Friday, February 27, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - In The Mountains

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 6

They paused now and again, mostly to give the horses a breather after a steep climb. When the slope was not severe, they went on slowly, at a pace everyone could manage. The humans ate when they could, but there was nothing for the horses. Past midday, Francisco called for the men, Edric included, to dismount to ease the burden on the beasts. Dom Francisco protested, but weakly, as if he realized the wisdom of saving his breath for the climb. Although the captain pointedly excluded the women, Kyria got off and insisted she was strong enough to lead her horse.

“That way,” she explained to Francisco, as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world, “if 
 Alayna’s horse needs a rest, she can ride mine.” With those words, she took the reins and headed uphill, taking her place behind Timas.

Edric led his horse beside her, for the trail here was wide enough for two animals to walk abreast. “That was a kind thought, but hardly necessary. Neither you nor your sister are stout enough to pose much of a burden.”

“That is as it may be,” she replied with a hint of tartness, as if she were quoting someone else, “but is hardly the point.”

“What is the point, then?”

“Can you not guess?” She glanced at him, mischief hovering at the corners of her eyes. “I have not been waited on and pampered all my life, and I do not intend to begin now.”

My promised husband – Edric, caught off his guard, heard her thought in his mind – will doubtless try to turn me into a beribboned plaything, but he will not succeed!

“I – excuse me, damisela,” Edric stammered, quickly slamming his laran barriers closed.

“Why, whatever for?” She gave him a curious look, as if she too had sensed the moment of their rapport, but had not known what to make of it.

Thinking fast, he replied, “For joining ranks with those who would pamper you.”

She laughed, a sound that rang through him like silvery bells. “You have not offended me, or if you have, it is not for that!”

“How have I offended you, lady?”

“By asking too many questions.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tajji Diaries: More Progress

Tajji dreaming
It’s been a few months since I’ve posted our adventures in rehabilitating our retired service dog. Tajji, a 10 ½ year old German Shepherd Dog, could no longer perform seeing eye work due to extreme reactivity to other dogs and sometimes strange people. We’ve had her a year now, and most of that time has been spent working on making her retirement calm and happy.

When Tajji came to live with us, she was not accustomed to cats, although we suspect she had been exposed to them in her pre-training foster home. Our two dog-savvy cats, black male Shakir and brown-tabby-and-white Gayatri, patiently taught her “cat manners.” She in turn taught them fun games. Shakir in particular will invite play with her and the two of them romp about the house. Tajji will gently place a paw on Shakir’s back and he must not mind terribly, because he never hisses or lays his ears back. We haven’t found them curled up together yet, but they often sleep within inches of each other. On the few occasions that Gayatri has escaped the house, Tajji has happily “herded” her back. (Since our neighborhood is also home to coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion, we keep our cats indoors.)

One source of stress for Tajji was the entrance of human visitors into our yard. We put up a sign on the back gate, asking folks to ring the hanging bell or call us so that we could settle Tajji in her crate before letting them in. After some practice, Tajji became comfortable just being in the house. Recently, we have found her sitting inside the gate when a friend (or sometimes she’s never met) comes to call, politely waiting to be introduced. Her greeting skills have improved, too. Since she knows “touch,” we ask the visitor to hold one hand at their side, palm out. We tell Tajji, “Touch,” and the moment she does, we call her back for a treat. She now understands that it is not okay to jump on people, although if she gets excited, she will jump sideways in front of them.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - Caring For Horses

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord, Chapter 5

Francisco chuckled. “You seem to have some skill in healing, my friend. Can I presume upon you further to make sure none of our horses has taken hurt from hard travel in the snow? One of them was moving stiffly for some hours, although the rider can find nothing amiss with its hooves.” Here, as throughout Darkover, men tended to the needs of their beasts before seeing to their own comfort.

Edric answered that he would be glad to help. He pulled on his jacket and thick woolen cloak from where they hung on pegs beside the door. Geraldo, a silent man who took charge of the animals, had found a lantern, and the two of them went out to the lean-to. The body heat of the animals had already warmed the air, and the place smelled of the grain that had been stored there as fodder. The guards had already performed the basic, essential care of picking out hooves and rubbing salve on withers rubbed bare.

After a few minutes, Edric relaxed his laran barriers. He had no special empathy with animals, as the Ridenow and MacArans were said to possess, but his early training as a monitor allowed him to sense disruptions in the energy flow of living things. When he bent to inspect the legs and feet of the horse that Francisco indicated, he reached out with his psychic senses as well, probing for deeper injuries that might not yet manifest, even to a trained horseman. One of the horses, better suited to pack work than carrying a grown man, which it clearly had, and over long distances, flinched very slightly when he pressed hard along its back. If he had been alone or with a group of leroni, trained in Tower ways, Edric would have used his starstone to sharpen his senses and amplify the power of his mind. But he didn’t know these people or their purposes. While trail truce might hold while they were snowbound, that did not compel their silence. A single, ordinary traveler might pass with little remark, but a trained telepath, wielding a matrix with skill…no, he dared not draw that kind of attention to himself. Aldaran was still a long way off.

“I think this fellow’s a bit saddle-sore,” Edric remarked, giving the horse a pat on the neck. The horse swung its bony head around, regarding him with a dark, liquid eye, as if to say, You can’t fool me. I know what you are.

“There’s a supply of herbs in the shelter,” Edric went on. “I’ll make up a heating mixture.” When Francisco raised an eyebrow skeptically, as if to ask how a poultice was going to remain on the horse’s back for any length of time, Edric elaborated, “I’ll massage it in every couple of hours.”

“Surely one of my men can do that…sir.”

“I’ll move my gear out here and sleep above the hay rick. It’ll be warm enough.” Edric kept his tone light.  The unspoken fact hung between them, that Dom Ruyven would be more comfortable without his presence.  As for himself, the less time he spent in the company of strangers, the less chance he would be remarked upon and his identity revealed.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Behold, The Ruby Seadragon!

2015 is shaping up to be an amazing year for paleontological discoveries, but also of new contemporary species. This one is just too glorious to miss. It's a new species of seadragon, which look like seahorses but are larger. Until now, only two species were known -- now there is a third, a delight to the fantasy lover as well as the marine biologist.

The photo was taken by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. You can read more about the discovery here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Middle Earth's Calligrapher

Daniel Reeve, who did the beautiful maps and calligraphy for Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, displays his work on his website.

If you click under Fonts, you will find not only samples but one you can purchase.

Calligraphy by Daniel Reeve


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Auntie Deborah Advises…Dating Advice

 Dear Auntie,

After way too many experiences dating angsty, unemployed vampires, I finally met a nice, soft-spoken, polite man. He even has a fairly normal name, Norman. He even has a job, working at a motel. Things were going very well when I realized something was a little “off.” I wonder if that’s my own projection from my past romantic relationships. How do I know what’s normal? Anyway, he’s invited me to meet his mother. What should I bring?
— Buffy

Dear Buffy,

You are wise to trust your instincts, for they have served you well through many perils. All too often, women are trained to ignore our gut feelings about a person or situation.  We allow ourselves to be persuaded into dangerous circumstances instead of standing up for ourselves. Norman may be what he seems, but he may harbor a darker side that your intuition is warning you about.

My advice is to come prepared for anything. Never mind flowers or a bottle of wine! Bring your slayer arsenal — stakes, spears, swords, the works — and keep your wits about you. Make sure you have an exit strategy if things go sour. And whatever you do, do not get into the shower.

— Auntie Deborah