Darvon Rausmaus: Chief Criminal Prosecutor for the UnderWorld

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Chief Prosecutor Darvon Rausmaus had just finished reading the UnderWorld constabulary’s report for tomorrow’s court case– assault by phurba* with intent to cleanse–when a sharp knock rattled his office door.

“Come in,” Darvon called out, setting the papers aside.

The door slowly opened and Mervyn, the court clerk, poked his head through the threshold. “Am I interrupting something, Mr. Prosecutor?” he asked timidly, his eyes roaming around the room.

Darvon motioned for the young ghost to come inside. “Not at all, not at all. What is it you need?” he asked, removing his reading glasses and placing them onto the desk in front of him.

Mervyn closed the door behind him and fidgeted nervously with the folder in his hands. “The civil prosecutor just called in sick and one of his cases is scheduled to begin soon. Judge Hovrel sent me to request you step in for him so the case may proceed.”

Darvon stared at the lad, slack-jawed. “How can the civil prosecutor be sick? He’s a ghoul. Ghouls don’t get sick.”

Mervyn’s ghostly face flushed and he looked down at his feet. “I don’t know, Sir,” he mumbled. “He said he was sick.”

No sense shooting the messenger, thought Darvon. “Never mind,” he told the clerk, waving his hand in the air. “He called in sick.  Got it.  What’s the case you need my help with, then?”

Mervyn looked up from his shoes, visibly relieved. “A Skeletal** went into full scale lament inside the Fiery Forge lounge last month. By the time it was over, the shrieks had chased off all the lounge’s customers and caused significant damage to the glassware. The owner is seeking financial restitution.”

Darvon groaned. Now he knew why the civil prosecutor called in sick. Skeletals as defendants were a prosecutor’s worst nightmare. Whenever a prosecutor won a case against a Skeletal, the Skeletal would pitch a nerve-shattering, ear-splitting fit. Reaching for his stress ball at the end of his desk, Darvon asked, “And I suppose the Skeletal denies shrieking?”

Mervyn shook his head. “No. He doesn’t deny it. But he insists he was fully within his rights to lament. The lounge garnished his cocktail with the wrong swizzle stick.”

Darvon snorted in frustration and squeezed the squishy ball in his hand a few times to calm himself. How stupid could they possibly be? he thought. Every ghost and beast in the UnderWorld knew how particular Skeletals were when it came to their cocktails.

“Why didn’t the bartender just make him a new drink with the right swizzle stick?” Darvon asked, huffing out a disgusted sigh.

Mervyn squirmed uncomfortably in his shoes. “He couldn’t, Sir. The Skeletal ordered a Blue Banshee, and the lounge had run out of blue-colored swizzle sticks. When they gave him a yellow stick instead, the Skeletal started shrieking and moaning. They tried to calm him, even offered to exchange the yellow swizzle with a blue umbrella, but the Skeletal would have none of it.”

Darvon closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Great. How much damage did the lament cause?”

Mervyn flipped open the case file and scanned it before answering, “Almost all of the lounge glasses were completely shattered. They lost a few crystal nut bowls too.” He paused to read a little more. “And several bar tabs were still open when the other patrons stampeded out of the lounge in panic.”

“Total reimbursement requested?” Darvon asked, dropping his hand and opening his eyes to look at the clerk.

Mervyn scanned the file again. “Two hundred phantasmals.”

Darvon whistled. That was definitely not chump change. “What’s Judge Hovrel’s take on this? Surely, he doesn’t want an upset Skeletal in his courtroom.”

Mervyn shook his head. “No, Sir. He doesn’t. He wants you to talk the lounge owners into dropping the charges.”

Darvon frowned. “They’d never agree; not with damages that high. Why doesn’t Hovrel just rule in the defendant’s favor?”

“The Judge likes to dine in the Fiery Forge restaurant. He would prefer to stay in good favor with the owners.”

“Of course, he would,” Darvon grumbled.

“Court convenes in ten minutes, Sir. What should I tell Judge Hovrel?”

Darvon shrugged. “Tell him, the defense has a valid case for immediate dismissal, due to the lounge’s swizzle stick malpractice.  If they fail to successfully exploit that defense, I’ll softball the prosecution’s rebuttal.  Whatever happens, I advise Hovrel rule in the defendant’s favor and find a new place to dine.  That, or deal with a full-scale Skeletal lamentation in his courtroom. I think we both know which outcome Judge Hovrel would prefer.”  Mervyn nodded his agreement and slipped silently out the door to report back to the judge.

