Saturday, December 29, 2012 9 comments

DOUBLE COVER REVEAL!

Living in the free-range insane asylum all these years has rubbed off on me, it seems. Why else would I plan to release two stories in one month? The stories are related, and give rise to the blog tour name: One World, Two Ages. The tour will run January 14–29, with the stories released at either end. Slots are open, so if you want a guest post or to do an interview, put dibs on those dates now!

Oh, the covers? Yes, let’s talk covers. And the stories that go with them.



Accidental Sorcerers
(Fantasy novella, YA)
Release: January 15



I’ve blogged roughly half of this story, and it’s been one of the more popular #TuesdaySerial stories I’ve had to date. In this latter age of Termag, sorcery is on the wane, making way for inventions of the folk. The Stolevan Matriarchy is the primary power, at least through the western half of the continent, and the seat of the Conclave of Sorcerers. A winter raid by rival Westmarch sets events into motion…

Invaders just across the river. A powerful spell hidden in a child’s rhyme. When an untrained boy awakens an ice dragon to protect his village, and lives to tell the tale, not even the Conclave of Sorcerers can predict what happens next.

Accidental Sorcerers brings to life an unforgettable tale of love and loyalty in the world of Termag. Feel the magic!

A sorcerer’s life is supposed to be fairly sedate in this age, but the apprentices Mik and Sura find their lives anything but sedate. But love and loyalty is some of the strongest magic of all, so I wouldn’t bet against them. I’ll be coming back to these kids, since I already have the second story (Water and Chaos) drafted out and ideas for at least four others.



The Crossover
(Fantasy novella)
Release: January 29



This story had the working title Chasing a Rainbow, but there’s already a few hundred books out there with that title. Angela Kulig (the marketing wiz for Green Envy Press) and I both have many forehead-shaped dents in our desks, first from coming up with a replacement title, then from fixing up a cover.

This story takes place about eight hundred years before Accidental Sorcerers, at the end of what Mik and Sura (and their contemporaries) call the Age of Heroes. The city-state Ak’koyr, on the northwestern shore of the Gulf of Camac, has been the center of western civilization (they would say all civilization) through much of the age. Mounting a punitive expedition against Eastern marauders, Ak’koyr’s Avenger Fleet impresses a handful of unwilling adventurers as common labor. One of them, Lodrán by name, runs into Chelinn, an old friend with a colorful history. Then things get strange…

The warrior-mage Chelinn and his friend Lodrán have visited many strange places. But when a curse goes awry, sending them to a world where mundane devices have supplanted magic, nothing is familiar at first. Then, after rescuing a merchant, they find themselves embroiled in a far more dangerous situation.

As hundreds of lives hang in the balance, two heroes and their new friends must use all their talents to foil an evil plot—and survive until they can catch a rainbow and return home.

The Crossover transports classic fantasy characters into a modern-day setting. Neither Earth nor Termag will ever be the same!

The nature of this story makes it easier to draw contrasts between Earth and Termag. The magic that allows one to crossover to another world, also allows that traveler to speak the local language. Gotta love magic, huh?



Now it’s your turn…

What do you want to know about Termag, these stories, or the characters? We’re all ready to assign slots on the blog tour, and take those interview questions.

If you’re a book reviewer, and want an ARC of either (or both) titles, hit the “Contact Me” link at the top of the page.

Sunday, December 23, 2012 3 comments

Changin', Arrangin'

The wife asked me to clean off the computer desk in Mason’s room, because she wants to move her video editing system in there. Then the old office will become a guest bedroom. So in I went, with trash bags, vacuum cleaner, and a rag with a can of Pledge. The dust bunnies were large under there, but not overly aggressive. I think I bagged about a pound of them, along with a half-ton of trash and a new (and unused) power strip.

With that done, I hung the DSL box on the wall next to the router, and neatened up the UPS position. Then it was time to unhook everything in the office and drag the computer stuff over. That went as well as could be expected, dusting each item as I brought it in. There are plenty of dust bunnies in that room, too, but the pile of papers on that desk is close to approaching critical mass and creating a black hole like the one we had in our college dorm room. She knows what the papers are for, so I’ll let her deal with them. :-)

So after I got Mason down for a nap, and the girlies took off, I finally got to relax. Then I got a text from Daughter Dearest: Go ahead and clean off your desk, so we can move the one upstairs downstairs. So there were more oversized dust bunnies, more trash, and then I hauled the old desk into the living room. With that space open, I cleaned out behind the dresser before moving the new desk into position.

Then… I started loading it up. The new desk has both more and less space, both due to the shelf. The laptop and monitor couldn't both be up there, so I moved it as shown here. But there’s room for the microphone, and (with a little more arranging and dust bunny eradication) I managed to get the laser printer in place. The printer was displaced by the wife’s DV deck.

I got smart and zip-tied the power strip to the framework on the back of the desk—now, it’s out of the way but reachable. The UPS is on the bottom shelf, and the desk is on rollers, so cleaning behind it won’t be an ordeal. Maybe the dust bunnies won’t have a chance to proliferate this time.

Friday, December 21, 2012 12 comments

Guardians 3: Father Christmas (#FridayFlash)

The conclusion…



The mantle clock struck midnight. As the last chime died away, a tall, thin man stood in the living room, facing the Guardians. His white hair hung shoulder-length, blending with his white beard.

Welcome, Father Christmas, said First Guardian. We have done our work this Christmas season, and now we stand ready. Judge us true.

The solemn figure nodded. “It is so. You have indeed done your work. You have guarded your people, and defended yourselves.” The guardians glowed. “And yet, there is one thing you missed.”

The guardians’ glowing wings flashed red with alarm. Tell us, Father Christmas, First Guardian prompted. What have we missed?

“The most important part of Christmas: compassion.” The guardians stood mute, their wings glowing red and yellow, waiting for him to continue. “Those men who broke in. They were not any danger to your people, who were off doing the things they do through the day. Perhaps you could have thought of a way to deter them, short of obliteration.”

The guardians hung their heads, as Father Christmas continued. “As for the elf, he meant neither you nor the people any harm. He was part of the celebration as much as are you three. Once he settled in, he may well have ceased his bluster and you could have reached an accommodation. As it was, he died a rather gruesome death.”

We are guilty, said First Guardian, not looking up. We accept your judgement and your punishment.

For the first time, Father Christmas smiled. “What I have in mind is not so much punishment, as education. This Christmas night, I will whisper a word in the ears of the parents. She will leave you here on the mantle, and he will not insist otherwise. In the year ahead, you will observe your people and their guests. You will hear their quarrels, share their joys and sorrows, and be amused at the silly things the children say and do.” His smile widened. “And you will not obliterate anyone who is not threatening your people. Understood?”

The guardians nodded. And we will not sleep the year through? asked First Guardian.

“You will not,” said Father Christmas. “You will watch and learn. Not everything your people do is good, and yet they are good people. You must learn to see them as they are, forgive their transgressions, and rejoice at the good they do. And remember that other people are much the same, even if they do not always act it.” He hefted his sack. “And now, it is time for me to fulfill my own purpose. Watch over your people, and remember that charity and goodwill are not only for Christmas.” He turned and walked down the hallway, to bless the people and whisper his word.

Compassion, said Second Guardian, her Sword of Light dim. It seems a hard lesson.

But one we can learn, First Guardian assured her. If we could not, we would be put away. Or recalled. Let us reflect on what we have heard this night. In the morning, we will hear and share the joy of the children. It is a beginning.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3 comments

Monday Musings

Click here for more graphics and gifs!We’re definitely in the Countdown to Christmas. A week and a day before the wrapping paper flies. Mason is old enough, this year, to understand the whole presents and Santa Claus thing. Of course, he had to get sick… and he’s always uggggly when he’s sick. We’ve heard, “Am I on the naughty list?” a few times. He just wants cars, and I mean the Hot Wheels kind. We could get him ten of those, wrap each one, and he’ll think he hit the Presents Jackpot come the 25th. It reminds me of Daughter Dearest—we could get her twenty bucks worth of puzzles, back in the day, and she was happy as any kid on the Big Day.

It’s been too long since icicle lights were the Big Thing for decorating. They’ve finally come up with a new “must have” light set: the waterfall/cascading kind. Well, Mason does love the extravaganza of lights outside, and we’ve made a few adjustments with wiring so we don’t blow those tiny fuses in the first string of lights this year. Pictures will be taken once the last set of lights are hung.

