Monday, March 31, 2014

Daffodils and Thorns

On Saturday, I discovered the first daffodil blooms. Today they are popping. These are some of my favorites. The white and yellow blossoms are like little faces, gazing into the sun. Of course, we had no sun today, but it didn't matter. We had daffodils.

We also had smiling dogs. There is nothing like a nice spring day to make them hyper. That's Hemingway down below. He showed up here a year ago. He was a tiny pup. Now he's a full-grown dog with lots of energy. He reminds me a lot of our Hooch, who was shot just before New Years Day of 2013. I miss my Hooch, but Hemingway makes me smile in a different way.  

Which brings me to the thorns. It struck me, as I was taking photos, that there is an intermingling of beauty and pain in all things. Neither can exist without the other because we cannot appreciate beauty unless we are cut by thorns. So today, I give you both.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Angry Wind - Thankful Thursday

It's a grey and blustery day. Although the winds are not constant, they are strong enough to put the dogs on edge and we are expecting thunder tonight. With three thunder-paranoid dogs, that is never fun. The wind got me thinking about "The Protectors," a story I wrote in 2006 and published in Bones of the Woods in 2007.

"The Protectors" is about the rape and murder of a special little girl -- one who has the unawakened soul of a protector. It is also about two shapeshifters racing to find the girl's soul, as it awakens into a protector. Here is an excerpt that describes the victim's soul as it gains both awareness and power.

Breathe, the soul exhaled, feeling a rush when the leaves quivered on the tree branches. “I made that happen,” it thought. Breathe. A silky voice spoke up from deep within the soul’s dreams. Breathe in as if you were the wind preparing to blow a storm cloud over a mountain. The soul inhaled and felt its anger sucked inward. It spit it out, ripping a branch from the quivering tree. The tree screamed in anger and pain. The tree’s scream felt good to the soul. “I made that happen,” the soul thought.

The picture on the left is the one that accompanies the story in the book. It was taken in the forest around our house after a flat-line wind danced up and down the ridge, cracking trees in half and uprooting them. It was partly the power and anger of that sudden wind event that inspired this story. I asked myself what awful thing could possibly unleash such anger. My answer is in the story.

It's Thankful Thursday and I am thankful for a lot of things this week. Monday's snow provided a good photo opportunity, but it melted quickly. I got the potatoes and onions planted yesterday. We had dinner last night with an old friend, our cover designer and illustrator for Dime Store Novel and Mind of a Mad Man. Finally, and most importantly, all the animals are healthy, if not entirely happy about the weather.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gaming after years of idle dice -- Call of Cthulhu revisited #roleplaying

Regan Worth
Last night John and I did something we hadn't done in years. We sat down with friends to play Call of Cthulhu. The game, like our Dime Store Novel series, was set in New Orleans. The time period was around 1926 -- or right after High Rollers. John was the storyteller, as he had been so many afternoons and evenings in the past. He was a bit nervous, since he hadn't flung the dice is so many years. So was I. But we were both excited to be in the game again.

I played Regan Worth -- a character who had first come to life at the gaming table about 10 years ago and who made her written debut in High Rollers.

Our friend Doug also played a character he had invented around 10 years ago, in a Call of Cthulhu campaign I ran -- the one in which John brought Swampy to life. Doug played the soup-slurping priest who made his written debut in From the Gator's Mouth. Steve, Brandon, and John N. played students -- peers of Regan. It was the first day of school. The day started with catechism. And a lockdown.

"What?!" cries  Regan. "I'm not sitting in a dumb school all day. I have things to do. People to see."

Steve tries the window and -- wouldn't you know it, it's locked. About that time, we hear a noise. Regan, due to the fact her father is a bootlegger, recognizes it as a gunshot. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a bleeding man staggers through the door and dies. Well...the priest claims he's dead. But then Brandon tries to move him. Sanity check. The man twitches.

Steve, decides to hook him up to an electrical outlet. The body fries. Regan is non too happy -- not only does the room stink to high heaven, but there is no ghost. WHAT?! No ghost?! Even when the priest gives last rights -- no ghost. Something is not right, but she can't confide in these people -- these people who would just think she's crazy. So she keeps still. 

Before long, she hears a shuffling noise. So does the priest. They look out the doorway and see a blank-faced guy shuffling along. Knowledge check. "The Walking Dead." Whatever. Even the walking dead should have have a ghost, right? Wrong. The priest repels him with the cross and then says the stupid 23rd Psalm. Bam...the walking dead drops. Holy water splash and still no ghost. Regan is not impressed and, in fact, is getting a little annoyed at the priest. How is she supposed to learn something if she can't even talk to the ghosts -- not that there are any....but still.

