“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

Arm linked with the Prophet Kid, Val escorted him to where Eddy waited in a parked car behind the warehouse. Val opened the back door and nudged the kid inside.

“Eddy, meet the Prophet Kid. Prophet Kid, Eddy.”

Eddy Capello was a big, barrel-chested man who’d worked for Val’s family since before she’d been born. Despite having sat in the comfy air-conditioning all this time, he’d taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, revealing a huge tattoo of a skull on his forearm. (Val had always thought it was tacky but didn’t have the heart to tell him.) Oh, and without his jacket, you could see his shoulder holster with two Brownings. That was probably more noticeable than the tattoo.

“Hey, Kid,” he said, putting the car into drive.

“My name is Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” the kid muttered.

“You sure you’d rather go by that?” Val asked. “It’s kind of a mouthful. And that’s coming from Valentina Mariangela Belmonte.”

“Whatever.”

“Can you believe this kid, Eddy?” Val asked. “The Black Valentine breaks him out of police custody—something that I’m sure is the start of a fantasy for lots of teenage boys—and all he can say is ‘whatever.’ Not even a thank you.”

“Kids these days.” Eddy shook his head as he drove five miles under the speed limit. “No manners at all.”

Val watched the Prophet Kid’s reaction. He was slouched over and scowling, ignoring their banter. Oh, well. She would have preferred a thank you and a profession of undying devotion, but she didn’t strictly need it. This was a job, after all.

“So do you really go by Jean-Baptiste, or do you have a nickname?” she asked.

He didn’t answer, so she read his mind.

“JB, huh? I like that better.”

“Only my friends call me that.”

“And we’re not friends? After I risked life and limb to keep you out of prison? JB, I’m hurt.”

“Did you ever think that maybe I didn’t want to get broken out?” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 2

David Del Toro saw the crowd in front of the courthouse the moment the car turned onto 6th Street. His head thumped against the back of his seat, and he resisted the urge to groan.

“I don’t suppose you know a back way in?” he asked the driver.

“No, sir. Sorry. I’ll get you as close to the front door as I can.”

“I appreciate it,” Dave sighed more than spoke. He looked out the side window and pointedly ignored the glare of the woman next to him.

“Thanks a lot, White Knight,” she said, her tone half-joking. No, make that only a quarter joking.

He turned to face Agent Moreen Lee. At five-foot-five, with chin-length brown hair and a drab brown business suit, she was more intimidating than most supervillains he knew.

“Please don’t blame this on me,” he said.

“They’re not waiting out there to see me.”

Dave glanced back at the crowd. They were close enough for him to see details now, like the woman in a full wedding dress holding a sign that said, “Marry Me, White Knight!”

“You’d think it was a rock concert,” he muttered, “Not a trial that’s going to determine the outcome of a boy’s life.”

“Yeah, well, they must not get to see very many superheroes here.”

“But Ft. Lauderdale has its own superhero.”

Moreen drummed her fingers on the door handle. “Who can talk to birds. It’s not a very impressive power.”

“Those birds are one of the best surveillance networks in the country.”

“I’m not saying he’s not a good hero. I’m just saying you can see why his fan club might not be as big as yours.”

The car reached the courthouse before Dave could argue any further. The sidewalk was swamped with people. Men and women with cameras stood on top of benches to get shots over the heads of the crowd, and parents carried children on their shoulders to give them a better look. Fortunately, uniformed police officers had managed to keep a clear path to the front entrance.

Dave wished he wasn’t in costume. Without his mask, he’d be just an ordinary brown-haired man who could blend into the crowd—or blend in as much as was possible for someone who stood at six feet four inches. But he was testifying officially as White Knight, so he’d just have to deal with the mob.

The driver pulled up to the open path and wished them luck. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 2

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1

Valentina Belmonte was waiting for a police van. She stood in an alley between two warehouses, drinking a mango smoothie as she watched cars pass by. Some kind of office building stood across the cracked, pothole-filled street. She should have talked her way in there and waited in the air-conditioning. The shade from the warehouses brought the temperature down from ninety to maybe eighty-eight. Summer in Florida. How the heck did other supervillains work here?

If this were any other job, she’d be in costume, but her costume had long pants, knee-high boots, and no small amount of black leather. She’d have gotten heatstroke twenty minutes ago if she’d worn that thing. So today, the Black Valentine was breaking the law in her civvies: the shortest pair of denim shorts she could find and a sleeveless shirt that showed off her midriff. And as a bonus, she didn’t have to worry about anyone spotting a masked supervillain and calling the cops.

Not that there were many people around to notice her. Two men had come out of the warehouse for a smoke break about twenty minutes ago, but Val had telepathically convinced them to ignore her and hadn’t had any trouble since. She sucked on the straw of her smoothie, trying to get the last bit of mango goodness from the bottom of the cup. Sweat dripped down the nape of her neck despite her hair being pulled up in a ponytail, and her skin felt sticky and gross. Once this job was over, she was celebrating with a dip in a pool somewhere.

A wolf whistle cut through the ambient noise of the street, directed at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Hey, honey!” the younger of the two warehouse workers called. “You’re looking sexy today. Where are you going?” The woman sped up, her mix of anger, shame, and fear hitting Val’s telepathic senses like a wave. “You’re just gonna ignore me?” the man hollered at her retreating back. “Learn to take a compliment, bitch!” He went back to talking with the other man, who was chuckling. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1

Fight Crime! (A Love Story)

Fight Crime! coverDavid Del Toro just wants to make the world a better place. It would be nice if he could find a way to do that without punching people, but as the superhero White Knight, that’s kind of in the job description.

