Jamie DeBree, Writer

Action. Adventure. Romance.
The Variety Pages by Jamie DeBree

Talkin' Books: April 23, 2014

Books Finished: 

Books In Progress: 

Short Fiction: 

Comic Books:
Sandman Overture #2
Superior Spider-man #30 / Black Widow #1

Still slow on the reading front, unfortunately, but I've been busy with...well, lots of things lately, and I'll freely admit that the books I'm working on are good, but they just aren't the kind of "page turners" that make me want to get back to them as fast as possible. So I get to them when I get to them, or when I have a few minutes at lunch, etc.

Rescue Me is a good solid romantic suspense. It didn't really pull me in all that tightly, but it was good as far as entertainment goes. I actually felt it was a little longer than it needed to be - tightening up the action and picking up the pace would have kept me reading faster, but that's just personal preference.

I got a few more chapters read in Neverwhere, and I'm hoping to finish it this weekend. I love the henchmen, but honestly, I'm not terribly invested in the main characters, and I think that's why I've got sort of a take it or leave it approach going on with it. I'll admit, the Rollins adventure that's waiting for me to finish this has a stronger appeal to me, but I do want to finish Neverwhere to see how the story ends.

Haven't gotten back to Tatterdemon yet...I will, eventually.

As a quick little side-trip after finishing Rescue Me, I read Once Upon A New Year's Eve by Kait Nolan. It's a cute, quick little story easily read in a half-hour or so, perfect for waiting at the salon or something. I enjoyed it, and it's a good way to sample Kait's work (I enjoyed her first paranormal romance too).

And look! I made time for comic books this week! I made sure to be coherant while reading the second issue of Sandman Overture, and it made a lot more sense than the first. Actually, this one was quite interesting, what with a lot of personality fragmentation going on. And of course the artwork is pretty amazing, so I'll look forward to picking up the next issue as well.

Superior Spiderman...hmm. I'm not really sure how I feel about this one, because Ock's personality just changed on a dime, and it really just seemed rather sudden and out of character. I don't want to spoil it for anyone (though I get them late, so odds are if you were going to read it, you probably have), but I guess I could even say I was a little disappointed. I don't know. We'll see how the next one goes with Parker back in charge as to whether I'll continue on with the new Amazing Spider-man series or not. I may need a little grieving time for the whole anti-hero storyline...

Black Widow #1 was included in the SS #30 issue, so I read that too. I'm not fond of the art style for that one...kind of an impressionistic watercolor "thing", but I enjoyed the story itself, and the characterization. Might pick up the second one just to see how it goes.

This Saturday I've got a trip to the comic book store planned, because my Batman Eternal comics should be in up to #3. Yay! I think there's a new Harley Quinn out too. Double Yay! Should be a good reading week if I can get caught up on my other "chores"...


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On Projects, Gadgets & Spring Fever...

Weekly To-Do List

Last week was weird. I was both productive and not. Unfortunately, my bouts of productivity weren't on the projects it should have been, leaving me...well, with less important things done and more important things not. This week really has to be better, because those important things really need to be finished. Yesterday. 

Chief among the projects-that-must-be-finished are getting all the book links moved from the online store to the BSB site, and finishing up/shipping out a crochet project I'm working on. I also really need to do cover art and editing for my next release (which is already several weeks late), and I have an audio book that is finished, I just need to do the final proofing so it can be released too. So that's what I'll be working heavily on for the next few nights - along with the spring yard cleaning that I should have started this weekend (holiday festivities both days pretty much nixed any notions of that, unfortunately). 

There are a couple of bright spots in the week, however. The first one is pretty simple. I broke my favorite "brazen snake" watch last week, and today (Sunday), I was actually able to get my solar-powered watch up and working again (I had a hard time keeping it charged up the winter I tried, so I sort of gave up on it). I think I have a lamp that will keep it sufficiently charged now, so long as I remember to put it there every night. We'll see how that goes. I really do like the watch, so I hope I can keep it working now, at least for awhile.

