I've always wanted to be a writer. It started with the very vivid memories of reading my first Nancy Drew mystery. I can almost touch those memories, the emotions of being engrossed in the story, and being unable to wait for the next episode.
I remember the joy of getting my first library card, of riding my bicycle to the library, my book list in my pocket as I searched for the next edition that I hadn't read yet.
The library was place you could travel when you couldn't travel in your real life.
I always had books. And I always wanted to be a writer.
I was that kid who wrote a four page story when my classmates wrote one page. I was that kid who took all English classes my senior year of school. I was that kid who had an active imagination, who could scare myself or make myself laugh and I always wanted to be a writer.
Somewhere along the path, I stopped writing stories, my goal became plan B. I would find a writing position at some company until I could concentrate on plan A.
I got married. I struggled to find a job. I struggled to have children. My children have issues. And one day I realized, that I forgot I had always dreamed of being a writer. That day I remembered.
It has been a combination of soaring to the most confident you could be to falling to the lowest you could feel. I have had good days, I have had bad days where I could barely speak without crying. I have decided to quit.
And yet, I'm like a gambler who keeps saying, one more, one more hand, one more pull of the slot handle. Just one more. For me it's just one more ad, one more post, another marketing meeting, one more edit. Maybe then it will all come together.
It hasn't yet.
I've been trying to find a job because the realization that this is something I can do for a living quickly fades away. There aren't many sales, and the cost of publishing a book and marketing it, frankly is a lot.
Finding a job isn't easy, and not just because the pandemic is sweeping across the planet, but because, I've got 20 years of writing experience but it just isn't enough. There are holes in my background, I was a stay at home mom on and off for years. The jobs I had were smaller scale. Or maybe I just don't know how to best sell myself.
It doesn't matter much as I sit in a new crossroads, as I begin to think of the rest of my life in terms of what will make me happy, what I need to do to have a satisfying career, and home life. I find myself needing to quit being a writing hobbyist. Someone who's just writing with no financial gain. And yet, I haven't been able to quit.
I have ideas. I'm not sure if I'm up to the challenge. What I do know is this, you cannot succeed if you don't try. And you can't succeed if you don't put your heart and soul into something. Maybe you can try something new.
I should quit trying to write for a living and write for me. But in this job market at this time, I'm finding that it really doesn't matter. I write because it makes me happy. I'm getting better at it. It's the only way I know. One foot in front of the other and keep moving.
For me, I hope one day, I have all that I've ever dreamt about. One day. Keep fighting. Stay safe and stay home.
Sheryl's books: The Day of First Sun, Black Market, Wizard War, Prophecy can be found on Amazon. The series finale, The Rise of the Black Market, comes out July, 2020.Continue reading
A taste of Prophecy Book 4 of The Wizard Hall Chronicles
Since returning from France, Annie couldn’t help but think if Sturtagaard hadn’t let her know that Amelie was a vampire, she would have spent the week deliriously recovering from her recent injuries, watching television, baking, or enjoying some other mindless activity rather than chasing and killing the vampire. She shuddered at the thought.
She had little time in France to dwell on the loss of the Black Market or of its connection to her father’s eight-year-old murder investigation. But, in the end, the journey across Europe left her exhausted. She moved the heating pad to a new location and snuggled into the corner of her sectional sofa, wrapping herself in a thick, warm blanket. It didn’t take long for sleep to overtake her, leaving her blissfully unaware for the entire afternoon.
When she woke, she was enveloped in Cham’s arms. He was sound asleep.
Of course and I’m not anymore.
Annie slid out of his embrace, pulled the blanket to his chin, and left him sleeping in the corner. She walked through the dark house and switched on the kitchen light, which blinded her momentarily. When she gained her bearings, she was immediately drawn to the dusty box that had been sitting on her kitchen table since before she left for France. After searching her house and garage, she had finally found it in the crawl space in the basement, where her father hid it eight years prior. But the newspaper from Sturtagaard, letting her know Princess Amelie was still alive and living as a vampire, had put going through it on hold. Though Cham was curious, he had left the box alone. Now that Annie felt better and more rested, her curiosity was overwhelming.
Annie was fairly certain that, in it, she would find the missing file for the case her father was investigating when he died. She sighed and glanced at Cham sleeping in the other room; his chest rose and fell peacefully.
She lifted the lid and peered inside. Sure enough, she saw a file and pulled it from the box. Her father’s handwriting was slanted and square, scrawled across the spaces for guard name, case name and number. She could still feel the grooves left from where he had pressed the pen into the folder. Her stomach roiled with relief and uncertainty.
Is this still important?
With a tentative sigh, Annie opened the folder. It had been partitioned into several sections; the first item she saw was a note addressed to her in the same familiar writing.
“What the hell?” she asked no one as she unclipped the note.
My dearest Annie,
If you are reading this, I am dead. And as I write this, that realization hits me hard with the things I will miss or have already missed. For that, my angel, I am so very sorry.
But sometimes as a wizard guard, there are cases so challenging that you are forced to do things that you otherwise would not do. Sometimes the rules can no longer apply. There is too much at stake to risk our way of life and the lives of our family.
I have to make a choice. I have to choose being with you and Samantha for as long as I can, or I can save the world from ourselves. It’s a choice that I deeply regret that I have to make. Sometimes our choices lead us to this very place and time.
I came across Wolfgange Rathbone in the course of this case. The Chintamani Stones that once belonged to King Solomon have been stolen and are sold in the Black Market. They are a danger to our people, and to the nonmagicals that we share this world with.
So sorry my love, but they asked me to stop. They asked me to hand over the stones that I was able to retrieve. They belonged to the Wizard Guard, to the Wizard Council but I did as they requested because they threatened my child. They threatened you, Annie.
My dear, sweet Annie. It wasn’t the first time that your very existence has been threatened. I regret that I will not physically be there for you at any time to protect you. But there is a reason why I so diligently trained you, my dear. Because there will be a time in your future when you need to know what to do, how to keep yourself alive. I gave you all that I could in the short time that I had with you.
I promise you, Annie, that I gave them back all of the stones I had in my possession. But when you deal with secret societies such as the Fraternitatem of Solomon, which hide themselves away and don’t participate in the world as it is, you find that you can’t trust them. They are paranoid, distrustful, and have many secrets I wish I could have shared with you.
They had Rathbone in their employ, and it’s him I fear the most. Not because I can’t defend myself against his weaknesses, but because I have you in my head, and your safety blinds me. I will die before I let them get to you. Because there is a prophecy my love. You are at the center, and I will do whatever I can in life and death to ensure that the prophecy doesn’t come true.
This might seem to be the ramblings of a man who knows his death is imminent, but I assure you, this is real. If I am dead, it was at the hands of Rathbone on the orders of the Fraternitatem of Solomon. They will still be after the stones that I promise I no longer have.
Please believe me that I will do everything in my power to keep myself safe, to keep my friends and my children away from this difficult case. I do this for all of you because it was I who dug myself into this mess.
You deserved so much better than what I gave you. I wish that I could have raised you more like I did Samantha, but I couldn’t. I had to protect you.
Rathbone knows this prophecy, and he is using it against me to get what he wants. Be wary of him.
I didn’t die in vain. I died to protect you and the powers you will someday have.
You are so very special, my love, so strong, so beautiful. I wish you happiness, security, and safety. May you remember all that I taught you. Be safe, my darling. I love you always.
Shaking, Annie placed the folder inside her blood-lock cabinet and slammed the door shut. As she reread the letter from her father, she slid herself to the floor, lowered her head, and cried.
Prophecy on Amazon now.Continue reading
Annie and Spencer glanced at each other, bemused. Both shut off their flashlights and cautiously crept along the alley, following the sound of garbage cans being clacked together.
Stopping short, they listened to angry grunting and plastic bags being ripped apart, with unwanted items strewn into the road. Slowly, they stepped beside the garage door and poked their heads around the wall, expecting a gaggle of bored teenagers. Annie’s jaw dropped.
In the bright moonlight, they saw a man . . . but not a man. He was easily over seven feet tall, very thick and muscular. Whatever he was, he lifted the can above his head with no effort and dumped the contents on the ground.
“That is one big . . . what is it?” Spencer asked.
Annie flashed her light in the creature’s eyes, temporarily blinding it. She took in its face, its pockmarked skin covered in battle scars, its delicate features for a creature of that size and girth, a long, thin nose, close-set eyes, and squared yellow teeth. To Annie, the creature’s face seemed nearly human. Though he was bigger than even a large human man, she could see his human-like limbs, long and thick, and five fingers on each hand.
“I think he’s a large demon?” Annie asked. But there was something in his quizzical expression, his lack of communication.
Is he human or demon?
“What are you doing, sir?” Spencer asked cautiously, his palms facing the being that he too had been struggling to identify.
