Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book 2 is here, plus updates on the Series.

Book 2 of the Undead Bar Association series, Shadowed Demise, is now available through Amazon.

The story: The tale opens in Dallas, Texas, present day. It's the summer between Maryanne's first and second years of law school. Maryanne moves to Dallas for the summer, to work a legal clerkship with a local firm. Sounds normal, and it would be, except for two things: the law firm is run by vampires, and Maryanne must serve them to protect the lives of the Undead Bar Association members.

Dallas, city with a rich past, has secrets to share with Maryanne. You know the old saying that begins, if walls could talk? In Dallas, entire buildings have things to say. As Maryanne learns the stories of the places around her, she becomes aware of a dangerous mystery...a string of murders and deception dating back half a century, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Readers will travel back in time to November, 1963. They'll step inside Jack Ruby's Carousel Club, see the assassination of the President through the eyes of observers on a courthouse balcony, and watch as Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald. Then, the reader returns to the present, and sees the impact of the past. Of course, no one feels the impact more than Maryanne. She's being haunted.

Justice doesn't like having its hands tied, and neither does Maryanne Wells. She may be enslaved to the vampires, but that doesn't mean she won't fight back. It's time to get justice for the dead and the living.

Paperback available here.
Kindle available here.

Update on Book 3: I've been working hard on Book 3. It combines action and characters from two of the stories from this blog, Binding Precedent and Until Death. You can still read bits of those stories on the Stories Page of this blog.

Integrating all the ideas is interesting. It's very different from writing Shadowed Death from scratch, but still challenging in its own way. One big change from the blog stories will be the absence of a character. I'm pulling Absola Trotsky. Temporarily; please, no angry messages from old blog readers who like the character (especially a certain college roommate with initials M.E.). There's just no room in Book 3 to do her justice. I'll introduce her into the series in Book 5.

Update on Book 4: Research for this book rocks! I love it, especially when it requires me to drive all over the state of Texas, visit state parks, and hike through canyons. If you enjoy the historical fiction aspect of Shadowed Demise, I think you'll love Book 4.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shadowed Demise

Shadowed Demise, the second book in the Undead Bar Association series, publishes November 26, 2012.



Enslaved to a house of vampires, law student Maryanne Wells expects her Dallas clerkship to be the summer from hell. Even her educated dread can't prepare her for what she finds: a saxophone-playing Guardian with the power to stop time, a court investigator trained in knives and riddles, a dead enemy begging to be an ally, and a string of murders stretching back fifty years. And the vampires? They've changed tactics. They aren't after blood; they're after Maryanne's mind.


From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to a modern PETA protest, from soaring courtrooms to back alleys and strip clubs, Shadowed Demiseis a fast-paced adventure about the long reach of shadowed pasts and the unending fight for justice.


For more information about the author, Maryanne Wells, see here.

 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Matriculated Death

Matriculated Death, the first book of the Undead Bar Association Series, is available on ebook and paperback through Amazon. You can find the book here.



To read samples of other Undead Bar Association stories, go here. These are blog drafts of old stories that will be re-written for future books in the series.

Updates about the writing process of the next book in the series can be found here, along with inside information about Matriculated Death.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We've Stepped Out for a Moment

The blog is on a break. I'm busy with preparations for the launch of Matriculated Death, the first book in the Undead Bar Association series, on June 20th.

For daily Tasty Tidbits about the supernatural and Texas, follow me on Twitter. @MaryanneWells

New blog entries will start next month, the week before the book launch.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Writing Game: The Poem Shakeup

Ready to play a writing game?

I recently joined the Working Writers group on LinkedIn. A fellow writer, R. Terry, poised an interesting question. For the days when it's hard to get motivated, where does your writing get-up-and-go-come from?

Her question reminded me of a game my creative writing teacher taught me. I described the game to R. Terry, who dubbed it the poem shake-up.  The idea of poem shake-up is to take some of your own work and throw it together with fresh ideas. There's an element of randomness to the process, that keeps you from blocking your own creativity.

Here's how it works

1) Write a poem. It can be about anything.

2) Cut the poem into strips (one line per strip).

3) Grab a news article. If you want inspiration from brave new ideas, pick an article on a subject wildly different from the topic of your poem. R. Terry did this today, to great effect.

If you want a springboard for a finished poem, pick an article that compliments your poem in some way. For the example in this post, I used the second option.

4) Cut up the article, making each piece roughly equal in word length to your poem lines. Make sure the number of article strips equals the poem strips.

5) Pick up all the strips, poem and news, and throw them in the air!

6) Collect the strips off the floor, and arrange them into a single poem.

Outcome

You'll see thematic connections emerge that didn't exist before you threw it all into the air, and individual words will speak to you in new ways.

Example

For the poem from me, I picked one that I wrote for last year's International Talk Like A Pirate Day. You can read the original poem here. The article I chose was pulled at random from the July 2011 Whiskey Magazine. Why a whiskey magazine? Because I couldn't find a rum magazine.

My goal was to have a shakeup that I could turn into a finished poem. Here's the end product:


Nightmare Seas

Water wisps and mist
we wrap around the seven seas

We float around the boats
which are alien to our ways

deep ways.

We slither, sling, and sail.

It's not about enjoyment.
Our job is to be, to think,
To capture
scared whispers, nightmares distilled.
The whiskies we all enjoy.

Coolly analytical, spiritually piratical.
Our abilities hover past your eyes
in a world you'll never see.

Are we base? Are we cruel?

Do we care what you think?

Your pain is our gruel.
It tastes like the space left in time
once your legs rot below the knees,
Oaky and ethereal.

When do you sail?

No answer.

No matter.
We will know. We will see.

And here is the original poem shakeup:

Our captain was a scalawag
It's not about enjoyment
We're grim an ghastly ghoulies
This series is an entry
job it is to be think
either. It is analytical
the whiskies we all enjoy
We float around the boat
which is alien to whiskey
deep way. Their tasting
we sail the seven seas
But when yer needing work
tasters such as distillers
'cause we're nothin' past the knees
The first mate were a fool
the helmsman such an idiot
and blenders whose daily
Aye, we be ghostly pirates
the professional extreme
lovers but the norm for
As frightnen as you please
abilities lie behind
intellectual, a world
he swam in his own drool
that sail the seven seas
oh, we be ghostly pirates
ye go where there be gruel.


And that's an example of how to get inspiration from a good ol' shakeup! Go to it, and have fun!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Obsession with Zombies

Periodically someone will ask me what the deal is with zombies. Why is our culture so obsessed with shambling hordes of undead? When asked, I do my best to explain with abstract examples. No more. I found a great article that illustrates my key point with brutal clarity.