In other gadgety news, I'm getting a MiFi wireless hotspot this week. It's on the way, and should be delivered Tuesday, after which I'll be able to jump online pretty much anytime, anywhere I want to. Fun, eh! I'm really looking forward to it - I think it'll be very handy. 

The weather's finally starting to trend toward spring, and I'm ready. And not ready. I'm anxious to get outside for awhile and start working in the yard again, but I also have a list of things to do inside (and/or at the computer) a mile long. So I have mixed feelings, but the spring fever thing is definitely there, and regardless of all the stuff I have to work on, I'm determined to get outside for at least a half-hour tomorrow night while it's nice. Fresh air is good! And I really want to get the patio cleaned up this spring so that this summer, while hubby's working in his shop and the dogs are outside, I can be out working at the patio table too. It only seems fair.

In any case, it's late (12:30am on Monday now), and I'm tired from all the socializing this weekend. So off to bed with me, and I hope you all have a wonderful week!
 

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 15

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 15

Katie slept late the next day, and spent the rest of her time in the kitchen, doing her best to burn, freeze, contaminate or otherwise ruin every piece of potentially edible food she was given. By the time her sorry attempts at dinner were finally laid out on the massive table in the dining room, she was exhausted, frustrated and pretty sure that letting Peter roast her on a spit would be preferable to stepping foot inside a kitchen for anything other than wine ever again.
Wilting into her chair, she sipped at her goblet of mead while waiting for Thomas, fighting to keep her eyes open in the calm, dimly-lit room.

She must have dozed off at some point, because the next thing she knew, someone was tapping her shoulder and cool liquid was soaking through the jeans Zariah had given her to wear, a thin stream running across her thigh.

Jolting upright, she blinked up at Thomas’s amused expression as he reached out to steady the goblet in her hand.

“I’m sorry to wake you,” he said, a sultry tone in his voice that caught her interest far more than it should. “But we need to eat, so we can discuss the plan and begin our journey.”

“It’s okay,” she said, trying to shake off the longing to close her eyes just for a little while longer. “Sorry I fell asleep. I must have been more tired than I thought.”

She righted herself in the chair, wincing at a sore spot across the left side of her ribs where she’d leaned into the chair arm. Setting the goblet on the table, she glanced at the platters, expecting her inedible dregs to have been transformed into a feast for the senses as it had the two nights before.

Her humiliation was complete when she noted that everything was exactly as it had been when she set it down. Dull gray potatoes, sliced beef that was either crispy black on the outside or bloody on the inside and both, in some cases, though she wasn’t quite sure how, limp overcooked carrots and broccoli, and a bowl of pudding the cook had assured her would set up later.

It hadn’t.

“We can’t eat this,” she said, gesturing at the food. “I don’t understand. Why isn’t the magic working?”

He sat down, reaching for his trencher as she watched in horror.

“Performing a task you don’t do well was your personal sacrifice. It proves your humility and determination. Now I must accept that sacrifice in its raw form to complete the contract for aid between us.”

Katie wrinkled her nose. “I’m really sorry. Maybe I could try again...”

Thomas shook his head and calmly chewed a piece of meat, holding up one finger. She waited as he ate one bite of every frightful dish she’d screwed up, knowing she couldn’t do it though her stomach was starting to complain. Loudly.

He finished the last bite as she watched, and then pointed to the table. She sighed in relief as she watched her ugly dishes transform into works of edible art.

“So that’s it?” she said, helping herself quickly lest everything change back. “Sacrifice accepted, we’re good to go?”

He chuckled, filling his own plate as well. “Yes. As soon as we finish here, we’ll travel to your home, and vanquish your enemy there.”

She frowned. “Why can’t we just vanquish him out in the woods? Why does it have to be at my house? My neighbors might not appreciate that.”

“Eat,” Thomas said. “I’ll explain what you need to know as we travel, but we should leave soon.”  
 

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On Taxes, Tea, & Journaling...





The photo above is my weekend in a visual nutshell. Coke, wine, tea, taxes/accounting, crocheting, and a trip to the comic book store. There was a little cleaning in there too, but I was fairly certain no one would be interested in seeing my vacuum, the food I cleaned out of the fridge/cupboards or my dirty laundry. You're welcome. 