The party splits up. Steve and John N. head to the shop classroom to try to find makeshift weapons. Regan and the priest spot a ghost. Regan sees a lever that opens a secret door into a slave's staircase. Surprisingly, the priest steps into the stairway. Regan follows. So does Brandon. The priest keeps staring at the walls. Regan doesn't have a clue why, but she's glad enough because it slows his pace and she has short legs. Plus, she is wearing stiletto heels. Clip-clip, up the stairs. The priest stops and talks to someone in an office. He does not look happy. Regan hears a cthunk- chtunk coming up some other stairwell. She draws her gun.....

It was a fun night of gaming. It was different playing Regan's character around other people again, instead of just between me and the page. I think we'll do it again. 

Do you want to hear more about our gaming adventures? Leave a comment to let us know.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thankful for Springtime Plus Kindle Promo

It's been another crazy week and the weather has been just as nutty with 70s one day and snow the next. Here's a picture of our little Christmas tree that is waiting on the porch to be replanted. I think it enjoyed getting flocked one more time last Sunday. I know it looked very festive -- presents were the only thing missing.

The snow didn't last long. By Tuesday it was gone, except for a few shady spots. The crocus are in full bloom and the grass is starting to turn green. I think spring might really be here.

The animals are all liking this warmer weather. Here's Joshua flashing his big smile. Of course, what he's really saying is "Toss me that camera. I want to play catch."

We have also been busy with book writing and promotions. John is trying to wrap up Striking Angels, the sequel to Angels in Hell's Kitchen. The Dime Store Novel characters are participating in the Leaping Leprechauns and Frolicking Fairies All Things Irish blog hop.

And we are running a countdown promo for High Rollers. You can get in for 99 cents until 6:00 CDT on Thursday 3/20. After that, the price goes up to $1.99. The promo ends on Sunday.

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Ballads and Jigs - Blazing Fingers Worth's Musical Beginnings

Like Toledo Cats and Hanover Fist, Regan Worth made her debut as a character in a Call of Cthulhu game. She didn't even have a last name that night -- just Regan. She tagged along with Hanover and Tyler (yes, he had recovered some sanity points by then) on a visit to a circus. The only thing we knew about her father was that he was a bootlegger named Blazing Fingers Worth.

It was some time later, when John began to write Angels in Hell's Kitchen, that Blazing Fingers Worth earned a real name (Dylan Worth), an Irish heritage, and a career as a jazz pianist. Of course, being of Irish descent, Blazing Fingers Worth didn't start out playing jazz. He started out learning the organ because he was brought up in a Catholic orphanage. He eventually taught himself to play Irish ballads and jigs and made some extra tip money by playing in pubs in Hell's Kitchen. That's where he met Duncan O'Malley.  That story is told in Angels in Hell's Kitchen, which you can get FREE if you visit the Dime Store Novel characters blog this week and comment on Duncan O'Malley's post. That's our St. Patrick's Day gift to you.

Later, due to events that are slowly unfolding in the Dime Store Novel series and that will be told fully in a book currently in progress, but that has not yet been given a title, Dylan Worth moved to New Orleans and became a jazz pianist. By the time the events in High Rollers occur, Dylan Worth has taken up bootlegging and is most commonly known by his stage name Blazing Fingers Worth. In High Rollers, Blazing Fingers finds himself in a bit of trouble he can't get out of just by tickling the ivories. To find out what happens, you'll need to buy the book. Fortunately, the Kindle edition is on sale this week. It's a countdown deal, so don't procrastinate. Here are the details:

Monday March 17th through Wednesday March 19th - 99 cents
Thursday March 20th through Saturday March 23rd - $1.99

On March 24th, it goes back to its normal price of $2.99.

Are you curious about what Dylan might have sounded like playing Irish piano in a pub?  I was, so I thought I'd do a little research. Fortunately, there are some lessons on You Tube. I don't play nearly well enough to try this (yet). But maybe someday. For now, I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thankful for a Warm Day #signsofspring

Yes! At last there are signs that spring is here. The groundhog was about's been five weeks since his dire prediction. The first crocus pushed its orange blooms out of the dirt (sorry no pics, it was evening when I noticed), the frogs are singing, and I found a spider in the bathtub and a snake in the garden.

 On Tuesday, it was warm enough that we threw work aside and went fishing. We didn't catch anything, but it was a chance to soak in the warmth and enjoy the view. Here's John casting his line.

The blue sky and clouds are reflected in the pond. That's what caught my attention. I stopped fishing and decided to take some pictures.

The clouds looked like a child had drawn them with a piece of chalk.

The winds were a little high for fishing, but the reflection of the clouds in the pond was awesome.

