A Hero’s Mistake, an exerpt

So eventually my second novel will be out, and I am, in theory, supposed to create interest in my book, so people will be excited about it and want to buy it.  So, here’s a teaser for A Hero’s Mistake. I hope you enjoy it.

a hero's mistake ebook

“Cate, please. Do calm yourself. You will be doubly miserable if you cast up your accounts at the party,” her brother said trying to soothe her.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she groaned. The ladies to be attending this party were to be some of the most popular and influential women in her community. And of course, Mr. Herring would also be there, expecting her to talk to him. He would also likely expect her to make sense, and not to vomit on his shoes. She most assuredly was not confident she wouldn’t disappoint him.

As they exited the carriage, Cate swayed slightly, but enough that her brother took notice.

“Go to the retiring room for a moment and compose yourself. I’ll find Mr. Herring and keep him entertained until you are feeling better.”

“Thank you,” she gave him a weak nod. “Yes, I’ll come find you once I’m feeling more myself.”

With that, they parted ways.

Cate wasn’t familiar with this house since she had never been here before. She found a footman, who gave her directions to the retiring room. Now was it two rights, then the third door on the left, or the third right and two doors?  She felt a bit foggy and wondered if she wasn’t becoming ill. The chatter from the partygoers filtered through the hallway and only managed to increase her anxiety. She opened the door she thought was the correct one, as it was slightly ajar.

She apparently was mistaken, the room she found was a linen closet, and it was dark and cool. It was possibly more perfect than the retiring room because here she could be sure no one would bother her. There was a small step stool in the corner, likely so some small maid could reach the upper shelves without having to bother anyone, and it looked to make the perfect little seat to rest on and compose herself. She entered the room and closed the door behind her, it made a somewhat disconcerting thunk as it latched, but her distressed mind didn’t register the sound until it was too late.

She tried the handle and indeed, the mechanism was stuck, if not locked. It was probably the reason the door had been left slightly open in the first place. But there was no sense in panicking. This was a large house, surely a maid, footman or another guest would pass by, and she could then alert them to her situation. It might be a trifle embarrassing, but less so than disgracing herself on Mr. Herring or any other guest.

She took a seat and decided to use her time to compose herself and feel a bit better. She must have fallen asleep for a moment because the next sound she heard was her brother loudly whispering her name in the hall outside her closet door.

“Christian,” she returned, also in a loud whisper. “I’m in here.”

“Where are you? The closet? Really Please, Cate. Come on out. It’s time for you to meet Mr. Harring. He has, in fact, been quite eager to make your acquaintance,” Christian said to the closed door.

“I can’t. The door, it’s stuck, I can’t seem to get it open.” To demonstrate her situation she tugged on the doorknob, it rattled a bit, but the door didn’t budge.

“Stand back. I’m going to push,” and Christian shoved the door hard. Hard enough to burst it open with no small amount of force, until it made a muffled, but sickly thump and abruptly stopped, followed almost instantly by a second thump, sounding quite like a body falling to the floor.

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The Rogue’s Good Day

Why does blood have to be so damn hard to get out?

It was a thought Airon had on a regular basis. This time it was a spreading stain on his new linen shirt that prompted the lament. But Airon wasn’t in a great mood, so he felt the irritation more than usual. It was a hot day,  and blood wasn’t a liquid that was effective at cooling a person, especially if splattered all over them. Not to mention, he really liked this shirt.

But the bulgy, bug-eyed ogre really had it coming, or so he’d been told, and Airon was an assassin by trade, so the blood was an occupational hazard. It wasn’t that Airon really cared what the ogre did to warrant death, Airon just knew he deserved it, and that was enough. Besides, it was an easy job, for the most part, that didn’t take up too much of his time. Except for today.

A quick glance at his watch proved that his timing was okay, if not a bit tight. He wouldn’t be able to go home and change his shirt, but he had his jacket with him. It would be overly warm, but he could fix that.

With his coat zipped all the way up, Airon made his way to his destination. A crisp, light breeze whipped up around him, pinkening his cheeks. A few passers-by shivered as they passed, some even examined the sky looking for the source of the sudden chill in June, but no one suspected the truth. And the truth was there were many kinds of strange, almost human beings living among the humans, and Airon was one of them. Most of his less than human features were subtle, and he was able to go undetected, unlike his ogre friend back there. Airon was an elemental being, a Genasi, and he could control the weather or at least, a small portion of it.  If he could control all of it, global warming wouldn’t be a thing, and he wouldn’t be sweating his balls off.

