The Best Thing


In the middle of all this madness, I get a new review for my first book.

And, as I’ve learned, my core demographic is 11 years old.

austin2What I liked about Spell/Sword is that when Rime and Jonas get of jail and fight the crystal frog and I also liked when they fought the grey witch and the assassin also that there’s a sword that is magic and can take away Rime’s magic also when she uses magic it damages her health and her power is unstoppable and Jonas on the run for murder.

Austin Sigman – Age 11

Yup. That’s what I like about Spell/Sword too. I can’t wait for him to read The Riddle Box and AMOD.

I’m being very terse because this took a kind of crappy stressful day and made it awesome. I don’t wear happy well.

Thank you so much for reading, Austin!

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch — My Butthurt Review

This is unwise and out of the ordinary for my blog, but I’m actually going to post a book review here. I have a long and complicated response, and I’ve

Available on Amazon.

already exhausted several friends’ patience with me yammering about this book.

The book in question is Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves, the third in the purported Gentleman Bastards cycle. This is the third book after the exceptional Lies of Locke Lamora, and the problematic but fascinating Red Seas Under Red Skies. I will be discussing plot details and spoilers henceforth for all three books. SPOILER FREE: Pointless to read if you haven’t read the first two. If you have, you’re going to read it anyway, if for no other reason to see how the cliffhanger at the end of Red Seas is resolved and to finally meet the illusive Sabetha.

Now the caveats.

This is not what I’d call an objective review. I am invested in these characters, in this world, and to a small degree in the author himself. I’ve been reading his blog since his LiveJournal days and have more than a nodding familiarity with Mr. Lynch and his battle with depression and social anxiety. It’s the normal level of Internet Familiarity — I don’t know the guy, but I’ve felt concern and kinship with his struggles, mixed with a great deal of respect and normal envy for his skill as a writer. I’ve been waiting for this book for a while and I wanted it to be good, I was invested in it being good. I empathized with the artist — first book is a phenom, second book attracts a lot of haters, then his life goes down the tubes. I’m a huge believer in art as a redemptive act, that art purifies and justifies all our human frailty. I really wanted him to lay me on my ass with how astonishing Republic was.

And I’ve changed since I read the first book seven years ago. I’m older, grimmer. I’ve seen horrible things. I wanted it to feel like the first book, that sense of fever dream wonder, the necessity of that story, the action leaping off the page. So, if my review gets a little petty and upset [read:butthurt] please bear in mind that I had my expectations set somewhere in the lofty stratosphere between Lord of the Rings and Knight of the Black Rose II: Lord Soth Gets Serious.

I’m also, in a weird way, a colleague now. I wrote a book, just finished the rough draft of the sequel — and there is a very small chance I will meet Scott Lynch as a peer somewhere in the misty future. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to justify my thoughts so thoroughly and publicly, instead of squirreling them away on Goodreads or Tumblr. Think of this review as if I sat the author down for coffee and ranted at him, with the hopes that he would still give me a ride to Wal-Mart afterwards. This is how I would speak to my friend Brent, this is speaking dan-dinh. It’s going to be a little roundabout and circuitous, I’ll find my thesis through battle.

The review.

I guess, I’ll start at the beginning.

When last we left our heroes, Jean and Locke, things were pretty bad for them. At the end of Red Seas, our heroes had been thoroughly hoisted on the most vicious of petards. Their grand scheme has failed, Locke has been poisoned with a mortal unction that promises an inexorable painful death, Jean has lost the love of his life.They are penniless and friendless, and except for the bone-depth of their loyalty and friendship — at each other’s throats.  A lot of people hated this book, and this ending in particular — but I really appreciated it. After the grand scheming of the first novel, it was a welcome change to watch Locke get completely out of depth [ocean joke] and be so thoroughly defeated — and more importantly to leave that unresolved at the end of the novel. That just doesn’t happen in epic fantasy, it oozed episodic glee, a promise that when we next tuned in, we’d witness the most daring of escapes, the cleverest of plans, that from Death itself. I literally said ‘DUN DUN DUNNN’ out loud when I finished the book.

That was in 2008.

So, I finally crack open the next book, eager — EAGER to see how Locke and Jean were going to thief their way out of this ridiculous predicament. Lynch had five years to mull this over, surely it will be something worthy of the stunts they had pulled in previous escapades.

Except no. We get to watch as Locke succumbs to the final throes of the Dramatically Convenient Poison, while Jean spends their dwindling resources trying to find a doctor that can help. Then, when they have completely given up hope, our new Bondsmage Antagonist arrives to magic the poison away.

So. Okay. Locke is traditional fantasy lead, smarter and luckier than he really should be — we’re all guilty of that when we create our protagonists. And I’m not opposed to breaking them down to their lowest point if it’s in the service of a larger story. I read the whole book assuming that this narrative choice would somehow inform the rest of the novel. It doesn’t. From the end of Book Two Lowest Point, Lynch pushes the needle further into desolation — and then hand waves it away. This only seems to serve a few purposes, none of which I enjoyed. It reinforces the power and might of the Bondsmages [ this book suffers from a lot of this sort of thing. Lynch seems to have decided that they are the really interesting/powerful force in his world, and a lot of the plot is in service of explicating this idea. The entire ‘heist’ of this novel is ultimately revealed to be nothing more than a Bondsmage feint in a larger plan.], and forever cements that there are some situations that Locke cannot defeat with his wits.

Uh, why?

I mean, that is literally Locke’s main attribute. It’s like establishing for Super-Man that all of his real problems will be psychological, or for the Flash that all of his villains can only be foiled by a really carefully tended herb garden. Now, as I said, if Locke had adjusted from this — either immediately, or by book’s end — I could have accepted it. But he doesn’t. He does his same clever confidence-man ‘thing’ without a trace of irony. He also becomes strangely myopic and repetitive in all his interactions with Patience, the Bondsmage Antagonist. Locke spends a lot of energy impotently cursing at her and being as rude as humanly possible. Which, as I usually enjoy, is Locke’s second attribute — he will piss in anyone’s teeth regardless of consequence. But, it just seemed so petty and useless – I spent most of the book expecting the other shoe to drop, for his grand plan to get revenge on the Bondsmages to reveal itself. But it never happened, because he didn’t have one.

He didn’t have one. By omission or by authorial choice, the master planner made no attempt to crawfish the Bondsmages — further reinforcing their supreme power narratively and empirically. He bowed his head, and except for his dalliances with Sabetha, did  exactly as he was told from beginning to end.  Our Bugs Bunny, true priest of the Unnamed God of Thieves, bent knee to a bully — because the bully was just too strong. And no amount of childish namecalling or fuck-bombs can change that. And that is very fucking disappointing.

I think that’s the core of my disappointment. The main plot of the novel concerns the time that Locke Did As He Was Told.


The second draw of this novel was the opportunity to finally meet Locke’s match, his red-haired lady — spoken of only in whispers and hints for the first two novels.  She was the perfect plot-device, most potent by her absence. I’m a sucker for the Lost One True Love trope anyway, but the way she was presented by the other Bastards was as his perfect foil, his match.

So as the main plot revealed that she was to be his opponent in the Five Year Game [see Convenient Predicament issues below] I was stoked. Two thieves at the top of their game, with some soap opera sprinkled on top? I am IN.


Then I met her.

And was utterly bored. Because she was perfect.

She was just as clever as Locke, but colder and more controlled. In both her younger portrayal and her present-day form, she showed herself a better actress, a better planner, a better player of the game. All of this I expected. I was looking for the unexpected, the flash , the imperfection that makes the human heart sing.

