Title Of Book: Sophie is Scarlet
Series: A Tragedy of a Modern Witch
By: Greg Neyman
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Magical Realism, Urban Fantasy
When a college thesis uncovers a deadly plot, can a young witch with a code against meddling survive a cutthroat enterprise?
Last year of college already drains enough of spellcaster Sophie Morris’s time. But she stumbles across an underhanded corporate conspiracy to destroy a rival, she dives in to dig up the clues needed to expose the truth. And as soon as the corrupt conglomerate gets wind of her interest, Sophie becomes the target of their under the table heavies.
Unwilling to violate witch custom with irresponsible magic use, she struggles to protect them both. And as the noose tightens, she’s trapped between doing what is right and betraying centuries of magical tradition.
Can Sophie stop the madness without losing her life… or her soul?
Sophie is Scarlet is a thrilling contemporary urban fantasy novel. If you like determined heroines, subversive schemes, and heart-breaking choices, you’ll love Greg Neyman’s dark tale.
Buy Sophie is Scarlet to draw a line in the sand today!
Trigger warnings: Discussion of rape, suicide. Depiction of self-harm.
IN WHICH Sophia Is Investigated By The Curious Matter
They were wrapped in warm coats, walking through the quiet street of town back to Benny’s dorm.
“So let me put it in a way you can understand,” he began.
Sophie frowned. “You do realize how condescending that sounds, right?”
Benny furrowed his brow and shook his head. “No, no, not like that. In historical terms.”
“Ahh,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes but not releasing any of the tension in her shoulders, still a little upset that he felt he needed to dumb it down for her.
“So, imagine, you’re Spain. And it’s the – 1480’s, maybe. Maybe 1470’s. Whatever, it’s prior to 1492. But there are a few key differences. First off, you know there is a huge new world out there. And you know it is full of gold and silver. But not just those. All the other metals that make your civilization work.” He pulled out his phone, had it do a little dance in the air, and then put it away. “Best yet, there are no natives in this new world you need to inconveniently smallpox away.” He then spun and turned to Sophie. “But you still got a problem.”
“I got 99 problems. But being rich ain’t one.”
“Seriously. That problem is called Portugal.”
Sophie laughed out loud.
Benny frowned. “Seriously. They also want a piece of that new world action, and it will take the Pope to separate the two quarreling children, which limits the wealth either of them can extract.”
“So I thought we were talking about outer space?” she asked.
“We are. There are asteroids up there with more metal than we’ve ever mined out of the ground here. But eventually, just like the new world wasn’t about simple exploitation, but colonization and the birth of new nations, space won’t always be about just taking what we can. Eventually, there may be whole countries of people living and working permanently out there. But unlike the prairie, you can’t just homestead and be self-sufficient. Living in space can only happen with a complex supply chain and lots of technology.”
Sophie shook her head. “I’m not seeing how this relates back to that bill you showed me.”
Benny rubbed his hands together. “So, the first bill had an appropriation for – what’s his face. Dammit, I’m blanking on his name. Charismatic billionaire. Likes to spearhead futuristic companies. Like his private space operation.” He frowned and swore. “It’ll come to me later. Anyway, his company was given an appropriation to make deliveries to the ISS and also take up US satellites, now that the shuttle is defunct. But the passed version of the bill didn’t have that appropriation. There was nothing in its place.”
Sophie huffed. “Okay, this is mind-numbingly boring. Can you just skip to the part where it gets interesting?”
Benny frowned. “I’m sorry to break it to you. But you’re lucky this has to do with outer space because that’s the only vaguely interesting part about this whole thing.” He suddenly spun on her and held his palms up, quaking a little, as his face tensed. “But that’s how the Concern has gotten away with everything. What they do is so painfully boring that no one cares. And they’re going to get away with this too unless we can get people interested and start digging.”
Sophie sighed but shot him a sly smile. “Okay, you can go on, but only because you made such an excellent dinner for everyone tonight.”
Benny facepalmed. “Oy, don’t bring that up, ever again, please. Not even at my funeral. Moving on, I don’t know what you know of private space industries, but what’s-his-face’s company has been enjoying a lot of technical success. They’ve had a lot of perfect test launches and landings. But their funding is running out, and now that they’re public, the shareholders need a return on investment.”
