Story on Demand – Dinosaur Music Lesson

Harvey-Stein-2

“Most people entertain a pleasant superstition that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in return for unparalleled skill with the guitar,” the professor wiped a daub of chalk of his wrist, then turned his sharp eyes back to his Montana-like classroom, his words echoed with plenty of empty chair-space to reverberate.

The black student continued to thumb away at his phone, barely hidden under his desk. The two girl students managed vague eye movements of interest. The fat kid on the side tapped his pencil and seemed to be quietly humming to himself.

The professor continued, “But what would you say if I told you that the true explanation if far more strange and alarming?”

Black:thumb. Girls: eyes. Fat: tap.

“What if I told you that instead of any mythic manifestation of Evil, Robert Johnson was met by a SPECTRAL PTERODACTYL?!?” he bellowed.

The pencil, eyes, and phone all hit the floor.

“Like…a dinosaur?” one girl asked slowly.

“Exactly,” the professor crossed his arms with satisfaction.

“Uh…” the fat one vocalized in an acceptable D flat.

“Sir.” the black student raised his hand, the professor nodded. “I know that maybe we haven’t been paying as close of attention as you’d like in your class–”

“I’m not yanking your chain,” the professor interrupted. “I am telling you something important and true. Robert Johnson was taught to play the blues, better than perhaps any other human before or since, by a ghostly flying reptile.”

“But that’s crazy, sir. I don’t know why you’d say—”

“Let me ask you a question. How did he get the skill then? If NOT from a Pterodactyl?”

The second girl chimed in.” Natural talent.”

“Practice.”

“Good marketing.” the first girl supplied.

“No no, what we know about the situation is very clear. Before that night he was an okay player, after that night was a god. This fact is not in dispute. Hundreds of reliable, ear-witness accounts – even the recordings that survive. A clear-cut piece of musical history. Something happened that night, some event, something extraordinary. None of the things you’ve suggested could have caused such rapid improvement.”

“But the devil explanation is just as plausible as the…”the fat student winced. “…dinosaur explanation. What makes you so sure that it’s the correct one and not the other?”

The professor sighed with weariness. “Because the Devil is a hadrosaur and only plays country.”

Resurrected my long dormant feature ‘Story on Demand’ to help get my writing dynamos spinning again. Someone suggests an idea and I write some flash fiction about it. Today’s ‘winner’ is Brent Thomas – who is also a writer with a new book BOUT TO BE OUT.

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The Bellinora

She leaned on the Sword, breath ragged.

The place where she was rang hollow and empty, alone. An alone-place. It

by Rahmatozz

by Rahmatozz

would serve.

The Sword hummed and shook, but her grip was sure. Even in exhaustion, even at the edge of night, she would never let it go.

She fell on a stack of tiles, the ceramic crumpled underneath the weight. She folded her body around the Sword, rags falling over her thin form and ash-covered face. Sleep came just as her heart still beat – slowly, painfully, without the promise of rest. It was a thing that happened, easier and easier to ignore.

The Bellinora slept. But the Sword did not.


A group of children passed an empty house, it had been abandoned for several years. They had taken to throwing rocks at it in idle moments, but today the house seemed different. Peter lobbed a pebble absently while Dala and Wrench were clambering over the broken fence. His pebble shattered a snaggle-tooth window, as his bullets had a dozen times before – but something seemed different. A thrill went through his stomach, and Peter felt afraid. As if some great beast had made the abandoned house its lair.

Peter grabbed his friends and dragged them protesting away from the house. His mother had taught him well. ‘Humans can take no chances, Peter’ she had said. ‘Every hand is turned against us. You feel funny or worried, even if you can’t see the reason. You get as far away from it as possible.’

The three human children trotted away from the house, further into their neighborhood, the claptrap shanties and hovels that their race was bound to.

Peter did not mention the house or the feeling of fear. But he did not forget.

[Just a little bit I wrote for my Pathfinder campaign today. I liked it and I haven’t updated blog in a bit so HERE YOU GO.]

World Map Unlocked!

Or found rather! On my hard-drive. This is a few years old at this point, leftover from my Lodestar campaign. Some of the names have changed in Spell/Sword, and the locations shifted slightly [mainly because a lot of them are from other stories and intellectual properties. Some from homage, some just because I was lazy.]– but for those of you wondering what else is out there in Aufero, here’s a reasonably accurate peek.

Artist - W. Steven Carroll

Artist – W. Steven Carroll

Click to see real honkin’ big version.

