I’m Blaming Kenny Rogers

This ambushed me as I was listening to the single of “Planet Texas.” I have no idea where it will go.

“Thank you, sir.”

Heads and optical sensors turned at the archaic words and accent. The woman smiled at the server and took a flute of sparkling pear juice. She turned to her escort and raised the glass in a salute, head tipped to the side, hat brim half-concealing her smile.

“You’re welcome, ma’am.” Her escort smiled and raised the glass in return. He took her free arm and they walked farther into the room. Several of the diplomats frowned and moved out of their way, avoiding any social contact. A murmur of discontent flowed below the conversations in the sparkling reception chamber. How dare a diplomat go armed? Did he not trust the security scanners and robo-guards? And who had approved the weapon? The couple ignored the murmur, nodded to a representative from Sanduska, and made their way to the star wall. Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: Fire and Power

The opening of one of the stories in G-Familiar.

The black Shire mare leaned against her harness. “Whoo, that’s a big one,” she exclaimed. The chains from the horse collar and straps grew taut, then began to strain as Magda leaned more. Barbara, standing beside the log, extended a tiny bit of magic, smoothing the place where rough bark met the hard dirt. The tree trunk shifted a millimeter, then a centimeter. Magda took a step, and another, and began walking with ponderous, thudding steps over the duff-covered ground toward the place where a truck could collect the logs.

“I’m glad this is the last one of the day,” Barbara said, keeping one hand on the log. She preferred walking beside her Familiar, but as tired as they were, using magic at that distance from the log would lead to more problems than it solved. Sweat dripped off of both of them. Birds caroled among the trees, but not as many as there should have been. The drought had kept some from coming to the mountains, and others had passed farther to the north, where the North Sea and Baltic moistened the air. Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: Alchemy and Trouble

This is the opening of a story for an anthology due out this summer.

“Arrgh!” Only long habit kept Marie from flaming a little with frustration. She dumped neutralizing powder onto the bubbling, steaming mess, backed away from the lab table, and lifted one forefoot. She fisting purple talons in frustration. “That’s not the proper reaction, flame it!” Adding the copper sulfate should most emphatically not have caused an exothermic reaction.

Marie spent the rest of the hour cleaning up the lab table. Once she’d scrubbed it back to pristine, she disposed of everything, then logged the results in her enormous leather-bound lab notebook. “What is going wrong?” She compared her calculations with those from the book of industrial chemistry. “I kept the proportions, cleaned everything before I started, dried the glassware with purified air, what the hell is going wrong?”

“Hello, sister!”

Glowing yellow eyes narrowed with anger, she turned her head slowly toward the sound. Her youngest brother bounded into the lab uninvited. “Hello.” Flame played over her nostrils. Continue reading

Friday Tidbit

So, this is the opening of one of the chapters in G. Familiar. It is the framing material around the story proper.

André Lestrang selected the fattest, firmest of the throw pillows that had been imposed upon him and rested it against the back of the chair, then sat with deliberate slowness. Once all of his weight rested on leather and wood, he relaxed overtaxed muscles. He opened his lemon-flavored water and sipped a little, but only after everything settled. Rodney hopped onto the couch near where his mage sat, and lay down. André hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights. He stared at the photograph on the wall, watching the shadows of night hide all the details, leaving only the shape of time-and-history crumbled, pale stone walls. He drank more water.

“Penny for your thoughts, Boss?” the kit fox inquired after a quarter of an hour or so. Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: Concert and Cleaning

Heike and Walburga set out to cleanse the Dunsthöle of the death.

Mage and Familiar spent that evening and the next day resting and studying. With Walburga still tired, Heike focused on solo spells, the kind sorcerers relied on and mages occasionally had to attempt. “We begin with scrying back,” Walburga informed her. “Unless we know what we must lift, we spend too much magic for too little result.”

“Ja. And too much will. Once we know, we observe, then lift away what remains.” She drizzled honey into her tea, then sipped as she considered what she’d seen the day before. “The outside presence concerns me.”

“Indeed.” Walburga reached into her pouch. The charm bag clinked softly, but she did not remove it. “What say your books?” Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: Pavilion of Secrets

Heike hunts for clues . . .

“I will go by the pavilion this afternoon,” she said as she presented the wallaby with a turquoise-colored, quartered tomato.

Walburga nibbled delicately, then devoured her treat. Heike cut one small slice from the crusty loaf and set it within paw’s reach, then made herself something more substantial. Her brother turned up his nose at soft sausages, for reasons Heike failed to understand. A good layer of liver sausage, some cheese, and two anchovies-in-tomato made for a most wonderful sandwich. She had three tins of herring, and smoked herring in the freezer, but those would keep for a special occasion. Continue reading

Tuesday Tidbit: To Market, To Magic

When we left Bad Pyrmont, Heike’s brother had just informed her of the death in the Dunsthölle pavilion. She calculates how long since the last time the pavilion was opened, as she’s preparing “a little snack” for him.

That would be . . . Heike glanced at the calendar on the wall. “Two weeks and a day,” she murmured. More loudly, she said, “Yes, I can understand questions.” She busied herself with the strawberries, spooning them over fresh lemon cakes, then adding a splash of cream to each. Walburga only got the berries and cream. Heike set a bowl in front of her brother, then offered him a spoon.

“Ah, sister mine, you spoil me,” he said, smiling as he mock-scolded her.

She set Walburga’s portion on the floor, then sat at the table. “It is the berries spoiling that concern me, oh my brother.” That he’d eat his fire-truck’s weight in the fruit if he could did not need to be mentioned.

He departed not long after eating and finishing his beer. Heike washed the dishes and stared at the long twilight outside the kitchen window. “I am concerned,” she said after putting Walburga’s bowl in the drainer rack.

Walburga licked one forefoot and tidied her face, then said, “Yes. The darkness we sensed did not come only from the woman’s passing.”

“No. But tonight is not the time to look.”

Walburga sniffed. “Nein, because half of town will find a reason to go by the pavilion, and the medical investigator may still be working there.”

“Ja.” She was not a government mage, and had no place getting in the way. “Tomorrow the market, then perhaps Thursday evening. The moon will be new.”

“Gut.” Good. Walburga tidied a last bit of cream off of her muzzle, then hopped out of the kitchen and curled up in her nest of blankets and pillows beside Heike’s knitting corner. Continue reading