In Search of Fairy Tale Magic

This post was inspired by today’s Tiny Spark, written by Amber over at Tori’s blog. 

To Whom it May Concern:

I have been waiting a long time for an appearance from my Fairy Godmother, or for a man with a long beard to appear with my invitation to join a school of wizardry.  I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of wishes upon stars, and clapped until my hands hurt to prove my belief in fairies. I’ve looked for the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and I still open every new closet or wardrobe door with the hope that this time I could walk through to another world.  I’ve started building fairy houses on the back hill, hoping to at least hear the tinkle of laughter and music from an all night gathering.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

I’ve believed in magic with all my might.

But still, you tease me and refuse to give me my hearts desire. Every time I ask for a little magical assist, or an answer to come in my dreams, you make me find alternative solutions instead.

Enough is enough. I hereby turn in my resignation and will no longer believe in the magic of others.

I plan to create my own magic instead.


Lisa Kramer, Word-magic Weaver and Prince(ss) Charming

A fairy from my imagination.

A fairy from my imagination.


It’s That Magical Time of the Year

There is something in the air at this time of year.

It has nothing to do with the abundance of red and green bedecking the halls and windows of every storefront.  It has nothing to do with the jingling bells and multiple renditions of Let it Snow or Silver Bells  that play on more and more stations starting sometime before Thanksgiving. It has nothing to do with gaudy decorations that fill lawns and windows, encouraging families to hop into cars, loaded up with blankets and hot chocolate, and drive through unknown neighborhoods in search of the biggest and brightest displays. (For a lovely discussion of that nostalgic experience read Tori’s “Right Turn to Sunnyside”)

It might possibly have a little something to do with twinkle lights.

Simple Lights in a Dark Corner

I’m not talking about Christmas tree lights, which of course are the most ubiquitous form of twinkle lights at this time of year. I’m thinking about the power of twinkling lights of any type at this time of year–lights to push off the darkness, lights to guide people home, lights to give people a sense of hope. There is magic in the moment when light breaks through the darkness.

Menorah Lights in the Darkness. Photo by Sarah KramerLee (2011)

Menorah Lights in the Darkness. Photo by Sarah KramerLee (2011)

There is a reason that cultures from the beginnings of time have celebrated at this time of year. The days get shorter, the darkness encroaches. Before there was electricity, before their  light pollution brightened the skies so that we no longer can recognize true darkness this would be a time of mystery and perhaps fear.

Winter Solstice.

People might wonder if the sun would ever return and the darkness ever end. So they created celebrations and traditions to combat the darkness.

  • Romans celebrated Saturnalia, where homes were decorated with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees in honor of Saturnus, god of agriculture. “Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness” (all quotes from Winter Solstice: The Unconquered Sun)
  • “In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.”
  • Jews celebrate Hannukah, the festival of lights.
  • Diwali, a holiday associated with Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism is often called the Festival of Lights
  • Tazaungdaing festival is a Burmese celebration also known as the Festival of Lights

There is a reason that people celebrate light in a time of darkness. To me, the meeting of the two, light and dark hold a sense of crossing the lines into the unknown–they provide a moment of possibility.

Honoring the light

To me, candles in a window hold a sense of mystery, of magic, of hope.

This is the time of year when I feel closer to something that lies just beyond our understanding. It has nothing to do with any religious beliefs, but rather with the gathering forces of nature, where darkness meets light, cold confronts warmth, and the unknown lies just around the corner.

I’ve written before how this is the loneliest time of year sometimes. I also admit, however, that it is also the most magical. There is a sense of possibility that anything can happen in the line between darkness and light. We just need to be willing to find peace in the darkness.

“Meanwhile I am putting up more twinkle lights.” (You’ve Got Mail)

Believing in Butterflies

Butterflies and Hurricanes 2

Butterflies and Hurricanes 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I went to a dance concert by the Stephens College Dance Company. Whenever I attend dance concerts one of two things happen. I either 1) leave scratching my head saying they moved well but I don’t get it; or, 2) get swept away in the imagery, the movement, and wish that I could become a dancer and share life in that magical way.

The performance last night swept me away in every way possible.

One of the pieces they did was called “Butterflies and Hurricanes” and was “Dedicated to the children who survived the Joplin tornado.” A choreographer’s note explained:

“After the Joplin, Mo. tornado in 2011, several children recounted stories of their experiences. Many reported seeing giant butterflies that held them to the ground, and kept them safe and calm. Incredibly, these stories were gathered separately, but seemed to include the same details. Could there be magical butterflies out there, or do they just live in the imagination of children? You decide.”

The power of this idea, this image, spoke to me on many levels. It wasn’t just the amazingly beautiful dance with twirling umbrellas, the lights that brought back memories of the  darkening sky of that day in 2011 (the storm that hit Joplin went over us in Independence, KS), or the elegance of the dancer on point wrapped with blue fabric that extended out to form her wings to incredible effect.  All of those were powerful, but the story behind it begged for more attention.

I did a little research and found this article called “The butterfly people of Joplin” which goes into details of the events on that day, events that lead to a belief in angels for many people.

Do I think the butterflies were angels? Perhaps. I do know that somehow butterflies, for me at least, reflect the connection between the seen and the unseen, the real and the magical,  what we know because we can see it and what we know just because we know.

Once, long ago, I sat on one of the energy vortexes found in Sedona, AZ and asked for a sign, for some guidance, for some clue that I was making good choices in my life. A butterfly landed near me and I thought, perhaps, that it was a spirit guide. I know I have a picture of that moment, but not on this computer.

Photo by Steve Kramer. Bell Rock, one of the most powerful vortexes (not the one I sat on)

Since then, I have been drawn to butterflies. Whenever I have the opportunity I go to butterfly houses and spend time watching those magical creatures . I’m always trying to capture their beauty on my camera, but somehow they manage to elude me.

Perhaps their message for me comes from the moment.

I remember as a child seeing the most beautiful butterfly I had ever seen. It was black with tiny dots of color along the edges of its wings, like someone had drawn on it with pastel dots of paint. My guess (now that I can research it) is that it was a swallowtail, although I swear it had more variety of colors on its wings.

Whatever it was, I still remember feeling honored to see it that day long ago.

When we were still in Kansas, I led a play reading of The Bones of Butterflies  by Marcia Cebulska, which I wrote about here. Marcia, who is a talented playwright and magnificent woman, went on to work on a special project this past year called The Greensburg Project, which looked at the story of the”survival and journey home” for the town of Greensburg, KS after a devastating tornado destroyed the town. I could not help but think about Marcia and her play “Rooted: The Greensburg Odyssey” last night.  For more about the project, visit this site. I was unable to see it, but I so wish I had.

I know this post seems to be wandering all over the place, almost like the flight of butterflies, random and elusive.

But somehow I feel like magic is building around me, if I simply could understand the call of the butterflies, and the message they are trying to send.

I believe in butterflies. Do you?

In Search of Her Story

I mentioned a few days ago that I had signed up for a class to try to help me get toward my goals of writing a novel. The course has started, and for my first assignment I am supposed to suggest two ideas for what I would like to write. Suddenly, despite the hundreds of ideas that have poured around me at different times in my life, I am drawing a blank. This is it. This is real. I must now make a commitment, and if I ever really want to write fiction I must make some choices. I woke up in a panic, still no closer to a clear idea. But then, I realized, the Storyteller plays a role in this. I may not know the Story, yet, but I am the Storyteller, or at least I am her apprentice. I sat down and began to write this:

The young woman, Leahannah,  wandered through the rows of light, cultivated trees at the edge of the clearing. She never stepped over the line into the dimness of the forest  abutting this protected grove, for despite everything she had learned from the Storyteller, she still had fear of the Others. Those fears, ingrained in her since childhood, sometimes interfered with her learning and growth as she tried to master the skills of the Storyteller.

Leahannah felt like she was disappointing the Storyteller by not letting go of these fears.

She wandered closer to the line between darkness and light, peering into the depths of the trees. She kept seeing eyes peeking back at her from the crevices of trees or under bushes. Were they real or imagined? Were the eyes from human animals, the Others, or real animals on the hunt?

