Archive for February, 2014

Orison, a review

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2014 by drmagoo
I was fortunate enough to read an earlier draft of Orison, by Daniel Swensen, about a year ago, and I enjoyed the read quite a bit. It was a well-crafted tale that would fit well into the fantasy genre and hold its place on shelves at stores and libraries. I knew that he was working on revisions, and I looked forward to the final draft with excitement. To say the final product impressed me would be a significant understatement. Daniel managed to take an engaging tale and make is something more, an inventive, original take on a story genre that is stuffed to the gills, and one that leaves you wanting more.
Orison is the story of Story, a young woman of indeterminate origin working as a burglar and pickpocket in Calushain, a city on the edge on an empire that has, as all empires do, a desire to grow. The world in which Story lives is ruled (or perhaps not, depending on your theology) by a collection of gods who empower semblances to do their bidding in the world of the living. Magic has come to the world as result of the dragons’ powers, but the consequences of agreeing to the gifts of magic are complex.
Story is not alone in her life of crime – she is joined in the service of the crime lord Galon by her brother Crux, who can seemingly open anything. Her closest friend in town is Wrynn Sendir, who spends most of his time drinking or sleeping it off in a crate outside the building Story lives in. For a man without anything obviously to his name, Wrynn has a complex past and a wealth of knowledge about magic. While walking through town one day, Wrynn runs into a group of mercenaries who are only prevented from doing him harm by the appearance of Mar Dunnac, a master swordsman who is, like Wrynn, on the run from a dangerous past and headed for an even more dangerous future.
The way the author develops the Story, Crux, Wrynn, and Dunnac creates characters of depth and complexity, strength and weakness. How their stories become intertwined is a pleasure I want to leave for the reader.
 Orison is not a long book, but it contains the depth to show hints of a much larger world, and the ending of the book gives us hints about how we might get to explore the rest of the world along with … well, someone. There are a lot of fantasy stories out there about muscle-bound and powerful young men who rise to great heights, and while some of them define the genre, it’s hard to find original ground there. What the author has done with Orison is more than just make the main character a woman, he has provided a fresh take on magic, fate, politics, and storytelling. Read Orison. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll want to keep reading. A heck of a first novel.
Orison is published by Nine Muse Press, and is available here, starting at Noon (Eastern Time, US) today.

Finish That Thought, week 34

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2014 by drmagoo


The gust stole my breath as it pressed the damp shirt against my chest. I’d made the judgment call to forego a jacket, tired of being buried under layer upon layer of heavy fabric, but the ten percent chance of light sprinkles had turned into a blizzard of sleet and snow and freezing rain, and even three hours after I’d gotten to work, I was still a bedraggled mess. I didn’t want to go to the meeting on the other side of campus, not in the hawk wind that had stolen out of the north and pushed the inelegantly-named Wintry Mix off to the hinterlands, and not to make the report I had to make to the people to which I had to make it.

Eh. What the hell. They’d fire me if I didn’t show up for sure. Maybe they’d take pity on me when I came in looking like a lost puppy. Probably not.

By the time I’d made it to Old Main Hall, my dress shirt had frozen into a grotesque parody of stiff and starched, and I was sure it would take an hour under a hot shower to even have feeling in my ankles again. The hallway was empty at this time of day, and my footfalls echoes off the marble and oak that had defined what serious academics was a hundred years ago. They’d hear me coming long before I got to the conference room, and I wrapped my arms tightly across my chest, trying – and failing – to find a warmth I knew I wouldn’t find in front of them.

They didn’t go silent when they saw me – from the looks of things, they hadn’t spoken all morning – but just glared at me with the disapproving glances of grandparents you hated to visit. They weren’t all men, although a less feminine collection of women would be harder to find, so tightly they cleaved to the old ways, ways which had become stale long before the cornerstone was laid for this building.

The lone concession to anything approaching modernity was the overhead projector in the center of the room, its octagon of light splayed unevenly against the pull-down screen in the corner. Some people were beaming presentations wirelessly to wearable eyeglass computers, here electricity was considered an untested and unreliable form of power, used reluctantly only after the city changed regulations preventing us from using gas lighting in every room.

