Down here, we have a saying: “Here in the south we don’t hide our crazy, we parade it around on the front porch and give it a cocktail.” Truer words have never been spoken, but this saying holds especially true for certain cities. Cities like our beloved Asheville, NC and Austin, TX proclaim on t-shirts and bumper stickers to keep their cities weird. They have built tourism around quirky museums and breweries and art districts that are anything but pretentious. However, no city has quite embraced its strangeness like my favorite city (which happens to be just down the road) New Orleans.

As friendly and upbeat as New Orleans is (and believe me—it is a friendly city) certain aspects of its tourism are not only tied to the odd, but to the macabre. Tourists pay money to parade around sites of murder and gore, and to hear about deals with the devil. It is this fascination with darkness, I think, that has been an idea breeding ground for authors. With above ground tombs, the eerily beautiful architecture of the French Quarter, and free-flowing cocktails, it is easy to get inspired. Anne Rice made the Crescent City a mecca for vampires and witches, and the city embraced the reputation with open arms, soon after offering witchcraft and vampire tours to boozy out-of-towners.

When I first got the idea for the Murphey women in THESE ROOTS RUN DEEP, I knew one thing, and that was I could absolutely not, under no circumstances, no way no how, house them in New Orleans. It has been done many times since Anne Rice first created the seductive world of the Mayfair witches, a family of connected witches with a rich back story and a deep mythology. I would never dare to write about witches and stick them in the same city as Anne Rice’s intricate, well written story. I especially wouldn’t do so with short fiction. But then…

But then a friend visited from Canada and we spent six days in New Orleans, and I got to enjoy my favorite city with the fresh perspective of someone who’d never been. We played tourist and sipped pimms cups and hurricanes while touring around town. We visited cemeteries, learned the history of New Orleans’s voodoo-doo, got lost in the Garden District, and listened to the music of Frenchman.

Suddenly, I couldn’t picture my family of Irish descendant witches anywhere else. I knew exactly what their house looked like, a raised center hall cottage, pink with white scroll work and a big porch. I could see a yard filled with oleander and hydrangeas and pink crinum. I knew their neighbors couldn’t be concerned with living next to a family of witches, after all, what was one more witch in city that prides itself on the different and dark?

I also knew my witches weren’t your typical bunch. I couldn’t write about yet another group of dark, skilled, beautiful witches living in New Orleans.

The Murphey sisters…well…let’s just say they don’t have it together. Their family is dysfunctional to say the least, and they pride themselves on pulling themselves up from the trailer park. Each sister escaped childhood, but not unscathed. They are a tangle of trust issues and defensiveness, wearing chips on their shoulders like badges of honor. Cheyanne over-compensates by being the best at everything—the prettiest woman in the room, the smartest at the table, and the fiercest at work. Marchland does her best to do no harm, an easy going vegetarian who never raises her voice. But she looks outwardly to fill the dullness that plagues her heart. Bradley does her best to slip by under the radar, never making waves, her sharp tongue and sullen nature is her defense against the world. For all of their problems, the women love each other with a fierceness that rivals even the healthiest family dynamic.

These are three very different women with one thing in common: magic refuses to behave for them and for them, things always have a way of turning out wrong. Even when they know it is a bad idea, they don’t hesitate to help each other cast. When Cheyanne, New Orleans’s own top weather girl, finds out her fiancé may be cheating, her sisters put aside their opinions of the good-for-nothing man and do what Cheyanne asks. Of course, Cheyanne has never had an eye for detail. And if one thing is true—it is that magic requires an eye for detail… And maybe there are more to those live oaks you see around the parks of New Orleans than meets the eye.

When tattoo artist Marchland needs help casting a spell to keep an obsessed man at bay, of course her sisters help her out. But magic knows intent and can read the message of your heart…so what happens when your heart is hollow?

And poor, poor Bradley. Killing a man in self-defense is still killing and killing is scary…scary enough to panic and bring a person back from the dead. There is a reason necromancy is forbidden, and Bradley soon learns that every spell has a price. And every price must be paid.

The women bumble their way around the city and through their spells, and when their story is finished, no one will be left unchanged.

