Books, Books and More Books!!

Books, Books and More Books!!
Publications from Taki Drake

Monday, August 28, 2017

Snippet from Coven Codex - New book in the Russian Witch Series of the Federal Witch World


Snippet two - Unedited and in active writing mode!!

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To uncover the car, Zhanna had to first deal with a myriad of things that somehow always find themselves piled up on top of an empty surface. Mary had insisted that there was a car underneath the pile of miscellaneous items, but it was impossible to tell. The entire shed was packed with the flotsam and jetsam of life. Old tools, parts that could be used, raw materials, building components, and hay bales. The items that a frugal household would save against time of need.

All of that was camouflaging the shape and size of the vehicle that Mary had offered to Zhanna. The quiet widow had said that it was her contribution to the changes that Zhanna would make. Her generosity was overwhelming to the young witch, but she had gratefully accepted.

<< At least somebody thinks that you’re going to be making changes. Even though you have no clue what those changes are going to be. >>

<< Thanks, Dascha. Just what I need is a little more snark! >>

<< You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do considering that I can feel your mind running around in circles like a mouse that somehow got stuck in a ball. >>

Zhanna knew that Dascha was right. There were so many thoughts crammed into her head that they were fighting for space. It felt like she was trapped in the middle of a dust spinner, bombarded by ideas that refused to go together into any coherent whole.

This was uncharted territory. The young witch had no option but to take each step as she could figure it out. Hopefully, she would be able to start to plan and to think strategically in the near future. This feeling of unsurety, of feeling like she was spinning in place was not comfortable. All she could think of doing to improve the situation was to find small things that she could do and get them done. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about those later on.

Hence the vehicle. One of the problems that they had was the slowness of transport. After all, it had taken several days for Zhanna to travel to Blagogarsk. That slowness of travel in the 21st century was a big problem and was something that Mary had thought she could address.

So today Zhanna found herself in a cobweb-decorated, dusty and cluttered old outbuilding, excavating a buried vehicle. One with an unknown condition or value. However, every contribution would help her. No one in the village really was very wealthy. Families lived hand to mouth, sometimes forced to rely on the charity of neighbors. In such a poor environment, the fact that anyone would donate something was amazing. Something to be cherished.

The large vehicle was buried under the accumulation of odds and ends from over a half-century. Uncovering it was a tremendous effort. If only Zhanna and Mary had been working on it, unburying it would’ve taken them days. Showing an organizational skill that Zhanna had never suspected, Mary had asked for help from the village in general. Two of the mercenaries that were in town between assignments had volunteered to help. Willie and Mark were middle-aged and serious, veterans of many contracts. They had both worked with Zhanna’s brother and came in to help, silently and without looking her directly in the face. She wasn’t sure if it was guilt or something else but was simply pleased with their assistance.

The two mercs were joined by a young man that was not from the village. In fact, no one in the village had ever seen him before. He had arrived earlier that morning, walking in from the main road. His body showed the gangliness of teenage years. Looking a bit like a mobile scarecrow, he had jerky movements and hunched shoulders. His dark hair and eyes reminded Zhanna of others in the village, and he looked faintly familiar. She just couldn’t remember where she had seen him, but she was positive that she had seen him before.

His mumbled introduction had been simply his name, Ivan. He asked no questions. Instead, he got to work immediately and continued with a focused ferocity that surprised all of them. The two women were glad he was there because his efforts added to that of the mercs made sure that the job was done quickly. Every once in a while, Zhanna would look up to see that he had been watching her. His quickly shuttered expression of desperate hope made her uncomfortable, and she had hoped that he would say something to her about why he had come.

It had been several hours, and he had not said anything to her. However, he certainly knew how to work. With the five of them all doing what they could, it only took a couple of hours to dig out the vehicle so that the tarp could be pulled away.

Zhanna feared that after all this work that the vehicle was not going to be any good. Mary had insisted that the car was something that her great-grandfather had gotten as a reward for his mercenary work and that it should be in working order. Zhanna hoped Mary was right.