The clever and talented Angela Kulig is almost done with my cover art. It’s going to be glorious. I just hope it’s all ready by Wednesday, so I can wibble about it.

This evening, a couple hours after we put Mason to bed, he came up the hall saying, “there’s a problem, there’s a problem.” After a little cuddle, he let us know that his projection nightlight had cycled off and he wanted it back on. With the moon and stars once again glowing on the ceiling, he went right back to sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2012 13 comments

Christmas Guardians 2: The Creepy Elf (#FridayFlash)

Sonya Clark’s comment last week gave me an idea, and I got to write some more about the no-nonsense guardians…



“Heyyyy laaaadieeeeezzz…”

That horrid thing, again! Where is it? Second Guardian brandished her Sword of Light.

The Code, First Guardian reminded her. The people brought it in, it’s part of the household.

The creepy voice sang. “I’m just a little elf, sitting on a shelf, with three acute angles, see my legs dangle!”

This isn’t a shelf, it’s a mantle. Idiot. Then Second Guardian gasped. It’s on the mantle! Third Guardian, do you see it?

Third Guardian said nothing. But her wings, always in motion, glowed green, then shimmered left to right, pointing the way.

“I said acute angles,” said the elf, “but maybe you’re obtuse angles instead?”

If you insist on using a stupid pun, said Second Guardian, you may refer to us as right angles. She turned red. And I could cut you down from here. Don’t push your luck.

“Oh, I’m so frightened!” The elf’s tittering laugh grated in their ears. “Your boss spilled the beans on that one, I’m afraid. Besides, I’m just a decoration. With a purpose. Sort of like you, only more fun.” He leaned over to look around Third Guardian. “I certainly get to see more of the house than you guys. This elf gets around!” That grating laugh again, as he looked over Third Guardian. “Don’t you have anything to say? Cat got your tongue? I think I saw the kitty over in the manger scene.”

Third Guardian’s wings twitched, then flashed a medley of colors. She keeps her own counsel, said First Guardian. Those who know her, understand her by her wings.

“No talkee?” the elf grinned. “I like that in a woman!” He lowered his voice, becoming even more creepy than before. “Say… why don’t you and me ditch these pikers and explore the house a little? I’ve got a gift for you, you can open it once we’re alone!”

Third Guardian’s wing brushed the elf. “Hey,” he said, leaning over again, “I think she likes me! Oops.” Another brush scooted him toward the edge. “Hey, careful—whoa!” Her wings flashed yellow and red, and pushed the elf again. “You’re coming down with me, right? Yaahhh!”

The elf tumbled off the mantle, hit the screen, and bounced into the fireplace. “Whoa! Hot! Get me outta here! Yaaahhhh!”

The howls died quickly. Third Guardian, First Guardian asked in shock, did you push him off?

For the first time, Third Guardian spoke: Oops. Her wings glowed with a rosy blush.


“Honey,” the wife groaned, “I told you there wasn’t room for the elf up there! Now look!”

The husband looked at the heap of melted plastic and charred cloth in the fireplace. “Sorry. I’ll clean it up.” He moved the screen and got the scoop to scrape up the mess. “Then I’ll go get another one.”

“No.” The wife sighed. “I don’t think the kids liked it all that much. And to be honest with you, it was kind of creepy. Just listen to me when I tell you there’s not enough room next time, okay?”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Those angels are kind of territorial, anyway.”



Monday, December 10, 2012 6 comments

Recaptured

Vacations always have a sunset clause
The problem with escaping FAR Manor is that I can’t stay escaped. And the recapture always happens a day or two sooner than it should. OK, I shouldn’t really complain. Much. For one thing, the weather was near-perfect for vacation. They need some rain in Florida, but we got lots of beach and outdoor time. Mason wasn’t the only one who had a wonderful time. The only thing I didn’t get to do was meet up with some of my Twitter friends.

I got to take care of some of Mom’s computer issues, and that turned out to be fun. Dozeboxes and their software is always more than a little weird, and Vista flat refused to load the drivers for Mom’s HP all-in-one off the CD. It claimed it needed to run from an admin account, and that’s what we were doing. So I downloaded the drivers and ran it from there, and it worked.

That's me on the left
With all that working, we started scanning pictures. Mom had me get a miniature cedar chest off a high shelf, and she weeded out a few shots that nobody really wanted. The scanning software let us run several pictures at a time, and we made quick work of it.

One of the pictures was this one, complete with someone’s pencil marks. That’s me (on the left) and Other Brother. There was no date, but I figure it was early 1961 when I was in my Terrible Twos. I was an adorable little rug rat, huh? Now you know where Mason gets it from. :-D

Friday, December 07, 2012 10 comments

Christmas Guardians (#FridayFlash)

The sound of an unfamiliar vehicle brought the guardians alert. Only their eyes moved as they watched. Carolers, perhaps, one said.

Not through the day, said another. The doorbell rang. First Guardian stretched her wings. Third Guardian’s wings glowed, first blue, the red, then an angry pulsing red as they heard thumping and snapping noises behind the curtains. The alarm sounded, and the guardians readied themselves for battle.

“Go! Go! Go!” One of the three masked men shouted. “Check the bedrooms, we’ll get the tree!”

“What—aaagh!” First Guardian fired her laser cannon. “My arm!” the burglar screamed. “My arm’s gone!” He fainted.

Second Guardian swung her Sword of Light, decapitating the second burglar. The last burglar pulled a gun and fired, but First Guardian’s astershield flashed, and the bullet dissolved into blue sparkles. The burglar took a direct hit from the laser cannon, and was completely vaporized.

Once again, all was calm, but there was yet work to do. The laser cannon reduced the last of them to ash. Third Guardian flew down and flapped her wings, wafting the ashes into the fireplace. Their work was done, and just in time. The howl of sirens told them help was on the way.

“Looks like the alarm scared them off,” the officer told the guardians’ charges. “They weren’t too bright in any case, they took off and left their van. The keys aren’t in it, so we’ll have it towed to the impound.”

“That’s good,” the lady told them. “I’m just glad they didn’t take our children’s gifts.”

On the mantle, the guardians glowed.



Wednesday, December 05, 2012 1 comment

On the Beach

Mason shows us his latest shell
The first couple days of vacation, with a toddler, are best spent simultaneously unwinding and establishing a routine. As warm as it is, we do the beach in the morning and then spend some time with Mom through the afternoon (working around Mason’s naptime, which does limit afternoon mobility). Mason loves playing in the sand, finding shells, and getting his feet in the (somewhat chilly) water.

Daughter Dearest found a huge whelk in the water, and there’s pictures of me holding it up. It protested the only way it could, by spitting water, but I was holding it the other way. After a handful of pictures, I returned it and it started digging as quickly as such an ungainly thing can.

Last night, Mom, Wicked Stepfather, and Solar-bro came over for a little cookout. The cottages here have a couple zillion grills scattered around the common area, and I did burgers and dogs in the dark. A Hispanic lady in one of the other cottages came over and brought a cup of fresh salsa—as in warm off the stove fresh. It was eyeball-melting hot, and very tasty, so I dabbled some on my bratwurst and really liked it. Unfortunately, Mom tossed the rest of the cup. I was going to get some chips and see if I could melt beach sand with my breath.

I continue to be glad the girlies made it this time. Wife has actually started to relax, and Daughter Dearest has about caught up on her sleep. As for Mason, he wakes up at 8am, whether the rest of us are up or not, and finds a new strange place to play until the Big People get moving. This morning, it was the closet in our bedroom. Mom got the girlies tickets for some local production tonight, and I’ll have to see if I can tweet-up with some of the locals.

Monday, December 03, 2012 No comments

Very Inspiring Blog Award

I wonder if it’s for longevity as much as anything else, but Cindy Vaskova and Helen Howell both tagged me with this one within a day of each other! Nominees should write a post that:

1) Links back to their nominator
2) Reveals seven things about themselves
3) Nominates 15 more bloggers (15???)
4) Displays the award’s logo on their blog.

OK, what seven things can be said? Yeesh, this is harder than I expected.

1) Last week, I turned 18. For the third time. ;-)
2) I get annoyed when people want me to do something they’re capable of doing themselves.
3) When writing novels, I will switch between hand-writing and typing as it suits me.
4) Remember “The Thing” on The Addams Family? I do that with Mason, except he calls the hand a “spider.” It can be either fun or annoying, depending on his mood.
5) While I can envision a graphic, I really suck at drawing it out. Very frustrating.
6) I can get by on much smaller amounts of meat than most of my countryfolk.
7) Sometimes, I’ll think out loud. Wife then wonders what I’m talking about.

