Featured

Inventory Clearance Sale!

With 2021 looking like a blank slate in terms of shows I normally attend, I am sitting on a rather significant inventory of print editions of my books. Rather than hold onto them, I’m going to clear some space in my office with a special buy one get one free sale!

Go to the Buy Now page to make your purchase. If you buy one full-length novel at regular price (plus shipping), you’ll get a free copy of Cheap Thrills Digest! If you buy two full-length novels, you’ll get a third of your choice free! When you place your order for two books, add a note specifying what you’d like for your freebie and I’ll add it to your shipment.

Of course, every book you receive will be signed by me, and remember that every copy of Well-Behaved Women that goes out will result in a $5 donation to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center — even if one of those books is your free selection.

This offer is good while supplies last, and those supplies are limited! I currently have copies of everything except Beneath the Mask: A Superhero Romance Anthology, and I’m running low on the following titles (updated July 6, 2021):

  • Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins (2 copies)
  • Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups (2 copies)
  • Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play (2 copies)
  • Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War (1 copy)
  • Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling From the Wreckage (1 copy)
  • The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot: Assassins Brawl (book 2) (1 copy)
  • The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot: Blades of Glory (book 3) (2 copies)
  • The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot: Sworded Affairs (book 4) (2 copies)
Featured

Available Now!

After surviving an unforgiving winter in the northern city of Além, Derek Strongarm and Felix Lightfoot are eager to lead their friends back to Ambride to enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

That idea goes right out the window when the companions hear of a major gathering of the four elven clans in City Lyth — Winifred Graceword’s homeland. Ancient tradition demands that Winifred heed the sacred call of her people, and who is she to reject ancient tradition?

Winifred immediate regrets her decision upon returning to City Lyth and reuniting with her estranged parents, who’ve yet to forgive their black sheep daughter for rejecting her birthright to follow her own path.

Derek and Felix thought Além was cold and unforgiving, but that place has nothing on Winifred’s mother, General Rhian Godswrath.

The mother – daughter reunion proves uncomfortable for all involved, but Winifred’s plan to keep her visit short and sweet falls apart when she learns why the long-separated elven clans have reunited: they intend to launch an expedition to the long-lost city of Wihend, in which no elf has set foot for centuries.

Except for Winifred, that is.

This news is not well-received, to say the least, but the elven coalition recognizes a valuable asset when they see one, and Winifred and her friends are pressed into service as guides for the expedition. They know the city, they know the dangers lurking within, and they know how to handle themselves in a fight. What could go wrong?

Everything. Everything could go wrong.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives is the fifth book in the irreverent, award-winning* fantasy series by Michael C. Bailey (Action Figures, Well-Behaved Women). Brace yourself for an epic tale of secret cities, malevolent monsters, arcane artifacts, bloody battles, feuding families, and more mother issues than any elf has a right to.

(* = The 2016 Bella Online Ebook Awards, gold medal in fantasy fiction)

Buy it now in print or for the Kindle, exclusively on Amazon!

Weekly Update – October 26, 2021

I’m going to give folks fair warning: this week’s post is a downer.

Without going into too much detail, my grandmother died last week after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. I knew this day was coming since late spring, and I thought I was prepared for it, but turns out it hit me harder than I expected. And, as is often the case when a loved one passes, I think about how people process grief. Me, I process it in small, manageable pieces, but this sometimes leads me to postpone processing it entirely — and when it catches up to me, which it invariably does, it’s like getting hit by a truck.

I started to realize this about myself when my grandfather died in my early 20s, and I recalled all those thoughts and feelings when I wrote a particular chapter in the fourth Action Figures book. It remains my most personal piece of writing, and I later discovered that it had an impact on several readers beyond the emotion of the situation. One gent wrote to tell me how that chapter led him to face his own prepressed grief over the loss of his own father, which was an incredibly humbling thing to read.

Since grief is very much on my mind presently, here is that chapter. For what it’s worth, it’s mildly spoilery in that it deals with the death of a supporting character.

***

My grandfather is dead.

My. Grandfather. Is. Dead. I know these words. I know what they mean individually, but not when they’re put together in that specific order. It’s a nonsense sentence that defies translation, a strange, alien concept that refuses to make its meaning clear to me.

A police officer, his hat in his hands, which are folded respectfully at his belt buckle, asks my mother when she last spoke to Granddad. Yesterday morning, she says, before she left for work. The officer asks me the same question. I tell him yesterday morning, when I left for school.

I think I’m the one who says that. Maybe someone else answered for me. I don’t know.

Mom says she realized a little while ago she hadn’t seen Granddad all morning, so she poked her head into his bedroom and found him like that (whatever like that means). Yes, she says, he seemed fine. No, he hadn’t been having any health issues. Yes, his emotional state had been fine. What’s that got to do with anything? The officer apologizes. He has to ask these questions as a matter of routine, he explains.

I’m not even sure why a cop is here. Mom called an ambulance. I guess the EMTs called the police, which is protocol whenever they’re called to an unattended death.

Unattended death. Another phrase that makes no sense. Why are these people spewing crazy talk at us?

Mom’s fingernails dig into my arm. All I feel is the pressure. There’s no pain. She makes a funny noise, a cross between a cough and a hiccup, the kind of sound you’d make if you swallowed wrong. The EMTs excuse themselves as they come down the stairs carrying—I don’t know what it is. It’s a stretcher, that much I can tell, and there’s something on it, hidden by a sheet and strapped down to keep it from sliding off. That would be bad. They could break something.

Mom’s grip tightens. Still no pain.

