8 more witchy reads for autumn

Image by Melk Hagelslag – RoonzNL – Pixabay

‘Tis the season for snuggly sweaters, crunchy leaves underfoot, decorative gourds, apple cider doughnuts, and pumpkin spice everything. I just bought a pumpkin spice bath bomb from A Touch of Magic at the Harvest Days Festival in Dwight, Illinois, and I can’t wait to drop it in a tub of hot water and soak until my toes turn to prunes.

Hot baths are another rite of autumn in my life. Nothing beats sinking into warm water with a scented bath bomb or bath tea and unwinding with a good book. Bonus points when the book fits the fall vibe.

Last September, I recommended three witchy titles to kick off the spooky season. With the calendar soon turning to October, I’ve been turning the pages of more witch-centric novels lately. If you’re on the hunt for some seasonal fiction, here are eight more to add to your TBR pile.

Wild and Wicked Things

by Francesca May, 2022, Redhook, 432 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, 1920s Aesthetic, Sapphic Romance

Summary: “On Crow Island, people whisper that real magic lurks just below the surface. Magic doesn’t interest Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s on the island only to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one. Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the most mesmerizing may be her enigmatic new neighbor. Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of Crow Island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world.”

Looking for a dark tale rife with magic? Here it is.

Wild and Wicked Things is what happens when The Great Gatsby mashes with Practical Magic. Set in post-World War I England, this is a story of lavish parties, gorgeous landscapes, dark magic, mistakes, consequences, and love. The witches in this book don’t wear pointy hats or cloaks, but they are definitely witchy and wild.

Small Town, Big Magic

by Hazel Beck, 2022, Graydon House, 416 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Magical Realism, Found Family

Summary: “Emerson Wilde has built the life of her dreams. Youngest Chamber of Commerce president in St. Cyprian history, successful indie bookstore owner, and lucky enough to have her best friends as found family? Done. But when Emerson is attacked by creatures that shouldn’t be real, and kills them with what can only be called magic, Emerson finds that the past decade of her life has been…a lie. St. Cyprian isn’t your average Midwestern river town—it’s a haven for witches. When Emerson failed a power test years ago, she was stripped of her magical memories. Turns out, Emerson’s friends are all witches. And so is she.”

I’m 35 years old at the time of reading this book. Emerson Wilde is in her late 20s in the book and newly discovering she’s a witch. That storyline tends to be reserved for YA fiction, so it’s refreshing to have an adult making the journey into the magical underworld. This is a woman who has a career and thought she was established in her life, and now she has to come to terms with an entirely new aspect of her identity and life.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One

by Amanda Lovelace, 2018, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 208 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Poetry, Feminism

Summary: “The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.”

I love this collection of poetry.

I picked it up for the title. I return to it periodically for the power and passion of its words.

The poems are divided into four chapters: The Trial, The Burning, The Firestorm, and The Ashes. Despite the doom those headers seem to imply, the title is correct. The witch (in this case, women) doesn’t burn or succumb. She overcomes.

Amanda Lovelace has a powerful, call-to-action voice in this collection. She helps women proudly reclaim the title of witch from those who would use it as a condemnation and wear it as a badge of honor.

Cackle

by Rachel Harrison, 2021, Berkley, 304 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Women Supporting Women, Female Empowerment

Summary: “All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation. Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?”

When Annie’s life is turned inside out by a difficult breakup (been there, done that!), she has to rediscover herself and find a new normal. Her new normal turns out to be a tad abnormal when she develops a friendship with Sophie, the neighborhood witch.

I read a review that once described this book as “chick lit paranormal,” and that’s an apt description. While there are dark overtones, the novel never dives into thriller or horror. At its core, this is a story about overcoming heartbreak, women supporting women, and learning to define oneself as an individual and not as part of a couple. There are some morally gray moments (and Sophie generated a few “hell no’s” from me with some of her actions), but overall it’s an entertaining read.

Uprooted

by Naomi Novik, 2016, Del Rey, 464 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Fantasy, Academic Magic, Rivals to Lovers, Romance

Summary: “Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.”

For readers who want a witch tale in a fantasy setting, Uprooted is a must-read. When Agnieszka is unexpectedly selected by the Dragon – a curmudgeon if there ever was one – to serve him in his tower, she embarks on a magical education and an adventure to save her world from the corrupted Wood. Magic is at the heart of this story and woven into every page, from the evil Wood to the grumpy wizard to Agnieszka discovering she’s a witch and learning to wield her power.

