That Progress Thing

It’s been happening here. I don;t know if I ever blogged about it, but my partner Jason was laid off at the beginning of April after 12 years with the company. We’re both convinced this will be a good thing, that getting a severance package will cover the time period it takes for him to find a job that is far more fulfilling. But that doesn’t mean throwing two people with depression, one in a new job, one without a job for the first time in his life into a house with a crumbling foundation, with two kids, three dogs, a cat, a terrarium and two aquariums will be easy.

At the beginning of the year inspired by Michelle Pendergrass I picked a word that I wanted to try to actualize through my actions this year. I picked progress.

1513222_10151793669407757_1024560973_n I even did a cute little art project with it. Progress on every level, repairing and bettering my home, my garden, more books to read and write and progress on myself.

Progress is hard. It’s boring. It’s not something you can always show people. “Hey, look at this major mess of a kitchen with a giant hole in the floor. For the first time in three months that sink pulled away from the wall is functioning correctly with both hot and cold water! Sure it’s a complete mess, and hey big hole, and now it’s stopped up and not draining right. And I think that funny smell is… But hey, progress, it’s working!”

It’s really hard being proud of that kind of progress. It’s really hard to get on Twitter and brag about those 500 words I got in when I remember days of 3-4k. It’s even hard to brag about how much I love my new job when I come home after work, errands, kid and pet care and food prep and collapse into an attempt at sleep.

I’m not willing to say I’m in a bad spot. I’m not. There is lots of good going on. Lots of opportunity, but it needs an amazing amount of strength to be ready to take those opportunities and make the most of them.

So I’m boring. A motionless chrysalis working on brewing, maybe a moth, maybe a butterfly. Maybe something else. This is the part most people don’t see. But don’t forget that it’s there.  To the handful of my friends out there who have said they are jealous of me, or envious of me, or want my life. There are a lot of parts where I want my life too. But I’m still working on it.

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The Monster Librarian

If you don’t follow me on Facebook this is new to you, but sadly this past week we lost The Original Monster Librarian.

I worked (digitally) for Dylan for seven years and he was one of the first people to take a chance on me as a professional and to be a fan. He started ML as a librarian who wanted to help non-horror librarians parse through all the horror offerings out there. It’s become a major librarian resource. ML itself will continue, but Dylan leaves behind a wife and two children. And a world that’s a little sadder without him.

MonsterLibrian reviewers, Mo*Con 2012




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Gardening Posts!

No, I meant literally, as in I’ve been installing gardening posts. And fencing.



I can’t imagine why I need to install some secure fencing around my garden.



Uh huh. See Blondie the wonder dog up there is the stupidest smart dog I know. Smart as in REALLY clever…when it comes to getting into trouble. He’s absolutely dedicated to procuring of food as well, or anything he thinks is food.

Last year I put up fencing but he dug under that area near the garage and managed to squeeze through the gap between the gate and the post nearest it. So this year, new fencing, with cut cull wood stapled to the bottom for extra reinforcement and extra posts to prevent bending the wire fence. I used more cull wood and the fencing from last year that was no longer secure to make the bits along the garage wall which I’ll be covering with trellising for my grapes as pay day and bills allow. Then another bit of left over wood and some eye hooks (and cement pavers, which I also used to reinforce the fence posts) to secure the gap.

He actually whined when I opened up the garden to clean up inside.



I trimmed back my grapes earlier this year because they were getting so over grown during the summer. Stay tuned to see how much they grow, because this is them dormant but they will cover this entire fence, plus some in only a month or two.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAA friend gave me this raised bed! I am ridiculously excited about it because it should really increase my garden’s output. She warned me to make sure to line the area underneath with newspaper or something so that any weeds can’t grow up into it. I one upped that after some research and lined (the already bare garden plot) with cardboard boxes. They will soften and decay like newspaper and last year’s dog hair but also smother weeds for longer.

Cardboard is also so easy to find I’m thinking of lining my pathways with it too (and layering straw on top).

