Failure to Communicate

Craft updates for Tami Veldura and S.T. Lynn.

Recent Posts

A Scorpion's Nature: Part 101

No comments
Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 101

When Lance arrived at home, he stepped into the bedroom and arrested there on the threshold. Taylor sat in the corner, naked and absorbed in a book. Alex lay on the bed, restrained, color high, and half-erect. Unsatisfied. Lance knew the look well. He felt himself tighten in all the right places.

Lance let the door swing closed with a thump. Taylor jumped in his seat. He snapped the book closed and stood, "Ah, Lance. Hi. You're back."

From the bed, Alex moaned. His breathing was erratic.

"This... this looks really bad. I can explain."

Lance gave him a hard look. So get on with it.

"I--er--we . . . Alex caught me at lunch. He really wanted sex and didn't seem to care if you were involved or not. I'm not sure he was thinking straight. I tricked him into . . . this.

This was Alex spread-eagle and keening very softly as he writhed on the bed, seeking any kind of resistance. Lance really liked the look. He glanced at Taylor. Lance sat on the edge, dipping Alex toward him. He brushed sweat-slick hair from his forehead.

Alex's eyes fluttered. "Lance? Lance I need--"

"I know," Lance said. He ran his wide hand down Alex's taught stomach and gripped Alex's refreshed arousal.

Alex gasped, his eyes shooting wide open. His pupils were mere pinpricks. Lance didn't think he could see anything.

Lance stroked him twice, three times, Alex came, wordlessly stringing noise of relief from his throat. Then he collapsed, less than boneless. Lance undid the leather at Alex's wrists and dug a hand towel from their chest of drawers.

Taylor stepped in and released Alex's left leg. He held onto the limb, massaging the ankle and smoothing the skin there for several seconds. Then he did the same with the right leg. Lance cleaned Alex's chest. He climbed onto the bed and Alex curled up. His body shook.

Was he crying?

Both Lance and Taylor froze at the first wet sound. Then a second gasp. Yes, tears. Lance pulled Alex up onto his lap and let him weep into Lance's shoulder. He stroked Alex's back and whispered nothing.

"Taylor." He caught the man trying to dress and sneak out. "Come here." Taylor was reluctant, but Lance just held his arm out. Eventually Taylor climbed onto the bed. "All you did was tie him down and wait?"

"Yes, sir," Taylor whispered. "We . . . there was some fooling around to get there. Touching. Oral. No one came.

Lance pulled Taylor close by the neck and kissed him. Gently. In the way Alex had shown him. Taylor made a small needy sound in the back of his throat and Lance thought maybe he did it right. They kissed for minutes, leisurely. Then Taylor curled closer, pressing into Lance's side and gaining contact with Alex.

Alex shook, but when Taylor enclosed him he finally settled and slipped into sleep. Lance whispered to them both, "You did good."

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



Art: Araceli

No comments


Araceli Cross
Blood in the Water

Photoshop

Zodiac Forces #1 and #2 Now In French!

No comments
I don't know how much of my audience is fluent in French, but I'm very excited to announce that my first foreign language translation is now available for preorder and will be released this Friday! If you've been looking for a reason to pick up Spring Tide, but didn't want to buy the entire If You're Reading This anthology, I'm pleased to tell you it's available in this duology.

Publisher: Reines-Beaux (Belgium)

Closer Than Touch: M/M
Spring Tide: F/F

Preorder at all major retailers:
Amazon.fr
Smashwords
iTunes (BE)
iTunes (FR)
FNAC
Kobo


Add it to your reading list:
BookNode
Goodreads
Babelio

Art: Alex and Taylor

No comments

A Scorpion's Nature: Part 100

No comments
Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 100 (!!)

Alex woke the next morning horny and alone. Drills, he remembered. Lance was running drills in the simulator--all day. Through sheer force of will, he got his day started on a rather mundane note of oatmeal and a magazine followed by an hour or two of ignoring his arousal while trying to study Keta's latest spotting book.

He even managed to make small conversation at lunch over the Pisces trip. Everyone was quite excited about it. Alex was happy to answer their questions and smiled when he finally pulled out the excuse 'Sorry, I can't talk about that.'

He should have known it would lead to additional questions that he couldn't talk about. Callahan gave him a high-five. The first of their group with a corporation secret. Alex scoffed, but didn't try and tell them it wasn't a big deal. The idea of something top secret was more entertaining than knowing the truth. And whatever the Katz cartel was planning, it wasn't going to trickle down to their work any time soon.

