The Bitch is Dead


It was only a dream.

I kept reassuring myself as I fell into the kaleidoscope of images created from memories of the distant past and recent days coupled with the fears from a wounded psyche.

Terror intruded on déja vu, and scenes replayed with tinges of frightening possibility.

Random pieces from the past broke apart as shards of a shattered mirror, rearranged in freakish patterns of the darkest recesses of my heart and soul, and made an insidious nightmare in this journey through the DreamTime.

“Is she dead?”

Adrianna’s low, creamy voice rang out in my dream as her image came into focus.

She stood in a ring of fire that blazed pink flames. She was ferociously lovely with her sparkling amber eyes larger than life as she stared hungrily at me.

“I have hated her for years. So how did Ella Bandita die?”


Adrianna disappeared in the blink of an eye and I was back in that horrific tower of stolen hearts.

The racket of their dissonant pulses echoed insanity to the peak as hundreds of hearts spiraled up the walls. They beat to different rhythms in unpleasant pitches, and created the most ghastly sounds I’ve ever heard.

In the center of the tower stood my Woman, now known as Ella Bandita. She looked serene and relaxed, while the whirlwind of stolen hearts pumped their ear-splitting melody all around her.

Woman shook her head slowly, then threw her head back and laughed.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“You’ve really gotten yourself in a mess now, Shepherd. Wasn’t I enough trouble for you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your fancy Courtesan.”

“Adrianna? Do you know her?”

“I know the type. She won’t stop until she gets what she wants.”

“Woman, she wants you dead.”

She threw her head back and laughed again, her large teeth gleaming.

“I know she does. Adrianna the Beautiful has lusted for my blood for a long, long time.”

“But why?”

“It doesn’t matter why.”


Then I was in darkness and away from the tower.

But I still heard the hideous noise of the heartbeats until I came to the next scene.

The Wanderer and I stood before the Mayor, inside the parlor where he received the general public.

The chamber was stifling with massive, dark furniture throughout and somber tapestries lining the walls.

His astonishment at the sight of us made me ashamed.

I suddenly remembered that the Mayor’s son, Anthony, had been one of Ella Bandita’s victims.

Suddenly, a vision of Adrianna the Beautiful in the rosy glow of her back patio came to mind.

Her large feral eyes glittered and her mouth grimaced.

“Is Ella Bandita dead?” she snarled. “We all want her dead.”

Then I catapulted back to the past of more than twenty years ago.

I traveled with my flock of forty sheep to the Capital City, where I went every year to pay my tariffs for new lambs born, and profits from sheep sold.

As happened on an annual basis, I was cursed to come across young Anthony, the Mayor’s son, who took great delight in torturing young boys considerably younger, smaller, and weaker than himself.

As I always did, I pulled Anthony off the helpless child he was beating on. And as occurred yearly, the loutish youth threatened to send his father after me and have me thrown in prison.

Of course, that never happened.

Just like Anthony was never punished for bullying younger children.

Adrianna appeared again, lounging on one of the divans on her back patio, a blazing fire behind her. Her wildcat eyes glittered.

“What about young Anthony?” she taunted. “Doesn’t Anthony deserve vengeance?”

“Hell no!” I retorted. “That vicious little brute got exactly what he deserved!”

Then I returned to the day I had heard Anthony, the Mayor’s son, had fallen victim to the predatory Thief of Hearts as a young man.

I had come to the Capital City on my yearly stop to pay my tariffs, and everybody was talking about it.

Two merchants in line ahead of me gloated in low voices that would not be heard beyond the few people around them.

“I’m sorry for our kind Mayor,” one muttered. “But if anybody had such a miserable fate coming to him, it’s Anthony.”

“I know what you mean,” said the other. “He was awfully horrid to my son ten years ago.”

“Mine too,” said the first. “He won’t be pounding little boys or slapping young ladies around any time soon. Have you seen him?”

“Yes,” said the other, who couldn’t stop sniggering. “He’s an imbecile! A drooling mess of a fool!”

“That’s what I call just desserts!”

“Sometimes Ella Bandita truly is a conquering hero!”


Silently, I agreed.

Although I was shocked at the news, I hadn’t even a shred of pity for Anthony.

I savored the same grim satisfaction of the merchants ahead of me in City Hall that Anthony would never be able to harm another vulnerable being again.

Then I reappeared inside the heavy formality of the receiving parlor in the Mayor’s mansion.

Blissfully unaware of the Mayor’s loss, the Wanderer succinctly explained who he was and what he had been, the talking Wolf bewitched by Ella Bandita who had traveled with me for years.

That the Mayor was both surprised and disappointed was clear in his facial expression and his words.

“It’s a miracle that you’ve been liberated from her evil!” the Mayor exclaimed. “But is this the only news of Ella Bandita you came to share?”

“No,” I said, stepping forward.

I brought the crystal stargaze out from my pocket and allowed it to drop from my palm, where the odious charm swung wildly from its broken chain.

The whirlwind of color swirled around the parlor before I whipped the pendant back into my palm.

“The Thief of Hearts is no more,” I declared.

A Tale of Two Illustrators - Why Roses Have Thorns Illustrations Complete!

The artiste and her work.

The artiste and her work.

The artwork is done for Why Roses Have Thorns, and all I can say is: Wow!

Natalya far exceeded my expectations. Even with all the hints she showed with the pins that showed her level of research and her sketching, when I saw the inked versions of everything what she did, I was absolutely blown away.

I loved what she did so much I decided to have her re-illustrate The Golden Pedestal when I have the funds to pay her. Please enjoy these samples of her work as I tell of the illustrator I worked with before Natalya.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky


Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I had learned a lot working with previous illustrator, who shall remain nameless for the sake of courtesy. Most of what I learned working with him were lessons in getting what you pay for. His work was good, but his timeliness and ultimately his professionalism left much to be desired.

Like many artists, he’d “always wanted to illustrate a book,” but had never done so and didn’t understand how much time that took. I also didn’t understand the ins and outs of this process.

So given the lack of experience on both our ends, we were pretty naïve in our agreement. He agreed to a rate that was below market for the sake of experience, and having this in his portfolio and on his resume.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky


Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

He overestimated his speed and underestimated how much time he would need. I was patient because I knew he needed other jobs to pay the bills, and this was a new one for both of us. I also had started The Golden Pedestal project early for the sake of taking delays into consideration.

Once he got paid, he disappeared. That made me mad. I had hired a book designer, who needed different file/format to get the book print ready, and ultimately needed the original drawings to make it happen.

The illustrator was nowhere to be found. That held the process up of getting Golden Pedestal print ready, and I had to rip him a new one to get him to meet with the book designer.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky


Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I hate it when I have to do that. I don’t like getting angry and acting mean. 

It also dampened my enthusiasm to release Golden Pedestal – even though the book designer an outstanding job.

I also realized that his idea of making a painting for the cover made for a poor cover that would not get anybody’s attention on the book shelf.

Yet even if all that had gone smoothly, Natalya’s style has an elegance that is irresistible, and I know the cover would be arresting.

Illustration by:    Natalya Kolosowsky    website:     Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

Illustration by:

Natalya Kolosowsky


Instagram: @lunariusgraphics

I would love to see what she would do with the Purple Princess, Sir Highbrow Olive, Miss Blue Begonia, and of course, the Preacher Man.

She may even be able to help me come up with a better title for that story.

I hope y’all enjoyed some samples of her work. I have loved working with her. 

If you would like to read the previous blog post on working with Natalya Kolosowsky, click here.

If you would like to see some of the original work from The Golden Pedestal, even if I will have Natalya re-illustrate it, click here. 

What do you think? I welcome any comments below.



Steampunk Got Me Excited For Fairy Tales!


La Cité des Enfants Perdus (City of Lost Children), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was one of the most exquisite movies I saw in the ‘90’s. I was so excited about that movie I went to it countless times because I dragged everybody I knew to go see it.


I didn’t even realize it was steampunk. I didn’t even know what steampunk fantasy was. All I knew was that this movie was a fairy tale, and very much an adult story.


Without giving too many spoilers, the villain is kidnapping children to steal their dreams because he’s aging quickly. He steals the petit frère (little brother) of the strongman named One, who is determined to get his petit frère back.



The strongman teams up with a thieving orphan named Miette in his quest to save this child that can’t stop eating. Of course, the hero who saves petit frère from doom is Miette.


Other features in the film are the brutal and malevolent army of Cyclops, who kidnapped petit frère and the clones of a mad genius who all argue over which one is l’Originale! 



It was set in an alternate world of the past and the future, with intricate movie sets, Victorian technological elements, simple yet effective costumes, and moody atmosphere.


This film is dark and creepy and mysterious and stunning. If you’ve never seen it, rent it and project it on a wall. It should be seen on a big screen.


My partner took me to it recently because Portland loves to feature movies from former times. It struck me how dated this film was. At the time it came out, the direction and cinematography was revolutionary. I had never seen anything like it.



As a parent, my partner had a hard time with the movie, but she admitted that she would have loved it before giving birth. As a mother, it freaked her out.


But what had gotten me so excited in the 90’s was that this amazing film was a fairy tale. And that gave me permission to write them.


In the 90’s, I was more of a wannabe than a writer. I talked about this dream of being a writer all the time, as I floundered from job to job. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to write about.


Like most recent college graduates who had taken creative writing courses, I was filled with this yearning desire to write “The Great American Novel” or “The Poignant and Heartbreaking Coming of Age Story.”


I had no idea what Great American Novel I had in me, and Coming of Age was a concept I didn’t fully understand. Do we come of age when we first start having sex?


In my search for what to write so I could be a writer, I had taken the Writer’s Program at UW, Seattle with Margaret Grossman, Jack Remick, and Robert Ray as my teachers.


I learned a lot, and Margaret was one of the most inspiring writing teachers I’ve ever had. I took her in the first capsule.


But the program ended on a very sour note for me on the last day. Jack and Robert gave me an outline they made up for my first novel that bore no resemblance to what I had written. I had made an attempt at a mystery. They were right that I had no business trying to write mysteries. But I didn’t see how handing me my first plot would help me grow as a writer and figure out what I will write.


So between the lofty ideals of the Great American Novel, the Coming of Age Story, and the formula outline of a novel my teachers made up for me, my spirit was broken and I wasn’t even inspired enough to suffer the writer’s block of no inspiration.



And then that amazing remarkable movie came out. I absolutely loved it, and the right direction to my path gained some clarity.

When I finally found my voice as a writer, “Ella Bandita and the Lone Wolf” came out effortlessly. It was an adult story and very much a fairy tale.