Midnight Enchantments: Tim Powers


Midnight Enchantments is a celebration of books, authors, and characters who bring magic into our lives.

Midnight Enchantments: Tim Powers
By Cerridwen Iris Shea

Remember Compuserve Forums? That’s how long it’s been since the first time I read a Tim Powers novel. I was on a readers’ forum in Compuserve, and I wanted an interesting book, something unlike anything I’d ever read before. One of the other forum members, knowing I read tarot cards, suggested Tim Powers’s novel LAST CALL, where one of the major plot actions is high stakes poker using tarot.

I loved the way Celtic mythology of the Fisher King wove within the urban fantasy context set, in all places, Vegas. I love the way tarot wove through it. I couldn’t put it down — I read it straight through. The magic within the book had its own momentum. You couldn’t see how Scott could win against these odds, and yet couldn’t bear him to lose.

It’s one of those books I’ve been afraid to re-read in the intervening years, afraid I won’t love it as much as I did the first time I read it. The breathless joy with which it captured me might never be recreated. But I know it’s in a box downstairs, waiting to be unpacked in the new house, and I know, when I finally unpack it, I’ll re-read it.

Quite a few years passed before I read the other books in the trilogy, EXPIRATION DATE and EARTHQUAKE WEATHER. I enjoyed them, but none of the others packed the punch to me of LAST CALL.

I’ve read many of his other novels through the years. THE STRESS OF HER REGARD, with a premise of Byron and Shelley dealing with vampires, and THE DRAWING OF THE DARK, about a struggle between Muslim and Christian magicians were my favorites. DECLARE, on the other hand, just annoyed me. I felt like he was hitting me over the head with a religious two by four, and I didn’t like it. And then I felt guilty about the reaction, because I’d always held his work in such high esteem.

You can learn more about LAST CALL and Tim Powers’s other work here.

–Cerridwen Iris Shea wrote for Llewellyn Worldwide for sixteen years. She writes the Merry’s Dalliance Pirate Fantasies, and teaches workshops all over the world. This is her busy season. Visit her website: www.cerridwenscottage.com

Midnight Enchantments: Why Real Women Love Urban Fantasy Women

Why Real Women Love Urban Fantasy Women
By Cerridwen Iris Shea

It wasn’t called “urban fantasy” in the 1990s and even early 2000s. Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books were filed under “fantasy/scifi”. Yasmine Galenorn’s Chintz N China series and Rosemary Edghill’s Bast Books were shelved in mysteries.

None of these women were your typical heroines, and not just because they worked with magic as part of their normal, every day lives. They weren’t waiting around for some man to rescue them — they rescued themselves. They solved problems more than creating them (how often do you see “heroines” in cozies do something stupid just so “the guy” can come in, call her stupid, and then have sex with her?), they accepted magic as part of themselves and part of their lives. They had jobs and friends and families and heartache and LIVES. They didn’t just sit around and do hocus-pocus — they dealt with the same sorts of things my friends and I dealt with, too. Plus the whole demons and vampires and fae and stuff.

As someone who was just entering the Craft, I wanted to read books about women who knew more about the Craft than I did, and had integrated it into their lives. Sure, I enjoyed high fantasy, sword and sorcery, created worlds. But I also wanted to see someone in similar living conditions, with similar issues, someone who was better and more knowledgeable and all that. Someone who worked to live an integrated life instead of a fractured one. Who might not always succeed, but put in the effort. And who could also kick ass when it came to demons and vampires and fae and stuff I was relieved I never had to deal with!

I knew these women were FICTIONAL. I knew the stories were FICTION. It’s not like I was going to take the novel out on a dark and stormy night, pretending it was a grimoire. I’m not a moron, and I’m not delusional. But the way that Nancy Drew inspired me when I was eight and nine and ten and on to explore my curiosity about the world — and she had friends and family and a life, too — these fictional women also inspired me.

They inspired me to search through the sludge and find my best self. And work on that.

The genre’s grown and shifted. Now we have part-humans and shifters and vampires and all kinds of urban fantasy women who kick ass. They’re still inspirational. Why? Because I’m older, the stakes are higher, and I might not be dealing with a personified demon that way Corine Solomon does in Ann Aguirre’s books, but I’m dealing with metaphorical demons as I try to find a good, ethical way to navigate in an often wildly unethical world.

These women are not perfect. But they are smart, resourceful, learn quickly, give a damn, have compassion and humanity even if they’re not always or fully human. They remind me that life is what I make of it. They remind me that, no matter how bleak it seems, there is always a choice. They remind me that, even if you can’t see the endgame, or know you’re going to win it, there are small victories along the way, moments with those you love, who make it all worthwhile.

Cerridwen Iris Shea wrote for Llewellyn’s calendars and almanacs for sixteen years. She also writes the Merry’s Dalliance fantasy pirate adventures. She teaches tarot workshops, and is thrilled to finally have her own herb garden and still room. Find her on the web at www.cerridwenscottage.com. This is her busy season.

Midnight Enchantments: Corine Solomon


Midnight Enchantments is a series of essays and information on some of favorite paranormal characters, series, authors, and books.

Midnight Enchantments: Corine Solomon
By Cerridwen Iris Shea

I’m very fortunate — I get to discuss two of my favorite magical practitioners back-to-back. Yesterday, I talked about Juliet Blackwell’s creation, Lily Ivory. Today, I get to talk about another of my favorites, Corine Solomon, central to Ann Aguirre’s BLUE DIABLO, HELL FIRE, and SHADY LADY. There are at least two more scheduled,up for pre-order on Amazon, DEVIL’S PUNCH (April 2012) and BLOODY MARIA (April 2013). I’m very excited — at the end of SHADY LADY, it felt like it could have remained a trilogy, or continued on. I’m thrilled there will be more Corine stories — some of the revelations in SHADY LADY left me eager to see how Aguirre develops the threads. And, no, I won’t spoil them for you — you should sit down and read them for yourself!

Corine’s had a hard life, and spent a lot of it on the run. She’s now settled in Mexico, running an antique store. Both Corine and Lily are hereditary — magic runs in the family. Both are specialize in psychometry — they can touch an object and learn its history. Corine is a “handler”, and a sought-after one. Her gift is a curse for her, and causes her enormous physical pain.

In Corine’s case, however, people tend to bring her things with dark pasts that get her into all sorts of trouble, and she’s got a lot more demon-fighting to deal with than Lily. Corine’s love life is complicated, too, especially with Chance, who’s got his own magic good luck (not just in the looks department), which, unfortunately, causes bad luck to rebound on those around him.

Aguirre’s skill is so smooth that she not only draws you into Corine and has you root for her, she makes you want to step into the book as an individual and help Corine fight the fight. When Corine returns to her nasty, small-minded, pea-brained home town in HELL FIRE, the town where her mother died and she was feared for her magic, I wanted to break every Rede known to toast it. And I’m not talking about with champagne! I would have been perfectly happy to have demons eat the town, provided they could be contained there!

But Corine is a better person than I am, which is why she is the center of a series, and I am not. And, of course, there was more at stake than some small-minded ignoramuses.

When there’s a wonderful revelation in SHADY LADY about Corine’s lineage, you just want to stand up and cheer (especially if you know what they’re talking about)! And she takes a character who could have been a frightening antagonist and turns him into something beautiful, wonderful, and fascinating.

For a reader, she gives you everything you could want from characters and story, and more. For a writer, she’s exceptionally inspirational.

The series is action-packed and dark and heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. Each book is an exciting, wonderful jewel, and every time I finish one, I mark my calendar for the next release date.

You can find more about the Corine Solomon novels and Ann’s other books on her website.

Cerridwen Iris Shea wrote for Llewellyn’s calendars and almanacs for sixteen years. She also writes the Merry’s Dalliance fantasy pirate adventures. She teaches tarot workshops, and is thrilled to finally have her own herb garden and still room. Find her on the web at www.cerridwenscottage.com. This is her busy season.

Midnight Enchantments: Lily Ivory


Midnight Enchantments is a series featuring essays on the genre, books, and characters we love in paranormal fiction/urban fantasy, et al.

Midnight Enchantments: Lily Ivory
by Cerridwen Iris Shea

Lily Ivory, hereditary witch, the is primary protagonist in Juliet Blackwell’s delightful Witchcraft mysteries: SECONDHAND SPIRITS, A CAST OFF COVEN, HEXES AND HEMLINES, and the upcoming IN A WITCH’S WARDROBE (scheduled for July 2012).

Lily’s spent a good deal of her life on the move. Now, that she’s settled in San Francisco, running a vintage clothing store, she finds that she WANTS to put down roots. She WANTS to have friends. It’s not always easy to make friends when you’re used to being on your own, and it’s not always easy to find your place in a diverse magical community, which San Francisco supports. But Lily is a woman of intelligence, ingenuity, AND magic, and she learns from her mistakes.

She’s also got Oscar, the familiar given to her by the sexy, mysterious Aidan, a powerful local witch. She grows fond of the odd little fellow, who morphs into a pig around civilians, adds power to her spells, and, oh yeah, spies on her for Aidan.

Lily’s magic is hereditary. She was also trained, by her grandmother, and there’s some sort of secret about her father connected to magic, tidbits of which are revealed in each book. She’s got the family grimoire, and is trained in its use. You couldn’t find the spells she uses in a book at Barnes & Noble — and wouldn’t want to. Her spells are for the well-trained practitioner. And yet, she also knows how to align her magic with others in the community: her friend Bronwyn, who’s Wiccan, and Bronwyn’s coven; Aidan, upon occasion; the voudoun priest Herve LeMansac. She’s not a “my way is the only way” kind of witch, nor is she a “if we all envision white light, the nasties go away.” She’s practical (most of the time) and knows how to marshal resources.

Her love life is a bit of a tangle, but that adds spice to the books. She’s not limited by a relationship yet — there are still several interesting possibilities.

One of the things I truly love about the series is the care and detail spent dealing with Lily’s time in her shop. She doesn’t let magic take over her life; magic ENHANCES her life. It truly gives her joy to find a beautiful piece of vintage clothing with a history, and find the right person to give it a new home. She’s good at her job and loves it. How often do we read books where characters seem to have jobs, but we never actually see them work? Since work is such a huge part of most of our daily lives, it influences our characters. To see how Lily’s job reflects and enhances her character is a wonderful thing.

Lily is one of my favorite characters in modern paranormal fiction. She’s the kind of woman I want as my friend, and the kind of witch I want watching my back.

You can find out more about Lily on Juliet Blackwell’s website.

Cerridwen Iris Shea wrote for Llewellyn’s calendars and almanacs for sixteen years. She also writes the Merry’s Dalliance fantasy pirate adventures. She teaches tarot workshops, and is thrilled to finally have her own herb garden and still room. Find her on the web at www.cerridwenscottage.com. This is her busy season.