Archive for the ‘ Interlude Madness ’ Category

This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


I’m terrified of goblins and, by proxy, horticulturalists.

Whenever I go through my memories of fear (a particularly masochistic scrapbook exercise) there’s one that stands out.  It’s a picture of a beautiful late-summer garden in the sunshine, focusing on a yellow flower whose insides are stained with blood. The petals are ruffled, as if torn. Butterflies (the craven creatures) are drawn to it.

It’s called the Goblin Gaillardia.

I am not a gardener.  I pay Carmelo, a neighborhood kid (and have kept him in $10s [and now $20s – inflation, right?]) to mow the tufts of grass that are determined to grow around my home.  He has his own mower and set of half-buttoned plaid shirts he’s made into a recognizable uniform throughout the neighborhood.  Melo’s pretty self-sufficient, and I expect a knock on the door about every week or two in the summer, depending on the weather.

He talks the talk, though.  His mom, Beatriz, is out there in a hat and gloves every day ruing our lack of interest in the overall property values. She has brought order to the neighborhood, bright coloured petals, and a lawn too green and pristine for any runaway dog to consider desecrating.  That or it has a laser fence with anti-dog mines or somesuch.  “Butt nuggets approaching, let loose the anti-canine cavalry!” and the flowers attack!

Maybe not. Maybe not funny.

“Dandelions are up,” Melo says.  He’s pretty laconic with me.  It’s always, “Lots of pollen,” or “Too much moisture brings mushrooms,” or “Nothing today, come back next week.”

Dracaena is Romanized from the Ancient Greek “drakaina,” or “female dragon,” as you can find on Wikipedia.  I know this because I inherited some plants from a girlfriend, and they’re going steady… even if we’re not.  There’s power in names, and being on the good side of a young female dragon is a grand idea.  Maybe it helps balance against the couple of ancient dragons I have mad at me.

Goblins don’t actually care for the dark, however it goes against folklore.  They prefer it hot and dry, although they’re rugged little creatures, and the worst infestation I’d heard of was during a beach party.  Luckily, you can prune them from a place pretty quickly.  Shears work great, although it gets messy and ends up being fairly sadistic.

Gaillardias are commonly known as the blanket flowers.  There are specialized caterpillars that eat them exclusively to turn into pixies.  Painted Schinia Moths, if you must, but the difference between butterfly and pixie is remarkably slim.  Both are attracted to sweets and have very little in the way of brains, and both masquerade as each other.  I can’t tell if that’s intentional or luck.  They’re both harmless except to plants, I suppose.

Names have power.  Wizards say this all the time, and I’ve never been able to find a good argument against it.  Caryopteris clandonensis is known as the Dark Knight.  It flowers heavily in the summer, spending little time with Aster laterifolius, the ‘Lady in Black’ who prefers the later summer and autumn.   Both may be the darlings of so-called hedge wizards, but the magic of botanomancers isn’t limited to turning thumbs green or black.

“Botanomancer” is a mouthful.  Hortigicians?  Black hearted and black thumbed thorns of the wretched villainy known as gardeners, his name was Dario, Dare to his friends.

My name is E.

I am what we call a Portal Doctor.  I close the doors you’ve left open.  I’ve only got the one trick, but I’m getting pretty good at it.  Reality is a big place, and it bumps up against a lot of things Beyond the world we know.  Luckily, those things Beyond don’t belong here, and sometimes closing the door in their face gives them the right idea.   It’s a trick, but it requires proximity and a clear head, and enough knowledge to make sense of it all.

Ignorance is bliss.  That’s not anything you’d hear a wizard say.

That’s why they’re trouble.

Dare lived in the big haunted house at the edge of some land claimed by the city.  Yeah, it was near a graveyard, but that wasn’t the problem.  The grass is always so nice and orderly in a corporate cemetery; you could bring your morbid little picnic basket and have yourself a nice lunch in the quiet. I always found the similarity between them and golf courses to be a great opportunity to combine the two.

If you did an image search on haunted houses, you might see some creepy topiary, maybe even some gothic bonsai, but you expect chaos.  You think of triffid-like clumps of bloodthirsty botanic secrets, hiding cabals under their suffocating miasma of organic chaos; a cancerous thicket of overgrowth where there is no peace, no succor; a place where nature has less mothering and more murder on her mind.  Blood makes the grass grow.

Dario was Beatriz’s cousin.  I had invited Melo and his family to a neighborhood barbecue back in, oh, call it aught-eight.  This was either their way of repaying the favour, or scaring me into landscaping compliance.  The grass wasn’t greener on the other side of this fence after all.  It was raspy and Lovecraftian, with too many tendrils, and if it had a voice it spoke in mad tongues.

This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


I circulated with a large glass of orchata, trying to keep up with the rapid bilingual patter of knowing exactly what was happening amongst some twenty-odd cousins and their extended families.  I had a couple hundred words of street Spanish.  I could string them together into “sentences I’m not sure I could repeat in any circumstance,” and “words that were probably safe,” and I was able to recognize a little bit of both.  I’ve been in cities where the architecture zones out “undesirables” and Denver doesn’t do so much of that.  (“Undesirables” are always, “people who don’t look and speak the way we do,” under this definition.  Alas, I have had to add things such as, “Vampires,” and “Dragons,” onto my list.)

I’ll be honest.  I sometimes worried that they were talking about me, and not in flattering terms.  I think anyone in a group of people who don’t speak the same language probably has that same latent paranoia.  I tried to smile, not stare at anyone, and act friendly.  I can’t help but be white and generally nerdy.  I managed to strike up a conversation about the food (don’t ask how the menudo is made) and then my conversational partner was called over by a small child to hit a piñata. I took his spot in a lawn chair at the edge of the gathering.

I leaned back, balancing my plate of chips and salsa on my lap, when I heard it.  It was a thin thrumming noise, a small but active gate, the sound of strumming a six-string guitar but somehow holding the strings so they can barely vibrate.  I felt it in my tongue more than my teeth.  I opened my eyes and scanned across the yard.

That’s when I saw them.

Before I panicked, I brought out my cellphone and tried to translate “goblin” into Spanish.  Neither of the words fit what I was looking for, so I moved closer to the clump of flowers.  I pretended to be walking with my crispy tortilla pieces and dip.  A nest of goblins can take down a grown man, given every advantage.  Only a few goblins would be needed to grab a child.  There were too many to not take the chance.

They drag you into the darkness.

I dropped the first chip next to the edge, waited for the goblin to grab it, and then aimed at the malignant sprite with my boot.  I could feel its stem cracking as I ground it into the lawn.  It felt like crushing one of those boxy cartons of milk with a water balloon full of water and cheap matchsticks inside it. The shooting pain of a fang in my calf, sharp enough that I hopped away and dropped my chips all over the ground was my reward.  Good thing I was wearing jeans, as the thorn left in my leg was about three inches long, if only a quarter inch penetrated the denim.  I pulled back, and saw the goblins take the crushed body under into the root system.

Into the darkness.

“I will return with flamethrowers,” I hissed.  I heard a chittering that might replicate a bunch of birds in a bush.  They understood me.  I had no doubt.  And they were saying, “Bring it.”

I took my plate to the table, hoping not to limp.  “Who does the gardening here?” I asked, making the effort to not put too much strain in my voice.

“It’s lovely, isn’t it?” Dare asked me, lazily.

Beatriz’s face puckered, like she was biting into a lemon.  Carmelo shrugged, but his dark eyes focused on us.

“I was wondering about the flowers,” I pointed to the suspect bush.  I didn’t expect anyone else to see the goblins.  No one ever does.  “They’re a bold statement in the overall color scheme,” I said, trying to bluff my way through the discussion.

“Ah.  Have you seen my larkspur?” he asked.  “They’re beautiful, but they poison cattle.  Come, let me show you my garden.”

I knew then.  I knew what he was.  All I had was that he didn’t know what I was. While he suspected I was some sort of practitioner (my term; my ex- prefers the words of artistry, but the wizards I’ve met have had their own nomenclature), he had to figure if I was sympathetic or an enemy.

“May I?” Carmelo asked, getting up from where he had been sitting.

Did I see a flash of anger in Dare’s eyes?  “Of course.  I would love opinions from a fellow gardener.”  He packed scorn into that last word, but so smoothly that Melo didn’t have a good chance to say anything.

He showed me his Yellow Salsify, or the Goat’s Beard.  Some prickly roses.  Yucca, plenty of yucca.  Beehive cactus.  There was no sagebrush.  No traveller’s joy.  Baneberry at the edges, bindweed in the neighbor’s yard.  That means something.  I knew a little, and my cellphone told me a lot more.  What I had seen as chaos had pattern to it, which was even more disturbing.  Letting entropy take over is a sin against humanity, but the deliberate design to invite the Beyond is where I draw the line.

We were rushed whenever Carmelo went to look at a flower, or underneath a bush.  I was getting nervous as the sun passed over the mountains and the ambient glow began to fade.  We circled around the house, and I was glad that Melo accompanied me, because I could have been lost.  I could have been hit over the head and buried somewhere.  Carmelo just made his casual shrugs and kept his eyes on me, doing this careful dance where he occasionally moved between Dario and me.

Beatriz excused us when we came to the front again, and stuffed me into the car for the drive home. “Needs more irrigation near the deck,” Melo said.  “Some cut back,” he decided.

“Yeah,” I told myself.  “Irrigation with gasoline.”   I didn’t say anything aloud, but I nodded.

It bothered me. It bothered me like a bug bite, an itch you’re not supposed to scratch.  I did not know what kinds of things a garden would summon, but whatever it was, it wasn’t supposed to be in this world.  My world, my rules.

I close doors, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a knob.  The invitation to his place would expire once the sun came up again, and the “new day was begun.”  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it works.  There are things that care not for sunlight, either way you want to parse the sentence.  Myself, I like to be able to see, but that’s what flashlights are for…  we harnessed fire, and electricity, and let there be batteries.

This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


I parked about two blocks from the house, using some complicated intuition equation, where you don’t have the exact variables and math, but it takes into account how far I’d have to run if there was an explosion, how close I’d want to be to make my getaway, and odds and ends about my general fitness level and laziness.

I wore a black jacket with that soft finish, maybe suede, over a black t-shirt (in white letters “SIDEKICK IN TRAINING,”) because it was chilly, not because it’s cool to wear black.  An old pair of jeans and black sneakers completed the outfit.  I had to think about it before I got in, afraid that at just the wrong moment I’d be halfway over a gate and the jeans would rip.  If you’ve ever had to complete an adventure with your rear hanging out where a pair of pockets used to be, you would understand why it was on my mind.

I went around the wall and, after enough grunting and pulling and heaving to remind myself that that much effort should have warranted a call to the police by any good neighbor (by which I meant an actual concerned citizen, not a fairy) it appeared that Dare’s neighborhood was either used to nightly intruders, or unobservant past their windows.  Either was possible and about as fair.  I took a moment while catching my breath before popping over the side with a thud into some grass.

On my sightseeing tour earlier, I had been on the lookout for an important clue: there were no signs of dogs.  Not that dogs particularly enjoyed a lot of magic; there were plenty of exceptions, but it was an easy rule of thumb and seemed true in this case.  That didn’t mean there weren’t other guardians, but I didn’t have to worry about a rottweiler eating my face. Demons I can handle.  Rotties are a pain.

“Alright,” I said.  “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

I am not quite in my forties, and saying that out loud was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.  Well, staring a dragon in the face was pretty scary, but there gets to be this point where you’re so scared you can no longer feel it consciously.  There are all sorts of fear, and anticipatory fear is what I’m trained towards from all the horror movies I watch.  (Strictly for research purposes, of course.)  I guess people who study fear talk about the difference between it and anxiety, phobias, and the rationality of the fear.  (I read too much.)  It was being five again, though, staring into the darkest blackness of the closet and asking for the bogeyman to show himself.

What do you do when he does?

The difference between an almost-forty year old man, and a five year old boy is that I’ve real weapons to support me.  So when I saw the first thing lumbering towards me, I raised my left hand in a warding gesture my last girlfriend taught me, and spread out the salt packet from my box lunch in a spray of tiny white crystals.  I like to think I struck an awesome pose, which is why the vines on my unprotected right hand side slammed me against the wall.

I’m a practical guy.  If I had a flamethrower, I’d be more likely to roast myself than do anything useful.  As I felt the wall crunch into my ear and nose, and the blood start to flow, I still wanted the flamethrower.  You want to make a final stand, to convince the universe that it all had a point, that you did not accept defeat.

“This,” I said aloud, “would be a terrible day to die.”  I ground myself back against the wall and flung out more salt at where I figured the vines were.  I managed not to do the involuntary rubbing of my jaw that I wanted, and instead faced the movement again.  Anger comes from fear; some of the wisest folk I hang out with say that, and I believe it to be true.  Anger is also just fine for replacing the paralysis fear often brings.

The plants tittered, the fluttering of leaves on the pavement after a heavy rain, crossed with some 80’s electronica.  I felt an opening, and I shut it down with a heavy thump.  My blood dripped from my chin in a no-doubt appealing fashion, and I grabbed at one of the little beasts, pulling it up from its roots.

Pistil, stamen, I didn’t know anything about flowers.  I wanted to be cruel enough, hard enough to pull a petal off it, but since the petals were its face I couldn’t torture it.  The vine snaked at me again, thorns scratching across my cheek and attempting to wrap around my neck, while the sleepy flower turned and bit my hand.  I pushed the vine away, weakly, and smeared the goblin I was holding against the wall with a sickening wet crunch.

The salt was working – plants don’t like it.  I should have brought a bunch of prairie dogs, too.  I would have to learn their chittering language for, “Arise my army!”  That was long term planning, of course.  I was glad that most of the night-blooming flowers were on my side.  Well, Fairy Lily was fairly neutral, but also not hardy given Colorado temperatures.  I was hoping that I could hear the call of Angel’s Trumpet, and as it was poisonous there might have been some method for Dare to have it, but alas, this was a garden specifically built for the other side.

Thorns lashed against me, and yucca sawed faint furrows into my arms.  I pushed through towards the house, thinking to at least break through some of the designs, prevent them from being used for summoning until I could come up with a better plan.  I pulled at things that pulled at me, my hands bloody and smelling of grass.  Moths harassed me, and crickets complained as I pushed through their comfort zones.  I thought I heard the hoot of an owl.

I saw the flash of light from the porch before I heard the sound of the gate.  The flash of light came with a chuckle.  Dare held the glow of sunshine in his hands.  Sunshine isn’t the panacea it always seems to be in the movies; it only means we can see what horrific thing is coming for us.

In this case, he was waking the goblins.

Bushes thrashed, and the horrific little creatures woke to the illumination Dario held, the secret green thumb of his black hortician’s trade.  An army of them, goblins, bog orchids, (“bog” backwards is “gob” if you had any doubt), the creeping death camas, the lilykind.  If I hadn’t been terrified, I would have been flattered.  No one’s drawn up an army against me, before.  Mark that one off the bucket list.

This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


If Carmelo had been an action hero, he would have said, “Sorry to rain on your parade,” as the first drops of the weedkiller sprayed across the bushes.  Instead, it was a manly grunt and a hissing sound as the acidic drops touched the quivering plant army.

He looked up at me.  Dare’s cousin had come in the gate, no crawling over the wall, no concern over the strange light emanating from his cousin.  Just a bunch of chemicals and a hose, and, well, a grin.

“Some cut back,” he pointed out.

“Yeah,” I responded.

It’s the little mundane, everyday bits you forget when working the magic angle.  The gun Dare waved brought it to mind. See, Dragons, and vampires, and wizards, I’ve gotten too used to those.  I still had money from a bunch of Russian sorcerers paying my bills, so I was thinking about hexes and death curses, not about metal and bullets, and the fact that Colorado has this “Make My Day” law that meant while Dare couldn’t quite shoot us with full impunity, no one was likely to ask too many questions.

He couldn’t hold the gun and the sunlight, though.  It had gone dark, and the scattering creatures began to grow quiescent once more.  I waited for someone to move.

He said something in Spanish that I recognized a rude word from, and Carmelo grunted.

“Who are you?” he asked me.  “What are you?”

“I’m no one, really.”  I shrugged, unable to help myself.  He didn’t take the movement well, but I’ll be honest, he also didn’t hold the gun the way my friends with experience did.  Being shot by someone inept was still going to get holes in my hide, but it meant more of a chance of his missing, or being talked down, or anything but having him shoot, right?  “Just your friendly neighborhood Portal Doctor.”

“What does that mean?  What do you want with my garden?”

Melo said another thing I didn’t understand, but Dare ignored him.  He gestured with the gun as if I was supposed to answer.

“I close doors,” I said.  I watched as flowers wilted in front of me, as the acidic rain of whatever it was Carmelo used melted bits of my adversaries.  As they lay down, sleepy, in the moon’s silvery light, the world seemed to turn from color to black and white.

“I do not understand,” he says.  “I should shoot you.  Many things grow well in the blood of wizards.”

“I’m not one of those,” I caught myself before I laughed.  “You’d be disappointed.”

“A… dryad?  Venganza de… espíritus de los arboles?”

Carmelo actually chuckled.  “He is no spirit of the trees.  Why, Dario?” he rolled the ‘r’ almost sarcastically.  “Are you afraid?”

“You carry herbicide. You are not from them.”  He looked away to talk to Carmelo, which gave me a moment to step closer.  I didn’t know what to do, but it seemed to be what everyone in the movies did.  Dare noticed and pointed the gun at me.

Melo sprayed his cousin with the nozzle, and Dare screamed.  The sound of the shot was louder than I expected, and it missed widely.  Before Dario could get off another round, I did the only thing that made sense – I closed my eyes and ran into him with my right shoulder, getting a good whiff of the chemicals and knocking us both over into a stone planter. I’m glad my eyes were closed because the impact was enough to see a flash of light.

A flash of light that doesn’t fade isn’t properly indicated as a flash.  My neck hurt and I rolled off Dare while seeing that Carmelo had dropped the spray and instead stood in a circle of sunlight.  A circle that slowly expanded to fill the design Dare’s garden had been built to summon.

“Wait, no!” I shouted.

Carmelo smiled at me the way he did when he said, “Rain tomorrow.”

Dare was struggling while I tried to pick myself up using the edge of the planter.  I hurt in places I forgot I had, well, except whenever they hurt.  I wiped off some blood that had pooled on my neck with unpleasant surprise.  Yeah, yuck.  Or at least, yucca.

Dare had been pinned by some no-longer somnolent goblins.  His gun rested in the grass, where he had managed to drop it in my surprise rush.  Well, it surprised me, although it shouldn’t have surprised anybody who had ever seen a film.  I was guessing he didn’t understand what was happening.  Probably was expecting espíritus de los arboles, whatever those were.  Or nymphs.  He seemed the kind who enjoyed a diversion of nymphs.  (That may be the official venery.)

The glow continued, the warm gold of a summer’s day.  I needed to try these guys against vampires and trolls, if I could be sure they’d be on my side.  It felt like I was getting a dose of vitamin D.  Altogether, that’s not all that difficult to produce, and in fact, I knew more than one brewer who could bottle it up as a liquid, but this was still pretty amazing.

Choices, choices.  Help Dare, a known bad guy, or stop Melo, possibly a bad guy.  Dario was being dragged along the ground by the goblins, a mass of them gnawing and sliding and enough of them that having been pushed prone (by me), they overwhelmed him.

This is the short story I wrote, poked at, and have finally made available.  I’ll be releasing it in bits throughout the week, but if you are impatient and just want to read the whole thing, I have it available here: Dr. E versus Da Goblinz.


Melo was drawn into the center of the summoning design, the design that from this vantage looked completely in place despite my inept bumbling through the bushes of earlier.  If I’d had more time, maybe, or that flamethrower, I could have done more.  Of course, I hadn’t thought of the weed-killer, or of going through the gate instead of climbing the wall.  I never finished college, either.

Dare started to scream, or yowl, which decided me.  I heard the low thrumming of the gate, the taste of fresh-mown grass on the back of my teeth, and pine sap on my tongue while I started pulling the goblins off Dare.  Blood was everywhere, and thorns pierced my hands.  I remember yelling, “No!” several times as my hands grew numb and I started trying to kick them from me, petals and leaves everywhere as my carnage against the goblins matched what they did to Dare.  They ripped bits of flesh with curved claws of thorns.

Dare rose up, pulling from the vines and fragrant perfumes with a roar, his face a mess of blood and fury.  Some of the goblins had smaller clubs made of roots and spines that they used to beat and bruise against him.  A word, a motion, and the plants in the area withered, as if water was drained from them, as if the force of the sun blighted them from the roots out.  The kind of thing you’d use against mushrooms, I suppose.  Caught in the edge of the magic, I felt dizzy, as if I had been crossing a desert.

Melo countered with the song of the gate drowning out the strange almost-silence of the night, and the fight wordless except for grunts and moans from the combatants. Burrs attached themselves to Dare, a flood wiped away the drought, and the scent of evergreen filled the air.  The sunshine relented somewhat, and I was deafened by sudden creaks and pops of tree limbs cracking and changing, as wood bent as part of Melo’s invocation. I took a moment to glance at him, and saw in his hand a rod of living wood.

Dare wiped blood onto his shirt and dove for his gun.  I moved to get to it first, and the grasses beat us both, rippling the gun from us stalk by stalk.  Melo raised the rod, and the younger man called out.

Dare threw a gesture at Melo, a word, a curse, and the darkness was absolute. For a moment all there was were the trees, giant sentinels transported into the occasional bursts of my eyes trying to make sense of what the streetlight and pale moon gave.  Dare lunged at me, and I ducked, and I heard the sound of “huge” (that’s a note that has its own orchestral section) behind me.  I felt the wind as it passed.  I felt the thump as it hit Dare, hard, and the sudden crashes, a fall of logs instead of a pile of bricks.

There were words I couldn’t make out, a curse broken as a stream of goblins followed the revived sunshine, slipping into the cracks where a tree fell down and broke through the brick wall, onto what was left of a twitching, murmuring Dare.  I stared, listening to the birds sing their pre-dawn songs over the sounds of Dare’s slow descent to silence.

