“The First Fire” — Excerpt from UP IN FLAMES

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A serial arsonist’s path of destruction has turned into an eerie serial murder, and jurisdiction falls to the FBI’s resident expert on the bizarre, and the only forensic lab in the country equipped to handle tracking down a renegade psychopath. Are Doctor Faith MacKenzie and her team ready for what they’re about to uncover?

A mysterious serial arsonist has been setting fires over the Witch Hollow area for months, and when a charred body turns up at the most recent arson scene, Faith and Jonathan are called to the scene. While Faith begins the process of identifying the victim and determining cause of death, Jonathan suspects the danger runs deeper than either of them could have predicted. As the number of fires, and the body count, grows, the partners will have to ask themselves what’s most important — bringing down a killer, or finding the truth.

“The First Fire” — Excerpt from Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book 2: Up In Flames

The blare of sirens jerked Doctor Faith MacKenzie from sleep. Through sleep-blurred eyes, she watched the whirl of colored lights dance across her bedroom wall and disappear, then closed her eyes again. She needed her sleep. Since the Bunker joined forces with the FBI a month ago, on a case so strange it left her questioning her own reality, her sleep was sporadic at best. More often than not, memories of events she still couldn’t reconcile tore any chance of sleep from her, leaving her in her studio at all hours, trying to forget the images of an obsidian knife biting through flesh, and blood covering her hands, clothes, and the floor of her lab.

She touched her fingers to her throat, aware the soreness lingering there was little more than memory, even if the yellowing bruises were not. Faith shuddered. She often woke unable to breathe, with the phantom sensation of hard fingers digging into her throat, or the impossible pressure of a hand as cold as the grave wrapped around her heart.

If only those were the worst of her recent memories, she might be able to ignore them. After all, Rene Haley was dead, the case closed. However, for the past week, the memory of a brutal dismemberment case they just wrapped up four days ago plagued her sleep. She still couldn’t say for sure what caused some of the marks on that body, regardless of her new partner’s assurance they had enough evidence for a conviction.

She started to drift back to sleep, only to be jolted awake again by the shrill tone of her cell phone, on the nightstand beside her bed. Fumbling for the device, she punched accept without looking and put the unit to her ear as she fell back against the pillows with a muttered, “This had better be good.”

Special Agent Jonathan Caulder’s wry chuckle filled her ear. “Good morning to you, too. I don’t suppose you heard the sirens screaming through town.”

She refused to open her eyes. He would go away, if she just pretended he wasn’t there. Then, with a sigh, she realized he was waiting for an answer. “Mmm. And if I was a firefighter, I might be concerned.”

“C’mon, Mac. Batter up — we have a dead body.”

She swung her legs out of bed, and groaned as she sat up. “No way can they know that yet. I doubt the flames are even out. Besides, what can’t wait until a decent hour? And what’s this ‘we’? Since when are fire-related deaths considered an FBI matter?”

“Since a scorched body ran out of a burning building, screaming about demons.”

Ice plunged through Faith, and she groaned again, in disbelief. Not again. “Demons.”

“Yup. Up and at ’em, Mac. Wetherly already signed over jurisdiction. Meet you at the crime scene — I’ll text you the address.”

Before she could protest that bodies neither ran nor screamed, he hung up, and her phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. Glancing down at her phone, she pressed open and her eyes widened at the address showing on her phone’s screen.

Look for this second book in Guardian, Inc: Witch Hollow

Available Now! 

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Converse with the author (me)

If you are looking for a way to keep up on the most recent news from me, regarding my writing and books, and view the most recent excerpts and more, you might consider checking out my new social media group over at Facebook. You can find it at:

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Now, this is a closed group, so you have to be approved to join, and I have two rules:

  1. No lurkers. I intend for this group to be a place for real discussion of your favorite and least favorite aspects of my books, for questions about the characters, the stories, the writing process, and more. You don’t have to be actively involved all the time, but if you go too long without comment at all, I’m going to assume you’re no longer interested, and you’ll have to rejoin.
  2. NO promo. Absolutely, positively NO promotions for other books or authors in this group. You won’t get a warning if you do it. You’ll just be removed, and you won’t be allowed back in. It’s rude, and disrespectful.

