Witchy Week: Najah Lightfoot

Welcome to Witchy Week!

The Spooky Season is filled with images of gnarled old witches with big hats and even bigger noses. They’re plastered across bags of Halloween candy. The stores are filled with sparkly witch costumes and green face makeup. I shake my head as I pass by the aisle. How did we come to caricature an entire group? I blame Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

We have witches among us today. The ones I’ve met look nothing like the cartoon candy bag characters. They are ordinary people walking a different path. So what is it like to be a real life witch? I’ll let the experts tell you in their own words. My first guest is Najah Lightfoot.


Hail and Welcome DTJ readers!

I’m excited to share my thoughts during DTJ’s Witchy Week. I’d like to thank C.R. Richards for this wonderful opportunity.

A bit about me: I am Contributing Author for Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing. I write for the Spell-A-Day, Witches’ Companion, Magical Almanac and Witches’ Datebook series. In short I am a practicing Witch, living my Craft one day at time, as the Wheel turns.

As with all lovers of this Season, I enjoy the cooler temperatures, falling leaves, the gorgeous Harvest full moon, and the chance to wear my Witchy clothes. I enjoy decorating my home in the spirit and fun of Halloween. I look forward to attending Witches’ Balls and Day of the Dead celebrations.  And with reverence I await the night of October 31st, to honor my ancestors and loved ones, who have gone before me, in the tradition of what we call Samhain, which is pronounced Sow (like “cow”) -in.


As I write this post, I’m sipping coffee from my pentagram mug. The window is open and cool breezes are flowing across me.  I’ve just come in from my back yard, where I’ve honored the four directions, including Mother Earth and the Divine Spirit within. For me, this is how I practice being a true Witch. Being true is a practice of honoring Nature, ourselves as magickal people, and our ability to manifest change and good intentions.

A lot of people during this time of year like to dress up as Witches. For some it’s a sneaky way to embrace the calling of “Witch” they’ve felt for a long time. For others it’s an opportunity to come “out of the broom closet.”

It can be a long and difficult journey to announce your Witchyness to the World. I was recently reminded of the real fear people have about Witches, through an old black and white movie, called “Horror Hotel.” In the film local townspeople who are labeled “Witches,” wear black cloaks, kidnap and murder innocent people in the name of their religion. Oh my heart! Nothing could be farther from the truth in my experiences and in the Circle of my friends. These types of movies give practicing Witches a “bad rap.”

For many Pagans and Witches, this is a sacred time. During this time of Samhain, we honor our loved ones who have gone before us. As the veil thins, we create ancestor altars and perform divination for ourselves.

During this season, lots of seekers ask, “how do I become a Witch?”

From my experience, being a Witch is a calling that arises from deep within you. If you’ve asked that question, you already know you’re leaning in that direction. Many people choose to self-dedicate themselves after long periods of seeking. Some connect with teachers, while others may join covens. A high percentage of people simply practice being solitary Witches – where they can practice as they see fit, while joining in with group activities from time to time.

What you’ll find is that Witches are as unique and different as Moonrise and Sunset. None of us do it exactly the same way. There is no right way or wrong way to practice. One goes by heart, feel and intuition. The Craft is a mystery. It seeks to wander and explore.  It’s always best to trust your inner guides, listen to your Higher Power, and practice discernment. If you decide to choose this path, relax and enjoy the ride.

If you’re seeking resources, here are few places to get started:

Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing


The Witches Voice


Dragonfest 2016

Feel free to look me up or follow me:




May you have a blessed and happy Halloween/Samhain season


Guest Post: Author Liv Hadden

I’m a really happy person, which doesn’t mean much unless you’ve read my novel, In the Mind of Revenge. You can tell from the title it’s not a tale of unicorns, rainbows, and happy-endings. It is dark, twisted, sad, murderous, and most certainly violent. So, I often get asked where I got the idea for this book, especially since it seems so opposite of me and my life experience.

Well, besides my love of all things Halloween (Creepy? Scary? Paranormal? Yes, please!), the inspiration for this particular story started as all my ideas do—with an unexpected visit from the main character. Shame came to me in a dream during a time of depression, which I am sure is why I latched on. In honor of Halloween and the release of the audiobook version of In the Mind of Revenge on October 31, I thought I would share the haunting that started it all—my eerie dream of shame.


The silence is heavy and jarring in a way no amount of noise could ever be. It commands stillness, taunting me to dare cross it. My lungs burn as they expand as far as they possibly can. I do not exhale despite my chest’s urging. Every inch of me is working hard to suppress the panic bubbling in my gut. The vast emptiness around me does nothing to aid my cause. Hot breath sends an icy chill across my neck and shoulders. I stiffen, hoping it is possible to be more still, more silent than I already am. I am becoming part of the emptiness, releasing into it everything I am made of. I know I will die in this place, slowly consumed by the darkness of silence.

It is then a whisper tickles my neck, curling its way around, tightening its grip. It crushes my throat, denying me any option for one last breath. I do my best not to look, not to hear. Just let me go, I shout inside the prison of my mind. But, it is stronger than me and its message rings through the air, cutting through the stark silence.

“I see you.”

Everything in me wants to recoil, but it won’t let me. The pressure in my chest and stomach are unbearable. I open my mouth, relenting to the burning in my lungs, but no air enters them. It’s strangling me, this invisible demon. I can feel it bucking and bursting in its relentless pursuit to break free of my body. Despite the blackness of my surroundings, I can see the demon oozing from my abdomen, one tendril at a time. It is blacker than the darkest night, more sinister than its most evil villain.

The contents of my bowels spill onto the ground with the amorphous form of the demon that was once living inside me. The smell is wretched, like nothing my senses have ever encountered before. I can see the stink of rot floating around the demon as it begins to grow larger. Fear grips me, urging me to run, but I cannot move my feet. I must watch in horror as the monster that has been suffocating me for years begins to take form. Black demonic fingers extend and retract from arms that are defining themselves quicker than I’d like.

I am scared to look, to face my demon. I close my eyes as hard as I can, my attention immediately drawn to my exposed insides. The hole my monster crawled from is still there, a wound I know will never heal. Blood is steadily dripping from the tear, which I now fear is feeding the demon. Suddenly, it is near me, its lips grazing my ear lobe. We are both still, waiting for the other to make a move. I wonder if it knows I am paralyzed. Is this part of its game? I can think of nothing crueler than continuing to plague me with the ultimate villain in dark silence like this—time.

Hands shoot up to my face. Fingers pry open my eyes, forcing me to see what I have been dreading. “I see you,” it hisses, licking my left cheek as if taste testing its last meal. My eyes lock with its, stopping my heart with the realization of its true nature. Staring back into my eyes is me—a shadow Peter Pan would surely be glad to lose. Though, I know it is more than just a shadow. It is the embodiment of everything I have ever hated about myself. Every piece of me I have ever abhorred, detested, looked down upon. I am right—my demon is drinking of my blood…of my shame.

My shame begins to laugh hysterically, its low booming voice somehow sounding of many. It wields its right hand to deliver my final death blow, plunging its fist into my chest. I can feel razor sharp claws penetrating my heart, slowly sealing my fate. It whispers in my ear again, one more time before it releases me into the nothingness for good.

“You fool.”

I begin to fall. The descent lasts so long I am certain there is no end. To my surprise, my shame is falling with me, now fused to my heart. It is a part of me now in a way I cannot escape. I knew I would die in this this place.

In the space where acceptance meets desperation, I feel a tugging that wrenches my head backward, threatening to remove it from my neck. My shame cries out in agony, and I realize the tugging is not hurting me. In fact, it is refreshing, like melting ice against too hot skin. No, the tugging is not breaking me—it is interrupting the black shadow’s snack of my feeble heart and soured soul. My demon’s ghoulish screams are music to my ears. I wonder what has come to fight it and hope it will win. The heat of it I now recognize as an old friend I was certain had abandoned me long ago. Love bends around me, cradling me in its arms, its whispers sweet and tender.

