Title: THE IVORY NEEDLE
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Coming from such different worlds, Chessie Charlton and Daniel Jomo Olanga should never have crossed paths.
Which would have been just fine with Denver teen Chessie. Bad enough Mom’s shipped her off to spend a summer with her ancient grandmother in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. No phone. No friends. No fair. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant matriarch, things take a total left turn toward weird. Filling Chessie’s head with cryptic songs—and totally flipping her out—Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: save the last of her once-immortal tribe before their species vanishes forever and the Earth pays a deadly price.
Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.
By the time Chessie gets over herself and agrees to help Jhelani’s tribe, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize any opportunity (and any rifle) to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.
The IVORY NEEDLE is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists.
When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.
Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.
I winced and eyed the kitchen table, covered in our favorite foods. Mom’s cooking and smiling? My mouth watered, my stomach rumbled, and my heart clenched. Something wasn’t right.
“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned in, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep melodramatic sniff. “Look, Chessie, your favorite mac-n-cheese, too.”
“Are you sure this isn’t a mirage?” I teased. I dropped into the chair across from him and watched Mom pull something else from the oven, her hair frizzed out in all directions from cooking in the early summer heat. “Mom? What’s going on?”
She set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down. “How would you kids like to meet your great-grandmother Esther?”
Bent whooped. “Does she still live in Africa? I want to meet her!”
I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow.
Entry Nickname: Paranormal Fear, An Exorcist's Murder Trial
Title: King of Skins
Word Count: 91K
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Zhao Ling, a flippant St. Louis criminal defense attorney, faces the toughest case of his career: acquitting an accused murderer who only has a supernatural alibi.
His client, Wayne Liebesman, is a professional exorcist whose only crime was banishing a spirit from an already dead body. So it only looked like he bludgeoned an old man to death. Who wouldn’t believe that? Zhao certainly doesn’t until he’s visited by his client’s employer and paranormal mob boss, The King of Skins. As a body lender, The King allows anyone to take a ride in someone else's body for a price. Knowing that Wayne might cut a deal with the FBI’s classified, paranormal task force, he threatens to add Zhao to his collection of skins unless Wayne is found innocent.
As if things couldn’t get worse, Zhao is kidnapped and taken to St. Louis’s hidden supernatural underground, a bizarre place of preternatural street thugs, obsidian guardians, and emotion brokers. There he is confronted by a rival paranormal gang leader, a broker by the name of Lady Sorrow. She reveals that Zhao’s life isn’t the only one on the line. The King has made a deal with a horror from outside our reality, and if left unchecked, he’ll unleash a plague of otherworldly monsters upon humanity. Now Zhao must be prepared to sacrifice his own life and the freedom of an innocent man to prevent all of mankind from joining the King’s collection.
The King of Skins strolled into my office late one night, the lingering scent of death his cologne. I had forgotten to lock my office door. Not that it would have made a difference, not to him. I’ve dealt with murders, rapists, and gang lords, and yet something about the man made the lizard part of my brain scream at me to flee in horror.
Of course, when confronted with such an auspicious character it’s only appropriate to address him correctly, “Who are you and what the hell are you doing in my office at eleven p.m.?” No one has ever accused my mouth of coordinating with my brain.
He stared down his nose at me as if I were a nasty stain on his alligator skin suit. I felt a flash of heat. No one disrespected me in my office no matter how piss your pants scary I found him. Without as much as a “may I?” he sat in the chair opposite mine. Off came his fedora. The dim light glinting off his brown skin stretched too tightly across his clean-shaven skull.
“Mr. Zhao Ling?” he asked. I nodded in response. “You recently agreed to represent Wayne Liebesman in his murder trial. He is a very useful contractor of mine, and you will acquit him.”
“I am called The King.” His eyes glowed faintly in the dark like two smoldering coals, “The King of Skins.”
“Okay, that’s just plain weird,” I muttered under my breath.