Categories
1. Storysculpting Authoring Writing Life

I promised a scenelet. Here it be.

A while back I asked if anyone wanted a sneak peek at Ghost Town, my new work in progress. Y’all said, “Yes,” so I of course did nothing for ages. Until now.

TL;DR version of context: She’s new on the job. He’s been dead over a century.  Together they solve crimes.

The longer spiel: Deena Davis fled her wee Illinois hometown as soon as she was old enough to enlist in the Army.  Now she’s back in Gridley as the newly-appointed police chief, just in time to catch Gridley’s first murder case in decades.

Her great-great-grandfather Fletcher was Gridley’s mayor during his lifetime. Since his death he’s been the mayor of the town’s ghostly population. He was a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and he has the ability to make himself seen by his descendants.

He is keen to help Deena solve this murder whether she wants it or not.

Also, Deena owns a retired military working dog named Bazel. (Because I wanted to write a dog, that’s why.) That’s why there’s a pic of a Malinois at the top of this post.

     Fletcher caught up to Deena while she was on her way to talk with the county clerk’s digital specialists. One minute she was checking the road behind her before changing lanes, the next, her rear view was blocked by the ghost’s smiling, whiskery face.

“Hello, granddaughter!”

Deena’s startled flinch nearly put them in the ditch before trained reflexes kicked in. The car rocked on its wheels, and gravel crunched under the right front tire, but she settled the swerve.

“Not funny!” she snapped as she regained control. “Don’t ever pop up like that when I’m driving, not ever.”

“When you’re—oh.” Fletcher took note of the scenery flashing by, and his face fell. “I didn’t think to check the physical plane ‘afore visiting. I’m right sorry, Deena. ”

His contrite expression looked sincere, but the man had been a politician. Deena wouldn’t trust him as far as she could throw him. “You’d better be sorry. This partnership will come to an abrupt and nasty end if I slam head-on into a semi.”

Bazel nosed irritably at the mayor, who was occupying much of the same space in the back seat as he was. Fletcher ignored the dog’s intrusion, his expression thoughtful in a dangerously familiar way. Deena had seen that look on her father’s face more than once when he got to yearning for grandkids.

She shouldn’t have mentioned dying. At least the ghost couldn’t set her up on blind dates. He could nag, though. Better cut that off before it starts. “And don’t even think about telling me I should settle down and start popping out kids.”

The ghost stroked his mustache and slid to the other seat to get away from the dog. “No idea what you’re on about,” he said cheerfully. “Ain’tcha going to ask why I’m here? Lemme tell you. I made inquiries last night, and I have news.”

“That’s grand,” Deena said with maximum insincerity. Just as she’d suspected, the mayor was going to hover over her and get in the way. The tires squeaked as she turned hard into the office parking lot. She found the building number and pulled into a spot nearby. “I have to interview a digitizing specialist. Learn anything relevant to that?”

“I don’t reckon so. Not even sure what that is.”

“Then wait here—or if you won’t do that, at least stay out of my sight and keep your mouth shut so I don’t look like a lunatic.”

“Hold on one goldarned second.” Fletcher did his instant-move thing to appear at Deena’s shoulder as she opened the rear door to retrieve Bazel. “Is that any way to talk to your partner? Listen here—”

“No, you listen.” Deena unlatched Bazel and looked down at the dog to avoid the talking to thin air issue. “I can’t drop everything any time you decide to show up. Maybe you have all the time in the world, but I don’t, and there is no box for ‘ghost evidence’ on the reports I have to file. This comes first.”

She looked up at the end. Fletcher met her angry gaze for long seconds. “You don’t have to be so hurtful,” he finally said.

She had been harsh. Much too harsh. She let out tension in a heavy sigh and rubbed her aching neck. Sun beat down on the pavement, and reflected heat rose up through her boots. Her ancestor looked cool and collected. Must be nice to not melt in the heat. “I’m sorry, Fletcher. You scared the daylights out of me. That gets my temper up. No disrespect. I do want to hear you out. Just—not now. Please.”

“Well, all righty. That’s a pretty explanation, and I might have a temper myself.” The ghost mayor regarded her Ford Interceptor with a thoughtful frown. “These carriages keep getting bigger and more complicated. How’s about you take me for a drive around town in it? I can give you all the news and show you the sights, and you can show me how fast it goes.”

“That’s—not a bad idea.” Nobody looked twice at drivers talking to themselves. Deena gave Bazel a quick ear scratch and straightened to see a figure at the office window duck out of view. Looked like her witness was getting nervous. “We’ll do that soon. Now go poof or whatever it is you do and let me get to work.”

“Poof?” Fletcher said. “Poof?”

She gestured extravagantly with both hands like a magician. “Poof!”

He was still sputtering when he disappeared, but he was smiling too.

Categories
1. Storysculpting Authoring excerpts Promotion

Weekly Snapshot: Heartwood

Big surprises are in store for everyone.



Jack decided against smiling. His teeth scared people. “Jack Coby,” he said, extending his hand. “Nice to meet you. Any friend of Elena’s is a friend of mine.”

