Witchtober – Clock

Today’s witch is brought to you by the prompt Clock. Don’t forget to check out the other short stories.

There are some who say a clockwork heart does not beat, but I beg to differ.

As it has every day for the past seven (or eight) hundred years or so, the clock tower overlooking Full Moons Fields roars to life six times when the early morning hour strikes. A deafening gong, followed by two seconds of silence as the pendulum swings, then another gong as the clapper smashes into the other side of the bronze bell. Ropes sway up and down, trembling with the force of the sound.

I stand before the great clock face overlooking the east, watching the sun creep over the distant, gray horizon. I listen to the mechanisms of the turret clock behind me work, the ropes and gears working in tandem to create a semblance of control over such a fickle thing as time. I take a sip of my black coffee, sighing in content. I tuck the end of my quilted scarf back over my shoulder, dipping my nose beneath its warm fabric.

An ice storm rocks the atmosphere outside the tower, but the magick lining the glass face and metal hands keeps the clock from freezing over. While losing time would’ve been a catastrophe back in my early days, it’s not so much the case anymore. Everyone is in touch with everything, always. From the time, to tomorrow’s gossip and the news. Nevertheless, I’ll keep the clocktower running, same as I always have.

“Are you ready for work?” Lily asks, burrowed in the scarf cast across my shoulder. I chuckle, reaching up to rub the mouse’s forehead.

“Of course, little one.” I whisper to my only companion.

I turn away from the world outside my tower, descending the spiral staircase centered in the building. After several flights, I come to a stop at my workshop, still a few floors above the ground level. Upon entering, the overhead lights flick on, illuminating two halves to a giant space. On one side, neatly organized piles of sheet metal, coils of wire and oil spills reign. Work benches rest against the walls which are covered in pegboard, home to tools of every variety.

Partial droids wait on some tables, while others are empty or contain the opposite, which are nearly complete works. I choose such a table, setting my coffee mug down upon its worn and gouged surface. I remove my wire rimmed glasses and rub my sleep filled eyes, then set them back upon my nose. I immediately return to the problem I was elbows deep in last night, wiring through the vertebrae of a service droid.

Rain and ice slaps the windows and brick dominating the four sides of the tower. The hibernation stations housing my personal droids hum quietly and soft jazz pours from the cathedral style, cherry wood radio that had turned on with the lights. The saxophone and accompanying raspy harmony drowns out the overwhelming hollowness that stems from a certain type of silence.

One born from living alone, perpetually so.

I can’t remember the last time I took on a commission in person, let alone spoke to anyone aloud besides Lily. Another blessing and curse bestowed by technology, the ability for customers to place their orders and request maintenance on the droids or inventions they’ve already acquired, all without me having to actually speak to them. A drop off and pick up area staged at the base of the tower, followed by payment online, eliminates any need for social contact.

“I figured it out in my sleep last night, Lil. I have to reverse the flow of energy, that’s why the fuses were snapping.” I say, squinting as I undo the wires I had spliced together yesterday, then merge them in a new pattern.

“In your sleep, huh? Is that a dragon thing?” Lily teases, scampering down my arm until she hops off my ebony hand and onto the work table. She stays clear of the droid rattled this way and that, her tail twitching as she watches me work.

“No, just a me thing, dear.” I say, even though she already knows that.

A rather loud crash sounds from beneath us, startling Lily and I both. The sound echoes up the stairs in the center of the tower, followed by the slamming of a door and a string of curses. More thunderous destruction ensues and Lily and I exchange a look, then I sigh deeply.


I cross over to the intercom situated near the doorway, making it there at the same time the selth’s hysterical voice comes through the system. “J-Josse! I n-need y-your help, p-please! It’s it’s it’s Floyd!”

“Get into the elevator,” I call down, pressing a series of buttons that activate the elevator system.

I clear off a table and collect the schematics for Floyd’s build, the papers worn by decades of time. I haven’t seen Bob and Floyd directly in years, and no news is good news I suppose, but then again, Floyd was my first. We’ve communicated via email and a long ago video call for Floyd’s annual checkup. Last I knew the droid was in tip-top shape, in good spirits and acclimating well to the move, not to mention living with Ren full time, Bob’s partner.

“Lil,” I start, but my familiar beats me to it, delivering a vial of bright purple liquid. I reach up to where she’s perched on my shoulder, taking the stored magick from her. I scratch between her ears with my forefinger, then she runs down my arm and onto the table. If memory serves me right, Bob has enough of this to last for a few more months, and there’s no way he’d let Floyd run dry, but I’ll get it ready just in case.  The elevator dings and I hurry over, gasping at Bob and Floyd’s state.

The tips of the tentacles framing Bob’s face are blue, his overcoat is soaked through and stiff from the cold. His eyelashes are frozen over, nearly obscuring his onyx eyes. He shakes violently with Floyd’s unmoving form in his arms, his peachy face desperate. I rush over to him, gingerly taking Floyd from him.

“Here, sit here Bob,” I say, then give my attention to the hibernating droid in the corner that is remarkably sleeker and newer than Floyd is. “Barbara, can you prepare us a few cups of root tea, and gather some blankets for our guest?”

The humanoid automation blinks open their soft yellow eyes which matches their metallic golden complexion. Barbara nods, silently leaving her post in search of the kitchen nook occupying the other side of this level. Having food on the same floor as my work space is efficient, as is the hammock I frequently sleep in that neighbors the kitchen.

“You’re foolish, Bob. This could’ve waited until the storm passed.” I chastise, and the selth shoots me glare, like I knew he would. I can still remember the day Bob commissioned Floyd. The selth was young and offered me his life savings, (which was admittedly not very much) and I accepted his bizarre request.

Unlike my other inventions, Floyd was never meant to be of service. He was always intended to be Bob’s companion, his friend. Perhaps that is what made Floyd different. I gave him a higher purpose, thought of him as a person, not a machine.

Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to replicate anything, or anyone, close to Floyd.

“He was doing fine, one minute we were wrapping presents for Ren, and then the next he just … collapsed.” Bob whispers, watching as I gently remove the panel of his friend’s back. As I bring a voltage tester to Floyd’s solar batteries, Bob shakes his head. “I already did that. I wouldn’t have bothered you if I didn’t try everything first.”

