Wizard Hall Chronicles Archives | Sheryl Steines

Category Archives for Wizard Hall Chronicles

The Dream is winding down. Prophecy coming soon.

The Turning Point

It has been a dream to become a writer since I was seven. I've said that many time here. The reason it's so important now, is I'm putting the finishing touches on book four of the Wizard Hall Chronicles called Prophecy. While it'll be out in November 2019, it is the turning point of the series; the work horse. It links The Day of First Sun, Black Market and Wizard War to the final book in the series. It tells a complex story.

I had to get the story right. When I originally started writing the series, I had planned on stand alone books, that told a different story in the wizarding world all centered around Annie Pearce. I wanted a strong female character, a role model for everyone.

The series shaped up to become something far more than I anticipated.

Reality

I wrote The Day of First Sun, a story about the magical death of a high-profile, non-magical princess. I combined my two favorite genres, urban fantasy and the police procedural/detective novel.

For many years I sold the book to readers by stating “It's a little like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and CSI.” It's still a bit true, but the reality of the series changed as I wrote Black Market. A plot point began to develop and I couldn't overlook that both book 1 and book 2 tied back to the death of Annie Pearce's father, Jason Pearce.

I'm not much of a plotter. I tend to write by the seat of my pants, having an idea of what the book will be about and how it will end. I hadn't planned to link the books, but I couldn't deny, there was something there.

Clue emerged in the first three books pointing to the climax, the truth about what happened to Annie's dad. I couldn't stop it from happening and yet, I needed to tell the story in two books.

It used to be called She Wulf

Many years ago I had written a book called She Wulf, a tale loosely based on the story of Beowulf. The book was released and to make a very long story short, it didn't go well. In the end I decided to take She Wulf off of Amazon and work on the next book in the series.  As I've mentioned here before, that too didn't go well and I ended up rewriting The Day of First Sun and re-releasing it.

I followed the natural flow of the series which led to Black Market and Wizard War. In my infinite wisdom I decided it was time to retell She Wulf.  It could no longer be a cute stand alone story, it had to do so much more. I renamed it Prophecy, and pulled out of it Annie's journey to the truth. The truth about the past and the truth about her family as she must make difficult choices in her life that could result in Annie loosing everything.

My personal journey is mirrored in Annie's

As I struggle with various things in my life, a child with anxiety and OCD, a transgender child and the death of my first child, I channeled all of the confusion, hurt, anger, and love into Annie journey. While she and I are on different journey's we are trying to overcome our problems with class and grace and come out on the other side intact.

Prophecy became an act of love from me to myself as a way for Annie to forgive herself for her past mistakes and for me to forgive myself and learn to accept the realities as they are.

Will Annie accept her destiny and save the future or return to the past to save her family?

We all have difficult choices in our lives that deserve careful consideration. Some of us have more difficult choices to make but we must trust ourselves to make the choices that best fit our lives and our families and we must most importantly love ourselves, care for ourselves as we move through life.

I have a dream that I keep front and center because it is what keeps me sane in the middle of the insanity. I can't let go no matter how much stress I carry in the rest of my life. That includes the impossible task of marketing myself and trying to sell my books so that I can stay at home and concentrate on creating more stories.

As Annie struggles, I struggle and together, I can assure you, Annie Pearce and I will make it to the other side.

Catch up on the Wizard Hall Chronicles on Amazon today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prophecy – Excerpt Part 2

She hid the letter in her thick sock and through the evening, when she moved her leg, the paper’s edge would scratch her leg. Annie hadn’t shared what she discovered with Cham yet, there were still too many questions. In her silence, he knew something was bothering her; it made him overly attentive, and patient as he held up the conversation, and in that, she felt guilty and anxious. All Annie wanted to do was pull out the folder and dig into its secrets.

Even her exhaustion couldn’t contain her thoughts and let her sleep. She sat on the window seat beside the bed and watched the moon travel across the sky. It didn’t calm her or help her quiet the thoughts; instead she broke down and snuck through the dark house retrieving the folder from her locked cabinet. She held her breath; it burned in her lungs as she opened the folder. Well organized, the folder was broken into sections, separated by a sheet of colored construction paper. Each section contained a different aspect of the case; a stack of photos in one section, case notes in another. She slowly let out the air from her lungs and took a deep breath as she peered into one more section. Stapled to the folder was a plastic bag containing a small cassette tape.

What the hell?

She forced herself to breathe, in and out, in and out as she unclipped the binder clip that held a large stack of photos together. Her jaw dropped violently, her heart hammered; the pictures slipped to the table.

“No. No. No. That…” her voice cracked.

“Annie what’s wrong?” she had been so lost in the first picture, she hadn’t heard Cham entered the kitchen.

“It can’t be,” she murmured.

“Annie?” she hadn’t acknowledged him; he sat beside her and grabbed the first picture. His jaw went slack. “This is… ”

What did Annie find in her father's last case file? Read the Wizard Hall Chronicles on Amazon today.

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Prophecy – The next Wizard Hall Chronicles story coming this fall! Part 1

One week after Annie returned home from Paris…

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 in to 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 as he himself slept soundly. Wide awake, Annie grimaced.

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. The house was dark, she switched on the kitchen light blinding 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 finally found the box 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, put the box on hold; and though Cham was curious, he left the box alone. Now feeling better and rested, her curiosity was overwhelming.

Maybe it’s nothing.

Annie was fairly certain it would be his missing case file for the case he was investigating when he died. She sighed, glanced at a sleeping Cham; his chest rose and fell peacefully.

She lifted the lid and peered inside where she found a case file, and pulled it from the box. His handwriting was slanted and square, scrawled across the spaces for Guard Name, case name and number. She could still feel the grooves of the ink as he 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 that 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 a 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 eminent, 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.
Dad

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. Read The Wizard Hall Chronicles on Amazon.com.

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Write what you know – It’s all in book 5.

Write what you know.

I'm a woman, I write what I know. The struggle between holding down a job and caring for a family. The struggle between living my life and chasing after a lifelong dream.

Honestly I believe we can't have it all, at least not all in a neat little package where everything works. Usually something has to give: friendships, hobbies, travel.

Chasing the dream.

I struggle with the dream. The writing of the book, marketing it, trying to do it without a full-time job. And I'm finding myself at the end of this series, putting everything that I have in me, into the book.

When I read Harry Potter, I remember J.K. Rowling explaining what the dementors meant to her. She said they were a representation of her depression. I never forgot that.

My life in literature.

The nearer I got to the end of my fifth book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles, the more upset I was finding myself. I've been living with the characters in my head for 10 years, crafting their lives, creating their journey on the pages of the books. I decided it would be the end of the series and it left me sad. But it also became more than an end of one journey. It was as if Annie was taking on my emotions, my struggles, in a way she never had before.

Annie's struggling with changes in her life, a trip to the past and newly acquired information that smacks her hard with the truth about her life. Essentially, she's experiencing my struggles, my emotional upheaval as I witness my own changes. My kids are nearly grown, I'm debating whether or not I should stop writing and just live my life.

It's my own fears, my own lack of confidence that I'm writing into the pages of Annie's story. While I'm not writing these things in the demons she meets, she essentially is me, and she is essentially experiencing what I'm experiencing.

Write.

February has in effect been a difficult month of selling books, of writing the last book of the series, of deciding whether or not this is all worth it. But in reality, I can't give this up. It is so much of what defines me, who I am and what I do. While I get frustrated reading best sellers that are poorly written, or discover what works for some isn't working for me, I'm still finding myself obsessively working to finish Annie's story, to the completion of her journey. It is what I have been working toward my whole life, writing, a book, a story, with meaning, something relatable to others.

I had a fan send me a word of encouragement, telling me not to give up because the story of Annie resonates with people. Maybe not a lot of people now, but someday maybe. She's relatable because she's me, and I'm writing what I know. And what I know is the only way to achieve your dreams or your goals is to keep moving forward, even if forward is only one step at a time, one day at a time.

