Reversed The Curse!

cubs_2I’m not superstitious and yet when I say something that could, you know, jinx my favorite sports team, or bring myself bad luck, I knock on wood.

So what makes a great curse? Start with a truly engaging story of a stolen artifact or an innocuous act that results in death and destruction or in some cases, 108 years without a win.

But as my daughter has told me on several occasions, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern never said he was cursing the Cubs so that they would never win again.

Okay, so the curse never really happened and yet as a Cubs fan, we can’t get that thing out of the back of our minds, the idea that the curse is real because why else would the Cubs lose over and over and over and over again for 108 years?

I love curses. The stories behind them are fascinating, and the fallout of owing a cursed object or breaking into a cursed tomb is interesting in itself. That’s why the curse of the Hope Diamond and the curse of King Tut’s tomb have lived on for as long as they have.

I wish I could say I wasn’t superstitious but I kinda am. I refused to write this blog post until the Cubs actually won and I refused to wear my favorite Cubs shirt during the playoffs because I wore it during the first two losses of the World Series. What I did do was, wash the shirt and hide it in my closet.

You see, the curse gives us order and a reason for why something happens and hope that if we can only reverse that curse all will be well.

So as I hung out in Grant Park with 5 million of my closest friends at the Cubs rally, after they won the World Series, I just sat back and smiled in relief; THEY FINALLY BROKE THE CURSE!. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that they were the best team in the MLB with the best record. Nah, it couldn’t have been that.

 

 

What Do You Do at the Fork in the Road?

black-market-3b1JK Rowling always knew she had something good. I know I have something worthwhile; a full and complete book series that weaves the story throughout each book, that will, in the end, culminate to a final resolution.

After re-writing The Day of First Sun twice, commissioning several different book covers, and restructuring the series, I can finally say, I have a good product that will entertain someone, if I can find the right someone.

And now it’s time to release Black Market.

So what to do with my next book? I have an opportunity to sign with a publisher, but hairs on the back of my neck caution me. I can sign with the publicist and venture down an entirely different marketing promotion than anything I’ve ever done before. But will it gain me anything?

It weighs heavy on me; the direction should I pursue as I flip 180 degrees and back again, staying awake all night in a debate with myself.

Mistakes in my past come back to haunt me; the premature re-release of The Day of First Sun, without a marketing plan, because I really had no idea what to do, early editing errors that ran me in circles through multiple drafts, my inability to outline as story and stick to it.

As I wait for the final design of the interior layout of Black Market, I worry, will book two succeed if book one was just thrown in the marketplace?

It’s a question many independent authors ask as we muddle through the ups and downs of publishing. If we do this will it get us closer to our dreams, but what if it doesn’t?

I mull over options, I take a long hard look at the world I created, the media I’ve made. I ponder and ask my fellow indi authors, what did you do? What path did you take? Was it worth it?

The Day of First Sun available on Amazon.com.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

Black Market Chapter One

black-market-3b1Black Market

Chapter 1

 

From the point of view of FBI Special Agent Jack Ramsey, demons and vampires walked the streets, hid at crime scenes, and stared at him wherever he went. Or so he thought. He paid special attention to cases that seemed odd and possibly magical, and he had spent his own time investigating them, until he eventually realized that he knew too much about the magical world and really needed a vacation.

Since the conclusion of the Princess Amelie murder case, ending in the trial of Wolfgange Rathbone, Jack hadn’t called Annie Pearce. He still got indigestion when he remembered the special problems that came with magical cases. Instead, he’d decided to move on and work the heavy case load of investigations that came across his own desk—and to hope those other cases worked themselves out.

The farther from the magical case he was, the more he fell back into his normal schedule. He learned how to relax and eventually opened himself up and met someone—a nice lawyer who worked in the building across from his office. It started with coffee, moved to lunch, which became dinner, and finally Jack Ramsey asked Amanda McCoy to join him for a little time away.

The overworked FBI agent booked a trip to Hawaii for the two of them, where he now found himself on a lounge chair in the sand with a beer in one hand and a book in the other, his pasty white skin glowing in the bright sun.

Beside him, Amanda positioned herself lazily across her lounger, crossing her long legs that shimmered with a thick layer of sunscreen. The Type A lawyer had just started on the first of a large pile of magazines—some trashy, some newsworthy—tossed in the sand between them. Pouting her perfect lips, she reached for Jack’s beer, drinking half before handing it back to him.

Happily distracted, Jack found it difficult to return to the biography purchased at the airport.

           This book seemed like a good idea at the time.

Instead, he watched Amanda, her hand resting comfortably on her leg, her fingers drawing circles against her skin. His eyes trailed from her feet to her hips to the magazine in her hands. His thoughts took a turn to the mundane as he glanced at the pile of papers in the sand, and reached for the Chicago paper at the bottom of the pile.

“No papers,” she chided.

“Then why did you buy them?”

“To keep up with the news.” Amanda smiled coyly as if tempting him. “You promised. No papers, no phones, no internet.” She uncrossed her legs and changed sides.

“Just a peek. That is, unless we’re going back to the room,” Jack suggested hopefully.

“At dinner.” With a grin on her lips, she returned to her magazine.

Throwing his book in the sand Jack exchanged it for the paper. As promised, he refrained from reading the news, opting instead for the sports section where he caught up on the basketball, hockey, and early spring training reports. After reading every line, every score, every opinion piece, and all the sports news that held no interest for him, a bored Jack rifled through the lifestyle section. Uninterested in the latest fashion or the best sellers list, he tossed the used section on the sand.

Jack grimaced at the editorials, thoughtfully read the food section, and made mental notes on the movie and theater reviews. After reading each section, the FBI agent threw it on the growing pile.

With the final newspaper section left in his lap, he remembered this was vacation and leaned back, breathed in hot, salty air, and stared at the ocean. The waves rolled in, washing away footprints collected during the morning rush of tourists. The water, a clear crystal blue, should have invited him in. Instead, Jack wiped away sweat from his brow with a towel and realized disappointedly that relaxing was hard work and a little boring.

“Go take a dip,” Amanda suggested as she reached for her own book, leaving the magazine on the top of the pile.

“No. I’m good. Just finishing the paper.”

“News?”

“I promise, I won’t do anything with it,”

“You wouldn’t be you if you let it sit.” She smiled at him, and her white teeth sparkled against the tan she was cultivating. Jack’s stomach flipped and flopped in that happy way.

Finally giving in to the tug of the news, Jack opened the front page: murder, a teacher’s strike, city hall, gang warfare. Nothing peculiar or odd. Since he was currently in paradise, the news made no difference to his mood. He chose to be happy and worked on relaxing. Accepting his good fortune, Jack thought of taking a nap before lunch and washing his hands of the outside world.

While others played in the warm water and paddled on large boards, Jack returned to the paper, which was nearly finished. He almost escaped thoughts of work, but of course he pushed it and trouble fell in his lap: a story just enough to raise the hairs on the back of his neck.

It wasn’t odd to find a murdered John Doe; that wasn’t what caught Jack’s attention. It was the picture of the victim. It was his riding cloak.

He reread the article from the very first word. John Doe, found dead in the middle of Busse Woods, a large park just outside Chicago. The police had been unable to identify the victim and requested the help of the community to identify him.

When Jack gleaned nothing more from the story content, he returned his attention to the computer-generated picture beside the article. Long hair tied in a ribbon, a riding cloak loosely draped over the victim’s shoulders.

             I’ve seen this before.

Jack remembered well his first and only foray into the world of magic. The cloak on the John Doe pictured in the paper was similar to the one worn by Wolfgange Rathbone the night Jack arrested him for the murder of Princess Amelie of Amborix eight months ago. It was a fashion choice Jack was unfamiliar with, but as he worked with Annie Pearce and her team and had the opportunity to meet several others wizards, he realized that some wizard traditions survived in the modern world, but the riding cloak was common in the magical community.

An overwhelming feeling churned in the pit of his stomach. It gnawed at him in a way he couldn’t ignore.

            A covert meeting gone wrong? A body dump? That damn riding cloak!

Few details were released to the press and Jack hunched over the paper, rereading the article for a third time, gleaning the words for anything that might be relevant.

He noticed the sidebar’s short notes related to the main story. At first, Jack didn’t notice a connection between the weather service’s claim there had been no lightning strikes in the area the day the victim died, until he read the cause of death . . . Electrocution?

“Can a spell do that?” he murmured.

“What, sweetie?” Amanda asked, turning the page of her book.

“Nothing . . . just normal weirdness,” he responded. He continued to read the sidebar’s debate about whether the victim been electrocuted or struck by lightning. After considering the weather at the time of death, authorities had concluded the victim was murdered by electrocution.

After so many months of believing he saw magic all around him, Jack had finally found something. Something weird and worrisome. His left eye twitched.

“Damn,” he said under his breath.

“Everything okay?” Amanda rolled over to face him, concern on her drawn lips. Her finger grazed his knee.

Leave it alone! the voice in his head pleaded.

But Jack couldn’t leave it alone, not when the feeling overpowered him so strongly. This was the case his mind had thought he was seeing all along. “Yeah. I just need to make a phone call.”

“But Jack, you promised.” Amanda grimaced.

Jack kissed her, enjoying the taste of pineapple and rum on her lips. A groan of pleasure escaped his lips as he pulled away and stared into her bright green eyes.

“Just one call and then I’m done.”

“One.” She reached around his neck and held him close, her tongue parting his lips.

            Annie who?

A strong sense of duty and his desire to do the right thing bore down on him until the part of his rational brain that saw monsters around every corner made him pull away reluctantly. “Five minutes.”

Amanda held up five fingers and frowned at him.

Hopping across the increasingly hot sand, Jack found an empty corner of the beach beside a rock and dialed Annie’s number, secretly hoping it would ring to voice mail.

“Hello?”

“It’s Jack Ramsey.” Apprehension took over his voice. He regretted the phone call immediately.

             I’ll just tell her I got the wrong number.

“Hey Jack. It’s been a while. Four months since the trial, I think. How are you?”

I’m on vacation calling you. How do you think?

It had been a while since he had even talked to Annie. After turning a blind eye to the manufactured evidence and enduring the demanding trial, Jack had avoided Annie. He hadn’t seen or heard from her since Rathbone was convicted of Princess Amelie’s murder. Both needed time to put the case in the past.

Though Jack regretted this call, it was time to face the facts. Magic existed, and this victim had most likely died due to a spell, jinx, or hex. Jack really didn’t know the difference. Unfortunately, hearing Annie’s voice caused that old familiar stress to settle in his chest.

“I’m on vacation.”

             Why didn’t I tell her I butt dialed?

Annie chuckled. “Really? And you’re calling me. That’s not vacation.”

“Yeah. Amanda doesn’t think so either.” Jack glanced at Amanda. Turning in her lounge chair, she met his gaze and smiled as she re-crossed her legs.

“A girlfriend? Nice. Go back to her. Whatever it is can wait.”

Silence filled the line. Jack thought maybe Annie had hung up on him, but then he heard a male voice speaking to her in the background, which pulled Jack back to the gnawing feeling in his chest. “I need you to look at one tiny little thing,” Jack said. “If it’s nothing, great. If it’s something . . . but it’s probably nothing.”

Jack watched Amanda, who looked incredibly sexy in her string bikini, a golden tan developing on her skin. It didn’t surprise him when a lean, muscular, deeply tanned man sat beside her on the lounger and attempted to engage her in conversation. Gracefully, Amanda waved the stranger away. Jack’s heart sped up.

“Okay,” Annie said on the other end of the line. “If it’s something, we’ll look into it. If not, you wasted ten minutes of vacation. So what do you have?”

            Why did I call again?

Amanda caught Jack’s gaze as the man slunk away. She waved him toward her with a wide smile. Jack returned the smile and held up a finger signaling one more minute.

“Okay. It’s stupid. But a guy dressed in a riding cloak was found dead in Busse Woods. The cause of death, get this, electrocution. Does that mean anything to you?” The FBI agent had solved hundreds of cases in his career. As he explained this one to Annie, the story sounded just as bizarre as when he had originally read it.

“Are you sure that’s where the body was found?”

Annie’s request for clarification bothered Jack but at the same time offered him validation. His initial instinct must have been correct. “Yeah. Why?”

“If it was just the riding cloak, I’d think costume, but the portal to the black market is in Busse Woods. It’s very possible the victim is a wizard.”

“You can check on it?” he asked as Amanda waved to him again, pointing up toward the hotel less than a hundred yards from where they sat. Anxiously, Jack tapped his hand against his thigh, desperate to return to return to his vacation and to Amanda.

“Yeah. We’ll look into it. Go vacate.”

“Thanks, Annie. I think I owe you again.”

“No doubt, Jack. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Really not necessary,” he said before hanging up. Feeling ridiculous for even calling, he sauntered back to Amanda and took Annie’s advice to vacate.

 

Coming January 2017

I Am a Cubs Fan

 

 

My cubs_2favorite Chicago Cubs shirt is off limits. The two times I wore it during the National League Championship series, the Cubs lost both games. So needing something to wear to show my Cubs spirit, because I’m a Cubs fan, not one of those band wagoners, I pulled out my Cubs jacket to head out for some errands.

I don’t remember when I got this jacket. It was sometime in the 80’s I think. I’ve worn it, I haven’t worn it, it’s hung in the back of the closet, I once forgot I even owned it. But I pulled it out today and headed out to buy dinner for tonight because tonight isn’t any regular baseball game.

There were many of us today wearing our gear, a hat, a jersey, a t-shirt, a jacket. But what struck me the most were the three older gentleman I passed on my way out as they were entering, all proudly displaying their Cubs caps. The last man, noting my jacket, gave me a thumbs up and an light smile. I couldn’t help but return my own.

They were most definitely the embodiment of a long-suffering, life-long Cubs fan, waiting for a win in their lifetime. “The Cubs are going to the World Series!” It was a moment we all longed for, dreamt about and were cautiously optimistic about, as we entered the NLCS. We all knew this team could do it and yet… And yet we remember that moment in time when the wheels on that bus might fall off like so many times in the past.

But I am a Cubs fan, something I would have admitted even in the darkest days, when we pitched to Tony Quinn to get to Steve Garvey and the latter hit a home run, or the Bartman ball or the Mets (need I say more?)

I’ve watched them lose, I’ve seen them win. I’ve been to the old Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, and NOT being the only Cubs fan there. I’ve been to Miller Park in Milwaukee and with the overwhelming number of Cubs fans there, we managed to out sing the Brewers fans during the seventh inning stretch.

I remember names like Steve Ontiveros, Larry Bittner, Barry Foote, Bobby Mercer, and Peanuts Lowry.

I remember the Sun Times printing every year, the crying Cubbie bear on the back sports page with the title “Magic Number, Next Year”.

Does the date 8-8-88 mean anything to you? In Chinese folk lore 8 is a lucky number and this date just as lucky. It was the night the lights were turned on in Wrigley Field for the first time. It rained and caused a dely. I can’t forget Jody Davis running across the tarp and sliding for the amusement of the fans.

8888-night-game

 

 

WGN used to be the only station that carried the Cubs and even after the lights went up, a majority of the games were still at 1:20 pm. I would get home from school just in time to watch the bottom of the first inning and if I was working, I’d switch the radio on and listen.

I joined the Die Hard Cubs Fan Club, and when I was married, it was my the only ID I had with my maiden name on it. If you’ve ever had to change your name on your Social Security card you know you need both new ID as well as your old. And yes, they accepted my Die Hard Cubs Fan Club card as my old ID. I swear, it’s no joke, that’s how I got my social security card changed.

