Egads!

2014-03-05 17.08.32Aye, forsooth! This bloggery has been a trifle thin of late. I come not to praise the lapse, but bury the hatchet. Your gentle author’s head is o’er crammed with projects both mundane and fantastical and time to devote to this shining square is easily counted on the head of an ant. [ITS REAL SMALL SON.] Worry not for things of great import and moment lurch forward to the flimsy present. A special discount on the Spell/Sword ebook next week. Editing on The Riddle Box continues apace, a rare life appearance in the misty future.

Hold me in your hearts if we be friends, or at the very least in your gentle kidneys if we be casual acquaintances.

 

The Truce through the First Imperial Age

And so we burned. We fought. We bled.

We danced to the dark flute of the gods. A thousand years of war.

All blamed on us, all laid at the feet of every human that survived.

The armies of the gods fought endlessly — the worst devastation of all when one of the Four would walk the fields of slaughter themselves. What mortal can stand against Sun, against Stone? The planet would have burned to a cinder, all of the People and every beast eradicated if not for the gods’ ‘mercy’. They kept us alive, each sheltered their own — their power kept us alive to continue the fight, to keep the fires burning.

That is when this planet found a name. Cynus. In the old tongue, it means ‘ashes.’

And in every army, we were the footsoldiers — the first to bleed. Humans were to blame, so each army saved a special ration of pain for our race. If not for our cunning, our adaptability, our will — there last drop of human blood would long since have been spilled on the dry ground.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And after a thousand years, at long last, one of our race arose to save us all. Us, and all the People of this world.

Her name was Bex. The most gifted wizard of the age, she rose through the ranks due to her wisdom and great power. Even in those days, the People would put aside their hatred if the need was great. After many years of battle, she finally found her way to the ear of Marrus, God of the Sky. Our Lord of Winds is the most clever and cunning of his siblings, then as now, and he listened eagerly to the wizard’s words when she spoke of a grand trick.  A ruse that would bring his enemies to heel, at a place of his choosing, totally defenseless.

And so it came to pass. The word went out to the armies of the Four, a great meeting would be held at the Cloud-King’s behest. A truce! A chance to speak in safety for the first time in long centuries. Perhaps, the People dared to hope, an end to the endless war.

Each of the Four came to the agreed upon place, the Vale of Maranth. They each were suspicious, but also eager to turn this meeting to their advantage. The Four arrived in the Vale, and took their seats in four stone chairs prepared for the purpose.

Artist - 二又方丈
Artist – 二又方丈

Marrus and his servant, Bex, were the last to arrive. The God of Sky tittered slightly as he slid into his seat. “Welcome, sisters and brother! I am so glad to see you here, at this place of peace.”

“Is is good to see you,” Lady Sun agreed. “Good to see you all.”

“Yes, it has been lonely so long apart,” Sea smiled.

Stone said nothing.

“Yes, good to see you here, all comfortable in your stone chairs. The stone chairs my servant has prepared for you. The stone chairs that now hold you bound and trapped forevermore!” Sky laughed with glee, slapping his hands on arms of his chair.

Sun, Stone, and Sea seethed with rage and bellowed. The mountains and plains of the entire globe rang with their furor. Sky continued to laugh at his siblings ire.

He laughed until he tried to get out of his chair.

“Yes,” Bex said stepping calmly into the center of her trap. “You are trapped too, Cloud-King.”

“How dare you?” the Zephyr Trickster laughed ruefully. “Really, how did you do this?”

“Yes, speak quickly before we tear you apart, worm,” Jocasta murmured. “Speak quickly.”

“You cannot harm me,” the wizard said. “You are bound to my power. Of your own free will you came, of your own will you sat in my chairs of stone. Your might is caught.  You cannot move, you cannot strike. If it is my wish, I will leave you here until the Unwinding of Time. Bitter, impotent, and bound.”

“I will swallow you for this,” Banu of the Black Water howled. “I will drown you and your race, your bones will waft in my waves. I sleep in your blood and will pull you down —”

“Enough,” Bex said, and the gods fell silent. “It is not my wish to bind you here. You are necessary to this world, to lock you away would only bring a slow ruin. I have brought you here to talk of Truce. You must withdraw from the fields of this world, you must agree to a Code to govern your endless game. You do not feel as the firstborn creatures of Cynus, you know nothing of heartache or sorrow. But I plead with you to hear me now, to feel one tenth of the pain you have husbanded in the creatures that fill your armies. Look upon what you have wrought and relent.”