Finally, they were at the point where the vehicle was no longer buried, and the surrounding floor space had been cleared. It was time to see what they had.

<< If I had a horn, I would blow it. But since I don’t, I won’t. >>

<< Dascha! This is serious so stop trying to make me laugh. >>

Willie and Mark each grabbed a corner of the tarp and peeled it away from the car, like a banana skin being pulled off the fruit. In the dim light of the shed, they could all see the vehicle.

At first, Zhanna did not know what she was looking at. The car was massive, with dusty dark blue paint and chrome trim. The Russian-made Buick looked more like a tank than it did a modern car. But the glass windows were without defect, and even the paint seemed to be in good condition. Considering its age, it was better than she had any right to expect. Breathing a sigh of relief, Zhanna looked over at the other woman happily. Smiling tiredly, the young witch said, “It looks amazing! Thank you so much, Mary.”

Mary just nodded, offering up her own exhausted smile. The two women watched quietly as the three men dusted off the vehicle, closed opened valves, checked a variety of fluids, and added gasoline to the empty tank.

Dascha was watching these preparations with an unblinking stare and motionless pose. Turning her eyes to follow the cat’s intent gaze, Zhanna watched for a while before addressing her familiar, << It looks like some form of arcane ritual, complete with chanting. >>

<< A new spell of transportation? Not one I’m familiar with. >>

<< Oh dear, first snark now bad puns. >>

<< It’s a new skill. >>

<<<>>> 

The car had seen better days. It was filled with dust and anonymous debris gathered through decades of hidden existence. The three men had been extremely enthusiastic throughout the process. Zhanna had heard but never experienced before, the affinity men seemed to have for vehicles. It was on full display as the men exclaimed in the discovery of features and functions, happily analyzing the size and capability of the car.

The younger man, Ivan, was especially taken with the vehicle. His rather solemn face lit with enthusiasm and he became far more animated than when Zhanna had first met him. She was conscious of the fact that he kept glancing sideways at her when he thought that she wasn’t looking at him. Briefly, she wondered what it was that he saw or wanted.

<< It’s a bit curious. I don’t think he is particularly attracted to you, but he really wants to ask you something. I just can’t tell what. >>

<< I know, Dascha. I can almost feel a desperate need for an answer, but I don’t know what to do about that. It certainly isn’t because he’s attracted to me. >>

<< Da, I know. I’m sure he would want you to have his kittens, but that’s not what he’s thinking about. A cat can tell these things. >>

<< Really!? Sometimes you are just disgusting! >>

<< It’s a feature. >>

Before Zhanna could continue their discussion, the tone of the men’s conversation changed. There was a note of worry that crept into their voices. The young witch straightened up from where she had been leaning against the wall and walked over to them.

“Is there some sort of problem?” she asked.

Mark answered her quickly, “Almost everything looks good, Zhanna, but this car has been sitting for so long that it is possible that it may not start. We are going to try helping it to start with assistance from one of our cars to see if it is capable of running. Whoever wrapped it up was smart enough to drain the gasoline and most of the other fluids out of it, so we don’t have to deal with a big mess. We replaced most of them and we think it should start but the battery obviously is worn down by age and lack of use.”

Zhanna’s look of incomprehension encouraged him to continue talking. He smiled briefly and said, “I think it will run, and if it does then everything but one problem will have been solved.” The young witch tilted her head in inquiry, so he finally got to the point she wanted to know. “Its tires are too old. They are almost powdered. We cannot patch tires that are this flat or are this full of holes.”

Willie chimed in, “Let’s first see how the engine is. That would be the biggest problem, and if that works, we can then deal with the tires.”

Just then, there was a sputtering and a ragged response from the engine. Spinning in surprise, Zhanna and the two mercs saw that Ivan had climbed into the front seat and started the car. It ran raggedly at first but soon evened out and began to produce a powerful but muted roar. The men excitedly hurried over to talk with Ivan and look inside the hood of the idling car. Ivan had a broad smile on his face and was cheerfully responding to the two older men.