Why zombies? Well, each monster myth represents something, a fear or frustration that torments humanity. Vampires (traditional) represent carnality. Werewolves stand for the primal, uncivilized desires of mankind. Mr. Hyde is the baser part of us we silence, to be able to fit into society. Frankenstein encapsulates the horrors of man playing God. And zombies...well. What a zombie represents depends on when the myth was made. This is true to some extent with all the monsters, but with zombies most of all.

The driving force of a culture determines what the zombies mean. Put another way, the pop culture vehicle that carries the zombies expresses the culture that fueled the idea. In old black and white movies zombies represented demented love, the kind that existed when the villain believed control was needed and emotion should be forced. Zombies have stood for mass consumerism, failures of government, fallacies of science (similar to Frankenstein), and threats from other galaxies.

But why is there so much about zombies in the culture now? What is driving the fascination? I think the key to the answer lies in the comic book series, The Walking Dead. Unlike the vast majority of zombie stories out there, the Walking Dead lexicon doesn't explain what made the zombies. Virus? Government experiment? Radiation? Don't know. The story isn't about what made the zombies. It's about the living and the undead.

To create monsters without a cause is to say that anything could have made the monstrosities. And this idea resonates with the culture, as does the zombie myth, for one reason: as a culture, we don't believe in or trust anything. Schools? No. Journalism? Nope. We have Twitter now. Although we don't really believe in it either, we just use it. Church? Um, no. Government? No.

When you don't believe that anything can protect you or save you, you start to believe that anything can harm you. Anything can turn you into a zombie, and nothing can save you.

It's the sad realization that we believe in nothing, that fuels the zombie myth in our culture today. It's believable, accessible. That's the answer to 'why zombies'.

In the past, I've had a hard time explaining the loss of faith that's growing in our culture. Then I read this article. If you ever wanted a brutal run-down of our crumbling institutions, read this. If you ever have a friend ask you 'why zombies', send them the link. As long as real stories like that of Johnny Whitmire are with us, zombies will stumble through our books and march across our screens.

Until we find something to believe in, the zombies stay...and multiply.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse in 3...2...1...

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a zombie? Not a TV show walk-on or flash mob zombie. A real, true to life zombie. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, your wait is over. And the best part is, you don't have to die to make it happen.

Earlier this month, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia has been testing electromagnetic radiation guns that can target a human's central nervous system. According to this article, previous research has shown that the use of similar radiation can be used to alter psychological states and transmit commands. Ta-da! Zombies. Living dead.

It isn't clear that the Russian gun is advanced to the point that it can transmit commands. To date, it has only been used for crowd control. But if the Russians are looking to do more than just control a crowd, and want to command the dissidents, they should consider playing with this technology. A mobile brain scanner. Imagine, you use the brain scanner to map the future zombie's brain, then use the radiation gun to target the specific region of the brain you need to control. With some fine-tuning of the process, the government could concentrate on behavior modification. Like in the Episode 1, Season 5 episode of the Syfy show Eureka, technology could make us into happy and obedient zombies.

Ah, the joys of science.

The technology is still in the testing stage, and the Russians estimate it will be ten years before they are ready to deploy the gun for military use. But now that the news it out, they won't be the only ones working towards that goal. Forget the Space Race...it's time for the Zombie Race.

Countdown to the Zombie Apocalypse starts now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Big Announcement

I've got a few things to talk about today. The most important thing first, of course.

On June 20, 2012, the first Undead Bar Association book will be published. It will be an e-book, available through Amazon. The book, titled "Matriculated Death", will contain two novellas: "Black Letter Law" and "Corpus Delicti".

"Black Letter Law" will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It's the very first story (first on the story event time-line), and the one story that I co-authored with Naomi O'Conners. But don't think that just because you read it here, you know what's going to happen. The story went through a complete re-write. There are new characters, new scenes, and a fiendish twist right at the end. The version that will be published on June 20th is so different from the blog version, that I'm acutally going to leave the original on the blog. Literary geeks and fellow writers, feel free to read both versions and analyze the changes. It's fun.

"Corpus Delicti" is brand new. To balance out the other novella, which features vampires, "Corpus Delicti" is overrun with zombies. The story also answers some long-standing Undead Bar Association questions, like the sad fate of Maryanne's beloved truck.

In preparation for book publication, this blog will be getting a face-lift. I will also partially pull some stories off the blog, in anticipation of re-writing them for publication in later e-books. As mentionned before, "Black Letter Law" will stay in its entirety. So will "Fouburg Fairtale", Naomi O'Conners' tale set in New Orleans. And I'll probably leave "Homesdead" up as it is. For the rest, I'll take down all but the initial episodes, leaving just enough to get a flavor for each story. Blog revisions will take place May 26 and 27; expect a new look on Monday, May 28.

Last piece of news for today: I will be travelling in June, conducting research for the second Undead Bar Association book (which will be published this fall). Look for some research updates and photos on Twitter (@MaryanneWells). You'll be able to get a real feel for book 2 by looking at the photos.

Thank you, everyone, for your support encouragement these past two years. That's right, the blog has been around for almost two years! And several of you were encouraging me to get back into writing before the blog was even imagined. Thank you. Now brace yourself for the next chapter of the UBA adventure. It's gonna be a wild ride!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bacon and the Undead - the New PB&J

There are some things that just go together, like peanut butter and jelly, barbeque and beer, me and another cup of coffee (hmmm. That's a good idea. *writer leaves to refresh her cup of coffee. Returns, sipping happily.*). And thanks to America's passion for fatty foods and zombies, you can add another pair to the list of happy couples: Bacon and the Undead.

The pairing has been around for a while. There was even a time when the Think Geek website had Bacon and Zombies as a product cateogry. But there was little to really connect the two things together, besides major demographic cross-over. In fact, there was only one product that expressly addressed the combination: Tac-Bac, Tactical Canned Bacon. Enjoy the taste of crisp bacon every day, without needing to leave your shelter and fight off the encroaching zombie horde.

But now, in the fabulous year of 2012, a product has come that perfectly expresses the beautiful harmony between Bacon and the Undead. It's the bacon coffin! Painted on the outside to look like bacon, and decked out on the inside with every amenity a corpse could desire.

But Maryanne, aren't coffins for the dead-dead and not the undead? Excellent question. The answer is that the bacon coffin is made for both. It comes with a built in bacon air freshener. Imagine, as you reanimate, smelling bacon all around you. Assuming that you can smell anything. And if you can't that's still okay, because you'll be able to emerge from the coffin smelling like bacon. Instead of running away from zombie-you in terror, people will run too you. You will be undead bacon bait. Perfection.

