No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 7 Teaser

Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Vi gritted her teeth and pressed on. “I promise you, Bonnie, this is really happening. And I’m here to help you.”

“That’s right!” Tobias called, only inches from her head. Next, he added emphatic gesturing to the loud and elongated syllables. “Sheee iiiiz heeeeere tooooo helllllp yooooooo!”

Vi could no longer contain her irritation and rounded on the ghost. “Shut up, Tobias!”

“But I,” he stammered and his whole body seemed to deflate. “I wanted to help.”

“I’m trying to handle this but I can’t do it with you yammering.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Tobias?” a voice squeaked from the corner. Rage washed over Bonnie’s face as she struggled to her feet. “What do you mean ‘Tobias?’ Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Vi wheeled back to face her. “I can explain—”

“What is wrong with you? This is cruel!”

She made a desperate grab for Bonnie’s hand but the other woman snatched it away before they could make the crucial contact. “Please, Tobias is—”

“Don’t you dare say his name. Get away from me!”

“Bonnie, really! Tobias is—”

Vi’s plea was cut off by a ringing slap across her face. The widow let out a peep of surprise as they touched and she saw the form of her husband appear and disappear again.

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 6 Teaser

The clock struck twelve.

Vi was alone when the scraggly form of Salty swung open the front door and let in the scuffle of people from outside. Two of the wizened little prune’s burly “business associates” followed him in, six-shooters hanging from their gun belts. Despite the burning sun outside, the interior of the saloon was cool. Later, the glow of the foot lights and the happy warmth of lanterns would light the room, but at the moment all was cool and calm inside its walls.

The bottle of whiskey sat open and inviting in the center of the table, an empty glass waiting in front of an open stool.

She motioned to the vacant seat. “Come sit a spell, Salty.”

“That’s very kind of you, Miss Viola,” he said with an oily grin. “But I’m afraid I have an appointment.”

“Interesting.” Vi poured herself another drink and held the bottle out. “It isn’t the sort of appointment I told you couldn’t happen here anymore, is it? Where you use my place of business to hustle people?”

Salty glanced over his shoulder and licked his lips; a nervous tic she’d noticed the first time they’d met. He jerked his chin at the bar. “Give us a moment, boys.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 5 teaser

An oil lamp by the door burned low and threw soft black shadows around the stock room. A rustling in the corner grabbed Vi’s attention and she stood rooted to the spot. The occasional rat was to be expected, but this sounded much bigger. She reached out and turned the screw on the lamp to feed it more wick and flame blazed to life. The rustling grew frantic, accompanied by a yelp and the unmistakable thud of a human skull meeting wood.

Vi’s heartbeat dropped back to normal and she kicked the crate nearest to her. “God dammit, you two! You scared me half to death.”
The round face ringed and mussed yellow curls a serving girl called Caroline peeked out from behind a wooden carton. “It’s just me, Miss Viola. Just…um…looking for some rum!” She grabbed one of the bottles in front of her and tried to look innocent.

“Uh-huh. So what you’re telling me is that when I go through that door, I’m going to find my bartender behind the bar, right where he belongs?”

“Well, see,” the waitress sputtered, “Jimmy went out a couple of minutes ago to—”

Vi sighed. “Jimmy?”

“Yes, Miss Viola?” squeaked a male voice from somewhere behind the stack of boxes.

“I want you back behind that bar in five minutes.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Caroline had the good sense to look guilty when Vi shifted her gaze to include her. “But then this never happens again during working hours. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” the couple chimed in unison.

Vi reached to take the bottle from the blond woman. “Also, this is bourbon. I trust you can tell the difference when you’re serving the customers.” She winked and leaned in for a conspiratorial whisper. “Five minutes. Make them count.”

“Yes ma’am!” Caroline giggled and disappeared behind the crates again.

With a shrug, Vi turned down the lamp before leaving the stockroom as she’d found it. “Newlyweds.” She sighed and looked at the whiskey in her hand. A little hair of the dog might be just what the doctor ordered.

Read the full Chapter 1 and learn more about reading the full book early as a Patreon supporter.

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 3 Teaser

Read Full Chapters before the No Rest for the Wicked is released July 1 by joining my journey on Patreon.

“What did you find out?” Vi stood and beat her hat against her leg a few times to free it of grass.

“There’s a dozen men, maybe more.”

“You could have mentioned this when you enlisted me,” she said, scowling.

“That’s twice as many as when I got jumped. I had no idea there’d be so many! Or that they’d be here.

“I guess that explains how they found you.” Vi pulled her hat back on and peered at him with laughing eyes. “You camped right next door.”

