Friday, November 21, 2014
Guest Blog: Casual Curses and Meticulous Magic by Lee Roland
Fantasy, from the first fairy tales to current popular paranormal, has given roles to various creatures. Those creatures, not exactly human, but often endowed with human traits, usually have specific personalities and a capacity for good and evil. The nature of the creatures depends on the world building requirements of the author.
In Casual Curses & Meticulous Magic, Melian Devlin and Titus Moran, our protagonists, are aided in their quest by a few unusual sidekicks. Melian knows them all quite well, but Titus needs an introduction.
“Who’s Sara Jane?” Titus asked.
“A Circean vine. The one you saw covering the fire escape outside. Belongs to Dr. Codrescu, retired botanist on the third floor.”
“An exotic invasive?”
“A what?” She frowned.
“A plant from some other place that moves in and takes over the native species. Happens often in South Florida. Plants and reptiles from Central and South America are taking over.”
“Oh, yeah. Exotic. That’s Sara Jane. And invasive, especially when she’s got flowers. Which is, unfortunately, most of the time.” She turned and headed up the wide polished wood staircase.
And later, up close and personal…
Near the open window sat a clay pot the size of a fifty-gallon oil drum. Complex symbols etched in blood red scored the sides. Long green plant fronds reached from pot to the ceiling and cupped like hands at the end. Others fronds hung low to the floor, and even stretched out the window as if yearning for freedom. The plant swayed like something in a horror movie coming to life. A dozen white flowers, each the size of a saucer, suddenly opened and stared like pearly mooneyes.
“I see Sara Jane’s a bit frisky today.” Mel nodded at the enormous plant.
Codrescu scratched his bush of hair. “Well, yes. My fault really. I didn’t realize Miracle Mature expanded their line of fertilizer to different strengths. Don’t see too well these days, you know. Bought the high octane.” His shook his head. “Overdosed her, I’m afraid. She’ll calm soon.”
Mr. & Mrs. Chou
Titus meets the Chou family.
“This is Mr. Chou’s apartment. He needs space and rents two combined smaller apartments. He’s a nice guy—most of the time.” Mel knocked gently on the door.
“Most of the time?” Moran asked the obvious question.
“He has marital problems.” Mel twisted her mouth as if Chou’s problems left a bad taste.
A small Asian man dressed in a red Mandarin robe answered. He was one of those who appeared calm, adult and ageless, no matter what the situation. He stood in the doorway framed by the pitch-black apartment behind him. Mel introduced them.
Chou bowed. “I am honored.” He spoke without a trace of an accent. A heavy thump came from the darkened apartment, as if someone dropped a chair. A soft hiss followed.
“You and the missus getting back together, Chou?”
“Yes.” Chou glanced briefly over his shoulder. “My lovely wife has chosen to overlook my more egregious faults.” A tiny Asian woman, barely five feet, stepped up beside him. Her ivory skin glowed and dark hair fell over her shoulder like a midnight waterfall.
Again, up close and personal.
Titus hesitated. Mel was too eager and it made him uneasy, but he didn’t want to be rude to Mr. Chou. He stepped into the room.
Heavy fabric curtains blocked all the windows. It should have been dark and gloomy, but semi-transparent mandalas woven into each panel curtain allowed brilliant morning light to filter as soft golden beams. The light softened to a mellow glow and cast intricate oriental patterns across the expansive apartment that was really two apartments combined. An apartment with no interior walls, no furniture—and a sixty-foot dragon stretched across the floor, her legs folded under her like a dog lying at rest.
Rigatoni the Italian Donkey
Melian’s personal friend—sometimes.
A clamor came in the distance, like a cross between a foghorn and an out of tune trumpet. The steady pop, pop, pop, of hooves followed as a gray and black donkey charged around the stack of washing machines. Mel held out her arms as if to embrace the four-legged noise maker. “Riggs, baby, how are—”
Mel didn’t have time to dodge as the donkey charged straight into her, hit her with its head and tossed her in the air like a bull tossing a matador in a ring. She landed on her butt and the donkey continued its high decibel honk as she rolled to her feet and dusted off her jeans.