As for last year’s garden pelt of dog hair…well I Liked it. I thought it worked well, especially in hard to reach areas, or oddly shaped areas, or right up next to plants. It was very easy to manage (easier than shredded paper which was light and blew away and ended up all over the yard) and the birds loved it (who wouldn’t want a fur-lined nest!)

But Jason says no way, not again. I think I might bring some home for plugging holes in the cardboard cover and putting right around the plants I put directly into the ground. It really was useful.



The raised bed is supposed to be 8 foot X 8 foot, but either it isn’t…or my garden area is a lot bigger than I thought. The next step is measuring and getting that sucker filled up. (I plan to use compost sold by our local zoo. So I get compost, the zoo gets rid of its poo and gets a donation from me.)

I have all this space along that fence though probably not enough for a long skinny raised bed. But I could definitely get some 5 gallon buckets or some cracked boxes to put along that fence, which would be perfect for lettuce and spinach…

So it’s not the prettiest of garden spaces, but I builted it myself AND it’s all recycled materials! If it works out, dog wise, I can start working on building a new outside house/den for them.


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Fire–I mean KickStarter

I am rather suspicious about crowd funding. I think it’s done some wonderful things. I think it’s helped a lot of people. So I’m reluctant to dismiss it out of hand. Heck, I’ve considered it, like last fall when we learned our foundation is sinking and every place we called gave us a $50k quote, minimum. We thought about starting an Indie-Go-Go campaign. But then decided we needed to do everything we could on our own first.

(Disclosure: We’re still trying. We still haven’t gotten it fixed. We still might go that route. But not yet.)

My friend Sara, who is an excellent writer (she is on the top tier of people I’ll pursue for books should I ever become a publisher) just pulled off funding of her book about a banshee in Nashville. I want to read this book.

Another friend Lucy Snyder (also on that tier) has a book being crowd funded by the publisher. I also want to read that book.

But on the other hand I’ve seen big name writers asking for $20k-$50k to self publish a book. Or even to publish a book traditionally. What happened to the publisher, be it you or a third party, bearing the production costs? Now if you want a book published you can expect your audience to pay to produce it AND to buy it?

Doesn’t seem fair. Sorta rubs me like people expecting others to buy their very poorly written, edited and produced books just because they wrote them and put them up for sale. Of course a lot of these Kickstarters offer up free ebooks to funders at a basic level, making it not far from just preordering the book. Nothing wrong with that.

Now I have seen some small presses offer preorders of books that never come out. But, unlike those, going through Kickstarter if the project doesn’t make its goal you aren’t charged. That’s more protection than some lifetime membership and small press preorder schemes I’ve seen.

Of course after the funding it’s still up to the author to actually write the book and get it out there and fulfill any other obligations they’ve made. Since stories of this not happening are few, I suppose it’s a fairly honest risk.

Of course then you get authors writing and producing the books…and burning it rather than sending it to contributors who donate money. Or publishers who stiffed their writers asking for help paying those writers back. (Bonus: that publisher has already benefited from fundraisers.)

I still don’t know what to think about crowd funding. It’s dangerous to treat it like a free source of money, but it does get things done that relying on publisher might not, especially in an age when publishers are not doing a whole lot to distance themselves from the image of them milking authors for any little penny they can. I still give, very selectively, but never expect anything back. Like lending to friends I consider the money as gone, maybe that’ll make it easier if it does just go.

What do you think?

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My Dizzy-dog



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Things that piss me off

I do a lot of complaining here, but here’s one about fiction/storytelling. I read this article on about movie plots that depended on someone being terrible at their job. It totally nails a lot of my feeling about good ole boy and zombie horror. You know the stories where the police/army are corrupt/inept and it’s up to a plucky mundane to save the world?

I HATE that. I mean, maybe if it’s like in The Sixth Element where Plucky Hero is not Mundane. Or you can definitely have a corrupt leader or even team member. (Yeah, Cypher’s betrayal from just being tired of “the real world” made sense to me.) But I’ve read WAAAAY too many (usually zombie) horror stories where the police and military were useless.