The sun sparkled off the pond, casting a little magic. I had to wonder if we had fairies joining us for our little fishing trip.

And then I looked into the water and there was no doubt. It was a magical kind of day.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Writer's Friends are Never Safe

Did you ever pick up a book and find that you were one of the characters? Some of our friends have. Although many of our characters are amalgamates of people we know, some stories are made up of characters who are pretty much based on a single person.

One of those stories is The Bar, one of the stories in Mind of a Mad Man. Mind of a Mad Man is our darkest book and it arose from the ashes of a dark time in our lives. We had been forced to get out of the business of selling games due to an economic downturn, complicated by medical issues. Although we didn't miss the hassle of running a retail business, we did miss many of our customers. In a small town, a business like that has regulars -- people you not only recognize on the street, but genuinely care about. The Bar is about some of those people and, although the events in the story are fictionalized, the characters are real people who grieve and struggle and dream.

The Bar is about loss, but it is also about love. When John wrote the story, I had a real problem with how closely the characters in it resembled real people. We are different that way -- I like to keep the identity of my characters obfuscated. He comes right out and writes them how they are -- even uses real names sometimes. He also puts himself in the story. I'm there too, but I made him change my name to protect the not-so-innocent. it's out in the open. Are you happy, John?

Challenge: For those who gamed at Jester's Cards and Stuff, who can identify any of the characters on the cover?  I'll accept either character or player name. Anyone who correctly identifies a character wins a free copy of Mind of a Mad Man. For those who didn't....the cover is based on two roleplaying games. I'll send out a coupon for a free ebook to anyone who can name one of those games.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday - Swampy's Piglets

Swampy's a fun character to write about, in part because he's such a nice quirky guy with a dialect all his own, but also because his character was partly inspired by my father-in-law. One story in particular was based on a real-life event. Dad used to raise pigs. He was proud of those pigs and always wanted to show off the piglets when we'd go to visit. Now sows are typically mean, especially when they have little ones suckling on them, but Dad would climb right in the pen with the sow and pluck a piglet off her teat to show it off. The sow never so much as gave him a second glance.

This scene in Rips in the Weave was inspired by Dad's empathy with animals:

Misha watched the wiry man climb over the wooden fence into the huge black sow’s pen. She was nervous for the man, although she barely knew him. Her daddy had told stories about the pigs he’d had to feed as a boy, before he was set free and took to the river. “Won’t she hurt you?” she asked.
“Naw. Mabel trusts ol’ Swampy, don’t ya girl?”
The sow raised her head and grunted.
Swampy bent down and plucked a pink piglet from the suckling pile, holding it by its feet. The piglet squealed. “This one’s the runt. I reckon I’ll keep her though. See that black spot on her rear, shaped just like a rabbit’s foot? Means she’s a lucky one. Fairies near got when she was born. If it’ hain’t been for ol’ Boo she’d be gone.”
“She’s cute.” Misha leaned closer. “Can I touch her?”
“Don’t expect she’ll care. She likes her belly scratched.” Swampy cradled the piglet in his arms like a baby and scratched its belly. The piglet squirmed a little. He walked over to the fence and held her close so Misha could scratch her. The sow grunted behind him. “Now you jes relax, Mabel. This here nymph won’t hurt your babe.”
Misha scratched the piglet’s belly, amazed at the softness of her skin. The piglet stopped squirming and settled down.
“I reckon she likes you,” Swampy said.
    “I like her too.” Misha smiled gently.

You can get Rips in the Weave and From the Gator's Mouth FREE this week only on Smashwords in celebration of Read an Ebook week. Swampy is an important character in both of these books.  Here are links to the books in the promotion.

Books you can get for FREE (enter RW100 at checkout)

Books you can get for 50% off (enter REW50 at checkout)
It's Thankful Thursday and this week has been kind of crazy. Still, I'm thankful for so many things. The ground is thawing and all of the animals are well. And writing this blog made me remember how thankful I am for all the terrific people who touch my life and inspire my writing, including my father-in-law. Lee Miller was the best father-in-law a girl could ask for and he will always be in my heart.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Blues - Blind Willie Johnson #readanebook

The winter storm came and went. The most amazing thing about it was the thundersleet on Saturday night. The dogs woke me up when the thunder rumbled and I watched out my bedroom window as pink lightning flashed in the deep grey sky. 

Before the storm hit, I came across my The Complete Blind Willie Johnson CD. I first discovered Blind Willie Johnson I was developing the Whiskey Joe character.Whiskey Joe is a blues man who plays slide guitar. So was Blind Willie Johnson. Whiskey Joe sings on the streets of New Orleans. Blind Willie Johnson sang on the streets of various Texas towns. 

