Excerpts from my unpublished novels. All of these novels exist in the same world, but aren't exact sequels. Know any agents that might be interested in representing me? Feel free to reach out and contact me.
The Claudessy follows, you guessed it, Claude, a former smuggler between worlds and current queer disaster. She runs afoul of an ancient snake deity, her celebrity psychic mom, and a cadre of sinister Oracles. All because she's investigating the death of her best friend (whose spirit will not shut up about it). Here is an excerpt from chapter 1.
The funeral is a small—and rainy—affair in comparison to the previous two. Feels like we’ve been going to a service every few months. No snacks, no open bar, just a bunch of super-serious Oracles chanting over a bonfire in the middle of a public park. But I couldn’t stop going to these rites if I tried. My friend Rebekah—Bek—won’t let me. She thinks we might learn something. Which we have, just not the stuff we want to know. Learning that the Oraculum—what the elder Oracles call themselves—owns almost everything in downtown Chicago, and that in these modern times they can’t light the body on fire in the woods, so they have it cremated beforehand, is fun. But none of it is relevant to us. Especially not to the visions I’ve been having, the ones that accompany each death and leave me with a nuclear headache after.
I come to these funerals because I have to. Because Bek won’t let me stop until I find out who killed her and the others.
I stand on a small hill, apart from and overlooking the proceedings. The woods are silent save for the muttering of the attendees and the lamentations of the presiding Oracle, a stern woman with a long mess of frizzy red hair. The rain has slowed, and now comes down in a mist. There’s a scent of heady pine and cigarette smoke in the air. I guess being long-lived means not having to care about lung cancer. We’re a hearty bunch, the Oracles. Not quite immortal, but not as susceptible to mortal failings.
The center is a circular space, landscaped with stones, statues of the Old Gods, topiaries, and a wide sunken space filled with a bunch of sticks for the bonfire. Everyone’s dressed modestly, lots of stylish gray and blacks and neutral, earthy tones, and all of them women—male offspring, like my friend Julian, are not allowed at any official event, funeral or otherwise. The majority of the women are hidden by fancy black golf umbrellas. Some chatter amongst themselves, looking sullen and tense. The rain probably isn’t helping. From afar it’s just a bunch of ladies pretending to be sad while their designer label dresses and expensive leather boots get damp. Then again, this is the third funeral we’ve been to—the first was for an elderly housewife no one seemed to know, the second for a popstar everyone did—and the sentiments were the same. Bek didn’t even merit a funeral. No one seems to care that our sisters are being murdered.
There are some faces I recognize: the redhead; a few women from previous funerals. It’s not surprising that I don’t know anyone. My mother and I aren’t exactly well-loved in our own community. “Exile” is such an ugly word, but there’s a reason I’m eavesdropping with the spirit of my dead friend and not standing with everyone else.
So who was this one, again? I ask Bek inside my head, flipping my hood down and brushing the hair off of my face.
Serena Juno, Bek replies. She was in PR at the Oraculum.
A messenger of messengers.
Think she knew your mom?
I shrug. She knows practically everyone, so it wouldn’t surprise me.
Based on what I’ve gleaned from my mom’s ramblings, when the Oracles had a connection to the Gods, they’d act as the voice of their patron deity—our family’s was Apollo—and convey their divine messages to the lowly mortals. But those times are gone. Have been for a long time. Most Oracles don't even have visions anymore. Lucky me.
With the Gods gone and our ties to them severed, the Oracles took to relying on our innate prophetic talents to survive. For me, it’s tarot cards. Bek channeled her energy into photography. But most took their talents to the entertainment industry. Like my mom. She loved her life as a celebrity psychic more than anything. And I’m including myself in that statement.
Think we’ll see any movie stars? Bek asks. Most of the time, she’s just a voice in my head. But for now, she’s manifested into an apparition that only I can see, closely resembling the Bek I remember. Athletic frame, long brown hair with the sides done in loose braids, dressed in functional but fashionable clothes. She was the one to run marathons and play volleyball when I was smoking cigarettes with her brother Julian between classes and smearing on more black eyeliner.
Is that really what you care about right now? I scuff my combat boots into the squishy earth.
We’re at a funeral, Claude, of course not. It would be cool is all I’m saying.
It’s a constant back and forth between us. Having a friend in your brain nearly every waking moment isn’t as fun as one might imagine. But I have to remember, we have the same goal: we both want to figure this all out so she can be at peace.
I give the ground one last strong kick.
You’re getting mud everywhere.
Gee, sorry, Mom.
It would be a lot easier if you’d just go down there and give our condolences.
You know why I don’t—
You’re an Oracle, I was an Oracle. I never understood why they hated you and your mom so much…
Bek. Stop, not this again.
