The Witchkin Murders by Diana Pharaoh Francis Book Tour and Giveaway :)


The Witchkin Murders
Magicfall Book 1
by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.
I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.
Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.
But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.
CHAPTER 2

Kayla

COOL WATER SPLASHED up her thighs as Kayla landed in the water. It soaked through her pants and filled her boots, settling just above her knees. At only five foot four inches, she should have expected that. The moment the water kissed her skin, she felt the transformation trying to start. She clamped down on it, bending all her will to keeping the change from happening. She couldn’t hold long. A minute. Maybe two. Quickly she waded through the pool to the base of the waterfall. The spray from the water and fog beaded on her ball cap and bathed her face. Deep inside, she felt a quiver run through her. Crap. Not yet. Putting all her strength of will into holding her shape, Kayla examined the waterfall in front of her. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But the sound seemed off. Uneven. She moved through the fog inside the shallow alcove before her, only to stop cold when she came up against the wide vertical plane of the central fall, red planes of stone jutting out on either side. No water fell over it. Instead, three bodies hung pinned like specimens to the wall, the mutilated corpses arranged as part of a grisly ritual. She’d seen everything she needed to. Now to get the hell out of the water. Kayla backed away, flinging herself up onto one of the cement platforms. She scrabbled at her neck to draw out her necklace. On it hung an amulet. She invoked it, feeling it heat under her hand. Brilliant yellow light streamed out from between her fingers, and then desert heat washed over her. Instantly she was dry. She waited. Sometimes the transformation was too far along and getting dry didn’t matter. The ripples inside her increased, wriggling like panicked eels. She clenched her hand on the amulet, the edges of the brass sun disk digging into her palm. She made herself breathe slowly, gritting her teeth and clenching her entire body. Please don’t shift, please don’t shift, please don’t shift. The words tumbled over one another in her brain. She pressed down on the expanding ripples inside her. She felt the battle between what she was and what she wanted to be. But getting dry had robbed her transformation of its strength, and at last she felt a give, like shoving a car over a curb. She lay still, panting as if she’d been running uphill in mud. Her heart slowed, and the adrenaline pounding in her veins drained away. She became aware that she was still clutching her gun and the amulet in her hands. She tucked the latter back beneath her shirt and then rolled over, rising into a crouch. Her ears strained to sort through the sounds of the rushing water. Nothing. Whoever had committed the murders she’d just discovered seemed to be gone. Her mind started rolling over her next steps to investigate, and she caught herself up short. Not her. Still not her circus. Sighing, she stood. God but she missed the work. She’d been damned good at it, too. But if she’d stayed on the force — Sooner or later her brothers and sisters in blue would have found out and then the shit would have hit the fan. Big time. The brass would have kicked her out on her ass, and her fellow cops would either have despised her or felt sorry for her. That is, if they decided not to hunt her down and put a bullet in her head, all in the name of cleaning up the city. At least she still had some dignity and self-respect, not to mention her life. She planned to keep it that way, come hell or high water. Her mouth twisted. Or any water at all. One of these days she’d get a handle on controlling the transformation and then maybe she could go back. Nobody needed to know about her little quirk, and they needed people. Word was the thin blue line was very thin these days. But only if and when she wouldn’t transform every time it started raining. All the same, she couldn’t help wondering—who had cast the spell? What was it for? And were they gone or lurking around? The last question she should have asked herself before hightailing it out of the water, but she hadn’t been thinking then. All she’d wanted to do then was stop her transformation at all costs. She shook her head. She was nearly invulnerable in her other form—at least when it came to normal weapons like guns or knives or even explosives. It would have been smarter to let it happen, as much as she hated it. The fog would have hidden her from anyone more than a few steps away. Then again, it was hiding her from anybody wanting to use her for target practice now. Of course, a witch could just blow away the fog and incinerate her where she stood, which meant she was damned lucky to still be alive. Not wanting to push her luck, she retraced her steps back to her backpack. She didn’t need to get involved by reporting the murders. The fog would lift, someone would notice, and there’d be an investigation. If the evidence wasn’t destroyed by then. “Shit.” She bent and pulled her phone out of the strap pocket of the backpack. It was an older model—a clamshell style she’d found while scavenging. Powered by technomagic, it worked fine and was sturdier than a touchscreen phone. She flipped it open and tapped in a number from memory. She wasn’t likely to ever forget it. Hopefully it hadn’t changed. Ray picked up on the second ring. “Garza here.” An ache of pain and regret flashed through Kayla. She’d missed his voice. His humor. His call-it-like-it-is attitude. Ray had been the best friend she’d ever had. She’d trusted him with her life, and he’d trusted her with his. Tears burned her eyes, and she blinked to clear them. Now was not the time. She set the pain aside to deal with later. “Hey, Ray. Long time.” Seconds ticked past. “Reese?” “It’s me.” Another silence. “What the hell do you want?” Kayla cringed at the animosity dripping from his voice. “I got a murder for you. Three murders, actually.” His voice shifted into cool professionalism. “Where? Who?” “Keller Fountain, downtown. Don’t know the victims, didn’t see the perpetrator. Whoever it was seems to have fled the scene.” She paused. “Someone cast a spell. I got hit in the wash. There’s white dust everywhere. Absorbs right into the skin. No idea what it does.” Kayla could tell by his distracted voice that he was writing notes. “How long ago?” “Maybe fifteen minutes.” A disgusted noise. “And it took you this long to call?” She didn’t answer since he wasn’t really looking for one, and he wouldn’t like the one he got if she did. “All right. I’m sending a hazmat crew to clear the scene. Where are you?” “A little ways up Southwest Third.” “Get back to the park. Hazmat will need to clear you, too. And Reese? Stay out of the scene, and don’t even think about disappearing before I get there.” “I was already in the scene. Anyway, I called you,” she said. “Why would I do that if I was just going to ditch?” “Maybe because your calling card is leaving when the going gets tough.” He hung up before Kayla could respond. She glared at her phone. Asshole. What the hell did he know? He had no idea what it had done to her to quit the force, to quit their partnership. Being a cop had meant her entire life. She tried to ignore the hurt that dug into her with sharp barbs, but tears burned in her eyes. To be fair, he didn’t know because she hadn’t told him, but he hadn’t trusted that she’d had a good reason, either. She grabbed her pack and carried it across the street to Keller Auditorium. The fog made it impossible to see more than a foot or two ahead of her, and she nearly ran into one of the slender white pillars holding up the high portico in front of the building. She dropped her pack against its base and found herself pacing around it as she waited for the hazmat team and Ray to show up. Did she really want to do this? See Ray? Get in the middle of an investigation? Just talking to her old partner had opened a vault of painful memories and regrets. Seeing him face-to-face was going to be infinitely worse. As the minutes passed, it was all she could do to not walk away. Only her unwillingness to fulfill Ray’s bitter accusation kept her there. Why do you even care? she asked herself. You made your choice. Be a big girl and deal with it. Even with the stern pep talk, the siren signaling the arrival of the hazmat crew twisted her stomach into a knot. Then another thought occurred to her, sending chills running over her skin. They’d want to wash her down. The longest she’d ever been able to stave off a transformation when totally submerged was just over a minute, which was why she no longer took showers and lived on sponge baths. Being tired, hungry, and seriously stressed would only speed the transformation if they hosed her down. She grabbed her backpack. Not a chance. She was not gonna let that happen.

Diana Pharaoh Francis is the acclaimed author of a dozen novels of fantasy and urban fantasy. Her books have been nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award and RT’s Best Urban Fantasy. The Witchkin Murders is the first book in her exciting new urban fantasy series—Magicfall.


What inspired you to write this book?
First, I wanted to explore the world a little more. The Witchkin Murders are set in the same world as my Horngate Witches books. What happens is that wild magic is let loose in the world and what it touches, it transforms, with some limitations. So there’s a surge of magic in the world and enchanted forests come back and all sorts of magical creatures. It’s so much fun to explore the changes and what remains. Second, I wanted to write a fantasy murder mystery. I enjoy those a lot. But I wanted there to be romance, so I wove that in as well.

What can we expect from you in the future?
More books! Ha! More in this series (Magicfall). I’m working on my next Everyday Disasters book, and my next Diamond City Magic book. I should have another Mission: Magic book out fairly soon. Depending on how the revisions and production goes.

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I have a side story about characters in my Horngate Books, but not in any others. One of these days I want to write more side stories and explore some more character and events. There are a ton of characters in The Witchkin Murders who could have stories and I may have to write all of them.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Witchkin Murders?
Ray and Kayla are former partners--detectives. Then Magicfall happens and Kayla quits the force for no reason he understands. He’s off his game because he’s had some life issues. So they have a big fight and he says some pretty nasty things to her. Thanks to that fight and the devastating secret she’s hiding, she stays away. But then she stumbles across a murder scene and calls him. That forces them back together and they have to uncover a lot of truth--about themselves, about the world as it’s become, about each other, and about what they are willing to fight for.
Both of them are strong-willed and stubborn with a huge streak of fairness and the need to help others. Both are scared they’ll screw up in a variety of ways, professionally and personally and both have a lot to lose. 

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