Nightmare Fuel

Echodactyl swoops low over the frenzied demons, keeping close to the tops of the buildings to conceal her outline from any of the enemy.

The organized group moves through the chaotic demons. A dozen armored forms form a perimeter, holding large standards, gleaming white even in the rain with three blue swords crossed — the ancient sigil for the country of Gilead. The four-limbed vaguely female demons writhe and caper, attempting to run their bloody claws against the white banners, but they are ruthlessly crushed and pushed out of the way by the Hell Knights, their gleaming silver armor a cruel mockery of the noble Gilean paladins of old. Orange light pours from their helms, pulsing from fiendish orbs.

In the center of their column walks a grander horror. A white spider, massive and elegant  it’s legs arced and slender — longer in proportion than any mortal arachnid, click and clack down the city street, as careful and dainty as a maid with her master’s porcelain tea set. Every few hundred paces, the spider stops and two knights rush into the throng of demons , pulling gibbets of human flesh from their jaws — half butchered corpses, and to Echodactyl’s revulsion, still living citizens of Pice. All screaming and wriggling, stuffed into the massive creature’s gut.

Her flying arc takes Echo around the back of the devil column, and the backside of the vast arachnid. Her double-lidded eyes blink, and she stares at the bulbous sac rippling underneath the creature’s abdomen. Her lack of familiarity with land creatures gave her a moment’s hope, but with a sinking sensation she realized she knows exactly what she was looking at.

An egg sac. Full to bursting with the white spider’s young.

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Crossing the Rubicon

[Sent this out today — eep!]

Good afternoon, Alpha Readers.

Thank you.

First, before all else, before another word — thank you. You are doing me a giant favor, dedicating your time, knowledge and taste to helping me achieve a goal that I’ve had my entire life. Thank you, thank you – thank you a thousand times.

“Wait, I don’t remember telling Derek I’d do this for him.” You probably forgot, that’s okay — don’t worry, I’m not offended. You’re a busy person.

Can I admit that I’m afraid of you?

I’m not one that enjoys making art of any permanence, my insecurity and ego will not allow it. Temporary, ephemeral bursts of creativity – that’s my racket. But now I’ve written an entire book — with a beginning, middle and end, and now I’m going to let you inside my head to read it. You might all hate it. Hate it viciously. Or even worse, find it mild and forgettable. You are going to tell me things I don’t want to hear, you are going to break my heart. And more often than not, you’ll probably be right. And you must do these things, I implore you.

Which doesn’t mean I’m not going to be a giant baby about it.

I’ve never done this before!  You can’t expect maturity.

I’m completing my latest pass of editing this week, then sending the draft to be printed so I can hand deliver them to you. If you would prefer a nice, shiny PDF of the draft instead I can happily provide it [what’s more you’ll get your copy earlier than the other people.] If you don’t live in Athens, please send me the address you want your copy mailed to.

Title: Spell/Sword
Draft Length: 144 pages / approx. 50,000 words

Instructions
1. Read the book.
2. Tell me what you think.

I have no idea how each of you wants to give me your feedback. We could sit down and talk about it, or you could send me an email, or attach your reply to the wing of a raven and hope for the best. Whatever is most comfortable for you, especially when you have to give me the “bad news”. I vow to be as professional and non-tear stained as I can be when you give me constructive criticism. What works best for you? Respond to me directly with your thoughts.

I’m trying to be scientific about this process, it alleviates my anxiety. In this first Alpha Reader group there are an even mix of genders, and a fair spread of age ranges. All of you are fans of genre fiction in some way or other, and I respect your opinion as an educated audience member, but also as artists and creators in your own stead.

After you’ve all given me your feedback, I will internalize your responses and then do a fresh edit of the book – probably several, before it goes on to be read by 5 brand new readers for the Beta Draft.

Suggestions
1. Please don’t discuss the book with each other, until after you’ve given me your feedback. Don’t be messin’ with my scientific method.
2. Don’t copy edit. If you can’t stand a grammar issue [and there will surely be some] please feel free to mark it, but don’t feel like I’m trying to con you into hours and hours of work.
3. Write all the notes you want on the draft! I want to know when you had questions, when you were confused, and most importantly, when you got bored.
4.  Help me make my book better. Whatever that means, however you think best to do it.

Thank you again, you terrifying people.

G. Derek Adams

spell-sword.com

Cyrus

And his hand slid through the hilt as if it were made of dream.

The barbarian stumbled forward, thrown off balance. He turned around, and the sword was gone.

In its place stood a hooded figure, old gray travelers cloak worn thin from endless miles on the road. Agnar glanced around and saw the temple seemed to be caught in gray amber, the clerics at the doors were nearly statues they moved so slow, the demons outside were a painting in stillness. A moment out of time.

The figure squared his shoulders, and fell into a natural fighting stance. Strapped across his back was a massive greatsword, the length of it tightly wound in dark cloth. The cowl slipped back, and Agnar stared into a stranger’s face. His face was clean-shaven, flat as slate — his hair was nearly gone, just gray fuzz on the sides of his head.

“Need is not enough.” the traveler said.

Agnar tried to respond, but found himself mute.

“Fate is not enough.” the traveler said, and Agnar felt the winged mark on his palm burn and itch.

“Rage is not enough. Skill is not enough. Might is not enough. All of these are dust.”

Sand began to pour from the sleeves of the traveler’s cloak, Agnar tasted the desert on his tongue.

“Only love is enough. Only truth is enough. Only sacrifice is enough.”

The traveler turned, and looked out towards the doors of the temple.

