Schoolbooks & Sorcery – The Home Stretch

Well folks, we’re closing in on the final days of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter, and I’m rather excited. Why? Because thanks to hundreds of backers, and the generous support of everyone who’s spread the word, boosted the signal, or showed interest, we’ve funded. We hit our base goal, and are steaming towards our first stretch goal. Woohoo!

With only a few days left, there’s still plenty of time for procrastinators and latecomers to get on board, though. We’ve added an amazing new reward level, where you can get a set of fantastic handmade buttons, and I think they’re spectacular. I’ve just informed the artist that I need several bags for publicity reasons…


Check them out! Aren’t they gorgeous?

My other big news is that, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve got ourselves a brand new Magic University story by Cecilia Tan, one which no fan of hers is going to want to miss. I’ve told her to start writing, so we don’t disappoint anyone. After that, if we hit our next goal at $7000, I can open up submissions for a limited period to seek out more awesomely, unapologetically, unabashedly, proudly queer stories. I won’t lie, I really want these stories. I need to read them…

In closing, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from Eric Esser’s spooky “Fishing for the Dead.” I think it speaks for itself.


You have to get three things right to catch a ghost: the lure, the pole, and the spell. Tonight Carlo was trying for a dog. Most kids use a tennis ball or dried pig’s ear for the lure, but Carlo tied a stuffed squirrel with a fluffy tail to the end of his line. They’d been his dog Loki’s favorite. Every night for almost a year after Loki’d died, Carlo had sat beneath the stars on nights of the waxing moon, waving his pole over the corner of the backyard where they’d buried Loki beneath the acacias. He’d spend hours hypnotizing himself by swaying his line though the moonlight before he felt it brush Loki’s soul.

Four years later he was the best ghost fisher at Monte Vista High, and had dibs on the prime spot on the lowest level of the fire escape in the alley behind the SPCA. He shared it with his best friend Lyssa, their spider silk lines glistening side by side in the moonlight. Most kids preferred the strength of tarantula, but he favored the greater sensitivity of black widow; he could sense a guinea pig three months gone with that.

“Sorry about your boyfriend’s dad,” Carlo said to Lyssa so low no one else could hear. A half dozen other kids sat above or below in other fire escapes or on dumpsters. No one was down on the ground; elevating the line helps when you’re fishing, especially if the remains haven’t been buried but burned to ash and smoke like that which rose from the wide steel pipe at the back of this building. The spirits of dead dogs and cats and rabbits and most any animal you could think of suffused the air of this alley, at one time or another.

“Walter’s not my boyfriend. We just hang out sometimes,” Lyssa said.

“I think the phrase is ‘hook up.'”

“Asshole.” Lyssa swung her pig bone lure into Carlo’s shin. Lyssa had an edge to her with her powder blue hair and half a dozen piercings that Carlo found irresistible, but she went for the burly types, like Walter Resnik: varsity outside linebacker and only a Junior. Carlo was fit but slender and pale and his cheeks were almost as smooth as hers.

“So how’s he doing? Walter?”

“Hasn’t really talked about it. Tough guy.” She paused. “Fucking moron.”

Carlo nodded because he agreed. “I hear they can’t afford a fisher,” he said, trying to sound casual.

“Yeah, no insurance.”

“I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Catch a human soul? With that little pole of yours?”

She glanced toward his crotch. Carlo tried to look uncomfortable but it pleased him. He had crafted his fishing pole from the bough of a dying ash tree, then inlaid the handle with bone he fished out of dinner scraps, mostly cow he had sawn into slivers and polished down. He’d fitted it with a Shimano high speed spinning reel engraved with an invocation to Ereshkigal in cuneiform; he’d worked all last summer bagging groceries to afford it.


What does Carlo fish up? I think you know how to find out… Read it in Schoolbooks & Sorcery!

Schoolbooks & Sorcery – Update and Excerpt!

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As sent out to the backers of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter (which, if you haven’t heard of, where have you been?)

Dear Friends and Backers –

As I type this, we’re less than $200 away from our goal, and 6 days away from the end of the campaign period. That has us sitting at an amazing 96%–so close, yet not quite there. I have full faith in our ability to make it, which is why I’m posting this update to let you all in on some of our plans.

