“Betrayed” – Excerpt from ILLEGAL PURSUIT (Section Psi)

SectionPsidecalWhen the past becomes the present, the greatest terror isn’t what happens next, but what might not happen at all. Detective Jack Peterson was a normal guy, and a member of the Martian Colonial Armed Response, until a shuttle crash left him stranded in the midst of one of Mars’ dangerous Dead Zones. He survived, but his ordeal in the Dead Zone left him battling for his life against the dreaded Martian Fever, and his scars run a lot deeper than his skin, his genetics forever altered. Jack’s never fully accepted the changes he’s undergone, and refuses to learn how to make use of his Psi abilities. But when he’s faced with losing the woman who gives his life meaning, he’ll have to accept that his abilities might be the only way of saving her life.

“Betrayed” — Excerpt from ILLEGAL PURSUIT (Section Psi, Book 1)

He was going to kill her!

Jack slammed his fist into the metal and concrete amphitheater wall and swore beneath his breath. Even physical pain wasn’t enough to drive away the sting of her manipulation. It would be an understatement – and a fatal one – for anyone to think he was angry. He was damned well beyond angry. And, to make matters worse, the woman whose beautiful neck he wanted to throttle so badly was long gone. Rage and hurt knotted together in his gut, a typical reaction to one of Kathrin’s stunts and, like normal, he honestly wasn’t sure what he wanted more – to throttle her, or hug her. At the moment, he’d put his money on throttle, if for no other reason than that he was twice as angry at himself as he was at Kathrin. He let his guard down. He thought he was safe with Kathrin.

He should know better, should have been prepared for this. He’d been here, in this catch-twenty-two between duty and friendship, before. Six years ago, it was Xander Mylonas who hadn’t listened, too obsessed with his pursuit of justice, at any cost, to see any of the dangers to himself or others. And the worst part was, Jack wasn’t sure Xander was ever sorry for what he did.

Jack winced as one crystal clear reminder chimed in his brain. Kathrin wasn’t Xander. She was everything but immune to the feelings of others, and he could at least understand her crusade, even if he saw the dangers to her she refused to acknowledge. Jack squeezed his eyes closed and pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers as he fought to control the frustrated urge to burn something.

Kathrin was different, no matter how he looked at it. The whole damned situation was. Hell, he’d been falling for her since the first day he looked into those indigo eyes. She used his feelings for her to manipulate and distract him, and the betrayal stung. But what hit him hardest was knowing, after that kiss, she had to know how he felt about her. And she still used him.

The need to burn something, to release the pain and tension Kathrin’s betrayal stirred in him, grew unbearable. He was going insane with the heat of rage pulsing in his body. His blood was boiling, and his skin felt hot and too tight. If he didn’t release this energy soon, he was afraid he’d explode.

His gaze cast wildly around as the pressure built, and he snatched up a trembling fistful of discarded plastisheet fliers, relief pouring through him at the feel of combustible material in his hand. Eyes closed, he focused the energy into his hands, the same way he did when he charged his Wulf-120. Heat swelled in his blood, and fire licked through his pulse like lava rushing toward release. He could feel his hands growing hot and saw the glow of red against his eyelids that told him his ability was gathering power. He caught the acrid scent of smoke and flesh before there was an audible hiss, and the pages burst into flame. The fumes of burning plastic and acetate reached his nose, and, within seconds, the fliers were a pile of melted goop in his hand. It left a disgusting mess, but at least his temper disappeared with the flames, and he could think rationally again.

As calm settled over him, Jack drew a deep breath of relief and stared at the goop in his hand as it cooled and hardened into a plastic lump. He couldn’t help but wonder if that lump was a sign of how close he really was to the edge. Funny, how the mere sound of Kathrin’s voice was capable of calming him, making him sane, while her actions inflamed his rage, and abilities. She had the power to destroy him with her little crusade. And that was the most troubling thought of all.

