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- The Justice Thalia Stories
- Tales of the Twelve
- 888-555-HERO Series
- Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse Series
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- Miscellaneous SF Stories
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Friday, October 29, 2021
As usual, this is the unedited chapter of my upcoming book.
The party sounds got louder while Steve Connors jogged up the southwest stairwell of the Canyon Pointe University Law School building. When he pushed open the steel door to the rooftop patio, the music and laughter ratchetted up several decibels. The December post-finals party was in full swing.
The dry wind of the western desert kept the traffic fumes at street level. That left the odor of alcohol and intoxicated humans at the top of the seven-story edifice.
Bethany Spears from his Con law class waved, and he strode over to the study group who’d become his friends. Carter Swift slapped him on the shoulder and shoved a cup of beer into Steve’s hand. “It’s about time Mr. A+ showed up.” Carter looked around him. “Now where’s the hottie you claim you’re dating?”
“She took her son to her parent’s for dinner tonight, and you can keep the cup.” Steve pressed the red plastic back into his friend’s hand. He was more than a little disappointed Qiang refused to come. She claimed she got all her partying out of her system when she was an undergrad.
The truth was situations like this underscored their age difference, and it made Qiang damn uncomfortable. Part of him understood. Because of his size, people had always assumed he was older. The rest of him tried to convince her no one would know her age unless she announced it.
For some reason, she didn’t take that as the compliment he meant it to be.
“I don’t think this woman exists,” Bethany remarked. “Unless Qiang is the nickname for your right hand.”
“Oh, come on,” Nick Lyons drawled. “For all you know, he could have bought one of those lifelike Japanese sex dolls.”
Carter and Bethany roared with laughter.
Maybe it was a good thing Qiang didn’t come after all. She would have electrocuted Nick’s balls for saying that.
“Ha, ha.” Steve rolled his eyes. “Thank you for proving her point that she didn’t want spend a boring evening with a bunch of immature trust-fund babies.”
“Hey, I resemble that remark.” Carter waved his cup, sloshing beer over the side. “Maybe your mystery woman is really waiting for a rich and charming guy to sweep her off her feet.”
“More like Prince Charming to sweep her floor,” Nick shot back.
Steve snorted and Bethany laughed out loud.
“I think I’ll find something to drink before Carter washes the floor with all the beer.” Steve headed for the corner where tables were set up with food, alcohol, and soft drinks.
He selected a plastic bottle of cola. The last thing he needed was to get drunk and accidentally display his powers. Though honestly, it would take every bit of beer and wine on the table to produce a slight buzz thanks to his metabolism.
For the last twelve years of his life, he’d been so careful to keep his secret, only to discover he had a twin with the exact same powers. A twin brother who was a noted and popular superhero.
A brother who despised him.
Steve stepped away from the crowd. The old guilt resurfaced though everyone told him Professor Paranoia kidnapping and controlling him wasn’t his fault. Even Tim Canyon, AKA the original Ghost Owl, didn’t blame Steve for the severe injuries he inflicted. Tim was damn lucky he could walk again after what Steve had done. In fact, Tim insisted on training Steve in some basic self-defense techniques.
Tim’s lessons remained at the forefront of Steve’s mind despite the festive atmosphere. He scanned the area. Red, green, and white lights lit up several buildings in downtown. A few others offices twinkled blue and white. Above all of them, the Del Oro Bank’s red and gold eagle ruled the skyline.
Below the bank’s signage, a girl wearing a hoodie and jeans leaned against the retaining wall on the other side of the roof. She wasn’t staring at the lights of downtown. No, her head stretched over the edge of ledge. There wouldn’t be anything on that side of the building, but the street, traffic, and pedestrians. The school didn’t even have a door to enter the building on that side, so she couldn’t be watching for someone who said they’d be here tonight.
Steve went back to the refreshment tables and grabbed a second bottle of cola. Before he crossed halfway across the roof, the girl straightened and flung her right leg over the ledge.
