Once again, our good friend Mary Janice Davidson has come through, with an exclusive sneak peek at a chapter from the newest Betsy book, UNDEAD AND UNWARY! HERE’S MJ:
Thanks ROCCO! A big meow to you!
Here’s a sneak preview from my new release, UNDEAD AND UNWARY. In it our heroine, Betsy, is once more struggling with her responsibilities as a wife, daughter, queen, roommate, sort-of godmother to weird baby twins, and hellspawn overlord. It’s not going well. Not too spoilery, though! (Some mild pottymouth.)
There’s this thing that happens in books and movies when the heroine (moi) stumbles across something weird (my entire post-death life, and also senior prom) and can’t figure it out (all the time, any of the time) and is a slave to being overwhelmed (like that time my dentist kept hounding me to come back so he could finish the root canal, that guy was obsessed with teeth).
And every time, every damn time, this idiotic, often pointlessly gorgeous heroine, for whatever dumbass reason (afraid others won’t like her, afraid others will notice she’s turning into a slavering zombie, afraid she’ll get audited, afraid they’ll stop inviting her to parties, afraid she’ll be deported, afraid she’ll get slapped—and by this point, the audience is itching to slap the silly bitch), every time, she keeps it all to herself until the mysterious secret in question blows up in her face. Blows up in everyone’s faces.
The terrible secret, now hideously exposed, nearly gets her killed or straight up gets her killed (if you’re like me, you’re actively rooting for her miserable death by now). If it miraculously doesn’t, it’s only because it’s the end of the movie when she explains to everyone what the hell’s been going on and, weirdest of all, they don’t fall upon her and murder her in a fit of “why didn’t you say anything, you dim bimbo?” rage.
Every. Damn. Time. Go on. Test my theory. Stream a handful of horror movies and watch how stupid the heroine is. It’s almost as bad as sci-fi movies featuring scientists who are just. So. Dumb (*cough* Helix *cough*). 
Not this idiot heroine, boys and girls. Nope. I pretty much always know when something is over my head and can’t wait to fob it off onto someone else. This has been a habit of mine since...oh, about first grade. I have always owned my uselessness. Which is why I’d been avoiding the Anti-Christ like I was getting paid. But acknowledging my complete uselessness for a job didn’t always mean I should avoid the job. I’m bad at washing dishes by hand, too, but when the dishwasher broke...hmm. I’m not sure who handled that. I know we started using plastic cups for smoothie time, and there were a lot of explanations from individuals about why it wasn’t their problem, and then threats, but if I’d had to, I would have stepped up. Same with pledges to younger sibs and otherworldly realms.
The time for cowardly scurrying into corners was over. Now was the time for cowardly scurrying into a realm I knew nothing about and had no business running.
Right, then. To Hell! But in a good way!
Laura, who never flaunted her abilities, simply walked out of the kitchen where she presumably vanished. Or kept walking out until she got back out to her car; I dunno, I hadn’t even noticed when she’d arrived. Not my job. I, on the other hand, since my middle name should have been Flaunt, gave my pals a cheery wave. “I’m off! Don’t wait up.” As exit lines went, it was lame, but I hadn’t had a lot of prep time.
Then I dramatically disappeared.
I’d thought this was mind-over-matter, I had gotten myself back from Hell just by thinking about it a few weeks ago. (Maybe it had worked more because of my desperation to get away from the Ant, the worst spirit guide ever.) But I was still in the mansion, dammit, while Laura was probably half way (or all the way) to Hell by now, and several of my alleged loved ones were trying not to smirk. The babies, at least, were respectfully silent except for the occasional milk-snore.
“Well.” I took a long look around the kitchen. “That was anti-climactic.”
“Perhaps the objects on which you focus your no-doubt formidable concentration?” Sinclair began in a helpful murmur that barely held back his snicker.
