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Cutting Room Floor – Power 2

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This Power cut scene comes from the second half of the book. It occurs well after the first cut scene. In this one, Zita and friends are traveling. It’s not going as smoothly as they might hope.

Pieces of it appear elsewhere. Be gentle; it’s a first draft, so my editor has never seen it.

Power will be available May 5, 2018.


A happy dog sticks its head out the window. Image by Andrew Pons.
Happy Dog! Photo by Andrew Pons.

One day later, Zita stared out the back of a tiny Jeep, a piece of military surplus based on the poorly repaired bullet hole near her padding-free seat. She watched terrain inch by, one hand gripping a roll bar as the battered old vehicle bumped and shuddered and whined its way toward a higher elevation. Andy sat very still beside her, masked and silent, his hands clasped tight in his lap and backpacks pinning both his and Zita’s legs. Up front, Wyn laughed, balanced a GPS in her lap, and told jokes with Jerome, who drove.

Slowly.

So slowly that Zita had been fighting the urge for several miles to jump out of the car and jog on ahead. Little more than a one-lane pitted track in the mud, the road wound sluggishly up the base of the tepui. The high straight walls of the tepui rose overhead, reddish sandstone striations peeking out where the dark discoloration of wear and horizontal streaks of green clung grimly to the heights. Drifting mists of thick white and cranky gray clouds hid everything above a certain point, teasing her, and never delivering on a solid view of the top it crowned.

That’d be one sweet climb, she thought, though I doubt any of the others would be up for it, even if we had the time.
Even now, she angled her head out of the side of the Jeep so that the moist wind could caress her face and confirm that they actually crept forward. It also helped her avoid overdosing on the scents in the Jeep: sweat, frustration, DEET, exhaust, and the overpowering eucalyptus of Wyn’s homemade mosquito repellent.

Everywhere the side of the mountain permitted, the tropical rainforest was a brilliant spill of a million shades of color. Tall trees shot upward, supported by thick buttresses of roots, the bark covered by layers of smaller plants. Mosses, lichens, and other epiphytes hid the original colors of the trunks beneath their fuzzy green blanket. Brown leafy detritus on the ground only peeked through gaps in ferns, and flowers and fungi interrupted the endless green with splashes of brilliant red, purple, and yellow. Her mouth watered as she caught a whiff of the chocolate and pineapple of a cupuaçu. Animals peeked out, some shyer than others as they passed, and the distant songs of birds and screeching belches of howler monkeys reminded her that they weren’t alone.

“Hey, do you think that’s worth stopping at?” asked Jerome, pointing at a small wooden sign with neatly printed letters. He slowed the vehicle from a crawl to a pace that would have made most snails sneer in disdain.

“If I understand this GPS right, that’s the right direction for the coordinates that were on the professor’s grant application.” Wyn lifted the GPS and poked at a button with a dainty finger.
Jerome steered the tiny rental that direction. “Hope we’re getting close, that last gas station gave us the runaround, and this isn’t nearly as much fun as the movies made it seem.” He grumbled under his breath again about the car.

Having told him once that his aspirations of renting a Hummer with all the options was unrealistic, Zita forbore from mentioning that they were lucky to have found a rental at all, given how far from the cities they were. To be honest, she was thrilled to spend time in the wilds of Brazil, but the others had been less enthused when they had looked up the coordinates. Based on the hand-lettered wood, she mused, the clinic lacks either government or criminal support. In either case, the sign would have been metal, official or otherwise. A medical clinic in the middle of nowhere would have been closed and looted shortly after opening without someone supporting it. “They might know. A medical clinic around here should be plugged into the community since it’s the only care for miles. worse comes to worst, we’ll find an empty building, probably overrun with plants, insects, or squatters. Who knows?” Hope bloomed at another thought. “We should check it out. Even if they’re gone, it’d be a good time for us to switch drivers. I’ll take over. You must be tired, and I’m familiar with driving in South America.” Plus I can actually read any signage, if any appears, and we’ll arrive before we all die of old age and boredom. I can practically hear arthritis creeping in. She flexed her shoulders and hands and squirmed in her seat.

“No. Anyone other than you can drive,” Wyn said. She didn’t even glance up from the GPS.

Jerome declared, “My rental, I drive. I don’t need a rest, though it’d be nice to take a short break from trying to keep on these deer trails.”

“It’s not a deer trail. It was probably originally a road to an illegal mining camp. And I’m an excellent driver. Don’t you remember how well I did when those men were chasing us?” Zita clucked her tongue at Wyn, careful not to inhale too deeply and get another lungful of the choking cloud of eucalyptus scent.

