Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shop Small! Ancient Star Herbals

What the Tree Teachers tell us about unconditional love:

If you cut me down and reduce me to pieces I will still shelter and support you.

If you divide me and throw me into the fire I will still provide you with warmth and comfort.

If you twist my body into tortured shapes and cut off my limbs I will still show you beauty.

If you do your best to erase all that I was and replace my presence with unnatural things I will still find a way to grow and prosper.

Despite all your efforts to the contrary I will continue to be a steward for what is best for us all. A messenger of peace, cooperation and a selfless teacher of the Divine Plan.

Read more about Ancient Star Herbals at the their Facebook Page.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Twelve Days of WICKED LITTLE SECRETS: The Ninth Day

On the ninth day of Wicked Little Secrets, my true love gave to me . . .

Nine Randy Grandpas!

“I heard from the boys that you’re leaving for China,” the earl yelled. He wore a high-collared coat, padded so as to restore his chest and shoulders to their approximate build of forty years ago, and tight trousers on his thinning legs. His hair flowed as wild as his addled mind. “Now, the boys and I have been discussing your problems. They believe that what is wrong with you is that you keep running away. That you think you’re going to find happiness in some old thing in the sand. What else did we say… oh yes… that you refuse to grow up.”

The “boys” were a bunch of graying men who, along with his grandfather, had been terrorizing the clubs and gaming hells of Mayfair for the last forty years.

“I would appreciate it if you would not discuss my so-called problems with your friends,” he said, trying not choke on the earl’s powerful cologne. “And I’m glad to see you finally got dressed.”

“You’re a fine one to speak. Vivienne came over here yesterday, and you’re wandering about with your trousers loose and no shirt. Now what kind of impression is that going to make?”

“Funny, if you hadn’t had your piece hanging out, she wouldn’t have come over at all! You should apologize.”

“Apologize? Last time I darkened Gertrude’s door on account of those actresses getting our addresses confused, she hit me with her cane. I found it a bit exciting, I must say.”

The Twelve Days of WICKED LITTLE SECRETS: The Eighth Day

On the eighth day of Wicked Little Secrets, my true love gave to me . . .

Eight Desperate Pug Dogs!

Dashiell stalked through the streets back to Wickerly Square, keeping his hand tight on Vivienne’s wrist to keep her from scurrying to some other squalid rookery and getting him killed. She hurried alongside, trying to keep up with his stride, as she held traumatized Garth. The hound pleaded to Dashiell with his round buggy eyes as if to say, “Don’t leave me with this mad lady!”

Dashiell found a narrow alley running beside a wine merchant’s shop and pulled her inside. The lane was empty except for a bony black cat pawing at something small and dead in the gutter. Garth leapt from Vivienne’s arms and the cat shot off, disappearing into a small opening at the bottom of a rotting door, leaving Garth to sniff and then roll on the deceased creature.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Twelve Days of WICKED LITTLE SECRETS: The Seventh Day

On the seventh day of Wicked Little Secrets, my true love gave to me . . .

Seven French Surprises!

The meaning exploded in her mind. “Are you saying my Uncle Jeremiah wore this on his… his… his…” She dropped the armor and screamed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving Postscript to BLOOD, ASH, AND BONE

Warning: Spoiler Alert. If you haven't read Blood, Ash, and Bone, you might wonder why my hero is limping around, or what the heck the big deal is with Garrity's promotion, or why Tai is so delighted that Trey actually sucks at something. No worries -- I'm sure Amazon has a couple of copies still lying around.

Anyway, this epilogue didn't make it into the final edition, but I do adore it so, not the least of which is because it answers that age-old question that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time -- how exactly would a Krav Maga expert carve a turkey?
Epilogue—Thanksgiving Day

            Trey was still stiff but relatively mobile. He insisted on carrying the box with the cake in it, a chocolate ganache creation from the bakery near his place. I’d paid for it with part of my profits from the Expo. I’d almost choked on the price, but it was Thanksgiving.
            “Our first major holiday,” I said.
            He rang the doorbell. He’d put on a suit even though I’d told him this was a low-key event in my family. He moved without his usual easy grace, but without pain finally. And the black eye had mostly healed up. The lip too. And the myriad bruises and scrapes and slashes.
            “What makes a holiday major?” he asked.
            “Baggage,” I said, and rang the doorbell again. “The more you bring, the more major it is.”
            Eric opened the door, glass of wine in hand. He hugged me, shook Trey’s hand. “Drinks in the living room, dinner in thirty minutes. Make yourselves at home.”
            Beyond him, I saw the gathered guests. Gabriella perched on the edge of an armchair, her mouth wide with laughter while Garrity regaled her with some story, his hands quick and expressive. And then off to the side—Rico. He saw me, and his face split in that Hollywood grin. He held his arms open, and I saw flashes of new bling in his eyebrows and on his fingers, his cafĂ©‘ au lait skin darker now from all the California sunshine.
            “Baby girl!”
            I shoved the cake in Eric’s hands and ran his way as fast as I could.

            Eric did not cook, but like me, he knew how to find someone who did and pay them to do it. We gathered promptly at one, the six of us, to a sideboard heaped with oyster dressing and green beans almandine and sourdough rolls and . . . I peered closer. Sure enough, a tureen of miso soup graced the delicacies—Gabriella’s work, I was sure. My own offering stood proud and tall, a skyscraper confection of dark chocolate I’d earned with my own two hands.
            I sat and looked around the table. Savannah was something, and Atlanta was something else, but this circle of people was home. I realized this with bright clarity and took Trey’s hand under the table.
            “Happy Thanksgiving,” I said.
            Garrity stood. He looked awkward and nervous. “Okay, everybody, I have something to say. You all know I’ve been up for a promotion, but I haven‘t been able to talk about it much. It‘s official now, though, so I guess . . .” He grinned, embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck. “As of Monday morning, I am the new FBI Liaison for the Atlanta Metro Major Offenders Task Force.”
The room filled with the sounds of cheers and chairs scraping as Gabriella, Rico, Eric and I threw words of congratulations at him. There were hugs, handshakes, raised glasses. Trey remained seated, however. He was staring at Garrity, who was steadfastly staring back. And then, with quiet resolution, Trey stood too. He picked up his glass of Pellegrino and held it toward Garrity.
            “Whatever you need,” he said quietly. “Don’t hesitate to ask.”
            Garrity nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Will do, my friend.”
             I put my hand on Trey’s elbow and squeezed. And then there was more hugging, and Gabriella kissed Garrity, making him blush. And Rico opened a bottle of sparkling wine, and there was more toasting, and laughter, and the sound of crystal touching crystal, the high ringing cheer of celebration.
            And through it all, Trey watched, not saying a word.
            Eric eventually brought out the turkey, a tarted-up spectacle with little paper panties on the drumsticks. He dropped the platter to the table, then looked at the knife. He passed it to Rico, who passed it to Garrity, who passed it to me. I held it hilt out to Trey.
            “Be thankful it’s not a sword,” I said.
            He accepted the blade gravely. Looked at the bird, back at the knife, back at the expectant faces. He took a deep breath and stood.
            “Okay,” he said.
            And then he began.

            Afterwards, as the sun first started melting into the horizon, Trey and I moved to the back patio. I had a glass of wine, he had hot tea. We sat next to each other on the steps, very close. Everyone else stayed inside—we could see them through the picture window, glazed in the warm interior light, like a living Norman Rockwell painting.
            We could also see the remains of dinner, the turkey carcass desiccated and destroyed. It lay on its side, one leg sticking out at a right angle. Shreds of meat flapped from the breastbone; tattered skin clumped in a pile. The platter resembled a very small, very brutal, crime scene.
            “That,” I said, “is the ugliest carving job I have ever witnessed.”
            “I told you, I’ve never carved a turkey before.”
            “Obviously. I especially liked the double jab and then the hook, like you were disemboweling the poor thing. That was a Krav move, wasn’t it?”
            “No, Krav doesn‘t . . . wait. You’re not being serious.”
            I smiled and shook my head. The bird lay there, a mound of tattered flesh. Silent. Accusatory.
            I took his arm. “I’m glad to know there‘s one thing you suck at.”
            “There‘s two actually.”
            “Really? What’s the other one?”
            He shot me the sideways look. There was a tiny smile lurking at the corner of his mouth, that sweet deep dimple giving it away.
            “I’m not telling you,” he said.
            I elbowed him in the ribs. “I‘ll get it out of you eventually, you know I will.”
            The smile deepened. “I know.”
            I laughed until my eyes watered. The last lick of sunset flickered out, and the wind kicked up a notch, smelling of winter to come. I shivered, and Trey raised his arm and let me huddle under his jacket. He did it without my having to ask. One small gesture, another small step, ever forward.
            “I have something for you,” he said.
            “Uh oh. It’s not the bill for the new shoes, is it?“
            He shook his head and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. On it was a numbered list, handwritten and alphabetized. It took me a second to recognize it, but when I did, my chest went all soft and melty.
            “The reasons you’re with me. You made a list.”
            “The original is on the computer, if you want a printed copy. But I thought handwritten was more appropriate. Considering.”
            I didn’t tell him that I’d already seen it, that I’d sneaked a peek at it while he slept on the car ride back from Savannah. Knowing what was coming did not dull the pleasure I had reading it again, for even though number seven wasn’t unexpected anymore, number three was still sweet and number thirteen was still . . . enticingly specific.
            Trey’s expression was serious. “I know there’s still more on my . . . . what did you call it?”
            “Your later plate.”
            “Yes. That. I’ll get to them. But I wanted to do this one first.”
            I read to the end of the list. He still had an asterisk by the last one -- showing up. He’d underlined it too. And the words he’d said during the summer repeated in my head, yet again. I will always show up, for as long as you want me to. I promise.
            I squinched my eyes shut. “Damn it, Trey, I swear . . . The words are here, right here. They won‘t come up, but that doesn‘t mean, it‘s not that . . .” I leaned my head against his shoulder. “You understand, don‘t you?”
            “Of course I do.” He took a deep breath, let it out slow. “This is where I kiss you, right?”
            I turned my face to his. “Oh god, yes.”

The Twelve Days of WICKED LITTLE SECRETS: The Sixth Day

On the sixth day of Wicked Little Secrets, my true love gave to me . . .

Six Pipes of Opium!

“Ah.” The oriental lady nodded and smiled. She opened the door a bit more, letting out a big waft of that warm, sweet scent. “You look so tired,” the lady said. “Come rest. Opium very good. It make you forget.”

Raw opium! The substance so vilified by the proper yet extolled by the artists. Curious, Vivienne strained her eyes to see inside. Within, gold and red fabric fell in swags from the ceiling like a Turkish caravan tent. A well-dressed gentleman lay curled up on a low bed that was draped with purple and yellow sheets. In his mouth, he held a long stick that resembled a flute.

The Twelves Days of WICKED LITTLE SECRETS: The Fifth Day

On the Fifth Day of Wicked Little Secrets , my true love gave to me . . .

Five Scheming Courtesans!

"Fontaine cleared her voice and spread her arms in a grand, dramatic gesture. “Welcome to Seven Heavens,” she boomed, as if she were on stage and not three feet away. “You know only good boys go to heaven. Have you been a good boy, Lord Dashiell?”