So, if you’re interested, look me up at the link above, and let’s talk! 🙂

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“The Threat” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Witch Hollow)

 

What happens when you bring together the best independent forensic lab in the country, one of the leading pathologists and criminal profilers in the world, and a Federal agent with a very unique skill set, and a gun loaded with Slayer bullets?

Welcome to Witch Hollow!

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When a wealthy philanthropist is found dead in a locked room, with no apparent cause of death beyond the faint scent of incense, Dr. Faith MacKenzie and her team have their work cut out for them. As the case starts to go cold, she’ll be forced to turn to a man with abilities in which she can’t bring herself to believe, and credentials that leave her no choice but to accept the possibility he might just be on the level.

 

“The Threat” — Excerpt from SIGHT UNSEEN (Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, Book #1):

“We’re on the same side, here, Agent Caulder.” The man glanced down at the weapon laying on the table. “We both want this monster dead.”

“You threatened my partner. We’re not even close to on the same side.” Jonathan didn’t budge, his hand resting on the gun threateningly. No matter what this asshole thought, Jonathan was onto him. He knew way too much about the Crucibani to ever fall for their shit.

One silvered brow rose. “I thought your partner was that abomination Jason Guardian convinced the Vatican to release.”

No mistaking the derision in that description. While he didn’t worry about Reesha like he did Mac, Jonathan didn’t like the sound of that comment. “Her, too. You come near either one of them, again, and I’ll give you a brand new definition of Hell.”

The Crucibani assassin snorted, rising to his feet. “If Haliatus gets to either one of them, first, it is you who will know Hell, Agent Caulder, not I.  You really have no choice but to let me do what I was sent to do. Keep your…partner out of my way, and she’ll be safe.”

Jonathan swore a blue streak inwardly as he glared a hole in the back of the man’s retreating head. They both knew he couldn’t do anything more than threaten, unless the Crucibani broke the law, which they were always careful to never do. At least, not with witnesses or evidence around. If he wanted to catch this bastard, he was going to have to find a way to tell Mac the truth. And that would be a disaster of biblical proportions.

Look for the explosive first book of Guardians, Inc: Witch Hollow, SIGHT UNSEEN — coming from Esther Mitchell and Desert Breeze Publishing on October 11, 2016.

“Dangerous Request” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

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When Doctor Michael Banks asked his brother to find him a specialist to help combat the biological weapon wiping out entire villages in the Amazon jungles, he expected a dedicated, licensed doctor with enough lab time to make Albert Schweitzer green with envy, and warrior enough to handle himself in the Amazon.  So he was stunned and disappointed to find himself face-to-face with a petite spitfire of a woman with no degree, desert features, and china blue eyes.  To beat the poison, Michael will need everything at his disposal, and the Persian spitfire at his side has the key to his most valuable weapon — if he can keep her far away from his darkest secret.

 

“Dangerous Request” –Excerpt from Blood Debt (Project Prometheus, Book 4) :

Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

He lunged for the lab’s entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day, with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

“Shahdi!”

“Michael,” her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn’t as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi’s side even as she tried to sit up.

“Don’t move!”

She gave him an odd look — probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice — but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

“This is not how I planned to have your hands on me.” The humorous lilt of Shahdi’s voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

“You could have been killed, and you’re cracking jokes?”

She rolled her eyes as she slowly sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

“You must learn to not fret so, Michael,” she murmured. “The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place.”

“You’re going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow–”

“But they will heal with time.”

“You’ll be stiff and hurting–”

“But I am alive.”

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn’t she see how much the idea scared him? “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“No.” Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. “I do not know how to make you love me.”

Blood Debt – Available from Desert Breeze Publishing on May 11,2016

“I Solemnly Swear…” – Fiction Writing and the Pitfalls of Promise

As an author, there’s one rule I hold sacred above all else in my writing — Be careful what you promise.

I’m not talking about deadlines.

I’m not talking about telling people when a book will be out.

What I’m talking about are the promises we, as writers, make to our audience. Promises about circumstances. About events. About characters. About relationships.

