A couple of quick updates for you…
I’ve finally set myself a firm deadline for the release of “City of Dis”, the sequel story to “Dis”. Since a book blogger has agreed to review “Dis” near the end of September, I think it would be a huge missed opportunity for me if I don’t have “City of Dis” out by then. So, unless my critiquers and my editor have huge problems with the story, it should be out in no more than a month (though less would be preferable).
At that point, I can dig in and concentrate exclusively on the first Colbie Moss novel. I have decided to go with naming the novel The Norn Convergence. The series won’t technically have a name, though I intend to include “A Colbie Moss Novel” on the covers. I’ve been going back and forth on this series title/novel title issue for awhile, but this decision pretty much has to be final. Why?
That’s my last little bit of news. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times on Twitter, but it never gets old (for me anyway—LOL). The Norn Convergence will have a cover illustrated by a professional artist, someone who works for publishers doing cover art. Yes, that means an original work of art rather than manipulated stock photos (as cool as they might look for the short story covers). I’ve given him the title details so he can plan the cover accordingly. No ping-ponging on the decision now, out of respect to him for the incredible favor he’s doing me by fitting me in between his usual commissions. For now, I’m keeping him and the details of the cover concept secret. I want to surprise you!
It’s one of those cases of a good deed finally being rewarded. Someone I critiqued for introduced me to the artist after I saw her cover and went gaga over it. (At some point I’ll be heralding the release of her book on my blogs and Twitter. She’s really good, and I don’t impress easily.)
To end this post, I thought I’d include an excerpt from “City of Dis”, provided with the caveat that this version may or may not survive the editing process. This scene takes place pre-dawn as Colbie prepares to enter the notorious T housing project infested with DPG gang members. The people she has called to back her up are just arriving. I should warn anyone who hasn’t already read “Dis” that there are spoilers about what happened in the previous story.
Recognizing the dark Mustang pulling into view, I sprang up from the stoop and ran down the walk, out into the street, to wave Simon over. I was at the driver’s window before the car had finished rolling to a stop.
“I didn’t think you’d drive right up,” I was saying before he could even open the door. I jumped back as the door swung out, hard. “You should have just walked in the last couple of-”
A hard glare from my soon-to-be ex-husband shut me up.
Tall and fairly well-muscled, Simon unfolded himself from the low seat and came out of the car with a flourish of the black leather trench he’d started wearing after the breakup. I called it The Pissed Off Wizard Coat, but not to his face. It had spent the entirety of our cohabitation in the same place as Simon’s history as a demonologist and ceremonial magician—the back of the closet. Funny what I’d learned about people once I was Dead and had gained the ability to see magical energies coming off other supernaturals.
Simon slammed the car door, which left me grating my teeth and glancing around for movements at nearby doors and windows.
"You’re lucky I came at all,” he said, gray eyes cooler than usual, mouth set hard.
I wanted to remind him that he’d been just as adamant as I had been that we were going to try to remain friends through the divorce. We were still going to ‘be there’ for each other. Instead I said, “I know.”
“Still not going to call Frey?”
“Morgan. Please don’t use his real name. He goes by Morgan now.” None of the gods went by their old names anymore, not with every major government in the world employing strike teams for the extermination of supernaturals.
Simon gave me that look—sandy head of close-cropped hair tilted just so, gaze flat—that said I was wasting his time. A flush of frustration, anger, humiliation, all notched up by exhaustion, washed over my face and made it hard to speak for a few moments. I looked away while I took a deep breath, a calming habit even after death.
“I don’t want to call Morgan if there’s any chance of getting the knife back without him knowing.” Without admitting I let someone steal a mythic blade from me. Without disappointing the Norse god who had entrusted it to me. I might as well have been holding a sign that said ‘Abandonment Issues’. Simon didn’t need a sign to know me, though, not after four years of marriage.
“You’re going to owe me after this,” he said.
And here I thought you were helping me because we were friends.
“Yeah,” I said and turned toward the apartment complex, the home turf of the DPGs, Dog Pound Gang. I didn’t want to talk about what I knew Simon wanted.
For the umpteenth time I held out my right arm, pointed toward the apartments. At this range, with me concentrating on the blade, the tug from the sheath flared so strong it could have pulled me off balance. I leaned away.
Simon’s gaze followed the direction indicated by the sheath. “Fifth floor at least, or maybe the roof.”
I already knew that, but my stomach still churned at the pronouncement. To get the blade back we were going to have to make our way to the top of the T, a two-block apartment building shaped like the capital letter, a complex so thick with violent gangbangers that unofficial police policy kept officers from getting within a couple blocks of it. If police absolutely had to respond to a call within that zone, it was in an armored SWAT van. They never went into the T itself.
Fighting the pull of the sheath, I shoved my right hand into my jeans pocket to discover a tiny wad of paper reminding me I’d already been through a whole roll of antacids over the course of the night. Dead, heartburn, no antacids. Being a lesser norn, a dís, wasn’t as glamorous as I might have imagined before my unexpected death and even more unexpected reanimation. Of course, had it been done right, I wouldn’t have come back with an antacid dependency and the need to induce regular endorphin rushes to fight off pain.
“Here,” Simon said, and I turned just in time to catch a chalky tablet of a size that promised ‘maximum strength’. It was strange how we could be getting a divorce, trying to be friends one minute and vowing never to speak to each other the next, and he could still read my actions like he was reading my mind.
I popped the quarter-sized antacid into my mouth and ground it with my back teeth. “You’re starting to act like me,” I told him. “Carrying Pepto in the glove box, too?”
