The Spider’s Web cover & release date!

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After being released from a Toronto psych ward, Evie decides that her life needs a drastic change. Moving 500 kilometers east to stay with her aunt in Montreal, however, is not turning out as expected. Though she loves the city, she can’t outrun the problems that drove her to the edge in the first place.

Recovery might be a little easier if not for Micha. Handsome, kind, always willing to help Evie or cheer her on–and completely invisible to everyone else. He seems to think he’s some kind of guardian angel, and she might need one now that things have gone from bad to just plain weird.

It started with the spiders. Then the owls started following her. Ghosts, goddesses, and secret societies are just the icing on the cake. She’s going to need help from some very powerful friends if she wants to make it to her next birthday, but when one of those friends is the goddess of the underworld, her guardian angel might have to start working overtime.

That’s right, folks! Next Tuesday the re-release of the Spider’s Web will be available on Amazon. You know what that means, right? It’s time for another Q&A session!


spiderswebsmallWait, I missed something. What do you mean, “re-release?” Isn’t this book already out?
The Spider’s Web was originally released in May of 2016 by Torquere Press. Since then, Torquere has folded and all the rights for my books (the text part, anyway) have reverted back to me. I’ve chosen to self publish The Spider’s Web, and the remainder of Evie’s books

How is this edition different from the first one?
Overall, there won’t be many differences the average reader will spot. I tweaked a little dialogue and tightened up the prose, but there are no changes to the story itself. The biggest change is the new cover.

Why is the cover different?
Torquere provided the cover art and promo graphics for the original edition, so they keep those rights. That means I can’t use them for the re-release. The new cover art was kindly provided by Ash K. Alexander, who is handling all the graphics for the Night Wars novels now that Missouri and I are self-publishing them. This is excellent, because now we have wrap around cover art (Torquere books had a black back cover), and we can put the volume number on the spine. It always drove me crazy that Torquere didn’t put series numbers on the spines of their books!

Also, Ash takes payment in knitwear, so she’s pretty much the only graphic designer that will fit into my budget. 🙂

 

What formats will be available?
The e-book will go up first. There will a paperback version (really!) (no, I meant! For real this time!), but I don’t know how long it’s going to take to receive and process the galley. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s up.

Does it matter where I buy the book?
Because the Night Wars books are now self-published, the only place to find them is Amazon. It’s unfortunate, but they should be available world-wide, and there will no longer be a price or royalty difference.

Anything else I should know?

Since I no longer have the backing of a publisher, all of the promo work now falls to me. If you read my books and you enjoy them, it is a HUGE help if you could take a few minutes to rate and review them on Amazon or Goodreads (Goodreads is helpful, but Amazon is better).

If you have any other questions, just leave them below and I’ll be happy to answer them!

The Spider’s Web ReRelease!

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Watch this space!

My Return of Rights letter has been received, so over the next several weeks The Spider’s Web and The Night Wars Collection will be reformatted and re-released on Amazon. I don’t have an exact date just yet, but The Spider’s Web should be out by the end of January.

One big change is that In Defense of Mushrooms is going to be added to The Night Wars Collection. It was originally supposed to be part of the collection, but my publisher thought it would better as a stand alone. Missouri and I both disagree with this, so it will become the 14th story in the collection. I’ll let you know when to look for it.

Now that the paperwork is in order, I can move forward with Evie’s 2nd and 3rd books–The Ferrymen and The Moreau House (working title). I don’t know when they’ll be out yet, only that The Ferrymen will be released before the end of 2017.

I will, of course, post all of the details here as they become available.

Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due, part 10

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I found Daddy in the front parlor, which served as his private practice three days a week. Inside was a couch and two chairs. Against one wall an exam table waited, and at the back of the room a small secretary desk waited next to a filing cabinet.

Daddy dropped a small stack of files onto the open desktop, gently depositing a box on top. Glass rattled softly inside.

“How were things at the hospital?” I asked, leaning against the doorframe.

He glanced up at me, then shook his head. “We had two admitted last night with methyl alcohol poisoning. I got their files this morning. One of them may not pull through.”

“Are those the samples?”

