Death's Legacy Kassidy Simmons Book 1 by Dennis K. Crosby Genre: Urban Fantasy
Twenty years ago, Reaper of Souls Kassidy Simmons battled Azra-El, the Angel of Death and won—or so she thought. Now, a number of strange and unexplained deaths are afflicting Kassidy’s quiet New York town.
She wishes she didn’t care. But she does. Her empathic abilities are expanding beyond her control, and the intense emotions are tearing apart her relationships. They’re also degrading the magical wards put in place to protect her from other Reapers and the even deadlier Wraiths—onyx-eyed henchmen of Azra-El.
Allied with her longtime mentor and a college professor with ties to her past, Kassidy learns that the untimely deaths are regenerating Azra-El, and that the only way to stop him is with the Scythe of Cronus, the legendary weapon of the God of Death.
To save her loved ones and reset the natural order, Kassidy must journey home and confront a past she’s been running from for two decades. She’ll face-off with enemies, old and new, and through a haze of fear and addiction, Kassidy will learn the secrets of her heritage, and challenge head on the one being she fears most—herself.
Kassidy stood over the kitchen sink and stared outside at the kids playing. The young girl who’d been teased was now the center of attention.
In the distance, well beyond the kids, a dark spec loomed closer, just as it had this morning. Another Wraith. It moved with speed; a sense of urgency as unnatural as the being itself. It flew through the park, past the kids, and directly toward Kassidy’s townhome.
She stood still, almost lifeless. She tried to steady her breathing. Calming her heart was something she’d once done with regularity. She had long since lost that skill. Looking down, Kassidy watched her shirt move in rhythm with her heartbeat. Shit!
The Wraith came to an abrupt stop in front of Kassidy’s kitchen window. It hovered for a moment and then changed shape, transforming from a shapeless patch of smoke to a dark demonic figure clad in a tattered, hooded robe. It scanned left to right, moving slightly with each turn of its head. It could not see her still. Yet somehow it knew she was there. Its head phased through the double-pane glass of Kassidy’s window and stared directly at her.
Kassidy stood motionless, breathless, the only sound and movement the overworked muscle in her chest. In her mind, she heard the voice of the apparition.
“You should just show yourself. We already know you’re here. Your warding is degraded. Your power is growing. Surely you can sense the changes happening around you. He’s coming, Kassidy. We are coming . . . for you. See you soon.” Senaya!
If Senaya was here, Azra-El would not be far behind. The Wraith backed away from the window, its head phasing through again. Once clear, it lingered for a moment before shooting straight up into the sky. Kassidy followed its movement until it was out of view. Her emotions rolled like a tidal wave. The pressure building inside needed a release.
Kassidy screamed louder than she’d ever screamed before. She pounded the countertop with both fists, lashing out like a petulant child. Her rage seemed unending, but also futile. She slid down to the ground, brought her knees to her chest, wrapped her arms around them, and wept. He’s coming for me.
Kassidy Simmons Book 2
Kassidy Simmons dispatched the Angel of Death, secured the Scythe of Cronus, and claimed her birthright. As she navigates her new role and tracks down rogue Wraiths still loyal to Azra-El, an unknown force is plotting to make an ancient prophecy foretelling the end of the world a reality.
Seven hundred years ago, Jaxon Burke awoke in a field outside of Rome, with no memory of his former life. Now a present-day killer for hire, the immortal assassin has taken countless lives, and, because of the recent shake-up in the natural order, the memories of those deaths are fueling his nightmares—nightmares that feel real. He longs for relief. He longs for peace.
He longs for death.
A recent brush with the hereafter brings him to the attention of Solomon Steele, a Wraith angered by Kassidy’s recent ascension. With the promise of death as his reward, Jaxon agrees to help Steele destroy Kassidy—but he is ill-prepared for the repercussions of this strange world he is now in.
As the truth of Jaxon’s life comes to light, Kassidy must find a way to pay for the sins of the past and stop this deadly duo from destroying her, taking the Scythe of Cronus, and ushering in the apocalypse.
He was tired. It wasn’t the normal tired he felt after regeneration, and there would no doubt be added fatigue from this particular rebirth given the nature of his demise. No, the type of tired he felt was of the soul. He’d felt that way for a while and when he drifted off into that dark abyss of nothing, a part of him was satisfied. Jaxon Burke had been ready to die and not return.
Jaxon Burke was hoping to die and not return.
But here he was.
Still though, something was off.
He lay on the concrete, shivering, uncertain what do next. The gasoline had burning away from the ground, leaving only soot and ash between his flesh and concrete. He tingled still, but not from the regeneration. He tingled the way one does when they feel they’re being watched. There was an undeniable presence looming. He hadn’t attempted to open his eyes yet, and he was in no way prepared to defend himself, but he needed to do…something. Fear returned. Worse than when he’d been strapped to that pile of kindling that was once a chair.
