Various

I’ve got the itch to post and write, but nothing dominating my brain pan. I’m going to list some thoughts until I hit something I want to expound upon.

Various thoughts:

  • I was in Vegas last week for a work conference. It was my first time. I gambled a dollar, drank daiquiris in a bathtub, ate piles of exotic food next to a 30 foot stone statue of Buddha while dubstep played. I believe that  Vegas is the most American city  I’ve ever been in — not the greatest American city, but the most American.
  • I’m on Twitter now — it’s fun. There’s a surprising feeling of immediacy to the interactions there, and it’s neat to be able to directly annoy people I
    Majesty.
    Majesty.

    respect. Also to roll my eyes at some writers up the foodchain as they reveal their foibles and strange predilections. Follow me there and allow me to regale you with glib witticisms and reports on my cat’s mood.

  • Why is their a paucity of Southern genre writers – fantasy and sci-fi? I’ve been directed to several interesting ones that I hadn’t heard of before, but there just don’t seem to be any genre legends within a 50 mile radius of a Waffle House. Southern fiction has a strong tradition, are they all just writing other genres? How come anyone that wants to write about swords and dragons seems to gravitate to the North and West?
  • This weird-ass journey of writing and promoting myself is …well...weird-ass. I have to constantly pump myself up and feed myself endless packets of cocksurety just to keep myself going [You are awesome. Genre-CHANGING. Undiscovered genius.] all while walking face first into the most humbling series of experiences I’ve ever encountered.

 

 

The Bright Empire through the Thistledown Revolt

I am as you have made me. From the earth and the stone, the blood in my heart is your blood. The quiet in my head is the mountain’s silence. I speak now only to teach what you would have me teach.

Humanity saved the People from centuries of death and battle. All was forgiven. With open arms and eager hearts we welcomed the humans into our lives, eager to see where their wit and ambition would lead us.

It lead us to the lash, it lead us to the steelbolt collar around our necks. It lead us to Empire.

Humans do not breed as fast as the ratfolk or the naga, but they make up for that with ceaseless effort. Their hands never tire of building new things, their eyes never cease looking for the next opportunity, and no other of the People are as quick to abandon their morals or their creed if profit is in the offing. After the Eon of Cinders, a Council was formed, lead by our savior, the wizard Bex. Humans were quick to press this advantage, in only a generation ten human families had grown to hold unprecedented power in the young lands the People were carving for themselves.

Ten families that would grow to become great merchants, then the nobility, then the royal blood of our oppressors.  And one bloodline among them was greater still, the cursed family called Bright.

Even now there are many tales of this family, a family of mighty heroes. All lies, of course, the ill-reflection of the first Emperor’s light shining into the past to aggrandize his forebears. But they were the first to unite the great cities of Cynus, the first to put the crown on their heads, the first to put their boot on the necks of the People.

We served at the beck and call of human masters. Races that they found comely were kept in foul bondage as concubines and bond-slaves, races they found not to their liking were shut out  and hunted, and dubbed ‘monsters’.  We prayed in our pain to the Balance, but the gods act as they will and waited many long years before they sent our deliverance.

He was a simple farmer. A half-orc, like me. His family was killed by Imperial power, a blade buried in his back he fell to the earth to bleed out his final moments, just as many had fallen to the arrogance and cruelty of the humans. 

But he did not die. My Lady of Stone lent her grace and his wounds closed. He pulled the sword from his own chest and stood up amongst the ashes of his lands.

Thistledown. Our savior, the Undying One. The one to lead the People, to pick us up from our bended knees and show us the path to our freedom.

And so it began, the Revolt. Small at first, like tiny sparks in the dry forest — but they spread and grew into a mighty inferno. We shook the pillars of heaven with our wrath, and pulled down the Brights and all the Great Houses of humanity. We sowed the fields of our world with human blood and reaped a harvest of liberty. We did not slaughter every human that we could find, though perhaps we should have. They are a vile race.

And so the Second Empire began, with Thistledown as our new Emperor – guided by a true Council of the People, as it was always meant to be.

And for a time peace was ours.

For a time.

I speak these words as you would wish, Jocasta of the Sand. Let the knowledge pass from me to the next, that these things never shall be forgotten.

Davan Marlowe, Cleric of Jocasta

@gderekadams

Pictured [not me]
Pictured [not me]
Okay, I’m using Twitter. Follow if you dare.

I actually setup my account over a year ago, and sort of batted at it for a few weeks, then stopped. I was using it as a mouthpiece for one of my innumerable side projects, the Shadeaux Bros.  I’ve been a little hesitant to add another social platform into my head, I’m already dribbling unknown quantities of my psyche onto FB, Tumblr and Goodreads.

So far – -it’s been…fun? I like being able to directly tweet at people I respect — and annoy them.

In other news, getting feedback from a beta reader on Saturday over many, many drinks — my ego needs an alcohol bulwark to accept honest criticism.

 

The Truce through the First Imperial Age

And so we burned. We fought. We bled.

We danced to the dark flute of the gods. A thousand years of war.

All blamed on us, all laid at the feet of every human that survived.

The armies of the gods fought endlessly — the worst devastation of all when one of the Four would walk the fields of slaughter themselves. What mortal can stand against Sun, against Stone? The planet would have burned to a cinder, all of the People and every beast eradicated if not for the gods’ ‘mercy’. They kept us alive, each sheltered their own — their power kept us alive to continue the fight, to keep the fires burning.

That is when this planet found a name. Cynus. In the old tongue, it means ‘ashes.’

And in every army, we were the footsoldiers — the first to bleed. Humans were to blame, so each army saved a special ration of pain for our race. If not for our cunning, our adaptability, our will — there last drop of human blood would long since have been spilled on the dry ground.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And after a thousand years, at long last, one of our race arose to save us all. Us, and all the People of this world.

Her name was Bex. The most gifted wizard of the age, she rose through the ranks due to her wisdom and great power. Even in those days, the People would put aside their hatred if the need was great. After many years of battle, she finally found her way to the ear of Marrus, God of the Sky. Our Lord of Winds is the most clever and cunning of his siblings, then as now, and he listened eagerly to the wizard’s words when she spoke of a grand trick.  A ruse that would bring his enemies to heel, at a place of his choosing, totally defenseless.

And so it came to pass. The word went out to the armies of the Four, a great meeting would be held at the Cloud-King’s behest. A truce! A chance to speak in safety for the first time in long centuries. Perhaps, the People dared to hope, an end to the endless war.

Each of the Four came to the agreed upon place, the Vale of Maranth. They each were suspicious, but also eager to turn this meeting to their advantage. The Four arrived in the Vale, and took their seats in four stone chairs prepared for the purpose.

Artist - 二又方丈
Artist – 二又方丈

Marrus and his servant, Bex, were the last to arrive. The God of Sky tittered slightly as he slid into his seat. “Welcome, sisters and brother! I am so glad to see you here, at this place of peace.”

“Is is good to see you,” Lady Sun agreed. “Good to see you all.”

“Yes, it has been lonely so long apart,” Sea smiled.

Stone said nothing.

“Yes, good to see you here, all comfortable in your stone chairs. The stone chairs my servant has prepared for you. The stone chairs that now hold you bound and trapped forevermore!” Sky laughed with glee, slapping his hands on arms of his chair.

Sun, Stone, and Sea seethed with rage and bellowed. The mountains and plains of the entire globe rang with their furor. Sky continued to laugh at his siblings ire.

He laughed until he tried to get out of his chair.

“Yes,” Bex said stepping calmly into the center of her trap. “You are trapped too, Cloud-King.”

“How dare you?” the Zephyr Trickster laughed ruefully. “Really, how did you do this?”

“Yes, speak quickly before we tear you apart, worm,” Jocasta murmured. “Speak quickly.”

“You cannot harm me,” the wizard said. “You are bound to my power. Of your own free will you came, of your own will you sat in my chairs of stone. Your might is caught.  You cannot move, you cannot strike. If it is my wish, I will leave you here until the Unwinding of Time. Bitter, impotent, and bound.”

“I will swallow you for this,” Banu of the Black Water howled. “I will drown you and your race, your bones will waft in my waves. I sleep in your blood and will pull you down —”

“Enough,” Bex said, and the gods fell silent. “It is not my wish to bind you here. You are necessary to this world, to lock you away would only bring a slow ruin. I have brought you here to talk of Truce. You must withdraw from the fields of this world, you must agree to a Code to govern your endless game. You do not feel as the firstborn creatures of Cynus, you know nothing of heartache or sorrow. But I plead with you to hear me now, to feel one tenth of the pain you have husbanded in the creatures that fill your armies. Look upon what you have wrought and relent.”

