Archive for 'excerpty fun'



What Stace had to say on Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Ack!

Today is the 25th of August, and I have no fucking idea where this month went! Wasn’t it my birthday, like, yesterday? And didn’t the kids just get out of school a week or two ago? (Actually, here, they did just get out of school in the third week of July, but still.) This summer has flown by, and here we are, only five days before the release date of MADE FOR SIN!

Speaking of which…I believe I mentioned that the book received a STARRED review at Night owl Reviews? Reviewer BookGirl gives it 4.5 out of 5 and states:

This is a must read for fans of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

I’ve been asked if this book is the start of a new series or a stand-alone, and the answer is that I don’t know. When I was asked if I’d like to do the book, it was presented to me as something that could go either way, and I honestly wasn’t sure as I was writing it how it would end. Then the ending appeared (as they do) and ideas for future stories with these characters trotted along behind it. I’d certainly enjoy writing those future stories, because they’re pretty fun and exciting, but I imagine it’s really going to depend on sales and whether or not you lovely people are interested in reading them. Either way, it was fun to write! I haven’t really gotten to do something that’s (intended to have) a more noir-detective-novel feel than a UF or romance feel before, so I definitely enjoyed playing with that kind of sensibility and trying something a little different. (It was/is a little scary, too, but that’s how it goes, really.)

Would you like to see a bit more of that, by way of an excerpt? Of course you would! Here you go:

“So who knows what you’re looking for? Who shot at you?” she asked, leaning against his desk. Like it was her fucking house or something.

“I don’t know,” he replied, aware that he sounded irritated, and not caring. “Who knows what you were doing there? Maybe they were shooting at you.”

“What makes you think—”

“Oh, fuck this.” Having her stand over him as if he were a kid was really getting on his nerves. She was getting on his nerves, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Maybe that was why he didn’t feel tired anymore. “I’m not playing these little word games you seem to enjoy so much, okay? I’m not that kind of guy. I—”

“Yes.” Her arms were folded across her chest, her legs crossed at the ankle; her voice dripped with meaning. “I know what kind of guy you are, Speare.”

“Then you know I don’t like to waste my time.” She really knew how to make it sting, didn’t she? Damn. “Cards on the table. There are a lot of reasons somebody might take a shot at me, just like I figure there’s a lot of reasons they might take a shot at you. But it probably happened tonight because somebody doesn’t want us talking, which means no matter what we do now, we’re both targets. And the sooner we find the people responsible, the better. Right?”

“I—wait, were you hit?”

He glanced at his arm, his short sleeve and the bare skin below it soaked with blood. The bullet had grazed the back of his biceps, so he couldn’t see the actual spot very well, but he could feel it well enough. That would stop soon, though. One of the few benefits of the beast in his head was that he healed fast—not Wolverine fast, but faster than normal people. “Oh. Yeah. Don’t worry about it, it barely—”

She ignored him and lifted the bloody fabric away from the wound. Maybe Felix was right about how good she was at her work; he barely felt the touch, and he was actually watching it happen. “It looks torn.”

“It only scratched me.” He glanced at it—at what he could see of it—and saw it did indeed look torn rather than scraped. What kind of bullet had done that? Had it been a bullet? “A flesh wound.”

“We should clean it up, though.”

“I can do it.”

“I doubt you can even see it. Come on, quit being a baby and let me clean it up for you.”

Shit. He didn’t want her to do it. He didn’t want her to touch him, not when the pressure in his head was higher than it should have been already. Especially not when he was getting a good look at her in a well-lit room and realizing that her eyes were even deeper and brighter than he’d thought, that her hair was the color of bloody copper and sparks of flame were buried in it like secrets, that his eyes kept wandering up and down her slim figure and watching it move.

“Besides,” she said, “for all we know, those bullets were coated with something unpleasant. The kinds of people we both deal with have access to all sorts of things.”

She had a point there, he had to admit. It had happened before—not to him, or anyone he knew well, but it had happened. And that wound really didn’t look like it had been made by an ordinary bullet.

Damn it. He’d just have to focus on what a pain in the ass she was, instead of on that fragrance that clung to her skin. “Fine.”

“Your place is nice,” she remarked, as he led her down the hall to the bathroom where he kept his first-aid kit. “You have a cleaning woman?”

He pulled out the kit and set it on the counter; his eyes narrowed. “Why? Because a guy like me can’t clean his own house?”

She ignored his glare. “Most men who live alone don’t keep their places this neat, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well, I do.” Of course he did, having grown up in Va-va-voom Vera’s house, with piles of skimpy clothing and magazines and makeup everywhere. His mother was not a housekeeper, in any sense. When he was a kid it had been a special occasion if she’d used the oven to heat a frozen meal instead of sticking it in the microwave. “And that’s not a compliment, you know, saying I’m not as much of a slob as most men. That’d be like me saying you seem pretty smart for a girl.”

“Do I? How sweet of you to say.” Those red lips of hers curved into a smile that was maybe a bit too satisfied, as she poured antiseptic on a cotton pad. “Of course, I imagine you don’t pay much attention to women’s brains in general, so it might be hard for you to judge, but I’ll still say thank you. Take your shirt off.”

He hesitated. Only for a second before he caught himself, but it was long enough; she noticed it. Thankfully he got the thing off before she could make some snotty comment about it, and from the change in the quality of her silence he knew she wasn’t going to. Not when she saw the scars, the marks. The evidence of the kind of life he’d been forced to live was all over his body: places where the talons he couldn’t always control had sliced at him, places where his skin had torn again and again when the beast took over. Places where he’d paid the price for whatever sins he’d committed to keep that from happening, too, where he’d taken a beating or hurt himself escaping.

And, of course, the count. The tidy little lines, one for each person he’d killed and one for every ten mortal sins, tattooed across his chest, each one a ticket to hell all on its own. Three hundred and thirty-two black lines, in slightly uneven rows like a crooked picket fence, etched into his skin over nine years, starting with the upper left side.

That mark—the upper left—had been the first. The first time he’d killed a man. That was the day he realized that all those sins mattered, that he wasn’t a kid anymore and that beast or no beast, he was making choices—choices he’d one day have to answer for. He’d bought a tattoo gun and spent an afternoon learning how to use it, and ever since then he’d been keeping the count, emblazoning his skin with a physical reminder of what his life truly was.

The slightly awkward pause lasted just a second or two longer than it might have normally before Ardeth spoke. “It doesn’t look that bad.”

His chest? Oh, no, right. The wound. “I told you it wasn’t.”

The last word turned into a hiss of pain as she rammed the antiseptic-covered cloth into his injured arm. Maybe “rammed” was the wrong word, but she definitely pressed it against him harder than she needed to. Harder than anyone would even think they needed to. The thing in his head roared. It could feel the pain, too. More than that, it could smell her and feel the heat coming off her skin just as well as he could, and it was hungry and it wanted things he didn’t want to give it. Maybe not feeling tired anymore wasn’t such a good thing.

“Oh,” she said, her tone as artificially sugary as a diet soda. “Sorry, did that hurt?”

He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his own voice smooth and calm. “It’s fine.”

“I can stop for a minute, if you want.” She’d sat on the edge of the tub beside him, angled so she could get a closer look at his arm. The position meant both of her knees pressed against his thigh.

Worse, she’d decided to rest her left arm on his back, her bent elbow on his shoulder and her breath warm and soft against his side. Shit. The beast didn’t care what kind of person she was, whether or not he trusted her or what the ramifications might be if he even thought about making a move—a move she would probably reject, which would make the whole situation even worse. The beast didn’t give a damn what he wanted. It wanted what it wanted, and it wanted to be fed or to bust out and go feed itself—and it was more gluttonous than Henry VIII at a pie-eating contest. It wanted her. He clenched his fists. She’d be done soon, and once she was done he could get her out of his house and go do what he needed to do. “It’s fine. You almost done? I’ve got shit to do.”

“You don’t have to be so rude,” she said, reaching over to grab the ointment and gauze. Her hair swung down off her shoulder, the only color in the whole room blazing at him. “I’m trying to help.”

“I didn’t ask for your help.”

“Yes, you did, actually. That’s why I’m here to begin with.” Her fingers, her palm, slid over his arm, smearing ointment over the wound in smooth, light strokes. Goddamn it.

It wasn’t her. It was nothing to do with her, personally. If he hadn’t been so busy all day, if he’d had time to do what he had to do earlier, the beast would hardly have noticed her and he wouldn’t be sitting there trying not to sweat.

Her next words didn’t help. “And you said out there that we’re in this together. I think you’re right. Whether I help you or not, they’re going to think I am. Whether you told me anything or not, they’re going to think you did. That means neither of us is safe until we find the people who shot at us, so we might as well pool our resources, right? Maybe together we can figure this out faster than we would alone—in my case I doubt it, but I’m okay with helping you out.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” he managed. It was hard enough paying attention to what she was saying, without trying to think of a clever reply, too. His vision was starting to go red; just a little around the edges, and it would ease when the pain did, but it was still not good.

“I never do.” She finished wrapping the gauze around his arm and tore off a strip of tape with her teeth. “I never have to. There’s plenty of people to do that for me.”

“Lot of drunks in this town,” he said.

Tuesday’s the big day!

What Stace had to say on Thursday, April 21st, 2016
MADE FOR SIN sneak peek!

As promised yesterday, here is a sneaky peeky (it is so hard to type “sneak peek” without typing “sneak peak,” it really is, but the whole “peak/peek” thing really fills me with pique) at my upcoming novel MADE FOR SIN!

Made for Sin_Kane

A lot of bad hands get dealt in Vegas, but E. L. Speare may be holding one of the worst: He’s cursed with the need to commit sins, and if he misses his daily quota, there’s hell to pay—literally. Fortunately, his hometown affords him plenty of chances to behave badly.

But Speare’s newest case really has him going out on a limb. The right-hand man of a notorious crime boss has been found dead in a Dumpster—minus his right hand, not to mention the rest of his arm. What catches Speare’s attention, however, is that the missing appendage was severed clean by a demon-sword, a frighteningly powerful tool of the underworld.

Speare’s out of his element, so he turns to a specialist: Ardeth Coyle, master thief, dealer in occult artifacts, and bona fide temptress. Ardeth’s hotter than a Las Vegas sidewalk on the Fourth of July, but she’s one sin Speare has to resist.

The dismembered corpses are piling up, unimaginable evil lurks in the shadows, and if this odd couple hopes to beat the odds, Speare needs to keep his hands off Ardeth, and his head in the game.

Excerpt under the cut…

Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
FIVE DOWN is available!

If you pre-ordered back in July, you should have* woken up this morning (awakened this morning? I never know which is right) to find a shiny new copy of FIVE DOWN, the Downside anthology, in your email inbox!

fivedowncover23

Yes, it’s finally here! I know, it seems like it took forever, and believe me it feels that way to me, too. But I’m really, really happy with how it turned out, and I hope you will be, too.

As the title implies (and the cover outright says), it’s five stories. They are:

RICK THE BRAVE (from the HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION anthology)
HOME (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
CLOSE TO YOU (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
KEEPING IT CLOSE (web original)
…aaaaaand a brand new novella (33k words) called PLAYING WITH FIRE, which has spontaneous combustion and divided loyalties and a confrontation and big decisions and a character or two who I’m pretty sure will be back again in later books.

Which does NOT mean that you MUST purchase and read the anthology in order to not be lost in later books. Think of PLAYING WITH FIRE as sort of like FINDING MAGIC: nice background, but not absolutely necessary. I dislike the idea of forcing people to buy extra content/previously published content if they want to understand later events, so I haven’t done that here. But I do think PLAYING WITH FIRE is a nifty novella, and Chess actually gets to have a little fun with another Church employee, which was kind of cool to do. Plus, again, spontaneous combustion!

I added a little intro to each story, just a note on where the idea or characters came from, or what influenced it, or whatever. I didn’t do much of that with PLAYING WITH FIRE, though, to avoid being spoiler-y.

I have begun the process of getting the book uploaded to Amazon and B&N. iBooks/iTunes is going to be quite a bit trickier, I’m afraid, since I no longer have a Mac–I actually have not even installed iTunes on this computer–and that seems to be a necessary part of the process. So we’ll see how that goes (we had some difficulty getting WRONG WAYS DOWN onto iTunes as well; it took like an extra couple of weeks).

BUT!

This book is different, and the process is different, so here’s what I’m doing.

You may remember how we ran KEEPING IT CLOSE through Paypal, and then I sent out the completed story file to those who requested it? It worked pretty well, I think, so I’m going to do the same here. If you do not want to wait for the anthology to be loaded onto your ebookstore of choice (I may or may not do a print version, I haven’t decided, but I can’t get that going until I have a PDF, and PDFs are unfortunately not quite ready–see below * section, sigh), you can go ahead and use the Paypal button to, well, pay for the book, and I will send you your copy in your preferred format as close to Immediately as I possibly can. (With KEEPING IT CLOSE I managed to be pretty damn close with the majority of requests; I think a couple of people may have had to wait a couple of hours, and in rare cases it was overnight–time zones, you know–but overall turnaround was pretty fast.)

I realize this isn’t ideal, but it’s the only way I can think of to make sure everyone can get it in their desired format, right away. And you are welcome to wait, of course. (Again, if you want PDF please give me another day or two!)

The price for the anthology is $3.49 (that’s US dollars; Paypal is apparently set to GBP, in which case it’s about £2.20. So if it won’t let you submit a dollar amount, go for that).





*Or, well, if you pre-ordered AND included what format you prefer. A few of you did not specify, and I’m in the process of emailing you to ask which you’d like. Also, a couple of you asked for PDF, which is unfortunately taking me just a tad longer to put together. I’m so sorry about that!

Want another excerpt? Here you go!

Instead a new man—an Inquisitor Third, obviously the guy in charge since the others were uniforms—arrived, spoke to one of the initial responders, and then approached her with a hesitant smile on his pleasant face. “Chess? Do you remember me?”

The second he said it, she realized she did. Of course she did. It wasn’t easy to forget the brother of an Elder Chief Inquisitor, especially when that brother had been only a year ahead of her in Church training. “Well, hey, Will, how have you been?”

“Not bad, not bad. It’s good to see you.” He tipped his head toward Ella’s corpse, now being photographed by the Body Removal Squad. “You know, if you wanted to catch up, you could have just left me a note or something.”

She fought back her smile. Will always had been fun to talk to, though they’d probably only spoken a handful of times. “Nah, that’s boring.”

“A lot safer, though. What happened?”

She gave him a quick run-down, and agreed to hang on while he talked to the other witnesses. Which gave her time to think, too, about what the hell could have happened to that poor waitress. How had she burned up so fast? How had that fire started? It was so hard not to start talking to the witnesses herself, not to dig in and start investigating. No, it wasn’t a Debunking case, but it wasn’t like she’d been given a decent Debunking case in the last few months. And really, she’d done enough non-Debunking shit for Bump that it hardly seemed to matter anymore.

But she couldn’t. She especially didn’t think she could go shoving herself into a case being handled by someone whose family name carried serious weight in the Church, and who was himself probably on a fast-track to further glory. The fact that he couldn’t have been more than twenty-six and was already an Inquisitor Third told her that.

All of which meant she was going to have to sit this one out, and hope she got an update when it was all over.

