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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Run-By Update

Happy End of September!

I know, it's been forever since I've posted. I feel like I have a billion projects happening at the same time and no time to get them all done.

What have I been working on? So glad you asked.

First up, I have joined the fantastically awesome Pen & Muse Author Showcase once again for their Halloween stories. It's all submitted and set to go next month. I'll let you all know when it goes live, although I suggest checking Pen & Muse out all October long to catch some other great stories.

Second, my sci-fi YA, ROBOTICS FIRST LAW, is getting an overhaul. I entered it into Pitch Madness this year and although the majority of the mentors liked it, the anonymous suggestion was reworking it as an upper MG. Which means a whole lotta rewriting and reworking of story lines that are no long appropriate or won't make sense. So, yay! I know how to fix it. Ugh! It's going to take a lot of fixing.

Third, ROBOTICS isn't the only piece currently going through some changes. I have my eye on a very competitive paid 'internship'/writing program. In order to submit to it, I need an original television pilot and a spec episode. So, TINMAN  is once again changing its stripes to accommodate this newest challenge. The conversion is nearly done, but I still need to go through and edit everything. Then I need to do a second script. (Wish me luck on that.)

The final writing related item (for now) is a short Dark Crystal fan film which my husband has talked me into working on. Mostly because he'll be doing the majority of the work once I get a script written. I very much would love to win the film contest since part of the prize is a tour of the Henson Studios in California. I've already done east coast Muppet tour, time for me to see the west coast.

Besides writing projects overwhelming me, I recently started a second (part time) job. I'm finally working for Disney!

Ok, I work at the Disney Store, but it's about as close as a girl can get living in New England. And if that isn't enough, both of my kids were accepted onto the dance competition team at their studio. (Yes, this is me mom-bragging.) This of course means our studio time went from an hour each on Saturdays to a combined 18 1/2 hours from Tuesday through Saturday. That's a lot of dancing.

Now, if you guys don't hear from me for a while, you know why. Feel free to email me if you have any questions, want to chat, or whatever. I won't be quite as fast responding as I normally am, but I promise I will get to you!

Until next time!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Release: DARKHAVEN

Today is the Book Birthday for DARKHAVEN by the ever lovely and talented A.F.E. Smith. I met Afe on Authonomy many years ago. She's a member of the Alliance of Worldbuilders and always willing to help fellow authors out. Now she has her first release through Harper-Voyager and I'm so excited for her. Want more info? Check it out below!

Out today: DARKHAVEN

Darkhaven cover
About the Book: 

Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)


Book description:
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Buy links 
Amazon (global link)
Barnes & Noble
Google play



A.F.E. Smith photo
About the Author:

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Author social media links
DARKHAVEN on Goodreads

Monday, June 29, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 7

A Murderous Hangover

Francis woke the next morning with a jackhammer pounding away at the inside of his skull, exactly where his horn nestled into itself. The pain was to be expected, what with him slamming his head into that girl the day before. His horn might be a deadly weapon, but it by no means meant there was no repercussions for him to wield it.

Stretching, Francis 'Bud' kicked his legs over the edge of the bed, his cloven feet clicking against the gleaming tiles. Fredrick might be a lot of things, but messy wasn't one of them. He insisted his lab be kept spotless and expected Francis to comply.

Smell, however, was another matter. The beakers on the table still bubbled away, giving off little bubble pops full of sickening odors. Overnight those smells had matured from the dog poop and old gym sock mixture to the more pungent fish-left-in-the-sun. Francis held his breath and hurried past the table to the medicine cabinet in the far corner.

The horn extended from his forehead, hardened hairs twisted together. Most people mistakenly believed a unicorn's horn was made of bone. It wasn't. Francis' horn was merely stronger, thicker strands of hair, twisted to a point. Occasionally the golden threads would break, much like a fingernail snaps off. Losing pieces of his horn didn't hurt and most times he never noticed it happening.

The mechanics of the horn extending and contracting were lost on Francis. All he knew was the horn extended when he became angry, frustrated, or excited and folded up like one of those plastic camping cups he had as a kid whenever he was calm.

