[This is the perfect single post to show how ridiculous and wonderful this narrative can be. I get to have a mysterious instructor dropping a sick line, a dream-sequence with a Shakespearean quote, and a Bear man cursing in a Scooby-Doo voice all in one post. Oh delight. Ain’t no better writing workshop then staying ahead of my Players. ]
“Five minutes? An hour, two? A day, a week, a year? None of these are truly enough to cover the breadth of the subject, but it helps me better tailor my lesson plan,” the dark-haired instructor said calmly.
The three men spoke in turn, right to left.
“I am the Villain,” said the blindfolded man.
“I am a tale told by a fool,” said the Man in the Hat. “Signifying nothing.”
“My name is August Wood. Please, I don’t know where I am. Can you tell me where I am?” the final man in the white sash implored.
The Man did not seem to react to Zephyr’s administrations, his eyes tightly shut. She surveyed the room with calm and noticed two things, which also became immediately apparent to the other cadets clustered in the room.
The lights on EMBER’s main console were blinking, and beginning to grow visibly dimmer.
The two young children, the two Marks were nowhere to be seen, neither was the time-controlling Green-Glass Node.
Bear-Lucht clapped his massive paws over his eyes and cursed, “RHOO RHIIIITTTTT.”
Sorry, I’ve been super quiet on the blog lately. Kefka isn’t going to defeat himself.
In the never-ending quest to get more copies of my book out there in the world, I’ve enrolled the book in Kindle’s new Matchbook service. This is where when you buy
the paperback copy, you can then get the Kindle version at a reduced rate. And because I am a benevolent and kind author/publisher I have made the Kindle version free when you purchase the paperback. This also means, if you’ve bought the Paperback version previously, you can login to Amazon and download the Kindle version for free RIGHT FREAKING NOW.
I still remain committed to the belief that people reading my books is FAR more important than people buying the book, so please don’t be shy. I’m also running another Free Download special of the book in November, if you have friends on the fence about giving the book a shot.
“VAGABONDER.” Talitha called sweetly at the top of her lungs. “HEY, VAGABONDER.”
There was no immediate sign of her engineer, so she took a moment to enjoy the sprawling mad-tumble of her ship’s cargo bay. The interior was all darkwood, gleaming with fresh seal and polish, the sizable bay split into five sections — four small rooms in each corner: the Galley, Toolroom, Engineer’s Quarters, and Miscellaneous Stuff — with the main floor-space occupied by the Floatstone Engine.
The blonde girl smiled as she approached. Something about the cool magenta light and sedate turn of the stone always made her feel good. The main part of the
engine was in the center of the bay, on a raised platform. A vast glass cylinder lay on its side, over twice her height in diameter, capped on each end with brass and steel, bristling with lights, toggles, and wires — the largest of which fed down into the under-deck of the ship, and up into a massive console that sat adjacent. But her eyes were only for the stone, the Floatstone. It was roughly shaped like a potato, pocked and asymmetrical. It neatly filled its glass container, spinning in a calm gyre. Talitha knew that if the stone were ever removed from the Engine, it would shoot right through the roof and never stop going until it left this planet behind.
Maybe I can strap myself to it. The captain’s plan wasn’t quite as reckless as Floatstone Riding, but she would work on a saddle just in case. Ultimately, it would have the same effect as her current strategy. Out. Out and about.
“Okay, seriously. Where are you?” the blonde girl spun slowly.
Her engineer swung into view, not from his quarters or the Galley as she had expected. But horizontally from behind some nearby crates, as if he were standing on the righthand wall of the bay.
“Oh, Captain!” the tall goblin’s olive-green face split in a bemused smile. “What a pleasure, what a delight!”
Talitha walked over and saw that her engineer was wearing his Molasses Moccasins, a cunning device of his own design that allowed him to stick to surfaces as ably as most spiders and some roaches. It also left a dank, black residue everywhere he walked, requiring furious scrubbing with a mop on an extended pole when he would complete his wall-walking jaunts. There were several magical objects that had an identical effect without all the sticky goo and cleanup, but Talitha had learned early that her Engineer had a particular way of doing things. his own primrose path of popcorn and baling wire– and often would come upon most peculiar solutions on his way.
