Roan Rosser has a new queer comedic urban fantasy out: Red Pandamonium
. And there’s a giveaway.
When you have chaos magic, the only thing you can do is expect the unexpected.
Zombies. Shoestorms. Illicit unicorn rides. A talking red panda.
Before today Max never believed in magic, despite bad luck so terrible he used to jokingly call it a curse. Now he’s a reluctant believer. His first day as a mage he draws the attention of the magic police, not to mention the mysterious hooded figures chasing him all over downtown Portland trying to kill him with magic.
With the help of his new speed-demon red panda familiar, his fortune-telling neighbor, a gadget-obsessed witch, a grumpy vampire, and his maybe-brother, Max needs to learn to use his chaos magic, and quickly, or his ‘curse’ is going to be the end of him and the people he loves.
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“Until this next one passes, stand in the center of the grass there. Based on the size of the licorice circle, it looks like enough space that you shouldn’t hit the sidewalk or the house.”
“But that’s in full view of the road…”
Kay shrugged. “So? Humans see magic all the time. Especially in this modern age, they’re likely to think that they imagined it.”
I was starting to understand why Kay was so dismissive of the PCA. “What if they don’t? Think they imagined it, I mean.”
“Who’s going to believe them?” Kay pushed me onto the grass. “Now go. I don’t want to see what would happen to me if I got caught in range.”
“It doesn’t bother Pog,” I protested, but walked across the pristine emerald grass to roughly the center of the lawn. I’d never seen such bright green grass. It was lush and almost springy under my flip-flops, and there wasn’t a bit of moss in sight.
So far, the magical effects had seemed to relate to what I was thinking, like the grass had turned to the candy I was craving, so maybe I could direct it.
“Pog, what if I tried to expel the magic with purpose rather than letting it just happen? It’s like a buildup of magical energy, right? So if I used it, no explosion.”
“It is,” Pog said, sounding skeptical. “But do you really think you can control it?”
“No,” I said truthfully. “But will it really hurt anything to try?”
“I suppose not,” Pog agreed.
I turned in a slow circle. Kay and Ynes stood on the mansion’s front porch, ringing the doorbell. No one else was nearby. My palms were on fire now. I needed to do this soon.
“Do I need a wand to focus things?”
Pog leapt from my shoulder, then stood up on two legs and faced me. Eir striped tail waved back and forth behind eim. “No. Magic for a mage is all about intent and focus, not the tools.”
“Thanks, Professor.” I quirked a smile at the diminutive red panda. Eiy looked so serious.
I did some of my hand and finger stretches, like I’d do to limber up before a drawing session. Focus, but on what? I kicked off my flip-flops and let my feet sink into the soft grass.
I wondered if I could turn the cheap plastic flip-flops into tennis shoes like I’d morphed Kay’s sweats into my normal clothes. Flip-flops to sneakers. Easy.
I thrust my hands at the shoes. Change! Nothing happened.
In the distance I heard a door open and then people talking, but I kept my attention on the orange flip-flops, vibrant against the brilliant green of the grass.
I could feel that Pog wanted to say something, but eiy kept quiet. I didn’t know how I knew that, but I did. And now that I’d noticed, it was very distracting.
Sneakers! I thrust again. Nothing still. The burning moved to my fingers.
“I said I have no idea what you’re talking about! I don’t have a brother!” a man yelled.
The raised voices caught my attention, and I looked up, chewing on my lip. Ynes was pointing at me. I should have told them I was trans, so they could have explained, but I thought I’d be there with them. Too late now.
The magic in my fingers reached the tipping point, and I fell to my knees with a scream. The fire engulfed me and expanded out. Sneakers! I thought at the magic.
The grass stayed grass, and as I watched, the ugly orange flip-flops morphed into a pair of sneakers. They stayed bright orange, damn it. But it had worked! My first proper spell!
I sat down to put my new shoes on when something rubbery thumped into my head. I winced and turned to look at what had hit me. A right sneaker, white with gray trim.
Pog’s eyes widened and eiy dashed under my bent legs as more shoes began raining from the sky. I covered my head with my hands and bent over my legs, trying to shield Pog from the onslaught. They bounced off my back, shins, hands, and elbows hard enough that I was going to be bruised all over.
A nearby window shattered with a crash and I risked a glance out under my elbow to see shoes bouncing off the mansion’s roof with solid thumps. Car alarms started going off in the street and there was the sound of more breaking glass. Honking horns and yelling started coming from the surrounding neighborhood.
Maybe my ‘create shoes’ spell had been a little too successful.
The arguing from the porch stopped as everyone stared in stunned silence at the falling shoes.
After a few minutes, the rain of sneakers petered off.
I snickered to myself at the silent joke.
I found a right and a left of the white and gray rain sneakers. Just my size—at least one thing had gone right—and put them on, leaving the bright orange ones where they lay. Then made my way to the porch, kicking sneakers out of the way as I went. Pog ran along after me, bounding over the shoes like it was an obstacle course. Glad someone was having fun.
On the porch, Kay mimed bashing his head into one of the Corinthian columns. Ynes stared around, open-mouthed at the mess. And the man… he was staring at me. I stared back. He could have been my twin brother, except his shoulders were broader and his face a little rounder. But his hair was the same dark brown as mine and we had the same nose and the same dimple on the left cheek. I swallowed hard, not sure what to say to my maybe-brother.
A sneaker from the roof rolled off and landed on the pavement between us with a loud thump, breaking the staring contest. Pog stood on eir hind legs and tottered up to the shoe with eir front paws in the air.
“Quite the weather we’re having,” I said to him as Pog pounced on the shoe.
The man jerked his gaze back up to me in shock. “Maybe you should come inside after all.”
My urban fantasy novels mainly feature the trans and queer protagonists grappling with things like identity and found families that I wished I could have read about growing up.
Originally from Utah, I escaped up to the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve made my home in both Seattle and Portland. When not writing, you can probably find me beating up pixel baddies or in front of one of my sewing machines adding to my overstuffed closet or my army of homemade plush dolls.
If you find yourself blinded by the vivid colors and loud patterns of my homemade shirts, know that I’m only trying to warn you that I may be poisonous. Or venomous? Or both? Probably both.
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