by Sarah Raplee
Are you one of those readers who skims the first paragraph or two of a novel before you purchase the book? I’ve been ‘one of those’ readers for as long as I can remember. The practice has helped me to sift the wheat from the straw most of the time, although occasionally a promising opening will not be followed by a consistently good story.
Not so with “The Crystal Witch”, one of Diana McCollum’s stories in the romance anthology LOVE & MAGICK: MYSTICAL TALES OF ROMANCE. * The wonderful opening pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. I’m happy to report the story fulfilled its promising beginning with consistently good writing throughout.
Here’s that opening:
October 15, 2012
The right mixture of violet and blue evening sky laced with bolts of scarlet bouncing off the clouds always brought to mind the evening of her death, or what would have been Hettie’s death had she not escaped.
Even after ten years in the small coastal town of Waxing, Massachusetts, a death-sky inspired panic deep in her chest. She took several calming breaths, repeating her time-worn mantra.
“‘Tis a frivolous fear, for naught dangerous be near. Bless this house, bless this store, bless me ever more.” Hettie intoned the mantra three times.
She put a match to bundled sage twigs and walked the boundary of her small gift shop, The Crystal Witch. Climbing the stairs to her apartment, at the door she murmured an opening charm and crossed the threshold then proceeded to walk the length of every wall, in every room. The blessed smoke from the stems both cleansed and protected the space. She stopped by the front window. Pulling the lace curtain aside, she looked out at the sky, almost dark now. The shadow of a figure merged with the dark of the woods across the street. Did she see a lonely soul out for an evening walk, or something more sinister? Her stomach clenched; it could be time to pay her debt.
Samhain was approaching. The time of year when the veil between worlds was easily accessible, when good or evil could pass through with barely a ripple in the curtain. Hettie was uneasy this time of year, and with good reason; if Declan came for her, it would be during this preternatural time.
In only one page we know that Hettie is a (good) witch who escaped death ten years ago and fears the past will one day catch up to her. We know that she lives upstairs from her gift shop called The Crystal Witch in the small coastal town of Waxing, Massachusetts and that someone named Declan may come for her at Samhain, which is coming soon. We suspect the ‘death sky’ foreshadows coming evil.
More important, perhaps, is what we don’t know. Who tried to kill Hettie and why? How did she escape? Why is Declan searching for her? What debt must she pay? These questions kept me turning the pages, and I hope they will you as well.
The plot of “The Crystal Witch” is full of unexpected twists and turns and populated by engaging characters that a little bird told me will be returning in Ms. McCollum’s upcoming novella, The Witch with the Trident Tattoo.
* Judith Ashley and I also have stories in the anthology LOVE & MAGICK. The book is available in print and ebook from Windtree Press and most online retailers. ~Sarah Raplee