“Difference of Opinion” – Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus)

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Like all of Project Prometheus, Shadow Walker produced some characters who just refused to remain silent. Among them was Jaye’s over-protective older brother, Marine Colonel Colton Zacharias Michaels, Jr. and smart, sassy Sarah St. John. From the moment Colt stepped into the picture, I knew I’d be going back to tell his and Sarah’s story. There was just too much story there to not tell. So, though it will be released after Shadow Walker, Colt and Sarah’s story takes place about a year before.

 

“Difference of Opinion” — Excerpt from MISSION OF MERCY (Project Prometheus):

“It’s as simple, or complicated, as you choose to make it.” He tilted his seat back on two legs and grinned smugly, his gaze raking over her in blatant appreciation that heated Sarah’s blood in spite of herself.

She bristled instantly in response to his words, and his careless tone. That heat in her blood was fury. Had to be. Arrogant son of a– “You’re not taking this seriously, Colonel. In fact, you haven’t taken a single moment of this entire investigation seriously.”

“On the contrary.” He sat forward suddenly, the chair hitting the floor with a thud as he grin fell away. “It’s very serious. You think I find anything funny about you coming in here with that holier-than-thou attitude of yours, slinging accusations of misconduct at men and women who’ve sacrificed more than you’ll ever understand?”

She glared at him. “Can you even find a hat to fit that arrogant head, Mr. Pot?”

He blinked. “Huh?”

“As in, pot and kettle. You don’t know me, Colonel Michaels, or what I’ve been through in my life.” She drew herself up as tall as she could, already aware she was far from imposing. Still, Jack always said her glare could freeze fire. Maybe she could turn this arrogant Marine into a Popsicle.

He rose, taking a step toward her. His voice lowered as he came to a stop before her. “Try me.”

She wasn’t going to let him get to her. Too bad she couldn’t convince her treacherous heart of that, as it tried to pound its way free of her chest. “I don’t trust you.”

That stopped him. “Why should that matter?”

She drew a breath that smelled of his spicy aftershave, and told her unruly hormones to pipe down. “If you ever find out what, you’ll know why. Until then, Colonel Michaels, I suggest you focus on getting me the information I need, rather than fighting battles you can’t possibly win.”

Look for the story that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing this Fall!

“The Returned” – Excerpt from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus)

PPSeriesDecalThe concept of the Zombie is one that’s been twisted and mangled so much by Hollywood that it bears little resemblance to the original concept of a Zombie as believed by faith structures like Vodun, or seen in mythology dating back into antiquity (the first written reference I’ve ever been able to find, in my research, dates back almost as far as written language). Zombies, by both Vodun standards and according to ancient mythology, were human agents (ie, living people) made to appear dead through the use of plants with psychoactive effects and trance-like states and “curses” performed on the person. Through this, it became possible for another person to control that person’s actions. However, much like hypnotism, the Zombie could not be forced to perform acts their own moral compass would instinctively halt.

From my research into religions like Vodun, an idea began to take shape. If Vodun priests could make a person disappear, have them declared dead, then have them reappear, looking like the animated dead, what would stop an organization like the Brotherhood of Spiders from doing the same? And a story began to take shape, that is at once very tragic, and very capable of restoring hope.

“The Returned” – Excerpt from TWIST OF FATE (Project Prometheus)

Misty Jarrod hugged her arms close against her body and shivered against the cold desert air that bit through her shirt.  She doubted she’d ever get used to the desert, with its searing hot days and freezing nights.  She missed home.  The flowers would be blooming on the shore of Lake Superior, by now, and homesickness flooded her.  She could almost smell the violets, tulips and hyacinth.  And beneath it all, the subtle scent of cigarette smoke…

Misty’s head snapped up, her thoughts broken by that out-of-place scent.  No one in Manara’s temple smoked.  These people had an odd purity, for as hung-up on sex as they were.  And none of the Prometheans here at the moment smoked, either.  Her eyes narrowed, Misty sniffed the air, dragging in the scent as she tried to place why it was so familiar.  It wasn’t just a cigarette.  There was a subtle, sweet note to it, reminiscent of vanilla and… cinnamon! The final piece jogged into place, and she decided she’d gone off the deep end.  Those were Nick’s cigarettes she smelled.  Only, Nick was dead.

Pain twisted in her chest like a python as the scent wove through her, bringing memories of her husband – the man she loved more than life – out from the depths of her heart.  She buried him six years ago, not questioning that he was dead even without a body to prove it.  The empty hollow in her heart told her all she needed to know.  Nick was gone.  Nothing would bring him back.

