WAKING THE WITCH

The Witch of Cheyne Heath

Book 1 of 4

A witch’s daughter.
A murderous sorcerer.
A friend in desperate need of her power…

“A refreshing take on Urban Fantasy with unique magic and an engaging mystery.” ~ Fanfiaddict.com

For 30-year-old Gosha, magic is a four-letter word, but in her mother’s world of witchcraft, words have power—power Gosha will have to sacrifice everything to acquire.

When a devious sorcerer masquerading as a New Age guru murders her band’s guitarist, Mick Trash, Trash’s spirit haunts her, showing her visions of his last days and the monster that killed him, visions that are steadily killing her.

When she discovers her best friend, rock singer and recovering drug addict Miranda, may be the sorcerer’s next victim in his quest for immortality, Gosha must submit to her overbearing mother’s guilt-trips to be initiated into the Craft and trained as a witch if she is to save her oldest friend.

1980s alternative London can be a dangerous place for a novice in the Craft. With the clock ticking, Gosha must descend into a treacherous, clandestine world of magic and intrigue with only her wits, five spells, and her mother’s coven of chaotic busybodies to help her stop the sorcerer and his demonic minions from consuming Miranda’s life-force.

If you’re ready for an exciting page-turner with engaging characters and creative magic, click above and grab your copy TODAY!

Available at select retailers

PRAISE FOR WAKING THE WITCH

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“A world where magic ripples below the surface of the mundane, building with tension until it explodes into reality like the breaching of a killer whale.”
James Wright
Amazon Reviewer
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What a great start to a series that will unfold with grace and careful awareness of blending two worlds. Great characters, fun, fraught and fragile relationships that are believable, compelling and detailed.
Kellie R.
Amazon Reviewer
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I wish I could add more stars!!! What an awesome ride this story is!!! I couldn’t put the book down. A must read if you like modern magic witch stories with glam rock !!!
Wonder Girl
Amazon Reviewer
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The entire series is marvelous – a delightful page-turning read. Fitz-Simon has created an intricate and absorbing witch/bewitching world in similar vein and quality as Harkness, Grossman and Pullman. I wholeheartedly endorse the whole series and just wish it continued.
BT
Amazon Reviewer

READ AN EXCERPT

1

A ghost was the last thing Małgorzata Mierzejewska Armitage needed to see through her camera viewfinder. At the frame’s edge, between the drum risers and the rack of keyboards, a bare-footed toddler with grubby cheeks in a tattered pinafore fell forward on her hands and knees and bawled. The child flickered, like a projection on the gauzy scrim that lined the set she’d spent weeks building, and vanished.

Bugger! Of course this would happen now!

A memory of damp earth and the tickle of tiny insect legs swarming across her skin leaked out of her subconscious. Gosha pushed it back down with all the other things she’d rather forget. No matter how hard she tried to avoid it, witchcraft always seeped in and wrecked her life. It didn’t care that twenty crew members, a dozen dancers, four musicians, and one disgusting record company executive were depending on her to get the job done.

She squeezed her camera hard to distract herself. One corner dug into the flesh of her palm, but it didn’t help.

“Gosha! What is this crap?” Darren, the record company man, thrust the band’s lead singer and his cowriter toward her. “I said none of this queer shit.”

She ran her fingers through her bob, tucking her hair behind her ears and wished she’d teased it into its usual dark, angry spikes this morning. She could have used the boost to her confidence.

Behind Darren, the little girl reappeared. Gosha glanced around, but no one else saw the apparition, not even the lighting technician standing next to it. An annoying side effect of her monthly flow, if Gosha wasn’t careful, she’d soon be overwhelmed by visions of the dead.

“What are you talking about?” She smiled innocently, knowing exactly what he meant. Discussions about the band’s image had lasted for hours.

“Makeup!” He grabbed the singer’s chin and pulled it toward him. “You can’t have them in makeup. They look like a bunch of shirt-lifters.”

All they had on was eyeliner and a dusting of blush and eye shadow, even though Gosha wanted to push it much further.

“What the fuck?” The singer, Johnny, knocked Darren’s hand aside.

In the high-collared crushed velvet jacket she’d chosen for him he was an elegant, glam rock vampire. The makeup artist had done an adequate, but not stellar, job recreating Gosha’s sketches. Gosha would have done it much better herself, but she had too much else to think about this morning. Her first directing gig needed to go off without a hitch, for herself and for the band. She was as committed to launching Swish Brigade to the top of 1980’s hit parade as she was to get her directing career off the ground.

“And that’s an absolute no.” Darren cocked his head at Johnny’s outfit.

Gosha seethed. David Bowie would give his left eyebrow for that jacket.

“Wardrobe!” Darren yelled out across the warehouse. “Get this whore’s dressing gown off him and put him in something that makes him look like a man.”

“Why did you fucking sign us?” Johnny flailed his hands in Darren’s face. “You’re ruining everything. We did your stupid cover version, and now you want to change who I am. Maybe you should have found a suburban eunuch down the shopping center to do your bidding.”

His cowriter and the band’s guitarist, Mick, wrapped an arm around him to restrain him. “Easy, Johnny.”

The toddler materialized again. It rolled under the synth onto its back, its features contorting as tears streamed down its cheeks, and screamed soundlessly in anguish, unnoticed by the living except for Gosha.

She took a deep breath and did her best to focus. Johnny and his partner were an odd pair. Tall and lithe, Johnny towered over Mick, his German-Indonesian background blessing him with a striking mixture of reddish-brown skin, sharp cheekbones, and a square jaw. Small and intense, Mick’s curly hair spread out around his head like a mad scientist in a thunderstorm.

Deep in the pit of her abdomen a cramp twinged through her uterus. Oh yes, she was in trouble. With the stress of prepping for the shoot, her period was late, and she’d hoped to be spared the monthly visit from her red-headed aunt and the curse of phantoms that accompanied it, but no such luck. In two, maybe three, hours a phalanx of ghosts parading before her eyes would make it impossible to function. If she got her hands on the little pouch of countermeasures in her bag in the coat check and found somewhere secluded to use it, she’d be fine. Until then, she’d have to do her best not to let it ruin the shoot.

“Darren, darling.” She turned to face him head on. If she gave this arse an inch, he’d roll right over her. “We cleared all this with Melanie a week ago.”

“Melanie’s off the project,” he sneered. The bristles of his mustache scraped obscenely on the perpetual cigarette clamped in the corner of his mouth. Over his shoulder a woman in an unlaced corset and ragged skirts materialized by the snacks table, doubled over coughing, and faded away, unnoticed by the crew. “The board isn’t happy with the direction the video’s going. They sent me down here to make sure you don’t make the lads look like a bunch of poofs.”

He took a deep drag of his cigarette and blew the smoke out the corner of his mouth into Gosha’s face. In his Members Only jacket and flares, he’d be more at home outside Studio 54 picking up girls on the wrong side of the velvet rope than on the set of a New Wave music video. If she didn’t covet this job so, she would have punched the old lech in the face weeks ago for the filthy things he said to her.

“Listen, ducky.” He thrust his cigarette at Johnny with one hand and picked tobacco off his tongue with the other. “I don’t give a fuck what you poofs do in your spare time. I’m not prejudiced.”

He stabbed the air with his cigarette for emphasis, each thrust in time with the throbbing pulse at the base of her skull that grew stronger the more bigoted rubbish poured out of his mouth.

He winked at Gosha. “You know all about that, don’t you, love?”

She pursed her lips and clenched her jaw.

Johnny was ready to knock him down. Wiry like a greyhound, he could hold his own, but a fistfight wouldn’t do them any good. Mick held him back.

“Darren, sweetheart.” She smiled as she drew him to one side and leaned in close. “You and I think alike. We get this is a business, but these youngsters, these artists, are all about self-expression and creative truth. I speak their language. Let me talk to them. I’ll have them do a take your way, and if you like it, leave it in my hands. Deal?”

He leered at her breasts. A comforting weight in her hand, her camera would probably survive forced contact with this lecherous bastard’s skull. If not, she owned others.

“Your husband was right, luv. You are quite the scheming little minx, aren’t you? Yeah, you get them to butch it up and I’ll let you get on with it.”

She took another deep breath and contemplated changing her stance on non-violence. What had her idiot husband, George, said? Sometimes it was like having an extra child: a randy, entitled narcissist teenager.

“Don’t leave me here too long, darling,” said Darren as she walked back to the boys.

Mick and Johnny retreated to safety behind Mick’s keyboards, Mick’s artfully disorganized thatch of hair brushing against Johnny’s tight, glistening bob as they whispered frantically. The pair usually put up a good front when faced with a challenge, but Mick worried at the Celtic torc he always wore around his wrist, a sure sign he was freaking out.

“Okay, boys.” She picked her way across the tangle of electrical cables and strode to the middle of the set. “Gather round.”

Johnny and Mick looked up from their huddle as if having forgotten there was anyone else there. The bass player and drummer kicked around an empty beer can, oblivious to the elaborate bazaar ripped from the Arabian Nights she’d built for them.

“Oi!” She clapped her hands to get their attention. “Lads. Time is money. Get over here.”

All four hustled toward her like the good little suburban boys they were.

“Here’s the problem.” She leaned in so Darren wouldn’t hear. The lads huddled forward. “The man’s a pig, but he controls the purse strings. We have to appease him or we’re all in the shit, yes?”

Mick nodded, the drummer and bass player following along.

“I can’t do it,” said Johnny. “I just can’t. I didn’t get kicked to shit three times a week behind the cafeteria at school to go back in the closet.”

Behind him, the shimmering backdrop moved a little too fast for the lazy drift of air that wafted through the vast warehouse under the hot film lights. The mirage coalesced into the figure of a man in nineteen-fifties work overalls thumbing through a pornographic magazine. Gosha did her best to ignore it. Sometimes she could hold the phantoms at bay by sheer force of will.

“I’m not saying you should. I agree with you one hundred percent, but sometimes an offering must be made. Do you trust me?”

The other band members looked to Johnny. It was an odd hierarchy. Some decisions they deferred to Johnny and some to Mick, and she hadn’t yet figured out how the responsibilities fell.

“Yeah,” said Johnny. “Yeah, I trust you.”

Relief spread down her spine. Her plan was tricky. She was certain the record company would love what she intended if only they could see it fully realized. Even their pet pig, Darren, wouldn’t be able to turn his nose up. And if they did, she had three music journalist friends to leak the video to who would be happy to pressure them to release it.

“Good. Butch it up all the way. Take it as an acting challenge. Give him all the tired old rock-and-roll posturing. Get him salivating. Do it well enough, and he’ll leave us alone. I promise you no one will ever see the take.”

The same evil grin spread across all four young, fresh faces. “Yeah,” said Mick. “We can do that.”
“Good lads.” She stepped back from the huddle.

“Marie, dear! Wipe all this off them.” The makeup artist, a sweet girl just out of cosmetology school, rushed over with a basket of supplies. Gosha wanted to do the band’s makeup herself, but her producer had convinced her to get help.

At the back of the warehouse, beyond the bustle of activity, Darren slumped against a pillar with a finger wedged up one nostril for a good dig. The ghostly figure of a woman hoisted one boob out of her corset in front of him and fed it to the swaddled baby in her arms. He stared right through it, oblivious.

“Bugger,” she whispered to herself and trotted over to the bag check. “You will love it, Darren,” she called out as she passed him. He sneered and nodded as he removed his finger from his nose and licked the tip.