These are sacred promises. We have asked our audience to put their faith in us. To willingly, and with absolute trust, follow us along a twisting path through our characters’ lives, to learn about them, to laugh with them, cry with them, fall in love with them, and perhaps (in some cases) die a little with them.

Along the way, we have to be careful of the pitfall of “I promise…” Unless we are prepared to follow through — to perhaps abandon our entire creative endeavor based on a bridge we swore to never set foot upon, to never cross, and certainly never demolish behind us.

We can never promise what we are not prepared to deliver, or are uncertain our characters can deliver. We are the most honest of all deceivers, for we peddle in truths based upon lives that are only, at best, half reality. But this does not give us permission to lie to our audience.

We do not get to make promises we are either incapable of or unwilling to assure the outcome of.

image by hotblack

image by hotblack

Personally, I don’t make promises regarding characters or situations, other than that the situation will eventually be resolved.

The quest will reach an end.

A resolution will, sooner or later, arrive for every situation.

Beyond that, I make no promises. I have no idea where the path might twist and turn, or how my characters will arrive at the resolution. I assume they will be changed, but I have no idea how, no matter how much plotting I do. I do not even promise they will all arrive there alive.

However, if you do decide to make a promise regarding your characters or situations, be aware, you are toying with a trust you must be very careful of.

Audiences do not respond well to being tricked, to having their emotions manipulated by empty promises. They are unlikely to trust your motives, or your storytelling, again, if you offer them something you can’t deliver on.

Once you make a promise, you simply can’t change your mind. At that point, you are committed to a course, and you will have to see it through.

“The Hit” – Excerpt from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus)

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This particular piece comes from NOWHERE TO HIDE.  Meet Candace Billings, daughter of a man with connections that could get her killed.

As far as the world was concerned, debutante Candace Billings knew nothing beyond a life of privilege. But the high gates of the Billings estate housed a secret darker than any prison facility, and Candace would do anything to escape it. When her father offered her the chance to travel to South America on holiday, she eagerly accepted, determined to never return to the life she left behind. But a bag exchange in a Columbian hotel brought her back into the United States a criminal, released into her father’s unyielding custody. A stolen car and a nighttime collision brought Candace to the attention of a man who could neither abandon nor absolve her. But, just maybe, he can save her.

 

“The Hit” – Excerpted from NOWHERE TO HIDE (Project Prometheus, Book #16) –

            This is it.  I’m going to die.

The thought slipped through Candace Billings’ mind like a snake, gone in a flash as the dark sedan slammed into the side of her sports car again. Grim humor gripped her as she acknowledged it wasn’t actually her anything.  She didn’t know a damned thing about cars. This was Ben’s car, sliding out of control on the rain-slick road as she fought to break free from the shove of the other vehicle.

God, please don’t let me die here.

What she was praying for, she didn’t know.  Death would be preferable to being returned to Ben’s fancy townhouse, or worse, to her father’s sprawling mansion.  Still, Candace gritted her teeth and fought the out-of-control car, and the jarring pound of the hitman’s vehicle.

And she had no doubt he was a hitman.  One of the cartel’s thugs, no doubt, employed strictly to take care of people like her.  Candace barked a sharp laugh, but didn’t dare spare a glance for the backpack on the passenger seat beside her, or a thought for its contents.  She didn’t have time.

A guard rail loomed in the beam of her headlights, and she swore softly beneath her breath as she slammed the brake to the floor.  The screech of the expensive machinery protesting the hard use joined the chorus of squealing rubber and the splinter of crushed metal and fiberglass.  Then, there was a sickening crunch, and pain seared through her body as she flew forward, caught between the guard rail to her left and the gunning engine of the sedan to her right.  Her breath stopped in her lungs as the seat belt strangled her, then snapped, and a nauseating crack filled the compartment.  She slumped sideways with a groan as pain exploded through her, and only the tortured squeal of the windshield wipers kept her company as she tumbled into darkness.

Want to know more about Project Prometheus?  Stay tuned… And pick up your copy of the Eppie-Nominated Project Prometheus series debut, IN HER NAME, available now from Desert Breeze Publishing!

