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.

AMOD Deleted Scenes

I know! Weird that I’m not posting my odd rap lyrics, I’m actually posting something tangentially related to one of my books.  During the editing process of Asteroid Made of Dragons there were tons of refinements and changes made – but only two actual scenes that were cut. My editor wisely advised me that they slowed down the pace and distracted from the main narrative.

“But they’re META!” I whined.

Well, I think we all know how that conversation went. But! I thought it might be fun to pull those cut scenes up off the floor and let you take a gander. No real spoilers for the plot of AMOD, as these scenes feature the players from the framing sequence.

Enjoy!


Cut from Intermission One

Vincent let his wooden sword fall back on his shoulder and the matching shield decorated with tin dangle from his long fingers. The tall actor cocked his head to one side for a moment, and then turned to Sand.

“I’m sorry to interrupt our rehearsal,” he said with tenterhook grace. “But I’m afraid I’m a bit confused.”

Toby, wearing ram’s horns on his brow and a tattered red cloak around his shoulders dropped the fierce stance he held and squatted down on his heels. He crossed his arms and nodded in agreement.

“Yes?” the bald leading player replied, his eyes down in his copy of the script.

“Well, it’s just that — so far there have been plenty of scenes of the Paladin chasing the Demon, or the Demon fleeing the Paladin, and now we’re at the end of the Act and the two are having their first real fight,” the tall man’s tone was careful.

Sand pawed back through the first pages of the folio, then nodded, his attention still elsewhere. “Yes, that’s right.”

“So, what I was wondering is…what does the Sage have to do with it?”

“What?” Sand looked up at last, eyes focusing on his players.

“Well, we have our scenes and you have yours – but the characters never seem to meet. And nothing that happens in your scenes seem to have anything to do with ours?” Vincent looked to Toby for affirmation, the horned blonde man grunted in agreement. “I mean, what is the Sage even doing? I mean, they’re nice scenes, lots of speeches for you

Toby snickered, quite demonically.

“…but what does the Great Evil the Sage uncovers have to do with the Hero?” Vincent held his wooden sword out, the gilt-paint was chipped. “What is this ‘Dark’ that you keep mentioning?”

“A natural question, it is sure.” Sand stood up and clapped his hands together. “But let us keep reading, all will become clear ere the curtain falls, I promise you. Now, onto the next scene. This is a scene for our Demon – he has found his way to the edge of the garden where the Sacred Fountain is hidden. All he must do is find his way within. Soon he is surprised by the Paladin once more, hot on his heels.”
The slight rise in the older actor’s voice left little doubt about his interest in entertaining further criticism of the text. Toby and Victor looked at each other, then shrugged. The tall actor left the playing space, finding a shady spot near the wagon. Toby straightened his horns and cape and flipped through the folio until he found the correct place to begin.


Cut from Intermission Two

“Abscond!” Sand howled the Sage’s lines with eerie vigor, his hands wracked with quivering torment. “You foul Paladin and fouler Demon! I speak the truth and you toss it behind you like offal on the midden heap. If you heed not my warning, then flee. Flee through the verdant bows of the glade and the forgetful arms of Night and disappear to the far Edges of the City.”

“I hear your warning and I heed it,” Vincent held his Hero’s Sword high, “But I follow a greater charge. This Demon must die, by my hand or none. This is my battlefield, my war with the Shadow. You speak of a greater Darkness, one that no single mind can comprehend, no single heart can bear. I can bear this, I can fight this foul Creature before me. This is where I will stand, sword at the ready.”

Toby nodded, then reached under his demon’s horns to scratch an itch.

Sand looked at the handsome player. Toby looked back. Vincent waggled his eyebrows with portent at his lover. Toby arched his eyebrows back. Sand dropped the perfect Agony Tree Pose he had held throughout the scene and pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

“It’s your line, Toby,” the bald man tapped his own copy of the script.

