Spell/Sword is now available in print and e-book exclusively on Amazon.com. Follow the image above to order. I’m linking the digital version first because:
Amazon Prime members can borrow and read it for free.
Anyone can sample the first couple of chapters using the ‘Look Inside’ feature.
It’s the future!
If this is your first time visiting the site, please poke around. Plenty of my various ramblings in the archives, and several examples of my fiction through the Short Stories and Scenes/Microfiction links above. I know you’re taking a chance on me — thank you for even considering it.
More information about Spell/Sword itself is available on the [Buy the Book] button above.
Aragorn sighed and hopped up on the desk. He folded his paws underneath his grand orange and white chest and surveyed me with stern iceberg-disdain.” I just wanted to know what your book is about. Why are you playing me a song? Why can’t you just answer the question?”
Maybe I should have put on pants first. When you’re trying to get an audience to follow you on a train of thought it helps to up your Dignity Quotient. I clicked around on the laptop for a moment before I finally found the song I was looking for.
“It’s a metaphysical thing! This song makes me feel Spell/Sword, makes me feel the long journey of Jonas and Rime. If you’ll just listen…”
“Not going to happen,” the orange cat said.
“Aw, c’mon. It’s this fascinating acoustic piece from the 60’s. It’s not very long, just give…”
“Look, human. I have other things to do. Important cat things. My interest in this project only extends so far as my dinner bowl. If you market this book successfully that will lead to an increase in your income. This will lead to an increase in the quality and amount of the food that I am provided with. A new mousey would be pleasant, as well. I don’t want to hold your pitiful human paw and gaze soulfully into your eyes. Just tell me what the book is about and why people should buy it.”
“Damn, Aragorn.” I leaned back in my chair. “Damn.”
The cat lashed his tail. “Who are Jonas and Rime?”
“I can’t just leap into it like that! You have to understand the context of the fantasy genre, and why they are interesting subversions of pre-existing tropes.” I began to list of details on my fingers. “You see, for most genre conventions–”
Aragorn stood up suddenly, and tilted his head to the left. The cat stretched out and stared intently at his dinner bowl. “Hmm. All that doesn’t seem to be putting any exotic meals in my dish.”
“Fine.” I threw my hands up. ” The book is about a boy and a girl. They don’t get along, then they do. Friendship triumphs. The End.”
The cat seemed amused. “Come now, don’t be petulant.”
“Can I just put a little English Major frosting on this explanation? It really helps me to get going.” I begged.
Aragorn began to groom his right paw. I took that as tacit assent.
” There are two tropes in fantasy that I’m trying to subvert. The All-Powerful Wizard and the Young Hero. I won’t name any examples, I promise.” The cat stopped grooming for a moment and shot me an appreciative look. ” The All-Powerful Wizard can topple kingdoms with a thought, summon dragons from thin air, knows the answer to every question, undoes the riddles of an age. The Young Hero is the gifted one, the child of legend with shining sword in his fist, he rises from obscurity to shake the pillars of destiny.”
“Merlin and Arthur. I get it. You’re not the only one who’s read Joseph Campbell.”
“Right.” I was a little taken aback. The cat who lives in my house is surprisingly well read. “Rime is my Semi-Powerful Wizard and Jonas is the Young Idiot.”
“Losing interest…” Aragorn muttered, rising.
” Rime is a wild mage – an abomination that breaks all the rules of magic! She can do anything, everything — bend the forces of reality to her whim. But then she burns out -her body goes unconscious, loses use of her limbs, nosebleeds, headaches – really bad headaches! And on top of that she knows that all wild mages eventually go insane and use their power to butcher as many people as possible in the most creative way their madness can devise.” I gesticulated with desperation.
“Okay. That sounds half-way engaging,” the orange cat settled back down to listen. “And the boy?”
“Jonas is a kid with a sword. And he gets the crap kicked out of him most of the time. He’s not handsome and he’s not all that skilled and he’s not particularly bright. ”
“Hmm. That doesn’t sound as engaging. Why is he in this story?”
“You’re getting petulant again, human.”
“Aragorn, please.” I walked into the closet to gather my thoughts and some bottom-wear. I grabbed a pair of reasonably un-frayed khakis and pulled them on.
