Friday, July 27, 2012

Excerpt from Facets: Beneath the Surface

Greetings to all...
You know how the Police utilize psychics to help them solve particularly difficult cases? Most people dismiss them as being fakes who are wasting detectives time and money. What if one of the psychics were the real deal? What if he or she could read all of your memories by simply touching you? Or see future events through dreams?
Why, you'd get Emma Michaels, a psychic of the first order, who, with her trusty partner in crime solving, P. I. Evan McDermott, help solve cases like this where there are more questions than answers...

 Facets is available on the Kindle Market!

Lieutenant Milhone asked us to meet him at Saint Margaret’s Mercy Hospital in downtown Hammond. There’d been some remodeling done since the last time I was out here. The campus had expanded into the building across the street and added a parking garage. It used to look like a small hospital playing at being a big city hospital. Now, if you could say such a thing about a building, it had grown up.
Emma and I walked into the main entrance. A blond haired man about a match for me in height stood up to greet us. He was lean and wiry and his beige suit fit him easily. He also had cold, assessing brown eyes that had seen a lot of bad things. I knew that because I saw the same look in my eyes when I looked in the mirror.
            “Emma and Evan?” he asked.
            “Yes,” I answered. We shook hands and he kissed Emma’s hand   
“Emery’s told me a lot about the both of you.”
            “Good things, I hope,” Emma grinned.
            “If what he’s told me is true, yes.”
            “How do you know Emery?” I asked.
            “He was my partner when I was a rookie out of Area 1. I stayed in Chicago until about ten years ago when I took the job out here in Hammond. It’s slower out here, but not by much.”
            “I see,” Emma answered. “So, what happened?”
            “Walk with me and I’ll fill the both of you in.” We headed towards the elevator and went to the fourth floor. On the way, Milhone told us about Gloria Sezewski and how she and her daughter, Marie, both wound up in the ICU because her husband, George, who had a history of never even raising his voice, broke her arm and jaw and left Marie little better than a mass of broken bones.
            “How old is the daughter?” Emma asked. Her voice went flat and tension seeped onto her face.
            “About nine years old,” He responded.
            “And the wife said that Mr. Sezewski has never been abusive towards her or their daughter?”
            “That’s right.” We finally reached the Intensive Care Unit and looked in on Mrs. Sezewski. Her jaw was wired shut and her left arm was in a splint. Bruises bloomed on the same side of her face and her eyes were swollen. Emma walked out of the room and we followed her to the room next door where Marie Sezewski lay, her left leg and both arms in casts and her face puffy and broken. I put a hand on Emma’s shoulder and felt the coiled anger in her muscles. She relaxed a little, but only that.
            “Well, what happened?” I asked.
            “No one knows. What I do know, is that the marriage was on the verge of dissolution and he was in deep financial trouble.” He pulled out a notebook and flipped a few pages. “According to Mrs. Sezewski’s statement, He came home from work, complaining about being passed over for a promotion again. She then informed him of her intent to divorce him and presented papers for him to sign. She tried to explain things to him, but he just walked away and totally ignored her. She followed him into their bedroom where he sat down on their bed.
            “Now things get really weird,” Milhone continued. “Mr. Sezewski started clutching his head and rambling something incoherently to himself when she walked in. She assumed he had a headache and was deeply affected by what she’d just told him. When he looked up at her there was hate in his eyes and he started punching and kicking her. The noise was such that the daughter ran into the room and he started beating her up too. Mrs. Sezewski tried to protect her daughter, but he knocked Mrs. Sezewski out. When she came to, Mr. Sezewski was crying and cradling her in his arms.
            “I checked with the paramedics and the officers that arrived there first and her story checks out.”
            “Who called 9-1-1?” I asked.
            “Sezewski did, according to the dispatcher.”
            “That doesn’t make sense,” I stated to no one in particular. “Why would he call the police on himself?”
            “Maybe he felt guilty,” Milhone offered.
            “Now there’s a surprise,” Emma snarked.
            Back in the U.K., Emma’s best friend as well as the friends’ mother and two other siblings were periodically beaten by the father. Em got wind of it and called the police. Her friend never spoke to her again after that. Em didn’t mind. At least her friend was alive to ignore her, she had said.
             I looked at Emma and let some annoyance show.
“What?” she asked.
“I know this is a little touchy for you, but don’t make it personal.”
“Sorry. Grown men beating on helpless women and children make me a bit testy.”
“Obviously,” I deadpanned. “Where is Mr. Sezewski at now?”
“In a holding cell down the street,” Milhone said and put away the notebook.
“Sezewski maintains that he didn’t do anything to them.”
            We walked out of the I.C.U. and Milhone took out a pack of cigarettes, shook one out and lit it. There were no smoking signs all around, but he didn’t seem to care.
            “According to him, the only thing he remembers was walking into his bedroom and going to sleep. When he woke up, he found his wife and kid beat all to hell, his knuckles skinned and his face full of scratches.” Milhone took a drag off his cancer stick and blew out a stream of smoke. “I like this guy for it. Thing is, he doesn’t look or act like someone who’d do this kinda thing. Could be, he’s tryin’ to cop an insanity plea by claiming he blacked out or some shit like that, but I got no way to tell.”
            I grinned cuz’ I saw where this was going and why Emma and I were here.
            “If I may venture a guess—,“ Emma began. “—you want me to confirm if Mr. Sezewski actually hurt his family.”
            “It’d answer a lotta questions, which are legion, in this case.” He took another puff. “Unless Emery was lyin’ about what you can do, Miss Michaels, I could really use your help here.”
            “Okay,” She said.

Click here to buy your copy of Facets

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Excerpt from Facets-Darkness Falling

Hello, Gentle Readers.
I'm sure some of you wonder why I have so many stories featuring characters from the Nightshift universe.
Putting it shortly, I have a lot of love for them. Especially, Rachelle. There are so many of their stories that I want to tell and I've barely scratched the surface.
The Nightshift is a comic book series I'm currently writing and the first book is a collection of key points in Darquewatch history called Chronicles with Season 1: Face The Strange following shortly after.
In the meantime, here's a sample of Darkness Falling, which will be adapted into Chronicles, and I hope you enjoy it. Take care...

Facets is available on the Kindle Market!

I smelled sulfur.
That’s not right.
I was in the middle of doin’ my nightly meditation with vanilla candles to help me get into the mood. I shouldn’t be smellin’ sulfur. As I went to my workroom to grab some sage, the lights flickered and my house computer system did a quick reboot.
My amulet glowed with a bluish-white light. It did that when anythin’ magickal, anythin’ not from this world’s in my presence. A threat, heavy with malice, was in the air and the smell of sulfur got stronger. I called a couple o’ defensive spells to mind. It wouldn’t be the first time I got attacked at home. Night had already fallen. It should be ‘round sixty degrees, but it felt like high noon on the hottest day in the summertime.
“Computer: current temperature.”
“Ninety degrees, Fahrenheit,” the pleasant female voice told me.
Nope. Definitely not right.
            “Computer: activate phone tools. Call Kenneth Djange.”
            “Invalid command.”
Damn.“Computer: current temperature.”
            “Ninety-seven degrees, Fahrenheit.” Sapristi.
            My cellphone rang. It was an unknown number and the ringtone sang out the chorus of “Sympathy for the Devil.”
            “Abracadabra” by the Steve Miller Band is my ringtone. I knew I was gon’ regret it, but I answered the phone.
            “Hello, Rachelle.”
            “Hullo, Azmordel.”
            “I didn’t think you’d recognize me, since we haven’t spoken in so long.”
            “What d’you want?” I asked.
            “What I’ve always wanted, Rachelle: You.”
            “That’s not gonna happen.”
            He chuckled, a gruesome, dark and foreboding sound that raised the hackles on my neck.
“Not right now, but it will. The Darquewatch has stood in my way for far too long. I’m going to break it, break all of you into nothing and feast on your souls.”
I’ll say this for Azmordel, he does have a way with words.
“Big talk, Azzy, since, as I recall, you haven’t won a decisive victory against us.”
            “That is going to change.” The flat, utterly confident way he said it chilled me to the core; like he knew somethin’ I didn’t.
            “You sound awful sure ‘bout that, ne c’est pas?”
            I could hear the smile in his voice. “I would tell you what I have up my sleeve, but that would spoil the surprise; and I so want to see your face when it unfolds.”
            That’s when I heard what sounded like a rake being dragged accross the carpet. I tuned out Azmordel’s voice and stretched my awareness around me. Something was in the room with me. I couldn’t see it, but it was there; my amulet was still glowin’.
I closed my eyes and started to focus on my brow chakra, what’s commonly known as the third eye. I raised my hand in front of me an’ said, “Revelations…Into the Light…Suddenly, I See.”
Yeah, they were song titles, but they helped me channel and focus the magick.
When I opened my eyes, there was a demon standin’ in the corner. It had large clawed hands and feet, ash grey skin stretched tight over elongated bones, glowing red eyes and a razorblade smile.
            Azmordel’s darksome chuckle bubbled out of the phone. “You can beg for your life now. I might even spare you, if you’ll join me.”
            “What makes ya think I’d wanna do that?” The demon began to move, trying to circle around me. I kept it in front of me.
            “Because things are going to get worse,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you should survive my minion in your house, that will be child’s play compared to what will come.
“I want St. Alisdare, Rachelle, and I will have it. You can save yourself needless pain, end this pointless battle and join me. We could rule this city, this world together. None of the people in St. Alisdaire takes the Darquewatch seriously. The police barely tolerate you. If they had their druthers, they’d lock the lot of you up themselves.” The demon licked its’ chops with a long frog-like tongue and smiled, as if it could hear its master on the phone.
 “They don’t think spirits or demons are real. Even when it’s right in front their faces, they don’t believe.” Azmordel drawled. The velvet tones of his voice caressed the doubts and anger buried deep in my heart.
“Why risk your lives for people who hate and distrust you? Why not make them your slaves? I could give you the power to control this city, make all of them call you their master. All you need do…is submit.”
I shivered at the thought of that.
I found myself considerin’ his offer. Why not? It’s not like people are linin’ up to thank me an’ mine for the work we do. Fact is, those same normal people came cryin’ to the Elders all those years ago when they needed our help, ‘cuz they had no one else to fix the mess they made through ignorance and neglect.
In 2010, Hurricane Minerva swept through St. Alisdare and left it in ruins. FEMA responded a l’il quicker, but it still took years before the city was able to take anyone back in again. The mayor and the city council knew that, eventually, another hurricane could come and sweep away every bit of progress they‘d made. In 2015, the Mayor asked a group of twelve wizards to construct a shield along the sea walls surrounding the city to keep the disaster from ever happenin’ again.
They got their fondest wish, but, there was a cost: the walls between this world and the spirit world became paper thin. Things from the other side of the veil were able to walk the earth again. Spirits, poltergeists, demons and the like, started to come and make their presence felt. There were all kinds of advances in technology, but nobody came up with a way to combat the rising tide of spiritual activity. To make matters worse, Azmordel started to forge all the restless spirits into an army lookin’ to take over St. Alisdare an’ possibly the world. When those same wizards realized this, they decided to band together and fight to keep Azmordel in check.
Thus, the Darquewatch was born. Since then, we, the descendants of the original twelve wizards, have continued the work of keeping St. Alisdare safe.
For the skillionth, time, I asked myself why? Nobody appreciates what we do. There’s a whole world behind the one everybody lives in and only the Darquewatch an’ other practitioners of the Art are privy to it. Me an’ mine risk our lives against things that would happily tear our bodies into so much pasty goo, cast our immortal souls to the outer dark and drive normal folks into therapy from chronic nightmares.
We opened the door, now we have to guard it.
The words came to me all of a sudden. Maman used to say them to me whenever I asked why we do what we do.
When our ancestors built that wall of magickal force, they were messin’ with forces that worked to keep things in balance. As a result, they’d knocked all manner of things outta balance. The First of us left the door wide open with a neon sign advertisin’ a way back to the world of the living and unintentionally invited harm to come to the people they were trying to protect. All the members of the ‘Watch abide by this one unbending rule: Do No Harm. Was it worth it to turn my back on everythin’ I believed, everythin’ I was taught, just to teach some people, who were ignorant of the true peril they were in, a lesson?
            The point almost became moot when the demon grabbed my shirt sleeve.
I screamed and lashed out with a side kick. Thank God, it wasn’t expecting that and it tumbled into the wall and took my sleeve with it. I moved behind the table and fought to bring my breathing back to normal. There had to be something I could use to slow my l’il visitor down.
The demon sprang back up and jumped at me. I swung at it with a chair and caught it in mid-air. It hit the floor, momentarily dazed. The door to my workroom was open. Inspiration struck and bestowed a way out of this mess unto me, thank God.
I smiled. “Azzy, you might want St. Alaisdare, but you ain’t gon’ get it so
you can stick your sweet deal where the sun don’ shine.”
The demon chose that moment to attack. I barely moved in time an’ it slashed my right shoulder. It hurt like hell, but I ignored it and shouted the words to a wind spell. The magick burned in me as a gale force wind sprang to life and blew the demon into the kitchen. That wouldn’t stop it for long, but all I needed was a few moments to get to the workroom.
I got inside an’ stopped in the middle of a circle of runes and copper laid into the stone floor. The clackin’ of claws quickly changed to heavy thumps. The bastard was quicker’n I expected.
I waited until the last possible second and dove for the outer edge. The demon swung an’ cut my leg as I slapped a hand down an’ willed the circle closed. The demon howled as it ran into an invisible wall. I lay there for a few moments, amazed that I was still alive an’ that my arm an’ leg were still attached.
“Well—“, I said to no one in particular. “--That was fun.”

Click here to buy your copy of Facets

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Excerpt from Facets: In The Meantime

Evening all...
Here is another excerpt from my novel, Facets. It's from a story is called In the Meantime and we look in on Warren who is being a bad boy. The problem is, he may've chosen the wrong person to be bad with...

I awoke with a start. I didn’t recognize where I was and it made me a little nervous. It was dark, save for the gentle glow of a few candles that smelled like vanilla.
I finally looked around at Desiree’s room, since I hadn’t really concentrated on that earlier. The room was large with heavy drapes on the windows and all the amenities, like a mini-bar, a refrigerator, an entertainment center with a large screen TV and stereo system and a massive queen sized bed. Directly in front of the bed, there was a hallway that led to the door. The bathroom was down the hallway and I heard the shower running.
            I walked to the window and took a look at the view. It was breathtaking. There was a clear view of the Chicago River, the Wrigley Building and Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile spread out before me. Like I said, it was breathtaking. Just like the heavy weight of guilt on my spirit.
            It’s a good thing Christy is out of town, because I’d be busted by smell alone. I smelled like Desiree’ and my crotch was sticky. The thought of Desiree' made me instantly hard and instantly ashamed.
            Everything Christy and I did over the past ten years ran through my mind like quicksilver: our first date, our first kiss, our wedding day, the first time we made love, everything that made our relationship what it is. The enormity of what I’d done and how badly I’d screwed up dropped a glacier into my stomach. Christy didn’t deserve this. She deserved much better than this. As I started putting my clothes on, I promised myself that I would never do anything this stupid again and that Christy would never, ever find out about this. As if on cue, the bathroom door opened.
            The light from the bathroom sculpted Desiree’s body in planes of light and shadow. The white towel wrapped around her, emphasized the nakedness of her caramel toned skin. She was smiling like a cat that had just dined on a very succulent canary. The analogy was entirely too appropriate.
            “And where do you think you’re going?” she asked.
            “Home,” I said as I buttoned up my shirt.
            “I don’t think so.”
            “Look, we had our fun, but I’m going home.”
            “Why? It’s not like you’d have to explain to your wife why you smell like another woman.”
            “Your wife isn’t at home. She’s out of town on business, right?”
            “Y…Yeah,” I stuttered. Desiree’ started to walk towards me. The lights in the ceiling that led to the bed bathed her in light one moment and plunged her into darkness the next. I felt like a rabbit in someone’s headlights. Moving out of the path of the truck was the only thing that would save me, and it was the one thing I could not do.
            She passed into darkness again and said, “There’s no need for you to run off. Nobody’s going to miss you.” I might've been just spooked, but it looked like her eyes glowed and her face was more sinister, almost demonic. Fear exploded inside of me and I suddenly wanted to run away as far and as fast I could, just as long as she didn’t catch me.
            Then she was in front of me, smelling of shower soap and as beautiful and desirable as she was the first time I saw her. Fear gave way to desire and I wanted nothing more than to bury myself inside her.
            “How…how did you know…?”
            “That you were married? The skin on your ring finger is lighter than the rest of your hand.” She started to unbutton my shirt. “What, you thought I’d read your mind?”
            “Yeah,” I breathed. Her left hand stroked my chest and my stomach, while the right caressed the rising tent in my pants. It was getting hard for me to concentrate.
            “Nope. Just like Ace of Base, I saw the signs.”

Click here to buy your copy of Facets

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Creative Yodas...George Perez

If John Byrne helped my figure drawings go from slightly thicker stick figures to more normal human dimensions, George Perez helped me improve on that and showed me how to put them on a page.

                                                                George Perez
My first Perez book was Avengers #200. The cover was awesome and the inside with the World's Mightiest Heroes fighting Immortus, who somehow seduced Ms. Marvel and got her pregnant, was really great early Perez work. All the stuff I loved about his work was there: the crystal clear storytelling, the facial expressions and gestures and the skilled rendering of different locations.

Mr. Perez had been at Marvel for a while and was a regular penciller on the Fantastic Four before he took on the Avengers. His career took off when he went to DC and co-created the New Teen Titans with Marv Wolfman.
The Titans became a fan fave and one of the most popular titles for DC in the 80's, rivalling the Uncanny X-Men for stories with depth and characterization, not to mention just straight up great artwork for over forty issues, as well as tie-ins and Annuals.

Perez also drew the now legendary DC Maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which redefined and streamlined the convoluted morass of DC continuity and relaunched Wonder Woman with Greg Potter and Len Wein. Eventually, he became the sole writer and artist. Perez also worked on Superman and a second iteration of the Titans, called the New Titans.
He also started working on the War of the Gods for DC, but there were editorial conflicts. He left DC and started drawing the Infinity Gauntlet for Marvel. He wasn't able to complete the whole run. Outside of working on some of the characters at Malibu Comics, Perez stepped away from the limelight for a while.

In the mid-90's Perez returned and started his acclaimed run on the Avengers with Kurt Busiek. He also worked on The Incredible Hulk:Future Imperfect and Sachs and Violens.
He also returned to DC and worked on a third Titans title with Dan Jurgens. A particular high point during this time was the overdue arrival of the JLA/Avengers crossover which, teamed Perez with Kurt Busiek again.

After trying his hand at self-publishing with Crimson Plague and failing and his short stay at CrossGen Comics, Perez ended back up at DC where he currently writes Superman and does breakdowns that are finished by Jesus Merino.
Now, I admit, my favorite work of Mr. Perez are the Titans books he did with Marv Wolfman. That's where a lot of the way I lay out pages and my pacing comes from, not to mention all the expressive faces and gestures. I could relate to the characters, even if I didn't have super powers, like I did with the X-Men.
I may not be able to draw as well as Perez, but I know I wouldn't be anywhere near as good as I am without his example. For this, I am very grateful. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Creative Yodas...John Byrne

Hello, All. I'm starting another set of posts called My Creative Yodas, which highlight, big surprise, my favorite artist and writers who turn on the inspirational well for me and make want to sit down and write or draw. I'm starting with one of the biggest names in comics in the 80's and is still turning out work today, Mr. John Byrne.

The first book of his I ever read was X-Men #129 which introduced me to Kitty Pryde and the brilliance or Mr. Byrne's artwork. After that, I tried to get my hands on pretty much anything John Byrne drew and basically aped his drawing style. (I wasn't as good as a guy named Vic Bridges who drew a book called Faze 1 Fazers, but then again, I haven't seen anything by that guy since.) Eventually, I would learn about using real human pics for reference, but I did my very best to draw figure exactly how John Byrne did. His big guys looked truly big, his women alluring and beautiful and his vehicles, slick and futuristic. He was basically the Jim Lee of his time, because his renditions of Marvel heroes and eventually, DC characters looked exactly how the characters should look.

His first major work was the book Doomsday +1 for Charlton Comics, then he went over to Marvel doing different series, most notably Iron Fist and Marvel Team-Up. His career caught fire when he teamed up with Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men and began their series-defining run on the title.

After that, Byrne again bounced from title to title, but when he landed the gig as writer/artist of the World's Greatest Comic Magazine, lightning struck twice for him.
Before Byrne started on Fantastic Four, the book had been lackluster in sales and popularity, but Byrne took a back to basics approach that mined the rich history of the book and allowed him to work on characters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, an influence of Byrne's, created and his love for the book showed as he took comic's First Family from one side of creation to the other.

As we all know, Byrne left Marvel for DC and the lightning struck for a third time as Byrne took on the Dc's flagship character, Superman.
In the Man of Steel mini series, Byrne once again pared the character down to all the concepts that made Superman who he was and redefined him for modern readers. Before Brian Michael Bendis, who's known for churning out 3 or 4 titles a month, John Byrne handled the writing and art on Superman and Action Comics as well as writing the other 2 core books.

After this, Byrne started working on mostly his own creations like Danger Unlimited and 2112 and Next Men. He also worked on Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, Namor and recently reuinted with Chris Claremont on JLA.
My artwork has finally started to gain a look of its own, but when I look back on my older stuff, I grin at how much it changed. It wouldn't even have started if I hadn't admired Mr. Byrne's work and wanted to emulate him so much. There've been others after, but you never forget your first...but let's forget just how wrong that phrase actually sounds...

And now for a small gallery of Mr. Byrne's work...

                               And this is John Byrne's latest a dear and pick it up