There were two basic classifications for demons: humanoid or animalhood. A humanoid demon had delicate human features, relatively hairless skin, and independent thought. They were vampires, furies, succubae, banshees, and the like.
The other demons, animalhood, seemed less like people and were covered in fur or scales. Some had four limbs and a head, but they lacked speech and independent thought. Usually, that particular demon lived in the wilderness, away from civilization and hunted prey.
Both Annie and Spencer saw this creature as something different.
The demon grunted in surprise, offered no explanation for his presence, and in one easy motion, tossed the garbage can at them and ran down the alley.
“Crap, that thing is huge,” Spencer noted as he and Annie charged after it.
For his size and girth, he lumbered down the alley quickly. Fearing exposure if they teleported after it, Annie and Spencer pumped their arms and picked up their pace to keep from losing him in the darkness.
The demon turned left at the next intersection as if he knew where he was going, running faster without tiring. Annie and Spencer followed and were soon dripping in sweat, with cramps in their legs and sides.
Without warning, the demon slid to a stop. Annie and Spencer slowed and crept along the edge of the sidewalk, trying to ascertain what had stopped him so quickly. Blocking its path was an equally tall and sturdy man, his eyes glaring at the creature. Annie observed him quickly but in the dark could only see his tunic, tied at the waist with a thin string and a sword hanging at his hip.
“What the hell?” Spencer murmured
They observed the man with the sword intently. He removed long, thin hair from his face as his eyes darted from the demon to them. He shouted harshly at the demon.
“What did he say?” Spencer asked Annie.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. In an instant, the demon ran one way, the man the other.
“Go!” Annie pointed. She followed the demon, leaving Spencer to chase the man.
Get your copy of Prophecy on Amazon today.Continue reading
I met with some friends last week for dinner. I’ve known these women for 15 or so years. Our kids grew up together, we see each other monthly with or without our children. Twice a year we meet to schedule the next few months. I must admit, I had never felt so disconnected to this group as I did that night.
It was an eye opener for me, to say the least. To say the most, it was clearly a result of actions I’ve taken over the last several years that leads me to this moment.
You see, for the last 21 years, I’ve been on the journey of motherhood, just like my contemporaries. But from my view point, the ride has been akin to a roller coaster ride that doesn’t end.
Now I’m not too naïve to know that we all have issues, are children aren’t perfect, they have anxieties, medical issues, mental stumbling blocks. I’m oftentimes on Facebook, the great motivator, the great divider, the great fake. I know which friends have kids with autism, or Crohn’s disease, or anorexia, and I know with great certainty that their triumphs were hard fought wins.
I feel that jealousy that comes with other’s successes, because I still feel so mired in issues. Each new problem is shoved on top of the last, and I find myself overwhelmed with the whole of it. I pull away because I’m so pre-occupied with the bad, and I realize there is so much that another can deal with that isn’t their own.
With that comes the disconnect and an abject loneliness and I find myself stuck in the muck, so to speak, struggling to breathe.
There is no one to blame but myself. I let myself ride this pity-party to the bitter end. To feel sorry for myself because I feel like I’ve received more than my fair share, when all I want is to have a normal day, where I’m not concerned about ADHD, severe anxiety, OCD, transgender issues or doctors. The thought of it has battered me down, left me years of sleepless nights, leaving emotionally exhausted and a shell of myself.
No pity please. I’ve heaped enough on myself. I’ve let the problems run my life. The choices that I’ve made have left me scrambling to find my happy place and enjoy the what the world has to offer.
This blog is my Independence Day. Because after dinner with my friends, I realized, finally, that my pity-party has to end. By not getting myself out there, by not focusing on the good, the world is gray and isolating. If I can’t love myself enough to take care of and put myself first, no one else will want to either.
The problems will still be there, but I’m no longer willing to them rule me, and I’m not longer willing to be their victim.
Being a mom is hard. The greatest gift we can give or children is to love them and to teach them self-care and to enjoy experiences as they come. The best way I can do that, is do it for myself.
The pity-party is over.Continue reading
Reboots are all the rage. I've watched very few of them. Successful reboots invite you back into the family fold, pick up years later so that the fan can catch up with our favorites. Think Gilmore Girls. Other shows reboot the show's description but create new characters and maybe, just maybe bring back some of the original favorites (I didn't watch Beverly Hills 90210, but I read stuff.)
I'm a fan of a reboot though under very specific circumstances.
