Saturday, September 13, 2008

The reason(s) for the delay

My apologies to the fans of Magik Beans for the long hiatus. In the middle of a fairly relaxing summer working at Service Alberta, I was contacted about teaching appointments for this fall. I'm teaching two sections of English at MacEwan College, and one at The King's University College, which is one class short of the light side of a full time sessional teaching load, six being the maximum before you're sent to Arkham. I am also doing my coursework for my PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta, so I am, as always, very busy.

I wrote the main of Magik Beans book one in my thesis year while I was enjoying the benefits of a scholarship which freed me from the need for gainful employment. So I had an extra hour or two here or there to write. As it currently stands, I'll be lucky if I write an entire episode in a month.

But I am still writing. And making lots of notes while I'm in class! But weekly will be unlikely. Please don't give up on checking in. I'll do my best to make it worth your while.



Thursday, July 3, 2008

Episode 13: Charming

Andrew had heard the saying "the clothes make the man," but had always discounted it as the sort of thing only Alpha Males who needed to wear power suits for executive meetings in downtown skyscrapers in major metropolitan centers believed in. It seemed elitist to him, but standing in the lobby of the Hotel MacDonald, he suddenly understood it.

He'd been to a brunch at the MacDonald once, arriving in dress casual, and feeling like he didn't belong amidst the opulence of marble columns and old world architecture. The way the staff had treated him had felt conspicuous; he wasn't a "sir" and when the server unfolded his cloth napkin to place it in his lap, Andrew had nearly jumped out of his skin. Being treated like he was some rich bigwig by other people in the service industry, the very industry he worked in, felt altogether wrong.

Standing in the lobby in his new clothes--he laughed to himself, thinking of clothes bought over a hundred years ago as being "new"--was a different matter altogether. He stood, in a wool frock coat over top of a copper basin vest across which ran the chain of a gold filigreed pocket watch. The highland pants with the black Y-bracers felt a little odd, but the ensemble, topped by a black silk puff tie made him feel as though he belonged there, standing underneath the opulent chandelier lighting the lobby. His gaze fell from the crystal extravagance overhead to the stairs beneath it, whereupon all thoughts of the opulence of the chandelier fled his mind.

Silke descended, her blonde hair cascading in thick curls, falling to cover her scar without hiding her face. She wore a wine-red corsetted dress of velvet and silk, with a plunging neckline that made Andrew muse that the silk puff tie was far too tight. She had a black chiffon wrap hanging loosely around her shoulders, which fell as she waved to him. Her bared shoulders and arms made the room's temperature rise once again. He could tell his ears were as red as her dress. He cleared his throat, and held out his arm to her as she finished her descent.

"You look remarkable," he said, his voice too thick, his words too much a mumble.

"And you," she said with her perpetually confident smile, "seem to have gone from a Sleeping Beauty to a Prince Charming."

Once again, the clothing suddenly made the man, and Andrew replied, "Well, I can only hope that you don't run off at the stroke of midnight."

Silke inclined her head appraisingly. "I don't think I shall," she said finally. She took his proferred arm, and they turned to enter the ballroom.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Episode 12: Late for the Ball

That evening the Spring Symposium of Ontological Overseers gathered together for a dinner held at the Hotel MacDonald. After recovering from his fainting episode, Andrew had gone home to change into formal wear. Upon opening his closet and throwing a pair of pants, a sport coat and a dress shirt onto the bed, he was about to undress when Saphyr abruptly told him to stop.

"You're not actually considering going to the dinner tonight in that, are you?" the Macbook asked him.

"It's a suit coat..." Andrew protested.

"Bought at Le Chateau for your graduation I'm sure," Saphyr replied.

"Stitches," Andrew replied sheepishly. "I don't have a lot of occasions to be wearing a suit you know."

"It is not the frequency with which one wears a suit which ought to determine the quality of the garment," Saphyr advised. "I've been watching your interactions with that charming young lady all day, and it is clear to me that if you wish to accelerate the nature of your relationship you need to consider dressing in the way you want her to see you."

"We don't have a lot of time here Saphyr. The dinner's in another hour. I don't think this is the best time to be off suit shopping."

"All that talk about time earlier today," Saphyr said, "And you think you don't have any? Might I suggest a trip along the Tree? Perhaps backwards along our current branch to say...the Victorian period?"

"Victorian? How are we going to pay for that? I don't think they'll take debit."

"I'll draft a bank note that ought to do the trick, and run it off your printer," Saphyr said.

"I guess there's no point in me arguing then," Andrew said.

"None whatsoever," the Macbook replied.

Ten minutes later, Andrew hurried through the entrance of Magik Beans, rushing into the shop with Saphyr tucked under his arm, and the couterfeit bank note folded in his pocket.

"Andrew!" Lara shouted from behind the till. "I didn't think we'd see you today!"

"No time to talk!" Andrew called back. "I'm late for the ball!" He flashed her an enigmatic smile, waggled his eyebrows, and quickly climbed the ladder up into the Tree. "Which branch?" he asked Saphyr.

"First one on your left," Saphyr replied.

Andrew ducked his head, and walked along the thick limb, into what should have been the wall of the shop, but pulling back the thick foliage revealed that the branch ran on, like a pathway through a darkened forest. Once Andrew was far enough along the path that he could no longer see the light from the shop through the leaves, the sounds of customers and staff silenced, Saphyr told him to stop.

"Traveling 'up' or 'down' a branch of the Tree in terms of time is different from traveling it to other spaces," Saphyr said. "You don't travel along the branch, you travel through it. Inside it."

"How?" Andrew asked.

"Well, current physics has posited that wormholes have something to do with the possibility of time travel," Saphyr replied. "They're right about the holes, but they're considering the wrong ones."

Andrew smiled and shook his head. "You've got to be kidding me. Knotholes?"

Andrew could have sworn the Macbook found a way to grin at that moment. "Look at your feet," Saphyr said.

At Andrew's feet, there was an imperfection in the wooden path. The grain of the Tree flowed around the imperfection, acknowledging it without allowing it to impede their own path.

"Do you know how knotholes are formed?" Saphyr asked.

"Aren't they dead branches, or branches that never really grew?" Andrew asked.

"They are. They are the evidence of a possible world that never was. They are like a space within the branch which never formed into a reality. And as such, they can be traveled to other points in time along the Tree. This one," Saphyr said, "will take us to the Victorian era, and with a quick jog along the branch, we should find ourselves in London on Jermyn Street where we will attire you in the best clothing money could buy at the time."

"How do we get into the travel through it?"