Francis popped a couple of aspirin and grabbed a bottle of water from the small refrigerator next to the sink. After making sure it was a new, unopened bottle from the store, he chugged half the contents in one go.

“That wasn't my Veggie Glow juice, was it?” Fredrick's unexpected entrance startled Francis. The half-full bottle of water bounced across the floor, spilling its contents down the drain.

“It was water. I checked before I drank.” Francis sighed as the bottle emptied. He hadn't seen any other unopened bottles in the fridge and he didn't trust the tap water in the lab. Tonight he'd be forced to go shopping, as long as Fredrick didn't have other plans for him.

“Good. No telling what the Glow juice would do to you. I'm all for experimenting, but you're enough of a guinea pig as it is. Horn and hooves make enough of a statement, no need to start glowing in the dark, too.”

Francis returned to his cot, his head cradled in his hands. Aspirin took much longer to affect him as an unicorn than it did when he was human. The jackhammer in his brain had recruited a friend and both were thumping along happily in time to Fredrick's complaints.

“News has been quiet about that nosy girl you offed last night. Thought I'd be coming into work and passing gossips and news-sellers blabbing all about the mysterious death. Nothing. Everyone quiet.”

“You should be glad of it. Do you want the police poking around and finding out what you're doing here?”

Fredrick shook his head. “Nah. Better this way.”

A fresh beaker of sludge blurped and plopped away on the table. Fredrick added a few drops of something pink. The blurping and plopping stopped and steam rose from the congealed mess.

“No, no, no. That isn't right at all.” Fredrick scribbled something in a notebook before dumping the rejected experiment down the drain. “Stay away from the sink, Bud. No telling what that stuff will do to you.”

Francis snorted. The snort came out more like a whiny. He was going to have to start watching that. Every day he felt himself sliding closer to unicorn-hood and farther from human. He needed a cure and fast. 

Fredrick, however, didn't possess the same sense of urgency as he lifted a new beaker and randomly threw a handful of power into it without bothering to measure. The scientist grabbed one of the overnight mixtures from nearby and poured half the contents in with the powder. A flash of light accompanied a loud bang, and the beaker was no more.

“Can't be giving you that mixture, can I?”

A knock on the door and a jiggling of the handle sent Francis scurrying for the sewer.

“Everything okay in there, Doctor?”

“Fine, fine. Nothing to worry about, Beatrice. Small miscalculations error.”

Footsteps moved away from the door and down the hall to where Beatrice's lab was located. Francis could hear them clicking above his head. He counted to twenty before lifting his head back through the grate. Fredrick stood with his back to him, mixing something else at his table.

Fearing another explosion, Francis ducked back into the sewer. It was quieter down here. A much better place for a nap to get rid of his headache. A better place for Fredrick to forget about him when he made his to-do list for the night.

Francis curled up on a pile of ragged blankets and let the jackhammer in his skull knock him into unconsciousness.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Release the Kra --- uh --- Book!

Guess what today is!!

Nope, guess again.

No, not that either...

Wait, did I just hear 'Book Release Day?'
Yes! THAT'S IT!!!!

Today WHAT THE TOWN KNEW goes out into the world. It's been a long journey, but I'm finally at the end. (Well, sort of the end.) Now the remainder of the journey is in the hands of the readers.

Want to get your own copy? It's available in both paperback and Kindle formats. Don't have a Kindle? No worries! You can get it in other e-book formats.