The tax thing is a yearly ordeal only because I tend to put off bookkeeping until the last minute for my book business (ironic, no?), and then end up doing it all at once. Unfortunately, I had to declare a loss this year, which I was really hoping not too, since the government doesn't look all that kindly on businesses that spend more money than they make. It wasn't a huge loss, but still...enough that I'm going to have to make some spending cuts because I *have* to make a profit next year. I've been starting to do that anyways, but the next one's going to be a big one - I'm closing the BSB online store. Very few people actually buy from there - and I understand that it's because we're all comfortable buying from whatever big name retailer we're most familiar with. I get it. It makes sense. So I'm closing my store and instead revamping my publisher site to include links to all major retailers from genre-specific book pages. It'll work just as well as the store, and cost a lot less. 

And then I'll be able to use some of that money for smarter advertising. More giveaways, for sure. Which will also be good, and fun for readers. It's a win-win all around. 

As for the overall taxes, we normally owe the feds and get a refund from the state that just covers what we owe. This year, being in a lower tax bracket due to job changes, we owe the feds much less, and our refund from the state will cover it several times over. Not bad, if I do say so myself! 

Now if I could just keep up with the bookkeeping monthly this year instead of leaving it all for next March...which is what I always say, of course... 

In other groovy news, I joined the Steepster Select monthly tea club and got my first shipment this week. So this weekend, I tried one of the teas called Red Jade (it's actually a black tea made from a hybrid tea plant crossing a wild tea bush with an Assam tea bush). It's been so long since I had really high-quality tea, and I really enjoyed this one. Left a review on Steepster and everything. I'm really looking forward to trying the other teas included, and those to come. Incidentally, Steepster is a social community for tea lovers. Feel free to join me there

If you clicked through to my weekly to-do list at the top, you'll see that I've added a goal to start journaling again this week. My journaling is sporadic (to say the very least) and has been all my life. Normally I journal only when I'm trying to work something(s) out in my head that I feel it's better to keep to myself rather than talking to other people about. It's also a way to "purge" them so I'm not constantly worrying them while trying to focus on other things. It's self-therapy, really...and no, nothing's "super-duper" wrong or anything, I've just been doing a lot of thinking lately about my goals in life, personally & professionally, and need a way to noodle them out without involving another human party.

To that end,  I downloaded Smart Diary 4 (my preferred digital journal software...there's a free version, both installed and portable (for usb drives), and paid versions that do more stuff. And no, I don't keep paper journals anymore. People have a way of finding and reading them on me no matter how well they're hidden, and I'm not up for making myself that vulnerable.

So the goal is one journal entry per day this week. I need to find a good time to schedule for that, or I won't do it - probably late nights before bed. We'll see...

Other than that, lots of writing and business stuff this week, and of course the holiday hoopla next weekend for Easter. To dye eggs or not to dye eggs...that is the question...


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 14

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 14

Katie knew she was going the wrong direction when she left Thomas. She was curious as to whether or not he’d let her go, and a little peeved when he didn’t call her back. Whatever he had to do must be important, but she’d hoped to buy herself a little more time, maybe coax the final task for breaking free of the curse from him.

Seemed like if it was dangerous, it would be a good story, at least. And certainly something she’d rather avoid.

The old hall was narrow and drafty, the dim light flickering from torches mounted on the walls. She wasn’t yet tired, and she didn’t remember seeing this part of the manor, so she decided to continue following the lovely stone walls for awhile, just to explore. The manor was basically a large rectangle, so theoretically the hall would eventually end where it started, or so she assumed.
Reaching out, she trailed her fingertips along the cool wall, surprised to feel a slight dampness coating her skin. She rubbed her fingers together, smelled them, an old, earthy moss and soil fragrance bringing to mind the old English moors she’d often heard about.

“The stone absorbs moisture from our surroundings. In the right conditions, it releases it again.”

Zariah’s soft voice behind her made Katie jump, and she whirled around, one hand to her chest as her heart beat fast within.

“You scared me! Why didn’t you make noise or something?”

