Nightmare children

Avery and his little sister don’t get along in Instalove. This might be part of a normal sibling dynamic, though love spells and the hellhound she gave him as a gift are less normal.

During breakfast, the family discuss the rules for Stella’s birthday dinner. This is a different version of this scene than the one in the novel.

~

“It’s a good time to go over the rules for dinner tonight,” Dad interjected. Ah, how to behave in front of polite company. It used to be a long series of items, written on parchment paper and permanently affixed to the fridge.  That didn’t quite yield results though, so now there were two easily digestible points.

“Don’t be nightmare children unless our cousins are doing it first,” Stella said. Those were their words, ‘nightmare children.’ And they called us dramatic when we got going. So unfair. To me at least. Stella was definitely the nightmare.

My family all looked to me.

“It’s Stella’s birthday,” I said the next rule. They kept looking at me. “Don’t be awful to Stella,” I finished reluctantly.

“Don’t be awful to Stella,” Dad repeated.

“I said that.” Why even have me say it if he was going to say the same thing?

“It bears repeating,” he said firmly.

 Why did it even matter what I did? The remaining pastries we hadn’t eaten had abandoned their spot on the obnoxious floating platter and were doing a little dance for my sister’s amusement. Everything literally catered to her; I didn’t have to do the same. Our cutlery didn’t normally levitate, but Stella liked these little extra touches on her special day.

 ‘Extra touches’ were how my parents referred to them. I called them pointless and unnecessary. We get it, Stella had magic. Stella liked magic. There was nothing wrong with magic, but there was a whole world out there and magic was just a small part of it. Magic wasn’t everything.

That was a lesson I’d learned firsthand.

Anyway, these rules were useless. “Stella didn’t abide by the rules on my birthday,” I muttered. My parents exchanged ‘here we go’ looks.

“It was a gift!” Stella hollered.

“That tried to eat me,” I pointed out.

Stella rolled her eyes, like she was annoyed I brought that up again, but a birthday present from her had tried to devour me. I had the right to bring that up for, like, the rest of time. “How was I supposed to know it would be so mean?” she asked rhetorically.

I answered anyway. “It was called a hellhound.” She was the supposed magical savant; she should have known. The kid had no common sense.

She rolled her eyes. “I just thought it would be red.” Also, she often put too much stock in her abilities. Sometimes she didn’t read the instructions fully; she thought she was a little magic expert that knew everything. It would be hilarious when things went wrong if I wasn’t usually dragged into the side effects with her.

And my Dad found Stella’s magical appetite so charming. He encouraged her to explore the magical world. Yet he wouldn’t buy me alcohol when I wanted to explore the regular world… Okay, I didn’t fault him for that one, but I had to try.

Stella and Mom left for school while Dad floated the serving tray down to the table. He grabbed my attention before I could make my escape to school. “Hey, really, go easy on Stella tonight.” He put a hand on my shoulder as he sat down in the chair next to me and looked me in the eye, his I mean it look.

“We already went through thy hallowed, revered rules,” I told him with only a little sarcasm. It was too early for more.

His sass game was strong, undeterred by the early hour. “If they’re so hallowed and revered, how come they never get followed?”

“Maybe tonight will be the first time?” I offered. Magic existed, so miracles could happen too.

 “You’re the older brother,” Dad reminded me, turning serious again. Like I didn’t know that. Though maybe sticking my tongue out at her wasn’t the height of maturity. “Treat her with respect and she’ll do the same to you.”

“You have no proof of that.”

“I’m an eternal optimist,” he quipped.

–the book is available here.

The world of magic

The course of true love may never be smooth, buts it’s especially bumpy when witches, familiars, and shadow monsters are at work. Here’s some info about the world of my magical fantasy novel, Black Cats and Bad Luck. This post is about how magic works.

How does magic work? Nobody knows! Magical is powerful. That much is sure. And like all powerful forces, it has the potential to be dangerous. Witches and warlocks can use magic, but things like the exact how, why, and what are something of a mystery.

Here’s two opinions about magic from main characters in this series, Horatio and Avery. As a human, Avery’s answer is more practical. As a magical being, Horatio’s answer is more abstract.

Avery explains the fundamentals of how magic is used:

The most common ways to bring about magickal manifestations included spells, potions, enchantments. Illusions and glamour as well, making a person perceive the world differently. Most of this? Limited time occurrences. Enchantments were the exception, many items would stay enchanted but need a charge after a while.

Glamours and illusions could create the appearance of anything for a short time. Spells and potions could make things happen that normally wouldn’t. Every spell and potion had its own rules and wore off after achieving the desired result.

Achieving any kind of permanency unintentionally would be extremely difficult. And while there weren’t official governing bodies, Pagan communities often policed themselves. With high priestesses like Miranda on the lookout and strongly advising against more extreme forms of the craft.

Horatio on magic:

Magic. The word did not do it justice. Humans labeled it impossible and unknowable and mystical because they could only grasp a tiny piece.

Magick created light but preferred to dwell in the shadows. Try for more, try to understand it and know it as a whole, well, it never led to success. Which was why seeing it in a pure form wasn’t easy. In early days, people thought the mystery might be hiding something nefarious. These days, most agreed it was the opposite. That knowing and understanding the root of magic, what it was or where it came from, was just too much power for any person to have. The temptation of using that knowledge for selfish reasons, for trying to control or change magic would be too great.

One might develop an affinity, a deeper sense after years of practicing. But familiars were tried and true. Familiars could sense and see magick in a way humans couldn’t. Though they didn’t wield it.

There were whispers in the circles I used to frequent, cautionary tales. The most whimsical, elusive force without a name, we call it magic. A being could know this power or use the power. Not both. Either option was a gift. All gifts came with a price.

Meet Miranda

In the world of Black Cats and Bad Luck where magic exists, familiars are especially mysterious. Obviously, they’re connected to magic. They take animal form, but they’re more than animals. Where they came from or what they are exactly is unknown. Witches can’t ask these animal companions since they take animal shapes and therefore don’t talk. And it isn’t as if they morph into humans and start living a new life. Not usually. Except in Horatio’s case.

Horatio isn’t interested in providing answers about familiars. He’s already bent some rules of the universe and isn’t keen on doing more damage.

Mason is a human who has dreamed of Horatio for years without knowing where to find him. When he’s checking on Horatio’s story, he talks to his best friend Miranda, who has some trouble processing the information she’s given.

~

Mason

“WHAT?” Miranda yelled despite being in a public lobby. “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”

“Miranda.”

“Sorry,” she said to me, raising a hand towards the guy at the front desk too. “Sorry, I’ll use my indoor voice.” She turned to me with urgency as we made our way further into the hotel. “Horatio the familiar? The cat who works with Stella on her magic, he’s your Horatio?”

“So this doesn’t happen everyday, huh?” I tried to make it a joke, but the words felt strangled.

“Yeah, you could say that. Are you serious?” she hissed the words, quieter than yelling but with force. “Are you joking or are you being serious right now? Tell me the truth.”

“For real, I’m being serious.” At the elevators, I hit the button to call one.

“Okay, because it’s not wise to get into a prank war with a witch.” Heed my words or beware, her tone indicated.

“I’m not—”

“At least, it’s not wise to legitimately get one over on a witch in a prank war because that just makes the stakes higher for you.” She wiggled her fingers menacingly, perhaps threatening hexes or curses, if those were different things.

“Miranda, I’m not kidding.” Ding, an elevator arrived, and we stepped inside.

“Just checking.” She hit the button for our floor as she spoke. “Okay. Alright… no, one more time. Is this real?”

How the hell should I know? I tried to be patient. “I was hoping you would tell me.”

“Honestly, this does not happen often.” Oh god. “Or ever.” Oh god. “At least not that I’m aware of.” Oh god.

When Horatio and I went our separate ways, I immediately sought out Miranda so she could confirm his story. It wasn’t that I really thought he was lying. His story was just so incredible, it had trouble sinking in. I kept thinking it would eventually. Sink in. Not yet.

From all accounts, Miranda mastered the craft quickly. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen her baffled by something witch-y. Great. This was just fucking great.

“Wait, is this impossible?” she asked rhetorically. “No, I don’t think so. It’s… wow. Him showing up is a trip in itself, but being a familiar? Wow. Just wow. Wo—”

“Miranda.”

“Sorry.” Shaking her head, she snapped out of it. “How are you?”

“I have no idea,” I answered with feeling.

“Yeah, that sounds right.”

~

The rest of the novel is available here.

Meet Mason Lewis

Mason Lewis is one of the main characters in Black Cats and Bad Luck. While magic exists in his world, it’s not really part of his life growing up. Except for one thing. He’s been dreaming of his true love for as long as he can remember. The same visitor keeps appearing when he sleeps, a boy with black hair and green eyes. He grows up along with Mason. His name is Horatio.

Mason is eager to meet Horatio, though he tells himself the waiting makes the whole thing sweeter. It will all be worth it one day. Even if the guy is nowhere to be found and Horatio isn’t the most common name. He’s lucky. Not everyone gets this. The surety, the knowledge that their other half is out there somewhere, a comfort telling them to hold on because he’s not here yet but he’s coming. One day. He’ll hold the dreams close to his heart until he can hold the guy in his arms.

When the novel starts, the years have passed and things have changed. Mason is a 23-year-old who stopped waiting for Horatio. The death of his father put things in perspective and made him realize that the life he lives with his eyes open is most important.

The excerpt below comes from a scene where Mason is talking to his best friend Miranda about his strange dreams. They’ve become more frequent, which he doesn’t like.

I leveled with Miranda. “Look at us now. You’re about to be a High Priestess. I’ve got a great job lined up and a serious girlfriend. We’re downright stable and well-adjusted. When we first met, did you ever think we would get here? If past-you could see you now, what would you think?”

“Impossible,” she answered quietly. “I’d call this impossible.”

Miranda and I met in the Dead Parents Club. That was what we called our old support group. I lost my dad while both her parents were gone. If the ‘dead parents’ nickname sounded dark, the reality was even worse. As sullen, maladjusted teens, we sat on folding chairs in a church basement, scowling at everything and sobbing at the unfairness of the world in turns, trying to make sense of grief.

For a long time, I wanted to hurt. Screw moving on and healthy coping and whatever else the counselor talked about. Then I just wanted to breathe easier without every inhale feeling so labored, a near impossibility dragged from my lungs.

Somehow, I did get past the grief. I was doing better than I ever would have imagined. So maybe Horatio and I shared some impossible connection, but what I accomplished in the waking world seemed impossible too. My dad had been gone for close to a decade, which was a long time in some regards. And also not very long. I never thought I’d be able to pick up the pieces by this time.

“I need this, Miranda,” I said. “Because there’s always this thing, if not holding me back then holding me in place. I’m ready to go on. I need to go on.”

There was this moment not too long ago. My apprenticeship was wrapping up and there were two potential jobs waiting for me. The first one was a side project Miranda and I started on a whim a few years ago and could turn into a full-time business. The other was a position with an established home building company. The latter meant moving away, but a fresh start wouldn’t be so bad, and I was getting serious with Rachel. The future never looked better. Maybe I have things under control, I thought. I’m really going to be alright. That was when the dreams started again.

At the heart of every dream, the problem was the same. I desperately desired someone who didn’t exist, someone I never really met. The dreams had too much power over me. It felt like they could destroy everything I worked so hard for.

~

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.