Thursday, July 11, 2013

Excerpt: Echoes of Athanasia

This month finds me in the throes of Camp Nano, barely keeping my head above water against the paltry 30K word count goal I gave myself. I am working on the second book in the Athanasia Trilogy, Echoes of Athanasia. Set in the mid-1800s, the book is a look at Jenna's ancestry, particularly that of her great-great grandmother, Jennabel. Below is an excerpt from the book where Jennabel has just met the blacksmith's apprentice, Patrick, and thinks she may be quite fond of him.

Jennabel enjoyed her solitude while she rode into town because just not thinking about spells and schedules, if even for a short while, felt good. The new leaves on the trees shone a bright green and the smell of new life permeated the air as she rode through the thick canopy of foliage. She was a little disappointed the ride was so short when she arrived in town. She sighed, dismounted and tied up the horse, and then got right to business.
Several tables and wagons belonging to local farmers lined the town square, which together made the weekly farmer’s market, held every Friday. Items for purchase ranged from fresh fruits and vegetables from local fields, to crafts such as handmade quilts and candles, all available for a price. Jennabel started at one corner of the market, sniffing and squeezing vegetables and placing properly ripened items in the basket she brought along for the shopping trip. The farmer’s wife manning the cart nodded and smiled in greeting to Jennabel.
Jennabel replied in kind and commented, “The produce looks very fresh today.”
“Thank you,” The farmer’s wife replied. “Did you see those shallots yet dear? They were gathered just this mornin’.”
“I did indeed, and they look splendid  But I am not in need of any today.” Jennabel took some coins from a small leather pouch and paid for the items in her basket. “Thank you ma’am.”
The farmer’s wife took the coins and replied, “You are most welcome dear.” She gave Jennabel a sidelong glance as she walked away. Some of the townspeople didn’t necessarily approve of the coven lifestyle and sometimes demonstrated their opinions verbally or even physically in extreme cases.
Jennabel was thankful that exchange was civil and moved to the next booth. She eventually made her way through the entire market and her basket was full of vegetables and herbs needed back at the coven. The townspeople had been friendly this time, for the most part, but she could tell who the disapprovers were by their brisk responses. Her last stop of the day was the blacksmith to get a shoe checked on Elder’s horse.
The shop was half a block from the market so she carried her basket with her and peered through the double barn door that was open a crack. She could not see anyone, but it was dark so she entered the shop thinking someone might be working in the shadows. Once inside, she realized she was still alone. Frustrated, she called out, “Hello? Is anyone around?”
The blacksmith's apprentice, Patrick Miller, was on the side of the building cleaning some tools when he watched Jennabel enter the shop. He was struck by the beauty of her long blond hair that fell across her shoulders in intricate curls, which bounced as she walked. He walked around the building and followed her inside through the double barn doors. “May I help you Miss?
Startled, Jennabel emitted a high-pitched yelp and spun around, dropping her basket in the process. Patrick did his best to stifle a chuckle. “You should not be sneaking up behind people sir!” Her face wrinkled in an angry scowl. “ is just not polite!”
His amusement quickly turned into embarrassment when he realized how angry she was. “My sincerest apologies Miss. It was not my intent to frighten you.”
Her ire softened once she took in Patrick's chiseled features, contrasted by his soft brown eyes. Still wanting to appear cross, she looked away and half-closed her eyes. “Fine sir. You did not frighten me. And I need the assistance of the blacksmith.”
“Of course not. I am Patrick. Uh...Miller. Patrick Miller.” Trying to get in her good graces, he squatted to gather her purchases that currently littered the shop floor. His gaze wandered up to her piercing emerald green eyes, which caused him to stammer, “Maybe…perhaps I can offer some sort of assistance.” He placed the last of her purchases back into the basket that she still held.