“These are some of the bottles the police have confiscated recently. I told Chief French I thought I could determine if they came from the same source.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“Well, every bootlegger uses a different recipe, a slightly different method of redistilling their alcohol. Some use industrial alcohol, others brew their own. Some use a combination of techniques. I think, if we run some tests and determine what levels of methyl alcohol are present, as well as the other ingredients, we should be able to determine which bottles came from the same batch, which might, in the end, lead us back to the person who made them in the first place.”

It was a sound theory. I knew Daddy had been reading all kinds of journals and papers out of New York, where their medical jurisprudence office was revolutionizing the way science and police work intersected.

“We’re lucky Chief French has done so much to clean up the city in the past two years,” Daddy continued, taking off his jacket and rolling up his shirtsleeves. “We’re likely only dealing with a small pool of suspects, rather than the hundreds or thousands a city like New York or Chicago would have.”

Chief French took over the police department two years earlier. Since then, he’d shut down almost every speakeasy, gambling den, and brothel in the city. Autocratic and a staunch teetotaller, Mother didn’t like him much, but he was very popular with the churches and temperance groups. And really, in Columbus that was all you needed.

Daddy pointed to the box. “Take those downstairs, would you? And start measuring out some samples. I’ll be down in a minute.”

I did as instructed, carrying the heavy box down to the makeshift laboratory Daddy set up in the basement.

The lab was the main reason Daddy insisted our house be the first on the block to convert from illuminating gas to electricity. “Some of these chemicals are very hazardous,” he said as we sat at the top of the basement stairs, watching the workman connect the tangle of wires to the wall. “I don’t want any accidents.”

Rose still worried that one day, Daddy’s experiments would blow us all sky high, but she mostly kept her worries to herself, only voicing them at times of extreme stress or when he brought home some particularly pungent sample for testing.

While the sheets were soaking, Elizabeth joined me, helping me measure out precise amounts of each liquor into glass tubes, labeling each one.

“Oh, wow! How could anyone drink that?” she gasped, holding out a suspect brown bottle.

I coughed a little covering my mouth. “Jeeze! No wonder people are getting sick. That smells like it could eat right through your insides!”

“It probably could. The boys at the hospital are calling the latest round of bootleg whiskey to go around ‘the Devil’s due.’ It’s the most toxic thing we’ve come across yet. Damn this prohibition. As if homemade liquor weren’t dangerous enough, now we’ve got speakeasies selling industrial alcohol, and our own government adding poison to it!” Daddy spat, appearing at the bottom of the staircase. He had an unlit cigarette in one hand, the other in his pocket.

“You’re not planning on lighting that, are you? This stuff will send us all to the moon if you get a match anywhere near it!”

He smiled, plucking the bottle from Elizabeth’s fingers. He sniffed it suspiciously, making a face, then covered the opening with his thumb, quickly flipping the bottle upside down to smear some of the liquid across the pad. Sucking the tip of his thumb, he nodded. “Yep, that’d do it all right. Potent stuff.” Setting it aside, he reached for the next bottle. Most of them hadn’t had labels, so Elizabeth pasted numbers onto each one so the samples could be identified later. The one he picked up, however, had a ragged, yellowed label with dark blue ink. Curling script identified it as Hudson Castle Whiskey, Canada, with line illustration of a crumbling castle.

Daddy took a sample of it as well. “Bleh!”

His expression reminded me of a dog George used to have when it stole a lemon from his mother’s kitchen table. “If that’s whisky, I’m the queen of England!”

Elizabeth and I both laughed. Daddy thrust the bottle in my direction. “We’ll start with that one. God only knows what they put in it.”

For the rest of the afternoon I measured and labeled, and helped Daddy set up the various pieces of equipment he would need to distill and redistill the samples, individually testing the potency for each and attempting to tease out traces of methyl alcohol and any number of other substances that might be toxic to humans.

Our work finally stopped just before dinner, when Rose came to tell me I had a phone call.

“Go on. I’ll finish up here. I imagine your mother will be home soon,” Daddy said, shooing me up the stairs. I smiled, gave him a quick, one-armed hug, then ran up to the first floor where the telephone waited in the hall.

“Hello?”

“Hey, there doll!” a cheerful voice crackled over the line.

“Alex!”

“You didn’t get into too much trouble, did you? Archie said he saw you getting hauled away, putting up a fight like a regular bearcat!”

