How I Organize my Writing

How I Organize my Writing

I spend a lot of time before writing organizing my novels and series, figuring out what scenes I’m going to put in my next WIP (work in progress), and which characters are going to be there, etc. Once I’ve figured that out, I must create backstories for my characters (even if I never put it in my novels) and then put everything into some semblance of an order. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything together and color-coded. Here’s a horrible little secret for you all, even with my series bible I still manage to screw up some information from one book to the next and it takes me weeks to go through and correct it all.

The Excel spreadsheet for the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series and its world.

I use a combination of different things to keep myself organized. For drafting the story, I use a modification of the Plot Board technique with the 3 act 8 sequence structure (if you’re curious a quick Google search will show you several different blog posts and videos to view for more information). I don’t use a tri-fold board anymore, I use a smaller more portable version (see the attached picture). It allows me to keep things close at hand on my desk and because my space is limited it doesn’t take a lot of room. 

Yeah, half the time I’m not sure what most of it means either. But I keep a detailed list in the front of the plot book to keep track of what the shorthand means.

Once I’ve gotten my scenes in place in my portable plot board, then I write the outline of my story. My outline is based on a technique I learned in an online class I took several years ago. I just write a quick paragraph integrating the scenes for each chapter with a very broad idea of what will happen in the chapter and who will be there. If anyone were to try to figure out what is going on in my novels based on the outline it would make little sense, because the outline is me talking to myself in a way that only makes sense to myself. 

I apologize for the blurry image I used my phone to take the pictures because I didn’t want to break out my big camera for the photoshoot.

If you peek behind the Word document, you’ll see the corkboard from Scrivener. This is basically my outline in a corkboard form, and it changes as I add new chapters. It is color-coded the colors represent locations in my novel and help me know what I’m writing about. They are also in the binder on the left-hand side of the screen. 

Also, my characters have an annoying habit of choosing to ignore the outline which explains the flattened dice tray with wooden characters and dice on it. There are times when even I have no clue what I’m doing, and I need to figure out how to get things back on track. A lucky roll of the dice is the only way I can do it (plus a few oracle tables and game emulators, but that’s only when I’m truly stuck).

I’m a 50-something toddler. I’ll use any excuse to play with toys.

Finally, I have whiteboards. One big one which currently holds the final loose ends I need to tie up by the end of book 5 and my mini board which I use to write notes to myself for corrections. The mini board currently has six sayings I found about creativity and imagination to keep me inspired.

Yes, I keep my coffee in my office/bedroom because the smell makes a member of my household ill and the C-card trumps the inconvenience of having to put up with a coffee pot in my room so they win.

Yes, I use a ridiculous number of programs when I could easily use just one, but this is what I have found works the best for me after years of practice. I’d love to know what works best for you. Feel free to share in the comments, maybe I’ll change what I do for the next series.

V. L.

The Best Review I Ever Received

The Best Review I Ever Received

In January, I released the fourth book in the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series, Black Gold. The previous three books in the series were released in 2016, 2017, and 2018, so when I say this book was slightly delayed it’s a gross misstatement. It is also the biggest book I’ve ever written coming in at just over one hundred forty thousand words (not counting all the dreck I cut out). 

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anyone to read the book because I had disappeared for over eighteen months trying to take care of personal issues and I’m not even marketing the book right now as I’m focusing on writing the next one so I can feel I’ve made it up to those who love the series.  I haven’t even paid attention to my KDP reports because I figured there would be few, if any, reads and I didn’t want to stress myself any further than I already was. 

What I wasn’t expecting was to find an amazing review on Black Gold’s Amazon page. In fact, I have to say this is the best review I’ve ever received, and I want to thank Keith G. from the United Kingdom for his kind words. They made my day and I’d like to share them with you via the screen shot below.

This was exactly what I needed to give me the kick in the pants to focus on book five. Thank you, Keith G. You’re awesome and there may be a surprise for you in book five (keep an eye out for it). 

Remember, reviews (both good and bad) help us get our books noticed so if you read a book, please review it, and let the author know what you liked and what you didn’t. I don’t know about other authors, but I read them all and learn from each review so that I can improve.

V. L.

P. S. I know I cut the screenshot down to focus exclusively on the review, but did you really want to see the ads for dog treats Amazon puts on my page?

Some favorite items in my office

This week I’d like to talk about my writing space. I no longer have a dedicated writing space/office. I do have a desk set up in my room and I have a portable set up I use if I want to be with my family and write at the same time. I write better with noise in the room, but not television or music because those are distractions.

When I’m in my room some of my favorite things I have on my desk are my craft books and a few of my Funko Pops including the five-headed Tiamat my niece gave me for Christmas. I must admit, I’ve used them on multiple occasions to help me choregraph scenes when I’ve had problems visualizing how fights would go down. I need to find a Funko to use in place of Marvel/DC I’ve used Sven from Frozen one too many times of late.

Another favorite item is my white boards. I have two, a small one I keep close at hand for jotting down notes and a larger one I use to keep major plot points for the series and other information written down, so I don’t forget where I’m going from book to book. I also keep a bag of polyhedral dice on my desk for sudden rolls of a d20 if Siobhan and company aren’t doing what I want them to do and I feel the need to shake things up with some creative author/dungeon mastering.

What things do you like to keep on your desks?

Until next time,

V. L.

The Story Behind My Current WIP, Golden Girl

As I mentioned last week, for the last eighteen months I disconnected from everything during 2020 and 2021 and it sucked. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t write anything. Projects I had planned sat waiting for me to start or continue them. The level of guilt was crushing which contributed to my depression. There was a point where I had no choice but to shut my computers off, put my phone down, and walk away from all electronics for a few months to get my head space in order.  

That lasted for about an hour when I realized I needed my phone for things like contacting my doctors’ offices. However, I did walk away from my computers. 

During my break, I found myself reading more, stressing less, watching a lot of old television, and reconnecting with my family. 

About halfway through my self-imposed break I began to think about my various book series and where I’d like to see them go. I’ve only published one series and I’ve always known how I wanted the series to end, but taking this break made me realize my protagonist, Siobhan, wasn’t growing the way I wanted her to grow, and she wasn’t learning what I wanted her to learn. At my exile’s six-week mark, I pulled out my storyboard and began to look at the book’s acts; I was unimpressed. 

Because I’d already started writing, I knew I had a couple options. Option one, continue writing and gut it during the revisions. Been there, done that and it never feels whole when I must cut the amount needing cut and rewritten. Also, because I would be continuing with a book I don’t love and have no emotional connection with my writing would be atrocious which makes revisions more difficult. Option two, throw it all away, storyboard from the ground up, write a new outline, and begin at the new beginning. This means more research and a lot of extra work, but I would have a greater connection to the story and while revisions would be a royal pain in the patootie (because they always are), I would be able to continue without hating the story. 

So, here’s what I knew to be true, Siobhan needed to grow as a person…a lot. I wanted her to be more independent and to rely less on the menfolk. I also wanted her to stop being so bloody melodramatic and hung up on her size (it’s getting a little old at this point in the series). I want her to take control of the situation and be a badass boss babe. To make that happen there needed to be a lot of changes at the farm and school. I can’t go into detail, but I will say this the final book is dedicated to my personal hero Betty White. She is everything I want to be if I’m lucky enough to reach the age she did. 

Throughout this post I have placed clues into some aspect of the final book in the series including its title. Tell me, have you figured out anything about the direction of final book in the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series? If you have, drop a comment I’d love to hear from you).

V. L. 

2020 and 2021 sucked, so 2022 better behave itself.

For those who haven’t figured it out I disappeared in July of 2021 without explanation. I’m here to provide you with an explanation as I feel I owe one after so much radio silence. 

First, please allow me say how sorry I am my disappearing act. My brain and my body couldn’t handle what 2020 and 2021 dished out. I know I’m not the only one who had a rough time of it during those years. Heck, I’m not even the only one in my family who had a rough time, but it’s what happened. 

In early 2020, several things happened over the course of two months. I lost an uncle to cancer, my mother was hospitalized in the middle of a pandemic, and we were told to not expect her to come home. In between those events, the person I’m closest to in the world was also hospitalized for a week and the resulting news was not good. I can’t say more than I have about their medical issues because I do not have permission to share, but 2020 started out as a dumpster fire of a year and never let up.

Our mother was able to come home from the hospital in May, but we were fully aware she was on her end-of-life transition. The in-home hospice workers we dealt with were amazing and helped us through every part of our mother’s journey. They were patient and kind when dealing with our mother, who had dementia and cancer and could be more than a little aggressive at times when things didn’t go her way yet these men and women never lost their tempers. I was so grateful for their presence.

On the morning of July 28, 2020, I walked out to find my mother had passed in the night. The hospice workers descended on the house after I called and they made everything so easy for us because even though my sister and I knew it was inevitable, we were emotionally gutted by the experience. 

