Category Archives: Mages in Manhattan

Updated Blurb for Mages in Manhattan

I belong to a Facebook group that shares blurbs and asks advice. I’ve spent a lot of time working on other author’s blurbs and reading the feedback of the more accomplished blurb-meisters.

With the benefit of that practice, I looked over my old blurbs and found them wanting. For example, the original blurb for Mages in Manhattan was more of a synopsis than an enticement to buy the book.

So I have rewritten the blurb to emphasize the action and stakes for my heroes.

Here is my revised blurb. Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

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Catching a magician is only half the battle

 

Trapping a free magician is like getting your very own genie. Youth, wealth, beauty, all can be yours if you succeed. However, failing to capture the magician means he owns you.

Magicians are powerful, too powerful to roam around unrestrained. For the safety of the magical community, they are routinely enslaved by witches’ covens or wizards’ councils.

If the “sponsored” magician is drained of his life and magic, that’s a small price to pay for continued security, right?

But rarely, a magician proves to be too stubborn, too tricky, and too powerful to tame. Scott Freeman is one of those free magicians. No one would risk trying to tame a magician like Scott.

Until he was injured in a battle with a Japanese spider-monster, a fight that wiped out most of his magical resources. Scott plans on laying low until he can recover from that closely fought battle. Laying low should be easy. He lives in Tokyo, Japan, far away from American covens and wizards. And he has money, lots of money, from his contracts.

But the Wolves of Wall Street have other ideas. They canceled Scott’s most lucrative contract and insisted on Scott coming back to Manhattan to renegotiate.

Of course, it’s a trap. But Scott is desperate, desperate enough take this risk. He also has two secret weapons; Kitty-Sue, his kitsune girlfriend, and Akiko, his ghost apprentice.

NOTE: This book contains magical battles, ravening werewolves, traitorous women, an easily offended magic sword, a shapeshifting ninja assassin kitsune, and lots of sex. If a two-person threesome shocks you, you might want to avoid this book.

 

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The Haunted Onsen – Now Available

Hello guys! I’m so happy to tell you that my latest book The Haunted Onsen is now available on Amazon.

This book has a lot of action, a lot of new supernaturals, and a lot of heat.

I had a blast writing this book and filling it with action. Feedback from my editor on the first novel indicated I spent a bit too much time world-building, so this book conveys the backstory through dialog and actions.

I added a lot of new supernaturals, pulling from Japanese folklore, Thai tales, and western fantasy. Scott romances the dragon of Lake Ashi; dances with a Nang Tani tree spirit in Bangkok; fights a female Yaksha in Chiang Rai; and treks with Tar–Ooops! Can’t use that word. Ahem, jousts with the Jungle Lord.

Speaking of heat, of course, the magician manages to dally with some more supernaturals. It’s in his super-nature, after all. And Kitty-Sue can’t get jealous, can she? No, but she can turn the tables on Scott when she shape-shifts into a different form. You see, this other form has different appetites than Kitty-Sue.

So this time, to make the book more accessible, I have made both it and the first novel in the series, Mages In Manhattan, available to Kindle Unlimited users.  So take a look at the ‘Look Inside’ and see if this book titillates your taste for Tokyo. If you get the book, I urge you to leave a review.

As a bonus for my website visitors, here is one of my favorite scenes from the book.  Scott, Kitty-Sue, Princess, and Akiko are chasing clues to the ghost Samurai’s missing armor. The search leads them to Bangkok, where they receive a mysterious invitation, more of a command, to show up at this seedy Bangkok bar.

 

***

 

Four p.m. came and went with no appearance by our message sender. I was getting increasingly nervous. I fingered the pocket that held the letter from the man who had issued the invitation.

Seeing my nervousness, Kitty-Sue said, “Looks like our host is a no-show.”

“So, you’re suggesting we continue the mission without talking with this magician?” I said.

“Hell, no!” she said. “I think we should hunt him down and teach him a lesson. We can’t afford to have enemies on our backtrail.”

“Hunt him down,” I said. “How could we do that?”

“From the scent on that letter,” she said, “I could track him down.”

“Then, where is he?” I asked.

“His scent is all over this bar,” she said. “He must be a regular.”

All this talk about hunting and tracking brought back a memory. Taking out the envelope, I examined the handwriting. Who did I know that wrote in eighteenth-century script? “I’m beginning to think the note was from a colleague of mine,” I said, putting the envelope away.