“The problem with the original tropes is when they are introduced the reader automatically recognizes the shape. They know how this character will act and, more importantly, they know how the story will end. Success is guaranteed for the Hero and the Wizard. It will be an interesting journey, but the reader knows the end of the tale. The golden, shining end.” I yelled back into the bedroom, zipping up my pants. “And I find that boring. I want Jonas and Rime to have some serious weaknesses, that way you can’t be sure whether or not they will succeed. There’s actually a large chance they will fail.”
“People like Superman for a reason, human.” Aragorn’s bored voice came from the bedroom. “People don’t want stories about losers, or stories about failure. There’s enough of that in the real world.”
“But they don’t fail! They succeed and they become friends. And it’s that much more meaningful because they actually had to work for it.” I walked out of the closet, my Dignity Quotient through the roof.
“Does the book have a happy ending?” Aragorn was unimpressed by my rockin’ DQ.
“Define ‘happy ending’.” I said.
The orange cat splayed his claws and hissed. Aragorn is not a small cat, and when he puffs up he can be quite intimidating.
“I cannot believe this. How can you expect people to buy the book if it doesn’t even have a happy ending.” Aragorn’s eyes pulsed with feline rage.
“But it does.” I quailed. “Friendship triumphs, remember? The end of this book is good for Jonas and Rime, very good! Please calm down.”
The orange cat did not. “You’re dancing around the subject. What aren’t you telling me?
“Nothing. I don’t want to spoil it for you is all…”
A claw lanced out, narrowly missing my hand.
“..it’s the very end that’s bad! Not the end of this book, but the very end of the story! It’s bad, okay — it’s very, very bad!”
Aragorn seemed to calm slightly. “So you’re going to write more books, then?”
“Yes! That’s the true subversion of the trope. If instead of victory, the heroes are doomed to failure. To a pre-destined fall. It’s actually an older trope, most commonly seen in Greek tragedy and…”
“I’m bored now.” The orange cat hopped down off the desk. “I’m going to go bask in the sun, and pray that many monomyth and genre convention enthusiasts buy your book. Clearly we’re never going to see any sort of Hunger Games money, so I’ll just hope for a small trickle of improved finances coming to our household.”
I sighed and sat down at the desk. I watched his orange tail slink around the corner and disappear. Maybe I should have told him about all the fun things. The ridiculous encounters, the dance-lock, the dinosaur battle, the frogs on roller skates. But those are just trappings, my little sally against the pomposity of Fantasy. Somewhere along the way we all decided that Orcs and Elves and Dragons aren’t silly. But they are. They are silly. And glorious.
“That’s what I think about, when you ask me what Spell/Sword is about.” I said to no one. ” The long journey into the dark. The long journey of Jonas and Rime.”
I clicked ‘Play’ on the song I’d pulled up earlier, and listened to the heart of the tale.
Out of shadow, out of wind, out of sorrow, out of rain — we make. We make art, we make love, we make our lives. We make light or the Dark swallows us all. I am so very proud of Dustin for making this art, for sharing his light. Please reward him with your attention, your enjoyment — and your cash.
Mainly the cash part.
Click on the picture for the iTunes link and take a sample. This music is honest and personal and worth the minute it will take you to give it a listen.
1. It’s fun. Looking at it just makes me smile. It’s unapologetically goofy and cartoony. Most fantasy art takes itself so freaking seriously.
2. It’s different. This doesn’t look like 98% of the fantasy novel illustrations I’ve ever seen before. Not on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, not on Amazon.com or anywhere else.
3. It’s clean. All of the negative space just pleases me aesthetically. A traditionally published novel would want to cram more information and more verbiage on there. I’ll probably have my name on their, somewhere very small, but that’s it. I also think it’ll really stand out when seen online as a tiny thumbnail on someone’s Kindle.
4. It makes me think of Chrono Trigger. My book sits very comfortably in the mental space occupied by Dungeons & Dragons, JRPGs, and manga. I adore that this would not look terribly out of place on the cover of any of those three.
5. It will make people vaguely embarrassed to be seen reading it. Not so much with the Kindle version, but people who have the paper copy. Anyone reading this will be broadcasting to the world that they are a Huge Nerd.
Huge props to Poopbird on the illustration, you should follow the link from here or the image itself and check out his entire portfolio and buy stuff from him.
I hope this gets you marginally excited about reading the book. I know it gets me far more than marginally excited about finishing it.
