Spotlight: When Magic Calls by Caitlin Berve
Monday, November 15, 2021

Today I'm spotlighting the second author in my Winter of Wonder Giveaway: Caitlin Berve, a weaver of modern-day fairy tales! I recently attended one of Caitlin's classes about publishing story collections, and I can tell you she knows her stuff. Want proof? Check out her award-winning collection of short stories.
A collection of modern fairy tales

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, a jealous girl stole a magical artifact from a fairy tale museum, unlocking a curse that might cost her life.
Right now, in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains, a man obsessively studies a wild girl living with and raised by a wolf pack, but soon watching won’t be enough.
Tonight, in a city a storm will rage, waking a boy from a deadly dream and propelling him toward the insidious darkness of his ancestry.
Fairy tales are taking place all around us in modern times. Look closely and you will see fear, fate, and magic intertwine or perhaps discover you are in the midst of a tale of your own.

You can purchase the book and merchandise directly from Caitlin at:

Q&A with Caitlin:

Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?
I try to be more original because that’s what I like to read. If I know exactly how a story is going to turn out after the first chapter, I get bored. To be more original, I play with form and point of view, so one story in my collection is told through letters and another follows the circular story structure more common in Asian literature. One fairy tale is told from the point of view of the victims before and after the hero arrives and another from the prince instead of the princess.
What does literary success look like to you?
Oh so many things. Success for me is writing and publishing all of the books in my head (I have 6 series/standalones tugging at me now), winning book awards, making a steady income from my writing, and getting to do fun events like conferences and signings. If I’m really honest, I would love to see my writing turned into a movie or tv show.
What did you edit out of this book?
Three short stories didn’t make the cut. One is more for children, one is more fantasy than fairy tale, and one just wasn’t good enough. I also thought about including list poems with each story, but those didn’t make the cut either.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I am not the person who always knew they wanted to be a writer, but I have always been a reader. In college, I took creative writing instead of English 111. At the time, I was determined to go to medical school, so I majored in biochemistry then worked as a clinical allergy specialist for a few years. I got on the waiting list. When I found out I was not chosen for medical school, I was relieved instead of disappointed. That’s when I realized the book I’d written on my lunch breaks was my true passion.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer? Do you like it?
My day job is a freelance editor and technical writer. I absolutely love editing because I get to help other authors reach their publication dreams. While I do want to be able to make a living off my writing, I don’t intend to stop editing, but I might drop the technical writing part.
How did you come up with the title?
I really struggle with titles. I found When Magic Calls by looking at my books. One of my favorite books is When Demons Walk by Patricia Briggs and the title is part of what drew me to it. That’s what I modeled my book title after.

Excerpt from When Magic Calls:

Bones of the Soul

PHOENIX ARIZONA’S MAYO hospital was massive compared to the doctor’s office in Kansas and had a strange, welcoming feel that immediately made Nazar Williams shiver. He swung his feet back and forth under his chair in the exam room, ignoring the way his mother winced every time his foot swished close to the chair leg.

“Now can I draw?” Nazar asked.

“After the doctor visits.” Lesedi Williams placed her strong, ebony hand on his Kansas City Chiefs backpack as if she expected him to get out his art supplies anyway.

He groaned and swung his legs back and forth as fast as he could.

“We need you to pay attention and answer the doctor’s questions.” Mason Williams gently squeezed his son’s leg to slow the frantic motion. “You lose focus when you draw.”

“I won’t ignore you this time. I promise.”

“It will only be a few more minutes,” his father said.

“This dress is stupid,” said the ten-year-old boy.

“Language.” His mother pursed her lips, but his father winked in agreement.

Under threats of grounding, Nazar had put on the weird green hospital gown, but had refused to sit on the high table covered in butcher paper like some spectacle. He’d already met four nurses and two doctors excited by his rare condition on the way into the room. They stared like they wanted to watch the bone form and trap Nazar in an immobilizing cocoon. In a way, he was right; they wanted to see his condition, but the only visual cues were his malformed big toes.