"Bend down. Good. Now run your hand counterclockwise around the knothole take your fist and press it into the will feel soft, like clay...keep pressing..."

The knothole began to expand, the grain of the wood around it shifting and weaving to accomodate the growth, retracting away from Andrew's fist, until it was a hole in the pathway nearly five feet across. Inside the hole, it looked like a wooden tunnel, with a faint golden glow illuminating it.

"Now drop inside before the knot closes again," Saphyr said.

And they did.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Episode 11: Time Sensitive Issues

Andrew awoke to see Silke bent over him, smiling.

"Sleeping Beauty wakes," she said.

Andrew blinked, then propped himself on his elbows with a groan. "I passed out, didn't I?" he said.

Silke nodded. "And missed Borges' orientation speech," she added. "But I took notes, and Saphyr recorded it all in digital audio for you to hear later."

"I meet one of my greatest heroes and I miss his speech because I passed out," Andrew said, shaking his head.

"It's all right," Silke said. "You can just attend the talk he's giving on possible worlds. That should more than make up for it." Silke handed him a sheet labeled "Plenary Sessions, Roundtables and Workshops."

Andrew brightened. "That more than makes up for it. Workshops? I had no idea this would involve hands-on work."

"Some of the workshops involve trips along the Tree to certain places of import," Silke. "Borges' involves a trip to a place called the Library of Babel."

Andrew looked up at Silke with a very serious expression on his face. "Just when I think I've begun to understand what it means to have the Tree as a reality in my world, something new and...I can't think of any better word than 'terrible' opens up before me. Not terrible in the sense of awful...although that word works awe-full...full of awe. Or Terrible in the sense of reverence. The mysterium tremendum."

"I have no idea what you're talking about with that last bit, but I think I know what you mean. It turns out that all the stories you read as a child weren't stories, and if that isn't enough, it's entirely possible that all the stories aren't just stories. That somewhere on the Tree, they're real."

"But more than that," Andrew said, grinning in agreement with everything Silke had said. "If Borges is here, that means there's some element of resurrection involved..."

"I can explain that," Silke said. "Grandmother told me about it in regards to John, Jack and Charles visiting with you when we went to the Pole."

"You mean Tolkien, Lewis and Williams," Andrew said. The way she used the word visiting to refer to their adventure at the North Pole, one would have thought she was talking about everyday events. Although given her work with the Rotkäppchen, it effectively was everyday work for her. He nodded for her to continue.

"They aren't the dead come back to life," she told him. "They're still alive. They've simply traveled along the branch of the Tree their history takes place in to another point along the Tree."

"Time travel?" Andrew said, more a statement than a question.

"Yes, but there is one very strict rule governing that sort of travel," Silke said. "You cannot travel to a point in which you are still alive."

"But you can travel anywhere else in time?"

Silke nodded.

"But isn't it dangerous to travel into the past?" Andrew asked. "I mean, in all the science fiction books, it always ends up changing history."

"You can't change the past of a particular history," Silke said. "The past is the portion of the Tree already formed...the thick limb which other branches...other possibilities sprout from. If you were able change the past, the result would be that branch of the Tree splitting off and making a new branch with the new history you'd created. But the original branch wouldn't cease to exist. It would simply be a point of...I'm not sure the word to use here...departure?"

"Divergence maybe," Andrew suggested.

"Perhaps," Silke said.

"And what about the future? If the points of departure are new histories, then wouldn't that mean that the future isn't formed as a...branch, until we make a decision? I mean, how can you walk along a branch that isn't yet formed?"

"You're assuming it's unformed before you step into it," Silke said. "I asked the same question, and Grandmother laughed at me and said, 'You think your single decision can affect the direction of an entire branch of the Tree? There are few events that can make that happen, and they always involve many persons. The branch itself isn't formed by your decision regarding what to wear is shaped by those decisions, but the new branch is the result of larger historical moments. Which is why it doesn't really matter if you travel into the past. The chances of you achieving a change cataclysmic enough to alter a particular historical timeline are very slim."

"But not impossible," Andrew said.

"And that's why the Tree has guardians," Silke replied. "To make sure the travelers moving in and out of its avatar points aren't brining a nuclear missile into the past, or a pre-industrial world, or someone else isn't bringing Dragon Flights into worlds where they never existed."
"I think my assistant manager might be doing something very much like that at this very moment," Andrew said worriedly, explaining a text he'd received from Lara earlier that day about two new hires she'd made at the shop.

"Not exactly a move for World Domination," Silke said with a wry grin. "And you aren't altering the past of your history either. You're shaping its current branch."

"But that still doesn't explain how the Inklings or Borges could travel into the future along the branch their history exists on. I mean, isn't tomorrow essentially unformed on the Tree?"
"Well, that's why I'm excited about Borges' workshop on possible worlds," Silke answered. "All I know is that the branches of tomorrow are already formed...but there are a number of possible branches for tomorrow. And our choices will take us down one of them. All John and the others have done by traveling to where we are is to choose a branch and follow it down its path."
"You mean they could choose another branch and get into another history...a parallel one that's almost identical to this one, but just slightly different?"

"The differences for history's branches are never slight," Silke said. "But I don't know how it all works. Except that I asked Grandmother what happened to branches that weren't chosen, and she wouldn't say anymore. That I wasn't ready to hear the answer."

"What do you think happens?" Andrew asked hesitantly.

"I think that any branch that isn't one that withers and dies," Silke replied.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Episode 10: Disorientation

The orientation was to be held in Convocation Hall in the Old Arts building, a large, open room with rows of red theater style seats. The noise of the gathering was noisier in the room than it had been in the foyer, voices echoing off the hardwood and reverberating throughout, amplified by the room's excellent acoustics.

Andrew glanced over and noted that Silke too, was speaking in low tones to a dark red notebook with gold scroll work running in curves and whorls across the cover.

"How come you got such a fancy notebook, and I just got this plain old binder?" Andrew asked.

"We match your personality," Saphyr said, a hint of hurt sarcasm in his voice.

"They can look like any type of book," Silke told Andrew. "Mine came as plain as yours, but once I discovered she could change her shape, we worked out this journal. I was worried about losing her, given that we would have all been carrying the same binder otherwise."

"How come you didn't tell me that?" Andrew asked Saphyr.

"I did," Saphyr replied. "I told you I'd been a scroll for Plato."

"But you didn't say you could change just because I'd prefer to be carrying an MacBook ," Andrew retorted, nearly dropping Sephyr when the binder's shape rapidly shifted and changed until the simple binder had become the sleek, smooth, piece of technology. "Very nice. So what are you then, exactly?"

"The easiest way for me to answer that question is to say, I'm a book."