One of the EMTs returns a minute later. He speaks to my mother in that freaky pseudo-English everyone is using. Possible heart attack. Probably happened in his sleep. No signs that he suffered.

(Stretcher? Maybe it was a gurney. I don’t know what the difference is.)

The officer asks Mom a few more questions, hands her a business card, says he’s very sorry for our loss (our what?), and he leaves, at which point Mom shrinks into my arms and cries.

And cries.

And cries.

Mom leaves a huge wet spot on my shoulder when she finally pulls away. Her face is red and splotchy; her eyes are solid pink because the little veins are so inflamed; and her nose drips like she has a nasty cold. Man, I hope she isn’t getting sick.

“I should call your father,” Mom mumbles. “He’d want to know.”

“I’ll do it,” I say.

Mom shakes her head. “No, honey, no, I don’t want —”

“I’ll do it,” I repeat. “You sit. I’m going to put the kettle on, make you some tea, and I’ll call Dad.”

She nods and makes her way toward the couch, shuffling stiffly, like an extra in a zombie movie.

Zombies. Dead people.

My grandfather is dead.

No. Still doesn’t make any sense.

***

The next day brings with it a horrible clarity. Everything suddenly makes sense. Well, a sort of sense. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’ve grasped the reality of the situation, as much as I don’t want to.

Sara stops by the house on the way to school. The first thing she does is hug me. She asks how I’m doing. I shrug. I don’t know how I’m doing.

I’m not going to school today, I tell her. Mom needs me. She says she understands, hugs me again. I apologize for ruining her birthday. She tells me no, don’t, I didn’t ruin anything, and she hugs me harder.

“Call me if you need me, okay?” Sara says.

“I will.”

“Promise me.”

I try to smile. I try. “I promise.”

From that point the day takes on a strangely dreamlike quality. I experience moments and events that I know on some level are connected by a common thread, but everything that happens in-between those moments refuses to stick in my memory. One minute I’m answering the phone and passing it to Mom, so whoever’s calling can offer his or her condolences. The next I’m accepting a flower delivery. The next I’m playing hostess to a visitor, one of Granddad’s friends who only knew my mother and me by reputation. The minister from Granddad’s church, Reverend Daley, comes by to talk to Mom about the service. She says she wants to get it over with quickly—memorial service Tuesday night, funeral Wednesday, done and done. Granddad would have wanted it that way, she says. I have to choke back the urge to say no, I’m reasonably certain he would have wanted to still be alive.

I spend a lot of the day beating down surges of anger. It rises in my throat like hot acid every time I hear one of Granddad’s friends laugh at a fond memory; every time I read a card, attached to a vase full of festive blossoms, that tells us to take comfort in knowing Granddad is in a better place; every time a caller asks for my mother without saying one damn word to me. Sure, don’t tell me how sorry you are. He was only my grandfather. I sure don’t want your damned sympathy.

I swallow my emotions. I have to. Mom is a basket case. The last thing she needs is me adding to her giant mountain of crap, so each time my temper starts to bubble up, I clench my fists, take a breath, and put on my best neutral face and bravely soldier on. After a while, boxing up my feelings becomes remarkably easy. Practice makes perfect.

Sara swings by again on her way home. Just wanted to check in, she says. How am I doing? she asks. Fine. Do I need anything? No, thank you. Am I sure? Yes, I’m sure. Will I call her if I do? Yes, I will, I promise.

My fists stay clenched throughout her visit. After she leaves, I open my hands to reveal purple crescent-shaped indentations stitched across my palms.

My hands, I now realize, have been trembling all day.

They continue to shake as I try to respond to a text from Malcolm (So sorry about your granddad, call me if you need anything). It takes me five full minutes to type I’m okay, will call later, and several times I come dangerously close to throwing my phone against a wall.

It’s a little after five-thirty when Ben arrives. Mom called him last night to break the news but declined his offer to come over to help, comfort her, whatever—as well as his offer to skip work today. This was a family matter, Mom said, a remark that I took a small measure of cruel delight in hearing.

Ben, for the first time since he and Mom started dating, hugs me. It’s weird and it’s awkward—but not anywhere near as awkward as when Dad shows up on our doorstep.

“Hi, sweetie,” he says, stepping inside to take me in his arms. I feel every muscle in my body release. I practically melt in his embrace. He doesn’t ask me how I’m doing. He doesn’t say anything. He just holds me.

“Carrie? Who is it?” Mom asks, stepping out of the kitchen, where she and Ben are tending to the frozen pizzas that will stand in for a proper dinner. “Oh. Brian. Um. Hi.”

“Hi, Christina,” Dad says. He lets me go and crosses the living room, ostensibly to hug Mom, but stops short when Ben appears behind her.

“Who is it?” Ben says. “Hello,” he says to Dad.

Mom fidgets. My God, she never told Dad she was dating someone? What the hell, Mom?

My fingernails slip into the bruised grooves in my palms.

“Ben, this is my ex-husband Brian. Brian, this is Ben,” she says. Ben, I can’t help but notice, doesn’t get a title, but Dad’s not an idiot. He can read between the lines.

“Oh. Uh, hello, Ben,” Dad says, trading a handshake that is clearly uncomfortable on both sides.

“Brian, good to meet you,” Ben says. “Sorry it’s not under better circumstances.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

“What are you doing here?” Mom says. “I’m sorry, that sounded —”

“It’s okay,” Dad says. “I wanted to see how you and Carrie were doing, see if you needed anything. Uh, I thought Carrie might need to get out of the house for a little while,” he adds.

Mom nods. “That might be good. We’ve both been cooped up since yesterday. Honey?”