To all of you who encouraged me along the way, thank you! And Happy Reading.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Dead is Dead

The jousting lead was a bust, although it did show me a hidden side of my junior detective.
“Sir, the Doctor Dunn sent over the coroner's report for that girl. Would you like to take a look at it?”
“Thank you, Bobsy. Put it on my desk and I'll go through it as soon as I finish this doughnut.” Yes, I was still referring to him as Bobsy. I mean, who picks a name like that? I licked the jelly from my fingers and reached for the folder Earhart had placed in my tray.
“I didn't know there were doughnuts.”
“Cheever brought them in.” Earhart turned to the break room. “But there aren't any left.” I popped the last piece of sugary fried dough into my mouth and opened the report.
A heavy sigh came from Earhart's direction. He shuffled with his head down over to his desk. For someone who spent his weekends making people laugh, he certainly was a downer the rest of the time.
The photographs of the cut-up victim led to the near reappearance of the doughnut I had so recently enjoyed. Coroner's reports really needed to come with warning labels for people who had just eaten.
I flipped the pictures over so I wouldn't have to look at those gaping holes. Or the blood. Or the organs. Or the bones. Or the ---
“Detective Summerton, are you all right, sir?”
“Fine, fine.” I waved my junior detective off and swallowed. For the record, doughnuts don't taste as good the second time around.
The report itself didn't have much to it that I didn't already know. Cause of death was the obvious stab wound. She had died between nine and eleven the night before. The only new information was her name and address.
“Do you know where Serendipitous Way is?”
“Isn't that down near Memory Lane?”
I squinted at Earhart, unsure if he was making a joke at my expense of if he was serious.
“You know, sir, the street full of memorabilia shops.”
“Of course I know what you're talking about.” I huffed and stood, dusting sugar particles off my jacket. “I wanted to make sure you knew where it was since that's where we're headed.”
“What for?”
“Our victim's, one Natasha Nix, last known address was 10 Serendipitous Way. We're going to see if anyone there knows anything that could help us.”
“Or if any of them are jousters?” Earhart asked, pulling on his coat.
“Don't be silly, Earhart. It's a residence, not a barn.”
“Of course, sir. And sir?”
“Can we stop for doughnuts on the way?”
I raised an eyebrow in his direction. “No, I don't think so. I'm still full from the ones Cheever brought in.”
Another heavy sigh from Earhart as he trudged out the door to the car. I followed behind, trying to figure out what people found so funny about him.
Maybe it was just his name that made the audiences laugh.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 5

Chapter 5
A Brief Personal History of Our Suspect

Francis 'Bud' Finnegal wasn't born a unicorn. He never intended, or dreamed, that he'd ever become a unicorn.
Not that he was one now, not fully. Not yet. But soon, if Fredrick's experiments were to be believed. For now, Francis existed somewhere between the human he was born as and the animal he was slowly becoming.
Another thing Francis wasn't was a murderer. Well, not until recently when Fredrick started sending him out to keep the nosy people and the bill collectors off their doorstep. The bodies added up to several dozen over the last year or two. Most of those had fallen into the latter category. The two of them didn't make much money, one being a renegade scientist and the other a transitioning unicorn. Bill collectors didn't seem to care much about excuses, so they had to pay them anyway they could.
Fredrick preferred to pay them with Francis' horn through their heart.
This job and Fredrick had turned him into the professional killer he now was. The neon orange sludge at the back of the lab sink may have helped some. It was about the time the sludge appeared that Francis sprouted the horn and hooves.
If only he hadn't applied for the job under Fredrick. He needed the money at the time, How was he to know that Lab Assistant, No Experience Required would lead to a life of crime and unicorn-hood? But two years later and that's exactly where he was.
Monkeys in the lab next-door set up a shrieking cacophony, marking the end of a normal workday. In the hall, chatter from lab assistants and scientists who lived by the clock filled the air as they hurried towards escape. An escape not possible for Francis.
Since the sprouting of the horn, Francis had been forced to stay hidden. Most of the time he lived in Fredrick's lab, undisturbed. During inspections or the rare time when a top-secret project was being worked on somewhere in the building, putting security on high alert, Francis was expected to wait the time out in his sewer lair.
Lair. A unicorn with a lair. Weren't unicorns meant to have forests or glens or something more open? Who ever heard of a unicorn with a lair?
Then again, how many unicorns were running around free in the world? By Francis' count, only one; Him.
Francis let out a sigh. His whole life he wanted to be different. Seemed like everyone he knew was special in some way and he was only average. Well, he had his wish. You didn't get much more different than being a unicorn.
Only one problem now. As with so many others before him, Francis realized the folly of his wish coming true after it was too late. For the first time in his life, Francis wished to be normal.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Tilting at Wrong Conclusions