She knows why my mom and I are the outsiders; it’s all because of me. More or less. One of the few things I’ve learned in my lifetime as an exiled Oracle is that the Oraculum are sticklers for rules. Having an illegitimate child when you’re a practicing money-grubbing psychic is a big no-no to them. So I have my mom to thank for my exile status and less-than-stellar attitude toward everything Delphic in nature.
From our spot on the muddy knoll, we watch as the crowd forms into a sloppy circle. Next they’ll present the urn with Serena’s ashes and sing Kumbaya or something.
Stop being a baby and get down there. There are plenty of things for you to hide behind.
Come on. It’s not like you're unaccustomed to rule-breaking.
“You know what? Fine.” I start down the hill. “Only because it’ll get me away from you.”
That’s my girl. See you soon!
I stay low, ducking behind the plentiful trees until I can skirt around the edge of the funeral grounds. One of the advantages of being around other Oracles is that Bek hates them. Either that or she’s scared of them. Probably both.
The closer I get, the more her voice fades. I know she’s still around, but I exhale when I feel her presence muted to silence.
I haven’t tried getting closer to a ritual before; maybe that will help trigger something. Do they really not know we have a killer in our midst? I guess that would imply something isn’t perfect in Oracle society. I knew all of these women were dead before it hit the news or social media. Visions of fire and teeth and red eyes burning, each of the victims being eaten alive by some…thing as they cried out for help. If Bek wants me to solve her murder and theirs, she’s out of luck. I’m no detective; peering into the lives of jilted exes through tarot cards is about as far as I get into investigation anymore.
No one seems to notice me; they’re all focused on the redhead standing in front of the pyre. She’s dressed in a gray blazer and matching pencil skirt with a cream blouse underneath that’s starting to go see-through. Her strappy pumps, silver and white, are smudged with mud and ash. Her hair is braided and crimped and the whole mess is wrestled back with a scarf.
The funeral pyre is more beautiful up close, an organized bunch of branches, flowers, laurel leaves, and fine thread holding everything in place. I glance back and Bek has disappeared entirely from our spot on the hill. Not that anyone would have seen her but me, but my anxiety about it lessens and I turn my attention back to the ritual.
The presiding Oracle holds aloft the urn—a white clay piece with intricate designs carved into it—and gently pours the ashes over the kindling, as everyone chants in hushed tones. She passes the urn over to another Oracle, who in turn exchanges it for a small bottle of swirling purplish-green mercury. Ethylene—or ’lene, as it’s more commonly known. The substance the Oracles used back in the day to connect with the Old Gods. A little will make you feel all loosey-goosey. Used to be, a lot of ’lene could connect Oracles to the world the Gods once inhabited. Most of us call it The Divine, I don’t know why. Our connection to the Greek and Roman pantheons, I’d wager. The Divine for most conjures images of paradise. The dreamy, creamy Elysian Fields in the Underworld. But the The Divine I know couldn't be further from that.
The redheaded Oracle uncorks the bottle of ’lene and flicks its contents onto the pyre. My hands start shaking. I shove them in my pockets. Such a tiny amount shouldn’t be enough to trigger a vision, but I can’t help but feel panicky when the redhead lights a long match.
It lights instantly and violently, a blaze of white-blue brilliance. The rush of heat and the sweet smell of ’lene cooking soothes me. I close my eyes, let it in, let it comfort me.
I exhale and open my eyes as someone emerges from the flames. Ainslie Empire—a fellow Oracle sister and one of the world’s biggest pop stars. Or at least she was. She’s dressed in a tight green pantsuit that shimmers with dark glittery scales, contrasting with her long brown hair dyed silver at the ends. She smiles and sways over to me, all wiry muscles and inquisitive eyes. My visions have been intense before, but this is a whole new level of weird. Like a lucid dream.
“Ainslie? But…but you’re…”
“Dead?” She smiles. “Oh yeah, I’m super dead.”
I can’t tell if this is real or not. The funeral fades out of focus. Am I having a vision? Or could I reach out and touch her?
“Oh, join the club, honey,” another woman says. I turn to my right and there’s a small garden at my feet. Hunched over in the dirt is an older, kindly looking woman. She’s tending to a tomato plant. The fruit hangs low and red as blood.
“We haven’t met. I’m Adele.”
I’m paralyzed. Affixed to the wet ground beneath me.
“These funerals are so phony.” Ainslie says in my ear. “You know those aren’t even her ashes, right? I mean, they didn’t even recover her body. Remind you of anyone, Adele?”
The older woman chuckles. “No one at all.”
She plucks the tomatoes off the plant, which weeps red-black oil. It’s pooling around my feet.
“How are you even here?” I manage to say.
“Duh. This is what’s commonly referred to as a ‘vision.’”