I enjoyed the Gilmore Girls reboot because I got to catch up with old friends. However, I'm not expecting that from the Charmed reboot. Here's why I won't be watching. I invested seven years with Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige; these strong, powerful, vulnerable ladies. Their journey was my journey. They laughed I laughed. They worried, I worried with them.
What I would have loved to see, was a continuation of their story. Get a glimpse into their future or if anything visit with their children: Chris, Wyatt, Phoebe's three daughters and Paige's twins and son Henry Jr. Why? Because I loved the original women, and was given a glimpse into their future during the series finale. I saw that their future was good and that I'd watch.
While I'm all for the diversity that comes with the new cast, I'm in for a retelling of the story of three sisters who learn as adults that they are witches who must fight evil. For me as a fan of the original series, this seems like nothing more than a copy and no matter how well the story is told and how well the actresses are plunged into the world, I'm just not interested in investing any time to this new Charmed.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been talked about for a reboot. Again, seven years I sat alongside Buffy as she fought demons, and grew from a reluctant hero to one willing to die to save her family and friends. I watched her come back and struggle with life outside of heaven. I watched Buffy take down the First and close on of the gates of hell.
I will always admit that Buffy was the model I used when creating my own strong female, lead Annie Pearce. She was a blue print as to what a female superhero should be: strong, smart, beautiful, vulnerable. A complete package of a woman, her ups and downs. But if they retold Buffy's story, I shall also say no to that as well.
In the series finale, we had a clear understanding that the slayer was no longer alone. All potential slayers were now given the same powers as Buffy. She now had an army to work with her.
If the Vampire Slayer storyline was rebooted, an all new focus on one of the army, I'd be there anxiously watching how this new slayer would handle the pitfalls and accomplishments of her calling because it is a continuation of the original story. To retell Buffy's story seems like a copy I would choose not to see.
We fan are of Science Fiction/Fantasy are a loyal band of geeky nerds. We love our heroes and are loyal to them. If you give us copies we will be angry. If you further the story (think Star Wars Episodes 4, 5 and 6), we will be forever loyal and grateful and will watch hungrily. I promise you this.
It’s a common trope in supernatural books: magic must be hidden from the non-magical world, no matter the cost. In Harry Potter’s world, the Ministry of Magic would punish offenders for exposing magic. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, protagonists Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein were threatened with execution when it was thought that they conspired to release a dangerous Obscurus on the unsuspecting citizens of New York City. When destruction and chaos followed, the American version of the Ministry of Magic repaired the damage and removed all memory of magic from the minds of “non-mags”.
In the Wizard Hall Chronicles, my characters are also charged with protecting the secret of magic; a theme important throughout the series. The Wizard Guard has a team of experts, led by Graham Lightner, who come in immediately after an event to clean the scene of all traces of the supernatural. In book one, The Day of the First Sun, kicks off with a vampire attack discovered before Graham’s Vampire Attack Unit can conceal the aftermath. In book two, Black Market, it's a race against time to keep magic a secret as the barriers between the two worlds are threatened.
But even as I have created this world and bought into the theory that the secret of magic must be protected at all costs, it makes me think; what would happen if the non-magical world knew that magic exists? There are so many benefits that magic could bring to humanity – curing diseases, ending poverty, saving lives…Is it fair to hide these valuable benefits from humankind?
This debate really hit me after watching Black Panther. In the movie, the country of Wauconda has prosperity and incredible technology due to the resource that they possess – vibranium . They can heal, build powerful weapons, and protect their people with this element. For generations, they chose to keep it a secret in order to safeguard their way of life. The moral debate: open up their country and share their “magical” secret with the rest of the world. As they heal an outsider from the brink of death, it’s hard to argue that their abilities should not be shared with all of humanity.
Even in my world, magic has healed severely injured characters. So why not reveal the beauty and power of magic? For me, I think my characters realize humankind cannot really process and accept magic as a safe way of life. Even as far back as the Salem Witch Trials, we have seen that fear and ignorance can be dangerous. Also – there are nefarious individuals in this world – what would they do to have magic at their control? Right now, the magical world of Wizard Hall uses their magic on a finite group that is considerably small. If we added the rest of humanity into the equation, is there enough magic to take care of the billions more involved?