The fairgrounds were deserted. A crumpled Ye Olde Paper Napkin tumbled past to land next to the remains of a turkey leg at the corner of an abandoned booth.
“Where is everyone?”
“At work, I assume, sir.” Earhart stood next to me, his nose wrinkled against the onslaught of waste, both human and animal.
“Isn't this where they work?”
“Not all of them, sir. Many of them spend their days at mindless desk jobs, calculating large numbers or writing meaningless reports for their superiors while dreaming of the next time they can step back in time and be free.”
The wistfulness in his voice caused me to turn and face him. The wrinkle had gone from his nose and taken up residence on his forehead. His eyes stared out across the faded banners and merchant tents.
“You certainly know a lot about this, Earhart.”
“Huh? Oh, right. I, uh, went quite a bit when I was younger.” My junior detective wouldn't meet my eyes, locking them instead on some distant building. “I think we might try there. Horses stay in the barns and there's bound to be someone watching over them at all times.”
I followed his gaze. “Yes, of course. I was about to say the same thing myself.”
Earhart didn't respond. He was already down past the tent marked 'King's Ransom Hats and Doublets' and bee-lining for the stables.
“Right, then. The stables it is.”
I reached the stable door only to find Earhart muttering and clinging to the outside wall.
“Everything alright, Earhart?”
“Oh, splendid sir. I think you should handle this one yourself.”
“Nonsense. How else are you going to learn to deal with a case?” I grabbed his arm and dragged him along behind me.
The barn smelled of hay and manure. Mostly manure. I scrunched up my nose in a vain attempt to ward off the stench. The smell affected Earhart more. He tugged his arm away, trying to escape to fresh air.
“It's just horse shit,” I told him, and tightened my grip. If I was going to be subjected to this, so was he.
Four stalls contained horses. Big horses. Like, giant man-eating horses. The brown one nearest me turned its head and snorted, no doubt breathing in the scent of its next meal.
I took a step back towards the doorway and snapped my arm back to me when Earhart made another break-away attempt.
He wasn't leaving me alone with these monsters.
The stall at the far back opened and my muscles tensed, ready to run if the horse back there got loose.
I mean, run after the horse, of course. To catch it. Don't want one of these beasts terrorizing the whole town.
A woman came out of the stall and closed the stall behind her. No need to worry about a horse bolting, only Earhart, who didn't make it far since I still retained my hold on him.
“Excuse me, Miss. We have a few questions we were hoping you could answer.” The woman's head snapped around at the sound of my voice. I couldn't be sure, but from our end of the barn it looked like she squinted and stalked forward. A cat in human form.
“I'm Detective Summerton.” I held out my hand, which she ignored completely. She focused in on Earhart instead, a slow cat-and-mouse chase around me as my junior detective squirmed and circled around me. Having tangled us both up right proper, he bowed his head and pushed his cap down to cover his eyes.
“Ah, yes. This is my junior detective ---”
The woman straightened up with a shriek and tugged Earhart away from my grasp. “Bobsy, is that you?”
“Uh...” Earhart, safe from my clutches and trapped in hers, looked to me for help.