She’d just come back in from having a cigarette when Will motioned for her to join him near the back of the room, by the soda machines and kitchen entrance. The smell of hot oil and bacon drifted through the gaps around the flimsy two-way door as she sat in one of the chairs that had been placed on the grimy floor. Hopefully somebody had turned the fryer back there off, because another fire was the last thing they all needed.

Will sat in the chair opposite and scanned the written statements in his hand. “So you didn’t see the fire start?”

“No.” It was unnerving to be the subject of official questioning, rather than the questioner. It had only happened to her a few times in her cases—she never closed a case without solid, inarguable evidence, and the Church almost always got a confession anyway—but even when it had, she’d been backed up by the Church, testifying on their behalf. This was not the same.

Nothing in Will’s demeanor indicated he thought of her as a suspect. Why would he? Everyone else had seen that fire start, too, and they knew she hadn’t been touching Ella or standing next to her or whatever. But she still had to fight the instinct to clam up, to tell half-truths or deny everything. Old habits died hard, she guessed, especially when there were other kinds of habits that had to be kept hidden.

“You just felt the heat and turned to see her on fire.”

Chess nodded. “I’d only just looked at her when the flames started to die, and then the other waitress threw water on her. That’s when she broke apart. The cook came out with the fire extinguisher but I managed to stop him from spraying everything.”

“Thanks.” Will had a nice smile; he was a decent-looking guy, actually, with short sandy hair and blue eyes. Way too preppie for her tastes even if she’d been remotely interested in any man but Terrible, which she wasn’t, but still not bad-looking. “Or, I guess Kevin should really be the one to thank you, since he’s the one who’d have to scoop up all that foam and go digging through it.”

“Kevin’s the fire investigator?”

“Yep.” Will hesitated. Like he was about to ask an uncomfortable question, or one more important than he wanted it to seem. Hmm. “Did you feel anything before the fire started, or notice anything strange?”

“She was really hot,” she said slowly. Why had he hesitated before that question? What was he looking for? “She came to drop off our drinks, a couple of minutes before it happened, and I noticed she looked really overheated. But she seemed fine, she was smiling and energetic.”

“Nothing else?”

“No” was just about to jump off the tip of her tongue, when she remembered it wasn’t entirely true. “There was, actually. When she gave us our drinks…”

Shit shit shit, this was so fucking embarrassing. “I felt sick when she got close. But it didn’t feel like how magic usually feels, and my friend and I—I just thought it was the heat outside catching up with me, or something.”

Amazing. Lex could fuck things up for her by just being mentioned in a conversation.

“Do you think maybe you were picking up something from her? Her energy, I mean. Maybe something was wrong with her?” Will was looking at her very oddly. Very closely. What the—shit. Fuck, he could ask her to take a blood test, couldn’t he? He could search her bag.

Okay, now she was being ridiculous. Calm down. Yes, he could, but he probably wouldn’t. Why would he? Unless she started acting like she was nervous and high, of course.

“I don’t know,” she said, knowing it sounded cagey but really not sure how to change that. “I don’t know what happened.”

What Stace had to say on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
A little bit, and more

Well, what a month it’s been. My oldest daughter had a birthday, I had a birthday. The children spent a week with their grandmother, and I–who was convinced this would be the greatest week I’d had in years–actually spent a large chunk of that time moping and wishing they were home. How pitiful is that? I was ashamed of myself. Almost as ashamed as I was when, the night Mr. Hubs delivered them to his mother, I actually was afraid to go to bed by myself, although in fairness I have to say that this is a big, old house, which makes lots of bizarre creaks and pings and noises in the night. Almost as ashamed as I was when I realized, at about nine o’clock that night, that with no husband or kids in the house I could watch whatever I wanted on TV and there I was watching Goodfellas on DVD for the millionth time. Not that there’s anything wrong with Goodfellas, of course–it’s one of my favorite movies, as evinced by my having seen it like a million times–but I can watch Goodfellas anytime I want when the kids are in bed or at school or whatever, whereas bad TV about plastic surgery disasters or documentaries about murders or whatever else only air at specific times and I usually never even find out they’re on.

Also, I was sick last weekend. Stomach bug or something, I don’t know, but it was awful.

What else? Hubs and I have been watching Twin Peaks and this Venezuelan soap opera called Eva Luna, which is dubbed in English. The dubbing is…interesting, I’ll just put it that way. But it’s fun. I wish my Spanish was better, because the telenovelas always look like the coolest things ever.

Anyway. Enough about dull things like me. I meant to post this last Friday (but again, sick, bleh) so here it is today: a little sneak peek from the newest short which will be part of the collection I’m hoping like hell to have out this month. (As usual, this isn’t copyedited so may change slightly when published.)

The Perfect Plate was a sort of overdressed greasy spoon, squeezed in between a dry cleaner and a dollar store in a bland-looking strip mall a few blocks away from Church headquarters. The food there pretty much sucked, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t like Chess was going to eat anyway.

What mattered was that the place wasn’t in Downside, which made it a place she could meet Beulah for lunch without people noticing them together. Word that Bump’s Churchwitch was hanging out with the sister of his rival, Lex, would travel pretty fast; word that Terrible’s girlfriend was hanging out with Lex’s sister would travel even faster. Nobody would be happy about that.

It was a good thing she’d spent her entire life keeping secrets. Otherwise she might wonder if she was ever going to be able to just be honest with other people. Other people besides Terrible, at least.

Speaking of secrets…she dug her pillbox out of her bag, grabbed three Cepts from it, and choked them down dry before she got out of the car and made her way through the heavy, steamy heat toward the restaurant.

Ice-cold air blasted her the second she opened the door, instantly chilling the sweat on her skin. It took her eyes a second to adjust to the dim interior—well, dim compared to the sunlight outside, so bright it felt like an assault—to see Blue already there, lounging at one of the little tables in that elegantly lazy way she shared with Lex. Her white sleeveless top exposed bare golden-skinned shoulders; her hair was up in a perfect messy twist, and her black cigarette pants probably cost more than Chess’s base monthly salary.

She smiled when Chess sat down. “You’re late.”

“It’s only five past.”

“Five minutes late is still late.”

“Well, you’re still a bitch,” Chess said, “so I guess we’re even.”

“True.” Blue straightened in her chair and picked up the menu. “Are you eating? Am I actually going to see you consume food?”

Chess shook her head, just as the waitress arrived and they went through the whole dull just-a-Coke-no-really-just-a-Coke routine and Blue ordered one of those rich-girl salads that were mostly green Styrofoam and cost fifteen dollars.

“Busy at work?” Blue asked, when the waitress finally wandered off.

“No.” Damn, that came out kind of flat and cold, didn’t it? “It’s just, August is a really slow month. It’s been a really slow summer.”

Blue’s slightly raised eyebrows showed that she’d caught the lame repetitions of ‘really,’ and knew what they were hiding. “And I guess it doesn’t help that you’re not the most popular girl in the place these days.”

“I guess it doesn’t.” That was an understatement. Ever since Elder Griffin found out about the psychopomp hawk she’d killed and the illegal sigil she’d carved on Terrible’s chest to save his life, he’d been, well, less than enthusiastic about her.

To be fair, at least she was still alive. Both of those crimes were executable offenses, and if Elder Griffin had turned her in for them she wouldn’t have been sitting there whining to Blue. She wouldn’t even have been in the City of Eternity, the enormous cavern beneath the earth where the spirits of the dead wandered in endless silence. She’d be in the spirit prisons, her soul forced into solidity by electric current and tortured by fire and light and iron and whatever else the Church could think of to torture it with—and they were awfully inventive.

It was worth losing some income to stay alive and out of the City. It was worth losing every penny she had to keep Terrible alive; hell, if she had been busted and sent to spirit prison, that would have been worth it, too.

But it wasn’t the loss of income that depressed her. It was the loss of Elder Griffin himself. He’d been…he’d been her friend. More than her friend. He’d cared about her, helped her. Stood behind her. That had mattered more than she’d ever realized until the day it was gone, and it still made her chest feel hollow when she let herself think about it.

