“The Score” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros HopeThe character of Matt Clipper, aka Watchdog, is one of my more unusual and intriguing characters. Loosely based in equal parts on a friend with a very rough upbringing and a well-earned attitude that won’t quit (and covers a heart of gold), and my brother, from whom (among other details) Matt Clipper draws part of his core personality and name, Watchdog is an unusual blend of streetwise tough guy, a gang-banger whom Rick and Tamia, at different points, refer to as having an attitude the size of Texas, and the lonely, sensitive artistic type, given to a romanticism he rarely even shows a glimmer of.

One of the things I most looked forward to, with writing these later books in this Evolution, was finally being able to actually delve into this character and what he really experiences. In the first few books, we only ever get to see how he interacts with the team, and all we know about his interactions outside of the Underground are based strictly on what he reveals to other characters. He comes across as a thug with a few chinks in his armor, but generally not deep.

Well, hold onto your hats, folks! Starting in HERO’S HOPE, you get to see a whole other side to Matt Clipper… This is a man with a surprising amount of depth, and who, for his biological youth (he’s only 25), feels ancient because of what he’s seen and experienced. And, finally, we get to start seeing exactly what Watchdog does out there on the streets, at night. And his world isn’t a pretty one…

So I thought I’d share one of those glimpses into Watchdog’s world outside of the Underground… On the streets, where he’s known by the pseudo-alias “Clip.”  Here you go…

 

“The Score” – Excerpt from Hero’s Hope (Underground, Book #4) –

He told himself he was ready for this.  And he knew he was full of shit.  No one was ever ready to tangle with a dude like Terrence Walker.  One wrong move, one wild card in the mix, and it would all end in a bloodbath.  Matt Clipper sealed his lips in a grim line over the worried oath that pressed against his tongue as he primed his Colt Racer – a recent addition to street warfare, the weapon was a cross between a conventional handgun and a Super Taser – and double-checked that he had his backup.  He glanced into the rearview mirror of the Lincoln Continental.  “Y’all ready?”

“Let’s roll.”  Snooks brandished his weapon with a grin just this side of sadistically gleeful, and Matt bit down on the wave of nausea that spiraled through him at the sight.  Similar anticipation preceded too many of his nightmares.  He resisted the urge to shudder.  He was getting way too old for this shit.  Problem was, he didn’t see how he was of any use to the Commandos if he left the streets behind.  He didn’t have Blade’s skills, or Jen’s brains, or Red’s background.  He had nothing to offer but what he learned out here, and the one thing Matt Clipper wasn’t was a leech.  So he did the only thing he knew how to do.  Even if it killed him.

To combat the queasy uncertainty in the pit of his stomach, he pasted on his most cocky grin and reached for the driver side door.  He was about to put it on the line to get Big T to this meet-up.  The Man had best represent.

“Let’s go.”

Like a pack of wild animals, the gang-bangers piled out of the vehicle with none of the stealth or finesse Matt grew accustomed to as a Commando.  He winced inwardly, and triple-checked his weapons again.  He had a bad feeling this was about to go to Hell, and Jen would kill him if he got sloppy.  Hell, the Voodoo woman would probably dig him up just to kill him again, if he got himself whacked.

A snort of dark laughter nearly broke his lips, and he caught the wary look the kid beside him cast his way.  Rance stuck close to him since JT went down.  Poor kid wasn’t cut out for this life; too bad Matt didn’t know how to get him out.

Matt’s gaze went to the building before them, and the scene was far too familiar.  Rundown and solitary among the empty lots that flanked it on three sides, this pre-World War Three tenement was where JT was murdered, and Matt’s fall into Hell began.  No one knew how much he hated every time he had to come back here.  The queasy sensation in his gut talked loud and clear.  When Matt Clipper checked out, it would be in a place just like this one — a building on the edge of forgotten.

Damn.  He was dipping into the morbid, again.  That was a distraction he didn’t need.  Matt shook it off and cocked his weapon with a grin only he knew was forced.

“Playtime.  Just remember, the Big Man wants T alive, or we’re in deep shit.”

He wasn’t worried they’d fuck it up.  These boys might need some lessons in finesse when it came to assaults, but they were far from incompetent novices.  They had their own silent language, and while it didn’t have the sophistication he’d learned by hanging with Booters like Blade and Ace, he was comfortable with it.  These were streeters.  They knew the score.

The gang fanned out to surround the front door, waiting for Matt’s signal.  He edged up to the door and listened intently.  The sound of an old building settling, and the drip of water somewhere in the distance, reached his ears.  No voices, no footsteps.  Relief wound through him.  No ambush; and that was good news to him.  He jerked his head toward the door, then eased it open to scoot inside cautiously.  The same couldn’t be said for his gang.

Snooks barreled through the door like a maniac.  Damn it, was he high?  Matt couldn’t tell; he couldn’t see the kid’s eyes, but Snooks was sweating.  That was a bad sign.

“Yo, Snooks, hold up a min-” His caution fell on deaf ears as Snooks took the stairs three at a time, disappearing into the upper levels of the old building.  There was a loud crash, and the Snooks’ voice echoed down the stairwell.

“Prayer time, muthafu-”  His words died in a spray of gunfire that lit up the stairwell and echoed off the tile walls.  Matt immediately dropped behind cover, his instincts honed to self-preservation by years of Commando missions.  He knew what that gunfire meant.

“Damn it.”  Anger tightened his chest.  It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.  God damn it, Snooks knew better than to get high right before a hit.

“Shit, dude!”  Rance dropped back as well, his face a shade between green and gray.  Kid was scared.  Smart.  “What was that?”

“That,” Matt responded grimly, “was trouble.  Everyone, hang back.”

With that quiet instruction, Matt started slowly up the stairs, forcing himself to draw even breaths as he went.  This was it.  He’d never told anyone, but he always knew he’d die alone.  And here he was, climbing into the lion’s den, alone.  Still, if he wanted this to go down without any higher of a body count, he had to go it solo.

As he reached the first landing, Matt flipped his Racer to stun.  He didn’t want anyone going down for a permanent nap, least of all his mark.  The Man would never forgive him for that, and nor would anyone else.  Set to stun, the energy weapon would release a non-lethal electrical charge in a beam that would render the target unconscious.  He wanted Big T down, not out of the picture.  He had orders, after all.

Pick up your copy of HERO’S HOPE today at Amazon.com   and check out the rest of this critically-acclaimed fan favorite series, with TAMIA, MIND KILLER, and TERMINAL HUNTER. Find out more at www.esthermitchell.com

“When Heroes Fall” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Sometimes, when life looks darkest

Hope shines the brightest.

 

Heros Hope            Richard Carinson hasn’t had much in his life truly worth protecting – until now. With a new wife and an unborn child, he can’t afford to make any mistakes, or take any chances his past will come back to haunt them. But some sins can’t be wiped away, and Rick’s are about to come calling – on his wife and child. To save Tamia and their son, Rick’s going to have to make the biggest sacrifice of his life – and it just might cost him everything.

“When Heroes Fall” — Excerpt from HERO’s HOPE (Underground, Book #4) –

The hydrolift ride to the fourth floor was torture as he debated the wisdom of what he was about to do. If only Emergency Rooms and clinics didn’t require fingerprint identification. He’d much rather go there. Involving her was dangerous, and she wouldn’t like keeping his secret, either. Outside her door, he paused for a heartbeat, and told himself she would understand. She might not like it, but she would keep his secret.

Enough. He raised his left hand and knocked on her door, before he could change his mind.

“Just a moment.” The voice was muffled. Then, the sound of movement, before the door opened, and he watched her face drain of color, her green eyes wide in disbelief as a gasp left her.

“What—? How—?”

He quirked her a tired grin. God, he was tired of this charade. “That’s eloquent, for a journalist.”

She recovered quickly, and her gaze shot up and down the empty hallway. “Get in here, before someone sees you, and—” She froze as he flinched when she tugged at his right arm, before he moved past her, into the apartment. Her gaze latched onto his side, where the dark stain was spreading. “Oh my god, you’re bleeding!”

“Yeah.” He sank onto the edge of her sofa as a wave of dizziness hit him.

“Idiot.” The word held no rancor, just open concern, as she moved to her bathroom and returned with antiseptic and first-aid kit. “Take off that coat and your shirt.”

He frowned, suddenly uncomfortable. “Jean, I don’t think—”

She glared at him as she set the items down on an end table and fisted her hands on her hips. “Get over yourself. I did. Now, strip.”

He was too light-headed to sustain this argument. He told himself his wife would understand, even as he reluctantly stripped off his coat and shirt as Jean sat down beside him. She barely spared him a glance, her gaze fixed on the bloody gash in his side as she examined the wound.

“Who the hell did you have a knife-fight with?” She asked evenly as she turned to retrieve a bottle of antiseptic wash and a gauze pad from her kit.

“No one.” He wasn’t about to discuss this.

“Really.” She tipped the bottle, coating the gauze in green gel, before she applied it to his side.

He hissed and sat bolt upright. “Shit, that stings!”

“You deserve worse.” Her expression hardened. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

“No.”

“Surprise, surprise.” She sighed, and shook her head. “I assume you have a good reason.”

A different pain, one no antiseptic could soothe, twisted inside him. “A damn good one.”

“It better be.” She applied a wound microsealer to the gash. “Because this one’s going to come back to bite you in the ass, my friend.”

 

Are you ready for the explosion? Because this one might just level the Underground forever.  Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE, today! 

Fan Favorite Underground series returns, with brand-new release!

Seven years ago, Underground moved publishers. It’s taken almost a decade to get the first three books re-released and back out there and move forward, but now, at long last, we’re debuting a brand-new release, with Book #4 of the series, HERO’S HOPE!

The hunt for the Security Network mole is about to get very close to home …

Find out just how close, in HERO’S HOPE (Book #4), now available!

Heros Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you figure out who’s behind it all? Follow the trail from the beginning…
TAMIA (Book #1)
MIND KILLER (Book #2)
TERMINAL HUNTER (Book #3)

Underground #1: TAMIA

Underground #1: TAMIA

Underground #2: MIND KILLER

Underground #2: MIND KILLER

Underground #3: TERMINAL HUNTER

Underground #3: TERMINAL HUNTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And stay tuned to find out what happens next… VENGEFUL HEART (Book #5), coming soon.

 

Underground New Release! HERO’S HOPE Now Available!

The hunt for the mole in the Security Network is heating up. For Rick and Tamia Carinson, the stakes can’t get any higher.

Richard Carinson hasn’t had much in his life truly worth protecting – until now. With a new wife and an unborn child, he can’t afford to make any mistakes, or take any chances his past will come back to haunt them. But some sins can’t be wiped away, and Rick’s are about to come calling – on his wife and child. To save Tamia and their son, Rick’s going to have to make the biggest sacrifice of his life – and it just might cost him everything.

 Tamia Carinson has everything she could ever want: A husband who loves her, a child on the way, and friends willing to risk their own futures to keep her family safe. But she can’t shake the uneasy feeling something’s very wrong, and her streetwise ability to read people tells her Rick’s keeping dangerous secrets. Now, for the sake of her child, she must uncover what he’s been hiding, before the past catches up with them all.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE today! (PDF only) or find in Kindle or Nook, later this week.

Heros Hope

“A Duty to Protect” — Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground

Heros HopeSince Memorial Day is just around the corner, and HERO’S HOPE is kind of a memorial, in itself, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge the sacrifices of the men and women who defend our freedoms, and their families, who let them go, never knowing if or when they’ll see their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, siblings, children again.

While there are also much more personal reasons I chose this specific scene to share, I mainly chose it because it shows clearly the sacrifices both military members and their families make when duty calls. To me, it’s a tribute to both, and a memorial to the losses suffered by both.

 

“A Duty to Protect” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4)

He moved to the sofa in the living room, boots in hand, and pulled them on. He was just lacing up the boots when the sound of movement caused his head to snap up. Tamia stood in the bedroom doorway, a worried, wary expression on her face, as she knotted the belt of her robe. Damn; he was busted.
“Where are you going?” She took a step forward. “I didn’t hear the phone. What’s happened?”

