Select Page

Sugar Spells Release Day!!!

FINALLY!!! Sugar Spells is OUT!

Seeing the early reviews, I’m so psyched to see people getting what I’m trying to do with the Spellwork Syndicate.

“It’s just a cute and fun read with a lot of magic and some interesting magical creatures. I like the characters, the story, and the fact that the whole book is kind of happy and fun feeling; even when it gets a bit dark.”

Karissa, Goodreads

We need more soft, sweet things in this world, and it’s my biggest hope that you can all sit with a piece of cake and a cup of tea and just chill out for a couple hours while you’re visiting my world.

Grab a fork and dig in ; )

CHAPTER ONE

The steady drip, drip, drip of brewing potion marked the passing seconds in my great-aunt Agatha’s quiet library. Vanilla mixed with the scent of the old spellbooks crammed into the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, easily making this room my favorite place on earth. But even snuggled into a cozy armchair with a juicy book on witchcraft, I couldn’t settle and relax.

Something was wrong with my magic.

Weeks after my warlock run-in and a meet and greet with an early grave, my brownies came out like charred pans of meatloaf. I’d burned an entire batch of angel food cakes just by standing near the oven and my never-fail meringues had booked me a 24-hour bonding session with the upstairs toilet.

Meringues.

How do you even get food poisoning from a meringue?

Agatha had banned me from her kitchen until my mojo stopped its tour of destruction.

Tension squeezed my ribs.

Not a gentle squeeze like a hug from mom. A sharp, panic-spiking squeeze. Like Seth’s weight on my back, grinding me down, down, down into the mud and muck in his failed attempt to drown me to death.

I’d thought my life was on its last flush, but I’d survived.

Now I had Agatha, the bakeshop, and the job of my dreams, right downstairs.

I just wasn’t allowed inside.

My great-aunt had taken me on as her apprentice for our shared blood and hypothetically for my potential as a baker, but if I lost my magic, I lost my use to her. Then I’d be packing for “home,” wherever that was now. Mom was being cagey about her location, probably because she was still busy cleaning up after my last arson.

I could either hit the books or hit my head against one of the brick ovens while I tried to find the problem.

I’d chosen the book option.

My great-aunt Agatha’s library took up a good chunk of the second floor of our house. Although “our” was debatable. I’d only been at Agatha’s Bakeshop a few weeks.

When Agatha first unlocked the library door with a giant brass key, the lock had clicked with a shiver of magic. She’d folded her arms across her pastry chef coat and treated me to a chocolate-melting warning.

This room was for magic research.

No fire spells or dodgy incantations while my powers were wonky.

Agatha’s familiar would be watching me.

Now Fondant perched in a cushy bed balanced on top of the highest shelf. When I jammed a bookmark into my chapter on cleansing spells and hopped up to check on my potion, the pure white nightmare cat lifted her head to glare.

“I’m following the rules.”

Research.

Not casting. Not baking.

Research was the only thing I could do right now.

Fondant’s ears flicked, but she didn’t curse me or banish me to hell or bust out whatever other magics she could cast. I took that as an okay to move to the corner table where my in-progress potion was steeping.

I pushed stray vials out of the way and leaned my elbows on the tabletop to peer at my Elixir to Clarify Spirit.

The purple solution shimmered and swirled in its round-bottomed glass even though I hadn’t stirred it in hours. The liquid at the bottom was more lavender than grape and the drip, drip, drips that plopped from the spout into a cauldron glittered as clear as spring water.

It looked perfect, according to the instructions.

It had to be perfect if it was going to fix me.

Someone tapped at the door.

I jumped and tried to block my potion setup from whoever walked in. Brewing a potion wasn’t breaking any rules and Fondant hadn’t yowled for me to stop, but my first instinct was always hide the magic.

“Anise?” Agatha’s assistant, Lonnie, opened the door. “How you feeling, dear?” Her blonde hair was bobbed and glossy and her cheery energy warmed me from across the room, but not even that could crack my funk.

“The same.” My tone fell flat and then kept falling, settling a few stories beneath Agatha’s jam cellar.

“I thought you might need a treat.” The hem of her apple-print dress ruffled with her movement, and she set a plate on the table.

A scoop of Agatha’s home-churned vanilla bean ice cream melted all over a slice of ooey-gooey brown pie topped with a tower of whipped cream. I’d memorized Agatha’s whole rotating menu, but I’d never seen this beauty before.

“Is it caramel pie?” My voice rose, clawing itself back from the underground.

“Salted caramel with a cheering-up enchantment.” Lonnie patted my shoulder, her touch as warm as the fresh-from-the-oven dessert. “Agatha baked it just for you.”

“She did?” Only half believing, I grabbed the fork. When the caramel slid across my tongue, coating it with salty-sweet magic, my heart gave a wobbly, happy thump. Only Agatha could bake a pie so good it made your eyes roll back and spoiled you for anything else.

I tasted the caramel alone. Then just the whipped cream. A 50/50 bite, then three-quarters of each, testing how every possible flavor combination changed the taste and the spell.

The cheer enchantment had me smiling around my fork. Smiling for the first time in…

Days? Weeks?

“Agatha needs you in the shop.” Lonnie’s voice grabbed me like she’d yanked the neck of my T-shirt and a blob of pie plopped off my fork.

Agatha needs me.

I was halfway out of my chair when I noticed Lonnie’s face. She wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at Fondant.

Agatha’s familiar leaped off her shelf and darted into the hall.

Because Agatha wanted Fondant.

Not me.

