In 1991 I’d already been writing for about twenty years, on and off (though there was a long gap where I didn’t write because of a divorce, the finding of a full time job to support myself and my son, and a remarriage…life) when I contracted my fourth novel, my first of four to Zebra paperbacks, a romantic horror called Vampire Blood, about a family of vampires who ran a movie theater in a small town. I’d already had a fifth novel, The Last Vampire, completed and in with them when they asked me for another novel.
Got anything about witches, they asked. Witches are hot right now. Hmmm.
For many years I’d played around with an idea about a present day white witch who finds a diary of a long dead witch – either good or bad, I hadn’t decided – in her old house’s attic, or basement, or under a floorboard. The story would have been about the good witch reliving the other dead witch’s life through the diary. I’d always called that possible book Rachel’s Diary in my head.
So in 1991 or 1992 I began the witch book and it quickly metamorphosed into a story of a present day good witch, Amanda Givens, who’s yanked into a perilous seventeenth century past by an evil witch, Rachel Coxe, to take her place…and die a horrible death as an accused witch. I had the idea then to actually send Amanda into the past to live (for a while) the other witch’s life. Of course, being a good witch, Amanda, changes the other witch’s unsavory reputation but still ends up in a prison waiting to die for Rachel’s earlier crimes. The story, simply put, would be how Amanda overcomes her trials and tribulations, finds her lost eternal love again in the past, and finds a way to return to the present alive. In the process, learning some important life lessons about accepting what life has dealt her and the value of sisters, friendships and the love of those around her. Or good versus evil and, in the end, good wins and is rewarded. I also threw in a few touches of humor in the form of three precocious witches’ familiars…a mind-reading and speaking cat called Amadeus, a mouse, Tituba, and a tiny bat, Gibbiewackett …all with feisty personalities and quirks of their own.
I was excited about the book as I was writing it and when it was done, pleased with it, but had no idea that over the years it’d become the jewel of my writing career and the book that my fans would love the best of all my books. I loved the cat face cover Zebra did for it (a rare occurrence as I’d learned the hard way that covers weren’t always what I’d envisioned and in the early days I had no choice but to accept whatever the publisher’s gave me…and some weren’t so hot, let me tell you!).
Witches came out in 1993 and did well. I noticed soon after as I went on to publish other books that I got the most response and admiration for it. Readers loved the three sisters, Amadeus and Amanda, Gibbiewackett and Tituba. In those days I was too busy working full time as a graphic artist, living my life and writing new books to notice. It went into a second printing in 2000 and after that, sadly, went out of print. But my fans never forgot it. I’d find comments on it and discussions on the Internet…even customer reviews raving about it years and years later. I tried talking Zebra into reissuing it but after Zebra and I parted ways there was no talking them into it.
Of course, that’s meant a heck of a lot of rewriting. A lot of work. Those early novels go back twenty-seven years and were first written in the days of snail mail and on an electric typewriter before the Internet, e-mails and Windows Track Changes (for editing). Oh, boy, did they need revising. As of today I can happily say they’re all rewritten now except the very first one, Evil Stalks the Night, 1984; yet even that one will be completed soon.
I’ve often been asked what I think of e-books and I have to say it feels strange, all these years later, to be so into them. I think it’s fantastic to be able to put thousands of books on one little lightweight hand-held contraption and sell them as inexpensively as we do. I started publishing e-books four years ago and have seen such great changes in even that short a time. I love the editing process now. With Track Changes it’s truly a collaborative effort between the editor and the writer and it’s taught me far more about the craft of writing than the old way of just sending off the manuscript, being asked to change certain things, but then never seeing any of those changes or the basic edits until the book was printed and in my hand. Now, no more pages added by an editor (That actually happened in Evil Stalks the Night. The editor, who I never met, added three pages of his own and I didn’t even know about it until I held the book in my hand. And the three pages didn’t make sense…ech!) that I never know about or see until the book comes out. Yeah.
With a chuckle I recall a writer’s convention I attended in 1990 – yes, that far back – and the main topic back then was…OMG the electronic books are coming! They’re going to make us authors obsolete! Print books are going to die a terrible lonely death…etc., etc. Lack and alas, what are we going to do? Ha, ha. It’s ironic that 21 years later I’m in love with e-books. They’re the future. And I think there’ll always be room for print books as well as electronic ones.
So Witches…Damnation Books rereleased it April 1, 2011. I’m thrilled. The cover is still of Amadeus, the cat, and Dawne Dominique did an amazing job on it. My editor, Alison O'Byrne, helped me make it a better book than eighteen years ago. Of all my novels, I’m most proud of it. It’s held up pretty well. I hope it finds many more readers and fans.
So that’s the story of Witches…the little book that wouldn’t die.
Amanda Givens is careful how she uses her powers. She doesn't want the people of Canaan, Connecticut to know they have a witch among them . . . even a good white witch. For years, she's lived quietly in a remote cabin with Amadeus, her quirky feline familiar. At first with her husband, Jake, the love of her life, until a car accident; but now alone after his death. But when she's wrongly blamed for a rash of ritualistic murders committed by a satanic cult, she knows she can no longer hide. She's the one the cult's after and she is the only one who can stop them and prove her innocence.
