Two Years Later

113,000 words and two years later, The Wizard Within is finally complete. The editing and rewriting and critiquing is done for now and I have turned to the hard part, finding a home for the new born book. This time I am following the traditional publishing footsteps rather than self-publishing options. I believe in this book and hope to find readers who agree with me. Watch for progress reports at In the meantime, enjoy the few excerpts posted here.

Chapter 47: Seattle’s Darth Vader

Eli paused at a fallen tree trunk that had been set up as a rustic bench. Sitting, he lowered his head to his hands and tried to sort through the swirling thoughts in his head. The least frustrating data that popped up was all the new information Robert and Rahul had given them. Primarily the existence of Magic, Quintessence, as a sentient being.

He could believe magic existed in him, in everyone, in pieces. But—it wanted world peace? That sounded more like wishful thinking than any real possibility. At the very least, it wasn’t doing a very good fucking job of achieving that goal.

From my critique group:”I like that this undercuts more traditional heroic stories, in the way you show there is a cost for what Eli has achieved rather than have everything perfect at the end.” ~ Josh Phelps

Because of… “Fucking people.” Eli sat up straighter and ran his fingers through his hair. Humans were so fucked up. Magic couldn’t have chosen a worse host. Why not pick dogs? Bunnies. Even lions, the kings of the jungle, would probably do a better job of getting their shit together and acting as one.

Part I: Origin Story #10

He had no idea what a Longhouse was exactly, but was surprised to see the entrance set up more like a museum than a meeting place. A wooden figure stood front and center so you couldn’t walk past without noticing him. An explanatory plaque called it a Welcome Figure and a information sign next to it talked about The First People of Seattle.

Chapter 10: The Ministry of Magic

They walked past all this, however, not giving Eric a chance to do more than glance at the various displays and artwork. When Terry stopped at a set of double doors, he went in first this time, for which Eric felt grateful, though irritated. When he followed many heads turned his way, the hum of conversation ceased, and he was hit with a plethora of colors: pink, orange, blue, bright green, dark green, turquoise, browns and purples and yellows, and they wrapped around him and stomped ruthlessly through his mind. They took away all thought, all balance, all breath. Eric staggered.

“Whoa, there.” A hand on his arm. A voice. Terry’s. “It’s a little overwhelming the first time, isn’t it? All that power, all that—” He was going to say magic, Eric knew he was, but no. “Kinetic energy trapped inside one small room. Well,” Terry looked up at high, slanted ceiling of the cedar post and beam structure. “One biggish room, I guess. It happens to all of us the first time. Although, I supposed it’s worse for you, right, with all the colors and shit.”

From my critique group:”I’m becoming more and more interested in these secret societies the longer Eric becomes immersed in them.” ~ Eric Miner

The invasive blast of attention had faded somewhat. There were perhaps forty people in the room. Some were dressed like they intended to dine at a fancy French restaurant, others wore casual clothes. More than one man had on overalls and an older woman was wearing a neon pink sweatsuit.

Part I: Origin Story #6

Eric sat in the back seat with Terry, but had no idea where they were going. He had, in fact, no memory of getting into the car at all. One minute he was shouldering his backpack and heading out the door of Thorne’s apartment—“You’re crazy,” he’d told Terry. “I thought I was nuts, but you people are making me feel all kinds of better about that.” —and the next thing he knew he was neatly belted into the back seat listening to a stupid argument about magic.

Chapter 6: Redshirts, an excerpt

Another blackout. What kind of drugs had he been mainlining that left such extreme aftereffects?

Thorne glared back at Terry from the front seat of Uncle’s—Eric assumed the vehicle belonged to the old man—1990 Chrysler Imperial.

“How many times do I have to say this?” Thorne asked. “That’s not the right word for it.”

“Well, what would you call it if not magic?” Terry asked. He was baiting her, though, Eric could tell. Like maybe this was an old question that had been answered many times. Terry just liked getting a rise out of Thorne. Were they a couple, then?

Jealousy caused a flash of red that distracted him. Uncle had said he could see red around Eric, so it couldn’t just be Eric’s imagination. Could it? Hadn’t he been seeing colors all his life, really? In fact, it had been happening for so long and so often that he had mostly stopped noticing until Uncle brought it to his attention.