Nazar hated the kink in his big toes that made them turn in toward his other toes—a tell-tale sign of his disease. He hated how they betrayed him, making him clumsy. When injuries calcified the places where a body was meant to be soft, balance was key. Luckily, the hospital had provided thick socks with grips on the bottom along with his gown, so Nazar didn’t have to look at his feet. Still, he spread his toes as he swung his legs, trying to straighten them.

His parents were ambivalent about his toes, but they worried about the rest of his body. Despite their best efforts, tension wafted from them, making Nazar nervous. If he could just draw, he could stop mimicking their clenched muscles and slight frowns, so he planned his next picture. While he wondered if he should draw his favorite spot on the farm or one of the new chicks, the door to their room opened. A man entered with a stethoscope dangling from his neck and clipboard in his hands.

“Hello, Mr. Williams, Mrs. Williams,” the doctor said as Nazar’s parents rose and shook his hand. “I’m Dr. Hackett. This must be Nazar.” He lowered himself onto the spinning stool Nazar was forbidden from playing on, set the clipboard on the counter, and held out his hand to the boy.

“Hi.” Nazar narrowed his eyes in suspicion and shook the physician’s hand, which was cold and wrinkly yet strong. “I hear you have a very special condition,” said the doctor.

Nazar snorted. “There’s nothing special about being broken.”

“Nazar,” Lesedi warned. His parents remained standing to give the doctor space.

Dr. Hackett lost a bit of his smile but quickly regained it. “I think you mean it’s not fun because your ability to grow bone is special. You’re the first case I’ve seen in decades.”

“Maybe special to you,” Nazar mumbled and crossed his arms. He sensed an excitement in this doctor that made him shiver and back away.

“Enough,” his mother said. “You aren’t broken. Now let the doctor do his job.”

“Let’s take a look at you, then decide. How does that sound?” Dr. Hackett said.

Nazar shrugged.

Dr. Hackett turned to Nazar’s parents. “Where is the calcification occurring?”

“He has a spot on one palm, one knee, both shoulders, and one hip,” Lesedi said.

“His knee?” Dr. Hackett frowned at his clipboard. “Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva doesn’t usually affect the lower extremities this soon.” A brief worry wrinkled his forehead, but he banished the negative emotion when he thought about witnessing irregular bone growth.

Tell that to my toes, Nazar thought.

“All right, Nazar, hop on up so I can take a look at the places your injured soft tissue is turning to bone.” Dr. Hackett rolled back and patted the high table. The butcher paper crinkled under his hand.

Nazar sighed and climbed up, making sure to bang the table as he did so. Both his parents flinched.

“Careful, son,” Mason said.

Nazar rolled his eyes at the word everyone spouted at him.

“I’m going to palpate you, starting from your head,” Dr. Hackett said.

Nazar leaned back and raised an eyebrow at his mother.

“He’s going to feel where the bone is growing,” she answered his unspoken question.

With a sigh, Nazar leaned forward.

Dr. Hackett pressed uncomfortably hard against his skull. “Looks like you haven’t hit your head much. That’s good.” But his flat tone didn’t sound relieved for the boy. His fingers slid down Nazar’s neck, feeling each bone in his spine. “A bit thick in one spot, but his neck also seems fairly clear. Strange, that’s usually the first place to calcify.” Dr. Hackett was talking more to himself than to anyone else in the room.

Lesedi could hardly contain her hope, leaning forward to scrutinize each of Dr. Hackett’s movements. She squeezed her calloused hands in front of her and stood as motionless as the statue Nazar would become.

Mason stood farther back and steadily turned from rich brown to ashen. Nazar decided not to look at his father, knowing that transition of color meant bad news and disappointment. It was how his father had looked when he ran over Nazar’s favorite farm cat with their tractor.

Dr. Hackett’s hands reached the boy’s shoulders. “Now there’s a deposit.” His excitement scalded Nazar. “I’ll bet these joints freeze by the time you’re eighteen.”

“So he won’t be able to lift his arms?” Lesedi said.

