A Dedication to RBG




Yesterday, I mourned. Today, I wake up another day to fight. I used to think that stories were just that. Dragons and magic, tech and battles, or just about personal demons.

But, even the short erotica I published, Adoration, had a theme of empowerment for women, of not accepting a mediocre existence.

Writers have an opportunity every time they tell a story, to tell one that is themed on how the world is and what they think the world should be like.

When I die, I don’t want to be famous, but if one person is inspired by my stories, then I will die having achieved my goal in this fight.

Announcement: Pre-order Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling (featuring sneak peak excerpt)

Since Tam Lin is traditionally a Halloween story Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling will be released October 1st. However, I wanted to celebrate Bisexual Visibility Month, by offering a story with bisexual characters written by a bisexual author (yours truly), by setting up a pre-order .

Available for Pre-order here:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HX91MYD

Here is an exclusive excerpt from the final draft:

Last night, Tom had given Ariel two weeks to think over his proposal, but it seemed Tom’s boyfriend had already come to a decision. This morning, Ariel stood in the hallway of their condo, waiting with one arm behind his back. 

The sight of Ariel wearing only a pair of flannel pajama pants was something to behold. Tom’s boyfriend had a perfect blend of looks: strong nose, heartbreakingly long eyelashes, high cheekbones, killer jaw, and full set of shapely lips, and the body of a bronze god. Not only was he beautiful, but Ariel was kind and sweet and had the best stories about growing up in ‘el campo’ of the Dominican Republic. Ariel listened well and was smart enough to appreciate some of Tom’s more esoteric writing. Tom wondered how long he would have the pleasure of this sight and Ariel’s company. What was a skinny, ginger, word nerd doing with a professional baseball player/model let alone asking for more?

Ariel swiped a large hand over sculpted features, pausing over his mouth—he had a habit of doing that when he didn’t know what to say.

Tom braced himself. This was it. They were breaking up.

Instead of speaking the words Tom didn’t want to hear, Ariel revealed the envelope he’d been hiding behind his back and handed it over, face unreadable.

Tom eyed the envelope, suspicious and somewhat surprised the talkative athlete would hand the writer a Dear John letter when Ariel wouldn’t admit they were in a relationship publicly. In a day and age anyone could take a photo of the letter and post it on social media; it would be a risk. Ariel trusted him, which should warm Tom’s heart. What did that trust mean if it were all going to end anyway?

Ariel’s supple mouth spread in a teasing grin, and then he let out a raucous chuckle. “Dude, it isn’t gonna bite. Go on. Open it, papi.”



Creating Character Boards and Why They’re Useful Visuals

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’m doing character profiles for the story I plan to write Dot and Al’s Paranormal Detective Agency. Character profiles are part of my plotting process. It’s where I create backstory and discover motivation long before I know what’s going to happen. I think this is key to creating compelling characters.

I like prepping this way because I’m a visual thinker. As a child, I started out storytelling drawing pictures and telling my mom what was happening in the scenes that I drew. As an adult, I dive down an internet rabbit hoe to find images that fit how I see characters in my mind. After I find a pic, I write a brief synopsis about them on the picture and try to do it in story fashion like the example below:

I want the picture itself to represent more than how the character looks, but have some of their personality or symbolism of their strengths and weaknesses. For example: I liked the picture above better than anything else I could find for a Queen of Hearts. Her eyes are closed. To me, this symbolizes she’s blind to her faults. She’s underwater, drowning in her own power. The only way the queen is going to realize this is if she opens her eyes and sees that she’s no longer the young girl being controlled but has turned into a tyrants she loathed.


After I have all the characters and their backstory synopses written up, I make a Pinterest board for the story. Usually, I end up gathering more images of possible settings that will work with the theme I want to explore (or, to be honest, places that just look really cool). During that process, the story, characters, and world begin to solidify in my mind, and I start working out the plot.

I still use the boards long past the planning stages. I like to revisit the board I created for inspiration when I get writer’s block or just to have a visual to work from as I create.