Finally, Uncle brought the bickering to an end by saying, “Just as the word ‘soul’ is an inadequate label for the inner essence of self, so words like magic and power and spells are no more than a cloth thrown over the true shape of a thing.”

“Exactly.” Thorne crossed her arms and flounced back into the passenger seat.

“Well,” Terry said, but in a more subdued ‘I give in’ tone of voice, “You’ve got to call it something so I choose the word magic. Get over it.”

“I don’t care what you call it,” Eric said. “I just want to know what the fuck is going on here. Where are we going? How did I get here?”

“The mother of Storm’s Eye is in trouble,” Uncle answered. “We were on our way to help her when Thorne summoned me.”

“You must be here because we need you. Although I have no idea why.”

Summoned? Eric shook his head. It didn’t matter. “I’m being held against my will here. You can’t cart an unconscious person from one place to another like this. It’s called kidnapping.”

Even to his own ears he sounded like an old woman complaining about her arthritis. A scared old woman at that.

They were traveling on the Interstate; traffic buzzed around them. An exit ramp that the car wound up brought them to another route leading to a long stretch of pavement that seemed to float across a wide expanse of water. Traffic going in their direction, east, was light, but the cars headed into the city crawled by slowly, the traffic further compromised by construction that caused a closure of one lane.

“Relocation would not have worked if your subconscious did not want to go.” Uncle caught Eric’s eye in the rearview mirror, then looked away to merge left.

“Relocation? Relocation?” The old man made absolutely no fucking sense at all. “Whatever. I’m telling you my conscious mind does not—fucking—want to be here.” Red rage and a feeling of disorientation made him dizzy.

Before things could get worse, however, Thorne looked back at him and said quietly, “Look, I don’t exactly know what the hell’s happening here either. Not completely. But I trust Uncle and you can, too.”

Then, when she saw Eric had calmed down a bit, she explained, “Relocation is the ability to move an object or a person to another place. But the rules don’t allow that to happen if the person, or thing, animal, whatever, isn’t supposed to be in the new location. You must be here because we need you.”
She turned to look out the windshield again, but he thought he heard her mutter, “Although I have no idea why the hell that is.”

“So you’re saying one of you magicked—” Eric used the word deliberately, to annoy Thorne. “—me from the apartment to this car just like that.” He snapped his fingers. “Poof. Done. Bob’s your uncle and fuck if you care what I want or where we’re going.”

Part I: Origin Story #5

“Why are you here, son? What brought you?”

A photo in a magazine. A child’s drawing. Uncle’s craggy features with his leather-like wrinkled face, the gray and black braid falling halfway down his back looked nothing like Thorne, really. But her high cheek bones and dark hair could very well be disguising a Native American ethnicity beneath her very goth appearance.

Chapter 5: Brave New World, an excerpt

Stick figures of a girl and an Indian standing in a stick figure Indian village. Thorne and the man she called Uncle? Even if the two pictures were connected in some way—and they were; of course they were—how could that mean this girl could read his mind? Eric was sure they’d never met before.

Then why had he come here to find her?

“So she’s telepathic or something,” Eric blurted out. “Even if mind reading is a thing, how does that account for what she did to me? The way I couldn’t move forward. But,” he hesitated, stuttered, “but then I did.” His brow tightened as he tried to remember what had actually happened.

Eric was sure they’d never met before. Then why had he come here to find her?

“Damn right you did,” Terry said. “Twice, sounds like. And you still haven’t explained how you were able to do that.”

“I think you will find he has no idea how. Is that right?” Uncle smiled at Eric. He looked amused, the asshole.

Part I: Origin Story #4

The old man lifted his hand from Eric and nodded. He looked Hispanic, maybe, or Native American. A long gray braid fell down his back, and he wore scuffed leather boots that looked like they belonged on a ranch somewhere, not in a tiny apartment in Seattle’s hippy hood. The man’s eyes were ice blue, though, like Thorne’s.

Chapter 4: Justice League, an excerpt

“Breathe, son,” The man’s voice was calm, deep, kind. “Close your eyes. Just breathe.”

Almost without meaning to, Eric did as told. Eyes closed. Breathe in. Breathe out. Again. Again. When he opened his eyes finally, the rainbow whirlwind had subsided, though all the colors in the room seemed intensified with a clarity so edgy it stung.

“Good.” The man stepped back. “Get up now.”