“Colleague? Another knight?” guessed Akiko. Kitty-Sue’s eyes brightened at the question. Her attraction to royals was a sore point. I didn’t know if she was truly excited about royals, or if it was an act to tease me, but any mention of the royal family piqued her interest.

“A bit higher up than a knight,” I muttered.

“Really!” said Akiko.

“How much higher?” asked Kitty-Sue. There was even a thrum of interest from Princess. Was my entire team turning into royal groupies?

“He’s a viscount—” I was interrupted as Euterpe weighed in and the sound system changed songs to the old Gene Chandler classic, “Duke of Earl.” The dancers looked confused at this change in the playlist.

“So, what do you call your friend?” asked Akiko.

“He’s not a friend,” I said. “As a matter of fact, he’s promised to kill me on sight.”

Kitty-Sue looked at me through narrowed eyes. “What did you do to piss him off?” As if I had to be the problem.

“I saved his wife’s life after a mugging,” I said. The old song finished and a new oldie started, the theme song to an old cartoon about George of the Jungle. The bartender was pushing buttons on the sound system frantically.

“Why does he hate you for that?” asked Akiko.

“Remember how intimate healing is? How I had to touch Monica in Las Vegas to cure her? How much she enjoyed the process?” Akiko nodded and Kitty-Sue’s face soured. I continued, “In those days, my control wasn’t as good. I needed to get even closer to work.”

“By closer, you mean…” asked Kitty-Sue.

“It was the only way I knew how to do the spells,” I said. Taking a large gulp from my drink, I continued, “He’s never forgiven me. But I couldn’t let her die, as long as it was within my power to save her.”

She called your name in her dreams for months,” whispered the voice of the most dangerous man I had ever met. The cold chill of a steel blade touched my throat. I froze in place, then raised my hands slowly, fingers spread to show I wasn’t about to cast a spell. A subsonic thrum came from my magic sword disguised as an umbrella, and my palm tingled; I knew that Princess could flash to my hand in an instant. I also knew that my assailant didn’t need more than an instant to decapitate me. At the upward pressure of his blade, I slowly got to my feet.

He was so close I could see his profile out of the corner of my eye.

I glared at Kitty-Sue, my hyper-vigilant bodyguard, who had somehow missed the killer creeping up on our table. She mouthed a silent, “Sorry,” before turning her attention to my assailant. Blades of crystal were suddenly in her hands, and she said in a calm voice, “If you hurt my boss, you’ll never make it to the door.”

I noticed he kept me between him and Kitty-Sue, one predator acknowledging the danger posed by another. Even with my better-than-human hearing, I could detect no sounds from him. When stalking, he was as quiet as Akiko.

The tension was broken by Akiko. She slurped the last of her iced coffee, then waved a hand in the air like a student in class. As my attacker’s eyes flicked to her, she said, “I’m glad you can see me. So, what’s a viscount? Should I call you duke or earl?”

I finally heard him as he took a deep breath. “Neither. The correct form of address is ‘lord.’” The pressure of the knife blade eased a tiny amount.

“Lord what?” asked Akiko, leaning forward in interest.

“Lord Greys—” he started, then corrected himself. “Lord John. John Clayton.” His proper British accent had faded over the years; only the slightest trace remained.

“Well, Lord John,” said Akiko, “would you mind removing that knife from my teacher’s throat? I still have lots of lessons to do.” Tiny wisps of lightning gathered around her form, and her hair started to rise as she gathered power.

I like to think it was the sight of my allies—the inhuman kitsune killer; the ghost mage of unknowable power; the strangely thrumming Princess—that stayed his hand. But John had never let fear dissuade him.

Perhaps it was the genuine regret that he had heard in my voice about the incident with his wife.

The blade’s pressure eased, and he said, “Of course. I would hate to interfere with a lady’s education.”

 

***

Lord, I love writing these books! I hope you will enjoy reading them. For more of The Haunted Onsen, get it here.

So far, I have published two 100K novels in the Tokyo Supernatural universe, as well as four short stories. And I still have dozens of stories to tell. I have the third book plotted out, as well as a few rough draft chapters. That book will probably be ready in February.

 

Mages in Manhattan – Now Available!

Hello guys! I’m so happy to tell you that my latest book Mages in Manhattan is now available on Amazon. As a bonus, why don’t we all enjoy reading the first chapter.

Chapter One

Prey of the Pack

The car slammed to a stop, bouncing my bound form against the divider. The driver had careened through the streets with abandon, securely strapped in himself, taking pleasure in the thumps and moans of his cargo. The bastards had even gone to the trouble of disconnecting the emergency interior handle that would have let me open the trunk from the inside. Even though I was bound, they were taking no chances.

