Friday, December 8, 2023

Back From Vegas

DH and I are fine. We left Las Vegas last Friday, long before the asshole opened fire at the UNLV campus on Wednesday. We're still exhausted from the trip, and I'm playing catch-up on things.

Like giving the dogs a bath. Bella and Blaze came home with a funky smell from the other dogs at the puppy hotel despite being groomed yesterday.

In the meantime, the Justice books are on sale for one more day because I didn't get around to taking them off sale early this morning.

Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice will be $0.99 until the end of the year.

I need to get the Millersburg Magick Mysteries to the Kickstarter backers. (I re-edited the last two while DH drove.) I also need to finish this year's Christmas story before my cataract surgery next Wednesday.

Y'all will have Chapter 3 of A Cup of Conflict next Wednesday!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Life is terribly short.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

A Cup of Conflict - Chapter 2

Here's the second unedited chapter of the newest novel at the Justice series!


The next day, folks from the area farms started arriving when they noticed the billowing smoke from the funeral pyres. A dozen dead renegades and nine dead guardsmen would have attracted attention in other ways if we hadn’t burned the bodies. The caravanserai director explained the situation an equal number of times before he finally posted a sign at the gates.

Which only triggered more questions from the locals. Apparently, a good many of them were illiterate.

Which prompted me to ask Shi Hua, Po, and their family about the education situation over our morning meal of porridge and boiled eggs.

“The Temple of Knowledge has been trying to continue educating the children, but many of the peasants protest against it,” Shi Hua said.

“Why?” I laid my spoon in my empty bowl and started cracking the shell of my first boiled egg now that it was cool enough to touch.

“They don’t see the purpose of it.” Po shrugged. “There wasn’t a known demon attack during my mother’s entire reign. Reading, writing, and sums were only important against demons.”

Shang snorted. “It didn’t help that the School of Sorcery wanted an ignorant peasantry to help them gain power.”

“An ignorant peasantry?” I asked as I peeled off the last of the shell of my egg.

“It’s part of the various philosophical schools attempts to discredit the Temples,” Yin Li explained. “The farmers complain there’s too much work to be done. The wise men of the philosophical school commiserate and ask why are your children not helping in the fields or with the herds? Because they are at the Temple of Knowledge half the day, the farmers complain. The wise men clasp their bosoms and say reading isn’t necessary to pull weeds and learning the continents and seas means nothing when one never leaves their province. Or even their village.”

Yin Li’s exaggerated manner of portraying both the farmers and the sorcerers of the various philosophy schools was hilarious. But the actual contents of her speech concerned me. It sounded like one of the renegades’ whisper campaigns. Refusing to listen to clergy placed a major wedge in the civilians’ trust. And with Jing losing clergy at a similar rate as we were in Issura, this tactic would sorely affect the next generations of humans.

The tactic might even help the demons to win the war.

While most people considered Knowledge to be the weakest Temple, they were the bedrock of our civilization. They complied and disseminated all information. The brothers and sisters analyzed every report from the other Temples and bureaucrats. They saw trends in harvest and weather long before anyone else did. And their predictions were often correct.

It wasn’t a matter of precognitive talent or pretending the heavens could foretell the future. Knowledge paid attention to the cycles around us. The rhythm of the earth. The song of the universe.

And it made me wonder if Yin Li and Shi Hua had been held back from being tested for their talents by their own village elders. Granted, Luc’s father Itzel hadn’t presented him to a Temple until he was eight winters, but as merchants, the family was often on the road between nations. However, Itzal did so as soon as he saw Luc entertaining his sisters with animals he fashioned from light. Shi Hua had told me she hadn’t left her village until she was seven, but only because her aunt Yin Li had pushed her sister over Shi Hua’s distance speaking talents.

“But surely the recent demon attack on Chengzhou would convince them—” Luc started.

“One would think.” Shang’s emotions felt…haunted was the best word out of all the languages I knew. “But not even the wardens and soldiers with us could conceive we were under a demon attack until it was too late.”

Yin Li laid her hand on his shoulder, lending her strength to him. “You need to tell the emperor what you told me, my love. He needs to know what he faces.”

The porridge and eggs curdled in my stomach as the Conflict priest related how Reverend Chen and his army encountered our foes in a desert valley. Realizing his people was outnumbered, Chen signaled a retreat, only to be caught in a pincer attack from the rear. However, the Reverend Father didn’t panic. He ordered a charge in a desperate attempt to break through the demon lines. Shang estimated that twenty percent of the expedition fought free of the enemy, but most of them had been wounded, and they lost all but one healer.

For the next two weeks, the demons chased the remnant of the Jing forces. People and horses died because there was no rest, no food, and no water. They couldn’t even stop long enough to burn the dead. Then, they had the demon-animated corpses chasing them as well as the demons themselves.

When they encountered a defensible stand of rocks, Reverend Father Chen ordered Shang to take the few able-bodied priests and wardens east to seek assistance. An animated corpse had stabbed the Reverend Father in the gut. He knew it was a matter of time before he and the other injured survivors would die. Shang left the last canister of flash powder with Chen. The survivors heard something two days later, but they couldn’t be sure if it was an explosion or thunder.

Eventually, Shang and the last dozen survivors encountered Darys’s army. The Skoloti had been warned of the demon army by their Reverend Mother of Balance, who was one of their seers. The talent to see the future was incredibly rare, even amongst those of my order.

“The Skoloti fed us before transporting us to their closest Temple of Child.” Shang scrubbed his face with his hands. “Their army encountered scattered groups of demons and eliminated them. They never found any more Jing survivors.”

Grief filled all of Po’s party. I never knew the Reverend Father, but Shi Hua had told me of her encounters with him. However, he must have been very imposing to a fourteen-year-old Light novice. To me, it sounded as if a devoted priest had chosen the only path he could after losing thousands of people.

Fat yellow tears rolled down Shi Hua and Yin Li’s faces. Po rolled the beads of his moustache so fiercely, I fear he’d twist the blue hairs out by their roots.

“Your Majesty?” I murmured.

Po’s head jerked up. We had so rarely addressed each other by titles for the two months we were at sea. “Yes?”

“You need to speak with every village elder and Temple clergy on the way Chengzhou.” I stared at him. “You need to tell them what happened to you in Tandor. The renegades. The skinwalkers. The demons. All of it.”

“You truly believe tales of my torture and our starvation will entertain my people?” he mocked, but I recognized the flicker of fear in visage. I was sure my own countenance held it from time to time.

“He can’t,” Shang protested. “Doing so will make him look weak.”

“He survived the demon siege of Tandor,” Luc said. “He helped us save our citizens. Without him, Issura would have fallen last year.”

“Twelve help us, was that only a year ago?” Po released the beads on his moustache. “It would be an excellent task for Reverend Father Biming.” He smiled. “And an excellent use of his particular talents.”

“He might deem such a task as an insult, my husband,” Shi Hua said softly.

“Which is why I’ll address him personally about the matter.” Po raised her right hand to his lips. “If you’ll excuse me, my empress and my guests.” He rose and strode from the room the caravanserai director had assigned Po for meeting the local leaders.

Shang eyed me from across the table. “You hold a great deal of our emperor’s esteem.”

“I also noticed you didn’t mention reporting to Reverend Father Chen’s replacement in Chengzhou,” I replied.

“Ah, the vaunted logic of Balance.” He nodded. “We did, along with an emissary of the Skoloti. However, no one in Jing besides Reverend Father Fu, his head of household, and his chief warden are aware of our survival.” He shrugged. “Until now.”

“If it needs to remain a secret, speak with the empress’s head of security Mataqai,” Luc suggested.

“Do not worry, High Brother.” She Hua grinned. “I already have. As far as anyone else is concerned, High Brother Shang, Sister Darys, and their party are part of the Empress’s Guard.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Cup of Conflict - Chapter 1

I know people are patiently (or not so patiently in some cases) for the next volume of the Justice series. So here's the unedited first chapter of A Cup of Conflict!


I watched as Sister Yin Li of Love threw herself into the arms of her lost paramour, who we all thought had died with Reverend Father Chen’s doomed expedition. Their young son Yin Shang followed suit. The reunited family laughed and cried and hugged.

High Brother Shang of Conflict was quite a handsome man. I could understand why Yin Li was physically attracted to him. But the wave of emotion emanating from the pair was something far deeper. I leaned close to Luc and whispered, “So that’s Shang?”

I could feel my love turn to look at me. Could you tone down the level of lust for another man you’re sending my way?

That isn’t amusing.

I don’t think so either. At least, you’ve now confirmed you were never physically attracted to Quan.

“That’s what it took!” I glared at Luc.

Behind him, the Skoloti Sister of Thief Darys looked at us in confusion. Luc’s warden Yar smirked. I had a feeling my own warden Jonata wore the same smirk behind me. Sister Yin Li of Love and High Brother Shang of Conflict were too busy kissing to pay any attention to the rest of us.

The merchants, who had stopped here for the night on their way from the coast to the capital as we did, drifted through the courtyard of the caravanserai and took inventory of their wares and stock that survived the battle. Shop keepers who resupplied travelers did the same. If it weren’t for the forethought of Darys, Shang, and the rest of their rescue squad, everyone at this rest stop would be dead.

Crown Prince Bao Quan Po, heir to the Jing Empire’s Dragon Throne, walked over and stood at my left side, but his attention was also on Yin Li and Shang. “She never kissed me like that.”