When lunch broke up, Alex moved to catch Taylor. He fully intended to explain Lance's situation and ask him to come over. Instead, Alex pushed him against the mess wall and kissed him. Alex's burning arousal throbbed throughout his body. He held Taylor's head and neck in both hands and gasped, forcibly putting distance between them. "I need you, Taylor. I need you right now."

"Not that I'm complaining, but what about Lance?"

Alex adjusted his erection and clenched his fist. "He's stuck training for another two hours. Maybe three. I can't wait that long. I've been dying since I woke up."

Taylor put his finger under Alex's chin to look at him properly. "It's called masturbation, Drake."

Alex resisted the urge to stick out his tongue. "I can't. Not allowed."

Taylor laughed and exposed the length of his throat. Alex dove in, licking biting. "Alex, haha, Alex if you can't beat it, I know for sure we can't fuck without him. Come on, stop teasing."

Alex brought himself up, looked deep into Taylor's bright eyes. "I do not care."

Taylor sobered a bit, his eyebrows drawing together. "Yes, you do."

"Want to bet on that?"

Taylor bit his lip. Alex raised his eyebrows. "Ok. Ok, but I need to grab supplies from my room. Meet you in yours?"

"Done." Alex let him go and Taylor sprinted for the apartments.

Alex jogged a little more leisurely, too hard for a proper run. He met Taylor hopping down the steps of his apartment with a small duffle bag in hand. The pair of them tumbled through Alex's apartment, grabbing, kissing, biting.

Keta was absent and Alex nearly convinced Taylor to bend over the couch and beg. He was bent over the couch and begging, but somehow it was Alex who backed down the hall and into the bedroom with Taylor pressing his advantage.

They stripped each other of clothes. Alex swallowed Taylor's erection and brought him this close to climax. Then Taylor had Alex bent over the bed and begging.

Taylor tore through his duffle bag and caught Alex's wrists together. He wrapped them both in leather and hooked it on the headboard, locked with a Zodiac-issue caribeener. Alex yanked at the restraint, rattling it. He growled at Taylor, narrowing his eyes down the length of his own body. His cock throbbed and leaked.

Taylor caught his feet in individual wraps, pinning them wide so he had full access to Alex's body. He ran his hands up Alex's thighs and breathed on his erection. "You ready?"

"Yes, yes, God, yes." Alex pushed his hips up but Taylor stood up, face suddenly serious.

"Good. Lay there and think about it."

"Wait, what?" But Taylor turned away. He rummaged through his bag and pulled out a book of some kind. Alex rattled his chains and hissed, "Are you fucking serious?"

Taylor sat in a forgotten corner chair and let his knees flop wide. His erection bobbed, as hard as Alex's, but he steadfastly ignored it.

"If you don't come back to this bed . . ." He would what? Scream and rattle his restraints? Alex yanked on the leather and thrashed until he wore himself out.

Taylor read his book.

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



AO3 and Writing for Fun

No comments
Photo By matryosha
About two weeks ago I put my name in for an account on AO3. That's Archive of Our Own, for those not in the fanfiction-know. I got my start in fanfiction, as did most authors I know, and I've never truly left it. I haven't written fanfic in a long time, but I'm thinking it may be time to return to it just to remind myself what the fun was all about.

My original fandom was Gundam Wing. I quickly branched into Pirates of the Caribbean, then Harry Potter and never really moved on from there. Gundam Wing is a surprisingly active fandom for how old the series is. Pirates I haven't been visiting much, but the Harry Potter fandom, like Star Trek, will likely never die.

I've enjoyed writing all the stories that I've published, but some are inherently more fun than others. Stealing Serenity started out as a stupid no-plot 5k story and through a lot of hard work turned into a short I'm extremely proud of. By comparison, Pirates1 was a romp to write all the way through and I'm equally proud of it.

There's something to be said for crafting a story deliberately from beginning to end. But there's also something to be gained from writing just for the sheer joy of it.

So recently I've gone through some of my older work, things I've always 'wanted to get back to' but haven't found the reason for. And one of those things is a Snarry fanfiction that I haven't shown anyone but secretly adore beyond all reason.

Homecursed is the story of Harry- curse expert and former auror, and Snape- soldier and former professor, stuck in an estate literally bristling with magic. They're stuck in a single office/bathroom suite with limited access to a kitchen and involves a lot of my favorite forced-into-situations tropes, including fuck-or-die.

Calling for Rayne - superstar/guitarist freeloader meets crisp businessman alpha millionaire dom. Denialplay.

