Why you shouldn't listen to me...

Every once in a while I get asked for writing advice, either in RL or in Second Life where I run around as a tiny clockwork dragon and hang out in steampunk sims. And I have the same answer for both lives – don’t ask me for writing advice!


Because I’m not one to ask. I’m a tough old broad who lucked out after a decade of writing fanfiction into finding editors and publishers willing to take a chance on my original fiction and actually PAY me to write my dreams down. I might be a decent writer and I sure like to think I can spin a yarn that’ll have you plunking down coin to purchase but I’m in no position to deliver golden words o’wisdom on writing.

However, being a writing craft book junkie, I *can* point you to people who know what they’re talking about and who have much, much more credibility than I do in this writing business.

Here they are – just a handful off my fat shelf of writing books and in no particular order – but I think that during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo everyone deserves to discover these gems.

Chuck Wendig

His books on writing are cheap, profane and will kick you in the nuts to get writing. Not for the weak of heart but it’s just what a writer needs at times.

James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers is an excellent book plus all of his nonfiction works. Buy, read, digest…

Writers Digest Books – Write Great Fiction series

Written by different authors including Mr. Bell above, this is a must-have for authors looking to kick their writing to a new level. Available in ebook form as well for those of us looking to save shelf space.

I could go on and I might in another post but these are a few of the books on my writing craft shelf that really helped me become a better writing – and keep on becoming, since I reread them at regular intervals.

As with all things literary – your mileage might vary. But I think these are some of the best books out there helping new writers (and old ones) improve and if you haven’t checked them out – you should.

Keep on writing and keep on having fun!

Now… tea!

A day late and a dollar short...

I've decided to get more active on my blogs chatting about writing, my books and all that odd Canadian stuff. So every Sunday you'll be able to catch six sentences in the popular group Six Sentence Sunday!

Here's my first contribution! Hope you'll surf around to the other great bloggers and keep on having fun finding new books!

NaNoWriMo - is it for you?

Right now you can hear the busy hum of writers all over the world preparing for the yearly Writer Olympics – also known as National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November you'll see and hear writers collectively screaming, crying and slapping each other on the back as they attempt the daunting task of putting down 50,000 words in 30 days.

But is it for you? Is it really a fair challenge for new and old writers to charge off and make the commitment to writing over a thousand words a day and deliver a full novel within the month?

I say… yes. Even if you fail.

Especially if you fail.

I attempted NaNoWriMo a few times before finally finishing one year, a glorious month where I threw myself wholehearted into the job of writing a full novel and then went on to polish and edit the new baby until I released her out into the world and started submitting to publishers.

That first book is being released in February 2012 from Carina Press – "Blood of the Pride" about a private investigator with a hidden secret – she's part of a cat shifter clan who threw her out because she couldn't shift anymore. Now part of human society she finds herself pulled back in when they need an outside investigator and she's the best woman for the job.

A year later I launched myself back into the NaNo wasteland and plowed through another favorite love – comic books.

Out of that thirty days of insanity came "Blaze of Glory" – the first in a superhero trilogy from Samhain Publishing. The sequel, "Heroes Without, Monsters Within" is due to be released in January, 2012 and I'm chugging along on the third.

I don't do NaNoWriMo anymore but still love to use it as an encouragement to get cracking on my latest project. My steampunk novel, "Wild Cards and Iron Horses" was started before November but I drove the proverbial stake through its heart sitting in a virtual café in Second Life with other NaNo writers, all of us aiming for that word goal.

Now I'm not saying that every NaNo novel will be published or should be published. There's horror stories out there of agents dreading opening their email boxes in December because of the flood of unedited tomes flying in from eager authors who want to see their thirty day miracle sold.

I can tell you from personal experience that none of my NaNo novels were ready until at least six months after I finished them.

But if you've got the urge to write that book… go for it. In a few days thousands of writers are going to run off that cliff and leap into the unknown, grouping together for support and to encourage each other to get 'er done.

Why not join them?

Heroes Without, Monsters Within - Another excerpt!

As we get closer to the January release of “Heroes Without, Monsters Within”, I thought I’d dangle some more excerpts in front of you…

Here’s the start – Chapter One!

The concrete slab rocked from side to side as I hoisted it out of the remains of the building. It wobbled in my grip, close to sliding away and down the hill of debris behind me. I lifted my hands and tried to keep control, suck in more of the electromagnetic waves around me and channel it through the gloves.

