Song of the Road – The Riddle Box

Song of the road, road made of song.
Who knew I would travel so long?
Stories and wind, campfire and rain.
When will I ever see my home again?
When will I ever see my home again?
 
Triumph and travel, teapot and steel.
Won’t someone tell me what I’m supposed to feel?
Lovers and liars, heroes and pain,
When will I ever see my home again?
When will I ever see my home again?
 
[bridge]
I walk through the sunshine, but only see night.
Even in the valley I stand mountain height.
Summers and Winters and Springs made of Fall,
The world keeps on turning and I forget them all.
 
Quiet and quick, I walk alone.
Who knew the cold could marry my bones?
Mud in the gutters, shadow and flame
When will I ever see my home again?
Never, oh never see my home again.
Never, oh never see my home again.

The Riddle Box – Music

“You know a lot of things. I say it, so you can hear it. It is very important that we all know this about you, yes?  You know a lot of things. Things and springs and wheels and the click-clack of numbers falling in a row. But music?” Geranium tapped a staccato beat, two fingers on the pulse of his wrist. “It cannot be known. You can’t contain it, you can’t weigh it, you can’t put it safe on a shelf or bury it down in a hole. There is a reason that the Songs of the Lost still haunt us, that the simple melody in children’s games hum and burn in our temples as we clutch the pension-staff and stumble our way towards the grave. There is a reason that I walk penniless and proud down dark roads, with only my guitar as companion, as every true Bard of Gate City must.”

“What does –”

“Quiet now,” the bard raised two fingers to his lips. “Listen and remember. It binds as it breaks, it slips up the tallest castle walls and shivers its way into the darkest of hearts. It burns as bright as the sun, warm as an oven while I stand on the stage. I sing and every eye is mine and every heart is mine and every secret unfolds and the music drinks tears and shines and shines and shines. One song, the right song, one song for every heart. Even if they’ve never heard it, even if the song hasn’t been written yet, there it is, quarter notes and red blood on the parchment. And when the wind is at my back, I can see it. I can hear it.”

The bard’s eyes shut tight.

“And if I can sing your song, I can break your heart.”

Rime interrupted sourly, “Ridiculous.”

DragonCon – Ur-Promotion – SPELL/SWORD!!!!

So, yeah – I’m going to be at DragonCon from Thursday thru Sunday – SO TRACK ME DOWN AND LET US COMMUNICATE WITH OUR MEAT-FACES.

I’ll be packing in a few copies of the book to hide randomly around the convention – I also may press copies into the hands of Elizabeth Moon, Jim Butcher, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman as a sign of my fawning devotion. Last year I had a lot of fun putting free download cards all over the place – but I just didn’t have time to get everything together this time.

I will also be making a special secret announcement about The Riddle Box, about 2 AM in the Marriot lobby. I will whisper it into an empty mayonnaise jar, then hide it somewhere in Pulse Bar. Anyone that finds it will be cursed, ye unto seven generations.

For anyone that follows this blog, that I’ve never met – if you are going to DragonCon – comment on this post and lets meet up! I’m in pathetic need of writer affirmation and should be just soused enough to spill major plot details for Book Two, Three and the very underpinnings of my fictive muse. I’ll alternatively be dressed as a ‘5’ from the MeowMeowBeenz episode of Community or as a ludicrously drunk wizard.

The Riddle Box – Cover Reveal

At last – no further preamble – here is the cover illustration for The Riddle Box!

Cover Illustration - Mike Groves @poopbird
Cover Illustration – Mike Groves @poopbird

Yes! Bask in it’s glory. So many thanks to Mike Groves – poopbird.com – for his fabulous design.

Thank you for enduring the flood of activity from the blog, but I’m afraid there will be more to come as the release of the book in August gets closer.

Shares, presses, tumbles, and retweets very much appreciated – but please always credit Mike Groves/poopbird as the artist.

Stay tuned at this spot for more ramblings, poorly planned self-promotion, and pretty good recipe for peanut butter cookies.

Please follow this link to add The Riddle Box to your Goodreads queue!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 5

Oh, we’re so very close. This is just a line drawing of the final design. I had gotten used to seeing the ‘straight on’ view of the Bride – so when Mike dropped this different perspective in my lap, I was immediately in love. Stay tuned for the final cover reveal tomorrow!

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 4

And now we’re back to the ‘bride’ – I was a little bit nervous about not putting Jonas and Rime [Our Heroes] on the cover, but our earlier discussions about a truly ‘evocative’ cover gave me courage. Here are two different versions of the ‘bride’ that Mike developed.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

More of the ‘floating numbers’ from the cover of Spell/Sword – and the appearance of the secret symbol! It’s massively important to the plot of The Riddle Box, and also to other stories beyond for those that have been following since the Lodestar days.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

I don’t know what the flowers are all about – but they look great. I also really started to enjoy how the Bride’s ‘skull’ could read as her literal skeleton or as some sort of creepy mask. Also the decolletage and blood – so tasteful.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 3

And then things got a little weird. As often happens, Mike surprises me with a design that I love, but has very little connection to what we had originally been working on.

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

 

Now, I love this illustration. We had some discussions about going with a very evocative image on the cover, instead of something directly related to the plot. The mystery transpires in the Manor of the Heart-Broken Lion in the novel – and Mike really responded to that. We ultimately decided to go back to the original trajectory, but SPOILER ALERT: this sketch will find its way onto the back paperback cover of the book and potentially tattooed into my flesh at some point.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 2

Never forget the wooden pigs.
Never forget the wooden pigs.

After the initial thumbnail, Mike got very fixated on the exact design of the ‘bride’. [Sort of like how all he wanted to draw for the first book was wooden pigs. It’s a long story.] He has a dozen different takes in his sketchbook, but here are the ones he sent me next for feedback. I, of course, was tremendously helpful – most of my notes disintegrated into – ‘looks awesome’ and ‘god I wish I could draw.’

 

Design Sketch - Mike Groves - @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves – @poopbird

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

You can start to see the signature ‘numbers’ creeping into the inked sketch.

[Sketches for the cover illustration of The Riddle Box, my upcoming novel. I’m showing off the design process and sketches this week before the final reveal of the cover.]

Final Cover Reveal: 7/12

The Riddle Box – Click the link to add to your Goodreads!

Judge Me By My Cover – Day 1

And so it begins. I am beyond excited to reveal the cover to my upcoming novel, The Riddle Box…but I have been over-quiet on the blog of late – so I’m going to need to ramp up to it. Just clog up your feeds with me for a few days, that’s basically what I want. I thought it might be fun to show a little bit of the process by releasing the sketches that lead up to the final design, before revealing the final cover on Saturday.

First the OG cover design, made by yours truly. YES, bask in its awfulness.

Or maybe it was a reanimated Jackson Pollack.
Or maybe it was a reanimated Jackson Pollack.

I think it’s safe to say that this cover is amazing. Sadly it requires a refined artistic sense to truly appreciate, so it’s probably for the best that I went for something a little more mass market.

All of the art you will see henceforth in this series will be from my illustrator, Mike Groves.spell_sword_cover_final [poopbird.com]. You should immediately click over there and take a gander at his work – it is delightful and amazing. The sketches I’m sharing here are rough and you should do  yourself a favor and look at more of his finished stuff. He is the perfect person to draw zombies or robots for you. Fans of the first book will immediately recognize his style from the cover of Spell/Sword – I was really fortunate that he had time in his hectic schedule to work on the cover for The Riddle Box.

And now – the first sketch.

 

Design Sketch - Mike Groves @poopbird
Design Sketch – Mike Groves @poopbird

I can tell you, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this thumbnail. The book’s lived in my head for so long, to see even this sketch of my heroes got me ludicrously pumped. The final design came a long way from this starting point – here would be a good point to thank Mike for his patience with my endless vague emails and texts during the design process.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more sketches and then…DUN DUN DUNNNN…the Final Cover Reveal.

Final Cover Reveal : 7/12

The Riddle Box — Follow the link to add the new book to your Goodreads!

 

Titan’s Wake – Final Words

Tributes to DUNE by artist Jose-Luis Segura
Tributes to DUNE by artist Jose-Luis Segura

[This isn’t going to make much sense – shocking for my blog, I know. I wrapped up a Pathfinder campaign last night, and this was the framing device for the final game – the tale as told by a bard, long after the heroes have vanished across the dunes. Over the next few days I’m going to be focusing the blog into Self-Promote Mode to ramp up to the release of The Riddle Box – which means I’ll be posting more often and also not slapping down random, vague stories and odd snippets – so bonus both ways!]

Sleep in the sand and tell me what you dream

Dance in the air and sing me what you seem

Burn in the sun and  draw me what you fear

Drown in the sea and remember me, my dear.

 

Riddle me lies and cry me bright truths

The unquiet shepherd is dead

Kiss me with cold and hold me with steel

The black and white book has been read.

 

At the heart of tomorrow in the shade of Forget

We danced in the Eye of the Dream

I see you and steal you and break you alone

Please tell me you hear me scream.

 

Drown in the sand

Burn in the air

Dance in the sun

Sleep in the sea

But please remember me, my dear.

Oh, please remember me , my dear.

Won’t you please remember me, my dear?

 

“That’s a strange song,” said the child. “What does it mean?

“It means I’ve had too much to drink,” said the bard, “And you should hurry to fetch me another.”

“But you promised me the tale, the tale of the Six Heroes…and the Titan!”

“Ach – that is a weak song, child. It is shorter than is proper, but still seems tedious. What little sense it has is brittle and shatters like sugar-glass if you lean on it. It has no proper villain, more questions than answers, and it muddles up more than it means. And the ending – sand and shade, child! – it is a preposterous hogwash that even an old talespinner like me has a hard time speaking with a straight face.”

“But…”the child insisted, “It’s my favorite story.”

“Oh, is it now?” the bard’s eye twinkled.”I suppose every story is some poor fool’s favorite story. Who am I to begrudge you yours? Sit down, child – and I will tell it then. I will tell the tale of the Descabellado, the Bastard Sands – of the Wind Thief, the Blank-Face Beauty, the Frog Knight, the White Wanderer, the Furious One, and the Unknown Gunner. I will tell the tale of the Titan, of the Red Sword. Now lean in close and listen, for this tale is not often told and the sun hungers for night…

[And here the whole campaign happened. Highlights include the party accidentally destroying two sites of holy power on the same day, a machine city ruled by psychic dragon cultists, awkward sexual liaisons with said psychic dragon cultists, a prolonged period of several weeks that may have been a dream, a robotic turkey mount with laser eyes, lots of talking, murder, unexpected betrayals, more talking, and a final battle against an insane Void Dragon where half the party died and continued to fight the beast in the Spirit World.  You know, D&D stuff. ]

During the story, a group of children gathered to hear the bard. For all his protestations, he told it well and they were spellbound until the last words fell as the Titan vanished from the world of mortals.

“…and that is the end of my tale, if any tale can truly be said to end.” the bard concluded, and took a long swig from his wineskin.

“But, wait – I still don’t understand” said a dwarven child. “ What did it all mean?”

“It meant what it means,” the child who has demanded the tale in the first place retorted. “Stories don’t need to mean anything.”

“But what about the Heroes, what happened after?” an elven girl with red hair scratched her nose.

“Oh, so demanding!” the bard chuckled. “Proper tales don’t usually have epilogues, but this is hardly a proper tale. Tell you what – each of you can ask me one question. And I promise I’ll only lie twice!”

[Here the players took on the role of the gathered children and asked their questions about the future of their world. Their secrets are their own, and I will not share them here.]

The children quickly thought of more questions and they begged and pleaded with the bard to answer them, or to give them hints about which were the lies and which were the truths. He only took a long draw from his wineskin until the last dregs were gone and laughed all the harder as he pushed his way through the crowd of children.

“Decide for yourself, young ones. That’s the best way. If there’s any moral at all, I guess that’ll have to do!”

The halfling pulled up his ratty cloak and stumbled out into the street, still laughing. He left the children and the questions all behind and whistled a strange tune to himself as the shadows of evening settled on his back.