Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Change of Plans

I'd planned to send the first three paperbacks of the Millersburg Magic Mysteries to a couple of friends' daughters for #AllHallowsRead this year. Plus, I've been having fun with some bead work and found some cute sugar skull charms to go with the theme, so I decided to make the girls Dia de los Muertos bookmarks to go with the books.

As I'm working on the bookmarks, I realized the series and the sugar skull bookmarks would make a perfect #Witchstarter campaign! This will now be my second Kickstarter campaign!

It's gong to be short and sweet. Two weeks. $100 goal. Only the Millersburg Magick Mysteries ebooks and paperbacks and the Dia de los Muertos bookmarks for the main rewards. Maybe some stickers for the first stretch goal.

I'll post here and on the website at the end of September before the campaign goes live.

Note 1: All Hallow's Read was started back in 2010 by Neil Gaiman as a book-giving holiday for us non-Icelanders. Iceland has Jolabokaflod, which makes me want to move there!

Note 2: Witchstarter is the name given to October Kickstarter campaigns with a magickal theme.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Care in the Time of Spite

This is a plea for assistance for cover artist Alex Calder. Business is already down this year for authors and cover artists across the board. It sucks because it means dipping into savings.

In Alex's case, her landlord abruptly decided he wants the house she rents back within the next 50 days. She and her son will be evicted. Finding affordable housing is a bitch no matter where you live. She no longer has enough in savings for a deposit fee, first month's rent, and to hire a mover. She doesn't have an family to rely on.

If you could donate a few dollars through her GoFundMe, both she and her son would truly appreciate your kindness.

Just a few dollars. I'm skipping a few days of Pumpkin Spice lattes for her. Or if you're a writer in need of a cover, ask Alex about her pre-mades. Any donation could make a world of difference to this lovely freelance artist.

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

New Release - Spells and Sleuths

Today is the official release day of the new version of Spells and Sleuths (Millersburg Magick Mysteries #1).

This story first came out back near the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns. The series was meant to be a light-hearted, Scooby-Doo-style sequel to Bloodlines.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was suffering from depression. When I read the first three books later that summer, my mental illness showed through my writing. It was the first time I was ever incredibly unhappy with something I'd created. So I pulled the books from Amazon, and swore to rewrite them.

But then, I had a number of life rolls, and I never got back to the Millersburg Magick Mysteries until this summer. In fact, I carved out the last half of 2023 to finish these books. And I'm a lot more satisfied with Spells and Sleuths the second time around.

It’s been eleven years since supernaturals were revealed to the world during the eruption of Mount Rainier. But small-town life in Millersburg, Ohio, hasn’t changed that much.

At least, not for twin witches Kirsten and Kaley Wilson. Not until an alleged ghost starts haunting local landmarks, including the girls’ high school. Hauntings that become more violent and dangerous with each event.

Is the ghost a true supernatural phenomenon? Or has something else come back seeking revenge?

Suzan Harden, the author of the Bloodlines and the Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series, brings you a paranormal mystery set in the heart of Ohio Amish country that will chill and thrill you at the same time!

P.S. The Millersburg Magick Mysteries will be available on Kindle Unlimited until the end of the year.


Monday, August 14, 2023

Ke Kaumaha

NOTE: This is a repost from my other blog, Wild, Wicked, & Wacky. "Ke Kaumaha" means sadness in the Hawaiian language.


My heart aches.

DH and I had to postpone our honeymoon because he was going through chemotherapy the year we were married. So, in 1996, we decided to have a spectacular trip to Hawaii to celebrate not just our wedding, but his survival.

We spent the first week on O'ahu and the second on Maui.

We fell in love with Maui. We stayed at a hotel just outside of the historic town of Lahaina. The town, the people, and the food were all so amazing.

And I can't say anymore without crying.

Because the town is literally gone.

A wildfire spurred by drought and the winds of Hurricane Dora swept through Lahaina late Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday morning, the town was a pile of ash and debris.

If you wish to help, I suggest the Maui Strong Fund.

This is a situation where thoughts and prayers aren't enough.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 3

Here's the next unedited chapter of the first book in the upcoming The Books of Apep series. Sorry, I'm late. I got up early to go vote yesterday, but I can't do three hours of sleep in thirty-six hours without my body demanding payment.


The dead seek her comfort, and she readily tends them with her mercy. – A prayer to Selket on the walls of the reconstructed Red Temple of Hatshepsut, the Karnak complex at Luxor, Egypt

Billie matched Cyrus’s glare. “If you don’t know how to help, then shut up.”

