Wind / Sails / The Removal Thereof

Nausicaa – H. Miyazaki

A little context.

1. I’ve been working on my very first novel. [QUIVER. CLENCH. ANXIETY-NINJAS IN MY STOMACH.] I started working in September, and completed the very, very rough draft in April.

2. I’m coming around the bend on my first round of editing. Soon I will let a few Alpha Readers take a long look, before they solemnly set fire to my manuscript and without breaking eye contact — dial the authorities.

3. While I try to stay focused on the craft itself of working on the book, I have noodled around a bit on The Next Step. The world of traditional publishing is contracting, and it’s never been known for being an easy assault for new talent — so, most of my thoughts have been centered around Self-Publishing.  With resources like CreateSpace via Amazon it’s childishly simple to do, and I could have the most basic unit of my goals with a modicum of time and effort — i.e. a paper book that I slap in my mom’s hands.

4. I heart Pat Rothfuss. Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are excellent books. Wise Man’s Fear is one of the only books I can ever recall finishing …then immediately starting to read again. Slowly, languorously. I went on to read other things, but I would circle back like a honey-drunk bee to take another sip. I read that cat’s blog religious — and all of this novel nonsense is so I can send him a copy [right after my mom] and then he’ll read it and think I”m awesome and that we should be best friends and then he’ll come to my birthday party.  THIS WOULD CLEARLY BE HIS REACTION TO MY WORK.

So, contextualized?

Today I read an interview he gave, linked into his own blog.

I was chuckling at his wry humor, and stroking my chin at the interesting bits — when I came to this section:

Full interview: Toonari Post

TP: Were you ever tempted to self-publish?

PR: Not really. Because, as I mentioned, I wanted people to read my books.

I know there’s a lot of talk about self-publishing right now. Everyone’s giddy with the possibilities. And I’ll admit that it looks good on paper: sell your books directly and keep a bigger chunk of the profit for yourself. No rejection letters. No hassle with agents. Sounds good, right?

Except nobody knows who you are. And nobody really cares. And your book is mostly crap because you haven’t had a substance-level editor give you feedback and make you revise it a couple of times. And your book is full of typos because you didn’t have a copy-editor read it. And the layout is ugly because you don’t know anything about layout…I’m sure you get the picture.

It’s like the query letter problem that I just mentioned, magnified a hundredfold. You might be good at telling a story, but that doesn’t mean you know anything about marketing. Or layout. Or editing. Or publicity. Or selling your books for foreign markets.

Even if you’re surprisingly good at one of those things, you’re still not going to be as good as a professional. You don’t know the tricks of the trade. You don’t know the right people to call. You don’t know what mistakes to avoid….

Everyone can point to a few examples of people that have done very well for themselves self-publishing. But honestly, those folks are lucky as lottery winners. They’re statistical anomalies. You want to publish with a publisher because a publisher knows how to publish a book. And you don’t. You really don’t.

Woof.

Dang.

Now, first and foremost, this isn’t about how Pat Rothfuss broke my heart, or what a big meanie-face he is, etc. etc. His beard is made of laughter and moonbeams, people.  From my EXTENSIVE PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE [aka reading his blog.] he is clearly not a malicious person in any way. He was speaking from his own experience, trying to give helpful and clear advice.

It was a bit stern, and absolutist — but then, I remembered — Nerd/DM High Speech. Nerds speak in absolutes, with unwavering knowledge about whatever topic is in our demesne.  It probably comes from being the smartest kid in the class, or years with our finger pointing at the small print in the Player’s Handbook. We all delight in pronouncing This is how it is. This is how it works. No, you cannot gain access to 6th level spells, just because you have a magical ability that increases your effective caster level, Carbunkle.

No, this post is about my reaction. I felt foolish.

Here is a writer and person that I respect telling me that I’m functionally wasting my time. I will self-publish my novel and it will be garbage. It will not be discovered, it will not be read. I am doing a disservice to myself and to the work itself by going this route. Pat Rothfuss told me I was an idiot.

This is not how my fanfiction plays out AT ALL.

I don’t think he’s wrong. I don’t think he’s right either.