On October 22, 2016 I sat with baited breath, in a bar in Kenosha with my college aged daughter, I watched the fifth game of the NLCS. There were two outs and I could barely watch the screen. When there was one out left, I sat with my hand across my mouth, tears in my eyes as I waited for Aroldis Chapman to pitch that pitch. Both my husband and my child said kept saying “It’s okay. We’re up 5 runs and there’s one out left.” But I know as all Cubs fans know, there can always be that one thing, that one thing that screws it up, that one event that changes the momentum and causes a loss or several to happen.

But this year.

This year I watched the pitch, hit to Addison Russell who threw it to Javier Baez, who tagged second base and turned the double play to Anthony Rizzo who made the third out. After a joyful scream with my arms raised, I did what so many of us diehards did. I burst into tears.

I’ve known throughout the season that this team was special. That this team could do it, win it all. But as a fan, there’s that curse, 108 years that rat tat tats in the back of my head, like a gentle reminder to always stay cautiously optimistic.

While I refrain from becoming cocky or over confident, I still believe this team is special. I still believe they can do it. I bleed Cubbie blue regardless of whether they win or not, and to be honest, it’s far more fun winning!

w

 

 

 

 

 

Write Like a Pantser

The Day of First Sun - Copy to UseWhat’s a pantser you asked? There are two types of authors, one who like JK Rowling plans her work before she writes. You’ve seen her charts, every detail means something and it all gets into her books. She’s what’s known as a plotter. And then there are writers like me who are known as pantsers, who write by the seat of our pants. I’m not alone, Stephen King has admitted that he too is a pantser, a writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and we sit in front of our blank page and just start to write. His view is that he’s like an archaeologist who finds that little piece of a larger artifact and as he digs, he reveals the whole thing.

The point of the explanation is this. I’m a pantser, I have an idea, a beginning, middle and end and when I sit down at the computer, I just write, I let the ideas flow out and onto the page and sometimes, I’m surprised when something happens, just like a reader might. It’s exciting and fun until you have to connect the dots of your books and they just don’t quite fit.

And so it went, I had books that weren’t selling well, bad reviews. I know I’ve told you the story before and in that I rewrote the books, I started over, because as I’ve said, I’m a pantser, I don’t plan through the series, until it no longer worked.

When I rewrote The Day of First Sun I knew what was to come, what I wanted to see in the books though I didn’t quite have a finale planned and I could add a few hints along the way. I’ll admit, the book is much better than it was and saying that, each new book added something to the story and they fit together as if it was meant to be.

I finished book two, coming in January 2017. It took a long time, several years in fact for me to find the right book, the right story to continue Annie and Cham’s journey and I found it in Black Market. And after rewriting the first book, restructuring the series, the story fit. It worked. And that spilled into book three and into book four and gave me the story for book five.

I hadn’t planned on writing a series in which all the books were somehow interconnected. I wanted a fun series with cool, interesting stories. But in the end, I found the connections, small at first, building to a climax in the making.

Was it worth it? Were the extra two years of work getting to this point, the frustration, the miscommunication, is it worth the She Wulf rewrite that I’m taking on to make the timeline fit.

I received a sweet message from a young woman I met at Book Con 2016. I had sold her a copy of The Day of First Sun. She read the book in less than a week and took the time to contact me via Facebook to let me know she loved the book. So what is worth it? Most definitely. I have never been so proud of my work or so excited to share with you what is to come.

Come see what people are saying about The Day of First Sun.

 

 

 

 

Annie Pearce

 

The Day of First Sun

Steam wafted from the cauldron as bubbles popped and pinged against the iron sides. The boiling potion gave off a pungent vapor that moistened Annie Pearce’s face and frizzed her massive wave of curls. She wiped away the sweat with her sleeve and checked the heat beneath the oversized cauldron, reducing the blue and orange flames. Though the heat was lower, the flames still danced and pulsed as they cooked the holy water.

Stirring the potion calmed her apprehension and siphoned some excess adrenaline she always felt before facing a vampire. But then, this wasn’t an average vampire.

The timer beeped and, standing on bare toes, Annie peeked inside the pot. The clear liquid bubbled softly, so she shut off the fire before dumping a bucket of ice into the mixture. As cold met hot, the potion hissed like an angry snake, sending more steam in the air. Unfazed, Annie sang along with P!nk’s “Who Knew” as it blared from the small radio near the stove.

As the potion cooled, Annie loaded supplies into a field pack. First came an abridged version of her Book of Shadows. The tome contained potions, spells, and notes—an accumulation of Annie’s life experiences with magic. The book had grown exponentially over her five years with the Wizard Guard; thumbing through the book, she was amazed and maybe a little proud by its thickness.

The book fit nicely beside several ash stakes, each whittled to the sharpest point, good for piercing the skin and the breast bone of a vampire. On top of those lay a rolled map of Chicago tied with a scrying crystal necklace.

Three songs played on the radio by the time Annie finished gathering and packing her supplies. After closing up the pack, she poked her head into the cauldron and immersed a pinky finger in the potion.

Perfect!