A chill went up her spine. Not one of fear, but of realization. She still thought of the Others as animal, and that would never do. If she wanted to someday step into the role of storyteller, she needed to overcome her ingrained fears and recognize the truth. A surprising tear formed in her eye at the thought of losing the Storyteller, for the old woman had saved Leahannah by making her the storytelling apprentice. Without her, Leahannah would still be doing drudge work and living on scraps, little better than the Others people hated so much.

But the Storyteller was old and had been for a long time. Each day, each time the Storyteller used the magic to tell stories, Leahannah noticed she got slower, and seemed to  fade into the glow of the magic never fully coming back to solidity. The Storyteller was becoming the magic. It did not look painful, and in some ways it seemed Storyteller embraced the change–as if becoming the magic was the final transition necessary to fulfill her purpose in life.  The transition would carry her stories on into forever.

That couldn’t happen, however, unless Leahannah was ready to become the next Storyteller. She couldn’t do that until she passed the next trial; the sharing of Her story, a story that spoke from her very soul and from the heart of the magic. It couldn’t be a story told before. It couldn’t be a simple story. It had to be a story that drew the listeners in and shared important messages without them even knowing it. It had to be full of magic, but the magic that comes from Leahannah’s being, not magic borrowed from the Storyteller.

Leahannah sighed. This was her struggle. Where was she to find that story? She could tell stories of the village, but those would not work. The villagers did not want to hear about themselves, at least not in a recognizable way. She could tell a story of the gods, but those were not new. Where could she find Her story? The story that she needed to tell.

Leahannah heard something in the dark woods behind her. A crackle of leaves, perhaps, maybe a bird or a whisper of wind through the trees. She peered into the darkness and felt her heart grow, a spark of magic building. Suddenly she knew, she would find Her story in the darkness. She would find her story with the Others.

She began.

A Little Seasonal Magic

A bit of nature's magic.

Despite my somewhat Grinchy posts of late, there is something I love about the season.

It’s not the “true meaning” of Christmas because I can’t believe. It’s not Santa Claus. It’s not the buying and giving frenzy which I find utterly repulsive.

It’s what I call the magic.

This is the time of year when people seem to believe anything can happen. When twinkle lights fill the air, and the world takes on a festive look. This is the time of year where tiny villages decorate homes, in nostalgic reflections of times gone by where people sang carols and visited in horse-drawn sleighs.

It’s the time of year when the magical tinkle of bells rings everywhere, and you truly believe that another angel has just gotten wings.

It’s the time of year when people, or perhaps elves, create beauty out of almost anything imaginable. For example, Kathy (a blogging buddy turned dear friend) creates these spectacularly beautiful holiday ornaments out of recycled materials. Or these fantastic creations I saw on display at a nearby botanical garden (which I wish I had discovered this summer, but will revisit often throughout the year).

Sleigh full of simple loveliness.

A bucket full of magic berries.

All natural decorations all for the cost of some creative magic.

White twinkle lights must be magic.

Looking for an appropriate and natural holiday outfit?

A Victorian Christmas done the natural way.

A close up on a magical red tree.

But still, the most incredible artist of all, who makes the season truly magical whether there is snow or not, is Mother Nature.

Decorations only Mother Nature can create.

The Mysterious World of Bubbles

The Weekend Theme over at Sidie’s Blog is one simple (but to me) very magical word: Bubbles. I took a little trip into fantasy fiction this week, I hope you enjoy.

I have a secret. Most people don’t know this, but bubbles contain real magic. No, I’m not just talking about the visible magic of swirling colors that you can see, or the ability to ride away on invisible breezes. That’s just the nature of bubbles, not really magic.

What I am talking about is real, honest to goodness magic. The kind that takes you by surprise and whisks you away to the unexpected before you even know it happened.

Don’t believe me? I am living proof, because I have spent my life with bubble magic. I was once a normal girl like you, spending days with my family and playing silly girl games. Until one summer day, long, long ago when I discovered the secret of bubble magic, and my life has never been the same.

“There’s no bubble magic,” you scoff. “There’s no secret.”

If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself lost in the land of bubbles. And once you’ve been there, your life will change forever.

Have you ever looked into a bubble? I’m sure you have. You’ve seen the swirling colors moving around the perfect sphere until Pop! The bubble disappears with a tiny splash.

But, if you look deeper into a perfect bubble, so deep that you can’t see anything but that bubble, you might be one of the lucky few who see the truth. The shifting colors are not just blobs of color, but windows into another world filled with tiny towns, magical beings, mystical forces, grim castles, and dangerous creatures. Bubbles are the windows and doors to lands most people only find through books and imagination. Bubbles connect here from there, but only for crossing over isn’t without its risks, and only a few people ever discover the truth.

Or maybe I’m the only one.

It happened long, long ago. The summer sun sizzled and my brother, sister, and I couldn’t get motivated to do anything but complain about the heat. Mom didn’t want us wandering down to the swimming hole because our aunt and her family would be coming at some point that day, and Mom didn’t want to have to hunt us down. She made us help get the house ready, which didn’t help our moods as we cleaned in the heat. By 2:00, there was still no sign of our cousins, and Mom had thrown us out of the house, tired of our whining and complaining. Still we weren’t allowed to wander far. We each tried to find a cool place in the shade of the porch or by fanning ourselves with handmade paper fans, but the sun was slowly wilting our spirits into submission.

Then Mom, who I think felt a little guilty for keeping us trapped in an oven, brought out a special treat. Well, two special treats, an ice-cold pitcher of lemonade and a big basin filled with bubble juice. She showed us how to capture the liquid in rings she had made for us out of twigs, and fill the sky with bubbles.

I loved every single bubble.

Eventually, however, my brother and sister couldn’t take the heat anymore, and decided to take some lemonade into our tree house and read while they waited for our cousins.

I kept playing with the bubbles. The ever-changing colors inside the bubbles fascinated me. I felt like they hid secrets that I would understand if I could just make a bubble that would last longer, or a bigger more beautiful bubble. I set about experimenting with ways to create bigger and better bubbles.

Thus began my bubble obsession. My cousins eventually arrived, but I didn’t care. I spent their entire visit of two weeks experimenting with new ways to make bubbles. New tools for bubble rings. Different ways to make bubble mix. I was determined to make the biggest most beautiful bubble ever.

To both my joy and sadness, I succeeded.

Twilight had set in, and all the other kids were running around trying to capture fireflies and place them in tightly lidded jars with holes in the top. We only kept them for an hour and watched their beautiful semaphore before releasing them back into the world to find their mates. As much as I loved chasing fireflies, I didn’t join in, focusing on my bubble experiments.

I had formed a giant ring by patiently weaving together reeds that I had gathered from where they grew by the swimming whole. It had taken several days to complete, but I was sure it would create the world’s best bubble.

I dipped it into the thickest, soapiest, most colorful bubble concoction I had yet created. Raised it carefully, and then took a few running steps so the air would fill the bubble juice and make the bubble grow. It grew. A bubble the size of me. A bubble with every color of the rainbow, and some I couldn’t name. A bubble that contained what looked to me like tiny houses and tiny people in a world that mirrored my own, except that it had richer brighter colors than the tired colors that came from a summer filled with more heat than rain.

The bubble seemed to twinkle and glow, pulsing with energy. Then, in a surprising move, it didn’t float away on the slight breeze like all the others, but floated toward me. It did not pop on contact but enveloped me. Suddenly I found myself inside the bubble, looking out on the world I knew. That world wavered as the bubble rose, and the interior world of the bubble became more solid seeming, carrying with it a lilting song of the inhabitants of that bubble world, including birdsong more sweet than any I’d ever heard, the chatter of many voices, and the movement of people and animals I’d never met before.

As you can expect, I was very excited to have found my way into the bubble world. However, there is one thing I wish I had known that I didn’t find out until a few magical moments later. Before you decide to find your own way into this magical land, you need to know the truth. The only way in and out of the land is through the perfect bubble, and that gateway only lasts until the bubble goes POP!

If you want to return to the land of your home, you must find your way to another perfect bubble, made by another person who sees more in the joy of bubbles than rainbows . . . and that person is hard to find.

Are you the person to make a bubble for me so that I can come home?

Join Me in a Land of Wonder

Inspired partially by Joss‘ response to my post about childhood memories  I thought today I would simply share some clips and songs that never fail to bring me to that place where magic and miracles happen on a daily basis. Feel free to add more in the comments (I’ll have to approve, as I have to approve links) because I would love to see this list grow. So, in no particular order, enjoy.

