Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today's writing bits...

I think I  know what the first scene will be for nanowrimo. (And possibly the first line.)

I wrote a poem about spleen art. (Blame tumblr.)

Working on the magician series novella (Road Trip) as well as scribbling down notes toward another short story in the series. About to grab more coffee, so here is an exchange between Charlie and Jay that I might never actually use [I will probably nix 'of the sides' when I do, since Jay'd turn it into thides.]:

“Why are you smiling?”
“I’m hanging fun out of the sides of my mouth.”

Now to write about Charlie driving a car at 200 miles an hour down an interstate ....

Monday, September 23, 2013


Magic isn’t big on fundamental truths, but one is that it sets you apart. There are people, and then there are magicians. There are people for whom the world is solid and real, and then there is the rest of us. It’s one reason magician’s die out: they go mad. Another is giving up the magic to be ordinary, which is often a worse price than dying. Or so I’m told.

It never even occurred to me that someone could give up magic until after I’d had it three years and ran into an ex-magician. He had all the patter down pat, quick and ugly as an anti-smoking advert, but the hunger in him told other stories, whispered of other needs. I almost put some magic in him to see what would happen but I wasn’t that nasty. I walked away.

I’m not walking away now. Just walking. I’ve left Jay and Charlie in the hotel room: she’s teaching him card games, he’s getting over being embarrassed at his voice. I have a god-eater teaching a not-vampire from Outside the universe card game in a hotel room and I don’t consider myself mad. I figure it’s a sign of something, but I don’t know what. I don’t know why I was drawn to them – or they to me.

Magic can offer up omens, but it’s mostly feelings. Hunches, twinges, odd pauses in the world. Right now it is silent. Waiting, content? I don’t know, so I walk side streets of a small town and ease pressures in the world. Bricks pressed tight to each other that will echo out into a fight between parents, fix loose paving stones that rattle underfoot. I’ve been getting noticed lately and it’s wearing and tiring in equal measure, so I press small magics into the world to hide such things, turn some signals into smaller noises.

The third paving stone I fix rattles after, something under it fighting my will. The creature that flows out from under asphalt is a dark grey cloud little larger than my hand, voice heard only in my head.

“This is mine, magic man!”

“A stone?”

“My mine,” it says, and under the words I get rain and slick steps. Two broken legs in as many years, all the food it needs and enough small chaos in the world to keep it happy.

I could move it to the step of someone who deserved it, but I’m tired of thinking people deserve hurt. “If you keep hurting people they will destroy you. Roads are repaved,” I say.

“Mine!” All small and sullen, unable to see further than itself.

I wonder, for half a moment, if it is a mirror, and then shove the thought away. It’s a scrap of bad mood turned into something more: that it lasted two years is perhaps unusual, but a good hate can last most of a lifetime sometimes.

Curses are always stronger than blessings. Best not to think too hard on why.

“Here,” I say, and offer up an image/idea, of almost breaking legs, almost tripping people. The power to touch more lives, to send spasms of fear through dozens of people over what could have been. It wavers, swirls, then accepts the offer and flows back into the earth.

I head back toward the motel, not sure if I feel better but at least not feeling worse.  

Friday, September 20, 2013


A submission for the monkey's weekly flash challenge. I doubt I will do much (if anything) from Jay's POV again: he is fundamentally not human, and doing stories with him as the POV character lessens that. 

The term ‘cut-throat’ isn’t an empty cliche when you see it happen in real life. One moment I am walking down a small street with groceries, the next human falls over in front of me, blood seeping through cracks into the hungry earth. The body was stout, poorly dressed, layered for winter in summer. His killer is tall and thin, a knife sharp in his right hand, eyes locked on me.

I'm small. I look human and I'm holding four bags of groceries for the magician and Charlie, but mostly me. My master – though I never call him that – sent me out alone and that is Important. The binding between us remains solid and I do nothing to twig it, leaping to the side as the man with the knife swings his blade at me. I cover a third of the street in one skid, faster than humans can move, set the groceries down carefully.

It gives the killer time to spin and came at me again. I leap aside, pulling him from the groceries. I could hurt him, but humans are easy to hurt: I am hoping he sees my speed and runs away but he seems determined to kill me for seeing him kill someone else. A second swing, a third, and he finally scrambles back and lowers the blade.

"We can walk away," I snap. "I'm not going to tell anyone."

I look ten; my voice has no power at all to it. He ignores it and lunges at me. This time I leap right over him and land behind him next to a dumpster. He just spins, knife in hand, and comes at me again, like a villain in a really bad movie.

I grab the dumpster with both hands and heave: I'm stronger than humans are, especially young boys, and the dumpster smacks him in the side and sends him reeling. I put it back and he stares at it, then me, and finally runs away.

I walk around the body, not stepping in any blood, trying to leave no traces, considering getting some hot dogs before I return to the room the magician is renting when a shimmer over the body catches my gaze. For a moment I catch the outline of a human ghost, and then it spots me and is gone, vanishing into the air as if it never was.

