Friday, December 10, 2010

Summer Heat is here finally...

Whoa, today the temp has hit 31deg C. For those in the north, who count in Farenheit ... that's WARM. The sun is shining and for the first time this summer the air conditioner is ON. I think once lunch is over we might adjourn to the pool. 
Hopefully this sunshine and breeze is drying out some of the floods across the state and not blowing more rain their way.
Meanwhile Christmas shopping is almost done and the cupboards are filling fast.
Prayers going out to our Muse friends who are facing rough days this Christmas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Downunder as seen on Museitup Publishing Blog

Living on the underside of the world gives us Aussies a different perspective on Christmas and the festive season. Rather than conform to tradition, our family has taken the opportunity to set our own parameters for celebrating Christmas.

Here Christmas arrives in Summer and the weather is usually perfect. Friends return to be with family and there is often not a spare bed in the house over the holidays.
Sunshine, afternoon thunderstorms, sea breezes and balmy evenings make for perfect holiday conditions. With the golden sand and harbor less than a mile away, and an in-ground pool in the back yard and air conditioning, there is little excuse for overheating in the humid conditions. Each afternoon a sea breeze makes life pleasant if the day’s heat has been exhausting.

On the lead up to Christmas we decorate the house with lights and enjoy having the neighbors’ kids come and view our efforts. Santa often cruises the local streets, riding on the local Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade truck. Santa is always red faced and often attired in open sandals rather than big black boots.
Shopping is probably the same the world over.

So, Christmas day arrives. It can often be a scorching day, with temperatures over 30 deg C. Baking is not recommended in the heat. Even so there is way too much food, drink and conversation. Family, extended family and friends gather to celebrate. That’s pretty much what happens everywhere I guess.

We don’t go for the traditional baked dinner. Ample amounts of cold ham, turkey, chicken, seafood, salads, bacon and banana rolls, a new favorite: Peter Evan’s bbq spare ribs in rum and coke, ambrosia, avocado, fresh fruit and lots of cold drink are consumed during lunch. Desserts tend to extend into the afternoon between swims and relaxation. Family members bring their specialty dishes for both courses.

Unless it is cool, desserts are often not Christmas puddings or cake, but homemade pavlova, trifle, ice cream Christmas cake, homemade tiramisu. Again fresh fruit is popular. Mango, peach, nectarine, kiwi fruit, cherries and the ever popular strawberry all are bountiful at this time.

Christmas tends to mean beach, surf, sunburn, sunscreen and mosquito repellant. The sounds of cicadas, blowflies, rolling surf, thunderstorms, mosquitoes and guitars strumming while the kids sing are all part of the Christmas spirit. Although the smell of sunscreen and mossie coils burning are overpowered by the mouthwatering aroma of barbequed onions and marinated  spare ribs.

Lying in a hammock, sipping a cold drink and listening to the drone of conversation, pleasantly cool from a swim and taking time out between meals… it doesn’t get better than this.

Remember to pace yourself because Boxing day is a huge picnic day.

Among friends here the tradition here is to venture out on Boxing day into the heat and sunshine and play Cricket, emulating our national test team. My sons’ friends gather to remember one of the boy’s mother who passed away a few years ago. During their childhood she used to host a memorable cricket match. These days the event is still memorable. Everyone enjoys the picnic atmosphere while the brave manage to play some sort of a game while imbibing varying amounts of alcohol. Sunburn, hangover and muscle aches are guaranteed for players and on every occasion Cricket wins the day.
I guess that’s pretty much how our family celebrates Christmas downunder.
Happy Christmas.

For those interested in the tastes:
Ambrosia is sour cream mixed with marshmallows and mandarin segments. Sounds sweet? It is! Believe me. It is served as a salad though, rather than a dessert. 
Peter Evans’ Barbequed Spare Ribs in Rum and Coke… American style spare ribs marinated for two days in a mix of rum and coke and various sauces. Rum and Coke Ribs  The only problem with these is not having enough.
Bacon and Banana rolls. Wrap bacon around a cut banana and barbeque it till the bacon is cooked.
Christmas ice cream cake. In a large domed mixing bowl take 4litres (gallon) of vanilla ice cream, soften and mix in dried fruit mix and a dash of your favorite liqueur. Mix and re freeze. Serve dome side up. For kids you could leave out the alcohol.
Trifle; sponge cake soaked in jelly, sherry (or your choice of alcohol), set with fruit, covered in custard and cream.
Pavlova; A meringue base covered with cream and fresh fruit. Great for summer time.

