Archives for category: Lisa Mason Talks Writing with Elle Emerson

MysteryCoverSmall

Every Mystery Unexplained
Lisa Mason
1
“As long as the human mind delights in mysteries, so it will love magic and magicians. I would say to all beginners, ‘Keep three things in mind:
First–Practice constantly new sleights, novel devices, and invent new combinations of old feats. You must always have something new wherewith to dazzle.
Second–Make your work artistic by clothing each illusion with all the glamour and shadows of fairyland and the suggestions of incantations and supernatural powers in order to prepare the observer’s mind for a mystery.
Third–Leave every mystery unexplained.'”
–Harry Kellar, “The Greatest Magician in the World,” 1887
My father is done with the doves and colored scarves by the time he gets to the spirit show. “And now, ladies and gentlemen,” Uncle Brady announces, his voice as sonorous as a Shakespearean ghost, “Professor Flint will endeavor through his astonishing, miraculous, and mysterious psychic powers to establish communication with the Spirits of the Dead!”
“Endeavor to establish communication with the Dead,” I whisper to Mr. Pannini, the booking agent for the Tivoli Theater, as we watch from the wings. “A pity he seldom endeavors to establish communication with me.
The audience shifts and titters, restless in the early evening, which is awfully cold and gloomy even for fog-haunted San Francisco. Gaslights flicker, leaking fumes into the chill, damp air. A smell of mold clings to the dark velvet curtains, a sepulchral odor that leaves me uneasy.
“The old man is a boiled shirt, is he?” Pannini says with a grin. He is a dapper, clove-scented, well-oiled dandy in fancy gabardine and a velvet bowler, a massive mustache curling over his lip. Some ten years my senior, I suppose, with the air of the rake about him. My father dislikes him intensely. “Nothing a young gentleman like yourself cannot handle, I’ll wager.”
“I endure,” I say, “the dutiful son.” I like Pannini. He slips me a Mecca cigarette. I light up, quick and guilty. My father has forbidden me to smoke.
My father has forbidden me to grow a mustache till I reach the age of one-and-twenty, which has been a source of more contention between us than cigarettes, since extravagant mustaches are all the rage for gentlemen in our year of 1895. A requirement of fashion that occupies many of my thoughts despite other concerns, such as the bank panic, massive unemployment, and civil unrest throughout our great nation of America. What lady will consider me without a mustache? I chafe at each passing day of these next nine months, shave the scant fuzz from my lip–dutiful son–and speculate pessimistically on what poor bristles may be produced when Pop’s injunction has expired.
“And what will you do, Professor Flint,” Uncle Brady is inquiring onstage, “if you should encounter the Grim Reaper Himself?”
“I shall challenge Him to a duel!” my father replies.
“A duel?” Uncle Brady says, inviting the audience to marvel with him.
“A duel to the death!” my father declares.
Onstage, my father arduously prepares himself to establish communication with the Spirits of the Dead. Of Pop’s many talents, this is one of his best, the dramatic preparation for impending dire difficulty. Uncle Brady assists him, yanking off Pop’s cutaway coat, ceremoniously withdrawing the dueling sword from the trunk. My father effects much rolling of eyes, rolling up of sleeves, girding of loins. He kneads his forehead, unleashing psychic powers.
A pity he had not prepared so well for my mother’s death.
Someone snores in the audience with an exaggerated gargle. A heckler? A pack of hoodlums in scruffy top hats tip rotgut in the back row. There has been an air of uncertainty, of desperation, since we arrived in San Francisco. No one in the far West honors paper money. You must pay in gold or silver coin. Only half the seats in the Tivoli are filled tonight.
“He ain’t Houdini,” Pannini says, not unkindly. “With a switcheroo act.”
No, Pop is not that dare devilish young rascal, the dexterous Harry Houdini. No one can top Houdini who, with his wild antics, has spoiled audiences from St. Pete’s to Nome. Everyone is clamoring to see “Metamorphosis,” during which the monsieur and the mademoiselle, each bound at wrist and ankle, exchange places in the box in three seconds flat.
“No, but I know how Houdini pulls off ‘Metamorphosis,'” I say. “I know exactly how he does it. The box trick has been around for a hundred years.”
“The box trick?” Pannini raises his eyebrows.
Over the years, the box trick has been vastly improved, ingeniously improvised, and presented again and again, fresh as the morning dew. But I bite my tongue. I cannot reveal how Houdini’s “Metamorphosis” is pulled off, not even if I wanted to.
“You know all about the box trick, do you?” Pannini prompts, intrigued by my hesitation.
“Sorry,” I say. “We magicians have a code of secrecy. We’ve all sworn not to reveal how an illusion is accomplished. Even if we’re not the ones performing it. Especially then.”
“Ah, a code of secrecy,” Pannini says with a shrug. “Well, don’t look so glum, Danny. It’s a fair crowd for the Tivoli. For a magic act.”
Now I shrug, and draw deeply on the Mecca.
“The old man has got to get himself a pretty heifer onstage,” Pannini says. “That’ll draw ’em in.”
“Oh, we had a beautiful lady in the act.”
“Did you?” Pannini says, suddenly animated. “Well, trot her out, sir.”
“She died,” I say. “Last spring.”
I fling the Mecca to the floor, stamp it out. My father will raise Cain when he smells tobacco on my breath.
“Sorry,” Pannini says.
When I look again, he’s vanished.
As it is, my father has got a good act. Not a great act, perhaps, not a spectacular act like Harry Houdini’s, but a very good act. He’s worked on this act, in its various permutations, for all the twenty years I have walked upon the earth and before then, too, according to Uncle Brady. My father is no dare devilish robust rascal, but a well weathered man, lean of flesh and spare of hair, whom some people mistake for my grandfather. Yet Pop has not lost his touch, in my opinion. In my opinion–and as his only son and heir apparent, I’m entitled to my opinion–it’s a lousy crowd for the astonishing, the miraculous, the mysterious Professor Flint.
Then again, nothing seems right since my mother died.
Now my father takes up the sword, commences feints and thrusts. In the sulfuric glare of the limelights, I can see sweat pooling over the starched wing collar that throttles his throat, soaking through his threadbare brocade vest like a bloodstain. I used to worry about Pop’s health. He always was a scrawny bird, and scrofula and consumption ran in his family. Sometimes it seemed to me that the exertions of the stage, not to mention the financial uncertainties of magic, would do him in.
I don’t worry so much about Pop anymore. He turned out to be the strong one. Which only goes to show you. You never can tell from the look of things what the truth is or what, an illusion.
With a swift, decisive jab, my father thrusts the sword–back into its scabbard. That’s right. This preliminary action sequence is intended to arouse any flagging interest among gentlemen in the audience. Gentlemen are by nature discontent and easily bored, not to mention skeptical. Sure enough, one of the hoodlums in the back row shouts, “Bloody well get on with it, man!”
But my father never concedes to a quick, cheap thrill. No, there are ladies and children in the audience–usually there are, anyway, though such tender persons appear to be singularly lacking at the Tivoli tonight. Ladies and children of sensitive sensibilities may become alarmed by Professor Flint’s aggressive antics. They may pause, they may press gentle pale fingertips to their pale throats, they may wonder if the next mystery will be too much for them to bear.
It is for this portion of the audience that my father sheaths the sword. A portion deserving, as my mother used to say, of a performer’s special courtesy. A portion endowed themselves with the power of trembling lips, of fluttering eyelashes, of little cries of joy or alarm, of those gentle pale fingertips just as she, my mother, was so amply endowed.
It is for them that my father now trots out the dancing handkerchief.