“It is you!” The woman had taken off his hat, revealing his crimson face
“It's me,” Earhart squeaked.
The woman finally turned to acknowledge my presence. “Bobsy here plays court jester for us on the weekends. Helps muck out the stalls, too. Didn't he ever tell you?”
“Ah, yes, of course. Bobsy.” 'Bobsy' twisted away, avoiding my gaze. “While it's all well and good what Bobsy does in his free time, it's not what we're here to speak to you about.”
The woman released Earhart and wiped her hands on her jeans, which I suspect resulted in her palms picking up more dirt rather than less.
She offered a pre-mucked hand to me. “Betty Oswald. I'm one of the jousters here.”
I shoved my hands into my pockets, discovered a handkerchief which I convinced myself was cleaner than Ms. Oswald's hand, scrunched it up in my palm and accepted her handshake. “Lovely to meet you.”
“What can I help you with?”
“We're here on a murder investigation.”
Betty raised an eyebrow, her gaze drifting from me to Earhart and back to me. “Murder? Here?”
“Oh, gods no,” Earhart said, stepping forward. “In town. We had a girl run through the chest with some sort of weapon. The resulting injury looks like it was made by a lance.”
Betty's eyebrow traveled higher. “And you think it was a jouster?”
“Not necessarily. The wound could have been made by someone else who had access to the lances. Or a copycat jouster.”
“And you think all this because of the way this girl was killed? That's a lot of assumption to base on the wound.”
“There were hoof prints, too!” I added. Earhart tended to leave out the important details.
Betty blinked, snorted, then threw her head back and let out a laugh that startled the horses. She took a couple deep breaths, wiped away some tears, turned to face me, and burst out laughing again.
“I fail to see what's so funny about this. A girl is dead and all the evidence currently points in your direction.”
“Sorry. Sorry.” Betty regained control of herself, with the exception of a snort or two. “It's just, you can't be serious. You don't really think a jouster ran down that girl, do you? Someone riding a horse, brandishing a ten-foot pole, in the middle of town. Wouldn't someone have noticed that?”
I straighten my jacket and put the handkerchief back in my pocket. “It was dark.”
Betty snorted again. “If you say so, Detective. If you want to have a look around, be my guest.” She stepped out of the way and gestured to the rest of the barn with a sweep of her arm. The brown horse near the front swept his head over his gate in the opposite direction to stare me in the eye.
“Earhart, if you would go and check the weaponry for damage, I'll wait outside for your report.”
“But, sir...”
“Hurry. We have a lot to do today.” I ducked out of the barn before he could argue further.
Or the horse could make good on the threat I saw in those big, brown, bloodshot eyes.
I leaned against the side of the building and waited for Earhart to join me, which he did a few minutes later.
“Nothing missing and nothing broken. Looks like this was a dead end, sir.”
“Nonsense, Bobsy.” I pushed away from the wall and headed for the fairground exit. “We now know it wasn't a jouster. Or, at least not one of these jousters. We've eliminated one possibility.”
“Of course, sir.”
We climbed into the car in silence as I tried to imagine what, or who, else could have left a wound like that. Which was difficult to do as the image of Earhart in a jester's outfit continually pushed its way into my mind.

