Welp, I’m over 5k words into rewriting the ending of my fantasy western. So far I think it’s going much better, but there’s still one subplot point I’m unsure about. Still, I’m keeping it in until I’m finished to see if it works. And then any beta readers I get can tell me if it sucks or not. :p
Archive for Uncategorized
Well, here it goes. The free book promotion on Amazon is live! Now through the 28th you can get Clockwork & Old Gods for free.
Earlier today I thought Sneezus would be a great name for a god of allergies. Then I thought, maybe Sneezus is just the earthly envoy of the god Histamine, spreading around handfuls of pollen like some weird, itchy, wheezing Johnny Appleseed. This is how my mind works.
It bothers me how art loses its provenance on the internet. Somebody finds something cool and, say, sticks it on their tumbler. Then somebody else reposts it, and somebody pins it to a board on pinterest. Etc, etc. If none of them include the original source, you really have to dig in and do some research as to where the piece came from. Google image search, tineye, etc.
I WANT to know who the artist is. Sure, I appreciate pretty art on its own for its own sake. But if an artist did something I like I want to see more of their stuff, not just get linked back to the last blog to have grabbed the piece.
When I find a piece of art I want to use for my short fictions, I try to figure out where it came from. I just spent a good long while doing that with a piece, only to find that the original artist had taken it down from their deviantart account some time ago. Luckily for me, it looks like deviantart still had a cached version of it that you could link to. Even if that hadn’t been there I was still going to credit that person as the artist and give a link to their deviantart page. Because that’s where it came from, and artists deserve to have their name attached to their art.
Hey all, since I’m not knee deep in prep for my Night’s Black Agents campaign, here’s a Goyle Country update. In which things go from bad to worse.
“Do tell,” Katherine invited. “Because right now it looks like your only advantage just left the building, and it’s only by the grace of my good nature that you’re still drawing breath.”
“Ah, but they left because it is here. Tell her, Cooper. I’m sure you can feel it. That powerful presence, so like a Spirit, but so much more.”
Lonesome looked over at her, brow furrowed. He spread his hands wide, struggling to find words to explain. “Something’s off, Kat. What it is? I dunno that I could tell you. But it ain’t good.”
Clayton’s footfalls announced his arrival moments before he appeared. He came into the hall at a staggering, uneven run, one arm clenched tightly to his stomach. The expression on his face was one of terror and pain, his skin was white and covered in a sheen of sweat.
“Clayton!” Katherine called out to him. “Clayton, what is it? What happened?”
Hawkins was closest, and reached him just before he collapsed. “Spirits,” the Haversham & Black man gasped as he helped Clayton stay upright. “What happened to your hand?” He pulled away slightly, and Katherine would see bloody, skeletal fingers. “It goes all the way to the elbow,” Hawkins added, examining the limb with a pained expression.
“All I did was touch it,” Clayton groaned. “It told me to touch it.”
Lonesome approached the pair, cautiously examining the arm. “What did you touch, Clayton?”
The question answered itself as the scraping, clacking sound of bone on stone issued forth from the door behind the throne. With slow, jerky movements a horrific sight came into view. The bones from the box, assembled into a humanoid form and lashed together with a thin network of sinew and muscle. But that was far from enough to explain how they were moving, and Lonesome could hear the whispers from the thing that animated it.
“Well that ain’t right,” deputy Walsh decided as the rest looked on in stunned silence. He leveled his rifle at the shambling mass of bone and pulled the trigger. It was a little off target, and hit a collar bone instead of the skull as he’d intended. Not that it would have made much difference. The bone splintered into shards as the bullet tore through, and then those shards rapidly pulled themselves back into place.
“You can’t kill it,” Dorean told them. “It’s beyond death.”
“Then send it back,” Katherine ordered. “Undo whatever you did or we’ll see if you can do the same trick.”
“Go ahead,” he retorted confidently. “It won’t let you kill me. That’s part of the deal. I brought it here, freed it from its prison, and in return it will help me ascend as it did so long ago. Clem and I both. I gave you your chance, Cooper. Now-”
Katherine pulled the trigger. The bullet caught the rogue Spirit Talker in the chest, and his eyes widened as it burst from his back in a spray of blood. Despite the wound he remained standing, and his eyes went from wide to narrow. He lowered his head to regard the wound, one eyebrow raised. “Well now,” he commented. “That’s interesting. Apparently,” he smirked at Katherine, “I am invulnerable, after a fashion.”
