Wednesday, July 31, 2013

His hands flew over the keyboards, one on each, macros and command lines firing out into the void. He used to tell his friends he worked in computers before people got savvy about it; how he tells everyone is a consultant, a word so bland as to mean nothing at all. Politician is another such word, and Dave does admit to sending spam emails but even he has standards.

The macbook pro pinged up a notice. A reply to the offer of a vacation in the Maldives, but the name was familiar. He paused to get coffee, instructing his computer out loud to search for that name. Proper voice activation cost money, but money was not an issue: spam emails existed because people responded. In Dave's experience a sucker wasn't born every minute as much as every kilobyte of data.

His coffee didn't grow cold – he was a professional, after all, if only in a profession most found morally abhorrent – but the list that scrolled down the screen gave him a moment's pause. She – he'd decided the other person was a she (you can make of this what you will) – hadn't replied to every spam, no. But every one about a vacation, with comments about her husband, hurling his credit card at the internet as if daring someone like Dave to sink into it.

He hadn't when it first came up, expecting a trap, and it had fallen off the radar. Now he wasn't as certain, and more sad than anything else. He checked the balance on his swiss bank account twice, wired money into another account. It didn't happen often, that the spam emails were real, but enough for urban legend. Enough for people to sink more time into them. He normally didn't make it a whole vacation, but in the face of such hope he felt half-compelled to answer it.

He thought he understood the high God must get on answering a prayer as he hit the enter key and put money in her account with the dates of the flight he had booked. Then he turned back to the other screens and bombarded yahoo email accounts with offers of free televisions for filling out a simple virus-laced survey.

It never occurred to Dave to think that such a thing would let him understand the Devil as well.

Learning To Teach

It looks human: all the clever monsters either do that or are human in the first place. Rotund, balding man in a tweed suit with thick glasses, sweat-stained armpits and a beard and moustache that almost covered the lack of a nose and rows of teeth that weren't human at all. I've seen monsters do many things over the years, but teaching elementary school hadn't been one until today. I half-wonder if it feels at home with children, seeing them as kin.

It looks up as I walk into the classroom and smiles wanly, teeth hidden behind lips. "Can I help you?" in an accent no one would be able to precisely place at all. "The parent-teacher interviews were last night, but I can make an exception."

"I imagine you can." It pauses at something in my voice. "May I ask where you got your teaching certificate from if not from the Unseemly School?"

The monster ceases putting papers into a brown briefcase, hands trembling. I've never been to the School but I know it exists: some creatures who watch us from Outside get fascinated with humanity in non-lethal ways and the school teaches them how to fit in. I figure I can sleep better at night without knowing who or what the teachers of it are.

"Your internet allows many things. I wished to learn from a place without agendas," it says, phrasing the word carefully. "You are all so different, burn with so many colours. Just as stars all sing different notes, so you."

I let out a breath. "And you eat what?"

"Small rodents. Mice. A deer once a month. For meat."

"And no humans? Not even small, juicy ones?"

It straightens a little. "No." It weaves no power into its words, doing the opposite: The truth, a desperate hunger to understands, bursts forth. It is/not a flower, too big to see, almost too much to feel. Somewhere there is a city of glass and butterfly wings that isn't a city at all and is too full to be so empty.

I make a sound and it falls back inward, still holding a human seeming. For something from Outside to imprint that firmly on the world takes terrible power and risk both. "You're here enough to bleed."

A nod. "Some day I hope to dream, if the children can show the way."

"Okay. Okay." I hold out my right hand. "I bind you," I said, and it goes terribly still. "I bind you to your word given now and against unbinding."

It blinks, the hint of something Other in its eyes fading, then reaches and shakes my hand clumsily. "You surprise me, magician."

"Sometimes I surprise myself too."

I walk out the back entrance and wrap trees and nature and birdsong about myself. It leaves an hour later, not seeing me. I wait another hour before I speak wards to earth and stone, enjoining them to watch and guard. I can trust, but only to a point. I let out a breath after, tired and sore, and walk away slowly, keeping my seeming about me.

I pass it a handful of minutes later watching the school from behind protections of its own. Layers of unreality shimmer to my gaze. I continue, not looking over, and am not certain if it does me the same favour in turn.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: Ribbon

A response to the monkey's prompt of It was her red ribbon. Second writing prompt done today, both in the magician series ....

It was her red ribbon. This is why I make a point of not seeing ghosts. The ribbon hung from the back door of a home, the pale ghost staring at it and then me, her hair hanging unbound. She blinked her good eye and did nothing else, silent as all ghosts are. Nothing save waiting. An exorcist would banish her; a magician doesn't get that luxury.

The house is run-down, chips of paint the only proof it had ever been painted at all, thick vines and roots digging into the walls as if nature was hungry There are people who look old before their time; few people realize the same is true of buildings. .

I knock on the door, a solid rap with one hand. A TV stutters to silence. The man who answers the door is old and flabby but his eyes are flatly sharp and his hands curled into fists.

"Who are you?"

I nod to the ribbon. "Do you know that is?"

He snaps a fist toward my stomach, another to my head, fear surging speed through his body. I let the first blow hit to get a feel for him, step back from the second. I get rot and icy cold, small animals dying and the twisted anger of small men, all shrivelled needs turned into cancer inside his head, his anger tasting of burnt plastic.

"I could make you speak." I don't turn to the ghost. "I could make him see you, if you want."

The ghost drifts in front of me and shakes what remains of her head, parts fists didn't pulp.

The man begins to speak, offering money, threats, stumbling over each.

"Enough." I say, threading more power into it than I should; he staggers back. I turn to the ghost. "You brought me here. Choose."

She looks at him with an effort that hurts to see, then points to herself.

I let out a breath. "It costs, for the dead to claim the living, but sometimes that is all the dead can do."

I reach out a hand to the man's chest. He's ugly with twisted strength, the kind of sick will that keeps a body going long after it should have died, the anger at a world strong enough to keep the world at bay. I rip through all of it with a single act of will. I don't smile. I don't explain. I sure as fuck don't cry. I kill him, let his body strike the ground and watch his ghost rise out of it a moment later.

Few become ghosts. Most ghosts don't live that long. I am magician enough to make that come to pass, and take the strength of the woods pressing in on the house and give it to the girl. He never knew her. Now he'll know her far too well.

The ribbon shatters apart as I walk away.


"This is your fault." Charlie stabs her finger harder on the horn and glares death through the windshield at the horse eating grass in the middle of the road. The horse doesn't move and the horn is probably the only part of the car that actually works. "Roads should not have grass growing up in the middle of them. Take the back roads, you said. It's more interesting, you said. If I wanted to get closer to nature I'd go to a zoo or watch a movie."

"Two roads diverged into a wood."

"And we're taking the one that leads to serial killers and missing bodies. This isn't even on the GPS."

I rub the bridge of my nose. "Or the map."

"I still can't believe you know how to fold a map. That's part of being a magician, isn't it?"

"You don't think a random healthy horse on a road that isn't on any map at all could be unusual?"

She pulls her hands off the horn and lets out a sigh. "When you put it like that, no. Let me guess: dragon?"

"As far as I know all dragons work in treasury offices or are CEOs."

Charlie's eyes narrow, a hint of red seeping into them as the god inside her looks out. "I never know when you're joking."

"Good. You're not supposed to." I rap the dashboard with my knuckles and the engine grumbles a slow death that sounds not unlike a demon passing wind. With luck that wasn't anything I did.

