Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonAuthors from the new Magic Emporium paranormal/urban fantasy series are here to talk about the 12 book, shared universe. Meghan Maslow tells us how she came up with the series idea and how 13 authors came to create their stories within the universe. Four Emporium authors, Kim Fielding, Eliot Grayson, Jacki James and Rhys Lawless, join in to talk about their books in the series and their approaches to working with the magical store. We also get the lowdown on what goes on inside the store’s breakroom!

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Show Notes

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Interview Transcript – The Magic Emporium

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Jeff: We’re gonna kick things off with Meghan Maslow. Meghan is, kind of, the mastermind behind this series. Hi, Meghan.

Meghan: Hi, thanks for having us.

Jeff: It is so good to have you here. So you are, like, the brains behind getting this off the ground tell us a little bit about first off just what the Magic Emporium is.

Meghan: Okay, so the Magic Emporium is basically a magic shop that can appear in any location, but only once. And it can appear in any world, realm, time, it doesn’t have any constraints on it, except it will only appear once and it will only appear when a character is in dire need. And what that dire need is, I’ve left up to the other authors to define. So and the idea is, is that a character or both their characters will go into the magic shop, where they will be given an item. And I think in almost every story, if not every story, the item makes the characters go, “What?” And that becomes part of the story.

Jeff: So they get something but it may not quite be what they want or think they want.

Meghan: I think that they think…some characters don’t know that they need anything. They don’t even know why it appeared to them, they don’t understand that they have a dire need at all. And so surprise, surprise, they do. Others know that they need something. But when they show up what they’re expecting…So for example, if you have a character that’s gonna fight a dragon, you go there and you see these wonderful swords, and you’re like, “Aha,” but instead, someone’s like, “Oh, well, here’s your tin can,” or, “Here’s your feather,” whereas the character’s like, “But there’s a…but what?”

So each author tended to really like that idea, I think, of not letting their characters get their feet on the ground, so to speak, they’re a little off-balance with what they end up getting. And each one gets a different kind of clerk. And if you’re in a world, like, you say it’s Baltimore, and maybe you have shifters, but you don’t have dragons, for example, well, you might end up with a dragon who’s helping you as one of the clerks or there might not be magic in your world. And suddenly, there’s an elf helping you. I try to get the authors as much freedom as possible, where they can really have fun with it.

Jeff: That sounds…I mean, as an author, putting my author hat on for a second, that does sound like a lot of really wonderful freedom to just, here’s a store, have a nice day and go make something cool from it.

Meghan: Well, the nice thing was I didn’t have to be like, we’re all gonna write a story set in 2021, D.C. and then you need to have either shifters and then you have to have this. So it’s not actually a shared world. It’s really a shared concept, right, a shared item, a shared element. And so if you wanna put it in D.C. in 2021, you can. If you want England in 1859, you can. If you wanna completely fantasy world, you can. And so it really gave the authors a lot of play.

Jeff: Where did this idea come from, from you to not just maybe write a story about this or have a series of your own, but to decide to bring in so many others at the same time?

Meghan: So it actually started, funny enough, as a short story. And at some point during all of this, I’ll give away the short story to readers who are interested in seeing where it came from. In ancient times when my kids were real tiny, ancient times, galaxy far, far away kind of thing, I used to write mystery short stories a lot. And I’m still very big in Mystery Writers of America, I still have a lot to do with them. And so there’s a particular volume that comes out every year of short stories, and they have different themes. And this year’s theme was magic and murder. And I thought, “Well, if I can’t read a short story for this, like, what am I doing? For old times sake, I’m gonna throw one in there.” And I wrote it and ended up in 12K, and it was all set in the magic shop. And it was about a murder that happened that was related to the magic shop.

And so when it turned out to be 12K, well, the maximum was 8K that it could be and I couldn’t gut 4K from it. I mean, I really couldn’t. It was a complete story. It was exactly what was needed. And I thought, “Well, all right, what am I gonna do with this now? I guess I could sell some of it.” But it wasn’t a romance, per se, it was leading up to a romance, but it wasn’t. And I thought, “Well, this could so easily be a concept to use for romance.” And then I thought, “This would be a really fun concept to invite a friend or two on.” And pretty soon I ended up with 12 different books and 14 friends on it. So it just, kind of, grew from there. I thought, well, maybe one or two or three people will say yes, but everyone kept saying, “This is great. Yes, yes, yes.” And then I’m like, “Okay, let’s go.”

