Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Likely Story, Ch. 1

Thanks to this delightful plot bunny, the muse has sent me in a slightly different direction than it usually does. Tell me what you think. 

000

Ah, the thrill of the chase.

Even in a crowded mall food court, bland enough to be completely indistinguishable from every other mall food court in existence, the prospect of the mission was enough to send a thrill of anticipation running through him. His suit was less expensive than he was used to – he was playing an attorney here, not a jet-setting billionaire or dashing playboy – but the game was the same as it always was. Approach the target, charm them into letting their guard down, then talk his way into their home to get access to, in this case, computer files.

He didn’t even have to feel guilty about this one. The agency had tracked a bit of code in several cell phones that was siphoning money from users and funneling it to terrorist organizations, and she was the company’s head programmer.  That meant one of two things –  either she was manipulating phone software for terrorists, in which case she deserved everything she got, or she was being used by someone who was manipulating phone software for terrorists. In which case, he was saving her.

She was just the type who could use a little saving, too. Eating lunch in a mall food court, hunched over a tablet while she ate sesame chicken one-handed without looking. Her hair was pulled back in the most practical hairstyle possible, her clothes professional but far from fashionable, and her face was pleasant-looking but far from attractive. She spent most of her time working, and according to her file hadn’t had a long-term romantic partner in several years. He was sure their interaction would be the most exciting part of her week.

Shifting his grip on his briefcase, he sauntered over to her table. “Pardon me for being rude, but I saw you sitting over here and I—“

“No.”

He blinked. “What?”

“Whatever you’re about to try to sell me, I’m not interested.” She didn’t bother looking up. “Though if you need the empty chair, feel free to take it.”

He’d been shot down by an actual princess, once, though he’d won her over not more than 15 minutes later. Putting on his most flirtatiously charming look, he slid into the seat opposite hers. “Thank you.” He smiled. “I was hoping to be able to eat my lunch in such beautiful company.”

Her head shot up at that, but instead of pleased surprise she shot him a look that seriously questioned his intelligence. “Really?” She shifted her tablet onto her lap, leaning forward slightly. “That’s the approach you’re going to go with, here?”

For one wild second, he thought she was calling him out as a spy. He would accuse her of working with terrorists, his wording equally vague, and they would spend the next 10 minutes threatening each other in code because the other option was a gunfight in a food court full of idiot civilians. The last thing he wanted was for the local PD to show up, but maybe he should—

He stopped himself before he could finish the thought, pushing it aside. Even if she was the mastermind, there was no way she could know he was a spy – he’d covered his tracks too well. “What approach should I take?” He gave her his best smile. “I’m always willing to take instruction from such a magnificent woman.”

She just stared at him, and there was another second where he thought he was actually getting somewhere. Then her brow lowered, and she was glaring at him as if he’d just dented her Porsche or misidentified the designer she was wearing. “I don’t know if you’re an idiot, or so arrogant it basically amounts to the same thing.” She shoved her fork into her takeout container, shutting it almost violently before picking up her purse and putting her tablet inside it. “I don’t know what firm you’re with, or what information you think you can get out of me for whatever case you’re working on, but you’re just going to have to go back to your bosses and tell them they’ll have to get it legally.”

Now all he could do was stare at her. “What?” Training had him immediately downshifting, trying to save the situation. “I’m sorry if I offended you, miss, but I just—“

She made an exasperated noise. “Listen. I’m sure that face of yours helps you in the courtroom. But it’ll help even more if you acknowledge that other people have actual brains in their heads, even if you don’t.”

He reached for her hand, trying another smile. “When I said magnificent, I meant your mind as—“

She snatched her hand away, cutting him off with a shake of her head. “No, no, if you’d tried that I would have assumed you were from a rival tech firm out to steal company secrets.” She stood, collecting her things. “I’m sure all your undoubtedly gorgeous lady friends tell you how beautiful and amazing you are all the time, but when things like that happen to the rest of us it’s a scam.” Then she took a step back, narrowing her eyes again. “Now I’m going to go away so I can eat the rest of my lunch in peace, and if you come near me again rest assured I will taze you.”

He watched her walk away, more stunned than the last time he’d been caught in a concussive grenade blast. When he was sure she was out of earshot, he slowly let his head drop forward and hit the top of the table with a groan.