“Steve,” I grunted, “if it’s not too much trouble.” The cries of the women trapped below the collapsed roof had faded, and I knew we were running out of time.

A large hand clamped down on my shoulder, almost causing me to drop the hunk of debris.

“Got your back, boss lady.” The huge man moved in front of me and grabbed the jagged piece of rubble with one hand as if it were made of Styrofoam. His bronze and silver skin glistened with sweat. “Let me take this off your hands.”

“Be careful.” I watched as he shoved his hands under the block. “I’m going to let it down.”

“The women are okay for now.” Peter’s voice echoed in my ear, courtesy of our communication link. “I’ve just had a few rats run in some bottles of water.”

I laughed. “Bet that spooked them worse than the quake.” The chunk of roof, or maybe wall, settled down in Steve’s hands. He let out a whoosh of air as he lifted it over his head and turned to walk down the small ramp set on the side of the collapsed building by the rescue workers. The silver veins running over his skin shifted and flexed with every step, as if they were liquid mercury about to pour off him.

“Jo?” Hunter scrambled up the hill to stand beside me, looking rather handsome in his dirty T-shirt and jeans. “The rescue workers are getting anxious. Tell me we’ve got something.” He peered into the dark chasm we’d just unveiled. “I told them that Peter had contact with the survivors, but they’re a bit skeptical until they get some rescue dogs here to verify. Might be an hour until a unit can get here.” His natural hair color was growing out, the blond streaking through the short dyed-black hair. “Quoting a group of rats as your source is tough.”

I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the back of my right hand, the soggy black glove absorbing the moisture. The temperature had to be close to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, but I couldn’t risk going barehanded, the work was too delicate. I needed the gloves to focus everything I had on this rescue operation. I couldn’t afford to have any accidents, making the disaster worse. “Tell them that we’re going to keep going until the women come out, dogs or not.”

He grinned. “I already did.” He leaned over and stole a kiss before sliding down the hill of debris, skipping and tripping all the way to the bottom. “Go get ’em, Surf!”

“I hate that name,” I growled, knowing he’d hear me over the link. When I turned back to the deep hole, I spotted a pair of German shepherds burrowing in, pushing through holes too small for most humans. They weren’t wearing bright orange vests like the other rescue dogs.

“Peter,” I called out. “There’s some street dogs here. Please confirm that they’re here to help and not looking for a free meal.” I powered up just in case and pointed my hands at them in what I hoped was a nonthreatening move. The worst I could do was taser the poor beasts, but we couldn’t have wild animals chomping on the survivors.

“They’re on our side.” The note of pride in his voice had me smiling. “Asked them to give us a hand and show up those snobby rescue dogs.”

I saw the bushy tail of one dog wag like a semaphore flag on hyperspeed. A yowl split the air, magnified by the cement walls and booming out across the scene.

“They’re just a few feet away,” Peter Boyos wheezed as he ran up beside me. He gasped for air, bending over with his hands on his knees. I patted him on the back, grimacing as I touched the wet white shirt clinging to his skin. “The dogs say they can see them. A tight fit, but it looks good.”

I tapped my jaw out of habit. The link activated mentally, with my words going out either on the group channel for everyone to hear or plain off for when I didn’t want to broadcast to anyone. Didn’t know how it worked, didn’t care.

“Hunter, tell the rescue team to get up here. If there’s room for the dogs, there’s room for us. And I’m getting these women out before we all roast to death.”

An hour later we stood on the street in front of the rubble, watching as the stretchers carried the three survivors down the small hill and past us. It’d taken most of the hour to prop up the structure enough to get the medical team in there, but once the rescue workers had declared it stable, the marathon had become a sprint to get the women out. Steve had done most of the heavy lifting, the workers ducking under his broad shoulders to set up supports.

He stood there now, covered in grey dust, looking like a giant golem. A sharp cough mutated into a gurgled throat-clearing, the Pittsburgher twisting to one side and spitting into the dirt.

One woman reached out from her stretcher as they passed and grabbed Steve’s hand, stopping the convoy.

Thank you, she mouthed, her voice gone. She cried as her tiny fingers were swallowed in the giant’s grip. Thank you.

He smiled and patted her hand. “You’re welcome. Now just rest.”

