Author Archives: Nervous Nell Justice
Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
- OMG! This cover is a-maz-ing! Steve McHugh released the cover for Hellequin Chronicles #7, Scorched Shadows. It is freaking beautiful!!
Title: Scorched Shadows
Author: Steve McHugh
Series: Hellequin Chronicles #7
Release date: October 17, 2017
Publisher’s Description: In the final chapter of the Hellequin Chronicles, secrets will be revealed, friendships will be tested, and destinies will be fulfilled.
Avalon is under siege. A shadowy cabal, headed by a mysterious figure known only as “My Liege”, has launched a series of deadly attacks across the globe, catching innocent human bystanders in the crossfire.
Emerging from the debris of battle, Nate Garrett, the sixteen-hundred-year-old sorcerer also called Hellequin, and his friends must stop My Liege once and for all. But powerful forces stand in their way. To save Avalon, they will need to enlist the help of Mordred, once Nate’s greatest nemesis, now his most formidable ally. But Mordred is grappling with a dark prophecy that could spell Nate’s doom…
The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Even if Nate can halt the war, will there be anything left worth saving?
- Craig Schaefer finally released news on the project he’s been working on. Again, I say finally! We have been tormented by teasers of this new project for a year now and here is his post about the new series: The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy
- One of my favorite authors, Sean Cummings, let me know that Tim Reaper #2, The Girl on Victoria Road will be ready for pre-order by August 17, 2017. I cannot wait! Here is the publisher’s description:
After saving the humanity from a psychopathic angel bent on hastening the end of days, Tim Reaper can be forgiven for hitting the bottle hard. It’s not every day that a former grim reaper gets to fall in love for the very first time only to have to kill the girl he’s fallen for or let the world burn. It’s five months since Reaper had to make an impossible choice.
Meanwhile in North End Dartmouth a mother has been stabbed to death in her bed and the only witness is an eight-year-old girl with a peculiar gift. She knows the truth of all things and has taken to writing the base code of the universe on her bedroom wall. She possesses knowledge no human being was ever meant to have and that means she’s got a target on her back. Angels, demons and everything in-between have the girl in their sights and her only hope of survival rests with Tim Reaper who must keep her alive long enough to meet with someone Reaper calls, The Man with the Big White Beard
Mr. Cummings was generous to send a part of chapter three for your perusal.
As we tore down Victoria Road, it occurred to me the last time I shared space with a child was a century ago, just before I was thrown out of my order. I was to collect the soul of a little boy infected with the same flu that I caused by allowing patient zero to linger on past his best before date. I could have prevented a global pandemic by simply doing my job as a reaper, but I chose not to. That little boy was the start of my punishment.
I’ve adapted to life among mortals since then.
I don’t really dislike children. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly neutral on the subject of miniature human beings because I’ve had so little interaction with them over the years. I have, however, seen all the Spielberg movies from the 1980’s and I’ve always been impressed with children’s resilience in the face of peril and conflict. In the film E.T., Elliot is the only one who sees the threat against his extra-terrestrial friend, but he quickly enlists the help of other children to plot a daring escape from government types dressed in suits who want to dissect the alien visitor.
That kind of pluckiness simply doesn’t exist in adult humans. It makes me think someone should put kids in charge of global affairs. The world would likely be a far safer place than it is.
I glanced at Charlotte through the corner of my eye. What the hell was I looking at? By all appearances, she seemed to be an average eight-year-old kid. But the complex mathematical formula and weird symbols on her bedroom wall; the epic nature of what I saw when I glimpsed inside her mind … how could she even be alive? One thing I was certain of — whatever strange powers she carried inside could probably burn my host to a cinder. She might even possess the capacity to destroy my elemental nature itself. Let’s just say it was a little unsettling. And why they hell had Abraxas tried to kill her? How could this innocent little kid be a threat to scum bag hell spawn?
But she wasn’t an innocent child at all.
The man who butchered her mother was going to be the child’s new daddy. The poor bastard made the mistake of skin-on-skin contact with the child lost his shit and stabbed her mother to death. Then the girl simply made him disappear. POOF! Gone.
Would she make me disappear too if I touched her skin or pissed her off?
All I knew was the little girl sitting beside me in the front seat of Sparks’ Crown Victoria possessed knowledge and power that was some threat to the citizens of hell itself, and that meant it would only be a matter of time until we faced another attack. I had to get her off the grid and away from civilians because supernatural bad guys have zero shits to give when it comes to killing or maiming innocent bystanders. That meant a return to my safe house near Three Fathom Harbour. The place where my previous host burned up. The place where I lost Amy. I knew that whoever was going to come at us would find us hidden there, but at least it was away from civilians.
I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was quarter past three in the morning. My stomach rumbled, and I spotted a 24-Hour McDonald’s ahead. Unfortunately, we needed to head out of town, so I wasn’t going to hit any drive-thru windows until we cleared the city limits.
“Listen, kid,” I said as I glanced at the rear-view mirror to see if we were being followed. “You know who I am because of all the stuff that’s in your head. A crazy social worker tried to kill you, and both of us know that she wasn’t exactly like you and me.”
“There is nothing about you that can be compared to me,” Charlotte said in her guidance counselor voice. Then she quickly reverted to sounding like an eight-year-old girl. “My Mommy died. Her boyfriend killed her. I made him disappear after he hurt her and now Mommy has gone to heaven. I made her boyfriend so crazy after he touched me that he stabbed Mommy. It’s my fault.”
“It’s not your fault, kid. You got some weird shi … stuff going on inside your brain. Did you notice how your voice just changed a second ago?”
She sniffed and wiped her nose with her nighty again. “Yes. I have two voices.”
“Care to explain how that all works?” I asked as I signaled right and guided the cruiser to an off ramp. Within seconds we were on the highway headed out of town.
She blinked and quickly channeled her inner guidance counselor. “There is nothing to explain because to explain it would be a waste of time. It would be like trying to teach the alphabet to a large boulder. You are the boulder, Richter.”
“You know my name,” I said, again checking the rear-view mirror to make sure we weren’t being followed. “You scribbled the word RICHTER all over your bedroom wall. How do you know my name?”
The girl nodded once and said, “Because I know all things that have been or must be. Increase your speed by thirty kilometers an hour. There are three police cars behind you. That will give us enough distance.”
I spun my head around to look out the rear window and saw nothing but blackness. “What are you talking about, kid? There are no cops around here for miles.”
“They are a few kilometers back. This car has been reported missing from my dwelling. If you do not increase your speed, they will catch up with us, and you will be taken into custody. I will become a ward of the Province, and that which must be will not happen as it should.”
I looked at the girl and opened my mouth to say something but thought better of it because I believed her when she said there were cops on my tail. I pressed my foot on the accelerator, and the car roared up the dark highway.
“Okay Charlotte, I’ve increased speed. We’ve got about an hour of driving ahead of us before we reach the road to my safe house.”
She closed her eyes for a moment and then said, “Okay, mister. Now that I looked behind, I have to look at what’s in front of us.”
I cocked an eyebrow and flipped on the police radio to listen in on what might be going on at Victoria Road. I believed the girl when she said we’d make it to the safe house, but my thoughts were with Sparks and the shit show of three dead police officers not to mention a dead social worker. My gut told me that she was going to suffer the backlash from the higher-ups in the Halifax Police Service because of the sheer butchery of what happened at Charlotte’s house.
The radio crackled and hissed every few seconds as the dispatcher sent more units to Victoria Road. Oh, and of course there was the big “be on the lookout” for a red Ford Crown Victoria – the one I was driving. A few kilometers ahead I could see a pair of headlights cutting through the blackness of the highway. It was a tractor trailer, and it seemed to be plowing through the night well over the speed limit. I’d have paid little attention if the truck hadn’t suddenly lurched to its left and bounced across the grass dividing the highway, smashing through the guardrail.