He passed a group of school children, eager to play in the park, but hesitating to venture out of the shade into the heavy heat of the noonday sun. In moments, a big fluffy cloud formed over the park and the temperature dropped. Airon could hear the gleeful laughter as the kids began their games. It was good, and he felt his mood lighten.

Airon approached his destination, a massive, high, featureless wall. With a quick and surreptitious glance around him, he made his way to a section blocked off from the view of the street by an adjacent windowless building. It would be depressing if it weren’t exactly what he needed. With skills honed over the decades, he scaled the wall quickly and launched himself over the other side. Experience told him he would land in another isolated area, one very close to his target.

With a snap of his jacket and a straightening of his spine, he approached his next target with the same calm confidence approached everything with. He just had to avoid the zookeepers until he maneuvered himself into the crowd of paying patrons wandering from the elephants to the polar bears.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford to pay the admission price, but he enjoyed outwitting “the system” and sneaking into the zoo made him feel invincible.  Besides, he was performing a service, albeit one they didn’t understand.

The zoo was a bit quieter than normal, but it was June, and it was solidly over ninety-five-degree Fahrenheit. Most people were hiding in air-conditioned buildings waiting until the sun set.

The huge bears languished. It was too hot for them, and it was cruel that they were kept in this way, south Texas was no place for polar bears. But here they were. These weren’t creatures of the sub-tropics, these were majestic beasts of the snow and ice. It made him angry that they weren’t able to be free, but he wasn’t in the business of rescuing enormous predators, but he could make things better for them.  Airon sat on the observation bench and began his work. Sometimes his work involved hurting people, but only the ones who really needed it, but this was what mattered to him. And in a blink of the eye, snow began to swirl in the polar bear enclosure. The bears perked up and began to play in the flurries, snow collecting on their giant heads and in their fur. Later, Airon imagined the zookeepers would be confused, but they never seemed to make a big deal about it.  He had been doing this for months, nearly every day, and there had never been mention of it anywhere. If there had, he would need to stop visiting the polar bears. Humans couldn’t know his kind existed, but as long as nobody commented on the unusual weather inside the Arctic enclosure, he would keep coming to make sure the bears were comfortable.

The air temperature dropped around him, and he noticed a few people lingering around, watching the playful bears, and enjoying the sanctuary of the cold he had created.  Soon a few had to move on, not being dressed for the freezing temperatures. Airon pulled his jacket closer, the chill was even more than he enjoyed, but the happiness the polar bears got from his special visits more than made up for his discomfort. It was a very good day, tomorrow was looking pretty good too.

This story was inspired by some silliness from www.steelstashwriting.com, check him out for more flash fiction stuff. (He seems to like it.)

Raining Tacos!

It’s Raining Tacos. Hallelujah! By J.S. Stum, aka The Steel ‘Stash!

The Steel ‘Stash put out a call for topics for his #FlashFictionFriday, and I answered that call!

I gleeful suggested “It’s Raining Tacos” from the popular, catchy, and annoying song by Perry Gripp and BooneBum. (Because if it has to be in my head, it should be in your head too!)

The Steel Stash gave me the Taco Tale I never knew I needed. Check it out!

My apologies for continuing to suck at this

I needed a break, and then my house was exposed to yet another childhood plague which didn’t limit itself to the children.  But I’m more recovered, and I felt I owed at least myself an explanation.

I do have some big, exciting plans on the horizon.  A writing group I’m in is doing a marathon, so I’ll do that (a week-long drive to get at least 1000 words written a day), AND CampNano begins on April 1.  That’s when I plan to hammer out Stan’s Ghost and get my teeth into A Viscount’s Blunder (working title, it might not stick.)

I haven’t been a total slug.  I recorded a part for the next Coterie Project Podcast called Dangerous by Odessa Silver.  It should be up and available in early April.

So there is lots of exciting stuff in the works still.  I’m having so much fun with the podcasts, that I’m thinking of creating one of my own, where I talk about bugs, spiders and other sciency things that happen in my world.  Because I not only have a writer creative side, but also a pretty determined science side. It might be because I’m a rare INTJ woman or because it’s possible to have several talents and interests.  Whatever.

