Monday, May 28, 2012

Here I Go Again

I have three projects going on right now.  I'm doing copy edits on all four e-books to put them in print, I'm sitting on the completed draft of Shadows of Absolution until I finish copy-editing so I can distance myself enough to see it more objectively, and I am in the planning stages of my next project (which has been gnawing at my psyche for a couple of weeks now).  I was supposed to go to bed early last night, but instead I wrote the first chapter at 1am.  I'm posting it as a way of holding myself accountable to the project.  I started it, now I have to finish it.  I'm at least partially hand-writing it, like I did for Mayfly Requiem.  This is the same world as the other books, but a different era.  It fills in some of the 4,800 year gap between SoA and the completed draft of The Crystal Lattice, which I'm going to sit on until the previous books are complete and published.


“Arden Muza Masiona.”


“You saw me undress. I'm still male.”

“Hair and eye colors?”

“Black. Hazel. Those haven't changed, either.”


“Four hundred and seven.”

“Really?” The deputy stared at me incredulously. He tapped his pencil on the desk, then tugged at his emerald hair.

“Really,” I replied.


“Half-Efi.” I stared at the wall. The blood coating my hands made me itchy. I wanted to wash them, but I was not only handcuffed but also tied to the chair.

“And what is the other half?”


“I have no idea what that is.”

“Yeah, most people don't.” I shifted in the chair. The wood groaned. I was not heavy by any means, but the chair was built for a Drey half my height.

“Height in hands?”

“What the hell am I, a horse? Let me think for a moment. Nineteen.”

“Place of birth?”


“Huh. Didn't know anyone lived there. Do you know what you are being charged with?”

“I was told murder. I disagree,” I replied. A thunderclap shook the building and rain beat a frantic cadence against the windows.

“Well, the witnesses would agree with the charge. Are you now, or have you ever been a mage?” The deputy asked, his bushy eyebrow raised.

I cringed and lowered my eyes to the floor. “No.”

“Are you lying?” The deputy asked.

Rage tickled my nerves. I closed my eyes and chased it away. It was teasing me. I could not set it loose. It wanted to come out and play, but it couldn't, it mustn't. I concentrated on my breathing and said, “No. If I was a mage, I wouldn't be here. I am hopelessly mundane.”

“You are a Masiona and yet you are not a mage?”

“I am a Web-damned anomaly and I am sorry if you don't believe me.”

“I do not believe you, and neither does anyone else here. You will be held in the secure mage confinement area to await your trial. Let it be known that your charge carries a penalty of death when you are found guilty. This is not an if, Mr. Masiona. You are guilty and I cannot see any evidence that may prove otherwise. There is a box of graphite under the cot in your cell. Feel free to write your confession on the walls to make the case easier for the prosecution. We will paint over it as soon as you're dead. If you cooperate, your execution will be gentler.” The deputy stood and motioned toward the door. “Come get him now,” he called to the officers waiting outside.

“Damn it,” I muttered.

Six Drey officers marched into the room. They untied me from the chair and forced me to my feet. I was so much taller they didn't know how to handle me. They shoved me toward the hall. I smashed my head against the top of the door frame.

“Hope the cell is taller than the rest of this place,” I said. I wanted to rub my injured head, but my hands were still cuffed behind my back. “Don't you get any humans or Efi in here?”

“You don't deserve comfort for what you have done,” an officer growled. They forced me into another doorway, shoved me down two cell-lined corridors, and deposited me in a tiny, bare room. A squat toilet sat in one corner and a hard cot took up the opposite wall. Three walls were flat, whitewashed stone and the fourth was criss-crossing metal rods. The other prisoners cackled at me.

The officers uncuffed my hands through the bars. I wondered where they found handcuffs big enough for me when they couldn't be bothered to build their town to accommodate the taller races of Melor.

“I hope your death is painful. Maybe the judge will decide on dismemberment. Haven't seen one of those for a while,” one of the officers said with a laugh. They double-bolted the door and left me alone.

I sat on the floor and rocked against the wall. My stomach growled and I wondered if they would feed me. My ears rang and my hands trembled as my composure wavered. The low moan rattling in the back of my throat rose to a wail. I repeatedly knocked my head on the wall. Just when things were starting to get better, this had to happen. I was going to die here. The Drey were going to hack me apart and laugh about it.

“Shut up!” a voice screamed from down the hall. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

“I could really use some help right now,” I whispered. I had no idea if my intended listener would pay attention or even care. I was once told I would never amount to anything, but I had chosen a poor way to prove my mother wrong.

“Shut up!”

I faced the wall and cried into my hands. Between sobs, I said, “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I've made a terrible mistake and I need your help. They're going to kill me.”

“Who the abyss are you babbling at? Shut up!”

This time I listened. Nothing else I could say would make him come. I was lost, utterly lost, and it was my own fault. Everything was always my fault. Self-fulfilling prophesies? Yeah, thanks, Mother.

“Please,” I said, but my voice was hidden by the folds of my shirt. I had no desire to be yelled at again. “Please convince them I deserve to be free.”

Silence. Our communication was always one-way, and I was never prepared for the silence. I had a feeling he had stopped listening to me half-a-century ago. I was on my own and escape was an impossibility. I had no way to prove my innocence and I wasn't even certain I was innocent. Maybe I deserved this. I was unredeemable to everyone, now.

The rage broke free and I became a spectator to my body's brutal assault on the prison bars. I would hurt in the morning. I supposed it didn't matter anymore, since the next morning would likely be the last I would see.

Friday, May 25, 2012


These lovelies arrived at my doorstep yesterday.  I need to do another set of proofs after I hunt for typos because I don't like the paragraph style on these, but I'm really happy with them otherwise.  I have a mere two chapters left on SoA, then I can take a break before editing and work on these pretty babies.  It is so amazing to have them in front of me.  They finally feel real, something I never felt looking at the e-books.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Day in the Garden

I've been neglecting this blog lately, but hopefully for good reason.  I have reformatted all four books and I'm waiting for the proofs to arrive.  My books are going to be in print!  Once I get any errors taken care of (and it's easier to see errors in print than on a screen for me), all four books will be available on Amazon and CreateSpace.  I'm doing them as 6"x9" paperbacks, an industry standard size that keeps my page count down a little.  Mayfly Requiem still comes in at a hefty 463 pages in that trim size, but that might change depending on how the font and formatting look when I get the proofs.

In less tangible news, I'm creeping up on the end of Shadows of Absolution, the loose sequel to The Shattered Veil.  I keep drawing it out because it's an adventure, and all sorts of unexpected things happen in adventures!  I'd better get to work on it. 

I'll leave you with some pictures I took at the botanical garden we visited today.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


This is a set of thirty-two stones I created to help me with my current project (working title Absolution.  I'll reveal the real title later).  Over the course of the book, three characters are seen reading the stones.  The interpretation of the pictures is different for each of them.  If I get stuck on a section, I pull out a stone and see where it leads me.

Dacibrega reached into Onyx's rune basket and lifted out a stone. “A sword, Bethel. Fight your battles elsewhere, because I have never cared what you thought about me. You are the reason I am in this mess of a life.”
You are a reader,” Onyx stated happily.
“Not really. I read what I have to, but books never interested me very much.”
“No wonder you don't get along with my friend here,” Onyx said. He laughed and Bethel glared at him. “Don't stare at me like that, old man. I can't read your expressions anymore now that you're a talking chameleon. I can tell about you two without looking at the stones. Discord. I wasn't talking about books, Dacibrega. I was talking about signs, symbols. You see patterns and meanings without really trying.”
I doubt it,” Bethel said, trying not to laugh. Dacibrega's childhood tutors had not taught him much of anything and the young Kiedran showed little interest in trying to catch up on what he had missed. He was willfully ignorant, and not in the falsely blissful way the citizens of fallen Ganebra once were.
Onyx tapped his arthritic fingers against the table. “I can see that he is headstrong and cantankerous, but that does not mean he is not intelligent and gifted, and you know that better than almost anyone. Dacibrega, you only need to trust your intuition and you will see more than you ever imagined.”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Author Interview: Ron Hummer

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Ron Hummer, author of 96 Rocks and A Hell of a Woman.

What is your writing process like?

I would say that since I like to write mysteries, I have to know ahead of time who committed the murder.  Once I know that, it’s pretty easy to sit down and write the first draft and get a good idea of where the story is going.   
What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing?

Favorite part is creating the story and the characters.  In 96 Rocks, I thought it was fun to try something different when I wrote the book from points of view from different characters.  Bruno Fischer and John Dickson Carr did this when they wrote about their detectives, Ben Helm and Dr. Gideon Fell.  

My least favorite thing is the proofreading.  I must have read my books 96 Rocks and A Hell Of  A Woman at least 8 times.  

Who are your favorite authors, books, or fictional characters?  

So many different authors.  For mysteries and thrillers: Barry Eisler,  Brad Thor,  David Morrell,  Harlen Coben,  Laura Lippman, Gayle Lynds, and Dennis Lehane.  Literary stories.  I like Russell Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ann Tyler. 

What book are you currently reading and what is the last book you finished?

Just finished reading my first indie author, Miranda Valenz’s Coyote Hills.  Really enjoyed it.  I just purchased David Manuel’s Killer Protocols.  He’s another indie author.  I’ll be reading that next.  Currently finishing up Sean Chernover’s Big City Bad Blood.  Great book as well. 

I'm reading Coyote Hills, as well!

Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonists, Detective Ozzie Rivera (96 Rocks) and Don Gunn (A Hell of a Woman)?

Ozzie Rivera was a homicide detective in Colorado.  He’s married to an actress named Anita Cruz.  He started his own practice in Texas.  When he worked in Colorado as a homicide detective, he was known for closing most if not all his murder cases.   He was very upset and left the force abruptly because the DA in Colorado defied him and put an innocent man in jail.  
He’s a brilliant detective who has given lectures at universities across the country.  You could say that he has a very good sense of humor and puts on an act as a bumbling detective at times in order to throw people off when he is asking questions just like Columbo did. 

Regarding Don Gunn, he’s an advertising executive who works for Blake & Yurman.  He lost his wife in a car accident about six months ago and is on the verge of losing his job and career due to his non-compete agreement.   He’s very depressed and vulnerable when he meets a woman nearly half his age named Kim Hunter.   For many men his age, this is a dream come true but it turns out to be a nightmare since Kim is a person of interest in 5 murders.  

Both of these books focus on non-compete agreements?  Why have two books on the subject?  

In 96 Rocks, I really wanted to focus on a group of employees being on a non-compete agreement and working in a poor work environment.  All the employees are on a non-compete agreement that does not allow them to work at any radio station where the company has properties.  Since they have properties in nearly every part of the country, the only place where the employees can work in their profession is in California.   

About a month after this book came out, there was a story regarding Warren Stephens of Halifax Holdings buying 16 editions of the New York Times and then telling all the employees that they would have to sign a non-compete agreement that stated that they can’t work at a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or television station where Halifax Holdings had properties.  I think that story made my non-compete in the story seem soft compared to that one.   

In any case,  Herman Pearson, the general manager of the station, has created a poor work environment through his abusive behavior to all the employees and they are stuck on a non-compete agreement and can’t get another job outside their industry since they are unqualified for those jobs.  The book also raises questions about sexual harassment in the workplace since a woman could lose her job and career due to their non-compete agreement if she reports it.  After all, they are at will employees and can fired at any time for any reason.  

Regarding A Hell Of A Woman, we see Don Gunn on the verge of losing his job and his career due to his non-compete agreement as well.  Here we see the process of him going out on interviews for jobs that he is unqualified for, racing the clock, hoping to get a job before he is laid off due to budget cuts at the agency.  

Ron, you write mysteries infused with real-world situations, including non-compete agreements, an issue you are passionate about.  Many readers are not familiar with the issue, so could you briefly explain it?

Sure.  In my case, I signed a non-compete agreement 12 years ago.  The choice was to sign it or be terminated from my job.  That’s what the memo said to all the employees.  Since my industry has similiar non-competes, I didn’t have a choice but to sign it.  I should point out there there were other employees that were hesitant in signing the agreement and they were pulled into offices and were told to sign the agreement or be terminated.  They signed the agreement.  It shouldn’t shock you to know that other people were given a pass and did not sign the agreement due to favoritism.  

My non-compete states that I’m an at will employee and can be fired at any time for any reason and I would not be able to work in the industry for 2 years.  The agreement states that I can’t work for a company that has a competing product.  Since my company has 10 different products, I can’t work for another company in my industry even if it has one product.  As you can see, this isn’t like Coke and Pepsi, it’s more like Coke and bottled water.  

What can the company do to stop you from working for a competitor? 

Their lawyer can take out an injunction that would stop me from working for the competitor.  In addition,  there is language in the contract that would allow my company to sue the competitor for any lost business.   The lawyer would advise the person interested in hiring me not to consider me for the position unless I’m clear of the non-compete. 

What does your lawyer think? 

I’ve seen three employment lawyers.  All of them have said the same thing.  The contract is standard.  It’s like a form letter that lawyers fill out.  Wording is the same and that’s why it’s airtight.  They also said that companies like mine have an attitude that they’re doing me a favor by giving me a job since they can fire me at any time for any reason and not even give me a severance package. The only reward is my job.   Of course, I have the option of litigating this if I am fired but it would cost me $10,000 and there is a very good chance that I would lose since I signed the agreement.    Doesn’t matter what the conditions or the circumstances were.  

My lawyers have also said that the strategy behind this is to destroy my career since I’ll be out of the industry and will lose time and knowledge and have to be retrained if a company in my industry is interested in hiring me again. 

As a result, all this has led me to is a career of indentured servitude.  I haven’t had a raise in 9 years and I have made significant contributions to my company.  I’ve probably lost out on management positions that could have been available at other companies in my industry.   Yes, I have had a job for 12 years with my company but it doesn’t matter how late I stay.  My performance has to be at the highest level and if it’s not, then I’m history.  Those are the conditions that I’m working under and I’m sure that other people who are on non-competes like mine face the same situation. 

In the end, all of my lawyers said the same thing.  It’s up to the state government to regulate this.  As long as they don’t, then this will continue.  

What inspired you to translate the issue of non-compete agreements to mystery fiction?

I think it’s very easy to write about this subject and have it become a rant.  As Cyrus Webb said in a review of 96 Rocks, it doesn’t sound preachy either.  My feeling was if I created two stories and there was suspense, the reader would be able to get through the book and learn something about non-competes as well.  

Were there any other factors that caused you to write these books? 

Seeing over 200 people lose their jobs at my company and disappear from Linked In.  Seeing all the stories on Google News when I look up non-competes.  People from Groupon being dragged into court and paying legal fees just because they wanted to work for Google.  Rene Garcia and Arnold Arredondo not being able to open their own business where they live because they signed their non-compete with Reliable Fire 14 years ago.  

I would say that the biggest factor is watching TV and listening to the government officials not acknowledging that this is a problem since this could lead to long periods of unemployment.  After all, we are the ones sacrificing our education, our fiances, and out futures just to make these non-compete agreements work. 

Do you think the state and local governments will pass legislation regarding this like they’re trying to do in Massachusetts? 

No,  I don’t.  I called the governors office in the state where my non-compete is impacted and was told that they have non-competes that are just like mine.  I said I guess I’m wasting my time talking to you.  He said let me see if I can hook you up with a someone that could help you.  I called him five times and never got an answer.  

I called the representative for the opposing party and said that I wanted to make a campaign contribution.  He said sure, just let me give you my address.  I said before you do that, I want to talk to you about non-compete agreements.  He said are you part of a group?  I said no.  To make a long story short, he said well, it’s not up for discussion then.  

Of course this is up for discussion when the special interest groups want the government to help them with their non-compete agreements.  In Georgia in 2010 for example, the judges thought it was unreasonable to fire someone and say that they can’t work in their industry for 2 years.  The state governments response.  We’re losing jobs to Florida and Tennessee because the judges over there will rule for the employer and companies will move their offices there because they are employer friendly states.    So the government in Georgia passed Amendment 1 which ties the hands of the judges because that law states that even if the non-compete is unreasonable, it has to be reasonable for both parties.  

Another example is Governor Chris Christie passing the Trading Secrets act, making New Jersey the 47 state to do this.  This was passed 79-0.  That states that  employees can be liable for civil lawsuits if they are on non-compete agreements.  

So more non-compete agreements mean more jobs? 

That’s what the state government will claim but what happened in Massachusetts when the time came in 2004 for Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg to choose where his headquarters would be, California or Massachusetts?  He chose California along with hundreds of other companies and they are the only state that outlaws non-compete agreements.  Today, Massachusetts remains behind the Silicon Valley in jobs that they are fighting for.  This was when Mitt Romney was in office from 2002-2006.  