“Oh, no! It was nothing like that. Though Mother was waiting outside,” I lowered my voice so no one would overhear.

“Oh! That’s terrible. Did she lock you up and throw away the key?”

“Not quite. Though I don’t know when I’ll get my driving privileges back.”

“Well, no worries there. Archie and I’ll take you out. Say, that’s what I was calling about. There’s a bit of a party tonight, down by the university. We can pick you up at the end of the block, and no one will be the wiser.”

“I can’t, Alex. They may not have thrown away the key, but I’m still in trouble.”

“Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me. It’s a little place off of Fifth; some swell’s got a real big house. He’s supposed to have some top shelf stuff, if you’ve decided not to be a teetotaller.”

Suddenly remembering the bottle of doctored booze Daddy was still testing, I opened my mouth to warn her, but there was noise at the other end of the line. Alexandra turned her head away from the telephone; I could just make out the sound of her brother’s voice.

“I’ve gotta get a wiggle on, doll. We’ll see you tomorrow at the contest, then!” She hung up before I had a chance to respond.

Sighing, I set the earpiece back on the hook. “Is something wrong?” Elizabeth asked, looking up from the dining room table, where she was setting out silverware.

I shook my head and went to help her set the table for dinner. “It’s nothing.”

A-Z Book Tag

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I pulled this one off of Youtube. If you’d like to do your own version, I’ll leave a blank version behind the cut.

A. Author you’ve read the most books from

Most books ever? I read a lot of series books growing up, so it’s probably a toss up between Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew books, or Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter’s Club.

B. Best sequel ever

This is a hard one, since I’ve read so many series. Probably Seizure, by Kathy Reichs. The Virals series just throws one punch after another, and I think it has the best consistency through all the volumes.

C. Currently reading

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.

D. Drink of choice

Depends on the season. Right now, I’d have to go with either a green tea latte, or a peppermint hot chocolate.

E. E-reader or physical book

Anymore, most of my reading is done via audiobooks, but if I have to eye read, I generally prefer a physical book. I do keep books on my phone and my tablet though, and frequently read in line or whenever I can squeeze in a few sentences.

F. Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school.

Um…I didn’t date? I still don’t date? It tends to be a side effect of being asexual…

G. Glad you gave this book a chance

Jane Eyre. This was one of the first classics I ever read that wasn’t geared at children, or assigned through school. It is one of my all-time favorite books, and the reason I started reading more classic fiction. It’s also had a huge impact on my writing, and could, by extension, also be credited with my love of nonfiction, which didn’t happen until a few years ago.

H. Hidden gem

The Eight of Swords by David Skibbins. I found this book by accident while traveling. I’d forgotten to bring reading material, and this was the cheapest book in the clearance bin. It’s a fantastic mystery series and I’m still the only one I know who has even heard of it.

Picture this: bipolar conman turns private eye.

That is all you need to know. Go read it.

I. Important moment in your reading life

Third grade. That was the moment I went from “Do I have to read this?” to “Can I read this? And this?” I could read above my grade level, but didn’t enjoy it. Once I discovered the American Girl books, that all changed.

J. Just finished

Steel, by Carrie Vaughn. It’s her first foray into YA, and it’s magnificent. It made me think a lot of Virals, probably because both involve pirate lore.

K. Kind of book you won’t read

I like to think I’m pretty openminded in my reading, but if there is a relationship that is abusive in some way, but presented as being peachy keen (50 shades, Twilight), I’m out.

L. Longest book you’ve read

Probably Little Women, though I’m just starting The Count of Monte Cristo, and I think that might be longer.

M. Major book hangover because of…

I think the last one was the first time I read Fangirl, but Cinder, Scarlet, and all of the Cat Winters books have also given me book hangovers to a lesser degree.

N. Number of bookshelves you own

4. 5 if you count my night stand, which is full of books.

O. One book you’ve read multiple times

My most re-read book is either Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Possibly A Little Princess.

P. Preferred place to read

Usually in bed, but we don’t own a couch right now so that’s pretty much the only place to read.

Q. Quote that inspires you

“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

R. Reading regrets

I really wish I’d started reading nonfiction sooner. I didn’t really start reading nonfiction for pleasure until after I graduated from college.