“Yeah. Sure. Sounds good,” I say without a lick of enthusiasm. Not that I’m not keen on the idea, but this has been an exhausting day. Bruce Springsteen could walk through the door, and I’d be like, Oh, hey, how about that. Neat.

Dad and I head into town, the ride passing in silence, and we land at Junk Food. We settle into a booth and order a pu-pu platter, which I pick at listlessly because I’m not really hungry. Besides, everything I’ve eaten today has tasted like cardboard.

“So,” Dad says. “That’s the new boyfriend.”

“Uh-huh,” I say.

“Mm. How long’s that been going on?”

“I don’t know. Since February. I think since February. Maybe January. I don’t know.”

Dad nods. “He seems nice.”

I shrug. “He’s okay.”

Dad nods again. I make a mental note to feel outraged on Dad’s behalf at some later date. I know they have separate lives now; they don’t have to check in with each other about anything, but Mom should have said something to Dad. Something. Anything. He shouldn’t have found out about Ben like this.

Dammit, Mom.

Dad lays a hand over mine and squeezes. “How are you holding up, honey?”

“All right,” I say, but God, am I getting sick of that question. I stick a fried shrimp in my mouth and chew it listlessly. Yum. Fried cardboard.

Dad obviously wants to ask me something, or say something, but he’s holding back.

“What?” I say.

“Could you do something for me?”

“What?”

“Do you remember how your mother was after Grandma died?”

I think back to two—no, almost three years ago now, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking for. Everything is a jumble of images, most of them involving Mom crying a lot.

“Yeah. I think so,” I say.

“It’s going to be a lot rougher this time. Everything she felt when she lost her mother, she’s going to feel it ten times worse. She’s going to be angry, a lot, and often over nothing.” He sighs, and his mouth twists into something halfway between a scowl and a sneer, an expression that signals he’s about to say something he knows I won’t like. “You two have a tendency to butt heads. I’m asking you to try to keep a lid on your temper, because your mom, she won’t be able to. One of you needs to be the cool head and it has to be you. Please try to be understanding. That’s all I ask.”

Oh, is that all? Well, sure, Dad, you’re not asking anything unreasonable, only that I let Mom throw a fit whenever the hell she wants and smile through it all, smile like it doesn’t bother me in the least.

Like I’m doing right now.

“Sure, Dad.”

***

Mom knocks on my bedroom door. “Carrie?”

“Yeah.”

The door cracks open. Mom steps in. She’s wearing a simple jacket and skirt—in black, naturally—and a plain white blouse. I’m wearing the same thing and, like Mom, my hair is up in a loose knot at the base of my skull. Great. That all but guarantees some asshat is going to try to lighten the mood with a lame joke about us being twins. Why, Carrie, I didn’t know you had a sister, ha ha.

“You look very nice,” Mom says.

“Thanks. You too,” I say politely. I mean, it’s a memorial service; it’s not really the place for bold fashion choices.

“Ready to go?”

No.

“Yes.”

Mom gives me a weak smile and holds out her hand. She slides her arm around my shoulders and we head downstairs. Ben is waiting for us by the door. He plays chauffeur, driving us into town. The radio stays off. None of us talk. The atmosphere is appropriately somber.

We enter the funeral home, and I’m hit with a powerful wave of déjà vu: this is the same place where we held Grandma’s funeral service. Granddad’s casket is even in the exact same room, the Sunset Room (oh, what clever symbolism, guys. Bet you stayed up all night thinking that one up).

Mom and I take our positions at the front of the room, near the head of the casket. When Grandma died, I remember playing the role of witness during the service. I sat in the front row next to Dad while Mom and Granddad handled receiving line duties. I remember thinking at the time how nice it was, seeing so many people there, listening to them tell Mom and Granddad how much Grandma was loved.

It’s not nice. It’s hell.

The first visitors, two of Granddad’s bowling buddies, wander in ten minutes after the official start of visiting hours. They introduce themselves to my mother, lean in for a friendly consoling hug and a kiss on the cheek, then repeat the process with me. I force myself not to turn away from the kisses, but it’s not easy. The first guy has Slim Jim on his breath. The other reeks of Old Spice. I give them both a fake smile and a thank-you that sounds completely sincere. You’d never know I really wanted to punch their teeth down their throats.

As the evening progresses, the flow of visitors becomes steadier and my displays of false gratitude get easier and easier. I fall into a rhythm: introduction, handshake, hug, kiss, nod and smile as platitudes are offered, thank you very much, next customer, please. I’m so in the zone it takes me a few seconds to realize that Megan, Kilroy, and Farley Quentin are next in line.

“Hi, Carrie,” Farley says, looking up at me with his big, soulful Frodo Baggins eyes.

“Hey, buddy,” I say, kneeling down. He throws his arms around my neck and squeezes tight, and my God, this is the first time all night I give a damn about anyone’s sympathy.

“I’m sorry about your grandpop,” he says.

“Thank you,” I say, then I stand to get my hug from Meg.

“Hey, girl,” she says. “Mom and Dad send their love. They’d have come themselves, but Dad didn’t want to be a distraction.”

Yeah, a seven-foot-tall rock guy does tend to draw focus. “I understand,” I say, and accept a hug from Kilroy (who, to his credit, keeps it brief and chaste).

“Carrie?” Mom says inquiringly.

“Oh, yeah, right. Mom, this is Farley, the boy I babysit for sometimes, and his brother and sister, Kilroy and Meg.”

“Mrs. Hauser,” Kilroy says with a small bow. “I hope you don’t mind that we came by.”

Wow, that was positively gentlemanly. Didn’t know he had it in him.

