Got Witches?

Adventures in Levena is a place for all things Phantom and Rook. Short stories and news about upcoming books in the series can be found there, along with all three maps for the world. All short stories are canon and some may contain spoilers, so I recommend reading them after you’ve finished Phantom and Rook.

You can visit here.

The reviews for Phantom and Rook so far are full of good things and I’ve been loving seeing people’s packages arrive in the mail via social media. Over forty copies of Phantom and Rook have been sold in it’s first week, leading to lots of happy tears from both readers and myself.

Don’t be afraid to show off your copy, and all reviews are greatly appreciated, even if it’s stars only, because who has time for WORDS?

Certainly not me.

Goodreads

Goodreads Review

You will just have to read the book to get the humor of it all. Along with all the sass! Oh, I want to keep gushing, but I will give too much away.

There’s MM action and this read represents all sides of the LGBTQ+ spectrum! I loved viewing different dynamics and healthy ones at that! No one caring what you are or are not and everyone being so open. It feels like you came home when you read this book. Honestly, my bags are packed and after I post this review I am gone for Levena. I’m positive one of my many freckles is a Soulmark or maybe I have several? Is that a thing? I have to go find out!

Announcing A Yuletide Special

When Witches Sing is a novella that takes place days after the epilogue of Phantom and Rook, featuring Thatch and Arlo together again in Witch House. I’ll be releasing it around the holidays and all Misfits will receive an e-copy of this novella for free. All good feelings and fluffy romance, low angst and some plot. This will contain spoilers and is intended to be read after the first book.

EMERGENCY BROADCAST

LEVENA EMERGENCY BROADCAST

2:22 AM

OCTOBER 31st


People of Levena,

It has been brought to my attention that the Games in previous years have been subpar, at best. I feel that I owe it to you, the why, for as you all know I pride myself on bringing you puzzles and entertainment of the highest caliber.

I have to admit, I did not put these past decades of Games on myself, atleast, not in an up close and personal sense. Think of it as freezer meals that you pop in the microwave. They’ll do the trick, but they’re unsatisfying. It is not by choice that things have been this way, and I cannot tell you why.

I cannot tell you who I am.

What I am.

Why I’m really here.

But what I can tell you is that I love playing this Game with you, and this year, I’ve concocted one that benefits the both of us.

If we play our cards right, all those questions will be answered, and the most precious treasure will be awarded to the first person who solves the Game.

One wish.

Now, of course, there’s the obvious.

No resurrection.

No striking anyone down.

No forcing people to fall in love.

Ask for anything else, and it’s yours. As long as you solve the puzzle.

Await further instructions, and as always,


Let’s play, my friends.


 -The Scarlet Illusionist

🎃🦉🌌

✨ Two More Days ✨

Check out the mask that Bear Pettigrew made for the Illusionist, isn’t it gorgeous 🥰😍

Witchtober – Glitter

Today’s witch is brought to you by the prompt Glitter. Spoilers for Phantom and Rook.

I’ve officially decided glitter is an asshole.

Witch House is empty, a rare thing these days. I managed to convince Dad–Arlo, that I’m not feeling well, not that I would need much of an excuse to stay home from school. He knows I like going, so if I want to stay home, there’s a good reason.

But I’m not sick.

Oh, my nerves are shot and my glued together fingers shake. That’s only because I didn’t sleep last night and pounded a half a pot of coffee the moment everyone left for work or school. An hour later and the caffeine hasn’t relented, but whatever. 

This has to be perfect.

I stand on wobbling legs, the sensation in my toes long gone from sitting cross legged too long. I hold the banner up, inspecting my work. Excess purple and silver glitter cascades down my front and I frown at the drooping letters. A few of the pasted on, gigantic letters flop to the floor with simultaneous wet slaps, leaving behind a partial message.

‘HA PY B RTHD Y A LO’

“Fuck.” I mutter, blowing out a heavy breath.

“Don’t let Arlo hear you talking like that,” A distorted voice says softly, scaring the fucking shit out of me.

The banner goes flying overhead and I squeak. Magick flares and rattles the paintings on the walls. I inhale sharply and contain my energy before causing a disaster. Again.

Silas tucks his chin into his left shoulder, but instead of the usual loud hum that follows the movement, he laughs. In the few months we’ve been living together at Witch House, I’ve never heard the sound. It’s … probably frightening to anyone that doesn’t know him, but I like it, screechy rasping and all.

“You’re supposed to be at school,” I mumble, hurrying for the banner now cast across the craft table behind me. Before I can crumple it into a ball, Silas’ hand falls on mine.

“Don’t do that,” He says, and I frown.

“It’s not good enough.”

Silas shakes his head. Thick white bangs sweep back and forth across the bridge of his nose, hiding his eyes from me. Another thing Silas doesn’t let the world see. His hair is longer now than when we first met. The near translucent tresses cast well beyond his shoulders as he takes the banner from me. I reluctantly let him have it with a huff.

Silas studies the mess of a banner that I intended to hang in the kitchen downstairs before Arlo and the others got home, but at this rate it’ll never happen. He gently lays the banner down on the craft table, allowing rivers of glue, glitter and panel to flow onto the paint covered surface that hides what was once dark wood. The metal covering his pitch black, wrist to ankle ensemble jingles as he moves. All bracelets and chains, harnesses and necklaces.

He asks, “It’s Arlo’s birthday?”

“Yeah.” I nod, rocking back and forth on my sock covered heels.

Silas’ fingers twitch. “He didn’t say anything.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, well, that’s D— Arlo, for you. He didn’t …” I gesture vaguely, searching for words that won’t betray him. “He didn’t get to celebrate last year, for his centennial. It’s … kind of a big deal I guess, turning a hundred.”

To my surprise, Silas snorts. “So old.”

I blink rapidly. “Did you just … make a joke?”

Silas lifts his head and gives me a look, or at least I think he is. His lips push together like they usually do when he’s not impressed, and he crosses his arms. “I can be funny.”

Right.” I say, unsure what to do now.

“Can I help?” Silas asks, gesturing to the banner. “We can make a new one. You were using too much glue. And glitter. Less is more with these things.”

“Oh,” I say dumbly, not expecting that. It’s not that we don’t get along, we just kind of … exist next to each other. I’m always being weird and breaking shit, he’s always on the outside looking in, aloof but not in an unkind way.

Silas turns away with something reminiscent of a soft chuckle, but to others it could be considered an evil villain laugh. “If we take this downstairs, I can bake and give you directions on how to properly make a birthday banner. Two birds with one stone, as they say.”

