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An Excerpt from Neighborhood Witch

Neighborhood Witch is still available for free download through Thursday!  If you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:

“Dios mio, nena,” Celia gasped as she surveyed the wreckage of her daughter’s living room. “What happened here?”

“I was hoping you could tell me,” Aracelli answered as she righted an overturned bookshelf.  Celia didn’t envy her the task of picking up and re-organizing that big stack of books.

“Me?” Celia asked. “How would I know?”

“When I got home, Brian was lying in the middle of the floor,” Aracelli said as she picked up a few books and put them on the shelves. “He was burning up with fever and shaking like a leaf with the chills.”

Celia made a sympathetic noise, but otherwise said nothing.  Aracelli liked to build her case and present all the evidence before she said something that was hard to believe.  It was part of what made her a good cop.

“He was delirious, too.  Talking about how he’d been seeing things, hearing things…even smelling things.” She paused and took a very deep breath.  Her face looked calm, but Celia could see that she was gripping the book in her hands so hard that her knuckles were turning white.  It was one of Brian’s books, something about darkness and monsters.  Strange that such a gentle soul enjoyed reading about violence so much.

“Do you know what he said to me, mami?”

Celia shook her head.

“He said ‘God, love, I’m so scared.  I’m so scared.  How bad is it if I’m hallucinating?’  That’s what he said.”

Then she took another deep breath, relaxed her grip on the book, and put it on the shelf.

“After that, he went all delirious again, and he started raving.  Talking about seeing faces in the mirror and shadows moving in the corners.  About things flying around the room and sticking in the walls and food rotting in the fridge.”

That caught Celia’s attention.

“The food?” She asked.

“We got some nice steaks last night for our anniversary,” Aracelli answered. “They’re maggot meat now.  The vegetables look like they’ve been in the fridge for a month, and the milk is green.”

“You would’ve just ruined it anyway,” Celia said as she started to look around the room. “The things stuck in the walls?”

Aracelli put a hand on her shoulder and, when she looked back, pointed up.

Celia followed the finger.

Then she blinked.

Stuck in the ceiling were a butcher knife, a screwdriver, a variety of tableware, and a nail file.

“Connnnyo,” Celia breathed.

“When I got home, Brian was too weak to stand,” Aracelli said. “He was much too sick to, I don’t know, take the stepladder and pound those things into the ceiling with a hammer or something.”

Celia nodded in agreement.  That was not what had happened here.

“Can you think of anything you mighta done to make the spirits mad at you?” she asked.

Aracelli shook her head.  It might have been strange to some of her fellow cops to see her talking so matter-of-factly about spirits – that’s why she didn’t talk about it with them – but she’d seen her mother at work often enough that it wasn’t a question of belief or doubt for her: magic and spirits were as real as handcuffs and perps.  She just didn’t want to carry on the family business, which was something else they fought about.

“I thought that might be it,” she said. “I was trying to think of what we could’ve done…but then I saw the mail.”

Okay, this “building the case” business was starting to get annoying. “The mail?” Celia demanded. “What about the mail?”

“Here,” Aracelli said, picking up a package from a nearby table. “Take a look at this.”

Celia looked at her doubtfully as she took the package, then turned her eyes to the package itself.

Then her eyes went very wide.

She started to shout “conyo”, then corrected herself to “Ay, Dios mio!” It wouldn’t do to swear with this thing in her hands, and calling upon God might help.

She threw the package to the floor (something inside screeched in outrage), snatched a vial out of her purse and poured the contents all over it.  Billows of blood-colored steam rose from the package, and the thing inside it squealed and died.

Grimly, she turned to Aracelli, who was staring wide-eyed.

“Imp,” she said. “This was like a magical letter bomb.”

Aracelli went pale. “I could tell something bad was in there, but…wait.  What was that you poured on it?”

Celia held up the small, square glass bottle, which had crosses carved on all four faces.  “Holy water,” she answered.

“You carry holy water in your purse?”

