Monday, December 28, 2020

Last Call!

Need a post-Christmas pick-me-up? Got some holiday cash burning a whole in your pocket? Want a great collection of stories?

The sale ends at midnight tonight! The Good Cheer Holiday Bundle is still available!

Grab it now before it's too late!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Reminder of a Great Deal

Feeling grinchy with the current worldwide mess? Need something to brighten your festive spirit? The Good Cheer Holiday Bundle is still available!

Lots of good stories ranging from traditional romance and mystery to zombie and superhero shenanigans during the holiday season.

You can pay what you want, but for only $15 you can unlock the entire bundle!

If you're looking for a last minute gift for a reader you can't visit over the holidays, this is an awesome idea.

Or even better, buy one for yourself, too, and read the L. Frank Baum Santa stories (yes, the guy who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) to your kids or grandkids over Zoom, Google Chat, Facetime, or Skype. Or you can use a plain, old-fashioned phone.

Check out some new-to-you authors because most of you already know A Very Hero Christmas is awesome!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Moving on to 2021

The move to the new house is almost complete. We still have a couple of closets to clean out in the apartment.

Because of the move, I'm truly, absolutely behind on my writing and editing. This week will be a buckle down and get publishing stuff done week.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out a graceful way to publish in 2021 and still get the house in order. I had felt so much excitement for 2020, and the first two months were marvelous.

Deep down, I know the next three months will be scary bad with the virus, even though vaccines are being produced. We all just need to hang on. Keep to social distancing, wear your mask, and stay home as much as possible.

We'll make it.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Good Cheer Holiday Bundle!

I'm thrilled that my short novel A Very Hero Christmas was selected by Dean Wesley Smith to join the Good Cheer Holiday Bundle!
What is a Story Bundle? It's a group of e-books made available to the public at a special price. You decide how much you want to spend. If you pay between $5 and than $15.00, you get the first four books. If you pay $15.00 or more, you get all ten books.
And you can donate 10% of what you pay for the bundle to Able Gamers, a 501(c)3 charity that assists people with disabilities get the solutions they need to join in of the fun of video games.

Who are the writers involved? How about we start with the oldest gentleman, L. Frank Baum? Yeah, THE GUY WHO WROTE THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ!! Oh, and there's a bunch of award-winning and NYT Bestselling authors involved besides Frank and me.

What format are the e-books? They are available in both MOBI and EPUB. Plus, they are DRM-free, which means you can read them on your preferred device.

How long will this bundle be available? Until December 28th.

Why is this a value? 10 books at a minimum of $15.00 plus a couple of bucks for Able Gamers? That's a lot of light, fun holiday stories for less than $1.50 each.

So, check it out before the holiday crazies hit, and you forget!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Amazon Causes Problems Again!

All right. I admit it's not all Amazon's fault.

Here's a HUGE lesson for any of you newbies who haven't started publishing yet. SET UP A BUSINESS ACCOUNT ON AMAZON BEFORE YOU PUBLISH YOUR FIRST BOOK!

You see, my big mistake back in 2011 was not doing that. I published under my personal account. At the time, I didn't know any better, but then most of us indies were a little clueless. We didn't know where indie publishing was going. Amazon didn't have the option to have a business account either.
Oh, I finally set up an account under my publishing company's name. There's some advantages to a business account that regular customer accounts don't have and vice versa. Things like generating codes for giveaways instead of gifting books. However, the Prime account costs twice as much.

And everything continued just fine until two weeks ago when Amazon allowed indie publishers to control series' links.
Don't get me wrong! I love the fact that we have more control over a series order, add an overall description, and link related books together.

However, the changes can only be applied if all of the individual books of the series are on the same account.


Honestly, I've been moving books over for the last couple of years. Slowly.

The recent changes have forced me to accelerate my schedule. So if links aren't working (in the books or on the websites), it's because I haven't gotten them updated yet. But I swear I'm working on it.

And now you know how I'm spending my Thanksgiving vacation!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

New Release!

"Alone Is Not Lonely" will drop on Friday, November 13th for only $0.99! I've been dabbling in science fiction over the last year. I love reading s-f, and I finally had enough confidence to write it.
Both "Alone Is Not Lonely" and "A Place at the Table" (which will appear in Halloween Harvest next year) take place in the same universe, just centuries apart.

I hope y'all like it!

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

New Short Story Sold and the Fabulous Kickstarter That Will Publish It!

It's been a while since I've even sent a short story to an editor, but now that the contract has been signed, I can announce this.

Please check out the Kickstarter for WMG's Holiday Spectacular 2020! This is the follow-up to WMG's Holiday Spectacular 2019.
The difference this year? They've included two more holidays to the Spectacular's schedule: Valentine's Day and Halloween!

And if you're one of my long-time readers, you already know where my story landed. That's right. "A Place at the Table" will be in the Halloween Harvest collection.

This is an awesome way to have stories delivered to you daily via e-mail during your favorite holiday season, or all of the holidays if you choose. So many people loved last year's Spectacular, the Kickstarter funded in its first four hours!

But there's plenty of stretch goal prizes to go! So if you want some excellent reads during the cold, dark days of winter, donate to the Kickstarter now!

How do I know these are awesome stories? I've already read most of them. *grin*

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The October Status Report

 I tried to do the publish-something-every-month for 2020. It didn't work very well.

Part of it was due to the COVID-19 crisis. Part of it was due to a bunch of personal things. No, the cancer is not back, but I did end up in a West Virginia ER last week because of the stress from the bunch of personal things.

What does this all mean?

It means I'm going to take a couple of steps back and rethink my goals for 2021. I still plan to rewrite the Millersburg Magick series because it didn't meet the fun Scooby-Doo-esque feeling I wanted. I'd hoped to get this done over the summer, but I didn't succeed. I want to continue the Justice and 888-555-HERO series because they are so much fun. And I really would like to get the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series past the first couple of chapters I've written because I think they will be hilarious.

And right there is eleven novels.
So much for taking a step back. 

The publishing challenge did tell me my strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, the experiment was not a total failure. But it may mean some rearrangement of the 2021 release schedule.

2020 wasn't all bad. If I can stay out of the ER, I'll have a lovely new office to work in for 2021.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hero In Camera - Chapter 5

Here's your last unedited sample chapter of Hero In Camera. This post had to be scheduled a week and a half ago because at the moment this posts, I'm taking a family member to the hospital for a scheduled surgery. I'm not a big "thoughts and prayers" person, but if you could give a tiny wish for a successful surgery and good health to my cousin Suzan (yes, there are two of us), I would appreciate it.

Hero In Camera goes on sale tomorrow!


Harri punched in the number for Carol Inunza as soon as Susan closed the office door on her way out. The phone rang twice before the receptionist answered. “Inunza and Cervantes, how may I help you?”

“Good morning, Ngoc,” Harri said as she played with her pen. “This is Harri Winters. Is Carol in?”

“One moment, Ms. Winters.” Ngoc was nothing if not efficient.

The line clicked and Carol’s teasing voice blasted through the speaker. “I expected your call before the NSB’s, Harri.”

“I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a call from them yet.” She frowned. It was weird. Carol was listed as second chair on all the legal documents regarding Miss Purrception. Why did the NSB call her first?

“Don’t sweat it,” Carol said. “It’s probably because I was the last one to visit Miss Purrception at Mauvaises. If the NSB hasn’t called you yet, how’d you find out?”

“I got a nasty call from my ex-husband this morning.” Harri sighed. “Did you have any indication she planned something like this?”

“Probably about as much as you did. I brought up the fact she has a history of escaping custody with you at the beginning.”

“Like I haven’t gotten enough we-told-you-so’s from my partners and staff this morning. Shit.” Harri wanted to bang her head on her desk. “I really thought she was serious about turning a new leaf. This is going to break her family’s hearts.”

“I know it hurts putting your neck out like that,” Carol crooned. “But all you can do is chalk it up to lesson learned.”

“Did the NSB tell you who escaped with Miss Purrception?” Harri asked.

“Hard Knock, but those two are like peanut butter and jelly when it comes to jail breaks,” Carol said with a laugh.

“Is that all they told you?” Harri could feel something was wrong. Why would the NSB hold back information with Carol? Unless a Corvus ally was fishing for something.

“Harri, I’m too busy to play Twenty Questions and so are you.”

“Trubble and Black Death escaped with Purrception and Knock.”

There was silence at the other end of the line. Long enough, Harri said, “Carol, talk to me. What are you thinking?”

Carol muttered an obscenity. “I’m thinking Miss Purrception is in over her head, and we’re all in deep shit. Why the hell would she go off with that scumbag after everything he put her through?”

“She may not have had a choice in the matter,” Harri said. “What if Black Death threatened her?”

“With what?” Carol asked. “If he killed her inside the prison, there was no way he’d ever get free. He’d be sedated until the day of his execution.”

“We know we didn’t uncover all of Corvus.” Harri stopped tapping her pen. “If Trubble has been in contact with someone on the outside—”

“Threatening her family would be right up the bastard’s alley,” Carol finished. “Can you get them to safety? Do you need my help?”

“No, I can take care of it,” Harri murmured. “Thanks for your help, Carol.”

God knew Harri didn’t want to make this phone call but Rue Liberty needed to know what had happened. Harri also knew she probably should be doing this in person, but Kerry and Molly lived with their grandmother, and she couldn’t deal with the looks of disappointment on the young women’s faces. She had seen the same look in her own mirror every time Dad fell off the wagon.

Harri gulped some more cinnamon coffee before she dialed the home number for Rue Liberty.

“Good morning, Harri.” The retired superhero sounded as chipper as ever despite her advanced years.

“Hey, Rue. How’s everything going?”

“Just wonderful with your investment tips.” Rue chuckled. “Want to tell me the real reason for this phone call?”

“Honestly, no, I don’t,” Harri said. “But there’s something you should know. Monica escaped from prison last night. You may be getting a call from the NSB some time today.”

The silence on the phone carried on for so long Harri feared she’d given the old lady a heart attack. “Rue, are you okay?”

“I—” Rue cleared her throat. “I want to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.”

“I think we all wanted to believe Monica had turned the proverbial new leaf,” Harri murmured. “Are the girls at home?”

“Kerry’s at the Museum of Natural History with her girlfriend, and Molly’s just left. She needed to run an errand before she went to the Lechuza Building.” Of course, Molly was. Rey and Aisha hired Molly because they wanted another super to watch their baby, and Harri’s godson, Mitch for the four hours they were both at work.

Harri squeezed her eyes shut. She just needed to hide in her office until Molly went up to Aisha’s loft. No, that was a chicken shit way to deal with the problem, and it sure to hell wasn’t fair to Molly Reinhold, AKA the superhero Nix.

“I’ll tell Molly what happened when she arrives.” Harri hesitated. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin Kerry’s date. “Do you know when—”

“I’ll tell Kerry when she gets home.” Rue sighed. “Provided the NSB doesn’t pick her up before I can tell her.”

“I’m sorry to lay this on you—”

“Harri, you tried your best,” Rue said.

“Yeah, but obviously my best wasn’t good enough,” Harri replied bitterly.

“It’s worse when you’re Miss Purrception’s mother.” Rue’s laugh was equally bitter.

No sooner had Harri hung up the receiver when Patty buzzed her.

“I’m a little busy, Patty. Can you take a message?”

“Harri, Special Agent Wilbur Nesmith of the NSB at the door.” Patty’s voice shook. “And he says he has a search warrant.”

“Be right there.” Harri resisted the urge to throw her phone and gently set the receiver in its cradle. For a Tuesday, this was beginning to feel like the worst Monday on record.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Hero In Camera - Chapter 4

I'm racing to finish this book before I head to a neighboring state. COVID makes travel fraught, but when a family member needs a bit of assistance, one must respond. Plus, I have plenty of PPE from the emergency trip down to Texas.

Therefore, here's another unedited sample to indulge you. Only one more before the book drops!


Aisha sat at her desk and inhaled deeply in an attempt to compose herself. She hated to admit this to the others, but Miss Purrception’s actions felt like a very personal stab in the back. Especially after everything they went through together last year against Professor Paranoia in Japan. She’d backed Rey and Captain Takashi Takeda of Japan’s Superhuman Enforcement Bureau on releasing Miss Purrception because of her help. When Harri said Monica wanted to turn herself in, Aisha thought maybe Rey’s pep talk had gotten through to the supervillain.

The little light on the Line 1 button blinked at Aisha accusingly. She had been thoroughly deceived, not by Miss Purrception, but by her own wishful thinking. That couldn’t happen again. Not if she really wanted to continue as the Ghost Owl.

She released the lungful of air, picked up her receiver, and tapped the button on the phone set. “Good morning, Nella. I’m assuming you want an official statement concerning Miss Purrception’s escape.”

The change of dialogue threw off the Action 12! News producer from her stammering. “Uh, y-yes. Are things that bad, Aisha? You usually make me dance a little bit before giving me the sound bite.”

“Is that what you want? Me on camera for the statement?”

Nella chuckled. “You know I always want you on camera, girl! Do you have any idea how much our viewership goes up when you make an appearance? People in this city like you. In fact, I was hoping to have lunch with you this afternoon if you’re free.”

“Lunch?” Aisha could feel a hole about to open up beneath her feet. “May I ask why?”

“The station would like to offer you a job as an on-air legal commentator,” Nella said.

“What?” The word exploded from Aisha’s mouth.

“Come down to the station at eleven. We’ll film your statement about the Mauvaises escape for the noon news segment. Then we’ll discuss what the station would like to do.”

“What happened to Howard Dewey?” Aisha’s former boss had been the station’s on-air legal commentator since she had been in high school.

“His contract was up,” Nella said. “The corporate overlords want someone younger and more representative of the citizens of Canyon Pointe.”

“Uh-huh,” Aisha drawled. “What really happened?”

“The asshole got handsy with Essie.”

Rage surged through Aisha. Essie Morales, the evening co-anchor, was a sweet kid and damn good at her job. “Is Essie okay?”

“She’s fine. Nothing a swift kick in the sack couldn’t handle.” Nella chuckled.

“You know he’ll sue the shit out of the station for assault,” Aisha said.

“He threatened to.” Nella laughed some more. “Until we sent him a copy of the tape. Bob hadn’t turned off his camera and caught the whole damn incident. Anyway, you were the first lawyer I pitched to our station manager as a replacement, and Mark said yes.”

The silence dragged on for a second or two before Nella added, “The tab’s on the station for lunch, and I told them I’d have to take you someplace nice like Nolan’s.”

Aisha glanced at the little clock in the corner of her computer monitor screen. “You’re not giving me much time to prepare a statement.”

“We both know what you’re going to say, Aisha,” Nella chided. “Hell, I could write your press release for you if you want. But I have a second favor to ask.”

“I’m still not sure about the first favor.”

“Can you get the Ghost Owl to make a formal statement on behalf of the supers’ community about what they’re doing to find Miss Purrception?”

Aisha’s heart skipped a beat. Did Nella know the truth about Aisha and her alter ego? Had someone at the NSB leaked the information? Was the Corvus mole at the federal agency trying to cause more trouble for her and Rey after Trubble ended up in prison?

She swallowed hard. “I would have to call and ask. Can I ask why the Owl and not one of our other clients?”

“Because the Owl polled the highest in trust by our viewers,” Nella said. “He’s carrying a lot of leftover goodwill from his predecessor.”

“But why?” Aisha protested. “The first Ghost Owl was a vigilante.”

“And people think the new Owl is following in his daddy’s footsteps,” Nella said. “A chunk of them also think the new Owl got away with murdering Doctor Liquidation.”

“The Ghost Owl did not murder anyone,” Aisha growled. Is this what the public really thought of her? Tim had deliberately let stories foster about him as the original Ghost Owl, but he needed the bad ass reputation since he wasn’t a super.

“Hey, I believe you.” Nella sighed. “But the general public has a tendency to make up their own shit. In a way, it makes sense. The original Owl was on the little guys’ side on the north side without following the normal rules of superheroing. So, in their minds, most the citizenry would believe the new Owl plays fast and loose with the rules, too.”

“I can’t hide this information from the new Owl, Nella, without breaching my duty to a client.” With her agitation between Miss Purrception’s escape and the information on how the public looked at the Ghost Owl, Aisha’s butt left her chair. She quickly hooked her toes under the roller arms of her chair, but even the chair wobbled, threatening to float into the air with her.

“Do what you have to, but if he won’t do it, Sparx is our next choice,” Nella said.

“I may be a few minutes late to the station with all the phone calls I’ll need to make.” Aisha grabbed the lip of her desk to keep her chair’s wheels on the carpet. Just when she thought she could open the damn blinds in the morning again.

“No worries,” Nella said cheerfully. “See you when you get here.”

The line went dead, and Aisha slowly replaced the receiver in its cradle. Harri was going to go ballistic when she heard this news. Aisha took a long drink of her luke-warm peppermint mocha. It had cooled quite a bit more than she realized when she had been in Harri’s office.

The intercom buzzed. Aisha set her mug on Tim’s warmer, and pressed the button. “Yeah, Patty?”

“Blue Racer is on line two,” Patty said. “And just to warn you, he’s pissed as hell. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about, but I can guess.”

Well, Mother Defiant didn’t waste any time bitching to her boyfriend.

“Thanks, Patty. I’ll handle it.”

Aisha concentrated before she stood and closed her blinds. This wasn’t going to be a fun conversation, and she didn’t need any passersby witnesses her powers if she lost her temper. She carefully sat on her chair again, lifted the receiver, and pressed the blinking Line 2 button.

“Good morning, Blue Racer.”

“Franklin, why the hell aren’t you taking Mother Defiant on as a client?” the superhero shouted. “I personally vouched for you—”

“Stop right there,” Aisha snapped. “First, she has been neither declined nor accepted as a client. Harri literally finished the intake interview an hour ago. Second, I told you from the start none of us can discuss any representation of her with you. If we do decline her, we will tell the reasons so to her face. Not to you. Third, we been a little busy this morning with things that have nothing to do with her or you.”

“Sorry, I guess—” Air whistled through the phone’s ear piece. “I thought it would be a slam dunk with me as a character witness.”

“Racer, you should have told us you were seeing her,” Aisha said gently.

“Oh, she told you about that?”

“Yes,” Aisha continued. “It raises ethically concerns for us as a firm. There’s also the fact she automatically assumed Susan Kennedy would want her back as a client. Plus, she walked into our building with all kinds of malware on

her phone, including a bug from Corvus.”

“I-I thought everyone from Corvus was in prison,” Blue Race said.

“Not all of them,” Aisha said crisply. “What exactly did Mother Defiant say to you?”

“Just that she thought she really boffed the interview and Ms. Winters didn’t seem to like her.”

“You know how Harri is, Racer.” Aisha pinched her leg to keep from laughing at the absurdity of the situation. “She isn’t going to play the bullshit game, and if Mother Defiant came in here with a diva attitude, you know Harri would shut her down. She doesn’t even put up with crap from Ultramegaperson. Mother Defiant isn’t going to get a pass. Hell, I’m going to have to tell Harri about this conversation, and that’ll be a checkmark against Mother Defiant.”

Blue Racer sighed. “Okay, I get it. I’m sorry I blew up at you, Aisha.”

“Apology accepted.” Aisha relaxed a little in her chair. “Was there anything else you needed?”

“No,” he said meekly. “I’ll talk to you later.”

Aisha hung up, rested her forearms on her desk, and laid her head on top of them. Normal business things didn’t get to her, but today had been a huge exception. What she really wanted to do was start searching for Miss Purrception. Tim was creating a search algorithm to compare and contrast the four escapees, and hopefully analyze what their next step might be.

Instead, Aisha had more meetings to deal with as Miss Purrception’s attorney. And the first thing, she needed to do was inform her husband about the escape before he saw it on the news.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Hero In Camera - Chapter 3

Oops! I forgot to post the new chapter on Wednesday. Why? In a moment of fortuitousness and/or insanity (the jury's still out), we decided to buy a house.

DH and I had given up on looking. In our area of the country, reasonably priced housing goes in a flash. Plus, we have some specific requirements because we both work from home, and we have long before the COVID pandemic. We need separate offices, preferably on opposite sides of the house. As I've explained to several people, DH's customers don't need to hear me dictate a sex scene anymore than I want my recorder picking his voice explaining how to do a journal entry in the general ledger for the umpteenth time.

Well, we practically had a nearly perfect house fall in our laps, So, it's been fun trying to finish Hero In Camera while filling out all the paperwork and arrange things. I told the bank if they insist on taking the first-born, they needed to go to Texas themselves to retrieve him.

Anyway, enjoy this snippet! Hero In Camera will be out on October 15th!


Aisha’s declaration worried Harri more than a little bit. Even Miguel and Arthur glanced at her partner with concern on their faces. Harri cleared her throat. “Why don’t the rest of you get back to work? Aisha, Susan, and I need to discuss some partnership issues anyway.”

Susan groaned. “Can I please get another cup of tea before discuss your client intake meeting?”

“I need a mocha, too,” Aisha added.

“Well, if you’re all leaving Aisha’s office to get drinks, we will have this meeting in my office,” Harri said. “Where my coffee is still sitting on my handy-dandy coffee warmer.”

They had a decent amount of revenue coming in on Tim’s little device. The pre-orders for Christmas were already good when they’d advertised the coffee warmer in several business magazines as the latest must-have for busy executives. After a top-rated women’s talk show claimed it was great for busy moms, too, the pre-orders shot through the roof.

Everyone walked out of Aisha’s office. Tim glanced at Harri, but she ignored him, charged back to her own work space, and plopped in her chair. She took a sip of her own, still warm, coffee. She simply couldn’t deal with him and his former fuck buddy.

So many emotions mingled in Harri she couldn’t decide which one to focus on. Yeah, she was jealous of the supervillian because Miss Purrception was older than her and hot as fuck. On the other hand, Miss Purrception had been screwed over by her baby daddy Captain Mojave and her daughters had been taken by Trubble, which was the reason she turned to villainy to begin with. But the thing that pissed Harri off most was all the work she put in negotiating Miss Purrception’s reduced sentence and fighting the extradition attempts by other nations.

