Six and Sayin’ Stuff.

March 1, 2018

Just a few things our six-year-old says…

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“I’m not really fast. I’m faster than fast.”

– – – – –

“Today is nothing one-hundred percent something.”

– – – – –

“Mom. You’re pretty great,” she said at the dinner table, but then looked at me with a furrowed brow, shaking her head. “But your cooking…”
Me: What about my cooking?
O: You don’t make this chicken noodle soup every night. It is soooo good.

So then I asked her what her least favorite thing I ever made was.

O: Remember that thing you made that looked like garbage? 😂

– – – – –

Olivia was looking for something in my craft room. “I don’t know what it is but it’s something I need.”

And Mike says, “that’s you and every woman.”

– – – – –

I was sick one morning and doctor O had just the fix. “I’ll bring you a chocolate bar. They help you feel better.”

– – – – –

Six year-olds playing Taboo. The word is “hike”. Olivia gives her friend Mary Lou a clue. “You might use a cane to walk up a mountain.” And Mary Lou says, “cane like…candy cane?”

– – – – –

Me: You should write a letter to Santa. Tell him what you’d like.
O: He’s a spy. He already knows.

– – – – –

Almost too quiet in the house.
Mike: Are you up to no good?
O: No, I’m up to good.

– – – – –

Me: We have to go back to the post office.
O: Why?
Me: I forgot to mail one package.
O: (smacks her forehead, quite dramatically) Mom. It would have been a LOT easier if you remembered them all the first time.

– – – – –

“I’m the Rememberer. Dad’s the Finder and the Fixer. Mom. You’re the Forgetter.”

 

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Smoke & Shadow

February 9, 2018

A little excerpt from a story I’ve been working on for a while…

A broken landscape.
A transformed people.
Underground colonies and city centers of opulence.
An ancient vault that holds the most precious things on Earth. Wild and precious things. Nearly forgotten things.

A fugitive and an assassin become unlikely allies when they uncover a secret that could ignite a war.

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SMOKE & SHADOW SERIES BOOK ONE: The Fireweaver

They took you from me. Before I could breathe your name. Before I could hold you, or take in the smell of the top of your head.

I survived the stone walls and darkness. The metal cuff on my left ankle. The five steps before it pulled tight.

I survived the cold, metal table in the room that smelled of sharp citrus and antiseptic. The white lights that blinded me while they took out the vile part in me deemed not human.

I had thought grief could not come again, but grief is an ocean, and it swallows me whole.

Losing you, Rashannai,

This.

This pain I cannot bear. 

 

 

CHAPTER 1. STONE WON’T CATCH, DARKNESS WON’T BURN

Dimarrah Folette was kept where no other prisoner was, down in the underbelly of Finton Willis, encased in steel and stone.

She listened to footsteps and voices, ears pressed to the grit. She listened as someone starved of light will. Blade to the whetstone, the darkness honed her hearing. She knew who came by the way they walked. The doctors came with staccato authority, in the beginning when they’d had an interest in her. Heels resounding like gun shots down the corridors.

Two guards came regularly. One was quiet, but an oily kind of quiet that seeped around corners and oozed from shadows. She barely heard his footfalls before he was suddenly there, shoving food through the narrow floor slot.

He thought she didn’t know he watched her, but she felt his eyes. His feverish expectation, some twisted hope that she might combust right there in the cell. That some spark of her Anomaly would return. She felt his fascination, and his equal part revulsion.

Bald was the other, the one with a lizard tattoo tail coiled around his ear and neck. He came with Quiet when he wanted an audience. She could hear him coming a mile away. He walked slow and drawn-out, like someone who knows they can get what they want, and who likes taking their time getting it. He came when he was bored. Or angry. Or both. She still had the bruise on her cheek from the other day. Or week. Hard to tell time in the dark.

“Be better just to kill them,” Quiet had said once. He was always skittish around her. But always watching.

“Rabid dogs got to be put down.” That’s what she was to them. A ticking time bomb.

Bald would turn to her with a smile that made her insides curdle. Like he was hoping she still might burst into flame. But the doctors had broken that part of her. A cold sweat came over her any time she remembered it.

First the injection of the Jadeim, which had completely immobilized her. She couldn’t even blink her eyes. But she’d known the precise moment they’d found the spot in her hands. “That’s it,” one of the doctors had said. “Her pupils are dilating.” Her eyes, the color of mist over a meadow, engorged suddenly, until her vision went almost black. When they knew they had found it, when her eyes had betrayed her, they severed it. That tight little bundle of nerves in her hands that she’d been able to tap into almost all her life, almost without a thought; she knew the instant they severed it. She couldn’t feel the tears run down her cheeks, but the glaring lights of the lab blurred. Her eyes, betraying her grief. If either of the doctors had seen it, they chose to ignore it, bent at their work.

