I’m excited to announce that my Urban Fantasy – THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER – is a Golden Quill Fantasy Semifinalist! Now, I need your help to reach the finals! Please click here and vote for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER by adding the title in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Thanks so much for […]
It’s shameless plug time. Why? Because two of my novellas just received excellent reviews. My fellow authors get why this is such a big deal. Reviews are hard to come by for any book, but doubly hard for the smaller titles in a series.
Novellas are often overlooked (IMHO, they’re harder to market). We indie authors usually give them away as incentives. So when a reader actually takes the time to review a freebie or smaller story in a series, it’s cause to celebrate!
So, put on your dancin’ shoes and electric slide through these titles!
BEAST NAVIDAD and BEAST OUT OF HELL tell the tale of team WEREWOLF WHISPERER as they travel up and down California, helping the “Afflicted” and occasionally hunting Werebeasts.
Follow LUCY and XOCHI on their highway to hell in…
New BEAST NAVIDAD review!
“Christmas in September on a soundtage, you will never look at Santa the…
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This week, I have a double whammy for you. I’ve had the pleasure to have co-hosted two Dark Fantasy Books Giveaway Events with the authors of The Werewolf Whisperer, Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan (amongst many others hosting the events who’ll you meet soon!). 1,948 more words
WE’RE HAVING A FLASH FREEBIE & SALE Today through March 21st! THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER is FREE THE ALPHA & OMEGA is ONLY 99¢ You’ll chew through this urban fantasy series like a hound through a milk bone. Grab your copies or share the treats with the Urban Fantasy lovers in your life. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!☘️ ~Camilla & […]
This holiday, I’d like to share a little tale we wrote for the season. If you are already familiar with the OF CATS AND DRAGONS fantasy series, you will recognize some names and references. But this story stands alone as well.
WINTER TITHE takes us to another corner of the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS. We find ourselves in the land of Kharakhan on the eve of the winter solstice. This time our hero is in fact a ten-year-old girl — Tokara, one of Omen’s young relatives on the Deldano side of the family, whose strong curiosity and loyalty to her sister drive her toward a dangerous encounter. But our girl has a brave heart and an irrepressible spirit, and the longest night of the year still holds many secrets:
Chapter 1: Storybook
Tokara Deldano eyed the leather-bound tome resting in her mother’s lap. The girl had seen the dusty book before, high on the shelf and out of reach. Is Momma going to read to us? She pressed her lips together, trying to suppress the squeal of joy building up inside.
They had retired to the castle’s solar, the place where the whole family usually spent winter evenings playing board games or cards. Unfortunately her father and brothers were away for the evening.
Despite the early hour, it was already dark, and — even though it was well before her own bedtime — Tokara felt tired and chilled to the bone. Caia, who was four years younger than Tokara, had started yawning before the pudding had been served and was half-asleep by the time they had climbed the tower stairs to the solar. The relentless harsh winds and weeks of icy temperatures were taking their toll on everybody.
Tokara let her eyes drift over the solar, her favorite room in the castle. Intricate tapestries lined all four stone walls. Her mother had brought the hanging pieces from a faraway land only last fall. Enormous, they depicted faerie stories and tales of magical beasts that made Tokara’s imagination tumble.
The room’s chilly stone floors had been layered with plush rugs, which created a spongy cushion for her every step, but this evening she’d pulled on two pairs of knitted socks before cramming her feet into her sheepskin-lined house boots. Leaning slightly forward on the stuffed leather hassock, she wiggled her toes, grateful for the arched fireplace so big that it could fit a team of pack mules. Fed throughout the day and evening, the fire kept the solar toasty and drove away the dampness.
Tokara turned her back to the fireplace, enjoying the warmth that spread from her lower back to her shoulder blades. She was glad her mother would not be traveling again until spring. Home was always merry for the Deldano children but never as merry as when their mother returned from one of her long voyages. Tokara also noted happily that her mother’s tremendous desk was bare. The farmers’ tithes had been collected after harvest, and the annual review of the estate and the Deldano lands had been concluded in time for the midwinter feast. According to tradition, the family would soon bring solstice gifts to the inhabitants of the Chain and the farms that surrounded the villages. Tokara always looked forward to the village celebrations and the feast that would follow at the castle.
As an early present, her father had taken both of her brothers ice fishing on Garganey Lake. Tokara shivered to think just how cold her father and the twins would be on this long and starless night. While she liked fishing, she was happy to have stayed behind. Her mother traveled so often throughout the year that having her home was solstice prize enough for Tokara.
