Stefon Mears recently published his thirtieth novel, including the Jumpstart Duchy series (epic fantasy), the Cavan Oltblood series (epic fantasy), the Rise of Magic series (space fantasy), and the Spells for Hire series (urban fantasy). Stefon earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from N.I.L.A., and his B.A. in Religious Studies (double emphasis in Ritual and Mythology) from U.C. Berkeley.

Zombie Powder by Stefon Mears

My demons will come for you.

Portland, Oregon: a modern melting pot of wizards, witches and stranger things. Where conjure man Heath Cyr solves problems with a quick mind and a backpack full of magic.

Heath won't kill. Not for all of his rich, beautiful client's money.Not even to save himself from an enemy's demons.

But as Heath's enemies close in, he may have to do something worse than kill…

Zombie Powder, an exciting urban fantasy novel full of magic and mystery.Fans of Grimmand Harry Dresden won't want to miss this! The secondSpells for Hire novel, from Stefon Mears, author of the Rise of Magic series.


Zombie Powder by Stefon Mears is equal parts Chandler neo-noir, Inanna's search for Tammuz and Harry Dresden urban fantasy, the second in his Spells of Hire series featuring resourceful conjurer Heath Cyr plying his New-Orleans-based arts in Portland, Oregon—a modern melting pot of wizards, witches and stranger things. Heath won't kill, even for a beautiful client's enormous fee when he desperately needs the funding. Not even to save himself from an enemy's demons, especially when he senses that she's lying about the real purpose of the job. But as Heath's enemies close in, he may have to do something worse than kill. – Athena Andreadis





Only in Portland, Oregon, could Heath Cyr find a taste of home off the back of a cart. Today that taste was shrimp étouffée, from a food cart called Ahnvee that specialized in Cajun cooking. Two or three of Portland's famous food carts served Cajun food, but Ahnvee was his favorite. They captured the flavors just right.

The lady who did the cooking for Ahnvee, Shawna, had a big, down-home smile too. Mind you, she was so white even her hair barely managed any yellow, but she had a touch of that Cajun drawl like she was from Louisiana herself. If a few years removed.

Not that Heath had any stones to throw about that. He barely remembered Louisiana from his own childhood and had only been back a few times. His mom and dad had moved their little family to New York before Heath was four years old, which meant he hadn't lived around New Orleans in over twenty years himself.

But the bits he remembered always made him smile. Wrought iron fences, blues and jazz everywhere like they were part of the air he breathed, and especially the food.

And this lunchtime meal under the bright blue August sky, it tasted just like his grandmother's shrimp étouffée. Shrimp and a little crab meat, a blond roux, and no tomatoes messing up the spices.

Tomatoes in cooking were like dragon's blood incense in conjuring — used right they were perfect, but used wrong they muddied up everything else. Both were best left out of étouffée altogether.

And this shrimp étouffée was the perfect thing to wash down with unsweetened iced tea on a hot Thursday afternoon, when the air had that just-right touch of humid cling to let you know it's there. New Orleans, Manhattan, Portland, everywhere Heath had lived, humid cling was always part of the summer air.

Altogether, the food and the day were almost enough to make Heath forget someone was trying to kill him.


The threat had come only last night, in Gripper, the only bar worth going to for people walking one of the paths of magic. Heath had been drinking with a couple of curanderos who worked over on the east side of the Willamette River, comparing notes about the way they used High John the Conqueror in combination with Devil's Shoestring, when that saggy couch potato of a "Western Ceremonial Magician" who called himself Mandrake — Drake for short — stood and made his pronouncement.

Heath Cyr, for interfering in my business I condemn to you die. My demons will come for you.

Heath laughed of course. One of the few good things Heath had learned from his Uncle Andre was that the best public response to a death threat was laughter.

Long as you're calling up demons, Heath had answered, you might want to have one see about that hairline of yours.

That got people laughing, but not Maggie, of course. She was the Gripper's owner and a pretty major hand with Western Ceremonial Magic herself. And she did not abide death threats in her bar.

She hustled Drake out her red front door so fast he was almost flying. But then, Maggie was built like a boxer and could probably have hefted Drake over her head in a dead lift. Which meant she could have bench pressed a modestly built guy like Heath for twenty reps.

For violating the Gripper's death-threat policy — yes, it was common enough that they had an official policy — Drake wouldn't be allowed back in for at least a season. More likely a year and a day, because Maggie had a soft spot for Heath. Didn't matter, though. Drake'd accomplished what he wanted. The threat was made, and everyone who mattered in the Portland area had either heard it or would hear about it soon enough.

The entire occult community would be watching them both.

That was why the first thing Heath did on getting up late the next morning — after a couple of petitions for some protection — was make sure he was seen eating downtown, smiling like he didn't have a care in the world.

Heath made his living selling spells. Couldn't risk letting potential customers think he was afraid of someone else's magic. Be bad for business.

The lunchtime crowd bustled around Heath on the busy sidewalk. Most of them stuck in suits or business casual even in this heat, but scattered in among them were what Heath thought of as the Portlanders. The natives.