“In Harm’s Way” – Excerpt from Dead Men… (Section Psi)

SectionPsidecalAnyone who knows me knows I have a lot of faith in and respect for science. I believe that, in time, science will answer a lot of questions that are currently mysteries, and will allow us to travel to and live in places where at current we can only imagine what life would be like.

My love for science is part of what inspires me to write Science Fiction, to ask the “What if” question of science and technology. What if we could? What if we found ourselves exposed to new things we can’t even currently imagine are out there. History and science have proven that the coming together of an established society and a society or location completely unknown to them often results in situations outside of human control. The influx of Europeans into the New World sent the Native American death toll spiraling from disease alone – exposure to viruses and germs they lacked the immune system to combat.

So, what would happen if you took humanity from its home planet, and found a way to make human life possible on Mars? We can send all the robots we want – we still have no idea what kinds of pathogens or problems we might encounter from the natural environment of Mars, alone.

This “What if?” was the inspiration behind Section Psi, set in the 25th century, after portions of Mars have long been colonized. However, a virulent infection known as Martian Fever is still a very real threat. No viable vaccine or cure has ever been manufactured for it – disaster has dogged every one ever created. It strikes nearly 75% of the children born on-world. While most recover with little to no lasting effect, some children suffer genetic mutations to their brain and body chemistry, turning them into what are known as Psis – people with extrasensory and paranormal abilities. And children aren’t the only ones at risk. All new arrivals to Mars risk the same infection. While most adults arriving never even contract the Fever, those who do and whom are genetically altered by it suffer far worse than children do.

So how do you police a group of people with paranormal abilities written into their DNA? You form a special off-shoot of the on-world police force, designated solely to deal with crimes against and committed by Psis – Section Psi.

Hope you enjoy!  As always, please leave comments and let me know what you think!

 

“In Harm’s Way”  – Excerpted from Dead Men… (Section Psi, Book 4)

At the Section docking hanger, Calli powered down her Flitter and unstrapped her helmet as she made her way into the nearly deserted facility.  She dropped the helmet on her desk and kept going toward the Lexus Chamber.

“What are you doing back here?”

Calli stopped as Bethanie stepped out of the lab, and her own brows lifted in mock surprise.  “I could ask you the same thing.”

Bethanie grinned.  “I never left.  I’m running a hazardous chemical analysis that’s very sensitive.  I can’t leave until it’s done.  What’s your excuse?”

“I had a breakthrough.”

“More like a breakdown,” a new voice said, and Calli swung around to glare at Cade accusingly.

“You followed me!”

“Damn straight I did, darlin’.  You’re determined to kill yourself.”

“Go to Hell!” She brushed past him to reach the Lexus Chamber.  If she was lucky, he wouldn’t follow her.  But, of course, she wasn’t that lucky.  She could hear his booted feet on the concrete floor behind her.  She ignored him, setting up for a direct jack-in that would allow her a straight free-dive into restricted space.  She had a name to find, and she didn’t have time to scour the Lexus for a back door.

“Do you even know what you’re doing?”  Cade’s hand slapped over the power conduit, keeping her from plugging the jack in.

She jerked back and glared at him again.  She sure as hell knew what she was doing, unlike him.

“I’m working.”

“Bullshit, angel.  You–”

”Like you’d know.”  She straightened then, her breath frozen in her lungs and her eyes wide as what he said finally registered.  Angel.  “What did you call me?”

He frowned, as if replaying his words in his head, and she swore she caught the flicker of panic in his eyes, if only for an instant.

“Nothing.  Calli, you haven’t worked this hard on a case in years, from what I’ve heard.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “From who?”

“Your brother.  The captain.  Hell, everyone.”  He gave her a strange look she couldn’t decipher.  “They all say you’re a workaholic, but that you’ve never taken a case personally, before.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Who says it’s personal?”

“Please.  You’ve been ready to go to the wall – Hell, you hacked an Earth Council facility – for this case.  I want to know why.  What makes this case different?”

She glared at him, even as her suspicion meter pegged out.  Just how the hell did he know what she did in her home Lexus Chamber?

copyright 2008 by Esther Mitchell

Section Psi – Coming Soon from Desert Breeze Publishing

“A Question of Values” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalSomething that’s always fascinated me about mythology is the interplay and interweaving of the concepts of good and evil. In the earliest polytheistic myths, the concepts were twined together so intricately, it was clear that early man had a depth of understanding about the duality of both good and evil that later morality tried to divorce itself from. With the advent of more monotheistic religions, and polymorphic derivatives like Christianity, the waters of good and evil became muddled with absolutism, and the concept became one of holy vs unholy, and one could not be both, or have any kind of interplay between the two. The grey area between good and evil began to disappear, and would not re-emerge until the Age of Humanism.

 

However, even the most holy ancient texts of Christianity and monotheistic religions such as Judaism and Islam make reference to a deity that is both benevolent and wrathful, a protector and a destroyer. I wanted to explore this, and my Guardians, Inc series became the perfect vehicle for exploring the fine line between good and evil, and where religion loses the concept of faith and becomes zealotry, instead.   And, since I’ve always had a fascination with the concept of the Faustian Contract, I found myself very drawn to the creation of the character of Mephistopheles – a Para who is a demon/devil, but who has made his own deals, if you will, and has a code and set of rules he follows, even in his “business.” I came to really like this character, who straddles the line between what is inherently good in all of us, and what is drawn to acts many might consider evil… He is a necessary evil, and I find myself quite liking him. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he ends up turning up in more than one book in this series…

 

“A Question of Values” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6) –

 

“What can I interest you in, today? We have a fine collection of Ch’in sculpture, or Berber rugs, perhaps?”

Jonathan stared the tall, emaciated-looking old man down. “I’m not in the mood for games, Mephistopheles. We both know you’ve got a lot more hidden away than a few illegal artifacts.”

Thin lips curved upward ever-so-slightly in a cool smile. “What you’re asking for is very expensive, Agent Caulder. Are you certain you want it?”

Jonathan laughed shortly. As if. “You and I both know you can’t make those kinds of bargains with me, Mephistopheles.”

The old demon sighed exaggeratedly. “More’s the pity, too. You’d make a fine addition to my collection. I could get a lot at auction.”

Mardi Gras tourists not doing it for you, anymore, huh?”

One thin shoulder shrugged up. “You know how it is. One vice, no imagination. No value, there.”

“Wouldn’t know. What I do know is, word has it you might have a lead on the whereabouts of Elizabeth Prescott.”

Mephistopheles’ slim brow raised. “Sweet girl. And very much not my type.”

“Too innocent for you?”

A chuckle answered that. “No such thing, my dear boy. Everyone has some kind of darkness, some price. Well, almost everyone,” he admitted grudgingly. “Young Miss Prescott is incorruptible.” His gaze narrowed on Jonathan. “You, however, have a price. You’ve had value for years, but I see that one — of little enough value, as vengeance always is — has been paid off in full. But you’ve got a new one, now. Much more valuable. Ah, love, maybe? Yes,” he nodded as Jonathan tensed. “Definitely love. I could help you out.”

Jonathan’s fists clenched. He wasn’t playing this game. “I don’t need your help. You even think about messing with her, and so help me God…”

A derisive chuckle met his unguarded oath. “It has been an eternity since the god of Abraham saw my showroom floor. We have an understanding, he and I. I don’t barter for that which is pure, and he doesn’t interfere with my…” He cleared his throat tellingly, “legitimate business.”

“Wonderful.” Jonathan wasn’t interested in any business that didn’t involve his case. “My sources say you helped someone ‘acquire’ Elizabeth.”

Mephistopheles tsk-ed regretfully. “Someone has been talking shop off the showroom floor. It is so difficult to find reliable help, these days.”

Jonathan laughed without humor. “You, complaining about vice? I don’t buy it.”

“You never buy anything,” Mephistopheles complained. “But I have hope for you. Someday, I’ll find the right price.”

Those words drove a cold spike through Jonathan. Mac had a stalker no one had seen yet. Could that be because they weren’t supposed to see? “What have you done?”

“Nothing, yet.” Mephistopheles appeared blandly unconcerned. “As for your Miss Prescott, don’t look my way. I had a Dark Court partisan inquire about acquiring her a few months back, but he didn’t like my price and I’m afraid I was required to have him removed from the premises. Rather forcefully, I might add.”

Meaning, of course, that one of Mephistopheles’ thugs likely vaporized him. Another potential suspect gone. Great.

“I would suggest,” Mephistopheles tapped his steepled fingers against his bony chin, “if you are looking for Miss Prescott, you look into her brother’s associations. Dear Maximillian has a very high price on his head.”

“You’re Only As Good…” : The Intersection of Trauma, Fiction, and Publication

I know it probably sounds pathetic to most people that I identify myself so much by my career as an author – especially since I’m not and likely never will get rich doing it. I know there are plenty of people who, no matter what they say to my face, probably think it’s a waste of my time, because it’s not liable to make me rich.

 

I’ve always identified myself as an author… For as long as I can remember (back to even before I could read or write in reality), I’ve had that facet of myself, that identity wrapped up inside me. In my tumultuous childhood, writing was a lifeline, and the only voice I really had.  Life traumas have left me questioning whether or not I should have ever published, but never whether or not I should have ever written.  I think that’s the part that confuses some people.  They think the two are interlinked, and that if one writes, one must publish.

 

Truth? In some ways, I was much happier with my writing, before I published. The self-doubt and self-loathing I’ve struggled most of my life with didn’t invade my writing world until I published the first time… That was when the inner chorus of “See, you’re not worth anything” and “I told you no one wants you” and the “Why do you bother?” grew louder… and every time someone looks down their nose at me about “wasting time” or my “hobby,” that chorus gets louder still.  Every time the icy shoulders come out or someone talks over top of me or changes the subject when I start talking about my books, the chorus becomes more insistent.  Every time I schedule/pay for time to advertise, only to have someone else horn in, and everyone instantly turns their attention to that other person’s work, the chorus becomes deafening.

 

Truth? For every one person I’ve received an e-mail from about how much my work has helped them (and yes, there have been a number… I’m not discrediting that) over the years,  there have been twenty who haven’t even given me or my work a chance, and who’ve done the “snake oil salesman” routine, and told me “how wonderful” my work is, like I can’t see through them, and like I don’t know they’ve never read a word… not even the free postings I’ve offered over the years (and I’m not saying anyone has to read anything I write… what I’m asking for is honesty. If you don’t read it, don’t tell me you think it’s “wonderful”… I’d much rather you just said, “It’s not my speed” than lie to me, thanks.).

 

Am I bitter? No, that’s not the word I would use. Bitterness implies being angry at someone else, or a system, and I’m not. I know how this game is played. The problem is, I’m no good at playing it. I believe an author’s work should be able to speak for itself, not that the author should be out there prostituting themselves for the next reader… I know it’s a shabby way to look at things, and I’m likely to get backlash for it… I’m aware of that. But my truth is built on identifying myself by my work… I’m ashamed to say I allowed other people to dictate the kind of work I did, when I first started out. I allowed publishers to “sex up” my books, even though it destroyed the foundation of those books and characters, and stripped me of my own identity at the same time.

 

Who am I angry at for that?  I’m angry at me. I’m disgusted with my naivete, that I thought that was just how the industry worked, and that I had to go along with every change. I’m thoroughly annoyed at myself for allowing others to convince me I’m not good enough, that my work wasn’t good enough, unless I stripped away everything that made it me, and instead turned it into some kind of printed-page porno.

 

There’s a lot more to me, and to my work, than I think too many people give me credit for… And yet, I’m left with that rising chorus that says I’m worthless as a person, because I’m worthless as a writer, and that the proof is all around me… And, these days, without my identity as an author, I literally AM nothing. I keep writing, because I know that if I stop, if I pause long enough to take a breath, that swelling wave of self-doubt and self-loathing will drown me. And this time, it might just succeed in killing me.

“Body Dump” – Excerpt from NIGHTSTALKER (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalWhen a body turns up in the middle of a National Forest with no visible evidence of how it got there, but clearly having been torn apart, the case is instantly handed over to Bunker team to investigate. And when as the body count starts mounting, the only evidence they uncover points to the impossible. Only, Faith and her team have already learned, when it comes to their cases, nothing is impossible.

Witch Hollow brings together a wide variety of my life-long fascinations, from forensics and anatomy to the paranormal and mythological.  Add in characters who have literally snagged not just my imagination and interest, but also my heart, and this is fast becoming one of my favorite series to write.

 

“Body Dump” – Excerpt from NIGHTSTALKER (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow) -

 

Linda lowered the camera from her eye with a frown.  “There aren’t any footprints.”

Faith glanced up. “What?”

“Footprints.” Linda gestured to the soft earth around them. “Aside from yours, mine, and Agent Caulder’s, there aren’t any footprints anywhere around here, and absolutely no tire treads. How did the killer get the body in here?”

Faith sighed inwardly as she realized Linda was right. Looking back down at the body, the sick certainty this was going to be another of Jonathan’s oddities clenched in her gut. “That’s not all that’s wrong with this scene.  The corpse has been mutilated, and the liver, spleen, and heart are a pulverized mess.” She poked around inside the torn-open abdominal cavity, and sat back on her heels with grim certainty. “And the posterior ribs and pelvis have been shattered.” She looked up at Linda again. “I don’t think he was dumped here. I think he was dropped here. From a considerable height, too.”

Linda looked up. “Passing plane, maybe?”

“Maybe.” Faith couldn’t help the doubtful tone of her own voice.  “If it was a low-flying, relatively slow plane. Anything higher than five thousand feet, and there’d be a lot more extensive trauma than this.”

“Like a biplane. Or a helicopter, maybe?”

Faith nodded. “We’ll have to test the hypothesis, but I hope you’re right.”

Linda snapped more pictures. “Why?”

“Because otherwise, I’m not sure I want to know what did this.”

 

 

Writing Crossroads and Publishing Options

I’m at a crossroads, of sorts, with my writing. I have two currently published series with books still due out, and two more under consideration. Over the past three decades I’ve been writing, and especially over the past decade I’ve been published, I’ve undergone a lot of changes and growth as an author, and now I find myself at a crossroads I can honestly say I never really considered hitting.

 

For most of my writing career, one of my major points of focus was to get published. It was a dream that kept me going, and writing, through some very difficult straits in my life. My drive was always to be published by an actual publishing house – whether small or big press didn’t matter to me.

 

In 2004, that dream became a reality. While my first attempt to publish had fallen flat before it even got a running start, in 2004 I started with a publishing house that was also in start-up. I have to admit, I was leery at first, but eventually was won over, and so began my journey as a published author. I was doing well enough, but I was also becoming disillusioned, and quickly. The publisher wasn’t a good fit (as I feared from the beginning), and the changes that were being made to my books and my vision for my career were disheartening. Then, in 2007, that publishing house closed its doors and I (and the other authors there) had a fight on our hands, getting our rights to our work back. That scarred me, made me even more wary than before. But I still had a dream to pursue.

 

The next publishing house to come along and request my work had a difficult time getting me to agree, but promises were made, and I eventually agreed to give them a chance. I should have known better, but when that also disintegrated, my growth was spiraling the wrong way. I was starting to question if it was even worth writing, anymore. Yet, I couldn’t give it up, either. Writing was part of my identity, now, and I knew I needed to keep going.

 

I found two wonderful publishers, who treat me and my writing with respect and dignity. Under The Moon currently publishes my Underground (Science Fiction) series, and Desert Breeze Publishing is running my Legends of Tirum (Fantasy) series, with optioning currently out on my Section Psi (Science Fiction) and Project Prometheus (Paranormal/Military) series.