17 Rising - epic vampire apocalypse. Taken from Natural Adaptation, the short story in Fanged, this is a 100k-or-so outline with about 8k written. It's crazy. And awful. I love it.

As Scorpion's Nature wraps up I'll start putting 17 Rising on the blog as a weekly serial. It's so long that I don't know any other way to put it on my to-do list and make regular progress. Calling for Rayne is ... really one of my favorite stories and needs to go on my to-do list at some point. Maybe next year. I think it'll be the first thing I send in to Riptide. We'll see.

And obviously Homecursed won't be published for profit since it's a fanfiction. But if/when I ever write it, I'll put it up on AO3 for everyone to enjoy.

Writing Prompt: Hell Week

No comments
Photo by Emre Ayaroglu
Jurassic Park meets Star Wars
Dinosaurs in SPAAAAAAACE!

This is a prompt response from Terribleminds.

Hell Week

In the core of the galaxy, a few light years off of Julian trade route, floats the Eanta system. With two stars at its heart and a third at a distant orbit, Eanta is central to galactic trade and learning. Fifth from the double sun, and with an atmosphere hostile to all known life, circles Lovac, a gas giant devoid of remarkable features. Save for one.

At the very edge of Lovac's atmosphere lives a low-density non-sentient creature. When it was discovered, the galaxy's largest space station was built  in orbit to study it. In two hundred years, Lovac University has become the most prestigious school in the known universe. It is here where our story begins.

--//--

17 days until finals:

Rosalee set the terrarium beside her instruments. She had tenderly cultivated its habitat for months, measuring the sealed atmosphere for proper PH and humidity. It was finally ready. "You're sure it'll stay small?"

Her lab partner sighed, bright fins rising and falling down her back. "Yes. Keep the environment low in oxygen and it won't grow any bigger than your fist."

"I'm just making sure. This project will make or break my grade." Rosalee slid the terrarium across the table and nervously let Yixing take control of her future. Her lab partner's delicate claws pinched a small cube no larger than a fingertip. She dropped it into the receiving plate on top of the terrarium and sealed the valve. A small pump cycled the atmosphere. A heartbeat or two later the cube dropped into the body of the terrarium, cushioned by moss. Both girls breathed and sat back.

"Ok." Yixing said. "Now we wait a couple of days."

--//--

16 days until finals:

"Oh god." Rosalee grabbed her phone, tapping Yixing's number as fast as she could. "Yix, you there?"

"What's wrong?"

"Look at this!" Rosalee spun her phone to the side and panned it across the terrarium. She stopped at the tiny raptor hidden in the ferns. "Look at it! It's SO CUTE!"

"It hatched already?"

"I'm calling it squishy."

"You can't call it squishy, it has ninety-three teeth."

The raptor looked up toward Rosalee and made a questioning chirp. "It knows me, Yix. This is awesome."

"Are you writing notes? It wasn't supposed to hatch for two more days."

--//--

14 days until finals:

"You ready, guys? Watch this." Rosalee placed a thumb-sized block on the receiving plate. She cycled the valve and watched it drop. Squishy--the name stuck to Yixing's horror--remained in the ferns, watching. The yellow block began to evaporate in the terrarium's caustic atmosphere. It released a dozen small crickets.

All four students watched in fascination while the small raptor stalked, killed, and ate the bugs one at a time. It finished the job in under twenty minutes.

"I got the whole thing recorded." Said Kunshi, his rainbow of fins atwitter. "I'm posting it. Selfie?"

They all posed in front of the terrarium. The photo caught Squishy gazing up at the receiving plate.

--//--

7 days until finals:

"Yixing, you're sure?" Rosalee frowned at her phone and the latest image she'd captured of Squishy. The small raptor was not looking very small anymore.

"If you're that worried about it, put together a bigger cage. The final's in another week, right? You just need to keep it until then."

"Right." Then Rosalee gasped, "Oh, Yix, what am I going to do with it after finals? I can't bring a pet home, my parents would kill me!"

Yixing's fins lifted and her second-eyelid nictated from the side. "If you want I can vent it to Lovac for you after you go?"

Rosalee made a face and her shoulders slumped. "I'll think about it." In the meantime, she had a bigger environment to build.

--//--

5 days until finals:

"Ok, Squishy. It's time you had a new home." Rosalee put her hands on her hips and nodded at the new environment she'd managed to rustle together. It stretched the length of the counter and stood almost four feet tall. The atmosphere inside was hazy with sulfur.

