For those of you who’re interested: Peter and I both have stories out in DAW Books’ new fantasy anthology Enchantment Place. (There’s a lot of good company in the anthology, BTW: Jody Lynn Nye, Esther Friesner, Laura Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rausch, and numerous others.)
The anthology’s stories center around a shopping mall located in an alternate-Earth version of Chicago. This mall caters to the non-mundane sector of the local society — vampires and weres, witches and wizards. (You can guess why when I heard about the project I got interested right away.)
Our stories run back to back. Mine, “Out of the Frying Pan”, details a series of unusual occurrences in the work week of a witch who runs a store specializing in the supply of magical herbs, as a strange veiled woman starts turning up day after day, setting fire to some unusual paperwork. Peter’s story (“And Into the Fire”) carries Annabelle’s tale a little further along — into the kitchen of a very high-end Chicago restaurant and the fringes of an encounter with magical organized crime.
Just a side note on these: every now and then in this business you find yourself building a character who really grows on you as you work. That happened in these stories. Annabelle (the witch in question) was a lot of fun to write, but I have to admit that even more fun was someone created as part of the end of my story: Adelio Famagiusta, sorcerer and superstar celebrity chef / food writer —
—famous…for the chain of restaurants of which SPQR was flagship, as well as for his never-ending succession of cookbooks, his relentless self-promotion, his flamboyant lifestyle, and his temper.
Adelio (now that I look back) seems to combine some aspects of Antonio Carluccio (the BBC’s famous and much-loved resident Italian TV chef) and Anthony Bourdain, with liberal dashes of other celebrity chefs tossed in (though the nowadays-de-rigueur swearing is kept in the background and in Italian). I really like Adelio —
“See how I am disrespected,” he shouted, “in my own kitchen! Here is a woman blessed, yes, blessed by the gods, who have sent her to me, me! Adelio Famagiusta! To be her patron, to give her hundreds of thousands of my good dollars… And what is my reward for my kindness?”
“A media coup?” said Annabelle. “Even more money than you have already?”
Adelio paused, astonished, and then burst out into the big laugh that Annabelle suspected had really made him so famous and beloved across the world. His joviality and love of food were practically tangible things, and he was also as far from the PR image of a sorcerer as you could get. Too often in the popular consciousness they tended to be seen as saturnine, grim, ascetic people, often overwhelmed by their sense of the importance of their own magic. But the only thing that overwhelmed Adelio was his sense of his own importance, an absolutely unshakeable belief that the universe could not exist in its present form without him. Annabelle thought that this was probably true: he was a tremendously talented chef with a gift for making food that people loved — and loved to make at home, which was far more unusual. But it didn’t do to let him know you shared his opinion of himself. That was too much like feeding honey to a bear… one who would critique the flavor and the provenance of the honey even while he scoffed it down.
Adelio is nowhere near so completely ego-driven as he might look at first glance: he uses people’s perceptions of that aspect of him with clear eyes, as a marketing tool. And there’s a lot more going on with him, underneath the marketing and the calculated displays of the behaviors his public expects to see. I’m beginning to think that possibly Adelio might rate a book of his own at a later date. We’ll have to see how that works out, as (around here at least) you need considerably more than just a single interesting character to hang a whole novel on.
Meanwhile, here are the ISBNs for those of you who might want to order somewhere besides Amazon: