BY: ZARI REEDE
It’s 1975 in the Big Easy where Mardi Gras floats and strangely dressed people are in abundance. Mindy Nichols, an agent of the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance Team “ISMAT,” is about to set the Crescent City on its ear. This special government team protects Earth from the Blink phenomena that connect our world to the Realm of Ortharos. An energy portal indiscriminately exchanges beings between both worlds, Blinking insane Other Realm Beings (ORBs) in as Earthlings Blink out, causing worry and angst over missing loved ones who sometimes never reappear. ISMAT’s long-standing protocol, to exterminate all ORBs for the safety of mankind, is challenged one fateful night when Mindy wakes up to find her husband, Jim, missing; a huge, naked Cyclops in her bed; an OCD brownie cleaning her kitchen; and six purple imps swinging from a chandelier. The last time ORBs roamed the Earth unchecked, a great war ensued, and Mindy knows things are about to get ugly…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Blinked by Zari Reede, Mindy Nichols is an agent with the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance “ISMAT,” an agency dedicated to destroying beings from other dimensions who “Blink” to Earth. During Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Mindy’s husband Jim is Blinked to Ortharos and a Cyclops king is blinked to Earth in his place and in bed with Mindy, who promptly shoots him. Now Mindy has an OCD brownie housekeeper who makes a soup out of the family’s pet parakeet when Mindy borrows the cage to capture some purple imps who have also Blinked to Earth and are now loose on the unsuspecting resident of New Orleans. Now she has to get everyone back where they belong before it’s too late.
The cover of the book says it’s a zany urban fantasy, and it definitely is that. Cute, clever, and hilarious in places, I laughed so hard I cried.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Blinked by Zari Reede is the story of parallel universes, other dimensions, and whatever. Mindy Nichols, mild-mannered housewife and secret agent for ISMAT an organization that secretly protects Earth by policing and destroying beings from other worlds who arrive on Earth through a process called Blinking, where they disappear from their world and appear in another. Mindy goes to bed with her husband Jim and wakes up in bed with a one-eyed monster. Thinking he’s going to kill her, Mindy shoots him. Meanwhile her husband ends up in the Cyclops’s world, as confused as he must been to end up in bed with Mindy. However, Mindy has no time to worry about her husband. She has to capture and eliminate a group of imps who look like purple monkeys and are wreaking havoc on New Orleans. Meanwhile, Jim becomes involved in a civil war that can have repercussions on Earth if Mindy can’t find a way to get everybody back where the belong before everything implodes.
Blinked is cute, funny, and clever, filled with fascinating characters and hilarious scenes. If you want a book to keep you entertained and lift your spirits, this is it. Truly delightful.
I went to bed with my husband and woke up with a monster.
In February of 1975, we popped a bottle of cheap champagne to celebrate my becoming a bona fide agent. Our daughter, Samantha, slept in her newly painted lavender bedroom with a Barbie poster tacked above her forty-five-speed record player. Jim and I giggled over the care she took choosing which Super Friends Valentine should go to which classmate. Of course, her favorite girlfriends got Wonder Woman. Printing is tedious for a young child, so we started working on them early. Jim and I cuddled, but didn’t make love. I wish we had because in a few hours he would disappear.
I’ve always been a light sleeper, so when the Blink occurred, my eyes popped open. One moment my back pressed against my husband’s, the next, a strong shove sent me tumbling to the bed’s edge. Surprised and disgruntled, I turned to complain, but Jim wasn’t there. I froze as it sank in. Thank God, I didn’t scream. Easing out of the bed, I reached for my gun. The street lights illuminated a huge body curled up on its side, hogging the mattress. Its head snugged against the headboard and the toe-talons hung past the bottom of the mattress. I winced. This wasn’t covered during basic training.
The chief gave me and Max Arbor, the agent I shadowed, the least dangerous cases. Max assured me it was to ease me into my new position. I hadn’t dealt with anything larger than a rat. My eyes never leaving it–him, I corrected, noting the furred, flat chest–I toed the floor to avoid tripping over a pair of shoes.
I’m not the shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of girl, and this humanoid wasn’t an XXL rodent. I poked him in the shoulder and jumped back. He snorted and scratched a spot below his navel revealing his nudity. He settled and snored. I poked him again, harder. Even though I braced myself, I still let out an embarrassing eep when he leapt out of bed, snarling. He took a menacing step toward me.
“Stop.” My voice was firm, but I did not yell. I did not want to wake Sammy. My hands shook as I pointed my .44 Magnum. He bellowed as his sharp claws swiped at me. I dodged and fired. Through pure luck, I shot him in the eye, the one eye in the center of his forehead.
Blood, black as ink, oozed down his ridged nose, and he wailed as his carcass hit the floor with a reverberating thump. Samantha’s voice warbled as she called out from her room. I stood slack-jawed as the five-hundred-pound beast vanished, leaving no evidence on the wooden floor beside my bed. Wondering what the neighbors must think, I cringed and looked around the room. Fireworks blasted outside, illuminating the bedroom window, and I sighed, hearing the raucous parade goers still going strong.