“You know I’m here, don’t you?” asked a male voice.
It wasn’t the guy from before, the one who set all this in motion. Of that, he was certain. The presence he felt, the voice he heard, was something…else.
“I have to say,” the man said, “I’ve never come across anything like you before. I felt the pull of death in a way I’d never experienced. It was palpable. I almost choked on it. I was shocked that no Reaper had beat me here. Shocked, but pleased. Especially when I saw the life force inside you re-ignite. It was…remarkable.”
Confusion swept through Jaxon. He heard the words, but the context was lost on him. Who was this guy? What was this guy? Another immortal maybe? Someone like him?
“A couple of weeks ago, I watched my Primus die at the hands of a girl. That damned girl. She was the key to his ascension. I watched that dream die as she severed his head. But now…”
The man’s voice trailed off. Jaxon remained confused.
“Now, things may not be as lost as I thought.”
With trepidation, Jaxon opened his eyes, just in time to see a dark figure lunge forward, grab him by the neck and hoist him into the air. Naked and afraid, he grabbed the forearm of the man holding him. He kicked weakly, wildly, struggling for freedom. He’d just returned from death, a death he wasn’t even sure he’d bounce back from, to be greeted with…this.
Whatever this was.
“I think I need what you’ve got,” said the man.
Jaxon’s vision cleared despite the lack of oxygen, and his eyes widened as he saw the solid black eyes of a man with a wide grin. He watched as the man pulled back his free hand only to thrust it forward, violently, swiftly, into Jaxon’s chest. It phased through, lingered a while, then retracted. When it was completely free, Jaxon saw a glowing orb, golden and pulsating, in the man’s hand. Jaxon’s eyes shifted from the orb to the man, and in that distorted face, there was shock.
“You’re still alive?” the man asked. “You definitely are something different. Whatever you are, whatever you have, it’ll be enough to end Simmons and take what I deserve.”
Both men stared at the golden orb and watched as it trembled, as if sentient. It rolled, then spun, and finally, slowly, rose into the air. It seemed to glow brighter, growing larger at first, before it collapsed on itself leaving golden particles of light in the air—which promptly returned to Jaxon’s body.
“Impossible,” said the man.
When the man reached in again, he was met with a surge of electricity, sending him flying back. Jaxon fell to the ground. Looking up, he saw the man convulsing as if electrocuted. Confused, Jaxon fled from the warehouse to a back room. Finding some old, dusty coveralls, and boots at least two sizes too small, he dressed and found his way out of the warehouse. He didn’t know what that thing was. He didn’t know what had just happened. But he wanted no part of it. He left and headed for the only place he could think of where he might find a measure of safety.
Dennis K. Crosby grew up in Oak Park, IL and completed his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois-Chicago. With a degree in Criminal Justice, he spent six years working as a Private Investigator. His love of learning about, and better understanding people, led him to pursue a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology. During his studies, Dennis transitioned to social service, and since 2008, has worked primarily with men and women experiencing challenges with mental health and addiction. He continues to be a staunch advocate of mental health reform, social justice, and efforts to combat homelessness.
Dennis always had a passion for writing but did not pursue the finer points of the craft until later in life. After leaving Illinois and moving to San Diego, Dennis connected with the local writing community where he strengthened his talents and understanding of the art of writing and the business of publishing. To further supplement his writing skills, in 2018, Dennis completed an MFA program at National University.
Now, he is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling urban fantasy novel, Death’s Legacy, released November 2020, and its follow up Death’s Debt, released November 2021. The bourbon loving Chicago Cubs fan and deep-dish pizza connoisseur is continuing his work on his Kassidy Simmons series and writing weird and creepy short stories in his spare time. A self-proclaimed geek and lover of pop culture, Dennis still lives and writes in San Diego, CA.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Absolutely! So, this journey was a long one. I think it can be for many authors, but especially those of us who didn’t decide until later in life to fully pursue the craft. After college, in 1998, I announced to my friends that I was going to write a book, and furthermore, it was going to be the definitive vampire novel. I said it so often that I started to believe it. So naturally I started writing it. Halfway through I realized that I had no idea how to write a book. See, I’d always done well in English class. I wrote essays and participated in creative writing, and I always received praise for it. But writing a book is so much more than that. So a very defeated Dennis Crosby opted to forget about being a novelist and dove fully into his 9-5.
But the writing bug never went away.
