My friend across the table muttered something in passing and my blood went cold.
“Did you just say, Apocryphile?” There was no reason she could possibly know what it meant, I tried to stay calm, hands flat at my side.
“Uh, what? No,” she replied.
The ‘Apocryphile ‘is a name of ill portent, a character from a set of stories I thought I had escaped, a year-spanning tabletop of four-color glory. A villain of quiet wit and patient menace. One of Steven Carroll’s devils. For a split second, I legitimately wondered: am I still playing that same game? Have all the stories and games and dungeons and adventures since that game been nothing but a long con? Am I still wandering through the streets of New Babylon? Any moment now my phone will buzz and razor-sharp letters will blaze.
get to waffhut, funtime back in town, dont tell liz
The devils we create, the stories that we tell — the strange grip an imaginary name can squeeze from it’s imaginary heart. These worlds were ours and they linger. They linger indeed.
This will be an n-part series leading up to the Amazon Firesale for the Kindle version of Spell/Sword. It is going to be absolutely free 8/30-9/3. The plan is to write one of these a day to really crank up my self promotion levels, so when I’m at Dragon*Con, I won’t feel any remorse about begging total strangers to read the book.
But hey, I’m super lazy, so n could very well equal 2.
Reason #1: Sideways
If the damn book wasn’t ridiculous enough, I had to stick in this goddamn character. Those of you that have already read the book are currently nodding sagely, maybe pursing your lips in disgusted agreement. Those of you who have not read the book, let’s play a game. I’m going to describe this character, and you yell when you hit your personal Preposterous Fantasy Drivel Maginot Line. [PFDML]
Okay. Deep breath.
Sideways is an assassin. A mercenary, a sellsword, a blade for hire. He’s extremely fond of witty banter mixed with his obscenely
talented swordplay. He also seems to have some sort of moral code [AHHHHH.] he doesn’t kill for pleasure, and seems to have an overall genial position for a hired killer. He is also a devilkin. [YELLING.] The blood of devils is in his family, mixed with human heritage. He has orange skin, [NOOOO.] eyes the color of ketchup [WHAAAAA?] and ‘horns’ that look more like misshapen coral growths than anything that would appear in Lucifer fanart. His constant companions are a pair of shortswords, a flaming sword named Sunhammer [ARGGGGG.] and a gray sword of indeterminate magical function named Chester. [BLUH!] ‘Chet’ for short. [ALL OF THE SCREAMING, LIKE WHEN ALDERAAAN WAS BLOWED UP IN STAR WARS. EXCEPT IT NEVER GOES SUDDENLY SILENT. JUST SCREAMING FOREVER.]
He also fights a minotaur, kills about 75 sky pirates, crashes an airship, rides a wyvern, and takes a nap on a porch.
So, you see, it’s a very good thing that my book is going to be free in about 10 days.
Labor Day Weekend and some change. It coincides neatly with my trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con — I’ll be wearing my Self-
Promotion Helm of Shamelessness +3. I’ve printed up a ton of business cards to give to people letting them know about the deal.
The ebook has always been free to Amazon Prime members, and DRM free to boot — but now I’m doubling down. Anyone and everyone can own my book at no cost other than the time it takes to download it. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll be able tor read it on your Mac, PC, iPad, smartphone, tablet, etc — via the free Kindle app.
On Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook, scrawled on butcher paper and taped to the side of your car.
Those of you who have already finished reading — please take a second and post a review online. Even if you had problems, especially if you have legitimate criticism. I’m starting from zero promoting the book, and my best ally is word of mouth. This is the quickest and easiest way you can help me – especially with an Amazon or Goodreads review. It helps boost the visibility of the book, and helps new readers make an informed decision.
Negative reviews are no problem — what you hated about the book may be the thing that convinces a new reader to give me a shot. The initial word of mouth from the book’s release has officially subsided, and now I need to dig in for the long haul. INCREMENTAL GROWTH, BABY. So, if you’ve read the book — please, please take a moment and click some stars and type a sentence or two online. You do that crap on the regular anyway, right?
And, now on to some more unprofessional behavior, tinged by desperation.
I have copies of Spell/Sword to mail out. I will send it to your house. TO YOUR HOUSE. [US only, please.] I can also hook you up with the Kindle version if that’s your preference. If you read this far and you want to give it a shot, just drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get one shipped out. Do I want a review in return? Absolutely — but you can make it as mean-spirited as you desire.
I know the hustle’s hard, but we gotta enterprise, the carnival
Spell/Sword is now available in print and e-book exclusively on Amazon.com. Follow the image above to order. I’m linking the digital version first because:
Amazon Prime members can borrow and read it for free.
Anyone can sample the first couple of chapters using the ‘Look Inside’ feature.
It’s the future!
If this is your first time visiting the site, please poke around. Plenty of my various ramblings in the archives, and several examples of my fiction through the Short Stories and Scenes/Microfiction links above. I know you’re taking a chance on me — thank you for even considering it.
More information about Spell/Sword itself is available on the [Buy the Book] button above.
[It’s been pretty tireless self-promotion here at Spell/Sword for the past week or so. How about some dyed-in-
the wool geekery to ease the sting? These are my DM notes from the Pathfinder game I ran earlier this week, presented with little to no context. If your eyes have already glazed over at this point, I wouldn’t bother reading further.]
Scene One: In the Cell
Most of the party wakes up at the same moment. [Justin’s Character] remains unconscious.
Everyone is wearing whatever clothes they had on when they teleported from the crumbling Stone Roots, but every other piece of gear has been removed. [DC 20 Sleight of Hand check to have hidden one Tiny object.] Falcon is nowhere to be seen. Everyone’s wounds have been healed, but they show signs of natural healing, not magical — suggesting some time has passed since they departed Rill.
The cell is 50 feet square, gleaming gray metal, adorned with regular bolts and rivets. Modular benches are welded to the floor in a square in the center of the room. On the far wall is a large crank over a spout, directly beneath it is a large hole with a metal grate over it.
The door displays no hinges or handle or window. The symbol of “0” is engraved into the metal, it gleams a dark copper shade.
The party have a few minutes to talk, compare notes. The Elven Cleric wakes up and introduces himself.
At last, a metal squawk fills the air — then a mechanically reproduced voice fills the cell.
“You must pass through the Dream to find the Truth. You must swallow the Truth to find the Heart. The Heart burns and we shine in the darkness of the Dream. Follow me, Children — and Remember.”
“These words are written in the book that brought you here. These words were spoken by the Dragon Prime just before he fell into his endless slumber, he spoke these words to his acolytes and fell beneath the sands.”
There is a scraping metallic noise coming from the grate. If anyone checks, a large plate has slid into place closing off the drain.
“You have served us well adventurers. The seals chip and shatter with time and skill, but you have broken two in a matter of days with nothing more than luck and ignorance. The Guardian of the Endless Road and the Stone Roots of Rill — both destroyed and gone, blowing away in the winds of the Descabellado. For this you have been forgiven. The murder of Lord Argon and his retainer Lithium have been washed from your slate.”
The crank on the faucet begins to move, and clear water begins to pour into the cell.
“Forgiven. Forgiven and spared. And chosen — yes, chosen. Chosen for something greater, to become something greater. Servant of the Dragons, yes — we will take you into the Dream, and your true forms will emerge. You will break the chains of the foolish Balance.”
The members of the party become drowsy with a magical sleep. As they fall unconcious all can see the pool of water spreading from the back edge of the cell and rolling slowly towards their closing eyes.
Scene Two: Indoctrination
The party blinks.
They stand in a room very similar in size to the cell, but the similarity ends there. The walls are made of lines of light, squares – a wire frame of energy. Where the cell door was, an open archway leads into a formless void.
In the center of the room, stands a tall wood elf with dark skin. She wears a floor length dress of sheer material, bodice plunging nearly to her navel.Tattooed in the center of her chest is the symbol of the Dragon’s Dream. Her hair is wrapped in a high twist, coiled with some sort of thick brass cable. She doesn’t appear to be substantial, she glows like a light purple phantom.
“I am Xenon. Welcome to the Dream.”
At some point the party will notice that they similarly do not appear tangible. Each party member glows as a mental projection of themselves. [What color is your mind?]
“You must pass through the Gestalt. Travel forward. Learn and survive. Apparent time moves slower than actual time, but your shells still lie unconscious in a room that slowly fills with water. Dally and they will drown. And sadly…your true selves cannot survive without your shells, at least not yet.”
“You are young to this way, your minds only have a fraction of the potential that we can unlock. For now you have what you believe you have — the residual impressions of the items and skill you carry in the physical world. In time, with our training, these limitations will fall away. Now begin.”
Xenon erupts into a beam of light, that arcs away across the dark void.
When the party passes through the first archway — they unlock:
PSYCHIC Rank: 0
A floor forms from green squares of nothing as the party proceeds into the void.