1) I’ve added a new reward level at $45, for those who wish to get the ebook and trade paperback bundle, but also a little something else specifically created for this project. This set of 5 watercolor buttons, handcrafted by an amazing artist I personally lured in with cookies, celebrates both our theme and our LGBTQ-inclusive, pride-centric, mission statement. I could only get her to commit to a few sets to begin, which is why it’s a limited edition. And because of add-on logistics, I thought it best to stick to the one level. Should anyone who’s selected a different pledge level wish a set, please feel free to adjust your current pledge by $20, and message me so we can figure something out. A few sample images below, to give you an idea of what to expect:


2) Stretch goals! I’ve added some of our stretch goals to the page, but in short, if we hit $6500, we’ll add a new Magic University story by Circlet Press founder and author extraordinaire, Cecilia Tan. Suitable for a YA audience, it stars fan-favorite character Frost… or so I’m told.

If we hit $7000, we’ll be able to add 2 more stories, to further our representation and diversity. I, for one, want to include several more stories giving voice to non-binary, trans, and asexual protagonists. I’ll open up submissions for a limited time to seek out those voices, and look forward to seeing what I get.

After that… the sky’s the limit. Interior art, or pay bonuses to the contributors, or catnip for my cats… (just kidding!)

3) I’d like to give a quick shout-out to our friends over at the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, who are also running a lovely-looking Kickstarter for the latest volume in their fantastic anthology series. Check them out after you’re done here!

And now… an excerpt from the wonderfully entertaining “The Grimoire Girls,” by E.C. Myers. What happens when an evil-fighting teenager transfers to a new school? Is it business as usual, or will Lexi finally run into something she can’t defeat?


“Oh my God!” Mom says.

“What?” I pull my nail file from my kneesock and look for danger.

“I just realized my Paul Anka CD was in your car.”

“So there’s the silver lining.” I slide the nail file back into my sock. “Mom, I have to get to class.”

She closes her car door. “You’ll tell me if you have any cute teachers?”

“No. Remember what happened with Mr. Logan?”

“I knew he was an incubus,” she says. “No English teacher is that hot and charming.”

“Uh huh. Then why did I have to save you?”

“I had him exactly where he wanted me.”

“And I can never unsee that. Good-bye.”

I open my door and hop out. I sling my bag over my shoulder and walk down the cobbled path to the entrance, concentrating on not tripping while everyone is watching. The truck roars to life and gravel crunches behind me as mom drives away.

I feel naked without my Winchester rifle–and did I mention this skirt?–but they frown on students carrying that sort of thing around, even if you’re trying to kill an urban wendigo that’s masquerading as the high school’s QB1 and eating cheerleaders.

In fact, the only weapons I can sneak into schools these days are the crucifix around my neck, which is only any good because it’s made of iron; a wicked sharp nail file boiled in the blood of a dead man; a mini-crossbow, some assembly required, that fires really pointy pencils; a pencil sharpener; a water bottle filled with holy water (the good stuff, not just lake water); a steel garrote rolled into the waistband of my skirt; a lunch bag filled with salt; a bracelet with an unspecified protection spell on it, which I worry is only going to protect my wrist from harm; and the Grahame family Grimoire–which is worth more than everything else combined.

I don’t carry the actual thing around of course. The tome is like, 800 pounds, and moldy and falling apart. But I had scanned it in as an eBook.

And then, of course, there’s me. As long as I can speak the spells I need and I keep my eReader charged, I’m the best weapon of all. I always keep the eReader charged; Mom still won’t let me forget the time it died during an incantation. Instead of being banished, the demon imploded, and my skin was green for a week. Fortunately, it was Halloween. So things worked out.

Curious about what Lexi encounters at the mysterious Doheny Preparatory Academy? Find out in Schoolbooks & Sorcery

Regarding “The Miller’s Daughter”

51ml3J3tXOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We take a short break from our obsessive pushing of the Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter to talk about something a little… okay, a lot different.

“The Miller’s Daughter” appears in the new anthology, Witches, Princesses, and Woman at Arms, edited by Sacchi Green (Cleis, 2017). In this delightful collection of erotic lesbian fairy tales, I, and other wonderful authors such as the ever-amazing Annabeth Leong, Emily L. Byrne, Salome Wilde, A.D.R. Forte, and Sacchi herself, take a good look at what makes fairy tales tick, and then reinvent them in sexy, sensual, satisfying ways.