“You can bring death, but can you bring life? You have walked in the Light, can you bear its lack? Go out into the world, go without the Bright Lady’s balm, survive, and redeem one of the wicked. One evil soul brought back to the light, and I will be yours to wield — from now unto the Cracking of the World.”

The traveler walked away, and faded even as time slowly wound back to its proper pace. Agnar stared ahead at the demons pounding on the doors of the temple, and felt a dry, empty feeling steal through his limbs. A man who has lived his life ever by the sea, withers and dies when he can not hear the waves crash.

Marlowe looked up with great pain, and smiled with the sadness of knowledge. “Your trial begins, brother. You have stepped out of the Light.”

Pice Burns

Libraryside

“Reports are hazy, but the main assault seems to have begun in the Southern District — from the Thieves Alley. Spice is much deeper down then those tunnels, so they’re probably no worse off then we are right now.” Ganalie interjected. “The members of the Lyceum were all scattered across town, and many of the Houses have fallen to fire and death —there’s no real leadership to the town left, except for Tom of House Brighella and the Grahd boy. I can hold things here for now, but we need someone to gather our forces and make a plan for a counter attack. As things stand now, our best option is to let the South Quarter burn, and do our best to preserve the other three districts, and the Loghain Primex at all costs. You and your friends are a mighty force, but even you can not stand alone against the evil that burns and capers in the streets of my city.”

Tears streaked down her dark face, trails through the ash.

Ganalie leaned in close to Haskeer. “My city needs a leader, Knight of the Rose. Not another soldier.”

Fireside

Agnar scanned the charred spires of burning towers, yellow flame and black smoke with frustration. Then, as if in a dream, the smoke parted. His vision moved across the city, howling like a gust of wind and he saw it. A burning blade, in a house of stone. The last defenders of the Bright Lady’s temple, Arcleric Tome’s face tight with pain, ignoring the bloody stump where his arm once was. Laying about left and right with a mace, spreading the healing power of Sarenrae to the tight knot of the faithful that held the doors against the demonic assault.

Come, my chosen. A voice whispered, remote and sad. It is time. Time for you to be tested. Take up my sword, and turn back this tide of darkness.

Editing – Final Sequence Omega

Gort views passive voice with disdain.

I’m on schedule for finishing my Alpha Edit of Spell/Sword before July 1st — my personal printer [aka my mom] is waiting to print copies for my crack team of Alpha Readers.

Editing is like painting with sand — everything you do changes the landscape, and draws into question things that you once considered granite-bedrock of your fiction.

I’ve spent a lot of time just sparring with anxiety. Am I editing too fast, too slow? Are the changes I’m making good — are they bad? Why aren’t there more minotaurs?

I’m terrified of getting overzealous and damaging the heart of the work — I’m terrified of not doing enough and leaving cancers to grow and fester in the lines and pages of the book.

I do think it’s time to crack the door open and let some other eyes prowl over the pages. I’m restricting my Alpha Readers to 10, half male, half female — and a pretty even spread of reader-types, and writers that I respect. After they get done, and give me some feedback, and I can stop crying — I’ll get back to work on a Beta Draft for the final round of 5 readers — my toughest critics: my girlfriend, a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar, a playwright, and the cruelest douchebag I can find.

Guest bloggery.

Town and Gown Players

There’s been a long running debate at our theatre, a quiet dissatisfaction with one of our noble facets — not so much with the venue itself, but with its nomenclature. I refer to Second Stage.

you never knew it lurked beneath
The name is innately confusing. There is only one stage in our humble Gray Block, and many a patron has squinted carefully at every square centimeter while the Main Stage director drones on about the next production. Could there be another stage squirreled away somewhere in here?, they ask. Is it under the normal stage, is it on the roof, is it through the secret passage in the Men’s Bathroom?

[NOTE: The Secret Passageway in the Men’s Bathroom is not a real thing. And if it was, it certainly wouldn’t lead to a lavender-scented boudoir filled with faded leather armchairs and shelves of aged mahogany. Also, there isn’t a harpsichord player on staff. Don’t…

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The Blood is Good

“The Long Night still comes, pup. But for now we are alive, and there is mead to be drunk.” Grell the Death crooked an arm around Agnar’s neck and dragged him away from the others.

The barbarian found hard hands on his shoulders, warm kisses from matron and maiden, the devil blood still spattered on his arms and face was smeared with bold cries by each warrior singing to the sun. The meadskin swung up and down, up and down and the honey-gold spilled down Agnar’s chin.

Then at once, there was space and silence. A tall warrior stood alone in front of a wide hall. Thunor Sky-

“Hish, Lord of Silence”
Illustration from The Gods of Pegāna by Lord Dunsany, 1905

Breaker stood alone and faced his son. The dancing crowd fell quiet and hushed.

“Who is this warrior?” Thunor asked.

“This warrior is called Agnar.” Grell responded, a ritual.

“And what blood has he spilled?”

“The blood of our enemies. The black blood of Hell, the white blood of the Wolf and the red blood of the North. His own blood.”

“Is the blood good?”

“The blood is good.” Grell said.

“THE BLOOD IS GOOD.” Roared the gathered people of Marankur.

“Has he stood in the snow, has he broken bone, has he danced, has he sung in the flames?”

“All this and more.” Grell said.

“Who is his father?” Thunor said, dark eyes locked with Agnar.

“His…his…”Grell stopped, and looked to his chief for aid. Thunor said nothing, his face cold and hard with a lifetime of pride. A murmur of discomfort rippled through the crowd of gathered barbarians.

“Who is his father?” Thunor Sky-Breaker repeated.