Now, for the last 3 years, the government is trying to outlaw non-compete agreements but nothing has happened yet.  The reason that they want to outlaw them is because entreprenuers are being prevented from starting up companies in the tech industry due to their non-compete and moving to the Silicon Valley because the best talent is there.  After all, where are you going to go if you’re a graduate of MIT, to Massachusetts where they have non-competes or California where they are outlawed?

It has been said that if these non-competes are outlawed in Massachusetts, then they may not lose out on the next Facebook.  People may stop packing their bags and move to California as well. 

I think the question at this point is what is taking so long and why didn’t Mitt Romney think about this when he was Governor since he let non-competes into Massachusetts like all the other Governors did at that time in their states. 

Any Final Thoughts? 

People have to draw their own conclusions about non-competes and ask who the state government is working for - employees or the special interest groups?  It can be both but the fact is that non-compete laws favor employers and it will continue until the government steps in and regulates them.   

Non-compete agreements are growing.  Local hairdressers, pharmacy technicians, and even dog and cat groomers in some states are on non-competes that state that they can be fired at any time for any reason and can’t work within a 50 mile radius of their employer.  Look up Canine Oasis and Petland for example.  

Does this need to be regulated?  Go to Google news and type in non-compete and you’ll see all the stories.  A recent one is regarding an FM radio station in Ohio who is suing their DJ’s because they left the station and started their program on the internet 3 times a week.  Is this really a landmark case or just another example of a company and their attorney gaming the system to see how far they can push the restrictions of the non-compete since the DJ’s cannot compete with the FM signal because core listeners can listen to their radio in their cars for example. 

You can look at the non-compete contract that Warren Stephens of Halifax Holdings put on his employees once he purchased 16 editions of the New York Times and said that new employees can be fired at any time for any reason and cannot work for a newspaper, a magazine, a radio station, or a television station for 2 years and ask the same question.  If you look up information on Warren Stephens, you’ll see that he’s a critic of Barack Obama and a supporter of Mitt Romney.  

Not that I mean to make this political but I think questions need to be asked about where these jobs are going to come from and the fact that many people are told that Mitt Romney will change things because he has the business background.   All this makes me wonder where that business touch is leading us to, especially when I read that Amazon wants to open a plant in Florida that will create jobs and the state government which is made up of Republicans say that we won’t give you the same tax breaks that you were given in South Carolina.  
Yes, there is a case to be made for people who are privy to company information but companies have been able to determine that by offering a year if not to years salary to people in that position if they are fired for any reason.  

There are people like me who are not privy to confidential information yet were are forced to sign these contracts because our job is our reward and will probably not see a severance package if we’re fired.  To make matters worse, there are people in my company and other companies who are not signing that agreement due to favoritism.  That’s nothing more than discrimination.  

One more point.  I did speak with one person who was running for office and explained my situation.  His response.  I don’t think that’s good because we’re paying unemployment benefits out on people who lose their jobs and this non-compete agreement is preventing them from getting another job.  

I don’t see the concern for the employees and the harm that non-compete agreements cause in any of these discussions regarding non-competes.  The only thing I do see is one reporter, Scott Kirsner, who does write stories about non-competes and the harm it is doing to employees.  

If you read 96 Rocks or A Hell Of A Woman or both, you’ll have a chance to see how people like me and others cope with being on this agreement.  In the end, you’ll have the power to express your feelings on a review whether it be for Amazon or Barnes and Noble or many of the other sites where my books are available.  

Where can we learn more about your books?

Kindle.  Nook.  Ebookit. ITunes.  Sony ereader.  Google eBookstore.  Ingram Digital which is

Any Current Projects

None at the moment.  

Thanks for having me here for this opportunity.  I really appreciate it.  

Thank you for your time, Ron, and I wish you luck on both your novels and your cause!

Snippet Sunday, Mayfly Requiem

Little flame, are you still awake? I don't know anymore. I miss that the most, the simpleness of feeling your heartbeat against my soul. We had such wonder in us once, remember? It was so very long ago, before we knew what we were. Inside all of us is a light, but some beacons are darker than others, and some are so dark they never realize they are a form of light at all. Innocence has no place alongside immortality. You always knew it, but you never cared, did you? You held onto innocence anyways and made it your own. My innocence died the same day we learned what we were supposed to be. You forgave me, even for my errors that day. I don't want you to forgive me for what I did to you in the end, what I am still doing to you now. We still had our innocence in Meridian, but even Meridian is vile now. Ganebra consumed it and destroyed the birthplace of our light and wonder. The madness of Ganebra consumed our world. Memories of everything we lost consume me now.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Free Books to a Good Home!

May 6th is my birthday, so I decided to run a book promo so I can feel better about climbing into another decade.  Mayfly Requiem will be free on May 6th and 7th and The Abyssal Night will be free on May 8th and 9th.  If you don't already have a copy, download it and tell me what you think!  You don't need a Kindle to read e-books... there are free e-reader apps for almost any device on Amazon.  Thank you for your support!
Free May 6&7

Free May 8&9

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This short story is told from the perspective of the equivalent of a five-year old who was born long after the fall of Malora.  Arden Masiona is the youngest child of the Aulor Bethel Masiona, and he is a secondary character in The Crystal Lattice.  I have several stories of Arden's unusual childhood in the Yolane Forest, but this is the only one I've written out in full so far.  Arden's mother was an Efi, a descendant of the original refugees of Efilon.  Efi have long childhoods and lifespans of 500-600 years because of their Aulor blood, but most of them fall to unnatural deaths well before reaching old age. 

Arden Masiona loved living in a hollowed-out tree at the center of the Yolane Forest. Then again, he did not yet know there was any other way for a person to live. Birds lived in nests, foxes lived in dens, badgers lived in burrows, and people lived in trees. The concept of living in a stone or plank house never occurred to him until he was much older.
Arden's tree was ancient and Daddy said he planted it himself. Arden found that confusing. He knew Daddy was old, but it seemed odd for Daddy to be older than the big tree. Daddy was magical, though, so maybe he really was that old.
Mommy used to live in the tree, too, but she was gone now. Arden was sad when he remembered her. She was always there before, but she left one day and never came back. Arden always felt like she left because he wasn't magical enough. She wanted magical children and instead she had ordinary Arden.
Arden was aware from a very early age that he had no magic in him at all. Daddy was something called an Aulor. He had many magical abilities. Most obviously, his coloring changed to match his surroundings. Mommy could change the temperature of anything and make the air hot or cold around her. Mommy tried to teach Arden to do magic. He only became tired and frustrated because he couldn't do what she wanted. She was mad at him sometimes, but now she was gone and Arden wanted nothing more than for her to come back.
Daddy would never leave. He never expected Arden to be anything other than what he was, and Arden knew Daddy loved him even without magic. He thought Mommy loved him too, but he must have been wrong about her. He hoped he wasn't wrong about Daddy.
Daddy was hiding and it was up to Arden to find him. Daddy was the hardest person in the world to find because he changed colors. His hair, skin, and eyes blended in with everything around him until he was almost invisible. It was such a neat trick, and Arden was sad he would never be able to learn it. Magic would have made Arden special, but instead he was ordinary and out of place his own family.
Radish followed Arden and he thought she was funny. There were lots of cats at home, but Radish was the only one who was his and not Daddy's. She was very fluffy and had yellow eyes and gray stripes. She always slept on his pillow at night, even when he didn't want her to. Every time Arden turned around, Radish was either not moving or was lazily licking her paw, so she must have only moved when he wasn't looking. She was sneaky and it made him giggle.
“Where do you think Daddy is?” Arden asked the cat after he unsuccessfully searched both the fallen oak and the little wooden bridge over the icy creek.
Radish squeaked at him. Arden wished he spoke cat, because she had just told him exactly where Daddy was hiding. If he spoke cat, he would know so many things and he could talk to Radish and the other cats.
Arden sighed and scratched at his hair. “Radish,” he said as sternly as possible. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head at her. “You are no help. No help at all. Go home, Radish!”
She tilted her head to the left and stared at him with her yellow eyes. Her tail swished as she watched a little brown moth fly far above her head.
“Don't eat moths, it's not nice,” Arden cautioned. Cats ate nasty things like birds and mice. Sometimes they left dead voles in Arden's shoes. Daddy said they were presents, but Arden thought they were gross and the cats were mean to do such a thing.
Arden skipped away from the creek and walked back toward the tree house. The air smelled like fresh bread, so maybe Daddy was hiding in the kitchen. Arden ran down the cobblestone walkway and swung open the front door. To the right was the spiraling staircase that led up to his bedroom, and to the left was the kitchen and the smell of bread. Radish ran past him into the kitchen. Arden tiptoed behind her. A steaming loaf of bread sat on the table, but Daddy was nowhere to be found. He was there recently, though. Arden squinted in the bright afternoon light to try to make out Daddy's shape against the counters.
Radish jumped on the windowsill and yawned. Daddy was definitely not in the kitchen, and Arden doubted he was in the house at all. He had to be outside. There were more places to hide outside than inside.
Radish trotted at Arden's heels as he left the house. Above his head, lofty branches creaked in the gentle breeze. The great and wonderful trees seemed to speak to each other. The Yolane Forest was so exciting that Arden hardly ever wished to see anywhere else. There was too much left to discover in the forest to think about other places like the ocean. the cities, or even the huge mountains on the eastern skyline. Everything in Yolane was magical except for Arden, and he didn't mind as long as Daddy didn't.
Arden carefully crossed the archery range. He was not supposed to be in the range, but there was no one around and it was the fastest way to get to the garden. Maybe when he was bigger he would be allowed to shoot the arrows too, but for now he was too little to even draw back the bow string. He had be content for now with the little wooden swords Daddy taught him to spar with.
The garden was overflowing with wonderful things. Rows and rows of colorful vegetables made Arden's stomach grumble. His favorites were the pumpkins, but they would not be ready for a long time, so he grabbed a handful of green beans instead. He snapped the beans with his teeth and swallowed them quickly. A small grove of peach trees stood at the other end of the garden. Arden was afraid to go there alone after seeing a particularly angry-looking fox scouring the blackberries beneath the peaches a month earlier.
Bored Radish stretched and yawned. Arden decided Daddy must not be in the garden after all. He ran back across the archery range and through the back door of the tree. He returned to the kitchen. A bowl of strawberries had joined the bread on the table. Arden grinned widely and his mouth watered. He wanted to eat the food, but he had to find Daddy first. It would only be polite to eat with him, after all.
Radish jumped up the spiral stairs and Arden followed her into the higher levels of the tree. There was no one in the study, or the bedrooms, or anywhere else. Daddy wasn't anywhere! Maybe he tricked Arden and left like Mommy did. Maybe Arden was all alone in the world with no one to look after him and no one to look after except for Radish.
Arden ran down into the kitchen and sat at the table. Radish furiously rubbed against his ankles as he leaned on his hands. Tears welled in his eyes. There was no one in the house and he was frightened.
“Everyone has left me, Radish!” Arden cried. Maybe if he cried loud enough, Daddy would hear him and come back. “Mommy went away and Grasshopper Kitty died, and now Daddy disappeared. I have no magic and no one wants me!”
Radish nipped Arden's ankle and he yelped. The bite did not hurt, but it did surprise him. He sniffled and the sound he made was not quite loud enough to cover up the shuffling noise behind him.
“Daddy?” Arden asked nervously. He jumped from his chair and turned around. The faint outline of a hand crept around the pantry door frame. Arden bounded towards the door and threw his arms around Daddy's waist.
“Found you!” Arden shouted. Daddy put one hand on Arden's shoulder and ran his fingers through Arden's hair.
“You don't have to have magic to be magic, my Arden,” Daddy said. His low, soft voice always reminded Arden of the talking trees of Yolane. “You're mine and that is all the magic you will ever need.”
“I thought you ran away like Mommy did,” Arden whispered, clinging to Daddy's side.
“Mommy will be back next week. I'll never run away from you. Do you know why we play this game?”
“No, why?” Arden asked. He looked up at his father's face, which was golden brown against the wood of the kitchen. Daddy was green if he was outside in the grass and black at night, but inside the house he was usually brown. It didn't matter, as Arden was comfortable with him no matter what he looked like.
“Because I want you to learn that even if you can't always see me, I will always be there for you,” Daddy explained. He smiled warmly and his white teeth lit up his face. “You will never really be alone even if we are separated by distance. Sometimes you have to look hard to find me, but I will be there when you need me.”
“Can we eat the bread and the strawberries now?” Arden asked. He tried to make sense of Daddy's words, but he couldn't really understand them. Maybe when he was older he would, but for now he was happy that Daddy hadn't run away from him like Mommy had. Daddy was the only family in the whole world who wanted to be with him and he was happy Daddy promised never to go away.
“Of course!” Daddy said. He took Arden by the hand and they sat at the table to enjoy warm bread and fresh-picked berries.