Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Murphy, go home!

Life is nothing if not interesting. Of course, when it’s interesting in the proverbial sense, I tend to wish for dull and boring. But it is getting there. I simply need to learn to listen to not only my muse — she is an evil bitch but she does seem to know when I need to switch gears and write something new — and to my gut. In this particular case, it would have let me sleep an extra hour this morning and not have to reschedule a trip to the mechanic. Oh well, I’m up if not fully functioning.

Oh, and the plumber is due later today. Hopefully, since this is just the annual check, he’ll find nothing wrong. Please let him find nothing wrong. We’ve already had one plumbing emergency this month. I don’t need any more.

On the writing front, things are rocking and rolling. I’ve set Nocturnal Rebellion aside for the rest of the week. I’ll pick it up Monday or Tuesday of next week, convert it for my Kindle Oasis, and give it one last read. Then the final file will be uploaded for publication. Remember, it is available for pre-order now. Publication date is August 15th.

I will admit, right now I feel like Mac does in the book. Of course, while she wishes for a simple, straight-forward murder to investigate (one without shifters or the government involved), I just want a week without complications.

I am also about halfway through the updates on Vengeance from Ashes. The expanded version doesn’t change the story line but it does expand on some scenes and there will be a few new scenes/chapters as well. I still love the original novel but this is sort of my version of the “director’s cut” of the book. I’m hoping you guys love the additional material as well.

Next up in that series will probably be a short story followed quickly by the next full-length novel. At least that’s what Myrtle the Evil Muse says. Lately, however, I’ve learned there is someone more evil than Myrtle and who has even more control over my writing than she does — Murphy.

And I tell you, whoever invited that Irish trickster and master of chaos into the country, much less to my house, needs to be hunted down and hung. I am so over Murphy right now. So, before he decides it’s time to get up and complicate my life any further, I’m out of here. However, here’s a little tease from Nocturnal Rebellion:

The man crawled slowly toward the bar, dragging himself inch by painful inch. He didn’t know what happened or why. One moment, everything had been normal. Drinking, smoking, whoring. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the door opened. He’d looked up, as had others, and frowned to see four people he didn’t recognize. Few dared come to the bar without an invitation. Those few who did usually turned around and left before taking more than a step or two inside. That’s all it took to realize The Hellhound was the sort of biker bar outsiders weren’t welcome at.

And there was no way the four were bikers. Dressed all in black, they walked further inside, seemingly oblivious to the looks in their direction. Then they’d stopped. One of them pointed right and then left. Two others broke off, moving quicker and more silently than they should have been able to. As they did, the tension in the room ratcheted up a notch.

That’s when the surreal turned into nightmare. The fourth person, a woman, stepped up to one of the two tops. Before the biker he knew only as Ranger could react, her hand fisted in the man’s long hair. She pulled his head back, baring his throat. A knife appeared in her other hand. Its blade slid along Ranger’s neck. Blood sprayed and she released him, stepping back and watching as he crumpled to the floor. The fallen biker gurgled once, blood flecking his lips, before dying.

Now for more coffee and to get back to work on an editing gig before sitting down to do some more writing. Later!

What say you?

A little more than a week ago, Justine Damond was shot and killed by officers responding to a call about a potential sexual assault. Unfortunately, it is all too common to pick up a newspaper or see internet headlines and seeing a police-involved shooting. But this one, in many ways, illustrates a problem — several problems actually — with the current state of not only police training but the public’s confidence (or lack thereof) in the police.

Justine Damond, an Australian currently residing in Minneapolis, did what any law-abiding person should do when they think a crime is going down. She called the police. She not only called once but she called at least twice because it was taking so long for a unit to respond and she was worried. You see, she heard something near her backyard that made her fear a woman was being assaulted.

On her last call, she was informed the police were almost there. That’s where things go from real to surreal.

The police unit nears and Damond goes outside. As she neared the squad car, a shot rang out and she went down.

Damond, who was (iirc) in her pajamas and who was unarmed wasn’t shot and killed by the suspect. Nor was she shot and killed by a well-intentioned neighbor. No, she was shot and killed by one of the two officers responding to her call for help.

What makes this case even more of a head-scratcher is that she was approaching the squad car from the driver’s side. However, instead of the driver pulling his service revolver and firing, the shot came from the passenger in the car. This officer unholstered his weapon, aimed across his partner and opened fire. My first thought in hearing this was that his partner would be lucky to get out of that with little to no permanent damage to his hearing. The second was to wonder what the officer saw that his partner, the man closest to the supposed threat Damond presented, did not.

