Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Briefly Noted...

Because I wanted to focus on my TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI (and it's worth focusing on... you can check it out here if you haven't already), I let a couple of milestones go by quietly, just adding links over there in the sidebar to the right. But they are worth noting here in plain sight...

First, the new mini-site devoted to my next novel is up and running. It's a strange little number called Baxter Bunny Escapes, and among other things to come you can now read the first two chapters complete online. Chapter Three is coming soon. Although my work on this project has been slowed by one thing and another (oh my goodness, just scroll on down to the older posts if you're wondering what the delay could possibly be...) I'm still hoping to have this ready for print early next year.

But that's not the only project on my to-do list, by a long shot, and I've just launched another mini-site that will allow you to follow the creation of The Marvelous Oracle of Oz from the very beginning right up to the moment that it goes to print. Only six cards have been designed so far... but even that small amount ought to give you a good feel for what the deck is going to look like. I'm really hoping to have this project done by Christmastime. Yeah -- wish me luck with that...

So -- go explore! These are two fun projects that are on my front burner... and any and all input / feedback / thoughts would be welcome.


-- Freder.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bring On The Monsters

I’ve written about the TV series Supernatural before and don’t want to overdo it, but it’s worth noting that just as I was falling out of love with the thing it gobsmacked me with two smashing episodes back to back.

If I hadn’t ordered up Season Four before I watched the last three episodes of Season Three, I might not have ordered it up at all. The show has always skirted pretty close to the very edge of what was acceptable to me, blood-and-gore-wise, and at the end of season three they didn’t just cross the line, they leaped over it. In two otherwise interesting episodes, sequences of explicit Saw-style torture porn horror were included, in one case including the graphic cutting out of a man’s heart while he was still alive — making the show (for me) pretty much unwatchable. It was with that bad taste in my mouth that I began Season Four… and discovered that the whole series had gone South in a different way, and for different reasons.

Without warning, Supernatural goes all Holy and Christian on us, with Angels and even Mister God His-sef becoming Main Characters. Suddenly, Dean is morphed into a bible-toting crusader for the Christian faith. Even if I was a bible-thumper myself, which I emphatically am not, I’d have to say that God has no place on a show like this. Besides which — in a world where the supernatural can encompass all the mythologies of the world, it seems downright stupid of the show’s producers to marry the series so completely to The Bible. How to Limit Your Options in One Easy Step. 

So I deeply suspect that Season Four will be my last… I just can’t buy into all this Angel crap. But before I go, it was danged good to get two powerfully fun and successful episodes back-to-back in the last couple of days. Both fall into the category of “Tragical Comedies or Comical Tragedies,” but that’s where the similarities end. 

In “Monster Movie,” which was filmed in black-and-white in a manner that strongly evokes the great Universal Monster Movies of the thirties and especially the forties, Sam and Dean go up against no less than the vintage film incarnations of Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy… and the script cannily ties it all into Supernatural’s own distinct canon. It is immensely enjoyable, with some laugh-out-loud moments, some good creepy chills, and a great Ultimate Monster. How close is the detail? One scene even mimics the distinctive “shock” close-ups of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula by highlighting the vampire with spotlights that actually miss his eyes by inches! Fans of the 1931 picture know what I’m talking about.

The next episode, “Yellow Fever,” opens with a scary-suspenseful sequence that abruptly turns into what is undoubtedly the biggest out-loud belly-laugh of the entire series, bar none. So again it’s a comedy episode, with Dean literally in danger of dying of fright, but the monster at the core of the story is tragic enough to lend a little weight — and a couple of genuinely chilling moments — to an episode that shows off Jensen Ackles’s comic timing to the maximum.

So — even though I’ll probably be parting ways with the Winchester boys after I finish this season somewhere around Halloween — I’m happy to know that despite some really dumb over-all planning, the show still has some genuine juice left in it. I felt the same way about The X-Files in Season Two: the over-arcing story of UFOs and government conspiracies was already becoming tedious to say the least — but then like a shot in the dark came the wonderful episode set in a circus sideshow, “Humbug” — probably my favorite show of that entire series. 

