Today was a busy one, to say the least. It included a morning trip to Issigeac for their market and basket fair, a trip to a writer demo where I picked up a couple of books from local authors/illustrators, an afternoon pub stop to down a couple of Irish ciders (because I can’t drink regular beer. We did have wine with our lovely supper at le Bastide. I enjoyed pate foie gras, magret de canard (duck) – the local specialty and a tasty creme brulee. I’m going to have to diet when I get home, and no alcohol for at least a week.
No more Sangria for me when I get back either. My sister has spoiled me with it during late nights on the terrace.
So here is my first “wine” excerpt, from my short story, “The Storyteller’s Affliction” – yet to be published anywhere in full:
“As she tore her still beating heart from her chest, the pain was like a thousand teeth, biting into her flesh…”
No, no, no. The editor wouldn’t accept that; she knew it. She started again. Once more the whispers were there.
“It pulsated, scarlet and oozing, in the grip of her hand. The physical agony was as terrible as one would expect, ripping one’s heart from one’s chest, but her grief was suddenly gone.”
Natalie felt sick to her stomach. Every time she tried to write the scene without gore and pain, the whispers interfered. Hours later, she still had nothing presentable. She had written the same few passages several dozen times, each more suitable for some morbid gothic horror novel than a soulfully sad children’s book with a happy hopeful ending. It was nothing like what the editor had asked for.
Refusing to give up and admit defeat, she considered how she might better fight her affliction. Its constant presence had a soul-sucking effect, draining all of the positive energy from her. She had never sunk so low, teetering on the edge of depression herself for the first time in her life. She needed to tone down the imagery it was feeding her, to soften the impact. Once again, she considered Amortravail’s solutions. She never drank when she wrote because it numbed her mind and lessened her creativity, but that would actually improve her current situation, and she did keep wine and spirits in the house.
In the weeks that followed, her attic became a mental battlefield, and her primary weapon was a bottle of amber liquid. Those days and nights blurred together, with Natalie hardly eating or sleeping as she struggled to overcome the man-bird’s influence and write the book that she wanted, rather than the one it would have her create.
I did manage to finish up a short story while I was here, so I have a couple of submissions to make when I get home.
One day left and then I hit the road to head home. I am looking forward to being reunited with my hubby, kids and garden. I will miss my family here and France in general, though. More later
Yesterday was a shopping day for me, which included buying some coffee for a coworker and a t-shirt with a coffee slogan for me. Today is a national holiday here in France so there will be music, good food, wine and fireworks. I expect it will be a fun evening.
This will be my last “coffee” excerpt. I’m revving up for a wine fair this weekend and I am, after all, in wine country, so appropriately, the next one will be “wine”. This one is from my Masters & Renegades novel, Magic University:
Ebon was halfway to his destination when his map slipped away from his telekinetic grasp. This had never happened to him before, but he had also never put such a demand on his physical reach before today. He juggle the map with what little physical force he could still manage to muster, flipping it over so that he could at least memorize its contents.
He continued onwards, abandoning the map face up in the mud. He had not expected this would happen, and knew it meant that he would have to feed, something he rarely felt the inclination to do. This did not please him. Feeding took time and energy, and he had neither.
Arriving at what he believed was his destination, he began his search. He had no trouble locating the leather wallet that contained the token. He could pick out with ease the two glowing magical auras surrounding the purse, and they smelt absolutely heavenly, like the aroma of fresh bread or strong coffee. He salivated at the thought of absorbing all of that sweet, distinctly different energy. The one reminiscent of coffee was harsh and bitter, but strangely satisfying, the other somewhat bland, but slightly sweet and very substantial. That was the only one he intended to feed off of, absorbing what he could as quickly as he could. This was the plan, but once he started, he could not stop.
He had not recognized his hunger, had not realized just how ravenous he had become. He sucked back the spell’s energies, lost in the instinct to feed and absorb. Before he had realized it, he had completely devoured the first spell and had started in on the second. He had lost all track of time, and as the last drop of energy slipped past his ethereal lips, he stretched out, thoroughly satisfied and replenished.
Now I’m off to make myself some lunch. ‘Til next time
We took a stroll this morning down to “Le Cafe d’Arts” today to have a coffee “grande creme” (served with Belgian dark chocolate). The coffee shop is a host to many paintings and handicrafts that are lovely to look at while you sip the frothy brew which our server, Julia, offered up “mild or strong” – I can’t imagine asking for mild, only strong for me.
Today’s excerpt comes from my zombie short story, “Deadline,” and the coffee in it is nothing like the coffee I had this morning:
“Three weeks,” Kimberly muttered, “Shouldn’t have taken three weeks. It made me miss that deadline.”
