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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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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Back from the dead ... mad as hell.

Download and share this graphic with the tag #tideslaunch to enter to win an awesome book collection and more, now through Nov. 10.

 

I can't wait to read TIDES! Get the next release in this award-winning #sff series now: http://ejwenstrom.com/books/ #tideslaunch

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This Saturday, I will be signing books and giving away swag at Baltimore Book Festival!

The Baltimore Book Festival features hundreds of appearances by local, celebrity and nationally known authors, book signings, more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers, nonstop readings on multiple stages, cooking demos by top chefs, poetry readings, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids, live music, and a thoughtfully curated  food, craft beer, and wine program.

If you're in the area, come out and say hello! I'll have something awesome to give you, and there will be tons of other authors there for you to discover, too.

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I cosplayed! 10 points if you tell me who I am in the comments.

So I went to San Diego Comic Con, and I lived to tell the tale.

What did I bring back with me? A ton of pictures, a few fantastic stories, exciting new professional connections, new books, and a random collection of blurbs to share about what it was like.

SDCC is every bit as massive and overwhelming as the media buzz led me to expect. Madness! On every corner! It was every bit as amazing as I expected, and I hope to go back again sometime.

I hope to go back again in a few years. But for now, here are a few of my biggest highlights from my SDCC 2017 experience:

1. Talking to the other Con-goers

You may have picked up by now that I'm no extrovert. As a rule, I prefer as few peopel as possible. And to talk to those people as little as possible. I'm not shy. I just prefer to be in my own head.

But San Diego Comic Con, much like a writers conference, was one of those special places where odds are, almost anyone you bump itno is my type of people. 

More than once random small talk with someone next to me in line turned into an incredible conversation about the creative industry and craft, and I got to connect with a few awesome people family and friends have wanted me to meet for years. I also quizzed a few author vendors about the value of the con and buying booth space, and they were extremely willing and helpful.

2. That time I crashed an invite-only industry party.

Look. It was an accident. I was told to meet a person at a party, and it happened to be that this was an invite-only industry party. So I was invited, I just, you know, on the list.

Also I was told said party was on the ninth floor. So when I came in and saw the big flashy invite-only, check-in-at-the-door all-dressed-up party table for the third floor, I walked right past it, stepped onto the elevator and pressed 9, thank you very much.

Only when it became clear that there was definitely NO PARTY on the ninth floor did I then go to the third. And what can I say, the back door security was lax. The hubs and I looked at each other, made a silent pact to look like we belonged. Then we walked right past the security guard with a smile and ordered our complimentary movie-themed cocktail.

And not a single person asked us where our wrist bands were all night.

Movie models in the Exhibition Room

3. The Exhibition Hall: Just being in it. 

The spectacle that is the San Diego Comic Con Exhibition Hall cannot be overstated. I could have gotten lost in there, between the life-size statues of DC and Marvel superheroes and tables upon tables of books, for days. Case in point, I did in fact, actually, get lost at one point, and suddenly discovered I was going in the exact opposite direction than I thought. 

Watch your wallet in there--it has a tendency to lighten itself as you acquire one amazing discovery after another.

Rumor has it there was also an It school bus ride in there somewhere, too, but I never found it.

4. My creative heroes, within arm's reach.

Robert Kirkman. Karen Berger. Dave Gibbons. Gail Simone. These and many other of my creative heroes (authors, editors, illustrators, special effects masters) were all there. And I was utterly starstruck.

A side effect of geeking out over these geniuses was that most other Con-goers would give me blank stares. (To be fair, I did opt out of the Viking funeral, where a real viking ship was light on fire in the harbour, to go to a panel about Ray Bradbury.)

Fringe oddball, or out-geeking the geeks? I'm going with the latter...it's all about spin, right?

5. The Gaslamp District. That is all. 

After walking down the main strip of the Gaslamp District a couple times, I am forever convinced you could simply walk up and down this strip, straight across from the Convention Center, for the entire Con, and feel you got the full experience.

It was like Time Square, except without the creepy Elmo knockoffs. Just the most incredible cosplay you'll ever see, including a group of street-partying Storm Troopers and a Jesus heckling religious protesters with a sign that said, "Don't listen to these pricks."

Black Spider in the Gaslamp District and a child running away when he looked at him)

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of my thoughts coming out of my first San Diego Comic Con! Another post or two (or maybe even three if I get ambitious) are still to come as I continue to distill the experience into complete thoughts.

Got questions about San Diego Comic Con? Throw them in the comments below!

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