OK, on to the impossibly large number of bloggers. Cindy pretty much nailed everyone I’d want to tag, and then some. So… if you have a blog, congratulations! The prize is yours!

Sunday, December 02, 2012 1 comment

Escape from FAR Manor!

For the first time in far too long, we all got to escape FAR Manor. Wife-o-licious tried to get her dad to come, but he flip-flopped around most of the week then finally decided to stay home. That meant the wife did a mad scramble to line up people to keep an eye on him, but line up they did. Mom found us a cottage off the road, across from the beach, and near her place. Daughter Dearest had to work until 3 on Saturday, but that gave us time to pack (and forget a minimal amount of stuff). Still, I breathed a sigh of relief when we got moving with everyone in the car.

Since we were planning to leave so late in the afternoon, I booked a hotel room in Valdosta. It turned out to be right in front of the freeway exit—no left turn, no right turn, just go straight across and into the hotel parking lot. There were two people in front of me to check in at the front desk, and I think it took each of then ten times what it took me, just because I had a reservation. Mason slept through a cavalcade of snoring, and I’ll admit it wasn’t all from the wife and daughter… although both of them did more than they let themselves believe.

So this morning, it was up and on the road again, with a toddler who spent all of his waking hours in a car seat. Nap? Hah! But as we crossed the Howard Frankenstein Bridge (as the locals call it), Mason got his first-ever glimpse of the ocean. He was excited, as you can see.

Mom was helping some other ladies decorate the condo, so we grabbed some lunch and ate at the park across the road while Mason blew off some energy on the playground. (Did I mention it was warm enough to do that?) An older boy was there, and wearing the same color shirt as Mason, so they were suddenly Team Orange and hung out all over the place.

The cottage got a rare Wife Seal of Approval. It’s spacious, and has a big open area for Mason to run around in. So he got to blow off a little more energy while I parked in a lounge chair with my Kindle. Oh, and the place has wifi, which means I get to write a blog post…

So I hope there will be much relaxing through the week, for all of us. I did all the driving, after they said they’d pitch in, so I hope I’ll be one of the relax-ers too.

Tomorrow is a non-vacation post. If I get more post-worthy photos, they will be seen here too.

Monday, November 26, 2012 7 comments

Mason Monday

The holiday food binge went as expected: we all ate way too much. Daughter Dearest had to work on Black Friday, fortunately just the 10am to 6pm shift. I took her in, and the crush had already abated to merely very busy.

Hangin' out
But for Mason, the highlight was decorating the Christmas tree. Daughter Dearest crawled into the crawlspace behind the closet, and boxes, papers, and bags came flying out—Mason too, when he crawled in to see what was going on. I expect that he’ll be checking that out later on, when nobody’s looking. He has a long memory…

The wife brought home a blender a few weeks ago, because it had a nice sturdy glass container, but she didn’t know if the base worked. So I plugged it in and hit the “Obliterate” button, and it spun up. Mason came running in, “Are you making smoothies?” We haven’t made smoothies since July.

But I digress. We got a new (to us) tree, compliments of the wife’s older sister. It’s pre-lit, but anyone who has read TFM for a long time knows Christmas Rule #1 at FAR Manor: If you can see green, the tree needs more lights. Lights were dug out of boxes, tested, and strung. Then out came the non-breakable ornaments. So far, Mason hasn’t shown a desire to knock ornaments off the tree, like he did last year. But he focused his hanging efforts on one lower corner of the tree, inasmuch as a round tree can be said to have a corner, as shown in the pic here.

Job well done!
Of course, once he finished hanging all the things, the wife re-distributed the ornaments to even it out a little.

Yesterday, I took him to the park. Actually, I took him twice. The first trip was actually meant as a “nap ride,” and he was still going when I hit the last stretch into town. But I happened to look at the rearview mirror, just as he flopped his head over and closed his eyes (aka the Toddler Head Crash). With the actual mission accomplished, I took the other way home and put him to bed.

But when he woke up from his nap, he was still jonesing for a trip to the park. I’d planned to take him anyway. It was much colder on Sunday than it was on Friday, but that’s what jackets are for (if only he’d keep his hood up). I brought along a printout of the second Accidental Sorcerers story to write/edit to amuse myself, and he went tearing off for the jungle gym. A few minutes later, he ran back and jumped on the bench with me, huddling close.

“Did something scare you?” I asked, and he nodded. “What was it?” He pointed at this little redhead girl, about 18 months old, stumping around the playground and occasionally inspecting the wood chips. She waddled up to the bench and stood staring at Mason, who shrank into me even farther. I, and the parents nearby, thought this was hilarious. Yes, those girl things can be scary… so later on, he wanted to swing. The girl-thing seemed to know exactly how close she could get without getting bowled over by a swinging boy-toddler, and watched him until she persuaded her mom to put her in the next swing. The two of them swung quietly, side by side, for a while. This seemed to break the ice for Mason, because when she stuck her head in the covered “dining car” (part of a train-themed playground set) where he was sitting a little later, he didn’t freak out.

After she left, Mason decided to take a run on the track. However, some older kids (tween/early teen) had been horsing around on one end of the jungle gym, and they were now running around on one of the ball diamonds. So Mason wanted to join the fun. I talked him into taking the adjacent diamond, because I didn't want him to crimp the bigger kids. (The youngest girl especially seemed a little rude.) That went on for a few minutes, until the evening and cold set in, and we came home.

So… let the High Holy Daze begin!

Friday, November 23, 2012 11 comments

The Sorcerer's Daughter (#FridayFlash)

This is the intro to a third Accidental Sorcerers story, of the same name. I'll start writing the rest of it once I finish the second one…



Unbalanced and clumsy as he was, Bailar the Blue had cut or burned himself too many times to be comfortable in kitchens. And yet, if he wanted to drink tea or eat something warm, he had to risk it. Fortunately, this was a better morning. His poor balance did not betray him when he built up the fire. He did not drop the kettle on his foot, or slice a finger when he cut open a sausage to fry.

“It’s more necessary for you to learn to do these things, Bailar,” he laughed, repeating the words of his departed mentor, Gilsen the White. As an apprentice, Bailar wanted to use magic to do his chores, claiming it was necessary to avoid injuring himself. He was alone now, and dwelt in the home Gilsen had bequeathed him, yet he continued to honor his mentor’s wisdom.

With breakfast finished, Bailar made his careful way toward the low tower. Anyone across the Wide River, needing his services, would come to him. Still, they would raise a banner on the Exidy side of the river to warn him—

He stopped and turned about, stumbling and catching himself on the wall. He thought he’d heard a squawk of some sort. “Is someone here?” he called. He only used a few rooms in the house—one bedroom, the common-room, kitchen, privy, and the workroom—and he walked through them all, listening for the strange noise. Outside the common-room, he heard it again. Toward the door, so it must be outside.

Source: openclipart.org
Bailar opened the door, and heard a third squawk. At his feet. There, on his doorstep, lay a basket. A baby looked up at him, with big round eyes, sucking on a fist.

He looked around. “Hello? Is someone here? Come forth, in all peace and harmony.” No response, except for a gurgling noise from the baby.

“I will not leave an infant on my doorstep!” Bailar called out. He reached to grasp the handle, then thought better of it and hooked his arm through instead. Nobody protested or cried out as he lifted the basket and took it inside.

Bailar kept a close eye on his footing, but felt the baby’s eyes on him. “You’ll be hungry, sooner than later, I expect,” he said. “But I need to know some things, first.” He made his careful way past the common-room to the work area. “I’ll be back in a moment,” he assured his visitor, leaving the basket on the floor. Augury worked best with fresh, warm ashes, and the kitchen was the only place to find them through the summer.

He returned to find the baby making grumbling sounds. He unwrapped the blanket and laid both baby and blanket on one table.  The thick cloth diaper was only a little wet, and Bailar was not surprised to find that the baby was a girl. “Well, then,” he said, “let’s see what Fate has to say about you.”

She caught his finger in a firm grip, and laughed. Bailar smiled, and picked her up. She nestled into the crook of his arm, grabbed his sash, and started chewing on it. Fortunately, Bailar needed only one hand free for augury. He scooped up a handful of warm ash, took a deep breath, and held it to his lips. “What is this girl’s fate?” he whispered, then blew the ashes from his hand and stepped back to let them settle on the table.

