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Author: Sheryl Steines

Book Release, New Website, Oy the Changes

Book Release, New Website, Oy the Changes

A writer’s life.

It started with a rewrite.

It wasn’t working. It was no one’s fault, but what do you change when it feels like you’re mired in a sticky, muddy mess?

My first change was the book itself. It didn’t feel right, some plot lines hadn’t been resolved; something did feel quite right; it affected the writing of the next book. I must say the rewrite was better than I could have imagined. That sparked an entire series rethink, which spurred … well it led to an excitement, a new confidence. And now after seven years, I finally have a series that clicked on all cylinders. I couldn’t have imagined it had I planned it that way.

Now What?

I wanted to sell the new version of The Day of First Sun. I was nervous, scared…did I really make the right change? Was it good at all? I sold the book at Book Con, Chicago 2016. One week after the sale, I received a Facebook message from  a reader, telling me she loved the book and couldn’t wait for book two.

I was no longer afraid to sell the book and decided then and there, when something doesn’t work, it’s time to dismantle the thing and start again.

My Twitter handle, the Facebook Author Page, and even this website became more streamlined, I had SEO (search engine optimization) to contend with, you know? And it all came together just in time for Black Market to be released. I’ve waited years for February 6, 2017 to arrive because I finally had the next book in the series. I was finally ready, the change was here.

And I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

 

My Author Journey

My Author Journey

My journey begins today!

Thoughts from today:

It’s been one hell of a journey, these last 7 years. In that time, I’ve been up and I’ve been down while at the same time and I’ve been standing still. It was time to make some major changes. It started with the complete rewrite of book one and restructuring my entire series. I had the blog completely recreated and organized. My Twitter handle and Facebook author page changed. I turned it upside down.

It’s funny though, because the struggles from seven years ago are still the struggles I have seven years into the journey. The only thing that’s changed is; I’m far more knowledgeable and maybe a little more confident about what I want and where I want to go. And as book two is finally about to be released, I remember and reminisce, and really the journey is still the same.

So here’s my Throwback Thursday blog from 2011.

I can’t believe that it’s been a year, this month, since I published The Day of First Sun. In that time, I’ve cried, complained, written, edited, worked on the blog, cried, hated Twitter, loved Twitter, cried, threw my computer down in disgust. I’ve researched, questioned other writers, sat for hours under a cold breeze at Wizard World, all in the hopes of finding that one thing, the one spark that would get my book out there in the market, in front of the right person.

In the first 11 months, I did what I was told would work. I got a Facebook author page, a Twitter Account, Amazon author page, sent letters to independent books stores in hopes I could get a book signing. But in that time all I’ve managed to do is sell my book to my friends and family and maybe some strangers. 

It’s always time well spent, on an anniversary, to take a moment to reflect on the past year and learn something from it. I learned I suck at marketing and I’m rather computer/internet illiterate.

No I actually did learn something valuable. I learned my passion and my love, is the path I should take. It fosters confidence, which breeds more confidence and that opens you to possibilities. I’ve always looked at the book as my product, one that I need to get to market. In an effort to accomplish that, I attended my first book expo and that was my greatest lesson. I realized how much I didn’t know about publishing and that I had choices to make; I either stop pursuing this journey, stop spending money in hopes that something good will happen, or I stop straddling the fence, jump in with both feet and make the dream a reality.

 

 

Remember the Inspiration that is Nancy Drew

Remember the Inspiration that is Nancy Drew

Inspiration: Today

Inspiration started with a book, which led to a love of mystery. But I wanted more than just to read the words, I wanted to write them.

After spending seven years in the mire that is marketing, writing, editing and parenting, I found myself stuck in the same place and it hit me, that something needed to change. Finding inspiration, I started over, with a new website, book series name, Facebook page name and Twitter handle.

Phew…And now I’m finally ready to release book two, with fear and awe.

While I reflect on the early days, back to a time when I had no idea what would become of my books or where the journey would take me, I find that inspiration and I share with you bits and pieces of that early blog. It sounds almost the same.

Inspiration: October 2010

I was a reader; everything from Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, and Little Women. It inspired me to write my first book at seven years old. At nine, I read Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume, hiding “Forever” under my pillow at night. I graduated to Stephen King and slept with a nightlight; words had that effect. I felt something for these characters, I was engrossed in a good story. I loved to tap into the imagination. Inspiration; I wanted to be a writer.

Though life sidetracked me with a job credit card services, my time as an interior decorator. I had kids and I forgot what I wanted to be when I grew up. Until Harry Potter reminded me.

It’s really not the end of the journey, now that The Day of First Sun eBook is published. I think I’m now just beginning. Book two Black Market is well on its way, and I’m looking forward to all the possibilities. Thanks to everyone for their messages, for their support and questions and if you purchased the book, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Reversed The Curse!

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?

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 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

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 a 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!

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Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

What’s a pantser you ask?

I  didn’t embrace myself when I started to write. I assumed I was doing something wrong until I met other authors. As I quickly found out, there are two types of authors. One like JK Rowling who meticulously plans out the story. I’m sure if you’re a fan you’ve seen the notes and graphs of her outlines. She is what’s known as a plotter.

The other side of this is the writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and sits in front of the computer screen and just writes. That would be Stephen King, He approaches his stories as if he’s discovered an artifact and as he writes, he carefully unearths the story. This is called a pantser.

And that is me.

Doing it wrong – embrace myself.

For the longest time I thought I was doing it wrong. The crafting of the story I thought might go smoother, easier if I could plan it out. Unfortunately for me, planning always goes off the rails and I end up writing by the seat of my pants anyway.

After reading On Writing, by Stephen King, I realized other authors write like me and I stopped fretting and worrying, and finally embraced my style, learned to work with the quirks rather than fitting my style into someone else’s.

But is this a good way to write?

Hell yes! As I write, I become kinda like the reader. I might have a direction in which I’m heading, but the story is slowly revealed to me and that includes twists and surprises. There have been times that the story unfolds and I will stare at the computer screen and think, “What the hell? I wasn’t expecting that!”

I enjoy the surprises, not knowing exactly what’s coming up for my characters. Though I must say, it can take more draft before the story is crafted the way that I like. But it is so worth the extra time. And I enjoy the surprises now that I embrace my process.

Lessons

Lesson in the first: Embrace yourself. Why fight your true nature. Learn to work within your quirks.

Lesson in the second: Know your limitations and find a work around. I know it will take me more than two drafts before I have a well crafted story. It’s just the way it is. I couldn’t be happier with how The Wizard Hall Chronicles are shaping up. It wouldn’t have been this good if I planned it.

Lesson in the third: Embrace who you are. When I stopped worrying about doing it like other authors and really looked at how I worked, whether it’s writing as a pantser or writing best between 1 and 7 in the afternoon, I worked better not harder.

Lesson in the fourth: I’m not a bad story teller and I have a good product. Be proud of your work, put the effort in and people will notice. I’ve been fortunate to have found some amazing fans. Now if I can only clone them and find more like them, it’ll be gravy.

So here’s to the writers who plan and plot and those of us who sit down and write and let the story unfold. We are who we are however we get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie Pearce

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

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When Jack Meets a Vampire – All Hell Breaks Loose

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!

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