Which she didn’t want to do, any more than she wanted to talk about it for even one more second. “No big deal. How’s your thing, did you look at that place yesterday?”

A totally-not-fooled expression played over Blue’s face, but thankfully she let it drop before Chess could finish bracing herself. “I think it’s going to work, yeah. There’s enough space for all the girls to practice, and it’s not far from the school.” She hesitated. “The owner’s son asked me out.”

“Oh? What’s wrong with him?”

“I’m sure I’ll find out. Or, you know, Lex will, and he’ll tell me.”

The waitress arrived with their drinks. Good. Not only was Chess thirsty, but hearing Lex’s name, so casually, made her feel sick. It was as if a greenish lens of nausea had suddenly slid over everything. Not unusual, for thinking about him to make her feel…well, bad, but it was unusual for her to feel it so strongly.

The waitress—her name, according to the plastic tag on her white short-sleeved button-down, was Emma—didn’t look too hot, either. Or rather, she looked exactly too hot, as if she’d taken their orders and then zipped into a rubber suit and gone for a jog. Her dark hair was damp, her face flushed.

But she smiled to acknowledge their thanks, and seemed sprightly enough as she trotted off back toward the kitchen. Maybe she’d just been making out with the cook or something. Not Chess’s business, certainly, but at least it got her mind off Lex for a second and eased some of the queasy feeling. The Coke helped, too.

What really helped was the fact that her pills started to kick in, sending enough warm peace through her body that she didn’t blink when Blue asked, “Are you ever going to talk to him?”

Unfortunately, not blinking didn’t mean she didn’t still feel the hit, or that she had any idea what to say. “I don’t know.”

“It was just business. And he did warn you. He asked for your help and you said no, what was he supposed to do?”

Like what Lex had done to Terrible—trying to hire him, and then when Terrible refused, trying to have him killed—was the only reason she was pissed. It was the main reason, yes, but not the only reason at all. But then, Blue probably didn’t know about the rest of it, about Lex’s little “Too bad it ain’t in you to make that mean shit,” speech or how he’d almost destroyed everything for her just to prove he could. Somehow she doubted he’d told Blue about that, and she certainly wasn’t going to.

“Not what he did,” she said. “Kind of anything other than what he did, actually.”

Blue ignored that. “Look, I was pissed at him, too. I don’t blame you. But I know he feels bad about it.”

“I’m sure he spends hours crying from shame. Is this why you wanted to hang out today?”

“No. We just haven’t talked about it and I thought I’d—”

A blast of heat on Chess’s right side so hot it lifted her hair from her shoulder; screams erupted in the room, and Chess started moving. Fuck, what was that, had someone set off a bomb or—what the hell?

The waitress was on fire.

No, that wasn’t accurate. The waitress wasn’t on fire. The waitress was fire, a column of fire about a foot and a half in diameter that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Her unmoving black shape was barely visible through a wall of blue-orange, one arm extended like she’d been reaching for something.

It’ll be out as soon as I can get it out! It is coming along, so like I said I’m *very* hopeful for a release before the month ends. I’m hoping for the next Terrible novella to be out by the end of October, and a bunch of other stuff in the months to follow, too (including some all-new non-Downside stuff I’ve been working on), so I hope you’re as excited as I am.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
CLOSE TO YOU free tomorrow

A quick heads-up: The holiday Downside short I wrote for Heroes & Heartbreakers will be available free on the H&H site tomorrow, for one day only. (It was originally scheduled for today but they’ve done a little shifting around.) I’ll post the direct link tomorrow.

So if you missed it the first time around or haven’t yet read it, here’s your chance! It’s part of a special Macmillan/St. Martin’s promotion; a whole bunch of holiday shorts written by some great authors (and of course one from me, too). If you click the image below it’ll take you to the SMP page with more info and all that good stuff.

Also, CLOSE TO YOU is on Netgalley this month, so if you’re a reviewer, go get yourself a copy, yo!

Look! Pretty image!

And don’t forget, guys, I’ll be starting to post the pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth short story in the next few days here on the blog. I’m pretty pleased with the story, and I really hope you’ll like it. In fact, because I’m in that kind of mood, here’s a little tiny excerpt:

“I hope you like fish,” Dana was saying, as she bustled around the little kitchen. All of the single-employee Church cottages—as opposed to those for married employees or some of the higher-up Elders—followed one of two floorplans: living room on the left, kitchen on the right, bedroom in the back; or the mirror image of that. Dana’s was the mirror image, with the living room on the right. From Chess’s position on the ivory flowered couch she could see into the ivory-cranberry-and-pale-blue kitchen and the ivory-cranberry-and-navy-blue bedroom. It was all very tidy. Beneath the fragrances of dinner cooking were potpourri and air freshener, the scents of things to hide. “I thought, hey, you haven’t been over for dinner, so I’d do something nice.”

“You didn’t have to.” She wished Dana hadn’t, actually. The Nips she’d taken after leaving the Randalls’ neighborhood were kicking in, and the last thing she wanted was food. Especially not when that food would come with a large helping of I-made-this-special-for-you guilt. Dana probably wouldn’t say that, but that wouldn’t make Chess feel any less guilty if she refused to eat it. “I thought we were just going to have a snack or something.”

“I like to eat early.” Dana pulled a bottle of white wine out of the fridge and set it on the counter. Would it be rude to ask for beer instead? Probably. Damn. “You know, I’m usually in bed by ten, so if I eat too late I don’t sleep well, which makes it hard to get up at six for my workout, so…”

“Sure,” Chess said, like she totally had the same issues. Bed by ten? Up at six for a workout? It sounded horrible. And pointless. Who needed exercise when speed was available?

Dana smiled at her, like she honestly believed Chess could relate. Her co-workers did not know her at all, did they.

But then, she didn’t really want them to, so that worked out okay.

What Stace had to say on Monday, July 8th, 2013
Things and such

No, I still don’t have a release date for WRONG WAYS DOWN, but I am hoping to have one very soon, so stay tuned. (Also, I’ve gotten lots of questions about the release date for Downside 6. I’m working on it, guys, I swear. I can’t confirm any dates but again, hopefully I’ll be able to soon, and I swear I will announce all this stuff as soon as I possibly can.)

But I do have a few things to share today!

First, I’m very excited to say I’ve sold a new Downside short to Heroes & Heartbreakers. I can’t give a lot of detail on this one, except to say we’re back in Chessie’s head, and H&H will be doing a cover/blurb reveal and all that good stuff in the next month or so. But–and this’ll make more sense, I think, when the details are announced–this one was a TON of fun to write, because I got to play with something I don’t usually get to use or even mention in the books at all. And when you can reference Dickens and Faulkner (I can’t wait to see if anybody catches the Faulkner bit) in a short, it’s always extra nifty. I had a few nerdy giggles writing this one, basically, and I can’t wait for you guys to see it. I believe it’ll be released in the fall sometime.

And as I mentioned above, WRONG WAYS DOWN things are coming along and such (new except–well, mini-excerpt–below).

Which brings me to…well, something, anyway.

I’m planning on doing another contest for WRONG WAYS DOWN, and I’m thinking because the “Name a Character” contest for SACRIFICIAL MAGIC was such a blast to do, and everyone seemed to enjoy it so much, I’ll do another of those. Especially since this will be Name a Character in the next Terrible novella…well, I can probably say with confidence that some of you will *really* want to be in this one.

But something occurred to me about the last contest as I was writing the Acknowledgments for WWD and passing them along. And you know, this is probably really dorky of me, and it probably doesn’t matter, but my stupid little sense of Do Right is pretty much making me say something, because…well, because I try to be honest and up-front with you guys, and honest and up-front in general. It’s important to me. And I just want to clarify something. It’s not a big deal–I’m pretty sure I’m making it a much bigger deal than it is–but still. You know me.