I’d love to hear from other authors about their process of creating characters in the comments.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps 2020

Image source: https://unsplash.com/@alicealinari




View from My Writing Desk

Piss yellow sky courtesy of wildfires ravaging the Pacific Northwest, photo by me

This is the current view from my writing desk. An overcast sky in September isn’t out of the ordinary in the Seattle suburbs, but this is smoke from the wildfires ravaging Oregon and California. (We’re not downwind of the ones razing Washington. Yet.)

Needless to say, our air quality is in the crapper. So, I haven’t been doing much in the way of blogging this week.

In honor of Eastside Hedge Witch, my youngest and I decided to try an old spell. We filled two buckets (Okay, large mixing bowls. I’m not wasting a whole bucket of water.) and took them outside. There, in unison, we tossed the water on the parched grass, shook our fists at the sky, and shouted, “See? It’s not that hard!”

Besides my yard getting a good slurp and the neighbors declaring us bonkers as Rhiannon the rock witch, nothing happened.

I guess I’ll save the magic for my stories.

©Tammy Deschamps

Troublesome Tropes in Urban Fantasy, Romance, and Paranormal Erotica and How to Subvert Them

Alpha Male/Rich Asshole:

The concept that a man who is power-hungry, aggressive, violent, stalkerish, possessive and territorially jealous as a romantic lead is worrisome. It not only promotes toxic masculinity, but might encourage readers to seek abusive or codependent relationships. It’s not just toxic for individuals, it’s toxic for humanity in general.

We live in a patriarchal society where men statistically make more money and have more power. Yet, they cannot express any emotion other than anger without being deemed weak. We don’t need more fiction propagating this as a cultural norm. Does anyone living in 2020 really believe we’re better off for this type of man in charge let alone in our fiction?

In Eastside Hedge Witch, I introduce Gabriel, the archangel of the Pacific Northwest, as a person, who aesthetically fits the trope. However, the reader will soon discover, he’s not what urban fantasy readers would recognize as an “alpha hole”.’ I pepper throughout contrasting characters who get the metaphorical backhand for their behavior.

We need more sexy scientist/librarian/humanitarian male leads. The despot thing is getting kinda stale.

Kidnapping:

Kidnapping itself is fine. The antagonist taking the protagonist hostage is fine. Taking someone again their will is problematic because any action they take afterward means squat. Stockholm syndrome is a real thing and the MC falling in love with their captor/abuser/rapist is not sexy. I stopped reading an author who had a ton of indie books that were all about consent then as soon as they got published by a big house wrote a kidnapping alphahole story.

What is a sexier trope? Two people on opposing sides, equal in battle and power, falling in love. Give me an enemies to lovers story any day over any kidnapping story. Give them a common enemy to defeat. Or, better yet, a peace to negotiate to end the dying on both sides of the conflict. Cast them far from the battle and throw them in dire circumstances, which they must learn to overcome prejudices and work together to survive. That’s hot.


Sexual Assault:

Any sort of unwanted touch, kissing, or rape is not sexy. It is not BDSM. That wold is all about consent. A man forcing themself on a woman and her falling in love with him because she liked the unwanted sex is not cool. Do I need to say why?

Men boxing women in, invading their spaces, stalking them, and not taking no for an answer until they finally relent are all crap tropes.

Rape isn’t a plot point. It’s a lazy way to create sympathy for a character. There are so many better ways to create empathy and relatability without going there.




Comment with some tropes in fiction you’d love to stop seeing and ones that you love.


©Tammy Deschamps
Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash


Research: The Devil is in the Details


When you write a novel, you’re going to run into research. Whether it be about diet or hygiene of a certain era or mythology and religious texts, doing your research will add a layer of depth to your world building. Hopefully, you won’t go into detail to the point of boring just to show how knowledgable your are about the 19th century toilets.


I’m doing research on Satan or the concept of a devil in relation to the three Abrahamic religions for the Eastside (Sub)urban Fantasy series and I’m fascinated with what I’ve found.

