Mark of the Witch

Maggie Shayne
Mark of the Witch
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Release Date
September 2012
Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance

She was born to save what he is sworn to destroy

A lapsed Wiccan, Indira Simon doesn't believe in magic anymore. But when strange dreams of being sacrificed to an ancient Babylonian god have her waking up with real rope burns on her wrists, she's forced to acknowledge that she may have been too hasty in her rejection of the unknown. Then she meets mysterious and handsome Father Thomas. Emerging from the secrecy of an obscure Gnostic sect, he arrives with stories of a demon, a trio of warrior witches—and Indira's sacred calling.

Yet there's something even Tomas doesn't know, an inescapable truth that will force him to choose between saving the life of the woman he's come to love—and saving the world.

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Sep 12, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
105 people found the following review helpful
MARK OF THE WITCH is fast-paced and fascinating, a good start to the series.

Indira Simon has been plagued by dreams that seem and feel all too real, especially when she woke up with burn marks on her wrists. In searching for answers, she bumped into Father Tomas, a handsome hunk of a priest to whom she was attracted. It turned out she and Tomas are on the same quest, but on opposite sides, even as they were more than three thousand years ago. Though lovers in their past lives, it turned out that the past life Tomas caused her death. Would history repeat itself? How would they fulfill their mission?

I love Indy, especially her inner voice. She's got this sarcastic edge that makes you laugh out loud at her thoughts and comments. She's strong and doesn't shy away from things that need to be done.

Tomas is an unusual hero, in that he's a Gnostic priest who's having problems with his profession/vocation, yet at the same time, he was attracted to Indy. This gives rise automatically to conflict within his psyche, though I expected more angst, but maybe there wasn't much angst because he's already thinking of leaving the priesthood even before meeting Indy. I do think though that Tomas's crisis with regards to his vocation and/or faith is believable, as we all go through such a thing at some point in our lives. Though it made him an interesting character, he doesn't have much of a presence, and whatever there was faded in the stronger force that was Indy.

Indy's and her sisters' and Tomas's past and present lives are intertwined, and the mystery of what had happened in the past and what they were supposed to bring out in the present/future captivated me and kept me flipping the pages.

The only thing that felt lacking was Indy's and Tomas's romantic development. I'm not sure if it was because Tomas was a priest, albeit one who was thinking of leaving the priesthood, or the author was banking on them being lovers in the past, but there wasn't much romance, certainly not enough to satisfy the romantic bone in me. It was the mystery that kept me curious and lured me to read on when it was past my bedtime.
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BOOK INTERVIEW on September 2012
Interview by Laura

Hi Maggie, glad you could drop by The Romance Reviews and tell us all about MARK OF THE WITCH

Q: What inspired you to write The Portal series? Please tell us a little about the series.

I've been studying the ways of magic for almost twenty years. Witchcraft, folk magic, tarot reading, Reiki healing, superstitions, spells, law of attraction, the unexplained, all these things have always fascinated me. My love for ancient history, particularly the ancient near east (Mesopotamia) is another of my long time passions. So it was natural for me to combine these two with a storyline about women from Ancient Babylon who were also practicing natural magic.

Q: What kind of research did you have to do in the course of writing this series? Please share with us a fun fact or an interesting behind-the-scene experience.

I'm about to reveal what a geek I am. Since Ancient Babylon and Sumer are passions of mine, my shelves are already lined with volume after volume of books about them. The language fascinates me most of all. During the course of preparing for this series, I found something new, though. A website where I could HEAR recordings of scholars reading some of the most ancient texts ever written, IN the original languages. Assyrian, Akkadian, Sumerian. Unh! Here's one of my favorites. (The translation is given.) A Diviner's Nighttime Prayer:

When I found these recordings, you'd have thought I'd won the lottery! Yes, THAT is what a geek I am.

Q: That's fascinating to know! You started off the series with a novella, LEGACY OF THE WITCH, telling the story of Amarrah. How would Amarrah's story impact the entire series? Who is she and why is she important?

Amarrah was a slave girl whose job was to serve the King's Harem. Now technically, the harem were also slaves, so she was dubbed "slave girl to the slave girls," and she was very beloved by the women in the King's Harem, especially by Lilia, Magdalena and Indira (the heroines of the trilogy.) When those three were sentenced to die as a sacrifice to the Sun God, the witches wrote down their story and secreted the tale inside an ornate box with an enchanted locking system only they would be able to open.

