The Riddle Box: First Read Impressions

I like my book a lot. More than I did Spell/Sword the first time I read it.

Now, the caveats. I am obviously the least objective reader this novel will ever have. The very first draft of Spell/Sword was an unqualified mess. I had never writtenriddlecover1a book before, after all! I wrote it in sequential order from beginning to end, with only a very loose idea of where I was going and what I was doing.  I write in third person – limited omniscient — but my character POV/ focal point would wander like mad. I didn’t write in chapters, just one long narrative, with horizontal lines when I hit the end of a scene, or the location shifted. The jokes were terrible — or rather, it sounded like me telling the joke, instead of the characters. The plot stutters along in fits and starts, and only really gets cooking half-way through the book. [It’s when Jonas and Rime wake up in the caverns, if you’ve read it.] I had no idea what the Gray Witch was about, or the Brothers Jack, or my fixation with wyverns.

But I loved it of course.

And hated it, too. That’s how my brain works. My normal relationship with any art that I make is to despise it and beat it into shape via cruelty and malice. [Ask anyone who’s been in a play that I’ve directed.]

So, I edited. For months on end, and then I sent my darling into the caring hands of my Alpha and Beta Readers. They liked and hated it too. I learned more from their feedback, suggestions, and — let’s be honest — frank corrections than from any writing tutor or English Professor. Probably because many of my Alpha/Beta Readers are writing tutors and English Professors. I moved chapters and deleted chapters and chiseled and filed.

This is to indicate, that a lot of the reasons why I’m so happy with my second book is due to the lessons I learned the first go-around. I’m reacting primarily to the absence of the same stupid mistakes I made when writing Spell/Sword. For starters, The Riddle Box had a structure from the beginning. When writing a murder mystery, you kind of need to know whodunit from the outset.  Then you reverse-engineer the plot to reveal the suspects, clues, red herrings in a semi-logical fashion. I purposefully wrote in chapters. I had a very specific – GASP – theme that I was trying to get across. This is a very personal book, in a very strange way. [I’ll save that topic for further woolgathering at a later date.] The first draft of The Riddle Box is a book instead of just a pile of pages, I feel, and that makes me very proud.