My story is inspired by Rumpelstiltskin, but with a dark, witchy twist. In this tale, the Rumpelstiltskin figure is a mysterious witch, an older female possessing potent magics and a knack for spinning straw into previous metals. Katherina, the miller’s daughter, is strong and resourceful, determined to find a way out of a terrible situation. Together, they pass every task set before them by the greedy king, and make some magic of their own.

What can I say? I wanted to tell this story from the viewpoint of the so-called villain, to find a way to make her sympathetic and vulnerable without sacrificing her mystique and power. I wanted Katherina to have her own sense of agency as she actively participates in getting what she truly desires and needs. And I wanted this to be sexy and at least a little surprising. Best of all, I enjoyed bringing these characters to life.

Perhaps the best compliment I’ve gotten thus far for “The Millers Daughter” comes from an Amazon review, which states, “The biggest surprise was a Rumpelstiltskin type story between two women. It was written by a man and even though I wanted to hate it for just that reason I could not…go figure!”

Hey, I’ll take that in the best way possible. It’s not the first time someone’s said I write acceptably satisfying F/F situations… for a male author. :) If you like this, or are intrigued, don’t forget I have a whole collection of f/f erotic urban fantasy out there.

For your pleasure, then, a safe-for-work excerpt…


I came to her in her cell, just after nightfall.

I don’t know what exactly I’d expected of Katharina, the miller’s daughter. Perhaps a meek and terrified victim, reduced to tears by the sheer injustice of her circumstances. Perhaps a rage-weary firebrand, voice hoarse from shouting at her captors, nails bloody from scrabbling at the lock. Instead, I found a cool, calm, collected young woman, who prowled the confines of her quarters like an animal in a cage, examining it for weaknesses.

I think I fell in love with her a little in that moment.

Katharina was not beautiful, but she was lovely in her own way. Her hair was long and fine, a silken blonde that tumbled down her back like a waterfall. Her eyes were a brilliant blue, sharp and intelligent. And her skin, with one exception, was smooth and lightly tanned from time spent outdoors. Were it not for the purple birthmark which stained her right cheek, she might even have been considered a great beauty, able to attract any number of suitors.

Alas, she had reached marriageable age and then some, with no man able to overlook this flaw, despite her father’s increasingly outrageous offers of dowry. “It is but a fairy mark,” he claimed to all who would listen. “She was touched by the fairies at birth, and imbued with a great gift, which will belong to any who wed her.”  Had there been any fairies remaining in our land to dispute this, they might have put a rest to the claim before it caused problems. But there were not, and they didn’t, and so it did.

The king had heard tales of Katharina, the miller’s daughter, who could spin straw into copper, silver, and gold. And the king, a greedy man who never stopped to wonder why the miller was not already wealthy beyond belief, took her for his own, but with an ultimatum: Katharina would spin for him. If she passed his tests, he would marry her and her father would be richly rewarded. If she failed, there would be two new heads adorning the spikes atop Traitors’ Gate.

The king had no patience for failure.

I had no patience for the king, and so I came to Katharina as night fell, appearing in the shadows of her cell with but a whisper of cloak to herald my arrival.

I call it a cell, but it was a spacious tower chamber, bare but for a few necessities… such as a spinning wheel and an imposing pile of straw. There was a lovely view of Traitors’ Gate through the thin barred window, to remind Katharina of her fate should she prove inadequate.  I was pleased to see that it had not affected her.

She whirled when she sensed my presence, taking a step back to eye me warily. I can only imagine what she made of a hooded, cloaked figure, standing where none had been the moment before. Remaining still so as not to spook her, I pushed my hood back and let me look at me.

Slowly, she took in my own feminine features and long dark curls, my red lips and dark eyes, my non-threatening stance, and she relaxed. Just a little. “Who are you?” she demanded. “Why are you here? If that bastard king sent you, tell him I can’t work with an audience! The straw will turn to dust and he’ll never have his riches and treasures.”

My lips curled in a smile. Ash and oak, but I already admired her spirit. She had a fire that would be utterly wasted on the king. And yet, I had come to make sure she lived and ultimately married him. “Calm yourself, Katharina,” I told her gently. “I know the truth of your supposed gift, and the fate which awaits you come the morning.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked again, folding her arms sternly. “And just who are you?”

“I cannot tell you my name. But I’m here to help you. I will spin the straw into copper, enough for you to buy another day of life from the king.”

As she assessed my offer, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “And what will it cost me?”


What is the cost of a magical favor? Buy the book and find out.

Ooooorrrrrr…. comment and you might win a copy for yourself. Details below:

THE GIVEAWAY and LINKS for the Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms Blog Tour

Anyone who comments on any of these blog posts will be entered in a drawing for a paperback copy (in North America) or an ebook (elsewhere) of Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. Each blog you comment on gives you one more entry.

Here’s the lineup of blog posts—the links may be adjusted as we go along, so check back here every now and then.

June 14th: Sacchi Green-“Trollwise” (plus the Introduction)

June 15th: Cara Patterson-“Steel”

June 16th: Michael M. Jones-“The Miller’s Daughter”

June 19th: H.N. Janzen-“The Prize of the Willow”

June 20th: Annabeth Leong-“The Mark and the Caul” 

June 21st: Brey Willows-“Penthouse 31”

June 22nd: Salome Wilde-“The Princess’s Princess”

June 23nd: Emily L. Byrne-“Toads, Diamonds and the Occasional Pearl”

June 26th: A.D.R. Forte-“Warrior’s Choice”

June 27th: M. Birds-“Woodwitch”

June 28th: Madeleine Shade-“Robber Girl”

June 29th: Lea Daley-“The Sorceress of  Solisterre”

June 30th: Allison Wonderland-“SWF Seeks FGM”

aisforallison.blogspot. com


Thanks for dropping by!

Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter – Week 2

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Well folks, here we are on day 14 of our Kickstarter for the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology. Two weeks down, 16 days to go, and your poor host and editor of this project is losing hair he really can’t afford to lose as he watches the numbers and tries to keep that hype train rolling. We’re staring at 48% funded, which is a perfectly reasonable but not entirely -comfortable- place to be at this point in the campaign, and boy, I’d love it if we crossed that magical threshold today.

So what can I offer to excite you? Well, first this promise:

To increase representation and diversity, I am actively looking to obtain more stories for this collection. Specifically, stories with trans, non-binary, genderfluid, genderqueer, and/or asexual protagonists. I really, -really- want to find room in the anthology for more voices. I know how to make it work. But we still need your interest and support to help turn it into a reality.

Second, this explanation:

When I call Schoolbooks & Sorcery queer-inclusive, or LGBTQ-inclusive, I mean it. Out of 12 stories, at least -10- have openly gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual characters. Yes, there are cishet protagonists as well, because this is an anthology aimed at including and accepting everyone to the best of my ability. Is it a perfect blend? No, but we can always try to be better.

Lastly, an excerpt from Seanan McGuire’s “Finals” to really grab your attention. It’s a gorgeous story, told as only Seanan can, about the many, many schools of magic, and what it means to embrace that magic with all your heart.


Four girls running down a city street, dressed in the meticulously pressed uniforms of a private school: black skirts, orange ties, white shirts.  Polished black shoes and tights in whatever color they choose, for the administration recognizes that some individuality is essential to a healthy student body.  One wears striped black and orange, like something from a Halloween store.  One wears bright pink, knees already ripped up from encounters with the pavement.  Another wears staid gray, cool as concrete.  The fourth wears no tights at all: she runs bare-legged and swifter than the others, reining herself in when she pulls too far ahead, her heels beating a staccato rhythm on the sidewalk, like she’s wearing tap shoes.

She is not wearing tap shoes.

See them run, beautiful children of a beautiful age—for all ages, and all children, are beautiful if one looks closely enough, overlooks the things which do not seem beautiful on the surface, or better yet, learns to see those things as the most beautiful of all.  See them run, each with her own gait, her own approach to the concrete, from our girl of the bare legs and phantom tap shoes to her sister in patient gray, who runs smoothly but with no hurry at all, at all, for her destination will wait until she gets there.  See them run, and know them for the miracle they are.  Now hurry, hurry.  Class is about to start.