I wait a few seconds to see if it comes back, mostly because I've never seen a ghost before, then grab the groceries and head back to the hotel.

The eggs didn't break in the bag, and that is all that matters.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

G is for Gifts

Jay sits beside me on the couch, watching Sesame Street in silence for a good half-hour before giving me a hesitant poke in the side.

"You want to watch something else?" I say, fumbling for the remote beside me on the couch. Watching TV with a creature from outside the universe is interesting, if only to find out what he likes watching and how much he learned about the universe by entering the world versus what the TV is teaching him.

"I don't know? I wondered – what you would like, for your birthday?" he says.

"You to say 'She sells seashells by the seashore, the shells she sells are surely seashells; so if she sells shells on the seashore, I'm sure she sells seashore shells'," Charlie said from across the room without looking up from her phone. She came back in earlier but is still ignoring me after I screwed up and left her and Jay to face the oldest magician in the world by themselves. That they had survived unscathed did nothing to change the fact of my failure.

Jay shot her a glare, and then ignored her pointedly to turn back to me. "Well?"

"People don't give magicians gifts, as a general rule. There is little that magic can't provide, and there are balances –," I begin when he offers up a huge grin and hugs me, moving faster than anything human could.

"That can count," he begins, then pulls away at whatever he feels from the binding between us, eyes widening. "That wathn't okay?"

I let out a breath, willing calm. "What do you want in turn for a hug?" I say, and despite myself my tone is cool and distant.

Jay just looks lost for a few seconds, the binding giving him too much and not enough to go by. "A hug?" he mumbles, "If that'th okay?"

I return the hug carefully, letting go after; he scrambles to the other side of the couch and stares warily, placing two pillows between us and looking for all the world like a regular boy making a crude fort.

I let out a deep breath. "Affection has power, Jay."

"But that wathn't ...." He scowls, mouthing words silently, then: "I did not mean for affection? It was on the television as a form of friend-binding?"

"And you don't think that is powerful?"

"No?" he offers, looking even more confused. "A real binding ith different."

Charlie lets out a laugh, half against her will, turning her chair to face me. "So if I had hugged Mary-Lee, she would have had to aid me?"

"Not in any way you'd like. There are bindings that aren't bindings, Jay; that doesn't mean they don't have power. Do you want a second breakfast?" He nods warily. "Friendship is a binding like that; for a magician, it can be a gift that must be paid back."

Jay goes still. "Oh. What wath what the Wortht gift you've ever got?"

"A hug."

He nods, his face devoid of expression. "And the betht?"

"Also a hug." I grin and get up. "We'll get McDonalds, okay?"

He stands and pauses half-way to the door to look at Charlie, who has gone back to typing on her phone. "Charlie?"


"You can explain thith to me later, right?"

She snickers. "Yeah. Go eat."

He nods and grabs his coat, following me out the door without further questions.

Monday, September 16, 2013


"Never include anything the audience can reasonably and easily assume has happened. Never pass on exposition unless the missing fact would cause confusion. You do not keep the audience’s interest by giving it information, but by withholding information, except that which is absolutely necessary for comprehension.
Pace the exposition. Like all else, exposition must have a progressive pattern: therefore, the least important facts come in early, the next more important later, the critical facts last. And what are the critical pieces of exposition? Secrets. The painful truths characters do not want known.”
— Robert McKee, "Story"

Sunday, September 15, 2013


A sequel the past post, done as a prompt from the Monkey, though this version does have more lines to it.

I knew it would be an ugly morning when the smell of scotch was stronger than the smell of coffee. I stagger out into the kitchen, last night a jumble of drinks and pain. My nose is broken, my head hurts and the coffee is Starbucks, appearing on the table between moments. It's never good to find I paid for a free coffee somehow and don't know why.

Jay is sitting at the table, all small and pale, his eyes filled with waiting. There is no sign of Charlie, but the motel room door rings like a broken bell when I pause to listen with more than ears.

"What happened?"

"Charlie thlammed the door and left," he says, fighting the lisp in his voice and failing. It's hard for things from Outside to enter the universe, harder to remain and form bodies for themselves. He was too newly formed to do it, the damage to his Self reflected in his voice. Anyone who knows what he is would just have to hear him speak and know how weak he is.

He is quiet a few seconds after, thinking words over. "The old woman came and talked to Charlie, who growled, and I arrived and the magic-lady went away."

"Went away?"

"Vanithed," he mumbles.

"I knew Mary-Lee was following me. She is old, and I thought to confront her in the bar with witnesses to prevent her from doing things. She did something to my drink instead and you and Charlie were left to face the oldest magician in the world."

He shrugs; he bound himself to my service. I could tell him to do anything and he would at least try, which is a terrible power to have over anything.

I reach, and there is a plate of scrambled eggs and a fork in front of him a moment later. He stares at it, then back at me questioningly.

