the complaint, peering over Rada’s shoulder. <<You’re kidding, right? If she doesn’t like him, and he doesn’t like her, then they marry someone else. That’s easy enough.>>

“Not for Azdhagi, and not with this much prestige and property at stake, silver dancer,” Rada had corrected her True-dragon business partner and “concubine.”

<<Hell, even in a House alliance if the two parties absolutely cannot stand each other, their families find a different way.>> Zabet slapped her tail against the bolster on the sleeping platform as she made herself comfortable. <<Just negate the contract and tell the parents to go soak their heads.>>

“The law does not permit me to do that, boss.” Rada raised her hand, forestalling a pungent description of the Azdhagi legal code. “I know, I know. We’ve tracked this prey before.”

Zabet just snorted, sending a mental picture of just what the long-dead nobles could do with their law code.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but Azdhag anatomy does not allow that.”


Amazon Link: Between Flood and Flame

Barnes and Noble: Between Flood and Flame

© Alma T.C. Boykin 2014. All Rights Reserved.


Book News – July 2014

The next Cat Among Dragons book, Between Flood and Flame will be out on Amazon and Barnes and Noble by Friday. It is a 70,000+ word story collection.

Rada returns to Drakon IV and finds herself up to her ear-tips in politics, feuds, hell, and high water.

Here comes the Sun – A Ghost Looks at Sunscreen

Go by the sunscreen aisle of your local drug store or supermarket, and you will (at least in spring and summer) find a plethora of options for warding off the eeeevvvil UV radiation. Choices range from light sprays to the zinc oxide “Rudy the White-Nosed Lifeguard” creams, with or without scent, moisturizer, critter-repellant, and in more numbers than the Federal Reserve churns out. So what’s a sola-phobe to do?

First off, the good stuff that I like can’t be bought in the US yet. It’s called Mexoryl™, L’Oreal has it, and you have to go to Canada or Europe to get any. The FDA has not approved the testing protocols accepted by the Canadians and EU (yet). I used to have a Canadian friend get me a bottle when he went home to visit, but now I just make do. Mexoryl is a UVA and UVB absorber, and the kind I liked didn’t smell bad or feel too greasy. And it worked really, really well.

My current favorite is Ultrasheer Dry-touch from Neutrogena, in an SPF 55. Yes, anything over SPF 30 is a waste of money (unless you need the opaque paste-type protection), but I like this stuff. It breathes well, doesn’t feel like sunscreen, and while it has a faint scent, I can wear it indoors without people around me noticing.

I prefer the lotion forms of sunscreen to the kind you can get in sticks or sprays. I’ve had problems from the stick because it blocked my pores and my hands looked as if I had some sort of pox. Other people use it without problem, and it is a lot more convenient and neater to reapply over the course of a day’s activities. The spray tends to be messy, IMHO. I’m not covering a large area (that’s what shirts and trousers or skirts are for, so I don’t need the convenience.

If I am outdoors for any length of time (as in more than three-five minutes), even though I’m wearing a hat, I put sunscreen on my face and throat, and usually on the back of my hands as well. Those are the only areas that see sunlight. I don’t wear short sleeves between sunrise and sunset, nor do I wear shorts unless I’m in the gym. For normal people, applying sunscreen to the face, arms, and legs is not a bad idea. Don’t forget the throat and upper chest (open collars lead to interesting triangular sunburns) and the back of your legs. I have sunburned the back of my knees. It makes walking and sitting . . . interesting.

Like the bottle says, put it on about fifteen minutes or so before you go out, and reapply it every few hours, especially if you are swimming. Or working with petroleum products, and if you get gasoline or other solvents on you. The worst sunburn I’ve had in the past 20 years hit after I got avgas on my hands, then didn’t think to reapply my sunscreen. Yes, the backs of my hands blistered, as did my wrists. Yes, it hurt like the blazes. Yes, my flying buddies gave me heck.

I’m not saying avoid the sun. I’m just offering tips for not getting turned into a crispy critter. And I’ll admit, avoiding tans is one reason people think I’m still in my early 20s, not my early [redacted]s. And why I’ve only had one worrisome patch trimmed off (thus far).


FCC/FTC/Whoever else disclaimer: Neither L’Oreal, Neutrogena, nor anyone else mentioned above pays me anything, neither do they give me free samples or ask me to review their products. I buy what I use out of my own pocket.

