When Magic Realism Meets Romantic Suspense


I just posted the following (hilariously accurate, IMO) description of my current WIP The Serpent Sigil (part one of Love Among the Runes:

"I'm working on the first novella in a trilogy. It's a humorous, magic-realism-meets- romantic-suspense story featuring an Oakland cop who was accidentally possessed by Loki when he was 13 and has been his vassal ever since. It's got ritual murder, Norse gods, and magical summonings existing side-by-side with crimes involving cryptocurrencies, bespoke synthetic drugs, the dark web and mail fraud. Also, craft beer and artisan pizza."

I think it's scarily and hilariously accurate. Also, it pretty much demands an excerpt...or maybe I'm just procrastinating.

"This is great,” I say, gesturing at our dinner, ignoring her doubts, and resisting the temptation to tease her about having investigated me in order to find out what I like. The beer is my favorite local micro-brew, Bancroft Brewery’s intensely hoppy Hop On It IPA. And the pizza— “I gotta say, I really like your taste in toppings!” that’s my favorite, too. 

 “I know,” she says with a wry tilt to her smile that makes me pause. She didn’t really investigate me…did she? 

 Of course, she did. Why would she not? 

Fiona shrugs. She reaches for a beer and twists off the top. “Obviously, I asked around. Wouldn’t you have done the same?” 

“Maybe? I mean, I don’t date much, so it’s never really come up. But, I suppose, if I really wanted to impress someone, I might try a little detective work.” I think about that for a moment, as I take two plates out of the cabinet next to the sink—melamine, casual, but not paper plate casual—and then add, obviously without thinking, “Of course, with my luck, it would come across as being too stalkery. And I’d end up scaring the shit out of my prospective date” 

Fiona chokes on her beer, and I hurry to reassure her, “Not that I’m suggesting that you… I’m flattered that you’d go to that much trouble. Really.” 

 And this right here, in case you’re wondering, is a big part of why I don’t date very much. That and the presence of my forever chaperone. 

“Mm. Very flattered, I can tell.” But her eyes are sparkling, and she sounds like she’s teasing, so hopefully I haven’t offended her too badly. 

 You could date more often. I would offer no objection to it. In fact, I’d quite like it if you would

Oh, I bet you would. Horny old goat. 

For the record, I have dated, and it’s been…okay. But the stealth aspect has always bothered me. A lot. I mean it’s fine for a random 20002 scenario—your basic hit and run—but if you’re hoping for something real or lasting, then I think little things like honesty and transparency are important. Everyone involved should have a clear understanding of just who and what they’re getting themselves into. Unfortunately, attempting to explain to a potential bedpartner that there might occasionally be an incorporeal demi-god joining in on the action seldom turns out well. In fact, it’s a real good way to find yourself sleeping alone. 

“But, just so we’re clear,” Fiona says. “This isn’t a date.” 

“What’s that?” Okay, now I feel stupid and—let’s face it—a little let down. “Oh. No, of course not. I didn’t think it was. Did I say date?” 

“Because I don’t date cops.” 

“Right. Me, neither.” I’m nodding, like one of those damned bobble-head dolls now and I can’t stop myself from adding, “It’s not like a hard limit, though. For me, that is. It’s just—” 

“Not a good idea.” 

“No. Exactly.” 

“Because it tends to end badly so much of the time.” 

“Definitely. I mean, in general. But—” 

“And having to work together afterwards is so awkward.” 

“Absolutely. ’Couldn’t agree more.” 

“And then, of course, in my case, there are already enough cops in my family. More than enough.” 

“Oh, for sure.” 

“I would have to be crazy to want to add more to that equation.” 

“I can totally see that. What a nightmare.” 

“It would be nonstop: shoptalk 24/7. I’d never get a break.” 

“Right? Horrible.” 



Finally, having beaten that subject into dust, we both fall silent. “So,” I say, before things can get more awkward. “Let’s eat! Do you want to sit in here? Or in the living room?” 

