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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

Write Like a Pantser

Write Like a Pantser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Annie Pearce

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.

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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.

 

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

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When Annie Met Bobby

When Annie Met Bobby

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

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

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

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

“Hi Mr. Gibbs. I can’t find dad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Annie.”

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

“He’s your brother?”

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

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

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

“What’s he doing now?” Annie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just be careful, Bobby, okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just wait!”

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

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

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

“Nice race!” he shouted over the noise.

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

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

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

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

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Get ‘Em Girl – Lorelei Gilmore

Go Get ‘Em Girl – Lorelei Gilmore

HarperNeilsonPhotography-016-f-bbb

Art imitates life. As I work towards obtaining my goal of writing for a living, publishing and selling my books, I found myself flocking to television shows that reflected my current journey.

I’ve been obsessed with shows before. It started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I probably watched the entire show from pilot to finale three times, before I could no longer watch anymore. Leaving me to watch only the episodes that I truly love. I did it with Charmed and Supernatural too.

So as I searched for my newest obsession, I rediscovered Gilmore Girls. I’d already seen the entire series, but this time, there was something else. Lorelei Gilmore was opening her dream, The Dragonfly Inn.

I know this is only a television show. I know she’s not real and The Dragonfly Inn is a fake set in California, but I relate to the sentiment.

I’ve said it here many times. I knew at the age of 7, I wanted to be a writer. I started crafting my own stories, modeled after the Nancy Drew book series. I created characters, dropped them into adventures and most importantly turned my day dreams into living, breathing stories.

And then life comes in and drags you down several paths, some your choice, others outside forces pull you somewhere else. After many years, I finally got a chance to go back to my dream, much like Lorelei. We both stepped off that cliff, took a chance. She opened her own inn, I published a book. I re-watch the episodes with a new point of view. I get emotional, it inspires me, I dream big. I can do this too. Yes I can.

My brain never shuts down. Stories and characters scream in my head, begging to be let out. I can’t write fast enough to get all the ideas out on paper. I get anxious the closer I move toward publishing my book, to selling at Comic Con, to finding a publisher. And watching this amazing, strong, ambitious, character in Lorelei, achieve her dream, makes me laugh and cry, sometimes in that ugly cry sorta way.

Go get ’em Lorelei Gilmore, because if there’s a dream, there’s a way.

To order my dream, The Day of First Sun check out Amazon.com.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

The Day of First Sun – Chapter One

The Day of First Sun – Chapter One

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

Chapter  1

 

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 glanced 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.

“So where would you hide a zombie army?” Cham asked, still pushing the crystal across the map.

“Someplace large and discreet, I would think. Any location fit that so far?”

After weeks of rumors flying around the wizard community, the magical police department known as the Wizard Guard could no longer ignore the vampire’s zombie army, no matter how useful the snitch was. As a result, the vampire, a creature that’s a subset of the larger demon world, became Annie’s and Cham’s problem.

“Nothing that accommodates that many bodies.” Cham’s curly blond hair sat high and wild above his head from running a hand through it. He glanced up again; Annie was still watching him. He offered an exhausted grin. “Need something?”

Annie started, caught like a child with hands in the cookie jar. Her cheeks burned red.

“I didn’t burn the potion. Your apartment smells like boy,” protested Annie.

“Okay,” he replied awkwardly before resuming his search.

What the hell? Embarrassed by the hot blush in her neck and cheeks Annie hid herself in the kitchen, cleaning up spillage, storing excess holy water, and straightening up the herb cabinet. Cham after all was her best friend and her competition in grades, broomstick racing and the Wizard Guard. There was no reason for her to disrupt their easy friendship with strange comments. Still, her busy work did little to assuage the unfamiliar exchange with her partner.

Not wanting to engage in conversation, Annie turned her attention to the only item left— the cauldron.

I hate cleaning these. But the repetitive nature of scrubbing, the backdrop of running water, and the dumping of the grayish sludge gave her time to ponder and collect her thoughts.

“Damn it!”

Cham’s voice released her from the contemplation and confusion. Curious, she joined him in the next room and found him on the floor administering a sticking spell to keep the table leg from collapsing. As with all the other spells they tried in the past it didn’t work, and the table continued to sway precariously.

“Where can I find a screw?” he asked, his freckles hidden under deep scarlet.

“A nonmagical solution?” An amused smile broke across her face as she put a finger on the swaying table to stop its motion.