Of course! Dorothy’s shoes! I left the kitchen, came back, hollered, “Okay, bye! Again!”, darted back down the hall and up the stairs, then all but flew into my room. If I wanted to get back and forth from Hell—and I did, I wasn’t going to be an exchange student and live there, and I sure wasn’t going to do the Hell equivalent of lunch at my desk—I needed to focus.
In other words, I needed Dorothy’s silver shoes from The Wizard of Oz. The enchanting book, not the terrifying movie. I kept them in my closet, in the safe along with my marriage certificate (and gawd, Sinclair had bitched about that incessantly, saying we were already married in the eyes of the undead which meant, as you can imagine, jack crap to me), my (useless? maybe?) social security card, and some of Sinclair’s paperwork, I dunno, looked like stock certificates and stuff. JPMorgan Chase stock was worth a lot, right? Especially when you bought it in 1950, when it was Western Union? And Coca-Cola stock from 1919 at $40 a share had probably aged well, too. Wait, how old was my husband again? Maybe his dad had really liked Coke.
No time for distractions, dammit, and no time for paper millions or government-issued I.D.; I needed something much more valuable. I tapped in the code (SINK LAIR SUKS) and popped the safe, spotted the gleaming beauty of my unreal shoes, yanked them out, then slammed the door before the baggie of—diamonds? did diamonds even come in red?—could fall out.
No time to get distracted by pretty colors; I had to get focused on my pretty shoes. They weren’t really there, you know. They weren’t real. They were my will, a piece of my wanting made solid by...what? I didn’t know. Magic, I guessed (note the lack of K in magic, please). Or science so advanced and beyond my understanding it might as well be magic.
It goes like this: as a card-carrying member of undead royalty, I could travel back and forth between dimensions. Hell, it seemed, was one such dimension.
Wait. I’ve got to back up. It wasn’t just because I was a vampire, or any of the hundred thousand (or however many there were; we were still working on a census) vampires on the planet would be zipping back and forth to Hell. I could do it because my half-sister was the Anti-Christ. Which made no sense, because we were related through our father, an ordinary man who was now dead. Whoever my half-sister’s mother was should have zero effect on my other-worldly abilities.
See? It’s like I’ve been warning for ages. Any attempt to apply logic to this supernatural stuff was pointless. Not that I didn’t try. Okay, I didn’t try. But I thought about trying. Sometimes.
Anyway, some of the religions were right, Hell was a real place. (Which called into question: which religions? And if some of them were “right”, did that mean others were “wrong”? Also I was using quotation marks too much.) Not one near the planet’s core, but an actual place nonetheless, one hardly anyone got to until they died. Except lots of dead people didn’t go there. They went somewhere else (heaven? Dairy Queen?) or didn’t go anywhere (hung out where they’d died, occasionally tracked me down to demand favors, and those were just the ones I knew of for certain). The whole thing was migraine-inducing.
But knowing this, any of this, wasn’t enough. It can be tough work, overcoming a lifetime of conditioning which assured me, over and over, that I could not teleport, Hell wasn’t a job share, every bit of my afterlife was over my head, and knowing there is life after death solves little and explains exactly nothing.
Thus: the shoes. The pinnacle of my ambition, the Holy Grail of footgear, Dorothy Gale’s silver shoes. Not ruby red, mind you. In the book, they were silver. MGM mucked with that because a) it’s inherent in movie people to muck with great books (*cough* My Sister’s Keeper *cough*) and b) red = pretty! Honestly, movie people should just get it over with and have “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds” printed on their business cards.
I slipped them on and, because they weren’t real, they fit me perfectly and didn’t pinch even a little bit. Then I clicked my heels three times and murmured with wide, hopeful eyes, “There’s no place like Hell, there’s no place like Hell, there’s no place like Hell” except not really. Once I had the focus, I didn’t need magic words. I thought, This is so, so stupid. I can’t believe this even works. And shut my eyes.
And, a second later, opened them in Hell.
UNDEAD AND UNWARY releases October 7, 2014. www.maryjanicedavidson.net https://www.facebook.com/maryjanicedavidson
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Closes midnight, October 5! US entries only, please.