The Vagabonder slowly squelched down the wall, more of his tall form coming into view. He was nearly seven-feet tall, with a wild brush of cotton-white hair a stark contrast to his green skin. Long, spidery fingers danced on a control cluster hanging from his belt, and absently pushed the delicate safety glasses he always wore up onto his forehead. Talitha had bought him some proper goggles, steel reinforced with smoked lenses — but he had politely refused, much preferring the transparent plastic ones he favored that could be bought by the box at any well-appointed lab supply store. She had never known him by any other name than ‘The Vagabonder’ and he seemed to require nothing further. Only time to explore and improve his one true love, the Lodestar.
The goblin slid out of his moccasins and placed them delicately in a nearby pail dedicated to that purpose. He cast around for his Long-Mop. “You seem excited, child. I can only assume you have devised some new adventure, some hidden place on the globe that we will soon be flying?”
Talitha took a breath. She was the captain, and her first mate was older than she was — but the Vagabonder was a Full-Fledged Adult. And while she and her crew were allowed to come and go as they pleased, her extended family had made it very clear that the engineer was ultimately in charge. He would never allow her – or his beloved ship — to go into any true danger. Not without a surreptitious call or two to make sure the Cavalry was in the wings. She would have to approach this topic very carefully, and with a degree of tact. She ran a hand through her poorly coiled skull-locks to collect her thoughts before she began, keeping her tone determinedly casual.
“Oh, I don’t know. We’ve run around the planet so much, and seen so many things. Maybe it’s time to turn my attention, you know, to different things.”
The Vagabonder nodded affably as he dunked his mop into a nearby basin of soapy water. He thumbed the flashing green button that slowly extended the tool to sufficient length to clean his footprints off the wall and ceiling.
“And I remembered something you told me, about the Lodestar. I mean, I know it was made by the Precursors and all…”
“Yes!” the goblin swabbed with excitement. “And can I say, it does my heart good just thinking about you, the last Scion of that fabulous race, as captain of their greatest ship.”
Talitha puffed our her cheeks. The Lodestar was fast, the fastest, but she had seen far greater devices in her travels. The great city of Kythera alone — she shook her head. She was the last descendant of the Precursors, as far as anyone knew, and that fact had put her in a great deal of danger, and lead her to some pretty destructive moments. Not everyone has destroyed a city by singing a song. It was something she didn’t like to think about much, but the tall goblin was excited about the topic, so she changed tack.
“Right, right! I am, yes, no other Precursors anywhere. That’s what I was thinking. And I started thinking about how you’re always talking about the ‘black boxes’ all around the ship, the secrets of the Floatstone Engine…” she let her voice trail off, encouraging the engineer to pick up the trail.
The Vagabonder did not disappoint. It was one of his favorite topics.
“YES. After all this time aboard, I am still so far from truly understanding their purpose. During the War, we were doing our best to stay ahead of the devils, or doing our best to catch up with you and your kidnappers to really delve into the true power of this ship. Ah, the ship was barely at Level Zero when I came on board, but with patience and work we brought her up to Level Four…but then, ah I hit a brick wall. There’s something I don’t understand, some tool I lack. I had hoped to spend some time delving into the Arkanic Computer that Captain Carbunkle found on Kythera, but he took it with him back to Pice. The Lodestar is the fastest ship in the world, it’s true, but I know she can do more, if only we could find the way,” the engineer’s long fingers flexed on the handle of the Long-Mop with excitement.
“Right, right,” the current-captain smiled. He’s on the hook. Time to reel him in. “That’s what I was thinking. I think you’ve been missing the right tool. And what better tool to unlock the secret of the Precursors then…”
The Vagabonder gasped and let the Long-Mop fall to the floor, suds and mollasses stains forgotten.
“…the last of the Precursors?” Talitha grinned, innocent as a baby sheep nibbling on the first green grass of spring.