We finally came to an abrupt stop, which slammed my abused head against the divider one last time. The trunk was popped open, and cool forest air rushed in. The full moon was almost painfully bright to my dark-accustomed eyes, and I squinted as several inhumanly strong hands grabbed my arms and pulled me from the trunk.

The car’s stereo suddenly came to life, playing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Bad Moon Rising.” My captors turned abruptly but maintained their grip. “Never mind,” said the red-haired were. “That crap happens all the time around these types.”

I was dumped in the center of a circle of jeering werewolves, who were still in their human forms but showing the rabid anger of their kind. Even with my hands bound behind me, I managed to tuck my head in, roll over my shoulder, and come to my feet. Landing on my back would have marked me as helpless prey and brought out their pack instincts.

I ended up facing the pack’s alpha, Frost. He smiled at me like a parent proud of a toddler’s first steps.

Now that my feet were on the earth, I could feel the slightest trickle of magical energy flow up through the soles of my bare feet. The magic was met with an immediate sharp increase in the temperature of the shackles holding my arms behind my back. The scent of burning flesh wafted through the air.

His smile was huge, exposing his canines as he inhaled the aroma. “Please don’t use your magic,” he said. “We prefer our meat rare.”

Ignoring the pain in my wrists and forearms, I smiled back through gritted teeth. “I will wear your ears on my belt as a trophy.”

Frost roared with laughter. “A last, great act of defiance! I love magicians!”

The rest of the pack laughed along with him, the laughs turning into howls. He continued, “Now to make this fair—”

“You’re going to cut off the shackles?” I interrupted.

With a casual movement, he slapped the side of my head, leaving a set of bleeding claw marks and a ringing in my ears.

“Not that fair, Scott,” he said. “We will give you a thirty-minute head start before we begin the hunt. That’ll give the new cubs time to change.” As if to show he didn’t need extra time, he transformed into his half-human, half-wolf hybrid form, the form only senior weres could take. As he shifted, his tailored suit tore across the shoulders, and he casually used his claws to finish ripping off the constraining garment. Behind his back, several of the new pack members shivered in excitement as their snouts extended and fangs sprouted. The full transformation would take a while for them.

“Thirty minutes,” I said. “When does the clock start?”

“From the moment we pulled you from the trunk…,” he said to my retreating back as I headed towards the tree line, his laughter following me.

Damn, five minutes wasted while they played with their prey. I started an internal countdown as I darted under the trees. The moonlight cut off abruptly, and the brambles and bushes formed an almost impenetrable barrier. Without magic, I was down to my purely physical resources: I was strong, but not as strong as a wolf; fast, but not as fast as a wolf; smart, but not smart enough to have avoided getting captured. The damned cuffs holding my hands behind my back made running almost impossible, my slower-than-a-wolf pace made even slower by my balance problems.

I had excellent night vision, but the forest was dense with undergrowth. Even being able to see every step wasn’t much help. Still, I ran as quickly as possible, hoping to put enough space between me and the pack to give me time to work on the magic-negating cuffs. As I ran, my invisible satchel bounced against my side with each step. If only I could access the contents of the satchel, the fight would be fair. But even if my hands were in front, making the satchel accessible, opening it required magic. I cursed myself for having locked my most potent weapons away.

The brambles were shredding my feet, leaving a blood trail for the pack to follow. Not that my passage through the forest was unnoticeable; I was leaving a trail a blind man could follow. After five minutes by my internal clock, I was gasping for air and slowed down, only to hear the howls of the pack as they started to follow. Damn werewolves. I always knew they were untrustworthy. I controlled my breathing and increased my pace.

I needed a clear space to face the pack; letting them harry me from the underbrush, nipping at my hamstrings, was a quick route to the other side. Finally, I came across a small clearing. A huge tree had fallen recently, its trunk near the roots almost seven feet high. Due to the shade of the giant tree, the undergrowth in the clearing was minimal, and it hadn’t had time to grow back. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing.

I braced my back against the trunk and struggled to control my breathing. My fingers fumbled at the manacles, feeling for a keyhole or release. I used to be pretty good at that, in a previous life, but my lock-picking skills had withered thanks to my increasing dependence on magic. As I strained at the manacles, Frost entered the clearing, followed by his pack. He took a few moments to change his mouth to an almost-human configuration to speak. “Are you ready for the hunt to end, Scott?”

