Author Archives: Judi Lynn

About Judi Lynn

https://writingmusings.wordpress.com/ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5023544.Judith_Post @judypost on twitter Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn

Book Cover Reveal

I’m so excited!  I finally get to share the book cover for Jazzi Zanders #4, coming out March 17, 2020.  I know.  Forever away.  But Kensington sent me the cover a while ago, and I couldn’t share it until it went up on dru’s book musings.  I love it when Dru hosts me.  She’s so supportive of mystery writers.  But today’s the day!  And now I can share the cover on my own sites.  Hope you love it as much as I do.  Tammy Seidick’s designed all of my Kensington covers, and I think she’s done a wonderful job.

https://drusbookmusing.com/2019/11/24/cover-reveal-jazzi-zanders-4/?unapproved=87750&moderation-hash=0391adf73a2cda700826dcb6866f71ba#comment-87750

TheBodyInTheApartment_ COVER

P.S.  It took me forever to notice the cute little skull for the “o” on the welcome mat.  Love it!

Tattoos and Portents–4

Chapter 4

Hester and Raven's Christmas tree

A witch I’d never seen before—and I know almost everyone in Muddy River—met me at my school’s door the next morning. I could feel her magic, and it was fairly strong.

She looked nervous. “We just moved to Muddy River. I’m half witch, and my husband’s half warlock. Our daughter’s ten and has no magical training.” She motioned to a young girl sitting in their nearby car. “We live a little outside of town, near Aurel and Carlotta. He suggested sending Blythe to your school.”

Aurel was a vampire who’d helped us in several battles lately. Raven and I were fond of him and his newly changed wife. In fact, they were two of the people we’d invited to our house for Yule dinner, along with Derek and Prim and others. Aurel and Derek enjoyed sharing stories of being vampires. They both loved celebrating Yule with us.

“Derek and I talked, and we could never go out in the light until we came to Muddy River,” Aurel told me. “Your potion protects vampires from the sun. We spent decades living our lives in darkness. Celebrating the yule log’s warmth and light has special meaning for us, in fact, for every vampire in town.”

If Aurel recommended my school to his new neighbor, there was no way I’d turn her away. I smiled to reassure her. “Blythe will be a little behind everyone else, but we’ll help her catch up. First, though, I need to know what kind of witch she is—earth, air, water, or fire.”

The woman motioned for the girl to join us. She reluctantly got out of the car and came to us. Blythe was average height for her age with the pinched expression of a worrier, clearly self-conscious.

I waved my hand to unlock the school door and motioned them inside, trying another smile to put Blythe at ease. No luck. She glanced at Claws nervously.

“He’s my familiar,” I told her. “He loves my students.”

She stepped a little away from him.

I gave up on niceties and said, “Let’s find out what kind of magic you have. Throw energy at me.”

She blinked. “I don’t know how.”

“No problem. Just raise your palm and try to shoot me. Don’t worry. You won’t hurt me. I can block whatever you throw.”

She raised her arm, aimed her palm at me, and a weak flow of energy fizzled before it reached me. “That’s a start. You’ll get better at it. You’re a fire witch. There are a few others in my classes.”

The girl’s shoulders stooped as she sank into herself.

I tried another tack. I turned to her mother. “By the way, I’m Hester Wand, the high priestess of Muddy River’s coven. My mate is a fire demon, Raven Black, the town’s enforcer. Welcome to Muddy River.” I looked at Blythe to include her in the greeting, and she moved to stand slightly behind her mother.

“We’re happy to be here.” The woman placed a reassuring hand on Blythe’s shoulder. “Thank you. I’m Bronwen, a ceramic artist, and my husband’s Evander, a landscape painter. We hired a graphic artist from Muddy River—Tristan—to create a website for us and another Muddy River resident—Festus—to advertise it for us. That’s how we heard of Muddy River and decided to move here.”

“I’d wondered what brought you. Not many people know of us.” Any more conversation was cut short when the school door opened and students rushed inside. As Asch passed me, I motioned for her to join us. “Asch, we have a new student. She’s a ten-year-old like you.” It would be nice for Asch to have another student her age. I knew she’d felt a bit like the odd girl out with only younger and older students to mingle with. She was tall for her age, so looked older, but inside, she was still a fourth grader. “Blythe’s a little nervous meeting new people at a new school. I thought you could make her feel more at home.”

Asch’s grin widened as she reached for Blythe’s hand. “Come on. I’ll help you get started.”

Blythe hesitated, but Asch gave her a tug, partially dragging her to table.

I hadn’t had time to write the day’s lessons on the board, so said, “This would be a good time for each of you to study your grimoire’s before today’s lessons. I’ll be with you soon.”

Drawers opened, and my little witches reached for the books of spells. Asch motioned for Blythe to sit closer as she showed her the pages of her book.

I turned to Bronwen. “May I ask if there was a reason your family decided to move here now, after the school year started?”

Bronwen’s expression turned serious. “We’d have stayed south of here in Kentucky, but too many bodies started disappearing before they even made it to the grave. Actually, before they even made it to the morgue or funeral home most times. It worried us.”