  • I was very worried that there wasn’t a big fight early in the book. I think Spell/Sword readers will expect a certain level of skulduggery and action from the sequel, but it just didn’t serve the narrative this time out. [*pushes up monocle*] There’s a murder right off the bat, of course, and plenty of Agatha Christie intrigue — but no standup fight until about 1/3 of the way through. After the first read, it didn’t feel like a long time before the first true fight, so that pleased me. And don’t worry, the last third of the book is non-stop He-Man Action Figure smashing time.
  • Also, no Random Encounters this book. I loved fighting the dinosaur and the frog-men, but all of the combat in this book is against named characters and directly serves the plot.  I know. I’m disappointed in myself too.
  • As opposed to the first book, which is a ‘road picture’. The Riddle Box is a closed-room murder mystery. The entire novel takes place in one location, over one night. I kept the location details fairly consistent throughout, but I marked tons of places to double check. For example, mid-way through the draft I started referring to the ‘black and white marble floor of the Lobby’, but I had been very clear at the beginning that it was all white.
  • Need to work on character voice. There’s a lot of characters in this one, and some of them I didn’t find their voice until near the end, I need to go back to their first appearances and keep that voice consistent. Also, character voice got very wonky during the MAD DASH, need to polish those sections as well, especially the big soap opera moments.
  • The Mad Dash: The draft is 160 pages long, I wrote the final 60 in a week. It was the most startling experience, and I loved it — but there are some dodgy, dodgy bits. Mainly some of the chapters are more than a little breathless as I tried to write and stay on top of the wave. Some sections it adds, but the climax and the denouement need some room to breathe.
  • Speaking of soap opera! I love the trappings of Victorian and Agatha Christie mysteries — and I also have started to embrace the need for some light romance in my genre fiction. CALM DOWN. Whatever you are thinking, I didn’t do that.  Jonas and Rime are never getting together. I introduced some potential crushes for our heroes and watched to see what happened. In brief, it was fun times. I need to work on the resolution of Jonas’ romance subplot though — it is super damn creaky. The intent is correct, but I was throwing bricks at the hoop for that section of dialogue.
  • Aufero World History: I’m mostly pleased with the world-building stuff I put in this book. Lots of stuff about the Precursors, the further history of Aufero, Wood Elves, Sea Elves, the Nameless God, Gilead, bards, and the Seafoam Trading Company. As with everything, there are some creaky bits, but I wanted to give plenty of nerd fodder for the readers who wanted more world information. It still is secondary to the plot, where it shall ever remain in Swordpunk.
  • Back Story: Huge reveals for Jonas’ dark past! I was surprised by what I wrote down, which is always a neat feeling. I knew the basic outlines of course, but a couple of salient details completely floored me. Oh, Subconscious — you are a tricksy devil.
  • Jonas’ Master – I love names. I love coming up with good names. I’m more than a little proud of the names I come up with. I AM HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME COMING UP WITH THIS VERY IMPORTANT CHARACTER’S NAME. I used a placeholder, Sir Bentwight, in the draft — but I am having a miserable time with this one.  To me, names are very intuitive. I think of the character, and make an empty place in my head – -and generally a name falls right in. But not this time, man. I can be a little metaphysical about my craft – so maybe it’s not time for me to know this character’s name? Maybe I’m forcing it?
  • I really like all of the new characters, even though I kill off a fair amount of them — even my favorite. 😦
  • It works. The theme works. The machinery of what I want to say is there. Just got to make it look prettier.
  • There is a character in this book that I am literally terrified of. I can’t say more until people have had a chance to read the book, as it is a major spoiler. Here’s how scared I am of this character: Soon I will be recording an audio track of the draft to help me with editing. I honestly don’t know if I can read this character’s lines.
  • I high-fived myself four times while reading.
  • Beta Readers better get ready — I am very, very eager for feedback and praise.  And critique! I will be lurking in your shrubbery watching you read.

Okay, enough for now. Back to editing!


The Misplaced Adventures of Talitha Brown II

The young captain ran down the wooden steps and bounded down the hall. The Lodestar was split into two levels — the first a series of bunk-rooms for the crew, and below a large cargo hold that housed the Galley and the Engine. Talitha continued to hum as she bopped along, letting her hand trail along the wooden walls, crayon-box painted nails scratching on the doors.  As they had since the ship was discovered, the fine wooden doors were garishly painted with symbols to identify them.  Sun Room, Moon Room, Red Circle, Blue Circle, Green Circle, Star. She had made up a very elaborate song about them when she first came on board, but her

Unknown Artist
Unknown Artist

excitement would not allow her to call it to mind.

Her excitement would allow her to pester Della, however.

Talitha hooted and banged on the door marked with the Blue Circle and then kicked it open without waiting for an answer. The room had two bunks bolted to one wall, one above the other. A roughly crafted wooden rack was nailed to the opposite wall. It had once bristled with all types of magical weaponry, but not only a rusty broadsword and dented buckler hung there. A pile of sheets and quilts quivered on the lower bunk, contracting as if to defend itself from the noise and the overly boisterous blonde captain.

“GOOD MORNING, DELLA,” Talitha bawled and flopped her narrow posterior into the center of the blanket-monster’s girth.

“Groan,” the blanket actually said the word ‘groan’.


“…off me,”


The blanket monster contracted further, then hurled Talitha flailing across the room. The rust-brown quilt flipped down to revealed a wide face smeared with sweat and squished with sleep. Della’s maimed hand appeared and pushed lank hair out of her face.  Talitha’s first mate had lost two fingers off her left hand during the devil’s assault on her hometown. She was also three years older than the captain, but had taken to her duties as pilot and first mate with casual equanimity. It seemed that Della had some sky-pirate in her blood, and as long as Talitha kept pointing the bow of the ship toward thunderstorms and pillage, the broad-shouldered woman was content.

“What do you want, Captain?” Della said politely, scratching her chest.

“So, Della,” Talitha came back and sat down on the edge of the bunk. “I’m about to do something probably a little more dangerous and stupid than usual. Is that a problem?”

Della snorted and pulled the blanket back over her heard.

“Della. I’m serious,” the captain leaned in close and whispered. “I’m really asking your advice.”

“Do I have to get up?” the blanket-monster asked.

“Uhh…”Talitha considered it. ” I guess not.”

“Then fine.”

The captain patted the quilted bulk and rocketed out the door. The  narrow sliver of permission and acceptance fueled her steps toward the cargo bay. Talitha grabbed the rail to the set of steps that lead below and paused. Something…

With a start, Talitha looked up at the ceiling. She stared directly into a mirror.

Or rather, into the face of her twin.

“What are you doing?” Sinoe asked.

Her twin had braced her arms and legs against the wooden struts that supported the deck above. She seemed completely at ease, as if she had been there for some time.

“Dammit, Sin,” the captain growled, running fingers through her hair. “What are you doing up there?”

Her twin blinked. This was a new trick she had learned, blinking. Talitha had taught it to her as a way to show confusion during a conversation, or surprise, or sarcastic disdain. Talitha had little doubt what this blink was supposed to indicate.

The captain made a rough leap and grabbed her twin’s torso. She hung in the middle of the hall, letting her feet dangle. Sinoe looked at Talitha, her face showing no strain or discomfort from the added weight. Except for her twin’s hair being purple and Talitha’s being gold, the two were like a pair of bookends. As Talitha grew tired of explaining, as a child she had been kidnapped and replaced with a doppelganger, a cunning doll designed to mimic her in every way. It had been a simple device, but after much work and reconstruction by the Lodestar’s engineer, the doll had become something more than it was.  The captain giggled and pulled herself up and planted a kiss on Sinoe’s cheek before dropping back to the floor. Her twin blinked again.

Talitha had been nine when Sinoe was built and now she was thirteen. The doll and the engineer had matched every growth spurt, every bony knee and awkward hip. The captain wrinkled her nose as she galloped down the stairs. I wonder what it’s going to be like when we both get our period?

The captain of the Lodestar clattered down the stairs to the Cargo Bay.  Talitha loved the ship, the deck and the sky most of all, the weird rooms still crammed with debris from old adventures and great battles. But she knew that the Engine was the heart of the ship, the ancient technology that made her ship fly through the air, faster and better than the anything else in the world. The magenta radiance filled the bay as she hit the last step, her eyes eager to spot her engineer and discuss something of greater danger and stupidity than usual.

[to be continued?]

The Misplaced Adventures of Talitha Brown

“I was born on the water, with three dollars and six dimes—,” Talitha sang with her back against the comforting wood-grain of the deck and her hands folded behind her head. “Wait.”

She crossed her right foot over her knee, eyes still idly tracking the clouds that moseyed across the sky. “Is it ‘born on the water’ or ‘born underwater’?”

A growl and  sigh crinkled her nose. Her eyes closed as she tried to remember the last time she had heard the song. She hummed the tune, two or three times, air_shipreplacing and slotting the lyric with each attempt.

“Hey!” Talitha yowled, leaning her head up. ” Is it ‘born on the water’ or ‘born underwater’?”

Lucas stuck his head out of the wheelhouse.  He had his thumb stuck into a massive book, bound in simple red leather with neat silver letters stamped into the spine. “What?”

“That song. That song that Elora sang that time.”

The boy blinked. His threadbare doublet was neatly buttoned and his dark hair carefully cropped. He looked as out of place on the deck of the airship as he had three years ago when he had first stepped aboard. Lucas was two years older than his captain.

His captain rolled up from her prone position on the deck, hands resting on her ankles. Talitha shook her hair out, it was matted with sweat and oily with infrequent washing, but it still resisted turning into proper skull-locks, much to the blonde girl’s displeasure. A captain of a pirate ship had a certain glamour, a certain aesthetic she felt — and the long strands of yellow-gold were absolutely unacceptable. She scratched her stomach and glowered at the silent scholar across the deck.