<< Zhanna? That boy is a witch. He helped the car to start, magically. >>

<< That’s an interesting twist. Now I really need to know what he wants from me. >>

<< I will watch him. >>

Willie called out to Zhanna, “It’s running really well. Now if we had good tires it would be all set.”

Zhanna thought for a moment. All of the practice that she been doing with the spell books from Blagogarsk had been pure practice and drill. She hadn’t done anything that was practical with the spells yet, and it worried her that she didn’t know how to apply the theory of the base spell to the reality of need. Perhaps this was the place where she could try something.

Taking a deep breath, she said, “I think I may know something to do. It may not work, but I think it’s worth a try.”

All three of the men stared at her, some in question, some in challenge.

Dascha asked, << Are you sure you want to try this? >>

<< I am not sure that I want to, but I think I need to. >>

“Mark, tell me what a sturdy tire would look like and its characteristics. I know nothing about cars, and I need to have an understanding of the tires before I can try a spell.”

Willie interrupted, saying, “I have never heard a spell that would do something with a tire. Are you sure this is something that you can and should be doing?”

Although she had expressed her doubts to Dascha, Zhanna was tired of putting up with disparaging remarks. She responded evenly and forcefully, “I think it’s a reasonable way of testing a spell. It’s one that I’ve learned recently, and this seems like a good place to try it out, providing that you two can tell me what a tire is supposed to be like. If you can’t tell me, I will find somebody else who can.”

Mark said placatingly, “I can certainly tell you what a tire is supposed to be. Just because we’ve never heard of a spell like the one you’re talking about, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And I, for one, would be interested in learning useful spells if you find and test them out.”

It was obvious from the expression on Willie’s face that he didn’t necessarily agree but he wasn’t willing to confront Zhanna again right now. He simply stepped back with a skeptical look plastered all over his face, folded his arms across his chest, and waited.

Mark began to explain the use and shape of a car tire. He talked about the tire shape and that it was attached to the vehicle with bolts. He covered the desire to make the tire impermeable so that it did not easily go flat. He also explained that the tire outside was made of rubber. He stressed the need for sturdy tires that would not wear out quickly on rough roads. It was a very short introduction to a topic that he obviously loved, distilled down into only a few sentences for the young witch’s understanding.

Once Mark was done, Zhanna motioned the men away from the vehicle. She could feel the weight of Mary’s gaze on her back and the comforting presence of Dascha along their familiar bond. Mentally centering herself, Zhanna waited until she felt stable and subvocalized the words of the spell just like she had done in practice. Holding the shape and characteristics that Mark described in her mind, she gathered her will and intent, channeling them along her arms and through her open hands toward the car.

There was an explosion of light and a muffled sound. The car jerked and raised as the old tires were replaced with unflattened versions. The air resonated with a curiously muffled clanging sound that shivered through the spectator’s bones and rattled the walls of the shed.

All three men wore identical looks of disbelief on their faces. Willie slowly approached the vehicle as if he were afraid that it would either disappear or somehow attack him. He touched the fender of the car with a hand that shook slightly and bent over to examine the tire. Straightening quickly, face paled in surprise, he took one step back and spun in place to stare at Zhanna. “It looks like a new tire!”

Looking slightly calmer, Mark walked over to the vehicle. He didn’t bend down, but he looked at each of the tires in turn. After going around the vehicle once, he marched over to Zhanna, planting himself directly in front of her. He looked her in the face, half in entreaty and half in challenge. “They look perfect. Totally perfect.”

“I just tried to create the things that you had told me about,” responded Zhanna.

Mark stared at her wordlessly for an instant more before walking back to the car. Ivan had approached it while Zhanna and Mark were talking, carefully examining each of the tires in turn. As Mark rejoined him, Ivan addressed the older man, “There are no tire valves. How will we refill the tires?”

“Zhanna, how much air pressure did you put in the tires?” asked Mark.

“Air? You didn’t say anything about air!” answered Zhanna.



