News and Podcasts I’m Enjoying

Hello, everybody! It’s been too long since I blogged here, so please allow me to thank you for reading up front. I know how annoying it can be when content from providers I enjoy becomes irregular.

What’s up with me lately?

First of all, I’m preparing for the launch of “Soul Art,” the second Maker Mythos novel, currently set for July 11th! I’m excited to finally get this one out the door to the people who have been waiting for it. “Hunter and Seed” is currently my best selling book, and by far the most popular thing I’ve released so far. I won’t take so long to release book 3, hopefully.

Part one of “Hunter and Seed” is currently free for download over at instafreebie, so check that out if you’re interested in the series. Oh, and if you hurry, I have a special freebie of the complete book for those who subscribe to my mailing list before the preorder for “Soul Art” goes live.

While editing, I have been writing little by little on the side. I’ve also been podcasting regularly over at mentalcellarpublications.com. That’s been fun and had me experiencing being busy for the first time in a while.

I still listen to a bunch of nice podcasts, mostly writing related.

J. Daniel Sawyer’s Every Day Novelist is pretty new, and super high-quality questions and answers.

The Dead Robots’ Society has been a quality show for some time, but I think it keeps getting better (And weirder) all the time, especially if you’re into the writerly water-cooler conversation.

Finally, Joanna Penn runs a tight and informative ship over at The Creative Penn Podcast. Really great show. The interviews are good, but the introduction is my favorite part of each episode.

I’m excited to see what July has in store. Keep reading, and I hope to be back more often on Mondays.

And as always, thank you for lending your eyes to my ramblings.

Stolen Parts Episode 3

This week, Stolen Parts concludes with part three.

Can Odette come back to life?

And will she lose Jeremy after all?

Read on to find out.

 

 

We got back to my apartment before the moon rose. He had the cooler with the heart into my bedroom minutes later. Neither of us thought Sam could possibly be all the way out of the game. Blows to the head hurt, and that cut on his hand drained his power for the moment, but Sam’s magic is nourished by pain, no matter how much it slows him down in the moment more pain means more power later. Neither Jeremy or I wanted to kill another necromancer.

Life. Death. Things just can’t ever be simple.

Jeremy flipped on the lights and set the cooler on the floor beside the bed. My body lay where it had been when we left, still indecent, still bloody. For some reason the flecks of blood in my hair made me feel the worst. They just looked so haphazard. Probably won’t be easy to clean. Jeremy closed the bedroom doors and drew the thin curtains on the window by the bed. He set the witch dagger on the sill.

He flipped the top on the cooler. My heart would have skipped a beat if it hadn’t already been lying frozen in that box. He raised the heart carefully, the ritual of restoration requiring his skin to touch the raw flesh to work. He set it in the hole in my chest, blood and ice water on his fingers.

He came over to break my heart and found another guy had already torn it out. Jeremy might be the only person I know who would do what he had just done. He went charging into danger to save someone he didn’t want to see anymore. At that point I still didn’t know exactly why he thought we had grown apart. Questions are hard to ask sometimes. He chanted the spell to heal the joins and repair the veins and arteries. His eyes glowed blue. I thought about how hard it was gonna to find another guy like him and I got sad.

My pulse throbbed painfully as it returned.

He withdrew his hand from around my heart, but my soul remained joined to Jeremy through the collars we wore. Its a strange feeling, looking down at one’s own unconscious body.

“You ready to go back?” Jeremy asked softly.

“You’d better not sneak out before I wake up.”

He shrugged his aching shoulders. “I’ll stand guard. It’s dark now. Sam will probably send some Zs after us.”

“You don’t think he’ll come by himself?”

“He could. I doubt I slowed him down much.”

“Good move with the cooler. Never mind that my heart was in there.”

“Sorry about that.” Jeremy wiped his hands on his jeans. Then he folded them and started chanting again, eyes closed. In that darkness with just his voice to guide me, I drifted down, felt like falling. My heartbeat announced my return, sore and tremulous. The pain in the rest of my chest was gone, and the wound sealed without a trace or a scar.

I opened my eyes and looked up at Jeremy. He stood at the foot of my bed, further away than he had been when he started chanting. “Odette, we need to talk.”

“I guess we do.” My voice sounded strange and high coming out of my mouth. I had kinda gotten used to sensing the words rather than hearing them.

