IT’S HAPPENING

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IT’S HAPPENING.

October 8th – which for the record, is like not even that many days from now – is the big release for the cover of ECHOES OF BALANCE. The book itself will be released on December 17th in Ebook and Print. If you’re interested in being a BETA reader, feel free to get in touch with REUTS at hello@reuts.com

For Chloe Moraine, fighting wild bears– and the occasional vampire– is a better pastime than the tediousness of keeping the universe in balance. But balancing is the family business. It comes with being one of the last in the ancient line of Naimei.

So when the impending return of the Original Demons threatens global harmony, Chloe is obligated to help. Even when that means the dull-as-dirt task of following a human girl who “might be involved, maybe,” instead of the thrilling hunt she craves.

With their powerful magic and ancient Ways, Chloe’s family is unconcerned, certain they’ll quickly fix the imbalance while she’s preoccupied with human high school. But when the Ways start to fail, the threat becomes more serious, and the only person that seems to know anything is a debonair vampire with an offer to help.

If Chloe chooses to trust him, and the darker side of the supernatural he represents, she’ll betray her family and risk losing them, and herself, in the process. But if he’s right, he may just be their only chance to stop the return of the Originals and save the world.

Maybe high school won’t be so boring after all.

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Updates Again

If you’re reading this, it’s become obvious that my story-a-day goal was lofty and not met. Things happen. In truth, I got very wrapped up in the end of my senior year of college and the opportunities after. Namely, moving to New York City to teach in the Bronx. As you can imagine, the move itself was a lot of work, and my year kept me busy (high schoolers, much like puppies, need a lot of attention).

Amidst all that craziness, my first novel in a series of novels involving the characters contained within Ducante Originals, was picked up by the super-cool start up REUTS Publication. Yay REUTS! You can look forward to Echoes of Balance (formerly ‘All of the Demons‘) in 2014 (fingers crossed) and I am actively working on the second book in the intended trilogy (in between grading papers and playing with my brand new kitten. Yeah, I owe y’all a picture).

So what’s going on with this blog? Well, I need to start writing more. These stories were originally intended to help give me perspective into these characters I’ve been sorting out since I was a kid, and help explore their lives and the world they live in differently than I am able to in novel form. So what can you expect in this space? More stories. Maybe selections from the new book, at the discretion of my editor. I just don’t know yet.

But, you should probably stay tuned – I promise things will come. Really.

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Briefly, an Update!

Howdy everyone,

For those of you just finding your way here, I totally recommend checking out the About Page. All of the stories are meant to be stand alone exercises to explore some characters that have only appeared as minor contributors (or sometimes nameless faces) in larger works. In the beginning, they were never intended to be separate chapters of a bigger story or even to have any semblance of flow at all, but it’s sort of turned out that way.

I’m still trying to ensure that each story can be read as a standalone so that those readers just finding this site for the first time can read without feeling lost: you will at least be able to extract a mood, character profile, vague idea. But, since there is kind of an order to what’s happening, and the stories often reference shorts that I’ve written before, I’m going to start trying to go through to add hyperlinks where appropriate. This will also be helpful to me in distinguishing things I’ve covered here vs. things I’m planning for longer works/novels in the future. So I guess… look forward to more dynamic navigation in the future!

For now, though, thank you so much for reading, be you a new comer or one of the super awesome people that follow this blog. Y’all rock!

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We Need to Talk

Truth be told, there was not much for Jeremy to gather as he carried the warped cardboard box into Ducante’s. It was the only thing that he could find behind his house that morning, but supposed it was good enough to carry out the extra change of clothes and miscellaneous personal effects that had been left at the bar over the past week. But as of now, all that rested in the box was a single sheet of white paper with the most brief letter of resignation he thought he would ever write:

Dear Mr. Ducante,

For reasons I believe we are both aware of, I no longer feel that your establishment is an appropriate fit for my skills, as well as my mental and physical temperaments. I will be leaving effective immediately.

Yours,

Jeremy.


That was it. That was all he wrote, and a few extra pieces of clothing were all he needed to grab. Yet something about the act seemed difficult; the feeling in his stomach was a heavy one, not the light freedom he had expected. He paused, leaning against the interior doorframe of the bar as he sucked in a deep, cool breath of air from the darkened interior.

Everything would be alright: he could get a new job. He had told another bartender to come in and cover his shift – she would be there in an hour, before Ducante could ever know that the pre-happy hour shift had ever been lacking in service. Everything would be –

“You didn’t strike me as a quitter, Jeremy,” a voice said calmly.