"No, now you're a computer. A computer called a "book," but a computer nonetheless."

"You're mistaking what a book is for pages and ink," said a voice from behind Andrew.

Andrew turned to see a very aged man, with gray hair swept back across his head, and eyes unfocused, looking at nothing in particular, his hand resting on the shoulder of a slender dark-haired woman who appeared to be in her sixties. It was obvious that the man was blind, and that the woman was some sort of assistant.

"A book is much more than the shape you use to read it," the blind man said. "I should know. I never learned Braile, and I rely upon María's good graces for any of my present reading. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships. In truth, your computer is more a book than the books in a library, insofar as I am concerned."

"That sounds very..." Andrew stopped. He was about to use the term Borghesian, a word that had been bandied about in a course he had taken on the element of the fantastic in modern literature, to describe anything that seemed to borrow from the works of Jorge Luis Borges. But he stopped short of saying it, realizing that he wasn't hearing someone refer to Borges.

He was listening to Borges himself.

Andrew was speechless. He wanted to respond, to say something, anything at all, but he couldn't get his vocal cords, tongue, or mouth to work on his behalf. Thankfully, he was still breathing, but not in a way that would produce speech. Instead, he made a slow, somewhat vocalized high pitched exhalation of air that approximated the sound a slowly deflating balloon makes.

"That sounds very ... much like a slowly deflating balloon?" Saphyr offered sarcastically, breaking the uncomfortable-not-so-silence.

Borges had cocked his head to one side, seemingly waiting for whatever Andrew was going to say next. His assistant had furrowed her brow, her face begging an answer for a list of questions rapidly running through her mind, the top of which was whether or not this particular attendee of the symposium was using drugs. Quite suddenly, she gently tapped Borges on the arm and said, "It's time."

"You'll have excuse me," Borges apologized. "We're about to begin, and I am tasked with the honor of the opening address." His assistant turned in the direction of the stage, and Borges followed.

"That was..." Andrew started.

"Really pathetic?" Saphyr said.

"Borges. Jorge Luis Borges. But how?" Andrew had recovered the power of speech, but now the paralysis seemed to have moved to the rest of his face, which was a rictus of puzzlement.

"You've met Father Christmas, and you're shocked at meeting an historical figure?" Saphyr asked.

"But Borges is dead..." Andrew said.

"So are Tolkien, Williams and Lewis," Sephyr said. "At least, at this point on the branch your world exists on."

"What do Tolkien, Williams, and Lewis have to do with...?"

The rictus disappeared, Andrew's eyes went wide in the shock of sudden realization, and he passed out cold on the floor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Episode 9: The First Day of School

As Andrew walked up the steps to the Old Arts building, he heard a familiar female voice call his name. He turned, a smile already forming on his face to see Silke walking across the campus. Her long blonde hair hung free around her shoulders, and she was wearing capri pants, sandals, and a dark red cami. All Andrew had ever seen her wearing before was either her Rotkäppchen garb, a long cloak, high boots, leggings, and a sleeved surcoat, or clothing more suited to a medieval peasant than a university student. The contrast was striking, and it took his breath away. He'd always thought of her as beautiful, but the fact that she belonged to another world made for a convenient distance, which in Andrew's mind excused him from pursuing any sort of relationship with her.

Seeing her in modern clothing in the middle of the campus with the sun shining on that golden hair though...

"You look poleaxed!" she laughed, running up to him and catching him in a short but firm embrace.

Andrew recovered, and smiled back. "I'm sorry Silke, it just took me a moment...I hardly recognized you looking like this!"

"I thought I'd try to blend in with the locals," she said, her smile radiant. She shook her head. "It's really good to see you Andrew."

"You too," he replied quickly. "I thought you were out on patrol - more Big Bad Wolves and such."

"I was," Silke said. "But I'm going to be the guardian of the Tree when Grandmother passes away...and while that isn't likely to be any time soon, the courses at the Symposium are just as useful to the Rotkäppchen. I asked to be the one to represent us here."

"You asked?"

"Seemed a good way to get to see you," she replied, smiling again, and tucking her hair behind her left ear, exposing a huge white scar that ran from her temple to her ear. Andrew noticed the lobe was missing and averted his gaze.

"No need to be embarassed for me," she told him. "I know it's there."

"You didn't mention it in any of your letters," he said, shrugging. "It looks like it was really bad."

"That's because it happened just last week," she said. "It just looks old because Granny already healed it."

Andrew goggled. He'd seen the results of Granny's healing, as well as Lara's. It never left a scar.

"I know," Silke said, frowning slightly. "You should have seen it before the healing. Half my scalp was caved in and most of the skin..." She demonstrated the area of damage by drawing a finger across her face to her chin, "was hanging off in a huge flap." She made a face, her eyes wide with mock horror. "Not a pretty sight. But you can hardly see the scar when my hair is down." She shook her head, letting the hair fall forward again. "See?"

"I like it," Andrew said. "The hairdo I mean...not that I don't like the scar..." He stopped talking and sighed. "So...I assume you're heading inside for the orientation?" Andrew extended his arm, crooked formally, elbow out.

"Yes," Silke said, taking his arm.

They walked up the steps, just behind a giant praying mantis who held the door open for them. Andrew raised an eyebrow and glanced around the campus to see if anyone was noticing the massive insect.

"I have a spell of illusion on me," the mantis said congenially. "To those not attending the symposium I appear an overweight latino man with greying hair, dressed all in tweed."

"Be careful," Andrew said. "Someone will ask you what you're teaching."

The mantis laughed and waved them through the door.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Episode 8: Musicians Wanted

Musicians Wanted for folk-medieval-metal band based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Ripper paused a moment, his fingers hovering over the keyboard, wondering if he should add what World he was referring to. How would one go about ascertaining which world they were from? Typing "Earth" obviously wouldn't do. That was only the planet he was on. As far as he understood it, the entire universe he occupied was one branch of the Tree. He shook his head. He'd have to hope the software had some means of providing the applicants with Ripper's world address.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist/bagpiper seeks other musicians to create a truly unique experience of live sound through music. Any interested parties are welcome to apply, regardless of race

He backspaced and replaced "race" with "species." Who knows what sorts of musicians were out there across the Tree?

Influences include In Extremo, Corvus Corax, Subway to Sally, Battlelore, Seven Devil Fix, Schandmaul, Leaves' Eyes, Athan Asia, Kate Bush, Richard Kean, Kemper Crabbe, Iona, and Lacuna Coil.

Would other worlds even know about any of these bands? Was there some sort of database of otherworld bands he could go to and listen, to find groups from other worlds who fit the style of Gotthammer?