Rummaging through the kitchen cabinets belonging to her best friend and Wizard Guard partner Bobby “Cham” Chamsky, she found a stash of small glass vials, grabbed a handful and placed them in a haphazard cluster on the counter. Filling twelve—more than enough to take down the vampire—she tucked half of the bottles deep inside her field pack to prevent shifting during teleportation. The rest she left for Cham.

“Isn’t the potion done yet? It smells like it’s burnt,” he complained from the dining room.

Rolling her eyes and arching her back Annie glared at him. His scrying crystal glowed bright white, and he marked another location on the map next to the several already drawn that night.

“I’m a potion master. It’s not burnt. Haven’t you found him yet?” she asked defensively.

Cham glanced up and offered a grimace. “Yeesh. He’s never in one place long enough to confirm his location.”

Burn my potion, right.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

Join the fun. For ordering information check out Amazon.com

 

 

 

When Jack Meets a Vampire – All Hell Breaks Loose

 

Paralyzed, Jack continued to stare at the cooler door. “One of the victims witnessed a murder I’m investigating. I think the suspect killed them.” He fondled the handle of his gun again, clearly debating whether to remove it from its holster. He pulled it out briefly and placed it back.

“The gun won’t help.” Annie advised. She summoned a glass vial. “This will, though.” She tossed the small glass bottle to him.

“What . . .” Jack caught it and examined the clear liquid inside.

 “Throw that close to the ground beside whoever might be in here.”

Annie strolled to the cooler. Her hand grazed the cool handle, and her gut screamed out a warning. “It’s not your suspect who killed them.” She pulled on the handle. A rush of cold air blew out as the door swung open.

With shaky hands, Jack drew his gun, she heard a click.

“I told you a gun won’t help.”

“Who the hell are you?”

In her own adrenaline rush, that high just before a vampire fight, Annie summoned an ash stake; her hand wrapped around it tightly and held it out in front of her.

“Uh, what the hell is that? A stake. Is this holy water? Vampires?” his voice raised a few octaves, in realization and fear. Annie recognized his fear.

The vampire is going to kill him. “Stay behind me and run like hell if something comes at you.”

Annie entered the cooler, her flashlight rolling over the walls and shelves. There were five industrial-sized storage units stacked inside the cooler two bodies deep; each contained four shelves. The overflow bodies lay on gurneys pushed up against the wall. There was very little room to maneuver in the small space.

The bodies lay in plastic body bags, some of which were neatly zippered while others were open, appendages hanging over the sides.

Annie chose to start with the gurneys, assuming the newest bodies resided there. She checked the first toe tag. Jack cocked his gun.

“Put it away,” she said. “It’s not going to help. The holy water will.”

The first toe tag belonged to Jeffrey Marcus, dead as of two weeks prior and not a victim. Replacing the tag, Annie zippered up the bag and moved to the next body. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not from the CPD. I’m part of the Wizard Guard, an organization of magical police officers.” Checking the next toe tag, Annie highlighted the name, dropped the tag and moved on to the next body.

“Is this a joke? I should arrest you for tampering with evidence.”

“Why would I make this up? I’m a witch. I do magic.”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . Annie swung around and scanned the room with her flashlight, examining the body bags for movement. There’s so many here, she thought. It was quiet except for the freezer’s compressor. Annie returned to her search, seeing nothing move.

Worried there was a third vampire with them, Annie glanced back again after a moment, surveying the room. She could sense time ticking away as clearly as if there were a clock in her head. “Take this,” she said, floating a second vial to Jack. His eyes widened, his jaw clenched again, and he cocked the gun and aimed it at Annie.

“Help me find our victims,” Annie cried. The vial spun in the air before them. The FBI agent’s eyes darted from the Wizard Guard to the vial; sensing her tension, he grabbed the small glass container with shaking hands and held it tightly, nearly cracking the thin glass.

Scratch . . . scratch . . .

Annie took a breath and whispered, “There’s something in here with us.”

“What does that mean?” Jack glanced around the room, pointing his gun haphazardly.

“Put the gun away. Just uncork the vials and throw them on the vampire. It’s strong enough to slow them down until I stake it.”

“What the hell is going on?”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Annie twirled and inched her way toward the scratching while Jack, white as a ghost, hung back at the door.

“What’s in here with us?”

“A vampire.”

Jack blanched. He held the vial in one hand, the gun in the other. Both hands shook violently. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“For now, it doesn’t have to.” Annie reached for another name tag.

“Laurie Lispin and Marcus Johansson,” Jack called to her.

“Thanks.” Annie continued down the line, verifying each tag and moving more quickly now through the bodies. After checking the first two rows, Annie called out, “I got Laurie.”

Standing over the body, Annie examined the bag for movement and listened for growling, even though she knew it was too early for Laurie to turn. Carefully unzipping the body bag, she released the victim’s hair; it cascaded out and landed against the side of the shelf. Annie lifted the hair, focused her flashlight on the neck, and examined the two puncture wounds. They were not as dark as they had been twenty hours earlier. Annie put her flashlight in her mouth, popped the cork of the holy water, and dribbled a small amount on the victim’s leg. The liquid bubbled and blistered the skin of the vampire.

Grabbing the stake, Annie thrust it into the vampire’s chest. The demon’s eyes burst open, filled with both surprise and confusion. As the stake punctured the heart, the body burst into flame. A primal scream, raw and angry, escaped the vampire’s lips as the fire consumed her. Her shriek of terror reverberated in the room, bounding off the walls. It lingered even after the body was nothing more than a pile of ash.