I placed my first slide on the projector, the words I’d worked so painstakingly to print as neatly as possible announcing the bad news to a room of statues. The future had come, the words said, written in light but indelible none the less, and we were all out of a job. No one spoke, and the sound of breathing was barely audible in this mausoleum of higher education. Outside, the wind freshened, and the light from the projector flickered, and went out.

Love Bites, The Anti-Valentine Blog Hop

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2014 by drmagoo

Link to the super-awesome Love Bites Blog Hop!

“Eight thirty would be perfect, sir. And you wanted the Valentine’s Day special meal?” The voice on the other end of the phone was always a little too scripted, and a lot too earnest, as if the man or woman had just finished a course at Obsequious Restaurant Host U.

“Yes – it’s, well, it’s our first, and I want to make it special. That comes with the champagne toast, right?” It was important to get the right note of uncertainty in my voice – Romeos weren’t suckers, but Lonely Hearts Who Got Lucky were.

“Yes sir. The champagne toast, and the oyster appetizer, and the roses tied with silk. All we need from you is the deposit – will that be Mastercard or Visa?”

Visa this time, Mastercard the next. Or Amex. Sometimes it was fun to hear them squirm on the phone as they told me they couldn’t take that card, sir, I’m so sorry, is there another form of payment you can use to give us $250 for a meal that you’re buying so that you can get laid? Hell, it didn’t really matter to me, because they weren’t my cards.

I’m sure it had raised some eyebrows when I’d offered to help with organizing our tenth high school reunion, but what the heck – let’s let the class geek have his fun. Besides, the website I built – complete with a totally secure system for registration, of course – really was pretty slick, especially the part where I kept copies of the information from each transaction. I got all sorts of thank you messages from guys who’d laughed at me when I’d walked down the hall and girls who wouldn’t have gone out with me on a dare (oh, but what they did in my mind at night, the dirty whores). Even got friend requests on Facebook and Twitter and a lot of can’t wait to see ya’s.

I didn’t go – who would have, to spend time with them, acting as if they were decent people and I mattered in any way to them? Food poisoning, and bad. I know – so awful. Maybe the fifteenth? But I had what I wanted.

And I waited. It meant I lost a few cards as expiration dates passed, but it had to be Valentine’s Day. I debated doing this for Christmas, but let the rugrats have their fun – it’d be the last one they’d get for a while.

I didn’t stop at the false reservations at restaurants. There wasn’t a honeymoon suite left in the state, and I’d be surprised if there was a gas station that could get its hands on so much as a crappy dyed rose. Chocolates. Lingerie. Jewelry – that was a tough one. Had to check some balances so that I didn’t send anyone over their limit and alert anyone to what was going on. Limos. And in one special case, Rick Petersen bought a half-page ad in the Trib proclaiming his life-long love for his dear Emily.

His wife was named Amanda. Emily was the girl he’d been dating when he started screwing Amanda.

And did you know you could order STD testing kits online? Those are a hoot when they show up at your wife’s office, with a big red bow stuck on top like a festering sore of love. It also probably came as a shock to Melissa Collins to find out that her husband had purchased a subscription to Playgirl. Or to Stephen Benton that his wife bought him a penis enlargement pump. Man, they were going to get flooded with spam for, like, ever.

But I saved the best for Lisa Davis. Once upon a time, we’d been friends, and when our hormones hit, she was the one I thought about the most, there in the dark. I’d even asked her out once, to the Homecoming dance, freshman year. She didn’t even try to hide her laughter. Now, in her case, I didn’t run up their credit cards, or embarrass them in any way. They had a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner, and then headed home for a romantic evening.

In a house rigged to explode at midnight. I even used my own money for that one.

700 words

Flash Friday, Volume 2, week 9!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2014 by drmagoo


First, the violins. Then the snap of the snare. My countrymen, holding blue and yellow and white flags, leapt to their feet as our national anthem filled the stadium, their cheers echoing into the night.

