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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Another Audible Teaser

For you audiophiles out there, be aware that Caldera 3 could be released by Audible any day now. I pushed the button and it’s in their hands. I can also tell you that Johnny Mack is constantly honing his skills as a narrator and continues to perfect his craft. I think you’ll be pretty pleased with this one.

Since C3 is soon to be released, I’ll be running a promo for Caldera 2 on AudioBook Boom. Those of you who are interested in swapping a free audio code for a review, you might look for C2 to show up next week on their site.

That is all for now.
Carry on.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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For My Girls Chapter 2

I’m sure that if you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know what I’ve been doing. Filling these pages with the dead files from my computer. Huntress: Of Gods and Men was the closest to being finished of all of the scraps I’ve shared. I’ve received messages from faithful readers that urged me to complete the stories I shared, but I’m afraid that ship has sailed for most of them.

Regardless, I promised to share more of this story, so here’s chapter two. I hope you like it.

Chapter 2

I stood on the back porch and focused on the face Thor shared with me. I closed my eyes and transported to a place I didn’t recognize. Rocky shores with crystal blue waters. The sun was just starting to set.

This must be on the other side of the world. It was barely morning in Dallas. I turned a slow circle and took in the beauty of the place. White stucco buildings with terra cotta roofs, tightly packed buildings and beautiful rolling hills. It reminded me of pictures I had seen of Italy.

I inhaled deeply and under the saltiness of the ocean air I could smell mutton, heavily seasoned with pungent herbs and spices. Wood smoke tinted the air and although I had just eaten, my mouth watered.

I stepped away from the rocks and made my way toward the town that climbed the hills. Somewhere in this maze of streets and buildings I knew I’d find the demigod that Thor wanted dead.

I could almost ‘feel’ his presence. It’s very hard to explain. New sensations are difficult for me to put into words at times and surrounded by the ancient beauty of this place, words escaped me.

As I walked, I unstrung my bow and twisted it in the middle. It unscrewed and I tucked into a special pocket that father had sewn into the lining of my long coat. With my weaponry concealed, I felt a bit more at ease travelling in this strange new land.

I had learned a long time ago that people often fear strangers. They fear armed strangers even more. Keeping my weapons hidden from their view set them more at ease and kept me from having to transport away from threats. Oh, and people fear strangers who can disappear in the blink of an eye, too. Trust me on that.

Unlike my father, I prefer not to take the lives of an innocent simply because they react out of fear. Father would cleave their head from their neck and not think twice of it. Well, in his younger years. Since he gained the power of Thor, he’s mellowed significantly.

I was somewhat surprised that the streets seemed deserted until I realized, most were inside either eating or preparing their evening meal. The variety of aromas that greeted me made me want to savor each new dish.

I was standing in the middle of the road enjoying the succulent smells when I heard two men approach. I spun and saw them as they walked down the road, smiling and joking amongst themselves. They had yet to notice me and their gate was unhurried but determined.

Both wore plain white cotton garments and no shoes. Their short black hair and dark eyes reminded me of my prey, but neither man was him. When they finally noticed me, one nearly stopped, his arm extended out and catching his partner’s attention. He hooked his chin toward me and both men stopped in the road and stared.

I must have looked completely foreign to them. Dressed in black leather pants, black boots and a black long coat in this obviously warm climate. My reddish-yellow hair and blue eyes must have stood out as well.

They both smiled and slowly approached. The one who noticed me first held a hand in the air and yelled to me. “Are you lost, miss?”

I shook my head. They spoke a language I had never heard before but part of being a demigod is that I speak all languages. Fluently.

“No. I am where I need to be.” I returned their smile and the two seemed to shake off any suspicions they might have harbored.

“You do not look like you are from here.” The men approached and stopped just feet from me.

“I’m not.”

They both looked to me expectantly and I realized, they must wish that I explain my presence. I tried to think of a convincing lie but unlike my father, lies do not come as easily to me as they do him.

“I am looking for a boy.” I judged them to be slightly older so the word ‘boy’ seemed more appropriate. “He’s a young man, really. Younger than you, but similar features.”

The first man laughed and prodded his friend. “We all share the same features in this town. Greeks will be Greeks.”

Ah. So now I knew where I was. I might have guessed Italy, but I was close. Kind of.

I chose to change the subject of our discussion. “Where are you two headed at such a pleasant hour?”

They both gave me an odd look that I couldn’t quite read. Perhaps this hour of the day isn’t quite as pleasant as I thought it was.

“We are going to do some night fishing. Along the beach.”

I nodded but realized, neither man had a pole with them. “Without a fishing pole?”

They both laughed and the other man shook his head. “Nets. We have a small boat with nets along the shore.”

The first man smiled broadly. “You can join us if you wish. Perhaps you will see your friend, no?”

I shook my head. “Thank you, but no. I must be off.”

I was about to step away from them when the first man reached out and took my arm. “You never said your friends name. Perhaps we know him.”

I opened my mouth to tell them that I didn’t know his name, but that little voice in the back of my head screamed at me. How could my prey be my friend if I don’t know his name?

“I wouldn’t want to keep you from your fishing.” I gave them both as sweet of a smile as I could muster. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

I stepped away and both men watched me for a moment. As I was about to crest the small rise in the road, the first called back to me, “If you change your mind, we’ll be at the beach!”

I waved my hand at him but didn’t turn around. Something else had my attention and I could feel it pulling me further along the cobblestone roadway. An unseen force guided my steps and I could feel my prey at the other end.

With any luck, I’d complete this mission and be home before lunch.

 

*****

 

This unseen force that pulled at me grew stronger the closer I got to the other demi. I knew it was him, but I don’t know how I knew. It was as though we were connected somehow.

In the back of my mind, I feared that my prey would know I was coming. That somehow, he could feel the pull as strongly as I did. I pushed the thought from my mind but as the pull became stronger, I was nearly certain that he must know something strange was about to happen.

“You’re not from around here.”

I nearly jumped at the voice. I silently cursed myself for not having sensed his presence, or his approach, but inside, I knew it was my prey before I ever turned around.

“No. I’m not.”

I didn’t expect what I saw standing before me. The same tattered clothing as the two men I had met earlier. I assumed they wore such things for fishing and not because they lacked resources. But here he stood. Olive skin, amber eyes, jet black hair and a smile so radiant that I wanted to return it in hopes he would continue smiling.

He was leaning against the rock wall, his arms crossed as he watched me. “There’s something different about you.”

I pulled the hood back and tried to shake my hair loose. I had forgotten that mother had cinched it tight to the back of my head.

He was still smiling.

And, damned if it wasn’t contagious.

“Where are you from?”

I unhooked the top of my longcoat so that I could reach my weapons more easily and gave him my best smile. As I stared into those eyes I wondered if perhaps Thor was wrong. How could they send me to kill such a lovely creature? He didn’t seem dangerous.

“I live in the Americas. But my family hails from Sweden.” I have no idea why I told him that. I could have said, ‘Dallas’ and that answer would have sufficed. Short, honest and to the point. But no. I wanted him to know my pedigree. Perhaps I should tell him that my father and Thor shared the same powers as well.

“America. I hope to visit there one day.” He uncrossed his arms and extended a hand. “I am Alejo.”

I stared at his hand for a moment longer than I was supposed to I think. Slowly I felt my own hand reach toward his.

“It means-”

“He who protects and defends. I know.” My hand gripped his and I felt a rush of power unlike any I had ever experienced before.

It didn’t hit me in waves like when I’m near Thor, this hit me like a sledge hammer. But a warm, fuzzy sledge hammer. It felt good.

It took me a moment to regain my wits and I noticed that he had experienced something as well. He stared at me with wide eyes. I took a half step back and tried to regain my composure.

“What was that?” His face hid a thousand questions and I wasn’t prepared to address any of them. In the back of my mind I could almost hear Thor screaming at me, ‘kill him!’ and it tore at me.

I felt my hand grasp the short sword and I could feel the scabbard scrape against the metal as I pulled it from its sheath. He was staring at my eyes and never saw the silver and gold adorned blade as it cleared my long coat.

He braced his hand against the rock wall and sucked in air as though he had been punched in the chest. His eyes never left mine as I raised my blade and prepared to strike him down.

The lightning bolt that hit the ground between us knocked me back and onto my ass. I tried to roll with it, but it was a poor excuse for a defensive move. I finally regained my footing and took a tactical stance.

Alejo was nowhere to be seen.

I searched the area until I was satisfied. He was no longer there. The unseen force that had pulled me to him was completely gone. I sheathed the sword and swore to myself. Whatever had happened, it had allowed him to escape his fate.

It was time to return home.

 

*****

 

I hated the idea that I allowed my prey to escape and I’m pretty sure it was evident by my foul mood. To her credit, my mother said nothing as I stomped through the house and threw my weapons into my closet.

When I came back downstairs I flopped onto the couch and crossed my arms angrily over my chest. I glared at the TV and it suddenly came on, switching through channels rapidly, the speakers making weird, ‘ooh, eeh, ahh’ sounds as the channels flew by.

With a huff I threw my arms outward and the TV shut off. I was back on my feet and storming into the kitchen when my mother finally stepped in front of me, blocking my way.

“Nope. Not gonna happen little lady.” She crossed her arms and stared up at me, my chest still heaving from the temper tantrum. “You are not going to stomp in here and tear up my kitchen.”

“Mom! I just want to find a snack.” My eyes felt like they were bulging from their sockets and I know I must have been a fright to look at.

She squared her shoulders and shook her head. “Not gonna happen.”

She stared me down until my breathing came under control and the anger faded. I felt emotionally drained when she finally placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. “All of these years of training and they never taught you how to handle defeat.”

My head jerked up. “I was not defeated!”

Her eyes winced at the volume and I forced myself to dial it back a bit.

“He just…disappeared on me.” I threw my hands into the air again and began pacing the narrow space. I realized too late that it was nervous energy I was trying to burn off.

“You need to calm down.” She finally stepped aside and let me into the kitchen. “Have a seat. I’ll make us some tea and you can calmly tell me what happened.” She turned and began pouring water into the tea kettle. “Believe it or not Erica, your strongest ability isn’t as a warrior. It’s as a thinker.” She flipped the burner on and set the tea kettle in place.

She turned and shot me a brilliant smile. “You get it from me, you know. Your ability to reason. To think. To analyze a problem and come to a conclusion.”

I nodded. “Because women are smarter than men. I know, you’ve told me a thousand times.”

“And it’s true.” She set cups on the table and placed the cream and sugar in the middle. “So, tell me. What happened out there that has you so worked up?” She pointed her finger in my face. “And be calm about it. Getting yourself worked up isn’t going to help us solve this problem.”

I took a deep breath and tried to center myself. It was something my father taught me years ago. He said a ‘master’ taught him during a period when he was still adjusting to god powers. He wouldn’t explain further but the practice helped me to calm myself when my emotions tended to run a bit hot.

