Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fledge tour, first chapter and giveaway

And here's book 2 of J.A. Huss' series, I Am Just Junco Dot Com!

Junco Coot can’t even remember her trip off Earth; she was too busy being morphed into her new avian body.  But reality hits her hard when she wakes up to find her new life is not what she expected. Not even close. Tier is on trial for disobeying his commander’s kill order and only Junco seems to care.
In most places the avian coming-of-age Fledge ritual would be nothing more than mass murder, but here in the capital city of Amelia, it’s called growing up. Junco has no choice; either fight to the death to prove her worth or get sent back to Earth in the hands of her enemies.
Her new military team is hostile, her body is being taken over by an illicit artificial intelligence, the avian president wants her dead, and her only friend is a ten-year old throwaway boy.
On a foreign habitat, in a foreign culture, and surrounded by people she can’t trust or count on, Junco must find a way to save herself and Tier without losing her immortal soul in the process.


I burst out of the tank and the desperate gasp for air is like a prairie devil sucking up a farmhouse. My fists latch on to anything that will prevent me from going back under as waves of thick goo slosh around my body. Only the whine of plasma charge snaps me out of it and I allow a multitude of hands to grasp my arms and keep me still as the voice booms next to my head.
“Don’t make me regret letting you live, Junco.”
I cough and somewhere deep inside my vomit reflex is triggered. Shit comes up, clogging my airway and making me struggle against the firm hands. Since my eyes are still glued shut, I have no idea what comes out.
They pull me up out of the tank – completely out of the tank – so that I’m in mid-air for a few seconds, and then my feet hit the cold tile floor. My legs know what to do, but it’s not happening. They drag me and I count six pairs of boots as we travel. Damn. Six fucking avians for me. I’m about to feel special when I’m dumped on the floor. A door snaps shut and I know I am alone.
A hydraulic click makes me twitch as my heart pounds in my chest. I take a deep breath and Tier’s words come back to me. Trust no one. Show no weakness. I count to five to calm myself, breathing in and out, up and down, and then scoot on the floor until I bump into a wall. My hands flail out, finding a rail, then I pull myself up and force my legs to stand. My whole body shakes with fear, atrophy and cold, but the legs hold and I straighten my back, let go of the railing, and lift my chin.
And wait as the thick, sticky tank goo crusts in the ventilated room. My body feels lighter than normal and I realize that gravity must be less than one-G.
It helps.
A fine mist sprays out in all directions and I lift my arms up to let it coat me all over. It is only then, when my muscles are asked to respond, that I realize what’s happened.
The smile comes out and I laugh, soft at first, then wildly, hysterical, and I turn my face upward to the drizzle as my lids are freed from their prison. Hot water blasts the soap off my body and I finally open my eyes.
I expel the fear.
I’ve been reborn.
The water drenches me and then I step back to wipe my eyes and look around, holding the handrail for support. It’s a shower room, obviously. Small, but I can see through the clear surround that there are close to a hundred of them all lined up. Mine is the only one in use at the moment. I look through the glass to try and see if anyone is around, but the large room outside the stall appears empty.
My attention returns to my shower and I lather my new body with gel provided by a wall dispenser. When my hands touch my chest and upper back I gasp with the changes. My upper body is pure muscle. The smile creeps along my face as I imagine the new power this will bring to my old skills. I turn my head to try and see my wings but all I get is a glimpse of the tips as they roll over to cup my shoulders.
The water cuts off and the hot air blasts me in all directions, making my long hair fly up and whip around my face. Several minutes later the door opens with a click and my hair falls flat as the wind ceases.
I scan the room and count more than two dozen possible surveillance points, then step out and look down the long row of empty showers and start walking. At the end I find a small pile of clothes inside a cubby. One small square filled among hundreds that are empty.
I take the clothes and walk over towards a flat piece of furniture that sits low to the ground. I’ve worn Tier’s shirts back on Earth, so I know it goes over my head. I fuss with the bodice, noticing that the missing fingers on my left hand are still missing (oh well, one can hope) and then the remaining digits automatically track to the SEAR wound that runs the length of my jaw on the left side. I drag a fingertip down the raised line of scar tissue and allow my mind to jerk back to the memory.
And then let it go.
It is what it is.
My attention returns to my girls, which need to be smashed down into the cups of the upper body garment. Tier’s shirt never had cups and they feel heavier than I remember, so it’s a struggle to get them to cooperate before sealing up the sides.