Without warning, heat swarms my cheeks and neck upon remembering the cake Silas made for me in the fall. It was really good.

I nod. “Yeah, okay. If you’re sure you want to help, I’d like that.”

It starts with a slow, upward tugging of the corner of his pale lips, but a wide smile lights up Silas’ features. “I want to help.”

Twenty minutes and five trips up and down the stairs later, we’ve set up shop in the kitchen. I was afraid of making a mess in here, and frankly after last week’s debacle with the stove, I try to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. Silas assures me that it’ll be fine, so I leave it to him to clean up any wreckage I leave in my wake, which he agrees to with another smile.

Weird.

While the oven preheats, Silas helps me roll out another length of six inch wide paper on the floor, this sheet a bright pink. We make it long enough to fit the open archway separating the kitchen from the dining room, then Silas suggests we write the message in glue and spread glitter over it, instead of cutting out and individually pasting each letter to the banner.

Why didn’t I think of that?

“Will it have enough time to dry?” I ask, and Silas nods.

“It should. I’ll start on the cake, if you’ve got this.”

I wave him off. “Yeah. Good idea, by the way.”

Silas opens his mouth, closes it, then starts again when he gestures to the banner. “Shouldn’t it say Dad or something like that?”

Heat flushes my cheeks and I shift uncomfortably. “Oh, I don’t … It’s, you know …” I chance a look at Silas, who hasn’t moved a muscle, waiting patiently. “It’s early, isn’t it? Shouldn’t I wait?”

As the words tumble out in a rush, a weight falls from my shoulders. I’ve been wrestling the word Dad farther down my throat ever since Arlo adopted my, not wanting to seem too—

“Says who?” Silas counters, and I scoff.

“I dunno,” I snap, crossing my arms. “Aren’t people supposed to be–”

Silas puts up a hand. “I’m going to stop you right there. Anything involving the words ‘supposed to’ is generally a bad idea. Do you see him as your Dad?”

I nod, grumbling. “But won’t he feel uncomfortable? What if he doesn’t see me as … As his son?” I admit, near quiet and breakable.

“Felix, you are his son.” Silas says, incredibly soft and strained. He extends his hand to me, then retreats. “Don’t worry about it, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” I shrug, unfolding my arms.

Silas dips his head but says nothing, retreating to the inner kitchen where counters and appliances reign. I sigh, then settle on the floor, facing the banner. I carefully write the message in a large, flowing script that I’ve been told multiple times is exceptional, but I think it looks messy.

I take my time like Silas said, laying down one letter at a time in glue, gently spreading glitter over it before going on to the next. I have to blow my hair out of my eyes a few times. I’ve decided to try growing it out and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. While mine doesn’t grow as fast as Silas’ does, it’s long enough to be in the way.

We work in companionable silence and I glance at him a few times, only able to see the top of his head from my place on the floor and the counter island separating us. He appears to be in his own little world. Hair bouncing softly as he enjoys the music that must be blaring in his earbuds now. I do want to know more about him, and maybe become friends, but I have no idea what to say to him. On the bad days when I can’t separate other people’s thoughts from my own, I’ve stolen glimpses of Silas’ mind.

It’s loud.

That’s why I don’t feel so bad for not pursuing conversation and allowing him to take the lead. Or so I tell myself, which sounds better than being the clueless kid everyone sees me as. While I’m not an adult, I’m not a kid anymore either. It’s easier to talk now than it used to be, but not always. I had thought I would’ve grown out of it, but … here we are.

I decide to be a little brave. If Silas didn’t feel like interacting, he wouldn’t have offered to help, right?

“When’s, uh, when’s your birthday?” I ask, head ducked as I work on Arlo’s name.

He doesn’t say anything.

I peek up, finding him standing with his back to me, in front of the oven. I don’t ask again and he doesn’t move, so I go back to work. A few minutes pass in silence, then the gentle thud of Silas’ boots cross the room towards me.

I swallow heavily, pretending that I don’t notice.

But then he sits cross legged across from me, hands gripping his knees. I warily look up through my hair, shaking it out of the way so I can see him better. His back is ramrod straight, head tilted as he watches me. One side of his lips twitches into an almost smile.

“What?”

“You should let me pin your hair back, you’ve got glitter and glue all in it.”

I balk, reaching up to inspect the hair in my eyes, realizing a moment too late that’s a bad idea. I groan, setting down the glue with my other hand. I glare at Silas and he chews on his bottom lip to keep from smiling again. I itch to throw him off, just a little.

“Fine, only if I get to do yours.” I say without a second thought, then am immediately horrified. I’m good at braiding hair, Kleo made me do hers all the time, but Silas doesn’t seem like the kind of person who enjoys being touched.

Silas hums in a short, loud burst, the sound of it reminds me of an aborted laugh. I imagine if I could see his eyes, they’d be widening. He lifts his left shoulder and rubs his cheek on the peak of it, then regards me once more. I never flinch from his movements or noises, and the others don’t either. At least not on purpose.

Silas’ outbursts can be sudden and there’s been a few times when he’s been especially startled. His magick lashes out like my own, breaking things, but it’s always an accident and it embarrases him. So I don’t flinch.

I shrug, picking the glue back up. “I’m just joking. You can … You can fix it, if you want. It’s kind of in the way, I don’t know how you do it. You don’t have to, though.”

Silas scoots back, allowing space between him and the banner. He crooks a finger in a ‘come hither’ gesture. I oblige, leaving the glue behind. My cheeks flush and I sit in front of him, unsure what to do.

“I don’t have any pins,” I say.

Silas reaches into his pants pocket, revealing a handful of bobby pins.

I nod once, giving him a sideways smile. “That’s handy.”

“Do you mind if I listen to music while I do this?” Silas asks, drawing his hand back.

I shake my head, drawing my knees to my chest. “No, you don’t gotta ask. Thanks for letting me know.”

Silas nods, tapping the side of the earbud buried in his hair. His mouth twitches and he doesn’t move, so I close my eyes.

A moment passes.

Then, ever so gently, cold fingers brush against my forehead. I fight the shiver threatening my spine as he twirls a patch of hair, then pins the twist back against my crown. He repeats the process, my hair not quite long enough to be fashioned in any neat sort of way. I’ve never had my hair done before.

I breathe.

And he breathes.

I tilt my head, the subtle sounds of Silas’ music reach my ears. I strain to hear it better.  It must be wicked loud if I can hear the interwoven harmonies of a violin and an electronic beat. Silas doesn’t resume his work and I clear my throat, opening my eyes.