“No, of course not, thank you,” Mom says before her tone turns curious. “I’m sorry, you two look familiar somehow.”

“We have those kinds of faces,” Meg says.

“Devastatingly handsome faces,” Kilroy says to me. There we go, back on familiar territory. “Hey, we saw the others on our way in. I think they’re stuck at the back of the line, so we’re going to go keep them company.”

“Okay. Thanks,” I say, and I return my attention to the parade of faceless mourners. I can’t say how long it takes for Matt, Sara, Stuart, and Missy to reach the head of the line, but their arrival marks a distinct shift toward the familiar. Until now, the vast majority of visitors invading my personal space were utterly unfamiliar to me. They were all Granddad’s friends or Mom’s friends from work, but now people I know are the rule rather than the exception. Mr. and Mrs. Steiger accompany Matt, and Dr. and Mrs. Hamill are with Missy. Stuart is sans parents but has buddied up with Malcolm. By coincidence, Dad is right behind my concentrated clump of friends, and behind him I catch sight of Jill from the Coffee Experience, who is chatting with Natalie and Catherine, who cross-chat with Mr. Crenshaw.

It hits me now how one person’s life can overlap other lives in unexpected ways. I’d have never expected my grandfather to have common ground with the woman who whips up my mochaccinos or one of my friends or my boyfriend.

Stuart reaches us first, and Mom, who’s managed to make it this far with dry eyes, starts to tear up. “Mrs. Hauser,” Stuart says.

Mrs. Hauser? What happened to calling me Christina?” Mom says with a small chuckle. She pulls Stuart into a long embrace.

“Greg was a really cool guy,” he says.

“Yeah. He was.”

The line dwindles out after Dad finally gets to us, and people settle into their own little cliques to chat before the service proper. My group owns the hallway outside the Sunset Room. I bring Dad over for a round of long overdue introductions. Dad, meet my friends, my (not really a) math tutor, my (not really) youth service group coordinator, my barista, and last but not least…

“Dad, this is my boyfriend Malcolm,” I say. “Malcolm, my father, Brian Hauser.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you, sir,” Malcolm says, shaking Dad’s hand. “I’m sorry it’s not under happier circumstances.”

“Yeah. Me too,” Dad says, and they start talking. They refer to me, nod and gesture at me, but they don’t actually say anything to me.

No one is saying anything to me. All the conversation is happening around me, near me, about me, but none of it is directed at me. Once in a while I get a “How are you doing?” or “Are you okay?” or what’s supposed to be a reassuring hand on my shoulder, but they’re all empty, perfunctory gestures. I’m the hostess of a party no one wanted to come to.

Reverend Daley announces the start of the service. Everyone flows into the Sunset Room. Seats fill up quickly. Standing room only. Mom sits in the front row, Ben on one side, me on the other. Dad sits next to me and completes the human chain of clasped hands.

The reverend passes a smile over the assembly and begins the service, which he promises “will be brief because, as you all know, Greg Briggs was a modest and uncomplicated man who would no doubt take issue with me showering him at length with praise.”

Soft laughter ripples through the crowd. Mom laughs with them for a second or two before the tears come, and they don’t stop throughout the rest of the homily—which, as promised, is quick and simple. The reverend is up there for three, four minutes, but it’s the longest three or four minutes of my life. He ends with an invitation to join the family for drinks at a nearby restaurant one of Granddad’s friends owns.

The family.

All two of us.

***

The Quentins leave after the service, as do the Steiger and Hamill contingents, followed closely by Jill, Natalie, and Catherine. I have to practically shove Sara out the door. She wants to stay, for me, but I refuse to give her father any further reason to dump on her.

Stuart catches a ride to the restaurant with Malcolm and me. The boys stick close to me the rest of the night, like they’re my bodyguards.

Because it’s a private function, I’m allowed to sit at the bar to drink my soda. I tuck myself into a far corner, away from the main dining floor, away from people because I’ve hit my saturation point for sympathy. Every sad smile, every How are you doing?, every fond anecdote about my grandfather makes me want to scream, but I suck it up and smile back and say I’m fine and say thank you because I promised Dad I would, for Mom’s sake.

Not that she looks all that upset. I glance over at the small round dining table where she’s set up shop, and she’s having a grand time. People come and go in steady rotation, briefly sitting down to chat, share a laugh, presumably about something amusing Granddad said or did that one time (Oh, remember that? Wasn’t that hysterical?), then move on, so the next well-wisher can offer up an entertaining story.

Behind Mom, Dad and Ben lean against the wall and talk animatedly. They seem to be getting along just fine. How lovely.

Hell, everyone here looks like they’re enjoying themselves. People talk, drink, snack, and joke like there’s nothing to be sad about, certainly not the unfortunate state of the late Gregory Briggs, present in neither body nor spirit. Out of sight, out of mind.

I look up from my drink. There’s a man standing next to me, dressed in a black suit. I glance over at Stuart and Malcolm, who have become momentarily distracted by some private conversation. The man gives me the same melancholy smile I’ve received a million times over tonight.

“Sorry to bother you,” he says, “but I wanted to let you know how sorry I am for your loss.”

“Thank you,” I say, and the effort of saying even that little is exhausting.

“You’re strong,” he says, and for a moment he looks like he’s got something more to say to me, but he turns away and melts into the crush of mourners.

My entire body goes rigid with a sudden rush of undiluted rage. My fists ball up so tightly I could crush rocks in them. My chest constricts and each breath becomes a Herculean effort and my head spins and I need to get out of here.

“Carrie?” Malcolm says as I stumble off my barstool.

“I’m fine.”

“Do you need —?”

“I’m fine. Going to the bathroom,” I lie.