“But first, ladies and gentlemen,” he announces, “before I challenge the Grim Reaper to a duel to the death, I shall endeavor to prove that the power of Life goes beyond Death. Beyond the grave itself!”
To be honest, I personally think the dancing handkerchief is the silliest of illusions.
I’m always astonished at how much the ladies and the children and the gentlemen love it.
Need I say that all of the Tivoli’s stagehands, Mr. Pannini, and anyone and everyone not privy to our techniques, have been banished from backstage. Need I say that Uncle Brady and I sprint like souls possessed to our respective positions at each wing abutting the stage. Need I hint that the dancing handkerchief illusion works much like a marionette. Need I add that we gleefully seize the wonderfully simple and devilishly clever devices. For they are devices. There is no person on earth once clearly shown who would ever mistake the technical application of wrist and wire for the appearance of something supernatural.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Pop is saying, “I will endeavor to demonstrate the miraculous Power of Life utilizing the most ordinary of personal accoutrements.”
My father has got one of those masterful voices and the ability to project his ironic personality out into a crowd. Yet I worry how well he will project his personality tonight, for the air feels thick in the Tivoli Theater. I feel a chill sweep through the room, like a draft from a back door left carelessly ajar.
“Does anyone,” Pop says, “have a handkerchief? Of purest white silk, if you please?”
In this surly crowd, reeking of cheap whiskey and unwashed clothes, I fear no person in attendance is genteel enough to possess the requested accoutrement. The chill deepens, and a cloud of bay fog drifts in. Clear across the stage I can see Uncle Brady twist his head around, glancing behind himself, at me, out there. He’s working up a fury for the stagehands. Some rotter has left a door open, taking petty revenge, perhaps, for his banishment from backstage.
One of the very few ladies in the audience stands, works her way to the aisle, and approaches the stage. I heave a sigh of relief. Across the stage, Uncle Brady pantomimes wiping his brow. What a lady she is, too, tall and slim, in a ruffled burgundy dress. Her coiffure tilts above her forehead at a saucy angle, a curl coiled on the high curve of her cheek. She smiles at my father, who bows graciously, and glances around at her neighbors, seeking their approval of her boldness. Her dark eyes light upon me, as I peer out from the wing. I can smell her perfume, a rich musk of red roses. She holds forth a white silk handkerchief in her elegant fingers.
Da,” she says in a purring contralto, “I have handkerchief.”
And then she winks at me.
Oh, Lord. I duck out of sight. Pop will have my hide if he should notice that someone in the audience has spied me skulking about in the wings. He proceeds apace with the illusion, however, deftly knotting one corner of the lady’s handkerchief. When he’s done, the handkerchief looks just like a little ghost, with a pert peaked head and a drooping shroud. He tosses the handkerchief on the stage, casually leaning over to rearrange the silk and attach the fabric to the—ah, never mind.
It’s a mystery unexplained.
Much like a marionette, as I’ve said. That’s all you need to know.
“Thus I shall prove, ladies and gentlemen,” my father says, “that within each small thing, even a mere handkerchief from this beautiful lady, the Spirit of Life can come alive.
And off we go, Uncle Brady and me at opposite ends of the stage, making that little ghost come alive.
First, the handkerchief raises its head, struggling to become animated, then (pardon me) gives up the ghost, and falls slack again. My father coaxes it, by turns tender, then stern, and the handkerchief rises, rises, growing more vigorous by the moment, finally standing upright and positively lively. The ghost leaps into Pop’s hands, leaps down again, and capers across the stage like a maniac. Pop gives chase, captures it. It swiftly escapes, and he gives chase again. At last he seizes the handkerchief and hands it to the lady, still bobbing and wiggling like a hooked fish. She cries out. Pop takes the wiggler back, unties the knot, and, with a murmured apology, releases a lifeless handkerchief.
The lady beams and displays her erstwhile ghost. Everyone in the front rows leans forward, entranced, applauding wildly.
Like I said, they always love the dancing handkerchief.
“Thank you, madam,” Pop says. “What is your name, please?”
“I am Zena Troubetzskoy.”
“Bloody well get on with it, man!” the hoodlum in the back row yells again. His pals guffaw.
“Madame Troubetzskoy, I am charmed,” my father says, ignoring the hecklers, and takes her handkerchief yet again and produces from it a fresh red rose. He regards the rose as if it is a wondrous treasure and hands silk and bloom to her.
Zena stares, openmouthed. As I peer from the wing again, I see a flush infuse her cheeks, staining her face as if with a sudden fever. “Can you really communicate with the Other Side, Professor Flint?” she asks.
“I certainly can,” Pop says.
Liar, I think. The enmity between stage magicians and spiritualist mediums revolves around this very point–what we each claim we can do. No one has actually established communication with the Spirits of the Dead. No one has proven that the soul survives. Yet spiritualist mediums deceive people with cruelties–and with illusions any stage magician can readily replicate. Maskelyne, the Royal Illusionist, exposed the Davenport brothers’ spirit cabinet as nothing more than the good old box trick. Anderson, the Great Wizard of the North, produced better table-tipping and spirit raps than the Fox sisters, who have bilked many a silver dollar from the bereaved.
If my father really could establish communication with the Other Side, don’t you think he would have contacted my mother?
But what else is my father supposed to say? No, not really? He cannot say that, not in front of an audience in a theater. A magician must never reveal the secrets of his illusions, must never explain the mystery though there is no mystery. That is our code of secrecy.
Still, I am uneasy with Pop’s charade, his disingenuous answer. Is he any better than a deceitful spiritualist medium?
If Zena Troubetzskoy is perturbed by my father’s lie, however, she gives no sign. “How marvelous,” she says and returns to the darkness beyond the limelights.
Now our rented orchestra strikes up a sprightly tune. Uncle Brady rushes onstage to assist Pop, while I pull the ghost getup over myself, head to toe, and sprint to my appointed place before the pane of plate glass. The pane, which the audience cannot see, is situated just so, in relation to the activities onstage and the activities offstage, and to a strategically placed spotlight. When light and darkness are arranged precisely right, when the physics of reflection and refraction are manipulated correctly, you will see an apparition appear out of nowhere onstage with Professor Flint. You will see the apparition joust with him in a death-defying duel. You will see him pierce the apparition clear through with his sword. At which point, you will see the apparition perish amid much pathos, and disappear before your very eyes.
All right, the ghost duel is not actually so death-defying. Not like the real stunts of that dare devilish Houdini, who trusses himself up like an animal bound for slaughter and swallows needles. Nor is the ghost duel original to my father. Professor J. H. Pepper pioneered the illusion, and many others have presented it in various permutations such as “The Blue Room” or “The Room of Mortality,” in which a skeleton in a coffin transforms itself into a young woman, then withers again into bare bones. Still, I think the ghost duel is the high point of Professor Flint’s act.
I never tired of watching this illusion back in the days when my mother played the ghost. When I was a kid, I used to love it. Uncle Brady would intone his Grand Invocation of the Spirits of the Dead, and the ghost would appear–just like that!–floating over the stage. And you could feel how the audience began to believe. Ladies would weep, and children cry out. Some gentlemen would toot their noses, while others would gasp, with fear or shock or the wonder of it all. One time in Cheyenne someone called out, “Praise the Lord!” and someone else answered, “Amen!”
