23 March 2016

The Little Joys of Life

Newscasts from any source are depressing as hell these days. Between the apparent demise of decorum in political debates (yes, once upon a time such a thing did exist) and world events, it is extremely tempting to dig a deep hole, crawl in, and pull the dirt in over one's head. This year's election slate of presidential candidates is, to quote a meme on Facebook, akin to choosing which STD you'll prefer to contract. Gah.



So one needs to observe and embrace joy in all the little areas of life. It is springtime in the desert, with wildflowers blooming everywhere in a glorious riot of color.  Blue palo verde trees are also blossoming like giant bouquets of daffodils dotting the landscape. Green palo verdes will burst into flower in another couple of weeks. Hedgehog cactus now dot yards and lots with brilliant purples, pinks, and cheerful shades of orange. The hummingbirds and drunk on nectar, and the quail are running rampant as they hunt for prime hidey-hole nesting spots.









I had the honor of having two great friends help me at the Phoenix Caledonian Society's Highland Games last week. Raelene "Minion Mayhem" Ruiz, Sara "Minion Mamamamama" Boland, and Sara's delightful son, Colton (aka The Bug) made the heat seem just about tolerable, even though it was closer to 100 degrees than 90.


I have written about Colton before, in support of Down Syndrome Awareness.  At just a few months shy of three years old, The Bug is into lots of mischief, loves to share Cheerios, and--like every other two-year-old--lets his displeasure be undeniably known. He is adorable and laughs easily, especially when tickling feet:




Life is better with minions of all ages!



 He is a very tolerant child for his age, from long rides in the truck to hanging out with his mom and her crazy friends in the Welsh League of Arizona booth. He got to see some cool dogs, eat bunny crackers, and ride the light rail for the first time. Even hot and tired, he didn't fuss more than one would expect for a two-year-old. Hell, I think I whined about the heat more than he did.





So even if the world seems to be ripping itself apart and people running for President act worse than five-year-olds fighting over toys, there is still joy to be found in desert flowers, bunny crackers, and a wonderful baby's laugh.

Happy writing, 

~Jude

16 March 2016

Marching Onward

One thing I haven't done much of on this blog is share excerpts from my books. So today seems to be a good day to start!

This is one of my favorite scenes from Spirits of Wind & Fire, aka Dragon & Hawk Book One:

     Evan's stomach churned. He and his brothers moseyed a pitiful herd of skinny cattle across the road north of Bisbee. Their bandanas sat over their noses to block the cloud of dry, bitter dust the cattle stirred.
     For the tenth time, he considered their situation. This has to work. Improvise when opportunity knocks. Better than what we'd planned, has to be. Cattle will be a grand distraction. Right then, what have I forgotten? Damn that Alice and her "perfect spot." How would she know where to—?
     He watched Huw urge his horse to trot to crest a small rise, pause and return. "It's coming," he said, breathless as he rode up to Evan. "Just about to top the hill there."
     "O'r gorau." Evan nodded to Dylan to stay with the cattle blocking the way. He and Huw turned their horses, rode up to the stagecoach as it rolled to a stop. Their faces were hidden by the bandanas and their hats pulled low to shield their eyes from the hot sun.
     "How long you boys gonna take to move that herd?" the driver asked.
     "Well now," Huw drawled, "might could take us 'bout as long as it'll take you to hand over those moneybags you got in that chest up there."
     Evan drew his pistol, pointed at the Wells Fargo messenger, and motioned for him to throw down the shotgun. It thudded into soft dirt with a puff.
     "I cain't," Driver said.
     "Why not?" Huw aimed at the man’s face.
     "On accounta we was already robbed! All's left is a roll o'dimes."
     The messenger opened the money chest, tipped it over. One coin-roll teetered out of the darkness.
     "What!" Huw turned and looked at Evan, eyes wide over his bandana.
     "Yep, you boys gotcha some comp-ee-ti-shun 'bout five mile back." Driver spat tobacco past a mule's rump through his missing front teeth. "Bastids even took my watch."
     "Aw, shit!" Huw cursed in a loud whisper. "Do we wait here? When's the next?"
     Evan shook his head in disgust, flipped his pistol into its holster, and wheeled his horse around without a word.
     "Damn!" Huw followed suit, galloping hard to catch up with his brothers. Dylan had seen Evan's quick turn—the trouble signal—and startled the cattle into a stampede across the flats. Dust clouded fast and dark, hiding the stage—and so hid them.
     After a few miles, they turned the herd to head back where they'd found them, let them go, then turned their horses for Bisbee.
     "'Do we wait here?' 'When's the next?'" Evan whacked Huw across the shoulder with his cowboy hat. "Sweet Jesus, Huw! You’re a bloody idiot!"
     Dylan laughed, blue eyes sparkling in the sunset. Tears streamed from his eyes as he doubled up in his saddle. "'Pardon me,'" he wheezed, "'is the 3:15 what’s carrying gold on time? We'll wait to steal it, if you please.'"
     "What if he hadn't thrown that shotgun down?" Huw grinned. "I had no bullets."
     Dylan shook his head. "None of us did!"
     "Not bloody funny," Evan said, exasperated, but his eyes hinted at a smile.
     "Oh, but it is! C'mon, Evan, you have to admit it was a farce," Dylan cackled. "Lucky we found those cattle, though they were north of where we'd planned. Still, we're lucky no one's come looking for them…so far."
     Evan began to chuckle, and finally laughed. "Think that kinda luck lasts? Let's go before we're accused of rustling." He clapped Huw on the back. "At least you sounded like a real cowboy back there, brawd. Mind you now, we coulda used those dimes."
     Certain sure, he thought as he rode. Evan swallowed the sour contents of his stomach when he realized they were now left penniless—and more desperate than before.


Happy Reading, kids!
~Jude