“Where did you live in Kentucky?” I asked.

When she described the area, I realized it was close to the town where Festus had traveled. A frisson of excitement sizzled through me, but I didn’t have time to dwell on that now. I had a class to teach. I thanked Bronwen for coming and went to the board to write down lessons for each grade group in the room. Even as I wrote, though, I could hardly wait for the day to end. I wanted to share my news with Raven.

As always, when I wanted time to pass quickly, it didn’t. We had a good day, and the students were as excited about the new spells I was teaching as they were about the upcoming holidays, but my mind kept wandering to Bronwen’s news. When the day finally ended, Claws and I walked faster than usual to get home.

Raven looked up from his laptop when we burst into the kitchen. He’d already poured a glass of wine for each of us, and he pushed his work away to hear about my day. When I told him about the new family who’d moved here and why, he frowned. “You mean someone dug the bodies up?”

I shook my head. “That’s not how she made it sound. She said that the bodies disappeared before they made it to the funeral home. No embalming. They died and disappeared.”

Raven leaned back in his chair, rubbing his strong jaw. It had the hint of stubble, and he looked sexier than usual. Frowning, he said, “Brown and I have been working together on this missing girl, but he’s had to spend most of his time on a murder case in one of the mortal towns he’s in charge of. He’ll be happy we’ve made a tiny bit of progress on this.”

“Is he coming with us to the voodoo village on Sunday?”

Raven nodded. “Him and Meda both.”

That made me happy. Meda was in my coven, and I enjoyed spending time with her. We could gossip on the long drive.

Raven grinned at my expression. “She wouldn’t let Brown come without her, said that she’d sit in the backseat with you, and you two could catch up on the way there.” My fire demon had spent decades avoiding close contacts of any kind and was just beginning to appreciate the joys of having strong friendships. It amused him to watch me and my coven get together.

He told me about his day, mollifying residents who were complaining that there should be more holiday decorations in town, before we climbed to the attic to take my Yule decorations out of storage. The third floor of my home was spacious, and I used most of it as a workroom to study magic and perfect new spells and protective pouches. I’d made a study on the first floor for Raven, but he preferred to work at our old wooden kitchen table.

After we dragged all of the boxes downstairs, we started making supper together. Nothing fancy—pork chops and sautéed apples with a salad. Once we ate and cleaned up, we went back to decorating. When we finished, cauldrons, wands, moons, and stars hung from tree branches, and a witch dressed in a black pointed hat and long black dress sat on the fireplace mantle with her legs dangling over the edge, dressed in red and green striped stockings.

We stepped back to study what we’d done.

“I like it,” Raven said.

So did I. The kitchen could wait till tomorrow night. We grabbed our books and settled in the living room to relax. By the time we left to visit the voodoo village on Sunday, the house decorations would be done.

Was This Really a Good Idea?

You know how sometimes, you want more than you can handle?  More than you need?  And you fuss over it and think you can have it all…and you should know better?  Well, I might have done that.

I love writing Jazzi mysteries for Lyrical Press.  And I love writing Muddy River to put up myself, because I have fun writing them.  And that in itself should have pleased me.  Except then, I thought of a straight mystery idea, and I really wanted to write that, too.  So I am.

When I work on Jazzi, it’s the only thing I concentrate on.  I put all of my energy into one book.  But I just sent in my 5th manuscript, and I didn’t have that many revisions, so I finished them, too.  And now, I have a little play time before I need to start the next one.

So I decided to try my hand at something completely different–the straight mystery.  And it’s a challenge, but I like it.  The problem is, I’d already plotted the entire next Muddy River, and that story just kept pestering me.  It wanted written.  So did Old Friends, New Habits.  So I came up with an idea.  For right now, and maybe never again, I start my day by writing a chapter of Muddy River.  I’ve thought and thought about this book, so it’s just getting the words down.  And the story excites me as much as I thought it would.  When it’s lunch time, I put Muddy River away for the day.

HH and I always take our time over lunch, catching up with each other and yakking about anything and everything.  And that clears my mind so that by the time I get back to my computer, I’m ready to start work on a new chapter for the straight mystery.  I shared a chapter of it with you earlier.  I have it all plotted out, too.  (I can’t write without a plot.  For me, it’s like driving across country without a map.  Who knows what route I’d take and where I’d end up).

I’ve been doing this for two weeks now, and so far, I like it.  I don’t think I could do it for long periods of time, but I only plan on trying it between Jazzi books.  Both of the fun books will be shorter than Jazzi’s, so they’ll go faster.  I have no idea if I’ll get them both done at the same time, but I might.  I’m not even certain what I intend to do with Old Friends, New Habits.  But for now, I’ve been writing like a mad woman and enjoying myself quite a bit.  (Don’t look at the dust in my house, though).

I’m hoping that by January 1st, I’ll be ready to start pounding away on The Body in the Beauty Shop (another working title).  House cleaning and decorating for the holidays has to wait for the weekends to get done.  But in January, things slow down, the weather gets cold, and I hibernate.  The perfect time to hunker down to serious work.