Before reaching her desk, she would have to pass the coffee machine, Kimberly considered, and she was hankering for a caffeine fix. She was tired from her flight and the one blow to her ego after another was not helping things any. She came to a stop in front of the percolator, which to her surprise was stone cold and filled with a dark sludge that was already growing a fuzzy greenish-white film on the top. She gasped. Clearly, nobody had bothered with the coffee for days. Kimberly knew that she was normally the one to make sure that Kevin had a fresh pot available to him, but she could not imagine the others letting that task fall to neglect, especially not with an eager intern upon whom they could foist such a nuisance. Now she was really puzzled. She put the coffee pot down with an exhalation of disgust and proceeded on to her tiny office empty-handed, past the rows of peon cubicles.
The offices surrounding hers were just as vacant as every other work space that Kimberly had passed along the way. She sat at her desk, pulled out her laptop, and then started going through her Rolodex. She checked her e-mails – still nothing – and then began to call those on the roster of her best and most regular sources of information. Every single call went to voicemail. Nobody was even picking up their cell phones. That or they were screening their calls and ignoring her calls selectively. She fumed.
“I can’t believe these creeps,” she grumbled.
I’ll only be away from the office for just under two weeks, and I’m sure the Keurig will be fine when I get back (thanks Jolene.) Then again, I don’t expect to find my co-workers transformed into zombies either. Hopefully. I’ll have some warning if that’s the case.
One of the things I like best about travelling in France is their amazing coffee, and my mother just gave me a painting she made using coffee as a medium, so my next theme will be one of my favourite things – coffee. I write about it when I can squeeze it into a story. Here’s an excerpt from my zombie coffee story, “Waking the Dead”:
Approaching the counter, Alec noted that someone had erected a new sign. They were offering a special promotion– a free muffin with any purchase of their introductory Haitian blend. Alec approached the display, brow furrowed.
“Haitian blend?” he asked, directing the question at Jeremy. “What Haitian blend? I didn’t know we had a Haitian blend. We already carry a dozen varieties of coffee – why this one?”
One side of the assistant manager’s face curled up in a smile. “I’m grinding the beans as we speak. It was Clyde’s idea. He asked me to come up with something to attract a higher class crowd. We have our share of doddering seniors, bookish old maids and older blue collar workers, but they tend to stick with the house blend and avoid the more profitable specialty coffees. He wanted something to appeal to the younger crowd, and your typical trendy metro–sexuals. I did my research and this is the new in thing.”
“I didn’t even know Haiti grew coffee,” Alec remarked, and then realized with dismay that he had just opened the door to Nora.
“They’ve been growing coffee for a long time,” the slender girl lectured. “And part of the reason it’s trendy around here is because it can help Haiti’s economy recover after being devastated by civil unrest and natural disaster. Of course, they’ve had their issues, like problems with the coffee rust fungus and a lack of consistency. They commonly grow a fairly standard Arabica bean, and a more current type called Haitian Bleu. Jeremy hasn’t told me which type that they’ve used in the new blend.”
“That’s because we haven’t used either,” he teased, holding out the bag that he was loading into the grinder. He thrust his fingers in and drew out a few beans, which he allowed to trickle slowly back into the bag. They were a dark rich red in colour, a sanguine shade.
“Red coffee beans?” Alec observed. “Well, that’s odd.”
And tomorrow, I’m off to the night market here at Eymet where there will be shopping, food, music, and likely coffee, More about my stories and my travels tomorrow – ’til then!
It started off without any problems in Halifax, but that changed the moment I got on the plane. We were informed, once on, that the plane had a minor mechanical issue and we had to wait for parts to come from the hangar, so there would be a slight delay. They were right, but the slight delay of 10-15 minutes was significant with only an hour between connecting flights at Montreal.
Because we arrived late, we had lost our arrival gate, so we had to use stairs onto the tarmac and walk through the rain to the terminal. I then had to sprint across the airport to the departure gate for Paris (and every single moving sidewalk and escalator was out of order/being serviced along the way, which meant dragging my carry on suitcase up the stairs.) They were already boarding when I arrived at the gate, so hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty, I got on my plane.
The plane was unusually hot, but I found my seat and hunkered in – and waited, and baked, and waited some more. They finally announced, after the departure time had come and gone, that they had two problems to fix before we could leave. They had a problem with the water system on board that needed repairs and they were having an issue with auxiliary power (which meant no AC, which is why we were baking). We would have to wait until those things were fixes before departure. At least they were kind enough to allow us to watch movies while we waited and brought water around to make up for the fact that we were cooking in our seats. More than an hour and a half later, we finally left.
The flight was fine, but once again, because we arrived late, we had no arrival gate so we took stairs out of the plane and they bussed us to our terminal. Customs took longer than normal because they were on high security alert. It also meant the Paris airport was filled with armed soldiers. I’ve never seen that many machine guns up close before. They were stopping people at random to check IDs and luggage/purses. One guy stopped me and asked to check my purse, and I happily obliged (and offered up the rest of my carry-on if he wanted to check it, but he was okay with the purse). I booted it to the terminal I had to be at for my flight to Bordeaux and arrived 20 minutes before boarding – once again hot, sweaty, tired and thirsty.