Charlie gets out of the car as well and marches up to the horse. "You. Get out of our way."

The eyes of the horse shine white in response. A lot of magical creatures seem to be fixated on tricks involving their eyes. A hint of claws shimmer in the air around Charlie's fingers.

I cough and walk over. "I did tell you that the monster under your bed-slash-god inside you that you are shouldn't be called up for trivial reasons?"

Charlie pauses and pulls the aspect of the god slowly back inside her, turning to face me. "Why are you saying it like that?"

"Because," the horse says, "the magician is telling me you're not a demon and I should not destroy you."

She spins back, eyes wide. The unicorn that stands in front of her is smaller than the horse and what every deer dreams it was, as sharp as the wind and as swift as the sun. It is beautiful and terrible and could easily drive one half-mad.

"I've seen better FX in blockbuster movies." Charlie's pause is barely a hitch, her voice almost steady.

The unicorn's horn turns translucent. I cough again, louder.

"Magician," it says in a voice fit to make hunter's wet themselves.

"She is with me. And I believe beyond your purview?"

"Time was they would be older and wait for me." The unicorn's horn fades slowly from view as it draws up the seeming of a horse around itself again. "Men, women: it would not matter. They would see my purity and it would be a sign their own could end. And now I hide on roads without names or desires lest I be hunted down and used."

There is not much even a magician can say to that, or at least nothing kind. " I could increase the wards on this place."

"I need nothing from you." It turns and walks into the woods, the grace entirely that of a horse.

I walk back to the car.

"What was that about?" Charlie says as she gets in, trying to coax the engine back to life.

"A unicorn only has power over virgins."

"You're not a virgin."


"You look like one."

"Do you want to know what colours I could turn your hair?"

Charlie just grins and twists the key again until the car grumbles into life. "So how did we end up on this road?"

"I think no one has loved this car even once of all the people who owned it."

She pauses, mid-shift on the clutch, continues. "You mean no one has attempted stuff from the karma sutra in the back seat? Or the front?"

"I mean what I said. It's a magician thing."

"The unicorn didn't know?"

"Even unicorns see only what they want to see." I run fingers over the dashboard: the car asks for no magic, I offer it none.

"Are we getting rid of the car in the next town?" Charlie asks once we turn onto a proper road again.

"Yes." She asks nothing else. "All we could offer is pity, and the car doesn't deserve that."

"We can give it to a kid who just got his licence. It might be enough," she says finally as we pull into a town so small the GPS is reluctant to admit it exists. "But we're definitely taking proper roads from now on. With your luck we'll find out dragons are still around and have to rescue a princess."

I snort. "Those are just stories. That's not what princesses are for."

She slows the car and looks out the window for likely owners for the car and asks no questions at all. I leave her to decide on her own answers and close my eyes, pretending a sleep that becomes real sooner than expected.

Today's act of editing

was changing
"Time was they would be older and wait for me." The unicorn's horn fades slowly from view as it draws up the seeming of a horse around itself again. "Men, women: it would not matter. They would see my purity and it would be a sign their own could end. And now I hide on roads without names or desires lest I be hunted down and turned into aphrodisiacs."
"Time was they would be older and wait for me." The unicorn's horn fades slowly from view as it draws up the seeming of a horse around itself again. "Men, women: it would not matter. They would see my purity and it would be a sign their own could end. And now I hide on roads without names or desires lest I be hunted down and used." 
via  a friend's comment on the line. The story in the series was written for a prompt, but I am tempted to make it canon in the series that most of the monsters are extinct or hiding because of being turned into aphrodisiacs and the like.

Monday, July 22, 2013

weirding plots

I am currently editing/fixing the early three scenes of The Weirding Road. Again. This time it's mostly formatting it as a proper novel and fixing/finding errors. I added one more scene last night and need to add at least one -- possibly three -- bridging scenes to next once, since Amaris ending up back at Zel's place makes no damn sense as it is written now. I have a sort-of feel for where the story is going and how the plot will get it there but nothing is really concrete yet.

Once this draft is finished, it's going to be working on the edit of Ghoulish Happenings (with breaks to work on the Magician Series of stories but nothing more) until I get the novel working properly. At which point I will continue my re-write of the sequel, which is going to be fun since I pared down over half the plots and characters and plan to center on the one character getting his appendix out, which is so deliciously normal it'll be great fun to write.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I find the god hiding in the closet it had been born in. The god towers above me, composed of smoke-tinged fur, nightlight red eyes and claws of bleached bone; too big for too small a space. I step into the closet, which expands itself to fit me as the god's claws slide away from me. I'd be a poorer excuse for a magician than I am if I let a god kill me, especially one this small.

I call up light in my right hand. It comes up grey, a ball of dim fog that doesn't even try to be sunlight. I've been so tired lately, but Aaron was so afraid I agreed to come home with him. We met at a coffee shop earlier. He talked about his ex-wife, his daughter, letting me know whatever we'd have between us wouldn't last. I didn't much care about that: I've hurt enough people in my life that I figure I can hurt them a little less with one-night stands.

Then he mentioned the closet and her fear. So here I was, light flicking about my fingers and staring up at a god. I didn't try to smile. "Her name is Charlie. She's eighteen, and that is too old to be scared of monsters hiding in closets."

The god rumbles a reply in a voice as deep as the ocean, filled with something other than words.

"I know. Aaron's mom told him stories about monsters under bed and he made you. It's not hard to make a god, and his fear has kept you going for a long time. Of himself, what people would think if they really knew him. The monster in the closet." I snort. "Sometimes people are so damn literal."

The god snarls and lashes out again. I step aside, reach up and smack it in the nose. "No."

This time it growls, fear underlying everything. Still too far from words, but not too far from fear. There's nothing good I can make of knowing that.

I step back, raising hands. I have nothing in them, but a magician's hands are never empty. The god goes still, eyes flaring. "I don't want to hurt you. I could: Aaron has let me into his life enough to bind you here so you would never leave. Charlie would go to school, her parents leave and no one think of you again. I imagine the dying of a god is a long and slow thing."

The god stares down. No attacks, just a waiting silence like a deer in front of a car.

I walk back out of the closet to the sharp smell of nicotine. Charlie is standing in the doorway to her bedroom, all punk hair, black dye and clothing, her eyes a challenge the world falls short of. I told her to stay downstairs, in the way of magicians, and she is shaking a little from strain, trying to seem casual as if making it up the stairs had been easy.

"You didn't knock over anything. My closet isn't that big." Her voice is rough and low, trying so hard to be tough.

I almost say she'd be surprised, but I don't think it's true. I wait, which is almost a lost art.

"Dad brought you home. He doesn't do that with most of them. He told you about the monster, and he never does that." She puts more into the never than she knows, her sadness so big a wound that no one ever sees it.

We all hurt each other; sometimes I think that's all that keeps the world turning.

There are enough currents under anyone's surface for even magicians to drown in. Maybe especially magicians. Look deep into someone and all you see is pain, but not what gets them up each morning, what pushes them past it. We see the broken window, but not how much of the glass remains. We're all stronger than we think we are. Sometimes that's the worst thing about being human, magician or not.

"Your father made a monster when he was young. A god in the closet, of shadows and red eyes and claws like dead glass."

She pulls back, breath hitching sharply.

"It is only doing what it was made for; that is what gods are. And it will die alone in there unless it does something else, unless someone lets it out."


