Short Story: Owner of the Bank of Souls

Meg is dying–fast. There’s only one way for her boyfriend to save her. The Bank of Souls.

“Tomorrow it’ll come and tomorrow she’ll be dead!” Danner stood over my cot, all dark and shadowy, though the fireplace crackling behind him did cast light on one thing—his shining green eyes. Or I guess that’s two things technically. To the right of the fireplace, Birdie hunched, sunken and gray like the armchair he sat in.

“Well darn, Danny,” I coughed, “quite the inspiration.” 

He leaned over and softened some. “Shh, Meg, please, just rest.” 

“Well, according to you, I’m about to have plenty of that in eight hours—give or take.” 

His glistening eyes laid on me and though the darkness in my cabin’s living room obscured it, he curved his lips in a smirk—the same smirk he gave me at the prison courtyard before introducing himself as my future husband. But like my health over the last forty-eight hours, it quickly vanished. 

“All we can do is pray for dayligh’,” Birdie said, his voice hoarse.

“I’m sick of praying, Birdie!” Danner rose. “We’ve got to do something!” 

“You willin’ to go out there durin’ curfew and risk meetin’ the courier halfway?”

“I think my odds at taking a bullet are better than hers right now.”

“That so?” Now Birdie rose, wrinkled and still hunched, he managed to meet brawny Danner eye-to-one-eye. Like it did for Danner, the flames shined off Birdie’s single iris and only deepened the shadow in his crater of the other. “I know the odds, kid, and they ain’t good. You’re better off sittin’ your stubborn butt down and waitin’ for her medicine to come.”

 “Dad, please—” I shut my mouth. Birdie’s singular stare darted to me. Despite the warmth, a shiver tore through my bones. 

Birdie walked around Danner and slowly approached. “What did you call me?”

“Dad,” I said it lower, but stronger somehow. Of all the eighteen years he’d raised me, never once had I called him Dad. He never taught me to. 

A tear welled and he knelt beside me and laid his heavy, thumbless hand on my whole one—another friendly reminder from the dictatorship not to ever buy cow meat from the black market again. “Darnit, Meg. I told you what to call me.”

“God forbid, right? Even on my death bed.”

“You’re not gonna die, Meg.” 

“Just like Mom wasn’t going to?”

A tear escaped and he quickly turned away. My own eyes remained dry. I didn’t have the luxury of thirty years of memories. Not even a full twenty-four hours. I only had the reminder of the curse, the plague I was from birth. 

Danner returned to my side, soft again. “Do you want me to stay?”

Sweat dripped from my temples; heat, pain, and love will do that to you. “Kinda.”

He chuckled. “But I’ve got to do something, Meg.”

“Then kiss me.”

He grabbed my hand in his and whispered, “With this audience? I’ll really die before you do.”

“Romeo didn’t care.”

“Yeah, and look how that ended up.”

I sighed. “But unlike Juliet…I am really dying, Danner.” 

His head bowed and he kissed my hand. Hot tears landed on my skin. He peered up again. After what felt like eons, he slowly leaned in and pressed his soft lips to mine. Bitter sweet, like black coffee and milk. Another luxury we’d been deprived of for years. My aching muscles eased. My eyelids grew heavy. My breathing hastened. 

Danner recoiled. “Meg? Meg!”

“Meg!” Birdie cried out. Their loud voices drifted as my head throbbed. Burning stabs cut through my heart. I gasped and grabbed my chest. But I couldn’t feel my hand. Only my heart. The rapid slicing. From every angle. Cutting through my veins. Ripping at my arteries. My lungs squeezed in. A million pounds. I dropped back. This. Was. It. My odds. Maybe I’d meet. Mom.

 Finally. Say hi. Or sorry.

Blackness reigned.

***                                                               

“Meg!” Danner shouted, her lifeless, thin body like the weight of a child in his arms. He held her tightly. “Please, don’t do this. I need you.” Tears soaked his face. And rage consumed his heart. They did this to her. To her mother. To his grandparents. Their neighbors. Scraps and shackles. Crap hospitals. Criminalizing private anything. 

Birdie dropped to his knees and sobbed. “Meg, my Megan. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Danner shut his eyes. Meg’s face that day in the prison courtyard filled his mind. Still thin, but fuller. Her skin glowing with sweat and her dark eyes plain yet penetrating. Makeup was for rich girls. Not that she needed it. 

