I recently self-published a small novelette called “The Haunting on X Avenue”. My goal was to learn about the business and to keep the financial costs of my mistakes as low as possible. Over the last several years I have studied the concept of getting published from an outsider’s perspective. Since then, I have had more of an inside track from the perspective of a self-published author. I have kept my expenses down to a minimum.
Now I am ready to go for the larger work in progress. I have several stories that I have worked on in exploration. But my ultimate goal is to create a piece that will be marketable on a national scale if not a global scale. I also wanted to try out a few stories that I will enjoy to write for years to come.
One of my biggest disappointments was to see some of my favorite authors announce their intent to end a series that I enjoy. Or take the series that started out really awesome and enjoyable to a weird uncomfortable place. Some of them state their reasons, other times I speculate and wonder if they just grew tired of the series. I am not picking on any by name. But I want to create a series that I hope to always look forward to the next story in the series. I have already finished the draft for the end of the series book, in the case of my death. I give permission for it to be written and I will always push that book out and update my notes for it to the day that I die.
I have decided on a concept that I had fantasized about writing since I was a child in the fourth grade. At the time, I didn’t even know that it would be called an urban fantasy. I intend to insert the influences of some of my favorite authors as well as my own personal flair. For example, David & Leigh Eddings for my love of humor and animal forms. I’ll also include the influence of Tolkien lore & C.S. Lewis’ concept of alternate dimensions and evil fae queens. Of course J. K. Rallins for the Harry Potter series. Plus, I am a huge Dresden Files (Butcher), Merci Thomson (Briggs), Iron Druid Chronicles (Hearne) fan, & anything by Terry Brooks. Which made my search for a story that would fit me without making me feel like I was plagiarizing or regurgitating the same materials from my favorite authors such a chore. With millions of authors in the world, I am sure that my story could be compared to more than hundreds as a parallel story. But in my conscience, I have chosen something that is unique for me. In an obscure location. This will be my pitch to the world to finally break out as a full-time author.
I don’t really expect anyone to believe the ordeals that I have gone through. But as I stand at the front grassy lawn of my high school and I contemplate my upcoming sophomore year, with all of its rights of passage. I should be carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. But when someone like me spends more than fifty years in a dark fae dimension called Mae’r Deyrnas Nos and then returns to the exact time and age that they left, like nothing ever happened. It tends to make high school and all of it’s looming problems feel so far away and small. That crush that I had on Lillith Thatcher during my freshman year compared to having experienced lovers, and love in my other life. That bully Tommy Jensen who was always trying to catch me and trash me as a freshman seemed so small to me compared to being conscripted in battles and as an assassin in service to an evil fae queen called Leanhaum-Shee. At least I had the final two months of the summer break from school to reorient myself in my life.
I arrived a half hour early to orient myself with my class schedule. But that seems to be one of those mistakes that I forgot about while I was in the other world, as Tommy Jensen approaches me, followed by his gang of friends.
“Well, well, well, I see a loser standing around playing pocket pool. Are you going to beg me to not throw you in the trash this year? Well, guess what? You have graduated to swirlies this year!”
“I don’t have time for you Tommy. Get out of my way.”
Tommy presses his face into mine and I visualize some of the brutal tactics that would work quite well. Pop out an eye, break the arch of his foot, groin kick, & throat strike. But I remember that I need to stay out of reform school, so I punch him in the nose. His head snaps to the left and returns to face me as he blocks my follow up left punch. He twists his right knee in to block my groin kick and throws what looks like a light jab to my jaw. I move my head enough to keep from getting my nose broken, as his freight train-like hand connects behind my left ear and knocks me to the ground. It is all beginning to come back to me now. In my old body, I had years of conditioning and training as a warrior, then as an assassin for an evil fae queen. But in this body, I have the conditioning of hours spent on the couch playing video games. Tommy on the other hand has been training in a boxing gym since he was in grade school, thanks to his father’s former boxing career as Jib Jab Jensen. Tommy raises his leg to deliver a clumsy roundhouse kick to my face while I am down. But I can’t seem to find the strength to roll out of the way.