I have entered into a period of vague dissatisfaction.
There are many exciting things on the horizon for Spell/Sword: final edits are almost done, designer is lined up for my cover, cover illustration is complete, entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, should be ready to self-publish in February or March.
I’m very excited about these things. Every time I look at the cover art, my body begins to emit a
pearlescent light and strains of violin music can be heard by passersby.
But, you know, meh.
Nerd Concerns are also going well. I’m running two tabletop campaigns. Titan’s Wake, in Pathfinder, and Ocean of Not, in Legend of the Five Rings. Got a shiny new 3DS for Christmas from my beloved and have been playing with it more than I should. Beat the sublime Virtue’s Last Reward and am currently scratching the nostalgia itch with Legend of Zelda:OoT.
But still — grumble.
I even have ample TV fodder at the moment. Twin Peaks for my brain, and Bones for my stomach. We have a new dog that we’re fostering/becoming permanently attached to. My beloved is wonderful if over-busy.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the old, familiar desire to escape — to slip out of this reality for a while. An MMO would fit the bill nicely, but all of my computers are old clunkers that can’t handle it. Actually playing some tabletop would be nice as well, but I’m kind of booked with DM duties.
I guess it boils down to this: I just feel too damn ‘adult’ of late.
I’m ready for the book to be done and people to shower me with riches, so I can sit quietly in my apartment and play video games and work on the sequel. Buy a big house with a yard for the dogs, with a gigantic craft room for my beloved, and plenty of hammock space for all the burlesques. A swank kitchen for the Yellow Devil/Ladle to play in and a ton of guest rooms, so my family can come and stay whenever they want.
We work so hard to build this little world. A better world, a world of lights and shadows. The world we all want to live in. Our Twilight Kingdom.
And it is fleeting. From its birth, it begins to decay. To fall through the sand-glass. We pour energy into it, it shines. We dance, we sing, we appear. We wear the clothes of our better selves, or the masks of our hidden villains.
But then it ends. Fade, extinguish,explode. One way or another. We leave the Kingdom with nothing.
So be it.
Come and burn with me.
Come and fly.
But only for a little while.
If you’ve been wondering why the blog has been so quiet — here’s your answer. I’ve been directing a production of this musical at our Friendly Neighborhood Theater, the Town & Gown Players.
Here’s the part — were I a normal human being — where I would gush about the show. Partly from genuine excitement and pride; partly in a cynical, manipulative attempt to convince you to come see the show.
But as this blog provides ample evidence, I am not a normal human being. I have a complicated relationship with positivity. Most evident in creative projects where I am invested. I have a, shall we say, extreme reluctance to speak without restraint, to truly commit to the excitement. How about a list of your neuroses related to this, I hear you all shouting with animation and curiosity at your computer screens. Okay!
1. Pure superstition. If I say that the show is good, amazing, colossal, etc. etc. I’m calling down the attention of the gods. I live in Athens and hubris-smiting is most definitely on the menu. A musical is a super-complicated, involved creative endeavor with thousands of moving parts. Everything has to gel – the music, the movement, the acting, the vocals. Layered on top of that is the spiritual mumbo-jumbo of any community – you want every person’s chi to align just so. I do not need Hermes to start
feeling capricious or mercurial[HAR HAR HAR] and throw a wrench up in my show, just for giggle-shits.
2. Cynical Directing Style. I’m not quite sure where I picked this up — but I truly believe that if I tell an actor that what they are doing is good, they will immediately get worse. As an actor myself, fear is the best motivator. If you believe that you are doing a good job, you will stop working to get better – you will relax, get comfortable. It’s a short trip to Craptown. Every rehearsal, every performance you should be striving to exceed your previous attempt. Add to that the weird parental aspect of being a director — actor-children work much harder when they are unsure of Daddy’s approval. It’s cynical, but it works. Most of us performers have some sort of approval-need or bone-deep insecurity, as a director you might as well plug in to that and use it to get them to do sharper pirouettes. I’ve actually made a point to get better about this one, giving GRUDGING positive notes. Baby steps!
3. First Impressions. The beginning of a play is a holy moment. The moment when the lights go down — it’s pure, unbridled potential. Anything could happen — a whole new world is being born right in front of you. I treasure that moment, and I hate to pollute it. Especially with generic ‘Rah-Rah Show’s SO AWESOME’ posturing. So, if I started rambling on about how great the show is, or how much I like X scene, or Y song — then I’ve put things in your head. Expectations, judgement, etc. The less said the better. Come to the temple with your eyes unclouded.
So, what can I say about the show – through the net of my psychosis?
The set looks amazing. My designers really outdid themselves – I can comfortably say that it is unlike anything we’ve put on that stage in the past 10 years, easy.
The light design is also excellent. My bacon was Epic Level saved by the last minute addition of our Light Designer.
The choreography is excellent, thanks to my crack Choreography Squadron.
The band is crisp, and the musical director’s re-scoring of several key moments is inspired.
The cast? Solid. I know that sounds like faint praise — but I’ll double-down. This cast is Solid Snake.
I won’t say anything more, due to neuroses listed above. But when the curtain opens Friday night, that’s where you want to be. I want you to see what the cast has accomplished, has earned through months of hard work. I believe you are going to see something exceptional.
If you are anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Athens, GA – you should make a point of attending.
Click on the image up top to buy tickets. You can pick your seat and everything, through the magic of the internet.
I am beyond excited….and more than a little terrified. I actually have an artist working on the cover art for Spell/Sword.
I insist that you click on this super-rad Cyberman art and check out some other examples of his work. He’s got a lot of style-flexibility, but everything he does is interesting, distinctive and [as mentioned] on the north side of Rad. We had a great brainstorming session last week, and I should start seeing sketches in the next couple of weeks. I almost wrote ‘barnstorming’. I really want to have a barnstorming session in the immediate future.
Mike Groves – aka Poopbird – is a phenomenal artist, living in my hometown of Athens, GA. You should follow all of the links below and rub your grimy internet-hands all over his virtua-product. He is also an amazing tattoo artist, so if you need some ink (especially nerd-ink) he’s the man to call.
I can’t wait to see what he comes up with — even though the anxiety-engine in my head is already revving up. Cover art means we’re getting closer and closer to the book being real, and launched into the world where everyone will hate it.
What can I tell you about Home? I have tried many times to describe it to the people of this world, but something is always lost in the telling. Home is a feeling, a knowledge — and no matter how many times I described the towers of glass, the river bank where I learned to swim, the smell of my grandmother’s library — I could not catch it.
It was a place not much different than this world. The sun rose, the wind blew. We only had one moon instead of the three that dance in this world’s sky. Such a greedy world, this Aufero, how could it have less than three moons?
I wander. It is what I do, in speech as well as deed. Even now, even as I wait for the end. There is something to that. Something mundane and comforting.
Our world shone. That is all I can say. It gleamed more brightly in the heavens than any other star, every one of the Lost can point to it in their sleep — even though it shines no more. It was our Home, and we knew as we left it that we would never return. And we knew that we would never stop grieving the loss of it.
The Dark swallowed it whole, and we fled. The entirety of my race crammed on half-a-hundred silver ships, flung into the sea of stars. But that is not the true beginning of my story.
My story begins with falling.
The fastest ships were chosen, to seek out a place to land – a place to begin again. My father was the captain and he slept not at all as our ship plunged ever forward into the dark. The far-singers hummed as we approached barren planets and balls of molten fire — every one was discordant. Ugly noise and static.
We flew on and on, day after day. Hoping to find a place that the Dark had not touched. A whole universe of empty rock and death. In desperation we returned to the fleet and found the same answer in the weary faces of the other captains.
I remember how my father took my mother’s hands and laid his forehead on hers. They looked into each other’s eyes and she nodded. They knew what must be done, and the risks. The other ships would wait, and ours would risk Beyond.
My mother sang the Song of Away.
The universe grew thin and we slipped through the walls as she sang. I stood next to my father and listened hard for the tune of another place, any place that we could go.
I think I heard it before my father, but maybe a heartbeat before. I still remember the joy in his eyes when he heard the faint melody.
And then the melody was a march — Aufero, the greedy – Aufero, the thief — reached out and pulled us in.
We erupted into that universe like a comet being born. The silver ship bucked and spun, the songs of my people becoming screams. Through the windows I caught my first glimpse of the planet.
It was blue. I fell in love.
Then the glass shattered, and I fell towards the greedy planet.