Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Published in July: A New Charm City Darkness Short Story

Occult Detective QuarterlyThe latest edition of Occult Detective Quarterly contains a new Charm City Darkness short story called Light from Pure Digestion Bred.

The story takes place in the time frame between Book 2, A Favor for a Fiend, and Book 3, A Blue Collar Proposition. This is important because in that time period, Assumpta is still demon-marked. How the mark works is key to the mystery here.

I won’t say too much more except in the story, Pournelle (the demon!) comes to Assumpta and asks for her help. Doesn’t get any better than having your enemy coming to you, eh?

If you haven’t read the magazine before, I urge you to read it! The stories are terrific, and the artwork is phenomenal. Digestion includes a fantastic drawing of Pournelle and Assunpta sitting at a table in the Charm City Brewery.

Buy now at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Announcing a New Charm City Darkness Novel!

This is NOT the cover of In the Eye of the Beholder. But I needed to put something here to catch your eye, right?

This is NOT the cover of In the Eye of the Beholder. But I needed to put something here to catch your eye, right?

There’s been a lot of silence on the blog lately, for this reason: I’ve been working on a new Charm City Darkness novel–which was supposed to be a novella.

Ever have a project take over your life?

This one has taken over my writing life. It was meant to be a short writing hiatus between books three and four (A Blue Collar Proposition and, “As Yet Unnamed”) and it turned into a monster of its own. So, instead of a brief story starring Jo, voila! we have a full novel.

(I’m not complaining! Though I’ll admit that I’ve been whining to my “inner circle” of writing friends for a few months now that this wasn’t supposed to happen. Jo was absolutely going to get her own book–after I’d finished Book 4. Alas, the best laid plans…right?)

But, that’s neither here nor there since the writing is over! A short time ago I turned the manuscript into the editor. Yay!

In the meantime, I’d still like to offer you a sneak peek into the book. I hope you enjoy Chapter 1, below. (It’s unedited- so be gentle! I’d love to hear what you think.) Soon, I hope to share the cover. Stay tuned!

In the Eye of the Beholder

A Charm City Darkness Novel

Kelly A. Harmon

Chapter 1

The demon Pournelle materialized into Jo Byrne’s Turning Wheel pagan shop after closing hours, as Jo was restocking the candles. He took a deep breath, savoring the heady mixed odor of loose herbs and scented candles. A cone of strawberry incense burned in a brass dish near the door.

It must be her favorite, he thought, remembering the same scent was burning the last time he’d been here.

The flotilla of fairies, with their tulle wings and feathered skirts—along with a dragon armada—hung still and silent from the ceiling. Since he hadn’t entered through the door, no breeze served to move them. A small radio played an old grunge band softly somewhere near the cash register. He’d met the lead singer in Hell. Shame, that. The band could have made millions.

Pournelle pointed a finger at the bell on the door and waggled it. The bell rang as if a customer had just entered the shop.

“We’re closed,” Jo said, turning to face the latecomer. “I’m sorry, I thought I’d locked— She felt the blood drain from her face, and she dropped the box of slender, white candles she’d been holding. They clattered to the floor, breaking the seal, and candles rolled in all directions. Heart thumping, she stood still, cursed herself for three kinds of fool for her deer-in-the-headlights reaction.

“It’s not what you think,” Pournelle said, holding up a hand. The starched, white cuff of his dress shirt was in direct contrast with the smooth, black skin of his forearm, and stuck out far enough as he bent his arm, for Jo to notice the black and silver cuff links fastening the cuff together.

She cleared her throat, and said, “I think there’s a very powerful—uninvited—demon in my store.”

“Well, if that’s as far as you’ve gotten,” Pournelle said, dryly, “you’d be right. But there’s more to it than that, I’m afraid.”

I’m certain there is,” Jo said, taking a step backward. She turned her head to the left, glimpsing over her shoulder. Was there nothing within reach she could protect herself with?

“You have nothing to fear, I assure you,” Pournelle said.

He remained standing where he was, so that reassured her, but not much. “I’m not so certain of that.”

The demon nodded, and a look that passed for sorrow flitted across his mocha-colored face and was gone.

Sorrow? Why did that make her want to hear more from him. Was this a trick?

“Why are you here?” she asked.

He smiled—was that hope on his face?—and snapped his fingers. The electric tea kettle Jo kept behind the front counter clicked on and started to warm the water inside. “We need to talk,” he said. “Could you spare a cup of tea?”

Pournelle knew he had to take this slowly. There were half a dozen things within reach that Jo could use to send him straight back to Hell. Was she even aware of that fact? One of them would send him back as an amorphous puddle of goo. He couldn’t have that, even if he was trying to mend his ways.

Turning the other cheek only went so far in his book. He wouldn’t turn it so far as to sacrifice himself. If he were willing to die for what he believed in, he could have done that a thousand times over in the last century. This was about living, and escaping Hell.

But first, he needed an ally. Or at least a friend. Someone who might be willing to help him, should he ask.

He’d start with someone who would listen.

Jo moved behind the front counter and switched off the radio. She pulled two tea cups from beneath the glass case.

“Lapsang Souchong?” she asked.

He pulled a face. “Much too smoky. Do you mean to be insulting?” That since I’m a creature of Hell, I must enjoy the taste of smoke? That’s not the way it works. He tsked. “I was hoping for a friendship tea.” He smiled to let he know he wasn’t kidding. Jo laughed anyway.

“You have a lot of nerve asking for friendship tea, Mr. Demon—”

“Pournelle.”

She nodded. “You have a lot of nerve, Mr. Pournelle.”

“Just Pournelle.” He smiled, hoping it looked more genuine than feral. “I would like to be your friend.”