For another courthouse adventure with Darvon Rausmaus (aka: Mr. Prosecutor) and Judge Hovrel, check out the second book of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: The Woebegone Oddity of the UnderWorld.

Continue reading “Darvon Rausmaus: Chief Criminal Prosecutor for the UnderWorld”

Fun Times at the Berkeley Book Festival

 

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I recently finished participating in the 2018 Berkeley Book Festival and the event was well attended and lively. Unfortunately, even though this was a two-day event versus last year’s one-day event, many Indie authors found interest and sales to be significantly lower this year, myself included.  Disappointing, but it is always nice to meet avid readers and chat with other authors and I hope those who did purchase my FPDA books enjoy them as much as I do. I even picked up a few Indie books myself that day: “All Hallow’s Eve” by JP Carol—a young adult fantasy book, and “Like a Champion” by Vincent Chu—a collection of light-hearted short stories. I look forward to reading these books soon!

The Honorable Judge Hovrel: Executing Justice in the UnderWorld

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Judge Hovrel scanned the courtroom as he exited his back chambers to preside over his first case of the morning: an assault charge, levied against the corpse-eater, Eurynomos, who was accused of attacking his keeper in the Morton Town Cemetery last week.  The Judge stifled a groan when he spied Stella Grub, the court reporter for the Dismal Daily, seated just behind the defendant’s table.  It appeared he now had the distraction of an ugly she-demon in his courtroom, alongside the corpse-eater.  It was days like these that Hovrel regretted his decision to continue his judicial career after he died and descended to the UnderWorld last year.

Noticing the Judge’s entrance, the bailiff quickly bellowed out, “All rise for the Honorable Judge Hovrel,” and the gray-glowing ghost audience jumped obediently to their feet.  With a sigh, the judge floated his way to his bench at the front of the courtroom, reciting the usual, “You may all be seated,” before he sank down onto his chair behind the podium.

While the audience settled back into their seats, Hovrel glanced at the defendant and grimaced.  The least they could have done is clean the corpse-eater up, before bringing him to court. The judge could smell the stench of dead flesh wafting off the defendant, even from where he was seated. He wrinkled his nose and stared at the defense attorney sitting next to Eurynomos, wondering if the lawyer had lost his sense of smell.  How else could he sit there so placidly next to that malodorous cloud of filth?  As if the wretched odor in his courtroom wasn’t horrible enough on its own, the defendant was wearing a ratty fur coat that the judge was certain hid all types of vermin. There were even tiny phantom horseflies circling the corpse-eater’s head, like a swarm of gnats over a garbage can.  Swallowing down his disgust, Hovrel motioned to the defense attorney–a short weaselly specter with greasy black hair in a pinstripe suit—who immediately rose from his chair and began the proceedings.

“Your Honor, the defendant would like to enter a plea of guilty, as charged,” the defense attorney stated.  No long, drawn-out case then, the judge thought with an inner sigh of relief.  “However,” the lawyer continued, sweeping his hand toward his client, “there were mitigating circumstances to this incident which we would like to present to the court before a sentence is determined.  May I approach the bench to offer an explanation for the assault?”

Hovrel looked at the prosecutor’s table to see if they would object and noticed the head prosecutor hadn’t bothered to attend the hearing today.  He must have known about the guilty plea and instead sent his assistant: a half-skeleton, half-ghoul creature commonly known here in the UnderWorld as a Bone Demon, but officially called a Skeletal.  “Does the prosecution accept the plea of guilty?” the Judge asked the prosecutor’s assistant with dread.  Bone Demons were known to shriek and wail when they were unhappy with how a case was proceeding.  Fortunately, the Skeletal nodded its approval, so peace and calm would remain in the courtroom today.  Another lucky break, thought Hovrel, as he turned back to the defense attorney. “You may approach the bench and plead your case for leniency then.”

The defense attorney strode to the front of the courtroom to address the judge.  “Your Honor, the handler assigned to Eurynomos the day of the incident was not his usual handler, who would have known better than to interrupt Eurynomos while he was feeding.  The corpse on which my client was dining that day was unusually fresh and the flesh was so juicy that my client’s judgement was momentarily impaired.”  The lawyer then paused and looked back at his grubby client.  “And while the defendant does not deny he bit his handler’s hand in the heat of the moment, he also exercised considerable self-restraint when he bit off only one finger and, even that, was just a pinkie finger.”  The defense attorney waggled his little finger in front of Hovrel’s face for emphasis before continuing, “We request this all be taken into account when you decide his sentence, Your Honor.”

