“A Love So Deadly” – Excerpt from LADY’S LAMENT (Guardians, Inc.)

10 Ladys Lament

 

Opening in Rhode Island shortly before the start of the Revolutionary War, LADY’S LAMENT absorbs all the history of the period, and the danger of being a privateer in an age of upheaval.  Then, it fast-forwards to modern day, as a paranormal investigator takes on a challenge she never saw coming – tangling with the ghost of a man determined to make her remember.

 

“Love So Deadly” – Excerpt from LADY’S LAMENT (Guardians, Inc., Book 10) —

“The Cap’n, he be acomin’, Mistress!  An’ he look fit for the storms of Hell, he does!”  The brogue-laden words of Brigit, Caroline’s Irish lady’s maid, reached Royce’s ears, even as he mounted the stairs, and his lips twisted in a dark smirk.  Oh, aye, he was in a fit, and his lady-love should well know why, if the rumors he heard were true.

Ah, Caro, how could you?  Cold comfort enough, the news borne by the Continental Congress, that the Colonies were to go to war.  Normally, war would profit him most fortuitously.  Hadn’t he procured the funds for this lavish estate from the war between England and France, ended just twelve years ago?  Even as young and new to the fine arts of the privateer as he’d been, back then, he secured his fortune in those turbulent waters of the channel, and then added to them by plundering French merchant vessels from the West Indies in the name of King George, in the years since.  And still, Caro would not marry him.  Though he gave her lush estates, and provided her with everything she could want, she claimed she could not marry a man who made his fortune on the blood of another.

She was returning to Boston.   His scowl returned in force, and rage prowled his soul.  He gave her everything, squandered his immortal soul at the Devil’s table, for nothing more than her love.  And now he learned she could not be bought.

“Damnation!”  He spun on the stair, his fist flying of its own will, to crash against the timbered walls with a terrible splintering of wood.

“Royce!”  The voice from above him on the stair was sweet, and laced with shocked disapproval.  Ah, how he wished to truly offend his lady’s delicate sensibilities!  Images flooded his mind as he stared up at her, standing at the top of the stairs like a goddess over her erring petitioner.

“You’re leaving.”  He spat the words out in a fury as he lunged up the remaining steps between them, heedless of the mud on his boots upon the expensive carpeting.

She stood her ground, which drew a grudging smile from him.  That was one thing he loved most about his Caro.  She never backed down.  “Yes.”

A simple enough statement.  Another man might have taken it at its worth.  But he was not another man, and he already made a bargain with the Devil, to have her here.  Without Caroline, he was already damned.

“No!”  He roared the word as he covered the final inches between them, and yanked her hard against his body.  “You belong here.”

“Unhand me, you beast!”  She shoved at his chest.  “How can you say I belong here, when here I am nothing but miserable?  I am not your property, and you cannot buy me – not with coin, and not with demands.”

“Have I not given you everything I have to give, ungrateful wench!”  He could not control his tongue.  After weeks of fear, terror that he would arrive to find her already gone, his temper ran unchecked.  “Perhaps I should just take what I have already paid for, then!”

He would not harm her.  It was not in what little remained of his soul to ever cause her harm.  Yet, he craved one taste of her, and the chance to convince her to stay.  Yanking her hard against him, he slanted his mouth over hers, and plundered willfully, the pirate he truly was.

Caroline’s body went rigid against his, and he heard a soft snick, like a knife loosed from its sheath.  Breaking his hold, he barely heard her soft whisper, before heat pierced his chest, and the world began to darken.  But, as he stared up into her tear-filled eyes, he knew he was betrayed, and her words were his last companion into the darkness.

Forgive me, my love.

He would not.  He could not.  She had consigned him to the Devil, but as life ebbed away from him, he made a promise to them both.  One day, he would return.  And she would pay for what she did.

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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 neither energy nor matter can be either created or destroyed. They simply change 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.

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

Guardians, 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?

“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.”

Things That Go Bump In the Night

Since it’s October, and spookiness often abounds, this time of year, I thought I’d ratchet things back just a little bit, and stir up a different kind of energy.

We’re all used to being scared out of our minds by things we don’t understand, but which we have been told are evil or bad for us.  Fear seems to be the universal human reaction to the unknown.  And nowhere is that more underscored than when it comes to the paranormal.

Hollywood has taught us to fear the spirits of the departed.  They’ve taught us that ghosts only come back for revenge, that they’re gruesome and sinister and, above all, dangerous.

Modern society (and Hollywood) have also taught us to fear those things that do not exist on our plane.  They’ve taught us that anything we believe in as children is not real, and is best ignored, and then taught us that what we’ve chosen to blind ourselves to must be evil, and therefore to be feared.

I grew up in an environment very much like that.  As a small child, my senses were fostered as “an active imagination” – which soon turned to “grow up” and “stop telling stories” as I drew nearer to adolescence, and they wanted it all to go away.

It never really did.