The patterns were strong, more distinct than Bailar had ever seen. “Sun, Earth, Fire, Sun again, Water,” he said, walking around the table and identifying the runes. “Sun for magic. Twice? You’ll make a good sorceress yourself, I think. Earth for home, Fire for the hearth-fire. Water for movement. I suppose you will travel with me, and always return home.” He smiled at the girl, making contented noises around his dampening sash. “Let us go up and raise a banner. The reeve will want to know what has happened, in any case.”


Bailar considered Reeve Korene a dour woman, but she was unable to suppress a smirk at the sight. The girl looked up at the reeve, and returned the smile around a mouthful of blue sash. “I never took you for a domestic man, Bailar.”

“I cared for my younger siblings as a child,” he said. “The memories of what to do returned quickly, I’m happy to say.”

“Indeed. So why did you call? Do you have a sister visiting? Is she in need of a Healer?”

“Someone left this child at my doorstep. I thought it would best to let the authorities know.”

The dour look returned to the reeve’s face. “Such an outrage! If I find the mother, I’ll…” She forced herself calm. “I must ask: have you trafficked with any fair maidens, of late?”

“No maidens. Not of Exidy, nor of any towns upriver.”

She nodded. “Well. I’ll ask around. Someone will be willing to take her, I think.”

Bailar shook his head. “No. Someone already has her.” He stroked the girl’s hair, and she laughed.

“You?” Reeve Korene looked surprised. “That’s your right, of course, but…”

“Indeed. I read the ashes over her, and she has the Talent for sorcery. She will be both daughter and apprentice, in time. But even without that? I thought solitude suited me, but she’s melted my heart, and I don’t think I could bear to give her up. Can you send a nurse? One that can cook would be best. None of us will eat well if that’s left up to me.”

“Very well, sorcerer. Has she a name for the records?”

Bailar nodded. “I name her Sura, the summer sun. As a lad, a sister of mine was stillborn… and my parents gave her that name. It seems that Fate has restored her to me, after all these years.”

“So be it. I’ll find her a nurse. Best of luck to you both.”

Friday, November 16, 2012 19 comments

Flash (#FridayFlash)

I don’t need pity. So what if I’m deaf? Not only do I miss the banal noise of everyday life, it’s awesome PR. I could be lost in a sea of women looking for modeling work in this city. Instead, I’m Kyria Mist, Deaf Supermodel. Work what you’ve got.

Flash.

I’ve worked with this photographer before. He’s okay, and he’s trying to learn enough ASL to coach me through the poses. I think he’s doing it to get in good with me. I give him props for trying, even if it’s easier, faster, and more accurate to tell the interpreter what he needs.

Flash.

Duck into the wardrobe for the next outfit, and back on the platform. These fall fashions aren’t exactly practical for cold weather, but they get attention. That’s what’s important. I don’t have to wear it outside this studio, I just have to help sell it.

Flash.

In mid-instruction, the photographer and interpreter stop. The little TV isn’t where I can see, but they’re looking at it. And they’re horrified. Assassination? Another 9/11? Damn.

Then, they’re in panicked motion. The photographer snatches his camera off the tripod, throws it in a bag. The interpreter is signing we’ve got to go, frantically. She grabs up my jeans and blouse and flings them at me, points to the wardrobe.

What the hell—

FLASH.

Source: openclipart.org
The interpreter and photographer look at each other. His lips say, “Oh shit,” and they crouch on the floor, hands over their heads.

The first and last thing I ever hear, in my entire life, is the sound of the shockwave toppling our building.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

First, let's welcome the new visitors to the free-range insane asylum:

  • Patricia Lynne—one of my writing buddies, and she's from Michigan too (so you know she's cool).
  • Garrison James—writer, designer, artist. Check out Hereticwerks, where he blogs a long-running serial.

Feel free to look around. But watch out for that little inmate, he’ll distract you with cute and steal your phone.

I haven’t done a lot of writing this week. I poked at a few things, and that was about it. But…

As part of a rather impressive 2013 publishing (and writing!) schedule, we’re getting the novella formerly known as Chasing a Rainbow ready to publish. It will probably drop in January, after the holiday craziness has subsided. We’ve finally settled on a title we all can live with, The Crossover, and now we’re thrashing away at the cover art. Turns out the Wikimedia Commons is a good place to start, and (if you have a concept that can be expressed in a photo) you can often find what you’re looking for. People on the mailing list are going to get a sneak peek this week; once we nail down the details (by next week, I hope), we’ll share the official cover with everyone.

Hot on the heels of The Crossover, will come the first novella in the Accidental Sorcerers series. Since I’m about 90% done with the next one in the series, there will be excerpts. The cover art for that one will be difficult or expensive, I'm afraid—It all but demands an ice dragon. Then, come spring, Pickups and Pestilence should run down all the mysteries I left hanging in White Pickups. By then, the co-op should be a well-oiled machine, and we’ll be churnin’ out the titles.

If you have any writing (or reading) news, feel free to drop a comment!

Friday, November 09, 2012 21 comments

The Voting Dead (#FridayFlash)

I thought we could all use a little non-partisan laugh after the long cat fight…



It started in Chicago, of course, but not for the reason you’d assume. Rick Carbone was a long-shot candidate for the City Council. He owned a meat-processing plant, and zombies often bought the offal he would have had to pay to dispose of. To drum up business among the zombies, more than actually trying to win the election, he ran on a platform of extending rights and protections to the undead.

To everyone’s surprise, including Carbone’s, disenfranchised zombies banded together to support his candidacy. Vocal opponents had a way of changing their minds, and he won handily. A man who was raised to keep his promises, his first act was to introduce a law that de-legitimized hitting zombies with vehicles, a pastime often called “bowling.” After two crucial opponents on the City Council suddenly joined the walking dead, the anti-bowling measure passed.

Carbone, of course, had a brief but stellar political career, moving up to serve four terms in Congress. During that time, he spearheaded a successful movement to extend nationwide voting rights to the burgeoning zombie population. But as much as the political climate has changed, getting caught in bed with two dead women (even if they’re only undead) always spells the end of one’s political career. Still, Carbone’s legacy lives on, as America’s number one priority is now education. After all, the largest voting bloc’s single issue is “more braaaaaaains.”

Thursday, November 08, 2012 5 comments

Writing Wibbles

Just a little writing to wibble about this week. I’ve been cheering on everyone participating in NaNoWriMo, though.

I’ve learned something about my internal writing process this week. I’ve been a “pantser” (i.e. writing my the seat of my pants), as opposed to a plotter, for a long time. So I would think of a pivotal scene, write it, then fill in the spaces in between the pivots. I always thought of it as “organic story development” rather than “pantsing” though.

So for reasons as different as the stories themselves, I thought I’d try plotting several of my upcoming story ideas. Even though I gave myself permission to change the outline as I went, I found myself getting bogged down early on. It was the gigantic word-bomb that Mik and Sura dropped on me that helped me figure out why. They forced me to write the beginning and the end of Accidental Sorcerers 2, and left that long dry in-between for me to finish on my own. When I have an outline—which for me means chapters and scene titles laid out in Scrivener—I feel like I have to start writing with the first empty scene. I need to add a little organic fertilizer to this non-organic story development, and make myself write the scenes where I know what’s happing now. That will help me fill in those ever-smaller in-between spots.

First attempt was a success. It took 20 minutes to write the first 30 words. Then I got 100 more down in the next 10 minutes. An hour later, I was up to 1,200 words. Always something new to learn!

A little Green Envy Press news: Angela Kulig has released her Skeleton Lake preview novella, The Skeleton Song, free on Amazon. I edited it, so you can blame me for any remaining typos. ;-)

Meanwhile, I’m hoping to have two Termag novellas out over the winter. Pickups and Pestilence should be out come spring, and that’s just the beginning…

Thursday, November 01, 2012 9 comments

On the Georgia Road 6 (#FridayFlash)

With some of the things my online friends up north are dealing with this week, I got in the mood to write another one of these.

Earlier installments in this series:

#1: the commuter
#2: interstate patrol
#3: lake property house-sitters
#4: Relocation Center
#5: college campus



“The State DNR’s Tourism division has announced that their third annual Fall Color Tour is scheduled for the week of November 8th. The day trips run all week, and wind through the north Georgia mountains. Buses leave the North Springs MARTA station at 10 a.m., and return by dusk. Lunch is included, and travelers are encouraged to bring a small cooler and snacks. The overnight trip leaves at 10 a.m. Saturday, includes accommodations at Amicalola Falls State Park, and returns to North Springs mid-afternoon on Sunday. All meals are included, and each passenger may bring an overnight bag. For details and reservations, see the DNR website at the bottom of your screen.