I think this was from high school, sometime. It’s apparently a poetry portfolio, and since it’s on notebook paper, I’m guessing I did it at the last minute and banked on my native charm with our Gifted Teacher, Ms. Stephens to carry me through. And from the ‘A’ scribbled on top, I guess my plan worked. Here follows the transcript of three awful poems.
What Is A Poem?
A poem is the color of night wind blowing.
A poem is the sound of green things growing.
A poem is the taste of the headman’s blade.
A poem is the smell of bluish-green jade.
A poem is darkness.
A poem is light.
A poem’s a bandage.
A poem’s a knife.
A poem’s all of these; and more
A poem is both key and door.
OH MY GOD THAT IS TERRIBLE. ‘bluish-green jade’ really? REALLY. Oh man, I really thought I was super clever with this one — showing the scent of a sight, the sight of a smell, IT’S LIKE I’M WALT WHITMAN OVER HERE. And then the juxtaposition of ‘knife’ and ‘bandage’. Wow, it really hits you. Hits you hard, with all that TRUTH I’m dropping.
To Be Sung Tunelessly
Trees grow (in the ground)
Waters flow (up and down)
Winds blow (through the trees)
Farmers hoe (dirty knees)
(Now thank me for giving you the Secret of Life)
Holy shit. Okay, I’ve got to believe I wasn’t serious about these. I hope, I pray? Okay, last one.
I hereby state that Galileo and Copernicus were all wrong.
The world revolves around me;
Whirling and twirling in front of my eyes.
How dare they!?!
That I could possibly not be the sum total of creation!
I am not a speck of dust, oh no
It is the stars that are tiny;
No bigger than a pin head
and less important
Ha, this one wasn’t too bad. It probably also marks the last time I ever used a semi-colon.
A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my old room in the house I grew up in. My mother was something of a pack rat, a custodian of a thousand pieces of paper chronicling my childhood. I pawed through box after box of old report cards, half-completed math worksheets, programs from graduations and honor’s ceremonies from Grammar School through High School.
Most of it went in the trash. A lot of it was too sterile, boring. A page of me practicing cursive from second grade has no connection to me now. A blurry picture of a tree I took doesn’t mean much when I don’t remember taking the picture, the tree, or even why I was taking the picture.
But then there was some stuff. Some cool stuff. Some embarrassing stuff. Some interesting stuff. Stuff that I did feel a connection to, that I could still feel the timeline stretching from me now, just shy of 34, to the weird kid in middle school and high school that made these things. Especially because, one of the first things I found was my Time Travel Hat.
It never fit me, when I first made it. I had a huge head as a kid, but it’s only now that it fits like a glove. I love the tiny coincidences and time overlaps of life — it’s all up to interpretation of course, we’re all creating out own mythology. And maybe that’s what this is all about. I’ve always believed that the art reveals the artist, and in many ways my writing is a tool to interrogate my subconscious. A wily foe, if ever there was. There’s things I write, symbols and characters and repeated themes, that I only have the vaguest notion of what it means.
So, now I have a time capsule…and a Time Travel Hat. I have old pictures and stories and poems and toys, scribbled doodles on the backs of folders. Posters and stories and all sort of strange errata, the output of the Derek Prototype. Time to dig back through the evidence, like a good detective. It’s a cold case, but the Truth is Out There. I’ve only skimmed through this stuff, grabbing the things that I still felt a little heat on. The first whispers of Aufero, the Gray Witch dangling her long fingers into my young mind, maybe even the early shadows of the long Dark? And some really dorky pictures, of course.
Over the next few days or weeks, I’ll be throwing the best stuff up on here for due investigation. Random pictures and errata I’ll probably just put up on my Tumblr, if you’d care to follow along.
I’ll be creating a new category, Time Travel Hat, and tagging all posts like this with the same. Come along, Gentle Reader, let the investigation begin — the Hat begins to blink and whir…
This information is not for the feint of heart or anyone considering self-publishing. But that’s who I’m putting it up for [beyond my own information and planning for The Riddle Box], anyone else thinking of taking the plunge. It’s one of my proudest achievements and I don’t regret it – – but damn, she do cost, don’t she?