The bartender nearly jumped out of his skin before he recognized the level tone of one belonging to the bouncer rather than the bar owner. “You don’t strike me as a lot of things, either,” Jeremy said tersely. Immediately, he felt guilty about the tone – he liked Jason, at least when he was looking past recent events that he had been trying so hard to forget.

“Hey,” Jason said defensively, holding up his hands in front of his body. The motion made Jeremy stiffen. “I’m just trying to help. This is a pretty good gig.”

“Why are you even here? Your shift doesn’t start until four.” Jeremy asked sharply, dropping the box onto one of the sleek mahogany tables.

Jason shrugged his broad shoulders. “You run out of places to go, sometimes, when you’re being shunned.”

“What?”

“Nevermind,” he said,  knitting his fingers together atop the table. “We’re talking about you, and why you’re quitting.”

The bar tender ran his hand through his hair, pulling at tufts of the course wheat in frustration. “I just… I just can’t. I can’t take this place. I just want to go back to where everything is normal.

Across the room, the bouncer laughed. “Normal? You think leaving here will make your world normal? It’s not like you’re going to forget what you’ve learned.”

“But -”

“It’s not like you won’t jump when you see someone move a little too quickly out of the corner of your eye, or do something that seems magical. You’re still going to pay extra attention to people out after dark. And if you think you’re paranoid now… hell, wait until you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a security service.”

Jeremy slumped against one of the polished chairs. It felt as if the muscles had just gone out of his legs. Truth be told, he hadn’t thought much beyond the shorter-than-ever letter and what would go in his box.

“It was like that for Maya. Look at where she is now, she’s sure as hell not going back.”

“You mean… she’s not like you?”

Jason snorted as he pushed himself away from the table, striding over to investigate the single white sheet of paper that lined the bottom of Jeremy’s box. “You have a lot to learn, kid,” he added as he picked up what would have been the bar tender’s resignation. After a quick once over, he tore it neatly in two. “Good thing you’ll have an entire lifetime to get on top of things.”

There was a heavy feeling somewhere in the pit of the bar tender’s chest. It was the weight that he had expected to carry out in the form of a box; but now that it was internalized, he could feel at something deeper. Resignation in its least expected form.

“Damnit,” Jeremy mumbled.

“You’re telling me,” Jason agreed.

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Tax Day

The phone had to ring three times before the crisp voice on the other side answered with a simple word:

“Maya,” it stated bluntly.

“Hi,” Maya Solis confirmed, sliding down the back of the bar to sit on the dark tiled floor. It was not something she would normally do – Lord only knows what that floor had been through – but what with the lack of traffic the day before, she had finally taken the time to clean it. Three buckets of decreasingly grey water later and she felt comfortable deeming it sanitary-ish.

“To what do I owe this unscheduled phone call? You are usually so self sufficient, not to mention the fact that I currently have a supplier bill in front of me, so I know you to be well stocked.”

“It’s not about the bar,” she said quickly. “It… it’s about a person who stopped in.”

She was sure she could hear a pause as Gregory Ducante stopped whatever he was doing on the other side of the phone. Prior to this call, she had needed to phone three of his other establishments before finding him at his newest location in Molten. It was odd to find him there so often, but of course, he had become rather attached to the building. She could picture him sitting in his office, suit already on at eleven o’clock in the morning, a pile of papers stacked in front of him. Pen poised in the air.

“You don’t say,” he said evenly. “And this person, who are they to me?”

Maya had an ear for Ducante speak: she knew what he was asking. Was this person a friend or an enemy? Unfortunately, she did not think she had an answer. “Well… they’re not anything to you. They’re someone to me.”

“Ah, the mysterious past life of Maya Solis,” he said. There was a rustling that she took to mean he was balancing the phone his shoulder and ear as he continued to work.

“But she wanted to speak to you,” Maya continued, ignoring his comment, “she said she talked to someone named Josef. Something you might want to know about.”

Again, the scratching paused. The bartender took it as a sign that whatever she had said had hit a nerve, but when Ducante spoke again, his voice was as level as ever. “It’s not necessary for me to speak to her about that.”

“But who the hell is he? Why does she thinks he needs to talk to you?”

“It’s irrelevant, Maya,” the bar owner replied. His tone was a colder one than she was used to hearing when it was direct towards her.

“But -”

The heavy sigh from the other end of the line cut her off. “If she needs to speak to me, she can find me in Molten for at least the next week. I’m finalizing my tax papers.”

Maya had to take a deep breath herself to avoid sounding like a scorned child. “But I don’t know what her motives are.”

There was another pause. Then: “I appreciate your concern, my dear, I truly do. But you must stop suspecting all of your former acquaintances just because you – and they – were all accomplices to murder.”