After a few seconds, he realized the muffled noise he could hear over his comm sounded suspiciously like laughter.  “Shut up,” he muttered, voice low enough that casual passers-by wouldn’t be able to overhear.

Naturally, D did exactly the opposite and stopped muffling the laughter entirely, letting it boom over the comm loud enough to make him wince. “You know I’m saving the audio forever, right?” D managed, laughing so hard she was wheezing. “I’m going to insist we start an agency Christmas party, just so I can play it for everyone and we can all laugh at you together.”

“Rhys—“ Catching himself with a muttered curse – it was so much easier to have these conversations in a quiet corner of a mansion or security compound – he pulled out his cell phone and pretended to answer a call. “Rhys would never agree to it.”

“He would if I played it for him,” D shot back. “There’s nothing confidential on it. He’d call it a morale booster.”

Damn it, he would. “You couldn’t have done any better.”

“Maybe not.” He could practically see her grin, sharp as the edge of the knives she always carried. There were rumors she was a retired assassin, but she would never talk about her previous line of work sober and there was no one in the agency who could outdrink her. She was also old enough to be his mother, and overall his favorite person in the entire world. “But I don’t have to do any better, because I’m here to keep an eye out for any rival agents who may want to kill you. You’re the one who’s supposed to be 007.”

“Normally I am,” he shot back, realizing belatedly that he really should be tracking wherever the hell she was going. He stood, weaving through the lunch crowds as he started scanning the area for his target. “I’ve seduced—“ No, that was definitely not a sentence he could finish out in public like this. Damn it, he would give anything to be working with arms dealers right now. “—successfully closed with any number of people before this, and always gotten everything I needed out of them. But she just—“

“Slapped you down like a two-bit con man,” D finished, sounding delighted. “Didn’t even play with you a little first. Poor kid.”

That was one of the things that was throwing him. He was used to targets of both genders turning the conversational tables on him, drawing him into a verbal fencing match. Even enemies tried to draw him out, finding out what he knew while trying to keep everything they knew hidden.  He was prepared for those kind of duels – loved them, in fact – but this woman had shut him down with the blunt effectiveness of a verbal brick to the face.

He was, he could admit privately, in unfamiliar territory. “Are you absolutely sure—“

“—you can’t just break into her condo?” D finished. “As T explained in the same report I know we both read, it won’t do you any good. Her computer’s security system requires access codes from both her tablet and her phone, and both can only be activated within the perimeters of the condo after the security system has been de-activated using the security code. Slip up even once, and the whole thing shuts down tighter than a nun’s undergarments.”

His jaw set. He was excellent at breaking and entering, but technology... was not his area of expertise. Damn it, why had Rhys assigned him this case? “Just testing you. I’m still committed to our original plan of action.”

“Of course you are, darling.” D sounded indulgent. “The question is, can you pull it off?” 

He’d better be able to. He’d talked his way out of a room full of armed terrorists before – there was no way he was going to let one little programmer beat him. “Absolutely.”

#

He made it to the front doors without finding her, and he was forced to confront the unfortunate possibility that he'd allowed his target to get away completely. If that happened, he'd lose any chance of talking to her until tomorrow - she went straight back to the office after lunch, then straight home after work. And if he tried to stop her on the way to her car, he had a sneaking suspicion she really would taze him.

If he had to admit to Rhys that he'd delayed the mission an entire day because he'd blown his approach, though, he'd taze himself.

Luckily, when he went outside he caught sight of her sitting on the edge of one of the planters lining the perimeter of the mall, back on her tablet and finishing the rest of her chicken. He adjusted his suit, preparing his approach, when to his horror he found himself hesitating. He’d been thrown before, yes, but that was his fault. He’d underestimated her, and paid the price for it.

He needed to go in a bit more carefully this time.

“Is this caution I’m seeing?” D said in his ear, the surprise in her voice genuine and only faintly annoying. “Well, will wonders never cease.” 

“Shut up,” he muttered, dropping his shoulders and adopting a more penitent pose. If he was going to have any kind of chance getting the information he needed, she couldn’t see him as any kind of threat. Deciding that hanging his head would be too obvious, he walked up to her and silently stood a full two feet away from where she was sitting.

After a full 30 seconds – diffusing enough bombs gave a person an excellent sense of timing – she set the fork back down in the nearly empty container. “I was serious about tazing you,” she said mildly, still not looking up.

