Candice Marie Burnett graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Marketing. She’s loved writing from a very young age, but has only recently pursued publishing her debut novel Death Has a Daughter. She grew up in Woodhaven Michigan on a small farm with her mother, father, brother and sister. She now lives in Atlanta Georgia, with two fluffy pugs and her husband, who has an overworked, undefeated, guardian at his side.
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Candice: In fourth grade I got an assignment to write a short story to read in front of the entire class. Most kid’s stories were cute, and wholesome while mine was about killer toys. It was from that day on I’d say I was obsessed with writing about things that aren’t supposed to exist.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Candice: Besides for the killer toys story in fourth grade, the first novel I wrote was my freshman year of college. Sometimes I like to look back and read it for a laugh. It had every single one of my friends in it. Didn’t even bother to switch their names.
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Candice: Scene description. When I’m reading it’s my least favorite thing to read about. I often find myself skimming when the description of the scene is longer than a paragraph. I know I’m not the typical when it comes to this, so just getting down all the details of what it looks like inside my head can be a challenge.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Candice: Random ideas that come to my mind, usually while driving. I scramble to find paper and a pen, but it’s always worth it.
TDBW: What do you like least about being an author?
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Candice: Two. Death Has a Daughter, and Caylee’s Confessions.
TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Candice: Book three of Death has a Daughter and book three of Caylee’s Confessions. I’m also working on another series that’s about a witch assassin who enters a prison to bring out her next target.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Candice: Yes, Death’s Dilemma which is book two in the Death Has a Daughter series comes out August 31st, and Revamped which is the second book in the Caylee’s Confessions series, comes out July 28th.
TDBW: Which book, or series, is your favorite?
Candice: Depends on the day. I’m a huge fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Also really enjoy the Gardella Chronicles, and Vampire Academy. My ultimate favorite though is any Narnia novel. Those books got me obsessed with reading as a child.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Candice: J.R. Ward, C.S. Lewis, Colleen Gleason, and many others. When I’m not writing I’m reading.
TDBW: Which book(s) inspire you the most?
Candice: All of them. I know that’s a super specific answer, but it’s the truth. Each book I read inspires me in some way. Sometimes good, sometimes bad but I try and find something I like about every book I read.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Candice: Always, and it ranges. My current play list has Michael Andrews, Old Crow Medicine Show, Miley Cyrus, Sam Smith, Florence and the Machines, Iggy, Kongos, Norah Jones, Fly leaf, Bruno, Sarah Evans, JT, and so many more. So like I said it’s all over the place
TDBW: Any hobbies?
Candice: Reading, writing, movies, and poker. Texas hold em to be specific. When the tables are full, I dabble in craps.
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
My website: www.deathhasadaughter.com
TDBW: Care to share a bit of one of your books with us?
Here is the prologue and chapter one of Death Has a Daughter.
Ever had the feeling that someone was watching over your shoulder protecting you? Or, perhaps, had a time that you sensed some invisible force was there to save your life? A time when all the facts say you shouldn’t be alive, but, by some ‘miracle,’ you are still breathing? Some call them acts of God, while others say they were rescued by their guardian angels. They are partially correct.
You see, there are many times in a human’s life when they have these near-death experiences. Sometimes people are aware of it, while, other times, it is there and gone in a blink of an eye, without them having a second thought. We call these ‘vulnerable’ moments in a soul’s existence.
During these times, a battle rages on between two forces that are invisible to the human eye. One force being those we call ‘Guardians.’ When Guardians win the battle, you hear these amazing stories of humans escaping death. When ‘my kind’ wins, there is no story to tell. Some call us ‘Angels of Death.’ I just prefer ‘Reaper,’ but if you really want to be technical, you can throw the word ‘Grim’ in front of my name.
People call us evil, but there are two sides to every story, and considering I’m history’s first female Grim Reaper, I can’t wait to begin mine.
Only a hundred feet stood between me and what I deserved. Drake, the current high-scorer in the class and my sworn arch enemy, had fallen behind. I was in the lead. I’d worked so hard and come so far—this prize was mine. I deserved that spot and the praise that came with it. No way would I let him take it from me.