Some of the Portlanders were hipsters, of course, in baggy this or that and ironic tee shirts. Some had long hair, but even the ones who kept their hair short managed to get it in their eyes. Others were the flannel shirt crowd, in shorts instead of jeans, but the men kept thick beards even in this heat.

Fortunately many of the women wore sundresses, a sight for which Heath was always grateful.

Heath himself was dressed to almost blend in. Cream-colored cargo shorts with plenty of pockets for hiding a mojo bag or two, plus a number of little extras in case he needed them. Featherweight white, button-up shirt with short sleeves and no collar. Couple of breast pockets, though, for more of those extras.

Heath's black canvas backpack rested at his feet, against his suede boat shoes. Even when he wasn't under a death threat, Heath didn't go anywhere without that backpack and the arsenal he filled it with.

Heath wasn't thinking about spells just then though. He was just enjoying the sight of a young Japanese woman's shapely calves and reminding himself to call Nariko — his on-again-off-again girlfriend — and see how her trip to Japan was going. That was when someone interrupted his train of thought.

"You. You're the one they call Twilight, right?"

Heath sighed. He hated that nickname, and he hated that he hated it. Twilight was a magical time of day. Each dawn and dusk, a great time for conjuring or spelling or working with spirits. By all rights, Twilight should have been a great nickname for him.

But then those damned vampire books came out and ruined the whole thing. Heath knew a thing or two about vampires, and "romantic" was not a word he associated with them. "Dangerous," "deadly," and in most cases "ugly." Those were more the words he would have chosen.

Worst of all, some people — like Maggie's own grandmother — made the Twilight thing about Heath's skin tone. Not pale like his Irish mother, though he had her brown curls, but nowhere near as black as his father, though he had his daddy's dark brown eyes. Just somewhere in between, like so many things in Heath's life.

Heath took a long sip from his glass bottle of unsweetened iced tea before he turned to see who was asking.

Hipster kid. Baggy blue jeans, and a faded Madonna tour shirt that — if it were real — would be older than he was. Dishwater blond hair, just long enough to be in his eyes. Either a smooth shave or he didn't have to shave yet, though he held a paper bag like it had a can of beer in it. Probably Pabst Blue Ribbon or something.

Heath forced himself to smile. Kid could be a potential customer.

"Some people call me Twilight, yes. Something I can do for you?"

The kid pointed to the asphalt in the street. "They say you can read the future in the tar."

Heath looked where the kid was pointing, waited while a Prius chased an ancient LeMans up the street. Swirling black tar lines decorated the asphalt, leftover from some kind of street repair.

He looked back at the kid. "Yeah. Why?'

"I've been staring at that swirl for the last half-hour, trying to figure out what it means. What does it tell you?"

"Right now?" Heath looked again, as though considering it a serious question, then back at the kid. "Mostly that you don't know how divination works." Heath smirked as the kid flushed a bright red, but didn't leave him hanging. "Still, because there are people like me, you don't have to know how it works. If you have some money and a question you need an answer to, I could help you out."

"No need." The kid smiled, and it was a mean kind of smile. "I'll tell your future. Death will come for you on the third day, during the hour of Mars."

The kid turned and ran then. Shoelaces tied tight, which didn't fit the look. Unless, of course, the kid knew enough to be afraid, should Heath decide to punish the messenger for carrying a threat on his master's behalf.

Heath shook his head and sipped his tea, but his joy in the afternoon was gone. Drake had known Heath would make a public appearance. Had a response ready. Not good.

Heath felt as though he couldn't even quite taste the étouffée anymore. He thought about getting some beignets to try to recapture that moment, but someone behind him cleared their throat.

"Have I come at a bad time, Mr. Cyr?" A woman's voice, high and clear.

Heath stifled the sigh this time, and turned.

The woman standing in front of him practically had "money" stamped on her forehead.

It wasn't anything obvious. No jewelry except a simple gold circlet around her left wrist. No fancy watch, no designer purse. It was just … an air about her. Like a perfume. The way she carried herself, maybe.

Her lustrous blond hair hung just long enough to curl at her shoulders, without a single split end. Understated makeup, just enough to bring out the lighter shades of blue in her eyes. Pale green sheath dress that looked like breathable silk, cut just below the collar and just tight enough to leave no doubt that she kept her admirable body trim. Simple flats that matched the dress.

And even Heath's clever nose could barely pick up the honeysuckle of her actual perfume.

No, there was no one thing about this woman Heath could point to that made her look like she had money. But evaluating people was a big part of what Heath did, and he was certain this woman was loaded.

"That all depends," Heath said, "on why you've come."

"If you're in the middle of something…" She let the words hang. Her enunciation was letter perfect. Heath would have bet that if this woman said "bottle" he could hear both t's.

"Not at all," he said, with his best professional smile. "True, I did just finish my lunch break, and there are a few projects I really ought to get back to, but I could take a meeting right now, if it's convenient."

"Not here," she said, eyes darting back and forth among the crowd. "Could you accompany me to my office?"

"Certainly," said Heath. Something about this woman's speech or manner was bringing out the South in his manners. He'd have to watch that.

"Excellent." She gestured to a black Mercedes S-Class, pulling up to the curb. "Hershel will have us there in only a few minutes, and afterwards he can drop you wherever you like."

Yep. Definitely money.