And the gods heard her prayer. They looked one to the other, and one by one they each dropped their head in assent.

The gods and their captor spoke for many days. A careful Truce was laid, and the laws inscribed in the very fabric of reality. All of the the People waited and hoped. At last, Bex came from the Vale, alone but with a weary smile.

And then, what a time of celebration there was! That the hated blood of humanity should be the one to broker the peace was a marvel. Despised soldiers and battered slaves were welcomed into every hall, all of the People hailed the cleverness and wit of the Human.

And so it was that Bex united the great armies and lead the new Council in all matters. She taught the People of the laws that even the gods must follow, and how it could all lead to a true Balance in their world. The gods’ followers now found their deities more remote, more difficult to contact — but no less powerful when their might was brought to bear.

There followed a great time of peace, where our race, humanity, could finally take their place in pride with all of the others. We were counselors, advisors, knights, merchants, nobles. The wizard Bex had paid our debt and we were eager to move forward.

We meant so well.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And as we tasted the first sips of power, we found it sweet on our tongues. And so with slow patience and eager wit we found our way to it.

Was it any surprise that our cunning would again betray? That in the wake of peace and emancipation we would walk with careful step toward dominion, toward Empire?

Ah me. What fools we humans are!

– Galad Voss, Cleric of Marrus

The Coupling through the Ash Eon

Silence, child. It would serve you well to heed my tale. This is not some idle tale shared at a campfire or doused in taphouse ale. This is the Story, and you will tell it back to me word for word tonight when we take our evening meal, or you shall feel my hand.

Heed. Mark. And remember.

tumblr_mwo0a1Hzer1qhatilo1_500And so the Century of Storm wore on, and the People were afraid. Afraid that Father Order would triumph and they would be wiped from the face of existence. Or that the Argument itself would consume their tiny hovels and they would be lost to the wind. They prayed to their Creators, but their words could not reach the Two, they were utterly consumed by battle. The People waited for the end.

But then, one day, a Human child got lost chasing his family’s herd. A ewe, with fur as black as night, climbed a steep cliff into a hidden mountain pass. The child knew that he would be beaten if he returned home without the full flock, and in desperation climbed after the ram. His hands were cut by the sharp rocks and his knees were scraped and torn by the cruel stone. The winds began to pick up and his breath steamed against the blank mountainside. A storm was nigh, a storm was always nigh in those times.  But his desperation drove him on and he climbed higher and higher chasing the beast.

The child did not know that he and his sheep were climbing the Forbidden, the secret mountain where Father and Mother made us all.

At last the child found his quarry, bleating and crying on the edge of a cliff, a knife-edge of stone. He laid his hands on her black wool and wept with relief, but he quickly realized that the pain of birthing was upon her. She could not be moved in her condition, the child had to help bring forth her lamb or flee empty-handed.  The child looked up at the sky and saw the rain, saw the fire, but could not bring himself to leave his charge.

The rain began to fall. The fire began to fall. Still the child kept his hands on the weary ewe and did his best to cover her with his own. The ewe bleated and strained and struggled to bring a new life into a world. The child wept in despair and felt the fire hot on his back.

Now, there are some that say the child’s tears were what caught the attention of Father and Mother. And there are some that say it was merely that he trespassed the Forbidden. And other still claim that it was some sort of Human trick. But suffice it to say, Order and Chaos stood and looked at the child and his beast, and stopped their struggle long enough that the young lamb could be born.

“Look,” said Mother. “The Things We Made can make themselves. How strange! Was that your idea or mine?”

“I…am not sure,” Father Order said. “Another accident, surely it was your doing.”

“My doing?” Chaos raised her hand to strike her mate. “Why does everything have to be –”

“Please,” said the child. “Please, no more.”

And Order and Chaos turned from their argument to listen to the child, who approached with a newborn lamb held securely in his arms.

“My ewe is dead. She died giving birth. She gave everything that her child could live. How is it that a rude beast on the edge of a cliff has more care for her children than the creators of us all?” The child blinked away tears and stared unafraid at the two gods.

The gods were not ashamed.

“How dare you question us?” Order demanded.