My lungs popped then pooled, falling flatter than a matzah.

The corners of Lonnie’s eyes tightened in confusion. “Is something wrong, dear?”

For one breath. Two breaths. My disappointed lips wouldn’t form words. I worked up some spit. “I’m fine.”

She didn’t look convinced the way she kept staring. I took a bite of pie, glancing away and trying to chew, but Agatha’s Michelin-star caramel suddenly had the texture of a big wad of gum scraped from the bottom of a public bathroom garbage can.

Maybe Lonnie sensed I was faking okay, because she gave my shoulder a comforting pat. “What potion are you brewing?”

“A clarity elixir.” Somehow, my voice came out smooth. “I have to fix whatever’s gumming up my power.”

“After eighteen years outside Taos, you’re bound to need some readjusting.” Lonnie’s motherly, everything-will-be-okay tone shone sunbeams on my pessimism. “Your body’s building red blood cells to handle the altitude, and your spirit is adjusting to handle being near the vortex. Keep yourself busy and trust in your magic. You’ll be back to normal soon.”

“I hope so.” The keeping busy part was the ant in my ice cream. How could I keep busy when I couldn’t bake?

“Are you following Agatha’s advice?”

“She told me to wait out the problem, but…” I breathed until my lungs were so full that I had to let out the air and share the thought that scared me most. “I don’t think waiting’s going to fix me.”

“What else could be hurting you?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.” The vortex was definitely a potential culprit. The energy field/portal/mystic force leaked pure power and energies from other worlds. It used to have my ears ringing on a daily basis.

But I was pretty sure I was fully adjusted.

Now I was worried my trouble baking had more to do with recent events.

I clutched my arms tight to my chest. I was two for two at choosing psychopathic guys. Trust-busting Dylan, the jerk who’d outed my witchcraft to our whole high school and forced me to drop out. Followed by Seth, the hot but murdery warlock who’d ended up floating down the Rio Grande.

If I kept up the trend, my next crush would be a death row serial killer.

But who needed guys? I was finally ready to give them up and just practice magic twenty-four seven.

My cauldron was filling up with potion, so I tried to make puppy-dog eyes at Lonnie. “Can I test a quick recipe? My elixir can’t be taken as a liquid.”

Lonnie hesitated long enough to make it feel like egg beaters were churning inside my stomach, but I must’ve looked too pitiful because she finally gave a tiny nod. “Give it a try, dear. I’ll let Agatha know you’re doing a test bake in the house.”

“Thanks, Lonnie.”

She left and shut the door. Finally alone, I grabbed my silver ladle and did a twirl.

This is going to work.

I scooped the liquid into a vial and dashed into the hallway.

Then skidded short.

Wynn crouched against the wall in a T-shirt and gauntlets with a sword balanced across his thighs. One of my Shield’s hazel eyes creaked open. “Going somewhere?”

“Downstairs.”

He’d saved my life enough times that I couldn’t complain about him carrying a sword around the house. But honestly, how was he going to swing it in here? Agatha had her hallways crammed with little tables and vases of purple roses. She’d be pissed if he went on an antique-busting rampage.

Plus, with Seth’s spirit scattered, there was no one out to kill me anymore. Seth’s landlord might be cursing me after I burned his place to ash, but Agatha said insurance was covering the damage.

Either way, a bodyguard was officially overkill.

Wynn’s contract was the other thing I needed to look into. There had to be a loophole. A way to unsubscribe.

Or at least a way to convince him to stop following me around the house?

He was driving me batty with the overprotectiveness.

As soon as I cleared up this hiccup with my magic, I’d spend a few days in the library researching Shields and their contracts so I could finally figure out why we were stuck together.

I’d probably read through the whole room before Wynn told me the truth.

His footsteps creaked against the floorboards behind me on the way to the kitchen. All I could do was ignore him and focus on my spellwork.

I headed for the smaller house kitchen. It had normal home appliances instead of all the fun industrial equipment and tools the bakery had. Not that I needed anything fancy. I was going to use the simplest possible recipe—a basic sugar cookie, bespelled with spirit-clarifying goodness.

Taking a big breath, I anchored my hands against the purple-tiled countertops and focused on the sensation of my magic. It felt like the warm hearth fire that fueled who I was, and I called it out until red-orange light pooled underneath the skin of my fingertips, crackling like the static from a sweater fresh out of the dryer.

At least I wasn’t having trouble reaching my power—just baking with it.

I flicked on the oven with a snap of magic, starting the pre-heat, and then moved around the kitchen selecting my tools and utensils.

With every motion, I repeated the same incantation.

Let my spirit be cleared and my energy purified.

I sifted flour into a bowl and shook it out in the shape of a pentagram, adding a little extra prayer to the incantation. And please let this fix my power.

I measured a teaspoon of vanilla, then dripped in exactly seven drops of the elixir.

Let my spirit be cleared and my energy purified.

When the dough was mixed and shaped, I carefully lined the cookies on one of Agatha’s custom Silpat sheets, complete with purple pentagrams. I slid them in the oven with a last prayer.

Please, please work.

Resisting the temptation to press my face against the glass, I set a timer on my phone and started on the real glamorous part.

Washing the dishes.

The window above the sink looked out toward the back yard, but my gaze slipped sideways to the breakfast nook. Wynn had pushed aside the lazy Susan to lay his sword in reach and camp out at the kitchen table. I stole glances at him in between sudsing, half because he was asleep again and wouldn’t notice, and half because I couldn’t get used to his new look.

