I'm about to launch the first book in my new series -- and I want fans to make sure it's something they're genuinely interested in before they buy it. With that in mind, I decided to post the first chapter here.
It's still snarky. It's still irreverent. It's also a little darker. I hope you enjoy it.
“Bow down before the harvester of your doom!”
I rolled my eyes, glancing over at my brother, Aidan, as he
stood before the cowering spirit in the corner with a devilish grin on his
face. “Really? That’s how you do it?”
Aidan’s dimples deepened as he sent me a wink, while
ignoring the middle-aged man and his pitiful whining as he kept trying to
convince himself that he was dreaming.
“It’s just a nightmare,” the man tried to soothe himself.
“Do you have another idea?” Aidan asked.
“Have you tried talking to him?”
“That never works,” Aidan replied. “They never want to
believe they’re dead. And, if they do, it’s usually
because they’re depressed
and they offed themselves because they were looking forward to the hereafter.”
I ignored Aidan’s blasé attitude and glanced down at the
list in my hand. “Stan Parker, 54, accountant for Thompson and Hopkins.”
“See, he’s evil,” Aidan said. “He’s an accountant for a big
law firm. You can’t get slimier than that.”
“It’s an environmental law firm,” I replied.
Aidan merely shrugged in response. He was clearly enjoying
himself, if his flushed skin and gleaming eyes were any indication. I had a
feeling it was because he had been put in charge of my “training,” something I
wasn’t convinced I needed.
“It says here he’s a Catholic,” I said, reading further into
Stan Parker’s file. “I think I know how to handle this.” I took a step toward
Stan, squatting down so I was at eye level with him. “Mr. Parker, my name is
Aisling Grimlock, and I’m here because there’s been an … incident.”
“Incident?” Aidan arched a dark eyebrow.
I ignored him. “Unfortunately, there was nothing that could
be done and you’ve … um … passed on.”
Stan Parker glanced up at me, finally focusing on something
other than his own feet – and the uneven tile pattern in his bedroom – and
fixed me with a bleak stare. “Are you an angel?”
“You’ve obviously never seen her in the morning before she’s
had three cups of coffee,” Aidan scoffed.
I waved him off. “I’m not an angel,” I said. “I’m a reaper.”
Stan Parker looked confused. “Like a grim reaper?”
“Exactly,” I replied, sending him my most encouraging smile
as I brushed my long black hair – shot through with enough white streaks to
give my father a coronary when he saw them – out of my face. “I’m here to help
you get to your final destination.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Parker replied, his voice
dull and his eyes lifeless -- OK, no pun intended. “You make it sound like
you’re a travel agent.”
Aidan snorted. “Yes, we’re here to take you on a fabulous
vacation to Greece.”
“I am kind of like a travel agent,” I said, shooting Aidan a
withering glare. “I’ve got all your arrangements right here.” I tapped the file
in my hand for emphasis.
“It is,” I replied. “It’s all about your life.”
“It sure is,” Aidan agreed.
I kept my violet eyes trained on Stan’s face. “It’s not your
whole life,” I said, “just the highlights.”
“And lowlights,” Aidan added.
He was starting to grate, which I suppose is a brother’s
job. Since Aidan and I were closer than normal siblings – that whole twin thing
had bonded us a little too closely – our new working relationship was starting
to strain the easygoing thing we’d had going for the twenty-five years since
“What lowlights?” Stan asked, his lower lip trembling.
“I don’t think they’re important,” I lied.
“I really like the one about you sleeping with your best
friend’s wife,” Aidan said. “Then, when he confided his problems with the
marriage, you pretended that he was imagining things until he started seeing a
shrink.” He’d moved away from Stan and was busy studying his bedroom, opening
drawers and poking through the contents, something that was making Stan
“What are you doing? What is he doing?”
“Ignore him,” I said. “We should really get going, though.
Aidan, bring the scepter over here.”
“The scepter?” Stan’s eyes widened. “Is that like a magic
stick to beat me with?”
“Why would you ask that?” Aidan seemed genuinely curious,
until his bright purple eyes narrowed under the weight of sudden knowledge. “Is
that what you’re into?”