He grins. “I can see you.”

“You’re one to talk.” I roll my eyes, huffing out a laugh. I gesture to his own hair. “Ready?”

Silas tenses, then nods. I don’t ask again, because I have to believe that he’ll tell me if he’s uncomfortable. He reaches into another pocket, then offers me a hair tie. I’ve never seen him use either accessory, I wonder why he carries them around. Before I can ask, he turns around and puts his back to me. I drop my knees, spreading my legs out on either side of his curled body.

“Okay.” He says, looking anything but.

I roll my bottom lip between my teeth. Chocolate fills the kitchen and I fill my lungs with the warm scent, then exhale a question. “Would you mind if we … listened together?”

Silas sharply glances back at me over his shoulder, throwing white hair from his eyes. For the briefest of seconds, I catch a glimpse of icy blue.

“You won’t like it.”

“How do you know?”

He shrugs, turning his attention ahead once again. I take that as answer enough and gently touch his shoulder before moving to his hair.

“Tilt your head up,” I ask softly.

Silas doesn’t move, atleast, not in that way. He reaches into one of the side cargo pockets, taking out a phone. After a few seconds of messing around on it, music begins to spill out from the phone’s speakers instead of the earbuds. Sure enough, an energetic violin is accompanied by a modern, electric beat, forming a refreshing melody. He sets it down on the ground outside of my legs framing him, then tilts his face to the ceiling.

“Thanks,” I say, then gather three incredibly soft fingerfuls of white at the base of his temple. Silas shudders and I pause my movements. “You alright?”

“Yes.” Silas says immediately, then hums long and low before answering again. “I’ve never had my hair done before.”

I laugh quietly. “Me either, until now. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Kleo loves her hair being done.”

I wait another moment, then start braiding Silas’ hair.

It takes longer than it should have, and not because of how long and thick his hair is, but because we both can’t stop moving to Silas’ music.

It started with Silas. He would bob his head or his fingers would dance on his thigh, then stop, as if catching himself. After the third time he cut himself off, I softly began tapping my toes on the floor and swaying back and forth, gentle as to not pull his hair. I added humming for good measure, but otherwise kept the silence between us.

With each noise and small movement that I made, Silas’ shoulders lessened and lessened until he was happily moving in place and humming along with me. Then, he started to tell me about each song that came on, all by the same violinist.

And I listened.

Now, I secure the tail of the main braid. A masterpiece, if I do say so myself. Numerous plaits begin at the front of Silas’ pale head. A main one in the center and three on either side which interweave with each other, snaking back and forth until meeting again at the base of his neck. The end of the singular, thick braid running down his spine comes to an end between his shoulder blades. I gently lay the white locks against his black shirt.

“Finished,” I say softly, not moving any further. I haven’t paid any attention to Silas’ face, not even when I uncovered it bit by bit, braiding his bangs back into the center section. I wanted to wait until all his hair was restrained, but now a swell of nervousness rushes over me.

I take a deep breath upon realizing the feeling is not mine.

“How does it look?” Silas asks quietly, staring straight ahead.

“Well, not to brag, but I think it’s pretty epic.”

Silas snorts. “I better go check the cake.”

“Oh, right.” I say, watching him stand and walk away from me. I sit there, feeling empty and a little disappointed, but unsure why. I decide not to dwell on it and be thankful that he trusted me to be in his space, to share his music. I spin in place on the floor, checking out the banner that was once behind me.

I smile at how beautiful it turned out, poking the glue to ensure it’s dried.

I stand with the banner in my hands and turn, coming face to face with Silas.

Oh.

“What’re you guys doing?”

I startle out of my skin and throw my hands up. Before the banner can go flying Silas is there to steady me, hands blanketing mine. Both of us look at the man standing in the open doorway separating the kitchen from the backyard.

An incredibly long silence follows.

I scrape my brain for something, anything to say, but of course, Silas saves me.

He gently releases my hands, then waves to Arlo with eyes so bright my heart does a weird little flip that hurts. Silas says, “Happy Birthday, Arlo. You’re supposed to be at work.”

Arlo raises a brow, the smirk upon his face widening. “Thank you, and you’re supposed to be at school.” Arlo’s emerald eyes slide from Silas to me and I awkwardly wave.

“Hey, Dad.” I say, lofting the formerly unspoken name into the air like a bomb. I inhale sharply and my heart pounds in my ears. It’s soon overwhelmed by the sparkle in Arlo’s eyes and the soft laugh that bubbles from his chest. I smile then, and add, “Happy Birthday.”

Witchtober – Thorns

Today’s witch is brought to you by the prompt Thorns. Spoilers for Phantom and Rook.

Mud croaks beneath my toes and the yellow sprouts along my arms grow a few inches, fully content. I jump onto a fallen log slick with marsh and time, putting my arms out to balance myself. When I get to the end of the natural bridge carrying me over a particularly wet spot, I leap off into swamp grass.

I land on both feet, disturbing milkweeds and the monarchs who dominate their pink blossoms. The layers of necklaces adorning my bare chest bounce and tangle together. Bones, coins and other trinkets rattle against each other, music to my ears. My highwaters bunch up just above my ankles, collecting thistles and muck. I slip my fingers into my front pockets, whistling Hook’s favorite tune as I continue my rounds.

While I can’t see the beast, I can feel them skulking in the murky depths encroaching on the small floating islands. The precarious chunks of peat, mud and hidden underwater plants provide the only protection and semblance of solid land in this marsh.

But like everything in the swamp, nothing is as it seems.

I collect a few thitwhistle blossoms at peak maturity, tucking their violet heads into a small pocket inside my gathering bag. Buttoning the pocket closed, I continue my search for treasure. I find my namesake, a plant that will be in high demand this winter, and luckily there is plenty of it to harvest. I kneel before it, caressing the broad green leaves that match my hair, then the soft yellow petals that are a perfect match to the flowers growing in the mossy spots on my arms.

This plant is too old, so I look for another with younger leaves and subsequently, younger roots. I find a patch that is close to the water’s edge and debate for a moment, then approach cautiously. First, I trim the leaves and put them in a magicked preserving bag, then dig the plant up and take its roots, careful of the thorns clinging to them. I place the roots in a different bag, one that is magicked not to tear. I do this with a few more plants, not wanting to overharvest but also needing to get as much as I can.

Today is Trading Day, one of the two days I actually interact with other people in the span of a year.