You may remember that Chelsea Mueller from Vampire Book Club won the SACRIFICIAL character contest (which was held for the release of CITY OF GHOSTS back in 2010). The thing is, in the intervening time since SACRIFICIAL’s release, Chelsea and I have become pretty close friends; we email pretty regularly and she beta-read WWD (and hence is in the Acknowledgments). Again, not a big deal, but because she won my contest and because I’m planning to do another one, I do kind of feel the need to just clarify that we really didn’t know each other when the contest happened, and really didn’t know each other as I wrote SM. In other words, I don’t just pick my friends to win my contests, honest. Her name happened to come out of the hat, so to speak (actually, the number of one of her entries was randomly picked by my child, if memory serves), and a year or so later we happened to get to chatting about something and there you go.

Like I said, I know this is rather dorky, and probably nobody cares but me and Chelsea (who, BTW, no longer personally reviews my work on her blog, also in the interests of objectivity and such), but it is important to me that I be open with you all and just make sure everybody knows that there was no contest hanky-panky happening. I worry about things like that.

So! On to the new mini-cerpt!

“Terrible, is you listening to me?” Amy set her hand on his chest. “You ain’t sayin much, you ain’t.”

“Aye, sorry.” Shit, what had she been saying? “Just got a lot on, aye? Some shit happening, is all.”

Her bright pink mouth twisted down. “Oughta just cancel with me, aye, iffen you ain’t gonna pay attention. Wanting chatter with you.”

“Sorry,” he said again. “You was sayin on you work, aye? What happen?”

“Two dudes coming on, telling me be a ghost around. Say a ghost kill Bump’s man on the other night. Be true? It a ghost?”

Her brown eyes were wide; she looked scared, and he hated that his first thought was to be annoyed instead of wanting to make her feel better like he should. With effort he kept his voice casual. “Naw, ain’t true. Don’t know where them dumb fuckin rumors starting, but ain’t true. Ain’t a ghost.”

Amy worked at a secondhand store up Sixtieth, old furniture and appliances and whatany. Fuck. Now she got people just coming in offen the streets, chattering on ghosts?

“Then why they—”

He shrugged. “Somebody tryin stir shit up, is all.”

Amy glanced around. “Slobag?”

“Maybe.” Probably. But until he were certain he ain’t wanted to say, and he were trying real fucking hard not to get mad thinking of it. Why the fuck all this shit starting up now? “Don’t need to be worryin on it, aye? No ghost.”

She nodded, but he could see the question starting behind her eyes, could see her wondering did he wish it were a ghost so’s he could call Chess, or was he saying weren’t a ghost causen he were already working with Chess.

He cut that off with, “Want me getting you a beer?”

“Aye.” She leaned back on the seat and folded her pale arms over her chest in a way that let him know she caught on that he were trying to change the subject. She wore a skimpy little pink dress, with thin straps and a short skirt. How she ain’t froze in that outside he didn’t know, but he couldn’t deny he ain’t minded at all when she looked mostly undressed.

Which kinda made him feel worse, causen they’d hang out there an hour or so, and then they’d go back to his and get that dress off her, and despite the fact that they never made any promises or aught like that—and he weren’t the only dude she saw, neither—he couldn’t help thinking he weren’t really treating her right. No. He didn’t think it. He knew it. And he knew why, which was worse.

So, there you go.

What Stace had to say on Monday, May 20th, 2013
WRONG WAYS DOWN news!

I finally have some news to announce!

I have to apologize for the delay here; there was a bit of an issue regarding cover art, basically, which set everything back by almost two months–since formatting can’t start until the cover art is done, we’ve all been in pretty much a holding pattern. I could have bought a stock photo myself and added some text to it, sure, but I wanted something better than that. More special than that. (I’m not saying covers like that can’t be good, at all. Of course they can. I’m simply saying that I personally lack the artistic talent and photo-manipulation skill to do it. I mean, I thought my little cover for BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET was pretty cute, but not only do I want something more…custom, shall we say, for this, there’s a good chance that I’m one of the only ones who thought so.) Add in the extra time for repeated editing passes, and copyediting by a professional, and now cover art which is being illustrated and painted by a professional artist, then then proper formatting (not just a text dump), and hopefully that explains some of the delay. It’s important to me that this be indistinguishable from the other books in the series, and that takes time. (Again, it’s not my intention at all to imply that if somebody manages to do all this faster it means lesser quality.)

But. I DO have something to share! I’ve been meaning to post the back cover copy for a while, and figured now was the perfect time, since I should hopefully have cover art to show in the next couple of weeks. And once that’s done, there should be a release date announcement not long after. (Future projects won’t take so long, I swear; I’m learning as I go here, and now I know a lot more about how to do all of this. Like, for example, don’t wait until the book is actually done to settle on a title and begin the cover art process. Heh.)

So. Here’s the back cover copy for WRONG WAYS DOWN, and then a new excerpt (remember, WWD is set in the time between UNHOLY GHOSTS and UNHOLY MAGIC; actually it takes place over the week surrounding New Year’s Eve, to be more specific).

It’s a thin line between right and wrong. It’s an even thinner one between wrong and dead…

Terrible has always been on the wrong side of the law, living up to the only name anyone ever gave him. As the chief enforcer for Downside’s most powerful criminal, it’s his job to collect debts and protection money by any means necessary. And he’s very good at his job.

But part of that job is also to keep Bump’s various employees safe. So when a street dealer is found dead and a prostitute is brutally attacked, Terrible immediately starts using his fists to hunt down the ones responsible.

He’s determined to find and destroy them. They’re determined to use his desire for the woman he secretly loves to break him.

EXCERPT:

He ain’t minded the cold, or the dark, but it did make shit harder. Finding people on the street weren’t as easy, and not as many people out there who might try starting shit with him he could finish. And fuck how he wanted to finish something just then, when Bump’s anger still made him tight inside. And fuck, wasn’t he glad he got the chance; third name on he list were home.

He flexed his fingers, stretching them, before curling them into a fist and slamming them into Sharp-Eye Ben’s face again. Ain’t should have felt good doing it, but it did.

And it helped him forget all the other shit. Helped him forget how he’d failed protecting the girls and how maybe he weren’t smart enough to find the dude attacked Sue. Helped him forget how his daughter ain’t even knew she was his, that she thought some other dude was her dad and he couldn’t ever, ever say the truth. Helped him forget how he looked, how fucking pitiful he was when it came to Chess, how he weren’t good enough to even be her friend, weren’t good enough for much at all.

Except this. This was the one thing he did better than anybody else, leastaways better’n anybody else he’d ever met. He’d never lost a fight. And when he was doing it, using his fists, his whole body…he felt right. Like his body did the thinking he mind couldn’t seem to get, and when he was fighting he thought faster than anybody else. If fists were brains he was the smartest dude in the city, and he couldn’t help how that made him feel good.

“Two weeks is up, Ben,” he said, letting his fist hang cocked in the air so Ben could see it. “Ain’t seein any lashers in my hand.”

“Sorry,” Ben gasped. Kinda hard to make out the words, what with he mouth all puffy and bloody, but Terrible had a lot of experience with that. “Tried, I done, I tried, but I ain’t got it yet. Just another week’s all I need, another week—”

Terrible hit him again. “Don’t got another week.”

He dropped Ben—he’d been holding him up by the hair—and turned away as Ben crumpled to the floor. Ben were a speed-banger; his place looked like a banger’s place, almost empty, and cold in the merciless light from the unshaded overheads.

But Ben were a cutpurse, too, which meant he might have something hidden away. Some last valuable thing, pass on to somebody who’d buy he a bag with it, since Ben couldn’t buy from any of Bump’s until he’d paid up. Also meant he knew other thieves, more’n Terrible did.

