From the Beginning of Time through the Storm Century

But of course I can tell the Story, what do you take me for? Do you not see the mark of Brightnail on my chest, do you not hear the song on my lips? Ach, pass me that flagon and I will say the words. We are all travellers, and it is good to return to the beginning when we can. And push those sugared figs a bit closer, my dear. Now, let me see, let me see — ah, yes, I have it — just as it has been spoken by the members of my order, just as old Prago told me when I was small.

Before Time, we do not speak.

But then the first minutes washed up on the shores of the dark ocean, and a story blinked its eyes and brushed sand out of its hair. We can hear its voice even now, we listen carefully to the quiet groan of the earth, the sky, the jangle of stars in the black belly of night. We tell the Story as it tells us.

At first there were only Two. Father Order and Mother Chaos found themselves here, on this simple globe. The Story does not know if they were born here or if they came from the dark ocean, but suffice it to say that in the first minutes they were here and it was a Beginning.

And they danced.

Mother Chaos would break and tear as fast as her dark hands could move and Father Order would build and mend just as quickly. Father Order would raise tumblr_mwq90d4TZF1sppixgo1_500great towers and shining bridges with his bright hands and Mother Chaos would laugh and shatter and bring them all tumbling down.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then the Two grew bored.

“It is so lonely here,” Mother said. ” So flat and empty. I grow weary of breaking the same towers day after day.”

“As I grow weary of building the same towers,” Father grumbled. “I’m guessing that you have a suggestion.”

Mother grinned “Yes, of course I do. Let’s play a game.”

“A game?” Father mused. “What kind of game?”

“A Game of Making! Together we can fill this world with all sorts of interesting things. We’ll take turns! It requires both of us to create, but we can take turns and see who makes the most interesting thing.”

Father Order scratched his nose and grinned. He was certain that Mother wanted to trick him in some way, but it was a grand idea nonetheless.  Chaos saw the excitement in his eyes and skipped in for a quick kiss before they began.

The Two joined their hands and began to make.  Order and Chaos met and the first living things drew breath. The first plants and the first insects, lichen and moss, fish and fowl, claw and talon, feather and hide. Father and Mother took great delight in the making, growing ever more inventive in their competition, endless variety in the nature of their creations. And in the heart of everything that lives an equal measure of Chaos and Order, the gift of the Creators.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then Father and Mother created People.

They had many shapes and sizes, many bends and ways — different races and faces and gazes, but still all the same, all People. One strange accident made them different than all the breathing things that had come before — or one careful trick that Mother Chaos had laid carefully across the long Time of Making, a tiny tip of the scales. Where before their children had shared equal measure of Order and Chaos – People had a little more of one, and a little less of the other. They gravitated ever so slightly towards rhythm or ruin — and since they were created last, they were the most intelligent, the most elaborate — perfect pieces for a new game.

Mother Chaos crowed with delight and Father Order frowned.

Father freed his hands and sighed. “I’m afraid this last batch is no good, they will be nothing but trouble.”

“No, they are perfect,” Mother insisted. “See, some of them are building away — they are your children, just as mine are blithely breaking and shattering. New dancers, new pieces for the game, they are wonderful.”

“Yes, some of them are quite industrious, and I’ve already been surprised at some of the things they’ve built,” Father sighed with regret. “But they must be destroyed. They are ever-changing and mercurial, see! Those over there have have fallen to you and are setting fire to the tall grass — and those over there have stopped breaking rocks and started building houses. What good are pieces that change sides? No, no – they must be destroyed.”

And Father Order raised his hand to end the People, and found Mother Chaos’ hand raised to thwart him. They locked eyes and the First Argument began.

A century of storms, tireless, ceaseless battle. The first People did their best to weather it and provide shelter to all of the other creations — though many of them were lost, obliterated by the tireless wrath of Mother and Father.

And thus our world would have remained, if not for one clever child and one stupid goat.

Ah, this is my favorite part. Drown my flagon again if you please, I don’t want to pause when I continue. Oh no! Can my plate of figs already be empty?

— Talespinner Marxo, Cleric of Seto, Idolobha

A Spell for Winter

It was cold that year. The grease-trap from the restaurant upstairs continued its slow leaking creep across her ceiling, but at least the snow-chill that invaded her square basement slab froze the yellow-brown sludge’s advance.

She had one window, covered with a

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Artist – Bruno Vergauwen

lattice of mud and frost. From her desk piled high with paper and feeble penny-candles she could see boots pass in the street outside. Her means were few, so this afterthought coffin was all she could afford. Her gold had better use than wood, or steel, or bowls of wheat. Her gold was for paper, for ink, for magic.

The student held her aching hands as close as she dared to the forest of tiny yellow flames, a rainbow of mismatched candles. The cold would not leave her joints, and the rudimentary spell she had been attempting required an exacting sequence of hand gestures.