Steve stepped back with a nod to the paramedics carrying her. As the procession continued towards the waiting ambulances, Steve found himself surrounded by rescue workers, getting plenty of backslaps and smiles.

Peter preened at all the attention, having gathered alley cats and dogs around him in a circle for the photographers. I had suggested leaving the rats out. No matter how cute cartoons make them, rats and mice don’t make good photo ops.

Me, I hid behind one of the fire trucks. I’d had all the press I wanted in my former life.

“Jo,” the disembodied voice whispered in my ear. “You there?”

“Jessie?” I looked skyward, towards the satellites far above that linked us with our headquarters, nicknamed the Lair, in Toronto. In the past the links set in our jaws had a range of less than a hundred feet, barely enough to help our Guardians coordinate the staged fights between superheroes and supervillains. But thanks to our new arrangement with our former captors, the Agency, we had access to a lot more technology, and we weren’t afraid to use it for a good purpose. It didn’t hurt that Jessie, our resident computer expert/hacker, had friends of friends who loved a challenge when it came to making such toys bigger, faster and more powerful as we needed it. He’d managed to encrypt the team’s links so our group chat was private, locked away from other supers in the area whose own links would allow them to listen in.

It hadn’t been a problem before because we were all under the Agency’s thumb. But after we’d won our freedom, some supers went back to their old lives and some disappeared into the underground—and they deserved their privacy. Aside from distracting them in their private lives, it also screamed possible security leak for the team. So Jessie fixed it as only Jessie could.

We each had a private and a group channel so we could talk one-on-one without pulling in the rest of the team. We also had an off button if we wanted privacy and didn’t want to hear anyone else. I imagined it as a box with two dials, small black arrows switching back and forth between “group chat” and “private”, “on” and “off”.

Right now we were all on the group chat, including Jessie. I couldn’t imagine any reason to go private in the middle of a rescue operation, and whatever Jessie had to say we all needed to hear.

His words rang in my ear. “The quake, the one that knocked down that building and half the block? I started looking for the reason it happened. I ran the usual suspects—gas main breaks and so forth, got into the geographic records and checked out the fault lines, mining history and everything you can think of. According to all the data I’ve acquired, this shouldn’t have happened in Erie, Pennsylvania.” I could imagine Jessie sitting in front of his computer, tapping madly on the keyboard.

“We talked about that on the flight over.” I waved at one of the Red Cross workers, the muscles holding up my smile aching for relief. “Buildings don’t just collapse without reason. We talking terrorist attack?” My heart skipped a beat at the image of some extremist setting off bombs in civilian areas to push some crazy cause.

Jessie took another long pause before continuing, long enough to increase my heart palpitations. “I’m still running numbers and kicking out scenarios. I’ve got some theories, but I’d rather talk to you in person about them.” There was a nervous tension in his voice I hadn’t heard before.

This wasn’t good.

Twenty feet away from me Hunter almost snapped his neck as he turned away from chatting with the reporters to stare at me. Steve Nyre put down the two children he had been hoisting over his head and scowled at the sky. Peter knelt and hugged one of the rescue dogs, letting it lick his face as he closed his eyes and enjoyed one of the simple pleasures of life.

I kept the smile going even as I ground my teeth together.

“Time for us to get going,” I shouted towards the others with a lighthearted laugh. “I’m hungry and need a shower. Time for the Protectors to take a break.”

As the team disengaged from their adoring public, I turned away and dropped my chin to my chest, talking as quietly and as quickly as I could. “Jessie, call the jet and have it ready to go when we get to the airport. There’s nothing else we can do here.”

The media swarmed over us as we backed out of the crowd and headed for an empty spot in the street, cameras grabbing as many shots of us as they could, joined by everyone with a cell phone. Forget that an entire city block had just collapsed, they all wanted their shot with the new superhero team. A bit of bile swished up my throat at the sight of the newspeople fawning over the supers. Around us firemen, rescue workers and the military worked, with the police trying to control the traffic to get rescue vehicles in and ambulances out. And the reporters wanted to take pictures of us? Who the hell were we, other than a bunch of super-powered punks who had played at being heroes, fighting staged battles for public viewing? One big battle, one final brawl to win our freedom and save the earth, and we’d ended up here, self-declared Protectors of the Earth.

Hunter was talking. “Overall, we got lucky. Medics are saying that no one’s died at this point. Plenty of bruises, broken bones and a lot of shaken people, but no deaths.”

