Monday, February 24, 2014

On Second Drafts

I'm at the 12.5K mark of the second draft of Kiln and Kin. In about a thousand words I'll hit one pivotal scene I'd hit at before the 9K mark in the previous draft, which isn't bad at all.  That I'll be able to fit most of the scene in verbatim is also handy -- I'll likely read ahead in the first draft and see what else I can yank out soon, including a few decent bits of dialogue that will hold up just fine in this version.

The second draft does come slower, but I also know the characters better. I'm still feeling out where the plot is going but by this weekend I should have the end-game in mind and go toward that. Doing the second draft of this story is actually helping a lot with the second draft to Ghoulish Happenings, mostly in terms of figuring out how to decide what to keep and how best to keep it. I think I'll just go through the first draft of that again with a lighter and mark the passages that should survive in some form to the second draft, sketch out the plot a bit better and then discard everything else.

GH is going to need a few subplots added, since the one major one is being excised entirely. Since it was full of problematic issues and constant struggles to get it to make sense in the narrative, this is for the best. It also means the relationship between Bryce and Wray can be explored in different angles in that story and probably end up being a lot creepier. I hope.

As for this story: I'll probably be at the 15K mark before the actual antagonist shows up (by proxy, but even so), which does fit the story. Jonas isn't aware of what Qirjin is, or that the gifted exist at all among the masses of humanity. It also means that the characters have almost a week in novel-time just to become friends, get to know each other and have things be mostly normal before that all starts falling apart. Normal is good. It gives the characters some goal to strive toward, after all.

Now back to writing.....

Friday, February 21, 2014

The idea wouldn't leave my head...

I am running out of ways to-
                        to forget you
                        to forgive you
I am told
                 I should not do this
I am dreaming in quicksand.
In my own head it is not dark enough
is not cold enough and there
is a falling – Oh God, there is –
you took so much when you left from us
(you? god? I     don’t know which
There is this –.  I –.  I –.)
There is something I don’t have words for
can’t feel the seeing of, inseeing
                                      or out.
Sometimes, rare, I visit your grave.
I don’t know know who I am crying for.
I want to tell them, who offer happy drugs,
how much I hate you, that I forget
your eyes without photos, that
I don’t know what I am crying for.
I can’t forget how selfish you were &
I am here.                (People survive this.)
And you are not.     (People survive this.)
And I cant see how        I am empty
to be so full. I loved you, and you
took your life like I wasn’t enough
and all that is left, my child, is my hate.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ah, world building....

I has notes. Specifically, over 1000 words on what the hell is up with the Kiln and Kin setting, what exists in the world, why it does and that it is no longer set in this world but one slightly off to the side -- specifically, that certain psychic abilities, known as talents, are known to the population at large but their provenance is variable and there are always con men willing to fake having them, some quite successfully.

Other stuff exists, but in general people with said gifts (like Qirjin's family) have learned through bitter experience to hide themselves from the world at large. There are also some stuff that simply isn't real, such as ghosts and chatting with the dead, no matter what some people claim or think. There is a kind of magic in the world, but it is hard to use and not remotely replicable most of the time so people pretty much don't bother with it, and there are odd people with elemental affinities having a private war in a dream-world. No one, not even them, knows how this started or what the point of it is.

In essence, I hit the 30K mark of the story, sat back and went: I need to figure out this setting, since what was meant to be the main plot has fallen away in favour of Other Stuff that, while decent, is a bit too knock-on-head for what I wanted from the story. I also need to redo the first couple of paragraphs entirely since they have a more 'this story is being told from the future' vibe that the story loses further in, and it's not a good future-vibe anyway. I need to develop secondary characters a lot more and put more into the story without it being 'oh, look, a Bully!' and the like as characters because that's pretty dull. There are some scenes from the first draft I am keeping close-to verbatim, others I won't.

I could finish the draft of the story as it stands now, in 30-40K, but there would be too little to salvage for a second draft, so I figure it's better to make draft 2 over the next couple of weeks. Also, I realized sometime over the weekend that the story Kiln and Kin is telling is in some ways a reversal of Ghoulish Happenings, with the POV shifted to Bryce instead of Wray, if Bryce had no kind of magic and Wray was human rather than a ghoul, of course. It's not really that at all but some parallels are there if I go hunting for them. I figure it means I can write this and get certain plot-ideas out of my head and entirely away from the Ghoulish story.

