Vampires, baby! Snag Beyond Twilight Before It's Gone.


Random Musings Moving Forward

When I sent the last newsletter ten days ago, we had somewhere in the vicinity of seventy-something C-19 cases. We’re now up to 112. It might not sound like very many, but that's something like 400 cases per 100,00 people. We made the governor’s state watch list, which means non-essential businesses have to close again, schools are limited to distance learning, and a number of other sanctions apply. No more dine-in restaurants, no movies. We have only one theater in town. I suspect they’ll file for bankruptcy.

By contrast, the theater in Bishop, another small town forty miles south of here has rigged up a drive-in setup. Those are the businesses that will survive, the ones that can pivot in these crazy times.

Meanwhile, hotels are functioning at capacity. The local woods have turned into cesspits with campers everywhere leaving trash and other unmentionable elements scattered all over the place. I just wrote my third letter to both the town and county governments.

Many of my friends work in essential jobs, things like grocery checking and the pharmacy and the two pet food shops in town. They’re appalled at the lack of enforcement of masks and social distancing, and they feel like sitting ducks. When you drive into town, there are flashy neon signs saying masks are mandatory.

No one is enforcing anything. It doesn’t seem like we should have to. We’re all adults, right? We care about our fellow human beings and don’t want to inadvertently infect anyone else. That’s how it should be, but reality isn’t matching up.

We’ve always had some level of problems with the tourist population being high-handed and entitled. But it’s gotten so much worse. Part of it is people are camping who’ve neve camped before just to escape their rathole cities. However, that’s no excuse. There’s a You Tube video for everything, including responsible camping.

The hotels were supposed to be limited to 50% capacity, but they’ve been running close to 100%. Again. Zero enforcement.

Meanwhile, I’m staying out of everyone’s way as much as I can. It’s tough because I’d like to socialize the puppy. He goes to doggie day care once a week, but even that’s risky. We see people when we’re out on walks, but I’m training him to ignore them and keep walking. I’d do that, anyway. No one likes dogs who are pains in the ass and jump all over them.

With all that, I still believe we’ll get through this. Eventually, there may be a vaccine that works part of the time for some of the people who get it. I don’t believe there will ever be a vaccine that offers near perfect immunity for everyone. What that means in practice is the status quo will be with us for a long while.

Don’t know about you, but I still have good days and less good ones. The best days are the ones where I don’t get too far ahead of the curve, the ones where I live in the moment, focus on what I’m doing, and make it be the best I can. My new series, Magick and Misfits, is coming along. I’m nearly done with the second book. Between writing and cooking and baking and training the puppy (an uphill battle…), my days are full.

I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Many thanks for loving my books enough to keep reading them.
Magick and Misfits is coming October 13th!  Here's the book description for Court of Rogues
Midnight Court, second in this series is nearing completion. Maybe by the next newsletter I'll have a cover for book three, Court of the Fallen. If I do, I'll be sure to share.

Urban fantasy and slow burn romance wrapped into a serial that will keep you up reading long into the night.
Strange bedfellows rock worlds.
Reluctant recruit to the nines, I became Faery’s regent by default. Sure, I was next in line for the throne, but I never believed Oberon and Titania were gone for good until first a decade rolled by, and then two, and then ten.
They’ll never be back, and the land is mourning. Or pissed. It’s hard to tell which, and I’m not sure what difference it makes. I split my time between Faery and Earth searching for a way to mend the rift that’s killing my realm. I haven’t made much progress. Time is running through the glass, mocking my paltry efforts.
A sultry Witch is barely a blip on the radar. So what if she counts cards in the casino I run on Earth and makes my pit boss a little nuts? Out of the blue, she spits out the unbelievable, and I discover she’s not a Witch after all. A glamour hid her Fae-Sidhe blood so well, she’d fooled me.
Her mixed blood is an affront. By rights, I should haul her before the Court to face justice. She understood the chance she took revealing herself to me, and her offer to join forces is tempting, but it could cost me my throne.
Some risks are worth the price. If I cross the line, there’ll be no going back.
Have you read my Reaper series?
I'm posting chapters from Shadow Reaper in each newsletter until I get to about the 20,000 word mark. (Roughly five chapters.) Depending on how that goes, I may do the same for other books. Keep in mind these chapters are copyrighted and may not be redistributed in any fashion without permission from me.
Here's the fourth chapter. The first three were in previous newsletter. Here's a link  to Chapter One, and another link to Chapter Two in case you missed them. And here's a link to Chapter Three.

