GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Urban Fantasy: Falling Stars by Julie Rogers + excerpt | I Smell Sheep

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Monday, May 15, 2023

Urban Fantasy: Falling Stars by Julie Rogers + excerpt

"Julie Rogers has created a truly epic novel, expertly weaving the past and present together in a timeless tale of love, loss, sacrifice, and magical possibilities. With beautifully written prose, detailed historical settings, and an unforgettable cast of characters, this novel is truly unforgettable, one that followed me long after I read the last page!”
—Rebecca Flynt, Author of American Harlot: The Untold Story of Maria Reynolds

by Julie Rogers
April 30, 2023
Genre: urban fantasy,new adult
Everyone says vampires aren't real. Tommy Lucas isn't so sure.

Nine-year-old Tommy Lucas needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. But he’s convinced his disease is a curse on his bloodline, that he’s a vampire. His mother's an oncologist, but Tommy believes only magic can cure him—or the same synthetic blood substitute developed for urban legend Viscount Claudius Fallon.

Tommy is stoked when he discovers a five-part series about Fallon in an online pulp fiction magazine called Philly’s Argosy. Descended from a ruling class of vampires in Cardiff, legend has it that Fallon traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas seeking a cure for his own leukemia during WWII.

Tommy’s quest leads him to befriend local artist and gallery owner Callan Masters, who struggles with his growing affection for Tommy’s mom, June—for he is Fallon, cured in 1939 at Norman G. Baker Cure-for-Cancer Hospital.

Dedicated to living off-grid and as a human, Callan must decide whether he will take the risk involved in helping Tommy or falling in love with June. His bite is no longer capable of turning anyone—or so he thinks.
What readers are saying:

“Falling Stars held my interest from the beginning, with a wonderful story set in my hometown of Eureka Springs. The story within the story comes together in such a way that leaves you wanting more. This is a ‘don't miss’ book by a very talented author. I can't wait to share it with my book club.”
—Jane Derden, Owner of Red Bud Manor Inn, Eureka Springs

“As a lifelong English teacher, I so admire Rogers’s richly drawn characters, the manipulation of past and present, the juxtaposition of stark reality and mysticism, the descriptive and precise word choices. My reading preferences tend toward historical fiction, biography, mystery, and suspense.

What have you done to me, Julie Rogers? This book isn't even a genre I'd particularly gravitate toward, yet I thought about Falling Stars constantly when I couldn’t read, and the book stayed with me long after I finished. I couldn’t stop seeing Tommy in his high-tech casket. Am I obsessed? Well done!"
—Becky Hoag, Coauthor of Letters to Rose: A Holocaust Memoir

free on Kindle Unlimited

This excerpt is from Julie Rogers’s Falling Stars
It might be argued that in this outback of the Ozarks, Callan Masters also came from old blood—blood he would never reproduce—so that he, now thirty-six, remained forever its most eligible bachelor. Sole owner and proprietor of Fast Horses, a swank art gallery just off the fray on Cushing Street past Mountain, Callan didn’t make a habit of reviewing days gone by while he worked—and work he did. His gallery was filled with evidence of toil over many years. Like much of historic Main Street’s real estate, his studio was an eight hundred square foot cracker box, its main showroom a single L, the rest affording him a small office, storage, and a private half bath. Since his wasn’t a large showcase space, it had a podium checkout and a rack of lithograph prints tucked inside an alcove by the front door that served him well—for customers who graced the space always found themselves somehow compelled to buy at least one.

The base wall color was traditional white, the floors, acid-washed concrete stained to a marbleized walnut hue. The gallery aptly functioned as a blank canvas, an open concept—nothing fancy like floating walls or stand-alone partitions bisecting the area to steer traffic flow. Fast Horses was always and simply wide open front to back, its only two pieces of furniture a couple of vintage skinny benches carved from elm to accommodate customers who needed to take a load off.