He leaned against the wall by the door, arms folded. “You know why I came over?”

“I’ve been reading your thoughts all evening. So yeah.”

Moonlight glimmered on the floor of the kitchen, visible through the open door. Jeremy stared down at me. I sat up and covered myself with my arms. A chill ran through me, not exactly bundled up, and it was mid-October.

“Jeremy, I think tonight proved we can trust each other. We work together.”

He sighed and walked over to my bedside, then took my hand gently. “Odette…”

I shook my head, upset. “You’re gonna tell me we’re done. You respect me or something. I can see it in those pretty eyes of yours.” Funny how I could be so calm the whole time without my body, but getting it back had me panicked.

“Odette, I think we had better sleep on it.”

I stared at him. A smile formed on my face.

Outside, in the moonlight, a zombie groaned. I reached for the witch dagger. “Sound’s like trouble.”

Jeremy released my hand. He reached up with a both hands to unlock the cold metal collar from around my neck. “Not so bad you’ll need this.”

My hand found his again and stopped him. “Not a bridge I want burned just yet.”

He lowered his hands slowly and nodded.

I slipped my legs over the side of the bed and walked over to my closet. I opened the doors and glanced at Jeremy. “You think I ought to dress up?”

“To take down a few Zs?”

“And for afterward.” I reached inside and moved aside a pale colored dress in favor of a plain dark t-shirt. I shivered in the cool air of the room.

He shook his head, but I saw his smile. He reached for the scroll case in his jacket pocket and took it out. Then he slung off the coat and hung it around my shoulders. I slipped my arms through the rough material of the sleeves. The jacket felt like home inside.

I buttoned up the front, and then reached out, took the dagger’s bone handle and picked it up. We walked through the apartment and took the stairs down.

A couple dozen ragged zombies advanced down the street. The big Z who had been patrolling outside the morgue dragged his foot at the back of the mob. Probably only a matter of time before Sam shows up. Jeremy unfurled the scroll and smiled at me. I smiled back and then took a defensive stance, dagger extended in one hand.

Zombies approached and I fell back step by step toward Jeremy. “Second incantation, remember?”

He coughed to clear his throat, then started to chant. The zombies wavered in their advance. The big one in the white tee rushed at me. His reach beat mine, but the dagger slice into his forearm, turning magically animated muscles into dead flesh. A jab to the shoulder finished the zombie completely. He went down. Before any other zombies could reach me Jeremy completed the incantation. Any dead that should hear these words shall sleep.

Zombies male and female tumbled into the street, their bodies returned to rest. Along the street the lights flickered. A shadow winged its way over the rooftops, far too large to be a bat. I recognized him first by the glow of green in his eyes. Sam’s dark wings carried him down toward street level. He wore a look of mild surprise.

“I expected they would keep you busy longer than that.” He landed on the pavement in front us. His cloak of shadows deepened around him and he wore a collar of his own, but rather than the iron Jeremy and I shared, his looked brighter, more silver in color. I didn’t dare hope he had just been using it to command all those zombies. I knew him. At the very least he could use it to reanimate the zombies the scroll had just destroyed. Every tool Sam used was multipurpose.

My fingers clenched on the dagger. I glared at Sam. “I don’t buy this ‘other dimension’ bullshit! What are you trying to do?”

“Odette, you really are a simple creature.” A smirk surfaced from the shadows.

My face grew hot, half from annoyance at his tone and half from my tension at having to fight such a dangerous opponent. “Go back to the Morgue. You don’t want this to go further than it already has.”

“Don’t I?” Sam’s infuriating smugness radiated like an insufferable star. “I have the two of you together now. Two hearts should be enough to open the gate.”

“A gate to where?” Jeremy lowered the scroll.

“Somewhere you would never dare go, boy. But I will take you there.” He grinned. “Part of you anyway.”

I lunged the few yards between us. My dagger thrust toward his chest. He sidestepped, flowing through shadow. Jeremy called out a warning. I passed Sam and dropped to one knee. His fist swung over my head. I counted my good luck, I’d known how to read Jeremy’s tone.

Sam put on a burst of shadow speed and raced toward Jeremy, who held nothing but the scroll.

Not enough time for Jeremy to chant, and I was too slow to catch up. I flipped the dagger to change my grip, pivoted on the spot, then threw the weapon. The blade missed Sam, but the bone hilt hit him in the back of the neck. He let out a gasp and stumbled, breathless.

“Looks you still need to breathe,” I said.

Jeremy dashed to my side, scooping up the dagger as he approached. I rose to my feet. Jeremy slowed as he reached me, then turned toward Sam again. “Now what do we do?”

I shrugged. “We’ve got to stop him.”

He handed me the witch dagger. “We can’t put him down.”

I glanced at the scroll rumpled in his hand. “You know what the first incantation on that scroll does, right?”

“Paralysis?”

“For all living who hear the complete chant, except the reader,” I said. “Yeah.”

Sirens wailed in the distance. Someone on my street had called the cops. I returned my eyes to Sam as he turned. “We only need to buy time until the cops get here.”

“You think that’ll work?”

“Sam won’t expose himself to the normals. That would break the law too.”

Jeremy set his jaw. “Hope you’re right.”

Sam looked over his shoulder at us. His eyes burned green. The zombified corpses all around the street began to stir. Such a showoff, he was doing it without a single word. I readied the witch dagger. “Start chanting. I’ll protect you.”

A zombie reached for my ankle. I slashed its wrist, then kicked its head back. The others were moving slowly. Jeremy started chanting, slow and measured. His voice echoed in the street, even over the sound of approaching sirens. Behind Sam the lights approached on the main street, but not the lights of a police car, the lights of an ambulance. Paramedics would be much less useful than cops for my plan.

I cut down a zombie as it staggered to its feet. Sam turned to face me and Jeremy. “That toy won’t stop my zombies forever,” he said. “And that scroll is less powerful than amateurs like you want to think.”

He walked between the rising forms of reanimated zombies. I stared at him, worried he could be right. With a few stabs I took down a few more zombies. If it wasn’t for Sam probably being ready to counter anything I tried, I’d have a lot more options. The ambulance sped down the street, not slowing.

“Jeremy,” I said. “Keep going.”

Sam towered over me, just like he had back in the kitchen at home. His fingers locked around my wrist, keeping the dagger from stabbing into his side. I glared up at his face. His other hand drew back. I shoved uselessly at his chest, trying to push him back.

Jeremy finished the chant. I froze. My muscles locked tight, and my heartbeat slowed. My knees went weak and I might have fallen except for Sam’s grip. My eyes remained fixed on his green glowing gaze. His lethal hand still moved in jerky fits and starts, down toward my heart.

“Odette!” Jeremy shouted and dove into Sam from the side where I held the dagger. His momentum hit my hand and Sam’s with a crack. Despite the paralysis both hands slammed into Sam’s side. The blade of the dagger vanished between his ribs. I gasped with pain from my wrist. Sam fell.

Jeremy tugged me out of his grip. The witch dagger came with me, coated with Sam’s dark blood. He stared up at the sky with an empty gaze. The green glow faded as I looked down at him. My heartbeat began to accelerate back to normal as Jeremy led me through the moaning, mindless handful of zombies toward my apartment building. “We can’t stay here,” I said. “He’s dead, Jeremy.”

A far off look formed in his eye as we passed the front yard and headed into the parking lot that wrapped around the back of the building and led onto an adjacent street. Jeremy turned to me as I regained the ability to walk on my own.

“Looks like we’re going on the run,” he said.

The two of us walked away from the flashing lights of the ambulance. I nodded.

We just killed another necromancer. That won’t stay hidden for long. I looked up at his face. “Guess you’re stuck with me.”

His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

Funny how life can seem so simple sometimes.

#

If you enjoyed this part of the story check out the mailing list for more free fiction.

You can get Tim’s full novels and other fiction on Amazon.com, right HERE.

Thanks for reading!

Stolen Parts Episode 2

This week the Stolen Parts serial continues with part two.

Odette and Jeremy have a lot of unresolved business between each other.

But missing pieces take priority.

Read on for part two.

 

 

Jeremy parked the car midway along a block adjacent to the morgue where Sam managed the night shift. It’s a bad part of town, but Jeremy and I were all too familiar with it. The sky turned purple in the west. Autumn air breezed around him, playing with his short curls in a way I never did. I tended to be more focused on his skin.

He took the big automatic pistol from the trunk of the car and slung the holster around his shoulder.

“Isn’t that a bit conspicuous?”

“Sam probably knows I’m on my way already.” Jeremy closed the trunk and followed the sidewalk to the corner. There was no one around to pay any attention to the gun he wore openly. His jacket swished around his shoulders with every step. I remembered right then how I fell for him at first. Sexy walk? Check. Mysterious? Check. Confident? Well he puts on a good show. 

“Are you trying to distract me?” he said under his breath.

He crossed the street and turned to the morgue’s side entrance, the one we necromancers go through. That used to let Sam know we were there to buy. Jeremy marched up to the door, looked both ways to check for goons, and then stopped stock still. So far, so good, I thought. A shuffle of feet sounded deafening even with a car horn going off on the highway a few blocks beyond the morgue.

Jeremy reached for the pistol slung over his shoulder. He’s never been what I’d call a ‘good shot’, but the big guns keep living people from causing him any trouble. Both hands on the gun, he whirled and pressed his back to the wall beside the door to the morgue. A big zombie dragged one leg on the sidewalk as he approached Jeremy. The zombie wore a white tee and jeans, and his eyes glowed with green haze. This one belonged to Sam for sure, poison powered by pain; green was the color of his magic. Necromancers can have all sorts of different talents and Sam got charged up by pain he felt. Yet, somehow I used to think he was a sensitive guy. The big Z shuffled closer.

“Ready for the show to start?” I asked Jeremy.

“You know what…” Jeremy’s heart thumped in his chest. “Not yet.”

One hand flew to the door handle. He pulled the door open and darted around it. Sam’s zombie was just a few yards away, but Jeremy kept cool. He ducked into the morgue and looked both ways.

There was one silhouette moving against flicker of a fading light from a window at the end of the hallway. I couldn’t tell by the slow shift of its movements if it was a living assistant, a zombie, or something worse. Jeremy backed away from it one step and pressed his shoulder against the door. The big Z hit the other side, but the door held. The Z rebounded.

“Nows our chance!” I said. “Get going.”

Jeremy broke into a run. Feet pounded on tiled floor. He raced toward the shape at the end of the hall. The shape turned toward him, slow, dead, a zombie woman wearing a dirty nurse’s smock. He stumbled to a stop a few feet from the undead and leveled the pistol at her. He pulled the trigger before she could take a single step.

He isn’t much of a shooter, but at less than five feet and with both hands bracing the gun, he couldn’t have a better shot on a Z. Jeremy’s gun roared. The head burst and the zombie fell to the floor. The sound of the gunshot echoed, probably through the whole morgue.

“We gotta get to the freezers,” Jeremy said. His ears rang and I barely made out his words.

Can you still hear?

Not very well, he thought in my direction as he turned to the door.

He looked up from the remains of the zombie he’d just shot, then kept going down the hallway. Behind us, the door burst open from the big zombie’s hammering blows. Jeremy didn’t look back, so I didn’t see if the big Z was following us. Sharing Jeremy’s head gave me crazy nerves. I had no idea how anxious he could get.

Jeremy moved down a side corridor. This one led toward the freezer rooms at the center of the building where they kept cadavers on ice. He lowered the pistol and drew the witch dagger out of his belt loop. Witch daggers are the inverse end of blessed instruments or other magical tools. One cut will cancel all the spells on a person or object.

“You ought to be careful with that.” If it nicked his collar I’d have my one way ticket to the next world punched.

“I know what I’m doing.” He kept his voice low as he approached the doors of the freezer room. “Where are all the Zs?”

“Out walking,” said a calm voice from behind. Sam.

Jeremy whirled. The blade of his dagger rose to point between the eyes of a pale-faced man in a black coat too long for this weather. Sam didn’t have a collar around his neck and he didn’t need it to control his Zs like the rest of us did. Shadows crept all around him despite the bright electric lights overhead, moving like slender limbs. I still haven’t met another necromancer as powerful as Sam.

But even then, I knew a couple who are more canny. Me, and Jeremy.

“Honey, if you shoot him now we may have a chance,” I said.

This has got to be a trick, Jeremy answered silently. His ears still rang with the gunshot from earlier. Damn things are so inelegant.

Jeremy backed away from Sam, and toward the freezer room doors. Sam stood with his arms folded, solemn smile on his face. “I’m sorry I got Odette’s first,” he said. “I know you two had a relationship of sorts. But she was mine first and just couldn’t resist. She practically asked me to tear it out of her.  But you know that. You were there.”

I did no such thing. Didn’t have time to say much before, and its hard to speak with ice cold finger literally wrapped around your heart. Sam got under my skin, but all I could do was watch. In the silence following his words watched Sam’s face, pale and devilishly handsome and wreathed in shadow. One corner of his lip curled.

The gun in Jeremy’s hand spoke, but he should have known better than to shoot it one-handed. The recoil slammed his shoulder back and the bullet went wide then punched a hole in the wall The gun made its explosive sound. Jeremy’s arm flared with pain from wrist to shoulder.

Sam’s smile vanished, replaced by a vicious grin. In a burst of shadows that flowed from him in all directions, he rushed forward and slammed into Jeremy, bowling him off his feet. Jeremy’s a strong guy. Sam’s got inches on him, but more importantly, Sam must have been invoking some sort of greater power. Jeremy sailed through the double doors to the freezer room, flinging them open in the process.

He hit the first empty gurney in the room and knocked it over. Jeremy’s back and shoulders screamed. His gun skidded away across the floor to one side of the room and came to rest by a black boot. He kept his grip on the witch dagger, and the scroll case pressed into his side. He lurched forward as he sat up. Zombies lined the walls. The scroll could be good here. It could take out all these Zs in a second.

Sam started to advance on him as the doors swung shut. He moved like a big cat, lethal and beautiful.

“Odette, he wants my heart too.” Jeremy grunted with pain and climbed to his feet. His head spun from the sudden elevation.

He could barely stand. I’m no ace at astral projection, and I’m a beginner at possession, but I know the basics.

“Hon, I’m taking over.”

I didn’t wait for permission. Jeremy’s eyes glowed my color, red, under my influence. Already being in his head, I tweaked his flares of pain with a gentle touch as they hit me. I felt them. I took them for myself. Could have screamed, but no voice at the moment. It wasn’t full on possession, but it would do for the moment to freshen him up. Zombies closed in around Jeremy. With a couple of quick thrusts of the witch dagger he disenchanted all of them.

Undead turned to regular dead. They fell.

He stood, looking around, confused by the sudden clarity. “Thanks.”

“Not done yet.” I nudged on his motor cortex. His legs carried him around the gurneys that formed a circle in the center of the room. Something dug at the back of my mind just as the cold started to make Jeremy’s skin turn to goosebumps. We’re close.

My heart was in the room. A girl can always tell.

Sam threw the doors open. He had sure taken his sweet time getting to the room. Now that he was inside, things could get a lot tougher. Jeremy turned to face Sam. The poison master towered over him.

“I think my hearts behind us,” I said.

Good to know, he replied without a sound. His breath misted before him. “Sam, I don’t know what you’re doing. But I don’t care.”

“What do you think I’m doing?” Sam stopped beside the gurney Jeremy had knocked over when Sam hit him. “I’m cleaning up the neighborhood.”

“You’re breaking the law. Killing other necromancers. Keeping hearts on ice.”

That’s my Jeremy, always got justice on his mind. “Hon, buying time won’t work without a plan.”

Think one up, then! He sure got demanding all of a sudden.

I stared through Jeremy’s eye at Sam as Jeremy back into the center of the circle of gurneys. The four remaining Zombies couldn’t easily get him in there because of the obstacle posed by the carts. Too dumb to push them out of the way, what with the wheels and all. They simply waited, eyes glowing green with Sam’s command.

A little orange sports cooler sat in the center of the circle. I could practically feel my heart in side, even with it frozen in ice.

“That’s it,” I said. “Jeremy, my heart is in that cooler.”

“You sure?” he muttered.

“Baby, it’s my own heart.

Sam’s lip curled. Jeremy knelt, and picked up the cooler. It was light on his muscles. Good because his shooting arm still throbbed with pain.

“Talking to someone?” Sam asked. “Funny. I don’t hear any voices on the wind. But judging by your eyes earlier you have a passenger.”

“Funny,” Jeremy smirked. “But I’m just a mess in your neighborhood. So I don’t think I’ll share.”

“So. Odette isn’t gone yet.” Sam’s face darkened. “I hoped her death would be quick.”

Jeremy glared at Sam, heart hammering, pulse pounding. “You bastard. What’s your game?”

“I thought you didn’t care?” Sam motioned with one hand. His zombies closed in on either side of Jeremy and started pulling at the gurneys, trying to knock them over.

Jeremy don’t let him get to you.”

He scowled. Intense dark eyes fixed on Sam’s green ones. “Try me.”

“Cleaning up the town is just bonus.” Sam’s eyes glimmered as they locked with Jeremy’s. “The hearts of mages are where our power comes from. They can be used to gain access to realms beyond this one.”

And here I thought I was a girl caught in the middle of two guys. I’m actually kinda disappointed.

“That’s all?” Jeremy brandished the witch dagger. “You plan to buy a condo in some other reality?”

“You lack vision, boy.”

Jeremy smirked. “I just thought the same thing.”

“Enough!” Sam snarled and leapt over the gurney circle with a furious burst of shadow power. He flew down toward Jeremy. Sam’s boot connect with Jeremy’s wrist, keeping Jeremy from stabbing with the witch dagger. Jeremy kept his grip on the weapon. I always thought Jeremy had nice hands.

Jeremy staggered and swung the plastic bulk of the cooler high. I mentally flinched as the rounded corner connected with Sam’s head and knocked him back a few paces. A trickle of blood flowed from Sam’s temple. He sank to his knees. That only lasted for a second before he surged to his feet, the blood on the side of his head sizzling on his skin. Apparently he’s not as coldblooded as I thought.

“There’s no time,” Jeremy said.

He pushed through the gurneys, passed the Zs, and carried my heart down the hall as fast as his legs could carry him. Sam followed, gliding on shadowy wisps of wings.

His roar of fury echoed down the hall. That hit to the head must have pissed him off, pain magic or not. Jeremy flew past the body of the zombie he shot on the way in. He cornered into the hallway beyond. The door stood open up ahead. Jeremy bolted toward it. Sam sailed into his path, fast as a snake. Jeremy slashed out sideways with the witch dagger. Sam caught his wrist with both hands.

“Tut tut, improper form.” Sam drove a boot into Jeremy’s stomach.

The kick knocked Jeremy to the floor.

I took Jeremy’s pain again. The shock disoriented me, but even if it hadn’t I couldn’t return the breath Jeremy had just lost. He looked up at Sam, who stood over him. Orange streetlights glowed on the windows from outside. The cooler with my heart lay at Jeremy’s side.

You’ve got to get up. Sam knelt down before Jeremy. His hand drew back, mirroring the strike that had torn out my heart hours ago. Sam wore a cold smile. His hand stabbed toward Jeremy’s chest.

I focused on Jeremy’s hand that held the witch dagger. I pinched a tendon that moved his forearm. In that instant, I think I graduated to full possession.

Jeremy’s dagger flew into position. The blade sliced a tiny gash along the edge of Sam’s hand. Sam’s shadows evaporated from that arm and his palm slapped off Jeremy’s shirt, strength gone.

Sam leapt backward, still surrounded by shadow. He looked down at his hand, frustration rather than disbelief showed on his face. Jeremy stood unsteadily, cooler in one hand, dagger in the other. He raised the blade. “I don’t care which dimension you go to, but you can’t stay here.” He rushed toward Sam, ready to strike again.

Green eyes flashed within darkness. Sam vanished into shadow. Jeremy reacted fast. He lowered his shoulder and hit the door.

“Change of plans, Odette,” he said mentally.

Jeremy burst through the morgue door and out into the night.

#

If you enjoyed this part of the story check out the mailing list for more free fiction.

You can get Tim’s full novels and other fiction on Amazon.com, right HERE.

Thanks for reading!

Stolen Parts Episode 1

This week we begin a three-part serial of my short story, Stolen Parts!

This takes place in an urban fantasy setting where a couple of down on their luck necromancers are having a rough day already.

And someone’s heart has been stolen.

Here is part one.

 

 

Life can be complicated for a necromancer.

My usual work days amounted to talking to ghosts or working in morgues for a bit of money. Sometimes I did scarier things for worse people to get the money that kept me in a nice apartment in my little town. That Friday I had just gotten home after a rough day, that started with a fight with Jeremy, my boyfriend, to find a master necromancer waiting in my kitchen. Things blurred in my memory between that moment and the next.

