I’m so excited to announce that my dark YA fantasy novella, Heartbreak, will be coming out next month! The cover was once again designed by the wonderful Sandi Johnson. I will share more details as they become available but, for now, here’s an excerpt from the start of the book:
“They said that magic, real magic, not the shite that the hedge witches peddled with all their little bags of powders and herbs, could only be performed in exchange for a human heart.
That’s why all the sorceresses that passed through our village, the ones in the big carriages with the gold scrollwork and velvet curtains, why they were all so pretty. The sort of pretty that men liked, although I supposed plenty of them broke women’s hearts as well.
They all looked the same after a while. Big eyes, high cheekbones, plenty filling out the bosoms, lips you could see a mile off. They kept those curtains drawn right till the last moment, keeping everyone on tiptoe and straining to see; the menfolk’s trousers bulging out at the seams too, no doubt, as if their little fellows could stand on tiptoe as well and get a quiz at the fine city ladies. They had dark hair, generally (although I did see one with golden, once), and the hair was always long, long, long, down their backs, fine as a cloak, and you could tell someone had fussed about with it, from all the braids and spangles and things hanging off at all angles. They’d stick a jewel wherever a jewel would stick, those ladies, on fingers and wrists and ankles, and some even had their noses pierced. If I had my nose pierced it would look like a great wart clinging there, something that needed lancing and a good long drain, but on them it looked all right, somehow, a little twinkle at the edge of their nostrils. It helped that their noses were straight and small. Great big nose with a twinkle at the flank of it would look like a pile of shite with a coin balanced on top.
Anyway, these ladies. They wore dresses in all colors, skirts as big around as four of Goodman Wick’s beer barrels, held out with wires and all such. Young Sam Stebbin swore he got a look underneath one once, as the lady was stepping up the little ladder into her carriage. He said he was on the ground trying to find something he’d dropped (bollocks) and he looked up and caught a glance of the underskirt, past those jingling ankle bracelets and right up that leg. He said it was all wires with fabric strung on it, like a tent, but it swung out like a bell when she moved and higher up he saw red lace with the white skin popping through bright as fireflies, it was so pale, and nary a hair in sight. The lads made him tell this story over and over, and I imagined they tugged off to it in their beds at night. Or maybe they imagined that one day the carriage would stop and the lady would hold out a hand and take them into the city with her, to be used as she saw fit, and maybe they wouldn’t care if she wizened them out like an old fruit, so long as they got to see that white and red for themselves. Maybe they imagined the sorceresses were magic all up in their quaints, too. Maybe they had cunnys that glowed, or shot sparks, or opened up like a flower. And smelled like flowers, too.
The ladies were charming, though. Even I couldn’t deny that. I caught the eye of one once, and she smiled at me as if I were somebody quite usual, with a whole leg and a whole foot—and then as if I were someone who interested her very much, and whom she would want to learn more about, had she the time. Then I had the inkling of how they might have broken lads’ hearts, those ladies.
The ladies made a show of going into the market and buying the herbs we grew, as if they made potions like any old hedge witch, but really they were sucking bits of heart out of everyone around them, and we all knew it, and we all gathered around them rather than shutting ourselves away indoors as we should have. That was their purpose in coming to the villages, gathering hearts—second-rate, hayseed hearts, but enough for small spells. Just by appearing, they could gobble up a bundle—all those boys, yearning for them. And not just the boys, but the older men, too, the married ones and the widowed ones, all of them. They all gave a little piece of their heart when they saw one of these ladies, and she would pocket it for a cantrip or a hex. For a proper broken heart with real power, the sorceresses would need more time (although not a hell of a lot of time, judging by the way the menfolk in our village mooned after them). The wives didn’t like it when the sorceresses visited, you could bet your life on that.
And what did they do with all that magic? No one knew for sure, and no one much cared. Whatever they did, they did in the city, and they didn’t concern themselves with our affairs, so we didn’t concern ourselves with theirs. Only one man in the village had ever been to the city, Goodman Whelks, and he had visited over thirty years ago and his mind was almost gone, so he wasn’t much help. The ladies probably used their magicks for murderings and all such, we thought, probably killing people the King wanted dead. Things like that. Big, political things.”