Sunday, September 4, 2011

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christiana Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead
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Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead

A little magic can go a long way -- to really screwing up a girl's life!

Mara is having the worst month of her life. At least, that’s what her cards tell her and they’ve never been wrong. She's evicted from her apartment, loses her job and is banned from Beverly Hills. So when the tarot cards predict her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make her world right.

Suddenly, an aunt she’s never met dies, leaving Mara as her sole heir. But when Mara moves into her inherited home, she discovers Aunt Tillie never moved out. She’s still one pissed-off old lady, even post-mortem, and she blames Mara’s magical meddling for her death.

When Mara accidentally releases a demon and awakens the spirit of the most powerful witch in history, Tillie’s ready to kill her -- literally. It’s the only way she can think of to save the girl from herself. The witch and the demon, however, have other plans for Mara’s body.


Christiana Miller is a recovering TV writer and a frequently overwhelmed mom. If her life was a TV show, it would be an off-the-wall dramedy, full of quirky characters and unusual situations. She's had her DNA shot into space (where it now resides on the International Space Station), she's been the voices of all the female warriors on Mortal Kombat II and III, and she's been serenaded by Klingons at a pool party. You can check out more of her quirky adventures at



One of the problems with being a witch is when you ask the universe a question, it generally gives you an answer. Or just enough of one to ruin a perfectly good week.

But since it was my birthday...

And since I was an eternal optimist...

And mostly 'cause I was stuck at the longest red light in the history of traffic, with nothing else to do...

I dug my tarot deck out of my purse and pulled three cards for the coming year.


Three of Swords.

The Tower.

Transformation. Sorrow. Change through destruction. Happy birthday to me.

Damn it. I shouldn't have looked. You'd think I'd know better by now. Damn tarot cards always suckered me into peeking into my future and I just about always regretted it. Because the hell of it was...

They were usually right.

* * *

After a quick stop at Trader Joe's, I was finally home. I propped the grocery bag on my hip, wrestled open the wrought iron gate and placed my hand on my mailbox. Mara Stephens, Apt 1-C.

I stood for a second, hoping my unemployment check was in there and tried to read the vibes. This was a game I always played with myself -- a small psychic exercise to keep my 'sight' sharp. But I didn't feel any sense of urgency or hope. Just a whopping dose of dread.

Great. So my guess was no check, but at least one major bill I'd have to pay. I unlocked the box and quickly sorted through the mail. Sure enough -- a sale flyer from the Crooked Pantry, a birthday card from a temp agency and a pink notice from the Dept. of Water and Power.

Good thing I had plenty of candles to fall back on. Tucked into the back of the mailbox was a reminder about the rent. At least that was one thing I didn't need to worry about. Lenny knew I was good for it. How much longer I'd be able to pay the rent though... That thought made me queasy.

Suddenly, a wave of panic hit my stomach and clenched it hard. Forget crawling, gooseflesh positively raced across my arms. I struggled to breathe. Whatever was wrong, it all seemed to be coming from the direction of my apartment.

I dropped my mail into the grocery bag and peeked around the corner of the mail stand. Behind the screen door, my front door was wide open.

Shit! I ducked back behind the mailboxes and fumbled through my purse for my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.
Busy. Bloody hell. No wonder the crime rate was so high in Los Angeles.
If I was lucky, it would just be a break-in. A simple case of anonymous robbery.

But as I crept closer, what I saw made my breath catch in my throat.

Great. Just freaking great. Why did it have to be her? Why couldn't it have just been some whacked-out crack-head carting off my TV?

Interview with Christiana Miller

What will readers like about your book? 
It's got chick-lit attitude, mixed with a supernatural storyline. The characters are quirky -- even the non-human ones! So, for people who like their paranormal stories mixed with a lot of humor, this will appeal to them. Also, a surprising amount of research went into the book, so this will also appeal to people who view the supernatural as part of their everyday lives -- I've tried to keep things as authentic as possible, so that the various walks of life and alternative lifestyles reflected in the story are accurately represented.

Why did you self publish? 
I didn't want to spend another few years chasing the publishing-go-round. I had already spent years writing and rewriting the story, and I wanted to get it out to the marketplace. It was the only way I could get it out of my head, so I could start working on the next one. I knew I had a niche book, a genre book, and traditionally, that's the type of book that works best in the self-publishing arena.

What is your writing process? 
It's always a little bit different. I try to challenge myself as much as possible. If I'm getting used to outlining, I'll write a seat-of-the-pantser. If I'm getting too used to winging it, I'll outline. It keeps things interesting. Normally, what I do is have a very, very loose outline, so I have some idea of where I'm going. But how the characters choose to reach that destination is frequently a surprise.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? 
Normally, I write scripts, and I'm ruled by deadlines. This was my first novel, so it took an unbelievably long time as I had a lot of learning to do along the way. While I've always been a heavy-duty reader, learning to write a novel is a skill of its own. Usually, scripts take me anywhere from one week to two months for a first draft, depending on whether they're features or TV, whether I'm getting paid for them or they're on spec. I'm not sure how long this novel took for a first draft, as I kept rewriting it along the way. I love to rewrite, so I can get kind of obsessive about it. My guess is somewhere between six months and a year. But I was also writing other projects at the same time, so it's hard to tell.

What inspired you to write this particular story? 
I went to visit my dad when he was dying, and the story and characters popped into my head one night. So I started writing everything down. It actually started with Lisette's story, which is set in the past, and eventually, the character of Mara showed up, who would turn out to be the modern-day protagonist, and Lisette's story became part of Mara's story. Also, I had a close friend whose pet toad was named Lord Grundleshanks, which has got to be the best name for a toad, ever. I loved that name. And when Lord Grundleshanks died, I promised my friend I'd immortalize him in a story.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you and your readers!


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