The cinnamon taste of her drink helped sooth her scattered feelings. Patty was right. A spoonful of syrup in black coffee made the morning a little brighter.

Susan strolled in with her steaming giant mug of tea. “Should we separate the Owls? They’re in the break room discussing plans on how to capture Miss Purrception.”

Harri rolled her eyes. “Trubble’s the one that concerns me. What the hell was Miss Purrception thinking? He won’t hesitate to kill her now that she’s got him and Black Death out of Mauvaises.”

“But why?” A crease appeared between Susan’s eyebrows as she sat on one of the visitor chairs.

“Why what?” Harri asked.

“Why escape now?” Susan set her mug on Harri’s desk. “Trubble and Black Death have been in prison for nearly a year. Trubble and Miss Purrception hate each other. What would make the two of them join forces? And why do escape now?”

Harri leaned back in her chair. Those were very good questions. Why the hell would Monica Reinhold even consider working with Trubble after he did everything to her? Harri met Susan’s gaze. Time for a confession.

“One of my worries when Miss Purrception surrendered was she planned to kill Trubble in prison.”

“And if she killed him inside the prison, she’d be lucky to get a life sentence with her extensive record,” Aisha growled while she closed the office door and stalked across Harri’s office with her cup of pixie barf. Even worse, Aisha was back to wearing her designer stilettos.

“Therefore, get Trubble out of the prison,” Susan continued. “Kill him somewhere else and dispose of the body.”

“And how’s she going to do that?” Harri asked. “Black Death is tagging along as Trubble’s bodyguard.”

“That’s what Hard Knock is for.” Aisha sat down in the other visitor chair. “He distracts Black Death. Miss Purrception takes care of Trubble.”

“That’s…” Harri stared out her window. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic had picked up along 6th Street over the past year. Rey had become a community leader in the Canyon Block neighborhood in ways Tim couldn’t in his grief.

Maybe she’d bought into the kid’s natural optimism. Part of her wanted to believe Miss Purrception was trying to change. Without her, Aisha wouldn’t have been able to save Rey last year. Professor Paranoia would have used Rey to kill Aisha and her unborn child.

Most of all, Harri wanted to believe for Rue Liberty’s sake. The retired superhero deserved to se her daughter become something other than a notorious supervillain. And Sourpuss and Nix needed their mother.

Harri turned back to her partners. “That’s a possibility. But what if something else is going on? Something bad enough Trubble and Monica would consider joining forces?”

“It’s a possibility—” Susan started to admit.

“Who cares!” Aisha’s voice rose, which wasn’t like her. “We should be thinking about the firm. We represented a supervillain who has escaped. Do you have a clue of what kind of PR nightmare it’s going to cause?”

“If we don’t figure out what’s going on and why, the lives of everyone in this building are danger,” Susan spat back.

“Do you want to quit?” Aisha’s eyes narrowed. “You knew what you were getting yourself into when we offered you a partnership.”

“Technically, you are my client, too,” Susan snapped. “I don’t want you going off half-cocked on a crusade to capture Miss Purrception when the real dangers are Trubble and Black Death. Or have you forgotten what happened at your wedding reception?”

Harri jumped to her feet and banged her fist on her desk. “Stop it! Both of you! It scares me when I’m the one being sane and reasonable and both of you are losing it.” She took a deep breath and released it while her parents were looking at her with their mouths hanging open.

“I’m sorry,” Susan said quietly. “You’re right.”

Aisha didn’t look half as embarrassed as Susan. Instead, she quietly said, “Fine. What do you suggest? We’ll be getting calls from reporters once this gets out.”

Harri relaxed and sat back down. “Tell Nella and whoever else calls we are cooperating fully with authorities, and how disappointed we are Miss Purrception choose this course of action. Susan, can you start making discreet calls to our other clients? See if they can shake any info from their street sources.”

Susan nodded.

“In the meantime, I’ll call Carol Inunza and see if she caught any hint of what Miss Purrception planned,” Harri said.

Susan cleared her throat. “Before we start dealing with the Miss Purrception mess, what did you say to Mother Defiant?”

“Only that I had to discuss taking her own with the entire partnership.” Harri made a face. “She was rather adamant about talking to you directly. She claimed she wanted to apologize.”

Susan folded her arms and looked at the floor for a moment before she raised her head with an evil grin. “Thanks for making the bitch sweat.”

“It was my pleasure.” Harri grinned back before she turned to Aisha. “If we take her on, she’s going to be a handful. Susan vastly undersold her bitchiness. And she’s currently dating Blue Racer.”

“Ouch.” Aisha winced. “If they break up, or worse, get hitched, that’s going to cause some major ethical issues. We already have enough of those on our collective plates.”

“No shit,” Susan muttered. “And I have no doubt she will use them against us.”

“What did she say about a change in branding?” Aisha asked.

“She was a little resistant to it,” Harri admitted. “She wanted to know if the suggestion was due to her faith.”

“I tried to talk her into rebranding two years ago,” Susan murmured. “I agree with Aisha though. Mother Defiant doesn’t get that people view her the same as pop singers who cavort nearly naked with religious imagery in their performances.”

“So, she really is that tone-deaf and not deliberately courting controversy?” Aisha asked.

“Yes,” Harri and Susan said at the same time.

Aisha looked over at Susan. “What if we give her that chance to apologize to you, but at the same time, we’re honest with her?”

“You mean get her to change her mind about us so it seems like she’s rejecting us?” Susan asked.

“If we coddle her now, she’s just going to keep pushing us,” Aisha said. “Tell up front, brutally if we have to, we’re not going to put up with any of her shit.”

“Are you suggesting a trial period?” Harri said.

“I wasn’t, but that’s not a bad idea.” Aisha looked at her thoughtfully.

“So a full partnership meeting with her?” Susan asked.

“It’s an excuse to write off a dinner at Nolan’s.” Harri grinned.

“All right,” Susan said. “But not until Wednesday. Make her sweat a couple of days.”

“I was actually thinking of calling her on Thursday,” Harri confessed.

The intercom buzzed and Harri pressed the appropriate button. “Yes?” Patty sighed. “Nella Lopez is on line one.”

“And that’s my cue.” Aisha stood. “I’ll call Blue Racer, too. See if I can’t get more of a feel for what we need to do to make any relationship with Mother Defiant work.”

“Aisha?” Harri called.

She turned around to face Harri. “Yeah?”

“Don’t take off without letting me know.”

“If I get a lead, no promises.” Aisha whirled and stomped out of Harri’s office, which meant she was concentrating to keep from floating through the reception area. Flying had become her default setting since she got her superpowers.

Susan waited a few seconds before she said softly, “That’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

“If we end the day with only one actual disaster and one potential disaster, we’re batting better than usual,” Harri answered.

Susan stood and pointed at her fancy computer watch. “Girl, it’s not even ten a.m. yet. Given this firm’s past performance, we’ll be hitting a thousand for disasters by happy hour.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Hero In Camera - Chapter 2

Aisha scribbled notes on her legal pad concerning the contract proposal for Black Falcon’s endorsement of a security system when there was a knock on her office door.

“Come in!”

The door opened, and Patty poked her head around the corner. “FBI red alert.”

“Why the hell is Eddie calling her?” Aisha frowned. She handled matters between their clients and the Canyon Pointe FBI office because Sarah had some weird obsession Harri was trying to get Eddie back. Hah! Like that was going to happen when Harri had an ex-superhero warming her bed.

Arthur Drallhickey’s head appeared beside Patty’s. “Because there was a mass breakout at Mauvaises Prison before dawn this morning, including Miss Purrception.”

“What?” Aisha tried to wrap her head around their IT manager’s words. She couldn’t breathe. She and her husband Rey had gone to bat for the supervillain when she claimed she wanted to reform. Hell, they owed her after she helped them take down Professor Paranoia in Japan last year.

And pissed didn’t even describe what Harri would be once she heard—

A screech of rage came from the direction of Harri’s office. Patty and Arthur jumped into Aisha’s office and closed the door.

“Has this reached any of the news outlets yet?” Aisha said.

Both Patty and Arthur shook their head.

“How did you—”

Aisha’s office door opened again. Susan Kennedy, their third partner, and Miguel Esperanza, their maintenance man, slipped inside. Susan closed the door and locked it behind them.

“Please tell us Mother Defiant pissed her off,” Susan begged. “Or Tim did something stupid.”

Aisha shook her head. Besides, if Harri had a fight with her current boyfriend, they’d be on the fifth floor having loud, noisy makeup sex. Aisha had managed to snag a few boxes of the earplugs their client Nix endorsed for herself and Rey. She prayed little Mitch’s powers didn’t develop before she had to explain what Aunt Harri and Uncle Tim were doing.

Miguel stared at the ceiling. “Madre de Dios.”

Aisha sucked in a deep breath, eyed Patty and Arthur, and tried again. “How’d you two find out about the prison break?”

“When Eddie called and asked for Harri instead of you, I knew something was wrong,” Patty said.

“Patty told me, so I took a quick peek in the FBI computers—” Arthur started.

Susan jammed her index fingers in her ears and started yelling, “La-la-la-la-la-la-la!”

“Cut it out!” Aisha snapped. “Your fingers aren’t any cleaner than anyone else’s at this firm. Or do I need to bring up your little gift to Harper?” Both Susan and Aisha had contributed money for a fresh start to Doctor Liquidation’s former minion. The girl had a rough life before the supervillain rescued from the streets.

Susan withdrew her fingers from her ears. “Harper may have been a minion, but she was never formally charged with any crime.”

“But she did confess to the burglary at the San Francisco Federal Reserve.” Aisha waved her hand. “How is that any different than what Arthur does?”

Susan held up her hands in surrender. “All right. Fine. You’re right.” She turned to Arthur. “I apologize.”

“Thank you.” Arthur inclined his head to her before he turned back to Aisha. “This gets worse. Black Death and Hard Knock escaped with them.”

Aisha sat back in her chair. Her pencil shattered in her grip. This was why she had to give up ballpoint pens for every day work. Superstrength and anger resulted in two of her suits getting ruined by ink going everywhere.

“Any leads?” she asked coolly.

Arthur shook his head. “That’s why Eddie is calling Harri.” He and Patty exchanged nervous glances. Cade Wilson hadn’t been straight with Patty about his super status as Black Death. When he broke up with her, she hadn’t told him she was pregnant. By the time Cade learned about his daughter Grace, Patty and Arthur were living together. Cade hadn’t taken the news his ex was dating a former supervillain well, which was ironic considering he was Corvus’s top wetworks agent.

“Patty! Aisha! Where the hell is everybody?”

From their winces, everyone in her office could hear Harri without the need of superhearing.

Aisha sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”

Susan was closest to the closed office door. She opened it and yelled, “In here, Harri!”

The stomping got closer until Harri appeared in the doorway. Her gaze traveled from person to person, leaving Arthur quaking in his shoes, until it rested on Aisha.

“What the hell is going on in here?” she snapped.

“Our staff is hiding from you because they know how you get when you’ve been speaking with your ex-husband,” Aisha bit back.