What I want the story to accomplish is that it is about a kid on the cusp of high school who learns the world is weirder and stranger than most people ever known. It's about magic, and secrets that are blessings and burdens, sexuality, friendship and growing up. It's about who we trust and why, and the ways in which people can always surprise you by stepping out of the boxes we shove them into. I shall see how it goes.... tonight shall be character building, and tomorrow I will likely begin the second draft. As a saner pace than I did this one.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Small break, as I figure out the next scene :)

It's always interesting to read comments and go "well, yeah...." Ended up browsing a tor article and came across a comment by Jo Walton:
It's much harder to write fantasy that avoids saving the world than it ought to be, and I think that's really worthy of consideration.
To some extent, this exists in many novels in a not-explicit form (the 'world' the character saves doesn't have to be literal, after all, and can be as small as friends/family/relationships). The magician series of stories is a direct 'nope' to this. There have been towns saved, and creates from Outside the universe dealt with but I began it meaning it to be small, that the magician is, in effect, a kind of janitor who cleans up small problems. And that's it. There are magicians who protect whole cities, being tied to the place in exchange for power, and they tend to have limited impact on the city proper, mostly making sure things remain the same in the world.

I like reading 'save the world' series. I have no desire to write one, and that does seem to be where most series end up* if they run long enough. Stakes get raised, the existence of magic changes a world, and so on. Most novels I write that don't directly deal with that issue avoid it. Sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly. The magician series is going to get more explicit about that as it goes on, not that it's above the magician's pay grade but also above his power and what magic can do. The world outside the door in it is normal in the series. Most people have entirely normal lives. If magic could change the world, it would. It hasn't, but being a magician is still an important thing, perhaps because it helps stop the world from becoming the kind where magic has to save it or change it. The second novel in the series that is very, very embryonic in my head is going to be about this, at least a little.

Oddly, this isn't even a concern in the current YA novel I'm poking through (Kiln and Kith) nor has it been in any YA story I've done. (The eventual 'dogs of war' trilogy will, however, be about saving the world, among other things.) Some of that is because I refuse to make parents useless in the stories. If the world was at stake, they'd be saving it. Or at least instrumental in how the characters do it. I should probably get back to writing but it is always neat to see a giant trope and realize how often you've refused to use it, often without even knowing it.

* The first novel in the Ghoulish Series does claim one town can be used to destroy the world, but this is actually a giant red herring. Unfortunately, the person who made it didn't tell the people on his own side that, so they keep trying to get ahold of the power they think is hidden in the town, rather than another family just wasting power and resources to protect nothing. This will probably be more explicit in the second draft but was intended as a fun inversion.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

I have, technically, been writing

Working out plot stuff for Ghoulish Happenings in my head  for draft two, and trying to think if I need to make some major changes to the structure or not. I'm leaning toward yes, figuring out the ramifications of that and building it in as subplot in my head.

As a break from that, I started a new story today. Mostly because I don't want to just write the magician series stories; I need a bit of a breather from that world. So I started with a boy named Jonas, and what happens to him and his dad when a boy named Qirjin moves in down the hall with his mother. It's going to be a kind-of fairy tale about lives falling apart and coming together and how monsters are always monsters. I think.

I wrote three paragraphs for it, and realized that the last two of those actually were for a story I haven't added words to in over a year. I threw them into that file, tried to shove my brain back into gear for New. Wrote a few hundred more words. Watched the first three episodes of Gilligan's Island as research. (Really.) Read up on said show, lost myself in a small maze of internets. Surfaced. Added more words.

Surfaced to find I've written, rewritten and (semi)polished 1100 words over 9 hours. On the flip side, I have backstories of three of the four major characters in my he2ad, stuff on their personalities and how some may be broken and remade over the course of the story. I have no real plot yet. I don't even know how long this is going to be. It is also not in first person present tense. Which is a nice break from that as well, I think

How it starts....

I can’t forget the first time we met. No. Let’s start with a secret: I still try to forget him. Even after everything, maybe because of nothing. I don’t know. I used to know things, before I met him, his family, and everything that came from that. I don’t anymore. The world used to be solid and it isn’t anymore. I’m writing this down because I can’t trust myself anymore. There’s this joke, right: “Aren’t you ever ashamed at being such a jerk?” And then it goes: “Why should I be? I put a lot of work into being me.” All that work fell apart when we I met him.  

