When I met Tricia Stirling at her When My Heart Was Wicked signing in February, I had no idea that she’s from the same city I reside until we got to talk. This book takes place in Sacramento, and a bit in the city I spent a good part of my teen years/party days — Chico aka “the party city”. But Chico is more than a party city, though: there is plenty of outdoorsy things to explore and do. There aren’t very many fiction books that takes place here (at least what I’ve read/heard of), it’s almost as if people forgot that Sacramento is the Capital of California. Too many are focused on LA. So I’m excited to show you around the Capital of California in this story diary!
“I used to be one of those girls. The kind who loved to deliver bad news. When I colored my hair, I imagined it seeping into my scalp, black dye pooling into my veins.
But that was the old Lacy. Now, when I cast spells, they are always for good.”
16-year-old Lacy believes that magic and science can work side by side. She’s a botanist who knows how to harness the healing power of plants. So when her father dies, Lacy tries to stay with her step-mother in Chico, where her magic is good and healing. She fears the darkness that her real mother, Cheyenne, brings out, stripping away everything that is light and kind.
Yet Cheyenne never stays away for long. Beautiful, bewitching, unstable Cheyenne who will stop at nothing, not even black magic, to keep control of her daughter’s heart. She forces Lacy to accompany her to Sacramento, and before long, the “old” Lacy starts to resurface.
But when Lacy survives a traumatic encounter, she finds herself faced with a choice. Will she use her powers to exact revenge and spiral into the darkness forever? Or will she find the strength to embrace the light?
Setting + Places
Magic + Plants
This is where the magic realism–I guess you can call it that?–comes in. Lacy and her mom, Cheyenne, kind of remind me of gypsies with their spells and magic herbs and stuff. Some elements in this book also reminded me of my gypsy ways, although I do not practice magic like Lacy and Cheyenne do. Whereas I use natural herbs as medicine and crystals for meditation and healing, they stuck to plants and spells for healing. This is another part that got me to connect with this story.
- Sprinkle dried angelica around four corners for extra protection
This spell requires limes, a knife, string a piece of paper, a nail, a jar, a lighter and a picture of whom the spell is being casted on.
When she comes back with everything, I find Drake’s student picture in the yearbook and tear it out . . . . I wrap the string tightly around the picture, concealing first his eyes, then his mouth. Next I tear the piece of blank computer paper in half. One piece I put between two halves of the lime, and I remember . . . . I drop the lime [in the jar] and the wrapped picture from the yearbook into the jar. “Now we write Drake’s name on this half of the paper, set it on fire, and let the ashes fall into the jar.” — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 107)
From there you bury it and chant: “[victims name here] I bind thee from causing harm.”
I bite a chunk of skin from my thumb . . . and I smear it on the dove’s head. “Bring this creature back, I whisper aloud. “Bring her back to life.” . . . I take the bottle of silver calligraphy ink. I tear the cork stopper with my teeth and smear the bird’s feathers with silver. As I chant, she begins to stir. — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 70)
- Official name is Artemisia douglasiana, but is also called “California Mugwort” or “Dream Plant”.
- Can be dried for tea
- Grows in clumps like a weed
- Natural remedy for stings, wounds and even acne
I like to take the natural route for medicine but have yet heard of/tried this, so I’m going to look into this and maybe give it a try.
“See the little red flower in all the white? It’s supposed to represent a drop of Queen Anne’s blood from where she pricked her finger while making lace.” — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 90)
Also called “Wild carrot.” Queen Anne’s lace is actually one of the common names; the official flowers name is Daucus carota.
“I happen to dig botany.” — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 11)
“Maybe I’m making a coat of human skin.” — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 118)
I think of Artemis, the moon goddess, who killed a man just for seeing her naked.” — Tricia Stirling, When My Heart Was Wicked (pg. 109)
“I like tossing and turning,” I say. “It keeps my arm from falling asleep.”
“It’s the only way I get any exercise.”
I’m a tosser-and-tuner too, so this made me literally LOL and–sad to say, but–also realize that it’s the only exercise I get too.
Meet Tricia Stirling
I am a writer. I am also a mother, daughter, wife, sometimes crafter, and voracious reader. I’m outdoorsy and kind of shy. As a child, I was kicked out of girlscouts. I love cheese and bread. I love Anthopologie and Mary Margaret’s apartment in Once Upon a Time. I’m a sloppy dogloving person, but I admire the sleek cool of cats. My favorite writers include Alice Hoffman, Janet Fitch, Donna Tarte, and Aimee Bender. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were also good.