“Yeah, I know,” Toby put his horns back on and smoothed his golden hair back into place.

“You’re not even looking at the script,” Sand crossed his arms.

The blonde Demon shrugged and flipped through the folio with desultory interest. Vincent lowered his sword and leaned on it, long face concerned. “Is something wrong Toby?”

“I don’t want to play the Demon,” the blonde man said, staring pointedly at a square of blank ground slightly to the left of Sand’s feet.

“Why not?” Sand replied, keeping his tone level and soothing.

“It’s no fun. I’m always lurking or crying about something or killing things in fits of passion. Even that one scene where the maid tries to give me the bread I just spent most of the time yelling at her.” Toby sulked.

“Is it…” the leading player made a diplomatic hand gesture, fitting for a queen’s herald. “…is it that you think the audience won’t like you?”

“That must be tough,” Vincent murmured, but Sand shot him a quick glance to silence the tall man.

Toby shrugged and stared at the floor.

“You haven’t read ahead in the script, have you?”

“What?” Toby met the troupe leader’s eyes.

“The last act? You haven’t read it yet, have you?” Sand tapped his copy of the folio again.

“No – why? Do I do something cool?” the patchwork Demon began to flip through the pages with renewed interest.

Sand folded the play between his hands and spoke with professorial elan. “The spine of this script is the hound of Sin. The Paladin’s murder of his mentor in Act One – Scene Two, the Demon’s reckless slaughter at Marwell Abbey, the Sage’s return of that library scroll a full two months past the appointed due date — all transgressions that haunt the characters throughout the events of the play. The things we do to forget, the lies we tell ourselves to mask the truth, we scrub and scrub at the stone but the chisel-marks we can not erase.”

Vincent nodded with understanding, but Toby only shrugged again. “So?”

Sand lowered the jaws of his trap gracefully. “And in all the plays, all the lives we’ve lived in the Twilight Kingdom, how has any character ever washed clean their slate?”

Toby stared down at the script as if struck by lightning. “Shit and beetle-balls, we’re all going to die aren’t we?”

Sand returned to his anguished pose and nodded to the Demon to take his cue. Actors cannot resist a proper death, no more than cats can pass milk or hedgehogs leave a cinnamon bun.

I know! So META. Painful to cut.

Dragon*Con Dragon Award Eligibility Dragon Dragon Dragon

I want the Dragon.

logoTo celebrate their 30th Anniversary, Dragon*Con has announced that they will present their own awards this year, similar to the Hugos or Nebulas. From the site “As a part of our 30th Anniversary as the nation’s largest fan-run convention, we are introducing a new way to recognize excellence in all things Science Fiction and Fantasy. These awards will be by the fans, for the fans, and are your chance to reward those who have made real contributions to SF, books, games, comics, and shows.”

Do I stand a chance in hell? Nope. But, much like Soul Calibur, the soul still burns!

Asteroid Made of Dragons is eligible for the award, Dragon*Con is my home turf and the convention I have most often bonded with the Speed Force in drunken excess. Plus – Asteroid Made of Dragons winning the first EVER Dragon Award?! C’mon.

Asteroid Made of Dragons – Release 4/5/20163411_937441408318_1998784740632060928_n

“An unlikely band of heroes—some of whom are trying to kill one another—must gather together in order to save their world from the return of an ancient menace in an excellent, irreverent mix of sword-and-sorcery fantasy and SF. Adams’s flippant tone recalls Terry Pratchett, taking the skewering of tropes down a very dark path as he establishes a fantasy world built from the ashes of a technological one” – Publisher’s Weekly [full review]

Excerpt

Goodreads / Amazon

You don’t need a badge to nominate  – just register here. [Deadline July 25th]

After the nominations close, all the chosen works will be listed on the site with excerpts and links, so voters can make informed choices. That, quite honestly, is what I really want. A chance for some more eyeballs to come across the book – I really doubt my vicious, but small fandom can wreak their will on a voting system like this where there is no barrier to entry. I’m asking you to nominate AMOD in the category of Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal) [Let’s not get into that it’s SUPER weird to lump Paranormal in with vanilla Fantasy, that’s its own genre man!]

