My ebook sale raised 'At First Light' to #18 among all free ebooks, and #1 in both thriller and romance categories. Over 10,000 downloads! The good news is you can still get it for the price of a taco! And just as delicious!
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Monday, March 31, 2014
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Anna Overby pushed open the back door and went up the three steps into the small kitchen of her Grandma Overby. “Morning!” she leaned over and kissed Obie, her pet name for her grandmother.
“Thank my God you are safe.” Obie said. “I worry when you drive a car.”
“I passed Drivers Ed’ and everything Obie. No crashes, no pedestrians dragged under the car, and no tickets.” Anna pumped her fist in the air.
“It’s only been a moon since your birthday. Be careful.” Obie put her hands on her face, “we are the only Overbys, You and I.” her mouth quivered.
This was Anna’s tenth year helping Obie bake the 16 fruitcakes Obie made each year. Anna had started when she was six, the same year her father never came home. She uncorked the brandy and handed it to Obie.
Obie grabbed the neck of the bottle, “Prost!” and downed a swallow. Her small stature drowning in the baker’s apron wrapped around her. Her white hair, worn long and tucked into the strings in the back of the apron shone in the light.
Anna did the same, wiped her lips with the back of her hand. “Prost! We begin,” saying the words before her Grandmother could.
Obie smiled, “You know the tradition well, child.”
Anna put on her apron and began measuring out flour, sugar and nutmeg. Anna mixed the ingredients in the huge stone bowl decorated with pipers and magical creatures, now almost faded away.
Her grandmother mixed eggs, sugar, and butter in another bowl. She added fruit soaked in the family distilled brandy. “Remember in spring, when we made this?” Obie asked, holding up the brandy to the light.
“Of course I do. We do it every year.”
“Remember the process. It will be important.”
“Obie,” Anna said, “Why are you being weird?” She rubbed her nose with the back of her floured hand.
“What do you know? Your dark hair, and those big hazel eyes make you pretty, but they don’t make you wise. Someday, you will be as smart as your Obie, but not today!”
Anna giggled, “Those stumpy legs don’t make you smart either. Or your dimples.”
Obie stood on the ever-present 4-legged stool and got down the bread pans. She turned on the gas oven. Anna listened for the Pouf that the old cast iron stove made; somehow she loved that sound, or maybe it reminded her of all the baked goods the oven produced since Anna could even remember. Obie laid out the pans in two rows ready to be filled. Anna wiped the inside of the bowl, bringing up a fat portion of batter on her finger. She put it in her mouth, the creaminess lighting a path of delight toward her brain.
She held the bowl while Obie spooned the thick batter into the pans. Anna counted each one, and she always wondered how the bowl never ran short, or ran over. The last pan filled precisely with only enough left in the bowl for Anna to clean with her fingers and stuff in her mouth. That was the hook that clinched this reunion when she was six years old.
“Obie, that’s 17.”
Obie said nothing. She pulled a green glass bottle from the cupboard that Anna had never seen before. The bottle was obviously hand-blown and contained a dark liquid. Obie uncorked it and smoke rolled out and danced across the floor. She poured a drop from the bottle into the 17th cake pan. She recorked the bottle and put it in the cupboard atop a matching saucer. “Remember this bottle Anna; it will be important to you after today.”
They put the 17 cake pans in the oven without another word. “Now we wait.” Obie said. She said that every year, and this was Anna’s favorite part of making the fruitcakes, when they sipped brandy and Anna pried for old stories from her Grandma. Obie had dragon stories, and birth stories and ghost stories that she spilled new each year while the cakes baked.
“Obie, are you getting senile? You made 17 cakes. You only have 16 customers. All of them very old, I might add. Besides you, they’re the oldest people I’ve ever seen.”
“That is because you see them before they indulge in the fruitcakes. Anna,” she took Anna’s hands and led her to the two stools that sat in the kitchen and they sat down.