“Took the fang out of the cobra,” Bald had said when they took her back to the underground cells. The prison’s top level was completely run by DNA-scan entryways and computer systems. Top level cells were still prison cells, but they were slick, smooth and efficient. Not gritty, with broken ridges, floors with patched seams. Like a map of scars, like the stitched ridges now on her hands.

She would touch every inch that she could of her cell’s circumference, whatever was allowed within the five steps, plus an arm’s reach. The cement was worn smooth only right in the very center, where no doubt so many others before her had crouched and lay and wept in their own despair. Smooth like a river stone. Like a bone.

They kept her in that stone cell, with little to no light. Stone won’t catch. Darkness won’t burn. She needed the light to make the heat. Not that she could now with her ruined hands. There was pain in them, a different burn of healing, but beyond that, no magnetic pull of the fire. It was utterly gone.

She wondered how many others like her had been thrown in that same cell. Anomalies. The Neuenaiha. It meant “not only human” in the spare, old language of the Outerlands.

Not only human.

But I am human, she thought. Still bruise and bleed like one.

Her parents had tried to hide it. Ever since the first heat suffused her palms, she was hiding it. She always remembered the first time, sitting at the kitchen table, mashed peas in a bowl. The crinkle of a bib under her chin. Her mother leaning against the sink, with a book open, the sun spilling through the window. The sun was like honey, like something she could almost taste. It plucked out the few spots of auburn in her mother’s hair, ebony and wavy and wiry like hers. She felt the strands and texture and vibration in the light. The vibration of…possibility. And then the quivering began, so small, but the heat of it unfurled in her palms, across her forearms; a fire-hot dahlia opening in rapid time. She squeezed the light into heat while her tray under her turned to goop, sticking to her hands like canned frosting. Melting under her little balled up fists. The skin of her hands didn’t burn, but her forearms exploded in heat, and so she panicked, pushing the heat somewhere else.

The book her mother held. She felt the textures and grains there, and released it. The curl of smoke wavered up from the page, and then from the spine. She didn’t know at the time what she was doing, but her mother did. She dropped the book like a lump of red-hot coal into the sink, where it landed with a plop and a hiss with the dishes. She came at Dimarrah like a tsunami. Slammed her fists down over hers. Screamed through a rage of tears.

The bruises on her hands had lasted a week. But she didn’t much remember the bruises, though she still bore the scarring of the heat on her forearms. What she remembered was the look etched on her mother’s face. Something she saw as a child but could only understand as an adult. Not just the rage, but the fear. A mother’s fear of her own daughter.

They took severe precautions. Her father covered her entire room, ceiling to floor, with ceramic tile, obtained in secret, painstakingly installed in secret. He had somehow collected enough small mosaic tiles, scavenged from various Outerland sites, to create one small scene. Sea creatures floated in indigo and turquoise waves, just over where her bed was. She spent much of her time in that room.

“The Uruques will find you. And they will take you away. Perhaps forever, I cannot say.” Her mother would tell her this over and over, twin fears in her eyes. They didn’t get her out much among people, but Father took her every first Saturday of every month to the city square. They went before the sun was up, before anyone at all was up. Not even the vendors were setting up silk tents for their foods and wares. They walked the paths of Market well before the bakeries were pulling kasha baguettes out of the ovens. They walked by silent booths, past garden alcoves and locked-up shop fronts. And it always made the thing they came upon feel like some wondrous secret, just for them.

The Origio. The magnificent fountains of Chanette. Her father always said it was a fountain made by the people and for the people. Each time, they brought a coin to throw in, one of the old, copper ones from so many centuries before. The Origio was a low wall of white marble, curved in the shape of the alpha symbol. It held a pool of fresh water within, like cupped hands. At that hour, with the stars still reluctant to blink, the jets and fountains were utterly silent. No arcs of water, no glittering sprays, nothing at all. It wasn’t until later, when the jets ran, that the children ran along the walls, dipping fingers in, trying to catch the water arcs in mid-air. Like catching lumps of gold, Nell would say. How it landed heavy in your hand and you tasted it if you stuck your tongue out at just the right time.

Dimarrah could picture it that way. Screams of laughter, water everywhere. But she got to see the fountain when it was smooth as glass, darker than dreams. Bluer than flame licking at the wick. At that hour, the water was black as obsidian. On a cloudy night it reflected her face, next to her father’s.

The fountain walls had gotten statues added in at some point, one for each of the seven cities. The ones that had survived the devastation. A graceful seagull for Jorjuque, the city on the coast, a great bear for the mountain city of Rehnahd. For Chanette, the first city to rise from the Fallout, the statue was a Starling, frozen in mid-flight. Each sculpture was carved from the same veined, white marble. Father let her run along the wall. Would let her speak to each of the seven statues, pat them as though they were listening. He’d even let her touch the still waters. The koi fish were released at almost dawn. That was her favorite part, watching them all dart out; little flashes everywhere. She’d throw her coin in. Make a wish, usually the same one, and always made silently as she held her father’s arm. They’d walk back home as soon as the slightest marmalade glow of dawn touched the tips of city walls.