Snort. Bobsy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Down Below

Scuffling footsteps and shouts drifted down into the sewers along with dropped car keys and dripping rainwater.
He didn't mind. Down here was home. The sewers were his roads and highways from place to place, taking him throughout the city without detection. Quicker than up above and less crowded. Down here he could travel over a few streets and re-emerge above-ground to blend in with the populace, leaving no trail or tracks for the police to follow.
Soon he would move on. But for now, he listened. The sirens shrieked, growing louder. They had started not long after the first startled yell of discovery. An old woman had stumbled upon his kill and sounded the alarm. No doubt she had gone through the deceased's pockets first, but found nothing. He had been thorough in cleaning up his mess. The longer it took for the authorities to identify the victim the more time he had to cover all his tracks.
The sirens stopped and more feet thundered overhead. Medics racing to save an already dead girl. Officers spoke in low whispers about the state of the body and what could have caused damage like that.
Then came the statement that caused the blood to chill in his veins.
“Hoof prints. Earhart found hoof prints near the body.”
Dammit. Despite all his careful planning and execution he had slipped. Shoes were clumpy and uncomfortable, so he'd go barefoot, er hoofed, whenever possible. Getaways were swifter when he wasn't tripping over unnecessary foot coverings. No one ever noticed the weirdness of his feet, generally because they were too fixated on the weirdness sprouting from his forehead.
“...thinks it's was a lance. Hunting down jousters now.”
He perked up at that bit of news. If the investigators were questioning men riding horses, he was still safe. They put two and two together to arrive at twenty-two rather than four.
Easier to believe the crazy but known than the unbelievable unknown.
Letting out a sigh, he slipped down the tunnel, pocketing the set of keys as he went. After the hectic confusion of the day cleared out, he may just be a new car richer. It'd need some bodywork, but he was resourceful. A coat of paint was nothing compared to the cost of a new set of wheels.
His hooves clicked against the cement, too muffled by the sounds of the busy city to be heard. A left down a tunnel and a right down another and he reached his destination. He disliked the metal ladder rungs, a necessary evil to use the underground system. His hooves slipped and caught on each step, but he continued his ascent.
Getting into the sewers was so much easier than getting back out of them again.
Ten minutes later he pushed the metal cover up and over.
A hand clad in a yellow rubber glove reached down and grasped his. He accepted the helping hand, pulling the rest of his body out of the hole and into the stark white room.
The man attached to the yellow glove relinquished his grip. “What took you so long?”
With a grunt, the killer replaced the sewer lid and sat panting on the floor.
“Is she taken care of?”
“Won't be snooping around here anymore.” The killer swiped his arm across his forehead, the sweat soaking into his coat sleeve. Murder and making a getaway was hard work.
“No evidence?”
“Left a hoof print.” The gloved man raised a white eyebrow. “Don't worry. The police are questioning jousters. They still have no clue.”
The gloved man snorted and settled into a chair. On a table behind him beakers and jars bubbled and popped with bright colored liquids. One let out a loud 'pfft' and expelled a foul odor, somewhere between fresh dog poop and old gym socks.
The killer covered his nose and wafted the air in front of him with his other hand. His co-conspirator opened a tiny window above the table, letting some of the smell out.
“Have you figured it out yet?”
“I'm close, but I can't be disturbed by any more nosy reporters if I want to finish.”
The killer leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. “Now, Fredrick, she was only a girl. It's not like you have people lining up to knock on your door every day.”
“One is one too many. If word got out about us...about you...” He left the rest of the statement hanging.
“I understand.” He took off his hat and allowed his horn to expand. “That feels so much better. Hats cramp my style.”
Fredrick snorted and shook his head. A cloud of white hair floated above his ears. “Not wearing a hat will cramp more than you style, Bud.”
The killer yawned and stretched his arms.
“You should get some rest. We'll work some more once you're ready.”
He said nothing, nodding his agreement and patting Fredrick on the shoulder as he passed by. In the far corner of the room was a cot that he flopped down on. Seconds later his snores filled the space.

Murder was tiring work.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Murder Most Fantastical - Chapter 2