Guess what, they wouldn’t be. Maybe some would, but not all of them. I know some military members. I know cops. I know scientists and doctors. I know amazingly competent people who recognize that safety measures, from wearing gloves to city evacuation procedures are there for a freaking reason.

Plus I’ve volunteered for disaster preparedness measures put in place by various groups. I’ve studied, casually, the spread of SARS. Asking me to stretch my imagination to believe in zombies or the perfect storm of slim possibilities that lead to an apocalypse, yeah, okay, I can do that.

But having your entire plot depend on everyone but the heroes being stupid, inept, over egotistical or corrupt? That shuts down my interest pretty quick.

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New interview

I was interviewed as part of Women in Horror Month. *muppet yay*

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Last Brother, Last Sister Snippet

Last Brother, Last Sister is now available! Enjoy!

In the beginning, it is said, there was only the Great Serpent, whose seven thousand coils lay beneath the earth, holding it in place that it might not fall into the abysmal sea. In time, the Serpent began to move, unleashing its undulating flesh, which rose slowly into a great spiral that enveloped the Universe. In the heavens, it released stars and all the celestial bodies; on earth, it brought forth Creation, winding its way through the molten slopes to carve rivers, which like veins became the channels through which flowed the essence of all life. In the searing heat it forged metals, and rising again into the sky it cast lightning bolts to the earth that gave birth to sacred stones. Then it lay along the path of the sun and partook of its nature.

- Wade Davis, The Serpent and the Rainbow


They’re always asking him for how-to articles these days. How to survive the zombie apocalypse. How to live afterward. But the thing he can’t tell people is they won’t survive it. They can’t come out the same person they were before and for most people it’s easier to just surrender and die.

If they’re not most people then they’ll find pretty quick how relative terms like ”apocalypse” are. They think it means mass execution. Genocide, or an attempt thereof. The large scale deaths involving hordes of people. But he knows apocalypses have nothing to do with volume. They happen all the time to people on the street who leave the house in the morning as normal and come home dead inside. Apocalypse is a personal thing that no one can really define for anyone else.

Another interesting misnomer is the term “zombie.”

Leslie Petersen, for example, sat on a rocker in the crook of her kitchen. Behind her was a pretty, sun-filled window that took up the whole corner of the house and a shelf stuffed with the plants she’d collected over sixty years of life. Her husband, Lester, hid in the basement and had been doing so for two days now. It had a lot to do with the way Leslie twitched, muttered, occasionally screamed out to the ghosts of people from her past, now as long dead as herself.

Mostly, though, Leslie’s husband hid from what lay in front of her. There was a pleasant social idea that after death people stopped hurting. Pleasant and a complete lie, Papa Murphy knew. When you bring a soul back to a diseased body death doesn’t magically hold the sickness in stasis. In life Leslie had suffered from a most insidious illness, Alzheimer’s. A creature of habit and unable to function without his wife of fifty years, he hired a hack who promised the process would heal her savaged brain.

He lied.

Now Leslie sat in her rocking chair, the only safe place in the world, blood painted up to her elbows. Her gore-covered hands fluttered, broken birds in her lap against the cadaverous background of her empty abdomen.

The glistening jewels of her internal organs sat in a careless pile in front of her. Lester didn’t know about the uncle who had raped her as a child. Or about the baby which had been stillborn in the cold, isolated halls of a home for troubled girls. But Grandma Leslie remembered. Her dead, damaged brain took her down paths that humans couldn’t follow. She had carved herself clean trying to get rid of ghostly bodies and phantom touches.

Murphy crouched down into the range of her vision, the pile of organs – slowly desiccating now that they were cut off from the magic embedded in her veins – between himself and the animated corpse. “Hey, Mama Leslie. Bad times, eh?”

Leslie didn’t look at him, but she answered. “Bad times. Bad girl getting a baby in her belly.”

“It’s not your fault, Mama Leslie.”

Tears sparkled in her eyes. “Not my fault.”

Leslie and Murphy had a lot in common. The Baron touched them. Both communicated on a different level than normal people.

“No, darling, it’s not your fault.”

After sixty years she finally could believe someone. The magic in his blood touched her own and made her listen. She still cried, but now it was a thing of relief, joy. She leaned across to Murphy, grabbing his dark face in her wet hands. “Not my fault,” she whispered. “It’s not my fault.”

Murphy kissed her forehead, opening his mouth slightly at the last moment. When their skin touched he released the psychopomp he’d been holding inside himself. For a moment the world went dark with the soft sound of wings.

“Murphy, son.”

Murphy’s eyes flew open. It wasn’t Leslie’s voice. Gravelly with a hint of amusement, even if it still held the edge of a grandmotherly voice.

“Murphy, my son-”

Leslie went empty. Still startled, Murphy let her slip back into her chair. Something had tried to come through in the moment between the psychopomp taking the soul and the magic bleeding out of the body. Whoever it was, Murphy scowled because he knew, would have to wait. Because he was a nice guy he took the time to put her back together, stitching her stomach with black thread and hiding it the best he could with her nightdress. It stuck to her skin in places, but in death she looked almost dignified.

The state of her soul was his job, not the condition of her body, or her husband. The latter was a task for a shrink, though even the most modern experts in grieving were at a loss on zombies. The church said they were evil, but they said the same of drinking, sex, homosexuality and seafood too, so Murphy wasn’t putting much stock in their usefulness. They’d yet to turn a single zombie back into an empty body.

Of course, Murphy thought, distracting himself, it’s easy to make judgments on the actions of people from a crystal, cold palace a world away. Harder was doing the right thing when ass deep in corpses and entrails.

But Murphy always thought about the aggravating attitudes and people who led to such situations after he’d laid their victims back. Pointless and antagonizing, but that’s where the aftereffects of magic took him. Magic that connected with something beyond, when it wasn’t supposed to.

The check Lester Petersen cut him afterward took Murphy to the front door, before he paused and made the mistake of looking back at the man. Lester stood looking down at his wife. A denser person would think it just reflection, but Murphy saw the way his fingers dug into his arms and how he shook though he tried not to. Murphy cursed and turned back.

“Come on, man. You can’t stay here.”


Murphy gave him no choice. He slung a long, black-clad arm around him and gave Lester a little squeeze with his fingers to ensure he had his attention. “No. I have a friend who can take care of this. You’re an old man, you get to take a rain check now and again.”

Sometimes – usually – Murphy felt vindication in letting the living clean up their own messes. But Lester hadn’t known. He’d just made a stupid choice. Murphy gently directed Lester out of the house, and a block down to a little coffee shop-deli thing on the corner. There were two tiny booths inside, so he parked Lester in one.

While he stood in line waiting for coffee he called his cousin Em. “Well if it isn’t my favorite cousin. Whacha need, M?”

He gave her the address. “It got real messy. Do you think-”

“We can clean up? Yeah. Is this one on your bill again, or did you get them to pay?”

Murphy gritted his teeth. “Does it matter?”

Em had a touch of laughter to her voice. “Not really, just curious. Gimme an hour.”

“Okay, we’re at the coffee place down the street.”

“Did it go okay? I mean, not that I doubt you, but you sound a little funny.”

“Long story, Em.”

“So dinner then, too?”

Murphy bit his tongue to keep from cursing again. “Yeah, fine.”

“How’s Chessie?”

“Later, Em. My client just started crying.”

It was a lie, but not much of one. The barista smiled and handed Murphy a pair of tall plain blacks. He flashed his teeth and nodded a “thanks” back as he took them. At the table Lester studied his hands again. When Murphy gave him the coffee he clung to it like the paper cup was a precious object.