These answers are not easy. What do you think? Does the magical world have the moral imperative to share their abilities with the non-magical world? Or do you think exposing the secret of magic would be a disaster? Share your thoughts with me .Continue reading
Hi, my name is Sheryl Steines and I am a “Law and Order” addict. From the first uttering of “In the criminal justice system…” to the rolling credits, I get sucked into the story and the characters. Heaven help me if it’s a SVU marathon – I can be in front of the TV all day. I have always had a thing for procedural dramas. I try to follow all of the twists and the turns in the plot. It is a challenge to guess the red herring before they admit that the investigation had taken the wrong turn. And I am proud to say that my keen analytical skills have helped me, many a time, to figure out the guilty party way before Stabler and Benson.
So when I sat down to start writing the Wizard Hall Chronicles, it was only natural that my main characters would be involved is solving crimes – albeit in the realm of the supernatural. Annie Pearce is very similar to Olivia Benson; passionate about keeping the magical world safe. She follows her head and her heart to uncover the villains and protect the innocent. And while she might go out on her own to follow a hunch, she is usually surrounded by a team of compatriots that share her same devotion to fighting those who break their magical laws.
The members of the Wizard Guard are very similar the “dedicated detectives” described in Law and Order’s prologue. Annie’s official partner switches between “The Day of the First Sun” and “Black Market,” but her relationships with those who stand at her side are almost identical. There is a trust and a connection she has built with Gibbs, a wizened older Guard whose curmudgeonly ways makes him even easier for Annie to love. She relies on specialists like Lial and Graham to do their jobs – tracking and hiding magic – as the L&O cops rely on the expertise of others like psychiatrists Huang and Olivet to find their perp. And of course, Annie’s boss Milo has the same no-nonsense approach of SVU’s Captain Cragen.
But the trait that these two crime fighting teams share the most is a certain togetherness. It was important to me to create that same feeling of cohesive collaboration and dedication. These are people who have each other’s backs. Communication flows throughout their crew with nary a word spoken. For us on the outside, we can feel safe within this magical world. We know that they stand in the way between us and danger, risking their lives for each other and for us. And, in the end, we love them all the more for it.Continue reading
This self-proclaimed television junkie fully admits I love the medium. It's easy as it comes to me. I can watch in my pajamas, under a blanket while the snow falls and the temperature drops, eating my weight in chocolate.
Movies, while fun spectacles of light and sound in it two-story glory, can't always tell the full story. Plot lines are shortened, back stories almost non-existent. Television can take it's time.
Characters and plots can roll out slowly, and meander through a plot, like a river gliding through the countryside.
I like the bizarre characters, good writing, good acting and fresh stories. And there in a commercial I see it. My perfect show. Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency. In my head, it seemed like the best of both worlds. Detective shows (one of my favorite (with quirky characters and fun stories).
I got so much more.
Obviously by the title, it's a detective agency based in a different reality. Here there's time travel and fantasy elements. Just making it that much better. I was told once you couldn't mix genres. But this mixing creates an amusing tale that leads the viewer down a twisty, windy road. A little like following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole.
And yes. You can mix genres.
Slightly supernatural in that Dirk the detective, believes “It's all connected”, and it's that philosophy that lets Dirk glide from one clue to the next. He knows it will happen that way though he doesn't know what or when it will happen. He's adorable, he positive until he isn't and he walks through the case believing that it will turn out just fine.
Todd Brotzman, his unwilling partner, stubborn, lonely, working a dead-end job, is dragged through the adventure, sharing with Dirk the discovering of each new clue, he soon realizes just how true “It's all connected” really is.
There's Farrah, Amanda and Bart and Ken and the Rowdy Three, all quirky in their own manners, their own very different lives and psychic abilities. Each of them roll out to us slowly, confusingly as we wonder what their place is in this murder mystery. None of them are walking billboards for a type of person. They're all complex, multi layered people, who you love, you hate, you cheer for, you boo, depending on the episode. They're human, they're funny, they get frustrated, and upset as their worlds collide, and fall apart and they pick themselves back up, just like the rest of us.
I didn't even mind that I was thoroughly confused each episode, because you were meant to be confused. We were meant to experience the story in a frustrating, confusing way, just like the characters do. I couldn't wait for each episode just to experience the rainbow of emotions, fun and frustrating in each hour-long episode.
I couldn't wait for season two. And it didn't disappoint. They grew closer, they missed each other, they were so determined to find each other and solve the crime. Unwavering belief that “All things are connected”. And then they cancelled it.
Please bring it back. Please let me hide under the covers and wear a smile on my face for an hour as the friends take me on a bumpy ride through another case that will get solved because “It's all connected”.