She sat against the iron gate, writing on a torn piece of bed sheet with a pen she’d stolen from an officer. She had wrapped the flashy pen in some bed sheet, too. Danner was the only one who saw her do it. 

The meat-head sat in his cozy desk chair, writing in the new prisoners on his clipboard with an old, red-feathered ink pen. He prided his penmanship—refusing to use the government provided tablet. Meg had been eyeing the pen the whole time she waited in line. By the time she was third, she feigned the most believable sneeze attack you’d ever seen. Everyone panicked—not wanting to catch the latest pestilence—even Meat-Head. He sprang from his comfy chair like someone jammed a dagger through his cheeks, dropping his pen and notepad. Meanwhile, Meg stumbled forward, still sneezing, and slapped her hands onto the table. As she turned around, she swiped the pen and slipped it into the back of her pants, her sneeze explosion finally ceasing. 

Meat-Head was so disturbed he’d called in backup and took an abrupt break from his post. 

And that’s when the thought hit Danner and he just knew it. He knew one day he’d marry that crazy girl. And he had to tell her. 

“I saw what you did.” Danner opened with.

She stopped writing and looked up at him with those eyes. “And?”

He smirked. “And I’m your future husband.” 

Meg huffed, but then smiled, too.

Danner opened his eyes. And gently pulled Meg away from his chest. Her mouth hung open slightly. But now she was dead.

A knock rattled the front door.

 Birdie continued sobbing as Danner carefully laid Meg on the cot and then rushed to the door. He opened it. Night masked the surrounding woods up to the porch, but a ray of moonlight snuck through the trees and onto a brown paper box on the doorstep. Danner glanced around. The courier couldn’t of disappeared that fast. Danner grabbed the box, slowly, before shutting the door and locking it.

Birdie looked up, his face wet with tears and snot. He frowned at the odd package as Danner scanned it. Not the Black Market’s usual white, imitation government box with realistic insignias and a fake return address.

“Who’s it from?” Birdie finally spoke.

“Doesn’t say.”

“Then don’t open it. Could be a bomb or something from the Regime.”

Danner clutched the box, his eyes traveling to Meg, her skin paler than ever. He strode from the room and into the half kitchen. He snatched a knife from a drawer, set the box on the counter, and then sliced the tape that sealed it. 

As Danner opened the box, Birdie stepped into the kitchen. A clipboard with a paper lay at the bottom. 

“What the hell is it?”

Danner slowly removed the clipboard and read the crimson printed words:

I, Danner Adam Mitchel, on this sixth day of September, year 2033, hereby choose to pledge that in the place of Megan Marie Blackwell, I shall offer my life in exchange for hers. 

Danner’s heart pounded. Beneath a line with an empty space, cursive writing spelled: Anticus Mordem, Owner of the Bank of Souls.

Danner looked inside the box again. A red-feathered pen lay in the center. 

Birdie rushed to his side and grabbed the clipboard. As he read it, he shook his head. “What kinda sick bast—”

Danner clasped the pen and snatched the clipboard back, then walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. Meg still lay there. Her skin now yellowing. Danner approached her. He suddenly remembered what he’d stowed in his left pocket. A ring he’d traded five batteries and a week’s worth of flour for. A six month’s wage. He had the proposal all planned. 

He’d built a small table from two of his dining chairs and set it in his backyard beneath the best looking tree he could find and then sprinkled it with purple flowers—her favorite color. He was going to cook wheat pasta for her and then ask the big question. But before he could, she got food poisoning from spoiled berries and now here they were, two days later. 

Danner reached in his pocket and removed the ring. Rose gold. Plain but beautiful, like Meg. Lifting her limp hand, he slid the ring onto her ring finger. “If this works, I’ll see you on the other side, Juliet.” He gave her one more kiss before pressing the red-feathered pen on the empty line and filling it with his name. 

A pang thrust through his chest. He staggered before hitting the floor. 

“Danner!” Birdie dropped beside him and began compressing his chest. “No, you ain’t goin’, too, kid! C’mon!” He pushed down hard. Over and over.

“Dad?” Meg’s voice. 

Danner’s chest seared at the sound and he forced himself to look at her. Her skin shone its normal pale, kissed with red. Her dark eyes alive—and terrified. 