Spell/Sword Sales – Year to Date
Paperback – 65 units …….$114.10 total Royalties
Kindle – 58 units …….$63.65 total royalties.
Free Downloads: 316
Spell/Sword Gross Profit: $177.75
Incomplete List of Spell/Sword Costs [approximate]
Cover Illustration, Layout and Design: $500.00
Purchase of unique ISBN number: $100.00
Printing of Beta Copies for review and proofing: $150.00
Giveaways and Promotional Material: $175.00
Shipping of Giveaways, Promotional Material: $50.00
Approximate Total Publication and Promotion Cost: $975.00
Spell/Sword Net Profit GRAND TOTAL:
Hoo. Ouch. Damn, buy some books, people.
This was way more depressing than I thought it would be. I clearly have an expensive habit, and it is called Swordpunk.
I like my book a lot. More than I did Spell/Sword the first time I read it.
Now, the caveats. I am obviously the least objective reader this novel will ever have. The very first draft of Spell/Sword was an unqualified mess. I had never writtena book before, after all! I wrote it in sequential order from beginning to end, with only a very loose idea of where I was going and what I was doing. I write in third person – limited omniscient — but my character POV/ focal point would wander like mad. I didn’t write in chapters, just one long narrative, with horizontal lines when I hit the end of a scene, or the location shifted. The jokes were terrible — or rather, it sounded like me telling the joke, instead of the characters. The plot stutters along in fits and starts, and only really gets cooking half-way through the book. [It’s when Jonas and Rime wake up in the caverns, if you’ve read it.] I had no idea what the Gray Witch was about, or the Brothers Jack, or my fixation with wyverns.
But I loved it of course.
And hated it, too. That’s how my brain works. My normal relationship with any art that I make is to despise it and beat it into shape via cruelty and malice. [Ask anyone who’s been in a play that I’ve directed.]
So, I edited. For months on end, and then I sent my darling into the caring hands of my Alpha and Beta Readers. They liked and hated it too. I learned more from their feedback, suggestions, and — let’s be honest — frank corrections than from any writing tutor or English Professor. Probably because many of my Alpha/Beta Readers are writing tutors and English Professors. I moved chapters and deleted chapters and chiseled and filed.
This is to indicate, that a lot of the reasons why I’m so happy with my second book is due to the lessons I learned the first go-around. I’m reacting primarily to the absence of the same stupid mistakes I made when writing Spell/Sword. For starters, The Riddle Box had a structure from the beginning. When writing a murder mystery, you kind of need to know whodunit from the outset. Then you reverse-engineer the plot to reveal the suspects, clues, red herrings in a semi-logical fashion. I purposefully wrote in chapters. I had a very specific – GASP – theme that I was trying to get across. This is a very personal book, in a very strange way. [I’ll save that topic for further woolgathering at a later date.] The first draft of The Riddle Box is a book instead of just a pile of pages, I feel, and that makes me very proud.
I was very worried that there wasn’t a big fight early in the book. I think Spell/Sword readers will expect a certain level of skulduggery and action from the sequel, but it just didn’t serve the narrative this time out. [*pushes up monocle*] There’s a murder right off the bat, of course, and plenty of Agatha Christie intrigue — but no standup fight until about 1/3 of the way through. After the first read, it didn’t feel like a long time before the first true fight, so that pleased me. And don’t worry, the last third of the book is non-stop He-Man Action Figure smashing time.
Also, no Random Encounters this book. I loved fighting the dinosaur and the frog-men, but all of the combat in this book is against named characters and directly serves the plot. I know. I’m disappointed in myself too.
As opposed to the first book, which is a ‘road picture’. The Riddle Box is a closed-room murder mystery. The entire novel takes place in one location, over one night. I kept the location details fairly consistent throughout, but I marked tons of places to double check. For example, mid-way through the draft I started referring to the ‘black and white marble floor of the Lobby’, but I had been very clear at the beginning that it was all white.
