So you can read my books

Monday, April 30, 2012

NEIL GAIMAN ON STEPHEN KING_And me at Nerdy is the New Sexy

Like Neil Gaiman?  Like Stephen King?

Neil interviewed Mr. King for THE LONDON SUNDAY TIMES. 

Here is a fascinating tidbit he wrote on Mr. King:

“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager,

reading King's book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre.

In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words,

at the end of a year you'd have a novel.

It was immensely reassuring -

suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy.

 As an adult, it's how I've written books I haven't had the time to write, like my children's novel Coraline.”

For the rest of the absorbing interview, go here:

Remember this Wednesday, I will be doing a guest post at NERDY IS THE NEW SEXY:


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Z is for ZELAZNY_Ghost of Roger Zelazny here

Ghost of Roger Zelazny here,

   You, and the rest of mankind, are quite sure what is possible and what is impossible. 

In the daylight.  When the night descends, the stride of your thoughts is not quite so confident.

Not so Roland.  He is much like an animal.  I do not mean that as an insult. 

He takes what comes at face value, not forcing it to fit into any preconceived notions Man teaches as Science.  He deals with what comes without protesting that it cannot be, only seeing what is and adapting.

Perhaps that is why we ghosts are drawn to him. In him is that quality that Stubbs expressed in MOBY DICK :

“I know not what all may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

Not that he is overly optimistic about the world around him.  For being part Lakota Sioux, he still reads the Bible by his bedside.  He often quotes :

“They sleep not, except that they have done mischief;

And their sleep is taken away unless they cause

Some to fall.

For they eat the bread of wickedness

And drink the wine of violence.”

That is Proverbs 4:16-17 for those of you interested in such things.

In life I was not.  I thought the love of God was like the light burning from the stars :

cold and distant.

 Now, that I am a ghost ….

I cannot say.  There are secrets the dead may not share with the living.

But the secrets on how to write well … those I can share with you.  Oh, you are wondering who I am.

Don’t be embarrassed.  In life I wondered the same thing.

I am Roger Zelazny. 
I made somewhat of a splash in Science Fiction in the sixties, endured and evolved in the seventies and eighties.  I went the way of all flesh mid-way through the nineties in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And Roland mourned me as a distant brother gone over the crest of the hill before him, leaving him cold and alone.

Oh, and I inspired him to take up the pen and follow my steps into weaving tales in the genre I call Science Fantasy.

That I sparked the idea in him to be a writer drew me to him.  It was his gentle, quiet, amused nature that has made me stay. 
He looks on all the awkwardness of life with a sly smile that says, “You expected water to run uphill?”

Another more important question :

What makes one tale live, vibrant and riveting, and another merely flat, lifeless words on paper?

Not that any of us have a sure idea, although Hemingway is glaring at me.  But we had a close enough glimpse of the answer to make a living at what we loved to do : write.

What is the answer?

A joyous cry : “Come see what I found!”

If you can bring anew the childlike sense of wonder and awe to your readers that the poisons of living have drained from them, you will have a loyal following that will not quit.

What words will do that?

Certainly not the same sing-song repeat and rinse of someone else’s bestseller.

The words must tilt the reader’s expectations on its ear.  Did you notice I said reader?  Not readers.

You are talking to only one at the campfire of their imagination and curiosity. If you think of your audience as readers, you will talk AT them not TO them.

The author/reader relationship is intimate : friend to friend. “Look at this, man!”

One friend sharing with another something fantastic and wondrous :

The meaning of life in the skating sparks of the sun along the uneven facets of a piece of rock candy … or striking fire down the razored spirals of a unicorn’s tusk.

If you are drawn to write, you do not need to be told the basics.  You already have absorbed them from the masters :

Stirring plots, memorable characters, and absorbing ideas.

You must tap the humanity of the situations, of the people struggling against the tide of events.

Remember this is the Microwave Culture.  Your prose must be lean and spare, yet sing with the poetry of mystery and suspense. How do you do that?

Mind your surroundings.  Nothing is ever wasted to a real writer.  Circumstances suggest.  Events coalesce.  The story will begin to flow like a shadow along the floor of your unconscious.

Once you have seen their shapes, the stories will exist as ghosts for you until you have pinned them to the paper. 
Perhaps that is why there are so many ghosts of writers in the Shadowlands.  We made our living from ghosts, so reciprocity demands its due.

Sometimes you will have to post a Help Wanted Ad in your unconscious to apply for positions in the story and events that have called out to you.  Do not worry.  Within the hour, your unconscious mind will have them lining up for you to consider.

Read your work aloud.  Hear the clumsy prose misstep that jars your ears?  A sentence is too long?  Make them two.  A word unneeded?  Remove it.  Sand your prose as a sculptor would his carving.

Give your characters life by giving them a new take on what it means to be human, to be fully alive.  Most people you pass on the streets are sleepwalking from long years of debt and unfulfilled passion.

Give them hope that there is more out there, that each corner could reveal the start of an adventure that might shorten their lives but awaken their souls.

Do that and you will become more than a writer.  You will become an author.
(Photo of Roger Zelazny courtesy of the lovely Beth Gwynn)


NERDY IS THE NEW SEXY_but they let me in anyway!

       RaShelle Workman and Megan Vernon

are graciously allowing me to guest post on their blog.