Only fifty more feet. My mouth watered as my legs went into full-sprint mode. I would taste the glory. I was the first of my classmates to get past the three Guardians, rank my scroll—, and get through the “Hall of Guardians’ Light.” I’d even made it through each obstacle without a single strike from a flying ray of Guardians’ light, which put me first in line to get to the human’s soul. Well, this ‘fake soul.’ My lips almost let out a laugh. This wasn’t going to taste as good as the real thing, but it would be the closest thing I could get, and I was going to revel in my pretend glory. Ten more steps.
“UGH,” I grunted out loud as I heard Eddie’s steps whipping through the valley grasses like a jockey in Kentucky. He quickly gained some ground on me. He hadn’t been the most talented Reaper, but he sure was a fast one. Being a racing horse of a Reaper—with his extra-long, light bronze limbs—that made him quicker than most of my fellow Reapers. His dense brown hair would whip me if he passed. And, like so many times before, he’d turn to flash the people’s eyebrow with his chocolate eyes as he laughed.
I wouldn’t allow Eddie to take this from me. My pace quickened, though I could feel him inches behind me. Eddie grabbed for my shirt, so I darted slightly to my left. He missed but was able to gain more distance between us. This made him way too close, as the soul stood only a dozen steps away. I’d have to dive for it. I thrust my body towards the soul. I reached for it and felt my shirt being pulled. Eddie had gotten ahold of me. My jump fell inches short, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. As I pushed myself up, I realized something far worse had happened when he had grabbed my shirt. Somehow, he had unsnapped my bra! I grabbed for my chest as my boobs sprung free, knowing the collar of my shirt would hide nothing. So instead of reaching for the soul, I instead tempered my boobs’ claim to freedom, and he grabbed the soul. My mouth let out a deep grunt while my body deflated to the floor, and the alarms started going off. Freaking Fast Eddie beat me! Heat slapped my cheeks, exposing to the outside world the embarrassment I felt inside.
“That wasn’t fair!” I growled through my clenched jaw as I looked up at Eddie, who stood over me with the biggest grin.
“All’s fair in love and war, Cendall.” He laughed and reached out a hand to help me up. My hand knocked it away while I stood up and crossed my arms underneath my chest, attempting to hide the fact that my bra strap was undone.
The pretend soul and Guardians that we had defeated, who were actually the head Reaper trainers, began rounding everyone up. As my classmates came to the finish line, the trainers instructed us to gather around so that the head trainer, Herald, could announce tomorrow’s schedule. Drake approached the line and rolled his eyes at me. What’s up his butt? He almost looked mad, which made no sense. If I had won today, his top rank would have been mine. I rolled my eyes, hoping Drake caught it, as I dragged my feet to where Herald started to speak.
“As you’re all aware, Eddie has won the challenge, advancing his rank of four to three, with only Cendall and Drake above him. Only two tests are left, Reapers! The top spot is anyone’s game.” Everyone let out a small cheer. Thank Lucifer, we only had one week left. I was ready to be out on my own. Ready to obtain the scythe that would help me collect the human souls that were on my first list. We had all been training since the age of six on the methods of collecting a soul. The step-by-step checklist, narrated in Herald’s horrible monotone, was engrained in my brain.
“Step one: Research the soul. Two: Stalk the soul until it’s at a vulnerable moment. By ‘vulnerable,’ I mean a time the human soul may die via car accident, health issue, and so on. Three: Scout out the Guardian. Four: Wait until you can feel their soul calling to you. If you’re unsure, look to your scythe, as it will glow. Five: Defeat any Guardian protecting the soul. Six: Place your scythe’s tip into the heart of the soul. Seven: Once the soul is completely collected into your scythe’s stone, take it to the researchers who will process the soul to its final judgment. Eighth, and final, step: Check the name off the list.” He always laughed when reciting the last step, as if he had some inside joke about it.
One more week and I would never have to hear that checklist again. Why we had to train for so long was beyond me. I swear I had been ready for over two years, but Reaper Law stated that men must be the age of sixteen and have finished training before they can venture out alone. I tried to argue with Dad that the rule shouldn’t apply to me, since I was a female and had turned sixteen six months ago, but he only laughed.