I’m working on my next short story to share here.  I haven’t decided if it will be The Dark Lord’s Surfer Bride or The Vampire’s Dentist. I’ll take comments into consideration.  🙂

I’ll be back at it all this week, when I’m not entertaining my children (because spring break is a thing now for elementary school kids apparently.) Any suggestions for their entertainment will also be considered.  They want to start a podcast and a youtube channel, I’m thinking learning to knit or baking some pies.  Again, whatever.

The Green Gecko Bar and Grill, Part 2

Part 1 of the Green Gecko Bar and Grill

Azeroth and Semius appeared out of nowhere, into well … nowhere. They were in a deathly quiet room, in pitch black. Not that they minded. They were at home in the darkness. A voice rang out in the abyss.

“Why have you violated my peace?” It was a voice so deep that is was almost painful to hear, even for demons.

“Hank, the owner of the Green Gecko, needs help,” Semius said, reverently.

“Hank, huh? He’s the one to has those the deep-fried cheesecake squares, right?” the voice said.

“Yes, my Lord, that’s Hank,” Semius answered.

“What kind of trouble has our Hank found himself in?” The voice now sounded amused and a bit closer than before.

“It’s about his kids, sir. They are missing.” This time it was Azeroth who spoke.

“Ah, the little scamps ran off?” The voice chuckled.

“No, my Lord. Kidnapped. By a local street gang, they’ve been trying to shake him down, and he couldn’t pay. So they took his kids.” Azeroth explained.

“That’s really too bad, but I don’t see what this has to do with me.” The voice was beginning to sound bored.

“Hank’s shut down the Gecko until this matter is sorted out,” Azeroth said, with a secret smile. “No more deep-fried cheesecake until this matter is resolved.”

“WHAT?” The explosion of sound was so loud that Semius’s ears started to bleed, and Azeroth thought he’d broke some ribs. “When you find the punks who did this, send them to me,” the voice was back to low and deadly.

“About that, sir. If we could get permission to use some of our more special skills, it would be helpful.” Semius said.

“Granted,” the voice said.

And with a puff, the two demons were back into the mortal world.

***
Usually, demons were discouraged from using their more showy talents. Raining brimstone, plagues of boils, and rolling fogs of noxious gases were more or less prohibited, unless under exceptional circumstances.

“It’s a bit of a disappointment that we have to turn them over to Him,” Azeroth said as he kicked a small stone down the sidewalk.

“I was looking forward to disemboweling one. I read up on a new technique on a blog I follow,” Semius said somewhat petulantly.

“I think I read that one, I would be interested in seeing how it’s done.” Azeroth agreed,

“But we can’t disobey Him. He has no patience for that shit.” And Az was right; he would demonstrate the disemboweling technique on them if they ignored his command.

“The good news is that those little fried bird droppings won’t stand a chance. He might not kill them, but they will sure wish for death,” Semius said with a smile.

“Where to next, bro?” Semius said, getting his bearings in the neighborhood.

“We should ask some of the other little businesses, no doubt those little thugs were shaking down others too,” Azeroth said.

The pair strolled into the closest little liquor store. There were massive grates on the windows and a rolling steel door hoisted just high enough to get the front open.

Semius scanned the dark, decaying interior and gave a disdainful sniff. As the Unholy Angel of Death, he’d seen some pretty awful things and even this place grossed him out a bit.
Az walked right up to the counter, the cashier slid his hand under the counter but didn’t make any other movements. Azeroth knew their appearance could be off-putting to someone who didn’t know them. Each standing well over six feet, with their unnatural skin tones, and peculiar dress, it was natural for people to be wary around them. So Az put on his brightest and cheeriest smile. The cashier flinched and shrunk back a bit.

“My friend and I were hoping you could give a little information?” Az said with the most pleasant voice he could muster. He, at least, tried to take some of the gravel out of it.

“What kind of information?” The cashier asked with an audible squeak.

“There are some punks in the area, shaking down the businesses for cash, know anything about them?” Az still tried to keep his smile in place, but it was starting to strain his cheek muscles.

“Yeah, what about them?” The cashier said as he gripped whatever was under the countertop more tightly.

“We need to talk to them,” Semius said, coming up behind Az and apparently not interested in putting the cashier at ease. Semius’s eyes took on a bit of an unholy glow.