“We are the Beginning and End, the Eye of the Storm.” Chaos declared.

“We do as we wish. We are as we wish. You are a child and your judgement is limited and small, a pebble next to a mountain,” the Two said together. “We have filled this world with wonder and life. All that walk and breathe and fly and swim are here at our will.”

“I see,” the child said. “You have filled the world with many creatures and many People. But you have put no part of yourself into it.  You have no true children. This is why you care not for our plight.”

The child gently placed the lamb down and watched it totter about on tender legs. Then an idea came to him and he turned his face again to the Creators, Human cunning and guile as natural to him as breathing.

“Perhaps if you had True Children, you would understand. You could still your endless battle and let your creations grow and multiply. A shame it is that you continue to wage war, when your greatest Making is yet to be.”

Father looked at Mother and Mother smiled.

Chaos leaned down and kissed the child on his brow, and ruffled the newborn wool of the lamb.

“Go child. Tell the People that we do care for their plight, and your sly words have stilled our rage. You have given us an Idea, and in return the People shall have a time of peace while we consider it.”

And so the child took his lamb and climbed back down the fountain as fast as his legs would carry him. He bore the tale of his meeting to all the People, and they watched the Forbidden with hope and fear. For the storms at last fell still, but many were not sure that they had seen the end of the time of ruin.

Years passed, and still the people waited.  Crops were planted, and cities began to rise. Children and lambs were born, and after a time the People began to dream that the gods had forgotten them, and would leave them in a time of forever peace.

But it was not to be. At last their came a Time. The sun and the moon stopped still in the air, and shared the sky like two empty eyes. The People and the beasts of the world felt  a strange compulsion, and all began to walk – to journey until they all stood arrayed around the feet of the Forbidden. The first moment since the Time of Making when all of the Created stood together in one place.

And they waited. For a year and  a day they waited.

Then all at once, a breath.

The Four came down from the mountain, strange of visage but somehow familiar to all who saw. Sun and Sky and Stone and Sea, the Four stood together at the foot of the mountain with all of Creation waiting for their words.

“We are the Four,” Sun said.

“The true children of Father and Mother,” Stone said.

“They are gone, withdrawn from this world,” Sky said.

“Their power and might bequeathed to us,” Sea said.

“Now come forth,” the Four spoke together. “Come forth and choose. For we have decided upon our first Game. One of us is greater than the others, one of us must reign. You will be our army, you will be our pawns. Choose a master, that the Game may begin.”

And the child, who was now a man, opened his mouth to speak — but found himself struck dumb. His words, his Idea had brought this to pass. And all that would follow after was to be laid at his feet, and the feet of his children’s children down the long unwinding of Time. He looked down at the trusty black ram that lead his flock, the same lamb that he had carried from the Forbidden all those years ago. With a sigh he took a knife and opened the ram’s throat, to spare him the horror that was just beginning.

And so began the Ash Eon. The time of endless battle, of cataclysm and pain. The suffering and sorrow of the Storm Century multiplied and compounded. The ceaseless, tireless clash of the Sun against Stone, the Sea against Sky, and each against the other. Generations of the people were born and died, knowing only the endless war, the endless smell of burning in the air, the tireless rain of ash.

A thousand years of ruin, all from one human’s clever idea.

Now remember these words, little human. You will speak them true tonight, say them right and clear or you will feel my hand.

Heed. Mark. Remember.

– Prose Willow, Cleric of Banu, Yellowdale

 

 

The Riddle Box Beta Reader Worksheet

 

I’ve been working on a series of questions for my Beta Readers of The Riddle Box. The idea was for them to not read them until after they finish reading the draft, but I realized that if I carefully obscured the character names — and a few entire questions — it wouldn’t really matter if they read them beforehand — AND was sort of a backhanded way of revealing some of the things that all readers have to look forward to in the next book. Plus, I’m going out of town for the weekend, and felt guilty about my slow posting of late — and this is an easy cut-and-paste affair. This may be a huge mistake, but you can safely ignore the disclaimer at the top. OR CAN YOU? 

I also thought this might be an interesting ‘behind the scenes’ look at MY PROCESS. [Trumpets begins to blare.]

 

DO NOT LOOK AT THESE QUESTIONS UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE FINISHED READING

 

The Riddle Box.