“Not even to brush his teeth,” Dr. Hackett said as he scrawled a note about the size and location of the bone growth.

Or draw. Nazar stilled as his love for drawing was pulled from him like everything else. No soccer. No recess. No sleepovers. “No!” He shoved Dr. Hackett away, leapt from the exam table, and wrenched open the door. He wouldn’t let them take drawing too.

He turned to sprint down the hallway and slammed into a woman in bright-green scrubs carrying a tray of blood sample vials. The impact sent the tray high into the air as Nazar and the woman crashed to the ground. Most of the thirty or so blood containers hit the floor and bounced like large drops of rain. A handful of vials shattered, and Nazar broke.

Sobbing, he curled on the ground, sopping up drops of other people’s blood with his socks and gown. Stunned, the lab tech remained splayed out beside him as Nazar’s parents and Dr. Hackett rushed from the room.

“I need 40 milligrams of Prednisone,” Dr. Hackett ordered a nurse coming down the hallway to help.

“Nazar!” his parents shouted and ran toward him.

Dr. Hackett put out an arm to stop them. “Don’t. The blood.” He pointed at the broken vials. “Kelly, get to a shower,” he ordered the lab tech.

Ignoring him, the young woman pulled herself upright and slid over to Nazar. “Are you okay, sweetie?” Gently, she tilted Nazar’s chin, forcing him to look at her.

“I want to draw,” he said.

Kelly nodded. “Well, let’s wash this mess off first, then we’ll draw together.”

“I want to draw,” Nazar whispered again.

“Oh, baby.” Lesedi leaned into her husband as she realized why her son had run. “You’ll draw. I promise we’ll find a way.”

Kelly helped Nazar stand.

“You’re bleeding.” He touched a small slice on her arm before she could stop him.

“Mm-hmm.” She slipped his hand away from the cut. “Let’s make sure you aren’t. It’s decontamination shower time.”

Nazar sniffed and rubbed tears from his eyes. As he did so, tiny blood cells from Kelly and the broken vials coalesced like liquid mercury and slipped into his eyes. For a moment, all he saw was a vibrant crimson.

“Oh don’t.” Kelly pulled his arms from his face. “You don’t want to get other people’s blood in your eyes, sweetie. You could catch something.” We could catch something, she thought and hustled to help the boy to his feet.

“Sorry,” said Nazar.

“It’s okay. You didn’t know,” Kelly said as she guided him toward a shower.

“No, sorry for bumping into you.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m used to not being seen.” She did her best to keep the ache of invisibility from her voice.

As the crimson color cleared in his eyes, so did Nazar’s vision. He saw Kelly’s strong jaw and the faint freckles on her nose. He studied the slight tension in her shoulders as she firmly led him down the hall and saw how desperately she wanted to be noticed, to be more than just the person who drew patients’ blood. He looked at her with a clarity he’d never experienced before.

Then, in his mind’s eye, he saw other people waiting in the hospital or driving home. There was an old woman with a tube leading into her arm and wrinkles so deep she looked like a caricature. She was in pain and scared, but still made the nurse attending her laugh. There was a young man with a cast encasing his elbow who attempted to shift his manual transmission. He was more worried about his grandfather’s failing health and mother’s motives than his arm or the kidney he’d donated.

Nazar had caught something other than a disease, and he knew what he wanted to draw.

For the rest of his Mayo visit, Nazar worked on a single drawing. He used every skill he’d accumulated in his ten years of life to capture that moment with Kelly, and they came together in a way he’d never experienced before. A euphoric sensation washed over him as he outlined, sketched, shaded, and colored until he’d completed his masterpiece, while his mother argued with Dr. Hackett and the other physicians who came to examine Nazar.

She insisted there had to be some sort of treatment for his bone formation and refused to believe steroids like Prednisone to reduce inflammation after an injury were the best the great Mayo clinic could do.