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Semi-Hidden Staircase

I hate haunted houses. I’m talking the real ones: houses no one lives in anymore, the kind they don’t offer ghost tours to, the ones so old and run down that even rats won’t live in them. They are the places locals talk about only after the pubs have closed, the tales never told to children and only mentioned when lights are bright and burning. It makes it harder to find out about them. It makes it harder to deal with them. And it also means that said places are going to be less comfortable than a 0-star motel run by Norman Bates.

Dyer had chatted with the locals in pubs while I’d broken into the towns records department for files. I’m trying not to think too hard about that division as I hop the fence around the property after the ghost. Obediah died in 1918, body thin and eaten away from the inside-out by sickness. Paler than death, with bones and veins standing out against flesh, a voice little more than a rasp and no hair at all – he looks like he should be dead or barely survived dying, and people talk to him, the way they talk to magicians, but without his using any magic at all. He’s also the only ghost I’ve run into that can be solid enough to fool most anyone into thinking he’s alive.

“The house was built in 1886 by one Jeremiah Baker, a banker by trade who amassed a small fortune and retired. According to a couple of microfilm reels, telling people no to their mortgages just got to be too much for him. No wife, no kids, died ten years later. House passed into the care of his younger sister, Jennifer. Her son, Alexander, killed himself two years later; she beat her husband and his mistress to death with her bare hands four months after that and threw herself off of the roof. Three stories, hit the ground and only broke her legs. Died in jail several years later; everyone else who tried to settle in the house left and refused to talk about why.”

“Huh.” Dyer studies the house. It isn’t much to speak of: old wood siding, crumbling brick, but the plans had shown fairy-tale like turrets and even a small moat complete with drawbridge leading into the home. Jeremiah had ever been – or decided to become – a local eccentric. Possibly for privacy. In its day it would have looked like Walt Disney had shat some princess castle right in the middle of Michigan.

“The locals fenced it off in the sixties after two more deaths,” he says. “Officially, they fell through the floor. Unofficially, they ran into at least one ghost and died trying to flee the house. Last month two local kids decided to explore it for a YouTube video. Neither has left their home or talked since, mostly making whimpering sounds and cowering from any kind of noise. That’s when someone sought out CASPER.”

The Centre for Secure Poltergeist Elimination Research is, at least on paper, some branch of the department of education dealing with hoaxes and telling people how ghosts are really animals, odd noises, weird sounds and the like. And to be fair, more than half of what we do is that. The rest is getting rid of real ghosts on a budget that makes welfare checks look like a windfall.

“You’re the ghost eater.” I give him a light push into the brambles. “Go inside, find ghost, eat it and we’re done.”

He shoots me a hurt look. “It’s not that simple. We don’t know how many ghosts there are or which ones are actually hurting people. The world has no shortage of weird creatures that might hide in this sort of place and scare kids by accident.”

I sigh and begin shoving brambles out of my way as I head toward the house. I could rip through them: I have a monster inside me, a thing of claw and shadow, a god forged of fear and flame, but the ghost might notice. And it seems kind of silly to to call up for brambles, but less so as Dyer just wanders through them, his already ripped leather jacket barely touched by them while my winter jacket gets ripped and torn up to match his. I’m in a mood by the time we reach the house.

“I should go first,” Dyer offers in his soft rasp as we reach what the perpetually open drawbridge leading into the old home. I turn and raise one eyebrow; he falls back a couple of steps and licks his lips.“Charlie, no one has lived here for close to a hundred years. The floors could well collapse –”

“They wouldn’t dare.”

Ghost-boy is good at sounding nice; I’m good at sounding like I’m a few seconds from doing something the other person is going to regret. He snaps his mouth shut and says nothing else as I head across the doorway and into the house. The walls are crumbling wood reeking of rot, the floor bowed and twisted as I walk in. Wood shudders a little but holds together; gaps oin the floor offer hints toward a finished basement below us. The stairwell up to the second level is a complete write-off for going up unless I was ten again. And dieting. Which sounds less funny in my head since I’d lay bets that there’s some ten year old girls who do diet these days.

The whole place feels not empty enough, as if the shadows were judging us, but I’m good at judging right back. I look about slowly, thinking. I’m not Dyer. He eats ghosts; I eat gods. And other things, if and when I have to. He’s concerned with stopping the ghost; I’m wondering who the ghost is and how they got this way. I gesture and he follows my lead, slipping up the stairs to the second level in silence as I look around.