In the end it fits like it was tailored specifically for me.
The pants are made of the same black material as the top, synthetic, thick as light armor, and soft. They slip on easily up to my hips and it’s only then that I notice my SEAR dock under my belly button is completely covered by skin. I touch it and the dock opens, revealing the small blue wand within.
I admit, I have to hold back my revulsion.
“Do not remove the weapon, Junco.” The voice on the speaker is emotionless and direct.
I completely ignore it and slip the SEAR knife into my hand. My thumb flicks over the small imperfection near the tapered end and it comes to life with a buzz. Another smile graces my face. I flick it off and dock it, then look up and find what may be the closest surveillance point. “You went through all this just to kill me in the waiting room? I don’t think so. It’s mine and I’ll take it out whenever I want.”
I button my pants and move on to the socks and boots.
This time I’m stumped. My feet are no longer feet and I stare at them in awe. Or maybe confusion, I’m not quite sure. Four toes and they are extraordinarily long. All point forward, but the two outer toes seem to have a mind of their own and can point sideways and almost backwards, if I wiggle them enough. I get up and walk around a little, looking down as I try out the new digits. They move and adjust as I change my pace. The talons clack on the hard tile and I imagine what it would feel like to clutch things. I wrangle them back into the forward position and tug on the socks and boots.
When I’m finished a door opens and I walk through.
The space is empty except for a mirror long enough to allow hundreds of avians to gawk at their new bodies at the same time. I stand there, stunned at what I see. I flex my back muscles and the wings respond. One stretches out to its full length and then retracts and folds, cupping back over my shoulder. I squeeze the muscles a little and I feel them collapse completely against my back. It makes me look human for a moment and I grin back at my reflection.
My wings are not black. I get close to the mirror and try to see my back. They are a strange color – not white, not cream, not tan, not brown, not gray – a mottled mixture of all these hues. I squint at my eyes in the mirror, moving my head back and forth to get a clear look at them, expecting to see orange like Moju’s or green like Tier’s. But they haven’t changed at all and a grunt of disgust leaks out of my mouth.
“Well, that fucking sucks. Not only do I still have hazel eyes, but you fuckers gave me hazel wings too.” I look up, but get no answer. Then I whisper under my breath, “That is so fucked up.”
I’m done looking, satisfied with the novelty of my new body, but the next door does not open. I think of how I should act so that I don’t show weakness and decide on boredom. I lean my wings against the wall and then slide my back down until I’m sitting on the floor. I tilt my head back and close my eyes and my mother’s voice is in my head. Patience and inertia are not the same thing.
She’s right after all. So I wait. And think about where Tier is. Hell, where I am for that matter. Are we in the Band? I’m not really even sure where the Band is, but Tier talked about it before we left Earth a few times. And then my thoughts slip back to Earth – to Selia. Did she get the message out? To Slag – what did he do after we left? To Moju. My hearts aches for him and I let a little frown cross my face before I catch it.
This seems to be the magic signal that I am calm and ready to be rational, because the door opens and a man walks in.
He doesn’t look avian. For a moment I wonder if I ever left Earth. But I feel the weight of the wings and the lightness of the less-than-G gravity and let that go. It doesn’t matter where I am – I am no longer human.
He’s not a friendly looking man with his height and muscular bulk, not to mention the down-turned mouth and intense stare. His suit is black, tailored, and screaming money. His hair is fair and this too is different. So far all the avians I’ve ever met had black hair. Except me of course. My hair is still the same ugly auburn brown. His complexion is fair as well and his smile as he approaches me is forced.
I look up at him for a moment, then get to my feet and wait.
“I’m Lucan, Junco. Your new commander.” His voice is deep and calm. Almost soothing.
“You don’t look like a commander,” I say, raising my eyebrows at him. For one, he’s not that old. Maybe early thirties. And for two, he’s wearing a fucking suit. I don’t get it.
He gives me an indulgent smile, like I’m a toddler. “You’ve never seen an avian commander, so how would you know what one looks like?”
I watch his deep blue eyes as he talks, find the power there and make myself behave. “You’re right. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Commander Lucan. Should I salute? Shake? You’ll have to forgive me, I am almost one hundred percent ignorant of your culture.”
Another indulgent smile as he extends his hand. “We can do it your way, if you like.”
I take his hand and shake it politely. “I would not like, actually. I would prefer to know how I am expected to act.”
