Blood Magic Is Nothing to Trifle With

By now, you know I submit an original audio short to R.B. Wood’s Wordcount Podcast on the regular. I know podcasts are not everyone’s cup of tea, so here is my last offering, originally recorded for Episode 60 of The Wordcount Postcast. (You can listen here, if you’re so inclined — if I do say so myself, this was a decent take…)

Blood Magic is Nothing to Trifle With

“I grant you, Branna, he’s charming, but why such care?” Corbeau’s voice was a rasp from his perch. “What do you think will happen if he survives?”

Branna only squinted harder at the ornate skeleton key on her worktable, ignoring her brother’s skepticism. The table was littered with the treasures she and Corbeau had collected in their travels, old farm tools, keys, lost jewelry, blades, ribbons, shells and stones, but this key was their prize.

In a bookstand, an ancient leather-bound volume, its once lush pages ragged and thinned, offered up secrets masked in a language neither Branna nor Corbeau fully understood.


Startled by her brother’s screech, Branna looked up from the key, which shivered against the sanded wood.

She pushed her silver blonde hair back from her face and fixed the sleek black raven opposite with her sharp, corvid eyes. “What, Raaf?”

“That’s not my name. It’s a man’s name.” He lifted up his wings, spread them to their full span, cocking his head to one side, then lowering it, a mockery of a courtly bow. “I have not ever been a man. Only a boy… And centuries ago.”

“I am sorry, Corbeau,it slipped out” Branna whispered. The key shivered again, this time of its own accord, and Branna turned her attention back to it. “The key wants its brother back, too.”

“Can you do it? After so long? Unravel blood magic four hundred years old?” They never had caught the knack of grudges, so Corbeau had resumed his perch. He kept his beady raven’s eyes on the key as if it might swallow his beloved sister whole.

“You mastered human speech with a raven’s beak. You’re stronger than you think.” Branna waved her hand over the key, which shivered a third time then lay still. When she spoke again, it was the voice of a sorceress, low and formal. “I have studied and honed my gifts over all these years. I have mother’s grimoire. Our power is deeper now than ever. I only have to decipher the spell which binds the key to the boy.”

“Man.” Corbeau croaked. “He is a man, Branna, which is why you like him.”

“Like is too milky a word,” Branna said, and her voice was a girl’s again. “He is like… strong spirits in my veins.”

“Ugh, enough.” Corbeau stepped from his perch into the air, circling their small cabin and making for the door, open to the mild forest air.

“Going to find Magda?” Branna teased, but if her brother heard her, he didn’t look back.

She was sure Corbeau had gone looking for the young female raven who’d befriended him in the village. Magda was named for their mother, which didn’t bother the beautiful black bird, but sent shivers down Branna’s arms. Magda was the one who’d shown Corbeau what they’d sought: the golden key whose twin lay on Branna’s table.

And so Branna had discovered Eochair and his studio.

Branna traced her mother’s hurried hand along the page, deeply slanted as though the witch had feared she would run out of time. The old magic was there; Branna could see it, but it shivered in and out of her mind from behind the long-dead words. The symbols traced along the margins were like the faces of long-forgotten friends, trying to swim up to the surface of recognition.

If she and her brother were night – silver and obsidian, Eochair was day, all golden and green, and he kept the key. It had taken Branna all summer to work out his lineage, hours in the archives and the library and on Eochair’s own computer tracing her family’s descendants. All to understand how to unbind the key from the young man and free Corbeau.

Just last week, Eochair had touched her pale, feathery hair before turning away with a flush on his neck. If she held her breath, Branna could still feel the way the strands fell from his fingers across the straps of her sundress and over her shoulder.

Once more, she gave the key her attention. She read from her mother’s spell, tracing the shapes with her finger around the key as she spoke.

Perhaps the air around it blushed, crimson like Eochair’s embarrassment. Perhaps the key rippled with ruddy color. She was getting closer, but it couldn’t be clumsily done. Blood magic was nothing to trifle with. Errors might mean Eochair’s life.

If he survives…

Corbeau asked why such care, but how to describe the falling of hair on bare skin to a boy with a raven’s heart?

There is a fully formed backstory here, and I’m tempted to distract myself with the writing of the fairy tale, but there are novels to finish…

Going Places: Speculative Noir Flash for #thewordcountpodcast

I’m fairly certain four months of radio silence is a new record for me. It’s been a good summer, though. We took our annual pilgrimage to Hampton Beach in July, where I read like a fiend (more on that in the next few posts!) and laid around on the beach a lot.

I’ve been writing and editing in between family outings, camp pick ups and drop offs, and work, and there will be two new Thornton novels before too long.

I’ve also got a new story out on the Word Count Podcast! For episode 59, Richard prompted us with three words: Newspaper, Cigarette and Scotch. If you want to hear it as it was intended, click the link and you can listen right in your browser. If reading is more your style, enjoy!


“I’m in love, boys.”