For the vast majority of people self-publishing, he’s absolutely right. We all need to hear the stark truth like that. A wake-up call that if your goal is financial success then you are setting yourself up for failure. You are not some maverick Hemingway blazing across the firmament while thumbing your nose at traditional publishing. If you got into this gig to be the next 50 Shades of BLAHBLAHBLAH, then you are in it for the wrong reasons. Take a glance at the amount of self-published drivel on the Amazon Kindle alone. His metaphor of winning the lottery is apt. Every writer can benefit tangibly from a trained editor, copy-editor — and the inarguable expertise in marketing and layout that a publishing house can bring to bear.

But, I’m special. SCREAMED THE SPECK OF DUST IN A TRANSPARENT ALLUSION TO THAT CALVIN AND HOBBES STRIP.

YOU KNOW, THIS ONE. [I miss Bill Watterson.]
And beyond that, I do believe that traditional paper publishing is in its dotage. We’re caught in the weird wilderness between traditional and digital publishing, and all the old dinosaurs are late to the game. The tools are all laying around [editing, design, computers with blinky buttons] — what’s to stop us from selling and promoting our own work digitally direct to our audience? John Scalzi almost pioneered this concept, releasing his work chapter by chapter on the web, then backed into traditional publishing after he had already built a readership. And he’s the president of the freaking Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, now!

There are more options now  then ever, so more people than ever are going to chase the dream their own way. So, yeah, me too basically.

I have taken his thoughts to heart.  I’ve always considered self-publishing the book as a first step, a tool to one day get picked up by a publishing house. The first book is a resume for the new job I want to have.

I hear you, Pat. I really do. But I am mercurial at best — I just can’t stay motivated with the idea of finishing the book THEN enduring two years or more of frustrating query letters, and standing like a beggar outside the big publishing houses wearing an adorable Dickensian top hat.

Well, maybe the top hat.

So, I’m sticking to my guns. Alpha Readers in July. More and more editing after that, and then when I say done I will use this fancy InterWebamaphone to put my book into people’s hands and on their fancy e-readers.

And I’m still sending you a copy, Pat. I’ll save you some cake, and a brightly colored hat.

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Barton

A small village,  directly in the center of Riddlewood. Human settlers were first drawn to the ancient forest

Retreat by Andreas Rocha

by an accidental discovery. A traveler was camping underneath one of the ancient elms, boiling some water for soup when an acorn fell into the open pot. The traveler didn’t notice right away, and by the time he did the water had turned a brilliant shade of green. History does not tell us much about this traveler but one thing is clear – – he either had an overgrown sense of adventure, or a serious deathwish. For no apparent reason he decided to give the concoction a taste. He poured off a tiny draught of the green liquid into a dented tin tankard, and tossed it back.

He woke up several hours later, his teeth stained the color of the leaves.

This unknown traveler had just discovered the remarkable soporific effects of the Riddlewood Elm. Folk tradition contends that he spent the next several weeks finishing the emerald concoction, one sip at a time — but regardless, at some point he stumbled back to civilization and somehow convinced one of the larger merchant families to invest in his new scheme. A team of brewers, apothecaries, and loggers would make their way into the heart of Riddlewood. They would harvest the amazing acorns, determine the best way to render them safely potable and marketable, and the other, lesser trees could be cut down to make casks and barrels for the new concoction. A troop of soldiers were also included to protect against the mysterious and sly wood elves that lived in the forest.

For the first few weeks, the newly christened “Barreltown” hummed with activity. Acorns were gathered, brewed and tested. Hundreds of trees were felled to make barracks, fences, and a multitude of barrels — the saw mill ran day and night. The soldiers quickly grew bored as the wildlife of Riddlewood gave the new town a wide berth, and the wood elves were nowhere to be seen.  With nothing else to do, they joined in the construction of the town, their first project a suitable saloon.

Reports vary on the events that followed, but the central theme is agreed upon by most accounts. A young soldier took to wandering the green halls of Riddlewood out of sheer boredom and restlessness. She was the youngest member of the troop, though well-trained in the ways of sword and shield.

