Tue
Jun 18 2013 3:00pm

Celebromancy (Excerpt)

Michael R Underwood

Celebromancy cover, Michael R. UnderwoodCheck out the sequel to Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy, Celebromancy, out on July 15 from Pocket Star:

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former child-star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

 

Chapter Two

Like Cheers, but with Dice

 

You can’t find Grognard’s Games and Grog unless you’re meant to, or with someone who has been. Proprietor Grognard (First or last name? Don’t ask) is a veteran of the world of Geekomancy and an expert brewer.

Find rare memorabilia, play in tournaments with bizarre prizes, but just don’t get on Grognard’s bad side.

Be sure to chat with new employee Ree Reyes, a novice Geekomancer who has made a splash with her signature snark.

Not For Mundanes: Pearson, 2012

 

Grognard’s Games and Grog was a full block underground, and the front door was disguised as a maintenance door inside the sewer.

As far as Ree could tell, it was mostly because Grognard didn’t like being bothered.

The shop was split into two sections: the bar, and the great sea of merchandise.

It’d only been six months since she started at Grognard’s, but she’d taken to the job like a tomcat in an aviary. And until the show took off, the checks for Awakenings were enough for her to catch a breather on her bills, but not to quit her job. It had all the hustle and bustle of her old job at Café Xombi, plus it kept her right in the middle of Pearson’s magical underground.

Other than the Midnight Market, Grognard’s was the #1 meetup destination for the city’s magical Geekomantic community, with practitioners prowling the aisles for just the right back issue or action figure for their rituals or just whiling away an evening over pitchers arguing about which Star Wars was the best and why.

That afternoon, the shop was empty, except for Grognard, who stood at the bar with a stack of paperwork.

Grognard—Just Grognard. Like Logan.—(Strength 14, Dexterity 10, Stamina 15, Will 18, IQ 15, Charisma 10—Geek 7 / Collector 4 / Geekomancer 3 / Brewmaster 5) was tall, bald, and thick-set. He looked somewhere between thirty and fifty and wore black, black, and more black.

Grognard topped off his look with the kind of beard that took constant cultivation: full, long, but perfectly groomed and easily stroked with one hand while haggling over a rare back issue, action figure, or game supplement.

“Hey,” Ree said as she approached.

Grognard chuffed. “You just missed Eastwood.”

“Pudu,” Ree said, frustrated and relieved all at once. They’d made plans to plot over beer.

For all of two days, Eastwood had been her mentor in the weird world of Geekomancy, until she discovered that he was aiding and abetting a demon that pushed teenagers to suicide. He had been doing it to try and rescue her mom (aka his girlfriend) from hell, a geeky Faustian bargain, but in Ree’s book, no level of good intentions could really justify sacrificing kids— not even for her mom, who had left a planet-sized hole in her and her dad’s life when she’d disappeared.

These days, the only time she saw Eastwood was when they were trying to figure out how to spring her mom from hell. This generally involved a lot of mutual frustration and tense stares across a table at Grognard’s, ending with one or the other of them storming off.

Eastwood was stubborn, grating, and probably unhinged, but he was as committed to Ree’s mom as she was. Probably more. The enemy of my mom’s enemy is my grudging ally. Working with him meant taking a trip through guilt, anger, betrayal, shame, and usually landing back at anger.

They’d pushed back this meeting twice already. What the fuck was he up to?

Ree massaged her temples, the pent-up anxiety about the meeting clustering in her head. “He leave a message?”

“Not as such. He complained about your lack of dedication and said something about ‘If she’s too busy playing Hollywood to do the work, then I can do it on my own.’”

“Sounds like he was in a great mood.”

Grognard chuckled in his grunting, huffing kind of way. “Right in one. Hope you two kids kiss and make up” was all he said, showing just how much he didn’t care about Ree’s drama. “While you’re here, can you reorganize the card singles? Uncle Joe sorted them by artist again last night while I was doing liquor inventory.”