Harri closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before she released the air. “I’m not angry at Eddie. Miss Purrception escaped from Mauvaises Prison.” A few heartbeats passed before she said, “Isn’t somebody going to tell me I-told-you-so?”

“I told you so.” Tim appeared in the doorway behind Harri. “What part of ‘Please don’t represent my former—’” His face turned red as he struggled to find a semi-polite term for the supervillain with whom he used to have sex.

“Feline fling?” Aisha offered.

“Boink buddy?” Patty suggested.

“Supervillain with benefits?” Susan chimed in.

“Party puta,” Miguel declared with a disgusted tone. “The furry skeleton in the closet.” Harri crossed her arms and glared at Tim.

He looked at Arthur. “Don’t you have an insult to fling?”

Arthur lifted his chin, which was nearly as pointy as his nose. “I may be a former supervillain myself, but I am not stupid enough to get in the middle of an argument between you and Harri.”

“Arthur’s right.” Aisha leaned her elbows on her desk. “This bickering isn’t helping the situation. Did Eddie give you anymore information than she escaped with Trubble, Black Death, and Hard Knock?”

Harri shot her a nasty look. “Were you eavesdropping on my phone call?”

“I didn’t have to,” Aisha said calmly. “Arthur and Tim have search programs running for any information regarding known Corvus operatives is an effort to trace the remaining members. Arthur was already exiting his office to let us know about the escape when Patty transferred Eddie’s call to you. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”

“Oh.” All the ire faded from Harri’s expression to be replaced by guilt. “God, I was so stupid to believe she really wanted to rebuild her relationship with her mother and daughters.”

“You’re not the only one she fooled,” Aisha growled. “I thought she’d changed when she helped Ray, Steve, and me in Japan. I never would have agreed to represent her otherwise.”

“I think you two might be jumping to conclusions.” Susan stared thoughtfully at one of the prints on Aisha’s walls.

“What makes you say that?” Harri demanded.

“Two reasons.” Susan turned to face them. “First, turning herself in was the only way to get close to Trubble. She still blames him for losing custody of her daughters, but she’s not stupid enough to kill him on the prison grounds if what she’s really after is revenge.

“Second, what if Black Death threatened her or Hard Knock? From her dossier in the National Superhero Bureau database, she and Knock are pretty tight. Every time she’s escaped, she’s taken him with her. They part ways after the escape. She’s only ever double-crossed people who’ve either screwed her over or planned to. Whatever their real relationship, she does care about what happens to Knock.”

“So, it’s a question of which game she’s really playing.” Miguel scratched his beard.

“Miss Purrfection still broke her word to us,” Aisha growled. “And I want her head on a platter.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

New Release - Murder Most Fowl!

Murder Most Fowl is officially out in the wilds!

I had a lot of fun writing this story, and I really hope you enjoy it. Plus, it's only 99-cents!

So what's it about? A murder inquiry takes an odd twist over the possession of a prize rooster. Yep, a rooster

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Hero In Camera - Chapter 1

I'm finally getting caught up with writing and editing, so it's time to start posting sample chapters again. Just remember these are not edited yet.


Harri Winters smiled across her office desk at Mother Defiant, who sat on one of Harri’s visitor chairs. The superhero’s white coif, veil and wimple were at odds with her skintight black unitard and shiny black boots. Everything happened exactly as Winters and Franklin’s newest partner Susan Kennedy had predicted a little over a year ago.

“I don’t understand why I can’t simply talk to Susan,” Mother Defiant said haughtily.

“Because I’m the senior partner.” Harri kept the smile plastered on her face though she really wanted to leap over her desk and smack the attitude from the superhero’s pretty face. “I do the intake interviews, but the entire partnership has a vote on whether to accept a new client.”

“But I’m not a new client!” Mother Defiant protested.

“You are to this firm.” Harri shrugged. “And frankly, we’ll be taking a very serious look at you. Especially after you dumped Susan for Dewey and Cheatham.”

Mother Defiant’s cheeks flushed bright pink. At least, she had the grace to be embarrassed. When she could finally meet Harri’s eyes again, she said, “I should have known they were only using me. The reason I want to speak with Susan is I owe her a very big apology.”

At the knock on Harri’s office door, she yelled, “Come in.”

Tim Canyon sauntered in with Mother Defiant’s cell phone in his hand. “I’ve cleaned off the spyware and added extra protection. No one will be tracking you anymore.”

“Tracking me?” Mother Defiant looked appalled.

“Was it the source of Susan’s infection last year?” Harri asked.

“Definitely.” Tim held out the phone to Mother Defiant. “You’re clean now, but you might want to inform any superheroes you’ve come in contact with over the last year. I’ll clean up their devices free of charge.”

“What?” Mother Defiant looked wildly at Harri and Tim, totally flabbergasted. “Who?”

“Corvus used you to get a bug into our office last year,” Harri said.

“I wasn’t a part of that crap!” Mother Defiant protested. “Not to mention they’re all in jail now.” Her eyes widened as she put two and two together. “Dewey and Cheatham were part of Corvus?”

“We don’t know anything for sure at this point,” Harri said as evenly as she could. While the Winters & Franklin staff suspected a link between the rival law firm and the out-of-control black ops group, the last thing Harri needed was a slander lawsuit against her fledgling business.

“If you need anything else, buzz me.” Tim winked at Harri before he sauntered out of her office, closing the door behind him.

“I still can’t believe your head of security is Tim Canyon.”

Harri smirked at the superhero’s comment. “He was acquitted during his murder trial, and the Ghost Owl exposing Corvus proved Seismic Shift killed Tim’s wife and son.”

Mother Defiant sagged in her chair. “Is that why I can’t talk to Susan directly? She thinks I set her up? That I was part of the Corvus conspiracy?”

Damn. Harri hated even thinking about those assholes. But she would be naïve to believe the FBI sweep captured all of Corvus’s allies. While she wanted to give Mother Defiant the benefit of the doubt, Harri couldn’t risk the lives of everyone she loved.

“As I said, the entire partnership will discuss whether or not to take you on as a client,” Harri said firmly. “My question is why do you want a firm outside of Hermanville.”

Mother Defiant took a deep breath. “I’ve been dating Blue Racer. Once Dewy and Cheatham charged me for every little thing, I barely have enough from my licensing contracts to live on, and I’m tired of ramen noodles every night for supper. Blue said he was super happy with what your firm did for him, and when I found out my old attorney worked here, I decided to change representation.”

Harri nodded. “All right. I’ll start calling your references this afternoon. Assuming everyone gets back to me right away, you should hear from me in two days.”

“Thank you for considering me as a client.” Mother Defiant’s smile was weak. She obviously figured this was a lost cause, but Harri still planned to follow through. Even if she did want to inflict a little payback for how Mother Defiant treated her firm’s newest partner.

They both rose from their chairs, and Harri escorted Mother Defiant to the front doors.

After the final good-bye with the superhero and she left, Harri walked back into the reception area, the original foyer of the Lechuza Building. She was still impressed how good their building manager Miguel Esperanza made the original Art Deco design look when his team renovated the place.

As she passed the reception desk, their assistant Patty Ames winced and put a call on hold. “Harri, your ex-husband in on line 1.”

Now, why the hell was Eddie calling her? The new Mrs. Lewis had thrown a major hissy fit about him talking to Harri. It didn’t matter that things were long over between them, or how much Eddie adored Sarah and their two kids. She was one insecure woman. Therefore, if Eddie was calling, it was business-related.

“Thanks, Patty.”

Harri strode into her office and sat down to compose herself before she picked up the receiver on her phone set and jabbed the button next to the blinking light. “Hey, Eddie! Does Sarah know you’re off the leash?”

So much for any composure.

“Not funny, Harri,” he snapped. “This is business.” Of course.

“And what can I do for Canyon Pointe’s FBI office today?” she teased as she leaned back in her chair.

“Have you spoken to Miss Purrception lately?” Eddie said.

“Not since last month,” Harri answered. “We’re still fighting the extraditions to France and Brazil. Why?”

“Are you sure?” Eddie sounded more tense than usually.

“Eddie, out of all our marital problems, I’ve never out-and-out lied to you,” Harri said. “Either spit out why you called, or hang up.”

“Miss Purrception escaped from Mauvaises Prison last night.”

“What!” Harri bolted upright.

“It gets better,” Eddie added. “Byron Trubble escaped with her.”

Harri’s heart lodged in her throat. Retired general Byron S. Trubble. Former head of the secret black ops organization known as Corvus.

And the one person who wanted Harri dead more than any other supervillain in the world.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020

I'm Still Here!

I know I've been quiet lately. I wish I could say that after dealing with the fiasco of the launch of A Twist of Love, I was taking some time off. That is definitely NOT the case.

I haven't put out the paperbacks for any of my releases that were written this year. The Seasons of Magick Anthology doesn't count because it was finished and uploaded back in 2019. So I've been proofing a bunch of novels to get them out because there are people who prefer paper copies.

In the meantime, Genius Kid left his car with us while he went through basic and advanced army training. He was supposed to have leave between the advanced training and his next post to come home and pick up his car. COVID-19 blew part of that plan to smithereens. The army isn't letting anyone leave a base except for approved travel.

Now, approved travel includes being able to drive your personal vehicle from Base A to Base B, but what happens if you don't have your personal vehicle?

Darling Husband looked into a bunch of options. Most were going to cost the same. All but one required GK to leave the base, which left us with only one option.

Yep, driving the car down ourselves.

So during DH's driving stints, I proofread my formatted paperbacks. We stayed as safe as we could with masks, disposable gloves, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Now, we're quarantined at home per our state's regulations for fourteen days.

Which give me plenty of time to proofread my novels.

The next Justice Thalia story Murder Most Fowl is uploaded and ready across all retailers and will drop September 15th.

I'll start posting chapter for the upcoming 888-555-HERO volume, Hero In Camera, next week.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2020


A Twist of Love is officially live!

Here's the new link on Amazon!

I'll be spending the rest of the day updating links in various places. So take care, stay safe, and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Twist of Love and Suzan's Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

By now, most of you are aware of the cancellation of A Twist of Love. Except it's not really cancelled, just the original Amazon pre-order was cancelled.

A little bit of background first. Amazon requires us to have the final book file uploaded four days before the release date. Then the record is locked until release day. That usually isn't a problem, except...

I freely admit I had difficulty writing the finale for this novel. But I pushed through and finished it. I uploaded the file with fifteen minutes to spare, pressed "PUBLISH" and breathed a sigh of relief.

And that's where things went wonky. I don't know if it was a software problem, my ISP, my own computer acting up, or the thunderstorms that had just crossed the Indiana border causing a power surge. But the screen started flashing like it was caught in a programming loop.

That's when my panic attack started. By the time I got it cleared, it was past the deadline, and the record was locked.

However, the status said "PUBLISHING" so I crossed my fingers.

Tuesday morning, I opened my e-mail. At the very top was the notice from Amazon that the pre-order for A Twist of Love was cancelled for lack of a file.

I didn't want to say anything to you all while I dealt with Amazon and devised a definite plan for going forward. On the plus side, I wasn't punished with the removal of all my other pre-orders (which is usually what happens). On the minus side, the record for A Twist of Love is considered dead and they cannot restore it.

