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Antietam

The old man sat polishing his armor with a faded white cloth. It was evening, late summer – the wind idled through the flaps of the tent but he gave it little notice. The cicadas were loud, but he gave them less. All of his attention went into the final corner of his breastplate, even though the dull iron would benefit little. All except a sliver of mind for the wheezing youth who lay dying in the cot near the entrance.

His armor was old, the stink of sweat and linseed oil inescapable. The leather scar-tissue that bound it all together had been replaced dozens of times, was due to be refit again. The old man made a note to seek the proper skill at the next city of note. The boy on the cot gave a snore that was half-choke and half-gasp. The old man kept polishing without hurry.

The hand holding the cloth constricted of it’s own accord and the cloth slipped free. The old man sighed. He was growing used to his hands and knees and even eyes and mind turning traitor. He leaned forward to snag the cloth from the floor and the wind idled through the tent flaps again, with more force this time as if it had remembered what it had forgotten there. It brought with it the smell of the fire from outside, the chicken and barley in the stew his men tended, and undeniable and soft at the end: the smell of pine and cold, the smell of home. He forgot the cloth but still felt the breastplate’s weight on his knees and breathed in deep.

“This is what no one will tell you, young man.”  His words were careful, pitched where only the wind and boy in the cot could hear. “You are alone. You can fill your life with noise and faith and toil and love and drink and battle, but it always goes quiet. It’s never real. Not even your memory is lantern enough. Stumbling in the wind and dark…”

The boy gave a noise that could have been a sob or just another wheeze. The old man shook his head and stretched his aching arm to pick up the cloth he had dropped. The cloth was faded white, but it was daubed pink and brown and darker crimson. At least the armor was clean.

The old man stood up with a spider’s care. He put each part of his armor in its proper place on the stand, then moved to the dying youth’s side. The old man gave his full attention at last and laid a firm hand aside the boy’s bloody face.

“At least you may rest now. You kept faith-or didn’t know the tale I needed. And still you keep breathing though you are empty and broken and choking on your own end. What honor there is in that, I give it to you gladly. Travel on, Child of the South.”

It was the work of a few moments to join his two old hands on the boy’s throat and close them tight. They did this job well, they did not betray. And then there was only the old man and his clean armor. And the idle wind bearing the memory of cold.

glasses

Asteroid Made of No Dragon Award

 

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Did I win the Dragon Award for Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)?

No.

Did I want it?

Yes.

Did I expect to win it?

No.

Do I hate the person that won it?

No.

Do I have larger thoughts about the state of the genre, the context of this award with other awards, and awards in general?

Yes.

Are any of them important?

Uh..no?

Is this format becoming needlessly hostile?

A little…yes.

 

Why haven’t I written anything in a while?

Hey! What?!

Do I only write weird rap lyrics now?

Um.

Am I ever going to put Spell/Sword and The Riddle Box on iBooks like that nice man on Twitter keeps asking?

Shit.

Where are the audiobooks for The Riddle Box and AMOD?

Uh, see–it’s–

Why have I stopped using my FitBit?

Look, now you’re just —

No one likes you anymore.

Hey, that’s not even a question. And you – I? – changed pronouns.

Bold-face you is ashamed of regular-face you.

Well, I suppose there’s plenty of reasons to feel a little —

No one finds you funny.

Okay, that’s just a lie. I am hilarious AND a delight.

You’ve been drinking too much.

I – that – could be argued.

Where is this going?

I – don’t know?

Rap battle?

Okay, rap battle.

. . . .

Swing around the street lights

Remember why you stay up nights

howl down the wind and be sure

your ribs are zipped up tight

Calling down the hallway

Surely must be a better way

to hide in the hollow of too many years

black earth, red blood, and those things you say

scamming programming and spamming the blueshell tears

hound of the west comes to die in the south

words are the only thing you have left in your mouth

words are air and time is dust

End is the lover you can always trust

to forget and forgive and bury you clean

silk coffin so tight you can’t even dream

sing in your bones, stand in the fire

plateglass warrior lives to die at the spire.

 

Sing what you wish, this kid has moves

inevitable correctable which my clockwork symphonic proves

hoarding up my void points and waiting for turns

when the black trumpet is quiet and the midnight burns.

Hum down the wire and come meet me in the spire

I’ll help you remember which of us first confounded Fire.

Astounding, unlikely but already true

it’s only meter that matters when blank notes unspool.

uncork the bottle of already gone

lets see what’s left to cobble up this song

i serve at the mercy of the undying Gray

which means i’ll keep spitting until that witch has had her say

untouchable for now, my broken-heart vow

is the lyre the liar or did I forget a final bow?

burn up the curtain and break down the arch

no lovers can linger when Open and Shut is on the march.

. . . .

That was a pretty good rap battle.

I agree.

Who won?

I did.

Clever. I see what you did there.