 

Seriously. Don’t do it.

 

These questions are chock-full of spoilers and things that could influence your first read for better or worse. I have some specific concerns about the book, and specific areas that I’m less than pleased with, that I want to make sure you mentally target as you give me feedback. I’m not expecting you to actually respond to these questions ‘in-line’ as if this were some sort of high school worksheet [unless you’re in to that], but please be thinking about them as you prepare your feedback in whatever form you prefer it to take.

 

1. Do you feel cheated by the solution to the mystery?

  • Did I break the rules of the ‘locked room’ mystery?

  • There are a series of murders, did the explanation for any seem thin, unconvincing, or illogical?

  • Which of the murders did you need more information about?

 

2. Did Jonas or Rime act in a way that seemed incongruous with their portrayal in Spell/Sword?

 

3. This book introduces more ‘world’ information than the previous, how did you react to it?

  • What, if anything, would you have liked to know more about?

 

4. Overall, The Riddle Box has much less action than the first book — or at least it’s nearly half-way thru before there’s a big fight scene. Did you notice the lack?

 

5. I introduced two ‘love interests’ for the leads in this book, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. What were your thoughts about Jonas’ and Rime’s reaction to these characters?

 

6. With regards to [REDACTED], I was playing around with the trope of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ — too heavy handed?

 

7. [REDACTED] is a  [OBFUSCATED] character. Were you aware of that? Should you have been aware of that? What thoughts do you have about his portrayal, in relation to sensitivity?

 

8. The entire novel takes place in one location, the Manor. Were you ever confused by the layout or description of the locale?

  • Did the passage of time seem reasonable and easy to follow?

 

9. The repeated conceit of the ‘flashback’ chapters, i.e. Who was [REDACTED]?  to reveal more information about the murder victims — how did you react to these chapters structurally? How do  you think they impacted the flow of the novel?

  • Did you have any individual issues with these interludes?

 

10. How did you react to the further revelations of Jonas’ past? Does it contradict anything established in the first book?

 

11. [KILLER]. Discuss.

  • Was [REDACTED] scary?

 

12. The denouement of the novel is a bit rushed. Do you feel any explanations were hurried or glossed over when you wanted more detail?

  • Does Rime need another beat where she processes [REDACTED]’s death?

  • Jonas doesn’t approach Rime with the knowledge that they are going to [REDACTED], is this a problem?

 

13. [ENTIRE QUESTION REDACTED]

 

14. [ENTIRE QUESTION REDACTED]

 

15. Jonas manages to subdue [REDACTED] twice via headbutt. Is this funny or lame?

 

16. The scene of [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED], did you find this scene effective?

 

17. Any other flaws in logic or plot?

 

18. What would you say the theme of The Riddle Box is?

  • How effectively was this conveyed?

 

19. Compared to the first book, how did this one measure up against your expectations?

  • If you have not read the first, how well does this novel operate as a stand-alone experience?

20. What do you expect to occur in the next novel? What would you like to see explored in the future?

 

Normal caveats. These are all questions about the rough draft, the novel can change massively between now and publishing.

Psychotherapy via Fiction

I don’t talk about myself much.

It’s part of why I’m a terrible blogger.

Or the BEST blogger.

Or the second-to-worst blogger. Or the knee-high-to-a-june-bug blogger.

Okay, there was a point. I think a lot of people use social media, their blogs, Tumblrs as a natural forum to discuss their experiences, their feelings, whatever dark gloom sits on their heart at any particular space-time juncture. And I envy them. I honestly envy them. Even as I find some of the salient details and naked emotion at play, I don’t know, embarrassing?

That’s the word, it just seems so vulnerable, so undefended. It makes me feel awkward, like watching a movie with an extremely mortifying social situation. My entire psyche is built around defense, guarded input, measured output. I’m built on an old Chevy chassis, the better to conceal the weird, quiet kid inside with flair and panache multifarious. I kind of built a new me through middle school and high school, and now I’m kind of stuck with some of the strange architecture. A lot of it has been broken, admittedly — through tragic events and the stubborn ministrations of my Beloved. But ultimately, I’m still running DOS, underneath all of the upgrades.  Control what people see of me, do not react, weave the perceptions of others into a better version of me. if you know my true-name, then you have power over me, my spells won’t work, my incantations will fail.