Nell went to Market later on in the morning with their mother, to pick up spices and coffee beans and tea leaves, the things not available most other days. Unless you paid an exorbitant price. Her sister came straight back to Dimarrah’s room when they returned, still breathless and rosy-cheeked from the full morning. Still with the dust of well-trodden pathways on her ankles. She’d smell of kettle corn and pies, and always of something else, deliciously and completely unknown. Nell always brought back something to eat. Usually a small bag of still-warm kettle corn, which they’d munch on together while they talked, buttery kernels slipping between fingers.

“One more time Nell, and don’t leave a single. Thing. Out.” Her voice filled Dimarrah’s small, echoing, tiled room with stories and sights and song.

Sometimes Nell would come back and Dimarrah would swear she felt the afternoon sunlight still pulsing off her. And that thing in her hands would tingle. Would pulse. And she would quell it as soon as she felt it. She’d go back to imagining all the things about Market. Cinnamon rolls with melting frosting, and braided, honey-glazed pastries. Candies and confections. All sorts of things laid out to glistening perfection. She’d imagine getting jostled by a crush of people, to stop and watch a group of jugglers or gymnasts perform from the Stayhouse.

Their house wasn’t far from the outermost ring where Market was held, under candy-striped tents and cheery banners. Under the great oak trees that shaded the perimeter. Tantalizingly close. Some times, a few strains of melody drifted through her walls, like a dream from long ago. She learned every single melody, adding in her own improvised words. 

She longed to be there, to sing with the traveling troupes. To dance with the gypsies, the ones her mother talked about as though they were a blight on the city. Only her grandmother would indulge her in those stories, for she’d been a gypsy herself once, many years ago.

For her tenth birthday, her father surprised her after a Market day holding a small, black case with a handle. She’d opened it with tears in her eyes, already knowing what was inside. A mandolin made of honeyed wood, with inlaid pearl at the frets. She filled her days with songs and chords. It is what saved her. The stories filled her head, the singing filled her heart.

Lest you assume her mother was cruel, she was not. Or at least, Dimarrah believed she only behaved in the best interest of the family. To her credit, her mother ate once a day with her and gave her instruction, for she did not attend the city’s excellent Academy.

But always the fear lurked just beneath her mother’s gaze. And that was the cruelest of all.

Dimarrah saw that same fear in the faces of the guards. Even the doctors. They believed some remnant of what she was still lurked deep inside. Dimarrah wondered if she still possessed a remnant of her own humanity.

For five months, she was in that cell. Five months, and her belly swelled tight against the scratchy cotton tunic.

Five months since she’d lost everything. Her husband, her son… A whole life to the fire.

The doctors came at the first twinge of contractions. Like she knew they would.

Rashannai.

Both doctors were there, a man and a woman, both in their crisp white uniforms. The female doctor took her daughter without a word. She wore two rings. Black opal, and one with a ruby set in silver. Dimarrah was silent as the doctor reached out. She would not cry. Would not fight them. Would not cover the last sounds of her daughter that she might ever hear. 

And the guards took her back to the stone cell, injured and bereft.

 

*  *    *       *           *               *

CHAPTER 2. ESCAPE

They brought the new prisoner into the underground right before the storm hit. Finton Willis was a lackluster, soul-crushing beige, rising out of the desolate patches between cities. It was strategically built in a dried-up river valley, and so buffered from the worst of the storms. Still, the winds slashed against it like a madman’s reins, the building gritting its brick and mortar teeth.

Even underground, you could still hear the churning.

The guards shoved the prisoner into a cell a few feet across from the woman. His arms were sinewy, still cuffed behind his back. The shackles jangled, but he managed to remain balanced and walk with an easy gait.

“Ain’t we lucky,” Bald guard drawled. “Got the Devil and Medusa under one roof.” He flicked his eyes to Dimarrah. She wondered why the man had been brought down to stone. Was he also an Anomaly? Or maybe his crimes were awful enough. Quiet stood in a corner, Adam’s apple showing above his black-collared Rejkah uniform. Usually Bald was more tame having the other with him. Usually.

Bald walked around the prisoner, who stood a full head taller. He’d walked around Dimarrah the same way, the first night she’d spent down there. She looked away for a moment, felt the shame of relief. They had a new prisoner to taunt tonight. Maybe they’d leave her alone. It didn’t matter anyway. The doctors had stopped seeing to her hand injuries. The guards had stopped giving her anything but bread. She drank when the sprayers washed her, horrible, unfiltered water. She’d stopped eating. Her panic attacks came with ferocity. She had heard the whispers. The Executioner was coming.

Bald stopped a couple feet in front of the new prisoner, took out a pack of cigarettes from a front pocket. Tapped one out, lighted the end. He took a drag and blew smoke into the prisoner’s stony face. He seemed to focus on something just beyond the guard’s shoulder. Seemed almost bored.

The guard brought the red-hot end of his cigarette up to the prisoner’s face, grizzled with the start of a beard. A scar ran from jawline to neck, where it disappeared under the tunic. The same tunic she was in. The prisoner remained silent, not a flicker of movement.

Bald laughed, looking again to Dimarrah. “You watchin’ this one?” She sat in the shadows of her cell, cringing that he’d called her out. “Witchy here don’t talk much. But I know witchy’s watchin’.” He was slurring. Vitriol drunk. And he was just getting started. Drinking only greased his wheels. “How much time we got?”

“Fifteen minutes,” answered Quiet, and Bald took another long drag off his cigarette as if he had all the time in the world. “Always wanted to get one of these big fuckin’ brutes in front of me.”

Quiet licked his lips. “Look at them nasty scars though.”

“Scars don’t mean nothin’,” Bald said, “just means they’re hard to kill. Like cockroaches.” He made a full circle around the prisoner and stopped again in front of him, tracing the scar with the cigarette, held loosely between his two fingers. “I seen some do this to themselves. Thinkin’ they can fool us.”

“How we gonna know for sure?”

“He ain’t gonna talk.” Bald took one step closer. “Only one way to find out, you know.”

Quiet’s Adam’s apple bobbed again. “Boss said not to–”

“Boss ain’t here now, is he?” Tilt to the head. Another drag off the cigarette. He hovered the red hot end right over the prisoner’s scarred collarbone. “I can get you out of here.” The prisoner didn’t even blink a response as the guard leaned in. “All you gotta do is show me.” Bald had whispered it, but time in the cell had sharpened Dimarrah’s hearing. “So,” the guard waved the end of the cigarette over the mass of scars on his chest. “You tell me. Where am I gonna put this?”

The prisoner stared straight into the Guard’s eyes, spoke slowly and deliberately, enunciating each syllable.

Stehke von yon assei.

Dimarrah sucked in her breath. He’d spoken the language of another time, before the Fallout. After the disease, after the storms, the droughts.

Foreign or not, the prisoner’s meaning was clear. He’d told Bald to stick it up his–

“He say what I think he just said?” Bald looked back to Quiet, who nodded once, needlessly.

Turning back to the prisoner, he wore a smugness she knew too well, when she’d fought back. In the beginning. Don’t taunt him, she thought. It’s what he wants. She swore she saw the prisoner’s head turn her way just slightly. Might have even seen the slightest curve of a grin. Bald must have seen it too. Sucked in deep on the cigarette. Exhaled again in his face. Not a twitch of muscle from the prisoner. Bald guard slowly, so slowly, pressed the hot end into the prisoner’s skin, twisting it right into his collarbone, watching him. The prisoner’s jaw clenched, but he made no sound or movement.

Bald spoke, unhurried as he pulled the hot end off. “That’s me being magnanimous. For now.”

The mark of the burn stood starkly out from the other scars. Quiet shifted nervously in the shadows. They seemed to both be waiting for something to happen. “Don’t you gotta…you know. Give him something. Like a plant? Something alive–”

“Shut up Renny.” Bald let the cigarette drop, stubbed it with his boot, barely even used to the ground.

He narrowed his eyes at the prisoner, gave his full box of cigarettes a little shake. “We could do this all night.” He still wore that smug grin. “You got any else thing to say, Tough Guy?”

“I do.” The prisoner paused before continuing, and then spoke in perfect English. “What a waste of a pack of cigarettes.”

For the remaining minutes before the video feeds came back from their loops, Bald beat on the prisoner, without restraint, until he was hunched over the ground, coughing up blood.

“Sir, you’ll kill him–”

Bald nudged the prisoner’s ribs with the steel toe of his boot. “Nah, he’s still alive.” Peered down on him. “Might not want to be.”

Dimarrah heaved into a corner of her cell, and then to her horror, Bald came for her, even while Quiet sputtered a weak protest.

“Didn’t want to do this the hard way.” He dragged her out and threw her next to the prisoner who lay, still coughing up blood. Forced her down next to him. They left his ankle shackled, chained to the floor. Tied her wrists together. 

“She dies tomorrow anyway,” he said, with a slow grin, watching the prisoner closely. And then, she knew at once why they’d thrown her down next to him. She watched as the prisoner, whose one eye was swollen, who was in obvious pain, reached slowly out with a shaky hand to touch her, to touch the pulse line at her throat. She could almost hear the expectant, sharp intake of breath from the guards. Dimarrah held her own at the brush of his fingertips, calloused against her neck. And then his grip tightened.

“Nothing’s happening,” said Quiet. “He’s just strangling her!” The guards pulled them apart, threw Dimarrah gasping and still clutching her throat, back into the cell. You could almost taste the bitter disappointment on both their faces, but Bald wore an expression mixed with hate.

Quiet suddenly looked at his wrist where a small holoscreen lit. Cameras were back on.

The guard pinned one last look on the prisoner, then left them both in darkness after the clank of the hall door. The minutes passed. Or hours. Time in the dark is a slippery thing. The storm ran its course. The prisoner’s shackles jangled. His ragged breathing turned regular. Two forsaken souls breathing in the dark. And then.

“Dimarrah Folette?” It was so low she barely heard it. Thought maybe it was imagined. Odd to hear it after so long. The guards never called her by name. Only the vile ones they gave her. There was something odd about the voice. It came to her solidly, like it was wrapped in velvet, with no echo of the prison walls behind it.

“I am.” She felt like she spoke for someone else. Her voice was still hoarse, after the fire had ravaged her throat and lungs. Her scrape of sound echoed out.

She was about to say something else, but the voice came back to her.

Don’t speak again. Strange, so strange, his voice seemed closer than if he’d been right next to her, speaking. He was, somehow, inside her mind. A thrill and a horror at the same time.

The walls listen as much as they watch. How many guards? 

Same two at night, Dimarrah thought. And one doctor.

Do you remember when you first arrived? Can you picture the hallways in your mind?

Who are you?

He ignored her question. Do you remember the corridors?

The guards hadn’t given her any drug when they first brought her in. The drugs had come while she lay on the metal table next to the doctors. Yes, she answered, in her own mind, meeting his, recalling the corridors and turns. I remember it all. She was stunned at how effortless it was to exchange something that way. How much quicker.

Even if we find our way out of this block, the main doors above are blocked with DNA scans–

She never finished the thought. He bellowed suddenly. “Guard!” The lights popped on in the cells. And then, more calmly, he said, in the other language, looking to the small, discreet dot of the camera in his cell. “I am ready.” 

He brought his wrist up to the corner of the iron lock box on the door, then tore his arm on the corner of it.

Fucking lunatic, she thought, and he looked her way with a sardonic raise of his eyebrow, held his arm through the bars, and let the blood pool, garnet black, outside the cell.

And then he fell quite hard and curled up on the ground. Bald and Quiet came running, half dressed, guns at their sides. Quiet slipped on the blood that had pooled slightly outside the cell. Bald swore and unlocked the door, gun held out. The prisoner lay so very still.

“What the–” he leaned over, and the prisoner sprang up, knocking his head into the guard, who shot wildly, getting him once in the chest and shoulder. This didn’t stop the prisoner. He knocked his forehead into Bald again, and she heard the sickening crack before they both went down. Quiet fumbled with his gun, dropping it as the prisoner got back up, ramming him into the wall. Took his set of keys and got his cuff off in seconds. He strode over to Bald, who was slowly coming out of a stupor, moaning. “You deserve a worse death,” said the prisoner, “this is me being magnanimous.” He placed two fingers over his throat, like he was taking his pulse. No choking, no gasping. Just a head lolling. The guard was dead in two seconds. He did the same to the other, spared no words for him, then took the daggers off them both, slit their throats. 

Dimarrah heard someone coming. Yelling. More guards than she’d thought. He had her door sliding open in seconds, knelt with the same ferocious intensity to get her shackle off. But why? Only an hour before he’d been trying to strangle the life out of her.

She’d had hallucinations of being free. Of taking a sixth step beyond the chain. It was never like this. Before she had even a second to sputter a word, he threw her over his shoulder and pounded through the corridors. Shots fired so close her ears rang. The acrid bite of gunpowder filled her nose. Voices screamed in terror. Some she recognized. There were bodies on the floor. The prisoner stopped at a steel door, fingers flying over a keypad. And then they were somehow Outside. She squinted at the golden dawn, upside-down as she was, over his shoulder. She hadn’t seen true sun in so long.

More shots fired. And then silence. Except for one guard. Gasping for breath. Mortally wounded. He dumped her to the dusty ground, while he knelt to the wounded man, placed his fingers again on the neck, like he had with the others. A few seconds later his head lolled to the side, just like the other two. And just like the others, he slit his throat after.

He more or less dragged her to a few huentahs corralled nearby, who snorted and stamped, kicking up plumes of dust, agitated by the gunfire. They were magnificent creatures. A mix of equestrian grace, brute stamina and with the near-height of camels. Nothing short of terrifying to approach if you weren’t used to them. A genetic feat bequeathed to Earth more than a century before when that sort of tampering had been legal. And rampant.

He pulled the guard’s boots on. Threw a pair at her that still smelled of its previous owner before stalking off. She yanked the boots on, cringing to use her fingers. They were big, better than nothing. The man untied all but one of the beasts and fired a shot to the air, sending them galloping in scattered directions. He went to the last one, medium-sized. A pretty gray and white speckled huef who flicked her white hair like a haughty teenager. He spoke softly, just a few words, and then dug into the animal’s neck with the dagger he’d taken off one of the guards. The animal remained perfectly still, but her nostrils flared. He pulled a tiny dot of metal out of the huef’s neck, flung it to the ground and smashed it.

He wiped the dagger on his sleeve and cut through his own neck, reaching behind, pulling out another tiny dot. He wiped the blade again on his sleeve, and came at her. She had a momentary thought about how unsanitary the blade must be. He gave a half snort and forced her head down. “Right now,” he said, even as she opened her mouth to scream, “infection is the least of your worries.” The cut burned and she felt the trickle of blood down between her shoulder blades. He heaped her onto the saddle and settled in behind her, one arm on her, the other on the reins. The pounding hooves shot spikes of pain through her hands. And then she heard it. The boom that shook the ground as they raced away, and she wondered if desert beasts were trying to swallow them up. She managed a look back at the prison, and in its place was only a black, billowing mushroom of smoke. She could almost taste the burn of the smoke. The whole compound. Gone.

Wind whipped dust everywhere, into eyes, nostrils, hair and teeth. And it was all so bright. The Outside. She blinked through sunspots down to his bloodied forearm. There, the gash, about six inches long. But it changed. And she watched in a fascinated horror as it blended back together, a desert mirage melting. Not even a hint of scar left.

Her insides iced over in terror. He was one of the Anadeim, the forbidden race of humans created by the Rejkahs centuries ago. Assassins with honed abilities, and chiefly among them—tracking down Anomalies like her. Most of them had been captured after a public outcry against them; reclaimed by the very ones who had made them. 

She shoved at his arm, but it might as well have been a log pinned across her. She kicked at the huentah’s sides and they reared back. The animal came down hard, but the Anadeim held tight to the reins, and to her, all but squeezing the breath from her ribs. “Beaehn stiele, Neheihla maei fehen Wovea.” His voice came sharp and hot in her ear. “Be still, woman. Do you want to live?”

 

 

Counter Intuitive.

November 22, 2017

Meaning, a DIY project that I thought not likely to be successful, but I was so wrong. I’m a true believer in this epoxy stuff now. Turned our old white laminate countertops into a lustrous, high-gloss, durable & food-safe surface.

LeporteKitchenMakeover

MaterialsRoundup

Prep work takes about an hour. Getting the nerve up to actually do it? About twenty minutes of pacing, drinking coffee, more pacing.

DexterScene

Ready to pour. You’ve got about twenty minutes to work before it all begins to harden. No pressure. (Special thanks to my mom and dad for being right there during this whole process. Seriously couldn’t have done it without them!)

Mix the epoxy according to directions, pour it on, spread it evenly with a foam roller.

Then the real fun begins: spraying the pearl, blue & gold powders. About halfway through I thought I’d ruined the countertop. It sort of looked like a three-year old came in and did some finger painting. But then (brilliant idea of my mother’s) I used the heat gun over it all, let the heat do the work of swirling the colors together…and…be still my heart.

WhyyouDoIt

I basically want to epoxy every surface in sight now! You can get the epoxy online:
http://www.countertopepoxy.com/premium-clear-epoxy-for-countertops-bar-tops/

JovianTempest

Before & after… complete with what our daughter Olivia calls the blue cloud wall by the door! Also I have a thing for tote bags.

Before&After

 

 

 

Happy Earth.

April 23, 2017

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Yes, it’s Gravity. Yes, it’s Science. Yes, it’s Light that somehow travels millions of miles to reach our eyeballs, and then brain impulses firing at almost the speed of light to INTERPRET that light and imprint to the backs of our retinas’ all this amazing Earth that we see. I’ll never forget the time I had a talk about physics with my brother, who is an electrical engineer at Texas Instruments. And when I pressed him further– “Yes, but WHY does magnetics work the way it does?” Why does ANY of it work the way it does? He finally said something like, “It’s magic. Trust me, I do this for a living.”

Felted Fiction.

March 12, 2017

I first picked up Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, about ten years ago when I lived out in Oregon, in the Wilamette Valley, all surrounded by pine trees and deep shadows and moss. Lucky for me, that summer, I found a red caboose library in the woods–full of people’s faves. An honor system library. Seriously the coolest thing ever. There should be a red caboose library in every town. Anyway, I took a chance on the dog-eared copy of Outlander. And it was a pretty delicious yarn. Total summer escapism. They’ve made it into a TV show. (Starz). Every bit as addictive!

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These two. I needle-felted them from wool roving, (like sculpting with cotton candy) and they’re about 10″ tall.

Claire & Jamie 3

You name it…

February 24, 2017

When I’m not needle-felting little critters and characters, I produce stories for magazines–which involves concepting ideas and creating the projects, prop styling the sets, and then taking it all down after the photos have been taken.

I feel so lucky to work with creative teams who let me run with all sorts of story ideas — glitter, origami, geometrics, watercolors, embroidery, sharpies, wood burning, color, outdoor ideas, photo displays, washi tape…you name it, I’ve probably tried it! Here are just a few from the past five years. (And also some of the covers I’ve worked on that you may have seen on the newsstand too!)

photo credits: Adam Albright, Jay Wilde
magazine credits: Do It Yourself, Make It Yourself, Color Made Easy, Decorating Shortcuts, Flea Market Style, Flea Market Outdoors

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Pearl and the Whale

September 28, 2016

Excited to share the first printed copy with you all!! Looking at a book release in November this year! Follow my updates on http://www.pearlandthewhale.wordpress.com.

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tiny things.

January 26, 2015

little flea market vessels (maybe old medicine bottles?) for lil’ sweet daisies.TinyFlowerTinyVessels

She said, we said.

January 13, 2015

Conversations with our 3-year old.
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– – – – – – –
The hostess at a restaurant asked us if we wanted a booth or a table and our kid chimed in without a beat. “I’d like chocolate.”

– – – – – – – –
Liv: I have to go to the Science Center.
Me: We were just there Thursday. Why do you have to go?
Liv: Because we didn’t stay there forever.

– – – – – – – –
We were driving out to the farm for the first time this summer and Olivia, looking out at the fields and cows grazing said, “Is that the zoo?”

– – – – – – – –
I had finally gotten to the laundry after one very long week. I pulled out a clean dress for Olivia, one of her favorites, and she came running over. “I haven’t see that in years!”

– – – – – – – –
We were at the store, and a kind woman asked Liv her name. “I’m Olivia Leporte. I’m three.” And then pointed to me saying, “This is Katie.”

– – – – – – – –
Liv: There’s no way I’m going to try that. And I’m not having dessert. Or TV.

(Epic recipe FAIL with the 3-year old.)

– – – – – – – –
An ambulance was blinking down on our street. “Oh no,” she said, “does somebody have a cough?”

– – – – – – – –
Olivia sighing at nap time, “I wish I could be a super hero.”

– – – – – – – –
“What would I do to forget you,” she told me one night, hugging me when I found her dolly.

– – – – – – – –
Liv to me: What in the heck of the world are you doing?
Mike (my husband): That pretty much sums up every conversation I have with your mother.

– – – – – – – –
Me: You can have a little bit of juice.
Olivia: A big little bit?

– – – – – – – –
And my favorite. After story time I laid down next to her. “You’re a good Mommy.” She patted my cheek. And before I could tell her how full to bursting my heart was, she went on, “but you have to go sleep in your own bed. You’re kinda too big.”

She said, we said.

May 7, 2014

Conversations with our 2-year-old.

SPRING'14

 

My wonderful, wild and curious Child turns three next month. If the first year is the Year of the Feet & the Walkin’, the second year is the Year of the Words & the Talkin’. 

the Top Ten.

10) 6:30 AM. Husband and I are sleeping. We hear little feet coming. Door bangs open. Light flips on and she says, “Oh! It’s so bright. I better get my sunglasses.” Runs out. Light still on.

9) “I’m busy workin’ on projects right now.” Might have picked up that one from this work-from-home mama.

8) After sharing just one blueberry, she tells me, “Don’t eat them all at once. You might get a stomach ache.”

7) When asked why she wouldn’t take her nap: “I couldn’t nap because I never yawned.” Touché.

6) We’re at the dinner table and I’m talking to my Mike. Liv holds up a hand to us. “Red light means stop talking.” Hmm. Sure wish that worked the other way around.

5) “I can’t have these carrots because then I’d be too full for the cookie.” Gotta hand it to her. Sound logic.

4) In the car. “First we go to the library. Then Target to pick up socks, sunglasses and galoshes. That a deal? Let’s shake on it.” After we shake on it she says, “OK, it’s a deal. And a plan.”

3) “I’ve got to have it because I need it.” About a mint chocolate chip cookie. Sure wish she’d say that about broccoli.

2) I’m Owivia Weeport. And I speak for the trees.” Someone needs to. The Lorax would be proud.

1) And.

Liv: Oh no! I left my backpack in the car! Mommy you go get it?

Me: You want me to go out into the cold and the rain to get your backpack?

Liv: I’ll go get your shoes.

How nice of her.

– – – – – – – – –

One more from yesterday. I was about to pick up a pile of blankets off the floor, when she came rushing over. “No, mom! It’s a trampoline to the moon.”

peaches under a tree.

April 5, 2014

I was following our almost three-year old into her room the other night. It’s been a cold April and her bare feet clomped on the wood floors. “Aren’t your feet cold?”