“Gonna have me the money soon,” Ben whined behind him. Terrible hoisted the end of the cheap-ass couch to look underneath it. Nothing but dust and bloody tissues. “Met—met me a dame, says she give me it, she do. Just ain’t knowing you be here on the today. Can have it on morrow, I can, have it for you then I’m swearing, just…”

Terrible ignored him. No food in the kitchen cabinets—no surprise there—cepting some dusty hard candies loose on a shelf. Nothing in the fridge but cheap beer. He opened the drawers, the freezer, looked under the sink. Dead bugs and rat droppings. Why anybody live that way when they had the choice? Terrible’d had enough filth around when he were a kid, sleeping on the street, staying with any lonely drunk or junkie offered him a bed or some food. Now he had he own place, he ain’t ever wanted to sleep with rats or roaches again.

Ben was still on the floor, ain’t moved at all. Blood dripped out his nose onto the thin dirty carpet. Terrible stepped over him to look in the bathroom and bedroom. Better chances on finding aught in there.

Couple loaded needles. He didn’t touch those. Didn’t really wanna touch shit in that bathroom, actually, or in that apartment. Chess carried gloves, just like she carried baby wipes. He wished she were with him. She’d help him search, help—no, he didn’t wish it. He hated her seeing him work, leastaways like that. It were different when he was protecting her or helping her, but…he hated her seeing him work.

Not causen he were embarrassed by what he did. More like he were embarrassed causen of how he felt about what he did, and it were just more evidence that he was a dumb fucking savage or aught like that, not the kinda man a dame like her even should talk to.

He’d found two gold watches tucked up under the mattress, obviously stolen, before Ben spoke again. “Please…hear you had you a robbery on the other night, I hear. Maybe I can get some knowledge on it for you.”

So Ben only knew about Sue, not Slick. Or was pretending he only knew on Sue, but Terrible guessed he honestly ain’t. Shit like that weren’t Ben’s style; he didn’t think Ben had any at all to do with the attacks, only that Ben might be an ear to the ground and Ben would be happy as hell to pass on whatany knowledge he got.

Ben musta seen him thinking. “Please. Terrible, maybe I find somethin out, maybe I give you what I find, maybe that be a help? Them watches—that one be my daddy’s, it were, my daddy’s watch.”

“Aye?” Damn it, why’d Ben have to fuck up a good deal with such a dumbass lie? He checked the back of the watch face, read the monogram there. “This one? What it say on the back, then?”

Ben hesitated. He’d managed to stand up; Terrible strode over to him and knocked him back down. Fuck, he were pissed enough already, and he’d just started feeling a little better, and now there Ben was pissing him off again. He’d learned a long time ago that when he got mad while he was beating on people, it ain’t ended so good. But now he was. “Don’t fuckin lie to me, Ben. Gets me mad, people lie to me. You want me fuckin mad?”

Ben shook his head, wiping at his mouth with shaking hands. “Nay, sorry, sorry, only I—weren’t thinkin, I weren’t, sorry.”

Should he hit him again? He wanted to. Ben was lying, and—aye, an that’s why he had to. Let people get away with shit, and they’d try getting away with it again. They’d think he was an easy touch, that he ain’t could figure out that they was lying. He hit Ben again. “Think better. Said you could get me some knowledge on that robbery?”

“Can—can try, I can. Bettin I can, I find somebody knows aught they can give me, I bet.”

Terrible pretended to consider it, then nodded. “Aye, right then. On morrow, dig? On morrow I come back. You better fuckin be here, an you better fuckin have the knowledge. And Bump’s money.”

Ben’s mouth fell open—as much as it could. “Thought I give you the knowledge, you take them watches, I ain’t got owes no more—”

Terrible shook his head. “Still got owes. Have em on morrow, and the knowledge. Or I come find you. And then I be mad. Dig?”

Ben nodded.

Terrible reached out and patted Ben’s shoulder, harder than he had to. “On morrow, then.”

He pocketed the watches and left, not looking back.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 14th, 2013
Novella News

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day much, and this one is already sort of sucky. So I’m going to cheer myself up now, by giving some news on the Terrible novella and posting an excerpt and all of that fun stuff.

First, a little FAQ:

What is the novella called?

Ha! I finally have an answer for this! The title is WRONG WAYS DOWN.

How long is it?

I’m still editing it, but my estimate is that the final version will be around 55,000 words. So it’s actually more of a short novel than a novella, but oh well.

Is it in continuity?

Yes. It takes place in the time period between UNHOLY GHOSTS and UNHOLY MAGIC; the last scene is set about two weeks before the start of UM.

What’s it about?

It’s a little mystery, basically. There’s magic and hookers and untrustworthy people and Decisions To Be Made and Temptations To Be Dealt With and, of course, plenty of violence.

It’s not about Terrible and Chess, per se. Chess is certainly in it (I finally got to write an event between them that I mentioned very briefly in CITY OF GHOSTS), and there’s certainly time spent on how he sees and thinks of her, but they’re not really working together in this one. It’s HIS story.

I’d like/I’m planning to write UM and CoG from his POV, combined as one story, but that’s going to depend at least in part on how this one does, and whether you guys like it enough to want more.

Will we find out more of Terrible’s past?

A bit more, yes. Including more details on how he came to work for Bump.

When will it be released?

I don’t have a release date yet, sorry. I’d hoped to have it released around today, but I’ve had sick kids and all kinds of other craziness happening, which has cut into my work time. I am almost finished editing, though, and have a copyeditor lined up and all of that, so I’m hoping to have at least a close estimate soon.

And for those who follow me on Twitter… Yes, Terrible makes himself a sandwich at some point. Hee.

So…on to the excerpt! It’s a scene with Chess in it, because it’s Valentine’s Day. (Plus, come on, I know what you guys want to see.)

(This is pre-copyedits; final version may vary slightly.)

Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 22nd, 2012
Happy Thanksgiving!

Some of you are aware that I am writing a novella from Terrible’s POV, which I am hoping to have ready for a Christmas release. So I figure, it’s Thanksgiving, and because the thing I am most thankful for is YOU (yes, you), I’d post the first chapter of it here so you can get a look at it.

Please keep in mind I haven’t finished this, or edited it yet. This is pretty literally a first draft. But I do hope you all enjoy it! (It does not yet have a title, FYI.) And it starts in the time between UNHOLY GHOSTS and UNHOLY MAGIC, though it will move into UM and CoG as the story goes on.

So…here we go!

Chapter One

He’d seen a lot of dead bodies in his life. He’d created a lot of dead bodies in his life, done a lot of damage to living ones. But he’d only a few times seen a body like the one in front of him now, flesh torn an frozen into jagged chunks, covered in blood turned to ice. Slick Michigan, one of Bump’s street-dealers.

What was left of him, leastaways. He were barely recognizable; sliced to shit, with nothing but bloody holes in he chest and stomach, between his legs. His throat was slit. His skin were shredded.

That was part of the problem. Terrible knelt by the body to get a closer look. Had somebody chopped Slick up like that, or had animals got to him? There were plenty around. Not just dogs and cats, neither. Never could tell what might come outen an alley, especially where they were, near the docks.
Dock people kept all kinda shit as pets; hell, he wouldn’t be surprised to find some of them had been eating off Slick. Terrible hated being by the docks. He scanned the streets over and over, watched the windows of the buildings nearby, ready to move fast if he saw even a shadow. The barrel of his gun dug into his side; usually he left it in the car, but on the border streets, or the docks…

“What you thinking?” Roley stood on Slick’s other side, shifting from foot to foot. Anxious. Terrible guessed he couldn’t blame him. The sight of Slick ain’t exactly made him feel good, neither, even if they weren’t where they were. “Like a pack of dogs got he, aye?”

Terrible shook his head. “Somebody had a knife. Slit he throat. But the rest…ain’t know.”