A little droplet of sunlight fell through the part in the curtains and spilled across the floor of my living room where Jeremy paced back and forth, all six feet of him swaying like a drunk. He shook his head and rattled the locked iron collar around his neck that kept my soul bound to his mind. My body lay in the bedroom, an identical collar around my throat, and a large hole in the chest where my heart used to be.

“I’m sorry,” Jeremy murmured, forgetting that the bond he had made with me through the collars after he had burst in let me hear his thoughts as well as share his senses.

I spoke into his mind, “I know.” Never mind that you talked about breaking up with me this morning. Never mind that’s what you came here to do, and I still don’t understand why.

He heard that thought and tensed. “Odette,” he said. “I never wanted this to happen.” He hesitated, but his thought continued. He wondered if it was really Sam, though he had seen him standing with his hand in my chest. How dense can a guy get?

“It was him. Who else could have done this? Not exactly normal necromancer activity, tearing hearts out.” I hoped my tone went across. I was going for something wry, that sort of downplayed the gaping hole and my missing heart. Stolen heart. Sam wants to use it for something. Sam never cared that much about my heart when we were together.

Jeremy hunched in a red armchair and put his head in his hands and tried to ignore my wandering thoughts so close to his own. He hadn’t cried yet. He acted so tough for a guy about to turn twenty six. Of course, I was only a year older than him. “What are we going to do?”

I wanted to put my flower-and-snake-tattooed arms around him, hold him close, and tell him everything would be alright. No heart means no holding. “It’s up to you,” I said. “Even if you choose to let me go, I’m glad I got to say goodbye.”

“I’m not going to let you die.”

 

“A little late for that.”

“Don’t say that. Odette, as long as your heart is alive, and your body is…” He took a deep breath as he searched for words. He ruled out ‘alive’ and ‘stable’. “…intact, I can join them back together.”

 

“In theory,” I said, “And I suppose in theory Sam would have gone back to the morgue if he wasn’t going to use it right away.”

“The morgue.” Jeremy stood up, suddenly energized. He walked from the living room to the kitchen at the center of my apartment. “Do you have any weapons here?”

 

“None that could kill a master like Sam.”

Jeremy’s mind sprinted over a list of dozens of weapons, potions, and tools useful against necromancers. Then he narrowed it down to only those that worked well against ancient masters. Three items remained, the haunted nooses, the witch daggers, and the cursed scrolls. I went over the shortlist with a bit of approval mingled with disappointment.

 

“Sam’s the only one I met who has ever even seen a noose. My dagger should be in the knife block in the kitchen, and my scroll should still be in the safe in the bedroom. Not sure if either of them still works.”

He stopped before the knife block and looked down at my bone handled witch dagger. It stood out a little among the ordinary knives. He hesitated to draw the weapon. “Odette, I have to say I’m glad I never got on your bad side.”

 

But you were about to break up with me this morning. I knew it, but didn’t want to admit it.

“You’ve seemed so distant…” Jeremy shook his head in frustration. I decided not to press the subject just then.

He took the knife and slipped it into the belt loop of his jeans. Then he turned toward the door to the bedroom. He did not want to go in there. I couldn’t tell if his reluctance was his usual awkwardness or if he just didn’t like seeing me that way.

 

“Go on,” I said. “We can’t get any closer together than we are now, and you’ll need that scroll.”

He walked to the bedroom door, took a deep breath, then pulled it open.

My body lay on the bed looking very small, arms covered in tattoos ranging from snakes to feathers folded on my stomach, bloody hole in my chest, torn clear through my shirt. Blood had sprayed up to my collarbone and now seeped onto the iron around my throat, and the opposite way down to my stomach. A few flecks even found their way into my twist of blonde hair.

Sam’s hand had been ice cold.

I wasn’t exactly what my mother would call ‘decent’, and the bed was gonna get soaked, but that was the least of my worries. The iron collar around my neck gleamed with rays from the vanishing sun. That locked ring of metal and the one around Jeremy’s neck were the only thing keeping me from flying off into ever after. If I still had motor impulses I would have shuddered. I was lucky Jeremy had arrived at that moment, just not lucky enough for him to be five minutes earlier.

 

“The safe is under the bed.”

“Alright.” Jeremy’s voice sounded dead. He walked around the bloody queen where my mortal form lay, and to the night table on the other side.