Where this entire incident is troubling is two-fold. The first is that the officers’ body cameras were not rolling. Now, this might be departmental policy. I’ve read that Minneapolis police aren’t required to engage their cameras until they get out of their squad cars. If so, it is a foolish policy. Those cameras, as well as their dash cams, need to be rolling as they near a scene. Any cop with more than a month’s experience on the job will tell you things can and do happen before you arrive at the address where a call originates from. It can be as simple as seeing the suspect walking down the street to getting a better picture for later (as in for court) about what the cop is walking into and what helped form their judgment and caused them to act a certain way.

In this case, we are missing all this. The driver of the squad car said they heard a loud noise and that startled them. Unfortunately, there is nothing to back him up on that. And, to the best of my knowledge, that includes his partner, the shooter. As of last night, when I last searched out information on the case, the shooter had yet to make a statement. Oh, he apparently talked to a friend who said he was startled when Damond came running toward them. But that has been all I’ve seen where the shooter is concerned.

And, frankly, if he was startled by a woman running toward him in her pajamas, there were still steps he should have taken before shooting her. He should have ordered her to stop and hold her hands where he could see them. He should have told his partner to move the car. Those are just two things. But, to the best of my knowledge he did none of them.

Now, according to the friend, he is upset because he is being thrown under the bus by other cops. Perhaps, then, it is time for him to give a statement and tell everyone his side of the story. Otherwise, all we have is conjecture.

Oh, and a supposed witness who may or may not have seen the shooting. The witness most definitely saw what happened afterwards and can testify about the demeanor of both officers involved.

This is a tragedy that never should have happened. I am a supporter of cops and all first responders. However, I look at situations like this and wonder if it was poor training, poor trigger discipline or what that brought about this situation. Sure, Damond should have waited for the cops to tell her to approach but she did what I’m sure any number of us would have done, especially after having to wait for the unit to arrive. She ran forward to, presumably, tell them why she called.

And she paid for it with her life.

It is situations like this that cause the public to lose confidence in our police. I applaud the Minneapolis mayor for asking the police chief to resign. Between this incident and others in the city, it was one step they mayor could take to show the public she was not going to sit still and wait for a repeat. However, it doesn’t bring back Damond. Nor does it answer the questions we all have about why the officer fired.

Worse, there have been stories alluding to the fact the officer has been involved in other incidents that bring his judgment or actions as a cop into question. I’m sure we will hear more about that as the case progresses. My fear is that we will learn this is a cop who should not have been on the street but was allowed to remain there for who knows what reason. If so, I hope to hell Damond’s family and fiance sue the shit out of the city and the cop.

There are a lot of good, reliable and caring cops out there. Just like we don’t see good news reported in the media, we don’t hear about them. That gives us a jaundiced view of our police forces and makes the job harder for those who are good cops. My one hope is if, as I suspect, this turns out to be a bad shooting, the cop feels the full force of the law. That’s not because of his sex or his race or his beliefs or anything except he is a cop and cops should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen in situations like this.

God’s rest, Ms. Damond, and I hope your family eventually finds peace. I doubt there can ever be any understanding in this situation.

Life’s back to normal

Or at least as normal as my life ever gets. Monday, This week has, so far, turned into a bad farce. Between the normal “life” stuff that tends to interfere with the writing, there’s been a leak that was related to both the new HVAC and the sewer system. That, in turn, wound up soaking a good bit of carpet in the hallway and my room. You know it’s bad when I agree to have a plumber come at 10 at night. Anyway, that is fixed, fans are running and the carpet is slowly drying. This weekend, I’ll see about replacing the pad but that may wait.

It would be easy to wallow in the fact my schedule has been shot to hell this past week. I’m behind on so much, not just writing and other things. Hell’s bells, I had been wallowing — until late last night. That’s when reality slapped me in the face and I realized that as frustrating as things had been, they aren’t really bad, not in the whole scheme of things.

Let me back up a bit. Around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the den, laptop booted up, trying to get into the mindspace to write. That’s when an emergency vehicle went hauling ass down the street, sirens blaring. By the time I got to the door, two cop cars, lights flashing but no sirens, were racing past. They disappeared around the curve at the bottom of the street and I went back inside.

My initial thought, because the cop cars were rolling hot but silent was that there might have been a break-in. Possibly even a domestic disturbance or assault of some sort. Our neighborhood is really very safe but, once in a blue moon, something happens. That’s especially true during the summer when tempers run as hot as the temps outside.

Unfortunately, the truth of what happened was far worse than what I’d imagined. A three-year-old is dead, a drowning victim. He was found in the backyard pool. Details are, naturally, scarce right now but the cops are saying no foul play is suspected. This appears to be one of those horrible tragedies and my heart breaks for the family.