Zariah smiled. “It wasn’t my intention to scare you, Ms. Watson. I intended only to make sure you didn’t have to spend another night in the library.”

Katie rolled her eyes and dropped her hand, walking beside her hostess as they continued down the hall.

“Thank you for that,” she said, taking a deep breath, this time able to smell the lighter nuances she’d just sampled from the wall. “There aren’t really any bogs or wetlands here to speak of, so why do the walls smell more like moss?”

Zariah glanced sideways at her, and then shrugged.

“The manor isn’t bound to a single place, or time, for that matter. If our aid is requested, we are bound in that place until the threat has been dealt with, or the request is rescinded. But we never know who will come through our door next, or in what time/place we will...be.”

Katie frowned. “That’s not possible.” Zariah merely raised her eyebrows, her head cocked to the side until Katie conceded.

“Then again, it’s not possible to make my cooking edible either. And gargoyles don’t turn into men or vice versa.” She brought her hands up to rub her face, her mind stretching and failing to make sense of any of it. “I think it’s time I got some sleep. Just thinking about this is enough to make me crazy.”

Katie felt a light touch on her shoulder, and a sense of peace radiated out, easing the ache in her neck and down her back.

“Your room is just up ahead on the right.” Zariah walked with her to the door, and waited until Katie pushed it open. “Should you need anything at all, pull the rope by the bed. Rest well, Katie Watson. Tomorrow night after dinner, you and Thomas will begin your journey.”    


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Talkin' Books: April 9, 2014

Books Finished: 

Books In Progress: 

Short Fiction: 
None

Comic Books:
Superman Unchained #6
Wolverine #002
Origin II #2 & #3


So...Wednesdays are new comic book days (much like Tuesdays are new prose book days, unless you're me, in which case release day generally happens on a Friday. Because I'm odd like that.). Nothing new in my regular series this week, but...

I want the new Batman Eternal series - the first one is out this week. But...it's weekly, for 1 year, and...man oh man. That's $12 a month for just one series! Ouch. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Give up one of my other series? Not happening. But still...want! *sigh* Cruel, evil comic book people. I need to sell more books to make up the difference. Better get writing, eh?

In any case, I caught up with some comic book reading this week, and I have to say, still loving Superman Unchained even if I did have to wait what seemed like a really long time for this issue. The artwork is just amazing, as I've mentioned before, but the story's pulling me in deeper too. Good stuff, all around...I'm looking forward to the next two.

The new Wolverine series isn't exactly grabbing me...not sure I'll continue with that one. But the Origin II series is better than the reviews have let on, IMO. The drawings are a bit more traditional than the super-bright newer stuff, but I think that really suits the character and story better...and I love the way Wolverine is drawn in this set. I also like the more feral nature in this Origin story...I really need to get the collected Origin I, I think. I know he's gone through a lot in the newer arcs, what with losing his healing abilities and all, but somehow the emotional conflict just isn't...where it should be, IMO.

As for straight prose, I got a couple chapters deeper into Neverwhere, and am still finding that fascinating. My print TBR pile is growing by leaps and bounds at the moment, so I really should get that finished - there's a Rollins book waiting, for crying out loud!

Rescue Me took a somewhat odd twist that I'm not sure I'm completely on board with, but we'll see. Certainly not odd enough to make me stop reading (though when it happened, I did stop for that day, because it just seemed so...abrupt. But I'm making progress again and not minding it now, so there's that.

Obviously I didn't finish anything other than comic books this week - I've been a bit busy trying to talk myself into doing bookkeeping instead of reading late at night (which until last night translated into watching music videos on YouTube until bedtime - and I still did a little of that as a reward for the bookkeeping insanity). But I feel a reading binge coming on soon. Just as soon as I get those pesky taxes out of the way...


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On Clogged Drains, Priorities & Spring Cleaning...


I can hear you groaning out there as you read the title of this post. "Oh no!" the readers cry. "She's in one of those introspective moods again! Quick! Someone stop her before she analyzes The World!" 

To which I reply, "Dude. Easy on the exclamation points. No need to get all dramatic just because I used the 'P' word. Seriously." 