Once you’ve registered, you’ll also get to vote on the nominees, which will be exciting too! [Don’t forget to register if you want to do that part as well.] I won’t be nominating myself – because, well, it’s just super tacky. But! I will be nominating other books, and I heartily encourage you to put your own picks.

There! I said it! I did it! I admitted I wanted something. Let the winds of fate conspire to heap calumny and woe on my head.

I truly appreciate any of you that consider AMOD worthy of nomination – and if not, thanks for the time reading this and the consideration.

Answers to No One

King Tamar sat alone. It drove her mad to be blind while her city, her people, were in peril. They were imperiled by the blazing red-white circle that, by her guard’s faltering description, filled half the night sky now. She had given them all tasks, duties to prepare the castle defenses, to prepare the city for the long night that could still fall. My vision will return. There will be much to do come dawn, either way.

She had decided the best place for her to be was the Alabaster Throne, where at least she could be a symbol of resolve and comfort to her people. Her heirs were safely on their way, bound for the far city of Caleron. They had fought her decision, but they had bowed to her Sight.

The king raised her head. Someone was there, standing a few feet from the throne, silent and unannounced. She craned her ears, trying to decide if she should rebuke this careless guard, but she could not hear the jingle of chain mail, or the creak of leather straps, or the slight tap of a blade against armor. As best she could tell, the someone was standing in the blue rectangle, recently vacated by the knight’s tribunal.

Someone walked closer.

“Could I stay with you a moment?”

King Tamar felt as though she was stepping across a dark pit and wished that she had not left her glaive in the sitting room floors below. “I am sorry, but I do not know you.”

A strong hand took hers. “You know me.”

“Though we have never met.” The king returned the grip, the way she might handle a viper.

“I was curious about something. You had them break bread together. Simple magic, old magic, from the very bones of the city. Only the hunter noticed. You wanted to bind together your little band of heroes. But why did you not tell them all that you saw?”

Tamar the Thrice Cursed smiled, all teeth. “I am a king. I owe answers to no one.”

“She will pay with the coin most dear. That is what you saw. Why did you not say it?”

Tamar reached up and methodically pulled the blood-soaked cloth from around her eyes. Blind eyes, dry-rimmed with red, but she wanted her questioner to see the iron. “There is always a Cost. I have paid it many times. My city, my children, the stones I bought with steel and death. If they were Heroes they would pay it gladly, but they are villains all, so I will spend their lives for them. I know what Tomorrow holds for them, all but the goblin. The boy’s future is a brown cloak, the girl’s is an empty cup. The monster will wither in a teardrop of stone. Is that what you ask? Is that what you want to know from a king?”

A gentle hand ran down the king’s face, and she slapped it away.

“I know a king’s burden.” The hand released her and was gone, but as Someone walked away the voice lingered, coiling around her like a green vine.

Tamar sat alone and thought of the falling sky she could not see and her father who was gone and the battles she had fought, young and bright, scattering memories like flower gems on a broken necklace—falling to break on the floor of her throne room. Then she thought of promises. Promises kept and promises yet to be fulfilled. This is the last curse. To see with eyes unclouded how utterly empty the Game. Block this cut, stamp out this blaze, rip out the beast’s heart again and again, but still it comes. Only Once—only one chance to stand, to move, to protect, to find the right path. Stone cracks, wind falters, sun fades, even Time erodes. I walk down a tunnel of wind with a fistful of sand. What does it matter if the asteroid falls? Everything ends—everything falls apart.

“The button falls off the coat,” the old woman said, but not even Someone was listening.

Excerpt from Asteroid Made of Dragons.