Anger followed hard on the heels of pain, and she flipped her sidearm free from its holster, disengaging the safety as she followed the scent toward its origin.  Whoever was smoking that cigarette, she didn’t believe it was coincidence.  Call her paranoid, but since Nick disappeared, she felt like someone was following her.  Even though no one told her exactly how he died – all they would say was that he “disappeared” – she knew he’d been on a deep cover CIA mission under the guise of a UN inspection of the No Fly Zone.  She wasn’t stupid.

The scent led off toward the eastern boundary of the Temple’s construction zone. Misty kept her breathing silent and steady, moving slowly as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the moonless night.  Whoever was out there, she would find him, and make him answer for following her.  She wouldn’t fail her boss, or these people.  No one was going to get to them through her, no matter how much he pretended to be her dead husband.

As she reached the boundary, Misty caught sight of a silhouette, and froze.  No way!

“Who the hell are you?”  She snarled the words, refusing to believe what her senses were telling her.

The figure turned, stepped toward her, and Misty flicked on the small penlight, casting a narrow, soft beam of light that wouldn’t harm her vision, or her reaction time.  As the beam played over his body, the breath sucked from her, leaving her shaking with disbelief.  She wouldn’t believe this.  She couldn’t believe this.  The beam touched his face, and the cold night had nothing on the chill that spread through her.  Oh my god.

“Nick?”

And then, the click of a safety disengaging froze her, as a gun lifted directly into her line of sight.  He was going to shoot her!

Look for the book that started it all, IN HER NAME, coming from Desert Breeze Publishing this Fall!

It’s All Geek: Perspectives on Science and the Paranormal (and why I write both, simultaneously)

I can’t tell you how many times I hear “But if you’re so science-minded, why do you write Paranormals, and believe in the paranormal?” Like these two things are mutually exclusive, and acknowledging one excludes me from acknowledging or understanding the other.

This is a stereotype I’m sick of. So let me set the record straight, once and for all. Parapsychology, the paranormal sciences, and physical science are not mutually exclusive. They never have been. The base concept of science is, in itself, to explain the unexplained. Let’s take a look at a few established principles, and a few conceptual theories, to explore what I’m talking about.

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A mere five hundred years (plus or minus change) ago, the science of the day declared the Earth flat, and that the heavens revolved around the Earth. This planet was, by established science of the day, the center of the universe. The concept of space flight wasn’t even a glimmer, and the established medicine of the day often involved the judicious application of leeches, for everything from poisoning to excessive bleeding (I’d love to see someone explain that one!).

The people who dared to challenge this established science of the day were labelled insane or heretics. They were often ostracized, sometimes imprisoned, and in some cases even put to death for daring to challenge the established science of the day and/or look for explanations to those things deemed inexplicable, at that time.

Thank goodness we’ve come so far, right? But have we really? When science declares something “hogwash” or “ridiculous” without exploring the possibilities inherent within it, that science loses its ability to truly function as it should – it loses the flexibility to bend and explore new dimensions and possibilities within our universe. Without that flexibility, without the “what if,” most of the science we take for granted today would never have existed.

I firmly believe that science holds the key to unlocking the potential of the human spirit. As Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Anyone can spout knowledge. Being able to imagine how that knowledge might be put to use is of far greater value. While science seems content to study the human brain at length, it fails to explore how that brain chemistry might apply to things which, today, appear “paranormal.”

“Paranormal,” by most basic definition, means “outside of the normal.” By this definition, in the 1500s, the law of gravity, for example, would have been considered “paranormal.” So would Columbus’ assertions that the world was actually round, rather than flat, or Copernicus and Galileo with their “crazy” theories regarding the heavens above us. A mere hundred years ago, the computers we so take for granted as part of “normal” life were considered “science fiction” and completely, utterly paranormal, by the word’s definition.

Medical science will be the first to admit they do not have all the answers to how the human brain works, or even what it might be capable of. By this very admittance, they lay the groundwork for the possibility of eventually being able to empirically test for and gauge things like clairvoyance, clairaudience, Psychokinesis, telepathy, and a host of other parapsychological conditions. I firmly believe that, in time, science will uncover the root of these types of abilities, and will be able to study it very effectively, and therefore expand our knowledge and use of such abilities, taking them firmly from the realm of “paranormal” and into the realm of “normal.”

By the same token, I believe that science will one day progress to the point of being able to prove, conclusively, the existence of the spirit (human and animal) and its ability to survive corporeal death. Already, we see rapid advances in the methodology and equipment used to study and document potential hauntings, and I believe that if these advances continue to happen, and people continue to strive for that understanding, someone will stumble into the same kind of “eureka!” moment Archimedes did when he figured out volume displacement.