The soldier came upon a clearing where a large red tiger lay dying, caught underneath the trunk of an oak tree that a careless logger had felled, then abandoned. Without stopping to consider the danger, she ran over to the creature and with a great cry flung herself under the tree. Arms and legs straining she pushed the felled oak up far enough that the red tiger could just barely wriggle out.

She dropped the tree in exhaustion – only then realizing that she had dropped her weapon at the clearing’s edge, and stood completely defenseless against the wounded animal.

To her surprise, the red tiger rose wearily to its feet and made no move to attack.  It looked at her curiously, then padded off into the forest.

The soldier returned to Barreltown and told all who would listen about her amazing experience. A few believed her, but she was met with more than a few mocking japes. She became obsessed with proving her story, and spent much of the next few days prowling through the forest looking for tiger tracks.

Tigers, like most cats, appear when they please.

By Rui Tenreiro.

The young soldier was keeping the late watch one night, when she felt her eyes beginning to droop. She stomped her feet, and put pebbles in her shoe, but weariness stole over her.  With a start, she awoke at moonfall, a bare hour before dawn, to find the red tiger sitting quite calmly on a felled tree trunk in front of her.

The red tiger stood, and walked a few paces before turning back to look at her. The intention clear, the soldier gripped the hilt of her sword closely and followed.

Through quiet clearing, and silent tree, through moon and leaf-rustle night. The guttering torchlight of Barreltown vanished behind the young soldier, and yet she continued on.

At last, the tiger stopped and turned to face her. The wind blew, and the tiger changed. A beautiful young wood elf, with hair as red as the tiger’s.

Without speaking a word, he knelt before a ragged stump of a tree and placed both hands upon it. He sang quietly, and the soldier was surprised to find tears running down her face.

Between the palms of the wood elf, and guided by his song the tree trunk began to grow. Forming and changing, shaped by his will as a potter turns the clay. A tiny barrel formed, sound and true — then with a sharp twist he broke it free and pushed it into her hands. The soldier held it up to the rising sun, and saw how well it was crafted. Sound and true, with nary a crack — better than any one in Barreltown could hope of making.

“Why would you take, what the forest would happily give?” the wood elf asked.

The soldier had no answer.

Time passed. The soldier and the wood elf spent much time in each other’s company.  Love was given and returned, and the two hatched a plan.

Early one morning, the soldier and the wood elf walked into Barreltown hand in hand. They marched directly into the mess hall where all the loggers, apothecaries, brewmasters, tradesmen and soldiers ate their meals. The soldier cleared off a table and called everyone’s attention, and the wood elf plead most eloquently for the forest of Riddlewood. He finished his speech, then showed the gathered crowed how wood could be shaped and sung from the living trees, without harm.

And the people listened. They understood. And they agreed.

To the vast shock of historians throughout the world, the people of Barreltown agreed that it was a great

By Annemarie Rysz

idea. This incident is hotly contested in many scholarly circles, as it goes counter to entire schools of socio-political thought. Some even go so far as to claim the story is completely fabricated, a convenient fiction crafted by the wildly successful Riddlewood Brewing Guild.

Regardless, two hundred years later the village still remains. Barton is a reasonably prosperous hamlet, most of the residents splitting their time between farming and the seasonal work on the factory floor, brewing and bottling the various ales and liquors distilled from the trees of the forest — great casks filled to brim, tight and sound made from living wood. Only the very oldest buildings in the town show the sign of an axe or saw, the rest are all formed carefully and beautifully by the druids of Barton.

The village is roughly split between human and elven populaces, with intermarriage common.  The sigil of Barton is a red tiger with a green acorn in his jaws.  The village is led by Count Pel Marlowe, his family owns controlling interest in the Riddlewood Brewing Guild.

 

Starmhill

13th Warrior – Production Shot

It was a nothing town.

Some sheep pens, a general store, well-wrought houses and a good deep well. It was Victor’s home, and he loved it fiercely.

The blacksmith stood next to the stockade, a few paces into the dark so the torch would not rob his eyes of sight. The wood was still green, hastily hewn from the nearby pines. It was ramshackle, quickly slapped together — it made Victor’s hands ache to see such shoddy workmanship, but they’d had little time, and the crude fence had helped them turn the first dozen assaults. As if the green pines had kept a little of the love of the land in their bark, and were just as determined as Victor and the people of Starmhill to weather the vicious assault that came once, twice …sometimes three times a night.

“Vic. Vic!” The portly shepherd Kanley called from behind the stockade. “You see anything?”

“No. Nothing.” the blacksmith switched his two-handed sledge to the other shoulder but did not move.

“Maybe they’ll give us a night off. Three hours til dawn and nothing tonight.” Kanley said. Victor heard the sound of scratching. The boy was still worrying at that vicious rash on his neck, the creature’s hands had left blisters and boils even as it died. Kanley’s friend Jak had taken the beast in the back with a spear, a relieved grin on his long-jawed face. That was three nights ago, Jak had been dead for nearly twenty hours now.

Victor took a long look down the stockade. Tired men and women moved their patrols with the half-stutter shamble of sleepwalkers. He had tried to enforce strict sleeping schedules during the daytime, but with the constant grieving and the endless fear — he himself had found sleep an elusive phantom.

We can’t last much longer. Two days, three — four at the outside?

At the barest edge of the torch’s light, he could just make out the slow turn of the giant floating obelisk — Starmhill’s one claim to fame. It moved in and out of shadow, as careless as a leaf floating in a stream.

“Vic, you need to get some sleep.” A different voice, a younger voice — an irritating voice. Della Akson. The blacksmith turned in anger, to see her young face approaching through the narrow opening in the stockade. She wore a crude black-iron sword on her shoulder.

“Girl, I told you to guard the church.”

“There’s plenty of people to stand guard. That crazy old wizard, and the book-girl — they’re driving me plain witless with their rambling talk.” Della sqauared her shoulders and put her hands on her hips. Victor noticed that her left hand was inflamed and red, still swollen from the loss of her last three fingers. “And you need sleep most of any of us.”

“Della …you are too young to be on the front lines, you can be most helpful where I told-”

“I’m the best sword-swinger you got, Boss. Sad as it may be…I think it’s time you stop pretending otherwise.” the young girl’s face was stern and sure.

How old is Della now? Is the thirteen? Fourteen? Victor tried to think. Lord of the Crook, I’m so tired.

The blacksmith ran a weary hand down his face. He made himself smile at the girl. What a man can do, he should do …as Victor’s father always taught. “All right, Captain Akson – I guess you’re right about that. Why don’t you walk the stockade and make sure no one is nodding off. Splash a little -”

Victor’s words died in his throat. A snapping branch whipped his head into the darkness, and he saw it.

A tiny green flame, just a pinprick the size of a wyrefly. It was about to begin. Victor took his sledge in both hands and called down the lines.

“All right people — here we go, you know your jobs well, you’ve had plenty of practice these nights. We are Starmhill. We will hold them. WE ARE STARMHILL.”

The cry went up, ragged but strong down the green pine fence. Fewer voices than their had been, but enough. Victor prayed that there would be enough for tonight, tomorrow would have to wait.

The blacksmith’s cry died out and the defenders looked out into the darkness. The first prick of green light had become a field of green stars. Bright and shining and drawing closer.

For the first time this night, he heard it. Every night when they attacked, again and again ripping and tearing at the flesh and wood of his home — every time as they came, they sang. They sang the same song, merry and bright like a knife-cut.

“King of Glass, hear our prayer — King of Glass, take our gift — King of Glass, sing our song — King of Glass, blood and fire! Blood and Fire! Blood and Fire!”

The blacksmith went to work, and prayed with a sick heart. To hear this song again was agony, but he prayed to keep hearing it, for as many nights as his strength could stand to protect his home.

Zebulon

It was a nothing town.

But it had a bar, and sometimes…that’s enough.

The wind whipped through the empty streets choked with dust. A chill was present, but not enough to

Artist – Jae Liu

penetrate the thick jacket that the bard wore, bright blue collar pulled nearly to her nose. Elora Delcroft leaned into the wind, and ran through her set list.