“Anna. I have to tell you something. I have to explain who we are. Who the Overbys are.” She pulled out a letter from behind her apron. It was yellowed and fragile and rolled up, tied with a piece of string. She handed it to Anna, motioned her to read. “Your Father added the last paragraph.”
Anna pulled on the string and it seemed satin and smooth to her touch but appeared as cotton string. She read:
A long time ago in a land far far away there lived a dark wizard who could turn lead to gold and grow dragons from an ancient magic bargained for, and some say cheated, from Merlin the elder. But no power is ceaseless and without end. Over a thousand days the dark wizard battled the house of Mobberley and the clan of Overby. At the dusk of day the dark wizard fell to the sword of Mitock wielded by Mobberley Mobberley the twice.
And the power of the dark wizard became that of Mobberley Mobberley the twice. However, being a mortal, he became not a wizard of magic, but a Warlock, and his power was everlasting until he got an impossible mother-in-law who brewed the cake of elixir and she was of the clan of Overby, known as the dragon lady, and not because she had one.
As time and generations passed, the warlocks of Mobberley and the bakers of Overby lost each other to the fields of time. And it is said that the warlocks possessed their dark magic only when they indulged in the cake of elixir. And only the clan of Overby held the recipe to the cake of elixir.
Just yesterday the son of the clan of Overby fell in love with A German princess from the family of Heinrich.
The son of the clan of Overby held the secret and the world safe. But passion loosened his tongue and here before you is the Cake of Elixir.
Do what you will.
Anna looked up from the paper, questions in her eyes. Grandma Overby looked through moist pupils. “The son of the clan of Overby was your father Anna.”
“And Heinrich that was Mama’s maiden name,” Anna said.
Obie nodded. “A long time ago the Overby’s broke away from the Mobberly clan. They are indeed warlocks and over the ages, they became filled with darkness that the curse of unbridled power always brings. The world suffered. To safeguard the world the Overbys flew to the ends of the earth, hiding away from the Mobberly family, and only one Overby kept the recipe to reduce the risk. And that is what kept the world safe. Without the cakes of elixir, the Moberly’s have no powers.”
“You mean the fruitcakes?” Anna asked trying to decide if this was just a ghost story. “This is so cool Obie.” Anna said smiling.
“Wait for the whole tale Anna. Your father tried to impress your mother, but a princess is hard to impress. He tried, and he gave her you, but that was never enough. He used the letter,” Obie pointed to the parchment that Anna still held. “He added the last paragraph; then showed it to your Mother, explaining why she, a princess had been betrothed to him. Your Mother,” Obie spit on the floor, “sought out the Mobberlys for their power and since then, we Overbys have made 16 cakes of elixir for the 16 warlocks of Mobberly.”
Anna began to wonder if this was not a ghost story. She thought about the missing pieces of her family, her missing father, her crazed mother. “What happed to my…” her voice snuffed out, “Dad.”
Obie blinked, pulled her mouth tight. “Once your mother betrayed us, the Mobberlys tried to take the recipe from us. But old magic has protected us, Anna. Only an Overby can birth the cake of elixir. And there must always be an Overby! Because a dead person gives away the recipe willingly and freely, breaking the old magic. If we handed over the recipe freely, if they had the recipe, again the world would not be safe from the Warlocks of Mobberly.
Anna looked puzzled, still struggling with the fiction or the truth.
“Soon The Mobberlys came to me and gave me a choice.”
“A choice? What kind of choice?”
“The worst kind of choice. I had to bake the cakes, and deliver them to the warlocks when they darkened my door each year. I did this. And the world has bled its blood. For this, your father was spared.”
Anna opened her mouth.
“No! don’t say anything.” Obie said, “I have to finish before I cannot. They waited. Until I had shared the recipe with your father. Ten years ago, in the sixth year of the cakes, they gave me the bottle,” she pointed at the cupboard where the strange bottle sat on its saucer.
“And again I was given the choice. I could give the recipe to the Mobberlys willingly and freely. Or, I could choose one Overby. Only one. Save the world or save…one of us. That year I made 17 cakes.
