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Category: Wizard Hall Chronicles

ASKING HELP FROM OTHERS: Are you an Annie?

ASKING HELP FROM OTHERS: Are you an Annie?

Annie Pearce has a problem

She keeps going off by herself and doesn’t ask for help. Whether it’s to follow leads, a suspect or even do research, she repeatedly leaves on her own, against the warnings of friends and colleagues to not go anywhere without backup or knowing where she is. It’s a problem throughout book one of the Wizard Hall Chronicles, The Day of First Sun.  

Cham: “Can I look at your neck?” Dark purple bruises covered both sides of her neck. “I should have gone.” His obvious concern caused Annie a great deal of guilt.

Annie: “I shouldn’t go out like that again.”

Consequences Aren’t So High in the Real World

Now, we all slip away on our own from time to time. But in our world, there are few consequences to that action. Annie’s world, however, is fraught with danger. She’s investigating crimes committed by powerful individuals – all of whom have an ax to grind against her specifically. Yet, despite the fact that Annie’s boss, boyfriend, and colleagues consistently offer her their support and services, Annie sneaks off by herself to follow a lead. She goes to a warehouse and witnesses humans being turned into zombies and is almost caught as she leaves.

Cham: “I’ve been calling for you for an hour. We need to talk about the plan, and you’re constantly gone…Please tell me what is going on.”
Annie: “I’m trying to catch a murderer.”
Cham: “Whose murderer?”
Annie: “Does it matter?”
Cham: “If you get yourself killed, yeah, it matters. Where were you?”
Annie: “I broke into his warehouse and hid…They knew someone was there. And I was scared. No one knew where I was…”

She follows the evil wizard behind the creation of this zombie army and winds up doing battle with him without backup. After each occurrence, she is chastised by others but it doesn’t really stop her from doing it again.

Cham: “Where were you?…No call, no idea where you were. I’m sorry if I was worried!”
Annie: “I’m a big girl. I don’t need you to take care of everything. I can take care of myself.”…Her heart raced, and she bit her lip to keep from crying…
I didn’t listen to Milo. No one knew where I was.

“You’re not getting out of here alive!” the evil wizard taunted. Annie rolled her eyes.
But then again no one knows I’m confined with him down here.

Asking for Help

As a reader, I’m sure you want to jump through the pages and shake Annie, screaming “why are you taking these chances? Accept the help being offered!” I oftentimes thought that as I was writing it. But Annie is based on real women with familiar struggles we can relate to.

It might not be as dangerous as chasing zombies. It could be a simple as you are sick and others have offered to help, or you have a lot on your plate and are concerned you can’t do it in the time frame you have available. People offer to help, but you say them you have it covered or you don’t want to bother anyone. Or it could just be a control issue, only you can do it. I’ve been guilty of all of these. Many people have trouble accepting the extended hand of others. And as a person who is independent and intelligent, Annie is one of these individuals.

Annie learns her lesson in the second book of the series, Black Market. Annie is very aware that she has this tendency and works hard to overcome it. So my question to you today– do you see yourself in Annie? Do you ask for help when needed? Or do you take it all on by yourself to your detriment? I have to admit that I frequently struggle with this issue. It is a lot easier to “cure” a character than to “cure” yourself!

Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Once upon a time…

I had a story to tell, my own story of writing. I sat down at the computer and began to type. My fingers flew over the keyboard and the words poured out of me. And in six weeks’ time, I had a book. The End.
Only, it wasn’t the end. It was really the beginning. After that first draft, I must have made 30 more sets of changes. I was a total novice to this process. I used an online self-publishing site to create my book from cover-to-cover. I self-published the book in 2010. The End.

But this wasn’t the end either. After working on Book Two of the series, I hired an editor who suggested that I re-work the first book and re-release it. It had been widely reviewed and very well received. After a blog tour, my book was #1 in occult fiction on Amazon. The End.

The Writing Process Sometimes Doesn’t End

Only, once again, I wasn’t at the end. I released what was then second book in the series called “She Wulf.”* And the writing process completely stalled. I realized that changes needed to be made to the whole series. I decided to rewrite the ending of The Day of First Sun and finish up story lines such as what happened to all the dead bodies and discuss what happened to the zombies.

As I read through the book, I saw many different things I hadn’t seen before. I added scenes, I added conflict, and in the end, I completely rewrote the last half of the book, putting Annie in some serious situations she’d have to work through.

I also added more changes on the advice of my editor. She told me to put in more of the “beginnings” of the relationships rather than having all established relationships in between the pages.