About Em:

Em Shotwell is a Mississippi native turned Louisiana local who writes about misfits and the people who love them. You can learn more about her books at her website, www.emshotwell.com, or visit her on Facebook at facebook.com/emshotwellauthor.

The first of a trio of trilogies by three amazing romance writers. These stories all have two things in common: magic and romance!

“These Roots Run Deep” by Em Shotwell:

Spitfire, New Orleans weather girl, Cheyanne Murphey has everything, and that is exactly how she likes it. When she discovers evidence of her fiancé’s philandering, she refuses to let her perfectly cultivated image fall to pieces. Cheyanne has worked too hard, dragging herself up from the trailer park into New Orleans’ society, to give in without a fight…even if that means trading a year of her life in exchange for a love incantation from her ancestor’s spell book.

A skyclad, moonlit dance, a mysterious potion, and magic gone awry leave Cheyanne with a very peculiar life lesson: love can take on many forms, so be careful what you wish for.

Magic Spark on Amazon.com
Only 2.99 or FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED!

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I have been sick for over a week and hardly have any voice, let alone decent mental capacity to focus ... but it's a new year! And I wanted to get something fresh up to kickstart 2018.

As I lay in bed, pathetic and exhausted and sniffly, I've spent a lot of time flipping through Twitter. And ... book buying bans seem to be having a moment? Apparently, this is a thing.

I'd never heard of it, so here is a roundup of articles to explain, for both of us.

What the Heck is a Book Buying Ban? -- Cornerfolds

10 Ways to Totally Rock a Book Buying Ban -- Broke by Books

Why Book Buying Bans are a Bad Idea -- Book Riot

5 Ways to Cope During a Book Buying Ban -- Book Riot

How to Survive a Book Buying Ban -- Blog of a Bookaholic

Have you heard of book buying bans? Have you done one? Would you? Do tell, in the comments. 

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Join me for books, coffee and holiday cookies this Saturday, Dec. 16, at Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester, VA. I’ll be signing books in this lovely shop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Remember, personalized signed copies of books are a wonderful gift for the readers in your life! I’ll have all three books in the Third Realm War series with me, along with special swag you can give with your books. And hey, not everyone is a fantasy fan, but I always love to offer my two cents on other great books to gift, for any kind of reader!

Say hello, eat a cookie, and let’s get your gift list all settled up. Hope to see you there!

Winchester Book Gallery
185 N Loudoun St.
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 667-3444

Join the event on Facebook here.

Learn more about Winchester Book Gallery here.

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A few weeks ago I went to Chicago, where the husband and I are in year two of a four-year commitment to watch Wagner’s The Ring Cycle opera series with some friends there. The Lyric Opera is releasing one of the operas in this series each year, which is pretty cool.

By the way, this was my husband’s idea. All opera is always his idea. He is much more cultured than me. Although opera is growing on me the more I am exposed to it and the more I learn about it—like most things, it depends a lot on the specific opera.

And I really enjoy The Ring Cycle series. It’s very hard-core fantasy, so other than all the singing, it’s right up my alley. In fact, many speculate that The Lord of the Rings series was based on Wagner’s work, though Tolkien adamantly denied it, and there are a number of similarities between the two stories.

Anyway. This year’s featured opera in the series was Die Walküre or, translated, The Valkyrie. It was cool.

Later that weekend with the same friends we went to see Thor: Ragnarok. As it happened, it also featured a Valkyrie character, played by the always awesome Tessa Thompson.

This is not a totally crazy coincidence. Both stories are inspired by Norse mythology, which has been fairly hot recently, in no small part to the TV launch of Neil Gman’s American Gods, and his more recent release Norse Mythology, which featured his own adaptations of several Norse myths.

Also, my husband’s family comes from Norway, so we always take special interest in Norse culture.

All of this is a long-winded way to say that Valkyrie have been on my mind lately, and I’m finding them quite captivating. And if something is on my mind, I’m researching it. (I might have to write about them for a novel sometime.)

So here are some cool things about Valkyrie.

The Valkyrie originate from Norse mythology, of course.

The name comes from two words: the noun valr (referring to the slain on the battlefield) and the verb kjósa (meaning "to choose"). So together, they mean "chooser of the slain."

As such, they decide which half from among the dead on a battlefield are brought to Odin’s Valhalla, the god’s hall for the slain. The other half go to Frejya’s afterlife field Fólkvangr

In Valhalla the warriors become einherjar, who prepare for Ragnarok. And then when they rest the Valkyrie bring them mead. It’s an okay deal, as far as afterlives go.

When not on the battlefield, Valkyrie are sometimes lovers of heroes or other mortals and are described as daughters of royalty.

They’re also known as oski, or wish fulfillers, and as helping spirits of the god Odin. In Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the Valkyrie are Odin’s daughters.

The Valkyire are often accompanied by ravens, horses or swans. In both Thor:Ragnarok and the Ring Cycle, they ride pegasuses. (Pegasi? Pegasus? I give up.)

The Valkyrie also fight at Ragnarok as protectors of Asgard.

But Valkyrie have a dark side, too. They don’t just choose from among the dead—the Valkyrie also decide with warriors die in battle. So, you know, don’t get on their bad side.

One portrayal (in the poem Darraðarljóð) goes so far as to depict the Valkyrie weaving the fates of warriors before a battle, using intestines for thread, severed heads for weights, and bows and arrows for beaters.

Valkyrie and similar beings can be found in other Anglo-Saxon mythologies, too, including German and English, and Celtic.

P.S. – Don’t sit around and wait for me to write something about Valkyrie, there are already a lot of great books about them out there! Here’s a list I wrote for BookRiot about that.

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For Tideslaunch, I did an interview to include with my media kit. But then, it occurred to me that you might like to read it, too.

So, here we go.

 

Did you always want to be an author?

Far from it. I was going to be an engineer. And then a teacher. And then an editor. I only ever considered actually creating my own writing after I serendipitously fell into an internship that forced me to, write, very much against my will. And then I found I loved it.

I became a journalist, and then a marketing and public relations writer. Only then did I slowly come around to a desire to write fiction in my mid-20s. Then I spent five years writing my debut, Mud, while living in four different states.

It took me a while to understand the ways a creative pursuit could enrich my live, but I couldn’t quit it for the world now.

That said, my parents have told me that as a child, I was constantly making up wild, elaborate stories. So perhaps it was inevitable.

Where do you get your ideas from?

The short answer is, everywhere. But that’s not very helpful, I’m afraid.

For the Chronicles of the Third Realm Wars series, of which Tides is the third release, it all started with browsing an online monster encyclopedia. I came across golems, and I was hooked. One of the central characters, Adem, just started speaking to me, and I could feel his sadness. The first book, Mud, started with me writing to understand that sadness.

So that is one example, but the kernel can be anything. An image I scroll past on Pinterest. A conversation I overhear. A dream. From there, it’s just asking, “But why?” over and over and over until there are no “why’s” left.

Coming from a creative professional environment, I’ve gotten used to ideating on demand, and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’ve also gotten used to breaking past creative block by powering through—after all, if a client campaign is due, lack of inspiration isn’t an acceptable excuse. It’s helped me to show up every day and write, even if it’s just a little, even on the days when it’s hard.

What authors inspire you?

Oh, there are too many to name! V. E. Schwab, Tahereh Mafi, Charles Yu, Chuck Wendig, Neil Gaiman. But my religion is Ray Bradbury. Not just for his incredible books (Martian Chronicles will mesmerize me until my dying day) but also for his attitude towards the craft.

Bradbury believed in just continuing to write, continuing to submit, and that it becomes a sheer numbers game after that—you learn, you improve, you find the right editor, and eventually, you succeed. Persistence is something I have control over, so I am in love with this mentality toward the process.

How do you write?

Early, before my head is awake enough to tell me how crazy I am, or my day’s responsibilities can catch up to remind me I should be doing those things instead. Every day.

Where did you get your inspiration forTides from?

I figured out in my first draft of Mud that a sequel would be necessary—this was simply not just Adem’s story to tell, and the war unleashed in book one was just the beginning.

I know a lot of readers wanted to hear from Jordan next—as a young boy with a great burden of a gift (speaking to the Gods), intuitive charisma and a huge heart, he was easy to love in Mud. But Rona, who was brought back from the Underworld in Mud in a ploy that goes terribly wrong … well, she had a lot to say, and she insisted on being heard.

How did things end in Mud?

I don’t want to give away too much in the way of spoilers, but let’s just say Rona got entangled in Adem’s quest for a soul, without any choice, and it has backfired big time. Adem’s mistakes in Mud have set the middle realm of Terath into a war zone between the Gods and rebel demigods determined to overthrow them. But just when they’re needed the most by the mankind caught in the middle, the Gods can’t be found.

So as we enter Tides, the Underworld’s worst creatures are breaking through, the Gods are MIA, and Rona’s pissed as hell at our two “heroes,” Adem and Jordan, for setting it all in motion. And she doesn’t know it yet, but now that she’s alive again, her past is coming for her.

Who will enjoy reading Tides?

This is a book for readers who love dark, gritty fantasy. It’s also for those who love a good antihero, and complex female characters. Rona is amazing, and just the hero for the times ahead in Terath, but she is far from a classic “white knight” figure. She is damaged, and pragmatic, and unflinching. Some readers may not like her, so if you prefer a classic hero, this isn’t for you. In Terath, the lines between right and wrong blur quickly.

Tides is a fantasy novel. Is there anything here that ties back to the real world?

Definitely, in a few ways.

First, the characters are very real. They’re messy. Just like us real people, they want to do the right thing … but sometimes it’s hard to know what the right thing is. And even the best of intentions sometimes go terribly wrong.

Life can be ugly. Certainly in today’s political climate, things can feel like they’re falling apart. What can a person do about it? Does it really help? The Chronicles of the Third Realm War heroes are wrestling with these questions constantly, wondering if what they do helps, or makes it worse, or doesn’t matter at all.

The questions at the core of Tides, and the whole Chronicles of the Third Realm War series is: While the world falls apart, where are the Gods? It’s an easy question for the real world some days, too.

So while many read genre fiction for escapism, the Chronicles of the Third Realm War may be more catharsis, wrestling with the world, and the spiritual, and our own flawed nature.

What’s your position on the strong female protagonist, and diversity in general in fiction?

Even more than strong female characters, we need a broader range of female characters in our stories. What’s “strong” character, anyway? Are we talking physically? Emotionally? A character that makes a strong impression on a reader?

There are so many definitions it becomes a meaningless phrase.

As with many types of diversity, I’d rather see more variation from the archetypes, so that no single character holds the burden of representing an entire demographic within a story.

That means many genders, many races, many sexualities should show up in fiction. In short, it means that fiction needs to be a mirror for reality in this way.

How has having ADD affected your life as an author?

I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder inattentive type in high school. I was smart, but I wasn’t that smart, so this diagnosis followed a few rocky years in middle school and high school of bad grades, tension at home, and personal anger and confusion. To finally have a name for what was happening was like turning on the lights.

As a result, I have to say I’ve grown quite comfortable with failure. I don’t like to fail, of course, but when I do, I give it a hard look and learn all I can from it. I think this ability to accept failure as a speed bump instead of a road block, learn, and keep persisting had a lot to do with my success. (See the aforementioned Ray Bradbury approach to writing.)

It’s also taught me to listen to myself and not worry about anyone else around me. We’re all different, whether there is a label for something or note. All I need to do is know myself well enough to know what’s right for me, and respect others to know what’s right for them.

Beyond that, I’ve learned to embrace my strengths and cope with my weaknesses. I’m highly habit-driven, so I can ensure I write every day by simply making it habit. I can tap into my tendency toward hyperfocus and use this power for good to tackle a big project.

More than anything, when we talk about learning disorders, I think it is important that we talk about differences and strengths, not only weaknesses and treatments. I see too many people labeled and then just accept themselves as deficient. It brings to mind the famous Einstein quote: “Everyone is a genius. But you can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.”

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