Huge hallway, vast staircases to the second floor, drawing room, living room. The kitchen is is in the back, most of it having fallen through the floor, the stairway to the basement being far off to the side. In its day it would have been half-hidden by a stove or fridge, if I have the layout right. I move back to the stable flooring and crouch down, staring through the missing boards and holes. I draw on enough of the god inside me to see through shadow and move slowly along the floor, getting a feel for what the basement looks like.

“I think the kids got to the second floor and ran down,” Dyer says behind me. I don’t jump; I’m getting used to him not making a sound when he walks. “The servant stairwell leading to the kitchen is more solid than the main stairs; they tried to hit the back entrance, fell into the basement and scrambled back up through an exit that was probably storage for firewood.”

“I bet they broke the lock on their way out,” I say slowly as I stand. “And the door is shut tight now.”

He pauses at something in my voice but nods. “It looked like that; I didn’t want to test it alone.”

“Yeah. Drop down into the basement. Look around. Come back up. Don’t do it in the normal way.”

Dyer blinks, but doesn’t ask questions. He’s gone between one moment and the next, and beside me less than thirty seconds later, pale eyes wide in shock.

“Jeremiah Baker is down there, then.”

“His ghost is hiding, yes.” Dyer heads outside; I follow without a word, fighting back a grin. A hundred years dead and he looks so shocked it’s hard not to laugh. “You saw?” he says.

“Chains. Benches. Enough to know it was a dungeon, though most of it has rotted away with time. He lived alone and was wealthy: I imagine people into the S&M scene found out about his dungeon because he wanted them to. He was rich, so such things never made the papers then, and eventually someone tried to blackmail him. He kills himself and haunts it to hide his shame from his own family.”

“His shame became part of the house he built. Infected it. Drove his own nephew to suicide and his sister into madness. Their ghosts aren’t here. Just his and he’s too terrified and angry to talk, so afraid of being discovered that he terrifies people away from his own home.”

“And every piece that rots away increases the chances people will learn his secrets.”


I grunt and pull out a cigarette, lighting it. Like all bad habits, it’s one I can’t quite quit. This job doesn’t help. “How strong is Jeremiah?”

“I don’t know.”

I take a deep drag, blow smoke, a second, and thread power into my voice. “Ghost: I am giving you a way out. Use it,” and toss the cigarette through the open door onto the floor.

Dyer lets out a shocked yelp. “This isn’t how we do things!”

The fire catches in record time and begins burning bright and hot, enough to consume the house and not a single brush around it as we watch. Dyer repeats rules and prohibitions from the CASPER workbook, as if I’ve ever read the damn thing, until his voice gives out entirely.

“You could have stopped it,” I say once the fire has crumpled even stone and metal into little more than memory. The ghost says nothing at all, lips drawn and tight as he walks out of the property.

I follow; the ghost of Jeremiah Banks says nothing, offers up less. I don’t know if it was destroyed and I don’t think Dyer will tell me the truth if I ask. I could point out that most people would react the way he did to the basement, that it would have destroyed the reputation of a dead man, but I’d be saying nothing Dyer doesn’t already know. I put my cigarettes away and get into the old RV I bought a week ago.

Dyer slinks into the passenger seat and puts his seat belt on. “Thank you.”

I don’t ask for what. I just grunt and drive away, checking the satnav for the next place HQ wants us to look into while Dyer stares out the window at what uses to be a haunted house and thinks thoughts he doesn’t share with me.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Road Trip Chapter 12

The end! A little over 18,500 words in total.

 12. Cars & Endings

I weave luck around the people we steal a car from, Charlie following my instructions and heading toward the coast. There is nothing save fear coming from the binding with Jay, but it’s enough to head toward him; I pull on it to avoid tolls and work small magics on places and people we pass, brief flashes of insight or blessing to begin to pay back the world.

“Magician,” Charlie says after an hour. “You did nothing wrong, yes?”

“I didn’t stop Leona from doing wrong things. She drew power recklessly to match her desires. And she would not have had to do so had we not come to her, though the debt is more to the world by way of apology.”

“Right. And Jay?”

“He’s run out of land and isn’t about to swim the ocean.”

“Out of –. He ran all the way to the coast?”

“It will take us five hours to reach him, so yes.”

“Fuck,” Charlie says softly, lighting a cigarette and pressing the gas pedal harder to the floor. “I didn’t think he could run that far at speed.”

“I imagine he bent space a little; he’s tired and scared and too exhausted to attempt to swim across the ocean in any event. Which is for the best since I’m not up to convincing a car to travel over water.”

She snorts at that. “Now I’m kind of wishing he’d kept going: I’ve never been to Hawaii.” Charlie blows smoke as she overtakes a van. “What happened there, exactly? I mean, what would have happened if you’d failed?”

“We would have used out deaths to bind and limit their power. There would have been an outbreak of hysterical angel sightings in Oregon and around it: not in Washington at all, mind, and then another magician would have arrived – likely several – to close the gate and banish them by doing so. It could well have been a permanent wound in the world and those are difficult to eradicate.”

“A whole army of invading demons and angels and it boils down to – to like an overkill of tourists?” she demands.

“Dangerous ones, but yes. They won’t have the power to manage such a thing for a very long time: Leona’s wards would have prevented a third of their host from entering at all, which even she thought was overestimating their numbers. What that means, in terms of what we did back then or now, I’m not sure. Creatures from outside look human, and often act it, but to what extent it’s real emotion as humans perceive it is an open question.”

“Jay looks human,” Charlie says slowly.

“He does.”

“It occurs to me. With the subs. And other food. And the journey. It occurs to me with all that that I never saw him go to the washroom once. I don’t think I ever have.”

“His body converts all food into energy; he doesn’t emit waste.” I let out a breath. “And can’t.”


“He’s as anatomically correct as a ken doll would be. It’s not something one notices, and I doubt he’ll age so it won’t be any issue at all.”

“No issue,” she says through clenched teeth.

“He didn’t want you to know. And you didn’t notice until now because of his gifts.”

“Why didn’t he want that?”

“Because of your eyes before you could control them. Jay is bound to me: he wants to be friends with you, and if you think he’s some freak or monster he doesn’t think it will work. I told him lying wouldn’t help, but I don’t think he grasps that.”

“Okay. Okay. So he – it?”


“He isn’t – and that’s normal for a vampire?”

“Not at all.” I lean back and rub the bridge of my nose. “I am starting to think that I was played for a fool, Charlie. Jay was never a vampire at all: he crossed into our universe as something better hiding as one, and did it so well – and damaged himself so greatly in the transit – that it will be a long time before he heals at all. A vampire is weak, and he is weak: it made sense to hide as that.”

“What is he, then?”

“I don’t know. I have suspicions, but I don’t know.”

She hands over a cigarette; I accept and light it. Wait.

“This gift binds you,” she says. “Tell me.”

“You really want to try this?”

“Fuck, no. But if I’m in the dark about me, that’s one thing. Talk. Please.”

I take a deep drag of the cigarette. “There is a barrier between the universe and what lies Outside. The god inside you knows of the Cone and the Grave, yes?”

“I used those terms on that – creature you slept with. I don’t know what they mean at all.”

“They’re powers. Like Winter, but perhaps different in kind as well as order. I don’t know. Winter is a power in this universe, an embodiment of a function. I assumed the Cone and Grave were the same, but I think I was wrong. They might be one thing, or two, or something else altogether, but they govern passage between the universe and Outside it and also perhaps help to hide the universe. The Cone exists, but I suspect the Grave is a literal grave and wasn’t always that way. Whatever power dwelt in it remains but grows weaker, and the forces in that place want a replacement.”


“I think so. Or he’ll be a catalyst for it, his death bring whatever is in the Grave back to life. It’s all guesswork because that’s all I have but Winter seems to have the same basic idea and he exists throughout time.” I take another deep drag on the cigarette. “Knowing this might cause it not to happen. Or make him a target, so I’d rather he didn’t know until he is stronger.”

“He’d have a major freak-out.”

“I doubt there are many who wouldn’t. And I don’t want to do that to him.”

“Huh.” Charlie doesn’t ask about herself, just falls silent and keeps driving.

I fall into the magic to shore up the world and myself, feeling almost human when the car stops, and far more human when Charlie drops three buckets of KFC in my lap. “We’re almost at the coast.”

I feel out the binding between myself and Jay and give directions; it takes less than ten minutes to reach the rock outcropping the kid is sitting on at the edge of parkland. There are a few worn paths around the park, a small parking lot with washrooms and a picnic table, all of which was unlikely to show up on tourism brochures. Jay looks fine, unhurt, just staring listlessly out at the ocean, his stomach growling as Charlie plops down beside him with one bucket.

