Author Spotlight: DJ Martin

Reinventing Herself, A Paranormal Women’s Fiction Novel
Winner of the 2021 Pencraft Award for Paranormal Fiction

Ellen Mackay never imagined herself a widow at forty-nine.

After nearly thirty years of being a socialite wife and mother, Ellen is left alone to rattle around a mansion of a house with only the dog for company. It’s time to make a change, but to what?

While she ponders what to do, she starts hearing her dog talk. Has she finally lost it? No, according to her mother. It’s an inherited gift that usually manifests at menopause, but, well, Ellen isn’t there, yet. And it’s not just the dog, but most animals. Then there’s the ability to actually see paranormal species, like gnomes, fairies, and yes, vampires. Lucky her.

She finally moves to what she thinks is the perfect house in the mountains. But it’s not all peace and quiet when people start getting killed on the hiking path just beyond her property a few months after she relocates.

Most of the local sheriff’s department don’t believe in the paranormal but one handsome sergeant does. Can they figure out who – or what – the perpetrator is and stop the carnage?


The following afternoon, my daughter had left to go back to her own life. I sat alone on the deck with my five o’clock glass of wine and looked at the perfection surrounding me. It was too perfect. Nature didn’t artistically arrange flowers in swirls of color, nor did it like lawns of manicured Bermuda grass sprayed with chemicals so there wasn’t a single dandelion to mar the smooth, green carpet.

“I can’t wait to leave this place,” I said to Coop, who was now my only companion. “I want something that’s not perfect, just nice. Quiet would be good, too. I’m tired of the sound of cars and golf carts whizzing by, occasionally drowned out by the drone of lawn mowers and electric hedge clippers.”

A larger place to run and chase squirrels would be nice,” I heard.

I looked around and saw no one besides me and Coop. Was I going crazy in my solitude? Since when did I start hallucinating on only a half glass of wine?

I looked down at Coop, who was curled up next to my chair. “Did you say something?”

Coop raised his head and looked at me. “Yes. I said a larger place to run and chase squirrels would be nice.”

I was going crazy. I was hearing my dog speak. “You’re talking to me?”

I could always speak to you. You just weren’t listening.” Same man’s baritone-range voice coming from nowhere I could tell, just in my head. I looked at him incredulously.

A sigh echoed in my head. “Some humans can hear other species. You’re one of them.”

I drained my wine glass in one gulp and went inside for a refill. Coop followed, his nails clicking loudly on the hardwood floor. “I need to take you to get your nails clipped,” I muttered.

Can you request the female groomer with glasses? She’s gentler than the others. She smells good, too.”

God. This was going to take some getting used to. “Why now?”

I don’t know the answer to that. I think you should ask your mother. Or that other female in your line. They could probably explain it.”

I looked down at my dog. “You’re telling me Mom and Aunt Beth can hear you?”

My dog bobbed his head up and down in a very human nod. “We had lovely conversations when they were here after your mate died.”

I grabbed the phone and dialed Florida.

“El, what a lovely surprise!” Mom said even before “hello.” “How are you holding up?”

“I called because I’m going crazy,” I said. “I can hear Coop in my head.”

“Oh.” the chagrin in her voice was almost palpable. “I probably should have told you after the funeral, but it didn’t seem the right time.”

“Well, it’s the right time now. What the hell is happening to me?”

“Sit down. It’s a lot to take in. I’d prefer to do this in person and had planned on it at Christmas, but that’s now too late.”

Pouring myself another glass of wine, I migrated to my favorite chair in front of the fireplace in the family room. Coop curled up on the rug at my feet. “Okay, I’m sat. Tell me!”

She sighed. “All the women in our family can hear other species. Not all other species, though. I think that would truly drive us over the edge. But what they call higher orders. Mammals, birds, reptiles, I think, although the geckos around here don’t talk to me.

“I’ll tell you, the communication on our end only happens when you speak aloud.” I sighed with relief. My thoughts couldn’t be read. “But you’ll hear everything else in your head.

“The ability usually manifests with menopause, but I don’t think you’re there yet.”

“I’m not. Just perimenopausal.” I abhorred the hot flushes, the mood swings were horrible, and the fact that my period was no longer regular was irritating.

“I figured as much. But you’ve had a huge shock with Thomas’ early death, which has probably thrown your hormones all out of whack. That’s probably what precipitated it.”

“So you’ve been talking to my pets for what? Fifteen years?”

“Or so, yes. Cooper is more forthcoming with what happens in your house than Thumper was.”

(Thumper was our previous dog. He was so-named because if you scratched his back in just the right spot, he thumped his rear leg.)

“That’s almost disgusting. You’re gossiping with pets instead of asking me.”

She laughed. “Hey, they’re more honest than you are at times. You have a tendency to avoid talking about feelings.

“But there’s more.”

“I can hardly wait.” I grimaced into my wine glass.

“Along with the ability to speak to other species also comes the ability to see other species for what they are. Ones you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t have these gifts.”

“What do you mean?”

“All those stories about vampires, were-beings, fairies, dwarves, gnomes, and others? Those species exist, too. But unless you have magic of some kind in your blood, you can’t see them as their true selves.”

“So you’re telling me I’m a witch or something?”

“I don’t know if I’d call us that. I can’t do spells, neither can Beth, and I doubt you can, either. Although, I guess there’s a first time for everything. No, our gift is communication. Knowing whether and where an animal is hurting, things like that.

“And knowing about the other humanoid species and how to deal with them. For example, now that you can see a vampire, you’ll know not to let them near your veins or arteries. You know the disease pernicious anemia?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it.”

“I don’t have any statistics, but I’d be willing to bet maybe half of those cases are due to vampire bites.”

“Wouldn’t a doctor notice the marks on the neck?”

She laughed. “Of course, the carotid or jugular are nice spots. They’re easily accessible. But the femoral artery is preferred, I’m told, because it’s easier to hide. Think about it. How many times have you read in a romance novel where the man nips her thigh on the way up to…? One swipe of their tongue and the saliva stops the bleeding. She just thinks she cut herself shaving her legs or bikini line.”

I blushed crimson with no one but Coop to see. My mother discussing sex was embarrassing.

“So other than gossiping with my dogs and avoiding vampires, what else do you do with this gift?”

“Not a lot. If I find an injured animal or one comes to me, I’ll help if I can, or tell the wildlife rescue people what’s wrong. They think I’m weird but have come to trust what I tell them. By the way, you might want to make a list of those folks near you. I have a feeling once word gets out, you’ll have some unexpected visitors.”

“What do you mean, word gets out?”

Once you start acknowledging you can hear other animals, like those irritating squirrels, they’ll tell others, who will tell others. Soon, everyone in the area will know you can talk to them, and if they have a problem, they’ll come to you,” Coop told me.

“Once you…” Mom said.

“I know. Coop just told me. I’m not sure I like this gift, as you put it.”

“Too bad, so sorry,” Mom piped in a perfect imitation of Sam. “You can’t give it back or get rid of it, so use it.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a book I can read?”

“Not that I’m aware of. Your grandmother told me and Beth what to expect before she died. Not that either of us believed her until it actually happened. Her mother told her, and so on. There’s always been at least one female in every generation as far back as I’ve gone, which is only about six generations. You’ll have to keep track of your own experiences so you know what to tell Sam when the time comes.”

“Can’t I tell her now?”

“And would she believe you? Would you have believed me if, when you were her age, I told you, ‘By the way, when you hit menopause your life is going to turn upside down?’”

I thought back to me at twenty-five. Probably not. I was too busy with my family to think about something in the “far future.” But my daughter wasn’t a mother yet, and her life revolved around her job and girlfriends, with the occasional male thrown in for good measure. She might believe it. Maybe. More likely, maybe not.

“I have a lot to think about,” I told Mom. “Can I call you again with questions?”

“Of course, darling girl. I may or may not have answers, but I’ll certainly try. I’ll let Beth know you’ve transitioned, too, so if I’m busy, you can call her.”

We talked a few more minutes about what was happening in my life (not much) and hers (a lot more), then rang off. Although another glass of wine sounded wonderful, I knew I needed to eat something so went into the kitchen and pulled out the ingredients for shrimp scampi, which was fairly quick to make.

May I have a piece of shrimp?” Coop asked as I put a pot of water on to boil for the linguine and turned the oven on.

“No, bud, sorry. The garlic always gives you gas, and as long as you’re sleeping on the bed, I’m not breathing your farts.”

Then a piece before you put the sauce on it?” He made big puppy eyes at me.

“I’ll cook two shrimp separately for you, okay?”

He head-butted my leg, nearly knocking me over. “You’re the best.”

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About the author:

A semi-retired accountant, Master Herbalist, author, and witch, Deborah J. “DJ” Martin abandoned frozen Minnesota many moons ago and now lives in the woods of the southern Appalachian Mountains with her husband, four cats, and numerous woodland creatures. If you can’t find DJ in the garden or visiting her grandchildren, check Facebook, Twitter @authordjmartin, or her website

Coming August 28, 2023: Reclaiming Herself, the next book in the Blue Ridge series. Jo moves in next door to El and, well, it’s not all fun and games.

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