“That. Song. When we were in Pice.”

Lucas blinked again. With exaggerated care he opened his book back up and slowly slid back out of view.


Pointed silence filled the deck like a fog.

“LUCAS.” Talitha pulled her legs close to her body and pushed herself up into a leap-frog stance.

“I am the captain of this ship, and you will answer my questions about song lyrics with promptness and all due deference. That is a” her voice dropped into gravel-drama. “a direct order.

Still nothing from the wheelhouse. Talitha stood up and stretched, her blonde hair trailing in the wind in a most un-piratical fashion. She was wearing a stained tank-top and baggy red pants held on with a a motley assortment of straps and purloined zippers. A brown cord was tied around her wrist. She was thirteen years old and captain of the Lodestar, the fastest ship in the world.  And that was a fine thing.

Talitha Brown was a legend in Aufero. At the age of ten, she had helped the previous crew of the Lodestar stand against the world-obliterating terror of the Shadow Plane,  learned from the greatest heroes, walked in places that most could only dream of. The armies of devils rode forth in the Thirteen Day War and she had stood in the vanguard of the forces of Light. She had sung the Song of the End and brought the lost city of Kythera to its knees.

But then the War was over. Good won. Her family, her Heroes had gone on to serve the shattered world as best they knew how. And they left her in charge of the fabulous airship, left her to wander where she will. The whole of the planet was hers to explore.

But, in the time-honored fashion of thirteen year-olds, she was vaguely dissatisfied.

The Lodestar Crew, in their finest.  ARTIST/W.Steven Carroll
The Lodestar Crew, in their finest. ARTIST/W.Steven Carroll

The problem with Good triumphing over Evil is it really cuts down on the opportunity for Adventure.  The liches and mummies scurry back into their tombs, the ghouls and gremlins retire, the gibbering insanities that hunger for blood grumble off to the hidden places of the world to wait out the term of the current administration and quietly plot to vote the Darkness ticket the next electoral cycle. The planet still teemed with wonders, but Adventure requires conflict. A Villain, a Beast, a Plague on Common Decency, at the very least. And those malevolent ingredients were very difficult to find of late.

Talitha knew. She had looked.

Compounding this issue was a further problem. When Great Heroes triumph over Evil, the word tends to spread. And when the Great Heroes have a very distinct and memorable craft, say a unique flying ship of unmistakable design, a picture of that craft also tends to be circulated in all of the most prestigious Evil Publications. The blonde adventurer could run out of fingers counting the number of times she had flown the Lodestar to  investigate a rumored monstrous outbreak, only to have the monsters flee as soon as they caught sight of her ship. A small red dragon had even offered to surrender on one occasion to her undying irritation and mortification.

And the few times I actually found a fight to get into…Talitha sighed. Her family were all too quick to arrive, to protect their little girl. She would be two steps into an old crypt, or forgotten fortress of evil, and in a flurry of well-meaning axes, fists, swords, claws, fire, and ice, her Heroes would barge in and stomp on her Adventure with both feet and whisk her off for pancakes and finger-wagging.

“I was born underwater, with three dollars and six dimes.” Talitha sang again, then put a foot up on the stone rail that surrounded the deck. It glowed a faint magenta, the the strange technology that kept the ship afloat working perfectly.

“I’m so bored, Lucas. Lucas. LUCAS,” the young captain didn’t look back to see if he was listening, it had become a habit to antagonize her bookish crewmate, even if he wasn’t paying attention or even present.

“You know what I think,” his voice came from the empty window of the wheelhouse, Lucas was sitting on the floor reading, as was his habit when taking watch and steering.

“I know!” Talitha kicked the rail with her foot. “We could get into more trouble if were weren’t in this ship.”

But the Lodestar was home. And it was the fastest ship in the world. And despite her mad wanderlust, Talitha knew she couldn’t leave the ship behind.

“Exactly. It’s too distinctive, with all the Precursor technology and that huge blue flag.” Lucas clucked.

“I know, I KNOW.” Talitha tugged at her lip and stared out into the blue.