With a normal mark, he would shoot back something about always liking things exciting in bed. Now, however, he lifted a shoulder. “I’m not worth the trouble. A security guard would run over, someone might even call 911... such a waste of time.”

That made her lift her head, a penetrating expression on her face like she was trying to figure out what was going on. Not quite the response he was hoping for, no, but better than last time. “Pepper spray’s less dramatic,” she said after a moment, still watching him. “You’ll be shouting and clawing at your eyes, but everyone will just assume you’re an asshole who deserved what he got.”

Unfortunately, that was entirely true. He took an instinctive step back, and for a second her mouth flickered upward in a faint smirk. Not sure whether to be annoyed or impressed, he decided that distraction was the only option to diffuse the situation. “How did you know I was a lawyer, out of curiosity? I’m sure I didn’t mention it.”

She raised an eyebrow at him, saying “seriously?” more clearly than words ever could, but there was less anger behind the expression than there had been earlier. “There’s not that many people who’d want something out of me. If you were handing out fliers for something, you wouldn’t bother with the suit. If you were with a tech company, you wouldn’t bother with a suitcase.” She pointed to the one he was still carrying, and he fought off the sudden, ridiculous urge to toss it in the bushes. “Also, you would have flashed me your phone or tablet at least once, because technology is a dominance game and even though you wanted information out of me you couldn’t resist the urge to prove that you’re more advanced than I am. If you were trying to hire me away from my current firm, you wouldn’t have bothered with the awful fake flirting before piling on the incentives.” She gestured to the entirety of him. “So, lawyer.” 

He blinked, surprised and more impressed by the assessment than he was at all prepared to admit. “I still don’t understand why you didn’t think I was just flirting with you.”

She made an exasperated sound, a sudden shift in her expression making it clear she’d just lost whatever shred of patience she’d managed to scrape together for him. “Look, despite what daytime television might try to convince you, most women are fully aware that life isn’t a romance novel. When you look like me,” she gestured down her body, “no brooding male model with a convenient fortune is going to sweep into your life and beg you to save him from his traumatic childhood and inability to emotionally connect.” The faint smirk returned. “And if they did, they’d probably be as annoying about it as you are.”

“I don’t know if I’d go quite so far as to say ‘annoying,’” D murmured in his ear, sounding impressed. “And you’d never make it as a male model. But you do have trouble emotionally connecting to people. And I seem to remember you mentioning something about your father the last time we shared that bottle of—”

Faking like he was scratching an itch, he pulled the comm out of his ear and slipped it into his pocket. “I need to know if there’s a way to tell if someone is trying to clone your phone,” he asked, as if she’d finally gotten him to admit the “truth” of why he’d approached her.

She blinked, confused – he felt a strange sense of satisfaction at putting that expression on her face, for once – then her eyes narrowed. “I can, and block it, but it’s a program I wrote myself. Are you looking for a commercial option?”

No, he was looking for a way to figure out who had implanted the code into the cell phones, because unless she was the greatest actress in the world he was growing increasingly certain that it wasn’t her. A budding terrorist would be wary of him, yes, but for an entirely different set of reasons than she seemed to be. If nothing else, she should have at least tried to find out which agency he was from.

Which meant someone was using her, and that someone was smart enough to get around what T insisted was some damned fine coding. Given his experiences of the last 10 minutes, odds were it was someone that she worked with. Which meant he had to get into her office.

He smiled at her again, an automatic gesture that he quickly wiped away when her eyes narrowed. “Is there any chance I could stop by your office this afternoon to speak about the matter in more detail?”
Her expression was still wary, but her shoulders had relaxed. “Fine.” She picked up her chicken again. “Now will you go away and let me finish my lunch?”

Sketching a dramatic bow – and feeling just the faintest tickle of amusement when she scowled at him – he turned and did as she commanded. Once he rounded the corner, he slipped the comm back into his ear to hear D muttering. “...jump out of the bushes. Then he’d be dead, and what good would that....”

He pulled out his cell phone, faking another call. “D, we’ve got a complication.” 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Women, write your own rules

Repeat after me: you don’t have to follow other people’s rules.

According to the world, there are immense list of ‘rules’ for being a woman. We’re all expected to pour time and effort into meeting certain beauty standards so we’re suitably aesthetic for those around us. We’re expected to magically figure out what side of the work/family balance our neighbors expect us to be on, which can change depending on who you talk to at any given moment. Worse, we’re expected to keep that balance effortlessly, without any regard to the fact that we have only so many hours in a day and could really use a little help.