“No…no, this doesn’t feel like that. It feels too real…”
“Hold on.” She looks up, like she’s listening to someone I can’t hear. “We’ve gotta go. We want to help you, Claude, we really do. But the monster that owns our souls wants me to tell you she remembers you, and the two of you have unfinished business. Oh, and she wants me to do this—”
She grabs me by the shoulders and projectile vomits hot blood onto my face.
Deathwish & Deluge
Deathwish & Deluge is all about Gal (Galatea if you're nasty), a cursed gumshoe who's also a former weapon of the old gods. She goes looking for a missing person and stumbles onto an even bigger scheme to resurrect an absent god. She'll have to use her curse--an endless supply of duplicate bodies--to her benefit if she wants to stay one step ahead of the death cult that's hunting her and foil their plans. And then theres' the matter of her crush on that enby shapeshifter. Here's an excerpt from chapter 1.
In all of my centuries of existence, I’ve learned at least three universal truths. The first—and perhaps the saddest of the three—is that mortals concoct some tasty but pathetically weak booze. Mortal alcohol lacks the potency to affect most supernormals, myself included, but if it’s infused with ambrosia, it tends to do the trick. So when I find that my half-finished bottle of ambrosia-infused, bottom-shelf tequila is missing, I reluctantly lift my head off the bar.
Morgan stands behind the bar, bottle in hand. He’s cute, if a little naive. Tan complexion, curly black hair slicked into a pompadour. His outfit makes him look like a rebel without a cause.
“Gal, how long are you going to keep this up?” he says as he chews on a toothpick. “We barely have any customers because of you.”
I brush my hair out of my eyes, sit up, and find movement is swimmy; I think I might finally have a buzz going.
“I dunno,” I say, my voice hoarse. “How long has it been?”
“Six months,” he shoots back.
“What, are you counting the days?”
Because I am. There’s a reason I’m especially on edge today. Six months to the day since I worked my last job. Another in a series of typical missing-persons cases. But jobs are only typical until they’re not.
He puts the bottle on the shelf behind him. It’s fine, I’ll get it back one way or another. I’ll admit that I could use a shower and a change of clothes. My David Bowie tee and ratty jeans feel like an uncomfortable second skin I’ve been in them so long.
“No, Gal. Have you seen the news?” He points to the TV in the upper corner of the bar. Audio is muted but the headline reads well enough: “Sinkhole Disaster Six-Month Anniversary.”
Yeah, call it a “sinkhole,” if that’s what works to fool the masses. The Oraculum, the worldwide council of ancient, bitter Oracles that rules over the supernormal community, was working on a way to access our sister world, the Divine. Whatever they did must have worked, it just took their entire research facility in the Loop with it. Eighty-four people, mortal and supernormal alike, were killed in the disaster. The news report plays a slideshow of the faces of the dead. I recognize some of them as prominent Oracles.
That’s where my second truth is apparent: the supernormal community’s pettiness and egotism makes the mortal world’s troubles feel like schoolyard jibes. The Oraculum’s breakthrough caused a ripple effect of disasters across the globe. When they switched the power back on to all the pathways between here and the Divine—no one can figure out how they did it—all that built-up energy had to go somewhere. The mortal population be damned.
“Bullshit.” I give the TV the finger. “Oraculum bullshit.”
“Gal, calm down,” Morgan says.
“We don’t even have any customers, Morgan,” I say in a harsh whisper, flailing my hand at the elderly couple at the opposite end of the bar. “And you don’t even work here.”
Morgan blushes. How adorable. He goes to run his hand through his hair but stops, doesn’t want to mess with the ‘do. “Please…shut up.”
“Did you know,” I look from him to the couple with a conspiratorial glance. “That it wasn’t just a sinkhole?”
“That what the Oracles did caused a ripple effect across the globe?”
“You know I know all of this.”
“So when,” I gesture to the screen. “So when this shit happened here—”
“There was a tsunami off the coast of Japan,” Morgan counts with his fingers. “A wildfire in Seattle, and an earthquake in Paris, where you were six months ago.”
I look at the visibly uncomfortable couple. “And I died in Paris. I died.”
They toss a few crisp bills on the counter, mumble something caustic, and scurry out.
“Crushed to death in the Paris Catacombs. What a way to go.”
I sigh. “They didn’t even hear the worst part.”
“That you can die but never stay dead?”
I wither a glance at him and extend an empty hand. “Booze me.”
He exhales, reaches behind him, and tosses the bottle of tequila into my waiting hand. I fill up my tumbler and take a deep drink. It’s fire all the way into my belly, with a hit of floral sweetness from the ambrosia.
Neither of us belong here, not really. The bar is a front.
“I used to be important, you know.”