Yes, it is Monday, but it's crazy early (as in 12:15am), and I'm tired and waiting for my laundry to dry before I can go to bed. The laundry's going rather late because our basement drain got clogged up last weekend, and I had to wait for Draino and a couple small loads to do their thing before I could put in a decently-sized one. Ah, domestic life. It doesn't get much more mundane than that, does it? 

But yes, I have had a lot of time to think this weekend...mostly during long crochet sessions wherein I was working on two sets of baby booties on special order. They've already been paid for, so I'd like to get them done and shipped out as soon as possible, but Saturday I had a bit of a tug-of-war with myself, and the writer side won. Two hours later I wasn't one stitch farther along on my crochet project, but I had a 900 word start to a novel that I think will be really good when it's done. 

After that, I crocheted for another couple of hours, went to Captain America on the big drive-in screen, and did my nails. Sunday after chores I...yes, you guessed it. I crocheted most of the day, taking breaks only for housework & food. I got two booties mostly done, and one more closer to done. If it's light enough in the evenings this week, I'll finish the last two, otherwise they'll have to wait for the weekend.

A lot of that time I spent thinking about priorities - writing vs...everything else. Book biz vs life. Book biz vs. actual writing. And the amount of time/energy I have to put into all of those different things, vs. how much I *want* to put into those things given the risks/possible rewards. Yes, I over-think a lot, and yes, I have plenty of doubts & fears swirling around in my head (that's not abnormal for creatives, it's status quo). But I try to push the emotional crap aside and look at things as logically as I can before making decisions. I'm actually pretty good at that - my personality lends itself well to stepping outside myself and seeing things from a more objective point of view.

In any case, long story slightly shorter, I made some decisions about the business side of my writing that I'm not particularly happy with, but I can live with for now given the circumstances and how I want my priorities to shake out at this point in my life. And obviously I'll still be writing/publishing, so nothing too dire (couldn't stop writing if I tried, honestly), just nothing that will help me get ahead either. And that's okay...for now. The important thing is that I can continue to write/share my work, and that won't change anytime soon. I'll write up a post for the business blog later this week with more detail. "Streamlining" is my word of the week.

I guess you could say I'm sort of "spring cleaning"...just in a planning/organizational sense. Though with the weather getting nicer finally, I'm itching to start some physical spring cleaning too. Right after I get our taxes done next weekend. Which entails catching up the business books once and for all this week... *sigh* 

Incidentally, I'm "spring cleaning" my finances/budget too. Streamlining costs, banks, debt payoffs, investments...everything is getting an overhaul. It's important to do that once in awhile, I think, even if just to be very much aware of where the money's going/where it needs to go for future goals. And how to make sure there's still enough left over to play a little, too.

And with that, my laundry should be about done, so I'm off to get it folded/hung, and then to bed. Here's to a warm, sun-shiny Monday for us all!


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 13

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 13

Thomas hesitated just long enough that he could hear Katie’s footsteps behind him on the stairs before continuing to the bottom. He hoped she wouldn’t press him for details, because he had no intention of telling her the final requirement to earn his freedom. He’d made that mistake a several times in the beginning, and each time what felt all too real had turned out to be cruel tricks that resulted dashed hopes and painful consequences.

In the last case, it had cost a woman her life.

After that, he’d vowed to remain a ward of the castle for eternity, or until the Dunning brothers finally broke their curse. He would not willingly see another woman suffer on his behalf.

“It must have been bad,” Katie commented as she joined him in the hall. He peered down into her insightful gaze and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“What’s that?”

She didn’t buy his innocent act, he knew. But perhaps if he parried enough, she’d grow tired of the game.

She shook her head, disappointment in her eyes. “Whatever happened the last time you tried to complete the second part of your penance.” She stepped closer, raising a hand cup the side of his face. “You think you can hide it behind that stone facade of yours, but the pain and fear are etched into those little lines beside your eyes.”

He moved away, her gentle caress too exquisite to bear. She let him, cocking her head to the side - a gesture he found far too endearing.

“If you won’t tell me the requirement, at least tell me what happened. If there’s a chance it could happen to me, I think I deserve to know.” 