I had spent the better part of twelve years by my mother’s side every day after my father passed away. With her gone, I no longer knew what to do with myself, I felt disconnected from everything. I also found myself unable to sleep and crying non-stop over the strangest things. I couldn’t go outside without having panic attacks (thank you, corona virus). My mind was broken which caused me to lose my ability to write. Heck, in the interest of total honesty I lost my ability to do or focus on a lot of things. I finally had no choice but to reach out to my doctor and explain the situation. I broke down in my doctor’s office and ended up medicated. 

In February of 2021, my household decided we needed a little Christmas because we cancelled Christmas in 2020 as it was my mother’s favorite holiday. After our version of Christmas, we noticed that our yellow Labrador Retriever, Koda, was having some issues. He couldn’t get up on the bed without help and he was having other issues. It was to be expected, after all he was thirteen.  I ended buying doggie diapers for one problem and we thought things were going to be okay. Then he began to have trouble standing and walking. By the end of March, it was becoming apparent he was in pain and suffering. We made the decision to let him cross the rainbow bridge peacefully. 

To say I was unhappy with 2021, was an understatement. Koda was my boy, my blanket-stealing, furbaby, my bed partner, and for the first time in thirteen years I had to sleep alone without my snoring, gas ball. Life sucked. In less than a year I’d lost my mom and my dog, and I was trying to figure out what karmic debt I was working off that required such a cost.

In April, my sister noticed I kept falling asleep in the middle of the day and would go to bed early. By early, I mean six thirty at night. I was barely functioning, and I’d just had a physical so there seemed to be no reason for the need to sleep all the time. My brother-in-law wondered if my depression was getting worse, but my sister suggested I could be going into a flare of my autoimmune hemolytic anemia and hounded me until I made an appointment with my hematologist. Guess who was right. If you guessed my sister, congratulations, you win. 

Starting with a blood transfusion in April, weekly and bi-weekly blood tests, biologic chemotherapy in September, more bi-weekly blood tests, and now another chemotherapy (pills rather than infusion, yay!), I’m optimistic that I’m finally moving out of hemolysis and on the mend. I hope I’m at the end of this flare because I’m tired of looking like a basketball with lips (steroids suck) and the next step for me is to lose my spleen. I’m awfully attached to my spleen.

Now that you know way more about me than you ever wanted, how was your 2020 and 2021? I’ll admit was really looking forward to 2022, then Betty White happened, now I’m terrified.

I am truly sorry for the disappearance, but I do have some good news. This weekend I uploaded Black Gold to Amazon and its live. You can find it here. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited or it is $5.99 to purchase as an ebook. It is also the largest book in the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series at a little over 140,000 words.

V. L.

Bad habits in my writing that annoy me.

Bad habits in my writing that annoy me.

As a writer, I pride myself on knowing my strengths and my weaknesses. My strengths include my ability to organize myself and to research quickly (it really is a necessary talent some days). My weaknesses include my ability to fall down research rabbit holes, an addiction to social media, a need to edit while writing, and my personal favorite a list of annoyances that appear in my writing. Below you’ll see a list of things that constantly appear in my own writing. Things I actively have to seek out and remove from each manuscript (and still manage to find after editing, proofreading, formatting, and uploading…every bloody time).

  1. LY words – I hate them, and they hate me. It makes my writing less vivid and during revision and self-edits I spend days trying to fix weak writing.
  2. Big words – I love them and use them when I shouldn’t. It doesn’t make me a better writer and often it can make me come across as pretentious.
  3. So at the beginning of a sentence – I use it a lot when I speak in the real world, now Siobhan does. In Golden Parachute, I removed approximately 300 of them. I have to actively stop myself now when writing. It’s annoying.
  4. Commas – I’m a junkie
  5. Parentheses – See commas.
  6. Ellipses – See commas.
  7. Information dumps – Practically meth to me.
  8. Crutch words – If you don’t know what these are, I feel for you. Here’s a small list of my worst offenders: Almost, just, that, was, seems, feel, appear, see, quite, look, felt, can, decide, couple, and the list goes on and on and on. 
  9. Filler words – This is a horrible habit of mine. I use them a lot. Filler words are words that take space and have no meaning. Such as um, er, ok, and hmm. I use them all the time and I haven’t managed to convince myself that they aren’t necessary.
  10.  Overusing a word – I love the sound of the word cacophony. Yes, I have my books read to my using text-to-speech. The problem is that I sometimes find myself using words, such as cacophony, too many times in a novel, novella, or even a short story. I now keep a notepad by the computer filled with words to check counts on so that I don’t overuse them in a single work.
  11. Dialogue tags – I was taught to keep tags simple. Said/says, asked/asks, answered/answers, and replied/replies. If I was feeling freakish, I might use yelled/yells. I’m not so stuck on that anymore. I’m tired of simplicity with dialogue tags. 
  12. Overusing pronouns – This is my biggest annoying bad habit and the one that is currently annoying me the most as I’m revising Black Gold. When writing, I have to actively work to ensure that I make sure to tag people regularly with their names in dialogue and in scenes, so I don’t lose people. It can become challenging with such a large cast of characters.