To understand why I believe this, I will apply some simple, established science. Namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter). It states that matter cannot be either created or destroyed. It simply changes form to fit new conditions or environments. Medical science proves that the human body is animated through a complicated and not-completely-understood system of bio-electric signals, chemical reactions, etc. Basically, the human body is a kind of living, working biological battery/computer. We put off a tremendous amount of energy, in the form of heat. This is best seen in how our bodies begin to overheat when we are exerting a lot of energy, thereby requiring our bodies to kick in their onboard coolant system (sweat) to help cool us down. When we exert energy in a focused manner, we do so by transferring said energy to another activity or object – say, picking up a box. The energy our bodies generate through the use of fuel (food, water, air, etc) is transferred into kinetic energy, which allows us to grip and lift the box, at which time the kinetic energy is changed into force energy, applied against gravity to lift the box.

So, if we are batteries, with all this stored up energy at our disposal at any time, when we die, what happens to all that energy? The Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter says that it has to go somewhere. It can’t simply disappear. Rather, it must change form to fit its new environment and situation. In time, this energy might be absorbed into other things which utilize energy, or it might continue to absorb energy from around itself, taking on a more definitive form. In both of these cases, it would be following the Law of Conservation of Energy, and by the same token become the energy source known as “ghosts” or “spirits.” Since a large part of the energy we store up is stored in the brain, logic would follow that the energy released to a new form during death would retain some measure of its former use, at least for a while. Those electrical pulses that carry information and accumulated knowledge around the brain could retain some kind of energy “memory” which would allow for the intelligent interactions experienced by paranormal investigators.

The same principles of scientific thought can easily be established to many areas currently deemed “paranormal.” As such, I say with confidence that I do not actually believe there is a division between the paranormal and science. Instead, I think the one (science) simply hasn’t yet arrived at point where it is capable of empirical measurement of the things we at current deem “paranormal.” But I do believe the time will come when these fields of study collide, and I don’t believe it is very far off, either. In the meantime, I will continue to write my geeked-out, scientific paranormals, and enjoy the hell out of knowing that, on this front, I’m ahead of the curve.

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” — Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow)

Guardians DecalTypically, I don’t write series in order, per se. I draft all the story packets (my ideas, laid out in a general chapter-by-chapter format) in the beginning, but I will fill in scenes as they come to me, then make changes accordingly as I fine-tune, for the series. Guardians, Inc. and Witch Hollow have definitely fit that mold.

Lately, I’ve been working on Witch Hollow’s 6th book, BODY OF EVIDENCE…

What’s a pathologist to do when the body parts believed to be from the same victim instead turn out to be from a dozen different victims? Add in a missing girl from a wealthy family, abducted in a similar manner as all the other victims, and a man with a very dark family secret to keep, and Faith MacKenzie and her Bunker crew have their work cut out for them. And when the missing girl’s trail takes Faith and Jonathan into the dark underside of New Orleans’ paranormal community, it may just turn out to be more than Faith can handle.

“Midnight at the Mausoleum” – Excerpt from BODY OF EVIDENCE (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 6) –

“So, are you going to tell me what we’re doing in the middle of a cemetery, in the middle of the night?” Faith cast a glance his way. “This isn’t how I usually exhume a body.”

He quirked her a wry half-grin she could barely see by the light of her flashlight. “We’re not exhuming anyone. And this is the only way we get in. Max’s relatives are a little… eccentric.”

Her brows lifted, and she fought down the urge to swear. Why hadn’t she seen this coming? “This is another one of your little ghost hunt things, isn’t it? Jonathan…”

“No. Just trust me, okay, Mac? If we’ve got any hope of finding Elizabeth alive, we have to use every resource at our disposal. You need to try and keep an open mind, here.” He turned to pin her with an intense stare made all the more unsettling by the night-draped cemetery around them. “And stay close to me. No wandering off. And, Mac? Don’t touch anything.”

She rolled her eyes, and forced a laugh. “You make it sound like we’re walking into a minefield.”

He didn’t laugh, and his somber expression didn’t so much as flicker. “I’m serious, Mac. You stick to me like glue, and don’t touch a thing, or this is going to end very badly for both of us.”

Something about his tone… Faith swallowed hard as sudden fear closed around her throat. Her voice rasped when she finally managed, “Just who are these people?”

He sighed, and resumed walking. “Vampires.”

Her feet felt frozen in place, disbelief ricocheting through her, before she forced herself to start moving again. He’d pulled some strange ones, in their time as partners, but this took the cake. “Vampires? Really, Jonathan…”

“Very traditional ones. Old World. They like their theatrics.” He stopped, looking up at an imposing mausoleum. “We’re here. Remember what I said, Mac.”

She swallowed again. “Close. Don’t touch. Gotcha.”