The sudden dawn burst, showing the ruin of the backyard.  It looked as if hit multiple times by lightning, trees and shrubs split, and everywhere the movement of a quiet mass of small creatures as they harvested the night’s work and took him into the darkness.


I was exhausted, but I looked for Melo.  I saw that he had fallen as well. A ring of mushrooms surrounded him.  I couldn’t help myself; I hesitated for a moment.  I read too much. I moved towards him.

I was pulled away by soft grasses, and the smell of fresh apples.  “Shhh,” said the creature, green and brown and growing.  A creature of this place and Beyond.  “Shhh,” it repeated, the sound of wind through the meadows, and the first brush of a cool breeze on a hot day as it rattles the leaves.  I was pushed down to the ground, sobbing, I think.  Manly tears, of course.  Very manly.

I woke up on a cushion near a window.  I recognized the backyard from occasional glimpses I have had when Beatriz went from front to get something out of her shed.  My hands were washed, and there were bandaids carefully applied.  My jacket, full of blood and green stains hung neatly on a chair.  I could hear someone singing mournfully in Spanish from a radio somewhere deeper in the house.

I saw flowers, a late summer garden awash in yellow.  Sunflowers, amber primroses, hollygrapes, golden corydalis, and in the corner yet another cluster of pretty yellow flowers: a spray of cheery, carefree, Goblin Gaillardia.

(191) Interlude: Questions Asked

[FormSpring just isn’t working for me anymore – can’t even get my password, so I wanted to have these questions added somewhere we could reference them again… This also gives me a quick break to get ahead.  Consider it a bit of a bye week.  That said, some of the questions were directed to E, and some to me as author, so I am shifting back and forth as appropriate.  Feel free to ask questions (of either) in the comments!]

Are there demons and angels and devils in E’s world?

As creatures of the Beyond, some will take that shape, yes.  As forces or messengers of the aspects of “Good” or “Evil,” E specifically does not believe in such.  The -cubi, for example, could be messengers of the aspect of Lust, and come from Smutvania with a capital of Pornsville… but just as there are many creatures that hold up what E would consider “deity forms” there’s never been any “Prime Creator” type that he believes has actions upon reality.  “Deity forms” usually are things that are, in effect, small worlds of their own.  A King of its own court, so to speak, and some of them, like the Shadow King, can warp reality to some degree while it has synchronization with it.  That synchronization is a thin thread, though, unless fed by other powers.  Dragons are different; they exist in many places at once, as E discovered, including in some part, our reality.  Does that make them more powerful than gods? Or just different?

Does “the power of belief” shape creatures in E’s world, or do the creatures shape belief?

There is a level of consensus in reality that reflects the nature of the universe as a whole, including its seeming ability to be affected by the observer.  This sounds very quantum and loosey-goosey (wibbly-wobbly if you must) but nevertheless implies a universe capable of change on both micro and macro levels.  In E’s world, Crowley was onto something when he talked about “change in conformance to will,” but the split comes in that magic is changing reality from outside (Beyond) in conformance to will, and belief and the ability of the observer changes it from within, much as exercise changes the body and mind.  Belief and observation change things a lot more slowly, because they’re smaller forces.  Synchronized belief (like the “standardization of sermons” a la the Mormons and such) has a bit more power (much as group prayers for health and healing are effective) because it is making more consensus, much as a bunch of skeptics can somewhat overpower a magical effect because they’re creating a small consensus reality of, shall we say, disbelief.  A more interesting corollary may be the question, “Does spirit exist within reality or as a symbiont from the Beyond anchored to this reality?” In E’s world, it can be both, and that implies that spirit may be a different reality from what we know physically, entirely.  If both truths can co-exist, that means E’s idea of what “primal reality” is might take a shaking.

What are your future plans for Dr. E?

Right now I’m trying to get in ~2000 words a week in the current run, which is actually vaguely plotted out through about the next ~80,000 words, to create what I’m loosely calling “Book Two.”  In the meantime, I am rewriting “Book One.”  When I say, “re-write,” I mean almost entirely.  There are characters and scenes that are similar, and the overall thrust of things seems to be along the same lines, but it’s very, very different.  I also have some other short stories planned (I am thinking around May I’ll release the next so that I can have a few weeks off during our family’s “month o’birthdays”) but those won’t happen until I’m happy with them, and “Da Goblinz” was about two years in the writing and rewriting.)

Is 2000 words all that hard?  Well, yes and no.  It’s a stretch for me because I tend to write in ~750 word bursts, and keeping the coherency for the extended-length entries has been a struggle.  I write far more than that each day, just never on the same topic.  (Well, my co-workers might disagree, but that’s their learning curve at which I’m poking fun.)  It’s harder to plot it out – when it was just a bunch of cliff-hangers I could give a punch to at the end of each, it was a lot easier, and whenever I didn’t contradict myself I gave myself a mental gold star.  Now I am taking it a bit more seriously, and thus it’s more of a challenge.  As long as it’s a challenge and not an obstacle, we’re good.

Are vampires sexy (or glittery) in E’s world?

I did not know that there was strawberry-scented body and hair glitter spray until a moment ago, so thank you for asking.  I love when I learn something new.  It might even make it into the story.  That said, only as much as the original creature the parasite attaches to is “sexy.”  Or glittery, I suppose.  Yes, the parasite can (and as I understand them, they regularly do) impose magical compulsions to impress their food, but the rule with vampires is that the harder the parasite works, the more the original creature (not necessarily human, by the way) is used up, and the more things affect the parasite directly.  So choosing naturally “sexy” (or, glittery, I suppose) creatures is a way to maintain the parasite’s strength.