I’ve shared my list of personal annoyances and writing challenges, what are yours? Let me know in the comments.

V. L.

When I knew I wanted to be an author.

When I knew I wanted to be an author.

I knew I wanted to be an author when I was very young. As my mother told it, I tried to “correct” story endings from the time I could read, and my paternal grandmother taught me to read at two and a half. When I was a child, I wrote all the time. I had notebooks filled with stories and had originally planned on studying creative writing and English in college after I graduated high school. However, life had other plans for me, and I went to work after high school rather than college. 

Working coupled with someone I admired above everyone else in my life telling me that my writing was never going to be good enough for publication and that women just don’t sell books as well as men (this was long before J. K. Rowling) and I was gutted. This was a person I trusted implicitly and if they said my writing was hopeless it had to be true. So, I put up my childish dream of wanting to see my name in print and focused on work. 

Fast forward, twenty plus years and I am unable to work in my career thanks to health issues. I’m back in school hoping to make changes that will allow me to find a new career. I happen to make one snarky comment too many about perfect heroines needing rescued by men and both my sister and niece dare me to write something better. Never one to back down from a dare, I spent months working up a plot and now here we are: A series of books self-published, an MFA in Writing, and while it’s not quite the path I thought I would take at eighteen, I’m proud to say I’ve done what I set out to do with my life.

When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up and how did you set about achieving your dreams? Let me know in the comments.

V. L.

How I Find Inspiration

How I Find Inspiration

Inspiration—it’s a word that can drive many authors to have sleepless nights. How do we find what inspires us to write? I don’t know about other authors, but I can find inspiration in just about anything. Its staying inspired that I have difficulty with, especially right now.

When I came back to writing after twenty years of not writing, I did it because my niece and my sister dared me to do it. The dare was because I complained about a lack of novels with a heroine I could connect to, for want of a better word I was “uninspired” by the heroines in urban fantasy at the time. However, you can’t just write a novel without some idea of where you’re going and who you’re writing. Without a starting point how would I know where I would end? For me, my inspiration always comes from questions (I ask a lot of questions). Since I adore all things paranormal and urban fantasy, I started with the basic premise how would a woman in her forties react to learning that the things we’re told are myth or legend truly exist? Then I took it several steps further and gave that woman an over the top personality that was exceptionally melodramatic (I kind of regret that now) and who had serious self-esteem issues (also regretting that decision, but it’s far too late to change her now). 

For me, the biggest inspiration for the Custodian of the Golden Assembly series was the location, the Pacific Northwest. I adore Western Oregon and the Willamette Valley specifically. I wanted that area to play a part in the story, but I also wanted to show other areas of the state, the coast, Central Oregon, Washington state, and more. Even after moving the series out of Oregon to South Carolina was a deliberate choice. I wanted to throw Siobhan and company off their game and make them become less complacent (or me, choose your adventure on that one since Siobhan and I are very similar). 

I guess what I am saying is that for me, inspiration may be found anywhere. It can be found in a dare from your sister and her sassy daughter. It can be found in remembering two beloved pets. It can be found exploring both a much-loved old home and a new home. The whole point is the journey and the exploration. And questions; notebooks full of questions. I have so many questions that I am so glad my sister gave me the reusable notebook just to keep me from killing more trees. Honestly, the joy is in the journey to finding what inspires you, or me, to get ourselves writing and creating. Because after all is said and done…

How do you find what inspires you? Do you enjoy the journey? Let me know in the comments.

V. L.

Which of my characters is my favorite and why.

Which of my characters is my favorite and why.

I’ll admit I play favorites with my characters. It also varies from day-to-day as to which character is my favorite. I adore Siobhan, she’s been my favorite from the beginning, but there are days when she gets on my very last nerve. She’s too over-the-top melodramatic, she’s hung up on her way, and her self-esteem needs work. That woman could use some serious time in a therapist’s office. Yes, that’s my professional opinion and it was my decision to write her that way. I wanted her to be a little ridiculous. A lot of Siobhan’s personality traits mirror my own except they are bigger more extreme examples of my own personality flaws and those of people I know. Lorelei represents a different side of my personality. She represents the side of me that cares for my family and friends. The person who cooks, bakes, and does all the little tasks to show I care. As for Charlie and Michelle, they are the women I think I would like to be if my life were different and I lived in a world where supernatural beings existed. That doesn’t make any one of them my favorite.