“No! Who told you that? That’s not on the list, is it?” Stan
tried to peer over my hand to see what had been written into his file.
“No,” I replied, although now I was curious about what was
buried in his file. I had read only the highlights. “Mr. Parker.”
“Call me Stan. We should be on a first-name basis, after
“Stan,” I said, forcing myself to keep my voice pleasant.
“We really need to get going. We’re kind of on a tight schedule today.”
“Collecting souls,” I explained, standing back up to my full
five feet, six inches. My knees were beginning to ache from crouching.
“It is now,” I said. “Unfortunately.”
Aidan grinned at me. “It’s not as easy as you thought, is
it? It’s a lot harder than you gave us credit for.”
“I never said it was an easy job,” I argued. “I just didn’t
think it was as action-packed as you made it out to be.” I glanced back down at
Stan. “And I was clearly right.”
“They’re usually not this … whiny.”
“I am not whiny,” Stan said. “I’m going through a shock. I
just found out I’m dead, and it wasn’t even a good death.”
“What’s a good death?” I asked.
“You know, running into a burning building and saving
children from a fiery death,” Stan said. “Or pushing an old lady out of the
path of a speeding bus. Or riding a supermodel until your heart just gives out.”
I glanced at Stan’s paunchy stomach and thinning hair and
couldn’t help but think that all three of those scenarios were very likely outside
of his wheelhouse. “You can’t control your death – unless you want to kill
yourself,” I explained. “And, if you do that, you don’t go to one of the better
final resting places.”
Stan looked momentarily hopeful. “Am I going to Heaven?”
“Yes,” I said, glancing at his file again for confirmation.
I frowned, though, when I saw where he was really going.
“That doesn’t look like I’m going to Heaven,” Stan said, his
voice rising an octave. “That looks like I’m going to the other place.”
Aidan leaned back on Stan’s bed -- blocking my view of Stan’s
body, which was thankfully buried beneath his plaid bedspread covers -- and waited
for me to handle the situation.
“Define the other place,” I said, taking a step so that I
could again make eye contact with Stan.
“Define the other place? Define the other place? I don’t
want to go to Hell!”
“Well, good news,” I replied, using my best faux tour
director voice. “You’re not going to Hell.”
“I’m not?” Relief washed over Stan’s shaking body.
“Nope,” I shook my head emphatically. “You’re going to
Purgatory. It’s an entirely different place.”
Stan looked shocked. “Purgatory? Isn’t that like limbo? Is
that better than Hell? It certainly doesn’t sound as good as Heaven.”
He wasn’t wrong. “The good news is, your file says you’ll
only be there for fifty years.”
“Your file says you have a few things to work out,” I
offered, hoping that my explanation didn’t sound as lame to Stan as it did to
“What does that mean exactly?” Stan pushed himself to his
ethereal feet and placed his hands on his hips. I think I was getting a glimpse
of his courtroom persona, which was one of the reasons he was going to
“I want to know exactly what that file says about me,” Stan
“I’m not sure I’m supposed to tell you that.”
Aidan groaned from his spot on the bed. “Oh, just tell him.
Otherwise we’re going to be here forever, and I’m ready for lunch.”
I didn’t know how he could think about lunch with a dead
body – and the traumatized spirit that belonged to that body – in the room.
“Well, under your transgressions list you have quite a few entries.”
“Well, it says here you put fifteen witnesses on the stand
even though you knew they were going to perjure themselves,” I replied.
Stan looked incensed. “I did no such thing!”
“Then there’s that whole sleeping with your best friend’s
“I went to confession for that!”
“Each time?” Aidan asked. “You have to go each time.”
Stan worried his lower lip with his teeth. “That wasn’t made
clear to me. That’s not fair. I thought going once was a blanket confession
that would absolve me of all of my sins.”
“Did you do the required penance?” Aidan pressed.
“Of course I did.” Stan was scandalized.
“That’s not what the file says. The file says you were
supposed to say fifty Hail Marys, but that you didn’t say any of them.”
