So . . . How Ya Been?


This is just a general update on what’s been going on with me so I can keep everyone in the loop. Everybody knows that the world is falling apart around us, so instead of crying, let’s laugh a bit with a photomanip I posted a couple of years ago. Not my best work, but the message is profound–and kinda funny. It is, right? Right? RIGHT?

Where Are We Going? And What’s With this Handbasket?

M’kay. Now that that’s out of the way, how has everybody been? Schardein’s House O’ Madness went through about eight weeks of utter hell, but things have calmed down a bit. There’s still a lot going on, but they’re potentially very good things, and at least we aren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off at the moment. Here are some of the other good things I’m doing.

Vampire: the Masquerade

A friend and I are putting together a new VtM V.20 campaign out on Discord. We’re a ways off from getting it running, but if any VtM fans or other roleplayers are interested in taking a look, let me know and I’ll notify you when it’s finally up. Or, if you’re just interested in hearing our concept, I’ll be glad to share that, too. I think it’s a bit unusual, and people will probably either love it or hate it. As long as they don’t say it’s boring, I’ll be happy.

The new campaign will affect my “Something Went Wrong, Apparently,” fanfic so I’m taking it down. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some short stories or fanfic from our new campaign.

Remember Selene?

My Selene Stormblade fanfiction was a huge labor of love for me, and it was so hard to let it go. But I stopped playing Skyrim and began playing ESO, which is set about 900 years beforehand, so I had to move on. Unfortunately, the half a dozen ESO fanfictions I started didn’t go anywhere, and I’ve taken them down.

But. I’ve found a way to bring Selene into the ESO story (and hopefully Brynjolf at some point). It’s nowhere near canon, so if you’re an Elder Scrolls lore junkie, don’t say you weren’t warned. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but be kind and don’t tell me it’s not lore-friendly because you’ll already know that.

I’ve just started the story, and I’m going to get a few chapters under my belt before I post anything, mostly so I don’t have people faving it a year from now and waiting for new chapters that will never come. I haven’t even finished Chapter One yet, but it feels like coming home.

Speaking of coming home:

Lito’s Children

Hubby and I are still working on Book Two. It’ll be finished and published someday. I just know it.

SHAMELESS PLUG: In the meantime, if you haven’t read Book One, The Order of the White Guard, do check it out. It’s nearly ten years old now, but we’re still hawking it. Here is a preview, and here is the link to the page on Amazon. For Kindle Unlimited users, it’s a free download. This is a second edition. We lowered the price and made a minor change, so if you’ve already read it and want to know what we changed, just let me know. If you order, PLEASE order direction from Amazon, not from the used and new links. Those assholes never even bought the book. And leave a review! And tell your friends!

Two – Little Conversations


“I could not help feeling that they were evil things–
mountains of madness whose farther slopes looked out
over some accursed ultimate abyss.”

H.P. Lovecraft

After Alex hung up with the Sheriff, he made another call. A sultry feminine voice answered after a few rings.

“Bon soir, mon ami!”

“Bon soir,” he replied. “How is my favorite witch this eve?”

“Wicked,” she said with a giggle.

It was a conversation they’d had a dozen times in the past year or so. When she had changed her name last December, she had chosen Morgan after Morgan le Fey from King Arthur lore, but through endless jesting and teasing, they had somehow come around to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Alex loved this vibrant woman so. In 200 years, he had never met anyone like her. He had become jaded, aloof, and he would never have even thought of playful banter, with his childer or anyone else. But Diane would have none of it. She had rejuvenated him, forced him to come out of his shell and enjoy his existence again, and he had rewarded her with the Embrace. He counted the nights till the time her studies ended so she could rejoin him here in New Orleans.

“So. What’s going on in the Big Easy?” she asked, pulling him out of his reverie. “Anything juicy?”

He chuckled. “That’s one way to put it. You might be interested to know a couple of kine crossed my threshold tonight. They were looking for you.”

There was a pregnant pause on the line, and then, “Who?”

“She said her name was Margie.”

“I don’t know her.”

“Oh, I think you do. She claims to be your sister.”