He stood up. “Get he packed up, dig, take he to the cooler. Let Bump get a look in.”

He weren’t thinking just of Bump having a look, though, were he? No. He weren’t. Which made sense. Got a mutilated body, it made sense to have a witch look at it. Especially since he ain’t liked the look of some of them slices, some of them patches of missing skin. Looked like maybe somebody carved some shit into Slick’s body, maybe then cut it off after he were dead. Like maybe somebody doing magic.

So it made sense to think maybe he oughta give Chess a ring-up, see was she busy, if she minded having a look. He hated to do it to her, since Slick ain’t exactly looked pretty, but still. Made sense.

Made sense to step back as Roley and Winchuk started moving Slick’s body, too. An unburied body were like a magnet for a ghost, or could be. Chess taught him that; well, he’d always thought it were true, but she’d confirmed it. Sometimes they’d try coming back, getting back into them bodies. Why they had to be buried so fast, burned so fast. Were why he made sure them at the Crematorium got their money every month, right on time, so bodies could get dropped off there and taken care of.

But he ain’t felt that kind of…unease, like he’d learned he felt when ghosts were around. Not a big feeling. Just a funny one, like somebody were squeezing his stomach a little bit.

Whatever it was, he ain’t felt it then. Good thing, too. But he still didn’t like the look of that body, and he still thought it were best to check with Bump and get the aye to bring Chess in.

Had nothing to do with wanting an excuse to spend more time with her. Nothing at all. Just doing he job.

Roley and Winchuk had Slick turned over. Terrible held up a hand to stop em going further, then reached into Slick’s pockets. The denim, crusted with frozen blood, scratched at the back of his hand as he pulled out Slick’s wallet. Nothing missing, least not what he could see. Still had lashers in it; Terrible weren’t certain how much Slick shoulda had, but he had enough that it ain’t looked like he got robbed. Drugs in he other pocket, too, so definitely ain’t been robbed.

That ain’t made much sense, though. Not for the docks. Aye, this spot—way up ninety-ninth—weren’t a busy one. And aye, Slick had only been dead half a day at most; he picked up he product the night before just right but ain’t showed up that morning to turn in he earnings. So no more than fifteen hours, and long enough to freeze solid, or at least for he skin and all to freeze solid, causen he might just be so stiff from being dead.

He’d died sometime during the night, was all Terrible knew. Figuring shit like that weren’t what he done best; well, figuring any shit weren’t what he done best, was it?

A small crowd had started forming, attracted—he guessed—by the sight of him, Roley, and Winchuk. Maybe attracted by the body, seeing as how the sun had only been up a few hours and it were hidden in some tall weeds where it weren’t easy to see, specially in the dark.

But a crowd in the docks never were a good thing. He knew enough of the dock-people not to be worried. Knew what to do if they started getting too close, if it started lookin like they realized they outnumbered him. But he ain’t exactly wanted to do it, so better to just get out clean.

And try figuring why Slick were up in that part of town to start with. He worked Fifty-fourth, nowhere near the docks. No reason for him bein up there, where most of the buildings ain’t even had roofs and most of the walls looked like crumbling pyramids.

He gave Roley and Winchuk the nod to lift the body. No blood. A little on the grass and trash under it, but looked like transfer. None soaked into the dirt. Slick ain’t been killed there, then. Just dumped there.

He looked at the little crowd. “Anybody hear aught? See anything?”

Heads shook all around. Shit. Were what he expected, but still shit.

A dame stepped forward, her skin as pale as Slick’s from cold an lack of sun. Terrible ain’t felt the cold much neither—an even if he did he wouldn’t have showed it—but he couldn’t imagine how that dame weren’t shivering so hard she could barely stand. Barely dressed at all, she was, just wrapped inna dirty blanket scrap with holes for she arms, tied around her waist with a blue ribbon. Bright blue, only barely smudged with dirt. Like she tried keeping it clean an nice, tried making herself pretty the only way she could. Something about it made sadness echo in he chest.

Specially since there wasn’t shit he could do on it, not really. He’d slip her some cash for her knowledge, but it wouldn’t go past her next meal, maybe whatever man she gave herself to; no woman went alone on the docks. Not even a tough little one like this one, standing straight an ignoring the cold.

Then he looked a little closer an saw part of the reason why she ain’t felt the cold, leastaways. Her pupils were hardly visible, just tiny black dots practically spinning in her eyes.

“Be Unk’s place, there,” she said, in such a high, squeaky voice he almost expected dogs to start howling. Her bony arm stretched out, her bony finger pointing at the paper-covered window—weren’t even a real window, just an irregular hole knocked in the brick wall—next to where Slick’s body had been. “Could be Unk see or hearn aught, could be, you asking he.”

Terrible turned, stared at the window-hole. Whoever Unk were, he were likely watching now. He’d come out in a minute, when he saw them all looking, saw Terrible looking. Least Terrible hoped he would. He’d heard Unk’s name before, and them at the docks seemed to respect the dude. Terrible didn’t want to have to go in after him.

And he didn’t have to. After a minute or so—a minute or so in which Terrible unfolded his arms, straightened his back, raised his chin, making the threat more clear—the tied-together battered slats of wood that worked as a door opened, and Unk stepped out onto he front walk.

Old and skinny, bundled in scraps of burlap and fur that looked like dog. A bright green stocking cap covered his head all the way down to his eyes. Bright, aware eyes. Unk had seen something, aye he had.

“Dumped he here roundabout darktide,” he said. “Darktide, it were, hearing me a car, an gave me a peek. Fast peek, ain’t watching long. No headlights. No moonlights. Ain’t seed it much. But hearing me a voice. Man voice. Hearing the trunk close.”

He looked at Slick’s corpse, or what there were of it, wrapped in plastic hangin between Roley an Winchuk. “Hearing a thud. Car drives off.”

Terrible nodded his thanks. “Drive off fast? Only one voice?”

“One voice. No tires squealin or whatnot.” Unk bowed. “Be all.”

Terrible nodded again. So two people—only one talked, aye, but who’d he be talking to iffen he were on his alones?—dumped Slick there at low tide, which would be just before dawn if he had his knowledge right. Which maybe he ain’t, of course. He’d have to check. And whoever it was either figured he weren’t seen or ain’t gave a fuck iffen he was, causen he ain’t bothered to take off fast.

Which sounded like it were planned, not panicked. People panicked and killed somebody, they were terrified of being seen and caught. They fucked up, made mistakes, ran around tryna hide. But people who planned murders, they didn’t worry so much. They studied, hunted around for places to dump the body, set on times to do it when almost nobody be up to see or hear.

Meant good chances they knew the docks, too, seeing as how darktide were superstition in the dock-people. Bad luck, so they thought. They ain’t gone out during it. They ain’t liked it when the tide come in, neither, but then Terrible felt the same way. The air felt weird when the tide come in, like charged with electricity.

Weren’t the time to start thinking on it. Unk had already gone back inside, so Terrible pulled two twenties from his wallet and held them out to the woman. She stepped forward like she were walking on jagged glass, every step real hesitant and scared, and tugged them out of his hand from arm’s length.

Terrible tipped his head toward Unk’s house, seeing the paper over the window gapped on the side. So Unk were watching, would know he had lashers coming. “Pass he one, dig?”

The dame nodded.

Behind her the crowd started shifting. Time to get gone. He could stay longer, aye, but better to save that for when he needed it. Best thing to do in that part of town was get in fast, get out fast. Hand out a few lashers or a few broken bones, depending; enough of both so they didn’t forget who he was.
He gave Roley and Winchuk the nod toss the body into the back of the truck, and watched them get in the cab theyselves. Time to go.

Time to start tryin to find out who killed Slick Michigan, and more importantly why.

* * *

Bump’s annoyance came through loud and clear when Terrible walked into the red living room. Always hurt his eyes a little at first, afore he got used to it. He weren’t a fan of the pictures on the walls, neither, but weren’t his place to say on it. He just tried not to pay em too much attention.

Bump paced up and down the floor, his gold toe-ring flashing with every other step. His cane leaned against the couch; he wore loose black pants and a blue button-front shirt, and his eyes were bloodshot. Looked like he’d been up all night celebrating something. Terrible wondered when he’d left his house last.

“Be Slobag, betting,” Bump said, without stopping he pacing. “Fuckin betting him behind this one, yay, tryna take heself over, gots he—”

“Naw.” Interrupting Bump wasn’t always the best idea, but he really ain’t wanted to see this one turn into an all-day tirade. “Ain’t thinkin so. Thinkin be some else. Slick all cut up, dig, ain’t just were shot or whatany, like that kinda killing. Lookin like…like be personal, maybe. Or got some other reasoning’s behind it. An Slick ain’t work near the borders, neither. No reasoning I see why it’d be him them went for.”

“Maybe Slick be fuckin spyin.”

Terrible shrugged. “Know Slick gots heself a rep, likes the dames already got men, dig. Maybe one of them catch up to he. Ain’t be the first time he been in trouble over it.”

Bump waved his hand. “Maybe. Maybe you got it right, yay, got the fuckin recall now on that. Only I ain’t wanting rule Slobag the fuck out, yay, ain’t wanting fuckin forget on he. You give it the check-on, you get onna street.”

That one wasn’t too bad. Calmed down fast that time. Good thing, too, causen what Terrible was about to say wouldn’t make Bump happy. “Also…had the thinkin could be magic, dig. Slick gots he some funny cuts on he, like maybe something carved into he, then cut off so’s we ain’t know on it. Like be some ritual or whatany like that.”

“You just fuckin sat there gave me how it probably some fuckin dude ain’t liked Slick fucking he woman. Which one it fuckin be?”

“Just sayin, is all.” He pulled out a smoke and lit it up, spent a few seconds arranging the ashtray to give himself time to think how to put it. Damn it, he should have thought on it more in the car, gave himself time to get the words right. “Ain’t know which it is. Were thinkin…maybe oughta give Chess a ring-up, ask her take a look. Just for certain, dig.”

Silence. He kept staring at the red carpet, tryna pretend there were nothing more to his thought than wanting to make sure they had everything covered. Aye, that was the reason, true thing. He wouldn’t ask on bringing Chess in iffen he were certain what or who got Slick. But he knew Bump wouldn’t see it that way, not after some of the comments he’d made over the last month and a half.

Sure enough, when he glanced up Bump was watching him, arms folded, leaning against his desk. “Thinkin be magic? Or thinkin be a fuckin excuse spend you some time with the ladybird?”

“Ain’t needing an excuse.” He shrugged as he said it, like it ain’t mattered. “Wouldn’t say iffen I ain’t think it could be something.”

Bump held out his hand. “Lemme have a look-see on them fuckin photos again.”

The camera sat in Terrible’s bag, at his feet. He dug it out and handed it over without meeting Bump’s eyes. Maybe he were wrong. The only evidence he had that it could be something to do with magic was his own suspicion. There weren’t any markings or any shit like that on the body. No weird magic shit in he pockets or aught like that. Nothing. Maybe he was just wishing it, causen it’d be a chance to see Chess more.

He already saw her a fuck of a lot more than he’d ever expected, or hoped. Almost every day. Never would have seen that one coming; iffen he’d been asked two months past he’d have said she may have been the prettiest dame he’d ever met but she seemed like one of the bitchiest too—but this would be extra time.

He sure as fuck wouldn’t complain on seeing her more. But he didn’t think that were why. He just didn’t. Something on this one were setting off alarms in he mind, makin him feel like…like something was wrong. Something starting that weren’t good, wouldn’t end well.

Bump flipped through the images on the camera, the pictures Terrible had taken an hour or so before in the cooler. “Just looks like fuckin slices to me, yay? Come fuckin on, Terrible, you done worse damage than that you own fuckin self, specially you lose you fuckin temper. You fuckin knowing that.”

“Aye.” He did know that, ceptin he ain’t lose he temper with knives, not since he were a kid. “Only, some of them patches missing, were thinking maybe were shit carved into he skin.”

“An now them fuckin gone. So what you fuckin think the ladybird gonna pick fuckin up offa that? Nothin to fuckin see is nothing to fuckin see, yay?”

Fuck. He ain’t thought on that one. Made sense, though. Chess were smart, real fucking smart. Had she all that school, an knew more than he could ever hope to. But aye, even she probably ain’t could figure on what magic might be used iffen there weren’t any evidence of it. An the body ain’t felt like aught were happening with it, neither; Terrible weren’t real good on all that, but he knew how he’d felt when everything went down at Chester Airport, and he ain’t felt anything like that with Slick’s body.

Maybe he were just wanting to get Chess involved so he could be with her. Maybe all he concerns were just bullshit made up causen he wanted to be with her more. “Just figured it ain’t hurt askin.”

Bump snorted. “Askin to get you some fuckin trouble, yay. Oughta fuckin know you better. Ain’t can trust a junkie.”

“You trust her.”

“Nay, I fuckin ain’t. Trust her do what I fuckin ask she doing, yay, causen her does it, her gets she needs, dig? Puts Bump in control. Only ain’t fuckin seein you given em to she, so ain’t can guess on why you givin she the fuckin trust you do.”

He forced himself not to move. “Chess ain’t like that.”

“Yay, her is. Only you ain’t fuckin seein it, causen you wanting in she panties so fuckin bad, gots you all crazed up—”

“Ain’t—”

“Don’t got the knowing why you ain’t just fuck she already, yay, get you fuckin over you bullshit on it.”

Like it was that simple.

No point explaining that, though. Explaining that he didn’t try because if she didn’t let him they’d both feel awkward and he wouldn’t get to see her anymore. He didn’t try because if she did let him—and she might, sometimes he had the thought she just might, specially were she fucked up—she’d run away from him as soon as they were done. He knew she would. She’d done it before. She’d done it that night, the one he couldn’t forget no matter how hard he tried—and he’d tried real fucking hard. No point explaining that she preferred her bedpartners first-name- and one-time-only.

So pretty much, he didn’t try because no matter if she let him or not, he wouldn’t get to see her anymore.

And definitely no point explaining how that would kill him. He’d already had a taste of what he were missing, and it was fucking torture. He couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be to actually have her, to have her bare skin against his and her warm body under his, to touch her everywhere, kiss her everywhere…and then lose her. For good.

Bump must have seen something on his face. Or maybe it was just that Bump already knew all this; not cause he’d been told, but just because he knew. Bump weren’t stupid. He had eyes. His expression changed, the sarcasm and irritation leaving. “Be fuckin careful, yay? Alls I meaning. Dig me that you and she got some fuckin friend thing on, her likin you and all that fuckin shit. Can see her fuckin do. Maybe you gots the right, there, yay. Her do got the knowing how to keep she fuckin mouth shut, her do.”

He shifted position, crossing his ankles in the other direction. “Only still wanting you bein fuckin careful. Gots meself some fuckin experience on this one, Terrible. Ain’t can trust a junkie, causen it fuckin comes down to you or them pills? Them takin the pills every fuckin time. Wishing it weren’t the fuckin truth, yay, I do, only it is. And ain’t wanting you fuckin get the hard find-out on it.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

What Stace had to say on Sunday, March 18th, 2012
SACRIFICIAL MAGIC samples up!

Just a quick weekend note to say that the first chapter of SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is up on the book’s shiny new page (the site’s been updated, so you can see more foreign edition covers/links on the main Books page, too) and that, on that same page, you’ll find a free PDF download of the first three chapters!

I hope you all enjoy it!