Oil paintings of famed racehorses lined the walls from top to bottom, each one illuminated under sleek LED track lighting in brushed nickel finish. The lighting remained the only feature of the gallery that Callan obsessed over, since he had inherited achromatopsia. Because of his light sensitivity he didn’t paint in studio, and on any given day customers could find him on a step ladder adjusting the light heads just so or dimming certain tracks altogether.

Because he traveled frequently to study his subjects, Callan had arranged this lock-and-leave gallery for very little overhead and maintenance. Most of his serious investors met by appointment. The mortgage was paid, he didn’t have any employees, and he didn’t sublet. He’d finally installed a Ring security system only because city code required one, and he had a good HVAC unit that he topped off twice a year. Road noise and tourist traffic along Main outweighed any need for ambient music, but he did pull out an Ultimate Ears portable Bluetooth speaker from storage during the Christmas creep, these days walking back Eureka merchants’ grand Deck the Halls and holiday sales well before Halloween. Next week he’d hang his four oversized Christmas ornaments under the awning outside. He cranked up the Yuletide Muzak before turning to make one last pass over the floor with a push broom.

He stopped; he needed to rotate in a couple of more festive pieces while he was at it—now that Thanksgiving was nearly upon him. Christmas had crept. Again already, he topped off the thought.

Fast Horses was always and inevitably about what hung on the walls, or the lithograph prints derived thereof. Only four portraits out of the fifty-some-odd others remained on permanent display. The centerpiece that drew eyes—and bodies—into the store hung prominently on the longest wall, east side of the gallery.

“Man o’ War”.

Callan had missed the superstar’s racing years, something he’d always regretted. Widely regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time, he won all races but one during his career, equivalent to an excess of three million dollars in today’s purses. A racehorse that typically won in front-running fashion with powerful starts, his stride measured 28 feet, still holding the all-time record.

When Callan finally met Man o’ War in 1946, the famed thoroughbred was retired at Faraway Farm and near the end of his life. Though his swayback had grown more prominent with age, he was still huge, standing 16.2 ½ hands high, with flawless legs and solid bone. Even then as his handler, Will Harbut, had shown him, the stud held his head notably high, giving his audience a perfect profile of his Roman nose with its white star and stripe formation. Masters’ oil captured the champion’s signature stance as he stood quietly for them on that day. He’d also successfully managed to blend in the gold flecking throughout the stud’s shimmering chestnut coat, which made this piece one of his most frequently commissioned copies.

Callan Masters had done well enough for himself, and he was no starving artist—but it hadn’t always been that way.

The other pieces he never rotated out were “Adios Butler”, “Secretariat”, and “Zippy Chippy”. Callan agreed to paint Adios Butler, a harness racing champion, as a personal challenge—and traveled to watch him win the Triple Crown for Harness Racing for Pacers at Yonkers Raceway in 1959. The job required studying stacks of photographs and publicity shots in an effort to accurately represent the horse’s stride, tack, sully, and of course his driver, Clint Hodgins. An equally memorable commissioned trip was Secretariat’s win at Belmont Stakes in 1973, another Triple Crown.

“Zippy Chippy”, on the other hand, proved to be the icebreaker at the gallery. Customers who enjoyed trading stories about him always bought his lithograph prints. A New York bred gelding, his greatest accomplishment in the sport of kings was not winning. Zippy championed all the other Also Rans in the industry with a record number of 100 losses, a losing streak that nonetheless earned him a following. Aficionados like Callan attended several races in the ‘90s where he was entered to run, just out of curiosity.

Felix Monserrate, Zippy’s owner and trainer, clearly had an emotional attachment to the horse, alleged to having traded a pickup for him. Monserrate colored outside the lines in the equestrian playbook—entering Zippy in high-stakes events and refusing to race him in claiming races. Zippy was also the consummate troublemaker on the track. He’d sometimes stop in the middle of a race or refuse to leave the gate, and he had a bad habit of biting. Ultimately, he was banned from every track in North America but Northampton Fair in Massachusetts. He earned $30,834.00 during his career and a track record of 0-8-12.

After rotating in oils of two other champions cantering across snowscapes, Callan checked his watch and stored away the push broom for another night. He’d locked the store’s entrance with his cell phone a couple of hours ago but had forgotten to flip the shop sign. Pre-holiday sales and an influx of art collectors this time of year often kept him in the gallery after hours; the time simply got away. Such was not the case tonight.
He turned a small wooden sign that hung in the front window to show the town that Fast Horses was officially closed. Outside, shoppers had vacated the streets for a familiar dinner rush that included the locals’ attempts to outrun tourists to Eureka’s fine-dining establishments. Callan would soon head to one himself after tending a couple more items on the list. Once he’d determined no stragglers remained outside the store, then and then alone could he retrieve one of the oral syringes he kept in back and dose himself. Only he and his supplier knew about the blue juice that kept him, well—who he was.

Locked inside the supply closet was a medical grade refrigerator, a compact unit just large enough to store a year’s worth. He could hear the faint hum of the unit from the doorway of his office, loud enough to know it was functional without drawing unwanted attention. A biometric reader mounted on the closet’s doorframe recognized his face, his eyes. Callan rarely turned on any lights for this procedure. He walked across the pitch-black room to the supply closet, tilted the touchscreen upward, and looked into the capture camera.

A lever handle on the left side of the closet door buzzed open, and inside, a fridge spanned the second shelf. When he opened its door, luminous blue light flooded the hallway behind him. Callan was told the compound would glow until uncapped if it had maintained shelf life and was mixed properly—to destroy doses that didn’t. Behind the refrigerator’s second, glass-panel door, a white Monster rack manufactured from autoclavable polypropylene held hundreds of refillable glass syringes—216 at capacity, and enough to last an entire year while rotating off two days a week. He had thirty 1 mL Luer syringes remaining, a few rows to go before he met again with the cook behind its continuance. At one time Callan thought the blue juice might contain a radioactive isotope used as a tracer, like gallium citrate. He wasn’t sure what was being traced and he hoped they didn’t find it. Later on, he learned that the liquid did contain an isotope derived from Actinium (not a tracer) that acted instead as an assisting agent in radiation therapy by emitting alpha particles that killed cancer cells. When paired with chelation, this isotope Ac proved effective in treating leukemia, lymphoma, breast, ovarian, neuroblastoma, and prostate cancers. He’d never had chelation or radiation therapy, and he didn’t ask questions.

And so he went on living.

# # #

About the Author:
Julie Rogers’s award-winning articles and stories have been featured in self-help, inspirational, and fiction publications, including Coping With Cancer, Daily Meditation, Mocha Memoirs, Anotherealm, Horsethief’s Journal, Images Inscript, Complete Woman, and the annual anthology Writes of Passage: Every Woman has a Story!

She is the author of the urban fantasy Falling Stars, the self-help books Happy Tails: How Pets Can Help You Survive Divorce and Simeon: A Greater Reality, the ghost story collection Seven Shorts, the inspirational upper-elementary reader, Hootie, the romantic comedy When Pigs Fly Over The Moon, and co-author of the existential teen guide Letters: Sidereal Insight for a 21st Century Mystic.

Julie currently ghostwrites creative fiction for clients through Edioak in NY and

Julie is the 1999 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Grand Prize Winner for her short story “House Call.”

Other awards include:
1997 Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild Screenplay First – Driver
1998 Writer’s Digest Stage Play First – Garage Sale
1998 Writer’s Digest Short Story Honorable Mention – “Estate Sale”
1999 Writer’s Network Stage Play Honorable Mention – Garage Sale
2000 Writer’s Network Screenplay Honorable Mention – Killing Grounds
2005 Fade In magazine’s Screenplay Semi-Finalist – Grave Jumper

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