Category Archives: Books

Stuff of Legends

The story you’re about to read is a short fiction based on a Twitter conversation involving two really awesome people, a podcast fan who made a stunning piece of fake cover art, and a really amused writer (me). You can check out all of these people here: @ReadingGPodcast, @MalloryOMeara, @BreaGrant, @PurpleBirdGirl

Without further ado, I give you:

STUFF OF LEGENDS

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Mallory was reading about dead people. An occupational hazard, (demon hunting required a rather hefty amount of constant research), but one she was rather fond of. It certainly beat stitching yourself up after a fight, washing blood out of clothing–or fighting with baristas who could never spell your name right. Picking up a cup labeled something in the vicinity of “Mallard”, she heaved a sigh.

“Couldn’t have gone with ‘Melody’ at least? It’s really not that hard to spell…” she trailed off, eyes drifting from mis-labeled MagicBRU cup back to her page in Scary Shelley: Bored or Brilliant? A look at the Madame behind the Monsters.

Someone jostled her elbow as she stepped away from the counter, book propelling itself unexpectedly into her glasses. She squawked indignantly and kicked the guy in the shin as she slipped through the crowd. Joining Brea, she set her book down, temporarily, to rub the sting out of her nose.

“500 pages of discursive narration on the greatest monster war in history, and I can’t make it through 3 lines before someone interrupts me.”

“Sex scene?” Brea inquired gravely, sipping sedately at some remarkably frothy blue-foamed concoction.

“No, that was last chapter when she lost her virginity on her mother’s gravestone. Pretty hot, that. She’s trying to find a supplier for body parts right now. Byron won’t build himself, apparently.”

She paused, slurping at her coffee, grimacing when the foam turned an alarming shade of yellow, grew little foam arms, and attempted to crawl over the rim of the cup and escape. Jamming the lid on, and ignoring the tiny middle finger that thrust itself through the drinking hole, Mallory eyed Brea reproachfully.

“Remind me why we’re here again? I could have had the new Dragonccino from Coffee Cauldron…”

“Coffee Cauldron’s too crowded on drink release days..?”

“Nope.”

“It’s really entertaining to have my food fight back?” Brea expertly wrestled her muffin out of the hands of her flailing blue foamaccino and popped a bite in her mouth.

“No.”

“Got it! We’re really into tables that are too small for any normal sized person?”

“That one feels strangely accurate, but I think I’m going to have to go with ‘no’ one more time.”

Mallory picked up her book, smoothed a crumpled page corner and went back to reading. If Brea said anymore, Mallory didn’t hear. She was utterly absorbed in the description of Mary Shelley’s first laboratory, and her increasingly beautiful-yet-gory attempts to create the perfect man. Perhaps ‘perfect partner’ might be a better choice of words. The utter disappointment that had been ‘Byron the poet’ still hung like a pall over many of Mary’s fans. And Frank, well…What was there to say about such a brilliant flame-out? Elsa, though, now she was a monster worth remembering.

Brea shifted slightly in her seat. Their mark was here. She noted the fine cut of his sleeves, the careful turn down of his collar. Spellwork. He was packing some heavy juice under all that starch. She eyed the tiny dangling cross at his ear, the chain of a heavy amulet peaking out from under his collar.  They’d have to take him down fast and quiet and hope that amulet wasn’t death-triggered. Er, re-death? Second death? What did you call it when a vampire finally stopped functioning as ‘alive’?

Not that Brea had anything against vampires–this one had just poked his toe across the wrong line and gotten slated for rebuke. Unfortunately for him, ‘rebuke’ didn’t require him to be alive, (er, undead? Functional on his second life.), it merely required him to be present. Necromancers were handy that way. From the cut of his cloth and the amulet, Brea was guessing he was well aware of his situation. She nudged Mallory under the table.

“Mal,” she said softly, watching the vampire from under her lashes while sipping at her foamaccino again. She succeeded in not having her eye poked out by the blue monster in her cup, but only barely. Fucking magic beans.