“I c— I can’t.” But even as he objected his right leg swung forward to push himself upright.

“But, Uncle,” Thorne started as Terry tried explaining and the other two men protested.

“He’s dangerous,” one of the young men said, his eyes narrowed, broad shoulders tensed and ready.

Uncle put a hand up to silence them all. “Graham, he is untrained, that’s all. Would you tether one of the young ones back home? Is that the way to teach them?” He turned to the other man. “Would you treat your son this way, Storm’s Eye?”

“He’s no pup,” said Storm. His eyes were as dark as his hair and he stared at Eric like his gaze alone could keep him contained.

“Has he harmed you, niece?” Uncle turned to Thorne. When she reluctantly shook her head he looked at Terry, one eyebrow raised, until Terry also muttered, “No.”

 “Lay another hand on me,” Eric said, his voice steady despite the rapid beat of his heart, “and I will fuck you up. Don’t think I won’t. Don’t think I can’t.”

“I know it,” Uncle said. “But do you, I wonder? Do you know what you are, son?”

There it was again. What, not who. What was he? A whore? A madman? But how could these strangers know anything about him? Unless it was clearly written all over him, like the colors he could see again, wrapped around each of them in a dim glow.

“I’m not your son.” He meant to sound belligerent, angry, hard.

“I’m not your son.” He meant it to sound belligerent, angry, hard, but those emotions were drowned out by a refrain ringing through his head.

 “Royal courts laughing hysterically,”—the poem again—“as a mother’s youngest son becomes an enemy. Through the Wizard’s schemes and manipulation…”

He stopped mid-verse when he realized he had said the words out loud, but it wasn’t until Thorne spoke the line he hadn’t yet uttered that he found himself stunned and questioning his own ears.

“…Lies a world of unbroken dreams.” Her words echoed his unspoken thought.

Part I: Origin Story #3

Through the cloudy glass pane, he could see a narrow stairway leading upward. When he tried to step closer, he caught a glimpse of her inside, standing three stairs up, staring out at him.

Chapter 3: Supergirl, an excerpt

Except he couldn’t step closer. It was like an invisible barrier existed between him and the doorway. It wasn’t something he could feel; his hand met no resistance. But when he tried to move his foot forward, it would not go. He could step sideways and backwards, but could not move closer than within three feet of the entrance.

So he stood there, looking at her. She seemed to waver in an emerald mist that undulated and sent out wisps of green smoke along its edges.

You’re why I came, he wanted to tell her. I belong here. I don’t know why, but I belong here.

“You’ve got to let me in,” he whispered.

A familiar, unwelcome wave of nausea shuddered through him, a parching sickness in the pit of his stomach. The door was now immediately in front of him.

The girl’s eyes widened. She mouthed something, ran forward and jerked the door open.

“You’ve got to let me in. I belong here.”

“How did you do that?” she asked. “No one’s ever… Who are you? What do you want?” She put one hand up and Eric felt pressure as if something were pushing against him. “Tell me.”

A shadow crowded his vision, moved in as he lost focus. “I don’t know,” he said. Then darkness flooded him like black ink spilled in bloody water.

Eric’s Enlightenment

Thorne glanced sideways at him. “Has Graham told you yet what his power is? His dominant one, I mean?”

There are people out there in the modern world with outdated ideas regarding sexual preferences and gender identity.

When Eric shook his head, she said. “He can see the future. Well, it looks like he can see the future. But if he tells someone what he sees, though, apparently that future changes. He blames himself for Cora being gay.”

And yes, some of them are young people like Eric who have been raised in a culture that promotes that thinking.

Eric’s laugh helped clear his mind. He breathed easier as he said, “You’re kidding, right? You don’t actually believe Magic can change someone’s sexual preference.” The idea shook him a bit, though. There was so much he didn’t know about Magic. And even less that he understood about human sexuality.

“I don’t.” Thorn answered. “I don’t think Graham does either, not really. But when they were kids, like puberty age, or before Cora came out anyway, he saw a distinct vision of the two of them as a happily married man and wife. And he told her. Next thing he knows—well, the first time Cora tells anyone—Cora’s gay and Graham just can’t quite convince himself that his cursed power didn’t have something to do with that.”


Spoilers. Not Really.