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus)

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Every once in a while, as an author, you encounter a scene that just blows you away. This scene was that for me — totally unexpectedly. I originally intended for Trevor to come around alone, to have to battle his thoughts and personal demons completely alone, to illustrate how much inside of himself he’s gone in order to retreat from what he can’t understand or face. Instead, his disappearance dragged Jaye into the mix, and this amazing bit of character exposition developed all on its own.

“Confessions in Blood” — Excerpt from SHADOW WALKER (Project Prometheus, Atlantis Silver, Book #3) —

Ten minutes and a gurney trip later, Jaye frowned in true worry as she realized Trevor was still dazed and not at all himself.  Even worse, the bright fluorescent lights illuminated the blood on his dark skin that the moonlight and shadows masked.

Helping him to his bed, she left him just long enough to collect gauze, warm water, and antiseptic.  She doubted he lost enough blood to need emergency surgery or a transfusion, though the amount was alarming to view.  She frowned.  Even knowing it was probably a superficial head wound, and looked worse than it was, she was worried.

Standing before him, she dipped a piece of gauze in the warm water and began gently cleaning the blood from his face.  If she could get through the blood, she could find out if he needed stitches or not.

Trevor flinched with a hiss, and she raised startled eyes to find him regarding her with clear eyes, as if he’d never been the animal she found hidden in the bushes.

“Jaye?”  His voice was weak, and his hand trembled as he lifted it – the only signs he was actually unwell.  He glanced toward the window, and his brow furrowed.  “What time is it?”

“About two in the morning.”  Jaye bit her lip.  He lost track of time, and she didn’t like that.  Losing time was a bad sign in psychiatric medicine.  She wiped away the last smear of blood, and a chill passed through her.  There weren’t any wounds.  Not a single laceration.  She swallowed past her trepidation, but her voice still came out small and breathless.  “What happened to you?”

He tensed. “I don’t remember.”

The tone of his voice alerted her something was wrong, even before she met his gaze.  His eyes were clear, but evasive.  Damn it, he was lying to her.  “Trevor…”

“No.”

She loosed a small cry of exasperation.  Zero-two-hundred hours, when she barely slept last night, was not the time for him to start pulling his stoic routine on her.

“You never were a good liar.”

His gaze darkened as he stared her in the eye.  “And you must have a lot of practice at it.”

Those words drove the breath from her even more than his bitter tone did.  Had he finally remembered Somalia?  Did he know what she did?  She sought blindly for a place to sit as her knees weakened with fear.  “What do you mean?”

The anger dropped from his face, and he reached out to her, oblivious of the blankets dropping, leaving him naked from the waist up.

“Hey, I’m sorry… I don’t know what that was.  I just… I don’t want to talk about where I went, okay?”

For a reason she couldn’t explain if he asked, his secretive attitude annoyed her.  She went back to cleaning the smaller blood smears from his face and neck.  “Great.  Fine.  Do you want to at least tell me how you ended up naked and covered in blood?”

“Not particularly.”

“Damn it, Trevor!”  She threw the gauze into the bio waste container with more force than necessary and glared at him.  “This isn’t a game.  I’m trying to help you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Funny.  Your boss doesn’t think so.”

“I said, I’m fine.”

“Bullshit.”

His eyes narrowed.  “You never used to swear.”

She bit down on words that would turn the air blue, and instead snapped, “Yeah, well I had to get tough.”

The frown on his face pulled her attention from her anger, even before he hazarded, “Because of me?”

She flinched, in spite of her attempt to remain neutral.  She couldn’t help it; she’d run from the truth for too long.  “Yes.”

His gaze turned away, toward the window, and he looked truly ill for the first time.  “I’m sorry.”

The words hit her out of nowhere, and stung because he had no idea how little she deserved them.  She should be the one begging for his forgiveness.  Jaye bit down hard on her lower lip, and stepped closer.

“Don’t apologize,” she whispered as she stroked his cheek gently.  “Not to me.”

Want to know more?  Find out how it all starts in IN HER NAME, currently available from Desert Breeze Publishing.