In the process, one seemingly minor change, set the whole tone of the book with the addition of a dead body outside the bar. This new beginning unveiled the theme of protecting the secret of magic from the non-magical world. Lastly, I added a whole new character to the story that will play a big role in the series someone wanting to expose her and magic.

The Final Product

All of these changes led to a fuller, richer story. At least I hope so. In the end, I’m guessing that there were about 40 or 50 different drafts of the book. The current published version of The Day of First Sun is very different from what I sat down to write in 2009. And the process has been very different from I expected it to be when I had the dream of writing a book. It takes flexibility and the willingness to open your heart to change. It takes the advice of experts and listening to the inner voice within yourself about direction of the story and conveying the truth about the characters that you create. And, of course, it takes patience. The End. (for now…)

* She Wulf was shelved for a time and will be rewritten to fit the new timeline as Book 4 in the series. A new Book 2 was then written and published, Black Market. Click here for more information on this exciting chapter in the Wizard Hall Chronicles.

Theme Writing – Saying Something with Purpose

Theme Writing – Saying Something with Purpose

Do My Books Have a Theme?

As a pantser, not a plotter, a writer who writes without plotting the story, I very rarely chose the book’s theme before I begin. I actually don’t think I really planned on a theme for any of the stories. To be perfectly honest, my goal has always been to write an entertaining story, one that leaves the reader happy they spent an afternoon with my characters.

I wanted relatable, real characters, a female lead who would be strong, and vulnerable as she navigated her life. I suppose for all intents and purposes, that was theme I was writing about.

After writing and publishing Black Market, I realized I was writing about so much more.

The Review that Got Me Thinking of my Book’s Theme

Black Market – Beautifully and eloquently
combines themes of empowerment,
social justice, resilience, balance,
strength and vulnerability.
Erin – Good Men Project

Yes, I wanted Annie Pearce to be a symbol of empowerment, a woman in a man’s world, navigating difficult men who called her “girl”, vampires who treated her like a dolt. Set in the world of the police procedural you’d even see the theme of social justice and what does good vs. evil look like.

Wizard War – Book Three – Theme of Justice

I hadn’t realized when I wrote Wizard War, that I so heavily discussed the meaning of justice. What it is and how do you determine if justice was served. For example, it’s much like the debate, the death penalty vs life in prison. Though I’m not here to discuss that, I do examine how the magical world makes deals with the demon to further the course of the investigation.

In this story, was justice served if the investigation techniques fall in the ethically gray area?

My characters aren’t perfect and are oftentimes faced with decisions that affect the outcome of the case or challenge their existing beliefs.

I don’t think I could have planned for the story’s themes to blend so beautifully if I tried. But the reader or in the case the reviewer of the attached quote, saw what had been floating around in my head. A book so much more than an afternoon adventure, one that might even have a message, something important to say.

I’m always amazed by what I see in my stories as it compares to what others take away from the book and I’m glad that I can offer something more complex than just a stake through the heart.

 

 

 

 

If Magic Were Real Would We Have to Share

If Magic Were Real Would We Have to Share

Protecting Magic at all Costs

It’s a common trope in supernatural books: magic must be hidden from the non-magical world, no matter the cost. In Harry Potter’s world, the Ministry of Magic would punish offenders for exposing magic. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, protagonists Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein were threatened with execution when it was thought that they conspired to release a dangerous Obscurus on the unsuspecting citizens of New York City. When destruction and chaos followed, the American version of the Ministry of Magic repaired the damage and removed all memory of magic from the minds of “non-mags”.

There’s a Plan In Place

In the Wizard Hall Chronicles, my characters are also charged with protecting the secret of magic; a theme important throughout the series. The Wizard Guard has a team of experts, led by Graham Lightner, who come in immediately after an event to clean the scene of all traces of the supernatural. In book one, The Day of the First Sun, kicks off with a vampire attack discovered before Graham’s Vampire Attack Unit can conceal the aftermath. In book two, Black Market, it’s a race against time to keep magic a secret as the barriers between the two worlds are threatened.

But even as I have created this world and bought into the theory that the secret of magic must be protected at all costs, it makes me think; what would happen if the non-magical world knew that magic exists? There are so many benefits that magic could bring to humanity – curing diseases, ending poverty, saving lives…Is it fair to hide these valuable benefits from humankind?

Should the Gifts be Shared

This debate really hit me after watching Black Panther. In the movie, the country of Wauconda has prosperity and incredible technology due to the resource that they possess – vibranium . They can heal, build powerful weapons, and protect their people with this element. For generations, they chose to keep it a secret in order to safeguard their way of life. The moral debate: open up their country and share their “magical” secret with the rest of the world. As they heal an outsider from the brink of death, it’s hard to argue that their abilities should not be shared with all of humanity.

