Where to begin…

I thought I had a lot going on at the start of last July. My day job was super busy, I’d just wrapped up my third novel (Rosemary for Reversal), and I was working hard on promoting the book bundle the novel was in. Then I switched day jobs, which meant continuing to be super busy and learning a ton of new things, Jasper had some strange and unexpected health issues, Rosie had an odd event happen, the pandemic picked up again, then Jasper had (different) strange health issues, then there was a giant fire that wiped out huge swaths of nearby towns, and then we finally got to 2022. Things seemed calm for a bit, then we learned that Rosie’s odd event had led to damaged cartilage near her larynx. And now there is a war. There’s a lot more I could say on that topic, but for now I’ll settle for sharing this quote.

“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Jasper is doing fantastic. He’s almost twelve (or thereabouts, we made up a birthday when we adopted him), and he’s super energetic and happy. Rosie will be fine, we just will need to adjust her activities so she doesn’t overheat in the summer. I love my day job, and no longer feel like my brain is too full all the time. I finally have the mental energy to write again, and my latest short story, “Marusia and the Monster,” appears in the anthology Once Upon a Bite!

My mother’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Slovakia in the early 1900s. Not much of the culture made it to my generation. The only thing I know how to say is “good night.” I remember my mom making two Slovakian dishes. One is apparently referred to as an “egg cheese,” which I actively disliked; the other was a braided bread, which I did like, but unfortunately my mom stuck to the tradition and only made it at Easter. I’m sure there were more things that I just don’t remember, but this is what’s left.

The Once Upon anthology series is an annual collection of fairy tale retellings, with a different overall theme each year. I’ve written short stories for five of the seven issues, and have found myself drawn to fairy tales and folklore from the region my great-grandparents came from. They were all from eastern Slovakia. One of them lived in a village so close to the Ukranian border that her family attended church in what is present-day Ukraine. I now have a collection of books on Slavic/Russian/Ukranian fairy tales, folklore, and culture. I don’t know which stories my great-grandparents were told when they were children, of course, but I’m sure they heard variants of at least some of the tales I’ve read. It’s been really fun to base my stories off of the old fairy tales, and to think about what my ancestors’ lives and experiences were like.

My story, “Marusia and the Monster,” is based on the Russian fairy tale “The Fiend.” I originally came across this story in Forests of the Vampires: Slavic Myth. In the original tale, a young woman named Marusia meets a handsome, wealthy, charming man who wants to marry her. But, as is often the case with fairy tales, there’s more to this mysterious gentleman than meets the eye.

Fairy tales were often used to convey lessons, and the main lesson in this one is: do your research and don’t let the handsome stranger sweep you away. 🙂 I started writing the story from Marusia’s point of view, but kept getting stuck, mostly because she was so passive. For example, here’s how things go the night she meets the stranger.

“Marusia, sweetheart!” says he, “would you like me to marry you?”

“If you like to marry me, I will gladly marry you. But where do you come from?”

“From such and such a place. I’m clerk at a merchant’s.”

Then they bade each other farewell and separated.

I finally decided to write from the mysterious suitor’s point of view, which turned out to be a lot more fun. I changed a couple things around, like making the suitor a woman, and I set the story in a little beach town in Mexico loosely based on San Pancho. The setting turned out to be a little problematic, since I then had to take into account Mexican funeral customs, but that also made the story more interesting. And now I know a lot more than I ever expected to about Slavic vampires, and how what they do is a little, well, different than what we’re used to. 🙂

Announcing the Wild Magic bundle!

There’s the real world…
…and then there are our worlds, secret, wild, and free.

We can’t remember when we first noticed magic.

Oh, sure. When we were kids, we played pretend and imagined we were powerful sorcerers, clever tricksters, and subtle witches. But then we got older, and we told everyone that we’d grown up and were too old for that stuff now. How much we wanted to be like the adults!

But then the enchantments of adulthood grew thin. We may not like to talk about it, but we know it’s true: all the things we truly needed to learn in our lives, we learned as children, as dreamers. We learned what it was like to be stand up for what we believed in…and what it was like to be punished for it. We learned how to fall in love…and how to be rejected by our first crush. We got up to mischief…and hurt someone we shouldn’t have.

And we knew what it was like to be filled with wonder at the world.

But adulthood doesn’t last forever. As the enchantments of adulthood finally grew as thin as a haze in the sky, we began to see magic again.

Here and there.

In the small things—and sometimes in the big things when we needed it most. We vowed to protect it, to nurture it, and to visit it as often as we can.

The Wild Magic bundle holds ten volumes of the magic. Ten books about what we find after we have passed through the illusion that we can live without wonder in the world, and come out the other side.

Pack your bags, put on your good walking shoes, and make sure you bring plenty of water. We’re going out into the wilderness, and who knows when we’ll be back?

The Books

In Anthea Sharp’s Marny, Marny Fanalua meets an entrepreneur who is opening an all-ages hangout where he plans to share the incredibly realistic simulations he’s created from the game of Feyland. He doesn’t realize what he’s done is damaging the boundaries between the human world and the dangerous Realm of Faerie, but Marny does—and she knows they must act before it’s too late.

In A Gamer’s Wish, by Tao Wong, Henry Tsien has been living the quiet life of a mundane mortal until he stumbles upon a magical ring which contains an ancient jinn resides. Henry wishes for magic, and stumbles into a world of adventure and a hidden magical world that is more banal and wondrous than he could ever imagine.

The New Strawberry Princess, by C. Beth Walker & Ezekiel James Boston, takes us to a world of influencers, icons, multimedia stars…and magic. Repo woman “Mindy” Jones discovers Strawberry Sherry’s magical flavor profile in an abandoned car rental. Striving to help, Mindy dives headfirst into a secret world beyond her wildest dreams.

In Christine Pope’s The Witches of Wheeler Park, Jake Wilcox has a mission: to locate any witches or warlocks born outside established witch clans and make sure they have a safe place to develop and nurture their magical talents. But he may have found more than he bargained for in Adara Grant, a young woman whose extraordinary gifts put her—and the entire Wilcox clan—in grave danger.

In Melissa McShane’s The Smoke-Scented Girl, promising young magician Evon Lorantis is stumped by a mystery: a rash of spontaneously occurring fires, hotter than any natural force can produce. He tracks down the rogue magician behind the fires…a woman using magic to prosecute justice on her own terms.
Leslie Claire Walker’s Angel Hunts takes us to a world of angels, assassins, and magic. The Order of Assassins Night Sanchez betrayed finally tracks her down. But there’s something even more dangerous she must fight…if she can own her blood-drenched past and face the memory hidden deep within her mind.

DeAnna Knippling’s A Shrewdness of Swindlers takes us back to 1929. At the Honeybee’s Sting, a speakeasy in the basement of a laundry, a group of unusual figures meets to discuss the past—and perhaps some possible futures. Ten short stories take place along a long, dark night where nothing is what it seems, and the best way to tell the truth is to lie.

In T. Thorn Coyle’s By Moon, Selene feels overwhelmed by life, and just wants to live in the shadows, but their Goth club friends are dropping like flies. Something is stalking the community, but whom? Or…what?

In Rosemary for Reversal, by Jamie Ferguson, forty-one-year-old Laney Gibson has a special talent: she knows when to introduce people to each other. She’s kept this a secret her entire life, and is happily focused on getting ready to open the herbal apothecary in Boulder, Colorado that she’s dreamed about since she was a kid. But when her cousin Shannon shows up for a short visit and announces that Laney is a witch, things start getting complicated…

What if you could smell magic—or go to a bar and get a shot of magic to go with your cocktail? Will an aging sorcerer’s last pupil ever learn anything? And what could possibly go wrong when a pair of witches enter the local chili cook-off? Set your cauldron to bubbling, and enjoy the fifteen short tales in the anthology Magicks & Enchantments!

The Wild Magic bundle

This bundle is available for a limited time at StoryBundle.com/Fantasy.

Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of the purchase price to the charities Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now!

Happy Spring!

Spring is here, my crabapples are blooming, and I’m fully vaccinated and on Saturday got to visit with my family in person and without a mask for the first time in over a year! 🙂

Since my last post Jasper had surgery, which was stressful and scary—but it went amazingly well! He had a mass on his liver, and the day of surgery the vets did a CT scan and found something in one of his lungs that was so tiny it hadn’t shown up on the X-rays. We paused everything and spent the next week talking with multiple vets and fretting about what to do. We decided to take out both things in the hope that they weren’t related. And they weren’t! We got so lucky—if it hadn’t been for the benign thing on his liver, we wouldn’t have even known about the thing in his lung until it was too late. Hooray!!!!!

While all of that was going on, I was wrapping up the last bits for Fresh Starts, the first ever Pikes Peak Writers Anthology. Lou J Berger and I co-edited all of the stories, I formatted the book, Jenny Kate edited the poems, and Jenny and Kathie Scrimgeour handled marketing. Josh Clark, one of our authors, designed the cover.

And check out this awesome quote about the anthology!

“FRESH STARTS bursts with wonderful stories that showcase exciting new literary voices! Very highly recommended!” –Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of V-WARS and INK

Pulling all that together was a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. Lou and I went through all stories, memoirs, and non-fiction and narrowed the 200+ manuscripts down to 23. Lou then took on the heroic task of first editor for all but the two manuscripts I handled. We went through multiple rounds of edits, and while that took a ton of time, I really enjoyed working with Lou. Co-editing is a pretty big task to do together, and it was great to see how compatible we are. We might even collaborate on another project in the future!

Speaking of editing, I also edited and published a new anthology on my own: Magicks & Enchantments. I’ve wanted to put this one together for a while, but between the pandemic, my day job, and the time I spent on Fresh Starts, it took longer than planned to get this out. But now it’s finally published! It’s the first issue in a new anthology series, and the plan is to publish one issue/year, which is the same thing I’ll be doing for the Haunted anthology series.

I’m trying to be careful with how many anthology projects I commit to so I can make progress on writing novels. I’ve got two more anthologies in the works right now, and hope to get those wrapped up and published soon. I’ll also have a new novel out in June. It doesn’t have a title yet, so hopefully I can come up with one I like. 🙂 It’s been extra hard to find time, so while it’s great that I beat my personal record and hit 14 meetings/day at the day job multiple times, I’d much rather spend my evenings writing than working.

Here’s a sample from “Diamond Betty,” my short story in Magicks & Enchantments.

I leaned against a pillar of marble, tucked a stray curl behind my ear, and took as deep a breath possible given the ridiculously tight corset I wore. I rummaged through my beaded satin handbag, pushing aside the tiny, ribbon-wrapped spells I’d prepared ahead of time as I pretended to look for something—but I was really watching my target out of the corner of my eye.

Elizabeth Mercy Lévesque—or, as she was known here in Denver, Colorado, Diamond Betty—stood in the center of the mezzanine of the opera house, light glinting off the giant blue diamond that was the centerpiece of her necklace. Her flame-red hair stood out against her ermine opera cloak like a splotch of wine on a white linen tablecloth. She held a flute of champagne in one hand; her other hand rested on the arm of her new husband, Cornelius Montgomery. Betty said something I couldn’t make out from this distance, and then tossed her head back with a laugh like the pealing of bells. The crowd of well-dressed, well-coiffed, and well-to-do ladies and gentlemen surrounding her joined in, a few giving soft, polite claps.

Cornelius started a silver mining company right after he left the Union Army, invested in real estate and other mining holdings, and by the mid-1870s he was worth well over five million dollars. He’d met Betty in Leadville. She’d been part of a traveling theater troupe, a singer, or perhaps a seamstress; no one seemed clear on exactly what. There was, however, no doubt about what had happened next: Cornelius left his wife of twenty-seven years, set up extravagantly appointed hotel suites in both Leadville and Denver for Betty, and began what turned into a two-year battle to get a divorce his wife. Somewhere along the way he’d acquired an elaborate necklace studded with diamonds and sapphires, with a large, dark blue diamond pendant; Betty had worn it at their lavish midsummer wedding a few months earlier. The newspapers said the necklace cost close to $100,000.

I’d come here for the necklace. Not because of how much it was worth, but because the blue diamond contained a demon.

—from “Diamond Betty,” in Magicks & Enchantments

Happy Spring!!!