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July 12, 2024

Read Gideon Redoak for 75% off in July! (Starred review from Publishers Weekly!)

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From Gideon Redoak by Anne Fraser

“Stand back!” I said, and the crowd gave me room to dismount. I approached the prostrate husband and commanded him to rise and speak.

“Justice, my lord Baron!” He wept, clinging to my doublet. “My wife has been slain!”

I steeled myself not to pull away from his rank breath. He had nearly twice my years, an advanced age for a peasant. Half his teeth were gone and the rest rotting. I doubted that his deceased wife had been any more attractive, but his grief was piteous to see.

“Where is your lady?” I hoped my voice didn’t betray my apprehension. I had no idea what I faced.

Jamie struggled to my side and soon had the crowd dispersed back to their usual tasks, save the new widower. My steward repeated my question.

“She is still in the field where she was found,” the Goodman finally said. “None thought it meet to move her until you had seen her, my lord.”

More likely, I thought, they had left the corpse to lie where found out of superstitious fear. “Show me,” I said. Jamie at my side, I followed the man to the field where the woman’s body lay. Her drab-clothed form lay like some weird fungal growth among the glistening wheat. An overturned basket, its contents ransacked by animals, lay nearby. After making my way along the already trampled path to her body, I knelt beside her. I had been expecting something gruesome, and was surprised at how peaceful she looked. Her eyes were closed and her arms were folded across her chest. My nose detected the usual unpleasant aftermath of death, but I saw no signs of violence.

“You said she was slain, Goodman. What caused you to call it thus? She appears to have gone peacefully to God.”

“Look at her neck, my lord,” the Goodman whispered, crossing himself.

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July 11, 2024

Read both Krymsin books for 75% off in Smashwords’ summer sale!

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From Nocturnes in Purgatory by Joseph Armstead

He was in a spacious office filled with bookshelves populated by legal texts and leather bound journals of city and county history. It was a very masculine and imposing room, full of earthy tones and right angles, a place of power and tradition.

It was not a suitable place for reflection and contemplation. It was a place infected by the trappings of Ego-as-defined-by-Power, where decisions were made and action was born. It was not a place where Justice was welcome.

Generally, he resented the hell out of such places.

“I apologize we couldn’t meet at UCCCF headquarters in the Federal Quadrangle,” Mitchell Haggard said, “but due to the lack of a non-aggression treaty or interspecies alliance agreement between the Olympians and the U.S. government, there’s no way you would be welcome there. National Security clearance issues and all that. The D.O.J. and Homeland don’t trust your kind. Neither does the FBI, but they, at least, have learned that you in particular are a reasonable security risk. And, too, there’s still a lot of bad blood about what happened to Ric Corrigan last year, even if he was criminally compromised…”

“Not a problem,” Quinn replied softly, ignoring the comment about Haggard’s deceased predecessor as the UCCCF’s Metropolitan Section Chief over the Violent Anomalous Cases Division. Corrigan, a high-ranking managerial operative within Anomalous Cases, commonly called The Freak Show, had been acting as a double-agent in the employ of the Apollyonu. “Your government has yet to understand that we Olympians are not a ‘nation’ or a ‘people’ in the traditionally defined sense.”

“Yeah, well, it might not hurt you guys to get together, unpleasant as you each may find it, and see if you can jointly define something to present to the United Nations or somebody so you can freely interface with the human world with less friction—not to mention less bloodshed,” Haggard suggested. From his manner, he clearly recognized there was little hope his words would have any effect.

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July 10, 2024

Save 75% on the Krymsin books in Smashwords July sale!

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From Krymsin Nocturnes by Joseph Armstead

Carstairs looked sideways at the inhumanly calm, deep-voiced black man. He didn’t want to stare at Quinn head-on. He didn’t want to risk seeing what he’d seen only once before, on the occasion of their first meeting, when Quinn’s eyes had appeared to be nothing more than windows on a madly burning inferno, when there were no actual eyes in his sockets, just sizzling red light. He still had nightmares about that. Vampires he had learned to deal with.

Olympians still made his blood run cold. Quinn was an Olympian, commonly called a Haunt. They were immortal, truly immortal. They did not die. Vampires had greatly extended lifespans and lived impossibly long lives, but, eventually, they died. Olympians didn’t. Some of them had been around since the death of Christ. The very concept was mind-boggling: beings who haunted the annals of history, interfering with a treaty here, killing a king or a czar there, the persistent voice of unnatural reason in the ear of a madman, the power behind the throne, the kingmakers, the martyr-makers, the last face you see as the axe fell. Olympians were the keepers of the secrets. They knew what happened to ancient Mu, what sank Atlantis and where the lost continent slumbered, where the Holy Grail was kept, where Arthur Pendragon’s mighty sword Excalibur was buried, what “Croatoa” meant at the colony of Roanoke. They knew the identity of Jack the Ripper, what had happened to Amelia Earhart, what happened aboard the Mary Celeste, the secrets of the Yeti and Loch Ness, and what really happened at Roswell. They knew because they had been there. They knew and they guarded those secrets jealously. Luckily, there was some strange law of Natural Order, some boundary of Universal Balance, that insured there were only 1100 of them existing on the planet at any one time.