Ordinarily, Judge Hovrel would return to his chambers to deliberate before issuing his sentence, but the noxious stink of death and decay brought upon him a sense of urgency.  He paused a moment to reflect on the case.  It was true that the handler was inexperienced with corpse-eaters and obviously wasn’t trained properly for his job; yet it was also true he should have known better than to place his hand in the way of a ravenous corpse-eater during his twice-monthly feeding at a graveyard.  And, while an assault with injuries is a serious offense, the lost member was just a pinkie finger, not a whole hand. And being one of the walking dead, whose bodies tended to fall apart eventually anyway, the victim probably won’t miss his finger any more than any other body part he’s likely already lost to decay.  So Hovrel decided to go easy on Eurynomos this time around, but also to give him a firm warning to never let this sort of thing happen again.

His decision made, Judge Hovrel banged his gavel to draw the court’s attention and said, “Will the defendant please rise for his sentence?” and immediately regretted that request after Eurynomos stood up, scattering his ghostly horseflies around the courtroom and startling a small zombified mouse to run out of his fur coat and down the aisle toward the bailiff.  Waving away a particularly aggressive fly, now buzzing around his bench, Judge Hovrel continued, “One month of house arrest, with no visit to a cemetery during that time.”  Eurynomos began to growl so Hovrel grabbed his gavel and banged it down twice to silence him.  “Consider yourself fortunate that I’m in a generous mood,” he told the creature sternly.  “I don’t want to see you in this courtroom again.  Bear that in mind the next time you are set free in the living realm to dine on your favorite delicacy.  If you repeat this offense, I will not be as magnanimous the second time.  Is that clear?”  Eurynomos merely glowered at the Judge but the defense attorney immediately jumped up and exclaimed for him, “Very clear, Your Honor! Very clear indeed!”

“Good,” Hovrel said, ignoring the angry corpse feeder, who had begun to growl again, except this time at his lawyer.  Hovrel turned and addressed the Bailiff.  “Please escort the defendant out of the courthouse.  And while you’re at it, call for an exterminator to get rid of these flies and that mouse before my next case.”  With a final bang of his gavel, Hovrel floated out of his chair to return to his back chambers, thinking it just might be time he considered a new career.

You can read more about Judge Hovrel and his UnderWorld courthouse in the second book of The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: The Woebegone Oddity of the UnderWorld.

 

Net Galley Update and New FPDA1 Edition Announcement

Greetings gentle followers,

Thus far, I have received three Net Galley reviews for my first FPDA novel; two 5 star and one 3 star.  I am very grateful for the kind words and even the critical words too and hope more reviews will be forthcoming–hopefully more 5 stars  🙂

I am also pleased to announce that a second edition of FPDA 1- The Rebel Realm will soon be available in paperback.  Many may have noticed the very high prices posted for the FPDA1 first edition paperback on Amazon, a consequence of it being discontinued from distribution.  So if you have a first edition FPDA1 paperback, hold onto it; it may be worth lots of money one day!  (wink, wink)

I have signed up for a booth at the upcoming Berkeley book fair this April and will be on site autographing copies of both the second edition of The Rebel Realm  and the first edition of it’s followup, The Woebegone Oddity of the UnderWorld.  If you’re in the area, pop on by and say hello, maybe buy a book or two 😉   https://www.baybookfest.org/

Anxiously Waiting

Well,  my month on NetGalley is over and I anxiously await input from the avid readers who downloaded my first book.  I have one reviewer thus far and am most grateful for the kind words.

But like a kid on Christmas Eve, I nervously peek for new “goodies” (i.e. positive reviews)–or, if the fates be: a lump of coal, as we all have different tastes in books–on my NetGalley page.  But, if there is one thing being a self-published author has taught me, it is patience and endurance; not something I’m well-practiced in, but an old dog can indeed be taught new tricks, albeit reluctantly.  

With that, I bid you Happy Holidays and good fortune in the New Year!

My First Book Now on NetGalley

Greetings Awesome Followers,

The first book of the FPDA series is now available on NetGalley.  Not familiar with NetGalley?  It is a wonderful site where, if you are a book blogger, a teacher or a librarian, you may obtain e-books at no cost in exchange for a review of the book.  Sometimes the books are pre-release so you get a sneak-peek before publication.  Not true for my book but I’d love for you to check it out anyway!