So, here's what's going to happen:

1) I will take Wednesday and Thursday to double-check the file.

2) I will upload A Twist of Love Thursday night under a new ASIN.

3) Amazon can take anywhere from two hours to three days to actually have the book ready to buy. So if you see the landing page, it doesn't mean the books available yet.

4) I'll post here to let y'all know I've gotten the official notice from Amazon the book is live.

To everyone who pre-ordered A Twist of Love, I sincerely apologize for the brouhaha.

For those of you who've pre-ordered Murder Most Fowl? The final file was uploaded when I uploaded Snowfall, so you folks are good to go!

And I will do my Twelve-blessed best not to wait until the last minute ever again!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Some Questions for Readers

I'm currently planning out the 2021 schedule. Don't worry. There are definitely Justice and 888-555-HERO novels coming. I'll re-release the Millersburg Magic Mysteries once I rip all my COVID depression out. Elaina will be starting on the covers for the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series next month. And I have a funky, funny  cross-universe tale coming for next Christmas.

(Blame Darling Husband for that last one. He asked what would happen if Sam and Anthea ever met. Never ask a writer "What if....")

What would you like to see more of for 2021 and 2022?

- Individual Short Stories?
- Short Story Collections?
- Screw the Shorts, I want Novels!
- Single Titles?
- More Justice Thalia?
- A HERO spin-off? If so, who?
- A totally new series?
- Occasional Freebies to download?
- What about collector's items like t-shirts or a limited edition Captain Justice comic?
- Why the hell aren't you on [favorite social media]?

These are the things running through my head as I enter the downward slide of 2020. As I used to tell clients, nothing's impossible. It's a question of time and money.

I know there's a few of you who check the Release and Series pages on a regular basis, so hit me with your thoughts in the comment section.

In fact, do it now before I turn into the crochety old lady who yells, "Get off my lawn!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A Twist of Love - Chapter 6

This will be the last chapter I post for A Twist of Love. I really need to get the editing done!


Thankfully, the message regarding tonight’s emergency convocation went out before Lady Katarina’s unplanned and unannounced arrival at the Temple of Balance. Her visit resulted in no work being done because every single priestess, warden, and staff member, including our underage squires, doted over Lord Kam.

Well, except me and the three wardens on guard duty. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the excuse of watching the Temple walls and entrances. Therefore, while everyone else ooo’d and ahh’d over the infant noble, Katarina dragged me to my office with the words, “We must talk.”

The last thing I needed right now was some idiotic problem with the nobility.

“What in the world is going on?” I asked. When she took a seat on one of the visitor’s chairs, I circled my desk and dropped into my own chair. “Is there an issue with Duchess Nadine?”

“Don’t play coy with me, Anthea.” Katarina leaned forward, a scowl accenting her bright pink visage. “I heard through the fishwives Gerd was seen in Orrin.”

So much for keeping that news quiet. If Katarina knew, then everyone else in Orrin had already heard about the incident at Love. Duke Marco was adamant about keeping his wife in the dark so as not upset her when her focus should be on their child.

However, Katarina and I shared an odd bond. Both of our mothers were priestesses of Love, and we were both products of the Spring Rituals. Which was why when she suspected her husband was in one of his protective moods, she came straight to me. I simply didn’t have the heart to lie to her.

I groaned and sagged in my chair. “Tell me what you know so I’m not repeating myself.”

Katarina repeated enough of a chunk of what happened at Love this morning that I suspected it was one of the sisters who’d passed the information. The question of whether it was directly or through pillow talk with Lady Alessa didn’t matter. But what the duke’s wife added to her tale aroused my interest.

“Do you know Alo, the innkeeper of the Green Lady?” Katarina asked.

“We’ve met a couple of time since I was assigned to Orrin.” That was an understatement of the generation.

“His daughter Chumana claims she saw a woman matching Gerd’s description try to access the tunnel system,” Katarina stated.

“And who is the source for this tale?” I said, my skepticism more than evident.

“Chumana herself.” Katarina slapped the surface of my desk with her palm. “I spoke with her during the midday meal. I cocked my head and grinned. “Marco let you off the ducal estate?”

“My old guild master at the Veterinarians Guild sent a message asking for assistance healing a cow herd suffering from udder infections.” She shrugged. “My dear husband could not deny assistance to one of his people.”

“Not without causing more hurt feelings.” I laughed at the fight I was sure the noble couple had before Katarina probably threatened his manhood. “I’m glad you’re using your healing skills for the good of our cattle population.”

“You’ll be glad when you’re plowing through a steak at my dining table.” She smiled briefly at her rejoinder before her visage turned grim once again. “Seriously though, Anthea. You do need to question Chumana under truthspell. She may be able to give you more details. Something that will lead you to Gerd. She’s destroyed enough lives in Orrin.”

“A question for you first, m’lady.” I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my desk. “Why were you at the Green Lady?” “I used to take an occasional meal there with my mother,” she said wistfully. “Mother would disguise herself as a man, just to get away from the Temple once in a while. I was feeling a bit nostalgic after helping my old guild master.”

My heart sank. For Katarina’s mother to sneak away for a little peace and quiet said how truly bad things were underneath Gerd’s management. And that was long before the demons came to Orrin. And I could understand Katarina wanting to relive one of her few happy memories.

“Very well then.” I nodded. “Thank you for the information. I will follow up on it.”

“Don’t placate me, Chief Justice,” Katarina said as she rose. “I grew up at Love. Gerd’s intent was to kill High Sister Dragonfly this morning. If she finds a way into Balance, she slit your throat and enjoy every drop of blood draining from your body.”

“I’m not placating you, m’lady.” I pushed to my feet. “And I’m under no illusion she would kill me immediately. She’ll torture me because she can no longer do so to her parents, and she blames us all for her misfortunes.”

Katarina made an unladylike snort. “She had everything a person could possibly want. Wealth, power, status. None of it was enough, and that lies solely on her. Not you. Not your grandparents.”

I shook my head. “The problem is she doesn’t care how many people get in her way on her quest for retribution.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Next "I Need Something to Cope" Sale!

From now until August 31st, A Question of Balance (Justice #1) is on sale for $0.99. Start the Justice series now before A Twist of Love (Book #5) is released in a couple of weeks!

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Twist of Love - Chapter 5

First of all, I want to thank everyone who picked up a copy of Snowfall last week. Given the number of preorders for Murder Most Fowl, I have to assume you guys enjoyed it.😁

Here's the next chapter in Anthea's  next tale!


Gina returned from her errand while I nibbled on the unleavened bread and sipped the milk in Dragonfly’s sitting room. High Brother Jax of Wildling and High Brother Talbert of Thief accompanied her. Both priests’ expressions were as grim as Gina’s.

Luc groaned. “How many did we lose?”

“The two wardens and the pair of peacekeepers at the Duke’s entrance,” Gina reported. “I’ve informed the magistrate, who in turn will inform Duke Marco. Magistrate DiCook has requested a meeting as soon as you are done with High Brother Xander and the Healers Guild.”

“Damn, we are too predictable,” I muttered.

“Sister Farrah and Sister Cedar Grove along with our chief wardens are leading the search for Gerd,” Jax said.

“High Brother Han and the magistrate are doubling the guards at all the exits,” Talbert added.

“How did Gerd overcome all four guards?” Xander said.

“Demon magick,” Jax spat.

The unleavened bread and milk churned in my stomach. For a moment, I feared I would ruin Dragonfly’s carpets. She began rubbing my back while I struggled to get my emotions in check. Now, I understood Luc’s odd comment. I was too close to this situation. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Yet, I was the perfect bait.

“She planned to use that grimoire herself.” I looked at Luc.

His skin turned a brilliant pink. He began cursing. In Issuran. In Cantan. Even a few words of Diné and Comanche we’d learned during the siege of Tandor. Once he ran out of breath, Talbert asked, “Has the grimoire been destroyed?”

I inhaled to answer and paused. The Reverend Mother and Yanaba said it had been destroyed, but what if it hadn’t been? What if someone pulled the same trick I had by substituting a demon-contaminated tome?

“I don’t know for sure,” I admitted.

This time, Dragonfly cursed fluently in several languages, including a few I didn’t recognize. She finished with, “Has your Reverend Mother become completely daft in her age!”

I described my actions to fool the renegades who had abducted Luc last winter. “It’s entirely possible the Reverend Mother thought she had destroyed the grimoire.”

Talbert rubbed his chin as he considered my words. “And whoever made the exchange would still be at the home Temple to aid Gerd in her escape.” He shook his head. “This doesn’t bode well at all.”

“In other words, I need to call a convocation,” I muttered. “I really miss being on a circuit. Being a city seat has become a pain in my buttocks.” No one laughed at my sarcastic comment. Not even Luc.

* * *

Technically, I had broken my fast at Love with the unleavened bread and sweetened milk. It did eventually settle my stomach as Claudia had promised. However, it wasn’t the heartier meal Deborah usually served me. My stomach growled obnoxiously through the healers’ examination of Gregorios’s corpse.

To the point, Master Healer Bly asked if I needed something to settle my digestive system.

The healers’ examination of Gregorios’s body provided no more information. It merely showed Gerd’s knife penetrated the head of household’s lung. The pain and inability to take a full breath stunned Gregorios, allowing Gerd to slit his throat which was the killing strike. And then there was the cracked skull where she stomped on Gregorios’s head. Their murder was so simple, so straight forward.

And so unlike Gerd’s normal style.

Which was exactly what Magistrate DiCook said when we met at the Temple of Light.

By then, it was First Afternoon. Thank the Twelve, Luc had inherited High Brother Kam’s chef. The man had adapted to Luc’s simpler tastes instead of producing the delicacies my maternal grandfather preferred. But Light’s chef still had a way with herbs and spices that made even a simple soup taste like a meal fit for the Twelve Themselves.

The magistrate wasn’t one to turn down an offer of hospitality from either Light or Balance. DiCook feared offending his wife by honestly telling how bad her kitchen skills were, but as Deborah, my own Temple cook, pointed out, Madame DiCook’s talents would not improve if he wasn’t truthful.

Once our clergy, chief wardens, and the magistrate gathered in the high brother’s dining room and food had been served, Brother Jeremy rose and cast wards so we could have a private conversation.

DiCook turned to me as Jeremy resumed his seat. “Speaking of which, why on earth are you putting so much responsibility on Warden Gina’s shoulders? She should have a promotion for all the extra work she’s doing.”

“She’s been offered a chief warden position. Three times.” I held up the requisite number of fingers. “She turned down Dragonfly. Yanaba and Elizabeth both believe if they stay at my Temple long enough, they will seduced Gina into accepting an offer when they are assigned a seat.”

“The queen isn’t thinking of rebuilding Tandor, is she?” DiCook looked aghast.

“She can’t,” Luc said around a mouthful of yeast roll and butter. “Not without killing anyone who steps inside the walls. According to the ancient histories, Death’s final defense spells render a space uninhabitable for a thousand generations.”

“And?” DiCook prompted.

“Your ancestors were from the isles of Britannia.” Luc shrugged. “If you want to put the spells to the test, be my guest.”