He’d taken the worst of the damage when Seth ran us off the road in the gorge to Santa Fe. The cut on his head had needed stitches, and even though magic sped up healing, it couldn’t make his hair grow back faster.

Or it could, but nobody was going to waste their magic on hair-growing spells for Wynn.

Now, the shaggy mess that used to shield his eyes and dark expressions was gone, replaced with a skull-tight buzz that didn’t leave any of his features—or moods—to the imagination. I had the clearest view of his sharp cheekbones, strong nose, and disturbingly angelic lashes.

How could such a cranky guy look so peaceful? So relaxed?

“What?” Wynn’s voice cracked the silence.

I jumped.

The soapy bowl in my hands slipped and hit the sink. A mini tidal wave sloshed out, dousing my shirt in suds.

If my fingers weren’t sopping, I would’ve pressed them to my chest to hold my heartbeat steady.

Wynn’s sixth sense was freakily superhuman. I picked up the bowl and my sponge. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”

Wynn shifted his weight, making his chair creak. His hazel eyes were fully open now, and fixated dead in my direction. “Ask the question.”

“Question?”

“The one you want to ask.”

I wanted to wrinkle my nose at his assumption, but he wasn’t wrong and he was giving me an opening, so… Why not ask what I’d always wanted to ask?

I squeezed out the sponge and patted my hands dry against my apron. “Why are you always sleeping?”

“Because I’m always tired.” He leaned back, closing his eyes yet again.

My jaw opened wider than a black hole.

Was that supposed to be a joke?

“Why are you always tired?” I asked, hoping to spark an actual conversation—although four words in a string was already pushing Wynn’s gab-o-meter.

By way of an answer, his breathing evened out.

Asleep. Again.

I bent back to over the sink, dreaming of the day I’d be able to bake without an audience.

The kitchen filled with the scent of warm vanilla.

The cookies smelled juuuuust right and my head was clear. No panic. No stray emotions mucking up my mojo. No worries so deep they’d shoot craziness through my spellwork.

I couldn’t feel sad or sorry for myself surrounded by the smell of fresh-baked cookies. I was finally back where I belonged.

So, there was no reason the enchanted cookies should fail.

I tiptoed to the oven.

The edges were the perfect golden brown and—

Energy rippled inside the oven.

I rubbed my eyes, hoping it was my imagination, but the tell-tale feel of magic whispered across my skin. The ripple turned into a shudder of power and black clouds poofed into the oven like I’d stuffed it with a smoke bomb.

Not again.

Heart clawing up my throat, I didn’t dare wait to find oven mitts. I threw open the door and grabbed the cookie sheet bare-handed.

In the split-second before the pain reached my brain, I cast a protective heat barrier over my fingers. I flung the cookie sheet onto the stovetop.

I hadn’t had time to set up a cooling rack, but I wasn’t going to need one.

Ten seconds ago, my sugar cookies had been perfect little circles. Now they weren’t golden. They weren’t round. They weren’t even cookies.

Smoke twisted around the blackened lumps that looked like sad, radiation-damaged turtles, hard shells and all.

I let my fingertips hover over the mess.

Their energy…

The pure, silver feeling of clarity was nowhere to be found. Instead, a thick sourness—like rancid buttermilk—formed a big lump in my throat and plunked down to my stomach, landing with a splop.

A failure.

But not the end.

I had a whole vial of elixir left. I could—

Before I could finish the thought, the glass vial cracked with a stuttering k-k-k-ke-crash.

Tar-colored paste oozed onto Agatha’s countertop.

Seriously?

What the hell was wrong with my power?

Wynn pushed past me, the neck of his T-shirt yanked up to cover his nose. He kicked the oven door closed, cutting off the smoke belching into the kitchen.

Right.

The smell.

Exactly how you’d expect an irradiated turtle to smell. Like a swamp fire with a whiff of disappointment.

Wynn edged away from the counter like the cookies were dangerous.

Maybe they were.

I dumped mismatched plasticware from the cabinets, digging for a safe container. Plastic would melt.

Instead, I grabbed the grubbiest, rustiest cast iron pan in the cupboard—one that already needed to be re-seasoned and Agatha hopefully wouldn’t kill me for ruining.

I scraped the shattered vial and oil slick of a potion into the pan before it could eat through Agatha’s counters and then clapped a metal bowl on top to capture the turtle-butt smoke.

The potion looked zero percent like the glittering original.

A bubbling blub-hiss drew my gaze back to the cookie sheet. The mutated blobs pulsed like they were baked with boiling volcano mud.

Using the longest spatula I could find, I corralled the cookies into the middle of the sheet and trapped them under glass before they became self-aware and rose up to overthrow the bakery.

This failure had nothing to do with the vortex. Or with my emotions.

My thoughts, feelings, and actions had all matched the intent of the spell. I’d nailed the incantation and the recipe.

So I was positive the problem wasn’t the vortex or my casting.

Something else was happening.

Something bad.

Something I hoped could still be fixed.

A muted blub, blub, blubbing matched the seasick motion of the pancakes in my stomach.

 

Keep reading!

iBooks | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

 

 

 

Sugar Spells Cover Reveal!

When I started designing the Sugar Spells cover, I didn’t think anything could top Deadly Sweet in all its pastel goth bakeshop glory. But the Sugar Spells cover snuck right up and stole my heart with its sparkly purple tea party magic. My art & graphics team is THE GREATEST.

Thrilled to finally reveal the cover of my sparkle-icious sequel!!

🍰

 

Release day is October 30, 2018!