He retracts his hand. “We’ll get to that in time. But for now I’d like to know how you came to be on my habitat when I gave a direct order to kill you two months ago.”
I smile. “Oh, that’s easy,” I say, still grinning up at him, “I was invited, of course.”
“Ah, yes, your invitation. Would you like to know where Tier is?”
“Not especially, no.”
His brow furrows at my answer and I tuck down a smile. I can play too, buddy. Let’s dance.
“Well, Junco, that surprises me. I think he would very much like to know where you are.”
My stomach churns, but I shake my head. “No, I don’t think so, Commander Lucan.”
“And why’s that, Junco?”
I shrug and turn my back to him and walk a few paces, testing out my wings and feeling my new talons move and be restrained inside my boot. God, no wonder Moju was barefoot. It’s kind of annoying.
“I’m nothing to him. He’s nothing to me. Why would we care what the other is doing?” I turn back and wait. Patience is not inertia, Junco. “He brought me back because I can be used and I came because, well – I’m sure you probably realize why staying on Earth wasn’t a real option for me.”
He smiles again. I don’t. My face will crack if I have to keep up this fake shit much longer. He turns sideways towards the door and waves his arm, signaling for me to pass through ahead of him.
I do and I am met by six avian guards with their plasma rifles pointed at my head. I listen to their footsteps and decide they are the same guys who just saw me naked and covered in goo not too long ago and shoot them a smile.
They keep their aim true and ignore me.
Lucan and I walk side by side down a long hallway wide enough to drive a few tanks through back on Earth. My gaze stays straight ahead and I do not gawk up or around, but instead listen to our footfalls echo as we travel. The guards match our pace and they surround me in a semi-circle, walking sideways to target me.
I look at Lucan’s face and he feels my gaze and directs his eyes down in expectation. “I think it’s possible you’ve misjudged me, Commander. I’m just one small girl. Do you really think you need six heavily armed men plus yourself to control the situation? If so, you will seriously inflate my ego.”
He sighs and I know the charade is over. “Junco, we know exactly who you are, what you do, and what you’re capable of – so you will excuse my enthusiasm for protection until we can all come together on the same page. I ordered you to keep that weapon of yours,” he hesitates as he points to my stomach and I squint up at him, “sheathed. Yet you insisted on removing it.”
“Commander Lucan, that weapon is biologically attached to me. Taking it out and giving it a quick check was like wiggling my new toes. A simple reflex to make sure everything is working.” I reach for it and the rifles emit an electric field so strong it pushes me backwards. “Cool it, guys. I’d be happy to hand it over if it makes you feel better.”
“Hands off, Junco. You will not use that weapon here, do you understand?” I don’t meet his gaze and I don’t agree to his terms, so he continues, “I would take it, but it cannot stay away from you for long, we tried while you were under. It was – not ideal.”
I shrug. “I lived without it for weeks on Earth.”
“This isn’t Earth.”
Yeah, I think I’m getting that, thanks. “Well, you know, I can’t help it the thing is attached to me. It wasn’t like anyone asked if I wanted a biological weapon grafted onto my body, ya know.”
He stops in the hallway and waves the men off a bit. Without the echo of boots the only sounds are the environmental units pumping out conditioned air. The guards step back but the rifles are still on alert. “Junco, I’m not playing games. This sweet-talking you gave Tier will not work on me. So save your breath.”
I laugh out loud this time, I can’t help it. He gives it a good shot, but he’s unsure what to make of me and it shows. “Commander, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but it certainly wasn’t Tier if you think the reason I am alive and fucking up your habitat is because of my wily ways with men. Tier and I had no conversations about what he was and was not doing beyond a handful of words the very last time we talked.”
Lucan’s composure is back and his lip curls up slightly as he speaks. “Is that so? Well, Tier must be mistaken then, because he said something quite different.”
I don’t even miss a beat. “You’re a liar. He never said anything other than what I just stated because that was the truth. And if you know so much about me, then you know that death carries very little meaning at the moment. You can try and kill me if you want – I don’t give a shit. I have nothing to lose. You’re no different than the assholes I left back on Earth and if you really want to know what I’m doing on your habitat, you better ask yourself. We both know I’m here because you want me for something.”
I watch the guard behind Lucan raise his eyebrows at me and smile, then redirect my eyes back to Lucan’s face and wait for his reply.
He turns and continues to walk and I catch up and walk by his side. We travel in the echo of our footsteps once again and then he stops at a door, palms his hand over the biometrics and it slides open. He waves me in and I step through, but he stays where he is.