“And this is why.”

“Good point.” Aracelli sighed and turned her attention back to the sodden package. “So how do I get some?  Do you have to buy it, or can you just take some out of the font, or – “

“Don’t worry, I got a bulk supplier.”

Aracelli looked at her quizzically.  “There are bulk suppliers for holy water?”

“I have coffee with Padre Sandoval every Wednesday, and he’s always glad to – “ She noticed that one of Aracelli’s eyebrows had gone up. “…what?”

“Coffee?” Aracelli teased. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

Coffee,” Celia snapped.  Aracelli immediately raised her hands in surrender, her face a picture of “if-you-say-so” innocence.

“I’m not sayin’ I wouldn’t do it,” Celia continued, mollified. “When he was young, he was a real Father What-A-Waste.  But he likes to follow the letter of the law, tu sabes?  Probably just as well.  Might mess up the holy water if he broke his vows.  Besides…” she gave a lecherous grin. “I like ‘em younger.  Nice young stallion, to ride all night.”

Aracelli made a face. “Ew, mother!”

“You started it.  Now…” Celia turned her attention back to the package. “Who did you piss off, that they would send you something like this?”

Aracelli just looked at the package and shook her head. “I’m a cop, mami.  I piss off people every day, most of them from this neighborhood.”

“And any one of them could have hired a bruja,” Celia finished. “Conyo.”

“Well yeah, but how many brujas even are there?  Real ones, I mean.  There can’t be that many.”

“Es verdad.” Celia rubbed one of her medallions as she thought. “Hmm.  It has to be someone en el barrio.  Someone who could get Brian’s hair or something – that’s the only way this could be hitting him so hard.  And it has to be someone who’s either smart enough to know that you’re too strong and too protected…or just plain mean enough to want to come at you through him in the first place.  Maybe both.  Hmm.”

It must’ve been in the way she “hmm”-ed.  Her daughter knew her too well.

“You know who it is, don’t you?” Aracelli accused.

“I got some ideas.”

“Good,” she said, turning toward the bedroom she shared with Brian. “Let me just get my – “

“No!”

Aracelli looked back. “No?”

“No gun,” Celia said. “You shoot somebody, you maybe go to jail.  That’s not winning.” Her face split in a broad and wicked grin. “The whole point of magic, when a gun is so much easier, is that there’s no way to test for it.  Now: did the attack ruin everything in your kitchen?”

Hurry on over and pick up a free copy before it’s too late!  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

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Dreams of the Boardwalk is Now Available on Amazon!

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After a few days of technical difficulties, Dreams of the Boardwalk is ready to go!

Sarah Brannigan’s life has fallen to pieces at the age of forty-five. Her fairy tale marriage has ended, her job history has been a downward spiral since 2008, and she’s paying way too much rent to live in a tiny room in an apartment that she shares with five roommates.

To escape it all, she walks the streets of New York City, seeking out the hidden wonders of the City. And like many before her, she falls in love with Coney Island. Then one day, she falls asleep on a boardwalk bench after a long walk in the hot sun, and she falls into a dream. A dream that seems to reach into Coney Island’s past. A dream of everything she wished for when she was young. A dream whose effects linger even after she’s woken up.

Soon the dream begins to take over as Sarah uses it again and again to seek escape from her failed life. She’s getting everything she ever wanted: youth, love, and adventure. But as she goes deeper into the dream, she gets ever closer to nightmare.

For those of you who’ve read Sarah’s adventures before at this blog, remember: that was just the first draft.  There are still some surprises waiting for you here in the finished version!

So go check out Dreams of the Boardwalk‘s page at my author page, or just go straight to Amazon.  Available in Kindle, paperback, or free on Kindle Unlimited!  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!  If you like what you see, please leave a review!

Rated R.

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Neighborhood Witch Is Now Available on Amazon!

