Nocturnal Lives

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

Tag: schedule

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!

 

Another United Miss and an Update

A quick post this morning. The next few weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy. I think I’ve figured out what the problem is with the conversion of Nocturnal Rebellion. I’m going to do a trial run this morning — after my second cup of coffee. If everything works, I’ll follow by uploading it to Amazon and putting it up for pre-sale. Once I have, and once it goes live, I’ll let you know.

Not only am I doing that but I am working on the “special editions” of the Honor and Duty series. More specifically, I’m working on Vengeance from Ashes right now. While the expanded editions won’t change the overall story arc, they will provide more of Ashlyn’s backstory as well as adding some scenes I cut from the originals. I’m really excited to get VfA to my beta readers by the first of the week to see what they think.

Once that is done, I’m going to take a couple of weeks (well, probably a month) to write something a bit lighter. That means a revisit to the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. I have several things already drafted that just need to be fleshed out. More on that later.

In the meantime, real life continues to happen. It wouldn’t be a normal week without hearing yet another story about United Airlines. How long is it going to be before the feds finally step in and start fining them enough that they either sell or get their act together?

This time, a mother and her three-year-old son were flying from Hawaii to, iirc, Boston. One one of the connecting legs of their trip, mother and son went through check-in, their tickets were scanned and they were seated, waiting for take-off. Along comes a flight attendant who asked if the child belonged to the mother and she, naturally, said yes. A few moments later, another passenger came up and said that the seat the child was in was his. Yep, you guessed it. He was a standby passenger who paid a whopping $75 or so for his ticket as opposed to the close to $1,000 the mother paid for her son’s ticket. He gets to stay on the flight and she has to hold the young child in her lap for a three hour (approximately) flight.

In an interview with the mother, she explained she was afraid to cause a scene, referring to what happened when the doctor was dragged off another United flight last year. Plus, she had her son with her and didn’t want to risk anything happening to him. I can’t blame her for that. United, in return, offered her compensation as a “gesture of goodwill” days after this happened and they have said they will make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

The official explanation is that the child’s ticket wasn’t scanned right, so it didn’t look like he had boarded. That let them offer his seat to a standby passenger. Now, I have a problem with this. For one, they had eyes on the child as evidenced by the flight attendant coming by and asking the mother if the child was hers. For another, even if they made a mistake, it would have cost them a lot less in the long run — both financially and in good will — to have told the standby passenger they’d made a mistake than to have the woman hold her son in a manner the FAA says is unsafe for a lengthy flight. Oh, and it is against United’s own policy to have a child more than two-years-old sitting in a parent’s lap for a flight.

This is yet another indication of problems within the United culture. They look at the immediate dollars they can put in their pockets over the long term damage such actions might have. It is clear they are failing in their training regimen as well. The flight attendant should have either questioned how old the child was and then why he didn’t have a ticket or they should have informed the pilot and ticketing agent they had a violation of their own policy if the child was forced to ride in the parent’s lap.

But no. It was more important to get that whopping $75 from the standby passenger. How much is that decision going to cost them?

United, for your continued survival, you need to wake up and start acting like a responsible business.

More on ME: Andromeda and future projects

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience and thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda – PC after the first couple of hours of game play. There are a couple of things I want to add to that post, especially since I have seen a number of reviews wondering what the hell Bioware thought when they made the game. Mind you, these reviews are from sites that I usually find myself, if not completely disagreeing with then at least thinking they have taken it a bit too far. Those reviewers and professional players (youtube channels) I respect and who tend to be my go-to when I’m not sure about a game, all seem to agree with my take on the game so far.

If you look at some of the reviews, you’ll see folks bitching about the animation of the faces of a number of the characters. Yes, there is some issue. But to say the animation has taken a step back not only at least one generation but years of game development is to overstate the case. My take is that there are two issues. The first is that some, if not all, of the concerns will be taken care of in a first day/week patch. And let’s face it, we all know there will be such a patch. Very few major games are released now without such a patch happening.