Jeff: That’s awesome. And it’s a unique shared universe, I think, because you do have that element of you’re not all writing in the same place at the same time.

Meghan: Exactly.

Jeff: You have the store.

Meghan: Right, and they don’t have to then worry about all the details of, you know, what’s in Rhys’s story of this. “Oh, well, he added this here so now I can’t do this with that.” You don’t have any of that where everything has to be so consistent because Rhys’s world is totally different than mine. Eliot’s world is totally different. Jacki’s world is totally different. Kim’s world is totally different. And even if it’s set in 2020, none of them have to overlap. There doesn’t have to be all of that. So in some ways, it was great because it made it so much easier that we weren’t tripping over ourselves and saying, “Okay, now we have to all read Kim’s story this week so that we know exactly what she’s put in. And then we’ll add on from there we go to Rhys’s story.” We didn’t have to do that. And that was a real gift. I think.

Jeff: In terms of the story itself, are there parameters about the store? I mean, you mentioned different clerks. But does the store look the same? Like, or is that up in the air too?

Meghan: Yeah, no, great question. The outside is. Now, in some stories, it ends up where, for example, you go to a strip mall, you know what the stores are, and suddenly, right between where there should not be a store, there’s the store. It can be…in one, it’s on the side of a fairy mound. On another, they have…I mean, and the door can look different, double doors, single door, glowing door, it doesn’t really matter. But once you go into the store, only the front room looks the same in all the stories.

And so we listed what those were, and so people could use it. And they all have to do a couple of things. But they all got to pick their clerks. And they all can go and, from there, scatter into a different part of the Magic Emporium, and they can invent their rooms from there, they didn’t have to then follow along in a particular way. And so it gave them a lot of leeway. And it could be a serious interaction with somebody who’s your clerk, it can be a funny interaction. All of that is up to the author.

Jeff: That’s amazing. Let’s bring in some more people to talk about this and expand to everybody. So welcoming Rhys, Jacki, Eliot, and Kim, now. Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I wanna come to each of you and have you introduce yourselves for anyone in our audience who is not familiar with you. And Rhys, we’ll start with you.

Rhys: Hi, everyone. I’m Rhys Everly-Lawless. And I write paranormal and urban fantasy, LGBTQ urban fantasy under Rhys Lawless and this is the capacity I’m into as today.

Jeff: Jacki, we’ll come over to you.

Jacki: Hi, I’m Jacki James. I write a little bit of everything. I write a little of everything, a mix of contemporary, paranormal, but all of it is…so far I’ve only written gay romance. I haven’t ventured into any other areas of LGBT but that doesn’t mean that’s not coming next, so.

Jeff: Excellent. And Eliot.

Eliot: Hi. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me. I’m Eliot Grayson. And I also write a bunch of different genres of MM romance, historical, paranormal, contemporary, basically whatever I’m not on deadline for at that moment is what I make the most progress on. So you can find me in any genre that I’m not supposed to be finishing that week.

Jeff: And Kim?

Kim: I’m Kim Fielding. I’m here in California. I write primarily gay romance, although occasionally I wander off into horror or fantasy. And I’ve written pretty much all of the genres.

Jeff: Excellent. And again, thank you all for being here. I wanna dive in first and talk about each of your books. And then we’ll talk a little bit more about the series. Jacki, with “Knight and Day,” you, kind of, led the charge on these books coming out. Tell us about your book.

Jacki: Well, let me see, mine starts off in the very beginning with the Emporium showing up. And I have just this really sweet bookstore owner who has always wanted adventure. But then when it came time to actually choose, he always, kind of, chose the safer way. And he goes into this magic shop and he gets something that makes zero sense to him. First of all, he knows the shop shouldn’t be there because it’s in his town and he knows his town. And it makes no sense for the store to even be there. Then he goes inside and the store makes no sense. And then what they give him makes no sense. And so bless his heart, he’s just a little bit confused. And he’s not happy with what he gets because it looks to him like maybe some kind of carved chicken foot thing. He doesn’t really know what it is.

That idea came…I have a local shop here in town that I absolutely adore. I don’t really know what to call it. It’s not really a crystal shop. It’s not really a magic shop. Shawna would tell you it’s just her shop and it’s what she wants it to be. So that’s pretty much what it is. And I went inside and she had a carved dragon head out of something that’s actually called dragon stone. And I would show you, I don’t know if you can see on this camera, but this is the actual stone and if you see from the top it kind of looks like a chicken foot.

