It’s a bewitching literary debut

Lori Schiele

Lori J. Schiele, a 40-year-old from Somerton, likes to say that she’s never far from paper and pen.

“I wrote a short story when I was eight years old, and I haven’t stopped,” she said. “It’s cathartic. It’s a way to express myself.”

Her father, A.C. Nuessle, a former newspaper editor, had a field day kindly correcting grammar and spelling mistakes in Hercules, the Wonder Cult.

“That was tough on an eight-year-old, but how else do you learn?” she asked.

Over the years, Schiele learned enough to be able to write a book and have it published. The book, Wiccan Shadows, debuted in May.

“I’m very happy with it,” she said. “It’s a good, fast read. It’s my first time being published, and it’s gotten wonderful reviews.”

The most wonderful review, in her opinion, came from her father, who told her, “I never realized you had become such a good writer.”

“That meant more to me than having the book published,” she said.

Schiele — who lives on Banes Street with her boyfriend Doug, seven special-needs cats and a foster kitten — is a certified veterinary technician by training. She also is a certified Wiccan, or one who practices witchcraft.

While Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell famously said in a campaign commercial that “I am not a witch,” Schiele states simply, “I am a witch.” She’s been a solitary Wiccan for a decade, and her spirit animal is the wolf.

The local witch’s altar sits next to the television in her living room, but nobody should be concerned. The motto within the Wiccan Rede, or code, is “Harm None,” and the creed applies to self, others, animals and the Earth. She doesn’t apply hexes or concoct love potions, and would perform a healing spell only if asked.

ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO

The book is part one of a trilogy being written under contract with ImaJinn Books, a small Arizona publishing company that specializes in paranormal/mystery/romance novels such as Wiccan Shadows.

Schiele feels a lot more fulfilled than had she spent her own money to self-publish the book. “I wanted someone to feel that my writing was worthy of printing,” she said.

The book centers on Alex Grisham, a practicing witch who is familiar with the paranormal. She and her Sisters of the Laurel Tree Coven work to discover the mystery of the disappearance of the High Priestess Celia before the end of the world.

Alex is torn between her live-in partner, Glenn, and Dan, a sexy and secretive animal-control officer. One of the men is out to kill her, and if she chooses the wrong one, she’ll unleash pure evil upon the world.

“I’ve never been limited in imagination,” Schiele said, adding that vocabulary and creativity are two of her other strong suits as a writer.

Schiele likes everything about the book, starting with the front cover, which includes a candle, the moon, and a man and a black wolf, both with penetrating green eyes. The author credits artist Trish Lazarus for the design.

Editor Linda Kichline also was great to work with, Schiele said.

The book includes an author’s note at the end, explaining that the Wiccan practices found in the novel have been researched for authenticity. The note points out that the book is fiction, and that some literary license has been taken, and it further cautions against trying any of the spells or rituals at home.

The book appeals to anyone from mid-teens to adult, according to the author, who has a tattoo on the back of her neck of the Triquetra, a Wiccan symbol.

“It’s for a general audience,” she said. “I did a lot of research to make sure all the rituals were approved by practicing Wiccans while not losing the regular audience. Paranormal romance books are very, very popular. You don’t have to be a Wiccan to read it.”

THE WRITING LIFE TAKES TIME

Schiele spent more than two years writing the book and another year getting it published. Her hobby is turning into a profession.

“I write because I can’t not write,” she said.

Schiele has written for more than three decades — she had some short stories and magazine articles published — but she has read even longer, learning at age 3. She paraphrases famed authors Dean Koontz and Stephen King in saying, “In order to write, you need to read.”

Schiele is an unconventional writer.

“Everything is written in notebooks longhand, then typed into the computer,” she said. “That’s the way my process has always been. The picnic table in my back yard is my writing desk.”

One reason the book took so long to complete was that the winter weather prevented her from writing outdoors.

“If I had enough room in the house, I’d move the picnic table in here,” she said.

The novel can be purchased online, and Schiele is busy spreading the word.

“It’s all self-promotion,” she said.

“ImaJinn prints the book, gives you twenty-eight copies and says, ‘Have fun.’ It’s up to the writer to get the word out.”

One coup came in the June 26 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, which listed Wiccan Shadows as one of the top 10 “Best Beach Reads of 2011.”

Schiele markets the book using family and friends, word of mouth, advertisements in storefronts and medical offices, Facebook and online groups that cater to Wiccans and writers.

“Any kind of publicity is good publicity,” she said.

The second book in the series will be Wiccan Moonlight. It is in the editing stage, but it’s also so long that it might be split into two books. The publication date is sometime next year.

Schiele is already thinking past her three-book commitment.

“I already have four and five working in my head,” she said. ••

The 282-page book “Wiccan Shadows” costs $16. It is available for purchase at www.imajinnbooks.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

For an electronic format, look for it at www.fictionwise.com, where the first chapter is available for free.

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com