Second, and this dawned on me yesterday as I played for a few minutes, some of the animation — especially when we get a closeup of a character’s face — is like what we had when TV shows were suddenly broadcast in HD. We see every flaw in the complexion, etc. There is one cutscene in particular where we see a closeup of Sarah Ryder and it is all facial pores, imperfections and — well — normal skin. Just not what you’re used to seeing in a video game

Another complaint I’ve seen — and this predates the early access release on Origin — is that Bioware seems to have tried to make Sarah Ryder ugly. Again, who the fuck cares? I’m not particularly fond of everything about the way the default Ryder looks but you know you? She looks normal. Not every video game character, and especially not every female character, has to be a “beauty”. Don’t like the preset character, use the customization options. And get the fuck over yourselves.

Is the game perfect? No. But no game is. Some are better than others. But for most of those who are complaining the loudest, they either haven’t played the game yet or they are like me. They’ve played some or all of the 10 hour early access and, to be honest, that doesn’t get you very far into the game and, if they really thought about it, there will be patches to deal with some of the issues they have brought up. I’m willing to wait and see what happens before passing final judgment.

So far, this Mass Effect feels more like the original Mass Effect in a lot of ways. There are things I like and some that I don’t. I look forward to truly being able to explore the game when it is released and there isn’t a time limit imposed on how long I can play.

In other news, I want to once again thank everyone’s support of Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I especially want to thank those of you who have left reviews. You guys are great. Please keep the reviews coming. They really help. Now I’m off to work on Nocturnal Rebellion and plot the next Eerie Side of the Tracks title. Well, actually titles. I figured out yesterday the order for the next three titles in the series (one short story as well as the follow-up to Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) and then the next novel which will be Ciara’s story). The next book, however, after Rebellion will be Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty series) and that one is already plotted and a very rough draft mostly written. So, busy writer am I, especially since I have a couple of editing projects I’m working on as well. That means I need to get off of the internet and get back to work.

I’m baaaack!

It seems as if every time I make the commitment to blog daily, things start off fine. Then real life takes my pledge as a challenge to see just how much it can throw at me before I cry “Surrender!”. Usually, when that happens, I can dig out after a couple of weeks. It seems like this time real life decided to not only knock me down but try to knock me out, at least for the first quarter, if not longer. I won’t go into all the details, just know that we’ve had more than our fair share of death of extended family members, illness, death of appliances. Well, you get my drift.

What happened as a result is my writing, editing and everything else associated with publishing got pushed to the back burner for awhile. In some ways, that’s been a good thing because it has let me come back with fresh eyes to projects that are now not only late, but very late. It has also given me time to think about how I approach my career and make some decisions about how to move forward. I’ll probably be blogging about those decisions later.

However, for those of you who have been patiently — and some of you not so patiently and I really do appreciate knowing you are looking forward to my work — waiting, here are a couple of cover reveals.

Dagger of Elanna will be released Tuesday, Feb. 21st. Assuming real life doesn’t decide to see what sort of twists and turns it can throw me today, I will hopefully be able to get it up for pre-order today or tomorrow. However, with all that has happened for the last two months, I’m not making any promises on the pre-order.

Here is the second cover reveal. We will be tweaking the cover very slightly before the book goes on sale, but I have to say I really like what Sarah has done with it. And, for those of you who have been waiting for the next Honor and Duty novel, the plan is to have it ready for a May /June release. There will be more about that after I put Dagger to bed. Oh, and the title for the next book is Victory from Ashes.

That leaves Nocturnal Rebellion, part of the Nocturnal Lives series, which I am planning for a Late Summer/ Early Fall 2017 release. The so-far untitled second book in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series will come out around Halloween. It, like Victory from Ashes,  is already in the works. Somewhere in there will be the next installment to Skeletons in the Closet. The nice thing is, the novellas and books set in the Eerie Side of the Tracks world are quick writes, relatively speaking, because they don’t require as much research and fact-checking as some of my other books. Now, this is a tentative schedule because I am not, absolutely NOT, going to tempt real life to try to beat me over the head any more than it already has.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), click on the link or the image to check it out.