“You don’t need to bring light to the fact that you are a female any more than you already do, Cendall. Just finish training and you’ll be free,” he had said.
Snapping out of my daydreaming, I looked back up at Herald. He was still speaking; hopefully, I had missed no news of tomorrow’s schedule.
“So, tell us, Eddie, how did you come about this feat? From where I had been lying, pretending to be a good soul, it looked as if Cendall was leading the way.”
“Correct, but I distracted her and got to you first,” Eddie said with a big, sneaky, weasel-like smile. At least he hadn’t told them how. That attention I didn’t need at the moment.
“Really?” Herald asked, looking way too interested.
“Cendall, distracted? She’s usually so focused. How did you distract her?”
“He just did,” I blurted out through my tight jaw before Eddie could tell them.
“I know he did, Cendall. That’s what he just informed us, but I’m interested in the ‘how.’ I can’t believe you had let him distract you at all. You were so close, and you know this would have brought you to rank one if you had won today over Drake,” Herald scolded.
“Yes, I know.” My eyes glanced over to rank ‘number one’ himself. Drake looked pissed at the mention of me taking his rank. The day I took that title from him was one that I’d waited for way too long. To be able to tell all six-foot-four of that perfectly toned, sun-kissed, muscular body that this ‘female Reaper’ had taken his title, would have been glorious. Laughter would have surely left my lips while I watched his dark-blue eyes roll back in frustration, and his head, with its long, straight, jet-black hair, fall to stare at the ground in shame.
“It is never good to become distracted so easily!” Herald lectured me. “This is only training. If you can get distracted here, where we are merely role playing, how will you be ready for the real distractions that will come flying at you in the human realm?” Herald asked me.
“I won’t let them distract me again. It was different. It won’t happen again,” I tried to explain, but I could tell Herald wanted to push the issue.
“What happens here can happen just as easily in the field. If they distracted you in training, what makes you think it won’t happen in the field?” Herald asked.
“It just won’t.”
“Your logic makes no sense. Truly, if you can’t handle it here in training, you are not ready to be a…”
“I DON’T THINK THAT A FREAKING GUARDIAN WILL TRY TO DISTRACT ME BY UNDOING MY BRA IN THE FIELD!” I screamed, interrupting Herald and immediately wishing I hadn’t just revealed that bit of information. As I watched, everyone’s eyes—Drake’s included—focused on my chest, pushing my already heated face to volcano mode.
“You’re correct. On to the schedule then…” Herald stumbled over his words, probably wishing he hadn’t pressed the issue. If he hadn’t pressed the issue, I might have felt sorry for him. Herald had been the trainer here for as long as I could remember, and I’m sure this was a first for him.
He had actually been on missions with my father, which I found odd. Herald just seemed more like a planner, not a fighter. He looked to be in his early-forties, with light-green eyes and shady, gray hair styled like a marine—minus the size, as Herald wasn’t tall or stocky by any means.
I wondered how my bra episode would play in his rule book. “Rule number 25,000,” since he had so many of them, “no unsnapping a bra in training. It makes me not know what to say—for once in my life.” Ha-ha, I wish he would say that.
All the awkwardness would soon be over. Training was almost over, and there hadn’t been any more female Reapers born. It would go back to all male Reapers picking on each other instead. Actually, I missed the days when they all just used to be mean and pick on me. Ever since I had grown these ‘things’ last year, everyone (well, except for Drake) had stopped picking on me and instead began trying to pick me up. At first I was pissed about it. I didn’t want that type of attention. The only attention I wanted was for being the best Reaper in training, not because I had big knockers. Eventually, I got over it when I looked at it from their perspective. If I had been surrounded by chicks all day, and a male came into my class, we would probably all hit on him.