Hope words are piling up for you, too, especially if you’re participating in NaNo.  And if you’re not hitting the keys at the moment, hope you’re doing something else fun.  For the rest of us, Happy Writing!

Tattoos and Portents–3

Witches in Muddy River love the Yule time spirit.  Hester and Raven decorate their home to celebrate and to invite her coven over for a Yule Eve get-together.  Unfortunately, as usual, they’re trying to help a kidnapped witch while they hang cauldron, wand, and pointed hat ornaments on their tree:

Chapter 3

It was dark outside, and that always made me feel like it was later in the day, but it was actually only a little after six. Soon, we’d reach the shortest day of the year, and then gradually light would return to our world. In the meantime, we’d don trees and eaves with strands of colored bulbs and light candles to chase away the gloom.

Raven and I headed to the kitchen to start supper. We enjoyed cooking together. He poured us each another glass of wine, then he started slicing onions and peppers while I sliced skinless, boneless chicken thighs to make a quick curry chicken.

Claws padded to the wooden work table to beg for a snack. He wasn’t as fond of hunting along the river banks when snow covered the ground. I tossed him a chicken thigh, and he happily chomped on it. Raven voted on serving the curry with Ramen noodles instead of rice, which made our prep even easier.

“Do you still want to work on putting up Yule decorations?” he asked, as he searched for a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables in the fridge. This was one of the laziest meals in our repertoire. “We have everything decorated outside the house. You were thinking about starting on the inside tonight.”

“I’d like to put up all the greens and garlands tonight, if we can. Then we can add to them during the week. Once the house is decorated, we’ll starting making as much food ahead as possible for our Christmas Eve get together.”

I invited every witch in my coven, along with their families, to our house for a Yule celebration. That made for a houseful, including their husbands and children. I didn’t make traditional holiday food since they’d have that with their families on Christmas day. So would we. Since neither Raven nor I had families, we invited other friends without any to our house for ham, turkey, and prime rib. They brought side dishes and desserts.

For Yule Eve, we offered party food—shrimp and andouille gumbo dip, sausage Parmesan palmiers, and baked Brie spanakopita, among other things. And I made lots of cookies and candies.

Witches might not celebrate the traditional Christmas story, but white witches value Goodness, Kindness, and generosity of spirit as much as anyone else. And we esteem Nature, so placing a yule log in the fireplace and decorating an evergreen tree are traditions we can appreciate, as well as gift giving to show love and appreciation to one another.

Over supper, Raven and I shared our day’s events. Raven was working a missing person’s case at the moment. A young witch who lived in a nearby mortal town had disappeared. Luckily, Brown, a shifter and deputy sheriff who worked for mortal law enforcement was investigating it. Brown had moved to Muddy River when he mated Meda, one of the witches in my coven.

Raven explained, “The girl’s parents think she ran off with a cat shifter who lives two towns away from them. He disappeared at the same time. The two think they’re in love. His parents didn’t approve of him seeing a witch.”

I rolled my eyes. “His parents must be pure bloods?” There weren’t many of us left. Most supernaturals these days had intermarried, shifters and witches mating with each other or incubi or whatever other species happened to live nearby.

He nodded. “And proud of it. They’d picked out a nice shifter girl they approved of for him.”

I snorted. “Kids don’t put up with arranged marriages these days. At least, most don’t.” I stabbed my last piece of chicken and swiped it through the remaining curry sauce. “Do you think the missing witch could be the young girl in Festus’s dream?”

“It’s possible.” Raven frowned, frustrated. “We haven’t been able to find any kind of trail—no credit cards, food stops, nothing.”

“Did Brown report their car’s license for law officers to watch for?”

Raven nodded, growing more serious. “In the dream, there was an Undead. Witches don’t make those, right?”

I shook my head. “Voodoo rituals deal in spirits and dead bodies.”

“I remember the spirits at Marie’s voodoo village in Kentucky. I know you want to work on decorations this Saturday, but maybe Sunday, when you don’t have to teach, we could drive there and see what Marie’s aunt can tell us.”

“A solid plan. Jamila might be able to help us.” We’d gotten tired of calling the head priestess Marie’s aunt, so finally asked for her name. “I’ll be ready to get out of the house and do something different by then.”

We finished supper and cleaned up after ourselves, then Raven trudged to the trunk of my SUV to drag in the eight-foot pine tree he’d bought in a mortal town. We couldn’t bring ourselves to cut down a live tree, but mortals had no problem killing them to sell.

I filled the stand with a special brew that would keep the tree green and fresh. Then we strung small white lights all over it. Claws kept circling the tree to sniff it. He batted at the bottom string of lights. He might be an ocelot, but he reacted to Christmas decorations much like any cat.