What a ghost my mother played! Pop would fling down a leather glove in challenge, whip his sword from its scabbard. The apparition would fling down its own white silk glove, defiantly produce its own weapon. And off they would go, leaping and sparring. My mother was so charming and spritely and graceful that the ladies would stop their weeping, the children would laugh, the gentlemen would stop tooting in their handkerchiefs. These hardy people of our young American nation, who faced death daily by consumption or childbirth or fever, they would gaze at that graceful ghost and they would smile. I could see joy stealing into their hearts, and it was magic.
I am not nearly as charming a ghost as my mother once was, but I can spar, I can feint, and the duel has got this audience warmed up at last. From the location offstage where I accomplish my part of the illusion, I can hear the cheers and exclamations of encouragement. Pop pierces me through the heart, I perish and vanish, and it’s over. I fling off the ghost getup, and dash up onstage. The audience stands and applauds. Mr. Pannini gives me the thumbs-up.
I can see the relief on my father’s face. Pop is the sort of man who makes a meticulous accounting of each triumph and especially of each failure, however small. The failures disturb him far more than the triumphs ever give him satisfaction. Uncle Brady beams and bows, but he gives a little shake of his head, a sort of cringe to his shoulder, and I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking nothing has seemed right since the accident took my mother’s life last spring.
The woman in the burgundy dress rushes up to the stage, clapping furiously, the red rose tucked behind her ear. Zena Troubetzskoy says, “How marvelous! Oh! How marvelous!”
2
First light of the dawn, and I smell wood smoke and the bitter, bracing scent of coffee. The flicker of a fire pries my eyelids open. Uncle Brady is already up, bending over our campfire, brewing coffee in a dented tin pot. I have spent the night out of doors, in the fog and the gloom, and I am aching all over, I am shivering, and my mouth tastes of stale cigarette smoke.
“Rise and shine, Danny,” Uncle Brady says. “You look like Pepper’s ghost warmed over, son.”
I do not doubt it. We have been on the road for a long time. I’m accustomed to sleeping on the ground or in the back of our wagon, accustomed to roots and rocks and rough boards assaulting my spine. But that doesn’t mean I no longer feel pain. Years ago, my father invested in a Henderson freight wagon with a canvas top. The thing is enormous, a regular cabin on wheels, built for durability, not comfort or speed. We require a team of four sturdy draft horses to pull it. Most of the customized interior is devoted to the transport of our equipment. I know well the narrow confines of my bunk, the sweltering heat or the numbing cold, the lack of a moment alone–but that doesn’t mean I relish each nightly ordeal any more than when Pop first started us out.
For months I’ve yearned for this engagement in San Francisco. For months I’ve hoped our stay would bring me some relief. There are magnificent hotels in San Francisco, hotels as fine as the best in New York City or Paris. What I would give for just one night at the Palace or Lucky Baldwin’s. For a stuffed mattress, a down pillow, a blazing fireplace, and a hot bath. For a cup of coffee brewed by one of the hotel chefs whose culinary reputations are repeated among vagabonds like us in the reverent tones reserved for legends and miracles.
But though it’s likely Pop could afford just one night at a magnificent hotel, though Pop suffers from arthritis in his hips and surely yearns for a hot bath and a soft mattress more than I do, the magnificent hotels will not permit Uncle Brady to stay in a suite with my father and me.
Which is a mystery to me.
For Uncle Brady is as deft with my father’s craft as any of our finest illusionists. He assists my father with our books of account and the management of our tour as shrewdly as any Harvard-schooled mercantilist. He is my dearest friend, and he was my mother’s faithful companion in the years before she and my father married.
But Uncle Brady’s complexion is the same rich brown color of the coffee he’s brewing. The magnificent hotels will insist that Uncle Brady stay in the servants’ quarters, and that is unacceptable to my father. When it comes to Uncle Brady, Pop has never tolerated anything but treatment equal to the hospitalities offered himself or me. He may be a boiled shirt, but my father has insisted upon this policy ever since he met Uncle Brady and my mother. And that was at the end of their journey from Georgia, in the terrible year before I was born.
So we’ve camped out for the night in the weedy field at Fourth Street and Mission, side-by-side with the medicine shows and quack peddlers and dime museums. The field is a carnival by day and a shindig by night, hosted by some of the most disreputable scoundrels in the far West. I have spent the dawn hours sitting up against a wheel of our wagon, wrapped in a reeking, buffalo-skin blanket, a derringer in one hand, and a large brass bell in the other. My father does not actually expect me to kill or even fend off a would-be horse thief. If our horses are accosted, I am to shoot into the air and ring the bell like mad, and Pop and Uncle Brady will make their appearances with our revolver and our shotgun. Instead vigilance, however, I fell into a poor facsimile of sleep, my slumber tormented by a dream of the gypsies we encountered in Cheyenne last spring. I dreamed of Leilani, taunting me.
My father extracts himself from our wagon with all the brittle dignity of a nobleman come to survey his hinterlands. Does he say good morning as I am painfully rousing myself? Does he inquire about my comfort or well-being or the restfulness of my slumber?
“You smoked a cigarette last night, Daniel,” is the first thing my father says to me. He seizes the mug Uncle Brady offers him and tosses scalding coffee down his throat. He does not wince or grumble at the taste or heat.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” I mumble.
“When you turn twenty-one, you may do as you please, sir,” he says in a tone that leads me to suspect I will have little more freedom then than I do at twenty. “You may give over your health to wrack and ruin. You may cast away all I have taught you, cast away your livelihood, cast your very soul to the Devil. But till then, sir, till then, as long as you are in my company, you will abide by the rules.”
“Professor,” Uncle Brady says before I can summon up another disrespectful retort. “May we please discuss the state of our affairs?”
I collect my own mug of grit, crouch by the fire, and brace myself for the bad news.
“We’re broke,” Uncle Brady says. “Nearly broke.”
“I thought we cleared ten thousand dollars in Tacoma,” Pop says.
“An agent from Tacoma showed up yesterday afternoon,” Uncle Brady says.
“I saw no agent,” Pop says.
“I try not to worry you, Professor, before a performance,” Uncle Brady says. “He said the theater wasn’t insured. The fire cleaned them out.”
“It wasn’t our fault!” I say, though I know that’s not strictly true. Pop keeps kegs of methylated spirits for fireworks effects. A cigarette discarded by some careless stranger sent everything up in flames, including a good deal of our equipment. Worst of all, the accursed pane of plate glass, which we cart about in the wagon swaddled up like a newborn babe, was ruined. Uncle Brady had to wire ahead to San Francisco for a new pane, which we employed to such good effect last night.
My father is impassive. “You reimbursed him?”
“Of course,” Uncle Brady says. “We must do that if we’re ever to play Tacoma again. Then there’s the new glass, and the extra charge for an expedited order. There’s all the equipment that has to be replaced.” He pulls a list from his vest pocket, fits spectacles onto his nose. “The magic portfolio. The vanishing birdcage. The enchanted demon’s head.”
“Not the enchanted demon’s head!” I say.
Uncle Brady shoots me an exasperated look over the top of his spectacles. “The flip-over boxes and the feathered bouquets. Then there’s the costumes. I was only able to salvage three or four of them.”