So, when others write in a little shining box, ‘I’m hurt. I’m upset. Here is the reason that I am hurt and upset.’ I recoil a little bit, not because I think less of them, but because I can’t fathom the risk they are taking. And I feel superior, because that’s the salve of the insecure. You don’t get the emotional rewards of understanding, comfort, community, sharing — but you can twist yourself into knots and feel superior about your strength, or your isolation, or your wise, wise ways.

I’ve learned in recent years to work past the knee-jerk. Where before I would keep my hurt between my teeth for as long as it took to fade, now I still bite down – – but then slowly let go to a trusted few. Well, some of the time.

Okay, very rarely, but some times.

Which is stupid, right? It’s like being hit with a cannonball, and buttoning your shirt over the wound. “I…I got it, I’ll just ride it out. ” Letting the metal cool and sear inside you, then carrying the weight and carrying the weight and carrying the weight. And since you don’t let anyone else help, your mind has to process the metal somehow.

So I write stories.

Well, it’s not quite that simple of a correlation. I don’t write because I have shit to deal with, it’s just a convenient place to launder my emotional drug-money.

And it’s not like I’m writing simple allegories. I don’t sit down and assign roles to my pain. As is no surprise to many, I’m not a ‘plotter’, I don’t really use outlines or character charts. My writing prep is generally opening  a document and typing. The story’s already out there, in the ether, in the stone, just got to tune the radio between my ears the right way, and I’ll get it.

My subconscious is my co-author. When I go back and edit, or read old stories, I’ll have little to no memory of writing certain details, or when exactly I made certain decisions. It’s like reading something a stranger wrote. And it’s not in the individual moments or scenes that I start to see the pattern, it’s in the long scope. Repeated characters and colors and things that I discover are baked into the bedrock of my fiction. Masked men, holes in the wall, precursors, music, fallen mentors, empty halls, shadows, love, and death.

I’m trying to say something. I’m trying to say something to myself.

And that’s what The Riddle Box is about.

Things that I’m afraid of, things that I believe in. The only way I can explore my interior is through slow interrogation of my sub-conscious. There are moments in the book that make my skin crawl. Because it’s very close to true. It’s very close to taking a risk. It’s very close to pulling out the cannonball. I’m sure most writers understand this, there are words that you carry, lines and bits of description, words that matter. You keep them inside your head, little touchstones of yourself, little puzzle pieces in your pocket until you find the right puzzle. I gave some of them away to the Riddle Box. I gave Rime my younger self’s words, I gave the man in the blue coat the words of vision, I gave the killer the words of the end. There are words I gave in the prologue that break my heart.

[No spoilers. Not even while I lay on the divan with my arm flung athwart my pale brow.]

I’m trying to say something. With this book, with the long journey of Rime and Jonas. I don’t know quite what it is, but as writer, or at least as a me…you point your fingers at the part that hurts and start typing. Maybe it will all make sense when I finish.

Or maybe it won’t. Ha, is this dramatic irony? I’ll bet my readers are fully aware of what I’m getting at, and none of them have thought to share.

This post will probably make more sense when anyone other than me has read Riddle Box.

So, now, even I’m confused. What was the point of this? This post? The vague feeling of unease left at the end of the road, when you can’t remember how many crows you saw, or how many trees with no leaves. Did I even travel, was I even there? Is this the same me that started typing?

I’m not 100% sure. Is this even the same dimension? We slip, you know. Often in our dreams, but not uncommonly between blinks or when we check around the corner.

This is weird.

I know.

But it’s an admission. An un-guarded output.

And it’s a start.

Buy my book.

Spell/Sword joins Kindle Matchbook

Sorry, I’ve been super quiet on the blog lately. Kefka isn’t going to defeat himself.

In the never-ending quest to get more copies of my book out there in the world, I’ve enrolled the book in Kindle’s new Matchbook service. This is where when you buy

Original Cover Art - Mike Groves/poopbird
Original Cover Art – Mike Groves/poopbird

the paperback copy, you can then get the Kindle version at a reduced rate. And because I am a benevolent and kind author/publisher I have made the Kindle version free when you purchase the paperback. This also means, if you’ve bought the Paperback version previously, you can login to Amazon and download the Kindle version for free RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

 

Amazon Kindle – Matchbook!