Ethics of Sharing

Even in my world, magic has healed severely injured characters. So why not reveal the beauty and power of magic? For me, I think my characters realize humankind cannot really process and accept magic as a safe way of life. Even as far back as the Salem Witch Trials, we have seen that fear and ignorance can be dangerous. Also – there are nefarious individuals in this world – what would they do to have magic at their control? Right now, the magical world of Wizard Hall uses their magic on a finite group that is considerably small. If we added the rest of humanity into the equation, is there enough magic to take care of the billions more involved?

These answers are not easy. What do you think? Does the magical world have the moral imperative to share their abilities with the non-magical world? Or do you think exposing the secret of magic would be a disaster? Share your thoughts with me .

ELVES: THEY MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE

ELVES: THEY MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE

Okay – I want to make a bet with you. Say you are reading some sort of fictional book set in some sort of supernatural world. How long do you think it would take before the author introduces elves? These creatures may look very different and have different purposes in their respective stories, but they have become a favorite microcosm of the paranormal. These creatures seem to make their worlds a better place. Harry Potter had his Dobby. The members of the Fellowship of the Ring had their Legolas. My Annie Pearce has her Bitherby.

In looks, demeanor and in his lot in life, Bitherby is probably closer to Dobby than the tall, blond and glamorous Orlando Bloom (oops – I mean Legolas…) But despite being condemned to an existence of forced labor, Bitherby shows that he is made of the same loyalty and bravery as shown by both of his elf role models. Recognizing the horrors that have taken over the Black Market, Bitherby repeatedly risks his own life to save Annie and her friends, as well as all of magic and humankind. His actions – just like Dobby’s and Legolas’ — make his world a better place.

Bitherby’s Selfless Act

I think his devotion to everyone but himself is best demonstrated by the following section of my second book, Black Market. Bitherby risks his life to go find Annie’s childhood fairy, who has been kidnapped by evil forces. Even as his best friend Huxley warns him that his quest is doomed, Bitherby knows he has to do it. As with Dobby and Legolas, Bitherby continues the tradition of selfless elves who put the needs of others before their own.

Loyal Elves

“Bitherby’s fingers grazed the beds as he passed. He sniffed and recognized the scent that Huxley carried. The elf held his hand over his friend’s mouth, startling the sleeping creature. Unable to scream, he bolted upright and heard a soothing “Ssshh,” beside him. “Huxley, it’s me.”

Huxley removed Bitherby’s hand. “What are you doing here? They see ya and you’re dead.” Huxley’s eyes darted around the room as if the humans lurked in the shadows.

“I need your help,” Bitherby ordered. Huxley’s bruised eyes grew wide with fear, his swollen lip trembled, and his green skin turned ashen white and glowed in the darkness.

“You can’t be here. They find you and kill you.” He quivered in his bed, which vibrated against the stone floor. Bitherby placed a hand on his friend to calm the nervous elf.

“Shhh. You wake everyone. I need help. The wizard guard protects me; she’ll protect you too.”

“Why you come back?” Huxley asked.

“Her Aloja fairy is in the dungeon,” Bitherby whispered angrily.

“You risk your life for her fairy?” Huxley spat.

“Hafta. I need your help. Wizard Guard don’t know the market. Will never find her.” Bitherby wrung his hands and glanced around at his former mates, expecting them to wake and turn him in. They were all still asleep.

Huxley climbed off the bed so he was eye level with his friend. “You stupid elf.”

Bitherby let out the stale air from his lungs.

“They still looking for the girl. And you,” Huxley protested.

“I gotta,” Bitherby said.

“You gotta. You gotta be stupid,” Huxley said and led his friend from the basement.”

What If Elves Existed in Reality?

As a writer and as an avid reader of the supernatural, I often dream of what our world would be like if these paranormal creatures existed in our reality. I can’t help but think that if elves were real, our planet would be a better place. Take a peek at Black Market and see if Bitherby doesn’t work his way into your heart.

Here’s to the Strong Female Character! May we know them; May we be them; May we raise them; AND MAY WE WRITE ABOUT THEM!

Here’s to the Strong Female Character! May we know them; May we be them; May we raise them; AND MAY WE WRITE ABOUT THEM!

March is Women’s History Month

It brings me back to a familiar topic here on my blog – the strong female character at the heart of an interesting, complex story. As a fan, I look to books and movies that feature kick-ass women as their lead. These ladies are the ones who don’t wait until their boyfriends show up to save the day – they kick down the door and take no prisoners.