Rosalee hugged the smaller terrarium. Alarmed, Squishy ran from one end to the other, chirping and growling. Rosalee stumbled and, unbalanced, dropped the tank. It crashed to the floor, cracking up from one corner and across the face. "Shit." The balanced atmosphere leaked steadily from the crack. Squishy tried to run from the leak but there was nowhere to go.

Rosalee opened a big door hinged door in the roof of her new environment. She unlocked the smaller terrarium's top and reached for her raptor. The poor thing lay gasping on ferns, twitching away from her. She transferred Squishy from one tank to the other and locked it shut. Squishy heaved and gasped in the new tank, struggling to breathe.

Rosalee kept watch for hours until Squishy regained its feet. Even then, she left pre-squished crickets for eating.

--//--

4 days until finals:

Yixing placed two cubes on the receiving plate of Squishy's new tank. She cycled them into the environment and watched until they evaporated and released their crickets. Two raptors sprung from the ferns and hunted them down in a frenzy. Yixing jerked to her feet.

"RosaLEE!"

On the other side of the lab, Roslee winced. With that tone, she was in trouble. She turned around but didn't approach.

"You took another egg from my studies. How DARE YOU."

Rosalee squinted at her lab partner. "What?"

"Don't play stupid. I saw the second raptor in there, you're not going to get away with this."

"Second . . . what?" Rosalee pushed past her infuriated friend and crouched next to the tank. She spotted Squishy, apparently recovered from the ordeal of the transfer, hunting crickets. Before she could strike, a second, smaller raptor took the kill. "OH my god, Yixing, A BABY."

"Yeah. From MY eggs."

"No, it's not, I swear. Squishy gave birth!"

"With what male?"

Rosalee gasped, "Asexual reproduction, where's my book, I need to take notes. I need to take pictures!"

--//--

3 days until finals:

Rosalee found the hinged top of the tank open when she arrived to feed her raptors. In a panic, she closed the lid and searched the environment. Squishy chirped at her from one corner. Second mimicked the sound. With a sigh of relief, Rosalee dropped several cubes of crickets into the tank and entertained herself watching them hunt them all down.

She spent hours in the lab, collating her notes and drafting her final report. She had hundreds of photos to go through and a dozen different books to quote research from. There were only three days until the final. With all the adventure Squishy had put her through, she was bound to pass. She just needed her paperwork in order.

At dinner time she checked the tank and found the top open again. Her heart palpated, a mimic of this morning's panic. She closed the lid and searched for her raptors.

She counted three.

--//--

2.5 days until finals:

Third had been a little more blue, with a bigger chest and longer teeth than its parent, Second. Not long after Rosalee found it, she watched it die in the tank, twitching in the sulfur environment. Its belly burst open with a new raptor. More blue, more teeth, and better claws for gripping. It visibly struggled in the tank.

Rosalee transferred it to a small, sealed, environment where she could quickly manipulate the air. Over the course of several hours she changed the atmosphere and watched Third give birth to Fourth give birth to Fifth and so on. By the Tenth, Rozalee opened the tank's vents. She let ship air cycle through the environment. Tenth stood in the tank and chirped at her. She called Yixing.

"Yix . . . Yix you need to come down here right now."

"Lee? 'zat you?"

"Yix stop whatever you're doing and get down here. It's important."

"Lee, it's three in the morning. What's going on?"

And Rosalee realized the muffle in Yixling's voice was sleep. She didn't have time for this. "One of Squishy's descendants can breathe oxygen."

". . . one of?"

--//--

2 days until finals:

"Rosalee you have to vent them. This isn't healthy. It's certainly not allowed--"

"Are you nuts?" Rosalee gestured to the tank where six oxygen-breathing raptors snapped and chirped at each other. Each looked a little different. And they were starting to grow. "We've discovered some sort of rapid evolution. Accelerated growth. This is huge. I'm going to ace this final exam."

"You're going to be overrun with miniature raptors in another two days. They're giving live birth every six hours. Live birth, Rosalee. Like sharks!"

"I know." Her enthusiasm was a little misplaced in the lab, but Rosalee could hardly contain herself. She had two cameras running on her pets and another perched in the lab corner just in case. She wanted to write a second dissertation but Yixing was being entirely unhelpful. "This is going to put us in the running for awards, Yix. We need to get started, already. Please, just help me bring another tank up here to hold them all. It's only two more days."

"We need a lot more crickets."

"That's the spirit. We're going to be famous."

Yixing just shook her head.

--//--

1 day until finals:

Drenched in sweat and adrenaline, Rosalee sprinted to the lab and shoved the door closed behind her. She pushed both bolts into place and jumped back when something large slammed into it. The entire wall shook like her hands. She held them together and trembled in the middle of the room. The entire lab had been trashed by something.

Slowly, a thin reptilian head lifted into the lab door window. Wide yellow eyes nictated at her. Eyes the size of her fist. The raptor opened its mouth, thick tongue tasting the door and window. Ninety-three razor-pointed teeth gleamed at her, oily with blood.

The five-foot tall raptor pressed the door handle down.

Rosalee scrambled to the desk. She slammed a personal drive into the computer's port and copied everything over. Her notes, her photos, her research paper, the books. The door rattled. She remembered the cameras. There wasn't time . . . she copied the lab camera's data to her drive and yanked it out. She grabbed one of the miniature ones from the lab's counter just as Twenty-Second broke the window and screamed at her. Rosalee ran for her life.

The space station was worse than chaos- it was a slaughterhouse. She wasn't sure exactly what happened, but a person-sized raptor burst into the mess around dinner time and everything had gone to shit since. Yixing urged her to run, but Rosalee couldn't leave her data. Not if this was the result.

She ran anti-spinward through the halls, jumping over corpses. In an entire quarter she didn't see a single living thing. Then she barreled into Yixing and both of them screamed.

"Yix!"

"Lee! Come on!" Yixing grabbed her wrist and yanked. "There's an escape craft down one level."

They clattered down the stairs and sprinted down the length of the station's spoke. They had to drag a man out of the pod. Most of him. Rosalee pressed her palm into the small craft's flight console while Yixing sealed the door. They both panted.

"What happened?"

Rosalee held up her personal drive. "Let's find out."

--//--

Final Exam:

The camera view of the lab had a clear shot of both the big tank with Squishy and the smaller tank on the counter. Nothing appeared out of place for a long time. Then, the receiving plate on Squishy's tank began to rotate out. Both Squishy and Second scrambled across the big tank's lid.

"It can breathe?" Yixing leaned closer.

"Are you sure it's not holding its breath?"

"How would it know to do that?"

"How did it cycle the lock, Yix. They were opening doors by the time we got out."

Squishy and Second together unsprung the lock on the smaller box. Raptor after raptor scrambled into the lab, free and oxygen-breathing. They broke into the crickets. They broke into the eggs. They broke into every box in the lab. By the time they moved on there were thirty or so creatures of varying size and more being born every minute. Bigger, faster, smarter, better.

A proximity alarm beeped on the console. Rosalee yanked her drive from the computer and directed their little pod to align with Lovac's warp docs. From here it was a short jump to the fourth planet in the system, Evala. Safety.

Rosalee tapped the console and selected their destination. Yix made a small sound of alarm. Then a sicking crunch. Rosalee spun. A raptor stood over her, muzzle bright red with Yixing's blood. It barely fit in the pod. How . . . ?

With a shimmer of light, the raptor vanished. No, not vanished--it was there, invisible but for a faint bend in the light of its outline. It chirped. She felt its breath blow her hair back.

The pod warped.

--//--

Maybe more Evolution than Jurassic Park, but I like it anyway :D

Review: Static

No comments

Static by L.A. Witt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Are you kidding me right now? This book sat on my phone for a year. A YEAR. I had it pre-ordered from Riptide the SECOND it released. I remember getting an email about it's availability. I'll read that next. And then I never picked it up BECAUSE I'M A RIGHT IDIOT, LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.

Static is a brilliant encapsulation of trans social issues. It checks every box on the list. And it's all wrapped up in a wait-and-see timebomb of a plot. I love this book. Alex is traumatized. Damon is caught between a rock and a hard place. The two of them together are a little avoidant but their relationship is so healthy.

I want to work at the Welcome Mat and I'm an introvert. OH AND LET'S TALK ABOUT TOXIC WORK CULTURES, YES? I quit a very good job with very good pay and benefits because one asshole of a guy that I couldn't pin anything on with HR. I FEEL THIS BOOK.

I am yet again reminded why Witt is in the top five of my immediate-read list.



View all my reviews

Flash Fiction: Peggy Carter - Retired

No comments
Fandom: Avengers, Agent Carter, SHIELD

Rating: G

Pairing: None

Summary: Post-war, Peggy is an early retiree of the SHIELD agency. She suffers from what will eventually be known as PTSD and mild paranoia. Day in the life.

Warnings: None.

--//--

Hanging her clothes on a line felt so ... rural. Peggy still hadn't adjusted to the light breeze at home in her yard or the warm sun that settled over her fence each night. It was all too cozy. Peggy never trusted cozy.