“But this has nothing to do with The Concern!” Sophie protested.
“It has everything to do with them! Because The Concern also has a private space arm. Not anywhere as good as their competition. They, in fact, had a total disaster recently, where a test flight crashed and killed three people. Now, ordinarily, The Concern has deep pockets and can screw up for days and still be in the black. But then, this interloper is about to get his foot in the door, and he has the technical chops to do it, too. That means he’s going to be the industry leader.”
Sophie nodded, but her eyes were glazed. “That’s … bad?” The questioning uplift in her voice cracked at the end.
Benny nodded. “Terrible, if you’re The Concern. If he achieves profitability, even with government subsidies, they can scale past R&D. Now, if The Concern needs to push them out of the game, it will take a lot more oomph and leave them legally a lot more exposed should it come to light. So that’s the motive for The Concern to eighty-six the first version of the bill. That’s what that article in your house was about. Their competition had leveraged his company with the value of his stock. And with the loss of this appropriation line-”
“Come again?” Sophie interrupted. “Something about leverage?”
“Oh, the competing space company took out a loan where the stock value is the collateral. So now that his stock value crashed because the expected appropriation didn’t go through, he’s going to have to liquidate the whole venture. Leaving the path clear for The Concern to take their time refining their technology.” Benny shrugged. “Or hell, buy up the competing technology for pennies on the dollar, now that he’s slashing prices.”
They turned the corner and approached his dorm.
Benny turned to her and had a somber face. “The Concern is poised to be The Technology Juggernaut on Earth. But that’s not enough for them.” He pulled his hands out of his pockets and turned them and his gaze to the stars. “They desire the heavens, as well.”
Back in the Poli Sci department, Sophie found herself cautiously greeting the now somewhat familiar energies that slunk around the old building. A few more times, and they would give her comfort.
The door opened, and Benny came out of the Prof’s office.
“What did he say?” Sophie implored as they walked the halls.
“It’s a little beyond the scope of his course.” Benny turned and smiled. “But he thinks I should talk to my advisor, as it would be a rocking honors thesis.”
Sophie grabbed Benny and kissed him, embracing him tightly. “Promise me you somehow get the word out of this to the law schools you’re applying to. They’ll be fighting over you!”
He blushed and averted his eyes. “What are you, my mom?”
They stepped out the doors into the bright, cool day.
“So I called Concern PR department today. To get an official statement for my paper.”
Sophie laughed. “How was that hour on hold? Was it worth it? Did you get some flustered intern to confess?” Sophie put on a falsetto. “We’re in bed with the government in the worst possible way! And we didn’t even enjoy it!”
Benny chuckled. “Seriously, it’s due diligence.”
A cold rain fell, and Sophie was running home, using her umbrella for its advertised purpose.
As she turned towards her front walk, she couldn’t help but notice the car, tucked away behind some distant hedge. The occupants were holding their breath, hoping she and the other members of Low Tech House didn’t notice them, which made them instantly obvious to any Sister.
She shook out her umbrella under the portico and let herself in.
Inside, the women were clustered behind the sheer curtains, staring out at the car. Some of them were drinking tea.
“Has anyone asked them what they want?” Sophie asked as she took off her boots.
Gwen sighed. “It’s rainy and cold.”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “What would your mother think?” She thumped her umbrella a few times on the rug, getting some of the heaviest drops to fall off, and then raced up the stairs, boots in hand. “I’m going through your room, Jackie,” she called out behind her.
Jackie grunted. “You get the room with a balcony,” she muttered to herself. “You’ll love it!” She shook her head. “How did I not figure out it would lead to this?”
The men in the car kept their eyes peeled down the lane. One of them was nervously playing with his phone, first swiping right, then swiping left. The glow from the display complemented the dim rainy sky.
“That was her, wasn’t it?” said the man in the passenger seat.
“You’re the one with the binoculars,” grumbled the man in the driver’s seat.
“So, no digital profile, except her official records, huh?”
“And uh – she flys on airplanes special needs, apparently. But maintains a 3.74 GPA? Must be high functioning.”
Shrug. “It takes all kinds.”
“We’re gonna have to – feel her out, huh?” He looked at Driver seat and waggled his eyebrows. “I’d love to feel her out anytime.”
Driver seat smacked him on the back of his head, hissing out, “Shut up, idiot!”
“What was that for?” Passenger seat whined.
In response, Driver seat held up his phone. “They are always listening, numb-nuts. At some point, you’ll cross some number a data geek crunched, and bam!”
Passenger seat furrowed his brow. “Bam?”
“Bam! You’re in sensitivity training!” He leaned in, getting a deadly serious look. “Unpaid.”
Passenger seat shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Who’s gonna complain, you?”
“They’re not going to wait for a complaint, idiot. They don’t need that hassle. They’ll just decide you need remediation before you piss off some chick somewhere.”
Passenger seat frowned. “They’re not gonna do that.” He sounded uncertain.
Driver seat ground his teeth as he pulled up his phone to show Passenger seat, swiping his screen left. There was a picture of Benny, walking on the street, grainy as if taken from a telephoto lens. “If they can tell me in a briefing that this loser – how did they say it?” He put on a lofty air. “‘Scores too high in Idealism to be susceptible to enticement or coercion’, that they don’t have some number somewhere that says just how big a screw up you are?”
As they sat, looking at each other for a long second, neither of them seemed to notice Benny’s picture flickering and distorting before it stabilized again.
Passenger seat demurred. “Well, if that doesn’t take all the fun out of this job.”
“You know the suits. If you’re having fun, you ain’t – ”
Sophie’s face appeared in the windshield, hanging upside down, as she reached to hold the wiper from hitting her head.
She tried to shout “Gentlemen” but was overpowered by their screams.
They both jumped out of their doors, slipping somewhat on the wet mud underfoot, and looked back at her.
She, meanwhile, simply stood upright on the roof of their car, her umbrella opened above her, but her coat and hair soaked. She smiled as she extended her hand to Driver seat, as he trembled in the cold and wet.
“Help a lady down, would you?” she asked, her smile distorted from her high angle above them.
They both hesitated, and after a long second, Driver seat met her hand. She took it and allowed herself to be guided down to the ground as she hopped off the roof.
She turned to Driver seat but made sure to keep Passenger seat in her vision. “Now then, if you have any questions, Low Tech House is an open book. Would you like a tour? Are you hoping your daughter will matriculate in the fall?” She regarded them both when she asked that question.
“Wait, what?” Passenger seat sputtered, breaking the silence. “No, its-”
“Zip it!” Driver seat barked.
Sophie smiled. “A call ahead is usually appreciated, but we’re used to surprise drop-ins. Come on in, get out of the rain. Look at you! You don’t even have umbrellas! We’ll answer all your questions.”
Sophie’s irises widened as she leaned into Driver seat. “We’ll make you some tea. Wouldn’t that be nice, in this cold, wet weather?”
Passenger seat shivered. “Yeah, actually-”
“In the car! Now!” Driver seat barked and opened his door, getting back into his car.”
Passenger seat looked disappointed.
“At least tell me your daughter’s name,” Sophie said, turning to him.
Passenger seat’s brow furrowed, and his lips grew thin as he opened the door abruptly and climbed in, slamming the door loudly.
Sophie shrugged and walked back to the House. “Offer stands,” she called back behind her.
“They were not here for the tour,” Sophie told Benny. The sky was clear as they walked through town.
“I still can’t believe you confronted two men in dark suits in a sedan that were obviously spying on you. Are you crazy?”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “Number one, yes I am. Number two, what were they going to do?”
Benny gulped as his face grew pale and his gaze downcast. He stopped walking and took both her hands in his own. “I dunno. Kill you?”
Sophie laughed and leaned forward to kiss him. “Settle down, John Grisham. Real life isn’t like that.”
He relaxed and let her hands slip from his as they continued their walk.
