One of the awesome things about being an author is getting to use fragments of your own past in your books. If you’re not a kid who grew up in San Antonio, Texas, you’ve probably never heard of her, but when I was growing up there, the Donkey Lady was a frequent topic of urban myth, and I was super excited to get to give her a shout out in my latest book, Shapeshifted.
When I was a kid she was rumored to hang out under bridges, waiting to jump on your car if you slowed down and leave mysterious hoof-prints on your hood and/or bray really loudly to scare you. No one ever knew if she was a person with a donkey’s head, or a donkey with a half-human body, where she came from, or why.
In retrospect, not super scary stuff – and the donkey seems oddly specific! — but at an impressionable age she was the stuff of nightmares.
I think that’s because there’s a particular type of desolation that Texas does well, once you get out of any city there. It’s a flat state, so you can see how you’re utterly alone for miles but there’s this oppressive heat and humidity that makes it feel like there could always be someone sweaty standing right behind you — and you wouldn’t know they were there unless you turned around fast enough. Add the pervasive music of cicadas to the mix, thrumming like you’re hearing your own heart, and grackle birdcalls that sound like they’re trying to call aliens down – it’s like just by being in the state you’re always half-way to a horror movie. That’s before you get to the walls of creepy-looking shells cicadas leave on trees and fireants that are, in their miniature way, trying to kill you.
In that context, and when you’re twelve, I think it’s easy to believe that there’s half-human half-donkey creature roaming the country side, waiting under bridges to attack you. I know I did – and it was really fun to finally get to use her in a book.
She likes alchemy, blood, and science, in that order.
I try to answer everything in a timely fashion, but I still have a job, and when I’m on a stretch at work, I’m largely offline. Please be patient, thank you.
Nurse Edie Spence is once again called upon to save a life…and this time, it’s personal. Can her new community of zombies, vampires, and shapeshifters come to her rescue when she needs them most?
When Edie was fired from her paranormal nursing job at County Hospital, her whole world came crashing down. Now she’s is once again shaken to her core. Her mother is deathly ill and there’s only one thing that will save her: vampire blood. But with the paranormal community shunning Edie, where can she obtain it…without losing her own life in the process?
Edie hopes to procure it at her new job at the clinic across town, where the forces of evil loom large. Vampire gang wars are rampant. Old underground enemies are rising to the surface. And Edie’s zombie ex-boyfriend has arrived at the scene—but is he the same man he used to be? And what should she make of the enigmatic doctor with whom she shares an unexpected connection? She’ll have to figure it out soon, because all hell is about to break loose—literally—and time is running out…
Excerpt from Chapter One
I'd lost fifteen pounds in six months.
Being a nurse, I'd run through the worst case scenarios first: cancer, diabetes, TB. When I'd checked my blood sugars and cleared myself of coughs and suspicious lumps, I was left with the much more likely diagnosis of depression. Which was why I was here, even though here was an awkward place to be.
"I can tell you anything, right?" I asked as I sat down across from the psychologist.
"Of course you can, Edie." She gave me a comforting smile, and adjusted her long skirt over her knees. "What do you feel like talking about today?"
I inhaled and exhaled a few times. There didn't seem to be any good way to launch into my story. Hi, I used to work with vampire exposed humans. Once upon a time, I dated a zombie and a werewolf. So, you know, the usual. I snorted to myself, and admitted: "I'm not sure where to begin."
"Anything that feels comfortable for you is fine. Sometimes it takes a few sessions to rev up."
"Heh." Six months was a long time — I should be getting over things already. Things like being fired…well, shunned, which felt a lot like firing. Maybe I should have let them wipe my memory when I'd had the chance. Figures I would make the wrong decision. "I've just been through a rough time lately."
"I had this job that I really enjoyed. And I had to leave it. To go elsewhere. Ever since then, my life just feels…plain." I'd spent the end of winter up through July working the full time nightshift in a sleep apnea clinic, monitoring patients while they slept. It was dull. My skin was paler than ever, and my social life was long gone.
There was a pause while she attempted to wait me out. When I didn't continue, she filled the gap. "Let's talk about what you used to enjoy. Maybe we can figure out what you enjoyed about it, and think how you can bring those qualities over into your current situation.
"Well. My coworkers were good people. And my job was exciting." I paused, chewing on the inside of my cheek.
"What was exciting about it?" she encouraged me.
I looked at her, at her nice office, nice couch, nice shelves with nice things. It must be nice to be a psychologist. I looked back at her. She smiled, and opportunity blossomed inside my heart. We, she and I, had patient-therapist privilege. As a registered nurse, I knew the boundaries. As long as I wasn't a danger to myself, or to anyone else, she'd have to keep what I told her quiet. It wasn't like she was going to believe me, besides.
I leaned forward, my elbows on my knees. "What do you think about vampires?"
The smile on her face tightened for just a fraction of a second. "It's more important that I know what you think, not the other way around. So, tell me, Edie. What do you think about vampires?"
"What if I told you they actually existed?" I said. Her smile appeared increasingly strained. "Here, I won't make it into a question. I'll tell you what I think. They do exist. There's quite a few of them out there, actually. They have human servants, some to do their dirty work, and others just to get blood from, like human cattle."
The words just poured out. I knew I wasn't supposed to say anything, and I knew from looking at her that she didn't want to hear it — but it felt so good to finally talk about it. The dam had broken. I couldn't stop now.
"And there's werewolves too. There were two big packs, but now there's just one, and they race around on full moon nights in the parks outside of town, and then there's also zombies, and I dated this zombie for reals once — I knew he was a zombie going into things, and I still dated him. You know how I knew? He told me. I was his nurse one night. At the hospital where I used to work."
I sank back into the world's most comfortable couch, and pressed a hand to my chest. "I cannot believe I just told you all that. That felt so good." Looking up, it was clear my confessions hadn't had the same effect on both of us.
She gave me a tight high smile. "Do the vampires tell you to hurt yourself?"
Not lately! was the wiseass answer that I wanted to give — but everything I told her was going into a file. If I was going to abuse her listening skills, the least I could do would be to take things seriously, and stay polite. "No. They don't. They're not in my head, either."
She tried a different tack. "Do the vampires tell you to hurt other people?"
Not anymore! "No. They're not allowed to talk to me anymore."
I could see her measuring me, weighing my sanity. It was pull out now, and laugh, like everything I'd said had been part of a prank or crazy joke, and wasn't I hilarious? Or sink like a stone – which was the direction I was heading in. It could be said I lacked the gene for self- preservation that most people came installed with.
"There was this one vampire that I was really close to. She kicked me out to protect me, after I destroyed all the extra vampire blood in the county. I saved everyone…but I ruined everything, too."
The therapist inhaled and exhaled deeply. "Edie, at twenty-five you're a little old to be having a schizophrenic break. But we need to do some reality testing here."
Reality testing. Like everything that'd happened to me this past winter wasn't real. I stared at the patterned carpeting beneath my feet. "That's the thing. It was all real. All of it. But I can't tell anyone about it. You know what'll happen to you when I leave this room? If you believe me?"
"No." Her face looked like she was sucking on an increasingly sour candy. "Why don't you tell me?"
"The Shadows will come out of the ground, and erase your memory of everything I said. Maybe even of me." I nudged the carpet with my toe.
"Edie, how long have you been having these delusions?"
I didn't answer her.
"I know you're a nurse, and no one wants to put you on meds less than I do, but my coworker next door — he's a psychiatrist. We can go together and check in with him. He could get you in as an emergency visit, and then you can go fill your prescription. Risperdal does wonders for people."
"Risperdal?" I startled and looked up. I was crazy…but I wasn't crazy. "No."
"Edie –" her voice went low. I grabbed my bag and started walking towards the door. "You're not going to hurt yourself, are you?"
"Not if I don't stay here," I said as I shut the door behind me.
Edie Spence Series