They run until they come to a rusty gate in a crumbling wall, sandwiched between a convenience store that boasts fifteen big jackpot lottery winners in the last six years and an apartment building that has been thoroughly, utterly condemned, masked over with plywood boards and orange caution tape.  Someone with canny eyes might see those girls slip through the gate, disappearing from the street, only for flickers of motion to show through the boarded-up windows, in the places where the light slips through.

Always the light slips through.

To see what happens, you know where to go and what to do.

In the days to come, I’ll share more excerpts and blurbs.




Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter – Day 5

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Well, folks, we’re on day 5 of the Kickstarter for Schoolbooks & Sorcery, and things are looking good. 50 backers for $1135, which puts us at 18% of our funding goal. 25 days to go… we can totally do this. Mind you, despite my happy-go-lucky demeanor, I’m a worrywart deep inside, so I’m totally flailing about and making a backup plan which involves fleeing to Canada, changing my name, and becoming a lumberjack if things don’t work out.

Friends, I would be an AWFUL lumberjack. You do NOT want me anywhere near chainsaws or large men in plaid flannel.

So let’s fund this anthology. Let’s fund it so hard, I never even have to dream of becoming a lumberjack out of shame and regret.

And now… an excerpt from “Protection,” by the amazing Cheryl Rainfield. What happens when a lesbian teenager, harassed by bullies, finds a magical item capable of changing her life?


I walk out into the hall—and Janelle thumps her shoulder into mine, slamming me against the shiny brick wall so hard my teeth jar together. My shoulder aches but I try not to let it show.

Her friends surround me in a half circle, backing me up against the wall, blocking off my exit. Students rush past us in the usual frenzied escape for the weekend, some looking over curiously, others ignoring the tight knot of humans closing me in. Shouts and catcalls sound out, but not for me, sneakers squeak against the floor, boys throw half-finished lunches or sweaty socks at each other.

“Don’t think you can make a pass at me, dyke,” Janelle says, pushing her face up close to mine, her lips a snarl, her normally pretty face transforming into an ugly mask that I’m sure none of the teachers have seen. This close, her sickly sweet perfume is overwhelming.

I push my breath out. “I wasn’t coming on to you! I just liked your presentation. I thought you made depression real. I’ve never heard anyone put it like that before—that it’s like a happiness-eating virus, eating up all the happiness before the person can taste it. It was…real.”

Janelle’s eyes soften a little, and for a second I almost think she wants to ask me something, or maybe tell me something. Then one of the girls snickers. Janelle’s gaze darts sideways at the girl who laughed, and when she looks back at me, her face is hard again, like a mask. “Don’t kiss up to me.”

“I’m not. Besides,” I say, “you’re not my type.”

“Not your type?” Janelle stiffens, tossing her head. Her hair whips my cheek. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I don’t understand this whole straight-girl fear that I’m coming on to them, then offense when they realize I’m not. “I don’t like straight girls. Think about it; why would I? Rejection, aggravation, and there’s no attraction.”

“Maybe you like to suffer,” Zhi says.

“Seriously? Get real,” I say. “No one does.”

“Yeah? Then why are you always trying to flaunt it?” Janelle says.

Flaunt it? “I’m just trying to be me.” Trying to be comfortable in my body and who I am, which is more I can say for any of them, with their faces all made up, the fake girly-girl way they laugh and talk, their designer clothes bought to show off their bodies to boys instead of, god forbid, being liked for who they are.


For more… well, you know whatcha gotta do.


Schoolbooks & Sorcery – Kickstarter Day 2

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Hey everyone!

While I don’t plan to deluge you with posts related to the current Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter, I did want to say that so far, after just one day, we’re doing quite nicely, and I’m feeling optimistic. With 31 backers as of right now, and $840 pledged, we’re 14% towards our first goal.

So let’s talk a little about what I want, what I really really want.

I want this project to succeed for the wonderful authors who’ve stuck with me for -years- as this anthology lurched its way towards this point. I want to be able to reward them for their faith, dedication, and amazing work.

I want everyone out there to be able to read these stories, and lose themselves in the struggles, heartache, triumph, and magic of the characters as they deal with problems both mundane and extraordinary.

