In Memoriam: Pepper (2001-2015)

As always, it is with great sorrow that I announce that yet another of the Feline Advisory Committee has selected for retirement after a long and successful career.IMG_0739

Pepper, or as she was known around the office, Peppercorn Spitfire, came to us when she was but a kitten, along with her brother Salt. They were an odd pair: he was large, sweet, fearful, and dumb as a brick. She, on the other hand, was small, shrill, sociopathic, and swift. She was not gifted with people skills; if you tried to pick her up, she could rabbit-paw and shred you like a psychotic blender. She never did socialize completely…but she learned to put up with us humans and our weird ways. She formed a tight-knit yet confused bond with the elder members of the cat tribe, and spent many fine hours cuddled up to them. IMG_0030

She was the sort of cat who demanded love on her own terms. She loved to be petted and would shriek happily, but the belly–oh, that belly was a TRAP. A trap filled with fish hooks and bear traps, and some of our finest scars come from getting to close to her…like, for her annual checkup at the vet. (“Break out the riot gear,” we’d advise them. “Pepper doesn’t do ‘friendly’.”)

But she was sweet, in her own way. A constant presence. Those big blue eyes, that lovely singing voice, those beautiful winter colors… we were convinced that her ancestry held both Siamese and mountain lion. She came from the hills of SW Virginia, and was almost certainly a little inbred, as strange things go on down in that part of the country. While she wasn’t the most active of participants, we always knew she was around somewhere, watching us and probably not approving.IMG_0213

And with the rest of that older generation moved on, it was hardly surprising when she just sort of started to fade away. She went quietly, peacefully, and in the manner of her own choosing, with as little muss, fuss, and bother as possible. No final vet visit for her, just a night of cuddles. She waited until we’d gone to sleep, and then excused herself without so much as a note.

So long, Pepper. Give our regards to Salt, Stucco, Jane and Gabriel when you see them.



New Release: Like Fortune’s Fool: Erotic Tales of Luck and Serendipity


It is with great joy and no small pride that I belatedly announce the release of my newest erotic anthology, Like Fortune’s Fool, now out from Circlet Press and available in all the finest (and less finest) online stores.

In six sexy stories, gods and mortals alike “get lucky,” in more ways than one. Fortune favors the bold and people take a chance at love and lust. In Like Fortune’s Fool, Monique Poirer, Jaymi Noa, Eric del Carlo, Dame Bodacious, T.C. Mills and Kathleen Tudor reveal the playful, sensual, mind-blowing secrets of those who traffic in luck, fate, karma, and serendipity. From a card game that leads to a night of unbelievable pleasure, to a raven whose spate of “crow luck” leads him to a helpful witch, to a woman who acquires a “lucky” rabbit’s foot, these stories are surprising and satisfying.

You can find it at this places, among others:


Barnes & Noble



A limited number of electronic review copies are available as well. Please contact me at if you’re interested in receiving a free copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and/or your personal blog. First come, first served.


A Quick Schoolbooks & Sorcery Update

Please forgive the brevity of this update, but I wanted to give the curious and concerned a quick update regarding the Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology.

At this time, I have read every story, and sent out many rejections. I still have another batch of rejections to write, and a number of stories which have either made it into the “Definitely” pile or the “Final Round: Fight!” pile. Everything in those latter two piles is currently in the hands of a second reader to help me make the hard decisions.

Why the slowness?

Because Yours Truly made the mistake of trying to juggle multiple jobs and an online grad school class, and as a result, sleep schedules, coherence, and spare time have suffered. This weekend, in fact, is a perfect storm of Things Which Will Either Kill Me or Make Me Stronger, and I’m not sure which is more desirable at the moment.

I do anticipate finishing the first round of rejections in the next week (so by the end of October) and then it’s just a case of figuring out what makes the final cut. Cue weeping, wailing, mad bargains with perverse trickster deities, cockamamie juggling of word count and synergistic themes, and so on. Trust me, folks, the inner nuts and bolts of the anthology business aren’t pretty.

So if you haven’t heard yet, it’s either because I haven’t written a rejection, or I haven’t trapped my second reader in a corner and made them share their opinions… or because I’m hiding under the bed, weeping, mind melted from dealing with real life people.

Feel free to query in the meantime, but results may vary.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!


New Short Story Online – Sea of Strangers


I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I have a new short story available to read online, for free.