I toyed with the tea cup in front of me and avoided looking at her. I think I was afraid that her face would betray her disapproval. I know she wasn’t a fan of her only child acting as an assassin.

“So, I tracked the guy down.” I swallowed and tried to think of something to lighten the situation. “Greece is beautiful at sunset, by the way.”

“Oh, so you were in Greece? That’s nice.” She pulled the kettle from the fire a moment before it was about to whistle and poured it into the steeping pot with the tea leaves. “Tell me what happened.”

I could smell the tea once the hot water hit it and I allowed my mind to wander a bit.

“I appeared at the shore line of this small town. It was really pretty. The buildings were all whitewashed and the roofs were all covered in clay tiles.” I continued to fidget with the cup. “A couple of locals invited me to go fishing with them. I didn’t though. I knew I was there for a reason.”

She leaned across the table and pulled the cup from my hands. I watched as she poured the tea and placed it back in front of me. She wasn’t giving me the ‘eye’. She just patiently waited for me to tell my story.

“So, anyway, I could almost ‘feel’ him. It was like something was pulling me toward him.” I turned to her and her face was expressionless. “It was like we were somehow connected.”

She nodded slowly. “Perhaps because you’re both demigods?”

I shrugged. “Possibly. I don’t know what else it could be.” I took a sip of the tea and it was still hot. I continued as I spooned some sugar into it. “I did find him though. I was drawn along this roadway and suddenly he appeared behind me. I never heard him approach. He didn’t make a sound. It was as if he was already there, waiting for me.”

“Did he attack you?”

I shook my head. “No. Quite the opposite.” I sipped the tea and placed the cup down carefully. “He smiled at me. He said, ‘you’re not from around here’ and he smiled.” I know my face was twisted in confusion. I could feel it. My mother simply nodded.

“Then what happened?”

I shook my head again as I tried to replay the memories in my mind. “I was pulled into his eyes. They are so lovely. I kept thinking, surely Thor is mistaken. Nobody this beautiful should be destroyed.” I felt my eyes grow wet but I didn’t know why. “I didn’t even think about it as my hand gripped the sword. It was like it was doing it on its own while my head was preoccupied with looking at him.”

Mom sipped her tea and nodded. Her silence begged me to continue and my mind raced back to the incident.

“It was as though the sky ripped open. There was a brilliant flash and I was thrown backward. When I opened my eyes again and could see, he was gone.”

She nodded again and sipped her tea.

“Do you think he knew your intentions and attacked you first?”

I shook my head. “I wasn’t even sure of my intentions. I mean, my hand was drawing the sword and yes, I would have struck him down, but…it was like my body was working on its own and…” I turned confused eyes to her, pleading with her to explain what was wrong with me.

She set her cup down and stretched across the table, taking my hand into hers. “Tell me again what you experienced. From the time you first turned and faced him.” She held a hand up to stop me then added, “Not just what you saw, but what you felt.”

 

And, that’s where chapter two ends.
Keep coming back. There will be more. Young Erica Svensdottir made it to a little over seven chapters before I moved on to other projects.

Still…maybe one day I’ll revisit this strawberry blonde hellion again and finish her story. Only time will tell.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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A Story For My Girls

If you follow the blog posts, then you know that I’ve been sharing the ‘dead files’ from my computer. Stories that I lost interest in but at one point thought was a good idea. They’re raw, unedited, unproofread, unpublished.

When I penned the Hunter Trilogy, I was actually yelled at by the lady who edited it (yes, Sheila, I’m talking about you!). She thought I was nuts for not continuing Sven’s adventures. I was ready to move on to other projects…but I had the idea of possibly doing a trilogy of Sven’s child. At the end of the Hunter trilogy, he and his beloved were expecting a child and since Thor knew that it would be a demigod, he shared his power with Sven to give him a fighting chance in raising said child.

As a twist, Sven had a daughter. Every bit as brazen as her father, she was tasked with hunting demigods. The old gods couldn’t suffer a demigod to live as most demi’s powers would eventually exceed that of the gods themselves. They simply couldn’t risk it.

What follows is the first chapter of that story.
And don’t worry, there are more that I’ll share later.  I have to keep dangling the carrot or you won’t come back, right?

HUNTRESS

DEDICATION

For my twin girls. Know that emotions don’t make you weak and that young women need only do what’s right to be the hero of any story.
Keep the faith girls.

1

I am a Huntress. Like my father before me, I hunt my own kind. Not because I want to. Because I was created to. I kill with speed and efficiency.

I am quite good at what I do.

I am Erica Svensdottir.

My pedigree is…muddled.

My mother is a shapeshifter. She prefers to shift into a feline form, but she can assume other shapes as well. She comes from a long line of pureblood shifters. But that only describes her physical attributes. If I had to describe my mother in one word, it would be ‘loving’. She has the biggest, softest heart of anybody I’ve ever met.

My father on the other hand, is the Yin to her Yang. He is large, brutish, unrelenting and a natural born killer. Yet he loves my mother and me with every fiber of his being. He taught me most everything I know.

He is also a Norse god.

Before you shake your head in disbelief, understand that my father was born of Viking stock. He was taught the old ways by his grandfather. He was then conscripted to the Swedish navy and sailed to the new world before it was rightfully claimed by any other nation. It was here, in the new world, that he was transformed into a creature of the night. A vampire.

For centuries, he stuck to the shadows. He lurked along the outskirts of humanity and preyed upon those who wouldn’t be missed. He survived by killing and he was quite good at it.