Apparently, he was out of easy exits. He sighed, and met her concerned mahogany eyes. “I have to go.”

“Where? It’s the middle of the night, Rick! Tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing major.” He tried to diffuse the situation with a shrug he hoped like hell looked casual. He couldn’t explain where he was going, and they both knew the phone hadn’t rung. He could see it in her face. Just like he could see she wasn’t buying his attempt at nonchalance.

“Bullshit. If it was no big deal, you’d wait until morning. And you sure as hell wouldn’t be acting like James-fucking-Bond.”

Okay, so avoidance wouldn’t work – he pretty much knew it was a lost cause, with Tamia. Suspicion ran in her blood. Time for a different tack, like simplicity.

“Something’s been bugging me since my Comms shift. I want to run it down.”

“In Comms.”

“No.”

Her gaze burned into him, full of questions he couldn’t answer without incriminating himself. He winced as he pinpointed the exact moment she figured out what he was saying by the sudden intake of her breath. “You can’t go back out there, yet!”
“I have to. I have a hunch about something, and I have to look into it. Besides, it’s my call who takes what assignments. This is something I have to take care of personally.”

Tamia’s eyes were so full of disbelief he flinched away from her accusing gaze. “You are insane!”

Rick stared at his hands as he tried to come up with a defense against the fear in her eyes. God, he hadn’t wanted a cigarette this bad in months! His secret ate him alive, and he couldn’t stand the terror on Tamia’s face. He’d give anything to wipe it away; but even the truth wouldn’t be enough. All telling her the truth would do was put her in danger. He looked up at her somberly. “It’s surveillance, babe. It’s what I was trained to do.”

She looked as if she might argue, before she sealed her lips in a thin line and turned away. He could read her pain loud and clear in the protective way her shoulders hunched, and the turn of her body, as if she couldn’t bear to let him see how much she was hurting. That single motion punched him hard in the solar plexus and made breathing difficult.

“Tamia—”

“Why you?” Her voice was quiet, and flat, as if she was fighting to maintain her neutral tone. “You’re not cleared for the field, yet. Jen hasn’t signed off on your medical clearance. Let me go, instead.”

He straightened as fear plunged through him. “No way.”

“Why not? I have the same training, the same ability…”

“Tamia.” He rose to his feet. “I’m not going to argue with you about this. Now, I have to go.”
She shot a glare over her shoulder capable of freezing fire. “So it’s do as you say, not as you do?”

“Hey.” He could see where this was going a mile away. “It’s not like that—”

“No? So what if I was the one running out in the middle of the night to follow mysterious leads?”

He couldn’t answer her; he already knew he’d incriminate himself. Hell, there was no way he could convince her he respected her if he voiced his feelings about her being out on the street in her current condition. “I—”

“Don’t bother. I already know the answer. If it was me, or anyone else on this whole damned team, trying to take on a mission before medical clearance was signed, you’d have us confined to Comms duty until our asses went numb.”

He closed his eyes. God, how did he dig himself out of this one? “This is different. I know my limits.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s lame, Rick.”

She started toward the bedroom, already shedding her robe as she went. He swallowed hard. “What are you doing?”

She shot a determined, narrow-eyed look over her shoulder. “I’m taking your place.”

Shock and fear plunged through him. The threatening transmission was meant to hurt him, but Tamia was Colbert’s ultimate target, for no other reason than her death would kill him. Images flashed through his mind of what could happen if he let her go off on Colbert’s trail in his place. His stomach knotted. No way in hell. “Absolutely not.”

Her chin rose defiantly. “Why not?”

“Because…” He sought desperately for any reason she might accept, other than the truth. His gaze fell on her belly, and the threatening words of the transmission sliced through him again.
I know about your family. You took mine, and I’m coming for yours. Rick fought the constricting band of fear. “Because you’re pregnant.”

It was only the truth, but he knew it was the wrong thing to say, even before Tamia’s eyes narrowed and a dark scowl settled on her face. “You so don’t want to go there, Carinson.”

He winced. When she called him by his last name, it meant he’d crossed the line. It was pretty clear she wasn’t going to back down; well, neither was he. This was too important. She was too important. Better she be pissed at him; it would make what had to happen easier for her.

“Look, my leads will go cold, if I stick around arguing this. I have to go. Keep everyone on task, okay?”

Her face paled, and the pain of her fear was a feeling he knew would never fade.

“What are you planning?” Her voice was barely audible, now, and he never wanted to spill his guts so badly in his life. As a torture technique, Colbert couldn’t have planned anything more effective. But there was no way he could tell her what was about to go down.

“You’re getting paranoid.”

She jerked back as if he stuck her, and anger roiled in her eyes. “Dammit, Rick. I thought you were dying, in Texas! What would you do if our situations were reversed?”

Memories flooded him of Tamia just after Porto Alegre, bloody and unconscious, then wreathed in tubes and machinery. The fear returned full force, but he shoved it aside. He wasn’t falling into the memory trap.

Nor could he make her a promise he already knew he couldn’t keep. As he looked into her eyes, he saw the resignation, before she sighed, and turned her back to him again. “Go, already. Just don’t make me regret this.”

And, as she disappeared into the bedroom, Rick grabbed his thick winter camouflage coat from the closet. He would prefer his leather jacket, but it was below freezing out there, and he was in for a long, cold night. He glanced back at the closed bedroom door, and his gut tightened. It felt all wrong. And yet, he couldn’t change his mind. Not if it meant losing Tamia.

Countdown to HERO’S HOPE release!

HERO’S HOPE is now less than 2 weeks away from release!

Get ready – because the loyalty of the Commandos is about to be tested, and what they uncover could tear the team apart forever.

Get your copy of HERO’S HOPE starting May 30th … Find the rest of the Underground series, TAMIA , MIND KILLER , and TERMINAL HUNTER at Amazon.com

 

 

Heros Hope

 

 

“Into Hell” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros HopeI can’t tell you how many times I wrote, ripped up, and rewrote this scene. These moments are part of Tamia’s most powerful Black Moment in the entire series – the point at where everything she’s feared for so long is staring her right in the face. Writing them required delving into a part of myself I don’t normally share, and lock away during the day. I think, in the end, that was the reason why this scene finally came out in the middle of the night, when my own nightmares were so strong, there was nothing else to do but channel them into Tamia and the moments when her world came down around her.

 

 

“Into Hell” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4) –

“Rick!” Tamia bolted upright in bed, fear scrambling along her nerves. Her hand flailed out, blindly searching for Rick, to reassure herself he was there. Ice plunged through her when her hand dropped to empty sheets, cold from the air circulation system. He wasn’t there.
Her gaze flew instantly to the glowing digital display of the bedside clock. 0400 hours. Rick had been gone a little over an hour, and already her imagination was working overtime. God, she was paranoid. And yet…

Tamia hugged Rick’s pillow to herself, her face buried in the cool material as she inhaled the scent of him clinging there. He was okay. He had to be. Images from her nightmare flashed in her mind, and her heart pounded with fear. It was all so real… Dampness slicked her cheeks, and she realized she was crying.

“Get a grip,” she muttered to herself. “You’ve had nightmares before.”

She shoved down the niggling little voice determined to remind her how all her worst nightmares had a way of coming true. That was Kuron’s superstitions talking, dammit. She didn’t believe in precognition. Did she?

She lay there, staring at the ceiling, as she battled fears she couldn’t exorcise, for what felt like forever. She was surprised to find only half an hour elapsed, when the door tone sounded. Then, the actual time sank in. 0430. Tamia’s heart caught in dread as the sick feeling of fear returned. Rick wouldn’t sound the door tone, and the only other person who’d show up at their door at this time of the morning was whoever was on Comms, which spelled trouble.

The door tone sounded again, more insistent than before; like someone was leaning on the exterior doorpad. Ice shot up Tamia’s spine. Whoever was at the door, it was important. She was suddenly reluctant to find out why. Still, she rose from the bed and made her way to the door as she pulled on her robe. Dread dogged her every step, and flashes of her nightmare haunted her. Her hand shook as she hit the lock release, and her heart came to an abrupt halt as she met Jen LaSaulle’s somber eyes. Oh, God.