My father grunts, I groan, and my stomach emits a sound resembling the utterances of a rabid dog. I’ve not eaten a thing since yesterday noon, and that was a meal of pemmican washed down with hard well water. The water had a smell to it that much reminded me of a cesspool. Traitorous thoughts fill my head. Perhaps I could secure employment as a waiter at one of the famous restaurants of San Francisco. At Coppa’s, say, or the Tadich Grill. At least then I could get something decent to eat and drink.
My father only says, “I’m grateful our suppliers have been so prompt, trustworthy, and courteous. We could not have gone on with the show without them.”
“Nevertheless,” Uncle Brady says, “we’re broke. Nearly broke. I’ve got a bill here for fifty dollars.” He wets his thumb and leafs through a stack of invoices. “It’s forty days overdue, Professor. We’ll get no more credit from the Chicago Magic Company if we don’t pay it at once.”
“Pop,” I say, “I’m hungry.”
“Go feed the horses,” my father says, unmoved. To Uncle Brady, “Pay it. And the take from last night?”
“The theater was half-full,” Uncle Brady says. “At this rate, our engagement here won’t cover our traveling expenses from Tacoma.”
Our engagement here is to last three weeks. “Oh, that’s splendid.” I pull myself to my feet. “You may both go and starve and good luck to you. As for me, I’m tired of magic. I’m not cut out to be a magician, anyway. I shall seek my own fortune in San Francisco.” I strike a defiant pose. “I shall go wait tables.”
“Perhaps the boy should go find some day work, Professor,” Uncle Brady says. “We’ll have to rehearse without him.”
“If you’re through with your coffee, Daniel,” my father says, ignoring the both of us, “go feed the horses like I told you.”
“May I remind you, Uncle Brady, I’m a person of twenty years, not a boy.” And to my father, “I will take no more orders from you, sir. I will abide by no more of your rules.”
“Comport yourself like a person of twenty years and attend to your animals, sir,” my father says. “They cannot feed themselves, whereas you can.”
“This squabbling won’t pay the bills,” Uncle Brady says.
“The bills,” I say. “Always the bills. You can take the bills and go–”
“I beg your pardon, gentlemen,” says a purring contralto. “Forgive me for interrupting your breakfast.”
We all turn, mouths gaping. Zena Troubetzskoy strolls up our campfire, smiling serenely. She is composed and fresh in her burgundy dress, the red rose tucked behind her ear. When I meet her gaze, she gives me that wink of hers.
“What breakfast,” I mutter but my anger vanishes like magic before her flirtatious wink. She is no girl of my age, but a woman older by a handful of years, and my pulse quickens in her presence.
My father casts a look at me that could choke a horse. He stands and bows, ever gracious. “Good morning, Madame Troubetzskoy.”
“You remember me, sir?”
“But of course. What on earth brings you to this unwholesome campground, madam?” He flips his hand at me; go get her a stool to sit on. I hop to it, retrieving one from the back of our wagon.
She sits, warming her hands over the campfire. “Professor Flint,” she says, “last night you said you can communicate with the Souls of the Other Side. Didn’t you?”
Uncle Brady and I trade glances. My father clears his throat. “So I did.”
“Then, Professor Flint, I must ask if you would attempt to communicate with my dear husband. There is something I urgently need to tell him. I cannot find peace till I do.”
My father takes her hand. “My dear Madame Troubetzskoy.”
“Please call me Zena.”
“Zena. I am a magician, Zena, a stage magician. Not a spiritualist medium.”
“Whatever you wish to call yourself is fine with me, Professor.”
“Zena.” My father kneels at her feet and lowers his voice. “We are not before an audience, so I must tell you something in the strictest confidence.”
“Yes?” Her eyes shine with anticipation.
“I’m a magician, as I’ve said. What I do, what we do–up there on the stage. It’s only an illusion.”
Her face darkens. “Oh, please, I implore you, Professor.”
“All an illusion, madam. It isn’t real.”
“But you told me you can communicate with the Other Side. You told me you have psychic powers. You told me.”
My father glances at Uncle Brady and me, and his mouth puckers up as if he has bitten a lemon. Pop does not consider anything he does in his act to be a lie. He never misrepresents himself. The audience knows it’s stage magic. The audience knows it’s an illusion. But this lovely woman in a burgundy dress has taken him at his word. And he does not want to confess that he lied, even if he did fudge a bit. He does not want to admit to false pretenses, however fleeting. He cannot bear to be exposed as a hypocrite like poor old Anderson, the great Wizard of the North, who so effortlessly discerned people’s intimate secrets onstage, but got so addled with drink that he often could not find his own way home.
“I said I endeavor to communicate with the Other Side,” my father scrupulously corrects her.
“Then endeavor for me,” she says. “Oh, please, won’t you try? You’ve got more psychic power than you know, Professor.”
Bosh,” my father says, but he glows with pleasure at her praise, nonetheless. Account for each triumph, however small; that’s Pop. I roll my eyes at Uncle Brady, but he shrugs and looks away.
“I shall pay you, of course.”
Whereupon she rummages in her burgundy satin purse and pulls out two gleaming gold coins.
Need I say our eyes bug out?
“Mercy,” Uncle Brady whispers. He helps himself to the coins in Zena’s outstretched palm, gives one to me. It turns out to be not a coin, at all, but a fat, irregular lozenge of pure gold, soft to the tooth and heavy in the hand, without the smell of inferior metals. The sort of unmarked token gamblers, robbers, and prospectors prefer to carry in the far West. Better than minted money because you can cash it in at any assay office or bank. Or you can trade such a token for goods or services at any respectable establishment or, for that matter, with any corsair or brigand. No questions asked. The piece I hold in my hand could be worth fifty dollars, or much more. Enough to pay the Chicago Magic Company in full, and then some.
My father clears his throat again. “Madame Zena,” he says, “would you like to sit at a séance? Is that what you would like to do?”
“Oh, yes, please!” she says.
On the one hand, I’m disgusted with my father for stepping over the ethical line drawn between stage magicians and spiritualist mediums. On the other hand, I’m proud of him for this small sacrifice of his integrity he’s willing to make for the sake of our show. For the sake of his family. I don’t really want to wait tables. I am Danny Flint, the eminent Professor Flint’s only son and heir apparent. I have been immersed in the wonder and the business of prestidigitation my whole life, starting when my father plucked me in my diapers out of a folding portfolio and told me to wave at the audience. One day he will pass the mantle of magic on to me.
Need I say that Uncle Brady and I dash to the wagon like souls on fire as my father serves Zena coffee and chats with her, commenting on the new day and the alarming direction of ladies’ fashions. Pop has made his decision. Uncle Brady and I trade grins. We are not displeased.
“This is going to be tricky, son,” Uncle Brady says. “We don’t know a thing about her.”
I hold up the gold piece. “We know this.
Make no mistake, spiritualist mediums who convince the gullible that they actually communicate with the Dead undertake plenty of research before they work their illusions. They make it their business to discover intimate details about those who come to sit at a séance. They possess the con artist’s knack of parlaying what they discover in the heat of the moment into more information, more confidence. Mediums employ the “Room of Mortality” illusion; they employ the good old box trick. Let no one ever be deceived about that.
We feverishly set up the tiny dining area at the back of our wagon, rearranging our shabby little table and four chairs. We position false walls gleaned from our backdrops. I’m feeling better and better about this turn of events. In truth, rigging up a parlor to produce a fake séance for an audience of one is absurdly simple for us. Excitement chases away the last dregs of my discontent. Gold. The lady has got gold.
