Okay so it looks like I fell off the planet. Promise - I'm still here. The last four years have been ... hard. There's no other word for it. Everything is fine. I'm fine, but I've been the caregiver of my mom who has Dementia. Between her needs, work, etc I seem to have lost control of my time. I am still writing and am trying hard to get back to my blog.

In case you weren't aware Phaze and HSWF which where under the Mundania Umbrella have closed. I was smart enough to get my titles back before all this happened. I'm happy to say the three books I sold to HSWF have been picked up by Melange Books and are available through their Satin Books imprint. I have even sold a new title to them called Magical Quest due out in 2022

I have also been lucky enough to find a publisher for my Vespian Way series. I'm now with Blushing Books under the name of Bethany Drake. I have five titles out with them right now and am close to submitting two more. There's Desire's Destiny, Desire's Duty and Desire's Promise. Then there is two in my werewolf series, Tears of the Queen and Legend of the Tears. I have just finished the rough draft of the third book in the series and have plans for a fourth one the moment I submit it.

I'll probably still be sporadic here on the blog. Unless I win the lottery and can hire someone to help me I can't avoid it, but know I'm still here still working hard in the background and am hoping to do better at keeping my blog alive.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Welcome My Latest Guest: Catherine E. McLean!

I want to welcome author Catherine E. McLean. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

I'm a wife and mother, who has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. I'm an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

Living on a farm nestled among the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania, I write "starscape fiction"—fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories—where I (and a reader) can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Tell us about your latest release.

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb…No reason to panic.

That line lets readers know HEARTS AKILTER is a lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi romance. The setting is a space station, one that doesn't orbit any planet but is near a jump portal that leads to Earth's Star Colonies.

The story is about people. Marlee is a pragmatic robotics maintenance tech and Deacon is a bomb expert. Then there's Henry (the cute little robot), who is evolving into and A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). Henry works exclusively in sickbay, and when he has pains in his chest, he complains to Marlee that he's having a heart attack.

Well, robots don't have hearts, and when Marlee investigates, she finds a bomb. Because of who Marlee suspects put the explosive in the robot, Marlee decides to secretly contact a bomb expert, one Deacon Black, and get him to diffuse the bomb.

Trouble is, someone is trying to kill Deacon. When he sets a trap to reveal his would-be assassin, he nabs Marlee instead. He's immediately intrigued by her refreshingly forthright and gutsy attitude— okay, so he's smitten. But Marlee has recently sworn off men, especially handsome ones with boy-next-door grins.

In essence, HEARTS AKILTER is about her heart, his heart, and a robot's nonexistent heart. A quick-paced, smile-of-a-read.

Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?  

Topping my list is the Sheriff Of Nottingham (as played by Alan Rickman  who also played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series). I liked him in both roles for his sexy black attire, his deep voice, and his facial expressions (or lack thereof). And, especially, because of the seriousness of both roles and the sudden Wow! factors that pop up when either interacted with others.

The Sheriff's wow factor include  'funny-punny' lines at unexpected moments, which made me laugh.
Then there's straight-faced Snape who could put in a deep-throated zinger that shocked and sank home a point. Or scared one witless.

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

Adrada, the Archangel of Departed Souls, who has gigantic golden wings edged with mournful purple feathers. Why? Because he slipped into my mind when I was trying to figure out a murder premise for a contest. That bantering between the piece's narrator and Adrada won me the contest, and my first published, lighthearted sci-fi piece.

Since Adrada came on-stage, so to speak, he's been either a key player or a bit player in most of my stories. He was prominent in my paranormal fantasy romance, KARMA AND MAYHEM, but he's not in HEARTS AKILTER.

3.) What genre do you write in? What made you pick that one?

It wasn't a matter of picking a genre as much as following my heart and of telling tales of love among the stars and in the days of tomorrow. For a long time, I didn't know what genre my stories fit into other than to call them sci-fi space opera. Then in the latter 1990's, I discovered futuristics and knew it was my niche. Trouble is, by the time I got a novel polished to market, futuristics had devolved into something else. I still struggle to find others who write the old-fashioned futuristics. With recent reprints of some of the old ones (re-released by their well-known authors), another generation of readers might spark the demand for futuristic/space opera sci-fi romance.

4.) What are you working on now?

When HEARTS AKILTER's launch is over, my goal is to get back to the self-edits of LOVE UNDER LITE SPEED (a lighthearted, sci-fi / space opera romance) and submit it. This novel is a galactic brew of thieves, political intrigue, family duty, government loyalties, and saving face— where notorious privateer Sarina "Dammit" Dannon and no-nonsense government agent Aaron Cantrall find love travels under lite speed. That's not a typo. It's 'lite' speed, not light speed.

5.) What got you to start writing?

I always entertained myself with stories I created in my mind, but I didn't write them down. After all, no one ever told me I should become a writer or that I had talent for storytelling. Yet, I read a lot and I worked with wordsas a secretary and later as a journalist for a small, regional specialty publication.

Then an injury to my back made it impossible to keep working as a secretary. I would shut out the back pain by concentrating on writing novels and letting myself be swept into starscape worlds. After my husband read my work, he suggested I see if there was any merit in my writing and maybe I could make a little money with it. I found a well-known literary agent and asked him to just tell me yes or no, quit writing or go with it. The man sent me back a nine-page letter with two sheets, printed back to back, single spaced, of book titles. In essence, he said I was a storyteller, but I needed to bring the art and craft to the writing. I didn't even know there were techniques and devices that made for marketable stories. I readand studiedevery one of the craft and how-to books on his lists, then I took the Professional Writing Courses at the University of Oklahoma. That was in the early 1990's. (The program is no longer offered.) A month after completing the short story phase of the course, I sold a short story, then another, and another.

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

Out of thin air. That's no joke. I never lack for a topic to write about nor a storyline. I think that's because I never censure my subconscious. It can give me an idea, birth a character, tell me a scene of a possible story, and so on, at any time. But here's the deal, I will jot down whatever it is, and when I have time, I will look at it and see if I'm interested or the idea has merit. That's why I have this three-ring binder filled with "Bits & Pieces" from which to write stories. I'll never have enough lifetimes to get through all of themor the new ones that keep arriving!

7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?