Apparently, the air conditioner wasn’t working properly by the Air France gates because the place was like a sauna. And since they boarded priority flyers first I stood in that for about 40 minutes before getting on the plane. It was a short flight to Bordeaux, 55 minutes, and we got a tiny cup of water that barely wet my mouth. So when we landed I was tired (after about 2 hours sleep), hungry (no food since the night before), and dehydrated.
But despite all the delays, I made it here, on time and in one piece. Everyone along the way was polite and helpful, so I really can’t complain. And I would really rather they make necessary repairs then neglect them and suffer the consequences of that, even if the delays present challenges. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do all this with a teenager who doesn’t like to run in tow, like last year, who also would have complained about being thirsty the entire time (but she does want to come next year).
Now its time to go enjoy France for a few days – so that’s it for now. Back later!
As Sam reached for another branch, these contemplations still in his head, he felt a large hand on his arm. When he turned to look at Nathan, the young man gestured towards the hover
“Hey, little buddy – the first chance we get, you’re going to have to let me teach you how to drive one of those things; Sarah, too. We may stumble across another one, and I’d rather have you or Sarah driving it than one of those Controls. I still don’t trust them, exactly, no matter what Elliot says. And there’s always the chance we could get separated. If that happens, I don’t want you two getting stranded. If any more of the scholars’ men catch up to us, you may need to make a run for it. I wouldn’t want them nabbing you because you couldn’t get away when you had the chance.”
Sam shrugged, physically and mentally. He didn’t really like that idea, but he wasn’t about to argue with Nathan and his good intentions. Nathan had been technically eager from the start, at least as far as the hovers were concerned. He had tried to start one of the vehicles on Fervor after they had been abandoned by the adults on the island, before they had received the Directives at the Gathering forbidding it, and he had almost succeeded without the proper training. Sam, on the other hand, had never been interested in driving a hover. He also had found that even though the Languorite had stripped him of his obligations to follow the Directives, he still faced a slight wave of nausea whenever he had to travel in or even be around one of the vehicles. Conditioning, perhaps.
“We’ll learn,” Sarah agreed. “Even if we don’t really want to – right, Sam? It’s important. In fact, I think the first opportunity that Fiona has, she should teach us how to use any of the devices that she knows how to use. It’s not like we’re restricted by the Directives anymore. We’re free from them now; we have to get used to that, again.”
Just a gentle push, that was Sarah’s way, but that was all it took. Sam wanted to please her, not because he felt compelled to like he had with Francis, but because he wanted to; she deserved his cooperation.
Hopefully my flight will go well. Wish me luck!
As I gather my gear and ready for my trip, I thought I’d share an excerpt where some of my characters are doing the same…only I don’t have to steal any maps. Today’s excerpt is from Transcendence, Chapter 7 – Recruitment:
As soon as Nathan returned, they started out towards the combination storage unit/residence. They travelled in pairs so as not to attract any significant amount of attention, with Sam and Angela leading the way, well ahead of the others and Royce at the rear, glancing over his shoulder as he went.
As they neared the building Sam searched the connection to see if Elaine and Elliot were inside. Fortunately, they weren’t. He and Angela slipped inside and he sent her up into the loft to throw down the storm gear while he searched for the records he knew Elliot had stashed somewhere around. He found them in a crate that had been hidden underneath the table where he had first seen the maps. The maps were no longer spread across the tabletop, stored in a plastic tube off to the side. Sam slid out the one with the route to Transcendence on it before pulling the file box out into the open.
“I hope these are one size fits all,” Angela said as she tossed down her fourth set of gear, trying to move as quickly as possible.
“I don’t think it matters. It might be a problem if they’re too small, maybe for Malcolm and Nathan, but otherwise we’ll rig them to fit,” he answered.
He flipped through the records, pulling out the files relating to everyone in his alliance, as well as for Katrina, Anthony and Grace. Then he noticed that Elliot had added to the collection. There were files about the Littles and various house families, information that Royce had retrieved from the Hub. Sam grabbed anything relating to the people in his alliance that was in those files as well. He didn’t get a chance to read any of it, because of the rush, but he thought it might be useful later.
“One more,” Angela informed him. “Then we pack it all up and we’re out of here. In and out, clean as…” She paused in mid-thought, and Sam didn’t think anything of it, partially because he had just made a discovery that had him perturbed.
“The blueprints, they’re gone! We need those. They show the layout of the buildings. They can let us see the security systems. How are we supposed to get Sarah out of Transcendence without them? They were here, with the other files. Where did they go?” Sam leafed through the papers a second time, searching frantically, but to no avail. He started to go through the entire box again, hoping that the records had been reorganized or maybe shuffled around for some reason. That proved futile as well.