"She could have destroyed you, Jay. That's payment for the food." He begins eating without further prompting and a huge grin.

"Is Mary Lee human?" He shakes his head; his sense of Other is stronger than mine could ever be. I don't point out she was human, or that magic seems to have altered her more than even I expected. I just summon more food and wait to see if Charlie returns.

I leave my nose broken. It won't last and Jay doesn't understand guilt at all, so I head to the bathroom to use the shower and force the rest of the scotch from my system. Sobered, I am left to wonder if I am different than any other magician. Today says no.

Jay finishes off a last plate of scrambled eggs when I come back out of the bathroom, clean and shaved, six plates stacked up neatly beside him. "Charlie wanted me to tell you a thing after you had a bath?" I nod and he frowns, then recites: "'I thought you were better than that."

So did I, I don't say, because he wouldn't understand. The smell of scotch is gone and my nose is no longer broken but there is a sour taste in the back of my mouth that no coffee is going to wash away any time soon.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


In the weeks we've travelled together I've never seen him go into a bar. Not because he made any kind of promise – magicians know better than to do that – but maybe because he knew about my mother. Or just didn't feel the need to; I don't know. He sent Jay off for hot dogs with a couple of hundred dollars bills a good twenty minutes ago from an envelope found on the ground, and at the rate the kid eats it should keep him busy for maybe another ten minutes. He gave me sixty from it for smokes and then walked into the bar without a word.

The bar is cheap, scuzzed-up to try to seem upscale. I could go in, underage or not. I'm no magician but I could make bouncers leave me alone with a smile nasty enough to leave them wetting the bed for weeks. Probably. Doesn't mean I should. I get cigarettes at the nearest corner ship and walk back across from the bar to wait: the guy at the counter didn't ask questions and took my money. Lucky him. I'm not old enough to buy a drink but I can but cigarettes. So it's a good life.

No one tries to bum a cigarette or a light off of me while I wait; that's the kind of mood I'm in. I'm lighting the fifth cigarette when I hear a voice speak behind me.

"Sometimes there is no fault, no one to blame and no lessons one has to learn."

"Get lost." I don't turn around. I can smell must and old clothing, the voice is old without being frail, closing in on me slowly. The god inside me stirs, a seismic rumble felt more than heard.

"Who isn't lost?" the woman's voice parries.

Great. I turn not-smiling to face an old woman who looks held together by wrinkles and layers of grimed-up clothing. "Do magicians send away for lessons on being pretentious?"

"That's a big word," she says without a pause, close enough that the smell of her blindsides me like walking into a gas station bathroom without holding my breath. Her eyes are mud-brown and cold, eyes like quicksand turned to rot.

I stumble back, eyes watering. "That's some magic," I croak out, cigarette hitting the ground and guttering out.

"Hardly that," she says, blinking rheumy eyes.

"That's you? Why?"

Her laugh is toenails scraping over tiled flooring. "You know, not a one of them has ever asked me that," she says, and there is a weight to the world, to the age of her, that hitches my breath for a moment. I'm no magician to see into her, but there is something terrible and ugly in her, something she cannot guard or hide.

"Not even him?" I parry back, gesturing behind me to the bar with a hand that barely shakes.

"Not yet. He might some day."

"That's why you're here?"

"No. He reminds me of me, in small ways and large."

"And that's not a good thing." I don't make it a question. "Let's see: he gets himself dead drunk, you smell like a diseased sewer. Your children will be the envy of no one."

"Have a care, Charlie," she says, though her smile never wavers, all gummy as if she had no bark to her bite. "A magician is more than your simply psychology can hold."

I don't see her move. One moment she's looking at me, the next a finger prods my chest to push me back a step. Her fingernails are clean. Somehow I notice that even as I know she's too big for me to eat, her magic a wall nothing can breach. He always says that a magician is magic; she is proof of where that logic can lead.

Mary-Lee is not eternal, but you can see it from her. The thought isn't mine, slipping into my head as easily as the god's voice can rise up from inside me. Magicians. I have no idea when he realized she was here, or if this is some kind of trap or test. Or even who it is for.

"I think you'd like to believe that," I offer, remaining between her and the bar.

She just smiles and steps forward, only to stop as a hand grabs her arm even as I draw the god up from inside me. Claws come slowly but they do come.

"Charlie?" Jay says, not looking up at me, his voice small and scared, not letting go of Mary-Lee's wrist.

The magician stares down at him. Jay looks back up, his face drained of any colour, eyes even paler.

The magician yanks her arm free faster than even Jay could move and steps back to study the both of us. No hints of magic from inside the bar, no aid, just Jay shaking like a leaf and my claws little more than echoes of themselves, the god inside me reluctant to come forth against this magician.

Mary-Lee smiles then and bows to us, folding in on herself to vanish from sight. My eyes throb for a moment, like a toothache scraping the bone inside my head, and then it clears. The dank street – even the bar – seems cleaner and brightened by her passing.

I say several rude words to broaden Jay's vocabulary of this world. He slinks over and presses his body into mine as he shudders all over, panting for air.

I want to say: 'But you're from outside the universe, kiddo: was she really that scary?' but I don't. He has a good nose for danger and the fact that he tried to help instead of shitting himself and running away says a lot.

"Cigarette?" I say, saying enough.

He takes one, sniffs it, shakes his head, and hands it back a moment later. I light it as he relaxes a little.

"What –" Jay waves a hand to where the magician was – "that?"

I pause. "You forgot a word." He says nothing; I don't press him. "What did you think it was?"

"A thing pretending to be human?"

"Probably that, then." I take a deep drag of the cigarette and eye the bar, waiting. Jay has sense enough to ask no more questions.

He doesn't come out for another half hour. half-weaving as he stumble-steps out the door.

It turns out to be even more satisfying than I'd thought to break a magicians nose when they're drunk than otherwise.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I leave Charlie and Jay in the hotel room and go out walking. There are magicians who walk only in their hearts, or in dream worlds they half-invent. I walk in the real world to clear my head, to build up protections, to forge wards and create distance. Magicians can't care in the way other people care or we would tear the skin of the world apart to work miracles even magic does not allow.

No magician dares love anyone so deeply that they would seek to bring them back from death.

I don't feel that way about Charlie, nor about Jay whom I barely know. I have been a magician for several years, a wandering one without true friends. Charlie reminds me of the sister I wish I'd had rather than the one I do have, and I could see Jay as a friend I might have made when younger. I walk to force quiet, to clear myself a little. To make distance.

I have not had a friend in a long time, and that could be what pulls the memory into ther world; I have been working magic steadily for days, and the magic decides to pay me back. That could be it. It's the best of some bad options, because one moment the street beside me is empty and the next Susan Jenkins comes stumbling out of a doorway in the empty air. Close enough to a decade has passed for the years to have worn into her face, her one-long hair done up tight in a bun, third-hand jeans replaced by a casual business suit, a squint replaced by stylish glasses.

I see manicured hands where I used to see a paintbrush and lips where I used to see a smile.

"What –? Where –? Who –?" she snaps out, hands darting to the purse at her side.


She stops dead. "You."

I force myself to read nothing in her voice, keep myself as still. She was the first person I'd met when I left home, the person to show me how to pick locks, where to go in cities and how to do more than just survive in them. She'd worked underground graffiti, street art, and I'd gone along and practised magic hiding her from the police, learning the cost of what I could do. She never asked many questions since I never gave her an answer she believed.

I told her everything anyway; she was that kind of person. She taught me how to listen, how to make room for other people in my heart. How to care and not care too much at the same time. She'd paid attention to me rather than the magician, and I'd just begun to realize how rare that would be.

"I wanted someone to talk to that I could trust." I don't try for a smile. "Even magic can't pull someone out of time."

She steps back, whispers my name, and I can't not hear the confusion under that. I'd done things she couldn't ignore by the time I left the city, shaken her world apart and left nothing behind of her illusions. I'd never meant to, but intent means nothing at all.

"Magician," she says after it, and I can see the new life she's built, art turned into advertising, a world away from the world we knew. I can see it, and as surely see it fall apart in her eyes.

"Susan." I say her name again, forcing power under it. She's not scared, but I'm not sure if that's because she's gone beyond that. Memories are screaming in the back of her head, clawing through walls of sanity. "I just wanted to – to talk," I say, and it sounds foolish as I say it. I can speak truth, I can sound like a magician when I have to. When I try to sound like just a man there is so little to draw on some days.

I take a breath and hold her gaze. Distance. Magic. "Forget," I say, in a tone she cannot resist, and make a door in the air back to where she came, gently push her through. A man is sitting at a desk, looking stunned in an office almost empty. I hurl the command into him as well and close the door I made between her life and mine.

I could tell Susan anything. That wasn't Susan. I wasn't the person she met those years ago. I wouldn't have told her now. (I should never have then.)

I don't know much right now. Only that the wards around me are sharp and cutting. That someone is following me and I don't know who they are, or even how. I walk back to the hotel and fling my senses wide, not caring if the other party sensing me seeking them. I know Charlie and Jay won't mind talking a walk as well, and I know other things.

I know who is following me, though not why.

I know I am magician enough to not cry, not now.

And I know I need a drink.

Sunday, September 08, 2013


Note: This piece is (as of now) the earliest chronological piece in the magician series, the writing of it inspired by Eric Boyd's prompt. There are very good reasons the magician doesn't bring up his past often.

Sometimes people do things you can never pay them back for. I knew Ryan hated me. He told me often enough, his fists found my face often enough as well. That's what hate felt like: being beaten down to the ground, hearing him scream insults at me that I didn't yet know. I was twelve. Google searches told me what he meant, and why. The worst part was knowing he was right. That's how it felt then. The worst part by far was knowing his words had hit as surely as his fists.