I really want someone to use one of these coffins in a movie. And to mix things up a little, it should be a vampire who pops out of the coffin, instead of a zombie. A unique variant of vampire, he would exist on blood and salty snack foods. Like barbeque flavored chips, or pork rinds (hmmm. *writer leaves to retrieve a bag of pork rinds. Returns, munching happily.*)

It won't be long before people are throwing bacon themed funerals. Imagine the food at the wake. Ooh, I hope they served those little bite-sized pieces of pineapple wrapped in bacon...and BLT sandwhiches dripping in Baconnaisse...

Clearly I need to stop writing and make myself a proper lunch. Until next time, stay alive and eat your bacon!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Legalized Necrophilia

The living world was stunned this week to learn that government officials in Egypt are considering a bill that would legalize necrophilia. Yep. For up to six hours after one spouse dies, the living and the dead could continue expressing their love for each other in a physical way. Well, one of them would continue expressing. The other would just...lie there. Decomposing and such.

If you want to read more about the bill, go here. The article raises a lot of issues in addition to the necrophilia bill, including religion and women's rights. I'm not going to go into those matters here, but feel free to discuss them among yourselves. I'm going to focus on the multitude of questions raised by the necrophilia bill itself.

First, the obvious questions. Why in the hell would anyone want this to be legal? What kind of weird stuff are supporters of the bill into? And how did this even get started? Was a very recent widower caught in the act with his corpse bride, resulting in arrest and public outcry? I don't know. And I question how lively someone's regular sex life could be, if they think doing it with a corpse is a good idea.

Next, the specifics of the bill. Why six hours? It this a rigor mortis thing? Probably. I mean, it's one thing to be locked in a passionate embrace, and quite another to become locked in a passionate embrace. Kind of embarrassing if you have to yell for the relatives in the next room to come and help you out.

Since the six hour requirement is mentioned in the proposed law with specificity, one must assume that going even one minute past the time limit would be a violation of the law. No doubt this will result in some stiff penalties. Yep. The unbending staff of justice shall come down on offenders with grave finality.

But who enforces the time limits? The local coroner, or relatives of the deceased? Or does Death keep watch, scythe in one hand and timer in the other.

"Okay you two love birds," Death says; "You've got about three minutes left. Better wrap things up."

"You mean the body?" asks the living spouse.

"No, I mean what you're doing. No one's in a rush to wrap up the body. After what you just did, no one wants to touch it."

"I just wanted to say goodbye."

"Yeah, there are greeting cards for that. Or flowers, for the grave. Are you so cheap you couldn't buy flowers? Is that what this is about?"

"But I'll never see my beloved's smiling face again."

"Look, idiot, I can see the face of your spouse's spirit watching right now, and there is no smile. There is retching, but no smiling. You sick freak."


I suppose there's some good in all of this. At least America wasn't the first country to push the idea. We'll write the books and make the movies about vampires and zombies, fueling an international obsession with the undead; some other country can do the weird stuff. And for pity's sake, let's not import it. The trade deficit is bad enough.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Baylor Practice Court: Myths, Legends, and Fear

Alert Undead Bar Association reader S. Einhorn contacted me today about a new Baylor Law news article. You can find it here, in the electronic copy of the Spring 2012 BaylorLine Magazine. Go to pages 18-19 and click on 'Read More' at the bottom of page 18. The article discusses Baylor Law's legendary Practice Court (PC) program.

I've mentioned the PC program on this blog before, when I discussed the joys of memos. This blog post will tackle PC from a different angle.

Two things about the Baylor Line article warrant comment. First: the myths, legends, and fear.

The article and the accompanying page of quotes from current students (first and second years who have yet to enter PC) cover the usual PC myths and legends. From the article:

Practice Court students circulate a list of advice to help incoming students avoid excessive classroom questioning. “Do not wear loud colors or patterns of attire. This attracts their attention,” they warn. Students are also advised to “Sit low in your chair,” and “Do not make eye contact.”
 

Really? Students and alumni are still telling pre-PC students that BS? You've got to be kidding me.

There is no statistically significant relationship between the color of your clothing and the number of times you are called on in class. Ditto making eye contact. Ditto on slumping down in your seat and trying to hide. There is also no connection between the number of memos Prof. Powell will hand out in a given day and which suit he is wearing (An upper level student told me that if Powell wore the pinstripe suit with the vest, it was time to run for the hills. For the first month, until I learned better, I believed).

I'm not saying this lightly. I observed the class action closely, and watched for trends. When I say there is no statistically significant relationship, I'm telling you that as a stats nerd with an undergrad business degree and a graduate business degree (in process while I was also pursuing my law degree), I did the analysis, and there was no connection. Myths and legends. Not reality.

If the prof wants to call on you, he will. There is no way to avoid the inevitable. And frankly, you should worry more if you're not called on. If the professor doesn't call you out the most you can hope to learn is the class material, and that's not enough. You can't learn to be a good attorney if you're always sitting down.

What if instead of perpetuating myths and legends, we told the truth. What if we told the pre-PC students something like this: “Forget about avoiding questions. You shouldn't be afraid that you'll be called on. Be afraid that when you are called on, you won't be sufficiently prepared. Be afraid that the professor calls on you to teach you a lesson, and you miss the point. Be afraid of making all your mistakes so quietly and so privately, of hiding your weaknesses so well, that the professor fails to see you need instruction. Don't fear the PC system. Fear your own demons...then see them for what they are, and crush them.”

But that doesn't happen. Why? Long-time reader D. Weaver put it best, in a message she sent me this afternoon: People make up crap to appear wise and important.

The myths and legends that build false fear are carried on to satisfy egos. Yeesh.

The second point I'd like to make about the article, and it's minor: whether or not the Titanic case can be won.

For all you non-Baylor lawyers out there, the Titanic case is one of many cases used for the capstone trial at the end of the PC program. It's widely regarded as the most challenging of all cases that a student can be assigned.

A student in the article is quoted as saying that the defense cannot win the Titanic case. Wrong. It can be done. I know this first-hand, because I was sitting in the jury box when it happened.

You should never, ever, assume your side of a case in unwinnable. No matter what the fact pattern, your client has a chance. You, the attorney, are that chance.

To be fair, the student may not have gone into court assuming his client's case was unwinnable. He may simply have concluded the case was unwinnable because he lost. If that's true then the student is a victim of a lack of information. Someone didn't teach him PC history.

But don't all PC students suffer from a lack of history? Again, imagine what would happen if the community of alumni and students came together to speak the truth.

Myths, legends, and fear.

Like law school wasn't hard enough already.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We're Under the Weather.

It's storm season in the Texas Panhandle. Good news: chance of rain. Bad news: chance of severe weather like tornados. Ugly news: chance of hail damage. So how do you get the information you need to protect your family from the bad and the ugly?

A friend of mine, M. Martinez, came up with her list of favorite weather alert tools. I consider her a weather guru of sorts, and eagerly perused her list. Then I asked if I could share it on the blog, and she said yes.