“Eat,” she says, the tone making it a threat.

Jay does, finishing off the bucket in ravenous gulps and eating the second slower, licking off his fingers and refusing to look at us.

“So,” Charlie says slowly, then falls silent as Jay flinches visibly at the word.

“I ran away,” he says in a small voice. “I’m thorry. I didn’t even try to take you, or – or –. I jutht ran away.”

“Yeah. And that’s the first thing the magician told me about you, kiddo. That you had good survival instincts, and we should damn well pay attention to them. I would have ran, too, if I could have.” She ruffles his hair with one hand. “No one’s going to blame you for not being stupid – this time – and if you go blaming yourself I’m not going to give you the third bucket of chicken.”

Jay blinks and looks over at that. “Really?”

“We’ve been driving for four hours; we’re hungry as well.”

“I mean –.” He scowls, then twists about to look up at me.

I walk over and set the bucket down, sitting on the rock. “It turned out better than I could have hoped, and you were right to run like hell.”

“He wath thcary,” Jay says, eyeing the bucket.

I open it, take a piece, offer it to Charlie and then Jay. He begins eating at a slow, normal pace, eyes locked on me. “I have some clue what is going on, I think,” I say. “About you, and all of this, but I could as easily be being tricked. And knowing would only hurt you or put us all at risk. Trust me on that?”

“Alwayth,” he says firmly, snagging another leg. “I don’t know what I did, when I ran? But I’d like to learn becauthe running away by mythelf ith boring.”

Charlie snickers at that. “Surviving isn’t boring.”

“It ith if it’th all you do,” he says firmly. “Like being thcared of thaying letterth and – that ith being weak, and I’m tired of it.”

“Good.” I eat a second leg, hand out cans of pop. “Something good came out of all this, then.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Charlie says. “A whole army of creatures from Outside tried to invade the world and your idea of a good outcome is Jay deciding not to avoid as many esses?”

“That was going to be the outcome anyway,” I say. “He’s learned more about himself and that is always a victory in my book.”

“And me?” she says.

“Definitely a work in progreth,” Jay says firmly, diving to the left to avoid a swat on the back of his head.

“We’re all that.” I let out a breath. “We can visit some gods, if you want. If they’re willing to.”

Charlie’s eyes narrow. “I’ll think about it.”

“Always good.” I stand and stretch. “First order of business: we find a place to sleep, get breakfast tomorrow, a new vehicle and head – oh, south, and see what happens.”

“Okay. I should use the bathroom back at the park before we go,” Charlie says, shooting a look at Jay. He freezes and then blushes, keeping silent. “Don’t think we’re not going to talk about this,” she says, but smiles and heads to the washrooms without looking back.

I head to the car and Jay falls into step beside me. “Magithan?”

“You can keep using Honcho if you want.”

“’kay. I wanted to know why you didn’t leave me? You’re powerful and Charlie is too and – and –.”

“We are bound together,” I say dryly, “remember?” Nothing. “That, and I’m selfish, Jay. If not for me, you’d have been destroyed. You need me, and that helps me hold myself together more than you know. I’ve been a magician for years and it’s tiring and wearing me down. You and Charlie help push that back.”

“Really?” he says suspiciously.

“You think I’d lie to you?”

He snorts at that. “You’re a magithan!”

That wins a laugh. I give him a shove toward the car and get in the back, Jay hopping in, pressing his body into mine with a happy sigh and falling asleep moments later.

Charlie gets in, looks in the back and shakes her head. “He’s okay?”

“Getting there. You?”

“Ditto. You?” she parries back.

“Trying to find it.” I leave Jay and get in the front, accepting the last piece of chicken. “South. Sleep, breakfast, and from there we go wherever the wind takes us.”

“That’s it? That’s what you get from all of this?”

I don’t look over as she pulls the car out of the parking lot. “Don’t look back. If you do, it just gives the past more time to catch up to you.”

“Magicians,” she says sourly, and nothing else at all as we hit the highway.

I finish the chicken, wrap wards about the car and think of Leona – who used to be Leo – and friends lost and gone for a short while before letting go of names and faces, of regrets and losses, and trying to focus on what the world would bring. It was a great deal of effort for perhaps little reward, but I had to believe the future was worth the prices paid for it.