“Now you stop that.” She shook her finger at the donkey.
“Are you okay?” Titus fought to keep from laughing.
“What’s his name?” Titus asked.
“Riggs. Rigatoni, actually. He’s Italian—I think.”
Titus laughed. “You have an Italian donkey for a pet?”
She muttered something.
“I said he’s my familiar.”
“Familiar with what?” He couldn’t resist that one.
Mel threw up her hands. “Familiar. As in a witches’ familiar, usually a nice obedient black cat. Remember? You asked about one last night.”
Spot and Misery
Later, Titus makes his own special friends.
Two black dogs sat on their haunches on either side of the doors. Dogs—like Mastiffs on steroids. The thick muscled creatures had grown to the size of Shetland ponies. Their coats absorbed the light, pulling it in into a greater, deeper darkness.
“Damned show off,” Mel muttered.
“What are they?” Titus moved closer.
“Rejects. Hell hound rejects. Old Dengler messes in some nasty shit” She stepped away from Titus.
“Hell hounds?” Titus found himself surprised, but not stunned, not after the dragon.
“Not hell hounds. Rejects,” Mel repeated. “It’s different. See, no witch in his or her right mind would want a true hell hound hanging around. They are primo nasty bastards. Uncontrollable. Rejects are the next best thing.”
“Who rejected them? Where did they come from?”
“Don’t know. Don’t want to know.”
The hounds stood watching them. Titus tried not to make eye contact. He failed. Their eyes had a sick olive-green glow like gangrene festering in a wound. The identical monsters stood and their backs came to his waist. No overt hostility, at least not yet. Titus had left his gun locked in the trunk.
“I’ve met them before.” Mel pointed. “I even named them. No one else would. The one on the right is Spot. That one on the left is Misery.”
Oddly enough, Spot was solid color and Misery had a small patch of white on his chest. Yep, Mel named them.
Casual Curses and Meticulous Magic
The Gramarye Series
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Highland Press
Date of Publication: September 24, 2014
Number of pages: 292
Word Count: 92,000
Cover Artist: Iris Hunter
What happens when a dysfunctional witch and a tough PI work together to save an aging apartment house filled with ghosts, dragons and one oversexed house plant?
Spirits, spells and mayhem…Magic rises in the Gramarye
Melian Devlin is a witch who often resorts to exotic and slightly illegal methods of acquiring money to maintain the 300-year-old Gramarye, the stone apartment house that’s her heart and home. Her life is a series of skirmishes that occasionally end with her behind bars.
Titus Moran is a no-nonsense PI who makes big bucks busting insurance fraud schemes. So how did he wind up in a tortuous battle to keep Melian out of jail? Did the delightful young witch with her gray eyes and magic at her fingertips enchant him—or does the Gramarye hold greater mysteries.
Titus will enter a new exciting world when he joins Melian in her quest to save the Gramarye. Melian will fumble along in her usual impulsive way, leaving a trail of disasters behind her. If they’re lucky, they might survive.
Melian Devlin considered her arrest late Friday evening an ill omen, a portent of dire thingsto come. At the very least, it would ruin her weekend. Her bad luck had continued after her arrest when she’d found herself standing before Judge Franklin P.O. Merkle. Merkle’s exact words were, “You again?”
He’d set her bail at an obscene five thousand dollars.
Psychic readings weren’t illegal in the City of Ashburn, Florida, but selling magic potions skirted the legal line of medicine, hence her arrest. And then there was the sticky issue of not having a business license—again. Minor infractions. So why did Merkle have such a burr up his ass? Maybe because he was working late on Friday? The malicious cop with an aversion to psychics hadn’t helped either.
Standing behind bars at ten o’clock that night, listening to her Great Uncle Will royally chew her butt, confirmed Mel’s dismal assessment of the situation.
“Psychic?” Will’s deep voice rumbled the word. His tired eyes watched her from a weather worn face. “Mel, honey, you ain’t no psychic. You’re a witch. You’re supposed to use magic.”