This is by no means a complete list, or an official one. But with all the changes in technology, it's a good idea to know about new options out there. So here we go.

NOAA Weather Radio - If you are at home or work, best way to receive warning. I like the Midland one, you can get them at Uniteds for 29.99 and program it with the SAME Code for your county. Don't forget to add batteries in case power goes out.

Local Media - All 3 stations do a pretty good job to keep you up to date. And radio too with some smaller radio stations with continuous live coverage.

Smartphone Apps:

iMap WeatherRadio - you can add different locations and specify what you want to be alerted on. Pretty slick app.

Social Media:

Use the #txwx hashtag in Twitter/Tweetdeck and you'll get reports & alot of the 'virtual chasers' input on the outlook or warnings

Follow iembot_ama. This is an automatic posting by the NWS Amarillo office. You'll get alot of the discussion links but the warnings and storms reports go out too. Maybe adding it to go straight to you as a text message during heightened severe weather days would be good.

Facebook/Follow local media & your local NWS

Other Alert Text/Voice Options:

Weather Channel Alerts - Free Email/Text for some providers. https://registration.weather.com/ursa/alerts/step1?&initAlerts=SVR

Nofify! Calls you to alert you if a warning is issued. Costs a little but an option for those without internet/text.
http://www.weather.com/services/notify.html

Other Information Avenues:
Emergency Radio - I use 5-0 Radio on my cell phone. But you can also find it online at: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/ Gives you a heads up on the trouble spots

NOAA streaming Weather Radio - If you are in the Amarillo area that is 1610AM on the radio or you can go to our website on the side panel to listen (oem.amarillo.gov)

There you go! Be safe, and pray for rain. Just rain.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Disappearing Class: A Law School Scandal

Baylor Law made legal news today by releasing private information about each student admitted to the fall incoming class to every student admitted to the incoming class. Assistant Dean Leah Jackson issued an apology. Somebody sent the data to the website Above the Law. The site released a redacted version of the file with a write-up of the event.

*sigh*. Welcome to Datagate.

There are three problems here. I'll address the most obvious one first.

What great galloping idiot of a would-be lawyer sent the data list to Above the Law? Which attorney wanna-be was that opportunistic and utterly devoid of class? The instant you saw what you had in your hands you should have deleted it. It was hot, it was wrong, and you knew it.

In the apology e-mail from Baylor Law, Associate Dean Leah Jackson made the following statement: “Due to the sensitive nature of the information that was contained in the attachment, we ask you to treat the document as confidential, just as you would as a lawyer, and delete the information.”


Perhaps you sent out the information before you received the apology from Associate Dean Jackson. Maybe you sent it out after. It really doesn't matter. You should have done the right thing without having to be told. If you do go on to become a lawyer, God help your clients.


The second problem was caused by Above the Law. You said in your article that “we're not going to compound Baylor's mistake by outing all of these innocent students who did nothing other than get admitted to a law school.” You then went on to PUBLISH THE LIST. It doesn't matter that you removed the students' names. By including the names of the undergraduate schools they attended, you published enough information to make those potential students vulnerable. If any of them do matriculate to Baylor in the fall, the upper classes will be able to figure out who is who. So will classes that follow. And you did it because you saw “some newsworthiness” in Baylor's mistake. Honor and class sacrificed for your perceived journalistic glory.

And now to the third problem, the big problem: Baylor Law.

Oh, Baylor Law. What were you thinking.

Yes, one person made the mistake by sending out the e-mail with the attachment. But it reflects on the whole school. It was an act that said very clearly, “We don't care about prospective students.” And the apology e-mail, while it is unequivocal, is hardly the start of real reparations.

The saddest part is the reaction of alumni. We aren't surprised. Ashamed, yes. Surprised, no. Too many things happened during law school that said, very clearly, “We don't care about students.” Why would you care about prospective students? You didn't care about the people inside the building, so why would you care about people waiting to get in?

I'm not talking about the professors. Some of them do truly care about the students. I'm certainly not talking about the library staff, who cared for me and the other library workers like we were family. I'm not talking about the other staff members who did what they could to make sure the students were still eating and getting by. I'm talking about the administration.

The first thing I thought about when I learned of Datagate was Promgate.

It was Spring 2006. We were all in a frenzy, prepping for final exams. And then we were told the the law school library would be off limits, commandeered by the Dean so that his high school offspring and friends could have a private, catered, pre-prom dinner, on the library's second floor. Our best study location became the private playground of outsiders. After outrage from the student body and involvement of the local media, the edict was adjusted. We were allowed to use the library, but not the second floor.

Was there ever an apology? Barely. Was there comprehension on the part of the administration as to the reason for our anger? No. The administration continued to schedule events during the hell weeks that preceded exams, with no regard for the students. CLE courses were regularly scheduled during peak study times, with attorneys pushing students out of classrooms and even seating areas in the hallways. Study groups built barricades around tables in a vain attempt to carve out some space to sit and review. The message from the administration was clear: outside attorneys matter; students don't.


For alumni who remember Promgate, Datagate is not a surprise. It's just the next level of what we all experienced first hand.

Again, I do recognize that Datagate was caused by one person. But tone comes from the top. The very fact that it was the Associate Dean who sent out the apology and not the Dean himself, says a lot.

The source of all three Datagate problems is the same: a lack of class. In Baylor Law's case, it may well cost them a class. It may cost them good calibre students for many classes to come.

Prove me wrong, Baylor Law. No one wants to think ill of their alma mater. If only you wouldn't make it so damn easy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Forget the Politics. This is Kind of Funny.

I can't remember the last time my writing and the national news had a thematic connection, but here we are. Today, I finished a scene for the new book. The scene pulls from some of my memories of the final year of law school. Just after I finished writing it, a friend from law school sent me a link to an article about the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Department of Justice. Related? You betcha.

By now you probably know that the President of the United States made some remarks about judicial review. National Health Care, Supreme Court, and all that jazz. Don't worry, I'm not about to go off on a political rant. If you were hoping that I was, too bad. Find another blog.

Yesterday, the National Health Care story took a twist. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is also hearing a case related to National Health Care, gave a homework assignment to the attorney from the Department of Justice, Dana Kaersvang. Minimum of three pages, single-spaced, due in two days, covering the legal issues related to the President's recent remarks.

*Hmph*. I'm surprised the Court didn't specify the font size and margins. But no doubt Attorney Kaersvang will look up the court specific rules and use the default requirements for pleadings in lieu of specific instruction on those matters. *Snort*.

Okay, I admit it. I'm laughing. It's funny. Not LMAO, or ROFL. But a quiet LOL. It's a laugh that goes like this: “Heh. Department of Justice got a Memo.”

Ah, the Memo. The 5th Circuit didn't call it that, and the media isn't using that term. But every alum from my law school is calling it that. That's what we called it when it happened to us.

The law school I attended had an intensive, mandatory practicum in the final year. Most law schools, the third year is a breeze. Not the one I picked. I went to the place where fun goes to die, the law school with a boot camp. I still have a t-shirt that says, “At other law schools the third year is a joke. Here, the joke's on you.” And one of the charms of our third year was the Memo.

What precisely is a Memo? Extra homework. Punishment. Teaching tool. Both. Neither. I was never clear on that. But I do know it was hell. Hell to have, and hell to see.

You could get a Memo for answering a question incorrectly in class. You could get a Memo for sitting next to someone who gave a wrong answer. You could even get a Memo if you answered correctly, a rare and painful occurrence that would have the people sitting around you wincing and scooting away out of fear your Memo was contagious.

Sometimes you understood why you were slapped with a Memo and sometimes you didn't. Sometimes a classmate gave a stupid answer to a question but escaped unscathed, leaving you to wonder if there really was such a thing as justice. At the end of the day you just had to shrug and say, “I got a Memo because I got a Memo.” Searching for a motive or reason wouldn't get the Memo done. Take the hit and move on – that was the ultimate lesson.

There was a clear technical benefit to Memos. It taught us to complete a research project fast. It prepared us for mini-trials, and those prepared us for cases.

Here's a little secret you won't read on another blog: a Court asking an attorney to do extra work during a trial is not unheard of. It just doesn't normally make the national news.

And we weren't just trained to take the hit when the Memo came. We were taught to anticipate the extra work. Yeah. Give yourself a Memo before the trial, on any issue you think the Court might question. I wrote them for mini-trials and big trial in school. When I was practicing law, I wrote one. Didn't need it, but I had it. Law school beat the Memo Paranoia into me.

(aside: Memo Paranoia would be a good band name)

Reading about someone slapped with a Memo in real life does force me to do something unpleasant: admit that my professors were right. I don't like doing this. I prefer being the bitter maverick alum; I do it so well. But truth is truth. If any of my classmates had been slapped with a memo by the 5th Court of Appeals, they would have taken the hit, written a kick-ass memo, and turned it in before the deadline. That's what we were trained to do. There. I said something nice. Ugh.

Back to the humor of the 5th Circuit Memo. No one is laughing at the attorney or making light of the subject material. We're laughing with the attorney, because we've had a taste of what it's like. We're laughing at memories. And in the case of at least one alum (me), we're laughing at ourselves, for finally seeing how right our professors were about taking the hits and being prepared.

To Attorney Kaersvang: Good luck. Take the hit, and move on. To my fellow alums and all attorneys out there, if you see Dana Kaersvang, buy that attorney a drink. Chuckle over this together. If there's any fraternity among us, it's fed by shared suffering, dark humor, and the bar.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Texas Independence Day

Today is Texas Independence Day! It's the anniversary of Texas declaring independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. The formal declaration marked the moment when Texas, after having been ruled by France (1684-1689), Spain (1690-1821), and Mexico, decided that whatever form of government followed, it would be a form chosen and not imposed.

Celebrate, Texans near and far. Dust off your Stetson and head out for some barbecue.

Should you decide to celebrate more formally, through a little rumination, I suggest you celebrate by remembering everything Texas' declaration was not. When Texas declared independence from Mexico, it was not the beginning of peace for the region. It was not an insipid, vapid, bipartisan announcement. And it sure as hell wasn't a suggestion.

The Texas Declaration of Independence marked the end of an internal war, a fight of ideals. Texas woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw Texas as Texas. The physical war went on, ending the following month, at San Jacinto.

Why would a state; or a nation, for that matter; celebrate a declaration of independence rather than the end of the physical war? To be fair, Texans do recognize San Jacinto Day (April 21). But we don't call it Independence Day. The day the last shot was fired was not the day independence was won. The day independence was won, was the day we stood up and proclaimed it to be ours.

Of course, the internal war for independence was less violent than the physical war. But that does not lessen the critical nature of the internal struggle. A physical fight unfueled by passion will be lost. A war without a goal cannot be sustained. But find within yourself a reason to take up arms, shout that reason to the heavens, and you can fight on through impossible odds. You can come back from disaster, to win the war.

So why is an author horror / supernatural law stories writing about Texas Independence Day? Two reasons. First, there is the geographic connection. Most of my stories are set in Texas. Second, and most importantly, there is a thematic connection between the concept of independence and my stories.

Today's culture is obsessed with gilded myths of undead monsters. The undead are shrouded in a dark, sexy allure. They're not like us, so we should want to be with them. We should aspire to be them.

The undead are different from the living, in one key way. It is not an enviable difference. The undead have no independence. Each variant of undead is controlled, their existence driven by some insatiable need. For zombies, its the need to eat brains or flesh. Vampires, blood. Ghosts are forced to haunt a place, person, or thing, until business is finished or the spirit is avenged. Werewolves are driven by a condition or disease they can rarely, if ever, control. The undead are not independent of their state. They cannot choose to become independent of what they are.

You appreciate the difference between the living and the undead when a living person picks up a weapon, faces the unholy hoard, and declares, “I don't care that you out number me. I'm not putting up with your crap any longer. This is my world, and you're leaving it.” The living assert there independence from what the world wants them to become, separating themselves from the controlled and grotesque undead masses.

Independence is a privilege. You declare it, and you fight for it. You can not assume independence will be given to you, or that it will never be taken away. If you presume the existence of a static sanctuary, you sacrifice a chance to be the best person you can be. Be complacent, and lose yourself. Lose your independence. When that moment comes, you join the ranks of the undead. You get to be another controlled thing, stumbling around in a cold night-world that is not nearly as sexy as the rank and file culture would have you believe.

Today, we remember those who fought a war against their own fears, and won. We celebrate their courage. And if we're wise, we honor their memory, by recognizing what their moment was and was not...and by deciding and declaring who we will be.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Picture's Worth...A Pen Name, and more.

Monday was the day of the professional photo shoot. Chriselda did an incredible job. It was a challenge; I needed head shots plus photos that would complement the Undead Bar Association stories, the science fiction book, and the fantasy series I'm working on.

Yes, I was planning ahead. In the perfect world (the one that only exists inside my head), I will publish one Undead Bar Association book, the science fiction book, and the first book of the fantasy series this year. So I thought, let's take pictures for everything! And we did.

You can see a collage with some of the photos here, on the Chriselda Photography blog. So far, the friends and family favorite is the photo of me in the cloak and hood. Clearly, that is the fantasy influenced outfit. But I might be using the shot before the fantasy books come out, because it is so dramatic and expressive.

