Tag Archives: #witches

Needle and Knife: A Horror Story

A Halloween treat and a very disturbing story. Seriously, it involves baby mutilation. Not my usual romance.

 

In Emilia’s dream, someone in a tower holds a baby. A brand new white baby. Painfully blue eyes look up with complete trust. He knows he will not fall. He’s weak, new, and undoubtedly male, but he’s safe and so pale.

The hands, which look so dark and brown against that new white flesh, tickle the baby’s ankle. The baby laughs. The big hand wraps around a tiny fat ankle and bends the chubby pink leg behind the baby’s back. He fusses. Blue eyes squint. He whines tiny and cute. The hand twists, folding the fat unformed bulb that will become the baby’s knee. Twists too far. The baby arches, curls, tries to pull his foot away from his back. He blurts annoyed squalls. Farther still. The baby cries.

Farther. New bone cracks.

The baby screams.

A knife glints against the baby’s breast and a bright bubble of blood appears over the new heart.

Emilia wakes, startled but soundless. She’s in the backseat of her grandfather’s car, head tipped back on the rich leather. It’s a North American car imported to Chile by a cargo freighter as Grandfather would remind her proudly. Her heart thuds in her ears and she looks around. Her father dozes beside her, her mother stares forward in the front seat, looking at the darkness of the Chilean countryside. Grandfather drives, she can see his soft brown hands on the wheel. Everyone in the car ought to hear the pulsing of her heart, but no one does.

She wants to tell her nightmare, to hear comforting words, but even at nearly nine she will not allow herself that weakness. Her right hand still makes a tight fist, thinking it holds a knife. Her left arm still curls as if cradling a new baby – her cousin, Vicente, she knows when she’s awake.

To shake the dream, Emilia stretches her arms and leans forward to thrust her head between her grandfather and her mother. She smells strong coffee and catches the glow of her mother’s Blackberry in her pocket.

Mother puts her hand on Emilia’s head and strokes her braided hair. Says nothing.

Grandfather whispers without taking his hands from the wheel. “Is that my curious little snake?”

Emilia smiles and hisses at him.

“Go to sleep, Lia.” Mother glances over her shoulder at Emilia’s father. There’s no judgment, merely observation. Around Grandfather, Mother always looks at Papi the way a woman might watch over a bird with a broken wing in a household of cats. “Lean on Papi.”

Emilia shakes her head and looks out the window. “I’m awake. Is this the place of gulls, yet?”

“No.” Grandfather points to the window on his left. “We have to go into those mountains for that.”

Emilia presses her face to the car window and stares out into the darkness.

The Chilean countryside is vastly different than her city home in Santiago. There is an eerie absence of life. No noise and no people. Nothing living that does not understand the dark and hiding. No light except the stars and the moon and in the distance the dark mass of mountains and snow rolling along the sky. She always thought the sky was black, the blackest black, but now she knows the only true darkness in the world is those mountains.

“Is that where the copper mines are, grandfather?”

Her mother speaks without patience. “Yes, and you know that. Be still and—”

“It is. The oldest and greatest of the Vidal family mines.” Grandfather interrupts his daughter. “The one you’ll inherit.”

Mother says nothing, watching Grandfather. The look of a sparrow watching an old hawk, waiting for him to dive and eat her young.

Grandfather doesn’t notice or, rather, he notices but is not bothered enough to let it interrupt him. “You’ll see it tomorrow. My grandfather burrowed into the earth and found the richest deposit of ore in all of Chile. He never mined half of it, because he was clever.”

“Copper dries up.” Emilia nods. “But people always want a bigger better roof over their heads.”

“Good girl.” Grandfather and Mother both say. All three of them smile but do not laugh.

The road jostles the American car and Papi snorts and groggily blinks awake. Mother turns and smiles, but Emilia frowns. It’s better when he’s asleep. She regrets thinking this because it’s unkind and Papi is nothing but kindness.

Papi gives her a goofy smile and tugs her hair, as if she is not nearly nine. His voice is large and laughing, “Hey, pretty girl. Still awake?”

There had been something special when it was only Grandfather, Mother, and herself in the stillness and the dark. Papi could not tolerate the stillness.

“No, Papi, I’m dreaming.” She points out the window. “I’m a snake swimming in the mountains.”

Grandfather, Mother, and Papi all laugh at this. Not because it’s funny, Emilia knows. Papi laughs because his daughter has said something silly in her serious way. Grandfather and Mother laugh so that Papi is not alone in his amusement.

Then Papi tickles her and Emilia is the one laughing alone, joyful. The darkness of the mountains, the knife in her dreams vanish into the warmth of her father’s big brown fingers.

 

In Emilia’s dreams, she knows how to press the needle into the baby’s ear, how to angle it so that it pierces the flesh but does not bend on the bone of its skull. She tugs the ear high and tall so that it will be sharp and attentive. It must hear the slightest rustling, because he will not see well.

The foot has grown through the baby’s chest and its toes wrinkle and clench as it squirms and whines. So much noise. Such a loud baby.

When the ears are stitched to the baby’s small head, blood trickles down the curves and into the canal. Emilia takes a moment to twist the baby’s neck. Soon its head will be able to turn entirely around, but for now she’s only trained it about halfway.

She cleans the blood from its ears, hushes and soothes the baby. She feds it cat’s milk in a bottle which the baby holds with its foot to its mouth. When the baby calms again, she gently lays him on the wooden table and takes out her scissors.

Emilia takes the bottle away and pinches the baby’s tongue. It’s older now. Old enough to punch, but still tiny and weak. She uses the scissors to fork the tongue and the blood gushes over her fingers and the blade.

She cleans the scissors and feeds the baby a balm to heal its split tongue. Then the goat meat in mushed chunks to sustain it. Then the special herbs and bone-powder to make it grow strong.

The baby calms again and sleeps on her shoulder.

The eye-lids will be last. They must be glued with the proper balm. When she is finished, those blue eyes will be clouded and her servant will see only what she wants it to see. But that’s not for today. For today, she sings the baby ancient songs and massages its neck.

 

Emilia wakes and stares trembling at the ceiling. She is alone in the hotel room in a bed large enough for two adults.

“Papi…” She whimpers in the darkness, so cold and so empty in this place without sky scrapers and street lamps. She badly wants his arms, his big voice calling her ‘pretty girl,’ and his goofy smile. But she will not call for him because Mother might come and Emilia does not want anyone to know she’s afraid of the dark.

Even though she’s alone and there is no one to see, Emilia buries her face in the pillow when she cries. She doesn’t sleep anymore, though she stops crying soon. She listens to the darkness, feels it getting closer, prickling at her skin. Soon, the sun breaks over the horizon and gray light spills into the room that hundreds of strangers have called their own. Emilia rises and opens her suitcase. Papi insisted on packing her favorite long-sleeve shirt. It has a mermaid on it, and Emilia thinks it’s too silly to wear around Grandfather, but she puts it on anyway because it comforts her. She puts the thick black sweater over it then sits by the window to watch the sun rise.

She will see the copper mine today. One that she will inherit. She tries to make her hair like her mother’s bun.

She knows it’s Papi because he knocks softly and then carefully creaks the door open. “Hey, Pretty Girl, you’re awake?”

She badly wanted his voice a few hours ago, but now the nickname irritates her. She hopes he will not call her that at the copper mine.

“Well, it’s morning, Papi. Why would I be sleeping?” She smiles at him graciously, her mother’s smile. Her father recoils.

 

They have breakfast with Uncle Dominic and his wife. The woman’s name was Anna Dominguez, and she was from the warm coastlands of Chile where the people were white and the natives were few. The Vidal family came from the far south where the people were brown and had always owned the land.

Anna holds her baby as if he will fly away if she lets him go for an instant. Everyone is polite to her, but Emilia knows Anna doesn’t belong. Mother and Grandfather look at her the way wolves look at Chihuahuas. Papi sits by Anna and as Grandfather and Mother and Uncle talk about the business, the buildings, the mines, they talk about babies. Anna worries that Vicente is only seven days old and shouldn’t be out in this cold. Papi assures her he will be safe.

Emilia sits very still and watches the newborn boy’s sleepy blue eyes.

 

Grandfather drives to the mine with Uncle Dominic and his wife. While Papi drives, Mother ‘voices concerns’ in her quiet hiss. “If that bitch thinks just because her baby has a prick he’s going to get any part of the business…”

“Trust your father.” Papi knows how to calm her. “He put you in charge, didn’t he?”

Mother nods. “Dominic is weak and his wife is weak and their son will be weak.”

Papi raises his eyes the way he always does when Mother talks about weakness and power. “Your father will see that. He’s not going to trust his business to anyone but the best.”

This conversation would mean nothing to Emilia if it happened in Santiago. In Santiago, she was top of her class, she aced her tests, she had ribbons and trophies. But as she walks through the copper mine with her hair in its tight bun, she cannot help but watch the baby.

 

They don’t go back to the hotel. Grandfather leads them higher up the mountain. He’s left his American car at the mine and he’s driving a giant chipped truck. A trailer laden with two ATVs drags behind, chattering along, threatening to come undone and crash into Papi’s little car.

“Where’s he taking us?” Papi grumbles. “It’s past lunch time. Emilia must be starving. And Anna shouldn’t be out this soon after giving birth.”

Mother tense and unpleasant says, “maybe there’s a restaurant on the mountain.”

Papi knows better than to respond. But he looks back at Emilia and raises his eyes trying to get her to conspiratorially agree with him.

Emilia looks out of the window at the mountains. She knows they are going to the Place of the Gulls, like Grandfather said. The world is alive with green foliage and patches of the whitest snow she has ever seen. The darkness hides under the snow, under the earth. It coils around unmined ore, shielding the shine of the copper from the sun.

 

The road ends. Or rather the road turns into a dirt trail after a large picnic area. There is a railing around the cliff and snow. It’s cold as a refrigerator here. Santiago never felt this cold. Emilia put on her coat, which was meant for light rain and black and sleek as her grandfather’s fur lined coat. She stands beside her mother looking down at the valleys of Chile, trying to find the snaking road they traveled on. She can hear the cry of seabirds, but she sees none.

“It’s too cold.” Uncle’s wife complains as she climbs down from the truck, clutching Vicente as if he is a life-jacket and she is drowning.

“Stop worrying, darling,” Uncle says. What he means is stop being weak in front of the family.

“Let me hold the baby, Anna. Rest.” Mother can be gentle, but Mother can also pretend to be gentle. Anna doesn’t know the difference and shares her burden with another woman. Vicente cries.

The sound annoys and frightens Emilia. So much like her dreams… Determined not to feel the cold, she walks to her grandfather’s side. She points out to the valley and the highways. “Someone should build a proper road over this mountain. Then a big hotel with a ski resort right here.”

“Clever,” Grandfather says. “They’ve tried. I stop them.”

Emilia looks up at his clean-shaven face, studies the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. She waits for him to tell her why it’s not in the mine’s best interest for there to be a road and a hotel. Or maybe it’s in Chile’s best interest. Maybe a road would be a straight path into Argentina. She is not as ignorant, as easily blinded by Argentinian footballer’s smiles and handsome faces, as naïve as other girls her age.

Grandfather doesn’t explain anything. “Get on the ATV.”

Emilia goes to the ATV her father and Uncle drove off the trailer. They ease the second one down and Grandfather sits on the first. Uncle straddles the second.

Mother sits on the ATV behind Uncle cradling Vicente.

Papi kisses Mother’s cheek then says to Grandfather. “Anything else, sir?”

“No,” Grandfather waves at Anna sitting in the back of the car.  She looks weak and drained and cold. “Take her back to the hotel.”

Anna sits up and looks for her baby. “But I thought I was going, too.”

“You’re tired.” Grandfather’s gentleness is more convincing than Mother’s. “Go rest at the hotel. Vicente will be fine.”

Anna stood, staggered a little, reaching her arms helplessly. “Then let me have Vicente.”

“Get back in the car, darling.” Uncle says. “You need rest.”