The flames in the fireplace jumped up and sent a pleasant blast of warmth up her spine. Tokara looked over at little Caia. The six-year-old lay contently curled on the thick lambskin rugs, nestled between the family’s five hunting dogs. Caia and the dogs were fast asleep; the youngest, a seventy-pound monster of a six-month-old puppy, snored in Caia’s tightly wound grasp.
“I think Howler belongs to Caia,” her mother said softly. “He’s taken to her.”
Tokara nodded firmly. She longed to pet the pup’s short velvety coat but kept her hands to herself.
“You don’t mind?” Her mother turned her bright and penetrating gaze on her.
“A little.” Tokara could never lie to her parents. “I thought Howler would be my special dog.” She shifted her body and leaned toward the leather chair to be closer to her mother. Dressed in warm robes that brought out the green of her eyes, her honey-blond curls loose around her shoulders, Kadana Deldano looked far less commanding than usual.
Tokara loved these rare moments, when her mother was relaxed and completely present. She admired her mother greatly, but at times like this, Tokara’s heart swelled with adoration as well. Momma is the most beautiful woman in the world.
“Why did you think that?” Her mother wasn’t searching for a specific answer; she just wanted to know the truth.
“Well, I thought, since Fergus and Liam and Becca and Rawley are twins, they obviously belong to our twins.” Tokara thought about how one of each of the hound twins had sought out one of her twin brothers to follow around and worship. “Fergus and Becca are always with Rask. And Liam and Rawley can’t wait for Reeve to play with them, even though they are really working dogs.”
“You noticed the dogs didn’t go ice fishing with the Rask and Reeve?” her mother pointed out with a smirk. “The dogs stayed here where it’s warm.”
Tokara nodded, aware. “I though when Daddy brought home a puppy this summer, that it would be my puppy. Because I’m next in line.”
“I see why you might think that.”
“But Caia loves Howler. Can’t sleep without him.” Tokara spoke from experience. “He’s a baby, and she’s our baby. So, it all does make a lot of sense.”
“You sound very grown up, my sweet girl.” Her mother put her hand on the leather tome. “The giants of the earth could learn from you.” She smiled. “Did I ever tell you the story of Straakhan . . . and Bumpus?”
Tokara leaned against the overstuffed arm of the chair. “I don’t know that story, Momma.”
Kadana opened the great book to the middle and began to flip pages, searching for the story. The leather binding brushed softly against her woolen robes.
Tokara held her breath. Her mother didn’t often take time to read to them. Far more often she’d take her children hunting or run them through sword drills or archery practice. Under her mother’s strict tutelage, Tokara had learned to ride a pony when she was only three. Story time was more the realm of her father and sometimes the Melian relatives on the rare occasions they visited.
Kadana carefully shifted the book, folding out a longer page to three times its length. The rustling of paper caught Howler’s attention. The puppy raised his copper head, looked around the room, bleary-eyed, and gave a hearty yawn. Then he settled back down and rested the full weight of his head on Caia’s shoulder. The little girl didn’t stir.
“In days long ago . . .” The story began the traditional way. “Straakhan built his castle in the impenetrable forest of—”
“Is it our castle, Momma?” Tokara thought she already knew the answer.
“Yes, this is the castle Straakhan built,” her mother confirmed.
Tokara sighed. “A castle built by the one of the giants of Imlidral. . .” She let the mystery of it hang in the air.
“Straakhan wasn’t just one of the giants of Imlidral, you know. The blood of the faerie coursed through him as well,” her mother went on. “And once, when the days were short and the nights were long, Straakhan left his castle to search for a companion.
“He didn’t like spending time with the other giants. But he had grown weary of being alone. So, he sought new company.” Her mother looked up from her book. “What kind of companion do you think he found?
“Wouldn’t he seek a human companion?” Tokara asked. “A friend?”
“Remember, this was in days long ago,” her mother said. “So long ago that there were no humans.”
Tokara considered. “Was it a cat?” she asked, finally. “A mighty, fierce cat like Tormy?” She’d never met the talking cat, which was rumored to be the size of a pony, but the stories told of Omen and Tormy’s adventures were fantastical and amazing. She wondered if they were all true.
“I don’t know if Straakhan knew about Tormy’s kin,” her mother said. “I’ve never heard stories of such cats before.”
“My third guess . . .” Tokara looked at the pile of dogs. “My third guess is that he sought the company of a dog.”
“He would have, my dearest.” Her mother flipped the pages of the book. “But in those days so long ago, there were no dogs.”
“No dogs, Momma?” Tokara set her lips to a pout. “Dogs have always been. Haven’t they?”