I’m here to tell you that ghosts aren’t necessarily evil.  They are the spirits of departed human beings.  Yes, evil people (in life) can return (or never leave) as evil ghosts.  They can do horrible, terrible things from that side – but, then again, they did them from THIS side, too.  However, in much the same way that those evil people are in the minority in our living world, so too are evil spirits of the departed in the minority.  While these are the only ones Hollywood and modern ghost stories usually see fit to tell us about, they make up only a small fraction of the spirit world population.  The vast majority of spiritual presences in this world are benign or even benevolent.  They’re people, just like you and I.  Unless you’re afraid of every person you pass on the street, there’s no reason to be afraid of every ghost who crosses your path.  I’ve shared a number of homes and working establishments quite peacefully with the spirits of the departed.  I treat them as I would wish to be treated (with respect and dignity), and we get along just fine.

I’m also here to tell you that those creatures of myth and legend that you thought weren’t real?  Well, most of them are.

As a child, I lived in England.  And I spent many an afternoon ensconced within the arms of an old oak tree, conversing with creatures – both beautiful and odd – I was later told “didn’t exist.”  I spent nights that I was afraid to go to sleep (not because of what was in the darkness, but because of what haunted my dreams) whispering with the Brownies who lived within the walls of our home.

Many of those creatures and spirits have followed me throughout my life.  They are my friends, and I don’t care if that makes me crazy in the eyes of some people.

However, my very first encounter with a spirit was at the age of two – a young man who’d been killed in combat, and who often came to keep me company while I colored or played – like a watchful older brother or father, intent to keep me safe.  Though it’s been over thirty years since then, and I’ve never encountered him again, those visits formed the foundation for my life, and my understanding that, no matter what others said, there really IS “more to heaven and earth” out there.

Have you ever had an experience with the Other  Side?  If so, and you feel like sharing, I’d be interested to hear. 🙂

Paranormal Fiction Mistake #5

It Pays To Be Dead

What’s undead, and what’s just cheating

            This may seem like an odd subject and an obvious issue, but you’d be surprised how often it comes up in paranormal fiction.

             The obvious part is that, in order to be “undead,” one must first actually be dead.  This is a condition authors often skip over completely.  The most frequent area for this kind of cheating comes with the Revenant Vampire, and with modern cinematic myths about how one becomes a vampire, it’s quite easy to do, especially if you lack an understanding about the history of vampires and vampirism.  I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of that particular topic, here, but if you want to know more, view “Beyond Dracula” at http://wildflowerpara.wordpress.com

            Revenant Vampires become the primary victim of this mistake because everyone assumes the transition from human being to vampire is instantaneous.  But Revenant Vampires are undead, which means they must first be dead.  Medical science tells us it takes at least 6-10 minutes for true biological death to occur.  But historical and anecdotal evidence suggest the process of creating a vampire included improper burial, which means it likely takes anywhere from 24 hours to as much as a week (maybe even more, in some cases), before the decedent rises as a Revenant Vampire.  Be careful of making the “moment of death” mistake with vampires.  While there are Living Vampires who claim to have been “turned” at a near-death moment, they are not undead, as they’ve never been dead (hence the term Living vampire).  And Living Vampires are much more complex than Revenant ones, in that the “turning” involved is one of conscious choice to become a vampire, not the effect of being bitten by a vampire, or of drinking vampire blood.

            Most of the common mistakes made in reference to the undead are in the actual reference, so here’s a brief run-down of what is and is not considered undead:

            Ghosts – They’re dead.  Period.  End of Story.  Don’t refer to them as “undead,” because they’re still dead.

            Dragons – They’re living creatures.  They’ve never been dead, so they can’t be undead.

            Mummies – These are animated dead.  That qualifies them to be undead.

            Zombies – These, too, can be animated dead, which qualify as undead.  However, there are also those known as living zombies – these are the unfortunate souls who run afoul of a practitioner of Vodun.  This is a much more complicated area, and requires more time than I have to devote to it, here.  I’ll be running a lecture on Vodun through the Morphean Academy at some point in the near future, and I’ll get into more discussion of different variety of zombies, as well.  For the point of most fiction authors out there, however, there’s a definite preference for the undead variety.

            Demons/Angels – These are also considered living creatures, believe it or not.  They’re spiritual, but they’ve never been dead (primarily because they don’t experience life the same way we do).  Please do not refer to either as “undead.”

            Theriomorphs (including lycanthropes) – These are living creatures.  They’ve never been dead.  Please don’t refer to your lycanthrope as being undead.

            Living Vampires – Obviously, these are still living, and therefore not considered undead.

            Revenant Vampires – Risen dead.  Definitely considered undead.

            Elves, pixies, or any other Fae folk – Considered living creatures, and therefore not qualified to be labeled “undead.”

            There are others, of course.  If you have any question about the classification, I’m always available to ask, but most times a little research will answer that question, as well.  Just remember that the first rule for being undead is that first you must actually be dead.  The second is that your body must actually somehow be involved in your rising from the dead.  Keep these two simple rules in mind, and with research, you’ll never run the risk of mistakenly calling a living creature “undead.”