That I never anticipated becoming a writer or an author. I never told myself that I wanted to be a writer. Why? Because I was raised to get an education, get a job, feed and clothed myself, and pay my own bills. Writing was not considered a worthwhile endeavor. And that's likely why writers are still told not to quit their day jobs. J

8.) Do you have any special talents?

I sew. Although I cannot create outfits or costumes from scratch or by using my imagination, I can duplicate what I see in history books or in pictures, or clothing catalogues. Most recently, I've been recreating Erte gowns for Darq, who is the fashion doll, avatar-heroine of my JEWELS OF THE SKY novel. Erte, by the way, is considered The Father of Art Deco (think Downton Abbey dress styles). The hard part about creating Erte fashions is that I only have paper doll illustrations to go by, but those artists don't draw in seam lines, so I have to rely on my knowledge of garment-making to duplicate outfits.

9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

Since I never aspired to be a writer or author, was never encouraged to pursue such a career, there was no advice offered—other than get a job, pay your bills, put food on the table, and stand on your own two feet. (Which is, nonetheless, good advice.)

10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

Sorry, I cannot think of a single person or famous figure, living or dead, who I would like to meet, let alone converse with. As to fictional characters, well, that's another matter. There are so many  The Sheriff of Nottingham and Snape, Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, Mal (FIREFLY), Iron Man, James Bond, Remington Steel, Wonder Woman, Agent Peggy Carter . . .

As to what to talk about? I would ask: What would you do for true love, a life-time lasting love-of-your-life?

11.) What song would you say describes your life?

This question is just too, too funny. You see, I can't recall songs or music lyrics, carry a tune, nor play an instrument. I can't even understand the dot-flags on music sheets. I even hum off key. Being so musically challenged, I never took an interest in singers, songwriters, bands, or orchestras.  However, my husband says I don't march to the beat of any drum, I follow the wail of bagpipes. J

12.) If you could come back as any animalwhat would it be?

A Morgan Horse. Not the show ring type but a Morgan Sport Horse. They are honest, intelligent, willing, forgiving, try their best, and they don't bottom out, that is, they don't quit. I owned, rode, and drove a number of themand rode one to become a Reserve National Champion Competitive Trail Rider.

About Catherine E. McLean

Besides Catherine being a wife and mother, she has ridden and exhibited Morgan Sport Horses. She's an avid clothing and costume designer, an award-winning amateur photographer, a 4-H leader, and a Red Hatter who loves bling.

She lives on a farm nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania. In the quiet of the countryside, she writes fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal stories where a reader can escape to other worlds for adventure and romance.

Her short stories have appeared in hard-copy and online anthologies and magazines. Besides having two novels published, soon to be released is her lighthearted fantasy/sci-fi romance HEARTS AKILTER. Catherine also gives writing workshops, both online and in-person. A schedule is posted at http://www.writerscheatsheets.com/workshops.html

Catherine's website for writers is http://www.WritersCheatSheets.com and she blogs at http://writerscheatsheets.blogspot.com/

Or on social media:
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1I64GqK

Hearts Akilter

Love, vengeance, attempted murder, and a bomb...No reason to panic.

When a medical robot insists he's having a heart attack, Marlee Evans, a pragmatic maintenance technician, has every reason to panic. There's a bomb inside him.  Since Marlee can't risk the bomber discovering she's found the device, her only option is to kidnap Deacon Black, an unflappable bomb expert, and secretly convince him to disarm it.  Things go slightly awry when Deacon sets a trap for someone who is trying to kill him, and inadvertently captures Marlee instead.  Instantly intrigued by her refreshingly forthright and gutsy attitude, he's smitten.  Unfortunately for Deacon, Marlee recently hardened her heart and swore off men, especially handsome ones with boy-next-door grins.  But as Marlee and Deacon attempt to identify and prevent the bomber from detonating the device, they discover that love may be the most explosive force of all.

Available Now

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/1GvpqqT

The Wild Rose Press: http://bit.ly/1HDhwAT


By Catherine E. McLean @ 2015

The bomb. Right. Dismantle the bomb. In this lift? No, that was insane. “Marlene, if the bomb goes off accidentally—”
“It’ll blow the station to kingdom come?”
He nodded.
“Not to worry.”
She said that with such nonchalance that he found himself speechless. He cleared his throat. “Why not? Did you snatch the portable Bomb Disposal Unit, too?”
“What’s better than a BDU?”
“Garbage incinerators.”
“What?” He glanced out into the darkness beyond the lift.
Giant machinery stood silhouetted and veiled in shadows. “Where are we?”
“Deck forty-three, Ring D zero three. Relax. Don’t panic.  They once accidentally incinerated a torpedo in number four, over yonder.”
She pointed to the left. “Nobody heard or felt it explode, and there wasn’t even a drail’s worth of damage done to the incinerator, or anything else.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“It happened three years ago. I was there, a deck above.
Never mind.”
Henry manipulated his finger appendage, grabbing and briefly tugging the shirt sleeve of Deacon’s good arm. “Marlee would never lie about anything so important.”
“Does she lie about unimportant things?” He instantly regretted his caustic remark.
“I do not know.” Henry spun sideways, facing Marlee. “Do you lie about unimportant things, Marlee?”
“I have been known to tell a white lie now and then to spare someone’s feelings, but on the whole—” She looked away from Henry.
As her blacker than black eyes met his gaze, Deacon felt pinned to the wall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing Down the Bones: Story Construction and Evaluation of the Romance Novel

I'm so sorry I didn't post last Tuesday. I had the craziest thing happen and couldn't get on line, but I'm back and ready to bring you the next installment of the handout I've been working on.

As a reminder this comes from a handout by Janice Bennett on writing the popular novel. This section is on chapters. I might have changed a few words here and there but overall these are Janice's words.

1.) Do the scenes (approximately three scenes per chapter*) fit together as a unit?

* this isn't something that authors stick too but if you're a new author learning the art of writing this is a very good place to start with then as you grow as a writer you will find the right rhythm for your stories and the amount of scenes you want in each chapter.

2.) Does the chapter end on a strong dramatic moment? If possible, is it a page turning hook?

3.) Does the tension rise gradually throughout the chapter?  Do your scenes in the chapter build in importance and emotional impact?

