Book Nerd Guest Post
Liz Long is a ridiculously proud graduate of Longwood University with a BA in English. Her inspiration comes from action and thriller genres and she spends entirely too much time watching superhero movies. Her fabulous day job as a Social Media & PR Strategist includes writing for LeisureMedia360 (Roanoker, bridebook, Blue Ridge Country magazines) in Roanoke, VA.
She currently has four books out. The Donovan Circus series has best been described as "X-Men meets the circus with a murder mystery thrown in." Her second book Witch Hearts, is a story about a serial killer hunting witches for their powers. Her newest title, A Reaper Made, is a fantasy about a Reaper who must work a little magic to save her family's souls from demons. All titles are available for paperback or ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.
To learn more about Liz, visit her website: http://lizclong.com.
The Greatest Thing I Learned at School
The greatest thing I learned at school wasn't actually something taught in class, but rather something you learn by interacting with others. As the product of a military father and southern belle mother, I quickly learned how to speak politely with adults and kids alike; in school, I realized that not everyone is cut from the same cloth and while that's usually a great thing, sometimes it means that others aren't as kind. For me, it's important to treat everyone as they'd like to be treated, to respect everyone and handle them with kindness. Even the jerks - I know it sounds cliche, but it's true that bullies pick on others for a personal reason. Whether they have problems at home or are insecure or any number of reasons, they pick on others because it makes them feel strong.
I dislike bullies. I always have and even to this day, some of my feelings on bullies show up in my novels (for example, Lucy from the Donovan Circus Series can't stand bullies and it's a deciding factor for why she gets on board with leading her group of circus misfits). However, I know from experience that sometimes standing up to them can be quite eye-opening for them. It's not that I called them names or made fun of their home lives, either, but rather gave them the opportunity to talk if they wanted. For some, it was simply a matter of having an avenue to express frustrations and offering them a verbal rather than physical way of getting that anger out. I managed to overcome bullies by showing them kindness.
I was a quiet kid in high school; it wasn't until my junior year that I began to find my niche within color guard and marching band, but even then I managed to stay under the radar. I wasn't in the cool kids group and quite frankly, didn't want to be. They didn't treat everyone as they should have. They ignored the quiet kids, berated the gay kids, and picked on the nerds. Ten years later, thanks to social media, I'm seeing those same cool kids with two divorces before they hit 30 and watch as they try to become friends with those same nerds now running successful businesses or the gay kids writing screenplays in New York.
Thanks to the people at school, I learned how to pay attention to others outside of the classroom. I listened to how they treated waitresses and baristas, how they reacted when a problem occurred, or even how they treated their own parents. I can usually tell within a few minutes if I want to be friends with a person based on their interactions with others. I know that school gave me the ability to interact with others my age and figure out more about myself - who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be treated. It's something I take with me everyday in my adult life and I have my teachers and peers to thank.
So basically, follow my mom's golden rule: Be Sweet. It gets you a lot further than you'd think.
She’ll have to break every rule in the Reaper book to save them, including using a little magic to become temporarily human. With the help of Tully and her witchy friend Tessa, Grace goes undercover to save the fates of kidnapped souls – only to discover that demons aren’t working alone. Betrayal and distrust runs deep and Grace discovers that sometimes even Reapers are prone to humanity.
A REAPER MADE SPECIAL EXCERPT:
Death created Reapers to collect souls. My mentor told me most of these Reapers have been around since the dawn of time, watching over humans and ensuring their souls are appropriately handled. As the population increased, the number of souls needing help to pass over became too great. Because Reapers can’t procreate, however, Death gave his first Reapers - “the Trues” - the ability to create new Reapers. We were called “the Mades,” and originally began as humans. We are born, then we live, and when we die, some of us are chosen (offered, really) to carry on with these immortal duties.
I was still relatively new to the whole Reaper gig, so I’d been assigned the older souls at a retirement home. In life, I’d been in nursing school and spent most of my free time volunteering at the hospital, so working with those who were already expecting death was easier than say, those who fought against leaving this earth. In time, I would learn how to calm those souls and help them pass over, but until then, I was happy to help with the souls who already had their bags packed.
I’ve always felt I was one of the lucky ones, being asked to be a Reaper - I think being chosen for such an important duty says that I did well in my short human life. It’s not to say Mades were unusual, because we’re not. My mentor said the increasing population in the last few centuries had led Reapers to regain control and bring Mades to our world. Mades and Trues alike could select humans who would be worthy of helping with their purpose. With more of us around, we could be sure souls were cared for and passed on rather than left to hang around the earth - or worse.
I was nineteen when I died; a drunk driver hit me while I headed home one evening after a volunteer shift. The drunk driver walked away without a scratch. I, on the other hand, died instantly upon impact, my soul jerked from my body to wander around the scene and wonder what the hell happened. I screamed for help, trying to reason with every deity I knew as I watched the blood trickle down my still face.
“No one can hear you screaming, child,” a voice had sounded from behind me.
I’d whirled around to see a strange looking man standing there. He was stout, with a boxer’s build, but his gentle expression gave no hint of aggression. His attire, while not unusual, still seemed from a different era: his shoes worn, pants that stopped short at the ankles, thin white shirt, and black suspenders. Perhaps in his mid-thirties, he had a shock of messy ginger hair and a thick, wiry beard to match. His bright blue eyes popped against a ruddy complexion.
I couldn’t hide the waver of fear in my voice when I asked, “Who are you?”
He took another step toward me, a slow, fluid movement that I hardly noticed. “My name is Tully.”
“I don’t want to die, Tully.”
“You weren’t supposed to go this soon,” he’d said. His voice had an Irish lilt that almost sang to me as he spoke. “But I’ve seen you at the hospital, watched you with the patients. You have a way about you.”
“Doesn’t help me much now, I’m afraid,” I’d responded. His calm demeanor somehow put me at ease despite the situation.
“Oh, but it does, child. You have a gift. Do you know what I am?”
“I was sort of hoping you were an angel.”
He had shaken his head, an amused smile on his face. “No, I am what’s called a Reaper.”
“Reapers are not Death, nor do we carry it wherever we go, according to certain tales. We appear to the dead and take their souls home.”
“That I cannot say; only they will know once they pass into the afterlife. We are, however, allowed to make certain…offers to those we deem worthy.”
I’d crossed my arms over my chest and given my body another stricken glance. “You can bring me back to life?”
“No, child, you are no longer meant for that life. Do you want to continue helping others?”
“You could be a Reaper, like me.”
I’d scoffed. “How does that even work?”
“There’s a whole world out there you don’t know about, child. I can show you, teach you how to be one of us.”
“What’s the other option?”
He shrugged. “To move on.”
That was three years ago. Tully was my mentor now, teaching me how to be a Reaper. Even now, I know deep down that I chose his offer to become a Reaper because I was scared of what I’d meet on the other side. The unknown frightened me enough to keep me where I was, and so I accepted Tully’s offer to learn what it meant to guide souls to their destinies. Sometimes I wondered what would’ve been, but when I got that warmth in my chest from helping a soul move on, I knew I’d made the right choice. Tully had seen it in me and I was grateful to him for the chance to feel like I was still worth something. And actually, I turned out to be good at it. Tully wasn’t placating me when he said I’d had a gift. Souls were a lot like hospital patients; reaping souls in my retirement home was similar to my old life.
As it turned out, Tully was right about that “whole other world” part. The wealth of knowledge I’d gained about my new existence was almost frightening. Reapers were nonthreatening, peaceful, and stayed neutral on all terms. We had to; we weren’t the only things that harbored souls and it was our job to make sure we got to them before anything else - like demons - could.