“Nothing has always been.” Kadana tapped the page.
The story wasn’t going the way Tokara had expected. Her lips trembled slightly, questions dancing through her head like snowflakes caught up in an unexpected gust. “Did Straakhan ever find a pet?” she asked finally.
“Not a pet,” her mother corrected. “A companion. There’s a big difference.”
“Did he find a companion, Momma?”
“Straakhan went out into the forest. In the deepest, darkest part of the woods, he saw a great beast. The creature was so large and so fierce, he dared not approach it, but he watched its movements for many days.
“It was mighty indeed: large jaws filled with fearsome, snapping teeth; fat paws round as stones with claws drawn out and sharp; a coat as brown as the earth and as thick and long as pine needles. When it roared, the trees trembled and the moon hid behind the sun.
“The creature holed up in a cave for a long time, and Straakhan lay in wait, his patience growing thin. When the mighty one emerged from the cave again, Straakhan knew the wait had been worth it.
“With her, for Straakhan learned then that the creature was a female, were four little ones of her kind. Three were brown like their mother, but one — the largest — was white as milk and had eyes blue as the sky at noon.
“Over many months of waiting and watching, Straakhan won the trust of the mother. He brought her food, watched over the cubs, and protected them from enemies. A season passed, and the cubs grew.
“One day, the family moved on while Straakhan slept. He woke to find them gone and the cave empty. His heart was broken, for he had come to love them all.
“But as he turned away, knowing he would have to return to his empty castle all alone, the snowy white youngling with the blue eyes came to his side.
“He named him Bumpus.”
“Bumpus is a funny name,” Tokara interrupted.
“Bumpus is a funny name, and Straakhan was delighted by his funny companion.” “Was Bumpus a good companion?”
“The very best, most loyal companion. Bumpus grew to be incredibly big and strong. His long coat was white in winter and golden in summer. Bumpus followed Straakhan everywhere, like a puppy.”
“Is there a picture in the book?” Tokara asked impetuously.
Her mother stiffened slightly, but she turned the book so Tokara could study the folded-out page.
The parchment was brittle but the picture seemed fresh, nearly gleaming. A tall, handsome man in leathers stood next to an enormous creature Tokara thought looked like both a wolf and a bear.
“Is that Bumpus?” she asked, pointing her finger at the white wolf-bear. “His neck is thick; his legs are like tree stumps; his jaw is round like a bear’s, but everything else about him is like a wolf. And he walks on four feet.”
Her mother nodded. “And don’t forget, Straakhan was a giant. So Bumpus is much larger than a regular wolf standing next to a regular man.”
Tokara thought that Straakhan in the painting was nearly as handsome as her oldest brother. “Straakhan looks a lot like Beren,” she said absently.
Her mother chuckled softly.
“I don’t recognize this language, Momma.” Tokara tilted her head to look at the odd letters, which appeared to her as if a chicken had danced across the page.
“The writing is very, very old,” her mother said. “Don’t worry. You won’t have to learn it.”
Tokara wanted to hear more, but a powerful yawn took hold of her. She quickly flung her hands to her face to cover her mouth.
“Straakhan and Bumpus were the best of companions. They traveled the world and had many adventures.” Her mother closed the book, stifling a yawn of her own. “It’s getting to be bedtime, for all of us.”
“Were Bumpus and Straakhan companions forever?” Tokara hoped to draw out the tale.
“Not forever, my sweet.” Her mother returned the book to the side table.
Though afraid to hear more, Tokara couldn’t stop herself from asking. “What happened?” she whispered anxiously.
A sad smile played on her mother’s lips. “What always happens. When it was time for Bumpus to pass, Straakhan wouldn’t accept it. Straakhan, through his faerie blood, was immortal. He wanted his companion to be immortal as well.”
“And that couldn’t happen.” Tokara felt a lump form in her throat.
“Oh no, Tokara.” Her mother took a deep breath. “It did happen. Straakhan railed against the gods and nature. He found a way to make Bumpus immortal.”
“But then everything was all right.” Tokara didn’t understand why her mother had made it seem like the story’s end would be sad.
“Straakhan made a lot of enemies in his quest to make Bumpus immortal. He defied many powerful immortals and put worlds in danger. He cared for nothing but obtaining his goal. Straakhan got what he wanted. But not the way he wanted it.
“Once Bumpus was immortal like Straakhan, the powerful ones he had offended punished Straakhan. They banished him to a solitary realm, a place that could only hold one immortal at a time. If a second immortal joined him there, they would both be torn apart, splintered into the tiniest bits of energy and pure power. Destroyed for eternity.