A sense of calm came over me as I stepped forward to face him in the center of the clearing. Between one step and the next, my mind flashed back to the happier days of just a few weeks before, and to the path that had led to this moment.


I hope you enjoyed it guys! For more of Mages in Manhattan, get it here.

Mages in Manhattan – Final Edits

Dear Readers,

I hope you enjoyed the Kitsune Christmas story I published last week and are looking forward to reading the latest Tokyo Supernatural book, “Mages in Manhattan.”

The book is done and my beta reader loved it. I thought it would be a bit long at 110,000 words, but she said it wrapped up several plot threads and was a great read.

To provide my readers with a better experience, I have sent the manuscript out for a round of editing. My editor has promised to have the corrected manuscript back by the end of January. My plan is to publish in February.

Long term, I have two more novels in the Tokyo Supernatural universe plotted out and partially written, which should allow me to publish a new installment every 90 days. I plan on plotting out another installment to give a total of four published books in 2017.

I predict that 2017 will be the year that Tokyo Supernatural takes off. We’re going to have a great time!

A Christmas Gift From Tokyo Supernatural

Due to some unforeseen health issues, I had to delay the release of the latest Mages novel. Rest assured, it is completed, but I want to go through it one more time to edit it to make the transitions smoother. Unless I make extensive cuts, the novel will top out slightly above 100 K.

To reward the patience of our fans, I wrote a Christmas story for you. This story takes place after the events of the Mages in Manhattan book. Thanks for following the adventures of Scott, Kitty-Sue, and Akiko.

 

A Kitsune Christmas

 

Princess and I were in the living room of my Tokyo apartment. This Christmas Eve was bitterly cold and windy, but with no snow, the standard for Tokyo.

An old movie was on the large screen TV: Highlander, one of Princess’ favorites. She loved movies with swordplay. As the characters fought on screen, Princess imitated the sounds of clashing swords. It was peaceful, even with Queen blasting out of the speakers and Princess humming along.

I was seated on a small cushion on the floor, and Princess was reclining on a rack in front of me. I carefully ran a whetstone down her spine, over and over. Later, I would oil her up and sheath her. Since I had started these sessions, she had stopped trying to kill.

She just needed a little bit of attention.

As the movie ended, she hummed in happiness. I put away the stone and got out the oil.

As I wiped off the last of the oil, we heard the door open. It could only be one person, Kitty-Sue, my kitsune girlfriend, lover, bodyguard; whatever, labels don’t matter much. She had been gone for two weeks on “family business.” I had been very careful not to ask exactly what her business was.

“Hello, Kitty-Sue,” I said loudly, then paused the movie credits. “Merry Christmas.”

“Hello, Scott,” she replied.

I looked Kitty-Sue over carefully; From the tips of her fox ears to the tip of her fox tail, she was beautiful: with a firm acrobat-trained body, red hair (usually hidden under an illusion), and yellow oval fox eyes. It took me a second to see the difference. Where she had once only had a single fox tail, she now had two luxuriant tails.

I rose from my seat and hugged her. “Congratulations on your promotion! Two tails! Soon you’ll be running the kitsune kingdom.” Stroking her two tails with my hands, luxuriating in the softer-than-mink texture, I was lost for a moment. Then I realized something was wrong. Hmm, no hug back, stiff body– I felt a chill.

I stepped back and looked at her. There was something off in her stance: toes pointed inward, a hesitation to come forward, mouth slightly open as if she couldn’t get some words out. My ninja assassin girlfriend seemed shy. I’d seen her face down monsters with less nervousness.

I sniffed suspiciously; her moods were reflected in the scents she gave off. Although we had been together many months, I still hadn’t cataloged all of her perfumes. Now, I scented nothing, indicating she was keeping something from me. In the back of my mind, a voice said, “She also does that when she’s in assassin mode. Be careful.” Yeah, I hear voices; it’s something that magicians do.

“What are you doing with Princess?” she asked as I returned to my seat on the floor and continued stroking Princess with a chamois. Kitty-Sue remained standing by the door as if expecting to make a quick escape.

“Quality time,” I replied as I finished cleaning the blade and put Princess on her stand. Oh yeah, Princess is a sword, a magical sword, gifted to me by a dying fae prince. “Honing and oiling. She likes the attention.”

“Isn’t she made of a metal tougher than diamond?” asked Kitty-Sue sharply. “Isn’t it a waste to try to hone her? She could probably cut through that whetstone.”

