Horatio waltzed into my life fashionably late, expecting everything else to grind to a halt while he made room for himself. Then again, why shouldn’t he feel that way? For years I had the same attitude. I waited patiently, trying to make decisions for myself but always knowing any moment could be the moment when it stopped being my life and became our life.
-Mason Lewis, Black Cats and Bad Luck
The Wards aren’t your average family. They’re magical. And also, technically, fictional. In the new adult fantasy novel Black Cats and Bad Luck, Avery is excited and scared for his family vacation because life in a magical family can be intense. He’s used to errant spells and the occasional hex, but he wasn’t expecting evil spirits, exploding statues, and a naked man arriving at his door.
In this quote, Avery discusses life as a Ward.
My family is great. I love them, but at the last reunion, well. We never mention the wendigo incident. I rarely even thought about it. Oh, when I say we never mention it, I meant we were literally forbidden from speaking of it. Seriously, I swore a blood oath and everything, so yeah… things could get intense when the Wards were around, and the more of us there were, the more intense it could get.Black Cats and Bad Luck
In Black Cats and Bad Luck, Horatio broke or bent several rules when he changes forms from cat to man without a pause in between. As he adjusts to his new way of being, there’s a few things he knows for sure.
Underneath a tree with a teeming canopy of leaves stood a person. No, not just a person. Him.
How funny this human life could be. An ocean of words and data, yet it all fled his mind when they touched. There was a wild thing beating at the cage of his ribs like winged prey waiting to be caught.
There were unknown depths in the man’s eyes. The moment stretched at the seams, ready to rip, but strong arms steadied him and kept him right where he wanted to be. Horatio pressed their lips together.
A kiss seemed like the only way to express what he wanted to say. Hello, you most lovely thing. Isn’t the world so beautiful and wonderful? It is beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.
Heart. The thing in his chest was called a heart.
He had so many new words, but none could describe this. The closest he could come… Lungs breathe air. Hunters chase prey. Water flows, fire burns, and they should be kissing. Of all his new facts, he was most sure of the last.Black Cats and Bad Luck
Life in feline form meant a swishing tail, hunter’s instincts, ears that point, and a voice that mewls. Along with the parts that were More. He knew things. He sensed when Stella needed his assistance to power a spell, when the moon would be full, when the day required a protection charm and when it only needed an umbrella.
-Horatio, Black Cats and Bad Luck
I found a tool for authors to make graphics called Bookbrush, and I think I got a little carried away. So there are many graphics to share. Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of my contemporary fantasy novel Black Cats and Bad Luck.
In the novel, Horatio is a magical entity who went from animal form to human being without a pause in between, which rarely happens. No longer a feline familiar, he’s a human on a mission to be with his true love. He transitions pretty seamlessly into the human world, which is largely chalked up to magic. He’s also a cosmic traveler who has seen many things. I think some of his backstory is vast and unknowable, but there is part can be… known. It’s just touched on now, and there’s some more hints in their next book, though eventually the knowable pieces of his existence will be revealed.
So this quote comes from Horatio switching from a being intimately connected with magic and the inner workings of the universe to a human.
No more time to rest when he could do instead. He rose from the bed on two human legs. His form stood larger than before, yet almost entirely compressed into this place called flesh. The world no longer whispered its secrets into his ear.
Whatever came next, it wasn’t for him to sneak glimpses of anymore. The past, present, and future separated themselves into distinct sections. Time to experience life in a new way, second by second.
Whatever came next, it would be amazing. How could it not be? The world was full of wonder. Seconds ago, he used to be one thing. Now, he was another.—Black Cats and Bad Luck
Hello, is this Moodboards Anonymous? My name is F.N. Manning, and I’m addicted to moodboards. Oh, this isn’t Moodboards Anonymous? And that support group doesn’t exist? That’s fair.
As you might have guessed, I enjoy making mood boards, which I put as one word in every instance before this one, but I get the red squigglies so now I’m changing my mind. This is for my new adult fantasy novel, that is also naturally a gay romance, Black Cats and Bad Luck. Here’s a board for the main characters, Mason and Horatio.
After years of waiting for a mysterious man from his dreams who might not exist, Mason is ready to move on with his life. Until Horatio finally appears, and his whereabouts were stranger than anyone imagined. With the help of the smartest paranormal experts, or at least the only ones available, the guys must battle the forces of evil, keep everyone safe, and see if their relationship can become more than a good dream and survive in the real world.
When I spent too much time on the computer, whether searching for Horatio or playing games online, Dad would bring me back to real life. Life’s not happening there in between the ones and zeros, he’d say. It’s happening out here. I’d hate for you to miss it.
After what felt like a lifetime of the alleged perfect man for me being so close yet never close enough to touch, I drew my own conclusions. My only defense, I suppose, was that I lived with the idea of him for so long, I began to think that’s all he was. An idea, a hope, a dream who lived within a dream.Black Cats and Bad Luck
Magic exists in the world of Black Cats and Bad Luck, but not everyone comes into contact with witches and extraordinary powers. Though Witches have come out of the broom closet and are part of mainstream society, most people are aware of magic but don’t witness it themselves unless they are connected to Pagans and the magical community in some way.
Jonah Harris is a human teenager who’s curious about the supernatural world and excited to experience magic first hand. He figures his in is his best friend Avery Ward, who comes from a powerful magical family. But after years of friendship, Avery keeps that side of his life almost entirely hidden. So being invited on a Ward family trip the summer after their sophomore year is finally his chance to see how the magical folk live.
Until Jonah learns everybody is abstaining from using powers for the majority of the trip. While the amount of magic they’re expecting, next to none, might not be the actual amount that occurs in this fantasy novel (it’s not) Jonah seems to have the worst luck when it comes to seeing magic. So much so that he begins suspecting supernatural interference.
P.S. Very Serious Author Note? I adore Jonah. He’s kind of like Ryan from my One More Thing Series in that they’re both tall, skinny tornadoes of excitement and enthusiasm. But he’s also the lone character in this novel with virtually no supernatural contact beforehand, so it’s fun as he explores this new world with fresh eyes.
In this scene, Horatio makes the case for why qualifies as astounding magic. He’s a mystical being and magical miracle who transformed from animal to human form, but Jonah isn’t exactly impressed.
Jonah was still dying to see magic.
“What about me, cat given human flesh?” Horatio offered as he and Jonah began chatting.
“You aren’t impressed?”
“This doesn’t happen often, or so I hear. That’s…” He tried and failed to summon enthusiasm. “Neat.”
“Yes, it’s extremely rare.” Horatio stood taller, proud of his exceptional nature. “If this isn’t wowing you, then I’m afraid nothing will.”
“No, hold on. It’s not like I watched you transform into a man. I only know you as a man. Yeah, I knew distantly Avery had a pet cat.” Jonah raised his hands before the protests could begin. “Before this trip, I didn’t know about familiars or anything, so I thought the cat was a pet. And I don’t really connect you to a cat whose name I might have guessed started with an ‘H,’ but I would have said Harry or Hornbat.”
Avery asked, “Where did you come up with Hornba—”
“Or Jiggles,” Jonah interrupted, looking to Horatio. “Your name was never Jiggles?”
Grab your copy of this 99 cent queer paranormal romance here.
My original idea for the Ward Magic series included magical realism, and I took out some of the ‘realism’ to add more sorcery and adventure to Black Cats and Bad Luck. So magic in this universe is sort of like that old song by Meatloaf: I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. Except the ‘that’ is always changing because it seems like magic can’t permanently distort the laws of the universe or alter reality simply by waving a wand, but no one’s really sure how far magic can go. Then something mystical upends everyone’s perspectives and they say, ‘oh okay, magic can go this far and no farther.’ And then magic can only go that far… until it goes farther.
Horatio is a mystical being who has more insight into the universe and magic than most, Except becoming a human has dulled his senses somewhat. Here’s a few of his thoughts on the mystery of magic.
Magick could create light but preferred to dwell in the shadows, which it could also create. At least among humans, magick preferred mystery. Those who wielded the power could understand it on a personal level, but efforts to unlock the mysteries on a grander scale almost always failed. Some used to fear something nefarious hiding behind the mystery. 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.Black Cats and Bad Luck
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.
“WHAT?” Miranda yelled despite being in a public lobby. “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”
“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.
“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—”
“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.