“You were a worshipper, not her true love,” I snapped.

“But still, with the size of my donations, I expect more,” Po complained.

“I should be the only one receiving your donations, my husband.” Bao Shi Hua, the soon to be empress consort of Jing, stalked through the mayhem, her bow still in her hand. She glared at her spouse as if she considered using her weapon on him.

A sly grin filled Po’s face. “You never kiss me like that either.”

The tiny woman reached up, grabbed the edges of his robe, and yanked him down for a thorough kiss. When she released him, she also smirked. A glance at his silk pants said why. “What were you saying?”

“Not a blessed thing, my wife.” He released a deep breath. “Should we rent a cell for Yin Li and Shang so we may have some privacy?”

“I’ll take care of it.” I made a shooing motion. “Please go back to your room before you feel the need for another public display of affection.”

The royal couple held hands as they retreated to the spiral stone staircase leading to the second story. It was good to see them showing some affection. While Shi Hua was only interested in women and Po was interested in anything that moved, I was glad they were trying to make their political marriage work.

“Should we interrupt?” I asked Luc.

“Quan and Shi Hua or Shang and Yin Li?”

I eyed my own paramour. “If you interrupt the prince, he will ask you to join them.”

“Unfortunate, but true.” Luc shot me a wicked grin. “Maybe if we both join them?”

I held up my hand. “You are on your own for this one, High Brother. I’m going to take a soma tear and try to get some sleep.” I turned to head up the same stairs the prince and his wife had just climbed.

“Wait, Chief Justice,” Sister Darys called out. “Aren’t you going to question me and my party? We could be renegades for all you know.”

I pivoted to face her. “Sister, I already know you aren’t a skinwalker. If you’re a demon, you would have ripped out both my throat and the Lady Shi Hua’s a few moments ago when we were standing next to each other. And if you’re a renegade, all I ask is that you let me have a good night’s sleep and a cup of Jing black tea in the morning before you poison me. Again.”

I turned and walked toward the staircase once again. Frankly, Reverend Father Jin and Reverend Father Biming were responsible for truthspelling the newcomers in order to protect their soon-to-be crowned emperor since I was technically a foreign ambassador. And Balance help me, I was mightily tired of doing their job.

“Excuse me!” Shi Hua’s shout from the third-floor balcony actually broke Yin Li and Shang’s embrace.

I looked up to find the empress-to-be leaning over the balcony railing. Everyone in the courtyard quieted.

“Can someone please remove the dead assassin in our bed? The crown prince and I are trying to conceive an heir!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Writing More than Showing On the Stats

Over on the side ribbon (if you're looking at the fullscreen version of this blog, I keep a list of stats on current and future writing projects. Right now, it doesn't look like I'm doing much of anything. My NaNo project is an Alter Ego book, the first in three(?) years. 

Also, I'm double-checking for typos in Magick and Murder after finding a few I missed in Fae and Felonies while proofing the paperback. Also, there's the annual Christmas short to write. I need to have everything done before DH and I set out on our first real vacation since GK was born. (The treks to Ohio to visit family do not count as vacations because they definitely weren't relaxing. Neither were the staycations to fix house stuff.)

After we return from our trip, I've got two eye surgeries scheduled in December to fix the cataracts I have thanks to the tamoxifen. Like I told my oncologist, if there's a weird side effect to a drug, I'll have it. Merry Christmas to me.

But that also means, my writing may be limited until my body processes the new bionic lenses, as my buddy Jo would say, and we figure out if I need glasses or just reading glasses or *fingers crossed* I don't need anything at all. By January, I should be able to drive al night again.

Can I now? Technically yes, but I don't feel comfortable doing it.

This is just one of many things a person deals with on the way the big 6-0. Yet, I still want Barbies for my birthday, and I plan on hitting my favorite comic book shop when I'm in Houston. I feel very paradoxical at the moment.

However, I will be taking Baby Blue with me on vacation. DH no longer flies so the drive to our destination will allow me to only write. While technically a laptop, Baby Blue isn't much more than a glorified tablet with a keyboard. She only has WORD and EXCEL loaded, and the wi-fi remains turned off unless there's a dire emergency that my phone can't handle. And there isn't much a smart phone can't handle these days. However, I only have my personal e-mail on the phone.

If all goes to plan, I should have a few giant updates on stats at the beginning of December. Then, things will be quiet until the beginning of January.

P.S. The entire Justice series is currently on sale at all retailers (or it should be) until December 10th. Pestilence in Pumpkin Spice (Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse #1) is $0.99 until Deember 31st!

Monday, November 6, 2023

A Justice Super Sale!

Yep, I'm having a Justice Super Sale from now until December 10th at all retailers! All proceeds received by Angry Sheep Publishing from this sale will be sent to Maui Strong for the benefit of residents of Lahaina, who lost everything in the wildfire that destroyed the town.

All e-novels are marked down to $2.99 and all electronic short stories, even the collection Justice: The Beginning, are $0.99.

Share this with friends you think might be interested in the adventures of Justice Anthea and Brother Luc!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Author Fest and the End of Daylight Savings Time

This afternoon, I'm prepping for tonight's Author Fest. Hope to see you there!

P.S. Don't forget to turn back your clocks tomorrow night!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Author Fest and the Start of NaNoWriMo

The Findlay-Hancock Library is holding their annual Author Fest during the city's Art Walk on November 3rd, from 5:30 until 8:00 p,m, I'll be there along with a couple of dozen local authors.

It's not often I do public appearances because of my health, but I love supporting our local library! Stop by and say "Hi!"

Also, today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo or just NaNo. There are no rules to NaNo. If anyone tells you there are, they're full of it.

The objective is to getting writers to sit down and concentrate on their craft for the month. I like to use is to jumpstart a new novel.

So, if you're a reader or a writer, there's lots of stuff going on this week. On the plus side, the weather should be a tad warmer with no snow!

See you at the library on Friday!

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 7

Here's the unedited seventh chapter of my current work-in-progress!


The pharaoh must know his enemies better than he knows himself in order to protect the people of Kemet. – The Lost Books of Neit, Djehuti’s library at Akasha

Billie turned to find Nettie glaring at her, a look that bordered on homicidal rage. Despite the professor’s fury, icy calm descended over Billie. “I’m going back upstairs to grab my files and laptop. Wait right here.” Silence was her only answer.

In fact, Nettie still hadn’t spoken minutes later when Billie pulled into the alley and parked in the detached garage behind the house. At least, the professor hadn’t argued about heading home. Billie switched off the ignition, and the two women sat in the dark quiet.

“You have no idea—”

Billie slapped her gloved hand on the steering wheel, interrupting Nettie’s attempted tirade. “How could you be this stupid!” She sucked in a deep breath, tension filling the air she drew. Blowing it out, she tried again. “I know these things seem real to you, but they’re not.”

“Like the dead people you talk to?”

Nettie’s words pierced Billie’s soul. Thank goodness, the professor couldn’t see her wince in the gloom. “That’s different.”

“How?” came the sharp retort.

“It just is.” Fingers tightened around the steering wheel. “Please, promise me you’ll take your meds, Nettie.”

The shuffle of winter clothing and the slamming of the car door were her answer. Sighing, Billie collected her laptop case and accordion folder and followed Nettie into the house.

High-pitched barks greeted her in the kitchen before a flurry of black fur butted her legs.

“Porter!” She dropped her armload onto the table and knelt to hug the dog. Licks covered her face. She fell over, laughing at his enthusiastic greeting.

She looked up at the human silence. Nettie and the twins stared at her. The professor’s lips remained pursed in anger though a flare of something else lit her eyes. Surprise covered Kyra and Reyna’s faces before Kyra’s normal smirk returned.

Kyra’s eyebrow rose before she said, “Porter?”

Heat flamed Billie’s face. “It was the first name I could come up with. Where’d you find him?” He leaned into her hand as she scratched his ears. “I’ve been looking all over for you, boy.”

Reyna crossed her arms. “I heard something at the front door a few minutes ago. When I opened it, he trotted in like he owned the place. Went up to your room and jumped on your bed.”

“Then he growled at her when she tried to push him off.” Kyra shot an amused look at her sister. “He came down right before we heard your car pull up.”

Reyna tilted her head. “What is he?”

Kyra rolled her eyes. “Duh. A dog.” She examined him as Billie hit a particularly sensitive spot behind his ear based on his groan of pleasure. “A damn ugly one at that.”

His unusually big ears shot straight up. A low rumble started deep in his chest.

Billie patted his back. “Ignore her. She insults everyone.” His head swiveled in her direction, tongue hanging out in a canine grin.

She stood and reached for her purse to get her phone. “Let me get a picture of you.”

Black fur leapt past her outstretched hand. He grabbed the handle in his mouth and took off for the hallway with the purse.

Anger burned away her initial shock. “Come back here!” She raced after him, wanting to retrieve her phone before he turned the leather tote into a chew toy.

Behind her, sarcasm spiced Nettie’s words. “I don’t think he wants his picture taken.”


Monday morning, Billie strode into the Franklin County probate court room. Sunday had been entire waste of time. After some sneaky maneuvering, she’d managed to snap a photo of the dog, but someone kept taking down the flyers she’d taped to fences and utility poles around their neighborhood and the campus. If the damn canine had opposable thumbs, she’d suspect he was the culprit. In fact, Nettie drew enormous amusement from and even encouraged some of his antics. Like letting him into the bathroom when Billie was in the shower.