Mallory remained oblivious to all of this, sedately blowing away the tiny foam hands reaching for her nostrils before sipping casually at her drink. She turned the page, eyes laser focused.

The vampire made it to the front of the line, retrieved a coffee, (“No, I do not want any fucking foam on mine, you stupid human twat! Double pump of blood, black.”), and was just trying to slap a lid on it, when the entire contents of the cinnamon jar on the condiments counter somehow up-ended themselves all over his shirt-front. (“Da fuck?!”)

Brea casually twitched her fingers again and his cup squirted out of his hands, adding a rather artistic splash of hot liquid down the front of his designer slacks. Brea could never understand how vampires managed to wear absolutely everything designer when blood stains were a constant threat.

Swifter than any of the human staff, Brea was at his side with a towel murmuring helpful words, (“Oh I’m so sorry! What a terrible thing to happen to such beautiful pants! I hate it when things like that happen to me–Can I buy you another coffee?”), and generally patting in the general area of his crotch. To any casual observers, it looked like she was a flunky feeling up a potential new Master, when in reality she was expertly searching him for weapons. He was surprisingly well endowed, despite hot-liquid pain and shrinkage, and Brea hastily attempted to avoid actually jostling his Johnson. No need for him to get too interested in her.

The vampire in question snarled, dabbed ineffectively at his now ruined outfit, glared down at Brea and declared gallantly, “Fuck off, feeding tube, I’m not interested!”

Brea pressed forward, batted her eyes, stared earnestly up at him and murmured, “Oh but I am,” and promptly handcuffed him.

“By the way, you’re under arrest. The Re-Death Penalty is in effect. You can come with me quietly, or I can stake you and drag your pansy ass out of here. Your choice.”

“Da fuck?!” the vampire replied intelligently, holding up his wrists to stare in uncomprehending disgust at the silver bracelets now decorating his pallid forearms. Seriously nonplussed at his situation, he growled deep in his throat, and grabbed Brea roughly by the front of her shirt.

I don’t think so,” he snarled into her face.

Completely calm, Brea kneed him in the nuts, then elbowed him in the face with a swift upward jab. She neatly hooked his ankle, sending him into an ungainly crumple on the floor. Hand on hip, she looked down at him, eyebrows raised.

“Now look,” she said. “If I have to drag you out of here as a permanent corpse I will, but I just got my nails done, and I’d really prefer it if you’d walk out on your own all polite-like. Bodies are heavy.”

She nudged him with her toe.

“What’s it to be, then?”

The vampire coughed, probably choking on the eddies of cinnamon still drifting in the air. He held up his hands in surrender, after first unclenching them from his privates.

“You’re right, you’re right. Ok, that was dumb, I’m a moron. I’ll go with you quietly. But first, do you think you could do me a favor?”

Brea curled her lip at him. He slitted his eyes up at her.

“It’s a small thing, really, just hold this.”

A knife appeared from thin air and he struck swift as a snake towards her. His legs rolled up, attempting to sweep her off balance. Equally as swift, Brea jumped straight up, avoiding knife and leg sweep, before landing in the now empty space where a vampire used to be. Super-human speed and momentum propelling him into a crouch, the unfortunate fanger was still no match for Brea. Her foot found his face in a jarring crunch.

“Bluuhh, oov OT oo be IDDING meeee!” wailed a now broken-nosed bloodsucker. He looked positively primordial with rivulets of deep scarlet flowing over his chin. Brea felt sorry for his shirt. Versace should just not be treated that way.

Darting a glance around the room, Brea noted the few remaining bystanders. The staff had been quick to waive them away from the violence, grab as much of the free standing displays as they could carry, and retreat behind the counter. She sniffed in disdain–she wouldn’t have gotten so much as a drop of sweat on their precious beans.

“Fucking company shares, my ass,” she muttered, watching them watch her with wide eyes. She flicked her wrist, unsheathing a two foot long beauty of a stake. Rowan wood etched with silver runes, magic forged, harder than steel, and fucking terrifying when you saw it bearing down on you. She called it “Regards”. Mallory called it “Fangy McGee”. There was just no winning sometimes.

Striding forward, Brea thrust her Regards with expert skill through the enchanted layers of the vampire’s clothing, through the ribcage, and out the other side. She heard the enchantments on his clothing fizzle against her stake. He’d had no chance, really. She tried to feel bad about it as she removed her Regards, watching his body crumple to the floor for the second time that day.

“Well shit.” One of her nails had chipped. Examining her manicure and wondering about the possibilities of enchanting nail polish, she had just turned around to retrieve Mallory when the body at her feet made an odd gurgling noise. She looked down.

“…aaooowwwuuuhhhh…” wheezed a very not-dead vampire. “…that hurt…”

“Well shit.”

Brea knelt, knee on the vampire’s chest, and thrust Regards through his chest a second time. He stopped twitching. Her mouth twitched, frowning. How had she missed the first time? She shook off her failure and stood.

A strange gurgling noise froze her in place. The vampire was laughing.

“You have got to be kidding me!”

He flipped her the bird. With both hands, still handcuffed.

Brea huffed, eyed Regards closely while checking the runes for wear. She glanced at the vampire. The holes in his chest were slowly closing. He really looked terrible, all blood splattered and covered in wasted coffee. His wheezing was easing, and his laughter was growing. He reached up and popped his broken nose back into place with a wince. He grinned, teeth covered in blood.

“Might want to run now, little witch,” he muttered, still slightly phlegmy.

“What, from you? I don’t think so. I’ve got zero problem beating the crap out of you all the way back to the office. It’ll be a good workout.”

He laughed again, choked on phlegm, rolled over to cough it out, still laughing.

“Not from me, corpse-poker! Not from me!” He slapped the floor in his merriment, cuffs clinging against the tile. He wheezed and laughed and choked and chortled, and Brea was thoroughly confused until he paused long enough to mutter, “Augh, not you too!” as a black stain seeped through his shirt about the height where an amulet might hang.

“I do not get paid enough for this shit!” he complained, rolling onto his back as a black cloud enveloped him, spreading rapidly into the air and thrusting up towards the ceiling. It condensed, a shadow within a shadow, and glowing red eyes made of flame appeared in the general vicinity of where a head should be. A mouth opened, also full of flame.

“Are you done yet, Miss Witch? I’d really like to clean up now if that’s oka—HECATE’S PANTIES!

A slightly rumpled and very put-upon MagicBRU Manager dropped the mop he’d been holding and dove back through the divider. A klaxon went off, a gate slammed down around the counter, and a very beleaguered manager started chain smoking as he stepped out the back entrance, phone already pressed to his ear, insurance company on speed dial. They better not cut his shares because of this.

A primordial shriek ripped through the cafe.

Brea felt the heat of the thing’s breath slap her in the face. It smelled like every bonfire she’d ever been to, only a thousand times more dangerous.

“Malloryyyyyyyyyyy!” she said, voice wavering only slightly in worry. She backed slowly, thrusting tables out of the way as she went.

The thing shrieked again.

“MALL – OR – Y!” Brea hollered.

“What?” muttered a pre-occupied Mallory, still nose-deep in her book. Laser-like focus wasn’t an exaggeration.

Brea did a few acrobatic maneuvers as the Thing swiped at her with giant claws made of smoke.

“I CAN’T FIND MY READING GLASSES!”

Mallory’s head snapped up, annoyed look on her face.

“Well where did you see them la–OH.”

She sighed. Always on the last page of a chapter!

Standing, Mallory waved her book out of existence with a flick of her fingers, jumped up onto her chair, and tapped her glasses. Color rippled in the frames, shimmering over her head and down her hair. (No glitter this time–she was getting better!) Pentagrams sprang up in her field of vision, highlighting the Soot Demon’s weak spots. Given that it was made of soot, there weren’t any, so the whole thing was targeted instead. She snorted.

Reaching behind her back, Mallory swept her hands forward, manifesting her own weapons– a pair of enormous silver guns etched in purple neon runes. The runes were for power, the neon was just for style. Plus it matched her hair. She did like to be coordinated. Brea might be the pointy-objects specialist, but when it came to blowing things up? That was Mallory’s specialty. She called this pair “Manners”.

“HEY UGLY!” she shouted, “I think you need some Manners!”

She pulled the trigger.

Magic bullets ripped themselves free from the barrels, scattering with machine-gun enthusiasm towards the target.

Brea flipped and scampered until she was standing next to Mallory.

“Tell me again why my plan to abduct the douche in a dark alley was a bad plan??” Mallory asked, voice raised to be heard over the bullets and screaming creature.

“We’re just following orders, Mal!” Brea complained.

“Yeah, yeah, and cheese is made on the moon.”

The soot demon gave an almighty roar and exploded into a huge cloud that filled the front half of the coffee shop. It grew dense, and Mallory’s glasses showed her the windows cracking as the demon puffed up even more. She paused in her firing.

“Well that’s not good,” she said, swinging her guns together, merging them into a two-handed grenade launcher.

“Are you sure?!” Brea asked, eyes wide. The last time Mallory had used The Compensator, they’d lost hunting privileges for a month.

“Keep the way clear, B,” Mallory said, slowly walking backwards, edging towards the shop counter. She rapidly drew runes on the Compensator’s barrel, firing a distracting lights show at the demon, keeping it distracted while they retreated. They reached the counter. The demon kept chasing sparks, shrieking and snarling and boiling in and out of itself.

“B, my coffee’s cold. I need a new one.”

Brea looked at Mallory.

“Say whatnow?”

“I need a foamaccino! STAT!”

“You’re joking, right?”

“BREA, JUST GET ME A GODDESS DAMNED COFFEE!”

Brea frantically waved at the coffee counter, slapping the spell away from the security gate. She jiggered it up and slipped under.

“Freaking Hecatities!” she muttered, flopping ungracefully off the other side. She picked herself up with a huff and ran to the milk foamer.

“You DO have a plan, right?” she hollered over her shoulder, rapidly coaxing milk to heat up and foam while she slapped the beans into place for the drip.

“Uh, mostly?” Mallory shouted back, grimacing as the front windows finally gave way and exploded into the street. She could hear people screaming, and cars honked as commotion ensued. The Soot Demon gave a low growl and turned towards the windows.

“Oh no, you do NOT!” Mallory muttered, and her next grenade launched a magical net. She’d rigged it with a wind rune so that all the strands produced a stream of air blowing inwards. The soot demon roared, finding his progress towards dinner more than a little impeded. Suctioned and stuck, (stucktioned?), it screamed in frustration, tendrils pushing at the limits of the net.

Mallory planted her feet, lines of power running down her boots to dig into the floor. She grabbed the end of the net in a glowing fistful. The Compensator was slung over her shoulder, momentarily relieved of duty.

“Any time, B!”

Brea grabbed the finished drink, leaping up onto the counter. She stamped her foot and shouted, “UP!”. The security gate slammed back into the ceiling, tiny chunks of plaster raining down on Brea’s head. Ignoring her dust bath, she hopped down next to Mallory.

“Now what?” she asked, holding an exceedingly frothy cup.

Mallory held out her hand for the cup. She took a nice long sip. She sighed.

“Good latte,” she muttered. Brea watched her with narrowed eyes, arms crossed.

The foam at the top of the cup turned an alarming, lurid shade of acid green and snapped sharp, foamy teeth in the direction of Mallory’s face. Mallory smiled. She looked at Brea.

“Increase Water Spell.”

“Yeahhh?”

“Cast it.”

She dropped the net and threw the foam monster in a neat arc, watching it grow big-Big-BIGGER as Brea hastily sized it up with her spell. The soot demon spread itself under the on-coming deluge. The foam monster bubbled its pleasure at being freed from its tiny confines and dove enthusiastically at the soot demon. The two amorphous masses shrieked, bubbled, and rolled until eventually they both collapsed in a hissing puddle on the floor.