And, as Jonathan slowly pushed open the heavy, weathered door to the crypt, Faith tried to force her pulse steady. It was getting more and more difficult to dismiss Jonathan’s world as non-existent. If only she knew what she was getting herself into…

Reader Choice Poll

In response to your requests that I make this blog a little more interactive, I’m starting running some polls, surveys, etc you can participate in.  Today’s poll is your choice of favorite couple from my books!

Cast your vote today for your favorite couple (choose from those listed, or add your own… the only rule is that they HAVE to be from one of my books! :) … Any entries not related to my work will be deleted and not counted. Please be respectful of where you are) — you can choose up to your three (3) favorites.

 

“Moment of Doubt” — Excerpt from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum)

Daughter of Ashes

 

Legends of Tirum was another series that started out as a free-write notebook full of scenes. I started those back in the late 1980s, and collected them over the course of the next ten years, whenever I needed to take a break from the heavier Science Fiction books I was writing at the time. I was surprised to discover, in the mid-1990s, when I sat down to read through my accumulated scenes, that I had the foundation for a very unusual type of Sword-and-Sorcery Fantasy series. And, as the series background took shape over the next decade, the first book started to come together.

I really love the depth of these two characters – they manage to complete each other, without actually needing each other to be complete.  It’s a very interesting relationship. :)

 

“Moment of Doubt” – excerpt from DAUGHTER OF ASHES (Legends of Tirum, Book 1) –

Sala floated back into the fireplace, and the fire suddenly doused itself into little more than hot ash and a few smoldering coals.

Telyn swallowed hard, suddenly edgy now that she was completely alone with Nacaris.

“I don’t know how to do this,” she admitted quietly.

“Shh.” He touched a finger to her lips, stilling her. “I understand there are things you can’t share with anyone. I’m only asking to be a part of what you can share.”

His face filled her vision, and Telyn’s eyes widened as his lips replaced his touch against her mouth in a soft, gentle kiss she never expected from this battle-hardened man. Enclosed in his embrace as he released her lips, Telyn allowed herself to sink against the leather of his tunic and breathe in the scents of man, horse, and travel that clung to him. It was a comforting scent, underscored by something dark, dangerous, and uniquely Nacaris. She sighed regretfully. “I wish–“

“What?” He nuzzled her hair, and stroked a hand lightly over her back. “Talk to me, Telyn.”

She stifled a mirthless laugh. He had no idea how much she struggled to keep her thoughts from him — she already feared they were doomed. “I wish it could always be like this.”

“What, always on the hunt? Roaming endlessly, without a home?” He squeezed her lightly. “Be careful what you wish for, balnyt. Nature is both a capricious and mischievous mistress. You may get what you want, in ways you least desire.”

Telyn shuddered, hearing the ring of prophecy behind those teasing words. She wasn’t fool enough to test them just now. Instead, she burrowed into his embrace and allowed herself a rare moment to be something other than a warrior.

Pick up your copy of DAUGHTER OF ASHES today, at Amazon.com

“Dead Pirate Walking” – Excerpt from LADY’S LAMENT (Guardians, Inc)

Guardians DecalGuardians, Inc. has given me a lot of space to play, over the years. Until a few years ago, I had bunches of random scenes all collected in a series of notebooks I keep for when I free-write (that’s an exercise to keep the creative juices flowing when I get bogged down by something, or I experience a writing lull where I just can’t focus). I knew I wanted to do something with them, but my hands were tied by an early publishing mistake I made.

When I went back and decided to undo the mistake, to return a book that was virtually destroyed to its original glory, the floodgates opened, and Guardians, Inc and its sub-series came pouring out, from the notebooks, drawing forward a flood of fascinating characters I hadn’t realized introduced themselves in those free-writing pages.

Here’s a brief snippet from one of those stories, the creation of which comes from a free-writing session done in early 1991. Enjoy! :)

“Dead Pirate Walking”  — excerpted from Lady’s Lament (Guardians, Inc)

There was someone up there.  A  chill of awareness slid through Alie, pulling her gaze to the upstairs window of the old manor, even as her brain called her an idiot for believing Mrs. Tolliver’s stories.  She dealt with Paras every day, and she’d never encountered a ghost.  She didn’t even believe in them.

She was about to turn away, when the curtains stirred again.  The air left her body in a gasp of disbelief as a shadowy figure passed behind the curtains and disappeared.  There was no one in that wing of the manor; not at this time of night.  But it was exactly where the chatty town historian told her rumor said the pirate appeared, keeping look out for the lover who once betrayed him.

A new shiver passed through Alie, and nausea gripped her.  There are no such things as ghosts.

But what if there were?  Were the stories true?  After all this time, had Captain Sawyer come back from the grave?  Or had he simply never left?