Saturday, May 31, 2014


Image via Shutterstock, copyright bikeriderlondon

In celebration of the countdown till THE VOID's June 3rd release, here's another insight into the creation of the Witching Savannah series.

Peter was the third major character who didn’t appear in the (multiple) early drafts of THE LINE. The original story kicked off with the arrival of a certain Texan named Daniel Trujillo. Daniel, a veteran of the Iraq War came home with an unwanted and extremely nasty hitchhiker. When his local bruja realizes she is in over her head, she sends Daniel to Taylors Ferry, GA—see earlier post—to consult with Ginny Taylor. The only problem was Daniel did not want to be in THE LINE. At one point I wrote that he went to his room to rest. Five chapters later, he still wasn’t ready to come out and play, and the book was moving on without him.

While Daniel was napping, Wren insinuated himself into the story, and quickly made Daniel’s little demon problem superfluous. I struggled to entice Daniel into playing his intended role. It would have been a great part. Battling demons and winning Mercy’s heart. Still, no matter how hard I try to sell him on it, he wasn’t buying it. He started to make it clear that

               A)  He would prefer more scenes with Oliver.
                         (So much for the romance with Mercy.)
               B) He really did not want to be in the story. Period.

So it was farewell Daniel, so long Pazuzu. The story got stripped back to the bare bones. I had found my villain, so there was no grief there, but Mercy didn’t have her guy. After the dark intense stranger expressed more interest in Mercy’s uncle than in Mercy herself, I started toying with the idea of a childhood friend who was desperately in love with Mercy, but who hadn’t quite convinced her to make the leap from friend to lover. Peter, the quintessential boy next door, was born and quickly took root. He charmed me, and I realized he was indeed the type of guy Mercy could love—not just feel passion for, but really love.  Peter’s only problem was that he was too perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I had no idea what to do with him. I honestly thought about striking the character from the book, and trying again. Then he shared his secret with me. He wasn’t so perfect. He had gone to Jilo for a spell before Mercy ever considered it. I breathed a sigh of relief and committed to Peter. I think you will see how happy I am now that Peter made the cut. His story takes what is (hopefully) an unexpected and entertaining twist in THE SOURCE.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What’s up with that weird golem creature anyway?

Rabi Loew and Golem by Mikoláš Aleš
Image in Public Domain (Thanks, Wikipedia)

Continuing the celebration of the countdown till THE SOURCE's June 3rd release, here's another insight into the creation of the Witching Savannah series.

I don’t read reviews. At least I try not to. I have been told that reviews are intended for readers, not writers, so to preserve my sanity, I have subscribed to this view. Still occasionally a stray review slips through my defenses. One that made me chuckle had a comment than ran something along the lines of “What’s up with that weird golem creature anyway?” I’m sure it was intended rhetorically, but it made me reflect on my golem, Emmet, why I created him and why he grows into a major character in the Witching Savannah series.

To begin with, the golem comes to us from Jewish folklore. It is an inanimate body, usually formed from clay, that is brought to life brought to life through magic. Unlike Adam—the biblical one, not my handsome detective—who also, according to tradition, was formed from clay, the golem does not possess the essential spark of a soul. Emmet’s first name is derived from the Hebrew word for truth (emet), a word that plays an important role in some versions of the golem story. His last name, Clay, should be a bit more obvious in its origin.

In THE LINE, the character count jumps up quickly when Mercy’s cousins arrive for the drawing of the lots that will determine Ginny’s successor. Still, I wanted to include the other nine main loyal witch families in the affair, but I didn’t want to introduce nine new characters at that point. I found myself considering different ways to allow them to be present without actually being on scene. I found myself wishing there were some kind of vessel to carry them all in. For some reason, the way my brain is wired,  when I hear the word “vessel” I associate it with the word “clay.” I blinked as the synapses fired, then realized I could house the awareness of the families’ representatives in a golem.

So I began writing the scene where the golem rises from Savannah’s sandy gray soil. It was to appear in a couple of scenes, then dissolve back into the earth. Then—out of nowhere—the golem started flirting with Mercy. I kept writing with one hand poised on the delete key. It was odd, but I could sense fire between Mercy and this artificial man. That alone would have merited keeping Emmet around, but I realized what a perfect mirror he would make for Mercy, if something were to occur to turn him into a “real boy,” and he has to learn about being human while Mercy learns about being a witch. So at the end of THE LINE, I wrote it so  that the magic of the line molds Emmet into a unified personality. Just like with my other “toss out” character, Mother Jilo Wills, Emmet, pushed himself onto the page, and I fell in love with him.  

In THE SOURCE, we see how Emmet (and his devotion to Mercy) grows.  I’ll leave it there for now as any more than that would be heading into spoiler territory.  So that, dear reader, is what is up with that weird golem creature.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Liar’s Tour of Savannah

The beautiful Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist of Savannah
 (no lie, the inside is even more beautiful than the exterior)

Only 5 days until The Source, book two of the Witching Savannah series debuts. To celebrate, here's another look at what went into the creation of Mercy's world.

A lot of people have asked me about Mercy’s Liar’s Tour, and how I got the idea for it. The first thing you have to know is that I hadn’t originally intended to set The Line in Savannah. (Yeah, I know. Right?) I had planned on creating a fictional setting (Taylors Ferry, GA), but my setting had no pulse. I worked through five or six rewrites of the first one-hundred or so pages, before I finally acknowledged to myself that Taylors Ferry had flat lined. (Pun not intended, unless you were amused by it. Then it was intended.)

 As I struggled to breathe life into my fictional setting , I kept feeling my heart (and imagination) pulled to Savannah. I had first become acquainted with Savannah through Margaret Wayt Debolt’s Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales and later John Berendt’s worldwide bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Actually the fact that Savannah was already so associated with “the book” nearly discouraged me from using the city as a setting. But what can I say? I felt Savannah calling me. Seriously. Both my heart and mind felt a tug that neither could resist. Still, I had never even set foot there.

I grew up in the southeast, my family at one time having lived as close to Savannah as Macon, but all I knew of Savannah at that point came from books and internet articles. Still, I listened to my gut and committed to the idea of setting The Line in Savannah anyway. It was time for some boots on the ground research. A lot of my first trip to Savannah was spent walking around on 98 degree days, when the humidity was like 2000%. Still, Savannah captivated me.

I love tours (especially walking tours)—I honestly would take a walking tour of my own house if someone were to offer one. I ended doing heaven only knows how many tours that first week, scribbling in my notepad and making some of the guides very, yet unnecessarily, nervous. After a few days, I had heard just about every tale they had to offer, many of them variations on the same stories. I started thinking how the locals must tire of hearing these same tales every time they pass by one of the tours.  I imagined a twelve year old Mercy rolling her eyes and mimicking the guides. I felt Mercy respond to that idea.

Then magic happened. I had the good fortune of going out with a new guide. The tour I went on with him was only his second unchaperoned (by a more experienced guide) outing. He was charming and a good storyteller. But then he messed up. He got confused and began telling a story associated with a property clean across town about the home we were standing before. I knew the story (and its setting) well. He was about two sentences in when I saw panic reach his eyes. He knew he had flubbed. I knew he had flubbed. None of the other folk on the tour knew he had flubbed. He committed to it, and carried on. There was no way I was going to ruin his day and their tour by pointing out his mistake. Still, I began thinking that these guides could be making up things left and right, and people would be none the wiser.

Then I had a flash of that same young Mercy, leading tourists around by the nose and making up the wildest stories she could sell them. I loved it. Mercy loved it. And that’s how the Liar’s Tour came to be.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Salute to Brown Jenkin

Sketch by H.P. Lovecraft, 1934. Image in Public Domain.

We are less than a week away from the June 3rd debut of THE SOURCE, book two of the Witching Savannah series. To celebrate, I will be sharing a bit of background each day until the release.

A salute to Brown Jenkin
HP Lovecraft, the man, had some issues; There are no two ways around that. Still, I am a huge fan of HP Lovecraft’s work, and have quietly adopted and adapted his Cthulhu Mythos for the Witching Savannah series. His Cthulhu Mythos, with its alien entity “small g” gods, allows for an exploration of a cosmic evil that lies outside the tenets of the established religions. This was important to me, as I wanted to make Mercy’s world accessible to everyone, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. If you aren’t a fan of Lovecraft, not to worry, the allusions, while ever-present, are for the most part pretty subtle.

Still while you won’t encounter six foot tall penguins or witness R’lyeh rising off the Georgia coast, those familiar with Lovecraft’s works will see his influence in the mythological underpinnings of the Witching Savannah series. So, in THE SOURCE, when Mercy encounters a creature that resembles a rat with a tiny humanlike face and hands, know that yes, this is an affectionate shout out to Brown Jenkin.

One bit of trivia:  In THE LINE, Mercy tells us her family came to Savannah shortly after the Civil War. What she doesn’t say is that, at least in the unpublished backstory of the Taylor family, they came to Savannah from Lovecraft’s own beloved Providence, and undoubtedly had a run-in or two with Jenkin’s mistress, Keziah Mason. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CONvergence 2014 Schedule

If you are attending CONvergence 2014, please join me for the following panel discussions!

CONvergence 2014
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
7800 Normandale Blvd.
Bloomington, MN 55439

Monday, May 12, 2014

News Update

Win a signed copy of THE SOURCE (Witching Savannah Book 2):

Meet JD on Thursday, May 15th at 7PM at
Village House Of Books
326 Village Lane Los Gatos, California 95030 (408) 354-6600

JD will be live Tweeting from the 2014 Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, NY June 28th-28th.

Meet JD at CONvergence 2014
July 3-6, 2014
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
7800 Normandale Blvd.
Bloomington, MN 55439

Meet JD at ThrillerFest IX
July 8-12, 2014
Grand Hyatt
New York City