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

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The Buzz-Saw

Setting out on a mission of revenge, the hero is told to dig two graves. One for the villain and one for himself. When setting out on a mission of self-promotion I have learned to dig eight graves.

One for me, one for my dignity, one for my pride, one for that random werewolf that always attacks me, two for anxiety because that sucker is portly and depression resurrects him on the regular. Two more just because I like digging. And the eighth grave for this entire metaphor.

So, to whit: anxiety is getting out of the grave, but I defeat the werewolf?

This is my problem, you see? I’m a writer and a communicator, but my preambles are deadly. Weaponized elocution right here.

I’m the self-published author of two fantasy novels. And promoting your self is part and parcel of the experience — and something that more and more people are becoming familiar with. You can’t wander into any social media space without seeing people hawking and flogging everything from albums to alcoholic cookies. It’s something that innumerable people will offer to instruct you on in never-ending neon-rimmed posts on Twitter and FB. As the arsenal of marketing feels ever more at our fingertips, it becomes easier and easier to feel dumb for not doing it right.

I feel pretty dumb.

But this really isn’t about self-promotion. It’s about the buzz-saw.

So you make a thing. A book, a record, a drawing, a video. And then you pick it up Buzz_sawin your arms and you look at it. You like it. It’s got problems, sure, but it’s a good thing. But now you have to get that thing to other people. Fortunately, the human race has equipped itself with the most potent communication tool in history. So you put it up.

And nothing happens. Except you walk right into the buzz-saw. The deafening un-sound of one droplet in a rainstorm.

You bring the thing up at parties. In casual conversations, in careful status updates designed to hide the sales payload, in fervent harangues over too much beer, you put it up. And nothing happens. The buzz-saw whirs and more sawdust flies off of you.

There is a certain weight you need to carry your thing forward. A certain percentage of your psyche you need at fighting form. The buzz-saw cuts that weight off you. If you’re not careful you are splinters before you realize it.

You put it up again. You read guides, you watch YouTube videos, you go to conferences. Everyone tells you how to carry the thing. How to get the thing to the other people. The buzz-saw whirs. You put the thing up three times a day, five times, ten. You blog-hop and tweet and podcast and jibber. You find sawdust in your pockets and crammed in the crevice of your car’s console. You can’t use the cup holder anymore there’s so much of it falling off you.

A lot of nights it’s just you and the thing. Huddled under the brown comforter and thumbing your phone through the endless places you want the thing to be. Wistfully weighing other people’s things — things no better or worse than your thing! — and feeling the buzz-saw bite.

And you can’t stop. Not now, not ever. Because if you do, no one else will carry the thing. That light will go out and not even the dark will notice.

So you keep walking into the buzz-saw. People help you of course, it’s not all disintegration. A new review, a friendly word, someone makes a thing because of your thing [!], you get a great idea for a new thing, or a new part of the old thing, or an old thing you can do in a new way. There’s a lot of us on this side of the lumber mill and you take strength from swapping scar-stories. I’m always astonished by those that live in the teeth of the buzz-saw, mashing those buttons with fever intensity. We all roll our eyes — but I also quietly give them the gunslinger nod. They are stronger than I or less fragile or just made of more wood.

I am mostly sawdust. I am chicken-shit. I barely get touched by those metal fangs and I’m reeling back on the ropes. But — and this is the important bit — I don’t stop. At least not yet. At least not yet.

So to all who press against the buzz-saw, with their thing cradled carefully in their arms, I salute you. To all those who cannot or will not press on, I salute you. To all the things, a toast. May we all pass the metal destroyer and watch our things fly beyond us into a wider world.

[This originally appeared on Medium – is anyone else over there? I don’t really know what that place is for, if you’re over there could you help me figure it out?

My Wizard Throne

WhiteKnight-chesspieceSometimes I sit on my wizard throne. Not often, but sometimes. I pull the cowl of my cloak down over my eyes and I slouch against the high arms made of steel and basalt. Then idly I gaze at the windows that hover about me. They float in the air, held up only by chance. Some of the windows are clear, some covered with shadow.

I see Jonas and Rime tromping down the hill that leads them away from the Heart-Broken Lion. I see Caliban and Slade battling the wraith in their pajamas. I see David Brown tossing cigarettes in the back of his Buick, caring not at all if they are dead or aflame. I see Agnar carrying a soused summoner back to his over-sized bed in the Captain’s quarters. I see the Blank army marching over the hills of Turn.

ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. – 2010

The sands of the Descabellado blow through one window and sing of secrets still waiting in the sand. Another window the gray-edged Cynus, another window the stone-ship Jocasta and the Crown of Might. I scratch my chin and peer farther at the windows on the edge of the light. Talitha singing among the stars, Lucas dying in the White Garden, the broken laughter of the Circle and their hula-hoops, the Tractor and His Boy, the monster-makers and their crumb-filled van.

I try to see beyond even these but I fail. Out there is the Gray Witch’s domain and I have no power there.

And again – the closest mirror. Were they windows before? The mirror, the Dragon’s Eye blinks at me and I see Jonas and Rime. It’s all about context. Future? Past? I don’t even know anymore. Does it matter? Will it matter? I’m sorry I whisper, I’m the only head you have.

I slip from my wizard throne, or it fades. I keep my cowl down tight, pulling with both hands until it frays and splits. Then I am just me again. The dogs need food and that dish has been in the sink for three days and I can feel the stress in my neck and the weight on my heart. Wizards don’t do well with bank accounts. I can stride through dimensional boundaries and the very fabric of Time at will but here I am tired and tired and just don’t know.

I need to write faster. So many mirrors, so many riddles, so many lines in the dark. I need to write faster.

I Need Help

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I need help.

You are my people. You are my ragtag band of adventurers, wizards, lawyers, normal humans, and mutants. And I need your help getting my art out in the world.

Tomorrow is release day for my book, THE RIDDLE BOX. It’s the sequel to that other book I won’t shut up about, SPELL/SWORD. I’m extremely proud of it. Enough so that I’m able to compel myself to do this. To unabashedly ask for help. I’m an indie writer. My books are completely self-published, leaning on my artist friends and my word friends to get me much closer to the professional quality level than I ever could alone. After that I’m the salesman, the marketer, the head of the fan club.

I’m really bad at it. Or rather I’m incredibly eccentric and inconsistent at it. Which amounts to the same thing.

Tomorrow I need your help. If you’re buying the book, I need you to make noise about it. On Facebook, on Twitter, on Ello, on Tumblr. I need you to pester other nerds and readers and reader-nerds. From what I learned on the first book, tomorrow will be the biggest sales day this book may ever have – and the higher we can get in the Amazon rankings, the more it will show up in stranger’s searches and get suggested to other customers that like manticores.

And after that I need you to do more. I need you to write a review. On Amazon, on Goodreads, on your own blog. Anywhere online or in print. The couple of dollars I’m going to get from you for buying the book is FAR outweighed by the value of a review – EVEN IF YOU HATE THE BOOK. it’s a funny thing that whatever made you hate the book may be the very reason that someone else will love it. I love getting 3 star and 4 star reviews – it seems like you are giving me legit criticism, and when outsiders read them it hides the fact that you are all my marauders.

Please help me. My art is weird. I know if we keep at this eventually we’ll tumble into some sort of larger presence on the web and in the genre – or at the very least some literature-archaeologist is going to stumble across the oddest of diamonds in the far flung future.

There are sample chapters of both books here: https://spell-sword.com/buy-the-book/

And the money link to Amazon for the ebook and paperback is here:http://www.amazon.com/Riddle-Box-Spell-Sword-…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

[As a reward for reading this far, I’ll let you in on a secret. You can order the Paperback right now. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow if you don’t want to.]

So thank you. I assume you will all now follow my whims like automatons, but thank you anyway. Thank you for reading this far. In this post, and in the books. It means so much to me when I see you guys posting nice things about the book, or commenting on my book related posts, or sending me cool pictures of you and the book in France. Anything and everything you do that shows support is deeply appreciated.

Let’s do it! Please?

Continuity

Artist - Abe Taraky
Artist – Abe Taraky

I get asked this question a lot: How many books are there in the Spell/Sword series?

Well, not a lot. Eleven times, tops.

People ask because they want to know what they’re getting into, I suppose. Or just figure out how many years they have to deal with me explaining my fiction with wild-eyed elan. On the site so far I have three titles listed: Spell/Sword, The Riddle Box [PREORDER IT OH MY GOD PLEASE IT COMES OUT ON THE 26th]and Asteroid Made of Dragons.  These are reasonably set in stone – first one is out, second one next week, and I reference the title of the third book IN the second book so those are visible within the Narrative Fog of War. But, as I’ve always said – this is not epic fantasy, I’m not writing a trilogy. The story doesn’t end in the next book ( though you can safely consider AMOD as the end of an arc, or more correctly, the end of Disc One).

So, how many books will there be?

I should really only ask rhetorical questions that I know the answer to.

More than three, obviously? Seven seems like too many, but five might not be enough. BUT who writes a six book series?!? Is that a hexology? Wait, that kind of sounds badass, maybe it will be six books.

See, you would think I’m in charge of these things. But I’m kind of not. I know the tale I’m telling, I know the end. But the path to get there — there’s still plenty of shadows and fog, which is the way I like it. I’m a ‘pantser’, a ‘discovery writer’. I ‘don’t know what I’m doing’. I don’t know what I’m doing. Is there anything more wonderful or grand than that statement? I just point my antenna towards Aufero and pick up the broadcast and try to type fast enough to keep up with it — at least for the rough draft. Part of me wants there to be 10 books, because the last one is so sad.

Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend there are going to be ten books. Here’s what they will/could be.

  1. Spell/Sword
  2. The Riddle Box
  3. Asteroid Made of Dragons
  4. Paper-Thin Harry Potter Parody*
  5. Wild Magic and Mild Salsa
  6. Suddenly the Robots
  7. Ecclesiastical by Jonathan Franzen
  8. The Archivarium Saga : Secret of the Wonderblade**
  9. Swordroom – Adventures in Financial Diplomacy and Corporate Espionage
  10. The Fall

* There will be a year ‘in-world’ gap between the events of AMOD and Paper-Thin Harry Potter Parody

** I think this is the one where they get Bird!

Shit, maybe I will write 10 books. I need to hurry up and become famous so I can write these faster and stop wasting time ‘feeding and clothing’ myself.

The Holy Detective

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Close your eyes. Okay, wait, open them again. You can’t read with your eyes closed. Are you reading this now? I guess I’ll need to wait for you to get bored and come back and read this.

Okay – welcome back. Now, metaphysically close your eyes. What do you see when you read the word ‘detective’? YES I KNOW YOU SEE LETTERS.

You are impossible to blog at. Simply impossible.

Now most normal people probably see Sherlock Holmes. Or Batman. Or Sam Spade. Or Tracer Bullet. Or Kay Howard. Or DCI Jane Tennison. Or Columbo.

Or any other number of gumshoes, thief-catchers, and head-scratchers. The ones who find. The ones who put the pieces together. The ones who solve the puzzle, catch the crook, go into the dark place and shine their big-ass X-files style flashlight on the things we’re afraid to look for.

All the way from Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone to the watered down latter day sleuths that tromp across primetime underneath their personal assortment of L.E.T.T.E.R.S. — we love them. Or at least I love them. But I would make the argument that in our modern minds the role of detective has taken on a religious bent.  When they appear in a story we know their purpose, we understand their function. And when they succeed, when they drag the truth to light,there is a feeling of our faith being rewarded.

Humans have always used stories to understand the world that surrounds us. I find it interesting that so much of popular fiction in one way or another features this figure: the Detective as Hero. True Detective on HBO explored this trope in several fascinating ways — overlaying the mechanics of a procedural on the Hero’s Journey. As a side bar, I also found it interesting that the grungy, dystopic world of that show culminated in a moment of true, non-ironic hope and peace.

Maybe that’s why the popularity. If Campbell is to be trusted [ AND HE FUCKING IS] the mono-myth appears again because it mirrors the operation of the human psyche. Mapping the Hero’s quest to Detective stories is a natural pop-culture tic. The Call is some dead body in an alley somewhere, the Underworld an interrogation room, the Elixir a confession, a signed piece of paper, vengeance wreaked, the sound of the cuffs as they click closed. Across the board we make a solemn grunt of satisfaction as the Detective solves the case.  Other heroes have their battles take many forms, but for the Detective it most often boils down to ‘ Figure This Out.’ Maybe I just find mental battles more interesting in my dotage.

What do you think? Close your eyes again. [Metaphysically you ass.] When you see your Detective, are they outlined in a holy fire? Or, as is all too often the case, is it just me having a weird fixation?

Because I see it. Bayless and Pembleton, Mulder and Scully, Watson and Holmes. When the Detective appears I am on board. I lean forward, towards the TV or the page, eager for the first move to be made. I want them to get out there, out there in the dark and get on the trail. I want the hounds sniffing at the scent, I want the board covered with pictures and yarn, I want the detective to drink her coffee grind away at the problem. FOLLOW THE LEADS, GET IT WRONG, TRY AGAIN.  Play the violin and stare at the drop of green ink on the handkerchief and realize that the priest was blind so there is NO WAY HE COULD HAVE KNOWN THE KILLER HAD RED HAIR.

I may have a problem.

So yeah, I like mysteries a little. And detectives a bit.

When I realized that the most logical sequel to my fantasy novel was an Agatha Christie locked-room murder mystery, I was to put it mildly: NUCLEAR LEVEL STOKED. Just throwing all those toys in the box and rattling them around was exciting enough, but the idea of my hero becoming the Detective was the most exciting. Rime is a character defined by her intellect, the idea of matching her up against this type of puzzle was very exciting. Also, finding out that Rime has the same nerdy love for mystery stories that I do was another nice surprise. She’s so excited to step into that role. If I may put it mildly, she is a huge dork about it. Another surprise: Rime is not the greatest detective in the world. I wouldn’t say terrible exactly – but definitely not on speed dial for Commissioner Gordon.

So, what do you think? Is the Detective ‘holy’? OR HAVE I JUST GONE MAD.

[This post is a naked attempt to promote my new book, The Riddle Box. The first two chapters are free here and you can pre-order the ebook here. DON’T FALL FOR MY TRICKS.]

Lunch with a Villain III

I saw him a few other times. I carefully averted my eyes or tucked my chin to my breastbone. He knew I was there of course, but gave no sign. His narrow shoulders square in his brown cloak, his grin cutting the light from traffic signs, from reflected glass, from the glow of smartphones. After my narrow escape at the pizza parlor, I figured we were done with each other. He leveled a small shoe-store with his might, Chuck Taylors screaming in agony – I was in no hurry to repeat that encounter.

But still. You can’t just ignore your creation, villain or no. So yesterday when he swaggered into Popeye’s and took the booth catty-corner to mine I wasn’t truly surprised.

I finished my mashed potatoes and gravy before I acknowledged him. I would need the energy if it came to battle and it gave me a moment to collect myself. Plus I really like mashed potatoes and gravy.

“What?” I laid my plastic fork on the table.

“Why does their have to be a what? Maybe I’m just here to dine,” the villain scratched his stubbled cheek.

“Bullshit, what do you want?”

The villain hissed through his teeth, sucking in air. He seemed uncomfortable, pressing his abdomen against the garish plastic table. Waves of malice began to radiate, and his grin forced itself wider.

I did my best to remain calm. I looked him in his no-color eyes. “What do you want, Izus Torossian?”

“What do I want, what do I want? Oh nothing, nothing.” he crooned. “Or at least nothing I’ll admit to, nothing you’ll ever really give me. But I have come to bend knee, like the Daemon following the good doctor on that ship in the ice. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“I…” A pang of sympathy and fear. “You…you want a new story, don’t you?”

The villain sprang to his feet, scattering napkins and packets of salt. His brown cloak coiled around him like a hungry thing. His grin was so bright and fierce it split the world in two. He did not respond, but the empty hunger in his eyes was answer enough.

“Uh..okay. I guess I can do that. A short story, a long story, a song? Cowboys, ninjas, corporate America? Where can I send you, Browncloak? What world can I lend you that you won’t break?” My forehead throbbed, but suddenly I knew. I heard the melody.

Izus leaned forward, the villain and fast food. We are close, he and I, he could see the road unspooling in my head. His curly hair crackled with eagerness.

“Okay, hear me out. You’re going to have to change a bit, of course. No magic where you’re going — and can you drive? How do you feel about vans…or station wagons? And I don’t think the cloak can come–”

“Cloak has to come,” the villain grunted.

“Okay, okay…we’ll work on that part. But, that’s not the really hard part.” I folded my hands with unease. “Izus, I think this time you may have to be the Hero.”

“Oh man,” he chuckled. “This is a terrible plan.”

-End-