Pre-order here

iBooks | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

OR

Join my newsletter for ARC news & chapter previews.

 

<3 Lola

Deadly Sweet Releases Today!

It’s finally here! Say hello to Deadly Sweet and the Spellwork Syndicate!!!

 

Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate, Book One) by Lola Dodge | loladodge.com

Now available @

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

 

Don’t forget to check out the blog tour and enter the release giveaway, which includes an amazing box of TreatHouse goodies <3

Start reading the first chapter now!

Chapter One

I stared at the bank of mailboxes. My key jutted from the lock to Box 13, but I couldn’t twist it yet. It felt like a big dough ball was proofing in my stomach, the pressure building and building until I wanted to hurl.

Ten pastry school applications and nine rejection letters later, I had one last chance to escape the future where I decorated grocery store sheet cakes for minimum wage forever. In a perfect world, I’d work my way up from part-time cake decorator to bakery manager to maybe owning my own shop.

In the real world?

Nobody wanted to hire a witch. We were supposed to be power-hungry, manipulative hags who used our devil spells to curse law-abiding citizens.

I’d never use my power to harm—and I didn’t even believe in the devil—but other than the few celebrity witches who’d made it into the mainstream, the rest of us were outcasts. People were both fascinated with our magic and terrified when we moved in next door. So, keeping my witchcraft under wraps was my best chance at both safety and sanity.

That meant lying on job applications. The second my power sparked at work, I’d be booted from yet another bakery. Mom and I would have to pack the car and start over yet again.

New chain store. New city. All the same problems as before.

I tried to wet my lips, but my tongue was milk-powder dry. I needed school. A degree was the only way to break the cycle I’d been stuck in. It would open up better jobs and maybe even help me prove that the with stereotypes were garbage. Mostly, I wanted to learn from the pros and make myself into something more than a decent home baker. A legit pastry chef.

If this letter was another rejection, my whole future looked like a dead end.

No pressure though.

The screech of brakes knocked me out of my everything-depends-on-this staring match with the mailboxes at the front of our apartment complex. The high school bus pulled to a creaky stop.

I’d been standing here an hour?

I should’ve retreated to the apartment, but instead I pulled my hoodie’s drawstrings so tight that only my eyes and nose peeked through the hood. I couldn’t run until I had my answer.

My instincts said a letter was waiting if and when I worked up the courage to check.

A pack of kids a couple years younger than me jumped off the school bus laughing. One boy peeled away from the group with a wave. He spun his key ring on a finger as he walked my way. I tried to work up the mental energy to open the mailbox—I really did—but my arms were still acting broken.

“Sorry. Can I…?” He used his key to point at the row of boxes I was blocking.

I jumped out of the way. Still gripping the tie cords, I accidentally pulled my hood tighter as I hopped.

The guy tilted his head to the side, trying to scope out who was hiding inside. “You go to Nisky?”

“Mmph.” I grunted and tilted away from him. We would’ve gone to the same high school, but I’d dropped out a few districts ago. Homeschool was safer.

The left side of his face twisted, but he went back to his business, ignoring the weirdo. I wobbled foot to foot while he unlocked his box.

I hated being outside. The sun. The people. Always asking questions. Why aren’t you in school? Why’s there sage in your purse? Are you a w-w-w-witch? Always with three stutters.

A w-w-w-witch, no. Witch, yes. But it wasn’t like I ran around cursing people. That wasn’t a thing.

“Um. I think you forgot your key?” The boy reached for Box 13.

“No!” My arm shot out on its own. The key jumped from the lock to my open palm in a puff of red-orange sparks. I gasped a breath at the loss of energy and my knees shook, suddenly weak. It drained too much when my willpower made its own decisions. No incantation or ritual to focus my energy—just a raw blast of magic that left me breathing like I’d galloped a mile.

And I was Exhibit A for bad witch behavior. When emotions ran high, magic would do what it wanted.

If you didn’t have power or couldn’t understand it? Terror was the usual reaction.

The boy’s face drained of blood and his mail fluttered to the ground. “You’re a w-w-w—”

I jammed my hands and the stupid key into my pocket. Before I could come up with a lie, he was already scampering away. He was probably running to tell his parents a witch was stalking the apartment complex. I couldn’t stand around waiting for them to dig out their torches. Or call the cops. Not that witchcraft was technically illegal, but enough complaints by jumpy soccer moms and I could be locked up for “questioning” for days without being charged with a crime.

Who had time for that?

I took a breath so deep suburbia disappeared and there were no more yapping dogs or screaming weed whackers—just me and the box. The box and me. And my destiny.

The key turned.

I swiped the envelopes and locked the box again before hurrying back up the steps to the apartment. There were only two letters. One from the power company and one from SCCC addressed to Ms. Anise Wise.

Both thin. I’d never gotten a college acceptance letter, but I knew they came in big, fat envelopes. I stumbled on the top step, banging my shin so hard I blacked out for half a second.

Who gets rejected from community college?

Inside, I yanked the dark curtains tight before tearing into the envelope.

 

Dear Ms. Wise,

Although your qualifications are impressive, we regret to inform you that we cannot accept magic users at this time—

 

I tossed the letters and lurched the few steps to the living room couch. Hugging a pillow to my face, I scrunched my eyes closed. I could keep working part-time at the grocery store bakery until they found out about my magic. Then I’d…

I didn’t know. Apply again next year? I kicked the cushions. Maybe Mom would have ideas. We’d both been hoping we’d never have the Anise-totally-blew-it conversation, so as stupid as it was, I didn’t have a backup plan.