I’m glad someone does. Let it never be said I won’t follow my muse to the bitter end.

But then there’s this weird part at the end that trails off. How do you land this?

Only one way:

horsedragon

Nice.

 

 

 

I am VERY excite.

DragonCon Schedule (How to Find Me)

First, you must do this.

You must stand in the spire as the sun reaches its zenith. As the light falls on your eyes, close them tight.

A youth, dressed as a vaguely homoerotic Smash Brothers fighter will appear. You are not to speak to him, only nod in appreciation. He may nod back. He may not. That is not part of this. Or is it.

Second, you must do this.

On Friday, in the Hyatt Lobby, three women will appear. They are not cosplaying. They are actual elves. Do not speak to them, only nod in respect. They are wearing headphones. When they depart, turn quickly to your right. The first Deadpool you see is named Craig. That is not part of this, but a neat trick nonetheless.

Third, you must do this.

Climb the stairs to the hidden Con Suite. Eat and drink whatever is offered with effusive thanks. Walk to the westernmost corner that overlooks the lobby. Someone of no important gender will appear – as gender is performative anyway – and speak to you of echolocation. You are close on my trail. Go to bed immediately, you will need your strength.

Fourth, you must do this.

Find the Catan board with the triangular notch in one side. Steal the Thief piece, he knows one of my secrets. Interrogate him carefully in a manner of your own devising. He will not speak. Chaos does not break.

Fifth, you must do this.

Forget your name. Forget the weight that hangs on your heart. Run down the endless halls and sing the songs that you like best. Gaze with disbelief on the vague errata of a life you have left behind you and scoff at those who claim you must return.

Last, you must do this.

Remember that we are the Empty, but we shine all the brighter for the light we can carry in the vast hole some call Heart.

OR

You know, hit me up on Twitter – @gderekadams – or comment here. I’d love to meet up with anyone! And I’ll probably make time to go to The Dragon Award ceremony, Sunday – 2:30.

 

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Until Sundown

When Geranium was younger she wore her hair long. A careful waterfall of black that never, ever hid her face. She wove guitar string through it, silver and sure- encircled her brow like the ring of a tree marking time. She did not know yet that she would be a Bard of Gate City, though she had an inkling. She had not yet bent knee in service of the guitar, Lady Moon-Death. She had not even yet found her cobalt coat, the one that all the posters and action figures showed in later days. She was not yet the one that other bards would curse and envy as the Eruption.

But she was already Geranium. Already knew the Five Unlikely Songs, already could play the guitar like rain in the summer and sing like moonlight in the spring. Already could look in a young man’s eye, hum three notes and evaporate his rib cage. Already had been thrown from the rolls of the best conservatory, a third-rate orchestra, and a passable jazz trio. She was wandering and entirely too talented and entirely incomplete and just beginning to gnaw on the bones of useless defeat when she met the Lute.

He was sitting in the Razor Square in Gorah. He was old, at least to her eyes. Years later Geranium thought he might’ve only been in his late fifties, but to her fifteen he might as well have been crypt ash. He wore only a brown blanket, carefully wrapped and seemed only to own the clay bowl he sat behind in the square and the dusty brown lute that he played. Crowds walked by and he played. Never sang only played. A few coins fell and he played. Played until sundown.

Geranium only saw him by chance. Only listened for a heartbeat too long, then stared at his hands move on the strings and could not look away. She watched all day. And the next. Then on the third she sat down at his side.

“Will you teach me?” She pressed her long fingers hard onto the emerald green guitar case she carried.

The Lute continued to play.

Geranium opened her mouth to speak again. Then stopped. The two sat alone, the crowd was only shadows. She stared at his hands again and felt overpowered by two rare and unfamiliar emotions. Envy. Need. She realized that her face was inches from his strings and her hands were twitching, as if she could pluck his skill from the air.

I want what this old beggar has. She smiled after a time. The only thing that I’ve ever wanted.

She snapped open the silver clasps and pulled free her own darkwood guitar. The Lute smiled at last, the barest tug at his lips.

Geranium played. The Lute played. They played like lamps in autumn. They played like winter’s heart. The crowd passed and coins fell from time to time.

Geranium played. And the Lute played. For three years. Her hair grew ever longer and it often fell forward into her face. Guitar wire and lute string and the stone square and coins in the bowl. Three years playing until sundown. Three years until at last she did pluck his skill from the air.

Geranium laughed bright and free and kissed the Lute hard on his dusty mouth. He offered only an amused grunt then went back to playing. She stood and walked from the square without looking back.

The Lute played and Geranium walked on towards the legend she had promised herself.

verbena

Verbena

thinking about time

and spooling up rhymes

and singing out my check account

and rustling through the vines

of ivy and cracked leather

that burn through the weather

and pull me like a sycophant

down to where the bone-clock chimes

yeah, Mitchell Dave i’m touchstoning your story

every  spy glass gets a peek when I come home in glory

i can feel the air, i can feel the weight

the door is closing early, then, Now and Late

but for now I breathe, the stone yet to fall

what can I dream when the End is written tall?

only dance in the moment, unraveling the quotient

carving a mask that i’ll burn with the crow’s consent

can’t change the stone, can’t unmake the tone

the rhythms run riot and rivets down in the bone

Fire finds me but leaves no clue

wandering up gravestones and laughing at my secret blue

hollow and hallowed I lay by the bier

without even gray memory to lead me clear

i don’t want to escape, my grave is carefully laid

just unrolling time until the last gambit’s played

come sing with me and tell me what i knew

remember the tender defender of things untrue

thinking about time and cobbling up rhymes

uncertain who is speaking on the lonesome vines

lay your hand on the blade and remember the knave

heart-blood still pumping, am I just camping on the Save?

unleashed on the airwaves, spreading like a virus

songs of the Lost keep playing, I’m hoping you try this

you’ll never be rid of the copper crown king

burn out the shelves and I’ll be smiling clean

can’t escape what’s already falling

unspool the stammer, just another way of stalling

shots of verbena and draughts of gunsmoke

thinking about rime and last time the cipher spoke.

 

 

 

 

brown

brown leaves

uncork the prophet
and come running for payback
still gunning down interlopers
cotton thieves outta stayback
wiggle my toes and rummage around for flows
hoping i’m still beating when my heart already knows
song of the vandal, coming back to ramble
leaving my gleaming all screaming on the bramble
home of the brave and cost of the knave
and singing down august and hoping the joker’s played
i hope you have time and I hope I find mine
and I hope the clock’s still running when Frog’s down in the mines
luck in the scandal, trust in the vandal
legends are burned like any other candle
stars fall and i’m still dreaming
hand across my face and the gear-work still scheming
hand on the blade and fog in the glade
and this is the only meter that matters when the psalm is played
hum it with me and remember me best
when the sun is down and autumn is creeping into my chest.

[Originally posted over on verses.site – a new social media thing for poetry, I guess?]

chandelier

The Dragon Award

 

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Blink.

Blink.

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This video, in its ENTIRETY, is how I feel. I’m on an award list next to N.K. Jemisin  and Jim Butcherrrrrrrr.

You did this. All of you that took the time to answer my plea and nominate me – and I cannot thank you enough. It makes me feel fantastic. This is great for exposure for AMOD and I was already going to be at DragonCon – so now MY SWAGGER WILL UNHOOK PLANETS IN THEIR VERY ORBITS. It is your fault that I will act like an even bigger asshole at the con! Feel the surge of pride!

Now – if you haven’t already registered to vote –  you should!

http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_signup.php

You should vote for me – and my Sword & Laser/Inkshares shelf-brethren: The Life Engineered by J.F. Dubeau and An Unnattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel.

BUT

LET’S BE CALM AND RATIONAL FOR JUST A SECOND.

Take another look at the bracket I’m in. Here’s who I’m up against.

  • the writing Guest of Honor of DragonCon / perennial NYT  bestselling author
  • A book that has already won both the Nebula AND the Hugo (guys. it is sO goood)
  • Darth Vader of the Sad Puppies (who I’m sure is Googling my book as we speak. I’m sure he will be displeased, my book features ladies who both speak AND have opinions.)
  • Some other guys who seem very nice!

SO. What does my book have going for it? Well – you guys AND:

IT’S THE ONLY BOOK WITH ‘DRAGON’ IN THE TITLE.

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SO LET’s DO IT!

Okay – okay. Honestly, I’ve already won. This is all I ever wanted out of The Dragon Award – to get nominated, get a little more attention on the book, etc. Thanks again to everyone who nominated me. You made this happen. (I always say that like an accusation…) I get to pretend to be a big shot for a little bit longer – the awards actually get announced AT the con, which adds the perfect amount of sizzle to the weekend.  It’s fun to be at the big table for a hot second – even though I’m still wearing my bib. So vote! Vote for MEEEE. But with the knowledge that I already feel awesome and I’m going to have a blast with this entire situation all the way through someone else winning the Dragon Award that should have been miiiineeeeeee.

[UPDATE 8/15: My publisher has made the ebook of Asteroid Made of Dragons only .99 until DragonCon! So if you’re thinking about voting – or just want to grab the DRM-free ebook in every version for mega cheap – NOW IS YOUR TIME

You can also get my co-nominated Sword & Laser brethren for the same low cost! That’s three full novels for less than the cost of your average chicken biscuit.

The Life Engineered – by J.F. Dubeau

An Unattractive Vampire – by Jim McDoniel

We’re definitely the small fry on this ballot – but we’d love your consideration and perhaps your undying fealty?]

With heart-eyes emoji for you all –

Dragon-Nominated Author [hey this is a thing now!]

G. Derek Adams