It was months before I finally I talked to my mother. She just smiled a strange sadness and said she'd always known. It had taken all I had not to scream at her. If you knew, why didn't you tell me? rang through my head. I grit my teeth so hard my jaw ached for days.

When I turned thirteen I became a magician. Not all at once, not sudden-like. I think there had been small things before then, little echoes no one noticed. The echoes became sounds: things happened for me, luck twisted in directions I bent it. It was an ugly summer, driven half mad by a mirror-borne spirit I later bound with pure desperation. And school came after that.

He was waiting, but I was no longer the kid he'd beaten up. He stepped forward and swung. I let the first blow hit, and drew him inside. Memories, loathing. All of it. I knew we were the same, then, in some ways, and I was somehow a mirror-spirit to him. Less hidden, more visible. Others had been making jokes about me as well. He knew all the jokes, was terrified of them turning on him as well. And he knew I knew; I was not magician enough to hide what I'd done.

He swung again, and again, wild and terrified, and I let each blow slide past me in cold judgement. There was a circle around us when he finally came to a stop, a teacher shoving students aside behind me. I turned, and said in a voice that could not be ignored: "We were just talking."

And we were, in ways that did not need words. The teacher fell back before the truth. People scattered from my gaze, for reasons wholly new. I turned to Ryan and smiled then, and I'm sure it looked as ugly as it felt when I whispered: "Was that good for you too?"

The colour drained from him in that moment. I didn't ask about a date. Nothing that cruel. Nothing that kind. I just turned and walked away, leaving him knowing I could speak the truth about him,  and they would all believe me.

I was almost sixteen when he killed himself. I had said nothing, no one had known. And he was free of his prison. I never saw his ghost: I'd learned quickly to not see ghosts, and I made a point of not looking at all for his. He died, and his prison fell away. They said his suicide note mentioned me, but they said a lot of things I didn't pay attention to.

He taught me about prisons, and that being a magician was not what changed me, nor who I was before. I left town a week later before it became a prison all its own and I will never be able to pay him back for teaching me that lesson.

Saturday, September 07, 2013


The hotel dining room is a small affair of white-clothed tables and a help-yourself buffet, the staff all looking as if they're preparing for their wedding nights in white and black, complete with slightly condescending manner. The dozen other people in it are all staring at Jay or trying to avoid doing so. The morning sun has taken away much of his nature, leaving behind a thin boy with hair not quite as pale as his face. His teeth remain sharp, though he has no fangs at all and he's eating his third helping of food: three plates again, bulging with buffet offerings, the other six plates piled up beside him neatly at the table.

I am on my third cup of orange juice as Charlie slips in, her morning cigarette break having come after her shower. Waking up to find an unfamiliar boy sleeping on the foot of my bed had shocked her, but probably not as much as him showing fangs and then diving under the bed to hide from her. I'd made Jay promise not to be afraid of her, so he looks up from eggs to scowl at her before diving back into the food.

"Explain," she says as she sits across from me with a coffee.

"He's from Outside the universe. I found him last night when he tried to attack me. Badly."

"So you invited him to our hotel room," she said in a calm tone that wasn't calm at all.

"No. He tried to swear permanent servitude to me while being flat-out terrified."

She takes a gulp of coffee. "He has fangs."

"Only sometimes."

"I thought vampires weren't real – wait, no, you said we'd never meet one."

"Because they're weak. When something from Outside imprints on this world it takes power: to resist being banished by a magician means you have to imprint deeply, enough to be hurt in this world. A vampire is the basic imprinting of that nature, weakest and most limited. Most creatures alter their use-form in our world into something else. He isn't even a proper vampire."

"Why not?"

"Sunlight takes away his nature – the major reason nothing from Outside likes being a vampire – but he can't even drain energy from others, which is what a vampire does."

"He could drink blood."

"His fangs are too big. He can eat food in human form but that's about all. And he is young, newly created. He was running from something that tried to eat him when he managed to flee into our world."

And Charlie, who has a god inside her and can eat gods and Others, says: "Oh."

I grin. "He saw you for a threat he couldn't beat and hid. Good instincts. Plus whatever was trying to destroy him hasn't made it through to this world which means that whatever Jay was is potentially powerful. Nothing that young and small from Outside has survived transit before, even if he did hijack some kind of exchange trip to do it."

"You want to find out what he –." Charlie pauses. "You said was."

"He can't speak his true name. He damaged himself permanently in the transit, enough that I suspect he's trapped on our world permanently. That's not unheard of for some monsters but most are just killed, body burned, and that is that. He knows how weak he is."

"So you didn't bind him and we're stuck with some proto-vampire kid who is – eating even more food." Charlie lets out a breath. "And not hiding from me?"

"I told him to be brave."


Jay wipes off his fingers and face with a napkin and walks over. "I have good hearing," he says gravely, picking words with care. "And I am quick. And if it – my fault that the – if the magithan is hurt, I will dethr – kill myself," he adds, a flush creeping over his cheeks.