She pinned another pair of pants to the line and took a step to the right. Diego's sharp ears pointed toward her, then his triangle nose lead his lean, black body close to her thigh. He sat back down once in contact. Peggy leaned over to scratch his chin. Diego didn't believe in cozy either.

It took about ten minutes to hang the wash. Ten minutes of birdsong and sunlight with Diego shadowing her steady steps to the right. As she clipped the last sheet corner her fence gate latch clicked open. Diego stood, hind end leaning into Peggy's knee for her attention. His pointed ears listened intently forward and Peggy half-turned to see their visitor. She slid her hand into the wide pocket of her skirt-- easy access to a small pistol strapped to her thigh.

Mrs. Wellington tottered across the yard with another baked good, her hands muffled in gloves. Peggy let her gun stay where it was. Instead, she gave Diego a pat, "Sit." Diego sat.

"Miss Peggy, I thought you might like a brownie. They're fresh." Mrs. Wellington smiled at her, pushing creases into her cheeks.

Peggy gestured the woman to her side door as she approached. "Thank you, I'd love one." She grabbed her empty laundry basket and shadowed Mrs. Wellington into the kitchen. She pulled down a pair of small plates. Her neighbor served them both a healthy square of chocolate. The women sat with fresh milk at the dining table and Diego reclined under and beside Peggy's chair.

"How is your son doing Mrs. Wellington?" Peggy tasted a mouthful of chocolate and exclaimed at a sharp bite of pepper. "Oh!"

Mrs. Wellington grinned at her, "I'm trying a new recipe. It has chili pepper in it. Do you like it?"

Peggy chewed her bite, hiding the smile behind her hand. "I wasn't expecting excitement from a brownie. It's quite good."

Mrs. Wellington nodded, "I'll bring it to Bridge tomorrow, then." The woman took a hefty bite and laughed at herself. "Lawrence is doing well, thank you. Today has been one of his better days. We didn't have to fight about medication this morning."

Peggy reached for Mrs. Wellington's curled hand. "You do a lot for him every day. You make sure you call on me if you need help."
"Oh, nonsense, dear. I've been managing Lawrence his entire life. There aren't any tricks he knows that I didn't teach him." She smiled again and Peggy was glad to see it. There wasn't a lot Peggy knew, but Mrs. Wellington's responsibilities were far more than the average mother. Anyone else would have put their child in a ward by now.

They chatted lightly over the remainder of the brownie. Peggy felt herself grow more tense as the minutes passed. Mrs. Wellington was a gentle soul but Peggy was ready for evil to spring from any corner of the house. She was ready.

Diego huffed gently. He lay his head on her thigh and looked up, ears back. Peggy pet his head and took a deep breath. The darkness receded a little. The dog reminded her to stop expecting the worst.

Mrs. Wellington left the house with her tray of brownies and a smile on her face. Peggy held the fence gate open for her and checked the latch when she closed it.
She wasn't used to cozy, but between her neighbor and her dog, maybe she could learn to enjoy it.

New Covers for the Zodiac Forces Series

No comments
I've been having a lot of fun with the Zodiac Forces series. With two books and a 3-year serial, I've written over 150k words in this world and it's still going strong. The Closer Than Touch rights revert to me this year. I have an opportunity to expand the book and re-release it. I also retain stand alone story rights to Spring Tide.

All of this means that the 4th quarter of this year will be full of military romances and That means some new covers are in order:




You'll see these covers start to wind their way through the internet closer to the end of the year. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

We're Moving Up

No comments
You may not be aware, but when I was about... eleven or so, I taught myself web design. HTML to start, then moving into CSS. I even did some poking at PHP, but never from scratch. I ran a forum back when AvidBoards was a thing called Starlight Caverns. It was a text-based RP forum. There was a core group of about 6ish with a more flexible group of 20ish folks and the forum ran for 6 years.

And being newly indoctrinated to HTML and web design, I completely redesigned my forum website every... six to nine months. For six years. Because I felt like it. I pushed myself through a crash course of computer languages, graphic design, and ship early, ship often with an audience that wasn't afraid to call me out on a wretched design decision.

I learned to hate internet explorer at a very young age.

Other than a one-off C++ class in college, I never pursued web design. I think I could have done very well, but I never considered it more than a fun hobby and after I shut down Starlight Caverns mid-college adventure, I didn't have the heart to get back into design on a site that wasn't my own.

Tamiveldura.com has been in my name since I was... fifteen or so. When I proved this coding thing was a bit more than a phase, Papa bought me a huge HTML bible (as a joke, I might add. It was the best xmas gift ever!) and a domain name. I poked at the website for a week or two and then let it go.