 

Click that link!

I still remain committed to the belief that people reading my books is FAR more important than people buying the book, so please don’t be shy. I’m also running another Free Download special of the book in November, if you have friends on the fence about giving the book a shot.

The Misplaced Adventures of Talitha Brown III

“VAGABONDER.” Talitha called sweetly at the top of her lungs. “HEY, VAGABONDER.”

There was no immediate sign of her engineer, so she took a moment to enjoy the sprawling mad-tumble of her ship’s cargo bay. The interior was all darkwood, gleaming with fresh seal and polish, the sizable bay split into five sections — four small rooms in each corner: the Galley, Toolroom, Engineer’s Quarters, and Miscellaneous Stuff — with the main floor-space occupied by the Floatstone Engine.

The blonde girl smiled as she approached. Something about the cool magenta light and sedate turn of the stone always made her feel good.  The main part of the

Epoch - Chrono Trigger [Artist Unknown]
Epoch – Chrono Trigger [Artist Unknown]
engine was in the center of the bay, on a raised platform. A vast glass cylinder lay on its side, over twice her height in diameter, capped on each end with brass and steel, bristling with lights, toggles, and wires — the largest of which fed down into the under-deck of the ship, and up into a massive console that sat adjacent. But her eyes were only for the stone, the Floatstone.  It was roughly shaped like a potato, pocked and asymmetrical. It neatly filled its glass container, spinning in a calm gyre. Talitha knew that if the stone were ever removed from the Engine, it would shoot right through the roof and never stop going until it left this planet behind.

Maybe I can strap myself to it. The captain’s plan wasn’t quite as reckless as Floatstone Riding, but she would work on a saddle just in case. Ultimately, it would have the same effect as her current strategy. Out. Out and about.

“Okay, seriously. Where are you?” the blonde girl spun slowly.

Her engineer swung into view, not from his quarters or the Galley as she had expected. But horizontally from behind some nearby crates, as if he were standing on the righthand wall of the bay.

“Oh, Captain!” the tall goblin’s olive-green face split in a bemused smile. “What a pleasure, what a delight!”

Talitha walked over and saw that her engineer was wearing his Molasses Moccasins, a cunning device of his own design that allowed him to stick to surfaces as ably as most spiders and some roaches. It also left a dank, black residue everywhere he walked, requiring furious scrubbing with a mop on an extended pole when he would complete his wall-walking jaunts. There were several magical objects that had an identical effect without all the sticky goo and cleanup, but Talitha had learned early that her Engineer had a particular way of doing things. his own primrose path of popcorn and baling wire– and often would come upon most peculiar solutions on his way.

The Vagabonder slowly squelched down the wall, more of his tall form coming into view. He was nearly seven-feet tall, with a wild brush of cotton-white hair a stark contrast to his green skin. Long, spidery fingers danced on a control cluster hanging from his belt, and absently pushed the delicate safety glasses he always wore up onto his forehead. Talitha had bought him some proper goggles, steel reinforced with smoked lenses — but he had politely refused, much preferring the transparent plastic ones he favored that could be bought by the box at any well-appointed lab supply store. She had never known him by any other name than ‘The Vagabonder’ and he seemed to require nothing further. Only time to explore and improve his one true love, the Lodestar.

The goblin slid out of his moccasins and placed them delicately in a nearby pail dedicated to that purpose. He cast around for his Long-Mop. “You seem excited, child. I can only assume you have devised some new adventure, some hidden place on the globe that we will soon be flying?”

Talitha took a breath. She was the captain, and her first mate was older than she was — but the Vagabonder was a Full-Fledged Adult. And while she and her crew were allowed to come and go as they pleased, her extended family had made it very clear that the engineer was ultimately in charge.  He would never allow her – or his beloved ship — to go into any true danger. Not without a surreptitious call or two to make sure the Cavalry was in the wings. She would have to approach this topic very carefully, and with a degree of tact.  She ran a hand through her poorly coiled skull-locks to collect her thoughts before she began, keeping her tone determinedly casual.

“Oh, I don’t know. We’ve run around the planet so much, and seen so many things. Maybe it’s time to turn my attention, you know, to different things.”

Desert by ~thefireis
Desert by ~thefireis

The Vagabonder nodded affably as he dunked his mop into a nearby basin of soapy water. He thumbed the flashing green button that slowly extended the tool to sufficient length to clean his footprints off the wall and ceiling.