They said nothing, made no noise at all, save for the occasional sip. After all, Murphy wasn’t there to counsel the man, just distract him until his home was back to normal.

“She-” Lester said at last. “I-” then he gave up again.

“It’s okay.” Murphy tried to fill in the blanks Lester couldn’t. “You didn’t know.”

“No.” He watched his coffee with sad eyes.

And the system enabled you to make a stupid choice, Murphy thought. Damned stupid raisers. Murphy released his cup to keep from crushing it. A tenth of the population woke up one day with the power to bring back the dead. Not true resurrection, but close enough. Just yank the soul back from Guinee, planted it back in a body and then snatched up their profit.

Murphy’s sympathy and good will only went so far. The man in front of him made the purposeful choice to be ignorant in an attempt to emotionally profit. Not surprising that it went bad, but more than irritating that he turned to Murphy for solace in his stupidity.

“Listen, man.” Murphy made sure Lester was looking at him. “You made a stupid choice, and your imbecile bokor helped you along the way. Now you know to let the dead lie, yes?”

“I dreamed about her, lying in her coffin, crying and calling to me during the funeral. No one else could hear her. No one else would help her as she lay there, terrified and alone.”

A chill went through Murphy, much like the one he’d felt when someone else had stolen Mama Leslie’s voice to try to speak to him. Everyone had the ability to speak with the spirits beyond. What everyone didn’t have was the knowledge. How and what it did to a person who courted with the dead. Murphy’s fist clenched and unclenched as he listened.

“After, I’d hear her. A little cry when I was trying to do dishes. Her voice would call my name as I was trying to sleep. She wasn’t going anywhere,” his voice trembled. “She was just laying there in the ground with nothing else to pass onto.”

Someone had pulled a big number on the Petersens. Someone had spent time coaxing him into spending the money to bring his wife back.

“Who did you call to raise her?”

Lester’s expression changed to fear. Yes, someone did far more to him than just raise his dead wife. When Lester’s face seized up into a snarl Murphy dropped his gaze and put his hands out, palms up, on the table.

“Do you have kids?”

Lester snapped back into the sorrowful man he’d been for the last two hours. “Three. Thomas, Julie and Timothy.”

As Lester prattled on about Timothy the attorney and Julie the doctor and Thomas the engineer Murphy texted Em under the table, offering her an extra fifty to search the house for black magic and any sign of the person who had raised Leslie for him. It was too dangerous to push Lester any further.

Em never answered, but another cup of coffee later she came into the shop, eyes roving for the only other black person in the room. She was the picture of cheerful, round face with a beaming smile and large, pale eyes set inside. She wore plain jeans, a few white spots from bleach along one leg and a red T-shirt with her company name and logo across the chest. Her shoulder-length braids were pulled further back with a black ponytail band and six gold earrings, studs or hoops, dangled from each ear. She had the decency to remove her lip ring during business hours and the rest of her piercings and tattoos were impossible to see while in uniform.

“Mr. Petersen,” she strode over to them purposefully, which took all of two steps, and offered her hand. Somewhat confused, Lester took it. “I’m Emzulie Byrne. I work in conjunction with Mr. Murphy on site clean-up. I just want you to know that you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ve taken care of it.”

Em took his hand in hers, gave it a squeeze and then a pat. “Mr. Healdy at the funeral home has already collected your wife and taken her to be returned. My crew is finishing clean-up right now, and you’re more than welcome to come home.”

It had to be that she was a woman, Murphy thought, why people always reacted to Em in a completely different way than with him. Lester Petersen softened and relaxed at the calm tang to her voice, nodding when she made eye contact and looking relieved, even grateful. Em helped Lester stand, taking his arm in hers and patting him again. Then she led him back down the street to his entirely too large two-story home, where her work van and Murphy’s mud-speckled SUV sat outside.