The Doctor Dances, that’s always a favorite, even in a tiny spot like this. Then Measuring the Marigolds, followed by the short cuts of Western Shores and My Lady, She Burns off the Coast. I’m only here for a night, so I suppose I should pull out all the stops.

Elora chuckled into her collar. Zebulon was not the worst place she’d ever performed, but only if you squinted. The town seemed mostly empty, only a half hundred old men and women, a few exhausted families trying to pull in a meager crop. She had to be the first bard to wander into town in months, if not years — the barkeep’s eyes had widened like moonrise upon seeing her silver Harper’s pin. He had turned quickly away, and dabbed at his eyes. “Hard times, miss — we’d be sure glad to have you sing a bit tonight. I can’t offer you much, just a clean bed in my attic across the way, and all the stew and ale you care to eat.”

The half-elf scratched the tip of one pointed ear, loosening an earring from where it bit. She had watched from her window as what seemed the entire population of Zebulon had crammed into inn, heads bowed underneath the odd sign that swung at the entrance. A massive stuffed claw, covered with scales, ending in three chipped talons. The barkeep claimed it came from a dragon, Elora had smiled and allowed that it surely did.

A little boy waved as she approached, and ran immediately into the bar, yelling “She’s here — she’s here, the singer-lady’s here!”

I wonder why people still live here? So close to the Black Fog, and the fallen country of Gilead? Elora pushed through the doors of the Three-Toed Claw, into a throng of tired, but smiling faces. I must add some songs for the children, after the intermission. Songs that everyone knows and can sing along. Soppin’ Gravy, and Mune the Moonchaser, perhaps.

She whipped her blue coat off with theatrical panache, and slung it ably on a hook. Her lute case seemed to fly open as she made her way through the crowd, lute gliding into her hand free and easy. The room was silent as she mounted the crude stage, two tables pushed together , rude boards and fresh nails.

Elora said her pleasantries, and her mind and fingers loosened. Her voice fell into the opening patter that she had said a thousand times, she smiled at the crowd. This was why she took the long way — to find the tiny little towns where music was needed more than water in the Sarmadi Desert. The entire population of Zebulon was crammed into the tiny common room, but there was still space to spare. The barkeep pushed himself out from behind the bar, eager and smiling.

The bard noticed a man sitting at the bar, his back to the stage. Elora felt a prickle of professional irritation. This would be the finest show that Zebulon would see in many moons, and this lout was hunched over the bar, completely oblivious. She sniffed, at the pile of empty clay cups at the man’s elbow, the black bottle gripped in his right. A man losing himself to drink, no excuse to miss her art’s charms.

“I see there is one among you who is not a music lover!” She called, playfully. “Come friend, come and join us — please choose the first song I will play for all the fine people here assembled.”

The crowd’s attention spun to the man, and several people snickered. This man was clearly a stranger.

The man raised his head, and slowly turned to face her. He had a plain face, and ordinary features.

But his eyes. Elora’s fingers tightened on the lute. Shelyn protect me, his eyes.

Unbidden, the bard’s fingers began to move. An old, old tune spilled over the crowd and Elora sang, unable to look away from the man at the bar.
Company, always on the run
Destiny, oooh, and the rising sun
I was born, six gun in my hand
Behind the gun, I make my final stand
That’s why they call me
Bad company,
Oh, I can’t deny
Bad, Bad company

Till the day I die

Rebel souls
Deserters we are called
Chose the gun
And threw away the sword
All these towns
They all know our name
Six gun sound
Ooh, is our claim to fame
Bad company,
Oh, I can’t deny
Bad, Bad company
Till the day I die

 

Elora sang, tears running down her cheeks.

[With respect to Bad Company — wherever they ride.]

Hunter in the Dark II

I stumble to the journal, and grasp it tightly — like a drowning man to a plank in the ocean.

The dreams are back. The same ones that filled my dark cell, and they’re all about you, Rime. Always about you.

I’ve lost track of the days, traveling with my new companions. Several strange encounters, and great danger — but none of it interest me now. When I left the prison, I had my first true sleep in over ten years — perfect blank time that refreshed my body and my mind.