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency

The 9th Circle of the UnderWorld Prison

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 In the first book of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective series, the UnderWorld Ambassador to the OtherWorld–an officious demon called Belial–discards his duties and instead overthrows the OtherWorld Ruler so he can take over control of that heavenly realm himself.  To avoid a major diplomatic scandal, the UnderWorld quietly assigns the undead bounty hunter, Zeaflin, to locate a group of rebel ghosts and enlist their help in removing the traitorous Belial so he may be brought back to the UnderWorld to face “justice” for his betrayal.

While it is unknown exactly what happened to Belial after he was returned to the UnderWorld, it is likely he was sent to the 9th circle of the UnderWorld penitentiary: a maximum-security area where those found guilty of treachery are held.  The 9th circle is said to be a cold and forbidding place where many a sinner may be found, frozen deep inside the icy waters of a murky lake.

 

A Preview of the Third FPDA Book

Greetings to my Awesome Followers!

The second book of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency ends with the introduction of the young detectives newest case: Finding a missing ghost named Joseph Green, whose dearly departed sister frets may have been exorcised by the new owners of  the old vacant house he had been haunting.  The youthful sleuths request their medium, Mr. Monsento, dress up as a priest, visit the new owners and offer to cleanse the haunted house, on the off chance the feared exorcism had not yet occurred.   

To prepare for his role of cleansing a house of an unwanted spirit, Mr. Monsento visits the Morton Town Video Superstore to rent the film Poltergeist.  Below is an excerpt from my latest book, the third of the FPDA series, currently a work still in progress.  I hope you enjoy it!

The mid-day sun grows hot and my shirt sticks uncomfortably to my back as I continue my walk to the video store, the sweat rolling down the sides of my temples and forehead in miniature rivers. To make matters worse, I start to develop a stitch in my side from power-walking so soon after eating lunch. What was I thinking when I opted to walk rather than drive? The video store must be two miles from my house and that means a two mile walk back! I stumble on in a heat-induced daze, breathing a sigh of relief when my destination finally appears over the horizon.
I pull open the door to the video store to a welcome blast of cold air that takes my breath away and sends a delightful shiver across my body. The bell hanging on the inside of the door jingles as the door swings shut and the clerk behind the counter, a dark-haired twenty-something kid with a goatee, looks up from his Batman comic book to greet me.
“Howdy there, Mister. What can I help you find today?” he calls out cheerfully.
“The movie Poltergeist,” I reply, whipping off my sunglasses and wiping the sweat from my brow.
“Horror fan, huh? Which Poltergeist flick are you looking for, the remake or the classic?” the kid asks, coming out from behind the counter to join me by the door.
“Classic,” I respond.
The boy nods. “Yeah, that remake wasn’t all that good, was it?” he comments. “The horror section is in aisle five. Follow me.” The kid leads the way to aisle five; I trail behind silently while he prattles on. “Of course, they made three Poltergeist movies in the 1980s so you might want to rent all of them to complete the story. The original was part of a trilogy, you know.”
“Yeah, three movies usually make for a trilogy,” I say. “But I only need the first one.”
The boy shrugs. “If you rent three videos, they only cost you five bucks apiece. Otherwise, it’s $6.00 per video.” I glance down at the kid’s name tag.
“Three will cost me $15, Rob. Being that I only need the one video for my purpose, $6.00 is a bargain. Besides, I have a coupon so it will only be $5.40.”
Rob reaches out to take the coupon from my hand. “Sorry, dude. This offer is expired.” I take the card back and look at the expiration date. It reads June 23rd. Expired by only a week. It figures.
Rob turns around and scans the horror shelf. “Let’s see… Here’s Aliens; not as awesome as the original but still pretty good.” He pulls out a cassette farther down the shelf. “This one’s Dracula but looks like it’s the British version with Christopher Lee. The Lugosi one is way better.” Rob turns to look at me, wearing a grin. “Bit of trivia for you. When they released this movie here in the U.S., they renamed it The Horror of Dracula so people wouldn’t mistake it for the Lugosi version. Guess they didn’t care if the Brits got confused.”
“I’m not looking for the movie Dracula, Rob,” I grumble, drumming my fingers on the side of the DVD shelf.
Rob shrugs and returns to examining the cassettes. “Whoa! Killer Klowns from Outer Space! I haven’t seen that movie in ages! Oh, and here’s Nosferatu; that’s a good one too. You ever seen it? It’s old but totally creepy.” He glances one row up. “Hey! I didn’t know we carried The Hills Have Eyes. That’s a really obscure one, isn’t it?”
I scowl down at the lad. This could take all day if I don’t intervene.
“If these are filed alphabetically, I’m pretty sure Poltergeist will be in the P section, Rob.” I point to the large letter P posted on the front of the shelf, two rows down from where he is currently looking.
Rob laughs. “Like totally!” He squats down to examine the P area of the shelf and quickly locates my requested movie. “Are you sure you don’t want to rent the entire trilogy?” he asks, rising to his feet. I shake my head. “Okay, dude. But if you change your mind after you watch this first one, come back and I’ll rent you the other two for $10.”
“Yeah, okay, kid. Thanks,” I say. I pass Rob the six bucks, grab the DVD from his hand and hustle home to brush up on how to cleanse a haunted house of a pesky spirit.