The skeleton had continued to shamble forward behind Dorean as the confrontation played out. It was close to him now, and one ossified hand rose out towards him. Katherine, never one to give up easily, shot Dorean again. The impact of the bullet pushed him back a step.
“Come now, Arbiter,” he addressed her smugly. “Surely you can see there’s no point in continuing that futile effort.”
The piled of walking bones grasped hold of Dorean’s arm. Surprised he turned to face it, and found his other arm grasped. He started to speak, to ask what it was doing, but his words turned into a slowly rising scream as flesh began to melt away. In globs and shreds it left his body and began attaching itself to the skeleton.
“Shit,” Lonesome grunted. He sprinted for Clementine, stooping to pick up her cavalry saber, and began hacking at the roots that held her. Her eyes looked past him in horror at what was happening to Dorean, and behind him he could hear a cacophony of gunfire. Not that it would do any good. “Damnit you idiots,” he called back over his shoulder, “Get the hell out of here!”
“Get yourself out of here,” Katherine told him as she and the others began to head for the door.
“Not without Clem,” he growled. “I don’t care what she’s done, I’m not leaving her to that.”
“Fair enough,” she decided, and began to tear at the roots with her bare hands. Working together, and with Clem struggling free from the inside, it was quick work to free her.
“Coop,” she gasped as she tore away from the last root. “I didn’t know-”
“Save it,” he snapped. “Let’s move!”
When they reached the door he spared a look back. Dorean was completely unrecognizable now, and the skeleton was looking more like someone who’d been flayed alive. It was easy to tell that, whatever it was, it wasn’t human. The proportions were all wrong, and those bits of skin that were appearing had begun turning an almost golden hue.
“Great,” Hawkins growled, still holding Clayton on his feet. “Now what do we do? How do we kill that thing if shooting it doesn’t work?”
“I really wish we had some dynamite about now,” Katherine told him. “Lonesome? Any ideas? This thing is basically a Spirit, right?”
“How the hell should I know?” He turned to face Clementine. “But you would, wouldn’t you? You and Dorean worked to make that thing possible. How do we stop it?”
“It’s more than just a Spirit,” she told them. “Dorean was right about that. It’s a person that transcended mortality. The Spirits won’t come near it because they know it can command them. The rules are different.”
“What about the goyles?” Walsh asked. He was still sighting his rifle on the door as they backed away from it, not wanting to be in the hall but not yet willing to retreat. The rifle wouldn’t do much good if it came out after them, but it would make him feel better.
“I think they wanted this to happen,” Clem told him grimly. “They were working with us to get the bones back and summon it. Going to them will make things worse, not better.”
“They weren’t all working for Dorean,” Katherine informed her. “Some of them helped us get here. If we’re lucky they might know how to deal with this thing.”
“Hey,” Carter cut in with a wave of his hand. “You hear that? That’s right – nothin. The screaming stopped. I think it’s done eating that fella. You all wanna stick around to be next, or are we gonna high tail it outta here?”
“Man’s got a point,” Hawkins agreed. So did everyone else. They left the city behind as quickly as they could and headed for the massive cliff. Katherine didn’t know if the goyles that had brought them here would have waited for them to come back or not, but she hoped they had.
Clem rode with Lonesome, and though it didn’t look she had running in mind he kept a close eye on her anyway. After riding along with silence for some time, he finally spoke. “Did you really not know this was going to happen?”
She turned to look at him over her shoulder. “You think I wanted something like that in the world?” she demanded. “You know me better than that, Coop.”
“The hell I do,” he snapped back. “The Clem I knew wouldn’t have done any of this. So out with it. Did you know?”
“Of course I didn’t know. I mean… we knew something was going to come back. We knew it would go into the bones, but we never thought it would get up and walk around. Curse me, Coop, I never thought it would… do what it did to Dorean. We thought we were bringing back a person, not a monster.”
“And what about after you’d brought it back? Did you just expect it to keep it’s part of the deal on it’s honor? You had to have thought about the possibility that it was just using you.”
“If any of that had worked we wouldn’t be running from it.”