A soft woof agreed with her. She glanced at the black dog sitting next to her. “I don’t suppose you know how to take care of a ghost, do you?” A doggy grin was her only answer.

“Boy needs a doctor.”

“I said, shut the fuck up, Cyrus!” Hot panic filled her mouth. It’s not like they covered monster attacks in law school, much less medical school. Even if she called the twins, what could they possibly do? “And you and your little friend need to back away. I can’t see his injuries with you glowing all over the place.”

She breathed a sigh of relief when Cyrus and his guide backed away until the stone angel partially obscured the guide’s luminescence. Unfortunately, her idea light bulb remained dark as she returned to examining Marcus’s wounds.

This situation was different than the soul-eaters she’d seen attack ghosts in the past. Those things couldn’t touch her. These monsters could. Her aching hip, bruised spine, and sore ribs could testify to that.

Sarah Jane knelt on the other side of Marcus, stroking the weeping boy’s hand in hers. The girl’s eyes glistened with silvery tears. “You gotta do something, Miss Billie.”

An icy touch on her neck preceded Tommy’s words. “Marcus ain’t hurt that bad. Mebbe them things’re poison to us.”

She looked over her shoulder at the older boy. Snowflakes dusted through his form. “What’re you saying?”

Tommy inclined his head at the injured ghost. “Them marks look like when my pa got bit by a rattler.”

Billie examined the injuries on Marcus’s side. Four puncture wounds from the monster’s claw showed through the torn turtleneck the boy had been buried in. Black ringed each circle in his ectoplasmic skin. No, not black. Nothingness.

Again, the surety of the knowledge unnerved her, but not as much as the ghost’s condition. New fear gnawed on her intestines as the circles of non-existence reached for each other. A nugget of an idea formed in her head. “Then we need to draw out the poison.”

Cyrus’s voice rang from behind the statue’s wings. “You don’t have clue of what you’re doing, girlie!”

The almost-dog rose and trotted around the grave. When the canine’s distinctive growl thrummed the night air, followed by Cyrus’s yelp, Billie swallowed the hysterical laugh that threatened to erupt from her. The canine returned to sit on his haunches beside her.

She couldn’t resist the urge to ruffle his neck fur. “Thanks.”

Another woof and a nod.

No, she could not deal with canine communication that made sense right now. A deep breath helped focus on the immediate problem. This was no different than the bar exam. Break down the elements of the question and tackle them one at a time.

And time was one thing she didn’t have. The black edges surrounding the puncture marks had joined and now covered an area bigger than her palm on Marcus’s side.

Looking over her shoulder, she asked, “Tommy, how’d your father treat the snake bite?”

The older boy’s eyebrows drew into a vee as he struggled to pull out a nearly two hundred-year-old memory. “We headed into the woods to cut logs for the house. I jumped over a fallen tree and there he was, the biggest, fattest rattler you’d ever seen—”


At her sharp chiding, he blinked and his cheeks flared silvery white. “He had me cut ’im with his huntin’ knife across the bite and suck out the poison.”

Billie frowned. Sucking out poison was a myth perpetuated by pop culture. It didn’t work with real people.

But then, this entire situation was unreal.

“Now just how am I supposed to cut a ghost’s flesh?”

Tommy shrugged. “Your huntin’ knife worked on them monsters, and they can touch us ghosts.”

A snort came from behind the monument. She closed her eyes. “I said be quiet, Cyrus, or I’ll sic the dog on you. “A high-pitched bark confirmed her threat.

She opened her eyes and gazed at Tommy’s earnest face. “They were real.” At the boy’s flinch, she wished she could take the words back. “I’m sorry, Tommy. I meant my knife is steel, and those creatures were flesh, not ectoplasm like Marcus.”

He shrugged in acceptance of her apology. “It ain’t gonna hurt to try, Miss Billie. None of us were buried with anything we can cut ’im with.”

She looked down at Marcus. Even though he looked eleven, technically he was old enough to be her grandfather. Why was his consent so important to her? “It’s your call, Marcus. Do you want me to try?”

The ghost boy brushed at the tears trickling from under his glasses with his free hand and nodded. Steel and wood weighed in Billie’s hand. What the hell was she thinking? But the black patch on Marcus’s side was growing as she hesitated, and she had nothing to lose at this point. She sucked in a deep breath.