A ripple spreads through the water inches from my fingers and I swallow.

But it’s too late.

A flash of fang is followed by a tremendous splash, then I’m pulled into the freezing water. A massive jaw frames my arm, firmly tugging but doing so in a careful manner, like a dog would do to a pup. Once I’m completely submerged, the pressure releases and I surface, sputtering. I fling hair away from my face, glaring at a set of bright yellow eyes. Vertical pupils watch me intensely and hundreds of cone shaped teeth compose the beast’s smile.

Hundreds, no, thousands of scales compose the crocodile. Each individual piece comes together to form a glorious pattern reminiscent of an oil slick. The exact colors are always changing depending on how the light hits their scales, but the beast is usually a dark purple intermingled with electric blue.

Their maw opens wide and a growl thunders out. I roll my eyes, playfully shoving at their snout. “Fuck off, Hook. You got me all wet, and the plants.”

“Don’t be a dumbass. Next time you won’t be so lucky.” Hook chides, my familiar’s deep timbre voice audible to only my ears. Not like anyone else is around, but if they were, they’d hear some nasty rumbling and grumbling that is completely crocodilian in nature.

My familiar gives me a gentle nudge towards the shore, snout to my back, and I climb back onto the floating island, sopping wet and mildly cold. I haul my gathering bag up into the grass, away from the shoreline, and spread my hands over it.

“Nesiga mayhim.” I murmur, sighing when soft orange magick leaves my body and goes to work. Water molecules and the dirt brought with them wring out from my bag and its contents. The extricated water swirls in a glowing sunset of an orb over my hands, spinning lazily until I lob it over my shoulder. I grin when Hook roars, confirming that I hit my target.

Water magick isn’t my specialty, but water likes me. I feel at peace with the aquatic roots that weave beneath the islands, and what are roots without the water that supplies them?

I stand and sling the bag across my chest once more, ensuring to give Hook a particularly dangerous glower. His eyes blink just above the water’s surface, then disappear entirely. I blow out a raspberry, then continue on with my work.

Today is Trading Day.

I’m absolutely sure my home is not what most people would call grand, but I love it all the same.

Hook follows me there, sticking to the cloudy waters that lead to the largest floating island in Egret Marsh. Cypress and willow trees completely surround a small structure lofted into the air on stilts, still invisible from this distance. The sheer amount of fallen trees and vegetation swallowed by the swamp between here and there is enormous, and I’ve often wondered if there used to be a forest through here. I dodge and weave through a secret tunnel in the underbrush, covering my trail as I go. Threads of roots churn the earth, erasing my tracks.

“Have fun,” Hook says, wandering off once he’s sure I’m home, the bond between us quieting.

I snort. “Oh yes. People. Fun.”

I pass through a familiar look-away ward, sighing in relief when I step into a small clearing, where the stilted house awaits. Strong, thick roots with rough bark form the pillars of my home’s foundation, then taper off to a smaller size which forms the ladder and upper porch railing. Moss hangs from the surrounding ancient trees in great curtains, further obscuring my home from view. Not that anyone visits the marsh, but if they did, they would have to look real hard to find my place. Just because my island is the biggest in the marsh, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to access.

I cross the small distance, relishing in how the soft grass tickles my toes. Everything is softer in my patch of the swamp, less threatening. Even the snakes are milder. I shift my bag so it’s pressed against my back, then begin my ascent. Dirty hands and feet meet root wrought rungs and I climb for a couple minutes, taking my time. I’m not too proud to admit I’ve fallen a time. Or two.

I pull myself up onto the wrap around porch with a groan, jingling the bells, bones and coins hanging from the open windows trimmed in white. There are multiple windows on every side of the house, each one remarkably different. Most were bartered for or salvaged from the junkyard, a few I made and they didn’t turn out so bad, just a little crooked. I made sure to paint them all white, though. The walls themselves are patched together at best, mostly sheets of painted plywood entangled with roots and thick bark. The roof is more of the same, perhaps more natural than man-made, aside from the solar panels.

The dark green walls, white windows and nature infusing my place in the world sets my heart at ease. I duck my head under the open door frame, telling myself again to just build a taller frame already. It was salvaged too, definitely not made for overtly tall fae. I shrug off my bag onto the round table just inside the front room. A hall bisects the house, the front room rests on the left side and the right is divided between my closed off bedroom and washroom.

The front room is a combination of my reading area and the kitchen, fairly tidy if I say so myself. The only clutter to fill the place are the strange, now potted plants that I’ve found in the swamp and have yet to identify, along with my books. Bookshelves line the wall of the reading room opposite my cozy chair covered in blankets, but they were long ago filled. I make do, crafting leather straps that hang from the walls and hold books, not to mention macrame nets for plants to rest in and hang from the ceiling.

And don’t forget the bones. Or the coins.

Marrow and metal hide in the nooks and crannies of my home, scavenged from the swamp and intentionally placed. To anyone else I suppose my place would seem in disarray, but everything is where it is for a reason. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have my things disturbed. It would be annoying, but that would mean someone was here.

I shake off the thoughts and find a drink, then check the already prepared crates of dried skunk’s cabbage leaves and roots, which is the majority of my inventory considering winter is coming. I have an entire crate dedicated to bags of aetherberries as well, they are always in high demand. As far as I know, the bog lining the northern edges of Egret Marsh is the only place the delicious, bright yellow berries are found.

It’s one of the many secrets the land and I share.

There’s jars of thitwhistles, mushrooms and radical healing moss, along with some knuckle bones. I’ve never met another witch, but I know there’s a population in Levena. I haven’t been there since … Well, since the video store, and I have no plans on going back. While I have my garden and am pretty self-sustaining, there are still things that I need, or want I suppose, to live. Things like the supplies for my house, pots and pans, trinkets and books. I’ve collected quite a few things in my nineteen years, despite the fact I only leave the swamp twice a year.

I make each trip worth it.

Hook doesn’t complain either when I bring home special treats like chicken feet or something equally weird, but whatever makes him happy. My companion insists he isn’t lonely, but I feel like most familiars have much more exciting lives than he does. Nevertheless, I ensure to bring home stories, too.

The communal town of Vieta is much more docile than the metropolis of Levena, if not incredibly distant from the marsh. In the early years, the trip would take at least a week on foot and what I could carry was limited, but then I was given a traveling stone by Gareth a couple years ago. He didn’t want anything for it, but I’ve still been trying to come up with the perfect thing to pay him back.