I head outside, away from people, away from sympathy, away from pity, away from I’m sorry and He was a good man and He’s in a better place now

The restaurant, a converted Colonial-era home, sits on a good-sized piece of property. It’s surrounded on three sides by lawn and shrubbery and trees, and there are park benches scattered around the periphery. I all but collapse onto one of the benches and let the cool night air settle onto my skin, hoping it’ll relax me. It doesn’t, so I sit there, my legs jittering with enough nervous energy to power Boston for a year.

I close my eyes for a minute. When I open them, I see Stuart strolling across the parking lot toward me. He stops at the edge of the grass.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” I say.

Stuart stands there, hands in his pockets, perhaps waiting for me to tell him to piss off, go away, leave me alone. I scootch over on the bench. He sits.

For a long time, neither of us speaks.

“You know what the worst part of this whole thing is?” I say, my voice strangled.

“Feeling like you have no right to your own emotions,” Stuart says. “Your family’s a total mess and you think, okay, someone needs to be the whatchacallit, the level head, and you decide it’s going to be you, so you bottle everything up. It’s for a good reason so first you’re like, okay, no big whoop, I can deal—then all these other people start showing up, and they’re miserable too, so you keep the game face on, but you start wondering when it’s going to be your turn to feel sad. I mean, you’re broken up about it too, right?

“Then you look around and all of a sudden people are acting like everything’s normal. They’re talking and laughing and goofing around and no one’s sad anymore, and you’re convinced you totally missed your chance to mourn—like there was a deadline and you completely blew it because you were too busy being strong for everyone else. Now you’re pissed off at everyone for cheating you like that. And the thing that finally pushes you over the edge? No one even seems to notice. It’s like you made this huge emotional sacrifice and no one noticed because they were so wrapped up in themselves.”

Stuart sighs and looks up. We’re close to the center of town. The glow of countless lights from nearby parking lots and homes and businesses peers over the tree line like a false dawn. We shouldn’t be able to see anything because of the light pollution, but tonight the stars are defiant. Every constellation is crisp and brilliant in the clear night sky.

“I noticed,” Stuart says.

Of course he did. If anyone would, it would be Stuart.

Something in me cracks. I try to speak but all I manage is a coughing sob, and then my bottle shatters. Stuart drapes an arm over my shoulders. I slump into his chest, and everything I’ve been holding back comes gushing out of me.

My grandfather is dead.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for late 2021 release.

Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Production is about to begin on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a late 2021 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootTwins and Losses: In the editing phase. Tentatively set for a fall/winter 2021 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Nothing scheduled.

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – A Series Overview

What’s it About?

Derek Strongarm and Felix Lightfoot are a pair of hard-luck adventurers for hire with an unfortunate knack for landing jobs that pay too little and threaten their lives too much. Erika Racewind is a hardened elven warrior who doesn’t like people, except maybe when she’s killing them. Winifred Graceword is a kindhearted elven priestess skilled in the healing arts. David is a young sorcerer on a path to discover who he really is — and whether that person has a last name, because going by just David is getting old fast.

Together these companions travel across the land of Asaches looking for adventure and the glory and riches that come with it. Mostly the riches, though, because you can’t buy food and beer with glory.

Who is this Series For?

Sword-and-sorcery fantasy fans looking for something a little lighter than most of the fare currently on the shelves. If you want heavy, dark, serious stories with lots of death, destruction, torture, rape, and political intrigue, go read something else because you won’t find it here.

What you will find is a fast-paced adventure filled with colorful characters, rip-roaring action, humor, and gentle jabs at the classic elements of fantasy fiction.

Which is not to say this series is a comedy or parody. There is still drama aplenty, but as a rule I don’t take things too seriously. You can read these books and not feel like you need a hug and a room full of puppies afterward.

Is it Suitable for Young Readers?

Not really. The series is a hard PG-13/light R for violence, language, and sexual content. It is suitable for older teens, but not for the YA crowd.

What are the Books in the Series?

Scratching a Lich: Derek and Felix find themselves entangled in an urgent quest to slay a legendary lich before he can trigger a world-ending apocalypse – as insane undead sorcerers are wont to do. Together with Erika Racewind, bodyguard for a mysterious young wizard named David, and Winifred Graceword, they head out to discover lost cities, recover long lost magical artifacts, and slay great evils in order to fulfill curiously specific prophecies – as mismatched, ragtag groups of adventurers are wont to do.

Assassins Brawl: The companions are hired to safeguard a spoiled brat of a princess targeted for death by the assassin Ruined Isys, but as is often the case, there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Now all they have to do is determine who is behind the plot before they get caught in the crossfire.

Blades of Glory: Derek, Felix, and company are up for a job that seems a little too simple for a payday that seems a little too generous – but unfortunately, so are the famed adventurers of fortune known as the Noble Blades. Which of them will be the first to find a stolen ceremonial mask that is absolutely positively completely normal and not at all some lost artifact possessed of dark power?

Sworded Affairs: The company takes a job to dispose of a potentially dangerous magical artifact only to become snowbound in an isolated city besieged by flesh-hungry beasts — and under assault from within by a dark conspiracy.

Elfish Motives: Winifred Graceword is called home under mysterious circumstances, which lead to the company revisiting the lost even city of Wihend. But what do the four clans want with their long-abandoned ancestral home?

Twins and Losses: The company finally returns home to Ambride, only to become immediately embroiled in a scandal threatening to consume the Ambride Academy of Magic. Scheduled for late 2021/early 2022 release.