“How . . . what . . . how did that happen?” Jack asked, finally entering the cooler.

“We need . . . to find Marcus,” Annie managed to grunt through rapid breaths.

“Are they always . . . made into vampires?” Apprehensively, he joined Annie’s search for Marcus, checking toe tags on the opposite aisle.

“No. Vampires are kinda picky. They don’t let everyone in. There must’ve been something about Laurie and probably Marcus that appealed to the vampire.”

“It’s kind of like a club.” Jack choked on a nervous laugh. He coughed.

“Not so organized, actually. It’s more like a gang. If you turn a victim, they’re indebted to you forever.”

Annie placed a foot on the lowest shelf and reached above, pulling herself up to check the tag. “Were they both brought here?”

“Yes. They’d want to keep the victims together to look for evidence and compare.”

“Where is he then?” Annie jumped down.

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Jack jumped. “Did you hear that?”

“Yeah. We need to find Marcus before that one escapes his bag.”

“How is that possible? We only had two victims.” Jack checked another tag before moving on to the next body.

“You know how many vampires we collect from your morgues?”

Annie felt like time was speeding up and getting away from her right when she least wanted it. She trained her light in the direction of the scratching, looking for movement.

“Do I really want to know?” The body four down from Laurie lay in an open bag, two small puncture wounds across the neck. “I found Marcus.” He hastily stepped away from the body.

After verifying the toe tag, Annie examined Marcus’s neck for the telltale wound.

“You don’t believe me?”

“Habit.” The holy water splashed on a very hairy arm and bubbled like a pot of boiling water, leaving blisters and waking the vampire.

The body that once belonged to Marcus stared at Annie with eyes like black pools, devoid of anything human. The new demon let out an angry growl. Annie lunged at the vampire, pushing the stake into its heart. Much like Laurie, Marcus Johansson exploded into flames and let out a piercing scream. Annie felt the vibration through her body.

Ash floated in the air, filling the body bag and covering several surrounding bodies, the cement floor, and Annie’s hair. A stray ember whizzed by, and she patted it out. Stepping away from the vampire, Annie stood guard until the last of the embers burnt out.

“So now what?” Jack asked, wiping ash from his suit pants.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

To find out more about Jack and foray into the magical world check out The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com!

What is The Day of First Sun

Wheat field in late afternoon rays of the setting sun over Royalty Free Stock Photos

The thing about writing urban fantasy stories, you get to make shit up. I like to base stories on traditional folk tales, stories that are familiar. I enjoy resonating with our collective past. Really, some of these tales are just too fascinating to pass up.

However, sometimes there just isn’t an appropriate existing story that fits well with my plot and that’s when I make shit up. Unfortunately or fortunately for me depending on how you look at it, I’m a pantser, meaning I write my stories with a rough idea of what the story is about, sometimes I have the beginning and the ending, oftentimes they don’t present themselves until a later point in time. What’s great about that is, I get surprised much like my readers would be surprised by plot twists. The downside, I come up with the idea and have to back track, research while in the grips of a great writing session. And that’s where making up stuff comes in really handy. If you think it’s a bad way to write, read Stephen King. He’s one of us too.

I find that with enough careful editing, my stories tend to fall in to place better than if I could actually plot them out. I’ve tried, I just can’t stick to the plan and for those of you who could, you’re known as a plotter, much like JK Rowling. The point though that I’m trying to make is, regardless of your personal style, we get to make stuff up to fit our story the best way we can, whether it’s beforehand or while writing. And in that process, the magical holiday of The Day of First Sun was born.

Excerpt from The Day of First Sun

Magic came to the world with the birth of the first magical child in a mystical clearing of land around 3500 BCE. To this day, that clearing was considered holy land for all magicals born thereafter, both good and evil. Over a millennium later, a battle was fought on the sacred land with devastating consequences.

A portal between Earth and other realms opened, giving vampires, werewolves, and other demons access to Earth. Myths told of a time when the sun did not come out and the beasts freely roamed the planet.

Centuries later, a brave witch fought a second battle on the sacred land, closing the portal forever. The battle, which took place on the first of September, became known as the Day of First Sun. Once the threshold closed, the sun emerged again, but it was too late. The Earth was overrun with supernatural evil.

 

Curious how the Day of First Sun affects the modern-day witch? Join the celebration. To order The Day of First Sun

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

When Annie Met Bobby

Annie didn’t want to go to family day at Wizard Hall. It was the place where dad worked and he would want to visit with his co-workers. She rolled her eyes when he said they had to go. But mostly she didn’t want to hear her older sister Samantha sing at the concert. All she really wanted to do was ride the broomsticks they always had at family day.

Because her father Jason Pearce worked at Wizard Hall as a Wizard Guard, a member of the magical police department, she spent her time either in the daycare facility and as she got older, the wizarding school. It earned her and her friends the nickname Hall Brats. She found the other hall brats after she and her father teleported into the courtyard at the center of the Hall. Excited to see her friends she began to run toward them until her father held her back and led her in the opposite direction.

