GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Book Review (ARC): Dying For a Living by Kory M. Shrum | I Smell Sheep

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review (ARC): Dying For a Living by Kory M. Shrum

Dying for a Living
by Kory M. Shrum

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: March 4th 2014
On the morning before her 67th death, it is business as usual for Jesse Sullivan: meet with the mortician, counsel soon-to-be-dead clients, and have coffee while reading the latest regeneration theory. Jesse dies for a living, literally. As a Necronite, she is one of the population’s rare 2% who can serve as a death replacement agent, dying so others don’t have to. Although each death is different, the result is the same: a life is saved, and Jesse resurrects days later with sore muscles, new scars, and another hole in her memory.

But when Jesse is murdered and becomes the sole suspect in a federal investigation, more than her freedom and sanity are at stake. She must catch the killer herself—or die trying

I had never hear of this book or author until the crazy Cabin Goddess Kriss Morton came banging on my Facebook wall about an urban fantasy I had to read. Based on the cover I probably wouldn’t have given it much thought, but Kriss was so insistent and the blurb sounded interesting enough I thought why not?! Talk about a gem in the rough! The rough is the cover and the inside is pure magic. I devoured this story.

When reading a first person it's the voice of the character that has to grab you and Jesse did right from the beginning. I loved her hard and crunchy outside and her soft and chewy inside. Take a great character, create a unique world and a story line that has me guessing the whole time and you have a winner. Most stories have a hook in the first page that makes you want to know more. This one had multiple hooks popping up throughout.

Jesse is a death replacement agent. In her world 2% of the population are Necronites (and don’t call them zombies because that is rude). You don’t know if you are a Necronite until you die and find yourself waking up at the morgue. These people can act as death replacements for those who have enough money, but not everyone is happy with this. The church thinks Necronites are abominations, the government wants to experiment on them and rigor mortis is a bitch, but a warm bath can ease the transition.

Jesse has a past she is running from, a boyfriend she can’t commit too, a handler who has had it up to “here!” with her and a best friend (ex-lover) she is trying to keep from hurting again. People are killing death replacement agents (kill, killing them) and Jesse plans on finding out who after a botched attempt on her life. There are many twists and turns to the story but I don’t want to ruin them.

This is a well written urban fantasy with a murder mystery, dark humor and a pug named Winston.

All our eyes went to Brinkley’s crotch and the dark stain about four inches below his gun.
I arched an eyebrow. “I could say—“
Brinkley stopped me, ears bright red. “That—“
He refused to look at his crotch, which resulted in his pointing at it. “—is your fault.”
“I’d remember making you piss blood.”
His tone turned dangerously even. “When we picked you up from the hospital, they missed a piece of glass. When I pulled it out, you squirted on me,” he said, jaw still tight. “It would seem even your corpse is a sarcastic little shit.”

Excerpt from Dying for a Living:

“Good morning, Mr. Reynolds.” I used my best sing-song voice. “Are you ready to die today?”

“I don’t think we should stand so close to him,” Ally said and pulled me away from the bed. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Mr. Reynolds still didn’t respond when I turned on the bedside lamp and illuminated his bedroom in a butter-yellow glow. I nudged him, impatient. “Good morning.”

His eyes fluttered open as he sat up quickly and pressed his back against the wooden headboard. Crushing the comforter to his chest, he removed an earplug from each of his ears with a fumbling urgency. His darting eyes searched our faces.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked. His graying brown hair was disheveled and thinning in front. His blue eyes, set in a wrinkling face, squinted against the onslaught of light. Though he was an enormous man, six feet tall and nearly 300 pounds according to our profile, he looked dwarfed in this California King bed.

I flashed a look at Ally, my personal assistant. Beside me, she was talle­­r by a few inches, making her 5’8” or so. Reynolds’s apartment was warm and we’d taken the stairs. So she’d unbuttoned her red A-line coat to reveal an off-white ruffled blouse and dress pants underneath. Her straightened blond hair, chocolate-eyes and tiny diamond nose stud, caught and held the soft light of Reynolds’s lamp as she adjusted herself.

She looked at the photo attached to the front of the file folder she held and then she nodded twice, which meant yes we were in the right house, on the right day.

Of course, I could still have fun with this.

“Burglars,” I said with my mouth full, chewing. “If you could just strip those pillowcases off and fill them with your valuables, we’ll be on our way.”

His eyes fixed on the half-devoured sugar bomb in my hand. “Is that my muffin?”

I slowed my chewing, thinking of how best to answer this inquiry. “Could be. It was on your kitchen counter.”

“So you just took it?” He pushed the comforter off his chest. The disorientation of sleep wore off as he realized what was happening.

“Mr. Reynolds.” Ally leaned toward him gently then pushed her hair behind her ear as it fell forward. Her tone was professional and kind. She was good at being professional. Me? Not so much. “We’re here about the death-replacement you scheduled in April.”

His face remained pinched with confusion. One of the problems with letting hospitals orchestrate death-replacements is that clients don’t meet their agents until the actual death-day.

“At the hospital, remember? You scheduled this replacement with your physician.” Ally continued, patient. “This is Ms. Jesse Sullivan. She will be your agent today.”

He turned his narrowing eyes from her to me. “She’s the zombie?”

Was it my job to remind him “zombie” is a derogatory term? Yes. “Necronite,” I corrected. I threw the muffin wrapper in the bedside trashcan. “I’m the Necronite here to die so you can keep on a-livin’.”

I said that last part in the twangy, country music tone our fair city of Nashville was known for. He looked me over, head to toe. What did he expect a Necronite to look like? Probably not this young or wearing nothing more than jeans and a T-shirt beneath my hoodie.
“How did you get in?”

“Doorman,” I answered. “Look—”

Ally intercepted my irritation. “It’s important Jesse stays close to you until the incident occurs. As the doctor probably explained during your consultation, she must shadow you for the entire day.”

Mr. Reynolds turned to the bedside clock. “It’s only midnight.”

“That’s generally when the day starts,” I said, stretching my cramped neck to one side. “Your death-day is September 18th and that’s today, right?”

“Yes.” He didn’t sound so sure.
“Ta-da,” I said, throwing my arms wide. Startled, he leaned out of my reach. “Here I am.”
Ally elbowed me and I jerked my arms in to protect my ribs. She forced another smile at Reynolds. “We tried to call you earlier, but you didn’t answer. When we rang the doorbell and knocked, you still didn’t answer.”

I folded my arms over my chest, tired of standing over him. “We thought you’d already died.”
He uncurled his beefy fist to show the earplugs he still held. “I wear these when I sleep. I guess I didn’t hear you.”
“We were concerned, that’s all. It’s our job to keep you safe,” Ally added. Oh, that smile was really shining now. “We apologize for entering your home without an invitation.”
She nudged me with her elbow again. I grumbled, “Yeah, sorry.”

His shoulders slumped and he seemed to relax the longer Ally smiled at him. It was her gift, I guess, the ability to put people at ease. It certainly wasn’t a trait I possessed.

“Sir, if you can just act normal today, follow your usual routine, we’ll be here and ready for anything,” Ally grinned. Her weight shifted. She was tired of standing too. “Please go back to sleep. We’ll remain close if you need us.”

I gave him credit. He did try to go back to sleep, though he left the earplugs out, probably suspicious of us. I guess I wouldn’t be able to sleep with two strangers leaning against my bedroom wall watching me, especially a stranger as fidgety as myself. Thirty minutes into this babysitting, guard duty from which I derived an income, I was so bored, but waiting for death to show up was a normal part of the replacement process.

At 7:45 A.M., Reynolds was finally dressed and ready for work. He swore he usually walked to work, so walk we did. Franklin Street was busy, the honking horns conveying not everyone was happy to be alive on this fine Monday. The morning air held a characteristically September chill to it, so I zipped my dark hoodie up to my chin and warmed my cooling hands in the back pockets of my jeans.

Ally can look as professional as she’d like but my clothes would be destroyed by the end of the day—one way or another. Sure I have nicer clothes at home, but when I work a replacement job, I can’t wear those. Doctors really like to cut my clothes off. I mean, they see my dying body and it’s like “Nurse! The scissors, please.”

The time I was hit and killed by a bus, they cut my clothes off and I was wearing my favorite Three Stiffs with Picks T-shirt. The local band’s members were Necronites like me—which meant we had the same neurological disorder—but they weren’t death-replacement agents and had no government employment contract like I did.

Man, every time I think about that shirt, I get pissed all over again. They’d signed it, for goodness sake. The hospital ruined it more than the bus did. I could’ve kept it, damn them. Blood on a rock T-shirt is cool.