“Mister, we have to—“
“Hang on, kid; we’ve got company!” I said as I gripped the steering wheel and tromped on the gas pedal.
The eighteen-wheeler flipped on its high beams and fog lights, and I shielded my eyes with my left arm against the glare. Charlotte quickly grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it toward herself. The Crown Victoria lurched to the right, and I grabbed the wheel, straightening the cruiser before we crashed into the ditch. The semi moved sharply to its left, and we’d be smashed to atoms in a head-on collision if I didn’t think fast.
“Can you drive a car?” I asked, immediately regretting the words the moment the flew out of my mouth. The kid was eight. Of course, she couldn’t drive. She wouldn’t even be able to reach the pedals.
“I can steer if that’s what you mean,” she answered in her guidance counselor voice.
“Rats … no time. We’re going into the ditch. Hang on tight!”
I put the gas pedal to the floor. The powerful police cruiser roared ahead, and the tractor trailer’s lights filled the interior of the car with a near-blinding white glow. In less than a second, we tumbled down the shoulder right into a gulley, and the semi flew over the shoulder bouncing violently into the ditch and smashing into a stand of trees. I was just about to head out of the car and put a few rounds into the driver’s head when the door of the trailer flew open and out poured a dozen or more creatures. Each had a pig snout face like Abraxas, each carried a sword that lit ablaze and cut into the darkness like a dozen welder’s torches.
“They’re coming!” Charlotte cried out.
“We’re leaving,” I answered sharply. “Hang on again!”
I stepped on the gas, and I saw a spray of rocks and dirt flying out from the rear of the car as the tires spun madly. We weren’t moving forward, so I slipped the cruiser in reverse, and the car shot backward into the group of monsters. A trio of the demons wound up underneath the rear wheels, and I kept my foot on the gas as I put the car into drive. We bolted forward just as another pair of demons climbed over the trunk and onto the roof. One of the creatures jumped on the hood and proceeded to use its head as a battering ram on the windshield. The cruiser lurched forward, and the nose pitched up as I struggled to get the car up sharply inclined shoulder and back onto the highway.
“Another one is climbing the back of the car!” Charlotte shrieked.
“Can you fire a shotgun?” I barked.
“I’m eight, mister, are you crazy?”
“Unbuckle your seatbelt, get on the floor of the car and plug your ears, kid!” I ordered as I pulled the standard issue shotgun out of its cradle attached to the dashboard. With one hand on the wheel and the other on the shotgun, I managed to cock the weapon. I caught a glimpse of the demon on the trunk and placed the shotgun on my shoulder. I fired a single deafening shot that blasted through the rear window and hit the demon square in the chest, throwing it off the back of the car. The demon on the hood continued to smash its head against the windshield. A greasy black streak of ichor ran across the glass as I floored the cruiser and within seconds we were roaring down the highway with the needle buried. I cocked the shotgun again and fired at the monster. My ears rang like Big Ben as the windshield exploded into thousands of tiny glass cubes and the demon dove into the front seat and straight at the little girl. A pair of flaming daggers penetrated the roof of the car and burned through the headliner as I readied the shotgun to fire straight into the demon that was now on top of Charlotte. What happened next confirmed to me that whatever the hell Charlotte was carrying inside, it was more powerful than anything I’d ever encountered in my near century living among humans.
“OFF!” the child bellowed in a god-like voice that blew the creature straight into the headliner with the force of an artillery barrage. A fraction of a second later the roof creaked and groaned as I struggled to keep the car straight and then it happened: the entire roof of the cruiser tore off the pillars as easily as someone tearing sheet of paper. Cold night air buffeted my hair and face. I quickly looked over my right shoulder to see three demons tumbling along the pavement, and the roof of the cruiser tumbled amid a shower of bright orange sparks.
“Drive faster now, Mister,” she ordered.
And so I did.
My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my temples. I threw the girl an uneasy look, the kind of look you give the dentist just as he’s about to jab your mouth with an enormous needle.
“H-How did you do that?” I shouted through the wind. “What the hell are you?”
Charlotte remained on the floor underneath the dashboard. She looked up at me and shrugged.
“I’m just me,” she answered, shivering.
I reached over and opened the glove box. Inside I found an emergency blanket in a plastic wrapper, and I tossed it to her. “Tear that open and wrap yourself up. It will keep you warm. If we don’t have any more visitors on this highway, we should be at my safe house within thirty minutes. Are you going to be okay, kid?”
She tore open the package with her teeth and wrapped the crinkly silver blanket around her body. The girl looked like she’d been wrapped in tin foil, but at least she’d be warm.
“I’m okay,” she answered shakily. “Those things. What were they?”
“Minions from the dark place … from hell,” I answered as I kept my eyes on the road ahead for traffic or any other unnatural surprises. “Whatever you are, kid, the guys downstairs know about it, and they’re coming after you.”
“I don’t even know what I am,” she shouted. “Mommy always kept me safe. She said that someday I would know the truth about what I am, but there’s one thing I do know, Mister.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“I’m human, and you are not. You look like a person, but there’s something inside you too.”
“Long story for another day,” I shouted back as I wiped at my watering eyes with the sleeve of my coat. I hadn’t planned on driving a car with the roof ripped off. At least it was a city-owned vehicle that had been wrecked instead of my piece of crap Ford Tempo which was sitting dormant a few houses down from the crime scene.
“Are we safe now?” she asked.
If ever there was a loaded question, she’d just asked it. Given that supernatural craziness follows me like sharks to a bucket of chum the short answer was no. But I couldn’t tell an eight-year-old child that she wasn’t safe. And besides, it wasn’t me that minions from hell wanted dead, it was the girl. If I was going to protect her, I needed to find out why she was on their hit list about a thousand kinds of fast.
“I’m not going to lie to you kid,” I said grimly. “You’re not safe, and it seems to me that you haven’t been safe for a long time. Where we’re going, at least it’s better than driving down the highway in a borrowed police car with the roof torn off. You close your eyes and try to rest, got it? I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I promise.”
She threw me a slight nod and her thin lips arched up into a tiny smile as she snuggled down under the dashboard. I cranked up the heat hoping it would keep her warm until we got to my safe house and I reached for my cigarettes but stopped at the last second because it’s pretty hard to light up a smoke in a car with no windshield or roof.
Charlotte cried softly to herself and said through a series of sniffles, “Mommy has gone to heaven, and I’m all alone.”
I felt a twinge of sadness as I gazed down at a little girl who’d lost everything she ever loved in a matter of hours. She was alone in a world that even without supernatural threats, tends to grind people into grease beneath the weight of crime and drugs and about a million other bad things that destroy lives every single day. Charlotte was just starting out in life. She had a target on her back, and even though the girl had blasted a demon through the roof of the car with a single word, there was an unlimited supply of hell spawn down in the dark place. They’d be coming for her, and for a second my mind flashed to that sorry scene at Lawrencetown Beach where an angelically possessed Amy Curtis’s life ended in the demonic clutches of Jael. I couldn’t protect Amy because I let her out of my sight. That wasn’t going to happen with Charlotte. If demons intended to drag her straight into the fiery pits of hell, they would have to get through me first.
“Charlotte,” I said as tenderly as a man can sound when he’s shouting into a headwind. “You are never going to be alone as long as there is breath in my lungs. Got it?”
She looked up at me from her little tin foil next underneath the dashboard of a late model Ford Crown Victoria and flashed me a tiny smile.
“Got it, Mister Richter,” she said as she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I scanned the highway ahead for any threats. “The girl can’t live like this,” I whispered.