“The mountains are beautiful, but the people who live there aren’t watching the leaves—they’re getting ready for winter. In tonight’s segment of ‘On the Georgia Road,’ Sean McKinzie travels to White County, where local residents are busy this time of year. Sean?”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, woods. Chainsaws snarl in the background. Sean raises his voice to be heard above the noise. “Hi, Marcia! When you have to depend on your own resources to make energy, wood is the Number One choice! It literally grows on trees, after all!”

Cut to: exterior, people stacking firewood. Sean voiceover. “Residents tell me their first frost came early last week, and that’s lending a little urgency to the winter preparations. With gardening season officially over, the focus has mostly shifted from food to fuel.”

Cut to: exterior, local road. A large tree lies across the road. Man in foreground, talking to Sean; men and women in background sizing up the tree. Title: Johnny Long, local resident. “Our host, Johnny Long, put things in perspective for us.”

Fade to: Johnny Long, gesturing toward the fallen tree. “What do you see there?”

Sean: “A tree down, across the road.”

Johnny: “Yeah. Well, we see enough firewood to keep a house warm for half the winter. It’s blockin’ the road, too, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is we get this cut up and stacked.”

Sean: “Where do you get the fuel to run your saws?”

Johnny: “We got a little motor-sickle. We take it down to Gainesville and bring back groceries and a couple of five-gallon cans. That’s plenty for saws.”

Fade through: sequence of clips. Tree being cut up and removed, shrinking with time. Sean voiceover. “In less than two hours, a fallen tree became several stacks of firewood, plus a few large sections of trunk. While two people cut it up, others were hauling away cut pieces, splitting what needed to be split, and stacking the rest.” Cut to: Sean carrying an armload of cut wood. Continue voiceover. “We got pressed into service as well, and maybe we helped more than we got in the way.”

Cut to: interior, small barn or large shed. Women and men working at long tables, preparing food, setting up jars. Sean voiceover. “The focus is mostly on fuel, but there is still some food to put away.”

Cut to: interior, woman. Title: Sarah Adams. Sean voiceover: “This is a neighborhood cannery, and everyone pitches in. Sarah Adams explains what we’re looking at.”

Sarah: “Today, we’re doin’ the last of the apples and pears. Now that we’ve had a frost, the persimmons are sweet enough to use, so we’ve gathered a couple bushels for jam. We had a pretty good year with the scuppernongs—”

Sean: “What’s that word?”

Sarah, laughing: “Scuppernongs. They’re a domesticated muscadine. It’s a kind of grape. We’re doin’ those today, too.”

Cut to: baskets of fruit. Sean voiceover. “Ms. Adams says that a month ago, during the height of the garden harvest, the cannery was running full-tilt from morning into the night. Come winter, stews and soups will nearly always be on the dinner table in Unincorporated areas. Empty a few jars of meat and vegetables into a Dutch oven, and set it on the woodstove in the morning. By noon, you have a hot meal.”

Cut to: exterior, firepit made of concrete blocks. Rebar forms a grill across the top. Pots on the grill. Sean voiceover: “For safety’s sake, cooking and sterilizing happens outside. They burn pine in the firepit, saving the oak for heating the houses. Cooked food is taken back inside and put in jars, then the jars come back outside for final processing.”

Cut to: exterior, house. Solar panels on roof, windmill standing idle. Sean foreground. “Ms. Adams let me know that they were not self-sufficient, as far as food goes. Hunters might bring in game through the winter, but they don’t or can’t produce items such as flour, coffee, beans, citrus, and so on. So, they make grocery runs on occasion, and visit the library. There, they check out books, or load their readers with eBooks over the wifi, to keep them occupied through the winter.

Cut to: exterior, Sean close-up. “And so we learned that, with a little foresight and a lot of teamwork, it’s certainly possible to survive—even thrive—through a Georgia winter.” Camera zooms out. Sean holds an armload of firewood and several full quart jars. “On the Georgia Road, I’m Sean McKinzie.”

The World's Cutest Pirate

Arrrr, ye lusty wenches! He’s gonna board yer heart, while his granddad plunders yer booty!


And with Daughter Dearest, definitely looking non-slutty in her phoenix guise.


Hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en!

Well, it's official: no frost in October at FAR Manor, for the second time in three years.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

It is with great pleasure that I welcome EJ Hobbs, a former FAR Manor inmate, to the online version of the free-range insane asylum! EJ is trying to devote more time to writing, so go check out his #FridayFlash for this week and give him some encouragement. Drop him a comment, all that good stuff.

With the White Pickups blog tour dwindling in the rearview mirror, the Accidental Sorcerers decided they were done tormenting me for a while. I’m going to try getting a #FridayFlash out this week; maybe a new “On the Georgia Road” segment, to tie into the fall tourist season in full swing here in Sector 706.

But Mik’s and Sura’s story, which doesn’t have a decent title yet, is about 2/3 done now. I have place settings or topics for at least three more stories, so this might make a nice little series of novellas. I think the hardest thing will be keeping them out of each other’s bedrooms remembering to age them properly as the story line progresses. I suppose, now, the overall arc becomes a coming of age story, while they have lots of interesting adventures (and everyone thought the age of adventures was long over, haha).

In between, I’ve been working on an expanded version of UW-401, the “pre-zombie apocalypse” #FridayFlash. This too, I think, will end up in the novella size range. That one, I’m writing by hand, while the Accidental Sorcerers get the keyboard. Interesting, how different stories want to be drafted different ways. I should break out the old manual typewriter some time and see what stories want to be literally banged out. With any luck, I’ll finish both of them by the end of November.


If the Launch Cannon appears in the Wibbles, it means more of my stories have escaped the friendly confines of the blog. It begins with the recent #FridayFlash It Begins, which coincidentally uses the main characters and situation in UW-401. The editor of the Were-Traveler actually asked me to submit it for her “Alternate Zombie History” issue! Go check out the other stories, there are some really good ones in here. From ancient Egypt and Rome, to WW2, to other big moments in history, to the near future, the dead are walking. Perfect for Hallowe’en, right?

And a #FridayFlash from last year, Assignation, got itself cleaned up for an appearance in the Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2 anthology. This marks my first fiction available in print, and that’s kind of exciting. You can drop 10 bucks on a paperback (which includes an eBook version), or 5 bucks just for the eBook.



And somewhere in there, I’ve been doing some editing for Green Envy Press. I thought I had an ambitious set of launch goals for next year—Angela is pushing for even more! I really need to stop procrastinating and get the Pickups and Pestilence draft out to the beta readers, that’s like the biggest of the bunch so far.

So, Lord willing and the Internet don’t fall over, I’ve got at least Pickups and Pestilence coming out in the spring, along with the to-be-retitled Chasing a Rainbow, both Accidental Sorcerers stories, and UW-401 scattered throughout the year. I’d planned to start on Wings: Unfurled before now, but with a couple more royalty direct-deposits the wife might give me some time to get it done!

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll post a pic of Mason in his Hallowe’en outfit.

Monday, October 29, 2012 No comments

Winners!

The White Pickups blog tour drove off, and left two winners in its wake:

2nd place, a copy of White PickupsJess Richardson

And the Grand Prize winner: Laura Hill
That big ol’ pile of loot includes:

  • White Pickups by Larry Kollar (um, that’s me!)
  • Being Human by Patricia Lynne
  • Snapshots by Patricia Lynne
  • The Violet Fox by Clare Marshall
  • Within by Clare Marshall
  • The Skeleton Song by Angela Kulig
  • Dust of the Dead Sea by Angela Kulig
  • Pigments of My Imagination by Angela Kulig

If you’re one or the other, and haven’t seen my email yet, check your spam filter? (Actually, one winner has already responded.)

I appreciate everyone who entered and followed the trucks around the blog tour… without, you know, actually climbing in one…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

With the White Pickups blog tour in the rear-view mirror, I heave a sigh of relief. There were a large pile of guest posts to write, plus an interview. As I type, there’s still two days to enter the raffle. You can’t win if you don’t enter!