Amarrah was given this box and asked to keep it safe. For generations, it was handed down to the women of her family, until she herself reincarnates in the modern age, to see the box safely to its final destination where the witches will find it. It's stolen from her before she can do this, and without the box, the ancient wrongs done long ago can never be made right, the ancient curse placed upon an innocent man, can never be broken. The three harem slave witches will return, but without the box, they can't begin to end the 3500 year cycle that has held them all in its grip. Amarrah is the key to any of the rest of this tale taking place.

By the way, LEGACY OF THE WITCH is a FREE download beginning September 1st.

Q: Woo hoo! That's great to hear. MARK OF THE WITCH is the first full length novel in the series with our heroine, Indira Simon. I absolutely love Indy; her internal voice got this sarcastic edge that got me chuckling at times. Please tell us more about her, and what made her the person she is in the present time?

I love Indira too! Thank you so much for saying that. I think the voice came through because I was writing in first person, and when I do that, I almost seem to channel the personality who's telling the story. I can't tell you how or why Indy came through the way she did. I can only tell you, this is Indy. This is how she speaks, how she thinks, and who she is. I believe that on some level, all our characters exist, and some are just more real than others. This was one of my MOST real, living breathing characters, telling me her story inside my head. I was just writing it down. A glorified transcriptionist.

Q: You paired a witch (albeit a lapsed one) with a priest in this first book. The conflict between them was certainly high and the tension off the charts. What did you hope to achieve with such a pairing?

After 50+ novels, if I've learned anything about writing a romance, it's this: the stronger the conflict, the stronger the book. I already knew my heroine was going to be a witch. What better foil than a priest? I'll reveal a secret here. I wrote Thomas as a Catholic priest. Everything about him was based on that. It was only later in the process that I was told that might be too controversial, and that I would have to make him into something like "A priest from some little known Gnostic sect." About the only thing I changed was to insert a line here and there referring to that, because I didn't WANT to. Everything else about him is just as I wrote it when he was still Catholic.

It's the one thing about this story on which my editor and I disagreed. I love my editor, and we've worked together on many many books for almost 20 years now. We almost never disagree. This is just one of those rare cases, and I'm quite willing to accept that she might have been right. (She usually is.)

Q: Aside from the conflict, I thought it interesting that you gave them different faiths/beliefs. What was your motivation in doing so? Was there a message that you hope to send out with your books?

Religion should never ever be a cause for conflict. All religions are man-made, after all. Catholicism, Wicca, Islam, Druidry, Judaism, all of them. I've studied religion all my life in search of "The truth." What I've found is that they are all our own flawed human attempts to understand and explain and relate to something far more vast and infinite than our minds can even begin to comprehend. Why fight over who's right, when none of us are probably even very close? How to worship? What's right and wrong? What is a sin? What day of the week is sacred? What is forbidden? What are the rules? What is God's name? None of that means ANYTHING. The ONLY thing that is absolutely 100% true and real is love. Period. If you act out of love, you cannot go wrong. Love love love. It trumps everything. If you start looking at religions from a basis of love, all you will see are similarities. The things that aren't the same, if you peel away layers and dig deeply enough, are just branches springing from the same seed. If you dig deeply enough, it all goes back to love. Love each other. Love yourselves. Love all of creation. Love the source from whence you came. Love being alive. Love every minute of your day. Just love. Pick the way of worship that makes your soul sing, and love it. And love that everyone else is doing the same, and love that their choice makes their soul sing, and that it's all really a beautiful harmony, and that missing any part of it would make the song less than perfect. Oh, if only the whole world could get that.

Q: Please tell us more about Tomas. What kind of person is he, and what makes him a worthy hero for this book?

Tomas is a spiritual man. I've always been fascinated by spiritual men. I've fallen in (platonic) love with Father John Dominic Crossan, a Dominican priest and author of numerous books about the life of Jesus. He's a featured speaker in a series of videos called The Women & Spirituality Series (Goddess Remembered, The Burning Times, and Full Circle) which talks about the Witchcraft movement, its past, present and future. He's a beautiful man with a deep understanding. So I knew a priest could preserve his own beliefs while opening to those of others, and really understanding them. Parts of Father Crossan definitely fed into my Father Tomas. But Tomas is also a man having a crisis of faith. He's been misled by a father figure, and his loyalty to the man who raise him is pulling him in one direction, while his own inner voice, his conscience, is pulling him in another. When a powerful attraction to a woman enters this mix, he's even more torn apart. And since he's been warned that this woman can and will seduce him with her witchy ways, he has doubts about his own feelings. Father Tomas has to find a way to make peace with God, and with himself, and to see beyond the veil of religious differences, to the deepest truth of love.

Q: Why was Indira perfect for Tomas, and vice versa?

She'd lost her faith too. This was a really interesting dynamic to this story for me. They'd BOTH lost their faith. She was a lapsed Wiccan who no longer believed in magic or ANYTHING really. I love that they help each other through their respective crises of faith, despite that their belief systems are opposite. And they end up each finding themselves again in their chosen paths, while acknowledging, respecting, even finding beauty in the other's.

Q: Please share with us your favorite excerpt.

Let's just include a link here to the excerpt I have up at the site, to save me some time.

Q: Would we see these characters in your later books? (I hope we do!) What kind of roles would they play?

The characters will appear in each other's books, but in supporting roles. I do feel it's very VERY important to have the three sisters together in the final scene of the final book, having the big showdown (I can't tell you more yet and it's killing me) to bring this story full circle. And I hope to bring Amarrah back in the end too for the promised reunion.

Q: In the entire series, which character was the most difficult to write? Why?

The hardest of all was Demetrius, hero of book 3, BLOOD OF THE SORCERESS. I had just completed my Wings in the Night series with Twilight Prophecy and Twilight Fulfilled in which I had to deal with a very similar character. He (Utana) returned to life in a murderous rage after centuries imprisoned in another dimension. In this book, Demetrius returns after centuries imprisoned as well, but I couldn't really give him this same murderous rage–it would have been far too similar. It was hard to come up with what he would be doing, and why he would be doing it, and how he could be redeemed. But I went the opposite route I took with Utana, giving Demetrius the power to live a charmed life, with money, power, immortality, everything he could want, except for the core parts of being human. He has a fractured soul, isn't entirely mortal anymore, and so is lacking some of the crucial elements of humanity. His senses are dulled.

As I wrote him, I realized that the very core of being human is experiencing the physical world through our physical senses. He can't do that. Everything tastes the same, smells roughly the same, feels the same, passion is even dulled in his current state. It was, for me, a powerful exploration of what it means to be human and it deepened my own understanding and appreciation of that in the process. Demetrius had to ask, why would I give up immortality and instant gratification to be human again? In answering that question, I think I discovered why spirit chooses to incarnate in human form at all. Why are we here? I answered that question (to the best of my current ability) in his book, and the answer is simple. To experience being physical to its fullest length and breadth and depth.

Q: Which character do you most identify with? Why?

Every single character I write draws from some aspects from me, even if it's a villain with an aspect that started out good and has gone haywire. I like to start with real character traits that are believable and then blow them up bigger than life. For example, Father Dom, the villain of book 1: His goal is to make sure Tomas, who he has basically raised from childhood, "does the right thing." I can relate to that, having raised five daughters. We all know the temptation to just tell our kids what to do, instead of informing them with wisdom, then stepping back and letting them make their own decisions, right or wrong. Father Dom forgot that second part and will do ANYTHING to ensure Tomas does what Dom feels is "the right thing." It's a trait shared by many parents. The problem is, Dom is wrong. And yet, his mistakes and all part of the path to the story resolution, so even his bad deeds are necessary to the greater whole. He's playing his role. This too is a message. Even the most miserable crap in our lives, happens for a reason, and that reason is always to push us toward the resolution we, deep down, long for.

Q: What's up next for you?

I've just inked a new four book deal with MIRA, and the first is going to be a new paranormal thriller with a heroine sleuth I hope to be able to expand into two or more novels. I can't tell you too much more about it yet, except that she is the most powerful character to come through me since Rhiannon of my Wings in the Night series, and you're going to love her because she has an attitude very similar to Indy's, only in a whole different way and taken to a whole different level. I adore her.

However my immediate future is as follows:

MARK OF THE WITCH, 9/18 in print, 10/1 in e
DAUGHTER OF THE SPELLCASTER, 11/20 in print, 12/1 in e
BLOOD OF THE SORCERESS, 1/20 in print, 2/1 in e
And don't forget LEGACY OF THE WITCH, the FREE prequel available everywhere on 9/1!

Thanks, Maggie, it was a pleasure having you here with us!


New York Times bestseller and RITA Aware winner Maggie Shayne has published more than 50 novels and nearly 30 novellas with Harlequin, Berkley, Avon, St. Martin's, Spilled Candy, Smart-Pop and more. Working Witch, and one time soap opera writer, Maggie lives in the most rural parts of New York State with soulmate Lance. Their menagerie included two English mastiffs, an English bulldog, various fish & corals, and two cats, one of which is a recent arrival–a very pregnant stray. (Yeah. We have "pushover" stamped on our front door, I guess.)

Group Blog:
Twitter: @maggieshayne



Maggie Shayne is giving away 3 copies of MARK OF THE WITCH plus the first set of three character trading cards!


Simply write a comment or ask a question in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaway!


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