 

“Sorry, tiger. Other side.”

“I am so, so sorry.”

 

“Just don’t look up my skirt. Dead girl’s gotta have some dignity.”

He inhaled slowly, then exhaled, before moving to the other side of the bed. He dropped down to his hands and knees and felt around past my legs for the safe. Finally his hands closed around cool metal, a cube the size of a big lunch box. That’s it, I thought.

Jeremy pulled the safe out and fiddled with the combination lock. It didn’t take him long to open it. I didn’t remember ever telling him the combination and I kept combinations like that tight to keep mind readers from just grabbing them, but I told myself I had bigger problems right now.

“I did it by ear,” he said. “Remember, I used to do some bad stuff.”

 

“You mean, other than raising the dead?”

“These days, I’d say a lot of people would agree robbing a bank is at least that bad.”

I would have giggled. But I couldn’t. Jeremy lifted the scroll case off my social security card and pile of emergency cash. He put the safe back carefully, but his arm brushed my leg. He shivered at the cold touch.

 

“How much time do we have?” I asked.

He tucked the scroll case into the pocket of his jacket. “Moon rise is in less than three hours. It’s full tonight. Sam won’t have to wait if he has a ritual he wants to perform.”

 

“That’s probably why he did this today. Any chance he’s not at the morgue?”

“I don’t know what he wants with your heart, Odette. But until we get it back, we don’t have time to find out.”  His voice turned hoarse. “Don’t worry. I’ll put things right.”

 

“If you somehow manage to kill Sam, you’ll be in worse trouble than him. Killing another necromancer in cold blood…”

“My blood isn’t cold.”

 

“Not like mine.” What can I say? Death makes me punchy.

“Not like his, either.”

 

“Then you’ll break up with me?”

Jeremy’s face twisted into a grimace. “One problem at a time, Odette.”

Death can be complicated for a necromancer.

#

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Null Media

I have been plagued by a peculiar fixation over the past year or so, possibly even longer than that.

I just thought of a term for it. Null Media.

What does this goofy pair of words signify to me, you ask?

They represent a category of information and entertainment, most commonly, a combination of the two, infotainment, which paralyzes artistry and destroys work ethic. I’ve found this form of media to be particularly addictive and toxic because it typically covers current events, thus presenting itself as important and interesting.

Interesting, perhaps. But important to me as a writer? Almost never.

Ever since I started watching news and current events on youtube, I found myself drawn into this goofy, wasteful format. Not to say news on TV is good. I’d argue it’s much the same. I’ve never been tempted by TV news, though.

Null media provides an insidious medium for what Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War of Art” calls resistance, pushing back at the things I personally can achieve and making them more difficult. The term, “Null Media” may just be a fancy way for me to say “news distractions” but it’s tough not to think of these issues in the world as important.

Well, for me null media has broken one of the productivity rules I did not realize I had created for myself years ago.

That rule? For me, it applies to life, not just art.

Only work on projects that you personally can complete.

As an independent author, I’m a solo artist. I don’t call upon other people to make my stories except for some very specific elements (The ones requiring reader response during editing). I have a support network, but I don’t rely on them to do any of the work for me. I nearly loathe the idea of collaborating with another writer.

So, imagine my surprise to discover that when I listened to these activists, entertainers, and news-people on youtube, I often start feeling like my approach to life is inadequate. What do my stories do to change the terrible situation the world is in? By making my work feel unimportant, null media has contributed to my depression over the past year or more.

All media requires a contribution from its viewers, if only in time and attention.

Positive media provides a sense of satisfaction. Null media? Only void and depression.

What kind of bullshit is this? I’ve been paying attention to the worst events of the world as if they were some kind of terrifying soporific. I cannot keep lending my eyes and ears to every hopeless, emotionally ruinous programs. In the name of staying informed, my productivity has suffered. Yet, the addiction remains strong.

Well, there are only so many things I can do, only so much time each day. I can’t afford to piss away minutes or hours on the news. I never did until recently. I’m sure I’ll know enough of what’s going on without having to listen to the same verbatim spiel about Saudi Arabia from a youtube host every day, and sometimes more than once a day.

This post is here to help me take a stand. I have avoided null media for the day. Now, I really need to keep that up. I predict that every day of ignoring world events that make me feel powerless will improve my state of self-awareness and productivity.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress.