Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Touch of Mother - Chapter 2

As usual, this is an unedited draft of my current wip.


Of course, Little Bear demanded a group meal at midday with our counterparts from the Temple of Light to discuss the situation. I thanked Balance our cook Deborah put up with our shenanigans. My predecessor Chief Justice Penelope didn’t entertain visitors often, if at all. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the senility that gradually destroyed her mind or her generally disagreeable nature. However, my Temple had become the meeting place for the clergy, the local nobility, the Guilds, and the citizen officials. Mainly, because I didn’t tolerate petty politics.

Not when we’d been dealing with the Assassins Guild, demons and renegade humans for the last year.

My staff rather enjoyed the reaction of the Light personnel when I announced the news from Love. They would have been less surprised if I’d tossed a Jing flashbang with a lit fuse in the middle of the dining table.

After the initial shock and disbelief, the four members of Light surreptitiously peeked at High Brother Luc. As the seat of Light order in Orrin, he had a particular cause to dislike my birth mother. Of course, she had her renegade allies actually cut off Luc’s left foot and deliver it to me in their attempt to force me to turn over a demon grimoire Gerd had obtained.

I spent a great deal of my nights since midwinter, lying awake in my bed and wondering if I made the correct decision.

“Why foster her escape?” Luc said.

“What do you mean, sir?” Garbhan said. As the newest priest of Orrin’s Temple of Light, he was often reluctant to speak up during our meetings.

I leaned my elbows on the polished surface of our dining table. “He means why isn’t she dead. She lost a demon grimoire the renegades wanted. She accidentally exposed the Assassins Guild’s alliance with the renegades, and by that, ruined the plot to quietly takeover Orrin as they had Tandor—”

“You’re forgetting your own contribution,” Elizabeth teased. “You’re the one who uncovered Samael DiRoy’s conspiracy with the previous duke and duchess of Orrin.”

The former chief justice of Tandor had remained in Orrin for her recovery from the year of torture the renegades had inflicted on her. Despite her emotional troubles, I was grateful for her presence. My junior justice Yanaba had been suffering from excessive morning sickness. I wished I could say my gratitude was due to the easing of our workload, but I would be lying to myself.

When Gerd tried to illegally end her pregnancy, she left me blind and unable to bear children. Elizabeth had been granted an exception to the recent change in Temple policy, which allowed, well reluctantly encouraged, the orders of Balance and Light to pursue carnal relations. With the increase of demon activity, we needed as many clergy with our particular talents as we could conceive.

But between my inability to have children and the terrible things the renegades did to Elizabeth, we often retreated to my office and commiserated over a bottle of red wine from the Pana Valley. Even now, Elizabeth sat between me and Sister Shi Hua of Light at the table because she couldn’t barely tolerate being in the presence of any priest of Light. I cleared my throat. “That was totally by accident. We’ve been lucky—”

“You call losing the city of Tandor lucky?” Luc exclaimed.

“Considering we save a majority of the civilians in the midst of a demon siege and invasion,” I snapped back. “Yes, I do.” Regret immediately flooded me. “I apologize for taking my anger out on you.” I blew out a deep breath. “All of you. I’m worried. Worried Gerd and her Assassins Guild cronies will attack the people I care about while the renegades carry out some other scheme.”

“We’ve been warned she’s loose, which is a point in our favor.” Little Bear ran his index finger around the rim of his ceramic cup. I didn’t need to sniff his cup to know it contained water. He would have a tankard of ale on his day off, and I’d never observed him drink more than a sip or two of wine at a meal out of etiquette.

“However, I agree with the high brother.” Little Bear’s gaze fixed on me. “The Assassins Guild doesn’t suffer failure. Especially not failure of Gerd’s magnitude. If she didn’t commit suicide out of loyalty to them, and they didn’t silence her, then they need her for another purpose.”

“But what purpose?” Yanaba asked to my right. She reached unerringly for the pitcher of milk in front of her and pour some into her bowl of oat porridge. Deborah made sure to serve my junior justice something that would agree with her delicate stomach.

Shi Hua sighed. “We could speculate on that subject until the stars fall from the sky.” She jabbed her table knife into the slice of roasted duck on her plate and sawed furiously even the bird was far more tender than the dried venison and beef we’d relied on through the winter.

Her skin glowed dark pink, far hotter than the effort she expended on the slice of breast on her plate. The fact I knew she was with child was driving me mad. It was really none of my business, given the uncomfortableness regarding the lifting of the chastity restriction on our orders. It was merely a reminder another priestess could do something I couldn’t.

“It would be nice if we were ahead of whatever the renegades planned for once,” Jeremy growled.

“It would help if we had a true oracle at our disposal,” Nicholas said quietly.

All of us paused eating and stared at Light’s chief warden. Even my blind sisters turned their heads in the direction of his voice.

“Why, Chief Warden, did you just make a joke?” I grinned at him. The quiet man rarely offered his opinion unless he was asked directly, though he’d become more vocal over the last six months.

The corners of Nicholas’s lips twitched beneath his turquoise facial hair. “It’s been known to happen occasionally. However, I’m not jesting at the moment. Brother Jeremy is right. We can’t keep chasing the renegades. It’s as productive as a hound chasing its tail.”

“So, what do you suggest?” Luc asked.

Nicholas shrugged. “We infiltrate them.”

“Thief has tried,” Shi Hua said.

“They know Thief’s practices to well,” Nicholas murmured. “It would have to be someone they’d normally be interested in turning to their cause.”

“Then who? And how?” I waved my hand to indicate everyone at the table. “Anyone we truly trust is too well known to the renegades.”

“We have two possibilities,” Nicholas said. “Chief Justice Elizabeth or Brother Garbhan.”

“Me?” he squeaked. The newest brother of Light was barely a year younger than Jeremy. On the surface, he seemed terribly shy and unsure of himself. However, he’d been one of Reverend Father Farrell’s primary aides. And after a couple of incidents Shi Hua and Jeremy mentioned, Luc and I rather suspected everything we said in front of Garbhan was reported back to the Issuran home Temple of Light.

“Of course.” Elizabeth leaned forward as if trying to peer into Nicholas’s soul. “Garbhan could be extremely dissatisfied with his new posting since he’s no longer directly advising the Reverend Father. In my case, we use the story the renegades in Tandor succeeded in converting me.”

“High Brother, I assure you I have no complaints about being assigned to your Temple,” Garbhan protested with a wild look in Luc’s direction.

However, Luc was staring at me. From the tight rein on his thoughts, he didn’t like his chief warden’s idea, but he wouldn’t undermine the man in front of his peers. No doubt we would be discussing this matter later in private. Luc turned to Garbhan.

“Your loyalty isn’t the issue, Brother.” He grinned at the young priest. “However, most priests in your position would consider such a transfer an insult.”

“B-but with Tandor gone, and the loss of most of your staff—” Garbhan blinked. “Oh!” His face shifted from orange-yellow to a red-orange. Maybe the naïve persona the young priest displayed was his true face. Few people could control their body heat to such a level.

“Can High Sister Mya or someone from her order create a sub-personality for us?” Elizabeth asked.

“You mean like what your seat of Child did with High Brother Aduba to gain the confidence of the renegades?” I asked.

She nodded.

“I’ll make the inquiry, but between her and Talbert, I believe it’s possible.” I pushed back my own plate, my appetite gone despite the excellent roast duck. “I’m not sure putting you in that position is such a good idea.”

“Nicholas is right.” Elizabeth gestured in the general direction of Light’s chief warden. “I wouldn’t take much to make it appear as if the renegades broke me. Garbhan is too valuable to risk since we have so few Light talents in Orrin. I’ll just need a little extra help to make the deception work.”

I opened my mouth for my retort on the matter when someone knocked on the door of Balance’s new dining room. “Come!” Warden Gina pushed the door open, her skin orange-red and worry rolling off her psyche. “I beg your pardon for the interruption, Chief Justice, but Peacekeeper Jaime is here. There’s been an incident involving your squire.”

Alarm jerked my body. “Nathan?”

She nodded. “Magistrate DiCook requests your presence along with a member of Light.”

My heart sank. There was only on reason Malven DiCook would want me and one of the clergy from Light.

There had been a murder.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Touch of Mother - Chapter 1

This is the unedited version of January's release A Touch of Mother.


The soft knock on my door couldn’t be my head of household and personal assistant Sivan with my second pot of tea. She would have simply barged into my office. The jingle of bells as the door opened immediately set my teeth on edge. I wish I could blame my reaction on my visitor. However, my past wasn’t Dragonfly’s fault.

Nor was my present her fault. Dragonfly wasn’t sleeping with my lover. The sad part was I liked and respected Sister Claudia, but I could no longer stand to be around her, which was the reason Dragonfly came here.

“Good morningtide, High Sister.” I set aside the latest dispatches from the Issuran home Temple of Balance. Whatever else my own Reverend Mother prattled about could wait. “Ready for our next round of examinations?”

High Sister Dragonfly’s veil fluttered with her sigh. “I hope you’ve had your first cup of tea, Chief Justice.” Her hands clutching the mound of scrolls and parchment were bright orange. Whatever currently bothered her must be worse than the audit of Orrin’s Temple of Love.