“Anything’s better than this.” Cham found his way back to the seat and steadied the table with one arm while grabbing the scrying crystal. Familiar with the feel of his rock, he rolled it easily through his busy fingers.

“Conjure one?”

“I don’t own one to conjure.”

Annie shrugged as Cham returned to scrying. “Maybe we should give it a rest for tonight. It’s getting late.”

“I almost have him,” he said, irritably. But the crystal remained still without having confirmed a location more than once. Finally, Cham yawned, “Maybe I should,” and moved to put away the scrying crystal.

Just as Annie opened her mouth to agree to call it quits for the night, a phone rang, cutting through the early morning silence. They glanced at each other, and Annie tugged her cell free from her back pocket.

“This can’t be good,” she said into the phone. Milo Rawley, the Wizard Guard department manager, never personally called, not even in the event of an emergency. Annie’s stomach lurched.

“You with Cham?”

“Yeah. We’re tracking Sturtagaard.”

Cham’s face contorted in a mock scowl, causing Annie to stifle a laugh.

“Stop searching for that shithead. I need you out in the field.”

“I gathered that, Milo. What’s up?”

“Smartass. The Vampire Attack Unit arrived at a scene, but the FBI’s there.” Annie’s adrenaline replaced her weariness as her fingers gripped the phone so tightly it might crack.

“Why? How did that happen?” No longer holding her breath, Annie blew out the stale air that burned her lungs. The Vampire Attack Unit never missed their window in which to clean a scene of all evidence.

“That’s why I’m calling you.”

“Why would I know?” Annie asked, but she already knew his answer. Spending her childhood living amongst non-magicals apparently qualified her more than the others in the Wizard Guard—or so thought Milo. Though most of her colleagues now lived in non-magical communities and could easily work any investigation, all cases involving the Chicago Police Department came to her.

This is federal, not local.

Annie felt a gnawing in her stomach at the realization of what the wizard secrecy laws would require of them on a federal case. Her heart pounded in anticipation.

“You know the reason, Annie. Just do it,” Milo ordered with finality.

Through the phone, a keyboard clicked as Milo typed. She sighed loudly for his benefit and glanced at Cham with worry lines deeply entrenched into her forehead.

“Fine, we’ll check it out,” she said.

“Good girl.”

“You’re a pig, Milo.”

“I sent you the coordinates.” He was ignoring her insubordination. This left Annie wondering if he respected her for the ability to hold her own in a mostly male profession or if he ignored her on purpose because he lacked respect. In the end it didn’t really matter. They had a new job to do.

Ending the call and turning to Cham, she said, “We’re on. The FBI beat us to a crime scene.”

“Has that ever happened?” Cham casually tossed the crystal; it rolled several times before landing on the edge of the table.

As he stood, his knee crashed into the table apron, and the weakened leg buckled. The table collapsed, and Cham’s scrying crystal flew through the air, crashed against the wall, and split in two.

“I’ll fix that later,” he muttered.

***

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Annie thought of her location, and within seconds her body became weightless and detached from earth, drifting through space and landing on the edge of a wooden palette. Her arms flayed wildly, reached into the semi-darkness of the alley and caught a sleeve on a rusty metal dumpster. With a quick spell, she stopped falling and hung in midair over a pile of garbage.

“Need help?” Cham chuckled, unscathed by his own landing.

“No, I’m good.” With a flick of her wrist, Annie removed the spell and stood upright.

Damn, my favorite jacket. Annie tugged on the rip, which was long and deep enough to reveal her blue shirt sleeve. Waving a palm across the tear, she repaired the rip, leaving no visible mark.

“You need to see this,” Cham said.

Jumping over garbage and avoiding boxes of assorted junk, she peered around him. Hundreds of people mulled through the vicinity, investigating the scene, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses or patrolling the area.

“Wow,” Cham responded. He seemed just as bewildered as Annie felt.

“Where do we even begin?”

Where do we begin? The sheer enormity of the scene left Annie with an overwhelming sense of dread. It outsized anything they had ever investigated in the magical world.

They were separated from the crime scene by an east-west thoroughfare, a well-travelled road at any time during the day. However, this morning, police cruisers cordoned off the road at both ends of the block while traffic barricades created a perimeter keeping the general public from interfering, though the patrol officer was keeping busy warning nosy outsiders away.