Here's to the dreamers who can't give up.

 

 

 

 

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Beginnings, Middles and Endings – Day 21

Endings

After sending book four of The Wizard Hall Chronicles, Prophecy, to my editor for a content edit, I decided it was time to plan for book five called The Rise of the Black Market. I wasn't quite ready to start the book, I was prepping the document adding a title page, the list of the books in the series, the copyright page, an acknowledgement page, Chapter 1. As I saved the beginnings of the book, it occurred to me in a very concrete sort of way, that this would be the last book I write in The Wizard Hall Chronicles.

Beginnings

The Wizard Hall Chronicles was the start of my author career. I had lived with the characters in my head for almost two years, learning about them, discovering their likes and dislikes, personality traits I wanted to explore, stories I wanted to tell, until one day I had enough confidence to sit down and finally write the story.

It started with the first draft of The Day of First Sun which in the end became over 50 drafts. Because I was new at the craft of writing novels, I ended up publishing the story three times. It was a necessary evil that propelled the story in a way I hadn't expected.

When I originally started The Wizard Hall Chronicles, I first had no series name and I had intended to write the series with stand alone books. The characters would waft in and out as they took on new paranormal cases. But that's now how the series progressed.

Middles

You see, before rewriting The Day of First Sun and publishing it for the third time, I was stuck. I published book two She Wulf, and it didn't go well. I found it difficult to move the story forward. I tried two different stories. neither worked.

I realized the problem was book one and in a flash, I was rewriting, in a major rewrite sort of way, until I had something that was so much better than any other incarnation.

When that happened, the rest of the series flew from my fingers in lightning speed. And another interesting thing happened. I found myself with a theme I never intended; the death of Annie Pearce's father. He was never supposed to be anything but Annie's background. Instead, his death was her past, her present and her future.

Sometimes you can't fight the direction the series will traverse. Sometimes you have to go with it. I went with it and it led me to the series finale, The Rise of the Black Market and I wasn't expecting how it would make me feel.

Endings

The series filled out. Characters went in and out of the stories as their roles changed or grew. I filled in more background of the characters so much so that Wizard War became the continuation of The Day of First Sun while Prophecy linked the first three books and acted as a bridge to the series finale.

But as I started Chapter 1, The Rise of the Black Market, it hit me hard. This book is the last of the series. It made me sad. It made my prematurely miss the characters that I had been living with for the last 12 years. unexpectedly, it made me long for the finale so I could start a new project, something different.

I'm a mix of emotions as I work through Annie Pearce and Cham Chamsky's final case. The case that brings all the stories together, the battle that will change their lives forever. I look forward to the work on this book, I look forward to putting the series to rest, to moving on and yet I know I will miss Annie, my alter ego. As she grew, I grew.

Beginnings, Middles and Endings

Here's to the next stage in my writing career!

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The Big Release – Wizard War

The Wizard War is Coming. What side will you choose?

I'm very proud to announce my third book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles series, Wizard War.

After spending the last year deep in edits, working with beta readers, and sending out books to ARC readers, I'm so excited to share this new adventure with Annie Pearce, Cham Chamsky and the rest of the Wizard Guards as they traipse through Europe in search of a vampire on a murderous streak.

The book in few words…

Eight months ago, Annie Pearce, closed the murder investigation of Princess Amelie of Amborix and put her killer in prison. So receiving a newspaper article with a picture of the princess alive and well, walking the streets of Paris, left Annie shocked and confused.

Who sent the picture?

With the threat of exposure hanging over her, Annie and her wizard guard partner, Spencer Ray chase the wily, young, vampire across Europe attempting to stop her murderous streak. When finding the vampire seems nearly impossible, Annie seeks out an old nemesis, Sturtagaard the vampire, to help them kill the demon princess.

