Annie Pearce Archives | Sheryl Steines

Category Archives for Annie Pearce

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

March is Women’s History Month

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

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

Why I Created a Strong Female Character

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

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

Real Women

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

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Strong Female Characters and Disappointment in the Man Who Created them

I've spent the afternoon wallowing in disappointment.

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

Meeting Cordelia Chase

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

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

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

I had no idea.

Disappointment Sets In

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

But can I really separate the two?

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

Grappling With My Thoughts

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Urban Fantasy – Black Market Chapter One

Black 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

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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

 

Paralyzed, Jack continued to stare at the cooler door. “One of the victims witnessed a murder I’m investigating. I think the suspect killed them.” He fondled the handle of his gun again, clearly debating whether to remove it from its holster. He pulled it out briefly and placed it back.

“The gun won’t help.” Annie advised. She summoned a glass vial. “This will, though.” She tossed the small glass bottle to him.

“What . . .” Jack caught it and examined the clear liquid inside.

 “Throw that close to the ground beside whoever might be in here.”

Annie strolled to the cooler. Her hand grazed the cool handle, and her gut screamed out a warning. “It’s not your suspect who killed them.” She pulled on the handle. A rush of cold air blew out as the door swung open.

With shaky hands, Jack drew his gun, she heard a click.

“I told you a gun won’t help.”

“Who the hell are you?”

In her own adrenaline rush, that high just before a vampire fight, Annie summoned an ash stake; her hand wrapped around it tightly and held it out in front of her.

“Uh, what the hell is that? A stake. Is this holy water? Vampires?” his voice raised a few octaves, in realization and fear. Annie recognized his fear.

The vampire is going to kill him. “Stay behind me and run like hell if something comes at you.”

Annie entered the cooler, her flashlight rolling over the walls and shelves. There were five industrial-sized storage units stacked inside the cooler two bodies deep; each contained four shelves. The overflow bodies lay on gurneys pushed up against the wall. There was very little room to maneuver in the small space.

The bodies lay in plastic body bags, some of which were neatly zippered while others were open, appendages hanging over the sides.

Annie chose to start with the gurneys, assuming the newest bodies resided there. She checked the first toe tag. Jack cocked his gun.

“Put it away,” she said. “It’s not going to help. The holy water will.”

The first toe tag belonged to Jeffrey Marcus, dead as of two weeks prior and not a victim. Replacing the tag, Annie zippered up the bag and moved to the next body. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not from the CPD. I’m part of the Wizard Guard, an organization of magical police officers.” Checking the next toe tag, Annie highlighted the name, dropped the tag and moved on to the next body.

“Is this a joke? I should arrest you for tampering with evidence.”

“Why would I make this up? I’m a witch. I do magic.”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . Annie swung around and scanned the room with her flashlight, examining the body bags for movement. There’s so many here, she thought. It was quiet except for the freezer’s compressor. Annie returned to her search, seeing nothing move.

Worried there was a third vampire with them, Annie glanced back again after a moment, surveying the room. She could sense time ticking away as clearly as if there were a clock in her head. “Take this,” she said, floating a second vial to Jack. His eyes widened, his jaw clenched again, and he cocked the gun and aimed it at Annie.

“Help me find our victims,” Annie cried. The vial spun in the air before them. The FBI agent’s eyes darted from the Wizard Guard to the vial; sensing her tension, he grabbed the small glass container with shaking hands and held it tightly, nearly cracking the thin glass.

Scratch . . . scratch . . .

Annie took a breath and whispered, “There’s something in here with us.”

“What does that mean?” Jack glanced around the room, pointing his gun haphazardly.

“Put the gun away. Just uncork the vials and throw them on the vampire. It’s strong enough to slow them down until I stake it.”

“What the hell is going on?”

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Annie twirled and inched her way toward the scratching while Jack, white as a ghost, hung back at the door.

“What’s in here with us?”

“A vampire.”

Jack blanched. He held the vial in one hand, the gun in the other. Both hands shook violently. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“For now, it doesn’t have to.” Annie reached for another name tag.

“Laurie Lispin and Marcus Johansson,” Jack called to her.

“Thanks.” Annie continued down the line, verifying each tag and moving more quickly now through the bodies. After checking the first two rows, Annie called out, “I got Laurie.”

Standing over the body, Annie examined the bag for movement and listened for growling, even though she knew it was too early for Laurie to turn. Carefully unzipping the body bag, she released the victim’s hair; it cascaded out and landed against the side of the shelf. Annie lifted the hair, focused her flashlight on the neck, and examined the two puncture wounds. They were not as dark as they had been twenty hours earlier. Annie put her flashlight in her mouth, popped the cork of the holy water, and dribbled a small amount on the victim’s leg. The liquid bubbled and blistered the skin of the vampire.

Grabbing the stake, Annie thrust it into the vampire’s chest. The demon’s eyes burst open, filled with both surprise and confusion. As the stake punctured the heart, the body burst into flame. A primal scream, raw and angry, escaped the vampire’s lips as the fire consumed her. Her shriek of terror reverberated in the room, bounding off the walls. It lingered even after the body was nothing more than a pile of ash.

“How . . . what . . . how did that happen?” Jack asked, finally entering the cooler.

“We need . . . to find Marcus,” Annie managed to grunt through rapid breaths.

“Are they always . . . made into vampires?” Apprehensively, he joined Annie’s search for Marcus, checking toe tags on the opposite aisle.

“No. Vampires are kinda picky. They don’t let everyone in. There must’ve been something about Laurie and probably Marcus that appealed to the vampire.”

“It’s kind of like a club.” Jack choked on a nervous laugh. He coughed.

“Not so organized, actually. It’s more like a gang. If you turn a victim, they’re indebted to you forever.”

Annie placed a foot on the lowest shelf and reached above, pulling herself up to check the tag. “Were they both brought here?”

“Yes. They’d want to keep the victims together to look for evidence and compare.”

“Where is he then?” Annie jumped down.

Scratch . . . scratch . . . scratch.

Jack jumped. “Did you hear that?”

“Yeah. We need to find Marcus before that one escapes his bag.”

“How is that possible? We only had two victims.” Jack checked another tag before moving on to the next body.

“You know how many vampires we collect from your morgues?”

Annie felt like time was speeding up and getting away from her right when she least wanted it. She trained her light in the direction of the scratching, looking for movement.

“Do I really want to know?” The body four down from Laurie lay in an open bag, two small puncture wounds across the neck. “I found Marcus.” He hastily stepped away from the body.

After verifying the toe tag, Annie examined Marcus’s neck for the telltale wound.

“You don’t believe me?”

“Habit.” The holy water splashed on a very hairy arm and bubbled like a pot of boiling water, leaving blisters and waking the vampire.

The body that once belonged to Marcus stared at Annie with eyes like black pools, devoid of anything human. The new demon let out an angry growl. Annie lunged at the vampire, pushing the stake into its heart. Much like Laurie, Marcus Johansson exploded into flames and let out a piercing scream. Annie felt the vibration through her body.

Ash floated in the air, filling the body bag and covering several surrounding bodies, the cement floor, and Annie’s hair. A stray ember whizzed by, and she patted it out. Stepping away from the vampire, Annie stood guard until the last of the embers burnt out.

“So now what?” Jack asked, wiping ash from his suit pants.

The Day of First Sun - Copy to Use

 

To find out more about Jack and foray into the magical world check out The Day of First Sun on Amazon.com!

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