As the centuries passed, he adopted new ways to survive. He also began hunting and killing his own kind. He became the lead enforcer for the ruling council of the vampires and still holds that position today. Yes, he is a god, but he uses his powers for good. And, as he says, the council has ways of doing things that he couldn’t. Things like creating a valid birth certificate for me. I was born barely five years ago, but I am physically that of an eighteen or twenty year old. That’s difficult to explain to the government.

So how does all of this play out in my pedigree? Well, my father stole Loki’s powers and impregnated my mother. Technically, he was a god when they…created me. After he surrendered his power back to Loki, Thor interceded. When Thor discovered that my parents were expecting me…he ‘shared’ his power with him.

In time, that power grew. He is now equal in power to Thor. He can travel to the nine worlds at will and has taken me many times to meet my extended ‘family’. Thor is…large. He’s also my favorite uncle. I’ve yet to meet my grandfather, Odin, the Allfather, but I hope to one day.

My father trained me from birth how to use the weapons that I now wield. When I surpassed his ability to teach, he took me to the nine worlds and I learned the fighting techniques of the dark elves, the light elves, the trolls and eventually the Valkyrie. My uncle Thor finally intervened. He tested me at the age of five and declared me ready for the tasks they expected of me.

You see, besides being part shifter, part vampire and part human…I’m a demigod. Thor confessed to me that there have been few demigods in history because their power can surpass the gods. Odin refuses to suffer a demi to survive. I think that’s why I’ve never met him. They didn’t want me killed. Or him. I’m not sure which.

Regardless, Thor tasked me with a mission. My father endorsed it so now I hunt my own kind. No, not just demigods, though I would terminate with extreme prejudice any who crossed my path. Rather, any that the gods choose has earned death.

It is not my place to question why.

I had no qualms in taking a life. If they had worshipped their gods properly they would have an eternity to relish their rewards. If they didn’t, they didn’t deserve to suffer this world any longer anyway. Either way, if the gods proclaimed them dead, they were. As efficiently as I could deliver the verdict.

I just didn’t expect what was to come. Nobody ever prepared me for…this.

*****

I had at least a half dozen kills under my belt. I always chose the most effective and most humane way to remove the offender. I sported dual battle hatchets, a short sword and a recurve bow. My father made certain that I was prepared for whatever creature I may encounter by ensuring that one of my hatchets was infused with silver, the other with gold. My arrowheads were forged with both metals. My sword was hardened silver allow with gold inlays. Quite beautiful and extremely deadly.

I loved watching the trolls smith my weapons. I was barely waist high to my father when he took me to the realms and I got to watch them be crafted. They were made specifically for me. It was the best birthday present ever.

I had learned how to sense others before I ever saw them. A vampire causes a cold chill and the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. Were’s cause a similar reaction, but instead of a cold chill, I feel heat. Angels and Nephilim I can smell long before they are visible. But I had yet to meet another demigod.

Until him.

Thor had called me to him and I answered. I sat under an oak on the edge of Asgard while he spoke. Although I love him dearly, he still awes me when I’m in his presence. Not just his size, but his voice. I can almost feel the thunder in the air as the words escape his lips. It is both exhilarating and frightening.

“There are rumors, Small One.” I warmed at his nickname for me. There were many over the years, but Small One was one of my favorites. When I was little, I thrilled at ‘Princess’ or even ‘Melonhead’, but he first called me Small One when I nearly bested him in battle. I still think he went easy on me.

“Rumors of what, Uncle?”

“Another. Like you.” He stood over me, his piercing blue eyes searching me for comprehension.

I can’t hide my feelings. My face is as expressive as my mother’s and I know he easily read my shock. I slowly came to my feet.

“Another demi? A Norse demi?”

He shook his head and that great mane of hair flowed in the breeze. “No. Not Norse.” He turned and stared off into the sky. I don’t know if he was looking for something or reaching out with his feelings. When he turned back to me, his face was unreadable. “We cannot tell from hence he comes, but he comes.”

“He?” I gripped my bow tighter. “Do you know what he looks like?”

His massive hand rose and he touched my forehead with his finger. Instantly a face appeared in my mind and I was dumbstruck.

Although the transference only took a moment, it seemed like an eternity as I stared at the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Amber eyes framed by dark curly hair, olive skin and a smile that threatened the sun in its brilliance. The pure joy painted across his features warmed my heart and, although I hate to admit it, caused an ache in a place that I didn’t know I had.

“He is of age and his power is growing.”

Thor’s voice shook me from whatever spell I had befallen and brought me back to my reality. I stared up at him and I wanted to beg him to allow the boy to live. A creature of such beauty couldn’t possibly be evil.

I opened my mouth to speak and my throat was dry. My voice nearly cracked when I spoke. “Do you know where he may reside?”

Again he shook his head. “But be cautious Small One.” His giant hand gripped my shoulder and I felt the power flow between us. “He is a demi and whether he knows it or not, there is great power within him. He is dangerous.”

I nodded absently. “I will find him Uncle.”

I love his smile. Especially when it’s genuine. His eyes glimmered as he nodded. “You are ready. Go. Make us proud.”

He vanished and I allowed the wave of power he left behind to wash over me. It’s difficult to explain in words, but imagine being wrapped in a warm blanket and cradled by one who loves you infinitely. That is similar to the feeling I get when another’s power washes over me.

At least, here in Asgard.

*****

I arrived home and went to my room. Although I always carry my bow to Asgard with me, my battle hatchets and short sword were kept in my closet.

I quickly changed into my black hunting clothes and walked downstairs, my weapons tucked away under the long coat I wore. My mother was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

“Where were you, young lady?”

