Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coming Attractions

No post today, but that's about to change. Next week November starts, and that means NaNoWriMo. This year I've decided to apply pants to seat and fingers to keyboard and finally finish the serial story I started back in January. We left off with the rich and powerful of Talbot's Peak--Damien Hancock, Zhere Ghan and Brandon Fledermaus--goaded into a possible war by a mysterious, shadowy villain. And what about old Warner Hancock, deposed Alpha of the Hancock pack, whose May-December squeeze just gave birth to a possible rival to challenge Damien's leadership? And will Ghan really just let Sergei walk away from his employ?

And can I get past my crippling procrastination in order to get this down on paper?

We'll find out. I'm aiming for one chapter per day, at roughly 1000 words. (Relax, that's just the writing part. I'll only post one a week.) If I get done before the month's out, I'll start another story I've always wanted to do, that of Ray and Callista (featured last week), finding love amid the colliding worlds of garage bands and high-school musicals. It'll have to go here, because I don't think there's a market for young adult shapeshifter books, especially with no sex in them (underage characters, y'know). We'll see how that works out.

That should keep my paranormal muscles sharp, since my current WIP is a contemporary with nothing paranormal about it. Switching things up keeps the imagination limber. This ought to work, assuming there's nothing too good on TV.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Songs That Only Chicks Can Sing

“We killed it.” Ray Nardo skipped along the sidewalk. He felt like he could sprout wings and fly, if he wasn’t already a fox shifter. “That was our best performance yet. We’re gonna take the school talent contest no sweat. They might as well just hand us the trophy now.” He grabbed the hand of the band’s new lead singer and pulled her closer to him. “We couldn’t have done it without you. Tell me you’ll stay with the band.”

Callista Snow glanced at his face, stared longer at their joined hands. “I’d like to,” she said in a small voice. “But … “

“No. No buts. No more buts ever.” There was nothing small about her voice when she had a mic in her hand. Her voice could do it all—rock, pop, ballads, even show tunes. Compared to her, everyone else in school who thought they could sing was just backup. “You’re the Shedders’ star attraction. End of discussion.”

“Okay.” She swallowed, like she was gathering her courage. Ray was still trying to figure out why. Okay, so she was an arctic fox, and their colorless hair and dumpy build carried over to her human form. So what? When she sang, she turned into a supermodel. When she smiled, she even looked like a supermodel. Ray was determined to do everything in his power to keep her singing, and smiling. “But I’ll need … ” She trailed off.

“Name it. It’s my band. You need it, you got it.”

She swallowed again. “Some different songs. Something more in my range. Songs that aren’t so … guy.”

Ray stopped, but didn’t let go of her hand. “You mean chick songs?”

“If you want to put it that way, yeah.”

“What’s wrong with the Zeppelin covers? A girl can sing anything Plant can sing. It’s been proven.”

“But not Guns ‘n’ Roses. I Used to Love Her … ?”

“Yeah,” Ray admitted. “That could be problematic.”

“Or Springsteen. I know Benny loves the Springsteen covers, but my voice won’t go there. I don’t think any woman can sing Springsteen. Not even Cher.”

“Melissa Ethridge can. She did a duet with him on Thunder Road. But okay. Benny and I can take those.” Ray scratched his wild red hair with his free hand. “Cripes. I didn’t even think of this. We’ve never had a chick in the band before. Can they even rock?”

She yanked her hand free of his. “Halestorm?” she challenged. “Pretty Reckless?”

“Okay. Okay, yeah,” Ray conceded. His eyes lit up. “Can you sing Halestorm? Love Bites?”

Callista’s lip curled, showing teeth. “Watch me.”

“That’s definitely going on the playlist, then. What else?” Dammit. All he knew were male rockers. He’d never even thought about female singers, until he heard Callista. “Not ballads,” he decided then and there. “All rock ballads suck.”

“I know what you mean.” They looked at each other and said in unison, “Beth. Ewwwwww.”

“Damn, this is tough,” Ray said. “I guess Metallica’s right off the menu, huh?”

“I’d say so,” she said drily. “I’ll whip my hair around, but I’m not blowing out my voice on the first three songs in a set. Doing Halestorm is going to be rough enough on it without throwing in Metallica.”

“Heard you there.” Even Ray didn’t like singing too many Metallica songs in a row. Humans must have super-strong vocal cords or something.

Callista grinned suddenly, her round face unmistakably vulpine. “How about Alanis Morissette?”

“If you can—no. Oh no. You’re not doing that song. No man would go anywhere near that song. Or her. We’re four guys. I want to keep you happy, but you have to keep us happy too.”

She held on to that foxy grin. “Are you saying I can a sing a song men can’t?”

“I’m saying no man would want to. It’s the lyrics, not the melody. If it had different lyrics, any guy could sing it. Melody isn’t really the issue. Maybe we can adapt the lyrics to guy songs so you can sing them. Would that work?”

Callista thought it over. “Can I switch the genders on I Used to Love Her?”

Ray frowned at her. “No.” He took her hand again. “C’mon, let’s get a soda or something. We need to work on this.”

They strolled along the street, toward the ice cream shoppe. After many minutes of silence Callista said, “I can think of a song only a woman can handle. Many men have tried, and failed. It’s the music, not the lyrics. Only chicks can sing it.”

“Dudes can sing Over the Rainbow. You should hear that snake shifter at the club.”

“This is another one. I don’t think even a wolf could handle this one.” She winked at him. “Think you could?”

He showed his own teeth. “Bring it on.”

Moments later strollers in the town square stopped dead at the sound of two voices, one clear, strong and female, one male and struggling, dueting on, “And I… will always love youuuuuuuuu…”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rambles but no flash fiction

Happy Wednesday. No flash fiction today. Sorry about infliction scifi on you the last time I posted. I've pretty much only been working on "Witch's Moon", mostly smoothing out the rough edges in preparation of being released in a few weeks. What non Mooney and Marissa writing I've been doing is non-shape shifter scifi.

In the interest of keeping this shape shifter seductions blog post about shape shifters, I decided to share what I've been reading. I'm currently re-reading a short story called "Bodyguard" by Jennifer Ashley. It's a fun little short in her Shape Shifters Unbound series. If you haven't given that series a try, you should. It's quite good and off brand so it's not expensive for us e-book readers to buy. It's a dystopian world where shape shifters are known and not always treated well by scardy-cat humans.

I've also been re-reading Ilona Andrews' Innkeeper Chronicles blog serial. If you've never read that, I also highly recommend it. The first two stories have been collected and released as books. The blog is  on chapter 13 of the third story. You can read that one from the beginning for free.

That's about all I've got for you this week. Have a great day!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Here Comes the Judge

Continuing the circus story. This is as far as I got. Next week I'll have to write something new.

# # #

Bang on the money. Their expressions—primarily fear and variations thereof—told him he’d come to the right place. Only Magritte succeeded in keeping her face impassive. The lion-man continued to growl, with echoes from the tiger.

“Ingenious,” Shane went on. “A travelling circus. Three or four nights in a town, then gone. The perfect hiding place for a killer shifter. Let’s see … I’ve already seen your lion in action. We’ve also got tigers,” he said to the Indian couple, “elephants”—he swung his gaze to the roustabouts, then to the tall, skinny boy—“a giraffe, a—” He stopped at the boy in the baggy pants, and frowned slightly. No zing at all.

The boy raised a shaking hand. “I’m human,” he said. “Can I go?”

“You stay put,” Magritte snapped. She moved toward Shane. It was less a step than an undulation.

“And,” Shane finished, “a snake.”

Magritte grew very still. She couldn’t stay that way for long; her body insisted on weaving, even if only fractionally. She regarded him with fresh wariness. “You have the gift,” she said, not a question. “You are juiz. Of the old line.”

He’d never heard that particular word for it before, but he could guess what it meant. “From birth to death,” he recited. At her nod, he breathed more easily again.

“Why are we just standing here?” the lion-man burst out. “Why are we even talking to him? We know why he’s here. He wants to kill us.”

“Jonah.” She never took her steady stare off Shane. “Be still. I’ll handle this.”

“But he’s—”

Juiz,” she cut him off. “The judge.”

“Literally, justice,” Shane said. “But yours is close enough.”

“Don’t look like no judge to me,” one of the elephants said.

Shane allowed himself a smile. “Looks can be deceiving. Can’t they?”

Magritte cut off the elephant’s good-natured chuckles with a hiss. “We’re not unfamiliar with your kind. Where I grew up, we knew judges as unwavering, but not wanton killers.” Her tongue appeared across her lips, a brief flicker. “Who are you here for, and why?”

Shane climbed carefully to his feet. He tried not to blink as he met Magritte’s glare. She held all the power here. Personification of justice or not, he’d live or die at her word. “I can’t give you the who yet, because I don’t know it, but I can tell you the why. I’ve been tracking a shifter who’s taken to murder. So far the body count’s at six, all adult humans. It took me a while to find the pattern and realize they were connected. Each murder happened in or near a place where your circus had set up.”

Magritte narrowed her unblinking eyes. “What makes you think a shifter was responsible?”

“The claw marks, for starters. The victims were torn apart. The wounds were too ragged to have been made by a knife. Everything points to a large animal, or a shifter in animal form.”

“And you think that shifter is one of my people?”

He could hear the young lion’s harsh breathing behind him, feel the leading edge of hot leonine breath against the back of his neck. If he so much as coughed wrong, he was sure he’d feel claws in his flesh. He kept his voice steady, his tone reasonable. “Your circus features large, dangerous animals. Wherever you go, somebody dies in an animal attack. With six victims, it can’t be coincidence.”

“Or it really could be an animal.” The lion-man’s voice came practically at his shoulder, closer than Shane had guessed. He leaned in to add in a silky growl beside Shane’s ear, “It happens.”

“Not six times in a row.” Shane risked a sideward glance, at the tiger cage. “Are there any real animals here?”

Magritte’s lips curved minutely upward. “There’s Susie.” She nodded toward the sleepy lioness. “She’s a rescue from a home menagerie. She’s perfectly harmless. She’s more at ease around humans than she is other lions, that’s why she’s not in a zoo.”

“And Ramar,” the Indian man spoke up. “We rescued him from the black market. My wife and I raised him from a cub. He’s practically our son.”

“He never leaves the circus grounds,” the Indian woman added fiercely. “When he isn’t in his cage, he’s with us. Always.”

“And the horses,” Magritte said. “All of our horses are real. Horse shifters tend to follow the rodeo circuit.”

“Thass ’cause they after the women.” The elephant-man who’d spoken earlier laughed. “All them lovely ladies on the prowl for cowboy ass. Ain’t no women go to the circus, just families and teens on dates. What stallion gonna sit still for that?”

“I knew a man whose mama was a donkey,” another elephant said. “Boy did everything half-assed.” The quartet guffawed loudly, until Magritte silenced them with a pointed glare.

“I didn’t see any horses,” Shane said.

“They’re coming later, with the rest of—” Too late, Magritte cut the admission off.

“Then there are more of you.”

With the game up, she fluidly shrugged. “The rest of the troupe will be arriving throughout the day. We also have several human employees, both short-term and part of the family. I doubt any of them stopped to kill anyone along the way.”

So did Shane, or he’d have heard about it on the scanner. The other six victims had been found out in the open, like the shifter was flaunting his kills. Or hers, Shane amended, well aware of the stony glare on the face of the Indian woman. “Are any of them cats?” he asked.

“We’re expecting the rest of the lions, two more tigers, and two bears,” Magritte said. “The others aren’t carnivores. Their animal forms have no claws. You will harm no one except for the guilty party, should you find one. The rest are to be spared.”


“Magritte!” the lion wailed. Clearly he did not agree. “You’re not really going to let a hunter—”

“Jonah!” Her voice cracked liked a whip. “He isn’t a hunter. A judge kills only in the name of justice.” Her eyes got thin again as she turned them on Shane. “Is that not so?”

“It is.” Shane half-turned to address the furious lion directly. “My kind is almost as old as yours. We were never intended to be killers. In the beginning we were protectors, of shifters as well as of humans. When a shifter went feral, we were the ones charged with stopping them. When humans took arms against shifters, it was our job to settle the matter—in the shifters’ favor, more often than not. Our powers made it easier for us to tell shifter from human, and feral from innocent. Over the centuries we’ve saved more shifters than we’ve killed.” He smiled grimly. “If it helps, think of me as a cop.”

It obviously wasn’t helping, if that fury burning in the young man’s eyes was any indication. He chuffed under his breath. And what did a hunter do to you, Shane wondered, to inspire all that rage? Or was it just humans in general?

He turned partially back to Magritte, keeping the lion at the corner of his eye. “When I’m done,” he said, “I won’t betray you. I just want the killings to stop. I’ll need to meet the other shifters in your group.”

“You will,” she said, “and I know you won’t betray us. Because you’ll be staying here, where we can watch you.” She held up her hand before he could speak. “Yes, I know. You’re a man of your word. When these people joined me, I promised to protect them. I also keep my word. Jonah?”

The lion stepped up to Shane’s side. He was a couple of inches taller than Shane, and bristling with power. He flexed his naked muscles in a show of intimidation. Shane refused to show any reaction.

“Jonah will watch over you, to make sure both you and my family remain unharmed until this is resolved.” Magritte’s lips did a serpentine twist at the lion-man. “Try to keep him relatively intact.”

“No promises.” Jonah purred against Shane’s cheek. “Welcome to the circus.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Unusual Suspects

I meant to write something new this week but time got away from me, so here's a continuation of last week's story. We'll see how I do next week, after I mow the lawn.
# # #
Before the man could leap or Shane could shoot, a thick cord of rough-skinned muscle wrapped around Shane’s waist and lifted him clear off the ground. With a sudden flip of the cord he found himself upside down and being shaken like a can of soda. He got off two wild shots before the gun flew from his hand.

The cord slid loose and dumped him on ground that lurched like the deck of a ship. He flailed for the knife in his boot, his backup weapon, but couldn’t even find his own body, let alone the hilt. His head spun like a dervish, and his gut seemed determined to climb up his throat and join it.

Somewhere an animal roared anxiously. Shane thought it might be the tiger.