I open the closet door without touching it; that steadies her at some level. Charlie walks toward it, slow despite everything or because of it: I don't know, and I'm not sure she does as well. I thread power into the doorway: her need, her father's, the hole her mother left in their world. I don't know if the god makes it easier or not, but it is in the doorway a moment later.

Charlie stops. The god takes one step out of the closet, claws sliding along the floor. Stops in turn.

"Choose." I thread no power into my words, no magic into my actions. I can be a door, when needed.

They step in tandem. Shadows leap out of the god to engulf them in a whisper of alien words, each a terrible crushing on the world. I stand, force myself not to look away as the god slides into her. To my eyes, she eats it: just opens her mouth and draws the god inside in a rush of claws, shadows and everything. To hers, I imagine it's something else altogether.

She lets out a breath. Shuders. Another breath. Shudders. Turns. "How?"



I just smile to that. I hope it looks enigmatic.

Charlie runs her fingers through her hair, fingers shuddering a little. "I feel – I don't know what I feel. Like I've put on weight and don't give a shit, but not like that at all." She blinks, shakes her head, the rest of her body following. "You need a shave."


"Dad needs to call mom. You need a shave and new clothing. I can pack while we shave."

"Where are we going?"

"I don't know. Might be fun to find out," she says, and a hint of red flares in her eyes.

I smile to the both of them and head to the bathroom, not surprised to find my feet seem to know the way without me.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I am a magician and it means many things, but less with each funeral I attend. I'm not sure if it's worse if I'm not present. I'm watching the service from a puddle two blocks away from the funeral home because even if you are a magician you don't show up at the funeral of your father after you killed him. Not that anyone would know, but my mother and sister must suspect. They knew why dad left us long before I did.

I never set out to kill him when I left home. I certainly didn't set out to find him, but both our paths pushed us together until running away was no longer an option. Shoved up to the wall and you make a choice: particle or wave, live or die? I must have wanted to live a little more than he, or I was simply stronger. A purity of fire consumed him past bone, left nothing save the memory of ash behind.

All his magic, all the terrible things he'd done with it, and in the end it all just fell apart. Even if magicians don't get old, our magic does. I watch the entire service, half-suspecting someone will wake my father up and ask him what happened. No one does, not even Jill and the stories claim she once brought a turkey back to life in the middle of a Thanksgiving dinner. There is some magic in most families if one looks hard enough. Not often enough to be a magician, but that's often blessing more than anything else.

I stand, knees cracking, watch the image in the puddle dissolve to nothing. I could keep it open or even step through it, if I had need. I could pull strength from the world with that need, and from other people as well. Magic isn't power, but you can get away with murder with it and power seldom allows that. The chains of power make it harder to hide, at least from history, but those of magic make it so easy to just fade away.

"How many people have you killed?" The voice is high and cracked, as much whistle as speech through ruined teeth. I turn without a smile to meet a gummy smile that doesn't pretend to touch the cold eyes above it. Making brown eyes seems cold takes work but Mary-Lee mastered it a long time ago.

They say many things about her: that she is the oldest magician in all the world, that she was the first pharaoh, that she walked with gods and caused Atlantis to fall. Most of it is nonsense, and not a single story mentions how bad she smells. Layers of grime and age and wear cake clothing and face. Armour? Magic? I don't know and don't want to.

Her gaze has a weight I don't dare lie to. "Fourteen directly."

"You count the monsters." Her laugh is a rattle of death-dice in the back of her throat as she peers up at me through cataracts. "You're a good boy."

"No. No, I'm not." My voice is cold, even to my ears.

Mary-Lee does not even blink. "If you want to be punished, you will need to find someone else to do it: I do not waste my time on such things."

I rock back, cheek stung from a slap I never see: all her magic has fallen inside her, become her body. I imagine that if I peeled skin away there would be nothing under it save colours I had never seen.

"No one deserves to be punished," she hisses, "just as none deserve reward." She weaves hard-won experience into the words rather than power.

It suffices. I say nothing, don't reaching up to my cheek. Her mark burns and fades slowly.

"Magic is not something a magician does, boy. It it something they are, and you were more it than your father has ever been. That is why you won for all that he was tied to the city, regardless of his methods for avoiding consequences –."

"He murdered people and used their lives to pay the costs the world required." It sounds less than it was when I reduce it to words. I wonder how much Mary-Lee knows, what she knew, why she never acted.

"As I said, a method. There are worse ones." I don't doubt her; have no desire to find out what they are. Today seems to be a day for willed ignorance. "He acted, you acted. Destroying yourself serves no one."

I want to ask what she is doing, then, or becoming, the oldest magician in all the world. That she is speaking to herself as much as me seems true, but a magician learns quickly not to trust mere seeming. "Thank you for the fortune cookie."

She laughs, the sound distressingly young in so old a face. She does not tell me I will understand when I am older, just laughs and turns to walk away.

"Wait." She slows, not stopping. I can't keep the words inside after that: "Why didn't you stop him?"

"All actions are an exercise of power."

"Mary-Lee." I don't make it a threat, not entirely. Even today I'm not that stupid.

She doesn't take it as one at all, raises no protections I can sense. "It mattered that you acted, not that I did. He was your destiny, you his. That much I knew, and now it is done and the chain is broken. I would not have you wrap its remains about yourself."

"Why not?"

"If you have to ask, you know the answer." She does not smile. "What makes you think I do not tell all magicians this lesson, boy? Or that I do not exist save as a warning?"

"Because if you did, if that was true, you'd never tell anyone."

She laughs again, softer, more real. "Perhaps I wouldn't at that. But if everyone knows I wouldn't, what then? Eh?" She turns back and walks into shadows that gather about her like wisps of a dress and is gone between moments, leaving behind no sign she was here at all.

I want to say something before she goes, but I don't know what. I spare the puddle one last look, but it remains a puddle only as I walk away from it. I need a drink. I need several drinks.

My feet take me to a coffee shop instead.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thoughts on YA literature in the future

So. I showed this to a friend, who commented on how it hadn't aged well, which got me to thinking about comic books. These stories were, after all, written for kids. I can well picture writers going to their kids, "Well, what do you want superboy to do?" and then writing out the replies as stories. The intent was to entertain children in an age when children were the audience of comic books. Shocking, I know, but it did exist. Granted, I do wonder what the artists thought upon getting these scripts ....

All of which gets me wondering about children's fiction and how it shouldn't age well. The genre is written to entertain children and what children like alters from decade to decade, often depending on what adults believe the children want, marketing and so forth. I imagine most children's stories of this era that class as pop culture would fare as poorly in the future.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

weirding woes

So. Here I am, ~5000 words into the story, and I realize it is only going to work if it is first-person from Amaris' pov. Which will involve getting both more and less into her head as a character. On one hand, I get to make her prejudiced (as only makes sense in the setting) which I only realized today is Kind Of Important.

I am pantsing this story, so that shall be my excuse :)   Now off to redo 9 pages....

Friday, July 12, 2013


"Coffee. Black. Keep it coming." I hand the waitress a twenty and sit in the corner furthest from the door. Cheap little breakfast place on a holiday weekend, the kind of place that served coffee in one size and grease is a free side dish with any meal. No one else was in this early, and from the waitresses half-finished novel on the counter she hadn't expected anyone.

I drink my first cup, which tastes better than it has any right to; accept a second cup, turn down a menu. I can keep coffee down; I don't trust myself with food. I've killed before, with magic and without, but the last two nights had been hard and ugly. Hate-shadows and hauntings, sendings in the shapes of the living and the dead. I've put up conscious wards around my sleep for the first time in years and I know they won't last. Not if I want them to fail.