Two quick slashes formed an ‘X’ across the wounds. A short cry escaped from Marcus, but other than a jerk at the first cut, he remained still. Sarah Jane kept her grip on his hand while Tommy knelt beside him and clung to the other one.

This was insane. Even as the thought flew through her mind, Billie bent her lips to the boy’s side. Intense cold shocked her system, but it was the taste that launched her gag reflex into overdrive. Not even a real taste, but a foulness pure in its terrible state against her lips. Nothing so evil had ever touched her before tonight. Not even her foster father’s lecherous advances felt this bad. Swallowing hard against the threatening nausea, she sucked the blackness, turned, and spat. Repeating the sequence over and over until Marcus’s skin turned a dull gray and she was sure none of the evil remained in him.

Then she flung herself away from the children. The contents of her stomach heaved across the pristine snow. When the last of the beer and her birthday dinner were purged, she collapsed on the frozen grass. Every bit of strength had been consumed in her struggle to save Marcus. Or at least his soul.

White light pierced her eyelids. She forced one eye open to find Cyrus and his guide hovering over her. “I always said you shouldn’t waste perfectly good alcohol on a woman. They puke it up every time,” the ghost muttered.

Her eyelid drifted shut again. She couldn’t even summon the energy to curse at him, much less keep her eyes open. It would be so nice to take a nap. She didn’t even feel cold anymore.

Warm, sweet breath whispered across her cheek. Her eyes blinked open. Funny. The canine peering at her from inches away didn’t smell doggy at all. Orange and cinnamon and sandalwood filled her nose. Odd combination for an animal. He nudged under her chin with his frigid, wet nose, a reminder she was laying in the middle of a cemetery during a snowstorm.

Except part of her didn’t care. The miasma from the thing’s venom seeped into her bones and muscles, rendering her body inoperable. Even her mind fuzzed under the silent flakes gathering on her scarf.

Sleek fur slid under her left hand. The dog wedged his head under her arm, lifting the unresponsive limb with his body. Her rattled brain finally got the memo. She had to get up or she’d freeze. Fingers stroked his surprisingly soft pelt. For the second time tonight, instinct said she knew this being.

His body heat burned away the dangerous lethargy clinging to her as he aligned his frame with hers. A whine and lick on her cheek encouraged her to climb to her knees. Too bad it wasn’t a kiss from Porter.

She jerked at the unexpected thought. Damn, had the ghost poison fried her brain cells?

A small giggle escaped at her incongruous thoughts. Attaining an upright position seemed to help clear her head. Maybe the monster venom did affect her if she was comparing her canine rescuer with Kyra’s bouncer friend. The two had nothing in common but the color black. She stared at the animal face so close to hers. And those strange golden eyes.

Another wave of dizziness threatened to spill her back on the ice-covered grass, and she tightened her grip on the dog’s fur. He bore it, not even emitting the tiniest growl of protest. Sarah Jane knelt next to her and the dog. “Are you going to be okay, Miss Billie?”

“Yeah.” Her stomach disagreed, but there wasn’t anything left to hurl. She glanced over at Marcus. Tommy and another boy were hefting the injured ghost between them. “Can you kids get Marcus back to his grave?”

They all nodded, matching solemn looks on their faces. Except for Marcus who looked like he had the phantom equivalent of her nausea. Thank goodness, the patch of nothingness on his side was gone.

“You all should go to your resting places,” she added. “I don’t think those things are coming back tonight, but your coffins and mausoleums should give you some protection if they do.” Once again, the odd tickle of certainty over the imparted information bothered her.

“What about you?” Concern pinched Sarah Jane’s face.

A soft yip sounded in her ear. She couldn’t resist another chuckle. “Our friend will help me to the back gate.”

Without another word, the group of children headed for Marcus’s section of the cemetery.

She didn’t get that lucky with the adult ghost.

“What about my problem?” Cyrus glared at her.

“Go haunt your son.” Biting her lip against her churning stomach, not to mention the pain from getting tossed around by the monster, Billie ignored the sputtering ghost, braced a hand on the dog’s back and climbed to her feet.

“Listen, you bi—”

She held up a hand. “Stop yapping and think, Cyrus. There are things prowling this cemetery that can hurt a ghost. Are you going to leave before they find you? Or are you as dumb as I think? Personally, I’m hoping for the latter—”

Cyrus and his guide faded from view.

Well, that was two problems down.