The poor priestess had inherited a royal mess when her predecessor, my birth mother, had been caught in a number of criminal acts, not the least of which were embezzling from her own order, demon dealing, and high treason.

“Yes, but Sivan should be here any moment with a fresh pot.” I cleared my desk of research grimoires from Light and Knowledge. “What has happened?”

Dragonfly flipped back her veil. Her shorn cheeks were as bright orange as her hands. The silk covered her face as required by all the priestesses of the Temple of Love when in public. Here in my office, neither of us stood on ceremony. The times we had met privately at her office, she would switch between male and female civilian clothing. I could never decide if she made a more handsome woman or a prettier man, but such was the lot of a berda in the service of Love.

Neither of which mattered with the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I feared she would announce Claudia was with child.

Dragonfly shook her head, and the bells lining her robes jingled. “You are not going to be pleased with this news, Anthea.”

I turned to the open doorway where my squire Nathan stood. Beyond in the hallway, Balance Warden Jonata and one of the new Love wardens stood guard, a leftover from the demon attack inside Orrin right before the Spring Rituals. No warden would let their priest or priestess go anywhere unescorted.

It had become damn annoying when I had to attend a privy other than the one in my personal quarters.

“Nathan, would you please tell Sivan my morning visitor has arrived early?”

“Yes, m’lady.” He bobbed his head and took off in the direction of the kitchen.

Dragonfly closed the door Nathan had forgotten and dropped heavily into the chair on the other side of my desk. “Gerd has escaped. The Reverend Mother of Love believes she may be headed south.”

“What?” It was worse than Claudia carrying my Luc’s child. My right hand automatically reached for my sword, but my scabbard and harness hung from their peg behind me. I forced myself to relax and lowered my hand. “How? What happened?”

“No one seems to be sure on the details, according to my Reverend Mother.” Dragonfly handed me the top parchment on her pile before she leaned forward and rested her elbows on the scarred oak of my desk.

I ran my fingers over the parchment. There were none of the raised marks used by my Temple for records. Though I wasn’t blind like the rest of my order, even my odd sight couldn’t quite discern between the ink and the skin. Which meant I couldn’t read the demon-blasted original.

I rerolled the message. “May I have Donella make a copy of this?”

“That’s the reason I brought it,” Dragonfly answered sourly. “I rather suspected you didn’t know about Gerd’s escape yet.”

There had been nothing of that sort in the dispatches from the home Temple of Balance in Standora. Why hadn’t an alert gone out?

Unless the Reverend Mother’s pride had gotten in the way. Losing a traitor of this magnitude would have our entire order questioning her competence.

I sucked in a deep breath and released it. “Tell me.”

“The warden who delivered her evening meal was found in her cell beneath her blankets. Dead. He wasn’t discovered until the next morning.”

“What about the second warden? No one opens a cell door without a reinforcement.” I couldn’t see any warden much less any assigned to Balance breaking protocol, especially not with a treason case.

“They haven’t found him.”

“Balance help us.” I wiped my hands down my face. “This is not good.” I pushed to my feet. I needed to move.

My birth mother on the loose meant the Reverend Mother of Balance was right. There was a traitor within her own Temple in the capital. Goddess, no wonder she wanted to keep this quiet. The dread in my stomach shifted to fury.

“Why does your Reverend Mother believe Gerd is fleeing south?” I asked as I paced in the small confines of my office. “According to the Reverend Father of Child, Gerd’s overriding desire is to kill you and torture me.”

I stopped abruptly. My robes swirled around my ankles. “You say that very calmly.”

Dragonfly shrugged. “It’s not the first time Gerd has threatened me.”

Which was true. Even though Dragonfly had been Gerd’s second, she had never trusted the berda and often threatened her with castration if she didn’t obey Gerd’s every whim and command.

“If it make you sleep better, Gerd allegedly hasn’t decided exactly what retribution to inflict on High Mother Bianca.” Dragonfly chuckled.

I shook my head as I rolled possibilities and probabilities through my mind. I still wasn’t sure how involved Orrin’s seat of Mother had been in Gerd’s illegal activities. There were a lot of rumors, but no actual evidence. Gerd could simply be enraged Bianca failed to convince the other Temple seats regarding the false charges my birth mother had brought against me. However, I sincerely doubted the matter was that straightforward.

“Would any of the other Love priestesses here in Orrin help her?”

Dragonfly cocked her head and simply stared at me.

“That was an idiotic notion.” I bowed. “My apologies to your sisters for even allowing the thought to enter my head.” Gerd and her renegade allies had done worse things in order to keep the city’s Love clergy under control.

Dragonfly inclined her head in return.

I resumed pacing and tapped my index finger against my chin. “So who else in Orrin is mad enough to possibly help her?”

Dragonfly laughed. “Why do you make light of such serious matters?”

“Would you prefer I soil myself?” I grinned at her. “I’m assuming you have some proof of Gerd’s additional misdeeds in those ledgers you carried here.”

“That’s what you and I have been verifying.” She patted the topmost binding.

Sivan chose that moment to burst into my office with tea and cups.

“Find Chief Warden Little Bear for me,” I ordered as she set down the tray on my desk.

Sivan frowned at my rudeness.

“Please,” I amended. “It’s a matter of Temple security.”

Alarm filled her expression. “What happened?”

“Our dear Reverend Mother managed to lose the Mad Whore.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Latest News

I'm finally getting the 888-555-HERO series out into the wide world. Hero De Facto has slid out of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, and I started loading it onto the other retailers last night. Over the next three months, the other three novels of 888-555-HERO will go wide as well. Buy links on the series page will be updated as they go live.

I've also been working on the publishing schedule for 2020. The first six books have pre-orders on Amazon. Once again, I'll update them here and on the main series pages as they go live:

January 15th - A Touch of Mother (Justice #4)

February 14th - Seasons of Magick Anthology (Entire Seasons of Magick series)

March 15th - Spells and Sleuths (Millersburg Magick Mysteries #1)

April 15th - Fae and Felonies (Millersburg Magick Mysteries #2)

May 15th - Magick and Murder (Millersburg Magick Mysteries #3)

June 15th - Hero De Jure (888-555-HERO #5)

The Millersburg Magick Mysteries will be initially exclusively on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. They're paranormal mysteries set in the Bloodlines World. Kaley and Kirsten's mom Rachel and aunt Jo should be familiar to anyone who's read Amish, Vamps & Thieves.

My other goal is to get my ebooks on the Ohio Public Library system for those of you who rely on libraries for your reading material. If you don't live in Ohio, you can always request my books through your own library!

If anyone has questions or comments and doesn't want to leave them on the blog, you can always contact me through the "Contact Me" tab at the top of the page!

Monday, December 2, 2019

New Release!

A Very Hero Christmas, the fourth book in the 888-555-HERO, is out! And it's Cyber Monday! And there's sales!

This tale started in my brain as a short story. Then it became a novella. Then it turned into a full-length novel. But it's tons of family fun!

Everyone at The Law Offices of Winters & Franklin is safe during the holidays. Or are they?

Aisha spends Christmas with her family in Atlanta, only to have a new supervillain take the mall patrons hostage while Aisha’s doing some last minute shopping with her niece and nephew.

Meanwhile, Harri’s attempts at making a perfect Christmas for her goddaughter get out of hand as the guest list keeps growing. Just one little problem—Harri can’t cook.

Can Aisha save the citizens of Atlanta without revealing she’s a super? Better yet, can anyone save Harri’s guests from food poisoning?

Call The Law Offices of Winters & Franklin at 888-555-HERO where the only thing more dangerous than a superhero is his attorney.


To celebrate the release of A Very Hero Christmas, and because it's Cyber Monday, Hero De Facto, the first book in the series is FREE until Wednesday, December 4th!


And starting next week, I'll be posting sample chapters from the next Justice novel, A Touch of Mother!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Very Hero Christmas - Chapter 3

Oops! In the rush to edit, format, and bake pies, I totally forgot to post Chapter 3. The entire novel A Very Hero Christmas will be released on Sunday, December 1st!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

* * *
In the baking goods aisle of the grocery store, Harri crouched and pulled a five-pound package of flour from the bottom shelf. She straightened and brushed white powder from the paper exterior. “Don’t these come in smaller sizes?”

“Actually, you should go back and buy a couple of those delicious-looking premade pies.” Jeremy propped his fists on his jeans-clad hips and flipped his longish front shock of blonde hair in the direction of the bakery section of the store.

“No.” Harri set the flour in their shopping cart. “This is Grace’s first Christmas, and it’s going to be perfect.”

“Sweetie, Gracikins isn’t six-months-old yet.” Jeremy shook his head. “She won’t remember this. Hell, she can’t eat most of what you’re making.”

Harri ignored him and checked her list. He may be one of her closest friends, but right now, he was being a Negative Nellie, and it was irritating the hell out of her. “I’d better get two bags just in case.”

Jeremy slapped his forehead as she crouched and grabbed another package. “Harri, I love you, but you can barely boil water. Put this stuff back, and let’s go back to the bakery and deli sections. I know the manager. He’ll let us put in a last-minute order.”

“No.” She crossed flour off her list. “Now, where’s the salt?” A sign that said “Seasonings” hovered over some shelves ahead of her cart. Salt was a seasoning, right?

“All of your guests are going to starve.” Jeremy threw his hands in the air as Harri pushed the cart down the grocery store aisle. “You may be the best attorney in Canyon Pointe, heck, even the state, but you can’t cook Harriet Matilda Winters!”

He sounded exactly like her ex-husband Eddie. Worse, Jeremy had used the despised full name. She whirled and jammed her index finger into his breast bone.

“I am not going to serve Grace food cooked by maids or caterers like mine and Tim’s families did. I am not going to serve anyone warmed up TV dinners like Arthur’s parents did. I’m sure as hell not serving her bread crusts and telling her to be grateful for it like Patty’s grandmother did. Grace is getting the real Christmas she deserves!”

“Is there a problem, ma’am?” a voice rumbled behind her.

Harri pivoted and looked up at the huge man, who towered over Jeremy as well as her. His scarlet necktie and white dress shirt matched nicely with his Quinto’s Grocery apron. However, his graying beard stood out against his dark skin.

She glanced around and realized she’d attracted a crowd.

“She’s just uptight about the holidays, sir,” Jeremy said smoothly.

“Is that the case, ma’am?” He didn’t have a name tag, but from his stance, the man was probably the store manager. He was also probably worried about violence in his domain. Two idiots had gotten into a gun battle over a fashion doll’s dream house at a local chain toy store last weekend at the Southside Mall.

Luckily, Harri’s superhero client Cobblestone stopped the mothers before anybody had gotten hurt. Thank goodness, he was still at the store after his annual Christmas gift event for kids in the foster system.

She totally understood why Rey wanted to follow in Cobblestone’s footprints, but battling Aisha over a new moniker for Rey was getting on her last nerve. She could literally feel her blood pressure rising, and she shut down that train of thought.

Harri took a calming breath and looked up at the manager. “I’m sorry for my outburst, sir. My brother was merely pointing out I’m being an obsessive butthead over our goddaughter’s first Christmas.”

“As long as you don’t make any more of a ruckus.” The manager’s salt-and-pepper eyebrow rose, questioning her intentions. “I won’t.” She crossed her heart.

“Happy Holidays, then, ma’am. Sir.” He nodded to both her and Jeremy before he sauntered back towards the check-out lanes.

With the show over, everyone else resumed their shopping.

“I didn’t realize how much the past holidays bothered you,” Jeremy said softly as he followed her down the aisle. “Is that why you’re trying so hard to be Betty?”

“Betty and Marvin gave us the closest thing we had to a real Christmas,” Harri muttered. And Aisha’s parents really had been the only ones who gave a shit when Harri and Jeremy had been teenagers. She swiped at her eyes. That damn flour dust was everywhere in here. “Anyway, she sent me a few of her recipes. It doesn’t sound that hard.”

“Aisha’s mom was also up at three a.m. to start Christmas dinner.” Jeremy grabbed a canister of salt and set it in the cart.

“That’s because she didn’t want any interference from Grams and Aunt Queenie.” Harri consulted the list again. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger were needed for the pies.

“They only flew into Canyon Pointe our junior year in high school,” Jeremy stated.

Harri handed the cinnamon and ginger jars to him. “That’s because the Franklin house in this city wasn’t big enough with you and I living there. Now, where the hell is the nutmeg?”

“The spices are in alphabetical order, silly.” Jeremy pointed at the bottom of the spice rack.

“Gotcha!” Harri tossed him the last jar of nutmeg.

“All right. Fine.” He set the glass jar carefully into their cart. “You cook. Leo and I will bring the mulled wine and eggnog.”

“It’s a deal.” She was going to make this the Christmas they all deserved even if it killed her.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Quick Update!

For those of you waiting for your paperback copies of Resurrected, they are going out in today's mail. I really apologize for the delay, but I had an unexpected out-of-state trip at the beginning of November. I didn't want to order the books and have them show up on my doorstep when we weren't home.

Especially since we ended up getting four and a half inches of snow.

Again, sorry for the delay, and I hope you enjoy your signed copies.

(For those of you who want an opportunity to receive signed books from me, please sign up for my newsletter. Tap the CONTACT ME tab on the website menu and type in you deets.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Very Hero Christmas - Chapter 2

Aisha leaned back in her airplane seat and wiggled her butt in an attempt to get comfortable. Despite all these stupid super powers from the HRSP, she couldn’t stop the baby from abusing her internal organs. It didn’t help she felt squished between her husband and brother-in-law.

“You know, we both offered to get you a seat in first class,” Steve murmured.

“How is that going to stop your nephew from practicing his goal kicks on my lungs?”

The plane finally pushed back from the terminal. She glanced to her right. Rey stared out the tiny window. His knuckles glared white against the rest of his skin.

She laid her palm over his left fist. “Breathe, sweetie.”

“I can’t believe he’s afraid of flying,” Steve muttered.

“Not all of us grew with a silver spoon in their mouths,” Rey snapped.

“Stop it,” Aisha hissed. “Both of you.” She glared at Steve. “And it’s only when someone else is the pilot.”

“I don’t need you to defend me,” Rey growled.

Before she could call her husband on his crap, Steve said, “You’re right, Aisha. I’m sorry.”

If her brother-in-law actually meant his apology, she wouldn’t have the urge to smack him, too. He was merely trying to show up his twin. Not for the first time, she wished the guys could’ve worked out their sibling rivalry while they were kids, like normal people.

“I didn’t thank you two for coming up to Seattle with me for Thanksgiving,” Steve added. “So, thanks for that. I promise to behave myself at your parents’ home, Aisha.”

Okay, maybe he meant his apology after all.

She eyed Rey.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you, honey.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed the back. “I promise to behave, too.”

“Thank you both.” After the year they’d all had, a week of rest, good food, and family fun would be a welcome respite from the superhero shenanigans in Canyon Pointe. She didn’t realize how much she was looking forward to a real visit with her relatives until now.


Rey would have rather sat with Aisha in the rental SUV, but Eric insisted she take the roomier front passenger. Not to mention Aisha’s nephew begged to sit next to his hero.

“Have you come up with a new name yet, Uncle Rey?” Even with his seatbelt on and snugly tucked between Rey and Steve in the backseat, Devon quivered with excitement.

“Hey, secret identity, dude!” Eric glared at his son in the rearview mirror.

“But we’re alone in the car, Dad,” Devon protested.

“It’s a rental car, and it can be easily bugged,” Rey said gently. “The last thing your Aunt Aisha wants would be for you to get hurt because you know my other identity.”

“But that’s why you waved your phone all over the SUV right?” Devon said. “To make sure it wasn’t bugged?”

“Yes, it is,” Rey replied. He didn’t want to mention he was also checking for explosive devices. “However, we all still need to be careful.”

“But Mom and Dad said the guys who are after yours and Aisha’s baby are in jail.”

“They are for now.” Rey didn’t want to get too far into the subject of Corvus either, but neither did he want to lie to the kid. “But bad guys can escape and sometimes, they can even beat the system—”

“You mean, because Cal’s an idiot, and he might screw up the prosecution’s case,” Devon firmly stated.


What little of Eric’s expression Rey could see appeared totally appalled at his son’s blunt assessment.

In the front passenger seat, Aisha snickered.

“He is an idiot, Dad,” Devon proclaimed. “He blamed Aisha for not having any babies. And Mom said he was shooting blanks.”

Eric groaned. Steve and Aisha laughed out loud.

“Calvin was mean to Aisha after they both promised to love each other forever,” Rey said patiently. “That does mean he can’t do his job as a lawyer. These same bad guys threatened him and his new family. He understands that no one is safe if the bad guys aren’t punished for the things they did wrong.”

“You said you’d promise to love Aisha forever, too.” The boy peered up at Rey.

“I’ve only broken my word once—” Rey started.

Devon opened his mouth, but Rey held up his index finger.

“The only reason I broke it is because the monsters who were trying to kill me would have killed all of my friend Takashi’s colleagues,” he continued. “When to break your word is one of the hard things you have to decide for yourself as an adult. I hope you never find yourself in that position, Devon.”

“I hope not, either.” The boy nodded solemnly. “Can I ask you another question, Uncle Rey?”


“What does ‘shooting blanks’ mean?”

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Very Hero Christmas - Chapter 1

Two months later…

“The Crimson Commando?” Harri said. She’d lost track of how many suggestions she’d thrown out during this latest brainstorming session. She was also ready to throw a kolache at her law partner when Aisha shook her head.


And they’d been in the law office conference room for less than ten minutes.

“Too militaristic. Rey wants more of a pacifistic name,” Aisha said around a mouthful of breakfast burrito. “Something that won’t make the parents afraid. He’d like to do volunteer work like Cobblestone.”

“Pacifistic?” Harri threw up her hands. “He’s a freakin’ demigod!”

“Scream that a little louder the next time,” Susan Kennedy said. Their law school classmate, now new associate, deliberately slurped her tea before she added, “Only those with superhearing on this block heard you.”

Harri clenched her fists on her lap to keep from pulling out Susan’s ponytail by the roots. Or Aisha’s henna’d dreds. “Then why isn’t he in here giving us some suggestions?”

Aisha chewed and swallowed her eggs and tortilla. “Who are you really pissed at, Harri?”

She propped her elbows on the maple veneer conference table. It was bad enough they’d had to go to a used office furniture warehouse. She always thought if she’s opened her own firm, it would be classy. But no, Daddy Dearest managed to blow through the entire Winters fortune.