Em’s coworkers waved cheerily to Murphy from inside the van. Murphy himself paused at the Petersen door when he saw red power peeking out from either side of the welcome mat (which amusingly had been flipped over, as if welcoming the house’s occupants into the world rather than welcoming people to the home.) For the first time Murphy smiled, approving of both measures. There was a good reason he depended on Em.

The charming harlot herself had taken Mr. Petersen into his living room, sat him down with a phone while she made him some tea, and insisted he call his children. Em was good at all the intricate details of people that Murphy missed. She went through life less angry at them, maybe. Calling his kids immediately reaffirmed Lester’s connection with the world, and of course, Timothy or Thomas or whoever, offered to come to their father’s side once Lester, still holding back most of his emotion, told them what happened.

Em bustled about as if she belonged there, until Lester’s son asked to talk to her too, to thank her profusely for fixing the terrible situation Lester had been in and taking care of his father.

Em smiled, obnoxious brat as always, as she got all the thanks, and earned a chunk of the pay, for the work Murphy had done. When Lester was settled in, with family on the way who could do a far better job of coddling than even the nicest strangers, Murphy and Em left, stopping at the curb to exchange pleasantries. And a small navy blue leather bag Em had found in the boxwood and roses near the Petersen’s door. Em refused to touch it with her bare skin, instead using a cartoonish yellow rubber glove to stick it in a plastic grocery bag after she’d showed it to Murphy.

“Someone put a whammy on him, all right.”

“Any sign of who raised the wife?”

Em shook her head. “It’s not like they leave cards. Maybe someone who came in to the area for a few weeks then left. She looked like she’d been up and moving for about a month, that makes things harder. So, dinner tonight?”

“Em, I-”

“No excuses. And bring Chessie.”


She gave Murphy a glare. “I’ll see you at six.”

Then Em put the van between them, climbing in and pulling off a moment later. Murphy scowled at his reflection in the windshield. Six-foot-five, well-muscled but not bulky with a gaunt, pessimistic face, he could see why people related better to cheerful, perky Em. It bugged him, as he got behind his own steering wheel, until he reminded himself he wasn’t there to relate to anyone, just to get a job done.

And the jobs seemed to be unending lately.

Zombies, Murphy thought as he navigated the upper middle-class streets and headed back downtown toward home base, had become a trend. He couldn’t turn on the computer or the television without seeing some new video of a dumb ass chanting “Baron Samedi, heed my call” and waving chicken blood, cold and sterile bought from a deli, over a corpse. And ‘lo and behold the dead would rise, the audience would clap and a month later the wizard raising the body would be gone with the money, leaving someone like Murphy, or the local cops, who had even less of a clue, to clean that shit up. Sometimes literally.

Murphy’s eyes narrowed when a silver sedan cut him off with little room to spare. All the people around him, they knew that the zombies existed, but they rolled out that old, cliched Rainbow and the Serpent bullshit. Baron La Croix wouldn’t have raised an undead, shambling zombie for all the rum and black chickens in the world. It didn’t work that way.

Trouble was, Murphy wasn’t exactly sure how it worked yet. There was still time, he supposed, but every day that went by was another person dying, another desperate family member, or worse, reaching beyond the grave and grabbing what they could find and keep. He wasn’t sure how Em kept so jovial. Maybe he needed a little of whatever she was on.

That thought helped nothing, and instead threatened to take Murphy down entirely darker roads.

McDonalds it was, he thought, stomach growing from the magical imbalance he’d created when he failed to eat after re-laying Mrs. Petersen. Coffee fueled the body, but not the spirit. Murphy picked up a double burger meal and a chocolate shake for the extra sugar and made his way through the drivers trying to kill him on the streets back to his office.

A block away there was a brand new, state-of-the-art (read: overpriced and glitzy) shopping center. Primarily built of glass, steel, neon lights and backroom deals it was chock-full of bars, restaurants and other businesses that could jack up prices to earn enough overhead. Murphy’s office was little more than a double walk-in closet squeezed between a blues bar and doughnut shop. The former never opened before four, the latter never stayed open past two, which was a suitable neighborly relationship in Murphy’s opinion.