And it puts everything into perspective. Yes, I’m late on a number of projects. But all that does is make me have to work harder to get caught up. So, enough with the excuses and the self-pity and everything else. It could be so much worse and it’s not. This is something I can keep from getting worse.

In the meantime, my heart and my prayers go out to the family of this little boy. Their lives will never be the same.

Oh hell, it’s a Monday

I really hope today isn’t an indication of how the week is going. The dog wanted up at 0430. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Of course, part of that is because the carpet went SQUISH as I walked barefoot down the hallway. Now, any pet owner knows the feeling, literal and figurative, when that happens. You don’t know whether you want to turn on the lights to see what you stepped in or continue on in ignorance.

Well, I already had a pretty good idea. No, it had nothing to do with the animals and everything to do with the new HVAC. Twice before, pre-new installation — we’ve had this before when the overflow pipe clogged. Still, I had to check. Yep, the carpet is soaked through in a couple of places in front of the intakes and in my bedroom. Oh joy.

At least the AC guys can be out sometime today.

Oh, but that’s not the end of the morning’s problems. A look out the front window shows a leak in my sprinkler system. So, in a short time, I’ll be out there digging up my front yard, trying to figure out what happened overnight. With my luck, it won’t be anything simple like a crack in the line. Noooo, it will be the fargging valve — which means a call to a repairman for that because that valve box is lost. More than 25 years of soil shifting, overgrowth, etc., has buried it and I can’t find it. I know because I’ve looked for it before (even using the plat the installers gave us, the plat I know to be wrong because the heads aren’t where the plat shows them.)

So I’m pushing coffee until I’m awake enough to deal with at least one emergency and afraid to look around too closely for fear I might see something else requiring immediate attention.

Oh, and a new story idea hit me over the weekend that will probably start taking shape while I’m working on the sprinklers. My muse uses times like that to take over my consciousness and get the creative juices flowing. The fact it’s something I hadn’t planned only makes it more interesting to Myrtle the Evil Muse. Add in the fact that my writing for the rest of this year and the beginning of next is already planned out and she will just take it as a challenge to see if she can get me sidetracked.

Sigh.

Please, don’t let the rest of the week continue as it has started.

Those poor kids

There are days I find myself praying this has all been a bad dream. Between the changes in schools where it is more important to make sure our children feel good about themselves than it is to make sure they learn the curriculum to political derangement syndrome (because it exists on both sides of the aisle), I find myself wondering what happened. What happened to the Can Do! spirit of the “Greatest Generation”? What happened to personal integrity and responsibility? What happened to common sense?

Very rarely has an article made me ask those questions as much as this one — and the one that came before it. I am linking to an archived version of the article because, to be honest, I don’t want to give this poor excuse for a mother one more click than necessary. Yes, I said it. She is a poor excuse for a mother. As the mother of a son, I feel for her two sons and what she is not only teaching them but doing to them.

Here is a woman who begins by calling her sons “strong and compassionate”. Then she goes on to describe how much they aren’t and how badly they have disappointed her. Oh, she tries to cloak it with maternal concern but it is there. This is a woman who wanted daughters and didn’t get them. The fact her sons have penises make them bad from the moment of birth. It is up to them to prove to her they aren’t like every other man.

Poor kids.

I have two sons. They are strong and compassionate—the kind of boys other parents are glad to meet when their daughters bring them home for dinner. They are good boys, in the ways good boys are, but they are not safe boys. I’m starting to believe there’s no such thing.

Wow, way to support your kids, Mom. Praise them and then pull the carpet out from under them. They are good but not “safe”. Not that she believes there is such a thing as a safe boy. But wait, maybe she explains why. Surely she explains what a “safe” boy is.

The next paragraph gives us some insight into the mother’s mindset. She is raising her boys in a “rape culture”. Those are her words. Then she goes on to talk about her previous article and how, after it went viral, her boys were suddenly confronted by her words. Their teachers and friends read the article and — gasp — talked about it where her kids could hear.

First of all, she claims she didn’t think her article would garner any real attention. Bullshit. To begin with, she wrote it for The Washington Post. Unless she lives under a rock, she knew she would have potentially thousands of people reading it. But she never thought it would go viral. Bullshit again. The very wording of the article was such that it would inflame in one way or another. I doubt very much she hadn’t hoped for it to go viral and more.

It was one thing to agree to be written about in relative obscurity, and quite another thing to have my words intrude on their daily lives.

Well, duh. Not that she seems to care since — another big DUH! — she is once again writing about her sons in an attempt to justify her position. Poor kids. Mama’s more worried about showing her Woman Card in public than in making sure they are all right.