Chapter Four, Liam

“You’re a stubborn bastard,” I shouted in Hollis’s face. He developed the insubstantial aspect that told me he was about to teleport away. I put a damned quick stop to that with magic of my own. “Not so fast you lily-livered coward. I can’t believe you didn’t bother to tell Death you planned to abduct one of her Reapers.”
“Deucedly inconvenient she showed up.” Hollis said in a voice totally devoid of inflection. How the hell he managed it was anyone’s guess. Every line of his body radiated fury. He wanted to leave but couldn’t break past the circle I’d hastily scribed around him.
“Even if she hadn’t dropped in on the Vampire fight”—I kept on keeping on before Hollis dismantled my spell—“Cait would no more have come with me than she’d have signed up for Purgatory.”
“For Danu’s sake, spare me.” Hollis sounded annoyed this time. “You’re not without resources, Liam. You could have ensorcelled her.”
I choked on incredulity. “Really? Just dragged her here by her hair and deposited her in Northern Ireland. How well do you think that would have gone? Were you also planning to hold her in chains? She’d have called Death, who would have showed up and been furious with us.”
“I thought Reapers didn’t have magic beyond the obvious.”
“They don’t,” I sputtered, “but she can communicate with her mistress.”
“And you know this how?” Looking every inch the aristocrat he fancied himself, Hollis arched a black brow. He’d never moved past dressing in nineteenth century garb. Tan riding pants encased his hips, their bottoms brushing boots so shiny you could almost see your reflection. A creamy linen shirt with flared sleeves was topped by a brown tweed smoking jacket. His skin was paler than usual and provided stark contrast to his impeccably barbered black hair and dark blue eyes. Clean-shaven as was his wont, his cheeks bore faint marks from his morning razor.
Most of us employed magic for our various grooming needs, but not Hollis. I’d always suspected he valued long moments staring at his perfect face in the mirror.
“Liam?” Hollis flapped a hand my way.
“I know they have ways of talking because Cait’s first words to Death were that she’d called for help hours ago.”
“I see.” Hollis thinned his mouth into a line.
I narrowed my eyes. Guess I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t bothered to read up on Reapers. “Regardless, we can have the Reaper for a month—”
“In exchange for twenty-five of us killing Vampires for five years.” Hollis sent a pointed look skittering my way. “I’m not deaf, nor is aught amiss with my memory. That’s the worst bargain I’ve heard in centuries. I’m disappointed you couldn’t do better.”
I swept a hand downward to dismantle my casting. I no longer gave a fiddler’s damn if Hollis took himself straight to Hell. “None of this is my fault. It was your idea.”
“I expected you’d do a spot of research before you—”
“Uh-uh. Your decision. Your responsibility.” I cut my flow of words. I sounded like a spoiled youth blaming everyone around me for something that had turned into a travesty.
His sour expression deepened. “Death knows something.”
“She probably knows a whole lot of things. Which one are you referring to? And then I’ll be on my way.”
“To where?” He ran a hand through his perfectly coiffed curls.
“Back to Ms. Carrick and her mistress. They’re expecting a reply.”
“Eh. They’ll figure out soon enough it’s a nay.”
My hand doubled into a fist, but I caught myself before I punched him. “No. Just no. What we did before was rude. Let’s not amplify our sins. Besides, no one says I can’t offer my assistance, even absent that of my kinsmen.” The peculiar rotten stench of the Undead wafted from somewhere. My nostrils flared, and I turned toward where it was coming from.
Hollis pinched the bridge of his nose before extending his arms. Power arced from his fingers. “The slimy, unprincipled maggots appear to have returned.”
“But it’s daylight,” I protested. “Around noon. Since when—?”
“Since now, apparently. I’m going to remove the illusion shielding us, and then we’re going to kill whatever is out there.”
“Um, mate. They’re already dead.”
“Semantics. This time, we’re going to boot them so far past the veil the next thing they see is the back wall of Hell.”
I’d already been in one Vampire battle. It hadn’t been going all that well. Until Death showed up and exerted a magnetic pull they couldn’t resist. I closed a hand around Hollis’s upper arm.
“We need more of us.”
“Gone soft, have you?”
My grip tightened enough, Hollis grunted with annoyance. He’s always been a persistent fucker. “This isn’t Merry Old England where you played at being a knight. If Vamps are out and about in daylight, we need more magic than the two of us command.”
“I did not play at being a warrior.”
“Aye, and nor have I gone soft.” Tired of sparring, I raised my mind voice and summoned whomever was close enough to hear me. My skin prickled from Hollis’s magic, and the astringent scent of Sidhe magic surrounded me.
