“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…

“Gatekeeper” – Excerpt from BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus)

PPAtlantisdecalBETWEEN WORLDS wraps up the sub-series within Project Prometheus called Atlantis Silver — a sub-series of five books that kicks off the entire series with the reincarnation of five Elders from the abandoned and mostly destroyed ancient island of Ali-Antos, known today as Atlantis.

BETWEEN WORLDS brings the Elders back to Ali-Antos, and the temple they abandoned in the face of its imminent destruction at the hands of the Brotherhood of Spiders. And none among the Elders has more to set right than the gatekeeper to the Temple of the Stars — a woman who literally gave everything she was to correct a grievous wrong she committed. And the price she’s to pay in her reincarnation may be one she can’t face at all.

 

“Gatekeeper”  – Excerpted from Project Prometheus: BETWEEN WORLDS (Project Prometheus, Book #5)

She was so cold.  The wind here on the shore was bitter, chilled by the storm raging around her.  Csilla huddled in the cavern, watching as the boats were made ready.

“Are you ready, Gatekeeper?”

She turned at the sound of a masculine voice, to find Sargon beside her, tall and strong in his armor, the glow of his charge shining around him even from where it rested, secure in the scabbard at his side.  She shuddered to think how, of them all, only she was a real danger.  Only her charge could bring them all back to this place, and only her charge could be forced from her grasp by any manner besides death.

“Go, Warrior,” she whispered, already aware of what she must do.  And yet, she could not tell these men, her soul-brothers, what she planned.  They would surely halt her plan, if they knew how she meant to protect them all.  “I am weary, and will bide here a while.”

He frowned.  “It is not safe, Csilla.  Already, Arachaena swarm the mountain above us.  They must not find us here.”

She looked out toward the storm-tossed waves where she once found solace.  Sadness gripped her. She would leave all of this behind. She hugged her cloak tighter about her shoulders.  There was no help for it.  This was as it must be.

“I shall follow directly.  Have Mykalos tie me a boat in yon rocks.”

Sargon sighed, but relented.  Truly, he was too tender to a woman’s comfort. She feared that would bring him to ill ends.  “Do not linger too long, Csilla.”

She smiled up at him, careful he did not read her sorrow.  “I will be gone before they arrive.”

With a nod, his eyes wary, Sargon left her and headed for the boats beyond.  Csilla sighed, and shivered slightly as she rested her back against the cool rocks.  The weight of the knife concealed beneath her cloak was a cold reminder of what she must do.  She would keep her promise.  Only, it would not be as Sargon believed.

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

“Aectetis”

This is a little something I’ve fooled around with, off and on, for a number of years… Just a little project to keep my muse engaged with the active, battlefield mentality I often need to write suspense. :)

I’ve always had a love for Greek mythology, for vastly personal reasons. I will note that this isn’t a researched novel. References are ones gleaned from decades of pure fascination and study of Greek mythology and history. If I ever decide to turn this into a novel, I’ll be doing lots of research… for now, it just remains a little exercise for my muse, that I thought I’d share a bit of, with you. Enjoy! :)

“Aectetis”

They were sent from the gates, into the gaping maw of the desert cavern, but neither man went willingly.  No man who knew the tales, or believed in Hades’ wide dominion, would have been willing.  Aectetis blessed himself repeatedly and murmured prayers to Athene, while Taracles muttered curses against the darkness hovering around them.

“This is madness,” Taracles muttered as he thrust his torch savagely into the inky passageway, his sword clenched in one hard fist, his dark eyes steely.  “I tell you, Aectetis; Sikander’s run mad.”

Aectetis swallowed hard, but offered no answer.  He couldn’t have spoken, at the moment, had his life depended on it.  His scalp itched with sweat, beneath the cockle-crested helm, and his leather armor might as well have been Prometheus’ stone, about his neck. It suffocated him. Why was he here? He had neither Taracles’ Spartan toughness, nor the great Aristotle’s Athenian scepticism.  He was provincial, a farmer’s son, with little understanding of either war or philosophy. He believed in the power of the Gods, and mere mortals ought not to trifle with such things.

“I heard from the Emperor’s man that Sikander’s gripped with fevers that roll his eyes up in his head; that he hears voices.  Voices!” Taracles scoffed openly, his voice edged with dark humor.  “Can you believe that? The Furies come to claim his fool head, and yet none dares question his whims!”