I needed this research because I realized I was writing with the bias of my own knowledge sourced from the book of Genesis, the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the poem Paradise Lost, and of course what I was taught in CCD when I was a Catholic and when I dipped my toes in the Jehovah’s Witness version of Christianity for a few years in my twenties.

The devil as a character has been featured in poetry, literature, movies, comics, and television. Lucifer Morningstar or Lucifer on Supernatural likely popped into your head. Anne Bishop did a version of him in her Black Jewels series.

I don’t want those influences in my head when introduce His Creepiness and his demonic minions in my series. So, I’m going to spend a little time researching and writing backstory with a little of my own mythos added in to make the unseen antagonist a formidable, yet relatable one.

©Tammy Deschamps 2020

Image by saarvendra from Pixabay 


Excerpt from Eastside Faerie: A (Sub) Urban Fantasy II

While I query Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub) Urban Fantasy, I thought I’d start other projects just in case it tanks. But, the story and characters drew me back in. The first book, though it served the purpose thematically of proving Miriam should not run from her problems and accept herself and her magic, was not the end, but only the beginning of her reentry into the supernatural world.

When I was plotting the series arc, I realized that certain plot elements would need to be told from another perspective. I started out with a prologue written from Micah’s point a view. Micah is a relatively minor character in Eastside Hedge Witch, but his own arc affects hers in a big way.

Side and minor characters in a story challenge your main character or provide them with information. What develops next will certainly throw a few obstacles in Miriam’s path, but it will eventually lead to her having a better understanding of things she learned in the first book.



Prologue

The sun Miriam created grew brighter every day, Micah supposed that meant her power grew too. He stretched in bed bathed in its warmth. He got out of bed and practiced unfurling his wings. His back stung as bones and tendons and feathers that hadn’t existed moments before formed in seconds. Light grey wings lined with silvery powder called angel dust filled his periphery. 

Micah’s husband, Shawn, warned him several times not to let the fae of this realm consume the substance. Angel dust was a bit of an aphrodisiac for angels and demons, but got the fairies high off their asses. The last thing he needed around the twins were a bunch of tripping pixies. 

He glanced at the bassinet where the babies slept. Gabriel, the were-nephilim archangel prick in charge, gave the okay for Hanna and Owen to live in the faerie with Micah while he learned to use his power. Anger pricked at the edges of his mind. He didn’t like Gabriel. If it were up to the archangel, Micah suspected he would have executed Shawn for being a decent person, protecting a scared, seventeen year old kid.

The archangel relenting was all Miriam’s doing as was this faerie. Turns out the PTSA mom, always looking out for everyone, was a supernatural freak. A mix of magical races that normally didn’t gel, and one of the most powerful beings Micah had ever faced. 

If she asked Gabriel to jump, he’d ask her how high, when, and if he could kiss the ground she walked on first. Infatuation like that wouldn’t last. The poor widow deserved better. She had so much power and used it all for the benefit of others.

Micah shook his head. He needed to tell her to dump Gabriel. Not only was he infatuated, Shawn suspected the angels wanted to use her against the opposition and was using the sweet lure of the beefcake to reel Miriam in and using her to control Gabriel. It was all going to crash and burn, and Miriam would get hurt out of it.  

 He checked on the twins. Micah should be content, but he missed Babette and Tomi. The big kids came whenever Shawn visited. It had been a trip for them all, learning what their fathers were. What Shawn had always been without telling him.

The sting of betrayal sank deep. He’d tried to get over the secret his husband had kept from him all these years. 

Shawn had known all along it had been Micah who killed his family and neighbors, smiting them with his anger.  

Micah felt his power rise like heat blooming under his skin wanting to emanate outward. He did the breathing lessons and meditation Shawn had taught him. When that didn’t work, he sat for a bit listening to the comforting sound of the twins soft breathing in the bassinet. 

Feeling the urge to piss, Micah left the small bedroom. It would have been awesome if Miriam put in indoor plumbing. If she could create a pocket universe, a toilet couldn’t be too hard. Instead Micah had to use an outhouse. He opened the door to the main sitting room of the cottage and went outside. 

Sprites flew through the air like pretty glowing bugs. The flowers were in bloom, fragrant in the breeze. 

He went around back to the outhouse, ignoring the farm animals. The fae took care of all that. They even cleaned the cottage and disposed of the dirty diapers. 

Under Miriam’s warning, Micah did not allow them to watch the twins, but at least he didn’t have to worry about errant fae taking them. Miriam had made it a rule they could not enter the cottage without his permission. Since she was basically their god, the fae listened. 

He took care of necessities and then headed back around the house. The nice thing about a faerie set up by a witch. Waste was all magicked away somewhere else. When he asked Miriam where all the dirty diapers and sewage went, she smiled and said, “Hell, of course.”

That woman had a real problem with Satan. Shawn suspected it was personal. 

On the way back to the cottage, Micah stopped dead in his tracks. 

Shawn, standing in the meadow at the far edge of the property, took Micah’s breath away. When his husband wiped away his pretense of humanity, his smooth, dark skin possessed an ethereal sheen and he lost any traces of the years that had passed since they met. Magnificent golden wings sprouted from his back. 

In profile, Shawn faced the most beautiful and terrifying creature Micah had ever seen–and he’d seen his share of gorgeous and monstrous fae since moving to Miriam’s faerie. The androgynous being had long black silken hair that faded to tendrils of smoke at the ends. Their wings were gorgeous membranous leather and bone, smoke curling at the tips. More of the seemingly living smoke curled at their feet. The stranger was completely naked except for tattoos and a black wrap covering their hips, that Micah supposed was a loin cloth. The wrap seemed more smoke than material. Like recognized like. Micah knew instinctively this being was no fae. 

Their  eyes, golden glowing orbs, narrowed on Shawn. 

In turn, Shawn snarled something in a language Micah couldn’t understand, but felt as if his husband had touched him. 

Micah’s pulse raced. His gaze bounced between what looked like a confrontation and the cottage where the twins needed protecting.

Suddenly the shadows extended from the being, like an ominous cloud, swallowing Shawn and the being before they disappeared altogether.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Photo by Bertrand Bouchez on Unsplash

New to this blog? Check out an excerpt from Chapter One of Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy (book one) here: https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/31/eastside-hedge-witch-suburban-fantasy/

Writer Talk: Why Isn’t My Story Selling?

I’ve been alpha and/or beta reading manuscripts for about four years. I read a mix of about fifty to sixty traditionally and indie published novels a year for pleasure. What do some indie novels have in common with not-yet-polished drafts I alpha and beta read? Bad beginnings. Info dumps. Lack of developmental editing.

The way you start your story is crucial to grabbing the readers attention. Therefore, your opening lines and first pages really have to pop. I’ve written a blog post about writing characters who readers identify with. https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/09/why-knowing-who-your-audience-is-and-writing-characters-that-those-readers-identify-with-is-the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-as-a-writer/ I also wrote a post about hooking the reader from the beginning. https://tammydeschamps.com/2020/08/14/writer-talk-hooking-a-reader-from-the-beginning/


Don’t Bog the Reader Down with Description:

I recently read an advanced reader copy of a newish author’s story and couldn’t get past the first page. They started with dialogue then went into describing an office and a character, then gave an info dump about the character’s career, childhood, and dating life.

I will not share with you the author or the story because I’m writing this to teach, not embarrass. But, I can give an example of how they should have began the story. (Names and characters have been changed.)

Julie chewed her lip as she watched Alphonso. The big man had been working hard all afternoon on the new delivery of books, and Julie had been there for the show, stealing glances every chance she got. It was torturous to see the two things she liked the most books and her boss, but the sweet kind.

His broad back rippled under his fitted dress-shirt as he cut open another box. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand before unpacking more books. No one said being a librarian would be this sexy, but she doubted other librarians had a boss that looked like Alphonso.

“I’m so pathetic,” she whispered to herself, but didn’t stop watching.

Watching her boss was risky, but about all the action she got these days. She’d keep watching and wishing. It was fine as long as he didn’t know, right?

Alphonso’s dark eyes met hers. Busted! He arched an inquisitive eyebrow.

“Um, I wanted to know if I could uh, break for lunch?”

Alphonso flashed a warm smile. “Sure, Julie.”

Her stomach flipped at the sound of his velvety voice uttering her name. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic. “Um. K, bye.” She rushed out of there before said or did something stupid.

It’s drafty because I wrote it on the fly, but we get that Julie is a lonely librarian and her boss is a forbidden fruit without going into pages and pages of exposition. Assume your readers are smart and can infer from scenarios rather than smothering them with details and back story. If the readers there to read erotica, they’ll relate to wanting someone and not being able to have them. When Julie does get that reward, it will be all the more satisfying.

An editor friend of mine recently shared something she was doing gratis. The author spent three, long paragraphs giving the reader an info dump of their mc’s military background. It read like a sixth grader was doing a book report on a resume. The editor assured me that yes, the information comes into play later, but no it was not necessary to begin the story. She redlined the first three paragraphs and marked the story to begin with the action.

Starting with action does not equate a good story. Several years back, I workshopped the first chapter of a science-fantasy novel I’d written. A literary agent and former editor for a big publishing house was the group’s leader. He pointed out that while the battle scene and the world building I set up was cool, he could care less about what happened because he didn’t know anything about the main character.

I introduced the story with no personal stakes. I realized I’d written a cardboard cutout that went through a series of events and no personal growth. No matter how “cool” of a world you build, the main character has a lesson to learn.

I rewrote the beginning with the personal stakes of my main character and the greater stakes for her team:

Not for the first time, I think that I am cursed as the vitals readout on my ocular indicates the dragonrider is still alive. Regulator Number Six is lying prone in a field stubbled with the stumps of harvested grains, something dark seeps from her midsection staining the rich loam. Her dragon, MIA.   

Dread pools in my stomach as I scan the skies.  Dragon Six circles so high above that he’s a grey speck in the sky, but does not land. His training is overriding his instinct to protect. I feel a modicum of relief. 

I touch one of the invisible threads that connect me to all living beings from my species’ origin world. I follow the thread to examine the strength of the bond between dragon and rider. Threads are intangible things, yet I sense what ties me to everything else as much as the sun beating down on my back.   

At the same time, I monitor the battle still raging in the background through the chatter from my unit in my earpiece. As a unit leader, with fifteen years of service under my belt, I have learned to multitask magic and tech. 

With a mental nod from me through our bond, my own dragon has already taken off and rejoined the unit. One of us should stay in the fight.  

Proceeding forward, I zoom my ocular in on the rider. Her arms are close to her body and legs are not spread out. That combined with no evident parachute deployed indicates the hit that knocked her from the back of her dragon had rendered her unconscious.  

As I draw closer, I see her ocular is gone, likely in the field somewhere. I curse under my breath as I scan the empty field for the tech. Recovering the ocular is nearly as important as what I must do. In the hands of the rebels…

A boom and subsequent whistle divert my attention to the forest west of me. I turn and watch as a missile pierces the sky, exploding midair. My unit’s five remaining dragons fly high enough to avoid the shrapnel. The unit dives while the rebels are likely busy loading another missile.  They retaliate with equally heavy firepower. Literal firepower.  Blasting the patch of forest.

 A retaliatory whine comes from another part of the wood and the missile explodes. That was too fast. The rebs couldn’t have run that far and reloaded. My mind reels that they got a hold of not one but two anti-dragon missile launchers and launched a surprise attack without my intelligence network catching wind of it. My spies were good. My main source loyal. 

I push those thoughts and my alarm aside to count dragons to see if anyone in my unit got hit. Still five, including Phime. She is a splash of red in the clear blue skies among her grey brethren and bigger than the rest of the dragons. I want to rejoin them, to end this, but I let myself be satisfied with my dragon taking my stead. 

A gravelly voice comes over my earpiece on a direct comm.. “Number One, Dragon One is riderless…Where are you?” To anyone else, Urduhk, my second in command, sounds pissed. To me, who’s known him my whole life, he sounds terrified.

