In the Lee of a Stunted Pine

I notice everyone else’s blog has a mysterious, more or less eye-catching title, serving the dual purpose of making it ridiculously difficult to figure out who’s writing it, and making people (in the case of the more eye-catching title as opposed to the less) actually want to read it. I got to wondering: ought I to have a mysterious, eye-catching title?

Partly because I happened to be listening to Ramble On at the time I had this thought, and was filled with that epic sensibility of ancient winds across lost plateaus where wanderers build fires and sing of the verges of dark, and partly because of the lonely, icebound pine in the col between Wildcat and Carter I’m using as the navigation image for this page, I came up with the title of this post as a possibility.

What think you?

Mad Demolition Expert Creates Alter Ego, Electromagnetic Escape Pod

This man, Tom Every (aka Dr. Evermor), is my new hero. He has created a tangible, physical, three-dimensional piece of Magic Realism–and not for assimilation into some colossal-budget, contentless movie, but to sit in his backyard and collect time and awe and dust! I don’t even know if I can call this Magic Realism, though the spirit is certainly there. One ought perhaps to coin a still klunkier, more self-contradictory term, like Science Fiction Realism–only I’d rather trade my self-respect for a Jar-Jar Binks costume and a kick in the head than do so.
O, why can’t *I* be retired and sit around in my own personal junkyard fabricating alter-ego supervillains to fling across the earth like shards of meteorite to take root in quiet suburbs and SHAKE them until they turn into Phillip Dick distopias and Jules Verne submersibles? Why?

‘”Look, this isn’t Disneyland,” said Every. “I’m not here to entertain you. If you want to have fun here, you have to participate, you have to add your own thoughts into the mix. Boring people are totally bored here, but interesting people have a great time.”‘

O. Well then. Guess I’ll get back to writing.

As It Began

Welcome, ye sojourners of the abstract dimension, to Michael J. DeLuca’s Fantasy Writing Forum, a place where Michael will expose to harsh light the mechanics of his creative process, and invite both criticism and participation in hopes that he may better understand that process.

I, Michael J. DeLuca, am a nominally published (, soon-to-be self-published ( writer of fantasy, horror, and mad-crazy unclassifiable (interstitial) fiction. Now that my writing has picked up a few fans and a bit of recognition, I thought it time to start the tiny snowball rolling down the long and gentle slope, such that one day it may turn to the monstrous, catastrophic Mt. St. Helens of ash and ice I so dearly desire it to be.

So, to those few and much-appreciated fans, I dedicate this niche of non-space. I hope they’ll find it, and see their way to helping me make it better.

Lions, Pith Helmets and Bears

Erin and I were planning a small party at the Maine house for my parents and sisters, Purpura and the Sheehys.

I was driving Oona up the long dirt road from Maine 4 towards the Mouse House in pitch dark. I was going fast, perhaps 40 miles an hour. Headlights appeared behind me, getting larger fast. I moved over to the right to give him room, and the other car roared past. Its taillights shrank and disappeared ahead, and then once again I was the only one on the road.

Something huge loomed in front of me, and I slammed on the brakes, coming to a dusty and precarious stop barely two feet away from an enormous black bear. It looked me in the eye and grunted, and I thought if it wanted to it could tear this car apart.

But it just turned and ambled past. I followed it with my eyes, feeling very queasy and hollow inside. There was another bear off to my right!

I stepped on the gas and went on down the road.

A minute later I had to slow down again to weave through a small herd of antelope that milled about like cows, only showing any motivation to get out of my way when I started honking at them. Further on I swerved around the body of a dead zebra, and felt the wheels go over its legs. My stomach endeavoured to turn upside down inside me. What the hell was going on?

Finally I came around the side of a hill and saw brake lights up ahead. When I got up close, I saw they belonged to a large trailer truck stalled diagonally across the road, and a smaller car turned on its side in front of it. On the back of the trailer were rows and rows of circus cages, like the ones on the sides of a box of animal crackers. Most of them were open.

A pair of lions padded through the beam of Oona’s headlights, followed by a gray-haired man dressed in khaki utilities, a pair of knee-high leather boots, and a pith helmet. Two huge gray shapes moved in the woods off to the right. Elephants.

