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Lost Things -- Magic

I've been working this morning on the galleys for Lost Things. We're at the point where as soon as they're done they'll go to Publisher's Weekly and other big reviewers, preparing for the July release of the book. It's fun to read over it again in detail, and I'm kind of falling in love with these characters and this world all over again. I hope you do too!

I thought I'd share a little piece from near the beginning of the book. It's 1929, and a magical lodge meets for a festival at a mansion in the Hollywood hills, and veteran pilot Lewis Segura is about to learn that magic is real.

Somewhere at the other end of the terrace unseen musicians struck up the opening chords of something Stravinsky. They were probably behind the white canvas marquee tent that hid proceedings around the pool from the neighbors. Rite of Spring, Alma thought. Of course. Suitable background music. From the tent emerged a slow procession, four young women in white gowns walking decorously, sistrums shaking in their hands, followed by four robed men carrying what looked like a gilt covered canoe laden with fruit. Well, as sacred barges went it probably wasn't too far off, Alma thought. It did the job.

Gracefully, they carried the barge toward the pool's edge, toward the broad steps that gleamed pale beneath the water. For a moment Alma wondered if the girls were going to wade in. The water would surely render their thin white silk entirely transparent. But no. They stopped at the top of the steps, theatrically arranged two by two, while the priests carried the barge down between them until they were knee deep and the barge rested on the smooth surface of the water.

The unseen musicians stopped and the girls began a pretty a cappella number, something Alma was entirely missing since she didn’t speak the language.

Lewis frowned and leaned in. "What's that?"

"Greek," Alma whispered back. And probably inappropriate, but Hellenistic syncreticism was very forgiving, as traditions went. You could mangle it in a lot of directions and still have the core hold firm.

As they finished, a fifth priest stepped forward, a tall, saturnine older man with a green bough in his hand to use as an aspergillum. He lifted it toward the barge, beginning a long invocation of Isis' titles. "Hear us, oh Lady of the Living and the Dead, Mistress of Magic…."

Beside her Lewis stiffened suddenly, his face paling beneath his deep tan. "That's him."

Alma put her hand on his arm and felt it shake. "Who?

"The man in my dream," Lewis said. His eyes didn't leave the rite before them. "That's him. The one who tried to kill me."

Alma swallowed, a chill running up her spine. Around them all went on as it should, the ritual flowing beautifully and smoothly. The girls took up another song, more up tempo this time, sistrums raised, and the priest stepped back, letting the barge go so that it floated freely on the surface of the pool.

"Do you know him?" Lewis' voice was deliberate.

Alma nodded. "That's William Davenport."

She saw him look up suddenly, his back rigid, and her eyes flew to Lewis, but Lewis seemed fine, watching him intently but with no distress. And Davenport wasn't looking in their direction. He was facing across the pool, his chin rising, power snapping in the air around him like an unseen wind.

Across the pool one person stood out amid the white robed dancers preparing to begin, dark suit and gold rimmed glasses. Jerry looked straight back. They looked like duelists caught in the moment before the passage of blades, and Alma felt the deep tremor, like subsonics or the faintest rumble of a barely perceivable earthquake. She felt it rush outward, flying at Jerry like a punch. No, like a speeding automobile careening into a man standing unwittingly in the middle of the street, transfixed by the onrushing headlights.

She had no finesse, no care. But what she had was power. Power lay in the ground beneath her, in the earth beneath her feet, through marble and concrete to dirt and sandstone, to the bones of the hills. She ripped it up, feeling it pour through her, rushing upward from her feet, through her body and down her arms, fire from earth, fire from the deep wells beneath California. It burned in the palms of her hands, flowing through her like a spark through a circuit, and she flung it outward.

Aegis, she thought. One word. Athena's shield, bronze and unbearably bright, the snakes on the gorgon's head twisting viciously, glittering before Jerry, sheltering him behind its solidity. Nothing might pass the aegis, not while power remained to hold it. And she had all the power of earth at her command, deep and inexorable. The power would hold far longer than she would.

In some other place, where people moved slowly as a film at half speed, a few heads were turning, the truly sensitive looking around like those who have felt the earthquake when others have not. Mitch raised his head unerringly, seeking. Henry jerked around at his side, searching for the source of the thunder.

Behind the aegis, Jerry spoke a word. It broke in dazzling shards of invisible light, attack and shield and all, shimmering into nothing at the word of banishment.

And then all was silent. Davenport turned, following the other priests back toward the tent, and Jerry stood shaking, his hand trembling on his cane in the middle of the crowd. Alma saw Mitch hurrying toward him purposefully, Henry at his side.

"What the hell was that?" Lewis said quietly.

Her hands cramped. She was a little lightheaded, momentarily drained, the current cut too fast. But Lewis' arm was steady. "Magic," she said.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, and so realistic. I can see a lot of research behind this book.
Mar. 18th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you! A lot of research and a lot of experience!
Mar. 18th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
I thought it read like there was experience as well, but it didn't seem tactful to ask. Not everyone wants to volunteer that in public. I've gotten a bit more public about it, per force, since I started teaching occasional classes at conferences, but it's still not a topic I trumpet from the rooftops.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )