Lisa Mangum has worked in publishing since 1997. She has been the Managing Editor for Shadow Mountain since 2014 and has worked with several New York Times best-selling authors. While fiction is her first love, she also has experience working with nonfiction projects.

Lisa is also the author of four national best-selling YA novels (The Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello), several short stories and novellas, and a nonfiction book about the craft of writing based on the TV show Supernatural. She has edited several anthologies for WordFire Press, including One Horn to Rule Them All, Game of Horns, Dragon Writers, Undercurrents, X Marks the Spot, and Hold Your Fire.

She currently lives in Taylorsville, Utah, with her husband, Tracy.

Eat, Drink and Be Wary edited by Lisa Mangum

"An entertaining short story collection of speculative fiction . . ."—Booklist

Food. We use it to celebrate, to provide both comfort and energy, and to show our love. There's something about mixing a pinch of this and a dash of that to create something new. And when you pair it with the perfect drink . . . *chef's kiss*

Stories can do the same thing. They can be a celebration, bring us comfort and energy, and help us express our love. And when the perfect character is paired with the perfect plot . . . well, then you have something worth devouring.

So take a place at the table, and let's see what's on the menu.

For starters, gather your pennies to bid for the last two jars of peaches for sale in an apocalyptic future. Follow it up with a slice of pizza guaranteed to bring love into your life. Dig into a shrimp and pasta dish so flavorful, you'd swear it was some kind of witchcraft. Grab a plate of "Lloyd's Secret Surprise"—it's out of this world! And for dessert, choose between some very memorable homemade cookies, a slice of chocolate cream pie worth dying for, or a life-sized gingerbread house—just make sure it's not occupied before you start nibbling at the door.

This collection of nineteen stories is packed full with hearty plots, meaty characters, and a surprising and mysterious twist at the end to serve as the perfect dessert.

Eat, Drink, and Be Wary: Stories with a Delicious Twist is the seventh anthology edited by Lisa Mangum and published by WordFire Press. Profits support the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship fund for the Superstars Writing Seminars.



  • ". . . an entertaining short story collection of speculative fiction . . ."

    – Booklist
  • ". . . this fun book brings together stories where food draws people together—or tears them apart."

    – Booklist
  • "SFF-loving gourmands will be delighted.."

    – Publishers Weekly



Words of Warning

by M. Elizabeth Ticknor

Don't trust the fairies, child. Beware the chitinous kiss of dragonfly wings against your peach-soft cheeks. Beware the delicate pitter-patter of flower-booted feet dancing on the surface of the goldfish pond. Beware echoes of laughter carried on gentle breezes, especially when you believe yourself to be alone. Beware their saccharine-sweet words, mixing truths and lies into every sentence until there's no way to tell the difference.

That's how magic works, you know—the fairies lie so well that reality reshapes itself to suit them.

Don't trust the fairies, child, but feed them daily. Leave saucers of milk or bread crusts on your kitchen stoop. Even if it's all the milk you have left, even if it's your last crust of rye, feed the fairies as best you're able. Far better to earn their favor than their wrath. If you must seek the fairies' aid, supplement your daily offerings with berries, cheese, and honey. Such generosity will endear you to them.

Fairy pranks can be both dangerous and deadly; protect yourself accordingly. Seek out an iron pendant—an arrowhead or a cross, a shape both sturdy and dependable. While you bear iron, no fairy can harm you directly. However, such protection is far from universal—spells and charms can still affect you. Keep bread crumbs on hand for emergency appeasement, and a pinch of salt to repel unwelcome advances.

Be on your guard should you ever venture into the dark and ancient wood. The pull of magic is strong there—it will confound your sense of direction and tempt you to stray from well-trod paths. Getting lost is the surest way to stumble into the Fae Realm, and nowhere is this easier to accomplish than in places where nature still holds sway.

Once you've crossed the threshold, you can't return the way you came—the paths are ever-changing. No matter which way you turn, sooner or later you're bound to wander headlong into the Fairy Court. Do not expect to find a castle. Fairies make their homes wherever they choose, and they far prefer a carpet of moss and the limitless expanse of a starry sky to the cramped, restrictive walls and ceilings that mortals use as protection from the elements.