The world is an ocean of guilt we all drown in. Someone told me that once years ago. I don't think it's true, not all the time. Nothing is true all the time, even if one isn't a magician. I think I'm drowning in magic. I don't realize I said the last aloud until the waitress coughs.

"Refill?" I nod, push my cup over. "Strange thing to say."

She doesn't push. Other customers should have begun to trick in by now. I doubted any would until I left. "It is all I am. A magician who is only that is dangerous, I think."

"A magician."

I look up and meet her gaze. The pot of coffee tumbles from her hands at whatever she sees in mine and is on the table between moments. I pour my own coffee as she stagger-sits across from me, her eyes wide and hunting. Her name tag seems to shift, the words no language I know, her name sliding from my mind. Is she human? Other? Does it matter? No idea. If this is a trap, I can't bring myself to care.

Her gaze skitters to the coffee pot, back up to me. "I saw it fall."

"It didn't want to break." I put on a smile that doesn't fool either of us. "You're really a waitress."

She nods after the barest of pauses; I could read anything in it. I try not to. A magician tapping their emotions can work terrible magics and after be unable to undo any of it. I don't trust myself right now at all. Am not sure I ever did.

I pour her some coffee. She dumps creamers in it with shaking hands. "Why are you here?"

"Everyone has to be somewhere." It slips out glibly enough to satisfy neither of us. She wants to know why a magician with two days stubble and rumpled clothing is here. Why I haven't used magic for new clothing. Other things, I'm sure, but I try not to see them, sip coffee. "Sometimes we do a good thing for all the wrong reasons. Magic doesn't put us outside cause and effect or beyond karma and guilt. It can, but then we'd be something other than human but maybe still a magician."

"You're hiding."

I didn't think I was before now. I dump cream into my coffee, watch the ripples spread through it under my spoon. Ripples spreading into each other, flowing out as something else. "My guilt is hunting me as nightmares."

She doesn't say it's not possible. I'm sure whatever she saw in me hurt her, but I've no idea what I truly did nor how to undo it. Magic answers need, and often we don't know what we need until too late. Her hand reaches out to mine, pulls back.

"Guilt changes as well. It meets the world and it changes." I don't raise my voice as the bell over the door rings. "Even anger doesn't happen in a vacuum, no matter how pure it is."

Something moves toward me. It is large and wet and reeks the sickly sweet of burnt flesh clinging to the world. The waitress stares past me, eyes full of horrors.

"Look at me." She does, though it takes enough power to make my throat ache. "This is not yours. This is not you." Her fear gives me something. Not anger, but something.

I stand, turn. The thing behind me has my father's skin, my sins, random memories and flashes of bodies I don't know. It had been in the world. It has changed. Give it another day and it won't be mine, might even leave. I'm not quite gone enough to let that happen, surprised to find that is true. I brace myself for memories, for a scream wreathed in fire, but it does nothing at all, and that is somehow worse.

"I don't want you." I don't say I don't need it.

Nothing spills out of it, and I have nothing to bring against it, except the sharp gasp of the waitress. Except her fear. Except someone else.

The laugh that comes out of me is harsh, ugly with truth. I have nothing to bind it with, no magic strong enough to build a cage. I'm not me enough for that, not now. I loose it. I shove my hands into it before I can stop myself. (It burns so cold.) I loose it, pulling, fling the guilt to corners the world doesn't even know it has.

Two days of running broken in a moment of madness that feels like glory. I'm empty after, in a good way. Hollowed out of pain. Not balanced, but better.

I turn back to the waitress. There is nothing in her expression I can read. I imagine she looks like someone I once knew as I pull the rest of my money out of my wallet and place it on the table.

The coffee cup has gone still, with no ripples left in it at all. Her eyes seem almost human. Perhaps they are.

I don't smile. I say nothing. I just turn and walk away because sometimes that's all we're strong enough to do.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The weirding road: market forces

General thoughts: Given the nature of the city as layers of wood on wood over the old city few visit or trust, the nature of trade and goods in a city where one might have to flee any area in a given moment becomes both complex and fun. It can be assumed that most real professions in need to machinery in one place are tied to the Merchant-Lords, who have pretty much claimed all areas of the city that -- for unknown reasons -- the weirding does not touch. Which makes them both necessary and powerful because of that very necessity. 

Morning sunlight was a washed-out smudge behind clouds far overhead as Amaris slipped out of Zel's hidey-hole. She'd seldom come down this far in the city in last few months and never alone before now. Her father's explorations of the stone homes and walkways of the city had armoured her against some of the superstitions of the world but even he had said that, in the face of the weirding, sometimes superstition was all anyone had. Superstitions that would lead other men to hunt her down and turn her fingers into talismans against the weirding.

She smiled grimly to herself and flexed her hands slowly. About her the city was old wood built tight and made to last. The first layer had been built on top of stone homes and canals but it had been built with permanence in mind. Lessons about the cost of stone and the logical use of wood to grow a city filled her mind for a moment before she dispelled them with a sharp shake of her head. That was past, and the past meant nothing to the present. Her eyes strayed down unbidden and the roll of the waters of the city caught her gaze.

Even in day the causeways were dark and sluggish, a bubbling darkness of fog and shadow that seemed to blend into the old stone the water pressed against. They said if you swam in the river, the weirding could not touch you. They said many things: she'd ceased to listen to any of it months ago. The weirding had taken all except her and no story or tale could put that one to rest for her. Amaris held the river with her gaze: it was only water.

It was the work of moments to find a ladder leading up another layer of the city. Layers of wood on wood and home on home made up the city as it stood now, the ancient canals now walkways crossed by wooden planks scattered about and moved at need to connect with the walkwalks built around and through the buildings. Planning didn't exist for most of the city: you built as needed, took care not to destroy what was below you in the harvesting of wood and made walkways and ladders and ropes to the rest.

Some days Amaris felt the city had more walkways than it did homes, more paths than people: all made so that the weirding could be fled. Nothing was permanent: both storms and magic could destroy entire swathes of the city in days, the flow of people a scrambled search for safety and space to call their own. The Merchant Lords whose wealth came from terrifying trips outside the city lived in the only true homes, the old stone towers and wood above them that the weirding itself still slid away from. The city had been something different long ago: now it sulked over itself like a scavenger feeding on the dead.

It took two more levels before the city felt more like home, half-built and barely holding together as if it was a dream of itself. A flash of red a few blocks to the left was enough to orient on the red district, though it had many other names. The glass tower at the north end of the city where the magician Hodor lived made a second reference point, even for Amaris to be sure she was a solid hour from the small hole she called a home. She moved up steadily, slipping past people and up roads and ladders as shew found them until she hit the seventh level. Four walkways and two ladders took her up another level and to a market.

Markets littered the city on the tops of the upper layers, flashes of bright colours and cheap textile signs to lure people up. Up was sky and wind, a kind of safety from the dark below if one didn't fall, and most markets were as simple as that idea: one family, stuff they could carry, a few others joining in as the day wore on. Bright enough to be seen, small enough to take apart and flee with at the hint of the weirding flowing through air and stone like a river, only not like a river at all.

The better markets had weirdcasters, humans sensitive enough to the weirding to sense it before it manifested but sane enough to not want to become magicians. All the good ones worked for the Merchant Lords but it did pay well for those who had the skill, entirely based on how human you were. One weirding twisting and everyone dropped you, no matter how mild it might be. Amaris didn't consider herself one: whatever luck she had lay in mostly finding stuff when she needed it and not being around when the weirding hit, which wasn't the same trick at all. And as it was luck, that was all it was: a thing that would run out.

She shook the thought aside and slipped into the market, past small stalls, snagging old fruits from a boy who looked like he needed them more than her for a few shells his mother snatched away. Finding a fabric seller was easy: it took two before she found one who knew her, and Rigore accepted her offer of a one running for bandages and clothing. She was getting the better deal, but bandages were traded cheap – you never knew when someone who you'd held bind up would be able to pay you back – and they both knew that if he needed her again, she'd put things aside for him.

She had worked hard. Too hard, she thought now, given that people were after her, but it had given her some flow to barter with. Have enough ethic – enough honour – and people cut slack and twisted corners because you were good for it. Until you weren't, in which case debts tended to come due violently, regardless of how young you were.

"Careful, little gull," Rigore murmured as he handed her a bag he placed the clothing in. The bag itself was enough to sell at other markets for several meals. He was a big men, gentle in the way they sometimes could be and one of the few people who had known her from Before, though they'd never talked about it. If he recalled her father, he said nothing, but there was enough in that nothing for her to accept a use-name from him.

"Careful for?" she parried, leaving unsaid if it was a what or who.

"At least one of our esteemed Lords has his eye on you and those are more than most hunters."

Amaris ignored the twinge in her arm. "I know. I'm good."

"No one is that good. Not alone." No offer, just fact.

Amaris just grinned and held up the bag in response; let him think it was a friend if it made him feel safer. She owed him that much to balance debts a little, and smiled inwardly as she headed out of the market. Have of having good flow was things like that, paying back debts people didn't even know they owned. Not being owed, or owing, but some balance between it all as solid as a half-rot plank. She's done it, and wouldn't be the last to say she'd done it well, but no one lasted as a runner.

It was safer than being a thief, but that wasn't saying much at all. Amaris let out a breath and slid down two ladders, then four more, stopping a bare two levels above stone before she began to wind her way back to Zel: going this far would be enough to deter common pursuit, but wasting her time on the future would only distract her from living to read it. She drew her second-best knife from the sheathe on her back. It was thin, sharp, woven glass and bone she was more than prepared to use if she had to.

Sometimes all there is for it is to go on as we meant to begin. Her mom had said that, and for once the memory didn't hurt. Good truths didn't as much as the other kind.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Weirding Roads: first blush

And the start, though not actually the start. This is about 1K and I wrote another 1K for the previous scene (twice) and then scrapped it entirely as an opening and went with the following instead. The MCs name has changed twice this morning, but I think I'll stick with Amaris for now.

Amaris woke from sleep with her ears, the way she'd learned to in the months of living alone. Soft, ragged breaths, the shuffle of feet, a sound of bandages pressing to flesh: the boy whose hiding place she'd scrambled into to try and to flee the weirding still remained. She set that aside, eyes still tight, a slow flex of fingers and toes. Still herself. The weirding had been close enough to ripple air in front of her, give it the grey light of dead stars. The taste of burnt copper still lingered on her tongue, but it felt like a tongue.

It took everything she had not to gasp in relief at that. She'd talked to some of the twisted – the changed, in their own terms – and met one man who had been altered by the weirding in sleep, to wake knowing he wasn't truly human anymore. Everyone else had been awake, running from it and engulfed in wild power to become no longer themselves, bent and twisted beyond human norm or seeming. She'd survived when she shouldn't have, not at all: she'd heard one of those chasing her scream, high and bubbly, the sound of shattering bone. They'd call it luck, her living, though it never felt like that at all.

The boy in the room had frozen on seeing her, frozen further at the weirding boiling in behind and she – Amaris shoved thought-memory away, buried deep, heard a hitch in breath, footsteps moving closer in a slow pain-shuffle and opened her eyes finally as she shifted position. Clothing had been placed under her head, the smell ill-washed and sharp, her knives shifted in position – all three found, none removed – and the small glow light she'd found not longer after she started being a runner was sitting up on a shelf in the small room, the light of it a washed-out yellow hue she'd never seen before.

The boy whose hiding she'd invaded was crouched down, watching her in still wariness. A mess of filthy bandages and queer glittering eyes studied her warily; his cloak was gone, source of the smell behind her head, though strips of it were wrapped about his lower right arm. She wouldn't have put his age past her own but it was always hard to know in the city. The weirding could twist ages, make years bleed away. If it could happen, the weirding could do it: that was the only law everyone agreed on. And even those scoured by the weirding had no desire to face it again, no matter how close to the stone bedrock of the city they had to hide from the eyes of others. Which explained him, but nothing else.

The room whose window she'd leaped into was large enough to hold the two of them in comfort. The wood was old city, solid and well-built leavened by occasional streaks of odd colours, stones and minerals left over from the weirding passing through it over the years. No door remained into the rest of what had probably been a home but neither was there a clue Almaris could see to explain that. The weirding wreaked what it did and all that was left was to cope with the world it left behind.

She sat up, palming the knife stolen from what had been a kitchen in the red square of the city. It had been a kind of miracle: for two days the weirding had boiled over one area in sights and sounds and smells that seemed scarcely anything at all and when it left not a person had been touched but every other thing had turned a bright, brilliant red. Everyone had fled it, waiting for the second shoe to drop. You could find good things in it, if you were careful enough, and a solid knife was worth at least a life.

"You have a name?"

"Zel." His voice was soft, a little hoarse, but a cough rattled through that. "You?" he said, a bit stronger.

"Amaris." She reached behind her and pulled up the ball of brown that had been the cloak, handing it back wordlessly.

Zel took it, unfolding it with both hands and putting it on. His movements were slow and stiff and a hiss of pain escaped him as the clothing brushed his new-bandaged arm.

She knew she should have left. Asked no questions, trusted to luck and just bolted out the window she'd come in. The first layer of the city was deep-touched by the weirding: no one remained down here by choice, this close to the old stone buildings and canals that had been the city long and ago. The twisted and changed lived on such levels, and worse things beside, but –

the memory of the weirding brushing her reared up; she shoved it back down, held up her knife. "Can I see it?"

Zel blinked, then held out his arm wordlessly. It shook, as much from the offer as the pain, and she moved slowly forward, setting down her knife and peeling back strips of cloak. The skin under it was pale-human but bubbled, like metal rippled by the weirding, and pale pus oozed out even under her light touch.

"What?" she said, not letting go of his arm. Some people's skin could burn, blood eat through wood and even stone. This just smelled of sickness, sharp and sour and he seemed without surprise.

"Being close the weirding hurts." Nothing else. Not how the rest of him must look, how badly such a wound would heal. He pulled his arm back, stronger than she'd thought he was.

Amaris let go. Smart would be going. Smart wasn't last night, fleeing three hunters at random. She hadn't meant to become a runner, but had nothing else she could offer others beyond the passing of messages. You don't last six months as a runner without getting some flow: people wanting things, the curious, the hunters for talismans. A Merchant Lord's interest, if the silent one a month ago had been anything to go by. Even luck couldn't last against all that.

She rubbed her left arm, stood. "Stay. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Zel said nothing; she left the globe behind, the only thing she could say to the wariness in his eyes, and slipped out the window before he could ask questions she didn't want to try to answer.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Weirding: City & Inhabitants

The city is not structured in any way that can be called sane. It's all old stone and waterways with wooden structures built over and around it like a human's bird nest built on stone trees. The old stone can blunt the power of the weirding, some of it simply so twisted the weirding can no longer touch it. A few old stone towers still stand and in them the Merchant Lords live and dine, their wealth bought at awful cost of life and limb by both their kin and those who work for them. For to trade beyond the city is to brave the weirding in the wild and not even magicians do that alone any longer.