In the background, there was the sound of several glasses shattering. Maya was sure she could hear Ducante giving a muffled yell of, “Jeremy, those are not tax deductible,” before the phone clicked off and the line went silent.

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A Cool Not-Post Post

Alright guys, so I was on a roll with two little stories, the first in a long time, and now I’m totally going to interrupt for something else entirely. But it’s exciting, I promise!

The other day while surfing the interwebs I came across this super cool campaign: Crits for Water 2012. It’s run by Kat Brauer, YA-author extraordinaire who is volunteering her talents for a good cause (find her online here and here. She gets mega points for having a Cat-Cat on her website). You can donate just ’cause, or you can donate for a Krit with Cat. Erm, a Crit with Kat. Or you can donate to try and win Crits with some of the other awesome people she has lined up! It’s a great opportunity for aspiring writers to get some professional feedback on their work while doing something good for the world. As a huge fan of both charity and service, I fully back what she’s doing and hope you guys will help her reach her goal!

I already donated $25 for a Kat Crit, and assuming I have more money once thesis is done, I plan on potentially donating more (and maybe having her look at another project if she’ll allow it!). Speaking of which, that’s the other exciting news:

In my real life, my senior thesis is happening THIS WEEK. If you’re in the Milwaukee area, come by Gallery Night April 20th for a rip-roarin’ good time. Two weeks after thesis and I will be graduating with my BFA, and then off to do exciting other things because I HAVE A JOB. More on that later.

And I promise, once all this school nonsense is done, you can expect some more writing – maybe even some novel samples as I work through the editing process.

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Break

Forty-seven. That was exactly how many glasses Jeremy had broken since his job as head bartender began all those months ago. He approximated that seven or so of those glasses had broken for normal reasons; the outside of the glass had been damp, a serving tray had slipped. He had swung around and, in a moment of uncharacteristic spacial unawareness, had knocked a delicate chalice to the floor. But those were not the reasons for the other forty. The other forty he knocked up to something that he referred to as ‘clientele hazards.’

Clientele hazards, a phrase Jeremy was careful to use only inside his own mind, encompassed all of the many unusual patrons that frequented Ducante’s. If he had known when he had applied all of those months ago how many secrets the bar had, he would have never showed up for the first interview. Jeremy didn’t like knowing all of the things that he knew about the bar, mostly because they were also things that he then knew about the world. And for his part, he liked his world exactly the way it had been several months ago, thank-you-very much.

Those had been simpler times. His biggest fear after sundown was coming out of work with a parking ticket. And work! It had been a dull job, but bar-backing at the local restaurant chain was easily more lucrative than pouring drinks at Ducante’s. Between his shaky attitude blowing his chance at any big tips and his constant penchant for breaking glasses, Jeremy was lucky if he brought home any money at all. He supposed he could call it luck that he hadn’t been fired yet, but he wasn’t sure that ‘luck’ was quite the right term. The only time the issue had been raised had been when he himself had brought it up to Maya: she had just shrugged and told him calmly,

“You’ll get used to it.”

The thought made a line of sweat break out across his brow line. At least for now, the bar remained blessedly empty save for himself and Jason, the bouncer. Jason always insisted on coming in early and leaving late, something that Jeremy never complained about. The bouncer had a strong, calming presence that the frazzled nerves of the bartender appreciated.

Jeremy took a deep breath and carefully began unloading glasses from the still steaming dishwasher, wiping each one dry as he set it on the counter. At one of the gleaming tables, Jason was flipping through the Molten Review, the lackluster town paper. Every now and again he would pause, yawn, and glance around the bar.

At one of these such moments, the bouncer found his gaze moving to the door that he spent the night standing outside of. “Hey, Jeremy? Would you know where there’s a bottle of WD-40 around here? That door’s been squeaking.”

“Oh, yeah!” Jeremy said. There was a strange feeling that he assumed might have been happiness, or even pride, at knowing the answer to something. At being useful. He went to simultaneously grab two of the wet glasses while also stepping out from behind the bar to gesture at the supply closet when it happened: the beginning of his forty-eighth break.

One of the shining glasses slipped through his fingers, tumbling towards the floor. Across the room, Jason stood up sharply from his seat. It clattered to the floor behind him as he raised one arm, bringing it down in a strange, inverted bell curve.

The glass, a mere inch from the ground, stopped abruptly in mid air, where it hovered effortlessly in space.

Smash. Several inches to the right, the other glass that Jeremy had been holding did what the first had been threatening and shattered across the hardwood.

Forty-eight.

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CHILL

There was no such thing as ‘unseasonably warm’ in the town of Selvmar. The popular tourist destination was nice enough in the summer – beautiful weather, even – but in the early spring months it was nothing but grey. The flowering trees would not start blooming for another few weeks, once the chilly air stopped rolling in from the choppy ocean waves.