October is the crazy month. Well, they’re all crazy months at FAR Manor, but October stands out as the real moonbat. It’s not Hallowe’en so much as that it’s tourist season in Sector 706 of Planet Georgia. That, and the “change of season” feeling that we don’t get much of the rest of the year. So it’s natural that I get the Biggest Word-Bomb Ever, or at least my personal biggest, in October. Perhaps I should explain…

If you’ve been around a while, you might have read at least parts of Accidental Sorcerers, a serial I've been blogging for a while. What is on the blog is about half of a completed novella, roughly 30,000 words. But that’s not all of Mik and Sura. Not by a long shot. I’ve had an idea for a second novella for a while now, and took a shot at writing one scene. One. This story really puts Mik and Sura through an emotional wringer, and frankly those two voices in my head got angry. Very angry. And while they may be kids, they can do magic. One has summoned an Elemental Dragon, and lived to tell about it; the other one gets the urge to set people on fire when they cross her. They chained me to the keyboard and made me write the ending (with the resolution), then sent me to the beginning where they were having a really good time at first. I call it a word-bomb, because it didn’t really feel like a Download from God like I’ve had a few times in the past. Still, 17,000 words in a week was mentally taxing. At least I excerpted a little of it for my #FridayFlash last week.

So I’m over halfway done with this story, and they’ve left me to muddle through the middle. Anyway, I need to finish beta on the first story, and then get the second one up.


I got a rather pleasant email from Amazon this morning. My first royalty “check” is going to be direct-deposited toward the end of the month. Nothing huge—I’ve sold about a dozen copies each of White Pickups and Xenocide—but it’s a start. The wife is suddenly realizing that I could have a little income out of this… so maybe I’ll get more time to write? Let’s hope.

Friday, October 19, 2012 19 comments

#FridayFlash: Mik and the Merchant

The barge reached the Captain Rietha Bridge, and the crew offloaded the wagon. With Mik leading the donkey, and crewmen pushing behind, they got the wagon up from the landing and onto the Royal Highway. With evening setting in, they crossed to the way station opposite the bridge. There were several wagons, merchants by the looks of them, standing covered outside.

"I think the donkey likes you, Mik," said Sura, as they unhitched it. "If you get him in the stables, I'll put supper together."

"Fair enough." They embraced for a moment and went their ways.

After accepting another handful of grain, the donkey let Mik lead him into the stable. He found an empty stall and tied the donkey within, then spread fresh straw from the hayrick on the floor. Mik took the bucket and walked back down to the river to fill it. Familiar chores, once done in a place that he would soon see again.

As he went to find Bailar and Sura, he heard a hiss and a voice. "Hoy. Boy-sprout."

Mik turned to see a merchant, beckoning to him. He shrugged and ambled over. "What?"

"I have something for you," whispered, holding up a tiny vial. "A love potion, from the faraway East. I saw you and your girl out there. Put this in her tea, and she'll do anything for you. And I mean, anything!" The merchant grinned and made a suggestive gesture.

Mik frowned, fingering his blue sash. Is it possible he doesn't know what this signifies? he thought, but decided to play along. See how truly ignorant this folkman was. He leaned forward, gazing at the vial. "How does it work?" he asked.

"It's strong magic," the merchant assured him, warming to his pitch. "Sorcerers in the faraway East have preserved lore of such things from the time of Camac That Was… or perhaps even before! I've traveled far, looking for one who could benefit. You, I think, are the one."

"Enchanters," said Mik.

"Eh?"

"A potion would be an enchantment," Mik explained, "imbuing an object with magic. Sorcery is harnessing the elements, usually for a physical effect."

"Sorcerers, enchanters," the merchant made a dismissive gesture, trying to regain his footing. "Quite the young pedant, you are. But we're talking about your love life, no?"

"No." Mik's hand shot forward, grasping the vial for a moment, before the surprised merchant could snatch it back. "You were talking about a supposedly magical potion that would… well, it would do nothing, because I felt no magic in it just now. What you have there is probably a concoction of herbs, or perhaps a swallow of liquor."

"And you're some great mage?" the merchant sneered.

"Only an apprentice sorcerer. But I know enough to recognize a bargeload of rotten meat when I hear it." Mik turned. "And now, good evening to you, sir."


As they shared supper, on the way station porch, Mik related the encounter. Bailar laughed heartily. "You taught him a fine lesson! I hope he applies it!"

Sura was not at all amused. "I wish I'd been there," she growled. "Setting him on fire might have been a better lesson." Below them, a small patch of grass began to smolder.

"Sura, put that out!" Bailar looked alarmed. "Petty fraud does not warrant serious injury, in any case!" Sura shook her head, but hopped down to stamp out her small fire. "No harm was caused, and I expect he'll be more cautious with his touting from here on."


Later that night, Mik was drifting toward sleep when he heard Sura whisper. The three of them shared a tiny room in the way station, the bed little more than a wide platform above the floor. “Mik. Are you awake?”

“I am.” He eased himself up. Between them, Bailar breathed slowly.

“Can I ask you something?” He could see little more than her outline in the dark.

“Anything.”

“If that merchant really had a love potion, would… would you have bought it?”

Mik shook his head, forgetting for a moment that Sura could not see. “No,” he whispered. “When…” he paused, thinking Bailar might be awake and listening. “No. Is it my turn to ask a question, now?”

Sura sighed. “Ask.”

“Would you have really set the merchant on fire?”

She giggled. “No, but after he heard what I had to say, he might have wished I had!”

Mik snorted. “That would have been fun to watch!”

“Go to sleep, you two,” said Bailar. “If you are hoping I will find a quiet place to sleep, and leave you here by yourselves, I will not.”

“Apologies, mentor,” said Mik, although they could both hear the smile in his voice. “Sura started it, though!”

“Mik!” Sura laughed, snatched up her pillow, and flapped Mik with it over her protesting father. He covered himself and chortled under her laughing assault.

Monday, October 15, 2012 5 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 5)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4



Source: WikiMedia Commons
In later years, when Jakrom’s children had completed their apprenticeships and were making their own way in the world, a visitor came calling. Jakrom did not recognize the man, but invited him in.

“I came to thank you, Jakrom,” said his visitor. “You aided me long ago, when all hope was lost, and I have not forgotten your kindness.”

“Forgive me, sir,” said Jakrom, “but I do not recall. When and where did I help you?”

“At the Edge of the World, as you made your final climb to gaze upon the Great Nothing.”

Jakrom gasped as a name leapt into his mind. “Perin! I had forgotten. You healed, I see.”

Perin smiled. “Indeed. The leg still pains me on rainy days, especially now as I grow older, but thanks to you I do yet walk the world. It is said, ‘Blessed is he who remembers a kindness received, and more blessed still is he who forgets the kindness given.’ You have been greatly blessed, I see.”

“I have,” said Jakrom, squeezing his wife’s hand.

“Do you still have the Fragment? I see chips of it on your rings—a clever token and one that marks you.”

Jakrom laughed. “I could never bring myself to sell it. Let me bring it forth.”

Perin shook his head. “Knowing you still have it is enough. I did not come to see it, but to answer the question you never asked of me.”

“Why were you on the mountainside?”

“Yes. That question.”

Jakrom smiled. “And what is the answer?”

“I must first ask you a question. You know the legend of our world’s creation?”

“Of course,” said Trenah. “Thurun Made it for folk who insisted that their own world had an Edge. But in the middle of the Great Nothing, he Made a city of refuge for other Makers. A fine tale to tell children at bedtime.”

“The tale is true.”

Jakrom’s eyebrows climbed into his thinning hair. “And you call that city home?”

Trenah gasped. “You say you are a Maker yourself?”

“I do call it home, but I am no Maker,” said Perin. “As with sorcerers, not all children born to Makers have the ability. Those of us who do not are sent into the world of Day, to travel and observe. We are the eyes and ears of our city. Long ago, Makers were persecuted and hunted. In those times, they swore that no kindness shown them would go unrewarded.”

“But we have wealth to outlive us,” said Jakrom. “We need no reward. Your thanks is enough.”

“What I offer,” said Perin, “no wealth under the sun can buy. You have a welcome and a home in the City of Refuge. There you would lack for nothing, including a long and vigorous life. And more children, if you wished. In fact, such would be encouraged.” He paused a moment. “It—”

“Wait,” said Trenah. “How does one cross the Great Nothing?”

“I am here, and it is harder to come to Light than to Darkness. But when Makers will a thing done? It is usually done. For those who know the way, crossing the Great Nothing is less arduous than the journey from here to the Edge of the World.”