He put in a contact number, the MySpace Music URL for Gotthammer, the address of Magik Beans and his name, and as an afterthought, added...homo sapien.

His finger hit enter. He closed his eyes, inhaled, and sat, waiting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Episode 7:Maintaining a sense of Wonder

"A dragon?" Blackout said, sitting down. "Are you seriously considering hiring a dragon?"

"He interviewed really well," Lara replied. "And look at his resume; it's fantastic."

Lara pushed a heavy piece of parchment, slightly burned around the edges, with a dark, calligraphic ink outlining the dragon's achievements.

"He wrote this?" Blackout asked. "I wasn't aware dragons were literate."

"You weren't aware dragons were literate?" Lara laughed. "What, did you buy a copy of 'Dragonology'?"

"No," Blackout replied petulantly. "But don't they mostly sit around on piles of treasure waiting for dwarven gangs to invade their trove so they can go on a rampaging killing spree, burning everything in their path?"

"Hype, apparently," Lara said. "Read the damn resume already."

Blackout picked up the parchment and began reading.

Dragon, 174 years old
Good health, Non-smoker

Cheerful, gregarious fire breathing reptilian tetrapod with 20 foot wing span.
Exceptional social skills, seductively charming (magically induced).

History of Gainful Employment (highlights):
Emergency Boiler Heater, Steamship Summer Wanderer, New Amsterdam
Controlled Burn Supervisor, British Columbia
Mail Carrier, Arboria
Tour Guide and Transport, Bespin

Blackout looked up from the resume.

"Bespin?" he asked, dubious. "As in, Cloud City? As in, Lando Calrissian?"

Lara nodded. "Apparently the city isn't there any more. It's more of a tourist attraction now."

"What do you mean the city isn't there any more?"

"Well, you know, it did happen 'A long time ago,'" Lara said, grinning.

"How does that even work?" Blackout mused. "I mean, was George Lucas tapping into the reality that is the Star Wars universe, or did the universe appear after George Lucas imagined it?"

"Maybe that's the sort of thing Andrew will be learning at this conference, or whatever the hell it is."

"It's bizarre, isn't it?" Blackout said. "It's only been a year, and we're so completely at ease talking about the Tree as though it were something common."

"It is, after a fashion," Lara replied. Blackout made a face, and she waved a hand to silence him. "I don't mean it's 'common' in a demeaning way. was always there before. We just never saw it. This world is just one branch on the Tree. We just didn't know. And now we do. The wonder isn't in the thing, it's in knowing it. The discovery of it. It's like meeting Dragon. I knew there were dragons out there on the Tree somewhere, but I'd never had the chance to meet one. And when Dragon came in, the wonder I felt came as a result of verifying that belief, not because he...or she...or it, was ten feet tall with beautiful green scales, or that there was smoke trailing up out of her...I'm sorry, I have to call Dragon a 'her''ll understand when you meet her. you get what I'm driving at?"

"Sort of," Blackout said. "But I don't ever want to take all this for granted. I don't want to lose the sense of wonder I felt the day I saw the Fates heal you." He paused. "I think I worry that if I lose that sense of wonder I'll start losing you. It's like...the way I feel about you is linked to the Tree somehow."

"And how do you feel about me?" Lara asked, a coy smile playing across her lips.

"Cafe Mocha," Ripper announced, setting down the cups, and sitting down beside Blackout. "Lara, I need to know how I go about advertising something across the Tree."

"It's done through an Internet site," Lara replied, smiling at Blackout consolingly.

Ripper furrowed his brow. "That's really disappointing," he said. "I expected something like carrier gryphon or some sort of mental sending."

"They might employ carrier griffins," Lara said. "But the website is just the place where you enter the information and how limited or wide you want the ad to go."

"Does it cost anything?" Ripper asked.

"It does, but since you own the comic shop that shouldn't be a problem. The arrangement is either monetary or trade in turn. You agree to post a number of advertisements for others across the Tree, and you get yours free. The bigger the search though, the larger the reciprocation. So make sure you limit it or you'll be able to wallpaper the comic shop with the ads. Why, what are you advertising for?"

"I'm placing a musicians wanted ad," Ripper said. "What's the website?"

"www.treemail.mag." Lara said.

"Dot Mag?" Blackout asked.

"For magical websites. Most people don't know about them, and they don't show up in most searches. It's a real insider thing. But once you're in, holy shit, the sky is the limit. The magical Internet is really intense. And vast."

"Sure," Ripper said, draining the last of his coffee in a long gulp. He scribbled down the URL on a napkin and stood up. "Gotta go," he said. "I want to get started on this." He waved the paper at Lara. "Thanks for this," and to Blackout, "I'll see you later." Then he looked at both of them, looking at each other and added, "Or not."

After he'd left, Lara smiled at Blackout. "You were about to say exactly how you felt about me."

"Let's just say I highly doubt I'll be seeing Ripper later," Blackout replied with a boyish grin.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Episode 6: I'm Getting the Band Back Together

Mark "Ripper" Keane gripped the guitar harder than he ever had in his life. He knew that if he applied any more pressure from any direction, he would snap the neck. Hugging the body like it was a person, he slowly ground his teeth quietly in the darkness of his room.

Sunny was gone. That was ancient history. But he hadn't quite healed up all the wounds she'd left him with before the next hit came, when his band, Gotthammer, had fallen apart. Trouble was supposed to come in threes, and Ripper was waiting for the third.

He'd been trying to make the music thing work so hard for so long. Maybe it was time to cash it all in. He wasn't getting any younger, and Edmonton wasn't exactly the best place to be launching a music career. And then there was the style of his music.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, a way to set the band apart from all the other local acts, to incorporate the bag pipes, an instrument he'd been playing since he was a young boy. A testament to his heritage. And as gimmicks went, it'd been a good one. It had set them apart from other bands, especially given that Ripper had paired the bagpipes with overdriven guitar rock. And everything had been going well, until Gotthammer's incredibly good-looking female vocalist had gotten an opportunity to do a solo project that was more mainstream, and more pop. The record company backing the recording had said the band needed a new image to keep up with where they'd be taking her. Ripper refused to change, and got left behind. He told them they wouldn't be taking the name or the songs with them. The record company had said they wouldn't be needing either.

"We can make a career off her tits and ass," one of the suits had told Ripper. "What the hell makes you think the music industry has anything to do with songs?"

So now her first single was playing on the radio everytime you turned the damn thing on. The Edmonton stations were pushing the "local girl makes good" angle, and giving her all the support they could muster. None of the interviews said anything about Gotthammer. It was like the band had never existed.