P.S. Proving that every TV series misfires at some point, this year’s new batch of Doctor Who has been a decidedly mixed bag. Is it a creative friction between Peter Capaldi (who is wonderful as The Doctor, don’t get me wrong) or has Moffat just gone off his rocker? For almost all of the first five episodes Moffat has been trying to turn it into The Clara Show… which pisses me off to no end. The Companion is important, but The Companion is not the star of the show. Last week’s entry, “Time Heist,” finally nudged the thing back in the right direction. We’ll see where it goes from here. I can’t just give up on it yet — Capaldi is too good, and one hopes that he will finally be allowed to star in the show that bear’s his character’s name…


— Freder.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


is now available for immediate shipping.

Only 500 copies were printed for the First Edition,
and I can't promise that there will be a second.

A truly Magical deck.

The Circus Arts provide a perfect milieu for the Tarot.

There are stars and roustabouts, successes and failures, dreams and nightmares. The clowns, acrobats, equestrian acts and entrepreneurs, each with their fond expectations or dashed hopes, all comfortably express the truths and secrets underlying the realm of the Tarot. The two worlds merge as seamlessly as if they were meant for one another.

It’s been an eighteen-month journey for me, combining two of my lifelong interests: the performing arts and mysticism. Far from being just an "art deck" or a "gimmick" deck, every effort has been made to create a genuine working deck aimed at practitioner and novice alike.

Here's some of what people are saying:

"I received my deck and it's GORGEOUS!!!
The pictures, the gloss, the stock, just GORGEOUS!!!"

"Thank you for a beautiful deck. I love it."

"Wonderful, the art is beautiful and the concept inspired."


"The stuff of dreams"

"... will awaken some very deep realities in people."

"I love the atmosphere this deck invokes."

"Amazing...  I am looking forward to both using
and showing off my deck whenever I can. "

"Wonderful! Thank you. I can't wait to conjure
up the circus with this fabulous deck."

But don't take their word for it:

Every card in the deck can be viewed at www.circustarot.blogspot.com .


"The attraction of the virtuoso for the public
is very like that of the circus for the crowd.
There is always the hope that something dangerous will happen."
- Claude Debussy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Haunted Bookshop


Last night, for the first time in months, my dreams were not confused and dark. Last night, for the first time in years, I visited a couple of Magic Bookshops. 

Other than to (very occasionally) visit my friend Ellen at her shop, The Children’s Book Cellar, I haven’t set foot in any bookstore since I more or less deliberately got myself fired from the last one I worked at, The Colby College Bookstore. And that was a horrible experience. I was hired to be in charge of the Trade Books department, but for the first year and a half I was not allowed to do the job I was hired for. When at long last I was finally let off the leash and allowed to actually order books and manage the department, I was undermined at every step by the Insane, uber-micro-managing cow who called herself my boss.

I tried very hard to make the place into A Really Good Bookstore. I figured that I had a license to do this because our clientele, our “community,” was made up of students, professors, and other academia workers — that is, people with brains in their heads. My boss had been blindly stocking (and well over-stocking) every best-seller, every thriller, every piece of crap by writers like Lee Child, Tom Clancy (or rather his ghost-writers), James Patterson (or rather his ghost-writers)… crap that she had been told by the publishing industry that she should stock — none of which actually sold for us. 

I put an end to that as quickly as I could, and instead set about transforming the store into something that I could be proud of. Not “literary” fiction per se, but eclectic fiction that would interest a young audience. Lots of pop culture titles. Games. Art books with an emphasis on the creative process. Eclectic books from smaller publishers. Books on stuff like Haka Dancing that my boss would never have stocked, but which I knew would interest the students. Gaming stuff. “Geeky” stuff. The more esoteric, the better. Over the course of a couple of years, I made that place into the kind of bookstore I used to love to visit, and which has sadly gone the way of the dodo. 

Where my boss would order 20 copies of the latest unsellable thriller (18 of which would then go into returns and make more work for everyone), I rarely ordered more than one copy of anything: on the theory that this allowed me to stock a broader range of titles in less depth.