And the gods heard her prayer. They looked one to the other, and one by one they each dropped their head in assent.

The gods and their captor spoke for many days. A careful Truce was laid, and the laws inscribed in the very fabric of reality. All of the the People waited and hoped. At last, Bex came from the Vale, alone but with a weary smile.

And then, what a time of celebration there was! That the hated blood of humanity should be the one to broker the peace was a marvel. Despised soldiers and battered slaves were welcomed into every hall, all of the People hailed the cleverness and wit of the Human.

And so it was that Bex united the great armies and lead the new Council in all matters. She taught the People of the laws that even the gods must follow, and how it could all lead to a true Balance in their world. The gods’ followers now found their deities more remote, more difficult to contact — but no less powerful when their might was brought to bear.

There followed a great time of peace, where our race, humanity, could finally take their place in pride with all of the others. We were counselors, advisors, knights, merchants, nobles. The wizard Bex had paid our debt and we were eager to move forward.

We meant so well.

But we are cunning. We can change. Our will is strong. And as we tasted the first sips of power, we found it sweet on our tongues. And so with slow patience and eager wit we found our way to it.

Was it any surprise that our cunning would again betray? That in the wake of peace and emancipation we would walk with careful step toward dominion, toward Empire?

Ah me. What fools we humans are!

– Galad Voss, Cleric of Marrus

World Under Construction – Tone Poetry

Artist Unknown
Artist Unknown

The secret roads of Night
the falling leaves of Autumn
the bright blade
shining in the dark.
Farewell to kith
and farewell to kin
we go forth into the Forest
hunting monsters
and singing strange songs
in the bower of Dawn.
We have no family
except each other
no story
except this one.
The fire burns in the night,
but is ashes come the morn.
Will you come and ride with us?
Will you come and die with us?
This is no time for heroes,
but the road calls all the same.
This is no time for heroes,
but we will remember your name.
— Swordkeep’s Song by Tyrol Limmermere
First Bard, Court of Pondegrance 1501

 

December Remember Dismember, So Soft and Tender

Yeah, I don’t know either. It’s a title, a title to a blog post!

I am in Hell Week of our production of Romeo & Juliet, so my brain tachyons are being primarily targeted against that creative project’s deflector shield, but I’ve got some dribs and drabs. BULLETED LIST.

  • Editing on The Riddle Box is at a standstill until this weekend, but I’m still on target to get it hammered into a readable shape for my Beta Readers by,
    Buster Keaton
    Buster Keaton

    let’s say…. DECEMBER 15th!!!!

  • I’m not excited about the new Hobbit movie, and that makes me kind of sad.
  • Another writer online is attempting to sell on-demand short stories, poems…and even novels. As in made-to-order, you tell him what you want the story or book to be about, and he will write it for you. He’s even offering live slots to watch the writing happen on Google Drive. I just…have really mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I don’t begrudge any writer their path to supporting themselves with their craft — but on the other hand it seems just unnecessarily mercenary and disrespectful of our art? Writing as product, built as easily and quickly as a pre-fab house in a subdivision? Logically it’s no different than writing professionally for a magazine or newspaper, but something about it just grinds my gears a touch — mainly because, shouldn’t the best use of your skill be to make, you know, art? Maybe just the thought of some phantom observer watching me write just makes my skin crawl.
  • Sleepy Hollow is endlessly charming and they just hired Victor MF Garber to play Ichabod’s father. Reverent squee.
  • Almost Human is delightful and I will punch any that disagree, the adventures of Eomer and Sassbot 9000 are a must watch for me.
  • Agents of Shield continues to grow and shake off it’s wobbly plotting — except for Skye. Seriously, writer — time for a pow-wow, figure out what story you want to tell with this character. Using her as the constant ‘dumb-question’ Window Character or SHIELD-doubter is completely played out. A disservice to the actress, and to the world you are building.
  • I’m directing Oklahoma in the spring …I should probably do some prep-work for that and confirm my production staff.
  • DM Burnout Tour 2013 continues apace. My Pathfinder group seems to be enjoying the published adventure I’m running, but I haven’t even had time to prep that properly. Need to do my nerd diligence before we play again on the 16th.
  • I wish I had time to play video games.
  • And see my Beloved.
  • And the four-footers.
  • Shadeaux Bros. holiday album is in pre-production.
  • There is a bizarre attitude one must affect to keep moving forward while self-championing your art. This bizarre blend of cocksure arrogance and razor-sharp anxiety, slathered over with a chocolate shell of delusion. Mike Birbiglia has  a great bit about it.
  • Spell/Sword makes a great holiday gift!