I want you all to know about bees and ghosts and djinn and kitsune and healing and so much more.

And I really want to be able to reach out and maybe find just a few more stories to add to this collection, because I know they’re out there.

So pledge. If you can’t pledge, spread the word.

Thank you for the support you’ve all shown already.

And to end this, a brief excerpt from a story that I think a lot of people are going to love.


“I can’t decide whether that’s really sad or not.” Rosemary rested her head on crossed arms and looked at me doubtfully.

“Maybe it would be really sad for somebody who isn’t me, and they should be lucky I got this gig instead of them.”

“Don’t get me wrong, school’s horrible, but there’s people to go to the diner with, and go to the movies with, and — you’ve just got goats and bees and all these stars and nobody to dance under them with.”

“Have you got somebody to dance under the stars with?”

“Well, you know how it is. This is Nowheresville and I’m pretty damn gay.”

“I’m pretty damn bisexual,” I said, giving her a daring-myself look, a going-in-the-beehive-without-the-smoker look. “Which should be easier, in theory.”

She grinned. “Twice as many options for a date on a Saturday night doesn’t actually help when there’s nobody around but bees, huh?”

–From “The Delicate Work of Bees” by Emily Horner.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter is LIVE.

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Dear Everyone,

The Kickstarter for Schoolbooks & Sorcery, an anthology of diverse, queer-inclusive, YA urban fantasy, is officially launched.

This is not a drill. This is real life.

It will run for the next 30 days, ending at 3 AM July 1st. Our base goal is $6000, which covers all relevant costs and expenses, especially paying our authors professional rates for their stories, and feeding the alligators in the basement. If we go over this amount, our stretch goals will include acquiring more stories to increase our diversity, interior art, and/or paying everyone, including the editor, more money. I don’t know about you, but I want even more stories.

Future posts will include more hype, excerpts from select stories, and cat pictures. But for now, I wanted to start spreading the news.

Again, here’s the link to the Kickstarter .

Tell everyone.

Table of Contents, in no particular order:

  • “Finals” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Protection” by Cheryl Rainfield
  •  “The Grimoire Girls” by E.C. Myers
  •  “Where We Come From” by David Sklar
  •  “Bad Roommates” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  •  “Dirty Deeds” by Kelly Swails
  •  “Heart of a Fox” by Aaron Canton
  •  “The Delicate Work of Bees” by Emily Horner
  •  “Awaken” by Rain Fletcher
  •  “All That Matters” by Elizabeth Shack
  •  “The Chosen One” by Katrina Nicholson
  •  “Fishing for the Dead” by Eric Esser

See you soon.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter Launches June 1st

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Ladies and Gentlemen:

As the title states, I’m pleased to announce that the Kickstarter for Schoolbooks & Sorcery will go live on June 1st. The campaign will run for the full month, and end on or around June 30th. Obviously, I’ll have more information once we launch, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up. I’m thrilled, I’m excited, I’m even terrified. It’ll be awesome. This has been a long time coming, and I hope the wait will be worth it. So come back next week, and join us as we get this party started.



Roanoke PotterFest Presentation, Part 1 of 2

This Saturday the 13th of May, I attended the first ever PotterFest here in Roanoke, a massive celebration of all things Harry Potter. Wearing my hats as a book reviewer and student of childrens’ literature, I gave a presentation on “The Hogwarts Library.” Amanda Cockrell, head of the Hollins University Childrens’ Literature Program, joined me to discuss the mythological underpinnings of Harry Potter, and the literary inspirations, and books worth checking out if you’re a Potter fan. For the sake of common interest and spreading the knowledge, I thought I’d reproduce my half of the presentation here. Mind you, it’s not fancy, and it’s not nearly as thorough as I’d have liked, but we only had so much time, and we didn’t know exactly what sort of audience we should expect or prepare for. Also, these are sort of the bare bones from which I improvised and extemporized as needed, so it’s lacking some of the details I added in the actual talk. Still, enjoy!

In the first part, I tackle Harry’s precursors and literary cousins.