Crap. There was that tone. Father had warned me about that tone and I chose not to heed his words when I was younger. Now I know better.

I cast my eyes downward. “Thor has another mission for me.”

I may not be as sensitive to body language as my father, but I knew mom’s all too well. Hands on her hips, foot tapping. She wasn’t happy.

“I would appreciate it if you’d let me know where you’re going to be before you just take off.” She pulled her cell phone from her pocket. “How many five year olds do you know of have these? We gave it to you for a reason.”

“Mom, I’m almost six.” I couldn’t believe we were about to have this argument again. I decided it was best to do what my father always does. I bit back what I wanted to say and instead, simply apologized. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

I watched as her face softened, but then her eyes narrowed.

“Why do I hear your father’s words coming from that tiny little mouth of yours?”

I shrugged. “Because he’s wise beyond his years? Some of it rubbed off on me.” I gave her my best innocent smile. It did little good.

“I made you breakfast. I don’t know what Thor has in mind for you, but you need to eat.” She practically dragged me to the kitchen and pulled the chair out.

I did what any self-respecting huntress would do. I listened to my mother. I sat. I ate. I made small talk.

Mother knows better than to ask details about my ‘missions’. The first time I returned from a successful hunt and shared my exploits, she nearly fainted. Father, on the other hand, was just as excited as I was. He urged details until my mother walked out of the room.

Apparently, in her mind, I’m still a child.

I stand nearly a foot taller than her. I can lift the Jeep they bought me for my fourth birthday with one hand and I can out-fight my father. Yet, in her mind, I’m still a child. She just can’t accept my position as a hunter of gods.

She leaned against the counter and watched while I scarfed down the huge meal she had prepared. My mother is many things, but a bad cook is not one of them. She is used to mine and my father’s appetites.

Being a demigod is hungry work.

She sipped her coffee and watched me. I felt her hand sweep an errant strand of hair behind my ear. “If you’re going out, you should really put that mess in a ponytail.”

I should have thought before answering her. “I’m thinking of cutting it short.” I swallowed and wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve. “It falls out of a pony tail too easily and it gets in my way…” I saw her, mouth open as if in mid-scream. “Did I say something wrong?”

She shook her head adamantly. “You are not cutting your hair.”

I cocked my head to the side and studied her. “But it gets in the way.” I shoved another fork full of food into my mouth. “Father keeps his hair short. Sort of.”

Uh-oh. That eyebrow just hiked up. Here comes another, ‘you’re not your father’ speech.

“You are not your father, young lady!”

I didn’t know that hair was that important. I tried to speak, but my mouth was too full. I knew better than to spit it back onto the plate. Mother hates that. Almost as much as she hates it when we talk with our mouths full.

I chewed as quickly as I could and swallowed. “I know, mom, but…”

She thrust her hand out. She held two pony tail bands. I sighed and leaned back while she pulled my hair into a pile and strapped it in with both bands. I hate to say it, but I think she pulled so tight that it was difficult to blink.

I turned to her and smiled. “Better?”

She huffed and poured more coffee. She doesn’t know it, but I love her coffee. I’m not supposed to drink it because it might ‘stunt my growth’. If humans really grow so much more slowly than I do, you’d think she’d want my growth stunted.

“Where are you going on this ‘mission’ of yours?”

The fork hovered in front of my open mouth. I knew better than to load up when she expected an answer. “I’m not sure yet. He only gave me an image.” Insert fork.

She walked around the table and stood in front of me. “What are you hunting this time?”

I gave her that look. The one that asks, ‘are you sure you really want to know?’ and waited. She didn’t budge.

“A suspected demi.” I sat my fork down and waited for what I was sure was going to be a chastising. Instead, she surprised me.

She stepped close and wrapped her arms around my neck. “Be careful honey. If things seem…different, in any way, step away and call your father. You know he’ll back you no matter what.”

I nodded, unsure how to take her sudden reversal. “Of course.”

I stood and set my plate in the sink. The look on her face was one I couldn’t really read. Fear? Pride? Worry? All of the above?

She gripped me in an embrace. “Be careful.”

“Always.” I gave her a peck on the cheek and walked out the back door. I don’t know why, but mother doesn’t like seeing father or I vanish. She’d rather us go outside first.

Maybe it gave her a feeling of closure?

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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End of an Era?

I stayed up last night to write. This is normal. I do it most nights. But as the sun came up this morning and I continued, I knew that I was close. I had to keep pushing. I had to finish.
Monster Squad is done.
MS10 will be the last we see of our military heroes. The story arc is finished. And I have this sense of…well, almost regret.
Here’s my author’s note that I penned between the final two chapters. I guess my emotions were getting the better of me.

As I come to the end of this chapter, I find myself feeling more than a bit melancholy. For these past six plus years, the characters I created in the Monster Squad stories have been a pretty big part of my life. It’s staggering to realize that this whole journey started in early 2012. Had it not been for a challenge thrown down by my wife, none of this would have happened. None of the other stories that followed would have ever been shared with you the readers, either.
I know that I took a lot of time off and almost walked away from this series completely, however the characters wouldn’t let me. They kept whispering in the back of my mind, telling me that I needed to FINISH their stories. They needed that closure even more than I did.
Those voices called to me repeatedly and demanded that they be heard. So, I set my other, newer projects aside and decided to give them what they wanted. Closure.
As this final offering in the series came into being, it literally took on a life of its own. Dangling threads that I had forgotten about entirely began to be stitched into the final fabric and the story took off in a way that I never could have imagined or even dared hope for.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with this final offering to you, the readers. I feel that the characters have found their closure in a satisfying way and the story arcs have come to fruition in such a manner that you won’t feel cheated.
I hope I didn’t fall short.
Either way, keep the faith, dear reader. And don’t forget to check under your bed.
Monsters are real.