The Sage is In [Round One]

I put up a status on my FB fanpage asking for questions to fuel my next blog post. It’s been a while since I’ve activated my Sage prestige class, so please enjoy the shiny wisdoms here for your consumption. I’ll put up more as they come in.
Why do fools fall in love?

– Laura T.

What is a fool but an empty head?

Unencumbered by malice

or worry

or thought

they fall because

they fall without pause

gravity puts them

where they need to be

safe in the grooves

the record-turn of destiny

while we

the wise resist

our brains heavy and thick

with proud lines and numbers

clatter across the vinyl

while the fools

fall deep

into the simple clasp

of moss and time and

the slow revolve.

If you were going to play a pirate character in Pathfinder would you a) go Rogue or Fighter? b) what two weapons would you use? c) Drow or Tiefling?

– Daniel D.

Interesting question – I suppose it all depends on what type of ‘pirate’ that you have in mind. Are you thinking Errol Flynn – swashbuckler? Or more of an Edward Teach/Blackbeard – hardass murder dispenser? For the sake of this response, I’ll try to take the average of the two extremes.

a) Neither. I would go with a Ranger/Gunslinger multi-class. Dump most of your levels into ranger for the Two Weapon Fighting Style, and then focus all your Favored Terrain and Favored Enemy slots on aquatic types. Also training up a suitably vicious Animal Companion that could fight alongside you at sea would be wise, I recommend a Dragon Turtle.  Stack on 3-4 levels of gunslinger for the firearm proficiency and Grit points – a true swashbuckler could continuously fuel the Grit pool with all their feats of derring-do.

b) Falcata for main hand, Dragon Pistol for off. Your primary damage is going to be through melee, the spray effect of the pistol is mainly to soften up low-level mobs and disperse damage across a large group.

c) Tiefling. The bonuses to INT and DEX are key for a nimble fighter build, as well as the racial bonuses to Bluff and Stealth. Also Drow haven’t been cool since 1997.

The Riddle Box Beta Reader Worksheet

 

I’ve been working on a series of questions for my Beta Readers of The Riddle Box. The idea was for them to not read them until after they finish reading the draft, but I realized that if I carefully obscured the character names — and a few entire questions — it wouldn’t really matter if they read them beforehand — AND was sort of a backhanded way of revealing some of the things that all readers have to look forward to in the next book. Plus, I’m going out of town for the weekend, and felt guilty about my slow posting of late — and this is an easy cut-and-paste affair. This may be a huge mistake, but you can safely ignore the disclaimer at the top. OR CAN YOU? 

I also thought this might be an interesting ‘behind the scenes’ look at MY PROCESS. [Trumpets begins to blare.]

 

DO NOT LOOK AT THESE QUESTIONS UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE FINISHED READING

 

The Riddle Box.

 

Seriously. Don’t do it.

 

These questions are chock-full of spoilers and things that could influence your first read for better or worse. I have some specific concerns about the book, and specific areas that I’m less than pleased with, that I want to make sure you mentally target as you give me feedback. I’m not expecting you to actually respond to these questions ‘in-line’ as if this were some sort of high school worksheet [unless you’re in to that], but please be thinking about them as you prepare your feedback in whatever form you prefer it to take.

 

1. Do you feel cheated by the solution to the mystery?

  • Did I break the rules of the ‘locked room’ mystery?

  • There are a series of murders, did the explanation for any seem thin, unconvincing, or illogical?

  • Which of the murders did you need more information about?

 

2. Did Jonas or Rime act in a way that seemed incongruous with their portrayal in Spell/Sword?

 

3. This book introduces more ‘world’ information than the previous, how did you react to it?

  • What, if anything, would you have liked to know more about?

 

4. Overall, The Riddle Box has much less action than the first book — or at least it’s nearly half-way thru before there’s a big fight scene. Did you notice the lack?

 

5. I introduced two ‘love interests’ for the leads in this book, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. What were your thoughts about Jonas’ and Rime’s reaction to these characters?

 

6. With regards to [REDACTED], I was playing around with the trope of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ — too heavy handed?

 

7. [REDACTED] is a  [OBFUSCATED] character. Were you aware of that? Should you have been aware of that? What thoughts do you have about his portrayal, in relation to sensitivity?

 

8. The entire novel takes place in one location, the Manor. Were you ever confused by the layout or description of the locale?

  • Did the passage of time seem reasonable and easy to follow?

 

9. The repeated conceit of the ‘flashback’ chapters, i.e. Who was [REDACTED]?  to reveal more information about the murder victims — how did you react to these chapters structurally? How do  you think they impacted the flow of the novel?

  • Did you have any individual issues with these interludes?

 

10. How did you react to the further revelations of Jonas’ past? Does it contradict anything established in the first book?

 

11. [KILLER]. Discuss.

  • Was [REDACTED] scary?

 

12. The denouement of the novel is a bit rushed. Do you feel any explanations were hurried or glossed over when you wanted more detail?

  • Does Rime need another beat where she processes [REDACTED]’s death?

  • Jonas doesn’t approach Rime with the knowledge that they are going to [REDACTED], is this a problem?

 

13. [ENTIRE QUESTION REDACTED]

 

14. [ENTIRE QUESTION REDACTED]

 

15. Jonas manages to subdue [REDACTED] twice via headbutt. Is this funny or lame?

 

16. The scene of [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED], did you find this scene effective?

 

17. Any other flaws in logic or plot?

 

18. What would you say the theme of The Riddle Box is?

  • How effectively was this conveyed?

 

19. Compared to the first book, how did this one measure up against your expectations?

  • If you have not read the first, how well does this novel operate as a stand-alone experience?

20. What do you expect to occur in the next novel? What would you like to see explored in the future?

 

Normal caveats. These are all questions about the rough draft, the novel can change massively between now and publishing.

On Doctor Who and Why I’m Not Ready

I almost wept into some clean laundry this weekend. I think it was a pair of my girlfriend’s purple jeans.

Let me back up.

I’ve discussed a certain concept a few times here, and at various other locales. [See: My Friend’s Backyard, also While Drunk] That fictional characters have weight, have a presence all their own.  One way to think of it is similar to the conceit that gods grow in power through the belief and devotion of their followers, but more to the point — our relationship with these fictional characters has a very real effect upon us. I think more deeply than we realize most of the time. The heroes and villains that we keep in the pantheon of our mind guide us and teach us. They vibrate in the airwaves between human minds, growing stronger and more tangible as the mental energy grows. Very Science Fiction, you say?

Well, that brings us to the Doctor.

[And, yes, I realize that this concept is the LITERAL PLOT of one of David Tennant’s episodes, the one where he turns into Dobby and Martha tricks the tardis-doctor-whoMaster with the DragonBalls.]

I’m a latecomer to this show. I caught a few of the classic episodes on public television as a kid, even had a friend force me to watch a brace of VHS tapes with the Seventh Doctor. I enjoyed them, but it didn’t really click with me. I filed it away next to a lot of other BBC errata from those years like Are You Being Served? and Red Dwarf. I was aware of the modern continuation, but it remained on my periphery, until a roommate and I finally bowed to the nerd pressure, and popped in the first disc of the Eccleston season.

And it hit me. From the moment he took Rose’s hand and told her how he could feel the spin of the Earth.

I’ve tried to put my finger on exactly what I love so much about this character several times. He’s wise, yes. And powerful, yes. And noble and just and funny and mad, the Wise Old Wizard Writ Large. But there’s something more to the Doctor. Something about the weight of his history, in the world of the show and in the legacy of his fiction in the real world. 50 years of this character, unbroken and irresistible. [Yes, I know the show was off the air for years — but they didn’t stop making the radio plays or novels, NOW DID THEY SMARTY PANTS.] The cumulative force of hundreds of writers and dreamers and actors all slapping on pieces of the Best Person. I’ve always believed that we tell stories to create the things the universe requires. It can’t all be blank rock and stale chemistry — we need gods and devils and heroes and villains and tricksters and sages. And with the Doctor, we tell the story about a person who is a little bit of each.