Jeff: It kind of does, yeah.

Jacki: It does. And so I saw that and I actually was looking down on it and I thought, “Oh my gosh, did somebody carve a chicken foot out of stone?” But if you look at the side, it’s a dragon’s head. And so that’s actually what he got is he got this carved dragon’s head that he thought was a chicken foot. And so he kept trying to throw it away. And then…because he didn’t want it, but it kept coming back, it wouldn’t stay gone. So then a guy from another realm shows up and come to find out, he needs that dragon’s head to complete his dagger, which is what I have here. My husband’s a knife maker. So when he found out I had a dagger in my story, he had to make me a dagger. So that was really cool.

Jeff: That’s amazing.

Jacki: So he’s a really good knife maker, but he made the dagger for me. And in the story, that’s the dragon head that my guy got, which is the Day…the character whose last name is…no, is Knight combines with the dagger, and that makes the dagger something special. And so then they get stuck in our realm and have to find their way back to his realm so they can save the king and save his realm. And it’s just mostly about my poor guardian from this other realm being stuck in the human realm and just being amazed by things like televisions and cell phones and all of our awesome stuff that we take for granted. And he’s just, like, thinking everything is really magical, right? Because things…It doesn’t make sense to him how you can talk to people from far away. It’s pretty cool, so.

Jeff: Eliot, you’ve got the next story coming up. Tell us about “Brought to Light.”

Eliot: Well, the title comes from the item that my hitman character ends up with when he visits Martin’s Magic Emporium, and he gets a really cheap, crummy, plastic flashlight, which I got a little bit into that joke. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, it’s not very tasteful. But, sort of, a joke about the difference between a cheerleader with an uzi and the serial killer with a pencil and how afraid you are of one versus the other. So he’s basically the serial killer with a pencil. He can cause mayhem with anything, including a plastic flashlight, as we see. But he’s a very human ex-army badass, and his latest target is this pretty young man with no history.

And it turns out Lyndon, the other character, is not from our world. So it’s actually a little bit the opposite of Jackie’s where instead of a fish out of water coming into our realm, we’ve got a fish out of water going into a magical realm with this really practical, really just…yeah, he solves everything quickly and possibly permanently. And then he goes to this place where nobody can lie. And there’s talking crows. And there’s magic things and blowing things and flashlights that work without batteries. And he just, kind of, was like, “Well, just tell me what to shoot, guys. Like, I’m out until there’s something to shoot.” But so they go on a bit of a quest. It’s a fantasy, and you’ll have to read it to find out how that works out and how the flashlight ends up saving the day. But it does, of course, because it comes from Martin’s, so.

Jeff: It’s good to have a magic flashlight.

Eliot: Yeah, well, this one’s deadlier than most. Yeah, yeah, because this is an Eliot Grayson book, it’s got a little gore, it’s got a graphic violence because that’s just how I roll, makes me happy.

Meghan: And let me just say I was so pleased when Jacki and Eliot signed up next to each other because Jacki is known for her sweet and Eliot is not. So I like the pairing for book one and book two because they are so different. And yet they had the opposite one going into one realm one going into other, and so it worked out great.

Eliot: I’m excited to read Jackie’s. I bought it and downloaded it today but I’m here with you guys instead of reading. So tonight once I get in bed, Jacki and I are gonna have a date.

Jeff: So we know what you’ll be doing when we’re done here.

Eliot: Exactly. Well, feed the kids, feed the kids, and then collapse, and then read. Yeah, for sure.

Jeff: Now, Kim, you’ve got “The Muffin Man.”

Kim: Yeah, that title feels mild. You know, you hear the song and you see this even track, of course, but I also have guys in different realms. I started off with fairy tales. And I was thinking about Sleeping Beauty all the people who tried to rescue her and failed. One of my guys, Morli, is a prince who would really much rather be baking and his family doesn’t particularly appreciate him so they sent him off for glory to try and rescue the princess and it does not work out well, and he ends up dead in the first chapter. But it’s a really light and funny book. So he ends up dead in the first chapter in that Bramble and thinking about the story was the part and it’s hard to write about it when you’re in the middle of it and it’s so emotionally fraught.