“There’s nowhere in the world we can go that we won’t be recognized. Do you remember the time that goblin tribe called Agnar to apologize when they dented our hull?” Lucas stood up and leaned on the window of the wheelhouse. “That was really embarrassing.”

Precursor technology. Nowhere in the world. Talitha grinned. A wide, dangerous grin. She turned and let Lucas drink in the site of her smile.

Lucas blenched. “Oh. No. Whatever it is. NO.”

The captain of the Lodestar winked and skipped across the deck to the stairs leading down, down into the belly of the ship, down into the secret heart of the ancient technology that powered her ship.

“Just need to have a quick talk with our engineer,” Talitha called. “Don’t fret!”

She grinned again. Fret. Fret your ass off, book boy. The Captain has a cunning plan.

[To be continued?]


Reason Number Seven Why My Book is Worthless: Because It Isn’t

And here’s the one where I stop being self-deprecating, and lean on the Vainglory Lever.

In my unbiased opinion, Spell/Sword is the most important book currently available in print. It’s cheeky, unbalanced, not professionally edited — it’s peppered with the mistakes that a Level One Fantasy Author, such as myself, is bound to make. But it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter. Because I’m on to something. I’m up to something. I’m taking a swing at the whole epic fantasy genre. Tropes and troubadours and troubles and trousers. I want to break it and honor it and love it and push it screaming off a cliff.

And I’m doing it wrong, I’m making mistakes. But in the rubble I will stumble into moments of glory and wonder.

Reason #7: Because It Isn’t

I wrote a book! I worked very hard on it, and damn if it isn’t unique and spiffy.

Run down to the bookstore, or glance over your Goodreads lists. How many of them have all of these things?

– fairy tale mythos

– an eel-powered juke box

– a female protagonist with no romance subplot

Artist – Andrew – ~shu-no-kurohi. [My first fanart!]
Artist – Andrew – ~shu-no-kurohi. [My first fanart!]
– a male protagonist who uses a sword, but isn’t really that good at it

– roller-skating frogs

– a long lost civilization whose technology and architecture have completely defined the modern era — but are only barely mentioned or explained (Trust me, it’s for your own good. If you get me going about the Precursors, the Arkanic civilization, the books are going to get really, reeeeaaaaallly long.]

– lesbian bards who’s sexual preference is of almost no interest or relevance to the narrative

– foreshadowing that doesn’t resolve in the same book (it’s episodic story structure, DEAL WITH IT)

– bunnies with mechs

– villains who aren’t

– heroes who aren’t

– the only book that lives in what Terry Pratchett called the ‘consensus fantasy universe’.

– one really mean turtle

– The Gray Witch [shudder]

This book is my first controlled stab at establishing Swordpunk, and even through all my anxiety and hubris — I think it matters. I think my work matters. I think there are a lot of people who can pick up the melody, and will want to sing along.

I’m going toe to toe with authors with a lot more experience, the armory of a publisher at their back, and let’s be honest, almost as much talent. I’m never going to get there if more people don’t read the book, and join the Swordpunk Army.

Or I could be wrong. I could be talking a great game, and the book is still garbage.

Want to find out?

Here’s your chance.

Prove me wrong or join the ranks.

I freaking dare you.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Previous Reasons:

1. Sideways

2. Friendship

3. No One Is Reading It

4. The Next One Is Coming

5. The Dream

6. Dragon*Con

Reason Number Six Why My Book is Worthless: Dragon*Con

One of the many difficulties of being a self-published, broke-ass author is exposure. You don’t have a publisher’s marketing department behind you, you have no prior work to lend credence to your work, your operating budget for publicity is whatever cash you can scrape together after you pay rent, utilities and your re-occurring subscription to Jams and Jellies of Eurasia Quarterly.

Your only recourse is a slow-slog. Word of mouth from your friends and family helps, but it’s a trickle. You go from blog to blog, hat in hand, begging for reviews. Throwing rocks every which way on the internet, hoping the book will hit the right person at the right time.

I’m throwing darts at the cosmos, here.

So, when the chance arrives to throw more darts, it’s an opportunity that cannot be missed.

Reason #6: Dragon*Con

I’ve gone to this convention for the past several years, but this time I go as an Underground Sensation.

I’ve printed up some T-shirts for my kind friends and Brand Ambassadors who will be attending, and in their pockets will be hundreds of business cards. Simple cards advertising the Free Kindle version of Spell/Sword.

They look like this!
They look like this!

I just have to hope and pray that people take them, that people find them where I hide them, that con-goers won’t find it weird to find stacks of these arranged like a ziggurat in the Men’s Bathroom at the Hyatt.

There’s no special code or anything, the book is just going to be free on these dates.

In a crowd of 50,000-100,000 nerds, dorks, and geeks – there must be a few that can catch what I’m laying down.

Hey! In the remote chance that you read this AND you find one at the Con — take a picture of yourself with it, and send it to me. I will be completely flabbergasted and gin up some sort of reward for you.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Reason Number Five Why My Book is Worthless: The Dream

I am a creature of avarice and cynicism.  Pure altruism, idealistic devotion, working on faith — these are all grand, wonderful things that I have a serious problem operating with. If I’m doing something, if I’m working towards something, I need there to be a concrete goal.  A carrot on the end of the stick. I want my paycheck. I want my experience points, and if I break all the jars there better be some fucking rupees shining inside.

So, how am I able to keep working on my self-published fantasy series? A difficult task with innumerable pitfalls, hurdles, frustrations, despairs, and sorrows — a task with little immediate gain, far less ultimate reward…and an atom’s breadth chance of eventual success in the world at large.

Come close, let me whisper it to you. What I see at the end of the road, my dream job.

Reason #5: The Dream

I wake up in the morning around 8:30. I lay in bed for a bit and collect myself, maybe thumb through the internets conveniently distilled onto my phone. Then I get up, conduct my morning toilette, walk the dogs, feed the dogs, pet the dogs.  Household tended to, I head to my office.

The Author in Repose

At first it’s just a desk in the back of the house, but slowly as time passes it morphs into an office. Some quiet corner made of brick and steel, with comfy leather chairs and an upstairs loft where I’ve constructed a nap room.

I sit down, sometime around 9:30-10. I flip open my noble Chromebook, or jab the spacebar of the hulking computorial behemoth I’ve purchased with my latest writing advance.

And then I write.

I write stupid stories, and funny stories, and stories full of blood and woe. Stories about Jonas and Rime and their long, strange journey.

And somewhere out there in the stranger world, people pay to read them. They pay me enough that this is all I need to do.

Some hours later, friends wander into my office and I stop working. I go for a long late lunch, then come back to my office to write some more.

I knock off in the early afternoon to beat the traffic, and because it’s time to go pet the dogs.

I walk home, planning the evening and letting the day’s stories settle and writhe in the weird back 40 of my brain.

The next day I do it again.

That’s my dream. My carrot, my XP, my rupees in the jar.

That’s why the book is free. Because that dream is way better than the buck I’ll make from you buying it.

So give it a shot, eh?



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Reason Number Four Why My Book is Worthless: The Next One is Coming

Spell/Sword is not an epic trilogy. It is an episodic dodecasaga with extra walnuts and chocolate syrup.

For those of you that have read the book, fear not! There is a Grand Plan, a Tragedy Writ Large, a Plot If You Will. But instead of cramming it all into a neat Star Wars/Lord of the Rings box — it’s in a shiny manga box.  Each book is designed to stand on its own as the adventure du jour, the Beast of the Week, almost like tuning into an hour-long anime — but slowly at first, then with alarming regularity the shape of My Nefarious Design will be revealed.

Spell/Sword is my first book, and my pride and love for it is embarrassing. But what keeps me pushing it, keeps me bullying friends and strangers to give it a try, is the excitement of where we are going — of what comes Next.


Reason #4: The Next One is Coming

The second book is called The Riddle Box and it picks up a week or two after the events of Spell/Sword.

And before you ask, yes, Jonas and Rime have already lost the wyvern. And, no, I will never explain how.