So nice of you to notice.

“Number Six is down. Fatally wounded. I must,” I pause searching for the right words and take a deep breath. “…do what’s necessary. Dragon One will follow your dragon’s lead.” I’m disobeying protocol, leaving my dragon riderless, but under heavy fire, my unit needs Phime more than I do. 

“Got it. Number one–” The air whooshes from his lungs into the mic in preparation to say something he doesn’t want to, I’m sure. “We can’t open the gate until we’ve neutralized the enemy. If the bond between the dragon and rider breaks, you’re on your own.”

I lift my gaze to the sky again.

Number Six’s dragon is small, no bigger than a commune draft horse, yet the most dangerous creature in the galaxy unbound. Next to the Rhimacord, I think bitterly. I never lose my sense that either species will kill me if I don’t mind my back when they are present.

So far, the dragon is only circling the area, watching for threats. Their bond mate trusts me, therefore, I am not one. 

Yet.

My gut churns. I don’t want to do what I have to do. But, that is exactly why I am here. No one else cares about the humans in the commune or the fallen dragon rider, only securing the gate home. The gates remaining in the Rhimacord Empire’s control is our number one priority. It is drilled into us from the day we step into the Regulator Academy halls to our very last flight.

“I’m aware. I can handle it. I am a Vasphil after all.” I break protocol again by revealing my identity for the sake of a joke only funny between us.  

In my earpiece, Urduhk grunts, then switches to the unit-wide link, giving orders that relay what I’m doing without actually saying it. His gravelly voice is neutral and calm. I know him well enough to know he is anything but calm. Under his hard-ass exterior, he fears for me and the unit. That we’ll never go home. 

I am not calm, either.



There’s a lot of world building interwoven with the action, but it is all part of how it relates to the MC’s personal stakes. She’s fighting a war she doesn’t believe in, but she’s there and doing it for her people. She mistakenly believes if she serves an evil empire, she can protect her people from being like the oppressed. Hmm….you can guess how well that will go for her.

If you’re having trouble with your beginning and finding that right balance of show vs tell, action vs character building, open up your favorite stories and reread the beginning, take notes. You’ll start learning very quickly where you need to improve and this will lead to writing more salable stories.


Written material ©Tammy Deschamps
Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash



















Forward Planning: My Next Project


The idea for my next project came from this comic I saw on Facebook. It was simple as that. I didn’t want to do a Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland retelling. That’s overly done, and I’m not interested in writing children.

I pitched the idea of Dorothy and Alice as private detectives and writing an urban fantasy/cozy mystery mashup series to my Facebook writing group Speculative Twist (https://www.facebook.com/groups/544023183188247). The group gave me a lot of support and encouragement. Many suggested the duo would suffer PTSD after their experience. That gave me more ideas of where I could go thematically with the series and character arcs.

So, while I’m writing Eastside Faerie, the sequel to Eastside Hedge Witch, I’m also going to be doing a lot of research.

In the meanwhile, I wrote a teaser prologue and/or back of the cover blurb to get the creative juices flowing. Here it is:

Turns out, it wasn’t all a dream.
My traumatized thirteen year old brain hadn’t made up the surreal horrors I’d experienced in Oz. When I was in college, I found a newspaper article about a Kansan girl reported missing by her aunt and uncle. The description fit. The names and dates fit.
I confronted auntie Em. She confessed they hid the truth because they had no clue what had happened to me and didn’t want to believe the fantastical stories coming out of my thirteen year old mouth. They were salt of the Earth Kansan farmers, not prone to believe fanciful stories about witches and robots.
But, they’d all seen me drop out of the sky and land in the pigsty, unconscious and broken.
My auntie, uncle, and the farm hands all made a pact that it was best just to go along with my assumption that I’d dreamt it all. No harm. No foul. Right?
Except, that was over a hundred years ago and everyone who could have told me what had happened or why I haven’t aged a day since I hit nineteen are all dead.
At least when I met Alice, I learned I wasn’t the only one and didn’t have to figure it out alone. Together, we started Dot and Al’s Detective Agency. Eventually we’ll figure out what happened to us and why we’re immortals with a few other perks, one missing person case at a time.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Eastside Hedge Witch: A (Sub)urban Fantasy – Excerpt from Chapter One