Between the traveling stone and my strong magick, the trips are more fruitful, and I can spend more time with my friends. For all my griping, the people of Vieta are rather nice. It’s strangers I don’t like.

After taking one last inventory, I clean up today’s harvest and hang it up to dry on the hemp line criss-crossing the open window over my sink. I duck into the washroom and clean up in the lukewarm shower, careful not to use too much water. The tank is getting low and I honestly don’t feel like filling it right now.

I dress in another pair of high wasted pants, but the pant legs tuck into socks and knee high leather boots. I rearrange the necklaces on my pale chest, complexion freckled with spots of moss and sprouting blades of grass and yellow flowers. Upon seeing the flowers in the mirror, I frown. I stare at them, debating on pulling the bright petals.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been made fun of for them, and out here there’s no one to tell me how awful I smell. I caress the soft, tender silk of a flower growing from my neck. If I pull the petals, it won’t be as bad. Gareth, Nienna and Eilae have never remarked on my … scent, but others might. Who knows what has changed since spring, who has moved there. My stomach twists uncomfortably.

I sigh, dropping my hand.

I shake my head, then go about combing my bleach blond hair. Blinding locks interspersed with tendrils of spiraling green and budding broad leaves hang around my shoulders, the longest I’ve had it in a while. For a long time I thought it’d be better to cut it short, but I like it long. I don’t wish that my hair was ‘normal’ anymore, either.

I smile at that, feeling a little better. Fuck people.

The edges of my burnt orange eyes crinkle upwards and I grin wider. The patches of soft green along my cheeks, forearms and stomach bristle with life, as if caressed by a soft wind. I leave the safety of my bathroom, shrugging on a flannel vest over my shoulders, leaving the buttons undone so my chest and necklaces are exposed. I don’t get cold, not until there’s a solid foot of snow on the ground. Even then, I just put on a sweater.

When I come face to face with the stacked crates, I call upon my magick. I put a hand out and whisper, “Kul sheresh.” A net of thick vines conjures to life beneath the neatly arranged pile, rising and neatly wrapping around the stack. They tie off at the top, forming a pretty bow. I smirk, unable to help myself.

Once the goods are secured, I take the small, metal chest sitting atop my kitchen counter. I open it, revealing three things. Three things that matter the most to me.

A traveling stone, polished amethyst in the shape of an oval.

A coin, worn and faceless.

A piece of paper, folded in on itself six times.

I hover over the parchment with shaky fingers and lungs, then draw back. I take the stone, then snap the lid shut. After putting the bomb back where it belongs, I stand with my season’s worth of work, a hand firmly gripping the netting. My heart thrums against its cage and I take a deep breath, steeling myself.

It’ll be fine.

I’m immediately accosted.

I land in a flurry of wind, soft orange light and a solid thud. I blink several times, acclimating to the incredible colors and light greeting me. Music, such heartfelt music, and laughter washes over my ears. My heart pounds at an odd rhythm.

Thump. Thump. ThumpThumpThump.

By the time I comprehend my surroundings, I’m overcome with dirty fingers and cold bare feet, gangly limbs and high pitched voices. My back hits the ground and I laugh despite the assault. Chants of “Lysander! Lys! Lysander! It’s Lys!” ring through the air, bringing the music to a halt. Curious hands tug at my hair and I wince, but thankfully the group of hellion’s parents rescue me.

Gareth says, “Kids! Let ‘em breathe.”

Eilae says, “Oy, Lysander! Long time no see.”

Nienna says, “Hello Lys, you’re just in time for second lunch.”

I chuckle, pushing myself to my feet. One of the oldest helps me up, Martin I think? Honestly they have so many kids it’s hard to keep them straight. I lay a hand over my heart and bow my head to the elves, noting two new faces by their side. My heart thrums oddly again.

Thump. Thump. ThumpThumpThump.

“Hello, friends. I hope I haven’t interrupted anything.” I say, straightening. Not to my full height, considering I’m already twice as tall as everyone else when I’m hunched over.

Eilae scoffs, then breaks away from her partners and hugs me tight. “We’ve been waiting for you kid, it’s Trading Day.”

“Oh.” I can’t help but flush.

“Come, there’s someone we want you to meet.” Eilae demands, not unkindly, and I follow her, leaving still neatly packed goods behind. Eilae is a force of nature, so much unlike her comparatively docile partners, Gareth and Nienna. She’s short for an elf, with blue hair shaved close to her head, big eyes just as vibrant. She’s playful and blunt, but that’s what I like about her. Eilae steers me over to where Gareth, Nienna and company are waiting in their little section of the backyard, surrounded by flower bushes and play structures.

Kleo stands with them, wildflowers tucked into her mismatched socks. It was one of the first things I noticed about her, and years later she dresses the same. Patchwork overalls, sneakers and color. So much color. A knitted sweater lays beneath her overalls, all stripes and glitter. Her hair is longer than last time, shaved on one side with the remaining brunette locs cast over her brown shoulder.

“Hey Lysander,” Kleo calls, grinning wide at me, hazel eyes sparkling. She doesn’t run and embrace me like she usually does, and I’m assuming it’s due to the … witch, (oh my gods, that’s a witch) at her side. “Long time no see. This is Felix, my friend that I told you about?”

Thump. Thump. ThumpThumpThump.

My heart simultaneously explodes and fills with warmth. Yes, I’ve heard a lot about Felix. Every time I visit, Kleo talks and talks and talks, and it’s usually about her friends ‘back at Witch House.’ The person I had built up in my head is nothing like I imagined, but infinitely more.

The man with golden eyes and infinitely long, tied back curls of bronze extends his hand to me. His small palm fits perfectly against my much larger one, and I sigh like a swooning idiot. To be fair, his tanned skin flushes a soft red and his magick rushes against my fingertips for the briefest of moments, but it’s enough.

He smiles, flashing white and slightly crooked teeth. “Hey, I’m Felix. It’s nice to finally meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

And because I’m me, I say, “I’m not a skunk.”

What?” Felix raises a thick brow, a tenuous smile pulling at his lips.

“Umm.” I choke, grip tightening around Felix’s hand. He doesn’t let go, and that smile widens.

Gareth says, “This is painful, right?”

Nienna says, “Shush, dear, this is a moment.”

Eilae says, “It’s worse than I thought it would be.”

And because Kleo is the only one who is my actual friend, she says, “What he means is, the proper term for his fae lineage is Lysichitum, also known as skunk’s cabbage, but we don’t use that terminology here.”