“If Bumpus hadn’t been immortal, he would have been able to join Straakhan in his exile. The very gift of immortality held them apart, will hold them apart for all eternity.”
Tokara’s eyes stung. “What happened to Bumpus?”
“Bumpus was left all alone. His family long dead, none of his kind walked the earth.”
Tokara frowned. “This is only a story, right Momma?”
Her mother tilted her head. “This happened in days so long ago, it might as well be called ‘only a story.’ But I want you think of the responsibility that comes with gaining a companion. Straakhan ruined himself for the love of Bumpus; and his heart breaks every day anew.”
Tokara looked over at Caia snuggling closer to Howler. “So, is it bad to have a companion? Does it always end in sadness? If it’s like that, I don’t think I want one.”
“My little philosopher,” her mother said. “You have to live and love wherever your heart takes you. And sometimes love of another takes you down a thorny path. That is life.”
Tokara looked at her mother’s smiling face and the cozy dog pile, her sister at its center. “Life is beautiful and cruel then.”
“Let’s get you girls ready for bed,” her mother said. She scooped Caia from the rug, lifting the sleeping girl as if she weighed less than a feather.
Howler, stretching and yawing, padded out of the room after them.
Tokara’s eyes fell on the leather tome. Impulsively, she picked it up from the table and followed her mother and sister to the sleeping chambers.
To download the whole story for free visit us at
— from Book 2 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series (THE ALPHA & OMEGA gives us a glimpse of the same moment in Gabe’s perspective)
They locked eyes, and for a moment he felt safe. He struggled to say her name.
Pain seared his back, but he could tell the bullet hadn’t hit anything important. It couldn’t stop him.
He moved on the gangbangers as they moved toward her. He didn’t know much, but he knew he had to protect her.
He lunged, crashing into his assailants with all the force his injured body could muster. His hand swept down, long fingers sharp and strong, and he cut through one throat with magnificent ease.
He grabbed the smaller man by the face, dangled him off the floor and shook until the spine cracked and life left. Another gangbanger backed away still holding his gun, pointing it toward her.
The urge came to bite down, bidding him to crunch through skin and bone. His teeth violently punctured the flesh like the pressurized pointed bolts of a cattle gun. And blood madness shot through him.
This human was his food. His to eat, and it was good. This food asked to be eaten. It presented itself to him; the unspoken agreement made long ago. He was predator; it was prey. It was food.
“Stop!” Her voice told him what to do. She screamed at the crowd moving toward them. He wanted to spring up, but she blocked him from lunging.
“Down, Gabe.” Lucy pointed to the floor. “Down.”
Everything went very still and very cold. She wanted him to stop feeding, to stop moving. It was in her hands now. Her command. He could rest.
The pain spiked suddenly, and he dropped to the floor, all strength gone. Terror ripped at the edge of his consciousness, but her voice protected him.
“It’s okay. You’re okay.” And he believed her.
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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series
“LAPD!” Gabe shouted as he and Lucy burst from the shadows.
Tuti, tilting a red plastic gas can, hunched over the injured pit bull. ”Down on the ground!” Gabe followed up. Tuti froze. An incredulous roar rose from the surprised Locos as Lucy rammed her full force into Tuti, taking him down and knocking the gas can from his hands. She jumped to her feet and buried her boot in Tuti’s midsection. He gasped and curled in on himself.
The crowd of Locos reacted with indecent speed, scrambling down the alley, climbing fences, grabbing dogs and cash as they fled.
A few took in the fact that all that was threatening them were two cops — alone, and one of them was a woman. Like pack predators they closed in, toothy smiles flashing in the glow of the streetlights.
The back door of the bar flew open. A skinny teenage boy wildly waving a handgun ran toward Gabe in a straight line.
“Manny! No!” A screech Lucy barely recognized as belonging to Xochitl Magaña rang out from inside the hallway.
Gabe clotheslined Manny effortlessly and sent his gun flying through the air. Hitting the ground it went off, prompting other frenzied Los Locos to fire blindly in return. The sound of feet running from both sides of the alley, the whirring sound of helicopter blades overhead, the sudden warning shouts of police and ACTF overlapped with the howling and barking of dogs and hollers from Los Locos escaping over the fence. Bodies in flight and pursuit, knocked over cages, men crashing or being thrown into the chain-link — the chaos all around made Lucy feel a weird calm.
She noticed Flaco holding up his phone, filming the entire scene, turning his narco-pop to full blast while tears flowed freely down his scrunched up face.