“Tell me about it anyway,” Lonesome prompted. “Anything might help us here.”
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “Alright. We managed to learn a few things from it. Small things, mostly, but some of it was useful. Like how to bind a Spirit to something. I did that for Clayton. That bauble I gave him to keep him safe after the ambush. Dorean thought he had a way of doing that to the thing we were trying to bring back. Once it was in the bones it was supposed to stay there, bound and forbidden from doing anything that might hurt us. Obviously that didn’t pan out like we thought it would.”
“Lonesome,” Katherine prompted. “If we’re far enough away from the city why don’t you and Clem see if you can rustle up a Spirit. Clayton could probably use some help with that arm.” She nodded to the young man, who was looking pale and sickly. Hawkins had wrapped his arm with bandages, for all the good it would do. It was obvious he needed some otherworldly intervention.
To Lonesome’s surprise he found that a number of Spirits were still dwelling in the odds and ends he wore. Whether they’d stayed there throughout the confrontation with Dorean or left and come back he wasn’t sure, and now wasn’t exactly the time to ask. They stopped at a group of the stunted prairie trees that seemed to grow everywhere in the Badlands, taking refuge in the shade and resting Clayton against one rough barked trunk.
Lonesome looked around nervously. “We sure we want to do this here, Kat? Once it starts you know we can’t stop it, and won’t want to move him much either. We’ll be stuck here for however long it takes.”
Katherine nodded. She knew better than to ask how long that was going to be. If Lonesome knew he would have told her, and a wound like Clayton’s was probably far worse than anything he’d tried to heal before anyway. Frankly she wasn’t sure it was possible, but if he was willing to give it a try the odds were probably good.
“Given a choice, no,” she told him. “I’d rather not do it here. But I don’t think we can wait much longer. Clayton’s been looking worse every minute we ride, and while he might’ve shot a man he doesn’t deserve to die like this. I won’t let that thing be the death of him.”
Lonesome nodded and went to work. While he knelt beside Clayton, Katherine turned to Clem. “I won’t speak to what a stupid, irresponsible thing it is you’ve done,” she started. “That’s for another time. Right now I just want to know something. After seeing what you helped bring here, and what it does, are you willing to help put a stop to it?”
“I am, Arbiter. I never wanted-”
“So you’ve said,” Katherine cut her off. “We don’t need to hear it again. What I need you to do now is talk to the Spirits and see if you can find us some goyles. Some that’ll be friendly to our needs, not the ones you worked with before.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. And Clem?” She rested her hand on the grip of her holstered revolver in a meaningful sort of way. “If the wrong sort show up I’ll assume the worst of you.”
Hawkins caught her eye, and she joined the Haversham & Black man at the edge of the trees. “Mr. Hawkins,” she invited him to speak. “What’s on your mind?”
He was quick to the point. “You think that’s a good idea, trusting her?”
“Right now there’s no such thing as a good idea,” she told him. “Right now we need help and we need it fast. If she can get that for us I’m willing to take the chance. The longer that thing is free the higher the chances we’ll never see it again, and I don’t want to live the rest of my life knowing I could have stopped it. Besides, we’ve cheated death so many times lately what’s once more?”
“The thing about gambling, Arbiter, is knowing when to quit while you’re ahead.”
“And the thing about being an Arbiter, Mr. Hawkins, is knowing when to keep going even if the odds aren’t in your favor.”
“Strikes me as an unhealthy line of work,” Hawkins commented dryly.
Katherine scoffed and leaned against a tree trunk. “Wouldn’t be nearly as interesting otherwise.”
Watching Clayton’s arm grow back was a disturbingly fascinating experience. Katherine hadn’t known a lot about human anatomy other than which bits you made bleed so somebody would die. Seeing a whole limb grow back one layer at a time atop the bone was educational, in a strange and queasy sort of way. But if the regrowth of Clayton’s arm was disturbing, the effects it was having on the surrounding area were more disturbing still. It had started with the grass around him. Though it had begun as a mix of green and yellow, as prairie grass tended to be, it had begun to turn decidedly brown. Not merely dead, but dessicated and dry. The effect started where Clayton sat, and slowly spread outward.