The cloak has a connection to two parts of my pen name. The middle name of the nom de plume, Mackenzie, comes from my mother's side of the family. And it was my maternal grandmother who designed and made the cloak, as a gift for my mother. My mother then passed it on to me, when I left for college.

The last name of the pen name, Wells, also has a connection to the cloak. A few years ago, I played the hypnotised maid Miss Wells in a local production of Dracula. The play is referenced in the UBA stories “No Fracking Way” as part of the Wells family history. In real life, I took a part back stage when I wasn't needed on stage. My job was to unlatch the door of the hidden bookcase at a critical moment, and re-latch it after the actors ran through. There was no time for me to change out of my maid costume and help backstage. I needed something that would completely cover me, in my little white and black costume, just in case the audience caught a glimpse of me backstage. So I reached for...Grandma's cloak! The Mackenzie touched cloak, that enveloped Miss Wells.

The first part of the pen name had a part in the photo shoot, too. My paternal grandmother's first and middle names were Mary and Anne, hence Maryanne. I inherited one of her old brass candlesticks. We used it in the background of some of the first photos we took on Monday. The candlestick is not in any of the collage shots, but you may see it later on.

Unbeknownst to Chriselda, she picked locations with personal significance for me. The first location was on a stretch of road I drive often, not far from some of my favorite haunts. The field where we took the cloaks photos was near my parent's house. And the alley that hosted the final photos was across the street from the courthouse where I was sworn in as an attorney.

Once I get the final photos, I'll be updating the blog. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

UBA Wardrobe - Kimberly

I gave a designer friend of mine descriptions of some UBA female characters. She pulled together a look for each one. This one is for Kimberly, the Vildru sorceress.

Here's the description I gave Dacie, the Designer:

In physical appearance, Kimberly is like a beautiful doll. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. She's an evil Vildru sorceress, and has to hide her scarred left hand. She dresses with the goal of appealing to some of the evil male sorcerers in her group.

And here's the look Dacie designed:

Kimberly


Azzaro chain shirt
fashion.1stdibs.com

Nina Ricci ruched skirt
£1,155 - brownsfashion.com

Wedge shoes
amazon.com

John Lewis Women bow glove
£13 - johnlewis.com




I know Kimberly's evil, but...I want her wardrobe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Announcement - We're Going from Blog to Books

After researching options, talking with readers, and soul-searching while sipping way too much coffee, I reached a decision. The Undead Bar Association stories will be changing into e-book format.


When this blog began, the possibility of publishing for profit wasn't on the horizon. The writing was all about blowing off steam and having fun. It still is about those things, but there's a change in direction.

Enough people have written to me, telling me what the stories mean to them, that I've come to recognize the audience beyond myself and the other original members of the UBA. If I can make something happen by changing the format, if I can find some financial freedom this way, I'll be able to devote more time to the series. There's a lot to tell. And I now know that more of you want to hear it, because you've told me that in the struggles and humor of the UBA you've found an echo of yourselves. Or you just like heroine's snark.

So here's how the transition will work. Each UBA e-book will contain two stories. The first will be an old story, and the second will be new, never seen before. As each story from the blog is transferred to an e-book, it will be removed from the blog (with one exception). A synopsis of each story, new and old, will be kept on the blog.

Eventually, all but one story will be removed from the blog. At that point, the blog will be used for writing updates and offbeat articles and the e-books going forward will have two new stories each.

What's the one story that will remain on the blog? The origin story, “Black Letter Law”. The story will stay on the blog for three reasons. First, it was the only story I co-authored with Naomi O'Conners. That makes it very special, to the UBA. Second, it is the origin story, and will give newcomers the best idea what the UBA is about. Finally, the story will stay because its evolving so much as its being edited. It is becoming an excellent example of what happens when you take a story from rough draft to finished product.

I'm currently editing “Black Letter Law” and writing the companion story, “Corpus Delicti.” The finished book will be published in 2012. Updates will be posted to the blog, of course.

In addition to the UBA, I have two other writing projects on my desk. One is a series of fantasy books, and the other (sigh) is a sci-fi oddity. Really, I don't know how to explain the latter. I can only say that its really fun to write. I haven't decided yet how I will publish the other two projects. We'll see how the UBA e-books go.

Final words, for today. The blog will get a facelift soon. I have a photo shoot scheduled with Chriselda, my favorite Texas Panhandle photographer. Once I get the photos back from her, I'll update the look of the blog.


Tune in later this week for UBA fashion! If you were an evil Vildru sorceress, what would you wear?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wrap-up of Homesdead

This is the wrap-up of the story 'Homesdead'. The story began here.

Pampa, Texas

The best way to begin this wrap-up, is to open with the sentiment that spurred on my writing of the story: gratitude. Thank you, my friends in Pampa, Texas, for your love and support. You know who you are. Several of you chose character names for this story, and cheered me on as I wrote your smiles and charm into the tapestry of my fictional world.


A few years ago, I hit a spiritual low point that I couldn't come back from alone. Even writing wasn't enough. Normally under those circumstances, I would have turned to the stage to cheer me up. This time, it didn't pan out. I talked to a good friend about my problems, and she came up with a unique solution. She talked to some friends in Pampa. And that's how I was introduced to the world of the Pampa Nutcracker. The men and women of the Pampa Civic Ballet welcomed me with warm hearts and open arms. It was exactly what I needed. Thank you.


Cameo

I pulled a Hitchcock in this story, a little cameo. Here's a hint – last chapter, someone you haven't seen before.

My Pampa friends don't need the hint, of course. They know.


Music
In the early parts of the story, our heroine and Charlotte talk about the lyrics of a Sonia Leigh song. They're referencing the artist's latest album, titled December 1978. It's loaded with great driving music. I listened to it during my last trip to Pampa, there and back again.

I actually have a specific 'Maryanne' playlist. It has tunes from Alabama, Asleep at the Wheel, Janis Joplin, Sonia Leigh, Sass Jordan, and odds 'n ends from soundtracks like Twister and Cars, to name a few. I don't listen to it when I write, but its my go to playlist when I drive.


Where this story fits in the big picture

This story stands out from the other UBA stories in the three ways. First, the geographic location within Texas is made very clear. Second, there's a healthy dose of Texas law thrown in and tied directly to the supernatural aspects. Three, there's a major timeline jump.

The first two aspects are what they are; I want to focus attention on the third. Part way into the story, Maryanne leaves Pampa and goes to Paris. She comes back despondent and taciturn. The focus of the short story is on events in Pampa, so events in Paris are not explained. Regular readers of this blog have heard Paris mentioned before...Absola emailed Maryanne from Paris. The chain of emails and attached documents, mentioned in the current story, were included in full in the story 'Doubled Jeopardy'. The details of Absola's adventures, and Maryanne's misadventures, will come in a later story.