In the next paragraph, she talks about how her younger son is angry at her. Of course, the son has never said he is. She goes on to say he doesn’t understand why she lumped him together with his older brother in the essay. Of course, he hasn’t said that either I assume. But she knows he is angry and misogynistic. Why? Because he has been visiting conservative websites. “places where he can surround himself with righteous indignation against feminists, and tell himself it’s ungrateful women like me who are the problem.”

Guess what, lady, you are the problem. Not because you’re a feminist. Sorry, Feminist. But because you don’t give a flying fuck about your sons’ emotional welfare. Because you won’t sit down and think before you hit the enter button. You obviously don’t give a damn what your crusade to paint your sons — children you are supposed to love and protect — as evil simply because of their sex. I can only imagine the sort of ridicule you have opened them up to at school and elsewhere. I wouldn’t blame your kids one bit for being “angry” with you.

Hell, lady, I’d be furious and plotting my escape from your grasp as soon as I legally could. I’d even be taking notes and recording everything I could in case there was enough to build a case to bring in CPS to take me away from your sick grasp.

Is it my job as his mother to ensure he feels safe emotionally, no matter what violence he spews?

Once again, she throws out a statement like this — remember her earlier statement about there being no “safe” boys? — without any evidence of what this “violence” might be.

When I hear his voice become defensive, I back off but question whether I’m doing him any favors by allowing his perception of himself to go unchallenged. When I confront him with his own sexism, I question whether I’m pushing too hard and leaving him without an emotional safe space in his home.

Why am I picturing her taking on a passive-aggressive stance where she does anything but back off? If there are any micro-aggressions going on in that home (hell, who am I kidding? Aggressions of any sort), I have a feeling they fall directly at her feet. Dear God, if a child can’t have a safe emotional space in his own home, what hope does he have?

As I said before, I feel for these boys.

As a single mother, I sometimes wonder whether the real problem is that my sons have no role models for the type of men I hope they become.

Thank God. The poor kids have enough to put up with Mommy Dearest.

But when I look around at the men I know, I’m not sure a male partner would fill that hole.

No, because you want to make your sons into daughters and most men, real men, wouldn’t put up with that. They would, however, teach your sons how to be gentlemen who respect women and honor them. But that wouldn’t fit your agenda one bit, would it?

It goes on. Dating is a “necessary evil” because she is starved for adult conversation. I guess she hasn’t figured out that’s what friends are for. You can find friends by joining a church or volunteering, by socializing with people in your neighborhood. But no, you “date” for conversation. Wuh?

Then she comes back to what is blurbed at the top of the article. If feminist men aren’t safe, then what man is? And why? We don’t really know. All she says is this, “But, feminist or not, the men are no different from the men anywhere else….”

What. The. Fuck?

Here is a woman who hates men. She lumps them all together and condemns them simply because they are male. She gives no examples, soft or hard. Then she doesn’t understand why her sons have an issue with what she says. Dear sweet merciful heaven, those kids are so fucked. I can only hope they get out from under her roof as soon as possible.

Keep reading though, just in case your blood pressure hasn’t risen enough. She manages to hit one more hot button for all the right thinking folks out there. She notes that a white person can’t grow up without becoming racist — yep, you read that right. In fact, she said it is “impossible” for a white person to grow up without adopting racist ideas.

But it even gets better. She says her sons and “most” progressive men she knows won’t rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. By implication, she means that all non-progressive men and even some progressive men she know WILL rape such a woman. What a sad, sick opinion of people she has.

Here is perhaps the worst thing she says when it comes to her sons: I love my sons, and I love some individual men. It pains me to say that I don’t feel emotionally safe with them, and perhaps never have with a man. . . .

She doesn’t feel “emotionally safe” with her sons?

These are kids. Kids in school She doesn’t claim either of them are abusing her physically or doing anything other than being male. My heart breaks for these boys.

If I had anything to say to them it would be this:

Don’t listen to your mother. You have worth as a person and that worth, or lack of it, isn’t based on your sex. It is based on who you are. Never let anyone denigrate you because of your biological plumbing. And, please, don’t judge all women by what your mother has done to you. Grow up to be loving, caring gentlemen who are proud of yourselves and who respect women. Be your own persons, not the cardboard caricatures your mother is trying to force you to become.

As for the mother, I’d like her to spend a few minutes in the shoes she’s made for her sons. See what life is like for them. Not that it would help. In ten years, she will be wondering why at least one of her sons left home and never talks to her. And no, she will never admit she might have had a hand in it. The cause will be because of the appendage hanging between his legs.

All I can do is think about my son and how proud I am of him. He is a responsible, respectful young man. I think I’ll finish this post and then let him know just that.

Nocturnal Rebellion Snippet

Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for pre-order. It’s been a tough road getting it there. Between real life interfering and the story taking a few left turns on me — all good for the story but they threw me because they weren’t what I expected.  (I know, silly me. I ought to know by now that Myrtle the Evil Muse loves to torment me.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy writing Mackenzie Santos. From the very first book, Nocturnal Origins, (currently on sale for $0.99) she’s been a character that challenged me. She’s a dedicated cop with a complicated relationship with her family, especially her mother. The family secret, one she’s not let in on until it’s too late, is why that relationship has been so strained over the years. Mac’s always known there are monsters out there. As a homicide detective, she deals with them on a daily basis. What she didn’t know until the day she died — and came back — was that not all the monsters were human, or “normals”. Now she suddenly turns furry and that’s one secret she has to protect because the world simply isn’t ready to know shapeshifters exist outside of bad Hollywood movies and literature.

Except life is never easy. Over the course of the series, Mac’s learned shifter politics are more complicated — and deadly — than anything she’s ever had to deal with. Now shapeshifters face rebellion within their kind. Complicating matters even more, they have to find a way to make their existence known to the normal world without causing a panic and a modern day version of the witch hunts. That’s the background against which Nocturnal Rebellion opens.

***

The bullpen fell silent as Chief of Detectives, Luis Santiago, moved to the front of the room. The look on his face mirrored how they each felt. Disbelief, sorrow and anger – but mostly anger – burned in his dark eyes. They knew why he was there. Every cop, not to mention every cop’s family, faced this possibility each time they reported for duty. But that didn’t make it any easier, especially not when it hit this close to home.

Santiago looked around the squad room, making eye contact with each person there. It didn’t surprise him to find more than the day shift present. He had no doubt were he to check the other squads under his command, he would find the same thing. When a cop went down in the line of duty, no one worried about vacation or sick leave. Every cop, no matter what their rank or their assignment, would report in, ready to do all they could to find the perps responsible. That knowledge made him proud to be part of the long blue line. Not that it made this part of his job any easier. Fortunately, it was not something he had to do often, but even once was one time to many.

Standing there, seeing how each of those assigned to Homicide waited, hoping he had good news for them but knowing he did not, he drew a deep breath. He could have let someone else handle this. But that would have been the easy way out and he had never been one to push the uncomfortable parts of the job off on someone else. Besides, he owed it to them, and to their lieutenant, to make sure they understood that even though he no longer worked cases on the board, he was still one of them. He hurt with them and he thirsted for the same vengeance they did.

“I’m not going to tell you this gets easier. It doesn’t and each of you knows it. Let’s be honest. This squad has faced more than its fair share of challenges these last two years.” He paused and reached up to rub his eyes, burning with unshed tears, with thumb and forefinger. As he did, he felt every one of the last twenty-six hours he had been awake. Twenty-six hours of sitting vigil at the hospital and then talking with family members, of briefing Chief of Police Darnell Culver, and of doing all he could to head off any interference by the feds. Three of his own had gone down and he was damned if he was going to let the feds or any other agency take over the case. Then he cleared his throat and continued. “Each and every time, you have risen to the challenge and done what was necessary to carry out your duties as members of the DPD. I know I’m asking a lot now, but I need you to do so once again.

“The next few days are going to be difficult for the entire force, but especially for you. You not only lost one of your own yesterday but others of the cop family as well. I’ve spend a great deal of time with the families of our fallen brethren and they’ve asked me to let you know arrangements have been made. They thank each of you for all the time you have spent with them since the ambush. They have asked that, until the funeral, members of this squad continue to be with them. They know you were all family and they will feel better having someone who knew their loved one with them. Sergeant Collins, I’ll leave it to you to arrange schedules to accommodate this request.” He glanced at the squad’s acting commander and she nodded, her expression grim.

“In three days, we will lay the first of our fallen, to rest. I expect each of you to be there in dress uniform, representing not only this squad but the best of the force. Show the city that we bleed blue. Then show them that DPD does its job, no matter what. Find the bastards responsible for the ambush and bring them in to face justice.

“It would be easy to seek vengeance. I understand that feeling because I share it. No one, no matter who they are, is allowed to kill one of our own. But we will not lower ourselves, or the rest of DPD, down to those bastards’ level. Find them and bring them in. We will let the courts deal with them and, when the time comes, we will be sitting on the front row of the viewing chamber when they are brought in for their executions.” He glanced around as detectives, uniformed officers and clerical workers nodded grimly. “Do your lieutenant proud and find those bastards before they manage to kill anyone else.”

As one, everyone present turned to look at the darkened office with its closed door and silence so profound it felt almost alive filled the squad room. Then a tall blonde with short cropped hair, her expression stone-cold, pain reflected in her eyes, stepped forward. The others waited, watching as she approached Santiago.

“Sergeant Collins, the squad is yours,” the Chief of Detectives said. “Close this case before the feds try to take over. We will not step aside for anyone, not this time.”

The blonde nodded. As she did, she blinked back the tears swimming in her eyes. “Yes, sir.”

He nodded once and shook her hand. Then he turned and left the squad room. As the door closed behind him, Pat drew a deep breath. Whether she liked it or not, the squad was hers and she had a duty to do, a duty to the DPD, her partner and her squad.

“The Chief’s right,” she said softly. She did not try to hide her grief. Each person in the room shared it. “We have to work this like any other case, but let’s be honest. This isn’t just any other case and it never will be. We will have the press looking at everything we do, questioning each move and every word spoken. Worse, IAB is going to be nosing around.” She held up a hand before anyone could protest.

“Hear me on this. No one likes the idea of the rat squad poking around. This squad has first-hand knowledge how they can twist things to meet their own needs. So I want every i dotted and every t crossed in this investigation. Work this case like your life depends on it because it very well may. We have cop killers running loose on our streets and none of us are safe until we find them. So, when IAB comes calling, we will answer their questions. The quicker we do, the quicker we get them out of the squad and out of the investigation. Don’t play games with them. If they ask or allude to anything that sets off your warning bells, let me know.

“From now until this case is solved, it’s all hands on deck. All vacation time is canceled until further notice. If you call in sick, you’d damn well better have a doctor telling me you are on your death bed. Work your contacts and get your CI’s on the street and asking questions. Finding these bastards is our priority now. That said, make sure your other cases are worked as well. Don’t miss any court dates. But hear me,this is our priority. We will find the bastards behind the ambush and we will be the ones to bring them in.”

With that, she strode across the bullpen. Pausing before the door to the office that had been her partner’s she reached down to turn the knob. As she did, her hand shook. A sob rose in her throat. She choked it down. She had to maintain control until she was behind closed doors. The squad was hers, at least until Chief Culver found someone to replace Lt. Mackenzie Santos, not that anyone could ever fill her shoes as a cop or as a partner and friend.

Damn it, Mac. I wish you were here.

 

Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order

Whew, finally!

Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for pre-order.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

Poor Babies

Yes, the snark is running wild this afternoon. I’ve spent most of the day working and took a break a few minutes ago. As I usually do, I scanned the headlines on various sites and came across one off of Yahoo that simply had me shaking my head. Let’s see what you think.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with HGTV and some of their offerings, one of thier most well-known shows is Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines help their clients find homes in the Waco, TX area and then renovate them according to the clients’ tastes and how much money is to be spent. Pretty basic stuff for networks like this.

Now, the Gaineses have helped make Waco know for more than just Baylor University. They have opened their own store, bakery and who knows what else. The show has been great promotion for the city and has brought in not only business but has helped increase tourism. Believe it or not, people go to Waco just to visit the Gaines’ store.

So, on to the article. I’ll let you read all the details but the basic facts are this. A couple appeared on the show and bought one of the houses the Gaineses showed them. Purchase price for the house was $35,000 and they spent approximately $215,000 on the renovation. Now, I don’t know about you, but that right there would be my first clue that the house might not be located in the best part of town.

Anyway, moving forward.

According to the homeowners, they feel like they were used, even lied to, by the Gaineses and by Waco. You see, they claim to have been harassed by others in their neighborhood and even by business owners because their house raised property taxes in the area. Now a drunk driver has plowed into their house and it is all Chip and Joanna’s fault.

Not only no but hell no. For one thing, no one twisted their arms and forced them to sign the purchase contract. My guess is they saw the potential problems of the area but they were outweighed by the low cost of buying the house and by the fact they would have their 30 seconds of fame on national TV. Now that the shine has worn off some, they are having buyer’s remorse.

That is no one’s fault but their own.

My son bought his first house a year ago. He did his homework. He took time to not only tour the house but to drive through the neighborhood several times and at different times of the day. He wanted to see what the neighborhood was like. He had a title search done and he checked the crime reports for the area. He checked how often houses in the area sold and he researched the HOA. In other words, he educated himself before signing on the dotted line.

Something these folks either didn’t do or they didn’t take seriously what they claim has been happening since before they moved in.

Hell’s bells, I would have had concerns before moving in just based on what I’ve seen of the show. Yes, a lot of the houses Chip and Joanna show are in better neighborhoods but there are those that just cry that they have been neglected and aren’t in the best of locations. If you can see that on TV, surely these folks could have seen it in real life.

Anyway, as I noted in an earlier blog post, it seems like I’ve been blogging a lot about consequences. This is another such post. In this one, the people are reaping the consequences of their decision to take part in a TV show and buy very cheaply so they could renovate and have the “house of their dreams”. In doing so, they apparently ignored all the warning signals. To come back now and blame Waco and Chip and Joanna — and probably HGTV — is foolish and disingenuous.