I spent 13 years in retail, and 7 in private investigation, and throughout those years, I wrote a lot of poetry. Once I settled into the social service field though, the pull to write a novel became stronger. I started working alongside another writer and we started talking about the craft so much that I got excited about it again. So I got serious. I read more, I attended workshops, joined writing groups, and eventually pursued an MFA in Creative Writing. Everything I’ve accomplished thus far is the result of a late push, but also, and most importantly, an immersion into my local writing community. Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been practicing the craft for a while, a strong network of writers is the best resource and motivation you can have!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Great question! Earlier in my writing career, I was of the belief that I wasn’t a writer until I was paid for something. I also believed that I wasn’t an author until I actually had something published. I was steadfast in these beliefs, and I don’t think I moved away from them until sometime in 2015. It was after attending my first official writer’s meeting here in San Diego that my eyes were opened. The meeting was led by Jonathan Maberry, and he told all of us, in no uncertain terms, that being published or paid doesn’t make you a writer. It’s the moment you wake up and decide to pick up a pen and write something, that you become a writer. I’d heard that before with other professions, particularly in the arts, like acting and comedy, but I had a hard time accepting for myself as a writer. Hearing those words in that group though, and looking around at the crowd of folks there, I felt at home, like I was a part of something, an incredible community of creatives. I felt a sense of pride and I left that day believing that I was a writer. And no one would be able to take that away from me.
Do you have a favorite movie?
First of all, I am a movie fanatic. I’m the guy that knows plots and actors of movies I’ve never seen, it’s almost ridiculous. I typically have to categorize movies because there are so many out there that I love. And even then, I sometimes need to create sub-categories. It wasn’t enough to have a favorite drama. I had to have a favorite crime drama (Godfather, by the way), a favorite historical drama (The King’s Speech is brilliant), and don’t get me started on Sci-fi/Fantasy films, we’d be here for days. I mean, it gets serious! But overall, if I had to pick one movie, something that leaves me feeling good every time I see it, it would have to be Running Scared starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. First of all, it’s filmed in Chicago, forever my city. And it’s also filmed in Chicago during winter, so you’re getting a down and dirty Windy City with cold and snow. But beyond all that, the chemistry between those two, in my opinion, is unmatched. The music is great, the backdrop, the acting superb. See, now I want to go home and watch it again!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I am obsessed with immortality. Like…obsessed! I also have a very unhealthy fear of death. This is one of the reasons that my books exist. It’s in those pages that I can control the thing that I fear. Because of that fear, because of that obsession with immortality and my love of Greek mythology, I am drawn to the Phoenix. I think there have been times in my life where I’ve felt down and out, or defeated, and somehow, I find the strength to eventually overcome the issue. To me, that’s not unlike rising from the ashes like that beautiful bird.
What inspired you to write this book?
While working on my MFA at National University, I decided to take a Screenwriting workshop. It’s a form of writing that is so very foreign to me and I thought it would be interesting. I’m here to tell you, not only was it interesting, but ridiculously enlightening, too. I learned so much and have gained such an appreciation for screenwriters. It was in this class though that Kassidy Simmons, my protagonist, was born. I came up with 3 log lines for stories that I would potentially write as a script for this class, and her logline was the one that tested best with friends and family. Logline: “After 20 years on the run, Kassidy Simmons must return home to confront the man who killed her!”
So, I wrote a script based on that premise, and while the script was awful (at least in my opinion, though I got an ‘A’ in the class) I absolutely loved the story and the character. I decided she needed more depth and exploration. I felt that I was doing her a disservice by not giving her more, so I took that script and expanded it. In fact, I decided to shelve a vampire novel, and worked exclusively on Death’s Legacy as my thesis. As I did that, I felt an even deeper connection to her and the mythology surrounding the world she lives in. The more I wrote, the more inspiration I felt from some of my favorite fictional characters and fantasy TV shows. The character is inspired by Jessica Jones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wynonna Earp, and countless powerful female protagonists I’ve read and watched. The story and backstory are influenced by Greek mythology and some modern religion. Ultimately, my fear of death, my obsession with immortality, and the nagging question of “what if I had this power?” is what inspired the series.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
The original title of book 1 was Homecoming. I went with that because there’s an incident that occurred on the night of the homecoming dance that put Kassidy on her path to becoming a Reaper, and, because the story involved her coming home to take care of a situation long thought finished. After a while though, because of the nature of the story, the theme, and the players, Death’s Legacy made more sense. For a short time it was Death’s Legacy: Homecoming. In fact the original submitted manuscript bears that title. Over time though, and as I started thinking of future titles, I settled on Death’s Legacy alone. Subsequent titles will likely have Death as the first part, followed by whatever the theme or end result of the story is, if that makes sense. So, Death’s Debt, is about a debt owed by the Death God. My third book, Death’s Despair, will be about…well…you can probably guess. It’s going to be a tough story for Kassidy.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