“And I remembered something you told me, about the Lodestar. I mean, I know it was made by the Precursors and all…”

“Yes!” the goblin swabbed with excitement. “And can I say, it does my heart good just thinking about you, the last Scion of that fabulous race, as captain of their greatest ship.”

Talitha puffed our her cheeks. The Lodestar was fast, the fastest, but she had seen far greater devices in her travels. The great city of Kythera alone — she shook her head. She was the last descendant  of the Precursors, as far as anyone knew, and that fact had put her in a great deal of danger, and lead her to some pretty destructive moments. Not everyone has destroyed a city by singing a song. It was something she didn’t like to think about much, but the tall goblin was excited about the topic, so she changed tack.

“Right, right! I am, yes, no other Precursors anywhere. That’s what I was thinking. And I started thinking about how you’re always talking about the ‘black boxes’ all around the ship, the secrets of the Floatstone Engine…” she let her voice trail off, encouraging the engineer to pick up the trail.

The Vagabonder did not disappoint. It was one of his favorite topics.

“YES. After all this time aboard, I am still so far from truly understanding their purpose. During the War, we were doing our best to stay ahead of the devils, or doing our best to catch up with you and your kidnappers to really delve into the true power of this ship. Ah, the ship was barely at Level Zero when I came on board, but with patience and work we brought her up to Level Four…but then, ah I hit a brick wall. There’s something I don’t understand, some tool I lack. I had hoped to spend some time delving into the Arkanic Computer that Captain Carbunkle found on Kythera, but he took it with him back to Pice. The Lodestar is the fastest ship in the world, it’s true, but I know she can do more, if only we could find the way,” the engineer’s long fingers flexed on the handle of the Long-Mop with excitement.

“Right, right,” the current-captain smiled. He’s on the hook. Time to reel him in. “That’s what I was thinking. I think you’ve been missing the right tool. And what better tool to unlock the secret of the Precursors then…”

The Vagabonder gasped and let the Long-Mop fall to the floor, suds and mollasses stains forgotten.

“…the last of the Precursors?” Talitha grinned, innocent as a baby sheep nibbling on the first green grass of spring.

Time Travel Hat

A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my old room in the house I grew up in. My mother was something of a pack rat, a custodian of a thousand pieces of paper chronicling my childhood. I pawed through box after box of old report cards, half-completed math worksheets, programs from graduations and honor’s ceremonies from Grammar School through High School.

Most of it went in the trash. A lot of it was too sterile, boring. A page of me practicing cursive from second grade has no connection to me now. A blurry picture of a tree I took doesn’t mean much when I don’t remember taking the picture, the tree, or even why I was taking the picture.

But then there was some stuff. Some cool stuff. Some embarrassing stuff. Some interesting stuff. Stuff that I did feel a connection to, that I could still feel the timeline stretching from me now, just shy of 34, to the weird kid in middle school and high school that made these things. Especially because, one of the first things I found was my Time Travel  Hat.

Ingredients: The inside of some sort of sports helmet, a claw attachment from an old Transformer, and a pronged light purloined from an old robot set.
Ingredients: The inside of some sort of sports helmet, a claw attachment from an old Transformer, and a pronged light purloined from an old robot set.

It never fit me, when I first made it. I had a huge head as a kid, but it’s only now that it fits like a glove. I love the tiny coincidences and time overlaps of life — it’s all up to interpretation of course, we’re all creating out own mythology. And maybe that’s what this is all about. I’ve always believed that the art reveals the artist, and in many ways my writing is a tool to interrogate my subconscious. A wily foe, if ever there was. There’s things I write, symbols and characters and repeated themes, that I only have the vaguest notion of what it means.

So, now I have a time capsule…and a Time Travel Hat. I have old pictures and stories and poems and toys, scribbled doodles on the backs of folders. Posters and 2013-10-16 12.28.02stories and all sort of strange errata, the output of the Derek Prototype. Time to dig back through the evidence, like a good detective. It’s a cold case, but the Truth is Out There. I’ve only skimmed through this stuff, grabbing the things that I still felt a little heat on. The first whispers of Aufero, the Gray Witch dangling her long fingers into my young mind, maybe even the early shadows of the long Dark? And some really dorky pictures, of course.