Anna’s head whirled. You…your…
“The world awaits, Anna. This time an Overby will flee to the corners of the earth and hide.” Obie held up her finger, “One Overby.”
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
“I’ll take two carcass dogs.”
“Jesus, its noon an you ain’t got no carcass dogs yet? You run a piss-poor hot dog cart.”
“No dragons, no carcass dogs. You want a regular hot dog.”
“You see this guy? This is my brother from Wisconsin, and 10 years I been tellin’ him to come to Denver for carcass dogs. He can get a hot dog in Wisconsin. You need to get us a carcass dog.”
“Until a dragon decides to fly in, I got nothing and nothin’ I can do. Unless you got a friggin’ magic duck-call that will bring them in, I only got hot dogs.”
“Well for Christ's sake, they are always here by now.”
“Maybe they got clouded in up there,” he jerked his thumb at the hazy mountains. “Or wherever they come from.”
“So what’s the difference?” The brother from Wisconsin says.
“First you have to understand,” his brother says, “This ain’t no Milwaukee or Chicago. This is Denver where we got mountains. And that means we got dragons like you got geese. Only dangerous.”
“Like what kind of dangerous.”
“Never mind that. Shut up and listen. Nobody knows why we got dragons, except we got mountains, that’s all you need to know…”
The sun flickered as a shadow swooped over the hot dog cart. They followed the shadow as it circled the plaza. The dragon flapped leathery wings, shaking the sun umbrellas that were randomly scattered across the mammoth brick lined patio. The occupants quickly gripping their coffee cups on the tables to keep the wind from blowing them over. The dragon cracked like broken glass as its scales slipped across each other as it flexed to land. Its claws clattering like drum beats as it skidded across the bricks.
Black and green at the same time depending on where the light reflected, it smelled of mountain air when it shook out its scales. But that was quickly replaced by the stink of burnt carcass, which may come from eating virgins and slow children. That may be a legend as no one has ever seen a dragon harm a child, or even sniff for virgins.
The hot dog cart man opened the bottom of his cart where the charcoal glowed red. Hot dogs grilled above on cast iron grates. He backed away, untied a burlap bag and put his hand inside. The dragon flicked its tongue in the air, snapped at a nearby pigeon. The pigeon slipped away easily. The hot dog man kicked at the open door of the cart and it clanged. The dragon spun at once toward the noise. He growled, low and coarse like gravel falling out of a truck. He stepped forward, his spiked tail trailed across the bricks, the points covered in old blood and hair of something impaled. The scales sang like a bucksaw as he walked, sawing back and forth with the motion of his legs. The eyes flicked with color, red then black, red then black. The people by the fountain dressed in flip flops and little tops got up and started forward. The business people in suits tucked their ties out of the way, or flipped them across their backs so as not to have mustard stains announce them when they returned to work. They too followed the dragon.
The dragon moved to the hot dog cart and put his nose inside. He inhaled and it echoed out of the cart. He inhaled again and then he opened that long mandible and flicked his tongue across his flint tooth. Flame crackled like a match slid on jeans and he blew flames intense as nuclear fire, and the drumbeat of a thousand cylinders banked off the tall glass buildings and thundered across the plaza. The charcoal turned green and the flames blue as old ice. He puffed and smoke replaced the flames emitting from the dragon.
The dragon backed up and turned his head toward the hot dog man. The hot dog man pulled a pigeon from the bag, but it caught in the burlap. The dragon growled. The hot dog man unhooked the claw of the pigeon from the burlap and tossed it toward the dragon. The dragon snapped it out of the air. He flipped it up, up into the sky and the flint tooth sizzled and flame engulfed the pigeon as the breath of the dragon suspended it in air. The dragon puffed and the pigeon fell. His teeth caught it and he raised the leather wings, beat against the air and pumped skyward.
The hot dog man closed the door of the cart; soot hung in the air. He took out a whole-wheat bun and loaded it with a slightly yellow hot dog from the grill. “Carcass dogs, Carcass dogs, get ‘um while they’re hot!”