“I see you.”

I am at a crossroads called choice, and I must make a decision. It seems simple to my heart, who is suffocating under the weight of shame. Yet, my mind is ill-content to let it rest as such—these things are not so clear. This demon is mine—this demon I have earned. It came from me. It is of me. I must carry its weight. My shame knows I do not deserve love. The warmth rescinds as quickly as it came, leaving one last message before it departs.

“You fool.”

The blackness consumes me, and I disappear into my demon’s rotten form. We are one now, indistinguishable from one another. Where I start, my demon begins. I am my shame. My shame is me. We are the Shamed.


Check out the trailer! Intense!

Grab Your Copy on Amazon

About The Author


Debut novelist Liv Hadden has been writing ever since she was a little girl. But, it wasn’t until 5th grade when her teacher said she’d one day write a book that she started taking it seriously.

Her Shamed series began in college, when Hadden employed her writing as an outlet for her feelings during a serious bout of depression. After a brief, yet impactful first night of writing, she dreamt of a shadowy figure, tormented and demonized by their own mind and realized this was the shadow of pain that hurting people everywhere felt.

She woke from her dream feeling more energized that she had in months, picked up her computer and began to write. “I felt if ever there was a story inside me and a character worth taking the leap, it was Shame and this story,” says Hadden. “This one in particular is personal in nature, and perhaps the very reason it’s so close to my heart.”

Hadden has her roots in Burlington, Vermont  and has lived in upstate New York and Oklahoma, where she went to college at the University of Oklahoma,, and earned her degree in Environmental Sustainability Planning & Management.  She now resides in Austin, TX with her husband and two dogs, Madison and Samuel and is an active member of the Writer’s League of Texas.

Incredibly inspired by artistic expression, Hadden immerses herself in creative endeavors on a daily basis. She finds great joy in getting lost in writing and seeing others fully express themselves through their greatest artistic passions, like music, body art, dance and photography. “I get chills when I have the great privilege of seeing someone express their authentic selves,” says Hadden. “I believe it gives us a true glimpse into the souls of others.

Author Website: LivHadden.com

Change Happens: A Perspective from The Trenches

“Change is the only constant in life.” Heraclitus of Ephesus.

In my role as Project Manager, I’ve participated in or led many change efforts. Some were smaller changes such as software upgrades. Others were large organizational changes in business processes. They all had one thing in common. Resistance.

Organizational and social change is a chaotic business. It’s stressful and can bring out the ugly in the best of us. Why? Most people are hardwired to HATE CHANGE. I’ve seen folks cling to an aging system that cost way too much money to maintain. They’d rather remain in their comfortable negativity than move on to a new way of doing things. It never ceases to stun me. Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve learned to stop pounding my new ideas into folks who don’t want to listen. I move around them and get it done.

There are three camps in any change effort:

Camp Innovation – You’ll find me waving the 3D holographic flag powered by solar energy. My team and I are the “Change Agents” with the innovated ideas to make life better. We see a problem and find amazing ways to solve it (and hopefully make the world a better place). Sometimes we forget not everyone is onboard with our awesome ideas.

Camp We’ll See – These folks are the ones grounded in reality (maybe a little cynical). Their motto is “Yeah right. It’s a nice idea, but how are you going to pull it off?” This is the largest camp. These are the folks any change agent has to convince. A good change agent should also take the time to listen to their valid concerns.

Camp Grumpy (So many names I could call these folks! None of them are very PC.) – Their motto is “We’ve always done things this way. We don’t need to change.” Then they dig their heels in and refuse to help make the change happen. It wouldn’t be so bad if they stuck with being old curmudgeons, but they don’t. I’ve seen this camp purposely sabotage efforts. They would rather waste money, ruin their careers and make enemies than change.  Reasoning with these folks is a waste of time.

You may be thinking, “Gawd, this sounds like a horrible time!”

You’d be right. Change, however, happens whether we’re onboard or not. The hard part is making certain change heads in a positive, world enhancing direction. We have to hang on during the ugly times. Turmoil stems from resistance. Resistance stems from fear.

Know there are people in this world who would do anything to keep the status quo, no matter how outdated and horrible. There are, however, just as many dedicated people working toward a better tomorrow. Right now, you are living through a time of social change. Evidence of turmoil and angst are in the news every day. It’s hard to watch. We have to remember turmoil comes before great social change. Things will get better. I see it in the conviction of the people working to overcome hate.

Keep the faith and hang on.


Authors Get to Do the Coolest Things

Writing a book is hard work is a hellish endeavor not for the faint of heart. It does have a few upsides too. Lifting my brand new book baby out of the box and plastering it all over social media is a euphoria all its own. I’ve never experienced a greater sense of fulfillment or righteous vindication.

My favorite perks, however, are the incredible and unique experiences I’m drawn to via my books. Getting to be part of Denver ComicCon and meeting a few of my literary heroes in the lunchroom. Or more recently, having the opportunity to be part of a local talk show located on the Auraria Campus in Denver.

The Nightly Met  airs each Friday at 7 PM MST. Avery Anderson, the show’s host, invited me to do an interview about my books. Always ready to talk someone’s ear off about my stories, I accepted. We laughed (a lot) and had a great time. Having never been in a television studio before, I had no idea how they went about shooting their program. It’s a pretty surreal experience.

Here is the Link to the program.

A DTJ October

The Scary Season is here at last!

I have some fun plans for the blog in October:

Me on a local talk show (absolutely frightening).

Ghostly encounters in the Denver area.

And “Witchy Week” – Get the skinny on some real life witches. A few of my amazing friends share some creative…well, you’ll just have to join us the week of October 24th!


Publisher Spotlight: Black Mirror Press

Tell me a bit about yourselves. How did Black Mirror Press come into being?

Scott: First, thank you so much, Cynthia, for this opportunity.  In terms of background, both Clint and I spent a great deal of our careers in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).  Currently, I’m a consultant and Clint is currently a background check consultant for the State of Indiana, Department of Child Services.

In terms of BMP’s origins, a few years ago, Clint and I found ourselves working in the same IC office and discovered that we were both writers and both very interested in horror, thrillers, fantasy…basically dark fiction.  As an interesting aside, one of Clint’s stories—which I actually read while I was in grad school—was published in the very first Horror Writers Association anthology, Under the Fang,  so it’s been a privilege to work with and learn from Clint.

So after working together for a while, we decided we should form a small press as we had a number of ideas for anthologies and other products and established the Company in early 2015.  We greatly benefited from the help and experience of members of various writing groups within the IC, especially the LEA, which produced its anthology, Bill of Frights, in 2014 or so and Clint and I were both a part of that process.

Clint: Thanks, Cynthia. I have to give Scott full credit for coming up with the idea of forming a small press and even with the name of the press, which I thought fit perfectly for what we wanted to do. We both liked the idea of doing anthologies for themes we saw no one was doing. We saw there was an opportunity to do something fun and creative and give readers something completely different. We also knew there were other voices out there wanting to be heard, and that to me is the joy of an anthology, introducing new and up-and-coming writers to the world. I have been thrilled and pleased to see how writers responded to our first effort, Snowpocalypse.

Your new anthology, Snowpocalypse: Tales of the End of the World, sounds intriguing. What was the inspiration for the anthology’s topic?

Scott:  Much as I would like to take credit for this inspired choice, this was Clint’s baby.

Clint: I have to say it would still just be an intriguing idea if Scott had not initiated the effort to create Black Mirror Press, so he was the great north wind that pushed the storm along.  Scott and I both recall the big winter storms that hit Virginia a few years ago, when we had something like over three feet of snow that closed schools and the government. I remember walking along empty roads gleaming with ice to the grocery store. It was then people started using the terms “snowpocalypse,” “snowmageddon,” and the like. Trudging back over snowdrifts, the wind chill nipping at me, I wondered “What if it stays like this? What if spring never comes?


Black Mirror Press

Are you planning your next anthology project?

Scott: We have several in mind, including: a Poe-themed anthology and one based loosely on that classic comic book, Weird War.  However, next up will be an espionage-themed anthology and what we think will set this apart is that it will include stories written by current and former members of the IC…as long as they go through the appropriate pre-publication approval process, of course.

Clint:  I think our niche is doing anthologies that are always a little different and not the same stuff you can find anywhere. We want to offer readers collections they will find nowhere else. The espionage anthology will be like that, and will be worth the time it will take to put it all together, for you won’t be able to find anything else like it.

What advice would you give to authors submitting short stories for your consideration?

Scott: First I would say, definitely submit, don’t ever let the fear that your story is not good enough hold you back and we love hearing from authors.  When I think about the Snowpocalypse submissions we ultimately rejected—and let me say that as authors ourselves, we know how disappointing this can be—there were several commonalities in many cases: the stories did not address the theme of the anthology (suggesting they had one on hand and were resubmitting rather than creating for our anthology), they had far too much narrative exposition, the ending was inadequate and/or they were fraught with craft errors (e.g., jarring POV shifts), there was nothing all that original, and/or in some cases it was good but either just didn’t fit.  So, in terms of advice, aside from avoiding the preceding, I would suggest asking a trusted reader (someone objective) to review, taking a hard look again at the anthology requirements, and giving it a thorough edit.  Also, in terms of craft, one of the best books I’ve found is The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante and would highly recommend that.

Clint:  Scott is absolutely right in saying some stories sent to us didn’t address the requested theme. We got one story in which there wasn’t even any snow! So, yes, please read the submission call carefully and look at what they want you to send in. I would even say ask the anthologists what is it you want but don’t have if you are having trouble coming up with an idea. I know we will gladly tell you. I got a story into an anthology one time because the editor said I would really like a story about this particular aspect, and so I came up with one responsive to what she wanted. Editors will give you clues. I was hoping to get a good Yeti story, but never got one. ; )

Also be supportive of any suggested editing or tweaking, as the editors want you to succeed. We had to suggest a few things so stories fit our theme a little better, and I think everyone was really pleased how it worked out. We have a collection of stories unique as snowflakes, with a myriad of perspectives of what it means to be caught in a snowpocalypse.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? Tips? Advice? Thoughts about the Horror genre?

Clint: Keep writing as you have a unique voice. No one else has the ideas you have, so send them out there. Not all will fly, but some will make it into the night sky. Horror is a great big carnival tent and you’re invited. Just bring something new and different as your ticket in.

Scott: I definitely agree with Clint on both the importance of continuing to write and the inclusiveness of horror.  I’ve also been struck by the increasing popularity of horror across mediums (movies, TV, etc.) which I think (hope) bodes well for the genre.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be interviews.  If anyone is interested, you can find the Snowpocalypse anthology—in both Kindle and trade paperback—on Amazon.



Does It Ever Get Easier?

Editing. It’s on my short list for “The Most Challenging and/or Annoying Things I Have to Do.” Rewriting the same piece of work over and over again would make the most patient of people want to slam their laptop against a wall. (Deep breath) Why do we do it then? Editing is critical to the quality and success of your work (novel, short story, non-fiction piece, poem, fill in the blank).

New Authors: I can hear you out there. You’re wondering if editing gets any easier. Yes and no.

Let’s take the “Yes” first:

  • The more you write, the more you get to know who you are as a writer.
  • You learn how your brain works and alter your habits to optimize your editing
  • You have more confidence. Hey, you made it through one book. You can make it through another. Right?

Let’s tackle the “No”:

  • Each book is unique with its own set of challenges
  • If your book is part of a series, then you have to make certain the tone stays the same while you increase the quality of your writing
  • Complacency is a constant threat. You have to keep your passion level up. Constantly challenge yourself. Don’t succumb to laziness.

I know it can be difficult staying the course, but your readers can tell when you don’t try your best. They instinctively know a bad editing job (whether you do it or pay someone else). Next time you want to half a** editing that chapter, remember this:

“Your many competitors are editing their fingers off right now.”