He raced toward as fast as he could without using superspeed toward that corner. “Hey—” Thankfully, she turned to look at him. Mariah Pendleton. She had been in several of his first year classes. Quiet, but she had the right answer every time one of the professors called on her.
“It’s Mariah, right?” Steve said.
“Yeah.” She looked at him suspiciously. “Why aren’t you with your friends, Connors?” A strong whiff of alcohol came from her.
“I went to get a drink, and I saw you over here by yourself.” He held out one of the bottles of cola. “So I brought you one.”
She shook her head. “Don’t want it.”
“I can get you orange? Root beer? Lemon-lime?”
“I don’t want anything from you. Go away.” Mariah looked down again and swung her other leg over the ledge.
“Hey, that’s kind of dangerous.” Blood roared in his ears. This situation was way out of his wheelhouse.
“That’s me. Stupid Mariah.” A sob caught in her throat.
Steve looked back at the party. No one noticed what was going on over here, and he needed help. If he left to grab Bethany, Mariah would fall. Or worse, jump.
He looked at Mariah who was studiously ignoring him in favor of the pavement. “You’re not stupid, Mariah. You always know the answers when you’re called on.”
“Then why am I at the bottom of the class?” she wailed.
“We can all get the same exact score, and the profs still rank us,” he said. “It’s part of the stupidity of law school. We have to figure out what really matters.”
“All that matters to my family is that I be the best.” Mariah cried in earnest now. “I’m not. I can’t go home.”
Her pain infiltrated the scars of his heart. It didn’t matter how much Mom and Dad loved him. He’d wondered why his biological family didn’t want him his entire life.
“Have you told them about your rank?” he asked.
“No.” She hiccupped.
“Why does your rank matter more to your parents than whether you’re learning the material?”
“Because they need to see the measurement.” She gulped. “Because they told me if I wasn’t in the top five percent, there was no reason to pay for my tuition.”
“Wow,” he muttered. “What a pair of douches.”
“B-but they’re right. I-I don’t deserve the education if I can’t do it.”
“If money’s an issue, I know a scholarship you could apply for.” Steve edged over to the retaining wall and leaned against it. He peeked over the side. Yep, all concrete below. With her shaking and the amount of alcohol she had probably consumed, he needed to get her back on this side of the wall. “Why don’t you come with me, and I can get the info for you?”
“Don’t touch me!” she screeched.
“I won’t if you climb back on this side of the wall,” he assured her.
“Why would you care?” She finally looked at him. “Mister Top-of-the-Class,” she spat.
“Maybe that’s the difference,” he said. “My parents don’t really care about class rank. I don’t have the same pressure on me that you do.”
“Except you already have an internship with a firm,” she said morosely.
Was that the real issue? She was jealous of him.
“Where did you hear that?” he asked.
“People talk.” Mariah stared at the traffic below again. “You do realize I’m working for my sister-in-law to pay for my room and board while I’m going to school, right?” he said dryly.
Mariah looked at him and sniffed. “You do realize that’s still experience, right?”
Steve chuckled. “More like my brother got lucky, and his wife takes pity on me. Not to mention, it’s a very small firm. They could use some help. I could set up a meeting—”
“I don’t need your pity,” Mariah snapped.
“It’s not pity,” he said. “Like I said rank is bullshit. You’re the smartest person in our class. And my boss Harri would be the first one to say, ‘What do you call someone who scores 675 on the Mojave bar exam?”
“A lawyer,” he answered.
A slight giggle escaped from Mariah.
“And if you don’t believe me, believe Harri. The bar exam has nothing to do with your class rank,” he added.
“I don’t want to go home for break.” Mariah stared at the traffic below once again. “I can’t face them.”
“What if I find you a place to stay over break?” Steve said gently. “Would you climb back over the wall?”
Mariah sniffed again. “You sure your brother and his wife would be okay if I surf on their couch?”
“Actually, I was going to offer the spare bedroom at my apartment,” he said. “But if that was too weird for you, there’s some other ladies in the building who would let you stay with them for a few days until we can figure something out.”
“Okay.” Mariah wiped at her eyes with the sleeve of her hoodie.
Some idiot blasted an air horn behind him. Mariah jerked. Her one hand on the retaining wall slipped from the concrete. In slow motion horror, she dropped.
Steve tossed aside the cola bottles, leapt over the retaining wall, and dived for the screaming Mariah.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
A Very Hero Wedding (888-555-HERO #8) dropped last Friday on Amazon. It should be live on other retailers soon-ish.
"A Place at the Table" will be released somewhere between October 25th and November 2nd under the WMG Holiday Spectacular. On November 4th, the anthology Halloween Harvest will be released by WMG with "A Place at the Table" among the many great stories that were selected.
On November 15th, another holiday story "The Yule Switch" will drop. It's currently on pre-order across all online stores.
On December 1st, my last New Hallowthanksmas story A Very Hero New Year (888-555-HERO #9) will hit stores.
I'm still playing catch-up with my Angry Sheep Publishing paperbacks. Hero Amicus Curiae (888-555-HERO #7) will be out in a couple of weeks if I can get a breather next week to review the print interior. That leaves the latest two Justice and latest two HERO books to put together for paperbacks.
Once A Very Hero New Year is finished (hopefully, this weekend *fingers crossed*), I'll be going full bore on the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series. I plan on doing something a little different with this series. I'm going to do my first Kickstarter and release the series all at once to my backers before the books go on sale in stores.
Why am I doing this? Because outside deadlines make a bigger impact on my production focus than internal deadlines do. Second, I've been supporting Kickstarter projects for the last ten years, and now, I want to try one. Third, I've already been ordering some nifty rewards to make sure I have them in time for my Kickstarter. So stay tuned for the official Kickstarter announcement!
Oh, the picture above? That's the magnet currently on my refrigerator. I'm so excited about this project!
Next week, we'll go back to our regularly scheduled sample chapters. 😎
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Aisha Franklin’s baby brother is
getting married, and the whole office has been invited to the big event in
Atlanta. However, trouble follows them across the country, and it’s not the
usual superhero shenanigans. Personal conflicts may tear the firm apart before
they even get to the nuptials.
Can the bride and groom rebuild their family and friends’ relationships before a super battle erupts at their reception and becomes the leading story on the evening news?
Call us at 888-555-HERO. The Law Offices of Winters & Franklin, where the only thing more dangerous than a superhero is his attorney.
Amazon, all countries
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
The month of October offers you a double-feature from me (and in one case, a few other writers)!
WMG Publishing, Inc., has been doing an advent-type calendar of short stories for the Winter Holidays for the last three years. This year, they've added Valentine and Halloween short stories in addition to the Winter Holidays.
Given the books I write, it isn't too hard to figure out I have a story in the Halloween collection.
For $15, here's what you'll get:
1) Starting October 25th and ending November 2nd, you will receive one story per day. An email will be sent to you with a link to download the short story in the e-book reading form you prefer.
2) "Wait a minute, Suzan," you say. "$15 for only nine stories?" Nope, you will also get the e-book anthology including the nine original stories plus two additional short stories on November 4th!
3) Not into Halloween, but you know someone who would love this collection as a gift? Just give WMG the e-mail address of the gift recipient. Easy-peasy!
4) What about a paperback version of Halloween Harvest? Yes, there will be, but I don't have a date yet. The cost for a paperback will be separate from the cost for the newsletters and e-book.
My story is "A Place at the Table," a sci-fi tale where the exoplanet Onizuka's axial tilt is so sharp that the night lasts for three months. And when Dark falls, creatures come out of hibernation. Creatures that modern weapons cannot kill.
All the stories in the collection are marvelous. I hope you'll check it out!