I nodded. “No deaths. That’s good. Let’s get to the plane.” I jerked a thumb at the rescue workers. “Let the real heroes get some attention.”
The boys circled around me in our usual flight plan. Hunter took my left hand, Peter my right. Steve grinned and waved as he leapt into the air, his strong legs throwing him far over our heads. He would beat us to the airport with two, maybe three jumps, while I took the slower, more dramatic route of flying my group there.

Our pasted-on smiles disappeared as I rose off the ground, cleared the wrecked buildings and turned towards the airport. The two men stayed silent during the trip, exhaustion kicking in.

An invisible weight lifted off my chest, removing the stress of worrying about civilian deaths. There’d been enough deaths for me in the recent past, enough for a lifetime. Tan and Black, Ace and others, many of whom I could call friends and a lot more I’d call acquaintances. All of us trapped under the Agency’s control.

I had nightmares about Mike’s death. He’d been a true hero, sacrificing himself to try and take out the alien in New York City, and he’d also been my friend and occasional lover. As well as my Guardian, sworn to keep me in line through the small explosive set in the back of my neck. It was a bit of a strange relationship, in retrospect. But I still missed the big lug.

Steve waved at us as we landed a few feet away from him near the terminal, a wide smirk on his face.

“Slowpokes,” he rumbled.

I flipped him the bird as I released Hunter and Peter, letting them move ahead of me. There wasn’t a lot of press hanging out around the private jet, thank goodness. Most of them were still working the earthquake story and, to be fair, we were old news. Still, more than one media personality tried to bully their way through the wooden horses set up as a security barrier, shouting questions at us while we headed for the jet. The sun was setting, painting everything and everyone in surreal shades of grey. Surreal being the perfect word for the questions being tossed at us.

“Surf! Is it true you’re pregnant with Metal Mike’s baby?”

“Surf! Is it true you’re secretly married to Hunter Dillon?”

“Slammer!” This last question came from a beefy journalist in a black trench coat bellowing over the heads of the other reporters. “Is it true that you’re dating Ani-Man?”

That stopped our resident strong man in his tracks. The former supervillain looked at me, his left eyebrow arched skyward.

“Let it go, Steve.” I gestured towards the waiting plane with my thumb. “Don’t play their game. You don’t have to say anything. We’ll let the Agency deal with it. Anything you say can and will be used against you and all that.”

Peter moved up alongside me. “Dude, it’s none of their business. I got over the stupid questions long ago. They know who you are, they know who I am. They’re just digging to see your reaction.” The youngest member of the Protectors grinned, a sheepish smile that had probably broken a thousand men’s hearts. “You get used to it.”

Steve stood up as straight as he could, his bare chest glistening in the oppressive heat. Spinning around, he advanced on the press corps and the journalist in question.

The crowd scattered, leaving a clear trail to the single reporter who stood his ground as Steve approached, the earth shaking just a bit with each step. Finally Steve leaned forward over the wooden barrier, almost touching noses with the now-trembling man.

“Peter is a good friend, a good man and a great superhero. His sexual orientation or mine, who he dates or doesn’t date, is none of your business. I’m proud to work alongside him, along with Jo and Hunter.” He glared at the clustered newspeople, his voice low and contained. “Any more questions?”

The silence followed him all the way to the plane where we waited. He winked at me and then climbed up into the jet.

Hunter looked at me. “You were scared about what he was going to do there for a second, weren’t you?”

I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “Nope.”

Peter grinned as he passed us. “I hope David’s got pizza ready. I’m starving.”

Hunter studied my face again, frowning. “Not worried at all?”

“Nope.” I turned on my heel and headed up the steps. “Figured we’d be able to drop the body out over the lake on the way home.”

The answering snort followed me to my seat. I ignored him and snatched a granola bar from the well-stocked snack bowl on the table, along with a cold bottle of water from the mini fridge beside it. Saving the world made me hungry. Not to mention that my metabolism demanded lots of fuel every time I used my powers. It may have kept me thin and the envy of women around the world, but I hated having to eat every few hours or risk fainting.

We taxied down the runway and were airborne in a few minutes, soaring up and over the local devastation.

I studied the disaster area out the window as we circled the airport. The jagged line of destruction reminded me of a kid knocking over a tower of bricks, a straight line running along one side of the residential street while the other side of the street remained pristine, untouched.