The room is circular, about 100 feet in diameter. A doorway is at 2 on the dial, but the center of the room is dominated by a vast square table, 20 feet on an edge. An elaborate clockwork city sits on the table, hundreds of tiny houses, vehicles, people, all whirring and moving in perfect harmony. DC 20 Perception to notice the Draconian details to the model — tiny claws, spines on the roofs, gears shaped like dragon’s jaws, smoked glass like dragon’s fire.
Then, black blobs begin to ooze up through the floor and take the form of primal ogres, and attack. They seem to be completely focused on destroying the table.
The door evaporates when the last ogre falls.
The next room has the appearance of a temple, or cathedral. Wide pillars support an arched ceiling holding back the void. The outlines of cowled humans cluster around men with the heads of dragons, who touch them kindly and speak in hushed tones. The dragon-men beam with the expressions of proud teachers.
There are three main clusters/classes – then one dragon-man standing alone in the pulpit.
The three teachers speak in Eld tongue, the Examiner speaks in Common.
Red Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary WIS drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see a vast field of lights spanning across the globe – dreaming minds slipping into the void and flying around and around the physical world, as free as the birds of the air.
Blue Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary INT drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see a vast creature, a Titan — stomping across the fields of green. Decay follows in its wake, rivers fall sere and desert winds begin to blow. The people retreat to their cities, and try desperately to resist, but they are tramped underfoot.
White Teacher – DC 15 Will – 1d4 Temporary CHA drain
Fail: +1d4 PSY Succeed: +1d8 PSY
You see yourself in a cage, a cage of stone. It reminds you of the roof of the Stone Roots. Hundreds of people are crammed into the cage, they claw and bite at the bars — or simply turn their backs inwards and ignore it. You walk to the wall and step through as if it was made of water.
PSY DC 10
What is the Dream? The endless potential of the sentient mind. The Hidden Kingdom of the Dragons.
PSY DC 15
What is the Truth? The Balance is a lie.
PSY DC 15
What is the Heart? You are only caged if you choose to be.
The Gray Examiner steps aside , and a the dais irises open into a set of stairs leading downwards.
The stairs terminate on a featureless plain. Party makes out a faintly shining beacon to the north, as they approach, it reveals itself to be a tower with a torch on the top.
Xenon’s voice whispers in the void.
“You can save the planet.”
“You can undo what has been done.”
“Repair the breaking of the world.”
“You can break the Titan itself.”
“Break the Titan and break your own chains, Children of the Dragon!!!”
A second light appears at the top of the tower, and the party realizes they are looking into two burning eyes of a massive stone goliath. It pulls a vast scimitar from its chest and moves to attack! Scattered around the field are small nodes of psychic energy, a PSY roll of 15 unleashes a burst of energy against the Titan.
After defeat, the featureless plain collapses and the party slowly drifts down into a room similar to the first. Six Doors wait, each marked with an odd symbol and a word scrawled in Common on the door.
Xenon’s voice: Choose your name, choose your place in the Children. Choose a door and take what is offered. You are one of us now until the dragons awaken. Accept the power that is given and be blessed, or deny it and be enslaved. Or do nothing and drown. The choice is yours.
Beryllium – [Domingo]
Magnesium – [Rhoga]
Calcium – [Nenemi]
Strontium – [Anka]
Barium – [No-Name]
Radium – [Sir Mander]
The party each select a door — if they take too long, they all start to feel a pressure in their ears, and in their chest, the water is rising into their lungs. Each member goes into a door, and find themselves in a small closet. There is a stool, and a table with a chalice.
Those who accept the Dragon’s power gain 1d10 PSY points and Dragon Power: Telepathy 1/day. 10 min/level. you plus 1 person per 3 levels.
Those who resist gain 1d4. -2 Will saves against Draconic Effects.
The Dream begins to break up, and the everyone coughs and flails in the cold water they are laying in. Everyone stumbles to their feet, and see that the door of their cell lies open.
[This is what I do when I see a cow out the car window. Just replace ‘blog’ with ‘cow’ and it’s the same dialogue. It is incredibly endearing, and never annoys anyone else in the car.]
So, yeah — let’s shake some cobwebs off. My production of Pippin is finished, so now I can reroute those system resources back to all of the other plates I have spinning in the ether. Let’s list them! YAY, LISTS.
1. Spell/Sword Zeta Draft. This would be an amazing name for an anime. This is the big project, my main focus. Incorporating all the feedback from my Beta Readers, and working my way to the penultimate draft. I’m planning to add about 5000 words to the draft, so I’ll need to get one last set of eyes on the manuscript before I move forward to Self Publishing Ragnarok.
2. Self Publishing Ragnarok. Also an amazing anime title. My goal is to get the book into a buy-able format, through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon. I’m researching all of the technical knowledge needed for doing that, so when I am ready to move forward it won’t be a giant learning curve clusterfuck.
3. Cover Art. I’ve seen some early sketches from Mike/Poopbird, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Got to make sure I have all the specs for pixel limits, image size, etc. to make it easy and painless for him once the design is complete.
4. Titan’s Wake. My occasional Pathfinder campaign. Time to kick it in the shins and get the PC’s moving toward something approaching the plot. Scheduling has been an issue, leading to some signal loss — gotta get the players on some sort of regular game night schedule, or the campaign is just going to fizzle.
5. The Ocean of Not. New and shiny Legend of the Five Rings campaign! Meeting with the players in early January to make characters, and hopefully kick off the game shortly thereafter. I’m planning on having a forum component for this one, and most of the players are Lodestar alumni —very excited to get back in the trenches.
7. A Few Good Men. I have a small part in the next Mainstage production at the theatre. I get to play an actual person, which is not my strong suit.
8. Regular Blogging. I need to get back on a regular update schedule, 3-5 times per week. Maybe I’ll bring back Story on Demand to prime the pump, but I’m hoping now that working on the book is moving back to my main creative focus, I’ll have more time and writerly thoughts to expound upon.
Lot of stuff. Lot of cows. I love the feeling of energy and mind-space coming online – really looking forward to all of these projects!
Haskeer stepped through the steel door, and onto cracked linoleum. Red blaze of neon filtered through glass windows onto a crowded diner. The booths were crammed with humans laughing and talking. A long glass display case bisected the room, filled to the brim with faded toys and garish errata – twin rows of wide black booths down either side, with a long counter in the very back of the diner. A tall stool with a red-leather seat at the counter seemed to beckon, and the paladin moved towards it.
The humans seated at the booths were dressed strangely, somehow too simple and too elaborate — as if they were dressed both for work in the fields, and a journey across the tundra of the Northlands.. They paid little attention to his passing, or his gleaming silver armor.
A blonde man with a square jaw, sat with a baby in his lap – their eyes both wide and blue. A blonde woman at his side wiped the child’s face with a damp napkin and a certain elan. On the opposite side another couple, a man with a preposterous mustache fork-deep into a plate of fried potatoes and a dark-haired woman with a beautiful smile. The dark-haired woman was pregnant, and the man and his mustache nearly vibrated with concern and pride, each motion of his hands a prayer.
Two young men sat hip to hip in a booth, poring over a stack of brightly colored pages. They argued bitterly jabbing the page with pointed fingers, and gesticulating wildly as their argument crested into a familiar plateau. Across from them a woman rolled her eyes with exasperation, spreading cream cheese on a grilled bagel.
In the corner of the diner was a jukebox, glowing green and yellow. A man with glasses and a ponytail leaned against it, making a selection – his head bobbing unconsciously to the song already spooling through the air.
Are you sorry we drifted apart? Does your memory stray to a brighter summer day When I kissed you and called you sweetheart? Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare? Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there? Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
A tall, gangly man stumbled through the door behind Haskeer, and moved to the jukebox — hands already spread in mute apology.
In a back booth, three men sat hunched close together. A pile of tiny figures were arrayed on the table before them – small soldiers, goblins, knights, even a fierce looking black dragon. The tallest and shortest examined each figure with animated fixation, while the third stared at something glowing in his hand with boredom. A large man with a fierce tattoo of a squid-demon stumped over and flopped down a large sketchbook. Haskeer caught a glimpse of men and women holding swords of fire.
There were others in the diner, every seat was full. A curly-haired man stuffing lemon after lemon into his water, a thin man with his hands steepled, a balding man laughing and pointing across the restaurant. The faces began to run together as the paladin moved forward, his steel boots clanking on the floor.
Haskeer sat down at the counter, his back to the rest of the diner patrons. A warm fog of steam billowed out of the kitchen, accompanied by the wonderful smells of fried potato and seared meat. A man approached, pulling a well-worn jotter out of his pocket and the nub of a pencil. He wore thick spectacles, and a thick mop of hair pushed up into a white paper cap.
The man greeted the paladin, barely looking up from his notepad.
“The servant does as the master wishes. The master desires bread, the servant plants grain. The master desires a keep, the servant lays stone. The master desires gold, and the servant bleeds steel. At the end of all things the servant is still a servant.” Oak replied.