Nazar’s father only chimed in when prodded by his wife. He wasn’t really listening—he’d accepted Nazar’s condition before their road trip—but he was watching. Instead of turning grey, his skin acquired the gold-tint of pride. When Nazar finally set down his pencil and leaned back to admire his work, Mason placed his hand on his son’s shoulder and whispered, “You have to sign it now.”

“What?” Nazar looked up.

“An artist always signs his work so people know it’s his.”

“But I don’t want to mess it up,” Nazar said.

“You don’t have to use your whole name. You could put only Nazar or your initials. You could even come up with a special mark,” Mason said.

“Okay.” Nazar dragged the word out.

His father put a fresh sheet of paper in front of his son. “Here, why don’t you experiment and practice until you come up with something you like.” Mason removed his palm from Nazar’s shoulder. As his wife took a deep breath to continue arguing with the doctors, he held her hand. “Enough, sweetheart. There is no cure for this.”

Lesedi collapsed into her husband mid-sentence. It wasn’t fair that her son should suffer so. As his mother, she should be able to help him.

“I don’t think he’s suffering right now.” Mason pointed at his son.

Nazar had filled half the paper with versions of his name and initials.

Lesedi straightened her shoulders and banished the tears from her eyes. “We’ll have to come up with a way to make sure his shoulders don’t keep him from drawing.”

“We will,” said Mason. “Thank you, Dr. Hackett, but I think we’re done here.” “We’d love to have you back periodically to monitor Nazar’s condition. He’ll need to be watched for any blood-borne pathogens since a needle stick could be counterproductive.” Dr. Hackett shook Mason’s hand.

“Thank you, but I think we’ll stick with our local doctor from now on.”

Dr. Hackett deflated at Mason’s words. “They won’t have our facilities in Kansas. Nazar really needs the best care.”

“And he’ll have it,” Lesedi said. “Nazar, honey. Put your pencils away and say goodbye to the doctor.”

Excited to get out of the hospital that wanted to make him a permanent resident on display, Nazar shoved his pencils into a superhero case and his paper into a folder. Everything except the drawing of Kelly went into his Kansas City Chiefs backpack.

“Bye,” he said and hustled into the hallway with his parents right behind.

“Your picture will get wrinkled if you carry it that way,” said Lesedi.

“I want to give it to Kelly,” Nazar said. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know. Let’s ask the front desk.” Mason squeezed his son’s hand.

After making the front desk secretary cross her heart and pinky swear to give the drawing to Kelly, Nazar relinquished the paper. He wrote a quick note thanking Kelly for helping him wash up before following his parents into the parking lot.

“Let’s take the long way home,” Mason said.

“It’s already two whole days in the truck,” whined Nazar.

“Yes, but if we take the long way, we can stop at the Miniatures Museum in Tucson, the Fairy Tale Museum in New Mexico, and who knows what else we’ll find.” He opened the rust-colored Ford F150 truck door so Nazar could climb in.

“I guess that sounds cool.” Nazar buckled his seat belt and pulled his art supplies out of his bag.

“Take this before you start.” Lesedi reached around and handed her son a small white tablet and his water bottle. “We don’t want you getting car sick again.”

Nazar groaned but accepted the pill and water. He did his best to swallow it on the first try but still sputtered and coughed. Pills were hard.

The urge to draw took over Nazar before they’d left the parking lot. He dug into his next sketch with a sense of purpose, determination, and urgency he’d never felt before. He needed to draw now or he might lose the details of the souls he illustrated. Two hours later, when they arrived at the Miniatures Museum, he had completed a drawing of the young man with the cast fly fishing with his grandfather and was ready for a break.

About Caitlin

Caitlin Berve, is an award-winning fantasy author, editor, and speaker. Like many writers, she grew up a bookworm. She's always been drawn to mystery and magic, so she reads and writes all types of fantasy and crafts things like dream catchers and origami.
Caitlin uses her MFA to teach creative writing and founded Ignited Ink Writing, where she seeks to fill the world with the kind of writing that lingers with readers and find magic in modern times.
To learn more about Caitlin, visit her author website.
And if you’re a writer looking for help, check out her blog about writing and edit books at Ignited Ink Writing.