I remember myself and drop Felix’s hand, immediately shoving my hands into my pockets and dipping my head. Upon doing so, I remember that my flannel vest is unbuttoned. I fight the urge to button it, but then Felix says the most unexpected thing.

He says, “I thought so! Your flowers are so pretty,” Felix chokes on his words and my head jerks up. He continues at a sputter, playing with the end of his ponytail. “We call them swamp lanterns, back at Witch House. Do you light up at night too? Can I touch your leaves? Oh my gods, forget I said that, why am I still talking Kleo?”

I can’t help but laugh, and he does too.

It’s wonderful.

For a moment.

Then, Felix says, “Man, I wish Silas was here. I think you guys would get along.”

“Who’s Silas?” I ask, noticing the exchanged looks between the family standing behind Felix.

Felix blushes furiously, the deep red extends down his throat and under the collar of his sweater. “Oh, he’s my partner, another witch, like us.”

Well, fuck.

Somehow, we manage to function like adults after that. Gareth, Kleo and Felix accompany me to the main hall, a longhouse centered in the commune where Trading Day occurs. It’s already full, considering I procrastinated coming here in the first place and my … whatever the hell that was that happened back there.

My net of crates drops with an unceremonious thud in the last empty stall, the sound lost to the noise of the crowded and upbeat atmosphere. Music flows from the head of the longhouse, courtesy of some folk instruments. Kleo and Felix find a table while I call upon my magick, whispering words that untie the bow and retract the roots until they’re nothing.

“I’ll find us all some food.” Gareth claps me on the shoulder, smiling softly.

“Oh, okay. Thank you.” I say, unable to refute him because I am hungry. I’m used to Gareth accompanying me, but not Kleo, and certainly not a man that I’m pretty sure is my everything and someone else’s at the same time.

Quit being dramatic, Lys.

I sigh, flowers and leaves curling in on my body. Kleo and Felix fill Gareth’s absence almost immediately, bringing over a long folding table. They set it up and I thank them, then get to work unpacking crates one at a time.

“Can I help?” Kleo asks, and I shrug. She and I set up one jar of each item on the table, leaving the extras in the crate. Felix studies each ingredient from the other side of the table, becoming increasingly excited as he evaluates my selection.

“Ooh, is that hahlama moss? Oh, and are those swamp lantern roots? Is that—” Felix interrupts himself, smiling nervously. “Sorry, I like plants.”

Kleo scoffs. “That’s an understatement.”

I clear my throat, attempting to make small talk. “Yeah, you um, you run the apothecary in Witch House, right?”

“Yes!” Felix nods quickly. “Yeah, Calen and I do. They’re better at the growing thing than I am honestly, but everything that comes after? That’s my jam.” He winces.

“Your jam?” Kleo teases, and he groans.

I chuckle, giving my table one last onceover to make sure everything is out. Kleo watches us with a smug grin, standing at the end of the table between Felix and I. “That sounds nice. So, Calen’s a witch too? I guess probably everyone that lives there is, right?”

Felix shrugs. “Not everyone, Calen’s not, but that’s okay. They needed a home, and Silas wanted them to come live with us, so Dad said okay.”

My brain breaks. “Oh, that’s, good.”

Kleo takes off, muttering something about finding chairs and her sanity.

Felix comes around the table, tapping its surface as he does. “So, what about you? Do you live alone?”

I nod absently, burying questions. Questions such as; Silas invited Calen to stay as … friends? Something more? If it is, then does that mean Felix has two boyfriends? Or is it just Silas that has two? Have I gone insane and am reading into the smallest of things because of a, a … a crush?

“You alright?” Felix asks, standing closer than he was before. When did that happen?

“Yeah, totally.” I fidget with the necklaces hanging around my throat, rubbing a coin between my fingers. Totally?

He chuckles. “Okay. So, you live alone in a swamp, and only visit what … twice a year?”

That snaps me out of my stupor, but when I open my mouth, a customer arrives. I sell them a jar of … swamp lantern (because yes I like that term) roots, explaining to the faun how to boil them properly for a heat inducing tea and to be careful of the thorns. That is what most people use them for, the root tea will warm their bones for hours upon hours, no matter the weather. When the leaves are prepared into a syrup, the plant provides expectorant and anti-inflammatory qualities, perfect for respiratory issues.

After that, Felix and I don’t talk much. Kleo comes back and word of aetherberries spreads, drawing people to my table like flies to a fallen fruit. They leave with so much more than they came for, and when Gareth returns, I’m almost sold out. A wave of calm washes over the longhouse as others partake in early dinner, the crowd ebbing. They eat six times a day here in Vieta, small meals that are filling regardless of their size.

Gareth and Kleo talk about the latest addition to her small farm that rests beside her parent’s. Screaming goats.

That sounds unpleasant,” I mutter, and they all laugh. Even Felix, who has been quietly studying me for hours.

“And that is exactly why I’m offering sanctuary. Even the most … obnoxious things deserve love.” Kleo declares, and I can’t argue with her. I tell her as much, and she grins. “How’s Hook doing by the way? I have his chicken feet ready.”

I groan. “He pulled me into the water this morning, so his usual cheeky self.”

Who eats chicken feet?” Felix tilts his head, leaning forward in his chair across from me. Kleo and Gareth flank our sides, a tight circle.

Gareth chuckles. “That feisty croc. Still waiting to meet him.”

I open my mouth to say ‘can’t very well bring a crocodile to a commune,’ but Felix’s eyes widen, magick coloring them a soft pink for just a moment. He whispers, “A crocodile?”

When I nod, his whisper transforms into a shout. “You were almost eaten by a crocodile with chicken toes in its teeth? Oh gods, what if it said, ‘mmm, you taste like chicken?’”

Kleo laughs, face buried in her hands. Gareth joins in, clapping Felix on the shoulder.

I laugh too, the moss and grass spots along my body grow a few millimeters. “Hook is my familiar, he wouldn’t eat me. But you’re not wrong about the chicken toes, it gets to be quite a nuisance for him.”

“Your familiar is a crocodile?” Felix balks, leaning back in his chair. He mouths, “That’s so cool.”

My cheeks warm and I shrug. “What’s yours?”

Felix’s excitement simmers down and he toys with the end of this ponytail again, which is loose now and half undone. “Haven’t got one yet. Dad says that’s alright, it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. He didn’t get his until he was older, too.”

“Oh,” I say, unsure how to proceed.

Felix grins at me, releasing his hair. “It’s alright. Tell me more about Hook.”

And I do.