Riders of the Storm?

So there I was, flying east over central Nebraska at 5,500 feet above sea level, on one of those early summer days when no one in their right mind is flying into Denver or across central Nebraska. I’d dropped my passengers off near North Platte, so I could come back my own way at my own pace. Getting home entailed skirting a massive storm complex that was dropping large hail and the occasional tornado from Grand Island north into South Dakota, with an additional line between Denver and everywhere. It got so tight that at one point the Denver Center air traffic controller came on the radio and announced, “Everyone on Denver Center. Stop asking for different altitudes and courses. There is one hole into Denver and we have to fit all of you through it. We can’t grant any requests at this time.” With an unspoken so just shut up and listen in his tone of voice. I was on a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan at the time, so he didn’t have much to do with me, other than occasionally inform me of traffic.

I was enjoying watching this massive white, blue and black monster beat up on other people for a change, and limited my radio calls to those necessary. At last, after flying due east for longer than I normally would have, I got switched to Minneapolis Center and  swung east-northeast. I could see the edge of the storm very clearly, and knew that I’d be able remain outside of it. I’d tied down or stowed anything inside the cabin that might turn into a missile if I hit turbulence, so I felt pretty comfortable. The blue and white 6-passenger airplane handled rough air fairly well, but so far the ride had been no rougher than the Great Plains on a June afternoon usually is.

The plane curved northeast, out of the sunny-side of the storm complex. Here the different layers and bits of the storm floated in shadow, changing from brilliant white with dark-blue rain below into wedgwood grey, grey-blue, navy, and shades of shadowy grey. I banked the plane to the right and glanced up to make certain I wasn’t under the edge of the anvil. That’s where hail hangs out some days, and you can get turned into a 250 horsepower golf ball by flying through those harmless-looking wisps of cloud below the anvil. (Stay away from green areas, too.) Nope, the winds had blown the anvil more to the north. So the plane and I cruised along, sun-washed corn fields to the right and a monster to the left.

And then I looked into the storm. I’ve never experienced anything like it since. The lowest clouds formed a pale grey, almost white, shelf or floor extending to the north beside me. Small pillars of cloud, clustered like people, rose from part of that base. Behind them gaped the blue-black maw of the storm, with tatters and wisps of scud below and behind the figures. I was struck with the overwhelming sense of seeing something I wasn’t supposed to, of watching a judgment or trial not meant for human eyes.  The rational part of my brain knew  the convection patterns and outflow causing the scene, but the rest of me wanted to run, to get away, out of sight of whatever power lurked in that “courtroom.”

I fled. I banked away, more to the east, and added a little power, scooting along on the edge of the first outflow winds until I felt safe, then turning north. I didn’t say anything about that I’d seen to the controller, or later to my boss.

I’ve flown around mesoscale convective complexes since then, but never have I had that sensation of trespassing. I’ve danced through tornadic storms,  flown through glories and punched holes in the veils of sunset, but never had that sense of awe and doom that I felt from the storm in Nebraska.

7/19 Update

Two miles and a bit walked, Colplatschki short-story finished for addition to novella (out in early August), 2000 words on Peaks of Grace.

After the Flames

Crimson and yellow tongues lick the tall grass, dancing and flaring up the long stems, then devouring the crumbles as the grass collapses, a tube of ash that shatters, returning to the dust. The flames race on, driven by the wind, nibbling around tree trunks, turning bunch grasses into smoking lumps surrounded by strips and twists of ash-colored bare ground. Young mesquite and cedar trees turn into burning bushes, and a gust of wind lifts a burning cow pie, turning it into a hellish Frisbee that sails over the fire line, dropping to roll on edge, scattering the fire even farther.

Recycling the tall grass of Texas. Photo by Frank Heinz at

Recycling the tall grass of Texas. Photo by Frank Heinz at

Tallgrass, the six-foot tall tawny, waving wall of big bluestem and Indian grass, ignites with a whoosh, flames dancing among the long stems, burning them down to reveal the scenery beyond and soil below. Short grass burns lower but just as fast, flames racing over 60 miles an hour if the wind cooperates. Black, smoking ground remains behind the flames, while the wind snatches up the white and grey ash, spinning them into dust devils and coating everything around with stinging white that leaves black tracks behind. A few yucca stubs smoke for days afterward, sullenly refusing to give up their red ember hearts.  Continue reading