“Oh, shit! Should I come home?”

“Not just yet. You must complete your studies, and there’s more to this. They didn’t say so, but a little telepathy told a much bigger story. Besides, we may already have a Masquerade violation on our hands. Let us not make it worse by letting your sister see what you’ve become before the time is right.”

Morgan let out a heavy sigh. “Gods damn it, I should have known she wouldn’t let it go. Let me guess: the boyfriend is really her partner, and they’re still investigating my disappearance.”

“Eh, yes and no. They’re investigating a series of murders that may be Sabbat related. I believe they used your photo to get a foot in the door here. I’ve phoned the Sheriff.”

“Alex, please don’t let him hurt them,” she entreated him with a quiver in her voice. “Please.”

“No one will hurt them, cheri, I give you my word.”

“Well, keep me posted and let me know if I should come home. Je t’aime.”

Je t’aime aussi. Goodnight, my love.”

* * *

Michael and Janelle waited twenty minutes for Mister Guidry’s return. They chatted quietly, staying in character in case he was listening. Michael finally got impatient and got up to go find their host, but the front door opened and two men came through the shop. He sat back down and eyed them curiously.

Both were wearing expensive business suits, and neither looked comfortable in them. One was imposing and looked like a hitman for the mob, or maybe a professional wrestler. He even had the blond hair and scarred forehead you might see on a seasoned veteran of the ring. He blocked the doorway, arms folded, and scowled at them. The other was smaller, with olive skin, tousled black hair, and a scruffy beard. And a warm smile. He had something Michael had never seen before other than on some ex-cons: face tattoos. The two marks were elaborate, both black and done in a flame motif. One of them crossed from his forehead to his left temple, and the other stretched from his lower right cheek down his neck.

“Ah, good, you’re here,” said Mister Guidry as he came down the stairs. “Mister Kai, what a pleasant surprise! I didn’t expect to see you here.”

The smaller man shrugged. “I was in the neighborhood.”

Guidry waved his hand toward the two on the couch. “Justin Schneider, Kai Kekoa, meet Steven and Margie Stanfield.”

“Oh, we’re not married,” they said in unison.

The wrestler stepped into the room and loomed over them. “I hear you’re looking for someone. And your search has led you . . . here. How did that happen?”

Michael wasn’t one to be intimidated, so he stood up. Schneider had barely given him room to move, but he did it anyway, pressing up against the larger man. “Dude. Why don’t you back up a bit? You’re scarin’ mah girlfriend.”

Schneider didn’t move, simply stood and glared down at him. Michael did the only thing he could think of. He climbed up on the couch and smiled down at the larger man.

Justin Schneider smiled back, but it was a cold smile. He still waited for Michael to answer.

“We’ve hit pretty much every occult shop in town,” he finally replied. “I think this is the last one we hadn’t been to.”

“And why the occult shops?”

Michael grimaced and regarded the giant suspiciously. He had conducted countless interrogations, and he knew one when he saw it. This gigantor was interrogating him. He couldn’t fathom why, unless he and Janelle had walked into some sort of trap. He looked down at Janelle, and she shrugged, so he told the truth. “Diane was pretty active in the occult community. We’re hopin’ we can find a connection somewhere.”

He turned his head toward Guidry, who was chatting quietly with Kai. “You said you could help,” he reminded the proprietor. “But I’m startin’ to feel like we’re helping you. What gives?”

Kai chuckled. “He’s not afraid of you at all, is he, Justin?”

“I bet I can make him scared.”

That would take some effort. Michael had seen a lot, and he wasn’t afraid of much, and certainly not any man, no matter how big he was.

“Now, now,” Guidry chided him. “Why don’t we take a beat and discuss ways we can help each other?”

Justin stepped back, and Michael sat back down.

“Your sister has been here,” Guidry assured Janelle. “She did not stay long, and I don’t know where she went.”

There was a tell, a minute tic of the eye, that Guidry probably didn’t even notice. But Michael did. Guidry was lying.

“Well, what did she do while she was here?” Janelle asked.