Tell me about shapeshifters in the E world. Since Matana was studying werewolves, how does the idea that magic comes from the Beyond work with shifting?

Well, E very recently decided he prefers the term “slipskins,” but it’s nowhere a consensus choice.  I see where you’re confused because with Vampires it makes perfect sense; they’re in connection with the Beyond due to the parasite, but with shapeshifters it seems to be a lot more self-contained.  It’s really a lot of the same.  Those that are cursed pretty much have a spell that acts like the parasite: it provides a trigger-related opening to the Beyond, that trigger usually being the state of the moon, but can include a number of other items from emotional distress to the smell of sauerkraut (if that’s not the same thing.  Ahem.)   That leaves items (also usually tied to the Beyond – things like demonic capes and selkie skins and the like, that don’t actually belong in this world therefore they don’t pay attention to the rules – well, the ones of this reality, anyway), creatures actually from the Beyond (which really don’t count), and natural slipskins.  Natural ones obey natural laws and would be exceedingly rare, and for E, downright theoretical.  The idea with them is that there are cells that change, from smooth muscle tissue that innervate, and erectile tissues that allow for the vascular spaces that engorge with blood.  Natural shapeshifters would have a mutation that allows for DNA changes that go forward or backwards on an evolutionary scale.   But, really, that’s science fiction, and E is an urban fantasy.  So it’s more of a mental exercise on his behalf.

Can I trust the “facts” I get out of this series?

Not sure what you mean by that question, but if you were asking, say, why putting a condom in your wallet is a bad idea, that kind of thing I wouldn’t skimp on.  If you were asking if all women were witches, no, that’s E’s aspect (in a Fate sense) talking.  If you were asking, “If I open a door, could something bad come inside,” I would say that leaving such an exercise to the student would be a cute phrase but not one I could in all compassion leave alone.  The answer then is simply, “Yes.”

Knowing your author is a Shirley Jackson fan and the House in the Haunting of Hill House closes its own doors, how does something like that work in your world?

Honestly, in my world, the House acts as its own parasite dimension [for lack of a better term] off of the Reality I know. You have to enter its threshold for it to act on you, and its existence in the town bends the local reality because of the weight of its Otherness. It wants to be closed off, and whatever walks there went mad long ago. It wants to be alone. It closes doors because it’s being pulled towards self-implosion. This suggests that there are numerous sites like that which, for whatever reason, have pulled themselves out of the World. What’s important to know is that Reality does tend to heal itself of these pimples, reverting to the inexorable tide of consensus. The scabs of these places generally dry up and are reborn into the natural flow, but sometimes Things grow powerful in them. (It’s probably bad form to call vampires “the pus in the pimples of reality,” but tact is optional with monsters, right?)

How many fey courts are there, really?

Really? Really? Seriously, there’s no real answer to this question that would satisfy, if you’re hoping for some kind of “Seelie versus Unseileigh” or “Sidhe versus Garuda” or “Summer versus Winter” kind of breakdown. Frankly, I think the rule is anytime one of the fey manages to gain enough power, chutzpah, cottage cheese… (it’s the fey – who can tell?) to manipulate a demesne of whatever materials lie Beyond… a Court is born. (So you can have a Court of Flowers, a Court of Cottage Cheese, a Court of Red-tipped Sunflowers that Lie Beyond the Reach of Dawn…) and there will be multiple fealties and connections between them. Just as witches need a system of roots, the Courts need to be recognized by others to have efficacy. Larger courts would be Empires, recognizing a number of smaller courts and their royalty. Remember the rules of Hospitality; you treat a foreign King differently than your own, and a King different than a Knight, and a Knight different than a man on the road. Because the fey get their power from rules, an unsworn fey would be an odd thing indeed. Oathbreaking can unmake such a creature, so its position in a web of favours owing-and-owed is a significant sign of power and purpose. Still, some realms are more solid and/or attractive than others, so their names (Arcadia, Tír inna n-Óc, Valhalla, Ydalar, all places Beyond) filter into our conscious as their anchors become more solid to our reality.

I’ve been watching Fringe, and I think that Dr. E’s universe is an alternate universe in the tradition of that show. Besides the existence of Doors and all that it implies, what other differences exist between E’s world and ours?

The first difference, of course, is that we don’t have “Fringe.” (Truth be told, I, like a number of others with a genre preference, have been burned so many times by the networks that I figure until I’m convinced it will come to a fair conclusion that watching any such program is just a path to heartbreak. And don’t get me started on the inanities of Certain Shows That Shall Not Be Named in regards to putting on a production based on stream-of-consciousness associations. At least *I* admit I’m a rough draft.)

This ends up being a null set from my perspective. I live in a world of magic and modernity, where a Dragon looks like a hit-and-run accident, where covens consolidate power, where Google is slowly converting Books of Shadows, where I can get a direct deposit via a Russian sorcerer, and where you can start on one of the eight corners of Monaco and Colfax via public transportation and end up somewhere completely else once you’ve passed the other streets.

Maybe the question is, “Where do the interstices fail?” I still need to make a living. The places I refer to exist or have existed in time. The Questor and his wife have names and an address. Once you accept the first part (that there can be Doors and they can be Opened and Closed) I don’t think much of the rest is that outlandish. Or maybe it’s just a really slippery slope I don’t notice anymore.

OK, making it past downtown Boulder in forty minutes from the eastern side of Aurora… well, if you’re not worried about speeding tickets, and you’ve got a clear shot on a summer’s night, that’s maybe plausible. But I was pushing it.

What character does Dr. E play on gaming nights? And in what system?

Answering the second part first, because it does put the first part into perspective… The GM does a homebrew system that’s evolved over about twenty years of play and now doesn’t really fit the boundaries of the original D&D game it started as, especially as the GM likes to write inflammatory messages on story gaming boards and occasionally absorb some of their lessons.  It’s a bit more Talislanta.

I play two characters (at one point we split into two groups in the same world) but my oldest character is a Witch Hunter who was a halfbreed raised in the warm seasons with his Clan and in the cold seasons with his mother in the mage school. He’s now making a move towards being a Prince of a conquered land, but his love interest is amongst the conquered peoples and isn’t entirely happy with this plan.

The second character is a failed Bard who took up piracy and then found he had a significant magical talent (that had nothing to do with musical ability) and he’s trying to find a mentor that will let him balance the needs of his crew with the call of his magic.

Like most game fiction, it’s better “in the moment” than written, and so it should stay that way.

Are there any zombies in the Dr. E universe?

Let’s just drop virus and alien types immediately, because those are outside my playground.

I want to just say, “No,” but that’s disingenuous at best.

Are there creatures whose volition has been warped by magic? Yes, but under that broad umbrella you could say anything from vampires to wizards count, too. (I believe that magic is addictive in some fashion and the use of it does change you.) Empty shells filled with negative “undead” energy or simply the overwhelming command to replicate the state? Not so much. Yes, I am convinced there are forms of magical slavery that will bind your will against you, but I understand that there are rules for how and when they’re used. At least, I hope so. Humanity has a lot of advantages against that which lies Beyond, and I don’t want anyone thinking that home ground is the least of them.

(205) Getting To Know You

In a quick interlude piece to sate your Doctor E desires, Chuck Wendig wrote a piece on a quick design for your character(s): and I thought it might be amusing to use it to characterize E for you.  Feel free to disagree and offer alternatives!


LOGLINE: Doctor E is a single, white, jobless, practitioner of magic trying to keep the world safe from creatures who come from beyond its reality.

PROBLEM: E knows enough to be dangerous, not enough to be effective, and he’s almost drawn like an addict to the conflicts.

SOLUTION: E’s solution is to minimize his role so as not to gain the attention of presumably petulant powers.

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN: E has either killed or severely injured a Dragon, and has thus thrust himself into the spotlight.

LIMITATION: E’s largest limitation is his fear of commitment; he characterizes it as not wanting to be a wizard, but it’s really that he doesn’t want to give up his normality.

COMPLICATIONS: E’s in the middle of a magical war for which he needs to pick sides.

GREATEST FEAR: That E is powerful enough to be noticed, but not powerful enough to affect his or the world’s destiny.

DESCRIPTION: Cute, not handsome. Green eyes, could use exercise, and if he wore glasses he’d be indistinguishable from just about every movie nerd ever.


Yes, we have a Discord.

Because all the cool kids are doing it.  Or because it might encourage me to work on this when I have energy and time, two resources in short supply but that actually exist!



“We need a cat.”

I was reading on my phone.  It was a T. Kingfisher novel (Paladin’s Grace), and I was chuckling (when I wasn’t reading excerpts aloud) when Nen stood in front of me and said this aloud.

I looked up from my phone. He was tall enough to meet my eyes, and wearing an outfit of black leather, with his hair pretty spiky, looking kind of like a really young Billy Idol.  I wondered what I had that was leather that he used as the base of the enchantment, that whole “feast from a kernel of corn” business. I remembered with a minor cringe that I had a black leather tie my sister had given me as a joke.

“A kitten, preferably.”  He brought me back to reality, and my brain kicked back into gear.

“We need a cat?” I was half making sure that I had heard him correctly, and half challenging his logic.

“Yes,” he said, as if required to explain it in simple words.  “Cats and books go together.”  He tilted his head slightly.  His eyes were bright. “Especially in libraries.”

“Oh,” I said.  “So, like a guardian?”  Nen had explained a little bit of what was needed to cement the new Realm.  I still hadn’t given it a good name, although I was vacillating between “Sibrary,” and “Sibliotecha” and working on something with “Archives” that wasn’t too derivative of C. Stross.

Nen and Rayya both had been a little coy on all of the details. Well, I describe it as coy, but it was like their natural fey state. Straight answers were more than unpleasant to them, but I guessed it was part of their Game.  (Not The Game, which, well, you 1990s kids just lost. Again.)

I had jotted down some of the rules. Acknowledgement from Powers was more than a polite part; it was an adjustment to reality.  Then there needed to be different anchors. One of them was a set of guardians, and to be kind to me, they wanted anchors that were of my reality more than the fey one. I wasn’t sure if they had to be living creatures, because frankly, even with the Realm’s extra space, I wasn’t sure about more roommates, and to be of this world, they had to be in this world at least a large part of the time. I wasn’t sure of the magic involved, like if it was a fifty-one percent kind of thing, or if it was like having a jar of dirt.

A cat, though.  Huh.  I wasn’t opposed to them, although if you’d asked, I don’t know if I would have described myself as a cat person. Cat people were odd. Cats are odd. They have brains the size of walnuts, big eyes, small mouths, sounds that mimic those of human babies, and they like to torture and murder other animals.  Yet at the same time, they are absolutely adorable and give positive feedback just made to spark out endorphins.  They stink of ammonia and like to sit on what you’re looking at because they read with their rears.

“We should get a cat,” I agreed.

I’m a sucker, I know.

There wasn’t anything in particular that kept me from getting a cat. No pet rent, or extra deposit, or whatnot.  I’d have to find a place to put a couple cat boxes, keep them in kibble and the occasional gushy treat… I even knew where to get one, since the Denver Dumb Friends League was obvious.  Hmmm. Maybe we could put one of the cat boxes in the Little Realm.