Still cold, she replied, “You could help me by fetching the blacksmith for me Patrick Miller.” She offered him a contrived smile.
“Yes Miss. I mean no-”
Amused with his nervousness, Jennabel cut him off, “No? No! May I ask why not Patrick Miller?”
Patrick stood back up and their eyes locked. “Perhaps we could start again Miss? I am Patrick Miller, the blacksmith’s apprentice. How may I be of assistance to you Ma’am?” A benevolent smile crossed his face, which caused Jennabel to flush and look away.
“It is one of the shoes on, er, my horse.” She thought it best to avoid the explanation of why she was riding someone else’s horse and who Elder Golden was for now.
“I think I can help you with that Miss, but I will need one thing from you first.”
Her gaze met his again and she felt her heart pounding in her chest, “Yes Mr. Miller?” she asked softly.
“Your name Miss. I need your name.”
“It is Jennabel. Procter.” She bit her bottom lip.
“Well Miss. It is Miss, yes?”
His smile grew just a fraction wider. “It is indeed a pleasure to meet you Miss Procter. Let us see about that horse.”
Jennabel didn’t answer right away. She was lost in the moment wondering if he was feeling the same sense of arousal. Instead, she just stood in front of him studying the angular features of his face, the stubble of beard growing on his chin, the kindness in his eyes, and his brown hair spilling from beneath his black planter hat.
Patrick drank in Jennabel’s beauty too, but was first to recognize the awkwardness of the silence. “Um…the horse?”
She snapped out of her trance and blurted, “Oh, yes of course.” Her face blushed again and she was thankful she had to turn away to exit the shop. “He is tied off to the post opposite the square.”
“Please lead the way.” He gestured toward the barn doors.
“Thank you kind sir.”
They engaged in small talk during the short walk. “Tell me Miss Procter, why is it that I have never seen you before?”
“I really do not come into town very much.” She thought for a moment. “And I have never required the services of a blacksmith,” she looked in his eyes and cracked a half-smile, “or his apprentice until this very day.”
He returned the smile and parried her playful quip, “I suppose your need for a blacksmith’s apprentice on this very day is my good fortune.”
“I suppose. Now you tell me something Mr. Miller.” She feigned anger once again, and with slit-eyes asked, “Do you make a habit of skulking about your shop grounds? Startling unsuspecting customers?”
Suddenly embarrassed, Patrick defended, “I was not. I merely-”
Jennabel could not continue the charade and burst out laughing.
“Oh. I see.” He joined in her merriment.
They arrived at the hitching post where Elder’s horse was tied. “Here he is. It is this hoof.” She pointed to the hind leg closest to them.
“Let us have a look, shall we?” He first walked to the front of the horse and calmed him by stroking his nose and speaking to him softly. Once the horse seemed comfortable with him, Patrick walked back to the offending leg and gently picked it up and held it between his legs. “Here is the problem.” He held two of his fingers on holes where nails should have been. “These nails are missing.” He reached in his apron and pulled out a nail and tapped it in the hole with a hammer. Once the tip of the nail protruded from the hoof, he took a cincher and bent it until it was almost flush with the hoof. He then pulled out a rasp and filed off the sharp edge of the nail, as well as the head where it met with the shoe. He repeated the process for the other missing nail and then gently placed the hoof back on the ground. Jennabel watched him work and was amazed with his dexterity that was combined with gentleness, which she thought revealed him to be a caring person.
He patted the horse’s hindquarter and said, “There. That was not so bad was it?” Then to Jennabel, “That should fix it for now, but he will need to be shoed again very soon.”
“Thank you Mr. Proctor. I will take that under advisement.” She paid him for his services and mounted the horse. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Likewise Miss Proctor.” He untied the horse and handed her the reigns. “The spring fair is soon. Will you be attending?”
“I might just. Perhaps I will see you there?”
“I would like that. I would like that very much Miss Proctor.”
They exchanged smiles and she rode out of town. During the entire trip home, she wondered if she might just be smitten with Patrick Miller, the blacksmith’s apprentice. 