Some of you are either chomping at the bit wanting to get your hands on this newest, and lastest, in the series. Others are probably shocked that you hadn’t heard anything about this since I am the world’s worst secret keeper. Usually by now you’ve at least seen the cover or gotten hints about the story.
No. The cover isn’t even in production yet. I’m sure I’ll share it once it is, though.

No, this one is special. It’s the ending of an era for me. I want it to be RIGHT before I hand it off to you, the readers. This one will go through the toughest beta I have first (my missus) and then I’ll hand it off for editing and polishing.

Am I sad? Yeah…in a lot of ways I am.

Am I happy? You betcha! Now I can concentrate on those other projects that I’ve really wanted to dive into.

Will I ever revisit the series…or the characters?
Hmm. That one I can’t really say. Part of me hopes so. Another part of me says ‘never look back’.

Onward and upward.

Here’s wishing all of you Love, Peace and Bacon!

Heath

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Dead End

If you follow my blog then you know that there are…WERE a ton of stories that I had started but lost interest in. Apparently, when I un-updated my computer OS from Win10 (POS OS that it is) back to Win8, I lost a LOT of stuff. I’m still finding out just how much was lost every day. Including a lot of the unfinished stories I had.

You can imagine my shock when I go to search something in Monster Squad 9 only to find that…I didn’t have the finished products any longer. All I had was my original draft. Luckily, I don’t delete emails so I found the edited version, but my COMPLETED copies? Nope. All gone.

Anywho, while searching through the numerous folders, files and drives that I keep, I discovered this little nugget. It was started in early 2015 and it was supposed to be a tongue in cheek addendum to the series. Sort of a MS 4.5…something that fit between the two sagas.

The premise was cute (I thought) with each chapter being the ‘Book of XX’ and labeled like the New Testament books of the Bible. You know…the Book of Matthew (Colonel Mitchell), Book of Mark, First and Second Books of John (Jack’s story), Book of Peters (Evan), Book of James, Song of David, Jacob’s Ladder, Sacrificial Lamb, Epistle of Paul etc. The whole thing was supposed to be clinical notes from a psychiatrist who was ordered to perform a psych eval on the unit.

Okay, it seemed like a fun idea at the time. Maybe not so much on retrospect.

Hey…they can’t ALL be good ideas, right?

Anywho, here’s the beginning of that dead story idea.

1

CLINICIAN’S NOTES

As taken from the taped notes of Dr. David Monteith.

I have to admit that when I was sent to perform these interviews, I honestly had no idea what to expect.  My superior gave me an overview of the personnel I was to assess and for a moment I expected someone to jump out from behind a corner and yell ‘surprise’ or ‘gotcha’ or some other such nonsense.  The very idea that grown men would… could believe in ghosts and vampires and werewolves and, well, just about every other creepy crawly thing that we’ve read about in fairy tales simply astounded me.  Add to that the fact that these men not only believed in such things but hunted them?  Let’s just say that I wasn’t looking forward to this assignment at all.

As I prepared for this task, I collected as much data as I could.  No, I didn’t pack my daughter’s copy of Twilight.  Nor did I pack my wife’s DVD of Dawn of the Dead.  I did, however, research the special forces community to find out if, perhaps, mental illness was common among those returning from the battlefield.  I’ll admit, I was skeptical.  I believe that a large dose of skepticism is healthy, especially when dealing with any subject that touches on the supernatural.

As I prepared to board my plane, I realized that my carry-on luggage contained copious books and files on military, weaponry, special forces operators and tactics.  Being a military field psychologist and not travelling in uniform with these items in my carry-on luggage was probably one of the biggest mistakes I could make.  They didn’t look twice at my Military ID, and as I suspected, I was pulled for a ‘random’ search.  I’m proud to say, I don’t have hemorrhoids.  I also have a very clean colon (according to the very large TSA agent with the biggest hands I’ve ever seen).  Oh, and I’m pretty sure I can cancel my proctology exam next year.  Just a word of warning to others who might decide to fly in the future.

Thanks to my tight-assed superiors, I flew business class.  It beat the military hops and I suppose I should be grateful that they even sprung for the flight. Still, the booze was on me.  And I needed a double something after my thorough search.  Seriously, you’d think they’d at least buy you a drink first.  Or maybe pin you.  Wait, do people still ‘pin others’ or have I just dated myself?  Regardless, at $12 a bottle for those ‘shot sized’ bottles of booze, the stewardess…excuse me, the airline hostess cleaned my wallet of $60 and I still had to sit on one cheek at a time for the entire flight.  When I asked for an extra pillow for my ass, she wrinkled her nose at me and told me that they were ‘fresh out’.  Really?  She was handing them out to others like E at a Pearl Jam concert, but for me and my aching sphincter she suddenly has none to spare.  Remind me to cross her off my Christmas card list.

When the plane bounced across the runway (any landing you can walk away from, right?) I thought my lower intestines were going to fall out.  But I managed to make it off the plane and then it hit me.  Good lord, the humidity in this god-forsaken state is enough to choke a fish.  You can feel this slimy substance start oozing from your pores and it isn’t sweat.  No, sweat is simply salty water designed to evaporate and cool your body.  No, this heat and humidity combination caused something else entirely.  A greasy, oily mixture poured forth in such abundance that I had to forego the baggage pickup and run to the restroom to wipe off my entire body.  It did no good.  All I accomplished was smearing the grease around from one part of my body to another.