Near her, Gabe scooped up the injured pit bull and bolted towards the safety of the door propped open by Xochitl Magaña.
“You idiots weren’t supposed to grab the dog!” Xochitl sounded furious.
Men came at him from all sides, shouting and flailing. Gabe barreled through them as if they were nothing.
Screeching, Flaco raised his Browning to take aim at Gabe’s back. Lucy clocked the boy in the face with her Beretta. He went straight to the ground.
“You fucking weasel!” she spat and bent down to scoop up his gun.
Someone grabbed her from behind, but she twisted out of the way, losing her grip on Flaco’s 9mm. There was nowhere to go now but to follow Gabe and the pit bull through the open back entrance to Xochitl’s Cantina. Lucy sprinted ahead, tripped over the stoop and gracelessly crashed onto the cantina floor, cutting her hands and bruising her pride.
A shot rang out, and for a moment everything seemed to slow down. Lucy saw Gabe, who’d been in front of her and was already in the room, go to his knees on the blue linoleum. He bent forward unnaturally, releasing the pit bull who scrambled under a wooden table.
Lucy lurched forward on the floor to half push and half drag Gabe out of range of the shots that were continuing through the backdoor. From behind the bar, Lucy heard Xochitl scream, “Stop shooting, you assholes!”
The gunfire stopped.
“Lucy.” The deep rumble of Gabe’s voice took her complete focus. Something was very wrong. Gabe’s face had turned pasty white and glistened with sweat. Lucy locked onto Gabe’s eyes — normally deep chocolate brown, they now glowed a mesmerizing amber.
Before she could react, five Locos burst into the room, shouting and waving their guns. Gabe sprang up, knocking Lucy on her back, and crashed into the Locos with breathtaking force and speed.
Gabe’s already large frame now appeared monstrous, the muscles of his back and arms bulging and pulsing, his bones lengthening and cracking. Clean-shaven a moment ago, his face looked dirty with dark stubble. His hair, always cut high and tight — a remnant of his time in the service, now brushed his shoulders and rolled down his back like a messy lion’s mane.
Gabe roared like an animal in agony and ripped through one of the men’s throats with the startling long, curved claws of his bare hand.
He grabbed a gangbanger with the other hand, dangling the man off the floor and shaking him by the face like a rag doll.
Lucy started to black out as what felt like a massive shockwave rocked through her body. She fought to keep her eyes open. The small coherent part of her brain observed that Gabe’s Kevlar vest had a small rip in the back. Even if the vest had stopped a bullet from going through, it couldn’t have saved his ribs from being broken. Yet Gabe moved unencumbered, with the power of ten men.
She fixated on the shaggy black layer of fur that covered her partner’s head and arms. Just then he turned in profile; large pointed, fur-covered ears swiveled back like those of an aggressive dog. Razor-sharp teeth flashed in a tapered lupine jaw, and he bit down on the last gangbanger.
My partner’s a werewolf?
Lucy convulsed as hysteria shot through her like an electric shock.
“SWAT! Drop your weapons! Nobody move!” At that moment, the SWAT team burst through the front door of the cantina.
Gabe spun on the armed men, ready to attack.
“No, Gabe! Stop!” Lucy screamed the command, instinct trumping fear. Gabe hesitated and looked at her with curiosity.
Holy shit! He’s listening to me.
“SWAT! Get on the floor!” an officer roared as the team closed in.
“LAPD. Don’t shoot,” Lucy yelled out and lurched ahead to put her body between Gabe and the SWAT officers. “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” Lucy’s voice gave out. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to squeeze sound from her throat, but her vocal cords wouldn’t obey anymore and violent coughs shook her.
She felt Gabe’s hot breath on her neck and turned to face him, slowly and deliberately.
“Down, Gabe.” She pointed to the floor. “Down.”
For a split second, everyone in the room stood still and watched Gabe. The massive man swayed briefly and then dropped to the floor like a puppet that had had its strings cut.
“Officer down. Code 33. Echo Park. North Alvarado and Clinton. Officer down. Start me additional units and medical. Code 3. Officer shot. Approach from northwest.”
“On their way.”
Lucy heard the shouting but didn’t comprehend the words. She crouched down beside her partner, holding him tight as convulsions wracked his body. She saw blood drip to the floor. Gabe had been hit despite the Kevlar.
“Don’t die. Don’t die. You can’t die.” Lucy’s words ran together in an incessant chant. She was lost in his pain, unable to focus, oblivious to the pandemonium all around her.
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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series
Xochitl Magaña paced nervously behind the bar of her cantina, anxiously waiting for the cops to arrive.