Next week I'll be doing the section on resolution.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Meet My Latest Guest Paul Kane!

I want to welcome Paul Kane. First I’d love for you to introduce yourself.

Thanks for having me on the site! I’ve been writing professionally for almost twenty years now, fiction and non-fiction, which I’m celebrating next year with a new collection from SST – Shadow Casting – but I’m probably best known for my Hooded Man novels which are part of Abaddon’s Afterblight Chronicles; mine detail the adventures of a post-apocalyptic Robin Hood in Arrowhead, Broken Arrow and Arrowland – gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus. I’m also known for my association with Clive Barker and his work, especially the Hellraiser mythos: I wrote The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and co-edited Hellbound Hearts with my wife, the author Marie O’Regan. But people can find out much more about me at my website (http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk).

Tell us about your latest release.

I have two or three books out at the moment, including the collection Monsters from the award-winning Alchemy Press (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monsters-Paul-Kane/dp/0992980976/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434630189&sr=8-1&keywords=paul+kane+monsters), which has cover art from Clive Barker and an introduction by Nicholas Vince (Chatterer Cenobite from Hellraiser), plus the more comic horror book Dalton Quayle and the Bric-a-Brac Man from Pendragon (http://www.pendragonpress.net/books/dalton-quayle-and-the-bric-a-brac-man-by-paul-kane/). But there’s also the novella Flaming Arrow (available to buy at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flaming-Arrow-Afterblight-Chronicles-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00XPIBTCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433166685&sr=8-1&keywords=flaming+arrow and http://rebellionstore.com/products/flaming_arrow) which marks the return of my version of Robin Hood after five years. It takes place quite a while after the last installment, where we find my Hood as an older character, thinking of retiring and handing over control of his peace-keeping force ‘The Rangers’ to his adopted son Mark. But, of course, things don’t go anywhere near according to plan and there’s not only chaos brewing at home in Britain, but a trap waiting for him during a tour of Ranger outposts abroad.   

Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?

I’d have to say the Sheriff of Nottingham here, just because of the kind of fiction I’m best known for. My answer to the Sheriff, De Falaise, is a proper old school type villain inspired by the likes of Nickolas Grace – from my favourite interpretation, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood – Alan Rickman and Keith Allen. That’s why I like the character so much. I’ve said this before in interviews, but I think Robin Hood was one of the first superheroes and there are decided parallels to Batman in there – so, I’m going to have to say The Joker for me is also on a par with the Sheriff. He’s just so complex and OTT. I would have chosen Pinhead, but to me he isn’t really a villain – he’s just massively misunderstood. ;-)

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

Now, that is definitely Robert Stokes – my version of Hood. Again, I’ve written about this a lot of late (in particular an essay I did for Sci-Fi Bulletin called ‘A Hero’s Journey’ http://scifibulletin.com/books/fantasy/feature-a-heros-journey/) but I feel like I’ve grown with Robert as I’ve told his adventures over the years. He started off quite a damaged character, after the loss of his wife and child to the A-B Virus in Arrowhead, but he found a purpose battling evil and y’know what? He’s very good at it. He’s the kind of hero I’d like to be in alternate life: fiercely loyal, moral and incredibly badass.

3.) What genre do you write? What made you pick that one?

The Hooded Man tales are technically SF, or a sub-genre of that, but I’m a horror writer really at heart. That’s probably why I throw Satanic cults, witches and cannibals into the mix when writing these stories. Flaming Arrow even has a new set of genetically modified human monsters because I love monsters so much – I did mention my collection, right? ;-) I think you probably end up writing what you enjoyed watching and reading when growing up, and although I read widely back then – and still do – I kept returning to horror time and again. I do think it’s the most flexible of all genres, in that it can incorporate other genres and their tropes. Therefore you can have an SF Horror, a Comedy Horror, a Crime Horror – like my own Gemini Factor – which allows you to explore other areas you might be a fan of. I guess that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to write so much in that field, although I am known for others as well. I’ve even written YA fiction with The Rainbow Man, though that has a dark side as well.   

4.) What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on a few graphic novel scripts for SST, who – as well as bringing out Shadow Casting – are also publishing my follow-up to RED, Blood RED: a horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood. One of those graphic novels will be an adaptation of my novel Lunar, which is being turned into a movie as well. I’m also doing research at the moment for another mass market novel, which is a bit of a dream come true project – but I can’t say much more about that one at this time.

5.) What got you to start writing?

I think I’ve always had stories inside me trying to get out, even when I was very little and used to make up elaborate scenarios to play out with my action figures. My dad used to buy me comics from the local newsagents and I tried to copy the artwork from those, making up my own strips – I wanted to be a comic book artist growing up, in fact. Then, when I discovered SF, Fantasy, Crime and Horror novels, I devoured pretty much everything, and that led to me having a go at some of my own amateur tales, bashed out on my mum’s old typewriter. I still have some of them around; ooh, they’re so bad… But authors inspired me to start writing, really. People like Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, Chris Fowler, Frank and James Herbert, Anne Rice, Ramsey Campbell – but especially Clive. Reading his Books of Blood was a revelation for me – if you’ll pardon the pun – and I’ve never looked back since!

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

Ideas are everywhere. They’re not the hard part of writing; for me, the writing is the hard part of writing. I get dozens of ideas every day, which I jot down in little hardback notebooks – hardback, so you can write them down if you happen to be out and about and don’t have anything to lean on. It might be a newspaper or magazine article, a snatch of overheard conversation, a song or TV program… anything can spark an idea off really. Then it’s just down to you how you extrapolate it. Some will naturally be short stories, some will have more meat and turn out to be novel-length, some are in-between and end up being novellas or novelettes, but that length should suggest itself to you before you start. For something like Hooded Man, it was a case of working within the Afterblight universe but trying to carve something of my own out in it. So I figured if 90% of the world’s population died out, things would probably go back to how they were in Hood’s time originally, with the strong preying on the weak. I grew up not far away from Sherwood Forrest and used to get taken there very often by my parents, so there was that inspiration as well, drawing on trips there. And things just thankfully fell into place, allowing me to do my own reworking of the mythos featuring a character who knows it’s happening – that events are replaying themselves – but he can’t do a damned thing about it.

7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?