I opened the door and stepped out. “Can’t you get them back in their cages?” I asked.

“We’re trying!” he said.

One of the lions, the big male, made an inquisitive sound in its throat, reaching out for me with its paw. I stumbled back against the car, fell to the dirt, and woke.

A Rod, a Staff, and a Wand

A very cute, very lively baby girl with fine, spiky black hair and fuzzy black footie pajamas called the Spirit of Choice, who makes her dwelling in a first-floor waterfront apartment cluttered with junk that appears not to have been lived in for years. We stumble upon it running from the rain in the dark, and mistake it for an antique store. She appears to us in her own pool of warm light, and immediately starts to babble at us good-naturedly.

She is a divine champion of free will, and the wisdom in her deep dark eyes and her bewildering smile show us she is proud and unafraid.

Her parents were killed years ago–two middle-aged, ominous-looking italian men. As we explore the apartment we are menaced by their disembodied heads, flickering in and out and flinging furniture about with their minds in such a fashion as to make it clear they too are now beings of spirit–and powerful ones at that. They are defending their home, not from us, it turns out, but from a pair of scavenging intruders.

Still, we are convinced we ought to take Choice with us, living people being preferable to dead ones for taking care of a child goddess. She sits in my arms, in white footies this time, and with blond hair. She laughs and laughs as we bundle her up and carry her home.

We take her with us on a trip to a museum.

The contents of the museum are legion, ranging from post-impressionism to seventeenth century landscape to complex swamp habitats in glass cases and nine-hundred pound bengal tigers. The architectural space is spare, marble, modern and Jeffersonian. The building’s surroundings are salt marsh grasses and sandy forest ridges, a la the Brewster Museum of Natural History. We wander through only a part of it, taking in masterpieces of incredible value, and vow to return.

Purpura comes with us the next time, after I spent a good half an hour talking the place up. We pass again through the art wing, and then descend into the natural history wing which we only broke the surface of on our first visit.

A man-sized, incredibly dextrous green and yellow striped lizard prowls and strikes at the walls of its tiny plexiglass cage, mounted all alone against a wall twenty feet above the ground and forty feet from the balcony from which visitors must observe it. I stare at it a long time, wondering why such a marvelous creature should be thus caged, and why its presence here fills me with such misgiving. It searches the boundaries of its confinement with the wide, three-toed pads of its forefeet, and something in the way it shifts its chameleon eyes that only strikes me hours later as intelligence.

A rod, a staff, and a wand. The smallest is of nickel and bronze, with a small black orb at one end, and a three inch barb at the other. It is a weapon–a magical needle infected with paralyzing poison. The rod is of heavy, black-lacquered wood, with a smoky, umbrous crystal set in the head. It calls forth momentary lightnings. And the staff–the staff is tall, thin, and pale, lightweight and smooth and unadorned. It is mine–a symbol of the powers and the rank I have achieved. It cannot be taken from me.

A towering altar rises from an acid sacrificial pool in a vast, cylindrical room open above to a clouded sky portending storm. The abhorrent, bactrachian creatures are all around us–swimming in the pool, swarming along the monolithic columns and rotted, alien reliefs, and watching us, aloof, from the ringed walkways high above.

With the black rod I fling lighting left and right around us, driving the creatures back–but it can only keep us safe so long. Choice is crying in Erin’s arms. With every moment, the slathering fiends draw closer. It is time I unveiled my true power.

I place the staff in Michael’s hands, and draw the poison wand from my sorcerer’s robes. Then I turn and dive from the balcony.

Descending through the air my body shifts around me–I acquire for an instant the amphibious biology and awful countenance of the bactrachian cultists. With a switch of my powerful fins and an arch of my back I plunge up out of the water again and land, myself again, before the cultist lord. I strike him with the lightning rod, then cast it aside and draw the poison needle. I plunge it again and again into his single, swift-receding eye, and finally he shrivels up into himself, and passes away.

The creatures eye us warily. They are many, many more than we–but they fear me. Still, I know I cannot fight them here in their lair and hope to win–not without sacrificing those beside me, those who have not reached my rank. So with the girl, the child and the charlatan gathered around me, I make my way towards the light. I meet each slitted, gleaming eye as I pass. For now, it is theirs that turn away.