But even among Olympians, Quinn was a rarity. Apparently, Quinn was some kind of a mutation, a variant on the Olympian species. He frightened other Olympians. He could do things no vampire and no sorcerer or warlock could do. These dark talents did not make Quinn all-powerful or godlike, but instead made him seem less human than the blood-drinkers he hunted. The Moon-Chosen were terrified of him, those that didn’t hate him with an insane enough passion to make them reckless. He was called The Adversary. No one had ever really explained what that meant, but Carstairs knew that it couldn’t be a good thing.

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July 9, 2024

Smashwords ebook sale continues all through July!

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From BLOOD ON THE MOUNTAIN by David Burton

While they waited, Justine inspected the room. There was no way to get out without explosives, except the door. Sure, they could beat a hole with their fists through the concrete walls, in about a year or two. They were not in a comic book and their superpowers were limited.

“I don’t think this room was made to be a cell,” Justine said as she roamed the fifteen by ten foot chamber.

“A storeroom, probablement,” Simone said as she circled the room in the opposite direction.

They came together by the wooden door, which had thick rusty iron straps and a five inch square peep hole covered by a steel plate on the outside. Justine touched the door. “Wood, old, two inches thick. What do you think?”

Standing off to the side, Simone said, “Maybe try the peephole first?”

“Sure, why not?” Justine flexed a fist.

Too late—Simone punched through the hole. The steel plate slammed back on its hinges. She stepped back, then graciously said, “You can look.”

“Show off.”

Justine put her eye to the peephole, then jumped back as the muzzle of a shotgun poked through.

A deep German accented voice said, “You are to be kept in one piece, but if you come through I will shoot you. Sie verstehen?” He didn’t give them a chance to respond, just withdrew the gun and slammed shut the plate.

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July 8, 2024

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From BLOOD ON THE BAYOU by David Burton

The only person she could trust, besides Harry, to free Justine and Simone was herself. Fully rested, she might be able to transport herself onto the ship. But she had no idea how many were aboard or where they might be. And if she found her partners, would she have the power to transport them off? Sure, she’d moved the three of them a hundred miles one time. It had been a last-ditch escape which had laid her up for two days. She suspected she’d need to save her strength for a real life and death situation, which seemed to happen on a regular basis.

With a deep sigh, Teresa concluded she was on her own. She packed her small backpack and small briefcase that Simone called her petite boite magique. She hesitated only a moment over the fact that her life consisted of two small pieces of luggage and an SUV shared with two vampires. She used the bathroom, picked up her bag, and sucked in a few deep breaths.

Her cell phone chirped. It was Harry, looking for Justine.

“Yes, I do know where she is, Harry. I’m leaving to rescue them now. Any suggestions on how to rescue hostages from a ship?”

“Call the SWAT Team.”

“I am the SWAT team.”

“Teresa, call Detective Roulard. I think he’s okay. He knows who you are.”

“But does he know what we are?”

“I don’t think he will be surprised to find out.”

Somebody knocked on the door.

“Un minuto, Harry. Someone at the door.”

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July 7, 2024

Read all four Blood Justice books on sale during July!

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From BLOOD ON THE WATER by David Burton:

As they drove through Salem, Teresa woke up.

Justine said, “Don’t worry Tee. We won’t let them hang you.”

“Jesu, I wish they would. A damn broken arm is not supposed to hurt this much. What did you do to me?” She reached for her first aid kit, fumbling for pain pills.

“I set the bone. There may have been some damage, and unfortunately, glamour does not last.”

“Mierda. If you are immortal, and we’re going to travel together, you both have to go to medical school. Si?”

“We’ll sign up as soon as we find your daughter,” Justine said. “But before you down all those pills in your hand, tell us where to go.”

“That’s a tempting thought.” Teresa washed down three Vicodin.

“Tee, we can’t go to a doctor or an Emergency Room. The police, and who knows who else, are looking for us. Grace can fix your arm, but we have to find the person to take us to her.”

“Kazza told us you would know where to find him when the time came. Time’s here, mi Bruja.”

Teresa seemed to ignore Simone. Her body stiffened, then her eyes fluttered closed and she melted onto the seat. “Those pills work…faaast. Rockport, sorceress, Ian.” And Teresa was out.

“Rockport seems pretty straightforward.”

Simone grunted, staring out the side window at the dark passing sea. “You Young Bloods, always so naive.”

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July 6, 2024

All four Blood Justice books on sale through July at Smashwords!