Asteroids A-Z

Working with Inkshares and Girl Friday Productions on the editing of Asteroids Made of Dragons has been a profoundly crunchy experience. Lots of things I sort of expected, but presented with tireless rigor and depth that boggles my lazy writer tendencies to no end. But also I get little surprises like THIS! A breakdown of odd words and terms from the entire book – reading it is like an index of geeky madness, and it made me smile SO BIG.

If you’re really, really clever there are spoilers in this list – but only very mild AMOD-finalones. Think of this as a delightful grab-bag of the ridiculous things that the book contains.

A

the Academy

acquisitional

Al-Hazaar

the Alabaster Throne

Alain the White

amid, not amidst

among, not amongst

Archivus Eldracon (library)

Arkanic

Aufero

 

B

bankman

Bellwether Manor

the Black Moon

Blackstone (city)

blond/blonde (m/f)

blood dog

bog wraiths

Bolander (Minotaur)

Bragg Silverhammer

 

C

Caleron

Caleronai codex

Carroway (city)

chaos saw

Chester; Chet

Cooper’s Row

Corinth (city)

the Cormorant (boat)

crept, not creeped

 

D

Doma

dragonslayer

the Dragoon War

Dwarven (adj.)

 

E

eggplanty

the Empty Island

Eridia

 

F

Flenelle

Finding the Lost: A Researcher’s Guide to the Arkanic Civilization

the Fountain of Purity

 

G

gabble-blab

Gate City

glasschalk

the Glass Towers of Vo

glow globe(s)

Gilead (city)

Gilean (adj.)

the Grand Wizard

Gratha (woman)

gray, not grey

the Gray Witch

the Great Expedition

gryphon, not griffon

 

H

the Half-Ghost Armada

Hannibal al’Hazaar

heartblood

Hecate (sword)

a Hero; a Hero True; Hero of the Realm

High Valerian

hmmm

the Hollow

the Hunt (organization); the hunters

 

I

the Iron Legion; the Legion

izus

 

J

 

K

the Keep

King Tamar

the Knights of Gilead

the Knights of the Scroll

the Knights of the Sword

the Knights of the Wand

Korthan Zul

Kythera

 

L

the Law of the King

lordling

the Lost

 

M

the Magic Wild

tribes of Malgor

Measure Day

Melgatoth (wyrm villain)

Mount Cahill

Munch (Minotaur)

 

N

the Nameless God

Nasirah

necro-mori specimens

the Node

Nora (magic hound)

nose-boggled

not-metal (noun)

not-wood (noun)

 

O

Old Gilean (adj.)

the Order of the Key

 

P

the Paphyreal Stack

Parajuelego

Pasadena (roan)

the Pass Wall

peapod

Pice (city)

ping-pong

Precursor (adj.) Precursors (noun)

Providence Road

 

Q

Quorum

 

R

Radd Plateglass

the Raven (ship)

the Red Moon

the Red Wizard

repulsor buoys

roofmaster

 

S

the Sarmad

Sarmadi (adj.)

scrat

scroll board

Seafoam Trading Company (STC)

sellsword

Seroholm

sky cycle

the Shield Gates

Shield Wall

Shiloh (city)

Sidebat

the Sight (noun); Seen (verb)

the Singers

Sir Basil, Knight of the Wand

snaggle-toothed

Sparrow Unit

steepled (verb)

Sunhammer

the Swords of the Faith

Syprian

 

T

Tamar the Thrice Cursed

Tel

the Temple of the Nameless; the Temple

the Three-Toed Claw

Tobio

toma gate(s)

Tonic

Towerspan

traveled, not travelled

 

U

uhh

the Unbroken City of Kythera

 

V

Valeria

the Vampire Dread

the Vardeman Accords

the Vacuous Gargantua; the Gargantua (ship)

 

W

Waters & Moore Fiduciary Exchange

the Weary Titan

welp

the White Moon

wild mage

wyrm

 

X

 

Y

yo

 

Z

Zebulon

Zero (asteroid)