No matter how much we do, how much we give, the ‘rules’ are always asking more of women. We’re expected to be good, kind and gracious at all times, keep clean homes, make sure our kids have enough extracurricular activities, be nice to the neighbors, be involved in our communities and church groups and always stay skinny and so on and so on and so on….

No.

Those are the world’s rules, not yours. And honestly, the world doesn’t know anything about you, and what you have to go through in a given day, and anyone who hasn’t been in your shoes really doesn’t have a right to decide whether you’re doing things “correctly” or not. Some days, the fact that you’re doing anything at all is enough of a reason to stand up and applaud yourself.

You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards but your own. You’re the one who’s doing the job of living your life, which means you know better than anyone else what it takes to live it right. The world won’t give anything back to your for jumping through its hoops, so there’s really no reason to kill yourself trying to pull the trick off. No matter how loud they’re shouting at you, there’s nothing that says you have to go where they tell you to.

I’m not saying that there aren’t things we do have to do, both as women and people in general. We all have responsibilities, no matter what gender we are, and fulfilling those responsibilities is what keeps the world moving. Whether it’s going to your job, calling your mom, eating slightly healthier than you did yesterday, or making sure your kids get fed and go to sleep at a reasonable hour, we’ve all got a to-do list that sometimes feels like it’s five miles long.

But don’t let other people put things on the list that you don’t want to have on there. The church potluck will survive without you bringing anything, and if you feel guilty about not contributing something a bag of store-bought salad is just fine. If your kids have to make their own dinner for a few nights, the world won’t end. Neither will your husband, even though he might complain like he will. You don’t always have to be the one who stays and works those extra overtime hours at your job. You don’t have to dress the same way everyone else does.

You get to decide what it means to be a good woman, and the only test that really matters is how you feel about yourself at the end of the day.   

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resolve to survive the January blahs

January is a terrible time to resolve to do anything.

Yes, I know that it’s the start of a new year, and the whole new year=new you mythos is what started the whole New Year’s Resolution mess in the first place, but there’s literally nothing else to recommend it. It’s the calendar equivalent of a ditch, a cold, empty stretch of time that we all fall into after the bright, delicious fun of the holiday season. People’s bank accounts are still recovering from the expenditures of Christmas, school starts back up, and nowhere has anything fun planned because people need to actually get some work done after all that time off they took in December.

In short, January is absolutely the worst time of year to try to scrape enough of your willpower together to make any kind of significant changes in your life. Not only is your willpower completely out of practice because of the holidays, but there are some days in January where you need every shred of willpower you have left to get through the dreary grayness of an average day. The third Monday in January is actually referred to as Blue Monday, and is officially recognized as the most depressing day of the entire year. Look it up if  you don’t believe me.

And when you add New Year’s Resolutions on top of this, things somehow manage to get even worse. Because the kind of resolutions that end up getting capital letters are always big, serious resolutions with a lot of moving parts. I’m going to lose 20 pounds. I’m going to go to the gym every single day. I’m finally going to write the novel I’ve always dreamed about.

These things are hard enough to do when you’re at your best, and in January literally no one is at their best. But the unrelenting gray of the weather is getting to you and you’re desperate for some hope, and you charge ahead like you can magically fix yourself if you just want it badly enough. You’ll push ahead toward your goal for a few days, maybe even a few weeks if you’re feeling really determined.

Sadly, most of your internal resources are devoted to just making it through January and you don’t have enough to deal with how overwhelming your resolution suddenly feels. You’ll give up, if not in that moment then soon after, because not only are you tired but your goal suddenly seems even further away than when you started. Then, of course, you’ll feel even worse about yourself because you’re now one of those dreaded “quitters,” and will possibly try to drown your sorrows in some indulgence that will cause you to fall even further behind on that great scale of becoming a Better Person (TM).

So if you’re going to do any big resolutions, wait until spring. It’s got even more symbolic juice behind it that the new year – nature is restarting, plants are growing, everything is waking up and renewing itself – and a general atmosphere that’s way less depressing than January. Anything you start then will have more of a chance.

And if you insist on beginning your self-improvement project in January, start small. Pick one fairly simple thing you can do in a day. If you don’t accomplish it, don’t worry – that’s now officially become your goal for tomorrow. When you do accomplish it, find another small goal you can achieve in 24 hours. It’s fine to even make it the same goal, if that’s what helps you.