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Editing Athanasia

Before providing a progress update on Cooking Athanasia, I should probably explain my editing process to provide some context. As most of you know, I wrote the final sentence in the book on April 5th of this year. I shelved the book for three weeks before beginning any editing to give myself a little distance, which I’m hoping provides more objectivity. After the three weeks elapsed, I began editing with chapter 7 because the first six chapters had already received a precursory pass before being published in this blog.
While writing, I print each chapter when I finish it so I have a hard copy for backup, and to make editing notes as I think of them. I take the binder with my hard copy novel with me everywhere so I can do mark ups whenever I find some idle time. As such, my editing process has two steps. The first is the markup for changes on the hardcopy and any significant additions are handwritten on a sticky note and stuck on the appropriate page. The second step is making the changes on the electronic copy where I also rewrite items not identified during the markup phase.
Marked up page complete with sticky note.
Although I had been doing some of the rewriting when I was at home (it has to be done on my desktop (this is another plea for Scrivener to release the IOS app, please!)), and doing the markups when I found spare time away from home, I finished the markups this past Sunday. This means only rewrites left for this editing iteration and I am on chapter 12 now, which was a monster chapter that I divided into three chapters during the rewrite. Another ancillary benefit to finishing the markups is that I am able to pick up work again on the sequel, Echoes of Enchantment, when I am away from home. I really don’t want to forecast when I might finish the rewriting phase on this pass of editing, but I think it will be close enough to done a the end of July so I can pitch it at the Northwest Writers Association Conference, which I hope to attend.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Versatile Blogger Award

I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Julie at Rogue MissionI was thrilled since I have never been nominated for anything in the past. Thank you very much for the award Julie! 

The Rules for the Award are as Follows:
  1. Add the Versatile Blogger Award badge to a post.
  2. Thank the person who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in you post.
  3. Share seven things about yourself.
  4. Pass the award to 15 other bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.


I knew my wife was special from the moment we met. We spent every day together after our first date and I asked her to marry me about a month and a half after we met. Of course nay sayers cautioned against the union, “do you really know her?” they said, or “you know it won’t last.” We were married about eight months after our first date and twenty-six years later, she’s still the love of my life and best friend, and I believe we have passed the test of time.

We found out my wife was pregnant four months before I left for a year-long tour in South Korea. My only son was born in October that year and I met him three months later when I came home on my mid-tour leave. He was a beautiful baby then, and is a handsome and caring man now. He amazes me every day and I have a great time just hanging out with him.

At the tail end of the summer in 1989, Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, at the time as a member of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I was a gunner on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and I was very proficient at my job. I knew that if the United States became involved in this conflict, my unit would definitely deploy, as it did. I think the defining moment for me during the conflict was preparing to cross the Iraqi border from Saudi Arabia because of the paralyzing fear of the unknown clashing with the desire to do my job because it was what I had trained for four years at the time. I haven’t experienced another internal paradox like this one in my life since.

Strong student was not a term used to describe me during my high school years. A better description might have been absent. However, shortly after the turn of the millennium, I realized that military retirement was inching closer and I needed some type of higher education to be competitive in the civilian workplace. I started my bachelor’s degree in 2002 and found that I actually enjoyed school. I drank in the knowledge and loved it so much that I started my master’s degree 37 days after finishing the coursework for my undergraduate degree. I graduated with my MBA in 2007 and am now happy to be done with school.

I lived the Army life for 23 years, starting as a Private and working my way through the enlisted ranks until I reached First Sergeant, which was my goal. During that time, I gave my life to the Army spending countless hours away from home in support of national defense. I enjoyed the camaraderie as I shared laughter and tears with my fellow Soldiers but in 2008, it was time to hang up the pistol belt. At times, I miss that cohesiveness that is unique to the military. But I am older now and the military is more suited to the young not to mention that I get to go home at the end of each work day.

After retiring from the military, I took a job as a recruiter for the university I attended for my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I worked for that institution for a couple of years until I was approached by another university to do a similar job at a significantly higher salary. At the end of 2011, the group I was working for at the new university was determined to be cost prohibitive and I was laid off. For the first time since I was a teenager, I had to do some soul-searching to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. During my Army years, that was the career I wanted and I established and achieved the goals set within that organization. I had not thought much past the Army and college recruiting was just something I was able to do, but it was not necessarily an aspiration. I had always known I enjoyed writing and I thought it was something I wanted to do someday. After the layoff, I decided someday had arrived and it was time to get serious about writing. Had I not been laid off, I may have never discovered my true passion.

I wrote a couple of short stories to see if writing was really what I wanted to do. I enjoyed crafting those stories and received positive feedback so I thought it was time to start a novel. On December 8th, 2011, I began writing the outline for Cooking Athanasia. Throughout the entire process, I never tired of the story and looked forward to developing my characters who eventually seemed to take on a life of their own. I wrote the last sentence of the book on April 5th, 2013. At present, I am editing the story and have started work on Echoes of Enchantment, the second book in the Athanasia trilogy. Now I can’t imagine a life where I don’t write. 

My Nominees:
  1. Art in the Life – Darcy Kline
  2. Stormcalling – Christopher Storm
  3. Thinking Aloud – Jaspreet Taunque
  4. Butterfly on a Broomstick – LinzĂ© Brandon
  5. Gemini Rising Series – Gemini
  6. T-Rytes – Tineeka De Silva
  7. Neurotic Novelists of the World Unite! - Robert Evert
  8. Janie Fox Oil Portraits – Janie Fox
  9. Suteko's Blog – Lisa Williamson
  10. Still working on list

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Successful Failure

Many magazine articles are geared toward managing a large project. Additionally, a myriad of software programs are available to help writers keep their thoughts in order and aid in managing long-term projects. Although the articles contain very useful information and the available software makes lengthy projects less daunting, managing my novel was not a concern when I began writing Cooking Athanasia a little over a year ago.
I owe the ability to manage my novel over the long haul to my failed attempt at earning a doctoral degree, from which I withdrew last summer. I spent five years in the program and wrote a proposal for my research project during that time, but had to quit because it became cost prohibitive. However, I have no regrets because the information gleaned during that time is still mine, and the system I developed to manage my dissertation was easily adaptable to my true love of writing fiction.
I still take a pragmatic approach regarding my system and implement improvements as I see fit. In fact, I purchased Scrivener earlier this year because I can see the power of the program. I have not used it as of yet because I have no way to easily synch between my desktop and iPad as of yet, and I do a lion’s share of my writing away from my desk (hint, hint Scrivener). The bottom line is that some might view dropping out of my doctoral program as failure, but I see it from the positive vantage point: Everything I have done in my life thus far has a purpose to bring me where I am right now. It’s up to me to decide how to use it.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Multitasking or Aimless Wandering?

Last Friday afternoon, at precisely 4:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time, the alarm on my iPhone sounded, indicating the moratorium on Cooking Athanasia was over. I did not officially start editing until Saturday morning because I had finally wrapped m head around the new project, Echoes of Enchantment, and had built up a full head of steam by Friday, which resulted in the completion of Chapter 3.

So I blew three weeks of dust from the manuscript Saturday morning and, armed with a purple pen, started the markup process on the manuscript. Because splitting my time between two projects felt odd, on Sunday, during confessional, I asked my support group if any of them had ever written on one project while editing another. The overwhelming answer was to the negative, that they had never split their time between projects in such a manner. That answer was somewhat of a relief to me because it validated my instinct that I should probably commit to editing or writing. Sadly, that means Echoes goes to the back burner once again while I try to get through editing as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Just as a reminder for people who don’t know, Echoes of Enchantment is the second book in the Athanasia Trilogy, and the back story to Cooking Athanasia. The tale is already written, but in screenplay format as per the rules for Script Frenzy, which I won last year. If you would like a taste of Echoes, I invite to take a peek at one of my old blogs introducing the story that I wrote last year during the throes of Screnzy.

Link to old Slayer blog:

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Other Projects

This week finds me in a period of transition. Cooking Athanasia is presently on ice, waiting for editing. Despite trying to distance myself from the story for more objective editing, I still find myself ‘what if-ing’ various scenes in the book and Jonesing for some Jenna interaction. In effort to shift gears, I have started the second book in the Athanasia Trilogy, Echoes of Enchantment.

The really big news for this week however, is the upcoming release of Reflections of the End, which is an anthology of short stories and poems contributed by writers in the Author’s Choice – Select Anthologies groups of Facebook and Google+. The anthology is themed ‘Apocalypse’ and should be available in a few short weeks.

Although the contributing to the book, and its imminent release is exciting, the truly enriching experience for me is belonging to these communities. The icing on the magic whichever flavor you wish for cake is interacting with a multinational group of people on a daily basis who share my same passion for writing. Aside from collaborating on the anthology, members of the group share their successes and challenges on other projects with each other as well as just having fun with writing. I hope all the members of these communities who read this know how much they mean to me and how much they have helped with some of my challenges, which makes me happy to celebrate my successes with them.

Now for the shameless plug: We are putting on a book launch event for Reflections of the End this coming Saturday, which is open to the public. Links for the two events are pasted below so please take a look and feel free to attend. I have also posted a link to both of the groups if you just want to poke around. Just FYI: The groups’ consensus for the theme of the next anthology was 'Secrets', and you have at least two months to prepare you short story and poem submissions.

Google+ Launch Event:

Facebook Launch Event:

Author’s Choice – Select Anthologies Groups:

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Now What?

I missed posting anything to my blog for the past two weeks because I had nothing to report. Since this blog is dedicated to my work-in-progress, Cooking Athanasia, writing that I had not finished yet but was still very close, did not seem like a newsworthy piece. However, I have finished writing the book is most definitely newsworthy.

Last Friday, March 5th, 2013, I wrote the final words in the final chapter during my lunch break. As I approached the end, I could feel it. My pulse literally increased and when I got to the final sentence, I was juiced with a shot of adrenaline. That was very surprising. I was also astonished with the mixed emotions that followed. On one hand, I was ecstatic that I had completed the writing portion of a project started over a year ago. This was contrasted by the sadness of parting with the characters I have thought about all the time for over a year. Getting to know them and watching them grow, and then one day I am suddenly done with them (for the time being).

I say for the time being because Jenna and crew will be back for the third volume of the series. The second book is the back story to Cooking Athanasia and has already been written in screenplay format. I have started work on converting it to a novel and plan to work on it for about a month while letting the just completed novel cool off. After the waiting period, I plan to start the editing process, which is daunting because I once again find myself in uncharted waters.

I have grown comfortable with writing the story a little bit at a time and all I had to do was move the story forward. It was somewhat intimidating when I started, but I developed a process and I think my writing was strengthened during the process. But now I have a manuscript that needs to be edited and that process is new to me. I’m sure I will do just fine, and I know I am not alone if help is needed during this part of the journey. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Build to Climax, or Slide Down Slippery Slope

For the past few weeks, I have reported how close I am to completing my story. I do truly believe there are only two or three chapters left. The problem, however, is that I am finding it difficult to figure out the details of the ending. I know how it will end, who will be the victor, and even how I will set up the third book from this conclusion. Nevertheless, thus far it is a fluid process and every time I think, “okay, this will happen, and that person will do X, which will result in Y,” I take a step back and discard the idea. Various issues induce these mental recalculations such as logic, reader experience, and character involvement.

Logic refers to an unrealistic chain of events based on the rules established throughout the book. Some of the alternatives pondered are simply not consistent with the norms found in the story. Reader experience is a matter of providing a conclusion that will satisfy conflict(s) introduced in the story in a way that will please the reader. For many months, I had a broad idea of how the story would end to set up book three (I don't want to give too many details here), but a few weeks ago I realized the ending I had envisioned would be very unsatisfying for readers. Fortunately, I think I have worked out conclusion that will satisfy both needs; making readers feel good about the conclusion and leaving the story open enough for the basis of subsequent tale.

This brings me to character involvement. Throughout the story, a core group of characters who should be a part of the finale were developed, but the issue is that I’m not sure what I want each character to do. I know who the hero or heroine needs to be, but the details of how he or she overcomes the villian or villainess keep eluding me. As I write this, I consider that maybe I haven't developed or transformed that character enough, or perhaps it's just a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Of one thing I am sure though; I will figure it out sooner or later. On a final note, this is not a rant and I am enjoying the process, really, I am. If you have experienced similar issues, I would love to hear what you did to move past your sticking point.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Constructive, or Just Plain Criticism?

To those of you who have been following the story, it is time to shift gears. I will not be posting any more chapters from the book on this blog. From this point, I will update you on progress and discuss the writing process until completion of the project. I am aiming for release in April or May. Thank you to all of you who have followed along until this point.

A very wise person once told me "all of us scribblers are a bit odd." This bit of astuteness came at a point when I seriously doubted my writing, and pondering if the entire year spent on Cooking Athanasia was simply a waste of time. At the beginning, I felt it was a story worth telling and continually reassured by family that I was on the right track. Of course, I thought, family is supposed to say things like that. I looked for body language after anyone offered support, trying to determine they were really hiding the ugly truth. What has been even more amazing to me, is readers of my blog have (and I thank each and every one of you), for the most part, given favorable feedback.

            When I started posting chapters on this blog, I thought the rules were clear that it was a work in progress and final edits were planned for sometime in the future. However, there was a person on one of the social media sites, which I frequent, who single handedly nearly derailed my confidence and the project. As a newby, I am self-conscious about my work and have doubts that I am writing this correctly or not describing that enough, and I am open to constructive criticism.

The unsolicited review of my work, by this individual had valid points, which I included in a subsequent edit. My problem with the review was how the message was phrased. Without getting too deep in the weeds, the person essentially compared my work to a high school composition. When this individual presented his opinion, the internal editor and I were already engaged in mortal combat and he was not happy, thus verbally abusive with me about the story. As such, receiving criticism wrapped in negativity created a perfect storm and I almost gave up. If it was not for the kindness of a stranger who picked me up out of the emotional gutter, I may have scrapped the whole project. Since then, others have provided ideas of how to make improvements, but they did so without judgment and as peers, which I readily accepted.

The bottom line is that how one says something is at least as important as what is said. In addition, just to allay any concerns, the individual whom I speak of is not in any of my circles. On a completely separate note, I leave you with a spoiler alert; Anna did not die in the accident, she was merely in a coma (I found that out during an edit of the prologue).

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Chapter 6: Eavesdropping

Scott Kennison was feeling sorry for himself. After all, he was still hung-over from the previous night's drinking and gambling binge. He spent the evening nursing his disappointment for life via a regimen of Jack and Coke and craps at the local casino. The aftermath was cottonmouth, a Goliath-sized headache, and $500 in the hole; $300 more than allotted for the night's excursion. He ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair and realized he smelled of the recent bender. On his way to the coffee shop, Scott thought of the reason for his Seattle trip: The Northwest Heath and Beauty Convention, a four-day event to showcase the PH Cosmetics line to Northwesterners. He spent the agonizing morning with at least a dozen elves tapping on god knows what inside his brain while preparing his area for the event. Additionally, the fact that he was less than thrilled to be working a boring convention booth for the next four days didn't help his headache in the least.

Caffeine was the first step to cure his ails, and Scott was impatient about the long line at The Perk, which was moving at glacial speed. Adding to his misery was the incessant babble of the women in front of him, which droned until he overheard some of details of their discussion. The younger woman spoke about an old book and a recipe. The older one took on hushed tones and thought no one could hear when she said it was a spell book. His ears perked up at this statement. The older one told the younger that there were witches in their bloodline, which interested Scott because of stories about a witch his that his grandfather used to tell.

Scott ordered his coffee, extra caffeine, which he used to wash down two aspirin, and then searched for a table near the two women where he could continue listening to their conversation. A tall table near the women was open, and he sat with his back toward them so they couldn't tell he was eavesdropping. He pretended to fidget with his Blackberry while the older one continued the story. She mentioned a witch named Jennabel who was originally from Massachusetts. Could this be the same woman in his grandfather's stories? The young one talked about a recipe, to which the older one said it caused immortality. As Scott continued to eavesdrop, he thought, What's the big deal? So she found a spell book.

He massaged his temples and reached into the memory bank to recall the gist of the stories his grandfather told about Patrick, Scott’s great-great grandfather. In the stories, Patrick had a relationship with a girl back east in Massachusetts during the mid-1800s. The girl’s name was Jennabel and she was a witch. Patrick and Jennabel fell deeply in love one summer and would have likely been married one day if she didn’t have to leave suddenly. There was an power struggle in her coven, which placed Jennabel in danger because of the position she held. She ended up having to flee for her safety and Patrick stayed behind to hold off the posse while she escaped. He never saw her again, but he never forgot her and always said he had a hole in his heart because he wasn’t able to spend his life with his true love.

Scott had always thought the stories were make-believe, until this exact moment. He found it too coincidental that the woman in his grandfather's stories and the one these women spoke of were both named Jennabel. Especially in light of the fact that both Jennabel stories centered on witchcraft. The conviction with which the older woman told the younger about the immortality spell also added credibility.

Scott contemplated the marketing possibilities if the story was true, if the younger woman had in fact accidentally stumbled on a spell or formula that provides immortality. Perhaps it was the sureness in which the older woman relayed the story made Scott want to believe it to be true. Maybe it was the multiple coincidences between his grandfather’s and the older woman's story that made him want to accept it as truth. Realistically, it was more likely that he wanted to believe it because he was flat broke due to a gambling addiction. That same addiction led to a nasty divorce and a large settlement for the ex-wife, which caused frequent visits to the bottom of a whiskey bottle, trying to forget his misery. Perhaps the constant threats of losing his job from Kelly, his boss, made him want to believe.

Whatever reason he used to rationalize that there really was a formula for immortality and it could be a boon for PH Cosmetics and potential for personal success, it required immediate action because the women had finished their coffee and were preparing to leave the shop. He decided the situation warranted further investigation. He pocketed the Blackberry, picked up his cup, cursed under his breath because it was still hot, and nonchalantly followed the women out of the shop. He watched as they hugged and said their goodbyes in front of the bookstore across the street. The older one turned and disappeared inside the bookstore and the other woman headed to her Focus parked on the street. Scott’s rental was parked three cars behind the gray Focus and, luckily faced the same direction. Doing his best to blend with other pedestrians, Scott crossed the street and got in his car as the younger woman pulled away. He quickly started the rental and slipped into traffic four cars behind hers, where he followed her all the way to her apartment building. Scott filed the location of her residence away for future use while he began mulling over the plan to get his hands on the formula for immortality.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chapter 5: Revelation

Jenna went to The Perk right after class Monday and peered in the window. She didn’t see Aunt Donna so she waited outside in the April mist. The rain was very light and in the air was the fresh scent of new life brought by spring. She stood by the unused bistro tables outside the coffee shop, frequently checking across the street for signs of Donna in the Enlightened New Age Bookstore doorway. The previous owners of Enlightened sold it to Donna after she had worked there forever. They were only too happy to sell it to Donna upon retirement because they didn’t have any children and knew she shared their same affinity for books. They also knew the business would continue to run as they envisioned. In their words, “It was like keeping it in the family.”

 Soon, the Schnotz sisters emerged from the bookstore, followed by a waving Donna. “Sorry I’m late,” she said as she stepped onto the sidewalk outside the coffee shop.

“No worries,” Jenna replied and hugged Donna, “I was just enjoying the arrival of liquid spring. How is your day going?” They went inside the coffee shop and got in line for their caffeine fix.

“Today wasn’t a bad day. I would have been on time had the Schnotz sisters not showed up with a book order.” Charlene, Chenille, and Cherri Schnotz were triplets who did everything together, which many assumed was because they shared a common brain. “Everything with those three takes triple the time it should.” She chuckled, “Those girls are a real hoot with their continuous nonsensical talk. For some reason they insist on dealing with me exclusively. They say it’s because of our history from high school, but they were three grades ahead of me. I don’t think we even knew each other until well after we had all graduated.”

“I have run into them in the past, but I don’t know them very well,” Jenna admitted. “It’s truly a shame about their father.” The sisters’ father had recently died suddenly, leaving the girls his newspaper, The Chronicle, and the struggle to keep it alive in the digital age. Worse, they had not bothered to learn the newspaper business while he was alive, so they were lost when it came to the nickels and dimes of publishing a daily.

Donna agreed, “The girls are skilled at sniffing out drama and reporting it but they don’t know the first thing about running a successful business. Oh well, enough about them. How is school going?”

“I can’t wait to be finished.” They moved slowly toward the counter because of an unusually long coffee line. “June can’t come soon enough.”

“I’m sure you’re excited. Have you started looking for a job?”

“Not yet. I think it would be better to wait until graduation is closer. And truthfully, I think I would enjoy a mini-vacation before diving headlong into my career.” Jenna recalled dinner from the other night. “You might find this amusing; I used one of Grandma’s old cookbooks for help with my homework the other night.”

Donna laughed, “Good for you! Recycling works! Which one did you use?”

“It’s an old, leather bound book with ornate decorations on the cover that were obviously done by hand. It’s cool! It’s old though. In fact, I can hardly read the title on the cover because most of it has been rubbed off over the years.”

“Oh my.” Donna’s mood suddenly darkened, “What was the recipe called?”

Jenna’s eyes narrowed and she tilter her head to the side, “Athanasia, I think.” The tremor in her hands began as soon as she answered. Startled, she surveyed the coffee shop for visible danger signs, but everything seemed normal. The line in front of them moved slowly and continued to grow behind. A man reeking of old booze got in line behind Jenna. Then two more women, discussing the high price of gas, entered the shop. Despite the innocuous appearance of her surroundings, her personal alarm had triggered, putting her on high alert.

“Oh my,” Donna was visibly concerned, “I was wondering where that book had disappeared to.” She leaned in close to Jenna’s ear and whispered, “I think you may have found a spell book.”

They were next for their coffee order. Jenna gave a half-hearted laugh trying to alleviate the tension, “What are you talking about?”

Still in a muted voice, Donna said, “I looked for that book for weeks in your grandmother’s house after she died. While she was sick, she told me it needed to be protected once she passed. I thought maybe she had just gotten rid of it and forgot.”

Jenna massaged her forehead and eyebrows for a moment, then looked Donna in the eyes and asked, “Okay. So what does all that mean?”

Donna took a quick look around the shop and when she was sure no one was listening she whispered in the quietest voice she could muster, “There are witches in our bloodline,” and then it was their turn to order.

After retrieving their coffee, they went to the back of The Perk for some privacy. Donna sat in an oversized chair and Jenna sat on the couch. They placed their drinks on the coffee table between them.

Once situated, Jenna asked, “Just what are you talking about?” Her voice quaked.

“Keep your voice down,” Donna cautioned. “Your great-great grandmother, Jennabel, was a witch. That is as far back as I have ever traced our bloodline.” Donna leaned forward, “The book belonged to her.”

“Why have I never heard of this?” Jenna sounded anguished as the bricks that built her reality began showing faults.

“As far as I know, Jennabel had to hide her craft and eventually flee Massachusetts to avoid persecution. She passed the secret on to her daughter, your great grandmother, because of the unique skills that need to be hidden blend with society.” Donna spoke very softly, “Your grandmother, my mother, was the last to actively acknowledge the fact that they were witches. For whatever reason, your grandmother did not tell your mother or me about the craft while we were growing up. I assumed it was because the bloodline had been diluted, diminishing our powers or something like that.”

Jenna was at a loss for words for a spell, she just sat with her eyes closed, massaging her temples. She opened her eyes but looked suddenly tired, “If Grandma didn’t tell you, then how do you know about our ancestry?”

“I know this is a lot to take in all at once,” Donna offered, sensing Jenna’s anxiety. She continued, “Diana and I found the book and some other witch paraphernalia in the attic. Your grandmother caught us examining it and scolded us. She told us to leave it alone, it was only for adults.” She chuckled, “Of course that just made us more curious and we explored more when we were teens.”

“This is too much.” Jenna’s head swam. “Okay. Suppose it is a spell book. So what is athanasia?” Donna furrowed her brow. “I’m not sure.” She pulled out her phone to do a Google search. “Ahh. It means immortality.”

“So you think I cooked up a spell for immortality the other night?” Jenna laughed nervously. The laugh belied her feeling of unease because she had never heard Donna speak like this. She looked at the ceiling and rubbed her chin for a moment, “Come to think of it, both Randy and I felt a jolt of energy a few minutes after we finished the dinner. It was an unusual. A feeling of contentment that neither of us could explain.” She raised her eyebrows and thought some more, then hypothesized, “Maybe it could have been a spell, I guess.”

“Exactly!” Donna was very solemn, “This is serious. There are forces you know nothing about at work here. Using the spell book can only lead to bad fortune, which is the main reason your great-great grandmother had to flee and the family had to quit the craft.”

Jenna was shaken at the revelation. She wanted to go home to digest the information that changed the foundation of who she was. She finished her coffee and stood up, “I had better get home. Randy will be there soon.”

“Of course dear. Be very careful with the book.” They hugged and Jenna turned to leave. “I’ll check on you tomorrow,” Donna called to Jenna, who replied with a wave of her hand without looking back. “Dear Jenna, what have you gotten yourself into?” Donna asked herself under her breath.