We decided to add the ornaments tomorrow night—the stars and moons, cauldrons and witches’ hats in various colors. We’d need a ladder to place the golden pentagram at the top, much like a star—only for us, the five points represented earth, fire, water, air, and spirit. Then we put candles everywhere in the room. I waved my hand, and they all lit. Raven grinned, tugging me close to his side. “It’s beautiful.”

“Did you ever bother to decorate in your bachelor days?” I asked.

“Not once, but I always had more Christmas goodies than I could eat. I used to walk down streets to give them to the homeless.” When the man was single, women tried to lure him with casseroles and baked goods, besides throwing themselves at him. My demon is stinking hot. Why he chose me, I’ll never understand, but he was happy with his decision. And so was I.

We climbed the steps to our room in a cheerful mood. Moonlight beamed in, and we fell asleep bathed in its silver light.

 

Are you lucky if you have a warrior monk as a mentor?

I’m so happy to invite C. S. Boyack to my blog today. I’ve visited his blog many times: https://www.facebook.com/ColdhandBoyack and consider him a friend, even though we’ve never met. He’s recently released a new novel, SERANG, and I’m halfway through it right now. I loved SERANG in the novel, VOYAGE OF THE LANGERNFISH, a fantasy/pirate/adventure novel, and I’ve been waiting for this prequel that tells her beginning story.

He hasn’t disappointed. The daughter of a fisherman, when her father dies on his ship, her mother can’t support her and takes her to a temple to be raised by warrior monks. If you haven’t read VOYAGE OF THE LANTERNFISH, no problem. This story can easily stand alone.

  1. Welcome, Craig. And now that I have you here, I’m curious. How did you decide on the life lessons Serang must learn to develop into her full potential? And how did you develop a wise tone and philosophy for your various masters?

First of all, thank you for the invitation, and I consider my online connections to be true friends. We may never meet in person, but I have many online friends.

Serang is a child when the story begins, and she’s about to embark upon training that takes a lifetime to master. This isn’t just a physical skill, but emotional and spiritual as well. She comes pre-packaged with her own problems, and a child would dwell upon those issues. I focused upon her issues as a point for her growth.

Serang’s masters are older, more mature versions of herself. They all have a tragic history, but rose above that to find a quality of life beyond the traditional orphan or beggar. Basically, I took a wise man/woman character, then pointed that character at Serang’s problems.

 

  1. I’m enjoying the character of Yong, who eventually becomes her master. Why does he befriend a rat? Is it perhaps because you, like me, were born in a year of the Chinese rat?

Ha! That could be part of it, and I am really focusing on that in a completely different book. It will come out in the Spring sometime. This is about Serang, so I’ll concentrate on her.

Master Yong is a wandering monk. This means he is a complete package, and an older reflection of what Serang is expected to become. In my mind, monks do not hold anything in particular in reverence or disdain. They seek to understand it, and its place in the world.

As a “wandering” monk, the wilderness can be lonely at times. It made sense for Yong to adopt a pet. The rat is portable, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose him from the Chinese Zodiac.

 

  1. What gave you the idea for the giant catfish that can kill a person while he/she tries to reel it in for supper?

The goonch catfish is an actual creature swimming in Asian waters today. He has a reputation for taking the occasional child swimmer.

This is a fantasy, and while reality is a good start, I ramped him up a bit.

It’s rather amazing, but this story uses a lot of actual creatures. There are actual orchid mantises, camel spiders, and saiga antelope. In some instances, I used them as they are, in others I powered them up as needed.

 

  1. This is, essentially, a fantasy coming-of-age story. What made you choose to write about a kick-ass female protagonist? (And I have to say, so far, all of the women in this book are intelligent and strong.)

I’ve been told I write good female characters. (I hope I do justice to my male characters, too.) Serang was pure dumb luck, if I’m to be completely honest.

When I wrote Voyage of the Lanternfish, I wanted an international cast to make up my crew. My vision was a grouping of society’s downtrodden people taking the world into their own hands.

Serang walked down the dock and joined the crew. At this time, she was fully formed and came with her own baggage, even a minor addiction to alcohol. Fleshing those things out in small doses, led me to the idea that she deserved her own story.

 

  1. You write a few different genres. What are some of your other ones?

I refer to myself as a writer of speculative fiction. This is a big field, and includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and all the sub-genres of those.

You could find any of those genres in my back-catalog. What I try to do is include that speculative element in all my stories.

Sometimes that element is fairly strong, like in my stories about Lizzie and The Hat. Other times, it’s present, but in a lesser form. Serang kind of fits that style. This isn’t to say there aren’t fantasy creatures and magical elements in this story, but it’s more about her personal growth.

 

  1. On the blog Story Empire and your own blog, you’ve talked about how you develop your novels. You use a storyboard. Can you give a brief idea how that works?

I don’t know how brief I can be, but it’s worth a shot. I like a good challenge.

I use an app, but it’s basically just a cork board. Someone could tape things to the garage wall and do the same thing. I make one index card for the theme, almost like a mission statement. Then I make four columns to divide the three act structure of my story. (Act two gets two columns.) The tops and bottoms are major turning points in a story.