But then you – your eyes, your voice – the way your hands felt on my brow as you stole the light from me. Stole everything from me. Cool and clear, and your eyes so calm. They chase me again, I am the prey – running from dreams into the sweaty dark of consciousness.

Focus. I am a hunter still. The rituals and thoughts of my old life can keep me sane, I pray. Survey the terrain, lay out your battle plan. What assets and advantages do you have — what weaknesses can you shore up?

I will kill you, Rime – I’m coming for you, to where you hide in the City of Always Night.

With love and respect to the ArchAndroid.

The purple-skinned trombonist eyes the coin with distrust, then shrugs. He calls off stage in a thick tongue that Quick doesn’t recognize. The dance floor buzzes with excitement as a slender figure steps into view. She is wearing a sharply pressed white shirt with a black string tie, long black tail coat, pinstripe pants and blazing white spats on her shoes. Her skin is dark, and her elaborately coiffed bouffant is darker — but the devilkin spots the cunning rivets and seams along her jawline, and the slight purple glow behind her wide, brown eyes. She is a construct of some sort, but one of greater complexity and craft then Quick has ever encountered before.

She kicks her legs high in the air, and cradles the steel microphone and pulls it to her lips.

Whoaaa
Another day I take your pain away
Some people talk about ya
Like they know all about ya
When you get down they doubt ya
And when you tippin on the scene
Yeah they talkin’ bout it
Cause they can’t tip all on the scene with ya
Talk about it T-t-t-talk bout it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
While they jumpin’ round ya
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can’t allow it
Cause baby whether you’re high or low
Whether you’re high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope
T-t-t-tip on the tightrope

The band thumps and jams behind her and the Funky Winkerbean quakes and jives. The devilkin faintly remembers that in the outside world, it’s only an hour or two past breakfast.

The spider bartender waves its free arms in time to the beat, and serves drinks faster and faster. The two half-elves squeal and dash towards the dance floor. The drunken dwarf burps.

Hunter in the Dark I

–th of Handspan, 11–

I write these words carefully.

Quill in my right hand, nib pressing against my left hand’s fingertips. I don’t know why it concerns me to write these sentences evenly, as I will never read them – and I have no plans to share these words with another soul.

From what my new companions tell me, it has been over ten years since my sight was taken from me. I was an old man even before my time in Dra’Lusair, many lives  and turns of the road — but in my favorite I was a scholar.  I find comfort in the scratch of the ink on the page. The words slide through my mind, then disappear into the dark.

The only candle I have left is my imagination and my memory –and oh, how they flicker.

Maybe after all the years in the dark it is a comfort to put my words somewhere, instead of them endlessly whirling around  in my tiny teardrop cell. Or perhaps because there has been little opportunity for conversation since my … release? Deliverance?

My new companions are an interesting group. A master swordsman, a cultured riflewoman, a cowardly wizard, a reckless gladiator, a driven soldier, and their leader, Simon. A paradox — he seems the most carefree and feckless of them all, but each of them follows him without question. He is a man who laughs first and often, but I can hear a familiar sound in his voice. The breaking sound.

And of course, my closest shadow — the Tyr-Elf exile. Stone is cruel, and the stone elves of Iax proved it on her flesh in the stagnant dark of their underground city. As the only one who can speak her people’s brutal tongue, she has taken on the duty of shepherding the old blind man, she is never far if I require anything. She speaks little of her imprisonment, or the source of her people’s disgust for her — I would not dream to pry further.Nyver is the name she uses, the Tyr-Elf word translated simply as “exile”, but more fluently as “Die Under The Sun”.

Ah — my new companions have completed their preparations, and we make haste for the edge of the Stone Elves’ caverns. To the surface, then across the savannah to where Simon has hidden his ship, that will bear us all across the sea.

Across the sea, to find the scent of my quarry.

You should have killed me, Rime. I know you could have found a way. I swear you will regret the elegance of my destruction.

[From the journals of Linus, last Falcon of the Hunt. Found after his death.]