This Week in Pictures

Welcome back!

I thought after the horrors of this week you might enjoy seeing something pretty. So let's begin with some photos I just took, out on the porch, of the azalea bushes we planted around our porch several years ago.

These azalea bushes have proven to be utterly indestructible. We do water them through the hot dry months of August and September, but other than that, they require no care. They bloomed out Tuesday or Wednesday, mostly white, although there are a few red flowers.

Here's what the whole east end bed looks like. I guess the red plants decided to bloom white:

While I was taking the pics, I noticed a bumblebee busily buzzing (see what I did there?) about, and I managed to coax him into posing:

He's probably still out there, bumbling away. I've always liked bumblebees. They've never tried to sting me, and I admire their work ethic. I don't share it, but I do admire it.

Next up, my current steampunk gun project. This one isn't quite finished, but here's what I have so far.

And the other side:

This is actually a cheap water gun, some PVC water pipe, a few odds and ends of wire, a couple of springs, three washers, and a bit of old hose.

A lot of you have probably seen this next item. It's one of my wands. Specifically, it's from Meralda's Royal Laboratory, marked 'Wand 116, Type II Non-Linear Discharge, Do Not Store Next To Type IV or Type VII.'

The image immediately above isn't blurry because I was too lazy to unfold the camera tripod. No. It's just impossible to take a clear photograph of a charged Lysson module without an aether compositor filter, and I lost mine in Moria.

It's springtime here in Mississippi, which means the snakes are shuffling off their winter coats and the frogs are getting the band back together. I was struck with how early the critters have emerged from their winter quarters this year, so when I found myself out on the patio while Fletcher took a midnight bathroom break I made a recording of the night sounds here. My Zoom H1 mic did a marvelous job of capturing the midnight cacaphony, and I'm pleased to share the recording with you now. It's short -- only a minute -- and best heard if you crank up the volume a bit. No, I didn't stick any loud noises at the end to scare you, because that's an old tired trick by now.

Give it a listen, it sounds like the jungle!

Midnight on the Patio

One night I hope to capture the local coyote pack in full-on howl mode. It will lift the hairs on the back of your neck, I promise you!

In writing news, well, I've been writing. The Five Faces is galloping along without a hitch, and at this rate I'll be done with it and deep into the new Meralda and Mug book All the Turns of Light very soon. Well before that, you'll see a short story penned by Mug himself right here in the blog; he's already pestering me to get it posted, as he's convinced Hollywood will trip over itself in its haste to make a movie of his 'undiscovered genius.'

I warned Meralda about getting Mug a Netflix subscription, but...

By the way, anyone interested in communicating directly with Meralda or Mug can do so on Facebook. All the Paths of Shadow has its own FB page, and both Mug and Meralda post there. So drop by and say hello -- Mug is always happy to talk. And talk. And talk...

I'll leave you tonight with a brief excerpt from The Five Faces.

 Darla met me at our door. She had flour on the tip of her nose and a revolver in her right hand.

“Welcome home,” she said, smiling. “I’ve baked us a pie!”

“Did you shoot it before or after you rolled the crust?” I kissed her. It happens sometimes.

“Before, silly,” she said. She wrinkled her nose. “You’ve been somewhere unsavory.”

“Duty demanded that I carouse and cavort on the docks,” I said. We made our way to the kitchen, where supper lay waiting on the stove and a peach pie baked in the oven. “This is the earthy aroma of the noble working man.”

“I can’t picture you cavorting,” she said. “Do you start off with your left foot, or your right?”

Tiny feet scampered across our roof.

The neighbors have squirrels. We have a banshee.

Darla’s smile died. “She’s been up there since dark.” She opened the oven and pulled out a tray of cookies. “I’ve been trying to coax her inside, but she won’t come.”

Buttercup, our resident banshee, is the size and shape of a pre-teen girl who hasn’t enjoyed many good meals. Darla’s fresh-baked sugar cookies are her favorite, and the mere scent of them usually brings her inside in a hurry.

I hugged Darla. Having a banshee walk the roof when your spouse is out working a case can’t be the best way to pass an evening at home.

“She’s probably just playing with her head-bone,” I said. “Anyway, look, I’m here, and all in one piece.”

The scampering on the roof stopped. Tiny bare feet ran into the kitchen, and skinny arms hugged my waist.

Banshees don’t bother with doors.

“Hello, Buttercup,” I said, tousling her ragged mop of golden hair. “Darla made you cookies.”

Buttercup squealed and leaped. Cookies began vanishing in a veritable hail of crumbs.

“That’s hot, honey,” said Darla. Buttercup snatched up another one and crammed it in her already-full mouth, grinning.

There might be things out there capable of injuring Buttercup.  Old magics. Powerful sorcerers. Eldritch spells. Hot cookies, though, aren’t on the list.

Darla began uncovering pans. I helped by getting in the way and received a playful slap on my hand when I dared grab one of Buttercup’s cookies.

Finally, we sat and ate. Darla fries a mean pork chop. We had corn and green beans and a big fat potato each. Buttercup finished off the cookies and then amused herself by playing peek-a-boo with the whispering skull she carries.

“Gertriss came by earlier,” said Darla, as she put down her fork.

You live with a woman long enough, you learn to recognize the subtle difference between a casual conversation and a conversation that only sounds casual but can veer off into the significant at any word.

“Let me guess.”

Darla laced her fingers together and rested her chin on them. “She said you left this morning looking for an awful man named Hurry-up Pete and returned in the employ of a pair of street kids who’ve lost their dog.”

“I believe in maintaining a diverse range of clientele.”

“So this wasn’t some elaborate prank you played on Mama Hog?”

“Nope. A man in a wide-brimmed hat who spoke with a strange accent cut the leash a little blind girl named Saffy was holding. The man took her dog Cornbread, and Saffy’s brother is going to work off the debt working in our yard this summer.”

Darla smiled. “And Hurry-up Pete?”

“I’ll tell the clients what I know. Refund half their advance. They’ll either find Hurry-up, or they won’t, but I’ll not be a part of it. Not this time. Not anymore.”

Silence, save for Buttercup’s unintelligible murmurings and her skull’s equally cryptic whispered replies.

“That’s why I love you,” said Darla, at last. She rose and came and kissed me.

Later, we ate that pie. Best damned pie I ever had.