I fill out cards to mark all of those turning points, then give it some time. I add index cards to the board depending on each column, but aiming from the top of the column to the bottom. Think of it like driving from one town to another, but there are several routes to choose from. As long as you get where you’re going it works.

While the turning points keep my acts in order, the entire board keeps my writing in order. I free-write from card to card, and it tends to work for me.

I used to add photos and even checklists with things I want to include. Pinterest has replaced part of this for me, but sticky notes and checklists are part of the equation. As an example, I had a character once who had to go through the stages of grieving. I made a checklist and marked them off as he moved from step to step.

I still prepare a storyboard for each book, but they are getting more minimal with each outing. Maybe that comes from experience. One real advantage is I have half-a-dozen of them going at any given time. It isn’t hard to end one story and dive right into the next one. As ideas pop up, I add a card to that board.

 

Thanks so much for visiting. Before you leave, would you share a short excerpt from your book? And any other information you’d care to share with us?

Hmm, a short excerpt:

“I haven’t seen a single river monster. No crocodiles, gigantic snakes, nothing. I’m supposed to be exercising, so I’m going for a swim. The current is slow and steady here. If it works, you can try it, too.” She stripped off her hat, boots, and leggings, then dove over the side.

By swimming hard, she was able to keep pace with the boat. It had more area for the river to push, so she had to work to keep up. Eventually she fell behind, so she veered toward the rope and kept swimming.

“You’ll have to stop before you run out of rope,” Yong yelled.

“I know… but it feels good… to move lazy muscles,” she puffed between the words.

An extra puff sounded off to her left, and a strong odor of fish drifted over her. Another sounded off to her right. A series of rapid clicks were answered on the opposite side. A large grey fin broke the surface beside her.

Serang redoubled her efforts and gained slightly on the boat. A bulbous grey head broke the surface on her right. It had a long snout with a row of peg-like teeth the size of her little finger. She grabbed the rope and started pulling herself toward the boat. “Help me, Master.”

Yong laughed hysterically. “Hurry, before they eat you.”

How could her master be so cruel? The creature on her left passed underneath to join the other one. The clicking increased. More of the creatures surrounded her until there were a dozen or more. They started jumping, splashing water over her head. It sounded as if they were laughing at her.

Hand over hand, she finally reached the rope. Her muscles burned as she pulled herself above the water then groped for the railing.

Yong caught her wrist, pulled her onto the deck, then dropped her like a wet sack. “Thank you, Master. They could have killed me.”

“No doubt, but they never would.” One of the creatures leaped high above the water and looked at her. “These are river dolphins. They are benevolent creatures. Sometimes they help downing boatmen. They were checking to see if you needed help.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was too funny.” He pushed his hat toward her. “Take the tiller. My turn.” He dove over the side.

***

Monastic life is all about duty, service, harmony. For Serang, a young girl abandoned at the temple by her mother after the death of her father, that life becomes all she knows. The monks give her purpose, and become her new family.

 

When political upheaval causes chaos throughout the land, Serang again loses everything and everyone she loves. Alone, she struggles to survive. She convinces a wandering monk to take her under his wing and complete her training. Thus begin her adventures through strange lands and her trials to become a confident, capable, independent adult.

 

This is a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. It’s filled with monsters and martial arts, difficulties and dangers. The serious situations preclude the story from the levity of its predecessor, Voyage of the Lanternfish, but it provides a compelling look at the origin of one of the saga’s most fascinating characters.

 

Purchase Link http://mybook.to/Serang

Serang cover

 

Social Media:

C.S. bio & blog

 

Blog My Novels Twitter Goodreads Facebook Pinterest BookBub

 

 

Chapter 2

celtic tattoo(image from Pixabay)

Portents and Tattoos–2:

Festus took a swig of beer before saying, “You know I travel a few times a year for my job.”

I nodded, sipping my wine. “You write ads for small businesses and do online advertising for them, but once in a while, you have to meet with them to keep up to date.” The warlock was a whiz at clever campaigns and images.

“This time, I drove to a town east of here on the river, like we are,” he told us. “I met with the business owner and was ready to start home when I must have blacked out in my car. Thank Hecate I made it that far or I might have crumpled on the street. I don’t know how long I was out, but when I came to, I had the tattoo, and I’ve been having the same nightmare over and over again every night since it appeared.”

Raven scowled and looked my way. “Have you dealt with anything like this before, Hester?”

I shook my head. “Sounds more like Fae magic than ours.” I studied the dark ink, a Celt symbol. “May I touch your tattoo?” I asked Festus.

He rolled up his sleeve again, and I placed my hand on it. “I feel both Fae and witch magic.” Keeping my hand on the tattoo, I cast a spell, and suddenly, an image appeared in the air before us, a scene that played out as a movie.

We were seeing the images through someone else’s eyes. Whose, I couldn’t tell. But we were walking along a river bank, picking leaves and roots to brew for potions. We felt the sun on our backs, but the air was cool. Leaves were changing colors, and some had already fallen to the ground. Autumn. Late October maybe?