The sight of his father waiting in the hallway stopped Eric like one of Thorne’s invisible barriers. Except this roadblock he didn’t want to penetrate, to step through.

This Is the original draft of Eric meeting his father. The facts have changed, but the tension remains.

The last time he’d heard his father speak had been at Alisha’s wedding. “Get in,” he’d barked when they picked Eric up at the corner of Halsted and Broadway. “And you damn well better be sober or I’m dropping you off at the next stoplight. I don’t give a damn what your mother has to say about it.”

Then they’d taken him to the hotel, told him to take a shower, and dressed him in a tux like he was a trained monkey. Afterward, when they dropped him off again in Boy’s Town like a sack of garbage, he’d found Tito and shot himself up so high he thought he would never come back to earth.

Eric took a deep breath and remembered what Uncle had told him. Stay calm. Your emotions are what feed you. Control your emotions and you control your power. “How did you find me?”

“That girl. What does she call herself? Thorne? What kind of parent names their kid Thorne? That’s not real, I bet. I’m sure of it. She called me.”

“Bullshit! She’s Waptailmim.” She wouldn’t do that, would she? Betray him? Reveal him? They’d talked about what had happened, why he’d left home. She knew it was because of his father he’d thought himself crazy all these years. The prissy psychiatrists, Ritalin, Depakote, Lithium, drug after drug that did nothing but fuck him up from a thousand different directions at once. At least heroin had only taken him down one path at a time.

“It’s time to face reality, son. If you turn yourself in–”

“Reality? What the fuck do you know about reality? All those years, you knew. You knew it was real, didn’t you? What I could do.” He stepped back, one hand raised, as his father made a move in his direction. “Don’t. You know what I can do. What I— What I did.” Memory sucked moisture from his mouth and brought the red flog closer. It clouded his vision, began to curl around his father’s broad shoulders.

“I’m not a little kid anymore, Dad.” But he felt more like a boy than he had in ages, a scared, helpless boy about to piss his pants.

“If you’re talking about your roommate—”

“My roommate? You mean my jailer.” Eric could barely see now through the haze of crimson. How could the old man not notice it? Why wasn’t he trying to get away? “I hope he’s dead.” He didn’t. It terrified him to think he had actually killed someone. “I hope he’s dead and dried up and burning in hell.”

With the Wizard, snickered the voice in his head. The Wizard knows what to do with men like him.

That’s when Eric let go, when all Uncle’s training flew out the window and his hatred and anger and love for this man who wouldn’t ever see him, who didn’t want to see him, who saw him but despised him, thrust its way from his core and ripped across the space between them.

The force blew open all the apartment doors along the hall, but unlike last time, unlike what had happened with Henry, his father’s body did not go flying across the floor. His bloody head did not bounce off the wall and his limp body come crashing to the ground. Instead, where his father had stood, there was nothing, nothing at all. Like he had never been there. Like his father had been nothing more than just a figment of Eric’s twisted mind.


As a writing exercise I wrote the same scene above from the father’s perspective.

The kid looked like a hobo, Jude Stone thought as his son stepped off the elevator. His faded black sweatshirt was only half zipped up, his hands shoved into frayed pockets. One knee showed red and dirty through his ripped jeans, like he’d skidded across asphalt.

At least he looked better then he had back in Chicago standing on the street corner like a whore, a muscle T showing off his oiled biceps. A cigarette had dangled from lips that curled into a smirk when they’d stopped and opened the door for him.

The whole affair had been a nightmare. They couldn’t even enjoy their own daughter’s wedding, wondering all night if their junkie son was going to go off the deep end and do something to embarrass everyone.

Now he seemed sober, but maybe it wasn’t heroin this time. Something was off about him, though, standing stiff as a wooden Indian and spouting off about man made constructs.

“That girl.” It was better to stick with the truth. A version of the truth anyway. “She called me.” Eric didn’t have to know that she hadn’t done it deliberately. That her concern about Eric had been so loud he’d heard it over a thousand miles away. All he’d had to do was listen and it was like a siren calling him toward the shore.

Except he’d be damned if he was going to run aground over it. Clearly they’d been filling the kid’s head with the kind of bullshit he’d spent years trying to cleanse from his son’s mind. If his mother hadn’t coddled him when he was a baby… but no use blaming anyone. The poison was in Jude’s bloodline, too. It was why he’d moved his family to the God-damn middle of nowhere, away from it all. Reality was what you make of it, why couldn’t Eric see that?