Thomas shook his head and looked her in the eyes. “You will not be affected by the curse beyond the assistance you require. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some preparations to make in advance of tomorrow evening. You can find your way back to your room, I trust?”

Katie nodded. “Go ahead. I promise I won’t get lost.”

She turned and walked away in the opposite direction from her quarters. He almost stopped her, but Zariah appeared from a doorway further down the hall and nodded to him. She’d make sure Katie found her way.

He went down to the main floor and through the kitchen to the basement stairs, and descended into the dungeons. The stone and iron cells hadn’t housed prisoners for centuries, but served instead as storage for clothing, tools and weaponry collected throughout the years. Thomas wasn’t sure where it all came from, and Zariah wouldn’t say, but occasionally he availed himself of a modern tool or weapon to dispatch an enemy.

This time, however, he made his way to the very last cell in the row. Stepping inside, he found the items he needed and carried the lot upstairs to his temporary quarters. By this time tomorrow, the requirements for assistance would be met, and he would escort Katie to her home.

Then the battle would begin.  


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On Doing Too Much, Newsletters & Other Mundane Stuff...


So...blah on this whole winter thing. I'm over it. I want sunshine, and warmth, and green grass and my tulips, who have been snowed on twice now since they came up, and I fear they aren't going to bloom at all this year, poor things.

Last week was semi-productive, but also very introspective, and I had to admit that once again, I'm trying to do too much. I had this awesome idea to add a short story to every monthly newsletter, but then I got hung up on the story for the newsletter, and before long, I was getting behind on all my other writing. And since I'm pretty strict on making sure the serial chapters get done every week (and I have four serial stories to stay on top of, one of which was on hiatus for a couple weeks), I'm also working on a couple of other drafts "behind the scenes" that I really, really want to finish this year. And that's not going to happen if I don't ditch the whole newsletter short story idea and just stick to the plan I made at the beginning of the year.

It sucks to have to do that, but while some writers have no issue getting up early to lay down a few words before work and/or coming home afterwards and putting in several hours of writing per night, that's just not how I want my life to be sculpted. I need variety, I need down time, I need time to work on the business side of things, and I need time away from the screen altogether. So basically what I'm saying is, I'm not dedicated enough to make writing my whole life outside of work. And for those who might think I'm being "down" on my self, fear not -  I'm perfectly okay with that decision, though I realize it's not a popular one among the more driven set.

No one's ever accused me of being a workaholic (doing too much, yes, but rarely of just one thing - which is good, IMO). 

In any case, I've decided the newsletters will contain excerpts from things I've been working on through the month rather than a complete short story, and that will have to be enough for now. I need to rein myself in, so to speak, and focus. I'm kind of hoping that if I do that, I'll be able to get ahead on the serial stories as well, and finish them faster than they appear online...which will be handy in the fall when I tend to be busier overall.

Planning ahead. I know, I know...novel idea (pun totally intended).

I spent most of my weekend crocheting (got another order for baby booties, and got those partially done) and Sunday was my mother-in-law's birthday, so we celebrated that, and I contemplated all the stuff I had to do while doing pretty much nothing last night (I finally picked up my knitting just to feel productive for an hour). Some days are like that...just gotta roll with 'em.

This week I have another full schedule - lots to do at work, lots of writing to catch up on, a new serial story to start, a print book to format and upload, and those booties to finish so I can get them sent off. But it shouldn't be a particularly stressful week, just busy, and ultimately satisfying if I can check all that off the list.

Of course, I do need to start thinking about taxes soon...which means there's a *lot* of bookkeeping in my immediate future... *sigh*

Once more into the fray, dear friends. Glad to have you along with me.
 

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 12

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Enjoy!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 |

Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 12

Katie took his hand, noting how smooth and cool the firm skin felt against her palm. Like a fleshy rock of sorts. Would the rest of him feel the same, she wondered as he led her out of the dining room? Her cheeks heated as it occurred to her that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Too much mead. Undoubtedly. Scary how quickly she was taking to the odd drink.