Oh, Joe. Uncle Joe was one of the regulars, a Geekomancer with an inner Order Muppet that would make Ernie look like a Jack Black character.

“As long as you put on some Lacuna Coil to help me stay sane,” Ree said, making her way to the collectible card game binders.

First she reminded herself which folders were which, presorting the piles so she could start sorting them in earnest.

After spending a couple of minutes’ prep work and shaking off the Eastwood/Mom grump, she hopped on her phone and used the store wireless to send Drake a text.

 

Swing by Grognard’s. We haven’t gotten to hang in a while.

 

She got a little spike of happy when she thought of Drake, but the taste finished sour.

Things with Drake were . . . weird. They hung out, patrolled together, went out to movies as Ree tried to catch him up on pop culture, and she hung out in his apartment while he tried and failed to blow himself up with one or another Steampunked experiment.

But nothing had happened. And she could not buy a gorram clue as to what was going on with their relationship. Last Halloween, there’d been all this . . . something, but after that, when the weird magic world became her new normal, they hadn’t taken that next step, the smooching one, where things stopped being awkward and got awesome.

But she had no idea if he really liked her like that, given the weirdness of his background. And she was pretty sure that if she just planted a big smooch on him, Roger Rabbit style, he might self-implode from the catastrophic impropriety of it all.

So instead, they were stuck in a frustrating purgatorial almost-maybe.

She pulled a three-inch binder out of a huge stack and set it atop the row of comic longboxes with a thud.

This at least makes sense.

The binder probably contained $3000 worth of cards from Magic: The Gathering. For a pro tour player, it might contain just the right card to take their deck to the next level. And for a Geekomancer, it might have the final ingredient for a ritual, an enchantment, or the panic button to save their ass from a hungry troll. Ree had picked up more than a few choice singles for her own magical sideboard.

Ree opened the binder and sighed. All of the cards on the first page had art by Miao Aili. She flipped several pages, where they changed to Rob Alexander.

This was a crap detail, but it had to be done or customers would complain. Geeks were marvelous, creative, and fun, but were also often picky bastards who loved to pick nits.

Not that Ree had ever been guilty of nitpicking. Nope, not once. Certainly not when discussing obscure Expanded Universe Star Wars continuity or back-talking to a guard at a secret magical market. Nope.

She daydreamed about the press conference, Awakenings, and how fucking awesome her life was at the moment while she pulled and reorganized the cards in the binder. She checked her phone every few minutes, expecting a message from Drake.

When she’d re-sorted half the binder, she checked her phone again: 3:15. She needed to get back to the set if she was going to be able to give notes on anything.

She checked her messages again and, on a whim, tapped out the message she’d been wanting to send for months:

 

Dear Drake,

So, here’s the thing. I like you, and I really need to know if you like me or if this is just you being a courteous and generally affable guy who thinks of me as that madwoman with a foul mouth and a mean right hook.

Can we meet up sometime so you can tell me what’s what and we can get to smooching or not?

Kisses,

Ree

 

She stared at the message, her finger far away from the send button. She sighed, and deleted the message.

Instead, she sent:

 

Done at Grognard’s. Headed back to set. Catch you later?

 

She sighed, restacked the binders, then called over to Grognard. “I’ve got to get back to set. I’ll get the rest of these next time.”

Grognard gave her the stink-eye as she packed up.

Luckily, he had many stink-eyes, and this was the one that meant I’m grumpy you’re going, but there won’t be any notable repercussions. Mmm, beer. Though pretty much all of his stink-eyes ended with Mmm, beer. Dude was a brewer, after all.

Ree stared at her phone the whole way back to set, checking Twitter and her Google Alerts for the postpanel scuttlebutt. It was mostly bland recap, a couple of complimentary notes about how together they thought Jane was for a change, plus Alex Walters’s usual character-assassination tripe.

Washed-up Mickey Mouse Club reject turned failed auteur.

Wow. Harsh. Does this guy eat his cereal in the morning with Haterade?

 

Celebromancy © Michael R. Underwood 2013

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