She shuddered and picked up her bag. An amorphous, floppy sack from a stall in Kensington Market, it was magnificent and far too large to find anything in it. Digging past layers of camera equipment, film, sundry mundane items, and the odd child’s toy, she fished out the small glass vial of holy water from her kit. Even holding the bottle in her hand caused the pain in her temples to subside, though she never understood why. Her mother would know, but she wasn’t about to ask. Nothing came from the old witch without a price, and Gosha refused to keep paying when she ran away from home. All the tricks she’d learned to manage her condition she’d discovered by trial and error.

Two men in sweat-stained work shirts walked past, one in tears, the other with a comforting arm draped across his shoulders. They grew faint and dissolved into shadow.

She should have known better than to shoot in Bosworth Grove. The short corridor between Barnaby Chase and Stepbourne Canal had been one of the worst neighborhoods of London. Only Whitechapel was more notorious. Several hundred years of crime and misery left vestiges of shattered lives potent enough they could erupt into her awareness at any moment. She hoped she hadn’t left it too long for her countermeasures to do any good.

If her mother could see her this way, she’d be ecstatic.

“I told you so,” Gosh could hear her cackle in her Polish accent. “But you think you know better.”
Her mother’s way was cynical and mean. It had filled Gosha’s childhood with horror, forcing them to flee Poland and take refuge in a small town miles from everyone she’d ever known, her one source of hope the train that chugged down the line toward London three times daily, four on Saturdays. She had fled her mother as soon as she could earn enough money for a ticket and a few nights at a hostel.

And now, fifteen years later, when all her ambitions were coming to fruition, the occult threatened to suck her back into its stinking and corrupted claws.

Satisfied the crew was doing fine on its own, she found herself an abandoned corridor in the back of the warehouse, safe enough despite the worn and rotted floorboards buckling underneath her. The flickering and jarring of phantoms was minimal, and the decaying dividers gave enough cover to open her pouch and get to work.

Stashed in the bag was a hodgepodge of religious paraphernalia cobbled together over the years: a Jewish tefillin, a tiny leather box containing prayers from the Torah attached to a leather strap to wrap around one arm; a Catholic rosary to wrap around the other; a figurine of a Santeria orisha; and the phial of holy water from an Anglican church.

She had the tefillin strap wound halfway up her arm when a young production assistant stuck her head around the corner and got an eyeful of strangeness. The girl stammered apologies for intruding, her eyes bulging out of her head as she backed away.

Great. Perhaps the girl will think I’m doing drugs. That would be easier to explain.

The phantoms first appeared around her eighteenth birthday, a year after running away from home. The power of religious paraphernalia to banish them had been a chance discovery. Without her mother to ask, she’d never discovered why it worked, but Gosha never let ignorance stand in the way of a successful plan of attack. The beauty of living in a cosmopolitan city like London and in a neighborhood like Cheyne Heath was exposure to every imaginable color and creed. Time, curiosity and the willingness to look foolish was all it took to develop her ritual.

Tefillin on one arm and rosary around the other, she held the little figurine and the phial of holy water as she recited a Jewish prayer, an ‘Our Father’ and a ‘Hail Mary.’ She turned around three times counterclockwise and sprinkled the holy water over her head and to the four cardinal directions.

She believed in none of it, and her homespun ritual would be an affront to anyone of the faiths she was appropriating, but it did the trick. The jittery angst throbbing through her calmed and the flickering, disjointed apparitions faded, allowing her to go on working and give the job the attention it deserved. She closed her eyes for a moment to enjoy the quiet.

Feeling a little lighter in her bones, she unwrapped the tefillin and rosary and put everything back in the pouch, but the relief didn’t even last a minute. As she stepped back into the cavernous open space of the set, a dark streak smeared across her vision, an omen she’d experienced before.

Someone was about to die.

Available at select retailers

Related Books:

Book 2 in series
Book 3 in series
Book 4 in series
Companion Novella
Prequel Novella
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