“What else do we know about her?” Uncle Brady quizzes me. When my father is hard on me, Uncle Brady is forgiving. When my father is a boiled shirt, Uncle Brady is the soul of kindness. When my father imposes his rules and injunctions, Uncle Brady gently takes me by the hand and leads me down the paths of new knowledge. I respect my father. I love Uncle Brady. I have always called this distinguished, dark-skinned man Uncle Brady. So did my mother. For that matter, so has Professor Flint.
I grin, intrigued by his new game. “She was married.”
“And widowed,” Uncle Brady coaches me.
“She’s Russian,” I say. “Plenty of Russians in California, aren’t there?”
“Russians settled in this territory forty years ago,” Uncle Brady says. “A lot of them gold miners.”
“She wears some expensive perfume, a wonderful scent of red roses. Nice touch, Pop giving her that fresh rose. Where did he get it from, anyway? We haven’t paid a florist, have we?”
Uncle Brady shakes his head. “The mysterious Professor Flint has got a few tricks up his sleeve, I guess. Her dress is very pretty, but not quite in the height of fashion. I’d say she’s frugal.”
“I’d say she’s rich. Perhaps she owns a gold mine.” I rub my fingertips on the token. Let no one dissuade you that the sight of pure gold cannot send a lustful thrill through your very marrow.
“They’re coming.” Uncle Brady ducks behind the false walls, leaving me to brush bread crumbs from the table. I take Zena Troubetzskoy’s hand as she climbs into the wagon. My father climbs in after her, gallantly producing a red silk rose, a prop quite the worse for wear, kept in our inventory far too long.
“Oh, no thank you,” Zena murmurs, patting the bloom tucked behind her ear. The red rose, the real one, is dewy and fresh, as if it has just been plucked from the bush. “You need not try to amuse me with parlor tricks, Professor Flint. I want to speak with my husband.”
My father glances at me, and I see the frisson of panic in his eyes. He’s out of his depth, and he knows it. “Go get us a candle, Daniel.”
“Yes, Father.” I unobtrusively relieve Zena of her burgundy satin purse, excuse myself, and duck behind the false walls as my father continues to chat with her. Uncle Brady seizes the purse. We have no intention of relieving the lady of any more gold than she has freely relinquished. Instead, silently, carefully, we empty the purse, searching for information.
A lady’s purse typically contains a calling card, a monogrammed handkerchief, perhaps a ferrotype of the dearly departed. A pressed corsage would be superb, a letter even better, but I would settle for any sort of personal effect that would provide a clue as to who Zena Troubetzskoy is. Cosmetics, liver pills, a receipt from her dressmaker, the label on the purse itself. All I require are a few clues, which I will convey to my father through the simple method of coded. . . .never mind. Suffice it to say, we have methods of conveying information to each other which Zena could not possibly detect.
But there is nothing. Nothing but the purse itself–no label–and the plain white silk handkerchief she lent to my father last night. And gold. More gold tokens, quite a trove of them.
I slip back into our makeshift parlor, restore the purse to the lady, set candlestick and candle in the center of our table. I signal my father regarding the paucity of our findings. I sit. My father lights the candle and closes the canvas flap over the back of our wagon, plunging the parlor into darkness dimly lit by candlelight. We three join hands.
“I shall now endeavor to establish communication with the Souls of the Other Side,” my father says, cleverly borrowing her own words. He throws back his head and closes his eyes, hoping to unleash psychic powers. Uncle Brady sets to work behind the false walls, producing a fitful breeze that causes our candle flame to flicker convincingly.
Zena’s hand begins to tremble violently in mine. “Oh, Nickie,” she whispers under her breath.
Before my father can utter a word, I murmur, “Nickie?”
“Oh, yes!” Zena cries. “Nickie, is that you?”
“‘Tis I, my rose,” I say, unable to stop myself. “‘Tis Nickie.”
My father blinks at me, but he dare not scowl.
“I’m so sorry, Nickie,” Zena says. Tears burst from her eyes. “I never meant to leave you. I never meant to leave you in the mountains, the terrible mountains.”
“The terrible mountains,” I say.
“And here I am in my dress with a rose in my hair,” Zena says.
“You look beautiful as always,” I say.
“I never cared about the gold, not really. I just wanted to be near you. Yet I abandoned you, Nickie. I’m so very sorry.”
“I forgive you, Zena,” I say. “I know you did not mean to abandon me.”
“Do you, Nickie? Do you really?”
“Of course, my rose.”
“All I’ve wanted ever since is your forgiveness.”
“I forgive you, Zena,” I say. “Always and forever.”
She begins to sob in earnest, withdrawing her hands from mine and my father’s, and covering her face. My father blows out the candle, and stands, and throws back the canvas flap. Morning sunlight and fresh chilly air pour into our wagon. Zena finds her white silk handkerchief in her purse and dabs at her eyes. My father is impassive. I cannot read his face when he glances at me.
“Thank you,” she says to me, pressing my hand. Her touch is as cool and light as the brush of a bird’s wing. “Thank you so very much.”
“I am honored to assist you, madam.” I confess I am wildly pleased with myself, despite the lady’s distress. I read her like a book. Perhaps I am cut out to be a stage magician, after all.
“May I return tomorrow morning?” she says to my father. “There is so much more I want to say to my husband.”
“Oh, I think not, Madame Zena,” my father says sternly. “As I’ve said, we are not spiritualist mediums.”
“But do you see how talented your son is? Oh, he’s quite amazing! I knew he would be.”
“Yes, but this is not his calling or mine,” my father insists. Do I detect a small sour note of envy in his tone? Only a moment ago, he was the amazing Professor Flint. “We must rehearse. We are expecting an important shipment of new equipment, which must be unpacked and made ready. We must go on with the show, madam. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, please, Professor,” she says so plaintively that only a man with no heart at all could refuse her. She dips into her purse, pulls out another gold token. She tucks it into my hand, closes my fingers over it. Only a fool would refuse her.
My father is no fool. “Very well,” he says. “Tomorrow morning.” And off she goes, the hem of her dress rustling over the damp grass.
Uncle Brady tears down the false walls and stacks them carefully around the plate glass. I linger at the table, mulling over my small triumph. It’s odd, but I’m sure I felt something. A sort of stirring when I’d taken Zena’s hand.
“Daniel?” my father says.
“Ah, yes, the horses,” I say, and scramble to my task. I’m ashamed of my earlier outburst. Perhaps my father will let the incident go unremarked, but, knowing Pop, that’s not likely.
“When you finish with the horses, sir,” my father says, “go downtown.”
“I didn’t mean it, Pop,” I say. “I don’t know the first thing about waiting tables.”
“They say those fancy restaurants will stiff a new waiter,” Uncle Brady says. “Profit from his labor, then pinch his penny.” He throws a look of sympathy in my direction.
“Go downtown,” my father repeats and shakes his finger at me, but his eyes hold something new. “She’ll want more than a con artist’s tricks from you tomorrow morning. You’d better go and see what you can dig up on our Madame Troubetzskoy.”
To discover what Danny finds out about Zena and the dark secrets of his past, read the complete story of “Every Mystery Unexplainedand join my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=23011206. Thank you for your help while I recover from the Attack. I’ve posted delightful new and previously published stories, book excerpts, writing tips, movie reviews, original healthy recipes, and more!
Donate a tip from your PayPal account to lisasmason@aol.com.
Visit me at www.lisamason.com for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, worldwide links, covers, reviews, interviews, blogs, round-tables, adorable cat pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, and more!