We could feel the seer’s thoughts and emotions. Whoever it was, was new to the area, surprised by how many varieties of plants grew there. She almost had her basket full when the sound of movements made her glance up. A swirl of spirits raced toward her and whirled around her like a gray tornado of dead souls. Wisps of faces flashed past her. I’d seen spirits like these before at the voodoo village across the river. I knew the spirits could do no harm, but this girl was frightened. She screamed, dropped her basket, and threw up her hands to defend herself. Then, she heard more movement behind her, but before she could turn, pain exploded in the back of her head and oblivion overtook her.

The scene ended for a moment of blank air, and then we felt her consciousness stir. The next images were fuzzy until her eyes focused better. A horrible headache made me press my hand to the back of my head. She teetered, unsteady, as she rose to look at her surroundings. Bars surrounded her. She was in a cage in what might be a basement. Gray, cement walls and a cement floor were lit by a lightbulb dangling in the center of the room.

She spoke a spell to unlock the cage door, but nothing happened. We felt her surprise and fear. She went to the door and shook it, chanting more spells. None of them worked. Trapped, terror raced through her. Then we heard footsteps coming down wooden stairs. Panic paralyzed her. She stared, holding her breath.

A tall, gaunt man shambled forward. He never blinked, his eyes glazed with no emotion behind them. His movements were jerky. He opened a small slot at the bottom of her door and slid a tray of food to her. Her stomach growled, and she realized she was starving. How long had she been unconscious?

She grabbed the bars with both hands and pleaded, “Please help me. Let me out of here.”

Unhearing, the man stood, turned, and walked back up the stairs.

The image dissolved, and Festus blinked, stirred, and gripped my hand. “That’s the dream. Every night. What does it mean?”

Wanda started crying. “Who was the girl in the cage? And what was that man?”

They all looked at me for an explanation.

“It’s not a dream. It’s a vision. I’m guessing the girl in the cage sent it to Festus using both of her magicks. She’s begging for help.”

“And the man?” Festus asked.

“An undead. Not the same as a zombie. I don’t know if they really exist. But I’ve seen corpses controlled by black magic. Not witch magic. Voodoo. The body’s spirit is gone. Free. But the shell it inhabited can be animated to walk and move.”

Festus rubbed his forehead. “When the dream ends, I wake up covered in sweat, smelling my own fear.”

“It’s her fear,” I said. “We could all feel it. The girl needs help.”

Raven ran a hand through his ebony hair, his tawny eyes pinched in distress. “Who is she? How do we find her?”

I bit my bottom lip, frustrated and upset. “I don’t know.”

Wanda wrung her hands, her voice pleading. “I feel sorry for the girl, but can you help my Festus? He’s afraid to go to sleep.”

I touched a finger to his forehead and chanted a spell. “I’ve let the tattoo know we’ve seen the vision. We understand it. We’ll try to help the girl, but we don’t know how.”

“What about the tattoo?” Wanda stared at it. “It’s still there.”

“It won’t leave until the girl’s free, but the dreams should stop now. As long as it’s untouched, Festus can sleep in peace.”

Tears spilled down Wanda’s cheeks. “Thank you.” She came around the table to hug me.

“Can you do anything for the girl?” Festus asked.

“I’ll send birds to fly over the town and the area around it. If they see anything suspicious, they’ll report back to me. But I don’t have much hope. We have too little to go on.”

Clinging to each other, Festus and Wanda left. Once their car was out of sight, Raven and I walked into my front yard and I called for my birds.

Ravens, crows, and sparrows circled me and I sent them to the town Festus had visited. I doubted if any of them would return. We had no idea where the girl was, what kind of building she was in, unsure if she was even in a basement. There was little chance of finding her.

Raven tilted my chin and gave me a gentle kiss. “I’ll call every enforcer I know in that area, ask them to see if any other Fae or witches have gone missing. It might take us a while, but we’ll do all we can to find your witch.”

I nodded, not very hopeful, and we headed back toward the house. Light spilled from its many windows, making it glow. The Yule tree’s bulbs twinkled on our deep front porch, reds, greens, and golds. The scent of the pine drifted on the breeze. Such a cheerful scene, but it couldn’t diminish the fear I felt. Why had the captor taken this girl? What did he mean to do with her? It was bad enough when witches used black magic, but when voodoo was involved, I was deeply afraid for this young girl.

Chapter 1

Okay, I missed Muddy River.  Yes, I’m working on another mystery.  Yes, I don’t have much time.  But…what can I say?  I just miss magic sometimes.  And I miss putting up chapters and stories.  So, I’m back at it, but I don’t have any for sure schedule for Hester and Raven.  I’m just going to write about them in-between other stuff, when I have time.  And I wanted to set a story for them in December that has Christmas merriment in it.  Well, as merry as you can get when magic goes awry.  Anyway, here’s the first chapter.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tattoos & Portents   (Muddy River Mystery #4)  by Judi Lynn

 

 

TATTOS AND PORTENTS

Chapter 1

Snow blanketed Muddy River. Raven was working from home today. As our town’s enforcer, December was a slow month for him. Paranormal, local crime didn’t pick up near holidays, and wandering rogues weren’t attracted to such a remote area of Indiana during the cold seasons. I, on the other hand, had to hold the interest of restless students who were more interested in sugar plums and presents than learning a new spell.