Michael’s Blurb

 

My fandom is very small. A hardened band of adventurers, rogues, miscreants, and malcontents. AKA mostly my friends and the few poor strangers who’ve stumbled into the books online. They are not a forgiving sort – what they like they tell me. What they hate they INSCRIBE IN THE DARK BOOK OF TORMENT. [The Dark Book of Torment is my anxiety riddled ego.]

But among this rabble, there is one person that I truly answer to. My Core Demographic, as a refer to him. It should come as no surprise that My Core Demographic is an eleven-year-old kid.  When others complained about the lag waiting for ‘The Riddle Box’ to come out, I ignored their pleas. When Michael took me to a nice dinner of hot wings and soda to take me to task for my sloth, I was shaking in my boots. In desperate panic, I gave him what I had – the first three chapters of Book Two. I waited by the phone, by my email, by the window to hear his response. If I ever lose Michael, I might as well pack-in this whole silly affair.

At last he has responded!

mikeI was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the first three chapters of The Riddle Box. After reading Spell/Sword, I was looking forward to finding out where Rime and Jonas’ journeys would take them next. Adams did not disappoint! After a long trek, we catch back up with Rime and Jonas at the home of Lord Bellweather. Their arrival coincides with a murder at the home, and Rime and Jonas set about trying to unravel the mystery. The first three chapters kept me engaged and curious. I was drawn in by the very first page. One of my favorite aspects of Adams’ writing is the way I instantly care about and am interested in the characters’ fates. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering which paths Adams will take with these characters. If you love fantasy or mystery – or if you’re just in the mood for a good, fun read- The Riddle Box is for you!

Michael Niedzwiecki-Castile, age 11

Now that’s a freaking blurb! With better grammar than I usually muster!

I am beyond relieved that Michael enjoyed the first three chapters – and I understand he received the full book as a Christmas present and has already devoured it. I can only hope that I will be summoned to another eldritch feast in his court to discuss his thoughts and responses to the entire novel.

Spell/Sword and The Riddle Box can be found on Amazon for purchasing with money. They are .99 on Kindle, substantially more for paperback. Free [!] on Kindle Unlimited.

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End of Year Shareholder Meeting 2014 – Location: My Head

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[The following is the transcript of a recording smuggled out on the person of half-orc/goblin J.J. Smith. Mr. Smith did not intend to record the proceedings. He had a new phone and thought he was playing Peggle, but actually activated a recording application. Some of the recording is garbled due to Mr. Smith’s unfortunate habits of humming to himself, prolonged burping, and atonal flatulence.]

G. Derek Adams: Okay, everyone take a seat so we can — so we can get started.

[milling around noises, wooden chair legs scraping on floor]

GDA: Okay, are we all settled?

Izus Torrossian: I don’t want to sit down. It’s too far away from the doughnuts.

GDA: Goddamn it, Izus. Would you please just sit the fuck down?

IT: Here? Or here? Is here good?

GDA: Just sit. Sit. Sit! NO. In the chair, don’t spin it around like you’re Fonzie.

Rime Korvanus: I don’t think Fonzie ever sat that way.

GDA: Not … literally. Okay. Okay, fine. Sit however you want.

IT: Thank you, m’lord.

Brian Cactus: Heh, heh.

Jonas: That guy is cool.

Xenon: Meh.

IT: I am, like, so cool.

Sideways: Ironic high-five!

[A loud smack of palms. Various laughter and groans from the assembly.]

GDA: This is it. This is my nightmare. It’s like teaching high school all over again. I’m going to take a breath and then we’re going to get started.

Linus: I hope [XXXXgarbledhummingXXXXX] the severity of this meeting. It has been a long year. I have concerns. I know the rest of you do as well.

[Awkward coughs. Shifting of wooden chair legs. Mr. Smith burps.]

GDA: Thanks you, Linus. Okay. I’ve called you all together here to talk about the past year. Things we accomplished, problems we encountered, and goals for the next year.

RK: [inaudible]..problems.

J: Rime, c’mon.

GDA: AND there will be time where you can just piss and moan at me, but now is not that time. I would especially expect those of you who’ve had a big launch this year to [XXXXXXXXXXXX] back and at least hear me out.

Mallora Crandall: We are listening. You are waving your arms around a lot. This is not a witch hunt—

[Sudden uproar of voices raised in alarm. Heavy feet pound across the room.]

MC: What? What?

BC: Oh yeah, you’re new here.

J: Never ever say – you know – the ‘w’ word.

S: [from a distance] Door’s still locked. I think we’re okay.

IT: Yeah, I think we’re good. She must be occupied elsewhere. We caught a break.

GDA:…[audible gulp]…okay. Okay, good. Don’t stress out about it, Mallora. I can explain a little better after the meeting.

J: Or I can explain it! I’m..uh…really good at explaining. Things.

RK: [audible facepalm]

GDA: Moving on. Look, I think I already know what some of your concerns are. I really didn’t put many of you to work this year. We bought a house, I was really focused on editing ‘The Riddle Box’.

RK: You bought a PlayStation 4.

GDA: That…is…true.

RK: You also spent how many hours at your desk? Just scrolling through the internet? How many hours on your couch watching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer?

GDA: I hadn’t seen it before! It was, uh, ‘cultural research’.

RK: You also watched Angel at the same time.

GDA: Uh.

RK: You found a site on the internet that told you how to watch them in the ‘correct’ order. You made a chart to make sure you did it correctly. A chart.

GDA: Well.

RK: [scrape of chair leg, presumably the speaker stood up] And even worse? How many  nights did you lay in your bed, just staring at your phone? Just numbly scrolling. Not interacting or communicating, just moving your thumb? How many?

J: Rime. Ease up, okay?

RK: No. It’s not okay. We have one avenue, one port of entry into this world. And it’s this guy’s head.

S: Not the best head. 6/10. There are better heads out there.

RK: This one breaks a lot. It gets distracted. It always crammed full of sleep and noise. It’s always right on the point of fucking dissolving.

IT: And the drinking! The drinking! Have you given any thought to the drinking? WHY ISN’T THERE MORE OF IT?!?

RK: And don’t think I don’t know why my head is like it is. It’s because you used this dump as a model. This twisty, useless place that–[XXXXXXgarbledflatulenceXXXXXX]..only way. He owes us more.

GDA: Okay. Okay. Point made. I don’t know why I kept expecting someone to have some sympathy or take my side.

L: You only make villains, son. We have our own weight to bear.

GDA: Fair. Look. You are right. I could have done better. I can do better.

J: Yeah!

[awkward silence followed by snickers and hoots]

GDA: Uh, thanks. All that is fair, and I hear you. I will try to do better. But let’s not wallow in it, okay? We’ve done some good work together this  year. We’re chipping away at that wall! I know it’s hard when we only have a few hammers working from this side – but there are more and more people working on it Earth-side. You are in people’s heads! As weird as it sounds, people other than me know about you. Well, most of you.

MC: Hmph.

GDA: That’s how it works. Each person on the other side is like a tiny point of light. Each light a beacon. And slowly as we find new readers, more and more light.

J: Wait, are they hammers or beacons? Because–

All: Shut up,  Jonas!

GDA: And just think, if we keep plugging away. One day you all could be as real as Harry Potter, or Kvothe, or Bilbo Baggins!

X: Or..some goddamn female characters?

GDA: Hermione, Aerin, Arya, Lyra, Lisbeth Salander! Look, I’m working with the same head that you all are. The fact that we made it this far is pretty goddamn amazing. So. Get off my nuts about it is what I’m saying. Rime.

RK: Hey!

GDA: Most of you are going to work on ‘Asteroid Made of Dragons’ – well except you guys who are technically dead. I’ll throw you some work, but you’ll have to disguise yourselves. The rest of you I can at least work on some short stories – give you all a test drive.

Sasparilla O’Shaugnessy: What about me?

GDA: Oh Sasparilla. I think you know that you’re going to be riding the pine a long, long time. Oh Sasparilla!

[Sarcastic laughter from assembly]

GDA: Okay, I think we’re all on the same page now. I know you are the best characters for the job.  Which brings us to the last question: Is it weird that I talk to you guys like this? I mean, it can’t—

[sudden knock at the door]

GDA: Shit! She’s here. Sideways, you get the door. Be polite.

S: Why do I have to do it?

GDA: She likes you!

S:That is a fucking lie. Fine.

[pained silence, the almost silent pad of feet towards the door]

[another knock]

S: Yes? Who is it?

[muffled response]

S: Are you shitting me?

[sounds of door being unlocked]

Dayjen Moore: Oh, hi guys! I thought this meeting was at 2. So! What are we talking about? Hmmm? Oh, I brought sandwiches..but, not enough to share. Unless someone has a knife? We can cut them into tiny sandwich-slivers!

GDA: Jesus Christ, we are fucking doomed.

JingaJang Smith: *BUUURP*.

End of Transcription

No Sound But the Rain

[A little writing I did for a D&D campaign I’m playing in. Always fun to play around with a new character voice. Putting this up here because the blog’s been super quiet lately, also to confirm that I haven’t forgotten how to type.]

Artist - Pavel Kolomeyets.

Artist – Pavel Kolomeyets.

I’ve carried this blank book with me for weeks meaning to begin a journal, but it never seemed like the right time. Now isn’t really a much better time, but I may have no time to do it later so let me begin my chronicle! The two clerics here, a father and daughter, were kind enough to lend me a quill and inkstone – it is one of the few things they have plenty of here, the food and water is quickly growing scarce.

But I’ll get to that in due time! When I come back and read this, I’m sure it will be less annoying if I tell the tale in its proper order. All apologies and contrition to my older self.

Hence the tale begins!

We traveled for weeks from a town of little repute and no particular name. As is common when travelling across the dangerous wilds I and some others bound ourselves into a road-pact. Surprisingly we encountered little danger on our way except rain, mud, and the less than friendly attitudes of my companions.

A quick list: Drake, a noble dragonborn blade. Bulloch, a dwarven adventurer. Lucas, still wearing the motley of his former trade. Rosemary, a young girl of startling arcane gifts.

I found them to be fine pact-friends, if a bit tight-lipped.

Arriving at last in Oldhaven, slogged down the hillside through the last of the muck, eager to dry ourselves in an inn of local repute, the Old Boar. Walking through the streets, something began to bother me. It was late by temple-reckoning, but the streets were completely abandoned and quiet. Nothing but the splash of the rain on the cobblestones. Pushing on into the inn, we were all keyed up for peril, though the danger could not be named.

Bulloch slipped into the inn first, then called us to join. We found tabled and chairs in disarray – signs of a rapid exit and some sort of conflict, but no clear cause. Again, is was Bulloch who shared a tale of another village called Perch that had been completely emptied by marauding goblins.

In short order we barricaded the main door for safety, and turned to a quick search of the premises for survivors or any slight thing that could tell us the tale of these strange happenings. We found several oddments left in the scramble, but no answers — until we found a mortally wounded child hiding on a rafter beam in the attic.

With the grace of Lady Onyx I was able to heal her wounds, and after a time of recovery she finally opened her eyes. I am grateful for the aid of Rosemary and Drake – the fighter’s bulk seemed a comfort to the child, and Rosemary’s young age gave her connection to the girl that also eased her fears. She told us as much as her terrified soul could allow. Her name was Leera, and ‘small, bad things’ attacked and took her family away.

We had more questions but she could not answer them for us. The answers appeared in the form of the sound of shattering glass coming from upstairs.

I had just looked outside the window, hearing another noise – and saw that all of our horses were dead! The culprits soon revealed themselves as filthy goblins poured down from the second floor waving brittle scimitars and gnashing horrible teeth.

In a short but brutal fight, my companions proved their mettle – laying waste to the flood of goblins pouring down into the common room. They bit deep into us, but we did not waver! At last the final goblin fell and I gave what aid I could to the wounded. We were all in agreement – we needed to keep moving.

Oh, I almost forgot! The goblins – they all were covered in blood. Matted in their hair, their lips and teeth caked with it. Goblins are foul creatures, there is no doubt, but this blood madness was beyond any tale I had heard of their savagery.

The rain stopped – perhaps a good omen? – and we moved as quickly through the streets of Oldhaven as vigilance would allow. Rosemary and Drake kept watchful eye on our young charge as we moved towards the only place of safety we could surmise – the Temple of Aventurine in the center of town. Any survivors would surely be there.

At last, we arrived. The stone doors and windows were tightly shut – a clear sign that people were within! I had to risk a true call to make my voice heard through the stone. If no one had been inside it surely would have lead goblins to us – but Onyx was watching over us and the stone door slid open revealing the blessed light of Day inside.

Ah, my eyes grow heavy! We have travelled far and faced great danger – with more to follow on the morrow. We will take what rest we can here in the Temple and pray that in its light we can find the strength to escape and avenge the ravage of Oldhaven.

(I have lost track of the date in our travels, and the clerics of Aventurine are too busy and kind to bother with such trifles, so for now I will date —)
First Night in Oldhaven
Nora Calamochnus