Blind Willie sings gospel. Whiskey Joe sometimes sings of the other realm he knows -- the fairy realm. Although their subject matter differs, I often listen to Blind Willie Johnson when I'm writing about whiskey Joe. 

Blind Willie Johnson had a rough life. He was blinded when his stepmother threw lye in his face. However, despite that rough beginning, he became an artist who made music he believed in. You've got to respect that. I know I do.

If you want to know more about Blind Willie Johnson, you can visit his page at
Don't forget. It's Read-an-Ebook week on Smashwords. This week only, you can get some of our books FREE or at 50% off. Here are links to the books in the promotion.

Books you can get for FREE (enter RW100 at checkout)

Books you can get for 50% off (enter REW50 at checkout)

Whiskey Joe appears as a character in all of these books except Angels in Hell's Kitchen.  So, if you'd like to meet him, pick up one (or all) of these books. The promotion only lasts through March 8th.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ice Storm Inspirations

The cold, snow, and ice this year has become a cliché, but as we sit here on the day before yet another winter weather event, I'm going to write about the storms of 2006 and how they inspired our short story collection, Bones of the Woods.
The storm that first inspired the book was not an ice storm at all. It was a flat-line wind event in early July. The heat had been oppressive that day and when I went out to the garden to pick the vegetables for dinner, I felt the uneasiness that comes before a thunderstorm. Call it a hunch, but I called John at the shop and told him to pick up some sausage, cheese, crackers, and fruit for dinner. He said I was being paranoid, but did it anyway.

He had not even finished cutting the meat when the thunder started rumbling and the lights flickered. I decided to light some candles just in case. As the first flame flickered alive, the lights went out. The winds tore at the house and the house groaned. I stood in the candlelit hallway, trying to soothe our panicked dogs. At one point, the winds were so intense, it sounded like the roof was being ripped away.

When it finally let up, John left to go check on his Mom, who lives up the road from us. He had to walk because the road was littered with trees -- not just branches. Whole trees had fallen across the road, as had a telephone pole. His Mom was fine. She had slept through the whole thing.

Unlike most thunderstorms, this one had done nothing to break the heat. We ate our dinner and drank the chilled wine greedily and then went to bed, sleeping naked on top of the covers in the stifling room, without even a breeze now that the storm had passed. In the middle of the night, I woke up thirsty. I tried the tap, not even thinking about the fact that water wouldn't run without a electricity to the pump. No water. I started to panic. I laid there and inventoried everything we had to drink in the house. There was not much and we were trapped.

Sometime during the night, I heard another rumble and saw lights in the picture window. The road crews were clearing the trees from the road. We wouldn't die after all. I watched the line of cars following the tree mover and realized that, as frightening as it was, at least we had not been trapped on the road.

The next morning, we surveyed the damage.Fallen, broken trees lay everywhere. The garden was a loss -- even without the searing week of heat and drought that followed without power.

As the leaves changed colors and fell away from the trees, the shattered bones of the woods stood stark against the sky. Limbs hung dejectedly and some trees were split in two -- their spirits not quite free. I thought about how many years some of those trees had listened to the sounds of these woods and how many stories they must know. I told John what I was thinking and we agreed that we should publish our own collection of short stories named Bones of the Woods.And so, we started to write.

I had just started a story in the collection named "The Protectors" when another fateful storm hit us that December. The weather report threatened a mix of snow and ice. I encouraged John to close the shop early and come home. It was cold, so he planned to make chili for dinner and I was looking forward to its warmth. By the time he arrived home, the freezing rain had started. As he got the chili going, the lights started to flicker.

“I hope we don’t lose power,” I said.

“We won’t,” he assured me.

I went back to writing. Fortunately, I was using my laptop because the power did go out. We settled for cold cuts and crackers for dinner instead of the chili  we craved.

John went out to get wood and hurried back in for the tape recorder and camera.“I thought it was someone shooting,” he said. “I thought how stupid can someone be to be out poaching in an ice storm. Then I realized I was listening to trees and branches falling.”

That night and, in fact, for several days, we listened to trees and branches, already weakened by the summer storms, snap and crash to the ground under the weight of the ice. The next morning, the world was a glistening fairyland. 

I took picture after picture, including the cover picture and some of the others in this book. It was beautiful, yet harsh. We took turns tending the fire, but we were lucky to have one. Many didn’t. We also had the generator and I finished writing “The Protectors” dressed in layers of clothing, sandwiching my words between crunching through the ice to get wood and stoking the fire. Although I didn’t write it until a month later, the idea for “The Thaw” rose from the embers of that fire.