As she jumped out of the cot, Birdie stopped compressing. “Megan? But…”

Megan took over. She pumped and pumped. Pressed her lips to Danner’s. Breathed out. Pumped some more. Breathed out…

“No, no, Danner, don’t you dare!” She cried as she pressed harder. 

The pain spread until it swallowed. And Danner gave his life.

***                                                              

“No!” I cupped Danner’s cheeks. His eyes were open. But distant. I touched his neck. Nothing. I slowly scooted away. What kind of nightmare am I living? I died only to wake up to this? No. It isn’t real. I’m still dead. Maybe this is hell. My punishment for killing Mom during labor. 

“Meg.” Birdie smashed my dark hopes. He held out a clipboard, his hand trembling. 

I took it. Read the words. And Danner’s signature. 

I shook my head. “This isn’t possible.”

“You…” Birdie’s voice quaked, his blue eye wide. “You died. I—I saw it. And then Danner signed. Dropped to the ground.” His body shaking, he muttered the rest. 

My heart raced. Beside Danner lay a red-feathered pen—exactly like the one I swiped from that tool at the prison. I snatched it and then noticed a rose-gold ring on my wedding finger. Oh my God.

I clasped my mouth. My head thrashed as my mind swirled. This is hell. A living hell. 

I closed my eyes. Tried to breathe. To think. What would Mom do? Dumb question. I’d never know. Birdie forbade asking about her. And he never brought her up. She could’ve been a dream this whole time. A good dream. Not like this. I took another deep breath. And opened my eyes. 

I looked at Danner. Gone. Somewhere else. But I wasn’t ready to let him go. 

I ripped the paper from the clipboard and shoved the feathered pen in my back pocket. As I stood to my feet, Birdie did, too.

“What are you doin’?”

“I’m going to find this Anticus Mordem guy. And make him bring Danner back.”

Make Life Really Freaking Hard For Your Hero

There comes a point in your hero’s journey where stuff has got to become very, very difficult. In the beginning, we’re meeting her for the first time, and life doesn’t have to be so super duper hard right now. But something’s gotta go wrong shortly. Once we’ve got a taste of her “ordinary world” what life is like normally for her, that’s when we throw something at her: the inciting incident–and then just keep pounding her with bigger and bigger problems–consistent resistance, obstacle after obstacle, one step forward, two steps back. BUT, don’t forget that leading up to this incident and its problematic cousins there must be tension. Nope, we don’t need an action packed fight scene showing off her nifty moves. We don’t need a bunch of interior monologue info-dumping her life to the reader, but we do need that sense of tension, of something brewing, or something off, or something looming.

Then, when that inciting incident happens, life suddenly becomes harder and harder for the hero. Beat her up. Let her go through the ringer. She’s gotta feel the pain so your audience feels it with her and is itching for justice, for relief, for the answer, for things to finally work out for her.

The death alarm sounded, that phantom punch in the gut I always dreaded. I touched the metallic gateway valve embedded in my chest at the top of my sternum–warm but not yet hot. The alarm was real. Someone in my territory would die tonight, and I had to find the poor soul. -Reapers, Bryan Davis

BAM, the inciting incident hits you immediately, wonderfully, and then every sentence is dripping with tension, dread is oozing from every word. I think this is one of the best examples of a not-so-ordinary world with a very quick, in fact, and instant inciting incident that gets the story rolling and this snowball only grows larger and larger–things begin to get harder and harder soon, but first we get to know Phoenix a bit more. We see him in his dingy apartment, gathering important items for his mission; we get insight into his dystopian, supernatural Chicago life by the environment not only inside his apartment, but outside of his window where a ghost who doesn’t know it wanders by a street corner and then the interaction Phoenix has with a fellow “reaper” who lives in the apartment building directly across from his.

The next scene arrives and it’s one difficulty that leads to another and then another, and all the while the tension is like a hissing tea kettle and, in my opinion, is actually more gripping than a wild battle.

