Thursday, August 21, 2014

Paddling Meditation

Yesterday my splendid stepdad and I went for a paddle on the Ware River. I live in a little central New England village and we’re fortunate to be able to shove our kayaks into his pick-up and drive less than ten minutes to a winding little river. Yesterday we paddled for about an hour and a half, over beaver lodges and around bend after bend. The views are intimate and ungroomed, and I got stuck once in a shallow patch (it is the down side of August and here in my part of the northern hemisphere that means warmish and dryish). We saw a blue heron, a hawk, a couple of charming ducks (I confess I still have my city-kid perspective on wildlife). Dragonflies hitched rides (some of them were hitched to each other, naughty little things). I think there was a woodpecker (or maybe a lumberjack). Very groovy afternoon on the water.
Ware River
Because my stepdad is a stronger paddler than I am, he moved ahead for a while and I felt like I had the river to myself. There I was, sitting in a blue plastic boat, wearing my 50 SPF sunscreen and progressive-lens sunglasses and still somehow felt like it was a thousand years ago. I couldn’t hear the road anymore and I could totally manufacture denial about the contrail above my head. I got into that awesome zone of a really great creative session, or those few times recently I’ve been able to meditate. I kind of suck at quieting my mind, but it’s something I’ve been working on. It got me thinking about the idea of walking meditation. Was I doing paddling meditation? Whatever it was, I want to go again tomorrow!
Photo by Skip Brown

Check out my latest release, the second edition of my 1970s romp HAVEN and its fabulous new cover by BSClay. If I mention that Torquere has a coupon you could use, would you think I’m a mercenary? (Use code HOWL at http://torquerebooks.com through Sunday!)

Click to view product page


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Author Extra: Nuts, Bolts, and Chihuahuas by Tray Ellis

Nuts, Bolts, and Chihuahuas
By Tray Ellis

TJ has been spending his summer learning how to manage the family hardware store.  He expects another ordinary work day when he stumbles into a brawl involving Arlo, a frequent customer he’s been flirting with. If TJ survives this fight, he wants an explanation, and it should start with where the extra-smart dog came from.

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4254


Author Extra: 

Arlo practiced the various canine forms with no small amount of effort.

Sometimes, in the hot summer nights, when the air was sticky and sultry, he would creep from bed and prowl the grounds. Night at the end of their dead-end block was inky with shadows and very few stars penetrated the city’s miasma of light pollution.  Still too dark for his human vision, he preferred to patrol as a dog. The color spectrum dropped away into browns, yellows, blues, and grays, but his night vision improved incredibly.  His hearing ability amplified as well and there were no adequate words to describe how saturated with smells the world became. Everything changed when he shifted, right down to the feel of the ground beneath the pads of his paws. 

Arlo paced along one side of the house, comfortably trotting in the skin of a Chihuahua, the easiest shape he maintained. As he rounded the corner, he strained for a moment, concentrating to enlarge his build, until he filled out into the body of a miniature schnauzer. At the next corner he shifted again, struggling briefly to acquire the form of a beagle.  For the last length of the house, he determinedly garnered his willpower and shifted up into a powerful German shepherd.  Satisfied, he loped around the house again, steadily keeping the form.

While the rest of his family paraded as Airedales and Dobermans, easily bulking up -- or at least puffing out if impressive size was more attainable than actual density -- Arlo’s skills tended to the other end.  Packing away, or folding up, the layers of existence was easily done, until he became something small, dense, and ferocious.

His father claimed it was a rare talent.  Though impressive and something the others struggled with even achieving, Arlo strived to acquire the skills he didn't have and never stopped training. Fighting off the enemies meant being larger, tougher, and more massive.  His innate aptitude lent itself to other purposes, important ones like thieving and reconnaissance, but certainly not to the main mission of being big enough and scary enough to protect the talisman.

Arlo finished the circuit and paused.  He sniffed the air.  A familiar scent, welcome and not unexpected, drifted in the humidity.

“I missed you. Are you coming back to bed?” TJ asked.  Clad in only a pair of well-worn boxers he yawned as he peered into the night.  


Arlo returned to his own shape, filling out the length of his body, grateful to cease exerting effort and comfortable within his human form as he could never truly be as a canine.  “Yes.”  There would be many other nights to practice, but he had already spent enough of this one away from his new beau.

Author Extra: Packbond by M. Lee

Packbond
By M. Lee

"Packbond" is the love story of Alex, the friendly Shifter boy-next-door who everyone knows and likes, and a mysterious stranger. Troy is a strong, handsome, kind alpha, everything Alex ever dreamed of. Troy appearing on his doorstep with his betas, asking for Shifter sanctuary, seemed almost too good to be true.
Troy would never do anything to bring danger to his pack but he was not always so careful. Once, their pack had a fourth member. When someone with painful links to the past arrives, can Troy keep his pack and his love safe?

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4255



Author Extra:

Alex woke in the middle of the night. He was freezing cold. The house was hard to heat in winter. Even when the heat was on high, something about being a Shifter tuned them to the cold outside. Winter always hit hard.

Shivering, he curled into a ball and pulled the covers tight around him. Three layers of blankets should have been too much in Oregon's mild winters, yet Alex could still feel the cold. It was sinking into his bones.

He stumbled to his feet. He had the panicked sense that winter was alive, a malevolent force trying to swallow him whole. It would take everything he needed, everything he loved. Alex forced himself to move. He took several deep breaths. He wrapped a blanket around himself and went into the hall.

As he'd half expected, Troy's door was propped open. Everyone else had their doors shut up tight to try to keep the heat in. Alex stared hungrily at Troy's door. He walked closer as quietly as he could and paused at the threshold. He could smell Troy from here and hear the soft sound of his breathing. Maybe that would be enough.

Troy sighed in his sleep and turned over. Then he made a complaining noise. Contrite, Alex crossed to him quickly. His scent must be waking Troy. He sat on the side of the bed and put a hand on Troy's arm.

"Shh," he whispered into the dark. "I'm here."

Troy settled again. Alex bit his lip. A helpless rush of adoration bubbled in his chest. He stroked slowly down Troy's arm. Without thinking too hard, he tipped forward and crawled under the blankets next to Troy. Troy's bed felt a thousand times warmer. Or maybe that was just Troy. Some sort of body heat superpowers. Troy smelled fantastic, like banked coals and baking bread, sleep and safety and home. Alex quested closer, wanting to bury himself in Troy's scent.

"Hmm? Hey." Troy sounded sleepy. His hand came up to run up and down Alex's back. "Hey, there." There was a soft note of surprise and pleasure under the roughness of sleep.

Alex hadn't meant to wake Troy. He'd just needed... something. He pressed his face into Troy's shoulder so he wouldn't have to look at Troy.

"Hi." Alex didn't say anything else for a long moment, soaking in the warmth of Troy's hand in his back. "Woke up freezing," he said at last. No Shifter really needed to say more than that. They all understood winter and its fears.

Troy pulled him protectively closer. "Glad you came and got me, then."

Alex sighed, feeling some of the clenched fear leave him. Heat seeped into him wherever he and Troy touched. He wriggled until they were lying pressed together. That was better. Sleep tugged at him.

"Yeah," Alex said at last.

Troy pressed a kiss to the top of Alex's head. "I've got you," he said.

Alex shivered, one full body shake, releasing the rest of the tension he had been holding onto. Turning his head into Troy's neck, Alex let the sound and scent and heat carry him to sleep. 

Author Extra: Raising Cain by Winnie Jerome

Raising Cane
By Winnie Jerome

Blake is a gamer frustrated with the dryness of the boyfriend pool. Finding someone who's gay and a huge role-playing geek is about as easy as rolling three critical hits in a row.
His dreams seem to come true when he meets Cain -- a hotter-than-hell bonafide gamer. Sparks fly between them, but Cain is hiding something from Blake, something even worse than liking the character creation phase in Rolemaster.

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4258


Author Extra: 

Here's an extended version of the beginning of the game that Blake's in:

Steve began to set the scene for the game. “Your characters wake up manacled in a windowless room. Each of you has metal cuffs secured by a padlock on to your wrists and a length of chain running from your restraints holds you to the wall. You can't remember anything about yourself, not even your name. I'm going to go around the table and I want each of you to read off the description on your character sheet.”

Cain said, “My character is a fair-haired elf dressed in light traveling leathers. His hair cascades down to his shoulders and he appears to be weaponless.”

Blake said, “Steve, do we even remember what an elf is?”

Steve nodded. Blake said, “My character is a very muscular, tall woman dressed in chain mail and a cloak secured with a brooch. She has very short hair and has a proud air about her.”

The rest of the party read off their descriptions and then Steve said, “What do you want to do next?”

“I'd like to try getting out of these fuckers,” Blake said. “I yank as hard as I can. Does anything happen?”

He heard Steve rolling a die behind the screen. “Yes, you actually distort one of the links in the chain. You're quite strong.”

“I must be a warrior, then.”

“Very good, my lady,” Cain replied. “I will attempt the same.”

Steve said, “Brute strength doesn't seem to work. You don't bend anything. However, the heavy manacles feel clumsy and loose to you.”

“May I try to contort my body so that I can slip free?” Cain asked.

The bounce of a die sounded. “No problem.”

“I think we have a rogue here,” Gene said.

The rest of the party tried to get free, but they weren't successful, not even the dwarf. This puzzled everyone, since dwarves were primarily warriors. Cain's character patted himself down and found a small length of metal hidden in his hair that could be used as a lock-pick. While he freed the rest of the party, Blake had his warrior practice swinging the chain she had broken. No one appeared to have weapons, so she needed whatever help she could get.