S. Series you’ve started and need to finish

I really need to get caught up on the Rick Riordan books. I haven’t read either of the Magnus Chase books, or the one about Apollo. I also need to get caught up on the Dresden Files and the Cal Leandros novels.

T. Three of your all time favorite books

Magic’s Pawn, Jane Eyre, A Little Princess

U. Unapologetic fangirl

Harry Potter, and that will never change.

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V. Very excitd for this release more than others

The next Cassie Palmer book. It was supposed to be out last year, but got pushed back. A new date still hasn’t been released.

W. Worst bookish habit

Eating while reading library books. I’m very sorry if you found Oreo crumbs in your latest check out!

X. X marks the spot: Pick the 27th book from the top left shelf

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Y. Your latest purchase

Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book. Does that count, since it’s a sewing book and not a reading book? I don’t remember what my last fiction purchase was–I’ve been trying not to buy books before we move!

Z. Z snatcher–book that kept you up way too late

I’m very good at forcing myself to go to bed on time (it happens when you have to get up stupid early for work), but I think the last book I could not put down for anything was probably Fangirl. I think I stayed up about an hour past my bedtime to finish it.

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2017 Events and Appearances

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That’s right! I’m going places in 2017!

Well, a place. But I’m hoping to add more stops throughout the year and going into 2018.

For now, you can look for me at Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati on April 28, 29, and 30. I will be co-hosting 2 panels, and possibly a reading. I might also have a table with books for sale, depending on where things stand with Torquere. I should have my rights back in time to get the book through Create Space, but I don’t know for certain yet. More details as they come.

Symposium is, hands down, one of my favorite events. I’ve gone every year since they started.

While Steampunk is considered sci-fi/fantasy, Symposium has always put a huge emphasis on the history and literature that inspired the genre. They have a really great “lit track” (panels specifically dedicated to books, writing, and writers), which Missouri and I will both be helping with under the guidance of the lovely Leanna Renee Hieber.

If you want more information, check the shiny new tab up top, where I’ll put all of the convention info, useful links, and my schedule once I get it.

Any other questions? Just leave them below!

 

Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due: part 9

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dru-cover

 

We gathered on the back porch for an early lunch. Elizabeth, with help from her mother, managed to salvage most of the contents of our picnic basket, except the bread, which was a soggy mess.

“It’s a good thing it’s washing day,” Rose said, shaking her head as she carried our filthy things down to the basement scullery, where the washing machine was.

I found a clean blanket, and spread it out on the thick grass in the back yard. With the windows open, we could hear the radio playing in the back parlor.

We were just laying out the food when George strolled across the lawn toward us, ducking under the line of his mother’s washing with a pie balanced carefully in one hand.

“Well, it looks like a party!” He said, depositing his own offering onto the picnic. “My mother sent this over. She wouldn’t listen when I said we had plenty of food.”

“It smells delicious!” Elizabeth said, leaning forward to inhale the apple and cinnamon scented steam still rising from the crust.

No trace of the storm remained.  July sun shone down on us, bright and hot. With the music playing in the background, it should have been the perfect summer day. But instead of laughing, our thoughts turned instead to our terrifying experience at the barn.

“You don’t think they could have followed us, do you? Do you think they’ll find us?” Elizabeth asked, worrying a thumbnail.

“Ishkabible. There’s no way they could have followed us. They were on foot, remember?” George took her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.

“But what if they recognize your car? The bullet holes are going to be hard to miss.”

“Stop worrying. I’ll have them fixed up in no time. Did I tell you, I’m taking a class? I’m going to learn to weld. It’ll be fine.”

Despite his brave words, I could tell George was worried too, but unwilling to show it for Elizabeth’s sake.

Rose came out with a basket of laundry, adding a row of shirts to those already flapping on the line and cutting our conversation short.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt you bright young things,” she said, glancing over her shoulder at us.

I tried to come up with a new subject–safer for discussion around worried adults–but the song changed and George got a mischievous look on his face. “They’re playing our song,” he whispered to Elizabeth. Before she could object, he grabbed her hand, hauling her to her feet, then spun her around and started doing a quickstep to “Liza Jane.”

I laughed, applauding his skill as Elizabeth blushed and tried to keep up. She added her own flourish as he spun her around and swept her into a low dip.