Chapter 2
A Crime Scene Unlike Any Other

Fifteen years on the job and I never encountered anything quite like it before.
And I had seen a lot.
“Inspector, come look at this.”
I let out a sigh and headed towards my junior detective in the corner of the alley.
“What is it?”
“If I knew, I wouldn't have asked you to come look at it.”
Detective Earhart squatted back on his heels, allowing me space to squeeze in next to him.
“What do you think?” He pointed to a set of tracks in the sooty dirt. The ground between the tracks was discolored a dark red.
I stuck a finger in the reddish dirt and tasted it with the tip of my tongue. Metallic and coppery, with a hint of rotten fish. I ignored the last flavor during my analysis.
“Blood. Most likely from our victim.”
Earhart stared at me, mouth slightly open.
“I meant shape of the prints, Inspector. I assumed as much about the blood.”
“Oh. Of course.” I wiped my finger off on the leg of my pants, pushing the memory of rotten fish as far away as possible.
“You know, sir, that this alleyway has a backdoor to the butcher shop.”
“Yes, Earhart, I'm aware.”
“And the mortuary.”
“And the waste management research labs.”
“Thank you, Earhart.”
I turned my attention to the prints he had dragged me over here to see. They looked like horse prints, but smaller. Daintier.
“As long as you're aware, sir. I mean, no telling what they dump out here in the alley.”
I leaned over the prints, squinting at them and ignoring my junior detective.
A pony? But what would a pony be doing in the alleyway. Better yet, what would a horse of any size be doing back there?
I stood, brushing myself off and clandestinely spitting, ridding my mouth of the foulness. Once composed, I turned back to Earhart.
“Let's take another look at the body, shall we?”
The girl's body remained slumped against the fence, an expression of surprise frozen on her face. She couldn't have been more than twenty. The cause of death was obvious enough. Not many people could survive impalement that left a bloody round hole through their chest the size of a doughnut.
While we had the cause of death, we had no murder weapon.
“This seem odd to you?”
Earhart bent down to inspect the wound closer.
“Awfully neat. Practically a perfect circle. Wonder what caused it.”
“So do I.”
Something glimmered at the edge of the wound, catching the dim rays of sun.
“Hand me a bag,” I said, pulling out a pair of tweezers. Earhart held the collection bag open as I lifted a gold thread and examined it.
“What is it, sir?”
“Hair? Although, it's too shiny to be real hair. From a wig, perhaps. We'll have the lab run tests on it and see what they can tell us.” I tucked the hair into the evidence bag and Earhart sealed it.
“Do we have any identification yet?”
Earhart shook his head. “Nothing on the body and no pocketbook or wallet anywhere nearby.”
Robbery? Could be the motivation, but doesn't seem likely. The method of death was so violent, but clearly planned. No one picked up a weapon from a trash heap and left that precise of a mark.
“So no identification and no murder weapon. Looks like we have our work cut out for us on this case.” I waved to the coroner smoking at the end of the alley. She nodded back and crushed out her cigarette before joining us at the body.
“Detective Summerton. Glad to see you've been assigned to this case.”
“Doctor Dunn. Have you had a chance to examine the body?”
“I did. Just waiting on the all-clear to have my team move it to the lab for a closer inspection.”
“What can you tell us about it now?”
Doctor Dunn shook her head. “Not much. She died last night, I'd say around 9. Cause of death seems pretty clear. Puncture was done by something sharp and tapered, like an awl.”
I thought back to the hoof prints.
“Or a lance?”
“You mean like the kind jousters use, sir?” Earhart piped up from behind me.
“Exactly what I mean.”
Doctor Dunn shrugged. “Sure, why not?”
I nodded and tapped Earhart on the shoulder. “Let's head back to the station. We have a lot of work to do. Doctor Dunn, you can go ahead and move the body. Inform us at once if you find anything more.”
“What do you have in mind?” Earhart asked, scuttling along beside me, my longer strides outpacing his short legs. I would have slowed down, but I was in a rush to get back to my desk.

“Jousters, Earhart. We need to compile a list of every jouster in the area. One of them is certain to be our man.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

First Chapter to a New Story

You asked for it, and here it is. The beginning of a new story, just for you. In case you missed it, I was given the following to work with:

Blovel (writing this as I go along - so expect some errors)
Kitchen Sink (I have to thank my husband for that one.)

Without further ado, I present you with Chapter One of MURDER MOST FANTASTICAL. Enjoy.

Chapter 1
Death Through the Eye of the Beholder

There was something satisfying about seeing his victim's face a split second before their death. The surprise, the disbelief, the horror, all flickering across their eyes almost too fast to discern one from the other. But not too fast for him. He was a professional. Death was his trade.
The face before him now was that of a young woman. A college student working towards a bachelor degree in journalism. A degree she would never fully earn.
She was at the disbelief stage, unable to trust her what her eyes were telling her brain. He couldn't blame her. It wasn't every day a man strode up, took off his hat, and revealed an unicorn horn sprouting from his forehead. Free of the necessary restraint, he shook his head and allowed his horn to extend to its full length. Killing was possible with a collapsed horn, but death came slower and more painfully than with a full skewer. Death like that wasn't fair to his victims, unless they were lawyers or bureaucrats who thrived on creating red tape. This girl was neither of those. Only a student with a school assignment who got too nosy.
“Sorry, sweetheart. Guy's got to do what a guy's got to do. You understand.”
Horror stage. Her eyes wide, tracking his approach. She stepped backwards, attempting to put space between them, but there wasn't much space to be had. The narrow alleyway he had followed her into ended at a chain-link fence, the gate padlocked. Her back hit and her hands quested at her sides for the latch that would never open for her.
“Nothing personal. You seem like a good kid. If only you kept your nose out of where it didn't belong. Shame. You would have made one heck of a reporter. You got the spunk and stubbornheadedness to hang onto a lead and follow it to the end. You simply picked the wrong lead to hold onto.”
“Please.” Her hands scrabbled, frantic to find a way out of the alley. The clanging of the gate would draw attention soon. If she came to her senses and screamed, help would race to her aid before he finished his job. Time for talking was over. He had his assignment and he knew what needed to be done.
“Close your eyes. Easier to die when you don't see it coming.”
Here came the scream. So much for making the whole incident easier on the girl. Normally he didn't feel bad about his kills, not that he was feeling bad about this one. There were simply some victims he didn't want to see suffer. Just because a guy was a killer didn't mean he didn't possess a heart.
The girl's mouth opened, a flash of teeth in the moonlight. Before she could emit a sound, the man lowered his head and charged.
A crunch of bone. A gurgle of blood. The dying gasps of the girl past the point of speech.
He backed away, red dripping down his horn and forehead. From his pocket he took out a black handkerchief he carried for occasions such as this. He wiped the blood from his horn and face, keeping an eye on the girl.
The hit had been clean. She suffered little, which would be some comfort to whatever family she had living around here. Her body slumped to the ground, a puppet with its strings cut. From her face, dead eyes stared up into space, searching for an answer to how she could die like this, at the end of a unicorn horn.
She should have seen it coming. During her research she had uncovered enough clues. She just hadn't been given the opportunity to assemble them all into a picture that made sense. If she had figured everything out, he wouldn't be standing here. He'd be in a cage somewhere awaiting testing. Not his idea of a good time.
His horn clean and retracted, he put his hat back on to cover the murder weapon. The coast clear, he sauntered out of the alleyway, whistling all the way home.
The papers the next morning would be fun, if the girl's body was discovered in time.
There was something satisfying about killing and leaving clues that didn't add up to anything reasonable. Watching the detectives trying to make sense of the crime scene was always an additional source of amusement.
As long as they refused to belief what their eyes told them, he was safe.

And they always refused to believe.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Soon Everyone Will Know

Wanted to give you all a quick update on WHAT THE TOWN KNEW. I haven't been around the blog much this past month because I've been a) sick and b) neck-deep in edits and revisions.

I received my manuscript back from my editor about mid-month and tackled the changes. And a lot of changes there are. For those of you who read the rough draft as I posted it here, just know that Lizzie, while still paranoid, is a much nicer person. Certain plot lines have been dialed back while others have been bumped up.

Currently, I'm holding the proof and going through to fix any lingering errors and format issues. Be prepared for a slightly different read when the book is released in April. (And yes, it will be released at the end of April.)

Also, Indiegogo supporters, the full swag packages will be headed out in the next few weeks, unless you're getting a hardcopy of the book. Those packages will be going out (hopefully) mid-March. I wanted the swag to go out before now, but getting the book ready took slight precedence. Don't worry, none of you have been forgotten!

On the picture book side of things, I do have an appearance at Woonsocket Harris Library on February 19th. It's at the end of school vacation, so parents in the area, if you need to get out of the house you can come see me. Story time and craft.

Hope everyone's having a fantastic year so far! Only 6 more weeks of winter and we can break out the shorts and flip-flops.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

To Start off the New Year

We are well into the new year, a year I'm hoping will bring lots of good things with it.

WHAT THE TOWN KNEW is off to the editor for a professional look-through before I do a final pass and it goes to the printer. Still very much on target for April release. If you missed the first announcement, we have a location and date for the book launch: Booklover's Gourmet in Webster, MA. It will be on Saturday, April 18th from 2-4 pm. I'd love to see everyone's smiling faces.

With the launch lined up and everything moving forward, I'm offering a pre-order special. From now until the launch, you can order a copy at the bottom of the page here for $7.99 plus shipping and handling. After the launch, the price will be going up to $11.99.

Here's to a fantastic 2015!