The Final Summons – An Anthology of the New England Speculative Writers: Featuring The Going Rate For Penance, a short story set in the Strongarm & Lightfoot world. Mercenaries Jessica and Samantha Summerland receive an assignment from their least favorite client, and one way or another, this will be their last job.

How Long Will the Series Run?

Unknown, but tentatively ten books.

Are They Available As Audiobooks?

The first four books, narrated by Heather S. Auden, are currently available on Audible.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read can read sample chapters from Scratching a Lich, buy signed copies, connect with me through social media, and get regular updates at my website: innsmouthlook.com

Weekly Update – October 19, 2021

It’s been a slow writing week, so I’m going to use this space today to flog a point I’ve mentioned several times already, and that is to make sure to do your holiday shopping early — especially if you’re buying books, and especially if you’re buying them from an independent book store or an indie author directly.

On that note, I do plan to run some sales after Thanksgiving, one on the Kindle editions of my first books in my three series on Cyber Monday, and some kind of sale on signed print editions purchased directly from me via this website. The details of that second sale are TBD, so stay tuned.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for late 2021 release.

Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Production is about to begin on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a late 2021 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootTwins and Losses: In the editing phase. Tentatively set for a fall/winter 2021 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Nothing scheduled.

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Action Figures – A Series Overview

What’s it About?

The series focuses on Carrie Hauser, a 15-year-old girl who one summer experiences two life-changing events: her parents announce they’re getting divorced, and she gains superhuman abilities after encountering a dying extraterrestrial after he falls to Earth.

Her adventure begins after Carrie and her mother Christina move back to Christina’s childhood home town of Kingsport, Massachusetts, and Carrie meets four teens with powers of their own: superhero fanboy Matt Steiger, who owns a pair of magic gloves that can produce any object he can envision out of thin air, like a living cartoon character; Sara Danvers, a telepath and telekinetic who is afraid of her own abilities; the easygoing Stuart Lumley, who possesses superhuman strength; and Missy Hamill, an adorable motormouth with enhanced strength and reflexes.

The teens form a superhero team almost on a whim, but soon find themselves fighting for their lives against very real super-villains – much to the dismay of Kingsport’s hometown hero Concorde, leader of the super-team The Protectorate.

Who is this Series For?

Fans of superhero comics, TV shows, and movies in general, but particularly of titles featuring teen heroes such as Young Justice, Teen Titans, Young Avengers, and Champions.

The tone is generally lighter than a lot of YA books out there now. While there is drama and conflict, and some later stories deal with darker issues, I try to keep the series fun, upbeat, and optimistic.

Is it Suitable for Young Readers?

Action Figures is a PG-13 series that contains mild to moderate profanity, non-graphic violence, some mature themes, and later on in the series mild sexual content.

An added word about the violent content: while the violence is not graphic, the consequences are not downplayed. This isn’t sanitized Hollywood violence. People get hurt just as they would in real life and do not easily shrug off injuries, and in some cases the characters have to deal with the emotional trauma of their experiences.

What are the Books in the Series?

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret OriginsCarrie and her new friends in the Hero Squad (yes, they know their team name is awful) find themselves caught in the crossfire as the deadly mercenary Manticore comes to Kingsport, on the hunt for the rogue artificial intelligence known as Archimedes. Soon to be available through Audible!

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women – The sorceress Black Betty threatens to raise hell – maybe literally – as she pursues her vendetta against the Protectorate’s resident paranormal expert Dr. Enigma.

Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect – Missy’s life is turned upside-down when she learns the truth about the source of her powers, and her connection to the bloodthirsty killer Buzzkill Joy.

Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel SummerSara finds herself in the crosshairs of the mysterious hero killer the King of Pain, but to save herself, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear.

Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-UpsThe Hero Squad, still reeling from their devastating encounter with the King of Pain, get a little help picking up the pieces from their friends in the Protectorate and the Quantum Quintet.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play – The Squad finds itself outnumbered and under-powered after one of their members goes missing – and at the worst possible time as foes from their past reappear, more dangerous than ever and ready to exact revenge.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War – On Earth, Carrie Hauser is a hero, but on the far side of the galaxy, she’s just another soldier on the front lines of an interplanetary war against the terrorists in the Black End.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage – Carrie returns to Earth to reclaim her life, but life has moved on without her. Does she have a place with her team, her friends, or her family anymore?

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury – Black Betty is back, and ready to unleash Hell — literally, but can the Hero Squad trust Dr. Enigma to have their backs? Or does she have her own dark agenda?

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences – The Hero Squad learns that hard way that no good deed goes unpunished and the sins of their past have not been forgotten.

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Stepping Up – Collects the first three books in the series (Secret Origins, Black Magic Women, Pasts Imperfect) and features a new foreward by Patrick Hodges and a new introduction by the author.

How Long Will the Series Run?

The series is plotted out to eleven, possibly twelve books in the main series. There are potential spinoffs in the works, but the core Action Figures series will come to an end by 2023.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read can read sample chapters from Secret Origins, short stories set in the Action Figures world, buy signed copies, connect with me through social media, and get regular updates at my website: innsmouthlook.com

Weekly Update – October 12, 2021

My office has a couch again, which means I can use it for writing again!

You can tell by the photo I still have a lot of work to do, namely installing all the built-in storage, but The Writer’s Block is at least functional from a writing perspective. I have a place to sit, my desk, a TV for background noise…I’m good to go!

I officially baptized the office Monday, taking advantage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day (screw Christopher Columbus) to get a full writing day in in the revitalized space. The empty walls called to be, tempting me to abandon the laptop and build more shelves, but the current high cost of lumber is going to keep progress on that part of the project restrained for a while yet.

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for late 2021 release.

Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Production is about to begin on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a late 2021 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootTwins and Losses: In the editing phase. Tentatively set for a fall/winter 2021 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Nothing scheduled.

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Station Identification Time

Who Am I?

I’m a writer originally from Falmouth, MA who now lives in Oxford, MA with my awesome wife Veronica, our bulldog Beatrix, and four cats who don’t like to let us sleep in.

After 15 years with the Falmouth Enterprise, where I worked as a general and political reporter, blogger, and editor, I left the news industry to focus on my creative writing.

In addition to my novels (more on that in a minute) I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve produced scripts for Pastimes Entertainment of Revere, MA and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.

What Do I Write?

Action Figures is a YA superhero adventure series featuring a team of young superhumans who set out to make a name for themselves in the superhero world and quickly find themselves in over their heads. Fun, full of humor and action, populated with likable characters (including some of the villains), and suitable for teen readers and adults who still love superheroes. Oh, and no love triangles. Ever. The first book, Secret Origins, reached the #1 spot on two Amazon best-seller lists, and the ninth book, Hell Hath No Fury, reached #1 on one Amazon best-seller list.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is my response to all the overly serious fantasy novels out there that have forgotten how to have fun. The series follows two hard-luck adventurers for hire with a knack for biting off more than they can chew and their friends as they explore ancient ruins, fight deadly monsters, go on epic prophecy-driven quests for artifacts of great power hidden in highly inconvenient locations, and cross a lot of rickety rope bridges along the way. The first book, Scratching a Lich, received a gold medal for fantasy fiction from BellaOnline, a resource for women in writing, which also recognizes feminist writers and their work. The first four books are available in audiobook format.

Beneath the Mask is an anthology of superhero romance stories. The collection, scheduled for a February 14, 2021 release, features ten stories, including my story Like a Knife in the Heart, starring a new character, the Sapphire Silhouette.

Cheap Thrills Digest is a short story collection featuring introductions to my two series, plus an original novelette-length horror story, Lost Souls, which is exclusive to CTD. If you’re curious about my writing, you can grab this for just $6 in print or 99 cents in e-book format.

The Final Summons is the first anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. The collection features 14 fantasy, horror, and science fiction stories by NESW members, including my story The Going Rate for Penance, which is set in the world of Strongarm & Lightfoot.

Freedom Winds is a mini-comic I wrote for Underdog Comics, and you can read it for free at any time here, here, or here.

Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

Well-Behaved Women is an urban fantasy trilogy for feminist audiences. After returning to work following a near-fatal shooting, Sergeant Rose Booker encounters a woman claiming to be the reincarnation of Julie d’Aubigny, the infamous 17th Century French swordswoman. Things only get stranger from there as Rose and Julie cross paths with a crime boss with a knack for exacting bloody revenge on his enemies. This is more serious and mature than my other projects — not recommended for young readers. Book one, Awakening, is now available. Book two, Transition, was released in April 2019, and book three, Endtimes, was released August 2019. The entire trilogy is available in audiobook format.

Meet the Innsmouth Look Publishing Team

Heather Auden is a professional actor and audiobook narrator. She narrates The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot series and did the second and third books of the Well-Behaved Women trilogy. You can find her other audiobook work on Audible.

Bethany Boles is a professional actor, a former PA for the Jim Henson Company, and is active in the children’s television production industry in California. She narrates the Action Figures series.

Darci Cole is an author and narrator, who narrated the first book in the Well-Behaved Women trilogy. You can find her other audiobook work on Audible, and preorder her debut novel, Target, on Amazon.

Patricia Lupien is a graphic artists and designer who is responsible for the covers that grace all books produced by Innsmouth Look Publishing. Visit the Art Store page to buy her art on a variety of products.

Julie Tremblay began as a beta reader for Innsmouth Look Publishing before taking over as regular editor on all the company’s novels.

What Will I See Here?

I post weekly updates that include progress reports on various projects, cover art reveals, new release announcements, a schedule of appearances and book-signings, the occasion essay on writing, and whatever random bits and pieces capture my attention.

Where Can You Find Me Online?

Official website

Weekly newsletter

Amazon author page

Facebook

Twitter

BookBub

Instagram

Goodreads

LinkedIn

Weekly Update – October 5, 2021

Alas, another slow writing week this week. I reviewed audio for the Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins audiobook, got some work done on the first draft of book eleven in the series, and that’s it. However, on a tangentially related note, I finished the flooring in my office! I still have a lot of work to do before it’s truly finished, but as soon as I get my new couch in, I can use the space for writing again!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for late 2021 release.

Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Production is about to begin on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a late 2021 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootTwins and Losses: In the editing phase. Tentatively set for a fall/winter 2021 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Nothing scheduled.

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Station Identification Time

Who Am I?

I’m a writer originally from Falmouth, MA who now lives in Oxford, MA with my awesome wife Veronica, our bulldog Beatrix, and four cats who don’t like to let us sleep in.

After 15 years with the Falmouth Enterprise, where I worked as a general and political reporter, blogger, and editor, I left the news industry to focus on my creative writing.

In addition to my novels (more on that in a minute) I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve produced scripts for Pastimes Entertainment of Revere, MA and the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.

What Do I Write?