I’ve become hooked on TANGLED and this scene never fails to make my imagination soar.

I’ve always loved the muppets, because they make me believe in everything.

Jack Johnson. Enough said.


I also thought I would share some of the things I have in my office for inspiration, because they too reflect my belief in magic:

The artist for the Sawdust posters is Ron Rodecker, and you can find more of his work here.

Join me in a land of wonder, and add some magical things below.

The Magic of Childhood Memories

A lake in New Hampshire.

1970 something.

On a boat.

The Idiot was nowhere near us, but I borrowed a few lines of his style since his post about Jaws and the discussion following made me flash on this particular memory.

Dad and Deb at the lake, I wonder if they were searching for mermaids? (Note: there are not many pictures of my adventures, mostly my brother and sister's.)

Dad and Deb again. Maybe Debbie is pointing at a lake monster in the distance.

We had a couple of lovable idiots on the boat. One of them, I called Daddy. The other was an old family friend named Hank. They had taken us out on a boat and I remember floating on the middle of the lake when both of them went overboard.

I’m not sure it was by choice. In later discussions my older sister (by five years) said that there was beer involved, and some sort of horseplay.

They were under water for a long time, and came back up covered in black gunk.

“What happened?!” I asked.

“We were attacked by a giant octopus.” Daddy said. And Hank reinforced his story.

Of course, I believed them. I mean, isn’t every New England lake inhabited by giant man-eating octopi?

Now, despite the fact that The Idiot said,

“Lisa – There is nothing I take more pride in….than dredging up old, deep, psychological wounds and memories……. So glad I could help :) “

I’m not really wounded by the gullible naiveté of that little girl, instead I am saddened that I can no longer give into that complete and utter belief of childhood.

I can no longer lie in my bed at night on Christmas wishing that, since Santa wouldn’t come to my house and bring me presents, he would at least let Rudolph knock on my window and take me for a magical ride.

Forgive my early Christmas reference.

I can no longer wander through a Halloween night, wondering if some of the creatures wandering the streets are real. [OK, I can, but I’m not supposed to admit it ;)] I cannot sit in a pumpkin patch and wait for the appearance of the Great Pumpkin. I never did that, but I always empathize with Linus when watching the special, I want so much to believe.

I can no longer wish upon a star, bursting out into song of course, and expect my wish will come true with a simple spark of fairy magic.

I can no longer run through the streets on a cool spring evening searching for Elijah in hopes that he might appear.

I can’t wander through a house that I am not familiar with looking at closet doors and wardrobes wondering if I can find an opening to a world like Narnia through one of them, and hoping I will.

More often than not, I’m driving the car, so I can’t give into the traveling fantasies of my childhood days, where I am riding a horse along the side of the road or conversing with a person just like me who lives among the stars.

I’m not supposed to believe in fairies and leprechauns, ghosts and goblins, or anything else truly magical. But that is a true loss. I wrote recently how much I would like to think like an eight year old, and I mean it.

The other day Nathan found our old video tape of Hook (1991) starring Dustin Hoffman,  Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, and Maggie Smith (love her) and directed by Steven Spielberg. Now, some people called this movie a flop, but I always loved it. Why? Because it reminds all adults, and even kids, of the value of imagination and believing in magic. How can you not love the following scene where a meal of nothing turns into a feast of fabulosity (and I know I made up that word)?

I want to get back on the boat and believe in the octopus, because believing in the impossible makes this world and this life a place full of possibility.

Don’t you think?


M is for “Marcia”, Marsha, Marcia and Magic

Who hasn’t had some Marsha’s in their lives?

My big sister Deb was my Marsha Brady. Growing up I always felt like she was better at everything. She was slim and gorgeous. Boys liked her. She was more athletic. She could paint. She was smart. She was popular.

Sometimes I felt like Jan. Sometimes I felt like Cindy. I lived in her shadow for a long time, and even have had moments as an adult where I felt like I could never live up to her glory. But, slowly I have stopped the comparisons and learned some of the ways that I overshadow her. I admire and respect her, but I no longer any desire to be her.