The few magicians that live in the city have their own towers made of glass and dreams,forged from shadows and death. No one enters them for they can call the weirding up and set it upon those who would harm them and all are old, as much wracked by age as by the weirding. Some are not even human at all now and others have become monsters that dwell in places even shadows fear to tread.

Below them are weirdcasters, those sensitive to the shape and motion of the weird but wise enought to not desire being a magician. The more human one is, the more work one gets though the profits are meagre as most are snatched up by Merchant Lords to work for them. It is easy to claim to be one, harder to survive even if you are one. Screw up and you risk behing engulfed in the weirding to become a weirdling, a creature once human that draws the weirder to them: they are often killed upon sight.

They are artisans and traders in the city, but most work in service to the Merchant Lords. The average citizen lives in the absconded parts of the city where the weirding thrives and lives are pretty much struggles to survive. Those whose families succeed are Citizens. Everyone else is a scavenger living on the fringes of the world like boils on the arsehole of humanity, as one wag put it some years ago.

Among the scavengers of the city is Ardyn, young and grim for it who serves as a runner between places and has lasted six wearying months at it with a small hidey-hole to call her own and little else beside. At least one Lord Merchant is after her services with the kind of offer one cannot refuse and a few of her fellow scavengers are determined to claim her for their own, boil her down to the bones and sell her as lucky talismans. As she survived the weirding storm that turned her family into fire-shadows, they are not the first to have tried so but are getting more persistent and luck alone is not the safety one gains from allies.

Chance or something like it collides her life with that of Zel, a boy whose age may be close to her own. The weirding has shattered and scarred him but he, too, is a survivor, and his pain when the weirding comes makes him a weirdcaster of a kind. It's enough for them to survive and begin seeking a way out of their lives, a search that leads them deep under the city in search of answers to questions most are wise enough not to ask.

For this is a world of mysteries and the weirding is but one of those.

The Weirding Roads

And woke up this morning (at 5 am, having gone to sleep at midnight...) with this idea slowly surfacing to rummage through my head. This is the entirety of a novel concept thus far. So far only one character (Zel) has a name and I know it is set in an analogue of Venice. Also, that I might end up working on this rather than a short story in the magician series en route to work today :)

The weirding is a river though it doesn't flow where rivers flow. It is felt as much as seen, shadow as much as breath. Silent as often as it roars. Where it touches, it scars and scours to leave nothing unchanged. The learned call it it magic while the few magicians harness it as one would a river and become awful in the making. Everything it touches changes: things twist and bend in ways the world should not allow, others are made strong in all the wrong places. Weirdcasters who can predict its movements shufle about the city, paid by the rich and connected to warn them when to move, to draw ancient symbols into stone and air that – sometimes, oh, sometimes – blunt the terrible powers that wash through the world like a waking dream to leave nightmare behind in its wake.

It was not always like this. There are still places in the city that the weirding cannot touch, walls in which it flows around. The city was more than this once, more than stone and rivers of shadow-twisted waters, but that was long ago. Now the last of the magicians fight battles to hoard knowledge of times lost and those who can afford their services pay for light to hold back things far worse than the dark. Old charms and talismans still hold some power: bells ring to warn the living, sometimes too late. It is enough to survive in the city, but to leave it, to face the weirding with no protections or warnings, that has created the merchant lords of the city and destroyed so many others.

Which is not to say that one cannot survive in the city. Life, as the Speakers say grimly, finds a way. But even their gods are silent before the weirding and what power they had has long since worn away. It is said that there are no children in the city, and this is a true lie. For there are the young, but they scramble to survive as much as anyone else, as thieves who steal to feed their hunger or runners who dash messages between places of the city, trusting to luck as much as skill.

Zel is such a runner. Half a year, as summer flees to winter, and she has survived the city after the weirding swallowed up her family. Some consider her a talisman and wish to steal her fingers for wards, others wisely call it luck and wait for it to run away and leave her. She is a survivor, in a city littered with the same, and thinks nothing more of it it until she runs into  thief changed by the weirding whose pain offers hope and sets them on a path for something better and perhaps to roads more dangerous than even the weirding has prepared them for.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Character development in Tetris.

The development of the characters that are the core of the Tetris franchise are fraught with difficulty. All the characters, from rectagle to square to squiggly bits, have uses that vary depending on the terrain the game assigns them, much like how the battleground of a chess board limits the efficacy of the various pieces. The tetrominoes are devoid of names, pretending to be merely functions, but players of the game quickly develop favourite and imbue them with anthropomorphic qualities.

The genius of the characters is that their colour remains both evocative and without purpose: why Purple and Orange facing each other? Why Green and Red? Obvious connections to the royal purple and the orange of William III (aka William of Orange) linking with the containment of France has obvious historical connotations, the game can also be seen as offering questions regarding gender and marriage in the world of tetris: what pieces fit together? What ones can’t? Is the square always doomed to be a square in actuality as well as symbology? Case in point, “No one ever considers rotating the square piece. Its development is completely overlooked." (Kentari, 2013.)

The other pieces, in rotating, gain a provenance and popularity the square lacks, as clear comment on hetero-normative culture as one could expect. The origin stories of the character vary from game to game, as the piece that arrives first is clearly the first born, followed by others in descending order. If two matching pieces (S,Z or the two sideways Ls) arrive first, tradition considers them a married couple and the pieces that come after to be their children, a fact seldom borne out by how the game often progressive. “The fact that square comes in upside down says a lot about his origins. No one ever notices that," (Chaos, 2013) is also a factor in the squares diminished appeal. That the more popular rectangle has more effect in clearly the board clearly says much about their relationship though the game often leaves it unexplored.

The game creators seem to take little note of the popularity of the characters, though some believe the algorithm determining character advancement and appearance has changed over the years to reflect a changing culture. Some call it a dumbing down of the inherent complexity of a game that forces you to play all the characters as inherently equal despite obviously limits several of them espouse. The extent to which this can be seem as enabling (or disabling) varies from review to review, some arguing that the inclusion of certain pieces – far from (en)forcing gender stereotypes – is clearly indicative of rights for the disabled, or at least the less advantaged pieces. The creators have been strident in their disavowal of such claims, much as the racist and cultural claiming linking the red square to Tiananmen Square were disavowed in the 1990s.

What remains clear is that the advancement of the characters – both as symbols and as more than symbological mythology – owes much to the lens through which they are viewed, much as what each is capable of shifts as the pieces themselves are changed to fit the board. It may be that the pieces are just themselves, changing to match needs even as we ourselves present different faces to the world depending on social situations and how much alcohol we have consumed.

Saturday, July 06, 2013


There are very few real magicians left in the world, be they waking or dreaming. There are a lot of people who are small with small tricks, and big people with no trick at all. It's not a rule, but it's hard to have magic and power as well: magic slips between cracks and power is about paving them over. Or never seeing them, often enough.

I was drunk. Not drunk enough, since I could still order beer from the bartender, who handed each cheap bottle we'd be ashamed to import over in the kind of commiserating silence of the best bartenders the world over. He didn't ask if I'd had too many, didn't ask what my problems were, just handed drinks between serving other customers. You don't get to be good in his business without reading your custom, and I figured he'd read me just fine when a hand fell on my shoulder.