Claws and I decided to trek across the street and down the long drive that led to my witches’ school rather than drive. Strike’s sister, Odifa, who’d begun co-teaching with me, would be at Muddy River’s public school this entire month, teaching her type of magic to the young Faes who attended there. Since she and her husband had settled near Amulet Avenue, a small enclave of fellow Faes, she’d learned that young Faes’ training was sadly lacking.

As I left the house, Raven gave me a long, lingering kiss that would keep me warmer than my long, black skirt and knee-high boots, but then my fire demon was always a hot commodity. To teach, I always wore a flowing, black skirt, boots, and a snug, black T-shirt. I thought it gave the mind set I wanted the students to feel. Raven thought it was sexy, but he’s a fire demon, and you how demons are. They radiate sex.

Claws wasn’t much of a fan of snow, but my ocelot bravely tagged beside me as we waded through an inch of it to the school. I waved my hand before we reached the door to unlock it and start the heat.

My first chore, each day, was to write the lessons I meant to cover on the board. This was a one-room school with first graders through seniors in high school. By the time my young witches graduated, they had to learn to read and write, as well as do math, spells, and potions. We had a lot to cover. And after battling Murlyn and his coven, I’d changed my entire teaching schedule to cover more defensive spells and chants and to teach them sooner. Young witches were safe here, but outside of Muddy River, there were those who’d prey on them to steal their magic.

Pre-teens were especially vulnerable, so I’d started including chants to create protective shields and wards in their lessons. I even began teaching combat skills at the beginning of high school instead of waiting for their last year. When they’d graduate and leave this building, they could take their personal grimoires with them, and every spell that they’d written would be theirs to call upon. I included anti-aging spells in the book, as well as potions to clear complexions and make their hair shine, as well as spells to make their witches’ gardens grow longer and be more bountiful.

As always, from the first day they stepped into my school until the last, I taught them the dangers of the dark arts. On this day, I was teaching the young students a spell to clean any room. Their mothers would appreciate me for that. And for the older students, I was teaching them how to whip energy into a lasso to loop over an opponent.

By the end of the day, magic was flying everywhere in the room. I’d cast spells and wards to ensure none of it backfired or went amiss. No harm could come to anyone here. The students were so excited, practicing their craft, that they grumbled when I sent a wind to disperse all of their spells and sent them home for the day. I waved a hand to straighten the room, then started to the foyer to tug on my heavy long coat.

I was surprised to see Wanda and Festus, leaning against the wall, waiting for me. I was fond of the her and her husband. Between the two of them, they had only a modicum of magic. They lived in the suburbs of Muddy River, along with other supernaturals who were only one-eighth or less paranormal. They felt more comfortable among their own.

No mortals were allowed here. My coven and I had set up wards to keep them out, and the Fae had cast an illusion spell to hide Muddy River from them. But even a tiny remnant of magic made anyone welcome among us, and our wards protected them. Raven and I often ran into Wanda and Festus when we went to Derek’s bar in town. We thought of them as friends.

I smiled. “Hello! What brings you here?”

Wanda’s worried face made my cheerful greeting sputter. She glanced at her husband and said, “Festus needs help.”

Wanda was part vampire, and Festus was part warlock with even less magic than his wife. I studied him. Dark circles hinted at sleepless nights. “What happened?”

“Go ahead. Show her.” Wanda nudged him.

Festus rolled up the shirt sleeve on his left arm, and I stared. A complicated, Celt tattoo covered most of his left arm.

“When did you get that?” I’d never noticed it before.

Festus rubbed a hand over his unshaven face. “I don’t know. I don’t even remember getting it.”

Was our friend a fainter? “Did the tattoo artist knock you out so you wouldn’t feel the needle?”

“I didn’t go to a tattoo parlor. All I remember is getting in my car to drive to my next town, then I woke up and the tattoo was on my arm.”

Festus traveled for his business. He left the wards of Muddy River. I didn’t like the sound of this tattoo. I glanced at our yellow, Victorian house across the street. Raven was home. “Why don’t you come to our house, get comfortable, and we’ll talk about it?”

“Hop in the car and I’ll drive you there.” Festus waited while I waved to lock up the building and loaded Claws in the backseat beside me. My familiar went everywhere with me. No enemies could enter Muddy River, but when I was out and about, he never left my side. It was a five-minute ride to the house, and when I walked in with Festus and Wanda, Raven looked surprised.

“Festus has a problem,” I told him.

With a nod, he led us to the kitchen and went to the refrigerator to grab drinks. Once settled at our wooden, work table, he said, “Start at the beginning and don’t leave out anything.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Festus took a swig of beer before saying, “You know I travel a few times a year for my job.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattoos & Portents

(Muddy River Mystery #4)

by

 

Judi Lynn

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Snow blanketed Muddy River. Raven was working from home today. As our town’s enforcer, December was a slow month for him. Paranormal, local crime didn’t pick up near holidays, and wandering rogues weren’t attracted to such a remote area of Indiana during the cold seasons. I, on the other hand, had to hold the interest of restless students who were more interested in sugar plums and presents than learning a new spell.

Claws and I decided to trek across the street and down the long drive that led to my witches’ school rather than drive. Strike’s sister, Odifa, who’d begun co-teaching with me, would be at Muddy River’s public school this entire month, teaching her type of magic to the young Faes who attended there. Since she and her husband had settled near Amulet Avenue, a small enclave of fellow Faes, she’d learned that young Faes’ training was sadly lacking.

As I left the house, Raven gave me a long, lingering kiss that would keep me warmer than my long, black skirt and knee-high boots, but then my fire demon was always a hot commodity. To teach, I always wore a flowing, black skirt, boots, and a snug, black T-shirt. I thought it gave the mind set I wanted the students to feel. Raven thought it was sexy, but he’s a fire demon, and you how demons are. They radiate sex.

Claws wasn’t much of a fan of snow, but my ocelot bravely tagged beside me as we waded through an inch of it to the school. I waved my hand before we reached the door to unlock it and start the heat.

My first chore, each day, was to write the lessons I meant to cover on the board. This was a one-room school with first graders through seniors in high school. By the time my young witches graduated, they had to learn to read and write, as well as do math, spells, and potions. We had a lot to cover. And after battling Murlyn and his coven, I’d changed my entire teaching schedule to cover more defensive spells and chants and to teach them sooner. Young witches were safe here, but outside of Muddy River, there were those who’d prey on them to steal their magic.

Pre-teens were especially vulnerable, so I’d started including chants to create protective shields and wards in their lessons. I even began teaching combat skills at the beginning of high school instead of waiting for their last year. When they’d graduate and leave this building, they could take their personal grimoires with them, and every spell that they’d written would be theirs to call upon. I included anti-aging spells in the book, as well as potions to clear complexions and make their hair shine, as well as spells to make their witches’ gardens grow longer and be more bountiful.

As always, from the first day they stepped into my school until the last, I taught them the dangers of the dark arts. On this day, I was teaching the young students a spell to clean any room. Their mothers would appreciate me for that. And for the older students, I was teaching them how to whip energy into a lasso to loop over an opponent.

By the end of the day, magic was flying everywhere in the room. I’d cast spells and wards to ensure none of it backfired or went amiss. No harm could come to anyone here. The students were so excited, practicing their craft, that they grumbled when I sent a wind to disperse all of their spells and sent them home for the day. I waved a hand to straighten the room, then started to the foyer to tug on my heavy long coat.

I was surprised to see Wanda and Festus, leaning against the wall, waiting for me. I was fond of the her and her husband. Between the two of them, they had only a modicum of magic. They lived in the suburbs of Muddy River, along with other supernaturals who were only one-eighth or less paranormal. They felt more comfortable among their own.

No mortals were allowed here. My coven and I had set up wards to keep them out, and the Fae had cast an illusion spell to hide Muddy River from them. But even a tiny remnant of magic made anyone welcome among us, and our wards protected them. Raven and I often ran into Wanda and Festus when we went to Derek’s bar in town. We thought of them as friends.

I smiled. “Hello! What brings you here?”

Wanda’s worried face made my cheerful greeting sputter. She glanced at her husband and said, “Festus needs help.”

Wanda was part vampire, and Festus was part warlock with even less magic than his wife. I studied him. Dark circles hinted at sleepless nights. “What happened?”

“Go ahead. Show her.” Wanda nudged him.

Festus rolled up the shirt sleeve on his left arm, and I stared. A complicated, Celt tattoo covered most of his left arm.

“When did you get that?” I’d never noticed it before.

Festus rubbed a hand over his unshaven face. “I don’t know. I don’t even remember getting it.”

Was our friend a fainter? “Did the tattoo artist knock you out so you wouldn’t feel the needle?”

“I didn’t go to a tattoo parlor. All I remember is getting in my car to drive to my next town, then I woke up and the tattoo was on my arm.”

Festus traveled for his business. He left the wards of Muddy River. I didn’t like the sound of this tattoo. I glanced at our yellow, Victorian house across the street. Raven was home. “Why don’t you come to our house, get comfortable, and we’ll talk about it?”

“Hop in the car and I’ll drive you there.” Festus waited while I waved to lock up the building and loaded Claws in the backseat beside me. My familiar went everywhere with me. No enemies could enter Muddy River, but when I was out and about, he never left my side. It was a five-minute ride to the house, and when I walked in with Festus and Wanda, Raven looked surprised.

“Festus has a problem,” I told him.

With a nod, he led us to the kitchen and went to the refrigerator to grab drinks. Once settled at our wooden, work table, he said, “Start at the beginning and don’t leave out anything.”