Thursday, July 03, 2014

Guest Blog by Juliet Blackwell - The Witch's Familiar - and Giveaway! - July 3, 2014

Please welcome Juliet Blackwell to The Qwillery. A Vision in Velvet, the 6th Witchcraft Mystery, was published on July 1.

The Witch’s Familiar

In the latest book in my Witchcraft Mystery series, A Vision in Velvet, my witchy protagonist loses her familiar – and risks losing everything else trying to get him back.

A ‘witch’s familiar’ is a companion animal that acts as a conduit to the world beyond the veil, or the magical realm. The classic familiar in literature and movies, of course, is the black cat.

My neighbors’ black cat, Oscar, started hanging around me just as I began writing the first novel in my first Witchcraft Mystery series. Some say Oscar’s timing had more to do with the fact that my beloved mutt Sam died a few weeks before –and thus was no longer ridding my yard of cats-- rather than anything witch-related. Still, I had never before known feline love. Oscar doesn’t take to just anyone, and though some of his love and devotion might rooted in the little bits of smoked ham I fed him, I choose to believe that he came into my life for a reason.

Interestingly, in the book Secondhand Spirits I had already named my protagonist’s familiar Oscar. Now does that seem like a coincidence?

One major difference, though: Lily’s familiar is a goblin/gnome-like critter who transforms himself into a miniature pot-bellied pig when in public.

So, who ever heard of a piggy familiar? They were actually quite typical, back in the day. It was also common for witches to have dog, frog, and owl familiars.

Pigs are smart, live close to homes in traditional villages, and “go wild” easily even if raised in captivity. Also, pigs “root” in the earth, turning over dirt, rocks and sod to find their treasures. According to Judika Illes’ Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, root-working is an ancient form of magic associated with esoteric botanical knowledge:
“The term ‘root-worker’…implies power and knowledge and a special relationship with Earth and her protective spirits…once upon a time, it was not considered safe to disturb the Earth, unless one knew proper rituals and had received permission to dig.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have an actual familiar – whether black-cat or piggy-goblin. But even as I write this, Oscar-the-cat is sitting on the ledge outside my writing nook, soaking up the sun.

Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, he’s actually helping me cast my writing spell. What do you think?

A Vision in Velvet
A Witchcraft Mystery 6
Signet, July 1, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily Ivory hopes to score some great vintage fashions when she buys an antique trunk full of old clothes. But she may have gotten more than she bargained for.…

As soon as Lily opens the trunk, she feels strange vibrations emanating from a mysterious velvet cloak. When she tries it on, Lily sees awful visions from the past. And when the antiques dealer who sold her the cape is killed, Lily suspects a supernatural force might be behind his death.

Then Lily’s familiar, Oscar the potbellied pig, disappears. Lily will do anything to get him back—including battling the spirit of a powerful witch reaching out from the past. But even with the aid of her grandmother, unmasking a killer and saving Oscar might be more than one well-intentioned sorceress can handle.

Previously in the Witchcraft Mysteries:

Tarnished and Torn
A Witchcraft Mystery 5
Signet, July 2, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

As the owner of a popular vintage clothing store, Lily Ivory can enjoy a day of antique jewelry shopping and still call it work. But as one of San Francisco’s resident witches, searching for hidden treasures can sometimes lead to dangerous discoveries…

When Lily arrives at an antique jewelry fair, her bargain sensors go off left and right—but she also picks up a faint vibration of magic. Could the hard-bargaining merchant Griselda be a fellow practitioner? It certainly seems that way when a sudden fire sends panic through the crowd, and Lily discovers Griselda murdered in a way that nods to an old-fashioned witch hunt…

A crime that hits close to home turns into an unwelcome flash from the past when the police bring in their lead suspect—Lily’s estranged father. Though he may not deserve her help, Lily is determined to clear her father’s name and solve a murder that’s anything but crystal clear.

In a Witch's Wardrobe
A Witchcraft Mystery 4
Signet, July 3, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily Ivory is living her dream of owning a vintage clothing store—and practicing magic on the side. But when she encounters a sinister sleeping spell, Lily comes face-to-face with a nightmarish evil...

Taking a night off from running her successful San Francisco clothing store, Lily attends a local art deco ball where vintage fashions steal the show. But when a young woman at the event falls under a mysterious sleeping sickness, Lily senses that a curse was placed on the woman’s corsage.

Before Lily can solve the woman’s magical ailment, she’s asked to assist in investigating a string of poisonings in the Bay Area Witchcraft community. She’s gained the trust of the local covens by supporting women’s charities through her clothing store. But soon, Lily suspects that one of her new acquaintances might not be so well intentioned and could be dabbling in dark magic and deadly botany...

Hexes and Hemlines
A Witchcraft Mystery 3
Signet, June 7, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily gets called away from her vintage clothing store to give police a witch’s take on how the leader of a rationalist society could be murdered, surrounded by superstitions he discredited.

Evidence points to dark witchcraft. Lily’s determined to use magic of her own to find the murderer, before everyone’s luck runs out.

A Cast-Off Coven
A Witchcraft Mystery 2
Signet, June 1, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily Ivory is not your average witch. She runs a vintage clothing store called Aunt Cora’s Closet and has the magical ability to sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry. When students are spooked at the San Francisco School for the Arts, Lily is called in to search for paranormal activity. She finds a dead body—and a closet full of old clothes with some very bad vibes.

Secondhand Spirits
A Witchcraft Mystery 1
Signet, July 7, 2009
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Love the vintage—not the ghosts

Lily Ivory feels that she can finally fit in somewhere and conceal her “witchiness” in San Francisco. It’s there that she opens her vintage clothing shop, outfitting customers both spiritually and stylistically.

Just when things seem normal, a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area. Lily has a good idea that some bad phantoms are behind it. Can she keep her identity secret, or will her witchy ways be forced out of the closet as she attempts to stop the phantom?

About Juliet

Juliet Blackwell (aka Julie Goodson-Lawes, aka Hailey Lind) started out life in Palo Alto, California, borne of a Texan mother and a Yankee father. The family soon moved to what were, at the time, the sticks of Cupertino, an hour south of San Francisco. Walking to and from kindergarten every day she would indulge in her earliest larcenous activity: stealing walnuts and apricots from surrounding orchards.

By the time she graduated middle school, the orchards were disappearing and the valley at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay had become the cradle of the silicon semi-conductor. A man named Steve Jobs was working in his garage in Cupertino, just down the street. Juliet's father advised his daughters to enter the lucrative and soon-to-flourish field of computers.

"Bah" said Juliet, as she went on to major in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (they had, by far, the best parties of any department). Rather than making scads of money in computers, she read, painted, learned Spanish and a little French and Vietnamese, lived in Spain and traveled through Europe, Mexico, and Central America. She had a very good time.

Juliet pursued Masters Degrees in Anthropology and Social Work at the State University of New York at Albany, where she published several non-fiction articles on immigration as well as one book-length translation. Fascinated with other cultural systems, she studied the religions, folklore and medical beliefs of peoples around the world, especially Latin America. Juliet taught the anthropology of health and health care at SUNY-Albany, and worked as an elementary school social worker in upstate New York. She also did field projects in Mexico and Cuba, studied in Spain, Italy, and France, worked on a BBC production in the Philippines, taught English as a second language in San Jose, and learned how to faux finish walls in Princeton, New Jersey. After having a son, moving back to California, and abandoning her half-written dissertation in cultural anthropology, Juliet started painting murals and portraits for a living. She has run her own mural/faux finish design studio in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, for more than a decade.

Finally, to round out her tour of lucrative careers, Juliet turned to writing. Under the pseudonym of Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover's Mystery Series with her sister Carolyn (, about an ex-art forger trying to go straight by working as a muralist and faux finisher in San Francisco. The first of these, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award; Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death were both IMBA bestsellers, and Arsenic and Old Paint will be released in 2010.

Juliet's first Witchcraft Mystery, Secondhand Spirits, about a witch who finally finds a place to fit in when she opens a vintage clothes shop on Haight Street in San Francisco, allowed Juliet to indulge yet another interest—the world of witchcraft and the supernatural. Ever since her favorite aunt taught her about reading cards and tea leaves, Juliet has been fascinated with seers, conjurers, and covens from many different cultures and historic traditions. Halloween is by far her favorite holiday.

When not writing, painting, or haranguing her funny but cynical teenaged son, Juliet spends a lot of time restoring her historic Arts and Crafts house and gardening with Oscar the cat, who ostensibly belongs to the neighbors but won't leave her alone. He started hanging around when Juliet started writing about witches...funny coincidence.

Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @JulietBlackwell  ~  Facebook  ~  Join the Mailing List

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on July 11, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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  1. I would go with the traditional cat, but not a black one per se. I'd want a Main Coon for a familiar... Main Coon's are a large intelligent breed that I think would work well in this job.

  2. I read the first three I see I missed some. My familiar would be a dragon.

  3. I would want a beagle to be my familiar.

  4. My familiar would be some sort of cat.

  5. My familiar would be a Maltese. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. Would love a big cat, lol.. Realistically though it would be a larger specie bird.

  7. My dog a cranky old chow mix who I absolutely adore