All for me.

Stepping to the top of the medal stand, I was the center of attention as I would be forever more. Cameras from around the world zoomed in on me, the strutting peacock of the Americans at the head of the pack, and I waved, like the dutiful son of the motherland I was assumed to be.

But I saw none of that. My eyes were focused on the one face not in the crowd. My brother. The lucky one. Lost in an unmarked grave at the start of the genocide that birthed our nation. I’d live on as a symbol of the victory of hate over peace, feted by kings, while he had nothing but eternal sleep in the arms of angels.

55 word challenge, week 5 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 by drmagoo


Bonnie was quiet, not speaking at all except to order brains at dinner. Fortunately, I’d picked the Cleveland Offal House – kind of my test for dates. Her off-kilter smile promised a wild streak, and when I suggested a trip to the graveyard for a – heh  – late night snack, her eyes lit up like pinwheels.

Vis Dare 47: Contemplating

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 by drmagoo


The ballgame didn’t start for three hours, and batting practice wouldn’t start for 45 minutes, when Marjorie London settled into her seat – Section 222, Row 9, Seat 14. The bunting along the bricks gleamed in the late-morning sun, the clean red, white, and blue a striking counterpoint to the sea of neatly-trimmed green and carefully groomed brown of the field. It hadn’t been that long ago that everything in sight was covered in a stifling blanked of ice and snow, and spring still tentatively filled the air, intertwined with the last of the cold, now receding to the north.

Technically, she wasn’t allowed in the park this early, but she wasn’t just sitting in her seat, she was sitting in her mom’s seat, and in Grandpa Jack’s seat, and rules were made to be broken. Marjorie pulled out her knitting and began work on the next project. Spring was here, and summer would soon follow, but there was always another fall, when the season ended and the green turned to brown, and then to white, and she could always use another sweater.

Mid Week Blues Buster, week 47

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 by drmagoo


The breeze flowing through the window rattled the blinds, and the bent slats buzzed against each other like agitated mosquitoes. Coming out of the south, it would carry the stench from the rendering plant around this shithole of a town. On a day like this, even the less depressing parts of town up on the hills, where houses had air conditioning and clean water, would reek from dawn to dusk. Not for the first time, I wondered why I hadn’t left this place, or at least tried to move further from the vats of melting hog fat, but that would have required me to understand why I was here in the first place, and that was an even bigger mystery.

I rolled over and stared at the empty pillow. Tanny had left before dawn to make the morning shift at the diner, this town’s hangout for the elderly and the don’t-have-anywhere-better-to-be’s. It was the kind of place anyone passing through town would avoid in favor of hitting a McDonald’s just off the exit ramp, if anyone ever passed through town or there was a McDonald’s. Tanny spent most nights here, although I didn’t really know why. She didn’t love me, and I don’t know if she even liked me all that much. I liked her alright, I guess, and there was something to not being alone on the nights when the scratching came at the back of my mind and it hurt to breathe, but I’d never bring her home to mom. Wherever home was.

Even though it was Saturday, I couldn’t lay here all day listening to the blinds buzz. The water was less brown than usual this morning, and I didn’t itch all over after my shower, but I still couldn’t bring myself to drink the stuff. I’d seen an expose on the news once how bottled water wasn’t any better than the stuff that came out of the taps, but whoever did that had never been here. There wasn’t much in the fridge other than the last of the case of water, and I was going to have to go shopping if I wanted anything other than a mustard and baking soda smoothie for lunch. Maybe I’d get some dogs and grill dinner tonight. Tanny would probably like that, if she came over.

I decided to drive to the store – I could take the long way around, maybe cruise by the lake and see if there was any fresher air over there. The roads were pretty empty this morning, and I was able to swerve around the potholes left over from last winter. At the north end of town was the factory I spent eight and a half hours in (counting lunch break) five days a week. Day after day, I pulled a lever on a machine that took hunks of metal in one side and cranked out differently-shaped hunks of metal on the other, which were then put into boxes and shipped to factories where they were put into things with other parts from other places. On a good day, the machine would jam only half a dozen times, requiring me to disassemble it, unjam it, and put it back together. Once that kind of work sounded exciting, and now I could do it in my sleep.