I raise a brow at the selth. “And his magick tank?”

“Full, I triple chickled.” Bob says, tentacles slowly coming to life as he takes a mug from Barbara and thanks them. Barbara bows their head, then returns to their station. Bob turns his attention back to me, breaking voice dropping a strained octave. “Is he going to be okay, Josse? What’s wrong with him?”

I adjust my glasses, then remove my scarf and wrap it around Bob’s shoulders. I gently pat his cheek, giving him a smile. “He’ll be fine, just you see.”

Twelve hours later, and Floyd is far from fine.

Bob fell into a fitful sleep in his chair shortly after dinner. He never left Floyd’s side as I essentially tore his friend to pieces, eliminating possibilities as I went. Barbara and Lily reminded me to take care of myself throughout the day, and I ate at regular intervals begrudgingly. As the day has gone on, the more irritated I’ve become.

“There’s something I’m missing,” I mutter, again.

“You need to take a break, you’re looking too hard.” Lily says, from atop a small piece of trim framing the windows, overlooking the ice wrought city.

I rub at my forehead, grimacing. “I can’t. I’ve updated all his systems, refreshed his batteries and injected him with a steroidal dose of magick, checked his wiring. By all rights, there’s nothing wrong with him, so why isn’t he waking up?”

I groan, and my frustration morphs into a low, timbre-filled growl. I only break humanoid form once a year, but the way I’m feeling right now is enough to trigger a wave of scales shifting beneath my soft flesh. I settle for a compromise, joining Lily at the windows and only putting a small amount of distance between Floyd and I.

An eerie calm has washed over the world outside our tower, the silence is deafening after hours of violent precipitation. No one dares to peek outside their homes until the layer of thick ice has either melted away or been taken care of by the local winter crews, lending further to a ghost town atmosphere. Yule lights no longer twinkle over storefronts and homes, evergreen wreaths have been tugged from their lamp posts, haphazardly blown into the streets with other decorations that are no longer festive but depressing.

It hits me, then.

Tomorrow is Yule, and poor Bob and Floyd are stuck here with me instead of at home, enacting traditions with Ren. The thread of guilt weaving through my heart frays even further and I sigh. Is Floyd’s lifelessness due to my old age; my magick isn’t what it used to be?

Even so, he should be turning on and functioning like a, a, … a droid without a consciousness. My magick does nothing but fuel the minds of my creations, and for most, like Barbara, it’s nothing more than a sort of basic intelligence. No emotions or memories, only an awareness and knowledge of the world, and a desire to serve.

My heart thrums oddly in its cage and I rub at my sternum, brows furrowing. The Full Moons bell a few floors above us chants the arrival of the seventh hour, allowing a two second reprieve before it gongs again, then again, and again, thrusting an idea into my chest with each reverberating announcement.

After hours upon hours of hard work, burns to my fingertips, and a near shift into full white dragon form, I gently shake Bob’s shoulder. He startles awake violently, of course, with tentacles flapping and an indignant snort escaping from his hidden lips.

“What’s happened?! Is he alright? How long have I been sleeping?” Bob asks in a whirlwind, jumping up to standing, then stumbling backwards into his chair.

“Calm down, friend, it’s only been a few hours. I think I may have cracked the problem, but I need your help.” I say, gently helping Bob to his feet. A full tapestry of night has fallen over the windows and half the lights in the lab have switched off, providing a warm and cozy atmosphere.

“Okay,” Bob scrubs a hand over his face, nodding absently. “What do you need me to do?”

“Come with me,” I say, leading Bob over to the table I’ve laid Floyd out on, the accordion panels of his metallic chest folded back and exposing a large, hollow chamber.

“Oh, Floyd,” Bob whispers, running a hand over the droid’s forehead. Bob is anything but graceful, however the gentleness he reserves for his friend is astounding. Bob looks up to me, onyx eyes glistening. “Why is his chest open? I didn’t know it could do that.”

I nod sagely, standing by his side. “It took some fabrication, but a necessary step, for this.” I reach into my knitted cardigan’s pocket, retrieving the mechanism that took me far longer to create than the fabrication job on Floyd’s chest. Bob’s eyes widen when I deposit a palm sized, brass anatomical heart into his large, cold hands.

He cradles it like he would a babe, kind and careful.

A tentacle reverently traces over the lattice framework protecting the atriums and ventricles of the heart, then follows up and down the gleaming arteries, across the curve of the aortic arch. Stagnant gears and cogs hide inside the chambers of the mechanism, waiting for something to engage them.

Bob looks up to me and asks, “What is this?”

I smile at the selth, cupping his cheek in my hand. “Something I’ve been working on aimlessly for quite some time, didn’t really know why, but I couldn’t stop thinking about a mechanical heart. Now, I think I know why.”

Bob leans into my palm, staring up at me. “I don’t understand, droids don’t need hearts.”

“Well, Floyd’s not just any automation, is he?” I say quietly, and Bob nods once, tentacles and fingers quivering. “We’ll start it together, alright?”

I blanket Bob’s hands with my own, gently closing his fingers over the device. Magick swells, cascading out of the flesh and blood heart inside my chest, rushing through my veins and arteries until the energy meets the capillaries in my hands. Power seeps into Floyd’s hands, intermingling with his life force before drifting down into the brass. Metal calls to my energy like a magnet, metallurgy has been my specialty since the day magick burst to life in my body.

“All I need you to do is think … Think of all the things that make Floyd, Floyd. Think about how much you love him, how much Ren loves him, how much he means to you.” I say softly, and Bob heaves out a shuddering breath.

“He likes pancakes. Not eating them, obviously, but he likes the smell of them, how the little bubbles burst on the uncooked side. He loves to help Ren in the shop, I think it gives him a purpose, you know? Now that my … side hustle isn’t going on anymore, and besides, all the people love Floyd. Ren says there’s been more customers coming in, all thanks to Floyd’s hospitality and how he arranges the displays a different way every day. He always makes sure the candles in the windows at home are lit at night, and that my coffee and Ren’s tea is ready in the morning. Oh, he has a cat now, too, did you know that? He named it Fluffy Paws, how original, right?”

Magick thrums in time to Bob and I’s heartbeats synchronized to the tick tick tick of the turret clock resting a few levels above us. A tender, soft and not overtly bright white glow surrounds our hands. Bob’s voice cracks and he sniffles, loud and wet.

“More than anything, he’s such a good friend, better than any selth deserves. He rubs my back when I’m sick, and he doesn’t mind that I fall all the time, or that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed or that I have funny tentacles. Floyd is always there for me, no matter what.”

Something clicks in my heart, and I whisper, “L’hachiyot.”

A plume of thick magick explodes from our joined hands, immediately dousing the entire lab in a white fog. Bob startles and I inhale sharply, waiting for the inevitable crash.

But he doesn’t fall.

He doesn’t fumble the heart.

He doesn’t cry out.

He remains rock steady, for Floyd.

Magick fades and I blink several times, finding Bob doing the same. He shakes in place, hands trembling beneath mine. He opens and closes his mouth, then tries again. “Did it work?”

“Let’s have a look,” I say, because I’m honestly not sure.

Ever so gently, I open Bob’s hands to reveal the mechanical heart.

Not beating at all.

“No, I’ll be home soon my love, I won’t leave you alone on Yule morning. I … I just need a little bit more time with him. Yeah, okay, I will, I’ll see you in a little bit.”

Bob’s murmured words of comfort seep from the kitchen and into the silent lab, where I sit beside Floyd’s body, alone. I sigh, staring at the heart nestled into Floyd’s chest. I had thought maybe it wouldn’t beat until it was in his body, but even after connecting the organ to the necessary systems, it rests quiet and cold in the corpse of Bob’s friend, of my first creation. I never had children, but Floyd is close enough to a descendent that my heart aches.

“How did I fail you, dear friend?” I murmur, caressing Floyd’s metallic eyelids. “When Bob came to me and asked for a companion, I must admit that I never expected you. I knew you would be highly intelligent, yes, but … You care for Bob, and really everyone you encounter, I can feel it in your bones. Your feelings … Your memories, emotions, they lay just beneath your surface.”

I’m fairly certain I could extract the intangibilities of Floyd through their metallic complexion, but I won’t desecrate him like that.

“I somehow created exactly what I needed, too, now that I think about it. I needed someone to carry on my legacy, to hold a piece of myself inside them. Seeing Bob with you, it’s more than I could’ve ever hoped to achieve. You have done well, dear Floyd. You have been a loyal companion, a loving friend, much more than most breathing beings are. But,”

My hand rests over his warm heart.

“You can’t leave, not just yet. Your life is only beginning, you have a family to tend to, people who love you and need you. I need you, Floyd. I need you to remind me how much people need people, whether they be metal or flesh.”

Tick Thump Tick Thump Tick

The warm— oh Gods, it’s warm– heart thuds once under my hand.

Then again.

And again.

Have you met the coffee shop owner?

“By chance, do you know where Gleason went? Or, when Thatch will be back? I suppose he’d be the one to talk to about the apartments.”

“Oh? Gleason’s just outside, but Thatch is,” Helena’s iridescent eyes flash to Rhea snorting, then down to the dishwasher digging around in the pastry case, hood pulled down around their face as they struggle to pull out the empty trays, “boss, really?”

The person stands and my heart palpitates in response to my magick’s upcoming symphony. Waves of tightly coiled copper flow from beneath his hood, covering one of his striking oceanic eyes. His mouth’s stuffed full of scone, and mocha icing dots his nose. I bite my cheek in attempts to reel in my magick, a few heads turn in response to the mark on my face glowing brighter than a fucking neon sign.

Hello, witches.

And no, it’s not him. He’s not my person, so stop looking between us with those smug grins.

“Oh, hello again.” He says over attempts to choke down his food. “You guys missed one.” He points to his reddened cheeks full of scone.

“Oh! You already know each other? Why were you hiding then, boss?” Helena asks and the questions in Quentin’s eyes multiply. I rub the back of my neck in anticipation.

“No, he just, I just, we ran each other last night.” Thatch gestures between us hastily with icing covered fingers, curls bouncing. His eyes linger on mine for a second, but he otherwise avoids looking directly at me. “I did not feel the need to bother you again.”

His gaze hardly falls on Quentin, but Quen can’t stop staring at the man with a smile brighter than the sun. Wait.

Wait. Thatch.

Thatch Phantom.

Oh, shit.

And so their shenanigans begin.

Where would you hang out, with the books or in the cafe?

What’s your favorite detail?

Now What?

The ARCs for Phantom and Rook have been sent out and now I’m just twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do with myself. In the meantime, enjoy some art and an excerpt about the magickal bookstore in this urban fantasy that’s releasing on November 2nd. The cover reveal will be mid-October and I’ve secured an audiobook narrator.

“I won’t forget you, I promise.”

“As you can see, everythin’s in working order, buildin’ has been standing longer than I have, but you’ll have that in Old Town. Contracts were just renewed with the kingdom, shipments come once a month and the staff are great, though the mural out front will have to be fixed up. Oh, the latest one I hired, he’ll need some trainin’, but he’s a good one, I promise.”

I follow behind the shopkeeper that doesn’t remember me, but that bothers me not. I’ll visit his mother’s grave tomorrow, not that she would remember me either. Guilt eats away at my insides, I wish I could’ve saw Mrs. Thitwhistle off to the next world. She was the epitome of hospitality, and her son takes after her gentle side. The old man was a down right bastard, but he left when Gleason was just a babe, and it seems the boy turned out more than alright.

I trace along bookshelves, caressing the engraved detailing hidden in the wood. I find no tacky dust there, same as the last time I visited. The town, no, city, has changed infinitely in the last eighty years, but Thitwhistle’s hasn’t changed a bit. Most of Old Town is the same as it’s ever been, but especially here.

“It’s perfect,” I say, smiling down at the katan.

Pride lifts Gleason’s chin high, he re-ties his mousy hair back and we leave the expansive back end of the shop behind, where aisles upon aisles of books sleep, and enter the cafe section.

The barista counters and refrigerated display cases are centered on a raised, half moon plaza that dominates the head of the cafe. The once white tiles of the dias are painted cobalt and spattered with star dust clouded constellations. Vibrant colors of the night flow beneath our feet, extending into a river that swirls around the raised area and spreads out to blanket the rest of the wood floor in starry clouds.

The lapis astronomy theme accented by gold continues throughout the shop, much different from the earthy tones Mrs. Thitwhistle used, but I think it’s a rather nice touch. The lofty ceiling of the entire place is filled with golden galaxies and meteors, milky ways and dying planets. More paint detailing shows up in random places, the artist’s touch reaches every subtle inch of the room.

Lines of planets along the edge of a table, shooting stars over top of a curving window frame, explosive golden bursts of light that make my heart ache.

Curtains drape along each of the unique round windows facing the street, which are quite a few. The heavy, royal blue fabrics are embroidered in simple gold along the edges and match the upholstered lounge chairs and couches nestled by the fireplaces. Dual hearths rest on the east and west sides of the room, accompanied by chess boards, small tables to eat, and the furniture which the college kids are currently taking advantage of. Enormous groups congregate around both roaring fires, laughter rolls through the gossip and small talk thickens the warm atmosphere.

Thitwhistle’s feels like someone’s grand study open to the public rather than a bookstore, complete with coffee beans and scones, and I’ve never felt more at home. The crowd is equal parts magickal beings and humans, young, old and everything in between. There are a few older folks tucked into a corner, eyes crinkling and steam curling around mugs which hide their smiles. 

A set of half shifted werewolf pups tug on their mother’s sleeve, begging for the ‘Monster Hot Cocoa’, complete with candy and whip cream on top. She rolls her eyes good naturedly, in humanoid form, then orders three of the drinks and half a dozen donuts for the bus ride to Full Moons Field.

“Scone?” Gleason asks from my side, patiently watching me take in the scene with a sly smile on his slightly creased face. Half-Katan don’t live as long as their magickal parents usually do, but a couple hundred years all the same.

I reach down and take it from him, then bring the pastry to my nose and inhale deeply. Mocha and walnut. I glance down at Gleason with a wicked smile, despite myself. “You do remember me.”

Gleason flushes, then tucks a strand of escaped hair behind his softly pointed ear. “Indeed, but I must admit, I thought ya’ were just a childhood fever dream at first, but seeing you here now, that’s not true, is it?”

That’s how most people describe their memories of me, the blurred edges of a dream that fades the harder they try to remember. It doesn’t hurt when old friends, acquaintances at best really, forget me. I’ve long gotten used to the feeling of perpetually being alone, but my heart aches in an unfamiliar way.

Bells ring when the door paned with colored, patchwork glass opens. The nightlife of the Old Town meets my ears the moment he opens it, but Gleason abruptly stops in the doorway. I halt in time so I don’t step on his heel and his wide eyes catch my attention.

Gleason presses a hand to his chest and takes one small step at a time, staring reverenterly at the front of the store. “That kid,” he whispers breathily, and it’s not until I’ve joined his side again that I find what he’s looking at.

The once crumbling storefront has been restored to beyond its former glory. The faded mural which held a portrait of Mrs. Thitwhistle hauling two armfuls of books over her broad shoulders has been painted over. A mural of the solar system, with the unique bookstore itself as the center of the universe, stretches from one end of the storefront to the other. The family sigil of the Thitwhistle’s hides in the stardust of a galaxy, along with the words, ‘Knowledge is Life.’

Standing tall in the center of the tremendous round, two storey building is the paned door we came through, flanked by the mishmash of round windows on either side. The same gold and blue color palette from inside the bookstore inspires the mural and trim. The paint shimmers underneath the lamplights lining the street, smooth against the cobbed surface. Underneath a window, I notice a decent sized canvas that matches the mural.

I kneel before it and brush a thumb over the artist’s signature done in white, indecipherable, but my heart skips all the same. I take the canvas and offer it to Gleason, but he’s caressing the miniature bookstore floating on a cloud of stardust. His fingers settle on the family sigil, then he clears his throat, glancing sideways at me.

“Shit like this makes me want to stay.” Gleason huffs out a laugh, then gently takes the canvas from me and studies it. “Kid down the street, he’s the one who did all the artwork on the inside over the past few years, and now this. Always when I’m not looking, won’t take any money for it. ‘He’s bored’, he says. Agh, fuck, sorry.” Gleason wipes his wide nose with his flannel sleeve, sniffling.

“Don’t fret, tears bother me none. Good for the soul, I say.” I pat his shoulder and he nods. The streets have begun to thicken, patrons move past us to enter the bookstore, waving to Gleason as they do.

He nods to them, rallying himself once we’re alone again. “I want to see the world. Took me so fuckin’ long to even think about it. ‘What would mama say?’, you know? She always said this place was enough, and it is, but … I want more. I want to go on adventures, Mr. Phantom, that’s why I want to sell. Silly, isn’t it? Leave this behind for some fantasy, at my age.”

I stare directly into his eyes. “Doing what you love isn’t silly. I admire you, Gleason, and I think you should do it. And I’m not just saying that because I want your bookstore, but because I think your mama would want you to. As long as you don’t forget to visit, of course. I can hear her saying it now.”

I gesture dramatically before us and he chuckles, eyes brightening. “You’re a devil, Mr. Phantom. Alright, let’s sign some paperwork.”


Look at what I have…

After spending all day on maps and poring over everything once more, I finally put together the first bit of Phantom and Rook for my newsletter peeps to check out.

We’ve got three maps, a language and magical race section, a prologue and three chapters. If you’ve been on the fence about joining the Advanced Reader team for my latest queer urban fantasy, then this is the perfect chance to see if it’s for you.

In these chapters you’ll meet the main characters and a friend group with no boundaries, not to mention the meet cute that’s second hand embarrassing for all of us. If you need a laugh and something to warm your cold heart, then this will definitely do the trick.

I’ll be sending the email with this short bit out first thing tomorrow along with the full version of this beautiful art done by @gagakumadraws on TT and IG, one of many pieces I’ve comissoned from them for this book.

Cozy Gay Fantasy

“Oh I’ll just write a cozy gay fantasy with found family, something quick and easy.”

100,000 + words later.

This End is near and I can’t believe what this story has become and how many people love these two already. I literally wrote down ‘festival thief’ on a napkin, an idea to one day pursue in between my steampunk books.

The ARC forms are up and more art is in the works, not to mention possibly an audiobook. If you want to sign up for an eARC you can do that here.

Arlo and Thatch

His eyes slowly open and he looks into my soul. “Who are we to turn away from what we’re made for? No matter how much it hurts.”

I answer him the only way I know how, because words are not enough.

    I wrap myself around him and dive into his parted lips, he closes the distance and hoists me into his arms. My nails drive into his back and he moans into me, exhaling magick and lust. “Sorry,” I murmur, but he shakes his head.

    “You can’t hurt me, but you can try.”

    Something is different about the way we touch each other now. Last night was reverence and memorization and love. But this, this is different.

The Boys are Back

Arlo Rook ‘Hedge Witch Extroadiaire’

Arlo Rook has decided it’s time to move out of Garren Castle, home for orphans of all races, magical or not, at 100 years old.

It’s not the first time he’s left home, but after a setback that landed the Hedge Witch in the hospital a year ago, he ended up right back at square one. But now he’s ready to strike out on his own, despite his friend’s worries that he’s not ready for the ‘real world.’

Then, he crashes into a mess of copper curls and bright eyes, sending apothecary goods and his life into a chaotic mess. Thatch is a mysterious and incredibly wealthy benefactor of Levena, only spoken of but never seen. He requests a night of Arlo’s company and a tour of the city, which Arlo immediately declines.

But that’s not the last time they see each other, and it certainly wasn’t the first. Arlo doesn’t remember him, no one remembers Thatch after he visits, but Thatch never forgot the Witch with a familiar mark on his face.

Thatch Phantom ‘The Scarlet Illusionist’

Thatch Phantom is an immortal, the last of his kind and perpetually bored. When he’s not closing inter-dimensional rifts and corralling demons, he’s visiting his favorite city of all, Levena. Centuries ago, when life was particularly dull, he set up a scavenger hunt for a starving village, providing them with a year’s worth of supplies.

He anonymously returned year after year, upping the ante and providing less practical things, as the village had become a city and was wealthy beyond belief. Festivals were thrown in his honor, and have continued every year since. Hundreds of years later, The Game is still put on by the fabled ‘Scarlet Illusionist’, but no one has figured out who blesses them with the puzzles.

Once again, Thatch is listless and has decided to throw a wild card into this year’s Game. Whoever discovers him will win one wish of their choice, no restrictions. Aside from the obvious, such as no falling in love, murder or resurrection.

What he didn’t anticipate was crashing into the one person whose soul mark flares like a beacon when Thatch is around, teasing the immortal with the one thing he wants most.

Someone to call home.

What follows is a wild chain of events filled with magical coffee shops, villains with vendettas against cheese makers, moving tattoos, grand puzzles, and second chances at love, and life.

Thank you to my artist and friend, Henni Eklund, for bringing to life these two chaotic disasters, along with everything else you do for me. Arlo and Thatch are just as I imagined them and I cannot wait for you to all to experience the joy that is grumpy witches and sunshine immortals.

If you’re interested, I currently have ARC signups up until September. You can find it at the top of my linktree.

Fists and Boots and Elbows and Knees

WIP Wednesday from Phantom and Rook (cw: fictional violence)

    I grin wildly at Leon despite the warmth pouring from my nose and the pain riding my body. “You’re the problem, Leon. Not me. Quit being a coward and take me right fucking now then, prove it that you don’t want me, because you know what? I. Don’t. Believe. You.”

    Leon’s hard, furious expression doesn’t change when we charge each other at the same time.

    I remember now.

    We didn’t use magic.

    We used fists and boots and elbows and knees.

    We beat each other to an inch of our lives, slinging blood into the water where it intermingled with the tears of one unnamed friend and the blood of another.

    I lost a tooth, that’s when that happened, and I broke his arm. Snapped it right in fucking half.

    But then  … oh yes, then he cheated.

    He restrained me with dark and frigid magick, power I didn’t learn to overcome until fifty years later when we met again, for the last time.

    The world was closing in and I thought I heard boots pounding against the earth, but I gave up. I decided if the way I was meant to go was at my lover’s hands at the end of a hard fought battle, then so be it. Tragic, but romantic.

    But then, the sun overtook him and there was so much blue as the world caught fire.

And that’s when I crashed into him.

And that’s when I crashed into him, or he crashed into me, rather.

Paper bags launch into the air. Glass jars loaded with herbs and paint rain down around me as my ass plummets towards the ground. I brace myself and throw my arms back, slamming my eyes closed, but … I don’t make an impact with the stone. Instead, I find a thick arm around my waist and a scowling pair of eyes that can’t decide if they want to be green or brown.

Air whooses out of me and time stops as I stare deep into his eyes, right down to his soul, one that clearly does not remember me but calls to my heart all the same. It stings more than I thought it would. I briefly give the rather pissed off barn owl circling above us a moment of attention, then I look back down to his face. He’s changed immensely since the last time we met. Dimples and laugh lines have been replaced by hard set creases of worry and irritation.

Not that I would need a second confirmation, but the dark spash of a birthmark along the right side of his severely angled jaw is present, flaring the same bright gold as the first time we met. His cheeks are soft, flushed and partially hidden beneath waves of black falling from beneath a knitted beanie, he’s hiding. He blinks once, black lashes sweep across his cheeks and catch the lamplight.

And just like that, time marches on.



Look at them!

The hobo immortal and grumpy witch are here in all their glory, thanks to Henni Eklund.

Arlo and Thatch are from Phantom and Rook, a book of mine that’s releasing in late November and is endlessly hilarious, angsty and full of second chances, no matter how old you are.

I’ve got the blurb up on my site, a cover artist commissioned and potentially a narrator who fans of TJ Klune’s work will know. I have a ton more art commissioned of these two, so be prepared for sweet and spicy. 🥰🥵

Idiots in Love

Low Time Villains and Cheesemakers

I should be thinking about my new job, not Thatch.

I can’t help it, every time I pass by a bustling storefront I want to point out cool shit to someone who’s not there. Someone I really don’t know, no matter how much it feels like I do.

How much it feels like he’s … everything that was ripped out of me a long time ago.

A shiver runs down my spine and I casually look around. A selth follows behind me from a distance, his overcoat’s collar turned up and doing nothing to hide what he is. His pure onyx eyes dart away when he catches me looking and the tentacles dangling from his star snout dance with agitation.

“Fuck off, Bob.” I snarl, quickening my step.

Bob doesn’t fuck off.


I’m not exactly sure where I came up with the idea for Bob and the cheesemaker who’s done him wrong, but it’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written.

Ok, no, that may be.

Auntie’s Here

An excerpt from the upcoming novella Princess of Terra. This is a Dark Fantasy with WLW romance, this excerpt may contain massive amounts of angst and mature themes such as discussing death.

I have always admired my ability to swiftly change from gown to riding pants, just because I’m on an adventure doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice style.

My crown is hidden in the bag upon my back, wild coils of hazel ride the wind as I canter down the familiar trail through the backwoods of Terra. The strongest rays of the mid morning sun bounce off my toned jade arms and I throw my head back, reveling in the warmth of freedom and the smooth gait of the mare between my legs.

It’s not often I’m relieved of my royal duties, but holidays prove excellent to escape the stifling life of Princess. I spend every one I can at Panrauth and Weylin’s place, but I wasn’t able to visit during Ostara. The twin’s presents keep my crown company, along with a note for Pan.

Maybe he’ll listen this time, he’s had enough time to play house.

I can’t do this anymore.

We weave between trees and giant mushrooms, Fiona’s strong back end launches us over a felled tree eaten away by termites. I’ve raised this mare since she left her mother, and I’m not sure if there’s anyone else who knows me like she does. As we approach the end of our unmarked path I gently tug on Fiona’s reins, bringing her to a trot, then eager walk. Despite running on and off for miles, she shows no signs of slowing. I pat her muscled neck, my hand comes away with sweat and horse dander. “Easy girl, we’re almost there.”

Foglehollow is a mediocre village of cottages and small-time farmers who specialize in fiber animals. Most of the thread, yarn and other textile goods in Terra come right here, from the High Fae hiding away in the deep forest. Wild Fae live here as well, but that’s as diverse as it gets. Nothing like the melting pot of Beakglen I sneak away to every once in a while. I debate on visiting there today, but my gut tells me not to stray too far from home, not today.

Sometimes when I lay in bed at night, hypothesizing the possible day I will have to rule in my brother’s place, I think about all the things I would do differently from my father.

Females are treated better in Terra than Sylvan, we have autonomy and freedom, but we’re still caged. Expected to bear children and keep our mouths shut, allow the males to make all the decisions for us. Be a good wife. A good girl. To this day, my father will not allow me in a council meeting. My education is not something he cared for, but he also didn’t stop me from hiring my own tutors and learning everything I could about our world, our people.

There are many gaps in the history books, and I want to know why.

I dismount Fiona at the hitching post outside of the gathering hall centered in the village, leaving her reins loose as I know she won’t go anywhere. Fiona drinks from the clean trough and I wipe my dirty hands on my breeches, then adjust my pack. Dirt paths, wildflowers and busy villagers greet me as I make my way through town. I dutifully visit the spinnery and check on the progress for tonight’s tapestry, then check in with the greenhouses at the edge of town, ensuring their flower crowns are weaved expertly. A hollow excuse to visit Foglehollow, wagons full of goods are already loading up in preparation to make this afternoon’s trip to the Great Tree. If anything’s gone wrong at this point, there’s nothing that can be done about it now.

But, I need something. I can’t just go where I please without an excuse.

Sometimes, when I lay in bed at night, hypothesizing the possible day I won’t have to rule in my brother’s place, I think about all the places I would go.

I shove my hands in my pockets and wander into the woods past the greenhouses, admiring the change in foliage as I travel deeper into the forest. A nasty feeling tugs my heart and I look around, ears perked, but find nothing. I debate on turning around, but instead I stand there for a good while, face turned to the sky and eyes closed. When I decide I’m alone, I start walking again.

The ground beneath me changes to thick moss and I take my boots off, practically falling over in my hurry to kick them off. I sigh as the pillow of green welcomes my tired soles, then giggle when the moss grows beneath my feet. I take a few steps, looking over for my shoulder to watch the moss I stepped on grow to twice the size of the rest. When I see that small violets sprout as well, I continue on my journey with a soft smile.

My toes dig into the earth and time slows as my ears twitch, full of bird song and frogs calling. Before slowing down I casually look around once more, then my journey halts before an enormous Blackwood tree. Not as tall as my Tree, but just as wide. Smooth charcoal black bark covers the trunk and its fat branches laden with round, serrated blue leaves the size of my head. There is no tunnel in the ripples of black and gray, nor is the tree hollowed out for a town like how Arca Navi resides inside the Great Tree.

I walk around the tree with reverence, painted fingernails trailing its magical body, then inhale sharply when my hand rests on a subtle scar marring the eastern side of the trunk. After one last glance and shiver down my spine, I mutter the password and open a door into Panrauth’s illusion.

I step into the circle of heaven Panrauth has concealed with the illusion of a dangerous Blackwood, trees deeply rooted in evil superstition. No one dares cut one down, or even get near the things. My lungs relax the moment I cross the invisible threshold separating forest floor from knee high grass. The illusion stitches back together behind me with a familiar hum, the barrier to the outside world appears to be nothing more than unending hay fields on this side.

The girls are old enough to know better, now.

But they also know better than to risk stepping past the white picket fence before me, the decorative barricade encircling their small, circular plot of paradise.

“Auntie! Auntie’s here!” Estienne calls, quickly followed by the smaller twin, Mirah. I open the gate, then latch it behind me and sprint across the hay field littered with coneflowers of the yellow, purple and white varieties. I don’t miss the fact they’ve acquired a few sheep since the last time I was here, and a got.

I meet the twins at the latticed gateway nestled into another fence, but this one is overtaken by ivy and other crawling greenery that only sweeps around the cottage and main yard. I take them both into my arms, squeezing tight which causes them to giggle. Estienne climbs onto my back, pushing my bag up to my shoulders so she can nest into my hair, Mirah makes herself at home on my wide hip.

“My chicks! You’ve grown so tall. Tell me, what mischief have you been causing for Papa?”

“Enough to last me a lifetime.” Panrauth chides with a grin as he stands from the garden beside the cottage’s front door, dirt covering him from fingertip to bare elbow, knees to feet. I smile at him despite myself, he looks happy as ever. His tawny skin is glowing, his emerald eyes are invigorated with the brightest of fires. I worry his constant upkeep of the illusion will be the death of him, but he’s never wary. I suppose since he’s not taking care of the land, he has more power to himself.

I sigh as I set the girls down at his feet, the two sides of myself are at war already.

The moment my arms are free he sweeps me up into a bone crushing hug. I stand on my tip toes and bury my face in his neck, my hair covers his face as tears prick my eyes. Apparently I needed a hug from my brother more than I thought.

“Hey, Pan.”

“Hey, Vi. What’s wrong?”

“I, I just really missed you.” I admit, unwilling to pull away. Luckily his arms tighten and we stand there for a moment, holding the other like the world is about to fall apart. “I want-”

“Viv! Is that you?” Weylin calls, hurrying out of the cottage with paint on her face and a cloth over her shoulder. I pull away from Pan’s shoulder and wipe my face quickly, then embrace the radiant Weylin. “I’m so glad you’re here! We missed you on Ostara.”

“I know, Mother was,” I pointedly ignore Pan’s suddenly intense gaze, “not well, so I stayed behind and haven’t been able to come since. But, I do come bearing gifts!” I sling my pack off and hold it up triumphantly, causing the girls to squeal with glee.

“Oh my, you didn’t have to do that. Well come in, you picked the perfect time. I was just finishing up and putting on some tea. Layroot, right?”

I nod, unable to contain my admiration for the woman who takes everything in stride, always there with a kind word. Her beautiful ebony skin contrasts the simple cream pinafore she’s wearing, the paint splattered dress is layered neatly over a gray tunic. Her sleek black hair is hidden beneath a dyed bandana, leaving her rounded ears and peppered wisps near her temples exposed.

Mirah and Estienne shadow my steps into their home, followed by their father who takes up the entire doorway when he passes through it. The stucco walls are no longer pure white, vibrant murals cover every inch of vertical space. I gasp, hand to my heart as I walk through the open and airy rooms filled with color and of course, more plants.

The living area is Echo Valley.

The dining room is Foglehollow.

The hallways are filled with giant mushrooms and aryeh, along with other fascinating woodland creatures and the prints they leave behind.

The small library Panrauth has claimed as his own doubles as the girl’s classroom, where their father teaches them the ways of our people, and Weylin’s people. So, it’s only fitting that this room is the most detailed. A map of Iverbourne is vividly splashed across the back wall, the text beautiful but clean, easy to read.

Letters of the alphabet border the upper walls, followed by the first twenty numbers and painted in the same clean, elegant script as the map font.

On the wall behind Panrauth’s desk, opposite the map, is the most beautiful painting of them all. I step around his desk littered with papers, maps and quills paired with messy ink bottles, then place my hand to Panrauth’s family memorialized in paint.

“Viv?” Panrauth asks from the doorway to the study, alone. I startle at his voice, turning on my heel to face him. He steps forward to wipe tears off my cheeks, ones I didn’t know were falling so freely. “You are crying. Talk to me.”

I slam my head onto his chest, taking hold of his dirtied button up shirt and suspenders. “I want you to come home. Please, come home, Pan.”

“Viv … “ Panrauth starts, but I shove him backwards the moment I hear his pity.

“No, you can’t Viv me on this. I need you! Mother is going to die if she doesn’t see you again, and Father, he’s running our court into the ground! If you don’t come home, you won’t have a place to hide at all. I’m telling you, we need you to take your place.”

Panrauth runs both through his beard, agitated but unwavering. “This is why you came?”

“You’re not even listening to me, are you?”

“No, I am not. The girls aren’t ready yet. I told you after the Spark-”

“Oh come on, you don’t even know if that’s going to happen for them, they are only Half-Fae! You can’t even be sure if having magic will protect them, and why does it even matter? If you’re High Lord, you can change the laws.”

“You’re right, but I can’t change people’s hearts, not that quickly. I can make it illegal to discriminate, I can allow marriages, but can you guarantee there won’t be Traditionalists out there who will want to retaliate, hurt my family? Or others who decide to come out? I know this is hard for you, but trust me, Viv. Once they have magic and are able to defend themselves, I’ll come home. But not until then, I won’t risk it.”

“And Weylin? How will you protect her?”

Panrauth sighs, lowering his head. “Weylin has never needed my protection, but she has it until the day I stop breathing. She, believe it or not, agrees with you. She calls me a coward.”

I blink, surprised he’s admitting this to me. I groan, then step closer and take him by the shoulders. “I don’t think coward is the right word for it.”

“Oh? Overprotective asshole better?”

I chuckle darkly. “Perhaps neurotic fits better.”

He presses his forehead to mine and I sigh, the weight of the world temporarily lifting. Before he fell in love with a Human, it was him, Aiden and I against the world. Now, we’re all treading water. “I’m sorry Viv, but I can’t leave, not yet. Not today. Let me talk to Weylin, and … I’ll see what I can do. Maybe you’re right, both of you.”

“Yeah? Don’t say that unless you mean it, Pan.”

“I’m saying it.”

The air in the room inflates to an intolerable pressure, my heart nearly bursts as I attempt to corral my magic. His eyes and my own are full of tears and Aether, our faces are cast in a joined earthly glow. Fae aren’t meant to live alone. Kinship, family, love, we need it just as much as anything else.

“Come on, let’s get some tea and do presents.”

“About that, their birthday isn’t for another month.”

I shrug, shoulders heavy once more. “I may not be here. I’m,” I groan, rubbing my face, “I’m supposed to start looking for suitors. Father wants heirs, yesterday.”

Pan balks. “By the fucking Ancients, I, I won’t let that happen.”

I almost say, ‘Yeah, right, you selfish bastard’, but instead I put distance between us and gave him a sad smile, along with two barely spoken words.

“I know.”

The Firthorn family is nestled underneath a willow tree, accompanied by the herd of sheep and singular got that the girls proudly named Marvin. Marvin has great curling black horns, pure white fur that is long enough to catch wind and hide affectionate hand pats. Whereas most got tend to be solitary beasts, Marvin is clingy and constantly chewing at my hazel curls.

“Here, try these.” Weylin offers me a handful of berries that the girls spared us from their fruitful bounty. The rest of the blackberries and a decent haul of wildflowers are currently being woven into Pan’s great beard by the twins. Weylin and I are sprawled out on one corner of the picnic blanket with Marvin now chewing on berries instead of my hair, delightfully drooling all over my shoulder.

Pan is settled on the opposite end, cross legged with a twin standing on either side of him. I pop a berry into my mouth and listen to him tell a Terra myth I’m sure we’ve all heard a thousand times, but the girls laugh and squeal anyway when he gets to the good part. The heat of the day reflects off their new tiaras and they turn faux serious, sternly instructing him to hold still as the braid more wildflowers into his beard. There are more laugh lines and flowers on Panrauth’s face than anything else, and I look away.

“Vivvus,” Weylin says, and I look up to her.

We stare at each other for what seems to be ages, saying everything and absolutely nothing. We’re sitting side by side, legs stretched out. She’s beautiful, just like the day Panrauth first introduced me to her. There is happiness etched into the edges of her wide eyes and lips, and worry crinkled between her thick brows. The bandana is gone, allowing her peppered locks to catch wind freely.

She takes my hand, her calluses rub against my palm as she leans in to whisper in my ear. “No matter what happens, take care of my girls. Do you understand?”

I startle a little, pulling away enough to get a good look at her stern face. “Nothing is going to happen, I promise I’ll keep you safe, all of you.”

She shakes her head, chastising me in a deathly quiet tone. “You can’t make a promise like that and you know it. I’m not afraid of death, Vivvus, only that my children will have to grow without a mother. Pan will miss me, but he’ll go on. Or maybe he won’t, but the girls, they will, and they’ll need you.”

I don’t know what to say. Lying certainly isn’t fitting.

“You’ve given a lot of thought to this, and you still want to go?”

She exhales heavily, watching the girls tackle Panrauth to the ground. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’d rather die brave, then live as a coward.”

Anger crawls up my spine, finding its way out of my treacherous throat. “You’re pretty convinced of something that may never happen. Have you ever given thought to the fact that everything may be fine? Hard, yes, but there is a place for you in the Great Tree, and it’s by Pan’s side. Help me change their minds, show them Humans belong.”

Weylin doesn’t break her gaze from her oblivious family tussling well into the grass surrounding our picnic spot. A few stray leaves break free from thin weeping branches and dance in the air between Weylin and I. “I’ve seen it. Many times. There’s no way to change it.” She says, and it’s far off, hollow.

I squeeze her hand tight, then bring it to my chest. “What are you saying? You have, magic?”

Weylin shakes her head, blinking out of her trance as she focuses on me. “No. Not like you and Pan, I dream though. Ever since the girls, I’ve had these dreams. Vague, abstract and months later I would say, ‘Oh, that’s what that was about’, but never anything as solid as my own death.”

My heart catches in my throat, my mind is blank and I attempt to process what she’s saying. “Does Panrauth know?” I manage.

“Yes, but he doesn’t believe it to be true. Or so he says, but then again, that’s when he started to build the fences. He used to chance it you know, cast glamours on us all so we could visit the town. Ever since that day we stopped talking about my dreams, and we stopped leaving as a family.”

Everything falls into place and I inhale sharply, guilt washing over me.

“I believe you.” I say, although I hate to do it. Weylin chuckles, tears trailing down her full cheeks. “What?”

She stands and brushes dirt off her pinafore, then extends her hand to me and helps me up. “Nothing, I’m just glad you’re here.”

I nod, then pull her into a tight hug. “I’ll do everything in my power to keep you safe.”

We pull away and words dance on the tip of Weylin’s tongue, but then she smiles softly. “I know.”

Panrauth sweeps me into his arms at the white picket gate and I inhale the crisp coniferous scent rolling off him in waves. “Thanks for the new pipe, not as fancy as a tiara, but I’ll make do.”

Before pulling away, I whisper into his neck and squeeze tight. “Happy Birthday, Pan.”

“Thanks, Vi. I’ll be seeing you.”

That’s how it’s always been. Not Goodbye. See you later.

Panrauth is replaced by Mirah and Estienne, my arms full of bouncing black curls and sparkling emerald eyes. I kiss them both on their foreheads, then straighten each of their golden crowns encrusted with small gemstones of varying colors. “Be good, listen to your Ma and Papa. Don’t forget to pray tonight, eat lots of food, have a big fire and howl at the moons.”

“Howling at the moons is not-” Panrauth starts to cut in, but it’s too late.

“Yes, Auntie! When the moon is at its highest, howl with us!” Mirah exclaims.

I grin and cup her cheek, then Estienne’s, veiling the stab to my heart. “Alright, I will.”

Then it’s Weylin and I, and the mountain of grief between us that her family can’t see. Do I comfort her? Tell her she’s wrong? I know what it feels like to be doubted, told your thoughts are nonsense and that you have no power.

But to believe in her, is to believe in her death.

I hug her, then kiss both her cheeks, and her forehead. I murmur a blessing of goodwill into her ear, unable to shake the feeling this will be the last time I see Weylin.

Alive, that is.

Princess of Terra will release on May 31st, 2022, and the ebook will be sent to all newsletter subscribers. Visit the linktree below to sign up and check out other fun things regarding the World of Iverbourne.