As the jet gained altitude I put the seat back, trying to get comfortable. It’d only been a few weeks since our emancipation, for lack of a better word, from under the Agency’s thumb, and I was still coming to terms with the way the world had changed. A month ago I’d been getting ready for one of our staged fights, Mike and I, arguing over who appeared better in the latest promo shoots and then brawling for the television remote control to see the newest superhero versus supervillain fights. Now I ran the only superhero team in the world, most of the escaped supers choosing to go and make a regular life for themselves free of the Agency’s threats and intimidation.

I continued to stare out, munching on the bar and getting bits of raisins and granola caught in my teeth. Lake Ontario stretched out under us, different shades of blue competing for our attention. Sure, I could have flown us home to Toronto the same way I’d gotten the fellows to the airport, but I didn’t have to with a private jet waiting on our command. This, of course, was the whole point of having the Agency work for us, instead of the other way around. My shoulders ached with the memory of my first time flying the team across the lake towards an unknown future. We’d been lucky we hadn’t dropped into the water like rocks with my inexperience at carrying passengers.

Still, there was something uneasy about sitting in a closed compartment shooting thousands of feet into the air. I’d gotten used to surfing the electromagnetic waves to travel, soaring wherever, whenever I wanted. Planes just seemed so…restrictive.

I’d loved flying with Metal Mike. Zipping out over Niagara Falls at night, Mike in his huge metal suit and me looping circles around him. We’d swoop down over the multicolored spotlights and catch the spray from the Falls, twisting it into a fireworks display with a few well-placed flares from Mike. The tourists had loved it. Hell, I had loved it. The big guy had some fine moves, in and out of his costume.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. There had been talk of arranging a memorial ceremony for all the supers who had died during the alien invasion. Setting up a lovely large tombstone somewhere, dedicated to their memories. A big block of granite with all the names engraved on it, nicknames and our real names chiseled into stone for all eternity.

Including those, I assumed, that had been murdered by the Agency for not wanting to go and fight a near-suicidal battle.

My hand drifted to the back of my neck, to the ridged scar that held the now-inert plug. The small explosive could take my head off if activated by the Agency and their agents, the Guardians. Implanted as soon as we were identified as supers, it allowed the Agency to keep control over us. But thanks to the help of Jessie, we’d been able to first jam the signals and then destroy the system itself, scrambling the activation sequences to the degree that no one could ever use them to threaten us again. We still couldn’t remove the plugs themselves without major surgery and risking an explosion, so the unpleasant reminder of our slavery stayed with us.

Someone squeezed my hand.

“You’re frowning,” Hunter whispered, “and you’ve got chocolate on the side of your mouth.” A light pressure brushed over my skin, either his fingers or his lips. “All gone now.”

“Not in front of the kids,” I grumbled, keeping my eyes closed.

“Bad memories?” He wasn’t talking about his stolen kiss.

“Yes. Hard to forget where we came from, what we were. There’s always going to be a shadow there.” I exhaled, feeling the jet list to one side.

“Just don’t forget you’re not alone.” His hand slipped into mine.

I sighed. Sometimes I missed being a clerk in a used bookstore.


“Heroes Without, Monsters Within” – the sequel to “Blaze of Glory”, coming from Samhain Publishing in January 2012!

And as an aside, I've started a Facebook page for only my writing projects - if you'd like to "like" me, head on over to


Please and thank you!

Game Night!

Every Wednesday night the Wookie and I have Game Night, sort of a cheap date night where we pick games out of our overflowing game room (note: not closet, ROOM) and settle down for an evening of gaming. With only two of us it's been a bit hard to find games that'll give us a good ride but we've managed – and I'd like to share some of the lesser-known ones with you in case you're looking for a fun gift or something to start your own Game Night with!
Zombie Dice by Steve Jackson Games
Right off the top I have to confess that I hate zombies. With a passion. As in, nightmares after seeing a Walking Dead promo. But Zombie Dice is so much fun and so interesting that it's safe for me to play. It's relatively simple, roll dice and gather up brains… but watch out for the shotguns and exploding zombies! It's a fast-paced, fun game for as many people as want to play and highly portable. Worth the money if you're looking for something noisy and different.
Seven Dragons by Looney Labs
I tripped across this game this past summer at Origins Game Fair and bought it before even trying it out – the artwork is THAT GOOD. It's a version of dominos played with different colors of dragons with enough strategy to keep you going for a long, long time. Even with only two of us playing we can have a great game and the artwork has you studying the cards more for the beautiful dragons rather than strategizing. Great for kids and for lots of friends to play.
Memoir '44 by Days of Wonder