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Snippet 01 - Unedited - Familiar Trials - Fledgling



This book in the world of the Federal Witch is one of those in final construction and editing right now. It is titled Familiar Trials - Fledgling and tells a story about Zhanna's familiar, Dascha. I hope that you enjoy it!

Snippet 01 -

There was no warning. The blow that compressed her body and made it impossible to breathe arrived with no betraying sound, no visual clue. Dascha was stunned into momentary paralysis. Her body hung limply, and her mind spun around her skull in confusion. She could feel her fur rippling as she was lifted up into the air. The small cat was helpless and afraid.

There were too many things that she had experienced before for her to stay coherent. Even though the talons of the bird held her firmly and without injury, Dascha could once again feel those earlier talons that had pierced her body and had caused her to bleed so badly that she had almost died. All of the fear and pain that she had felt on that long-ago day crashed into her mind, momentarily overwhelming her ability to think and plan.

Only a split second had elapsed when she moved past her stunned amazement. << Not this crap again! What is with these blasted birds? >> she thought as she twisted her lithe body into action. There was no way she was going down without a fight.

Stretching as far as she could, the small black cat attempted to sink her claws into the legs of the bird that held her. In the back of her mind, she was surprised that she knew it was a bird. There were flying reptiles and other things that were capable of swooping down and grabbing her, but she had known instantaneously that it was a bird.

It was all up to her. There would be no rescue from this attack. No flying savior. She needs to be able to do this for herself.

Spitting and yelling at the top of her lungs, Dascha was stopped cold by an amused comment from her captor.

<< You need to build up a little bit more muscle before that’s going to work. >>

<< Glenfrey! Why on earth did you grab me like that? >>

<< Because we need to talk and you don’t exactly get email, do you? >>

<< You could have just had Henley call Zhanna, you know. >>

<< This is not about witch business. This is stuff about familiars, and we don’t talk to our witches about familiar business. >>

Dascha turned that over in her mind for a short while, thinking through the ramifications and possible meanings for the things that Glenfrey had left unsaid. She noticed that the steppe eagle had begun to land on a rocky outcropping and held her questions until they were settled on the ground and she could regain her feet.

Standing up and walking on slightly shaky legs after Glenfrey had released her, the small black cat seated herself about 3 feet away from her friend. Carefully wrapping her tail around her paws, she looked over at the huge bird and waited for him to talk. The time she had spent with Glenfrey and his witch, Henley, had taught her that attempting to hurry the bird would simply lead to additional delays.

Shaking his wings out and then settling him across his back, Glenfrey brought first one eye and then the other to bear on Dascha. Of all the things that she could have thought that he would say, what came from him next was so far down her list that it didn’t even appear.

<< Why have you not joined the gathering? Are you not going to the trials? >>

<< What trials? >> she asked.

<< The Familiar Trials. The ones starting soon. Everyone is gathering by the gateway without you. 
Did the other familiars not tell you about this? >>

<< Glenfrey, there are no other familiars with any of the witches in the village or even in the villages around where Zhanna lives. >>

The large bird considered what she had said. His thoughts came slowly back, << No familiars. That sounds like it is a bigger problem than I thought. >>

<< What did you think the problem was? >>

<< I thought perhaps that you had managed to annoy the other familiars to the point that they weren’t telling you or bringing you to the trials. After all, you do have a bit of a mouth on you. >>

<< Ha! Who was the person who wanted to teach me how to be snarky? I’m simply applying the lessons that I’ve learned. >>

Glenfrey totally ignored her retort, instead choosing to answer a different question.
<< We can explore the whole issue of why there are so few familiars later. However, we need to hurry if you’re going to make it back to the gateway before it opens and closes. >>

Dascha stared at her friend. He was not fidgeting, he was not looking sleepy and inscrutable. In fact, as best she could read the expression of a different species, he looked concerned and perhaps even a bit worried.

