Another Glimpse at A Magic Life

I recently shared the opening to the novel I’m currently working on, A Magic Life.

I planned to start the novel next year, but it became all I was thinking about — so I started it this month. A few chapters in, something happened: I jumped from past tense to present tense.

I’ve only written one thing in present tense in my entire life (well, only one work of fiction; in my day job as a tech writer, almost everything is present tense). My favorite novel (affiliate link) is written in present tense. I’ve liked most novels I’ve read in present tense. So now I’m finally giving it a go.

Since people liked the first bit I shared, here’s a little more…in present tense:

Another Snippet of A Magic Life

She lives in a world of sound and color, lulled to sleep by the growling of tigers and the trumpeting of elephants. In the morning, the squawks of large birds pull her from dreams of faraway places. By breakfast, the calls of roustabouts and singers practicing become background noise that would seem louder than thunder if everything suddenly stopped and gave way to silence. Wherever she turns, a kaleidoscope: the tent, yellow and red, taking over a field of grass as though it were spilled from a bucket. The peeling paint from the train cars gathering on the ground like brittle flakes of colorful snow. Costumes sparkle, the world blurs before her—she will never know what it is to be bored.

It doesn’t stop with just sound and sight—all of June’s senses join the dance. The stench of dung and damp straw bales is oddly soothing, something always there at the bottom of  it all reminding her she lives in a world of extremes. Not many children her age know the scent of pancake makeup and spirit gum. The feel of summer grass beneath her feet as dancers chase fireflies with her in the gloaming will never get old. In contrast to the soft grass and billowing fabrics all around is cold steel: tent poles, cages, and heavy tools. She’s long learned that the rough wood sides of the train car she calls home leave behind splinters if she tries tracing the garish images painted on the outer walls. Finally, there are flavors: cotton candy melting on her tongue, stuffed cabbage and soups cooked by the Hungarians from the horse show, the ever-present taste of sawdust at the back of her throat.

If she lives to be 100, her mind crammed full of a lifetime of thoughts and memories waiting to be forgotten, these days will be the last to go.

Opening to A Magic Life

Cross posted from The Juggling Writer.

About a month ago, I posted about working on a rewrite of something while starting a new book I didn’t plan to start until next year. (Sometimes the urge for something new hits and you just have to run with it.)

While I wanted to get another e-book out there before the year’s end, the new thing (called A Magic Life), has taken up most of my writing time.

I have a pile of things I want to blog about, but the new book has my attention. If I’m a bit quiet the rest of the year, you now know why…

* * *


June Mangione was born shortly after her mother was cut in half. Her first trick was an escape: slipping free from the soft grasp of her mother’s womb like handcuffs, untangling herself from umbilical chains—writhing and contorting as she made her way through the birth canal as though she were shedding a straight jacket—she kicked and fought until being delivered two months early into the hands of a waiting clown. Her arrival was a surprising appearance in a world where most things disappeared.

“That don’t look right,” the clown said.

June’s mother tried sitting up on the hay bales covered by two horse blankets emblazoned with BARNES BROS. CIRCUS serving as a delivery bed. “What’s wrong?”

“She ain’t much bigger than a yam, Angie.”

“She? Is she breathing?”

The clown put his ear to June’s face. “Shit!” He rolled June over, cradling her in his large hands, the umbilical cord dangling between his fat fingers. He worked his pinky into June’s mouth, checking for blockage.

June’s mother got her first look. “She’s blue!”

“I’m trying, Angie!” The clown rocked June back and forth in his hands, but she still wasn’t breathing. “Where’s the damn doctor?!”

Angie sat up and grabbed her leg. “Ow!”

“What’s wrong?” the clown said.

“Leg cramp. Happened in the ring.” She reached out for June.

Moments before June’s arrival, her mother climbed into an illusion cabinet and was sawed in half by her husband before a crowd gathered beneath a circus tent on a hot summer day. The initial tinges of birth came shortly before the show, small contractions that let Angie know the baby was coming sooner than planned, but it was a performer’s job to go on no matter what. She had hid June well. She was still able to wear costumes without the crowd noticing from a distance that she carried with her more than just a smile and moves to redirect their attention, but it was clear to those in the know that a backup assistant would soon be needed. Angie could only dance, gesture, and contort into illusion cabinets so long before the weight of her husband’s regret grew too big inside her to remain concealed.

The cramps came as June’s father slid two blades on either side of the cut he’d just made with a large saw and separated each half of the box to show the audience that he had just cut his wife in half before their eyes. June’s mother felt the warm rush of amniotic fluid between her legs as the two pieces of the cabinet were rejoined and the blades removed. When the cabinet was opened and Angie’s husband offered his hand to help her out, she sat up in the cabinet and waved to the audience, smiling through the pain. It was enough proof  that she’d survived, and they burst into applause. Beneath the clapping, Angie said, “The baby’s coming.” She was wheeled away and taken back stage.

“She’s bleeding!” one of the aerialists said. She pointed to the mess spilling from between Angie’s legs.

“Angie, we need to take care of you,” the clown said.


“We need to cut the cord.”

“Not yet,” Angie said. She didn’t care that she was bleeding. “Let me hold her.”

“She’s still not breathing, Angie.”

“I know.”

“Angie, listen to Hank,” the aerialist said. “We need to stop the bleeding.”

“Give me my daughter.”

Hank the clown handed June to her mother. Angie lied back, cradling June to her chest. She cooed in a reassuring tone as she gently patted and rubbed June’s back. “Come on, honey. Breathe.”


Angie’s trembling hands traced the contours of June’s back. “Breathe.”


“Angie?” Hank said. “Let us help you.”

“We need to help her,” Angie said.

Hank looked at the ground. “There’s nothing more we can do.”

Angie shook her head and pulled June closer. She kissed the top of June’s head and whispered something to her; then she closed her eyes, exhaled one last time, and loosened her hold on her daughter. Moments later, June’s first breath—a cry that could be heard all the way out to the audience—let the world know that a magic life had just begun.


I’ve wanted to podcast my first novel for a couple years. I’ve wanted to do a bi-weekly podcast for The Juggling Writer since I started the blog almost a year ago.

My first novel, called Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors, is a humorous coming-of-age story about a family traveling cross country in a possessed station wagon. Check out the podcast here.

I’m still knocking around ideas for the The Juggling Writer podcast, but it’s something I’d really like to do.

I just found myself unemployed [again] after working for a month following a 7-month bout with unemployment.

Hopefully this time around with no job won’t last more than a week or two, but while I’m looking for work, I may as well put the time to good use and start figuring out how to get the best sound for podcasts.