Morgan rolls his eyes and wipes down the bar. “I know.”
“I was a Goddess. A Goddess. I had it all. I had my sisters…I had lovers…I had a life that wasn’t complete misery…”
We were Goddesses, my sisters and me. We were powerful, important. Well, I shouldn’t be egotistical. For the longest time, I was just one of fifty sisters, sea nymphs, nereids. We barely get a mention in the old tales. If anyone remembers me, Galatea, (minor) Goddess of calm seas, I’ll buy them dinner at Alinea. That said, some of us were more renowned than others. My sister, Thetis, now there’s someone worth writing stories about. Mother to my favorite nephew, the wrathful Achilles. Thetis was kind and manipulative. She tried her best to save him. And so did I.
“Okay, Gal,” Morgan says. “Time for you to call it a night.”
“I mean it. We both know once you start reminiscing, it’s a quick path down a depressing memory lane. You gotta go.”
Elbows on the bar, I prop my head in my hands. “I don’t want to.”
“It’s either that or you can go sleep it off downstairs.”
It’s that ultimatum that gets my ass off of the bar stool. I placate with my hands. “Okay, okay, I’m going, I’m going…see ya tomorrow.”
Morgan gives a curt nod.
I shouldn’t have been so outrageous. Being around people is one of my coping methods. Because then the weight of—of everything doesn’t come caving in. Given what I’ve been through, that’s a shit metaphor.
It’s October in Chicago, but the weather still feels like summer. The air is humid, and the closeness of it doesn’t help my mood. Good thing I only live a few blocks away from Simon’s, the dive bar we inhabit. Most of the shops on Clark Street are closed at this hour, save for the bars, so there are plenty of people out and about. I do my best to weave through them and onto my avenue. I duck down my block and the noise of Clark fades. The downside is that I’m left with my lingering intrusive thoughts; these few blocks home will take a lifetime.
If Thetis was sweetness and light, then I was Achilles’s darkness.
I was the wrath the Muses sung about. For all the good it did me. We all knew the score; the prophecy against Achilles was immutable. But we did what anyone would do if their loved one was imperiled: we fought.
Wrath will only get you so far. After all that rage there’s an emptiness, and I had to choose what to fill that space with. More violence and retribution? Or something else? I wouldn’t entertain anything but the former for a long time.
Gods, drinking to forget always makes me remember. I should know better. I need to get home and collapse on the couch, put on a show about overly privileged housewives, and destroy some takeout.
Just don’t think about her, about Wren, gasping for air as she was slowly crushed to death in the Catacombs along with you. But unlike her, you sprang back to life in a new body, as always. Wren…Wren is probably still down there, rotting.
And that’s my third unfortunate truth: I can spend the better part of a century making up for the mistakes of my past—helping find the missing members of the supernormal community and bringing them home—but all anyone remembers is the bloodshed and excessive chaos I caused. I thought I was doing our people a favor by finding our lost, whether they wanted to be found or not. As hard as I try, I can’t shirk all of the pain I inflicted over the centuries. I’m in the wrong line of work.
I notice two things as I walk down my street: one, the streetlights are off, and two, there’s a smell. Living in Chicago, I’m used to unwelcome smells. But this isn’t the usual sewer or garbage variety. This odor reminds me of war, of corpses rotting in the high noon sun. There’s a strong breeze, the trees rustle, and then I see the creature.
It’s ahead of me on the sidewalk at the other end of the block. With no streetlights, I assume it’s just a large dog—a Great Dane or maybe a bloodhound. But something is wrong. As it slowly lumbers toward me, its movements feel off. Like it’s copying how a dog might move, and doing a poor job of it.
The closer I wobble toward my building, the more deliberate the creature’s movements become.
“It’s just a dog,” I mumble to myself. “A big dog with no owner who smells like death and is coming right for you. No reason to freak out. I love dogs.”
My hands tremble as I fumble for my key ring in my jeans. This isn’t a feeling I’m accustomed to anymore. Not even being suffocated in the Catacombs gave me the same level of fear as I’m feeling now.
I stumble up the few steps to my house. The smell is overwhelming as the beast pads ever closer. And there’s another fragrance, underneath all the rank. Something familiar and sweet, like caramel, or burnt sugar…
My keys drop to the ground. Shit. I flex my fingers; damn ambrosia booze has made them go tingly.
No, no, it’s no dog at all. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a fucking Great Dane. I squat down slowly, maintaining a steady gaze on the beast a few feet away from me. I find my keys, and the beast moves faster.
It growls—a wet, gurgling sound—takes one more look at me, and turns around. As soon as it’s out of sight, the streetlights flicker back on.
I scoop up my keys and get the door unlocked on the third try. I rush in, lock the door, and slump onto the floor.