But I was thinking about just some of the, sort of, ordinary ways people deal. So I have a character who moved to Modesto, California, which those of you who are not familiar with, it’s probably, like, the least exotic place on the planet. He’s stuck in Modesto, doesn’t know anybody, he’s working from home, and he decides to try a little magic and try and brighten up his life. He’s also been baking as many of us have as a pandemic hobby. He’s been baking, he made some sourdough zucchini muffins. And by the way, there’s recipes at the back of the story. He dabbles in a little bit of magic, ends up at the magic store in a strip mall, which is not what you would expect to find around here. And his item he ends up with is some raven feathers. And those raven feathers end up bringing the guys together, and they actually end up spending time in both worlds. So instead of having one guy a fish out of water in one world, I’ve got them both fish out of water in a world. So I, sort of, covered both.

Meghan: As you would expect from a Kim Fielding book.

Jeff: And I’m not really surprised by the recipes either, to be honest.

Kim: I couldn’t resist. I mean, it’s called “The Muffin Man.” And how can I not have muffin recipes in there? So I’ve got muffin recipes…I mainly chose family recipes because I think those are really fun. So I have my mother’s onion rolls and a friend’s Detroit pizza. So I think that’s fun.

Jeff: And then, Meghan, we come to you next, February 18th is “Must Love Demons.”

Meghan: Yes. And so mine comes from the original short story where in the short story my main character, Nico, is an incubus. For those who don’t know what an incubus is, it’s basically a lust demon. But the thing is for poor Nico is that he would much rather have happily ever afters than one night stands. And his magic is really messed up for an incubus. He makes people fall in love, which considering that most incubi really…they work for sex clubs and they get all the testosterone and estrogen and the pheromones going and all of this. Nico isn’t good for business.

This poor guy, like, he’s 7 feet tall and he wants to be a cherub because they go around and they bring love to people. And he ends up apprentice to them, and he has to wear a toga. And he looks ridiculous because, again, 7 feet tall. And he’s just not quite cherub material, which they let him know a lot and he accidentally ends up…they have some new cherub technology and he ends up getting himself lassoed by the lariat of love to a very grumpy warden who is, sort of, the this world’s equivalent of an FBI agent who’s on the trail of a killer. And the cherubs are obsessed with this particular warden, every day they go and they shoot him full of arrows, and it never works. And it just bugs them and so they’re always…he’s come in to complain and all this and they end up accidentally chaining themselves together. And they can’t seem to break the spell.

And so then that puts Nico then in danger as they go through this whole mystery together and trying to find this killer. And it was such a fun story to write. I always say that I do mischief, magic, and murder. So I have to have a little bit of comedy. I have to have a dead body in there somewhere. And I certainly need the magic. And so these two are…I guess you could say in a sense they start off as, you know, enemies to lovers, but it’s really a forced proximity novel because they physically can’t separate from each other.

Jeff: You, kind of, had me sold with the idea of an incubus, you know, interning to become a cherub.

Meghan: Yeah, right? Yeah. And the cherubs are not near as nice as you would think they are, so.

Jeff: I imagine that they could get kind of frustrated with her job sometimes. So I’m not really surprised by that either.

Meghan: Yeah. Yeah. They sure can.

Jeff: And then, Rhys, your book comes out a little bit later in the group. On March 4th, you’ve got “Elven Duty.”

Rhys: Yes, so my story has changed so many times. It all started, I did this online…not online. I did this picture that says pick your name, pick the initial of your first name, your birth date, your month. And it gave me these three keywords, if you will, like, tropes, and I was looking for something to do with them. At some point I messaged Meghan and was like, “What would you think about a dystopian retro world?” And then I changed my mind again. So I ended up with a Romeo and Juliet, kind of, retake, I guess, with monsters and elves and a family feud that’s as old as time itself. And it just grew from there.

It’s basically in a world where monsters are real. There are these two families that hate each other by nature, but they have to work together to defeat them. And one of my characters doesn’t know anything about this world but when his grandmother who looks like an older sister, maybe a mother, turns up and tells him she’s, in fact, his grandmother and drags him into this world of magic, of monsters, and of unexpected love.

Jeff: Nice.

Meghan: And there’s some nice surprises in there too. A couple of really great twists, I’m just gonna say.

Jeff: I’m intrigued by how you started it with the wheel, the pick this, pick that, pick that as a way to begin.