“What the fuck do you know about reality?” Eric asked, and for a moment Jude flashed back to his own youth, his envy over the “ordinary” kids who didn’t really know what the world was like. The ones with fathers who didn’t invade a customer’s mind to make a sale, and mothers who simply read a storybook to make their kids sleepy.

“I’m not a little kid anymore,” Eric said.

No, God damn it, he wasn’t. The wave of power Jude saw coming for him was fully tidal. He barely had time to make the jump before his son did his best to murder him with the power of his hatred.


Part I: Origin Story #2

Shaking and sweating, he hugged his knees and buried his face into the sleeping bag. Hot then cold, his mind racing. Jesus! He thought he’d gotten over this dope sick shit after that first month behind bars. Cold turkey they called it. More like one sick, puking hot pile of chicken shit was how it felt. Till finally, at the other end of it, he’d promised himself no more. A clean slate, head on straight, he was going there no more. So he’d accepted Henry’s offer of help and home and ended up, ended up…

“Fucking it all up again.”

Chapter 2: Approaching Earth: an excerpt.

Except for that article. That photograph that had him halfway across the country parked in a cornfield waiting for dawn and hoping none of those distant headlights were cop cars searching for him.

He dug in the backpack looking for the page he’d torn from the magazine, but his search turned up a different mystery first. He pulled out a folded, creased paper that had yellowed with age. He hesitated, afraid to look at it again. Why had his father kept this all those years? Why hide it in a locked desk drawer?

He’d been searching for money. His father away, Eric’s need at its greatest, he’d been looking for cash to fix what was wrong, whatever that was. Instead, he’d found a child’s drawing, that was all. A stick-drawn little girl with a smile on her face, holding the hand of an adult male with a feathered band across his forehead. All around them crooked, triangular teepees had been drawn with charcoal crayon swirls of smoke spiraling upward.

Why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home?

Eric vaguely remembered it. Was it from kindergarten? Pre-school? Could he even remember that far back? Stupid to think so, even stupider to think something about it had changed. It wasn’t even his drawing. At least, he didn’t think so. The initials M.R. were carefully lettered in the bottom right corner.

So why had this one drawing been the impetus that finally drove him away from home? He had no answer to that any more than he had an answer to the feeling that something about the image was wrong, out of place. He could remember seeing the stick figure of the little girl before, but there had been a woman with her, hadn’t there? A woman with an angry frown. And the little girl had been frightened and crying.

Part I: Origin Story

The electronic tether weighted Eric’s ankle like an iron ball and chain. When he stepped forward, the sole of his right shoe scuffed against the kitchen floor as if a few ounces of plastic and microchip could magnify the force of gravity and pull his soul down with it as well.

Chapter 1: Fortress of Solitude: an excerpt.

He pulled the September issue of American Living toward him , staring at page twelve. Capital Hill. The Space Needle in the background. The green and white-striped awning with the restaurant name. The street-side diners. The passersby. The young woman with her face half turned away as she threw a comment at someone lounging against the building.

“A wizard to guide him through destiny,” he whispered. Strong young woman, sun beating on the back of her head. Red flames of hair licked her shoulders, burned at the ends of dark strands grown tangled and unruly.

No fear, beckoning to him. A guide for lost souls running scared day by day. The room tilted forward, drawing him in. A nauseated surge turned his stomach, his mouth a desert of coarse sand. An itch in his blood for the pierce of a needle, the rush of a drug. The need, the need looming to strike, to devour. He felt himself swallowed whole, one foot still in Chicago, the other on the pavement of the Seattle street, his hand reaching out to touch her, to turn her chin to face him, to see him. See me.

Not a Street Story Novel. Not really. A story of what might exist on the streets in a world of magic and possibilities.

He jerked and pulled back. An invisible cord pulled tight, stretched, snapped, licked in his direction to bind him again.

“No.” He stood up from the table; the chair skittered back across the tiles. Cobwebs in his brain again, voices whispering, laughing, mocking. “Crazy bitch,” he called himself. “Crazy, dope fiend bitch.”

They should have kept him locked up. Thrown away the key. Put him in a white jacket and a room with cushioned walls to drown his screams of fury and hate. House arrest, what a joke. What a fucking joke.