You can find “Sea of Strangers” over at Inscription Magazine. I’m especially interested because this marks my very first Young Adult publication. (While one of my previous stories, “Keys,” which saw publication in A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court, can be considered YA, this is the first one marketed as such.)

“Sea of Strangers” is an urban fantasy story, and it takes place, as so many of my stories do, in the city of Puxhill. Strange things are afoot at Elijah Morrison High, and it’s up to Aud Martinez and her girlfriend Charm to figure out the problem and save the day.

Please go read it. And if you like it, feel free to let me know. Definitely consider checking out Inscription’s other fine YA offerings and leaving comments in their discussion threads as well.

I hope you like it….

The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen (Haunted Stars Publishing, 2013)

black fire concerto

For several years now, twelve-year-old Erzelle has been the prisoner of the cannibal clan of the Red Empress, a riverboat full of death, misery, and degenerate ghouls, forced to play the harp during their infernal meals. This changes when the mysterious piper Olyssa comes aboard, in search of her long-missing sister. Olyssa and Erzelle leave a pile of corpses in their wake, the Famile decimated by terrible magic, and begin their journey together. As they quest for Olyssa’s sister, Erzelle becomes her apprentice in both music and magic.

But their travels are anything but quiet. They must fight cultists, charm the capricious vulpines (fox-people, basically), and invade the treacherous lair of the Grey Ones, who build terrible machines out of the walking dead. The more Erzelle learns of her new companion, the more she fears for their safety. For to find Olyssa’s sister is to delve into the origin of the Storms which ruined and transformed the planet, to unleash bizarre forces, and to go up against overwhelming odds.

In The Black Fire Concerto, Mike Allen (editor of Mythic Delirium magazine and the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series) invokes the weird pulp fantasy of old, spinning a series of inter-related adventures which would be right at home in old-school Weird Tales. His world is a very much changed post-apocalyptic Earth, full of magic and strange creatures, where danger lurks around every corner. This is dark fantasy, manifested in body horror and visceral imagery, flesh-eating ghouls and unsettling visions. His traveling duo, the seemingly ageless Olyssa and the young Erzelle, are a mismatched pair as fitting as those who once strode the pages of sword and sorcery novels and pulp magazines. It’s an almost refreshingly retro feel; though the modern sensibilities can be seen, this is the sort of eldritch nightmare H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, or Clark Ashton Smith might have appreciated. Allen spins scenes of obscenely-repurposed mobile body parts, unholy constructions built of still-living flesh, armies of the shambling dead. He threads it all together with a musical motif that further pushes this away from the comfortable and familiar.

One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it lacks romance; the most powerful thread here is the love Olyssa has for her missing sister. Even after the enigmatic Lilla’s fate is discovered, that familial bond never wavers. It’s almost unsettling for something as pure and basic as family duty and connect to be the underlying core of such a bizarre story.

Honestly, this book isn’t my usual thing. While I’ve always been able to appreciate the Weird Tales mold of story, I’m not naturally drawn to such strange deviations. (For all that I love Simon R. Green, who gets pretty intensely weird at times). Were Mike Allen not a friend of mine (for full disclosure) I’d probably never have gotten too far into this. Dark fantasy isn’t my standard go-to genre. But I know a well-written tale when I spot one, and this is a strong effort, particularly for a first full-length book.  (Though split as it is into three sections, with the first having been written as a short story in its own right, there’s a slightly episodic feel to things.)

The main weakness is that Allen tends to overwhelm the reader with imagery and immaterial creations, leading to a certain lack of grounding. The opening sequence in the Red Empress is extremely strong, the battle scene in the town later on is likewise well-done, but once the characters head off into the wilds, things get nebulous. There’s not as strong a sense of place and time. Furthermore, there’s a lot left to be revealed about the post-apocalyptic world our heroes travel through. What technology remains? What people exist? How are things structured? How prevalent and reliable is magic? How much resemblance does the greater world have to what came before, and what was lost? These are all questions that arise as Olyssa and Erzelle fight their way through ghoul-infested caves and towards the final confrontation with their enemy.

If Allen continues to follow these characters, he has a ready-made hook, setting and all, for a modern revival of an old genre tradition that’s mostly fallen out of favor in recent years. Certainly, he’s laid the groundwork and delivered their inaugural adventure with style and appeal. If you’ve been craving dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic sword and sorcery with a female cast, weird stories that may or may not turn your stomach, then I have just the book for you.