“Yeah, they come by here. They have a flop by the boardwalk. It’s not a real building, but they have some couches and a radio,” the cashier said. His eyes firmly fixed on Semius’s.
Semius squinted and looked directly into the cashier’s gaze. Semius saw an elderly woman in a tiny kitchen, a simple apartment with few decorations and furnishings, and a young child playing on the carpet. There was fear and worry and self-loathing, and there was hope and determination and love. The thing the cashier had his hand on was a phone, set to dial 911. Semius looked more deeply, but he didn’t see anything evil.
With a nod, Semius broke the connection, and the cashier slumped back, the terror of having soul searched by a demon of death sucking all the strength out of his knees.

“He’s told us all he knows, let’s see if we can find this ‘flop,'” Semius said to Azeroth.

“Thank you for your time,” Az said, again trying to be pleasant. The cashier just nodded.
Back on the street, the pair of demons wandered towards the boardwalk.

“This isn’t a great part of town there could be any number of flops around here. The Dark Lord won’t be impressed if we send him the wrong thugs.”

Zuul materialized out of the smoke into the presence of his two companions. “Anny newsh?”

“He granted us the use of our unique abilities,” Semius said with a fat grin. “And we have a lead on the kidnappers.”

“What did you find out?” Az asked Zuul. It wasn’t a question of if Zuul learned something. Despite his fearsome features, Zuul was one of the smartest demons in hell. He always learned something.

“Thaay likke sheap shigerettes an’ liquorr, ann une off thaam smalls likke haiir dye an ggglittta boddy oiil, an shomthig evil,” Zuul said around his huge tusks. “A’ll knooww tha small if A small it agaain.”

“Okay, I don’t think the cigarettes and liquor will help us out much, but the hair dye and body glitter should narrow it down. Any idea on the color of hair dye?” Az asked, after assessing their information.

“I shink ish bluue, maaybe wish yallow highlish,” Zuul carefully enunciated.

“Now that’s a description. Let’s head to the boardwalk.” Az almost had a spring in his step.

Az and Semius chatted as the three of them walked down towards the beach.

“The Dark Lord had just granted us the use of our total powers and Sem here is already using them to pry into the soul of a poor cashier, ” Az said with glee. His mission to rescue Hank’s kids had given him a renewed purpose. Azeroth had been at loose ends ever since a popular video game co-opted his name. Being a war demon, he enjoyed creating terror, but his popularity after the game’s release had sidelined him. For those that knew of him, he no longer inspired horror, but instead worshipful awe. Since the Dark Lord didn’t like sharing his worshipful awe, Az got demoted. The only reason the Dark Lord didn’t blink Az out of existence was that he was a talented painter and the Dark Lord had a thing for art. It was a double-edged sword. But Az was enjoying his new found freedom. He wasn’t responsible for creating the horrors of war, and so he could focus on his softer pursuits.

“He makes it sound so dramatic. I was just seeing if he was holding anything back or lying. He wasn’t.” Sem said dismissively.

Zuul nodded. Zuul was a special kind of demon. His talents were more the bump in the night kind. With a face even his demon mother had a hard time loving, he was better relegated to the shadows. If he were any more terrifying, they could categorize him as livestock. But Zuul had some extraordinary talents. He could smell evil, and he could track it down. It was how he knew Hank’s kids would be home within the hour.

Zuul paused on the street and took two deep breaths one through his mouth, the other through his nose. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the smells. Car exhaust, rotisserie chicken from El Pollo down the street, the stench of humans, the smell of the ocean. And there it was, mingling in with scents of the bustling neighborhood. Cheap tequila, blue hair dye, tobacco and the particular kind of evil that punishes a man’s children for not being able to pay his protection money.

Zuul didn’t bother with words. The others would understand him either way, so better to just lead the way. He wove through back allies until they reached the boardwalk. Zuul took another deep breath and again concentrated on the scents. They were very close now.

They could hear the noise from the flop before they found it. The radio was an impressive sound system that shouldn’t have been safe unattended in this area. It was a testament to the fear the neighborhood inspired by this little gang of thugs.

The three demons paused outside the makeshift structure. “We need to be sure we know where the kids are before we send them to the Dark Lord,” Az said.

That was Zuul’s cue to scent the air one more time. This time he was looking for wax crayons, chicken nuggets, and jolly ranchers. “Thaay’aar heeer,” Zuul said with what might have passed for a smile if lampreys smiled.

