Title: The Dust
Entry Nickname: Grocery Store Zombies
Word Count: 92K
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Nineteen-year-old Lex Hightower has two of the worst jobs in Alabama: part-time grocery store employee, part-time corpse killer. In the six weeks since some lunatic bombed the South, she’s spent most of her time beating back the radioactive dead and reluctantly helping the useless survivors at the store.
When she learns there’s a safe zone on the edge of the Tennessee-Kentucky Line, she’s not thrilled about walking two hundred miles on sore cashier’s feet. But when she discovers the food reserves in the store are almost gone, she makes up her mind: time to get out of Kroger and on the road.
Armed with a few packs of cigarettes and a metal bat, Lex grabs the two survivors who annoy her the least and sets out on her journey. Ex-friend, ex-meth addict Brian and naïve-but-well-intentioned Tony aren’t ideal travel companions, but she’s not dumb enough to head into a corpse-riddled wasteland by herself. A two-week trip on foot? Easy.
At least it would be if the corpses weren’t getting stronger and smarter every day. Or if a mysterious group weren’t carving Xs on buildings and people. Or if the fallout wasn’t just changing the dead, but the living as well.
Brian offers me a cigarette as the corpses circle the edge of the store. There are two of them, a man and a woman this time; the man’s bloated gut stretches out of its ripped sweater, exposing its gray skin, and the woman isn’t wearing any shoes. Who kicks off their shoes when they’re running from something trying to kill them? Dumbass.
“Lex, take it,” Brian says, shoving a Marlboro in my face. An unlit one dangles from his mouth.
“Damn, you’re annoying.” I take the cigarette and flick it into the ravine at our feet, my eyes on the corpses in front of us. One is on its knees, pawing at the gap that separates the store from the parking lot. It’s deep, but not wide; it could jump across if it wanted. Luckily the corpses are dumb as shit and haven’t figured out the concept of jumping. Hopefully they never do.
I sigh, my breath making a small white cloud in the air. It’s bitterly cold for an Alabama September. I’m not sure if the uncommon cold or the thick gray clouds that blot out the sun has anything to do with it, but bright green flecks of dust constantly rain down from above. I’ve only ever seen snow a handful of times, but the dust looks just like it—silent flurries that coat everything in green ash. We’re sitting under an overhang to avoid it, though. If it touches our skin, it burns.
Title: The Switcher Chronicles
Entry Nickname: Switcher
Word Count: 96,000
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cade Hightower is about to go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit—in other words, business as usual for a professional body switcher. For his best client and double his normal fee, he’s willing to take on the occasional illegal job like this, but mostly he manages to keep on the right side of his own moral line, no pranks, no lie detector tests, and no switching bodies without permission.
Cade’s sister Daphne is an Arcanist, a practitioner of the art of injectable magic. She can give a politician a shot of Charisma or help a perpetually dieting starlet with a syringe-full of Will Power. Her clients are rich or powerful or both, and they count on Daphne’s discretion.
Daphne left home for her Arcanist training when she was sixteen, and Cade never told his big sister how bad life got after that. Instead, he’s been shielding Daphne from the truth—and resenting her ignorance—for ten years.
When Daphne decides to repair their estrangement by moving in with Cade, he isn’t sure how long he can keep his bitterness hidden. At the same time, they discover that not all body switchers are as scrupulous as Cade. Someone’s using that rare talent to swindle rich old people out of their fortunes and their lives. That someone is the uncle Cade hated, Daphne loved, and they both thought was dead. Now Cade and Daphne need to clean up the mess their own family has made without destroying their fragile relationship in the process.
I had been back in my body for twenty-four hours, and the mosquito bite between my shoulder blades itched like a rhino’s hide in a drought. If clients kept taking my body camping while I did trust falls at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract.
But ignoring little—or medium-sized—annoyances was part of my professional skill set, so I focused on the job in front of me—washing the bus. When the phone rang, I was balanced on an over-sized tire, trying to reach the middle of the giant windshield. I dropped the squeegee and jumped to the asphalt to take the call. The screen said, "Private Name Private Number." I got that a lot.
“Cade Hightower,” I said.
Harlan Ambrose’s voice on the line was deep and quick. “Cade, bro, what’re you doing?”
“Washing the windows on the bus, sir.”
“Hey, do me a favor and go inside.”
“Inside the bus, sir?”
“Yeah. Inside the bus.”
I kicked the garden hose that snaked from the bus to a faucet sticking out of the grass.
“Sir, I’m in a high school parking lot on a Sunday. I might as well be on the moon.”
“No, I mean it. Inside. Got a job for you.”
I held the phone away from my mouth so he wouldn’t hear me grumbling and climbed the three steps into the school bus I’d turned into my home.