At some point I blended the domain with Blogger. But it wasn't until the release of Closer Than Touch that I really started paying attention to the website. What's nice about pre-built web templates is that you plug them in, and they go without any other help. The downside to pre-build web templates is I know far more than my fair share of code and sometimes there are very specific things I want to see on my website that just don't show up on a template.

And so we arrive to today. You may notice the layout has changed somewhat. With the growing number of books under my belt I've been seeking a more professional way to display this blog and all related pages on the site. This magazine-like template was as close as I found, but not quite perfect.

So for the next few weeks you may show up here and discover something has been tweaked. For the first time in a long time, I'm diving into the code and wrenching on it. I love manipulating a website from the back end.

If you find something broken, please, don't hesitate to contact me. Let me know what browser you're using, if it's a laptop/desktop/or mobile, and what OS you're running. Without those bits of info, I can't find the problem.

In the meantime, enjoy this site as you have been, and find me on twitter!

A Scorpion's Nature: Part 99

No comments
Original photo by jGlidePhotoATL
This flash fiction is part of a series. Follow Alex Drake from the day he joins Zodiac, through the trials of basic training, broken and mended hearts, to the day he becomes Motocross, elite Scorpio sniper. Start at Part One.

Part 99

The silence that cracked between the three of them put Alex's hairs on end. Something other than the dinner reservation he'd proposed. Lance didn't approach, Keta stared at him, and Alex looked between the two of them with rising alarm.

"What's going on?"

Neither of them said anything, but Lance's shoulders hunched a bit. Alex stood, the scrape of his chair loud behind him. He felt his heart rise in his throat.

Keta's look turned stern. "You tell him or I will."

"Tell me what?"

But another terrifying heartbeat of silence floated around the room.

Then Keta started "He--"

At the same time Lance said, "I--"

They both paused. Alex stood taller and nodded at Lance. The man squared his shoulders, "I tried to flatten Jasper yesterday."

Alex fisted on hand and rested it on the table. Jasper had made things difficult for them both in the past, but Alex though he'd been coming around. There probably wasn't any way to recover from this one, though. Not if it was bad enough to land him in the urgent care.

Then Keta sighed in the most dramatic way and Alex caught her rolling her eyes. "That's only half the story. Jasper's fine. He dragged Lance to the weight room and they punched bags for an hour and a half. No one flattened anyone."

Alex felt his eyebrows lift. "That's good." He left the table to approach Lance. "That's really good." He wished he'd thought of it sooner.

"That's what I told him," Keta sighed.

"I hit him." Lance insisted. And his shoulders came up again.

"And then you handled it without putting anyone into the hospital. And I wasn't here to help."

"I lost control."

Alex put his fingers to Lance's jaw so their eyes would meet. "Yes. And maybe you will again. You're not going to be perfect every time."

Lance's eyes wrinkled, "But I need to be."

"Improvement isn't a straight line," Alex said, dodging the look in Lance's eyes that made his gut clench. "What did Jasper say after your workout?"

Lance took Alex's hand from his face, his dark skin warmer and soft. "He asked if I'd join him again tomorrow in the gym." And the expression on his face was conflicted.

"Does Callahan have a workout schedule? I'm sure he'd enjoy going with you."

The clouded look in Lance's eyes cleared and Alex wondered if he was scared of facing Jasper again alone. The thought just made Alex grip Lance's hand. The outer shell Lance showed everyone was harder than diamond but Alex was finding it protected something very soft inside.

Lance nodded, "That's a good idea. I like that."

Alex smiled. "Good. We'll ask him at mess." He released Lance's hands, "Let me make that reservation at twenty-four seasons and I'll be ready."

Lance exited to the bedroom, more introspective than usual. Keta shook her head in Alex's direction. "I just don't see how you do it."

"I don't think it's me," Alex confided. "He's the one who trusts me. I'm just trying to live up to it."

--//--

Read more in this series every Monday.
If you enjoy this story, please consider supporting it on Patreon.



My Fingers and Toes Never Seem To Warm Up

No comments
Hello folks, my name is Tami and I have Raynaud's Syndrome.

If you follow me on twitter or facebook you may have seen me mention this in passing, but just the other day I provided a few extra details and a twitter friend jumped up and down with delight-- because she probably has this thing, too, and now she has a name for it.

Raynaud's Syndrome is sneaky- there's nothing painful involved, just inconvenient and mildly irritating persistent chilliness in fingers, toes, and other small extremities. It can settle in your body like a constant chill.