I may have called in the cavalry, but Hollis had decided not to wait. The perpetual mist swirling around our domicile drew back, leaving us exposed. A bevy of shouts mingled with horrified screams. I figured our sudden appearance had shocked whatever mortals were wandering the streets of Malin, a rustic village at the northern end of Inishowen peninsula. With its cobblestone streets and buildings left from an earlier era, it was normally a bastion of charm.
Turned out my assumption we’d surprised Malin’s human inhabitants was far more benign than the reality.
My eyesight is different surrounded by Sidhe enchantment. It takes time for the harsher wavelengths common to the mortal world to sort themselves into a pattern that makes sense. Once that happened, I wished it hadn’t. Bodies lay at unnatural angles. White as the ghosts they’d become, they’d clearly been drained of blood.
Off to one side, a youngish man was slurping greedily from a Vamp’s wrist. Fury rolled through me, displacing horror. At least twenty mortals were dead. The wail of sirens alarmed me. Unless the constables had silver-laced bullets, they’d be the next victims. If other humans had been milling about Kilkenny Green, they’d had the good sense to run like hell.
A brisk swoosh told me my call-to-arms had been answered. An even dozen Sidhe swarmed through the mist and came to an abrupt halt. Before anyone complained about being summoned, I pushed power through my outstretched fingers and flattened the Vamp trying to transform the human he’d like as not drained. That was how it worked: drain the victim and then offer blood to turn them.
Except Vampires hadn’t been especially interested in augmenting their ranks for a very long time. Something had changed, and I’d bet my shorts Death knew about it. After all, the dead were her purview.
As I’d hoped, the other Sidhe picked up on my example. Magic arced every which way. Vamps fell by the wayside, but most bounced right back to their feet. Them already being dead was quite the impediment. We needed Reapers to send them packing.
None of us possessed the type of magic that would pierce the veil surrounding the realms of the dead.
I admit I wasn’t paying all that close attention, but when a heavy weight landed on me and drove me to the ground, I was shocked. Usually, my reflexes are far sharper than that.
I bucked and writhed and twisted, but the Vampire was stronger than he had a right to be. The stench of rotten meat decaying under a tropical sun filled my nostrils until I was certain I’d never get it out of my clothes. Something sharp nicked my neck.
It was the wakeup call I needed. A quick jolt of a different mix of magic teleported me out from under Fang-boy. I ended up standing next to where he crouched, flame-red hair spread around where I’d been lying. Switching magics isn’t quick, but I propelled the process forward and sent the biggest blast of lethal magic I could rustle up right into the abomination’s back.
I didn’t stop there, either. I carved my power down his spine, opening him like a filleted fish. The stink made my eyes water and my stomach protest, but I kept my power flowing. Good thing I’d asked for help. Every one of us was fully engaged. I hadn’t counted the Vamps, but they were pouring into the usually peaceful green from somewhere.
In broad daylight, but I already mentioned that. I’ve heard of Daywalkers, but they’re supposed to be rarer than hen’s teeth.
Once I got out of this, I’d scour the library for everything I could find about the Undead. Reapers too. We could use one, but our local Reaper was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t recall his name. Might have been Malcom or Michael. M-something to be sure. I would have called him, but they didn’t report to the Sidhe.
There were mortals here, though. Humans who required escort across the veil. Their souls glowed in soft shades of blue and teal, hovering above their ravaged bodies. Some were crying and moving through one another as they tried to hold onto who they’d been. And each other.
Normally, I don’t pay much heed to humans and their affairs, but my heart went out to them. The days of the Sidhe holding ourselves apart had just ended. Even if my kin didn’t agree, I’d be hornswoggled if I stood by and let evil mow through innocents. I’d already decided to provide whatever help I could to Cait Carrick. This wasn’t any different.
The Vampire I’d all but drawn and quartered was trying to get up.
How? His body lay in pieces, but it was pulling together before my eyes. Even with Sidhe power dialed to the nth degree I couldn’t heal myself that fast. Was it worth wasting more magic on him?
Probably not, but I did anyway. Principle of the thing and all.
Where was our Reaper? The dead were crying piteously. They were fortunate they hadn’t been turned, but I was certain they wouldn’t see it that way. I kept a stream of destructive magic flowing at my victim. This time, I broke his ribcage down the middle. He flopped back onto the ground, scrabbling at the dirt with cracked and broken nails.
Vampires were vermin. Their souls were riddled with rot. Whatever held them together only provided the appearance of a human body. The air thickened with the scents of Vampire decay and Sidhe magic. Our power varies, but mostly its smell reminds me of a forest after a strong rainstorm.
Hollis sidestepped to where I stood over the red-haired Vampire. “We are not winning.”