“Coming from any other guy, that statement would come off creepy, and maybe a little insane,” Jo said. She rummaged below the cabinet, found a bright yellow cylindrical cardboard container way in the back, and plunked it onto the counter. She peeled the plastic lid off and peered inside. “You’re just scary, but I think I’m holding it together pretty well. You’ve piqued my curiosity. I can only hope that doesn’t get me killed.”

Instant tea mix, Pournelle noticed. Crystalized into a single rocky lump. There was no way that stuff was coming out of the container.

Frowning, Jo grabbed the letter opener near the cash register and jammed it into the solidified crystals over and over again. Bean-sized pellets of instant tea broke off away from the main lump.

It was Pournelle’s turn to frown. “You’re not actually going to serve me instant tea?” he asked, a note of disdain in his voice. “Especially that instant tea.” He frowned more. “Serving me instant tea might get you killed yet.”

“You’re the one who’s kidding now, right?” she asked, sparing him a brief glance.

As if she hadn’t heard him, she spooned three teaspoons of rock-hard mix into each mug, poured boiling water over them, and stirred. She pushed a cup in his direction. Their fingers brushed.

“Really?” He was highly offended.

Jo looked up at him and smiled, the fake kind of smile you offer to unwanted guests and insulting mothers-in-law. “The polite thing for you to do would be to accept this cup, take a sip, and tell me how good it is. And then you can tell me why you’re really here.”

“But the right thing for me to do is to tell you how much I’ll hate tasting that, let alone drinking it gone. Isn’t that what friends do? Tell the unvarnished truth, even though it hurts? I’ve expressed my displeasure at the idea of drinking instant tea. How can you stand there smiling and still feel obliged to serve it to me?”

She sighed and sat down on her stool, appearing to consider what he said. Finally, she said, “You’re right in many ways, but that doesn’t apply here. After all, I’m giving you what you asked for.”

“Instant does not qualify as anything better than swill.” He snapped his fingers.

In less than a trice, a tall, narrow, tea samovar appeared at the end of the counter on a large silver platter. A hand-painted tea pot—small blue and orange flowers on the creamy china background—sat on top of it. Two porcelain tea cups, filled to their golden rims with steaming black tea, rested on the platter next to a silver dish of lemon slices. The tart, citrus aroma of lemon, freshly sliced, pervaded the strawberry scent of the shop. The fragrant odor of fresh tea wafted in Jo’s direction.

Pournelle smiled and reached for a cup, and placed it directly in front of Jo.“Tea, in friendship,” he intoned.

She frowned, then turned her colorful, yellow tea cannister to face him. The label read, Friendship Tea.

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “You asked for friendship tea. I gave it. That’s what friends are for.”

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Blue Collar Proposition - Featured Over at Novelisty

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]A Blue Collar Proposition–the third book in the Charm City Darkness series–was featured over at Novelisty.com on October 1 as part of their 31 Days of Halloween!

(It’s lovely to be featured, but I wish I’d known about it! I’d have dropped a link here much sooner!)

Novelisty featured a “heat-rating” and a few pertinent details about the book, as well as included the back cover copy and an excerpt. If you want to read the first chapter or so, head on over to Novelisty’s 31 Days of Halloween.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Baltimore Landmarks and Locations: The Phoenix Shot Tower

By Bruce Andersen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1033526

Photo by Bruce Andersen

Since I’m asked fairly regularly about the places featured in my Charm City Darkness novels, I’ve decided to share some of my research. (Yes, I do research, even in my own backyard.) When you grow up around local landmarks, you tend to pick up the basics via osmosis. But to talk intelligently in books, I find it’s best to get my facts straight…)

This is the first of a series of posts about Baltimore landmarks and locations.

The Phoenix Shot Tower

I grew up knowing the tower simply as the old Baltimore shot tower. It’s a red brick tower, 234 feet tall located in East Baltimore, nearby to Little Italy and Jonestown. It was the tallest structure in the United States when it was completed in 1828. The cornerstone was laid by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The tower was used to manufacture both drop shot—for use in pistols and rifles—and moulded shot for cannons. Molten lead was poured through a sieve at the top of the tower into a vat of cold water at the bottom of the tower to produce the drop shot. After it hardened, it was dried, polished and sorted into 25 pound bags. The tower produced 100,000 bags annually, and was capable of doubling that output if necessary. It stayed in production until 1892 when this method of producing shot became obsolete.

It remained the tallest structure in the US until 1846, when Trinity Church was erected in New York on Wall Street. It remained the tallest in Baltimore until 1875, when the spire of the First Presbyterian Church (on West Madison and Park Avenue) was completed. Still, from the top, the view of the city—and beyond—is unobstructed.

The tower is one of four that used to stand in Baltimore, and was very nearly destroyed in 1924 by the Union Oil Company. They’d purchased the land, and wanted to erect a gas station. City residents objected and raised enough money to buy back the land and present it to the City of Baltimore. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

The tower is open limited hours on the weekends, though visitors haven’t been able to go to the top since about 1997, due to the safety of the staircase. This is soon to change, however! The city has designated $240,000 to fix the staircase, and estimates visitors will once again be able to walk to the top (all 305 steps) as early as mid-2017.

Although the tower is one of my favorite places in Baltimore, it’s not a prominent location in the Charm City Darkness novels. But the tower is the main location in one of my Charm City Darkness short stories—called Giving a Hand—in which Assumpta helps the tower’s resident ghost. Giving a Hand has been published in the Hides the Dark Tower Anthology, and will be available as a single later this year.

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Cover Reveal – A Blue Collar Proposition

Cover for "A Blue Collar Proposition" - Charm City Darkness, Book 3 - By Kelly A. Harmon

Here’s the cover! Guess what that means?