Grace’s gaze moved from Heather to him and she reached out. Their fingers touched, and Jack’s nerves jumped hard.

He couldn’t see any sign of Grace’s power yet, but in the barest meeting of skin energy jolted through him, unexpected and disastrously uncontrolled. Challenge. Protect. Destroy—No! He snatched his hand away and smashed down his body’s reaction with every ounce of trained willpower and one overriding thought: NO. Pumping up nerves and muscle to battle readiness was the last thing this situation needed.

He retreated behind Heather, clamping iron control over the power surge as he moved. Energy bled through his skin as fast as he could channel it away. Heather’s feathers fluttered in an intangible breeze, and their soft edges lit up gold with shimmers of visible light. She snapped her wings open, curving them protectively forward around Elena and Grace, and aurorae sparkled like rainbow glitter in the air.   

Grace turned paler than pale and closed her eyes. Her lips moved silently—praying, it looked like. Jack couldn’t blame her.  If thinking what the fuck counted as a prayer, then he was praying too. He’d never felt anything like this in his life, and he never wanted to feel it ever again.

What he wanted was to get Elena away from it as fast as possible.



Spoilers will abound after this point, so I’ll be sharing more from other works for the next month or few. Bear with me.

Categories
1. Storysculpting Authoring excerpts Whimsy

BFFs: a bit from Flight Plan

I haven’t shared from this book yet. No idea why. Here’s one of my favorite scenes.


Naomi saw Serena’s feet first. A bare toe rubbed over the top step of the porch stairs beside her, and then Serena sat down while balancing bagels stacked on steaming mugs in each hand. She still wore nothing but the filthy camouflage sneak suit, and she smelled like garbage. Sleepy eyes gleamed at Naomi over a secretive smile. “I promised to go to bed,” she said. “But you’re on the way. Good morning.”

Naomi took a mug and let tears spill down her cheeks. “I love you so much.”

“It’s only tea, Naomi. It isn’t even good tea.”

“It’s more.” She wiped her face and sipped the perfectly acceptable black pekoe blend. “You don’t realize how much better you’ve been, the last few days.”

“Well, don’t get too excited. I’m still a moody bitch.” Serena wrapped her arm around Naomi’s waist. “I love you too, Bao-bao. You held me up until I could run again.”

Naomi put her head in the curve of Serena’s shoulder. “Whatever.”

Birds were peeping in the drooping evergreens somewhere, and the gray sky was lightening in advance of the sunrise. The breeze was light and cool. Naomi shifted the tea to one hand and took a bite of half-thawed bagel. While she ate, she went back to doing what she’d been doing before Serena arrived: wondering why Parker wasn’t freezing to death out on the lawn in nothing but a pair of cut-off sweatpants.

He squared his shoulders and flowed smoothly from one t’ai chi form to another. His balance never wavered as he pivoted to face them, but surprise came through: he hadn’t noticed Serena’s arrival. His attention went back to the exercise, and then he smiled.

Naomi couldn’t keep her lips from curving up, but she firmly put him out of her mind even as heat coiled through her. Boundaries were important.

“Why is ‘threesome’ the first thing every guy thinks when he sees us together?” Serena asked. She added loudly, “She doesn’t share, sorry.”

Parker came down flat-footed. Chest muscles and abs rippled when he took a deep breath, and his face flushed red. Serena hummed appreciatively.

Apprehension sputtered to life within Naomi’s heart as Parker turned away and got back on task. “Serena, I know you, and—please, let me have this? I can’t compete, you know I can’t.”

“No, no, no.” Serena kissed her on the ear. “Silly Naomi. Very much no.”

The cheerful emphasis was as confusing as it was a relief. Naomi went back to watching Parker. “Why not? You’ve been sniffing after him since you met.”

“Only because I could feel him, steady-safe like you at my center. Secure, not sexy. You and I don’t have sex.” A moment passed. “Together, I mean.” Another pause. “Except those couple of times way back when, but we were both stoned and drunk at once, so I don’t think they count.”

“Stop.” Giggles bubbled up. Naomi stifled them. “You are not helping.”

For a moment they were fifteen again, winding down from a night of harmless pranks and minor property crimes. They had been so young. So full of hopes and passion. Life hadn’t been perfect, but the future had been infinite. Their limitless reality had imploded, desperation had crushed them both into tiny futures with no room for dreams, and then even those unenviable lives had been torn to pieces.

This morning felt like rebirth.

Serena set down her cup to nestle closer, but her breath stank and so did the rest of her. Naomi pushed her away. “Dirty girl.”

“I am.” Serena was still watching Parker. “He is hotter than a chili pepper, and you haven’t even nibbled on him yet. What is wrong with you?”

Boundaries, Serena.”

“I can’t help noticing. He’s in the same place you are.” She rubbed a fist between her breasts. “Steady-safe, the pair of you. Like my heartbeat.”

“Notice away, but I will not talk about anything we do or don’t do. Ever.”

 


And because this one’s from a book that’s available for sale, the mandatory promotional link: mybook.to/Flightplan

Kindle, Paperback and Audiobook.