But today I want to talk about two other Marsha’s, who have also influenced me in some ways. The first I mentioned yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright, Marsha Norman.

The first presentation of the scene I directed seemed to go over well, including some tears in the audience. It wasn’t perfect, but that had to do with a minor annoyance and I took care of that. Of course, Marsha Norman didn’t see it, so the nerves are still there. This pictures is a little blurry, but it is of my actresses performing at the bottom of the stairs in the William Inge Boyhood Home. These are the stairs that inspired Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

Later in the day I attended a panel discussion with Marsha Norman and Sheldon Harnick discussing Adaptation for the Stage.  Both had amazing things to share. Sheldon has this vast history in musical theater working with some of the biggest names and he is a delightful story-teller. Marsha has the talent and power of a woman who has succeeded where many women still struggle. She said a few things that really resonated with me that I thought I would share.

When discussing how you choose a book to turn into a musical and how you approach that daunting task, she discussed the importance of reading the story to discover why people want to see it again and again in different forms (for example The Secret Garden). In the case of this story, she argued that people love to find hope.

The third Marcia I would like to mention today is another playwright, Marcia Cebulska.

Marcia is an incredible women that I have had the privilege of getting to know since I moved to Kansas. She is working on The Greensburg Project, where she will write a play developed by working with the citizens of Greensburg, KS about their lives after surviving a tornado in 2007. She was one of the women I worked with during the intensive theater workshop (which was the initiating workshop for the Greensburg project) which I wrote about in my post called “I Love Women”. I also facilitated a staged reading of her play The Bones of Butterflies which is a beautiful story  that focuses on the migration of monarch butterflies and the relationship a daughter and her missing father. That description doesn’t do the play justice, but it is a hauntingly beautiful and powerful piece. I attended a panel discussion with this Marcia as well today, where they discussed more details about the Greensburg Project. Unfortunately I had to miss her other workshop, where the discussion revolved around giving authentic voices to the characters when doing worked based on real stories. The more I get to know this amazing woman, the more I want to learn from her–about how to incorporate my passion and the respect she has for others into the words I pour on the page.  I am so lucky to have met her,  and hope to get to know her better.

The day ended with me getting a kind of surreal lecture from a conference guest about the “real reasons” behind the Inge Festival and why it should take years for me to get any recognition (even though he doesn’t know a thing about me, and was basically implying that I don’t work hard enough. If any of my few readers have learned anything about me it is that I work . . . hard.) Luckily, this discussion was cut short by the blare of  tornado sirens. This is the first time I’ve ever been happy to hear the. 😉 The tornado cleared the area, and the day shifted to that beautiful post-storm, end of day light including one of the most magical things in the world.

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So there you have it, the Marsha’s who have influenced my world with a little bit of magic included. Okay, they aren’t all named Marsha, but they all have made me think about how I view myself, others, my relationship to community, and my responsibilities as a creative person in this world.

I’m learning a lot this week.

Writing my next book? What do you think?


Top hat as an icon for magic

Image via Wikipedia


Yesterday, I was trying to think of something to write and I asked a young friend who was staying with us for an idea. She said “write about a girl who wants her refrigerator to talk and does a spell but it makes everything talk all around the world.”  I started writing. I haven’t gotten to the talking refrigerators yet, but this is what came out. What do you think, the beginning of my next book?


Dorienne always dreamed of doing magic. It started when she was three when her parents took her to see a magic show. She was fascinated by the flowers that seemed to appear out of nowhere (where did his wand go?), the long string of colored silk pulled from the magicians mouth (why didn’t he choke?), and the rabbit that came out of the hat (is his hat full of rabbit poop?). She was even pulled up on stage to pick a card and somehow the Queen of Hearts she picked ended up in the magician’s pocket! From that point on, she would perform magic shows to anyone who was interested. Of course the flowers were dying dandelions, she got in trouble when she tried to swallow a handkerchief, the rabbit was a stuffed animal and her card tricks never seemed to work correctly. Dorienne refused to give up though.

Once she learned to read and could pick out her own books, she found everything she could about magic. With any extra chore money, she sent away for magic tricks. She watched and re-watched Magicians Secrets Revealed and watched live magic shows whenever she could convince her parents to take her. Her parents supported this because they thought it was an interesting hobby. For Dorienne, though, it was more than a hobby, it was a quest. She was determined to find real magic.