As punishment for fighting and destroying the cult, she's drawn back in time by the ghost of the dark witch, Rachel Coxe, who was drowned for practicing black magic in the 17th century.
Now, as Amanda tries to rehabilitate Rachel's reputation in an effort to save lives, as well as her own, and falls in love all over again with Joshua, her reincarnated dead husband from the future, she has to rely on a sister's love and magical knowledge, and a powerful sect of witches named the Guardians to help her get home safely. ***
Now, with her heart breaking, her eyes shut, her hands waving languidly over the fire, she chanted the nefarious words that would bring her husband back from the dead.
Something crashed against the door, as if something or someone were throwing themselves against it. Wood splintered, but the door held. Amadeus, who had powers of his own, was fighting mad now. It was his responsibility to protect her, protect her from herself, if need be. She heard him growling at her through the door.
Open up, Mandy. Open the damn door!
"No. I told you, Amadeus, either help me or go away."
The cat grumbled beyond the door, hissed and spat as loud as any big cat, and the battering resumed.
Amanda's eyes flew open, widened as the apparition began to take form inside the pentagram—the outline of a man, tall, his arms thrown over his face as if in defense.
"Jake?" She moaned, staring at the thing.
It lowered its hands and a ghoulish, misty face peered out at her, a face so full of torment and fear, Amanda fell back in shock.
"Don't do this, Mandy, I beg you! Remember me as I was. I don't belong there anymore." She heard the plaintive whisper, an echo on the still air. Its hands reached out to her. "Let me go. You don't know what you're doing."
She couldn't stop. The enchantment wasn't complete. It would be better when it was. He was between two worlds now and he would be frightened. Half-formed. Between two worlds.
If she wasn't careful, those unearthly denizens—shade demons, she called them—that haunted that dead world could escape into hers. So dangerous. What the hell was she doing opening the forbidden portals like this?
What happened if she was a moment off, a word wrong and the demons came through? If she unleashed them? A disaster.
Amanda steeled herself, wiped the fresh tears from her face with the back of her hand. "Damn it, I want you back, Jake. I'll have you back," she swore.
She took up where she'd left off, knowing if she stopped at this point of the spell, it could ruin everything. Everything.
The door groaned behind her under its assault (damn but that cat was strong), the wind screamed outside the windows. The candles placed around the pentagram fluttered in a strange breeze in the shadowy room.
Amanda's heart froze. She stopped in the middle of the spell, her eyes going wide with fear, her hands half-raised before her, and her head thrown back as the flames from the fire glowed more brightly across her tense face.
What was that word? Suureerustus? Summertus? Or...
She stared at the blurry figure trying to form in the circle. It was yelling at her now...something...something...she couldn't make out the words.
It was no longer alone.
Things writhed around its melting feet, flew about its head. Terrible things. Things from the dead world. Unholy things. Gaping mouths with sharp bloodied teeth, glittering fiendish eyes in deformed, hideous bodies. Some almost human, some insect like. Others indescribable. Some growing before her eyes to be taller than she was.
Monsters. Coming through the barrier, crossing the lines of the pentagram, into her world.
Amanda grabbed the nearest thing with which to fight them off, a broom, and started swinging at them.
She was so busy hitting and spewing out new spells to keep the shade demons from coming through that she never heard the door burst open; never felt the cool storm wind enter the cabin until something determined and furry flew by her face toward the pentagram, hissing all the way.
Then Amadeus was helping her herd the malignant spirits back from where they'd come. All claws, teeth, and unearthly glowing eyes. He snarled the word Sutterus at her in passing and Amanda quickly supplied it in the spell where it belonged.
The demons began to slowly dissolve in shrieks of rage.
Don't send us away! Don't send us back there! Let us out. Out!
Jake's figure returned. A shadow with hanging head. Just one or two sentences and the incantation would be complete. Jake would be there, solid, before her.
Amanda hesitated. The thing in the circle looked so pitiful. So unnatural.
Before she could finish, soft, but strong paws clamped tightly around her neck and wouldn't let go. Something howled like a banshee in her ear, as sharp teeth angrily nipped it. She couldn't breathe.
"Amadeus! Get off!" She screamed, tumbling to the floor with the huge cat on top of her, still holding on like a leech, its yowling and screeching enough to wake the dead—instead, it woke her.
By the time she'd yanked the cat off, throwing him roughly against the opposite wall so that he yelped in pain, and she'd crawled back to the pentagram, Jake was gone. The enchantment broken. ***
Buy Link: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615723553
Thank you for having me here on your blog, Judith!
Kathryn Meyer Griffith has been writing for nearly forty years and has published 14 novels and 7 short stories since 1984 with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press in the horror, romantic paranormal, suspense and murder mystery genres. Learn more about her at www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyergriffith and http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1019954486 .