In a previous blog entry I mentioned publishing Absola's Paris story soon, on the blog. Double change of plans – it won't be soon, and it won't be on the blog. I'll explain the why in the next blog entry.

The Vildru, while not actively present in this story, are far from forgotten. They're part of the main story arc that runs through the series. The development in this story: there are two factions of Vildru, and they've experimented on the same person. Maryanne knows who that person is, and regular readers may have already guessed. If you haven't guessed yet, read / re-read 'Doubled Jeopardy' and this story for the clues. And don't forget, our darlin' heroine has already made a mistake that leaves her and the rest of the UBA vulnerable. It's all connected.



Anthony

We saw the departure of a long time UBA member during this story. Rest in peace, Anthony.

Hmm. Is that an appropriate thing to say to a dead ghost? And what is he now that he's no longer undead? Dead-dead? There's something to debate over a cup of joe.

Do note my choice of words. We did not say farewell. We said rest in peace. If I'm successful in bringing this series to my envisioned finale (in the distant future), there will be reason to recall the semantic distinction.



The next blog entry will address the future of the Undead Bar Association blog and stories. I hope you'll tune in.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Homesdead - Part 31. Maryanne Wells.

This is the final part of a serial story.  The story began here.

In the weeks that followed, I almost forgot about Pampa and the Johnson case. There was plenty going on in Amarillo that kept my busy. But a stream of e-mails from Steve and Alfredo reminded me of the friends I had waiting in the town to the north. Then Deedee and Renee started messaging me, too. It was clear I'd get no rest until I returned to Pampa for the Nutcracker ballet. So, on a chilly day in December, I put on a dress and hauled myself back to Pampa.

When I saw the Nutcracker as a child, the story made no sense to me. There were too many plot holes. I found that time hadn't really remedied that failing.

The Nutcracker opens with a party scene, during which a little girl, Clara, is given a nutcracker doll. She falls asleep in the living room. She dreams that the nutcracker comes to life. The wooden doll, with the help of a small army of toy soldiers who have also come to life, battles a bunch of local mice. The king of the mice almost wins. Just as he's about to mortally wound the nutcracker, Clara steps up and whacks the mouse king over the head with her shoe. Either she's unusually spirited, or feminism was alive and well in her otherwise rigid, Victorian family. The Nutcracker steps up and kills the mouse king. For some reason, the death of his rodent foe turns the nutcracker into a real prince. The prince takes Clara off to some sort of magical candyland, which he may or may not rule. Either the Sugar Plum Fairy rules the world, or she's acting as the prince's regent. Regardless of who's actually in charge, the Sugar Plum Fairy thinks Clara should be honored for hitting a mouse with a shoe. Clara gets a flower, a giant lollipop, and the chance to view a series of ethnic dances. With such grand rewards, there's little doubt Clara became a serial rodent killer by the time she hit puberty.

What any of it has to do with Christmas is beyond me.

Don't get me wrong; attending the nutcracker can be a great holiday tradition. I tend to over-think things. I know that. It's what I've done my whole life. Really, if I let got of the nutcracker storyline and just enjoy the dancing, it's fun. And in Pampa it was easy to let go and just enjoy myself, because I knew some of the performers.

I smiled when Dee Dee came out on stage as the family nurse. She led a small herd of children in a dance then settled them on the floor near the Christmas tree. Alayna popped out of a box, dressed as a life-size doll. She danced across the stage, to the delight of everyone at the party. The children had barely calmed down from the excitement of giant dolls and presents when Alfredo moved to the center of the stage. He raised his arms in a grand gesture, and the adults on stage moved forward into a line.

My eyes went to Renee. She was wearing a grand frock with a long, blue skirt. Renee took her partner's hand and danced with graceful ease. If she was that good in the opening scene, I couldn't wait to see her dance in the second act. As for her dance partner, my cousin Steve, he didn't mess up. Some people would even say he did well.

A woman dressed in pink, Clara's aunt, I think, flirted shamelessly with her on-stage beau. I chuckled at the very Victorian shock on Renee's face. Then someone seated in the row ahead of me shifted in their seats, pulling my attention from the stage.

It was Nora Johnson; I was sure of it. The tilt of her head was a dead give away. She turned her to say something to a man seated on her right. I saw her profile, and in the dim light caught a glimpse of her smile.

She smiled? Truly? Something coiled tightly around my heart loosened a few degrees. Somehow, after all the darkness and hate, this woman found joy in living.

I looked for Nora during the intermission. It was surprisingly difficult to find her. The lobby quickly filled with people. The crowd ebbed and flowed around the various themed Christmas trees. I saw more motion than individuals.

The lights in the lobby dimmed, signaling the end of the intermission. I joined the crowd filing slowly back into the theater. Suddenly, I felt a gentle touch on my arm.

“Hello, Maryanne,” said Nora Johnson.

I turned and smiled at her. “I hoped I'd find you,” I said; “looks like you beat me to it.”

“Frank and I saw you, and wanted to say hello.”

“Frank?” I queried. Looking at the man next to Mrs. Johnson, I recognized Frank Barton.

Nora looked at Frank fondly. “We've known each other for years. Recently we've had a chance to talk and, well...” she trailed off and blushed.

“Nora agreed to let me take her out this evening. Dinner and a show,” Mr. Barton said jocundly. He offered Nora his arm. She accepted with a smile.

“I'm so glad,” I said. “It's not often I get to see a client after a case is done. And you're happy.”

“Yes,” Nora said contentedly. “I was able to buy a little house down the road. And I got a job at the elementary school, as administrative secretary. Life is good.”

Mr. Barton looked around at the churning crowd. “I think we're gumming up the works, ladies. We should go in.”

I nodded and led the way. At the entrance to my row I paused to watch the happy couple go past. Nora Johnson looked back at me one more time, and said, “Merry Christmas, Maryanne. God bless you.”

Something caught in my throat, and my vision blurred. I nodded. When I could speak again I whispered, “Merry Christmas, Nora. And Happy New Year.”

Homesdead - Part 30. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 30 of a serial story.  The story began here.

Steve insisted on being present when Hank was removed from the house.

“It's not entertaining,” I warned him. “It's not like going to the movies and seeing a lot of special effects. You can walk away after you've been to the movies without a mark on your soul. But seeing a ghost removed impacts you, in inexplicable ways. Your own spirit will shiver when you it bears witness to another being forced forever out of the mortal realm.

“I would think my soul would rejoice. Aren't we righting a wrong?” Steve asked.

“Yes, but we're using force to do it. Souls don't like to be forced. Your own won't want to see this happen.”

“I'm going,” Steve insisted.

Father Blackman accepted Steve's presence without question. He handed my cousin the incense burner, and told him where to stand.

“Will you call the ghost?” Father Blackman asked me.

I nodded and pulled a cheese-cracker out of my pocket. The orange squares had taken on almost as much significance as a communion wafer. Which reminded me...

“Did you ever talk to Mrs. Johnson about Hank's obsession with food?” I asked Father Blackman.

He smiled. “When Hank was alive, it was Nora who obsessed about food. Hank choked once, here in the kitchen. He performed the Heimlich on himself using the rounded top-post of a chair.”

“And after that, Nora nagged him to take smaller bites,” I concluded. Father Blackman nodded. “Good to know,” I murmured.

“Why? Is is helpful?” asked Steve.

“Choking, I'm told, is a very unpleasant experience. Hank's experienced it twice. I suspect he remembers quite vividly what it feels like.” I held the cracker high above my head and crushed it between my fingers.

“SMALLER BITES!” screamed Hank.

Instantly, Father Blackman threw a handful of fine, white salt in the air. He signaled to Steve, who made quick circle with smoke from the incense burner. The salt and the smoke blended together. They hovered then settled slowly into a vaguely human form.

“Greetings, Hank Johnson,” I said.

The form took on definition. A tall man in his early eighties, bald, but still strong with a workman's bulky build. “You,” he growled.

“Yes. The name's Maryanne Wells, by the way. Not that I expect you to care.”

“I don't.” Hank Johnson looked around the room slowly. He spied the priest and sneered. “Going to try again, are you?”

I rubbed the cracker bits between my fingers to get Hank's attention. I wanted him focused on me, not the priest. Hank turned around and glared at me.

“Don't toy with me,” he said. Suddenly, he grabbed the edge of the table. Hank lifted the unwieldy piece of furniture and tossed it across the room. The priest and Steve ducked, dropping down to the floor.

I laughed. “What a dangerous power,” I said. “Has it occurred to you, Hank, that if you are sufficiently corporeal to lift up furniture and throw it, you might be subject to physical things hurting you?”

“What do you mean?”

I pulled a fresh cracker out of my pocket. “I wonder what it would be like to choke to death twice. Say we were to force this into your throat whole, and the little corners got caught. What would it be like for you to feel the sharp edges digging in, to know your air was being cut off, to feel fluids seeping back from your mouth and getting caught in your throat.”

Hank backed away from me. His eyes were fixed on the cracker. “You can't do it,” he said; “It's impossible.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe if you can lift a table, a cracker can choke you.”

He drew himself to his full height and swelled with range. “You can't force it into me. You have no power.” He raised his ghostly arms and shouted, “Try and hold me down.”

“If you insist,” I said mildly. I looked beyond Hank to a spot near the window. “Now, Anthony,” I shouted.

Anthony materialized through the wall and grabbed Hank from behind. He wrapped his arms around Hank's trying to pin down the stronger ghost's limbs. The two struggled and stumbled around the kitchen.

I dodged around the ghosts and joined Father Blackman. “Open the portal to the next realm,” I ordered him.

Father Blackman stared at the sight of the wrestling ghosts. “Why...why are there two?” he gasped.

“The new guy's on our side. Quickly, open the portal.”

Fumbling a little, the priest pulled out his bible and began to read in Latin. I closed my ears to the words and turned back to the ghosts.

“Hold him down, Anthony,” I shouted; “I'm coming with the cracker.”

Hank struggles instantly increased.

“It's done,” Father Blakman

“Now, Anthony,” I yelled.

Anthony nodded and dragged Hank to the portal. The suction from inside pulled at them both. Father Blackman gestured for Steve to wave the incense, as he began to pray aloud. Anthony released Hank and floated back.

Hank choked on the incense and stumbled closer to the portal. I looked into his eyes and saw the resolve – he would fight us, to the better end.

“You'll have to drag him,” I told Anthony.

He looked at me mournfully for a moment then floated over to the portal. With one hand Anthony grasped the edge. He let the bulk of his form drift inside. The he reached out his free arm and grabbed Hank around the neck.

“Time to go,” Anthony said.

Hank screamed and clawed at Anthony's arm. Father Blackman prayed louder. Hank glared and tried to kick the priest. The motion threw Hank off balance, allowing Anthony to yank him into the portal.

“NO,” Hank screamed. He hovered for a moment in the center of the portal, before the force sucked him in. We watched him disappear from sight.

“He's someone else's problem now,” I said. “Anthony, climb out of there.”

The ghost gasped and shook.

“Quit playing,” I said, alarmed.

Anthony looked at me. “I'm not,” he said weakly. “The pull is too strong. I don't have enough energy left to fight.”

I grabbed Father Blackman's shoulder. “Close the portal, quickly.”

He flipped through the bible. I watched him scan handwritten notes in the margins. “I'm not sure I can,” he confessed.

“What? What do you mean?”

“After my last encounter with Hank, I realized he was stronger than other ghosts. For this battle I changed the nature of the portal, to better deal with Hank. It absolutely will not close until it's captured every ghost in the house.”

No. Oh, no.

When I'd goaded Anthony into helping me, I hadn't really believed there was any danger to him. I wanted to scare him, that was all. He needed to know there were worse things to fear than our mortal enemies. I never meant for him to face those things.

“Anthony,” I cried out. I lunged for his hand, only to see my solid fingers pass through his own. There was nothing I could do to keep him here.

He smiled sadly. “My time's up. We both knew this day would come.”

I shouldn't have told him to come. “I'm sorry,” I choked out. I started to cry. It was all my fault. “I knew you betrayed us, but I could never think of you as a traitor. I thought...I thought...”

“It's okay, baby.” Anthony grabbed the lip of the portal with both hands. He used the last of his strength to pull himself forward. “Got to tell you something,” he gasped. I stepped as close as I dared, and looked him in the eye.

Anthony said, “The Vildru sorcerers are falling apart. They're arguing with each other. Two groups. Two plans to rule the world. Winner takes all.” He grimaced. I looked beyond him and saw the vortex growing in strength.

“Paris...was just the beginning,” Anthony gasped. “It was a test.”

“What will they do next?” I asked.

“One group is stronger than the other. A natural winner. But if you take down the strongest, first...then the weakest...save...the world.”

“Who? Who's stronger?”

“Don't know. But they experimented on...the same...victim.” He reached out a trembling hand. The vortex roared and grabbed at his feet. “You have to save her,” Anthony shouted; “you have to save -”

He was gone. The portal folded in on itself then shut with a bang.

“What the hell was that about,” demanded a wide-eyed Steve.

I wiped away my tears. “You don't want to know,” I said thickly.

“Is someone in danger?” Father Blackman asked.

“Everyone. But if you're wondering if Anthony was referring to someone in particular, he was. And I know who.”