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.”