Anyway, that was the last straw, so now I only wear clothes I don’t care too much about, which means I own a plethora of dark jeans and hoodies which I can pull on or zip over any number of T-shirts. Sometimes Ally is able to intervene and save my clothes, but most body fluids stain, so I still go through an entire wardrobe quickly—shoes too. I don’t know how I lose my shoes when I die. At home, I have a whole basket of shoes I only have one of and I refuse to buy more. They still work. Like today, I was wearing one red Nike sneaker and one blue Reebok sneaker, each one tied with floppy laces. Maybe that’s why Reynolds kept staring at my feet as we walked.

We’d only made it two blocks down the road, pushing through the swarming crowds, past opening shops and businesses, when the conversation took an inevitable turn.

Mr. Reynolds turned to Ally and flashed what I suspected was a well-rehearsed smile. His voice shifted to an even, carefully inflected tone. “Are you a zombie too?”

“Necronite,” I said, correcting him again. If I wanted to playfully call myself a zombie that was one thing. I was trying to reclaim the word after all. But people can’t just go equating my lifestyle to mindless, brain-eating corpses. “The politically correct term is Necronite. You don’t call black people the n-word.”
“Necronite, got it,” he blurted, embarrassed by the fact that I was speaking at full volume. His eyes nervously scanned the passing crowd for any signs that someone had heard us. He tried to speak to Ally again. “Do you reanimate also?”
“Ooo, reanimate. Breaking out the big words,” I said. “No, Ally doesn’t die. She is one hundred percent mortal.” I’ve seen the ‘Let’s get to know the cute assistant’ bit before. I don’t blame him. Ally is gorgeous. I’ve made a play for her myself because gorgeous is gorgeous. I’m just lucky that Ally likes women or I probably would have looked just as ridiculous as Mr. Reynolds here.

“I’m just the assistant,” Ally said with a polite smile, which had become permanently fixed on her face when mediating between me and my clients. Maybe it was her round cheeks or tiny cute nose that made people like her. She just looked like a nice person—unless you pissed her off, of course. “Jesse’s schedule is hectic, and it’s my job to keep her sane.”
“You must have your work cut out for you,” he said.

Did he just insult me?

I could play. “You’re not her type. You need breasts, bigger ones.”

His jaw set tight. “Is she always this…charming?”

I opened my mouth to show him just how charming I could be when Ally shot me a pleading look behind his back. Brinkley, my government-assigned handler, popped into my head. One more bad review, Jesse, and I’ll kill you. A couple of times. If Mr. Reynolds thought I was a challenge, he should try dealing with Brinkley sometime.

I rolled my eyes at Ally and said my rehearsed speech. I didn’t even bother to deliver it any better than deadpan. “Dear Sir or Madam, I am sorry for your inconvenience. In the light of your impending death, this must be a stressful time for you. Please accept my apologies for this inconvenience and let me offer my reassurance that no matter what happens, you can count on me to save your ass.”

Brinkley made me memorize this verbatim, and to be spiteful, I haven’t changed a word. Not even the Sir or Madam part, as you can see. Okay, maybe I changed “save you” to “save your ass”, but what’s the difference really?

Reynolds blinked twice and stared. Reaching some conclusion, he opened the door to his office and entered without saying another word.
The South Tower where Mr. Reynolds worked was huge, stretching far up into the overcast sky. The building looked like a cat to me, with a pointy radio antenna on each side of its roof. We followed him and his swinging briefcase through the revolving glass doors into the building, which smelled like women’s perfume and floor polish. With our plastic visitor badges attached, we took the elevator up to Reynolds’s office on the fifteenth floor. The office was the coolest, strangest thing I’d ever seen.

It was laid out like a bi-level, encased in glass. The entrance was two glass doors that pushed open. The outer wall was a full window overlooking downtown Nashville. The floor was hardwood, something pale like pine, and quite shiny in the slanted autumn light. A spiraling staircase with see-through steps coiled off to the right, very modern. The lower level held only his secretary’s desk and a clear view over the city. Reynolds’s desk was located on the upper, loft-like part suspended in the air. Good thing he wasn’t into dresses or the poor secretary would’ve had more than a downtown view through the clear floor suspended above her desk. His desk, bookcase with reference materials, and the window behind him were all transparent too. I gave Ally a weary look. She got it.

“We need your blood type,” she said, almost as soon as Reynolds put his briefcase on his desk.
“O-positive, why?”
“This is a lot of glass.” I leaned over the metal rail encircling the loft area to see the secretary’s desk and floor just below. I know people dig the sleek, modern look, but all I saw was an accident waiting to happen. “We might have a problem if you cut yourself on any of this.”

Reynolds was confused. “The doctor told me any type of death was replaceable.”

I was certain no one told him that because I can only do so much for a body. Most of my clients still require post-replacement medical care. Point-blank gunshot wounds to the head, for example, are unlikely replaceable. What did he expect me to do? Pick up his brain chunks and restuff his skull?

Ally sat her purse in one of the four bright red chairs, the only splash of color in the whole place apart from the light and a hanging fern with its greedy outstretched tendrils.

“Jesse can keep you from dying, but she can’t heal your body. If you get hurt on any of this glass, you’ll need blood.”

I surveyed the titles on his bookcase and found not an ounce of pleasure reading; a real bore, this guy. Ally pulled a survey packet and clipboard from her bag, before fishing for a pen. Then she extended the ballpoint with a click, and settled into the chair.

“While you set up, I wonder if I can ask you a few questions about your replacement experience?” Ally asked.

Unraveling his laptop cord, Reynolds paused in his unpacking. “She hasn’t done anything.”

“No, not yet,” Ally replied, flashing her work with me grin. “You’ll receive your post-replacement survey in the mail in a week or two. Hopefully, you’ll fill it out and return it in the postage-paid envelope. These questions don’t pertain to the death-replacement itself, but rather the enrollment process.”

Reynolds bent down and plugged the cord into the surge protector under his desk. “All right then, Ms. Gallagher, if it makes your job easier.”

She tucked her hair behind her ears and tried to look sweet. “It does, thank you.”

Ally might be a lesbian, but she knew how to charm. I rolled my eyes. These two were making me nauseous. She readied her pen and read the first question aloud. “Did you intentionally plan your death-screening or did your physician recommend it?”

He settled into his seat and turned on the computer. “I went to get my blood-pressure checked and the doctor recommended it. He explained my health insurance rates would lower if I pre-screened.”
“How much time passed between the physician’s referral and your meeting with the A.M.P.?”

“Analyst of Necro-Magnetic Phenomenon.”
“The psychic,” he said, his eyes lighting with recognition. “I met her two days later.”

“Psychic is another derogatory term, Mr. Reynolds,” I said. Not to mention an inaccurate way to describe these ex-military, medically-altered analysts. My favorite A.M.P. was Gloria. She hated the term psychic and you’ve got to defend your friends when they aren’t around to defend themselves. “We talked about derogatory terms, didn’t we?”
The public wasn’t supposed to think of them as psychics anyway. Somehow that dirty little secret leaked to the public. PR pushed A.M.P.s as nothing more than gifted statisticians, brainiacs who could take all the factors of a person’s life and guess when they’d die within a twenty-four hour window, up to one year in advance. Use the word “psychic”, or “guess” for that matter, and no one would have invested in the replacement industry because the modern mind only believes in science and money. Of course Lane, my sometimes beau, argued that telling people AMPs were guinea pig soldiers tortured into becoming drug-dependent psychics, wouldn’t incite much faith either. He had a point.

The Death-Management Industry, including the whole screening through replacement process, had a 95 percent success rate. That’s almost as good as birth control. No one wanted to be surprised by death and now they didn’t have to be. People liked the security. The federal government liked the fact that every aspect of the process was taxable. Hello, revenue. And the military liked that they were putting a positive spin on their greatest screw-up this decade.

Mainstreaming the Death-Management Industry created jobs, fattened pockets and basically pulled all our heads above the waters of a recession. Hell, even China and Japan have launched their own Death-Management Industries in the last few months. Death-screening commercials now outnumbered breast-cancer commercials two to one. However, not everyone accepted the industry.

The Church launched their anti-Death Management campaign not long after the industry was established. But it wasn’t until lately, when the conservative party took office, that their power was really felt. Less people were screening. Those fat pockets were thinning. I was looking at the possibility of unemployment in a year or two. Frankly, I was okay with that—but for other reasons.

“Your A.M.P.’s name and how long it took for her to complete your evaluation?” Ally asked.
“Cooper something. Gildroy, Godfrey, or…,” he said. His eyes glanced down, unfocused. “I only remember the doctor called early the following week and asked me to come back in to discuss my options.”

Cooper Gooding. We only had one death-replacement agent named Cooper in Nashville.

“How did you feel when you first learned the news?”

He leaned back in his chair, running his thick hands through his hair. “You mean, when the doctor informed me some psychic—sorry, A.M.P.—said I was going to die? I didn’t believe it at first. It’s not the conversation one professional has with another.”

Ally kept scrawling on the page, nodding. “When the doctor informed you of the analyst’s results, did he make your options clear?”
He scratched his chin. “Either I took my chances and hoped the day passed without incident or I took precautions. I’d say my choice was pretty clear.”

“Was it a difficult decision?” Ally asked, looking up from the page.
“Not really,” he answered. “I get the money back if nothing happens. If it does, I’d say my life is worth more than a mere $50,000.”

“That’s right,” Ally said. I’d also have to return the $50,000 fee if I screwed up and he died. I could die myself and still wouldn’t even get to keep my 20% cut. Since he’d be dead, I guess that didn’t matter to him.
She reached the last question. “Would you recommend death-replacement to a family member or friend?”

“Ask me that one at the end of the day,” he replied. “Once I see what happens.”
Ally was packing up but I had one more question. “What do you do here?” I swept the grandeur of his office with my eyes.
“I’m a marketing and media consultant,” he said. “We do advertising for local businesses, night clubs, and popular consumer products.”
I bet he was one of our very own PR guys. Otherwise, I wasn’t quite sure why Brinkley put him in my bin. Not that Brinkley would tell me if I asked. Boss Brinkley only showed interest in telling me what to do. Despite how harsh Brinkley could be, I was curious about him.
I didn’t remember my father at all. In fact, I remembered so little about my life before my first death. Immediately after it, I was recruited to become a replacement agent by Brinkley. I know that I have a little brother, a mother, and that she remarried an asshole. I only remember vague bits and pieces—I didn’t even remember Ally though she told me we’ve been friends since childhood.

I do remember the barn fire—my first death. And how it was not an accident.

When the secretary went home at 5:00 P.M., I decided to play in her desk to ward off sleepiness. I’d been working seventeen hours straight. In addition to an impressive array of writing utensils, the secretary’s desk had several pictures of her kids and a coffee cup that said, “Procrastinate and you tempt fate!” A real go-getter this one. I played with her label maker, placing labels that read “Zombie touched this. Eek!” on everything: her chair, her cup, her computer. I spared the kids’ pictures.

I was about to turn on the internet when the computer popped then fizzled out. Was that smoke? Shit. I put my head on the desk. It was not the first time this week, month even, that I’d had something short out on me. It was like I short-circuited electronics by my touch alone.

It was a brand new problem that I could do without.

I didn’t even have time to come up with an excuse for exploding the secretary’s computer when a familiar sinking sensation washed over me. My grip tightened on the edge of the desk.

“Ally,” I said, calling her name as loud as I could manage with a tightening throat and nausea. I wanted her to know it was almost time. I looked up through the floor to see Mr. Reynolds freeze mid-motion. Ally spoke to him, but too softly for me to hear.

My vision blurred in and out of focus, making it difficult to see exactly what he was doing as the fading light in the room intensified. It’s like being really, really drunk except I’ve got all my wits about me. This disorientation was normal—bizarre but normal—, unlike this new failing electronics problem.

I recognized Reynolds’s movements as hesitation. Clients often freeze up when I start to react. No one wants to die. To the clients, in this moment just before it happens, it seems as if any movement could be the wrong one. He stared at me through the glass floor.

Sensing death was like a panic attack. I tried to breathe against the pressure in my chest. Nothing was actually wrong with me, except that I knew what was coming, or at least some part of me knew, and that part of me panicked. My limbs flooded with adrenaline and were ready for anything. Here in this bright office, it seemed unlikely I was going to get hit by a bus, stabbed, or suffer any bodily harm, right?

I closed my eyes and tried to quell this sick feeling. Before I opened them again, something heavy came crashing right through the desk, knocking me backwards out of the chair. I hit the back of my head on the window-wall with a thump and my ears rang on impact. Splintered glass from the crushed secretary’s desk sprayed like water into my face. I tried to shield myself with my hand and swore like crazy.
“Who designs this shit!” I pulled a large shard out of my left forearm. It had gone straight through the skin. Blood spurted out of the wound and my jeans were ruined.Again.
Ally came down the stairs as fast as she could without falling herself. She only took the steps one at a time, carefully holding onto the rail. Good girl. I wasn’t equipped to deal with two people dying at once. Death-replacement is a one-on-one exchange.
“Mr. Reynolds?” It took me a moment to realize it was his body that had fallen on top of me, lying now in the mess of the secretary’s shattered desk. I kicked a chunk of desk off of me and I pulled myself out from under him, dragging my burning arm through broken glass. “Mr. Reynolds, can you hear me?”

I checked his pulse and it was faint, slowing. I opened his suit jacket and pressed my hands to his chest for a pulse as Ally’s voice echoed through the room. She gave the address and situation to the emergency operators on the phone. The tiny glass shards in my arms and legs burned like hell as they worked their way in deeper into my skin. I saved the freaking out until after she hung up.

“What the hell did you say to him? We don’t do suicides.” I was talking too fast. OK, so having a body drop on me unexpectedly had caught me off guard. At least I couldn’t be blamed for the broken computer now. “And what the hell is it with fat men falling on me? That’s two this week! I’m like one hundred and twenty pounds, assholes.”

It became a race to see who could speak the fastest with the widest eyes.

“I didn’t make him jump, thank you. I told him when you get pale like this it means it’s about to happen. So instead of paying attention to his own two feet, he watched you. He tripped on the laptop cord and rolled right over that damn rail.” She pointed up, looking freaked too.

“You have to stop telling them they’re about to die,” I said. I leaned close to his ear and practically shouted, “And you have to get wooden desks.”

As if reacting to the thunder of my own voice, my vision gave over completely, switching from dizzying spottiness to full-blown waves of color.
“Finally,” I said, relieved. “Do you see it?”

“You ask me this every time,” Ally said. “The answer is still no.”

The room was a shifting aurora borealis of heat and light and a comfort to see. Even weird shit can be comforting, when you expect it.
“Everything is light,” I explained for the millionth time because I really wished she could just see it for herself. “Nothing is solid. It’s kind of like those thermal readings.”
“Jesse, he isn’t looking so good.”
I focused on the man still partially in my lap. He was no longer a warm red-orange tinged with yellow like Ally. He was green now, edging his way into the dormant blue-gray I saw in so many other things like the floor, the desk, and walls. It was my job to keep the blue from overtaking him.

I can’t explain what I do exactly.

Death is the transformation of energy. I admit I’m guessing here. I did know that when someone was about to die, a tiny black hole was created inside them. Like a black hole in space, it looked like an empty swirling vortex. This vortex was what sucked all the warm, living colors out of a person, leaving nothing behind that could survive.

My job as a replacement agent was to convince the fleeting red of Mr. Reynolds, so ready to burn up its little flame and become a dormant blue, that it really didn’t want to go into that swirling vortex drain after all. Somehow I did this by willing it.
My colors have never matched Ally’s, Brinkley’s, or anyone who’d accompanied me in the room during a replacement. Lane too, I imagine, would be a more vibrant hue if I ever got a good look at him. The point was I seemed a welcome home for blue flame since I was always blue flame. Not the cold blue of furniture or buildings, more like a sparkly blue. Electric blue.
With Reynolds’s flame drawn into my own, it gave his red-warm fire room enough to burn. But there was a special spark I was looking for, something I had to find inside him and keep from being washed down the swirling vortex.

The elevator opening and Ally shouting to the paramedics seemed like sounds underwater, distant and muffled as I focused harder on Reynolds.

“Hurry, Jesse,” she said, so soft she could have been whispering.

A hot-cold chill settled into the muscles in my back and coiled around my navel like an invisible snake as I pushed my own flame further into Reynolds. I slid through him with urgency, aware I was running out of time. There—a spark where our flames danced around each other. Against the line showing the division, I pushed hard.

Reynolds’s chest rose suddenly, jerking as he gasped, like gasoline thrown on the blaze.

But even though I scooped Reynolds’s precious spark out of the vortex, the vortex didn’t just close. Somebody still had to go through that death drain for it to close. Unfortunately, that somebody had to be me.

So I exhaled one last breath and gave myself completely to the waiting darkness.

5 “Death Replacement” sheep

Sharon Stogner

About the Author:
Kory M. Shrum lives in Michigan with her partner and a ferocious guard pug. When not writing, she can be found teaching, traveling, and wearing a gi. Her poetry has appeared in North American Review, Bateau and elsewhere. Her first urban fantasy novel Dying for a Living will be available March 4, 2014.


  1. Oh this one does sound dandy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I can't wait to meet Jesse sounds like my kind of gal :)

  2. I concur--this sounds really fun. I wishlisted it, but I might get it as my Amazon Prime book this month ;)

    1. I think you will like it. Good old urban fantasy with a fresh take on zombies.