“Oh, just some shopping. Friendly girl, I remember that. Very pretty. You look very much alike.”

“And that’s why you had to call in goons?” she challenged him. “Did you think you were gonna need protection after you gave us such measly information?”

Kai smiled broadly and stepped closer, then sat down next to Michael. “My, do we have a pair here! Who are you two really?”

Michael furrowed a brow. “Whadda ya mean, ‘really’? We told you.”

Kai stared intently into his eyes for a long moment, then said, “I can spot a lie, too, my friend.”

“I’m certain you noticed his aura,” Guidry suggested.

“Oh, yes. Your aura screams . . . Michael.”

A chill went down Michael’s spine. “What the hell?”

“Somehow, I don’t think that was just a good guess,” Janelle accused the tattooed man. “How did you know his name?”

“Would you believe I can read his mind?”

“Not for a second,” Michael grunted. He held his gaze boldly, refusing to let this asshole know he was spooked.

“Clairvoyance, I’ve seen,” said Janelle, her heavy Cajun accent dropping slightly. “But telepathy is a myth.”

“Is it, though, Janelle?”

Schneider chuckled. “My size didn’t scare you, but that did, didn’t it? I can smell it on you.”

“I think it’s time we left,” Michael announced. He started to stand up, but Kai placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“My apologies, Michael. I truly didn’t mean to scare you. Sometimes, when the situation is right, I’m compelled to show off.” He looked up at Guidry. “I think we might be able to help each other out, don’t you?”

Guidry shrugged. “If you think it’s advisable. But I’ll need to make a call.”

“By all means, bring her here.” He turned back to Michael.

“Oh, God,” the big man groaned. “How many times have we had this conversation, only for it to end badly?”

Kai ignored him and turned back to the couple. “What do you really do, Michael? Police? Private investigator?”

Michael bit his lip so hard it bled, but the compulsion to answer was so powerful that he practically blurted it out. “NOPD. Eighth District.”

“And you’re working the Diane Stanfield case? Or is there more?”

Again, he felt as though someone were forcing the words from his mouth. “More. Some reports of human sacrifices.”

Schneider groaned. “Let me guess. Reports of people getting their heads bashed in. But when you arrived at the scene, you found empty graves.”

“We are so dead,” Janelle muttered.

* * *

The night is quiet as he and his team make their way through the city in the wee hours of the morning. Really quiet–too quiet. When the attack comes, it’s out of nowhere. His team, half a dozen experienced Navy SEALs with the acute senses of men who have spent years operating in the shadows, are taken completely by surprise.

Everything is a blur, and what he does see is terrible. So terrible. Monstrous creatures, fangs, claws, screams, sprays of blood. He shoots them, but it only makes them angry. Or worse, it makes them laugh. A head flies by, and his clothes get splattered with brains. Something grabs him from behind and bites him. He screams, fights, the creature snarls–

* * *


He opened his eyes and sat up in bed, a scream still on his lips. He was trembling and drenched with sweat, but the terror faded quickly. In the two seconds it took for him to shake himself awake and look back at Janelle, he relaxed and was fine. He didn’t even remember having a nightmare.

“What?” he asked abruptly.

“What do you mean, ‘what’? You were thrashing and screaming bloody murder. Scared the hell out of me.”

With that, he shrugged. “Dunno. I don’t remem–wait–how did we get here?” The last thing he could recall was that guy with the tattooed face sitting down next to him, and now he was at home in his own bed.

“I was going to ask you the same thing. I woke up when you started screaming, and I have no idea how we got here, either. Look at the clock.”

Michael looked over to see that it was 0500. They had entered Mister Guidry’s around 2030 last night and had been there about a half hour when the two men arrived. What the hell had they been doing for the last eight hours? A violent chill shook his entire body, and he began to hyperventilate. Sheer terror overtook him, and it was all he could do to keep from shrieking. He had felt like this before.

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” he whimpered over and over.

Janelle placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he suddenly realized he was curled up with his arms over his knees, rocking back and forth and dripping with sweat.

“Babe. Babe! What is it?” she prodded with a look of horror on her face.