Valentina Belmonte has one small, simple goal: to be the greatest supervillain who ever lived. Unfortunately, meddlesome heroes and her own backstabbing allies aren’t exactly making that goal easy to achieve.

The two of them really shouldn’t fall for each other, but even with incredible superpowers, they just can’t fight true love. Yet if they want to survive long enough to be together, they’ll have to battle invisible assassins, their own personal failings, and a power-hungry, ruthless crime lord who can kill with a single touch.

Fight Crime! (A Love Story) is an online serial beginning Monday, June 27th, at kristenbrand.com.

Villainous News & Interview

Villainous has broken into the top 100 in Amazon’s superhero category. (It’s hanging out at #56 at the time of this writing.) Thank you everybody for helping it get there!

And the super cool Amberly Smith has an interview with me up on her website here. We talk about Hero Status, comic books, and sharks with laser vision! Check it out if you like any of those things.

Villainous Cover Reveal

I’ve kept you guys waiting for this one for a while, but here it is. The final cover for Villainous:

Villainous Cover

I’m scheduled to send the book off to my editor at the end of this month and should hopefully have it finished and up on Amazon by the end of September. This is a little later than I’d hoped to have it out, so thank you all for your patience! I’ll be posting a preview chapter soon, and in the meantime, here’s a rough blurb of the plot:

 

Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) Val’s practically a model citizen these days; this time, it’s her goody-two-shoes former superhero of a husband who’s in trouble with the law. He saved her life two months ago—and committed a spectacular amount of property damage and assault along the way. The feds won’t press charges…as long as Val does something for them in exchange.

Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, so of course it blows up in her face. Her best lead dies mysteriously in custody, and Val nearly follows him to the grave. The feds are clueless as usual, but Val’s not used to being out-played at her own game. She’s worried she’s lost her touch since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…

News and Links

Hero Status has been out for about two months now, and it’s still hanging in there on Amazon’s bestseller list for superhero fiction! This completely blows my mind and smashes my expectations for this book (granted, my expectations were very, very low, but still).

Hero Status has also gotten some great reviews, one from the Open Book Society here, and another at My Train of Thoughts here.

I’ve got an article up on Superhero Nation here about using sensory details to enrich your story. It’s a great website for writers in general and writers of superhero fiction in particular, so check it out.

And finally, Hero Status was the fantasy pick last month at SciFi Fantasy Freak, which is a handy resource for new, free, and discounted spec fic ebooks.

And that’s it for now! Time for me to get back to work on Villainous.

Current Projects

So Hero Status came out last week. (Hooray!) Maybe you’ve bought it, read it, and are currently asking, “What’s next?” The answer to that question is not one, but two different projects.

  1. As I mentioned at the end of Hero Status, book 2 in the series will be called Villainous. It’s due out in 2015, and is from Val’s point of view. (I plan to alternate between Dave and Val as narrators throughout the series.)
  2. I’m also working on a prequel from Dave and Val’s pre-retirement days. This is going to be a free online serial that will update on this website once or twice a week. The working title is Fight Crime! (A Love Story).

I’m super excited about both of these projects and hope to have more news about them soon. But for now, these are all the details I can give out, so keep an eye out here for more updates.

Hero Status, Chapter 1

Hero Status is almost ready to be uploaded to Amazon! (That sound you hear is my excited squeal.) While I’m working on the final steps, check out this sample chapter.

Chapter 1

People like to debate where superpowers come from. What genetic mutation causes special abilities beyond what seems naturally possible? Experts theorize how the traits are inherited and what part the environment plays in affecting if and how they develop. I don’t have much to add to the discussion. Just because I have superpowers doesn’t mean I know how they work. Sometimes, though? I think they’re fueled by caffeine.

Lack of coffee was definitely my problem this morning. When the cook burst into the dining room with a shout, I should have calmly assessed the situation before reacting. Instead, I jumped and hit the table, jolting the silverware and knocking over my full cup of café con leche. Coffee drenched my wife’s favorite—and very expensive—white tablecloth and splattered onto the imported wood flooring. I winced and grabbed a napkin to sop up the spill.

Our cook was a big, burly man who’d gone to seed with age, the apron stretched across his beer gut reading, “Charred and Dangerous.” He tried to untie it, but his hands were still covered by oven mitts.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Feds outside.”

Before I could ask anything else, he rushed down the hallway, muttering something about hiding his guns. But I doubted federal agents had come all this way just for our cook’s illegal firearms.

“It’s probably nothing to worry about.” The maid smiled at me, ignoring the spill as she snatched a steak knife off the table. “They like to come around and ask questions every now and then.”

“This happened a lot in the old days?” I asked.

She shrugged and hurried off in the same direction as the cook. I stared stupidly after them for a moment, coffee still dripping onto the floor, then picked up my cane from where it rested against my chair. Standing up always made my knee twinge, but I ignored it and walked slowly into the kitchen. The room was wide, its floors and granite countertops so clean they reflected the light. The cook had left an omelet sizzling on the stove, and it filled the air with a smell that made my mouth water. I walked past it to the big window over the sink, and sure enough, two black SUVs were coming down the palm tree-lined driveway.

The omelet hissed and crackled angrily. I flipped it over, but the fluffy yellow egg mix was already crusted with black. I turned off the burner with a sigh. If I was going to have to deal with a government raid first thing in the morning, I’d like to do it on a full stomach, at least. Continue reading Hero Status, Chapter 1