“Mylanta.” I’d forgotten Simon had a thing for mint. “Have to if I’m going to keep dealing with you.”
His brand of sarcasm, with a mean edge to it, always made my stomach sour with bile. I ground my teeth harder. Lately, that preceded either a burst of tears or me telling Simon he was a prick, but the clack of heels on cement proved distracting enough to prevent me from discovering which. As I circled the front of Simon’s car, Juni emerged from the deep shadow of the gnarled trees next door to the abandoned bungalow.
Simon groaned, and I glanced back at him. “Please don’t start,” I muttered low, hoping Juni wouldn’t hear.
I hesitated before hugging my old college friend. It had been after four in the morning when I’d called for her help. She had sounded less groggy than Simon, certainly, but I still assumed I’d gotten her out of bed. Now I wondered.
Juni hugged me back, her black, opera-length gloves making a hissing noise against the stiff fabric of my jacket. I caught bare skin, from the low back on tight slip dress she was wearing. Black vintage va-va-voom dress, platform pumps, perfect crimson lipstick, red hair in sleek Veronica Lake waves.
Releasing her, I asked, “What did I interrupt?”
She gave me the hint of a coy smile. “A girl’s got to have a night out now and then.
“It was after four,” I said, gaping. “On a Thursday.”
“And now it’s after five, and we’ve got work to do.” Juni’s gaze shifted. “Hello, Simon.”
He stalked over, coat swinging. “Juni. Is this the part where you admit to being an elf?”
Another smile from her, less coy, less friendly. “I’m no such thing, but I’m not surprised you’d think so. Is that why you’ve always hated me? Afraid I would see another supernatural for what he is and rat you out to your wife?”
I winced listening to them, my ‘cavalry’ bickering among themselves. Juni and I had already had a long conversation about why she’d never told me about herself, or about Simon. Hiding got to be a habit when it was a matter of survival and even the closest of friends might balk at her secret and call the authorities, for a psych evaluation at the very least.
Simon was staring hard at Juni. I knew that look. He hated not being able to figure someone out. “So what are you? What can you do that’s going to help us pull Colbie’s ass out of the fire on this one?” I was beginning to regret calling him, master and slayer of demons though he may have been.
“I practice Freya’s art.”
He shook his head, looking away with a crooked grin. “What do we need with a whor-?”
“A Seid-witch, Simon. She’s a Seid-witch.” Seidh was the witchcraft of the Norse gods, native to the Vanir and specifically to the goddess Freya. “Have a little respect, please. For the gods, too.” Like he would have hesitated to bed the Vanir’s most beautiful goddess. I’d seen what he’d been screwing lately.
The mirth faded from Simon’s eyes, and his jaw twitched. He unclenched it just enough to say, “If you’re expecting reverence for gods, you called the wrong person.”
“I bet there’s a story behind that statement,” Juni said and held her hand up to shush me when I tried to head her off. “Perhaps another time. Shall we?” Perceptive girl.
“You’re going in like that?” Simon asked her, brows raised.
“Call me a minimalist. But feel free to pack up what you need.”
Dueling condescension wasn’t as funny as I might have found it had I not been desperate to get this over with before the bloody t-shirt from the gangbanger I’d just shot soaked through the cheap fast food bag in the trunk of my car. There was enough of my DNA scattered through the Dog Pound, after my night chasing that blade, digging through dumpsters, and performing ill-conceived rune magic to find the blade’s thief. I didn’t need to spend the rest of the morning scrubbing blood out of the trunk mat.
I tried to remain detached from the act. How did that British WW2 poster, the one Juni liked so much, say it? Keep calm and carry on. Though bombs may be falling, have a cup of tea. Though I might have just shot the bastard gangbanger brother of one of my dearest friends, in the name of locating the blade he’d stolen in the burglary of my home, what I really needed was an industrial incinerator and advice on a good spot remover.
Biting down an hysterical bout of punch drunk laughter, I followed Juni and Simon to the trunk of the Mustang. He began loading the inside pockets of his coat, more pockets than the average coat would have had, with ammo clips from two different boxes. Juni dipped her pale hand into one of the boxes and withdrew a clip for study.
“Spirit water, my own universally applicable version of holy water,” he told her, smiling with pride I only saw him show in regard to a magical experiment or invention. “The head of each bullet is wax inscribed with an all-purpose sigil. Should make an impression on anything supernatural we might encounter.”
“Nice,” she said and slapped the clip down in his open palm. She unzipped her slim, sequined purse and fished her hand around in it for a second before withdrawing a handgun I was pretty sure shouldn’t have fit inside the handbag. “Glock 45. Standard ammo, but what it lacks in quality I make up for in quantity.”
“You don’t find that caliber too large for your hand?” Simon asked, and they lost me talking handgun models and kick and grips.
I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable seeing them finally bonding for a moment, considering the topic. How little I knew about friends and family in life. “You took a gun with you on your night out?” I interrupted.
“You should know by now, supernaturals and the things that want to kill them show up in most unexpected places. What I can’t outmaneuver, I slaughter,” she responded in true Juni style, repurposing a Winston Churchill quote I knew she liked. If the British statesman had been a woman…a very attractive, unpredictable woman…
Have a good weekend, everyone!
(Note to Blogger: Really, I appreciate you taking the time to put 8 lines between each paragraph every time I hit 'save', and applying italics or centering to every line when I only have one selected, but I can handle my own formatting. kthankbai.)