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

WIP – Book 3 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.

 

 

 

A Writer’s Journey Through the Internet

A Writer’s Journey Through the Internet

A New Side Trip on the Journey

It’s a writer’s journey from book conception, to editing and rewriting, through the process of trying to sell your books. Here’s my recent entrée into my up and down journey.

Of Life, Loss and Finding Joy

That Moment in Time – When it felt time to have my first child, I knew it, and approached it as inevitable. But my next steps in life didn’t follow a straight path, it jerked sideways and turned out nothing like I imagined it would. For more about my article about the loss of my daughter Stephanie Paige check out Modernmom.com or Besteveryou.com

http://www.modernmom.com/of-life-loss-and-finding-joy-123327.html

http://www.besteveryou.com/single-post/2017/03/16/Of-Life-Loss-and-Finding-Joy

All About the Books

I’ve been very luck the last two weeks. I’ve had some amazing book reviews about Black Market, the second book in the Wizard Hall Chronicles. It’s amazing to see how others view the story and the themes and in honor of the End of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share the book reviews about Black Market and how Annie Pearce embodies female empowerment. Check them out on the following website.

The Goodmenproject.com

https://goodmenproject.com/guy-talk/book-review-of-black-market-wcz/

https://goodmenproject.com/arts/black-market-blends-worlds-together-jsnk/

 

Starrymag.com

http://starrymag.com/the-black-market/

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

 

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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

 

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What is The Day of First Sun

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.

 

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The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

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