There’s something intrinsically exciting about peering into the thoughts of others, isn’t there? Something about experiencing their feelings and adventures through the words they write and share that just makes your spirit tingle?

I know I’m not alone. Journals of soldiers and slaves and history’s most influential citizens would not grace our many museums if that were the case. It is a quirk shared by one of the characters in my series.

old-books-436498_1280Bermuda can be a hardass in her role as quartermaster, but she appreciates a good journal entry when one falls into her lap. (In fact, the very first scene in The Tree That Grew Through Iron, we’re introduced to her penchant for aging diaries … so long as the topic of love doesn’t surface on those tattered pages.)

I struggled for a while with what organization Bermuda would make a donation to if she were an actual human being, and not a fictitious blunderbuss-wielding wench from a world on the edge of environmental collapse. When I saw the UntitledTown Book and Author Festival was seeking donations, I knew I had found it.

This year especially, with stories ranging from domestic violence survivors to immigrant experiences, I felt in my heart Bermuda would be drawn to supporting this organization. As a woman surrounded by countless underdogs, each with his or her own tale to tell, she understands the importance of stories. Stories are what propel her and the others along in their endless quest to dig up the legends of Panagea. Without the documented tales of those long gone, all evidence of the mythological beasts of Panagea’s past would’ve been lost forever.

So … what is UntitledTown, you ask?

UntitledTown is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to celebrating the human act of storytelling. Since 2017, UntitledTown Co. has fostered a community of readers and writers of all ages and experiences, culminating in an April UntitledTown Book and Author Festival.

Pretty amazing, right? It’s not just the predilection for keeping stories alive that made me choose this as Bermuda’s organization. UntitledTown’s official statement of inclusion reminded me so much of the temperament coursing through the entire ship. Captain Kazuaki Hidataka makes it perfectly clear that his crew is accepted blindly, no questions asked. Murderers, thieves, orphans and deserters … there’s no short supply of misfits aboard the ship. One rule stands far and above any others: it doesn’t matter who you were, what you’ve done, or what you believe. All that matters is that you stand with your comrades in the present, no questions asked.

UntitledTown reflects a similar inclusion. From their website:

UntitledTown seeks to lift and enrich by celebrating all forms and expressions of the human condition. We welcome all races, religions, gender expressions, sexual orientations, ages, national origins and abilities with open arms. In doing so, UntitledTown creates an inclusive and invigorating environment for all—staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, attendees, featured speakers and vendors.

How can you not support that?

For these reasons, I have picked UntitledTown as Bermuda’s choice for my year-long endeavor to donate to one charity a month, based on the preferences of the characters in my Panagea Tales series. Bermuda has donated $200 to keep stories alive for everyone.

If you’d like to donate to UntitledTown and help them reach their goal, please visit their website! It’s an incredible organization and so, so important for future generations to enjoy the free workshops, readings, and experience a moment in time of someone else’s life.

I believe in fate. I believe in little slices of magic that guide people to certain places from time to time. Gentle nudges from the universe, I suppose. Something like that.

Sure, it sounds a bit crazy. Even a little … romanticized, doesn’t it? That’s fine. ‘Quirky’ is a characteristic I’m not afraid to own.

As time ticked down in January between my last ‘Year of Inspired Giving’ post and this one, I had no certain clues as to what February’s act was going to be about, or who it was going to involve. I knew I didn’t want to give to big charities that I hadn’t researched (because how much of that money actually goes to the cause you want to help?). So, I waited.

That was when Troy Blackford’s fundraiser for his son, Adrian, fell into my lap.


It was solely by happenstance, but after reading everything the family endured in regard to their three-year-old son’s whirlwind diagnosis, to say I was both moved and gutted by the end of their story would be an understatement. It’s a cliche to say, but that’s only because most cliches have a large bulk of truth in them: they have literally endured every parent’s worst nightmare.

It feels wrong to draw any attention away from the Blackford family’s pain during a time like this, so I will only mention briefly why I chose this fundraiser: it reminded me of the moment that set Nicholai’s adventure into motion. A father’s love for his child is immeasurable, and they would do anything for their progeny. Even though things ultimately didn’t end well for Nicholai, his resentment took a backseat to Rodgie’s love for his daughter. He would have absolutely donated to this cause if there was any chance at all that it would ease the family’s burden during this tragic time.

To learn more about Adrian’s brave battle, and to make your own donation to the Blackford family, please click here to visit their GoFundMe. And, at the risk of spouting two overused cliches in a single blog post, hug your children a little longer tonight. We are promised nothing.

(A special thanks goes out to Loretto Bergamot (@BergamotLoretto) without whom I would not have stumbled across this deserving family’s story. His efforts to raise money for this family have been incredibly moving.)

Several months ago, one of my tattoo clients (the dear Paula Kolpien) approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a fundraiser for some organizations she’s a part of. Generally, I try to do one fundraiser a year by donating the proceeds from a day’s worth of tattooing, so this wasn’t particularly out of my normal realm of practice, but I’d been considering something … special … for a while. Let’s just say a few metaphorical marbles were rolling around in the ol’ brain hole.


I wanted to try connecting my two passions (tattooing and writing) in a positive way for a while, and when the lovely Paula said the money would go toward White Paws German Shepherd Rescue and Mit Leibe German Shepherd Dog Rescue respectively, I thought, “Those sound like organizations Granite would donate to if he weren’t a figment of my imagination.”

Naturally, as creative minds often do, this thought spiraled wildly out of control.

What organization would Umbriel donate to?
Or Mr. Addihein, the tireless humanitarian whose dream for a better world for all seems like an all-to-utopian impossibility?
Even Kazuaki, with his questionable moral compass, would surely find something he deemed worthy of supporting, right?

I believe they would.

As the general underlying theme of the Panagea Tales is ‘there is no good or evil, only people doing what they think is right’, I intend to do just that. Once a month. For an entire year.

Today, my tattooing career helped me raise $680 (or $340 for each organization) for Mit Liebe and White Paws.

Somewhere in the depths of my head, Granite is genuinely happy to see money going to help animals who really need it.

Here’s something directly from White Paws’ website:

Since 2004, we’ve saved approximately 150-175 dogs a year from being put to sleep in shelters, most stray or abandoned by owners.  We take in dogs found in dumping grounds, owner surrenders, shelters and many other bad circumstances from 22 states in the Continental U.S.  We rescue young, old, and medically needy dogs.

And the mission statement from Mit Liebe? I think that’s something we can all get behind:

We only adopt to those who will love the dog as much, or if possible, more than we do.

If you’d like to make your own donations to these fine organizations, you can find the information on their mission and more on the links provided.

We all know the cast of the Panagea Tales is extensive … so, as stated above, for every month of 2020, I’ll pick an organization I think one character would support today if they were tangible human beings. Since Granite was so late in the month of December, he’s taking place as my official ‘January’. I don’t know who will serve the February slot yet, but I’m sure when the timing strikes, I’ll feel it. (Unless, of course, you all have some suggestions on where you think the characters would like to lend an assist). I’d love to hear them and help however I can.

Instagram: @tattoopeasinapod

I’d also love to hear stories of how you made positive changes in your world or someone else’s. Maybe a signed copy of a book will fall into your mailbox from the literature fairy. They say fortune favors the bold, but I think it also favors those who favor others. Good karma and all that.

A happy New Year to you all, thank you to the lovely ladies who came out to get tattooed today, and cheers to eventual salvation for homeless animals everywhere.


incinerationAh, guilt. One of many emotions that are as inevitable as they are unpleasant. It makes us human, doesn’t it?

Guilt invades me more often than I care to admit when I think of the Incineration Saga. I’m not sure if you know to what I’m referring, since it never amassed the same following that the Panagea Tales did – but the Incineration Saga was my little slow-burn paranormal romance featuring the witch (Esven Greenbriar), the fire demon (Balvonak), and the priest (Elias Deverell). I worked on the series somewhere between writing The Serpent That Swallowed Its Tail and The Canary That Sang to the World … delaying the inevitable conclusion of the Panagea Tales, you see.

I wrote two books in the series and part of the third. The first two books went under my capable editor’s eyes, and then I hastily threw them up on Amazon thinking, “This will be great! A new series! Woo!”

As it turns out, our dear human/demon/human trio launched to crickets.

Now, I don’t write to make money. (No. Really.) I am fortunate enough to make enough coin with my tattoo artistry that I do not need to rely on funds from the books. I write because I enjoy the characters, and because I want to share their stories with others who may enjoy them as well. It didn’t bother me that Esven, Balvo, and Elias didn’t pay the bills … but I did find myself marinating in guilt that their ending remained up in the air.

Normally, when I write, I have a pretty good idea of when the book(s) will be available to the general public. With Incineration, I cannot see the immediate future. It irks me. Because of this, I’ve decided to temporarily unpublish the first two books in the Incineration Saga (Followed by Fire and Embraced by Embers) until I know precisely when the remaining books in the series (Swallowed by Smoke and Cell of Cinders) will be forthcoming.

For the very few of you (less than sixty, I believe) who started the Incineration Saga and were looking forward to continuing it, I’m very sorry. I do promise that Esven, Balvo, and Elias will return. In the words of Elias Deverell …

There is no path on this land narrow enough that I would not walk beside you … even if I have to step in some poison ivy every now and then.

I still stand by the characters. I will still walk beside them and finish their story, regardless of the pitfalls. I just want to be sure that when they do, you won’t be waiting a year or more in between releases.

As always, thank you for reading!

The_Panagea_Tales_Box_Set_The_Complete_Epic_Fantasy_Series_McKenzie_AustinOctober 21st is a wonderful day to curl up with a book (or four) and enjoy some delightful autumn reading.

It’s also the day the Panagea Tales comes to a bittersweet end.

I started this journey in January of 2018, and I made quite a few mistakes along the way. I’ve edited the original manuscript more times than I can count. I’ve gone through three different book covers for The Tree That Grew Through Iron. I didn’t have a newsletter, or beta readers, or advanced review copies to give out to people to make sure my book(s) had Amazon reviews on launch day.

I just knew I wanted to write a book. One book turned into two. The deeper the characters burrowed into my heart, the longer their stories became. Now, just shy of two years since I first put fingers to keyboard, their respective journeys are coming to completion.

Gods dammit, I hate goodbyes.

I’ll still be able to revisit them; I know that much. We still have to make the audiobooks for The Gods Who Harvested Men, The Serpent That Swallowed Its Tail, and The Canary That Sang to the World. I’ve been toying with the idea of a collection of short origin stories for Kazuaki’s crew. You know … little visits, here and there. But I know it won’t be the same. Half a million words is a long adventure to take, and unfortunately for Nicholai, Kazuaki, and the crew, there just aren’t half a million more.

I hope if you have stories in your heart, you write them. I hope if you have characters you want to show the world, you share them. And I hope you feel the same thrill, and fear, and triumph, and sadness that I have when you do. Goodbyes will always be hard, but I wouldn’t trade this one for the world.

I hope if you read the box set and enjoy the series, you consider leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you for taking this journey with me. Let me know if you ever start one of your own. I’m always down for an adventure.