But the seed was planted in her head. She startled them too badly to get a good read on their intentions. Even trying to rattle Mister Fragile Masculinity just made his mind clam up even more. But they were both fiercely considering the guns in their shoulder holsters as she stared them down from the roof of their car. And their hands had the muscle memory to know what to do, should they be loosed.
She inhaled sharply through his nostrils. “Listen, I’m going to talk to the ladies. Can you sleep in the House tonight?”
Benny put a little strut in his step as he tried to imitate John Wayne’s voice. “Do the little ladies need a big strong man to help ‘em feel safe?”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “Gag me.” she turned back to him. “But seriously.”
Benny shrugged. “If you think they’re Concern heavies, then they’re after me. The best thing I can do to keep you safe is to stay away. I mean, if things get real, what could you do?”
The world seemed to slow down.
It was her intuition.
Her throat caught, and her heart skipped a beat, and she felt an odd pressure in her chest.
No, things were too helter-skelter right now. It wasn’t the time. It would just muddy the water. One more thing to break his brain.
The world seemed to resume to normal speed as the pressure in her chest tightened. She would tell him after this was all over.
“Just – don’t be alone, okay?”
He smiled and nodded at her. “Are you kidding? CHUD never leaves.”
There was fierce knocking on the door of Low Tech House. Sophie opened the door and helped the bedraggled student to the couch. He looked like he was going to throw up.
“Help,” he pleaded. “I don’t know what happened. None of our phones worked.” He held up his own dark brick. “The power went out in the whole house. Everybody is sick. I was just outside. Everyone inside – I was – too scared – to go in.”
Jackie, Seema, and Sophie looked at each other. Cell phones were made to suffer pretty hard drops and other abuse. They could recover from ambient Energies, and it took the most directed effort to brick a phone. To put out a whole house of them simultaneously meant bad news.
“Who else is in the House?” Sophie shouted.
“Just me,” Sydney said as she thundered down the stairs.
Sophie nodded. “Okay, we have three, plus one to stay home.”
Sophie considered Seema. She then turned to Sydney. “No -” Sophie began before looking at the young man, her lips momentarily thin. “No parlor tricks?” she asked, looking at Sydney again.
Sydney frowned. “I learned my lesson.”
Sophie nodded. “Okay, Seema, stay here and help this young man.”
Seema nodded as the others wordlessly went to their shoes and umbrellas.
Sophie ran up the stairs, retrieved her purse, and came down, fishing a box from it and pulling a locket out of the box. Her hands nervously clasped the locket around her neck, and, taking a deep breath, she popped it open.
What People Are Saying:
5 Stars – “A Great Escape!”
5 Stars – “Hard to put down”
5 Stars – “A compulsively readable story with intriguing twists.”
5 Stars – “A powerful good witch runs up against Evil”
5 Stars – “Loved this book. Highly recommend!”
Where to buy Sophie is Scarlet: https://www.amazon.com/Sophie-Scarlet-Tragedy-Modern-Witch-ebook/dp/B08WHHS227
Meet Greg Neyman:
Greg Neyman is a practicing physician, computer programmer, data scientist, and now, an author, apparently. He lives with his wife, daughter, and miniature poodle in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Greg-Neyman/author/B08WHBW1WD
Hey there! I’m Matt, a sci-fi and fantasy author.
Two years ago, you helped me publish the first book of the Spectra saga. Now, I’m here to publish book two!
Val and Note saved the galaxy from the Sensus, but they’ve since been separated from their friends by order of the Hegemony. On the eve of Ascension Day—a celebration of 3,000 years since the Chosen races were uplifted by the Sentinels—enormous Architect constructs suddenly awaken on the Planes and cause mass devastation.
Guided by an enigmatic messenger, Val, and Note know that only a mysteriously hidden Architect ruin known as the Eternity Vault has the power to stop them. But they’ll have to deal with vengeful bounty hunters, the political turmoils of an empire, interstellar tycoons, mysterious dream riddles sung by a people known only as the Forgotten, and more to find it.
“The Eternity Vault”, Book 2 of the Spectra saga, is ultimately more of the sci-fi and fantasy universe that you came to love in the first book. More characters to meet, more planets and worlds to see, more monsters to fear, more lore to unravel, and above all else, more story to enjoy!