Predecessors, Influences, and Similar Books


The Harry Potter series didn’t emerge from a vacuum; it’s a synthesis of familiar and original elements, fused together to create a story which feels both timeless and fresh. Rowling drew from innumerable sources for her inspiration, both consciously and unconsciously. Her work is, moreover, the product of growing up in a specific place at a specific time. Her influences are quintessentially British, mid-to-late 20th Century, and eclectic. Trying to name all of them would take all day, but I’ve taken the liberty of collecting several of the most obvious inspirations, as well as other books which existed in the same veins as Harry Potter before or during its original publication, books to which Potter has been compared favorably, or which share its core aspects.


tom brown

1) Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes

This is where the entire subgenre of English boarding school stories started, with this Victorian-era drama about an 11-year-old boy who goes off to school and comes of age while having numerous adventures. It basically lays the seeds for Hogwarts and Harry’s own journey.


sword in stone

2) The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

One of the essential books on British lore and myth, this tells the story of young King Arthur; in it, you’ll find an orphan, an owl, and an old, absent-minded magician, among other things. Young Arthur, or Wart, is supposedly “Harry’s spiritual ancestor.” Also known for its animated Disney adaptation.


little white horse

3) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Rowling has claimed that this book, about an orphaned girl sent to live with her guardian in the West Country of England, where she encounters a unicorn, was one of her major influences. It’s part of why there’s such a huge focus on, and descriptions of, food in her series.



4) Matilda by Roald Dahl

An orphan discovers amazing magical powers while living with horrible family members. While there’s not a significant comparison to be found here, Roald Dahl’s stories certainly borrow from the same well of wonder and whimsy.


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5) The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Another classic of British children’s literature, this 5 book series draws deeply from myth and folklore. The second book, The Dark is Rising features an 11-year-old boy who comes into great power while being mentored by the figure once known as Merlin. The heroes battle evil throughout the British Isles, across time and space, and encounter all sorts of legendary heroes and artifacts. Again, this is basically an older cousin to the Potter series, stemming from the same cultural subconscious.





worst witch

6) The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

A young witch deals with bullies, stern teachers, and magic, while attending a boarding school for witches. Despite similarities to Harry Potter, this series started in 1974, with seven books as of 2013, and there’s no indication that Rowling was specifically influenced by it. It’s also inspired several television series, and enjoys significant popularity.


books of magic

7) The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton

In this graphic novel collection, published by DC Comics, a teenage boy is taken on a grand tour of magical realms and concepts by a quartet of mysterious figures, in order to prepare him for his own destiny as an immensely powerful sorcerer. While it later inspired several ongoing series, the original story hews the closest to the same archetypes Harry embodies, as acknowledged by author Neil Gaiman… again drawing from T.H. White’s earlier work.


wizard's hall

8) Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen

A 1991 fantasy about a boy named Henry who attends a school for wizards, where he has to fulfill a prophecy and battle an evil wizard. Any similarities are thought to be simply coincidental, and Yolen has expressed a mild dislike for Harry Potter and Rowling’s writing style. Still, an extremely fun book.


so you want to be a wizard

9) So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane

This long-running series, now up to ten books, mixes science fiction and fantasy to tell episodes in an ambitious, universe-spanning conflict between good and evil, life and death. In the first book, a girl discovers her wizard’s manual in a library, and along with her wizard partner-to-be, undergoes a trial in a nightmarish version of New York City as part of her initiation. This series tends to raise complex philosophical and moral questions as the heroes wrestle with vital decisions while saving reality.


secret of platform 13

10) The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

An orphan is raised in the real world, but is introduced to a magical world by passing through a portal in King’s Cross Station—but not platform 9 ¾, obviously. Ibbotson has gone on record as saying that she’d love to shake Rowling’s hand, and that they all borrow from each other as writers.


There you go: a tiny sampling of books which inspired Rowling, and books which come from the same cultural, social, and mythological sources… Harry’s extended literary family, if you would, from the great-grandparents to the distant cousins.