“Last that the Reverend Mother said was the queen is considering moving the citizens of Tandor to the Anacapa Islands,” Elizabeth said before DiCook could spit out an impolite rejoinder. “If she does, Yanaba and I will be assigned there, and a new junior justice will be assigned to Orrin.”

“Won’t they be subject to pirate attacks?” Luc’s chief warden Nicholas asked.

“Not if Duchess Nadine succeeds in her efforts to build solids fortresses on all the island,” Jeremy said. “She’s already approached several foreign ambassadors about trade agreements. If they stop at one of the island wharves, it would lessen their travel a half day each way.”

I sipped my wine to keep from laughing. There was no doubt he’d gotten that information through Sister Shi Hua from the way her skin shifted from orange to red.

Brother Garbhan, Luc’s newest priest at Light, whistled. “Does Duke Marco know about this?”

“Yes, he does.” I set my goblet down. “Lady Alessa has been assisting Duchess Nadine with his blessing.”

“And acting as a chaperone for the poor widow?” DiCook raised his right eyebrow.

I snorted. “Some of Marco’s idiot cousins foolishly think the duchess has more than her title. I don’t blame her for wanting a bodyguard.”

“And we are deliberately avoiding the real subject of this meeting.” Yanaba unerringly spooned the mixture of berries, milk, and sweet bread from her bowl to her mouth. The poor justice was keeping down food now, but only certain things. She avoided most of the Cantan dishes Luc’s chef prepared, but he always made her something special that wouldn’t upset her delicate stomach.

“You all know Gerd, the former high sister of Love, entered the Temple in the predawn hour and murdered Love’s head of household Gregorios,” Luc began.

“Are we sure it was Gerd?” Yanaba asked.

Elizabeth frowned. “Are you saying Anthea performed the rewind incorrectly?”

“No.” Yanaba set her spoon in her bowl. “A rewind only allows us to replay events as they happened within that space. What if it were a skinwalker or a demon wearing Gerd? It would explain her unusual behavior.”

Luc and I exchanged looks. We were both slipping in objectiveness.

“Or Gerd’s change in behavior could be the result of having nothing to lose,” Nicholas murmured. “She has a death sentence over her head regardless of what she does now.”

“Yanaba may be right.” I pushed my plate back, no longer having an appetite for the fresh roasted fish. “Demon magic was used to kill the guards at the duke’s entrance to the tunnel system.”

“Maybe it would be best to bring down the three remaining exits,” Little Bear said. “This isn’t the first time the damn renegades and demons have used them against us.”

“We’ve already doubled the people watching the tunnels, including adding a member of the clergy at each of them,” DiCook protested. “If Gerd tries again—” “Do you really want to sacrifice your peacekeepers, Malven?” I said. “If Yanaba is right, the demon or skinwalker is using those guards’ death to power itself. If I’m right and it is really Gerd, she’s no longer a priestess. She had been studying the demon grimoire formerly in her possession, or she’s found another one. If that’s the case, she’s in the process of becoming a skinwalker herself.”

Red drained from DiCook’s face, leaving it an ugly yellow color. “So, you’re saying Orrin is screwed no matter what we do?”

“No,” Luc said firmly. “I’m betting the person who entered Love is Gerd. Otherwise, a demon would have targeted Balance and Death first, especially after those Temples managed to destroy an entire demon army in Tandor.”

“What happens if Jax and Talbert’s people lose the trail?” Shi Hua said softly. Like me, she’d pushed back her plate with the food barely touched. “Or worse, the murder at Love was bait for a trap? The renegades led us on a merry little trip when they abducted you, High Brother.”

Luc stared across the table at me. His worry prickled against my psyche.

I shrugged. “Xander is right. I’ll call for an emergency convocation for tonight.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

New Release!

"Snowfall" started life as my 2018 submission to Sword & Sorceress. I'd just found out I had breast cancer, and I really couldn't think of anything . So I went back to the Justice universe and wrote a little story about Thalia, Anthea's maternal grandmother.

The editor Elisabeth Waters ultimately rejected it. There were a lot of good stories submitted that year. I highly recommend you read Sword & Sorceress 33.

So I planned to publish the story here on my website in November of 2018. Except Ms. Waters e-mailed me and asked if the story was still available. She wanted to reconsider it for Sword & Sorceress 34, which would be the last volume in the long running series. Ultimately, she rejected it again.

I'm finally to the place where I can officially publish this story. It's live on Amazon, and I'll post links on The Justice Thalia Stories tab when they're active.

It'll remain at $0.99 until August 15th.

I hope you all like this little look at a character who has influenced quite a bit of the plot of the Justice series. The next Justice book A Twist of Love will be coming to you next month. And one last sample chapter will be posted here next week.

Amazon, all countries

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Twist of Love - Chapter 4

I have to give credit to my cover artist Elaina Lee of For the Muse Design. She inspired the ending of the novel with her gorgeous cover design.


Luc held a cup of wine to my lips. I couldn’t stop my hands from trembling to take the cup from him. We were back in Dragonfly’s sitting room. Luc sat on one side of me. Dragonfly fretted on the other.

I drank a few sips of the wine before I said, “Wh-what happened?”

“There was enough psychic residue—” he started.

“I’m so sorry, Anthea.” Dragonfly grabbed my left hand.

“You were in shock when you found Gregorios.” I squeezed her hand. “Not your fault. I’ve never had something like that happen during a rewind.”

“You usually aren’t sitting right on top of the spot where someone was murdered or discovered the corpse,” Luc bit out. “Nor have you tried two enclosed places at once.”

“Could you please restrain your annoyance with me?” I massaged my temples. The pain seemed like a solid rod had been inserted through them with a detour into my eyeballs. “My head already aches, and your leaking emotions are not helping.”

“That rewind was not worth your life,” Dragonfly snapped at me.

“You are not helping the pain either,” I muttered.

“And the rewind was necessary to confirm Gerd was the culprit behind Gregorios’s murder,” Chief Warden Citana said.

“She wanted us to know,” I said. “Specifically, she wanted to make sure I knew.” I stood and took one step before my balance wavered. Dezba jumped to my side and steadied me before I toppled to the carpets. I pretended I didn’t almost fall and said, “Luc, let’s double-check Gregorios before we haul him out of Dragonfly’s bath, but I have a feeling there’s no trap spell on his corpse.”

“You should rest, Anthea.” Dragonfly rose to her full height. The berda was a good head taller than me, and I was tall for a woman.

“If you seek to intimidate me by towering over me—” I started.

“Enough, you two!” Claudia’s bells jungled as she laborious climbed to her feet. She had gone to her chambers to dress before coming back to Dragonfly’s quarters. While she’d not bothered with her public veil, the bells on her robes chimed discordantly at her vexation with us. “We have enough problems with sniping at each other.”

Luc stood as well. “She’s right. Gerd wanted to prove she could get to any of us. She could just as easily have slit Dragonfly’s throat if she’d been in bed instead of attending to Claudia. I’m surprised she didn’t slash mine or Anthea’s this morning.”

A wave of dizziness swept through me that had nothing to do with empathetic reaction to Dragonfly’s emotion or fear of my birth mother, and everything to do with the wine in my empty stomach.

“Anthea?” Concern flowed from Luc.

“I’m fine.” I shot him a smile. “It has more to do with unwatered wine before breaking my fast.”

“Then I’ll fetch you some unleavened bread and milk with a bit of honey,” Claudia declared. “It did wonder for my morning sickness.” She left the sitting room with Warden Jocasta on her heels.

“I really wish she wouldn’t do that,” I murmured.

“What?” Dragonfly cocked her head. “Be kind to you?”

“Yes.” I sighed. “It makes me feel guilty.”

Luc said nothing, and I immediately regretted my words. The edict wasn’t his or Claudia’s fault. I simply didn’t know how to deal with my anger and frustration over the whole situation. Maybe I was the one who needed to seek High Sister Mya’s care after all.

* * *

As I suspected, there was no additional spell on the dead person in the bathing room. If Gerd wanted me dead, that would have been the fastest, smartest way to kill me.

Unless she knew about Bianca’s attempt a few weeks ago.

High Brother Xander of Death and Master Healer Devin arrived a few moments after Dezba and I fished the corpse from Dragonfly’s bath with Chief Warden Nicholas’s aid. Even I could discern the body was Gregorios.

Devin crouched in the tiles next to the dead man. “Are you sure you want a full examination of the corpse, Chief Justice? The wounds match your rewind.” “I don’t want to leave anything to chance, Master Devin,” I said. “Not when it comes to Gerd.”

The healer looked up at Xander standing next to him. “Do you concur, High Brother?”

The poor priest was barely four years older than my junior justice Yanaba. He didn’t deserve have the weight of the strife between the Temple of Death and the Healers Guild on his young shoulders. Luckily, he’d learned quite a bit from Bertrice prior to her passing, including the dance between the two factions. I often found I needed both sides’ assistance in learning the truth of a case.

“I have a few more years experience with the former high sister than you do, Master Devin.” A wry smile tilted Xander’s mouth. “Therefore, I concur with the chief justice. We all need to thorough in our duties. The fact Gerd has resorted to active violence bothers me more than I care to admit.”

“She was rather active in her previous murder attempts,” I pointed out. “Especially Sister Gretchen’s.”

“Prior to Gregorios, she manipulated other people to perform her unethical or illegal actions,” Xander said. “For example, hiring the Assassins Guild’s attempt to stab you on the steps of Light or bespelling Magistrate DiCook to bear false witness against you during the winter convocation.” Xander shook his head. “I would suggest consulting with Child, but the change in Gerd’s behavior means some other factor has shifted. People simply don’t alter their demeanor randomly. Any information at this point would assist us in finding her.”


“Since the renegades and the Assassins Guild appear to have some sort of alliance with the demons and skinwalkers, then every member of the twelve temples is threatened.” He frowned. “Including myself and my children.”

I looked at Luc, guilt weighing on my heart. “What say you, High Brother?”

“I would agree with our brother of Death.” He glanced at the corpse before looking at me again. “Honestly, I wondered if Gerd had dumped poison in the bath water. I worried I had missed something during the rewind. I feared for you, Dezba and Citana when you pulled Gregorios from the bath water.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if any of us at Light will be of use to you, except maybe Garbhan.”

Now, what had happened among the members of Light that he would say such a thing in front of a peer from another Temple?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Twist of Love - Chapter 3

Here's another unedited chapter from the upcoming August release A Twist of Love.


Despite my suspicions, the reality unnerved me. The shock nearly made me release the time lines, but I squeezed my fingers tightly. The very faint ghostly image of Gerd froze in place. Thankfully, neither Luc or Dezba said a word while I gathered my composure.

Or what little was left of it.

I swallowed my heart and let the events unfold. However, I winced as the memory of Gerd passed through me.

“It’s Gerd,” Luc said, his voice bitter. “She is armed, and she positions herself behind the bathing room door.”

The very same door I had the two wardens remove.

“Gregorios is coming into the bedchamber through the sitting room door,” Dezba said. She’s still on this side of Dragonfly’s sleeping quarters. “They pause to lay out sleepwear and collect towels from the second wardrobe. Now, they enter the bathing room.”

Once again, Luc picked up the recitation. “They enter the bathing room. They stop the drain and turn on the spigot to fill the pool. Gregorios selects oils from the shelves in here, kneels by the pool, and adds them to the bath. They stand and return the bottles. They reach down to turn off the spigot. Gerd slips from behind the door and raises her arm holding the knife. They are unaware of her presence until they start to rise. She stabs Gregorios in the back.”

Luc’s fury at watching Gerd destroy someone else beat against my psyche. My fingers and lungs burned while I tried to maintain control of the spell.

“Get yourself under control, High Brother.” I spat the word as if they were a poison I attempted to expel before it killed me. His rage receded enough I could breathe again.

“Gregorios starts to topple into the pool,” Luc said. “But she wrenches out the blade, grabs their ear, and slits their throat. Gerd manages to knock them over to the far side of the room.”

Luc’s crutches thump against the marble and his voice hardens as he forces himself to continue witnessing. “The blood collects on the marble tiles. Gerd wipes her knife on Gregorios’s trousers and sheathes it. She dips her right fingers into the blood and starts writing on the wall. Gregorios is trying to get up. She stomps on his left temple with her boot heel. They are lying on the floor, no longer moving.”

He tried to contain his rage, but it bubbled up again. I didn’t have the heart to say anything. Not when he was relieving his own pain as well as Gregorios’s.

“She finishes writing the message,” Luc continued. “She washes her hands in the pool and dries them on Gregorios’s tunic before she shoves him into the water. She walks out of the bathing room.”

“Gerd comes into the bedroom,” Dezba continued. “She stares at the high sister’s bed. She partially draws her knife.” There’s a long pause in her recitation. “After six breaths, she rams her knife back into the sheath. She sharply turns to the tunnel entrance. The stone folds open, and she slips through the exit. The stone folds back into place.”

We were close to the end of the rewind. I let the threads of time speed just a bit through my fingers.

“The high sister enters her bedchamber again,” Dezba said. “She removes her veil and calls out. She cocks her head as if waiting for an answer. She calls out again before she strides towards the bathing room.”

I couldn’t breath. Shock and grief rip through me at the sight in the pool, but I’m seeing the body in red clothing floating in red water through someone else’s eyes. Someone with normal vision, not my odd sight. I start screaming. And time snapped back into place.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Another "I Need Something to Cope" Sale!

The Hero De Facto e-book is currently on sale for $0.99 across all platforms. With the current craziness in the world, this is a nice feel-good story to keep you occupied.

Have a delightful holiday weekend!

Amazon, all countries
Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Twist of Love - Chapter 2

This is an unedited version of my upcoming release, A Twist of Love.


I swallowed hard as well. “Gina, do you recognize who is in the bath?”

“From the bald head, it may be Gregorios,” my warden whispered. “I can’t really tell with all the blood in the bathwater and the corpse face down. And I can see a stab wound on the back from here. At least the jasmine covers the scent of the blood.”

My heart sank. Gregorios was Dragonfly’s head of household as well as her personal assistant, just Sivan was mine. They were probably in the process of drawing Dragonfly’s bath when they were attacked. However, the stab wound and the message meant this was more than an accidental slip and fall.

“Do you want Dezba and me to remove the corpse from the bath?” Gina asked.

A shiver ran through me. As much as I wanted to believe a current member of the sisterhood or staff within Orrin’s Temple of Love had committed this atrocity, I knew better.

“No, the corpse may have a spell on it like Yellow Fin last month,” I murmured. The things that had been done to the orphan street urchin were far worse than anything I’d encountered before. However, Gerd’s ally, the former seat of Mother in Orrin had laid a trap spell on the child’s corpse with the intent to kill me and whichever member of Light accompanied me in the investigation. How close her plan came to succeeding made me decision easier. “We wait for assistance.”

I strode from the bathing area back to the main door to the high sister’s quarters. Sister Shada and Warden Jocasta waited outside in the corridor as I suspected they would. I ordered Shada to send for a Light priest, Master Healer Devin and High Brother Xander of Death. She didn’t question me though technically, I had no authority in her Temple. She trotted down the hallway with Jocasta in tow. With the murder inside their own walls, the wardens would be following their priestesses closer than their own shadows.

I headed back into the sleeping room of Dragonfly’s chambers. Twelve help me, I didn’t want to interrogate her while in the throes of grief, but I had no choice in the matter.

Dragonfly’s weeping had settled to an occasional hiccup when I round the chest at the foot of the platform frame and sat next to her on her bed. She pulled herself from Claudia’s comforting hold and straightened.

“D-do what you need to do, Anthea.” She gulped.

“Not until someone from Light arrives,” I said gently as I took her left hand in both of mine. “Right now, I’m here as a friend.”

“I-It had to be Gerd.” Dragonfly’s voice still quavered though her tone grew stronger. The berda was number two on my birth mother’s list of people she wished dead. Dragonfly had been Gerd’s second, and she’d only gone along with Gerd’s excesses in an effort to protect the other priestesses at the Temple of Love.

“What make you say that?” I said.

“No one else could have entered my quarters without Citana or one of the other wardens seeing them.”

We both looked at the block of spelled marble guarding the entrance to Orrin’s tunnel system. It rested between Dragonfly’s vanity table and the first of three wardrobes in the room. My heart tried to climb out of my chest and choke me.

“Chief Justice?” Gina murmured.

I nodded, and my warden dashed out of Dragonfly’s chambers. So much had gone wrong in the few months I’d been in my position as Orrin’s seat of Balance. So much so, my own wardens knew what I would order next without even the need for silent speech. Gina would gather another warden and check on those guarding the tunnel entrances that lay outside of Orrin’s walls while Dezba stayed at my side.

And Dragonfly was correct. Only another member of the clergy could have opened the tunnel entrances. I was damn lucky I’d added extra alarm spells to the tunnel entrance in my own bedchambers. Otherwise, my throat would have been slit as well while I lay sleeping.

“Why weren’t you in your bedchambers this morning?” I asked.

“That was my fault,” Claudia murmured. “The baby woke me before First Morning.”

“He’s moving?” I said, trying my best to keep the bitterness from my voice.

Claudia nodded. “It was the first time. I wanted to share it with someone.”

“Dragonfly, you’re the only sister I’ve seen in Love in their formal robes.” I rubbed her hand. “Why were you still up?”

“Gregorios and I were counting the evening’s donations and filling out the ledgers.” Of course, she had been. Gerd’s theft from her own Temple was one of her minor crimes. Dragonfly, as the first berda to hold a seat in any of the Issuran Temples, had become quite obsessive with following her Temple’s procedures.

To the point, where she had a seat from one of the other Temples double-check her counts and sums. Usually, it was me.

She swallowed hard to keep from weeping again. “We had just finished when Ichik fetched me to Claudia’s quarters. She worried her assistant unnecessarily.” Dragonfly glanced at Claudia and squeezed the other priestess’s hand with her right one.

“Wh-when I returned to my quarters, I smelled the bath oils.” Dragonfly continued. “I called for Gregorios to assist me with combing out my hair. When he didn’t answer, I walked into my bathing room and-and found him.” Though she struggled to keep her composure, fresh tears coursed down her cheeks.

I looked up at Citana. “Chief Warden, may I speak to you privately?”

She hesitated for a moment, obviously loath to leave her two priestess alone after such a horrendous murder occurred in the next room.

Thankfully, Dezba spoke up. “I swear by the Twelve I’ll guard High Sister Dragonfly and Sister Claudia with my life. Just as I know you’ll do the same while speaking with Chief Justice Anthea.”

Citana nodded curtly. “Very well then.”

After a final pat of Dragonfly’s hand, I rose from the bed. Citana followed me to the high sister’s sitting room and closed the door behind her. She stood at attention, as if she feared I would lash her then and there.

I circled the sitting room, warding it from anyone overhearing our conversation.

“At ease, Chief Warden. I don’t blame you for the murder,” I said. “I merely wish to establish a timeline.”

“Yes, m’lady.” She cleared her throat. “However, given the actions of the previous chief warden of Mother, it would be best if you truthspelled me.”

“Oh, I will truthspell you, but only when someone from Light arrives.” I gestured at one of the cushioned chairs. “For now, can we please speak plainly as civilized adults?”

She nodded more slowly this time. Whatever she expected from me, I wasn’t delivering. She sat gingerly on the chair I indicated while I sat across from her.

“What were you doing prior to the high sister retiring to her chambers?”

Her chin lifted. “I was in the worshippers receiving room, guarding the high sister.” Citana frowned. “The only odd thing during the evening or night was no one requested personal worship with the high sister.” “Why was this unusual?” I asked.

A rueful smile tilted her mouth. “There’s always a handful who believe direct worship with our Temple seat will bring them closer to the Twelve.”

“Were activities what you would call normal over the last few days?”

“Yes.” This time, Citana chuckled. “I expect a few heat related fights between worshippers. Tempers are often short between the Solstice and the Vintner’s Festival.”

I cocked my head. “There haven’t been any reports of brawling or arrests at your Temple.”

She shrugged. “My trainer at the Academy said it’s not unusual for rutting behavior to occur at Love. Worshippers sometimes forget they aren’t competing for the sisters’ attention. A couple of knocks get their attention along with the threat of banning them from the Temple. We learn when it’s just stupidity and when there’s a real problem with a worshipper.”

“Did the Temple end worship at the usually time?”

“Third Evening bells on the last chime,” Citana said. “The sisters wind things down with their worshippers before then. It makes my people’s job much easier.”

“And after the worshippers were cleared from the Temple?” I prompted.

“I escorted the high sister and her assistant to her chambers with the cash box.” Citana sagged a bit in her chair. “I stood guard in the corridor. Ichik rushed to me, saying Sister Claudia needed the high sister right away.”

“Did Ichik enter the high sister’s bedchambers with his message?”

“No.” Citana shook her head vigorously. “I made them wait in the corridor. Both I and my wardens have been following the guidelines the chief wardens devised after the assassination attempts on the seats this spring.”

“That’s good,” I murmured. “I take it you relayed the message?”

Citana nodded. “When I entered this room, the high sister was at her desk.” The chief warden gestured toward the corner where a familiar ledger rested on a small, ornate maple desk. Dragonfly’s workspace was always far neater than my own.

“I gave the high sister the message,” Citana continued. “Then I escorted her to Sister Claudia’s quarters.”

“What about Gregorios?” I asked.

“I-I left them alone,” Citana choked out. “Th-they weren’t even here when Gerd was Love’s seat. I’ve heard stories about her, but there was no reason…”

“Gregorios earned Dragonfly’s affection and respect,” I said. “In her twisted mind, that would be enough for Gerd. She couldn’t kill Dragonfly through the happenstance of Claudia’s son making his presence known. Therefore, the way to hurt Dragonfly would be to harm someone she cared about.”

“Logically, I know your words are true, Chief Justice.” A wan smile appeared on Citana’s face. “However, I trusted in magic too much to guard that one egress, and I allowed my high priestess’s wish for privacy to circumvent my better judgment. Both Little Bear and Sabine are right. It’s better to wound your seat’s pride than to find them dead.”