He looked at her with bewilderment. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.” He turned and started to get out of bed when he noticed a piece of folded paper on the nightstand. He picked it up and opened it. It was a note, written by someone with a shaky hand.

“There is no way I’m calling that number,” Michael declared.

Five minutes later, he was picking up the phone.

One – Step Into My Parlor.


“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect,
and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.”

H.P. Lovecraft


People live in one of two worlds: either they live in a safe fantasy where all is right with the world and bad things happen to other people, or they live in the real world. Michael Connor used to believe the “real world” consisted of those who wanted to–and would–steal, harm, kill, manipulate, wage war, and basically do all manner of evil things to suit their own agendas. It still did, he supposed, but it turned out there was another world, a third one, that he was not prepared for. And it had nothing to do with the gorgeous witch standing next to him.

From the outside, the storefront looked like your typical New Orleans occult gift shop. The display window was crammed full of creepy looking merchandise set against a purple backdrop, along with neon signs that read, “Tarot Readings,” “Discover Your Psychic Awareness,” and “Meeting Site for French Quarter Ghost Tour.” The sign over the door was not neon, and it was lit with only a soft-white bulb. It was hard to see amid the garish lights of the Quarter’s nighttime atmosphere, which Mike suspected was by design. The sign said “Mister Guidry’s Arcane Emporium” and had a tiny metallic symbol attached in the bottom right-hand corner. The symbol was a stylized sword with what looked like a halo around the hilt. It was so subtle that it was almost invisible, and Mike had to squint to make it out.

There were a dozen of these shops in the Quarter, and more than half of them were a front for some sort of organized crime syndicate or gang. At the very least, they were paying protection money to someone. Most of the others–most–were scams. According to Janelle, two or three of them were legitimate psychics or witches. Their readings were accurate, and their magickal items actually worked. This shop, however, was a mystery. It had been here forever, and the proprietor had kept his nose clean. The only stories that came out of this place were good reviews. Even Janelle, who was thoroughly dialed into the city’s occult subculture, knew next to nothing about the shop. That alone made Mike suspicious.

Once upon a time, the NOPD had gotten several calls a week about cults that were doing something nefarious; but more often than not, they turned out to be mundane, just not exactly Christian. People were more tolerant these days, or at least less fearful. When they did call, the cops were experienced enough to determine if there really was something nefarious going on or if the “cultists” were just doing their own thing. That said, they had instituted an Occult Investigations Task Force, the only one in the U.S. It consisted of a handful of uniformed officers, consultants, and researchers, most with some experience or knowledge of the occult. Janelle was one of four detectives working in the field, all of them with personal life experience in such a community.

Once in a while, one of local groups garnered the wrong kind of attention. Six months ago, the task force started getting reports of a cult that was performing human sacrifices. One even said they had witnessed a gang smashing someone over the head and burying them alive.  There was evidence of activity at the crime scene, and the ground had been dug up and then recovered. A dig revealed no body and, oddly, no forensic evidence whatsoever. It was as though they had dug the hole and then immediately covered it back up while wearing hazmat suits. It was unusual enough for the department to open an investigation, and after way too long, the search had led them here to Mister Guidry’s.

This case had turned into quite a saga. For Mike part, it had started with a standard murder investigation. He was a detective with NOPD’s Sixth District, and at first, it hadn’t seemed like anything unusual. It turned out there was a lot more to it, and he had been working the case for months, following one lead after another, until it had led him to the Eighth District and the French Quarter, where he crossed paths with Janelle. She was working the human sacrifice case and had been undercover for six months. It didn’t take much to figure out they were basically working the same case, so they joined forces–in more ways than one, but now wasn’t the time to think about that. They were on the job.