The tree against which they’d propped him wasn’t spared, either. Though it had taken longer to show the leaves were doing the same as the grass, drying up and falling from branches that were withering from the tips towards the trunk. When Katherine brushed her hand against them, grass and leaves both, they crumbled into dust and blew away.
“Most times the body has what it needs to fix a wound,” Clem explained as Lonesome talked on and off with the Spirits doing the healing. “It just needs help doing it quickly. As bad off as Clayton is it would kill him to take from his body to fix his arm. So the Spirits are taking what they need from elsewhere.”
“Just as long as they don’t start taking it from us,” Walsh shuddered.
Not nearly as long as I’d hoped it would be, but here’s an update for the fantasy western:
The goyle considered her silently, just long enough that she started feeling the urge to fidget. At last, it said <We will help you in this, Arbiter.>
Katherine told herself not to look the gift horse in the mouth, that she really shouldn’t risk losing the only real shot she had at catching up to Clementine and the rest of the outlaws. Even so, the words slipped out of her mouth anyway. “What’s the catch?” From the way the goyle grunted and tilted its head she could tell the phrase hadn’t quite translated. “I mean,” she clarified, “That seems like a pretty big favor. What’s in it for you?”
<Some of us have forgotten why we are here,> it told her. <Our charge is not simply to protect this land from outsiders, but to protect the outside world from what lies within. Those who are misguided, who have forgotten our purpose, seek to end the momentary threat to these lands at the cost of our honor, the failure of our task. To do it they have placed their trust in the Rogue One and her allies. To stop them, we place our trust in you and the Lonely One.>
Katherine raised her eyebrows. That cast a whole new light on the goyles and their tenacious hold on the Badlands. “So what exactly is it that you can’t let get out? Is it something to do with what’s in that box they stole?” She thought, but didn’t say, that whatever it was must be pretty bad if it needed goyles to guard it.
<Yours were not the first people to this land, Arbiter, nor were mine. Those who came before sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Those seeds remain, waiting to be brought to the fertile soil of another civilization. A few chosen among your people can speak with the Spirits, and more among mine can do the same. But those who came before it was a gift known to all, though some were more gifted than others. And they did not treat Spirits as we do. To them the Spirits were not worthy of respect, not conversed with. To them the Spirits were servants to be commanded. They did not ask, they ordered. Ordered the Spirits to perform any task they wished – opening the gates of their great city, taking them from place to place, destroying their enemies, reshaping the world itself… and at the end they could even order the Spirits to take physical shape. Pulled from their native existence Spirits were bound to stone and metal, and some unlucky few to mortal flesh. All to better serve those who came before. But even that was not enough. They sought to bind the Spirits with their own essence, to make Spirits of themselves! It was this final hubris, this act of trespass against nature, that destroyed them. In one great upheaval their city and people suffered the wrath of Spirits who would no longer be ordered to obey. Only those few who had come closest to making Spirits of themselves remained. Steps were taken to ensure those few were rendered impotent. Never again would their hubris threaten the natural order. And then, Arbiter, your people came. And with hubris of their own.>
After waiting a few heartbeats to make sure the goyle was finished Katherine blew out a heavy sigh. “That is one hell of a story,” she told it. “So that’s it, then, is it? Whatever Haversham & Black brought out of the Badlands is something to do with the ones who came before?” She frowned, trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that still didn’t make any sense. “But then they brought it back to the Badlands… because they were really working for your people, weren’t they? Through Clementine – I mean, the Rogue One? That’s why they let Clem and the outlaws pass, but stopped me and my posse. Only, that can’t be quite right.” She looked up at the ceiling contemplatively. “Because you’re going to help us stop them. Which means something else is going on. Either I’m being played and you’re the group who wants to set things all to hell, or the group using Clem wants something more than just letting that box out into the world. They want to use it for themselves, somehow.”
<There is a human living in the old city,> the goyle informed her. <They bring it to him. Many things might happen to the artifact outside of these lands, once among your people. But there, with him, they know what will happen. It cannot be allowed.>
“Then why not do something about it yourself?” Katherine wondered. “It’s not like you’ve balked at killing humans before.”
<Were it only humans the matter would be solved swiftly and permanently. But there are others of our kind protecting them. They would shield your outlaws from us, and we cannot fight one another.>
“Sounds insane to me,” Katherine admitted. “But you’re offering me a chance to get the job done, and I’m not turning that down. I just wish I had more of my people left. Doing this with just me and Lonesome is gonna be… well, it’ll be the craziest thing we’ve done yet. And that’s saying something.”
<Fear not, Arbiter,> the goyle told her, <We know where more of your people are to be found.>
There are two things I still need to hash out before NaNoWriMo. Well, probably more than that, but there are two on my mind just now.
One is a plot map. Normally I’m a seat of the pants writer, making things up as I go along with only a vague idea of a plot until it’s done. Editing is where I go through and tie up all the wayward plot threads. This time around I want to go in with a plan. Since NaNoWriMo is all about getting material down on the pace as fast as you can, the less time I spend wondering what to do next the more time I have to write.
Another is the story’s dramatis personae, a rundown of the characters and how they relate to one another. This is another area where I tend to make things up as is convenient. If I need somebody to have a certain connection or know something, it happens on the go. While that’s useful, it can create contradictions and plot holes that need serious reworking later.
Now, I’ve always thought plot was built more on how characters react to events than the events themselves. Some plot events can only happen because a character reacted a certain way to a previous plot point. With that in mind, I’ve decided to do the dramatis personae before the plot map.
I started with the main character for UFW. There will likely be more than one viewpoint character, but in any story there will be one person central to the plot. In our fantasy western that person will take on the role of an officer of the law – a sheriff or a marshal. Of the two, a marshal provides more opportunity. Unlike a sheriff who’s bound to one town in your classic western, a marshal has a larger territory to operate in.
Of course, I didn’t want to just nick the term Marshal. For the UFW, something new was needed. I started looking up relevant terms and came up with a laundry list – adjudicator, arbiter, executor (not the same as executioner), adherent, warden, watcher, vigil… I did like Vigil, but ended up deciding it was too close to vigilante.
In the end I chose Arbiter, since it implies that the title holder helps resolve disputes as much as they arrest (or shoot) people. And it has the female form of Arbitress, which is just fun to say.
So there we go. The Arbiters are a group of peacekeepers and law enforcement officers who cover a given range of territory and often operate alone, though they have a larger organized group to fall back on for support. They’ve even got a nice derogatory nickname that criminals like to use – “the biters”. I like to think it evolved as Arbiters = arse biters = biters.
Anyway, UFW’s main character is an Arbiter. Or an Arbitress, since I’m toying with the idea of throwing caution to the wind and writing a female lead – something I’ve not done before.
Other important characters will include a Spirit Talker, a “Company Man”, and for opposing viewpoint a member of the bandit gang who stole the mcguffin.
I’ll have more on the actual characters for you once I’ve fleshed them out a bit more.
This is a bit of a rehash of something I talked about in my Protagonize guest post, but I figured it warranted its own time here.
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It ostensibly protects a creator’s work from the dreaded scourge of internet piracy. Personally, I’m not a fan. Whether it’s copy protection of digital music files or an always on internet connection for games, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s especially baffling when applied to ebooks.
DRM of any sort only serves to do two things: alienate your customer base and encourage pirates to liberate the product that’s being locked down. There’s a reason digital piracy is socially accepted to the extent it is. For virtually everything else we buy, once we’ve forked over the cash it’s ours to do with as we please. If you buy a lawnmower you can lend it to your neighbor or sell it to somebody else. If you buy a physical paper book you can give it away, lend it to a friend, or sell it to a used book store which can then sell it again.
And yet, for some reason, digital content is different. And it goes far beyond simply preventing someone from being able to reproduce a music file or ebook. I can see their argument there (even if I disagree with it). If someone can copy a file they can give one away and keep one for themselves, potentially eliminating a future sale. Again, I can understand where content producers are coming from, but I don’t necessarily agree. You see, with DRM the original file isn’t even really yours. With DRM, you don’t purchase anything. You rent it.
I’m going to pick on Amazon here, just because they’re the easiest example. If Amazon was up front with that it would be something else. But they don’t say “rent an ebook which we can revoke at will”, they say “buy an ebook”. So imagine a user’s shock when content they thought they purchased is suddenly revoked. This has happened several times now. Back in 2009, Amazon removed legitimately purchased copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from user’s Kindles. The irony there is something else, isn’t it? The second case involved a Norwegian woman, Linn Nygaard, who was unceremoniously locked out of all her kindle books for no apparent reason.