Remembering Sammy, I turned and raced down the hall. To my amazement, I discovered six small, hairy creatures chucking toys at each other and swinging from the mini chandelier in my daughter’s bedroom. Samantha sat on her knees, in the bed, holding Binki, her stuffed koala bear. She shed fat tears and cried, “Mommy,” holding out her chubby arms.
The purple, fuzzy beings with yellowed teeth and bulging eyes reminded me of monkeys playing at the zoo. Content to destroy toys and romp, they ignored Samantha’s cries. I didn’t want to endanger or alarm Sammy, but they must be destroyed. Nothing from the other realm could be left to roam the planet. I was a government agent and not allowed the luxury of most civilians, who dreamed in ignorant bliss, cozily sleeping under a blanket of securely-guarded secrets.
Engrossed in each other, the creatures, which I recognized from my operative training as imps, ignored me. I crept into the room, picked up Sammy, and backed out. I shushed her as I set my gun on the chest in the hall before pulling the door shut. Sighing with relief, I dried her tears on the tail of my husband’s gold and black New Orleans Saints tee, my favorite nightie. When will Jim return?
Sammy calmed as I patted her back and fought my own growing panic. Pull yourself together, Mindy! I took a deep, shuddering breath. My husband wasn’t here, but my baby girl was. Time to triage the damage. Assess the incidences, prioritize, and methodically address each. Without the sound of Sammy weeping, or the eerie chattering of imps, I heard soft, clinking noises coming from the kitchen.
“Mommy needs to put you down, sweetie.”
Sammy had started kindergarten this fall. Although I hadn’t carried her in years, she clung to me. Pursing her lips, she shook her head, and buried her face in the crook of my neck. The kitchen noises stopped.
A pitter-pattering of quick footsteps was followed by a wizened, wee face peeking from behind the half wall separating the kitchen from the living room. “Hullo, Mums,” she said, her voice high and musical. When the rest of her emerged, I assessed she stood about three-feet tall. She faded into the background, changing colors subtly as she shifted from the beige wall to green couch. “I was just washing the dinner dishes. I hope I did nae wake you.”
She held my blue, kitchen washcloth. It was dark and wet, yet didn’t drip.
Alone, I might have questioned my sanity, but Sammy’s cheek pressed to mine, intrigued by the small lady as I was. Other Realm Beings don’t talk. They are dangerous animals. Yet this being was not of this world and while odd, she was also sentient and sane. She couldn’t be from a different realm? The scientists steadfastly assured us that only one realm linked to ours. “No, you didn’t wake me. But who are you?”
She executed a small curtsy. “Winnalea, Mums.”
“Winnalea, how did you get here?” I asked.
Thankfully, Sammy allowed me to set her on the floor, but she kept a hand on my hip.
“Dunno, Mums.” She scratched her head. “All I remember is coming out of the larder. Then I saw the dirty dishes.” She beamed. “Of course I cleaned them up–or started to, Mums.” A worried expression crossed her face, and she looked longingly back toward the kitchen. The living room seemed clear of…things. Nothing other than Winnalea emerged, but I peered around her to verify. “Do you need something, Mums? The dishes aren’t quite done, and the floor needs sweeping.”
I grabbed onto one thing she said repeatedly. “Why do you call me Mums?”
“This is your home, yes? And you are a mother?”
“Then you are Mums,” she said, as if it answered everything.
My curious baby couldn’t resist a query. “What will you call me?” she asked in her flutelike voice.
“Why, sweet one, you are Little Miss, of course.” Again, Winnalea curtsied and addressed me. “Is there something you need aid with, Mums?”
I looked back at my baby’s room. “Not unless you can get rid of those little purple creatures.”
“Of course, Mums. ’Tis easy to rid a home of wild imps if you know the trick.” We followed Winnalea to the door. “Now, quiet, please, and we’ll be done of them.” She opened the door, picked up a stuffed animal, then whispered to Sammy, “’Tis not a favorite?”
“No,” Sammy answered in a hushed tone. Her angelic face was a portrait of serious inquiry.
“Could you open yon window?” Winnalea requested and I nodded, moving to the window sill, and easing it open.
Puckering her lips, she whistled an intricate, compelling tune. My own body reacted as I swayed to the unearthly lilt. The imps froze and stared at her. She slowly waved the blue, stuffed donkey. Mesmerized, their eyes followed it. She tossed the donkey out the window and as one, they scurried and jumped out.
“Quickly now, Mums! Close her up.”
I slammed the window shut. Good riddance, but I wished Winnalea had provided a more permanent removal. The one thing they had gone over and over again in basic was POT, Prompt ORB Termination. I had giggled at the acronym, thinking of my own college days of the sixties.
My mission as an agent was to seek and destroy. Tracking and annihilating little, furry imps was one thing, but shooting the odd, little woman in front of me, would be like killing Mrs. Butterworth. Hopefully, she would Blink back on her own.
Because of my squeamish sensitivity, wild, purple creatures played on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. From the second story apartment, it was a short drop to the pavement. With the Spanish, wrought iron trellis for handholds, they surely survived the exodus. At least it was Mardi Gras in New Orleans. No one would think twice about purple monkeys. I hoped.
Earlier, I’d covered Sammy’s eyes just to go to the corner market. A man with a stuffed, elongated, two-foot penis hanging from his trousers sauntered next to Diablo sporting only a G-string. As the meagerly-dressed pair walked to and fro with great enthusiasm, two gray-haired ladies, old enough to be my great grandmothers, sat on the levee bench cackling at the sights. Thanks to the abundance of disguises and large turnout, Winnalea could pass for a midget or a dwarf.
I scanned the house a second time, hoping I only needed to round up six creatures. Eager to get answers about the Blink, I asked, “Winnalea, tell me about your world. What’s it called?”
Incredulous, Winnalea looked at me as if I might be touched. “Ortharos, of course.”
The Inner Space Monitoring Alliance Team recruited me two years ago. Ill-named, ISMAT did more destroying than monitoring. Both World Wars had been direct results of Other Realm Beings–or ORBS, as we refer to them at ISMAT–not being destroyed at once. I rued my mounting mistakes, but needed help before continuing my sworn duty. Without Jim, I needed to call my mom to watch Sammy. She would babysit while I cleaned up this mess. Vietnam had all but ended, and I didn’t want to be responsible for the Second Coming.
Mom recognized my panic mode and agreed to come over without giving me the third degree. Winnalea kept cleaning. Perhaps this was some weird Other Realm specific quirk? I argued with my daughter about which stuffed animals I could use as imp bait. I was in so much trouble. Jim Blinked, Sammy saw not one, not two, but seven ORBs, and I was supposed to dispose of them all.
ISMAT policy dictated removing the memory from individuals who saw ORBs. I had witnessed and been mind-wiped six separate times before joining the force. No one else had been more than twice that I know of. After ISMAT mind-wiped me for that sixth time, they tested me. I was not aware of the previous wipes until after the initiation. Subconsciously, I am somehow drawn to ORBs and they to me. Having raw talent, I’m good, but I often screw up. The mind wipes must have affected my short-term memory, so there was no way I would expose Sammy. This mess needed cleaning up without ISMAT’s help, and I needed to do it fast.
I tossed the scum of the toy box into a back pack, then ran to the living room, taking the cover off the parakeet cage. I opened the door and perched the bird on the back of the desk chair.
“Kee Kee will poo-poo, Mommy,” Sammy lectured.
“Yes, Kee Kee will, but Mommy needs her cage to catch freaky, tiny purple monkeys.” I hoped I had thought of everything, but doubted it. There was no time to delay. As soon as Mom let herself in, I introduced Winnalea as a relative on Jim’s side and out the door I dashed. Mindy, the Monster Killer! Roar!
© 2017 by Zari Reede
A 1970s wife—secretly in a government project to fight supernatural invaders—must find a solution when a magical creature from a dangerous fantasy realm switches places with her husband…with two sets of protagonists teleporting or dodging peril via hidden passageways, there are considerable storyline snarls involving who is doing what, where, and in which world before things intersect at the Bacchus Krewe parade in the French Quarter. (New Orleans addicts, nonetheless, will find somewhat less local color than they’ve grown to expect.) Paranormal romance followers who take the bouncy ride should delight in the playful tweaking of all the ingredients, including the Carnival king cake. A frothy paranormal comedy-adventure that offers a respite from the usual brooding over messy werewolf/vampire love affairs. ~ Kirkus Reviews
“Blinked is a charmingly weird novel. Taking a place like New Orleans, rich in history, during such an iconic time of year as Mardi Gras, and seamlessly weaving a second, secret world into its history makes for an entertaining journey for readers. It ends with a bang, reminiscent of the high-energy, edge-of-your-seat battle with which the story began. Quill says: Blinked is a fun, light read that is perfect for any reader who likes a little humor with their fantasy.” ~ Skyler Boudreau, Feathered Quill Reviews
Lone Star Lineup:
“Blinked is one of the most imaginative books I’ve read in some time—and the first urban fantasy book we’ve reviewed here (don’t worry, though, a murder does occur in the book straight away). The novel’s first line reads: “I went to bed with my husband and woke up with a monster.” This is not a euphemism. This is not a euphemism. Protagonist Mindy Nichols actually did go to sleep with her husband, Jim, and wake up with an actual Cyclops in her bed. Fortunately, Mindy is an agent for the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance Team (ISMAT). This is a sort of underground security organization that monitors Other Realm Beings (ORBs)—creatures who appear in our world from other dimensions. These creatures can be dangerous, and apparently their showing up uninvited happens more than you’d think.…This mix of empathy for those from elsewhere, and the ability to understand others not like yourself, is for me the heart of the book…creating a fun and wildly imaginative ride that’s full of distinctive voices, lovable characters, and mysterious magic.” ~ William Dylan Powell, The Lone Star Lineup READ FULL REVIEW