People tend to think of the life of a writer as being glamorous, and I suppose photos of myself and Marie at various events meeting quite famous folk do make it appear that way. But probably 99% of what being a writer is all about is being sat at a desk, bashing out the words on the computer – then editing them over and over. So I think people might be quite surprised that a lot of our life is taken up just with hard graft.

8.) Do you have any special talents?

Not that I could mention on a public forum… Both my thumbs bend back quite far, probably the consequence of both of them being trapped in car doors when I was a kid – at different times. The nails fell off and everything, it was really painful.  

9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

When I first started writing for the small presses I got a couple of really good pieces of advice. The first was from John B. Ford, who accepted my first short story for Terror Tales, ‘The Cave of Lost Souls’. He suggested the scattershot method of sending out stories, doing lots of them and sending out to lots of magazines to build a reputation – which I eventually did. The second was from bestselling author Simon Clark – he of Night of the Triffids fame – at one of the early events I went to. He told me that you’ve got to be in this game for the love of it – you can earn a decent living writing, but you can probably earn a much better living more easily doing a lot of other jobs. He also told me that if you got your head down, put the work in and took small steps, you’ll look round at some point and see just how far you’ve come – and he was absolutely right. It’s a kind of snowball effect. The more effort you put in, the more you get out of this profession essentially.

10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

Probably either Bella Lugosi or Boris Karloff, as I’d love to know how they felt playing two of the most iconic monsters of all time – being associated with them so much – and what the pros and cons of that were.

11.) What song would you say describes your life?

The Verve’s ‘Lucky Man’, I’d say. I’ve been lucky in my personal life, in that I’ve got a lovely wife and kids. Plus I’ve been lucky enough to do something I love for a living and to get much further than I ever thought I would with it. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of my heroes, including Clive who became a wonderful friend, so I’ve no complaints.

12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?

Has to be a wolf. I’ve written so many stories featuring them recently, from my novelette The Curse of the Wolf – which traces the lineage of a werewolf bite back through the ages (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Curse-Wolf-2-Cursed/dp/1503231755/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434631596&sr=1-6&keywords=curse+of+the+wolf) – to completing the ‘Life Cycle’ trilogy of stories for Monsters with a new novelette ‘Lifetime’, and the aforementioned sequel to RED, all of which are actually tied together in a new kind of mythology. I’ve had to put myself in the mindset of a wolf, and werewolf, so I guess that would be the easiest animal to slip into as I feel like I know the score now.

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Dreamwatch and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival, Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, plus Edge-Lit in 2014, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for network US television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film) and the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane). He lives in Derbyshire , UK , with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

Flaming Arrow


Once, a long time ago, this was a world. A living, breathing world.
Now it’s just a shell, a shadow of what it once was. Not that Mouse could remember the time before; he was far too young. This was the only world he’d ever known, the one he’d grown up in. Alone, more or less, since he was very little. He had vague recollections of a family, parents maybe—or at the very least people who had looked after him... to begin with. But they weren’t around for very long. He couldn’t remember exactly why: one minute they were there, the next they were gone. Anything could have happened to them really; as much as it was a dead world, it was also a dangerous one.
It hadn’t always been that way. Somehow, Mouse knew that. Perhaps the people who’d been around during the first few years of his life had told him so. There had been peace... of a kind. Some sort of order, at any rate. It was all he did know, as he hadn’t come across anyone who could tell him more. Not that he’d ask. It wasn’t wise—you only fell for that once. Trust was a hard thing to come by in this day and age, so it was best just to not get involved.
He’d been scavenging all this time, and had become incredibly good at it. Hunger was a pretty good motivator, even when you were very small—not that he was much bigger now—and fear kept you safe. Mostly. It was a combination that had worked well enough up to this point. It had also seen him travel a lot, moving on if a place had already been picked over—or he’d found all he could. Flitting from one burnt-out town to another, just as he was doing today. Sometimes you got lucky, like when he’d found that untouched basement with the tinned goods in. Tins were his best friends, they survived anything.
More often than not, there were days like this, when he found nothing. Mouse took one last look over his shoulder, at the scarred remains of the structures he’d been searching. The latest city he’d entered, which looked pretty much like all the others he’d ever come across. Except it wasn’t like all the rest, he felt. And there was a sadness he couldn’t explain as his eyes took in the rubble that filled the streets, the caved-in walls of buildings, bricks sticking out like broken teeth.
He shrugged, hitching up his backpack and leaving. It was time to head off somewhere else, somewhere that held more promise than this.
Time to hit the road again.

Mouse hadn’t been walking for very long down that road when he came across a curious sight in the distance.
He was used to seeing blackened stretches of land; there was little else sometimes, between the towns and cities. What remained of that living, breathing world he had never seen. But the landscape here was slightly different. It was uneven, rising and falling around him. As Mouse drew closer, he saw that it was littered with short, squat columns, fixed into the ground. He crouched and peered at one of them, running a finger over the surface, then wiping off the ash that covered it. Beneath were rings, lots of them: larger on the outside, then progressively smaller the closer to the centre they came.
There were lots of the strange objects here, all of differing sizes and shapes.
“It used to be how you could tell the age,” came a voice from behind him.
Mouse jumped, whipping out the piece of jagged metal he used as a weapon. How anyone had crept up on him was a mystery; Mouse was the quiet one, the sneaker—though someone was obviously much better. But the speaker wasn’t as close as he’d sounded. He sat on one of the odd columns, his cloak hanging down over the sides. He was leaning on something long and twisted, two hands clutching it for support. His white hair and beard rippled in the breeze passing through this place, and his skin was as wrinkled as old leather. Mouse had never seen anyone as old as him, in fact. The man looked older than time itself.
Mouse was simultaneously terrified and intrigued, fixed to the spot. But standing here out in the open like this, gawping, was a good way to get yourself killed. Perhaps it was a trap, and any moment now he’d be attacked from other angles, his backpack snatched from him as he was kicked and stomped into the ground.
He made a concerted effort to move forward, placing one foot in front of the other. “You... You stay where you are,” warned Mouse, looking about him all the while as he covered the distance between them, expecting at any moment to have to defend himself.
But the attack never came.
The man laughed softly. “You have nothing to fear from me, I assure you.” His voice was rough, but kindly. His breathing was laboured, though, as if it was an effort for him to speak at all. “I am quite alone.”
Still cautious, Mouse took another few steps. Out of habit, he looked the man over for anything that he might be able to steal. Wasn’t the usual way he did things, he preferred not to get his hands dirty, but when the opportunity presented itself he would grab it with both hands. The man shifted his position, took one of his owns hands off the twisted thing in front of him, and held it up.
At first Mouse thought he was commanding him to halt, then realised he was showing that he had nothing of worth about his person. Just his clothes, by the looks of things; no belts or pouches, certainly no food or drink. Mouse’s eyes flicked sideways again to the oddly-shaped thing the man was still gripping with his other hand.
“You like this?” the old fellow asked, laughing softly again. “I bet you’ve never seen anything like it before, have you?”
In spite of himself, Mouse shook his head.
“Or like this...” Now the old man tapped the thing he was sitting upon. “Most forests were completely obliterated, but, well, this one is a little bit special.” He sighed. “Only the stumps remain, however. All that’s left of the trees.”
Mouse frowned. “Trees?” He had no idea what the word meant, nor what a stump was. Or a forest, for that matter.
“Yes. There used to be trees here, so many of them. Huge, tall trees that reached into the sky.” He craned his head back and without even realising it, Mouse did the same. When he looked down again the man was patting the thing he was leaning upon. “These grew from the sides, they were called branches. It’s called a staff; it helps me to walk.”
Trees, branches, staffs... It was like gibberish to Mouse’s ears.
“So you see, I cannot give it to you—much as I’d like. And I have nothing else to offer a... collector such as yourself.” That much Mouse had figured out already. “Oh, wait. Except, perhaps...”
Mouse held his breath, waiting for the man to continue.
“...a story.”
A story? Mouse let out the breath again. He needed something to eat, or maybe even items to trade for food. What did he need with a story, with words? You couldn’t—shouldn’t—trade them. He shouldn’t even be here talking to this old fool, had lingered too long in the one spot as it was.
“A story about the old days,” the man clarified.
That made Mouse pause. The time before? Had this man lived through those times? He was old—ancient—that was for sure, but still... And how would Mouse know if he was telling the truth or not? Might be more nonsense like the thing with the trees, the branches. Yet there were the... what had he called them? Stumps? Mouse had never seen anything like those things before, with their rings for telling ages. He shook his head again.
“Are you sure? I would imagine someone like you would be very interested in those times. In what happened here in the past, back when this really was a forest.” The old man grinned, revealing a mouth almost devoid of teeth. “It’s a tale about good and evil and everything in-between. Heroes and villains, battles and wars.”
Mouse edged just that little bit closer.
“In the beginning, there was a great plague,” the storyteller told him. “It killed all but a handful of people with a certain kind of blood. And there was a man who survived, who was almost driven crazy by the death of his wife and child. He sought refuge out here in the wilderness, where he lived alone. Where he hunted with his bow and his arrows. Until he was needed, that was. Until he was called on to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Who were being bullied by a lunatic who wanted to take over the world.”
Without even realising what he was doing, Mouse had sat down opposite the storyteller on a nearby stump. He listened, head cocked, transfixed by what the old man was saying.
“He had help, of course, this man. This hooded man. There was a gruff farmer... Oh, a farmer is someone who used to grow food in the ground.” He laughed at Mouse’s reaction to that one; nothing could possibly grow in the earth that surrounded them now. “There was a priest, a holy man—you probably don’t know what religion is, either, do you?” Mouse’s silence was answer enough. “Anyway, that man believed in an almighty power called God, who created us all. Who created the world and watched over us, guiding events. The priest always thought that Hood had been sent to them by God... Then there was a giant of a man, Hood’s trusted second-in-command. They were like brothers, those two. Fought side by side so many times. And there was a woman Hood met who taught him the true meaning of love.” When the storyteller noticed Mouse frowning again, he explained: “That feeling of connecting with someone. Of trusting someone. Of wanting to look after them. No?”
Mouse shook his head yet again, this time much more emphatically. Maybe those people he could hardly remember had... had loved him. They’d tried to look after him, at any rate. But—whether it was through choice or not—they’d left him alone to fend for himself. Which is what he’d done; it was what he was still doing.
The storyteller shrugged, then carried on. “Ah yes, that’s right. There was a young lad as well, about your age when he first encountered Hood.” Now he really did have Mouse’s attention. “Together they fought a number of foes, building up their own army in the process. A peace-keeping force like no other.
“Their enemies included a witch and a man who thought he was a dragon... Oh, that’s a mythical creature, one with wings who could breathe fire.” The storyteller realised he was going off subject and got on track again. “Not to mention other armies from different places, one a group who worshipped the opposite number of that priest’s God.”
Mouse pulled his legs up and folded his arms around his knees, his jagged metal weapon still in his fist, though he had loosened his grip slightly. The more the old man talked, the more Mouse wanted him to. There was something, not just about his tone of voice, but the story itself.
A story, the man continued, of what had once been this forest, of the city Mouse had just come from. Back when it had still been standing, back when it had contained something called a castle.
“So,” said the storyteller, “should I go on?”
Mouse nodded, just as emphatically as he’d shaken his head before. Real or not, he was hooked.
“All right then. Well, this particular story takes place after the others, but is no less important. Indeed, it might just be the most important of all the stories concerning the legendary Hooded Man...”

© Rebellion Publishing

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Welcome Beverley Bateman to my blog again!

Hi all,

I want to make you aware that I;m having some internet issues that I hope to have resolved within a day - I wasn't able to activate all the links and I do apologize - hopefully I can fix this pretty quickly


I want to welcome Beverley Bateman. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

I’m young, cute, great personality and a fantastic writer. Oh, you want to know about the real me.
Okay, I live in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia among the orchards, wineries, beaches and lakes.
And I can sit on my balcony on the lake and drink great wine while I write.

Tell us about your latest release.

My latest release is Don’t Go. It’s a romantic suspense, but a little darker than I normally write.

I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite author? Do you feel you write like them?

J.D. Robb and no I don’t feel I write like her. I wish I did. She develops strong characters and great plots. I try to do that. I love all her books and have read every one.

2.) What was your favorite book growing up?

