Freder: Real Magic {Guest Post + Literary Blog Hop #Giveaway!}

Today I'd like to welcome Douglas Thornsjo aka Freder to Guiltless Reading! I was quite enamoured by his book, Persephone's Torch, which I described as an homage to theatre and theatre life. You can read my full review here

I loved his book so much that I knew it would work perfectly for the Literary Blog Hop hosted by Leeswammes Blog. Freder is giving away 5 e-books (Kindle or e-pub edition and 1 paperback, open international!) 

Real Magic by Freder

One of my earliest memories is of an outing taken with my family — or maybe I’m thinking of two outings rolled into one… it could be that way. I was no more than five years old when this happened and most likely younger than that.

A vintage mutoscope ad
via Wikipedia
The first stop was an old-fashioned emporium which had among its attractions two rows (maybe eight in all; a fabulous collection by today’s standards) of antique penny-arcade movie machines: Mutoscopes. These were bulky iron boxes on long legs with a viewing port mounted on the front much like that of a submarine periscope. Above the main chamber was a small poster advertising the subject of the movie. Inside the chamber was a large spool of cards — somewhat larger than index cards — on each one of which a single frame from a movie had been printed.

They operated by a hand-crank that I was too small to work by myself; plus my funds were limited. Still, they occupied all of my attention: I have no memory of anything else that emporium may have offered in the way of attractions. The subjects of the films were of no interest to me (and some of them may have been inappropriate for a little boy — I remember my mother scouting along the rows of machines to find something suitable). What mattered was, you put in a penny or a nickel or whatever it was, and a light came on inside the box. You pressed your face to the periscope sight and turned the crank, and Before Your Very Eyes the pictures came fluttering to life.

This was Real Magic.

That evening, we attended a live show at the adjacent theater. The theme of Turn-of-the-Century styles and subjects continued. The play was George M. Cohan’s Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway, and I can hum a couple of the songs to this day without ever having heard them again down the intervening years.

Bowler hats and waistcoats and women in crinolines: these things are making a comeback today thanks in part to Steampunk, but in the very early ‘60s they were rare and fascinating. On stage there was a trolly-car that moved, arriving and departing through the back. Was it all as great a performance as I remember it? Probably not: but the actors seemed to believe in what they were doing, and so by extension did I.

I can’t tell you the first thing about the plot. Only that it had Good People and one Particularly Bad Man who was a very Rum Character indeed. Near the end of the play, all of his plans were foiled, the jig was up — but there was still the chance that he could escape the clutches of The Law.

In a chase between the villain and at least one Keystone-ish Kind of Kop, the pursuers and pursued made use of every bit of real estate in that theater. The chase started onstage, went down through the audience, up the center aisle, across through the seats, back onstage at a different location — the villain seemed to be everywhere, and the Kops always just missed him.

Remember, I was less than five years old.

I started jumping in my seat, hollering at the top of my little lungs, pointing every which way. “THERE he is! No, no, he’s over THERE now! No, he’s down HERE now! THERE! THERE! GO GET HIM! No, he’s over THERE!… get him! GET HIM!!!”

My family was sitting in the front row. The villain in his mad attempt to flee justice passed directly in front of me — and stopped.

He turned on his feet, leaned down to me, right down to me until his mustached face was inches from my own. He raised a finger to his lips and said, in an almost conspiratorial way but loud enough that the whole theater could hear:

Illustration from Persephone's Torch

Well, that was that. If I ever had any hope of a “normal” childhood it died right then and there. I was both mortified and thrilled. Film — Theater — Books — Art — Life: it all fused in that moment and from then on I think my life was written in stone, although as it turned out I became one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, not Peter Pan himself.

That night as we came out of the theater, the actors were waiting in two rows on either side of the exit. The smiled at us, greeted us, shook hands. I have never since seen any company do that little thing, make that little extra connection with an audience, but it has always seemed like an eminently civilized thing for a theatrical company to do… and so when the time came for me to write about actors, I made certain that they broke the fourth wall, went out and shook hands after the show. I like to think that my characters would do the same thing at the end of the book, if they could.


My mother wanted to name me Peter but my father insisted that I be a Junior. She would have settled for “Peter Douglas” but no soap. When it came time to pick a pseudonym I should probably have chosen that. I guess it’s never too late. Instead I chose “Freder” which I’d been blogging under for years and which is both a derivation of my middle name and the name of the pivotal character in one of my favorite movies, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. That I absolutely needed a pseudonym should become obvious when you take one look at my real name (which I’m not trying to hide, after all).

There were always new teachers reading out the class attendance and none of them, not one of them, ever stopped and asked me how to pronounce my name: they just faked it, mangled it, and gave my classmates another reason to laugh at me.

That’s neither here nor there. But the fact is, it’s hard to encourage word of mouth when no one can pronounce your last name!

— Freder

About freder
freder (aka Douglas Thornsjo) is a writer, cartoonist and graphic designer living in a big old house packed with folk art, toys, books and cats. He has had fiction published in The North American Review, Kinesis, broadcast on National Public Radio and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the creator of the online comic strips Quirk and Tinsel*Town, and has written about comics and movie serials for a wide range of trade journals; most recently, he penned an introductory piece on Universal’s Flash Gordon movie serials for the second volume of The Library of American Comics’ “Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim.”

Read more:


Freder is giving away 1 paperback & 5 e-books (E-pub or Kindle edition) 

of Persephone's Torch -- OPEN INTERNATIONAL!

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Synopsis of Persephone's Torch by Freder: 1939: travel with an unusual theatrical company through a painted landscape of desire and dreams. Fantasy is their specialty and they have mastered the art - is the newest member of their extended family being carried to new heights by his yearning, or is he the victim of his own delusion? One by one you will come to know each member of the company, unlocking their colorful lives, learning their sometimes dark secrets. In this fateful last season of the company's life, who will emerge with their hopes for the future intact?

Now, go check out the rest of the Literary Blog Hop and discover some great new reads (and maybe even win one)!

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Ciska's Book Chest
  3. Sam Still Reading
  4. The Things You Can Read (US)
  5. Col Reads
  6. Guiltless Reading (yo, you're here!)
  7. Love at First Book (US)
  8. Maurice On Books (US)
  9. Mythical Books
  10. Books by Judith
  11. Bees Knees Reviews (US)
  12. River City Reading
  13. Too Fond
  14. Exurbanis
  15. Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  16. Book'd Out
  17. Roof Beam Reader
  18. Books Speak Volumes
  19. The Relentless Reader (US)
  20. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  21. Booklover Book Reviews
  22. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  23. Ephemeral Digest
  24. Julia Crane Author (US)
  25. Melissa Pearl Author (US)
  1. Read Lately (US)
  2. Readerbuzz
  3. Lucybird's Book Blog (Europe)
  4. The Misfortune of Knowing
  5. Bibliophile By the Sea
  6. The Novel Life
  7. Kinx's Book Nook US)
  8. Dolce Bellezza
  9. Nose in a book
  10. Book-alicious Mama (US)
  11. Words for Worms (US)
  12. Wensend
  13. A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall (N-America)


  1. Love the theater favorite memory seeing Miss Saigon in London it's first run

    1. Oh I'm jealous! :) I watched it when Lea Salonga did a run in the Philippines but I felt I was so far away I couldn't really see their faces!

  2. I especially love an old theater (the Castro Theater) on Castro Street in San Francisco, CA.
    I have fond memories of going to this theater with my Father, watching classic movies.

  3. Thanks for a fantastic giveaway! I must say when I think of emporiums, I think of shopping! I do love seeing The Sound of Music at the theatre though. The Phantom of the Opera was also great.

  4. My father would take us once a year to a small theater in downtown Denver. With a family of 9, we didn't go to 'special' things very often. But he found it important for us to at least experience this small amount of culture. It was always a big moment for us to sit in those puffy chairs, wait for the lights to dim and the curtain to rise.

  5. My favorite theater experience were the yearly visits to a small theater with my father when I was young. It didn't matter what was playing, I loved the experience every time.

  6. I love theatre, although my parents had neither the inclination nor the funds to expose me to it in my childhood. Thus my earliest memories of it stem from my teen years and my high school drama club productions. Since then, I've enjoyed 45 years of theatre of all types.

  7. Thanks for joining the blog hop - and for the giveaway. It's very intriguing!

  8. I LOVE theaters! Even high school auditoriums- the smell of those places brings back so many fond memories of dance recitals and plays. This book sounds really cool!

  9. I've never been to the theatre. I grew up in the country where we were lucky if the latest movie out made in to us in 6 months.

  10. I love theaters. Of all the shows that I've watched, I'm with my classmates. We watch but when we got bored, we'll just chat with each other. :) Thanks for the awesome giveaway! :D
    cohlesguerra at gmail dot com

  11. I love going to the theater. Thanks for the great giveaway!

  12. I only got a chance to go to a theatre when Im in high school. We loved it! The actors are amazing! Thank you for the giveaway! ^_^


© guiltless readingMaira Gall