Recipes for Ribs and Tiramisu are more complex. Follow the links here or visit my blog at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Twice bitten...

Recently I revisited a cafe where we celebrated Mother's day, but after leaving the place discovered they had overcharged us $37. Despite a lovely meal with three generations of Mum, the discrepancy left a bitter taste. The money was refunded with apologies and smiles.
So now months later I tried again, and sadly found that a simple order for morning tea was over charged by $10 on a $12 order. Now that is either unethical or very very careless.
Needless to say, we will not return.

I guess the moral of the story is: check your receipts before you leave.
Even if it means getting out that other pair of glasses and actually READING the fine print.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My hero...

This week on the Museitup Readers forum the topic for discussion came around to 'eye candy'.
I thought I would share a pic of Matt modelling as my novel's hero. My idea of 'hot'. Thanks for bearing with me. Thanks Matt and Rachel for providing the photos.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Downunder on Museitup Publishing Blog today

 Today Wendy Laharnar and I are guests on Museitup Publishing Blog, talking about Christmas here in Australia. Please visit us there.

Museitup Publishing has launched their December Celebrations.

Drop by the Museitup Publishing blog for their Christmas Festival posts.
Wendy Laharnar and I are guests today.  ;) Please visit and leave a comment!
Meanwhile if you are in the crafty Christmas mood, I know of a great blog with some great ideas.
 Crafty Christmas on a Budget

 Hope you are all enjoying Summer... We are looking for some sunshine! Enough with the rain, thanks!
Or Winter. Hope it snows if that is what you wish for.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ginger Simpson's... 'Hurricane Warning'. John Russo's... Grounds for Murder and Krista D Ball's... Harvest Moon

Had a great evening reading three short stories from Museitup Publishing. I am saving reviews for my new website... coming soon. Still... for a heads up:
Hurricane Warning is a delightful romance. Complete with storm and tempestuous emotions. A fun read especially with the rain we are having here.
Grounds for Murder manages to introduce a gathering of characters and interesting encounters. The twisting plot works well in this mystery.
Harvest Moon explores a girl's insecurity and her search for self worth. An interesting look into gender confusion written with a rich cultural background.
Thanks to Museitup authors, Ginger, John and Krista for a lovely evening reading.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rat Army... Fact is stranger than Fiction.

People wonder where Fantasy authors get their inspiration? Nature provides so much scope, we don't have to look far afield.Check out this article Attack of the Rats, by Victoria Gill from BBC Earth News.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back from Holidays.

Although it has been a wonderful week away, with lots of sunshine, sand and surf, the experience has left me exhausted.
With two little ones to share each moment, energy somehow wanes. Their excitement and enthusiasm are elixiors but their energy levels far out match mine. I am thrilled to have shared so many new and wonderful moments with them. Seeing elephants walking single file holding tail in trunk, watching a tiger play ball in a pond, seeing a cheetah enjoy a hand held iceblock make memorable moments. I hope the children remember them too.
A visit to the aquarium, being a hands breadth from a shark, a manta ray larger than my armspan and seeing cheeky otters at play all made for a wonderful day's enertainment. Seals, crabs, seahorses, colourful fish, turtles, lung fish and crocs all mesmerised and fascinated us. A terrific experience for young and old alike.
Apart from the outings to the zoo and aquarium there was the wonderful landscape of the Sunshine coast. Aplty named. The beautiful coastline, mountains, the beaches, parks and pools are perfectly designed to keep a toddler entertained. Sand castles, paddling, playing are all holiday fun, with Grandma enjoying it as much as the kids.
It was a great time and my muse responded to the stimulation. Only with the drain on energy there was very little time to write.
A wonderful time with family.

After a good night's sleep I am writing again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Links to Exiled Autumn's Peril... copied

  • Edi's Book Lighthouse: Edi's Spotlight: Autumn's Peril by Rosalie ...

    Sep 21, 2011 ... And today I present the review of Exiled:Autumn's Peril (eBook, ... And Exiled:
    Autumn's Peril belongs to my growing list of books from small ...

  • Edi's Book Lighthouse: Edi's Lighthouse Chatter: Exiled: Autumn's ...

    Aug 31, 2011 ... Edi's Lighthouse Chatter: Exiled: Autumn's Peril by Rosalie Skinner ... I received
    an electronic copy of Exiled: Autumn's Peril and started to read. ...

  • Exiled: Autumn's Peril by Rosalie Skinner :: Reader Store

    Aug 31, 2011 ... Exiled: Autumn's Peril. by Rosalie Skinner; Avg. Rating: Not yet rated; Publish
    Date: August 31, 2011; Read Review (); Exiled: Autumn's Peril by ...

  • Ramblings from Lady Rosalie: Extract from EXILED: Autumn's Peril...

    Aug 10, 2011 ... Extract from EXILED: Autumn's Peril... from Museitup bookshop... “Well three
    horses come this way. I can hold the assassin but the rest is up to ...

  • Chronicles of Caleath | Facebook

    Exiled: Autumn's Peril is the first book in Rosalie Skinners's Chronicles of Caleath
    . So before you start reading this one, be aware that it's highly addictive and ...

  • Rosalie Skinner

    Exiled: Autumn's Peril - Book One. Exiled: Winter's Curse - Book Two. Exiled: The
    Legacy of Lathraine's Pledge - Book Three. Exiled: The Battle for Enderseer ...

  • - Profile from Rosalie Skinner

    Look for Exiled: Autumn's Peril as an ebook later in 2011. Check my blog for
    extracts and news closer to release dates. Please feel free to contact me here, ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Katie Hines is interviewing me today.

Today I am being interviewed on Katie Hines blog, Walking on Water. Please drop by and see what we discuss.
Katie Hines is the author of Guardian, a fantasy that looks like a perfect read for young and old. I have it on my christmas list.
She does a great interview too. In the near future I hope to have her as a guest here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Unhewn Stone by Wendy Laharnar

Thanks for posting on my blog Wendy. I thought anyone dropping by would like to know more about The Unhewn Stone that Museitup will be releasing in 2011.
I loved reading The Gauntlet by  Ronald Welch  and found Wendy's books took me back to those halcyon days. Time travel is always a great start for a story. Wendy's first hand knowledge of the location and depth of interest in the subject combine to form the backbone of this story. William Tell is a major character but his legend is told from a new and delightful perspective. The hero of the tale will captivate readers with his quest.
I am not the sort of person who cries during a movie, and when reading it takes a good story to jolt me out of editing mode. So when I found tears welling in my eyes, only a few pages into this story I realised Wendy's writing has a magic of its own. I won't tell you how or why my emotions were struck but I will say that again at the ending I felt Wendy had achieved a certain kind of magic to complete her tale with such finesse.
The excitement and thrill of time travel, the use of modern knowledge to solve age old problems without disrupting history and the growth and development of the main character make this a terrific story for any age.
I  will be lining up for a signed copy when it is released in August.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanks for the Invitation

As one of Lady Rosalie's writing friends, I would like to thank her for inviting me into her domain as a guest blogger. Next year should be quite an exciting one for both of us with our books coming out at Museitup Publishing. Extended excitement for Rosalie who has eight books coming one after the other - the wonderful Caleath Chronicles. There is nothing like a good science fiction fantasy to offer an entertaining escape from the hum drum of everyday life. Rosalie's books take us to a far different world than we have ever imagined, where magic wraps its tenticles around a haunted, hunted hero. You'll be drawn to Caleath and engage in his challenging mission. The first book is due for release in August.
Wendy Laharnar

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FREE READ Draft: The Quest part FOUR

Earth magic failed to lift Mistral’s spirit to the state of consciousness needed to release the locking spells. With her eyes closed Mistral viewed the border. The insubstantial barrier ripped and buckled where soul daemons tore at the fabric desperate for the moment when Time stalled.  Her energy level dropped. The heat of the day drained her resolve.
With a glance to the vibrant colours painting the horizon as the sun dropped, Mistral turned to face Gimbarra.  “The planet’s spirit is not responding. I need to reach her before I can work any magic.”
“The Earth is our mother, can we help?” The old man’s dark eyes burned like wells of confidence. “She will listen to our call.”
Mistral placed a pale hand over the old man’s heart. His energy vibrations matched the Earth magic. Yarra stepped forward, offering himself in the old man’s place. Mistral touched his chest, feeling the power of his youth and heritage pulse beneath her hand. His energy matched the Earth spirit and his strength surpassed Gimbarra’s.
“I accept your offer. Please, Gimbarra, Morawi, are there others who can help you stand guard. The daemons are close to breaking through. Time is short and I am weak.”
Morawi reached into a fold of her shirt and produced a small metal box. Opening it, lights glowed and she pressed a few tiny buttons, before lifting the device to her ear and speaking. Mistral didn’t waste time wondering how the communication machine worked. With Yarra she moved to place herself again on the dragon focus, with the staff of power clasped in her hands.
“Your heart must be strong. Do not fear the daemon song or their hunger.” She said, guiding Yarra to place his strong hands above and below hers on the walking stick. When he nodded, she inclined the metal horsehead knob toward the border and again sought help from the elements.
Daemons laughed and mocked her efforts. Through contact with Yarra’s skin she shared his courage as the young man witnessed the writhing mass poised to break through the border.
A single breath of sun heated air filled her lungs as Mistral plunged into the state of consciousness needed to weave her magic. Yarra’s presence changed the outcome of her request. The guardian’s need spurred the dormant Earth spirit to rouse from slumber.
Mistral exhaled. Channelling power through the walking stick, she braced before inclining the metal head to make contact with the insubstantial border.
The effect sent waves of energy across the length and height of the barrier. Light flared from the horsehead. Yarra recoiled but his hands remained firm around the wooden shaft. Mistral lifted her head and recited the necessary invocations. Not once, but over and over, as the air, the ground and the border responded to her voice.
Darkness surrounded her. Cold crept through each cell of her body, but Mistral and Yarra lost all sense of Time. The border fabric remained fragile. The daemon laughter grew to manic levels. Mistral’s voice faded from over use.
Time stalled.
Between on heartbeat and the next the fabric of the border shimmered. A dozen daemons clawed through a narrow tear. Mistral cleared her throat and struggled to articulate each word of the locking spells. Yarra now supported her weight on the staff. Mistral turned to look into his eyes. She needed to seal the border against the daemons once and for ever. With a nod of understanding Yarra tightened his grip on the empowered walking stick and when Mistral closed her eyes, together they speared the ancient timber deep into the earth.
Earth magic exploded. The power of the elemental spells Mistral wove combined in a backlash of energy, throwing Mistral and Yarra clear of the blast.
Baked earth quivered. Where her body lay in contact with the ground Mistral sensed the rise of Earth magic, enveloping the wood, spreading through her body and reverberating along the essence of the border. As raw power spread, the barrier firmed and where daemons clamoured and clawed, a solid energy field shimmered into existence.
Where the walking stick touched the ground a circle of black glass rippled before solidifying.   The walking stick ceased to exist, but a glint of silver shimmered in the centre of the glass lake.
Yarra leapt to his feet, grabbed Mistral and glanced to where Gimbarra and Morawi should have been on guard.
Dark skin blended too well in the dark of night. Mistral counted a dozen figures crowding around two bodies.
“We were too late to save them, but we sent the daemon’s packing.” A deep voice spoke with pride. “The story of Gimbarra and Morawi, and how Yarra and the stranger brought Time to a standstill, will be remembered in the new Dreaming.”
Mistral shivered.  She had completed her quest. Now she could return to her own world and let the dragons decide if they would return to help spread magic across this globe.
All she wanted was a hot bath and a week of sleep.

Monday, November 1, 2010

FREE READ Draft: The Quest part Three.

Mistral opened her eyes. The blazing sunshine blinded her and she raised a hand for shade. Pain coursed through every part of her body, but seemed to radiate from her left shoulder. Both  forearms and her left wrist ached horribly. They must have taken the impact of her fall. Her shoulder though felt as though it had been run through with a sword. A feeling she knew too well.
 Shadows moved above her. She tried to focus, rattling off a spell to dissipate the pain and begin healing. Two men and a woman, each with skin darker than the leather of her jacket, watched her. The older man, grey haired and lined by the passing of time, offered her a bowl of water.
“Drink. You are safe now.”
“Safe?” Mistral considered the idea without humour. Unless her quest succeeded ‘safe’ as a concept might no longer exist, for any living being. “How can that be?”
“The men who shot you think you are dead. They have gone away.”
“Someone shot me?” Mistral sorted through the memory of falling from the bike. The explosion of pain. “Did you remove the arrow?”
“Arrow?” the old man shook his head and glanced to the woman.  “Shot with a gun.” The woman approached, holding the weapon Mistral borrowed from the truck stop cook. “Gun, like this. Not arrow.”
“I heard, saw, no one. Daemons will try to stop me. I should have been more careful.”  Mistral berated herself for allowing the thrill of speeding through the night to leave her vulnerable. She should have smelt the daemon taint, but the wind worked against her.  “Beast sped too fast, wind too strong. Not safe mode of transport.”
“You are here now.” The younger man stood with his hands on narrow hips. White teeth flashed as he spoke.  Where his shirt opened at the neck, a bone pendant glistened, white against dark skin.  She squinted, looking into his eyes as he continued.  “We are the guardians. We have waited for your arrival. Watched. Waited. Tonight we heard the dragon’s whispered warning. Found you.”
“Thank you. Do you have transport? We must reach the focus before time begins to loop.”
“My name is Gimbarra. My son, Yarra, my woman Morawi. Your name...”
“Mistral. I apologise, but time is speeding up. We do not have time to spare on healing, or exchanging names. Help me reach the focus.”
“You have been shot. You need treatment else you will not be going anywhere.” Morawi spoke for the first time. Both men nodded. “For now you must rest.”
“I will take care of healing my own wounds, if you can help me travel. Please. We have moved from where I fell. Did you bring the staff? I will need it when we reach the focus.”
“We have been watching and waiting for many generations. You speak of a need for hurry, but nothing has happened for so many years. Why is there a need to rush now? Nothing seems changed from the day before yesterday or the year before that. Out here, things take time. Nothing rushes.” Gimbarra sat cross legged on the red desert dirt as though willing to stay there all day. He held the walking stick in his hands though. Mistral almost forgave him his calm.
Mistral ground her teeth. The pain when she moved over powered her spells. With or without magic, she needed to travel to the focus. Blood no longer leaked from her injured shoulder. She would live. For now. If she failed in her quest, a bullet would be the least of her troubles.
“I will go alone if you are not prepared to help me.” She clutched her injured arm to her side and began the task of scrambling to her feet. “I will find the way.”
“Stubborn.” Morawi offered her hand for support. “We will take you where you want to go, and we will not allow you to be shot again.”
