Bell, Book and Candle: Part 26

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 25) (From the beginning)

“So.” Milagros set down her tea cup. “Your ghost is missing?”


Milagros said nothing. I picked up the teacup and sipped delicately.

I like tea. I didn’t used to, until I spent a year in England as an exchange student. There, tea is practically a religion. I didn’t like beer, so I had to do what I could to assimilate. English tea, though, is milky and mild and served with a biscuit. Milagros’s tea was bush tea, brewed strong from an assortment of herbs. I swallowed and immediately wished I hadn’t.

“And you want what?” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 25

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye and college student. (Part 24) (From the beginning)

“What are you doing in my shop?”

I couldn’t help it; I took a step away from the anger radiating out from Milagros’ ample form. “I –”

“What, girl? You what? Your family has made it very clear what you think of anything that isn’t in your precious field notes. I didn’t think I’d catch you in here again.”

And that’s why I hadn’t wanted to come. Okay, deep breath. I braced for the coming storm. “I came because I need your help.”

Milagros jerked her chin pointedly toward the shattered glass and scattered coins on the floor. “You have a funny way of showing it, chica.

“There was a haunted coin in that jar.” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 24

In which Lizzie does something she didn’t want to do…(Part 23.5) (From the beginning)

From the outside, it didn’t look like much. A yellow awning that used to be bright but was now fading and streaked with soot and pigeon-shit framed the dirty glass storefront, proclaiming this “Mama’s Botanica Santeria”. The window was crammed full of candles, dried herbs and flowers, animal bones, figurines of saints, and other detritus. None of it looked like it had been touched in months. All of it needed a good dusting.

Inside, Mama Milagros did enough business selling Santeria paraphernalia and offering consultas to her neighbors that no one questioned her ability to make rent, or wondered what she sold in her back room. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: An Interlude

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 23) (From the Beginning)

He’d been called many things in his life — and in his afterlife. Malphas was just the latest in a string of designations; every so often he threw his old one away and took up another. Anything to break up the tedium.

This one was his own little joke, not that that fool of a sorcerer was clever enough to understand it. A pity he was forced to use such clumsy tools, but there were drawbacks to his lengthened lifespan.


Elizabeth, now… Elizabeth might understand. Elizabeth might yet solve the puzzle. He had teased her, that day, given her clues. Where was the fun without a little risk, after all? And yet he was beginning to think now that he had underestimated her. He could feel her burning, a bright spot against the frosty grey expanse that he now inhabited. All hex-eyes were bright to his eyes, but Elizabeth…she was something special. Something more.

Something dangerous.

She would have to be dealt with.

Plot Clinic: the Middle Third

Note: I’m going to do some plotting for BBC in this post- spoilers for this book and future possible sequels under the cut. If you’re reading along with the serial and would prefer not to be spoiled, better skip this post.

Often when writing and outlining it’s easy to see how the story should begin, and easy to see how the story should end, but quite difficult to see how it should proceed in the middle. The middle third of a book is generally prone to what I call “story collapse”, where there’s just not enough going on to prop up the narrative arc and everything turns to unpleasant mush.

Of course, with “Bell, Book and Candle” I don’t even know where the story will end…which gives me even less of an idea of what to do in the middle, and I’ve just arrived (with Friday’s post) at the end of my outline. :/

So, what to do?

What else could go wrong?

Below is some excellent advice from the peerless Tami, which she shared with me when I was going through plot collapse with Princess’s third act:

Write down a quick synopsis of your main plot and any side plots (including romances) you know you’re keeping.

Ask yourself “What else could happen?” or “What else could go wrong?”
Alternately, list out your characters very very briefly and ask yourself “what are they contributing to make the plot WORSE or more uncomfortable or screw things up? What are they contributing to solve the problem?” and if you have someone not doing enough to screw things up, go back to plan A and “What else could happen?”
Okay. So let’s give this a shot with BBC, and see where it takes us.

Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 23

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 22)  (From the Beginning)

Author’s Note: The scene where the locket is introduced is one that needs to be inserted during editing; it’s Henry’s anchor and though Lizzie usually carries it with her, Henry convinced her to leave it behind while she went to Darlington so he could continue to investigate.

I had hoped my trip home would settle me, but I left Darlington more apprehensive than when I arrived. Mom and Dad were on the Case of the Disappearing Ghosts now, but they hadn’t made any breakthroughs. Three heads working on the problem was certainly better than one, but in the meantime school wold start again, we’d all three get busy, and there was no guarantee the disappearances wouldn’t continue. Then there was Adelaide and her secret, and the still-unsolved mystery of Emily’s possession. And final exams.

I was so distracted, as I debarked at Grand Central and fought through the crowds toward the subway, that it took me a minute to realize that my phone was ringing. I fumbled it out of my pocket – didn’t recognize the number – and swiped to answer just before it went to voicemail. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 22

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye and poltergeist-banisher. (Part 21)  (From the Beginning)

For a long moment, there was silence. Dad jutted his chin out, indicating that I should say something.

The ghost was nearby – I could sense her in the room, but as a house poltergeist she so permeated the building that it was hard to tell exactly where. I stayed facing the door, but kept my senses alert for movement on any side. I trusted Dad to cover my blind spot.

I cleared my throat. “I know you’re here,” I said. “I just want to talk to you.” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 21

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell,  poltergeist bait. (Part 20) (From the beginning)

The front door closed behind me with an ominously final-sounding click. The ceiling above my head creaked as Dad walked around – unless that was the ghost. But it was probably Dad, setting up the salt circle and chalking signs on the walls.

I drifted further into the foyer. A small wooden table stood against one wall, scattered, with mail and odd bits of change. And a photograph, in a frame so new I could still see the spot where they’d peeled the price tag off. I picked it up. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 20

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, reluctant ghost hunter and poltergeist-banisher (Part 19) (From the Beginning)

Our client, Mr. Murphy, owned a pretty little blue farmhouse on a big tract of land off exit 62. The driveway ran alongside a field in which two brown horses grazed. They were well back, away from the road and the house. It might have been nothing – a dislike of cars, for example – but animals generally liked to avoid ghosts.

And in fact, the second I got out of the car it became apparent that it wasn’t nothing. I could feel a cold breeze wafting from the house, a breeze that had nothing to do with convection currents and everything to do with the strength of its spirit inhabitant. Continue reading