When a man yells, “Tommy stop!” It is Principle Keller.
Tommy replies, “But principle Keller, he threw the first punch.” Tommy’s friends nod their agreement.
Keller moves to get between Tommy and I. Then he lifts me up by the back of my shirt and begins to push Tommy in the direction of the school doors. Great, I have another reminder that I am horribly underweight in this body.
“My office, now!”
Keller pushes us past the growing throng of teens who are already chanting in unison, “Fight, fight, fight, fight!”
As we enter his office, Keller shoves us both into chairs facing his desk and asks, “Alright guys, what happened? Tommy, you are three times the size of him. What were you thinking?”
“It was like I said. He threw the first punch. I was just defending myself.”
Keller pauses, and then looks to me and asks, “Storme, did you throw the first punch at Tommy?”
I realize that at this moment, I could get away with lying to the principle. I could deny it and who would believe that anyone was stupid enough to punch the hulking Tommy Jensen first? But I take a deep breath and answer, “Yes, I did Principle Keller.” In the old days when someone stood up to the bully, and then took a beating, that would be the end of it. A person could even garner some respect and elevation among their peers and even the bully.
But instead, while Keller stares at me in shocked disbelief, Tommy mouths the words to me, “My friends and I are going to kill you!”
As if Tommy needs help from his friends. I realize that I need to buy some time to work on my conditioning.
Principle Keller finally marshals his thoughts and he replies, “Well Storme, I don’t know what to say. But I am going to have to suspend you. Tommy, go to your next class. Storme, can someone pick you up or do you have to wait for the bus?”
“I can walk home, it’s not that bad.”
“Okay, I’ll escort you to your locker and to the school doors. You can come back Wednesday. I’ll call your parents and letter will be sent informing them of your suspension.”
“I have my books already. I’ll just go.”
Keller escorts me past the smirking & gloating Tommy, and to the front door.
“Look Storme, you don’t have anything to prove to Tommy. He is nothing but trouble. If he has threatened you in any way. Now is the time to tell me. He is dangerous.”
“No Principle Keller, I just made a stupid mistake. Don’t worry about me. I’ll lay low and keep to myself.”
“Well, here is my card. I’ll write my cell number on it. Just in case you need my help.”
“Thank you, sir”
I can finally leave and make plans for Tommy and his gang. During my fifty or more years in the service of Leanhaum-Shee, I was gifted with various abilities to make my work more effective. It was my hope to leave that old life behind. But unfortunately, I hate bullies. Tommy is the type of guy who is going to kill someone who doesn’t deserve it. I had spent the summer running, but I forgot to train for combat. I know what I need to do to buy the time for the training & to prepare for my little gang war. A few of the abilities that I have in my arsenal are the ability to shape-shift into a black cat & a black raven. If I were given the choice, I would have loved to be a falcon or a hawk. But I deal with cards that I have received. I do love the cat form, though. I find a thick patch of shrubs at the Southeast end of school that would conceal me and I change into my black cat form. It is quick and painless and my clothes drop off in silence. I kitty-trot out of the shrubs and head back to the school to perform my surveillance on Tommy and his gang. I have never used my abilities in this world. It was my hope to forget that ugly past.
As I pad along in silence, my senses flood with smells, enhanced sounds, & sights beyond the human spectrum. For example, in my cat form, I can see the various spirit forms flitting in and out of the school building. Their true form is always some color of the orb. But sometimes they take the effort to project their self-image. Like a man, a woman, or a child. In the fae world, all I saw were black, brown, or gray orbs. But now I see white orbs too. They whirl about in a flurry with the dark orbs as if they are locked in some kind of a struggle. I close my eyes and focus on this plane. When I open them, I can no longer see the spirit plane. It is the burden of cats, to see the spirit plane. Over the years, I learned that it is just a path to madness. Now that I have dealt with the distractions to my senses, I can focus on Tommy and his gang.