Raynaud's is a nerve condition. It's more common in women than men and more common in people with another connective tissue disease than not. It tends to get worse in a person's mid-twenties. There is no known cause, no known cure, and it appears to be hereditary.

Raynaud's can flare in moments of stress, low blood sugar, or simply by touching something cold. Read all about how fun it is: here

The up-side is it's largely manageable once people realize they have it. Raynaud's constricts your blood vessels throughout your body. For your arteries, that doesn't mean much, but for your tiny capillaries- it means blood flow stops completely in some areas. You can't warm yourself up. You can't cool yourself off. You can't heal from an injury.

So, like a T-Rex* one must learn to manipulate one's body temperature through external means. A sweater and socks are a good start- but if your toes or fingers are already cold, a source of heat is required to loosen up those capillaries and get blood moving again. It can take 15 or 20 minutes after warming up for blood flow to return, so settle in with a good book.

Yoga and regular exercise can help reduce and manage Raynaud's symptoms and the strength of flair-ups. I've discovered that it takes me a lot more work than your average person to even start sweating- but once I do, my temperature drops like a rock. So in 80 degree weather going for a hike can mean a hypothermic shock and bronchial spasms for the next two days.


Management

It's taken me years of trial and error, but recently I've come across a combination of items that seem to work for me.

First: ugg boots. Get socks and indoor boots or slippers made out of sheepskin with natural fur/hair. They're expensive, but the insulating fur keeps me warmer for longer.

Second: Fingerless gloves. I live in these and almost have a pair that match every outfit I can put together. They're great for typing on the computer or soaking up the heat of my favorite tea mug.

Third: space heater. I have a space heater tucked away under my stand-up desk set at 75 degrees. It's there specifically to warm up my toes and keep them warm. Between this and the ugg boots, my desk is the place to be.

Fourth: stationary trainer. Also in my office is a stationary trainer set up with my mountain bike. It's on a direct line to the space heater. I ride for 20ish minutes every morning, enough to work up a sweat, and the space heater keeps my temperature from dropping out of control.

Fifth: mid-day showers. Right after a workout I jump in the shower- first, because I'm sweaty and gross, but second, because cranking up the heat is the fastest way to stabilize my temperature after a workout. I shower again at night, warming up right before bed.

Sixth: Yoga. Regular yoga practice has done a lot for me in many areas. I have tendonitis in both shoulders- meaning my bicep muscle dislocates on both sides just for fun. Yoga has helped strengthen my back and shoulders even when I need to alter most of the poses to avoid tweaking something. It's also helped lessen the severity of my Raynaud's attacks and can even help cut one short if I recognize the symptoms soon enough.

Seventh: Food. I eat on a very strict schedule. As soon as I wake up and every 2 hours after that with frequent snacks of nuts, fruit, seeds, and protein drinks in between. If I'm cold, I eat something hot. If I'm hot, I eat something cold. The regular 'grazing' keeps my bloodsugar steady throughout the day rather than spiking three times and dropping low in between. I eat a diet high in protein, fiber, carbs, and certain fats, but low in starches. Commonly used for triathlete training.

Eight: alcohol. I'm not a big fan of the taste of alcohol, so this is an easy thing for me to control, but if you drink regularly, keep an eye open. Alcohol makes your skin feel warm as you loose all your body heat, dropping your core temperature. With Raynaud's, getting your temperature back up is harder, your hangovers are worse, and the danger of hypothermia in the middle of the night after drinking is very real.


Resources

Start by googling it. If you think you might have Raynaud's, the best thing to do is look it up and learn everything you can. I'm a big fan of critical self-diagnosis. If you can resist the urge to claim every pinch in your body is cancer, than you can probably narrow down your diagnosis without seeing the doctor.

(You saw this one coming) Go to your doctor or a specialist. Bring them all your research and explain what you suspect: that you have Raynaud's. There isn't a test they can do to confirm it, but having the detail in your medical files is good in case something happens in the future. The doctor can also provide other resources for management. You may be eligible for disability.

http://www.raynauds.org -- The Raynaud's Association has an active forum for folks to share management strategies, warm products they love, and stay abreast of research news. They're even on twitter @raynaudsorg

Speaking of twitter, so am I: @tamiveldura. If you want to know more about Raynauds, how I manage it, think you might have it, or just want to chat, hit me up!

--//--

*The T-rex and most other large dinos were probably mesotherms, medium-blooded animals. Not warm (endotherm) or cold (ectotherm) blooded as things are today.