<< What are the trials, Glenfrey? And why do you look worried? >>

<< The trials are how familiars get training and establish rank. They only happen sporadically, and there are a good bunch of instructors for this one. >>

The young cat watched as the eagle started to move uneasily from foot to foot. Deciding that she would not subject him to a cross-examination, Dascha simply asked, << How long do they last? And what do I tell my witch about why am leaving? >>

<< I just tell Henley that I need to go to a meeting of familiars so that my training can be kept up-to-date. He has no problems with that, and you can always tell Zhanna to call him if she wants more information. >>

<< <> >>

Dascha had adamantly refused to leave without telling Zhanna in person what she was doing. The flight back to Zhanna’s house was made quickly. Even so, Glenfrey had gotten more nervous and irritable during the trip. Dascha knew something else was going on but wasn’t exactly sure how to bring the subject up again.

Glenfrey landed heavily on a fence post that was part of the boundary to the garden of Zhanna’s grandmother. The older woman had been weeding the garden as they arrived. With no sign of nervousness or fear, she moved over to confront the eagle.

Standing less than a foot away from the dangerous beak of the large predator, the small but sturdily built woman gazed deeply into the eagle’s eyes. She held that gaze for just a moment before a slight smile appeared on her face, and she turned to address Dascha.

“We had better go talk to her right now. You will have to hurry to be on time.”

Now completely confused, Dascha followed the older woman into the house and through the hall to the large kitchen. Zhanna was seated at the kitchen table with books opened up in front of her and an intent look on her face. Hearing her grandmother’s footsteps, she looked up with a smile.

“I am almost done with my homework, Baba. Do you want me to help with supper?”

“Not yet, dear. I still have weeding to finish, but I think that Dascha needs to talk to you first.”

The young witch looked startled. Her eyes flew to her familiar, and she immediately went down on her knees reaching a hand out to the cat. << Is something the matter, Dascha? You could’ve called me, and I would’ve come! >>

<< No, everything is all right. Glenfrey came to tell me that I need to go to a meeting and it is one that I didn’t know about before now. I might need to be gone for several days, and I didn’t want you to worry. >>

Zhanna’s eyes grew a little bit wider, and her expression shifted to deeper alarm. << Is it something I did? Are you in trouble? >>

<< I’m not in trouble, at least that I know of. Well, unless you count the mice that I dropped into that mean girl’s bag at school. >>

<< You did that? Boy, was she mad. She screamed and ran and then was embarrassed. I hope that she doesn’t find out it was you. >>

In the background, there was a smothered laugh from the older woman, but Zhanna was focused on her familiar and ignored her grandmother.

<< Glenfrey says that you could call Henley if you’re worried about it but that it’s just something that happens once or twice a year. I think he really wants me to go because I’m so new at this and there are no other familiars in the village. >>

A wave of love and acceptance exploded from Zhanna through the familiar bond. Dascha felt like she was gently held and petted. She could feel the edge of worry underneath that wave that was Zhanna’s feeling of her own inadequacies in their partnership. Sending a mental purr back at her witch, the familiar tried wordlessly to reassure the person that she loved above all others of her faith and devotion.

The trembling smile that showed on Zhanna’s face was the only thanks that Dascha needed.

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Coming soon!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Recipes from the World of the Federal Witch!

TS Paul and I just released another Eat and Read book with vegan and vegetarian recipes and two stories in the Federal Witch World. I had a great time with these recipes, including the dog treats. One of my dogs even tries to steal the treats from the others!

I hope you enjoy both recipes and the two stories. We had a blast putting this together and I hope it brings you hours of enjoyable eating and reading.


Look for the next cookbook coming out quickly! This one is a start of a new series and one that I think is a lot of fun!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Snippet from Through the Badger Hole - coming soon!

Unedited snippet from Through the Badger Hole


Once more the left-hand door slammed open. Brechal, the bartender, looked up from where he was wiping off the top of the bar. Those looking at him rather than looking at the door would’ve seen that his eyebrows rose in surprise and he stopped in mid swipe. Most of the bar patrons had turned to stare at the door. They had barely finished assimilating the last couple of people that had come through the portal and here was another. It certainly was an exciting afternoon at the Badger Hole Bar!