Or rather snort it.

Harri took a cleansing breath. The firm couldn’t continue riding the fumes of Rey’s licensing deals. “You came up with Captain Justice on the fly after I was arrested earlier this year. Why can’t we go back to that if you’re going to negate every name I propose?”

“Because you had to bury him along with the Ghost Owl after the Professor Paranoia fiasco this summer.” Susan picked at her banana muffin.

“Jatz’om Kuh was never registered,” Aisha muttered.

Harri sat back in her chair. Aisha using the Ghost Owl’s Mayan name meant something deeper was going on in her brain. “Is this about Tim? Is he pressuring Rey to take his place? I’ll talk with Tim is that’s what he’s doing.”

“No, this isn’t about Tim.” Aisha laid down her breakfast burrito and shrugged. “Since we learned about Steve, Rey’s been…adamant about establishing his own identity.”

“What do you mean his own identity?” Harri leaned back in her chair and glared at her partner. “Steve doesn’t even want to be a superhero.”

“Is that the real reason why Rey’s been hiding down at Marta’s restaurant the last two months?” Susan asked. “He’s avoiding Steve?”

“No, Rueben’s showing Rey the ropes so he can cover the kitchen while Rueben’s in Paris.” Aisha took a sip of her pixie barf. Harri didn’t understand how anyone could handle that much sugar in their coffee.

“Being a short order cook isn’t conducive to being a superhero,” she blurted. For a split second, it looked like Aisha would throw the rest of her burrito at Harri.

“Rey’s sticking with his original plan,” Aisha growled. “He’s investing in this neighborhood. Getting people working again. Providing them a chance to build real homes for their children rather than squatting in the old Canyon Hotel. I thought you of all people would get behind giving the poor folks a hand-out.”

Fury rushed through Harri at the words her father often threw in her grandmother’s face. She stood and slammed her palms on the tabletop. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Okay, ladies.” Susan raised her hands. “Let’s calm down here. We’re all looking out for our client.” She eyed Aisha before she turned to Harri. “Right?”

Harri slowly sat down, but she waited for Aisha to make the first move.

Her partner cleared her throat. “Maybe we should table this discussion until Rey, Steve, and I get back from Atlanta.”

“After Christmas?” Harri tilted her head. “Why?”

“Because I have a meeting about the new Blue Racer shoe line, and I need to get ready for it.” Aisha rose and tossed the rest of her breakfast in the trash before she stomped out of the conference room. At least, she’d stopped wearing her damn stilettos now she was in her seventh month of her pregnancy. The office carpet was the smoothest it had ever been.

Susan exhaled gustily. “For being one of the smartest people in our law school class, you can sure be a dumbass at times.”

Harri glared at her. “Excuse me?”

“Has it occurred to you the reason Aisha’s shooting down every moniker is because she’s scared of losing Rey again?” Susan tucked an errant auburn lock behind her ear.

Harri opened her mouth for a retort, then closed it. She sagged in her chair. “Crap. I hate it when someone else is more right than me.”

“She’s leaving for her parents’ place tomorrow,” Susan pointed out. “You and I can work on some names while she’s gone. And it’ll be a lot harder to shoot down every single one if the client is in here the next time we meet.”

“You are truly evil, Susan Kennedy.” Harri laughed. “You keep this up, and you may make partner.”

Susan pushed to her feet. “How about I survive my first year here before we talk permanent?” She gathered breakfast trash scattered across the conference table and dumped it in the waste receptacle before she turned back to Harri. “One more thing. You and I made the choice not to have kids, but even I can see Aisha’s scared something could go wrong with this pregnancy. Especially, since she developed HRSP. Try to take it a little easier on her.”

Harri nodded. “I will.”

Once Susan left, Harri stared through the window at the massive gray stone blocks that formed the wall of the building next door to theirs. Aisha wasn’t the only one scared something could go wrong with this pregnancy. She sighed. Tim was right. She needed to pull up her big girl panties and quit taking her fear out on everyone else around her.

Maybe it was a good thing she wasn’t going down to Atlanta this Christmas. If Aisha was a pain now, she’d be even worse when her family fussed over her and the new additions to the family.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Very Hero Christmas - Prologue

Rey Garcia stared at his bride as she lay next to him on the blanket they’d spread on the black sand beach on the island of Kauai. The sun shone against a brilliant blue sky. Ocean waves lapped softly against the hardened basalt rocks that framed the secluded cove. Aisha looked so damn beautiful and vulnerable at the same time. But she couldn’t possibly be serious.

“You can’t be the Ghost Owl!” he blurted.

“So you’re saying you want the moniker?”

“You’re pregnant!” The instant the words left his mouth, he knew he was in deep trouble. And not just from ruining the blissful mood of their honeymoon.

Aisha’s dark brown eyes narrowed, and she pushed herself upright. “Excuse me?”

He sat up, too. “I’m sorry. That really came out wrong.”

“I seem to recall beating the crap out of both you and Steve when you were under Professor Paranoia’s control.” Her voice was calm. Too calm. It meant she was on the verge of a serious explosion. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have thrown his newly discovered twin brother in his face.

Rey sucked in a deep breath and released it in an attempt to organize his concerns. Aisha would respond better to a logical argument. “I meant we’re not sure if you’ll keep your powers after the baby’s born.”

“You were the one with the theory about your mom’s kiss protecting me,” Aisha pointed out.

“Yes, to protect you and the baby, primarily from my uncles.” He tried not to think about how Black Death tried to zap her with his powers at their wedding reception. He was pretty sure saving Aisha from little Grace’s father was an unintended side effect of his mother Xquic’s kiss. “That doesn’t mean it’ll extend past your delivery. And you had HRSP before you met my biological mother.”

The condition known hormone-related superpowers or HRSP often affected women carrying babies with the genes related to superpowers. Usually, the condition went away after delivery, but he wondered if his mother had done something else besides protecting Aisha with that kiss.

“If I didn’t know better, I say it was your ego getting in the way,” Aisha said. However, the crease between her eyebrows eased.

“If you want in the supers business, I’d be the last one to tell you no.” He smiled at her.

Aisha laughed. “Yeah, I’ve already considered how Harri will react.”

“But will you do me a favor?”


“At least ask Tim before you steal his name.”

She laughed again. “Definitely.”

“Are you going to officially register with the NSB?”

Aisha hesitated before she said, “If I keep my powers, then yes. It may be the only way to flush out whoever was feeding Corvus information within the bureau.”

Of course. This was more about taking out anyone related to Corvus, especially after Corvus’s former leader, Byron S. Trubble admitted on a FBI wire he wanted Rey and Aisha’s son.

Her law partner Harri Winters may have a horrible temper, but it was there and gone in a flash. Aisha had a slower burn, but her grudges lasted a hell of a lot longer. And the fact that Trubble and his people threatened the child Aisha had longed for most of her adult life only made that inner rage burn hotter.

“I’m just worried that the NSB will drag you in for questioning about Tim,” Rey murmured. He reached over and stroked her cheek.

Aisha leaned her forehead against his and cover his hand with her palm. “Harri’s cover story is holding, and my power set, assuming I keep it, is nothing like the Ghost Owl’s supposed abilities.”

She gave Rey a quick peck before she pulled away. “Besides, we need to come up with your new moniker and costume if you want to re-register. But as your attorney, I suggest you forget about everything while you’re on your honeymoon. And your new bride is in need of a swim.”

Together, they climbed to their feet and raced for the waves lapping the black sand.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

An Offer Reminder

Today's the last day for the Bloodlines sale! Both Blood Magick and Zombie Love are $0.99 each at most major e-book retailers.

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

A Very Hero Christmas is on pre-order at Amazon and will be released December 1st. If you like the 888-555-HERO series, let your friends know they can a copy of the first book, Hero De Facto, free December 1st through the 4th.

Sample chapters for A Very Hero Christmas will be posted here every Wednesday, starting November 6th!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Release Day - Resurrected


A necromancer awakes from his coma. A vampire owes a god of death a favor, and the deity demands his payment. A very dead ancient Egyptian prince finds himself back in the land of the living in another man’s body. And a single mother still blames her sister-in-law for the death of her husband.

Sam Ridgeway doesn’t know these four people are her personal Horsemen. The Harbingers of Armageddon. And they are more interested in their own agendas. Because if they can’t control Sam, they will have to kill her.

And if Sam dies, so does the world.

**Links will be updated as they go live.

Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bloodlines Books Discounted!

As part of the Resurrected promotion, the first and second books of the Bloodlines series are available for $0.99. Yep, that's right. Both Blood Magick and Zombie Love are $0.99 each from now until Halloween (October 31th) at most major e-book retailers.

If you haven't checked out this series, now's the time to get started!

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Resurrected hits the virtual shelves on October 25th!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Resurrected - Chapter 5

This will be the last sample chapter of Resurrected since it comes out next week.


Alex Stanton heard their expected guests in the hallway before they rang the doorbell to his and Phil’s condo. He yanked the door open before the sound died. “How’s my favorite granddaughter?” He swept Ellie into his arms and twirled her around. His Maltese Kiki danced around his bare feet and barked at the excitement.

Ellie giggled. “Grandpa Alex, you’re being silly. I’m your only granddaughter.”

“And if you make her puke, you’re cleaning up the mess,” Phil yelled from the kitchen.

Ellie leaned close to his ear. “Mommy’s upset. Uncle Jake’s in the hospital.”

“I know,” he whispered back. “Grandma Phil’s making cookies. Why don’t you give her a hand?”

“Yay!” Ellie shed her jacket and dropped it on the floor before she ran for the kitchen. Kiki yipped and raced after her.

“El—” Tiffany started.

“Let it go this once,” Alex murmured as he retrieved the bright pink garment with Hello Kitty embroidered on the pockets. “What happened?”

“W-we don’t know much yet. His mom just said there was an accident.” She looked on the verge of tears herself.

“I’m taking her there now,” Sam said, as if daring him to say something.

Things hadn’t been great between the two women since Max died two years ago. He hadn’t agreed with Duncan about getting in the middle of the mess between Sam and Tiffany, but maybe Duncan had been right to do so after all. “Go. I’ll meet you two there.”

“You don’t have to—” Tiffany started, but he held up a hand. The kid’s relief at having someone else there was obvious, even to Sam from the way her lips pinched together.

“He’s my employee, too. And I’m gonna make damn sure whatever happened was really an accident.” Things had been quiet for the last year, other than the misunderstanding with the ghouls six months ago. But the peace Tiffany brokered with them had been invaluable in taking down the Vampire Liberation Front, and the threat of rebellion for withholding the cure from her own coven had gotten Virginia Dare to back off her planned invasion of St. James Coven’s territory. However, there had been no signs of Marcus Giovanni, the Sunshine Believers, or any dino demon since the ghoul incident.

Alex’s gut said this was merely the proverbial lull before the storm. And it would be just like those assholes to target a Normal member of the coven. He glanced in the direction of the kitchen to make sure Ellie was still back there.

Give me a little credit, Phil’s voice whispered in his mind. Of course, she’d been listening to the conversation through him.

Tiffany’s eyes widened. “You don’t think—”

“Don’t worry about it right now. Get to the hospital. I’ll be there in a bit.”

“Thanks.” Tiffany’s voice trembled, but her back was ramrod straight. She and Sam winked out of sight.

He padded back to the kitchen where his wife and Ellie were enthusiastically licking chocolate chip cookie dough off the beaters. Poor Kiki looked mournfully up at them.

“That looks delicious,” he said brightly as he retrieved a doggie treat. He crouched down, and Kiki licked his fingers before she gingerly took the nugget from his hand.

Ellie paused. “Did you eat chocolate chip cookies before you got sick?”

“Nope. I don’t think they had been invented yet.” He winked, and she giggled. “I need to go run an errand.” He rose and grabbed his keys and wallet from the counter.

Ellie’s eyes narrowed. “You’re going to the hospital, too, aren’t you?”

He and Phil exchanged looks. Don’t lie to her, his wife said in his mind.

“Yeah, sweetie, I am.”

“Why can’t I go?” Ellie asked matter-of-factly.

He knelt beside her. “Because the doctors want Jake to rest so he can get better. They won’t let little girls into his room yet.”

“Would they let me in to see him if Jake and Mommy got married?” she asked. “He said he was hoping to be my daddy real soon.”

Alex swallowed his discomfort. Jake had mentioned he’d asked Ellie’s permission when he’d dragged Alex along to shop for an engagement ring last week.

He wrapped an arm around Ellie. “I know he wants to be your daddy, sweetie. But even if he were already, the doctors still wouldn’t let you in yet. You would need to stay with us, or Grandma and Grandpa Howell, or Uncle Duncan.”

“That’s not fair.” Ellie stuck out her bottom lip. “I’m better behaved than Grandma Howell.”

Alex couldn’t look at Phil because he was having trouble keeping his own laughter in check. “If it makes you feel better, the doctors wouldn’t let Grandma Howell see Jake right now either.”

“Okay.” That answer seemed to mollify Ellie. “I suppose you can go without me.”

He smiled. “Thank you.”

She threw her arms around his neck. “It’s okay if you have to bite him to make him better, too.”

He forced himself not to react. Concern rolled along Phil’s thoughts as well.

Maybe Bebe had been right all those years ago. When they had first met the doctor, Tiffany had been in high school. Bebe had gone ballistic about Tiffany being raised by vampires. But not even as a teenager had Tiffany taken the V-virus this lightly.

Or maybe Ellie wasn’t taking things lightly. Maybe she understood more than Sam and Tiffany had been willing to admit to themselves.

“Well, let’s see what Jake’s doctors says before we do anything.”

“Okay.” Ellie released him. “Can I watch some television, Grandma Phil?”

“Yes, you may, but—” Phil turned and pulled a clean bowl from the dish rack. “Take this to put your beater in.”

Ellie accepted the bowl and took off for the living room. Kiki glanced at Alex before she trotted after Ellie. A few seconds later the overly sweet lyrics of a popular children’s show echoed through the condo.

Alex rose and kissed Phil briefly on the lips. “I’ll call you once I know something.” He turned to leave, but she grabbed his arm.


“What’s wrong?”

She laughed and forced him to pivot away from her. “Hold still. You have a blob of cookie dough in your hair.”

Water ran in the sink behind him before the fresh scent of his wife mixed with the sweet smell of raw dough. He held still while she gently wiped the dough off the back of his head.

“There you go,” she said. “But you might want to wash your hair when you get home.”

He turned and pulled her close. “I will.” She tasted like semi-sweet chocolate and brown sugar when he gave her a much deeper kiss this time.

Phil pulled away and swatted him on the ass. “You’d better get going. If Jake’s all right, the hospital’s going to need you to referee the girls.”

Alex hoped she was wrong about Sam and Tiffany. But he still said a silent little prayer for Jake while he pulled on his boots. His goodbye didn’t even register with Ellie who was engrossed in her program, but Kiki looked at him briefly before she curled up against Ellie on the couch.

Sometimes it felt as if that dog understood far more than any normal canine. According to Phil, the Maltese breed were descended from pets created by a Phoenician god. Hell, for all he knew, Kiki might really be a were-Maltese. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d run into such a creature.

Five minutes later, he guided his pick-up through early evening Los Angeles traffic.

Or tried to. Rush hour was in full swing. Wilshire was already a mess. Santa Monica Boulevard wouldn’t be much better. Time to take the back streets. He turned right toward Olympic.

Buenos tardas, viejo amigo.” The voice came an instant before the smell.


His truck swerved. Horns blared. Alex yanked the wheel back, somehow missing any of the vehicles around him.

He shot an ugly look at the Uku Pacha monkey demon now sitting in the pick-up’s passenger seat. “What the fuck, Francisco? Are you trying to get me killed?”

“Boss wouldn’t be too happy with me if I did,” the demon replied in English. The former vampire, now minion of Supay the Incan god of Death, still had the same charming voice he’d had while alive.

Alex guided his truck into the left turn lane for Olympic Boulevard and braked behind a minivan with a stick figure family in the rear window. Another glance at his visitor showed rotten teeth in Francisco’s broad smile. “You couldn’t have dropped the glamour five minutes earlier when I wasn’t driving in heavy traffic? Better yet, knock on my door like a civilized person?”

The demon shook his head. The motions sent dead skin and disintegrating hair flying through the cab of the truck. “Not with the little senorita visiting you. I did not wish to frighten her.”

“What are you doing in the States? Shouldn’t you be back in Peru, kissing your new boss’s ass?” The light changed, and Alex pressed the accelerator.

“Aren’t we in a piss-poor mood today?” The chittering sound Francisco made was the demon equivalent of laughter. “Did the lovely Phillippa kick you out of her bed for acting like an idiot?”

Alex’s grip tightened on the steering wheel. Francisco was right. He was taking his worry out on the demon. “Sorry, my friend. I’m on the way to the hospital. One of my enforcers was in an accident. He’s a Normal, and I don’t know how bad his condition is yet.”

Francisco grunted. “A Normal injured is never a good thing. They are so…fragile.” Of course, he understood. He had been the chief enforcer for the Lima vampire coven before he died. For some reason, Lord Supay had taken a shine to Francisco and offered him a place in his court at Uku Pacha after the dino demons and their followers had killed the vampire.

“You still haven’t told me why you’re here?” Alex murmured.

“My Master wishes to collect on the remainder of your debt.”

A chill ran through Alex. Owing a god, especially the Incan god of death, was not a healthy position for anyone, much less a vampire. “I got him his tumi back. You delivered it to him, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did!” Francisco huffed. “Do you truly believe I’d be that stupid and not return it?”

“Then our debt is done,” Alex declared. From the corner of his eye, he could see Francisco shaking his head sadly.

“In addition to His tumi, you promised to deliver those who took it.”

“All three of the Old Ones’ minions are dead. You helped Phil and me kill the two in Peru, and we took out the third one twice.” Even though the third dinosaur demon had managed to breed a couple hundred demon babies, surely Supay couldn’t count them as part of the debt.

“My Master had us hunt down the Normals and vampires who worked for the Old Ones’ minions at the time his tumi was stolen, but we were never able to catch one,” Francisco replied.

“Marcus Giovanni,” Alex growled as he braked at the next red light. Olympic was just as bad as Wilshire traffic-wise.


The bastard had been Selene’s lieutenant when she made her repeated bids to kill Caesar and take over the Augustine, now St. James, vampire coven. After their third failure and Selene’s death, Giovanni had allied himself with the dinosaur demons and the human worshippers of their ancient gods.

Alex tapped the steering wheel with his thumbs as he waited for the light to change. It had been wishful thinking on his part that sad excuse for a vampire might have died when he’d been dragged to Otherwhere. It wasn’t like Sam hadn’t been hunting the bastard for the last two years in that alien dimension after he had tried to Turn Ellie when she was still in preschool.

“So he’s still alive. Do you know where he is?” Alex asked.

“He was last seen near the U.S. western coast. In the Cascade range outside of Portland, moving north with two Normals.” The light flipped to green, and Alex press the accelerator as he considered the situation. Now, why would Marcus come back to the U.S., much less hang out in the Oregon back country? Unless he didn’t consider Duncan a threat as the new coven master.

But Giovanni being back in the States and Jake’s accident was too much of a coincidence. And why the hell would the rogue vampire be traveling with Normals?

“Is your source reliable?”

Francisco chittered again. “As reliable as Coyote has ever been.” He sobered. “But he has no wish for the Old Ones’ return either. My Lord considers the information valid.”

“And Coyote is absolutely sure the pair with Giovanni were Normal?” Not that Alex questioned any deity given that his father-in-law was Ares of Olympus, but the Native American Coyote had a reputation as a trickster.

More skin flaked from Francisco’s forehead at his frown. “You believe them to be demon spawn?”

“It’s possible.” When Francisco remained quiet, Alex continued. “Portland, huh? Could he be heading back to Seattle? The last dino demon had a nest there a few years ago.”

“A possibility,” Francisco admitted. “I have been making the rounds on our end to alert other deities and their entourages in this area.”

“All right.” Alex pulled into the parking garage closest to the ER. “I’ll send out word to our enforcers.” He guided the truck into the first available parking spot he found. “Is there anything else?”

The demon sighed. “Unfortunately, there is.” Silvery white light filled the truck’s cab. “My Master needs something delivered.”

The little carved figure he held resembled something out of a Lovecraft story. It was made of the same space-age ceramic, titanium, and unknown metal as Supay’s tumi.

Francisco’s orange eyes held a terrible sadness. “I beg your forgiveness, my friend.”

Vampiric speed meant nothing. The demon slapped his right hand over Alex’s heart. The light from the strange object blinded him.

Alex couldn’t scream if he wanted to. Something else owned his vocal cords.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Resurrected - Chapter 4


For the first time since arriving on the shores of the Styx, Ptolemy was glad of his ectoplasmic state. He’d be exhausted by now even with his old vampiric stamina.

He had followed Hermes along the shore until they were well away from the other shades. When the river dumped into a dark, bottomless chasm, they turned to the right, and toward what Ptolemy thought was the land of the living. Even the god’s snakes appeared bored. They had slithered from Hermes’s caduceus and draped themselves over his shoulders, hissing softly to each other.

The path widened until only the occasional boulder marked the way. Ptolemy couldn’t see the stone ceiling anymore. The gravel beneath their feet turned to sand. The grains felt odd under his soles.

He halted. I’m feeling again. The sand was warm, yet there was no sun. He kicked at a small mound. Bits flew into the air.

Hermes glanced over his shoulder. “Keep up. If I lose you here, I’ll never find you again.”

Ptolemy didn’t question the statement. “Is there a reason we cannot fly?” he asked as he hurried to match the god’s strides.

“Other than advertising your presence here and attracting every nearby predator, no,” the god replied sourly. Ptolemy extinguished a flicker of amusement. The Olympian didn’t relish walking like a Normal. But the last thing Ptolemy wanted to do was irritate Hermes. He’d end up back at on the shores of the River Styx.

Or worse.

“What is this place?” he asked. He kept his voice as quiet as the snakes’. Only the gods knew what prowled this place, and he really didn’t want to find out first hand.

“The common mortal name these days is Otherwhere. It is the space between realms.”

A shudder racked Ptolemy. The edges of his ectoplasmic body blurred and shredded. He heard enough from the witches over the millennia to know living things rarely survived long in this place. Even the fae trod lightly through Otherwhere. But the dead…

The dead were mere snacks for the things that roamed here.

Something far behind them howled. He automatically reached for his waist, but none of the weapon he wore when he was alive hung there. He looked wildly around and spotted a figure crouched on a boulder to their right. Gold eyes stared at him. Then they blinked.

“Lord Hermes?”

The Olympian said nothing, but he quickened his pace toward the boulder. Ptolemy had no choice but to keep up. The dark form leapt to the sand. As they drew closer, the figure’s head resolved into that of a jackal. The rest of his body was human-shaped, but blacker than their surroundings.

“Hermes.” The god inclined his long snout.

The Olympian gave a curt nod. “Anpu,” he said using the ancient Egyptian version of Anubis. “Any trouble?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary.” The Egyptian god twirled the long staff he carried. “Don’t worry, youngling. I won’t let the monsters eat you.” His lower jaw hung open and his tongue lolled out in a canine grin.

Ptolemy definitely got the impression Anubis found Hermes wanting. From the tight press of the Olympian’s lips, he knew it as well. Nor did he appreciate the comment.

“May I ask where we are going?” Ptolemy said.

Anubis cocked his head and stared at his counterpart. “You haven’t told him?”

Hermes waved a hand. “I gave him the gist.”

Another howl sounded from the direction they had walked. The Egyptian god snorted. “Too much risk staying here. I’ll explain as we go.” He set off at a brisk pace.

They had walked quite a distance, and Ptolemy wondered if he would have to ask again when Anubis spoke. “There’s a waiting area for the dead. A place for them to reside unmolested when there are…questions concerning their final disposition.” The god’s golden eyes flicked in Ptolemy’s direction before resuming their watchful examination the terrain ahead. “You almost ended up there.”

There was no need to ask why. Remembering his many sins while he waited on the shores of the Styx had been a more appropriate punishment than anything Hades or the Furies could devise in Tartarus.

“Why are you taking me there? Lord Hermes said I was to live another man’s life,” Ptolemy said.

Behind him, the Olympian muttered, “Dumbass. I explained it was a second chance.”

Anubis glanced at Ptolemy again. “You know what happens when a shade possesses a living body for too long.”

Another shudder rippled through his ectoplasm. He knew all too well. A possession gone wrong was the reason Caesar refused to hire any eclectic witch since the late 1600s. “So I only have a few days to accomplish this mission of yours.” “No. We’re unsure of how long you may need or what difficulties you will encounter. That’s why we’re meeting others at the waiting area. There is a way to extend your time on the mortal plane.”

“Why do I have the feeling I’m not going to like this?” Ptolemy muttered.

“You won’t.” Anubis stopped and stared at him. “However, you do have a choice in the matter. You can fulfill the task we give you and possibly redeem yourself, or Hermes can take you back to the shores of the Styx where you will eventually go mad like your sister.”

Ptolemy crossed his arms, or tried to emulate the gesture. “Lord Hermes said the catch was I had to trap a goddess. Why? And what goddess?”

Anubis was silent for a moment, as if searching for the correct words. “Why? To save the universe. As for the goddess, well, she is quite new. The first of what will be a new pantheon. An infant really.”

“Are you asking me to harm a baby?”

“Not harm. Restrain. So she doesn’t starts eating mortals before her transformation is complete.”

“What is she the patroness of that she would consume people?”

Anubis’s tongue hung out of his snout again, definitely the canine equivalent of a grin. “Death always comes first. And she is always hungry.”

Friday, October 4, 2019


There's good news and bad news.

As of October 31st, Amazon is discontinuing its Matchbook program. For those who don't know what that this, some publishers have deals set up where if you buy the paperback novel you can get the e-book of that same novel for a deep discount or free.

Angry Sheep Publishing has most of my e-book novels and anthologies set to free in this program.

Even better, Amazon has been marking down a lot of my paperbacks. Some really good discounts too, like 25-66%. With the holidays coming up, you could buy the paperback and keep the e-book for yourself.

For example, the paperback of Hero Ad Hoc is $4.57 in the US store as of this posting, so you could buy it and the e-book version for $4.57 plus tax. Check it out if you're interested!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Resurrected - Chapter 3


I braced myself before I opened my own front door, regretting once again that I had allowed Uncle Duncan talk me into letting her babysit my daughter. “Ellie! I’m home!”

“We’re in the kitchen, Mommy!” my baby’s sweet voice answered. She claimed she was a big girl now she was in first grade. I told her she’d always be my tiny, red, squirmy worm who peed all over the doctors and nurses the night she was born.

I dropped my bag and books in the new mauve armchair in the living room. Hardwood covered the floor now. I couldn’t handle keeping the carpet that had been soaked with my dead husband’s blood. That had been the first thing to go. Once Jake and I decided to live together, the rest of the old furniture had to go, too.

I could have simply sold the house. It wasn’t like I couldn’t afford something better, but the Tarzana ranch-style place was the closest I ever felt to “home” my entire life. This is where I started my own family.

From the kitchen came Ellie’s voice, then hers, then someone I didn’t recognize. Rage burned my blood. Of course, she would flaunt my rules about no visitors while sitting for my child after school. She didn’t think rules applied to her anymore.

The bitch needed to die, but how can you kill someone who’s already dead? Even worse, how do you kill Death personified? I eased my gun out of my waist holster anyway. The silver-and-garlic-laced steel bullets were specially designed by my boss to handle just about anything in the supernatural range. No one outside of me and a couple of other St. James Coven enforcers knew the real special ingredient was Maltese dog fur.

And if anyone had ever told me years ago, Alex Stanton would have a tiny fluff-mop for a pet, I would have laughed my ass off. In fact, most vampires didn’t have pets. Something about competing predator instinct.

But no, my manly man boss had a girly dog. I kind of wished she was here now.

I eased around the wall between the living room and the extra-large kitchen, gun raised. Five strangers sat with Ellie and her at my table.

“Mommy, put your gun down. That’s rude.” My daughter’s expression was the same cross one she had when someone farted in her presence. Who would have thought I’d be raising a princess? “Aunt Sam and I are teaching her friends how to play poker.”

Okay, maybe a princess who can wipe the floor of any casino in Vegas.

I lowered my weapon only because Ellie was sitting between her and Morrigan. And I’d dealt enough with the sidhe over the years that I actually respected the Celtic goddess.

Nor did it take a rocket scientist to figure out who the rest of the players were considering the predominance of black, red and white clothing. Ellie’s pink princess dress and tiara stood out among the assembly.

I blinked and looked again. That wasn’t the toy tiara Jake had bought for her. The way it sparkled under the sunlight coming through the huge picture window overlooking the backyard, my daughter wore a fortune in diamonds on her head. Shit. I didn’t need three guesses to know who the tiara came from.

I holstered my gun. It wouldn’t do a damn thing against this group. “That’s nice, babycakes, but please, go to your room. The grown-ups need to talk.”

Blue eyes wide, Ellie climbed down from her chair and scampered down the hall, pink taffeta fluttering behind her. She’d learned not to talk back when Mommy used her growly voice.

I was definitely growling when I whirled toward Sam. “What the fuck makes you think you can flaunt my rules? No guests while babysitting!” My hand slashed in the direction of the other goddesses. “I don’t care who they are.”

My sister-in-law had the grace to look embarrassed. “You’re home early,” she muttered.

“And that makes it okay?” My voice rose to a shriek.

“Our deepest apologies, Ms. Stephens.” The woman in the black kimono rose and bowed. The red and white flowers on the fabric shivered if I looked at them to closely and became maggots wiggling through droplets of blood. “We didn’t know our presence was banned by you. We would not have come if we were aware of the restriction.”

I reined in my fury at my sister-in-law. It wouldn’t be healthy to offend her guests no matter how pissed I was.

I bowed in return, an equal tilt of my body. Grandpa Kensai had taught me enough Japanese culture to understand the significance of a bow. “Your presence in and of itself is not the problem, Lady Izanami. Nor do I fault you in this matter.” I glared at Sam. “The issue is Lady Samantha agreeing to my terms in return for visiting my daughter without supervision, and then breaking her word.”

Three of the seated goddesses turned to Sam with a collective, “Ooooooooo!”

The fourth rose to her feet as well. She wore a black t-shirt with blood red leather pants, her hair braided and tied on top of her head with a thong that matched her lower half. The arc of her nose and darker skin said Native American. Her ear plugs and nose ring indicated south of the U.S. border. Her piercing black eyes arrowed on Sam. “Is this true?” Pink flushed Sam’s cheeks. “I thought Ellie should get to know you guys, Miki.”

Miki. Mictecacihuatl. My stupid ex-sister-in-law brought the Aztec goddess of death into my home. From the pounding in my ears, my blood pressure had to be well over anything remotely in the healthy range.

“You definitely scrooched the pooch, baby girl.” Kali shook her head. Maybe if Sam didn’t listen to me, she’d listen to the Hindu goddess’s disapproving mom voice. “Folks like us can’t go back on our word. It can break things.” She leaned closer and fake-whispered, “Like the universe.”

“All right.” Morrigan slapped the table with her palms and stood. “Ladies, we’re outta here while somebody—” She also glared at Sam. “—kisses some ass if she ever wants to see her niece again.” She turned back to me. “Again, we’re sorry, Tiffany.”

The other goddesses followed Morrigan to the front door.

The blonde with the pale skin and ice blue eyes, who hadn’t said a word, was the last. She inclined her head in my direction. “God middag, Ms. Stephens.”

Something moved under her black broomstick-style skirt. Something I didn’t want to see, much less let my daughter see it. I forced myself to face her and inclined my head as well. “Good afternoon, Lady Hela.”

She glided out of the kitchen. Only when I heard the front door close did I whirl to face her.

“How could you, you fucking bitch?” Part of me was thankful I wasn’t screaming hysterically. “I didn’t ask a lot, except for you to obey the same rules as all the other babysitters.”

She raised her hands in a defensive gesture. “Kali asked what I was doing, and I texted her a picture of Ellie in her princess dress. Next thing I know, they’re all in the living room.”

“Oh my god, Sam! This isn’t a kegger!” So much for keeping my voice down. “You let five goddesses of DEATH play with my DAUGHTER!”

She stared at the chips in front of her. “I didn’t want to be alone in case Jake got here before you,” she mumbled.

My brain took a couple of seconds to translate her mumbles. “What?”

“I didn’t want to be alone with Jake, okay?” She looked up at me. “Things have been going pretty good with Duncan, and I…”

I pulled out one of the vacated chairs and sat down. “Is this about your marriage, or is this about my relationship with your ex-fiancé?”

She sucked in a deep breath. “Both.”

“Are you that pissed Jake moved in with me?”

“No.” She reached for a napkin next to the nearly empty box of Oreos and dabbed her eyes.

I would have to address the sweets issue, but one crisis at a time.

“I think you two are good for each other, and he adores Ellie,” she continued. “It’s…”

“It’s what?” I was trying very hard not to lose what little patience I’d regained.

“You guys are the family I couldn’t give him.”

Old rage boiled to the surface of my thoughts. “So, are you going to take him from me, too?”

“What?” She tried to look surprised, but I didn’t buy it.

“You heard me.” “I don’t want to argue about Max. Not today.” She covered her face with her hands.

“Then you shouldn’t have used the past as an excuse to break my rules,” I snapped. I pushed away from the table, jumped up and charged for the fridge. I needed to do something, anything, before I started blowing holes in my sister-in-law. Not that it would do any good.

I grabbed one of Jake’s orange-flavored beers and twisted off the cap. It was petty of me, but I didn’t offer her one. After two years, I still couldn’t forgive her for letting my husband, her own damn brother, die.

Even Grandpa Ares was on her side. Telling me she didn’t have a choice. That she had to obey the rules.

Was that the real reason I agreed to Jake moving in with Ellie and me? A little perverted payback since he was her ex-fiancé?

No, I told myself firmly. Jake was funny and sweet, and he could deal with the insanity of my family. Honestly, he was the first Normal guy I’d ever dated. Max and I…

I took a swig from the bottle. My husband and I never really dated. We went straight from sex to pregnancy to marriage. Hell, it was a wonder we lasted as a couple as long as we did.

Sam stood. “If you don’t want me around, I understand.” And I finally realized she wasn’t wearing her normal t-shirt and jeans. Instead, she was cloaked in a high-collared black coat straight out of the Matrix with matching slacks and boots.

Either the garb truly reflected her new duties, or Uncle Duncan’s lack of fashion sense was rubbing off on her. I slammed the fridge door shut and tossed the cap in the trash. “That’s not the point.” I jabbed a finger in the general direction of my front door. “Everyone else who was here apologized, except the one person who should have. You.” She stiffened. “I—”

The ringing of my cell phone cut her off. I held up an index finger to tell her to shut it. I expected Jake to call. Things on the set had been running behind for the last week and a half.

I pulled the phone from my jeans pocket, but it wasn’t his ID on my display. It was his mother’s. “Hey, Audra. What’s up?”

“T-t-tiffany, there’s been an accident.” She was crying. Audra Wong was not a crier.

My entire body went numb. “What hospital?”

“Cedar Sinai.”

“I’ll be there in twenty.” I thumbed off the phone. Please let him be okay. I can’t go through this again. Not for the third time.

“Mommy?” Ellie peered wide-eyed around the corner of the hall.

I forced a smile. At least, I think I did. I couldn’t feel anything. “Babycakes, I need you to go pack a bag real quick. You’re going to stay with Grandma Phil tonight.” My thumb was already punching the number. Except the phone and the beer bottle were sliding from my hands.

Sam caught them both. “Go do as your mom asked Ellie.” She set down the bottle on the table and guided me to the chair. A voice came through the speaker, and she raised it to her ear.

“No, Phil. It’s Sam. Can Ellie stay with you tonight?”

I made a half-hearted grab for my phone, but Sam danced out of reach.

“There was an accident at the movie set. Jake’s been taken to Cedars.” Pause. “No, we don’t know how bad it is yet.” Pause. “I’m taking her.”

That statement reminded me I was still pissed at Sam. “No, you’re not.”She glared at me. “You’re in no shape to drive.” Her attention returned to the phone conversation. “We’ll be at your door in five minutes.” She thumbed off the call.

“I hate teleporting,” I grumbled.

“You were right about what I did,” she said.