My superiors tell me to be ‘vague’ when I do these interviews.  Don’t go into too much detail.  We don’t want people to know ‘too much’.  Don’t give enough information that others can figure things out.  Okay.  Fine.  If you ever catch yourself stuck in this special layer of hell, right between Texas and Kansas, during the summer months, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  You can hear the air conditioners running, but they don’t stand a chance against whatever it is that is happening outside.  Global warming?  Too late.  Global TOASTING.

Okay, enough whining.  I’m off the plane and I’m in one piece.  I should be happy, right?  So, I’m going to do my best to have a positive outlook for the rest of this assignment.  If I can handle this, I can handle anything.  Heck, send me straight from here to Afghanistan or some such.  From the looks of this place, I may already be there.

Bags collected and the guy they sent to pick me up stands out like a sore thumb.  Dressed all in black military uniform and holding a handmade sign with my name on it.  At least he was nice enough to help with my bags.

I’ll admit that the ride to the facility is uneventful.  No monsters or beasties are seen, but there is an awful lot of nothing.  Once we enter the gates, we travel past anything that looks even remotely interesting and wind through narrow paved roads until I’m sure we are about to exit the rear of the military base.  Oh, but no, we stop beside what appears to be an old, somewhat rundown airplane hangar.  I’m almost positive that my driver is trying to pull a fast one when he claims that we’re here and shuts off the engine.  As soon as he does, the heat from outside immediately permeates the black sedan and I’m rushing to get out of the metal sweatbox.

I’m ushered inside and I’ll admit I’m pleasantly surprised.  It’s at least 20 degrees cooler inside the metal building.  Military personnel are hard at work doing whatever it is that they do and I’m escorted to a rear corner of the hangar. I am shocked when my escort leads me to a set of elevator doors.  I wouldn’t have thought that there may be elevators in a hangar this old, but…

My next surprise comes when we step into the elevator and I see the rows of buttons.  Judging by the height of the hangar, it couldn’t be more than maybe three stories tall at its highest, but there are a lot more than three buttons.  When my escort punches the 3 button, I’m once more surprised to feel the elevator go down.  Apparently, things aren’t always what they appear to be.  My escort tells me that he’ll take my bags to my room and I’m met by the commander of this unit when the doors open.  For the sake of this interview, I’ll only call him Matthew.  He’s a very large and imposing figure, but there’s something more to him.  He obviously isn’t keen on my being here, but it’s something that his superiors has asked for and so we’re both stuck with it.

Before I get too much farther into my initial impressions, allow me to explain a few things here.  While it is true that I’m a licensed psychologist, and while I work for the military and am a commissioned officer holding the rank of Captain, I’m not exactly what you might call a stickler for military protocols.  My primary mission is helping soldiers who have returned from the battlefield deal with their issues so that they can either reintegrate into society or be sent back onto the front lines.  That’s it.  I’m not a West Point graduate nor do I have any desire to make the military a career.  In fact, once my graduate school loans are paid off, I’m out of here.  However, with that said, while I’m here, I intend to do my job to the best of my ability.  But now that I’ve been sent here to interview and ascertain the mental readiness of this particular unit?  A unit of men who believe in fairy tales and play with high powered weapons?  This is either the sort of assignment that could make or break me professionally.  People who are this devolved into their own psychosis and have pulled others into it to the point that the United States government is funding their delusion?  I could spend a lifetime trying to delve into their psyche and another three lifetimes writing papers about them.

But, back to the commander of the unit: As I stated, he’s a large and imposing man with a no-nonsense demeanor about him. It’s obvious he doesn’t want me here and it is far too early to tell if he is the key to the collective hysteria or simply a victim.  Either way, I intend to find who or what the primary stressor is that has caused these delusions to take root.  While I have yet to decide which method would yield the best results, I’m leaning toward a series of generic projective testing before delving into the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  From what I’ve been told, these men are all top notch, trained and well-disciplined operators from nearly every branch of service.  Most, if not all, have gone through rigorous psychological evaluations and while it cannot be discounted that perhaps one or even a small handful could have slipped through the standardized testing, it seems nearly impossible that all of them could have gotten past the string of evaluations that they’ve been subjected to without raising at least some red flags.  In all honesty, I question the validity of my being sent here.

The commanding officer takes me on a tour of the facility and I’m more than impressed.  The sheer scope and size of the command underneath this unassuming hangar is staggering.  Nearly everything that the unit could need, want or desire is contained within the underground facility.  What little that isn’t is easily within reach of the personnel stationed here on the base itself.  From what I’m told, the personnel rarely leave the facility even though they are free to do so at any time.  Some may go ‘topside’ for fresh air runs or for outdoor training, but most find themselves content to remain underground.  The occasional run to the Base Exchange or slip out for a movie isn’t uncommon, but rarely do the men stay gone for long.  Their duties require them to be on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

One by one I’m introduced to others within the administration and the unit personnel.  I’m even promised that I will get to meet a certain ‘contractor’ that is guaranteed to remove all doubt from my mind that ‘monsters are real’.  So far, I’ve yet to snicker or belittle the perceived importance of the men or their jobs, but as the day grinds on, I find it harder and harder to keep a straight face.  The unit personnel and their gung-ho attitude seems so misplaced in light of their perceived mission.