They went down the hall and through a narrow stone arch that led to an even narrower flight of stairs. The steps were slippery, worn smooth over the centuries and the lack of any handrail made it imperative to pay attention as she placed her feet.

Which was why she plowed into her personal gargoyle’s firm behind with her head when he stopped, presumably at the top.

“Sorry about that,” she mumbled, backing down a couple steps and thanking her lucky stars for the dim light coming in narrow windows so he couldn’t see her flaming face.

His deep chuckle echoed through the small space. “I’d wager ‘tis better for you to watch your own feet than my backside.” He stepped over a threshold and turned, holding a wooden door open for her as she stopped just short of following him outside.

“Is it safe? I mean, is Peter...”

He shook his head. “We’re on the roof of the mansion. I assure you, your nemesis can’t reach you here.”   

Nerves made her shake slightly as she stepped out onto the graveled surface. She trusted Thomas, but her body hadn’t quite caught up with her brain and still remembered the tug-of-war all too clearly. Crossing her arms over her chest, she tried to will herself to calm the heck down with lackluster results.

“This way,” Thomas said, turning to the left. “Alfred and Dornin are at the front of the building.”

The center of the roof was taken up by large raised garden beds, where all manner of herbs and vegetables appeared to be growing. There was even a patch of corn on the end, and one that looked like it held root vegetables. Katie didn’t know much about gardening, but she couldn’t help but wonder at the variety.

“How do all these grow at the same time?” she asked, earning a shrug from her tour guide.

“You’ll have to as Zariah. It’s her garden, and she’s rather protective of it.”

Katie nodded, her gaze shifting outward to the rows of gargoyles that sat looking out atop stone pedestals all around the edge of the roof. She counted five on each side plus the two larger statues sitting in a bump-out that would be just above the main doors to the building. One pedestal to the right of those two was empty, and she could only assume that was Thomas’s place.

“Do all of these...I mean, are they all like you? They all can change into humans, or live gargoyles?”

Thomas nodded as they stopped between the two in front. “All except these two have been cursed for a crime of some sort. We are imprisoned here until we earn our freedom.”

Katie frowned. “It must be hard to do - earn your freedom, that is. There are so many...”

He glanced at the statues, his expression wistful. “It’s not so difficult, really - we must help someone such as yourself, who needs protection from something similar to what we ourselves did to others. But freedom comes at a price as well - one that some of us aren’t willing to pay.”

She wanted to ask what the price was, but he continued immediately, gesturing to the statue on his right.

“This is Lord Alfred Dunning, owner of the mansion and the man who started the curse. And this,” he pointed to the other gargoyle, “is his brother, Dornin. After the druids cursed the castle as Dunning required, they cursed these two with an impossible task. They are only allowed to regain human form once a year for seven days, and to break their own curse they must each convince a woman to fall in love with the other man. When they break their own curse, the curse on the mansion will be broken as well.”

Katie shook her head. “No wonder they’re still here. That’s an impossible task.”

Thomas smiled. “I have watched them bicker and complain more times than I care to count over the years, but they’ve had chances. It’s difficult to hand the thing you want most over to your brother - when that thing is a woman’s affection, nearly impossible, as you say.”  

Katie thought about that for a moment, and then met his cool gaze. “What about you, Thomas? What do you have to do to break your personal curse?”

He sighed, looking away as the wind riffled through his hair. The sunset behind him cast him in shadow, and she couldn’t help but think what a striking, manly figure he made standing there. Like an ancient warrior.

“My task is twofold, as are all of ours. First, I have to save someone from a person who would do what I once did.”

When she realized just what he was saying, she fought the urge to take a step back. “You tried to burn someone alive?” 

“Yes.”

“Who?” She didn’t want to know, and yet, she had to.

He was silent for a long moment, so long she thought he might not answer until he finally did.

“My wife and her lover.”

Katie felt the tension lesson as her muscles relaxed.

“A little dramatic, but understandable I guess, especially back then. What’s the second part?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” he said, his voice sharp. “I have no desire to leave this place, so the second part doesn’t matter.” He brushed past her, walking back toward the door. “We should go back inside. It’s getting late.”

 

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