If you don’t read the first one, how will have any chance of reading the second one, where this absurdity takes place?

“I have a sword,” Jonas finally spoke up. “Though, Funnicello confiscated it.”

“It is most likely stored in his quarters, guardian. As well as a few other simple blades and—” Lord Bellwether took a breath to finish his sentence, but was forestalled when the bard finally sprung from his pose of studied apathy and bounded up a few stairs, then turned placing his fists on his hips.

“I have a weapon,” Geranium sang.

“Err. What?” Father Andrew raised a hand in confusion.

“The greatest weapon, the only blade any true Bard of Gate City could need,” the tall man in the cobalt coat let his voice fly up a careful scale, the last words an arpeggio.

Rime bit down on her frustration and slogged back through the blood to throttle the bard. “Can’t you all tell? He’s been waiting to say this, he’s been dying to perform this little scene and I won’t—”

Trowel, Coracle and Neriah all shushed her,then turned their attention back to the bard. All of the female guests. Rime spluttered.

Geranium the Eruption snapped his pink-neon fingers.

“Lady Moon-Death, come to me!” He held his hands up high with ecstatic abandon.

A metallic twang came from the second floor, a gryphon-roar of music.  The black guitar howled through the air and stopped directly above Geranium. It lowered itself slowly, a quick rainstorm of notes spattered from the strings. The bard’s face was beatific, and he cradled the instrument close as it came to him.

“Forever, my love,” he crooned.

The three female guests applauded, and were quickly joined by the priest and the almost forgotten actors across the lobby.

“Thank you, thank you,” Geranium smiled with thousand-stage familiarity.

So get on board, dammit! Or you’ll never read the part where Jonas investigates a giant safe shaped like a cow.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Reason Number Three Why My Book is Worthless: No One Is Reading It

A little on the nose? MAYBE.

Spell/Sword Fan Club - Third Meeting
Spell/Sword Fan Club – Third Meeting

Reason #3: No One Is Reading It

Here’s a short list of people in my life who haven’t read Spell/Sword.

  • My father
  • My brother

    The Former Secretary of the UN hasn't even cracked the cover.
    This Former Secretary of the UN hasn’t even cracked the cover.
  • My sister in law
  • My girlfriend’s parents
  • My cousins
  • My former roommate
  • Neil Gaiman
  • President Barack Obama
  • Janelle Monae
  • Pat Rothfuss
  • My Pen Pal in Japan
  • 35% of my  D&D Group
  • Jonathan Franzen [big surprise, there]
  • Lev Grossman [he isn’t allowed]

It’s the sad truth of self-publishing. You’re always trying to expand beyond your social circle and break through to new readers, fresh readers, readers who you can’t drive to their house and stand over them while they read it.

And, as is clear, I’m not even getting 100% permeation of my kith and kin.

I’ve made the book an Amazon exclusive for several reason — but one of which is the ability to make it free like this at regular intervals. I’ve never understood why so many self-publishers are nervous about this, becoming over-covetous of the trickle of money you get for each sale. Right now, it’s WAY more important that people read the book than buy the book.

After the initial burst of interest in the book on release, it’s slowly dwindled to a slow, agonizing grind. A book here, a book there., a new review this week, a few stars doled out on Goodreads that week. I’m really hoping that this Free-stravaganza will help get my book out into a wider circle.

Every new -sucker- reader is another win in my book. And FOR my book.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Reason Number Two Why My Book is Worthless: Friendship

If you held me at gunpoint, and put my feet to the fire, and drilled down, and wouldn’t take no for an answer, and just didn’t let it go, and whined a whole lot about it, and made it a huge deal, and kept that up for a fortnight and demanded that I tell you what Spell/Sword is about — then I would probably still shrug.

It’s kind of about a lot of things.  Adventure, genre-defiance, gonzo ridiculous action, minotaurs, music, entropy, bunnies, sorrow, death, etc. etc. etc.

But way down at the bottom, in the guts of the thing, it’s about Friendship.

Reason #2: Friendship

Some awesome Homestuck cosplay.
“The human disease known as friendship.’ – A. Hussie / Some awesome Homestuck cosplay.