Having lost track of time, I’m escorted to my room and as promised, I find my bags waiting for me.  Being underground, it’s quite easy to lose track of time and with the time change from the flight, it has grown late.  I had a quick meal in the underground galley and was more than surprised at the amount of food that some of the personnel had amassed on their plates.  Some went back for seconds and to be honest, it killed my appetite, although the food was quite tasty.  Somehow watching grown men gorge themselves on what could easily feed a family of five or more and then go back and get more killed what little hunger I had.

Sitting alone in the concrete shell of a ‘room’, I’m actually surprised that it doesn’t feel closed off.  The room is well lit, there is ample space and although quite basic in amenities, the bed, desk and chair are adequate for what I will need during my short stay here.  There is a small shelf and bookcase at my disposal and a locker.  Somehow, I’m reminded of Officer Candidate School.  Except there I had a window and a roommate.  And wood floors, polished to a high sheen.

First thing tomorrow I’ll begin my interviews, starting with the commanding officer and working my way down and through the personnel.  While I don’t want to start out with any perceived diagnosis, as that isn’t really my purpose, I want to at least attempt to go into this with an open mind.  Whatever is plaguing this unit, I want to do my best to help them in dealing with it.

Yes, the world is full of monsters.  I need to help them in dealing with that fact so that they can better deal with reality.

2

Book of Matthew

Captain Monteith: “Colonel, I know that you aren’t too happy with my being here, but I promise you, this wasn’t my idea.  I just want to do my job and get out of your hair as soon as possible.”

Matthew: “Right.”  The Colonel seems stiff but somewhat relaxed in his office.  He’s a well decorated officer and apparently a lover of coffee as he continuously refills his mug during the interview.

Captain Monteith: “So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  At what point, would you say, did you start believing in ‘monsters’?”  At this point, the Colonel’s face hardens and he’s somewhat hard to read.  I’d almost think he’s glaring at me.

Matthew: “I’d say around the time my family and I were attacked by one.”  His voice sounds bitter and there is obvious hostility.

“So you were attacked?  Physically?”

“Yes.”  Definitely hostile.

“By a ‘monster’?”

“Did I fucking stutter?”  Okay, beyond hostile.  Time to back up a bit and play into the fantasy.

“Excuse me, Colonel.  I meant no disrespect.”  Time for a new tactic.  “If you could try to see things from my point of view.  I’m new to this whole ‘monsters are real’ thing.  So, if you could just bear with me a little bit.  Help ease me into this.”  At this point, his features soften a little, but there is still hostility in the Colonel’s voice.

“It was my fault.”  His face appears distant and it’s as if he is accessing memories that he’s long buried.  “We had gone camping in the woods.  It just happened to be a full moon.  We were all attacked and I was the only survivor.”

“Oh my.”  This was news to me.  Regardless of what may have attacked them, this may have been the trigger.  If Matthew is the primary for this collective hysteria, and if this account that he’s telling me is true…

“The worst of it is, they didn’t even want to go.  I more or less persuaded them to.”  His voice is quiet now.  His sadness seems genuine.

“So you blame yourself for what happened to them?”  This question may be too soon, but my time here is short.  If he can’t deal with the reality of the world, then the reality of this attack and his perceived guilt won’t matter at this point.

He nods his head, almost imperceptibly.  “It is my fault.”  He’s avoiding looking at me as he recounts the events.  “I thought that if we spent a little family time together that it would help draw us together, make us closer as a family.  Instead, I got my family killed.  I have no idea how I survived, but I did.”

He didn’t snap or go off into the deep end, so to speak, so I push a little further.  “At what point did you realize it was a ‘monster’?  During the attack?”

“No, it was too quick.  I never even really saw the creature.  Just hair, a flash of teeth, claws.  Then blackness.”  He takes a short pause either to gather himself or to recollect his memories.  “I came to in a hospital and the docs kept saying I shouldn’t have lived.  Then my wounds started healing faster than they should have.  They detected a virus and thought maybe I was contagious so they isolated me while they looked into it.  What really threw them for a loop was that I didn’t have any symptoms.  No fever, no sweats, no cramping or…nothing.  At least, not until the next full moon.”

“Then what happened?”

“I shifted.”  When his eyes met mine, I actually felt a shiver.  My god, this guy is good.  He almost pulled me into his delusion.  “Lucky for me, I was in the isolation ward.  Nobody was hurt.  But a lot of people saw what happened and it was filmed.  Otherwise, I might not have believed it.”

“And then…”

“And then they had to make a decision.  Either dissect me and figure out what the hell, or…”

“Or what?”

“Or put together a team of the best that we had to offer and start hunting down these ‘things’ that we now knew were real.”  He seems to be relaxing more and his stature is less stiff.  I can still tell that he doesn’t want to be talking about any of this.  “Somebody high up got in touch with other governments and found out that a lot of them already knew.  They already had teams in place.  We sort of flew by the seat of our pants for a while until we decided to take a look at how some of the other teams were run.  After a few years, we all sort of got together and picked and chose the best of each groups and sort of made it a standard.”

“So you’re telling me that other governments have monster soldiers too?”

“Monster Squads.  They’re called Monster Squads.”

“Okay, so Canada and Mexico and…”

“No, we cover northern Mexico and Canada.  We have a pretty broad coverage.”  Okay, that really shocked me.

“You’re telling me that a foreign government gives permission for armed U.S. military to enter their land and, what?  Fight monsters on their behest?”

“Yup.”  At this point, I’m almost speechless.

“And I suppose European countries have similar programs?”

“Yup.”  Why am I not surprised?

 

And that was as far as I got. Nothing spectacular, but it was the idea of emulating the books of the New Testament that had me thinking it would be a fun project. Now you see why the story died.

May it rest in peace.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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