On December 7, 2018, readers opening my newsletter got a copy of my latest free short story, Roses in December. Chronologically, Roses follows Pie and precedes Monster (May 2019). It includes no spoilers, but references information in the Arca novels. Check the sweet cover out!
Unlike the rest of my books and stories, Roses is an Arca World story—it’s in the same world as Arca, but focuses on a character other than Zita. In this case, it’s all about Wyn.
When her aunt with dementia is taken on a disastrous day trip, research librarian Wyn will have to step out of the stacks and get down and dirty to save her.
Even if that means hiking.
This story has no violence or sexual innuendo, though there’s danger, damsels in distress, heroic heroines, and perilous peril. Zita has a cameo, so there is also one Spanish obscenity, free of charge. It touches on adult topics though, so still not a story for children.
Roses is free, but only available to newsletter subscribers, both new and existing. While the December newsletter had the first link to it, the January newsletter will include the link again for those too inundated with holiday sales notices to catch it the first time. Subscribers will also have periodic chances to download all the short stories for free during the year.
Arca World vs. Arca
The Arca series will continue to be my focus. However, since the world isn’t about any one person, however interesting and awesome they consider themselves, my work isn’t either. Arca World stories are about all the other people and events. Many thanks to the readers who wrote in asking for more Wyn—Roses is for you!
So, if you have a favorite you’d like to see more of, let me know. I’m always happy to hear from readers and that character might be the hero or heroine of the next Arca World story.
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.
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.”
If you’re ready to buy, Power releases May 5, 2018
On November 3, 2017, I released the latest Arca short story, Pie. It’s approximately 11,750 words long and takes a little more serious tone than most of the rest of the series. While it occurs following the events of Power (currently scheduled to release May 2018), Pie does not include any spoilers for the novel, though it does reference events occurring in both Super and Human.
As usual, Zita is a fan of immoderate language, so some cursing is included, free of charge.
Zita Garcia is a superhero with a plan. While on a multi-day road trip to their mother’s home, she’d bring up her brother Quentin’s recent bad behavior, he’d see reason, and everyone would be happy in time for Thanksgiving. Since neither one of them wants to incur their mother’s wrath, he can’t kick her out of the car and she can’t do any spinning drop kicks when he annoys her.
Of course, Zita isn’t known for her diplomacy, so her plan began unraveling even before the teary teenager and the rampaging pink monster showed up.
Good thing she’s got all her wits, and some pie. Or at least the pie.
This free short story is only available to newsletter subscribers, both new and existing. Anyone who joins the newsletter will also receive links to Tourists and Washout, as well as any future freebies, sneak peeks, etc.
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 releases May 5, 2018 at most major book retailers:
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.
“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.
If you enjoyed this Power cut scene, the book releases May 5, 2018 at most major book retailers:
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.
Las 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.
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.
Zita did. All she wanted was dinner, but what she got was trouble.
Octopus is a “flash fiction” (extremely short) story, set after the events of Super. It is not hentai. If you don’t know what hentai is, don’t look it up. Seriously.
What’s more, Octopus is free as part of a flash fiction anthology, Bite-Sized Stories: A Multi-Genre Flash Fiction Anthology (Flash Flood #1)! Since the story collection is multi-genre, it hangs out with everything but erotica in eeny, weeny, polka-dot stories. While weighted heavily toward sci fi, fantasy, and horror, the collection has a couple other genres as well. You can find Bite-Sized Stories at major ebook retailers:
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.