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Science Fiction is a broad term. I just learned that urban fantasy is included science fiction. Can you imagine? All these years I avoided the Science Fiction category at the bookstore when I really shouldn’t have. I was being biased. I was thinking Science fiction is strictly about aliens. Not. Fantasy can be included in science fiction or it science fiction can be included in fantasy. However you want to classify it. Urban fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, mythological – all can be associated with science fiction. This is just one example why no one can agree. Which came first? Fantasy or science fiction? I’d say fantasy, but then someone else would debate a good point of view that could easily change my mind.
The mystery category is another favorite. You have your thrillers, police procedurals, noir, detective, cozy and the list goes on. I tried nearly all mystery classifications. There are mysteries that cross genre lines just like science fiction crosses genre lines too. Cozy mysteries are gentle mysteries with no graphic sex or violence and usually has a female protagonist that leads the investigation and she’s most likely not a professional police person. For example, I love this cozy mystery featuring a ghost detective. Aunt Dimity’s series by Nancy Atherton is pretty awesome. This series was published back when there were no electronic books (1993), so that series was a treasure to find when I could find it. I tried Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye Mystery by Victoria Laurie and loved it. She published in 2004 and is still going strong in 2017 with the release of book #15. There are a ton of cozies out there and they are easy to read. No mystifying symbolism or cryptic puzzles – just a relaxing escape whodunnit.
Thrillers are a little harder on the nerves. Someone is after someone else and I can always hear the footsteps behind me. An example of a thriller series is James Patterson‘s Alex Cross series. Or in Mr. Patterson’s poker playing buddy, Richard Castle‘s protagonist, Nikki Heat. Or Dean Koontz. In my opinion, Thriller and Suspense are sort of the same. Kind of. Suspense to me is when the detective gathers the group of suspects in a room and susses out the killer. Like Agatha Christie does in her books. Or Rex Stout with Nero Wolfe. Thriller or Psychological Thriller is more like Thomas Harris and the Hannibal Lecter series. *shiver* Those are the stories that I stay so far away from they could qualify as in a different hemisphere. Seriously, they don’t call me Nervous Nellie for no good reason.
Police Procedurals are focused on an investigation and the story is told from the detective inside the investigation. An example of thatcould be Max Allen Collins‘s CSI: Mortal Wounds. These books are told from the viewpoint of the actual CSI: Las Vegas characters. I devoured these books. Mystery books have always been my favorite. I started in the cozy section and gradually got more hard core-if you can call J.D. Robb‘s IN Death series hard core. Or maybe Kathy Reichs character Temperance Brennan series.
One of my favorite series totally crossed all genre lines. It was written by Justin Gustanis and the series is Occult Crimes Unit Investigations. Also, the Anya Kalinczyk series by Laura Bickle was another series that did not get a fair run. Another one is the Mindspace Investigations by Alex Hughes. The publisher cut that one off much to my dismay. It’s just not right.
I mentioned hard core a couple of paragraphs ago – actually, it’s called Hard Boiled. I like these too. This genre crosses lines of urban fantasy and science fiction. Hard Boiled is exactly what it sounds like. There is no cozy about it. The protagonist is most likely cynical, grumpy and…well…hard boiled. I like reading these types of stories because the characters are bad ass. For instance, Steven McHugh publishes the Hellequin Chronicles. Richard Kadrey publishes Sandman Slim. Sean Cummings put Tim Reaper out there too.
Join me next time for more “Talking Books with Nell”.
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Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
Sorry I have been MIA for the last couple of weeks. I am having a family crisis and you all know when that happens all other things fall away. Anyway, I don’t have much news for you today, but here’s what I do have:
- New release from Melissa Olson scheduled on July 25, 2017. If you haven’t ever checked out Scarlett Bernard, now is a good time to get started. It’s a great series and easy to get lost in.
Title: Blood Gamble
Author: Melissa Olson
Series: Disrupted Magic #2
Publisher’s Description: If there is one city that Scarlett Bernard hates, it’s Las Vegas. But when the cardinal vampire of Los Angeles convinces her to go investigate a new vampire-themed stage show, Scarlett quickly finds herself shoulder-deep in sequins, slot machines, and Old World intrigue.