The purchase of this game came out of the Wookie's search to find a WWII board game that wasn't too complex  (ie: turns took hours) and giving a good bang for a buck. This board game does both and we can't recommend it enough. The basic set gives you over twenty scenarios with the board changing for each game, a slew of plastic pieces and a great battle system that allows you to play a game in under an hour – then switch sides and play it again! The expansions are affordable along with interesting and we've picked them all up as we work our way through the different battles. If you're looking for a board game with a battle system that's smart and efficient, this is the game for you.
I'll stop now and let you check out those three. All the links above go to the manufacturer's website and can be found at many online and offline gaming stores as well as Amazon, etc.
I hope I've encouraged some of you to grab some out-of-the-way games and consider doing your own Game Night, either with friends or family. I wouldn't go so far as to say forget the Sunday Football or Saturday Night Hockey parties but if you're looking for something different… 

Heroes Without, Monsters Within is on the way!

Well folks, it's almost time for the sequel to "Blaze of Glory" to hit the shelves! We're set for a January 3, 2012 launch but I can't help teasing you for the next few months as we ramp it up to the release!

Let's start off slow with the official blurb:

Fight alone, die alone.
In the weeks since Jo “Surf” Tanis and her rough-and-tumble band of super-powered actors broke free of the government-sponsored superhero show, they’re all still dealing with the aftershock of adjusting to this thing called reality.
It doesn’t get much more real than a mission to dig survivors out of what’s left of Erie, PA, after a mysterious earthquake. A trembler that powerful is as out of place as Jo feels as the de-facto leader of the troupe. Not to mention the soul-shaking feelings she has for Hunter, a team member whose past as an Agency Guardian casts a heavy shadow over any possible relationship.
It seems one of the supers, an earth-warper named Ground Pounder, has gone rogue, using his freedom from the Agency’s brand of virtual slavery to put the “villain” back in supervillain. Failure to find him before any more innocent bystanders are hurt means the team could be back under the Agency’s thumb.
It’s a burden that doesn’t rest easy on Jo’s shoulders...especially when the man who’s invaded her heart is caught in the crossfire.


Now if that doesn't get you all curious about what's going to go on with our favorite superpowered misfits, here's a sample of what you've got to look forward to!


The rooftop was quiet and dark, the only illumination coming from the shops below me along Queen Street West. A pizza place across the way advertised 2-for-1 slices, a comic book store with a neon Bat Signal beamed into the night and an all-night convenience store flashed OPEN. The black gravel still had long drag marks from my awful landing earlier.

After smoothing out the skid marks I headed for the edge of the building. I sat down and crossed my legs in front of me, not in a painful-looking yoga pose but a casual sit. Meditation had been Mike’s bag, not mine. I’d done it with him to keep him happy, but it never really worked for me. The control over my power came from a constant awareness of my surroundings, not reciting mantras for a sense of inner peace. But it’d been part of what made Mike work and what made us work as a team. So I’d taken it back up, isolating myself on the roof at least once a day for a bit of introspection.

I felt like I’d aged ten years since New York City. I’d never realized the weight on Mike’s shoulders until now, and I regretted every time I’d brawled with him over the little things, the minutiae that you only think about when someone’s gone. Wet towels in the shower, drinking out of the milk carton instead of using a glass, not changing the empty toilet paper roll. I was guilty of the first two, he the third.

I closed my eyes and listened to the crowds below. It was likely I was in range of a half-dozen cameras, all snapping away images of the great Surf doing her thing. I didn’t care.

A young girl’s laugh drifted up to me, along with the smell of fresh pizza, mixed in with the aroma of the BBQ joint farther down the street. I made a mental note to order in their ribs in the next few days, make it a double order or maybe a triple with Steve around. The sauce was spicy and sweet enough to add to the taste, not to drown it.

“Hey.” Someone slid down into the gravel beside me. Hunter.

“You better be wearing more than that towel,” I growled. My eyes stayed closed.

“Afraid of what the tabloids would say?”