Roanoke PotterFest Presentation, Part 2 of 2

This Saturday the 13th of May, I attended the first ever PotterFest here in Roanoke, a massive celebration of all things Harry Potter. Wearing my hats as a book reviewer and student of childrens’ literature, I gave a presentation on “The Hogwarts Library.” Amanda Cockrell, head of the Hollins University Childrens’ Literature Program, joined me to discuss the mythological underpinnings of Harry Potter, and the literary inspirations, and books worth checking out if you’re a Potter fan. For the sake of common interest and spreading the knowledge, I thought I’d reproduce my half of the presentation here. Mind you, it’s not fancy, and it’s not nearly as thorough as I’d have liked, but we only had so much time, and we didn’t know exactly what sort of audience we should expect or prepare for. Also, these are sort of the bare bones from which I improvised and extemporized as needed, so it’s lacking some of the details I added in the actual talk. Still, enjoy!

In the second part, I recommended a number of books and series which have come out in recent years, as things Potter fans might enjoy, or which I felt needed attention.

Recent Releases and Helpful Recommendations (in no particular order)

In the wake of Harry Potter, the childrens’ literature field has exploded into a truly wild and wondrous place. While Harry can’t get all the credit for the vast wealth of magic and adventure we now enjoy, he’s certainly left his mark. These following books and series share the same sort of wonder, excitement, action, mystery, and joy, and are well worth exploring by readers, young and old alike.

lightning thief

1) The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan

In this immensely popular series, which has also seen several movie adaptations, Percy Jackson discovers that he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon, and, after meeting numerous other demigods at Camp Half-Blood, embarks on many adventures. Subsequent books and series have brought in the Roman, Egyptian, and Norse gods, while his most recent series focuses on Apollo trapped in the form of a teenage boy.

seaborne lost prince

2)  Seaborne: The Lost Prince by Matt Myklusch

In this historical fantasy set in the Caribbean, a boy in service to the feared Pirate King has to pose as a long-lost prince in order to discover a legendary lost island and plunder its riches. But as he tackles the challenges which will supposedly prove his identity, he dreams of escaping his master and seeking freedom instead.

the map to everywhere

3) The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

A girl from modern-day Arizona teams up with a thief who can’t be remembered, journeying from one world to the next aboard a pirate ship in search of a map which could take them home… or destroy all of creation. Fun and fantastic, it’s the start of a great series.

school for good and evil

4) The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

This series follows several girls as they’re sent to schools which will prepare them for fairy tale lives, but they soon discover that good and evil are not necessarily black and white issues. Will these best friends become sworn enemies, or will they carve out their own happily ever after, despite their apparently inescapable destinies?

rebel genius

5) Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

In this world inspired by the Italian Rennaissance, artists and creative types have been outlawed, due to their magical connection to powerful birdlike creatures called Geniuses. But when one teen discovers his own Genius, he joins a secret society trying to save the world from those who would misuse long-lost artifacts. This is by the co-creator of Avatar: the Last Airbender, and also features some great art.

york shadow cipher

6) York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

In this alternate version of New York, fantastic architecture and bizarre technology make this a city where anything can happen. In order to save their apartment building from destruction, a group of kids set out to solve a centuries-old riddle which supposedly leads to a fabulous treasure. Action and mystery abound! This book comes out on Tuesday, so be sure to grab it as soon as it’s on sale.


7) Tut by P.J. Hoover

Imagine the famous Egyptian King Tut… as an immortal 12-year-old, unable to escape the torture of middle school. With evil cultists, a power-hungry god, and other problems to deal with, he may not have to worry about never reaching high school.

the dungeoneers

8) The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

In this brilliant homage to fantasy and gaming tropes, a young thief-er, rogue—is accepted into a school which prepares the next generation of dungeon-crawling adventurers for a life of monster-slaying, trap-solving, and treasure-hunting. But is he destined for fame and fortune, or a horrible demise before he ever loots his first chest?

the ministry of suits

9) The Ministry of Suits by Paul Gamble

In this tongue-in-cheek adventure, an Irish teen is inducted into a mysterious organization which investigates and deals with the strange, unusual, and impossible. Part handbook, all action, it’s a humor-filled romp through a world filled with danger and excitement.


10) Foxheart by Claire Legrand

In this fantasy, a 12-year-old thief capable of performing forbidden magic escapes her orphanage just before it’s destroyed, pursued by the mysterious Wolf King. But when she’s catapulted into the past along with her dog and best friend, she’s given the opportunity to save the kingdom.

These books are just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully they’ll give you all something to read, and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite along the way…