From the very beginning I knew I wanted interior illustrations to go in Arcana. It didn’t even really feel like an option to do otherwise? How could you have tarot card-inspired stories without including artwork? It just wouldn’t work.
So I turned to Marge Simon to help me out with that.
I met Marge back during the Niteblade days when she quickly became thee artist whose work became the visual brand for the magazine. She did interior illustrations for each of the stories as well as the covers for each issue. I love her work and I loved working with her, so I was excited to do so again.
And also, since Niteblade is sort of where it all started for me, and Arcana was my first anthology idea, it also felt a little bit like coming full circle somehow.
Anyway, without giving anything away, I’d like to share some of the interior art from Arcana along with brief excerpts from the stories they are meant to illustrate.
All artwork is done by Marge Simon.
Excerpt from “Finders and Keepers, Its and Not-Its” by J.G. Formato:
I’m not the hoarder—Granny Keeper is. I’m just the finder.
I found her the day I lost everything. My boyfriend, my wallet, my job. I had no idea where the boyfriend or the wallet went, I just knew they weren’t there when I woke up. Will’s stuff was all gone, from his Xbox to his nose hair trimmer, so at least I knew he wasn’t kidnapped.
Maybe my wallet was, though.
On the other hand, Trisha the Manager was crystal clear on why I lost my job. You’re supposed to write the customer’s first name on the ticket, not bitter identifiers. Codependent Hipsters. Sugar Daddy and the Sidepiece. Short-Term Engagement. Yeah… that stuff ends up on the receipt, and people don’t really like it.
At aggressively cheerful chain restaurants like mine, such shenanigans are the kiss of death. Termination effective immediately.
Termination’s so harsh. I prefer to think of it as a release.
She was sitting at the kitchen table in the dark when I got home. I didn’t see her, of course, until I flipped on the lights. But there she was, complacently knitting a bright red scarf.
Excerpt from “Palimpsest” by Kevin Cockle:
“You don’t look like a mom.”
“Thanks? I guess?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I could assume. Why don’t you tell me?”
Mike exhaled a speculative breath, narrowing his eyes as he took her in. “Bored socialite. Husband’s a… uh… arms dealer. Government approved but still a little shady. You’re afraid of him, but he treats you well. Nothing’s for free though. You come here to distract yourself, get out of the house—strike that—gated mansion. You like people, and conversation, but you don’t get much of either any more,” he paused, then said: “How’m I doing?”
She smiled. “You must be a writer.”
“Jesus: that obvious?”
“Your slumming attitude, too-cool for the mall. Your grungy, out-of-style levis. Your unshaven, uncaring face, and the naturally curly hair which saves you from having to do anything with it. Luckily for you. Handsome, but not leading man material: more interesting than hot. Yep: a writer. How’m I doing?”
“I’m a writer all right. Mike.” He extended his hand.
“Constance.” She extended hers. A squeal from the park distracted her: her kid, hitting some other kid on the head with a foam bat. Why the hell would they put those things in there?
“So, Mike. Why are you hanging around a kid’s park in a shopping mall in the middle of the day. Trying to get arrested?”
Excerpt from “Larkspur and Henbane” by Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman:
I cut flowers –
chrysanthemums, crocuses, roses –
not to put in vases or arrange
artfully over the hearth but to invert
and dry until my breath crumbled them.
In this way I became
a connoisseur of the forgotten,
a handmaiden of the dying.
A witch, perhaps, sleeping in the coop,
nestled among feathers.
Excerpt from “Lupa” by Susan MacGregor:
Fear tightened her gut but undaunted, she stepped from the litter. They had left her near the Grove of Diana. A nightingale called. She was alone.
What had scared them? She walked down the road fearing bandits, but that made no sense. They would have robbed or attacked her by now. A dim rider approached from the south. With her heart hammering, she dashed into the grove to hide behind an oak. The rider turned out to be a centurion. He paused at the litter, but finding no one inside, rode on. When he was gone, she released her breath.
There was nothing for it but to return to the House. Going back to the villa was out of the question. Still, it might be wiser to travel under cover for as long as she could. As she stepped further into the trees, the night closed about her. The sanctuary of Diana’s temple was a tempting thought, but it would be cold. Best to keep moving.
She was half-way through the grove, when a snap came from behind her. She spun about, her pulse pounding in her ears. Her imagination threatened wolves. She peered into the darkness, forcing her eyes to see. “Goddess?”
When Diana didn’t answer, she continued on, a little faster. Her back crawled; something was watching her every move.
Excerpt from “The Tale of King Edgar” by L.S. Johnson:
Upon his return he finds that the red-faced, squalling creature has been transformed: in its place is a plump, scrubbed baby with a somber gaze that makes Edgar look away. A gaze designed, it seems, for him alone; for everyone else Prince Bertram is all smiles. Sometimes Edgar, king of everything as far as his eye can see, is left standing for several heartbeats without proper acknowledgment while the women fuss over the cradle.
When Edgar looks upon that solemn, staring face—so like yours the women coo—for the first time he feels the specter of death.
In honor of Bertram’s first birthday, Edgar hosts three days of games and competes in them himself. He jousts and wrestles, shrugging off his retinue’s concern. He even wounds one of his knights, crippling the man; still Edgar feels driven by some nameless thing in his belly, something serpentine and barbed whose squirming makes him fidget on his throne and toss in his bed.