A sliver of light penetrated the darkness of Ripper's thoughts. He looked up to see Blackout's silhouette in the doorway.

"Wanna get a coffee?" Blackout asked. "I've closed up the shop, and I wanted to go say hi to Lara, seeing as she's tied to the store while Andrew's doing those courses."

Ripper nodded silently, and relaxed his grip on the guitar, glad once again he hadn't broken it in a fit of anger.

Blackout remained quiet while Ripper put on his jacket and they descended the stairs from their apartment next to the comic shop the two of them owned together. It was their financial "fallback" in the event neither of their music careers took off. Ripper's dream was to be a rock star. Blackout's was to be a DJ. Neither had found success yet, but at least Blackout had a girlfriend. At the moment, Ripper had nothing.

Their shop was located upstairs and over from Magik Beans, which was housed in the corner of the building they all leased in, facing the street. They entered Magik Beans, and as he had come to expect, Ripper felt a sense of peace come over him as he came into the presence of the Tree. He had written some of his best songs in the shadow of those branches, sometimes actually laying back on one of them, strumming his guitar or writing lyrics.

The shop was quiet, a typical Monday night crowd. Blackout bee-lined for Lara, who was sitting at one of the tables, poring over a stack of resumes. They kissed, and Ripper looked at the floor.

"Looks like you've had a day of it," Blackout said, looking at the stack of resumes.

"Those are the rejects," Lara replied. "I've got these--" and she patted three resumes set apart from the rest, "to make my final decision with. Besides, it might not be as difficult as I'd originally thought. I can always hire more than one."

"What are your choices?" Blackout asked.

"Well, the first is a dragon," Lara said, and suddenly Ripper was paying close attention.

"Did you say dragon?" he asked.

"Yes--I put out the help wanted ads throughout the Tree."

"You can do that?"

Lara nodded. "There are quite a few courier services which provide delivery throughout the worlds. You can limit the scope of your search as much as you like."

"And you got a dragon to apply," Ripper mused.

"He was one of the least strange," Lara said. "I had a zombie in here for heaven's sake."

"I need to get a coffee," Mark said, excitement rising in his chest. "You guys want anything?"

Blackout asked Ripper to get him a cafe mocha, and Ripper walked over to the counter, where Mikey was working. Mikey looked up at Ripper through his dreadlocks.

"I don't remember the last time I saw you smiling," Mikey said. "What's up?"

"I'm getting the band back together," Ripper said.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Episode 5: Finding Good Help These Days

It bothered Lara when The Lovers tried to distract her by attempting positions only artists of the Kama Sutra could represent, and only Olympic gymnasts could replicate. Matters worsened if the card’s position was reversed, giving the illusion that their sexual acrobatics were being engaged while hanging from the ceiling. To say nothing of the noises they made. The female thought it particularly amusing to talk dirty while Lara was delivering her reading.

Thankfully, the rest of the cards were rather behaved, even The Fool.

The cards seemed a necessity for the interview process. There were too many good liars in the world, and Lara was much too trusting. Her belief in the human spirit as something inherently good had been her own private hamartia, leading to that heartbreaking moment in the doorway of a hotel room over a year ago. It had been that belief in the goodness of people which had allowed her to believe in love again, to let Blackout into her heart, her body, her life.

And the cards helped her get beyond appearances. She'd flipped over the Four of Swords reversed while interviewing a robust young Adonis with golden hair. Hypochondriac, she thought, looking at the man on the card, sleeping on a stone slab with four swords poised in the air above him. Normally, it would mean he needed to take a break. Upside down, the card implied he'd be looking to take any break he could as often as he could. On the other hand, she'd flipped the Nine of Cups, a card which always meant abundance in regards to feasting for a female zombie who had nervously biting the nails of a severed hand. She'd obviously be good for business, although Lara couldn't imagine how. Perhaps the abundant feast was a reference to all the food walking in here on a daily basis seeking coffee.

The cards were helpful, but nothing replaced good old feminine intuition, a nicely formatted resume and good references.

Or, in the case of the dragon sitting across from her, the ability to heat liquid in the case of a power outage.

"It says here your name is Dragon," Lara said.

"Yes," Dragon replied. "Dragon names are unpronounceable without the ability to breathe fire, and trying to teach someone how to transliterate them never seems to go very well."

"All right Dragon," Lara said. "I'm curious to know why you're interested in the position."

"I just love coffee," Dragon replied. "And I understand I get it free while I'm working."

"So you're just a big coffee fan? Is it normal for dragons to apply for really rather mundane, boring jobs? I mean, you're a legendary creature...your species is famed for sitting on huge piles of treasure, kidnapping virgins, laying waste to countrysides..."

"Hype," Dragon replied. "And besides, don't you know that in some worlds you're the legendary species? Haven't you ever heard of the tale of Fni'kkzz the Human-slayer? It's very popular amongst cockroaches. It's all a matter of perspective. Like this job. You know how rare it is that a dragon gets work as a barista? You think I'm legendary now, but once the girls back home hear about me serving coffee..."

"Big deal, eh?" Lara asked.


Lara flipped a card over. The Moon. One of the most ambiguous cards in the Tarot. It either meant deception or illusion. Dragon's, or my own? she wondered.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Episode 4: On the way to class

The Spring Symposium of Ontological Overseers began conveniently on the same day as the University's spring sessions, allowing Andrew to blend in with the handful of students trundling across the otherwise empty campus. There was a smell of moisture in the air from the previous night's rainfall, lifted into the air by the warmth of a sun in a cloudless sky. Setting out for class from Magik Beans, Andrew felt a sense of freedom.

Lara had been more than happy to assume extra duties to allow Andrew the necessary flexibility to attend the symposium. "This will finally give me a reason to hire some help that you can't argue with."

Andrew had opened his mouth to protest, but he knew Lara was right. In the past year they'd handled the work between the two of them with casual shifts from Sunny and Mikey, but Sunny had finished up her year and had signed on for a stint with Doctors Without Borders, mostly, Andrew surmised, to get away from being in the same social space as Ripper. The two of them had gotten into a heated argument when Ripper had suggested they try advancing their relationship into a more committed sort of space. Less friends with benefits and more a couple. She'd refused, and things had grown uncomfortable between them, and as a consequence, everyone around them. Mikey couldn't take on more shifts, being in his last year of high school, and so Andrew had relented. It was time to hire someone.

"How are you going to explain all this?" he asked, waving his hand at the Tree.

"I might not have to," Lara replied. "People walk in here every day and we don't bother to explain it to them."

"Working here is different. You know that."

"Besides," Lara went on, ignoring him, "who says I plan on limiting possible candidates to humans?"

"Don't tell me you're planning on advertising across the Tree!" Andrew hissed.

"I have every intention of it. Just imagine what having the brewing skills of a dwarf in here would do for business." They'd gotten a license for liquor earlier in the year and while it had all been bottled, Andrew had to concede that the beer of the dwarves from most worlds served on tap would do wonders for business.

"We're a coffee shop," Andrew replied.

"We're a cafe," Lara said. "I think it's about time we expanded our mission statement to include food. Especially since the copy shop is empty...and we have money to lease."

"I don't want to renovate," Andrew said.

"Dwarves do more than just brew beer," Lara said.

"You don't even know if you'll hire a dwarf!"

"I'm just keeping my options open."

"And we don't even have a mission statement!"

"Well maybe we should."

In the end, as he had in so many things, Andrew had relented. He needed to be hands free of Magik Beans if he was going to attend to whatever homework and studying this symposium required of him.

"Don't be nervous," his binder said to him as Andrew walked briskly across the campus.

"How do you know I'm nervous?" Andrew asked.

"Your palms are sweating all over me for one thing," the binder said. "And besides, I've done this long enough to know how first timers react to their first day at the symposium."

"How long have you been doing this?" Andrew asked.

"Long enough to have had Plato's sweaty palms on me," the binder said.

"I'm guessing you weren't a binder at the time," Andrew said.

"No, I was a scroll then."

A Philipino girl with a backpack nearly as large as her entire upper body gave Andrew an odd look. Andrew paused, took out his cell phone, flipped it open, placed it to his ear and continued walking.

"Do you have a name?" Andrew asked. "I feel kind of weird talking to a binder."

"I do," the binder replied. "Saphyr."

"You're not really a binder though, if you've been a scroll before. What exactly are you?"

"I'm here to help you," Saphyr replied. "That's all you need to know for the time being. The rest you'll learn in class."

"Why can't you just teach it all to me?"

"I couldn't do that," Saphyr said. "We just met."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Episode 3: Post Secondary Administration

"I'm looking for a...Weasle?" a very proper male voice said, breaking Andrew's reverie.

"It's Weazle," Andrew corrected him, having heard the animal reference in the voice. He looked over and saw no one standing at the till.

This had happened enough in the past year that Andrew had placed a poster in the back room for staff outlining the process. First, down; the majority of supernatural beings traveling the Tree were diminutive in stature: pixies, leprechaun, dwarves, gnomes, hobgoblins...

But there was no one looking up at him when Andrew leaned out over the counter.

Next, up. This was far more rare, since any flying fairy would usually hover at eye level out of simple courtesy and the realization that, the sooner eye contact was achieved, the sooner they got their coffee. The "up" crowd at Magik Beans were hangers, attaching themselves to low lying branches of the Tree directly above the coffee bar: vampires in bat form, sloths from worlds where evolution had favored their species, and Alan, a half-bird, half-human creature which spent most of its life hanging upside down by its nearly apelike feet. Alan was terribly friendly, but he still scared the hell out of Andrew the first time he came into the shop (all the hangers were creepy as far as Andrew was concerned), and according to legend (the fairy euphemism for rumor and gossip), supposedly rescued lost children and orphans. Andrew was of the opinion that being found by Alan would be terrifying, and was glad to have never seen the thing with a child, for all the creature's gregariousness.

But when he tilted his head upward, there was nothing there either.

Finally, side to side. If there was one thing the fairy population of the universe didn't understand, it was the boundary that existed between the customer and "behind the counter." The bloody things were brilliant when it came to chalk lines drawn on the ground, or thresholds like open doorways (which every human knew you could just walk through), but couldn't get it through their oddly shaped little skulls that the customer did not belong behind the counter. They always couched their imposition with some affable excuse like "I was just tryin' ta help guv'ner," or "I have a special recipe that will ensure your customers always return."

More like never leave, Andrew mused, intoxicated in some sleep that would keep them in the shop a hundred years that would feel like a day. He looked to his right, left, and even turned himself completely around.

Nothing. Gonna have to add something for invisible beings, Andrew thought.

"I must have the wrong person," the voice said. "You don't seem bright enough to be the man I'm looking for."

"No, I'm Andrew Weazle," Andrew said, his brow furrowed in irritation. "But humans can't see invisible beings. I'm bright enough to know that. Are you?"

"I'm as bright as the content of my pages," the voice replied.

Andrew's head snapped down again. "I'll be adding more than invisible I guess," he said to himself in a low voice.

"I beg your pardon?" asked the leather covered binder which sat on the glass counter above the baked goods.

"I wasn't looking for a talking binder," Andrew said, gingerly picking the binder up and reading his name misspelled in gold script across the cover. Andrew Weasel. "Here's the problem," he said. "You have my name misspelled. It's spelled W-E-A-Z-L-E."

"That may be so," the binder replied, seemingly chagrined at its error. "It could be spelled W-E-A-Z-E-L as well."

"Yeah, I know. No one ever gets it right," Andrew lamented. "But it's definitely Z-L-E."

"Very well then," the binder replied politely, and Andrew nearly dropped it as a small puff of gold fairy dust erupted from the last three letters of the name inscription, the letters literally leaping off the page and reforming in the air before coming to rest on the cover once again before finally sinking into the leather. "So," the binder said. "I am now looking for an Andrew Weazle."

"You've found him," Andrew replied, smiling at the binder's sense of decorum. "What's all the fuss?"

"You have been cordially invited to the semi-decadal, often irregular, Spring Symposium of Ontological Overseers to be held on this campus beginning in two weeks," the binder announced.

"The...uh...what?" Andrew replied. "Sounds like some sort of conference."

"It is," said the binder. "It's a conference for educating guardians of the Tree. All you need to do to register is say 'yes, I'll be attending,' and I'll expedite your confirmation."

Andrew frowned. "You'll have to excuse me, but I had a bad experience with a succubus about a year back, and I'm a little...more cautious than I used to be."

"The deadline for registration 30 seconds," the binder replied.

"30 seconds?" Andrew exclaimed, drawing the attention of a table of sylphs who were flirting with a bunch of frat boys who had mistaken them for underage girls dressed in diaphanous lingerie. "What the hell is my registration doing showing up 30 seconds before I'm supposed to be enrolled? Didn't Harry Potter get a whole shit-load of invitations to Hogwarts?"

"That's post-secondary administration for you," the binder replied.

"No shit," Andrew replied. "Even magical registrars can't spell my name properly."

"20 seconds," the binder said.

"The last time I made a snap judgment like this I ended up having my life essence sucked out of me and shaped into a doppelganger," Andrew protested.

"10 seconds."

"No," Andrew said. "You people should have your shit together and give a person time to think these things through. I'm sick and tired of having magical adventures dropped in my lap. I have a coffee shop to run you know!"

"Very well then," the binder replied. "We're very sorry to hear you won't be attending this year's semi-decadal..."

Andrew grit his teeth as the binder paused, as though giving him another chance to change his mind.

"...often irregular..."

"How do I know you're not an evil tome, like the Necronomicon?" Andrew asked.

"...Spring Symposium..."

"The Necronomicon would never string words like Spring Symposium together," Andrew murmured to himself.

"...of..." the binder gave one last ostentatious pause.

"YES!" Andrew screamed. The whole shop went dead quiet. He smiled at his customers. "Uh...just found out Brandon Routh won't be playing Superman in the next film!" The low buzz of busy conversation resumed.

"Sorry?" the binder prompted. "Were you saying 'yes' to me?"

"Yes," Andrew replied.

"Yes what?" the binder urged.

"Yes, I will be attending."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get ready for Spring

No new episode. My apologies. I've been working very hard on finishing my thesis so I can graduate this year. I've been accepted to PhD studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta and so I need to get that M.A. thesis finished. Will be done by the end of this week, so you have my word that April will appropriately be the full swing beginning of Magik Beans Book 2. It would have been pretty cool to have started on March 20 or 21st, but I was busy with family things. My wife and I have another little one, head over to the Gotthammer blog to see what Dacy looks like (and the other reason Magik Beans has been on hiatus).

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy my first crack at coloring/painting with my new Wacom tablet. I've got a long road ahead of me for getting used to it, but so far I'm head over heels in love with the unit. This picture was colored in under an hour, and my wrist doesn't feel like it's on fire, something painting with a mouse always ended in. The original sketches are from the days when Magik Beans was going to be a web comic instead of a flog. I'm hoping with the aid of the Wacom tablet to include the odd or perhaps semi-regular piece of art to accompany the week's episode. We'll see how that pans out. I'll need some models for it first...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Episode 2: Arcane Aprons

When Andrew thought about who Lara had been when she'd first started working for him last winter, he had to smile. Her transformation had been no less miraculous than the presence of the giant ash tree which spread its boughs out over the interior of Magik Beans. She was still the goth poster girl, to be sure; jet black hair, blood red lips, and skin so alabaster you'd guess she wore sunblock at night. She still wore the knee high boots that laced all the way up with thigh-high fishnet stockings underneath a black PVC skirt trimmed with black and white lace, complete with what she had confirmed were D-rings, which she hung her key ring from. She'd designed the "Magik Beans" aprons to go with her wardrobe; today she was wearing the black one over a pink top with mesh sleeves. At least she pulled her hair into a ponytail. And he liked the aprons, right down to the five pointed star within a perfect circle on each of them.

"You know I'm a Christian by background," he told her when she'd shown him the design.

"They're protective wards," she replied. "I'm stitching protective spells into our workwear so we won't have a repeat of that incident with the banshee."

"I wasn't the one who forgot to make that latte half fat," Andrew chided with a grin. He realized he was sticking a finger in his ear in memory of how they'd all lost their hearing for a good week. He took the finger out of his ear and rotated his hand indicating for Lara to continue.

"Besides," Lara went on, "one of the earliest historical occurrences of the pentangle is in the Christian catacombs. They used it to indicate the five wounds of Christ."

"And Sir Gawain had one on his shield," John said from across the room where he was smoking his pipe. John was one of three mysterious men who the Tree had commissioned to educate Andrew in his work as a guardian of the Tree. They were exceedingly piecemeal in this education, and Andrew was forever wishing they'd offer a course on the subject at the University.

"Careful what you wish for," Jack, another of the three men while Charles laughed into his tea. They'd said no more on the subject, save that he ought to be thankful they were his teachers, "not some crackpot like that madman Dali," as John had put it.

He was thankful for their teaching. And for Lara's protective magic. Not only did the aprons protect them from magic, but they acted as a warning beacon for dark magic. The aprons turned cold when in the proximity of evil. The week before they'd been prepared for an attack on the Tree, only to discover that their aprons turned cold every time Nickelback came on over the P.A.

No, it wasn't Lara's look, nor her taste in music that had changed. It was the way her smile reached her eyes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Redux List

Well, I'm back. As you can see, I've had good reason to be away. Her name is Dacy Mae Perschon, and she was born on Ash Wednesday; February 6, 2008 at 11:07 a.m. Being as she was born on Ash Wednesday, my wife Jenica and I have joked that we're giving up sleep for Lent.

A few weeks have gone by and life is finding a rhythm where I have moments (like this one) to turn my attention to Magik Beans. This isn't to say it hasn't been on my mind a great deal. I sat in my wife's hospital room the day after Dacy was born, dreaming up new possibilities for the story, but found more often than not that my mind kept returning to some of the inconsistencies from Book 1 that need cleaning up as I dive into book 2.

Hence this post. This is the Redux List. If you click on the title ("The Redux List") at the top of this post and bookmark it, you can come back from time to time to get updates on the alterations I'll be making to Book 1. I thought it best to keep the list all in one place rather than scattering it all over the flog (that's "fiction blog" for anyone who didn't know).

The list is already more or less comprehensive, but links to the changed pages will only appear as I make the changes, which will happen over the year as I work through the editorial process and write episodes for Book 2.

Redux List:
  1. The Tree first appears without foliage (after all, it IS winter).
  2. Andrew visits Ripper to ask about damage to the comic shop.
  3. Blackout and Ripper come up with the idea to have a benefit concert to save the coffee shop.
  4. At the concert, the music causes the Tree to bloom and grow foliage (setting up the idea of music which is a major theme of book 2).
  5. The fund-raising concert makes enough money to keep the shop from going under (barely).
  6. The Three Fates explain the Tree's growth to Lara, which sheds light on their concert going habit
  7. When Lara, Blackout, and crew enter the Tree to rescue Andrew, Ripper brings his bagpipes instead of the tool belt. He explains that bagpipes were used in battle to frighten the enemy.
  8. In order to focus her healing powers, Lara uses music to block outside noise (her Ipod).
  9. It is Courtney and Silke who go to the front of the train on the approach to the North Pole, not Courtney and Lara. Blackout goes because Granny explains they will need the pyrotechnics, as her magic is not destructive, but protective and healing.
  10. When the Leprechauns attack the train and Sunny is wounded, Ripper reacts in the only way he knows; music. He steps from the Train boldly and stands before the oncoming tide of Leprechauns. He begins to play a melancholy Irish lament, which stops the army in its tracks. Overwhelmed by the power of the music and their own shame rising from nostalgic memories of home, the Leprechaun army reject Finn's plan and give themselves up.
  11. The damage Finn begins with the power of Spring starts a chain reaction of destruction; the ice continues to break, crack and explode, placing Jouloutorni, the city of Christmas in peril. Andrew's "kether moment" (to borrow Philosopher One's idea) which links him to the Tree permits him to halt this destruction by harnessing elemental power. Lara and Andrew together are able to heal the damage to the Pole and avert its destruction.