“Well, halle-fucking-lujah,” I muttered.

“I’m sorry for disobeying your rules. Let me make this up to you and help.”

I glared at her. “If you let him die, I will fucking stab you through the heart, bitch.”

She nodded. “Understood. Get your bag, and I’ll make sure Ellie has her toothbrush.” For the first time in years, she sounded like the old Sam.

And that scared me more than anything.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Resurrected - Chapter 2

While a good chunk of this novel wraps up Sam and Tiffany's story arcs, there's some other character threads that need to be finished. And then there's some returns as well...



The moaning of the damned never stopped on the shores of the Styx. If Ptolemy Antonius had one regret about the afterlife, it was the lack of his digital music player. That and a pair of earbuds could do so much to bring joy back to his life.

Or actually his death.

But then, the lack of comfort was the entire point of damnation, wasn’t it?

He perched on a boulder and watched the shades drift back and forth along the gravel-strewn banks. Some had been there so long they were nothing more than amorphous gray blobs. Most had gone insane millennia ago. Only a handful of souls had come to the dock since Hermes had deposited him here…

It could have been hours. Years. Centuries ago.

There wasn’t any way to know in the unrelenting grayness. No sun. No moon. No sleep. No waking. No eating. Nothing to mark the time.

And no way out. Not without a coin for Charon.

At first, he had been thankful it had been Hermes who collected his soul. If it had been Anubis, he would have been brought before Osiris and the forty judges, instead of being stranded on the shores of the Styx.

He would have been condemned for betraying his brother. His soul consumed by Ammut. His existence erased from reality for his sins. Even Hermes had stated he wasn’t sure which underworld was the worse punishment when he left Ptolemy here.

“Ptolemy, darling, why aren’t you hunting with Jubba, Alexander and the others?” Selene drifted closer. This time, his sister wore an ephemeral version of a Roman matron’s stolla and spoke Latin, which explained her question. Selene was reliving the past again.

“Too busy debating the merits of the Ars Amoratia.” He smiled.

She settled next to him on the boulder and clucked her tongue. “Which girl is it this time?”

“A Ptolemy doesn’t kiss and tell.” They’d have the very same conversation over two thousand years ago, and twice since Hermes brought her to the edge of the realm of Hades.

She’d been insane with fury when she arrived. What little he’d been able to glean from her was that her spawn, Duncan St. James, had tried to kill her lover before killing Selene herself and that two years had passed between Ptolemy’s death and his sister’s. He was a little surprised Caesar managed to hold St. James back for those two years. Or maybe he should be more surprised she evaded the Briton’s vengeance for that long. He’d told her more than once when they were both still alive that killing St. James’s Normal kin was unwise, but she took any rejection so personally.

Over time, Selene’s initial outrage sank into ancient memories as the mind-numbing drift along the Styx ate what little was left of her sanity.

“Come on. You can tell me.” Selene nudged his shoulder with hers. Or tried to. She didn’t seem to notice what passed for their bodies merged and parted, wisps of mist in the constant chill of the Underworld.

Grief as cold and gray as their surroundings filled him. Maybe her madness was a blessing. But how long would it be before he followed her? Before they both became as incoherent as the older shades drifting along the shore.

“Phillippa,” he lied.

Selene leaned back to examine him. “You can’t—”

He held up his hand to stop her usual lecture regarding the Amazon. “Like I could touch her even if I wanted her. She wields thunderbolts with the precision of Lord Zeus himself. The discussion was purely intellectual.” No one outside him and his siblings had known the truth about Phillippa at the time.

His sister’s ectoplasm morphed into something more recent. The suit she wore was from the middle of the twentieth century, her hair matching the style. “We need to kill her,” she whispered in English.

“How do you propose we do that?”

“We drink her blood while she sleeps.” Somehow, Selene’s dull ectoplasm managed to convey a maniacal gleam in her eyes. “If we don’t, she’ll burn us all.”

He would have sighed if he still could. This was a new take on Selene’s paranoia.

Before he think of an answer that wouldn’t set off her temper, her ectoplasm shifted again. This time, she wore jeans and a turtleneck sweater. “You’re in love with St. James’s brat!”

“What?” If he still had blood, it would have chilled in his veins. Had she guessed the truth, or was this part of her paranoid ramblings?

“You’re as bad as Alexander! Both of you let your dicks do all your thinking!”


“I’ll kill you for betraying me!” The edges of her ectoplasm blurred as her rage escalated. Her mouth opened, far wider and with far more teeth than her physical form had. She lunged for his throat only to pass through him. The rough gray blob, all that was left of sister in her mad fit, charged along the shore, shrieking incoherently.

“Well, that was an interesting performance.”

Ptolemy turned to find Lord Hermes floating a sword-length above the gravel. The wings of his sandals lowered him gently to the ground. He took the seat Selene had vacated.

“So how’s it going?” The Olympian looked distinctly uncomfortable.

A ripple of unease fluttered through Ptolemy. The gods were never uncomfortable around mortals, regardless of whether the mortal in question was Normal or supernatural. The dead were even less of a threat to them.

“May I help you, my Lord?” Hermes’s nearness made him acutely aware of his sister’s furious screeching along the banks of the Styx. Maybe there were worse things than going mad.

“I’m here to ask a favor.” The god twirled his caduceus in his hands. His two snakes hung onto the wooden staff literally for their dear lives. One glared at Hermes through slitted eyes, but she didn’t dare utter a word.

“While I am pleased and honored to assist you, my Lord, my skills are quite limited at the moment.” Ptolemy held up his gray misty hands.

The god stopped playing with his staff. His snakes looked relived, or at least Ptolemy thought they did. Hermes stared at him with an intense expression. “How would you like a second chance at life?”

The unease turned to full-blown panic. There was a reason the Mafia dons were referred to as “godfathers.” Like the Olympians, one simply didn’t say no. Not without severe repercussions. And saying yes often meant an even worse fate.

“What service must I perform in return for this…favor?”

Hermes’s face split into a wide grin. “I love a clever man.”

Ptolemy waited. Patience had been something he sorely lacked when he’d been alive.

And a hard-earned lesson on the shores of the Styx.

“You will need to acquire an object.”

Ptolemy waited and let idle thoughts drift through his mind. Was it summer or winter? On this side of the river, one never knew if the Queen of Hades was in residence.

“It’s a magickal object.”

Ptolemy waited. Another year could be passing on Earth. Had Tiffany gone to college and met a boy there? Maybe it was a good thing he had died. She was safe from his attraction to her. She had been coming into her own womanhood, oh, so beautiful, when Selene had shot him in the heart.

Finally, Hermes said, “You will deliver it to you by someone you know. Alexander Stanton.”

“Stanton?” He hated the enforcer with a passion. Stanton was blond, blue-eyed, and handsome with charm oozing from his every pore. He could attract any woman with a smile and a wink.

And worst of all, Tiffany adored him. They shared a passion for the idiotic sport of surfing. If one could call balancing on a wooden board among the ocean waves a sport.

“And how am I supposed to acquire this object of yours?” Ptolemy punched the boulder on which he perched. His fist passed into the rock. He yanked and gray ectoplasm rushed from the stone and reformed into his hand.

Hermes’s nostrils flared before he said, “You’ll have a body to use. The catch you’re looking for in our offer is that you’ll be living another man’s life.”

“Normal or supernatural?”

“Does it matter?”

Ptolemy waited some more.

Hermes sighed. “Normal, but he’s a part-time day enforcer with your old coven if that helps.”

The god’s lack of specificity worried Ptolemy even more. “Augustine Coven?”

“Um, it’s, um, no longer Augustine’s.” Hermes kicked at the gravel beneath his sandals.

“My brother’s dead?”

Hermes started twirling his staff again. “No. He’s very much alive.”

Ptolemy narrowed his eyes. “Then why isn’t he the coven master?”

The god finally met his gaze. “Because his wife found the cure to the V-virus.”

“Bebe found the cure?” If he had still been alive and actually had a body, he was sure it would have gone into shock. “How many years has it been since—”

“You died?” Hermes stopped spinning his staff. The snake that had been giving the god dirty looks stretch out and bit his thumb. “Ow! Stop that!”

“Then quit spinning us,” the snake hissed. Her partner nodded.

Hermes ignored the irritated reptiles, but he laid his staff aside. “It’s been almost nine years since your sister shot you.”

“But I’ll be living another man’s life?”



Hermes exhaled heavily. “Because the only way to return you to the land of the living is to put you in a vacated body.”

“A ghost can’t possess a body for long.”

“We would give you help to last long enough to accomplish your task.”

Ptolemy had to admit the idea was tempting. A short time to breathe again. Walk. Feel the sun on his face. Ghosts couldn’t last a week in a body. The gods wouldn’t break the rules of life and death. They may bend them, which meant he might have a few extra days before he died again.

Would it truly be worth it? Oh, Hades, he already knew his decision, but he needed more information.

Ptolemy snorted. “What’s the other catch?” He held up his left hand when Hermes opened his mouth. “Let me guess. I can’t tell my brother I’m back.”

Hermes waved his right hand nonchalantly. “Go right ahead. You may need his help.”

“With acquiring this object of yours?”

The smile Hermes gave Ptolemy renewed the chill of his ectoplasm. “No. With capturing a goddess.”