Later, after I’ve sold out and made some purchases of my own, after dinner when Felix tells stories about a man who was a mystery, and even a little while after that, Felix and I find ourselves alone.

I’m not sure how it happened. One moment Gareth, Nienna and Eilae, along with all their children and Felix and I, were sitting around a campfire and eating s’mores, debating how much to cook the marshmallows. Kleo and I were the only ones in agreement that they should be burnt to an absolute crisp, and Felix appalled me by only warming them up.

The galaxies are exceptionally bright overhead and the double moons shine with a full, luminous intensity. The golden and silver celestial beings are centered overhead, physically at their closest to our planet. I love this time of year. It’s colder here than back home at the marsh, but Gareth had loaned me a sweater awhile ago which I now wear underneath my vest. My necklaces rest atop the soft yarn, coins glinting in the firelight and bones absorbing moonlight.

Felix turns to me with a shy smile, we’re sitting side by side on a log bench. Kleo had been right next to me, but she’s gone, and so is Eilae, who was sitting on the other side of Felix. They’re all gone. He gestures to my necklaces.

“You remind me of a crow.” Felix says. I can’t help but laugh, and he blushes. “I didn’t mean it as a bad thing! It’s just, they collect things, you know? There’s a flock back home and they’re always leaving the weirdest things around, not always shiny, but just … random. One time, Marvin left me an acorn top with a piece of red thread pulled through it.”

“How does that even happen?”

“Right? Can’t very well ask them, considering Marvin’s a crow, and yes, I named them.”

I chuckle. “You’re weird. I like that.”

Felix laughs, finally taking the tie out of his hair, considering it wasn’t doing much. “Thanks. I like you too, Lysander. I’m glad we finally got to meet, I’ve been wanting to come up sooner, but, witch stuff, you know?”

I shrug. “Yeah, I guess so. Better late than never, right?”

He nods, fidgeting with the hems of his sleeves. “Can I … Can I ask you a question?”

I stiffen a little, but I say, “Okay.”

Felix stares me in the eyes, his flash pink again. “Could you show me some magick?”

Oh,” I whisper, then nod quickly. “Yeah, okay.”

I clear my throat and stand, then sit back down, because I don’t want to stand over him. He’s already so much shorter than me, I feel like a giant just sitting next to him. He tentatively presses a hand to my upper arm and I startle. He pulls back, not taking his eyes off me. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you nervous.”

“Oh, I’m not. Nervous, that is.”

Felix chuckles. “Okay. Well, you don’t have to make yourself smaller, for me. Or anyone.”

“Oh,” I say, then stand and straighten to my full height before him. Even the leaves and petals in my hair and along with skin stand to attention, and I blush at the image of preening like a fucking peacock.

“Wow,” Felix says, staring up at me with wide eyes. “You’re really tall.”

I almost lean down, but he takes my hand. This time, he doesn’t let go. “No, don’t.” Felix stands beside me, my hand in his. I stare down at our entangled fingers, then back to his face. His neck is craned and it looks painful, but the determination in his eyes is almost frightening.

I squeeze his hand, then let go. I put my hands up, smiling wide. “Okay, have it your way, tchotchke.

Oh, how he smiles at that. He pretends to be affronted, but that smile. It’s perpetual, blinding. “I am not a small thing.”

I shrug, turning away from him. I bring my hands to chest level and smile upon coming up with an idea. I close my eyes and murmur, “Abracadabra.”

For a split second, there’s just the sound of leaves crunching beneath Felix’s boots as he joins my side. An owl calling. A soft, chilled breeze rustling the small trees and flower bushes around us. Then, Felix’s sharp intake of air when something groans thunderously beneath the trembling earth. His arm brushes against mine and my magick, it …

It spasms, which is the only way I can describe it. The molecules riding my blood temporarily implode with power, with right, with yes. Then they expand with the feeling, fueling my heart with more energy than its ever pumped before. A soft pink hue colors the edges of my vision and I sigh, fingers shaking.

Four pillars composed of eight thick columns of roots erupt from the ground softly, like a plant would sprout and gently break from the earth. They rise to a height of about ten feet, then change direction and grow towards each other, weaving together to form a platform. As they do, smaller roots branch off the original eight. The foundations of the earth continue to diverge, split and grow together until a tree house of sorts stands before us, a neighbor to the fire pit.

A series of protection runes burn into the smooth, deep brown of the roots, temporarily glowing a bright orange until fading into the realm of invisibility. Although there are half walls surrounding the porch of the tree house, the spell will keep anyone from falling. Last but not least, a ladder unfurls from the upper level, its end hovering just above the ground.

Felix squeaks.

“Oh. My. Gods. That was …” He side-eyes me, mouth working open and closed. “Can we … We should test it out, don’t you think?”

I grin. “Definitely.”

And that’s how the two of us ended up scurrying up a treehouse, squealing like a couple of kids. How the noise didn’t wake anyone up, I’m not sure, but I don’t care.

We flop inside the giant room of the tree house, the root walls to our backs. I catch my breath through giggles and Felix does the same. He grins at me, his golden eyes lighting up the small space between us.

“Show me yours,” I murmur, and he tenses.

“Oh, that’s probably not a good idea.” Felix says, rubbing the back of his neck.

I wave around wildly, as if to say, “Hello, tree house?”

He groans. “Ugh, I hate the word for it.”

I shrug. “So make a new one.”

Felix blinks. “I totally should.”

I elbow him and he gives me another shy smile. “Fine, fine. I’m a Super Teleth.” He waves his fingers dramatically and I raise a brow.

“Yeah, I’ve got no idea what that means.”

“What?” He asks, voice high pitched. I give him a look and Felix clears his throat, trying again. “Oh, that’s … Kind of nice actually. Um, I can read minds?” His voice lilts and upon seeing my horrified face, more words spill out. “Not all the time! I have wards up, you know? Otherwise that would be a lot. I can move stuff too though, and talk with people in my mind, even if they’re not a Teleth. I can tell how people are feeling too, just by their auras. The super part of it means I have more than one specialty. Or something like that, I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“Wow.” I breathe. “You’re like a superhero.”

Felix blanches. “Oh, please don’t. I’m really not, and it can be annoying. I’d much rather have your awesome plant powers.”

I shake my head. “No way. I can only control roots, not necessarily plants. That’s boring compared to … mind stuff! Have you … read my mind?”

“No, no. I don’t ever do that without permission.”

“Oh.”

“Did … you want me to?”

I shift, our knees knock together and my heart does that thing again.

Thump. Thump. ThumpThumpThump.

“Yeah, okay.”

Felix laughs, but there’s no heart in it. “Nah, I probably shouldn’t.”

“No, really! I want you to. Only if you want to, that is.” I say, cursing myself. I never talk, and I can’t seem to stop talking around him.

“Okay. Just, put away anything you don’t want me to see.” Felix says, and it’s quiet.

“Okay.” I say, closing my eyes. I try to clear my mind, which is an impossible thing to do.

“Are you ready?” He asks, and I nod.

I focus on Hook, and home. I picture the gardens around the house, the books on my shelves, the marrow and metal detailing my place. I inwardly chuckle at the thought of bringing Felix there, he’d really call me a crow then. A warm feeling settles in my heart and I sigh, thoughts turning to the places around the marsh I’d show him next. Silas too, if he wanted to bring him. And Calen, if that’s … if whatever they are to Felix warrants such a thing.

I tumble through thoughts, waiting for Felix to start, but all I feel is peace and questions and his pant leg crinkling against mine. I open my eyes and mouth, turning my head towards Felix, but promptly shut my lips. His eyes are closed, a peaceful expression upon his face. A slight smile plays at his lips and I swallow something heavy.

Felix opens his eyes, golden irises focusing directly on me. He murmurs, “I would very much like to visit your home. And if Silas and Calen are welcome, I’m sure they’d love it there too. It seems peaceful, beautiful. Thank you for showing me.”

He must’ve been so gentle, I didn’t even feel him in my head. Unless that was the warm feeling.

“Felix, do you …” I start, then clear my throat. “Nevermind, it’s not my business.”

Felix smiles. “Yes, we’re all together, meira, but Calen is only Silas’ … romantic partner, not mine.”

“Oh,” I say, unable to come up with anything else after hearing his endearment for me. 

Light.

“I like you, too, you know. Your feelings were pretty strong.” Felix taps his temple and I die a little inside, burying my face in my hands. “But we can’t … I have to talk to Silas, and maybe we could try being friends first? I’d like to be your friend, regardless of anything else. I feel like we …”

I look up at him then. “What?”

Felix twirls a lock of hair around his finger. “I don’t know. I feel like I already know you. Is that weird to say?”

“No,” I shake my head immediately, heart racing. “My heart does this weird thing around you.”

Felix blushes furiously. “Oh.”

“I want to be your friend too, Felix.”

Felix smiles then, my words effectively erasing his nervousness. “Okay, let’s be friends.”

A few more hours pass in the tree house and dawn is a very real threat. I’m not sure as if I’ve ever stayed awake this long, but I don’t care. I soak up everything that is Felix, and he wants to know everything that there is about me, too. I tell him about being left behind at the video store, and he tells me he doesn’t remember being left behind, but he remembers the bruises.

We lay on the floor of the tree house, heads together. He’s delighted by the fact that yes, the parts of me that are plant do glow softly underneath the moonlight streaming in through the open windows.

He asks, “Why did you tell me you weren’t a skunk?”

“I went to school for a little while, after they left me. Everyone, even the teachers, would comment on how I … smell. It was a distraction to the class and I … I spent a long time hiding because of it. I, I used to pull my petals out, because it makes it not so bad. But I don’t do that anymore.”

“I’m glad that you don’t.” Felix whispers immediately. “For the record, I like your flowers, and I like the way you smell. You smell real, like earth and spring and Dad’s pot.”

I bark out a laugh. “That’s amazing.”

“I know,” He murmurs.

I ask, “What’s your Dad like?”

And he talks and talks and talks.

Much later, after saying a reluctant goodbye to Felix and promising that I’ll send him a letter, I lay atop the roof of my home and watch the sun come up. Warm rays of purple, pink and gold wash over the marsh, thawing the frost my swamp suffered last night. I flip a large coin between my knuckles, a new addition to my collection. It’s golden hue matches that of the man’s eyes who gave it to me.

Felix had said, “If you ever need Witch House, say the words and someone will answer. Dad gives these to witches in case of emergency, but you can use it for communication, too. You’re part of the family now, whether you like it or not, swamp witch.”

And I smiled.

What did I do differently?

What did I do differently this time compared to the first time I published a book?

Well, I’m not using KU for Phantom and Rook. While it was a good idea at the time for TEM, and it obviously works for lots of people, I hated the exclusive thing. Now I can offer my ebooks to libraries and a LOT more distributors using Draft2digital, their setup is so much friendlier and it feels better getting away from Amazon.  Obviously the ebooks will be listed there, but everything for me is right on D2D.

I comissoned a cover (in the works) from Bear Pettigrew, a fantastic artist. While I’m happy with my self made covers (for a series I hurried to get out there), I KNOW that my books would have done better if I had someone else do the cover.

Speaking of time, I have spent a little under a year on this book. Much more feasible than doing it in three months. Again, everyone works different, but I really needed that time to let it sit between edits.

Also, I got the ball rolling on an audiobook narrator much sooner, and again, I moved away from exclusively Amazon. I love the narrators I worked with on the Iverbourne books and was very lucky to collaborate with them using royalty share, but I like the idea of this book being *mine* to distribute where I want (libraries included).

Not to mention I was able to snag an AWESOME narrator who is a favorite of mine.

And my pre-orders are much cooler 😎
Three maps, wax seal, all the prints, bookmarks, Misfits pin, signed book and stickers. The Game announcements will be included in print as well.

ARCs were sent out earlier, I was much more selective this time and I’m not sending EVERYONE HARDBACKS. So, so, SO much money and I never heard from people again. I’m guilty of taking two months to read an ARC at times when my brain is mush, so this way no one is pressured.

In short, I spent ALOT more time and money. Like, alot alot. It’s terrifying, but that’s how much I believe in this story, these characters, my writing. What works for me may not work for you, but if I can say one thing, is take your time. Invest when you can and do your best with what you have at the time, because your story deserves to be told.

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.”

“Wonderful.”

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.

Special Edition Pre-orders

What better way to celebrate than with a new edition?

Pre-orders for the special edition of The Eternal Machine are open, illustrated by the Lianne Peterson. These will be released on my debut book’s birthday, Halloween of this year.

These are signed, glossy hardbacks with dust jackets. They will have the full tarot illustrations inside the pages and sprayed edges. I will also include scenes included in Princess of Terra, along with the short of Alvis’s fantasy, expanding the POV to more than just Lyth’s during the story.

Pre-orders will receive maps, bookmarks, a random tarot print, and new stickers. Let’s cause some havoc with the pirates, shall we?

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.