Mallory made a strange hissing noise, drawing her thumb across her throat to kill the magic. The foam monster died instantly. All movement on the floor stopped. Both witches craned forward, searching for any sign of the soot demon. A tiny squeak, followed by an even tinier sneeze drew their attention to the shadows under a fallen table.

“Awwww, there he is!” Mallory cooed enthusiastically. “Brea! Look how cute he is! I’m gonna–”

“NO MORE PETS!”

“–keep him!” She lean forward and gently coerced the tiny puffball of soot out from under the table. “C’mere little guy! C’mere! Oh my gawwwwd! You are so CUTE! Hey now, no biting, that’s not polite! Here, chew on this..” Fingers waggled and the promised sparking chew toy appeared. She cupped the soot ball, waggling the chew toy between its teeth, looking at Brea with big, big eyes.

“Pleeeaaaasssseeeeee, Brea??!”

Brea sighed.

“FINE. He can stay in the kitchen stove.”

“YES!” Mallory fist pumped the air enthusiastically. “I think I’m gonna call him Calcifer!”

Brea rolled her eyes. She looked around at the demolished cafe guiltily. Mallory caught her glance.

“Oh come on, Brea! They have insurance.

Brea looked at Mallory indignantly and sniffed. Mallory tucked her new pet close and sighed.

“FINE.”

She unhooked The Compensator and held it out to Brea. A few traced runes and one large explosion later and the girls stood outside watching the cafe put itself back together.

“Did you have to make the explosion so loud, Mal?”

“Obviously, B. Obviously. Playing by the rules is only worth it for the explosions.”

Brea sighed.

“Can we go to the library now?” Mallory asked, petting the fuzzy head of her now sleeping soot demon.

“No, the blood-sucker got away.”

Mallory sighed.

“And also, I really did lose my reading glasses…” Brea looked sheepish.

“Oh B, they’re right here,” Mallory tapped Brea’s head, reading glasses manifesting and slipping down onto Brea’s nose.

“Hecate’s Panties!” Brea exploded. “Have they been there the whole time?!”

“Well, yeah since I spelled them so you wouldn’t lose them again.”

“Oh.” Brea slowly broke into a grin. “Thanks, Mal.”

“Well duh. Now let’s go hunt down this douche-feratu.”

“Nice. Very inspired.”

“Yes, I thought so.”

The banter continued as the witches sauntered down the sidewalk, Mallory attempting to hold her soot demon in one hand and pull her book out with the other, Brea guiding her around people and objects and also wishing she’d thought to bring a book. They left no trace of their adventure, except for the sound of emergency sirens wailing behind them.

***

A few blocks over, in a dark alley, a tired, dirty, and very battered vampire coaxed a new victim into the shadows. He wore an old amulet, faceted and beautiful. A crack ran across one of the facets. The other 6 glowed slightly.

“Wotsis that?” slurred a heavily glamoured bus boy he’d snatched from behind a garbage bin.

“The stuff of legends,” murmured the vampire. He smoothed the collar away from the boy’s neck. “Now shut up and give me your soul.”

“Ok,” sighed the boy, smiling dreamily. “Can I haz a kiss first?”

The vampire smiled.

“Naturally.”

THE END

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES

1-  MagicBRU or Magic Beans R-Us: The largest supplier of caffeinated beverages worldwide, or so they claimed. They did clear a tidy profit of well over 8.3 million annually, but since a good portion of that profit was quietly ignored by various governments, (actual magic bean smuggling did WONDERS for agricultural subsidies), no one was really sure how much was coffee related. Regardless, they made one hell of a cappuccino.

2- Coffee Cauldron, MagicBRU’s largest rival in the bean biz, briefly went by the name “Black Cauldron”, but swiftly changed the name after a disastrous incident involving frogs and kidnapped wizards. They also stopped making the coffee in actual cauldrons. The Metropolitan Society for Antiquated Witchcraft was, however, delighted by the sudden donation of several thousand cauldrons of note. They named the new display wing “Macbeth’s Kitchen”.

3- Oh Byron–While many lauded him for his romanticism and works of incredible poetry, to Mary he remained merely a stain on her glorious career of monster-making. She gave him beauty, intelligence, philosophy; Offered him the world and herself, and he threw it all away for poetry. To say she was disappointed was putting it lightly. Some theories even believe he was the impetus behind her desire to destroy all of mankind. Of course, we must note here that when Mary Shelley used the word “mankind” she literally meant all of men. Her intention was to remake the world in the image of women, and she very nearly did. One has to wonder what the world would be like if she and Elsa had succeeded in their goals.

BOOK REVIEW: “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman

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I have two words: Unmitigated Disaster.

headdesk

In fact, to call it that might almost be an understatement. I will never understand how some books wind up on the bestseller lists.

Let me be clear: If you like self-hating characters thrust into an urban fantasy with no satisfying resolution and stolen plot ideas, then this is *totally* the book for you. If that’s not your thing, then I would steer clear of Grossman’s novel.

It’s entirely possible that the second and third books in the series will somewhat redeem the first, but since I cannot get over how much I disliked The Magicians, I will never read them. Darn.

Now, I don’t dislike this book because it’s a dark urban fantasy where people die and never achieve their dreams. Oh, no. I like a grimdark novel as much as the next GOT fan—probably more so. Seriously: add sex, and murder, and as much mayhem as you want. I don’t care if the princess gets rescued, or the kingdom gets saved, or if every hero in the bunch dies. I just want *something* to happen. Potentially something *interesting*. And I want it to happen in an *interesting* and *entertaining* fashion. That’s one of the reasons why I read books—to be entertained. Even if it’s dark, serious entertainment.

Instead, I was bored.

BORED!

And it wasn’t even an accounting manual!

merida-headdesk1I was bored at 30 pages in, and I was still bored at 150 pages. But I kept reading because the little voice in the back of my head kept going “It has to get better…”

Next time, I’ll listen to the little voice.

***

wrongAccording to Wikipedia, a review by The A.V. Club, (a non-satirical offshoot of The Onion), stated the theme of the book to be “a sad dream of what it means to want something badly and never fully reach it”. (Quoted here.) So I suppose looking at that, then this book definitely lives up to its ideals. I should applaud Grossman—I wanted something to happen, and something never did, which essentially turned me into one of his always-complaining characters.

But only briefly, because after this review, I will be done thinking about The Magicians, and will move on to something much more interesting…which Grossmans’ poor characters will never be able to do.

Shame.

***

Let me also mention Grossman’s blatant thievery of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.

3aa26ec9d96343d1fb218d2db43c757b27454faf910160ae4394eaa0bfe8a06dC.S. Lewis is a true magician of words, and it was really sad to see someone using a fan-fictionalized version of his creations in such an uncreative and (need I really say it?) boring way.

I’m honestly surprised Lev Grossman’s agents weren’t slapped with a million copyright infringement suits, but I suppose that’s today’s world: Anything can get published as a ‘new thing’, as long as you change a few names, draw a new map, and maybe introduce one new plot device.

Takes me right back to the days of Twilight and 50 Shades…

ecacaa9bec0642dfe7d936036914257a6c63c96aae1ccbe0ed772e62d47c52b4But setting aside the boringness and the truly uncreative use of Narnia’s lands, I think the thing that bothered me most about this book was that Grossman felt the need to wax-on for over 300 pages about how, when you have the ability to accomplish anything, you have nothing left to accomplish. I’m wondering where the rationality is in that theory, and how that wound up being the theoretical consensus of every magician in Grossman’s entire universe.

These kids had no guide, no common sense, and no desire to find either.

They were given a truly sad and pathetic existence, wasted the very intellect their author inscribed them with, and left every reader depressed about it.

images

*sigh*

Shit, I’d rather read Selfish by Kim K than have to re-read Grossman’s horror story. And I don’t even like plastic surgery novels. (har har)

And so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But you know what?

I’m not boring!

ENTERTAINED4

For book suggestions and a ridiculously long reading list, check me out on Goodreads HERE.

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