Charlie blinks a couple of times, then manages: "Are you trying to be cute?"

Jay's hands curl into fists. "No."

"You can eat," I say, and people who are watching us begin to do that. Jay walks away stiffly to do so, not looking back at us, fists slowly uncurling.

"He'd dethroy himself, then?" Charlie asks, only to flinch at something in my face. "Destroy, I meant."

"Yes. And never kill. I bound him to that last night. As a precaution."

She sips her coffee, eyes narrowing. "Have you bound me?"

I just smile in response. Charlie resists the urge to throw her coffee in my face.

Barely. "We'll attract attention you don't want."

"He'll learn to hide himself. He's quick, he has good instincts for danger. And he is smart enough to run away."

"So not me," Charlie says, only half-joking.

"Or me," I say, not joking at all.

"Question time, magician," she says, but doesn't use the word to wound. "Do you pick up strays often?"

"Never before, no. Which means I am heading to something I need more than magic to face, though I have no idea what it is. Or how either of you could help me."

"Huh." She finishes her coffee and smiles slowly, heading to the one staff person staring at the almost-empty buffet in a horror of lost profits. "The buffet is open, yes? There will be food on it?"

The cook nods numbly and heads into the back as Charlie clears the plates off of Jay's table and sits across from him.

The boy studies her in wary silence.

"Want to see who can eat more?" she says, and lets the god in her leak into her smile.

Jay's returning grin is startled and crooked but he does nod. "I'm up to eight plate."

"Eight plate?"

"Platheth," he mumbles.

"Good. Rest a bit. I'll catch up."

A few dishes hit the floor in the kitchen as Jay tries not to giggle and watches Charlie eat in turn in a wondering silence.

I get another orange juice and begin to weave magic together so the staff don't recall too much of the next three hours, my need meshing with their desire as I head into the lobby to settle up with the concierge and offer a tip that no doubt will confuse him until someone tries to explain where all the food in the kitchen has gone to.

The magic in me is silently smug when I try and wonder where all this is heading.  

Friday, September 06, 2013


It was almost a week before I offered Charlie the money we'd made from playing a trick on Edward Hillary – he was the kind of man who worked at a Wall Street casino and can be spared most pity or sorrow – but she just laughed it off when I suggested a college fund. I want to tell her that we cannot travel forever, that there are places I will go that she cannot follow. I know she knows this, but also that she does not know this. We settle on silence and a couple days of living in high-end hotels. Because Charlie insists that we use the money Edward's daughter gave us to sleep in nice places. Nice seems to mean places where you pay a lot of money in order to avoid seeing poor people.

Hotels need little magic that they do not themselves provide, so the rest was nice until tonight. I wake at the tail end of the witching hour to pain in my tail bone that only walking cures. I dress, leaving Charlie to sleep in the other bed, depart the hotel room. The concierge in the lobby asks if I need anything, as if guests wandering outside at 3:33 am in jeans and a t-shirt is entirely normal.

I just smile and walk outside. It is raining lightly but I decide not to let the rain touch me, following the throbs of pain and aches in my toes as the magic leads me a good dozen city blocks. No one bothers me at all during the walk, human or otherwise; I decide not to think on what that means.

I follow flickering neon, odd scraps of paper and a magician's intuition for half an hour; the attack comes in a third side-alley, a blur of movement from the shadows to my left that slows to a crawl as it hits the ward I've wrapped about myself, magic as solid as a policeman's baton. I spin and rap the creature sharp on the forehead: a magician's touch isn't like that of other people. It doesn't notice and lunges again, all pale, red-eyed and dishevelled, teeth bright and sharp, canines more prominent and sharper. It is male, appearing to be roughly ten years old and in a state of raw anger and furious hungers.

You mind? I whisper to the wind; it wraps about the Other a moment later and slaps him into the wall twice with perhaps more force than is needed.

Some of the hunger fades as the creature strains against the wind once, twice, and then gives up, panting for air. "Magic," he hisses.

"Magician, yes." I reach out a hand, raising his chin, the last hour of his life spilling into my mind in a rush of images. "You tried to bite someone and got maced."

He raises his chin further and glares at me. "I am new here," he says, each word precise and measured, under it the truth that the biting had failed, that the creature could not drain others. Vampire's aren't strong as far as Others go – in fact, few things are weaker beyond Greys by some estimations – but I've never ran into one that couldn't drain energy at all. Not that it is a vampire, or greys are aliens, but the terms have fallen into common use and work as broad shorthand.

"You should take on a different form, or at least an older one? The vampire is – limited," I offer, trying to be diplomatic.

A hint of colour creeps up into the boy's face. "I can't."

I blink, press my hand in lightly through flesh and pull back a moment later as he whimpers in pain. He is young as the Outside would measure it. Small and weak there, and the same here as well. I pull the mace out of his system and he gulps relieved breaths, not even strong enough to manage that alone. "How did you get here?"