My roommate and I started watching during the weird in-between time at the end of David Tennant’s tenure. After Donna left, but before The End of Time, when it was just the movie/specials ever month or so leading up to the huge climax. So, we watched Nine become Ten, then Ten love Rose, lose Rose, lose Martha, lose Donna, and the Doctor-Donna. From first love with this character to his darkest hour in the space of a few weeks. And man, the final days of Ten were dark. Waters of Mars to me still stands as one of the most shocking, dire, and unbelievably bleak moments in the Doctor’s long life. Around this time we heard the first rumbles of the new actor chosen to fill the role, and as devastated as I was to see Ten march to his doom — I was eager to meet his new face.

Because, I felt like this could by my Doctor. We were latecomers to Tennant, and no one with an active internet connection should have any confusion about the levels of adoration that he earned and still enjoys to this day. I know it’s petty, but when the whole world loves a character or a show, it’s hard for me to get quite as excited. To get quite as invested.

So we watched Ten become Eleven.

And it hit me. From the moment he threw the toast.

This was my Doctor.

doctor-who-the-god-complex-promo-pics-1Matt Smith came to that role and did the impossible. He owned it without stealing one watt of Tennant’s lightning. He was the heir, the scion of all that came before, with a lovely patina of Two. He was daffy and beautiful and intense and, well, wonderful, as the Doctor must be. I would argue, the finest actor to play the role in its modern iteration. [Mainly because the show’s writing got very dodgy underneath him, and he had to make it all work with his eyes, with his face, with the pure certainty of his portrayal. But enough of that, I came here to praise Caesar.] The pantheon of my mind glowed and I felt that I understood the universe a bit better, as secure as children dreaming of Santa Claus must be. It comforts me to believe in the Doctor in much the same way. To know that that character is somewhere out there in the firmament, mucking about in the TARDIS. A sentinel of my worldview, a fixed point. I’ve watched Eleven’s adventures with great delight [except for long sighs and groaning ‘Moffat…’ every so often], to the point where when I think of the Doctor I see him, just as when I think ‘President’ I see Barack Obama. The role is an office, a mantle, and it comforted me to know that my guy was in there.

But now he is leaving. Eleven becomes Twelve, vicious clock hands. The Doctor’s core is change, regeneration. It’s how the show stays fresh, a new face ushering in a new brace of tales to tell. I know that, and treasure that. Intellectually, I can’t wait to meet Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

But still.

So, there I was. On the couch, folding laundry. I hate working in silence, so I popped on Netflix. I browsed around a bit, then opted to re-watch one of Smith’s episodes, one of my favorites, The God Complex. I’ve seen it a few times, so I wasn’t really giving it my full attention, just some background noise as I sorted socks and folded towels.

I happened to look up, as Eleven peered into his room. [The episode is about a hotel, every room holds your greatest fear. The episode doesn’t show what the Doctor saw, but because I am just that nerdy, I know what Matt Smith said in an interview that he imagined. Ten men hanging from nooses, with one empty noose waiting for him.]

And it hit me. I’m not ready. I may have said it aloud, though only the dogs can attest to that. This has been a rough year. My mother died from cancer in May, after months of struggle. I’m still reeling now, depression and gloom have me in their grip. This is not a world I ever expected to live in. I’m not ready for my Doctor to go. It’s like swearing in a new President at war time. There’s going to be a gap. The chair’s going to be empty. One of the lights in my head is going to go dark, and it’s scary. It’s scary. I’m not ready.

Silly? A bit. True? Yes.

Psychotherapy via Fiction

I don’t talk about myself much.

It’s part of why I’m a terrible blogger.

Or the BEST blogger.

Or the second-to-worst blogger. Or the knee-high-to-a-june-bug blogger.

Okay, there was a point. I think a lot of people use social media, their blogs, Tumblrs as a natural forum to discuss their experiences, their feelings, whatever dark gloom sits on their heart at any particular space-time juncture. And I envy them. I honestly envy them. Even as I find some of the salient details and naked emotion at play, I don’t know, embarrassing?

That’s the word, it just seems so vulnerable, so undefended. It makes me feel awkward, like watching a movie with an extremely mortifying social situation. My entire psyche is built around defense, guarded input, measured output. I’m built on an old Chevy chassis, the better to conceal the weird, quiet kid inside with flair and panache multifarious. I kind of built a new me through middle school and high school, and now I’m kind of stuck with some of the strange architecture. A lot of it has been broken, admittedly — through tragic events and the stubborn ministrations of my Beloved. But ultimately, I’m still running DOS, underneath all of the upgrades.  Control what people see of me, do not react, weave the perceptions of others into a better version of me. if you know my true-name, then you have power over me, my spells won’t work, my incantations will fail.

So, when others write in a little shining box, ‘I’m hurt. I’m upset. Here is the reason that I am hurt and upset.’ I recoil a little bit, not because I think less of them, but because I can’t fathom the risk they are taking. And I feel superior, because that’s the salve of the insecure. You don’t get the emotional rewards of understanding, comfort, community, sharing — but you can twist yourself into knots and feel superior about your strength, or your isolation, or your wise, wise ways.

I’ve learned in recent years to work past the knee-jerk. Where before I would keep my hurt between my teeth for as long as it took to fade, now I still bite down – – but then slowly let go to a trusted few. Well, some of the time.

Okay, very rarely, but some times.

Which is stupid, right? It’s like being hit with a cannonball, and buttoning your shirt over the wound. “I…I got it, I’ll just ride it out. ” Letting the metal cool and sear inside you, then carrying the weight and carrying the weight and carrying the weight. And since you don’t let anyone else help, your mind has to process the metal somehow.

So I write stories.

Well, it’s not quite that simple of a correlation. I don’t write because I have shit to deal with, it’s just a convenient place to launder my emotional drug-money.

And it’s not like I’m writing simple allegories. I don’t sit down and assign roles to my pain. As is no surprise to many, I’m not a ‘plotter’, I don’t really use outlines or character charts. My writing prep is generally opening  a document and typing. The story’s already out there, in the ether, in the stone, just got to tune the radio between my ears the right way, and I’ll get it.

My subconscious is my co-author. When I go back and edit, or read old stories, I’ll have little to no memory of writing certain details, or when exactly I made certain decisions. It’s like reading something a stranger wrote. And it’s not in the individual moments or scenes that I start to see the pattern, it’s in the long scope. Repeated characters and colors and things that I discover are baked into the bedrock of my fiction. Masked men, holes in the wall, precursors, music, fallen mentors, empty halls, shadows, love, and death.

I’m trying to say something. I’m trying to say something to myself.

And that’s what The Riddle Box is about.

Things that I’m afraid of, things that I believe in. The only way I can explore my interior is through slow interrogation of my sub-conscious. There are moments in the book that make my skin crawl. Because it’s very close to true. It’s very close to taking a risk. It’s very close to pulling out the cannonball. I’m sure most writers understand this, there are words that you carry, lines and bits of description, words that matter. You keep them inside your head, little touchstones of yourself, little puzzle pieces in your pocket until you find the right puzzle. I gave some of them away to the Riddle Box. I gave Rime my younger self’s words, I gave the man in the blue coat the words of vision, I gave the killer the words of the end. There are words I gave in the prologue that break my heart.

[No spoilers. Not even while I lay on the divan with my arm flung athwart my pale brow.]

I’m trying to say something. With this book, with the long journey of Rime and Jonas. I don’t know quite what it is, but as writer, or at least as a me…you point your fingers at the part that hurts and start typing. Maybe it will all make sense when I finish.

Or maybe it won’t. Ha, is this dramatic irony? I’ll bet my readers are fully aware of what I’m getting at, and none of them have thought to share.

This post will probably make more sense when anyone other than me has read Riddle Box.

So, now, even I’m confused. What was the point of this? This post? The vague feeling of unease left at the end of the road, when you can’t remember how many crows you saw, or how many trees with no leaves. Did I even travel, was I even there? Is this the same me that started typing?

I’m not 100% sure. Is this even the same dimension? We slip, you know. Often in our dreams, but not uncommonly between blinks or when we check around the corner.

This is weird.

I know.

But it’s an admission. An un-guarded output.

And it’s a start.

Buy my book.