Since it was too confusing to go without names, everyone decided to adopt a random one. Cain named his elf “Elessan”, while Blake named his warrior “Brunhilde”.

The other four prisoners tried to test their limberness, but none of them stood out. Blake wondered if they were spell-casters or just characters with average stats. He glanced at his sheet and looked at the “personality traits” area. The first one listed was “brutally honest”.

Blake said, “Well, the rest of you are pretty wimpy which means you're cannon fodder. I'll take point and Elessan can bring up the rear. Everyone else stays in the middle.”


He tried not to cringe at his modern speech. He always sucked at delivering lines in character, not like Cain.

Author Extra: Photorealism by Julia Talbot

Photorealism 
By Julia Talbot

Nature photographer July is determined to capture a moose in his lens during a trip to Colorado. What he finds instead is a beautiful wolf who seems more than happy to pose for him. Rhys wants July to see him as a man, too, but can he convince July that his shifting abilities are real?

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4257


Author Extra: 

Grand Mesa is the biggest flat top mountain in the world, covering some 500 square miles. The mesa is traversed by the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway (which includes SH 65) between the town of Mesa on the north and the town of Cedaredge on the south. The route over the mesa provides a dramatic contrast in landscape, climate and vegetation. On the north side, the road climbs the steep terrain near the Powderhorn Resort ski area. The forested top of the mesa remains snowbound much later in the spring than the surrounding valleys, and is a popular location for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

My mom was born and raised in Cedaredge, and when she took my dad, who was from the deep south, up to Grand Mesa the first time, he was really worried about bears. My mom, who knew how freaky dad could be, blithely assured him there were no bears on Grand Mesa. That night, they slept in the camper shell of their small pick-up truck, with the food supply securely locked up front in the passenger area. There was a light rain that night, which kept them from setting up their tent.

When they woke up in the morning, the area around the truck, as well as the windows and top of the camper shell, were covered in muddy bear footprints. Big ones. Too big to be the average black bear you’d meet in Western Colorado.


The upshot of this story is that Dad never trusted Mom on another camping trip, and that you never know what kind of wildlife you’ll meet on Grand Mesa, Colorado.

Author Extra: Search and Rescue by Lorne Rodman

Search and Rescue 
By Lorne Rodman

Shapeshifter Clancy passes for a wolf hybrid and has all the paperwork he needs to be a search and rescue canine. What he doesn’t have anymore is the requisite “handler”. His last lover dumped him, and a dog can’t show up for work alone. When he meets Terry, Clancy knows something is different, maybe perfect, about the man. They can work together, but can they be more?

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4259

Author Extra:

Search and rescue is a largely volunteer proposition. While some people are professional trainers or multi-regional specialists, most local rescue units are volunteer based. Time commitment is considerable, especially when dogs are involved. Not only does a rescuer need to know how to train their dog, perform basic first aid, and deal with emergencies, they also need to be able to perform first aid and how to care for their dog in wilderness situations. Training centers and groups exist all over the country. If you’re a dog lover, even if not a dog owner, ponder volunteering.

Here are some links!

Sandia Search – New Mexico- http://pages.swcp.com/SSD/

National Search and Rescue – Canine Rescue - http://www.nasar.org/page/34/Canine-Search-and-Rescue

Canine Search Dog Foundation- http://www.searchdogfoundation.org/


Canine Handler Certification - http://www.fema.gov/canine-handler-certification

Author Extra: Tea and Werewolves by Cecil Wilde

Tea and Werewolves
By Cecil Wilde

As soon as Connor walks into Sev's tea shop, Sev knows there's something different about him. It could be his charming smile, his obvious intelligence, or the way he howls at the moon when it's full. Either way, sparks start flying straight away.
Sev and Connor both know there's more to their relationship than simple mutual attraction, and the question of taking the next step is foremost in their minds even as they tumble into bed together for the first time. Will they work things out, or will the suddenness of it all get the better of them?

Available here: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79_93&products_id=4260


Author Extra: 

Sev's Mint & Ginger Iced Tea Pick-Me-Up

Spent all night chasing rabbits in the forest? Tired, headachey and hungover? If you know it's the full moon tonight or you're in for a long one otherwise, put a batch of this in the fridge in the afternoon and drink it in the morning to cure all your ills.

You Will Need:

3-4 mint & ginger tea bags (or 3-4 scoops of loose leaf tea)
1 bottle white lemonade (1-1.5 liters)
1-2 soluble caffeine tablets (optional)

1 - Gently poke the tea bags, one at a time, into the top of the lemonade bottle so they're floating in it, or carefully pour in the loose leaf tea.
2 - Close the bottle and refrigerate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
3 - In the morning, dissolve the caffeine tablets into the bottle (if you're not into caffeinated beverages in the morning, skip this step).

4 - Drink and be healed.