He crosses a dangerous park where baddies lurk, you sense this whole area, this whole walk to find who is dying is ominous, but then he arrives safely to find it’s a little girl on the brink, and he’s only got one pill to offer her. First, she struggles to take it. The family is dripping with desperation and the tension is rising as this little girl just can’t swallow the darn pill. But then, a DEO shows up, a death enforcement officer who isn’t here to try and save little Molly from death–she’s here to enforce it. Now Phoenix has a very difficult problem because she also isn’t just any old DEO, she’s also an Owl–she’s got supernatural abilities and a high government position. But there’s more. She finds the pill and oh snapping turtle–it’s illegal to smuggle medicine so now Phoenix’s problems are really piling up. And THEN someone–I hope by now you’ve got the point so I can stop spoiling this amazing novel for you.

In fact, reading and studying how Bryan Davis wrote Reapers would benefit you more than this blog can–and leave you flipping pages into the wee hours of the night even though you’re a sleep-deprived Momma who’s bound to be woken up early the next morning by her other kiddos.

Happy writing!

Update! Where I’ve been and What’s Next

Hello, my creative preciouses. It’s been quite some time. Do forgive me. Sleep deprivation hasn’t fled from me for over a year now. This is mostly my ten-month-old’s fault, but my four-year-old has also been waking in the wee hours as well, causing this momma to awaken four or so times nightly. Three espresso shots barely help, but it’s just a season. I hope. (That was a lot of numbers and I loathe math.)

So yep, that makes four kiddos now, all five and under, two of which I homeschool.

Me. Plus one.

We also bought and sold a home after a year of living in it, then moved to another state, and it took seven months to finally close on a new home to which we finally moved into five months ago.

In writing news, I revised the first book I’ve ever written, turning the over 100K manuscript into three novellas. WANTED: A Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Suck drives you into the drama that began with my first love at seventeen, onto my second, and then my third and last. It’s my true, supernatural love story. I am looking for readers/reviewers so if you’re interested, do leave me a comment with your email and I’ll shoot it over to ya.

Excerpt from The Phantom Lover

What about you? What have you been up to? Feel free to leave a comment regarding your happenings.

At the end of the day, I’m thankful to God for the life He gave me. Mostly, for giving me Himself, because without Him, I don’t know where I’d be.

Happy reading!

Get the New Edition of My YA Fantasy for FREE!

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My goodness, it has been quite a while. I have FOUR wee ones now–all five and under, and one is three months old, we sold our house, moved to another state, and still haven’t closed on a property–five months later. In other words, please have grace for my extended absence.

This sleep-deprived Momma had an epiphany a few days ago, a desire that I wanted to give my book away to 100 people. However, the more the merrier! So until July 4th, you can snag this new edition of my YA fantasy for FREE. If you’ve read it before, you’re in for a treat because there’s more story, more character background, more world building, just more in general! I hope to write more on here, perhaps even release sneak reads from book two: Pandemic Princess (a title hubby came up with BEFORE the Corona craze).

What’s new with you all? What are you working on or reading? How are you holding up in the 2020 chaos? Much love!

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Withered writing hand, but I’ll extend it anyway

I’ve been writing-deprived for some time. I wanna get back in the groove, share, flow, pour out whatever this imagination can come up with. But I have some serious frienemies (friend/enemies), these Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3’s: my precious children. I adore them. They’re far more important than writing, but my sleep deprivation makes it quite difficult to squeeze in time to type. I have other duties as well, that shove this to the back burner. But alas, I wanna find time, I wanna make time, I wanna fight for this…

This is influence. I’m not in this for the money (as my four-year-plus KDP account will testify). But I can show my fellow young people (I’m not thirty yet so I can say that), something fresh, some new perspectives, though truly, they aren’t new, they’re ancient, they’re infinite, but in our culture’s context they’re new, unique, and refreshing, especially when embraced. Valor with integrity, valor with purity, valor with hope, and with genuine love. My goodness, how many stories there are to tell, how many characters there are to display.

So if you’re a Christian, do pray for me…And to all my readers, I want to do this for you.

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Check out Chapter 1 of Coryn of Bellsferry: Blood Thieves (Book 1)

#WIPjoy!!!

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Are you on Wattpad? I got a new story for ya! Had this dream, and I woke up and this poured out of me:

Coryn knows fate when she’s pricked by it–she thinks.

In a world where American law has been outlawed, and wanna-be supernatural, self-made vampires exist–who by the way, are totally gross and demented and have really started taking over the small town of Bellsferry–there also exists Coryn, a twenty-three-year-old single mother who’s just trying to survive through life–and give her daughter a somewhat decent one. But when Coryn is taken under her gunslinging neighbors’ wings and something…otherworldly happens, forget decent; she and her daughter’s lives are now even more dangerous than before. Sigh. That’s what happens when you accidentally become the only real nemesis to the deranged psychopaths who have iron-gripped your hometown.

Since before the outlaw of law, Coryn grew up surviving through life, but now she has to protect not only herself and her seven-year-old daughter, but their entire town–doesn’t she?

Feel free to check out the first chapter and second chapter and follow the story on Wattpad. I’ll be posting new chapters weekly, or every few days, depending of course. You know how two toddler BOYS and being eight weeks away from giving birth to a third wee one can have you like…

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Please don’t be shy. Share those thoughts! Let me know what you think of the story so far. I love hearing from you guys. Happy reading!

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WIP JOY: Should You Share Your Work-In-Progress?

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I have a current WIP that I’m so excited about, I just want to share it with someone! But, there’s a few things holding me back:

1.) What if I Wattpad it, adding each chapter, but then when I revise it, the story changes a lot? Or if I encounter something later on that would require something earlier to be changed? Those poor souls who have been following along will now be confused.

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2.) What if someone…steals my idea?

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Then I thought, well, if I share it on Wattpad, it would have the date, wouldn’t it? And everyone will know I was the first one to write it, wouldn’t they?

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How do you feel about sharing your works-in-progress with others? Please feel free to share your thoughts AND experiences so I can better decide on what to do. Happy discussing!

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You can read ALL of Prodigy Prince on Wattpad – Limited time only!

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That’s right, folks.

You can read all of Prodigy Prince on Wattpad for a limited time.

Check it out. And if you’re diggin’ it, don’t forget to vote (click the little star icon). And PLEASE DO divulge on me, let me have it, share those blazing thoughts of yours as I do take to heart, mind, and keyboard, what you think. Feedback has helped loads in my writing journey, and I’m excited to share this novel with all of you. Happy reading!

Why Kick-Butt Female Characters in YA Are Getting Frustrating

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YA books are rife with “I can kick a man’s behind and then some” kind of young women and it’s aggravating to say the least. Why, as a woman, do I feel this way?

Because in reality, we girls often tend to be less PHYSICALLY strong then men, and often times, more emotional.

But somewhere along the line, this lie, this message began to fester that because we women are different in those ways, we are lesser and so we must work our tails off to strive and be stronger in every way possible than a man.

It’s rather frustrating because we women have our own fortitudes and feminine nature that make us different and unique and beautiful and COMPLEMENTARY to our fellow men, not LESSER than. But because of the lie, we now despise those natural, complementary elements like nurturing, gentleness, often times beauty, etc., instead of embracing them, and we become wanna-be men–whether we realize it or not!

We are not proving we are better by trying to do everything they do, instead, we are showing an insecurity about our own identities and natural feminine design.

I think the most beautiful women are ones who are confident in their femininity and own it. They own motherhood, beauty, gentleness, etc. and rather than try and compete with and defeat their fellow man, they complement and support them. These women know it isn’t about rivalry because there’s nothing to prove: I am woman, beautiful as I am, you are man, different and I respect your differences.

I have to be careful myself not to cater to this mindset when writing my female characters, because truly, rather than edifying, I believe this message is hurtful to young women who already battle with enough lies about women, to now be all the more insecure about and loathe their femininity.

I love my long hair. I know I despise the gym and I don’t care. I would never pick a fight with a man, and if a man did try and hurt me, I’d pray there was a stronger one around to take him out on my behalf. Like this man I read about who helped a woman who couldn’t defend herself against another man trying to sexually assault her in broad day light with many turning their cheek. And this guy, who took on a group of vicious goons–apparently both men AND women–attacking an elderly woman.

I adore and respect man’s innate desire to protect, and I’m extremely thankful for when they do! Don’t get me wrong, I have a desire to protect my children and friends, but I know there are some foes capable men would do better at defending against than I. On the flip side, I know of many women who are better at caring for children than men. They have an innate wisdom and careful nurturing knowledge that many men seem deficient of. Leave a man with the kids and I’ll tell you, he ain’t better at it than mom. Again, we’re different, we complement one another, and that’s a beautiful thing.

What would man be without woman? What would woman be without man? But I’m afraid with the feminist message which, underneath it all, is truly anti-woman, there will be more and more imitation men out there and less and less genuine women.