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails. Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission. Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

 

Freebies and an update

Here’s hoping everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. Mine was made especially good because my son was home for Christmas for the first time in three years. Now, however, it is time to get back down to work and get busy and back on schedule — at least for me.

So, to start, I have three books set for free through tomorrow.

Hunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

 

***

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

***

Wedding Bell Blues

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

 

I will be placing Dagger of Elanna, the second book in the Sword of the Gods series, up for pre-order later this week. Release date will be mid- to late January (at the latest). I still have to study the calendar a bit to decide the final release date. (As well as making sure there is plenty of time to make sure there are no glitches in the print release at the same time.)

Once that is uploaded, I’ll put the finishing touches on a short story in the Honor and Duty universe before moving on to finish up Nocturnal Uprising (working title) as well as the second installment of Skeletons in the Closet. The short story should be up by the end of January. Hopefully, the next installment of Skeletons will be shortly after that, perhaps end then of February. Then, after Uprising will be Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc of Honor and Duty. After that will be the next Eerie Side of the Tracks novel. Of course, now that I’ve set all that in my calendar, you know what’s going to happen. Myrtle the Evil Muse will hit me over the head with yet another story idea that has to be written NOW!

Publication notes and a snippet

As I noted in earlier posts, I got waylaid by my muse last month and wound up having to write an unscheduled book. It happens sometimes. I don’t like it when it does but I have learned not to fight the muse when she gets into that mood. Anyway, Witchfire Burning is finished, has been edited and proofed and is ready for publication. It will go live on Amazon Friday, assuming everything goes right, and the print version will be available in a couple of weeks.

Because of the Halloween season, and because Witchfire Burning is coming out this week, I’ll be releasing the novella Skeletons in the Closet on the 25th of this month. Skeletons shares a setting and some characters with Witchfire Burning. Skeletons is the first of what will probably be three novellas centering on Lexie Smithson and her rather unusual family, even by Mossy Creek standards.

Dagger of Elanna will be released on November 22nd, fingers crossed. The book is finished but needs some more work on the editing front before I send it off to beta readers and then my editor. I also need to talk with my cover designer to see if we are on the same page regarding the cover image and typography or if we need to do some reworking of it.

After that will come Victory from Ashes. I’d like to have it out before the end of the year but I’m not making any promises. At the same time, I need to be working on the next Nocturnal Lives book. I’ve been putting it off because it will probably be the last book in the series. No, I’m not leaving Mac and company behind but that particular story arc is coming to an end. There will be some short stories and novellas here and there until I figure out how to handle the next “chapter” in their lives.

Series and series ends have been in my mind of late. I think we have all read series that kept going long after the author should have ended them. The characters either quit growing or they turn into something that bears little resemblance to the character we first knew and loved. The author writes in a way that you wonder if they no longer like the series. I am seeing this happen now with several series I have enjoyed reading. One I have quit buying altogether. One is no longer on my buy it as soon as it comes out — of course, part of that is my refusal to pay $13.99 or more for an e-book. The third has just dropped from my buy the hardcover to wait for the e-book to go on sale. So I want to be able to wind up this current story arc in a satisfactory way for the readers and the characters and then start a new arc that will keep my attention as well as my readers.

So, that’s my schedule for the next six months or so. Well, almost my schedule. There will also be at least one more short story in the Honor and Ashes universe, probably coming out shortly before Victory from Ashes. Over the next few weeks, I’ll figure out my schedule for next year and post it. Of course, I’m afraid of doing that because Myrtle the evil muse seems to take that as a challenge to see how many times she can pull me out-of-schedule and force me to write something I hadn’t planned on.