This set of changes feels most satisfactory to me, and allowed me to start thinking seriously about the second book without constantly thinking, "but that didn't happen in the first book." I had also felt that the wanton slaughter of the Leprechaun army was wrong from the moment I had written it, but was trying to keep my promise to myself to finish a "first draft" of Book 1 last year.

We can all consider the original draft to have occurred on a different branch of the Tree. And with all that set aside, tomorrow will see the second installment of Book 2.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Episode 1: Previously, on Magik Beans...

"Let me guess," the blonde haired man said, appraising the family of bears standing across the counter from him. He pointed at the Father Bear, or at least the one he assumed was the Father Bear, given the smart looking tie it had around its neck. "You want one that's too big, and too hot." He pointed at the Mother Bear, whose feminine eyelashes, lipstick and apron had given her away. "You want one that's too small and too cold." Finally he turned his index finger on the small bear standing between the Mama and the Papa, ostensibly Baby Bear. "And you want one that's juuuuuust right."

"Actually," the Papa Bear replied, "I'll have a low-fat, half-sweet Caramel Machiatto, she'll have a hazelnut flavored latte, and my son will have a Strawberry Italian Soda."

"Oh," the blonde haired man said, and called out the order to the dark haired girl working the coffee machines.

Andrew Weazle took the money the bears paid with, smiling as he threw the gold coins into the wooden chest beneath the cash register. They always reminded him of the Leprechaun gold and the journey to the Pole, and of Silke. He wondered how she was doing; it had been months since he'd seen her, and weeks since he'd had word of her. In the last letter that had been dropped off, (delivered by a group of prudish witches who were vacationing in their neck of the woods, wanting to celebrate the Spring solstice somewhere that didn't involve acts of wanton sex in fields of grain) she'd written of an increase in Wolves moving boldly through the Deep Dark Wood, and would be on patrol until further notice. She'd closed by saying she didn't know when she would have time to write next.

Big Bad Wolves and Deep Dark Woods. A little over a year ago, Andrew would have thought that good subject matter for a Master's Thesis, but in the year since he'd traded the coffee shop's night deposit for magic coffee beans, resulting in the growth of a massive magic tree which turned out to be a gateway to the World Tree, permitting travel between other universes, he'd been nearly killed a succubus who had made a clone-like replica of him; nearly killed by a contingent of rebel Leprechauns, traveled to the North Pole on a magic train, where he'd narrowly averted ecological disaster on several planes of existence.

Which was to say nothing of what had happened after he'd gotten home. None of it came close to the intensity of those first three months that the Tree had forced its presence into his life, but there was certainly never a dull moment at Magik Beans. The name of the shop, like the coffee beans that had grown the Tree overnight, was a gift from Father Christmas. Another reality he'd have scoffed at once. Knowing there really was a Santa had certainly made the past Christmas a lot more fun. He'd left out more than just cookies and milk. A thermos of a bold Christmas roast with a spicy taste to it along with a bag of 'Fireside' pipe tobacco. The old man had left Andrew the treasure chest in return; it would only open for Andrew or Lara, the dark-haired girl who was handing the finished coffees to the Three Bears.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Before we get going again

I sat up late the night I finished Book I, (which incidentally is called "Winter") making some editorial changes to the overall plot line, but not incorporating them into the malleable text here at the Blog. They'll appear in the edited for print version of Book I, which will be due out this Fall, just in time for...(drum roll) Winter! I can't make any promises, but that's my current goal.

Anyhow, the editorial changes are important as we go into Book 2, since I don't want to write another zillion pages with ideas or characters the print version will get rid of or adjust, etc.

So, a few summary changes, which currently all involve Blackout and Ripper.

Blackout and Ripper are switching occupations. Ripper is said to be the musician and Blackout really suits a comic book store owner much better. In addition, I can actually write a musician - I can't really write a DJ. That's fairly minor in the greater scheme of things, I'd say. In Book 1, Blackout finds out about the Tree earlier than he did in the blog story, simply because Andrew would come to check on the comic shop for damage; Blackout becomes a little suspicious at that point. Ripper is Blackout's roommate - they share rent on the apartment attached to the comic shop. The name of Ripper's band is, no surprise...Gotthammer, and in light of my own pipe dreams (no pun intended), it's one of those goth-metal bands with a uilleann pipe player in it. This is important for the "television show" aspect of Magik Beans - the theme music is official now (as official as pipe dreams ever get). It's the first 30 seconds of "Liam" by In Extremo. Here's a free download from Free Irish Music Downloads so you can enjoy it while you read. At any rate, the opening credits would feature Ripper and the members of Gotthammer rocking out. This is key for book 2, which will expand on Ripper and the music of Gotthammer. It is entirely possible that Sunny sings in the band, I haven't decided. And for the record, it was a fund raising concert put on by Gotthammer that first weekend of the Tree (An in-store performance) that saved the shop.

I was really uncomfortable with the ending of Book 1 insofar as the love scene between Ripper and Sunny seemed rather abrupt, without precedence in terms of character involvement, so expect them to be expanded in the print version.

Another little tidbit - Andrew's meeting with Silke, will as per Jim Baerg's suggestion, involve a greater deal of suspicion on Andrew's part. He makes a comment about having trouble trusting perfectly beautiful women, at which point Silke turns to face him, revealing a wicked triple scar from her forehead and down her cheek. She is also blind in one eye - haven't decided if she gets an eyepatch or a wicked cool magic eye, or just a dead white one.

So there are some updated thoughts.

As I am currently experiencing a kind of sorta writer's block to getting started again, I'm curious to know anything you as readers want to see expanded, or explained, etc. The current idea I'm playing with is a story with two or three plotlines which will come together at the end. Plotline 1: Ripper and Gotthammer enter a Battle of the Bands which spans the worlds. Plotline 2: Andrew enrolls in a very special course at the University along with other guardians of the Tree from other worlds. Plotline 3: Yeah. That's where I hit the wall.

I will start Thursday, hell or high water, and see where the muse takes us in 2008.