The Arrival of UnderWorld Demon Ambassador Belial

Ambassador Belial scanned the OtherWorld StopOver with his sand-colored eyes.  Being a demon of the UnderWorld, he had never seen this realm before and little could have prepared him for this place.  First off, it was way too bright.  There were neither the shadows nor the mist, omnipresent in the UnderWorld, to obscure one’s vision here.  Secondly, the OtherWorld spirits were all a bluish translucence instead of the hazy gray glow of the UnderWorld ghosts.  Strange differences, but Belial knew he could adapt.

Still…it was going to take some adjustment on this demon’s part because the OtherWorld liked to name their shops with cutesy titles like “The Phantasmal Patisserie” and the “Apparitional Eaterie”.   The mere thought of those sickly-sweet names was enough to cause Belial’s lip to curl in disgust.  At least there was a tavern here— “The Wraithy Waterhole” — so it wasn’t all bad, even if they did have to dress the pub up like it was something out of the Wild West of the living realm.  Dead is dead as far as Belial was concerned.  Trying to comfort spirits with familiar surroundings from when they were alive was pure folly.

As an Ambassador from the UnderWorld, it was Belial’s role to assist the OtherWorld ruler, Ambrogio, with the transition of his throne to a suitable heir.  This rankled the demon.  Ambrogio was a weak ruler.  Some called it benevolence but Belial knew better.  And he had little doubt any descendent of such a soft spirit would be just as weak.

But Belial was patient.  He knew if he bided his time, he would find an opportunity to lock Ambrogio away and take over rule of the OtherWorld himself.  He already had an ally in the mercenary, Marzee.  She had easy access to Ambrogio’s chambers as well as the OtherWorld ruler’s trust.  Not that it wasn’t easy to gain his trust.  Ambrogio seemed to see only the good in others.  A rather foolish trait that Belial would soon exploit.

The prison was already under construction before Belial arrived.  Secretly, of course.  Currently, all that was required was a single level to house Ambrogio and that was almost completed.   Other levels would need to be added later but there was plenty of time for that.  There were many heirs of Ambrogio in the OtherWorld and it would take time to find them all.  The StopOver heirs would be the simplest to locate and lock away.  The ones that have ascended to their final resting place in Halcyon would take a more concerted effort.  But, again, Belial was a patient demon.  He knew he would eventually succeed in taking over rule of the OtherWorld.

 

Lord of the Flies: Eurynomos

In the second book of the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective series, the ghost Nathan Hammersly (also known as the Woebegone Oddity of the Underworld) escapes the Underworld by possessing a realm walker and forcing him to carry him to his grave in the Morton Town cemetery.  But unfortunately for Nathan, it is a well-known fact that ghosts tend to gravitate to their burial site when they are in the living realm and he is quickly recaptured by Eurynomos, the only creature of the Underworld that can safely enter a graveyard.

Eurynomos is sometimes called the demon of rot and decay because he has a peculiar fondness for the flesh of rotting corpses.  He strips the flesh from the dead with his razor-like teeth which he keeps sharp by whetting them on the marble and granite tombstones of the graveyard.  The Underworld doesn’t like to release Eurynomos into cemeteries often (he is quite gluttonous and difficult to extract once he starts feasting), but they do try to release him once or twice monthly as a special treat.  Because even a lowly creature deserves an occasional goodie or two, right?

So if you happen to be wandering around a graveyard late at night during one of Eurynomos’ special feedings, you may catch sight of him.  You will know him by his blue-black skin (similar in color to a meat fly), his jagged teeth and his large, deep-set eyes.  Also, Eurynomos has a very limited wardrobe so you’ll likely find him wearing a ratty old fox fur or a frayed coat made of vulture feathers on his back.

While Eurynomos is mostly harmless to the living, I recommend you take care not to draw too close to him.  Eurynomos is known to become highly aggressive when something comes between him and his food.  But not to worry. You can easily outrun him because Eurynomos never rises beyond a crouch and that tends to slow him down quite a bit.