With her face in a scowl, she stomped off behind dad, finding it difficult to maneuver in the thick crowd. Her small frame was jostled between adults as she lost her father in the people. Jumping up and down, she looked for his feathery brown hair and glasses.

“Lose something?” John Gibbs asked. He worked with her father, was one of the other Wizard Guards. Annie was one of the few children unafraid by his appearance, by the long scar across his cheek, his face marked with scars and bumps from years of fighting demons and vampires. Annie found him fascinating.

“Hi Mr. Gibbs. I can’t find dad.”

He knelt down beside her and said, “Jump on.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waste and he lifted her up. Deftly, he maneuvered the crowd delivering Annie to father, who had stopped to talk to another Wizard Guard.

“I found someone for you,” Gibbs said as Annie slid down his back, landing on the ground.

“I wondered where you went,” Jason Pearce said as he smiled at his daughter. He held out his hand and drew her closer. “Thanks Gibbs.” John Gibbs nodded once and headed back into the crowd. “Remember Milo Rawley, Annie? Say hi.” She merely nodded as she glanced around the courtyard, taking in the faces and the people, some of which she knew, most she did not.

Bored and hot, she kicked loose dirt at her feet, drew pictures with the toe of her shoe.

“Mom, make him stop,” cried a boy behind her. Annie glanced up, caught the eye of a blond haired boy as he swatted sprites away from his head. He dropped his eyes, his cheeks red from embarrassment.

Several of the four inch high, blue creatures with wings, finally flew away all except one apparently tangled in a massive head of curly hair.

“Bobby stop, it’s getting stuck,” said his mother. He ignored her plea instead, yanking on the creature. It kicked and screeched trying to untangle itself. Feeling sorry for the boy named Bobby, Annie skipped over and reached up. Grabbing hold of the tiny creature, she reached around its middle and plucked a stunned sprite from his hair. The creature squealed, squirmed and kicked its feet as it flew from Annie’s grasp. Finally free, it scolded her, wagged the tiniest finger in her face. Curious, Annie stepped closer to get a better look at it, but it would have nothing else to do with her. Swirling in the air, it flew off and dive bombed Bobby’s older brother, smacking the boy on the head. Its piercing shriek drew the attention of everyone near them; they began to laugh and point.

“Mom! Make it go away!” the boy screamed.

“That’s what you get for setting it on your brother.” She smirked and returned to her conversation with an adult Annie didn’t recognize. When the sprite was finally finished with its tirade, it flew off, hiding inside the bushes behind them.

Annie glanced at Bobby, her eyes returning to the massive curls that stood straight above his head. They had become tangled and frizzed after the sprite attack. He turned away, his freckled face still red from embarrassment. He was her height; she thought he might be her age and wondered why she hadn’t seen him at school before.

“I’m Annie.”

“I’m Bobby.” He looked at her and patted down his hair. It didn’t help. “And thanks for the help.” He looked back down and played with his hand, scratching the skin as he looked at something interesting on his palm.

“He’s your brother?”

“Yeah.” Bobby dug his foot in the dirt, before finally looking up. He glanced up to see his older brothers speaking to a girl who looked a lot like Annie. Pointing he asked, “What about her?”

Annie sighed, always compared to the perfect sister, she resorted to fighting billdads—a strong foe—in the garden for attention. She was still bruised from the animal’s kangaroo-shaped body and otter tail, which swiped at her when she battled it in the garden that morning. “That’s Samantha. She’s okay.”

“Jimmy’s always picking on me.” His eyes averted again, embarrassed by his admission. Annie decided she didn’t like Jimmy as she watched him tease another boy, younger than her. He was throwing magical sparks at the young boy’s feet.

“What’s he doing now?” Annie asked.

“He’s teasing Danny. He’s my younger brother.” Bobby replied as Danny jumped each time Jimmy threw a spark. Their mother, finally annoyed at Jimmy’s behavior, intervened by pulling Jimmy away.

“Leave him be,” she scolded and she returned to Danny for comfort. Their mother coddled her youngest son, kissing him on the cheeks. He grimaced as he pulled away from her attention. Annie sighed and wished she had a mother to annoy her like that.

“So is that boy talking to Samantha another brother?” Annie was surprised by the large family. She only had Dad, Samantha and her Aloja Fairy, Zola, the protector of children and pregnant women.

“That’s John. He and Jimmy are twins. One’s evil and one’s good.” Bobby added.

There was a comfortable pause between Annie and Bobby as she wondered what her house would be like with two more kids running through it. Their silence was soon filled with the booming sound of Jason Pearce as he laughed. Warm and friendly, she watched her father for a moment before turning back to Bobby, who shifted uncomfortably, lacking something to say. Annie wasn’t sure why, but she liked him and searched for something to say, finally finding the racing pits.

“Do you like broomstick races?” She pointed, hoping her dad would finally let her head over to her friends.

“Yeah. I love them!” He turned to the races and smiled.

She didn’t hesitate as she bounced toward her father. “Daddy, can I?” She was still bouncing excitedly. He looked at the racing pits and back to his daughter before winking and nodding.

“But mom,” Bobby whined and stomped his foot; glowering across the grounds as the other kids, free from their parents, partook in the racing pits. With a gentle hand on his wife’s arm, Mr. Chamsky nodded to his son.

“Just be careful, Bobby, okay?”