Wyn’s shudder was visible even from the back seat, and her tone was dry when she replied. “That would be why you will not be allowed a turn behind the wheel.”

Jerome snorted. “I’m not letting anyone else drive, especially someone who’s channeling their inner hound dog. Girl, if your tongue comes out and starts flapping in the breeze, I’m going to buy you a collar with a dog tags and engrave Fluffy on it.” He and Wyn both chuckled.

Beside Zita, a small smile touched Andy’s lips before it faded.

“Haters, all of you,” Zita said, though she did not pull her head back in, instead just making a face at the side view mirrors.

“I saw that,” Jerome said.

She rolled her eyes. “I meant you to. Seriously, though, we should go to the medical clinic. If they’re still there, they should know at least a little about everyone in the area. The next town isn’t for miles and any villages not on the map might be no-contact ones and not have the right immunizations to mingle with outsiders.”

Her comments seem to wake Andy from his sulky self-absorption. “Why not?”

Zita sighed. “We’re in—or at least started out in—Roraima, one of the northern Brazilian states. Probably half of that area is national park or indigenous reserves, like the reservations in Arizona in the US. Any temple somebody wanted an archeological expedition to find would probably be in or near those untouched areas since I doubt they’d be digging in a city.”

That got Andy’s attention, and he frowned. “We’re trespassing on someone’s res?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, but it’s possible. This mountain’s not on the map. Wherever we are, it isn’t Monte Roraima, but it’s close enough that we may have gone over a boundary without knowing it into a reserve or park or even another country. If the clinic can point us where we need to go, we can get off their lands faster.”

The old vehicle groaned as Jerome turned it to struggle up another forgotten road. “Right, then,” Jerome said, “Stick your head back in, Arca, and let’s go see some doctors.”

Wyn nodded. “Maybe we’ll get the GPS working again there.”

Zita snorted and kept her head where it was. “Pray for a miracle, but don’t count on it.”

“You know what would be a miracle? These mosquitoes leaving me alone.” Wyn slapped her arm and scratched. “My spray isn’t as effective as I hoped. I’ll have to make it stronger.”

“It cleared my sinuses for the next year. Any stronger and we’ll all be dropping like flies,” Zita muttered.

Her friend twisted around to glare at her, eyes narrowed. “What was that?”

Eyes wide, Zita plastered on a smile. “Nothing, nothing at all.” She tried to think of a distraction.

The guys were suspiciously silent.

Clacking sounded from the vehicle, followed by a rhythmic click, then a loud hiss filled the air. The Jeep jerked sideways, veering off the road and stopping only when it slammed into a sapling. Thanks to their low speed, however, the impact with the tree barely jolted the occupants.

Unfastening her seat belt, Zita jumped from the now-tilted vehicle and surveyed it. “Everyone okay? Blew the tire,” she announced, stretching her arms while she had the chance. .

Jerome lowered his head to the steering wheel.

“AAA doesn’t come out here, does it?” Wyn fretted.

Zita shrugged. “No big, we push it back onto the road, change the tire, and keep going. Pull out the tree, and black nail polish should hide the scratches in the grill just fine.  Might have to have someone hold it still, though, so it doesn’t slide back down while we’re doing it.” When she went around to the back and pulled off the cover on the spare, she stared at a wooden circle, cut in the shape of a tire.

“That’s not a happy face,” Jerome said, frowning at her.
Dismounting from his side of the car, Andy came to Zita’s side and stopped. “Spare’s missing,” he said.

Jerome’s head thudded as he hit it on the steering wheel.

Wyn made an unhappy sound, her eyes on the muddy gravel road twisting upward. “It’s been hours since we passed anything else. We have to walk to the medical clinic now and wait for a tow truck?”

“Or, someone could push the Jeep there.” Zita looked at Andy.

He groaned. “I hate my life.”

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Cutting Room Floor – Power

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The following was cut from the first draft of Power, Book 3 in the Arca superhero urban fantasy series. Since it’s a first draft, be gentle. It’s Zita in all her unedited, unrestrained glory. Bits and pieces may get reused in the final book, but not the scene as a whole.


Power Cut Scene 1

When Andy emerged from his bathroom a full half-hour later, he almost seemed like himself in clean jeans, a t-shirt with an equation on it, and sneakers. His raven hair hung down his back in a tidy braid. The surly expression on his face was new, though.

Random Camels - Image by Kawtar Cherkaoui
Random camel pic by Kawtar Cherkaoui

“Ready?” Zita chirped, rocking on her heels.

“I guess.” He gave a half-hearted shrug.

Zita grabbed his arm and teleported.

They reappeared in a basement, one with boxes piled high on most sides, save for where a furnace and an old workbench commandeered space. The musty scents of cardboard and burnt oil were eclipsed by fragrant incense and fresh-cut herbs.

Andy blinked. He stared at the workbench, taking in the red fabric draping it. His eyes moved to the prominently displayed knife (athame, Zita reminded herself), a leather-bound book, and the creamy marble statue of a serene woman next to a half-melted candle. The last seemed to hold his gaze the longest, the stone face smiling back at him as his expression grew more sour. “Zita,” he growled.

She didn’t let him finish. Praying Wyn would be awake and ready to go hiking, she bounded up the stairs.”You better be ready this time,” she bellowed as she opened the door to the main house, “because we’re here and I don’t want to waste any more of the day waiting for you late sleepers!”

He trudged up after her.

If looks truly could inflict damage and if Zita were more sensitive, Andy’s glare might have dented her feelings. ​As it was, she was fine. She said, “We’re taking Wyn’s car. Your beater might not make it to the mountains, and you didn’t want to fly. My bike’s not meant to carry two on long trips comfortably.”

Skepticism ran rampant in his voice. “Wyn is letting you, of all people, borrow her brand new car?”

“What do you mean me–” Zita began.

“Wyn is not,” the woman in question said, rising from her reclining pose on her scarlet sofa. She set aside her ereader. “One ride with Zita is more than enough for one lifetime. I’m driving, and before you say anything, Zita has convinced me that the hike is to be a… now what was the elegant phrase you used?”

“A badger-free zone? A hike, not an inquisition or a mushy feelings talk, and the definition is left up to me,” Zita said. “I totally bargained with her on your behalf. I think you’ll like the deal I got you. Only a little bit of interrogating on the drive there, and then a nice, stress-free hike with no questions asked. I’m totally playing referee and everything so if she starts to hint around things, I get to stop her from bugging you. Sweet deal, right?”

“Says you,” Wyn mumbled, futzing with boots that looked too new to be comfortable.

Zita frowned at the pristine shoes. “Didn’t you break those in like I suggested?”

Andy said, “I’m out. Take me home.”

“No,” Wyn said. “This is an intervention.”

He turned to Zita, betrayal in his eyes.

She shook her head. “Nope, that was my end of the deal in exchange for the no nagging rules. If you want to go home, you have to fly yourself.”

Andy swore. “If I had known…”

“You wouldn’t have come,” Wyn said, “just as you’ve declined every invitation for the past month and a half. I’m still surprised Zita managed to get you here as it is. What’d she do, hide your video games? Threaten you with some dire annoyance like having to hear that techno-cumbia stuff for five hours straight that she likes?”

Zita coughed, eager to abandon that line of questioning before it came out that she had threatened him with Wyn coming over for a heart-to-heart talk. “Dude, you ditched us after the Water Balloon Death Run 3000 when we had all agreed to go to that all-you-can-eat buffet near the obstacle course. Who does that? It was all-you-can-eat and they had the giant snow crab legs and a sundae bar! It’s inconceivable you would skip it! Just inconceivable!”

“I don’t think that word means what you think… never mind.” Andy shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Wasn’t hungry, and not all of us are slaves to our stomachs. Look, I’m not good company right now anyway–”

“We don’t give a shit about you amusing us. After all, we know you and like you anyway.” Zita shrugged and dismissed his argument with a wave of her hand.

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Wyn shook her head. “What Zita’s saying in her inimitable way is that you don’t have to be anyone but you with us. Yes, I’ll ask you some questions. You don’t have to answer, in part thanks to Zita who made it a condition of her participation in this exercise. We’re your friends, we love you, and we’re going to spend some time together even if you’re miserable.”

“I thought you were supposed to make hanging out with us sound good instead of like a quasi-threat,” Zita said, narrowing her eyes at the other woman.

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Dead Tree Doorstops

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The other day, I noticed that my readers were missing something important… Doorstops!

So of course I leapt into action to help solve this terrible problem! (In actuality, it may have been more of a frantic typing and mousing action, but I digress.)

As a result, both Super and Human are now available in paperback format.
Super and Human paperbacksThese are good-sized 6X9″ paperbacks, light enough to read through comfortably, yet hefty enough to hold open a small, but feisty, door. They’re made with the finest standard paper and are just as huggable and readable as you would expect. Both should be available for order at most major bookstores. Sadly, those bookstores aren’t stocking their physical shelves with my books yet, but one can hope that someday, J.K. Rowling will cede some shelf space in the Fantasy/Science Fiction section to me. For now, the books are $12.99 USD.

You can find them at most major book retailers, including:

Power and other full-length novels in the Arca series will also be available in paperback format around their respective release dates.

NOTE: The Amazon links are affiliate links. I might get a few cents eventually if you purchase something.

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Human Release! ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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What’s the best way to celebrate the famous win of Mexican underdogs against overwhelming forces? For me, it’s to run around like a crazy woman announcing the Human release! In your case, have some awesome Mexican food, relax, and pick up a copy of Human to enjoy while you munch.

For those contemplating following me on Twitter, I generally don’t tweet links to buy my books other than on a release or sale date. On May 6, I should return to my usual tweet habits.

About HumanHuman by Karen Diem

Death? Acceptable risk. Taxes? No problem. Ancient magical cutlery of mass destruction? Bad, very bad.

Following a brief foray into the world of superpowered vigilantism, extreme sports enthusiast and halfhearted tax preparer, Zita Garcia, wants her old life, her shiny new abilities, and none of the consequences. She’s even willing to hide her powers since the alternative means endangering her family and living life as a literal lab rat.

Unfortunately, villains are searching for the pieces of a decrepit magic dagger, hurting innocents and fueling nasty anti-super protests. Her close friends, who helped before, are barely speaking to her, and one of them stands in the path of the violent hunt for the knife.

Zita better dig out her mask—fast.

Human is the second in the Arca superhero urban fantasy series, and as a movie would be rated “R” for immoderate language, lame sexual innuendo, and comic book violence. While Human can be read as a standalone, it contains minor spoilers for the first book in the series.

Human Release Availability

Human is currently available on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords and most major book retailers in both ebook and paperback format. To avoid boring people to tears, I’ve only listed the most popular places. If you’d prefer, you can read the first chapter before purchasing.

NOTE: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase from an Amazon link on my site, someday I may earn a few cents from it.

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What Happens in Vegas… Tourists

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On December 2, 2016, I released the new Arca short story, Tourists. It’s approximately 10,500 words long, and, as usual, includes immoderate language and comic book violence. The events within occur after Human (scheduled for release May 2017), but do not provide major spoilers.

Description

Tourists - An Arca Short Story - Karen DiemLas Vegas welcomes and flamboyantly entertains millions of tourists annually. It’s famous for it. However, the latest visitors may be more than even Sin City can handle.

To avoid endangering others or revealing their real identities, Zita Garcia and her friends, Andy and Wyn, planned to practice their respective superpowers in an abandoned section of the desert. Visit Las Vegas, a crowded city filled with people with cameras? No way, no matter what Zita’s heard about the buffets.

But when possible aliens invade the infamous Las Vegas Strip, what can Zita and her friends do but rescue the city (and all that food)?

No Elvis impersonators were harmed in the writing of this story.

Availability

This free short story is only available to newsletter subscribers, both new and existing. December 2016 subscribers also receive the other newsletter-exclusive short story, Washout.

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First Subscriber Freebie

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I just finished the draft version of the first newsletter subscriber short story. The first subscriber freebie is a quick read, only around 4,000 words, but fun. I’m going to send it to a beta reader, do a round of edits, and hopefully have it ready to send out next week.

In the meantime, here’s a puppy! Aww.

Cute chocolate lab puppy
Adorable, and probably needs a walk.

 

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Super Progress Extraneous Exclamation Points

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Things! Things are happening! Woo! Admiring my grasp of language yet? It’s late here, so forgive me. Here’s the latest Super progress and a bit more:

  • If things work out, Super will release on May 5, 2016. It seems like an auspicious date for Zita Garcia. If it misses, I will post the new release date and make it as close to then as possible. The most likely reason for it to miss is if I have trouble converting it to the necessary formats.
  • The cover artists have the details of Super in their hands, and have told me to expect the cover in mid to late April. I can’t wait to see how they interpret the book; they’ve received excellent reviews from other writers. This site will also receive a style update when those cover images come out.
  • Additionally, my friendly neighborhood beta readers will be getting the latest draft of the book at the end of the week. With any luck, they’ll have some feedback to make it a better book.
  • I’ve hooked up a newsletter for anyone interested in keeping track of the latest updates, and getting some freebies specifically for my subscribers. I’m outlining a free short story now for those who sign up – if people sign up before I finish it, it’ll be available in the first newsletter after completion.
  • Book Two is getting the final touches on its outline. Writing will begin during the beta reader review period. I’ll switch between writing that and the freebie short story dependent on which is progressing better. I’m trying not to get distracted by a Halloween novella, but that might happen too.
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