Maya Solis was always surprised at how quickly she forgot about the fickle weather of her adopted home town. Now, with five minutes to bar close on what could have been the dullest night of the pre-tourism-season, she found her bare shoulders shivering as the draft coaxed its way through the aged windows of Ducante’s bar.

She rubbed at her shoulders hopelessly, turning to reevaluate the nightly inventory numbers. Three lousy bottles of some watery off brand beer was the only thing that had left the premises. It had hardly been worth being open, but she knew that Ducante would insist: “You never know who will come in after midnight. Or what they’ll say,” he would always add with a wink. And so she had stayed, though the rest of her staff had gone home before 11:55.

To fill the time, Maya had given the grimy old bar the wipe down that it had been denied for the past several decades. The only task left was to dust the bottles that sat untouched on the top shelf – this location did not see the sophisticated palettes that so many of Ducante’s other bars did – and Maya was loathe to go through with cleaning them. She had finally caved to fetching the creaky wooden ladder from the back of the store when she heard the creak of the front door.

Though it was still particularly cold, there was the vibrant thrill of spring time laced on the air that seeped into the lemony fresh tavern. It was enough to offer a jab of adrenaline, but that was not the only thing that set Maya’s hair on edge.

“Wow, working late, I see,” said a light female voice.

The bartender froze in the door to the store room. “Amanda,” she replied cooly.

“Who else?” The girl crooned, sidling past pool table and battered booth to take a seat at the bar itself. “I just got into town and thought I’d stop in to see if you were working. For old time’s sake.”

“For old time’s sake,” Maya repeated. “Right.”

Amanda dragged one long, pale finger across the surface of the freshly Pledged bar, causing a horrible squeaking sound as she did so. “Is your owner around?”

Maya clenched her jaw. “I suppose you mean the bar owner?”

“Yes, of course. That’s what I meant. Where is Gregory spending his time these days?”

“Oh, you know,” she said, shrugging her bare shoulders, “here and there. He’s never spent much time here, though.”

The self-satisfied expression that had been set on the new comer’s face fell slightly. “You’re telling me you don’t see him?”

“Only when there’s a new business opening.”

“Right, the one in Molten,” she cooed, some of her old vibrance flashing back to her hazel eyes. She shook a hand through her sandy curls. “I hope Jason found you.”

Maya’s jaw clenched again. She snatched up a rag hanging on the edge of the bar and began scrubbing furiously at a non existent spot. “You got him disowned, you know.”

“Oh, come on, Maya. Nothing worse than what you’ve done,” she said lightly, leaning an elbow on the counter. “And at least he got a job out of the deal.”

Abruptly, Maya stopped. Her green eyes flashed. “Ivy got what she deserved.” The bartender sighed, pressing her fingers to her temples. “That’s in the past anyway,” she mumbled.

“And I’m here to talk about the future,” Amanda said, sliding to lean forward over the bar. “I had an interesting encounter recently. With a certain ‘Josef.’ I think your employer would like to know about it.”

Maya tossed the rag into a small hamper at the side of the bar before she bothered to respond. “When did you become one to start playing these games, Amanda?”

“When Ivy left the position open,” she said lightly.

“That’s not funny.”

“Please, Maya,” the girl said, more seriously, now. “Please. I need to talk to Ducante.”

The bartender sighed. “Come back tomorrow, Amanda.” She shook her head, turning to fetch the ladder from the back room.

At the bar, Amanda smirked. “It’s good to see you again, Maya.”

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Off the Wagon (Non-Story)

For those of you reading, you might have noticed that it’s been awhile since I’ve added a new Original, and for that, I apologize. I hope you’ll forgive me, but life is pretty overwhelming. I’m working on polishing the full, 68,000 word version of All of the Demons (with hopes to start querying agents with it soon), I’m composing the sequel, I’m in my last semester of art school – which means senior thesis time is here! – and I’m still working to, you know, pay rent and feed myself and junk. (Not to mention that I’ve started trying desperately to get back in shape with Tough Mudder looming on my horizon.)

This blog is in no way ending, but the pace is definitely going to slow down. Please stay tuned because Gregory Ducante and those that frequent his most favorite of establishments still have many stories to share, but their mediator – me – just can’t always keep up with them. Mostly because I love naps, and sometimes those just replace the time when I would be cranking out a nice solid original.

Oh man, stay tuned, though. There’s some good stuff coming.

(Also, mega shout-out to Raven Marlow over at Insanity Reigns Supreme for nominating me for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award. You rock!)

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