The show’s creators are vampire celebrities Arthur and Lucy Holmwood, who once inspired characters from the original Dracula. Now, however, they have no qualms about announcing their true status to the human world, endangering the secrecy of the Old World and Scarlett’s mission to keep it hidden.
But before she can begin untangling the Holmwoods’ motives, Scarlett also discovers that their new production has attracted more than just fans: Las Vegas’s many vampires are suddenly disappearing, and rumors are flying that actual vampire hunters may have followed Arthur and Lucy to town.
Now, without her allies, her bargest, or her frequent partner Jesse Cruz, Scarlett must navigate a new underworld of secrets and murders in a city where nothing is ever as it seems. And the stakes have never been higher.
Now, if anyone is concerned about running out of Scarlett Bernard books to read, do not fear – also, if you haven’t checked out the Boundary Magic series – that’s another one that really needs a look. Here’s what Melissa said regarding a question asked if there would be more Scarlett Bernard books:
Yep! I’m doing the third Boundary Magic book right now, and then I’m writing a new Scarlett. No title yet, but it’ll have to do with the Vampire Trials that I hinted about in the first trilogy.
- I know this is old (October 2015) but Jim Butcher lovers out there may not have seen this interview. Jim talks about all of his books-Harry Dresden and the others. Check out the interview.
That’s all I got this week. I’m hopeful that the family crisis turns out well so I can return to writing on a more regular basis. Sorry for the hit and miss.
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Alex Craft is finding herself mixed up with a case that has a necromancy connection. She hates what this person is doing to people and will stop them if it takes all her magic to do it.
I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.
Publisher’s Description: Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to happen. And yet, reanimated corpses are committing crimes across Nekros City.
Alex’s investigation leads her deep into a web of sinister magic. When Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau gets involved, Alex finds herself with an unexpected ally of sorts. But as the dead continue to rise and wreak havoc on the living, can Alex get to the soul of the matter in time? (less)
Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words…spoilers. *BEWARE*
Nervous Nellie says…
This is an urban fantasy. No sex, no cliffhanger, some violence and lots of seeing dead people. This book was a page turner and one I could not put down. The characters are defined and the worlds are vivid.
This is one of the best series ever. It’s been a few years since the last release, but I swear that once I picked up book #5, Grave Ransom, and started reading it was like we were never separated.
Alex Craft is a grave witch, a fae and a plane weaver. She is also under the watchful eye of the Winter Knight because the Winter Queen expressly ordered Falin Andrews to do so and he can’t refuse. The Winter Knight, Falin Andrews, is also the lead detective of the FIB. Alex Craft is the lead investigator for the Tongues of the Dead agency. Both are thrown into cases together even though they are ex-lovers. Falin burned some bridges in books past and I was totally over him jilting Alex. He was a jerk and broke Alex’s heart so I started rooting for the impossible relationship between Alex and Death.
Death is a soul collector. Alex can’t contact him and he can only be with her when he’s not called to work. Also, their relationship is totally forbidden. He holds a lot of secrets from her so their relationship isn’t exactly much more than sex even though he claims he loves her.
In this story, someone is killing people and putting their soul into another dead person. If that wasn’t bad enough, that someone is making those people do things for him/her, like robbing banks, with the promise of putting their souls back into their bodies. Yeah. No, it doesn’t work that way.
Kalayna Price is a plane weaver of her own right. She weaves the magic of Faerie and Alex’s world together with absolute genius. She also made me like Falin again. Dammit. I flip flopped again.
There are very few authors that I would wait this patiently for a new book in their series, but this Grave Witch series is one of them. I can’t tell if this is the series finale or not, so I’m hoping it’s not. It certainly could be if Ms. Price wanted it to be, but according to Goodreads, there is a book #6 brewing. The story was very good and the time reading was well spent.
Other reviews in the series:
I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.
RELEASED July 4, 2017
Ace Mass Market | ISBN: 9780451416582| $7.99
In the thrilling new novel from USA Today bestselling author Kalayna Price, Alex Craft comes face-to-face with the walking dead….
Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to happen. And yet reanimated corpses are committing crimes across Nekros City.
Alex’s investigation leads her deep into a web of sinister magic. When Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau gets involved, Alex finds herself with an unexpected ally of sorts. But as the dead continue to rise and wreak havoc on the living, can she get to the soul of the matter in time?
Kalayna Price is the USA Today bestselling author of the Alex Craft novels including Grave Visions, Grave Memory, Grave Dance, and Grave Witch. Ms. Price draws her ideas from the world around her, her studies into ancient mythologies, and her obsession with classic folklore.
Read on for an excerpt of Chapter One…
The first time I realized I could feel corpses, I had nightmares for a week. I was a child at the time, so that was understandable. These days I was accustomed to the clammy reach of the grave that lifted from dead bodies. To the eerie feeling of my own innate magic responding and filling me with the unrequested knowledge of how recently the person died, their gender, and the approximate age they were at death. When I anticipated encountering a corpse, I tightened my mental shields and worked at keeping my magic at bay. Usually that was only necessary at places like graveyards, the morgue, and funeral homes—places one might expect to find a body.
I never expected to feel a corpse walking across the street in the middle of the Magic Quarter.
“Alex? I’ve lost you, haven’t I?” Tamara, one of my best friends and my current lunchmate, asked. She sighed, twisting in her seat to scan the sidewalk beyond the small outdoor sitting area of the café where we were eating. “Huh. Which one is he? I may be married and knocked up, but I know a good-looking man when I see one, and girl, I don’t see one. Who are you staring at?”
“That guy,” I said, nodding my head at a man in a brown suit crossing the street.
Tamara glanced at the squat, middle-aged man who was more than a little soft in the middle and then cocked an eyebrow at me. “I’ve seen what you have at home, so I take it this is business. Did you bring one of your cases to our lunch?”
I ignored the “at home” comment, as that situation was more than a little complicated, and shook my head. “My case docket is clear,” I said absently, and let my senses stretch. When I concentrated, I could feel grave essence reaching from corpses in my vicinity. All corpses. There were decades of dead and decaying rats in the sewer below the streets, and smaller creatures like insects that barely made a blip on my radar, but like called to like, and my magic zeroed in on the man.
“He’s dead,” I said, and even to me my voice sounded unsure.
Tamara blinked at me, likely waiting for me to reveal the joke. Instead I pushed out of my seat as the man turned up the street. Tamara grabbed my arm.
“I’m the lead medical examiner for Nekros City, and I can tell you with ninety-nine point nine percent certainty that the man walking down the street is very much alive.” She put extra emphasis on the word “walking,” and on any other day, I would have agreed with her.
My own eyes agreed with her. But my magic, that part of me that touched the grave, that could piece together shades from the memories left in every cell of a body, disagreed. That man, walking or not, was a corpse. Granted, he was a fresh one—the way he felt to my magic told me he couldn’t have been dead more than an hour. But he was dead.
So how the hell had he just walked into the Museum of Magic and the Arcane?
I dropped enough crumpled dollars on the table to cover my portion of the bill and tip before weaving around tables and out of the café seating. Behind me, Tamara grumbled under her breath, but after a moment I heard her chair slide back as she pushed away from the table. I didn’t wait for her to follow me out as I all but sprinted across the street to catch up with the walking corpse.
The museum’s wards tingled along my skin as I stepped through the threshold. I’d been inside the museum a few times, and the collection of rare and unusual artifacts from both pre- and post-awakening was impressive, but I was a sensitive, capable of sensing magic, and between all the security wards and the artifacts themselves, the museum tended to be overwhelming. Definitely migraine-inducing in large doses. I noted that the magic in the air was particularly biting today, like one of the security wards had recently been triggered. I sucked in an almost pained breath, trying to adjust to the sudden crush of magic all around me. The extra sting of the deployed ward didn’t help.
I should have walked the extra few steps to clear the entrance wards.