“Preposterous,” she grunted, as she often did privately at the endless flailing and chanting required to produce even the most basic of magical effects.

She re-read the passage again, her eyes blurred with repetition and the dull ache between her ears. With grim focus she spoke the arcane words, stumbled over the final consonant, began again, her knuckles full of broken glass she made the careful sigils.

And to her surprise, it worked.

A small gout of flame appeared. Golden and bright, but only for an instant.

The student stared at the empty air in disbelief.  She let her hands fall to the cluttered desk, her gaze empty.

“I did it.” The student whispered to no one. “I finally did it.”

She let her head fall slowly to the desk for a moment, then pushed herself up. No coat, no scarf she walked up the cracked stone steps and out into the snow. She took a deep, cold breath. Her lungs full of winter she looked up at the heedless stars and told someone, “I did it.”

Sand

I was born in the middle of tomorrow, yesterday’s child.

My parents were Tuesday and waiting for the water to boil. The people of the village are finding me in the hay of the inn’s second stall, the one that the old gray mule calls his own. Or did they already find me?

At some point, there was I in the hay. A child in the hay, pointy ears and bric-a-brac, like Mama Troth says sometimes, or is saying right now as I fold the clothes on the square table in the kitchen, but is also still a stump oozing sap as it’s cut down in the Riddlewood.

I know I’m confusing. People think are thinking that I do it a-purpose, or as some lark. It was hard, sometimes. Wanting to carry on a palaver with all the right tenses, the words that say time like Mama Troth will teach me.

If I’m careful I can tell the pig story right. The straw, the sticks, the bricks — but sometimes I tell the wolf at the beginning,

Wesley Allsbrook
Wesley Allsbrook

or leave the wolf out all together. Or put in some extra wolves that people never hear of, but that’s mainly a lark.

I used to be funny. Laughing and dancing down the streets of the Kingdom, with my friends and comrades. Before the war? After? I can’t be sure. Enough to say, there was an I and he was funny.

It’s hard to become this, stranger to remember. All at once and never gone. We’re going to a wedding, or have we already been?

Mama Troth told me to go to the baker and pick up some bread, but I could never figure when the place was open. I always came too late or too early, or I saw when the baker was a boy and didn’t have any bread. Or I saw him choking on that apple seed and he didn’t have any bread then either. I tried just keeping my hand on his doorknob until the time was right, but the rain was over and the rain was coming and the rain was always.

I got wet.  I’m pretty sure that one already happened.

It’s going to be hard. People move so slow, but I turn and they’re gone. I send my words to where I see them, but they’re already gone, or they aren’t there yet.

Nora Hill held my hand once, but she ran off when her dad yelled. That one is the only one I know for sure is behind me, even though I want it to always be ahead. Nora is dying right now in the war, when the teeth and claws came over the wall. I don’t tell her and squeeze her hand. I should kiss her but I don’t. I see her dying right now, right before they found baby me in the hay, right after we went to the wedding, before the rain, but during the towels I fold all square and neat.

It’s hard to see. I want to shut my eyes sometimes, but Mama Troth is telling me I have to go buy some bread.

I Need Reviews!

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On Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook, scrawled on butcher paper and taped to the side of your car.

Those of you who have already finished reading — please take a second and post a review online. Even if you had problems, especially if you have legitimate criticism. I’m starting from zero promoting the book, and my best ally is word of mouth. This is the quickest and easiest way you can help me – especially with an Amazon or Goodreads review. It helps boost the visibility of the book, and helps new readers make an informed decision.

Negative reviews are no problem — what you hated about the book may be the thing that convinces a new reader to give me a shot.  The initial word of mouth from the book’s release has officially subsided, and now I need to dig in for the long haul. INCREMENTAL GROWTH, BABY. So, if you’ve read the book — please, please take a moment and click some stars and type a sentence or two online. You do that crap on the regular anyway, right?

And, now on to some more unprofessional behavior, tinged by desperation.

I have copies of Spell/Sword to mail out. I will send it to your house. TO YOUR HOUSE. [US only, please.] I can also hook you up with the Kindle version if that’s your preference. If you read this far and you want to give it a shot, just drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get one shipped out. Do I want a review in return? Absolutely — but you can make it as mean-spirited as you desire.

I know the hustle’s hard, but we gotta enterprise, the carnival

-Wyclef Jean

The Reason I Wrote The Book

I think it’s this artwork right here.

AC
Artist – Andrew – ~shu-no-kurohi.

 

I dropped a few copies of the book off at the high school I used to work at, with strict instructions that they be dispersed only to the truly devout nerds in attendance.