This is a prime example of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

It’s Monday. Nose, meet grindstone

First off, the pre-order for Nocturnal Rebellion should go live late tonight or early in the morning (fingers crossed). It is later than I wanted or anticipated but, as is so often the case, real life interfered. I learned long ago when that happens, it is best to wait it out instead of trying to push through. Mistakes happen when I’m too distracted by real life and I don’t want to hurt a book by not giving it my all.

Unfortunately, this means I am behind on several other things as well. Today and tomorrow, hopefully, I can get caught up on some of them. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the updates for Vengeance from Ashes for the expanded edition are rolling along. (The link is to the original edition.) It is odd going back to a book I wrote several years ago and knowing this is my chance to make it into the book I initially visualized. I’m not knocking the original. I love it and I had a blast writing it. But I only had a vague idea where the series was going at that point. Now that idea has solidified — as it should since I’m three books and several short stories into it — and things I hesitated to put into the original can now be woven back in. I can’t wait for you to see the final result.

Now I need to figure out what I’m going to work on next. Yes, I know. I am supposed to have a schedule and I do, of a sorts. But the muse is being unnaturally quiet right now and that is kind of scary. It usually means she is about to hit me with something I most definitely hadn’t planned on. So, in order to head her off at the proverbial pass, I’m looking at what I have planned, what I have already roughed out and will decide in the next day or two what it will be.

Of course, Myrtle the Evil Muse says she has the right to object — of course, she does. She’s evil. Sigh.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes. It is still in rough (as in I haven’t done spell check, etc) format. For those of you who have read the original, you will see a few alterations from the original, nothing that changes the story in any way.

***

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Even so, they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence of the small cell a few moments later. With her back to it, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she had learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through the remainder of her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those brave and loyal souls who had followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

Bile rose in her throat as the lift came to a sudden halt. But it wasn’t that which caused her breath to catch. The guard captain’s low chuckle sent a shiver of fear down her spine. Once before he had stopped the lift short of their destination. He’d told her then it was time to deliver a warning.

Warning!

He had beaten her so badly that day she had prayed for death. Was he about to repeat that performance? If so, why? She had done nothing to break the rules. She hadn’t been out of her cell in weeks, her only contact had been with the guards who checked on her three times a day.

Without warning, Haritos’ fist connected with her stomach. Pain doubled her over. Tears filled her eyes beneath the hood and she fought the urge to vomit. The neck of her jumpsuit tightened uncomfortably at her throat as the guard captain’s hand fisted in the material. Using it to hold her in place, he continued his assault. Her head snapped back and she tasted blood. She lost track of the number of times he struck or where each blow landed. All she could do was stand there, held in place by the hand at her collar, and pray the beating ended soon.

Suddenly, Haritos released her and she fell to the floor of the lift. Before she could struggle to her knees, his heavy boot caught her in the ribs. Once, twice, he struck, each time forcing her to cry out in pain. Her ribs ached and it hurt to breathe. Her face, especially her nose, throbbed with each beat of her pulse. From the stuffiness of her nose, she knew Haritos had broken it – again. Her right eye felt puffy, swollen. It had been a long time since she had been beaten this badly and why?

Why now?

“Listen carefully, bitch,” Haritos growled as he once more hauled her to her feet. “This is only a temporary respite for you. Sooner or later, you will be sent back. Remember your people are still here and we can do whatever we want with them. So keep your mouth shut. We’ll know if you do or say anything about your time here.”

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. And what did he mean by this being a respite and she would be back?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. But why? Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . tried to escape. . . take no chances. . . don’t listen to anything she says. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She remembered Haritos’ warning. Her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. That meant she had to do as the guard captain said. Otherwise, her people were as good as dead.

No!

Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. He hissed one last warning not to do anything foolish. Then he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Why weren’t they being transferred with her?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and worry warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It still amazed her how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. Held in the transport ship’s brig, she had no opportunity to learn anything about their destination or why she had been taken from Tarsus. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said a word that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and because no one had responded when she’d tapped out messages using the code learned on Tarsus.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by almost any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster and her breath caught as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home. That was especially true after the way she and the others had been betrayed by those they’d been loyal to

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. It was almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. There was nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who had brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal with everyone who had betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

***

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. Until later!

 

You did what?

I’ve written a lot this year about consequences. It seems there are a number of folks out there who simply don’t consider the consequences of their actions. It doesn’t matter if those consequences are direct to the person involved or indirect and aimed at someone else. Sometimes that lack of concern about consequences comes from carelessness, from simply not thinking through what they are about to do. Other times, too many times, it is because the person involved simply doesn’t care. They are entitled, you see, at least in their own mind.