And rush hour’s in a few hours—will they be done? Thought Annie.

“I’m not sure how we’re gonna pass through the barrier. It’s pretty tight.” As an excuse to stave off growing unease, Annie fiddled with the lenses on her binoculars and scanned the crowd for the Vampire Attack Unit. Either they hid themselves well or they were waiting at Wizard Hall.

“Do you know what types of cases the FBI works? I mean, besides the federal cases?” Cham asked.

Annie lowered the binoculars. A police officer forcibly removed an observer from near the traffic barrier. The man, boisterous and drunk, was escorted to a police car and locked inside.

“As far as I understand it, they work national security, cyber crimes, civil rights, and public corruption–type cases. Not sure how this relates to their jurisdiction.”

“Personally, I think they’re on a stake-out, tailing someone at the bar, and it’s a coincidence.” Cham reached for the binoculars, tugging them from her tight grasp.

“Do you believe in coincidence?”

“Not usually, but you didn’t mention occult crimes. So why do you think they’re here?”

“Okay, fine. This time I’ll buy the coincidence theory. I know we would’ve gotten here before the Chicago police.”

“Annie. Look at that over there.” Several men and women with cameras and gloves snapped pictures and collected evidence. “The ones in the ERT shirts. They’re looking for evidence. And that guy all the way on the far end found something. I just . . . can’t make out what it is.”

When Annie smacked him for the binoculars, Cham pulled away from her, twisting to get a look at the object. The item, too small for a clear look, was bagged and taken away. “I don’t like it. They’re messing with our case,” Cham said, annoyed. He passed her the binoculars.

“You don’t have a choice.”

In the alley between the night club and the tire store, the medical examiner, a woman in her late forties wearing scrubs and boots, scribbled in a notebook while an FBI agent in khakis and ERT across the back of his shirt, snapped pictures of a body tossed carelessly in the garbage. “One body over there,” Annie said.

“A vampire victim?”

“Can’t see.”

A man in a suit with salt and pepper hair wrote copious notes while interviewing an animated witness who motioned wildly with his hands. Unable to read lips, Annie moved on to view a nearby woman framed in a business suit, hair in a tight bun, and slim kitten heels on petite feet.

Annie grimaced, thinking of her own outfit. It was neither polished nor clean, and her hair was still frizzy from preparing the potion earlier that night. Absently, she smoothed her hair to no effect and offered Cham the binoculars.

The first of the SUVs pulled away from the curb and headed east to the labs. Police escorted witnesses from the crime scene to their cars.

“The medical examiner!” Cham’s voice rose, nearly drawing the attention of the nearby crowd. If the street hadn’t been packed with noisy onlookers, they would’ve heard him call out.

Annie turned her attention to the medical examiner, who was unfurling a plastic blanket. It blew uncontrollably in a gust of wind. A cameraman ran over to help, placing the blanket over the victim. But the doctor noticed something requiring a second look and removed a long strand of brown hair, revealing an unobstructed view of the neck.

Annie smiled.

Now how do we get the bodies?

“Did you bring your badge?” Annie summoned her Chicago Police Department identification, glanced at the picture taken five years ago, when she started with the Wizard Guard at eighteen years old. She snapped it shut, placing it in her pocket.

“Really? You had to ask that?” His brows furrowed.

“Sorry. I’m wondering if we should track the bodies to the morgue and break in—not even engage now.”

Surprised, his face softened. “Are you scared?”

“Not scared . . . just apprehensive.”

Cham squeezed her shoulder before leaving. He headed east, following the perimeter of the crime scene. Once he disappeared into the shadows, Annie left the hiding spot and ducked under the crime scene tape. She entered to the west, avoiding a male agent who was still interviewing a witness, and pretended to search for evidence.

“Man, it was a big fight. The big guy looked mean and happy like all at the same time. Oh, and his teeth came out like this.” The witness wiggled two fingers, one on each side of his mouth.

“Do you know what they were fighting about? What did you see or hear?” The agent appeared bored or disinterested in the witness, shifting weight between feet while taking notes.

“All I know: the big dude with the teeth hit on the other guy’s girl. Tried really hard to get in her pants.” The witness grinned, exposing a large gap in his front teeth.

The vampire wanted to suck her dry, not have sex with her, Annie thought dryly and continued towards the medical examiner and the first victim.