The rusty truck shook Mistral’s bones until she wanted to scream.  Hot air burned her lungs with each drawn in breath. Dust choked every pore of skin that did not stream with sweat. Morawi offered her a clear cylinder of water. The soft outer casing buckled between Mistral’s fingers.
“Plastic.”  Yarra’s eyes rolled. “Not good but very useful. Keep drinking. In this heat even without blood loss you will become dehydrated.”
“How do people survive living here? Is this normal weather or is this from being close to the border?” She slopped a handful of water over her face, before gulping a mouthful of the warm fluid. “It is too hot now, but last night it was so cold.”
“That’s the desert for you. We live here. Our people have done since the time of Dreaming.” Gimbarra lifted a hand from the steering wheel to indicate the vast expanse of wilderness stretching to the horizon. “This is our home. We love this land and know her moods. The border does not change the weather.”
“We are close now.” Mistral let the draw of the dragon focus flow through her. Closer to the focus, her healing spells began to take effect. She risked the energy drain and added a spell to ease the effect of the weather. “Stop here. We should walk the rest of the way.”
“This is not where we have maintained our watch.” Yarra’s brow furrowed over dark eyes. “The circle of stones is still a way off.”
“Here.” Mistral grabbed the steering wheel. “Stop here. Now.”
“All right missy. Settle down. We are here to help.” Gimbarra grated the gears and halted the truck beside a lonely gum tree. “If this is where you want to be... this is where we are.”
Mistral struggled to open the door. She scrambled clear of the truck, ignored the burning sand beneath the soles of her boots and let the power of the dragon focus guide her.
“I smell daemons.” She turned her head, sniffing the hot air. “How often do they escape through the border?”
“We have kept them contained as best we can. Without a constant source of magic we cannot prevent every escape. Occasionally a few make it past our circle. Some are trapped in the rocks and sand here. Others flee and meet their fate elsewhere.” Morawi stood beside Mistral, cocked her head and sniffed. “How do you smell them?”
“A daemon hunter is born able to sense daemon kind. It is part of my blood. Same as I can feel a dragon focus. We are bred for the skills we possess.” Mistral waited for the pain from her shoulder to settle before lifting the short staff. “Can you feel time speeding up? It is about to circle around and swing back on itself. Even the dragons don’t know what effect such an event will have on your world, but we know that the border is locked by a spell that is linked to time. I must reset the lock so it remains viable for the next millennium, or until time again reaches the end of its cycle.”
“Today, of course.” Yarra glanced at the sky, where the single sun hung high above, burning the air with its power. “November two thousand and twelve. We are about to enter a new time of Dreaming.”
“Without soul daemons.” Mistral ran her hands along the short walking stick, traced the design of the horse’s head and closed her eyes. “If I succeed in spinning magic.” She followed Gimbarra and sat cross legged on the burning sand. “This is my quest. To release magic back into your world. At least enough to keep the border closed. Thank you for your help. If I succeed, tonight you will celebrate. If I fail...”
“How can we help?”
“Leave me but keep watch, please. Use the gun if you need to. The daemons have tried once to stop me. They may again...” Mistral allowed her spirit to expand as she summoned aid from the elements. As Time raced to the end of its cycle, she ignored the pain of physical injury and struggled to weave magic.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

FREE READ Draft of THE QUEST part two.. a short story

Mistral took her first breath of Earth air and stifled a cough. Her lungs threatened to spasm. Darkness, thicker than the dragon’s cavern embraced her. In the distance the loom of light from the truck stop spread like a stain into the night. Stars crowded a single moon, watching her brace against the cold. The noises of the night took a few moments to sort, but nothing close threatened her progress.
Tightening her jacket against the chilled air, Mistral walked toward the light. Walking gave her time to get used to the fetid air and the unusual gravity. Exercise helped warm her limbs. Walking also gave her time to work on the languages and lessons the dragon said she would need. Stars moved above her, following her journey in awed silence.
The two women from the dragon’s vision sat at their narrow table clutching steaming mugs. They now stared out the window of the cafĂ©, watching her as if she were a ghost rising from a grave. Their expression of amazement didn’t concern her. She needed the staff they carried. She swung open a fragile door, moving into the light and stifling warmth.
The smell of boiling oil, burnt sugar, coffee and human body odour made her gag. Intense light played havoc with her night vision. The sound of raucous music pounded her eardrums and for a moment she fought the urge to flee. No one else seemed to find the assault on their senses abnormal. Struggling to retain a shred of calm, she approached the woman with the ancient wood.
“Give me the staff. Please.” She found speaking the language aloud more difficult than running the words through her head. The woman’s expression of incredulity changed to one of confusion. The other woman leaned forward across the table, pushing aside a plate of half eaten food.
“She means your walking stick, love. I think she’s from one of those Fantasy convention things. What she’s doing out here is beyond me, but she looks serious.”
“If I succeed in my quest, I will return it to you. If I fail, you will not need it.” Mistral lifted her hand. “Please.”
“This belonged to my father.” The woman gripped the walking stick, caressing the engraved horse-head. White knuckles showed the ravages of age and failing health. On another world, Mistral could have offered to help the woman fight the disease running through her blood. Tonight time ran too fast.  “Not only is it useful.” The old woman’s eyes twinkled as she looked at her companion and winked. “It is precious to me.”
“Ancient wood handled with love. The staff has attributes I need to save this world. Please, time is speeding up. Haven’t you noticed? So soon it will begin to cycle and then it will be too late.” Mistral considered removing the staff by force. Empowering the wood if stolen would take longer and the risk of her magic backfiring from an unfriendly conduit increased dramatically. “Please. I can give you nothing in return, except a promise to do my utmost to prevent the catastrophe that is developing.”  
“Catastrophe?”  Both women spoke. Mistral reached for the staff.
“Here, love. If it means so much to you. I hope it brings you luck.” The woman smiled and handed Mistral the walking stick. “If possible I would like it back  when you have completed your quest.”
Mistral chose to ignore the woman’s patronising tone. 
“Here...” Grey hair flicked as the woman searched in a pouch slung across her shoulder. She removed a think transparent tube and scribbled words on a folded paper. Within the confines of a circular stain from the base of the steaming mug, Mistral saw but could not read a series of neat runes.  The woman glanced to her companion, meeting her eyes, before nodding as if she needed the other woman’s assurance. “There, that’s my home address. We’re travelling. Won’t be back for a while so there is no hurry. Still. I would appreciate getting the walking stick back.”
“Thank you many times.” Mistral folded the soft paper and tucked it inside her vest. If she survived, if she succeeded, she would find someone to decipher the writing. Following the rank smell of hot oil, Mistral left the women as they began to chatter. She needed to hurry. A quickening of her blood heralded the approach of dawn. Within the harsh light of the cafe, she almost lost sense of her enemy, Time.
The cook’s weapon, secreted in a niche in the kitchen, took a moment to retrieve. The man’s ample girth rippled as he lunged toward her. She sidestepped, easily avoiding contact with his oil stained apron and grasping paws. His face reddened and his eyes bulged. The cook spluttered and spat but he did not shout as he scrambled after her.
Light as a summer breeze Mistral moved out of his reach. She shoved the heavy metal ieapon  into her belt and pushed past the hot stove. Rather than trying to explain her need to the blustering cook, Mistral smiled. “Thanks. I will return this, if I succeed.” She slammed the kitchen door and wedged an empty drum against the lock.
Before the cook managed to escape from his kitchen, or alert the others, Mistral threaded her way through a collection of parked vehicles till she found a neglected bike. It took a moment to locate the two wheeled contraption she had seen in the dragon’s vision.
No longer shining, but full of fuel, the bike needed a spark of energy to bring it to life. Using a mix of science and magic Mistral brought the beast to life.  Another of the dragon’s lessons came into use as she turned the throttle and selected a gear. Once astride the metal monster, she tucked the staff beneath her and turned the bike toward the darkness of the empty desert.
Behind her all sound and light from the truck stop faded. Alone on a strange world, she marvelled at the speed she travelled.  She heard nothing apart from the wind rushing past her ears. Moving faster than a dragon descending to a kill, Mistral experimented with switches until the machine’s lights came on. Years of travel on horseback seemed like wasted time compared to the black beast racing tirelessly toward the dawn. Its narrow beam of light helped her negotiate the rough terrain and although others might follow, the urgency of her quest drove her onward.
The pull of the dragon focus, buried for forty thousand years, guided Mistral across the barren landscape. Populated by stunted shrubs and boulders, the empty horizon illuminated by a blood red dawn reminded her of how far from her own world she had travelled.
The explosion of pain knocked her from the saddle before she heard the crack of sudden thunder. Mistral screamed. Her body hit the dirt. Tumbled and twisted, her world turned black.