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The Story Collection Storybundle is ends June 2, 2016 at Midnight Eastern, 9 p.m., Pacific, at https://storybundle.com/storycollection!

At StoryBundle, you the reader name your price—whatever you feel the books are worth. You may designate a portion of the proceeds to go to a charity. For The Story Collection Storybundle, that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (“SFWA”). SFWA champions writers’ rights, sponsors the Nebula Award for excellence in science fiction, and promotes numerous literacy groups.

For $5 (or more, if you wish), you’ll receive the basic bundle of three books in any eBook format worldwide. For $12 (or more, it’s up to you), you’ll receive five bonus books as well. That’s eight stellar ebooks to add to your e-library.

The basic bundle includes:

Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner

The extensive and multi-genre collection was prepared as an ebook for Storybundle, includes forty-one stories, and has an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler. Shiner was a finalist for the Philip K Dick Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award.

Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand

Hand won the World Fantasy Award four times, the Nebula Award twice, the Shirley Jackson Award twice, the Mythopoetic Award, and was a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book Author.

The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories by Walter Jon Williams

Two stories in this collection won the Nebula Award. Williams was a Philip K Dick Award Finalist and placed numerous times for the Nebula and Hugo Awards.

The bonus books, which complete your bundle, are:

What I Didn’t See: Stories by Karen Joy Fowler

The collection won the World Fantasy Award and the title story won the Nebula. Fowler wrote The Jane Austen Book Club, a New York Times Bestseller made into a film, and won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner for We are all completely beside ourselves.

6 Stories by Kathe Koja

The collection was created by the author exclusively for Storybundle. Koja won the Bram Stoker Award and was a Philip K Dick Award Finalist.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories by Lisa Mason

The collection received five stars from the San Francisco Review of Books. Mason was a Philip K Dick Award Finalist, a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book Author, and a New York Times Notable Book Author.

Women Up to No Good by Pat Murphy

Two stories in the collection were nominated for the Nebula. Murphy won the Nebula twice, the World Fantasy, and the Philip K Dick Awards.

Wild Things by C. C. Finlay

The collection is an ebook exclusive for Storybundle and has a new Afterword. An award-nominated fantasy author, Finlay is the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

But never mind the authors’ accolades and accomplishments. The collections are a feast for the mind—amazing, far-ranging, thought-provoking, witty, and—dare I say it?—a damn good read.

It’s difficult to locate some of the stories in anthologies and magazines that have gone out of print. The authors of the Story Collection Storybundle have done the work of assembling their collections. All you have to do is enjoy!