I never saw it. She was like a paint-by-numbers characters, built by recipe and architectural design. She was the ideal — and the ideal just doesn’t move me. Maybe just too much of her characterization is wound up in the romance plot of the novel, and through the lens of Locke’s adoration — but I could only muster more than a mild interest in her. What are Sabetha’s goals? What are her plans after leaving Karthain? Has anything happened to her in the past five years that was more than window dressing? The book just kind of shrugs at me. She seems to exist only in reflection with Locke, to reveal more about him and to serve the ritual of the romance plot. She is Plot and not a Person.

A series of checked boxes.


I did not find Sabetha and Locke’s relationship believable or interesting. Or particularly romantic.

Early on, we find out that Locke fell in love with her at an extremely  young age, back in his Shade Hill days. There are some vague genuflections in the direction of labeling it an ‘infatuation’ or ‘crush’ — but throughout the events of the novel his emotions are validated at every turn. He grows up with her, love unabated. He woos her with unfailing respect and loutish awkwardness, until finally in their late teens she admits that she returns the feeling.

Okay, let’s do a little experiment. Turn to any woman. At your workplace, at home, you know, on the subway — and posit the following scenario:

A boy of seven falls in love with you when you are ten. Cute, right? Then, you are both adopted, and raised as siblings in the same household. The young boy continues to fawn over you. Around the time he’s fourteen, he professes his undying love for you. So, as a seventeen year old woman, do you:

a. Pursue a relationship.

b. Laugh and pat his head.

c. Move out.

d. Left hook.

See? On its face it’s more than a little unlikely. But Sabetha loves Locke — because? Because the author says so. Every beat of their relationship happens because the author says so, the quiet cogs of plot roll forward. Oh, it’s time for Sabetha to get mad. Oh, it’s time for Locke to get mad. But underneath it all, it is a foregone conclusion that they do truly love each other — which I was never remotely convinced of. A much stronger narrative choice could have been to have Locke’s love be unrequited in the past, and only won in the final climax of the present, after he saw through his childish idolation and could approach Sabetha as a person. But, none of that — their romance is a foregone conclusion in the past and present. The reader already knows it works out in the past, and is relentlessly hammered with the inevitability of their loving reunion in the present. Locke’s infatuation undergoes no transformation or growth, his love for her is completely static and as inexorable as gravity — nothing more boring than a foregone conclusion. The only true obstacles are external and oddly de-fanged. The Bondsmagi will kill them if they collude or begin a relationship, and the revelation of Locke’s  Unlikely Origin. The former seems easily trounced by two Bastards, the latter given far more credence than seems reasonable.

So, this relationship is supposedly the main draw of the novel and I was completely bored by it. We know in the past that it works out, albeit temporarily — and it’s no surprise in the present when it works out, albeit temporarily.

Lynch writes their exchanges like a man trying to remember what his younger self found attractive. There is no heat, no charm, no — poetry? No fire, no blood — knotting the weave with numb fingers.

There are no true peaks or valleys in their relationship, none that last more than a chapter. I expected after Sabetha shipped Locke off that he would get angry and fired up, but instead after a short scene of blather he’s right back to his static attitude towards his lady love. No surprises, regular speed bumps as dictated by a Proper Outline.


Side note: We never actually find out why they broke it off, other than being young and stupid. Well, I’m glad I waited five years to find out the most obvious answer was the correct one.

Convenient Predicament

The entire setup for the Five Year Game infuriates me. It so specifically engineered to remove all possibility of threat that it makes me scream. Patience re-iterates constantly that Locke and Jean are in no physical danger by the very tenets of the game. The only way I could potentially accept this choice was if the move and counter-move between the Black Iris and Deep Root exemplars was especially clever or engaging.

It wasn’t. Sabetha regularly outfoxes her opponents, the majority of Locke’s sallies are thinly-veiled pranks. The only exceptions are having the old lady spies [why can’t the rest of the game have this level of charm?] and arguably Locke’s gambit with the boat. It was legitamately clever, but not astoundingly so — and it’s presented at the main plot’s climax as his master stroke. When, in context, he only stumbles on the knowledge of the informer in his party, while the entire character of Lucari [sp], the greedy counsel member makes him an easy score.