“Sam…” He heard Angela descending from the loft, but didn’t stop long enough to look at her.
“I saw them with my own eyes at Elevation. Where could they have gone?” He was tempted to dump the entire box out onto the floor. He was certain that they hadn’t been left behind.
“Never mind them; we’ll just have to wing it. Be quiet, Sam. We have to go, we have to…” He heard rustling as Angela hastily shoved what she had gathered from the loft into a canvas bag, but she stopped suddenly and sucked in a quiet gasp. “Oh no.”
She had sensed trouble before she had heard it, which was why she had alerted Sam to danger a few moments before he would have known it was there by other means. When he stopped rustling through the papers he could make out the sound of voices raised in hostility. He felt around in the connection, easily identifying Nathan, Malcolm and Royce. He detected anger, frustration and defensiveness on their part along with some apprehension. He also noted the distinct presence of Elliot, the lone Connected latent, and one of the ghostly minds he suspected belonged to Elaine. Their diversionary tactics were in play.
That’s it for today. I’m that much closer to my departure to France. I’m looking forward to seeing family and the beautiful sights of Eymet. – More tomorrow.
I have a busy summer, with extra jugger, gardening, swimming/beach trips, vacations and overtime at work all added to my plate. I thought this year, I might start regular posts of excerpts matching a theme – so I don’t end up with huge gaps between posts. Since I’m revving up for a trip out of country, I thought I’d start with a theme of “travel.”
My first excerpt, from my novel “Sleep Escapes Us” come from Chapter 4 – Refuge:
Zelmis spent many days weaving his way through the forest as fast as he could manage, in order to make his way back to Gil-Doba. He still had hopes of stealing back his Alina, without getting caught and punished for his crimes. Not that he expected Dentys to mistreat her, but the longer he waited, the more likely the peltast would be lurking in ambush for him when he arrived, or even worse – Muka would be there to confront him. At the moment, that was Zelmis’s greatest fear.
He worried that even with the hastiest approach, he would arrive too late. The peltast would have the advantage of travelling by horseback and they would not have to worry about where they would find food, drink and shelter for the night, all citizens obliged to provide them with hospitality when asked for it. Zelmis had to journey on foot, often having to deal with near impassable terrain, and sometimes having to stop to seek out running water or to take shelter from inclement weather.
Fortunately, Zelmis had two regular permanent shelters in the woods in which he lived during the hunting season, one located fairly close to the Bucagi Mountains. That allowed him to shuck off the bloodied ceremonial clothing that he had been forced to wear for the sacrifice and change into some spare winter garb he kept for colder temperatures. Travelling in them would be uncomfortable, he would perspire heavily and risk overheating because the weather was still quite mild, but better that than exposing himself for his crimes by walking about wearing Zalmoxis’s blood. As long as no one identified him as the man who had been selected in the lottery, he would not be turned in to the peltast.
He also kept spare weaponry in his shelters, and gathered up one of his extra spears as well as a bow and a quiver of arrows. That allowed him to keep himself fed along the way; otherwise he would have succumbed to hunger long before reaching Gil-Doba. He made do with as little as he could to get by, each hunting effort presenting a delay in his rush to get home. By the time he did arrive at his village, he looked like a wild-man, as ungroomed and as haunted as Cerzula, and leaner than he typically was – not that he was a large man to begin with.
Zelmis smelled the smoke in the air while he was still quite a distance from Gil-Doba and he could see a glow through the foliage and hear the screams before he broke through the trees. He did not go into the village, but merely hovered by the tree-line, watching the chaos erupting in the settlement and observing with shock and horror. Someone was attacking Gil-Doba.
The first thing that Zelmis wondered, as his heart sank into his stomach, was if what he had done had somehow been the cause of all of this. Without the support of Zalmoxis behind the troops from Gatae and the surrounding regions, they might have fallen before the enemy, who were now infiltrating the spaces within their borders. If that were the case though, he was surprised that they would have already made it to Gil-Doba, a very central location.
The second and much more painful notion that crossed the hunter’s mind was that the raiders may have already reached and invaded Muka’s home, raping Dentys and killing the children. He reminded himself of Cerzula’s words, that he was to give the scroll she had given him to Alina upon his death-bed and that he would see her grow to maturity. As long as the seer’s foresight held true, his daughter was alive, and he would see her again.
He had to choke back a sob at the thought, withdrawing into the bush as some of the flames surged before him, fanned by the wind. He was convinced that he had to reach Alina now more than ever, if only to make sure that she was safe. Just because she would live to adulthood did not mean she was not at risk of suffering horribly at the hands of the enemy.
I’ll try to post one of these every day – even on my own travels. That’s all for now.