“I think we’ve established that I was the one who fouled everything up, thank you. May I go on?” Hands on hips, he tapped his foot impatiently. She gave him a by your leave gesture and leaned against the boulder. “As I was saying, there are a dozen men. But, there are also at least a dozen empty bottles around the camp as well. Kindred spirits, eh?”

“It’s not like I was expecting anyone when you showed up,” she said with a grimace. “But, dead to the world. That’s good.”

“Unfortunately—”

“I was afraid there was going to be an ‘unfortunately.’”

“I was afraid there was going to be an ‘unfortunately.’”

“—there’s no way for you to go around. There’s too many bushes and such on the hillsides. You’re going to have to skirt right alongside the camp in order to get to the gold.”

“I don’t think you’re paying me enough for this,” Vi said, pushing off from the rock and marching toward her horse.

“You don’t know how much I’m paying you,” Tobias reminded her. “And the only way to find out is to dig up the gold.”

“You’re getting better at this. But I could still walk away,” she countered, a sly smile on her face. “Just forget this whole thing. Or maybe I come back later after they’ve moved on and keep all the gold for myself.”

The glowing vapor of his form suddenly darkened and his edges became harder, his body something like a liquid rather than a vapor. “If you back out now,” he replied, his voice an uncharacteristic growl, “and anything happens to Bonnie, I swear I will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

The moments stretched as she met him glower for glower. Finally, she snarled, “Ask me again why I have a problem with ghosts.”

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 2 Teaser

The only thing stopping her laughter was the pounding between her eyes. “I’ll keep the ‘I told you so’ to myself, shall I?”

Visit my Patreon page to read full chapters BEFORE No Rest for the Wicked is released!

In the meantime, here’s a taste of Ch 2 of No Rest for the Wicked.

“I’m going to go get my horse ready while the coffee’s brewing.”

The ghost turned to face Vi again as she cinched her belt. “Any chance you’ve got two horses?”

“No, I’ve only got Smithy.” The poncho she pulled over her head muffled her voice. “But even if I had another horse, you can’t ride.”

“How would you know?” he whined. “I did fine on my mule.”

She shook her head and the room swam. It was hard to keep her annoyance out of her voice with last night’s excesses pounding inside her skull, but she tried to treat his inane question with patience. “It’s not personal. It’s spiritual, er, or scientific, or something. I don’t really know, but you must have realized you can’t touch things, right?”

“Well, of course. If I could dig up the gold myself I wouldn’t need your help.”

With a jerk of her chin, she grabbed the lamp and went outside, the ghost trailing behind. A lazy barn slouched a few paces away, as perturbed by the earliness of the hour as Vi. The only one happy to be awake was Smithy, and he nickered a greeting when she pushed the barn door aside. She favored him with a pat and a smile before checking the tack. Though no stranger to riding, she’d only learned how to take care of the equipment herself when she’d come out West. Now, the soft feel of the oiled leather and the clean glint of the bit in the lamplight gave her a swell of pride.

She tested the cinch and gave the straps another tug for good measure, then gestured to the waiting saddle. “Okay. Hop on.”

With a sniff, Tobias walked into the stall and reached for the pommel. Inevitably, his hand passed right through it. Next, he tried a stirrup, but his fancy, posthumous boot slipped past. He toppled through Smithy and onto the ground at Vi’s feet.

The only thing stopping her laughter was the pounding between her eyes. “I’ll keep the ‘I told you so’ to myself, shall I?”

The only thing stopping her laughter was the pounding between her eyes. “I’ll keep the ‘I told you so’ to myself, shall I?”

The ghost got to his feet, his head sticking up through the saddle just enough to see the surprised expression in his eyes. The horse gave a twitch at the strange sensation of having a phantom pass through him, and Tobias took a step backward to look at Vi across Smithy’s back rather than through it.

“What about those stories? The ones in the monthly. Ghosts knock on walls and move things. And people can see them!”

She shrugged and took the bridle from its nail. “The longer it takes you to cross over, the more likely you’ll figure out how to touch things. Not that it would be a good thing if you could, mind.”

“Why not? That seems like a pretty good consolation prize to me. I could write messages or do something else if I can’t hold a pen.”

Vi sighed. “Honestly, it doesn’t happen often. Getting yourself seen by the living without some help is even rarer.”

Tobias stroked his small, neat mustache. “What kind of help? I’d give anything to say goodbye to my Bonnie.”

“Some ghosts learn how to crawl inside of objects,” she evaded. “Heirlooms and the like.”

“Could I do that? Haunt something and then you carry me?”

Vi gave an exasperated, theatrical shrug. “Like I said, none of this is common. Most ghosts just sort of wander about.”

“It’s difficult then? All the things from the stories?”

“I wouldn’t know. Never tried it myself.” The bit gently rattled against Smithy’s teeth as she put it in his mouth. She rubbed his velvety, gray snout with one hand as she looped the bridle over his ears with the other.

“Are you sure I have to walk all the way back out there?” the ghost whined.

“Well…” She smirked. “You could always run instead. It’s not like you’ll ever get tired.”

“Good to know death has some advantages.”

“Absolutely.” She winked. “Think of all that pesky eating and belching you won’t have to do anymore.”

Visit my Patreon page to read full chapters BEFORE No Rest for the Wicked is released this summer!

No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 1 Teaser

After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”

No Rest for the Wicked Header flipped.jpg

The ghost removed his hat and tried his best to mollify her. “Please, I must speak with you.”

“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” Vi’s hands traced shallow furrows in the water.

“But you don’t even know what I want.”

“No.”

“It’s my wife, you see—”

“Still no.”

“There are these men and—”

“Definitely no.”

“We owe them some money.”

“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.

“But, they’re going to—”

“No.”

“Please!”

She raised her hands out of her bathwater and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” Her hands dropped back into the water with a splash.

If he could breathe, the ghost’s chest would have been heaving in anger, but in his current state he had to settle for pulling a sour face. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” The ghost donned his spectral hat and turned to leave with a final mumble to himself. “He warned you she wouldn’t help.”

After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”

“Yep, he was right,” she called lazily, then the water surged as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”

“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.

Vi narrowed her eyes. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

He smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”

She looked away in a huff. Not knowing the identity of the referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone wasn’t worth the price of dealing with this guy.

Hat in hand, he tried again. “Aw, shucks ma’am. I promise. I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”

“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself in trouble,” she said with disgust. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front, you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”

“Alright. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”

“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me out of this tub.”

His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”

Vi’s half-smile returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”

Read the full first chapter on my Patreon page FREE

 

“Son of a Pitch” Entry

There are several of pitch events for authors, so I thought I’d give “Son of a Pitch” a try. I am posting my query and the first 250 words of No Rest for the Wicked for critique, so feel free to leave me comments. (Spoilers galore!)

<— To leave comments, use the link on the left.

Title: No Rest for the Wicked
Genre: Historical, supernatural suspense
Word Count: 35,000

Query (no salutation, bio, or comparisons, and updated 2/15 after feedback):

Vi thought her days of grifting and dealing with the dead were over when she left Peter eating steam on a Chicago train platform. No one west of the Mississippi should know she sees ghosts, but a dead stranger still shows up at her doorstep. Transparent hat in hand, he begs her to recover his buried gold to pay his debt and save a life. What should be an easy buck turns into racing horses, cheating at cards, and tangling with bandits, all before lunch.

Once she figures out who tipped off the ghost, Vi must face the past she thought she’d buried. Peter reveals himself post-mortem to warn her of enemies bent on luring her back to New Orleans and willing to kill to get what they want. Neither distance nor death has tamed Peter’s love, and he’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Vi may play the “damsel in distress” for a con, but she won’t let herself be rescued if she can earn his forgiveness and help him cross over. She may have broken his heart, but she’ll atone for the only deception she’s ever regretted—even if it kills her.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED is a suspense novella featuring humor, romance, and supernatural elements. In the series, Mistress of None, fans of gaslight fantasy and uppity women will love following Vi from shore to shore in 1870’s America.

First 250 Words of the MS (updated after initial feedback):

Viola Thorne couldn’t pinpoint the reason she preferred to bathe by moonlight. Perhaps it was the quiet chirps of the crickets, or the splash of stars above her head, but something about the nights here at the end of the world called out to her.

Steam rose off the water, eddying around her head and shoulders while the rest of her luxuriated in the gentle currents. A half-empty bottle of whiskey sat near a waxed paper parcel on the rim of her soaking niche. She reached inside and pulled out a fragrant hunk of soap. This was the last of what she’d brought from back East, and there was no telling when she’d be able to get more, but Vi worked the bubbles through her hair and scalp with gusto. The smell of lilacs rose from the lather to combat the reek of rotten eggs. She breathed it deep into her lungs as she closed her eyes against the tide of foam.

A gentle sensation as light and dangerous as hornet wings fluttered on the back of her neck and slowed her hands. Miles away from anywhere anyone might possibly want to go, she should have been safe from prying eyes even in daylight. Unwilling to let the peeping Tom know she was on to him, Vi went back to washing her hair, listening for the whisper of cloth as the infiltrator approached. If it came down to it, she could always reach out with her other sense, but only as a last resort.