Rhys: It was…so I picked the thing. I tried to find it when I started working on the book because I wanted to get the graphic out there to people. It gave me enemies with benefits, monster, romance, and duty before love. And it just grew from there. I took loads of notes, I did a little bit of freewriting to see what else I can fit in the world. Because if you read my Rhys Lawless books, you will realize they’re kitchen sink fantasies, because there’s literally everything and the kitchen sink in it. And I proudly own that. I do love my heavy plots and subplots, and all the threads underneath everything. So yeah.

Jeff: Fantastic. Now, Meghan, we’ve only got five authors here today. Who are the other seven who have books coming out just so that everybody who’s listening can know the other books that are yet to come?

Meghan: So we’re really lucky in that we have Sam Burns and W. M. Fawkes are working together. This is the sweetest book they have ever written. I told them they should call it “Pour Some Sugar on Me” about a dragon who owns a bakery. It’s very, very sweet. And then fifth is Rowan McAllister. This is her very first indie publication. So I’m very excited about that. I’ve been dragging her saying, “Let’s try it, come on.” And hers is great. Hers has a unicorn and a dark witch. And I should say that the unicorn, his job is he makes moonshine. So he’s not quite what maybe you’re thinking of with a unicorn. But at the same time, she drew really heavily from a lot of the mythos around unicorns. And it’s snappy dialogue. It’s really fantastic. She’s number five.

Then it’s, let’s see, myself, then it’s Rhys, then it’s a brand new talent. She’s not new to writing, but she’s new to writing MM romance. And her name is Clara Merrick. And Clara is a fabulous writer. And she has written a piece that is, sort of, an alternate reality for England. And it’s assuming that what would have happened if the Tudors had stayed in power and only had women for their heirs? It’s very, kind of, Jordan Hawk-ish or K. J. Charles-ish. She sucked me in and it’s…I mean, I was just there. Hers is the most, in some ways, different from the rest of the group, but it’s really fabulous. I’m hoping that she receives a lot of readers from it because she really deserves it. So we’ll see. I think it is really neat.

After Clara, we have E.J. Russell, a queen of paranormal rom-com, and she doesn’t disappoint. Hers is called “Purgatory Playhouse,” about a guy who…very grisly, he works on sets and he ends up working on a set for the gods. He doesn’t realize that this is the set for the gods, he thinks they’re all just dressed up in costumes. And the idea is that they every year put out a play and the people who are in purgatory put on the play, and if they do a good job, one of them gets to move on, or maybe even two I’m not quite sure yet what she’s got in mind. But if they do a bad job, uh-oh. So the set gets destroyed. A couple of the gods get drunk and they start fighting and they destroy the set. So he ends up getting called in and has no clue what he’s walking into. So that’s E.J.’s.

And then after E.J.’s, we go to Angel Martinez, and Angel’s…I think she might actually have my very favorite title in the whole thing. It’s “Joffrey the Very Strange,” and it’s about a necromancer and a half demon. And all I can say is from seeing what she’s doing with it is it just looks hysterical. You have a half demon who is…people are very biased against demons and so he’s always trying to prove that he’s a good guy. And so he works in an herb shop, because what could go wrong working in an herb shop? And a necromancer comes in and things, of course, go terribly, terribly wrong. And so that’s Angel’s.

And then we have Ari McKay. Ari McKay is two people, but they’ve also picked up another pen name, which is Rachel Langella and that’s how they’re going to…it’s under the Rachel Langella name. That is now going to be their paranormal fantasy pen name. And all of their contemporary will go to Ari McKay. So it’s actually Rachel and they are going to set a story in their Asheville Arcana world. So it’d be in Asheville, North Carolina and there’s is about a bartender, and I don’t wanna give too much away about it because it’s kind of a twist with who even the characters are. But they’re pretty excited. They started writing, it’s underway.

And the very last one is the lovely Gail Martin, or Morgan Brice as she writes under, and she’s setting hers in Fox Hollow. It’s gonna be a Fox Hollow World Series. And so hers is gonna have a lot of mystery to it, there’s a mystery that needs to be solved along with the romance. So I don’t wanna, again, say too much about it because she hasn’t said much about it yet to her readers.

Jeff: I love that you’ve got a couple books there where they’re not only part of Magic Emporium, but part of other series at the same time for a couple of those authors.

Meghan: Yeah, it was really not a problem, again, because having it that open, it made it so they could put it anywhere and then drop it into one of their series and it’s fine. So that gives authors some ideas because they still wanted to work with these particular other series. And this gives them another way to do that.