And now for the snippet. This is the opening chapter from Witchfire Burning. A version of the first part appeared on this blog about a month and a half ago. Those of you who read Mad Genius Club will recognize most, if not all, of the snippet. However, since I hadn’t posted it all here, I thought I would today. As with everything here, all rights reside with me. Copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green

Chapter One

It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cellphone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Momma, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, recognizing the area code if not the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a woman asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. She might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about her voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, she had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Carli Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Ms. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you, but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want to worry her.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there’s no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I’d moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mom belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?”

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” I thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they’ve heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I didn’t wait for her to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cellphone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor, was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case which I locked and then dropped inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Momma, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

Read More

Some thoughts and an update

I’ll be honest. I forgot to blog yesterday. I’m still getting used to blogging on a regular basis. I promise I will get better at it. Still, I did manage to get my blog up at Mad Genius Club yesterday and I am blogging at According to Hoyt today. I enjoy going both blogs because they let me bog about different things. MGC, as most of you know, is focused on writing and publishing. ATH allows me to talk politics, history, whatever. This blog is a combination of those as well as whatever strikes me as needing to be said.

Which brings me to yesterday’s post at MGC. I admitted from the start of it that I had not read the pleadings in the case I referenced. In fact, the point of the post was to applaud the Guardian, a site I rarely find myself in agreement with, for giving the other side of the suit filed by author Sherrilyn Kenyon against fellow author Cassandra Clare. I commented on the possible points in the suit based on what Ms. Clare said.

And you guessed it, some of the usual suspects condemned me for commenting on something I knew nothing about. Worse, these same folks condemned what I’d said not because I might have been wrong but because — gasp — I support the Sad Puppies last year and this. You see, I am one of those wrong thinking folks who believe that if an award is a fan award then it should be open to nominations and votes by all fans, not just those who are self-identified Fans. I believe that a story should be entertaining more than it should have a message.

Now, before they start screaming and pointing, I didn’t say that I think there should be no message in fiction. Far from it. But I think an author, if she knows her craft, can weave that message into the plot and character development in such a way it can still make the reader think without alienating the reader by hitting them over the head with the Message Bat.

I have no problem having characters who don’t look like me, think like me or believe as I do in a book. Hell, I’d get bored fast if all I read were books populated with mini-mes. But I don’t think a book should be judged by how many characters fit a checklist based on sexual preference, race, politics, etc. Again, you can connect with your reader through good writing that entertains.

What so many of those who claim we need to have that laundry list to go by forget is that sometimes less is more. You can hint and drop clues about your character in such a way that a wide variety of your readers will connect with that character. But, if you get too detailed, you restrict the identification. Don’t forget that your readers have an imagination and they will use it as they read your words.

One of the best examples of how a reader — or in this case a viewer — uses imagination is the movie Psycho, particularly the infamous shower scene. Between the music, some inspired camera angles and scene cuts, the viewer is tricked into think she seems more than she does. Not once do you actually see the knife being driven into Janet Leigh’s body. In what would be a bloodfest if made today, the scene is one of the most haunting in movie history. How many folks still hesitate to pull the shower curtain in a motel room because of that movie? Hints and more hints but little actually shown and more than one generation still shiver when seeing that scene.

But let’s get back to the lawsuit. As I noted in the comments on MGC, I’ve now read the original filings and, frankly, I have more concerns about it going forward than ever before. In many ways, it reminds me of the Games Workshop attempt to prevent any science fiction writer from using the term “space marine”. It is going to be interesting to see what happens as this suit moves forward — if it does after Ms. Clare’s attorney files his response and the court holds its first hearing.

For those usual suspects who love to hear themselves condemn everyone else, have fun. Enjoy your little echo chamber. I’ll continue being a fan of science fiction and fantasy and write the sort of sf/f that my readers want. I’ll do my best to weave any message I might have into the plot in such a way I don’t alienate my readers — my customers — so that they quit buying my work.