If you love short stories as much as I do, you’ll find a delightful cornucopia of literary riches. The Story Collection Storybundle is unique and diverse. Browse selections among them or devour an author’s entire offering. That’s what I love about stories. The choice is yours!

So there you have it, my friends. The Story Collection Storybundle ends in five days on June 2, 2016, at Midnight Eastern Time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! Download yours today at https://storybundle.com/storycollection and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and through the summer months.

In October, 2013 I started a series of conversations with my acquaintance, the author Elle Emerson. I don’t have the link handy, but if you scroll back on WordPress to October 19, 2013, you’ll find our first conversation, which I entitled “Tales of Woe.”

Twenty years ago, Ms. Emerson began publishing stories in professional magazines and then books with two of the Big Five Publishers. She got good reviews, award nominations, and even a New York Times Notable Book designation.

But she didn’t get enough of a readership in a short enough timeframe and the Big Publishers crushed her career.

She knows a lot and has experienced a lot and I wanted to interview her and set out our conversations here.

I’ve been after her for months to tell me more. I regret to tell you she just called me and has declined to proceed further.

When I asked her why, she said, “Plenty of authors are writing about the problems with traditional publishing. The New York Times recently ran an article by a successful author who explained why she’s self-publishing her new book. Another author has written extensively in her blog about her problems. I don’t want to go there. However legitimate, these types of confessions sound like complaining. And I don’t see how it does anyone any good. If you’re traditionally published, you already know the score. If you’re not, you’ll probably never have to deal with it.” She laughed. “You’ll have to deal with self-publishing.”

Well, okay. Could she summarize her experiences?

“Sure,” she said. “Arrogant, careless, incompetent, lazy, disloyal literary agents.” [Note: Ms. Emerson has hired and fired five big agents.] “And arrogant, careless, incompetent, lazy, disloyal book editors.”

Could she give me some examples?

“Okay,” she said. “An editor who is no longer in publishing at all went off on his vacation to Italy after neglecting to include my Author’s Bio in the first edition of what was my biggest book. The book had to launch without it. This same editor withheld the payment of an advance after I had turned in my book. The editor had approved the book and was required under contract to pay me. But he stalled anyway as sort of a passive=aggressive power move even though my husband had just had surgery and we really needed the money. I had to get down on my hands and knees and beg for money I was legally and promptly owed.”

Wow. I was starting to get the picture. I should add, Ms. Emerson is an attractive, positive, cooperative, brilliant, business-savvy woman, as well as being talented and dedicated.

I was intrigued by her last words in our October interview. She had said: “I’ve been abused for years by the publishing business. The publishing business is just like a toxic parent.” What did she mean by that?

“If you’re a child with a toxic parent, you are totally dominated by that parent,” she said. “The parent controls your time, your activities, and your means of support. S/he demands that you meet every requirement the parent sets out, demands you abide by the parent’s rules, demands your loyalty and your love. In return, the parent doesn’t have to do anything. The parent can be cruel, withholding, manipulative, and careless, and you the child can’t do anything about it.”

“So traditional publishing is like that?” I said. I must tell you, she was making me nervous.

“You got it,” she said.

“What about independent publishing?” I wanted her opinion on this.

“It’s a time-consuming and expensive hobby that may or may not enable you to make a tiny living,” she said with a laugh. “I think there’s a lot of luck involved along with the hard work.”

So there you have it, my friends. “I have to get on with my life,” Ms. Emerson told me and ended the call. So do we all. I thanked her and said goodbye.

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-4-the-comet-and-the-long-tail-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 5: Authors’ Market Share Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/02/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-5-authors-market-share-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 6: Ebooks Versus Print Books Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-6-ebooks-versus-print-books-lisa-mason-sfwapro

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 7: Unlimited or Not Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/08/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-7-unlimited-or-not-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 8: Print Books in 2013 Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/13/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-8-print-books-in-2013-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 9: Amazon Vs Hatchett Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/16/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-9-amazon-vs-hatchett-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, “Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy,” on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, five-star rated, “A fantastic collection,” on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters. Thank you for your readership!

Visit 1967 and 2467! Try Summer Of Love, A Time Travel, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book.

Twenty five-star Amazon reader reviews “This book was so true to life that I felt like I was there. I recommend it to anyone.” “More than a great science-fiction, a great novel as well.” “My favourite SF book of all time, beautiful, cynical and completely involving….Unmissable!”

The year is 1967 and something new is sweeping across America: good vibes, bad vibes, psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, anti-war protests, racial tension, free love, bikers, dropouts, flower children. An age of innocence, a time of danger. The Summer of Love.

San Francisco is the Summer of Love, where runaway flower children flock to join the hip elite and squares cruise the streets to view the human zoo.

Lost in these strange and wondrous days, teenager Susan Bell, alias Starbright, has run away from the straight suburbs of Cleveland to find her troubled best friend. Her path will cross with Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, a strange and beautiful young man who has journeyed farther than she could ever imagine.

With the help of Ruby A. Maverick, a wise and feisty half-black, half-white hip entrepreneur, Susan and Chi discover a love that spans five centuries. But can they save the world from demons threatening to destroy all space and time?

A harrowing coming of age. A friendship ending in tragedy. A terrifying far future. A love spanning five centuries. And a gritty portrait of a unique time in American history.

Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

What the professional book reviewers have to say:

“Captures the moment perfectly and offers a tantalizing glimpse of its wonderful and terrible consequences.” San Francisco Chronicle

“A fine novel packed with vivid detail, colorful characters, and genuine insight.” Washington Post Book World

“Remarkable. . . .the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.” Locus Magazine

“Mason has an astonishing gift. Her chief characters almost walk off the page. And the story is as significant as anyone could wish. This book will surely be on the prize ballots.” Analog

“A priority purchase.” Library Journal

5 stars From the Readers

Calling All Fans Amazon Verified Purchase ‘Summer of Love is an important American literary contribution that may very well have a strong and viable fan base. Where are you? Join us! This novel is loads of fun to read. The majority of the characters are hippies from the 1960s who meet a stranger from the future who’s looking to save his world. This fellow, Chiron, needs to find a troubled adolescent teen named Susan (a.k.a. Starbright) for a very compelling reason. The book has a great deal to offer: swift action, lovable characters, spiritual insight, and well-chosen primary documents such as essays, poems, and news articles which round out the reader’s understanding of the worldview of the novel. I think Summer of Love has excellent potential for a wider audience. I hope it continues to enjoy a healthy amount of sales in the used books market on this site. I wish even more for it to be in wider circulation. Some books talk about the sixties. This novel IS the sixties, thanks to the spirit and scholarship of its author. And, as one reader aptly put it, ‘the sci-fi stuff is just plain off the hook.’ Get a copy. Most people who have read it seem to respect it and enjoy it every bit as much as I do.’