Tanny had told me once about swimming in the lake, but somehow, I’d never made it here. It stretched out past the horizon – I didn’t know lakes came that big – and the beach was rocky and desolate. I stepped out of the car to the crunch of natural gravel, and I walked up to the waterline. The air here did smell different – the hog fat was still there, but it was overlaid with something else. Flowers of some sort, maybe? I felt something hit my hand and realized that I was crying. By the dampness that had soaked into my collar, I’d be doing it for a while. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and looked out over the lake, and then back at the town to the south. There were no signs on the road telling me where it went, but that didn’t really matter anymore.

Five Sentence Fiction – Frozen

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 by drmagoo


I should have said something, something smart, something witty, something … anything. But of course, I didn’t – I never did. The air changed when she walked in the room and I became impassive, unengaged, inert. She wasn’t a victim the same way – no – she was dynamic, wonderful, the gravitational pull at the heart of a thousand solar systems of inadequacy. And then she left, and I could move again to take independent action of my own volition; but not to live.

Finish That Thought, week 31

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2014 by drmagoo


Fingers trembling, she slowly unrolled the ancient document. Julie and her sisters had been packing up boxes for days, and today was the end – the last day her family would be in this house. She was off to college in the morning, and her siblings, all older, had been gone for a while now, building their own lives in their own houses. The crash that had taken their parents away was now months in the past, but still raw, still something her mind bumped into when she turned a mental corner too quickly.

Julie was in the crawlspace – it was too small to be a proper attic – and she’d been walking down memory lane with her brother and sisters, trying to find the joy amongst the sorrow. There were random Christmas ornaments, and boxes of homework and report cards and photos – too many to look through in just an afternoon.  And there were too many of mom and dad.

It was dark in here, and hot, and the fiberglass dust made her itchy. The sweat running into her eyes began to burn, and from there it ran down her face, mixing with tears. It was just too much, sometimes.

The box of her grandmother’s dishes, used once a year, for a while, and then stuck up here with the rest of history, caught on a rafter, and Julie had to crawl carefully – Remember, Julie! Don’t step between the beams or you’ll come through the ceiling! – to get it free. Reaching into the dark behind the box, her hand came upon something – rolled up and brittle. She eased it free and wiped the sweat from her forehead, and then from her hands onto her shorts, before opening it up. It had been torn from a book – a diary? – and was in her father’s blocky script.

“Kate – I just met you today, but already I’m in love. I can’t wait – can’t wait for kids, and love, and vacations, and love, and old age, and love. As the Germans say, Ich leibe dich.”

Julie rolled the paper back up and started for the ladder down from the crawlspace. She needed air, needed to cry, needed to yell, needed Tom and Lisa and Missy. But most of all, she needed her mom, needed to know what it was like on that day, and what it was like to know that there were no more tomorrows.

Monday Mixer

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2014 by drmagoo


I’ve done things I’m not proud of – but I’m not no penitent man, kneeling before a statue of Buddha Christ, or whoever the kids are worshipping these days. Hell, I didn’t even kneel when I puked anymore. Couldn’t be sure I’d get back up. I’d passed obese a long time ago and had settled into my true self – the only corpulent thief in the city, though I could still traipse through a garden without leaving so much as a toeprint.

It’s a gift. Screw you.

This time, though. This time, I royally fucked up. This whole job was predicated on my ability to round up people who provided a complement to my skills – I glided through gardens like an angel, but scaling the side of a building wasn’t my scene. As I’d looked over the usual suspects, I was far from euphoric – I’d killed one too many of my rivals when crabby, and I’d been known to bristle at an underdone steak.

I’d heard the bruit that she was back in town, but I ignored it. Women like her – well, they didn’t come back. But when I saw her in the vault, holding that statue, I knew what I’d forgotten.


Overachiever. Got all 9.