As an author and as a woman, it was important to me to create such a protagonist. I wanted to imbue Annie Pearce with a sense of fierceness, intelligence and bravery usually associated with heroes like James Bond or Indiana Jones. In MY story, other characters look to Annie for guidance, intuition and answers.

Why I Created a Strong Female Character

Annie Pearce is who I would be, if I could snap my fingers and be anyone. In Annie’s world, magic is a comfortable tool to help her solve crimes. She dares to go in dark, dangerous places to hunt down clues and witnesses – never afraid to step into places like the Black Market filled with vampires, dark magic practitioners, and beasts not seen in our everyday world. When faced by treacherous villains who may have been responsible for her father’s death, she digs deep inside herself and finds the inner strength needed to confront these individuals. When her own life is threatened, she doesn’t wait for someone to come and save her – she finds her own way out of the situation and manages to save others at the same time.

Annie is also compassionate and thoughtful. She has endeared herself to her fellow members of the Wizard Guard and different magical creatures that she meets along the way. She has even garnered the loyalty of some questionable characters that are willing to put their lives on the line for her.

Real Women

You see, strong women have the unique ability to blend the tough and the tender. I wrote the character of Annie to show the importance of both of those traits. Annie is in the front of the battle, but she follows behind to check on those affected by the fray. I hope that she is an inspirational role for young women as they are developing their sense of self. I hope they find the strength to be “Kick-Ass” while being nurturing and loving individuals.

WIP – Book 3 of The Wizard Hall Chronicles – Wizard War

WIP – Book 3 of The Wizard Hall Chronicles – Wizard War

Book Three of the Wizard Hall Chronicles 

Wizard War

September 1: The Day of First Sun

Cyril B. Stonewell waited patiently for the world to forget Princess Amelie Maxillian of Amborix, but it would take longer than the six weeks he allowed for it. Hundreds of stories had been written, pictures posted to millions of websites; her life story could still be accessed as if she were still living. This was in part due to the lack of closure. Though they knew who killed her, no one outside of Wizard Hall America, or the Wizard Council of America knew why she was murdered. And most importantly, no one anywhere knew what Stonewall was planning to do.
It’s time!

Stonewell dragged the heavy sack across the perfectly manicured lawn. It bounced, and the man stuffed inside groaned as he woke from his magical stupor.

Before reaching his destination, the body inside woke and grew restless, or scared and tugged at the canvas sack he was stuffed inside. When he couldn’t loosen the ropes, he kicked and flayed. Stonewell, not a young or healthy man, stopped, issued a hard kick to the man’s kidney and squatted beside the dirty bag.

“Keep this up and I’ll kill you now,” Stonewell hissed. The man, spoke only German, but he understood the tone of Stonewell’s words; he stiffened into a tightly wound ball and himself be dragged across the dew covered lawn owned by the royal family of Amborix.

With his destination in sight, Stonewell, short and fat, stopped again, and panted in exhaustion; the bag was heavy, even as thin and malnourished that his victim was. It was too much exertion for Stonewell.
I should have teleported!

He picked up the drawstring of the sack and hobbled his way toward the gravesite, where the royal family had buried their only daughter, far from the prying eyes of the world. But she wouldn’t be buried there for much longer.
With each labored stepped, the former high ranking member of the Wizard Council, grunted from the exertion and sweat poured down his cheeks. He wrapped the canvas handle around his hand, and took another step toward the large oak tree at the center of the open land.

Wind carried voices.

Security is here too soon!

Panic filled his gut; Stonewell hobbled as quickly as he could toward the gravesite, where the grass hadn’t fully grown back. A moist patch of dark earth, smooth yet visible lay at his feet.

Stonewell dropped the bag, wiped sweat from his forehead, leaving behind a streak of dirt and leaned against the granite headstone.

The voices, grew closer, yet they were still off in the distance, traversing the large clearing.

I need to move!

Not relishing the thought of being discovered, Stonewell glanced around the clearing searching for shadows of the security officers against their flashlights. When he saw none coming, he waved his palms across the first layer of loose dirt, pushing it to the side of the grave. He worked alone to remove several cubic feet of the heavy earth, and with each sound in the darkness, he’d spin around, anxious security would find him messing with the gravesite. He removed a second layer of dirt, the pile growing enough to draw suspicion.

Flashlights illuminated the thick, dense trees, that circled this open lawn. The harshness of the German grew louder, stronger.

They’re angry. Damn!

Stonewell ducked behind the large oak tree as Amelie’s headstone lit up with streams of light.