I’m writing a paranormal women’s fiction, or suburban fantasy called, Eastside Hedgewitch. The project idea came to me when I was blue over my decision to shelve Scavengers of the Starsea. I dropped the latter project because the POV characters were all of Afro-Latinx descent. I love the story and started writing it because my daughter said there was no one who looked like her in Science Fiction. I started with the idea of the Dominican diaspora in space instead of New York and ran with it. However, I decided until systemic racism isn’t a thing, and black and brown people are able to get published as easily as their white peers, it wasn’t my place to write that story.

Eastside Hedge Witch is the story of a widow in her forties raising her demigoddess daughter in the suburbs of Seattle. She’s left the supernatural community behind, but the devil is knocking at the door, asking her to come out and play. She answers his first call something like this:



I retrieve the container of Morton salt from my backpack and flick the spout with my thumb. I cringe when the friction causes the metal spout to squeak against the cardboard of the container. Fortunately, the beastie is still tearing up my neighbor’s garden looking for the bunny. I pour the salt in a circle, whispering the words my mother taught me that her mother taught her, and so on. I say it in English because the words are only a focus. The power comes from me. A metaphorical light inside that can blaze with the brilliance of a thousand suns, or so my mother said. 

Mom was more poetic than I could ever be. She read Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, and other greats of the twentieth century. I read comics and listened to Biggie and Wu-Tang Clan. She belonged to a coven. I was a lone-witch, living a continent away from the women who raised me. Generational disconnect happens to the supernatural too, I suppose.   

When I’m done with the setup, I return the salt to my backpack and steel myself before whistling. 

The hound pauses the search for the rabbit. Red glowing eyes swerve away from the flower bed and lock onto me. It sniffs the air. A low growl emits from the beast’s throat. Claws as long as my fingers click on the sidewalk as the hound stalks forward. 

“Go home and tell your master that Miriam’s answer is still no.” I pointed as I spoke, not intending a literal destination but a general begone direction. 

The idiot looks where I pointed. I roll my eyes. They’re not like earth dogs, they have no instinct to protect, but they have the same instinct to hunt and follow signals. When the hellhound realizes there isn’t a literal door behind it leading home, it narrows its predatory red gaze on me, but it doesn’t move.  

Panic fills me. This might be a seek and hold mission. Like a pointer dog finding the prey but not touching it. I’d rather the thing take me than its master anywhere in the vicinity of my kid, who was hopefully still fast asleep. 

I clear my throat.  “Also, tell him it’s a little gross and a lot creepy that he’s still got a thing for a mortal who dumped him over twenty years ago.”  I throw up a hand and shake my head. “Wait. Why am I telling you? You’re too stupid to deliver a message.” I make like I’m going to walk away.

That does it. The beast snarls and lunges.

My heart leaps into my throat. The creature is doing exactly what I want it to do. However, a massive hellhound launching in my direction accompanied by swirling magic that promises to rip me from everything I love to carry me to my least favorite ex scares the bejesus out of me.  My brain kicks into gear. I murmur the words of an incantation, stuttering with fear.

The ground quivers beneath my feet. Within the circle I’ve created on the ground, a swirling vortex appears. Fire erupts from the center, but I don’t feel the heat. It’s all contained by the salt I bought in a three-pack from Costco. The flames consume the hellhound.

The beast snarls and whines but cannot leave the trap.
Oopsy. I opened a portal to a less hospitable part of its world. If the thing didn’t tear people to shreds at the bidding of its master, I’d feel sorry for the thing.  Guess this hellhound won’t be delivering my message. 

I murmur another incantation, this time with confidence. The swirling vortex sucks the hellfire and burning beast down like a turd in a flushing toilet. As I’ve said, I’m no poet. Once more I chant, and the portal between worlds vanishes, leaving behind only my salt art.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps

Image courtesy unsplash.com

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