It wasn’t their fault that I had to be the one and only female ever born to a Grim Reaper. Up until me, they had only had males. They still had no idea how I even came about. My dad said a miracle created me, but the realm used several different words. “Death having a daughter…it doesn’t even sound right,” they had said. They secretly blamed my mother. Occasionally, I overheard talks about how I must have come about because she had been cursed or diseased—surely my father’s strong, proud line couldn’t have done this. They would never say that to his face though, because it is just wrong to speak ill of the dead. My mother died during childbirth and no other Reaper had actually met her. Father was in the midst of convincing her to come to our realm when she died. He said she was quite stubborn, which he loved, but by the time he’d had her convinced, I had arrived six weeks early. Instead of being born in ‘limbo,’ my current realm, I had been born in the human realm, which was probably why she died—child labor was hard for someone having a baby by a Grim Reaper. If only my father had convinced her sooner, she probably would still be alive, because I would have been born in this realm.
Either way, it made the wives and me the only females in our realm. So all they had to look at of the opposite sex were each other’s moms and me. This would all stop soon though. Thankfully, they were all reaching the age of sixteen, and we were a week away from finishing training, which would allow us to finally leave the realm and be allowed to port to any place on earth that we desired. They would finally get to see other females, which would probably give me some relief, even though they wouldn’t be allowed to mate with them until the age of eighteen. At that point, I would just be an afterthought.
Why our realm had to have these stupid laws about mating age, I had no idea. It seemed so old school, but it had been explained to us that at the age of eighteen, we are more mature, and it would give us two years in the field to be able to find the ‘mate’ that we wanted to reveal ourselves to. Humans couldn’t see us unless we revealed ourselves to them or if they were near death. The closer a human comes to death, the more their sight is enhanced. That is why some humans that come near to death, claim to have seen a bright light. What they are seeing is the Guardian and the Reapers fighting to obtain their soul. The bright light is the electric current that leaves Guardians’ hands, which is a light-blue color. The light is used by the Guardians to defend against us. The fact that humans can’t see us makes sense. If they were able to see us, they would probably try and fight us, which would make our job even more difficult.
It’s different once Reapers find their mates. Then they have the ability to reveal themselves, date, and try to convince a human to come back here to live, once they know what we are. This had to be explained carefully, because just saying, “So, yeah, I love you…want to come back and live in hell with me?” typically wasn’t a good strategy. That was why you really had to make sure the person was “the one,” because if they were, they would at least hear you out long enough for you to tell them that we live in limbo, which is only the first level of hell. In limbo, it’s actually quite peaceful.
The whole place was surrounded by large, green valleys and fresh, rolling, endless meadows. We even, unlike a couple of the other realms in hell, had light. Not like the bright sun that humans have in their realm, but it gave us night and day and kept our realm at a constant ninety degrees. That kept my pale, not able to tan, skin full of freckles. The dull, yellow haze of light that arrived each morning did help break up the fog that constantly clouded our realm. It wasn’t that bad near where we resided, but the farther you went away from the town, the thicker it became, until it came to a point where you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. We had our own town, which was surrounded by a large, stone castle wall that acted as a barrier, separating us from the lost human souls that ended up in limbo.
The lost souls typically kept to themselves and just wandered aimlessly in their ramblings. Most had little to no pigment and black, hollow eyes. The distinctive features they had as humans were still present, minus the physical body, leaving them as floating spirits of what they used to look like. The ones that were closer to our castle walls were a bit livelier. Well, as lively as they could be as a soul sentenced to just wander about, going from meadow to meadow, never being able to figure out why they were there.
We were forbidden to go very far outside of the castle walls, because it would cause too much confusion amongst the souls that were the most troubled. I learned that the hard way at age five, when I brought back one of the more talkative lost souls with me. From what I remember, she wasn’t confused at all. The conversation I remember had been a great one: it was about this guy, named Santa, who gave people presents. She told me that she was his wife, and she needed to get back to the North Pole. I thought by bringing her back home, Dad could help her get there. This resulted in me getting my first lesson in human’s mental health, and I ended up not able to leave the house alone again until the age of eleven. My house felt like a cage back then, but lately, I had been feeling the same about the entire realm—just one big bird cage with a little red robin trapped inside.
Soon enough, I would be free to venture into any realm of hell or earth. I’m sure my dad had enough time to explain all of this to my mother while I was in her tummy. It all sounded like home to me, so I still wonder why she couldn’t be convinced to come. It had to be his job description that bothered her. It was hard to sell yourself when you had an occupation that involved collecting human souls for a living.