¡Santa Maria, reza por mí!
Turning in her gangbanger boyfriend Memo was dangerous at best.
I’m gonna be in deep shit if this doesn’t go down right…And Miguel, Memo’ll…
“No,” Xochitl hissed, squashing the sprouting thought before it could ripen. “This’ll work.”
She snatched a towel from its hook and began wiping down the individual liquor bottles that lined the shelves behind the bar.
El Gallo’s done.
Memo Morales preferred the moniker “El Gallo” and fancied himself Tony Montana.
¡Híjole! What’s with vatos and Scarface?
And like an over-glorified, self-obsessed crime lord, El Gallo had exploited his relationship with Xochi, using her bar as his headquarters — his command center for the gang’s illegal operation.
And I let him.
But El Gallo gave her protection — something Xochitl desperately needed after her papa had died. And she had to admit, just as Memo liked having the only fair- skinned, light-eyed, natural blond ruca in the neighborhood, she’d initially liked the attention he’d given her.
It had been hard growing up a “güera” in the barrio — a place, despite being Mexicana, Xochitl had never felt she truly belonged.
School had been her refuge, and she’d even won an academic scholarship to UCLA.
I was so close to getting out.
Then everything changed. Her father had a stroke. His health rapidly deteriorated. She dropped all her classes. Moved back home. Took over the bar. Took over care of Miguel.
Back in the hood, back in the life — with Memo.
But Memo went too far. Gun running. There was no way Xochitl could live with herself knowing she had let this thug take over the business her papa had worked so hard to build.
God, what would Papa think of me now? I just wanted to keep the bar going and Miguel safe.
Xochitl hated all of it: the dogfights, the guns, the East Los Locos — Memo.
She shook off the flutter of nerves vibrating up and down her spine and noticed she’d been wiping off the same fifth of tequila. As she carefully placed the Cuervo Gold in its proper slot between the Don Julio and Patrón bottles, she caught the reflection of her cantina in the mirrored glass that backed the liquor racks lining the wall.
Wood and leather tables filled the space. A ’50s style jukebox, her papa’s pride and joy, played only vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s. “Mija, there’s no other music.” He would tell her whenever she’d begged him to update the playlist. Various paintings of matadors and bullfights attempted to lend a Spanish flavor to the rugged bar.
Xochitl’s Cantina had been Xochi’s home since she was six when her father, Carlos, had left the Marine Corps, following her mother’s death. And in its heyday, her papa’s bar had been the favorite local hangout.
The barrio Cheers.
By the time she was eleven, Xochitl had a stepmother she couldn’t stand and a new baby brother she adored.
¡Híjole! In one shot, Anita went from barfly to mother. What was Papa thinking?
But Xochitl remembered how sad and lonely her papa had been after her mom had died. He was honorable and would never have considered not marrying the mother of his child. Carlos Magaña was the finest man Xochi had ever known.
Biting back tears, Xochitl clenched her eyes. Her papa’s warm and inviting spirit echoed within every element of the cantina.
I miss you Papa.
For what seemed like the millionth time, Xochi looked up to the neon DOS EQUIS clock hanging over the bar.
2:37 A.M.? They’re late. The fights’ll be over and Memo’ll leave soon. He’s gonna wonder why I’m still here and not waiting for him upstairs.
“Where the hell are they?” she mumbled. ”Where the hell’s who?” Memo Morales asked. Startled, Xochitl whipped around, knocking over several liquor bottles. She barely registered the clamoring rattle of glass hitting glass as Memo, who had come in from the back without her noticing, stood behind her.
Despite the frozen crush of heart-stomping anxiety, Xochi couldn’t help admire Memo’s movie star looks and how his white T-shirt and jeans emphasized his strong, lean build. His big, hazel eyes always took her breath away. Tonight was no different.
Still the best-looking guy in the neighborhood.
“Who’s late?” Memo asked again, grabbing a beer from the cooler under the bar. “Huh, what?…Uh…no one. I mean, Miguel. He’s late.” Memo wrapped his arms around Xochi and tugged at her rose embroidered peasant blouse. “¡Ay, mamí! Let the boy be. He’s almost eighteen. A man.” He began kissing her neck. “Why don’t you go upstairs, put on that sexy slip thing I got you? I’m all wound up. You can help me relax.”
Wrinkling her nose at the smell of stale beer and dog, Xochi shrugged Memo off her. “What do you know about it? He’s not one of your boys.”
Xochitl knew she shouldn’t be flippant with Memo. He had a short temper and could be aggressive with her when he didn’t get his way. But she couldn’t help herself when it came to her little brother Miguel. She hated it when Memo thought he had any say in how Miguel was raised.
She wanted to yell in Memo’s face, “Stay away cabrón! He’s mine!” Instead she whispered, “I’m tired.”
Xochitl walked around to the front of the counter, trying to put distance between herself and Memo. She could see in his eyes he was losing his patience.
Where’s la chota already?
Undeterred, Memo closed the gap between them and grabbed her arm, yanking her to him. “I said go upstairs and get in that pinche slip, bitch.”
Xochitl pulled her arm back and without thinking threw a right hook to his jaw. Instantly, she felt pain shoot from her fist straight up her arm. “¡Ay carajo!”
Shaking out the sting from her hand, Xochi looked up and saw Memo stunned, holding the left side of his face.
Oh, fuck! What did I do?
Instinctively, she began backing up toward the bar’s front door to make her escape.
As she turned from Memo, Xochi heard a menacing laugh and the distinctive clicking sound of a gun being cocked.
“Not bad for a little güera bitch. Daddy teach you that?”
Xochitl grabbed for the door. ”Don’t you fucking move, puta.” Naked fear blasted through Xochitl’s body, leaving her feet bolted to the floor.
She had nowhere to go. If she moved, Memo would shoot her.
He’s gonna shoot you anyway.
Taking a chance, she slowly turned back to face Memo. He stood at close range, his gun pointed at her chest.
Xochi raised her hands in the air. ”Please, Memo,” she tried to placate him. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean—” “¡Cállate!” Memo growled, pacing back and forth in front of her like a wild beast about to pounce on his prey. An odd bubble of calm enveloped Xochi, and — as if locked in stasis, she stood immobile, waiting, contemplating her next move. ”You think you can do this to me and not pay, bitch? I’m El Gallo!” Xochitl stole a glance at the bar. Behind the counter. Papa’s shotgun. If I’m quick enough… “I run this—” Memo raged on only to suddenly cut himself off. Xochitl brought her attention back to El Gallo. He stared past her at the frosted glass window. She slowly craned her neck to follow his line of sight. A shadow moved swiftly by the front of the bar.
¡Híjole! About damn time!
She turned back to Memo. His eyes again fixed on her. Xochitl could see by the amazed and — hurt? — look on his face that he’d puzzled out she had betrayed him. Why Memo hadn’t made a move on her yet she didn’t understand. She wasn’t about to ask. Keeping him in her sights, she began inching her way to the bar. Xochitl had almost reached the end of the counter when Manny, a fourteen-year-old boy, one of Memo’s lookouts, sprinted into the cantina from the kitchen. “¡Jefe! ¡La chota! ¡Afuera!”
Memo regained his senses. “¿Dónde?” ”Everywhere. I came from the dumpsters out back,” the boy answered. ¡Carajo! The cops didn’t find the kitchen entrance! The side alley door was hidden by the dumpster enclosure. Xochitl’s produce vendors constantly complained about the difficult access.
If I get out of this alive, I’m gonna move those pinche dumpsters.
“Did anyone see you?” El Gallo asked the boy as he moved toward the kitchen and peeked through the swinging door.
“No, Jefe,” the boy replied, pulling out a 9mm handgun stuffed in his pants like a gangster out of a movie he’d probably watched a million times.
“The cops will find the kitchen door soon.” Memo stepped back into the bar.
Xochitl eyed El Gallo, as he searched the room for another way out, revulsion churning her guts.
How did I ever get mixed up with this monster? What am I gonna do if he gets away?
Memo glanced down the hall toward the restrooms. His mouth turned up into a sly grin, and Xochi knew he had figured out his escape.
¡Hijo de puta! Where’s pinche Xena warrior cop?
Unsure, Manny took a tentative step closer to El Gallo.
Memo put up his hand, halting the boy. “Stay here, homes. Pinche cops can’t touch you.” The gang leader beat his chest with his fist and shouted in salute, “¡Órale! East Los!”
“East Los!” The dutiful boy soldier mimicked.
Some day this kid’s gonna get himself killed by these pendejos. That will not be my Miguel.
El Gallo turned back to Xochitl, “I’ll deal with you later.” Then he ran down the hall toward the women’s restroom.
Xochi stood next to the bar, staring after Memo. There was nothing she could do now except hope the cops would nab him crawling out the bathroom window. She looked over to Manny, who appeared lost now that his leader had ditched him.
Poor kid. Doesn’t even know Memo could give a shit what happens to him.
Shouting and gunfire blasted from the back lot.
Xochi darted behind the bar, grabbed the Smith & Wesson 12 gauge, checked it was loaded and readied herself. Looking up, she watched Manny cock his gun.
“Wait,” she hissed. Manny smiled at her and ran for the back exit. ”Shit!” Xochitl, shotgun in hand, took off after the boy.
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Wild magic, pirates, the restless dead, and an ancient curse – Nothing will stop Omen Daenoth from saving his little brother. Fortunately, the dragons of Melia and his talking cat are there to lend a helping claw.
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guest blog by Bonita Gutierrez
Summer is winding down (though, as I write this, it’s 105 degrees outside), and the blockbusters have all been released. So, I thought I’d recap my favorite movies from the past few months. Most you’ve probably seen, but there might be one or two that you haven’t checked out yet.
So, here are my top flicks of the summer…
Baby Driver — A crazy good heist movie with a kick-ass soundtrack.
Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead)
Blurb: Talented getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.
Wonder Woman – This movie still makes me giddy every time I think about it. I need the DVD to come out!
Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster)
Written by Allan Heinberg
Story by Zach Snyder
Blurb: Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword — I just watched the movie again on DVD and I still love this reimaging of the mythic tale!
Directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch)
Written by Guy Ritchie and Joby Harold
Blurb: After the murder of his father, young Arthur’s power-hungry uncle Vortigern seizes control of the crown. Robbed of his birthright, he grows up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, not knowing who he truly is. When fate leads him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone, Arthur embraces his true destiny to become a legendary fighter and leader.
Spider-Man Homecoming — Tom Holland delivers a charming, full-of-heart performance. Of all the Spidey incarnations thus far, Holland is my favorite.
Directed by Jon Watts
Written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Blurb: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine — distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.
Wind River — This film blew me away. Could contend for an Oscar this year.
Written and Directed by Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water screenwriter)
Blurb: Cory Lambert is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in snowy Wyoming. When the autopsy reveals that she was raped, FBI agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate. Teaming up with Lambert as a guide, the duo soon find that their lives are in danger while trying to solve the mystery of the teen’s death.
Dunkirk — A heart-pounding 90-minute masterpiece! Best film of the year so far (IMHO).
Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Blurb: In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.
War for the Planet of the Apes — The heart-wrenching, action-packed wrap-up to the reimagined Planet of the Apes trilogy.
Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield)
Written by Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback
Blurb: Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face-to-face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A great follow-up to Vol. 1! The ending will break your heart.
Directed by James Gunn (GOTG Vol.1 & Slither)
Blurb: Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.
Logan Lucky — A delightful hillbilly, “Ocean’s 7-Eleven” heist movie.
Drected by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven)
Written by Rebecca Blunt
Blurb: West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan teams up with his one-armed brother Clyde and sister Mellie to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Jimmy also recruits demolition expert Joe Bang to help them break into the track’s underground system. Complications arise when a mix-up forces the crew to pull off the heist during a popular NASCAR race while also trying to dodge a relentless FBI agent.
Alien Covenant — Ridley Scott has taken the best of Prometheus’ intellectual science fiction elements and combined them with the original Alien/Aliens’ sci-fi horror awesomeness (I was on the edge of my seat the entire time) to create a very smart movie worthy of the series.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien)
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper
Blurb: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.
The Big Sick — Sweet, sad and hilariously funny, this film offers a glimpse into the world of a Pakistani-born comedian and the challenges he must face when he falls for a non-Muslim American girl.
Directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer)
Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
Blurb: Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father.
The Beguiled — A beautifully shot and wonderfully acted remake of the 1971 film; based on A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan.
Directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
Story by Thomas P. Cullinan
Original screenplay by Albert Maltz
Blurb: Cpl. John McBurney is an injured Union soldier who finds himself on the run as a deserter during the Civil War. He seeks refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school where the teachers and students seem more than willing to help. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounded leg while offering him comfort and companionship.
Atomic Blonde — A cool Cold War action movie that’s more James Bond than John Wick.
Directed by David Leitch
Written by Kurt Johnstad and Anthony Johnston
Blurb: Sensual and savage, Lorraine Broughton is the most elite spy in MI6, an agent who’s willing to use all of her lethal skills to stay alive during an impossible mission. With the Berlin Wall about to fall, she travels into the heart of the city to retrieve a priceless dossier and take down a ruthless espionage ring. Once there, she teams up with an embedded station chief to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies
The Dark Tower — A fun fantasy flick with a pinch of spaghetti western thrown in; based on the novels by Stephen King.
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
Written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner
Blurb: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.
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