I put no power into the question and he is too relieved to notice my tone. "A – a thudent exthange?" he says, and then freezes, cheeks burning.

I pause, then decide asking about that would just mean sleepless nights. "And I am?"

"A magithan," he mumbles around his fangs.

I ask the wind to let him go; he lands lightly, staring up warily. "I could send you home."

He freezes and shakes his head minutely.

"Why not?" I could find out, but I'm not sure he would survive the experience.

"I'm – not as weak here," he says, meeting my gaze, resisting the urge to rub his chest where my fingers brushed his Self.

"Perhaps. You could be something old hiding in a weak shell."

"You think I'd uthe thith one?" he says indignantly.

"Others have."

He blinks a few times and his teeth slowly become merely human with an effort that turns his face the colour of bone and leaves him whimpering in pain. "Jath," he begins then: "My name is Jathal," and the falls silent, mouth snapping shut.

I hold out my right hand. "Think it?"

He presses his hand into mine and does so, his name weaving between us. It is smaller than I thought and he offers up all of it desperately, under it a binding open and wide.

"What are you doing?"

He lets go with a gulp."You could kill me anyway?"

"You wish to be bound." I draw myself up; he doesn't cower. "Do you swear service by the Cone and the Grave?" Old names for older powers.

He just stares at me blankly. "I don't know what that is."

I must look as blank as I stare down at him. I've never ran into anything from Outside that didn't know about the powers that govern the Ways. "How old are you?"

He stiffens at the gentleness in my voice and then looks away. "I don't know. I wath running from a threat, from thome ...." his face twists up "from a force bigger than me," he continues, slower. "It wanted to eat me. I ran and found a – a hole? A door? I fell to this world."

An Other trapped in a form the world chose, unable to break it. It wasn't unheard of: I've been told that the myth of bigfoot comes from such things. I let out a breath. "I'm not going to bind you as my servant," I say after wrapping other bindings into him; he doesn't even notice me doing it.

The boy freezes, scant control gone as fangs protrude to puncture his lower lip. His yelp of pain distracting him for a moment as he struggles to hold a human seeming.

It takes everything I have not to laugh. "I'm going to trust you. We're staying in a motel: you know what that is?"

He nods; transit imparts language even if his ability to speak it seems to have been twisted up, an echo of forcing himself into the world without the means or power to manage it.



"Does that work as a use-name?"

He says it slowly a few times, then offers up a most serious nod and falls into step beside me. I try not to think about what Charlie is going to make of this. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013


My name is Charlie, and I eat gods. There's not really a support group for that and not much of anything in the way of explanations either. I can do other stuff, like scare people, and children trust me. That might say something good about me only if you don't know children. Today is one of those craptastic mornings that three cups of coffee doesn't budge.

I used up all the hot water in the bathroom – payment to the magician for not renting a real hotel room – and he wandered into the bathroom and came out half an hour later smelling of fresh-cut grass and trailing steam. "I asked the water to warm up," he says as if that makes perfect sense before pouring himself a coffee. He sits at the small table that is the only other furniture in our motel room beyond the two uncomfortable single beds we slept in. The coffee machine and cups take up a third of the table themselves. I imagine the room would classify as retro in some tv show.

"If everyone could do that, what would power companies do?"

He looks over with the puzzled blankness of someone who has never given it any thought and then offers up: "Find another way to screw people over, I imagine, given companies in general?"

"You could do something about it," I snap, dumping more sugar and cream into my coffee. It's not helping.

"I could." He sips his coffee. "But companies are made of people. If magicians went around making people into not-people it would be–" he pauses for more coffee "–unwise. I can show people errors. Force them to face their hypocrisies – at least some of them – but there are things even magic shouldn't do."

"Uh huh."

"People require a great deal of disharmony to be, Charlie. We have to hold opposing ideas without seeing them as that, pretend that our beliefs are solid as facts, convince ourselves the world is solid when we know it is mostly empty. And those are the easy bits. People are complicated, and you don't get that kind of complexity without at least some level of hypocrisy in it."

I pause. "Cognitive dissonance. Another name for some of that." I've read a lot about psychiatric shit. For reasons.

"Ah. I'll need to remember that. It is shorter." He pours himself another coffee and waits.

He doesn't ask a single question. That's the worst part. He just waits. "My nose."


"Acne. You know magic to get rid of it?"

"You're fine just as you are."

I don't throw my coffee in his face. "You're a magician." My voice is almost even. I think. "You think that about everyone."

His smile is almost shy as he nods.

"But you have changed people. 'Fine' isn't 'Perfect'. It can even be better, right?" He sits back and sighs. "Oh, come on: you must have had acne."

"A little bit, but not for long."

"Of course not. So."

"Do you think it would help you?" There is something in his voice that makes me draw back. "You'll like yourself more because of that one small thing?"

"I won't like myself less." He raises an eyebrow. "Please don't tell me you're saying acne has some kind of magic to it."