“Cendall Todeslandwirt!” Herald yelled my full name, taking me out of my daydreaming. “Did you hear the schedule for tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I lied, as I flashed a look at my buddy Dave, who appeared to be paying attention. I would have to ask him later.
“Be on your way, Reapers, we have a big day tomorrow!” Herald said, and everyone started walking home. Quickening my pace to pass the other Reapers, I caught up to Dave. We had been neighbors forever and best friends since childhood. Dave was the only Reaper in my class that I trusted, probably due to the fact that he never picked on me when we were young. He had actually been in too many fights to count for sticking up for me. Along with being the only male to not pick on me, he also didn’t try to hit on me. We had talked about it before—I wasn’t his type. He liked short brunettes with green eyes. Considering my height of 5’8”, strawberry-blonde hair, and dark-blue eyes, I was the opposite of his type. If personality had been the only factor in attraction, he would have been my guy. But it wasn’t. Not that he was ugly or anything; he just wasn’t my type either. He was about 5’6” and had hazel eyes, soft pale skin, and a boxer build. The girl who would win his heart one day would be the luckiest girl ever. Unless she hurt him, then I would take her soul to the Demons. I considered him my brother from another mother.
“Hey Dave,” I said as I reached his side.
“Class is at four tomorrow,” he said with a smirk. He knew me all too well. “One day, all that dreaming you do is going to get you in trouble.”
“Yeah, I know, but Herald has the most monotone voice ever. I can’t pay attention to him for more than thirty seconds,” I complained.
“Yeah, but hey, we only have the test and tournament left in training, then we’re all grown up,” Dave said with a smile as his fingers made air quotations.
“Yeah, I can’t wait, and then I won’t have to deal with those assholes anymore. I can’t believe Eddie did that to me today. Did you see everyone look at me when I said it, too? My face had to be red.”
“Like a tomato.” He laughed. “You have to watch it, Cendall,” he added in a more serious tone, “you know they’re all ‘so concerned’ with that top spot. They’ll do anything for it. If I hadn’t gotten tied up by that last pretend Guardian, I would have at least been able to warn you. How’d you get past it so fast anyway?” he asked.
“Just like everyone else,” I lied, but he would probably call me out on it soon.
“No way. It’s that weird thing you can do, isn’t it? Because, I mean, Drake had a really hard time, and Eddie only flew by it because the thing was too busy with Drake. If Eddie wasn’t so fast he wouldn’t have had a chance in hell,” Dave said, and I agreed.
“Yeah, I know, I just…I don’t know…like I told you before, I just have this ‘sense’ thing of where they’re going to strike next…must have gotten it from my mama,” I laughed, as I still hadn’t figured out why I could usually sense what their next moves would be. Occasionally, I would get it wrong, but 90% of the time, I could read other pretend Guardians really well. Who knows if it would carry out to the field when I had to deal with real Guardians. Hopefully, it would.
“Yeah, well, whatever it is, use it to your advantage to get number one. If Drake gets it, we’ll never hear the end of it. We’ll be on our death beds, and he’ll still be talking about it.”
“I really don’t want to hear that forever, since I don’t plan on dying. He’s not going to get it; I won’t let him have it, I swear. I need to get home though; Dad is going to want an explanation of why I didn’t jump to first today.”
“Don’t sweat it, Cendall,” Dave said. He stared at my eyes as they sank down. “He just wants you to be the best—he’ll understand.”
“I know, I just want to be number one. He fought so hard to get me into this. I’ve heard the stories. I know no one else wanted to even let me train because I was a female. I still hear the whispers as I walk past, that a female is too emotional and weak to handle the responsibilities of being a Grim Reaper. Dad argued for me though and was somehow able to persuade them. I have to be ranked number one at the end, or it’s like his efforts were wasted. Not to mention that when Dad trained, he became the best at everything. Even in the field, he still holds almost every record. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to the Todeslandwirt bloodline.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t feel that way,” Dave said.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. Two more days to get that top spot.” I gave him a hug and went home.