The bag!

“There!” Footsteps sloshed across the wet grass. Stonewell, nearly caught, waved his arm around the edge of the thick trunk, and swiped his palm in the direction of two security guards heading to the mysterious bag. Little did they know it contained a half drugged street urchin.

“Help me!” the man shouted. The security officers gained speed seeing the bag move and the pile of dirt beside the grave of Princess Amelie.

Stonewell’s jinx hit both men, they stopped mid step, frozen as living statues. He swished his palm again, knocking the men over; they landed with thuds against the grass.

Poking his head around the tree trunk, Stonewell surveyed the scene, wiped his brow of sweat, slid out from his hiding spot. His first order was a swift kick to the bag, he heard a crack in the man’s ribs. “They’re gone. You won’t be saved,” Stonewell sneered and began to remove the dirt before the security guards woke from their forced nap.

The earth from the grave loosened and floated to the pile easily but the exhaustion seeped through Stonewell’s body as he expended a lot of magical energy to unearth so much dirt and locate the coffin.

I must be close!

Three hours after he began, the cement tomb was finally visible. He wiped sweat and dirt from his face, wiped it on his expensive suit, already covered in mud. He swiped away the final layer of earth revealing the bronze plaque on the cement lid read that read, Amelie Victoria Maxillian, Rest In Peace.

As if he knew what was to come, the victim, struggled inside the canvas bag, closed tightly with a sticking spell and other magical jinxes used to prevent his escape. His moans, grew fearful as he screamed obscenities through the thick fabric.

His legs kicked out as if he could rip through the heavy fabric. Stonewell glanced at the indigent and threw a jinx at the moving mass, immobilizing him.

Standing at the edge of the hole, Stonewell held his palms upward and raised the heavy cement lid, floating it up through the grave and landing it on a clear patch of grass. Shining his light inside, he examined the coffin—still polished, nearly pristine—it lay untouched by air or time. He jumped down, tightly enclosed inside the hole. Adrenaline coursed through him as he raised the lid, unsure of what he’d find.

he silk lining ripped to shreds and covered in streaks of blood.

The newly risen vampire lay still, her expensive silk lining, ripped to shreds, covered in blood. He flashed his light inside, her angry eyes were black holes. She blinked rapidly as she stared at her savior hovering above her.

“What took so long?” she sneered.

“I know, love. It couldn’t be helped.” He smiled and reached for her hand, but the agile, young vampire rejected his assistance. She easily stood and leaped from the coffin, without breaking a sweat or dirtying her emerald green, silk dress.

Stonewell hoisted himself from the hole, slipping in the wet earth, landing in the coffin. Amelie sneered as she watched him struggle from her former prison. He glanced up at the lovely princess, and grimaced. Rather than embarrassing himself further, he teleported to the grass, bent over and sucked in a deep breath.

“I’m famished,” Amelie cooed through purple, pouted lips. Her hair fell wild around her face; her dress slipped from her shoulder. Her fingertips, raw and bloody from attempting to escape had marked up her silk dress. Smudges covered her neck, her cheek, her lips.

A breeze wafted across the clearing, Amelie closed her eyes, felt the wind across her bare skin. Though she no longer felt hot or cold, the breeze still tickled her skin.

Stonewell wanted to run a brush through the golden locks, dress her in the finest of clothes like the princess she was.
With a bath she’d be perfect.

“I’ve brought your first blood, your highness.” He bowed low to the princess as he showed her the bag with the victim squirming inside.

“Don’t call me that!” she shouted. Her voice rolled through the trees.

“Yes. Amelie. Here. Here’s the food I promised.”

Stonewell, once a high official of the Wizard Council, now succumbed to being Amelie’s slave, he untied the strings that held her first victim inside.

As a young vampire she knew nothing about the art of the sensual kill. She pounced on her prey, ripped opened the bag and held the victim to the wet grass. She sniffed him and licked his tender neck. He struggled against her vampire strength; she held him tighter, bound his hands behind his back in one of her delicate hands and pulled his neck backward, giving her room to sink her fangs into the artery. Warm blood passed her lips, she sucked deeply. Her first taste of blood was all she needed to understand the ecstasy in that moment. A slow groan of pleasure escaped her as she writhed against her first victim. As he was drained of life, he no longer struggled against her grasp, she loosened her hold on him until he finally went limp.

She held him in her arms until there was nothing left inside of him and pulled her sharp teeth from his neck. Amelie licked the last drops of blood from his neck, licked her lips of whatever she hadn’t sucked and then tossed the corpse to the ground. She stepped over him, sashaying to the man who saved her from her confines.

“My master,” the vampire cooed. She smiled coyly, averting her eyes from his lecherous stare.

The princess is happy!

Stonewell smirked to himself as he reached for her hand. He shivered at the icy chill that emanated from her skin.
“Did they notice, my dear?”

Amelie shrugged. “I have no idea what happened to me after I died,” she hissed.

It’s unlikely they found the vampire tracks beneath that thick, golden hair at the back of her head.

“They did a fine job. Fine job, indeed.” Stonewell glanced at the mess he created, reached down for the dead homeless man and pulled him toward the coffin. He was still very heavy.

“I’m so hungry,” Amelie whined. She pressed her lithe body against his squat fat bottom.

“I need to clean up this mess. We can’t give anyone a reason to investigate this grave. They will know you aren’t here,” he said as he dumped the body inside the coffin.

“Now,” Amelie said as her breasts and hips curved against him. Heat rushed through him as her every touch aroused him, even the cold chill from her skin felt alive.

“I will find you someone to eat. Now let me finish,” he ordered and lowered the coffin lid on the dead man.
“Now!” she screamed.

Amelie grabbed Stonewell’s fat wrist and twirled him around to face her. Confusion and fear lined his face.
“Now, my dear. I’ll fetch you someone new. Le-let’s go. We’ll go, now,” he muttered as he glanced at the frozen security team feet from where Amelie held his wrist.

But Amelie was no longer interested in the man who freed her from her prison. Pulling him to her like a rag doll, she yanked on his chin pulling his head back, exposing his neck. She could no longer wait for the taste of iron and sank her fangs deep into his neck and let the blood flow.

He cried out, “No! My love, no!”

Stonewell struggled as all victims did when they realized they were about to die. She felt the life slip from him, his muscles went slack, the life faded from his eyes. Cyril B. Stonewell’s body slumped against Amelie as she sucked from him all that he had.

 

Six Months Later

The minute Annie returned home from the Cave of Ages, she went on medical leave. Two injuries in one week was enough to claim compensation time; she gladly stayed in bed past eight in the morning when the sun burst through the curtains, blinding her.

I should find dad’s missing file.

Her mind raced with thoughts of her father, of his missing file, of the Fraternitatem of Solomon who got away with murder. She sighed and felt Cham’s warm body in deep sleep beside her. Not wanting to wake him, she climbed from the bed, threw on a thick sweatshirt and headed for her kitchen.

Zola, always protective, always there for Annie, busied herself in the kitchen, even as she too was recovering from several injuries, to her wrists, ankles and her ripped fairy wings that hung limply behind her.

“Go rest,” Annie said as she took the cleaning rag from Zola.

“I need to stay busy. You know that’s what you’ll be doing too,” Zola remarked and though Zola attempt to show strength, she was glad when Annie shooed her away. “You rest. I’ll know if you don’t.” Zola smiled before teleporting herself to the guest room for much needed sleep.

Annie poured herself hot water from kettle on the stove and dunked a tea bag inside and sat at the table.
So, where would dad hide a file?

Annie fiddled with the warm mug, the tea seeped and the water grew dark brown. She twirled the tea bag.
Basement probably?

She glanced at the open door, left her steaming mug of tea on the table and headed into the damp, cold basement.
Annie zipped up her warm hoodie and glanced around the crowded room, surveying possible locations for a file.
Maybe in the walls or under the floor or maybe the air return vents?

Annie started with the laundry room, a long thin room at the back end of the basement. It was completely unfinished, contained a washer and dryer as well as the other mechanical units for the house.

Immediately, Annie noticed the metal chair leaning against the wall and a single iron shackle that had been left behind when the clean-up team had dealt with the evidence and mess of Zola’s abduction a few days prior.
Why is that still here?

Annie pulled the shackle from the floor, noticed the blood and hair and summoned an evidence bag. With the iron bracelet secure, she began to thump against the walls, assessing the sound for possible voids in the wall. When she found nothing, Annie did a quick search of the area behind the water heater and furnace, but there was no sign of a file or a container to store a file.

With the evidence bag secure, Annie stepped back into the main basement room and scanned the walls, the floor, the boxes, filled with junk.

What was here when dad was alive?

Weary and not wanting to tackle the boxes of junk Annie decided to head upstairs for breakfast, until she noticed the small door to the crawl space, an open area beneath the staircase to the second floor.

Would he hide it in such an obvious location?

Annie had never been in the crawl space, let alone seen what was stored inside, if there was anything at all.
Sitting on the cold floor, Annie pushed against the panel that should have slid open manually. But it wouldn’t budge and use of magic did nothing to dislodge The opening. Annie sighed and summoned a crystal. Holding it over the door, she maneuvered the crystal scanning for magic. It didn’t take long for the rock to glow brightly with white magic.

The magic floated around the crystal, she stared at the old magic.

Eight years old maybe?

“Hey.” Cham rubbed his eyes of the last bits of sleep as he climbed down the staircase. “Whatcha doing?”

“I think I found the hiding spot.” She tossed him the crystal; he stared inside, reading the magic.
“Ah … that’s a really simple spell,” he noted.

Maybe dad assumed no one would ever look here.

“You really think it’s as easy as that?” Annie asked. It surprised her how simple a spell her father used.

“Yeah. I do.” The doorbell rang. Annie and Cham glanced at each other, Annie shrugged. “I’ll get it. You open,” he offered and headed back upstairs.

Annie scooted closer to the crawl space door, casting a reversal spell against the thin panel. It creaked and popped and slid open with an easy touch.

“Really dad?” Annie chuckled. With her flashlight, she stuck her head inside the space. Musty, dusty scents wafted to her; the dirt floor, the cobwebs, a possible nest in the corner. She cringed as the light roamed the small space stopping on the box in the corner.

Is that…

The box had been there for years, covered in dust, and water stains. She backed away not wanting to crawl through the bugs, or snakes or mice that might be living in here.

Duh?

Annie summoned the box, the same that stored the printer paper at Wizard Hall. It easily floated to her. She lay it on the cement beside her, almost frightened to see what was inside.

“You got an unmarked package,” Cham said, handing her an envelope addressed Annie Pearce; it had no return address.

She glanced at the scribbled handwriting, barely legible and felt the package; light and pliable.

“Odd. But guess what I found,” she announced proudly and showed him the box.

“So Jason did hide the file. You okay to look inside?”

I wonder if I am?

Ryan gave Annie his full support to investigate her father’s death. She lifted the box and floated it beside her as she walked the stairs with her unmarked package.

“I don’t recognize the handwriting. I wonder if I should take it to work.” Annie said as she tossed the package on the table beside the box.

“Or you could look for wayward magic,” Cham suggested with half a grin.

“Already there,” she announced as she moved her crystal over the mystery package. The rock didn’t glow.
Annie squished the package between her fingers.

Paper?

She held the mail to the light, but the envelope was thick and opaque offering her no clue as to the contents. Curious, she ripped open the seal and peered inside.

Well that’s not what I expected? She thought as she slipped the contents on the table.

“What the hell? It’s a… a French newspaper?”

The paper was well read, and folded with purpose. The picture attached to the article was clearly visible. Black and white, the red circle was hard to mistake. Annie summoned a magnifying glass and examined the picture as Cham looked on from over her shoulder.

That face!

“Oh crap,” she held the glass and stared into the picture.

“That can’t be.” Annie was stunned as they stared at a picture of Princess Amelie, alive and walking among the crowd.

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My Life

Defining my life fell into two separate and distinct periods of time; life before my daughter was born with a terminal disease and the path life took after. The single defining moment for me, was that second, that single moment before she was born (via C-section) and that long moment when I realized she wasn’t crying, that something was very wrong.

It sticks with you, these defining moments. Sometimes you can find yourself as a victim of the moment and let it drag you under, or you can use the moment to step forward and redefine your life and your dreams.

I fell somewhere in between. I found a way to move on, to raise my other daughter, have another child. While moving on, I seemingly found myself a victim of my circumstance, stagnating and letting that single moment define who I was.

Re Defining My Life

I read Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter. It did more than entertain; it woke up a passion in me that I hadn’t realized was there.

That, coupled with a meeting of a former classmate at a twentieth class reunion, forced me to look at my life and the choices I made and something inside of me changed. I no longer wanted to let life and the bad things define how I lived my life. It was time for me to take control.

I remembered for the first time in years, that I had a dream. One that I cultivated since I was seven years old. I wanted to be a writer.

Writing That First Book

I tried over the years to write a book. I stopped at chapter 1 or paragraph 1, never completely understanding how to craft that story. Never really understanding what it was that I even wanted to say.

But this time, the jealously that my classmate was a published author and my sadness that had accumulated over a lifetime, forced me to open the book and really think about what story I wanted to tell.

It wasn’t very good or very long and it took many attempts to reach the published versions I have online. I look back at the first time I typed “The End” on that very first draft and I can’t help but be proud, I can’t help but realize my life is no longer defined by one single event.

Now I’m Defined

Now I’m a writer, who is a mother, one who lost a child. I write about the loss and how it affects me, but not as a single defining moment. It happened and it makes me sad and it always will. But it won’t always make a victim of that circumstance. I finally found the confidence to truly move on and I now weave those emotions and memories into my writing to give it depth and meaning. I’m no longer defined by it, I define how I use it to motivate and move on.

 

 

 

 

Strong Female Characters and Disappointment in the Man Who Created them

Strong Female Characters and Disappointment in the Man Who Created them

I’ve spent the afternoon wallowing in disappointment.

I left with a little disappointment floating around my head. It wasn’t what I had expected to be doing after a trip to Wizard World, one of the many comic cons that spring up every year. It could have been a totally cool conversation with a with an actress from a show that inspired my characters; the strong female character.

Meeting Cordelia Chase

I fell in love with Buffy. The characters, the story arcs, the development and most importantly, I was impressed by Joss Whedon and his ability to create these real women. Women who are strong, who fall and pick themselves up and write their own rules.

I explained to Charisma Carpenter, the actress who played Cordelia Chase, how much I loved the show, the female strong female characters. I proclaimed my admiration for their creator, Joss Whedon and how his characters were the blueprint for how I developed my own characters.

She expressed her congratulations on my writing my books but asked me what I thought about the Joss Whedon news that had recently come to light.

I had no idea.

Disappointment Sets In

Charisma shared the news that while Joss was married, it is alleged he had multiple affairs and asked about my thoughts on that. My first thought, I could separate the two. The man who was raised by a feminist. A man who was a self-proclaimed feminist, who won many awards for his work.

But can I really separate the two?

It was disappointing to say the least. I had admired him for so long. What I felt was his true work, spoke to me, inspired me as I wrote about Annie Pearce., developing her in a way that made her a real woman, a strong woman. Buffy Summers as my model. Was it all fake?

Grappling With My Thoughts

As I grapple with the meaning of this news, I still feel that how Joss Whedon wrote women, was spot on. They feel real, they are relatable, and beautiful and smart and they each have flaws and issues and problems they face. Just like me. Just like my characters. That for me is real.

Is he entitled to write them? Yes he is. Do I have to admire him? I can admire the work that he has done. The characters that mean so much to me, but I no longer admire the man the way that I once was. He isn’t perfect. But then, either am I. He doesn’t have to apologize to me and I can still watch and love the characters that were created. Maybe some day I’ll have different thoughts. For now, I’ll move on to what’s most important to me. Saying what I need to say about myself as a woman with dreams and goals. And maybe in the future, I should create my own blue print for the strong female character. I think I can do that.

 

 

 

 

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

All it Takes is Confidence

Even social media is difficult for an introvert, who oftentimes lacks basic confidence. So what’s an inspiring author supposed to do when she needs to recruit strangers to help with a social media campaign?

You pretend you’re not shy, or an introvert and you fake yourself out, acting as though you really have no problem making conversation with totally random strangers.

But they weren’t so random, the locations were selected carefully. We wanted cool., comfortable, roomy enough to spread out our stuff; the camera equipment, the books, the giveaways, the props.

But I had to recruit, dig deep and walk up to the ones I wanted. The kids that looked like they might like an urban fantasy, who weren’t so engrossed in conversation it would be a complete intrusion.

And There Goes the Confidence

With a deep breath and a lot reserve, I introduced myself as if I owned it, as if I exuded confidence and asked for what I wanted. The first guy gracefully declined, he was meeting someone soon. I thanked him for his time and moved on.

It was a perfect location. a coffee shop. There were four of them, twenty something’s out on a Sunday afternoon. Some with backpacks and homework, all of them with their phones. I was surprised how willing they were to have their pictures taken. They graciously did as we asked as my friend and photographer Jim took their pictures.

In exchange, I gave them copies of book one, The Day of First Sun. I gave them some swag. They were nice and they seemed to enjoy the surprise in their day, something different, something unique.

Am I Really an Introvert?

The funny thing is, I always tell people I’m an introvert. Which I probably am, until I find myself in a perfectly comfortable situation. A happy place, where I do what I love, in a place where I’m passionate for what I do. Maybe all those times I thought I was shy and unable to do things is because I really didn’t find that thing I loved, or I forgot what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.

I seemed to have found my confidence, my strength. When I write, when I talk about my books, when I attend book fairs, those things I once thought were scary aren’t so much anymore. I’m drawn to the life of an author and I look forward to the experience that comes with it.

Come see me at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest on June 10th and 11th.

And for the first time I’ll be attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival on June 17th. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to share.

 

 

 

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