I didn’t bother to spare him a sidelong glance. “Really, mate? What tipped you off?”
“Your sarcasm isn’t helping.”
Screams, grunts, and curses rolled around us. I did look at Hollis then. He’d lost his Gentleman’s Quarterly grandeur. His trousers and waistcoat sported long rips; dirt and blood streaked their surface—and his face.
“Ideas?” He gritted the word out. It had to have cost him. He hated to admit he needed help.
I nodded grimly. “Aye. One, but it won’t be pleasant.” I sorted out a thread of power and sent it on a mission. Two longswords clattered to the cobblestones between Hollis and me.
He took a step back. “But those are silver.”
“And iron, crafted by our smiths from an earlier time.”
“I recognize them well enough. No need for a history lecture.” Hollis’s tone was chilly, and he made no move to pick up a saber.
“Fine. Be a coward,” I muttered and ground my teeth in anticipation of pain as I hefted one of the swords. The hilts had been bound in leather to soften the brunt of touching the silver and iron alloy, but my palms began to ache immediately. Soon they’d be a mass of blisters.
I had to move fast. And I did. Blade swinging, I beheaded Vamps as fast as I got to them. Motion from one side caught my eye. Unbelievingly, Hollis had snatched up the other blade.
Guess he couldn’t stand the hit to his image. Cowardice isn’t pretty no matter how you spruce it up with excuses. About twenty Vamps later, they oozed out of sight as quickly as they’d shown up. I dropped the blade, but the hilt was slick with my blood.
Most of the ones we’d killed were nothing but piles of bones. A few of the younger ones had left lumps of putrefying flesh. The other Sidhe were in the process of rounding all the remains into a central heap. They’d call magefire to obliterate the carnage. I aimed some of my dwindling magic supply at my abraded palms. Bone showed through in two places.
The ring of steel on stone told me Hollis’s blade lay near mine on the ground. I walked to where he stood. “Thanks for the help.”
“Don’t mention it,” he said stiffly. “Where in the fuck is our Reaper?”
It was a decent question, but one I lacked an answer to. Power barreled through the green, followed by the sucking vortex of a bonfire. At least the Vampire remains would vanish without a trace.
A soft song, notes trilling up and down the scale, brought my head around. The Reaper who worked this region strode between the Church and a crumbling castle. He’s been the local Reaper for as long as I can remember, and he’s always reminded me of the second coming of Christ with his flowing blond hair, chest-length beard, and bright blue eyes.
Today his long legs were encased in ragged jeans, and he wore an ancient fisherman’s sweater. He glowed faintly, but what drew the dead was his scent. He smelled of heather and wildflowers. Something about it held the promise of better times to come. All the disembodied souls that had been milling about zeroed in on him.
He opened his arms, and they flowed into them and through the portal he provided between Earth and what came next. I exhaled sharply. At least the current problem was winding down.
“Better late than never,” Hollis muttered. He turned his right hand palm up. It looked as bad as mine.
“I’m returning to where I left Ms. Carrick and Death,” I told him.
He grunted something unintelligible, and I focused on him. “Having second thoughts about Death’s offer?”
“Second thoughts, aye, but not about that.”
He fell silent. Impatience made the pain in my hand throb worse. “Planning to tell me? Or is it a secret?”
The air around his hand began to glisten as he summoned a healing spell. He pushed his shoulders straighter and stared me down. “You won’t care much for this, what with your Sir Galahad proclivities, but I believe our time on Earth has drawn to a close.”
My eyes widened. “You’re going to gather our kin and make a run for where?”
He shrugged. “Does it even matter?”
I gripped his upper arm with my uninjured hand. “Aye, mate. It matters a great deal. We’ve coexisted with humankind for something like two thousand years. Over that time, we’ve dealt with many manifestations of evil.”
I paused for emphasis. “And we’ve always won. What is it about Vampires that’s turned you into a craven?”
He bristled, but didn’t refute my statement. Instead, he said, “I prefer peace.”
“Me too, but guess what? So do the humans. If we run off, who will stand between them and events like today’s?”
Hollis ticked a list off on his fingers. “Witches. Druids. Fae. The odd shifter. It’s not like we’re the only ones with magic. Let someone else take a turn on the front lines.”
I let go of him and dragged my fingers through my hair, moving it out of my face. “Magic wasn’t the ticket today. Silver did the trick, and mortals are far better wielding it than we’ll ever be. But they need someone to teach them.”
“Doesn’t have to be us.”
“What in the name of the gods has happened to you?” I demanded and grasped his arm again. Power still flickered around his hand, fixing the burnt, broken places. When he didn’t answer, I went on. “You sent me to find another Reaper—the Vampire specialist one. Did you plan to just dump this entire problem in her lap?”
Color stained his fair cheeks, so I intuited the answer was yes.
“What were we going to be doing while Ms. Carrick hunted Vampires? Serving high tea?”
“Shut up,” he sputtered and tried to wrench out of my grip.
I held fast and added magic for good measure. Although I’ve always discounted intuitions, considering them more of a female trait, something pushed me to delve into Hollis’s mind. I wasn’t gentle. If I had had been, he’d have driven me out at the first touch of my power invading his private places.
Blinding insight boiled through me, followed by equally blinding rage. Heedless of my not-yet-healed hand, I doubled up my fist and pounded it into his nose. The crack of breaking bones was satisfying, but not nearly enough. Nothing would be sufficient punishment for what Hollis had done. I hit him again. And again. Breaking both cheekbones.
“Get him off me,” Hollis squealed. The bite of his magic bored into me, but I ignored it.
“What in the fuck are you doing?” Krin yelled. Several Sidhe, male and female, joined him and dragged me off Hollis. Krin has always been a friend, and his dark eyes were both angry and troubled. His red-gold hair was cut short, and he was clean-shaven. Like me, he preferred Levis and nondescript shirts.
“Hollis sold the Reaper out,” I shouted. “Sold her to the Vampires. It’s why they all showed up here. To capture the Reaper—” I stopped to catch a decent breath.
“What in Danu’s name are you talking about?” Krin was still yelling.
More truth dawned. Hollis hadn’t told anyone about my assignment. And now I understood why.
“Hollis sent me to the States to bring a special Reaper here,” I informed Krin and the others. “The one who deals with Vampires. Whoever he parlayed with assumed I’d be the good little errand boy I usually am and return here with the Reaper in tow.”
“Why didn’t you?” another Sidhe asked.
“Because Death put a crimp in things. Hollis hadn’t bothered to clear his little plot with her, and she wasn’t pleased. No one commandeers her Reapers. Not without her permission.”
“Ye’re insane.” Hollis had switched to Gaelic.
“I am not.” I wrenched myself free from the pile of Sidhe hanging onto me. “Look for yourselves. Dig deep, though. Hollis’s secrets are far from the surface of his mind.”
Sidhe faces took on dour casts. The ones still grappling to catch me left off. “Bind him,” I told my fellows.
“Who did ye bargain with?” Krin bellowed into Hollis’s ruined face, spittle flying into his wounds.
Aye. I hadn’t gotten that far. I wanted to know too. I took a few steps back from the circle that had formed around Hollis. How long had he been a traitor to our people? What inducements had lured him? A lingering glance at Hollis told me he’d never answer any of us.
Not willingly.
I flexed the fingers of my injured hand. Punching Hollis hadn’t done me any good, but neither had it worsened my hurt places.
“Are you all right?” Dena strode to my side. One of our elders, healing power ran strong in her.
“Aye. Thank you for asking.” I jerked my chin at Hollis and the other Sidhe. “Tell everyone I’ve gone back to the States. I left Death and the Reaper Hollis tried to trick waiting for a formal reply from the Sidhe.”
“What was the question?” Dena arched a dark brow. Black hair fell to shoulder level in tight curls. Her dark skin and equally dark eyes conferred a mysterious appearance. She preferred robes. Today, they were a deep emerald, providing a stark contrast to her skin and hair.
I hunted for a condensed version. “Hollis sent me to collect the Reaper assigned to Vampires. Death agreed to loan her to us for one month in exchange for twenty-five of Sidhe working to eradicate Vampires for five years.”
Dena’s brow edged higher. “We stand against evil anyway. Seems like a decent enough trade to me. I say you return and accept it. I shall square things with the others.”
“Hollis refused,” I growled.
“Aye, and now we understand why.” Dena smiled coolly. She curled her fingers around the wrist of my hurt hand. Soothing power flooded my palm. After I blinked a few times, the flesh had knitted back together.
“Thank you.” I inclined my head.
“No need.”
I readied a travel spell. “You do realize I’ll have to tell Death the truth,” I said to Dena.
“I wouldn’t expect any less of you.” She patted my arm. “May the goddess bless your journey, Liam.”
“Whatever you do”—I leveled my gaze at her—“do not let Hollis shinny out of your clutches. Death may wish to question him.”
“Now there’s something I’d like to witness.” Her smile developed vicious edges. It was the last thing I saw before my spell swept me away.
Want more? Can't wait two weeks for Chapter Five? Check it out right hereShadow Reaper is available everywhere e-books are sold.
I'm part of an epic Vampire story bundle, Beyond Twilight, featuring some of today's hottest Indie authors. The Story Bundle model is "pay what you want." A lower amount nets you four books, a slightly higher one, all eleven.
But it's still way less than if you bought all eleven books individually.
And the best part is a portion of every sale goes to charity. For this bundle our charity is a wolf sanctuary.
So don't buy the bundle for me. Buy it for the wolves!