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From BLOOD JUSTICE by David Burton:

She uttered a single cry of anguish, “Oh, my girl,” and sobbed, once. She wanted to cry, to sink back into grief and misery and just…vanish. She was dead, after all, part of a double homicide ten days ago. She just hadn’t lain down for good yet.

But she had no more tears. She had used up her grief, as well as any other associated misery. Except anger.

When Teresa returned in the morning, she found Justine in the back yard, dressed in martial arts clothes, running through a Kung Fu sword form.

“You look like you know what you’re doing,” Teresa said, uncertain.

Justine wiped sweat from her face. “I had a black belt in Kung Fu when I was twenty. I thought it was time to return to it.” She absently spun the sword. “You never know when weapons training will come in handy.”

Three weeks later Justine thought about that time of mourning as she waited in the Vista station of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to see Detective Harry Frazer. She knew who she was now. Though she was dead inside, her living body was filled with purpose. She had worked with a new Sifu to regain her black belt skills and weapons proficiency. This was part of fulfilling her new purpose in life: to find and kill those responsible for her daughter’s death.

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July 5, 2024

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From ALL THE SHADOWS OF THE RAINBOW by Inanna Arthen:

Diana smelled hot wax and felt heat on her face, and then Jack said, “Ground.” With more effort than usual, all four of them cut the flow of energy and directed it down into the earth below them, slowly regaining feeling and movement in their muscles as their minds cleared. Her eyes still closed, Diana had a vague sense that something wasn’t right. Just as she finally took in a breath, and choked on greasy smoke, David said, “Oh, crap.”

They all opened their eyes then, and reacted to the fact that the room was on fire—or on the verge of it. The magical exercise which Diana, Jack and David had performed dozens of times was intended simply to light the candle. Typically, a good percentage of tries resulted in nothing but an ember or a little smoke rising from the wick. Their candle, which had been almost new, had melted completely, leaving the empty candleholder standing in the middle of a large puddle of flaming liquid wax. Bright yellow light flickered on the walls of the room.

They hadn’t even thought to bring in a container of water, far less a fire extinguisher. April ran to get a pan of water from the kitchen. As they cleaned up the mess, drank some water and ate some cookies to help ground and center themselves back into ordinary reality, a deep sense of excitement began to bubble up among them. It was taking a while to sink in, but they were starting to understand that the four of them were such perfect complements to one another, their individual power was amplified a hundredfold. None of them had foreseen it.

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July 4, 2024

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From THE LONGER THE FALL by Inanna Arthen:

She suddenly recalled another detail from Thomas’ story. “What about your horse? If you awoke in your chambers, what happened to your transportation?”

“Ah, yes…” his face darkened. “I’d hired him, as men without households usually did at the time. He was in the stables behind the building where I was living. When I finally remembered the poor beast and went down to see to him, I discovered for the first time how overwhelming my new thirst was. I had known I wanted something. Until I smelled living blood, I wasn’t conscious of what I wanted.”

Diana swallowed uncomfortably. “You drank your horse’s blood?”

“I couldn’t stop myself. I’d seen horses bled, there are veins close to their skin, very easy to find. I’d been given a steady, patient chestnut gelding, and he’d been standing saddled and bridled all day, unnoticed by anyone. He nickered to me when he heard me approach. I walked up to him blindly, carried along by the smell of him, and I simply…” He fell silent for a moment. “That’s when I knew exactly what kind of a bargain I’d made—when I came to myself and realized that I was standing beside a trembling animal slaking a thirst for blood. Then I finally comprehended the depths of my own stupidity, not merely the night before, but through all of my life…and it was too late.”

Diana reflected that drinking blood didn’t seem like an unfair price to pay for immortality, although she decided to keep this opinion private.

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July 3, 2024

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From MORTAL TOUCH by Inanna Arthen:

“About a half mile down the road, close enough to the dairy farm for even Sean to catch an occasional whiff of manure on the breeze, Jonathan stopped in the road. He was looking at another narrow cut-in from the main road into the woods on the north. This one appeared to be used from time to time—there was less grass growing in it, and there were heavy tire tracks that appeared to have been made not long ago. By now the sky was light and Sean could see quite a bit in the pre-dawn twilight. He followed Jonathan’s gaze and saw the small outbuilding, set among the trees. Despite the cheerful bird song all around them, Sean felt his knees go weak. “Do you think…?” he said, his voice shaking. Jonathan abruptly started toward the outbuilding, walking fast, not bothering to examine the ground at the mouth of the drive. The door to the building was tightly closed and hooked with a rusted iron staple dropped into the loop of a hasp. As Sean caught up with him, Jonathan removed the staple and tossed it away, pulling the door open wide. The musty cool air inside gusted out over them, and Sean fell back, gagging. Even he could smell the stench of wet dirt and blood.”

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