"Evenin'," the officer drawled, his voice fake-Southern charm, the feel of him rubber and grit with no hint of donuts at all. This one did his job well and loved it; such people bear watching. From a distance.

I glanced over my shoulder. His uniform was starched clean, smile a formality under cop-cold eyes. "Whatever you're selling I'm not buying." My voice was almost steady. Hooray for me.

"I'm not selling anything."

"Everyone is." I turned back to the bar. His hand dropped onto my shoulder, meat pressing into bone. "Let go," I said, and threaded power into the words without thinking. He jerked back, I turned, meant to apologize, or tell him to go elsewhere – same thing, often enough, but he hauled me one-handed from the chair and we were out back so fast it was his own kind of magic.

He beat me senseless, because that's what cops like him do. It was his magic, of fists and pain to put the world in order. I let him hit me a few times, figuring I deserved it. Let the drinks slide out of me with each blow instead of pain. No need to tell you how I learned to get myself beaten sober: it's not the kind of story one repeats.

I slid his hand past me on his fourth blow, maybe the fifth, standing with it. Not magic, just movement, but he had no way of knowing that. He knew something, that much was in his eyes. I could hear the distant whine of firetrucks beyond the circle we formed, forced myself to hear nothing more. There are few magicians in this world: after tonight, there was one less.

"This is about a man. Carlos. Missing since this evening, wife and kids frantic. Fuckin' social media shitstorm," the cop said, his hatred automatic of anything that brought up the lower classes. "Secretary at work – Maureen – she said you found her wedding ring for her. You're to find the kid."

I had no idea if this was his kind of joke, some department game he'd been on the wrong end of: he was cop enough to give nothing away, even if I'd wanted to go looking. "It doesn't work like that. Magic doesn't find lost people."

He stepped back, flexed knuckles. My impression of him went down a few rungs on the evolutionary chain, but he didn't say magic wasn't real. Cops. They see too much and never enough. "Why not?"

"Who isn't lost some of the time? Nothing is static."

His hand snapped out. This time I don't let it touch me, reached past to twist the collar of his perfect shirt.

"Even you. Even me." I stepped back, raising empty hands. His hand fell to his gun, away a moment later. He tried to fix his collar, it remained bent despite all his efforts.

I don't know if he's scared of me. I'm not sure even he knows. "You could try."

"No." I could feel ghosts gathering behind him now: I have no idea if any are men, let a breeze blow them apart before I could see more. Learning how to not see ghosts is important, if you're the sort who can see them. "So many go missing, officer. So many are lost, and a lifetime spent finding them all would leave me more lost than they."

He doesn't understand. I don't care, not about him, but Maureen seemed kind. I imagine Carlos' family must be as well, to push the police this hard. And I owed the world for the breeze, or so I told myself. I raised my head, held the officer's gaze. "The fire at the old Dumas hotel. You will not find a body in it, but if you ask the owner as you ask questions, officer –" And he flinched a little at that but was silent "– he will tell you about the man he let sleep there. About the people taken to it. About what he did, to help others."

As I said, there are few magicians in the world. I made it one less earlier tonight.

"Carlos' children will grow up without a father."

"Sometimes that is for the best." I am human as much as magician, unable to keep the bitterness from my voice. "Sometimes things must vanish and never be found again, no matter how hard we don't look for them."

The officer swore. Checked his collar again. He looked smaller than he had earlier. "For the fire then." His gaze locked with mine. "A life for a life."

That he guessed so quickly: I am still drunk, or I wanted to be found out. Needed to, perhaps. I don't know. Being human is often not wanting to know. I crouched to the ground, held out a hand, blew a breath into the world, pulled it back. The breath comes with leaves, a pop can, scattered paper and twigs that take on a body all their own, voice high and indignant at being alive, at having to die.

"I am sorry." It ignored me, testing out arms and legs as it skittered over the ground. I stood and nodded to the police officer, one professional to another. "This will lead you to Carlos. Destroy it after. It will hate you and love you and you will never be able to trust a pop can again."

He doesn't ask if I am joking. I watched him walk away until he turns the corner. Didn't go back into the bar, didn't throw up: I don't have such dramatics left to me. I walked out the other way, through a door that opened before I touched it, and headed to a motel.

The next morning I turned the tv on to find a man named Carlos is the headline story. Kidnapped by people who thought he was someone else, rescued by a brave officer earmarked for Detective. I waited to feel something, felt nothing at all. No desire to rush out and bend the world to my will, no need to pay the terrible cost it will demand.

I am not my father. I would not become him. I flicked the tv off and was content.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: magician ficlet

And #6, via the Monkey. Probably tried too much for the 500-word limit :)

We found it under the apple tree in Jake Wilson’s yard. The apple tree is maggot-grey, twisted white whorls in it looking like veins, a piece of winter in the middle of a summer day.


"Huh?" Charlie looks over from it warily. "You sound surprised. You never do that."

"I'm a magician. We're not allowed." I step back, considering the tree. "What do you see?"

"A tree. No apples, but it is an apple tree. It smells wrong. Not rotten, but wrong. Does that make sense?"

Charlie has a god inside her, which is why Jake Wilson trusted her. Anyone who eats a monster in a closet is trustworthy to a little boy it seems, so he told her about the weird apple tree and asked her to eat it. She didn't have it in her to say she couldn't so waited until I got up and dragged me to the Wilson's house.

That the tree had hidden itself until I touched it was impressive: someone had cared about it until their passion twisted inward into something else. I kneel and brush my hands over the crab grass surrounding it, memories seeping up out of the earth like forgotten sins. A boy praying for his mother, burying a box of pirate treasure under the apple tree. Somewhere in his head pirates became tooth fairies you gave money to and they fixed things. Only they didn't, or at least not this time.

He found the box after his mom died, cut through roots with a shovel and pulled it out. That the cardboard had survived weeks under the earth was lost to him: he threw it all in a fire and left a dead dream to fester under the earth, a shame so deep it hid itself even to a magician's eyes.

"His prayers were not enough." My voice isn't quite steady as I stand. I can't do anything for the past, and no ghosts stand tethered by grief to the tree. A small mercy. I look over at the house, where Jake is staring wide-eyed from a bedroom window. Like Charlie, he knows it is wrong without knowing why.

I reach inside and pull up a memory of my sister and I: our first time eating out anywhere fancy, us being all confused when mom said we didn't have to take our dishes to any sink. I press the memory into the tree, feel it become a shadow of a shadow inside me, pull the hurt from under the tree out. It is colourless but feels like dead jello in my hands. I whisper a binding and shove it into a pocket to dispose of.

"It should bloom next year." I leave it to Charlie to explain things to Jake and walk away, fingering the shape in my pocket and wondering what kind of dream I'll need to kill with it some day.

Profanity-laced writing tips. But #10, oh #10 ....

1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.

2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)

3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’

4. Never ask a publisher or agent what they are looking for. The best ones, if they are honest, don’t have a fucking clue, because the best books are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere.

5. In five years time the semi-colon is going to be nothing more than a fucking wink.

6. In five years time every fucking person on Twitter will be a writer.

7. Ignore the fucking snobs. Write that space zombie sex opera. Just give it some fucking soul.

8. If it’s not worth fucking reading, it’s not worth fucking writing. If it doesn’t make people laugh or cry or blow their fucking minds then why bother?

9. Don’t be the next Stephen King or the next Zadie Smith or the next Neil Gaiman or the next Jonathan Safran fucking Foer. Be the next fucking you.