“Afraid of what they’d see. Need a microscope to find anything.” I reached out and tapped him in the side of the head without looking. “I’m busy.”

“So I see.” He sat in silence beside me for a few minutes. I heard him shuffle into a cross-legged position, giving off a pained gasp as he curled his legs around.

Inhale, exhale. Find your happy place and balance it. I felt the shimmering around me shift and resolve into an ordered pattern. I stretched out my power and touched the waves around us, pulling it into my bare hands. It was like building a tower with bricks and playing the harp at the same time.

“You’re not responsible for what other supers do,” Hunter whispered.

“I know.”

“We’re going to find this guy.”

“I know.”

“We’re all behind you, whatever you decide to do.”

“I know.”

“I’m bothering you.”

“I know.”

“Okay. I surrender.” He got to his feet, laughing as he unfolded himself. “I’ll be downstairs if you want to talk.”

I let my breath out slowly, drew in another lungful and pulled it to my center. The door slammed shut. That’d be a shot for the tabloids to exploit. I knew they weren’t monitoring our chat. Jessie had set up scramblers for that, electronic toys to keep them from reading our lips. I didn’t know how, but I trusted him that they worked.

My inner peace disappeared with a salami-based burp.

There was still Hunter to deal with. I hadn’t taken our relationship past the kissy-kissy stage, and I could tell he was getting annoyed and impatient. When I’d discovered he was not only a Guardian but also a super, a wall had shot up between us and stayed in effect, despite May’s deathbed instructions placing us in each other’s hands, sealing our bond not only as a super and a Guardian but also as a couple. He hadn’t been honest about his abilities almost until the very end and that could have cost us the final battle, all because he didn’t want to expose May to possible death. In the end she’d died, but it’d been her decision, not the Agency and not Hunter’s.

Mike’s ghost also hovered over us. I hadn’t been in love with the big lug, our relationship nothing more than one of convenience and needs, but I still missed him. He’d been my strength for years, my one constant in a world of fakes. We may have been false superheroes, but we’d been true friends. I believed he’d want me to move onwards and upwards in more than just saving the world, but this was a whole new world I’d created. Now I had to find a place for Mike’s memory, Hunter and my own spot as a leader.

I shivered in the cool night air, remembering the last few minutes Mike and I had been together. There had been nothing of him to recover after the battle, nothing to bury. The crater still sat in the middle of a New York City street, barricaded off as the rest of the city rebuilt around it. Around him.

A scream broke through the crowd’s mumbling beneath me in one of the narrow alleys that ran in a jagged maze behind the storefronts.

Before I had a chance to gather my thoughts I was on my feet, running over the roof towards the back of the Lair. The alley was dark, cut off from any street illumination. I’d avoided it when I’d worked here, doing all my traveling via the front door. The old cobblestone lanes were a perfect spot for muggers, rapists and drug dealers.

Until now.

I stepped off into the night, playing the waves around me in a light crescendo as I fell towards the ground.


and... that's it for now! Keep checking back over the next few weeks and months for more excerpts, cover art and giveaways as we fly towards 2012 and the return of the Protectors!

(What, you don't have a copy of "Blaze of Glory" yet? Here's where to get one!)
Amazon - Kindle
Barnes & Noble - Nook
Barnes & Noble
Samhain Publishing
Samhain Publishing

Why Writers Should Play Games

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to Columbus, Ohio on our yearly vacation/wedding anniversary to the Origins Game Fair. If you've never been there, imagine the ultimate party for gamers - roleplaying, miniatures, collectable card games, seminars, dealers room and costumes, costumes, costumes! 

We've been going for quite a few years since it coincides with our anniversary and it's a scant three hour drive from our house so it's a fun getaway. The hubby enjoys playing Heroclix and war games and I enjoy the dealers room, the seminars and a variety of board games, most recently Wings of War with WWI biplanes.

It's a great way to relax and also recharge my writing batteries and I recommend it to anyone looking to energize their writing. But what, you say to me, what does playing games have to do with becoming a better writer or even taking a break?

Well, let's start with just being around people with vivid, wonderful imaginations. I'm not just talking about the roleplayers and LARPers who go around in colorful costumes and keeping in character all the time, displaying their multifaceted imaginary worlds to the public. I'm talking about the companies showing off their newest games, from seemingly simple card games to complex chit games reworking historical scenarios to otherworldly board game battles. All created by dreamers who thought up a world and then went through the work to put it out to the public. 