“What do you two think you’re doing?” Rose demanded, scowling at them. “Mister George, the neighbors!” She looked at the surrounding houses, as though our neighbors might be watching with telescopes.

“It’s all in good fun, Rose,” I said, trying to calm her, but she’d already abandoned the laundry. The basket flipped onto its side in her haste to pull Elizabeth away.

“Mama, he didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” her daughter pleaded. “It’s just fun.”

George waltzed up to Rose, gently taking her hands and taking her for a whirl like he had Elizabeth. “We were just dancing.”

Rose pulled her hands away, taking several steps back. “And what will the neighbors say if they see both of you together? What would Mr. Blake say?” she lowered her voice to a whisper, still glancing at the houses around us. She gathered Elizabeth to her side. “Go inside. Start collecting the sheets.”

“But Mama–“

“Go inside.”

Elizabeth slunk off, sparing one last look over her shoulder for George and I before disappearing through the back door.

Rose smoothed out her apron, schooling her face into a mask of calm. “I’m sorry for my outburst, Miss Dru, Mister George. But you don’t understand how dangerous a thing like that can be. They’re burnin’ crosses in Dayton, and there’s talk in town. I just want me and my girl to do our work and live our lives, and not draw attention from no one.”

I knew the kind of talk she meant. Columbus was not a diverse city; we had a very small immigrant population, mostly Italians, and some Germans further south. Even our negro population was relatively small. Maybe because despite our Northern sensibilities, Columbus remained unwelcoming to outsiders.

I remembered when I was young, just before Rose and Elizabeth moved in with us. I was maybe six or seven, and couldn’t understand why people sometimes shouted mean things at my parents when we went out. Once, Daddy came home from work at the hospital, dejected and filthy. I listened from the staircase as he told Mother about the group of men and women who threw eggs and flour at him as he was leaving the hospital, shouting “Dirty kraut, go home!” Neither I nor my parents had ever seen Germany, and my grandfather barely remembered it himself. But just the name “Faust” was enough to fuel the anti-German sentiment of the war. On the south side of the city, where a large German-speaking population resided, streets were renamed to hide their Germanic origins. German books and newspapers were burned. Even now, German Village, where most of the immigrants lived in the south of the city, suffered. The anti-immigrant sentiment growing throughout the country was felt keenly in that neighborhood, and now that the breweries were closed due to prohibition, many people were out of work and suffering from hard times. We didn’t speak of it, but I knew Daddy thought of it often.

Sobered, I put a hand on Rose’s arm. “I’m sorry Rose. We didn’t mean to cause trouble. But I don’t think anyone around here would mind. Our neighbors all know you’re like family to us.”

“And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?” She smoothed her perfectly straight apron again. “Excuse me, miss. I need to get back to work.”

George and I watched her go back to the laundry basket, stiffly pinning towels to the line. Our festive mood spoiled, he helped me pack up our dishes and carry them back to the house.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, for the competition,” I said, seeing him out the front door. Elizabeth was nowhere in sight.

“Yeah. Tomorrow. I’ll pick you up at two.” He nodded without really looking at me. I watched him trot across the lawn to his house, wishing there was more I could do for him and Elizabeth.

“Is he gone?” she asked, creeping down the stairs. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and she held an overflowing armload of bedding.

“Yes. He’ll be back tomorrow to pick me up for the dance contest.”

Sniffling, Elizabeth ducked her head. “I wish I could go. I wish I could dance with him. Really dance with him, in public and everything. But we can’t even dance in our own backyard.”

I found her hand in the folds of cotton and gave it a squeeze. “Here, let me help you with that.”

Together, we took the laundry down to the basement. I was just setting down my share of the load when the sound of the front door and footsteps overhead alerted me that Daddy was home. Remembering I was to help him with his tests, I gave Elizabeth a small smile. “Are you copacetic?”

She nodded, sniffling a little as she put the first pieces in to soak. “I’ll be fine.”

I gave her quick hug, then ran up the stairs to meet Daddy.

Goals: Old and New

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The goals of 2016:

  1. Be active for 30 minutes 5x per week.
    Maybe this year I will have more success than last year, though so far January has not been promising.
  2. Polish 3 manuscripts
  3. Pay off 2 debts
    I have 2 specific debts in mind. I’m almost there; I want to knock them off my list this year.

I’m going to call 2 out of 3 successes a win. I did okay at #1 over the summer, but got derailed in the fall–I kept getting sick or injured. Nothing serious, but just enough that all I really had the energy or ability to do was lay around knitting and watching tv.

I did revise/polish 3 manuscripts. Unfortunately, 2 of them are tangled up in the Torquere implosion, so I’ve only got one I can query right now. That is first on my list for 2017 goals.

I also managed to pay off two of my debts.

For 2017, here’s the new list of goals:

  1. Send out at least 1 query every week
    I’ve been slacking off on my queries the last few months. I need to get back to it.
  2. Release The Spider’s Web on Amazon (once rights have been returned)
    I can’t move on this just yet, but while I’m waiting for my return of rights letter I’ll be revising Evie’s first book and working on the subsequent books. I can’t give you an idea of the release date yet, but I promise you guys will be the first to know.
  3. Reduce the yarn stash by 50%
    I’ve got 2 moves planned in the next 2 years–one of them will be long distance, so I’m starting the process of reducing the amount of stuff I own now.
  4. Save for the moving
    Moving is expensive. Especially when it’s over 1000 miles.
  5. Read all the books on the night stand
    Some of the books on my night stand have been there an embarrasingly long time. I want to read them and decide once and for all if they are books I want to keep, or if they are going in the massive pre-move destash.
  6. Read at least 20% diverse books
    I wanted to read more diverse books last year, and did horribly. I actually have a list of diverse books I want to read, but most of them aren’t available on audio (either they haven’t been made into audiobooks, or my library doesn’t have them). Specifically, I want to read more LGBTQIA books, and books by people of color.

That’s a much longer list than I usually have. It’s going to be a busy year!

Books of 2016

2016 is officially my best read year ever, with a total of 80 books.

Rereads: 7 9%

Diverse books: 4 5%

Percent of goal: 107%

Nonfiction: 24 30%

Classics: 10 13%

I hit most of my goals for this year, but I’m still woefully short on diverse books–mostly because the ones I want to read aren’t available on audio. So my goal for 2017 is to read more books by LGBTQIA, marginalized, or writers of color. If you want to see the full list, just click below.

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Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due: Part 8

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I don’t know how long we cowered there in the corner of the barn. Outside, the wind raged and limbs crashed and cracked. It sounded like the world was coming down around us; I don’t know how that old barn managed to stay up in all the hullaballoo.

At last, it quieted. The waterfall sound of rain coming through the open section of roof slowed to a heavy drizzle, then lifted almost entirely. I crept out from under the blanket, looking at the sky. The black clouds were moving quickly to the south east, lightening as they sailed past.

The storm had thrown straw all over. Anything that hadn’t been nailed down–and a few things that were–now littered the floor. A tree branch wedged itself between two of the boards on one wall, and one of the overhead beams, already weak, hung at an odd angle. Slate shingles from the roof were shattered on the floor.

I squinted at them. Something bothered me about them, but I couldn’t tell what.

“We should get back to the car,” Elizabeth said. She was still shaking a little as she looped her arm into George’s.

I nodded, following them outside. Even with all three of us yanking on the barn door, we couldn’t open it. Instead, we had to squeeze through a gap in the wall, which was tilted to the south.

“I feel like I just landed in Oz. Only there are no munchkins,” Elizabeth breathed, staring wide-eyed at the damage. Downed limbs littered the ground, which was soggy and sucked at our shoes as we retraced our steps to the road.

By some miracle, the old jalopy was still parked by the roadside, two wheels sinking an inch into the mud. I found the tool kit under the front seat and used a screwdriver to clear the drain holes in the floorboards of dirt so the water which had pooled ankle deep in the car could drain away, then helped Elizabeth scoop handfuls of wet leaves and small branches off the seats and floor.

“I’m glad now I didn’t put the top up this morning,” George said, swinging the crank from his shoulder. “It would have been torn to ribbons in that storm, or torn off completely.” When the engine didn’t start right away, he opened the front of the car and began tinkering with the engine.

“Everything copacetic?” I asked.