Jakrom and Trenah looked at each other for a long time. “We must think about this,” said Trenah. “Until we decide, please remain with us as our guest.”


Larbam was old now, and preferred to sit on his upstairs balcony where the sun could warm his bones. Yet his merchant’s mind was as sharp as ever. On the day Jakrom came calling, Larbam’s granddaughter Carinah brought them tea and cakes. After they had eaten and drank, Larbam said, “You are moving on.”

“How did you know?” Jakrom was surprised, for he and Trenah had only made the decision that morning. Perin knew, but he had not departed the house.

“That day so long ago, when you departed for the Edge of the World, your eyes were already on that journey.” Larbam chuckled, and sipped his tea. “This day, you have that same look about you. What wonders will you see this time?”

“I will tell you, for it was you who set my feet on this path. But only if you will not spread the tale further.”

“Of course, of course. I myself will soon take my own journey, the one from which there is no return.” Larbam sighed. “Your secrets I will take with me.”

“Nor do I expect us to return here.” Jakrom told Larbam of his visitor and the invitation they had accepted. “We have agreed to tell everyone else that we will spend our lives seeing all there is of our world. But you, my friend? I thought you should know the truth.”

“I have oft regretted that I was not your father, Jakrom. But I am always grateful that you have been my friend, instead.” Larbam looked into his teacup, then at Jakrom. “I believe we shall not see each other again. Therefore, let me embrace you as a father embraces his beloved son when he goes to make his way in the world.” And Larbam embraced his friend. “Go and do, Jakrom,” he whispered. “Speak my name in the City, that shines by its own light, under the eternal Stars.”

Thus did Jakrom and Trenah depart from the world of Day. It may be that they were Made young again, and bore sons named Larbam and Perin, and daughters named Arah and Rakah. It may be that they live there yet.


Sarna gave Galbron a wide-eyed look. “To be Made eternally young, like the Unfallen… what a thought!” she breathed.

“Many have sought the way to Thurun,” said Ethtar, “but none have yet found it. Or if they did, they never returned. Perhaps that is for the best.”

“So our wisest say,” said Galbron. “Makers in these days would be nearly like gods, doing whatever they pleased. But even Makers, we believe, would come to see life as a burden and lay it aside. Thus is the balance maintained.” He gave his friend’s daughter a warm smile. “Perhaps Jakrom and Trenah did the same. The important thing is, they seized the adventure before them. As do you and your father!”

“Indeed!” Sarna laughed.

THE END

Friday, October 12, 2012 11 comments

White Pickups Blog Tour!

One of the benefits of joining a publishing co-op is that I get a lot of help with promotion. Oh, did I not mention that? I’ve joined a publishing co-op! It’s a very new thing, and we’re all still feeling our way forward, but we’re all pooling our not-writing skills, so everyone benefits.

Once we really get going, I think we’ll have a top-notch operation, and be able to match or beat anyone on quality.

Blog tour. I was talking about a blog tour. Yes, White Pickups is taking an online road trip of its own…

It’s amazing how quickly this all came together. I had to blast out four guest-blog posts in a week, and of course the one that came first was the absolute hardest one to do. But meanwhile, Angela Kulig, the marketing expert at Green Envy Press, was lining up tour stops and had time to throw together a short video. Check it out…



There’s goodies to be won! In addition to an eBook copy or two of White Pickups, there’s a slew of other books from some of the other Green Envy Press authors in the pile. So here’s a list of the wonderful bloggers who are helping out:

Oct 12th: http://www.faeryinkpress.com/category/blog
Oct 14th: http://jamiebmusings.webs.com/
Oct 15th: http://www.sonyaclark.net/
Oct 16th: http://www.patricialynne.com/
Oct 17th: http://safireblade.com/
Oct 18th: http://www.angelakulig.com/
Oct 19th: http://www.smreine.com/
Oct 20th: http://www.hmjacobs.com/

You’ll get to read guest posts, the “craziest interview ever,” and other fun things, so don’t forget to follow that truck!

And now… the Rafflecopter giveaway! Rafflecopter giveaway Don’t forget to enter, there’s plenty of good stuff to win!

Monday, October 08, 2012 3 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 4)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2Part 3



Source: WikiMedia Commons
“You have seen it?” Perin asked. “You need not answer. I see it in your eyes. It is something you will not forget.”

“Indeed,” said Jakrom. “It was awesome. I know now, how one might go mad in that place.” He shuddered. “Now, to get you out of this place?”

“Walk that way,” Perin suggested, pointing down-slope. “It may be that this crevasse opens up on the mountainside farther down.”

Jakrom followed the crack, and it was indeed as Perin guessed. He returned, and supported Perin until they again reached the trees. There, Jakrom found a stream and built a travois for Perin after hunting some game for them both. Jakrom stopped once, to retrieve his cached gold. When they again reached the river, they built a raft and floated downstream, using the broken pickaxe and a pole to push them away from rocks. They slept at mining camps, trading their wondrous story for food and drink along the way. Finally, they reached the last town (now the first town) and Jakrom took Perin to the local Healer.

“It will be some time before he is fit to travel further,” the Healer told them.

“I have gold a-plenty,” said Jakrom. “Enough for us both to stay here, as long as needed.” The prospectors had made good on their promise, and left Jakrom more gold in town. He was now a rich man, as he reckoned things.

“You should go,” said Perin. “You have a wife to claim at home. I will perhaps see you again some day, and I will tell my folk of how you brought hope to the Edge of the World, where I had lost my own hope.” There were more words, but Jakrom finally assented. He did pay the taverner to see that Perin lacked for nothing, however, until he was able to make his own way.


Jakrom returned home, nearly two years after he left, and he came home to find much had changed—not the least thing, himself. Feeling unsure of why he did so, he found Larbam’s house.

Larbam wept when he realized who it was at his door. “Come in!” he cried. “I feared I’d sent you to your death. I rejoice to see you alive, yet I grieve that I cannot keep my end of the bargain.”

“So I heard,” said Jakrom. “But tell me anyway.”

“A year passed after you departed, and young men of good families presented themselves. I allowed them to marry Arah and Rakah. Since then, my own fortunes have suffered, and now I am nearly a poor man myself. If you would hate me for one, and mock me for the other, I would understand.”

Jakrom shook his head. “I will do neither. I came to show you that for which you asked, though,” and showed Larbam the fragment of the Great Nothing.

“It’s beautiful,” Larbam breathed, after a long while. He lifted his eyes away, with some difficulty, and met Jakrom’s. “Will you sell it? There are only a few who could afford a fair price!”

“I don’t know,” said Jakrom. “I have thought I would, and I have thought I would not. However it is, I brought home a great deal of gold as well. That in itself is more wealth than I need.” He withdrew a small pouch. “I heard that you had fallen upon hard times. Take this. Consider it a loan, if you wish. Your fortunes will improve, then you can pay it back.”

Larbam wept again. “My fortunes have already improved,” he said, “for you bear me no ill will after all that has happened. You have helped me, now let me help you. You will be invited to travel in the circles of the wealthy, as you possess something that no other man has. I can advise you.”


Jakrom found Larbam’s advice sound, for Larbam himself had once traveled in the circles of the wealthy. Jakrom bought a modest house, and hid the Fragment there with his family curse. Larbam taught him how to act at ease among the high-born, and how not to let his words trap him in a ruinous course of action. Jakrom did not sell the Fragment, but put a small piece in a ring. Soon after, he gave a similar ring to his bride, the sorceress Trenah. Their children were strong, healthy, and had sorcerous talent of their own. Over time, Larbam’s fortunes did indeed improve, and he paid Jakrom twice what was lent. Both men prospered, and grew influential in their city.


“And that’s the end?” Sarna glowered at Galbron from across the room, holding their full wineglasses. “A fair adventure, to be sure, but not deserving of being served your wine!”

“Not quite,” Galbron assured her. “There is yet a little more.”

continued…

Thursday, October 04, 2012 15 comments

Origins: Miss Siles (#FridayFlash)

This is a followup to an earlier flash, Miss Siles



Miss Siles’s logo
“Thanks for inviting me over, Montana.” Miss Siles settled into the leather recliner, wine glass in hand.

“My pleasure.” Montana Rack took the love seat. A glass-top coffee table stood between them. She poured her own wine, and set the bottle on the coffee table.

“I guess you want to interview me, right?” Miss Siles asked. “There has to be a reason for this invite. The dinner was great and all, I just figured… you know.”

Montana laughed. “That’s not the reason. If you want to talk about anything, though, I’m all ears.”

“And tape recorder.”

Another laugh. “A good transcription starts with more than memory! No, I wondered if you’ve given much thought to who you wanted to have for your Recording Journalist. I think we’d be a good fit. I won’t get distracted by your, um, superpowers, and I do have experience. Now that Captain Heroic’s retired, I’m open. He’ll vouch for me.”

Miss Siles laughed herself. “I bet he would! Sure, why not?”

Montana nodded. “One drawback. I give it maybe ten more years before I’ll have to give up live reporting and move to the anchordesk. But that gives us plenty of time to find a replacement.”

Miss Siles shrugged, making the recliner shift. “Fair enough. I guess you want to hear my origin story, then.”

“Of course!” Montana rose, and returned with a recorder. “Just tell the story. Once I have it down, I’ll pass it to you and let you add or correct things as necessary. Then it goes into the archives until you’re no longer active.”

“When is Captain Heroic’s story coming out?”

“Not right away. He still might have to come out of retirement.”

“Oh. All right.” Miss Siles began:

I was born June Stiles, a corn-fed girl from small-town Nebraska. I’ve always been a big girl—I mean, not like this, more like you—and I learned early on how to make it work for me. But I mostly earned my school grades, and I was accepted into IU without a personal interview. I majored in biochemistry, with a minor in genetics, and Sontanmo hired me after graduation. Despite knowing how to work what I had, I have to admit I was still pretty naïve. I bought that whole line about Sontanmo wanting to work with nature, improve on it, and feed the world.

They know how to work the idealists, too. Keep up the happy-babble, and keep us busy on small corners of the Big Picture. Get us tied to that paycheck, so we’ll look the other way the first time we catch a glimpse of what’s really going on.

I’m sure that’s what caused the accident. After a couple peeks behind the curtain, I was having some—okay, a lot of misgivings about working for Sontanmo. So I was distracted, wondering what I should do. I’d not even worked for a year, yet, and already I couldn’t afford to just quit. I had an apartment, car payment… oh, you know the tune. Besides, I was gnawing at a technical problem. EG-12 was a genome we were trying to splice into corn. The goal was halving the time to harvest—which meant we’d get two harvests in a season! Being able to double production would have been a game-changer, you know?

Like I said, I was distracted. I usually put my lab coat on backwards, so everything up front got covered, but I didn’t that morning. And it was a hot day, so I was wearing something low-cut. Lucky I had my face shield down when the centrifuge came apart, but my upper torso wasn’t shielded nearly as well. The seniors designed EG-12 to be delivered as a bath, so we could soak the corn in it. For all my working my assets, I was kind of modest at heart, so I didn’t do the smart thing and get out of my clothes and jump in the shower right away.

“So the EG-12 soaked into you?” Montana looked shocked.

“Right,” said Miss Siles. “Next thing I knew, I was… growing. Then the men in black showed up. That’s how I always thought of them. They gave my family some line about Sontanmo sending me overseas on a special project, and brought me to Professor Zero. He helped me learn how I’d changed, helped me develop my new talents, and sent me here to Skyscraper City.”

Montana gave her a sympathetic nod, and refilled their wine glasses. New superheroes were always vulnerable, as they adjusted to their new lives. She remembered Professor Zero’s words: as a Recording Journalist, your job is to simply listen, at least as much as covering the exploits of your assigned superhero. Your careers are symbiotic. With no secret identity, this poor kid would never have a normal life to fall back on, so she’d be even more vulnerable. Zero should have addressed this before sending her out.

Well, she’d been Captain Heroic’s friend all those years, and more than a friend now that he was retired. She could be June’s—Miss Siles’s—friend, too. She turned off the recorder. “That’s enough for our first night,” she said. “How about a movie? I have Nextflick.”

Monday, October 01, 2012 4 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 3)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2



Galbron lowered his wine glass and continued.

Source: WikiMedia Commons
“Down—” the cough again. “Down here. Help me.” Jakrom looked, and saw a narrow crack. He peered down, and was surprised to see a man looking back up.

“What are you doing here?” Jakrom gasped.

Even in his distress, the man smiled. “I will ask you the same thing, but not just now. I am Perin. Do you have water?” he whispered.

“Of course, of course.” Jakrom found a place to wedge the handle of the broken pickaxe, tied his rope to it, and slid down. He found a man covered head to foot in furs, resting on a pack. He gave the man a waterskin, and the newcomer sipped at it.

“Ah. Better.” Perin still had more croak than voice, but he sipped again. “To answer your question, on the Edge of the World a foot placed wrong can kill. Two days ago, I slipped on loose stone up above and fell here. It is warm enough in this sheltered spot, and food I have, but lost what little water I carried in the fall. And my leg is broken. But what of you? What brings you to the Edge?”

“This is how I shall prove myself worthy of marrying the daughter of a merchant,” said Jakrom. “I have been sent to stand on the Great Nothing, and bring back a fragment as proof.”

“If the bride-price for all daughters is so great,” Perin chuckled, “I am surprised there are folk left in the world!”

“Larbam offered me his older daughter with no bride-price, but I know her not.”

“Then she is a prize indeed. But do not chip at the Great Nothing. I have a fragment that I can give you instead.” Perin reached into his furs, and withdrew a large chip of black stone.

Jakrom took it and stared into it wide-eyed. It was the deepest black he’d ever seen, darker than any windowless closet. In its flat side, he thought he could see sparks of distant lights. He felt as if he could fall into it. Finally, he looked away. “I thank you, sir. But if I need not chip away a piece on my own, I must still stand on the Great Nothing. I will not deceive the father of the woman I wish to marry.”

“And to have come this far?” He nodded. “Of course. You are nearly there. Go have your look. But take your rope, that you may find your way back. Those not accustomed to the Great Nothing find it confusing. And when you feel lost, look up.”

“It is said that you lose your way, and then your mind, in the Great Nothing,” said Jakrom. “Your counsel is wise. But first, let me splint your leg. When I return, I can help you further.”

Jakrom left his waterskin and the rest of his pack behind, taking with him only his rope and the pickaxe. So close to his goal, and free of his pack, he felt light as a feather. He quickly scrambled up the steep slope, nearly bounding. But remembering what Perin had said, he kept a close watch on his footing. As he climbed, the sky before him turned a deep shade of blue, then almost black.

At last, he reached the peak. He stood watching, one with the stone, for how long he could not say. Before him, sunlight scattered over the Edge and marked a way down into a blackness as black as the fragment that now rested in his own pocket. To either side, a yellow-white line stretched away as far as he could see: the mountains that formed the Edge of the World. Above him… pinpricks of light, the “stars” of epic poems, hidden by Thurun’s eternal day. Finally, he focused on the slope before him and found his way down.

By some magic—or perhaps only his eyes craving what little light there was—he found that he could see better as he went. As the slope began to level out, to a pool of utter black, he again found a place to wedge his pickaxe and tied his rope to it. And thus Jakrom stepped onto, and stood on, the Great Nothing.

No poem, no story, can prepare a creature of endless Day for endless Night. A frigid wind cut through Jakrom’s jacket and thick clothing, but he felt nothing. Each breath he took made a little puff of fog. The vast plain of black obsidian was filled with the stars that twinkled above, and he thought he might float away to dance forever with those tiny sparks.

“I must go back!” he cried, but his words were swallowed in the Great Nothing. Then he remembered Perin’s advice: look up. As he raised his eyes to the stars, wondering what good the injured man had thought this would do, he saw a line of yellow-white stretching away. There was the Edge of the World, and perspective snapped into place. In his numb hand, he remembered the rope that anchored him—and his sanity—to the world he knew.


“When I heard Ethtar tell his tale,” Chelinn mused, “I did not see how the ‘Great Nothing’ would be so terrible. It would be little more than a clear winter night in the Northern Reach, or perhaps the Icebound Islands. I did not consider the thought that those who grow up in eternal daylight would not know how to cope with night.”

“Indeed,” said Galbron. “And the change we heralded, that morning we winded the Seventh Trumpet, will leave many unable to cope as well.” He looked to their host. “Protector Ethtar, have you thought about how sorcerers will fare in a world that increasingly has less need of them?”

Ethtar gave him a sour look. “I have. But as yet, I have no answer.” He shrugged and forced a smile. “You should finish your story, though.”

“That I should.” Galbron drained his wineglass once again, and continued.

continued…

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