Sharpen your fangs and dive in. I guarantee we'll blow Twilight right out of the water.
But wait! It gets better! We have a Vampire Mystery Box up for grabs. Over $65 worth of Vampire themed swag from one of New Orleans' most famous Vampire shops. Here's the entry form. Fill it out right now while you're thinking about it. No purchase necessary to enter, but I'd sure appreciate it it you picked up this set.

That was my Nikki-man. Still miss him.

Between today and 8/5 ONLY. You can pick up Dragon's Call, kick off volume for the Dragon's Heir series for 65% off from my store. Go to my store, and enter this coupon code, YLNEG4QUVWJO, and Dragon's Call will only be 1.39 plus any applicable taxes.

You have to put the book in your cart. Once you get to the checkout page, look on the lower left and it will ask if you have a coupon. Click yes and enter it.

Book Description:
After her Celtic kin proved too big a bunch of bastards to bother with, Rowan sought solace among witches.

The first book in a magic-laced, fast-paced fantasy trilogy. With dragons.

After the Breaking, not much was left. I assumed it was a case of magic gone bad—until I discovered my goddess mother had broken the world. She didn’t like it that I’d turned my back on the pantheon. My long tenure among witches rubbed salt into the wound.

After a confrontation where Mommy Dearest fessed up—and lacked the decency to bat an eyelash about the widespread destruction she’d caused—I was digesting what to do next when a dragon showed up.

Yes. A dragon.

The beast didn’t talk with me or anything, but it flew overhead wreaking havoc on a goblin horde. Witches are old souls with kind hearts, but they’re not particularly strong magically, so I was grateful for the help.

And suspicious as hell. Why a dragon? Why here and why now? More importantly, why was he—she?—helping me? Part of me didn’t want to know, and another part was certain I’d find out anyway.
There's my not-so-little fellow! Six months old today and getting more and more handsome as he loses the gangly puppy look. He still needs that house lead though. So I can catch him after he's stolen some prime object off the table.
See you next time!


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