And all I got from the pencil-pushers, every year, was “Trade Book sales are down, Trade Book sales are down!”

— Like it was my fault that the book industry is killing itself. Like it was my fault that a student would discover a great book right there in our store — and then go back to their dorm and order it from Amazon.

Trade Book sales were going down everywhere. Not my problem. My only goal was in making an interesting bookstore that would draw people in, and you know what? Maybe sales were up in other areas of the store because I was drawing people in with a broader, more interesting, eclectic book selection.

They never could understand that this “Bestseller Mentality” of throwing all your resources into the Lowest Common Denominator basket has killed bookstore after bookstore after bookstore. It’s what killed Borders and it’s what’s killing B&N, because instead of bing the kind of stores that they were in their expansionist phase (when you could go into a new B&N or Borders and find all kinds of wonderful things that the local booksellers could not afford to stock), they regressed and contracted into Big Machines Pushing the Same Old Crap That Everyone Else Was Pushing. 

… which in turn opened the doors for the smaller Independent Booksellers to finally regain some ground and start Kicking Back. Which they have done.

There’s a B&N store not far away from me, but I haven’t gone there in nearly a decade, because I know that it will be the same old crap, nothing unusual, nothing but bestsellers and standards and book-lights. Not at all, not even remotely like the original Barnes & Noble I visited in New York City for the first time back in the mid-‘70s. 

Which was quite close, in a way, to the second bookstore I visited in my dreams last night. I think it had everything. I think it stocked every book that was in print from every publisher in the nation — plus imports. You could go in there and spend an afternoon just browsing, and find an armful of books that you wanted — although of course you couldn’t afford them all. Your brain could not even encompass everything that they stocked. Now that was a bookstore.

Except the one in my dream last night had books that showed the underlying Patterns, the actual design, of the Universe itself. Oh, and — a thick book of pop-up and punch-out jewelry designed by Edward Gorey. Created by him after his death, of course. That’s what Magic Bookshops do: put the impossible into your hands.

The first bookstore that I visited in my dreams last night was a very different sort of place. Its proprietor was a man in white who swept the sidewalk out in front every day, wearing a smug smile on his face and white apron tied around his waist like an old-time shopkeeper. His shop on the corner was so small that for days and days I did not go there, thinking that it could not possibly have anything of interest in stock. 

Then one day I went up to talk to him, and he ushered me into his shop, and I saw how wrong I’d been. 

The space itself was tiny; no larger than an average bathroom, and completely square. There were four wooden walls all around, with a shelf cut into each wall, and a single book sitting on each shelf. And what books they were!

I can’t tell you now, I literally can’t, because that’s what dreams do. But they were… everything you were ever looking for, everything you ever wanted to know. They were very old, with elegant pen-and-ink illustrations. Ancient maps. Near the corner of the room was a rope extending through the ceiling above. You pulled on the rope, and all four walls sank through the floorboards, while a whole other room came down from above. Four more shelves, four more books for sale. They were large and bound in tooled leather. You could pick them up off the shelves, and just by touching them you became a Better Person.

You tugged on the rope again, and another level came down from above while you stood in place. Three levels, all told. Twelve books altogether. Everything you were looking for, Everything that you needed to Know.

— Freder.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now Accepting Pre-Orders for TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MÄGI -- Full 78-Card Deck

Click the Image to Enlarge
I'm now accepting pre-orders for the deck, but please keep in mind that these pre-orders will not ship until all the Kickstarter backers have received their rewards -- probably late September. Thanks for understanding. 

The first edition of the deck is limited to 500 copies. Kickstarter backers cleared out approximately 150+ of those. 

Click here to order. Pre-ordering is being done through Square and PayPal, the deck won't appear in my Etsy shop until all Kickstarter and Pre-Order decks have been shipped.

For details about the deck, including every card image and lots of behind-the-scenes "extras," visit circustarot.blogspot.com .

Thank you all for your support!

-- Frederwww.ducksoup.me
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