After over an hour of searching around the outside of the school, I finally spot Tommy through the window of the school. Two of his buddies are to his right and left and they are tormenting the Freshman in front of them by flicking his ears. The boy tries his best to ignore him. Every once in a while the teacher catches the harassment and says, “Tommy knock it off!” Tommy and his friends laugh and nudge each other. The abuse continues every time the teacher turns to the board. For the next several hours I take the time to follow Tommy and his friends from class to class. Sometimes I follow his various friends when they separate to their various classes. I remember some of the Private Investigator shows that I used to watch as a kid and how PI work was so glamorized. But trailing someone is actually really boring.
At the end of school Tommy and his gang get to workout in the school weight room. No one else uses the weight room because of them. While they are in there, I go to the locker room to have some fun. I sneak around the empty locker room in my cat form and find the locker that smells like Tommy. Then I spray it with cat musk. It is childish for a man in his mid-sixties in American culture, I know. But among the fae, when someone commits an offense, they must suffer retribution or I appear weak. In the various fae realms, the weak usually get eaten.
I change back to my human form and I blend in because a naked teen in a locker room is perfectly acceptable. Unless one of Tommy’s friends comes in. I don’t really have the size and the strength to win a fight against these guys without doing real damage. I go to the Physical Education coaches office and look up Tommy’s locker combination in the files. Next, I print out an article on insurance scams using falls using the teacher’s computer. Then I go to the janitor’s closet and put on some cleaning gloves and I grab a bottle of floor wax. I pour the wax all over the shower. And then, I go to Tommy’s locker, open it, and place the bottle of floor wax in it with the printed article about insurance scams. I make sure that the paper is stuffed under all of Tommy’s clothes so that it isn’t so obvious to Tommy. I shift back to my cat form and spray cat musk all over Tommy’s clothes, then kick the door shut.
In my plotting and planning, I had considered baiting Tommy and his gang into chasing me in cat form into the shower. But I decided that I wouldn’t want to be reported as some cat that needs to be picked up by animal control. So I jump up to the top of the lockers and cast a camouflage glamor on myself and wait. This is really one of the only glamours that I have and it only works if I hold still. If I move with it on, people see the shimmering outline. Leanhaum-Shee only wanted me to be an effective assassin, but she never gifted her servants with too many weapons that could be turned against her.
After an hour or so, Tommy and his friends arrived in the locker. His friends poke and push each other, but they always give Tommy his respectful space. Tommy appears to live up to my expectations for him as a leader. He is an overgrown little boy with muscles, whose insecurity makes him dangerous. Everyone goes to their lockers and as Tommy approaches his locker, he begins to stiff and wrinkle his nose.
“Hey, do you guys smell something?”
His friend Randy replies with a laugh, “Yeah, probably my pits.”
“No, I am serious. It smells like cat piss.”
“It’s got to be David then. He never showers. Do ya David?”
They all laugh. And Tommy opens his locker and wrinkles his nose at the cat musk. Then He grabs the bottle of floor wax and sets it on the floor. Randy plugs his nose and says, “That is not my pits. That is cat piss.”
In cat form, I can’t laugh. But I have to do my best not to purr in contentment. To my delight, the whole gang seems to have some kind of race to the showers. But they let Tommy win and he is the first to slip on the tiles, break his arm, and crack his head on the tiles. Three more of his cronies fall to the tiles and only two avoid injury. Tommy and Randy have broken arms and are knocked out. The other two had curled into their falls and just hurt their backs. They are screaming and moaning. I give in to my urges to purr in contentment and mix with my claws. It has been a good day. I leap off of the top of the lockers and slip through the door to the gymnasium as the physical education coach bursts into the locker room to investigate all of the screamings. Once I cross the gym to the outer doors, it only takes a few minutes for someone to come through the door and let me outside. I hear a girl exclaim, “Oh look, a kitty!” As I run in the direction of my stash of clothes in the bushes.