Plus they were both good at what they did.

Murphy’s office was divided into two sides. The front was high on what Em called entertainment value. Mismatched wood shelves lined the walls, carefully filled with neatly-labeled glass jars, from traditional Mason jars to fluted colored glass numbers, pouches and baskets of small Ziploc bags. One wall held candles in nearly every color and shape, and plastic bins of leather bits, spools of thread and feathers in various colors. Under a heavy, old glass case there were handmade drums, rattlesnake rattles and a small selection of ritual weapons. On top of the case were the day’s newspaper and an ancient cash register, by modern standards. Racks of pre-made grisgris, poppets, twiggy “voodoo” dolls, incense powders and dried animal parts from bobcat and raccoon tails to rabbit pelts and dried alligator feet sat behind the glass case to keep the curious from pawing over and damaging the merchandise.

Murphy flipped the sign on the door to open, and then moved past the shelf of modern occult texts to the back room. Larger than the front, but not by much, this was his proper office. A utilitarian space of a large desk, a chair behind and two in front, more shelves – these containing opaque boxes left unlabeled – and a pair of guardian filing cabinets. On the far shelf was a small television which Murphy flipped on before sitting behind the desk and digging into his fries.

Petersen was his only appointment on the calendar for the day, but that meant nothing. Life had an unbalanced way of dealing with Murphy and he’d long since given up trying to adjust to it. Despite the voodoo look, his shop was one of two genuine occult suppliers in the city. The demand wasn’t huge, but with only two stores it made for nice enough books between Murphy’s other jobs.

The word “bokor” appeared like a smear on the front door and on Murphy’s business cards. At first people thought, when was the last time they met a business card-carrying bokor? Then they thought back to all the loaded, pop cultural definitions of the work and filtered through them in their head trying to match up the idea with the person they saw in front of them. Most people settled on “witch doctor”, so much so that Murphy saw something click behind their eyes in the way they saw him. Some were fascinated. Some a little scared. A few were angry. He’d even been protested once after the magic started rising and the local media did a story about the shop. But a lot, many more people than the religious fundamentalist and the daffy tourists combined, came to him with real problems. Like Lester Petersen and the little blue bag Em had found in his bushes.

Murphy tossed his fast food trash and dug out the baggie with the pouch. He was reluctant to label it a grisgris because he would have to admit someone who really knew what they were doing had targeted Lester Petersen. It could be a bag hiding someone’s pot stash, ditched when a cop car drove by, for all Murphy knew.

First he used a pair of tweezers to pull it out. It appeared to be made of dark blue suede, like most of the pouches he sold himself. Closing his eyes he let his wide hand hover over it, feeling for intent.

Then he swore again, for him nearly as common an event as breathing. Taking out a pair of sewing scissors he cut open the pouch and spread its contents over the desk top. The bag’s innards confirmed what he’d felt. Magic started with focused intent. The actual practice thereof got a little wobbly because it was completely possible to use white magic for dark intent. And it was sometimes possible to use black magic for pure intent.

Lester’s grisgris traditionally fell into the white category. It was a message pouch, commonly hung around a doll’s neck or nailed to a tree in a cemetery. Inside was a letter for Leslie Petersen in a broken, scrawling script that didn’t match Lester Petersen’s. Someone had set up a basic communication attempt.

No one had hexed or cursed Lester into calling someone to raise his wife. They’d just dialed the phone, magically speaking, and let him hear what was already there. Which also meant Leslie’s spirit hadn’t been taken to Guinee like it was supposed to. It had sat and festered with her dead body, crying out until someone had given her a voice.

Which meant though Lester and Leslie Petersen didn’t know it yet, their case wasn’t really closed. It also meant Murphy would have something to talk to Em about tonight at dinner.

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Last Brother, Last Sister Cover!