Jeff: My next question, kind of open to everyone, is what brought you to this project? What about the Magic Emporium was like, “Yes, I want to write something in that world with that store?”

Eliot: I was really excited when Meghan asked me to do it because I’m always looking for those books of writing prompts that you get in creative writing classes in college or whatever, those are actually pretty great. And it’s so much fun to have someone else do some of the heavy lifting for you on coming up with a concept to start a new book. And then you get to just run with it and play and see what happens. So that’s what was really exciting for me was Meghan did some of the work. I love Meghan for that. And for many other reasons, too. But you know, and it’s great. It’s such a great spirit of creativity to have something already set that you have to work around.

Kim: For me, I love having a good prompt too, it’s just, kind of, turns on the creativity faucet. And I have to say, I never had so much fun writing a story. And I’m a pantser, so I was entertaining myself as I was writing this thing. I hope it entertains anybody else as much as it did me. But it was just so much fun to take this idea and just play with it. That was really fantastic.

Jeff: Jacki, what brought you to this Magic Emporium project?

Jacki: I mean, I said I wasn’t gonna do any more multi-author projects. But then Meghan asked me, I mean, what are you going to say, right? I mean, come on. It was Meghan. So, of course, I said yes. Which, I mean, I love doing them. This is, like, my fourth multi-author project and they’re actually a lot of fun. But I just had such a full schedule already that I said no more of that because it keeps interrupting my schedule. But you know, I let Meghan interrupt it. So what else can I say?

Rhys: I, like Eliot and Kim, I love a good prompt. And I’m always looking for exciting projects because my brain just wants that brainstorming. And obviously, I need more ideas. So when Meghan approached me and I thought it was an exciting thing to do, and it would be an opportunity to do something different and come up with a different world. And at the time that she approached me, I was thinking of doing a bit of a spinoff from my first urban fantasy series. But then I actually changed my mind. And I wanted to try something completely different, something completely new, kind of, like, start fresh, if you may. So yeah, and also I love the freedom, the creative freedom that she gave us to do basically whatever the hell we wanted, as long as we put the Magic Emporium in when the characters needed it. And I really liked that. Yeah.

Jeff: How did you go about the process of deciding what the thing was that was gonna be given at the Emporium? That’s such a central thing, right, of figuring out what the character is gonna get and do they know what to do with it, did they not know what to do with it, etc.? What were some of your thought processes around that? And Rhys, you just finished, I’ll just come right back to you to start that off.

Rhys: I tried to ignore it because…or actually, while I was plotting, I kept, kind of, forgetting about it. And then I ended up with a point in my book where I needed a solution to something. And I thought, you know what, that’s perfect point for the Magic Emporium to appear. And I just let that inform the story and how it goes on after. So I was a bit concerned that I was gonna forget about it and then I would have to slot it in. But it was actually quite a good thing that I did that because then when they end up in trouble, then I get that, kind of, deus ex machina that comes up comes in and, kind of, saves the day, only for a little bit, for a little while.

Jeff: I like it’s only for a little while that they save the day before something goes wrong.

Jacki: I don’t even know for sure. Like, I saw the thing in the shop. I’d been trying to figure out what he could get that he wouldn’t wanna keep. I knew I wanted him to keep throwing it away and it’d keep coming back. But I couldn’t figure out what I would want that to be. And then I saw it in the shop that day. And I thought, well, if somebody just gave me that, and all I saw was the top, I might throw that away. And then I still didn’t know really what I was gonna do. But you have to understand, like, so he made this dagger for me, but he makes a lot of knives. This is like…I spend most of my time in front of the computer in my writing cave and he spends his time out in his forge, like, it’s a lot of time. And he was doing something else with some knife and he was talking about what he could put on the end as a pommel. What could he do back there? And then it just clicked for me. That’s what that could be. That could be a pommel for a knife. And then it just, kind of, went from there. But and then, like I said, once he found out I was doing that he made me want one. So that was pretty cool.

Jeff: And Eliot, I’ll come to you next.