Today I got an email from one of my teacher friends, and my very first piece of true Spell/Sword fanart.  Also a sweet review:

Actually, I just finished the book right after I sent you the fanart. Overall, it was great. Maybe could’ve used a few runs of spell-check, but great overall. I’m a bit confused, though- you never really explained what Jonas did to earn the title of murderer. Is it going to be explained in the next book?
Also, your original cover is great. Really solid, yet open for ideas.
Dang, Andrew.  Why you gotta be like that about the Spell Checkery? That’s to be expected with Artisinal Fantasy. [COPYRIGHTED.]
My heart is glowing  in an embarrassing fashion. I’m so excited to put this on my internet refridgerator, and on my literal refrigerator after I print it out.
Thank you so much for the drawing and for reading the book, Andrew! I wrote the book for weird kids like you…and me.

Spell/Sword Cover Art Revealed!

Artist - Mike Groves/poopbird
Artist – Mike Groves/poopbird

And there it is. The cover art for my book.

This is real. IT’S REAL.

Let me let me tell you why I love this art.

1. It’s fun. Looking at it just makes me smile. It’s unapologetically goofy and cartoony. Most fantasy art takes itself so freaking seriously.

2. It’s different. This doesn’t look like 98% of the fantasy novel illustrations I’ve ever seen before. Not on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, not on Amazon.com or anywhere else.

3. It’s clean. All of the negative space just pleases me aesthetically. A traditionally published novel would want to cram more information and more verbiage on there. I’ll probably have my name on their, somewhere very small, but that’s it. I also think it’ll really stand out when seen online as a tiny thumbnail on someone’s Kindle.

4. It makes me think of Chrono Trigger. My book sits very comfortably in the mental space occupied by Dungeons & Dragons, JRPGs, and manga. I adore that this would not look terribly out of place on the cover of any of those three.

5. It will make people vaguely embarrassed to be seen reading it. Not so much with the Kindle version, but people who have the paper copy. Anyone reading this will be broadcasting to the world that they are a Huge Nerd.

Huge props to Poopbird on the illustration, you should follow the link from here or the image itself and check out his entire portfolio and buy stuff from him.

I hope this gets you marginally excited about reading the book. I know it gets me far more than marginally excited about finishing it.

Spell/Sword in 300 Words or Less

[ I’m entering into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, for my chance at fortune and glory. I’m frantically making some reckless edits to the manuscript and getting it ready to upload, but the hardest part has been the 300 word Pitch that I have to include.  I gave up trying to write a respectable pitch a few hours ago, what do you think of this one? Comments and suggestions are very much solicited, but on the hustle people! I’ve got to get this thing submitted before the entry window closes. Would you want to read this book if you read the description below on Amazon.com?]

Two lonely kids learn that they can be friends. That they are better together than apart. Isn’t that what all great tales are really about?

Oh, you need some sizzle do you?

There are wizards in this book. And a witch. And swords. And a minotaur, and frogs on roller skates, and bad dwarven singing. And a dinosaur. And a girl and a boy. Loss and death and sorrow and joy. A couple of kick-ass fight scenes and some witty banter.

What, you need more than that? That’s all fourteen-year-old-me would have needed.spellsword

An airship explodes. A giant robot disrupts the sale of a garish urn. The concept of a box social is thoroughly interrogated.

The Magic Wild burns and the White Sword bites and the Gray Witch laughs.

An assassin. A seer. A knight. A squire. A coward. A girl with the power of sun and winter and death held lightly in her hands.

An improbable mailbox. Poor dental hygiene. Hangovers.

And friendship. That’s what it’s really about.

Rime is the girl, a wild mage. She can bend the very fabric of reality, but at a cost – a cost to her health and her sanity. Her power is unstoppable but it leaves her empty, weak, and often unconscious.  Jonas is the boy, a squire on the run – running away from the shadow of murder. They travel together to find the one person that can save Rime from the wild magic, from the inexorable madness and death that comes to those who are born to ignore the rules of the universe. The Gray Witch of the Wheelbrake Marsh, a creature out of a fairy tale.

The anti-epic fantasy, the nascent genre of Swordpunk: Fantasy Action A La Carte. Earnestly written in the shadow of Lieber and Moorcock.

[It’s actually only 299 words, so if you see where I can squeeze in one more, I’d love to hear it.]

The Lines

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“Sit down, Lucas.”

The young boy took his place at the keys of the grand piano. He set his fingers carefully in the proper positions, the polished bone cool to the touch.

“Now play.” The madman leered. ” Play the lines, the lines of light in the dark. Play them. Play them well, and play them now.”

Lucas Grahd tried not to think of the blood that oozed down his shoulder from the thin puncture. He tried not to think of the dried blood on his knuckles, a friend’s blood. He tried and failed, but his eyes stayed dry and his fingers steady.

“Play them now,” the masked man howled. “The lines, connect the lines!”

Lucas could feel every whorl of his fingertips, as he touched the first key.

The Glory Road

“What did I want?
I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Thoros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”
― Robert A. HeinleinGlory Road

Another master says it better than I ever could.