Belatedly, I recognize this for what it is. A dance, Calen is leading me into a dance. Stars, when was the last time I did this?
With Arlo, I had told him I couldn’t handle loving and losing him.
My breath hitches, but that’s all the sadness my heart is allowed before Calen quite literally sweeps me off my feet. They are marvelous, erasing my disadvantage that is unfamiliarity with such a simple act as dancing. The notes seem to swirl around us, no—through us— and I laugh. It starts off small and unsure, but then Calen is laughing too, spinning me in circles upon circles in the middle of the kitchen.
Silas calls out over the music, “Don’t break his hip birdie!”
And it goes on and on, the laughter and music and sun.
Sunlight streams in through the colored mosaic of windows overlooking the backyard, casting reds, blues, golds and purples onto our moment in time. Calen’s soft cheeks burst with happiness when Pesto joins in, prancing around us on those little hooves. A breeze moves through the room, bringing with it the distinct scent of wet earth. I stumble to a stop and nearly topple us both over, but thankfully Calen keeps us upright.
Lysander, Felix and Arlo stand just inside the backdoor, bringing snow covered boots and flushed smiles with them. Felix grins wide at me, stands on his tip toes and gives Lysander a kiss on the cheek, then practically throws himself into Silas’ arms. Silas takes it in stride, situating the witch across his lap and burying his face into Felix’s chest.
And Arlo—oh my stars, Arlo.
He’s looking at me like I’m something.
Like I mean something.
Like I exist.
Like this is it, this is ours and he’s mine and I–
I run to him.
How could I not?
It’s like the first day of my new life all over again. I kiss him, and kiss him, and kiss him.
He laughs against my lips, big palms settling on my cheeks. His hands are so cold, but I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. His fingers slide across my jaw, tangling themselves into my hair. Heat courses up my spine when he opens for me, allowing my tongue to find his. The same thought that occurs every time we kiss swims in the background.
Can he feel how much I’ve missed him?
The solid, fast paced rhythm of his heart that matches every beat of mine proudly affirms yes, yes, yes.
Only a couple of weeks left, have you signed up for the Crew of Misfits to get this for free?
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.”
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.
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 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.
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. 🥰🥵
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.
Arlo is trying to murder me. We sit together on a bench, Kitt sits beside me and Quentin is on the other side of Arlo. The massive picnic table is blanketed in red and white plaid, fully crowded as Caspian and Tobias bring over the last of the food from the grill. Our thighs are touching. He’s one of those people who tells stories with their hands, which frequently brush against my back as he waves in the chilled air behind me, or alongside my forearm when his fingers settle on the miniscule bit of plaid between us. He’s smiling, and his eyes shine in this light like I’ve never seen before, gold and emerald specks quite literally dance in irises and he catches me staring for a few seconds too long multiple times. To be fair, I’ve caught him staring at me, too. His leather jacket is gone, resting on the bench between his hip and mine, revealing thick arms adorned with ink here and there. I’ve noticed when someone asks him a question, his fingers tend to find the dragon along his forearm. He’ll briefly sweep over it in one direction, then the other, and that’s all, but he doesn’t ever look at it as he does. Maybe he doesn’t realize he’s doing it at all. The stars are a gorgeous backdrop for the strands of warm lights criss-crossing through Caspian and Tobias’ yard, the night perfectly illuminated for the group of friends I’ve come to know as the ‘Misfits.’ Caspian’s scowl has lessened, but he doesn’t make it a point to talk to me. Quentin is quiet as well, but he doesn’t seem to outright dislike me. Although, his face brightens like the first spring day after a treacherous winter when Arlo asks him how his day was. I listen to those around me chat with content, answering when I’m spoken to but otherwise watch the dynamics unfold with curiosity. Arlo makes sure to give each of his friends attention, but Kitt, Caspian and Quentin especially thrive under it. Lindsey and Kitt have no problem flaunting their relationship, while Caspian and Tobias keep close to each other and hold hands, but not much else. Their children often find their way into Arlo’s lap, and Caspian looks upon Arlo with such fondness I find myself more … jealous, (yes alright I’ll admit it) of him than Quentin. Those looks from Caspian cause Arlo to flush or distract himself with conversation, whereas the plain adoration from Quentin is lost upon Arlo, or it seems that way. He talks to Quentin like he does to every one of his friends. “So, Thatch, have you ever visited during the festival before?” Kitt asks, distracting me from watching Arlo wrestle Marlena off his shoulders. I turn, facing her and Lindsey. “Regrettably, no. But from what I’ve seen thus far, it seems like a grand time, although I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.” Gowan giggles from her seat across from us, as does the gladiola fae she brought with her tonight. Both fae are in full bloom, which I find fascinating. Deep yellow dandelions decorate Gowan’s grassy skin, while soft white gladiolas drift past Iris’ mossy shoulders, her long blue hair curling between the flower heads, leaves and stems with hidden roots. “All the fuss?” Arlo starts, to which Caspian and Kitt simultaneously groan. “Now you’ve done it.” Lindsey agrees, leaning on Kitt’s shoulder and watching me with a conspiratol grin that matches Gowan’s. “Alright, alright. Let’s eat before Lolo pitches a fit.” Caspian says, passing around the platter closest to him. I raise a brow at Arlo. “Lolo?” Arlo glares at me after he passes Marlena off to Tobias. “Don’t even. I’m mad at you.” “What!” He nods solemnly. “This is unacceptable.” I look to Kitt and she puts up her hands. “Arlo is very passionate about the Scarlet Illusionist.” “You’re the one who runs a museum with not one, but two exhibits dedicated to them.” She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.” I chuckle. “Is that the fellow I saw on the banners last night? I must say, whoever designed their outfit is quite … decadent.” “See!” Quentin cries, pointing a potato covered serving spoon at Lindsey, much to Arlo’s approval. The elf scoffs, flipping blonde over her shoulder. “Well I think it’s just right.” I put my hands up. “I didn’t mean any offense! I mean, it’s just–” Lindsey laughs. “It’s alright, we live to pick on each other. If you’re going to be around that one, you better get used to it.” She gestures to Arlo and the autumn breeze nips at my overheated neck. “Yes, well, thank you for the advice.”
While I’m more active on Tumblr with my excerpts, I’m going to start posting some work in progress shorts over here. For today, we have pining, and lots of it.A
Also, sneek peek of a piece I commissioned from the lovely Henni Eklund, one of the artists who worked on the Iverbourne tarot cards.