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!

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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 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!

 

Wordy-type Makings: A Blog Hop

 

2014-02-23 14.32.39-1

And now I catch the baton from my friend and sadly distant conspirator, Leigh from her blog Fun Things To Do While You Are Waiting. You absolutely should navigate your web-machine to her and Coralie’s site – it’s a lifestyle blog with tons of crafty adventures and receipes — much more regularly updated than my site. I’m terrible at these blog chain letter sort of things – the fun premise will quickly descend into navel-gazing, but I’ll try to keep it frothy.

What am I working on? 

I am working on the final re-writes and edits on The Riddle Box, the sequel to my previous novel Spell/Sword.   I’m hoping to have it ready to publish in another month or two. This brings to a close several months of editing — AKA the part I hate. I’m very excited to get it out there for people to read – but more excited to be able to start work on the third book, working title: Asteroid Made of Dragons.

Side projects — writing for three Pathfinder campaigns, game prep, world information, and forum play.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve expounded on this at great length in the past, but let me boil it down. I’m a special snowflake and everything I do is unique and wonderful.

The name I’ve given it is ‘Swordpunk’, but through my research I’ve found that Terry Pratchett has a much better term for it – the ‘consensus fantasy universe’ – that place we all understand instinctually without need for qualification or endless description. Dragons can fly and are mean, a hero with a sword is generally a good thing to have on hand, witches are potent, elves have pointy ears, etc. etc. etc. As much as I love the current heights of epic fantasy [Martin, Rothfuss, Sanderson, Abercrombie] – I’ve grown weary of the genre taking itself so seriously. Also by traipsing in this ‘consensus’ universe, I don’t have to waste any time or reader brain wattage to re-invent the wheel. We can jump right in and get to the action.

Also my work is not particularly popular, so there’s that.

 Why do I write what I do? 

HRMMM. That’s kind of a brain bender. I don’t know if that’s even the sort of questions I’m equipped to answer. Who knows what strange events and mental misadventures have resulted in my own particular output?

I do know that the forms of fantasy make sense to me. As a writer you’re usually trying to express something – something simple, or something profound – and you grab whatever tools are at hand to get the point across. Swords make sense to me, magic is the perfect metaphor. I think if I tried to write a story set in modern day about emotions, or culture, or banking — I would only make it a few thousand words before goblin-gunners start erupting from storm drains or roc’s land on the top of city buses.

The fun part of my work is I’m absolutely certain there’s some grand point I’m trying to get across — but I’m usually mystified about what exactly it’s supposed to be. I stumble into bits and pieces of the message as I keep rambling on, but completely by accident. My crafty subconscious has something to say, but it whispers in hindsight, in the corners of things.

Spell/Sword  is the pilot episode, so a lot of its energy is spent on getting my heroes together and starting some plates a-spinning that won’t resolve until years in the future – but I like to think there’s a nice through-line about Friendship. The Riddle Box is much more on point as I grapple with my thoughts on depression, and the sick, strange madness that haunts all human endeavor.

How does my writing process work?

I am a ‘discovery writer’ as the lugubrious buzz-term goes. I don’t plot or outline in advance, though I do have a skeleton plot in my head — or rather I have big moments and fight scenes like sign posts on the road ahead. Spell/Sword I had only the most basic of ideas of where I was heading — The Riddle Box, as a murder mystery, I had to know ‘whodunnit’ so I could reverse-engineer the plot. I know outlining is king if you want to truly focus on a marketable product – but I couldn’t go to work if I knew every twist and turn, half the fun is getting to see these moments for myself.

Beyond that, I try not to fetishize my process in any way. I don’t have a set time, or place, or a special mug that I have to have with me. I set myself easy deadlines, of between 5-10 pages a week [depending on the insanity of the rest of my life] and get to typing. I write when I have time between work and home, just as long as I’ve turned in my pages by the end of the week, everything’s kosher. Admittedly, I’m bad about putting it off until Friday or Saturday and jamming out that week’s allotment in one quick stretch. If I get in a groove and write more than my allotment – that’s great! – but I can’t bank anything in advance. Each week is always 5 pages more than where I ended the previous week. I write chronologically — mostly because I have to ‘discover’ the scene, but partly because if I wrote all the fun stuff first, I’d never go back and write the connective tissue.

That’s it – I just keep chugging along until I get to the end. [Or at least what I think is the end.]

 

Huzzar! I have completed my blog hop — of course, I haven’t had the forethought to get anyone else to take the next leg from me. So,  yeah — any of you want to take the next leg? Ping me in the comments for my thanks and blessings.

The Riddle Box – 300 Words or Less

A manor. A murder. A mystery. The doors are closed, best keep your eyes open.

Jonas and Rime arrive at the House of the Heart-Broken Lion, interrupting a play and an opulent dinner party. An actor falls dead on the stage, the doors

Gustave Doré Plate XX - “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69
Gustave Doré
Plate XX – “Lancelot Approaching the Castle of Astolat,” circa 1867-69

are locked, the authorities summoned. Rime has one night to solve the mystery and escape before too many questions are asked and her wild magic is discovered. Jonas is just excited that there’s really good cheese.

Thirteen guests in the manor. All the doors are locked. One of them is the killer. Can she solve the case before dawn?

A sea-elf shaman, a wood-elf scholar, a bard with an electric guitar. A gentle priest, a vicious trader, a rude dwarf who does not speak. These guests have secrets, could there be a secret guest?

Blood in the shadows, a killer stalks the halls of the Heart-Broken Lion.  How can Our Heroes triumph against a foe that neither spell nor sword can catch?

  • Secrets of Jonas’ past revealed!
  • [Not all of them, but, you know, some!]
  • Rime has a crush!
  • Cryptic clues!
  • Red herrings!
  • Partial nudity!
  • Bedroom hi-jinks!
  • Sweet guitar solos! [Described.]
  • A giant cow!

A truly original mystery shamelessly cribbed from Agatha Christie, Colombo, and N.C.I.S. Fantasy fiction bent into a new, strange shape.

Can you solve The Riddle Box?

[Argggg. I hate writing ad copy. This is my first stab [of many] getting Riddle Box into something easily marketable. Back of book, Amazon description, etc. I am shit at the elevator pitch — comments and reactions very much appreciated!]

From the Beginning of Time through the Storm Century

But of course I can tell the Story, what do you take me for? Do you not see the mark of Brightnail on my chest, do you not hear the song on my lips? Ach, pass me that flagon and I will say the words. We are all travellers, and it is good to return to the beginning when we can. And push those sugared figs a bit closer, my dear. Now, let me see, let me see — ah, yes, I have it — just as it has been spoken by the members of my order, just as old Prago told me when I was small.

Before Time, we do not speak.

But then the first minutes washed up on the shores of the dark ocean, and a story blinked its eyes and brushed sand out of its hair. We can hear its voice even now, we listen carefully to the quiet groan of the earth, the sky, the jangle of stars in the black belly of night. We tell the Story as it tells us.

At first there were only Two. Father Order and Mother Chaos found themselves here, on this simple globe. The Story does not know if they were born here or if they came from the dark ocean, but suffice it to say that in the first minutes they were here and it was a Beginning.

And they danced.

Mother Chaos would break and tear as fast as her dark hands could move and Father Order would build and mend just as quickly. Father Order would raise tumblr_mwq90d4TZF1sppixgo1_500great towers and shining bridges with his bright hands and Mother Chaos would laugh and shatter and bring them all tumbling down.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then the Two grew bored.

“It is so lonely here,” Mother said. ” So flat and empty. I grow weary of breaking the same towers day after day.”

“As I grow weary of building the same towers,” Father grumbled. “I’m guessing that you have a suggestion.”

Mother grinned “Yes, of course I do. Let’s play a game.”

“A game?” Father mused. “What kind of game?”

“A Game of Making! Together we can fill this world with all sorts of interesting things. We’ll take turns! It requires both of us to create, but we can take turns and see who makes the most interesting thing.”

Father Order scratched his nose and grinned. He was certain that Mother wanted to trick him in some way, but it was a grand idea nonetheless.  Chaos saw the excitement in his eyes and skipped in for a quick kiss before they began.

The Two joined their hands and began to make.  Order and Chaos met and the first living things drew breath. The first plants and the first insects, lichen and moss, fish and fowl, claw and talon, feather and hide. Father and Mother took great delight in the making, growing ever more inventive in their competition, endless variety in the nature of their creations. And in the heart of everything that lives an equal measure of Chaos and Order, the gift of the Creators.

And for a time, it was enough.

But then Father and Mother created People.

They had many shapes and sizes, many bends and ways — different races and faces and gazes, but still all the same, all People. One strange accident made them different than all the breathing things that had come before — or one careful trick that Mother Chaos had laid carefully across the long Time of Making, a tiny tip of the scales. Where before their children had shared equal measure of Order and Chaos – People had a little more of one, and a little less of the other. They gravitated ever so slightly towards rhythm or ruin — and since they were created last, they were the most intelligent, the most elaborate — perfect pieces for a new game.

Mother Chaos crowed with delight and Father Order frowned.

Father freed his hands and sighed. “I’m afraid this last batch is no good, they will be nothing but trouble.”

“No, they are perfect,” Mother insisted. “See, some of them are building away — they are your children, just as mine are blithely breaking and shattering. New dancers, new pieces for the game, they are wonderful.”

“Yes, some of them are quite industrious, and I’ve already been surprised at some of the things they’ve built,” Father sighed with regret. “But they must be destroyed. They are ever-changing and mercurial, see! Those over there have have fallen to you and are setting fire to the tall grass — and those over there have stopped breaking rocks and started building houses. What good are pieces that change sides? No, no – they must be destroyed.”

And Father Order raised his hand to end the People, and found Mother Chaos’ hand raised to thwart him. They locked eyes and the First Argument began.

A century of storms, tireless, ceaseless battle. The first People did their best to weather it and provide shelter to all of the other creations — though many of them were lost, obliterated by the tireless wrath of Mother and Father.

And thus our world would have remained, if not for one clever child and one stupid goat.

Ah, this is my favorite part. Drown my flagon again if you please, I don’t want to pause when I continue. Oh no! Can my plate of figs already be empty?

— Talespinner Marxo, Cleric of Seto, Idolobha