Then the reality of what she still held in her upraised hand sank into her exhausted brain. It took two tries to sheathe the knife. She was damn lucky she didn’t slice off her ass in the attempts.

She raised the fallen scarf back over her hair and ears before she looked down at the dog. “I suppose cutting off my butt would be an improvement, wouldn’t it?” The dog actually took a step backward and seemed to examine the mentioned anatomy. He returned to her side and shook his head vigorously.

“Great. Dead people weren’t bad enough. Now, I’m talking to animals.”

He peered up at her through thickening flakes, tongue lolling in a doggy grin. She took a few tentative steps with one hand still on his furry back, his muscular strength a comfort. He paced her patiently as she shuffled through the accumulating snow. Damn, she didn’t realize how big the thing was. His shoulder came nearly up to her hip, and she wasn’t exactly short at five-foot-seven.

Deciding to ignore the question of her strange hero, Billie set off for the back gate, her normal stride hampered by her bruised body. With the snow already at a half-inch, her tracks couldn’t be helped. The dog padded alongside, his puffs of foggy breath matching hers.

Questions raced through her muddled brain during their silent walk. The biggest one was exactly what were those things that had attacked her and the children.

She could touch them. They had mass and weight, not like the soul-eaters she’d encountered before. Not like the one that had ripped her mother’s ghost apart and munched ectoplasm with gleeful abandon. A shudder shook Billie at the memory.

The dog paused and gave her a curious look.

“I’m fine.”

A questioning whine followed.

She stopped as well and searched her coat pocket for her gloves. The wind died down, but the snow seemed to fall faster. Her sigh sent a cloud of steam through the flakes when only the left one made an appearance. She must have lost the other glove in the fight, and the ever-thickening whiteness would swallow the bright red yarn. Shoving her right hand into her coat pocket helped, but her fingertips were staring to go numb. She and the dog continued their slow trudge.

Fifteen minutes later, they finally reached the back gate. Held by a chain and padlock, the wrought-iron gate had enough of a gap to slip through. A soft whine stopped her on the street side.

Dammit, she couldn’t leave the poor creature behind, not after he’d saved her life. And not in this kind of weather. Tonight, he could sleep in the kitchen, and tomorrow morning she could put up signs around the neighborhood and campus. Surely, he must be someone’s trained guard dog from his behavior towards the monsters. She held the gate so he could pass through the narrow opening, and she turned to head down the street when a white glare blinded her.

Unfortunately, it was caused by something worse than her annoying ex-client and his bird-like spirit guide.

A commanding female voice rolled past the light. “Columbus PD, ma’am. What’re you doing in the cemetery after visiting hours?”

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Death Goddess Walking - Chapter 2

Here's the next unedited chapter!


We pray, oh Lady, protect us from the venom of our enemies. – Prayer to Selket, The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahri, Egypt

The creatures’ bones poked through the scales covering the majority of their bodies. Tufts of hair or possibly feathers stuck out in odd places. The elongated snouts seemed a cross between canine and reptilian, with nasty looking fangs that matched the talons at the end of their forearms. The forked tongue of the first creature flicked out, testing the air.

Billie gulped frigid oxygen and reached under her wool coat for the handle along her spine. Panic threatened to shut down cognitive function. These monsters looked so freaking real. She didn’t for one minute believe her knife would affect these things, but maybe she could buy the children escape time.

What the hell was she thinking? The ghost children were already dead. She wasn’t. She eased the steel from the sheath anyway.

A high-pitched scream broke the stand-off. The nightmare on the angel launched itself at Marcus.

“No!” Knife in hand she leapt at the monster, blocking it from the paralyzed ghost. The nightmare backhanded her. The blow drove all breath from her lungs. She slammed into the same marker it had perched on and dropped to the ground. The nerves in her hip and ribs howled at the impact.

The attack on Billie spurred a reaction in the terrified ghost children. Screaming and crying, they raced in different directions. The other two creatures chased after them, reminding her too much of the coyotes that had gotten into Grandpa’s chicken coop one night.

Billie crawled to her fists and knees. Somehow her right hand still gripped her knife. Her diaphragm ached from the thing’s blow. Lungs cried for air.

The creature ignored her and reached for Marcus. Her own gut twisted in response the boy’s scream as the talons seemed to cut into his ectoplasmic skin. Forcing herself upright, she jumped on the thing’s back.

Shock filled her at the monster’s solidity. The heat from its scales burned white-hot compared to Sarah Jane’s touch. What the hell were these things and why were they chasing ghosts in the cemetery?