“The priest still absolved me of my sins,” Stan argued. “You
can’t possibly be telling me that fifty Hail Marys are standing between me and
Heaven. I’ll do them right now, if that’s the case.”
“It doesn’t work that way,” I said.
“It also doesn’t count if you don’t do the penance,” Aidan
shot back. “While you’re still alive, that is. Aisling, seriously, enough with
this crap. Let’s just absorb him and go.”
“I want to speak to your superior,” Stan said. “You can’t be
the last word on where my fate lies.”
“We’re not even the first word,” I answered. “We’re just
grunts. The list comes from higher up and we just follow it. We’re really just
the last word.”
“Higher up where?” Stan didn’t look convinced.
That was too long of a conversation for this particular
moment. “Just higher up.”
“Well, I still want to speak to your superior.” Stan was
“We can arrange that,” Aidan said, getting to his feet. “You
have to come with us, though, and then we’ll have to make an appointment for
“And how soon can I get this appointment?” Stan asked, new
hope flitting across his face.
“I think the current wait time is seventy-five years,” Aidan
said. I had no idea whether he was telling the truth.
“Well, that’s not fair,” Stan complained. “I demand an
I glanced at Aidan, waiting for his response. His world-class
charm obviously wasn’t working today.
“And how soon will my argument be heard?”
“I think the current time frame is eighty-five years,” Aidan
replied. He was clearly bored with the direction of the conversation, his mind
already focused on the hamburger in his future.
Stan’s mouth dropped open in horror. “So, you’re saying my
only options are to go with you, climbing into some weird scepter of death and
spending fifty years in Purgatory making up for my crimes or wait seventy-five
years to plead my case?”
“Pretty much,” Aidan said, nonplussed, “although, you don’t
climb into the scepter.”
“That’s something, I guess,” Stan said, shuffling
“The scepter just absorbs your soul,” Aidan added.
Terror flitted across Stan’s bland features. “Absorbs?”
“It’s not as gross as it sounds,” I offered.
“Oh, okay,” Stan said. “Um, just give me a second to get
ready. It’s going to be fine. I’ll wake up in a few minutes and everything will
“Of course.” Clearly my approach was getting us nowhere.
Stan started pacing his apartment, stopping at each photo
frame to give it a long gaze. I thought it was kind of sweet. He wanted to get
a last look at his loved ones. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all?
Stan was completing his circuit, moving back toward the open
bedroom door when he suddenly disappeared into the living room. I glanced at
Aidan worriedly. “What do you think he’s doing?”
“He’s probably running,” Aidan replied, his disinterest
“He’s your charge,” Aidan reminded me. “I’m just here to
“This sucks,” I grumbled, moving into the living room to
make sure Stan didn’t try to run. I shouldn’t have worried. He was standing at
the door of his apartment, trying to turn the door handle so he could escape
into the hallway. He clearly didn’t realize that he could simply walk through
the door because he was stymied by the fact that his hand just kept moving
through the handle harmlessly. That was a small favor.
I opened my mouth in an attempt to talk him down once more, but
Aidan shook his head to dissuade me. He was right – and I knew it. I sighed,
pulling the sterling silver scepter – shaped like a snake with ruby red eyes
(don’t ask) – out of my jacket pocket and pointed it at Stan.
The scepter lit up, emitting a bright flash of light, and I
could see Stan’s spirit start to break up as it filtered into the scepter. The
last look he managed to muster was one of abject terror before he completely
“Well, that went well,” I said finally.
“That’s not what Dad is going to say,” Aidan replied.
He was right. I scowled as I imagined the diatribe I was
sure to be on the receiving end of later tonight. It sucks when your Dad is
also your boss.
“You want lunch?” Aidan asked. He didn’t look too worried
about the ass-chewing we were sure to get in a few hours.
“Make sure it’s some place we can get drinks, too.”
“We’re Irish,” Aidan laughed. “That’s a given.”
I followed him out of Stan Parker’s apartment without a
backward glance. This was turning into a terrible first day of work.
If you're interested in purchasing Grim Tidings, you can do so here
. Thanks for reading.