These are the kind of resolutions meant for a month like January. Good luck out there. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"The Muppet Christmas Carol," "Elf," and the eternal debate over Christmas movies

©  Disney
When it comes to Christmas movies, a certain amount of negotiation is usually required.

Thanksgiving generally marks the official beginning of Christmas movie season, the first point where people pull out blu-rays of their favorites and holiday specials are capable of popping up anywhere. It also once again renews the question of what the “true” Christmas movies are, a question that can differ dramatically from person to person and from household to household.

Even movies generally thought of as being on the “Greatest Hits of Christmas” list can be up for debate. “It's a Wonderful Life” and "Miracle on 34th Street" are both seen as Christmas classics, but a lot of people I've talked to who love one of the movies have almost zero interest in the other. Then there's the question of the black and white versus the colored versions of the movies, which can get more intense than people not interested in either movie could possibly imagine.

“A Christmas Carol” is an entire argument all on its own. There are enough versions of the movie to fill several different pages of Google, even when you don’t include modern variations, and fans of the story all have their favorites. The dozens of different factors that are involved – animated versus live action, classic retellings versus modern variations, fealty to the original story versus more streamlined retellings – and each argument has its champions on both sides. My personal votes are 1992’s “A Muppet Christmas Carol” for best original version – yes, I know, but the story is actually fairly faithful – and 1988’s “Scrooged” for best modern adaptation.

Then there's a comedy subsection, the most common representatives of which are “A Christmas Story” and “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.” Technically, both are period movies – “A Christmas Story” intentionally evokes the 1950s, and “Lampoon’s” due to the fact that we’re moving increasing further away from the 1980s – and involve significant amounts of slapstick. Still, it’s nearly impossible to find both movies on a person’s “must see” Christmas list, and that’s not including those people who would happily ignore either for “Home Alone.”

Though it’s also a comedy, “Elf” seems to be in a category all its own. Discussions about holiday movies suggest that there are two very different opinions on the movie – either people love it and watch it every year, or they tried it once and immediately vowed never to watch it again. In case you’re curious, the people in the latter category always look faintly pained at the mere mention of it.

You'd think kids' movies would be considered universally acceptable, but even they have some mortal enemies. My best friend absolutely loathes all Rankin/Bass Christmas movies, particularly the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Her least favorite character in that movie is the elf who wants to be a dentist, so much so that even a mention of him is enough to inspire a rant. It’s bad enough that she’d rather watch any number of schmaltzy Christmas movies, which she also dislikes, rather than be forced to watch a Rankin/Bass special.

Then, of course, there are wild card favorites. Some people argue that “Die Hard” is the only acceptable movie (it counts – the setting is a Christmas party), and others who consider “Nightmare Before Christmas” to be required viewing for both Halloween and Christmas. There’s even a few people who love “Ernest Saves Christmas,” but most probably won’t admit it in public.

The real answer to the question of the best Christmas movie, however, is surprisingly simple. It’s the one that makes you think of favorite childhood Christmas memories, or the one that makes your child smile. It’s the movie that still makes you laugh, even though you’ve seen it no less than 20 times, or the one that still reliably chokes you up even though you know it well enough to have all the dialogue memorizes. It’s whatever movie makes you not mind the snow outside (if there is snow) and makes you feel like Christmas lights look in the darkness.

So champion your Christmas movie, loud and proud, but don’t knock anyone else’s, either. It means Christmas to them, and that’s what matters. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Not quite human

Have you ever had anyone look at you like you were an alien from another planet?

And I know I shouldn't complain, not really. I'm white, and cis, and so I've never had hate speech tossed at me. I've never had to fear for my life. And on top of that, I have people who love me. In a lot of ways, I'm really lucky.

But there's a look, people get sometimes. It's not the same as the "oh, she's so quirky" look, or even the "you poor awkward thing, why did anyone let you out of the house?" look. The latter makes it clear they're slightly charmed, and the latter inevitably falls somewhere between amusement and pity.

No, the "alien" look is far more clinical, as if you're being genuinely studied. It's worse than an insult, sometimes, because the person honestly looks they have no idea what on earth you're doing standing in front of them. It's a look that says, at least to them, you don't quite pass as being human. And because they never actually say the words, you can't even fight it.

It burns. And it scars. Because no matter how many people are kind to you, who look at you and see nothing wrong, there is a part of you that will always remember that, in some people's eyes, you don't count.