Fairies, not being mortal, need no such protection.

Don't trust the fairies, child, and beware their hospitality most of all. Ignore the platters piled high with roast pheasant and boar. Shun the bowls piled high with fruits both familiar and foreign—bloodred apples as large as coconuts, bruise-purple mulberries that stretch as long as your fingers, dragon fruits that grow warm in your hands and pulse with something akin to a heartbeat. Drink not the aromatic wines made from elderberries, plums, cherries, and currants. Consume nothing while in the Fae Realm, for that will bind you in service to the Court forever.

Don't trust the fairies, child—but should you find yourself in the Fairy Court, steal a bottle of elderberry wine for me. I'll pay you well and teach you charms to turn away the Fairy Court's wrath. The wine will lose some of its potency when it's brought across the border, but it's still a fine draught, and it'll do these old bones good. There might even be enough magic left in the bottle to breathe life back into my tattered wings.

About the Author

M. Elizabeth Ticknor shares a comfortable hobbit hole in Southeast Michigan with her Wookiee husband and their twin baby dragons. An avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, Elizabeth also enjoys well-written horror. The authors who have inspired her include Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, Chuck Wendig, and David Wong. Her other interests include drawing, painting, and tabletop roleplaying. Visit her at or on Twitter @lizticknor.

Tick Tock

by Aleksa Baxter

It's easy to kill someone. The hard part is not getting caught.

Or so Mildred Hense mused to herself as she stood in front of the full-length mirror her granddaughter had given her for Christmas the year before. It matched the rest of her room exactly, with the glue-gunned-on layers of beige lace and peach roses around the perimeter.

She was so proud of the girl. Twelve years old and skilled enough—mostly—to have done the work all by herself. Mildred, of course, wouldn't have left that hideous pool of dried glue in the bottom-left corner. Nor would she have allowed the lace to be the slightest bit crooked along the right edge.

But that was neither here nor there; it was a gift, and that's what counted. Although, were Mildred being honest with herself, the mirror was not going to be displayed in her new room in her new house that she was going to buy as soon as she disposed of her husband, Clive.

Whistling a happy little Christmas tune to herself, Mildred glanced once more at the article she'd found two weeks before, buried at the bottom of the tenth page of one of the papers her son had dropped by for her to use as lining in the birdcage.

It was a small article. One that might've slipped right by her, but fortunately fate had intervened, and she'd caught a glimpse of the picture of a hideously ugly clock held by an equally hideously ugly man.

That clock. It was exactly like the monstrosity she'd been forced to feature on her living room mantel for the last fifty years. Fifty years of new couches and new wall colors and new carpet, all marred by that damnable clock that didn't match anything she'd ever owned or ever wanted to own.

But Clive was adamant that it stay. So year in and year out, she'd been forced to display that oversized, out-of-date piece of garbage that was too big to hide amongst a bunch of knickknacks.

Everyone commented on it. Everyone. She couldn't have a single person to her house for fifty years without them commenting on that awful clock. Did they notice her embroidery? No. Did they notice her crochet? No. Did they notice the lovely pale green carpet she'd had installed?

No. No. No.

It was always the clock. Where did you get that? Oh, how interesting. It's how old? Oh my.

Worthless piece of outdated …

But it wasn't worthless, was it? Not according to the headline of that little article she'd found. Oh no. That clock she'd been forced to suffer through for the last fifty years of her marriage was, it seemed, worth more than a million dollars.

Had Mildred been a different sort of woman, she might have taken that article to her husband with a delighted smile and suggested that all of their money woes were solved. But Mildred was not that woman. Nor was Clive the sort of man to see the sense in selling off a family heirloom for the chance to retire to sunny Florida.

Which meant one thing: Clive must die.


Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, Mildred fluffed her snow-white curls and ran her hands down her ample hips, smoothing the fabric of her bright green dress with its reindeer trim along the neckline and sleeves.

She hadn't wanted to turn into the embodiment of Mrs. Claus, and for years she'd bitterly hated the thought that her outside appearance was so soft and cuddly. But she'd come around to it now that she was about to kill her husband. Suddenly being underestimated and overlooked had its advantages.

Giving herself one last dimpled smile in the mirror, she put on her wire-rimmed reading glasses and her snowman apron and turned toward the door.

It was time.


Mildred didn't bother with a recipe. Who needs one for cookies you've made every single year for the last sixty-five years? Plus, a little variation now and again was what made them homemade.

She removed the ingredients she needed from the fridge—butter, eggs, cream cheese, insulin—and stacked them neatly on the counter next to the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar.

As she mixed and stirred, she sang along to the Mariah Carey Christmas CD playing in the living room. It wasn't easy adding insulin to the frosting mix—those little bottles weren't built to dump right in like vanilla extract—but it wasn't exactly hard either. Not for someone with a plan.

Everyone knew Clive had a sweet tooth and was a bit spacy to boot. Just as everyone knew that once Mildred took her little pill at night she wasn't waking up until morning. And just in case they didn't know, she'd made sure to remind them more than once the last couple of weeks.

So who would question that he'd accidentally doubled-up his dose and that she hadn't been awake to know until too late? These tragic things happened to the elderly, after all.


Mildred took a deep breath of baked sugary goodness as Clive clomped into the kitchen, leaving mud in his wake.

"Smells good," he grunted.

"Fresh out of the oven. Here, have one." She smiled at him, pointedly ignoring how he'd muddied up her floors and reached for the cookies with his grubby little hands before she could even offer them.

He, of course, took three. Fifty years of marriage and he never had listened to her about eating right or watching his weight.

She smiled. "Would you like another?"

"In a minute. I have something to show you in my workshop. Come on."

She grimaced. It was muddy outside and cold, and she didn't want to go to his messy workshop that stank of the cigars she wouldn't let him smoke in the house. She told herself it was one more night. She could put up with anything for just one more night. "Of course, dear. Let me just put on my snow boots."

As she did that, he grabbed three more cookies from the counter. She quietly smiled to herself, the thrum of accomplishment warming her against the bitter winter breeze that slapped her in the face as she opened the door.

There was a reason his workshop was away from the house. And it wasn't so she'd be forced to go there. "Like the cookies?" she asked.

"Yeah. Good stuff," he grunted as he shoved another one in his mouth.


Clive, as it happened, was not made of the same sort of stuff as his wife. He wasn't a planner. He was the kind of man who liked to live in the moment.

Which is why when he saw an article about the clock on a piece of newspaper wrapped around a gift from his youngest granddaughter and decided to kill his wife, he did it the good old-fashioned way. With a shovel to the back of the head.

Admittedly, it was a bit messier approach. Certainly not very elegant. Nor did it involve the karmic use of years of ignored advice.

But it worked.

Took a few tries, to be honest. Turns out that when you bash someone in the back of the head with a shovel it sometimes just knocks them down and makes them groan a lot. Especially if you're an older man with arthritis in his wrists who hasn't kept in the best of shape.

But the one positive trait Clive did have was his ability to stick to a decision once made. He'd stayed married to Mildred for fifty years, by gum, and when it came time to end that marriage, well, he stuck with that decision, too.

Of course, that did leave the issue of what to do with the body …

Because it turns out that digging a hole in the ground in the middle of winter when there's been snow for the last week isn't exactly easy. And even though there might be a whole television show devoted to bodies buried in people's backyards, as Clive sadly learned, those people must've committed their murders in the summertime or lived in the south where the ground was not frozen as hard as a brick.

Or maybe they were just in better shape than an overweight diabetic whose hobbies involved drinking beer and watching sports on a little black-and-white television while pretending to work in his shop.

Either way, Clive quickly found that the killing was the easy part.

So, like all men of his ilk, he decided to give it some time and headed back into the house for a few more cookies. Which he ate in the living room with his feet kicked up and the television blaring in a way his wife would have never allowed, masking the sound of the wonderful, magical clock ticking away in the background.