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A new story up on Amazon for the first time in far too long!  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Celia Rivera is a well-respected citizen of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. She runs her own little shop, and she’s respected by everyone from the old men playing dominoes on the corner to the young people who spend their days looking for trouble to get into. They respect her wisdom, her toughness…

Oh. And she’s a witch.

Celia Rivera’s shop sells more than candles and incense, and she keeps her little corner of the City safe for everyone. And when someone targets her family for magical retribution, it’s time for the kind of magical street fight that can only happen in the City.

Check out Neighborhood Witch’s page over at my author site, or just go straight to Amazon and download a copy.  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

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Orbit. Emily Horner.

An intriguing short story by my dear friend Emily Horner. The wolf-girls live in the wilderness of a post-apocalyptic future, doing what they can to resist the satellites that killed the old world. But there’s trouble in the pack…

pea river journal

Orbit

All that winter me and the other girls in the pack tried to tell ourselves that nothing was wrong. It was just because Lynette had left; it was just because of that blizzard we had to dig ourselves out of. And then Jamie, who’d come up from the village a few months ago, fifteen years old, still enamored of hot baths and pretty shoes, complained about our watercress and our boiled bark; and Stella snapped, “I haven’t seen you out hunting.”
Jamie walked out into the snow. I followed, running, with a coat and a lantern. Angry that Stella had said it and angry at the fifty times I’d thought the same thing.
“I should go back home,” she said when I caught up with her. She wiped at her nose with a mitten crusted in frozen snot. “She’s right. All I do is complain. All those stories they…

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Field Hospital is Available for Free Now Through Thursday!

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A brand new story, this one in honor of my sister Meaghan, is up for sale on Amazon, and free to download now through Thursday 12/15! Here is the Amazon blurb:

On an Air Force base in the middle of the desert, Captain Eileen Brennan waits to treat the casualties of a war that everyone back home thinks is over. But today, she will treat the wounded of a war far greater than the one she thought she was fighting.

Check out Field Hospital’s home page, or just go straight to Amazon and download yourself a free copy! And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

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Tears of the Joyous Mare

It’s been too long since I’ve reblogged a story by Jason Abbot.

This bit of heartwarming fantasy/romance deals with a very current topic. It makes me wish that this kind of magic existed in our world, to help the people in this situation, and it reminds us that adventurers, as the ultimate outsiders, would probably be very open-minded.

Aethereal Engines

The stars had begun to take their places above the riders, and they approached the weathered sign of the Joyous Mare as it swayed in the twilight. The raucous noise from the tavern within drifted into the growing blanket of night, greeting the pair as they slowed their horses to a walk.

Atop a grey spotted gelding, a thin man regarded the sign and muffled revelry beyond it with a weary smile. “Well, this is it. Are you ready for the introductions, Izraeya?”

TotJM_2_PicThe stronger strut of his companion’s bay-colored stallion brought her alongside him, and Izraeya gave an eager nod. “I’m nervous and ready, Dirgten.”

Dirgten returned her nod before they stopped at the hitching posts. Dismounting, he looked to the warm light within the building of wattle and daub. His eyes surveyed its two stories of timbered framework before scrutinizing the old man sitting by the door, confirming…

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First Empress – End of the Prologue

End of the prologue. A nice little twist.

Sartorially Smart Heroines

So here’s the ending of the prologue to First Empress. Originally the prologue ended with Viarra confronting her uncle at the end of scene 5, but later I had an idea that I hope puts an unexpected twist on Viarra’s character. It’s a short scene that doesn’t even include Viarra, but hopefully it opens up some interesting implications about the novel’s world. As always, any feedback is welcome!


“Come to gloat, General Derron?” Duke Elladan accused as the general dismissed the guard outside his cell.

Derron waited for what Elladan suspected was long enough for the guards to be out of earshot before replying. “No, in fact I came to thank you,” the general replied, tossing a wineskin into the cell. “Believe it or not,” he continued, “you saved me a great deal of time and effort. You did what you saw as necessary for our people, and, despite…

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