Need to work on character voice. There’s a lot of characters in this one, and some of them I didn’t find their voice until near the end, I need to go back to their first appearances and keep that voice consistent. Also, character voice got very wonky during the MAD DASH, need to polish those sections as well, especially the big soap opera moments.
The Mad Dash: The draft is 160 pages long, I wrote the final 60 in a week. It was the most startling experience, and I loved it — but there are some dodgy, dodgy bits. Mainly some of the chapters are more than a little breathless as I tried to write and stay on top of the wave. Some sections it adds, but the climax and the denouement need some room to breathe.
Speaking of soap opera! I love the trappings of Victorian and Agatha Christie mysteries — and I also have started to embrace the need for some light romance in my genre fiction. CALM DOWN. Whatever you are thinking, I didn’t do that. Jonas and Rime are never getting together. I introduced some potential crushes for our heroes and watched to see what happened. In brief, it was fun times. I need to work on the resolution of Jonas’ romance subplot though — it is super damn creaky. The intent is correct, but I was throwing bricks at the hoop for that section of dialogue.
Aufero World History: I’m mostly pleased with the world-building stuff I put in this book. Lots of stuff about the Precursors, the further history of Aufero, Wood Elves, Sea Elves, the Nameless God, Gilead, bards, and the Seafoam Trading Company. As with everything, there are some creaky bits, but I wanted to give plenty of nerd fodder for the readers who wanted more world information. It still is secondary to the plot, where it shall ever remain in Swordpunk.
Back Story: Huge reveals for Jonas’ dark past! I was surprised by what I wrote down, which is always a neat feeling. I knew the basic outlines of course, but a couple of salient details completely floored me. Oh, Subconscious — you are a tricksy devil.
Jonas’ Master – I love names. I love coming up with good names. I’m more than a little proud of the names I come up with. I AM HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME COMING UP WITH THIS VERY IMPORTANT CHARACTER’S NAME. I used a placeholder, Sir Bentwight, in the draft — but I am having a miserable time with this one. To me, names are very intuitive. I think of the character, and make an empty place in my head – -and generally a name falls right in. But not this time, man. I can be a little metaphysical about my craft – so maybe it’s not time for me to know this character’s name? Maybe I’m forcing it?
I really like all of the new characters, even though I kill off a fair amount of them — even my favorite. 😦
It works. The theme works. The machinery of what I want to say is there. Just got to make it look prettier.
There is a character in this book that I am literally terrified of. I can’t say more until people have had a chance to read the book, as it is a major spoiler. Here’s how scared I am of this character: Soon I will be recording an audio track of the draft to help me with editing. I honestly don’t know if I can read this character’s lines.
I high-fived myself four times while reading.
Beta Readers better get ready — I am very, very eager for feedback and praise. And critique! I will be lurking in your shrubbery watching you read.
The young captain ran down the wooden steps and bounded down the hall. The Lodestar was split into two levels — the first a series of bunk-rooms for the crew, and below a large cargo hold that housed the Galley and the Engine. Talitha continued to hum as she bopped along, letting her hand trail along the wooden walls, crayon-box painted nails scratching on the doors. As they had since the ship was discovered, the fine wooden doors were garishly painted with symbols to identify them. Sun Room, Moon Room, Red Circle, Blue Circle, Green Circle, Star. She had made up a very elaborate song about them when she first came on board, but her
excitement would not allow her to call it to mind.
Her excitement would allow her to pester Della, however.
Talitha hooted and banged on the door marked with the Blue Circle and then kicked it open without waiting for an answer. The room had two bunks bolted to one wall, one above the other. A roughly crafted wooden rack was nailed to the opposite wall. It had once bristled with all types of magical weaponry, but not only a rusty broadsword and dented buckler hung there. A pile of sheets and quilts quivered on the lower bunk, contracting as if to defend itself from the noise and the overly boisterous blonde captain.
“GOOD MORNING, DELLA,” Talitha bawled and flopped her narrow posterior into the center of the blanket-monster’s girth.
“Groan,” the blanket actually said the word ‘groan’.
“PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO RISE AND JOIN US IN THE CARE AND OPERATION OF THE SHIP?”
“WHAT,” Talitha bounced cheerily. “WHAT DELLA I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU JUST SAID.”
The blanket monster contracted further, then hurled Talitha flailing across the room. The rust-brown quilt flipped down to revealed a wide face smeared with sweat and squished with sleep. Della’s maimed hand appeared and pushed lank hair out of her face. Talitha’s first mate had lost two fingers off her left hand during the devil’s assault on her hometown. She was also three years older than the captain, but had taken to her duties as pilot and first mate with casual equanimity. It seemed that Della had some sky-pirate in her blood, and as long as Talitha kept pointing the bow of the ship toward thunderstorms and pillage, the broad-shouldered woman was content.
“What do you want, Captain?” Della said politely, scratching her chest.
“So, Della,” Talitha came back and sat down on the edge of the bunk. “I’m about to do something probably a little more dangerous and stupid than usual. Is that a problem?”
Della snorted and pulled the blanket back over her heard.
“Della. I’m serious,” the captain leaned in close and whispered. “I’m really asking your advice.”
“Do I have to get up?” the blanket-monster asked.
“Uhh…”Talitha considered it. ” I guess not.”
The captain patted the quilted bulk and rocketed out the door. The narrow sliver of permission and acceptance fueled her steps toward the cargo bay. Talitha grabbed the rail to the set of steps that lead below and paused. Something…
With a start, Talitha looked up at the ceiling. She stared directly into a mirror.
Or rather, into the face of her twin.
“What are you doing?” Sinoe asked.
Her twin had braced her arms and legs against the wooden struts that supported the deck above. She seemed completely at ease, as if she had been there for some time.
“Dammit, Sin,” the captain growled, running fingers through her hair. “What are you doing up there?”
Her twin blinked. This was a new trick she had learned, blinking. Talitha had taught it to her as a way to show confusion during a conversation, or surprise, or sarcastic disdain. Talitha had little doubt what this blink was supposed to indicate.
The captain made a rough leap and grabbed her twin’s torso. She hung in the middle of the hall, letting her feet dangle. Sinoe looked at Talitha, her face showing no strain or discomfort from the added weight. Except for her twin’s hair being purple and Talitha’s being gold, the two were like a pair of bookends. As Talitha grew tired of explaining, as a child she had been kidnapped and replaced with a doppelganger, a cunning doll designed to mimic her in every way. It had been a simple device, but after much work and reconstruction by the Lodestar’s engineer, the doll had become something more than it was. The captain giggled and pulled herself up and planted a kiss on Sinoe’s cheek before dropping back to the floor. Her twin blinked again.
Talitha had been nine when Sinoe was built and now she was thirteen. The doll and the engineer had matched every growth spurt, every bony knee and awkward hip. The captain wrinkled her nose as she galloped down the stairs. I wonder what it’s going to be like when we both get our period?
The captain of the Lodestar clattered down the stairs to the Cargo Bay. Talitha loved the ship, the deck and the sky most of all, the weird rooms still crammed with debris from old adventures and great battles. But she knew that the Engine was the heart of the ship, the ancient technology that made her ship fly through the air, faster and better than the anything else in the world. The magenta radiance filled the bay as she hit the last step, her eyes eager to spot her engineer and discuss something of greater danger and stupidity than usual.
“I was born on the water, with three dollars and six dimes—,” Talitha sang with her back against the comforting wood-grain of the deck and her hands folded behind her head. “Wait.”
She crossed her right foot over her knee, eyes still idly tracking the clouds that moseyed across the sky. “Is it ‘born on the water’ or ‘born underwater’?”
A growl and sigh crinkled her nose. Her eyes closed as she tried to remember the last time she had heard the song. She hummed the tune, two or three times, replacing and slotting the lyric with each attempt.
“Hey!” Talitha yowled, leaning her head up. ” Is it ‘born on the water’ or ‘born underwater’?”
Lucas stuck his head out of the wheelhouse. He had his thumb stuck into a massive book, bound in simple red leather with neat silver letters stamped into the spine. “What?”
“That song. That song that Elora sang that time.”
The boy blinked. His threadbare doublet was neatly buttoned and his dark hair carefully cropped. He looked as out of place on the deck of the airship as he had three years ago when he had first stepped aboard. Lucas was two years older than his captain.
His captain rolled up from her prone position on the deck, hands resting on her ankles. Talitha shook her hair out, it was matted with sweat and oily with infrequent washing, but it still resisted turning into proper skull-locks, much to the blonde girl’s displeasure. A captain of a pirate ship had a certain glamour, a certain aesthetic she felt — and the long strands of yellow-gold were absolutely unacceptable. She scratched her stomach and glowered at the silent scholar across the deck.
“That. Song. When we were in Pice.”
Lucas blinked again. With exaggerated care he opened his book back up and slowly slid back out of view.
Pointed silence filled the deck like a fog.
“LUCAS.” Talitha pulled her legs close to her body and pushed herself up into a leap-frog stance.
“I am the captain of this ship, and you will answer my questions about song lyrics with promptness and all due deference. That is a” her voice dropped into gravel-drama. “a direct order.”
Still nothing from the wheelhouse. Talitha stood up and stretched, her blonde hair trailing in the wind in a most un-piratical fashion. She was wearing a stained tank-top and baggy red pants held on with a a motley assortment of straps and purloined zippers. A brown cord was tied around her wrist. She was thirteen years old and captain of the Lodestar, the fastest ship in the world. And that was a fine thing.
Talitha Brown was a legend in Aufero. At the age of ten, she had helped the previous crew of the Lodestar stand against the world-obliterating terror of the Shadow Plane, learned from the greatest heroes, walked in places that most could only dream of. The armies of devils rode forth in the Thirteen Day War and she had stood in the vanguard of the forces of Light. She had sung the Song of the End and brought the lost city of Kythera to its knees.
But then the War was over. Good won. Her family, her Heroes had gone on to serve the shattered world as best they knew how. And they left her in charge of the fabulous airship, left her to wander where she will. The whole of the planet was hers to explore.
But, in the time-honored fashion of thirteen year-olds, she was vaguely dissatisfied.
The problem with Good triumphing over Evil is it really cuts down on the opportunity for Adventure. The liches and mummies scurry back into their tombs, the ghouls and gremlins retire, the gibbering insanities that hunger for blood grumble off to the hidden places of the world to wait out the term of the current administration and quietly plot to vote the Darkness ticket the next electoral cycle. The planet still teemed with wonders, but Adventure requires conflict. A Villain, a Beast, a Plague on Common Decency, at the very least. And those malevolent ingredients were very difficult to find of late.
Talitha knew. She had looked.
Compounding this issue was a further problem. When Great Heroes triumph over Evil, the word tends to spread. And when the Great Heroes have a very distinct and memorable craft, say a unique flying ship of unmistakable design, a picture of that craft also tends to be circulated in all of the most prestigious Evil Publications. The blonde adventurer could run out of fingers counting the number of times she had flown the Lodestar to investigate a rumored monstrous outbreak, only to have the monsters flee as soon as they caught sight of her ship. A small red dragon had even offered to surrender on one occasion to her undying irritation and mortification.
And the few times I actually found a fight to get into…Talitha sighed. Her family were all too quick to arrive, to protect their little girl. She would be two steps into an old crypt, or forgotten fortress of evil, and in a flurry of well-meaning axes, fists, swords, claws, fire, and ice, her Heroes would barge in and stomp on her Adventure with both feet and whisk her off for pancakes and finger-wagging.
“I was born underwater, with three dollars and six dimes.” Talitha sang again, then put a foot up on the stone rail that surrounded the deck. It glowed a faint magenta, the the strange technology that kept the ship afloat working perfectly.
“I’m so bored, Lucas. Lucas. LUCAS,” the young captain didn’t look back to see if he was listening, it had become a habit to antagonize her bookish crewmate, even if he wasn’t paying attention or even present.
“You know what I think,” his voice came from the empty window of the wheelhouse, Lucas was sitting on the floor reading, as was his habit when taking watch and steering.
“I know!” Talitha kicked the rail with her foot. “We could get into more trouble if were weren’t in this ship.”
But the Lodestar was home. And it was the fastest ship in the world. And despite her mad wanderlust, Talitha knew she couldn’t leave the ship behind.
“Exactly. It’s too distinctive, with all the Precursor technology and that huge blue flag.” Lucas clucked.
“I know, I KNOW.” Talitha tugged at her lip and stared out into the blue.
“There’s nowhere in the world we can go that we won’t be recognized. Do you remember the time that goblin tribe called Agnar to apologize when they dented our hull?” Lucas stood up and leaned on the window of the wheelhouse. “That was really embarrassing.”
Precursor technology. Nowhere in the world. Talitha grinned. A wide, dangerous grin. She turned and let Lucas drink in the site of her smile.
Lucas blenched. “Oh. No. Whatever it is. NO.”
The captain of the Lodestar winked and skipped across the deck to the stairs leading down, down into the belly of the ship, down into the secret heart of the ancient technology that powered her ship.
“Just need to have a quick talk with our engineer,” Talitha called. “Don’t fret!”
She grinned again. Fret. Fret your ass off, book boy. The Captain has a cunning plan.
Spell/Sword – My fantasy series, the main focus of this blog. The first book, Spell/Sword, was released April 2013, and I just completed the rough draft of the second novel, The Riddle Box, due for release in the next few months. It takes place on a planet called Aufero, my little playground on the nexus of the ‘consensus fantasy universe’ as Terry Pratchett referred to it. It mainly concerns the adventures of my unfortunate protagonists, Jonas and Rime, as they make their way towards a dark future, while cramming in as much adventure and skulduggery as possible before they arrive. Jonas is the sword and Rime the spell, a runaway squire of below-average intelligence and a mage of unfathomable power grafted with weaknesses of equal severity — not least of which her unsavory and brittle personality.
Their tale is an experiment, this concept of Swordpunk that I’m developing — but there’s also a fair amount of toilet humor and Dungeons & Dragons’ riffing.
Lodestar – A Pathfinder campaign turned group-writing experiment turned all-consuming narrative sensation. It exists in complete form on the lovely pages of Obsidian Portal, available for any brave souls who want to try and guess where Spell/Sword is heading, or just looking for a truly original tale. No knowledge of Spell/Sword is required however, it stands on its own as the definitive ‘rubble to Ragnarok’ arc of most D&D parties.
It’s sort of weird actually, like being a time traveler. 80% of Lodestar was already complete when I started work on Spell/Sword, and since it’s in the same world ten years in the future, I’m always playing Doctor Who:The Home Game. I know exactly where the characters Jonas and Rime will be in ten years. I’m constantly sprinkling little references to Lodestar into Spell/Sword — and through the endless diabolical malice of my sub-conscious – vice versa.
Lodestar mainly concerns a group of adventurers who discover a damaged airship of great speed and power…and greater secrets. Through the machinations of a master villain they become the protectors of a special child, and pit their skill and strength against the terrible might of an evil corporation, a Machine from a forgotten age, and the King of Hell and his tireless legions of death. Also, there was a cooking contest that was pretty sweet.
The Misplaced Adventures of Talitha Brown – The further adventures in the world of Aufero, unknown even to me! Except for minor glimpses and ideas and a tattoo on my left arm.
Titan’s Wake – my current Pathfinder campaign. An endless desert, a world in ruin. The Dwarven Empire rules the scattered cities and survivors with an iron fist, psychic dragons dream underneath the sands and plot their return. The capricious gods watch the struggles of their followers and wait. Until recently, there was also a robotic turkey that shot lasers out of his eyes.
Runeclock – A new writing experiment over on Obsidian Portal, coupled with a tabletop adventure using the Fate CORE mechanics. My love letter to Suikoden II and Chrono Trigger devolving into a ridiculous pastiche of a Super Robot Mutant High School. Regularly updated by me and the other writers/players.