In another life, I was an astrologer. I drew horoscopes and wrote an astrology column for a couple of newspapers. I was pretty accurate.

I was at my best reading for strangers. The less I knew about the person for whom I was reading, the better reading I could give.


I also sometimes read Tarot, but cards made me uncomfortable. In a horoscope, you only see what you look for. Almost never does something jump off the page and scream at you.

Tarot is different. Not only do you not always see what you expect, you will see things you wish you hadn’t.


Like death. That first time it happened, I almost jumped out of the chair with shock. I knew –100% — that the man smiling across from me would die in six years. He was young, just 32. He had already had a serious heart attack, but seemed to have recovered and was living a careful, but normal life. Not employed … he wasn’t up to a daily grind … but he was raising his boys and enjoying life. Laughing in my living room while the kids played outside.

“Read for me?” he had asked. I acquiesced.


So, I did a progressive reading for him. That’s where you use the “summary” card of each spread as the foundation card of the next reading. In the seventh layout, I saw him dead.

“I’m too tired to do this any more,” I said. “It’s just gibberish,” and I gathered up the cards and refused to say more. He died exactly when I’d seen. I could not go to the funeral. I couldn’t even explain why not.

I tried reading again after a while, but I started to see things. Secrets. Stuff I didn’t want to know and certainly would never tell. I learned things about people that changed the way I felt about them.

You can run, but you cannot hide. The client always knows when you aren’t telling them something. We have “tells.” Our pupils dilate. We become pale. Our muscles stiffen. We shift in our seat. They know.

I quit reading.


I don’t believe in telling people when they are going to die. Someone told me many years ago that this year — my 68th — would be my last. I don’t believe it, but it’s stuck in my head. Niggling, nagging, bugging me.

It’s a bell that will never unring, but I’m doing my best to hang around.


Last night, I explained to Garry about house elves. He isn’t a big reader of fantasy, as I am, so some of this stuff hasn’t gnawed at the edges of his consciousness.

I told him if we were to leave milk and cookies out, the little folk would come to our house. Overnight, while we sleep, they would clean, scrub, repair, and cook. Fix the roof. Clear the snow. When we got up the next morning, the coffee would be ready along with delicious, fresh baked goods.

solarized art effect horizontal kitchen

He looked at me. I think he wasn’t sure if he had heard me. “Is this like, real, anywhere? Has this actually happened somewhere?”

“No,” I said. “Only in folk tales and myth. And Harry Potter. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were true? We could leave out milk, cookies, and an old pair of socks. Just in case.”


One eyebrow went up. “And something that already lives here would surely eat it. And Bonnie would abscond with the socks. Our kids would be sure to leave us something. Probably not fresh baked goods … or a clean house.”

Just for a second or two, I had him. Myth and magic live. So much better than reality, aren’t they?

Daily Prompt: Think Global, Act Local – “Think global, act local.” Write a post connecting a global issue to a personal one. Because magic is definitely global.


Pleased to Meet You – Write a post in which the protagonists of two different books or movies meet for the first time. How do they react to each other? Do they get along?

skin game jim butcherDowntown Uxbridge. Late morning. Autumn. We would have met in a bar, but there are no bars in downtown Uxbridge. There are no restaurants either, unless you count Domino’s Pizza, which I don’t. There’s a take-out Chinese place, but not much of a place to sit and chat. The place I used to go a few years ago changed ownership and they no longer serve breakfast, just lunch. So … Dunkin Donuts it is. Everybody likes coffee.

They strolled in together. Even though they hadn’t been formally introduced, I think they knew each other. The funny vibe witches have, that both of them have. And all the leather gear, the spells in their pockets. The big gun on Harry’s hip. The splat gun on Rachel’s.

“Harry Dresden?” I said to the tall guy in the long, black, leather duster. He nodded. “I’d like you to meet Rachel Morgan.” I turned to the gorgeous red-head in the tight leather battle gear.

They looked each other up and down, appraising, obviously liking what they saw. “Hey,” said Rachel, “Like your wand.”

“Love your splat gun,” replied Harry.

UndeadPool kim harrison

Before I got a word in edgewise — something that rarely happens to me — they were talking shop. Spells. Magic circles. Wards. Dogs. Then they were laughing about spells gone wrong, the time Harry wound up dead. The time Rachel was turned into a ferret. How difficult relationships can be in the supernatural world … and how to avoid banshees. They exchanged cards. Harry pointed out that he is the only Wizard in the yellow pages. Rachel mentioned how she had saved the world … and not just once. Harry, feeling competitive, countered with an anecdote of how he had saved the world multiple times which segued into the story of how he had ridden that Tyrannosaurus Rex …

It was the greatest brunch I ever shared, and over too soon. They walked out arm in arm, still talking up a storm.

And I went home to the computer, to write the story.


NASA's own time machine

NASA’s own time machine

Formulated by the British author Arthur C. Clarke, these three laws — especially the last one — are accepted as science fiction “fact.”

Clarke’s three laws are so ubiquitous in the literature, they are (with Asimov’s laws of robotry), the basis of many stories by a wide spectrum of authors in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

For your enlightenment:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Murphy’s Corollary to Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.


From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul, and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about things that go bump in the night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts, or at least “night bumpers.”

Brick House HadleyI cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where we could hear them. It was 1965 when we bought our tidy little brick house. It had been built in 1932. Most of the house was on the ground floor — kitchen, dining room, living room, two bedrooms and the bath. The upper floor had an unfinished attic and a big bedroom. It was a small house. Solid, a short walking distance from the college where my husband worked and where I was finishing my B.A.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was cozy. Friendly. It welcomed everyone, made them feel at home. The house had been built by a couple who had lived there for more than 30 years. They had raised children their children and eventually died in that house.

They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the house they loved. We loved it too.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down, but in need of paint and some modernization. Cosmetic fixes. Paint. Floors needed refinishing. The boiler needed updating.

For the first few months, we lived on the ground floor, but we planned to move to the big upstairs bedroom. It was spacious and had windows full of light. We decided to fix it up, give it a coat of paint and redo the floors before settling upstairs.

Shortly after we moved in, our ghosts began to walk. It was startling the first time we heard it. Loud. Clear. Heavy footsteps, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Plus the sharper noise of heels. It turned out everyone — anyone — could hear it. The noise started every night around eight and continued off and on until midnight.

We called the walkers “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had that sharp sound — high heels on hardwood. His shoes were clunkier, maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one else had lived in the house until us.

Initially, we heard them upstairs and on the stairway. After we painted the stairs, the footsteps retreated to the upper floor. Once we began painting the bedroom, we heard them for a while longer, but only in the attic. Then, one day, our ghosts were gone. They never came back.

Were they watching to see if we cared for their home? Were we all hallucinating? Maybe the couple who had lived there were watching. Making sure we did right by their house.

I suppose we passed muster and they felt it was okay to leave.

Life is full of stuff that can’t be explained rationally and we didn’t try. But I’ll bet anyone who was in our house during the months our ghosts walked never doubted what they heard.


Trick or Trick


Custom Zodiac – You’re tasked with creating a brand new astrological sign for the people born around your birthday — based solely on yourself. What would your new sign be, and how would you describe those who share it?

Marilyn's Horoscope

Every astrological sign needs a planet for influence. For this purpose, I am choosing Io, the innermost of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. It’s the fourth-largest moon, has the highest density, and is the driest object in the Solar System — perfect to represent me since I have the driest skin in the Solar System.

It was named after the mythological character Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of Zeus’s lovers. However, the Roman pantheon doesn’t work for me. I prefer be characterized by a god who represents qualities to which I relate and which I hope are the best of me. The Romans were too bloody, physical, non-intellectual, and generally churlish for my taste.


My patron deity will be Ganeesha, the Hindu Lord of letters and learning. He is a patron for writers and others who are seekers and creators. In Sanskrit, the word buddhi is a feminine noun meaning intelligence, wisdom, or intellect and is closely associated with Ganeesha and the many tales of his cleverness, his passion for writing, his love of intelligence.

Thus from hence forth, those lucky souls born between March 10 and March 17 (note that some minor adjustments may be required using a proper ephemeris) will share many of these characteristics:

Intellectual curiosity, a passion for words, both spoken and written. Often accompanied by some degree of musical talent and for the graphic arts. These gifts can manifest in a variety of ways, both passive and active.

Other, less charming qualities may include shortness of temper, intolerance with ignorance, a snappish dislike of poorly spoken and written language. Inclined to be excessively controlling of both self and others. Not a warm and fuzzy personality, this individual lives primarily in his or her head, which will virtually always win when heart and mind come into conflict.

Despite this, given to periodic flights of bizarre fantasy which may be acted on without regard for consequences. Shows a marked lack of caution in emotional involvements as well as a willingness to try pretty much anything at least twice.

Terrified of insects, but a lover of animals and nature. Not a bad egg, but often a prickly one.

All Hallows Night Poem

It’s almost here, the spookiest, funniest, silliest holiday of the year. Halloween is the perfect kid celebration. Dress up in weird costumes. Harass your neighbors until they give you candy. Decorate the house in ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged beasties. Not to mention things that go bump in the night!

Most of the pictures in the gallery are Garry’s and they are signed by him.