I leaned back and considered; where had I heard that tone of voice before? The not-quite-nagging, short-tempered tone? I suddenly realized that Kitty-Sue wanted to start an argument.

Answering a question with a question, I said, “Should I stop giving you massages just because you don’t need them? After all, you’re an inhumanly strong ninja. A few rubs on your back probably don’t do anything for you.”

She looked at me with pursed lips, then changed the subject. “And what is this stand for?” she said, pointing at the display rack that held Princess. “Can’t you just stuff her in a closet?

At that, Princess made the zing sound of a drawn blade, her way of warning others. Damn, I had just gotten her calmed down, I thought.

“It’s her Christmas gift,” I said. “I give all my friends gifts for Christmas.”

Looking around the room, at the tiny artificial tree, with two wrapped boxes underneath, and the new Yamaha electronic piano with a ribbon on top, Kitty-Sue said, “Who is the piano for?”

“That’s for Euterpe,” I replied, smiling at the memory of my encounter with the muse of music.

Kitty-Sue crossed her arms, and her tails stood erect. “You know I don’t believe in her. If nobody can see her, she doesn’t exist.”

At that moment, the piano turned itself on, and the keys moved as if touched by the hands of a talented musician. An old break-up song started playing: “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart. A warning from my muse.

“Really?” I asked. “Then who’s playing the piano?” As I spoke, I removed Princess from her stand and slid her into her sheath. I didn’t want her to get upset at our argument.

Shaking her head, Kitty-Sue said, “That’s just a side effect of your magic. Everyone knows that weird things happen around magicians.” She nodded her head as if to convince herself.

I saw her glance at the two packages under the tree. “Are those for Akiko-san?”

“No,” I replied. “I already gave Akiko-san her gift this morning.”

Finally showing some interest, Kitty-Sue approached and sat opposite me. I noted she sat perfectly still, in that position she could hold for hours before leaping into attack mode.

“And what did you give her?” asked Kitty-Sue.

“An iPad,” I said.

“An iPad?” repeated Kitty-Sue. “She’s a ghost. She can’t use physical objects like that. Her fingers would go right through it.”

“I transferred it to the ghost plane,” I said, “and set it up to communicate with my server on this plane. I threw in an Apple iTunes account, Netflix, and Hulu. Now she has something to do on those long sleepless nights.”

“Better than going out haunting regular people,” said Kitty-Sue.

She continued, “She once said it wasn’t possible to set up a link between the ghost plane and the mundane plane.”

I gave her my modest smile. “Magicians take statements like that as a challenge. It took a lot of spell-work, but I got it to connect.”

“Where is Akiko-san?” asked Kitty-Sue.

“She’s spending the night watching over her family. She likes to stay there sometimes.”

“Haunting her family,” muttered Kitty-Sue.

“Watching over her family,” I corrected.

I crossed my arms and leaned back while glancing at one of the elaborately beribboned boxes under the tree.

Kitty-Sue followed my glance, her foxlike curiosity (never use cat metaphors with a kitsune) making her ears prick up. “So,” she said slowly, as if the question was forced out of her, “who are the other boxes for?”

“I’m glad you asked,” I said, reaching for the largest box and setting it on my lap. “Why, look at this. It has your name on it.” I slid the box towards her.

She closed her eyes for a moment, and her tails stiffened back up. “Scott-san, I cannot accept your gift,” she said as she pushed the box back into my lap.

The piano finished Rod Stewart and started another tune, Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love.” Euterpe had a theme going.

“Is this a Japanese thing or a kitsune thing?” I asked. “Afraid of making a deal with a magician? It’s a gift, freely given. No obligation is implied.”

She shook her head. “No,” she said, “I can’t stay with you anymore.” I was surprised to see tears in her eyes. My tough-as-nails ninja assassin bodyguard emotional?

“Did your queen order you to leave me?” I asked.

Kitty-Sue shook her head. “No. She ordered me to continue staying with you.”

“So,” I mused, “the queen wants you to stay. I want you to stay. You say you must leave.”

The piano started playing Meat Loaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

“I must leave,” she said flatly.

“Is this because your queen wants you to stay with me so you’ll be in position to kill me if she decides I should die?”

I had never seen her shocked before; the look on her face was anguish, and a new scent emanated from her. “How long have you known?” she asked in a surprised whisper.

“Ever since you came back to help me after my fight with the spider-slut Jorōgumo,” I said.