Last Brother, Last Sister

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First Gardening Post of 2014

Every year about this time I start planning my garden for the year and invariably that comes with a promise that this year I’ll keep everything nice and neat, weed all the time, keep the dogs away from the plants (This wasn’t an issue with just dizzy because other than marking the area around the garden he didn’t care.), divide and thin like I’m supposed to and not let the Kentucky summer heat discourage me. Something always comes up.

Lots of times that some thing is just the plants all getting to a size where I can’t get around them to weed (I still judge myself, because gardens are supposed to look all perfect with no non-food plants right?) or a overwhelming squash bug invasion killing off my gourds or two puppies, too smart or stubborn for their own good, who love their vegetables!

So last year and this year I’ve been trying to dump some money and ingenuity into my garden to improve it. I fenced it in last year, and by the end of the summer I knew one part of the fence was going to need another post to keep the dogs from bending the wire fencing up to get under it. And I wanted to build a trellis for my grapes to expand onto last year, but I ran out of time, money and ways to fit lumber and trellising in my little bitty Rio. I was also not raised in a handy-type house. Hammering nail in straight was not a skill taught, much less hole patching, floor redoing and fence building. I’m sort of teaching myself how to do this, and it can be seriously discouraging.

My house was built in 1900 and has…subscriptions. My yard is big and vigorous, but a patchwork of fences and presents challenges. When we got the puppies and they started pointing out all the holes they could escape through to us some of them were really hard to work on. Like the place by my grapes where the neighbor’s yard and house sits a few inches higher than ours and the fence post is as close to their house as they can get and still have room for siding. But there’s a, maybe, 6 inch wide 18 inch tall gap between the brick corner of their house (below the edge of the siding) and that fence post. And goddamn it Georgie can get through it.

There’s a two foot gap between the neighbor’s fence and the side of our garage. I have no idea why there’s a 2 foot space of weeds left there It’s damned inconvenient because Jason and I can’t even maneuver back there well enough to cut back weeds or the mulberry and silk trees that volunteer back there. It’s become Mini’s job to snip them when she can, but by midsummer even she has problems moving around back there.

Oh, but the dogs, they can get through just fine. So we’ve been trying to find a way to secure that little gap too. Last year I ended up using a scrap door (everyone has one of those in their garage right?) and just laying it across the gap and using pavers to weigh it against the garage. The dogs seemed fooled, though they could have jumped it pretty easily and pushed it open with a little more effort. (It was smart of me to distract them with all those yummy tomatoes, right?)

So today I got some cull wood cut into 5 ft. pieces. I dug holes and set three of them up (two along the garage wall, one against the neighbor’s fence) then stapled the piece of fencing that Georgie bent up and kept going under across them (and I tucked the tail end of the wire fencing into the neighbor’s chain link fence I lined the bottom with a scrap landscaping timber and the same pavers I’d used for the door. I plan to keep collecting scrap wood and build my grape trellis over this frame so that eventually it’s heavy and settled enough that the dogs won’t be able to move it. And hey, just in case, there’s that wire fencing under it that they can’t even fit a paw through.

I also set up two new T-posts, one to stabilize the new wire fencing I’ll put up later and the other to attach the gate I repurposed to. The gate was attached to a post that was also holding up fencing and it ended up getting just too wobbly for my tastes. Plus the gap between the posts and the gate was a little too wide and if I didn’t secure it right the dogs could squeeze through. I hope it’ll be better this year.

Finally, because I am absolutely determined to head off future problems I stapled some random scraps that the nice guys at Home Depot gave me for free because they couldn’t resell them, even as cull, to weigh down and reinforce the bottom of the wire fencing so it can’t be twisted up and crawled under. (And before you think “what if they dig under?” Last year when I set up the fence I lined beneath it with pavers. I’m not going to say that they can’t dig under it. But it’s discouraging enough that they don’t try very hard.)

So, yeah, it’s not planting, or even pruning (which I need to do) or even cleaning up yet. and it’s boring and still looks a little ramshackle. But to me it’s huge, you know.

This year my garden is going to be awesome.


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