Two master thieves are put in a box. They are given vast resources to work with, and made safe from direct physical harm. Brain to brain, brilliance against brilliance. A true test for Gentlemen Bastards.

I would really like to have read that book. None of the moves were really that clever or memorable, and all ultimately took a backseat to the unsatisfactory romance plot.

It’s a game rigged by uber-powerful wizards to contain no risk and no consequence — and it ultimately is shown as an institutionalized distraction for larger, more important Bondsmagi matters.

A Tale of Two

But wait! This book is a split narrative. We spend about 40% of the novel in an extended flashback to key points in Locke and Sabetha’s relationship — and at last we see the long-promised heist, the plays — the mounting of The Republic of Thieves from which the novel takes its name.

Now, on its face, this is the part of the novel I enjoyed the most. It was truly delightful to spend time with Father Chains and the twins again, and the Moncraine players were a welcome band of new characters to meet. The business of rehearsal and the actual performance are the highlights of the novel. Here Lynch seems like he’s actually – gasp – enjoying himself, and taking true delight in the crafting of the tale.

But then, the true villain of the novel, Convenient Plot Development soured it all for me. The death of their vicious patron seemed contrived, and the solution to hide the body required a bit of hand-waving. Was it really that convincing to show a masked figure on stage as the supposed patron? Similarly, the hard-nosed accountant in the bathhouse accepted their hoodwink with no undue suspicion. It worked because it had to work for the novel to continue. I was also disappointed that after chapters building up the surprising craftiness of the rapacious noble, our heroes are not given the opportunity to outwit or defeat the antagonist [you know, like the Falconer in Lies ?] but instead merely have to vanish his corpse.


I’m of the belief that you should only have a parallel narrative like this if the two timelines are supposed to inform each other. Two melodies that complement, that reveal and obfuscate each other’s windings. So, the basic plot of the play within the novel is about two men, a prince and his fellow — who infiltrate a thieves’ band with the intent of assassinating their Queen of Shadows, Amadine.  Blatantly obvious parallels for Locke, Jean and Sabetha. [There’s even a freaking wizard forcing the assassination plot as a perfect analogue for the Bondsmagi!] The prince falls in love with the thief, and for a time ignores his duty and enjoys a time of blissful content — until he is pushed to the deed by his father, the wizard, and even his best friend. The prince kills his friend rather than harm his lady love, but is pushed on by duty and circumstances. In the final act, Amadine kills herself to spare her love and in defense of her own power and agency. The prince weeps, but continues on to take his place as king.

Does that sound like a great way to have the plot resolve in the present day?

Yeah, it does. I’m completely flabbergasted — why build this mirror to your leads, then do nothing with it? Maybe — just maybe, Lynch’s plan is to have this situation be echoed in later novels, but at 5 years between installments, I cry ‘dirty pool’. I’m not even saying that the climax of the Five Year Game should have exactly aped the events of the play — but I was really expecting some sort of narrative harmony, some connection between the timelines, especially since the name of the book is The Republic of Thieves. It stings like a wasted opportunity.

Locke’s Unlikely Backstory

My exact quote on this, from my Goodreads stream is, “What the hopping fuck.”

So, since Bondsmagi are the only interesting thing in the world, the only truly powerful force, the thing that reduce your leads to hired thugs and impotent children — you decided that the only way to make Locke interesting was to decide he was one? Some crazy convoluted, Darth Plagueis bullshit?

So, our self-made man, our Archon of Smarty Britches — is ultimately just a cast off from a failed spell, by a Bondsmage that actually matters? So now, all his future character development will be about unraveling the secrets of the super interesting Bondsmagi — perhaps even, SHUDDER, learning magic?

Boo. Boo-urns. Poorly foreshadowed if at all, believed WAY too easily by Locke and Sabetha, and not remotely inspiring for the further adventures of the Gentlemen Bastards. Locke is a character fixated on his past — the loss of Bug and the twins, his upbringing in Shade Hill, his entire relationship with Sabetha — now we add another Past Obsession. Great.

A Bulleted List of Other Things I Didn’t Like

  • Jean – One note, devotion and loyalty – even when Locke is clearly jeopardizing the Five Year Game. Boring choice.
  • Mimicking Shakespeare is best done very carefully, and very sparingly — the more you do it, the more you come up short.
  • Oh, you brought the Falconer back as your future villain — LAME.
  • Can we please stop going back over the events of the first book? I liked it too, but damn.
  • Jean likes coffee. Got it.
  • Calo and Galdo are dead. You killed them. You can’t ask me to be invested in their squabbles or growth.
  • Locke

I Think I Hated Myself Out

I’ve been working on this review for a couple of days — and I’ll be honest, the fire in my gut is fading. I was worked UP about this, but now I just feel kind of sad.

Mr. Lynch, I don’t think you wanted to write this book. You were very open in the past about this being the Gentlemen Bastards Cycle — not the Adventures of Locke Lamora. I think somewhere along the way you, or your publishers, or just the necessity of your process pushed you to write this next installment.  Despite all my many words of derision, you wrote it well. I can find no true fault with your craft, you are a superb writer. But what you chose to build with it makes me sad. I believe that you cannot command the lightning, you cannot force your muse — and if you do, this is the type of story that results. It’s well built but it doesn’t sing. It’s correct, but it isn’t true.  You have to stay open and honest and dance to the music that the spirits provide. This book is your Saruman, a creature of metal and wheels, bending your power to the line. I don’t think this is the story you wanted to tell. I think you had some other, totally different tale rattling around your brain-pan.  And I am eager to read it, I would have read it with delight, to see the words fly off the page again– but it feels like you felt duty-bound to tell this tale. And art cannot be a duty. Calamaxes wanted you to kill the Queen of Shadows, and you did. [See what I motherfucking did there?] When we wrench open the third eye, our vision is sandy and skewed.

Okay, I’m done. I have vented my spleen and extended my temerity to the breaking point. Please understand, if it had simply been a bad book I would have dismissed it — but it was not a bad book, it was a failed book. It’s caught in my craw, and I couldn’t rest until I’d explicated my distaste. You can do better, you will do better, I believe in your ass.

Now, how about that ride?

I Need Reviews!


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

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

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

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

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

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

-Wyclef Jean

Back to the Airwaves

This is one of my innumerable ‘Hey Blog, What’s Up Old Friend?’ posts.

As is obvious from yesterday’s post, I’m dealing with a lot of grief. My mom passed last week and that post is all I really want to say about it for a while.

Segue from Maudlin to Shameless Self-Promotion — ACTIVAAAAATE.

Stanley Spudowski always elevates the mood.
Stanley Spudowski always elevates the mood.

Fellow fantasy writer C.B. McCullough wrote a lovely review of the book, and it makes me feel like punching the air while riding on the hoverboard from Back to the Future II. I’m going to return the favor and review his work The Path Less Traveled.

Progress on The Riddle Box continues — I met my goal of 30 pages last week, and dagnabbit I’m going to buckle down today and at least write five more.

Spell/Sword Critical Reception

Four men sat at a table, rectangular with knife-blade edges. Steam filled the air, blasts of heat and cold.

Sean Andrew Murray - Artist
Sean Andrew Murray – Artist

They each wore floor-length white robes with deep cowls. Runes shone on the edge of each cowl with a fiendish light. Their names were known to each other, their proper names, the names that the world spoke in tones of fire and glory. But when they met here for their Conclave of Secrets and Power they took great care to use their Names of Secrets and Power.

“Where is he?” the One Called Wizzle said.

“Late. As usual,” the One Called [(4x) + 17.3y] sighed.

“I’m sure he will be among us at the proper time. When the moon and the wind and the turning of this fragile earth sing together in perfect harmony,” said the One Called Jambalaya, in between noisy bites of a pine cone.

Wizzle and [(4x) + 17.3y] rolled their eyes. Jambalaya was something of a wood nymph, only occasionally interfacing properly with reality. The fourth man said nothing, but continued to scribble frantic notes on a stack of napkins in front of him.

“How’s that coming, Fardancer?” Wizzle asked.

The One Called Fardancer hissed and wrapped his free arm around the napkins.

“Okay, then.” Wizzle stroked his beard in consternation.

A moment of quiet floated across the table, sickly and ominous like a vomiting ghost. The only sounds were the crunch of Jambalaya finishing his pine cone, Fardancer scribbling and muttering, and the other two men adjusting their cowls to better disguise their features.

“Okay. I can’t wait any longer, we’re just going to get started.” Wizzle oriented his beard at the other three in turn. “Does anyone have a problem with that?”

“But the winds, the winds are not yet proper! Our art will be forever marred and turn the gyre—”

“Can it, Jambalaya.” [(4x) + 17.3y] crossed his arms.

“I think we all know why we’re here,” the beard continued. “A new power has arisen in the South, a troublesome upstart.  His followers are legion and the blasphemy that he spews grows and grows with each passing hour. It is a dark fungus, a creeping creep of untold crep. If we are not careful than it will spread beyond our ability to stamp out, much like the the weeds that grow in my garden. Oh, did I show you the picture of me and my son in the garden? Oh man, he did this ridiculous thing with some dandelions, you guys are going to love it.”

Wizzle pawed at his robes, searching for his phone. [(4x) + 17.3y] leaned across the table and shook the bearded man’s shoulders kindly but firmly.

“Please stay focused, my friend.” [(4x) + 17.3y] straightened his glasses. “We do not have time for one of your famous digressions.”

“You’re one to talk.” Wizzle retorted. “How about you explain to me how water flows downhill for thirty more pages?”

“That’s not germane. And a misrepresentation. The water flows uphill in my world due to the reversed polarities of gravity on fluid. It’s why it was so important that my Aquaemancelers could make the water flow downhill, as was prophesied in the 12,785th year of the Jtang Dynasty. Maybe if —”

“Oh god, you’re about to get out a chart, aren’t you?”

[(4x) + 17.3y] folded his hands neatly on the table. “I…might have a few charts in my robes, yes.”

Wizzle pressed the heels of his hands into his forehead and groaned.

“Maybe…” [(4x) + 17.3y] continued. “Maybe when you’ve written more than two books, you’ll learn to appreciate the efficacy of a well-made chart.”

“Excuse me?!?” Wizzle’s head popped up.

“Don’t you see, my friends?” Jambalaya cried, brushing pine cone debris off his black robes. “It’s this new book. This Spell/Sword! It’s tearing us apart!”

Wizzle and [(4x) + 17.3y] stared hard at Jambalaya.

“Weren’t you wearing white robes…before?” the glasses-wearing man tried to appear polite.

“Oh. Yes. That happens.” Jambalaya managed to look slightly embarrassed.

“Jambalaya is right.” Somber Wizzle rapped his knuckles on the rectangular table. “I don’t know why, but somehow this silly little book, this freaking Spell/Sword is tearing at the very fabric of–”

“You boys need a refill?” The waitress leaned over the cramped table with a coffee pot.

The white-robed men blinked at her for a moment. Her brown and white apron was freshly pressed, her gray hair tightly wound in a neat oval. The Waffle House was empty except for the four of them, their thick girth and arcane robes crammed into a corner booth.

“No, thank you, Glenda.” Wizzle managed.

The other three men shook their heads as well, and Glenda smiled and floated away.

“Why do we meet here, anyway?” [(4x) + 17.3y] complained. “None of us even live in this state.”

“Don’t you see. That is the thing. The very thing.” Jambalaya smiled, one tear rolling down his cheek. “Only outside of ourselves can we see ourselves.”

“Time for me to talk.” Fardancer interrupted, displaying his stack of ink-daubed napkins with pride. “I’ve prepared a solid list of reasons why Spell/Sword sucks. As soon as I post this online, the world will know that it sucks, and we can go back to our lives without a further thought.”

“Uh…arr. I’m not sure it’s quite that straightforward, Far–” Wizzle began.

“RESPECT THE LIST.” Fardancer slammed the napkins down on the table, neatly overturning the sugar dispenser. “Okay. Verbal List Power Activatus!

1. No one’s ever heard of it, so it can’t be very important. Only things that people have heard of are worth discussing. I’ve talked to all the very important people I know on Twitter, and none of them have heard of it, so it’s nonsensical to keep discussing it.

2. Even if it was important, it’s different and weird and silly. All of us have worked very hard to earn a little respect and credibility for genre fiction. To have this weird kid come along and try to make what we write about silly again undoes years of work. I like getting paid for my work, and I can’t keep getting serious-work money if all of a sudden people think we’re silly again.

3. Wil Wheaton said he thought it sucked.

4. Spell/Sword can eat my poop.

5. And by my poop, I mean the poop that comes out of my butt.

6. And by my butt, I mean —

“That’s enough, Fardancer!” [(4x) + 17.3y] waved both hands. “I think we get the gist.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Wizzle patted the napkins respectfully. “All good here.”

“Well,  I’ll go ahead and put this up on my blog, that ought to take care of things.” Fardancer pulled a smartphone, two tablets, a Chromebook, a Macbook Air, a TRS-80, and an abacus out from under his robe in quick succession.

“I like to write on oak leaves.” Jambalaya said, lost in dreams. “Oak leaves, just as they turn scarlet. I write with a grasshopper’s leg dipped in some Faerie Inkque that my beloved brought me from—”

The newly black-cloaked man’s words were cut off  by hellfire engine roar. A massive black motorcycle tore into the Waffle House parking lot, chrome and leather and a Valkyrie’s virginity.

“He’s here.” Wizzle said.

The motorcycle pulled into a spot and then hopped up on the sidewalk. The front tire crashed into red-flecked newsbox. Bent metal and flying newsprint filled the air. The rider got off the bike, and stalked in through the glass door entrance. He wore a sailor’s cap, and his white robe thrown around his shoulders like a cocksure cape. In his hands he carried a massive two-handed hammer, something that would be more appropriate at Medieval Times than Home Depot.

“Darklorrr.” [(4x) + 17.3y] said nervously.

“Coffee!” the One Called Darklorr bellowed as he stumped over to corner booth. “And four waffles on top of five other waffles. No syrup, just bring me some melted butter and three mugs filled with chili.”

Darklorr tossed his hammer onto the table and surveyed the other four men with a paternal eye. “I know I’m late. Deal with it.”

“We were just talking about Spell/Sword, Darklorr.” Wizzle gingerly pushed the hammer off the hem of his white sleeve. “And how we needed to handle it.”

“Handle it? Spell/Sword? HAR.” Darklorr laughed, pushing his sailor’s cap back. “Listen close, boys. I already know how to handle this. I’ll do what I always do with things that people love.”

The four others leaned in close with expectant horror.

“Kill it.” Darklorr smirked.

He picked his hammer back up and leaned it on his shoulder with a cavalier air. Then he started to laugh. The other four men looked at each other uncertainly, then echoed his laughter with their own.

[(4x) + 17.3y] quickly scribbled something on a spare napkin, and slid it across the table to Wizzle.


Wizzle shrugged in response, but continued to echo Darklorr’s amusement.

The Conclave of Secrets and Power had convened. They had made their decision.

Spell/Sword didn’t stand a chance.

[Just me throwing some eggs at some author’s that I respect, admire, and envy. I’ll send a free Spell/Sword button to the first five people who can name all five.]