The body, already loaded into the ambulance, parked halfway on the sidewalk. The back hatch stood open while the doctor read through her notes.

“Any thoughts on how the victim died?” Annie asked.

Startled by the intrusion, the woman jumped and frowned at Annie suspiciously. “Who are you?”

Annie produced her identification, which the medical examiner took and examined thoroughly, even comparing the picture to the real Annie before handing it back.

“It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” she finally said. “Look at this.”

They hopped in the back of the ambulance; the doctor donned a pair of gloves and unzipped the body bag, carefully exposing the victim’s neck.

“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”

They’re vampire tracks! Annie bit her tongue, but the thought screamed inside her head. The vampire’s canine teeth left two holes three inches apart. Raised and raw, drops of blood pooled around the edges. Through a gloved hand, Annie felt swollen wounds, red and raw, marking otherwise perfectly smooth skin.

“It’s weird, but it looks like a barbecue fork poked her.” Annie bit her tongue to keep from laughing, her thoughts jumping ahead to the autopsy.

The lack of blood will make this seem even weirder.

“How in the world did that get inside the bar?” the doctor asked as though it were even plausible. The medical examiner secured the victim inside the body bag.

“I guess that’s the question.”

“If there’s nothing else, I have another body to attend to.”

Annie loitered beside the ambulance, waiting until the medical examiner became entrenched in the crowd and grabbed the notes, which were clearly written in a doctor’s handwriting.

The observations scrawled haphazardly across the paper illustrated a disconnect between the evidence and a plausible explanation. The doctor’s guesses wound around in circles never becoming clear or correct which Annie didn’t blame on the doctor. She wouldn’t know. The preliminary comments revealed nothing to Annie except the estimated time of death. She expected nothing less. Suddenly, she heard hard-soled shoes clicking against the cement. Great. She was caught in the act.

“Excuse me. What are you doing?” a man asked. Annie’s adrenaline pumped; her heart beat in her ears. Dropping the folder, she turned to see the interviewer with salt-and-pepper hair and the dark suit.

“I’m just reviewing the medical examiner’s notes.” The suit looked at her dubiously and eyed her up and down, leaving Annie feeling exposed.

“Who are you? We didn’t ask for additional backup.”

Annie’s identification was still warm from her exchange with the medical examiner, but she pulled it out. He doesn’t believe me. She tapped her foot anxiously while the agent examined the picture encased in plastic.

“Okay, Detective Anne Elizabeth Pearce. Again, what are you doing here?”

“Annie, please. And now that you know my name, mind telling me yours?” Even though she made her smile warm and welcoming, it did little to unclench his square jaw. Even when speaking, his jaw appeared tight. It must hurt, she thought.

“Special Agent Jack Ramsey. Now tell me what you’re doing here.”

 I wish I could.

Instantly, Annie regretted her decision to enter the crime scene; she was no longer inconspicuous, making her vulnerable to her secret getting out.

“I believe we’re after the same murderer.”

The agent attempted to hide his surprise. “So who killed them?”

It’s a vampire, you moron! “It’s not that simple.”

“Either you know or you don’t. Either way you’re tampering with my evidence. I should arrest you.”

Annie had worked with the Chicago Police Department in the past and often used the connection to walk in and out of questionable crime scenes without being noticed as anything other than a police officer. Being threatened with arrest was a first.

“You won’t. Because I know what killed them. You and your team have no idea what you just walked into.”

“And you do? Why . . . what do you mean what killed them?”

His suspicion was growing, drawing his already deep frown deeper. He fondled the handle of his gun.

Annie tensed. If he pulls it out I’ll summon it from him. If . . . Annie clamped her fists in resolve as Special Agent Jack Ramsey confidently unlatched his holster. She reevaluated her situation. Getting into the morgue was her most important goal.

“Let me into the morgue at midnight, alone with the bodies, and I promise I’ll tell you everything.”

Dropping his hand from his gun, Jack laughed a hardy, almost hysterical laugh at her request. Finally, he controlled his outburst. “Why would I do that?”

“Because we’re tracking the same killer, but only I can find it.”

“Why don’t you just tell me who killed them?”

“Just get me into the morgue at midnight, and I’ll explain everything.”

***

Rebekah Stoner, television journalist from Channel 5 news, finished the FBI briefing and returned to her television crew that had set up their workspace in the permitted area across the street. They, like the other crews, were corralled a safe distance away from the crime scene and busied themselves reading email, texting, or checking their equipment.