“Jen?” The query left her in a whisper as fear gripped her so hard she trembled. Suddenly, her nightmare didn’t seem so impossible. Terror richoted through her. The only way to maintain her fraying calm was to stay focused on one thing. Her gaze fixed on Jen’s face, even as she reached to steady herself against the doorjamb. This was all a bad dream, she told herself over and over. Whatever happened, she was still in her nightmares.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

At the tone of Jen’s voice, and the sympathy in her green eyes, Tamia’s throat closed. She knew what those words, and that tone, meant, and it was no nightmare. Her heart froze in her chest, and she couldn’t breathe as the cold spread through her, and she went numb. The world spun, and she tightened her grip on the doorjamb as reality swam.

“Rick.” His name slipped from her numb lips, and her nightmares rushed back with new terror.

LOOK FOR HERO’S HOPE, COMING MAY 30TH FROM UNDER THE MOON. DISCOVER THE UNDERGROUND, WITH TAMIA, MIND KILLER, AND TERMINAL HUNTER – NOW AVAILABLE IN E-BOOK AND PRINT AT www.amazon.com

“Threats and Premonitions” – Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground)

Heros Hope In every writer’s life, there are scenes you write that feel a lot like deja vu. And there are scenes that are torn from your heart and soul, and wreak havoc on you to write, and to revisit. Writing HERO’S HOPE was that task for me. It and VENGEFUL HEART (the next book) will forever be the most difficult books — the most difficult fiction — I ever write, because certain parts of them aren’t fiction.

When Rick discovers the ghosts of his past are coming back to hunt his new family, he’ll do anything to protect them. But will his desire to protect cost him everything he loves?

 

“Threats and Premonitions” — Excerpt from HERO’S HOPE (Underground, Book 4)

 

“You can’t go back out there, yet!”

“I have to. I have a hunch about something, and I have to look into it. Besides, it’s my call who takes what assignments. This is something I just have to take care of.”

Tamia’s eyes were so full of disbelief he flinched away from that accusing gaze. “You are insane!”

Rick stared at his hands as he tried to come up with a defense against the fear in her eyes. God, he hadn’t wanted a cigarette this bad in months! His secret ate him alive, and he couldn’t stand that terror on Tamia’s face. He had to do something to wipe it away; but even the truth wouldn’t do that. The truth could put her in deadly danger. He looked up at her somberly. “It’s surveillance, babe. That’s what I was trained to do.”

She looked as if she might argue, before she sealed her lips in a thin line and turned away. But he could read her pain loud and clear in the protective way her shoulders hunched, and the turn of her body, as if she couldn’t bear to let him see how much she was hurting. That single motion punched him hard in the solar plexus and made breathing difficult.

“Tamia—“

“Why you?” Her voice was quiet, and flat, as if she was fighting to maintain that neutral tone. “You’re not cleared for the field, yet. Jen hasn’t signed off on your medical clearance. Let me go, instead.”

He straightened as fear plunged through him. “No way.”

“Why not? I have the same training, the same ability…”

“Tamia.” He rose to his feet. “I’m not going to argue with you about this. Now, I have to go.”

She shot a glare over her shoulder that would have frozen fire. “So it’s do as you say, not as you do?”

“Hey.” He could see where this was going a mile away. “It’s not like that—“

“No? So what if I was the one running out in the middle of the night to follow mysterious leads?”

He couldn’t answer that; he already knew he’d incriminate himself. Hell, there was no way he could convince her he respected her if he voiced his feelings about her being out on the street in her current condition. “I—”

“Don’t bother. I already know the answer. If it was me, or anyone else on this whole damned team, trying to take on a mission before medical clearance was signed, you’d have us confined to Comms duty until our asses went numb.”

He closed his eyes. God, how did he dig himself out of this one? “This is different. I know my limits.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s lame, Rick.”

She started toward the bedroom, already shedding her robe as she went. He swallowed hard. “What are you doing?”

She shot a determined, narrow-eyed look over her shoulder. “I’m taking your place.”

Shock and fear plunged through him. The threatening message was meant to hurt him, but Tamia was Colbert’s ultimate target, for no other reason than her death would kill him. Images flashed through his mind of what could happen if he let her go off on Colbert’s trail in his place. His stomach knotted. No way in hell. “Absolutely not.”

Her chin rose defiantly. “Why not?”

“Because…” He sought desperately for a reason that wouldn’t reveal the truth. His gaze fell on her belly, and the threatening words of the Red Code sliced through him again.

I know about your family. You took mine, and I’m coming for yours. Rick fought the constricting band of fear. “Because you’re pregnant.”

It was only the truth, but he knew it was the wrong thing to say, even before Tamia’s eyes narrowed and a dark scowl settled on her face. “You so don’t want to go there, Carinson.”

He winced. When she called him by his last name in that tone, it meant he’d crossed the line. It was pretty clear she wasn’t going to back down; well, neither was he. This was too important. She was too important. Better she be pissed at him; it would make what had to happen easier for her.

“Look, my leads will go cold, if I stick around arguing this. I have to go. Keep everyone on task, okay?”

Her face paled, and the pain of her fear was a feeling he knew would never fade.

“What are you planning?” Her voice was barely audible, now, and he never wanted to spill his guts so badly in his life. As a torture technique, Colbert couldn’t have planned anything more effective. But there was no way he could tell her what was about to go down.

“You’re getting paranoid.”

She jerked back as if he’d stuck her, and anger roiled in her eyes. “Dammit, Rick. I thought you were dying, in Texas! What would you do if our situations were reversed?”

Memories flooded him, of Tamia just after Porto Alegre, bloody and unconscious, then wreathed in tubes and machinery. The fear he’d felt returned full force, but he shoved it aside. He wasn’t falling into that trap. But nor could he make her a promise he already knew he couldn’t keep. As he looked into her eyes, he saw the resignation, before she sighed, and turned her back to him again. “Go, already. Just don’t make me regret this.”

Join the Fight: Tell Congress That Being an Artist/Author IS a Business!

Like most people, I barely understand most of the legalese involved in tax law.  In fact, until recently, I blindly believed that, as an Author, since I considered myself engaged in business, and everything I read told me I had to file a Schedule C as a sole proprietorship, when I had royalty income, I was engaged in a For-Profit business.  Well, imagine my surprise when the State of Arizona tried to tell me, just before Christmas, last year (Thanks a lot Arizona Scrooge!), that because I couldn’t prove a profit (ie, more income than expenses) in three out of five years as an author, I was not, in fact, engaged in a For-Profit Business.

Apparently, being an Artist/Author is one of those areas for which you are supposed to be punished, in the good ol’ US of A (or, at least, in Arizona), thanks to one of a set of “tests” to determine whether or not a business meets the criteria for “For Profit.”  Unfortunately, one of those tests requires a showing of profit — something few authors or artists are familiar with, when it comes to their art.  And, equally apparent is the ridiculous notion that an author or artist should ONLY be engaged in writing/art in order to be classed as pursuing that For-Profit status without proof of said profit margin.  Apparently, we really ARE supposed to starve and end up in the poor-house/bankrupt in order to be taken seriously by the tax laws.

Well, if you’re an author/artist, or family or friends of such, you know how driven a profession this is.  We dedicate every spare moment we can squeeze out of our day for the creation of our creative minds.  And there’s not a one of us who doesn’t intend to someday be able to do nothing but write, paint, etc, etc  full-time.  But we’re also realistic enough to realize that with millions of books printed every day, and hundreds of thousands of artists out there, most of us aren’t likely to ever see our names on or far enough up the bestsellers list or on gallery listing, etc, to make that kind of money.  We hold down other jobs, to pay the bills, and our families suffer as much as we do, for our art.

It’s time to take a stand… So if you’re an artist or author, a friend or family of one, or a fan who wants to see your favorite author/artist/etc continue to create, we need your help.  Follow the link below, sign the petition, and let’s tell the US Congress that being an artist/author IS a business, and we deserve protection and fair regard, as such, under the tax laws.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/arts-irc-186-amendment/ (yes, I know the link has a mistake… I hit a “6″ instead of a “3″ when typing in the title, and can’t figure out how to change it).