I will watch you guys turn the once prestigious Hugo into an award that only publishers and a few others even know still exists. That, whether you want to admit it or not, is the tragedy of this situation. Somewhere along the line, Fandom decided it was more important than fandom. It forgot there are a lot more fans than Fans and that, as authors, we need to appeal to a wide audience if we are to survive.

That said, I remember when Hugo nominated works had an entertaining plot as well as a message that didn’t hit you over the head. Unless and until the powers that be decide to official turn the Hugo into something that is no longer for the fans, I will continue to try to educate readers and fans of the genre about how they, too, can nominate and vote on the Hugo.

So, along those lines, if you want to see what some of your fellow fans are reading and think worthy of a Hugo nomination, check out Sad Puppies 4.

For information about the history of the Hugos, check out this great post by Ben Yalow.

Kate Paulk also has posts about the main categories for the Hugo over at Mad Genius Club. Just click on her name/icon at the right of the homepage and her list of posts will come up.

As for the rest of it, eh. I read for entertainment as well as for education. I don’t mind messages but I hate being hit over the head with it. I much prefer a subtle weaver of message over the trumpeter.

Now for the update. The edits on Honor from Ashes are coming along and I will begin snippets soon, probably this weekend.

In the meantime, go find yourselves a book to read and enjoy.

 

When is a book a book?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately. It’s not usually an issue. More often than not, it is more a question of “what do you mean this isn’t the only book with these characters? I didn’t start out to write yet another series!” That is often followed by crying — by me — and gleeful laughter — from Myrtle the Muse. Yes, Myrtle the Muse loves to torture me.

Unfortunately, this time the book itself is the one doing the torturing, both to myself and to Myrtle. Skeletons in the Closet is that book. Now, what you have to understand is that this book has been different from every other one I’ve written. It has teased me and given me hints and fits for a couple of years now. It has taken more twists and turns than all the others put together. That is one reason why it isn’t one that has been written in one “sitting”.

Now it is presenting me with another quandary. What I’ve written so far will, after edits, come in around the 50k word mark. That is short, very short, for me. Up until now, I think the shortest novel I have put out is approximately 80k words. That is part of the uncertainty.

The other part is that I know this is only one part of Lexie’s story. Yes, in and of itself, it is complete. The peaks and valleys of the plot are there but the story, itself, isn’t over.

I could put it out as it is — after edits, of course. But then I would feel the need to charge less for it than I do for my other work. Sort of look at it as a loss leader and I’m having problems with that. You see, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a capitalist at heart.

I guess what this is all coming down to is this: I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. I am going to follow my initial plan of letting it sit for a couple of weeks while I do the edits on Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). Maybe by the time I’m ready to come back to Skeletons, I’ll have made a decision about whether to finish writing the entire story arc or simply put this first “book” out at a discounted price.

In the meantime, I am going to go back to blogging every day. Weekends will be snippets and promotional posts. The rest of the time will be what the last few weeks have been, a mixture of writing related posts and current events and whatever the hell might strike my interest. That also means there will be days when there are multiple posts when, as my grandmother used to say, something gets my dander up.

Update

I’ve been head down at the keyboard, doing my best to catch up on not only my writing but the editing projects that have been backlogged for much too long. The writing is back on track, fortunately, and the editing is getting there. I’m hopeful that everything will be caught up within the next two weeks.

In the meantime, Slay Bells Ring will be going live for purchase later this week as an e-book. Print copies of it and Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) should be available for purchase near the first of the month. The link will take you to the e-book.

Also, the third book of the Honor and Duty series will be winging its way off to Amazon later today for approval for pre-orders. As soon as it goes live, I will post and update. I have a working copy of the cover and, yes, it will be finalized during the pre-order time frame.  But it will work for the pre-orders.

What I discovered writing this draft was that my thoughts at the end of Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) were right. It was going to take at least two more books to tie up this story arc. I foresee one more book in the immediate story arc. After that, well, there are more stories with these characters and others that want to be written.