(audio available through iTunes, Audible.com and Amazon)

Categories
1. Storysculpting Authoring excerpts Promotion

Solstice Snippet

Joining in the Round is a lighter, more personal story from my Restoration series. Since it takes place in part around the Winter Solstice, it’s my choice for this week’s snippet.



THE FARM DIDN’T LOOK its best in winter. The mountains were lost to sight, wrapped in dull, misty clouds, and the forest surrounding the pastures became a gloomy wall of bare black tree limbs and drooping wet evergreen boughs.

It was a dismal sight, but in Felicity’s opinion the warmth made up for the dreary view. The sky might be murky and the ground soggy, but the damp air felt positively balmy after the last few weeks of frigid Nebraska winds.

No tents huddled in the pastures for this revel. The weather was too unpredictable, and the attendance was low enough to house everyone in the lodge’s guest rooms and the twelve rustic cabins behind it. The creaking porch rockers held elders enjoying the fresh air and dogs who had been evicted from furniture indoors.

Felicity’s shouted greeting was met with a few desultory waves and a bark or two. She inhaled the heady scent of home, with its unique blend of greenery, drifting smoke and wet farm animals, and then she gave Carl a smile. “What do you think?”

Carl lifted each boot and lowered it in place, squishing mud into their clean treads. His bright blue winter coat was so new it still had creases, and it made a beautiful contrast with his hair, like sunshine and clear sky. He scowled at the lodge while he swung his weekend bag idly in one hand as if preparing to throw it at someone. Felicity cleared her throat. “Carl?”

He took a deep breath. “I’m too scared to think, and I hurt people when I feel vulnerable.”

“Not with me around, you won’t. I’ll slap you back fast if you cross the line from jerk to manipulator.” Wasn’t that the whole point of all the work we did, the last few weeks? “My brain is full of keywords and warning signs, remember?”

“There’s a fairly long stretch of spectrum between civilized behavior and slipping far enough into sociopathy to warrant a neurological ass-kicking.”

“Pulling out all the vocabulary stops and using expletives?” Felicity took his hand and gave his wrist a quick kiss. “You are fretting. Listen. Unless you get radically worked up, no one will even notice. Haven’t you paid any attention to my stories? This crowd thinks of barbed commentary and verbal beatings as casual conversation. Berating others is an art form.”

Carl exhaled on a chuckle. “This is a selling point?”



And yeah, if you like, you can buy it along with its partner novella Turning the Work in the edition titled Weaving in the Ends. 

Handy link to my books: https://books2read.com/ap/xqvlwR/K-M-Herkes

Categories
1. Storysculpting Authoring excerpts Promotion

A little bit of Prodigals

Here’s a bit of my other beloved work in progress,  which I do feed and water and pet occasionally so it doesn’t feel neglected. I will begin taking it for walks and polishing its rough scales as soon as I complete Grace’s adventures.



WHEN YOSHI CHECKED INTO the infirmary to begin his week’s swing shift, Keene was busy reading instructions for repairing a diagnostic unit. He cleared his throat to draw her attention off the screen. “Hey, boss, what’s up first tonight? I see Jean’s on dinner detail. Want me to stop her from finding a new way to ruin vegetables?”

“I would, if I was a merciful woman.” Keene glanced up and tugged on a wayward sprig of hair. “But I’m not. Let her destroy supper on her own.”

Jean, the newest member of the Support team, felt anything other than medical support was beneath her dignity. She was not adapting well to the idea that her job included cooking, cleaning, equipment maintenance, and supply chain logistics. Yoshi said, “It’s turning into a joke, you know. There’s a pool on what she’ll manage to burn next.”

“That figures.” Keene snorted. “She thinks I’ll reassign her if I get too many complaints.”

Yoshi knew his boss better than that. If Jean didn’t get her ass in gear soon, Keene would assign her twelve-hour shifts cooking every meal alone until she shaped up or quit. “If I’m not helping her, where do you want me?”

“Carl’s quarters. Wanda called down after his morning wash and wax to warn me he barely made it back under his own power. I don’t want him passing out on the stairs. Do a house call for me.”



In case anyone is wondering…

…it’s time to officially admit Prodigals will be delayed until spring. I could say, “I’ll aim at late winter” and live in denial a few months more, but meh. Honesty is the better part of valor.  I want Prodigals to be as good as it can be, it needs significant revision–and I need to finish Heartwood.

Alas, I cannot take the wide, well-traveled obvious path and revise one while writing the other. Filed under “epiphanies of the last 18 months” is this gem: I cannot world-switch. I can juggle multiple casts, and plots in one environment, but add a second whole world, and I drop pieces everywhere. Forward progress crashed to a halt in both projects unless I concentrated on one or the other.

I am an efficient task-switcher, but only within a single headspace. I made the decision/mistake to dive into Heartwood while waiting for PRodigals beta reads, and now there’s no turning back. Right now, Heartwood fills my imagination. (Well, Heartwood, the first full novel in that world, the short story that’s percolating…) I’m dreaming in that reality now, and I’ll stick with it until the current tale is done.

Enough navel-gazing.