Morris dropped onto the ratty tweed divan in the shared living room. The two bedroom apartment was all he and two other starving reporters could swing. Morris wrote for the Bugle, Ricky for the Tribune, and Jim for the Times, and all three of them had hopes for the Eagle Gazette.

Ricky didn’t even look up from his Remington Rand. “You’re always in love.”

“It’s the real thing this time, I’m telling you.” Morris cracked open a can of Schlitz and took a long swallow.

Jim wandered out of the john, still buttoning up his trousers. “Whose secretary you chasing now?”

“No secretary, boys. Emmaline is a real dame.” Morris put this feet up on the coffee table and crossed his ankles. He laid his head back on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. “Copper hair, green eyes, red lipstick, and no ink lines on her legs, gentlemen. Stocking seams for days.”

“You got close enough to see her stockings?” Jim might have known more about baseball stats than anyone in the city, but quick on the draw he was not.

“Nah, knucklehead. She left the room before I did. The view from behind…”

“Wait a hot second! Emmaline Lloyd?” Ricky looked up from his copy.

“Graham Lloyd’s daughter? The new owner of the Eagle?”

Morris smiled wide without opening his eyes. “The very same. She cruised through the bullpen this morning on her way up to 39, but no girl walks past these baby blues unscathed.”

“You’re so full of it, Foster.” Ricky pulled his page from the Remington. “I gotta run this over to Eddie. We out of anything? Rosa’s working at the bodega tonight.”

Jim hitched at his trousers. “Could use some more Charmin.”

Ricky grinned. “That I can do.”

The telephone jangled from the table by the apartment door, and Morris jumped up. Ricky beat him to it and answered in his best Cary Grant impression. “Hello hello hello?”

Ricky’s demeanor shifted from playful to serious on a dime. “Morris Foster? Yes, he’s here. Who may I ask is calling?”

“Yes, of course.”

It’s her, Ricky mouthed at Morris, holding his hand over the receiver.

Morris moved so fast he nearly knocked Ricky over. “Hello?”

Emmaline Lloyd had a voice like the Highland whisky Morris had tried in Inverness after the war; smoky and rich, it warmed him to his toes.

“I’m in the bar at the Elinor. The piano player likes me, so I think I’ll stay for another cigarette. You coming to keep me company?”

Morris did a quick calculation in his head. The train for a nickel, and precious time lost, or his mad money for a month for cab fare.

“I’ll be there before he takes his next request.”

“Don’t keep me waiting.”

He left the phone hanging, hoping Jim was clever enough to hang it up. Morris Foster’s future at the Eagle Gazette was waiting.

He climbed out of the cab in front of the faded three-storey hotel and pushed through the front doors to the lobby. The Elinor’s smokey, brass-and-leather bar was the chosen haunt for the Bugle’s writers, so Morris felt right at home.
Nick was tending bar, and PJ was at the piano playing an old ragtime tune drowned in a minor key. He recognized some guys from the bullpen crowded in a corner booth, and two editors perched around the corner of the bar.

What Morris couldn’t see was Emmaline Lloyd.

He drifted towards the bar, eyes cruising the room, but it was Nick’s raised eyebrows that put Morris on to the danger behind him. He turned in time to catch a discreet pistol muzzle in the gut. The two suits behind him clasped him by the shoulders, turned him and marched him outside to where a black car waited, a glimpse of stockinged leg and a curl of blue-gray smoke just visible in the shadows beyond the open rear door.

“What’s going on?” Morris stammered as the suits nudged him into the car.

That whisky voice he’d dropped everything for beckoned. “You’re going places, Morris Foster. I saw that the moment I laid eyes on you.”

As the goons closed shut the door and the black car started to roll, Emmaline Lloyd leaned back, and the city streets rolled by unnoticed. All Morris saw was the pale skeletal form lounging beside her, its onyx eyes unblinking in a formless face beneath a fedora.

Morris struggled for breath, gaze flicking from green eyes to black, as Emmaline smiled.

“Just not the places you thought you were going.”


Thanks for reading!

Fresh Scandal for You

For those who don’t podcast, my recent bit of flash for R.B. Wood’s Wordcount Podcast (you can still listen here!):

Fresh Scandal

“Why, Carolina Pritchard, those are the prettiest earrings I ever saw!”

Caro rarely found herself at the Piggly Wiggly before nine, but she’d been up since dawn. Cat vomit on her ex-husband’s pillow was surely a metaphor for something, but she wasn’t entirely certain she wanted to examine either the cat or the metaphor too closely.

Following a gag-worthy incident that ended in garbage-bagging Cort’s entire pillow, she’d slipped into compression leggings and her new Asics to run the four miles to the flower shop in the cool dampness of morning. She’d planned to put together some orders in peace before driving up to Charleston to meet a bride to discuss the arrangements.

(And then? Delicious plans for her evening in the city.)

Instead, she’d developed a craving for English muffins with peanut butter – neither of which were available to her in the small employee break room. And so, she found herself face-to-face with Bitsy Cornish at the checkout.

She pasted a sweet, blank smile on her face and resisted the urge to touch the two-carat emerald solitaires in her ears. “Thank you, Mrs. Cornish. Sweet of you to say.”