Anyway, here is the draft version of the cover for Honor from Ashes. Text about the series, etc., still needs to be added and the lettering needs some work. But this will give you the general idea.

honor from ashes draft 3

The original image can be found here and and is © by NextMars.

NaNo, work to come and Cyber Monday

That sound you heard this morning was the sound of numerous writers heaving a sigh of relief because NaNoWriMo is over. Some met their goals and others didn’t. But the stress of trying to do 59k words in one month is gone and it is time to move on. That means some will shove their NaNo projects under the bed, possibly never to see the light of day again. Others will take those projects and try to clean them up and fill them out until they are ready for publication. Yet others will be setting their NaNo projects aside for a bit while they go back and finish what they’d been working on before NaNo began.

For me, it’s a bit of the latter two options. I am only about 20k words from finishing Slay Bells Ring. That was supposed to be the NaNo project this year. Of course, me being me, I had to stop and write about 15k words or so on Skeletons in the Closet because that damned Lexie wouldn’t shut up. Then I had to finish Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) and get it out — which included doing a re-edit of it because I trusted a new editor who fell down on the job. Many thanks to CS who stepped in and did a quick edit for me to help catch what I missed after learning of the problem.

All in all, I still managed to write more than 50k words last month. So I met my goal, sort of. I had wanted to finish Slay Bells Ring. Now, hopefully, I will have it done by the end of the week and back from a reliable editor in time to put it up around the 15th of this month.

So, what’s next in the hopper?

That’s exactly what I asked myself last night. What I came up with scares the crap out of me because, well, I am finally admitting that I am a writer and most of my income comes from writing. That means I can’t relax too long between projects. But there is another factor I’ve taken into consideration as well: sales across the board pick up whenever I bring out a new book. That’s especially true now that I link to all my books in the back matter and not just those by that particular pen name. A good example of this is Duty from Ashes. I released it on the 19th, iirc. Since then, all my sales have increased and the sales for Vengeance from Ashes just about doubled over the previous month. So, I need to make sure I have something new coming out every other month. I’d like it to be more often but I don’t see that happening.

Anyway, here’s the tentative schedule for the next year:

  • Slay Bells Ring – Dec. 15th
  • Boxed set of Hunted, Hunter’s Duty and Hunter’s Home — Dec. 15th (still not quite sure about this but need to put it here to consider.)
  • Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives book 4) – late Feb/early March 2015
  • Honor and Duty novella (prequel to Vengeance from Ashes) Spring 2015
  • Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty book 3) — May/June 2015
  • Skeletons in the Closet — Summer 2015
  • Nocturnal Lives novella — October 2015 (Jael’s story)

Somewhere in there, I need to do at least a novella in the Hunter’s Moon universe as well. Does anyone have a cloning machine? I do like to sleep on occasion. It is an ambitious schedule but I already have the plot for Nocturnal Challenge down and I’ve been fighting to keep from dropping everything to write it. The Honor and Duty novella may be shoved back until Fall and that is sort of my reserve option right now. Skeletons in the Closet is going to be a short novel — more than a novella but not much. That, too, has already dictated the plot to me. So it will be a matter of just sitting down and writing it. Jael’s story isn’t one I’d planned on writing but it hit me last night and now I can’t wait to get to it. It will help explain one aspect of the Nocturnal Lives universe that I haven’t explored much to date.

The only title I don’t have completely mapped out right now is Honor from Ashes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know the basic plot. It will wrap up the major plot threads from the first two books but, right now at least, it looks like it will also lead into at least one or two more books. That said, I don’t plan on this series to go on forever. I’m looking forward to playing with other characters in the universe and see where their stories take me.

Now, since it is Cyber Monday, here’s the obligatory pitch. Right now I have three series out. Here are the links to the first books in each series as well as the link to Duty from Ashes, my latest publication.

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewSome things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

 

 

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
written under pen name Ellie Ferguson

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what.

Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous

 

 


coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)
written under the pen name of Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

 

 

 

 


Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2)
written under the pen name of Sam Schall

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

 

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