“Let’s go inside,” Fiona suggests. “I think there’s a game on, isn’t there?” 

“Sure. Has to be.” 

FYI? As far as I can tell, there’s always a game on—of some sort, anyway. And at risk of having to turn in my Guy card, I don’t care all that much about any of them. Still, we fill up our plates and settle on the couch and I happily relinquish control of the remote to Fiona, but after fiddling with it for a few moments, and flipping through some channels, she gives up on the game as well and turns on some music channel instead. 

And then it’s just us and the food, a surprisingly smoky soundtrack of mostly piano and sax, and a quietly brooding Asgardian prince lurking in the wings. And it’s nice; pleasant, relaxed, hardly crowded at all. 

“I like your house,” Fiona observes after a few minutes, between bites of pizza. 

“Thanks.” I glance around appreciatively. “I like it, too.” 

It’s a hundred-year-old Craftsman bungalow; all dark wood, clean lines, and the aforementioned plethora of windows. By now, I feel like I know every inch of it. I’ve rewired the antiquated electrical system; sanded and refinished the floors; stripped decades of paint from molding and paneling; replaced windows; repaired tiles; replastered walls. I’ve painted and stained, polished, restored— 

 “Have you lived here long?” 

 “Feels like decades, sometimes. But. No. Just a few years.” 


I don’t think she’s just feeling the need to make conversation. Personally, I would have said the silence between us was comfortable rather than awkward. But, just in case, I rush in to fill the gap…and end up babbling again. “Yeah, I got lucky. There was a dip in the market and, to be honest, it really did need a ton of work—” 

You did not ‘get lucky’. I found it for us. I told you when to buy it, how much to offer... 

“—so, I bought it and, uh, I’ve been remodeling it, bit by bit, ever since.” 

Fiona grins. “So, is that what you do in your spare time? Work on your house?”

 I smile in return. “What spare time?” 

She gestures with her bottle toward the TV. “Point being, I kind of got the impression that you’re not really into sports?” 

I shrug. “Not really. I’ll maybe watch a little MMA, from time to time, but not so much otherwise.” 

“Wow, that’s…” 

“Too weird for you?” 

“I was going to say refreshing. And very different from…well. My brothers, for example.” 

“I’m sure.” 

“What about when you were a kid, though? You must have played something, at some point? Little League? Pee-wee Soccer? Flag Football? Hockey? Bowling? Swimming?”

I shake my head. “Nope. No team sports. It wasn’t… Well, it was just my mom and me. And we moved around a lot, rarely had enough for the essentials, never mind any extracurricular activities. Also…well, she had her own issues, her own…interests, let’s say. Those generally took priority.” 

 “Ouch.” Fiona murmurs—possibly reacting to some hint of the bitterness that I really don’t even feel anymore; or possibly because that sounds pathetic to her with her large family and sheltered upbringing. Still, I’m surprised. Is she judging me? 

I cock an eyebrow at her. “Ouch?” 

Color floods her cheeks. “Sorry. It just…well, it sounds like… Are you two not close?” 

“No, we were. But I was just a kid when— when she died.” 

 “I’m sorry.” She shoots me a look, not quite pity, but still too close for comfort. 

 I shrug it off with a, “Yeah, well. What are you gonna do? That’s life, right?” and lift my beer, ready to retreat behind my bottle, when it occurs to me that’s just what Mom would’ve done. What she did do, in fact. I lower the bottle, no longer thirsty, and reach for the pizza instead. 

“Last piece. Wanna split it?” 

 Fee shakes her head, still looking a little too pensive. Do I know how to kill a mood, or what? I nudge her shoulder with mine. “Wanna wrestle for it?” 

That wins me a smile, a return nudge, and a wry, “Nope. All yours.”


To learn more about the Love Among the Runes trilogy, check out the series page on my website:

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