Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back to the Blog....Juliet Blackwell!

Meow, today i'm pleased to welcome back to the blog as a guest blogger the NY Times bestselling author, Juliet Blackwell!

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times and national bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood.  She also writes the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, starring Mel Turner, a failed anthropologist who reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and starts seeing ghosts behind the walls.  Under the pseudonym Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series, in which ex-art forger Annie Kincaid attempts to go straight as a faux finisher: Feint of Art, Shooting Gallery, Brush with Death, and Arsenic and Old Paint
A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She currently resides in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist, portrait painter, and recipient of the overly zealous attentions of her neighbor's black cat, who seems to imagine himself her new familiar. Juliet served two-terms as president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. Visit her at

and now, on my blog....JULIET!

Familiarly speaking…by Juliet Blackwell

Hello, Everyone!
We all need inspiration from time to time…even witches.

If you’re a really lucky witch, your inspiration might also be your beloved pet. A “witch’s familiar” is a companion animal thought to enhance and support a witch’s magical powers. Because animals are considered closer to other spiritual realms than are humans, it is believed familiars can assist their witches in communicating with spirits on other planes.

A black cat is the typical image that pops into many a mind when thinking of a witch’s familiar. But felines aren’t the only candidates: pigs, toads, birds, dogs, and even mythical creatures such as unicorns are also commonly referred to in the history of familiars.
Interestingly, the concept of companion animals assisting their magical masters is not unique to Europe: in Mexico and Central America, the concept of the nagual (pronounced na-wall) remains powerful. The nagual is like an animal alter ego, and is most often nocturnal: the owl, the toad, the coyote. Some believe that when one dreams, one’s nagual is traipsing about on adventures.

The protagonist of my Witchcraft Mystery Series, Lily Ivory, is a lonely, misfit witch who, upon arriving in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, realizes she has finally found a place where she feels at home. Her whole life, Lily has been such a loner that she did not even have a familiar. Within weeks of opening her vintage clothing shop, Aunt Cora’s Closet, Lily is visited by a powerful – and gorgeous—male witch named Aidan, who brings her a present: Oscar.

The familiar Aidan foists upon Lily is no cat. Instead, Oscar is a talkative, ever-hungry, shape-shifting critter of indeterminate origins:
I whirled around to find a misshapen creature perched, gargoyle-like, atop an antique walnut jewelry display case. He was small and bent, with a muscular body and scaly skin, a large head, a snout-like nose and mouth, and outsized ears like a bat’s. His fingers were long and human-like, surprisingly graceful, but his enormous feet had three toes and long talons. His voice was deep and gravelly.
“I’m your new familiar,” it said.
“I’m afraid not,” I said. “I’m a solo act. I don’t need a familiar.”
“You’re a witch, aintcha? Ya gotta have a familiar.”
“Says who?”
“It’s in the handbook.”
“There is no handbook. Besides, I’m allergic to cats.”
“I’m no cat.”
“So I’ve noticed. But I’m probably allergic to…creatures such as yourself, too. Besides, I can’t have a goblin in the shop.”
“I’m not exactly a goblin.”
“Gnome, then.”
“Not really a gnome, either….”
“Whatever you are, you’ll scare away customers.”
“Howzabout a pig?”
“A pig?”
With a sudden twist of his scrawny shoulders, he transformed himself into a miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.
(Fun factoid: after I had decided to name Lily’s fictional familiar “Oscar”, my elderly dog passed away and a neighbor’s green-eyed black cat decided to adopt me, wooing me with his feline ways, staring at me through my office window while I tried to write. The wily critter’s name? “Oscar”.)

When I first told my editor that I wanted Lily’s familiar to be a creature capable of shape-shifting into a miniature potbellied pig, rather than a traditional cat, she thought I was nuts. But she relented after I gave her a little history of familiars.

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

Lily Ivory was already gifted in the use of earth magic: she brews potions, specializes in the magical and healing powers of botanicals, and often buries her charms until they mature. But Oscar’s mere presence helps Lily with the fluidity of her spells, to maintain her intention, and to slip through the spiritual portals to reach her guardian spirit. Besides, in his talkative goblin-like form, he’s also a great sounding-board, companion, and comic relief.

Oscar’s so much fun, in fact, it makes this author rather wistful, wishing I had a familiar of my own….but then again, the neighbor’s cat would like to remind me that I do have an awfully cute Oscar at hand.
In Juliet’s latest book, Tarnished and Torn, Oscar has decided he really should have transformed into a lion to help Lily out of a hairy situation.  He doesn’t accomplish that, but he is a great help, nonetheless.  Join Lily, Oscar, and the whole gang as they go up against a tricky demon menacing San Francisco! 

Thank you for a great post, Juliet!

Folks: Juliet will be giving away a copy of TARNISHED AND TORN (Or, if the winner prefers, any book in the Witchcraft mystery series!)
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link:
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link:!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US residents only. Contest ends midnight, June 30th. Good luck!
Next month:
July 2:  Victoria Laurie & MJ Holliday!
Starting July 15: Our Kids Need to Read Fundraiser! Watch the blog the week of July 9 for details!
In August:
Mary Janice Davidson
Carole Nelson Douglas and Midnight Louie!
Erika Chase
Anne Purser




  1. I had no idea that pigs were associated with witches! How fun! I've always loved Oscar, but the meaning to the choice is great. He fits Lily perfectly. Now if he could only sever his ties to Aidan.

    Elizabeth Arrowood

  2. Great interview. I do LOVE this series. I have posted about this contest on Facebook. Also have tried to like you on Facebook but the link just takes me to my home page.

  3. I love Juliet Blackwell! I'm addicted to her Home Renovation Mystery series and I just started reading her Witchcraft Mystery series and it's soooo good!

    I follow your blog, twitter, and liked your facebook page! Thank you for the chance to win!
    Nichole Magante

  4. All I can say is Thank you. Thank you for your wonderful books. I have been a doctoral program for the past three years and face the dreaded comprehensive exams tomorrow. Your books are the end of the tunnel, as they are the things I look forward to reading them during my small breaks over the summer. This time I will enjoy them all the more as I have prolonged reading them in order to accomodate school work. Thank you for making my summers more enjoyable!

    I am your friend on facebook, and enjoy all of your postings!

  5. I really enjoy this series and would love a copy of the latest installation!

    helenaksberg at gmail dot com

  6. Great interview.Pigs were associated with witches so funny.
    I follow on facebook
    I follow your blog

  7. Entered a friend request on FB (which page were you actually wanting us to go to? The link goes to our personal home page, not yours) I follow the blog.
    This is a fun series.
    Libby Dodd

  8. This looks very amusing...a smart-aleck pig...sort-of pig.
    I love the story about Oscar the cat! (Sorry for the loss of your dog.)
    Best of luck to you and continued success,Juliet.
    ( I have won recently;I won't enter now.)

  9. I love this series! I can't wait to see what adventure we are set on now.
    Follow by
    Twitter, Facebook, blog


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