It is a blog meant to empower and support our teens in a world that seems bent on ignoring them.

       It will be this Wednesday. 

       It focuses on self-esteem, giving, acceptance, and the healing power of giving a damn when it would be safer not to.

       It involves a little known incident involving two of the League of Five and a chance encounter with a friend-yet-to-be whose consequences lasted a lifetime.

{This Tuesday and Wednesday_ RITES OF PASSAGE will be FREE!  See Sam McCord and the New Orleans of the Roaring Twenties through the eyes of a young William Faulkner!}

     (Be good to yourself and watch a bit of this video ....)

Saturday, April 28, 2012


By the number of comments and the emails that I received,
Victor Standish cheated oblivion yet again!


THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT will be written. 

But first, I have to finish BEST OF ENEMIES. 

 THE LAST SHAMAN is one of my more popular novels.  Its hero, Wolf Howl, is in BEST OF ENEMIES.

In it, Wolf Howl teaches a class of Sidhe, revenants (vampires), and Ningyo's (dimensional visitors who loathe mankind.) 

Here is Wolf Howl teaching the arrogant supernaturals in an outdoor class they thought was in Faerie ... but they have just discovered it is on our plane of existence.

             Wolf Howl smiled grimly at the change in their expressions.  

        “We sit in the lap of our Mother.  Yes, even you who would destroy her.  From her, we, and all living things come.  We shall soon pass, each of us at our appointed time.”

        He breathed in deeply.  “But this place where now we sit will go on forever.”

He gestured all around us.  “”Everything is possessed of personality, only differing from us in form.”

        His eyes seemed to sink deep within his bronze face, a creased map of the hard seasons he had survived. 

“Knowledge is inherent in all things.  The world is a library.  Its books are the stones, leaves, grass, birds, and animals that share with us the storms and blessings of GrandMother.”

       He bent to peer at the base of the teaching boulder.   “From the ant we see that industry and teamwork accomplishes wonders.”

       Midir smirked. “It is appropriate you focus on the ant, shaman.  Humans are like ants to us.”

       Wolf Howl sighed as he rose.  “Anyone who has shared a bed with a mosquito knows better than to underestimate the power of small things.”

       He looked up to the branches above us.  I hushed in a breath like everyone else … but for a different reason.  It was the First Hawk, Little Brother, studying each and every one of us. 

       “From the hawk, we see how the wise hunter must ever be vigilant.”

        I started as Little Brother darted up from the branch to soar skillfully and effortlessly between the limbs to disappear into the azure skies above.

       Wolf Howl smiled, “My People also learned that beauty, grace, and death often walk the same path, fly the same sky.”

He sighed, "We learned to do what only the student of nature ever learns and that is to feel beauty.  We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frost and snow.  What was simply was.  We adjusted to the changes.”

He closed those piercing eyes.   “Bright days.  Deadly dark nights.  Both are simply extensions of the Great Mystery.”

Those striking eyes opened, and the force of them hit me like a hard wind.  “We simply accepted both, reveling in the closeness of the Great Holiness.”

He swept his hand in a broad pass, taking in the entire glade.   “Every part of this soil is sacred to my people.”

His eyes narrowed, “This world you would invade is sacred.  Every hillside, every valley, every plain, and grove has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.”

He nodded downwards.  “The very grass you now stand on responds more willingly to our footsteps than to yours because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors.  The very soles of our feet tingle with their spirits.”

Wolf Howl’s eyes seemed to grow larger somehow.   “And when the last red man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among your people, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead.”

His voice seemed to chill the marrow of my bones as it deepened.  

“At night, when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning dead of my People that once lived and still love this beautiful land.  Those dead will come upon you as you lay tossing in your troubled sleep.”

Wolf Howl radiated such power that my skin felt raw with the static electricity.   “Then, you will learn the terrible meaning of … responsibility.”

He suddenly flashed a deadly, cold smile.  “Class dismissed.”

(Many thanks to the incomparable Leonora Roy for her evocative artwork.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Y is for YEOMANS_What, you were maybe expecting YODELING?

Y is for YEOMANS!

Denise was going to do her Y post on me. But work kept me from submitting my bio until April 9th. 

So Denise in desperation asked Lynda Young, a lovely blogger, to submit her bio.

With both Lynda and me, the post was just too long.  (You know shy, retiring me of few words. LOL.)

I asked Denise to delete my part of her post today to concentrate on a special lady, Lynda Young.

Go check it out:

I posted an image of Megan Fox because frankly my picture frightens little children!

Here's one of Gypsy:

Y is for YEOMANS ...

you know Yeoman as in all those unlucky red-shirted Away Team members on STAR TREK!

All my memories of Detroit are of knee-caps and hub cabs since I left when I was ten. I had double pneumonia thrice.
Living in that cold basement apartment wasn't an aid to great health to a sickly child.

Although my first bout of it when the ice storm hit was the catalyst for the tales my mother created of Hibbs, the cub with no clue, who grew into the bear with two shadows.
  Mother was certain I would die that frozen-in weekend and wanted my head to be filled with wonder not fear.
My mother married an airplane mechanic, one who read poetry and studied science in his free time. My family left Detroit when I was ten as I said earlier.

The further south we went, the hotter it got. So I was glad when we stopped in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was real sure the next stop would have been Hell.