Until she came home from work, I had nothing much to do but mope. I’d already “graduated” from homeschool and I’d memorized every spellbook in the house. Lying on the couch all afternoon would only make me feel like more of a loser.

Tossing the pillow back, I headed for the kitchen. In our closet-sized apartment, the walk only took a few steps. I stood in the middle of the peeling laminate tiles and set my hands on my hips, trying to find something to do. I’d already swept the floors with the birch-twigged besom and scrubbed the cheap countertops so long that they gleamed. I couldn’t even organize my baking pans. They were neatly stacked in the cupboards.

Not because I liked cleaning, but because I needed a spotless kitchen to make sure my spelled cakes didn’t suck up bad vibes. Cleaning mostly kept negative energy out of my space. Today, I was the one tracking it in.

Looking for a project to distract me, I lifted the lid off the jar of flour. It was almost empty. Only a cup left and Mom and I wouldn’t have payday until Friday. I checked the fridge. We still had eggs. A meringue? A custard? But, no. We’d need the eggs for breakfast.

We had ketchups and mustards, but not much food other than the leftover Chinese we’d been nursing the past few days. The sweet and sour chicken was almost gone, but the rice container was still mostly full.

Rice, rice, rice…rice pudding?

I couldn’t make a big portion, but we had milk, butter, sugar—and with a little spelled vanilla?

It would be perfect. And bonus. Working would keep me from staring down the black hole of my future. I tied back my shoulder-length hair and tried to release the tension that was tightening the knots in my shoulders.

My well of power was running low after that slip outside, but casting an enchantment wouldn’t drain me the same way as an accidental casting. Enchantment was my thing, and with all the ritual involved, I could control how much power I spent. I tried to breathe out the tiredness and stress and bring myself into a better headspace for casting a joy spell.

Bring joy and do no harm. I repeated the incantation over and over as I chose my tools. Spoons were the one thing I had too many of. I waved a hand back and forth over the open drawer to feel the energies of the woods. Ash. Elm. Hickory. Some battered and charred with a hint of age to their aura, some smooth and new.

What would match with a joy spell?

My fingertips glowed ember-bright and warmth flowed up my arm as one of the spoons called. Applewood. Fruit woods worked well for happiness enchantments, and the short, stumpy spoon fit my mood. I moved counterclockwise through the kitchen, picking bowls and measuring cups with the same care. Everything had to work together in my head. There weren’t really rules to the casting, but I had my own rituals, and doing everything the same way every time I cast usually made it easier to focus on the magic.

Today, not as much. I couldn’t shake the shadow of the bad news. Then I opened the spice cupboard and the warm, homey smells of cinnamon and clove silenced that little voice chanting failure, failure, failure.

Fresh-dried rosemary. Bundles of aromatic sage. And the sweet licorice scent of my name—jars and jars of anise. For rice pudding, I took out a jar of the star anise I’d powdered by hand. No matter what I made, I always snuck in a few grains. The spells stuck better when I put my name in there.

Then, my favorite part. The vials of homemade vanilla.

I carefully set each glass on the counter. My neat handwriting crisscrossed the labels on the mismatched bottles. Each label listed the date I’d started the extract and the magical properties I’d infused it with. Enchantments for happiness, good fortune, or love.

The labels were just a formality, though. I knew each vanilla by smell.

I uncorked a triangular blue bottle and took a whiff. The warm scent of Madagascar and a hint of cinnamon curled up my nose, sparking memories of the day I’d started brewing this batch. My seventeenth birthday. That day felt like this morning instead of more than a year ago. Mom had found the greatest present—bundles of cured vanilla beans from all over the world.

A smile almost bubbled up, but it disappeared as soon as I set down the bottle.

Last year, I’d been hopeful about my future.

Now I knew better.

Bring joy and do no harm. There was no point beating myself up. I couldn’t fix everything today, and if I didn’t concentrate I’d royally screw my rice pudding.

The leftover rice stank of refrigerator and needed a good cleansing before I added it to the pot. I lit a bundle of sage with a spark of my power. The magic usually came out a cheery red-orange, but now it flickered like dying embers, dull with flecks of gray as it half-heartedly flowed from my fingers. Lighting a flame was supposed to be the easiest thing for a witch aligned with fire, but today my wellspring was full of ashes. My tired knees played quaked as I waved the sage smoke.

Such a little bit of magic and I was already at my limit. Even the smoke wavered when my thoughts slipped off the work. I had to stick to my intention. Bring joy and do no harm.

It had better work. I needed the boost.

With all my supplies set out by the stovetop, I started combining ingredients. I stirred counterclockwise, using the applewood spoon to channel my power into the mix—my kitchen witch version of a wand. My fingers glowed and so did the pudding, but neither cast off the warmth they should at this stage of the spell. I dripped in the vanilla, trying to think happy thoughts and infuse them into the recipe.

Kittens and new Kitchen-Aid mixers. Hugs from Mom and snuggling up to read my spellbooks.

Let the taster of this pudding experience true happiness.

I was thinking the right words, but they echoed hollowly in my head. Empty. Because I couldn’t trick myself into feeling happy when I wasn’t.

It was what it was. The enchantment on the vanilla was so strong, it should carry the recipe…

Possibly.

I stirred over low heat, and as the liquid absorbed into the rice, the strong scent of vanilla—with the teeny tiniest hint of anise—began to fill the kitchen. Maybe I hadn’t messed it up this time?

Bring joy and do no—

The glow of my power exploded in a blinding burst. A massive craaaaaaack echoed through the kitchen. I blinked, trying to clear my eyes of the fireworks from the mini fireball.

My spoon had cracked in two.

A puddle of blackness bubbled in the rice. I tried to scoop out the taint with one of the spoon halves, but it was already too late. The white rice morphed into black tar. Instead of warm and comforting vanilla, it smelled like burnt rubber.

The scent sparked my least favorite memory. Tires squealed as Dylan Claussen peeled away, leaving me stranded in the school parking lot. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes as the gathered crowd chanted, “Kill the witch.” I’d pushed through them, running toward the school office. Somehow, I’d managed to break up with my boyfriend, drop out of high school, and almost get burned at the stake all in the same morning.

I still remembered crying in the principal’s office. The secretary had trembled while she typed up the forms for my withdrawal and I wondered what I could have done to make anyone so afraid.

I’d fix it if I could. Maybe then they’d let me live my life.

 

***

 

When Mom came home, I was sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by the latest rejection letter, my bowl of rice tar, and a mountain of crumpled tissues. The pudding didn’t taste that bad if I ignored the chunky black bits, but one bite had set me sobbing so hard it felt like the meat had pulled off my ribs.

My feelings couldn’t lie. Instead of turning my mood around, I’d cast a spell of despair.

“Anise?” She dropped her purse and rushed over. “What—” She must’ve seen the rejection letter because she scooped me straight into her arms. “Oh, sweetie. I’m so sorry.”

I leaned against her neck and breathed in the comforting scent of her rose oil perfume. The tears were mostly gone now, but I felt hollow. Like I couldn’t even light a candle if I wanted to. “I botched my joy spell or I wouldn’t be crying this much.”

Mom shoved the bowl away. “Why would you taste that?”

“I wanted to feel what I did wrong. It’s the only way I’ll get better.” I didn’t mind that Mom never cast anymore, but no matter how much people hated me for being a witch, my magic was the most me thing about me. I couldn’t not do spells. I wouldn’t change who I was for a second.

It was the other people I wanted to change.

“If you’d consider…” Mom began.

I pulled away from her, giving her the full view of my blotchy, tear-streaked face. I’d already cried enough to fill a vial with witch tears. If she started lecturing, I’d probably crack in half like my poor spoon.

Instead of going there, she smoothed back the loose wisps of my dark hair. “It’s the new moon. New beginnings. Should we go for a drive?”

“Yes.” I’d take any chance to escape into nature and soak up the moon’s energy. But Mom usually hated that stuff. I squinted at her. Her red-dyed hair was pulled up in a bun and she still wore her black apron and “Nora” name tag from the restaurant. Her blue eyes were bright, but she drooped a little. Which was no wonder, working three jobs.

I grabbed the bowl of rice pudding and headed to send it to its garbage disposal grave. “Never mind. You have to be at the office in the morning.”

“Not anymore.” She let out a huge breath and slapped an envelope of her own next to my ripped-up rejection letter. “I was downsized, but I got last week’s pay plus two weeks of severance. What do you think? Some ice cream and a drive to the overlook?”

I couldn’t help flutters of unease as the rice pudding glopped down the drain. With both of us this lost, it might be time to move. Tomorrow, we’d come up with a plan.

For tonight, all I could stomach was ice cream.

 

Ready to keep reading?!

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

 

<3 Lola

Deadly Sweet Cover–REVEALED!

I’ve been waiting for this day for MONTHS. Finally, finally, finally! I can share the cover of Deadly Sweet, Book One in my Spellwork Syndicate Series.

I had such a specific aesthetic in mind for this cover that I wasn’t sure the design could possibly match my vision. Thanks to my fabulous art & typography team, the final cover is better than I dreamed.

It. is. MAGICAL

TA DAAAAA:

 

 

Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate, Book One) by Lola Dodge | loladodge.com

Release day is January 16th, 2018!

Find it now:

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Goodreads

Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spellbooks in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter.

Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl.

The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target.

If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée.

Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?

✨✨✨

Adventures in Taos

Adventures in Taos

Lola Dodge | Adventures in Taos

More than a month into my Taos stay, and I haven’t posted a single blog. I’ve been so busy hiking and walking, enjoying the sage and sunsets!

(Don’t worry, I’m slathered in SPF 50 at all times.)

Lola and Mary at Wiliams Lake, Taos, NM
Williams Lake was one of my favorite hikes despite the SNOW in the MIDDLE OF JUNE. I huffed my way up to 11,000 feet and then slid down the mountain on my soggy butt, because SLUSH. But the payoff was so worth it! And Mary Karlik is a total peach for tolerating me and rerouting us back to the trail every time I led us astray.

The Taos farmer’s market is fantastic (although I keep buying teaography and empanadas instead of vegetables). Last weekend we caught Curtis Stone filming, and I creeped awkwardly around until I could get a good pic of him. If you don’t know who Curtis Stone is, you need to up your Top Chef game. Best show on American television!

The food in Taos is also spectacular. Northern New Mexican dishes are gloriously spicy, and I’m attempting to try the chiles rellenos at every Mexican joint in town. This week, we drove out to a local brewery for a picnic in the mountains with a few glasses of the raspberry wheat ale.

It’s basically heaven out here.

Despite all the distractions, I’m actually working. I’m cracking away on Deadly Sweet, rebranded my whole website (ta-da!), and am juggling a few really great marketing and editing classes. Also finally mailed out a whole bunch of copies of Quanta Rewind and matching bookmarks.

 

A post shared by Lola Dodge (@loladodge) on


Next stop, Los Angeles!

I’ll be sad to leave Taos, but I need to start shopping for RWA dresses in the big city. The whole Ink Monster team is heading to the national conference in July. Cannot wait.

Happy summer, wherever you are!

<3 Lola

DuckDuckGo is the BEST Search Engine for Readers & Writers

I’ve been playing around with new search engines, and after a few disappointing trials, I discovered that DuckDuckGo is the best possible search engine for authors, readers, and writers.

I am pretty much searching for books 24/7, whether I’m checking prices or summaries, or just looking for something new to read : ) This means tons of searches on all the book retailer pages. I feel like I’m searching for the same books over and over and over again, and with my decrepit laptop, that is both slow and frustrating going.

If I want to see Aileen’s books on Kindle, I Google “amazon aileen erin” to get a boring page of this:

But if I search using DuckDuckGo, I get:

A scrolling carousel of books at the top of the results?!

And it gets better. DuckDuckGo uses shortcut codes called bangs. The bang for Amazon is !a, so if I search “!a aileen erin” I bypass the search engine interface and go straight to the Amazon search results, which are exactly what I wanted to see:

This is SO SO SO convenient! And there are bangs for every book site you could possibly want.

The most important DuckDuckGo bangs for readers and writers are:

  • !a – Amazon
  • !bn – Barnes & Noble
  • !itunes – iBooks
  • !kobo – Kobo
  • !gb – Google Books
  • !gr – Goodreads

So instead of going to Goodreads to look up my books, I can use “!gr lola dodge” and go straight to this magic:

It is a wonderful thing.

I basically can’t recommend DuckDuckGo enough and I hope you’ll start using it as your default search engine because it makes browsing for books SO. MUCH. EASIER. #cometotheduckside

Also, not a sponsored post ; ) I just love to share things I love.

Happy reading!

<3 Lola

 

Why DuckDuckGo is the best search engine for authors, readers & writers

Quanta Rewind Release Day!

Quanta Rewind (The Shadow Ravens, Book Four) by Lola Dodge
Book FOUR of the Shadow Ravens is now in stores!

Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo

 

It’s featured on the iBooks YA page.

Quanta Rewind (The Shadow Ravens, Book Four) by Lola Dodge is featured on the iBooks Young Adult page
AND the reviews are coming in!

Reads & Reels

“Quanta Rewind is a thrilling ride and I enjoyed it as much as the first three books. Quanta continues to impress me and I really love this ragtag group of people pushed together under the worst circumstances.”

Simply Nicollette

“There is plenty of action, great friendships, fun sci-fi aspects, and some swoony moments, too!”

Les Chroniques Aléatoires – Review

“Avec un peu d’humour, beaucoup d’action, une histoire bien ficelée et une histoire d’amour très belle, Quanta Rewind ne pouvait qu’être un coup de cœur.” (With a bit of humor, a lot of action, a well-crafted story and a lovely love story, Quanta Rewind could only be a favorite.)

A Page to Turn Reviews

“the more I watched the characters grow and learn, the more attached I became until I reached the point that I spent the last half of the book screaming out loud at them. I mean, how was I supposed to live if any of these fictional darlings died??”

The Avid Reader

“If you love a good dystopian, science fiction book then you are going to love Quanta Rewind and all of the Shadow Ravens novels.”

 

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who reviewed and to all who’ve supported the Shadow Ravens. I would’ve given up on writing this book if not for your enthusiasm & encouragement <3 <3 <3

QUANTA REWIND is my last book in the Shadow Ravens series. There could be more books (hopefully more Cipher books by Aileen), but I’m coasting along to some new projects for now.

What’s Next??

First, I’m getting my act together on the sportsy contemporary I’ve had on my desk for more than a year. It’s “finished” but needs a boatload of revision and I finally have time to get serious. This book is so important to me, I’ve been struggling with the need to make it perfect. So quest for perfection = zero actual progress. But this is the year. I swear!!

Then, NEW YA FANTASY. Slash Urban fantasy. I’m starting a new series for Ink Monster called the Spellwork Syndicate and the first book, Deadly Sweet, features a witch who just wants to bake magic cakes and be left alone. The cakes go well, but the left alone part… you’ll see ; ) Stay tuned for the cover reveal in August!

<3 Lola

 

 

 

Quanta Rewind Blog Tour Update

Quanta Rewind Blog Tour

The Quanta Rewind blog tour is underway! Hooray!!

Click a post to read and enter the giveaway. And don’t forget to enter the Quanta Rewind Goodreads giveaway–we’re offering TEN paperback copies of the book!

April 19th

Movies, Shows, & Books  – Quanta Rewind Playlist

Zerina Blossom’s Books

Reads & Reels

“Quanta Rewind is a thrilling ride and I enjoyed it as much as the first three books. Quanta continues to impress me and I really love this ragtag group of people pushed together under the worst circumstances.”

SolaFide Book Club – Lola’s Writing Journey

The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

April 20th

Simply Nicollette – Review

“There is plenty of action, great friendships, fun sci-fi aspects, and some swoony moments, too!”

T’s Stuff

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves

Bookwyrming Thoughts – Ten things no one knows about Quanta!

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

 

April 21st

Loves Great Reads

Pippa Jay

BookLove

Readdayandnight

“Fast paced, action-packed and thrilling.”

April 24th

Don’t Judge, Read

Smada’s Book Smack

Book Lovers Life

Les Chroniques Aléatoires

“Avec un peu d’humour, beaucoup d’action, une histoire bien ficelée et une histoire d’amour très belle, Quanta Rewind ne pouvait qu’être un coup de cœur.” (With a bit of humor, a lot of action, a well-crafted story and a lovely love story, Quanta Rewind could only be a favorite.)

Paging Through The Days

April 25th

A Page to Turn Reviews

“the more I watched the characters grow and learn, the more attached I became until I reached the point that I spent the last half of the book screaming out loud at them. I mean, how was I supposed to live if any of these fictional darlings died??”

The Avid Reader

“If you love a good dystopian, science fiction book then you are going to love Quanta Rewind and all of the Shadow Ravens novels.”

Brooke Blogs – A day in the life of Quanta!

CBY Book Club

The Angels Pearl

 

Thanks to YA Bound tours for hosting : )

Quanta Rewind SNEAK PEEK!

Sneak peek of Quanta Rewind (the Shadow Ravens, Book Four) by Lola Dodge

With Quanta Rewind releasing THIS MONTH, I wanted to give you a little peek into the story you’ve all been waiting for ; )

The full first chapter is posted on the Ink Monster blog – just subscribe to the Ink Monster newsletter and you’ll get the password in your email soon!

In the meantime, enjoy the first few paragraphs : )

Chapter One

QUANTA

My pulse rang loud in my ears as I puzzled over the doorknob in front of me. The only light in the narrow hallway glowed from Devan’s raised hand, but Cipher was starting to crackle with nervous sparks of electricity as she leaned closer, voice muffled by her protective facemask. “What’s next?”

I kept staring at the knob. What is next?

Good question. By way of an answer, bluish timeghosts fuzzed over reality, showing me all the ways the next seconds could play out.

Letting the present bleed away, I relaxed into my power. I stumble over the trip wire just across the threshold. That was a start. “There’s a wire on the first step through the door.” And then?

I tiptoe over the wire. Cipher and Devan follow me into a vacant gray office. It looks empty enough, with only a few bare desks and no furnishings or working lights, but before I can wave the girls across the room to the next door we have to crack, a shooter pops out from behind the desk. I lift my gun, but Cipher’s already pushing me aside to safety. She takes a hit to the shoulder before I can shoot.

Blinking back to the now, I scowled at Cipher. “Shooter behind the desk on the left. Don’t be such a hero.”

Cipher’s mask covered her mouth, but I knew she was scowling right back at me. “I didn’t do anything.”

None of us are doing anything.” The golden light glowing from Devan’s hand flickered as she grumbled.

“Just let me take out the shooter. Can you unlock the door?” I stepped back, giving Cipher room.

She lifted a portacomp to the door’s keypad, punched in some numbers, and a beep sounded. I tried to breathe in and out and keep my focus as I pulled out my gun. We’d win this time. The possibility was there in the ether, if a little hazy and unlikely looking. There were only three more booby-trapped rooms between the exit and us, and I spotted at least one future where we darted through the last door grinning wide for the first time in weeks.

I just had to find the right path. We could do it.

Definitely.

Probably?

Subscribe to access to the rest of the chapter or

Preorder now to keep reading on April 25th!

AmazoniBooks | B&N | Kobo | Google Play 

<3 Lola

All The Things I’ll Do After Quanta Rewind

Life After Quanta Rewind & The Shadow Ravens | www.loladodge.net

I’ve been majorly MIA the past few weeks (months?!) and Quanta Rewind is to blame. Lately, I spend all day every day at my desk, working on the draft and listening to ambient arctic noise

As you can imagine, I’m an inch away from a total breakdown.

The good news is the draft is juuuuust about finished. Bloggers will be able to download it on NetGalley at the beginning of April, and we’re still signing up for the blog tour, so hop on if you’d love to host!

I’ve survived thus far by consuming near-lethal quantities of Cherry Coke and dreaming of all the fun I’ll have when this deadline is in the bag. Thought I’d share a few things I CANNOT WAIT TO DO after Quanta Rewind is off my desk:

1) Shower

Hygiene is the first item to go when the deadlines hit. My hair looks like I’ve been moisturizing with Crisco, and I need to get back on the cleanliness schedule of a normal human person.

2) Play Breath of the Wild for 375603560q9479345 hours

It has come to my attention that I’m a grown adult and shouldn’t get sucked into buying a $300 console plus accessories just to have a Zelda machine… But then again OPEN WORLD ZELDA WITH COOKING AND WHO CARES ABOUT MONEY. I’m going to hunt down a Switch and spend a solid week gathering mushrooms. That’s just how I roll.

3) Catch up on dramas

I’m ridiculously behind on my drama watching. I got sidetracked with all this work (lame!) so I stalled out on Jealousy Incarnate, The Princess Weiyoung, and Hwarang, but I’m determined to catch up. PLUS, I have Goblin on my to-watch list and I can already anticipate the binge because it’s supposed to be the best.

4) Plan my next move

I’ve been in America way too long, and it’s time to skip out before all the visa regulations get crazy. Maybe back to Thailand after the burning season is over??? Or Bali?! Haven’t decided yet, but I’ll finally have time to plan.

I've left the country

5) Start my new series!!!

I am SO EXCITED to start a new project. The first book in my new series comes out on Halloween and I can’t wait to dig into all the early stage research and worldbuilding. It’s been killing me to have this one on the back burner. More updates (and preorder links!) coming soon, but this one is about WITCHES AND CAKES (my two favorite things in life) and I hope you love the new world as much as I do!

Catch you on the flipside of this deadline!!!

<3 Lola