Anna cries because Mother will not surrender the baby. “Please, don’t make me, Dominic. He’s only seven days old. We should both be at home. The doctor said—”

“Anna. Don’t fight me.” Uncle shows the family hardness. “Get back in the car.”

Papi takes Anna by the shoulder and pushes her gently to the car. His kindness is real and he whispers softly to Anna. She is soothed and sits in the back, heartsick.

Papi says, “Come on, Lia. You sit up front.”

Emilia glares at him. She is not weak like her uncle’s wife. She wants to go on the ATV. But she thinks about the darkness hiding in the mountain, the cry of the baby and longs to sit in the car with her father and sing silly American songs and make goofy faces as they drive away. The cloud of those dreams would stop and she could hear her little cousin cry without trembling. Everything would be better if she got into the car and drove away from the mountain and that dirty road leading into its heart.

“Get behind me, Emilia.” Grandfather commands.

And she obeys.

 

The road is impassable at the end of the world. More than just ending, the dirt trail turns into a wall of rock and thick trees and snow. No person could get through.

Grandfather stops the ATV at the edge of the stone wall and Emilia sees the wall was once taller. Over time, it has crumbled, but there are still strange things etched into the stone.

There are nuggets of raw copper at the base, left like an offering.

Vicente fusses and squalls from hunger and cold. Uncle stays on his ATV and stares straight ahead at the stone, his face as stoic as the natural barricade. Grandfather unpacks sandwiches from a cooler strapped to the ATV. Mother takes one without asking.

“You know, Lia, I’m not the oldest of my father’s sons.” Grandfather hands her a bottle of pop. “Dominic, come have a sandwich.”

“No, thank you.”

Emilia drinks her pop and waits to hear more. She thought she knew the Vidal’s history, but her Grandfather had always been the oldest in the histories she knew. “What happened to your older brother? Did he get sick?”

Grandfather smiles. “He was lost when he was only seven days old.”

Emilia casts her eyes over to her cousin, Vicente. So small, so weak. “How did he die?”

“He didn’t.” Grandfather drinks his pop and watches over her shoulder.

The forest crawls behind her, but it is impolite to turn her back on her Grandfather and he wants to watch the forest.

“I said he was lost,” Grandfather says. “Eat your sandwich.”

Emilia takes several large bites obediently. She was not used to Grandfather talking in riddles or euphemisms.

“Have you heard of the Brujo chilote, my little snake?”

Emilia snorts. “Witches and monsters in baby stories.”

Her grandfather smiles, pleased. “That’s not so. They are very real.”

Emilia leans away without meaning too, narrowing her eyes. She looks to her mother for support, another explanation of Grandfather’s ridiculous claim. The Brujo Chilote are the sort of thing Papi would talk about before he laughed and pretended to eat her belly.

Mother watches the forest with a mouse’s eyes, ready to bolt.

Emilia returns her gaze to Grandfather. This is a test. To see if she is gullible? To see how much she trusts him? She says nothing, but continues eating her sandwich.

Grandfather goes on. “The Brujo chilote bought my older brother from my grandfather. Sold for good fortune, protection.”

Vicente cries and Emilia’s stomach turns with the memory of a knife and needle.

“He was turned into an invunche.” Grandfather finishes his sandwich and sips his pop.

Emilia does not know what that means. She senses there’s a weight to the word, a summoning power, as if it should conjure images of frightening stories from her childhood. But in Santiago, the monsters were tiny figures on a television screen and Emilia had always changed the channel.

Emilia hears her mother swear and Grandfather dips his head to indicate for her to look toward the wilderness.

The invunche crouches on the stone, perched on one foot and steadied by two long arms. The other foot curls and uncurls from its chest where its heart ought to be. If it had once been human, it is no longer. Thick with muscles and hair, it sways, never still, always listening and tasting the air with its forked tongue. The head floats over its massive hairy shoulders as though the thick cord of its neck is only a string, tenuously attaching the weird and inhuman face to the rest of the contorted body. The eyes are white, seeming to see nothing until they fall on Emilia. The lips, the only truly untouched thing about the monster, smile.

Emilia does not scream when the thing launches into the air and lands before her. But she also does not run. The invunche, invited by her grandfather to steal his kin, sways on one foot and his great arms reach toward Emilia, capture her by her waist, lift her onto its back where she sees its other leg was once broken and deformed and sewn through the monster’s chest.

Her mother shouts not for Emilia, not in fear, but in betrayal. “You said it wanted the baby.”

Uncle Dominic also shouts. “You told me if it was your child you wouldn’t argue.”

“Hush.” Grandfather does not shout.

The invunche carries her into the trees where no human thing could have passed. No human that contorted should smell so animal. No animal that malformed should move so quickly. Nothing that quick should be able to hold her so tightly.

Emilia never screams, but she punches. Its eyes depress under her fists like warm jelly. The bone of its heavy jaw hurts her knuckles. The beast laughs, without human words, but with human understanding of her … weakness.

Enraged, Emilia bites the invunche’s ear, tearing at the white stitching holding the withered thing to its bald scalp. It howls with pain and its hand gropes for her neck to pull her off. She spits in its ear canal, then at last, finds her scream. It is a weapon.

The invunche finds the back of her neck and yanks her away from its body. She grabs its hairy arm and bites until the howling echoes in her mind and the blood washes into her eyes.

“Now, Matteo.” The soft voice comes from above, higher in the trees, from the very sky. “Put her down.”

The monster growls, seething with pain and rage, swaying in the vines. It wrenches its arm to hurl her to the ground. Emilia tightens her grip.

“Gently. In her place.”

The invunche hops from vine to tree, moving back the way they came until it lands on the stone once more. It grunts unhappily and drops Emilia before the stone.

Emilia wipes its blood from her eyes and spits at it. She knows vulgar words to say, but Grandfather is there still watching. So, Emilia returns to his side and glares at the beast.

Mother puts her hand on Emilia’s shoulder. Grandfather holds Vicente and Uncle Dominic sits on the ATV which still chugs softly in the night. They all stare at the invunche. The beast cannot find stillness. It can balance as if God designed it to exist on the trunk of one leg, but its shoulders sway, its head bobs, its eyes float in its skull.

The Vidals’ thoughts all share the same theme. If I were a boy, if I were the eldest, if I had been chosen…

The invunche’s head swivels around and stares above. There is a darkness moving in the shadows, something shaped like a person, but too soft, too ethereal. Uncle rises unable to remain seated in the presence of something so awful and powerful.

“Your granddaughter is very brave, Espen.” The voice from the other world speaks to Grandfather.

“Thank you, sir. Yes, she is.”

Emilia has never heard her grandfather call someone ‘sir’.

The shadow sinks down and perches upon the invunche’s back. The body of the thin man fits perfectly in the divot of the beasts’ back where the deformed leg curls as if built to support its master. Without any verbal command, the invunche crawls from the stone and leans towards Emilia’s mother.

“The eldest. You took great care she was female.”

Mother shivers but does not look away from the darkness. Grandfather says nothing.

The invunche sinks lower and the faceless shadow considers Emilia. The shape has eyes like fire and angels and ice. “And she made certain her eldest was female.”

None of the Vidals speak.

“But someone made a mistake.” A thin finger, wrinkled and stained black, grazes Vicente’s cheek.

“Anna lied.” Dominic admits.

The shadow does not care, but reaches for the baby.

“What are you going to do to Vicente?” Emilia demands.

Her mother puts her hand on her shoulder. But Emilia can still taste the blood of the invunche in her mouth and she’s not afraid of her mother.

“Why, I’ll feed him cat’s milk, goat flesh – unless man is available. I’ll raise him to be strong and obedient and carry me in unreal places like this.” The black fingers wave dismissively down the mountain at all of Chile, at all the world.

Those eyes, all the light and life of the world swirling in the blackness of the hood, twinkle at her. “But, I’m going to start by breaking his leg.”

Emilia remembers her dream and the darkness drenches her bones. “You’re evil.”

“Perhaps I’m only necessary. Your family knows that.”

Grandfather holds out the baby, transferring life and ownership and fate of the newborn to the darkness. Before the withered black hands can take the tiny body of her cousin, Emilia grabs Vicente.

“Emilia!” Her grandfather’s shout should freeze her blood.

Instead, she bolts, knocks Uncle aside, straddles his ATV, and turns the machine down the dirt road. She steers one-handed, cradling the newborn the way his mother did. She needed to fly down the road, get off the mountain, get away from the darkness, and the chill in her bones, and the fear in her heart.

Vicente squalls, a sound familiar from her dreams and inevitable. Something grunts and slathers close behind the ATV, something that lopes on three feet, and carries a shadow on its back.

Emilia feels the darkness in her mind. A twinge. A promise of strength, power. She could be like Papi, all kindness, but she would not be as weak. She could protect the weak. So many lives she could touch, improve, strengthen. The Brujo Chilote would make it so. But only if she would surrender that miserable squalling brat half frozen in her arms, unable to hold up its own head.

Emilia nuzzles her cheek, wind-blasted from her flight down the mountain, against her cousin’s head. The softness of his hair and the force of his wail warm her face.

Lightening from the cloudless sky strikes a tree and fiery branches tumble into the road. The conflagration surrounds the ATV at once, too fast, too neat to be natural.

Emilia wonders if there’s a way to steer the ATV through the fire, to jump the branches, to land unharmed on the other side. Then the invunche is in front of her, not behind.

It emerges from the fire, the hairs on its head and neck burning. Two fists swing over its head, slam down on the hood of the ATV and the machine cracks, jolts, and stops.

Emilia half-falls half-throws herself off the ATV, keeping the invunche on the other side of the hissing machine, keeping Vicente supported and safe. The creature puts its hands on the seat and for a moment, Emilia thinks it will hurl the machine into the fire. Instead, it launches itself over and lands before Emilia.

She steps back away from the invunche as the darkness between the flames draws forth and sits on the monster’s back. Vicente wails as if he will never stop crying. There is no way through the fire, no way away from the beast, no way to protect the infant screaming in her ear.

Except to kill him.

Emilia shifts one hand to Vicente’s neck, so fragile. Not unlike the chicken bones she snaps with an easy twist. Better for him to die than have another monster like that in the world.

The invunche snarls and sags left to right, as if it needs movement to breathe. The darkness watches her and it waits. Her hand twitches to snap the infant’s neck. Her fingers refuse to obey her command. She steels herself to try again.

The darkness slides off the invunche.  A foot touches the earth.

The fire is gone and Emilia is in the dream. She’s walking down the corridor holding Vicente who cannot breathe for his gasping cries. The Brujo Chilote must ride the invunche because her world is too thin to support the realness of that shadowy thing. How does she know that?  How did she survive the shattering of her world, the fall into someplace stronger?

Vicente calms as she walks toward the tower. She sees the wooden table, the knife, the needle. She turns to see through the cast window to all the worlds.

The voice is soft behind her. “I need more than an assistant. I need an heir.”

Emilia looks out at the new world. She can see the gulls now, carrion birds feeding on whatever world they chose. The mountain looks down on other places not as real as this tower and she understands the power the Brujo Chilote have over all those worlds.

She cuddles Vicente close. “You tricked me.”

“I’ve waited for you.”

Emilia looks down at Vicente. Brand new, so pale. Painfully blue eyes. Trusting her not to drop him, or let his head fall.

She tickles his foot and Vicente gurgles and laughs.

“Someone must take my place.” The shadow touches Emilia’s shoulder and she becomes aware of the thinness of life. There is devastation in the place of the gulls, held away from her fragile home by little more than a crumbling stone. From this height, she could change the world, reshape it in her image. She can control it.

Emilia grips Vicente’s tiny fat foot then his unformed knee. She bends his chubby leg, far. Farther. Too far.

New bone cracks.

Emilia holds out her hand. “Give me the needle.”

“That comes later.” The knife appears in her hand. “His heart.”

The bubble of red becomes a line, the line becomes a river, then a valley of blood. The dark fingers swim inside the blood while Emilia holds the shaking baby steady. The shadow withdraws the tiny heart. Emilia cuts deeper, finds Vicente’s foot, pulls it through.

The shadow hands her the balm and Emilia heals the wound.

“Now open your mouth.”

Emilia obeys. Fingers touch her chin and her mouth opens wider than possible, until it is not her throat opening but some deep passage into her soul.

The tiny, still beating heart drops inside.

What’s Coming Next for the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 8: What’s Next?

Traci Douglass

traci

BLOOD VOWED, book three in my Blood Ravagers series, just released on April 13th, so I’ve been busy touring with that the past couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I have two proposals out to continue two different series with two different publishers, and another two requested full contemporary romance manuscripts in with editors of another publisher as well. And I hope to continue writing more mythology inspired short stories for these anthologies as well, if readers like them! Lots of irons in the fire. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get all the latest news and updates (plus fun contests and subscriber-only giveaways)!

Sheri Queen

Sheri

I’ve started book two in my Sleepy Hollow Hunter series, which I aim to have out by the end of the year. I’m also jotting down ideas for the anthologies. I’m also very busy with some marketing classes I’m taking online, as well as participating in some promotional gigs for Bounty Huntress, book one in my Sleepy Hollow Hunter series.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

I’ve got a small army of fantasy novels in the works. Aside from those, I have a satirical science fiction story about a human woman, a human-looking man, and a green alien who have to travel the universe to save the English language. And, who knows? Maybe there’s a story for a future anthology wandering around in my brain somewhere…

Cara McKinnon

Cara

I am finishing up the third book in my Fay of Skye series, Memories of Magic, which will be out in mid-May. The genre is a mash-up of fantasy, romance, and alternate history set in a late Victorian Era with open, acknowledged magic. I am also prepping for more of these seasonal anthologies and starting revisions on the first book in a contemporary fantasy series starring a Latinx kitchen witch.

L.J. Longo

LJ

So much. I’ve got my first series book coming out in May or June which also happens to be an F/M fantasy romance. It’s called “Taming the Tiger” and it’s not nearly as sweet as “Seaweed and Silk.” I also have “The Scarf” coming out soon in an anthology called Owned by the Alpha: Manlove Edition released by Evernight Publishing which is also set in Tovar but is more of a detective noir. I have a ton of free stories I’m going to put on my website because there isn’t really a home for them. There’s more longer works in the future as well, but I don’t have dates for those yet, so you’ll all just have to follow my website to find out what I come up with next. Hint: not were-bunnies. Probably.

Mary Rogers

I am working on my full-length novel “The Last First Time” and outlining a series about Balsam Island.

Elsa Carruthers

I am working on my presentation for an upcoming academic conference, finishing up an essay on Stranger Things, to be published in November, revising my novel, Heathen Row, (featuring Rena, Nate, and Duke, yay!), and I have some poetry and short stories due to be published in June.

Heroes and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 7: Heroes

Who is your hero? How does he see himself? How do others see him?

Traci Douglass

traci

Hermes begins my story performing the same duty he has for millennia—escorting Persephone on her yearly journey from the Underworld to a party at the Oceanus Resort. His image as nothing but a playboy trickster and rogue weighs heavily on him and he yearns to break out of the constraints others have placed on him. He has big plans on the horizon and is determined to stay focused on those goals and not let love interfere—until a chance meeting with a certain goddess on the beach changes everything.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

Edward is a talented clockmaker, in a long line of distinguished clockmakers, who finds out he’s half-fairy. He’s doing his best to come to terms with what that all means, as well as how it may be responsible for his talent of making clockwork creatures. He’s a bit of a recluse–more at home in nature than with people. But when a certain broken-winged fairy crosses his path, his life takes him in a new direction.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

Adam starts the story as a practical joker and a skeptic. When Janessa pops out of the planter and says he gets three wishes, Adam sarcastically wishes for a scavenger hunt to find his true love before dinner. Only when the hunt has begun does he really believe magic is real and that it is more powerful than he could have imagined. This mirrors how Adam feels about love. At first, he doesn’t really believe in it, but as time goes on, he starts to see things differently.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

Reed is a healer. He was coerced by his father into choosing that career, but he has grown to love it and is very adept. He feels like a rebel, though, because he isn’t very devout and sees that bending or even breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to do what’s right. Others see him as easy-going, funny, and compassionate. Leora sees him as her nemesis–though he grew up to be too sexy for his own good.

L.J. Longo

LJ

Tan is a chef, sailor, and made from stone. We only see him from Svildna’s perspective and she thinks he’s ugly and a little scary-looking until he starts smiling and feeding her. His shipmates call him a troll and he just laughs it off.

Because Tan know what he is and and that’s his secret.

Mary Rogers

My hero is a little bit full of himself, and when he gets a small comeuppance, he uses magic to get around it. A small bit alpha, but don’t worry, we can work with him. Carson is someone who may be on top, but the top is a slippery place to be. He’ll come down, and he may appreciate it better.

Elsa Carruthers

Duke is gentle and kind with a deep inner strength. Duke underestimates himself. Those that don’t know him think he’s a pushover who is easily manipulated.

Nate is out-going, charming, and tough. He is clever and strong, but sometimes overthinks his own plans. People see him as someone they want to work with or be with.

Heroines and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 6: Heroines

Who is your heroine? How does she see herself? How do others see her?

Traci Douglass

traci

In mythology, Eos is the goddess of the dawn and Spring. Many historians believe that the term Easter derived from her name. Her job, in the simplest terms, is to herald each new day. At the beginning of my story, Eos sees herself as a caretaker—the rock steady center for her siblings and something of a martyr. So much so that she’s willing to take the blame for a crime she didn’t commit. Aphrodite sees her as a man-stealing slut. And Hermes—well, he sees her as the intriguing, powerful, beguiling woman of his dreams.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

Pennora is a fairy who gets her magic from nature, and is inherently beautiful. Ask any human who sees a fairy and they’ll agree. Pennora just doesn’t get that even with a mangled wing, she’s still beautiful. It takes falling in love for her to see her inner beauty through Edward’s eyes.