I blinked at her mention of mine and Thief’s chief wardens. It explained Little Bear’s grumbling about Luc refusing to use the front door when High Brother Xander did so in his visits with Yanaba. And Talbert’s chief warden had someone stationed in his bedchambers for months before the assassination attempts on me last winter.

Even when Talbert was elsewhere performing his duties.

No wonder Citana was cross with herself. If not for Claudia and Luc’s son, Dragonfly would have been the one floating face down in her bath.

“Were you the one who discovered the body, or was it Dragonfly?” I murmured.

“Dragonfly entered through the main door.” Citana gestured at the entrance to the high sister’s chambers. “I heard her scream, and I rushed in. She was kneeling at the entrance to her bath. A few moments later, Sister Claudia, Ichik, and Warden Jocasta entered the bedchamber as I tried to pull the high sister away from the sight. The warden said she heard the high sister cry out. Sister Claudia and Warden Jocasta assisted me in moving the high sister to her bed and ordered Ichik to fetch you.” The chief warden’s face heated at the last confession. It was probably mere embarrassment that a sister had the wherewithal to summon me.

“Thank you, Chief Warden,” I said. “I will have to truthspell you later, but thank you for helping me now.”

“I understand, m’lady.” A ghost of a smile flitted across her face. “And you’re welcome.”

There was a knock on the main door, and we both rose. I lowered my wards, and Chief Warden Citana crossed the room to answer the door. I automatically drew one of my daggers. When Citana opened the door, relief spread through me at the sight of High Brother Luc of Light and his chief warden Nicholas.

“Really, Chief Justice? Can’t I get through First Morning service once before you summon me?” Luc teased as he swung into Dragonfly’s bedchamber on his crutches. The little twinge of guilt I constantly felt over the loss of his left foot hit harder than usual. Especially since Gerd was ultimately responsible for his torture.

I shoved my guilt back into its hole. “It’s much worse than that,” I answered. “I haven’t had my morning tea, much less broken my fast yet.”

My dark sense of humor couldn’t hold up under the emotional strain. I looked at the door to Dragonfly’s bedroom and back at Luc. “We believe its the high sister’s personal assistant. I didn’t allow the wardens to touch the corpse in the bath, yet.”

“Dragonfly?” Luc cocked his head, a shocked expression on his handsome features.

“We’ll have to truthspell her to confirm it, but hers and Chief Warden Citana’s preliminary testimony says no,” I murmured.

Nicholas’s attention shifted to Citana. “How could anyone enter a seat’s quarters—”

But Luc’s countenance hardened, and his skin shifted to a deep red. “Gerd.”

“Gina is checking on the guards at each of the exits of the tunnel system,” I said.

Luc drew in a deep breath and released it. “Thank you for waiting for one of Light to arrive.”

I shrugged. “After the incident with Yellow Fin, I learned my lesson.”

Ironically, Luc’s second Jeremy had been with me that time. I discovered just how far my opponents would go after conventional assassination attempts against me repeatedly failed. It was a depth that chilled me to my core.

Luc looked at Nicholas. “No one enters of leaves High Sister Dragonfly’s chambers without mine of the chief justice’s permission.

“Understood, High Brother.” Nicholas’s thick blue moustache and beard wiggled with his acknowledgement. I never understood why so many men of Toscan and Briton descent bothered with facial hair when they kept the rest of the hair on their head so short.

I pivoted and headed back into the main bedchamber, Luc and Citana on my heels. Dragonfly inclined her head to Luc, but it was Claudia’s sweet smile in his direction that set my teeth on edge. I tried to shove my jealousy into the same hole as my guilt but I was running out of room to store my emotions.

However, Dezba appeared very relieved at my return. No doubt Dragonfly’s grief made the reserved young warden uncomfortable.

“High Sister, Sister, could you please wait in the sitting room while we…deal with things in here?” I said.

“Of course,” Claudia murmured. Dragonfly merely nodded.

Once they were out of the room, Luc said silently, We should take Dragonfly to Mya.

I was thinking the same thing. After everything the sisters of Love had been through, High Sister Mya and the rest of the clergy of Child had more work ahead dealing with additional emotional damage to priestesses and staff of this Temple. “Shall we pull the corpse out of the high sister’s bath?” Luc asked. “Or do you wish to do the rewind first?”

“The rewind.”

I examined the two rooms again, trying to calculate the best way to conduct a rewind. My own sisterhood needed three dimensions to anchor our senses while we manipulated the fourth dimension, time. The problem was a rewind acted the same way as a ward. It used the wall as a base and covered any windows or doors. I propped my right on my opposing forearm and tapped my right forefinger against my lips as I consider the problem.

“How hard would it be to remove the bathing room door?” I asked.

The two wardens looked at each other in confusion before Citana said, “We would need a clawed hammer to pry out the hinge pins.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have one available in Love, would you?” I asked.

Once she left the bedroom to fetch the tool, Luc frowned. “What the demon are you trying to do?”

“If we’re right and Gerd is behind the murder, both the bathing room and the bedchamber would be involved,” I said. “And what?” Luc stared at as if he were questioning whether I needed care from the Temple of Child as well. “You’re too lazy to perform two rewinds?”

A little hiccupping sound came from Dezba.

“Don’t stab him for the insult just yet, Warden,” I teased. “I’m not sure if my idea would work yet.”

“But you did a rewind for several blocks during the investigation of Old Anne’s murder,” Dezba said. “This is only two rooms.”

“I also used Justice Yanaba and her bond with Orrin itself as the anchor for that spell,” I said. “This rewind needs to be fine-tuned, and I’m not risking her or her baby. I shouldn’t have done it the last time.”

“What exactly are you planning, Anthea?” From Luc’s expression, he’d made up his mind that I was mad after all.

“We take off the door, and in essence, make the two rooms as one.” I gestured at the open doorway to the bathing room. “I’ll position myself on the sill. One of you will be in the bathing room to witness, and the other out here in the bedchamber.”

“I don’t remember you ever trying anything like this before,” Luc said. “Are you sure it will work?”

“No.” I grinned at him. “But then, I wasn’t sure the stunt with Yanaba would work either. If it doesn’t, then yes, I’ll have to break down the rewinds, but this works we’ll have a solid chain of events in the high sister’s rooms.”

Chief Warden Citana returned with a claw hammer in her hand. “Bless his heart. Our maintenance man Dougal had one. I was worried I would have to borrow one from the Smiths Guild.”

We all chuckled. The Smiths Guild wasn’t known for their sharing, plus I’d made them look like selfish fools at the last city meeting. If Citana had to go to any smith and they’d known I was the one who requested it, there would have been a hefty price to pay, someway, somehow.

Luc and I stayed out of the two wardens’ way as they made quick work of the pins and carefully set them and the huge slab of heavily lacquered and sealed wood out of the way.

“Are you sure about this, Anthea?” he asked.


“But you’re going to do it anyway?” Luc looked at me askance.

I merely returned his gaze.

He made an exasperated sound. “Some day, I’ll learn not to ask ridiculous questions.”

Citana leaned close to Dezba. “Is this normal investigative behavior?”

“For them? Yes.” The corners of Dezba’s mouth quirked as she looked at Luc and me.

“You are all mad.” Citana shook her head.

“Oh, definitely,” Luc grumbled.

“Who made you the high brother of Child?” I said.

He ignored me and swung forward on his crutches. “I’ll take the bathing room, Warden.”

“But, High Brother.” Dezba took a step toward him. “I don’t want you to slip and fall into the bathing pool.”

Luc’s irritation spiked through my mind, and I had to bite the inside of my lower lip to keep from laughing aloud. He slowly pivoted to face Dezba. Her skin grew a brilliant red shade as she realized she’d overstepped propriety.

“My dear, Warden Dezba.” His smile wasn’t his usual charming one. “I am beginning to understand why the chief justice finds the entire Balance corps of wardens particularly vexing at times.” He twisted back toward his destination and stomped into the bathing room.

“Ignore him,” I said to Dezba. “He hasn’t broken his fast either, and you know how testy I am without tea and that first meal of the day.”

“Yes, m’lady.” She bobbed her head.

On the other hand, Citana appeared as if she were about to call for reinforcements.

I gestured for the women to back away from the tunnel entrance. “Chief Warden, if you would stand with Warden Dezba, we can get started.”

Dezba led Citana to the corner between Dragonfly’s bed and the door to her sitting room, the farthest they could be away from me and still observe everything. That didn’t account for the nervous ripples coming off Citana’s psyche.

“Chief Warden, have you ever observed a rewind spell?” I asked.

“Only during class at the academy, m’lady,” she murmured. “Even something as minor of seeing myself form the day before was unsettling.”

“Think of it as watching an athletic competition in a square on a field,” “Dezba reassured the older woman. “I will report what I see to the chief justice. However, if you noticed anything odd or unusual, please speak.”

Citana nodded.

Satisfied the chief warden understood, I folded back the rugs closest to the bathing room and exposed the bare marble before I settled myself on the sill. Thankfully, this would be a fairly short rewind. I didn’t think my buttocks could deal with straddling the narrow length of marble if I were pulling the timelines past First Night.

I ignored the hard edges digging into my thighs and calves, placed my palms on the slabs of floor marble on each side of the sill, and took a deep breath to still my mind. Whispering the words of the spell, I reached out and yanked the past toward me.

On this occasion, no trap spell or anything else came flying along the time lines to attack me. I pulled until First Night and let the time lines flow forward a little faster than normal between my fingers.

For a few moments, Luc and Dezba alternately called out, “Nothing.” Finally, Dezba shouted, “Slower.”

I gritted my teeth and slowed the velocity.

“Chief Warden Citana enters the room with an oil lamp,” Dezba recited. “She checks beneath the bed, inside the wardrobe, and enters the bathing room.”

Luc picked up the recitation, but his voice echoes oddly with the marble and water. “Citana enters and lights the lamp in the corner of the bathing room across from the door. She looks around. She seems satisfied no one is here and leaves.”

Dezba picked up the events. “The chief warden passes through the bedchamber again. She places the lamp on the stand next to the high sister’s bed, and she exits.”

I almost let the time lines speed up, but Dezba said, “High Sister Dragonfly enters her bedchamber. She heads straight for the bathing chamber.”

“Dragonfly walks in, and—really, Anthea? Must I tell you this?” Luc complained.

“Yes,” I hissed.

“The high sister relieves herself in a chamber and leaves,” Luc growled.

“The high sister passes through the bedchamber and goes to the sitting room,” Dezba said.

I let the time lines slip a little faster through my fingers. So far, the only thing Dragonfly left out of her statement earlier was her pause to take care of her personal needs.

Once again, Dezba shouted, “Slower!”

Perspiration that had nothing to do with the summer heat trickled down my back as my fingers tightened around the time lines.

“The stone guarding the passage to the tunnel system folds back,” Dezba said. “A cloaked and hooded figure enters the bedchamber. I cannot see their face. They glance in the direction of the bed before closing the tunnel entrance. She turns toward the bath chamber and crosses the room.”

Footsteps come toward me. Deep down, I know it was Dezba attempting to see the face of the assassin, but I can’t help raising my head.

My birth mother Gerd stared down at me, and she has a knife in her hand.