BLECH. Really? That’s the big theme I want to toss my literary cap at, like Sean Connery at the beginning of most of his James Bond movies? MS. MONEYPENNY IS NOT IMPRESSED.

She is never impressed.

There’s a lot of darkness in my little world. [And in my head as well, but that’s another conversation]. Lots of evil and sorrow and just shitty, shitty maturity and growing up that Jonas and Rime have to deal with. Even in book one, they both have a lot of shadows gathering around them. Rime is going slowly insane, Jonas is a deserter running away from some dark times. Unlike most fantasy protagonists that at least get a chapter of idyllic chilling in their author’s version of the Shire, I dump both of them onto the page in the rudest way possible. Jonas is drunk and in a pitched fist-fight with an ogre, Rime just committed a calculated murder to protect herself from betrayal. They both appear in battle, in trouble, with no one to stand at their side.


It sounds super banal even in my head, but I’ll go ahead and type it. One of the many stupid epiphanies that I’ve found in my life, is that friends make the difference.  Knowing that you’ve got some goddamn backup in this world is all that keeps your feet moving some days.

The core of the book is my boy and my girl learning that they are better when they work together. Two people, two travelers against the world. Neither is quite complete apart, and together they can go toe to toe with the nastiest things my peapod brain can devise.

Because it gets worse. It gets so much worse. That’s the truth of the world, our world and mine. It always ends, and most often it ends with tears.   Youth and joy and glory and adventure all fade, everything falls to dust.

WOW. That got depressing.

But that’s the point. Friendship is the shield, the bond that will not break. It’s one of the few weapons we, and Jonas and Rime have to keep them going.

Still not impressed.
Still not impressed.

SO YEAH. Navel-gazing aside, the book is going to be free in just over a week.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.

Reason Number One Why My Book is Worthless : Sideways

This will be an n-part series leading up to the Amazon Firesale for the Kindle version of Spell/Sword. It is going to be absolutely free 8/30-9/3.  The plan is to write one of these a day to really crank up my self promotion levels, so when I’m at Dragon*Con, I won’t feel any remorse about begging total strangers to read the book.

But hey, I’m super lazy, so n could very well equal 2.

Reason #1: Sideways

Sideways the Assassin. Official FanArt
Sideways the Assassin. Official FanArt

If the damn book wasn’t ridiculous enough, I had to stick in this goddamn character. Those of you that have already read the book are currently nodding sagely, maybe pursing your lips in disgusted agreement. Those of you who have not read the book, let’s play a game. I’m going to describe this character, and you yell when you hit your personal Preposterous Fantasy Drivel Maginot Line. [PFDML]

Okay. Deep breath.

Sideways is an assassin. A mercenary, a sellsword, a blade for hire.  He’s extremely fond of witty banter mixed with his obscenely

Unintentional Cosplay. But still, get the horns right , loser.
Unintentional Cosplay. But still, get the horns right , loser.

talented swordplay. He also seems to have some sort of moral code [AHHHHH.] he doesn’t kill for pleasure, and seems to have an overall genial position for a hired killer. He is also a devilkin. [YELLING.] The blood of devils is in his family, mixed with human heritage. He has orange skin, [NOOOO.] eyes the color of ketchup [WHAAAAA?] and ‘horns’ that look more like misshapen coral growths than anything that would appear in Lucifer fanart. His constant companions are a pair of shortswords, a flaming sword named Sunhammer [ARGGGGG.] and a gray sword of indeterminate magical function named Chester. [BLUH!] ‘Chet’ for short. [ALL OF THE SCREAMING, LIKE WHEN ALDERAAAN WAS BLOWED UP IN STAR WARS. EXCEPT IT NEVER GOES SUDDENLY SILENT. JUST SCREAMING FOREVER.]


He also fights a minotaur, kills about 75 sky pirates, crashes an airship, rides a wyvern, and takes a nap on a porch.

So, you see, it’s a very good thing that my book is going to be free in about 10 days.



8/30 — 9/3. 2013.