A grudging look of respect came over her face. “So you knew I was”—here she paused—“asked to help you so the queen could find out more about the foreign magician in her domain?”

Nodding, I asked, “So the queen is unhappy with me living here in Tokyo?”

“She is not”—here she paused again, searching for the right word—“displeased with you,” she said. “But knowing her nature, she will eventually ask me to choose between you and my clan.”

Duty, fucking duty. There was no way to fight her bonds to clan and family.

The piano started playing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Having lived decades beyond my expectations, I have learned to take bad news. But dammit, I liked Tokyo. I liked my life there.

Looking down at the floor, Kitty-Sue said, “However, you could still swear fealty to her. Then I could stay.”

“I can’t do that,” I said with reluctance. “Eventually, the queen would ask me to do something that would break a vow. Something as simple as lying; that would destroy me.” I would never put myself under another’s rule again.

Reaching across to touch her hands, I said, “She can swear fealty to me. That way she could never give me an order.”

Kitty-Sue tilted her head skeptically. “A nine-tailed kitsune queen can never swear to a human. Even if he is a powerful magician.” A long pause, then she added, “A knight.” An even longer pause, followed by, “A lover to her niece.”

“And why can’t we leave it the way it is?” I said. “I have no intention of going against your queen. Our detente is going well.”

Pulling her hands back, Kitty-Sue said, “Someday your plans will conflict with hers, and she will send her best assassin to stop you.”

“I’m pretty hard to kill,” I said. “I once beat an alpha werewolf with both hands chained behind my back.”

Then I realized that Kitty-Sue was the queen’s best assassin. It would be her coming after me. Oh, crap.

Fondling the package, I said, “Are you here to kill me now?” while preparing a spell to blast her far enough away to let me escape. Why did all my relationships have to end with the woman trying to kill me?

“No,” she said, looking down to avoid my gaze. “I haven’t been given that order yet. But it may come one day. I don’t want to be close to you when it comes.”

I mentally began preparing for my departure. So much to do. Where to go? Back to New York? Las Vegas? All those places would be cold and lonely without my friends, without Kitty-Sue.

“OK,” I said. “I understand the bonds of duty.” I pushed the box back to her. “Consider this a going-away gift. It was made especially for you.”

Holding the box reluctantly, she shook her head. “I can’t accept…” She tilted her head in curiosity and sniffed the box. “I smell glass and magic. Dragon magic. Very rare. What is this?”

“Open it and I’ll show you,” I said. I was depending on her curiosity to get the better of her.

She shook her head again. Oh yeah, the Japanese reluctance to open a gift in front of the giver. I stood and said, “I’m going to make coffee. Would you like some tea?”

She knew I was giving her space to open the box without me watching. “Yes, please,” she said, “the jasmine tea.”

I spent several minutes in the tiny kitchen making our drinks. I heard the rustle of paper, the tiny squeak of the hinges as the box was opened, followed by a gasp of surprise when she saw the gift.

Back in the living area, I set the tray with our drinks on a low table. Happily, her tails were in a relaxed position, indicating a better mood.

Kitty-Sue was admiring her gifts. In an inlaid wooden box, set into red velvet cutouts, were five crystal knives. Small throwing blades, two on each side, flanked a larger ornate dagger with intricate runes carved into the glass. The translucent crystal of the larger knife had a golden tint.

Kitty-Sue stroked one finger across one of the throwing blades and licked her lips. Glancing at me for permission, she pulled the blade from the case. “These are balanced just like my steel blades,” she said. “Perfect for throwing.”

I sat across from her and picked up my coffee cup. Taking a sip, I said, “These blades won’t set off security alarms at the airport. You’ll never have to fly unarmed again.”

She juggled two blades for a moment, testing the feel and balance. “And if they break?”

“They’re much stronger than steel,” I replied, shaking my head. “Almost as strong as Princess’ blade.

“There’s more,” I said, sipping my coffee. “They have some magical properties.”

She looked closely at the blades, looking for traces of magic, then looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “What? Do they explode?”

“No,” I said. “There’s a boomerang spell on the blades. You can call them back after they hit the target.” I spent a moment showing her the gestures to make the knives return.

She flicked her wrist in an inhumanly fast throwing gesture, and the blade zipped towards my TV. I winced at the imminent destruction, but she called the blade back before it hit the screen. The handle of the knife made a satisfying slapping sound as it hit her waiting palm. She made the two knives disappear before taking the remaining two out. “These are the same?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said as she made those two disappear also. Then, between one blink and the next, she had all four throwing knives back in her hands.

Setting the blades back into the case reluctantly, Kitty-Sue pointed at the large dagger. “And this?”

Squinting at the blade, she whispered, “Another Artifact of Power? How do you get these?”

“How can you tell it’s an Artifact?” I asked, to change the subject.

“That realer-than-real look,” she replied. “Like Akiko-san’s ring or Princess.” She leaned closer to the case. “It smells strongly of dragon magic.” Looking me in the eyes, she asked, “What does it do?”

“Do you remember the tattoo artist, Terri?” I asked.

With a frown and narrowed eyes, Kitty-Sue said, “The woman who screwed you, tattooed you, and then tried to kill you. Her hands were dangerously close to the new throwing blades.

Holding both hands up, fingers spread in a magician’s sign of surrender, I said, “Let’s not talk about her! Let’s talk about the dagger I put through her heart.”

Relaxing slightly, Kitty-Sue reached for her tea and sipped slowly before asking, “Wasn’t that an imaginary dagger? You faked it with hocus-pocus to make her think it was real and if she ever hurt you, the phantom dagger would materialize and kill her?” Setting her cup back on the tray, she continued, “For someone who doesn’t lie, you sure have a way of fooling people.”

“I do my best,” I said.

“Didn’t you say you got the idea from an old story?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Larry Niven wrote the story What Good Is a Glass Dagger? For a mundane, he came remarkably close to describing real magic.”

Stroking the hilt of the dagger with my forefinger, I said, “This dagger can be stabbed into the heart of an opponent. If it’s a mundane, he dies. If it’s a supernatural, the dagger pierces their heart and then fades away. After that, if the one who was holding the hilt dies, the blade rematerializes, and the victim dies.”

Leaning back, Kitty-Sue said, “So it will kill anything? Ghosts? Shifters?” I nodded twice. After a long pause, “Magicians?” Again I nodded.

She took a deep breath. “Even a kitsune queen?”

“It’s pretty lethal,” I said.

“My queen,” said Kitty-Sue slowly as she looked at me from under lowered brows, “would be displeased to know that such a weapon exists.”

Pushing the box her way, I said, “That’s why only her most trusted assassin should have it. She knows you would never betray her.”

Looking at the weapon, probably thinking of the best way to use it, Kitty-Sue said, “Akiko-san said such a weapon was impossible to make.”

“With all respect to Akiko’s expertise, I’m still the master magician,” I said. “Anyway, I told you magicians like challenges.” Rubbing the wooden box that sat between us, I continued, “But it was almost impossible to make. The ingredients were very rare. There will be no more made.”

“So,” said Kitty-Sue, “this Artifact of Power you created is unique.” She gave me that slight smile that meant she had scored a point.

I had to run the conversation over in my head for several seconds before I realized I had just told Kitty-Sue that I could create Artifacts of Power: perpetually energized objects that never ran out of magic. They were incredibly rare, and making them was a lost art. If word got out about that, I would soon be chained in some entity’s dungeon, slaving away at making more and more of them.

Looking at my “oops” face, Kitty-Sue said, “Your secret is safe with me.” She reached over and held my hand for a moment. “I’m glad you trusted me.”

Ever practical in matters of murder, Kitty-Sue asked, “Can you reverse the spell? Pull the dagger out of the victim?”

“No,” I said. “Once the two lives are entwined, even I can’t undo the spell. The only way to break it is through the death of the victim.”

Taking the box into her lap, Kitty-Sue said, “A very powerful weapon, indeed. But…”

“But it changes nothing,” I finished. “You still can’t stay.”

Tilting her head over the box, Kitty-Sue hid her face behind her veil of hair; I was surprised to see teardrops stain the red velvet. It was nice that she would miss me, but fate decreed that we separate.

Face still hidden by her long hair, Kitty-Sue said, “Show me how it works.” Her hands tightly clasped the wooden box.

“OK,” I said, taking the dagger from the box and holding the hilt in my right hand. “See how it glows with my touch? That’s because it’s attuned to me right now. If you hold your fingers on the hilt like this and then press these runes in order, it will attune to you.”

“Attuned to you?” she said. “Interesting.” She wrapped her fingers around mine on the hilt.

The piano started playing the theme song to the old TV series, MASH.

“It occurs to me,” she said, looking up finally, face calm as if she had made an important decision, “that my queen has put me in an impossible position.”

Her inhumanly strong hands squeezed mine on the hilt of the dagger as she pulled the point towards her chest. I tried with all my strength to stop her, but could only watch in horror as she plunged the glass dagger into her chest. Sparkles of kitsune magic raced across her form in self-defense, gathering around the blade in an attempt to push it out before it pierced her heart. But I had wrought too well; the dagger sank in down to the hilt.

Her face was a rictus of pain, and she gasped. A tiny rivulet of blood darkened her white silk top where the blade had entered. Her hands slipped away from mine on the hilt. I called up all of my magic, desperate to remove the dagger, only to feel the hilt fade away like a piece of fog under sunlight.

“Why?” I screamed. “Why did you do that?”

She shivered a moment, then opened her blouse to look at the wound. It was rapidly healing. In seconds, the mortal wound was gone, leaving only a scar where the blade had entered. She stared at the scar in wonder. Up until this wound, she had been able to shape-shift all injuries away.

“I didn’t think it would hurt that much,” she sighed.

I stood and started pacing, muttering to myself. “Unicorn horn? No. Dragon blood? No. Angel breath? No, I haven’t seen an angel in decades. Beard of an unlucky leprechaun? No.” Turning towards her, I said, “I can fix this. It might take a long time, but I’m sure I can find a way. Nothing is impossible.”

Kitty-Sue tilted her head in question. “You’re not happy that our lives are entwined?” She continued to remove her blood-stained blouse. She stood and slid down her pants, revealing an intriguing flash of red fur. Kitsune don’t have much use for modesty.

Poor, romantic fox girl. Didn’t she realize that even though magicians could live a long time, we rarely do? The piano started playing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

“Of course, but this just makes it worse. When the queen separates us, you’ll live in fear every day that I might die on the other side of the world.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Now that injury to you will kill the queen’s most trusted assassin, she will have to let us stay together.” As she spoke, she shifted: first to her fox form, then to her four-breasted fifty percent form, and finally to her ninety percent human form. In each case, the scar remained. As differently colored fur in her animal forms, and as a scar in her human breast.

“Strange that the injury follows all of my forms,” she muttered as she walked up to me, close enough to look up into my eyes. My eyes strayed to her breasts, where her nipples were growing more erect.

Her tails waved behind her, and her scent changed to her “happy” smell. “I’ll tell the queen that you tricked me,” she said, nodding to herself. “That you were too clever for me.” At this, she smiled and winked at me before continuing, “That I must stay to protect you from all threats.”

Sitting on my cushion, I picked up my almost empty coffee cup. “So you’ll stay?”

“Only if you want me to,” she said, with a little pout. At my enthusiastic nod, she came over and sat across from me.

“And our”—I paused before finding the right word—“relationship with Akiko-san?” I would hate for my ghost apprentice to be pushed out.

“No problem,’ said Kitty-Sue. “I’m not jealous of Akiko-san. I enjoy our time together.”

Kitty-Sue’s eyes darted to the last package under the tree. “So, who gets the last gift?” she said.

“It’s for you,” I said, pulling the box down and handing it to her, “and for me.”

Sniffing the box, she looked at me with a question in her eyes.

“Have you ever heard of Victoria’s Secret?” I asked. “Although I don’t know if it will fit, what with your new tail and all.”

She bounced from her seat and suddenly was on my lap, her sweet weight a comfort to my soul. She brought her nose to mine in that kitsune kiss she liked. Her breath was scented with the jasmine tea she had just finished.

Looking deep into my eyes, she said, “Why don’t we find out?”

The piano played John Denver’s “Country Roads, Take Me Home” as I carried Kitty-Sue to the bedroom.

 

 

Progress on the New Mages Novel

Hi Guys,

Just wanted to post a quick update regarding my progress on the latest novel, “Mages in Manhattan”. I am working on the novel every day and hope to get it out in the very near future. This is the longest piece I have written yet as all of my previous work was short story or novella length. I’m currently at 50,000 words and the final edition will be about 80,000 words.

I’ve received positive feedback on the samples published here on the site, so I’m really excited to finish this and get it published. I also have another two (maybe three) novels set in the same universe plotted out. So if you like the adventures of Scott, Akiko, and Kitty-Sue, you’ll have a lot to look forward to.

I have also been asked about the new illustrations on the site and the book covers. The artist is called Runno and you can see his work here. He did a beautiful job on all of the characters, but my favorite is the Kitsune Queen. He is a pleasure to work with, and I’m looking forward to seeing his take on my future ebooks.