I switched from my e-book reading to doing research. “Does it have to be a kitten? Or what are we looking for?” I asked, trying to get a little more information.

“A kitten… lasts longer?” Nen said.  I’m sure I heard the question mark in his voice.

“I mean, that’s an `it depends’ if I’ve ever heard one.” I frowned. Luckily, if there is anything the internet doesn’t have a scarcity of, it’s cats.  “I am presuming we’ll keep it an indoor cat.  Even though the deadliness of cats on bird species has been found to be deeply skewed statistics, I know there are a lot of dangers out there for cats, and not just the coyotes I occasionally see at night.”

“Fred,” Rayya mentioned from the kitchen.

“Fred?” I repeated, mostly to make sure I heard it right.

“Fred. The coyote’s name is Fred.”

I blinked. Once.  Twice. Then I turned back around towards the kitchen. “Fred?” I managed.

“Naming is a tricky art. Sometimes, that name is Fred.” She brought her bowl of cereal out to where they had moved the couch. “That was so in this case.”

“We have a coyote named Fred,” I shrugged, turning back in the chair to the computer.

“We do not have a coyote named Fred,” Rayya murmured. “Fred is his own.”

“But we’re getting a cat?” I asked.

“A kitten,” Nen reminded me.

“To own another being is a shackle on your own soul. I do not recommend trying to own a cat, however amusing it would be, it only annoys the cat and makes you look ridiculous,” Rayya said, with a little more venom than I was expecting.  Venom.  Vehemence.  No, venom was the right term in this case.

“Got it. We’re getting a cat, but we won’t own a cat. Of course, from what I’ve heard, cats will more likely own us. I hate to tell you this, though, Rayya, human legislation in the area does make someone with a cat an owner, and we’ll have to be listed as such with the vet down the way.” I frowned. “Or we can be listed as mommy and daddy, but that just gets weird.  Even the term ‘furbaby’ sometimes makes me a little squicked.”

“You should change that,” she said, taking another bite of her sugar-coated crunch bombs or whatever they were.  The cereal had a bright red cardboard box, but I couldn’t always tell one from another. They all tasted sweet.

“Which part?” I asked, because with them, you have to ask.

“Naming is a tricky art,” she repeated.

“That doesn’t answer the question,” I complained.

She just smiled.

Nen pointed at a cat on the screen, distracting me.  He put a hand on my shoulder.  “That one.”

It was a white kitten with grey points.  Cute.  “I don’t think you can just order cats like a… um.. catalogue.”  I regretted my choice of words. “Besides, I don’t think we really want a kitten.  Kittens can always find homes because of the cute factor.”

Nen seemed to consider this, taking his hand off my shoulder, and slinging it behind his back as he paced back and forth.  “We will have to interview them.”

“Ask them for their résumé?” I asked. “Their job experience? Education? How many years at purring and making biscuits?”

“Do cats make biscuits?” Rayya asked, interested.

“It’s a phrase I’ve heard. Kneading. It’s a behavior thing.  Can you guys, like, talk to cats?” I asked.

“Can’t you?” Nen asked.

“Okay.  I can talk to them. I can also talk to rocks, the walls, and my reflection. Any of those answering me back would freak me the heck out. I meant, can you have a conversation with them in such a fashion that you are both in understanding?”  I sighed.

Nen smiled. “No, we cannot communicate any better than one who is a student in their language can. Every cat has its own tongue, and all those they have gotten from others.” His smile turned to smirk. “So to speak.  It is a combination of sound and smell, of body language, how they move, where they move, and training.  It is easier to teach a cat your language. They are fast learners.”

“Huh,” I grunted. “Interesting way to think about it, at any rate.  Now I’m wondering if some cats have accents.”

“Miao, versus meow? Maao, mrrp, nya nya, and miu?” Rayya asked.

“Aren’t those our accents?” I turned back over to look at her.  She had a talent for mimicry such that I could really hear the differences.

“Perhaps.” She shrugged, and put the spoon in the now empty bowl. She went back into the kitchen, either to drop off the dishes or get seconds.

“Are there cats wherever it is you come from?” I asked. “I mean, they’re pretty constant in fantasy novels, their nature being irascible and ineffable both, I suppose.”

“There are cats everywhere,” Nen laughed. I liked the sound of the sib’s laughter, although sometimes it filled me more with dread. “Truly. They are adaptable, and our natures are such that we appreciate them.  Your words reflect this. How much fey in feral, and vice versa?” he asked.

“Hmmm,” I nodded. “We can put in an inquiry.  Here’s an adult tortie female, about 6 years old. She looks nice?” I asked.

He shrugged, tilting his head.  He straightened it out to look at the screen. “We have few specific needs. We can ask if she’s amenable, and see if she likes us.”

“I don’t think there’s a try-before-you-buy option. I’m of the opinion that getting a pet is a until-death-do-you-part responsibility, basically.  Probably why I haven’t got one, except maybe you two.” I was teasing, of course.

Nen frowned. “I ask you not to use that term. It is too close to how the one who had our fealty treated us.”

“Yeah, about that. Was that the Seven King?” I had been curious too many times, but now it actually happened naturally in the course of conversation and I figured I could ask.

“Perhaps,” Nen repeated in the same fashion as Rayya had, and turned away.  I guessed that was the end of that option.

“Yeah,” I repeated, a bit under my breath. “Perhaps.”  I made an appointment. “They have an opening in a couple of days, and they’ll ask us some questions, too.  Are you both going? Are you both going incognito? What’s the plan?”

We got into the details a little, and I set up an order for some pet items to be delivered.  This was either a brilliant idea, or it would be the end of me. Or both. Probably, knowing how things worked out around me, a little of both, yes.