Action Figures is a YA superhero adventure series featuring a team of young superhumans who set out to make a name for themselves in the superhero world and quickly find themselves in over their heads. Fun, full of humor and action, populated with likable characters (including some of the villains), and suitable for teen readers and adults who still love superheroes. Oh, and no love triangles. Ever. The first book, Secret Origins, reached the #1 spot on two Amazon best-seller lists, and the ninth book, Hell Hath No Fury, reached #1 on one Amazon best-seller list.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot is my response to all the overly serious fantasy novels out there that have forgotten how to have fun. The series follows two hard-luck adventurers for hire with a knack for biting off more than they can chew and their friends as they explore ancient ruins, fight deadly monsters, go on epic prophecy-driven quests for artifacts of great power hidden in highly inconvenient locations, and cross a lot of rickety rope bridges along the way. The first book, Scratching a Lich, received a gold medal for fantasy fiction from BellaOnline, a resource for women in writing, which also recognizes feminist writers and their work. The first four books are available in audiobook format.

Beneath the Mask is an anthology of superhero romance stories. The collection, scheduled for a February 14, 2021 release, features ten stories, including my story Like a Knife in the Heart, starring a new character, the Sapphire Silhouette.

Cheap Thrills Digest is a short story collection featuring introductions to my two series, plus an original novelette-length horror story, Lost Souls, which is exclusive to CTD. If you’re curious about my writing, you can grab this for just $6 in print or 99 cents in e-book format.

The Final Summons is the first anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. The collection features 14 fantasy, horror, and science fiction stories by NESW members, including my story The Going Rate for Penance, which is set in the world of Strongarm & Lightfoot.

Freedom Winds is a mini-comic I wrote for Underdog Comics, and you can read it for free at any time here, here, or here.

Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

Well-Behaved Women is an urban fantasy trilogy for feminist audiences. After returning to work following a near-fatal shooting, Sergeant Rose Booker encounters a woman claiming to be the reincarnation of Julie d’Aubigny, the infamous 17th Century French swordswoman. Things only get stranger from there as Rose and Julie cross paths with a crime boss with a knack for exacting bloody revenge on his enemies. This is more serious and mature than my other projects — not recommended for young readers. Book one, Awakening, is now available. Book two, Transition, was released in April 2019, and book three, Endtimes, was released August 2019. The entire trilogy is available in audiobook format.

Meet the Innsmouth Look Publishing Team

Heather Auden is a professional actor and audiobook narrator. She narrates The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot series and did the second and third books of the Well-Behaved Women trilogy. You can find her other audiobook work on Audible.

Bethany Boles is a professional actor, a former PA for the Jim Henson Company, and is active in the children’s television production industry in California. She narrates the Action Figures series.

Darci Cole is an author and narrator, who narrated the first book in the Well-Behaved Women trilogy. You can find her other audiobook work on Audible, and preorder her debut novel, Target, on Amazon.

Patricia Lupien is a graphic artists and designer who is responsible for the covers that grace all books produced by Innsmouth Look Publishing. Visit the Art Store page to buy her art on a variety of products.

Julie Tremblay began as a beta reader for Innsmouth Look Publishing before taking over as regular editor on all the company’s novels.

What Will I See Here?

I post weekly updates that include progress reports on various projects, cover art reveals, new release announcements, a schedule of appearances and book-signings, the occasion essay on writing, and whatever random bits and pieces capture my attention.

Where Can You Find Me Online?

Official website

Weekly newsletter

Amazon author page

Facebook

Twitter

BookBub

Instagram

Goodreads

LinkedIn

The Best of the Rest

If you enjoy Michael’s full-length novels, check out these anthologies, collections, and side-projects featuring his work. Available on Amazon, and signed print editions may be purchased directly from the author.

Beneath the Mask – A Superhero Romance Anthology features ten tantalizing tales of masked heroes saving the day and falling in love.

From sweet saviors to steamy angelic warriors, reluctant heroes to grumpy playboys, this anthology has something for everyone who’s ever fantasized about being a hero…or falling for one.

Do you dare to peek behind the mask and live out your sweetest, darkest, steamiest fantasies?

Each story includes superheroes and swoon-worthy happily-ever-afters!

Cheap Thrills Digest is a bargain-priced short story collection featuring tales from Action Figures and The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot, the original horror short Lost Souls, and the essay Critiquing Critiques – How to Leave a Review.

Freedom Winds is a mini-comic written by me, illustrated by Tessa Beatrice, and distributed by Underdog Comics and artist Tessa Beatrice. The comic follows the adventures of a crew of renegade pirate women fighting the Triangle Trade.

You can go read it on Underdog Comics’ Facebook page now, as well as on TapasWebToonBecomics and Tumblr. Please support this small press by liking the comic and sharing the link!

Copyright 2018 Tessa Beatrice/Underdog Comics

The Final Summons is the first anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. This collection of sci-fi and fantasy stories includes The Going Rate for Penance by me, a fantasy short set in the world of The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot. Available in hardcover, paperback, and for the Kindle.

Weekly Update – September 28, 2021

Slow writing week this week, but as I speak I am reviewing a batch of audio uploads for the Action Figures audiobook. My narrator Bethany is pushing to get this wrapped up in time for the holiday shopping season, so fingers crossed!

In other mildly interesting news, I’m waiting to hear back about two author events: the Nahant Public Library’s annual indie author day, to which I’ve been invited several times but have never been able to attend due to other commitments; and Arisia 2022.

Of course, my excitement at the prospect of being at these events is tempered by the fact that (gestures at the state of the entire country). Seriously, people, get vaccinated already.

In closing this week, enjoy this admittedly dull photo of my basement office remodeling project. It’s almost time to start making the built-in storage!

WRITING PROJECTS

Action Figures – Secret Origins: Audiobook recording underway, scheduled for late 2021 release.

Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Production is about to begin on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a late 2021 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootTwins and Losses: In the editing phase. Tentatively set for a fall/winter 2021 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Nothing scheduled.

MISC.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.