“It’s fine. Just a little waterlogged, I think.” He pulled a fistful of leaves from the front grill, tossing them on the ground.

Elizabeth planted her hands on her hips, surveying our work with the car’s interior. Her thick braids hung limply now, and she’d lost one of the blue ribbons securing them. “Well, it’s a good thing we’re already wet, because I don’t think it’s going to get much drier.”

I didn’t imagine I looked much better. I already suspected my stockings were beyond repair.

“We just have to make it home, and then there’ll be a hot bath and clean clothes.” I sighed wistfully at the thought.

George closed the hood and took another try with the engine crank.

At first, I thought the loud pops were coming from the old engine, unwilling as it was to start. Then George gave a shout and sparks splash off the hood. I ducked, pulling Elizabeth down with me.

“What is that?” She wailed, covering her head. I peered over the top of the seat and saw movement in the trees. Three people, half hidden by the trees, were making their way toward us.

“Bootleggers! George, hurry!”

He gave the crank one more forceful jerk, and the car leapt to life. Keeping his head below the top of the beezer, he climbed in from the passenger side as the shooters paused to reload. Another loud bang, and a smattering of buckshot brought down a limb just over our heads.

Elizabeth screamed. George threw the car into gear, and with a squeal of protest, it lurched forward, spitting gravel in our wake. We rattled down the lane, lead shot peppering the back of the car and ringing loudly in the quiet of the wood.

The jalopy careened around a corner, sliding in the wet clay and sending up a spray of muddy water. George didn’t slow down until we were back on the paved road back to town.

“That was close!” he sighed, leaning back in his seat.

Elizabeth was still huddled up next to me, crying quietly. “That was terrifying! What do we do?” she asked.

“We should tell your mother,” George said immediately, inclining his head to me. “If there are bootleggers up there, the police need to know about it.”

We all agreed. “And in the meantime, maybe we should pick less secluded picnic spots,” I suggested. I mean it to be a joke, but George and Elizabeth both nodded. She put a hand on his shoulder, and he reached up to give her fingers a squeeze.

I leaned back and let them have their moment, since they probably wouldn’t get another one for a while. I stewed over the events of the morning. The wooded area where we’d taken shelter from the storm hadn’t appeared occupied, but the still had to be close by if the bootleggers were defending it so ruthlessly. I remembered how worn the lane leading to the barn was. If only I’d paid attention, looking for fresh tracks! It hadn’t struck me as odd at the time. But that must be where they’re making it, or at least meeting someone who takes it away, I thought. The barn had been run down and empty, though, so the still must be hidden in the woods.

In no time, we pulled up to the curb between my house and George’s. A branch from the maple tree between our yards lay broken on the grass. Mr. Blake was out with a hand saw, breaking it down into smaller pieces for firewood. He raised a hand in greeting as we climbed out of the car.

“Back so soon? I thought you weren’t coming home until afternoon,” he said, pausing in his work to wipe sweat from his forehead. Now that the rain was past, the air was thick and muggy with summer heat.

“We ran into some problems.” George give Elizabeth a hand down to the curb, and I handed her the basket with our forgotten lunch. All three of us were windblown, our clothes partially damp, disheveled from the wind and coated in mud. I reached up self consciously to smooth out my golden-brown bob, but doubted it did much good.

“George, would you still like to join us for lunch? Our plans may not have worked out, but we could always spread a blanket in the backyard, or eat on the porch,” I suggested, attempting to salvage what I could of our morning.

“That sounds like a good idea.”

“Let’s all take a chance to clean up. When you’re ready, come on over and we can have our lunch.”

George and Elizabeth both agreed to the plan. We went our separate ways to clean up.

“I’ll see what I can salvage from our basket. You go take a bath,” Elizabeth suggested, carrying the basket into the kitchen. dru-cover

Phryne’s Favorite Cloche

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It’s been a long time since I put out a pattern, hasn’t it?

A few months ago, I announced I was stepping back from knitwear design. I’m still not really “back in the saddle” but during the technological failure that was Nanowrimo, I happened across an old, unpublished-but-almost-complete pattern on my old desktop, and decided hey, why not?

It’s a pretty simple knit, with a bit of origami-like action to form the embellishment. This is one of my favorite hats, and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it.

The pattern can be found in my Ravelry store, here.