A skittering in the darkness brought Aectetis’ gaze quickly around, and he battled down a rising wave of pure panic.

“Do you suppose it’s true? What they say of this place?” Aectetis dared not breathe more than that, lest he anger the spirits here.

“That it leads straight to Tartarus; that the voices of the damned echo here?” Taracles shrugged nonchalantly.

“No.  That there’s a demon down here.  A demon unlike any other,” Aectetis whispered, clutching his heavy bronze shield closer.

Taracles laughed harshly. “Demons?  Aectetis, you’re too old for such children’s tales!”

“But what if it’s true?” Aectetis insisted, unable the still the growing panic in his chest. He swore he could hear the monster breathing – Aechidna’s own foul spawn.  “General Ptolomy says the Emperor’s had terrible visions, in his sleep; that he dreams of a demon come to suck the very breath from his lungs.  Do you suppose –?”
Taracles’ scowl effectively cowed Aectetis.  “Now, you listen to me, Aectetis, and listen well.  Sikander’s a raving madman, and any fool with eyes can see it. I can tell you exactly what we’ll find in these caverns.  Nothing.  There are no demons here, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“But the locals believe—“

“Ignorant peasants!” Taracles spat disgustedly, as if he’d tasted something foul.  “Their superstitions should not sway an Emperor, or a general, from conquest.”

The comment, spoken as only an aristocrat would dare, stung.  Aectetis forced the anger away, aware that it was a small enough matter, at the moment.  Survival was a more pressing concern than pride.

Silence hovered around them, and Aectetis’ heart beat in dread.  This wasn’t right.  There should be sounds – the echo if their sandaled feet on the cavern floor, the drip of underground water, the shift of rocks, even the sound of their breathing – yet no sound penetrated the oppressive stillness.  The closer they moved toward the wide cavern at the tunnel’s end, the heavier the silence grew, until Aectetis feared he’d gone deaf.

Moving cautiously, they entered the subterranean hall, and abruptly stopped.  No wind stirred here, no sound murmured in the stillness.  It was, Aectetis decided with a shiver of dread, a tomb.  The eeriness of it all crawled along his spine.

A form moved in the darkness of the torch’s jumping shadow.  Aectetis turned his head to better see, just as his torch sputtered and blew out.  A moment later, Taracles’ died as well, plunging the cavern into utter darkness.

“What was that?” Aectetis’ horrified whisper finally pierced the hovering silence.  “Taracles?”

“It was probably a draught from the tunnel.” Taracles sounded annoyed.  “Let me find my flint.”

A moment later, a soft glow sparked in the darkness, and Aectetis’ muscles slowly relaxed.  “Thank you, Taracles.  I –“

“Quiet, fool!”  Taracles hissed, brandishing his blade.  “That light isn’t mine.  There’s someone else down here!”

Aectetis’ voice died on a terrified gasp, his heart pounding harshly in his ears as he flattened himself against the wall behind him.  More than ever, he wanted to flee this place.  But Taracles would see that as cowardice, and as long as Taracles remained, Aectetis could do no less.  He would not dishonor his family, or his people.

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).

Weekend Gems: “Gilded Cage”

“No one said this would be easy.” Maltai circled her cage, watched her stalking movements match his stride warily as she pulled against the golden chain and collar that encircled her neck.  “You’re not going to get out of there, no matter what I do, unless you’re ready to quit being so damned noble.”

She loosed a warning growl that rumbled in the air between them as he stepped closer, her bright yellow eyes narrowing as she bared her teeth.  Then, backing off, she shook herself, shedding her feline form in the process.  In the space of a breath, she went from imposing lioness to a lean, proud woman with tawny skin and dark hair, wearing only the short, tattered drape of cloth that denoted her servitude, and the proud, regal tilt of her chin that told him she was far from a broken slave.

“If I compromise my very core, and everything I hold dear, then I might as well stay here and become a slave in truth.  What reason do I have to be free, if I sacrifice my soul self in the process?”

Want to know more?  Stay tuned for details about Legends of Tirum and this book, Mistress of Cats!  Meanwhile, check out Books 1 & 2 at Desert Breeze Publishing