There were a lot, but I think my favorite was the three book series - Mary Poppins.  I got it from the library and loved the fantasy of Mary Poppins and her magical talents. I’m sure I read it at least five or six times.

3.) Are you a plotter or a pantser and why did you choose that method?

I’m mostly a pantser and you don’t choose it. It’s just how you write. I get an idea and start writing and hope it comes together as the words it the page.

4.) Do you consider writing a career or a hobby? Why?

 Actually it’s a passion, but if it has to be career versus hobby, it would be a career.

To me, a hobby is something you enjoy doing. You try to find time but don’t worry if you don’t. Writing is not always enjoyable. It’s hard work, or can be. You have to do it every day, just like going to work.

5.) What are you working on now?

I’m editing Targeted, and excited about starting a new book. My next one is going to be set in Canada. A Canadian author said to me why haven’t you set any of your books in Canada? And I thought - she’s right. I should set a novel in Canada. Jane Wolf, a crime reporter in Calgary, Alberta, who has been replaced by a younger, male reporter. She decides to buy a motor home and drive across Alberta and British Columbia, where she finds a few crimes to solve along the way

6.) What one piece of advice would you like to pass on to an up and coming author?

Write every day. I think that’s what every writer says and tries to do. It’s how to learn your craft and improve on it. And as Nora says – you can’t edit a blank page.

7.) If you had the ability to time travel and your first visit was to see a younger version of yourself what would you say to that younger self?

Wow, what a great question. I’d try to impart some of the knowledge I’ve accumulate over the years to make “me” become a better person. Never be afraid to take a risk, it’s the only way you learn. Don’t put things off. Be confident in your personal and life decisions. Laugh every day, be happy and enjoy life.

8.) You just got a million dollars, whether it’s from an inheritance, the lottery, or a sweet book deal doesn’t matter. What would be the first thing you would buy for yourself?

Oh my, so many things come to mind. Just one thing? Well, while I’d like to use the money to publish and promote my books, I think I’d go to Kenya and take a safari. Being among all the animals in their natural home would be so cool.

9) If you could un-invent one thing in the world what would it be?

Barbara, you have some very interesting questions. It’s the genetic modifying of foods. Genetically modified foods are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods

The first sale of a GMO food was 1994 and was a delayed-ripening tomato. Since then it’s mostly high demand cash crops like soybean, corn, canola and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and for better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have been developed, although as of November 2013 none were on the market.

I know many people think there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t believe you can change DNA without some side effects, and there are studies that link GMO’s to cancer

10.) What is your favorite movie/TV Show? Why?

Hmm TV show Castle or Bones – Bones. Why?  I like the main characters and the supporting characters and even if Bones and Seeley Booth marry and have a child and some of the supporting characters change, it’s always good. The plots help too.

Movie – Heart of Darkness with Marlin Brando. It had a great message.


Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Detective and a member of Crimes Against Children, Samantha Brennan, a rape victim as a child,  is a dedicated to finding pedophiles who stalk their teenage victims online. She’s a strong, dedicated detective whose specialty is the internet chatrooms and stopping young girls from becoming potential rape victims.

Reno Police Department Lieutenant Devlin O’Reilly is a loose cannon who works alone, a renegade cop who prefers to work undercover and catch bad guys. A gun in the perp’s mouth gives him a real rush. Off duty he likes to drink and pick up surgically enhanced, brainless bimbos, so he’s always in control. A relationship to him is a long weekend.

Forced to work together when a fourteen year old girl leaves home to meet a ‘boy’ from a chat room, Sam and Devlin have to overcome many of their personal feelings. They both know that the girl is not going to find a peer who understands her, but a man who will terrorize and rape her. 

Will they catch him in time? Is there a future for Sam and Dev?



“No! It can’t be happening again. Not again. I’m supposed to protect these girls.” Detective Sam Brennan stood and paced the room in a circle.

“What’s up, Sam?” The heavy set woman at the computer next to her asked while rolled her chair back.

“One of the girls is missing from my chatroom, Kerensa.”

“Hey, we can’t keep track of them all.”

“That’s my job. That’s why I transferred to this unit, to protect girls so they didn’t go through the hell that can follow a rape.” She stopped in front of her computer, her fists clenched at her side. A tear drifted down her face. “She has no idea what she’s doing.”

“You got that right. Look, we can only do our best. Other people, like parents and teachers, should take some responsibility for the kids.”

“I know. But parents don’t do a great job. I know.”

“I can’t imagine what you went through, but you do a good job.”

“Not good enough, not if she’s gone to meet him.”

“Look girlfriend, I know you live and breathe this job, but maybe you need to learn to step back. It’s not good for you to relive your life through these kids. The Washoe County sheriff’s office is just a job.”

“Not for me. But you’re right. I can’t help it.” Sam flopped into her computer chair. “The truth is, I hate it when one of these young girls goes into the chatrooms, then falls prey to the pervs who hang out there. Drives me crazy. I want to catch all those bastards and put them behind bars.”

“You catch a lot. I bet you have one of the best records in the country.”

“I don’t give a damn about records. I wish we could figure out a better way to keep the pervs off the internet for a very long time.”

“You got it. Maybe one day. Can I do anything?”

Sam glanced up as her fingers moved the mouse around. “No, I’m going to start re-checking last night’s chats and see what I’ve missed.”

“Okay then, I’m on a break. Back in ten. I need sustenance.” Kerensa stood, glancing across at her. “You sure you don’t need help?”

Sam stared at the screen.

“Don’t beat yourself up, hon. You’ll find her. You sure you don’t want a coffee or anything?”

“No, I’m good. I hope you’re right.”

“I won’t be long.” Detective Kerensa Washington bounced her well-padded body out the door and into the squad room.

Sam didn’t hear the door close as she scanned through the messages posted in the chat room. She squeezed her eyes shut, clenching and unclenching her fists.

Damn these guys. She’d like to get one of them in an alley--just once. She reached into the bottom drawer of her desk for a chunk of dark chocolate.

“Damn it. Where the hell is she?” She popped the chocolate in her mouth and chewed slowly, moving her mouse around the Washoe County mouse pad. She scanned the cyber-chat room one more time. “Damn. I can’t lose another one. She has to be here somewhere.”

Sam leaned forward, lips pursed, eyebrows crinkled. “Come on; come on, ‘Invisible-Melissa’, check in, please. Don’t go to meet him. He’s not who you think. You have no idea what he can do to you. Please baby, don’t go.”

Desperation wrapped around her like an iron boa and squeezed so she could barely breathe. Another tear trickled down her cheek.

With a few more clicks she scanned the names of those in the online chatroom. ‘Searching- for-You’ hadn’t checked in since last night either.

 “Damn. That’s probably who she’s gone to meet. How did I miss it? Don’t these kids know you never go meet some stranger you’ve only talked to online? They should have learned that back in the sandbox.”

She leaned back in her chair. Her forehead squeezed against her skull, shooting barbs of pain to her eyes. The chocolate hadn’t helped the stress.

“How did I miss this one?” She punched her fist into her palm. Insidious memories crept from the dark corners of her subconscious, spun a cocoon around her and dragged her back into the dark, tangled web of her own past.

The sickening sweet smell of overpowering aftershave snaked up her nostrils; fat, sweaty palms grasped at her thighs. She knew what was going to happen. She was unable to scream, unable to escape…no one to help her.

The images crashed over her, scattering years of counseling like broken shells on a beach, covering her soul with the spray of desperation and anger.

Sam scrubbed at a tear drifting down her cheek, and forced the images back into the darkness, back into the locked box.

It’s not about me. It’s about this girl and another predator creep.

With clenched fists she white-knuckled the arms of the chair to keep from throwing the damn computer against the wall.

“Find anything?” Kerensa strolled back into the computer room, a partially eaten sugar donut in her fingers. A faint white trail drifted behind her. “They got a whole box of these out there if you want to grab one before the other detectives get back and scarf them all.”

“Damn it! I should have seen it coming. Where the hell are they?” Sam kicked her chair away from the computer and stood. “No thanks. Those things can kill you. I’d have to work out an extra hour tonight.”

“Hey, they’re no worse than that stash of chocolate you hide in your bottom drawer.”

“A girl has to have something to combat the frustration. Besides, dark chocolate is good for you.”

“Right, if you say so. You know, girlfriend, you need to learn to relax, enjoy life, and find a man who likes his woman well-padded.” Kerensa patted the green uniform shirt stretched across her protruding belly. A safety pin protected a button from popping off.

“Like Tim?” Sam allowed a faint smile to tug at the corners of her mouth. “You’re lucky. Chocolate is my replacement for men. Chocolate won’t screw with me.”

“Too bad, ‘cause being a natural blonde with a great bod, you could probably get any man you wanted.”

 “Yeah, right.” Sam shook her head and walked toward the door. “I’m taking a break, but not to get donuts. I need to think.”

“Take your time, girl. Hey, if there’s any of those donuts left, bring one back for me, will ya?”

Sam nodded. She rubbed her temples with her fingers, trying to exorcise the images of what the girl would go through if she met that damn creep. A sigh slithered out into the squad room as she headed toward the pot holding the day-old coffee.

“You okay?” Pete Sandusky nodded in her direction.

The acrid, slightly burnt odor of chicory and rancid coffee beans made her wrinkle her nose before she even reached the coffee maker.

She shook her head, poured a half cup of the sludge, and rested her butt against the table beside the box of sugar donuts. “No. Not really.”

With her mug clutched in both hands, she stared across at Pete. He was a good cop. He’d been there about twenty years and looked every day of it. Gray fringe around a shiny pate; round, gold-rimmed glasses perched on a short, flat, boxer-type nose, and an inner tube that had settled around his waist under the dark green uniform.

“It’s a feeling I’ve got.” After a quick sip of the disgusting liquid she stuck out her tongue. “Yech. Why doesn’t someone throw this crap out?”

Pete shrugged. “What doesn’t feel right?”

“I think I’ve lost one of the kids from the chatroom. She’s not online.”

“Sure her parents haven’t cut off her computer privileges?”

“No, I don’t think so. She’s been saying the usual teenage girl crap. She doesn’t fit in, doesn’t have any friends and all the typical teen angst about her parents not understanding her. Then there’s this other guy, who says he’s sixteen, but is probably at least thirty, who keeps saying he understands, and is going through the same problems at home and school. The bastard has been playing to her weaknesses, and at the same time building up her ego, leading her on, trying to get her to meet him.”

“It doesn’t mean she will.”

“I know, but I’m afraid he might have convinced her to do it. She’s been off line since last night. I’m guessing she’s on her way to meet him as we speak, if she’s not already there. Damn it. I should have seen it coming.”

“You’re not a mind reader, Sam.”

“I should have picked up on this one.”

 “Know who the kid is?”

“No. I can trace her, but it will take awhile. I should have done that before, but most of the time they don’t actually go to meet the bastards. Has anyone reported a fourteen year old girl missing?”

“Not that I’ve heard.”

“Parents probably don’t even know she’s gone yet. It’s pretty sad when I can figure it out before the parents do, but then a lot of parents fail to protect their kids on the internet--and in other places.” She stared out the window and tried to visualize where the girl might be going. Heading toward a man, probably a pedophile, she didn’t know and thought was a boy; heading toward a life changing experience. Maybe one she wouldn’t survive.

“It’s not always the parents’ fault, Sam. Sometimes they don’t understand, or don’t know what to do.”

“Yeah, maybe. Or they’re embarrassed because they failed their kid and want to cover up their own failures. Best case scenario for this girl is she meets the guy for coffee and decides to come back home. That happens with the majority of the cases.”

“So don’t beat yourself up. She may be home by dinner tonight.”

“Thanks Pete. I hope so. The worst case scenario involves the hard core pedophiles. If he was one of those…”

“Don’t go there, Sam. Think positive.”

“That’s not my strong point, but I’ll try.”

Dark, clouds hung low over the Washoe County training center, adding to an already depressing day. The radio said more showers tonight.

 Pete moved across the room beside her. “Your shift is almost over, Sam. Shut it down for the night. See if she’s there in the morning, and if not, then trace her. You don’t even know if she’s local.” Pete reached up and patted her lightly on the shoulder.

She didn’t flinch at his touch. Thanks to this job she’d learned to control her immediate impulse to jerk away. At least she’d learned a few coping skills over the years. No thanks to the damn counselors.