Thank goodness, she finished most of the prep work for her case on the morning’s docket on Saturday. She was checking in with the clerk when a familiar, slimy voice said, “Good morning, Ms. Edmunds.”

Billie braced herself before raising her head from the sign-in sheet. Jim Gorman stood beside her, not a wrinkle in his expensive suit. “Mr. Gorman.” Stepping out of the way, she turned to find a seat in the crowded room.

“I’d like to schedule your deposition this week.”

Plastering a fake smile in place, she pivoted to face him. “Have your secretary call mine.”

His return smile hinted he wouldn’t make this easy on her. Why he and Cyrus Johnson, Jr., felt the need to ruin her as well as the now-widowed Mrs. Johnson made no sense. “I was hoping we could talk after court. Maybe clear up some issues before your word becomes a matter of record.”

If it weren’t for the chignon she wore, Billie was sure every single hair on her scalp would be standing straight up. “I have nothing to say off the record, Mr. Gorman.”

She turned to find Brittany Johnson and her attorney near the courtroom’s main door with someone Billie had only seen in newspapers before. Les Wyatt, Cyrus Johnson’s business partner.

All three stared at her. Crap. Wyatt’s gaze held simple curiosity, but from the look of shock on Brittany’s face to her attorney’s suspicious expression, they’d both come to a very wrong conclusion. Damn, the stupid depo would now be a total nightmare. No doubt, Gorman, being the skanky bastard he was, would make sure Cyrus Junior’s brother and sister knew he’d spoken with Billie, though he put his own little nasty spin on the conversation.

And leaning against the back wall, but well away from his stepmom, was Cyrus Johnson Junior. A NASA laser had less intensity than the hate-filled gaze he shot at her. Pity still filled her for the man. It had been obvious he’d carried a torch for Brittany, long before dear old dad married her. Now, Cyrus Junior wanted to punish the poor girl for choosing his father over him.

Billie clenched her hand on the handle of her case and shuffled through the crowd to find an available seat. Thank goodness, none of her current clients were here to see the Freudian drama.

After a few more minutes, the bailiff announced the judge, who called the court to order. Typical minutiae filled the first half hour. Then Judge Jackson announced the Johnson estate.

Despite her interest in the evidentiary hearing, Billie couldn’t make out the conversation at the bench. Her weird sixth sense kicked into gear. Something was about to happen. Something very, very wrong. The judge’s questions buzzed into white noise as she scanned the people around him.

Her weird feeling didn’t come Brittany or her attorney. Cyrus Junior was tense, but nothing screamed danger from him. No, it was Junior’s attorney. Gorman, normally Mr. Cool-and-Collected, fingered his right suit jacket pocket. The wrongness of his movements rippled across her nerves. They were too alien, too reptilian. His actions reminded her of something she couldn’t quite place. She only caught a glimpse of the item he pulled from his pocket, the bulk of it hidden in his sleeve. From the bailiff’s angle on the other side of the group, he hadn’t seen a damn thing, and the court reporter was too busy typing to notice.

Gorman shifted on his heels the instant Brittany Johnson’s attorney leaned forward to make his point with the judge. Something seemed to take over Billie’s body, a voice inside her head screaming to move. Now.

She threw herself over the railing and into the court’s well, but not before Gorman reached for Brittany. Sharpened stone appeared in his hand. He yanked the pregnant widow to his chest.

Too late, too late, too late, the voice in the back of her head screamed. She was too fucking far away. Time dropped into first gear. What she wouldn’t give for a reverse. The bailiff’s eyes locked on Billie, not the endangered woman. His mouth opened and his hand dropped to his baton.

One step.

Billie shook off the woman in the gallery who grabbed at her and tried to pull her back over the railing.

Two steps.

Cyrus Junior jumped in front of Gorman and Brittany to intercept Billie. She drove her elbow to Junior’s gut and a palm strike to his chin. He started to collapse.

Three steps.

No choice. She plowed into Gorman and Brittany, both hands reaching for the stone knife as he brought it up, no doubt to slice the poor girl’s throat. She seized his wrist, twisting to land on top of Gorman. Then her eyes met his.

Red flared in the irises. A predator stared at her, analyzing the threat she could be. Lids narrowed and lips spread into more of death rictus than a smile. Whatever looked out of those orbs wasn’t human.

Not that she ever thought Gorman was human to begin with.

The thing inside the other attorney used the momentum to swing his arm around, rolling with his landing. Shit. She’d impale herself on the damn stone knife.

Wrenching her body, she crashed hard on the tile floor. The lizard grin widened as he realized he had the advantage. When Gorman came down on top of her, the impact of his body drove out any oxygen left in her lungs. Ignoring her body’s screams for air, she focused all her strength on keeping the jagged stone from ventilating her chest.

Gorman’s mouth opened, but the sounds issuing from it weren’t any more human than the eyes were. It didn’t mean she didn’t recognize them though. The monsters in the cemetery made the same hisses and clicks during the confrontation with them Friday night.

There was a muffled thunk, then the pressure she’d been fighting disappeared. Thick fingers flexed and released before the stone knife clattered on the tiles. Gorman’s alien eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he collapsed with a puff of tainted breath.

Above them, the bailiff kicked away the weapon, but he still held his baton ready. Sobbing came from somewhere nearby. Eyes wide and mouth gaping as he clutched his stomach, Cyrus Junior stared at her, or maybe he stared at the unconscious form of his own attorney.

Judge Jackson appeared next to the bailiff and stared down at her. “What the devil are you doing wrestling with another attorney in my court, Ms. Edmunds?”

Friday, October 20, 2023

Back from My Mini Vacation

I joined a friend in Chicago for a couple of days this week. For both of us, it was work-related stress relief. She was taking a certification course in downtown, so I drove over to meet her. While she was attending her class, I wrote in our hotel room. We both got plenty of exercise walking around Michigan Avenue, searching out some good food. Plus, it was so nice talking to a person I've known for decades.

In the meantime, the Millersburg Magick Mysteries Kickstater camapaign successfully funded. Tomorrow, I'll send out the surveys. All rewards, both digital and physical, will be sent before Thanksgiving. If you missed the campaign, contact me through the tab at the top of the website, and I'll accommodate you.

Halloween Harvest, in which my story "A Place at the Table" appeared, is part of the 2023 Halloween Storybundle. We're supporting Maui Strong, an aid organization that is helping the residents of Lahaina, who lost everything in wildfires earlier this year.

The second and third books of the Millersburg Magick Mysteries series will be released over all retailers the next three and a half weeks.

Also, the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series will be released on all retailers on November 8th.

That's all the news for now. Next week, I'll be posting more samples of Death Goddess Walking.

Have a most excellent weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 13, 2023

New Release - Demons Run at Halloween

Why, yes! I did have a new release drop today!

Demons Run at Halloween started as a stretch reward back in 2022 for the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series. This is a prequel novella set ten years after Ed and Laura Hudson (i.e. Pestilence's in-laws) retired from demon hunting for the Vatican.

But it's a fun, stand-alone story and perfect for Halloween!

Got a demon infestation? Call the people who can eradicate your Hellspawn problem! Vatican operators are ready to assist you!

Retired demon hunters Ed and Laura Hudson live the quiet, boring suburban life in Oakfield, Illinois, with their young sons Gene and Theo. Until a gruesome murder raises the senior Hudsons’ suspicions. And the archbishop of Chicago demands proof before he’ll send in a team.

Can Laura and Ed keep their sons safe during trick-or-treating while investigating the murder? Or has the suburban boredom dulled their hunting skills?

Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Last Week for the Millersburg Magick Mysteries Kickstarter Campaign!

The Millersburg Magick Mysteries Kickstarter Campaign is down to its last six days!

Get all three e-books, plus Amish, Vamps & Thieves (Bloodlines #4) which introduced several of the Millersburg adults, for only $10. Yep, that's half the price you would pay if you get all four books from an online retailer.

It's pretty simple. Kickstarter handles the transactions, so you're not giving me any credit card numbers. If you pledge for a physical reward, I'll need your snail mail address, but that's it. Between Kickstarter's rules and my own personal policy, no one else sees your personal info.

These YA books would make lovely holiday gifts for your young person.

Millersburg Magick Mysteries closes on Tuesday, October 17th, at 11:59 PM EDT. Check out this campaign before it's too late!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Millersburg Magick Mysteries Kickstarter Campaign Funded!

I'm amazed and grateful my second Kickstarter funded in less than a week. I'd barely started promoting it. So a huge "Thank You" to everyone who's backed the campaign!

If you haven't checked it out yet, here's the link!

Friday, September 29, 2023

It's Officially Live!

I hit the publish button last night. The Millersburg Magick Mysteries Kickstarter campaign is officially up and running!

I really hope everyone will check out the campaign. It was nice to delve back into a world that's a lot of fun. Plus, I've got the covers for the next three books, so I'll have some fun over next summer! 

The campaign will run until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 17th.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Pre-Launch Page for Kickstarter Is Live

It's happening! My campaign was approved earlier than I thought it would. I now have an active pre-launch page! Hopefully, my pink hair in the video isn't too shocking. LOL

Yes, I'm giggling gleefully! I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 6

Here's the unedited chapter 6 from the first book of my latest series The Books of Apep.


The home was the center of Egyptian life. That’s not to say the ancients didn’t have their share of normal family problems. – Introduction to Egyptology, George E. Herbert

Clenching her fist to keep from decking her housemate, Billie brushed past Kyra. No doubt from the heat in her cheeks, her lily-white skin flamed in embarrassment, but the manners drilled into her by her grandmother dropped into place. “Would you like to come inside, Porter?”

His masculine chuckle filled her ears. “Why thank you, Billie. I’d appreciate warming up before I head home.”

“The kitchen’s this way, I’ll make us some coffee.” Ignoring Kyra’s astonished look, Billie marched past the stairs. The swish of denim said he was right behind her. She’d be polite, serve him some coffee, and send the gentleman on his way before she took her car back out to the cemetery to check on Marcus. Yeah, that was a good plan.

Except she didn’t want to rush Porter out the door.

Geez, Cyrus Johnson was right. She was letting her hormones make her decisions.

Nettie looked up from the paper at their entrance, the comics section now spread on the table. “Did you find—” Brown eyes peered over the tops of her reading glasses as Billie snatched a couple of mugs from the cupboard. “I see you—”

Billie caught the sharp, short shake of Porter’s head from the corner of her eye.

“—you, um, didn’t find the dog.” Nettie grabbed her own mug and took a quick gulp of coffee.

Now what the hell was that all about? In the past, she’d seen the professor agitated, paranoid, even on the edge of violence, especially when she was off her meds. But nervous?


And taking cues from a man, any man? Oh, hell no.

Porter crossed the kitchen, handed extended. “Porter Gates.”

Nettie regained her composure and clasped his proffered hand. “Netanya Soren. A pleasure to meet you.”

Billie handed the mug of steaming coffee to Porter. His smile nearly sent her melting into the kitchen floorboards. He slid into the chair next to Nettie as if he’d done it a million times before, like he belonged there. A twinge of jealousy whispered through her.

The twins choose that moment to troop through the kitchen door and claim the remaining chairs before she could sit in the one next to Porter. No doubt Kyra had run upstairs to wake Reyna and dish about Billie showing up at the front door with the bouncer.

An evil smirk filled Kyra’s face while her sister disarmed the man with deceptive small talk. Billie leaned against the sink and sipped her coffee, part of her content to simply watch the play of the overhead light in his hair. The other part fretted over how to keep the goth quiet when the inevitable rude question was asked.

“So, Porter, our Billie, she’s do-able—” Kyra’s query ended in a squeal of pain.

Billie swallowed her own gasp of surprise. It wasn’t Reyna’s heel digging into Kyra’s instep. Nettie shot the girl an ugly look before easing the pressure.

Porter stood. From his grin, Billie was sure he was very aware of the byplay happening under the kitchen table. “It’s been a pleasure, ladies, but I must be going.” That smile turned on her. “If you would be kind enough to escort me out, Billie?”

Trying to ignore the other three sets of eyes boring into her skull, she nodded and set her mug on the counter. Leading the way to the front door, her body tingled, conscious of his presence no matter how her mind wanted to deny the attraction.

He paused, concern replacing the humor in his eyes. “Are you okay?”

Blinking in surprise, she said, “I’m fine. Why?”

His gaze swept down her body before his eyes met hers again. “You’re still limping.”

A shrug lifted her shoulders. Having someone to confide in was a nice little fairy tale. Just like Cinderella. She’d learned a long time ago it didn’t work that way in real life. “Nasty bruise. It’ll heal.”

He hesitated. For an instant, it seemed like he’d try to kiss her, but then that wicked grin of his returned. “Take care of yourself, Billie. Call me if you decide on another night walk through the graveyard.”

She stood at the door, watching him, until he crossed the street at the corner and disappeared from view. Then his words hit her.

Still limping.

Another night walk.

He had seen her in the cemetery last night.


Hours later, Billie sat at a corner table on the second floor of a nearby fast food joint. The image of Porter Gates’ cocky grin still floated through her brain. She stared at her laptop screen. The words composing the motion for a case made no sense. Had he watched her battle the monsters? If so, why hadn’t he helped her and the children? Unless he couldn’t see the ghosts.

Except she’d found him at Marcus’s grave this morning.

Her fingernails tapped on the formica tabletop as questions bounced around her skull. Or had he unleashed those creatures? Resting her chin on her fists and watching the occasional customer sweep in and out of the restaurant’s main doors didn’t bring her any answers.

She had ignored Kyra’s jibes about the bouncer after he left and gathered her computer bag and files. A quick stop at the cemetery to check on Marcus left her reassured, at least in regard to the ghost boy. Even though she had trouble seeing him clearly, his right side showed no signs of the black nothingness that poisoned him last night. Both Sarah Jane and Tommy verified Marcus had regained his normal color though the boy was rather upset his ectoplasmic version of his turtleneck was still ripped. While she was in the cemetery, fresh flurries swirled through the air. A quick circuit around the salted graveyard road produced no sign of the black dog, though the children promised to keep watch for him.

Billie had told Nettie she was heading for OSU’s law library, but at the last second, she drove to the hamburger joint a few blocks from the house instead. The nasty weather kept most of the undergrad students in their dorms, so the place was fairly quiet.

From her seat on the balcony, she stared down into the main seating area. It gave her a perfect view of Nettie shoving open the glass door. Billie started to raise her hand in a wave when a dark figure silhouetted against the deepening twilight followed the professor into the restaurant. Nettie turned at Porter’s greeting.

Billie’s stomach lurched at the quick, friendly hug the two shared, and pressed against the back wall, wanting desperately to melt through the vinyl. Their voices faded and the pair disappeared from view as they headed toward the serving counter. Why the dissembling in the kitchen this morning if they knew each other?

Given the teasing Kyra had launched at her, Billie could understand why Nettie might want to keep a relationship under wraps, especially with a younger man. That comprehension didn’t stop the stab of disappointment in her gut.

Nettie’s distinctive tone drifted up from underneath the balcony. Oh crap! they coming up the stairs?

“Are you sure she doesn’t know?” The scrap of chair legs on tile meant the pair had grabbed a table right underneath Billie’s perch. Not good when her stomach threatened to heave the cheese fries and coffee she’d consumed.

Porter’s deeper voice held a touch of concern. “No, she’s not conscious of her true nature. She was operating totally on instinct last night.”

“But the dead boy who was poisoned?”

“Healed but by instinct,” Porter repeated. “I’m more concerned about the sek. She killed one last night, but its compatriots now know she and I are here in the city. The others will hunt. For her. For the rest of us. For the children.”

A shiver rippled up Billie’s spine, even as her gut cramped in fear. He had been in the cemetery last night! And he knew a lot more about those monsters than she did. She closed her laptop and shoved the file back in her tote before she eased closer to the ornamental metal railing protecting the edge of the balcony, praying the vinyl on the closer chair wouldn’t creak and alert them to her presence.

“We need to tell her—” Nettie started.

Porter must have made some gesture to stop the professor from finishing the thought. His voice dropped, and Billie strained to hear his words. “Neit, we have to be careful. She was worried about something going wrong before we came here, and I don’t believe it was her usual anal-retentive paranoia. None of you ladies remembered our mission.”

What the hell did he call Nettie? And what exactly was a sek? Her fingers itched to open her laptop and use the restaurant’s wi-fi, but the clack of keys might alert the two.

A snort came from Nettie. “I remember now.”

“Yeah.” Humor laced Porter’s voice. “But you did it in the middle of a battlefield.” Liquid slurped. “You’re damn lucky you’re not locked in a psych ward.”

Tapping sounds came from below. “Not taking the human medication forced on me has helped with my clarity.”

Masculine laughter followed Nettie’s irritated words. “Good to hear you dropped the anti-anxiety meds. They were dulling your reaction time.”

Billie swallowed a groan. Now she had confirmation of why Nettie had been acting so strangely lately. What the hell possessed this guy to go along with her disregard of doctor’s orders? Did he like his women crazy?

Another disgusted snort from Nettie. “What are you suggesting we do?”

“Stay as close to her as possible. Apep will send his minions after her since she’s the greatest single danger to his plans next to Set.” Another long pause. “By the way, what do you know about a ghost harassing her concerning his unborn child?”

Mother of pearl! Billie dug into own nails into her palms to keep from slapping something, anything, in frustration. The bastard had seen Cyrus and didn’t say a freaking word about it. She sucked in a deep breath as her conscience reminded her she hadn’t told anyone about Cyrus either.

The tapping below halted. “A client of hers died recently. His children are squabbling with the trophy wife over the estate. Billie said something about the widow popping any time.”

Satisfaction filled Porter’s next words. “I think we have a winner in the prophesy sweepstakes, folks.”

Enough crazy talk. Billie shoved back her chair, jumped to her feet, and charged down the stairs. The surprise on their faces at her appearance only pissed her off more. “If you’ve got something to say about me, then say it to my face.”

Wariness replaced Nettie’s startled look. “Maybe you shouldn’t eavesdrop. You may not get the whole story.” Anger clipped her words.

Fine. The professor could be mad all she wanted. “Get your coat. I’m taking you home.”

Porter raised a placating hand. “Billie, wait—”

She raised an index finger and shook it under his nose. “Shut up. Now. She’s got PTSD, and you know it. Telling her it’s okay to drop her drugs is fucking irresponsible. But going along with her fantasy world shit—”

No words could express the disgust filling Billie’s gut. “Get out of here, and don’t come near me or Nettie again. Or I’ll drop a restraining order on your ass. Got it?”

He opened his mouth, but he must have thought better of whatever he was about to say. His jaw snapped shut with an audible click of teeth. Slinging on his black leather jacket, he started for the door, but he stopped halfway to the exit and turned toward her. “If you see Cyrus Johnson again, let me know. I know you don’t like accepting help, but you’re going to need mine before this is over.” Unnatural calmness filled his words. He pivoted and strode out of the restaurant.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 5

Here's another unedited snippet from my upcoming series!


Lord Anubis, sweep the demons that plague me from my path that I may attain my place among the dead. – Partial inscription from tomb wall at KV60, Luxor, Egypt

Wind swept the scarf from Billie’s head, whipping strands of hair in her eyes, nose, and mouth as she made her way toward the cemetery. She snatched the plaid wool before it flew into the street and tied it more securely around her neck. Residual flakes scattered in the freezing onslaught, and it took all her muscle control to keep her balance on the icy sidewalk.

Canvassing the immediate block produced no black mutt. He must have headed back to his old haunt when Nettie let him out the front door. What the hell had the nutty professor been thinking? That she could talk to animals? Billie wanted to roll her eyes. She prayed she found her canine savior before Animal Control did.

The adrenaline rush faded with her anger. By the time she reached the wide-open back gates of the cemetery, every fiber of her body ached with pain and cold. Now, how does someone find a dog she doesn’t really own?

Billie peeled off her single glove and raised two fingers to her lips. Her usual blasting whistle raced away with the wind, leaving a faint echo behind.

“If you’re trying to wake the dead, that’ll do it.”

The sudden appearance of Cyrus Johnson’s voice nearly dropped her on her butt again. She caught her balance on the glazed blacktop and glared at the vague outline standing next to her. Even the guide’s brilliance appeared milky under the overcast sky.

“Go away, Cyrus.” She scanned the area, searching for black fur among the gray stones and white ground.

“My baby’s gonna have no means of support if you don’t do something about my case.” Even though she couldn’t clearly see his eyes, she would have sworn she could feel the heat of his wrathful stare.

“You’re dead, Cyrus. It’s not your case. Have you seen the dog that was with me last night?” The snow-covered grass would give her better footing than the ice-slicked asphalt. The frozen crust crunched beneath her boots as she stalked further into the cemetery.

A snort of disgust filled her ear. “Why did I even expect you would help me? You can’t even take care of your own pet.” Of course, Cyrus followed and harassed her.

“He’s not mine, but he saved my life. I need to return him to his owner.” She left out the fear the two monsters that had attacked her and the children would find the dog alone and tear the poor thing to bits.

As she cut across the lawn, a hint of movement drew her toward Marcus’s grave. She rounded a tall monument to find a man crouched next to the headstone, his bare right palm flat against the frozen ground where the snow had been brushed away. Her own hand automatically reached for the small of her back. Shit! She’d left her knife under her pillow in her panic over the missing dog.

Worry over Marcus overrode her common sense. “What are you doing?” The words came out harsher than she intended.

The man stood, leather shifting across broad shoulders, and turned. Porter. The bouncer, not the dog.

She couldn’t stifle her gasp and took an involuntary step back.

Hazel eyes lit up, and a slow smile spread across his features. “I could ask the same of you. Billie, isn’t it? Kyra’s friend?” When her tongue remained firmly glued to the roof of her mouth, he added, “Or would you prefer I call you Wilhelmina?”

“No!” Her tongue couldn’t form the proper sounds after the initial rush of anger at someone using her hated full name. “I-I-I mean, Billie’s fine.”

His gaze swept the length of her body. Heat followed the path of his eyes to the point she began to sweat despite the freezing temperatures. The odd sense of déjà vu didn’t help her discomfiture around this man.

She swallowed hard, determined to regain some sense of control over her own reactions and the situation. If she couldn’t get rid of him, she would have come back and rouse Tommy or Sarah Jane and have them check on Marcus for her. “What are you doing here?”

Something harder, dangerous even, replaced the glimmer of humor in his eyes. She didn’t feel threatened though, more like protected. Like she had last night when the black dog came to her rescue. His gaze flicked to her left before his attention returned to her. To her left. Where Cyrus and the guide floated. Damn, could he see or sense them? “I heard something in the cemetery last night.” He shrugged. “Thought I’d check it out.”

Fear prickled her spine. Had he witnessed her fight? “W-what did you hear?”

His eyes narrowed. The examination he gave her felt nothing like his earlier semi-erotic perusal. In fact, it reminded her of her own behavior when she had a witness on the stand, her sixth sense ferreting out the truth.

Instead of answering, he threw out his own question. “What are you doing in the middle of a cemetery on a freezing Saturday morning?”

His question brought to mind her original mission. And it seemed a much safer topic of conversation. “I’m looking for my dog. My crazy landlady let him out the front door instead of into the back yard to do his business.”

A dark eyebrow rose on Porter the man’s handsome face. “Really?”

Heat flooded her cheeks despite the icy wind. “Okay, he’s not really mine. He’s a stray I found, but he’s smart and trained. Someone must be looking for him. I was going to put up flyers today.” A grimace tugged her lips. “Except my landlady let him out this morning, and he took off. I’ve got to find him before Animal Control takes him away. He doesn't have any collar or tags.”

“Well, I haven’t seen your dog.” He drew out the last two words as if questioning her story. “But I did find this.” He held up her missing left glove.

She reached for the bright red accessory, not intending to touch him again, but his fingers curled around hers anyway. Breath caught in her lungs. That weird sense of knowing, of familiarity, sent a rush of heat through her body.

Cyrus Johnson’s raspy voice ruined any budding rapport with the sexy bouncer. “Jesus Christ, woman! Can’t you get your hormones under control long enough to help me?” A cocky grin filled Porter’s face, but he couldn’t have possibly heard Cyrus. Could he?

“If this dog is as smart as you say, I’m sure he can dodge the authorities. I wouldn’t worry about him. I’m sure he’ll show up. Maybe I should walk you home.”

Panic ran through her. She just wasn’t sure whether it was worry over Porter the dog or anxiety about Porter the man. “Thanks, but—”

His large hand grabbed her elbow, not hard enough to hurt but firm enough to guide her in the direction of the back gate. “It’s too damn cold to be arguing about this.” More warmth seeped through her coat and sweater and sent another flurry of desire through her. As they walked, he mumbled something under his breath.

As they crossed the graveyard, the transparent figure of Cyrus Johnson stepped in front of her. “Hey, what about me?”

She gritted her teeth and accepted the shock of cold when she passed through him. Her determination didn’t stop the shiver that passed through her body.

“Bitch!” But the insult didn’t hold much bite since Cyrus was too busy keeping his essence intact. The guide bleeped in protest.

Billie swallowed her own smile. Most ghosts learned not to repeat that little trick. Something about her disrupted their cohesiveness. But Cyrus would be back. She was sure of that one fact.

A warm, masculine chuckle tickled her ears. “Next time wear your long johns.”

She didn’t correct Porter’s assumption about the cause of her shivers. Nor did she protest when his arm encircled her shoulders, his body heat, and his presence, far more comforting than she’d admit out loud.

They were silent for the walk back to Nettie’s house. As much as Billie wanted to blame the lack of conversation on the noise of the occasional city truck spreading salt on the ice, she had no frickin’ clue on how to talk to this guy. Okay, most guys.

She chewed on her tongue trying to find a decent topic to start. “So, how’s the funeral business” didn’t sound like a polite opening line, but nothing else sounded right either. Besides, why would he possibly be interested in anything she had to say? Before she could come up with a reasonable topic that didn’t involve the weather, they were standing on Nettie’s front porch.

Porter slid his arm from her shoulders and held out his hand her key. Before she could decide whether to be pissed at his chauvinism or touched by his manners, the door flew open.

Kyra stood in the frame, a smirk on her face.” I thought you said you were coming home last night.”

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 4

Here's a another little taste of Death Goddess Walking (The Books of Apep #1). While I have been working on this series, I'm pushing the Kickstarter campaign to early 2024 in order to make sure all four books are completed prior to launch. I don't need a campaign to be interrupted by major life rolls like the Soccer Moms campaign was.


Mother Neit, forgive us our offences. Grant us your mercy that we may see the fires of the afterlife and your wisdom that we know the truth that drips from your lips. – Prayer to Neit, The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahri, Egypt

A different kind of fear forced bile up the back of Billie’s throat. She raised her left hand to shield her eyes from the cruiser’s spotlight, but the snow collecting on the sidewalk reflected the white beam across her retinas. Reasons for being out in this weather raced through her brain, but none of them were remotely plausible enough to satisfy the cops.

The high-pitched yip made her jump. The police officer jerked, too. Snowfall muffled the chung of the second door opening on the SUV. “Keep your hands where we can see them, ma’am,” a male voice said.

Raising both hands, she glanced down at the dog and said, “Thanks a lot, buster.” He had the nerve to wag his tail like their situation was some big joke. Snow floated into the gaping neckline of her coat, sending another round of shivers through her body. Facing the shadowy figures, she said, “I’m sorry, officers. My dog got loose.”

The first officer lowered the spotlight enough the animal was now caught in its beam. “What the hell kind of dog is that?”

“A mutt.” She shot her companion a nasty look. “A pain-in-the-ass mutt.” His tongue hung out in a canine grin as he looked up at her. “One who should have stayed where he was.” But no, she had to feel sorry for the creature.

“He’s a damn ugly mutt.” The male cop started to lower his weapon, but the dog growled and the officer flashed the weapon back up in the canine’s direction.

Billie lowered a hand and flicked the closest pointed ear. “Hush. You’ve gotten us in enough trouble.” He sat, but not before he gave her a glare that promised payback. She raised her hand back up when the male cop’s aim shifted from the dog to her.

“We got reports of animals fighting in the cemetery.” The female cop’s voice carried a friendlier edge.

Billie forced an exaggerated sigh. “That’s because my dumbass dog slipped his collar and chased a tomcat into the graveyard. I’m really sorry about all this, officers.” Her shivers became downright quaking, and her bruised hip threatened to give out from under her.

“You on something?” the male cop asked.

“No, sir.” She shook her head. “I’m cold, and I slipped on the ice and fell on the road in the cemetery.”

The male cop holstered his gun. “Let’s see some I. D.” Apparently, he wasn’t willing to forgive and forget the dog’s challenge to his authority.

Her heart lurched. The hunting knife was still sheathed at her back. If the cops decided to frisk her—

She forced logic through panicked brain cells. Right now, the officers had no probable cause for a search. “It’s in my back pocket.” When neither officer commented, she slowly lowered her right hand again to the back of her jeans and plucked out the plastic card.

He walked over, took the proffered driver license, and trudged back to the cruiser. “I’m calling this in.” Billie closed her eyes and tried to control her shakes. This whole thing was getting ridiculous. She’s just fought monsters to protect some dead children, sucked venom out of a ghost, and now she would freeze to death because some cop had a burr up his butt over a dog that wasn’t even hers.

Her eyes popped open at the female cop’s next words. “Geez, Burns, it’s freezing out here.”

“And?” He paused climbing back in the driver seat of the patrol SUV and glared at his partner.

“Let her get in the car and warm up.”

He shot Billie a ticked-off look. “Fine, but you’re cleaning up any mess that dog makes.”


Twenty minutes later, Billie stood huddled on the front porch of the ancient Victorian while the female officer rapped on the door. Her partner had insisted on checking out the graveyard. Thankfully, the snow had fallen fast enough to obliterate any evidence of the battle with the three monsters. The storm wasn’t letting up either. The wind had picked up again. Heavy flakes swirled underneath the security light and skittered past the swing to collect in the corners of the porch.

Warmth spilled from the house when Nettie jerked open the heavy oak door. She blinked, taking in the two officers, Billie, and finally the almost-but-not-quite-normal dog. Heat flooded Billie’s cheeks, the only part of her body remotely warm, despite the fact the female cop had cranked up the cruiser’s thermostat on the ride home. Somehow this was worse than the deputy who’d dragged her home to her foster parents after her runaway attempt, though she wasn’t entirely sure how.

“What’s going on, Billie?” Nettie turned to the female cop. “Officer Houlihan?”

“How’s it going, Professor?” She nodded in Billie’s direction. “This one of your girls?”

“Yes.” Nettie’s deep brown eyes narrowed. “What happened?”

Thank goodness, she’d worked out her story with the police. Billie swallowed hard, hoping the professor would go along with it in front of them. Unfortunately, there was only one male name that popped in her mind. “When I took Porter for his walk, he slipped his collar and took off after a tomcat inside the old Hess cemetery.” She affected a grimace that wasn’t hard to fake. “I fell twice on the ice trying to catch him, and I lost one of my gloves. The officers saw us squeezing through the back gate after I corralled him. I know they were doing their job, but I’m tired and I’d really like a hot bath right now.”

After a slow nod, the professor stepped out of the doorway. “Of course.” Billie slid past Nettie’s rail thin form and headed for the main stair case. The click of nails on the hardwood said the dog followed her.

“And Billie?”

She paused by the thick post that anchored the hand-carved railing. The weird look in Nettie’s eyes sent a shiver up her spine.

“There’s extra towels and some sweats on the second shelf in my bathroom closet.” The professor’s husky voice held an odd note.

“Thanks.” Billie turned and climbed the stairs, her hip protesting every step. Why would Nettie offer her clothes? At six foot even, she towered over Billie and the twins. Though Billie was hardly petite, Nettie’s sweats would bag around her ankles, assuming she could get the damn elastic and cotton over her hips. She shook her head. Another surreal conversation on a night of surreal events. But at least, her landlady seemed to pick up her hints about the dog.

Muted voices trailed after her as Nettie spoke with the police. At the top of the stairs, she turned into the professor’s room and flipped on the light. She looked down at the dog, who paused at her side. “I suppose I owe you a warm place to sleep for your help with those creatures in the cemetery.”

He answered with a wide doggy yawn. Billie snorted. She knew better, but the appearance of his understanding of perfectly good English was downright eerie. Maybe the monster she’d killed had clocked her harder than she thought.

The dog stayed by the door as she crossed to the bathroom and found the requisite items within the closet. Deciding it would be best to deal with everything in her own room, Billie flicked off the light and headed down the hall.

Once inside, she dropped the mass of towels and sweats on the bed and began peeling off her outwear. Boots were thrown in the corner and the coat and scarf lay over the back of the dressing chair to air dry. The knife went under her pillow. Almost everything else was tossed in the hamper. The dog whined when she stopped at the ribbed cotton tank and panties.

“Sorry, boy. You’re as cold and wet as I am, aren’t you?” Billie grabbed a towel and knelt next to him. The motion was an exercise in pain. She yanked the elastic waistband of her panties aside to check her hip. The first hint of purple marred a huge dark pink stain on her skin. From the aches in the rest of her body, she’d have matching bruises in other places in the morning. Her lips twisted in a grimace. What a wonderful way to mark her thirtieth birthday.

She slid the elastic back in place and began rubbing down the dog’s fur. The texture was so silky she stopped to run her fingers through the damp strands. He leaned into her touch with a whimper of pleasure. His pelt didn’t have the coarse feel of a German shepherd. Nor did it resemble the down of a collie. In fact, the closest thing his fur reminded her of was human hair.

She jerked her fingers away and sucked in a shallow breath. Where had that thought come from? Maybe her sanity had finally left the planet. Schizophrenia. Yeah. Maybe she was just as crazy as her mom had been. Or Nettie. Maybe she’d imagined everything in the cemetery.

The dog whined again and pressed a cold, wet nose against her palm, wanting attention. No, the dog was real. The police had seen him. Nettie, too. And the bruises from the fight were definitely real.

Which meant the monsters hunting the ghost children were real.


“What’s wrong?”

She jumped at the sound of Nettie’s words. No mean feat when Billie was already on her knees and her entire body felt like one gigantic sore.

“Twitchy tonight, aren’t we?” A slim black eyebrow rose toward Nettie’s tight, graying curls. “What really happened, Billie?”

Her mouth clamped shut of its own accord. She’d always been honest with the professor, but this story was too bizarre to relate even by her standards of weirdness.

Nettie’s eyes narrowed once again. “I covered for you with the police officers. I think I deserve an explanation of what you two were really doing in the cemetery.”

Billie swallowed. Hard. Guilt hung like a cloud. But she hadn’t done anything, dammit! The last thing she wanted was to lie to Nettie, but she didn’t need any of the professor’s nutty lectures either.

“Billie—” Nettie had softened her tone. “Does this have anything to do with the dead children?”

Sucking in a deep breath, she let it out slowly before she whispered, “Yes.”

Nettie’s mouth opened, but Billie held up a hand. “Before you say anything, I need you to promise to just listen. And please don’t start any of your destiny bullshit.”

The professor’s jaw snapped shut and she nodded.

Billie waited until Nettie took a seat on her bed before she sat cross-legged on her bedroom rug and spilled the details. Drying the dog let her eyes focus on something else besides the professor’s face. She kept her story to the events in the cemetery. Despite only a fifteen-year age difference between her and Nettie, she wasn’t about to relate the emotions Kyra’s mysterious bouncer friend aroused in her.

Nettie was silent for a long time after she finished.

Billie continued rubbing down the dog. “Well?”

“It’s started already,” Nettie whispered. She stared at the dog, who made a soft woof. The professor cleared her throat before she added in a louder voice. “Maybe he should sleep downstairs.”

With a quick shake of his head and one of his odd high-pitched barks, the dog leapt into Billie’s bed and promptly sprawled across the foot.

Billie laughed at his territorial claim. “Guess he’s staying here. And, um, I appreciate the thought, but the sweats, um…” She climbed to her feet and yanked the clothing out from under the damp dog.

A frown twisted both Nettie’s brow and lips. She looked from the lounging black canine to the proffered gray fleece. She shook her head and took them. “Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.” Another strange look was aimed at the animal.

If her hip wasn’t so sore, Billie could have kicked herself. The professor must never have had indoor pets before. “I promise I’ll take care of him. Messes, food, everything. I’ll put signs up around the area in the morning. He’s pretty well trained so he must belong to someone.”

Of course, the damn mutt chose that moment to turn his head and growl at her.

“Hush.” She wagged a finger at the dog, but a quick glance showed no change in Nettie’s expression.

“Well, I’ll say good night then.” Nettie reached for the doorknob, but looked back at Billie. “Did the twins say when they’d be home?”

“No.” Billie’s stomach lurched. “You think those things could—” She couldn’t finish the horrendous thought.

Nettie shook her head. “I’m sure as long as they don’t cut through the graveyard and stay together, they’ll be fine.” She held up her handful of fleece, but her gaze was solely on the dog. “I’ll just put these on my bed. Good night.” The door closed behind her and her sweats.

Could this night get any weirder?

The ancient radiator rattled as the equally ancient steam furnace kicked to life. Billie pulled flannel pajamas and socks over her goosebumps. After swallowing a couple of ibuprofen pills and hitting the light switch, she climbed under the comforter and curled on her side. The knife hilt under the pillow added a measure of reassurance as wind and snowflakes whipped against the windows.

Her stray crawled across the covers until his back was firmly lodged against hers. They both sighed at the same instant. A certainty that the strange canine belonged at her back, that he’d protect her no matter what, sent a rush of security through her overwrought nerves.

And the warmth of a friendly body kept the nightmares at bay.


Billie’s eyes blinked open to wet, gray light. A roll and a stretch brought the awareness of her sore muscles. The motion also brought the realization something was missing. She jerked upright. The dog was nowhere in her room, and the bedroom door stood ajar.

Crap. She scrambled out of bed and grabbed her robe before sliding her stocking feet into her wool-lined slippers. If he made a mess on Nettie’s polished floors, the professor would have a royal conniption fit.

Both twins’ doors remained firmly shut. A quick peek in the shared bathroom showed nothing. Moving down the hall, she saw Nettie’s door open. Great, just great. But neither the professor or the dog were in the bedroom or the master bath.

Leather slapped on hardwood as she jogged down the stairs. The living room, formal parlor, and dining room were empty, which left the brightly lit kitchen. Double crap.

Nettie sat at the kitchen table, the Saturday morning Dispatch spread in front of her, a mug at her elbow, coffee from the tantalizing odor, as she scanned Section A. She glanced up at Billie’s presence in the doorway and nodded toward the steaming pot on the counter.

Billie took a deep breath and released it. “Have you seen Porter this morning?” She didn’t know what else to call the mutt. It fit though. The dog was even more of a mystery than the Kyra’s friend.

A thin black eyebrow rose as Nettie took a sip from her mug. “He had some business to attend to this morning.”

Heart racing, Billie crossed to the back door and yanked it open. Shivering under the assault of wind and cold while standing on the back porch, she searched the yard. White blanketed the dead grass and Nettie’s prized rose bushes. No footprints, canine or otherwise, marred the pristine crystals.

She slammed the door shut. “He’s not in the back yard.”

A bemused look covered Nettie’s face. “Of course not. He went out the front.”

Triple crap. “You let an untagged, collarless dog out the front door?”

The professor shrugged. “He asked.”

Planting fists on hips, Billie glared at Nettie. Had she forgotten her medication? Again? “So now you can talk to animals?”

“You talk to dead people.”

Since nothing she could say could top Nettie’s statement, she whirled and headed back upstairs. She mumbled curses under her breath as she pulled on jeans, a turtleneck sweater, and boots. What the hell had the professor been thinking? She grabbed her coat, scarf, and keys before she raced down the steps.

“Where are you going?” Nettie called from the kitchen.

“To find my dog!” The front door made a satisfying exclamation when she slammed it behind her.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Change of Plans

I'd planned to send the first three paperbacks of the Millersburg Magic Mysteries to a couple of friends' daughters for #AllHallowsRead this year. Plus, I've been having fun with some bead work and found some cute sugar skull charms to go with the theme, so I decided to make the girls Dia de los Muertos bookmarks to go with the books.

As I'm working on the bookmarks, I realized the series and the sugar skull bookmarks would make a perfect #Witchstarter campaign! This will now be my second Kickstarter campaign!

It's gong to be short and sweet. Two weeks. $100 goal. Only the Millersburg Magick Mysteries ebooks and paperbacks and the Dia de los Muertos bookmarks for the main rewards. Maybe some stickers for the first stretch goal.

I'll post here and on the website at the end of September before the campaign goes live.

Note 1: All Hallow's Read was started back in 2010 by Neil Gaiman as a book-giving holiday for us non-Icelanders. Iceland has Jolabokaflod, which makes me want to move there!

Note 2: Witchstarter is the name given to October Kickstarter campaigns with a magickal theme.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Care in the Time of Spite

This is a plea for assistance for cover artist Alex Calder. Business is already down this year for authors and cover artists across the board. It sucks because it means dipping into savings.

In Alex's case, her landlord abruptly decided he wants the house she rents back within the next 50 days. She and her son will be evicted. Finding affordable housing is a bitch no matter where you live. She no longer has enough in savings for a deposit fee, first month's rent, and to hire a mover. She doesn't have an family to rely on.

If you could donate a few dollars through her GoFundMe, both she and her son would truly appreciate your kindness.

Just a few dollars. I'm skipping a few days of Pumpkin Spice lattes for her. Or if you're a writer in need of a cover, ask Alex about her pre-mades. Any donation could make a world of difference to this lovely freelance artist.

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

New Release - Spells and Sleuths

Today is the official release day of the new version of Spells and Sleuths (Millersburg Magick Mysteries #1).

This story first came out back near the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns. The series was meant to be a light-hearted, Scooby-Doo-style sequel to Bloodlines.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was suffering from depression. When I read the first three books later that summer, my mental illness showed through my writing. It was the first time I was ever incredibly unhappy with something I'd created. So I pulled the books from Amazon, and swore to rewrite them.

But then, I had a number of life rolls, and I never got back to the Millersburg Magick Mysteries until this summer. In fact, I carved out the last half of 2023 to finish these books. And I'm a lot more satisfied with Spells and Sleuths the second time around.

It’s been eleven years since supernaturals were revealed to the world during the eruption of Mount Rainier. But small-town life in Millersburg, Ohio, hasn’t changed that much.

At least, not for twin witches Kirsten and Kaley Wilson. Not until an alleged ghost starts haunting local landmarks, including the girls’ high school. Hauntings that become more violent and dangerous with each event.

Is the ghost a true supernatural phenomenon? Or has something else come back seeking revenge?

Suzan Harden, the author of the Bloodlines and the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series, brings you a paranormal mystery set in the heart of Ohio Amish country that will chill and thrill you at the same time!

P.S. The Millersburg Magick Mysteries will be available on Kindle Unlimited until the end of the year.


Monday, August 14, 2023

Ke Kaumaha

NOTE: This is a repost from my other blog, Wild, Wicked, & Wacky. "Ke Kaumaha" means sadness in the Hawaiian language.


My heart aches.

DH and I had to postpone our honeymoon because he was going through chemotherapy the year we were married. So, in 1996, we decided to have a spectacular trip to Hawaii to celebrate not just our wedding, but his survival.

We spent the first week on O'ahu and the second on Maui.

We fell in love with Maui. We stayed at a hotel just outside of the historic town of Lahaina. The town, the people, and the food were all so amazing.

And I can't say anymore without crying.

Because the town is literally gone.

A wildfire spurred by drought and the winds of Hurricane Dora swept through Lahaina late Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday morning, the town was a pile of ash and debris.

If you wish to help, I suggest the Maui Strong Fund.

This is a situation where thoughts and prayers aren't enough.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 3

Here's the next unedited chapter of the first book in the upcoming The Books of Apep series. Sorry, I'm late. I got up early to go vote yesterday, but I can't do three hours of sleep in thirty-six hours without my body demanding payment.


The dead seek her comfort, and she readily tends them with her mercy. – A prayer to Selket on the walls of the reconstructed Red Temple of Hatshepsut, the Karnak complex at Luxor, Egypt

Billie matched Cyrus’s glare. “If you don’t know how to help, then shut up.”

A soft woof agreed with her. She glanced at the black dog sitting next to her. “I don’t suppose you know how to take care of a ghost, do you?” A doggy grin was her only answer.

“Boy needs a doctor.”

“I said, shut the fuck up, Cyrus!” Hot panic filled her mouth. It’s not like they covered monster attacks in law school, much less medical school. Even if she called the twins, what could they possibly do? “And you and your little friend need to back away. I can’t see his injuries with you glowing all over the place.”

She breathed a sigh of relief when Cyrus and his guide backed away until the stone angel partially obscured the guide’s luminescence. Unfortunately, her idea light bulb remained dark as she returned to examining Marcus’s wounds.

This situation was different than the soul-eaters she’d seen attack ghosts in the past. Those things couldn’t touch her. These monsters could. Her aching hip, bruised spine, and sore ribs could testify to that.

Sarah Jane knelt on the other side of Marcus, stroking the weeping boy’s hand in hers. The girl’s eyes glistened with silvery tears. “You gotta do something, Miss Billie.”

An icy touch on her neck preceded Tommy’s words. “Marcus ain’t hurt that bad. Mebbe them things’re poison to us.”

She looked over her shoulder at the older boy. Snowflakes dusted through his form. “What’re you saying?”

Tommy inclined his head at the injured ghost. “Them marks look like when my pa got bit by a rattler.”

Billie examined the injuries on Marcus’s side. Four puncture wounds from the monster’s claw showed through the torn turtleneck the boy had been buried in. Black ringed each circle in his ectoplasmic skin. No, not black. Nothingness.

Again, the surety of the knowledge unnerved her, but not as much as the ghost’s condition. New fear gnawed on her intestines as the circles of non-existence reached for each other. A nugget of an idea formed in her head. “Then we need to draw out the poison.”

Cyrus’s voice rang from behind the statue’s wings. “You don’t have clue of what you’re doing, girlie!”

The almost-dog rose and trotted around the grave. When the canine’s distinctive growl thrummed the night air, followed by Cyrus’s yelp, Billie swallowed the hysterical laugh that threatened to erupt from her. The canine returned to sit on his haunches beside her.

She couldn’t resist the urge to ruffle his neck fur. “Thanks.”

Another woof and a nod.

No, she could not deal with canine communication that made sense right now. A deep breath helped focus on the immediate problem. This was no different than the bar exam. Break down the elements of the question and tackle them one at a time.

And time was one thing she didn’t have. The black edges surrounding the puncture marks had joined and now covered an area bigger than her palm on Marcus’s side.

Looking over her shoulder, she asked, “Tommy, how’d your father treat the snake bite?”

The older boy’s eyebrows drew into a vee as he struggled to pull out a nearly two hundred-year-old memory. “We headed into the woods to cut logs for the house. I jumped over a fallen tree and there he was, the biggest, fattest rattler you’d ever seen—”


At her sharp chiding, he blinked and his cheeks flared silvery white. “He had me cut ’im with his huntin’ knife across the bite and suck out the poison.”

Billie frowned. Sucking out poison was a myth perpetuated by pop culture. It didn’t work with real people.

But then, this entire situation was unreal.

“Now just how am I supposed to cut a ghost’s flesh?”

Tommy shrugged. “Your huntin’ knife worked on them monsters, and they can touch us ghosts.”

A snort came from behind the monument. She closed her eyes. “I said be quiet, Cyrus, or I’ll sic the dog on you. “A high-pitched bark confirmed her threat.

She opened her eyes and gazed at Tommy’s earnest face. “They were real.” At the boy’s flinch, she wished she could take the words back. “I’m sorry, Tommy. I meant my knife is steel, and those creatures were flesh, not ectoplasm like Marcus.”

He shrugged in acceptance of her apology. “It ain’t gonna hurt to try, Miss Billie. None of us were buried with anything we can cut ’im with.”

She looked down at Marcus. Even though he looked eleven, technically he was old enough to be her grandfather. Why was his consent so important to her? “It’s your call, Marcus. Do you want me to try?”

The ghost boy brushed at the tears trickling from under his glasses with his free hand and nodded. Steel and wood weighed in Billie’s hand. What the hell was she thinking? But the black patch on Marcus’s side was growing as she hesitated, and she had nothing to lose at this point. She sucked in a deep breath.

Two quick slashes formed an ‘X’ across the wounds. A short cry escaped from Marcus, but other than a jerk at the first cut, he remained still. Sarah Jane kept her grip on his hand while Tommy knelt beside him and clung to the other one.

This was insane. Even as the thought flew through her mind, Billie bent her lips to the boy’s side. Intense cold shocked her system, but it was the taste that launched her gag reflex into overdrive. Not even a real taste, but a foulness pure in its terrible state against her lips. Nothing so evil had ever touched her before tonight. Not even her foster father’s lecherous advances felt this bad. Swallowing hard against the threatening nausea, she sucked the blackness, turned, and spat. Repeating the sequence over and over until Marcus’s skin turned a dull gray and she was sure none of the evil remained in him.

Then she flung herself away from the children. The contents of her stomach heaved across the pristine snow. When the last of the beer and her birthday dinner were purged, she collapsed on the frozen grass. Every bit of strength had been consumed in her struggle to save Marcus. Or at least his soul.

White light pierced her eyelids. She forced one eye open to find Cyrus and his guide hovering over her. “I always said you shouldn’t waste perfectly good alcohol on a woman. They puke it up every time,” the ghost muttered.

Her eyelid drifted shut again. She couldn’t even summon the energy to curse at him, much less keep her eyes open. It would be so nice to take a nap. She didn’t even feel cold anymore.

Warm, sweet breath whispered across her cheek. Her eyes blinked open. Funny. The canine peering at her from inches away didn’t smell doggy at all. Orange and cinnamon and sandalwood filled her nose. Odd combination for an animal. He nudged under her chin with his frigid, wet nose, a reminder she was laying in the middle of a cemetery during a snowstorm.

Except part of her didn’t care. The miasma from the thing’s venom seeped into her bones and muscles, rendering her body inoperable. Even her mind fuzzed under the silent flakes gathering on her scarf.

Sleek fur slid under her left hand. The dog wedged his head under her arm, lifting the unresponsive limb with his body. Her rattled brain finally got the memo. She had to get up or she’d freeze. Fingers stroked his surprisingly soft pelt. For the second time tonight, instinct said she knew this being.

His body heat burned away the dangerous lethargy clinging to her as he aligned his frame with hers. A whine and lick on her cheek encouraged her to climb to her knees. Too bad it wasn’t a kiss from Porter.

She jerked at the unexpected thought. Damn, had the ghost poison fried her brain cells?

A small giggle escaped at her incongruous thoughts. Attaining an upright position seemed to help clear her head. Maybe the monster venom did affect her if she was comparing her canine rescuer with Kyra’s bouncer friend. The two had nothing in common but the color black. She stared at the animal face so close to hers. And those strange golden eyes.

Another wave of dizziness threatened to spill her back on the ice-covered grass, and she tightened her grip on the dog’s fur. He bore it, not even emitting the tiniest growl of protest. Sarah Jane knelt next to her and the dog. “Are you going to be okay, Miss Billie?”

“Yeah.” Her stomach disagreed, but there wasn’t anything left to hurl. She glanced over at Marcus. Tommy and another boy were hefting the injured ghost between them. “Can you kids get Marcus back to his grave?”

They all nodded, matching solemn looks on their faces. Except for Marcus who looked like he had the phantom equivalent of her nausea. Thank goodness, the patch of nothingness on his side was gone.

“You all should go to your resting places,” she added. “I don’t think those things are coming back tonight, but your coffins and mausoleums should give you some protection if they do.” Once again, the odd tickle of certainty over the imparted information bothered her.

“What about you?” Concern pinched Sarah Jane’s face.

A soft yip sounded in her ear. She couldn’t resist another chuckle. “Our friend will help me to the back gate.”

Without another word, the group of children headed for Marcus’s section of the cemetery.

She didn’t get that lucky with the adult ghost.

“What about my problem?” Cyrus glared at her.

“Go haunt your son.” Biting her lip against her churning stomach, not to mention the pain from getting tossed around by the monster, Billie ignored the sputtering ghost, braced a hand on the dog’s back and climbed to her feet.

“Listen, you bi—”

She held up a hand. “Stop yapping and think, Cyrus. There are things prowling this cemetery that can hurt a ghost. Are you going to leave before they find you? Or are you as dumb as I think? Personally, I’m hoping for the latter—”

Cyrus and his guide faded from view.

Well, that was two problems down.

Then the reality of what she still held in her upraised hand sank into her exhausted brain. It took two tries to sheathe the knife. She was damn lucky she didn’t slice off her ass in the attempts.

She raised the fallen scarf back over her hair and ears before she looked down at the dog. “I suppose cutting off my butt would be an improvement, wouldn’t it?” The dog actually took a step backward and seemed to examine the mentioned anatomy. He returned to her side and shook his head vigorously.

“Great. Dead people weren’t bad enough. Now, I’m talking to animals.”

He peered up at her through thickening flakes, tongue lolling in a doggy grin. She took a few tentative steps with one hand still on his furry back, his muscular strength a comfort. He paced her patiently as she shuffled through the accumulating snow. Damn, she didn’t realize how big the thing was. His shoulder came nearly up to her hip, and she wasn’t exactly short at five-foot-seven.

Deciding to ignore the question of her strange hero, Billie set off for the back gate, her normal stride hampered by her bruised body. With the snow already at a half-inch, her tracks couldn’t be helped. The dog padded alongside, his puffs of foggy breath matching hers.

Questions raced through her muddled brain during their silent walk. The biggest one was exactly what were those things that had attacked her and the children.

She could touch them. They had mass and weight, not like the soul-eaters she’d encountered before. Not like the one that had ripped her mother’s ghost apart and munched ectoplasm with gleeful abandon. A shudder shook Billie at the memory.

The dog paused and gave her a curious look.

“I’m fine.”

A questioning whine followed.

She stopped as well and searched her coat pocket for her gloves. The wind died down, but the snow seemed to fall faster. Her sigh sent a cloud of steam through the flakes when only the left one made an appearance. She must have lost the other glove in the fight, and the ever-thickening whiteness would swallow the bright red yarn. Shoving her right hand into her coat pocket helped, but her fingertips were staring to go numb. She and the dog continued their slow trudge.

Fifteen minutes later, they finally reached the back gate. Held by a chain and padlock, the wrought-iron gate had enough of a gap to slip through. A soft whine stopped her on the street side.

Dammit, she couldn’t leave the poor creature behind, not after he’d saved her life. And not in this kind of weather. Tonight, he could sleep in the kitchen, and tomorrow morning she could put up signs around the neighborhood and campus. Surely, he must be someone’s trained guard dog from his behavior towards the monsters. She held the gate so he could pass through the narrow opening, and she turned to head down the street when a white glare blinded her.

Unfortunately, it was caused by something worse than her annoying ex-client and his bird-like spirit guide.

A commanding female voice rolled past the light. “Columbus PD, ma’am. What’re you doing in the cemetery after visiting hours?”