But that wasn’t enough. Dorienne wanted real magic, not tricks.  At sixteen she felt that she could no longer waste time on trickery and children’s games. She wanted to discover true magic. She knew it existed somewhere, because so many people believe in a magical world. The magic people write about could not be just a figment of so many people’s imaginations.

Dorienne set out on a new quest, to discover true magic. Now that she had her driver’s license and an old car that rattled and shook, she could sneak off to places her parents didn’t necessarily approve of in search of magic. Of course, she had to tell a few little white lies because her parents would never like to know where she went. Her quest took her to some scary places in town. She entered dark shops hidden between liquor stores and pawn shops that would definitely terrify her parents.  Each shop had the same dusty dimness. Crystals reflected candle light, heavy incense filled the air, and mystical music played in the background. The stores sold strange objects, and smelled of strange spices. But, despite the odd find or two, Dorienne never felt that she had discovered anything real—not true magic.

Then one day she and her parents went on a family trip to a nearby town by the sea, to walk on cobblestone streets and look at all the curio shops. Occasionally her parents insisted on these days of family “fun” although Dorienne was beginning to outgrow the desire to spend that much quality time with her family. She didn’t mind, however, when they wandered into used book stores. Her parents got lost in browsing and finding treasures, so she always had time to seek out the magic section in the hopes of discovering something real.

Dorienne was excited when they stumbled into a store called The Book Witch. Now that’s interesting, Dorienne thought. Inside was the usual tumble of tomes, ranging from popular novels to classics in differing levels of decay. As her parents lost themselves in the section of their choice (literature for her dad, alternative therapies for her mom) Dorienne wandered into a section tucked away in the back of the store. A framed arch separated these books from the main store, and the little room beckoned with the air of mystery.

Dorienne thought she felt a spark of electricity was she entered this area, but decided it was her imagination. On a table in front of her she found a pile of many of the magic books she already had on her shelves at home. Her heart dropped in disappointment. Then she noticed a shelf further back that seemed different somehow. The hard covered leather books all had flaking gold words on the bindings, or hand painted images. The books seemed to pulse with energy.

“Don’t be crazy,” Dorienne whispered to herself. “They’re just books.”

A woman behind her spoke, causing Dorienne to jump as she thought she was alone, “Those are not just books,” the woman said. “They are books of power. I don’t sell them to just anyone.”

“Oh,” Dorienne said with a smile. “Do you own this store?”

“Yes.” The women answered; her mellow voice full of warmth. “Can I help you find something?”

“I want a book about magic,” Dorienne said. “Real magic, not tricks. Do you have anything like that?”

The woman looked deeply into Dorienne’s face. Dorienne felt uncomfortable but was unable to pull her gaze away from the women’s deep dark eyes. They had a little golden circle around the iris that made her eyes more interesting. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably just a few heart beats, the woman answered, “I have just the thing for you. It is a beginning, but you must use it with caution.”

The woman walked over to the shelf of pulsating books and took out a thin tome with a purple cover. Dorienne felt a little disappointed as many of the other books were thick and full of mystery. This one looked like a chapter book from school.

The woman handed the purple book over to Dorienne. The title was printed in simple gold lettering First Spells. The book felt warm to the touch. Dorienne opened to the first page and read:

Only those who have been invited are welcome to the mysteries of this book. But be warned! This knowledge is powerful and must be used with caution, care, and love.

Dorienne wasn’t sure what all that meant, but somehow she knew that what she held in her hand was very different from anything she had read before.

“How much is this?” she asked, worried that her saving was not going to be enough.

“Take it,” the woman replied. If you are able to use its mysteries successfully, then we will talk.

Just then Dorienne’s mother, carrying a pile of books, came back to look for her.  “We’re ready to check out now,” she said to the store owner. “Dorienne, have you found something to read? Let me guess, another book about magic.”

For some reason Dorienne didn’t want her mother to see this book, so she answered, “No, nothing special” and turned towards the shelf as if she was returning the book. She slipped it into her bag instead, throwing a shy smile in the direction of the shop owner.

That book was about to change her life.

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