In Memoriam: Janeway Yowlin (1999-2014…or so)

The queen hard at work.

The queen hard at work.

It's a trap.

It’s a trap.

Jane and Stucco: a meeting of 2/3rds of the Elder Countil

Jane and Stucco: a meeting of 2/3rds of the Elder Countil. Now with LASER EYES.

It is with great sadness that I announce the permanent retirement of the senior member of the Feline Supervisory Committee, Jane, AKA Janeway Yowlin of Puxhill, AKA “The Tabby.” At the dignified age of 14 or 15 (a lady never tells her true age), Jane chose to move on to her next life, rather than hang around and put up with lymphosarcoma any longer. She is survived by the rest of the Feline Supervisory Committee, who have already announced their intention to uphold her tradition of sleeping on things, shedding, and looking faintly disapproving at whatever it is we did.

Jane came to us as little more than a kitten, via the local shelter, when we announced an opening for a tabby. She quickly proved ideal at the role, and soon settled into a life of leisure and doing cat things. As she gained seniority, she was promoted to the Elder Council, of which she was the surviving member, following last year’s retirements of Stucco and Gabriel. (The Elder Council has been effectively disbanded, and a new grouping will be announced at a later date.) Also, with her passing, the informal “Family Unit” is likewise disbanded due to attrition; its only remaining member is Pepper, who has been promoted to Chief Shrieky-Beast.

Jane was born old–she was always a little grumpy, enjoyed her solitude and deep thoughts, and became extremely prickly when picked up. She enjoyed singing jazz and the blues, and would have won numerous prizes for math and science if only she had the opposable thumbs to communicate her findings. We may never know exactly what she discovered during her many hours of contemplation.

She was greatly loved, and goes to her next life with the highest of recommendations and references. Should you encounter a grey/brown tabby with a slightly sour manner, a rusty motor purr, and deep thoughts, know that she served long, well, and honorably.

The Feline Supervisory Committee and her silly, sentimental owners, thank her for many years of excellent service, and wish her all the best. She will be missed immensely.



Call for Submissions: Schoolbooks & Sorcery




Take high school. It’s weird, confusing, complicated, and frustrating. It’s a time of growth and change, when teens start discovering what they’re made of and who they want to be. Now throw in magic. What happens? That’s the premise of this new YA anthology. Schoolbooks & Sorcery is what happens when you take all the normal ups and downs of high school, inject a healthy dose of magic, shake, stir, and serve.

Editor Michael M. Jones (Scheherazade’s Façade) is looking for YA urban fantasy stories which incorporate the themes of sorcery, magic, and enchantment. The magic can come from within, as an intrinsic ability or a family trait, or from without, in the form of talismans, training, or teaching. Protagonists can be wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, apprentices, or practitioners of more esoteric traditions. Whether they pick it up on their own (accidentally or on purpose), learn from a master, or go to school for institutionalized training, they’ll be involved with magic to some degree. Or, of course, the protagonist could be without magic, and stumble into a world beyond their immediate knowledge. If authors wish to set something in a magical school of their own devising, or in a previously-established setting, that’s perfectly fine. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be set at a school, magical or otherwise, so long as the main characters are of the right age set.

Just about every culture has some sort of tradition involving people who dabble in the supernatural to one end or another, and there’s a vast amount of potential left to be tapped in this genre, especially with teenage protagonists. Whether they’re wizards-in-training, voodoo princesses, the last descendant of an infamous historical figure, the newest apprentice in the family business, or just someone in the wrong place at the right time, the stories are endless.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery is also designed to be a queer-friendly YA anthology, embracing the full spectrum of sexuality and gender identification, while offering a wide selection of satisfying, entertaining, fascinating, powerful stories in which the mundane and the magical overlap and interact. Stories are encouraged to take place in the overlapping area between urban fantasy, high school, and LGBTQ issues and themes. Stories should send the message that it’s not just okay to be gay, it’s okay to be gay and to have the same crazy, wicked, scary, seductive, exciting, magical, strange, funny, romantic, dark adventures as everyone else. We’re looking for stories which are all-inclusive, with the characters writers have been dying to write and readers clearly want to see, diverse and interesting, with an underlying current of tolerance and acceptance. Obviously, we’re looking for a wide range of themes, tones, and voices.



All stories should be between 2000-7000 words.

All stories must involve magic, and those who practice magic. This covers wizards, witches, sorcerers, magicians, shamans, and other traditions not specifically mentioned. This covers self-taught characters, those whose power is intrinsic or passed down through a family, those who find objects of power or books of spells, those who study with a teacher, those who go to school for magic, and so on. Other paranormal elements, such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or fairies, are welcome, as long as they don’t overshadow the primary theme.

Paranormal romance elements are also welcome, but this is not specifically intended as a romance anthology. Romance is good, but not necessary.

All stories must be considered YA.

Stories should be set in modern times/on Earth, but authors are encouraged to use a variety of settings, cultures, and influences to flesh out their characters and world building. Again, one of the primary goals here is to explore diversity.

While LGBTQ elements are not required, they are highly encouraged, as are protagonists who defy traditional roles and labels. (As in “girls doing boy things” and “boys doing girl things”.) More importantly: no story will be turned away for containing LGBTQ characters or elements, unless it violates the other guidelines.

Stories will not be censored for language, drinking, drugs or sexual situations; however, such things must be in moderation, appropriate to the circumstances, and tastefully handled. In movie rating terms, stories would thus fall into the PG-13 range. (To be handled as necessary. We’re not afraid of some bad words now and again…)

All stories will maintain a positive atmosphere concerning sexuality, gender, race, religion, and so on. While individual characters (most likely antagonists) may express biased, prejudiced, or phobic sentiments, or characters may deal with negative situations, the ultimate goal is to promote tolerance, acceptance, and positivity.

PLEASE NOTE: I have already seen a number of stories which address bullying. While I’m still open to considering stories incorporating this theme, I’d like to see some more variety to help round things out.

DEADLINE: August 15, 2014

SUBMISSION ADDRESS: All submissions may be sent to Please address any questions or queries to that address as well.Submissions should be sent as an attachment, as .rtf or .doc.

PAYMENT: Payment will start out at 2 cents a word. However, this is just the minimum. Once the anthology is completed and the Table of Contents either finalized or close to finalized, we will be running a Kickstarter campaign to boost sales, create pre-release buzz, attract pre-sales, and to acquire the funds to pay 5 cents a word. So while at this moment in time we can promise 2 cents a word, our end goal (one which is entirely within the realm of possibility) is 5 cents a word, or professional rate. If you have any questions about how this can work, or need more information on how Kickstarter works, please feel free to talk to the editor. Again: you are not being asked to do something for nothing. You’re not being asked for money or freebies. All we ask of you is a little patience and flexibility for this stage of the project, and the use of your name as a contributing author to attract fans and potential backers. Payment will be made after the end of the Kickstarter period, before the actual publication date. (Because the SFWA pro rate increases to 6 cents a word as of July 1, 2014, we may end up shooting for this goal instead. This has not been finalized.)

FORMATS: Schoolbooks & Sorcery will be released simultaneously as a trade paperback and an ebook, by Gressive Press, an imprint of Circlet Press.


Michael M. Jones was the YA reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle and Realms of Fantasy. These days, he reviews YA for Publishers Weekly and He is also the editor of Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation (Gressive Press, 2012). His fiction has appeared in anthologies from DAW, Baen, Raven Electrick Ink, Norilana, Circlet, and Cleis Press. He can be found online at

Fine Young Gentlemen by C.W. Slater (C.W. Slater, 2013)

fine young gentlemenThe first thing you should know is that despite the title, the three major protagonists of this book are neither fine, nor gentlemen. Young, sure, as all three are 16-year-olds who attend Percy College School, an elite Canadian academy.

Jacob Aberdeen is a sexual predator who prides himself on breaking virgins, a deviant who systematically stalks young women and who thinks nothing of window peeping, blackmail, and manipulation. In fact, he’s pretty much a psychopath.

Craig Osterman is a football hero with a sexy girlfriend and a dark secret. Who at PCS is trying to make his life miserable? What happens when his life starts to crumble? And then when he kills the teacher attempting to molest him, he becomes a strangely unrepentant, cold-blooded killer, determined to hide the evidence.