Gradually the world, his brain and his stomach all settled back into their usual places. Shane groped across the dirt for his gun. A pair of muscular brown legs stepped into his ground-level sightline. A hand appeared and disappeared, taking his gun with it. Another set of legs joined the brown ones. These were gray, wrinkled at the knees, and thick around as fire hydrants. There were four of them.

“Thanks, Mindy,” the man said from somewhere above Shane’s head. “Better get inside before one of those asshole do-gooders sees you and tries to liberate you.”

The owner of the wrinkly legs let out a sound somewhere between a wheeze and a car horn. A trunk swept across Shane’s field of vision and slapped the lion-man on the ass. He raised his head enough to watch all of “Mindy” amble into the tent, and realized he’d just found one of the missing elephants. Not exactly Jumbo-sized, more on par with a Clydesdale. A youngster? Considering an adult could have crushed him, Shane figured it was better not to argue.

He elbowed most of his torso off the ground. The roars still shook the tent walls. They did indeed originate from the tiger. The lioness treated Shane to a filthy look that said, You got me up for this?

“Dammit.” The lion-man passed Shane’s gun to the midget elephant and hurried over to the tiger’s cage. “Now look what you’ve done,” he fired at Shane. “If he shits himself, you’re cleaning it up.”

Shane sat up gingerly. Now that he was all the way upright and his head had stopped spinning, he had a better view of the elephant, which had his gun snugly secured in its trunk. He couldn’t take on even that small of a pachyderm with only a knife, or anything less than an assault rifle, so the gun was likely to stay in its possession. The elephant also blocked the tent’s only exit. It fanned its ears at him and made what sounded to Shane like a questioning noise.

“Because he’s a hunter, that’s why.” The lion-shifter eased his arm into the tiger’s cage and scratched the agitated cat behind the ears. “Take it easy, Ramar,” he crooned to the tiger. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. The nasty human’s not going to hurt you. Before we can do anything to him, we have to tell Magritte,” he finished the elephant end of the conversation.

“You’re going to lose that arm,” Shane said.

The lion-man growled, in a deeper rumble than the tiger’s. “He wouldn’t dare. I outrank him and he knows it. There we go, that’s a good boy. See? I’m right here. Mindy’s right here. Everything’s okay.”

The tiger settled somewhat, although its tail continued to twitch and it continued to glare at Shane through the bars. The lioness huffed and lay back down.

“Now.” The lion-shifter pulled his miraculously intact and unmauled arm from the cage and turned to Shane. “Who are you after? Anyone in particular, or just any shifter you find?”

“Depends,” Shane said. “How many shifters do you have here?”

The man shut his jaw with a snap. Aha. So there was a family here. All lions? A killer pride? That would be new.

Beyond the tent, in the outside world, he caught another trumpeting call, unmistakably elephant. The smaller beast tossed the gun back to the shifter so she could respond. He caught the gun and pointed it inexpertly at Shane.

Shane weighed his chances. He’d yet to meet a shifter proficient in any kind of weapons beyond those provided by nature. Their instinct was to shift. He’d have to drop the gun for that, and Shane would have a chance. Not much of one with the elephant there, but more than if the rest of the pride showed up.

Suppose fortune favored him, and he got his gun back. What then? Shoot the young man in the head? Kill every lion he found here and hope he got the right one? It shouldn’t matter. They were shifters, and one was a murderer. But it did matter. For some reason it mattered a lot.

While he warred with a moral dilemma he’d never once considered before, the rest of the troupe arrived. The four roustabouts barreled into the tent, followed by an Indian couple, a twentyish kid in baggy pants, and another kid almost seven feet tall, at least two-thirds of it leg. They all made way for the final arrival, Magritte del Rio herself. She spotted Shane and stopped dead with an ominous hiss.

At the same time the small elephant suddenly shimmered and morphed into a plump, black and naked teenage girl. She darted behind the largest and beefiest of the roustabouts. From this safe haven she proceeded to make a series of faces at Shane.

“You said you’d got all of them,” Magritte said to the roustabouts. Her unblinking glare remained fixed to Shane.

“He’s not a protestor,” the lion-man said. He handed Shane’s gun to Magritte. “He’s a hunter.”

The close air inside the tent got closer, squeezed by sudden tension. The circus folk moved into a circle around him. By the looks on all their faces, he figured they didn’t plan on letting him out again.

Shane kept very still, not just out of caution. If he’d tried to stand with all the psychic zings shooting at him, he probably would have fallen over anyway. He didn’t even need the warnings from his gift. The young man and girl changing shape right in front of him were giveaways enough. Then there was the similarity of features between the girl and the man she hid behind, both in their faces and their wrinkled knees. One for the books, indeed.

“Let me make an educated guess,” he said. “You’re all shifters. Every one of you. Aren’t you?”