Walking through the door was a young woman, dressed in slacks and wearing a jacket that said “FBI.” She took two steps into the room and stopped to look around. The door had closed noiselessly behind her unnoticed. Carrying herself with assurance well beyond the years displayed by her face and figure, the magic users in the room could tell immediately that this was a witch. And one of uncommon power. Despite the attractiveness of her dark, almost black hair and trim figure, none of the mercenaries made any move to approach her. Instead, the 20 or so patrons in the bar simply stared.

The room was motionless and quiet until muffled cries could be heard. Emanating from what appeared to be the jacket of the young woman, those closest could hear a demanding little voice yelling, “Let me out! I want to see!”

A wave of interest flew through the postures and expressions in the bar. Curiosity, alertness, hunger, all of these reactions were present. The woman’s gaze had marked for consideration each person that was in the bar and had only lingered momentarily on the more unusual forms. Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, she drew out a small blue-and-white animated form.

“Where are we? Why did we go through the weird door?”

“Quiet, Fergus.”

The small figure in the woman’s hand marched back and forth. Fascinated, one of the mercenaries leaned closer to see what type of small creature it was.

“Watch it, big guy! Come any closer, and I’ll skewer you with my horn!”

The large man drew back in surprise, “Gads Zug of the Hairy Beard! It’s a unicorn! And it talks!”

“Of course, I talk. Should I be surprised that you talk?” replied the little creature, straightening up and thrusting his chest out.

Before the conversation could go any further, Madrik came hurrying into the bar area. “Welcome to the Badger Hole Bar, please feel free to come in and sit down.”

The woman smiled in response, and said, “Thank you for the welcome. My name is Agatha, and my grandmother sends her greetings.”

Madrik responded, “Marcella’s granddaughter is always welcome. Please have a seat and allow me to bring you a drink.”

Whatever Agatha would have said in response was short-circuited as the spidercat dropped from the ceiling on an elastic strand of web to bob over Agatha’s hand.

“Ack! A monster!” was wrenched out of the throat of the small unicorn.

“Fergus! Watch out!” cried Agatha. She made an abortive grab for the small form just as he jumped frantically out of her hand to the floor.

Fergus dove under the chair closest to him but it was no bar to the spidercat. The 2-foot arachnid with the cat tail and face dropped to the ground in pursuit and scuttled toward Fergus. Multiple people tried to grab Fergus as he dodged and wove behind legs and other obstacles. They all missed as his deceptive speed, and his small size threw their reflexes off.

Finally, Fergus dashed across an open area of the floor. In the open space, the spidercat’s long legs were used to advantage, and it pounced. The arc of its jump was rudely interrupted by a battering ram in animal form. Slamming into the side of spidercat, a yowling tornado of fur, flashing claws, and glowing green eyes violently shoved the attacking animal to the side and onto its back. The attacking feline pinned the spidercat to the ground with a paw tipped with needle-like claws. Staring down into the face of the immobilized animal, a small feline creature announced in bored tones, “Bad kitty! No eating the guests!”

Holding the stare long enough to make sure the arachnid kitty had gotten the message, the small black cat turned back to Fergus. “Obviously, you missed the whole self-defense class for familiars.”

Fergus stood in the middle of floor shaking slightly but still standing in a defiant posture. The action had been too fast and too confusing for anyone to react quickly enough or effectively. He seemed to be somewhat stunned, but not from the attack itself.

“But… but… but you’re a cat!”

“Yeah! Horsey face can see as well as talk.”

The cat started to stroll back to a table toward the rear of the bar. Throwing another comment over its shoulder, the cat said, “My name is Dascha. You are welcome to come with me and meet my witch. Of course, you can take your chances with spidercat when she gets over being blindsided. If so, I hope you can run faster than you did before.”

Fergus shook himself and started out after the black cat with a clatter of small hooves.

“Hey! Wait up. What sort of name is Dascha? So, you have a witch too? Mine is really smart and really pretty. And she gets me pizza! What does yours do?”