Mike and Janelle entered the establishment and paused just inside the door, arguing quietly. Mike was in his mid-30’s, red haired and green eyed, above average in height and solidly built, with a plain face and a pronounced slouch. He wore board shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, with Birkenstocks on his feet, small gold hoops in his ears, and a pentacle amulet around his neck. A fake sleeve tattoo covered his right arm. Janelle was a black-haired, blue-eyed beauty who looked like every sexy witch poster Mike had ever seen. She was fair-skinned and svelte, and she usually wore some sort of Bohemian style of clothing unless she expected to be running after a perp. Today, she wore a black spaghetti-strap dress with half a dozen tattoos showing on her arms. Some of the tattoos were real, but some had been placed there to enhance her look. Pentacles hung around her neck and from her ears. She was the epitome of a goth chick, and they made an odd pair. Then again, it was The Big Easy, and you never knew what you were going to see.

“We shouldn’t be here, babe,” Mike whispered with a mild Southern drawl.

Pour l’amour des dieux, cher, how many times do we have to have this conversation?” Janelle replied in an exaggerated Cajun accent. “We’ve gotta find out what happened to her, Steven. It’s been months, and the cops aren’t doin’ shit.”

“Well, if these guys do know something, what makes you think they’re gonna tell us? More likely, we’ll end up like Diane.”

A man walked out of the back room and around the counter to join them by the door. He was short, maybe 5’6″ tall, with pale skin, black hair, and inky black eyes. He had a broad, friendly smile on his face as he approached. “Welcome to Mister Guidry’s. How can I help you?”

Janelle pulled a small picture out of her bra and handed it to the man. “We’re looking for her,” she said shakily. “Have you seen her?”

He examined the picture closely and then looked back at them, studying them as intently. “What’s your name, love?”

“Why do you want to know her name?” Mike demanded.

“Just courtesy, I assure you. I’m Mister Guidry.”

“Margie. It’s Margie. That’s Steven. Diane is my sister.”


“Yeah. Diane Stanfield.”

He peered at them for a long moment, and Mike got the distinct impression this creepy guy was reading their minds. Or just reading them. It could just be part of the occult shop’s schtick, but it didn’t seem like an act. Something was . . . off . . . about Guidry, and it made Mike extremely uncomfortable.

The proprietor finally handed the picture back to Janelle. “I believe I can help you,” he said magnanimously.

Janelle’s pale face lit up. “You’ve seen her? Where?”

“Let me make some calls.”

“Calls?” Mike repeated. “To who?”

“Follow me, please.”

“I don’t think–“

“Follow. Me.”

The compulsion to follow Mister Guidry was overwhelming, and Mike took Janelle’s hand and led her to the back of the shop to a waiting area with some comfortable chairs, several candles burning, and soft music playing “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John.

“Have a seat,” Guidry instructed them. “I’ll be with you in a moment. There is coffee and tea on the sideboard if you’re interested.”

Janelle gave Mike a perplexed look, but she sat down and pulled him with her as Guidry ascended a set of stairs at the back of the room. “I get nothing from this guy,” she whispered. “You?”

“He seemed awfully eager to help. And there’s something about him I can’t put my finger on.”

“Eerie, right? Kind of . . . off.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

She tilted her head curiously. “We could be in the right place.”

“Keep your eyes open.”

She flashed a stunning grin at him, showing perfect, white teeth that her parents had paid thousands of dollars for. “Always do.”

* * *

Alex made his way upstairs, out of earshot, to his apartment. It looked how one might expect a French Quarter psychic’s home to look–baroque, with lots of deep colors, shelves full of crystals, herbs, potions, and several occult symbols hanging on the walls. It had been centuries since he had used such things, but they still made him feel at home, so he kept them around. Besides, the neonates seemed to appreciate them, as well.

He sat down at a massive, ornate desk and made a few notes in the laptop sitting to the right; then he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Davis,” a gruff male voice barked on the other end after four rings.

“Sheriff, it’s Alex Guidry. I have evidence that we may have a Masquerade violation.”

Something Went Wrong, Apparently.


Not with me. At least, not now. This is the title of my new Vampire: the Masquerade fanfiction.

A unspeakable incident while Michael Connor was a Navy SEAL utterly broke him. Fortunately, he doesn’t remember it. He becomes a detective in the New Orleans PD and gets the attention of the local Kindred during a murder investigation. This story chronicles his adventures over the next thirty years or so, first in New Orleans, and then across the South.