Matt Cutler is a frustrated virgin and compulsive masturbator. Obsessed with sex and his continuing quest to get laid, he’d do anything to make the score. He doesn’t even have football to distract him, ever since a back injury sidelined him.

Their paths cross and overlap as events spiral out of control, with everyone searching for the guy who murdered a beloved teacher, the administration desperate to cover up the fact that one of their own had abused his position for years, and Jacob determined to destroy Craig so he can have Craig’s girlfriend.  It doesn’t end well.

While in most sex comedies, the protagonists have some measure of sympathy to offset their hormonal antics, the so-called heroes of this book don’t have that redeeming factor, ranging instead from pathetic to despicable. Rude, crude, crass, shameless, manipulative, and reeking of entitlement, they’re not characters you want to see succeed. Honestly, this book is lacking in sympathetic characters in general, everyone possessing some dirty little secret or horrible trait. Misogyny, classism, even a touch of racism abound. The attitudes towards women and sex are simply horrible. Jacob and Matt may be prime examples of how women are primarily in this book to be sex objects or flawed authority figures, present for their amusement, ambition, or fantasies, but very few of the secondary characters are likable.

Honestly, I read this book as one might stare at a wreck on the side of the road, unable to look away. It lacks the humor of a comedy, the sophistication of a thriller, the innocence of a coming-of-age tale, and the charm of a slice-of-life story.  By the time it wrapped up, on a sour and bloody note, I had to wonder just what the author’s intention was. This is like the extremely awkward love child of Porky’s and American Psycho, with none of their respective appeal. If you’re looking for books that get into the mind of the teenage male, there are far better examples, including works by Don Calame, Andrew Smith, Barry Lyga, and Brent Crawford.

On Audio Versions of My Stories…

You know what’s even more amazing than seeing your story in print?
Hearing it read out loud as part of an audiobook.
Seriously. The knowledge that such a thing exists, that someone has brought your words and worlds to life, given them voice and substance, is simply amazing. I know it’s old hat to many of my writerly brethren, but I get a thrill every time I run into a new audio adaptation of something I’ve done.
To date, five anthologies I’ve been in have received such treatment. Of course, as my luck would have it, all five are erotica anthologies, but I’m not picky. If they want to turn my smut into porn for the ears, I’m game.

girl fever

The first of these is “The Long Night of Tanya McCray,” from Lustfully Ever After, edited by Kristina Wright, in which an intrepid photographer gets lost in Puxhill’s mysterious Gaslight District overnight. Sadly, the narrator for this volume is…underwhelming, and doesn’t really do the material justice, in my opinion. But hey, these things happen.

A better example is “In the Service of Hell,” from Seductress, edited by D.L. King, which features a succubus on a mission from her infernal masters. Kaylee West does a very nice job of bringing “Alice” and her target to life, adding a quiet nuance and complexity to their exploits.

Then there’s “Love on a Real Train,” from Girl Fever, edited by Sacchi Green, which sees a pair of lovers recreating an iconic scene from a classic ’80s movie. The narrator for this story (one of several who take on the Herculean task of reading the 69 stories) imbues my movie-obsessed characters with a sense of playfulness and sensuality. I can’t shake the sensation that the narrator is about ready to let a giggle slip free. It’s a quick, fun, listen.


Kaylee West makes a second appearance to narrate “Thwarting the Spirits” in She-Shifters, edited by Delilah Devlin, which stars a werecobra and weremongoose as moon-crossed lovers and mortal enemies. Though her performance is a little shaky at times, I was absolutely delighted by the way she gave the characters distinct voices and accents. (Important when one’s Indian, another’s Pakistani, and assorted other folks pass through as needed.) Most importantly, she gets the attitudes and pronunciation just right, just the way I hear them in my head. In fact, I never even imagined wereraven Izzy Sparks with a bit of a country drawl, and now I’ll never be able to unhear it. Possibly my second favorite audio adaptation to date.

Lastly, there’s the incomparable Veronica Giguere, who narrates “The Secret Life of Ramona Lee” in Geek Love, edited by Shanna Germain and Janine Ashbless. Her interpretation of the story and the characters is almost transcendent in its awesomeness. The way she handles the titular Ramona and her new friend, the information sprite Irene, blows me away. There’s depth and complexity, playfulness and a certain breathy glee. I just about fell in love with my own characters after listening to them…awkward, right?

So there you have it. Not only can you read my stories, you can even listen to a few of them if you’re feeling adventurous.

Spoils, by Tammar Stein (Random House, 2013)

Money is truly the root of all evil in this somewhat imbalanced teen drama. Seven years ago, Leni Kohn’s family won the lottery–$22 million after taxes. Today, a week before Leni’s eighteenth birthday, the family is pretty much broke. Careless investments, wasteful spending, and too many generous “loans” have reduced their fortune to near-nothing. The family has one hope left: when Leni turns eighteen, her trust fund kicks in and she finally gets access to the million put aside just for her.  Everyone assumes that she’ll give it all to her parents, so the family doesn’t drown in debt. Even Leni assumes she’ll do what’s right for her family, no matter how much she dreams of using to pay for college or help the environment.

Then her older sister Natasha tells Leni that she made a deal with the devil for them to win the lottery, and the money is cursed, and Leni should get rid of it all. Leni’s about ready to laugh it all off as one of her sister’s odder quirks, until she starts getting visits from the archangel Michael, telling her to “fix it.” 

Now Leni is caught in a vaguely-defined struggle between good and evil, trying to find the right path. She suspects it has something to do with Gavin, a brilliant young man with a checkered past, who’s come back into her life at an unexpected time. But how can she fix something when she doesn’t even know what she’s fixing? How can she justify depriving her parents of the money they need?  With the days until her birthday ticking down, can she find a solution?

I wanted to like this book a lot. Part of it stems from a fascinating premise, one grounded in reality. After all, how many times do we read about lottery winners who go broke or come to a bad end? How often do we see stories about the accidental millionaires who can’t handle their newfound wealth? Stein’s portrayal of the Kohns as a family ruined by success is painful, riveting, and poignant. The parents who build a needlessly luxurious mansion and throw extravagant parties and throw their money at poor investments and risky ventures. The older brother who blows his money on parties and traveling, until he ends up back at home, dreaming of better days. The older sister who can’t let go of her ex-boyfriend, who sinks her money into a tea shop.  And Leni, the sensible, idealistic one, whose money has remained in trust all these years until she comes of age.  It’s a powerful look at people who simply weren’t prepared for their fortune, and how it undermines their sense of self and corrupts their priorities. 

So to put the story at the crucial point where Leni must decide what to do with her money? There’s the seed of a compelling, provocative tale. Her moral dilemma and internal struggle is really something to study. While money isn’t inherently bad, it’s clear that it’s an easily-misused resource. No wonder she’s conflicted about giving it to her parents, knowing it’s just a stopgap measure when they need to find a new way of handling things. And this is the story I wanted to read, in which Leni find a way to break the cycle and rescue her family from the pit of despair and debt. 

So when I realized that this book also had a paranormal element, I honestly wondered if it was necessary. Did the book actually need this subplot regarding a vaguely-described deal with the devil, and ambiguous communications from an archangel?  Is it any stronger for having the supernatural quality in the background?  I don’t think so.  In fact, it’s a little distracting, even a little insulting, to be able to ascribe outside influences to such purely human elements.  Money doesn’t need to be cursed in order to lead to bad results, simple foolishness and greed can accomplish the same thing.

I know, I’ve never exactly been one to shy away from the paranormal elements in what I like. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, after all. But sometimes, that element of the fantastic does more harm than good, and Spoils is a good example of a story that would have been perfect as a mainstream book.  It has everything already in place: a family in crisis, a conflicted protagonist, a suitably compelling romantic interest, and a complex moral dilemma that speaks to its audience. Given the economy of the past few years, money is never far from anyone’s mind.  Almost everyone plays the “what if we won the lottery” game and this is a starkly compelling cautionary tale.

As it stands, it’s really quite a muddle. Is the money truly cursed? If so, is it only cursed when the Kohns use it for their own benefit? Or will all those people they loaned/gifted/donated it to suffer equally miserable fates somewhere down the line? Otherwise, why couldn’t Leni have kept a little for herself, to handle necessities as opposed to frivolities, or would paying for school be selfish somehow?  There’s too much left unexplained and unspecified where her mission is concerned, and I’m still not sure how the chain of logic led her to assume that she had to help redeem Gavin’s life.  More of the hand-wavy paranormal bits, I guess.

In the end, Spoils is a fantastic book undermined by a few too many extraneous elements, which is really a shame.