He shook his head. “I understand why you can’t get a regular job, but can’t you find something irregular you’re good at? Or at least something legal?” He glanced over his shoulder and pitched his voice lower. “You should’ve marked a cop soon as he walked in the door, then spelled him out of making an arrest. You’re allowed basic self-defense. I taught you that.”
Mel winced at Uncle Will’s words. He had taught her. She was simply incredibly incompetent at casting spells and making potions, and utterly terrified of making a mistake. What if she hurt someone? Pretending to be a psychic and selling a few harmless herbal elixirs was easier—and safer.
They’d put her in a simple holding cell inside the precinct station after she’d seen the judge. The arrangement gave detainees a chance to post bail before they moved them to the main jail downtown, something Mel had hoped to avoid. Prospects didn’t look good.
The sparse cell had a single bench bolted to the floor and air filled with the odor of acrid, nose-searing bleach. Her cellmates, two tough prostitutes, sat on the bench staring straight at the wall. Imperfect witch she might be, but she could still deal with the bullying they tried when she first came in.
“Will, please,” Mel begged. “Go talk to Milo for me. Give him an IOU. I’ll get the money some way.” Milo the Bail Bondsman, her father’s second cousin, usually handled her bail. Milo hadn’t returned any of her numerous calls.
“Yeah. Sure.” Will laughed, but it didn’t sound funny. “Gettin’ money some way is what landed you here. I can hear Milo now. Cousin Melian? She told my Granny Panopoulos to put all her money on a horse named Show-Too in the third race and—”
“I told her thirty dollars to show on the number three horse, not… Oh, hell.” She wrapped her hands around the bars to steady herself.
Granny Panopoulos had cried to Mel about not being able to pay her mortgage and buy food in the same month. She figured Granny could lose thirty dollars and learn an excellent lesson about the futility of gambling. How was Mel to know the woman had fifty thousand dollars tucked in her mattress and a persistent bookie looking over her shoulder? Oh, right, she was supposed to be a psychic.
“Okay, girl, here’s the deal.” Will shoved his hands in his pockets like he always did when he had to deliver bad news. “I’ll get you out on Monday—” “Monday?”
“Yep. I’m not going to call Milo on a Friday evening or ruin his weekend. And I don’t trust anyone else.” Will’s head bobbed. His sorrowful expression tore at her. His eyes remained bright and his mind-dagger sharp, but time had worn his aging body. He loved her, and she shouldn’t have troubled him.
“Ya’ know Mel...” He sighed. “Honey, you’re twenty-seven years old. Couple of days and nights in jail won’t hurt. ‘Bout time you learned a lesson. Past time, in fact. While you’re there, think about having to stay longer, what might happen then.” He turned and shuffled out of the room.
Mel leaned her forehead against the cold hard bars. What a stinking mess. She wasn’t a true psychic, but the power, the magic she lived by, occasionally gave her glimpses into the situations surrounding people. A haphazard thing she couldn’t control, but between it and the potions, she made a little money—as long as some cop with an attitude didn’t arrest her.
Mel had paid little attention when the nervous young man with dark, curly hair entered her low-rent storefront room four hours ago. He had a sweet, shy smile and almost pretty face. Not a hint of a cop in him. He paid her forty dollars for a reading and asked her if he would ever find true love. His precise words. “True love.” That alone should have tipped her off. She felt sorry for him and tried to sell him a magic potion. Only a twenty-dollar mixture of Vitamin B and Ginseng, but with the power of suggestion, it might be enough to adjust his outlook on life. He was far too good-natured and attractive to be alone. Then his partner had charged in and gleefully busted her. It didn’t take much to make some cops happy.
About the Author:
Lee Roland is a full time writer who lives in North Central Florida. She loves the peaceful rural area where she shares a home with three small dogs who think they are pit bulls and an evil cat with sharp claws.
Lee writes stories of urban fantasy and paranormal romance where strong men and women battle the wickedness hiding under the surface of the modern world. Her characters are passionate in life and love and are formidable enemies to the malevolent criminals in their worlds.
Her first series, the Earth Witches, was published beginning in 2011 by NAL. Her website, www.leeroland.com offers samples of the Earth Witches books and information on their world. There are short stories and news of any upcoming books and events.
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