She said nothing.

“Soon it will be summer and you won’t have to wear socks.”

“And we can have peaches!” she said.
I must have given her a funny look. “Peaches?”

“We were on the blanket Mommy. We ate peaches. You remember that?” I did. It was a perfect blue sky day in August. We were sitting on a blanket in the yard looking at clouds and trees. Eating sticky, delicious Saturn peaches, the ones shaped like little donuts. And my forever summer girl actually remembered it.

I guess that’s why we play a hundred blanket fort games, tell endless, silly stories. Get out messy play-doh and paints. Why I shouldn’t hurry Olivia along when she suddenly acquires a botanist’s curiosity for a leaf on the ground. Why we should daydream more and eat peaches under a tree. You just never know when you’re making a memory to last.

Snowy Valentine’s.

February 14, 2014

Snowy Valentine's.

Saw the prettiest white horse standing in a field today, snow fluttering down all around her. How could I not stop and say hello to her on my way home? Happy, Lovely Valentine’s Day to all!

hello, fall.

October 29, 2013

Blue sky, apple pie, I sure do love fall. Made my first apple pie from scratch (yes, even the pie crust!), and it was pretty much the best thing to come out of my oven (recipe’s below).

Papa D and Olivia below, at the pumpkin patch.

Fall4-5*

FallField*

Fall8-9*

Fall10-11*

Fall12-13*

Fall14-15*

nothing better.

August 15, 2013

Summer day, breeze on the porch. Peaches + strawberries + whipping cream (I don’t fool around over here, it’s the real deal with vanilla and a bit of powdered sugar). Days for dreaming.

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look who’s 2!

June 18, 2013

Balloons, monkeys, dots and lots of Love.
(AND it happened to be Father’s Day too!)

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1DIY Giant Confetti: Cut out sparkly colorful paper circles with a 2″ dia hole punch and stick ’em to the wall.

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The garland is made out of needle-felted colorful balls strung together.

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Lil’ chocolate monkey cake with strawberry cream filling.Red Paddle balloons + colorful assorted ones for Ms. Balloon Wrangler = Best 25 bucks ever spent!

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My “helper” putting flowers to float in a glass bowl before guests arrived…

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the first two years.

June 12, 2013

Count-down ’til birthday weekend (she’ll be TWO!) and just a few little things I’ve learned along the way…

1. Never wash a queen-sized fitted sheet with toddler socks. Or any socks.

2. Baby Bjorn bibs are brilliant. It is essentially a rubber trough. Still brilliant.

3. Cous Cous is a bitch to clean off the floor.

4. Whoever designed toddler clothing with tiny button enclosures never had a squirming child in their lap.

5. Don’t underestimate the counting skills of a toddler. They know when one of their five monkeys is missing.

6. Play time means rebuilding a blanket fort ten times.

7. Cooking a delicious dinner (like ten ingredients or more) means they will only eat the ciabatta bread.

8. “I do it myself” means you will be waiting forever for her to do it herself.

9. Rooster tail bed hair, bright eyes and a chipped-tooth grin almost makes you forget it is 6am. Almost.

10. A hug and “I love you” out of the blue is why Life is Good.

Olivia

I can ikat.

February 24, 2013

Big-scale house projects? We’ve got a 1-year-old. ‘nuf said.

I DID manage to squeeze in a mini makeover on this attic closet though. I took off the annoying bi-fold doors, painted the lower portion, and added a gold stencil (Ikat design from cuttingedgestencils.com). I’d found the brass & acrylic pair of sawhorses at a flea market last year for $50. Seriously could have cried to have found such a gem! The table surface is just two salvaged boards attached and sitting on top. Just a few hours later a closet space that didn’t get much use will now be my new paper/card crafting corner.

Stenciling tips? Check out Better Homes & Gardens video: http://www.bhg.com/videos/m/70001079/how-to-stencil.htm

IKAT closet makeover

first kitchen.

December 21, 2012

Cardboard Kitchen! Olivia gets a new place to play. I didn’t have to buy a plastic kitchen set to then one day take to Goodwill.
Win, win,
oh, and I recycled,
win.

 DIY Play kitchen

first snow.

December 9, 2012

Olivia took a break from her constant state of running, jumping, chatting and bouncing to watch the snowflakes fall this morning. They were the instantly melt-on-your-cheek kind of snowflakes.

And she looked at them with the quiet, pure curiosity that only an 18-month old child could have.

Pure magic.

LivAndSnowlores

heirloom.

October 8, 2012

Many years ago, Eva Parker embroidered this quilt, by hand. How many hours, how many years did it take to create? In between running a farm and raising five children. Little did she know that one day, her great-great grandchild Olivia Pearl would lay smiling upon it. Her daughter’s’ daughter’s’ daughter’s’ daughter!

Thank you to my Lovely Grandma Alice for our cherished gift.