Bitsy Cornish had played golf with her ex-husband’s late mother for forty years. There was no mistaking the gleam of recognition in her sharp blue eyes. News of this quiet defiance would be halfway to Savannah by cocktail hour. Lantana Bluff had only in recent years forgiven her for stealing Cortney Liddell out from under its daughters’ noses; their divorce was still fresh scandal. Wearing Virginia Liddell’s emeralds to the Piggly Wiggly on a Thursday was high social treason.

“Bradley tells me Posey loves her riding lessons.”

Caro cringed. Bradley Cornish and Cort had been partners in crime from cradle to investment firm, by way of fraternity house, and Brad’s son Jack rode at the same stable their daughter Posey did. She wondered briefly if Brad was also screwing the stable owner in the hayloft during Jack’s lessons.

“She does, Mrs. Cornish.” Caro watched Bitsy unpack her basket onto the belt with a twinge of pity. Elizabeth Parnell Cornish was widowed — meaner than spit, feared throughout the county, and rich enough to have dinner at the club five nights a week, but alone — groceries for one at her age seemed sad no matter how you paid for them.

“Pity you two couldn’t make a go of it after all,” Bitsy clucked, handing a check to the teenaged cashier, who ran it through the printer and showed it to Mrs. Cornish with a deferential gesture. “Bradley and Meredith have always found a way to navigate rough waters.”

Caro’s pity dried up, replaced by a nasty impulse to tell Bitsy just exactly how Brad and Mere navigated things. “You’re right, Mrs. Cornish. Meredith is a delight, though.”

The older woman took her shopping from the bagger and gave Caro an appraising look. “You and Meredith still see one another since the… unpleasantness?” The look on the older woman’s face conveyed her opinion of her daughter-in-law’s friendships with frosty clarity.

“Every chance we get.” Caro smiled and plopped her muffins and Jiffy on the belt. Bitsy marched off with a sniff.

And she loves how I look in nothing but Virginia Liddell’s emeralds, Caro added silently, grinning at Bitsy’s retreating backside.

It’s My Birthday and I’m Giving Away Damselfly Inn to Celebrate!

According to my mother-in-law, I cease to age today. Pretty good deal, I guess. Honestly, I’m not too fussed about staring down 40, (except for maybe those pesky wrinkles around my eyes and smile — turns out I’m a little vain about those). Truthfully, a great many of my friends, the women in my family, and my tribe of authors have rocked or are rocking their 40s pretty hard. I am psched to join their ranks.

Come at me, 40.

Just not until next year 😉

To celebrate this auspicious birthday, Damselfly Inn is free for your Kindles and Kindle apps until Sunday (Which is my dad’s birthday. Family partying!), and there’s a signed paperback to give away as well (just keep reading!).  Tell your friends! Your mothers-in-law! Your dads (if they’re into romances)!

If you want to give me a birthday present, please leave a quick review on Amazon if you like what you read. It’s super easy. Here are some things you might say:

  • Great characters!
  • I want to move to Thornton!
  • Despite the lack of aliens in time-and-space-traveling phone boxes, this was a pretty swell book!
  • Really enjoyed this read!
  • Where can I get the recipe for Kate’s chocolate-cherry cookies?

Easy! What better gift? You guys are fantastic! Now, back to finishing up Sweet Pease, so we can all go back to Thornton.

Damselfly Inn (Bannerwing Books 2015)


The picturesque college town of Thornton, Vermont is the perfect place to open an inn. Or so Nan Grady thinks until a late summer storm drops a tree branch through her roof and local contractor Joss Fuller into her path.

Romance has been the last thing on her career-oriented mind, but Nan can’t deny the attraction between them. Nor can she deny the history between Joss and her most important guest: a sophisticated Manhattan academic.

And then there is the mysterious vandal targeting her home and livelihood.

As summer fades to autumn and Joss becomes a fixture around the Damselfly Inn, Nan navigates the joys and complications of life in her new home town. But when the vandalism becomes increasingly upsetting, threatening Nan and her guests, as well as her budding relationship with Joss, Nan questions her place in the town, at the inn, and in Joss’s heart.

Julie C. Gardner, author of Letters for Scarlet (Velvet Morning Press) calls the romance between Nan and Joss “slow burning and delicious.” Andra Watkins, NYT Bestselling author of Not Without My Father and To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey Of Meriwether Lewis (Word Hermit Press) calls Damselfly Inn “a perfect beach read, a best pick for a vacation or a delicious page-turner to wile away any afternoon.”

FREE ON Amazon!
B&N | Signed Paperbacks

And if you made it all the way to the end? I’m giving away a signed copy of Damselfly Inn!. I’ll inscribe, sign, and mail it off to you or your recipient of choice anywhere in the USA. Just leave a comment here by April 27th, and I’ll pick a random winner using highly advanced techniques which will probably include letting the Not-So-Small Boy draw a name from a hat. Or a Lego bin. We’ve got loads of those.