 

However, I’m at a crossroads on the rest of my writing. I’m not sure what I want to do. I have series that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing, and having to completely re-edit because the first publisher to have them twisted them beyond recognition. I’m asking myself if I want to take a chance with a publisher, for these books, or if I want to just publish them, myself. The crossroad I’m at is a “maybe traditional publishing wasn’t the way to go” one. Would I be better off, and truer to my craft, to publish the books myself, under my own imprint, than to let someone else get to call the shots?

 

I just don’t know, yet. But, in the meantime, I’m keeping my options open. If a publisher can promise me not to alter my books beyond recognition, and leave me an open-ended clause that says if I don’t like the edits suggested I either don’t have to accept them, or I can yank the book, I’m willing to entertain letting them have an option at my Guardians, Inc. and High Stakes series. But I’m going to be stubborn about the changes I allow to these series… I think they have a lot of sales potential as they are, and I’m still kicking myself for my early allowance of the twisting they underwent.

 

So, let the bargaining begin… You can reach me via e-mail. If I don’t have any option requests by the time the first book is finished, I’ll take that as a sign I’m doing this myself.

Guardians DecalSectionPsidecalPPSeriesDecal

The Underground insignia.

The Underground insignia.

“A Question of Trust” — Excerpt from LOVE ME TO PIECES (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalWhile I know there are other projects I really should be working on, for some reason this series has totally captivated my attention. I love these characters, and where they’re taking me, as a writer. Over the years, I’ve become more and more adept at and involved in the process of what I call Character Continuities – series that carry the same core characters throughout. I like the concept better than I do series with books that just end with the resolution of a certain storyline. I always find myself unsatisfied with the outcome, wondering where those characters went from there, what the rest of their story is.

 

With Guardians, Inc’s Witch Hollow series, I get another chance to keep the story going, and every day, I find a new reason to love these characters.

 

Excerpt from LOVE ME TO PIECES (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book # 9) –

 

Faith sighed as she pulled in behind Jonathan’s truck and saw him, seated on her front porch steps, turning his cell phone end-over-end in his hands. She should have known her escape from the Bunker wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Levering herself from her car, she snagged her purse and headed for the house. “What are you don’t here, Jonathan?”

His worried frown stopped her at the foot of the steps. “Where have you been? Joyce called me in a panic two hours ago, saying you weren’t in your office, and she couldn’t reach you on the phone. I’ve been trying for the past hour and a half, and it kept going straight to voicemail. You have a stalker, Mac. You have to know disappearing like that scares the hell out of people. Out of me.”

She glanced away, guilt settling over her. She was so distracted, lately, she forgot about the stalker. Contrite, she muttered, “Sorry. I had an appointment.”

“What?”

“I was at the doctor’s, okay? I turned my phone off.”

The worry in his eyes ratcheted up another notch as he sprang to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

She smiled in tender exasperation. While it was great he cared, sometimes his protective streak got a little overwhelming. “Everything’s fine. This was a scheduled appointment.”

He looked like she just punched him in the chest, and there was definite hurt in his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She blinked at him, confused. “Why should I have?”

“Unbelievable!” He scrubbed a hand through his hair as he paced away from her, clearly agitated.

“You’re angry.”

He turned, pinned her in place with his glare, before turning to stare out over the yard, again, his hands clenched on the porch railing. “Yeah, I’m angry. When are you going to let me in, Mac?”

His words smacked her, and she barely bit back the gasp of pain as the accusation settled in her chest and stung her eyes. She was such an idiot, to not see it sooner. Jonathan invested himself emotionally in their cases, despite his best efforts to maintain objectivity, so why wouldn’t he do the same, now? Guilt twisted in her.

“I’m sorry,” she murmured, moving to his side. She laid one hand on his back. “I’m so used to dealing with my life alone, I guess I’m having trouble remembering I’m not alone, this time.”

He turned to look at her again, the anger gone from his gaze, as a smile spread slowly over his face. “It’s okay, sweetheart. We’re okay.”

It was her turn to look away, even as she gnawed her lip anxiously. He might not feel that way once she told him the rest. Partnerships were built on trust. How long before her secret ripped theirs apart?