My favorite part of the story, however, is the Beauty and the Beast-style relationship between Agnieszka and Sarkan (the Dragon’s actual name). I’m a sucker for a story with a curmudgeon slowly coming out of his shell and begrudgingly letting himself be loved.

Hour of the Witch

by Chris Bohjalian, 2021, Vintage Books, 496 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Historical Fiction, Witch Hunt Accounts

Summary: “Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four years old. In England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary—a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony—soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows.”

This pick is for readers who are looking for historical realism revolving around witch hunts. Set in Puritan New England, Hour of the Witch follows the drama of a young woman targeted in an American witch hunt. The hysteria that developed in this period of history has always fascinated me, and I will always devour a title that humanizes the women who were targeted and gives them a voice.

The novel also explores a woman liberating herself from an abusive marriage. Mary’s father is a merchant who imported a set of three-tined forks and gifted them to her, but her husband and fellow villagers consider them to be demonic “devil’s tines.” Suspicion continues to build about Mary as the community sees what it wants to see and convinces itself that Mary’s actions indicate witchcraft. After all, no moral, God-fearing woman would seek to divorce her husband and spread supposedly blatant lies about him. Mary fights a two-front war against her husband and village, refusing to be misused or accused.

The Near Witch

by Victoria Schwab, 2011, Hyperion Books, 284 pages

Good pick for readers who like: YA Fiction, Fairy Tales, Haunting Bedtime Stories

Summary: “The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.”

This book strikes the perfect tone for October. There’s the mystery of the fading boy, the chilling bedtime tale of the Near Witch snatching children from their beds, and the pervading evil that lurks on the moon-drenched moors. This is a dark fairy tale that has a palpable atmosphere – I was drawn into the story’s lyrical prose and still shiver at the sensation of wandering after dark in the moors’ biting wind.

We Ride Upon Sticks

by Quan Barry, 2020, Pantheon Books, 367 pages

Good pick for readers who like: Sports, Girl Gangs, The 1980s

Summary: “In the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the original 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers Falcons will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity. Through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship, this comic tour de female force chronicles Barry’s glorious cast of characters as they charge past every obstacle on the path to finding their glorious true selves.”

This isn’t the usual kind of witch story I pick up – I gravitate toward fairy tale, gothic, magical realism, and historical fiction set during American and European witch hunts. However, this title came with the enthusiastic endorsement of my cousin, who described the reading experience like watching a John Hughes movie.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed We Ride Upon Sticks – anyone who lived through the 1980s will appreciate the many pop culture references. The members of the Falcons field hockey team are willing to try anything to turn around their losing record and make it to the state finals, so they sign their names in an Emilio Estevez notebook as a commitment to the Dark. They pledge to make mischief in exchange for wins on the field. As the stakes escalate in the book, so do the humor and the reader’s bond with this gang of high school girls.

The magic is low-key in this novel, but the story is a fun dive into the universal teenage girl attraction to witchcraft.

Crafting a fantasy world’s system of magic

Worldbuilding is very much on my mind lately.

For several months, I’ve been laying the foundation for the magic system and its lore in The Witch’s Witness, my novel-in-progress about a coven of Vermont witches and the mysterious (and potentially dangerous) stranger who appears in their backyard.

Every time I’m developing a new fictional culture and its inhabitants, my radar starts blipping for worldbuilding in other media. For every page I turn or episode I view, there’s a persistent whisper in my mind: What stands out about this fictional world? What are the creators doing right in this media? How can their method instruct my own work?

My most recent Netflix marathon featured the platform’s two seasons of Altered Carbon, based on Richard Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel of the same name (which I unfortunately haven’t read, yet). In the Altered Carbon universe, technology has advanced so the human consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack, which is an electronic device installed in the spinal column. If the body dies, the mind can live on and be installed into a new body, or “sleeve.”

The concept of human immortality and the exploration of its impact, limitations, and morality is enough to make the story compelling. 

But what immediately reeled me into the world was the lingo. 

There’s plenty of lingo I can point to. The “stacks,” which store the human mind and are installed in bodies; “RD,” or real death, if a person’s stack gets destroyed; “sleeves,” or bodies in which stacks are installed (and “resleeving” when a person is loaded into a new body); “Meths,” a term based on an abbreviation of the 969-year-old Biblical figure Methuselah, which is used to refer to the wealthy elite who can afford to continuously resleeve and essentially live forever.

On their own, each of these concepts is a solid piece of worldbuilding, but the language of the world elevates these concepts and makes them feel significantly more real. It’s a more immersive experience for the viewer (and/or reader) when we slip among characters who casually and dismissively make references to unique aspects of their universe. They accept all of this as a fact of life in their world; in turn, it helps viewers accept it.

I am infinitely impressed by other creators’ worldbuilding. My hope is to follow in their footsteps and create a believable world in which readers can immerse themselves.

Creating a magical reality

There’s a tricky balance to worldbuilding. On the one hand, I want to establish a setting where the characters accept the way the world functions without overly pondering it. After all, someone doesn’t have to know how gravity works to know that it works. It’s just a universal law. A fact of life. 

On the other hand, I don’t want to create a magic system that is too vague – or, God forbid, has contradictions or plot holes. Nothing is scarier than the idea of a reader screeching to halt and saying, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. There’s no way that works.”

In The Witch’s Witness, the system of magic has a religious-like lore behind it. There’s an existing mythology about the source of witches’ magic (or the “wellspring,” as it’s known in text). 

Magic isn’t widely known or practiced in this parallel version of Vermont. Covens keep a low profile after centuries of European and American witch hunts; they’re more than happy to let the masses believe magic is nothing more than a figment of imagination. 

Except, of course, it’s real.

Witches can either be born with magic (an “innate talent”) or they can learn it as “practitioners.” Witches with an innate talent have an internal source of magic, whereas practitioners have to use external sources of magic, such as natural ingredients or artifacts.

As for the innate talents themselves: A witch can be born with an aptitude in one of twelve branches of magic. [See chart below] 

Main character Heather Barlow is a flora witch who wields influence over the plant kingdom. She has a natural connection to the magical properties of plants and can draw upon their power to enhance her own. While other witches can use plants as tools in their magical practice, she can directly manipulate, communicate with, and control flora. 

Any witch can practice the basics of another witch’s innate talent. A flora witch can use tea leaves to see shadows of the future, while a clairvoyant witch would have the natural ability to see visions without the aid of tea leaves. A practitioner can conduct a seance with symbols and tools to communicate with the dead, while an inspiriter has a direct connection with souls and can summon them without ceremony.

However, there are some skills that only a witch with an innate talent can yield. Summoning “hellfire,” for example. (Note: There is no hell, but it’s the name given to a form of fire that can be summoned from the spirit realm as the sole means to permanently destroy souls.) Only fire elementalists and inspiriters can summon it because fire witches have an innate link to flames and inspiriters have an innate link to the spirit realm. 

The trick now is weaving these types of magic around each other and trying not to tangle any of them … or leave a gaping logic-hole in the tapestry of the story.

Have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions about the magic system in The Witch’s Witness? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

The legend of La Befana, the Christmas Witch

When it comes to holidays with a good witch story, the natural one to come to mind is Halloween.

But it turns out Christmas has a famous witch, too.

Magic and lore have a long camaraderie with the Christmas season. In the centuries before electricity, the shortened hours of daylight and cold weather drove people indoors in the evenings. An oral tradition of spinning spooky stories evolved, which eventually exploded into a written tradition of Christmas ghost stories in Victorian England.

The season also has lighter fare of magical tales – the most enduring story in the United States is the story of Santa Claus, his flying reindeer, and his North Pole toy-making operation.

I’ve long been familiar with stories of Santa and the specters of Victorian England, but it was only this year that I encountered the tale of La Befana.

La Befana, 1821, Bartolomeo Pinelli. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen.

La Befana is a figure from Italian folklore. Artwork and written accounts depict her as an elderly woman who rides a broomstick and carries a sack of candy to deliver to children. She enters children’s homes by shimmying down the chimney on Epiphany Eve. Like Santa Claus, her gift-giving is based on a naughty-or-nice list. The well-behaved children receive candy or a toy, and the misbehaving children receive coal, onions, or garlic.

Children also should make sure to be in bed and asleep with La Befana comes. Any little scamps who try to catch a glimpse of her may be in for an unpleasant surprise, according to Nikki Crowell in an article about La Befana featured in The Culture Trip: “The children are told that she will give them a swift thump from her broomstick if they try to see her when she arrives, but the tradition could just be to keep kids in their beds.”

As a bonus for Mom and Dad, the story goes that La Befana sweeps the floor of each home before she leaves. She is a legendary housekeeper in Italian folklore.

Instead of setting out milk and cookies for La Befana, families set out a glass of wine and a Christmas treat, such as a slice of a traditional holiday cake like pannetone or pandoro.

La Befana in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. She brings gifts to children as well as good luck and blessings for the new year.
Naturpuur, Wikimedia Commons

The link between La Befana and Epiphany is a tale about how the Magi (or the Three Wise Men) stopped at her home on their way to Bethlehem. The kindhearted witch gave them food and a place to rest. In return, they asked her to accompany them on their journey to honor Jesus. La Befana declined, but after the Wise Men departed she decided she would make the journey after all. She gathered food and gifts to offer Jesus, but she never found him. Instead, she began distributing her treats to all of the children she met.

The feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 in Italy to mark the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem. On Epiphany Eve, it’s still traditional for children to set out shoes or stockings for La Befana to fill with sweets. Several cities in Italy also mark the occasion with festivals celebrating La Befana.

Despite going by my maiden name of Stroebel (which hearkens my German roots), I married into a family with strong Italian heritage, and La Befana’s lore has found a home in my household. If she wants to cross the Atlantic on her broomstick, she’s welcome to come down my chimney and sweep my floors on Epiphany Eve. I’ll have a glass of wine and a slice of cake waiting for her.

3 witchy reads for autumn

Today is the first day of astronomical fall.

You know what that means. Mugs of hot beverages. Pots of soup. Pumpkins on the porch. Warm, fuzzy sweaters.

And curling up under blankets to read.

As daylight wanes and nature prepares itself for a dormant season, it’s the perfect time to spend more hours indoors with a good book. (As if there’s ever not a good time to spend with a book …) This is also the season when the witchy vibe resonates the strongest, and that’s often reflected in my choice of titles from September through November.

Listed below are three of my favorite witchy reads from the past few autumns.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

by Katherine Howe, 2010, Hachette Books, 384 pages

Summary: Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest – to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

Katherine Howe knits together the past and the present in this work of historical fiction. Although the book is light on fantasy and the magic is mild, it offers a glimpse into the Salem Witch Trials and an academic pursuit to find the “receipt book” (or recipe book, essentially a grimoire) belonging to Connie’s ancestor.

Storylines that blend magic and academia rank high among my favorites, as well as those that weave magic into our everyday lives and world. Not to mention the Salem Witch Trials have been a historical obsession for me since high school. If any of your interests tick the same boxes, this would be a good book for you.

The All Souls Trilogy
(A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life)

by Deborah Harkness, 2011-2015, Penguin Books, approx. 590 pages each

Summary: Historian Diana Bishop has denied her magical heritage, instead focusing on her academic research into alchemy. But when she stumbles upon a bewitched alchemical manuscript at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, she draws the attention of witches, vampires, and daemons alike. There’s no ignoring her magical past, nor can she ignore geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont as he becomes her unlikely ally in discovering the mystery of the manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Magic is front and center in this trilogy, which also happens to be a trifecta of fantasy, academia, and romance. Rooted in our modern world, this series introduces us to a world of magic that hovers at the edge of our peripheral vision.

Despite Matthew Clairmont’s possessiveness of Diana driving me crazy, I enjoyed the romance of the trilogy. Plus there’s time travel, globe-trotting, and escalation of magical power as the series progresses.

The Heretic’s Daughter

by Kathleen Kent, 2009, Back Bay Books, 332 pages

Summary: Sarah Carrier Chapman narrates how she survived the Salem Witch Trials that killed her mother. Sarah and her family arrive in a New England community gripped by superstition and fear more than a year before the trials begin. As the family witnesses neighbors and friends pitted against each other, the hysteria escalates, until more than two hundred people have been swept into prison. Among them is Sarah’s mother, Martha Carrier. In an attempt to protect her children, Martha asks Sarah to commit an act of heresy – a lie that will condemn Martha but save her daughter.

This isn’t a novel in which you’ll find cauldrons or incantations – instead, you’ll find monsters among men. This piece of historical fiction sticks close to reality as it explores how the hysteria and accusations could mount against neighbors during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s. Even though the trials occurred during a bitter Massachusetts winter, the chilling history of Salem makes this a worthy pick for fall reading.