Even a classic game like Go or Chess can have the re-energizing effect you need as a writer. Dig out that old backgammon game or grab some of the newer games off the shelf at your local store. Set up a night as Game Night, as my husband and I have done and just sit down and play something, anything other than watching television and brooding over your latest story. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much your creative batteries will be topped off with a round of fun, whether it's battling with superheroes in a Heroclix game or rolling the dice in Yahtzee or flying miniature planes in Wings of War.

And besides… where else can you dress up like a steampunk mechanic, goggles and all?

Why I couldn't be a Superhero


It's been a good year so far for super heroes - with Thor, Green Lantern and X-Men: First Class arriving in theaters and with Captain America on the horizon, you'd think it was a great time to be a superhero.


Well, not really. At least, not to me.


There's a lot of angst involved with being a superhero - Thor has daddy issues, GL has all those insecurity things going on and XM:FC has a whole lot of Austin Powers envy bubbling under the surface.


And Emma Peel look-alikes. Anyone else think that all Shaw needed was a white cat to stroke while prattling on about destroying the world?


Captain America looks to be going down the same path. Small, weak young man seeks redemption through better drugs and experimental treatments. Finds true happiness killing Nazis. Not that there's anything wrong with that but… it's sort of out of reach for most of us mere mortals.


Along with being bitten by radioactive spiders, being born on an island of Amazons and being a multi-millionaire who loves booze and sex.


(I'm working on the last one. Don't tell the hubby. My Rescue armor is in the basement. Okay, it's only cardboard right now, but when I win the powerball…)


But I digress.


Being a superhero means suffering in some way, somehow. Either you have personal issues that just aren't resolved despite having some major mojo or everyone's trying to kill you. Or both, which is how you end up with sequels.


When I started plotting "Blaze of Glory" I wanted to write a superhero novel where the world wasn't what you thought it was. I remember reading comics when I was younger and wondering why the bad guy always escaped in the nick of time or Arkham Asylum had a revolving door where the baddies walked out for the next issue. They just always got away at the right time in the right place, to return for the next battle.


And the cynic in me wondered why more civilians didn't die. I know we've moved on a bit since I was a wee one paying a dime for comics (cough*Watchmen*cough) but civilians casualties weren't a regular part of my comic book reading.


My mind wandered off at that point into an alternative world where the game was fixed. Fixed to let the criminals escape and the good guys always win, to a degree. From there it went to why would the heroes let the villains go and what would be gained by it all.


Thus the Agency was born. The multi-government groups (for North America only) that took charge of new supers and engineered battles, splitting them up into teams to roleplay the scenarios for an adoring public.


It wasn't hard to go from there and figure out why this would be happening and to look for one character, one woman who would break the system while saving the world and surviving her own personal crisis.


Jo Tanis isn't any Wonder Woman, no Batman, no Superman. She's a woman trying to figure out her place in a world that's made up of lies. And that's before she's thrown into a war she never signed up for and loses her best friend.


Her journey is like any other hero - one step forward, one step back. She finds Hunter but loses a bit of herself when she makes the hard decisions, the tough ones that you don't hear about in the comics. Who lives, who dies and who she loses along the way.


But one of the qualities I most admire about super heroes is their resilience. Peter Parker gets yelled at and he still goes web-swinging every night. Clark Kent plays the buffoon and still saves the world on an hourly basis. Oracle may be in a wheelchair but she's the best darned computer hacker out there and a plague on the underworld while a friend to law enforcement.


And they just keep on going.


I don't know if I'd have that resilience, that strength to get up every day after being kicked in the face the night before. I know some do and they're the unsung heroes of our society, the ones who just don't stop even though the odds are constantly against them.


You know who I'm talking about.


They don't wear capes and they don't get much screen time, if any. But they do what most of us can't or won't without the applause or acclaims.


Me, I've walked a bit on the sidelines. After fifteen years in private security, including a short stint as a Guardian Angel, I've got a lot of respect for those unsung heroes out there who go to work every day and don't know if they'll be going home that evening.


And I write about tough old women who just don't know when to quit.


Because, well... they're my heroes. And men too, 'cause they're too delicious to leave out.


So I wouldn't choose to be a superhero. Or even a regular one.


But I do love those who are.