Which is how his son, Ben, discovered him three days later when he finally dropped by to see why his mother hadn't called to make him feel guilty for spending Christmas at his wife's parents' house. Forget the notion of compromise and "happy wife equals happy life," Ben's mother had always insisted that she be the center of his world.

And until Ben had met said wife, he'd happily gone along. But Ben's wife was a formidable woman, and she'd put her foot down. It made for some cold family gatherings with the two women facing off across from one another, each smiling her most polite smile while exchanging sugar-coated daggers disguised as polite inquiries.

His wife's favorite such dagger, of course, involved complimenting Mildred on the clock featured so prominently on her mantel.

But such was life, and Ben skated through between the women, loving them both and happily oblivious to their tug-of-war for his heart. He was a simple man who liked football on Sundays, poker night on Wednesdays, and being the in-house accountant at a small engineering firm.

When he found his father's body, he didn't know what to do. This was not the sort of thing that happened in the life of a man like Ben.

His father looked peaceful with his feet kicked up, the TV on in the background, a plate of cookie crumbs at his elbow. But he also, after three days, did not look—or smell—very alive.

Ben immediately looked for his mother. She'd know what to do. But she was nowhere to be found, so he did the next best thing. He called his wife. She'd handle things. She always did.


And Ben's wife, Mary, did handle things. Even though what most people saw when they looked at Mary was a middle-aged stay-at-home mother of three whose crowning achievement the prior year had been taking over the PTA at her daughter's middle school, Mary was born to handle crises like this.

She settled Ben down in the guest room with a nice cup of tea, called the babysitter to pick up the kids, found the discarded bottles of insulin and tucked them away in her purse along with the two copies of the article about the clock she'd been so careful to plant in the path of her in-laws—thus also discovering her mother-in-law's body in the process.

She then took three deep breaths, channeled her experience playing Evita in her high school musical years ago, and called 911 to report the tragic death of her father-in-law from what was obviously natural causes and her mother-in-law from what was most obviously not natural causes.

When the detectives arrived and asked their questions, she managed that perfect balance of shaken tears and thoughtful observance as she reflected back on the tensions she'd seen over the years between Mildred and Clive. Because in fifty years there were always tensions, weren't there? Not generally the whack-them-in-the-head-with-a-shovel type, perhaps, but then one never truly knows the nature of someone else's marriage, do they?

She was perfect. Sad, composed, helpful, protective.

She deserved one of those shiny golden trophies for her performance, but she was happy to settle for the ugliest clock she'd ever seen in her life. Not like it was going to stay in her home for any length of time, after all.

No, she was going to sell that thing as soon as she could. She deserved it. It hadn't been easy to arrange for her husband's interfering parents to kill one another after all. She'd had to nudge them both in just the right way and at just the right time. She hadn't actually expected it to work out quite as well as it had, but life can be beautiful that way if you let it.

As she stared at the clock, feeling oh-so-proud of herself, her husband came to stand at her side.

"I've always loved that clock." He kissed her on the cheek. "It will look great on our mantel, don't you think?"

"Maybe we could see if it's worth something." She smiled at him, batting her cornflower-blue eyes.

"Oh, I'd never sell that clock. It's a family heirloom."

As he pulled her close in a one-armed hug, visions of that hideous monstrosity ticking away on her mantel for the next fifty years flashed through her mind, and she suppressed a shudder.

No. That was not going to happen to her.

As she leaned into her husband and stared at the clock, she thought about how easy it is to kill someone, but how much harder it is to get away with it.

But she'd figure it out. She always did.

About the Author

Aleksa Baxter is the author of the Maggie May and Miss Fancypants cozy mystery series set in the Colorado mountains, starring Maggie May, her incorrigible Newfoundland Miss Fancypants, and a cast of quirky characters. The series is for those who like good friends, good food, cute dogs, and murder with a dash of romance on the side. You can find her online at or at, where she occasionally posts photos of her very own Miss Fancypants.