10. Stories are fucking easy. PLOT OF EVERY BOOK EVER: Someone is looking for something. COMMERCIAL VERSION: They find it. LITERARY VERSION: They don’t find it. (That’s fucking it.)

11. No-one knows anything. Especially fucking me. Except:

12. Don’t kill off the fucking dog.

13. Oh, yeah, and lastly: write whatever you fucking want

- Matt Haig, "Some Fucking Writing Tips"

Thursday, July 04, 2013


The truth about magic is this: you spend a lot of time in bars trying to forget yourself. Two cans had become four, to no effect at all. A body for the earth, a soul for the sky, and that is all magic is. Even if you're not sure about souls. All magic has given me is more questions, uprooted the solidity of life and dreaming.

It's like this, if you want to be a magician (and you don't; there are fewer of us every year): one day you wake up and you can speak to the world and the world can speak to you. That's it. That's all magic is, at the core of things. Just words that cannot be ignored, will that cannot be denied, desires that can always be satisfied. Dreams that can be made real, if you pay the prices the world requires.

Alcohol was my way out of the chain of causality. It beat human sacrifice most days. I was considering a fourth drink when a bottle was slipped into my hand. I looked up into eyes the colour of honey and a voice sweet as any sin.

"Hello," she said and offered up a smile that had the bouncer at the door twitching. People with smiles like that can break people as easily as cities.

"Whatever you're selling, I'm not buying." I pushed the drink back and smiled in turn, though my smile was mostly a baring of teeth.

She drew back and then he smiled and reached fingers, brushing over the stubble on my cheeks. "And if it's free?"

No one else notices her become a him. People don't, as a rule. I dig out a cigarette, ignoring the signs, light it, breathe smoke. Slow and sure.

He pulls back, puzzled, still hungry.

"Nothing worth having is free." I blow smoke at him.

He parries, cliché for cliché: "Freedom is quite expensive." He leans in, runs a finger along my jaw, offers up that smile again.

This time it hits me, a little bit; I don't try to hide that, let him draw close, form a circle with the smoke. I press a finger to his lips before he can try a kiss, finger burning from the cold inside him.

He draws back, eyes clearly from honey to snow-stained white. Magicians don't feel warm like other people do, I think. Maybe we give too much of ourselves away, or not enough at all. Both male and female slide away as its fingers flow into needle-claws.

"No." I don't say anything else, but it pulls back into human with a shudder. I stand, dropping a twenty on the bar. "My place."

It follows, tugged by the smoke wreathed about its neck. A few people notice the guy – or was it a girl – doesn't seem the same, but it's the tail-end of the night, and only the bleak drinkers remain, their concerns more with getting a couple of drinks before the end of the night than another man's sorrows.

I walk outside. I don't have keys, or a car. I don't even know where I'm staying tonight. I just know I'm not drunk enough and tired of more things than I can name. "You have a place."

"Yes," it says, voice the sound of ground glass in a waste disposal system.

I grunt, stop. "You can save the games for the prey, creature."

"No game." It smiles, rows of teeth baring sharply, tongue a thin silver blade that licks it's lips. "What is a magician but a game the world moves?"

I pretend to consider that. The creature strains at the smoke, thin and twisted, dark scales glittering over pale flesh as it surrenders more assumed humanity. It's good. I'm better. The story of my life, where the things that lurk outside the dark are concerned.

"Maybe so. Perhaps the world is the dealer, but I am a magician. We know the cards everyone is holding. Where do you make your lair?"

It tells me, unable not to. I walk the six blocks to the hotel; no one pays us any interest, but I'm not sure if that is my doing or the creatures. I know the hotel door opens to my wish, the elevator to my will. We go up, the creature no longer straining against my will, an uneasy cast to its flowing features. I haven't banished it yet, which is the least I can do after a binding.

"Why?" it says, sounding almost human in its fear.

"I need somewhere to spend the night. That, some money for the bus. Sex, if you want. No strings, binding gone when I leave," I say, pitching my voice deep and formal.

It stirs, smiles strangely even for such a creature. I think it might pity me. I'm just drunk enough not to care.

We enter the creature's room. A honeymoon suite – i don't ask about other occupants, the room offers up no ghosts who speak to me. Not that I was in any mood to listen. I don't offer up stories, it doesn't pretend to ask. We don't kiss, not once, and I give as good as I get.

Scars that the dawn will wither away.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Facebook & google+ status updates part XXI

Finding Shoes: a Thriller

"It's like this: if you can live without me, why should we be together?"

The teaching of beauty is this: it is easier to be loved than to be in love.

How big must souls be to survive all the pieces digital cameras take?

Six word Story: "Yes, I do have another life."

"I don't need to be in shape to chase suspects," the Detective explained to the press. "I have a gun."

A stolen city worker uniform. Pylons placed outside a shop you hate. Hours of fun.

"I think it's time we broke up. I realized last night that if I had to choose between you and the cat, I'd pick the cat."

"We are free to do what the gods wants, often enough," quietly. "A world where gods exist isn’t one where people can be free. What can we create that matters, if they create worlds?"

"It turns out I was colour-blind all along."
- an artist's suicide note.

Six-Word Story:
Lost everything, only to find you.

"This is the only page I've managed to write on in years."
- a writer's suicide note.

"I am flattered by the awards, but to be frank I wasn't trying to make a post-structuralist absurdist post-post modern story. I just wrote a very bad novel."

Six Word Story:
Revolution comes; everything stays the same.

Dogs are all we know of heaven, cats all we need of hell.

What's on your mind? Facebook asks me.
The NSA knows. If my mind was my search history
on the net, I would be screwed.
(This has been an almost topical post.)

"You don't know how many people I've killed to find you, just to say I'm sorry."

"Fear must supply a power all its own; how else could it overcome love so often?"

I could not love you half so much
Loved I not tax breaks more.

"How many people would YOU kill for the newest iPhone?"
The question haunted him as he loaded his second gun. It had never been rhetorical, not rhetorical at all.

News headline: Obama, Putin face tough talks on Syria
What I read: Obama, Puffin face tough talks on Syria

Reasons given to someone to get up in the morning:
Because the future is all new things: chances, hopes, wishes, dreams. And, prosaically, there are books never read, TV shows never seen and friends unmet. The past is solid, the future fluid.

What will probably be (owing to working on other stuff) my only bit of writing tonight:
a poem about flushing pizza down a toilet.
... I am going to EARN that Pulitzer.

"The only thing I regret is having nothing to regret."

"You know," the advertising man said, "everyone in our business does cocaine. We really should look into hiring whoever sold us on that."

A Haiku

Notes written to myself in a file:
Murder is a lot less terrifying than a small, patient albino elf who finds you when sleeping and then harvests one of your kidneys and leaves no memory or pain, just a small little scar you don't remember getting - then finding out at your next physical that you're missing a kidney

Have an unwanted guest problem??? At your next outdoor gathering try this SAFE and EFFECTIVE method of keeping them at bay! Simply take a pitbull and feed it caffeine for an ALL NATURAL party crasher repellent... Make sure to SHARE THIS with your friends! '

"Why did you have so many children?" the reporter asked. "Ten children and over forty grandchildren is a lot in the modern world."
Granny laughed. "It's simple: when I publish my memoirs, I'll get at least fifty sales if they know what's good for them."

You know you are too busy in the morning when you go: 'Oh. I made coffee and entirely forgot to pour myself a cup.' Which, some days, feels akin to: 'Oh, right. Breathing. I forgot to do that this morning.'