He nodded his head quickly as Annie pulled a slightly mortified Bobby along to join other children at the racing pit on the edge of the courtyard.

His eyes lit up as they waited for a turn. “Have you ridden much?” he asked while playing with the collar of his shirt, and when she turned toward him, he stopped and smiled nervously.

“We live in the city, so I can’t fly that much. But I love it! What about you?”

“We live in the country and there are a lot of cool places to fly. I wanna join the racing team at Windmere someday.”

“You’re going to Windmere? That’s where I’ll go too!” Windmere High School of Wizardry was one of four wizard high schools that educated the children of witches and wizards in America. Which school you went to was determined by your hometown location. “I’m trying out too, when I get there.” Annie added.

The line was moving slowly and time dragged as they waited behind other anxious children. And when Annie didn’t think she could wait any longer, their turn finally came to board their broomsticks.

Annie mounted first, followed by Bobby, who climbed aboard his broom with practiced grace. He nodded, acknowledging that the first one to the end of the field and back would win. At the sound of the whistle, Annie took off, higher and faster than him, blasting away from the starting line.

Wind whipped at her hair, clothing rippled around her, freedom greeted her, and she almost forgot that Bobby chased her. He matched her speed and bumped the tail of her broom, pushing her to the side. She flew toward him, returning the bump. A whistle blew from behind, reminding her that bumping was illegal. With a laugh, she dashed ahead, forcing him to speed up. He remained behind her, giving her enough room to veer in front of him and cut him off. He was quick and swerved to his right, narrowly missing her broom, and pressed on until he had the lead. They were almost to the large poles at the end of the course, where they would turn for home. Annie hated to lose, especially to boys, and she kicked her feet, gaining speed until she was even with him.

“You’re good for not racing much!” he yelled, keeping the same speed as they neared the posts.

She hurtled to the right of the pole, flying the broomstick around it, almost losing her balance. After pulling to her left, she righted herself, and Bobby did the same, though he was more graceful as he straightened.

“Just wait!”

They were on the final leg of the race, their broomsticks even, and she kicked again, pulling ahead of him, but he easily caught up to her. Within feet from the finish line, his broomstick was just inches behind hers. Feeling how close he was she slid of course, giving him an unintentional chance, and in a burst of speed he passed her.

Inches separated them as his broomstick touched hers throwing them both from their brooms; they flew across the finish line and into the bushes at the end of the pit.

As she landed on top of Bobby, heard a crack, and burst into tears as pain radiated through her arm. Gingerly she rolled off of him as she held her arm out, it hung in the wrong direction. Curling herself in a ball, she gazed at the bright blue sky and watched as the white puffy clouds floated above her. It occurred to her that he hadn’t let her win, and that thought made her smile through the tears. A sudden rush of people headed for them when she sat up, and Bobby was already standing, clutching his bloodied and bruised knee.

“Nice race!” he shouted over the noise.

Their parents hurried through the crowd, Marina Chamsky, frantic as she deftly cared for Bobby, a pang of jealousy overcoming Annie, until her father’s hands cradled her arm, repairing the break.

“Next year I’ll beat you!” Bobby yelled.

“No, you won’t!” she teased. She meant it, too.

 

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

Want to know more about Annie and her lifelong friendship with Cham read The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com.

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Why did I decide to reinvent myself and call myself Lola? My wheels have been spinning for years, never getting closer to finding THE job or figuring out how to sell more books. It felt as though I was I was taking two steps back for every step I took forward. I decided it was time to regenerate myself and my life.

This became an exercise in figuring out who I really was, what I enjoyed doing and trying things that might not have been in my comfort zone. I’ve had a photo shoot, learned about meditation, had an enlightening conversation with a Buddhist monk, changed my hair color, spent time with my friends and tried to stay optimistic about accepting new and different experiences.

I’m working on something new. What is it that I really like to do? What makes me happy? What puts a smile on my face when I do it, when I talk about it? What can’t I wait to do when it’s in the schedule?

The ocean. I love walking along the coast, any coast. I like the sound of water as it crashes against the shore. I love shelling, and shells, finding different shapes, different colors. It’s like a treasure hunt for me. Though I’m terrified of deep water, I love being near the water, dipping my toes in the water and mostly I love looking into the infinity of the ocean, seeing the curve of the world and seeing nothing on the other side. It represents no boundaries, that the world offers endless possibility if you open yourself up to them.

Writing makes me happy. Creating actually is what I love. It’s why I love painting, drawing, interior design. I love fabrics, colors, and making things pretty. When I was six, I bought a pin cushion, not because I sewed, but because it had three coordinating fabrics, in varying shades of pink. I liked it.

The two questions you might be asking, why don’t I already know what I like to do and why is it important? I don’t know anymore what makes me happy after life threw me several curve balls. I’ve been so preoccupied with a kid with anxiety, a kid who cut themselves because they were uncomfortable in their own skin, with things that pulled me so far from my original goals, I had to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted, what would make me happy.

It’s important because we shouldn’t wait to ask permission to do the things we like, and no matter how crazy hectic our lives can be, we should always carve out time for ourselves doing the things that we enjoy. So for me that means a walk along the beach searching for hidden treasures and a camera to feed my creative side. I won’t ever let myself forget again, to but myself first once and awhile.

HarperNeilsonPhotography-016-f-bbb