With an hour to go, her excitement grew. This time, her story would be the lead and not a crappy one buried between weather and sports. Rebekah reached into a cooler for a can of pop and her morning dose of caffeine.

The morning events seemed nothing more than normal. That said, the intense exchange between the FBI agent and the police officer appeared odd; Rebekah wondered if anyone else noticed it. It intrigued her so much that she jumped up and followed the officer leaving the crime scene.

“Excuse me,” Rebekah called out. The officer faced her. Not overly made up, with frizzy hair and wearing T-shirt and jeans, the police woman was still lovely. A gust of wind blew toward them from the lake.

“Hi. Did you need something?”

“I’m Rebekah Stoner with Channel 5 News. I saw you working in the crime scene. Is there any new information we should know about?”

“Sorry. There’s nothing new.”

As the cop turned away, Rebekah grabbed her wrist. The officer glared at the journalist before pulling her arm away.

“Listen. I’m a detective. I make observations. There’s nothing new. Besides, it’s only been a few hours.”

“I saw you with the special agent. What did you argue about?”

“Ms. Stoner, you know I can’t answer that. It’s not my case. I’m sorry.” The cop walked confidently down the street and turned the corner.

Rebekah returned to her seat twenty minutes before her report. Adrenaline pumped as her team prepped her for the air, fixing her hair and lipstick, wiping the moisture from her eyes.

The final ambulance pulled away from the scene, and the traffic barricades were removed just in time for the start of rush hour traffic. “Ten minutes, Rebekah.”

To order The Day of First Sun

 

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Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever taken the time to write it down? Well Sheryl Steines has and writing her first novel, The Day of First Sun, was when she crossed off number seven. After that first foray into the recesses of vast creative mind, she couldn’t stop and works on her art daily. With a degree in English from Wright University, she finds herself to be an fixated editor and world builder. Paying special attention to details in her novels is just a small example of her passionate and driven nature. Sheryl lives in Deer Park, Illinois, with her husband and two children.

In her spare time, she enjoys character-driven novels of every genre, television shows, and spends all summer behind the wheel of her ’66 Mustang Convertible.

Sheryl is all about connecting with readers and fellow authors and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog at sherylsteines.com

Becoming Lola – Girls Weekend

Becoming Lola – Girls Weekend

We all need time away, time to process or not to not process, to unplug, unwind and hang with someone who totally gets you.

For my birthday, I loaded up the car, because I always over pack and headed to Holland, Michigan with my friend Marilyn. It was the perfect place to all of the above, and only three hours from home with just enough to keep us busy or not, for four days.

The location was beautiful, along Lake Michigan, with cute little towns, lots of great shopping, outside cafe’s along the lake, a great hiking dune, with a 239 step climb and a two-mile trail. And we did it all in my convertible. What’s not to like?

It was the perfect weekend with a great traveling companion. But for me it was something a little more. I’ve been making the most of my summer off from work, partially because I can’t find another job, partially because there’s so many things for me to catch up on and frankly, I’d rather be writing books for a living than anything else. But a weekend away, with a good friend, no kids, no husband, was what I needed. Time to just be me. Not mom, not wife, not pack mule. Just Sheryl.

I’ve been on a journey of sorts, one in which I’ve been taking myself out of my comfort zone, doing things that stress me out a little and it all started with the re-writing of my first book The Day of First Sun. In the five years since I wrote that book, I’ve evolved. I can tell because my evolution is reflected in Annie Pearce journey. She started out, maybe tough as nails, finding it difficult to let someone in and now she’s a loving, confident woman who sometimes isn’t. She changes and grows and is a far more complete character as she discovers who she is. Much like me, like the journey I’ve been on as I try new things, discover who I am and what I want my life to be.

For the first time since I lost my daughter to an undiagnosed neural muscular disease, I finally feel unstuck and in a place where I’m moving forward, and not standing still in the muck. Becoming Lola, my way of shaking myself up and moving out of a comfort zone has been an eye opener. Where once I thought incapable of doing the simplest things I now realize that when my car overheats three hours from home, I’m more than able to buy and use the antifreeze, let alone simply driving there in the first place.

Fear is paralyzing, and it’s in the relearning to do the simplest things, we realize that writing that book is really not so hard. Only the first step is.

For my first steps, check out Introvert to Sales Goddess on Amazon.com

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