I sold my first short story in 1996. It appeared in a defunct horror zine called Gaslight: Tales of the Unsane.
It introduced Tanita “Tanna” Tully, a character I subsequently wrote about for nearly ten years. She was: a) blind, but could see in the presence of fireflies, b) a parapsychologist, and c) a Wiccan high priestess known as Lady Firefly. The stories were told mostly in first person by her husband, a small-town reporter. These tales appeared sporadically through the early 2000s, mostly in PanGaia magazine. When my novels took off, Lady Firefly gave way to Eddie LaCrosse, Baron Zginski and Bronwyn Hyatt. I still occasionally get asked about her, though, by readers wondering if I’ll ever bring her back.
Wonder no more. Because Tanna Tully, Lady Firefly, is indeed back.
The first three-story chapbook, The Firefly Witch, will be available for download on Amazon beginning May 14 for only $2.99. The stories introduce Tanna Tully, her husband Ry, and their home of Weakleyville, TN, a small college town near the Kentucky border. They involve magic, romance, humor and a touch of Southern Gothic.
I had a couple of goals when I originally wrote these stories. I wanted to show that an established couple could be fun to hang out with, much like Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man (in fact, when asked to describe the stories, I often facetiously called them, The Thin Man Goes to Hell). I tried to depict actual Wiccan beliefs and practices seriously; that means it’s shown as a religion, not a hobby, and Tanna draws her strength and courage from it. And it was my first attempt to write something set in the contemporary South that I knew.
When I first tried to place them, the urban fantasy genre didn’t exist; they weren’t scary enough for the pure horror zines, and they were too scary for the pure literary journals. But much like the idea of a high fantasy detective series about a tough “sword jockey,” I knew the stories would eventually find a home. Now, thanks to technology and new ways of looking at old genres, they have.
This first collection tells how Ry and Tanna met, fell in love and got married. There are also ghosts, including what might be the first ghost in the world. Two of the stories, “The Chill in the Air Wakes the Ghosts Off the Ground” and “The Darren Stevens Club,” have been previously published; the third, “Lost and Found,” appears for the first time in this collection. Subsequent collections will include haunted roller coasters, psychopathic psychics, women who can blind you with their glow, and giant frogs.
For those who remember Ry and Tanna, I hope you’ll be tickled to see these stories available again. For those who don’t, I think you’ll enjoy them. They’re people I’d like to hang out with, if they were real. I’d love to discuss philosophy with Tanna, and join Ry for a beer at Cadillac’s.
I just don’t know if I’d want to visit a haunted house with them after dark.