Eliot: Well, mine is actually due to a prophecy. But since that’s, kind of, part of the plot twist, I’m not gonna say too much about that. But really, the inspiration for me came from…I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “Grosse Pointe Blank.” But there’s this moment that just inspires me in a way I can’t even describe where he’s, like, having a total hysterical breakdown. And he goes, “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork.” And that, kind of, just, honestly, is the inspiration for this character, all the way through. And, sort of, the most unlikely thing you could give this man who’s trained with weaponry, and very on the ball, and he always knows where his gun is, and what’s the most useless thing you could give this guy? So that’s where it came from. And it’s a prophecy thing, which again, I won’t get into, but there’s an evil sorcerer who thinks he knows what’s going on and he turns out to be wrong. And so I had a great time writing this book, it was a blast from beginning to end

Kim: My object is feathers, raven feathers. And I was also thinking about what is something that if somebody gave it to you you’d go, “What on earth am I supposed to do with this?” What possible use could you have for that? So especially because at that point, the character’s being very skeptical about this magic shop, he thinks it’s a bunch of people maybe cosplaying or something like that and he’s being ripped off. So part of it was that but also, I personally have a…I like feathers because of their association with quill pens, I have one tattooed on me actually. And so in a way, a feather, although it doesn’t seem to do much good, can have a lot of power in it if it’s used the right way. So I think that’s what I was thinking.

Jeff: And Meghan, back to you who’s the source of the whole Magic Emporium concept. Where did your item come from?

Meghan: Well, what’s so funny, mine, in some ways, is the most boring because it’s a key. And I said, “Really? It’s a key?” I’m a pantser, so I started writing having no idea what it was actually going to be. I just said, “I’m gonna let the chips fall and see what happens.” And when I finally realized, oh, it has to be a key, I said, “Well, I don’t like to write something that seems like that’s what…” Key just seems like, oh, that would be super useful. So I have made this key the most worthless key. They have used it for some funny things. Every time they get in trouble, they’re like, “The key.” And it never works. So I thought, “Okay, that I can work with.” But yeah, so it’s just a little key and it ends up becoming very pivotal.

Jeff: I love all these origin stories. They’re so cool. The way things come together. Now, Thea has asked an amazing question. Meghan, I’m gonna start posing it with you, but I’m gonna want everybody’s opinion on it and, kind of, how your particular character would play into this. Thea asks is there an employee breakroom at the back of the Emporium where all the clerks get together for tea once a month?

Meghan: Funny you say that. So in the original short story that I wrote, there is actually a breakroom. Yes. And it has maps of all these different realms in it and you can go there for snacks. And unfortunately, because of Nico’s magic, there are two of the clerks…In fact, one person actually decided to use my set of clerks that are two dwarves that ended up together and they’re constantly making out in the shelves, like, the shelving units and stuff, you keep finding them making out everywhere. And they do really, really, really, terrible dwarf poetry, which is usually about beards, and toes, and weaponry. And so they would stumble into the breakroom. So yes, there actually is a breakroom and nobody in the series that I can think of used the breakroom because they were never in the perspective from the clerkd. It was always your main characters. So I don’t know that anyone saw a breakroom. But yes, there actually is indeed a breakroom.

Jeff: That is amazing. So now I’m gonna have to ask each of you what your clerks think of the breakroom and what some of the chatter is. So all of you who are pantsers are gonna be able to dive right into this idea, kind of making this up on the fly. So Jacki, I’m gonna start with you, what’s going on in your breakroom, really quickly?

Jacki: I would say in my breakroom, they are just talking about how ridiculous it is that every time a person from this realm comes into the Emporium for any reason, they’re just absolutely nerds and they make the most stupid cosplay, “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter” jokes, and they’re, kind of, a little bit tired of it. That’s what I think they’re talking about in the breakroom.

Jeff: I love that because probably everybody’s thinking Dog Gone Alley and stuff like that. Rhys, what about you, what’s happening in your breakroom?

Rhys: So my clerk, I used the character from an upcoming story, and she probably plays a lot of poker because they banned spin the bottle because she keeps stealing everyone’s kisses. So I think, yeah, there’s a lot of poker happening when it’s empty and quiet, and there’s a lot of gambling.

Jeff: So far, nobody’s having tea like Thea mentioned. Eliot, how about your breakroom?

Eliot: I think actually to go back to what Jacki said, they have a chalkboard on the wall with running tally for how many times Martin, the proprietor, gets called Dumbledore. That’s actually what my character calls him. And I think also they would be having tea and my clerk, I gave her a very well-endowed bustline, and she probably goes and complains a lot about all the guys who can’t keep their eyes on the merchandise.

Jeff: That’s awesome. And Kim?