What has me thinking about it again today is this story. It’s a simple enough story and one that should have been one of those feel good stories the news all too rarely covers. Simple really. A teen is making money by working at a food kiosk at the local mall. While on duty, a police officer comes up and orders a cookie. The teen recognizes the officer, who works at the mall, and wants to do something nice for him. So he buys the officer the cookie. It’s his way of telling the officer that he appreciates all the man, and those like him, do.

Pretty cool, especially when you consider the fact the young man paid full price for the cookie instead of using his employee discount.

Fast forward to the next customers. They’d been behind the officer in line and saw what the young man did. Instead of thanking him or commenting about what a nice gesture it had been, they did the opposite. They wanted a free cookie too. When they didn’t get it, they did not go gently into the night. They caused a commotion and, if I remember correctly, at one point it looked as if one of them might actually try to get into a physical confrontation with the teen.

Because they wanted a free cookie too.

Because they were special. Or entitled. Or just selfish pricks.

It doesn’t end there. The young man was called onto the carpet by his employer and suspended. Fortunately, his mother wasn’t about to take it lying down. She posted what happened to social media and pressure was put on the employer, Great American Cookies at Katy Mills Mall. Great American Cookies has backed off the suspension, saying finally that the young man did nothing wrong. Corporate has issued a statement in support of police officers.

But what would have happened had the young man’s mother not taken to social media? It was easier to suspend the young man than it was to fully review the situation and come to an informed decision. Sounds familiar, especially this weekend.

In another case, this one involving a public personality, consequences should come to bear. Early last week, police issued a statement laying the fault for a fatal crash directly at Venus Williams’ feet. No charges, fortunately, had been filed yet but the public statement was out there and being carried by every major news organization and sports channel.

Then, several days later, the police are having to backtrack and basically retract their initial statement. They had seen another video of the crash, one from a different angle. This video apparently shows Ms. Williams was not at fault in the crash. In fact, the video shows she had the green light.

But, in the rush to lay blame in a somewhat high profile case, the police also rushed in the collection and processing of evidence. Whether it was for political reasons or something else, they accused a woman who now, looking at the evidence, was not in the wrong. Will there be consequences? There should, and not just civil consequences coming from whatever action Ms. Williams might take against the police department.

There should also be employment consequences for those involved in making the hasty judgment and releasing it as a proven fact to the media. There are times when the police should simply say, “we are still investigating and will update you once we are through.” This was one of those cases.

It is not an easy decision, especially when the locals and the media are demanding fast action. They forget that real life isn’t like cop shows on TV. DNA results aren’t returned in mere minutes. Every cop shop does not have a fully equipped forensic lab and more. Evidence isn’t always processed in the local police station but is instead sent off somewhere else where that evidence joins the long line of items to be tested and reported on.

It is a situation the local cops in the town where I live face right now. Two weeks or so ago, a young teen girl disappeared. Several days later, she was found dead in a landfill a few miles away. Our cops have been doing exactly what they should. They have been investigating the case, asking for help from other agencies when needed and keeping their mouths shut in public. The police chief has been hammered because an Amber Alert wasn’t issued when the girl went missing. Never mind the fact that her case didn’t meet the legal criterion for such action to be taken. The criticism continued.

Others have complained because the cause of death has not yet been released. The truth is, as confirmed by the police in a short statement yesterday (maybe the day before), the ME hasn’t yet concluded what the COD was. They are waiting for tests to come back and that may take another month or more. Until then, or until more evidence is uncovered, the police will not be making any further statements. They do this out of respect for the family and because there is no sense to fuel media speculation.

Will there be consequences for this action? Possibly because, while the police chief is hired by the city manager, both he and the city manager basically hold their jobs at the behest of the city council. If the politicians decide the only way they can stay in office is to sacrifice someone, they might do so. Fortunately, our city council isn’t that mercenary. They really do have the best of the town at heart. So the only consequences I foresee right now are a demand that we find a quicker way to process evidence and find out why people died.

Three different situations, three different sets of potential or real consequences. In the first, a very real example of someone’s sense of entitlement negatively — and needlessly — impacting another person’s livelihood. In the second, an example of where the “need” to reassure the public that the police are working quickly to determine responsibility not only backfired but could be said to have negatively impacted a celebrity’s earning ability. I don’t think there was any malice involved, just a lack of foresight and a backbone. In the third, we have an example of a police force accepting the consequence of having public questions and some doubt leveled at them instead of potentially damaging any case that might arise out of the investigation. Looking at all three, I would much rather take the last example than the previous two.

When are we, as a people and as individuals, stop bulling ahead and take long enough to consider the consequences of our actions?

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