To anyone who has ever looked at anyone like that, whether it's because of their race, their faith, their gender, their sexual preference, or the fact that they're the quiet kid in the back of the class who smells kind of funny, don't you dare think that you're any better than those people who hurl insults at them or try to hurt them. Don't you dare think your silence buys you any kind of civility, or that your thoughts don't condemn you just as thoroughly as your words would. Because you cut them just as thoroughly, your brothers and sisters who are just as human as you are (and how dare you even for a second think otherwise) and you should be just as damned for it. You are the reason the world is broken.

And if you've ever been looked at like that, by anyone, please know that they're wrong. The fact that they can't see you correctly is their failing, not yours, and I wish I could be there to punch all of them in the face for daring to be dismissive of your magnificence. Because you are magnificent. You are precious, you are beautiful, you are amazing, and whoever you are I know this to the very depths of my soul. I pray that each and every one of you find someone who looks at you and sees the wonder that you are, because you deserve it.


Friday, December 2, 2016

"Dreamless" fancast vol. 2 - starring Cate Blanchett, Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Irons

Back for more "Dreamless" fancasts, and this time we're taking on the book's main villain and some of the more colorful supporting cast.

Ariadne - Cate Blanchett

In my mind, Blanchett is the only choice for Elena's aunt, who needs to be so many things throughout the course of the story - loyal, loving, jealous, angry, passionate, heartbroken, penitent, cold, hopeful.... Not only does Blanchett have the range to handle all that and more, but she exudes the kind of poise and power Ariadne would have needed to have at the top of her game. Also, she actually looks like she could be related to Elena and Queen Illiana, which is always a nice touch.


Dr. Flyte - Patrick Stewart

I imagine this would be a voice acting gig, though it's possible the CGI team could use Stewart's features to make the suggestion of the good doctor's face in the surface of the magic mirror. I'd want Stewart for the gig because he could handle both the doctor's humor and more clinical side equally well, along with the caretaker-style warmth he feels for Elena. Also, his voice is rich and varied enough that it can make up for the fact that, as a magical mirror-turned-therapist, the character doesn't have any limbs or really defined facial features to act with.








Braeth - Jeremy Irons

Another voice role, this time for an undead wraith who also happens to be another old family friend of Elena's. Irons is perfect because he can inject so much disdain and sarcasm into his voice while still keeping it wonderfully cultured, which is just what I'd expect from someone who has hundreds of years of knowledge and experience on everyone he talks to. At the same time, he can also sound gentle, which is important because undead wraiths still know how to care about people. I might modify Irons voice a little to give it more of an echo, though - I'm not entirely certain Braeth has a mouth or vocal chords as we recognize them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Update on short story collection!

So I promised you more on the short story collection, and here it is. It's called "Once Upon A Tale," will only be available in e-book format, and will ALSO only be available on the Tapas app. For those of you who don't know it, the app is available for both iPhones/iPads/etc and Android devices and lets you read ebooks and comics an "episode" (aka a smaller chunk of the overall book/story) at a time. You can either pay by episode, or earn points to get the next episodes completely free. More info about the app is available online here.

Now, about the collection. As I said before, there are four stories, two of which are connected to "Fairy Godmothers, Inc." and two of which are connected to "Beast Charming." Though some of my early, faithful readers may have seen early versions of one story and the beginning of the second, everything has been considerably expanded/rewritten and the experience is entirely new.

A breakdown:

"Uninvited Guests" (Beast Charming)
Beauty wakes up in a bed meant for another sleeping beauty. Now she has to find the poor enchanted girl her father hid somewhere and figure out how to save the day.

"Some Assembly Required" (Fairy Godmothers, Inc.)
On her current assignment, Kate tries to help a zombie girl find her happily-ever-after. Things get complicated when someone far more monstrous shows up.

"Belief" (Beast Charming)
Take a peek into Waverly and Manny's pasts, where the duo runs afoul of an enchanted ring and a ghost who really doesn't understand the whole business of being a conman.

"Happily Ever After" (Fairy Godmothers, Inc.)
Set after the novel. Rellie takes on her very first Fairy Godmother assignment when a toad shows up at the castle to insist on his very own dose of romantic magic.

A sneak peek is going up on Tapas TODAY, and the entire thing will be available next Tuesday. If you have any questions, let me know.