Kim: My clerk is a vampire and she finds our world…she’s kind of patronizing. She’s kind of like this jaded tourist who finds the locals, kind of, quaint and adorable. I think in the breakroom that’s what she’s talking about.

Jeff: Oh, such active breakrooms. And Thea was okay with it, snacks, maps, bad poetry, it’s a happening place back there.

Meghan: It is a happening place.

Jeff: So as we get towards the end of our time together, I wanna make sure that everybody has a chance to tell what’s coming up next for them that people can look forward to after the Magic Emporium books. So Kim, we’ll come back and start with you for that one.

Kim: In March, I’ll have a short story. It’s called “The Grave Mound,” or no, just “Grave Mound,” I just settled on a title. And it’s a retelling of an Old Grimm fairy tale but in outer space.

Meghan: Yay.

Jeff: Eliot?

Eliot: Well, I actually have a book that just came out yesterday, or maybe Amazon put it live the day before, although they were being so laggy. But that’s “First Blood.” It’s a standalone novella and my “Mismatched Mates” series, which is, sort of, paranormal, urban fantasy, basically just my id coming out to play, lots of horrible violence, lots of snarky banter, some magical socks. “First Blood” has a really grouchy vampire enforcer and the young prostitute he wants to get blood from, and then, kind of, spirals from there. But that’s out now. And then I’ve got a contemporary coming out sometime in March. I can’t really talk too much about that since it’s a shared world project and it’s under a contract, so I need to turn in my manuscript before I can give too many details. But it’s very exciting. And then I’ll have more “Mismatched Mates” books coming, hopefully, finish out the series with three more books this year. So that’s my plan.

Jeff: Excellent. Rhys, how about you?

Rhys: Funny enough, the first half of the year is made up entirely of shared projects. Obviously, my next book coming out is “Elven Duty,” part of this series. Then in April, I’ve organized an urban fantasy anthology with…Meghan is included and there are some other amazing authors. But we haven’t made the announcement official yet. Then in May, my book for “The World of TrueNorth,” is coming out and Eliot is part of that. No. Yes.

Eliot: Yeah, that’s my project I can’t talk too much about because I don’t have a manuscript.

Rhys: Yeah, I’m writing it right now. And then for the rest of the year, I’m trying to finish two of my contemporary series and then move on to some Rhys Lawless projects. It’s a bit of a gamble for the rest of the year. But that’s…yeah.

Jeff: I love how you’ve gone from working in shared projects to starting your own.

Rhys: Yeah, that actually started last year during the first lockdown in the U.K. when I was pretty bored, but I was working quite a bit. And yeah, it just went on from there.

Jeff: Yeah, quite a bit, I think, of shared universes were born during the pandemic as people got to sit around and think a little bit. Jacki, what’s next for you?

Jacki: Next for me, after this comes out in March, I believe, fingers crossed I get it done in time, I’m going back into my “Bodyguard” series. I released the first one in that last year, and then went back into another of my contemporary series for a little while and now I’m back on my “Bodyguards.” So I have four of those that should be coming out. And then I don’t know what is after that. I’m trying…this will sound opposite of what people always say, but I’m trying to plan less. I’m, kind of, an over-planner and an over-scheduler. And so I’m trying to, kind of, be a little more let me get this series finished, and then we’ll just see what happens. I don’t know.

Jeff: Fantastic. And Meghan, we started with you, and we’ll wrap up with you. What else is on your calendar that you could tell us about?

Meghan: So I’m next up with Rhys and hopefully, it gets released in April, and I won’t say too much about it. I will say it is an urban fantasy fairy tale. And because I like to be contrary, I decided to pick Rumpelstiltskin and it’s been a little bit of a wild ride. But it’s been a fun story to write. And after that, the next one up will definitely be another Twig and Quinn book, it’s mostly finished. And that one, it’s like putting on a pair of your favorite socks. So I’m happy to be going back there for a bit. And then I have a “Frenemies to Lovers,” coming up. I’ll probably push it back to the fall, realistically. And I’ll have a bunch of audio books coming out as well. So it’ll be a fairly good year, I think.

Jeff: Fantastic. Well, Meghan, Rhys, Jacki, Eliot, and Kim, thank you so much for spending part of Magic Emporium launch day with us. It has been so wonderful to have you here and learn more about this fantastic-sounding series.

Meghan: Thank you.

Rhys: Thank you.

Eliot: Thank you for having us.

Jacki: Thank you. Thanks for having us here.