Semius stepped forward. This was his realm. Semius wasn’t an actual demon, but his work was so dark that he felt more comfortable with the demons than his own kind. He was an unholy angel, responsible for judging souls. One of his unique talents, besides judgment, was removing souls from the living. Without a soul, a person was just a husk and empty vessel. They might go through the motions of life, but the vital spark within them was gone. These thugs wouldn’t cause much trouble once he finished with them. With that in mind, he entered the shanty.

There were four guys huddled over a tiny table playing cards. They didn’t hear him enter over the pounding beat of the music playing. In the back of the shambled room, there was a curtain, partitioning off the space. Semius wanted to know what was beyond that curtain. He surveyed the guys at the table. None had blue hair, but the sense of evil was strong, and he had to fight to control the urge to rip their souls out without making an official judgment. He took a heavy step towards the table, alerting the players to his presence.

He locked eyes with the man closest to the door. Calling him a man might have been a stretch, he was young. But he wasn’t a child, and he was doing some very adult things. Semius looked deeply into the man’s eyes looking for evil and darkness. It didn’t take long. Semius saw vicious and unspeakable crimes. This bastard took joy in cruelty, lust, greed, and rage. This thug liked hurting people, and it didn’t matter who.

Semius probed a bit deeper, discovering that the children were here, behind the curtain and the man with the blue hair left to pick up some women. Semius didn’t need to look any deeper. With a mental flick of his wrist, shredded the bastard’s soul from his body. With vacant eyes, the bastard just stood there as Semius removed the souls of the other three vermin at the table.

“It’s done,” Semius called to the demons waiting outside the door. And he went to the backroom to check on the kids.

“Where’s the one with the blue hair?” Azeroth said as he surveyed Semius’s work.

“Out trying to get laid. He’ll be back soon,” Semius said while pulling the sheet back, exposing the little room. There was a filthy bed, some crates, and the stereo system. Huddled asleep on the bed were the two children, Sandy and Freddy.

Zuul shouldered past the other two to crouch near the sleeping children. He pressed his nose against Sandy’s face and inhaled deeply. “Drugst, bat A thinsh it’sh jush cooald medishin,” he said. “Thay shooold wauk up shooon.”

Az heard the door closing, and his gaze met the blue-haired thug’s. He was alone. Good, nobody wanted to deal with witnesses.

“Who the fu…” The blue-haired thug started to say, but he didn’t finish. His limp body slumped to the ground. It would look like an overdose. Azeroth, being a war demon, had the power of life and death. He could kill in an instant, and leave no trace. Or he could make the death look like something else. He could also keep someone from dying even if by all rights they shouldn’t be alive. But he rarely got to use that skill.

“You weren’t supposed to kill him,” Semius said.

“The Dark Lord wouldn’t have permitted up our full powers if he didn’t expect us to use them,” Az answered.

Semius touched Azeroth’s shoulder, pulling the thug’s soul off of him. “I’ll deliver the souls, The Dark Lord will be pleased to have them so quickly,” Semius said as he blinked out in a hazy, green cloud. It smelled foul, but it would lend credence to the scene once the police got there.

Zuul bundled up the kids, gave Az a long look, and a nod then puffed away in a ball of smoke, taking the children with him. It only made sense to follow them.

Azeroth found Zuul in a tiny ice cream parlor, the children looked groggy, but were awake. Each had a double scoop cone and were happily licking away.

He ordered a pistachio malt and joined them at the table. Zuul had Sandy’s hand in his, and he was concentrating very hard. Az assumed he was trying imprint the story the kids were going to have to tell the police. Probably something about the thugs getting too blasted to realize the kids woke up and escaped. The police would find the gang. Blue Hair was dead of course, but the other four would probably ever leave a government mental facility ever again. It was fit justice for people who would harm children.

***
Hank and Marjie were sitting at the dining room table where Zuul had left them when he popped back into their living room. Sandy and Freddy in his massive arms, everyone was covered in ice cream.
“Oh, my God!” You’re back.” Marjie screamed as she ran towards the behemoth holding her children.

The kids squirmed out of his arms, eager to get to their parents.

“Thank you so much,” Hank said as he held his daughter close to his chest. Never again would his three favorite demons ever pay for drinks again. But he would need more pig blood for Zuul’s Bloody Marys.