I’d say if there’s one common theme among the main group, it’s duty. There’s some inherent, yet often resentful connection to family and familial obligation, but ultimately, Kassidy, Keiron, and the rest of the lot, do what they do, because no one else can. I think that’s the sign of a true hero. John McClane didn’t want to deal with terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza. He wanted to talk to, and reconnect with, his wife and kids. But, as we saw, he did in fact deal with terrorists, and it was because he was the only one that could. If you watch early episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer you know that she did not want the responsibility of being a slayer. She did her best to avoid it. But she did her duty because she recognized that no one else really could. Reluctant heroes are my favorites, and Kassidy Simmons is quite reluctant. She drinks, swears, and is generally pretty cynical and has difficulty maintaining relationships, both romantic and platonic. She has some deep trauma, but she also has this drive to help, to save, and to protect. She’s been a victim before and now has the power and strength to be a champion for others. Despite the challenges she’s faced, and continues to face, she perseveres. That’s the true mark of a champion.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’ve been dream casting this novel since I typed “The End”. I envision one of two actresses to play Kassidy. Morena Baccarin, from Firefly, V, Gotham, and Deadpool, is one. Not only does she have the right look, but she also has great range. She’s played characters with great arcs, she can do comedy, drama, and everything in between. That range is perfect for capturing the myriad of emotions that Kassidy experiences.
The other actress is Kate Siegel, from The Haunting of Hill House, Hush, and Midnight Mass. She too, has the look. I saw her in a movie recently and I happened to be looking at the cover of Death’s Debt at the same time, and I was like, “Wow!” In many of her performances, the characters she’s portrayed have that sassy, snarky, yet quite vulnerable, and that sums up Kassidy well.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other genders?
The most difficult thing is avoiding falling back onto stereotypes. This is true when writing about other cultures as well. It’s easy to write other genders and cultures solely using stereotypes. It’s a quick way to finish a story and get something out into the world for consumption. But it’s also very lazy and extremely irresponsible. Our job, as writers, is to entertain. But it’s also to spread and share truth. Whether through fiction or non-fiction, there are truths out there about men and women, and other cultures, that the world should know and appreciate. Beautiful truths. If we gloss over those truths, we lose the chance to truly explore and celebrate the unique aspects of people in our world. We also minimize the impact of that particular group by trivializing them.
As a man, writing about a woman, it’s important that I demonstrate respect for the individual that is Kassidy Simmons. She struggles with many internal demons, she has these fantastic powers and responsibilities, and she is many things that I am not, and has experienced situations and feelings that, as a man, I’ve never had to navigate. I cannot gloss over that, and I cannot write that solely from my perspective. I have to get it right, to honor her, and to honor anyone who’s had similar experiences to her. So research is important. Kassidy is a woman, an addict, adopted, and a member of the LGBTQ community. I have a responsibility to everyone who relates to any part of her to get it right. Good fiction isn’t just about a good plot, it’s about great characters. Characters can only be great if people can connect with them.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Simple and quick answer? No. I don’t believe it’s a thing. I do believe that being a writer does not absolve you from being human. What I mean by that is, we all have things in our lives that we love and care about, and we have some things that we couldn’t care less about. In between that, we have things that we’ve simply not connected with yet. I believe that it’s in that space that the concept of writer’s block, exists.
I’ve started projects with great enthusiasm, only to let it fall and slip away in the middle. I’ve been at a loss for where to take a story, and I’ve shelved it, allowing that moment to now define me as unable to write. In fact, that’s not the truth. The truth is, I was simply unable to fully connect with that story, or that particular storyline. I wasn’t blocked…I was uninspired. And so it was incumbent upon me to find that connection. I believe you can write through that “block”. Start the story again and allow it to take shape differently. Pick a benign character and give him or her more depth. Interview your characters and find out what they want. Those things could help you reconnect and reignite the passion you felt in your story.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
Continue to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. They are two very different things. Understanding and consistently learning and relearning aspects of both will give you a healthy and realistic understanding of the writer’s journey, of your writer’s journey. Also, do yourself a favor and find a writing community to connect with. Even if that community is a community of 1 or 2, the connection and fellowship will serve you well. The act of writing is very solitary and often the only people that will understand what you’re going through, is another writer. In a writing community you can share ideas, gain perspective, and most times, you’ll feel even more motivated. The success of other writers in my writing community pushed me to work harder to finish projects, learn my craft, and get comfortable with the writing process. Grow this network. They’ll be your greatest champions.