New Reader Review! “Just checked to see if this book was on Kindle. It has been many years since I’ve read it but I remember it as one of my very favorite books. Time to go back and re-read it!!!”

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story on Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo; My Charlotte: Patty’s Story is also on Amazon.com worldwide in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters. Thank you for your readership!

1

Emma J for Joy Pearce is on the twenty-second floor of Three Embarcadero when the birds begin to twitter. She is sipping her first cup of coffee and watching the rush-hour traffic crawl across the Bay Bridge into downtown San Francisco. A five-car pileup has blocked the Fremont off-ramp for ages, and she shakes her head, savoring her breakfast blend and feeling just a little bit smug. She doesn’t have to deal with that commute, thank her lucky stars. Living on Telegraph Hill and hiking ten blocks to the office is the way to go. She wouldn’t live anyplace else on the planet.

The birds, a flock of lively sparrows, swarm outside her window. Which is sort of odd. Emma just doesn’t see the tiny birds flying so high. Sparrows tend to be ground-bound, pecking at cookie crumbs outside a café on the mezzanine level. Odder still, they are diving and swooping, forming strange frantic patterns against the pink light of the rising sun. They begin to twitter in earnest now, almost screeching, in a weird frenzy. Sounding not like birds anymore, but some other feral creature, weasels or rats.

The birds rouse Emma out of her morning grogginess into mild surprise.

She had spent the night with Timothy and, half smiling, half frowning, has been mulling over what he’d said. She loves him, of course, but she just isn’t sure. No, wait. That isn’t right. It’s insane, what he’s asking. When they’re both so set in their ways. Things going so well, for the both of them, just the way they are.

She’d bounced out of bed with the completely genuine plea of a very hairy deadline. Buzzed into the office an hour early before the first of the flex-timers. Timothy. Dear sweet wonderful Timothy, but after five years, who would have thought? She sets her cup down, stands and stretches. She isn’t quite ready to start tearing apart the manuscript for Genes: Why I’m Me and Not You, Thank Goodness. The first chapter is a mess with lapidary moments, like the rest of the manuscripts Nigel Fontaine has turned in over the years.

More mess than brilliance in his projects these days. She must have a heart-to-heart huddle with the old coot sometime soon. She checks her calendar. Maybe lunch next week?

What’s with the birds?

A hollow booming rises out of the westward fog. Her windows begin rattling. Suddenly, flagpoles are tossing to and fro on the tops of high-rises.

The earthquake strikes.

Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Mason

SHAKEN, a sexy Thriller, is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords.

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

Tomorrow’s Child on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords,  and

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.

For urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, romantic suspense, humor, and a screenplay, visit The Virtual Bookstore. All Lisa Mason Titles, All Links, All Readers, Worldwide. NYT Notable Book Author.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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This last summer, I was working on a new project and hit a snag. I wasn’t sure where the plot should go next. My characters had started rebelling against the roles I’d assigned them; I wasn’t sure what their motivations had become.

The best thing to do was turn the computer off and get out of my office. I needed a respite from the electronic screen, from the relentless buzz of electricity. I needed some fresh air. I needed to stretch my legs, to drift.

A cuppa java, extra bold and straight up, at Café Talia sounded perfect.

I packed my Ghurka shoulder bag with a moleskin notebook and a couple of sharpened Blackfeet Indian pencils. I no longer take a laptop out to the cafés ever since I witnessed a street thug grab the strap of a laptop bag off the shoulder of a pedestrian and knock her to the pavement. Carry a phone or mobile device? Forget it. Street robberies were on the rise last summer, even in a cool neighborhood like mine.

A light drizzle dampened the streets, so I pulled on my L.L. Bean parka, pulled the hood over my head. I love walking in the rain. I set out on the four-block trek, strolling on the park side of the avenue where squirrels scampered across the unkempt lawns and birds flitted in the tall, old oaks.

Café  Talia is a small, woodsy, locally owned café, not a franchise, and always smells deliciously of freshly ground coffee. Hardly anyone was there. I took my favorite seat in a secluded corner by the big front window and filled my mouth with a sip of delicious coffee.

As I settled down, daydreaming, a woman walked in. Tall and slim in jeans and a leather jacket, a laptop bag slung over her shoulder tangling with her long, wavy hair, the woman looked angry and troubled, and I recognized a well-regarded professional writer friend of mine. We hadn’t spoken or emailed in a long time. She bought a coffee at the counter and looked around for a seat.

I called to her and waved her over. “I haven’t seen you in a blue moon! How the hell are you?”

“Not so good,” my friend said—I’ll call her Elle Emerson (not her real name).

“What’s up?” I said innocently. I loved Elle like a sister and felt bad we hadn’t kept in touch. I admired her books and stories. She’d gotten published before me, and we’d workshopped together briefly, but neither of us had kept up with it. She was fiercely independent as, I suppose, am I.

“You really want to hear this?”

Now I wasn’t at all sure, given her tone and expression, but I said, “Sure.”

She sat and sighed heavily, slinging her bag over the back of the chair. “How can I say this?” she began. “I’ve been abused. For years.”

I felt shock ripple through me. I mean, this was my attractive, confident friend who had accomplished a lot in life. We had much in common; we both had professional degrees, both had worked hard and seen some success in those professions, both had left our professions to pursue the quixotic dream of writing and publishing. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. I just looked at her. She didn’t meet my eyes.

“My mother was a classic toxic parent as defined by the great Dr. Susan Forward in her amazing book, Toxic Parents,” she said, “but family abuse was just the start.”

“The start?” I mumbled. Now I really wasn’t sure I wanted to hear her story. But let’s face it, I was also curious the way we human beings are endlessly curious about other people’s troubles. “The start of what?”

“I’ve been abused for years by the publishing business,” Elle said. “The publishing business is just like a toxic parent.”

Next week: Elle’s Tales of Woe 2

I can’t tell you Elle Emerson’s website or Facebook page or any other identifying presence she’s got in the public. I made a solemn vow to keep her anonymous as a condition of her telling me her story. So there you have it, my friends.

As for me, I’ve got urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, romantic suspense, humor, and a screenplay on the Virtual Bookstore! All Lisa Mason Titles, All Links, All Readers, Worldwide. NYT Notable Book Author https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2013/08/31/virtual-bookstore-fantasy-science-fiction-urban-fantasy-romantic-suspense-literary-screenplay-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

SHAKEN on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

Tomorrow’s Child on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords,

U F uh-O, A Sci Fi Comedy is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords; and

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy this title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.

Thank you for your readership!