Faced with the possibility of having access to legally purchased content removed at any moment, who wouldn’t turn to piracy? If not pirating the actual content, users might at least use the same tools to strip the DRM from existing purchases in order to keep them.
Thankfully, at least where ebooks are concerned, there are options. Retailers such as Smashwords offer DRM free copies for sale, and even Amazon has the option to sell ebooks without it. I’ve made sure my own book, Clockwork & Old Gods, is sold DRM free.
Going DRM Free
Going DRM free can be a great thing for self published authors. For one thing it engenders good will with your readers – you’re allowing them to actually but that book, not simply rent it. For another thing it helps you advertise.
In my guest post on Protagonize I talked about the free marketing method, so named because with this method you give things away for free. Book giveaways, temporarily pricing your book for free, giving away free copies in exchange for reviews, etc. Some people are actually making this their entire business plan. People like Ksenia Anske, who has a donation button on her webpage, but otherwise is releasing her work for absolutely nothing.
People can spread her book around at will, and in doing so they raise awareness of her work. The more people who see it the more will come to her website and add a donation. This is similar to how releasing DRM free ebooks works, even if you’re charging for them. If a reader buys your book and gives copies to all their friends, and those friends like your work, they are more likely to either A) buy a copy of their own or B) buy one of your later works. Some models partially use Ksenia’s method by having the first book in a series free, and charging for the rest.
However you do it, going DRM free helps spread your work into the world. Having the most piracy proof ebook possible is all well and good, but if nobody knows it’s there who’s going to buy it? For me the tradeoff of allowing free ebooks to roam in the wild is more than worth the advertising it provides.
I’ve been working on the sequel to Clockwork & Old Gods over at Protagonize. Here’s an excerpt from that, a bit of mythological backstory and the most recent update:
Aelar returned to the mortal realm in the body of a man, mortal flesh housing a divine being. He told us it was because of how the barrier worked, that if he ever exercised his full power he risked damaging it and endangering the world. But even as a mortal man he was different. He aged so slowly that a hundred years looked like no more than ten on him.
His command of magic, as you can imagine, was second to none. It was obvious why he’d come back. He loved us, so very much. He spent his days teaching us, showing us how to be better. His closest followers became the Pillars, men whose knowledge of magic towered over the rest. They were kings and high priests, and under their leadership and Aelar’s benevolent gaze there rose shining cities. In those days men could cure any disease, solve any problem. There was no hunger, no war. Feats of magic and engineering meant few had to labor their lives away. It was an era devoted to knowledge and learning.
But though Aelar could teach us how to do many wonderful things, he could not change what we were. His love for us blinded him to the seeds of corruption that grew under his very gaze. Some say a demon which had hidden itself away tempted the Pillars into their fall. Some say it was just the weakness of men’s hearts that led them astray. Whatever the reason, all that Aelar had taught them was not enough. Some of them came together in secret, determined to gain even more power.
It’s said that they became convinced Aelar was hiding things from them, secrets that would make them the equal of the Gods. In their folly their reach exceeded their grasp, and with all they had learned they opened a hole in the barrier. The first Incursion erupted into the world with terrifying speed. The demons had been waiting, and we were unprepared. Our shining cities fell, burned to ashes as our best and brightest sacrificed themselves to stem the tide. The scale of the slaughter was… unimaginable. If not for the powerful magic Aelar had taught us, the entire world would have been engulfed.
But we held them. For just long enough we stemmed the tide. Those survivors we could gather fled across the ocean, to a continent they knew to exist but had never visited, populated by a people who had not received the benefit of Aelar’s teaching. They became my order, the Exiled.
To keep them safe Aelar and the uncorrupted Pillars remained behind. They sealed themselves off from the rest of the world with a great work of magic, a bulwark that would keep the demons contained. And then, in one final battle, Aelar sacrificed himself to close the hole in the barrier. The Pillars died to a man to give him enough time, and when it was done he had spent enough of himself that he fell into a slumber so deep he might as well have been dead. Dead, but undying, he communicated to the Exiled by walking in their dreams and sending them prophecies while they slept. Telling them to wait, and be patient.