“Goodbye for now, Miss Coot.” And then the door closes.
I turn and find Layla gaping at me from the far side of the room. I look up and around and she smiles and waves the thought away. “No cameras allowed here, Junco. I’m so glad to see you!” She walks over to me and hugs me to her chest.
I return her hug and push her back. “What did they do to Tier?”
She winces at his name and shakes her head. Her mouth drops downward as she speaks. “He’s fucked, Junco. On trial for treason.”
The room is a cross between a lab, a clinic, and a hotel. It screams Junco’s new vivarium. I pull a chair from the table and sit across from Layla as she waits patiently for me to settle. The chairs are strange, with only a thin backrest, but as soon as I lean back I understand why. It supports my spine without crimping or impinging on my new wings. I slouch a bit, even though the straight back makes it difficult, and feel very tired and sad. Since Tier’s warning instructed me to trust no one, I have to presume that Layla will deliver reports on my moods and behavior and force a neutral expression as I wait for her to give me some sort of explanation.
She smiles and then lets out a long breath. “When we discussed everything that could happen when we brought you back, Junco, treason never even entered the realm of possibilities. But” – she hesitates – “here we are.”
“What were the possibilities?” I ask as I avert my eyes and study the furniture. In the living area there is a bed, a desk, a large screen on the wall, and a bedside table. I see a door that might lead to a bathroom. That takes up about a quarter of the space.
About half is devoted to medical and lab equipment – centrifuges of various shapes and sizes, some molecular cloning machines, glassware of course, a bench lined with bottles of chemicals, buffers, pipettes, books, a plate reader, cell sorter, a few medium sized coolers, a hood for tissue culture, four microscopes, a gleaming stainless steel minus-80 freezer for samples, and lots of other stuff that looks like it belongs in a research facility. Let’s just call it a well-stocked, scratch that, a well-funded lab.
The other corner has a counter that holds canisters filled with paper goods, 2x2 gauze, cotton-tipped applicators, shit like that. There is also a built-in sink and glass front cupboards that hold enough drugs to treat a small town back in the RR.
“Demotion, mostly. We thought maybe if we were really fucked they’d kick us out of the Aves. We spent quite a few hours talking about what we’d do if they did.”
My brow furrows and I try and put it together. “Are you and Tier – together?”
Her smile is crooked. “No, Junco. I’m on his team, his scientist. We’ve been together, hell, since he came out of Fledge really. Not counting that stint I did on Lacerion for post-training in moleculars.”
“Sorry, I feel a little lost here, ya know. I have no idea who he is, only that I agreed to let him bring me here. We never discussed anything that might happen afterward, so–”
“Well, we figured you’d be like a bonus – one of the Seven that we thought was lost but wasn’t. We were pretty sure it was gonna work fine, Junco. It’s not like we were just yanking ya on that end. And it did, right? Look at ya! So pretty.”
Her sudden pickup of Tier’s speech patterns makes me swallow the sadness once again. “I don’t like the color, to be honest.”
She looks a little hurt and I wonder if she made me this way on purpose, but it’s too late now and I just shrug. “I like the black wings. These,” I say, peeking back at their almost yellow paleness, “feel like a target.”
“Oh, well. Sorry. I think they’re beautiful. And I bet everyone else does too. You’ll see. Anyway, the whole purpose of being on Earth was to get the Seven and bring them back. We knew you were the Seventh,” her fingers do little air quotes, “and the Seventh Sibling is not well-liked around here in theory. But we discussed this for days before we came to the decision, Junco. I’m pure because someone made me that way. Ditto for everyone else. So, if someone altered you as you grew up, and they did – we know this – then how can you not be pure? Just because your alterations took place after birth, why should that make any difference?”
I look away at her question because I don’t want to think about anything right now, least of all my avian biological status. “So, what went wrong?”
“After we put you under we let the others come in, but you were undergoing the morph, so you had special protected status. It’s a vulnerable position, right? Being unconscious for weeks on end, helpless and under the control of your medical staff. They couldn’t do anything to you then. They just had to wait it out.”
I don’t want to ask the question, in case someone is listening or Layla is taking notes on my questions, but I do anyway. “And Tier?”
She shrugs. “He’s ranking officer, so they couldn’t do anything to him either, unless they wanted to mutiny, which they didn’t. But, well, everyone has a boss. And Lucan wasn’t happy when we arrived in the Band. They arrested Tier immediately.”
“The charges,” I ask, still avoiding her eyes, “are treason?”
She nods and gives me a half-hearted crooked smile when I finally look over at her.
“Because he didn’t kill me.”
This time she doesn’t acknowledge me, just releases a deep breath.
“Anything else? Charges, I mean?”
“Something to do with breaking a treaty. And the old stuff, the unauthorized murder charges. He was on – like a probation – and they revoked it for this last charge.”
I nod and get up and walk across the room to the bed. “This for me?”
She nods but doesn’t rise.
“And all this?” I say, pointing to the medical equipment.
“Tests. Not today though, it’s late and I’m sure you’re still tired. And,” she hesitates, “maybe it will help to know that these feelings you’re having right now, the sadness and lethargy? It’s normal, Junco. We all get this way after morph. It’s an endocrine reaction, the changes really fuck you up. So whatever you’re feeling right now, just give it a few days, OK?”
I sit on the bed and start unlacing my boots.
“We’ll have to have guards in here with you at all times, just for a little while, though.”
I shake my head without looking up and write her off for good now.
“Ashur is taking the night shifts and Braun is taking days.”
I remove the boots and the socks and finger the blister that has formed on my right foot after the short walk from the showers and I wonder for the first time how I will hold up in this new environment.
Layla stands up and walks towards the door, then turns back. “It’ll be better tomorrow. We’ll do the tests and then you can leave here. You’ll see.”
I lie down on the bed and turn my back to her.
“See you tomorrow. Ashur’s outside, you remember him? From the battle at your house?”
I ignore her.
“OK, well, I’ll send him in on my way out.”
“Layla?” I ask without turning to look at her.
“Yes, Junco?”
“Why aren’t you on trial for treason?”
“I’m his subordinate, Junco. He’s my captain. I could no more deny his order to save you than anyone else on the ship.”
I close my eyes and never even hear the other avian enter because I simply shut down and go looking for the dock.
But it’s gone.
So I settle for nightmares. They come easy. History repeating.

I toss and turn in the bed as my nose wrinkles with a familiar but out-of-place smell. It fades and my dream takes me to my bedroom where I lie on the bed in my shorts and puff on a cigar, happy with who I am.
That wasn’t a dream, that was real.
Where am I?
The strange voice triggers my reflexes. The SEAR comes out from under my shirt and I’m standing on the bed in attack mode before I can even process all my actions.
The large avian is bent down in a defensive stance, his plasma weapon pointing up at my head. “Junco! Put it down, now!”
“Fuck!” I let out a long sigh and retract the SEAR and slip it back into the dock. “What the fuck?”
He watches me step off the bed and stand on the other side of the room, but he does not lower his weapon.
He nods.
“Put your fucking weapon away or we’re gonna tangle.”
“You cannot take that knife out, Junco. Ever. If you do, you’re going to get hurt.”
I shake my head at him. “It’s docked. What more do you want? Put your weapon down, Ashur – or we will fight.”
He stands upright and slides his weapon in the holster that hangs at his hip. My eyes trace the familiar smell that woke me and I lean to look past Ashur. A smoldering cigar is sitting in an ashtray on the table. “You did that on purpose.”
He gives me a crooked smile. “I know you like them. And I was bored. Can you think of a better way to be woken up?”
I just stand there, pissed. “Well, yeah, actually. There are about a thousand better ways of being woken up than having some strange guy in my room smoking a cigar that reminds me of home. Thanks.”
Ashur walks over to me and takes my arm and leads me over to the table where he was sitting before I went commando on him. He points to the chair and slides a cigar over. “Here, have one. Relax a little, shit. You’re so jumpy.”
I don’t have it in me to protest and the little gray box that holds the cigar is calling my name. I slide it out, press it to the striker, and puff. “Thanks.”
He takes his seat and I do the same, then we both puff in silence as we watch the screen on the far wall. The sound is off, but it’s the news so the captions at the bottom of the feed tell all you need to know. I guess some things never change, no matter what world you’re on.
“What time is it?”
“2 AM Standard, why? Got plans?” His lips attempt to smile around his stogie.
“What time did I fall asleep?” I say as my attention goes back to the screen.
“Eight or so.”
I nod. “Oh.”
“Done sleeping then?”
I look back at him. He could be Tier’s brother, that’s how similar they are. “Probably.”
“Want some breakfast?”
“No.” Just the thought of food makes me want to heave.
He takes his cigar out of his mouth. “What do you mean, no? You haven’t eaten in almost two months.”
“Obviously that’s not true or I would be dead. I’m definitely not hungry.”
He’s still holding his cigar in his hand, not puffing. “I’ve already been warned about your eating habits, Junco. I’m in charge of making you eat breakfast, so we’re having some.”
I screw up my face at him. “I can’t think of a single person who would even know what my eating habits are, Ashur. So spare me.”
“Both Layla and Tier mentioned your lack of enthusiasm for food.”
I snort out a laugh. “And how they hell would they know?”
“They said you were severely undernourished when we took you, that’s how.”
“Which means nothing. You guys got to see the tail end of what a very bad week does to my appetite, so what? I wouldn’t base anything off what I did that week, let alone assume I have an eating disorder.”
“Good, then we’ll have eggs for breakfast.”
“Knock yourself out, Ashur.” Just stop fucking talking to me, I don’t add.
He gives me a look of superiority, like he won the argument or something, then pushes back his chair and exits the room through the door I thought was the bathroom last night.
I stub out the cigar and go back to bed watching the newscreen. It’s all in English but it shows a lot of stuff that makes no sense. Winged people fighting each other. Killing each other actually, in what looks to be an advertisement for an upcoming arena fight of some kind. Some more winged people having a party. Some people with no wings in what looks to be a government session. Some personal interviews. I just sit there in disbelief. I didn’t watch the screens much at home, only when on the road, but it’s all a little too familiar. I traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, millions maybe, and I’m on a totally different planet, habitat, whatever, and still the news is filled with the same shit. Violence, parties, and politics. The irony isn’t lost.
Ashur returns a few minutes later with eggs and toast and beckons me to the table. At least it’s real food and not that shit Tier tried to feed me in the cave. It doesn’t look horrible, but my head shakes out a no as he slides the plate in front of me. I keep the disgusted look as I meet his eyes. “If you make me eat that I’ll throw up.”
He shrugs and takes his seat, shoving food in his mouth before he even settles. “It’s good, real eggs and everything. Tier said you only eat fresh food, so lucky us, right?” He shoots me a smile.
“Tier would have no idea, Ashur. He saw me eat a total of three meals.”
“He’s the resident Junco expert, like it or not, what he says goes. Might as well enjoy the food, Fledge food is like military field rations.”
I force myself to eat three bites and push the plate away.
“Ya know, you don’t have to make everything so difficult, Junco. You can have it made here, if you want.”
“And what would I have to do in order to have it made?”
“Follow the program,” he meets my gaze, “and just do what you’re told for once.”
“For once? You’re an asshole.” I let out a deep sigh, get up, and go flop down on the bed and bury my face in the pillows. “I’m sorry I came here.”
I hear him set his fork down and push back from the table and look up to see what he’s doing. His head is in his hands. A gesture that reminds me of Tier when he was thinking out at the cabin, right before he told me that he killed my father.
“Ya know something, Junco, we’re probably all sorry you came here. Except one person, maybe. And that’s Tier. So for fuck’s sake, try and do what you’re told for his benefit. The guy’s sitting in prison for saving you and” – he lifts his head and stares at me with bloodshot eyes – “and if I had it my way, Junco, I would have killed you myself in order to save him from that.”
He stands up and walks to the door. “If you need something, I’ll be outside until Layla comes.”
Good job, Junco. Making friends already.

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J. A. Huss never took a creative writing class in her life. Some would say it shows. Others might cut her some slack. She did however, get educated and graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Equine Science. She had grand dreams of getting a Ph.D. but while she loves science, she hated academia and settled for a M.S. in Forensic Toxicology from the University of Florida.
She went on to write science curriculum for homeschoolers and now runs a successful home business that creates and offers online science unit studies. When she’s not writing science curriculum or fiction, she works as a farm inspector, traveling the Eastern Plains of Colorado in variety of environmentally friendly vehicles that never have four-wheel drive, so when she gets stuck in the mud in said vehicles, she has to beg for assistance from anyone who will help her. She is not bitter about that at all.

She’s always packing heat and she is owned by two donkeys, five dogs, more chickens and ducks than she can count, and of course, the real filthy animals, her kids. The I Am Just Junco series was born after falling in love with the ugliest part of Colorado and the Rural Republic is based on the area of the state she currently resides in, minus the mutants, of course.


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