“She’s local. Most of the chatrooms I surf are the Reno ones. We have a better chance of catching pedophiles that are local. If she is missing…”

“Don’t take it personal. You can’t save them all.”

“I always take it personally, Pete. I can’t help it. I’ve been there. I know what happens. I know the feelings that flood over you afterwards and the memories that will shape your life.”

“You’re darn good at catching those creeps and protecting a lot of kids. How many have you caught so far--forty?”

“Forty-two. But we catch them and put them away and the damn system sends them right back out in a couple of years to do it again. Dammit, sometimes they’re out in a few months. The courts don’t get the dangers associated with computers these days.”

And where the hell were the parents?

She headed back toward the pot holding the day-old coffee.

“Maybe, but you’re educating them, slowly. The abused kid’s stats in this area would be a lot higher if it weren’t for you.” Pete shuffled back to his desk. “Still, until someone reports this kid missing, you can’t do anything. What are you going to say--we need to start an investigation because I think someone is missing, but I don’t have a name or address and no one has reported her missing?”

“You’re right. But it doesn’t make it any easier. I feel so damn helpless. It makes me angry, frustrated, and depressed all at once.”

“You’re too close, Sam. Maybe you should work out in the field for awhile?”

Her lungs squeezed out another sigh, carrying her pain with it.

“Yeah, maybe.”

She picked up a donut, wrapped it in a napkin and carried her coffee back into the computer room. She closed the door and leaned against the wall.
“I don’t know about you, but I find working for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force always feels a little like walking on a tightrope.”

Kerensa rolled her chair around to face her. “You got that right, girlfriend. Even though the main focus is to catch pedophiles, we try to keep those girls from taking off with them.”

“Here,” she handed Kerensa the wrapped donut.

“You are a doll. I owe you.” Kerensa unwrapped the donut and took a big bite, and allowed the sugar to drift down the front of her uniform.

“Usually I pick up on the cues. If it looks like the girl might go to meet someone, I post don’t go and warn against the risks of meeting strangers. You and Hank do the same  thing.”

“Hey, I try to make what happens to them sound as scary as possible.” Kerensa licked the sugar off her lips.

“Yeah, you even scare me sometimes. I post articles on cases and stats I suggest the girls read.”

“Hey, your way or mine, it works most of the time. I like to scare the shit out of them.” Kerensa grinned, showing sparkling white teeth.

Sam dropped into her chair and rolled in front of the screen. “I’m going to scan the chatrooms one more time, see if I can start an identity search and then pack it in for the night. What about you?”

“I’ve got two more hours left on my shift until Hank comes in. Then I’m meeting Tim. We’re going to a monster truck thing.”

“I’ll be here for a while. I have to check in with my twelve pedophiles in their twelve chatrooms right now. That’s going to take me more than a few minutes.”

 “You amaze me. I have enough trouble keeping my personalities straight with eight perps and chatrooms.”

“Kerensa, I’ve been working ICAC a lot longer than you. I still use notes to help.”

“What I don’t get is why these creeps expect us to always be online whenever they want to chat. If you’re not there, you have to make excuses, like you’d been grounded by your parents, or you lose them.”

Sam shrugged. “I don’t get that either. Almost done, maybe I can still fit in a karate workout.”

“Sounds good--for you, not for me. Go, girl. It’ll all be here tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I guess. Maybe I’ll wash this disgusting mug and head out.” Sam trudged back into the squad room.

“Man, it’s chilly out there for May.” Detective Jerry Prado breezed in and waved in her direction. “Hey Brennan, how come you haven’t blown the joint by now? Isn’t your shift over?”

“I’m just heading out, Jerry. You look like you had a good day.” She edged her way carefully past his six foot something muscular frame, in an attempt to avoid physical contact with him.

She rinsed her mug and left it to dry on the tray.

“It was good, yeah. Caught me a bad guy and that leaves his lovely lady free and available for this evening.” Jerry waggled his dark, eyebrows suggestively.

“You’re kidding.” She shook her head. “No. I know you’re not.”

Trust Jerry.

He was part of the Consolidated Narcotics Unit, divorced, with an I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude. Felt he was god’s gift to women, and the Washoe County Sheriff’s office.

She could understand why women might be turned on when they first met him with his football player physique, dark hair, and sexy Latino eyes. When he flashed his pearly whites, he looked damn near irresistible.

However, you’d think his obnoxious, self-centered personality would get to them after the first date. And if they missed the defective personality you’d think they’d notice the taste, or lack of it, in clothing. Today he wore a brown striped suit with an orange shirt and a green and yellow tie with a cartoon dog on it.

Who wore crap like that?

She turned away. “Have a fun evening.”

“Thanks, babe, I always do.”

Sam wound her way back the computer room. She glanced over her shoulder at Pete before disappearing into her room. “Thanks for listening.”

“Least I can do. Let’s hope she shows up by morning.”

“Yeah, let’s hope.”

In the computer room she slumped into her chair and anchored her feet so the chair didn’t slide back.

“I thought you were going to leave. Remember? Everything will still be here tomorrow.” Kerensa frowned at Sam.

“In a few minutes. I thought of something.” Sam grabbed the mouse, and moved it so the website flashed back onto the screen. She clicked through the latest posts in the chatroom where Melissa and Searching-for-You had been seen last. She hunted for the familiar names.

 “Did you hear Jerry’s going to take a perp’s girl out tonight?”

“No kiddin’? Doesn’t surprise me. Man has no taste. Now go home, girlfriend.”

Nope, ‘Invisible-Melissa’ still wasn’t there.

“Yeah, you’re right.” She powered down her computer and grabbed her gym bag. “A karate workout will feel good. It might relieve some of my frustration. See you tomorrow. Say ‘hi’ to Hank for me.”

She made it halfway through the squad room before turning back.

“Now what, girl? You’re on your way to karate.”

“I can at least finish getting the identities of the two missing people. That’s a start. It looks like the parents aren’t going to report her missing. If I can find the perv it’ll give me an advantage if the parents ever get around to reporting the girl missing.”

Kerensa shook her head. “Girl, you are something else. You need to get a life.”

“I know. People keep telling me that. One day--maybe.”

The screen flipped through the websites. The phone rang. She grabbed it. Maybe someone had spotted the girl and picked her up.

“Detective Brennan.”

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