A year there taught me to say "Sir and Ma'am" and to pronounce David and Richard in really strange ways when they were last names. And it was not a pretty sight when I said Comeaux for the first time.

Lake Charles was the next stop. I remember standing in the front yard of our new home, watching the drunken neighbor across the street beating in his front door

(his wife had locked it) with a fence post.

I looked up to Mother and said, "You know if I had a degree in Psychology, I bet I would probably understand what's going on there."
She ruffled my hair and smiled down on me. "Lots of luck with that."
Mother was right. A master's degree in psychology hasn't unlocked the why's of the pain I see. It has just helped me put fancy labels on it.
(All rights to Megan Fox, her image, and her sense of self belong to her.  So there Mr. Steven Spielberg!) ***

Thursday, April 26, 2012

X is for XENA_It's Not About Those Long Legs ... well maybe a little

X is for XENA.

I have a Xena Shrine in my apartment ...

at least that's what my best friend, Sandra calls it.

Autographed plaques of Lucy Lawless (Xena) and Rene O'Connor (Gabrielle)on a wall.

Porcelain statues of them both underneath the plaques

Why is XENA important to me?

One reason is that Mother loved it. She went into the orphanage an impressionable Gabrielle.

Mother emerged from it a steel-tempered Xena.

She saw bits of herself in both characters.

The second reason has to do with REDEMPTION:

XENA is story of redemption.

A violent woman coming to her senses at the sight of her men about to kill a baby.

She couldn't silence the voices of the ghosts of her victims.

All she could do was stand in between the wolves and monsters such as she had become.

Her mantra?

What you do long enough, you become.  What did she become?
She became legend.

XENA in image and name belongs to Universal Studios.  Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor insist on owning themselves.

W is for WILL ROGERS_Riding the Aurora Borealis

{"Even if you're on the right track,

you'll still get run over if you just sit there."
- Will Rogers.}

Will Rogers, ghost, here:

So there I was perched atop a bucking aurora borealis,

trying to loop my lariet over a shooting star, when the ghost of Samuel Clemens ambled by.

"Need a favor, Will."

"I'm kinda in the middle of something, Sam."

"It's about Roland."

"Why didn't you say so in the first place? He needs help?"

"More than we can give. But his friends could use some, Will."

"How so?"

"They seem all fired up about getting droves of followers."

"Well, Sam, they could rob a bank. It worked for Dillinger."

"Yeah, that worked out real well for him, didn't it? No, you dumb Okie. Followers on that bog thing-a-ma-gadget."

I slipped off the bucking aurora borealis and nudged back my Stetson.

"Blog, Sam. On the internet. I read the papers. Wrote 4,000 daily columns in my time."

"That's what I'm talking about, Will! You know how to write.
You know how to perform. Why Zigfield trusted you with his fillies on stage."

"Old Zig didn't trust himself, much less anyone else.
But I get your drift, Sam. I'll write a column on how to snag followers."
And so here I am. Don't let anyone fool you. There are no rules for success. But that won't stop me from giving them to you :

1.) An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.

Folks just naturally have more grief in their lives than they let on. They need an outlet.

You be that outlet. Make 'em laugh. You do that, and you'll have 'em coming back for more.

Or do you want to be a vegetable?

2.) Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far.

How do you do that, you say. Easy. Blow theirs.

You find a gal or a fella who writes what you like, quote 'em on your blog. Add them to your blog list.

Be neighborly. You're leaving a comment on someone else's blog and spot a comment from them, say "Hi" to them in yours.

Agree with them (especially if you do) in your comment. Make a party line of it. Friendliness is catching.

3.) Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

You have to experiment to get anything outstanding done. Look at me and Wiley Post. We flew over darn near the whole world.

My daily news columns put momentum in the science of aircraft design and public support. And yes, we died in a crash.

But both of us died with a friend. Not a bad way to go.

4.) Know your audience and give 'em what they want by speaking to their hurts.

I went and read some of the blogs of Roland's friends. You folks are dreamers. We need dreamers today. Too many folks nay-say on the dreams of others.

You support those dreams in your blogs. Talk about what fears you have and how you fight them. It'll make the other gal in the cyber-trenches not feel quite so alone.

How can you know your audience?

You know you, don't you? You know what you'd like to know about publishing. Research it. And then post what you found out -- with the links you went to.

Synposis. Sounds like one of those ancient Greek philosophers. And most of you would rather kiss an ancient Greek than write a synopsis.

Well, research that subject. You find anything that makes the thing less painful, you publish it. And I guarantee you that folks will flock to your blog.

Remember fellas, there are more women bloggers out there than men. Be polite when talking about ladies in general.

Speaking of which, I'm taking my Stetson off to Laila Knight. Forgive those hairy-legged gents, Ernest and Sam. They're just men. They don't know no better.

5.) Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.

They call it the World Wide Web for a reason, folks. Think before you write. No "how many ______ does it take to change a tire?" Thing is, there are a lot of ______ out there no matter what _______ you're talking about.

An agent rejected you? Smarted some didn't it? I'd hold back on venting rage and spite on your blog. You jab in a knife, and you may pull it out, but the wound remains.

And remember a little thing called Google Alert. You rail about an agent, an editor, a fellow blogger --- that little gizmo will alert them. And there're a lot more of them than you.

So let's be honest with ourselves and not take ourselves too serious, and never condemn the other fellow for doing what we are doing every day, only in a different way.

*** So that's a little of what I know. I'm only a wandering cowpoke ghost. I mean, I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they now do.

And I've tried to be diplomatic. But I'm an Okie : to me being diplomatic is saying "Nice Doggie" until I can find a big enough rock.

One last thing : have, what is that phrase they use nowadays? Oh, yes, it comes to me now.

Have the back of each gal and fella you meet in your blog travels. Who knows? They may do the same for you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

V is for VICTOR STANDISH_No More Bad Dreams

Of course, V is for VICTOR STANDISH.

The following is from THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT, a book which will probably never be.

Victor Standish is dead -- killed by low readership.

Still, you can save Victor.

If more copies of THE RIVAL or his first two adventures sell,

I will reach into oblivion and spin the tale from which this excerpt comes:


The smell of death was overpowering the moment I cracked open the hospital chapel’s wooden door.

Inside, more than a dozen bodies lay motionless on low cots and on the ground, shrouded in white sheets.

Here, a wisp of gray hair peeked out. There, a knee was flung all awkward. A pale hand reached across a blue gown.

Mother, in a shimmering black robe, gently tucked the knee back under the sheet. She turned to me.

"Victor, you are wondering why I called you here, are you not?"

I forced my throat to work. "I was surprised is all. I figured Katrina would have the Angel of Death really busy."

Shadows swept over her like a shroud to flicker away, revealing her in blood-stained linen wrappings. Her face had become a skull.

I knew she was testing me. It made no difference. No matter the face she showed me, I only saw the mother I loved.

Her forever-smile parted and she rasped, "Busy? You have no idea. Is Alice, your ghoul love, here?"

"You asked me to leave her behind."

The wrappings became a toga. One blood-stained wrapping clung to her eyes. She was holding high a golden scale.

"This hospital would have been too much temptation, Victor. Time for you to see shades of gray."

The room blurred, the 100 degree heat lessened. But not by much. I was in another room.

In the hospital bed in front of me, an elderly woman was crabbing feebly back from the weary doctor, trying to inject her.

"N-No. I heard what you done to them others. Please, I'm not hurting that bad."

The frazzled-haired woman doctor straightened.

"Mrs. Hebert, Memorial is cut off from the world. Our resources are down to critical levels. It is but a matter of time for you. There are others here who can survive ... but only if they have the medicines you are uselessly consuming."

"No! Please, no."

The doctor sighed and held up the needle.

"This is merely a mixture of morphine and the sedative midazolam. You will feel nothing. You will merely sleep."

"The big sleep, you mean," I said behind her, fingering my largest ball bearing.

The doctor whipped around. "Who are you?"

"I'm Victor Standish. And I don't give up ... not on me."

I winked at the old woman, hope suddenly lighting her eyes. "Not on anybody."

The doctor looked at the ball bearing in my fingers.

"You would kill one of the few remaining physicians in New Orleans?"

"No, but you'll really hate that broken knee-cap."

"Orderly!," shouted the doctor.

A burly man the size of Paul Bunyan lumbered in. I smiled wide. Two slender arms wrapped around his waist. He was wrenched back into the hall. The screams told me that Alice wouldn't be tempted for awhile.

A long time ago she told me that I would never go where she would not follow.

The doctor hovered over me, the needle trembling in her hand. "He was perfectly healthy!"

As the screams gurgled then ended, I smiled cold.

"Not anymore. And you try jabbing that thing into me, you better hope it's made of chocolate 'cause I'm going to make you eat it."

She stiffened. "I will not give Mrs. Hebert any further pain medication. Her agony is on your head."

She turned to the door but stopped. I called out.

"Alice, let the doctor go see her other patients."

As the doctor gathered her rationalizations about her uppity self and stormed out of the door, Mrs. Hebert gasped,

"You're not gonna help the other patients?"

I turned to her and shook my head.

"I don't have the medical knowledge to know how to tell if she's hurting or helping."

"But why help me?"

"You were here."

"And the others?"

"They weren't."

I walked to her bed, where Mother stood unseen by the head. I took Mrs. Hebert's hand in mine. I fought to give her my best smile and wink. I managed. I think.

"Sleep. I'll stand watch by your bed."

She smiled sad at me. "What about the pain?"

"I'm Victor Standish, and I do not lie. You will feel no more pain."

"I - I heard of you, son. You keep your word."

I nodded, not trusting my voice.

She smiled, closing her eyes and resting her head on the sweat-stained pillow. "Could you promise me one more thing?"

"What's that?

"No more bad dreams?"

I watched Mother bend over her, my eyes filling with hot tears. "I promise. N-No more bad dreams."
Recent interviews and documents cast the story of Dr. Ana Pou and her colleagues in a new light. It is now evident that more medical professionals were involved in the decision to inject patients —

and far more patients were injected —

than was previously understood. When the names on toxicology reports and autopsies are matched with recollections and documentation from the days after Katrina,

it appears that at least 17 patients were injected with morphine or the sedative midazolam, or both, after a long-awaited rescue effort was at last emptying the hospital.

A number of these patients were extremely ill and might not have survived the evacuation. Several were almost certainly not near death when they were injected,

according to medical professionals who treated them at Memorial and an internist’s review of their charts and autopsies that was commissioned by investigators but never made public. {NEW YORK TIMES Published: August 25, 2009

{Many thanks to the extraordinary artist, Leonora Roy}
Help Wendy Tyler Ryan give emerging authors a voice!

Monday, April 23, 2012

U is for UNDER A VOODOO MOON_Last Dance At Meilori's


In his room at Meilori’s, Victor Standish has been told that three dooms are descending upon New Orleans. His friends are shaken. Victor decides if he is to die, he’ll do it with style …

Sfumato with this! I had to change the mood to this party. The tune had changed down below. I recognized the artist. Jim Stubblefield. He was playing the gypsy tune, “La Selva Negra.”

It was just starting up with all the sound effects and everything.

I twirled Alice around with a flourish. “If it’s the end of the world, then let’s go out doing a danse macabre!”

Alice sputtered, “A what?”

“Well, a salsa actually.”

She slapped her sides with her arms. “I cannot do any of these modern dances, you dunce!”

“Sure you can.”

“I cannot!”

“Since you merged with me in your mist form, some of me rubbed off on you.”

She pressed her lips together like a fired-up librarian. “I suddenly feel like taking a bath in Listerine.”

I laughed, “After the dance. I lived for awhile in the back of a dance studio. I learned enough to make a few dollars teaching dance steps. So your body knows those steps, too.”

Margaret rolled her eyes. “What a scamp of a life you would have us believe you led. Is there anything you didn’t do? ”

I smiled wide. “I never made my bed. ‘Course I didn’t have one! But that’s just silly details.”

I grabbed a startled Sam. “C’mon! You, too.”

“Whoa, son! Who do you think I’ll dance with?”

I winked at Ada Byron. “You get the honor of dancing with Lady Lovelace.”

Margaret Fuller glowered at me. “And just who would you suggest I dance with, Marshal Hickok?”

“Great idea!, I laughed. “Glad you came up with it!”

She snarled through clenched teeth, “You street rat, I didn’t come up with it!”

“Sure you did,” giggled Alice. “Oh, do dance with the poor lovesick Marshal. He took that wound for you. The very least ….”

Ada chuckled at the outrage and cornered look in her lover’s eyes. “Oh, do that little for the poor man.”

Margaret gave me a look that I actually felt. “I will remember this, Standish.”

Magda had a faraway look to her violet eyes. “It has been too long since Renny and I danced. Yes! I shall tell him now!”

And POOF! She was gone. I shook my head. Last month all this would have struck me strange. Ah … it still did actually.

I hurried Sam and Alice down the hallway before Jim Stubblefield finished his tune. Ada bubbled in laughter beside a glowering Margaret. We reached the head of the stairs in no time at all. A beaming Magda and a ruffled Renfield stood waiting for us. I guess the Padre didn’t care for teleporting at the drop of a collection plate.

He glared at me. “I take it this is your hair-brained idea?”

I nodded. “Yup. There are folks down there who want me dead. I plan to dance on my grave right in front of their eyes.”

I winked at Alice. “And make them jealous over my dance partner.”

Renfield shook his head and laughed, “You and your stunts, Victor. Sure, but you’re going to be making another tale to add to the collection told of you.”

“So as long as they get my dance partner’s name right I don’t care.”



I stood at the top of the velvet staircase, looked down, and smiled. Jim Stubblefield was still playing “La Salva Negra.” He and his band were really putting their heart and soul into it … plus an avalanche of sound effects. I smiled wide. Whoever those other Two Fates were, me and Alice were going to show them some steps.

Sam looked over to me and winked, “Race you to the bottom!”

Ada gave a surprised but delighted squeal as Sam swept her up into his arms and blurred down the stairs. I’m not being poetic. He and Ada actually blurred Sam was moving so fast.

“Oh, Captain,” gasped Ada. “You are quite taking my breath away. And I thought never to say that to a man again!”

Alice smiled mean. “Oh, so it is to be that way, is it?”

I yelped (in a manly fashion, of course) as she picked me up like I was balsa wood. I kept forgetting how much stronger than me she was. The lower half of her did some blurring of its own as she became mist and flowed so quickly down the stairs the world became all foggy.

It was a tie as she and Sam made it to the dance floor at the same time. Sam was grinning from ear to ear. That soft-hearted wolf. He let her catch up to him on purpose. I smiled wide myself. I had never seen him so happy.

Magda was suddenly beside me with a re-ruffled Renfield. “It is you, you scamp. You and your gh….”

I saw Alice begin to stiffen in preparation for the insult. Renfield raised an eyebrow. Magda sucked in a deep breath and finished ….

“… your Gothic love.”

She spun Renfield in an intricate Salsa twirl. “And for the record, scamp, I can teleport. I let you and Sam win.”

Alice looked at Magda’s dancing body and paled. Her voice became like that of a little girl’s. "I cannot move like that!"

I laughed, slowly swaying up to her, lightly pressing my lower body against hers. "Of course, you can."

“I can eat the lips from your face if you do that move again.”

She suddenly giggled, “Oh, do look at poor Margaret’s face.”

I turned to the beat of the music. Margaret looked like she was swallowing a whole can of sardines. She approached the table of the glum Hickok, wrenching the surprised Marshal to his feet.

“This is never to be spoken of again, Hickok. Understand me?”

“N-No. But I surely am not gonna argue with you, pretty lady.”

Margaret looked at him with a Medusa glare. “You do know how to Salsa do you not?”

“No, ma’am. But I am the best faker you will ever meet.”

Margaret snorted, “Of that I have no doubt. And watch those hands!”

Alice giggled at the sight of them and the exchange of words like crossed sabers. She was so caught up in her amusement she wasn’t realizing how expertly she was doing the Salsa.

Son of a ....

Sam glanced hard my way. Son of a gun. My guess had been right. I felt just like Elu. At the thought of him, I looked at the closest mirror. He was glaring at the front door to Meilori’s. Uh, oh. Trouble was coming.

Alice caught my look so I caught her up in fancy stagger step of my own before the smile left those pretty lips. Her eyes widened, but she giggled as her feet moved with a life of their own to match me step for step.

Stubblefield started to strum a wild gypsy riff as I smiled, "The Salsa is several dances melted into one. The guaracha --"

I gyrated my hips in a way that made Alice’s neon blue eyes get even wider. "The Cuban Bolero ---"

I swirled around her, tapping my, ah, bottom against hers. "And the rural Rumba, which is really a dance of exhibition, not of participation."

Alice stopped dancing to glower, "I do not know, Mr. Standish, your gludius maximus seems to be participating with mine just fine. Too fine!”

I quickly swept her up beside a similarly dancing Renfield and a glowing Magda. I swirled Alice out, then swept her back into my arms. For the first ever, her face was flushed. I smiled wider.

"The steps are quite simple, Alice. Here, see? The rhythm is set in counts of four of equal time. Look, the basic footwork is even more simple. Three steps taken on the first three beats of a measure, with a hold ---"

"A what?," she frowned.

I moved in, kissing her lightly.

She nipped at my lips half-heartedly as I pulled away. "A hold, silly rabbit. No step on the fourth beat."

"Oh, certainly. I knew that."

I raised a skeptical eyebrow, sweeping her closer. She laughed throaty, moving her hips in a way that made me want Captain Sam to turn away.

"Of course, you did," I said out of a throat grown suddenly thick.

Her eyes grew heavy somehow, as her hips began to sway hypnotically. Alice moved closer and closer to me. She reached out to my hips, grabbed them, starting to move them in time to her own.

There was something else about Alice I kept forgetting. She was a woman in a teen’s body. And I had just awakened that woman. I might just have outsmarted myself this time. Mother kept saying there was one thing I didn’t know : enough.

"Let me help," she breathed. "That is right. Move, flow with the music."

"Wh-What music?"

"Can you not feel the pounding of the blood in your ears? Listen. Listen as I rub my hips against yours. Now? Can you not hear the music I am hearing?"

That was the trouble. I could. I could also see Magda’s and Captain Sam’s outraged eyes. And worse, the music was gone. I couldn’t hear the guitars anymore.

Stubblefield was gone. Grace Jones was in his place. Meilori’s was like that. The stages would become misty, exchanging one artist for another. I never got used to it.

Grace was singing, “Strange, I’ve Seen Your Face Before” to the tune of Libertango. Alice and I flowed to the new melody, the new steps, as if we were one. Two new dancers were beside us. I went cold. Ghosts. They were ghosts. And not just any ghosts.

Captain Jean Lafitte and the little step daughter of New Orleans’ Jill the Ripper, Madame Delphine LaLaurie.

They said as one, “She is coming.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

T is for Toomey_Call Me Tombs

Between Toomey and Starks, they found me at the crossroads.

If you’re Lakota like me, you know that makes me cursed. The orphanage named me Toomey Starks. Call me Tombs.

Please not Toomer. Makes me sound like an unsightly growth.

Behind me, Puppy chuffs at my expense. It is not the first time. And yes, he is the curse.

But he makes for great support as I lean against his broad back and soak in the warm rays on the beach.

Puppy is somewhat larger than a Shetland Pony and only slightly smaller than a Sherman tank.

And he smells like Hell.


Puppy chuffs his “What did you expect of a Hellhound?” chuff.

The morning air tastes of salt. The seagull glides gracefully above me. The wind tickles my scalp as it ruffles my hair. The seagull spots Puppy.

CAAAW! Splat! On my forehead!

Seagull shit is warm, gooey, smelly, thick, and damn hard to scoop off.

Puppy chuffs “Good Shot” to the seagull as its wings blur in its frenzied effort to go into warp speed.

Puppy could turn a wet dream of Megan Fox into a nightmare.

I perk up. Speaking of Megan Fox, two honey bunnies, wearing smiles, suntan lotion, and not much else are slowly swaying my way. I hear them laugh emptily to each other in Clueless-ese.

Blather. Calories. Wastopaneer. Blather. Synatec Tacise Diet. Blather.

I don’t mind. It’s not their intellects I’m interested in. Puppy chuffs “Big Surprise There”.

He turns to smile wide at them. They shriek and fall limp to the sands. I look for pulses. None. I glare at Puppy.

“I don’t mind you scaring beautiful girls half to death. I can comfort those. But did you have to scare these two TO DEATH?”

Puppy chuffs “Hellhounds don’t do sandcastles.”


Saturday, April 21, 2012

BEST OF ENEMIES_What Is Sfumato?

{Many thanks to the


 Leonora Roy for her beautiful artwork

for my covers!}

Hurricane Katrina has mortally wounded New Orleans. The smell of blood, the lack of civilization ... both have drawn the predators.

Only one high school in the city remains open. Supernatural students are the elite. The mortal ones are unknowing teaching aides.

But eerie, invisible death haunts its hallways, preying on both supernatural and mortal students alike.

Who will be their savior? Alice Wentworth, the ghoul who more than anything else wants to die.



“What is Sfumato?”

The question hit me like a blow to the stomach. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. That in itself was odd. I am a ghoul. I do not breathe.

Miss Helstrom snapped, “Miss Wentworth, I asked you a question. What is Sfumato?”

My eyes grew hot. The world blurred as my eyes filled with tears. Out of the corner of those eyes, I saw Becca and Trish, seated on either side of me, stiffen in anger.

How odd. They were angry at Miss Helstrom. I thought both of them hated me.

“I am waiting, Miss Wentworth.”

I drew in a ragged breath for some composure. If I did not fulfill Captain McCord’s bizarre request, he would not kill me and grant me relief from this terrible existence my life had become.

Miss Helstrom seemed to vibrate in place. Her prim black attire would be more in keeping in a Dickens novel than in a modern high school English class … even one in a school recently battered by Hurricane Katrina.

She opened her mouth, but before she could say something that would prove her epitaph, I answered.

“It was my beloved’s term he used as a … colorful metaphor.”

Miss Helstrom rolled her black eyes. “Beloved, is it? Isn’t that a bit overblown … even from something like you?”

Becca narrowed her own eyes that seemed every bit as the stormy as the sea whose color they were, but Miss Helstrom did not seem to notice as she sneered.

“Hopefully, this ‘beloved’ of yours knew the definition that obviously you do not.”

“Sfumato is one of the four painting styles used in the Renaissance, a gradual shading of image as in the corners of the Mona Lisa’s eyes,” I murmured.

Miss Helstrom applauded mockingly. “Finally. I heard the past tense when you referred to your so-called ‘beloved.’ Did he die of old age before you answered one of his questions?”

I flinched, but I managed to answer, “He died alone … surrounded by enemies.”

I felt the eyes of the whole class on me as Miss Helstrom purred, “Obviously, you chose survival over love.”

Becca literally growled, “She was struck from behind, bitch.”

Miss Helstrom bristled, “That is quite enough!”

A man’s voice simmered from behind her, “More than enough, Helstrom!”

The whole class sucked in a breath. I smiled sadly. Father Renfield was standing behind her. Victor always wondered how a vampire could be a priest.

He … never found out. Renfield’s lips pulled back to show his long canine teeth. Miss Helstrom wheeled about to face him.

“You have no right to be here!”

Father Renfield scared even me with the sheer hate on his face. “You overstepped yourself, revenant.”

He took a cell phone from inside his coat, flipped it open, and punched in some numbers. I shook my head. I was born in 1840. Advances in science made me feel as if I were in a dream. With the death of Victor, that dream had become nightmare.

“Bacchus,” snapped Renfield. “Helstrom is no longer one of your teachers. I am taking over her classes.”

He listened for a second and murmured like the night breeze, “That was not a request, merely a statement of fact.”

Miss Helstrom pulled herself up stiff. “I have tenure.”

“What you have,” softly spoke Father Renfield, “is ten seconds to vacate this school.”

Miss Helstrom laughed. I almost cried. Victor would have mocked her as laughing like some James Bond villain. I never got around to asking him who James Bond was.

“Priest, I eat prigs like you for snacks.”

“Try that with me, Helstrom, and you’ll be ending up with terminal indigestion.”

I went stiff in terror. Not for Renfield. I had seen him fight Soyoko, evolved raptors.

No, I went cold because of the wavering shape forming beside him.

Victor. It was Victor!

Dressed in jeans and a black T shirt, he was leaning lazily and arrogant against the wall beside Renfield.

He spoke but the words were silent. Still, I read his lips: “You tell her, Padre!”

Victor disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. My chest grew cold and numb. I was going insane. I obviously was becoming mad with grief.

Surely Captain McCord would kill me now. An insane ghoul was a danger to all around her. I smiled. Finally, peace would be mine.
The fate of Victor Standish is in your hands. Does he remain dead? Or does he somehow manage to emerge from the shadows? I am 60% finished with BEST OF ENEMIES.

There is still time. Though right now, no sales of THE RIVAL are tipping the scales for Victor to die.

S is for SAMUEL MCCORD_The Last of the First

Captain Samuel McCord.

The last of the first Texas Rangers. They do not acknowledge his existence. They will not even mention his name.

But should they run across a foul, horrific crime, they will send a Ranger to his jazz club in New Orleans to request his assistance.

No Ranger ever to have made that trip will agree to make a second.

- Spurgeon's Macabre History of the West.


Renfield and I both walked through the wide doorway of Marie Laveau's home. The dark quiet within quivered like the grasp of dying fingers. It took a moment for even my eyes to adjust to the near total darkness. I figured Renfield was having no such problems. My stomach tightened.

It was said the Angel of Death had a list of names, places, and dates. My name could be matched with this place and date. But I doubted it.

I knew deep within myself that when I died the last death, I would die it alone. All alone. Still, I figured I'd see her soon for that last time. And if your name is next to mine, I guess I’ll see you too.

Marie still liked thick Persian rugs. The one we walked on had a different pattern than the first one I had seen. This one seemed like an ornate design of a snake's hungry open maw. Subtle Marie wasn't.

I heard throaty chuckling from the first doorway to our right. We turned as if walking to our deaths. Maybe we were.

It was a darkened drawing room, filled with impressive looking books that crowded the bookshelves lining the two opposing walls. I knew she had read each and every one.

Her crude dialect was all an act. She was sharp as Renfield’s canines. An elegant mahogany desk was at the far end. And behind it sat Marie Laveau. She glowed like a crucifix in the presence of evil, her face gleaming like an instrument of dark grace.

A long boa oozed slowly across her wide shoulders and along her arms. Despite being over two hundred years old, Marie was still a striking woman -- even without the snake. Despite her years, Marie looked no more than forty.

She smiled no warmer than her snake. "Dere was a time when your hair was darker."

"And my heart was lighter."

Renfield frowned. "All that shortwave screaming? Just a trick?"

She cackled. "More like a slap of water thrown in dat fool's blue funk face. The only way he crawls out of dat night club of his is to find some way to get hisself killed, disguised as helping innocents. Hah! Fool Ranger, dat don't fool nobody."

"Fools me."

"Dat ain't so hard no more."

"Reckon not. What did you want?"

"To spit in your face, white man. 'Cause of you I can't die."

I shook my head. "You chose the path that led you here long before I met you."

"It was 'cause I pointed out da Gray Man to you dat he cursed me!"

"Maybe. But the path you were already on would have cursed you somehow."

"Easy for a white man to say. I was a woman of color. Not many choices for me back then. Fear. I had to make the whites fear me."

Renfield looked sick. "There was another path, Marie. You could have chosen --"

"Don't you dare say it, vampire! Lessen you want my curse."

"I already am cursed, Marie."

Her smile was colder than even her snake's. "I could improve on it, leech."

"No, you won't," I sighed.

"You gonna stop me?"

"You'll stop yourself. You've always been a good woman, Marie."

"Fools before you have died thinking that way."

I shook my head. "DayStar only tortures the good ones."

The glow around her shifted to a sick, bright green. Her snake and she exchanged eyes. It made my flesh crawl. It took everything I had to keep my face from showing it. I don't think I succeeded.

It was unnerving to see slit snake eyes staring at me from her face. And somehow it was worse seeing her human eyes blinking at me from the skull of her snake.

"I knows now why your Meilori left you."

"DayStar told me."

"He told you a lie."

"And the truth?"

Her smile grew wider. "I'm keeping to myself."

Her snake eyes glowed. "Dere! Dat's the look I's been waiting to see. I ain't gonna tell you, Ranger. But knows this: dere's a new order coming, and you won't live out its first day. Now, get out of my home! Both of you! Go!"

We left, her cackling following us out into the night. I tried to tell myself Marie had been lying. But I knew deep down she'd hadn't. Damn.

Renfield glanced at me, his eyes uneasy. "So she's one of the good ones, huh?"

"Good's always been a matter of comparison."

"To who?"

I made a face. "DayStar?"

"Oh, then I guess that makes me a bloody saint."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

R is for RENFIELD_What We Choose to Believe


He never gives anyone his first name.

Sister Magda, his former wife, now head sister at his church, calls him Renny. He has been the close friend of the cursed Samuel McCord since 1853.

Now, in the year 2005, Hurricane Katrina has gutted New Orleans. Worse, something older than the Earth has been released:

Renfield stiffened as we walked out onto the submerged sidewalk. “Dear God, Sam, did you ever think we’d see our city like this?”

It certainly was a contrast to Meilori’s garden of ethereal beauty. No wonder Renfield was shaken.

I looked at the battered club fronts, the boarded windows, the two-by-four’s driven like crude knives into the very mortar of the buildings, and the crumpled remains of people’s lives floating down the flooded streets.

It was eerie. The utter blackness of a once bright street. The deep quiet of a mortally wounded city.

Renfield and I were standing on the threshold of something that befell every person, every civilization, but with each at a different cost. I moved through the moments but was far them.

And as the night descended, it felt as if I were leaving home. I was swept up in a sense of the missed opportunity, the lost chance, the closed door.

I sighed, “It’s like looking at the hell in the streets of London after the first Nazi bombing in ‘40. The sheer quiet that follows a whole city being gutted, that stillness that comes right before it screams.”

Renfield bent down and picked up a floating child’s doll, its false hair soaked and hanging. Its glassy eyes eerily reminded me of too many human corpses I had seen floating down this same street.

Renfield stroked the plastic cheek softly as if it had been the flesh of the girl who had lost her doll. Closing his eyes, he dropped the doll with a splash that sounded much too loud.

That splash said it all.

The world had always been dangerous and full of fear. It had only been the lights and the illusion of civilization that had kept it at bay.

But the world was patient.

It knew its time would come sooner or later. And in the gamble called life, the House always wins. Renfield looked my way with eyes that clawed at me and smiled as if his lips were an open wound.

“Perhaps that doll will find the spirit of the child who lost it.”

“You and I have seen stranger things, Padre.”

He nodded. “Yes. Yes, we have. I will choose to think the child’s ghost reunited with her doll.”

The thought seemed to give Renfield some small measure of peace. I think Lincoln had it right: we have the peace we choose to have.