Over the next few days or weeks, I’ll be throwing the best stuff up on here for due investigation. Random pictures and errata I’ll probably just put up on my Tumblr, if you’d care to follow along.

I’ll be creating a new category, Time Travel Hat, and tagging all posts like this with the same.  Come along, Gentle Reader, let the investigation begin — the Hat begins to blink and whir…

 

Nuts and Bolts

Okay, time for some depressing math.

This information is not for the feint of heart or anyone considering self-publishing. But that’s who I’m putting it up for [beyond my own information and planning for The Riddle Box], anyone else thinking of taking the plunge. It’s one of my proudest achievements and I don’t regret it – – but damn, she do cost, don’t she?

Spell/Sword Sales – Year to Date

Promotional Card in the Wild
Promotional Card in the Wild

Paperback – 65 units …….$114.10 total Royalties

Kindle – 58 units …….$63.65 total royalties.

  • Free Downloads: 316

Spell/Sword Gross Profit: $177.75

Incomplete List of Spell/Sword Costs [approximate]

  1. Cover Illustration, Layout and Design:  $500.00
  2.  Purchase of unique ISBN number: $100.00
  3. Printing of Beta Copies for review and proofing: $150.00
  4. Giveaways and Promotional Material: $175.00
  5. Shipping of Giveaways, Promotional Material: $50.00

Approximate Total Publication and Promotion Cost: $975.00

Spell/Sword Net Profit GRAND TOTAL:

-$797.25

Hoo. Ouch. Damn, buy some books, people.

This was way more depressing than I thought it would be. I clearly have an expensive habit, and it is called Swordpunk.

Why am I self-publishing again?

 

Can’t Stop the Music

One morning, I heard a story on NPR.

As is often the case [and as my Beloved can attest] I have no memory of any of the specific details. I don’t remember the name of the city, or the name of the reporter, or the name of the country it took place in. All I can remember is the shape of the story.

A city on a crossroads, a mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Musicians found each other in tiny bars, in parks, in hidden nightclubs. And they played. They combined their styles into something new,  a new song, a new kind of music. I remember it sounded like a kind of heartsick jazz, but electric and wandering.  A crossroads of melody, an exploration more than a fusion. It was new, so new — and it only existed in one city in the wide world.

Then the War came. I don’t remember the dates or the enemy or the cause. The musicians fled, or hid. Their religions or creeds or skin colors a danger. And the new music was gone.

War crushed the music under his boot.

Art by Kay Nielsen (1914) from the book, EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON.
Art by Kay Nielsen (1914) from the book, EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON.

Years later, a wanderer came to the city. A woman, a musician’s child. She stumbled into an antique store to buy a mirror, a memento of her journey. Her father came from this city and had filled her young ears with tales of the time before, and the music he had once played. The peddler wrapped the mirror for her and the woman told him about her father. The peddler stopped and laid the mirror down on the counter. He vanished into the back room and returned with a box, a box of old photographs and sheet music.

[Almost none of this was in the broadcast, this is what I saw in my head while I listened.]

“I played with your father,” the peddler said.

And the woman had an idea. She asked the peddler if he knew if any of the old musicians were still in the city. He did. Her idea grew brighter.

Phone calls and letters and emails and the woman’s feet pounding down the dusty streets of the city.

The musicians came together again. They came together and they played. For the first time in decades.

The new music, the melody of the crossroads, the forgotten jazz of the dusty city.

The NPR story played clips of them performing in New York, apparently they’ve been touring for the past several months. But that’s not the point of this story.

The point is why I had to turn my head away from my carpool buddy, so they wouldn’t see me tearing up. This story got me, even though I can’t remember any of the details.

Because the shape of the story is this: the Music won. Just like it always does, like it always will. War and Death and Time and Decay and Rot lost. They fucking lost. The primal powers of the cosmos defeated by a melody. The last magic in the hands of the human race, the best product of our wayward minds and stutter-light souls.

And that’s why it moved me. The NPR story that I barely remember.

I don’t talk about my beliefs. But let me say this. I believe in the Music.

Let all we make be the Music, that turns aside the grip of the universe, that outpaces the weapons of War and Death, and shines brighter through Time and the Dark.

This was a weird story.

Thanks, NPR.