"Most things do depending on how you look at them. Being a teenager is a time of chance, and chance is always hard and ugly. People often hate their bodies at some point, but they can blame it on a problem that goes away, make that the focus and ignore everything else. I have acne, therefore I am not desirable. It goes away, and I will be fine." He shrugs. "Most mantras can be made into personal magics without conscious choice."

"Let's say I know that's all bullshit."

He grins at that. "Feel it, then. On your skin, under it. What is it, what it means to you. Do that, and visualize it being gone."

I blink prod my nose with my left hand. It feels tender but nothing else. "That's it?"


"We wasted five minutes talking in order for you to do that?"

"No." He stands and gets his duffel bag, tossing it on the bed and zipping it up.

I put my coffee aside and get my bag. I know enough about him to know he can't tell true lies to people because he can speak truth people can't ignore, that it's part of what he is.

"That was me, then." He doesn't look over. "And it wasn't magic."

"You eat gods. Energy. Things," he says, his face carefully bland as he looks back at me. "This is just another facet of that."

I zip up my bag. "And I could do it to other parts of me." He says nothing. "You think I'm that shallow, magician?"

He just smiles, slow and sad, and walks out the door without a single word.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

nano ramblings ....

For the past 2-3 years I've plotted out a novel in September and never wrote it since some Other Idea hits me days before nano and I go nuts on that instead. And then get some other idea, and when the dust clears I have 2 nanowrimo novels done. Sometimes more. None of which are the novel I plotted out in September. Such is my brain. This year I am hoping to cheat that by building up the series of stories called, with a dire lack of creativity, magician series. I know a novel can be told in the world: I've had a rough, rough outline of one in my head for a couple of months now and a couple of pages jotted out for the start of the story.

(Jay didn't exist when I wrote those pages, mind. Hell, he still has yet to show up on this blog. Soon :))

I know the setting can support a novel easily, the trick is going to be keeping the tone OF the stories and having it not get into too many shades of purple prose. And of avoiding my default 'voice' for a story, which will be the real trick. Charlie does come closest to it out of all the characters, so there is that. And the magician DOES have a name, which will probably come up in the story. The tangible benefits to doing a novel are that the neglected families of both Charlie and the magician can show up (and should). I have a scene with the magician and his sister in a notebook somewhere I have yet to use that really needs to show up.

One of the central tenants of the series is that magicians are uncommon; a key point of it is in showing why, though mostly in implicit rather than explicit ways. Much as how magic in it is about small things. Secrets, hidden desires, and the damages we do to ourselves and others. It's about the ripples we put into the world, and also the ones we pull back into ourselves. It's about magic as a poetical construct: it operates according to need and is driven by desire. And about the ways in which we channel and constrain desire.

Exactly how the novel works in those regards will depend on how I tell the story. The stories thus far have been almost entirely told in present tense. Which is fine for ~3 pages of prose but I am not sure if the entire novel will contain that, or even all be from a singular POV. So time to rummage about inside my head and see what I can pull out .....

Monday, September 02, 2013


Reality is never what people think it is. Everyone knows all solid things are empty space, but no one really thinks that. Reality is like that: there are empty spaces, and into them come things. Others. Creatures not native to our reality. Some are alien, some hostile, some lost, and if magicians have a purpose it is to bind and banish what is needed to bind and banish. The dangers grown from the world are something else altogether.

Their names, judging by the screams over picket fences, are Ethel and Thelma, and their dispute over a missing garden rake lite more than new clothing over old skin. The past is seldom what people think it is either. It's rarely neat, not all tidy and often not very past. An old wound festers between them, a story told by one seen as a lie by the other that time and distance has twisted into a tangle I can't begin to unravel.

If anyone asked, they would unite in derision at claims that this dispute is part of any other they have had and they would believe it wholly and truly as only beliefs that one knows are wrong can be believed. The past bubbles up between them, all unspoken truth and bitter regret. I can smooth it down: I have magic enough for that, even if it would not last. Nothing lasts, perhaps especially not magic. I could even tell them to forget and give them no choice about it, but they would lose part of themselves, because this bickering to each other had come to define them as much as other things do.

I could fix it with time and effort: insinuate myself into their lives, seeing deep into secrets even their hearts have forgot, but there's never time enough. I weave enough magic to touch their children, and their children after that, strengthening their own desires and needs to let them see without seeing and know without knowing, so that the hatred will go no further, so that the past will die with Thelma and Ethel. It isn't much, but better than nothing.

I walk away down the road in the direction of away and try not to think too hard about damage even magic dares not fix. Someone with enough power could have bought them new homes, thrown gifts at them – a reality TV show, or a lottery – and caused the past to die that way. Magic doesn't work that easily and I know, to my cost, not to try and force such things. So I ignore the urge to push, to meddle, to try and undo harm that has not become so much a part of them that its loss could well destroy them. I can remove illusion; I cannot offer new ones to replace it with and sometimes that weakness to my magic is a deep and ugly wound all its own.