Now for the men, Donal was the first male introduced in the series and always holds a special place in my heart. He isn’t modelled after anyone in my life (although if you were to ask my cousin, he’d say Donal is modelled after him). In fact, none of my male characters are modelled after anyone in my life, they are caricatures of extremes. Donal is an extremely overprotective, rigidly formal, alpha male dragon. Becker is the same, except he has a sense of humor to offset some of his overprotectiveness. Then we have Norman. Norman is my little perv, and I adore him. Of all my characters, this one holds a special little piece of my heart. Yes, he’s annoying and a little bit of a perv, but there are aspects of his personality that remind me of my father, and I will always love him because of it. 

Finally, we have the character I will always love above all the rest Marvel/DC. Yes, my favorite Hell Hound is based on two dogs that I owned and lost. Marvel/DC is my way of memorializing both dogs. Both died very young at three and a half years old and I miss them horribly. DC is based on a Labrador Retriever named Duck (don’t judge on the names there’s a long story behind it) he passed away from an epileptic seizure. Marvel, on the other hand, is based on a Great Dane/Labrador Retriever cross named Moose. Moose passed away from cancer about eighteen months after Duck and losing them both so close together nearly broke my heart. 

So, I guess I have to say the Hell Hound is my favorite because he’s keeping two dogs from my past still alive in a small way. Norman is probably my second favorite because he holds some tiny aspect of my deceased father. How crazy is that?

Let me know if you have favorites in the comments. I would love to know.

V. L.



I thought I would share a sneak peek at the project I’ve mentioned a little but never shared anything about except a few comments. So, here is a chapter from Spectre of a Chance, AKA my thesis project. My thesis advisor called this “a cool hybrid story, Southern fantasy/horror with a noir humor to it all. It feels cutting edge and modern. It reminded me of Men In Black, Harry Potter, True Blood, with some real Stephen King horror elements thrown in. That is memorable.” I call that amazing praise from someone I truly admire.

This is six pages (nearly 3,400 words) of unedited material from my manuscript. If you don’t wish to know anything about the work that has yet to be published, then please read no further.  I feel I have to warn you that Hattie is a much darker character than Siobhan, she speaks her mind, and lives life on her own terms. Now, without further ado, I give you chapter one of Hattie Spectre’s world. I hope you enjoy it (If possible, I may love this character even more than Siobhan)…


The pungent aroma of rotting Chinese food, pounding bass of rap music, and the humid North Carolina summer night filled my senses where I hid behind a dumpster in a dark alley in Asheville, North Carolina waiting for my prey to arrive. Six men and women have disappeared near this club over the last few months, and my reconnaissance showed signs of demon activity in the alley earlier. The strong sulfurous odor and gelatinous puddles indicative of a Luxuria Demon’s feeding habits showed me that Cass, my PA, was right when she sent me the information packet in her last email. The missing had all gone out partying with friends, drank heavily, and had been looking for love in all the wrong places. Unfortunately, they found it in the form of one hungry Lust Demon looking for a meal. The human police didn’t have a clue. It was my turn to become the predator and stop the demon from preying on innocent humans. Most demons are smart enough to stay away from public areas when looking for prey. They target the people that society ignores. Not this guy, he decided to target the ones that society pays attention to the white suburban yuppies. Even the police would figure out something was hunting people eventually. 

A movement at the mouth of the alley caught my eye. I perked up with the hope it was my mark and not some horny young adults looking for an alcohol-fueled quickie. When did I become so jaded? When was the last time I had sex that didn’t involve batteries? A man shoved a woman against the stucco of the nightclub as their mouths mashed against each other and their hands grasped at each other’s clothes and bodies…great, option number two. Why couldn’t the demon show rather than the sex-crazed couple? I avert my eyes and contemplate my life choices while the children violate public decency laws performing sex acts in public against the wall of the nightclub. Lucky for me, the man finished quickly. The couple adjusted their clothing into normality and scurried out of the alley like cockroaches when a light is turned on. Another movement at the mouth of the alley has me prepared to avert my eyes, but this was different. The people entered but move further into the alley away from prying eyes. Both are male, one is much larger than the other approximately the size of a small mountain while the other is petite and slender. I can hear one making nervous conversation.

“I’ve never done anything like this.”

The other man didn’t speak, but rather grunted in response.