Which came first: The writer or the witch?

All of my life, I’ve been a daydreamer. I’ve never been sure if I pass more of my hours navigating real life or wandering my imagination.

That’s why Halloween always has been near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the rare days in the U.S. when we merge our daily routines with our daydreams. It’s a day when we let imagination take the lead.

In my youngest years, I chose the typical costumes associated with a feminine aesthetic – one year I’d want to be a ballerina, the next I wanted to be a princess. In third grade, I was a pink, glitter-covered fairy that garnered the praise and attention of my teacher.

But there was one costume I adored above all others. One that I began to request year after year. Eventually, my mom stopped asking, “What do you want to be for Halloween?” and instead started asking, “Do you want to be a witch again?”

Dressed as a witch for Halloween and holding my cat, Panther

The idea of magic – and particularly the women who yielded it – captured my imagination early on. Images of women huddled around bubbling cauldrons, soaring in front of the moon on broomsticks, and living uninhibited lives deep in the forest strummed a chord in my heart. To me, witches symbolized control over their own lives and power over any situation. A witch wouldn’t be scared of the dark – she could summon flame to chase shadows. A witch wouldn’t be afraid of a wild animal – she would tame and befriend it.

When I pulled on my pointy black hat and swished my tattered skirt every Halloween, I felt fearless and powerful.

While Halloween stoked my love of witches, popular media fanned the flames. I was six years old when Disney released the movie Hocus Pocus. It’s a miracle our VHS cassette lasted as long as it did, because from August through October each year, I watched it multiple times a week. Even though the Sanderson sisters were the villains who sucked the souls from children to stay eternally youthful, they were my favorite characters. What little girl wouldn’t want to brew potions and browse the thick vellum pages of a spellbook and enchant the world?

(Not to mention they could fly on those iconic besoms.)

Hocus Pocus | Walt Disney Pictures | 1993

Then in 1996, along came the TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch starring Melissa Joan Hart. I was nine years old, and every Friday night I spent a half-hour watching a regular girl discover her magical powers and use them in a modern world. Not only was the witch the hero of this story, but she was young and modern and relatable – a witch who listened to Britney Spears, wore butterfly hair clips, and weaved through the minefield of school drama.

* * *

Before I even started school and learned to write, I declared I was going to be an author, so it was a natural progression that I penned (or rather, penciled) tales about witches and dragons and fantasy worlds during my grade school years.

That changed as I got older. Although my reading diet remained full of the fantastical – The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Harry Potter, and The Prydain Chronicles, among many others – my writing shifted toward realistic fiction as I entered junior high. I had reached an age when my classmates wanted to muse about boys and who would make the girls basketball roster and which pop band was the best. No one wanted to conjure wild games of make-believe anymore.

Me at age 12 (seventh grade) dressed as a witch for Halloween. My sister holds the end of my wig in front of her face and says, “Look, I’m Cousin It!”

Not that I stopped conjuring witches and magical artifacts and dragons in my daydreams. But I kept them carefully to myself. The exception came once a year on Halloween, when I could transform into a witch and daydream aloud without the risk of judgment.

Fantasy and lore still called to me, but I didn’t write it down. Instead, I went through the teenage rite-of-passage of scribbling angst-ridden poetry and hormone-fueled journal entries and experimental stories that seemed deeply profound at the time but make me cringe today.

Throughout high school and college, I felt an increasing pressure to write meaningful work – something that could be a Pulitzer contender or deemed “the Great American Novel.” I started and failed to finish multiple pieces of literary fiction that were full of themes and meaning and symbolism but lacked an important ingredient. I didn’t care about them.

It wasn’t until I wrote a fantasy tale for my nieces as a Christmas surprise that I felt truly engaged in my writing again. The mist that had clouded my inspiration for nearly two decades finally lifted, and I embraced a simple truth: I am a genre writer. As much as I appreciate literary and realistic fiction, my heart belongs to first and foremost to exploring paranormal and fantasy stories.

Working cover of The Witch’s Witness

I’ve spent a lifetime consuming media about witches and imagining what a world with magic would be like. Now I’m recording those musings on paper. After all, life is too short to waste on stories that don’t feed the flame inside us.

* * *

My debut fantasy novel The Witch’s Witness will be the first installment of a three-book series (name of trilogy to be announced) about a coven of witches in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Release is tentatively set for summer/fall 2022.