But all is not as it seems. As Annie traipses across the jurisdiction of other wizard guard units, who blame her for the situation, tensions rise. A vulnerable Annie, must push aside her self-doubt and focus her energy on stopping the vampire. If she’s not careful, all her plans can lead to a wizard war, one that only she can stop.

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Inspiration is Around Me – This is Life

This is Life

Life is hard. We work full-time. We have children, friends, family, hobbies if we're lucky. We need to eat well, exercise daily. I have an adult child with severe anxiety, ADD and OCD. My youngest is a transgender male.

There's sleepless nights worrying about the extraordinary and sometimes I only have time to worry about the ordinary. You have to pick your battles.

I've always wanted to be a writer. I was seven when I started the Nancy Drew Mysteries. From that moment I not only wanted to read her adventures, I wanted to create and write my own adventures.

As life pulled me in difficult directions, writing became something more for me than just a means to make money doing something I was fairly good at. It became an escape from increasingly difficult and out of the ordinary situations. It was my inspiration.

Inspiration

Mystery novels have always been my first love. Taking a problem and digging one layer at a time to discover the truth. I also love the urban fantasy, epic fantasy realm. Hiding in the make-believe. It's there that I find equality lives, women can be strong leaders, justice most often prevails.

This is why I imagined Annie Pearce. Young, smart, beautiful, seemingly perfect but when you dig deeper, when you get to know her, she's flawed, she's vulnerable, she's real. She works in a highly male field as a Wizard Guard. A magical police officer who fights demons, vampires and evil wizards. She falls in love with her best friend and partner at work, Bobby “Cham” Chamsky and had to deal with the new emotions while investigating the biggest case of their careers.

Annie Pearce makes mistakes, some are small and easy to fix. Other mistakes can risk exposure or cause a wizard war. But she perseveres because that is her make up. She wants justice for the downtrodden, for the victims of crimes. Though she is young, she can be an inspiration.

Annie is the Me I Strive to Be

I wrote Annie to be the woman I wanted to be. A strong survivor who can and will find her way through a difficult and often scary world. Joss Whedon's Buffy Summers was one of my inspirations for putting together a relatable woman.

While I stumble through my life with increasingly difficult situations that make me want to cry or hide in the sand or simply run away, I remember the alter ego that I created. I suck it in and imagine the confidence and take one step in front of the other. This is what I want and for now, Annie is my own fairy godmother and inspiration as I make my way through the world of writing to become the author I want to be.

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The Reboot – I’m Not All In – Unless This

The Reboot

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.

Charmed

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

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.

A Wish from A Fan

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing Paranormal Makes the Ordinary Extra-Ordinary

From the Ordinary to the Extra-Ordinary

Jack Ramsey is just an ordinary guy. Well, he is as ordinary as a guy can be who is a high-ranking member of the FBI. Jack has seen things – things that most of us will never see. Murder, mayhem, a dark and dangerous world. Jack joined the FBI to make the world a better place, a role he takes very seriously. And he believes he has seen it all. Until he meets Annie Pearce.

Death in a back alley is just a day in the office for Jack. But this time, something is different. This time, he comes face-to-face with a woman who would rock the very foundation beneath his feet.

“Meet me at the morgue at midnight,” she says to him. And before he knows it, he is watching Annie stake vampires and seeing bodies bursting into flames.

Thus begins a unique relationship between the magical and non-magical  in The Day of the First Sun. Annie realizes that she needs an individual on the inside of law enforcement to help her with her magical cases. Taking a calculated risk, she brings Jack in on her biggest secret – the existence of magic. As for Jack, he takes in this new information with a great deal of shock but yet composed. He believes her or so he tries. And, because it is part of his nature, he ultimately jumps in and fights alongside of Annie and her colleagues.

Just imagine if you knew about part of the world that very few people understand.

You are used to people who are evil. You are used to those for whom taking a life means nothing. But there is nothing to prepare you for the things that go bump in the night. Yet here you are, after an unimaginable night of killing vampires, knowing things that you cannot un-know, seeing things that you cannot un-see.

Would you have the ability to set aside the reality you have always known? Do you believe in fairy-tales? And, after finding out that everything you knew is shattered, would you have the strength to jump in and fight monsters?
Here is what I wonder – how do we know that this world doesn’t actually exist now? Jack was blind to it for most of his life. Could we also be blind? Is it happening before our eyes and we don’t see it? And if we came face-to-face with mind-boggling, unthinkable truths — could we immediately accept them and shift our reality to include them?

Why I Write Paranormal

That is what I love about writing paranormal stories. It’s about making the unimaginable a little closer to reality. And maybe it encourages us to look beyond the obvious, to try to break the seal between our perceptions and potential realities. At the very least, these stories help us to open up our minds and dream big.

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Writer’s Block – It’s Only a Fallacy – Just Write Something

There is No Such Thing as Writer's Block

So how can I say that? Because yes, there are days that I can sit at the computer and the words don't come. Other days, different things become more important and I put off the writing because it's hard. It's not writer's block. It's anxiety of my own making.

How I Overcome What Isn't Writer's Block

Writing a book, a poem, a novella, a short story, is a scary proposition. You put yourself out there, expose your emotions, your story, personal story. The anxiety of that can be overwhelming. My anxiety stems from the fact that I'm rewriting my former second book in the series called She Wulf. I'm using part of the original story and expanding on it to now fit in the new series arc. It's a daunting project and in a way, I'm tied to the series, and have to work within these new parameters.

There's been a lot of that thing called writer's block, that thing that doesn't really exist. So how do I get past it. I write. I'm not talking about amusing, well written, ready to publish writing either. I'm talking about raw, nearly outlining, crap. Stuff I wouldn't bother to show my best of friends.

I Just Write

Being a writer is just that. We write. Even though this is essentially a re-write, it is truly a new book that has to do more than one thing. It has to link all of the books together, it has to explain a lot of unexplained plot points, it has to be an interesting story. And when I struggle to sit down and write chapter 9 because in all other incarnations of the book, this scene was always troublesome and never worked well, I had to seriously look at how I put this scene together.

It took me two days to work through the problem and only tonight was I able to really figure out how it happens. It's a pivotal scene. It moves the story from here to there, it had to be right. It also stinks. The writing is poor, but the story is the way it needs to be.

Believe in Yourself, Believe in Your Story

I truly believe there is no such thing as Writer's Block. After working on my fourth book, I understand that when I'm blocked, it has more to do with anxiety of the scene I'm setting up. When I understand that I have the ability to forgive myself for taking my time, for wasting time away from the book. And when I release some of the anxiety I can I ultimately always do, return to the book and write past the block.

I think it's the same with anything in life. New experiences can cause us to put things off because we're uncomfortable. Or we can feel stuck at a job, or just feeling the blues. It happens. Life is tricky and I think the key to working past the bumps whether its life or writing books is to believe in yourself, believe in your vision or in my case my story, and chip away little by little at the problem or the plot point that isn't working.

Or in some cases, completely re-write the book to make it work. Don't settle. You are worth the effort.

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ASKING HELP FROM OTHERS: Are you an Annie?

Annie Pearce has a problem

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

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

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

Consequences Aren't So High in the Real World

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

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

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

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

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

Asking for Help

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

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

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

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Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Once upon a time…

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

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

The Writing Process Sometimes Doesn't End

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

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

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

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

The Final Product

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

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

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Theme Writing – Saying Something with Purpose

Do My Books Have a Theme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wizard War – Book Three – Theme of Justice

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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If Magic Were Real Would We Have to Share

Protecting Magic at all Costs

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

There's a Plan In Place

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

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

Should the Gifts be Shared

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

Ethics of Sharing

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

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

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ELVES: THEY MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE

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

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

Bitherby's Selfless Act

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

Loyal Elves

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

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

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

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

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

“Why you come back?” Huxley asked.

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

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

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

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

Bitherby let out the stale air from his lungs.

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

“I gotta,” Bitherby said.

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

What If Elves Existed in Reality?

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

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