 

M.T. DeSantis

MT

“A Hunt for Love” starts with Janessa (heroine) stating how long it’s been since she’s been out of her planter–the item she inhabits as a djinn. From the minute she’s out in the spring sunshine, it’s clear she loves light and warmth and that she desperately does not want to return to the cramped darkness of her planter. Her needs are pretty small. She wants to be happy and genuinely cared for, rather than only used by people who want power. Adam (hero) can’t quite believe Janessa’s a djinn at first. As the story progresses, he sees what, but more importantly, who she is—someone who got handed a really crappy lot in life that she doesn’t necessarily deserve.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

Leora has wanted to be a healer like her father since she was a child. But her society is very community-oriented, and career choices are restricted to the needs of the community. So by the time she turned thirteen and could choose her career path, her father already had an apprentice–her brother’s best friend, Reed, who didn’t really want the job. Leora sees herself as someone who only reluctantly plays by the rules, and feels stymied and thwarted in her hopes and dreams. Others see her as competent, intelligent, and fair. Reed thinks she’s gorgeous, and doesn’t understand why she hates him.

L.J. Longo

LJ

Svildna is a bad-ass mermaid. She thinks of herself as plain because she’s not the sort to sit on a rock combing her hair, much more the type to gut a seal. But she still catches a lot of attention from the sailors she works for when she forgets to wear her seashells.

 

Mary Rogers

My heroine is named Carson – a moniker my eldest would have had if I had not rethought it. Carson was a character in a movie from my youth that I still love called “Shag” referring to the dance craze in the early 1960’s, and was played by Phoebe Cates. I loved that the name was both male and female, and I decided to play with what it would be like if a Carson met a Carson and sparks ensued.

Elsa Carruthers

Rena is a member of the Heathen, a nationwide network of families that are involved with a lot of underground activities. She is very loyal, even though she objects to some of the Heathen’s ways, but doesn’t really like following rules that she doesn’t believe in, and that gets her in a lot of trouble.

Element X and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 5: Element X

What Prompted your Element “X”–Mermaids, Djinn, Fairies, etc?

Traci Douglass

traci

When Hermes Met Eos is based on the old mythology stories. I tried to stay within the boundaries of those legends as much as I could, but did bend the rules a bit when necessary for my story needs. Call it romantic license.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

Fairies heralding Spring with old magic seemed like a natural fit for the theme of renewal, but adding the twist of what would happen to a fairy whose wing no longer functioned and her self-confidence was damaged in the process, became the core of the story.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

For a while, I was very stuck on what story to write for this anthology. One day, the phrase “djinn of the planter” popped into my head. Planters are related to spring, and djinns are creatures found in fantasy. I had my main character, and the rest just kind of filled itself in.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

I actually had planned to write a different story about reunited lovers that would fit with the “renewal” part of our theme. But after outlining and starting to write, I realized that I needed at least 25-30,000 words to do justice to the story. So I put that on hold and started a desperate search through springtime rituals and stories. I happened across a mention of a dawn goddess marrying a fertility god on the spring equinox and giving birth nine months later. Thus was a kernal of an idea formed. But I decided not to tell the story of the god and goddess, but rather of two mortals playing their parts in a ceremonial ritual.

L.J. Longo

LJ

I love mermaids, but at the same time, I’m super embarrassed that I like mermaids. Everything about me is pretty butch, until I start squealing over fish-women dolls. I’ve thought way, way too much about mermaids. How they would live, what kinds of societies they would have, how they would communicate, how they would have sex and give birth, etc. One of things I wanted to bring to the myth about mermaids is the idea that they are not actually half-fish. I thought it would be more interesting if like dolphins and seals, they had to surface for air and had a very real fear of drowning. So Svildna actually has a sleek brown tail and no scales.

Mary Rogers

I am Irish, from a family of immigrants. I grew up hearing the stories, the songs, the legends of Ireland, and learned early that magic (even if I don’t have any) comes in many forms. God and nature and magic were constants, and the belief that having one did not mean you couldn’t have the other.

Elsa Carruthers

I was taking some welding classes and my mind started to wander during a particularly boring lecture . . .

Spring and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 4: Spring

What do you like best about spring? What do you hate?

Traci Douglass

traci

No negatives for me.

Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons. I love Spring because everything is fresh and growing and it’s a new beginning, a time to break free of the bonds of winter and forge a new path.

It’s full of possibility and potential.

.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

I love the warmer weather that comes with Spring, so I can sit outside by my decorative fountains to read and write.

But I hate having to weed and mulch, and the heavy pollens are brutal.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

Spring is probably my favorite season. Things are green, and flowers are blooming. There’s a freshness to the air that makes the world feel alive. The thing I dislike most about spring is the fact that where I live now gets about a week of it. I miss weeks on end of spring so much. Now, I get something sort of resembling winter for a while, a week or two of spring, and then sweltering summer.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so winter is a tough time for me. It’s cold, and dark, and gloomy. But then things start to come back to life and there is color and light and warmth. Unfortunately there is also tree pollen and lots of rain, but nothing in life is perfect!

L.J. Longo

LJ

Confession, I hate Spring. I know, very hipster of me. I have allergies and I walk everywhere all year long. Then suddenly, right around my birthday, I’ve got to start sharing the street with both pollen and pedestrians!

Oh wait, Ghost Tours start again in the Spring. So that’s my favorite part of Spring.

Mary Rogers

As a northeasterner, I love lilacs, and miss them terribly. Gardenias fill that void here in California. I love the way it seems like spring just happens. From seemingly unending gray skies, snow melt, browned leaves you didn’t get to raking, to crocus, daffodils and pastels everywhere. I love the way it just hits your senses in every way, the look, the smell, the sight, the tastes (strawberries!) and the sounds (birds everywhere!). Here in California where we never get winter, and fall and spring are suspiciously like summer, it happens in a more clandestine way, but if you keep your senses open, you’ll see the wonders all again.

Elsa Carruthers

I love the flowers, all of the green that seems to appear overnight. It is breathtaking! I hate the pollen and the fact that I never know what to wear. 🙂

World-Building and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 3: World-Building

Anthologies can be a good place to test out new ideas or to tell smaller stories you may not have space for in a bigger novel. Talk about the world of your story and why you picked it for this anthology.

Traci Douglass

traci

The idea for this short story has been kicking around in my head for a while. I’d done some research on Hermes and Eos during my time in my MFA program at Seton Hill University for a completely different story and the two characters stayed with me. I love mythology and I’m always fascinated by “what if” questions. My story takes these ancient figures and puts them in the modern world. It was fun taking these old stories and revamping them into my idea of what they’d be today.

I’d say it’s more of an alternate reality, happening at the same time as ours. In the story, the humans know about the Oceanus Resort and it’s something of a gathering spot for the world’s elite. Of course, being Zeus’s home away from home, it’s lavish and golden and covered in precious gems and marble, as one does when one is the ruler of all. LOL. Then the story moves to modern day Manhattan, which is basically the same as it is now.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

It seems many of my stories have some type of clockwork element to them, especially in regards to human enhancements or part-human/part-machine beings. These people are different from others in their world and struggle with love–within themselves, and with relationships. The anthology was a perfect spot to focus on a microcosm of how the natural world is constantly being altered by technology, and how we fit into that world.

Pennora’s world exists within the real world, but with magical wards that protect its true identity. The fairy inhabitants embrace most technology, but still keep their old traditions. Protecting nature is of primary importance, since that’s the source of their magic, so keeping their world secret is very important.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

“A Hunt for Love” is set in the real world with one big difference—there’s at least one djinn who grants wishes. After clearing out his grandmother’s attic, Adam (the hero) is out planting flowers. He rubs the planter, and out pops Janessa (djinn of the planter) in a burst of silver sparkles. Since this story is kind of a one-and-done, the magic is just there. Though, it was really fun working in references to Disney’s Aladdin.

Many of my stories take place in a nondescript small New England town/city with flavors of where I grew up. I doubt I’ll go anywhere else with this story world unless given a compelling reason to. It was more the fun idea of the story that got me writing. So, I guess it’s just too small for a novel and the right size for this anthology.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

After I finish my current series (in about 2-4 more books, depending on how things play out), I am going to start writing a secondary-world fantasy romance series set in a non-European-esque culture. I am pulling most of my touchstones from the highly communal Pacific Island nations, mixed with the ancient Indus River civilization and Hindu cosmology/mythology. This story was a first idea of what that world might look like if left alone to advance to modern times (well, Industrial Revolution-ish) without the monotheistic Judeo/Christian/Muslim influence. I can’t guarantee that the world will end up exactly like in the story, but it’s a start.

I’m still playing around with how magic works, the nuances of the culture, and exactly how well-developed they are. They are at least at Industrial Revolution-level technology, with factories and steel-working capabilities. Maybe not electricity yet, though. And magic is rare in humans, although magical creatures and gods exist. The society is extremely communal, and concepts of ownership are present but fluid. Responsibilities are shared and children belong to the community as much and sometimes more than to their parents. The hardest thing about writing this story was trying to make it very equal–not overtly partriarchal or matriarchal. They follow the example of their god and goddess and think marriage is sacred–and because of that, they wait to make sure they’re with the right person to get married, sometimes until middle age or longer. Taking lovers is common, and children born of those unions are treated no differently than any others. And this particular pairing is F/M, but they are accepting of all forms of love and all forms of gender expression.

L.J. Longo

LJ

So everyone in this anthology is either enrolled or graduated from Seton Hill University, where we study Writing Popular Fiction. My thesis novel is a Science Fiction and Fantasy YA novel, which is weird for me because I mostly write very graphic Romance novels. The world of my thesis, Tovar, is huge and since this anthology called for Fantasy, I figure I might as well explore other areas of the world while looking for love. Nick the wolf actually appears in my thesis novel several years after this story.

Seaweed and Silk doesn’t show off too much of the world, but Tovar is a place I’ve been writing in for a long time. I try to make it as difference from our world as I can without writing about were-bunnies. For example, Tovar is a sexist in women’s favor since witches tend to be female (men are discouraged from even trying magic). But I also don’t like it when Fantasy that gets stuck in the Dark Ages, so Tovar has big cities, metal ships, magic-powered indoor plumbing, and lighting.

Mary Rogers

I don’t like to think of fantasy worlds as that different. I think we can make a lot of our world more fantastic by just the power of our wills. I believe in self-manifestation, and thinking good things into being. My mother was right! If you believe it, so will those around you.

I admit it, I’m a total sap for – sap. I love love, love stories, lovers, and anything with sunshine and daisies. The real world is not always perfect, but we can create places that with a little work, sweat equity, and determination – become that way for lucky soulmates. You have to be open to ideas, and one was that persons of the same name could be so similar, but the fact that they’re different sexes could lead them to think differently. Men and women are more similar than they are different, but sometimes it takes a while to see it. I wanted to show young people who got it wrong finally get it right when enough time passes for them to look deeper at what they are, and what they can be.

Elsa Carruthers

“Welded” is set in the real world, but some of the characters have magical abilities. They live in Iowa and travel for business when it suits them. They rely on themselves for justice and generally like to keep to themselves, as they have been persecuted for generations, though they do have extensive outside contacts with some dangerous and often unsavory outfits.

Rena, Duke, and Nate are the main characters of Heathen Row, a supernatural horror/romance. In the novel, they are estranged with the possibility of reconciling. I always wondered how they got together, and this story was a great chance to find out!

Process and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (pre-order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 2: Process

Was there a particular song, ritual, or something else that helped get you into the writing mood for your story? Describe it for readers.

Traci Douglass

traci

I don’t really have a process. When I sit down to write, my process is pretty much the same day to day—quiet room, instrumental tunes on my playlist, coffee in my cup, and a cozy sweater or sweatshirt handy in case I get cold. That’s it.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

Songs have more importance once I’ve started writing. I begin with my basic idea and my storyboard. I might have music on in the background or I might be in a mood for complete quiet (which is pretty hard to come by in my house, lol.). I find that once my character is firmly in my head, I notice different songs that fit my character and the plot.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

I’d love to paint an elaborately colorful portrait of deep blue skies, and green, green grass, and silver moonlight settling over all of it like fresh morning dew. In reality, once I had the idea, the story took 2 or 3 days to write with no background music or rituals of any kind. Pretty boring, I know.

Cara McKinnon

Cara

Lately instead of writing to music I write with an app called “Sunny.” There are about a half-dozen different recordings of waves, from strong frequent breakers to quiet, more lake-like lapping. You can choose to add rain, birds, and music, but I usually stick with a very light rain in addition to the surf. I love being at the ocean, and this gives me a good mix of white noise and that comforting wave crash that makes me feel like I’m sitting with my laptop at the beach instead of at my desk in my house!

L.J. Longo

LJ

I write at least two thousand words every day no matter what I have planned that day or my mood, so there’s not much room for particular rituals except ass-in-chair. In terms of music, I usually do listen to something. Most of this story I spent listening to music from Ireland, Asia, and Iceland. One song in particular, Siúil A Rún ended up in the story in a roundabout way. The title translates to “walk, my love” and the song pops into Tan’s head whenever he sees Svildna hobbling around on her crutch, so that’s the song he’s always whistling.

Mary Rogers

You’ll notice this right away! My heroine is Carson Freigh, and my hero is Carson Byrd. Can you guess what song that is? Freebird was the grad song when my husband graduated Kings Point USMMA, and I often tease him about that. I have a set of six brandy goblets (I have never used them! I don’t drink brandy!) that say United States Merchant Marine Academy Graduation – “Freebird”. Now, I used that song to bring my two characters to hate that they’re thrown together like this, and then to love it.

Elsa Carruthers

I curl up in a wingback chair and type into my Alphasmart. No internet, no distractions.

Theme and the Crazy Spring Love Authors

The authors of the stories in Crazy Little Spring Called Love (pre-order here) sat down to answer some questions for their readers. For links to the full list of interview questions, teasers, and more, visit the blog tour page.


Question 1: Theme

The stories readers will find in Crazy Little Spring Called Love are written by eight wildly different authors. However, all the stories have three common themes: Spring, Renewal, and Awakening. How did you all manage to write to the theme?

Traci Douglass

traci

Given that my heroine is the goddess of the dawn and Spring, writing to the theme of Spring awakening/ renewal wasn’t all that difficult for me. LOL. I did, though, try to go beyond that superficial connection to the anthology’s topic and explore how these characters who are so identified with their respective personas would feel about that and how they might develop beyond that into wholehearted people.

Sheri Queen

Sheri

Awakening in “Girl With a Broken Wing” is about finding a new way to live and love when you’re thrown off course. Being able to love yourself, with all its imperfections, and then be open to being loved, is a true awakening.

M.T. DeSantis

MT

My initial attempt involved a dryad who only wanted to protect the forest but was being forced to take a mate. About 400 or so words in, I realized this wasn’t working for me and let the story drop. At least another week passed before the phrase “djinn of the planter” settled in my brain. I immediately knew this was the story. It had “fun” written all over it, and it was appropriately “springy.”

Cara McKinnon

Cara

I thought I was all set for renewal with a reunited lovers story, but I ended up doing awakenings instead! “Love at Dawn” is about two people who have spent their lives seeing each other a certain way, and then everything changes in an instant and brand-new awareness awakens. The biggest theme of the story is how important it is to shine a light on assumptions and think about our lives (and loves) in a new way. Sometimes love is right there in front of you, and you just have to open your eyes to see it.

L.J. Longo

LJ

Full disclosure, I forgot the theme was awakenings and renewal. I was totally invested in the spring and the fantasy elements of the romance so I had a dozen story ideas about magical creatures during the changing season and how it would affect them. There’s a story about were-bunnies that was just too silly even for me. My favorite idea (which became Seaweed and Silk) was about a mermaid from the far North who lived deep in the darkness under the ice until she’s hired by a group of sailors as a guide. She still ended up experiencing some awakenings, since she’s never seen spring or had legs…

Mary Rogers

There is no more perfect theme for love than spring. It is when the earth, and we – awaken. Not just to growth, but to beauty, and to love. Sometimes you can have something and not give it value, but when you lose it, you recognize what it was worth. Finding it again is like spring in your heart, and love is the most precious thing you will find.

Elsa Carruthers

My main character is tough and a bit hard. At first I couldn’t imagine her having an awakening or renewal, but then I started getting glimpses of her blushing and twirling her hair… we all have a soft side, even the toughest of us. It was fun watching her soften and fall in love.

It’s Here! Crazy Little Spring Called Love is Available!

This delightful fantasy romance anthology features eight magical stories inspired by the awakenings and renewal of springtime. If you love gods and goddesses, fairies, djinn, druids, mermaids, dryads, and magic of all varieties, Crazy Little Spring Called Love delivers!

And you can buy it now!

Amazon iBooks | Kobo


 Traci Douglass – “When Hermes Met Eos”

One night. Two star-crossed immortals. Will their vibrant connection survive beyond sunrise?

Sheri Queen – “The Girl with a Broken Wing”

A story of courage and sacrifice–and finding love where you never thought to look.

Cara McKinnon – “Love at Dawn”

Sometimes mortals need a little push from a god and goddess to fall in love…

M.T. DeSantis – “A Hunt for Love”

Can a djinn and a clueless guy beat the clock, avoid the curse, and maybe even find true love?

L.J. Longo – “Seaweed and Silk”

A mermaid: hundreds of miles from her home on the ice, on a ship with a troll, a goblin wizard, and a pack of wolves. What else can go wrong? Oh, right. A flippin’ sea monster.

Mary Rogers – “Spring Fling”

A druid’s bargain gives Carson revenge against his former lover Carrie–at the price of her memories of them together. But did she truly steal his magic all those years ago? Or was the real theft his heart?

Elsa Carruthers – “Welded”
Welding Witch, Rena, is on the run. She’s not looking for love, but all the magic in the world can’t keep the sparks from flying when her rivals, Nate and Duke, find her.

Heather Bythesea – “Cherry Blossoms in the Wind”

A dryad denied roots. A man from across the sea. A forbidden love that becomes a story for the ages.

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