The creature roared at Billie’s weight and dropped Marcus. Flinging itself around, it tried to dislodge her. She clung to the gyrating creature, brought the knife up and plunged the steel into its back. Instead of the scales deflecting the blow as she half expected, the knife sank nearly to its hilt.

Another roar shook the night. The creature bucked and heaved, throwing Billie to the ground again. Despite the air driven from her lungs a second time, she rolled away as it tried to stomp her into red jelly on the ice and dead grass. Foor talons dug furrows across partially frozen sod. It clawed at the wound on its back and bellowed its agony to the universe. Then it focused on her, stalking her across the torn ground.

Amazement flickered through her fear that the hunting knife remained in her hand. She crawled away from the furious creature until her back ran into stone. Maliciousness shone in the thing’s eyes. It loomed over her, its jaws open wide.

Desperation drove the knife through the upper jaw and what she prayed was the brain.

The thing paused, as if surprised. One last metallic screech sent a wave of fetid, hot breath across her face.

Then the creature simply shattered. Pieces of it rained over her, hot shards getting in one last blow by singeing her face, hands, and coat.

Sucking in a deep breath, she sat upright, only to find she’d attracted the attention of its compatriots. Now, they ignored the children, including the weeping Marcus sprawled a few headstones away. Their focus carried a malignant air. She’d killed one of their own. These two wouldn’t be as easy.

Not that the first one was a piece of cake. She climbed to her feet, and adrenaline shook her knees so hard she could barely remain upright. Ignoring the part of her psyche that screamed this couldn’t be real, she tightened her fist around the knife handle.

From the corner of her eye, a shadow appeared at the top of a nearby mausoleum. The shaking moved from her legs to her arms. Crap. Another one of these monsters?

The shadow leapt from the mausoleum. Darkness resolved into two large pointed ears, a long snout, and a tail. Gold eyes reflected the ambient light bouncing off the low, wet clouds. A dog. He trotted to her side, tongue lolling when he looked up at her. His tail gave a friendly wave before he turned to the remaining creatures. An ugly growl began low in his throat, a sound that made them stop.

Strange hissing ran between the creatures. Why would a dog make these things hesitate? He barked, but the sound was more a high-pitched yelp. His hackles stood straight up, and his ears flattened.

The two monsters seemed to take the threat seriously and shifted apart. One feinted at the dog. He sprang at the creature and leapt back, keeping himself between the lizard creatures and Billie. He started shaking his head, almost as if he was having a seizure.

Only then did Billie notice the black ichor running down the creature’s arm and dripping from its talons. The dog was literally trying to shake the taste of the monster out of his mouth. She couldn’t stop the burble of nervous humor that erupted from her throat. The giggles died as abruptly as they started when eyes the color of neon pus glared at her.

More hissing between the two creatures accompanied by fierce looks at her and the strange dog. Then the leader spat a noise at the canine who made a weird chuffing. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought the dog was laughing at them.

The lead monster pointed at her and snapped its jaws, the warning unmistakable. It wanted revenge for its fellow she’d killed. Its malevolent gaze turned from her to the prone, crying Marcus. A vicious kick tore another scream from the dead child before it loped into the night. Its partner added its own kick at Marcus before it ran after the first.

Billie looked down at the dog. No, not a dog. While definitely canine, the shape was wrong. The legs too long. The ears too big. “Thanks.” His tongue hung out of his mouth, and he nodded.

No, he could not have possibly understood her. Once again, she pushed another disconcerting thought away because if she thought too much about what just happened, she’d turn into a quivering mass, too.

Billie limped over to Marcus, the dog-thing padding after her, and knelt next to his head. The boy’s sobs racked his whole body.

“It hurts, Miss Billie! Make it stop!” he cried though gulping breaths he no longer needed.

Right. Like she had a clue of how those things affected a ghost to begin with. Much less how she’d managed to kill one on the monsters. How the hell was she supposed help Marcus?

Guilt seeped through the adrenaline rush. Damn, she couldn’t even hold the boy’s hand for comfort. Only the older ghosts, like Sarah Jane, could manifest their ectoplasm to resemble a solid. Not knowing what else to do, she whispered over and over again, “It’s okay, Marcus.”

White light spread through the night, bouncing off the marble mausoleums and accumulating snow. It rendered Marcus practically invisible.

“Might have known you’d screw over someone else’s kid.” Cyrus Johnson glared down at her.