Halfway into the alley, they stopped.

“You don’t say much, do you?” 

The giant lifted the smaller one so they were eye to eye. 

“Wow, you’re strong.” Unbidden my hand moved to the hilt of my katana, I slid out from my hiding place. My soft-soled shoes made no noise as I walked. The demon unfurled his wings, his prey began to scream. The only way to send a demon back to Hell is to remove its head and perform a minor ritual to send its soul back where it belongs. I couldn’t do that without hurting the human. I needed the demon to drop his prey, I was desperate for a distraction. Wing-clipping would work. I unsheathed the sword and drew it upward in the same motion, I swung it down swiftly separating one of the demon’s wings from his back. The beast howled in agony, dropping his prey.

“Go home, Keeper. This is no concern of yours.” The wing dissolved into a puddle on the ground at the Lust Demon’s feet.

“I’m not Keeper, I’m a demon hunter, and you’re breaking the rules.” I swung my sword in a wide arc toward his midsection. He dodged the sword jumping toward the opposite side of the alley. With his back against the wall, the demon realized his mistake and came out at a run knocking me on my back and my sword out of my hand. Air whooshed out of my lungs while the demon pummeled my head and chest with his gargantuan fists.

“When you get to Hell, tell Ephraim I said hello.” 

My fingertips touched the hilt of my sword. The demon took another swing at my face, and I slid away. My fingers felt the katana closer and closed around the handle. I pulled it to me, swinging the sword wildly upward. The punches to my face stopped. I looked up to see the demon stared at me, missing half his face. I swung again, aiming for his neck, the well-honed blade separated the demon’s head from his neck, and he fell to the side off me. I rolled away. The smell of hot chocolate filled my senses. I crawled to the wall of the building to pull myself up. The song Demons by Imagine Dragons pierced the air of the dark alley. I leaned down and grabbed my pack from behind the dumpster. I pulled out my phone, spit the blood from my mouth, and answered the call.

“Hey, Cass. The demon’s dead. I need you to do something for me.”

“What do you need, oh Great One?” the voice of my best friend and personal assistant snarked in my ear through my cell phone.

“Look through my phone numbers and find one for my great uncle, Ephraim. When you find it, could you call him and see if he is okay? If there is no answer, contact Nettie Blackmoor in Shade, South Carolina and ask her to check on Ephraim Spectre, please.”

“Then, what?”

“Once you find out about Ephraim, call me and let me know—please. A friend on the local police force mentioned some other signs of demon activity that I’m going to check out before I head to the hotel for a much-needed shower and sleep.”

“Okay, Hattie. I’ll make the calls and get back to you ASAP.”

“Bye, Cass.”

“Bye, Boss Lady.” I put the phone back into my pack and pulled out the supplies I would need to send the Lust Demon back to Hell and make sure there was no pesky body left behind to make local law enforcement ask any questions.


Monday was an evil day with a deviant sense of humor. First, I wake up next to man who appears to be half my age in a motel room that probably hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned since Eisenhower was President. After a perfect night’s hunt where I send a Lust Demon and a Wrath Demon back to their respective bosses in Hell that ended with a minor celebration in a sketchy dive bar with one too many body shots of tequila off my current bed partner. 

I was lucky enough find all my clothing, put it on, and get out of the room to begin the walk of shame to my Ford F150 before Studly Do-Wrong woke up and wanted me to take another go on his purple-headed yogurt slinger. His words, not mine. Of course, Monday wasn’t going to let me get away that easily. With the sun overhead trying to make my eyes bleed, I barely made it to my truck’s door when someone yelled at me.

“Bitch, you killed my brother!”

Please, allow me to introduce myself, I’m Hattie Spectre. On January 17, 1981, when I was almost five years old, I had an unfortunate meeting with two demons in the basement of my great uncle’s house. They wanted to steal my life essence and take it to Hell to sell it and gain status within the legions of demons. Obviously, they failed. Now, I’ve made it my life’s mission to send as many demons back to Hell as I can.

 There are seven species of demons, each species answers to a specific leader of Hell. Each of the species is tied to one of the seven deadly sins of Christian belief. That’s about where the similarities end. I’m not sure who this guy’s brother was, nor am I convinced that I killed him. It’s not like I’m the only demon hunter on the planet. I had sent more than my fair share of demons back to Hell, and if this guy thinks I killed his brother, he could be right. The demon in front of me was a Greed Demon, last night’s demons represented the Wrath and Lust side of the family tree. I hadn’t killed any other demons since I’d arrived in North Carolina. 

“Unless you come from a mixed-race family and your brother was a Wrath or Lust Demon who died last night. I have no clue what you’re talking about,” I said. 

“I know you’re the Demon Hunter, Hattie Spectre. You killed my brother when he had only been Earthside six weeks,” the demon answered. “He only wanted to get to know the locals and have a little fun.” 

A slip of a memory tickled my brain from three years before. As my mind struggled to pull the memory to the surface, I cocked my head to the side and stared at the Greed Demon who stood in front of me dressed in jeans, a light blue button-up shirt, and the ever-stylish Chelsea boot. Greed Demons use a lure to convince unsuspecting humans that they can use the information the Greed Demon has to earn large sums of money. It’s like a mental pyramid scheme that never pays off. The demon feeds off the greed the human feels until the human is an empty husk. Eventually, the human dies. Greed Demons are rare Earthside, and in the twenty plus years I had been hunting, I had seen less than five. 

In Miami, eighteen months earlier, I spent three weeks tracking a Greed Demon using his lure to prey on greedy real estate developers. He drained eighteen victims in six weeks where most demons feed on one victim every three to four weeks and rarely kill which keeps them below the radar as much as possible, this guy liked to make sure he killed which hit the news media. I remembered that Greed Demon very well, and there was a strong family resemblance.

“Maybe your brother should have learned how to feed without killing or feed less often,” I said. I dropped my leather duffel bag to the ground with my left arm while my right arm reached slowly behind my back for the gun in the holster at the small of my back.

“He was young! He hadn’t had time to learn everything he needed to know to live Earthside!”

“So, I should look the other way while humans die?” I asked.

“You could have explained that he was doing something wrong.”

“Do I look like I’m the professor of Demon 101? It’s my job to stop the ones who are preying upon humans, the worst of the worst. I was sent to Miami to stop him, not teach him what not to do. If you wanted him taught, then that was on you, not me.” My hand touched the warm metal of my Sig Sauer P226 semi-automatic pistol loaded with a clip of custom rounds. The bullets can’t kill a demon, but they will cause the guy extreme pain. 

“Then maybe it’s time someone stops you.” He leaped forward, I pulled my hand out from behind my back and fired three rounds into his chest. The Greed Demon screamed in agony thanks to my custom holy water filled bullets. I grabbed my bag and rolled under my pick up, coming up on the other side, leaning against the front wheel. With my right hand clutching the pistol my left hand rifled in the duffel and came out with my kit I used from the night before and dropped it on the ground before diving back into the bag. The demon’s screams were less forceful. I yanked my arm out of my duffel dragging my katana out, looking around for one seriously pissed off demon. As the demon’s scream ebbed into silence, I pushed myself off the ground throwing the sling of the katana over my head and grabbed the small satchel of my demon-go-home kit. I duck walked between my truck and the car parked next to it as I listened for the demon’s next attack.

“Did you think bullets could stop me?” The demon yelled. His voice echoed around me and gave me no indication of his location. I moved forward slowly. My hair snagged on the dented fender of the car parked next to my truck. Temporarily immobilized, I reached back to untangle it from the fender and found my ponytail caught in the iron grasp of a fist. Some days it just doesn’t pay a woman to try to sneak out of a cheap motel room. I heaved a heavy sigh and let my hand fall to the ground.

“I don’t suppose you’d accept a heartfelt apology,” I said. The demon yanked my hair and pulled me up so that my head was next to his mouth. 

“Do you think an apology would make up for the loss of my brother?” He asked. His mouth was next to my ear. 

“Do you think I would apologize for sending a demon that killed sixteen innocent humans back to Mammon in disgrace?” I asked. 

“I’m going to be a legend. I will be the demon who killed the demon hunter from the Spectre family. I wonder what your soul will taste like?” The demon turned me to face him putting my feet firmly on the ground. He leaned in to press his lips gently against mine. His tongue traced the crease of my lips, I leaned toward him. My right hand raised toward his chest. Eleven blasts filled the air. The demon dropped to the ground, air wheezed from his lungs.

“Rule number one: Remove weapons from your opponent’s hands.” I wiggled my gun in the air before putting it in my holster. 

“Rule number two: Humans are not expendable food sources. Be sure to tell that to your brethren when you get back to Hell.” I slide my katana from its sheath. The blade shined brightly in the sun.

“Rule number three: Don’t interrupt a woman’s walk of shame when she’s almost made her escape. It’s rude, Asshole.” I glared at him as I swung the sword upward.

“One last thing, tell Mammon Hattie says ‘Stay in Hell.’” I brought the sword down, separating the Greed Demon’s head from his body. Black vapor ebbed from the neck of the demon’s body. I opened my Demon-Go-Home kit. I’ve known hunters that use all kinds of rituals to send a demon’s spirit home. Me, I like to stick to the basics; salt, holy water, a rosary, and a simple prayer. It hasn’t failed me yet.

I sprinkled salt over the body, clutched the rosary in my left hand, and began to pray. “St. Michael, the Archangel of God’s army, help me send this soul of the Fallen back to the Abyss where it belongs. Please make this body purified and untouchable by the denizens of Hell. Let it be cleansed by holy water.” I sprinkled it with water from the vial. “So that it cannot be used for evil work. I pray that if I have committed a sin in God’s eyes, I will be struck down and be stopped from doing this work now and forever more. For I would never want to do evil as those whom I have hunted do. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.” When I finish, the body sinks into the asphalt and disappears. 

I’m not a particularly religious person, but that prayer is one that I believe in with every fiber of my being. I have seen the damage demons can cause first-hand. I never wish to become what they are. I gathered my gear and placed it behind the seat of my truck before climbing behind the steering wheel. The dulcet tones of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell stopped me from starting the engine and moving out of the parking lot. I dragged the phone out from the console and answered without a glance at the caller ID. 

“Hello, Cass.”

“It’s about time you answered. I’ve been calling all morning,” Cass Pendleton, my personal assistant and general pain in the butt berated me.

“I left a message after I had dealt with the Wrath Demon situation that I had found out about from my cop friend. I felt I deserved a little rest and relaxation.”

“You didn’t need to drink your weight in tequila or have sex with whatever hot bodied, no-brained, barfly you took to the motel room last night,” Cass said. She was right on that one. My head was killing me thanks to the tequila, and Studly wasn’t worth my time. I reached to the floor of the passenger’s seat and the cooler I kept there hoping I had some orange juice left in my beverage stash to help derail my hangover from last night’s celebration. 

“Cass, I’m forty-two years old. I don’t need a mother,” I said. My search was rewarded with one bottle of nectar. In the console, I found my bottle of ibuprofen, and after placing my cell phone on speaker mode, I dumped two of the tablets into my hand, taking them with the orange juice. “I’m sure you didn’t call me to berate my lifestyle choices. Because if that’s the case, let’s discuss when was the last time you took a walk outside your apartment, my agoraphobic bestie.”

“You win. We won’t discuss our lousy life choices.” I could almost hear Cass’s lip jut out in a pout. I know I hit a nerve by touching on her agoraphobia, and I need to fix it—fast. 

“I’m sorry, Cass. I shouldn’t have said that. Your agoraphobia isn’t a choice, my debauchery is most definitely a choice. Please forgive me. If there’s nothing that needs my immediate attention, maybe I could swing by for a while, and we could hang out. Order in some food, watch movies. Hey, I could even let you and your hairstylist have fun with my hair.” Cass would love to get her hands on my hair. I haven’t had it professionally cut in years, I just hack it off with scissors when it annoys me enough.

“I wish. Unfortunately, I called for a reason. I made the calls like you asked. I couldn’t get in touch with Ephraim, but I managed to reach Nettie Blackmoor in Shade, South Carolina. She wanted me to tell you that your Uncle Ephraim passed away. She also wanted me to tell you something else. She said I had to say this verbatim. I am supposed to tell you, “It’s time you stop running, child. You are the Spectre Keeper now, and you belong to the Spectre Estate.” What does that mean, Hattie?”

“It means nothing, Cass. If anyone from Shade calls again, tell them I have a different job, and they can damn well find a different Keeper. Do I have any hunter jobs that need my attention, or do I get to come to see my favorite person?”

“There’s no jobs, Hattie.”

“Good. Make some plans for us, Cass. I’m on my way to you.”

Damn it, Ephraim picked the absolute worst time to die! I finally had some spare time to go see Cass and maybe convince her to try therapy with a therapist who knew the world was filled with more than just humans. Cass shut herself in her tiny single bedroom apartment after being attacked by a Wrath Demon five years earlier and only had contact with the people who delivered things to her, her hairstylist, and me. Cass deserved more out of life than a few fleeting glimpses of the world through the monitors of her computers. It had taken me almost two years to find a therapist who knew about the supernatural world, lived near Cass, and was willing to make house calls. Now all I had to do was convince the patient to try therapy and pray they were a good fit. Decision made I point the truck toward Virginia, and I’m on my way to Cass in Richmond. Screw the family legacy, Cass came first, then I could sort the rest out.